We join the action immediately after Rachael Erstweather has left a bombed out building and is returning to MI86 headquarters through a war torn section of London. With her arms full of books and the sound of workers cleaning up after Jerry’s latest bombing raid the intrepid Royal Marine Captain finds herself in a situation she wishes James was there for.
MI86 Volume 4 will be available as an ebook from itty bitty writer publications 7 December 2015.
Workers were busily clearing the destruction into wheel barrows and wheeling it to awaiting trucks where it would be transported outside of the city. Shop owners were sweeping dust from their door stoops and boarding up windows that had been broken during the raid. The scene of perseverance put a smile on the woman’s face.
Rachael walked past a burned out building that she knew had once been a corner market that sold fresh produce. She suddenly became very sad as she thought about the fresh Brussel sprouts that should have been lining the stores windows right now. She felt a tragic sense of loss that made her wonder how much longer the spirit of the civilian population could continue to carry on in the face of such senseless violence.
She continued her harrowing trek across the wasteland of bombed out streets, taking a detour when she saw men from the utilities department working frantically on a gas line. The detour took her down a tight alley toward an abandoned street ahead of her. Rachael Erstweather became uncomfortably aware that she heard footfalls behind her.
Looking back the tall redhead did not see anyone behind her, but she had learned since joining MI86 that not seeing someone did not mean they were not there. She also could not discount the idea that it might not be a person at all, but one of any number of denizens of the underworld. Rachael increased her stride and tried to clear the alley and get back into the open.
The gentle footsteps from behind continued. Every time she stopped to look if she could see the person following her the steps ended just a moment too late, but she could never see who or what was making the sound. Rachael clasped the bag filled with books tightly and checked to make certain her hidden sidearm was still located in her brazier. The cool steel of the nine millimeter pressed against her skin, comforting her.
Rachael Erstweather stepped out of the alley and into the next street, as she had suspected it was empty. The buildings on either side of the street were burned out and collapsing. Rachael realized that she was no better off here than in the alley. She could hear the sound of the workers a block over, but it brought little comfort to her. In the current situation any screams for help would be masked by the constant sound of the cleanup. For every brick she heard clang against the side of a wheel barrow, she also heard the echo of a disembodied footfall behind her.
She looked around the street for a place to make a stand. Her mind raced from the bombed out shell of a jewelry store to a pile of bricks from the collapsed haberdashery on the opposite side of the street.
Rachael decided that her best bet was to leap behind the pile of rubble from the former men’s clothing store. She did not like the look of the half destroyed and burned out jewelry store figuring if a fight did break out the building would likely collapse around her, or worse on top of her.
Rachael dove behind the rubble and popped up, pistol drawn. There was no one there, but she could hear the footfalls of an unseen nemesis approaching.
No one answered. Listening carefully the woman could hear the scraping of brick dust under foot.
“This isn’t funny.” The MI86 agent pointed the gun around, looking for a target. No target presented itself to shoot.
The dull clanking of brick on steel echoed into the empty, war torn street and deadened the sound of the mysterious footsteps. Rachael Erstweather scanned the devastated road for any signs of her assailant. There were no signs of an assailant.
Rachael Erstweather ducked below the cover of the brick pile and listened. She heard footsteps. The footsteps were faint, muddled in the gentle mist that hung in the air. The rhythmic foot falls were masked by the clanging of bricks from a block over, but they were there if someone knew what to listen for. Rachael knew that they were real, and there were two sets of them.
The woman stood up quickly and caught a glimpse of a shadowy figure ducking into the rubble of the burnt out bakery. She pulled the trigger rapidly and unleashed three shots at the figure but watched as the bullets ricocheted harmlessly off the remains of the building.
Taking several steps backwards the agent scanned the building for signs of the assailant, but there were none. Whoever was following her moved faster than she had seen anyone move before.
Rachael rejected that thought, she had seen someone move that fast in the past. James Dennesy could move like the shadowy figure had moved, maybe even faster. She had witnessed the Marine’s abilities during their previous missions. Her brain didn’t want to accept the obvious conclusion as a possibility because that would have meant that zombies had escaped the Afterlife.
She took a step back and stopped suddenly. She had bumped into something large and unmoving. She could feel the cold damp leather of a uniform. She could tell that the form was towering, the muscles under the uniform large and bulging. She could smell something that reminded her of summer festivals growing up. Her Heart began to beat faster.
Instinctively she dropped to the ground, narrowly avoiding the man’s arms as they attempted to grab her. She rolled across the rubble and jumped to her feet to face her assailant, her pistol leveled at her assailants.
Before her stood two men clad in skin tight leather uniforms. The uniforms were black and devoid of any significant markings. The men’s grey skinned, lifeless faces were topped with short cropped blonde hair. Strong jaw lines jutted outward over high necked collars. Dark glasses masked the men’s eyes. Rachael’s stomach sank as she looked at the two German soldiers.
Rachael could smell cotton candy and knew instantly that the two men were the work of the Baron von Sterb’s right hand at the UWG, Gretel. She had met the woman once and was sorry that they tried to take her captive instead of killing her, the paperwork would have been easier than dealing with her abominations. Rachael had encountered her creations before as well and knew she did not have a moment to think.
The female agent pulled the trigger two more times, placing bullets into the center of each man’s forehead. They did not fall to the ground dead as one would expect to happen when shooting someone in the head. A trail of wispy pink threads blew in the wind from the wound, but no blood. The two men exchanged a silent conversation and turned their attention to their prey.
Advancing rapidly on Rachael Erstweather the men’s uniforms creaked loudly as they moved. Despite what Rachael thought to be highly restrictive clothing the men moved effortlessly and with great speed and agility as they flailed arms in vicious attacks.
Dodging blows from both men Rachael found herself rapidly running out of options. She knew that she could not outrun the two men. When they wanted they could move with super human speed and even on her best day she was a slow fifty meter dash. Rachael also knew that she dare not let one of them get a hold of her or land a punch as both were stronger than normal soldiers and either event would crush her bones. She had to rely solely on her agility to evade the blows, while trying to find a way to escape.
One of the German’s picked up a large chunk of fallen building and threw it at the woman. Rachael Erstweather managed to roll out of the way in the last minute to avoid being crushed under several hundred pounds of bricks and mortar. Bouncing lightly to her feet Rachael turned to face her adversaries again. She fired three more rounds into one of the men to no avail. She performed another somersault and turned to face the soldiers.
She was just in time to duck under a twisted spanner that one of the Nazi soldiers was swinging at her head. The large steel girder glided effortlessly through the air in the exact opposite way such pieces of buildings normally slid through the air. The girder struck a column of bricks and broke through it easily.
Rachael rebounded and fired several more rounds at the two assailants as she attempted to find cover. She thought that if she could separate the two soldiers she might stand a better chance. Unfortunately the two men seemed to coordinate their movements without speaking a word and were impossible to separate from one another. Rachael ran into the burned out remains of a shop and weaved through the wreckage in an attempt to escape the two men and somehow drive a wedge through their pincer movements.
Every time she bobbed one of the soldiers cut her off. They were herding her back in to the center of the abandoned street. Diving through a whole in a wall the woman ended up in the bakery’s kitchen.
With the grace and elegance of a rampaging bull elephant the two men burst through the brick wall; spraying bricks and dust through the air. Rachael Erstweather choked on the dust in the air and fell backwards into the remains of an oven.
Rachael grabbed the copper gas feed and ripped it from the remains of the brick oven. A gentle hissing sound told the woman that she had found her escape route. She pulled the pliable copper pipe forward and had just enough length to put it in the path of the two advancing soldiers.
The two leather clad men loomed tall over the woman. She thought for a moment that they each tried to smile, but failed to strike anything but a slightly less stoic expression. As they reached down to pick her up she struck the butt of her pistol against a brick, causing a spark and the gas from the pipe to erupt in a cloud of flame.
The two Germans caught on fire. They reeled as the flame climbed up the outside of their uniforms and onto their exposed faces.
Half blinded from the flash of flame Rachael backed away from the two men and watched in fascination. The soldiers seemed to melt in front of her leaving only an empty, blackened skin of the soldier who had once been alive. Rachael was confident that she was not actually the person responsible for their deaths, which had come long before her encounter with them. Leaving the wreckage Rachael stumbled back to her car, the bag of books from the library dragging along the ground.
“Get me back to the Afterlife,” panted the female agent to her driver who looked at her suspiciously.
The car was trundling along the road back to High Gate Cemetery before the driver dared ask what happened. “Mam, you ok. What happened back there?”
“A special delivery courtesy of the Baron von Sterb.” Rachael Erstweather closed her eyes to rest for a moment before she had to explain to the Brigadier what happened.