December 30, 2005

Terra Mortis II: The Gathering

Chapter 15

By Dwayne MacInnes

Few of his companions knew Barry Vanders real name. None knew that before the Marysville incident he was nothing more than a third-rate history professor at the University of Washington. How many times did the dean of the history department remind Barry that the only reason he still had a job was because he was tenured. Few students shared his enthusiasm for Inner-Asian history, even less passed his class with an A.

The short and stocky man always felt that he was strict but fair even if his students and colleagues accused him of running off on tangents during the lecture and then testing the students on stuff that he never covered. The students would call Barry Vanders the "Barbarian Vandal" which did get under his skin. Sure the Vandals and Tar Tars had their moment in the sun by sacking Rome, but it was the Mongolians under Genghis Khan who really conquered the world. Through all this Barry persisted.

His job may have been dismal but his home life was even worse. Barry was married to a shrewish woman who hoarded every penny that was brought into the house. Granted they tended to be in debt up to their eyeballs, but there was no reason why they couldn’t splurge every now and again. The woman he used to love, if it really ever was love, had turned into some old banshee along the way. When Barry hit his "mid-life crisis," he started dreaming of being an outlaw biker. His fantasies would often include himself as the leader of a gang like the Hell’s Angels and then "conquering" one of the beautiful female students in his class.

The professor would secretly buy Easy Rider, Outlaw Biker, or any magazine dealing with motorcycles and their gangs. That’s when Barry started secretly stashing away some money whenever he could. It wasn’t easy at first, but Barry finally succumbed to the temptation that all professors eventually face: the bribe.

At first, it was just some smart-ass jock trying to buy a C. Then it was the straight 4.0 honor’s student who didn’t want a B to blight her transcript. Barry was always smart about it. He never initiated the sale, but if a twenty or fifty found itself stuck to a test or homework assignment, it would be pocketed and the student would get the desired grade. The student never said anything and the professor acted as if nothing had happened. Even though Barry had been tempted by some of his female students to sleep with them for a grade, Barry remained cash only.

The rumors inevitably began to circulate around campus that he could be bought. The dean investigated the allegations, but Barry always covered his tracks well. After all, it was common practice to give the football star a C even if he never showed up for class and an A+ honor’s student getting another A wasn’t so unusual. The research was the key. Students would receive only a certain grade based on their performances in other classes. The best part most of the students were going to get the grade assigned them whether they paid for it or not.

The payoff came when after years of hoarding and saving his own pennies that Barry could afford a Vulcan 800 motorcycle. After this point, Barry wasn’t for sale anymore. He vehemently denied ever being paid a bribe. At times money fell out onto the floor when he was gathering the papers. If this wasn’t, in fact, some scheme to get him canned he would always tell the dean.

The University could not prove anything and many students didn’t want their names involved to testify against him. Therefore, life went on as usual. A dreary day at work followed by the constant nagging and financial lectures at home. However, now Barry had a bike that he secretly kept stashed at a storage unit he rented.

Renting the storage unit wasn’t anything new, Barry had already been renting one for years to store the heirlooms, junk, and sundry of other possessions that his wife and he accumulated over the years. His wife, Betty never concerned herself with the storage unit and probably just forgot what exactly all the stuff they had stored away.

The college professor began making excuses to get out of the house for the weekends. He would tell his wife that there was some important history seminar in Spokane or Portland that he had to attend. Once free, he would don his alter-ego "Khan".

Khan was a hard-core biker. Many bikers didn’t question Barry’s other persona. He looked the part and when Barry became Khan, he wasn’t afraid to let years of restraint and frustration come through in drinking, fighting, and the occasional hooker. He started gathering a following and soon had a half-dozen friends that he would hangout with on the weekends. They started calling themselves the Horde.

So it was on his fiftieth birthday that Barry forever became Khan. Barry’s wife was planning a special birthday party for Barry while Seattle was coming under siege by the living dead. She had spent more money than usual to make this day extra special for her husband. There was going to be a few special guests and close friends and fine food and drink.

However, the curfew and the quarantine kept everyone home that night. Thus, it was just Barry and Betty sitting at a table with lots of food and drink. Betty was trying her best to make a go of it despite the situation. Barry was more grim than usual. He didn’t know if it was whether he was turning fifty or that he was stuck with a person he loathed or that the world was falling apart around them or even if it was a combination of all three.

It was that same night that their neighborhood was under attack by the zombies. Somehow, these ghouls knew where people were hiding. They would surround a house and break in either by pushing in a door or breaking a window. When their house was surrounded, Betty frantically started searching for an escape route. The poor woman was in tears sobbing uncontrollable from fear. Barry was calm. His grim mood lifted.

"Come dear, I think we can get out of here," he said in a calm voice to his wife.

Betty went over to Barry and embraced him for comfort. Maybe she still loved him, but the feeling wasn’t mutual. He started walking towards the front door.

"B-B-Barry, what are you doing?" Betty stammered between sobs.

"I have a plan to get us out of here," Barry replied in a soothing voice stroking her gray hair as they neared the front door.

"But they are just outside, if you open the door it will be suicide," she shrieked.

"Calm down, I have a plan and it’ll work. Trust me," Barry smiled as he looked into his wife’s tear soaked eyes.

As they reached the front door, the pounding became increasingly strong. The undead would soon be able to break in. Barry reached out with his free hand never losing the smile on his face and flung the door open. Then he pushed his shocked and screaming wife into the waiting arms and teeth of the undead crowd.

"You’ll go out the front, my dear, and I’ll go out the back."

Barry then ran towards the back door still smiling as zombies filed into the house through the open front door to partake in the feast. The cries and screams of his wife filled his ears as he ran out into the now cleared out backyard. Barry was too elated to feel any regret over his actions. For the first time in a long time, he felt free. He jumped into his sedan and drove to his storage unit surprisingly with little mishap. Barry was gone forever; Khan was here to stay.

Khan had driven his Vulcan through the barricade arriving just after the initial rush of humanity stormed the checkpoint and before the zombies relentlessly shambling along behind. Khan didn’t bother to deal with injured or helpless people; he just continued to drive along into the night. He had a destination in mind.

A colleague of his was a World War II professor and had over the last few years acquired and repaired an M-16 multiple gun motor carriage. In other words, he had rebuilt the famous half-track that housed four .50 Browning M-2 machine guns for anti-aircraft use. What Khan had in mind would entail a little alteration, but he knew that he would find the people who would be able to do it.

Khan found the half-track where his colleague had told him. His fellow professor either was dead or had been evacuated. Over the next few weeks, Khan began gathering a core group of bikers around him. Three were of the original Horde. The small gang began raiding the surrounding towns stealing from the dead and living alike. The half-track finally had four working M-2s and was able to lower them to aim toward the ground instead of the air.

Clashes with entrenched and armed survivors and other gangs were a given. Khan started using tactics that his namesake used so successfully in his conquest of Asia and Europe. Khan would surround his opponents send in light forces for a feigned attack, and then they would retreat as if they were broken. The defenders would often break ranks to pursue the light forces only to be caught off guard by the main force that would sweep in and wipe out the defenders. Khan was able to defeat vastly superior forces this way.

The half-track was Khan’s strategic reserve. The few times he was overwhelmed and it looked like he would be defeated, Khan would send in the WWII vehicle with devastating effect. Survivors were often given the choice of joining the Horde or be killed. In this way, the Horde grew and thus Khan’s empire was built in less than six months.

The towns under the Horde’s protection were left relatively unmolested. Khan knew that if the people of the towns feared the Horde more than they did rival gangs or the undead, there would be uprisings. So by order of Khan the people would be left alone as long as they paid their tribute and obeyed the local warlord.

The crowning achievement was Khan’s capital, Vice-City. Both punished and rewarded were sent to Vice-City. The former to work in the brothels or to partake in the various games that Khan devised, the most feared and popular was the Labyrinth. Gas generators had been set up around the small town and provided the power. Fuel was obtained from the numerous fuel-trucks that Khan had accumulated in his conquest. Cameras were set up all over the game spots so that the local TV station could broadcast the various games to the populace of Vice-City.

With Khan’s success, of course came a growing resistance force. Though Khan could easily defeat any gang or defended city or town the resistance force was very successful in using hit and run tactics. Most of the resistance force was comprised of young adults, most of them former college students.

Khan sat back in his chair watching the latest runner in the Labyrinth smiling as he thought about how he had finally dealt the resistance a deathblow. He was able to trick the resistance into an attack that netted him large number of captives including the leader. Most of the captives he had executed in public fashion leaving their remains as a warning to others. Of course, the females that caught his eye were now working in his brothel. Their spirit was subdued by keeping them drugged up. Yes, his empire would soon be completely secured.

Posted by deg at December 30, 2005 10:26 AM

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