The Fortress/Excalibur Prologue

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Excalibur Prologue
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Pocket Full of Posies

The first book of team The Fortress/Excalibur

We would like to thank anyone who reads this, for taking the time and having an interest in what we are doing. There will be points where it's funny, other times a bit of action and then moments where it's a little sad. Malton is a story of modern gothic horror. And we are trying to keep that.

Traditional writing styles would be to have one person just write the book. But it's a collaboration which makes the project even harder. Not only is it many writing flavors but also different ideas and levels of emotion as it changes hands. Often you can tell who wrote what. But sometimes it's not so evident.

As I post I would ask that you remember I didn't write it all. I only did my share. It's the fine members of Excalibur that wrote it. Granted we didn't always agree on things... but hell, isn't variety what it's all about?

But in all I would hope that it's an enjoyable read for everyone.

-Avatorous [chief editor]

Background

Malton is a British city where a zombie outbreak occured on 3rd of July 2005. The military were quick to react, quarantining the city, as humans entered a deadly battle for survival with the marauding zombie hordes. Surviving in shopping malls, hospitals and police stations, the living throw up desperate barricades as fast as the undead tear them down.

In a city where death comes often, and the dead rise as zombies, a key weapon in the fight is the necrotech syringe, full of nanobots and able to revive zombies.

Not all are convinced of Necro-Tech's heroic status, as rumours spread that they are behind the original outbreak.


The daily battle for survival is tough. Humans have banded together, forming loose organisations and well organised groups. The Fortress is one of the largest and most powerful pro-survivor groups, with nearly one hundred members, and five combat teams. Several pro-survivor groups work together in alliences, The Fortress have favoured ally status with the largest and best known pro-survivor group, the Department of Emergency Management (DEM), which includes Malton's emergency services.


It's not just humans who form groups. Zombie hordes are a common sight, and many appear organised. The Ridleybank Resistance Front are probably the most famous and deadly of these hordes.

Principle Characters

Team Excalibur

  • Characters and writers:
  • Avatorous Du Magnus, Excalibur's founder and commander; nicknames: Ava, King Ava. Before the outbreak he was a genetic engineer working initially with the American Army, and then with Necromantic Technologies (Necro-Tech), the biological manipulation company who are presumed to have caused the zombie outbreak. He was based in their Boston, Mass. offices and traveled to Malton to search for his fiancee who was stranded in the quarantine zone. (Chief Editor Jan -> June 2008)
  • Bernard "Coup" or "Couponballer" Stevens, rock star, lead guitarist and only surviving member of "The Damned Straight", who were on tour in the city during the accident. Excalibur's Lieutenant and Remi O'Cassidy's boyfriend. (Asst-Editor Jan-March 2008)
  • Valerie "Zuton" Kingsley, combat medical technician with the British army, parachuted into Malton after the outbreak.
  • Silas Reg, psychiatrist for Necrotech, active in Malton when the zombies emerged. (Asst-Editor March 2008 -> Present)
  • Remi O'Cassidy, young fire-fighter who grew up in Pitneybank. She survived with the help of her big dog, imaginatively named Dog. Coup's girlfriend.
  • Tristana A. Clover, An army-nurse who grew up in Darvall Heights, joins Excalibur February 2008.
  • Doran Breen, Remi's older brother, Necrotech scientist and Battlehawk member who joins Excalibur at Remi's request, April 2008.

The Fortress

  • Jensonson, Head of The Fortress, former (undercover traffic) cop.
  • Stark Senap, former Battlehawk Commander, shadow cleric and Excalibur's advisor.
  • Miss Elainious (Elaine) Avatorous' former fiancee, who has no memory of her life before being revived, Team Anaconda's LT and Tommy Crowbar's lover.
  • Tommy Crowbar, Anaconda Commander
  • Hogan, (Hogan's Hero) Drill Sergeant, Fortress Bootcamp

Zombie Groups

  • The Ridleybank Resistance Front (RRF)
  • The Dead
  • The Feral Undead

Prologue

Written by Avatorous, Coup and Remi, January 2008


Ducking the swing Avatorous scampered back looking around. There were over two hundred of them... What had he been thinking? Swarming and flowing almost as a mass he tried to keep his bearings making sure they didn't cut him off from his escape. Looking down he began to count his rounds and do the math in his head. It wouldn't be long before he had to slip back inside and restock. That was if they let him.

This group had seemingly been well organized more so than most as it had rolled it's way through the city. Fortunately Ava hadn't fallen victim to it yet. If he wasn't careful though he would, he thought as he kicked another corpse out of the way. Reaching down he grabbed his cell phone answering it while he squeezed off a few more rounds. Moving over he held open the door so Icie Hot from one of their allied groups could go back inside. If nothing else he was a gentleman.


Slapping a fresh clip into one of his pistols, Bernard Stevens, AKA Coup, cradled the cell phone in between his cheek and shoulder, listening for Ava to pick up. As he pulls back the slide to rack a shell into the chamber, his C.O. [commanding officer, head of a combat team] answers: "Hello Coup... what’s up? Oh, remind me to hire us a nurse when I get a chance..." and several shots can be heard near by.

"Are you busy, Ava? You sound like you have your hands full.... I can call you later if you need to concentrate on your work.... or better yet, call me back when you have a minute."


Closing the phone Ava shook his head just in time to have it swatted from the side. He had taken his eyes off them for not more than a moment but it was enough for them to have gotten a few to close. A tug on his shirt from the right tipped him just enough so another could grab a hold. It was a primitive means of attacking but nonetheless it could often over power and well.. get the job done.

It didn't matter how many times one was attacked by the relentless undead of Malton. You never got used to the sudden panic when they breached your clothing and the feeling of their claws touching skin became a reality. Rending his back the assault began. He let out a shriek when the second one decided to take a small bite out of his arm. Pleasantries were never a calling card and neither was an anesthetic as they began to work.

Lifting his gun he put it to the jaw of the one who had so politely tasted him. It was well known that any of them were really only one syringe away from being a survivor and it truly bothered him each time he had to "euthanasia" one. Fortunately the mess went in the other direction and not on his once nice suit and perhaps he wouldn't think of that one either tonight in his bunk or where ever it was he would sleep.

Another hand clawed along his back forced his eyes to water making it apparent if he didn't get inside soon he wouldn't at all. A skylight window was all that he had for an option and on the ruined building next to him. Making a few striding and painful steps he ran and jumped hoping he would find something soft at the bottom. The breaking of the window wasn't nearly as painful as he thought it would be. The landing on the pile of bodies and the 3 zombies that continued to tear at them was. Gasping for breath he rolled off the bodies and crawled to the window toppling himself out to fall and land on the awning for the balcony of the next building over.

Lying on his back he pulled himself inside and closed the sliding door. The room looked a bit fuzzy at first until he regained his breath. Blinking once he reached into his hip pack and pulled out a small portable first aid kit and a disinfectant patch. He knew the bite was a bad one and he needed to treat it. After a few moments he pulled himself to his feet and stumbled out of the office to over look the masses back inside Giddings Mall where he had started just a few moments ago.

Dragging out the phone that some how stayed intact he dialed back.. "Hey Coup.. It’s Ava. Ok, it’s a little better for me to talk now. What’s going on?"


When Ava had clicked on him, he resumed reloading his guns. Coup had shed them over the past few days to attempt the Zen/ Rage ABA [Achievement-Based-Award for killing a zombie by punching it] - he personally would not be trying that one again. He'd punched plenty of zombies before, but it's next to impossible to kill one by just using one's fists. Plus, Coup admittedly felt very naked without his guns.

His cell phone chirped loudly, and he brought it to his ear. Coup was taken aback by the haggardness in his voice. "Are you alright, sir? No offense intended, but you sound like hell. Are you inside the mall?"

His eyes swept the sea of faces for his friend and mentor, hoping he's in better condition than he sounds...

"...Ava, I don't see you.... Are you ok? Where are you?"

He couldn't find him anywhere, even though Avatorous wasn't one who was hard to find. He always stood out. His eyes scanned the crowd, trying to be even more thorough. The long silence he was hearing on his cell phone didn't help to quell doubts that Ava was anything but fine.


Looking out the window back at the lurching zombies below the commander shook his head throwing an empty pistol at one hitting it in the head. A smile crossed his lips as he flipped it his middle finger in salute. "Coup don't worry about how I’m doing. What's up? You never call me on my cell phone. Especially when you know I’m possibly occupied. It has to be something you are concerned about."

Coup had always been level headed and always excellent under fire. But every once in a while something would set him off. Perhaps it was how someone spoke to a fellow teammate or how his own performance was. In any extent when his "hands started to itch" he would come talk to Ava. Not always calmly, but always getting to the point and always with the utmost respect. They had become close friends in the six months they had known each other. And there were few others he would tie himself to and ride into hell with. For that reason and that Coup was not only a hell of a soldier but also a caring person that would someday with no doubt become a Boot camp drill sergeant [training officer for new recruits], he was Ava's second in command. His loyalty had never wavered or faltered. And foreseeably never would.


When Ava's voice came back over the speaker, it relaxed Coup only enough to tick him off. Ava was his friend, but it annoyed Coup that he'd alway play the team shrink. It was what made it easier to talk to him at times, but in some circumstances, it just bugged Coup that people could read him so easily.

"Well, I guess I need to talk to you about a medical condition....You worked on Necrotech equipment and studied 'nanites', didn't you?" Coup didn't even want to talk about what had happened to him. Remi was worried, and making him talk to Ava was the only way to calm her down.

He glanced back, and saw that Remi was watching him on the phone, just to make sure he told Ava. "I think you may want to see what I'm talking about with your own eyes...I'll explain how it happened in person..."


Remi was trying her best to not butt in. She really was. But the second she knew he wasn't about to fall over and die on her she wanted him to call Ava. She didn't know enough about reviving or any of the science that could explain what was happening to her boyfriend. Ava was smart, and he was their CO. Therefor, she wanted the man called ASAP.

Coup had done his best to try to distract her from it, but she insisted. And now he had Ava on the phone, and wasn't going to tell him what was going on. Bouncing from foot to foot she finally gave a huff and held out her hand.

"Phone," she mouthed, then realized he wasn't actually looking at her to see her do it. She tugged lightly at his sleeve, and when he looked at her questioningly, she took the phone from him.

"Ava, sir?" She called into it, not sure what the reception was like. "It's Remi. I'm here with Coup, in the south east corner of the mall. There's something wrong with his eyes sir. He said it happened after he was revived the last time? Can... can we come see you sir? Please? I know we need to be moving out but..."

Her voice trailed off, and she realized she completely failed at hiding how scared she was for Coup. Fortunately for her it wouldn't be but a few moments before Ava got up the will to fight through the hundreds in attendance in the mall. While the malls were a place for safety and security due to numbers they were also very dangerous. Often other survivors would go on violent raids and kill one another for no reason what so ever. Culling the herd is what it was sometimes called. Often saying it was to conserve on supplies others for the hell of it. It really didn't matter though, because in any cause it only spread the contagion to one more person as they would now die and stand back up as a zombie.

Forcing his way through the crowd he made it to the escalator and scanned through the masses until he found them. Remi actually had spotted him first and was waving her hands. It wasn't hard to see a man dressed in purple. Well at least the shirt. The jacket had been torn and was in shreds back out in the ally.

Looking them both over, Ava tilted his head motioning to Coups sunglasses, "Would you pull them off please?"


Coup stiffened when Ava asked him to remove his sunglasses. He thought it was a rather dangerous proposition in a mall, where deranged killers - who happened to be trigger-happy as well- could be anywhere. Such scum needed no excuse to blow someone like him away as it is, but to feed their paranoia by letting them see his condition seemed like an unnecessary risk.

"Can we discuss this in a ....more private setting?," proffered Coup.

Looking around, Coup sees what he's looking for - a dark corner of the food court, which was unoccupied.

"Come with me...," he says, grabbing Remi's hand in one of his own, and using his other to steer Ava towards the more private setting.

Once they go to the far corner of the food court, Coup picks out a booth that faces away from the rest of the mall and clears it of debris.

Gesturing for Ava and Remi to take their seats, he cautions, "You're gonna want to sit down Ava.....I highly doubt you've seen anything like this before."

"When Remi saw me, she did a double take," continues Coup. "I've never seen her so scared...."

Looking at her, he tries to apologize. "I guess I should have told you before you'd noticed for yourself. Sorry hun."

Pulling out a flashlight, Coup hands it to Ava. "Like Remi told you on the cell, this happened after the last time I underwent revivification...," his voice trailed off as he took a deep breath - as though Coup was about to go diving. "My eyes have been like this ever since."

Pulling off his glasses in a fluid motion, his eyes are now exposed. Ava leaned in to examine Coup's condition, only to remember the flashlight wasn't on. Flipping the switch, the beam of light finds Coup's face, and shows what was bothering him. His eyes were the hue of a milky white throughout, and not a trace of any features could be seen.

Ava clasped the side of Coup's head and moved it slowly, looking first at his left eye and then his right, and then back again. From the look on the CO's face, his medical experience had never come across something this peculiar.

"I can still see just fine - nothing extraordinary like night vision or anything. Colors seem the same as before, too. There are other changes though...really, really weird changes."


Ava took a deep breath as he let go. "You have some thing while not fatal at this point it is definitely unsettling." He started to load up his stuff in a pack while he talked. "I can give you either the long version or the short version." Looking back he saw Remi and knew well she wouldn't be content until she completely understood it. He paused as he though, "Lets do the long version."

Motioning them to follow he continued. "I guess we really have to start from the beginning. And with that the first question. What is a Zombie?"

Closing his eyes a moment he took a very deep breath as it was going to be one of "those" explanations. "The Mitochondria, is a part of the cell that provides power for each one of them. And while it is part of every living creature they are actually Symbiotes. They are not part of the organism they inhabit but are living with in each of the host’s cells providing power for the host. So a human may have over a hundred trillion mitochondria in their body all taking in nutrients and returning the favor by keeping the cell alive. As the cell begins to wear out it send message to the Mitochondria that it needs to divide and create another like it’s self or simply if it needs more energy. In a survival instinct the Mitochondria does just that also so the new cell will be able to have power and so that the Mitochondria itself will have it’s strain live on.

From parent to child, egg cell and fertilization the Mitochondria replicates itself over and over creating an exact copy. As such every living creature on the planet has a similar strain of Mitochondria. Humans being one of the newest creatures have an almost identical strain to one another.

The Mitochondria Disruption Virus also known as MDV lays dormant in the bodies cells and causes a mutation to happen to the Mitochondria upon sudden termination of the cell. Forcing it to release its stored energy almost at once so it may reproduce more of its strain with in it. In a most interesting phenomenon it is enough to actually re animate the host corps. But in turn damaging the Mitochondria through out the body and slowly killing them. Here in lays the next problem. The virus now needing to continue to reproduce as it is a virus, but no longer has such a build up of energy and will lay dormant but the body still needs energy to continue, and as such, since it’s own Mitochondria are dying and infected it searches for another source. And with that the heinous need to feed off living human flesh. The new Mitochondria after they are eaten are also infected and repeat the process."

Turning around he looks to make sure he isn't talking to a few sleeping team members. In seeing they are still interested he continues, "For as ugly as it sounds we combat it with necrotech. Necrotech is the simple name for Necromantic Technologies. Their program was simple in its design but not in execution. By using nanites, little microscopic machines, they program them to use the remaining energy in the host body and reconstruct the Mitochondrias to their proper state of being. They are injected into the body with a syringe and will effectively re-kill the host using the reserve energies. This not only puts the body down but also puts the virus in a state of suspended animation. Following through with it’s programming it reconstructs each of the trillions of Mitochondria and repairs any damage done to the host before it starts them going by releasing all it's energies like a jump start in the exact points to ensure survival. The host then is able to stand up and seemingly alive and cured."

He stops and grabs an apple from a stand. "But it's flawed, the host is revived…. But the MDV is still dormant. Upon next death the host will once again stand back up and continue again in to the process it was before as a Zombie. And it's flawed because it was designed to repair the mitochondria unfortunately the MDV has altered the DNA of it. So all it is really doing it fixing the body and putting the epidemic back to sleep. Being flawed as it is. It also has a tiny margin of error. Those individuals who we say have the "brain rot" have had their DNA so skewed that we need a lot more of the nanites and the base coding from a lab to revive them. But also other errors take place. Such as reading the DNA wrong and making adjustments it shouldn't. Such...as in your eyes. "

Shining up the apple he tosses it to Remi, "This has happened before Coup, and it happened when I revived someone. The effects were different but the outcome was life altering. " Narrowing his eyes he swallows hard and speaks softly. "I can't fix it Coup. I can't undo what has been done. But it's possible that in time with more study I can or perhaps if, god forbid, you need to be revived again it may correct it's self. Or you may find as it may be with some cases. Change is for the better." Turning back around he lifted his pack again "Besides it's an interesting look for you."

Stopping at the stairs to the second floor again he looked at them both. "It's time to get out of here. I want to meet up with everyone at the club within the week. We have things to do and we can't do it here."


Remi fell into steps behind Ava, listening intently. She tried her best to follow what he was saying, but as soon as he got past making power for the cells she was completely lost. She didn't want to tell her new CO she wasn't able to understand, so she tried to figure out what he was talking about. Chewing at her lower lip she paid close attention, nodding along. But it basically sounded like if you died, things went wrong, and didn't really get fixed at all when you were revived. She reached out and found Coup's hand with hers, giving it a squeeze.

As Ava shined the apple she silently promised herself to not die. She didn't want any of her little cell parts getting messed up, or not working right. She'd just looked up from being in deep thought when the apple came sailing towards her. She caught it easily, taking a bite without thinking. It was probably good that she had food in her mouth when Ava said he couldn't help Coup with his eyes. He kept talking, thankfully, and gave her hope back. If Coup had white eyes forever, then he did, as long as he was okay. But it made her nervous, even after Ava explained everything. She just wanted Coup okay. Taking another big bite of the apple, she gave Coup's hand a tug, smiling up at him. His eyes didn't change how good looking she thought he was.

When Ava said it was time to move out she gave a slight nod. They were all ready to move out, and make this new team a reality. Apple in one hand, she drew her gun as her CO and lieutenant, Coup, lead the way out into the city. New challenges, new things to worry about, and new team to lean on. It was a big day, for everyone there. It felt good to be facing it together.

Excalibur Chapter One

Excalibur Chapter Two

Excalibur Chapter Three

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