The Last Bastion of the Living
by Rhiannon Frater
by Rhiannon Frater
Publication date: June 12th 2012
Genres: Adult, Horror, Science Fiction
The Bastion was humanity’s last hope against the fearsome undead creatures known as the Inferi Scourge. A fortified city with a high wall, surrounded by lush land rich with all the resources needed to survive, protected by high mountain summits, and a massive gate to secure the only pass into the valley, the Bastion became the last stronghold of the living on earth. But one fateful day, the gate failed and the Inferi Scourge destroyed the human settlements outside the walls and trapped the survivors inside the city. Now decades later, the last remaining humans are struggling to survive in a dying city as resources and hope dwindle.
Vanguard Maria Martinez has lived her whole life within the towering walls of steel. She yearns for a life away from the overcrowded streets, rolling blackouts, and food shortages, but there is no hope for anyone as long as the Inferi Scourge howl outside the high walls. Her only refuge from the daily grind is in the arms of her lover, Dwayne Reichardt, an officer in the Bastion Constabulary. Both are highly-decorated veterans of the last disastrous push against the Inferi Scourge. Their secret affair is her only happiness.
Then one day Maria is summoned to meet with a mysterious representative from the Science Warfare Division and is offered the opportunity to finally destroy the Inferi Scourge in the valley and close the gate. The rewards of success are great, but she will have to sacrifice everything, possibly even her life, to accomplish the ultimate goal of securing the future of humanity and saving it from extinction.
Excerpt from Prologue
A massive shockwave rippled through the perimeter wall, tossing soldiers off their feet and onto the catwalk, or over the wall into the Scourge horde below as one of the mobile units twisted around in one of the deeper craters and wrenched another unit completely about. The torsion between the two units sent another shudder through the perimeter wall and Maria clung to the catwalk as Ryan fell on top of her. Together, they rode the catwalk to the ground, tumbling into the mud. Maria immediately scrambled to her feet and gasped.
The steel mesh had torn free of one of the units and the Scourge were shoving their bodies through the frayed opening. The squads closest to the breach opened fire. The mesh wall shimmered as it wavered under the onslaught of the undead. The mobile units continued on their designated course to their next position, ripping another hole in the mesh wall.
“Fall back!” someone ordered as the Inferi Scourge shoved through the widening openings.
Ryan grabbed Maria’s shoulder and dragged her toward a section where the fallen catwalks formed a barrier along with some of the unpacked supply units. Lindsey scrambled to follow. The squads formed a line, shooting at the Scourge coming through the gap. For several agonizing minutes, they were successful at holding the howling creatures back.
“Tiltrotors are en route!” a voice intoned in her helmet.
Sweat poured down Maria’s face as she reloaded. Ryan lobbed several grenades toward the breach as Lindsey fired over Maria’s head.
“About that date…” Ryan said, grinning despite the fear in his eyes.
Maria slid around him into a better position and aimed at a Scourge trying to scale the fallen edge of the wall. “You’re supposed to give me a reason to live, dumb ass,” she groused.
Another soldier landed in the mud beside her and helped her obliterate the Scourge trying to scramble through another widening tear in the wall.
“This was a stupid plan!” she shouted.
“It seemed like a good one when we planned it,” the soldier answered.
It took her a full second to realize it was Chief Defender Dwayne Reichardt.
“Sorry, sir,” she said quickly.
He shook his head, still firing. “Let’s just live through this!”
The Scourge pushed further into the perimeter. Maria knew now it was only a matter of minutes before they were all dead. She tried not to hear the screams of the soldiers overcome by the Inferi Scourge. The Scourge tore at them, ripping at their body armor, trying to reach flesh so they could bite and infect. One soldier was pulled free of a group of Scourge, his armor still intact as his comrades gunned down the creatures that had attacked him.
Vanguard Stillson lobbed a grenade at a catwalk’s treads and the explosion toppled it over onto the Inferi Scourge.
They were losing ground swiftly and chaos ruled. No one was listening to orders barked over the feed anymore, but were just trying to survive. The perimeter wall attached to the city wall still stood intact with the catwalks still secured to it. Many soldiers clambered onto it, trying to escape the ground. Maria, Ryan, Lindsey and the Chief Defender started to fall back, providing cover to those trying to reach higher ground.
Rappelling ropes started to fall from the high wall. Frantic soldiers gripped the lines and climbed upward, their muddy boots slipping against the steel surface.
Maria tripped, falling on her ass, and the Chief Defender hauled her up swiftly. The Scourge were everywhere now, smashing through the clusters of soldiers, howling. Maria fired point blank into the face of one as it charged her. The Chief Defender knocked another one back with the butt of his rifle. Together they charged through the mud toward the city wall.
Ryan and Lindsey were just ahead of them and nearing the remaining catwalks when Maria saw a flash of light. A massive force slammed into her and sent her sprawling through the air. Blackness surged up to claim her, and she fought not to drown in it. Pulling herself onto her elbows, her body felt numb and her helmet was gone. Beside her, the Chief Defender struggled to get up. His armor was punctured with shrapnel and blood poured through the tears.
Lifting her weapon, Maria aimed toward the creatures trying to climb over the corpses of Scourge and soldiers the grenade blast had killed. Pulling the trigger, she felt the rifle pulsing as it hurtled bullets into the bodies of the rampaging dead.
“Tiltrotor!” Ryan’s voice screamed near her.
She kept firing, but flicked her gaze to one side to see Ryan carrying a badly-wounded Lindsey over one broad shoulder. The churning wind pulled her gaze up to the aircraft slowly descending over the fray. Beside her, the Chief Defender fell over onto his side, unable to get up. Maria grabbed his arm and shifted her body under it. Rising to her knees, she pulled him upright. He screamed. Together, they managed to get to their feet as Maria fired at the Scourge drawing closer.
Vanguard Stillson’s huge body moved through the crowd of Inferi Scourge like a rampaging elephant, tossing them left and right, shooting a few as he went. His helmet was gone and his armor was smoldering. Maria could see the shrapnel from the grenade had sliced away parts of his face. Yet Stillson kept fighting. The Scourge were so intent on him, Ryan and the others were able to skirt past the mob and head toward the aircraft.
Casting one last look at Stillson, Maria gasped as a Scourge grabbed the man’s thick neck and bit into his cheek, infecting him. Usually the Scourge abandoned a victim successfully infected with the virus and moved on to another, but this one kept tearing at Stillson, chewing and appearing to devour his flesh.
Reichardt stumbled, forcing Maria’s attention away from Stillson’s demise. Pulling her superior up to his feet again, she continued to fire at any Scourge rushing them. Around her, other soldiers continued to fall, fighting the undead to their last breath.
“Keep moving, Chief Defender,” she urged him. “I don’t want to die today.”
“Neither do I, and my name is Dwayne,” he said crisply, his voice filled with pain and determination.
“Nice to meet you, Maria. Now, let’s not die,” Dwayne said
“Is that an order?” Maria kicked over a Scourge and shot it in the face.
“Without a doubt,” Dwayne answered with a grin.
The Characters of The Last Bastion of the Living
One of the biggest challenges in starting a new novel is discovering all the new characters that will inhabit the world you’ve created. I usually have the primary characters fully-developed in my head when I sit down at my computer and type in the first sentence of a book, but the secondary characters are not always clearly defined.
While writing THE LAST BASTION OF THE LIVING, the main characters of Dwayne and Maria were incredibly vivid in my mind. Their back stories came easily to me as I pondered the story and considered my approach to writing it. Maria’s personality and appearance was the first thing that developed in my mind when the first seeds of the story germinated in my dreams. I knew she was Dominican-Puerto Rican in descent, strong-willed, loyal, and the daughter of a soldier who died in battle and a mother who hated Maria enlisting in the military. Maria’s desire for a life with the man she loves without the threat of the dangerous Inferi Scourge (a type of zombie) was the central motivation for everything she does in the book. Dwayne was much older than Maria, a career officer, a man stuck in a nasty divorce, a father of three children (two teenagers, one an adult), and someone who has lived a hard life and knows exactly what he wants out of the rest of his years on the Earth. Together, they shared a love bond that was deep and a wellspring of strength to both of them.
But what about the rest of the people surrounding them?
My novels run like movies in my head. I watch and attempt to transfer the images in my mind to the page. I am often surprised by what I observe, but that is some of the fun in writing. A lot of times characters will make unexpected appearances in the narrative. When that happens, I have to ask the question, “Who are you?” Surprisingly, a lot of the characters just drop into the story fully-formed.
Mr. Petersen and Dr. Curran were two such characters. As soon as they appeared on the movie screen in my head, I “got” them. Though they both surprised me in little ways throughout the story, their basic personalities and motivations never changed.
But another character became much more than I ever anticipated. She originally showed up briefly with Maria in a scene that I had considered cutting. I thought she was a one-off character, but the blond soldier hobbling with a cane became a vital part of the plot, much to my surprise. I gave her the name Lindsey after Lindsey Wagner (who played the Bionic Woman) and made her a veteran of the last push against the Inferi Scourge, which was the battle that left Maria and Dwayne with their battle scars. I gave her a job in the communication center of the Constabulary, not realizing how vital that position and her skills would be to the story later on.
Later, about a third of the way through the book, I realized I needed to show that big battle, which was not originally present when I started writing it. Therefore the prologue was written. Lindsey ended up with a part in that big scene along with another character named Ryan. Again, Lindsey and Ryan were created to show that Maria had friends outside of her romantic relationship, but both characters held the weight of something more than just walk-ons. Suddenly, the relationship that Maria had to both of these characters added much more dimension to her personality and her future struggles.
That’s the fun of writing. The unexpected twists and turns. Discovering new and dynamic characters as scenes unfold. Finding out that a character you thought would show up in one scene is actually a vital part of the overall plot.
Rhiannon Frater is the award-winning author of over a dozen books, including the As the World Dies zombie trilogy (Tor), as well as independent works such as The Last Bastion of the Living (declared the #1 Zombie Release of 2012 by Explorations Fantasy Blog and the #1 Zombie Novel of the Decade by B&N Book Blog), and other horror novels. Her next novel for Tor, Dead Spots, will be published in 2014. She was born and raised a Texan and presently lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and furry children (a.k.a pets). She loves scary movies, sci-fi and horror shows, playing video games, cooking, dyeing her hair weird colors, and shopping for Betsey Johnson purses and shoes.
You can find her online at:
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