January 4, 2006

Terra Mortis II: The Gathering

Chapter 16

By Dwayne MacInnes

Brady was walking over to Doc's office to find Nori. Nori and Cooper had been spending a lot of time over the last couple of weeks visiting the still recuperating Nathan. Brady at first joined them to learn more about Nathan's past and the history of the world outside their refuge in the Cascades.

However as Brady learned more, he became increasingly concerned. The Horde, it turned out, was a very large group of motorcyclists run by a man who styled himself after Genghis Khan. Khan, the only name anyone knew him by, had carved out for himself a sizable private empire.

Many people who had survived the initial onslaught of the undead started reforming communities. Being poorly organized they were soon conquered by gangs of motorcyclists, who in turn were then conquered by Khan's Horde. Though Khan reestablished law and security to these new communities, his rule was harsh and despotic.

At first, various groups of people would occasionally rebel against the Horde. However, either Khan would introduce all captured rebels to Vice-City to work in the many brothels or as contestants in one of the games of his own design. The most dreaded of these games was called the Labyrinth. The Labyrinth was really a maze constructed out of the old storm sewer system that was now filled with zombies. Cameras were placed strategically to catch the terror and excitement of the "contestants" running down the dark underground maze. These were then broadcast around Vice-City via the local TV station.

Naturally, revolts subsided among the populace. However, Nathan realized that the reason why Khan was so successful was that he was better organized. The young twenty-two year old man gathered similarly minded young people and started a rebel camp and for the last few months, they have been pretty successful in their raids against the Horde. That was until their last raid.

As disturbing as this was, none of this was the reason why Brady was uneasy. It was the fact that Nathan, on regaining consciousness, immediately began trying to recruit anyone he could to his cause. Sarge just blew it off, as did many of the people now living in the former summer camp. Unfortunately, Nori was quite taken by Nathan's story.

Brady didn't know if he was jealous because Nori possibly had feelings for Nathan or that Nathan had Nori's impressionable ear. She would listen for hours on end to Nathan's speech about his cause. Coop also was caught up with Nathan's tales.

It was understandable that Nori would naturally gravitate toward Nathan. Nathan was closer to her age than Brady's twenty-four years. Nathan was also handsome and a good athlete. Before the Marysville incident, Nathan was on a football scholarship at a local college. The former quarterback had a natural charisma and leadership about him that brought the more impressionable to him like rats to the Pied Piper.

Brady laughed inwardly at his last analogy, though he would tend to put Nathan in the guise of a rat. As Brady entered the room where Nathan was recovering, he heard Nathan telling the story again of his last raid before Nori and Coop. The two sat at the foot of Nathan's bed, both completely caught up with another retelling of the story that Brady had heard way too many times.

"Excuse me," Brady interrupted forcing a smile as he entered the room. "I need to borrow Nori for a minute."

"Oh yeah, no problem," Nathan responded looking over at Brady with a forced smile of his own.

"Sure, Brady what is it?" asked Nori oblivious to the two men's barely concealed dislike for each other.

"I need you to give me a hand unloading the last load of books from the truck. Sarge wants them in the library before nightfall."

"Oh, I'm sorry, I totally forgot," Nori smiled as she hopped up and started for the door.

Brady followed Nori as they left the room and exited Doc's little clinic. They then proceeded to the old red truck where boxes of books filled the bed. Nori pulled down the tailgate and began pulling out a box of books. It always amazed Brady how strong Nori actually was, surely the rigorous training program Sarge had them in helped out a lot.

"Nori, wait a minute," Brady said shyly.

Nori just looked up at Brady and tilted her head to one side with confusion clearly marking her face.

"This is not easy for me to say, but..." Brady swallowed hard. He was never good at personal confrontation. Hell, he was camped out at the family cabin when the undead started taking over Seattle because he didn't want to face his parents with the news of his being kick out of the University of Washington.

"Look, I'm worried about you getting too caught up with Nathan."

At first Nori just stared up at Brady not fully comprehending what he was saying.

"What!?!" Nori finally blurted.

"I'm concerned that you may be buying into Nathan's shtick too much and Coop is following along too," Brady said looking at his feet.

"What do you mean shtick? The guy's just been nearly crucified and is trying to remove an evil man from continuing to harm innocent people!" Nori yelled.

Brady stepped back. In the year, they have known each other Brady had never heard Nori yell at him like this before.

"Who are you to tell me what to do? What do you know about Nathan's cause? Surely you can't be so callous as to the plight of the people?" Nori's tirade continued.

"You know what I think you are jealous of Nathan, jealous that he's doing something while you just hide up here in the woods. He's had it hard while you've been living the high-life!" Nori yelled as she stormed off back to the clinic.

Brady could only just stand there stunned watching Nori's back as she stomped into the clinic slamming the door behind her. Brady looked up to see a few people standing in the road staring at the scene that had just unfolded. As Brady made eye contact with the small crowd, they shortly departed.

It took Brady a long time to get to sleep that night. He kept thinking about what Nori had said to him. He kept going over it in his mind, and that made him quite restless. He kept thinking about how Nori wouldn't acknowledge Brady's existence all day. In fact, Coop seemed obviously uncomfortable being around Nori and Brady in the same room. Sarge offered to listen if Brady wanted to talk about what happened. But Brady remained silent. After much tossing an turning, he eventually drifted off to sleep.

Brady awoke with a start as he felt the hand close over his mouth. He looked up into the dark room, the pale blue moonlight leaking in through the window reflecting off Nori's slim form.

"I'm sorry I yelled at you today," Nori whispered. "But Coop and I are leaving with Nathan tonight for his rebel camp."

The expression on Brady's face told Nori that he couldn't believe what he was hearing.

"Look, I said some things that weren't true today. You have saved my life many times over the last year, and you are my closest friend. But I can't stay here while such injustices exist. I...I want you to join us," Nori said.

Nori didn't think Brady's eyes could get any wider but she was wrong.

"I know Nathan doesn't like you and you don't like him. But you are very intelligent, and you are a very skilled woodsman and hunter. These people need someone like you," Nori pleaded.

"What about Sarge or Smith. We can't just leave them," Brady hissed.

"But we have too. They need to stay here and get this camp organized. In the mean time, we could help out the rebels and maybe help those people out as well. I'm sure we won't be gone long."

Brady knew it was impossible to talk Nori out of this. If she was going to go, Coop was going to follow as well and there was very little he could do to prevent it. Therefore, he had no choice but to nod his assent.

Brady quickly dashed off a short note to Sarge as they quickly and quietly gathered up their belongings and set out leaving the camp behind them. After walking down the road for about ten minutes Brady, Nori, and Coop met up with Nathan. The shocked look on Nathan's face on seeing Brady almost made joining Nori and Coop worth it, thought Brady.

"What's he doing coming along?" Nathan said angrily.

"He's the best at tracking and is very resourceful. You'll need him," Nori defended her decision.

Nathan turned his gaze toward Brady, "OK, hotshot you're in, but remember I'm in charge and you take your orders from me."

With that, the four rebels started on their journey back to the hidden camp.

Posted by deg at January 4, 2006 8:21 PM

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