ReZolve (Paperback)

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In the middle of the apocalypse, school is still in session.

Brock is at the helm of a group of survivors, and with the herd gone, things were supposed to be looking up. 

Unfortunately, the survivors learn that hope has a price, and in their uncertainty they look to Brock to lead them once again.

But he’s out of plans and the dead are swarming.

Facing a long, empty road that would surely mean starvation or worse, an unlikely ally comes forth with new information. 

A school on the edge of town has flourished, and their doors were always open.

Caught between a rock and a dead place, Brock takes a chance on the school and leads his people into what may turn out to be yet another costly mistake…

Paperback 224 pages
Dimensions 5 x 0.56 x 8 inches
ISBN 979-8527281583
Publication date April 13, 2021
Publisher The Nightmare Engine

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Back to School

The asylum growing smaller in the distance, a lone military vehicle with armored sides, reinforced glass, and thick tires headed east down a derelict road. The street was a reflection of the abandoned, crumbling, and empty town. Those on board the MRAP couldn’t help but feel like they were being watched.
Brock Skeller, a worse-for-wear United Military Front veteran, sat in the passenger seat scanning the road ahead. He wore a stained T-shirt with the outline of the state with the words ‘I love Texas printed in big red letters. His shorts were one size too big and held up with string.
Carmen Santora, a Spanish beauty with a mess of long blonde hair and brown eyes, looked like she had been dragged through the sewer. Her maroon road leathers were torn about the legs and her boots were scuffed. Her face bore the same look of utter exhaustion as the other passengers in the large truck.
Austin Briggs, a young man with dirty blond hair, scratched at the dried blood caking his arms and flicked it on the floorboards. He sat behind Carmen with Brock’s puppy Beau in his lap. Now and then, Austin looked up at those around him. Palmer, Ed, the pregnant Abigail and her two adolescent boys, and an elderly lady who had mostly remained silent, resting with her head on her husband’s shoulder. Despite being in the truck for just under twenty minutes, they were all asleep, even though the sun shone brightly through the windows. As if feeling Austin looking at him, Palmer cracked an eye. Once a schoolteacher, he now resembled Ed, a hardened criminal in a past life, and was mostly strong and silent.
If it weren’t for the occasional Zee, the crumbling buildings, and decaying world around him, Austin might have considered it a beautiful morning. But as they passed the skeletons of the town, Austin let the air drift in through an open window. He noted no birds chirped or animals called, and the air was humid and ripe with the smell of burning plastic. The puppy stirred in his lap, opened its eyes and yawned, then hopped over into Brock’s lap.
Brock scratched the puppy behind the ears. Carmen looked over and flashed a weary smile.
“You were so against her. What changed?”
He looked down at the dog. “She’s a good dog. Listens. Most run away without a leash, and I can’t handle any more loss than I’ve already had. She’s different. Stays close and understands commands. I think she’ll be with me for a while.”
“It’s good to think ahead, but it’s hard to with the way things have been. Are you even thinking about retirement?”
Brock forced a chuckle. “Is there such a thing as retirement when the world’s ended? Besides, I’m only in my forties. I’ve still got plenty of years ahead.”
Carmen turned the wheel to dodge a charred car in the middle of the road. “You don’t look it.” She laughed.
He was about to reply with something snarky, but the building they were looking for was coming into view. His eyes scanned left to right, taking everything in. Up ahead was a three-story red brick structure with a flat roof and a set of doors under a front awning. The road they were on was the only one leading up to it, and a chain link fence surrounded overgrown grass to both sides. Through the fence, Brock made out multiple dead wandering in the fields. The dark windows were shaded by outdated metal overhangs, and evenly spaced about each floor. In the top left corner, a faint light flickered, illuminating a thick black tube sticking out of it. A large bay door to the right of the school caught his attention.
He was about to lean over and tell Austin to wake up Russell, but the burly man was already kneeling between the front seats. He wore a camouflage shirt and pants, and his full beard smelled of cigarettes and the same cheap aftershave he never seemed to run out of. His eyes were locked ahead and he fingered the buttstock of a hunting rifle.
“Do you even have any rounds left?” Brock asked.
“Just one,” he replied.
“Well, keep your finger off the trigger. We don’t know what we’re walking into.”
“It’s not for them. It’s for me. Circle around the back. There’s a street that runs along the fields.”
Carmen turned right and they continued on until they could turn left and follow the fence line. Brock counted the undead as they drove, losing track around fifty. Not a good sign.
“There’s a ton of dead in the fields. Are you sure anyone is alive in there?” he asked Russell.
“They keep them out there to ward off people they don’t want. There are multiple exits around the back.”
“Why aren’t they herding?” Brock asked, sitting up to try to see better.
“They cut out their eyes and fill their ears with wax,” he said grimly. “Turn here.”
Brock let the words linger. Smart, but to capture that many dead and keep them around was incredibly dangerous. He began to wonder what kind of person could stand to do that to something.
They came around the school where they could get a good look at the field. There were two sets of double doors along the back of the building, a playground, and a set of decaying stables off to the right. They turned left and came around to the front again. Brock looked up, noting the light in the window was out and the tube hanging out was no longer there.
Up ahead under the awning, the front doors were now open, and a middle-aged man in a grey two piece suit and shiny black shoes was standing with his arms open, welcoming them. He had a large smile and an even larger nose. His light brown hair was slicked back, and he had a machete strung by his side. He looked like he was ready to greet hotel guests instead of someone barely managing to survive, quite a contradiction.
“What the hell?” Carmen asked, the brakes squealing as she slowed the truck.
“Don’t stop. Get close and I’ll get out and talk to him,” Brock replied, sitting up straight and removing a black pistol from a storage box built into the dash. He pulled the slide back, making sure there was a round in the chamber, then dropped the mag.
Two bullets. Crap.
He reseated the mag and tucked the pistol behind his back under his shirt. “Get everybody up. Eyes alert. Carmen, if something happens, get them out of here.”
“What’s going on?” Abigail asked from the back.
“We’re here. There’s someone out front. I’m going to go talk to him.”
Abigail didn’t answer and began rousing her boys, then gently shook everyone else awake. By the time the truck made it to the awning, everyone was peering through the windows. Carmen stopped just shy of the overhang with the smiling man in front of them. He hadn’t moved or dropped his hands.
Brock hopped out and took a wide walk around the truck, then stopped at the back corner with the ladder to his right. If something happened, he could grab on really quick.
Brock held up his hands, showing he was unarmed. “Hello,” he called awkwardly.
The man in the suit dropped his arms and continued to smile. After a brief moment he replied.
“Hello. Who are you?” The man’s voice was unusually chipper and higher pitched than Brock guessed it to be.
“My name is Brock Skeller.”
“Hello Brock, what can I help you with?”
“We need a place to stay for a few days to gather ourselves together. We’ve been through a lot and our supplies are running low.”
The man in the suit smiled again. “Well, everyone is welcome here. We have plenty to trade and work to be done. Services are an acceptable form of payment if you don’t have anything to trade.”
Brock changed tack. “What is your Purpose?”
“My people do not believe in this Purpose nonsense, but we do believe. Enough with these formalities. Welcome to Calgary Middle School. My name is Norman Leach. You may call me The Principal.”
Norman turned on his heels, clasped his hands behind his back, and made for the front doors, whistling what sounded like For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.