Zom-B ClansDarren Shan
Table of Contents
A Preview of Zom-B Family
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Conan Gorenstein, lost too soon. Even in death may he be triumphant!
OBE (Order of the Bloody Entrails) to:
Camilla Leask–clan PR
My clan of editors:
Agents of the night:
the Christopher Little clan
When Becky Smith’s racist father told her to throw an innocent black boy to a pack of zombies, she did it because she had spent her whole life obeying his orders. Instantly horrified by what she had done, she told her father that he was a monster and cut herself off from him. She was killed soon after and turned into one of the living dead. Unlike most of her kind, she regained the use of her brain, the result of a vaccine that had been given to her as a child by Dr. Oystein, the world’s first sentient zombie.
Desperate to atone for her crime in whatever small way she could, B joined Dr. Oystein’s Angels, teenagers like her who had pledged to fight for the future of the world’s living survivors. It was to be a tense, terrible war. They not only faced the flood of brain-hungry zombies, there were other forces stacked against them, such as the sinister Mr. Dowling and his mutants, the mysterious Owl Man, nightmarish babies and a powerful group of humans known as the Board, who tormented revitalizeds for fun.
After an uncertain start, and a period of captivity in which she was forced to fight for the amusement of the Board, B settled into life as an Angel, trained hard and developed swiftly. For her first proper mission, she and her roommates were asked to escort a group of humans to New Kirkham, a town outside London. Along the waying she hooked up with Vinyl, an old friend of hers who had come through the attacks unscathed and was working with the Angels to try to restore order.
Having successfully delivered their group to New Kirkham, B and her team set off for their base in County Hall. But, as they were returning, B spotted Owl Man and a troop of humans dressed as members of the Ku Klux Klan. Though she had only her gut instinct to base it on, she was certain that they were heading for the town, and that Owl Man’s primary aim in going there was to get hold of Vinyl. She had started to believe that Owl Man had been following her around London, and that he wished to use her friend to somehow manipulate her.
The other Angels were unconvinced by B’s arguments, but agreed to retrace their footsteps, to make sure everything was okay. To their dismay, they found the robed vigilantes rounding up anyone who wasn’t white or British. They were assisted by some of the settlement’s residents, who had welcomed the Klan with open arms—in fact, a number of them had been secretly working with the KKK in advance, and they were the ones who had let in the savage invaders.
Some of the townsfolk had fought back, but most stood by neutrally, letting events play out, abandoning people who had previously been their friends and allies. It seemed, in this horrific world of the living dead, that most of the survivors were more interested in saving themselves than in fighting for those who needed their help.
B and her fellow Angels didn’t do neutral. Without a thought for their own safety, they scaled the wall, slipped into town unseen, moved in on the racist tormentors and attacked.
The Klanners drove to New Kirkham in jeeps, vans and trucks, which they parked in the town’s main square. While many of them rampage through the streets, on the hunt for anyone they don’t approve of, the rest force their prisoners into cages and load them up. They cackle as they work, beating their captives, firing shots into the air, whooping wildly. They’ve already notched up plenty of murders, and corpses lie strewn across the ground.
Owl Man is grimly overseeing it all from the back of a jeep. He’s a strange-looking figure. He has enormous eyes, all white except for a dark dot at the center of each, a thin frame and a potbelly, white hair and long, creepy fingers. He dresses in a striped suit with a pink shirt.
Owl Man is studying his pet dog as it roots among the guts of a guy it killed moments before. The dog looks like an ordinary sheepdog, but when it opens its mouth, it has fangs like a zombie’s, and bones slide from its claws when it attacks. Owl Man called the dog Sakarias.
“Clever doggie,” Owl Man murmurs as Sakarias rips the dead man’s heart from his chest, tosses it high into the air, catches it and wolfs it down. Then he hears my war cry as I charge into the square, the rest of my crew behind me. He looks up and smiles. “Ah,” he says in his smooth voice, sounding pleased. “The undead cavalry comes riding to the rescue. This should be interesting.”
Ignoring Owl Man, we tear into the startled members of the Ku Klux Klan and the men and women of New Kirkham who have been helping them.
Ashtat’s hands and feet are a blur as she unleashes one perfectly orchestrated karate chop after another. She was worried that she might not be able to bring herself to kill a living human, no matter how evil they might be. She needn’t have been concerned. She’s like a biblical warrior angel, raining down hellfire on anyone who gets in her way.
Pearse and Conall flank her, picking off anyone she misses. The ginger-haired pair have more firsthand experience in battle than the rest of us, but I’m sure they’ve never had to deal with a situation like this before.
Carl leaps around like a crazy killer frog and strikes swiftly every time he lands. The speedy Jakob races after Carl, backing him up, targeting those who scatter ahead of the acrobatic teenager.
Shane and I wade into those standing close to the trucks, throwing one jab after another, ripping open throats, breaking bones, crushing skulls.
That last bit is crucial. All hell is breaking loose, but each one of us takes the time to crack open the skull of every person we kill, destroying the brain inside. Otherwise the corpses would revive and attack the humans, causing even more problems than the Klanners.
The humans in hoods fly into a panic. They weren’t expecting an attack of this nature. Most of them have guns. If they closed ranks and worked as a team, they could pick us off easily. But they’re all over the place. They wheel away from one another, firing crazily, screaming, jumping at shadows. It’s utter chaos, which suits us perfectly.
The dog became alert as soon as it heard my challenging roar. Looking up from its meal, it glanced around, took in everything that was happening, identified the various threats, then hurled itself at Carl, who was its nearest target.
Sakarias chases after the springing Carl. It snaps at his heels and just misses as he soars overhead. As it turns to follow him, Jakob grabs it by the scruff of its neck and tries to wrestle it to the ground. The dog shrugs him off–it must be a lot stronger than it looks–then locks its jaws around his left arm. Jakob screams as it chews through his flesh and bone, shaking its head, trying to rip the arm free of its socket.
“Sakarias!” Owl Man calls, then whistles sharply. The dog instantly releases Jakob and bounds back to its master, leaving a relieved Jakob to grit his teeth against the pain–we don’t feel it as much as the living, but serious wounds definitely hurt–and rejoin the action.
I grab a Klanner–a short, thin, wiry woman–and smash her head open against the side of a truck. Turning from her corpse, I fix on Ow
l Man and start towards him. The dog spots me and draws to a halt ahead of the jeep where its master is standing. It squares up to me, snarling, blood dripping from its fangs, the fur around its face soaked with the red stuff and covered in scraps of gut, sharp bones jutting out of the tips of all its paws.
“Easy, Sakarias,” Owl Man purrs, studying me with an amused look.
I size the dog up and decide I don’t fancy the fight. I spot a discarded gun and pick it up. Dr. Oystein and Master Zhang abhor guns. They’ve trained us to fight without them, told us never to resort to using such foul weapons. But in my book there’s a time and a place for everything. Steadying my arm, I aim at the mutant dog’s face.
“No,” Owl Man barks, his smile vanishing. “Drop it.”
I sneer and start to hurl an insult at him. Then I stare with astonishment as my fingers open and the gun falls. Confused, I bend to retrieve it.
“Leave it alone, Becky,” Owl Man mutters, and for some sickening reason I stop short of picking it up. “Kneel,” Owl Man whispers, and I find myself obeying his soft command.
As I stare at Owl Man with shock and terror, he climbs down from the jeep and strolls towards me, clicking his tongue for the dog to follow. The pair stop in front of me and Owl Man sears me with his unnatural gaze.
“Little girls should not play with guns,” he growls. “You have betrayed the wishes of your superiors. You should be ashamed of yourself.”
“How… are you… doing this?” I snarl, willing myself to attack him, but unable to get my limbs to respond.
“Oh, I’m a man of many subtle talents,” Owl Man says with a wicked chuckle. He walks around me, then whistles again at the dog and makes a gesture with his left hand. Sakarias opens its mouth wide and fastens its fangs round my throat. I moan and stare at the sky, expecting it to be the last thing I see before the dog severs my head and digs into my brain.
“If you ever threaten Sakarias again, I will tell him to finish you off,” Owl Man says. “He is a sweet animal who only kills when ordered or if we are threatened. Those of us with a choice must be kind to the dumb creatures of the world. Otherwise we are no better than the reviveds, who tear their heads open for the sweet brains within.”
Owl Man clicks his fingers and Sakarias withdraws. The dog gives me an evil look, then follows its master back to the jeep, where the pair hop onboard.
“Your body is your own again,” Owl Man says with a mocking smile. To my relief, I find myself in control once more. Flexing my fingers, I get to my feet and shake my arms and legs. I feel like my heart is beating fast, but that was ripped from my chest when I was turned into a zombie, so I know it’s my imagination.
“What the hell happened?” Shane shouts, pulling up beside me.
“I don’t know,” I croak, then cock my head at him. “Where were you?”
“Back there,” he says.
“Why didn’t you help me?”
He looks sheepish. “I couldn’t move.”
“Owl Man was controlling you too?” I ask sympathetically.
He grins shakily. “Not exactly. I was just too stunned to do anything.”
I roll my eyes and curse him, then look around to see how the battle is going. It seems to be favoring us. About a hundred of the white citizens of New Kirkham took a stand against the Klan when they invaded. They were led by the mayor, Biddy Barry. The Klan had the rebels clustered against a wall when we attacked, but now they’ve overthrown their captors and massed behind us. With Biddy’s roaring encouragement, the men and women grab weapons and throw themselves into combat with their racist foes.
Some of the prisoners have broken free from their cages and holding pens, but many are still under lock and key. A few of the sharper drivers see that they’re fighting a lost cause. Showing little concern for their colleagues, three of them start their trucks and roar towards the main road out of the square. Owl Man bangs on the side of his jeep and his driver fires up the engine and tears after them.
I don’t want to let Owl Man escape. I’m still furious about the way he turned me into a puppet. I want to pay him back, catch up with the jeep, take him by surprise and strike before he can say a word. But I can’t abandon the people of New Kirkham. They need our help. I decide to stand my ground.
Then, just as I’ve made up my mind to stay, I spot cages in one of the trucks, filled with humans. The prisoners are screaming, weeping, tugging at the bars. If I was right about Owl Man coming here for Vinyl, it’s a sure bet that he was one of the first they caged and loaded up, that he’s almost certainly among those in one of the three fleeing trucks.
I glance around again. Biddy Barry and her troops seem to have things in hand. It won’t be easy, but with the aid of the Angels they should triumph. But nobody is thinking about the people on the trucks. If I don’t try to do something now, the Klanners will escape with dozens–if not more–of the townsfolk.
“Stay here and oversee things,” I bark at Shane. “I’m guessing that lots of the Klan are scattered around the town, still searching for victims. Organize a hunt for them once you’re done with this lot.”
“Are you going after the trucks?” Shane asks.
“Yeah. And the guy with the eyes. I want him too.”
He shudders. “Better you than me.”
“That’s why I’m a badass and you’re a wuss,” I laugh. Then I sprint after the jeep and trucks, murder most horrid on my mind.
I hurry through the town, chasing the sounds of the trucks and jeep. I won’t be able to keep up with them if they make it out of New Kirkham and into the open, but on these streets, being able to take shortcuts up alleys while they have to follow the road and go slow round corners, I start to catch up.
I pass a few stray Klanners. Some take potshots at me. Others cower and beg for mercy. I ignore them all, leaving them for the others to deal with.
I’m slipping past what used to be a fish-and-chip shop when there’s a thump behind me. I think it’s some sort of missile, so I hurl myself aside and cover my head with my hands.
“What are you doing?” an amused voice asks.
I look up to find Carl Clay standing over me. Jakob is running after him.
“Don’t you know it’s rude to sneak up on a girl?” I snap, uncurling myself.
“We saw you quitting the party early,” Carl grins. “Figured you might need backup.”
“But we’ll be happy to leave you to your own devices if you prefer,” Jakob adds as he arrives, wincing with pain.
Carl is handsome and sleekly groomed, always sporting the finest designer gear. Jakob looks like he’s a centimeter shy of death’s door and usually wears baggy clothes to disguise his skeletal, cancer-ridden frame. They’re an odd couple, but they match each other in a weird, undead kind of way.
“My first priority is to free the prisoners in the trucks,” I tell them. “But I want to kill Owl Man too, if I can sneak up on him and strike before he opens his mouth. Did you see him perform his Jedi mind trick on me?”
“What are you talking about?” Carl frowns.
“Never mind. There’s no time to explain. Just don’t confront him head-on. Hit him from behind, when he’s not looking, and don’t let him speak.”
“That’s not very chivalrous,” Carl sniffs.
“Screw chivalry,” I snarl.
We press on after the vehicles. I soon find myself falling behind. Carl leaps ahead of us and Jakob swiftly outpaces me. I don’t mind. This isn’t about personal glory. It’s about getting the job done.
I try not to think about how Owl Man took control of my body. It was terrifying at the time, but even more so looking back. It makes me wonder what else he could force me to do, and when. I mean, if he can manipulate me up close, can he do it from afar as well, any time he likes?
The noise of the trucks and jeep alters and comes closer. That confuses me for a moment. Then I realize they must have hit a dead end and been forced to turn. They don’t know this town. They�
��re intruders, fish out of water.
I spot the vehicles rumbling past at the end of the street. Carl and Jakob have paused and shifted to the sides to hide themselves from view. I’m too far away to have to worry, though I could swear that Owl Man’s head turns as they pass, that he looks my way and smirks.
Carl and Jakob wait for me to join them, then the three of us gaze after the diminished remains of the convoy. Members of the Klan are clinging to the sides of the truck at the rear. The back doors are open. We can see cages inside, people locked up, still banging on the bars and screaming for help.
“I’m going to target that one,” Carl says, squatting and tensing his legs, getting ready to spring. “I’ll leave the other trucks and Owl Man to you guys.”
“We should stick together,” I mutter.
He shakes his head. “If we can take a truck each, we might be able to save everyone.”
“And Owl Man?” I ask.
Carl shrugs. “He’s got to be a bonus, nothing more. If he gets away, so be it. The prisoners have to come first.”
Before I can finish processing that and tell Carl that I think he’s right, he’s gone, springing forward like a grasshopper. He lands close to the truck, then propels himself into the air again. This time he comes down on the roof. He almost slides off, but digs in with his finger bones and starts crawling towards the cab at the front.
Jakob and I resume our pursuit of the remaining trucks, but he stays by my side now, reining himself in. As we chase the vehicles, the truck that Carl landed on swerves, then crashes into a building. The humans clinging to the sides are crushed or shaken loose. As we storm past, we spot Carl emerging from the driver’s cab. He lays into those who survived the crash, cutting them down before they can flee, moving towards the opening at the back to free the prisoners.
“Give them hell, Carl!” I whoop, and he waves a hand to acknowledge me. Then we move on and the chase continues.