Fantasy Romance Xianxia Anime Sci-fi Historical WNMTL
Home > Rise of The Undead Legion

1 Hard Knocks

 David Ruster looked over the filling station one last time, making sure all the equipment was locked and powered down for the night. Most of the interior lights were off. Above, the sign with the neon company logo was dark except for a small 'Closed' glowing dim-red against the starry midnight-sky.

Satisfied all was in order, he pushed off and began pedaling along the tree-lined road. It was a four-mile ride to Anytown, Pennsylvania.

Dave had lived in Anytown his whole life. Nestled in the pine-covered hills near the southern border between Pennsylvania and New York state. It was only a few hours drive from New York City, not that Dave had ever been to The City.

Dave pedaled methodically. At least it wasn't raining, and it was early summer so he didn't have to worry about snow.

His mind worried at his problems like a manic hamster on an exercise wheel, and made about as much progress. No money, no college, no prospects, no future. What could he do to get ahead. No money, no college...

Preoccupied, he didn't hear the whine of the electric car until it was too late. The headlights came around the blind curve in the wrong lane, flaring away his vision too quickly for him to react.

A loud crunching thud and the squeal of tortured metal.

For a slow moment he flew peacefully. Then he slammed into the asphalt, tumbling and sliding for longer than he remained conscious.

Dave opened his eyes and the night sky slowly came into focus. He thought his body was in an odd position. He felt pain, a lot of pain. Something was blinking to the side, turning his head caused even more pain.

He saw a car, blue-white headlights shining into the trees and red emergency lights blinking back at him. The front was accordioned into one of the old pines growing on the opposite side of the drainage ditch.

"I guess it jumped the ditch and the tree stopped it. Serves them right for trashing my bike!"

Dave's priorities and judgement were, needless to say, questionable at the time.

He continued watching, waiting for someone to get out so he could give them a piece of his mind. He probably wouldn't actually say anything, but he sure would think it at whoever was driving the car.

A more pragmatic part of his brain worked on getting the phone out of his pocket, and pressing the emergency call button. It took him a while because the fingers on one hand were mangled, broken and bloody.

The side of his face felt like it was burning, and that set off more burning sensations in the back of his arm and shoulder all the way down to his thigh. His stomach was sore on one side, like the mother of all bruises, and whenever he moved razors in his hip stabbed at him and made grinding noises. There was also something pounding on the back of his skull.

He kept watching the car.

Where are they?! Why aren't they getting out of the car?

There were small flames coming from under the front of the car. But electric cars aren't flammable...usually?

Dave dropped the phone, ring-tone and all, and tried to stand up. He didn't get up all the way, he was only able to shuffle forward in a bent-over crab walk.

It seemed like a long distance to the car. But he kept moving toward it, watching the small flames flicker underneath.

Occasionally he croaked, trying to yell to whoever was inside, getting angrier with every crab-drag step.

'Wrecked my bike...burning,get out!...ruined my shirt, now I only have three...driving like maniacs...wrong lane...public road you know! Give you a ... talking to. And you too.

Finally he was at the wreck, the worst part was going down one side and then back up the other side of the ditch. Something was definitely not okay with his stomach.

The windows were heavily tinted, the headlights were dimming which Dave took as a sign the battery array was screwed. It was on fire, so that made sense.

Dave leaned against the driver side and tried to looked in, but couldn't see anything. He tried to open the door and of course the thing wouldn't open for him. Story of his life, who was he after all? Just a guy trying to make a life for...uh, trying to save someone in the car.

"Keep it together, bud." Dave reprimanded Dave in stern croaks.

So tired, and miles to go before I rest.

Pulling his multi-tool out he focused on the ends, looking for...there. A little stud sticking out from one end. Car- ...something especially for car window situations. Holding the tool like an ice pick he swung the stud end at the window side armed, almost falling with the swing. The safety glass shattered into little cubes like it was supposed to.

Little cubes of glass were all over the place, carbide was very hard. Carbide. It was carbide.

The window, it's open now, bud...enough with flapping your gums around bud. Move!

"Doctor! He's awake!" a nurse called.

"Where am I?" asked Dave.

Checking the monitors the nurse turned to answer him.

"You are in Rambaldi's private institute of Healthcare. You are a fortunate young man. Your injuries could have killed you." she said.

"Injuries? An...accident, I remember... There was a woman there... Is she alright?" asked Dave.

"Woman? Sir, you were the only one there, it's okay the fall may have scrambled your memory." She said

"Huh? What...?"

He clearly remembered someone in a car hitting him and then crashing into a tree. He-

"Kristina!" barked a middle-aged man in a white coat.

"Mr. Ruster. Please disregard whatever she said. There is someone here to speak with you about the incident." said the doctor

As he spoke two men in business suits appeared in the doorway.

They looked like the guys from Men In black, or ... some sort of bodyguards maybe?

"Doctor Hendriks, please leave us." ordered the bigger one, walking over to the bed. The other suit watched the doctor and nurse leave, then leaned against the door casually.

The first guy positioned a chair near the bed and sat. He looked like he was in his mid-thirties, fit like a bodybuilder. He had a gruff voice and a serious expression on his face.

"Mr. Ruster. This situation we are in. You got very lucky. You survived, and you saved someone very important. So kudos, guy." His eyes locked onto Dave and held, freezing him to the bed.

"But. Here's the thing. That important person was never there. You know what I'm saying, guy?"

As the man spoke, he shifted, unbuttoning then buttoning his suit jacket, and picking at something on his pants leg and brushing it away.

What's with this guy? A full-on fashion diva, all obsessed with the fit of his clothes and staying immaculate.

Then what Bodybuilder said clicked in Dave's head.

Now he understood. Bodybuilder here and Door-Prop over there, since they hadn't bothered to introduce themselves, were here to cover-up the whole incident. They wanted to make it look like Dave crashed the car into the tree, and they wanted Dave to cooperate and take the fall.

"You think I'm going to take the blame for the accident? I saved that woman's life, and I got injured doing it, after she hit me in the first place! I didn't do anything wrong.

"I can't even afford the hospital fees. But you want me to take the hit for this? A DUI means fines, and court and jail-time. I'm not gonna play that hand.

"And how about some simple gratitude for saving that woman's life for fucks sake? Even just a 'thank you' would be better than this shit." Dave finished his tirade, furious.

"Calm down, guy. Everything is already taken care of. No legal charges are gonna be pressed. Not even a misdemeanor on your record. Just your name on a no-fault accident report and the tow-job.

"In recognition of your good deed, and for your silence, we will take care of the hospital bill and make a...charitable donation for your time. Twenty grand, Mr Ruster. That's plenty 'till you get another Mc-jay oh bee. Right, guy?" Bodybuilder smiled, showing a lot of teeth.

He shifted in his chair, and very deliberately, almost exaggeratedly, started to unbutton his jacket again.

He watched Bodybuilder start his little obsessive-compulsive ritual again, unbuttoning his jacket...

Dave's outrage and defiance froze and withered. A gun was holstered under the jacket.

Bodybuilder wasn't fidgeting or obsessive-compulsive about his clothing. He was offering Dave a choice.

Dave's heartbeat thundered in his ears, and the shaky sick-hollow feeling of a massive adrenaline spike overrode whatever drugs were in his system.

Crap. Guns and bullets trump nerd-outrage. Every time.

There wasn't anything Dave could do. He couldn't even speak. It was humiliating, and frustrating.

These two suits, Bodybuilder and Door Prop, weren't asking for his cooperation. They were here to find out if he was going to 'play ball' in the cover-up conspiracy which was already in motion. It meant they were connected, whoever pulled their strings was powerful and influential. And had money. Lots of money.

If Bodybuilder decided Dave was a threat instead of a helpful little cog in their machinations, he would exercise his trigger-finger and make the threat go away. Make Dave go away.

He didn't have a choice. Not really, cooperate or die was not a choice...or it was an oh-so-very-easy choice to make.

He would play their game, take their money and be grateful he was still alive. The old saying was true, no good deed goes unpunished.

As the two men walked to their ride 'Door Prop' looked over at 'Bodybuilder.'

"The boss told you to thank the kid and ask him to cooperate." he said neutrally.

"Ahhh, don't worry 'bout it. He's just a small-town hick. A nobody. The money will shut him up and he'll forget it ever happened, partner."

"Yeah, about that money, 'partner.' We were supposed to give the kid a million bucks. She'd be dead if it wasn't for him, whoever glitched her ride knew what they were doing."

"Ahhh c'mon, the kid wouldn't know what to do with a mil. I gave him enough to tide him over till he goes back to work. Plus a little extra to get something nice. Everybody should treat themselves now and then." he smirked.

"So what about the rest of the cash?"

"C'mon, paisan. Don't bust my balls. I invested it, okay?"

"Shit! You went to the track, didn't you? You don't have the rest, you lost it all."

Body Builder's face turned deep-red. "I have the rest -most of it- okay!? Now, fucking back-off of my shit, guy!" A vein throbbed in his forehead.

"Christ. You gotta get some help, Bobby. If this shit fubars, it's all on you, understand me?"

"Yeah, yeah. I told ya, the kid ain't gonna cause any problems."