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Five well aged men were sitting in one¶s living room. They were adequately, yet not completely lit by the afternoon sun just outside. The television was displaying a man in about his fifties discussing the day¶s news. Outside a car quietly drove by, no doubt driving away from the suburbs and towards the country, just like the five men sitting and watching the news. They all despised the city equally, but not because of crime, or loud noises, or rushing, or any of the traditional city downsides. No, in fact the only thing that came between them and the city was their past. Their past experiences of the city were when they were all either seventeen or eighteen, none of them could remember. None of them wanted to remember. Smoke from cigars and cigarettes gently floated toward the ceiling where a slowing spinning fan parted and gently dissipated the smoke. The was a small hint of brandy and cheap wine in the air along with the smell of fresh cut grass, smoke and aged mahogany walls. The anchorman on the channel seven news stated with the classic anchorman tone. ³Another successful hunt in South Grotto County turned up three heads, as reported by lead hunter Eric Parkson«´ but no one was really listening once Nick spoke up. ³I remember,´ He breathed pushing up his glasses with one finger while the rest clenched a glass of brandy ³when this all started. About 22 years ago«wasn¶t it?´ Most nodded, but one simply puffed slowly on his strawberry flavored blunt. He pulled the blunt away and blew out a new stream of grey smoke towards no particular direction. ³I remember,´ rasped Parker who quickly cleared his throat, ³I remember the city,´ he reminisced much clearer ³I also remember the other.´ One of the five scowled, another simply closed his eyes for a second. ³But,´ remarked Parker, his tone becoming more cheerful ³I remember the drinks«the club«the garden«and the rescue.´ All of them smiled softly, and either puffed a cigar, took a swig of alcohol, or in the case of one«both. James spoke up; his voice grabbing their attention as well as it did twenty two years ago. ³I remember everything,´ he spoke quickly as if wanting to leave himself time to think in between each sentence, ³I remember that twenty two years ago, I awoke to darkness, sirens, screaming, and chaos. I remember how we all happened to just bump into each other when we were running. I also distinctly remember six of us.´ At that last thought all five of the men¶s vision slowly faded to the back of their minds, where a memory of magnitude that could never possibly be forgotten, welcomed them. They were running. Everyone was running. Running and screaming, hoping they couldn¶t catch up. Hundreds of people, all running in the same direction. Soldiers running in the opposite, to meet their opponents. Everyone was on the highway. Hundreds of planes and helicopters were taking off. Anyone who had a car was already gone. It was amazing that through all this din and chaos that the six of them stayed together. So well did they stay together, it was almost as if they rehearsed it. Still running they lost no energy, whether by adrenaline fueling them or by the fact that
perhaps they¶re bodies understood the situation better than their minds, and turned off the feeling of exhaustion. The highway was beginning to pinch, but no one was willing to slow down. People were being pushed off the highway, only to plummet another eighty feet down to the concrete below. These were the only screams which seemed to stick out among the rest. The crowd reached a road block, where police and riot specialists, painstakingly, slowly allowing people to pass. They tried to control the situation but it only made things worse. The six of them were toward the back, and the police were working so slowly, that most of the crowd stood still. They¶re radios blared nonsense, most of which screams, nothing new to anyone though. Suddenly the crowd began to grow erratic, and the screams grew more intense. The six of them looked back in horror, as they could see the military¶s failure was catching up to them. They all looked to each other, and instantly new what to do. They all jumped off the free way and onto a nearby tree. Landing on the ground swiftly afterwards they all sprinted down the road. Darkness had finally come after hours of looming twilight. Barreling open the door of an abandoned building, they quickly went inside and barricaded the door. They stepped away from the entrance and stared at it intently, and some, even angrily, as if viewing for the first time some viscous beast. It was all quiet; they¶re heaving breathing the only thing piercing the thickening silence and blackness. Distant gun shots thumped gloomily. They went on for a minute or two then stopped abruptly. It was once quiet again«no breathing«no guns. One of them leaned up against the wall behind them. ³We¶re all alone,´ he sighed depressingly.
³We need to get organized,´ stated James ominously. Everyone knew it though; this was no time to panic. James pulled a Zippo lighter from his pocket and flicked it twice with his thumb, striking a small flame on the second try. The dim light illuminated everyone¶s dark expressions poorly, enough, however to cause Parker to fix his askew glasses. James pushed past the other five and signaled them to follow him. Footsteps echoing softly, all six moved down the hall, towards and unknown destination. The group reached a stair case. James began to push the door open when Harrison grabbed his hand. James held the lighter close to Harrison¶s face, with a motion that said: ³What?´ Harrison was an average sized and proportioned guy. He always wore the simple stuff, blue jeans, skate shoes, leather jacket, and an AC/DC shirt. His personality showed, however, in his hair and tiny quirks. He always let his hair; hairdo, beard, sideburns, and such-grow just a little bit longer than the average person. He also wore movie prop rings, a few holy symbol necklaces and a Celtic armband over his leather jacket. Harrison¶s expression was dark as he stated in a tone even more dark than his expression. ³What if there¶s more?´ James shook the lighter. ³This is my only weapon,´ he said exasperatedly. Harrison pulled out a switch blade and opened it up to reveal a six inch blade. ³This is my only weapon,´ he responded with an almost non-existent smirk. James pushed open the door slowly and held the lighter up high. The immediate stairs seemed to be clear. Harrison moved forward cautiously his knife bore out in front of him at almost arms length. James followed him in, equally as cautious. Next of the six was Alex, who promptly pulled a small metal bar out of an unseen corner. Alex was the biggest of the group, standing at about 6¶ 3´ and weighing at about 174 pounds. He wore a slightly small shirt, camouflage BDUs and his black plastic framed glasses. Though he was one big dude, he was the most cleanly kept of them all. His clothes rarely had a wrinkle, and he kept himself well trimmed-black hair in a neat tuft upon his head. He brandished the metal bar in his right hand, the other clenched in a meaty fist. The fourth of the group to crawl through the now dimly lit doorway was Nick. Though the third tallest of the group he was a little skinny. About 6¶ and only weighing about 148 pounds, he kept himself clean as well, but with more preventative measures than Alex used. He kept a very thin amount of black hair atop his head. He wore a simple white tshirt and jeans, black skate shoes. As he walked his glasses slipped down to the tip of his nose, which he promptly pushed back up. The fifth to follow through was Cameron, followed by Parker. Slowly all six of them ascended the stairs. After what seemed to be an hour they reached the third floor, second floor being locked. James slowly eased open the door to reveal, what looked like a storage room. Mostly stacked chairs and some table, but there were a few boxes, the contents of which could not be ascertained from the entrance. Nick found a light switch and flicked the lights on. The bright, pure white, glow of the fluorescent lights washed over them. Parker shielded his eyes, whilst James closed his lighter. James stood at about 5¶ 10´ and had a light layer of dirty blonde hair. He liked to embellish his personality, so he wore
black Jeans, with a black t-shirt that said ³keep staring I might do a trick«´ He sported a cloth trench cloak which stopped at just below his knees, and military surplus boots, which ran 8´ up his leg. He walked over to an un-open cardboard box, ripped it open, and began rummaging through the packing peanuts within. Cameron ran and checked outside the windows. Moving a vertical standing plastic blind he scanned the streets for movement. Cameron was the most well read of the six. Having spent much of his time in high school researching intensely upon his subjects and hobbies, he knew his stuff well. He stood at about 5¶ 11´, and had an army style buzz cut. Cameron was proportioned to be a very large person, but not nearly as big as Alex. He wore olive drab BDUs, a Slipknot t-shirt, and a woodland ³digi-camo´ BDU jacket. He wore a black polished stone ring on his left middle finger. Inscribed upon the polished obsidian, in polished red stone, was a German phrase ³Sheisse geschiet,´ which means ³Shit happens.´ After sweeping over the streets a few times he looked to the others and said ³I don¶t see any more coming.´ ³Good,´ said James, now ripping open a second box, finding nothing in the first. Nick and Harrison were examining on the left side of the room, while Parker and Alex were fiddling with a locked door on the right side of the room. Parker was the second tallest at about 6¶ 2´, but slightly lanky weighing about 158 pounds. He was the clever one, the funny one, the one with the tiny fro and aluminum framed glasses. The one who wore blue jeans, black sneakers, and a blue shirt displaying a pink bunny with an arrow pointing to it, signaling its name was ³Badass.´ He also wore his ³pride and joy´ black jean jacket. Cameron noticed a box cutter on the window. As a matter of fact it was in the window. Actually it was stuck to the window by means of a severed hand on the outside. ³Guys«´ he called slowly. Everyone looked up, and everyone¶s blood rushed inward, turning there skin from an average stained white, to a nearly albino pale. Cameron slowly pulled the knife from the window, blood clinging and squishing against the blade. He removed the knife and the hand fell. He dropped the blade, splattering bubbles of blood on the blue green carpet, and they all fell silent. The lights above their heads buzzed silently. The door that Parker and Alex were tinkering with suddenly began to creak open. A bony and rotted hand wrapped around the edge of the door, and pulled it back. A man, dead, but living, stood there; clothes torn, encrusted with blood, moaning, and one eyeball hanging loose, began to shuffle towards the two. ³WOAH!´ was all parker could say as he fell back and began to slide away. Alex stepped back but brought the metal bar above his head. Harrison started towards the zombie, knife at the ready. Cameron froze, out of amazement, as Nick and James readied themselves to run. Alex brought the bar crashing down onto the zombie¶s head. With a fleshy-metallic thump, it moaned one last time then toppled to the ground in a stinking heap, jaw still eagerly open. Alex poked the corpse a few times with the bar, then tore off a section of the thing¶s shirt, and began to wipe the coagulated blood from his metal bar. Cameron leaned over picked up the box cutter and slowly, started for the corpse. Harrison lowered his knife but never took his eyes from the zombie. Cameron leaned over the corpse, also tearing off some shirt and wiped off the knife, while retracting the blade.
³Let¶s face it,´ he said gloomily, ³we¶re going to have to deal with these things from now on. I say that we get our bearings, establish a safe base, and wait for rescue.´ Harrison continued to stare at the corpse. Alex, stilling scrubbing his bar nodded approvingly at Cameron. James grunted and Nick sighed. Parker was the only one who gave a response. ³I know a police station nearby, and they stockpiled supplies in case of emergencies. They would never have gotten all of it out in time, but it¶s probably been locked up. We can start there.´ ³Good idea,´ replied Alex finally done scrubbing. Cameron pocketed the box cutter and looked to his left, down the hall past the zombie. There were three rooms, two on the right facing the blinded windows, and one at the end of the corridor. ³Let¶s search those rooms,´ James spoke everyone¶s mind. Nick once again found another light switch and illuminated the hallway. The first room on their right looked like a bomb went off. Most, no, the entire back wall, and some of the left corner had been completely blown off, revealing the darkquiet city and starry sky above. The ceiling, which was part of the third and fourth, and some of the fifth, was missing. A pile of rubble seemed to lead up to the third floor. A random brown cloth clung to the left wall, wafting gently in a light breeze. Nick raced up the rubble and looked through the half destroyed wood door on the third floor. ³What do you see Nick?´ inquired Alex. ³I see«´ droned Nick, obviously straining to see ³uh«I see a window, some rubble, and a bed. It looks like the room caved in on either side. There¶s just a bed near the rubble, perpendicular to a window«with no glass.´ Nick spun about, jumped on the rubble pile, and slid smoothly back down. ³So is it closed off?´ asked James folding his arms. ³Yeah,´ replied Nick matter-of-factly. The six exited the ³open´ room and searched the second room on the right. Inside were a bunch of couches, a coffee table, and a pull cord on the ceiling. It appeared a break room. Parker pulled on the cord, and down came a ladder. James re-lit his Zippo and went up. He stuck his head through and called back down. ³It¶s an empty room, just some crates and some«what looks like racks«.´ ³Hand me that lighter,´ asked Cameron in a puzzled tone, he held it high, as he climbed up and poked his head through. ³They¶re gun racks,´ he called back through. He put out the Zippo and climbed back down, ³They¶re lining the walls,´ he said as he handed James his lighter back. Finally the group searched the final room. It was a bathroom complete with a medicine cabinet. ³Man this place is weird,´ groaned Harrison. Alex put his finger to his lips and whispered loudly. ³Shhhh don¶t jinx it.´ James opened the medicine cabinet, looked over its broad array of contents, and then closed it. He leaned against the sink facing everyone and inquired to the rest. ³What should we do now?´ A few seconds of silence floated by then Cameron spoke up ³I say we should just sleep tonight and figure things out in the morning.´
No one questioned his suggestion; everyone just nodded, trudged into the couch room, found a spot, and went to sleep. Everyone except James, who lay with his hands behind his head, staring at the ceiling, thinking«thinking on what to do.
They all awoke at different times in the morning, for no one had a watch. Once everyone was awake, however, James called a meeting in the break room. Everyone sat down on a couch. James stood. ³Alright everyone,´ he called their attention. ³If we¶re going to survive we need to organize. To organize we need several things: one we need to trust each other. That¶s already been done we¶ve been with each other for years. Two, we need to know what we¶ve got and what we need. Three, we need to know what we need to do. So let¶s tackle number two; let¶s empty our pockets onto the table.´ Everyone did so. Everyone had very little. James put his lighter out onto the table. Harrison placed his pocket knife out front of him, blade sheathed. Nick could offer nothing. Cameron unceremoniously dropped the box cutter on the table, causing it to spin briefly. Alex offered up his bar. Parker pulled a quarter out and very carefully spun it on the table. ³Ok, well it¶s not much, but we can make do,´ James declared. ³Now, we¶ve also got some medicine, which is useful.´ ³It has a lot of useable stuff,´ interrupted Cameron ³but some of it is just way too specific to be of much use. I took a look in it last night,´ he responded to everyone¶s puzzled looks. ³Alright,´ continued James ³What have we got to do? Let¶s look at what we need. We need: food, water, and weapons.´ Parker spoke up. ³Well, like I said that police station should do the trick.´ ³Good,´ James pointed to Parker. ³Oh,´ Parker once again spoke ³and I can garden.´ Everyone but Nick gave Parker a confused look ³You mean your asking us to haul some dirt up here so you can make a garden in that ruined room?´ ³Yes!´ Parker exclaimed nearly knocking his glasses off. ³That¶s not a bad idea,´ Harrison stated thoughtfully. Alex spoke tiredly to no one in particular. ³I could build the pit out of some of that gravel.´ Everyone got the picture but no one replied. ³Ok, then we¶ve got plenty of garden supplies; they were in the boxes we were searching last night.´ Nick looked puzzled ³I thought they were empty.´ ³I took a second look, because I couldn¶t sleep.´ ³Ah,´ replied Nick, quieting down. ³So what¶s our move then?´ Cameron asked the question playing on everyone¶s mind. ³Parker,´ James began to inquire as he re-pocketed his Zippo ³where¶s this police station?´
Alex crashed his foot into the steel door, snapping the hinges and flinging it into the thinning darkness of the police station. The door landed with a resonating clap, sending miniscule clouds of dust floating up and out to the heavens. Alex stepped in, metal bar at the ready, Harrison followed knife at the ready, followed by James with a light, Nick, Parker, then finally Cameron with the box cutter. The six stood fanned out in front of the doorway, looking about tense readiness. They had already decided the plan: they would stay together until they found some good weapons, then search the building separately. James broke away from the group, and found a key upon a nearby desk. The key was worn, and the label was badly in need of replacement. The overly-aggravating faint letters, James perceived, ³M-O-R-Y.´ ³I think this is it,´ James announced the rest. ³How do you know?´ inquired Parker with nearly a whisper. ³It says µMORY¶, but it¶s worn so I think it¶s really µArmory¶.´ Nick had noticed something on the wall, and was ascertaining as to exactly what it was. ³Here¶s a map,´ Nick gestured, with his finger, the path as he spoke ³we need to find stair case 3B, and then we need to climb to floor four. The armory is there«the major one anyways, there¶s a lot of small, personal ones, but I think the big one is our best bet.´ Alex scratched his muscular back with his pipe as he pointed out. ³We¶ve really got nothing to lose, so let¶s just go for it.´ They all carefully walked around the right corner, and started down the hall way. Overhead dying fluorescent lights blinked, while below James¶s heavy boots clunked softly on the smooth tile floor. They passed the stairs: 1B, 2B, 3B. Cameron grabbed the door handle, and opened the door. A body fell through the doorway at the group. With quick reflexes, Cameron thrust the blade from the box cutter, and drove it deep into the body. It fell limp onto the ground. Brown with decay, and crusty coagulated blood, the body stared lifelessly at the nearby wall. It had been dead for a while now, the one milky screened eye gently rolling without control. Parker made a quiet, slight gagging noise, and then spit on the corpse, wiping his mouth on his ebony jean jacket. The group slowly, carefully, climbed the stairs from floor to floor. Once they reached the fourth floor, Parker made for the door. Everyone braced themselves. Parker tore the door open, to reveal a full scene. The only thing that truly registered on everyone, was the fact that the hall way was occupied by a lone zombie, which moaned softly, expelling clumps of blood and slowly stumbling towards them. Alex sprung into action; he sprinted forward, and began to slide on the smooth floor«just what he wanted. He glided easily past the zombie and collided the bar square with the zombies face. The skull of the horrid creature crumpled slightly as a mixture of teeth, blood, and spittle shot forward, nearly missing Harrison, who had already, ran forward-knife drawn. He thrust the blade between the eyes of the ghoul. The non-living abomination fell back thumping to the floor, spilling blood and some pink brain matter onto the now unclean floor. The rest had already filed into the hall way, and were examining the horrible scene. Corpses lay everywhere, some clearly suicidal, some clearly once undead, some«indistinguishable. A heavy metal door, with streaks of blood slanting down ward
in clawing motions, was labeled: ARMORY. James grasped the handle of the heavy metal door, coat momentarily flapping, and slowly pushed the door open. The armory was unpredictably full. A vast arsenal lined the walls of the armory. Cameron began to rant like an eccentric professor. ³Ok guys, choose your weapons-we¶ve got long-arms, handhelds, melee, heavy, light, primary, secondary, non-lethal; you name it we got it!´ ³You¶re the expert,´ said James in awe by the pure fact that in such a small room, you could supply a small army. ³Alright then, just tell me what you want out of your weapon and I¶ll give you it. You first James.´ James stared in still awe, but clearly now in thought, for a second then snapped his head at Cameron, looking extremely serious. ³I want to mow these bastards down like grass.´ Cameron spun around and scanned the racks. His gaze passed by a box in the corner, then less than a second later it snapped right back. He pulled two black-pistol looking weapons out, and handed them to James. ³The safety¶s on, leave it on; these are MAC 10s, basically the American UZI. Remember this number: 9mm Parabellum.´ James looked about to interrupt but Cameron cut him off. ³That¶s the weapon¶s caliber, you¶ll need it later. Ok, now Alex!´ Alex stepped up, and looked him in the eye calmly. ³Something I can control.´ ³Ok then,´ Cameron spun around again and looked the racks over, and then he pulled an oblong, somewhat odd-looking weapon from the top shelf, and a pistol off a wall prong just below it. ³This is an XM8; it¶s fairly accurate and handles fairly well. The caliber is 5.56mm NATO. This sidearm is a Glock 22, it is used quite commonly, and it¶s also somewhat new. It has 10mm caliber.´ Alex nodded, took the unloaded weapons and backed off next to James. Nick was about to step up, but Harrison cut him off, blocking him with his leather enveloped right arm. ³Step back Nicholas,´ he spat ³I¶m next.´ Before Harrison could speak Cameron already handed two small, yet ominous looking weapons. ³I already know what you want Harrison, these are riot guns. Two shot, handheld shotguns. The kickback is overwhelming, because the caliber is 12 gauge so prepare your self.´ Harrison walked over to where Alex and James were talking, and whispered ³Yeah,´ to them. Nick was next; he looked quite astute, yet serious when he told of his requirements. ³I want deadly accuracy, but want to be far away from the action.´ Without looking back, Cameron reached behind him and grabbed a rifle off the shelf ³This is an M24 SWS, without the scope. It¶s a sniper rifle, the caliber is 7.62 mm. The reason the scope isn¶t on is because we don¶t have time to sight it. Also,´ Cameron reached behind him and pulled out another Glock 22 ³your side arm.´ Nick nodded and joined the buzzing group over in the corner. Parker, last in line, rose up in front of Cameron. He gestured with his hands as he told of is own wants. ³I want to carry all the ammo, so give me a small, easy to carry weapon.´ Cameron looked over his shoulder, and pulled two, very similar looking weapons off the shelf directly behind him.
³This,´ he shook the larger of the two softly ³Is an HK UMP this has a 10mm caliber like the glocks, and the smaller one here,´ he shook the other equally as soft ³is an HK MP5K it has a 9 x 19mm NATO caliber.´ Parker smiled and, like the others, joined the talkative group. ³As for me,´ Cameron muttered to himself ³I have a special weapon in mind.´ Cameron carefully scanned the racks; go back and forth over each weapon, sometimes picking some up, until he found what he was looking for. He grasped the barrel of the long arm and pulled it out. µThe M4 Carbine with a 5.56mm NATO round. Always been a favorite. Oh, and it even has a laser sight mounted on.¶ He grasped a side arm that he knew he¶d be grasping right from the start. µAn M1911, this must be the only one here. A .45 caliber bullet ought to do the trick.¶ Cameron turned to the loud group and raised his voice to get their attention ³OKAY, ladies, lets arm up, pack up, and search the building. What we¶re going to need to do is load our weapons, get extra ammo, pack up extra ammo and weapons, search the rest of the building for any survivors and head back.´ No one disagreed so they set to work. Cameron directed them where to get their ammunition and magazines, told them what harnesses would work and which ones wouldn¶t, and packed weapons and ammo. Bullets clicked into place, harnesses snapped or zipped into a comfortable spot, duffle bags were stuffed, various other equipment was packed, and guns were cocked. Once everyone had settled James spoke up. ³OKAY, I¶ve taken the map from down stairs and so I¶ve developed a plan, but let¶s just make sure we¶ve got everything. Cameron, you¶ve packed weapons and ammo correct?´ Cameron nodded. ³Parker I know you packed the miscellaneous stuff because I helped you, but we need food.´ Among the miscellaneous stuff they had packed were: two riot shields, a nightstick, four flashlights, a rifle scope, a battering ram, batteries, a pair of shoes, a riot mask, and one completely bulletproof SWAT uniform. Besides the batteries, the ram, the flashlights, the scope, and the shoes, one of them could be completely armored from head to toe. James continued, unfolding the map, everyone gathered around close to him. ³Ok, Parker and me are going to search the rooms above, because that¶s kitchen and kitchen storage. Alex and Nick are going to continue to search this floor, and then Cameron and Harrison are going to search the floor below us. We all meet in the ground floor in two hours.´ The rest agreed in various ways, some silently, some with an inaudible noise perpetrating their lips. ³Alright, then lets go.´ All six, left the safety of the armory, baggage in tow, to search.
Harrison slowly moved down the stairs. Cameron followed, carrying the one bag they were assigned, equally as slowly. They reached the door and both cocked their guns in preparation. Harrison looked to him and told him the plan. ³Stay close to me, and watch our backs, I want to get out of here, so we¶re only making one sweep. If you see anything, stop me. Even a cat, just stop me OK?´ Cameron nodded grimly.
Harrison gripped the push-bar with his hand, tightly, and slammed open the door. He rushed in and peered around, shotguns up and ready to fire. Cameron followed suit, M4 raised and ready to go. Harrison whispered to him ³We¶re going right.´ Cameron followed without question. The hallways were dimly lit, fading and broken fluorescent lights were the only source, due to lack of windows. Their feet gently rapped upon the floor, echoing softly in bleak and empty hallway. A slight stench of god-knows-what wafted in the air. At first their progress gave them only a door for another stair well, but as they rounded their second left, they came to a hallway with five doors. They came to the first door, and Harrison leaned closer to listen in. He pulled back, and with a violent yet aimed kick, opened the door. Nothing. The room was empty. A small brown table was in the corner, but other than that nothing. The second door was no different from the first. Harrison kicked it open, and found a penny, but other than that a small brown table and nothing else. The third door was closed but not all the way. Harrison gave it a tap open, all the while Cameron panning down the hallway constantly. Harrison reeled back in disgust, a torn, rotten, and fetid body lay dismembered upon the floor. It was sitting against the far wall, head bent sleepily over the torso, left arm tore right out of the socket and laying not three feat away, and right arm ravaged to the bone. Its legs were intact but quite torn up. A small brown table decorated the rest of the room nearby. Harrison gently closed the door, and continued on. The fourth door, opened up into an employee break room. The only abnormality seemed to be spilled coffee that had long since dried up and stained the oblong grey table within. The final door revealed a little prison. A desk was next to the door and seemed to be in disarray, but on the far end of the room were the bars of a prison wall. No one was contained in the room, so they left. Disappointed in an uneventful search, Harrison beckoned Cameron down the stairs to the first floor.
³C¶mon Parker,´ James asserted. They had reached the kitchen and found it empty of all but M.R.E.s or ³meals ready to eat.´ Parker had been nervous ever since they found a zombie in the meat freezer; completely solid and looking as if he¶d been there awhile. With his eyes constantly sweeping over the massive industrial kitchen, he slowly entered. His bag caught on the door and he jumped. James unhooked the bag and sighed. ³Don¶t be so jumpy.´ He turned to have a now thawed zombie grasp his throat with stiff icy hands. A gurgling moan escaped its gaping, wreaking mouth as it slowly leaned forward, ice cracking and breaking as it did so.
Parker fired, three bullets piercing into the fetid icicle. The first round sunk harmlessly into its left arm, but the other two blew two, almost perfect, holes just behind its eyes. It slumped, solidly, to the tiled floor. James tore and clawed the hands free of his throat and he backed up, breathing a little heavier than normal. He looked up at Parker who was chattering his teeth in both disgust and nervousness. His gun was not shaking. ³From now on, we put a bullet in all undead. Ok?´ Parker nodded curtly. As they made there way towards the door on the opposite end of the room James thought to himself, ³Would the body in the hall way cease to be a body?´ An M.R.E dropped from Parkers accidentally unzipped bag. He dropped the bag and put the M.R.E. in the side pocket it had leapt from. James exited the door and came upon a sight he was not entirely ready for. A zombie was kneeling next to the body, a dismembered arm in its clutches. It tore hungrily at a muscle fiber as James came into sight. It stared at James almost indifferently, chewing the forearm muscle of a dead man. It swallowed and stood up, clumsily. Its legs were bent-in unnaturally. It opened its disgusting, crimson dripping maw and let loose a deep, quiet groan. Parker zipped closed the side pocket.
Alex and Nick had almost completely finished their search. They had come upon only one zombie, but it was dismembered, and had only half of its right arm to craw towards them. Alex crushed its skull noisily with a single stomp of his new police boots, confiscated from a dead body. Nick kept watch just outside the door; gun, up and ready to fire. Nick had nerves of steel and the patience that even saints envied covetously. Alex could be napping in the next room, and he wouldn¶t care. What kept Nick so disciplined was that he knew his patience always paid-off. Most to Nick¶s dismay, it wouldn¶t stop now. Three zombies stumbled around the corner of the end of the hall. Nick took aim and made a whole between the eyes of the middle zombie. Alex bounded out of room, accidentally hitting the door, which hit Nick, causing him to shoot the floor, putting a rather large hole into it. Alex brought his rifle to bear and opened up on the remaining two. Clouds of crimson, and the occasional white dot of sinew followed his helter-skelter shots. The zombie farthest on the right fell first, but the other kept on trucking. Alex fired five more shots into it, missing most of them, but landing the last one into its shoulder. *click* the clip was empty. Alex let go of the rifle, letting the sling catch it, and he pulled the metal bar from his back belt-loop. He charged bellowing at the zombie. As he drew closer, the janitor (as identified by his green coverall uniform) raised its arms eagerly. Alex swatted them to one side with his left arm, and then collided the metal bar into its head. The zombies moan was cut short as its left eye socket collapsed inward and sideways. Pink brain matter mix with blood, exploded forth, staining the floor and walls and even a little bit of a ceiling light. The ghoulish janitor smashed against the wall, cracking the right side of its head there and then slid lazily to the floor.
Alex cleaned off the metal bar, slid it into his back belt loop, reloaded his rifle and followed Nick down the stairs to the first floor.
Harrison leaned against the wall, right next to the door, and watched as the rest of them materialized themselves from the stairs. He was disappointed that he was the only one that didn¶t get any action, but it was a long haul and he doubted he¶d never get to use his guns. James stood in front of the door and began to announce to everyone. ³Well we found some food, but that¶s about it. So I think we should head back, store the crap and call it a day.´ Everyone agreed, so James turned and opened the door. Everyone filed out neatly, turned left and headed back to ³Home Base´ as Harrison had secretly dubbed it. The six crossed the first intersection when Cameron, in front, held up his hand which signaled everyone to stop. He gently crept forward and peered, ever so slowly across the corner. As he did so, a barely audible groan sounded from that direction. Cameron sidled urgently back to them and told the group: ³There¶s a huge crowd around the corner, blocking our way home.´ As the group began to discuss the pressing issue, Harrison lifted his head and peered around. The group had seen many vehicles, but never thought of trying them, figuring they were either wrecked or out of gas, which most were blatantly so. However, Harrison¶s eyes rested blissfully upon a large pickup truck, just across the street and back about five yards. So he broke off from the rest of the group, and investigated the truck. It was a Ford F250, as he popped the hood he also noted that it bore a power stroke diesel engine. ³Daddy likey,´ he muttered to himself gleefully. He opened the driver¶s side door, placed his bag in the passenger seat and leaned over to hotwire it-when he noticed that the keys were still in the ignition. He grasped them, and with a shrug that implied ³What the hell«´ started the truck. The roar of the engine was like pure ecstasy. The AC/DC dressed boy leaned out the window and yelled to the group: ³THERE IS A GOD!´ The five others cheered and ran towards their new figment of hope. Parker grabbed shotgun, while James and Nick grabbed the back seats, James getting the seat next to the back-door. Alex and Cameron grabbed up everyone¶s bag and threw it in the tail, where they-themselves took refuge. James leaned up to Harrison: ³Can you drive?´ ³I did, until I ran out of gas,´ replied Harrison, shifting into full wheel drive. ³Fasten your seat belts, its gonna be a FUN ride,´ he exclaimed with a long whoop as he slammed on the gas. The truck roared to life like a tiger or grizzly bear on PCP. The ebony beast tore around the corner, towards the undead masses. An explosion of crimson, green and moans welcomed them and they pounded into the crowd. The truck bounced and jostled as it mercilessly drove over fallen ghouls. Zombies moaned and clawed at the truck but yielded nothing. The select lucky few, that managed to hoist themselves up to the passenger/drivers side window received they¶re much deserved allowance of lead. ³Bloody hell! There¶s a lot of these moaners aren¶t there?´
The horde of zombies stretched all the way down the street, and around both corners, out of site. As the traveling fortress neared the end of the street, it began to slow slightly. Zombie resistance was increasing. Harrison yelled back to Alex and Cameron, ³Hey, take out some of these guys in front of us, OK?´ Cameron stood up, and with surprising accuracy, cut down a row of zombies by the heads. The truck surged forward, barreling through more and more of the fetid moaners, and then curving fiercely to the right, to reveal an end to the crowd. The truck broke free like it was leaving deep mud. The six roared down the street on they¶re new hope for survival, cheering and taunting the stumbling zombies the whole way home.
Cameron kneeled on the floor as the bags of weapons were handed up to him. Once all six were handed to him, his task of racking, and taking an inventory of everything deadly began.
³Thanks Alex,´ Parker said as Alex left the ruined room. He began to till the dirt in their new garden to plant the seeds. He and Alex had hauled up the dirt from a hole in the road, not twenty yards north of the building. The garden was roughly three meters by two meters, so it was decent size. What James had meant by ³garden supplies´ was really just a very large amount of peas and carrot seed bags. He took up the bag of pea seeds in hi right hand, and poked a hole in the loose soil with his right forefinger. At the same time he dropped in two seeds, and used the heel of his left palm to cover the hole. After two holes, he dropped down to his knees, µMuch more comfortable,¶ he mused to himself. As he systematically planted, his mind began to drift into thoughts about the city. The city of Rumsfield, named after the founder, was not a metropolis, but it wasn¶t a town either. Contrary to the usual hustle and bustle of normal cities, Rumsfield had a slight air of comfort and relaxation to it. The streets seemed to be not too packed with cars, but not to empty; the sidewalks, never crowded. One could come to the conclusion that it was a country boy¶s idea of good city life. Nick, bearing his rifle and a duffle bag, nodded to parker as he entered. He nimbly skittered up the gravel to the upper room«inside light, muffled shuffling resounded. Parker finished the third of the seven rows of peas and sneezed, sending two peas flying over the edge of the broken wall. Push, drop, cover; Parker continued to plant the peas; push, drop, cover. Harrison walked by the closed door, his voice fading in and out. ³For those about to rock, we salu-´ the last few words cutting off. Parker finished the fifth row. Nick fired his rifle, the crack stopping Parker immediately as if he had been instantaneously paralyzed. James ran in and called up to Nick, inquiring as to the racket. ³I saw one walking up the street,´ he called back. James nodded, yelled an approval back up to him and exited the room. A muffled call from James could be heard emanating from the box room.
Push, drop, cover; Parker returned to his systematic work. Finally finishing the seventh row, he began on the carrots.
James started to sort out into boxes the water and M.R.E.s he and Parker found at the police station. He put in the last bottle of brand X water and closed the cardboard box. Harrison was leaning up against a wall taking to Alex: ³Ok so a lawyer walks up to a teacher, and says to the teacher-´ their voices faded as James walked towards the break room. He opened the door just wide enough to lean inside the comfortable room. ³Hey, Cameron!´ ³Whaddya want James?´ Cameron returned sarcastically angry. ³Dinner is in ten. µMkay?´ ³Good, I¶m ravenous up here.´ James went back down the hall and called to Nick and Alex the dinner announcement. As James re-entered the box room, Harrison and Alex broke into laughter. ³Dinner in 10 guys.´ ³Yeah, yeah alright,´ Harrison replied, his voice transformed with laughter. In about five minutes, the whole gang was in the box room milling about. James opened up the two boxes of M.R.E.s and water and told everyone to grab some. ³Alex! I called that one!´ Harrison called loudly after the burly camo dressed boy. ³Well, maybe you should take it from me,´ Alex retorted. ³Well maybe I will.´ ³Maybe you will.´ ³Maybe I do want to be a french-fry.´ The last comment by Harrison aroused a little laughter from the whole group. Soon afterwards Harrison tackled Alex, sending the un-opened M.R.E. flying. Once on the ground, they began to grapple. Obviously for the fun of it, for everyone was laughing at this. ³He¶s got you in the guard Alex,´ Nick taunted. Alex had the upper hand of being larger than Harrison, but he failed to gain the upper hand in the struggle. Harrison wrapped his legs around Alex¶s waist and kept the massive girth from gaining any more of an advantage. A few years ago, the whole group had gone and done some Ju-Jitsu training. They weren¶t versed in the art, but had enough to get by on. Alex expert fully grabbed hold of Harrison¶s arms, and pinned them against the AC/DC fan¶s chest. Leaning in with his entire weight, the massive boy further pinned Harrison. ³Oh, god he¶s heavy,´ was all Harrison managed to gurgle. By now the whole group began to chant: ³GO GO GO GO GO GO GO GO!´ Harrison wiggled about like a grub worm, until he managed to free an arm. With his now free left hand, he began to tickle Alex.
³Coochiecoochiecoo!´ At first, Alex was able to resist, but soon his face contorted in resisted laughter, but he couldn¶t hold it indefinitely. He released his grip and Harrison slipped free as the large boy laughed convulsively. The fan boy sprang over to the M.R.E. and held it up like a trophy. James and Cameron cheered, while Nick slapped five bucks down onto Parker¶s awaiting palm. As the meal continued, small conversations of past events crept up and disappeared. Oddly enough the reminiscing did not dismay nor brighten their spirits. It seemed more as if nothing had happened at all, and they were just out to lunch somewhere. This theme stayed until James finished his M.R.E. He swallowed the last bite of what he guessed was bread and tossed the scraps out the window. Nick and the others followed suite, but they did so as James spoke. ³Alright, well I don¶t know about you, but I think we need to lighten this joint up a little bit.´ ³Oh, before you go on,´ Alex piped up ³I think we need to make some sort of sign for rescuers. Like on the roof or something.´ ³Sounds good,´ nodded James in approval. ³As I was saying, I think we need to lighten this place up a little bit. I know a bar that¶s not far from here where we can get some good stuff.´ Everyone sounded their approval with a hoot or whoop. ³Then let¶s start up shall we?´ James implied. ³Cameron, give everyone their stuff.´ Cameron gave a crisp salute, and then ran to the break room.
It was roughly three µo clock; three µo clock around Rumsfield is like any New York city. Dim, but lit. They all marched down the street, relaxed but weapons at the ready. Cameron, just behind James, yawned a little. In the very back, Harrison, was whistling ³Airborne Ranger.´ After about two blocks James signaled the bar across the street. ³The Coyote¶s Howl´ was what the sign read. They entered; the antechamber was a small room with a hallway leading to the left. As they followed it, it curved slightly to the right, and they were in the main bar. The first thing to register was the intense aroma of strong alcohol. Tables and chairs surrounded raised platforms with poles rising to the ceiling; a small bar was over on the left hand side. ³James-´ began Cameron, but he was cut off. ³I¶m eighteen.´ He turned to face the others, well let¶s get some drinks. James took his duffle bag off his shoulder and started for the bar. A soft moan stopped them all. From behind the curtains on the raised platform, a short yet slender zombie walked out. It was, unquestionably, a girl, for she was topless, her dark brown hair draping uselessly over her cream colored back; white panties with pink frills was her only covering. ³Good lord,´ sighed Alex. A small red dot appeared on her forehead, just above her black framed glasses. She had already begun a disgusting routine of moaning and rubbing herself against one of the poles, when a round from Cameron¶s M-4 sent her teetering to the floor.
³Thank you very much,´ James sighed. James jumped; he had been hit with a cold stream of something. Another zombie, appropriately clad, but clearly Italian, had sprung up from behind the bar. She only moaned as she used the bar-mixer dispenser as a futile weapon towards James. ³What the-´ James started, but he interrupted himself with a burst from one of his MAC 10s. Her macabre head tore from side to side as the rounds found their new homes, kicking out chunky bits of blood and brain fluid. She fell back, smashing the bottles and stained mirror behind her. Finally, the decrepit thing slumped forward, back full of glass, onto the floor behind the bar. ³Nice shootin¶ Mack,´ remarked Harrison. ³Who the hell is Mack?´ inquired the bartender-killer. ³Your guns are MAC 10s, so I¶m just gonna call you Mack.´ ³What ever,´ sighed James, already beginning to load the bag full of booze. Cameron and Harrison hopped atop of the platform and inspected the dead stripper. Nick went to aid James, while Alex and Nick checked out a door in the back right corner. ³Hey!´ called Alex. ³I found some paint, save room in the bag for two cans!´ ³Got it,´ returned James, still sorting the good stuff from the light stuff. Up on the platform, Harrison parted the curtain with the riot gun in his right hand, and peered about behind the curtains. He looked back to Cameron with an evil grin. ³If it wasn¶t so wrong, it would be so right,´ he informed the weapons expert. Cameron merely shook his head and sighed slightly. Harrison stepped behind the curtain, firing two booming shots. He came back out and mouthed to Cameron ³I love these.´ A bottle chinked as Nick inserted it into the bag, Alex and Parker returned, Alex with a can of paint in either hand; XM8 slung over his back. ³Parker, shells,´ Harrison grunted. Parker reached into his left hip pocket and took out two red shotgun shells, and tossed them to Harrison. He snatched them from mid air and held them with his teeth. He stuffed his right riot gun into his back right pocket, and opened the chamber of the two barrels in his left. He tossed the empties over his shoulder with a flick of his wrist, and loaded the other two in. As he closed the chambers and cocked it, Cameron hopped down and went over to the bar. He used one hand to help himself hop over the counter and then he crouched on the other side. Sniffing once, he shrewdly examined the inventory. ³Get down from there, your not sexy at all,´ Nick commanded. Harrison was imitating the now dead-again stripper, and doing a less than tasteful dance with the pole. ³You know you want me,´ he returned. Nick smirked and returned to his work. ³Ah, ¶03 Arbor Mist; cherry flavored, excellent wine.´ Cameron was smiling as he read over a wine bottle; he grabbed up three more and set them on the counter. He pulled a burlap sack out of his back pocket and put the bottles in the sack. Parker sneezed; wiping his hand on his ammo vest he looked around. A shadow moved. Squinting he questioned the group: ³Guys«is that a«pimp?´ The group instantly stopped what they were doing and looked over. A zombie, with abnormally pale skin, long black hair and a white suit, was shambling toward them. In one hand, he desperately clutched a smooth black cane, while the other reached desire fully towards them. He moaned loudly and continued to stumble forward.
³I got him,´ Harrison marched forward and put his riot gun right up to the thing¶s face. It brought its hand up to meet the shooter¶s neck. Harrison pulled the trigger and a brief roar erupted the things head. Sending bits of bone, brain, and an unidentified clear juice to the floor ceiling and far away wall. It fell to its knees, clumpy blood spurting from its ragged neck, and hand uselessly sliding across Harrison¶s stomach as it finally collapsed sideways. Blood continued to spurt from the neck in light ³plats´ onto the smooth tiled floor. Harrison turned and marched back, a proud smile spread across his face. Alex and Nick continued to sort bottles, as Parker and James discussed something about the roof and a sign. Cameron was crouched down rummaging underneath the bar, while Harrison spoke to him of whiskey in his basement. A gurgling moan cut off everyone¶s speech like a mute button. The zombie stripper had somehow managed to rise up again and shamble her way all the way over to the bar. She held her hands up in a grim welcome as she stumbled forward; mouth open in what appeared to be anger. A small stream of coagulated blood dripped from a hole just above her left eye. Harrison, once again beat everyone to the punch by, once again, shooting the zombie¶s head. Buckshot lodged it self in several places across her face, spraying blood and pink fluid out the back. The fetid temptress slowly leaned back, and collapsed once again on the floor. ³Parker, shells.´ Harrison once again commanded. Parker obliged, and as the hot shot reloaded, Cameron put one last round in the annoying zombie¶s head. ³Bitch,´ he said after he put one last round into her skull. ³Alright guys, lets go. Alex told me he¶s going to climb up to the roof and paint a big ass HELP up there.´ James shouldered the pleasure-pack and strolled towards the exit. Everyone followed suite.
James stared out of the hallway windows down into the depressingly empty streets below. His eyes briefly flickered to his reflection in the window. What he caught was his brown hair, the ebony collar of his trench coat and the white words ³keep staring´ of his t-shirt. A faint snore sounded from the break room. James always awoke earlier than the others. He, as he had done not a few minutes earlier, recalled the dayplan for today. Today; Parker was to tend the crops, while Harrison, Cameron and Nick drew up a patrol plan. Alex volunteered to paint the big ³HELP´ on the roof; in the end this left James the job of exploring the rest of the building. The door behind him opened, and Cameron, dragging his feet behind him, emerged. ³Hey,´ James said nonchalantly. Cameron replied with an un-intelligible grumble, and went into the bathroom. Soon everyone was up and about. Parker was the first to get to work, stuffing down a few bar peanuts as a breakfast. As everyone else set to get started, James went up to the armory. He delightfully loaded and readied his MAC 10s and set the aside as he set to work on his harness. He slipped off the trench coat and pulled over the harness. He tightened the straps to a snug application, pulled the coat back on, and holstered his MACs. James exited the armory, not bothering to lower the ladder knowing that the others will inevitably be in the same spot later. He went through the box room and saw Nick and Harrison, each with a bottle of something in their hands, talking and pointing to the city out the window. ³I¶m gonna explore the rest of the base,´ James called to them as he went through the door. ³Got it,´ Nick called back, and went back to his discussion with Harrison. James¶s steps echoed as he descended the staircase. He creaked open the steel door at the bottom and stared about the hallway. Besides the barely seeable edge of the entrance door was the only door there. Sighing his with slight disappointment he exited the building and walked around the left corner. Around back he could see the hole in the street, and a weathered looking metal door. Faded letters above the door read ³Garage.´ His interest sparked, he went up to the door and tried it. Locked. He jiggled the handle, but to no avail. He stepped back and examined the door. He looked for hinges, but could find none. µAha, the hinges are on the inside.¶ James thought to himself. He stepped back onto the side walk, giving himself about five yards between the door and himself. James readied himself, and then with some wide and powerful steps, thrust himself towards the soon-to-be open door. He leaped into the air, and brought his right knee up. A moment or two in the air and he then he threw his kick. The bottom of his boots collided with the door and sent it slamming inwards. He landed with a bit of a stumble just inside the threshold of the door and looked down into the faded darkness of the staircase leading down. He drew his MAC 10s and carefully treaded down the steps. The garage was more like a spacious storage area. Only a few vehicles where visible in the dim light of the tiny rectangular windows that lay close to the ceiling. Here
and there were some tools and areas enclosed by chain link fencing. James took the time to search each one with his eyes, but all of them appeared empty. However one contained a single corpse, severely tore up and encrusted with a gross amount of dried blood covering it. James grimaced as the terrible smell infiltrated his nostrils like an invading army. He glanced about and his eyes rested upon a lean black motorcycle. He approached, and the closer he approached the more gleeful he grew. White letters laid across the bike read ³KATANA 600.´ ³Hell yes,´ James whispered as his eyes panned over the dark beauty. A slight rattling stole him from his fantasies; he glanced over his shoulders and beheld the not so dead corpse struggling against the chain fencing. Its mouth was drooped open, but no moan escaped. The mute-moaner pushed against the fence, but it held its place. With a swift burst, James put the thing out of his misery. It teetered a moment, the momentum from the shots unsure where to drop it. Inevitably it fell back, but its grip held it to the fence. James felt a slight pang of sorrow for the poor thing«grasping desperately the metal chain link as its head was tilted far back as if examining the ceiling. James holstered his weapons and looked over the bike once again. He lifted the helmet from the front of the bike and saw that the key was in the ignition. µOur luck is practically divine,¶ James thought, almost aloud. He swung his leg over, mounting the bike. He slid on the jet black helmet and turned the key in the ignition. It popped to life as if it were excited, head lights illuminating the far wall of the garage. James revved the engine, kicked up the stand, and took off into an unknown destination in the garage. After riding around for a bit, he finally found the door. He kicked down the foot stand and walked over. He shadow almost perfectly black against the section steel door, he gripped the bottom bar and heaved it open. Bright sunlight washed over him. He strode proudly back to the bike and remounted. He barely had time to pull the stand back up as his excited hand thrust the bike out into the world. He drove around to the front of the building and did a wheelie past their truck. To turn around he slid the bike almost parallel to the ground, using his left foot to keep the bike from falling. He revved the engine of the slim Katana once and steadily rode it to its parking spot behind their truck.
Alex leapt from the rubble onto a nearby fire escape. As he landed he wobbled for a second as the liquid contents of the paint cans sloshed about. Through his black frame glasses, he squinted upward at the roof. µOnly three more floors,¶ he thought to himself. Thankfully, however, the rest was easy going. He climbed the noisy metal stairs. At around the second flight, a breeze caught his hair and blew it back over his head, and then into his face. He cast it out of his eyes with a shake of his head and a quick puff of air from his mouth. At the top, there was a small ledge to get over, so he set the cans on the ledge and hoisted himself up. The roof was very blank; just a few chimney pipes, but no doorway leading from the building. He picked up the paint cans and went to the center of the roof. The burly boy set them down, once again, and then opened the first can.
µCrap,¶ he thought ³I don¶t have a brush,´ he announced aloud. He looked about and found nothing that could be of use. He started feeling around his pockets. His bar wouldn¶t work, neither would any lint. ³Aha,´ Alex exclaimed as he pulled a brochure out of his back pocket, ³this will do nicely.´ Alex had found a brochure of the Coyotes Howl on the counter at the bar, and absent mindedly put it in his pocket. Now, he dipped one end into the bright orange paint and began to paint on the first line in ³H´. He continued his work, all the while thinking of the Llama Song. µHere¶s a llama, there¶s a llama, another little llama, fuzzy llama, funny llama, llama, llama, duck.¶ When he was on the last line of ³E´ he heard the scream of a bike engine. Instantaneously dropping his ³brush´ Alex ran to the edge of the roof and looked over. There was James, doing a wheelie, on what Alex assumed to be his new transportation. The boy let a small laugh and returned to his sign work.
Cameron was still laughing as he switched on the police walkie-talkies. He handed one to Nick and Harrison and watched them both leave. James never changed. He looked down at the map that they had drawn on to illustrate patrol routes. There were two routes: an eastern route, and a western route. They had two routes because the east and west side combined was too much for one person to patrol; this system however worked perfectly for two separate patrol units. ³James you are a silly bitch,´ he heard over the radio. ³Indeed he is,´ Cameron chimed in with a reply. He continued to look over the map, checking the routes over and over again for any possible error. Nope everything was just fine. James opened the door to the room, said his greeting and went outside to meet Parker. ³Hey, Cameron«´ Nick announced over the radio ³I think you should listen to the truck radio.´ The statement hit Cameron like a kick in the balls. µWhy didn¶t I think of that?!¶ Cursing himself internally, he listened intently. The static was unreal. ³That was Dave on how to properly send a smoke signal. Now for the rescue announcement. For anyone who is in need west of Rumsfield, just stay put and put up a smoke signal, we¶ll be around in the next day or so. Do not, I repeat DO NOT enter the city. Reports have confirmed an overly dangerous number of undead, we will not risk any lives entering the city. For anyone listening, if you are in the city, do not try to leave, just hide out for now; our helicopter is almost done with repairs, and once that is done we will make sweeps over the city. We estimate that the sweeps will begin within the week, so just stay put and stay safe. Now we¶re back to Dave on how to hide from the zombies; Dave?´ ³Hear that Cameron,´ Harrison interrupted the radio announcer ³We¶re going home ya slimy bastard! WE¶RE GOING HOME!´ Cameron let out a victory cheer and ran to tell the excellent news to Parker, James and Alex.
Harrison started up the truck and pulled out onto the western route. The two drove on in pleasured silence for a moment or two. What was there to converse about after hearing such awesome news? They were getting out of there, and that was that. ³There¶s a gas station.´ Nick pointed out a Hess gas station that seemed to still be in decent order. Harrison pulled up next to a pump, hopped out and started fueling up the truck. With the nozzle in the tank he pulled out his riot-guns and checked the chambers for ammunition. Loaded and ready to go. Nick pulled out his Glock, cocked a round into the chamber and went into main Hess building. As he opened the glass door a small bell rang, but Nick was so accustomed to it, he didn¶t notice it. Yawning softly, the sharp eyed boy looked over the store. Some of the aisle shelves were knocked over, food and drinks were scattered over the ground. The store had a faint air of bleach and must to it. He walked nonchalantly over to the counter and looked over the tobacco products on the far wall. Nick smirked. He leaned over the glass counter and searched the ground quickly. Nope, no zombies. With a ³HYUP´ he hopped the counter. Without out taking his eyes off the cigars, we grabbed a plastic bag and opened it up with a swish. Nick holstered his sidearm and began to shovel the boxes of cigars into the plastic bag that read ³Thank You´ over and over again. As an afterthought he also threw in a box of playing cards. Nick grabbed a few more plastic bags and cleaned house. Well, what was left of the house anyways. In the end, he had only about eight bags of food and drink, mostly canned food, and sport drinks. However he did grab a bottle of Vodka. As he was stuffing some candy bars into another bag Harrison walked in and grab a lighter with the American flag on it. As if he had known the whole time, he pulled a cigar box out of the bag, bit open the end, spit out the excess and lit the blueberry flavored blunt. With a grimace he tossed the thing down, spit, and then crushed the cigar with his shoe. He pocketed the lighter, grabbed two more and looked at Nick. ³I¶m going to go into the back room and get some gas tanks, you load the crap into the tail,´ he ordered. Then he turned and went into the back. Nick grabbed the bags and loaded them into the back of the truck. While he waited for Harrison, he sat on the side of the tail, cocked his rifle and sat ready. He inhaled the stale city air and looked about the grey, very grey empty city. µI¶ll be glad to get out of this cesspool.¶ Nick almost thought aloud. Squeaky wheels caught his attention. His head snapped to the side to see Harrison, with a cart encumbered by a few cans of gasoline which sloshed and ker-plunked as he went. ³There¶s a few more on another cart, go get µem,´ Harrison said and nodded back at the station. Nick hopped off the tail, which made the truck bounce for a moment, and walked to the back room. The room was cold and barren. Dimly lit by dying fluorescent lights that gave the dark grey concrete a ghostly look. The unwelcoming room smelled heavily of gasoline. Nick spotted the other cart and went over to it. The cart stood, with only two cans of gasoline next to some wooden crates. Nick put his foot on the low bar, gave it a nudge with his un-armed left hand and the two wheels slid forward. Warm moist hands gripped fiercely the back of Nick¶s neck. His eyes opened wide with surprise. He could hear the faint moan, and feel the hot wet breath on the back of his head. Gritting his teeth, Nick brought his leg up and then
thrust it behind him with all his might. The zombie his the wall with a satisfying thump. Nick spun about to a crouching position, took aim with his rifle and put a bullet between the eyes of yet another dead-again citizen of Rumsfield. Without giving the zombie a second look as it gently slumped to the floor, Nick wheeled the gas back to the truck.
³Well we¶re going to be rescued in a few days, so why bother,´ Alex argued calmly. Parker had finished his gardening and was discussing the group¶s next course of action. They had been debating whether to raid a nearby (three blocks away) warehouse for supplies. ³If they¶re going to rescue us,´ Parker pointed out as he pushed his glasses back up on his nose ³Then we might as well bring them a little thank-you gift as well. Plus it¶ll be fun.´ ³Parker has a point,´ James sighed just before lifting an eighty proof 1960¶s whiskey bottle to his lips. He gulped generously at the amber liquid. ³Ah. Anyways, I used to work in that warehouse, they don¶t have any food but it¶s a big tool warehouse-´ ³Tools, we could use some for the vehicles,´ Alex interrupted. ³Not just that, think about chainsaws,´ James pointed out before another healthy helping of whiskey. Alex grinned gaily. ³It¶s getting late in the day,´ Parker remarked, observing the low sun that seemed to be just outside the city limits. ³I¶m not too keen on being out there at night.´ ³Understandably so,´ yawned Alex. The three of them turned as Nick and Harrison entered. ³Sup, me and Nick found some gas, it¶s on the truck¶s tail,´ Harrison gestured with his thumb behind him. A muffled exclamation from the bathroom marked Cameron¶s whereabouts. ³Don¶t push too hard you¶ll break a blood vessel,´ Alex called after him. ³SCREW YOU ALEX!´ Cameron¶s hindered voice replied. ³So we raid tomorrow?´ Parker inquired. ³Who¶s raiding what now?´ Nick interjected. ³We¶re raiding a warehouse tomorrow,´ retorted James. ³Ok,´ Nick replied as he shrugged his rifle off and started down the hallway. The storage room grew silent and took on a red tint from the setting sun. James¶s loud drinking broke the silence. The swishing of the liquid seemed to be a silent signal for everyone to depart, for the group lazily made their way to the sleeping quarters.
Cameron was sitting rather comfortably on the back of the truck as it rumbled down the street, James riding along side of them, towards the warehouse. The air had a strange emptiness to it; the usual smell of the city was still grossly apparent, but it seemed as if the air had been canned and stored for another time. After about thirty five years of storage, somebody had finally opened the can and the now nearly stale air had
permeated the city, causing everyone to feel sluggish and slightly depressed. Boredom was a very conquering feeling in such canned air. The truck finally came to a stop, the gas cans sloshing and plunking in the tail. Cameron and Alex hopped off, cocked their guns and awaited James to give orders. The trench coat-dressed boy came around the side of the truck, guns already in hand. ³Okay, here¶s how it¶s going to work, there¶s only six floors to this thing. Each of us will take a floor, pick up anything useful and load it into the elevator. Once it¶s full send it down to the first floor, where I¶ll be loading it into the truck. The first floor has always been storage for crates and boxes, nothing else so I¶ll have nothing to do but loading down here. Any questions?´ No one replied. ³Alright then, Alex you¶ve got the second floor, Cameron third, Nick fourth, Parker fifth, Harrison sixth. Lets move.´ They all entered the warehouse, which felt quite warm as far as warehouses go, however the place was not as big as they thought, but it was still a warehouse. The elevator was just to the left of the door, in an open shaft that made it look more like a lift. James stayed behind as the five filed silently onto the ³elevator´ and began their ascension.
Cameron was alone in a dimly lit room. He was alert, but calm. His floor was, compared to the other two he had seen, the same as the others: a maze of boxes. By opening a few he discovered that he had been graced with the job of selecting electronics. Not much of use, but he knew that he would eventually find something. He rounded the corner to find the mundane ness of more boxes. He decided to open up one box that seemed to catch his eyes every time he passed over it. He let his sling catch his rifle as he pried open the overlapping box flaps. The box was filled with iPods. Tsking, he closed the box, pulled his rifle to bear and continued down the hallway. Boxes, boxes and more boxes, it never ended. The now slightly annoyed survivor rounded a left and came promptly upon a spilled box. He narrowed his eyes as he crouched to examine the contents. Tazers. ³Something useful,´ he whispered with a slight smirk. He tipped the box back up-right and put the spilled tazers back into the box. They were the handheld kind that were assigned to police officers and purchased by civilians. Searching nearby boxes, he found the appropriate batteries and secured a ³loaded´ tazer for himself. Cameron flung his rifle over his shoulder and hefted the two stacked boxes, carrying them back to the elevator; the contents clunked and shifted about as he moved. He set down the boxes rather unceremoniously near the empty elevator shaft and started back towards where he found them. He continued on, finding boxes of useless DVD players and satellite radios. Just when he was about to give up he heard a small whimper. Pushing a few boxes to the side he looked through the shelf into the aisle beyond. The dim light revealed nothing to him, but yet he again heard a tiny whimper. SNAP!
Something stung his leg. Cameron fell back; clutching his right leg as it shook uncontrollably, yelling through clenched teeth, his rifle caught at an awkward angle against the tiled floor. Leg still convulsing he looked back at the shelf and saw a frightened girl stare back at him with a panicked look and a tazer in her left hand. Cameron stared back at her, letting his leg settle down before finally heaving a sigh and attempting to speak. ³You make,´ he spoke between heavy breaths ³a hell of a first impression.´ He stared into her eyes; he could tell that she was scared. It looked as if she had been on her own for awhile; her clothes were ragged and worn, her skin was splotched slightly in some areas and her blonde curly hair looked quite scraggly. The only thing that seemed to have stayed pure was her deep blue eyes, which bestowed to him an intense feeling of fearful distrust. She was beautiful. Cameron sighed and shook his head. After staring at the floor for a few seconds he got up to a crouching position and smiled trustingly at her. ³You can trust me, I¶m not a zombie. I¶m here to help you,´ he told her softly. ³Here, give me your hand.´ Cameron reached his hand forward, and she took it very cautiously. Her skin felt velvety smooth, so smooth that it sent a small sensation through Cameron as he delicately helped her through the shelf. ³There you go,´ when she was fully through he helped her to her feet. She stood shaking slightly as she stared up at him with those gorgeous eyes. Cameron stared right back, the smile never leaving his face. They stood there for a moment or two, staring at each other, when suddenly the girl began to weep. She fell into him, wrapping her arms about him as she heaved huge sobs into his BDU jacket. ³Hey, hey, it¶s going to be alright now,´ Cameron whispered to her as he gently stroked her hair with his left hand. Cameron frowned as he could barely feel a hand sliding down his left side to his pistol holster. He felt the sudden jerk of the weapon being yanked from its holster. Shocked the boy looked to her, the girl had the muzzle of the weapon to her forehead, mouth contorted with pain and face still shining with tears. The report of the weapon echoed throughout the floor as she pulled the trigger, a black and red hole formed at the top of her forehead, just under her hairline. She collapsed to the floor with a heart-breaking thud. Cameron¶s pistol, as if it had a mind of its own, fell from her velvety fingers and spun on the floor to his boots. Cameron was shocked at what had just happened. Not knowing what to think, he absent mindedly holstered his pistol, whispered an apology to the body of the girl he could have saved, and went back to the elevator.
Alex had heard the pistol¶s report; however it had been very feint indeed. He had been in a relaxed mood until then, now he was tense as he navigated the maze of crates. The floor he had been assigned to was for the storage of tools, both manual and power tools. As he swept a dead end over with his eyes, one particular box kept attracting his attention. His interest piqued, he went over and opened it up. Alex¶s grin grew so wide it hurt. The box contained chainsaws. Slinging his rifle over his shoulder he picked one up and held it. It was heavier than he thought.
Alex held it aloft in the dim light and looked it over. The word DEVOUR was painted in white across the 20´ bar. As he shifted his hold on it he could hear a faint swishing sound from inside the saw. µGas powered,¶ Alex thought as he again looked in the box. There were about three more; packed over in one corner were the owner¶s manuals. He set his saw down and grabbed one. Alex whispered aloud as he read. ³Congratulations on your purchase of a Devour brand chainsaw. You should know that you are now the lucky owner of the world¶s finest Canadian made chainsaw. Notice also the trademark 50.0CC industrial grade gas engine as well as the diamond tipped titanium teeth; you may own this saw for over thirty years and never have to sharpen it once. Take also careful note of the self oiling system at the base of the chain bar. The oil tank will have to be refilled once ever three years in order to insure optimum efficiency. We once again congratulate you on your wise decision to by a Devour brand chainsaw, and we hope the product brings you many years of reliable service«´ Before Alex could read on he heard a soft moan. His head snapped up so fast, he almost cricked his neck. A zombie was ambling labouredly towards him on distorted legs. Alex looked down at the chainsaw, and hoped that Devour was good as they said they were. He put his foot on the foothold in the handle, primed the engine, turned it on, and gave a sharp yank on the pull cord. The saw roared to life, almost as if it were excited. Alex lifted it from the ground and revved the engine twice, beckoning the zombie closer to its own demise. As the zombie shuffled closer and closer, adrenaline and a sense of power flooded Alex, the anticipation was almost too much. When the moaner was effectively within range, Alex raised the saw up and brought it down mercilessly onto the zombie¶s right shoulder. The engine screaming hungrily as the chain tore into its fresh meal of flesh, bone and sinew. Coagulated blood shot in all directions, staining Alex and the crates around him. After a second the saw burst through its armpit, the toreup arm plopping onto the blood splattered floor. Adrenaline and a power trip totally taking over Alex, he swung the blood thirsty saw to his left and brought it fiercely back into the zombie¶s right side. The saw tore hungrily into its new meal of zombie torso; it only took a second or two for Alex to saw the fetid thing in two diagonally. When the saw broke through the other side, the zombie¶s upper half slid off and splattered on the slick floor. Coagulated blood and entrails spilled on the floor; the thing¶s lower half dropped to its left and splattered even more chunky blood on the crates and the floor. Alex turned off the saw, breathing heavy from excitement, a sadistic grin spread evilly across his face. Absent mindedly he kicked the two halves of the corpse to the side; he set his new toy down into its box and began to drag it back to the elevator.
³At least someone¶s having fun,´ Harrison growled as he smacked the muzzle of the riot gun in his right hand against the face of a zombie. Letting out a stifled moan it crumpled to the floor. Harrison put the barrel an inch away from its forehead and pulled the trigger. He looked down the hall way of boxes, more were coming; he chanced a glance behind him, more were coming.
³You want an ass whoopin¶? Well COME AND GET IT!´ He raised the riot gun and fired, the buckshot tearing open the skull of the closest zombie and hindering the one just behind it. Stepping forward just a tad he let loose a shot from his left gun. He was rewarded with a splat as the now dead again zombie fell to the floor. Harrison leveled his left gun again, this time in front of him and blew the head clean off another one. A quick peek over his shoulder was all he needed; he kicked out directly behind him, sending another one falling to the floor. His way now clear, Harrison stomped over the freshly kicked moaner and charged around the corner, away from the growing group. Finding a safe spot he leaned up against a shelf, heaved a sigh and ejected the spent rounds from their chambers. His leather jacket creaked as he stuffed the riot gun in the crook of his right arm. Harrison raided his hip pockets, pulling out fresh shotgun shells and sliding them into their chambers. He stuffed that one into the crook of his left arm, pulled the other one out, and fed it some deadly stuff as well. Already feeling the adrenaline returning he cocked the twin guns once more and strode back to the group of moaners. Grimacing, Harrison followed the smell of the rotting flesh, where they were impatiently waiting for him. Harrison wasted no time in cleaning up the mess, he pumped some shot into the one that was rolling around on the ground, and then moved towards the crowd. Shot after shot, the zombie¶s fell, until there was only one left. Smiling slightly he raised his right gun and pulled the trigger. *Click* Frowning slightly he switched arms. *Click* Dropping the guns he took a step back and spoke quickly to the lone undead drawing slowly closer. ³It seems as if you¶ve caught me off guard, but I have an ace up my sleeve.´ With a thrust of his right arm a knife slid into his hand. Harrison flicked his wrist and the clean silvery blade glistened into existence. Harrison held the blade out and on guard, waiting for the ghoul to draw closer. When it was finally in range, he thrust the blade deep into the side of the things skull at an upward angle. He wriggled the blade a little bit to loosen it, and then pulled it out, blood and brain matter sticking to the blade. The zombie groaned and leaned to the left, spilling more and more blood and pink and clear fluid onto the ground until it finally collapsed onto the ground. Harrison bent down and wiped the excess fluid off of the blade and onto the zombie¶s shirt, folded it back up, and stashed it away in his jacket. Picking up his guns and beginning the process of reloading, he looked around. µWell I didn¶t find anything but packing peanuts, so I might as well call it quits,¶ he thought to himself. With a loud click, the guns announced their readiness to fight once more. Instead Harrison strode with them proudly back to the elevator.
Parker was panting heavily as he leaned up against a stack of boxes. µWhy was I given THIS floor?¶ There must have been hundreds of zombies on his floor. He had
spent a good portion of his time fighting, and he was low on ammo. For some reason no one bothered to come to his aid, perhaps they thought he was shooting bottle cans? Parker ejected the nearly spent clip from his UMP, stuffed it in his pack, and grabbed his last full magazine. µHarrison, for the love of god, get the hell down here.¶ He threw himself around the corner and cut down three ghouls with a spray of automatic fire. Four more were still shuffling towards him, down the hallway. A fifth one with no legs drug its pale, rotting, moaning body around the corner and followed his friends towards the now getting angry survivor. ³There¶s just no end to you bastards, IS THERE?!´ Parker growled after the five, no, six zombies shuffling towards him. A quick word from his UMP sent two of them falling and a third one stumbling to the floor. Parker rushed up, kicked back the one he missed and crushed in the skull of the one that stumbled. He fired a single, controlled shot right through the top of the legless one, and sent an angry, lengthy burst of gun fire into the sixth one. Number five tried to get up, but the last three shots in his clip put him down for good. Lucky number seven rounded the corner about a half of a second after the last shot was fired, and received its warm welcome of a UMP-stock-to-the-face. Parker finished him off with a downward stomp. Four more moaners hobbled towards him. Parker was out of ammo, and out of luck. He slung the rifle over his shoulder and went back to the elevator, calling up the shaft in the hopes of Harrison hearing him. ³GET THE DAMN ELEVATOR ON MY FLOOR, NOW!´ Painful seconds past by, but the dark metal bottom of the elevator did not move. However after a minute or two, Nick called up to him. ³Parker, is that you?´ ³Yeah, it¶s me Nick; I¶m in a tough spot. There¶s hundreds of these fuckers.´ Parker wiped the sweat on his forehead off onto the only un-bloodied spot on his shirt. ³Holy shit! Um«.I¶m sorry I can¶t help you.´ ³Its okay, I just need HARRISON TO LOWER THE ELEVATOR. FUCK!´ Harrison called up even more angrily than before, in the hopes of Harrison responding. ³I have never seen you so pissed off before Parker,´ Nick replied with his steady calmness that he always had. ³Fuckin¶ A Righ-DAMNIT!´ Parker was cut off when a zombie grabbed hold of his arm. A quick redirection of momentum sent the ghoul cascading down five floors. It landed with a horrible thump. ³HARRISON, I¶M GONNA CASTRATE YOU!´ After a few more tense seconds, the elevator finally lowered. As soon as Parker could, he climbed aboard, thanking god over and over again. Upon passing his floor, Harrison took out one zombie that had just hobbled around the corner, staining the boxes behind it. ³Find anything?´ Harrison inquired excitedly. Parker, now completely calm, cool and collected, responded with a simple ³No´ as he sat in the corner behind Harrison. Nick boarded, he had had ³the most boring of times,´ as he put it. Cameron and Alex had both found useful things. When they reached the first floor, they were greeted by James, who was about to say something, but was cut off when a zombie landed squarely in the center of the elevator with a loud SPLAT, sending some coagulated blood to the walls and floor of the elevator. They were raining down the elevator shaft after
them. Without another word, Cameron and Alex grabbed there packages, followed by the rest of them into the truck, and James on his bike, and tore off down the road.
³Ooooh, I¶m getting chills!´ James said giddily as he lifted his devour chainsaw from Alex¶s crate-o-saws. Night had fallen just as they reached the big empty storage room, their seen of joyful unpacking was lit brightly by the over-head fluorescent lights. The smell of new electronics, mixed with new hardware, gave the six a feel that Christmas had come early. ³Alex, I would kiss you, but I am not on that side of the fence,´ Cameron remarked with a grin as his eyes washed over the beauty of his chainsaw. ³You had a pretty nice find yourself,´ Alex retorted as he examined a tazer. He pulled the battery cover off, inserted a rechargeable battery that was included in the box, and pressed the on button. A blue spark connected the two conducting prongs at the head of the defense weapon. ³The batteries come fully charged.´ ³Dude«´ Nick sighed excitedly as he walked from the chainsaw box over to the tazer box. ³I think we should keep one saw in the truck, and the other three up here,´ James suggested. ³No argument here,´ Cameron replied, never looking up from the saw once. ³Fine by me,´ Harrison replied, now pulling out the last saw and looking it over himself. ³I¶ll bring this one down in the morning,´ Alex said, tapping the saw on his right side gently with his foot. ³As long as I get to carry a tazer,´ Nick said his voice slow and emphasized. ³Ditto,´ Parker replied with minimal enthusiasm.
Cameron strode besides the burly Alex out of the door of their ³home.´ Alex was still wiping the last traces of sleep from his eyes, so his weapon was slung over his shoulder, while Cameron, wide awake, carried his M4 abreast. James walked from the truck, back towards the door. ³You guys heading out,´ their unofficial leader questioned them. ³Yeah we¶re just going on a patrol,´ Cameron replied. Though they weren¶t really patrolling the areas, what the M4 wielding survivor meant was that him and Alex were just going to wander about the eastern section of the city, to see if they could find anything«or anybody. ³Alright, radio if you guys have trouble.´ Cameron gave him a two-fingered salute as he passed. The city had a certain air to it in the morning. Though it always had that same old city smell, in the early morning, when the first lances of sunlight rushed through the distant trees and amongst the tall city buildings, one felt as though he were walking in fog. The air felt cool, refreshing, and moist, as if the city at night had try to cleanse it self from the polluting it¶s had inhabitants had done at day.
Cameron and Alex began to engage in a happily relaxed conversation. They discussed the old days, before the outbreak, back when the only survival concerns were bad food and old girlfriends. The two passed a corpse, being pecked at by crows. Cameron caught the eye of one crow that seemed to be much cleaner and better kept than the rest. The boy¶s mind delved into the recesses of the crow¶s pupil¶s, his thoughts drifting to a friend of his, who loved crows. He would be over to her house, sipping green tea and chatting about various trivial things. Whenever a crow would flutter down into her yard, any conversation, no matter how interesting, important or engrossed, would halt immediately as if someone hit a giant pause button, and the two of them would watch the crow; her, most definitely more intently than him. These memories pained him, but in a good way. They reminded him not to give up hope, that if they got through this, perhaps he could meet her again, could talk of trivial things over green tea again. Cameron blinked slowly to push the event into the back of his mind, and continued his cheerful discussion with his muscular comrade. After several minutes of walking and talking, the two finally reached the eastern part of the city, where they had chosen to ³patrol.´ It was un-naturally quiet. Where there should have been birds chirping, or perhaps a small breeze whispering within the alley ways, there was none. The imposing quiet pressed against their ears, only shattering by the steady steps of their boots, only to recover swiftly after to press again. This dreaded silence forced the boys to hold themselves more alertly. They peered about like sentinels, any movement, even something as small as a fly landing upon a light post, caused their eyes to dart in that direction. A noise halted boy the silence and the boys. It was the steady rolling sound of skateboard wheels. It echoed off the city walls, deceiving the direction of its presence to the boys¶ ears. Alex just happened to look over his left shoulder in time to see a short, young boy on a skateboard turn out of an alleyway onto the sidewalk, across the street. The boy had a round face that had grown soft from exhaustion and was partially disguised by his long bright red hair; he was clad in a blue t-shirt and black jeans. The boarder had a pistol stuffed in his back left pocket and he was heading towards the center of the city. ³Hey,´ Alex called to the skater. ³Whoa!´ The boy started. He jumped from his skateboard, which flipped over and over it self until it hit the wall of an abandoned café nearby; in a flash the boy had the pistol pointing towards Alex. Alex stiffened and froze«he did not want to get shot. ³Oh, your not one of them,´ the red-haired boy said, obviously relieved. He lowered his pistol, stuffed it back into its pocket and got back on his board. The boy looked back at them and said, warningly ³I¶m leaving them for a reason«take that into account.´ With that, he skated off, around the corner, and out of sight. Alex looked back at Cameron, who had been aiming his M4 at the boy, but began to lower it. ³Who¶s them?´ Cameron asked. Alex gave him a look that told the minimal extent of his own knowledge. The two continued on their walk, albeit a little more thought consumed on ³them.´
The patrolling pair took a right around a corner and were confronted by a large, yet sparse, group of zombies. The two made no effort to fight; instead they merely raised their weapons, and began to back around the corner. They stopped at the corner, frozen out of anticipation and amazement at what they just heard. Shouts and gun shots echoed from the other side of the zombie horde. ³WE¶RE ON THE OTHER SIDE!´ Alex bellowed at the unknown group of people; their reply, distant but not entirely faint, soon followed. ³Focus your efforts on the right side! We¶ll meet you in the middle!´ The two obeyed. Cameron cut down a line of seven with a burst of automatic fire, all the while steadily moving inwards on the right side. Alex made sure that no zombie came in on Cameron¶s six, so he hung a few yards behind and shot any zombie that stumbled behind him. Though their were easily over a hundred of the moaning undead, they were not tightly packed together, so they head a somewhat-wide berth. They passed an ally, suddenly a gaggle of moaners stumbled out, not even two feet in front of Alex. Growling in frustration, the large boy shot an endless stream of bullets into the crowd, cascading torn bits of clothing, clumpy blood and pink brain matter into the air. One zombie managed to slip past his hail of bullets and, falling forward slightly, grasped a hold of Alex¶s shoulder. With ease, the burly boy threw the zombie off and onto the ground, finishing it off by curb stomping its head, staining the once grey concrete. Only one zombie remained between Alex and his original course; he leveled his rifle and pulled the trigger. A perfectly placed round put a whole nearly dead-center into the things cranium. However, the perfectly placed round was followed by a rapid series of clicks. Alex reloaded, stuffing the empty clip into one of his back pockets and feeding his rifle a fresh one. Cameron trucked onward, moving at a steady enough pace so that his aim was not rocked too much by his steps. He shot down fetid moaner and fetid moaner with calculated precision«all those days at the gun club paid off. His clip emptied, but at an inconvenient time, a zombie with only its left arm was shambling a bit too close for comfort. Calculating his movements, the boy cut in at a close angle to the zombie, he raised his knee as high up in front of him as he could, and he shot his foot down and into the side of the fetid thing¶s knee. Bones snapped as the heel of Cameron¶s boot bent the leg joint at an angle it was not supposed to bend. What Cameron forgot to take into account was that this action caused the zombie to nearly fall on top of him, its ³dead´ weight brushing heavily against Cameron¶s body, nearly causing the boy to lose his balance, but also strengthening the smell of rotten flesh that had permeated the air. With a grimace Cameron smashed in a fresh clip and called Alex to come to his side. They had made it through the crowd, and had met with the other group of survivors. ³Come along, we can talk once we¶re away from those things.´ A tall survivor with dark brown hair and a British accent ordered. The squad of about nine moved around a corner and down about a block, where they were sure the zombies were no longer a threat. The one with the British accent turned and looked Cameron and Alex up and down very carefully. After a few moments of silence he asked, ³Your not part of the colony«are you?´ ³Colony?´ Cameron inquired in turn.
Another colonist with a serious look on his face rushed to the Brit¶s side and, never taking his eyes off the two, said ³We¶ve told them about the colony, they know now; we¶ve got to kill them!´ ³What fucking rubbish are you speaking?´ the accented man rounded on his shorter, but obviously more perturbed team mate, who was still staring avidly at Cameron and Alex. ³I mean that they could be infected!´ ³You know bloody well that no one turns until after their dead, killing them will only ensure they turn here and now.´ ³Better here than at the damn colony.´ ³You saw what they can do; we could always use the extra guns.´ ³You¶d risk,´ his eyes were now on the accented man¶s face, which was not even four inches away ³the safety of the colony for a ³few guns´!?´ Their tension grew to become nearly audible. ³Guys«´ another colonist with a heavy tone of worry in his voice interrupted. ³WHAT!?´ the two arguing colonists snapped in unison. Just then the door to the building they were standing in front of, exploded open, knocking down a colonist. Zombies poured out, beginning to feast on the colonist on the ground, and moving to feast upon the rest of the group. They tried to react, but no one in the group was far enough to pull off any shots without hitting each other. The zombies soon overtook nearly the entire group, except for Alex and Cameron, who had managed to jump back a couple of feet clearing the undead rush. The screams of the colonists were nearly drowned out by the moans of the zombies. Nearly. Cameron looked up from the horrible scene to meet the eyes of a colonist who had managed to clear the group. An attractive young girl, maybe an inch or two shorter than Cameron, with brown hair and blue eyes, clutching an ancient looking UZI gaped at him for a moment, and then turned to run. ³Follow her!´ Cameron ordered. Alex made no hesitation to sprint after Cameron in the girl; he didn¶t want to test his luck with the ever growing group of feeding zombies. The girl apparently knew the city very well, she took them through dark alleys, in and out of lit subways, past fenced ball courts, some empty, others nearly bursting with zombies. At one point she took them down an alley that had steam flowing from vents under the flanking buildings. When they entered the alley they were confronted by a large, if ramshackle, metal gate, atop of which sat a tired looking old man with an equally old looking hunting rifle. The three stopped at the gate, Alex and Cameron gasping heavily from their run, which must have been at least three miles«the two had never sprinted that far before. ³Bertrum, open the gate.´ The girl called up to the old man. ³Katie! Where¶s Ramsey and the rest of you?´ Bertrum rasped in return. ³Dead.´ Katie replied without hesitation. ³Oh,´ the old man said as if by hearing Katie¶s word a video of the gruesome scene had played before his eyes. ³Who are your new friends?´ ³I don¶t know their names, but we found them.´ ³I¶m Alex,´ Alex called up, still a little winded, his hands on his hips. ³C«Cameron,´ Cameron gasped, his hands on his knees.
³A pleasure to meet you,´ the old man replied as he grasped a hold of a crank on his left side. He began to turn it and the gates creaked open, sliding into the buildings that bordered their sides. ³Welcome to the colony.´ Bertrum called after them as he closed the gate, the three walking the short distance to the door at the end of the alley, where the buildings formed a U-Shape. Katie pulled out a key and unlocked the door. ³Like I said before, my name¶s Katie. Welcome to Espoir.´ She said the last word with a French accent. Katie opened the door.
Cameron and Alex gaped at the defenses laid before them. The door opened onto a small landing where stairs lead sideways down onto what appeared to be a storage room with a very high ceiling. It gave one a warehouse feel. However this is not what impressed the two boys. A short distance away from the end of the stairs bristled the most solid looking defensive wall they had ever seen; metal plating reinforced by what looks like solid slabs of wood here and there were pocked with pieces of wreckage sticking out at odd angles. Above the metal and hedgehog like bottom wall was a rampart of sandbags, lined with so much barbed wire, that the sandbags were not easily distinguished from each other. Mounted behind sandbags were several large caliber looking machineguns. Armed guards patrolled the wall, there faces hidden behind gasmasks, paintball masks, and welding hoods as to protect the face from blood gushes. A thin metal draw bridge stretched over the large field of jagged looking rubble in front of the wall. As the trio walked up the bridge it bent and complained over the added weight, causing Cameron to question its true stability. Katie led the way through the gateway flanked by several more unmasked but still armed guards. Most were engaged in conversation and paid little or no attention as the three walked by. Others however stared, mostly from curiosity, still others in what appeared to be either mistrust or contempt. One guard with a bandage over his left eye, grasping the barrel of the M16 standing at his side kept his right eye trained constantly on Cameron. Cameron could most definitely feel that he and Alex would not receive a wholly warm welcome. Beyond the imposing wall, what looked like a small town sat in relaxation. People walked about happily, unconcerned. Some walked with more purpose than others, usually carrying loads of weapons or utility goods. As the three walked passed what must be a guard house, more people began take notice of the trio. Some glanced briefly out of curiosity and then looked away, as if they had just seen a new car model. There were, however, still the people who stared out of mistrust at the outsiders. Alex walked with a tense gate. He did not entirely blame him, they both felt out of their element and amongst enemies. The lighting cast a white fluorescent glow upon everyone, and the place smelled of a workshop. ³KATIE!´ a nameless voice called from all around them it seemed. The three halted and Katie made an impatient sound. ³KATIE, WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN?´ A man slightly shorter than Katie with short cut black hair and ferocious brown eyes approached Katie. His expression blazed a combination of annoyance and anger. ³You knew I was on patrol.´ Katie replied calmly. ³Oh yeah,´ replied the man clearly on edge ³then tell me«WHERE¶S RAMSEY?!´ The man bellowed in Katie¶s, face, his own barely two inches away. ³Thomas, that¶s enough.´ a calm but firm voice sounded nearby. A tall, graying man with wise and weathered look to him drew near, escorted by two other men who looked tired from mental stress. One was clearly a foreigner, his long black beard and unkempt dark hair gave away that he was a traditionalist Russian. The other, his tired dark blue eyes shielded by glasses, was bald and had a look of educated intelligence. All
three were wearing suits and appeared as if they had just emerged from a long winded and clearly unpleasant business meeting. ³Kathryn, you may go and file your patrol report,´ Katie nodded her head in a tiny bow and left ³Thomas; I believe you have work to do in the power station.´ Thomas stood, breathing heavy and seething, but after several heart beats, stormed off. ³Please forgive Thomas, Kathryn is the only family he has left, and he has grown quite protective of her. So protective in fact, that he poses a danger to others around them, so we stopped putting him on patrols, and put him to work in the city¶s power plant.´ The graying man stood in thought for a few moments then snapped back to attention ³Forgive me, where are my manners, my name is Balthazar.´ He offered his hand, which Cameron and Alex both shook. ³These are my colleagues,´ he indicated to the other two in suits ³Bertram,´ the bald man offered his hand, which was taken ³and Miroslav,´ the Russian man smiled broadly and shook the two boys hands with powerful vigor.´ ³My name is Alex.´ ³And I am Cameron.´ ³It is a pleasure to meet you, Alex and Cameron´ Balthazar said as he unbuttoned his suit coat. ³May I ask where you two hail from?´ ³Uh,´ Alex began, unsure as to the meaning of ³hail´. ³We are apart of a group of six survivors who live Northwest of here«´ ³In an old warehouse?´ Bertram interrupted, folding his arms in inquisitive interest. ³Yeah«´ Cameron replied, his face contorted in confusion. ³It used to be an outpost, until it was overrun with undead´ Miroslav explained holding his hands behind his back, his accented voice clear and audible ³the people we placed there led the undead into a room and detonated an oxygen tank in an effort to kill as many of them as possible. You see, this shelter was established long before the evacuation process in this city began. The mayor was a terribly proud man and would not admit that the city was a virtual war zone.´ They all began to walk, out of instinct towards a door way on the far wall. ³So are you guys, like the leaders of this survivor group?´ Alex inquired. ³Well in a way,´ Bertram answered ³We¶re more like the people that everyone comes to when they don¶t know what they should be doing.´ ³This is the way to our office,´ the Miroslav continued ³we heard Thomas yelling and then we saw you, didn¶t recognize you and«´ ³Decided to introduce our selves.´ Bertram finished. They reached the door and Balthazar politely held the door for them. The ³office´ as it was called, was a hastily painted white rectangular room with a long table dominating the center of the room. Messy filing cabinets lined one of the shorter walls. A dry erase board hung directly across the room from the cabinets. Bertram indicated to the rest that they should sit. As soon as Cameron sat down, he felt his pocket tighten against the radio still in his hip pocket. He pulled it out and laid it on the table. Alex burst out. ³Oh yeah! We should tell the others about this.´ Bertram and Miroslav exchanged a look that was filled with curiosity and suspicion. Balthazar¶s eyebrows perked up.
³By all means, contact your friends.´ Cameron picked up the radio and held down the PTT button. ³Hey, anyone there?´ ³Wazzup?´ Harrison answered almost immediately. ³Hey Harrison, are the others right there?´ ³Everyone but Nick, why?´ ³Could you get them in hearing range?´ ³Sure.´ A few minutes of silence passed then Harrison chimed back in. ³µKay, we¶re here.´ ³Alright. Guys, we¶ve found some more survivors. A lot more, they¶ve got like a whole underground village here.´ Harrison chimed back in again, exclamations of surprise could be heard behind him. ³Dude«that¶s AWESOME!´ Balthazar leaned in so he could speak into the radio mic. ³And you¶re welcome to join us, as well. We could use the scouts.´ ³We¶ll load up the truck right now!´ Parker exclaimed over the radio. ³Well we know of your location, your colleagues speak highly of you,´ Bertram informed the radio. Alex and Cameron smiled inwardly. ³We¶ll send you an escort in an hour.´ ³Wait, hold on a second,´ James said over the radio. ³Isn¶t there a helicopter coming in like a week?´ The three suited men lost color from their faces. ³There¶s no helicopter coming.´ Balthazar informed solemnly. The room went deathly silent. Alex and Cameron began to feel a dull burning feeling deep in the pit of their stomachs. The radio said nothing. ³A few days ago they announced that they were attacked and took severe casualties.´ Balthazar cleared his throat deliberately. ³There won¶t be another rescue mission for who knows how long.´ Cameron felt as though he had just figured out the punch line to a cruel joke.
James solemnly tossed the last duffel bag into the back of the pickup. He trudged over to his bike, stuffed on his helmet and gave the starter a kick. The bike growled to life and he gave the gruff looking escort a wave. The escort started down the road on his decrepit four-wheeler, the truck following, and James coming up last. Though his helmet did muffle the sound of the outside slightly, James heard nothing. His mind was too thick with hopelessness. µThere¶s no rescue coming. We¶re not getting out.¶ Though James knew it wouldn¶t be final, it sure felt it. The caravan drove past a short street that led to a school. The small sized school, at first glance, appeared as some sort of isolated world among the tall city buildings; a two lane road, the black river that kept it from being consumed by the city. Although, James wish he hadn¶t looked at all. Strewn about the streets, the steps and even hanging from the windows of the school were bodies, freshly dead bodies, the torn and ruined corpses of both adults and children«consumed by zombies. James felt a stabbing pang of anger and disgust. They rounded another corner, causing the heads of a few zombies on the sidewalks to turn in their direction. They hobbled uselessly towards the center of the streets, but James and the others had already left them in the dust. Snaking along through the urban grid-lock, between the grim and repressing buildings, they finally arrived to a down-ramp leading to an underground garage. Their escort pulled a pistol from the holster on his right leg and fired at a square cut from the door. A faint pang resounded, and three heart beats later the door began to clank and clutter open. The group slowly drove themselves into their new home. ³So how was the drive?´ Cameron asked emotionlessly, moving up to clasp James¶s hand. Harrison hefted two duffel bags from the tail of the truck and flipped some hair out of his face. As Cameron and Alex finished their little welcome, Harrison gave them a look of µWhere can I put these down?¶ ³Come on, we gotta go upstairs for a little meet and greet,´ Cameron motioned with his head, his hands stuck in his pockets. As they made their way through the dim, orange tinted garage, Harrison couldn¶t help but notice that Cameron and Alex weren¶t carrying their weapons. They approached a brightly lit guard office, where three, tired looking guys were playing a board game that Harrison didn¶t recognize. One of them looked up, chewing on a hardy looking sandwich, and smacked a large blue button on the control console he had his feet up on. The heavy-duty garage door next to the office groaned and clanked as it lazily raised open. The six of them walked through another stretch of garage, to another guard station, this time unlocking a door to a staircase. At the first floor Alex pounded the door twice in quick succession. Harrison dropped the heavy duffels, his arms burning from the strain of carrying them. He checked his watch; it had just turned 7:45. Parker moaned
quietly and massaged the bridge of his nose. As Harrison looked lazily about the room, he noticed unarmed plastic explosives wired along the side of the stairs. A trio of swift pounds resounded from the other side of the door. Alex pounded four more times, again in quick succession, and the heavy duty lock of the riot door clanged. Light flooded the barely lit staircase, and, grudgingly, Harrison again lifted the overly-heavy duffels and strolled on through. ³Whoa,´ Parker sighed. On the other side was, quite literally, a village. A village of sheet metal and ply wood shacks, some metal towers and a massive, intimidating guard wall, dominating the far side. A few people were walking about, carrying various things; weapons, fruit, small livestock, water buckets, dirty clothes, clean clothes, wood, scrap metal, ammo, vegetables, tools«few paid them any never mind. ³Come on,´ Cameron beckoned as he walked. ³I need you guys to meet some people.´ James fiddled with a cigar in his fingers. When they had first entered conferencelooking room, they had been greeted by three men, a Russian man, an old man, and a bald man who were named Miroslav, Balthazar and Bertram«respectively. Balthazar had offered them all cigars when they entered, Miroslav already puffing at a half-finished one himself. James didn¶t smoke, but he didn¶t want to be rude, so he took it anyways. Deciding that he would save it for a special occasion, he slipped it back into its plastic case and tucked it away into an inside pocket of his trench coat. Balthazar sad and looked at them all, searching for the right words to begin. ³Well«´ he hesitated ³At this point there isn¶t much I have to tell you. You know that we have made an attempt at survival down here, and it¶s worked out well thus far, and you know that no rescue is coming«for awhile at least.´ Bertram sneezed. ³Bless you,´ Balthazar said out of reflex. ³And you¶ve all come to join and help us in our little society«yes?´ No one contradicted him. ³Very good,´ Balthazar finished with a wry smile. ³I shall assign you all jobs,´ Bertram said as he shuffled some papers in front of him. You¶ve all been given the same room, which is the lookout on the fourth floor. We have heard, Nick, that you are the sharpshooter of the group, yes?´ Nick nodded, his head leaning on his left hand, ³So you shall be placed up there, to snipe any undead that come within a two block radius of your position. It is a rather large room, enough for the six of you, so we just decided to put you all up there. Parker, you shall be placed on the defensive wall as a sapper and ammo runner.´ Parker nodded approvingly, of all of them, he seemed to be in the most positive mood. ³Alex and Cameron, you two shall be guards men in the power plant. This facility´ Bertram explained ³Is actually the cities power plant, we can only keep plant running at one fourth capacity, because of lack of proper training, but we are lacking guards down there so you two shall oblige, yes?´ They both nodded. ³James and Harrison, you two are going to be apart of the Mobile Core. You two will drive about the city doing errands such as scavenging supplies, and investigating strange instances, yes?´ They both nodded. ³Very well,´ Bertram straightened out his papers and held out a hand. ³Welcome to life at Espoir.´ ...several weeks later«
³There finished! How¶s that?´ The barber spun Nick¶s chair so that he was facing the mirror on the side of the hut. ³That¶s looking pretty good. Thanks.´ Nick stood up, shook the kind balding man¶s hand and set off at a relaxed pace through the village. The people in the warehouse-shelter had established a society without money. Any product was rationed to everyone in fair and equal amounts. Any service, such as haircuts and the such, were done free of charge, or perhaps for a small favor. Overall everyone got along, perhaps it was the lack of greed, or the fact that dead waited in vast numbers, shambling, moaning and claw just outside the door, that kept the peace. The people were friendly, and helpful. As Nick walked along, he had to stop short as a few small children ran past him, laughing and shouting. His gaze followed them to a small fort made of scraps, as one little boy with scraggly black hair, with a spaghetti strainer in place of a helmet, and a wood spoon in place of a sword, was ordering an imaginary volley of bullets from the others taking cover from invisible enemies in the fort. The freshly trimmed boy let out a little chuckle and continued on his stroll. He cut his relaxing walk short, and took a path between two sheet metal huts to a door in the wall. The door opened up into a dim-window-lit staircase that rose spiraled (box-like) up the side of the building. Nick climbed up to fourth and top floor. He opened up the riot door to a dim, unlit hallway and felt his way to the second door on the right. He opened it to enter into a brightly, window-lit room. The room was approximately forty feet by twenty seven feet, containing several cots, a few chairs, a desk and a comfortable couch that sat in front of a light-wood coffee table. Cameron was sitting at the couch, cleaning his M4. ³Oh hey Nick,´ he said looking up from the gearbox of his rifle, which he was blowing into. ³What sup Cam?´ Nick looked around, Alex¶s XM8 lie unloaded on his very untidy cot, but Alex was not in the room. ³Where¶s Alex?´ Cameron looked up at Alex¶s cot, as if the sight of his gun would remind him of the boy¶s whereabouts. ³He went down to talk with Balthazar; I think he¶s out in the city somewhere.´ ³Without his gun?´ ³No, he took a sub machine gun off the storage cot.´ They had a few extra cots in the room when they arrived several weeks earlier, they took the mattress off one and the underlying framework made for a perfect gun rack. ³OK,´ satisfied, Nick, walked over to the one open window where his gun and some ammo, used cartridges lied scattered about the window and the unused stood lined along the window. Though normally the M24 SWS is magazine fed, an option is to load the bullets one at a time through the bolt opening. Though much more tedious and impractical when it came to humans, when it comes to sniping zombies from the forth floor window, it only adds to the fun. Nick inserted a bullet, cocked it into place and sat down onto the lightly padded, fold-up chair, and watched out the window, waiting for a zombie to show its rotting face. A few minutes had passed, when a zombie wandered around the corner of a building far to Nick¶s left. It shuffled along on a straight and a clearly broken leg, its right arm dangling from damaged muscle fiber as the left hung limply. Its head was bent
completely over onto its left side. Nick brought the rifle to bear, drew a bead through the scope and fired. The bullet impacted about three feet off of where the ghoul¶s head was. He ejected the spent cartridge, inserted another, cocked it, and made some fine adjustments to his scope. Once again taking aim, drawing a bead, and squeezing the trigger, sending the little piece of brass on its way. It impacted into the zombie¶s forehead, bursting a cloud of crimson from the back of the thing¶s skull. It held its ground for a moment, then toppled over onto its weak side, blood forming a small pool about its head as it stared lifelessly at other long-dead zombies nearby. ³Its funny how all of this escalated so quickly«you know, how the reality of it hit us so quickly, and how we got organized right off the bat.´ Nick said out of the blue. ³You know what gets me?´ Cameron asked as he tightened a screw on his rifle. ³What¶s that?´ Nick inquired as he inserted another bullet into the chamber. ³Some of the guns that we got from the police station are classified for military use only. Why did a civilian police station have them?´ ³I would have no clue as to why that is.´ Nick replied. ³I guess just dumb luck,´ Cameron said as he made a screw snug on the M4. The two sat in silence for a moment or two. Nick broke the silence with a proposition that sparked Cameron¶s interest. ³I betcha I can shoot this moaner and make him fall into the sewer.´ ³You¶re on,´ Cameron challenged, and walked over the windows, observing the said moaner through binoculars given to them by Miroslav. The zombie had random patches of skin missing from its pale body, and unlike most, its mouth was not open in a sickening moan, but rather tilted forward slightly as if on a determined course. One might believe that it were not a zombie, but rather a rough looking person, however the jerky gait gave away its present condition in terms of health. Barely, stepping over a sewer, Nick put a round between the things eyes. The slight momentum given to the zombie¶s head by the bullet was enough for it to lose balance, and crumple onto the open manhole on the street behind it. It fell so the only thing preventing it from a watery decent was its neck, which gave way, allowing the zombie in its entirety to plummet into the sewer below. ³Damn, you¶re good,´ Cameron sighed as he set down the binoculars. Cameron returned to his M4 and continued maintenance. Nick noticed a figure coming down the center road, nearly perpendicular to the window. After a moment¶s examination, the sniper¶s scope revealed the visage of Alex. ³Hey, Alex is back«´ ³Son of a bitch!´ Cameron exclaimed. ³What, that¶s a bad thing?´ Nick inquired, alarmed. ³No I just dropped a screw. Oh, yeah, Alex is back, cool, where did that lil¶ bastard go?!´ Cameron grunted another exclamation, and looked under the couch. Shaking his head, Nick loaded another round into the M24¶s chamber. µI wonder what Alex was up to,¶ Nick thought. ³What do you want to go into the city for?´ the guard inquired aggressively. ³I just want to do a little exploring, I have permission from Balthazar.´ Alex gripped his newly acquired AR-15, the civilian equivalent of an M16. The guard stared at Alex grudgingly. Then, he moodily lowered the drawbridge of the guard wall.
The guard stared Alex down as the boy trudged down the flimsy metal ramp. ³You¶ll find nothing out there. You hear me? Nothing!´ the guard called after him angrily. Alex had more luck with the gate keeper, who let him through when Alex gave him a simple nod. Walking out into the day light and the smell of the city washed back the memory of finding the truck. Alex shook the memory from his head as he crossed the empty, body and littler ridden streets, and continued down the perpendicular side walk. The memory didn¶t bother him; he just didn¶t want to think about it. Alex began to reminisce about life before the«the«accident, he supposed that¶s what it was, happened. He remembered that nearly every weekend the six of them would gather up at Harrison¶s house for paintball, and video games. He remembered making crank calls from Nick¶s house, and eating the best New York style pizza at Cameron¶s house. Alex smiled as his mind brought him back to the glory days of worriless fun«of heading down hill in a wheel chair, into a hopefully-red-lighted intersection below. He remembered the days of jumping out of trees, painted and camouflaged, on Halloween. He remembers when school shut down for two whole weeks, because someone had ³accidentally´ put a hole in the boiler. But those days were over, they may return«but he didn¶t know. His last grim thought brought him back into the frightening reality. He was standing in front of what remained of a multi-story hotel. Alex un-slung his rifle and cocked the bolt. He held the weapon in a relaxed-ready position and stepped through one of the broken, eight foot tall windows. Glass crunched underneath his stiff-soled shoe, his glassed-eyes scanned the destroyed lobby. At one time this may have been a luxury hotel; the lobby was cozy yet spacious, debris buried most of the furniture. What wasn¶t covered in major debris was either covered in dust or laying in pieces. The squishy carpet was blanketed with a thick layer of grey dust that puffed into fine clouds as Alex strode. The only part left relatively untouched was the front desk and the wall behind it, which warmly illuminated the name of the hotel: ³éclairer.´ The polished oak desk reflected the face of the dead desk clerk, hunched over in his chair, his wrists cut open and a knife in his right hand. His short black hair topped off an angry face framed with wire frame glasses. The name tag on his suit read ³Daniel.´ Alex didn¶t want to trust his life to the elevators, so he took the stairs to the second floor. Upon opening the hallway door, he was greeted by the harsh smell of rotting flesh. Bodies lay strewn through the hall, lying as if fleeing before death. Some had obvious wounds, others not so obvious, still others showed signs that they had been gnawed at by something. Alex could not tell if the marks were of zombie¶s jaws or of some sort of creature¶s jaws. He didn¶t want to know either. Navigating the corridor was difficult, corpses lay at odd angles, sometimes piled three or four high. As he passed open doors, he could see signs of struggle within; broken furniture, bodies badly mutilated, some with little fires burning. He almost tripped over a young girl who had lost her right arm and part of her lower-right rib cage. Dried out muscle rested upon the blood-stained carpet, and a deflated, torn lung lay pathetically just outside a jagged rib bone. As he reached the end of the hallway, the boy looked back once more at the carnage. Something bothered him«the feeling wasn¶t remorse«or anger«or any form of sadness. It was a feeling he had never had before. It was most similar to jealousy,
perhaps? No, something more complicated than that. It was closer to some form of desire«desire for death? No, it definitely wasn¶t that. Alex slung his rifle over his shoulder and cleaned his glasses with his shirt, his brain aching from the effort of identifying his emotions. What did he desire? Alex decided to file this emotion away, and to focus more on the topic at hand«why was he here? His wandering mind had brought him to this hotel, and something told him that the fourth floor would tell him why. Alex climbed the second flight of stairs and was about to turn the knob on the third floor door when a soft moan drifted through the white wood. He froze, listening. The moan sounded again, but this wasn¶t a sound that a zombie made, that was a moan of pain. Cautiously, Alex opened the door with the barrel of his gun pointing over his arm, incase some danger was immediately on the other side of the door. As it swung fully open, he was greeted with another hall way full of bodies. This time most of the bodies were those of police, armed in riot gear. Nearly all of the bodies were torn apart, obviously devoured by a large number of creatures. The smell was even more intense, and Alex had to desperately fight the urge to vomit. The moan resounded from the second room on his right. Alex approached the door with his gun brought to bear. He reached the door and pressed his back up against it. Silently, he counted to three in his head, on three whirling into the room, his rifle pointing directly at the source of the moan. A sat, propped up against a queen sized bed, a pistol resting in his left hand, a shotgun lying on his right side. Strewn all about him were corpses, easily a dozen and a half, some mutilated, others whole, but all containing severe wounds to the head. The man was dressed like a tourist, a light, tropical shirt and white shorts, a pair of red reflective sunglasses were positioned on his head. The flesh on his torso had been torn asunder; most of his raggedy muscle tissue lay exposed. Peeking through here and there, Alex could see bits of colorful organs. He could plainly see his lungs inflating and deflating just behind his lower ribs. The man looked at him with desperate eyes. ³K«k«k-kill m-m-m-meeee,´ his strained voice trailed off. His pistol was obviously out of ammo, the slide locked back, and Alex could probably guess that the shotgun was in a similar condition. ³Finish it,´ the man begged with sudden strength, coughing out a stream of gleaming crimson. ³I¶m out you son of a bitch«finish it!´ the man demanded. Alex leveled his rifle and put a round squarely into the center of his forehead. The tourist¶s head fell limply to the side, eyes closed, revealing a splatter of blood and brain matter on the pierced wood of the bed frame behind him. Alex sighed, exited the room and continued down the hallway. When he reached the top step his mind was racing with thoughts. µThat guy must¶ve killed eighteen of them moaners«he must¶ve been something! But, in the end, he still lost, he still died«he must have been a hero«but still«he died«but still«only mortal.¶ Alex turned the knob to the fourth floor door and came face to face with a man with no jaw. Immediately a strange sound, caught between a gargle and a growl, emanated from his gaping maw as the zombie reached lustily for Alex¶s throat. ³Not mortal enough,´ Alex said aloud as he kicked out with all of his force. The undead man fell, comically, straight back and onto the floor, as if he were a coin knocked off its edge. Moving deliberately, Alex fired a shot through the man¶s skull, silencing his strange attempts at moaning. µBut still«only mortal.¶
A whimpering caught his attention. Quickly bringing his gun to bear to the left, he saw a girl in tattered clothing, holding herself desperately in a chair near a window. A boy, about her same age, lay, bloody and awfully frayed in the bed nearby. Alex entered the room, the girl¶s eyes moving from the boy to Alex and back several times. Alex glanced at the girl as he stood over the boy on the bed. The badly injured boy breathed heavily each time expelling a little trail of crimson from the side of his mouth. Alex leveled his assault rifle to the boy¶s forehead, seeing the same look in the boy¶s eyes as the tourists downstairs. ³NO!´ the girl cried out desperately, ³No, don¶t do it!´ The girl sobbed and her eyes begged Alex. Slowly, Alex released his finger from the trigger and lowered the rifle. A moment passed the girl¶s sobs and the boys breathing the only sounds to entertain Alex¶s eardrums. Suddenly, the boys gasped, his head leaned back, his eyes and mouth wide, and became rigid. His breathing stopped. The girl cried out again, burying her head in her knees and sobbing more intensely. Alex felt down-trodden, and reached over to comfort the girl, but as soon as his fingers touched her fair arm, she flung herself from the armchair and ran out the door and down the stairs. Alex thought to pursue, but decided against it. He did not know why, the streets were dangerous and a girl like herself would more than likely die, but something told him not to follow, so he didn¶t. Turning back he looked over the boy who had just passed. Alex knelt down next to him and examined his neck. A large chunk had been taken out of it, and it had begun to fester. Before Alex could see much more though, the body suddenly jolted and lay to rest again. Alex rose slowly and backed away. With a gurgling exhalation, the boy¶s head shook slowly from one side, to the other, locking his eyes on Alex. He closed his mouth and opened it again, letting out a chilling, dry moan, reaching out with one arm. The zombie fell off the side of the bed with a dull thump; Alex leveled his rifle and pulled the trigger. The gun jammed. Now on its feet, the zombie reached out to Alex with one blood-encrusted arm, the other one dangling by thin muscle tendrils, the bone apparently missing. Throwing down his rifle Alex moved in close and grasped the undead boy by the lapels of his shirt. With a great heave, Alex threw the boy at the window, breaking the glass and sending the zombie off balance. Seizing his chance, Alex snatched up the boys legs and pushed with all his might, thrusting the moaner out the window. Alex breathed heavily as he watched the soles of the boy¶s feet pass under the sill, and he heard several sharp cracks. He shook the hair from his face and walked over to the window. The zombie lay, impaled, about six feet down a blood-stained oak trunk, wriggling and struggling to free himself. It suddenly dawned on Alex that he still had his Glock holstered on his right hip. Alex drew it, cocked a bullet into place, and drew a bead on the zombie¶s forehead. Alex squeezed the trigger and put a new hole into the undead boy¶s head. The boy hung limp. Alex gathered up his rifle and struggled to un-jam the bolt. With a loud cocking noise, a bullet exited the chamber, clearing the gun. Alex exited the room, feeling angry disgust. He had seen what he came to see. The hallway of the fourth floor was clear of bodies, but Alex did not notice; he was deep in thought. He thought to himself, the earlier unknown feeling slowly return. µOnly mortal«even if we live twice«only mortal«We¶re all«only«mortal.¶
Alex exited the hotel through the broken window and took one last look at the hotel. As he looked the building looked blander and emptier than when he had entered it. It was like a candle before and after it had been burned away. With a stiff sigh, Alex turned and walked with new purpose, back to Espoir. µOnly mortal«¶ ³So did you bring me anything?´ Cameron asked sarcastically as Alex entered the room. Alex removed the clip from his AR-15 and ejected the chambered round, letting it hit the ground and picking it up after storing the rifle in the old bed. Cameron screwed the last screw into the frame of the M4 and sighted it out the window. Smiling satisfactorily and stored it into the bed. ³So what were you up to Alex?´ Nick asked, just before shooting out the window. ³Just exploring,´ Alex said, reclining back on his bunk, staring expressionlessly at the ceiling. Cameron sank down into the couch and looked over at Alex, both arms resting on the back of the couch. ³What did you find? Come on man, give us some details.´ Cameron emphasized his statement with a head bob. Alex ran his fingers through his hair once. Nick cocked his rifle. ³Nothing«I didn¶t find anything.´ Alex said after a little pause. He continued to stair at the grubby ceiling. Nick and Cameron exchanged, brief but serious looks. They knew that Alex was lying. Whatever he had found, it had either greatly bothered him, or had informed him of something great.
Cameron¶s eyes flickered open, it was early morning. Rising slowly and rubbing his left eye, he looked about him at the others, all sleeping in their respective cots. Harrison snored softly. Cameron went about his usual morning routine. He went down a floor to the public showers and took a cold one to wake up. After refreshing himself, he went down to the main floor for something to eat. The little ³village´ within the large warehouselike basement had a few cottages that sold various different foods. He didn¶t know where they got their supplies from, but he didn¶t question it either. As he opened up the door to the main room the ever tempting aroma of bacon and eggs greeted his nostrils like a lover. After a little hunting about, he finally found the man cooking the scrumptious food. He was a shorter man, not very fat, but not exactly slim and trim either. His shirt and apron had heavy grease stains. Cameron ordered up some B&E (as one man he met had called bacon and eggs) and some water and sat down at a nearby picnic table. As Cameron munched on his B&E he watched a few people in a nearby shack go through their morning routine. It was a married couple, that much he could tell, their rings were dead giveaways. The man had awoken first, for his wife was still asleep, her hand draped over the side of the bed. He worked as quietly as he could, so as not to disturb his wife, folding now dry clothes and storing them in a box under the bed. Next the man slid on his dark trousers and stuffed on a pair of worn looking hiking boots. Cameron continued to watch as the man donned a work jacket and a rough ball cap. He looked back at his wife, shaved head shining in the artificial light above, making sure she still slept. Satisfied he opened up the drawer of the dresser near the entrance to their little hut, and pulled out a large pistol, its slider locked back. He slid in a clip, and attempted to muffle the cocking by bending his body over the weapon. He failed however, and his wife stirred eventually sitting upward, rubbing her eyes. Holstering his pistol and smiling pleasantly, he leaned in and kissed her on the forehead. The man left the cottage and strode away towards the door that led down to the power plant. Cameron suddenly remembered that he had duty that day. He shoveled in the last bits of egg and took a sip of water, but before he could eat the last strips of bacon, James walked by, scooped them up and tossed them into his mouth. ³Your welcome,´ Cameron called after him. James gave him a little wave, but didn¶t turn. Gulping down the last bits, he returned the dishes to the man, thanked him, and returned to his room. He gathered up his weapons and ammunition, Harrison watching him with his usual, clueless, ³I-just-woke-up´ stare. Returning again to the main room, Cameron knocked on the door to the power plant service stairway. The door opened and Cameron walked past the lackadaisical guard, descending the stairway that followed. The boy entered into the usual, dim, service light-lit, and damp maze of catwalks that was the power plant. The city sat over a geo-thermal hotspot, so any pipes running up were blistering hot with steam, their pressure release valves allowing little trails of steam to escape from the dark metal cylinders into the human occupied area around them.
Cameron followed the catwalk straight, took a right, then another right, past vast amounts of pipes, some active, some not, some broken, and past control stations, some occupied, some not, some broken. Finally Cameron reached the control station which he and Alex guarded. Two empty fold-out chairs waited patiently for the guards, and a man with smudgy glasses and long, unkempt black hair sat at a monitoring screen. As Cameron sat in his chair, the man looked to him with curiosity at first, then, with a look of sudden enlightenment, he told Cameron: ³I¶m from a different station so I¶m not used to seeing you. I¶m Andrew; Bob is out today, he¶s very ill.´ ³Hi Andrew, what¶s wrong with Bob?´ Cameron shook the man¶s hand, relinquishing his M4 to lean against the chain link fence, separating Cameron in his chair, from the hot pipes beyond. ³He¶s got Rifshredosis... his fingers are so stiff he can¶t bend them.´ ³That sucks«´ ³Tell me about it, so is it just you, or is some other guard coming?´ ³Yeah we got one more coming.´ ³Alright, cool.´ The conversation ended there. Andrew turned back around to his monitoring screen, pressing a button, flipping a switch, or turning a knob every once in awhile. Cameron began to daydream. His thoughts drifted from German curses and suggestive French statements, to a song that he could not remember the name to. ³Hey, Andrew.´ ³What?´ Andrew replied without looking back from his screen. ³Why don¶t you turn on the radio?´ ³We can¶t get any stations down here.´ ³I remember getting that shelter run station down here.´ ³Yeah, when we go to that station, all we get is static now. We haven¶t heard anything from them in months. From any of the stations really«´ Andrew trailed off at his last sentence. Cameron felt a pang of depression, but shook it off. That was life, he convinced himself. Replaying the song in his head, the name of which escapes him, he began to rhythmically tap his foot on the metal grating. Soon after, Alex joined them and the two guards struck up a conversation about the single girls in the shelter and who has the best swagger. James punched his time card on the clock in the garage. Several men were bent over the engines of cars and small vehicles, a few were under the bodies of larger vehicles. The air was noisy with cursing, laughing and the sounds of power tools, a faint smell of oil drifted along nonchalantly. James moved over to his partly disassembled motorcycle, and began to tighten a screw on the muffler. When he had fully reassembled the bike he began the process of changing the oil. ³Yo, James!´ The unmistakable voice of Thomas entered his ear drums like a not welcome, but not unwelcome guest. ³What can I do for you Thomas,´ James inquired, not taking his eyes of the fresh oil he was poring into the funnel. ³You got the buffer over here?´ ³No I do not Thomas,´ sighed James, annoyed that he had been asked that for the fifth time this week.
³Awright, I¶ll go check with Matt«.Yo Matt!´ Thomas¶s voice faded away into din of cursing and machinery. James finished changing the oil, when Harrison patted him on the shoulder, a silent greeting as he moved towards the truck. ³How¶s it hangin¶ Harrison?´ ³It¶s goin¶ good. Hey, tell me, did Alex seem to act a little funny to you after he went on his little excursion? Parker told me he was really silent and just kinda looked down all the time.´ Harrison sat in the driver side of the truck, fiddling with one of his riot guns. Nearby the clanking of metal sounded, followed by an unclear cry of frustration. ³Yeah, he did seem a little down,´ James said thoughtfully, examining the dip stick. Satisfied, his carefully slid it back home and sealed it tightly. ³You reckon he saw something that didn¶t set well with him?´ ³I have never heard you say the word ³reckon,´ but yeah, I think he did.´ James stored away the oil in a cart and sat on his bike, leaning back a little on the tail. ³I wonder what it was«he won¶t talk about it.´ ³Alex is a big boy, don¶t bother him about it.´ ³Yeah, good point«hey Parker.´ James looked about to where Harrison had been looking, Parker stood nearby, and air horn held aloft. He blew the horn and nearly instantly all nearby noise stopped. Parker had the attention of the garage. ³Balthazar wants every up stairs now. We have a bit of a zombie problem.´ Parker¶s framed eyes burn with a quiet intensity. Parker stood authoritatively on the wall. His gazed continually switched between the now locked door to the outside, and the gathering of people below as Balthazar spoke, Bertram and Miroslav at either of his sides. ³I have gathered you here, to bring you grave news. There is an unexplainably large crowd of the undead, outside of our building right now. The crowd came about suddenly, and without warning. We highly advise that you be on the highest of alerts, as the mobile core takes care of the problem. We will keep you informed on any developments. That is all.´ The crowd dispersed quickly, returning to their homes to prepare their defenses. ³Hey, you, Parker.´ A voice whispered behind him. An unusually tall person with short blond hair clutched a shotgun in one hand and a black duffel bag in the other. ³What is it Karl?´ Karl tossed the duffel bag to Parker¶s side. The contents clunked ominously. ³They want you down in the mobile core; you¶ll be tossing some pipe bombs today. After all, you are a sapper, right?´ Karl gave a wry smile. ³That¶s right,´ Parker hefted the load of pipe bombs, hopped off the wall and made his way towards the garage stairs. ³Just don¶t blow yourself up!´ Karl called after him. ³I won¶t!´ Parker called back with a little wave. Harrison scratched his chin nervously. He sat in the truck, engine on, awaiting the order to move out. Four men, including parker, waited calmly in the bed of his truck. Reaching his hand down, Harrison felt along the barrel of one of his riot guns, the other lay loaded and un-cocked in the passenger seat. A box of shells had been stowed in the
glove box that sat between the seats. In the back row lay even more ammunition, not of his own, for the men in the bed. ³Got the crack head itches?´ Harrison, startled, looked quickly to his side, his eyes beholding the visage of the head of the mobile core, Anton. Anton was an enigmatic character, he was lean yet muscular, powerful yet gentle, but above all, he kept his face hidden most of the time with a gas mask that he never removed. He never told why he wore it, Harrison guessed as some sort of symbol of his authority. ³No, just a little nervous.´ ³What, are you afraid of the moaners? You can out walk those bastards, what are you afraid of?´ ³There¶s just a lot of them.´ ³So there¶s more to out walk.´ ³I¶m not afraid for my life, I¶m afraid for the lives of the guys in the back.´ ³I know the feeling,´ Anton clasped his shoulder, ³Don¶t worry, they¶ll hold on, just don¶t roll the fucker and they won¶t die.´ ³Gotcha.´ Harrison, strangely, felt reassured. Anton began walking briskly to the front. ³All right! LETS MOVE OUT!´ Anton¶s voice boomed as if it were a god¶s. The boom was followed by a roar of engine¶s, the unofficial mobile core salute and acknowledgement of readiness. Anton threw the man next to the door a hand signal and the heavy metal doors slid open as fast as their motors could allow. The caravan powered out of the garage, meeting the crowd of zombies outside with un-paralleled readiness. Parker and the other few sappers immediately tossed a few pipe bombs into the crowd, blazing a path for the less powerful vehicles to allow themselves in. The crowd of zombies was a large one, but it wasn¶t as thick as Harrison had thought it would be, there was, not ample space, but enough for an experienced rider to get his bike through, which is just what James did. Zipping in and among the zombies, he came to an abrupt stop in a large opening; he drew one of his MAC 10s and popped off a few rounds, then zipping out again before they came too close. Harrison didn¶t need to be so careful, he powered on threw the crowd, the truck bucking and bouncing over the rotting bodies, skulls and rib cages popping and grinding as they were crushed under the force of massive vehicle. Clouds of crimson erupted from the moaners as the boys in the back shot into the crowd. The sound of gunfire and the din of the engines drowned out all else, the wall of noise becoming punctured here and there with a thunderous roar, signifying that a pipe bomb had erupted, tearing apart all nearby victims. Parker accidentally threw one short over the hood of the truck, causing Harrison to break hard. Six meters a head a blaze of fire tore apart the nearby ghouls, sending bits of flesh bone and clothing cascading in all directions. Harrison flipped on the truck¶s windshield wipers. An over excited man on a four wheeler rushed through the blast site and right into the thick of the crowd. He disappeared from sight, his presence only announced through the revving of his engine, which became sporadic and desperate. Soon the engine lay quiet for a moment or two, then suddenly it revved to full life. Tearing through the crowd, the man was a blur as he streaked passed Harrison and the truck, attempting to turn, be began to roll, his body being slammed into the pavement by both his impetus and the weight of the four wheeler. Continuously rolled, several times, yet he stayed on.
Finally the ruined ATV finally came to rest upon its wheels, the engine stopping, as if to announce that it was finished. The mans limp body, slumped over the handle bars, slid off and fell to the side pathetically. The core paid little never mind though, they were busy with the task at hand. The crowd began to thicken, more and more zombies gathered, so much so that the people on motorcycles and ATVs were forced to retreat. James was the last to leave, only grudgingly after his last clip ran out of bullets. The crowd began to merge onto Harrison¶s truck. Sensing trouble, he pumped a round into the undead child climbing up onto his door and threw the truck into reverse. Giving it gas the engine stuttered, then stalled. Like a really bad horror movie, Harrison attempted to start the engine again, the starter chattered, but no adrenaline pumping roar of engine followed. The gunfire from the back became more intense, its rate increasing. Parker grabbed a hold of the hair of a ghoul hanging with no legs from the tail gate; squeezing the trigger he fed the zombie the last five bullets in his clip. Dropping the moaner, Parker ejected the clip and hastily forced in a new one. Looking up, three more had taken the place of the previous, with a firm kick and two bursts of fire he dropped the replacements and glanced about. They were utterly surrounded, the moaning and gunfire nearly drowning out the disheartening chatter of the engine starter. Feeling a little desperate, he lit the fuse of a pipe bomb, and thrust it with all his might into the mouth of a nearby zombie. Curious, it reached up a rotted, thumb-less hand to investigate the object jammed in its maw. Harrison kicked out with all his might, hitting with the heel of his foot sideways. The zombie was flung off the truck, almost comically and landed on its back, its legs swinging straight into the air from the momentum. A heartbeat later the pipe bomb exploded, tearing apart the extremely unlucky moaner and its nearby buddies, and leaving a smoldering pothole. All zombies on the windward side of the truck were flattened to the ground by the blast, the truck rocking slightly on its shocks, but it fell back into place with creaking from the shocks. Parker was grabbed firmly by the shoulder. Startled his nose sucked in air rapidly, nearly choking him on the smell of burning and rotting flesh. Glancing ever so quickly over his shoulder, he was beheld by the visage of a badly decomposed and rather fat zombie. Reacting quickly, he came about, leading with his left elbow. It connected with an acute dull pain and a sickening crack emanating from the side of the zombie¶s skull. Stumbling a step, she tripped over the tailgate and landed hard on the asphalt below. Before Parker could even think about drawing a bead on the zombies remaining on the other side, the engine roared to life. The tires squealed as Harrison floored it in reverse. Parker was flung forward into one of the others in the tail, knocking both of them down onto the metal bed. Parker coughed, the wind knocked out of him by the hard fall, he gasped desperately at the stinking, smoking air, and squinted against the sun, which shined between the tops of the buildings on either side of the road. Sitting up, catching his breath, Parker picked up his MP5, and clutched his chest. The truck skidded to a halt and then started forward again. ³ROUND TWO BABY, WOO!´ one of the others in the tail shouted. Nick¶s crosshairs rest upon the forehead of a read-headed zombie. Squeezing the trigger, the thing¶s head burst with thick, coagulated crimson, falling first to its knees and
then finally to the sidewalk. The main road had become too dangerous to snipe on, for fear of accidentally shooting one of the Core units, so Nick had decided to concentrate his fire on the moaners coming down the center road. He had a clear lane of fire. A zombie, hunched badly with osteoporosis, stumbled on pathetically, its outstretched limbs twitching stiffly and violently. Her grey head bobbed sporadically, making aiming difficult. Nick fired, and missed. Loading in another round he drew a bead on the old skull and pulled the trigger. The old hag fell to the ground, leaking brain matter over the yellow divider in the road. Nick observed the entire scene through the window as he loaded another round. Right as he cocked it into the chamber, something caught his attention. Peering through the scope, his suspicions were confirmed. At the end of the center road, a thick crowd of zombies turned the corner and began shuffling and stumbling towards him. There must have been hundreds, the crowd so thick that one could quite easily walk atop them. Eye¶s wide, Nick¶s breathing became heavy; he lowered his rifle. Then it hit him. The smell, the ever present, but now fathoms more potent smell of rotting flesh. The stench nearly knocked him over. Nick stepped back from the window, still clutching his rifle. µI¶ve got to tell everyone.¶ With that, he bounded for the door, tore it open and raced down the hall way. Harrison followed everyone back into the garage, and brought the truck slowly back into its space. He killed the engine, gathered his riot guns and hopped out, frustrated. ³Anton, what the hell, we were doing good man!´ Harrison exclaimed, gesturing wildly with his arms. ³Balthazar called us back in, and he¶s got a good reason.´ Harrison ran his fingers through his hair, he was mad, they were doing well. His anger finally subsiding, his lackadaisically followed everyone back upstairs. ³I have called you all back up here, because it had grown too dangerous out on the streets. Now I know what you must be thinking,´ Balthazar made a calming motion with his hands ³It wasn¶t that dangerous, well I pulled you out before the true danger arrived. As we speak a crowd of zombies, larger than we have ever seen, is growing nearer and nearer. It is too dangerous for the mobile core to be of any use, so we shall just have to hope that it passes on without noticing us.´ ³What about shooting at them from the windows?´ an unknown source shouted. ³And risk them finding us? The crowd is far too large for us to fight; we must remain quiet and pray that they move on.´ The gathering of people fell to a reserved and grim silence. ³That is all.´ The people began to disperse; an air of sadness haunted them. Strangely, that the air was sadness and not fear. Alex sat upon one of the fold-out chairs on the defense wall, and rested his head upon his fist, questioning the true size of the crowd. Had Nick been embellishing? A pang of animosity towards Nick bloomed then withered within his belly. It didn¶t matter, we were to do as we were told by Balthazar, and it was an unwritten, unspoken law. His thoughts drifting, he looked about with his eyes, until they came to rest on the bulbous welding joint of the wall and its elevated floor. Then, suddenly, it dawned on
him. Leaping to his feat, he sprinted down the wall to a ladder, and lid down it, gripping the sides with his feat and hands, nearly giving himself a splinter. ³Balthazar!´ he called, rushing over to the graying man. ³Alex?! What is it my boy?!´ Balthazar looked concerned. ³Balthazar, you¶ve got to tell me, what did you use to weld that wall?´ ³Oxygen-Acetylene torches, why?´ ³I need you to show me where those tanks are.´ ³Very well, very well, follow me.´ Alex followed the man, eager to set his plan in motion. He was brought to a ramshackle shed, packed tightly with Oxygen-Acetylene torches mounted on bottle trolleys. ³There you are, here are the bottles, my boy, what is it you want?´ Alex turned his heart racing, the more he thought about it, the more it made since. ³If we drop these bottles onto the zombies, and light the escaped gases, we could create an explosion that could very well put a good dent in their numbers.´ Balthazar grinned, ³The bottles are yours to use.´ His dismissed himself with a little bow and walked off. Alex left the shed and found Cameron and Harrison, told them of the plan, both of them agreeing to help him enthusiastically. They returned to the shed, each of them grabbing a trolley whose bottle gauges read full, and they headed for the stairs. The climb was long and cumbersome, the trolleys could only climb one stair at a time, so the process was painstakingly slow, and luckily the bottles were fastened securely to the trolley. ³So,´ Cameron grunted, hauling the heavy load up another step, ³what are we going to use to ignite them?´ ³Molotov cocktails,´ said Harrison. He was referring to the alcohol they had taken from the ³gentlemen¶s club.´ ³Brilliant,´ Cameron said with a smile, just before straining to bring the trolley up to the third floor. He stood, panting a little. ³Three more god damn floors.´ Alex, leading them up, continued on, too excited to pay either of them any mind. They finally reached the sixth floor, and rolled the trolleys to their room. They left the soon-to-be bombs in the hall way, and moved to the window. Alex sighed, out of amazement and humility. The crowd was as Harrison had described. It was a sea of moaning, shuffling and rotting corpses. The sea stretched down all the roads, without thinning, until out of sight. µPerhaps,¶ Alex thought µThree bottles might not be enough.¶ Without any order from Alex, Harrison returned to the hallway and wheeled in his trolley. He detached the bottles, while keeping the two bound together and leaned the bottle against an open window. He walked briskly over to where he kept the alcohol, and grabbed a bottle that no one had drunk. He tore a piece of cloth off of a nearby bed sheet, and stuffed it down into the bottle so all but a little bit of cloth was sticking out the top. ³Okay, here¶s how its going to work, I¶m going to light this bitch,´ he held out the alcohol bottle, ³and I¶m going to shove it right in here,´ he indicated a space between the tops of the bottles, just big enough to fit the bottle snugly, ³and your going to toss the whole deal right out the window, nozzle first. Then, we¶re going to haul ass for the hallway, got it?´ Cameron and Alex nodded. Harrison wedged the alcohol bottle between the two tanks, and pulled out his lighter. Cameron backed away, so as to give them room. Alex positioned himself so as
to quickly grab the tanks. He looked to Harrison, waiting. Harrison flipped open his lighter, clicked on a little flame and lit the bed sheet. Cameron and Harrison, desperately dousing his lighter, booked it for the hallways. Alex hefted the tanks, and with one great heave, hurled the homemade bomb out the window. He turned and sprinted for the door, slamming it behind him and throwing himself onto the floor. A heart beat of silence resounded. A hear beat in which Alex, Cameron and Harrison lay upon the floor, hands covering their heads, awaiting the break of the silence. Their patience was rewarded with a boom that made the building they took shelter in tremble. The sound charged through the door behind them and in the hall in all directions like a demonic cavalry, jabbing and skirmishing with their ear drums, their hearts pounding as if electrocuted. The three, though merely lying upon the floor, felt as if they were clinging to it, enduring their own personal decibel hell. Cameron happened to have a sideways view of the door, and could see the orange and red flickers of light in the tiny space beneath it. The three were treated to a strong odor of brimstone, and the air became heated and choked; their eyes expelled tears. The assailment, though lasting an eternity within its space, occurred for only a few seconds, and then silence once again reassumed reign. Its only break was the occasional dim thump. The three boys rose to their feet, all three breathing a little heavily. Gingerly, Alex opened the door. The windows and buildings beyond were charred a slightly darker tone than their original color, otherwise no indication of their action was present. They began to make their way towards the windows; a black and smoking something fell past the windows, plummeting to a hard fate below. The crackling thump of its landing drifted up to the windows as the three looked out. A small, fire-lit crater dented the once perfect street below. About the crater a zone of streaked ash marked where zombies once stood. Farther away zombies lay on the ground, some struggling to stand, others not moving. The crowd now had a hole in it that was several yards in width, pocked here and there with smaller holes where falling debris had made their own little death sites. However within a minute, the once nearly perfect circle began to drip at its sides, the crowd filled in the crater, shuffling, stumbling and moaning. The site inspired the boys to bring another tank in. Harrison detached it like he had done before, albeit with a little more excitement, and prepared another cocktail. Cameron observed eagerly out the window, his hands on the window, his face nearly pressed against the glass. ³When you¶re ready,´ Harrison said, holding the lit lighter near the cocktail¶s bed sheet fuse. Alex turned his head and observed the nearly covered crater below. The smell of burning flesh intruded into his nose. ³Now,´ Alex said without looking back at Harrison. The boy lit the cocktail and rushed for the door, Cameron not too far behind. Alex once again heaved the tank bomb out the window, offering to the streets and the zombies. Alex sprinted through the door, yanked it shut and threw himself onto the ground. Once again the three of them were beset with the roar of the explosion, their senses writhing in the signals that were being sent.
When the noise withdrew, the three once again went to observe their handy work. The crater now appeared like an eight in shape. However, like before, its sides began to drip as the crowd began to fill it in, albeit noticeably slower this time. Cameron wheeled in the last tank and left it for Harrison to set up. Eager and ready, Harrison stuffed in the last cocktail and looked to Alex. Adrenaline trickled into Alex¶s blood stream, he was anxious for more; he also had the urge to urinate. ³Ready,´ Harrison inquired, his tone nearly a whisper, the lighter tantalizingly close to the cloth. ³Do it,´ Alex ordered, holding the tank gently in position. Harrison lit the cloth fuse, killed the lighter flame and made for the door, Cameron already through its threshold. Alex hefted the tank, but instead of flinging it right away, he took a moment and looked it up and down. Smirking he thrust it with all of his might out the window, his muscles nagging at him from the strain. Alex dashed to the door and was about to close it when something caught his attention. Down the hallway, by the entrance to the stairs, James stood, an exasperated look on his face. ³What ARE you guys-´ but he was cut off by the now even louder roar. Alex had never closed the door to their room. He stood upon the threshold, eyes painfully wide, mouth slack, staring at the inferno raging just outside the window. As if god were tampering with time, the flames rose in increments of great speed and great sluggishness. The blanket of red, orange, and yellow waved before the window, the roar became a steady, rolling thunder. Charred, flaming and cooking bodies rose through the flames, past the windows, flung upwards by the force of the flames. Alex continued to gaze at the spectacle before him. Heat, both aggressive and comforting washed over him like a tide. The flames seemed to form a cackling visage before the window, an evil, yet handsome, yet terrible visage that chilled Alex at his core. Finally his senses came to him and he swiftly jerked the door shut. The heat, noise, and the stench of flame were choked and muffled instantly. It died as it always did, leaving Alex staring at the door, sweat dripping from his eyebrows and nose, swaying slightly. Turning about he looked at Harrison, Cameron and James in turn. They looked back at him, visages that decorated themselves with the indication of hidden curiosity and fear. Without a word, Alex turned about, and opened the door. The four of them all went almost ceremoniously to the nearly opaque windows to inspect their handiwork. James cranked open a window and the four leaned out minutely. Another crate had formed, separate from the others, but identical in manifestation. It too, began to sag and its edges began to drip, however more slowly and with apparent strain. James let out a low whistle.
Harrison sat improperly on a rickety metal chair. He and some other young, blonde haired boy, slightly shorter than him, named Karl had been given the duty of manning the gates, standing guard on the wall, near the drawbridge crank. His butt hanging off the front of the chair, legs at a ninety-degree angle, his lower back on the seat of the chair, his lower neck pressed against the back of the chair, he lazily picked at his fingernails with his pocket knife. He had been at it for about three hours, or so he guessed, with his only entertainment being the muffled sound of the throng of moaning zombies outside and the occasional passing conversation on the wall and below; his mind had drifted to a place far from the streets of Rumsfield. He was brought back into his dreary reality with a sudden, sharp prick underneath his right thumb. He pulled the knife away and examined the nail as a little droplet of blood began to form. Pressing his thumb firmly against his first knuckle, he forced out more blood until the flow began to significantly slow; he sucked at the wound, cleaning the copper-tasting liquid from the finger, drying it on his stained pants and examining it again. When the bleeding stopped, he put away his knife, stood to stretch a bit, and then sat back down. Looking for something to do, he looked up and down the wall; nearby a deck of cards lay on an unused table. The boy rose and briskly walked to the deck. The table didn¶t have a chair, so he sat on the edge of the wall, which despite reverberating under the stress, held him. The riot gun toting boy shuffled the deck and laid out a game of solitaire. Half way through a clearly losing game, he overheard an argument between a wandering group of people, as they were passing by the wall. The conversation was not pleasant whatsoever. ³You don¶t understand. None of you do, but you will. YOU WILL!´ a gruff voice roared. ³He hath sent these horrors to punish us!´ ³You keep going on and on old man,´ a less carried voice retorted, ³but god aint got nothin¶ to do with this. You and I both know it¶s a virus.´ ³A virus that GOD has created and sent to punish us. You¶ve read the bible, Maxwell; you know very well that this was prophesized! When there is no more room in hell-´ ³The dead will walk the Earth. I KNOW! THIS IS NOT GOD¶S WORK!´ ³If only you weren¶t so foolish«´ The voices trailed off. Harrison had frozen, half lifting a card from the deck. He had never believed in god, but deep in his stomach a familiar burning sensation began to fester. His heart began to increase in rate, it wasn¶t racing, but he wasn¶t at ease either. He licked his lips and picked up the card. A joker. µI hate irony,¶ Harrison thought to himself. Nick lay, hunched over his rifle, faced pressed desperately against the glass. He was fast asleep. The previous night he had spent sniping into almost perfect darkness, until his body was shaky and his eyes burned. However, he pushed himself on, knowing
that every zombie killed was one less that could grab a hold of him, or anyone else. Somewhere between aiming and firing his body had finally taken over and forced him asleep. Now, daylight broke over his face, gently caressing his eyes to open. The world about him appeared blurry at first, just as it did every morning. Within the next second, his ears awoke and he was suddenly aware of a low wind gust, some form of rodent scratching in the walls, and the moaning of the undead below. Stiffly he straightened, yawning. His back screamed at him with discomfort, Nick was paying dearly for his odd sleeping angle. As gently as he could, he plopped the rifle onto the floor behind the chair and stood. Nick stretched, his joints creaking and complaining from the bad sleep. Bracing his head, he tilted it from left to right, eyes squeezed shut. Abruptly he stopped, opened his eyes and looked around. After three moments of silence his stomach growled, announcing its renewed emptiness. Nick walked over to his bed, his knees popping as he went. Flopping down on the mattress, he felt instant relief on his back, and moaned appreciatively. ³I¶m old,´ he said aloud, grinning. Nick napped for another fifteen minutes, awoke yet again, his stomach growling with even more force. He stood, stretched again, and then removed himself from the room, making his way down stairs. Once down stairs, he found some breakfast, and sat down near James at a table, as he finished up his own meal. They talked briefly of how nothing happened in the middle of the night, and how people were starting to panic. Then, suddenly, they changed the subject to the weather. They were recalling their miniscule high school teachings of meteorology, and were discussing whether the morning¶s breeze had signaled any major change in the weather. They both knew that wind meant change, but neither of them knew if it was major or not. James soon finished his meal, and left the table to bring his dishes back to where he got them, leaving Nick in solitude. The boy¶s thoughts continued to drift as he chewed on a grease-smelling, barely warm piece of bacon. He thought of how the wind¶s meant change, and that how the zombies out side seemed to know that they were inside, and were merely waiting for us to open the door. µWere the two connected? Were the zombies going to get inside? What is this, a plot twist or something?¶ Nick brushed these thoughts aside and finished his breakfast. Trudging up the empty stairs, he passed by a window. Though he could see nothing, the window did allow him to listen to the outside. A contrast from the buzz of the warehouse below, he heard nothing. Heart pounding at the realization, he rushed up the last two flights and tore into the room. He halted himself at the window, nearly falling out as his momentum thrust his upper body through the threshold. The stench of burnt and rotting flesh assailed his nostrils; however no zombies were in the streets below. Without knowing why, something just ordered him to do it, Nick started packing the equipment. ³ZOMBIES!´ a hysteric voice rang out from the middle of the warehouse room. Then, a heartbeat later, screams erupted from the shocked silence, and people began to run away from the center, colliding with others, the collisions sending them running in
new directions, sometimes back at the center of the chaos, where the undead were emerging from a trapdoor in the floor. Three meters away, Alex and a few others were holding cover behind a few knocked-over tables, cutting down as many of the invading undead as they could. But for as much as their fire power, a few still managed to trickle out of their sight. Gun fire erupted from different areas of the village. The guards on the wall were driven mad between the indecision of whether to drop the bridge and open the doors to the outside, in order to give their people an exit. However, they did not know if there were still undead outside, and opening the door would only cause them to fight a two front war. Some selfish villagers had run to the safety of the car garage and had locked the riot-door behind them, leaving their living pursuers pounding desperately at the steel door behind them. Harrison brought the breech of his riot gun crashing into the jaw of an armless zombie in front of him. With the moaner squirming before him, he pumped a twelvegauge round into the back of its head. He moved through the crowd with the purpose of a mercenary on a rampage. His steps were deliberate, not too fast, not too slow, and the intense glare that was his eyes scanned the mad mob of people, seeking out his prey. A man with a splintered baseball bat rushed passed him, in the opposite direction of the majority of the fleeing people. Harrison followed him, but did not increase his speed. Another man with a revolver also raced ahead of the boy, going in the same direction, but again Harrison kept his pace. Upon µrounding the corner of a hut, he bore witness to a veritable battle scene. Several of the townspeople, and some of the guards Harrison recognized, were engaged in a mad battle against a mob of the undead. Nearby the man with the baseball bat was struggling with a zombie atop him, his splintered bat impaled through its abdomen. Taking two long strides, Harrison rushed to the aid of the man. Using all the force he could muster, he kicked at the head of the zombie with his right foot. The stiffened ankle joint connected just below the nose, flinging the head back; several snapping noises erupted from its neck. The corpse fell limp. The man muscled the body off of him, retrieved his cudgel, and thanked Harrison with a nod. Raising his right riot gun, he fired a round into a female zombie, shuffling her way towards him. Her skull erupted in an explosion of blood, skull, and brain matter; bits of dirty, golden hair cascaded violently in all directions. The impact of the shot sent the annihilated corpse onto its back, leaking all sorts of liquids onto the floor of the warehouse. An unseen ghoul grabbed a hold of Harrison¶s neck. The shocked boy pressed the muzzle of his gun into the rotted under jaw of his opponent. Pulling the trigger, the moaner¶s skull was ripped asunder; a fountain of his inner workings showered the brawlers all about him. Throwing the corpse from him he peered about. The mob had blocked all view of any entrance or exit; somehow he ended up in the middle of the skirmish. Off to his right, a man with a straight long sword slashed at the legs of a spastic zombie before him. On its knees, it reached for his attacker, trying to get a bite of anything it could get its rotting hands around. The blood-stained swordsman swung the blade down at an angle, cutting into the thing¶s throat and its left shoulder. Catching at the somewhat dull blade, the zombie¶s head rolled off sideways, spinning slowly until it hit the ground.
Harrison kicked forward at a muscular zombie falling towards the riot gun wielding boy. The ball of his foot impacted with the moaner¶s solar plexus. It stumbled back a step and the collapsed to the floor. Blood boiling, Harrison crushed its skull under his boot. Harrison fought on fiercely, each kill giving him more and more spirit to fight on. With every felled zombie, a little more adrenaline would flood his blood stream, and a little more of the fighter inside of him would take over. The kills that others around him made, whether it be the death of a fellow villager or zombie, inspired him even more. Overcome by several undead at once, the man wielding the long sword was brought struggling to the ground, where his assailants began to tear at him, feasting on his flesh. However the man wouldn¶t give up without a fight, his mad cries of pain and desperation were followed by the flash of bloodstained metal, as his sword popped up and about, sometimes through empty space, sometimes through the flesh of a zombie. Another, leather clad man nearby, bearing an assault rifle of Italian make had been surprised by a child-sized zombie with only one leg. His poor reflexes were not enough to stop the horror as it bit fiercely down onto his windpipe, rearing its head back, plucking the tubular organ completely out from the hollering body. Like a piece of elastic it stretched a foot away from the torn throat in a wide v-shape until it suddenly snapped, flinging blood and spittle behind the zombie as it chewed at the now removed larynx. The man lay still. Behind Harrison, a skinny woman with a butcher knife tackled a fat zombie and stabbed and slashed madly at the twitching corpse. As Harrison blew a hole in another zombie before him, the corpse fell to reveal to the scene of a large, half naked, very muscular man tackle an undead woman before him. Grabbing at the jaw bone, he pulled at the things head, and with a deep roar, pulled the thing¶s head clean off, and whipping it at another target farther away. Harrison¶s spirit was nearly feral. Leveling his left gun, he drew a bead on a bullet hole-pocked zombie, stumbling her way towards him with ruined hands. The click of the hammer told him that he needed to reload. He switched his guard, leveling his right gun; squeezing, he was rewarded with another click. His once stone-cold indifferent visage quickly became one of uncontained rage. Sliding forward, his boots slick with mixed blood, he thrust the muzzle of his gun into the face of his moaning opponent. The sickening crack of the impact signaled the throwback of the thing¶s head. It tumbled pathetically to the ground, struggling to rise like a turtle on its back. Harrison threw himself onto the corpse, pinning its arms back with his knees, assailing its head with ferocious blows from his riot guns. He smashed the muzzles of the guns against the moaner¶s head, her face thrown from side to side from the blows. Blood erupted from its mouth, making the handles of his guns slick; they slipped from his grasp. Harrison kept going without skipping a beat. His clenched fists like fleshy stones, he beat the already battered skull of the living corpse beneath him. With each blow, his punches grew in speed in power; his fierce hissing became grunts of battle, never stopping for an instant to rest. Finally, the zombie¶s skeleton finally succumb to Harrison¶s efforts; her skull caved in, splattering pink brain matter and tiny bits of bone everywhere. Blindly he grabbed hold of his blood-slick riot guns, his hands soaked with all manners of bodily fluids. Hunched over the corpse, breathing heavily, but not tired, Harrison rose ominously rose. He lifted his crimson dripping visage and looked about him, at the conflict still raging about him. Facing twitching with source-less anger, he reloaded his riot guns. Flicking
his wrist, he closed the breach and cocked back the hammers. His maw opened stiffly, releasing a ferocious roar that started as nothing more than a whisper, but grew into a terrifying bellow. All sense of humanity now lost in obscurity to him, Harrison once again threw himself into the throng. James tucked and rolled to his side, just barely avoiding the zombie¶s unorthodox dive. Attempting to crawl towards him, James ended his effort with a swift burst of gun fire from one of his MAC 10s. Quickly standing himself up, he spun about slowly, watching the circle of undead close in on him. He was surrounded. µMust be somewhere around fifteen of them,¶ James thought. Developing an impromptu strategy, James drew a bead on the closest undead, and squeezed the triggers. The MAC 10s spit chattered, tearing the unlucky undead¶s head a few new holes. Bodily fluid leaked out like a faucet opened full blast. James rotated slowly clock-wise, conserving ammunition by aiming for the head, and using quick bursts. However, to the boy¶s surprise, by the sixth zombie, the rapid clicking of his guns told him that he better get plan B. ³Damn it,´ James threw the guns to the ground, and sunk down into a defensive fighting stance, backing into the hole he created in the circle. He clenched his right hand into a fist, held close to his chin; his left, he let wave around in the air flowingly in front of him, acting as a guard. His eyes flickered from one opponent to the next, sizing them up, as they shuffled painstakingly closer. His mind again began to formulate his plan of attack, when it was again interrupted. As if god had sent it himself, a katana flew just over James¶s head and landed in front of him, hilt facing James, and pointing at his hungry enemies with its tip. James immediately grasped it, and lightly thumbed the blade. It was sharp. Smiling, he pulled it back into a guard position, with the blade pointing towards the sky, the flat side of the sword facing his cheek. He formulated yet another plan, and awaited the nearest zombie to shuffle a little closer. His opportunity came, and he took it. James rushed forward, slashing downwards onto the moaners head, slicing cleanly in two. His form, his rush, his execution, everything was perfect. Sidestepping behind his left foot, he thrust the sword to his left side around his back, catching his second kill in the roof of its mouth. Calm and confident, he swung the sword around, gaining momentum by rotating it over his head, and then neatly divided the next zombie¶s head in two. The top half stayed in place for a few steps, before it eventually slid off and landed with a wet plop on the floor. The corpse followed, toppling forwards and spilling foul smelling juices everywhere. Six remained. James leveled the sword horizontally and thrust out swiftly, efficiently piercing a hole in the skull of yet another moaner. The hole was absolutely perfect; had the skull of the zombie not been so short, then one may have mistaken it for a decorative scabbard. Withdrawing the sword and gently brushing the leaking, dead again zombie, aside, he faced his remaining enemies. As if they sensed that it would be more difficult for him, they gathered in a tighter line; a loose single file. James only skipped one beat to observe his opposition, then moved in, decapitating the first in line, chunky blood plopping out of the hovering mass, and impaling the second upwards, through its chest. The blade pierced the skull of the third, spilling its rotted brains over the concrete floor. The impaled ghoul, on the other hand, was unaffected and continued towards James, taking in more and more blade. Reflexively, James struck out, smashing the first two
knuckles of his right hand into the soft temple of his opponent. Its bone chilling moan was cut short as its skull cracked, leaking out traces of blood and pink fluid along the fractures. It fell limp, but to be sure, James rotated the blade 180 degrees, and pulled up forcefully, cleaving its upper body and head in two. The fourth zombie lunged for him, arms outstretched, groping and grasping for the boys throat. James didn¶t have enough time to bring the sword back down, instead he kicked out. The kick held little power, just as James had wanted; the zombie stumbled, standing in one place as it ineptly tried to regain its balance. This gave James the time he needed. He brought his sword down at a perfect forty five degree angle, cleaving its head in two. Stepping back, he gave himself the room to observe the mess he made, and his final opponent. The last zombie, clearly a she, stepped forward in the traditional, stiff jointed zombie-shuffle. However, untraditionally, she stopped moaning, dropped her arms, and stood still. Her opaque, soulless eyes stared into James¶s. Cocking a slight eye brow for only a moment, James brought the sword around and over his head ready to bring it down to cut open the zombie¶s head. As soon as his sword was in place, though, the zombie fell forward onto the ground, and didn¶t move. She lay there, dead again. James lowered his sword, his face marked with puzzlement. Experimentally, he prodded the head of the zombie once with the tip, causing a little dot of blood to form just in front of her ear hole. Daringly, he gripped her hair and raised her head up until he could view her face. The eyes had rolled into the back of the head, and James heard no raspy breathing. His ears were only filled with the din of the battle around him. He let go and the head flopped back down onto the concrete. James stood and looked from the zombie to the sword. He wanted to keep the blade, it had been given to him, probably through some kind of divine intervention in his hour of need, but something deep within him told him to leave it. James obeyed. He brought the sword up and straight down into the final zombie¶s head, piercing the skull and the concrete floor below. James straightened, and stepped back to admire the katana for a few more moments. A pool clear fluid began to form under the zombie¶s skull. The blade stood, perfectly erect, like a god, or a guardian. It glinted in the artificial light of the warehouse. James brought his hands to his sides, and his feet together. Eyes closed, and head down, he bowed respectfully to the sword. Rising again, he gathered up his empty guns, put the clips in his inner trench-coat pockets and left the sight. Cameron shot off a round into a zombie crawling along the ground. ³Fucker!´ Around him, people cried out in pain, lamenting over either zombie wounds or accidental bullet wounds. Continuing to retreat, Cameron nearly put his back to the defensive wall. On his right side, Parker tried desperately to fight and keep Cameron in ammunition. ³Parker!´ Cameron called out, ejecting an empty cartridge and loading in a fresh one. ³Yes, Cameron?´ he returned, pumping one of his own undead problems full of lead. ³I¶m gonna need a refill soon,´ Cameron shouted, stowing away the spent clip in a pocket. Cameron fired into the crowd of zombie¶s and people. The chaotically shifting mass of bodies made aiming almost impossible. Cameron, for all intents and purposes, fired randomly into the crowd. Any kills he made could have been living or undead, he
didn¶t know. Perking out a few more shots, he confirmed the drop of at least three zombies. The fourth stumbled out of sight. A horrible scream erupted from his left. A malnourished zombie was chowing down on one of his fellow guards, blood leaked out over the sides of his body and splattered erratically from his mouth. In a desperate move, he let go of his rifle, allowing the sling to catch it. He gripped the hair of the moaner as tightly as he could, and kicked at its neck as hard as he could. A terrible cracking sounded, and it bent at a sickening angle. He threw the carcass off the body, and looked at his comrade. His stomach and lower chest was wide open, Cameron could see everything. He immediately identified the liver, stomach, and lungs, but tore his gaze over to his friend¶s face, only to see him shoot himself with a pistol. Cameron gritted his teeth, but knew that his friend must have been in inhumane pain. He took his frustration out on the nearby undead. After awhile he refilled his magazines with Parker, and was surprised to be joined by Alex. The two worked in almost perfect unison, Cameron crouched down and Alex standing over him. After a moment, a very bloody Harrison made his way to the defensive wall, and joined the other boys there. It seemed as if most of the village had been pushing towards the defensive wall. Cameron witnessed one of his targets suddenly fall forward, James atop of the moaner, thrusting the muzzle of one of his MAC 10s into the thing¶s temple, and tearing out to the side, spilling massive amounts of brain matter and bone bits onto the concrete floor. Cameron paid little attention as to where his comrades went, although his ears told him that James had already visited Parker for a reload; the rapid chatter of his machine pistols was easily distinguishable. The five of them continued to fight for what seemed an eternity. The number of people seemed to lessen, and the mob of zombies only seemed to grow rapidly. For every one they killed, two more took its place and for every one of their comrades lost, two zombies took their place as well. Suddenly, Nick¶s voice stayed Cameron¶s trigger finger. ³GUYS, WE¶VE GOT TO GET OUT OF HERE!´ Nick rushed towards them, laden with their gun bags, obviously the wait was dragging him down. The five rushed over to Nick, Alex and James relieving Nick of his load. ³Guys, I saw the situation from some high ground. We can¶t fight all of them, there¶s far too many, and they just keep coming out of this«´ ³Hole, I know,´ Alex interrupted. ³Well,´ Nick panted ³in any case we¶ve«´ Nick stopped short to shoot off a round into a zombie that was too close for comfort. ³Got to get to the truck and get out of here.´ No one argued, but no one moved. Nick finally broke the stand off and moved towards the gate. Cameron aimed from the hip and shot the too chains holding the gate in its upright position. It came careening down into its position, resounding with a sharp bang, concrete dust cascading into the air. The six pounded over the bridge, causing it to bend so much that they could feel a few of the concrete blocks underneath. They stormed up the stairs, trying to flee the scene as quickly as they possibly could. No one looked back at the desperate scene below. The gunfire, the screams, the moaning, nothing
reached their ears. They could smell, nothing, feel nothing, they could only see the door at the top of the stairs. Once that was open, they could only see the door the outside. When that was open, they could only see the end of the alley way outside. When they sprinted around the corner, the only thing they could see was the garage door. They could only see the holes of the bullets piercing the thin metal as James carved them a hole in the door, but they didn¶t hear the shots. They could only see the truck, almost invisible in the darkness. Harrison could only see the garage lever. They could only see the opening, as James started the truck and Harrison flung himself into the bed of the truck. The ignition stammered, and the truck roared to life, but they didn¶t hear it. The explosives destroyed the staircase leading to the zombie-filled village, but they didn¶t hear it. The only feelings they had, were the sound of the truck engine and their heavy breathing, the sight of the two yellow lines in the road disappearing under their truck, the smell of city, and the vibration of the truck as it moved. They felt nothing else.
Cameron pulled the last pistol out of the duffel bag, and tossed the empty bag over into the corner. With white circular light of a flashlight clenched between his teeth, he mounted the pistol onto one of the empty spaces of the gun rack. Pulling the metallically tasting flashlight out of his mouth, he took one last look at the now filled gun racks. Satisfied, he turned the flashlight off and descended the pull-down stairs. The fog of war thick in their minds, they never realized the enormity of what had happened at Espoir, until they returned to their original hideout and tried to turn on the lights. The lights stayed off. Then it hit them. Hundreds of people were dead, probably hundreds more in the coming moments, all consumed by their dead friends, family«lovers. Cameron¶s emotions played hell with his psyche. He felt the urge to cry, but no tears came; he felt anger but his heart remained steady; he felt exhaustion, but his leg held him the same. The six of them said nothing; didn¶t even look at each other. They all felt that they had a job to do, and they went about doing it. Parker returned to his gardening, Nick to his sniping from his bed, James and Alex to their sitting in the main room, Cameron to the organization of the guns, and Harrison to«well«Cameron never knew what Harrison did with his spare time. Dusk fell and they were all using flashlights to find their way about. Circles of yellow and white light slid stealthily across the floor as they walked about, trying to think of something to occupy their mind. Finally sleep came. Their minds continued to dwell. Their dreams were filled with the replays of what had happened; only the screams of their certainly-dead comrades were louder and more desperate. They felt helpless in the face of the encroaching horde of undead. After four days, Cameron¶s dreams were reduced to uselessly floating above the massacre, a helpless observer force to watch as his friends, close friends, be devoured viscously by zombies. Several more days floated on without note until James had finally broken the silence. ³We¶re low on gasoline and some food. Cameron, you and Parker are coming with me. We¶re gonna restock.´ With that, Cameron felt as if his restrictions had been shattered. He felt lighter, taller, a spring returned to his step. James¶s words had rejuvenated him, and set ablaze the fire in his heart. Had he been any happier, he would have whistled as he cleaned and loaded their guns. Going over one last gear check, they waved Nick, Harrison and Alex goodbye and marched down the stairs. James pulled the truck into the parking lot of a lifeless Hess station. He stopped short of the driveway, a quizzical look spread across his puss. ³Do you think the pumps will work without power?´ ³I don¶t think so,´ Parker replied from the back seat. ³I dunno« maybe?´ Cameron added ³Give it a try, it couldn¶t hurt.´ James pulled up next to a pump and killed the engine. Cameron hopped down onto the hard pavement and looked about, holding his M4 down at his side. Up and down the street,
there was no sign of movement; silence, save for some sort of vermin stirring in a nearby trashcan, held fast about them. Nonchalantly, Cameron took a few steps towards the main building of the gas station, and turned, facing the truck and the road. He breathed deeply, taking in a surge of city air; he coughed quietly. James pulled the gas pump from off his cradle and pointed it away from the truck. Squeezing the handle, a small trickle of gas pathetically rolled out the end and onto the black top below. Sighing in disappointment he hung the nozzle back onto its slot and looked about. His eyes lay rest on one of the covers of a gas pump supply tank. James strode over and crouched over the manhole-like cover and looked at the screws holding it in place, his reflection dimly squinting back at him. ³Hey Parker,´ he called ³see if you can get a hold of the wrench that goes to these screws, we¶ll try to siphon some gas out of the supply tank.´ Parker nodded and went to the utility closet around back. Cameron busied himself with entering the store with an empty duffel bag. Upon entering he moaned lowly at the mess within. It was clear that people had rushed to grab whatever they could and left in a hurry. He found a lone Milky Way candy bar in its box, undid the wrapper, and started to chew on the caramel chocolate bar. He set himself to work on filling the duffel bag. The pickings were slim. Most of the bagged food had gone past its expiration date and the canned food and beverages lied scattered and hard to reach. The boy soon lost track of time as he hunted for food behind shelves, coolers, under racks, sacks and boxes; he tipped over shelves and even tore out some of the lotto ticket rollers to see if a can or bottle of something got shoved down in during the long gone rush. Bag half full, and candy bar gone, Cameron rubbed his head in tired frustration. He could not find anything else in the store. ³Well,´ Cameron sighed ³maybe there¶s some more in the back.´ Picking up the duffel, he pushed open the employee entrance and went into the dimly lit back hallway. Flashlight duck-taped to his M4, he held it aloft with his left hand and carried the bag with his right. Rewarded with nothing in the first room, he took a small hallway to the right. Turning the corner he came face to face with a zombie. Eyelids missing, it glared at Cameron, moaning dryly and groping forward with its mangled hands. Dropping the bag, he brought his trigger hand up and calmly placed the barrel of his gun and at the moaner¶s forehead. The gun jammed. A pang of panic split Cameron¶s stomach. He threw the gun to the floor and struck out with the heel of his right palm. The zombies head flung back and it tottered in place for a moment. Seizing his chance, he grasped the thing¶s skull and smashed it against the concrete wall with all his force. The thump chilled Cameron and gave him goose bumps; the shockwave of the impact caused him to grit his teeth and dig his fingernails into the rotted scalp. He brought the head back and slammed it into the wall again, cutting its moan short. Again he slammed it robustly against the wall, receiving a loud crack in response. Cameron didn¶t stop; his motions became robotic, yet fluid. The emotion he couldn¶t express days earlier now came to the surface as he grasped the enemy that had killed so many people at Espoir. Consciously, he didn¶t make the connection, but his subconscious did, and his subconscious was pissed off. Again and again he pounded the cracked and damaged head against the once clean wall, smearing crimson, pink, and transparent bodily fluid across the smooth
surface. With each impact, Cameron¶s drive forced him to smash the skull against the wall faster and with more force than the previous try. Finally, the bone gave way, and spilled its contents onto the tiles below. Bone fragments, large and small, fell and bounced noisily off the soaked ground. The section of head that Cameron grasped peeled away off of its neck under the weight of the things body, snapping at the end like a rubber band. The boy stood there a moment, breathing heavily, feeling the blanket of relieved frustration wash over him. When his breathing returned to normal, he dropped the piece of rotted flesh and hair onto the ground. A moan from behind him got his attention. Turning quickly, a zombie with one much damaged arm stumbled sideways towards him. The name tag on its shirt read ³Karen´ but one could not easily tell the sex of the creature, for how badly tore and mangled the body was. Cameron drew his sidearm, leveled it against Karen¶s forehead and pulled the trigger. A neat hole pierced her skull. Fluid leaked out both ends. She fell forward, giving Cameron a glancing blow as she brushed against his shoulder. Satisfied, Cameron picked up the bag, holstered his sidearm, collected his rifle, and walked back to the gas station entrance. Parker rushed around the corner just as Cameron was walking out, UMP in hand. He came to a sudden halt. ³Everything alright?´ ³Yeah, I¶m good, just had to take care of something. Where¶s James?´ Cameron looked about, puzzled. ³Right here,´ James said from beside a gas supply tank with a red hose clutched lightly in his hands, feeding gasoline into a red gas canister at his side. Filling it to the top he yanked the hose from the gas tank and tossed it aside. Picking up the safety-can, he walked over to the truck and put it into the bed. James signaled for them to get in. They obeyed and drove off. James drove on at an easy pace, knowing that they didn¶t fill the duffel bag all the way, and trying to give Cameron a smooth ride as he cleared the gun jam. A cocking noise at his right told him that it was clear. He looked over, received an approving nod from his friend, and depressed the gas pedal a little more. Rumbling around a corner, James came to a stop; a woman in a white lab coat was walking purposefully down the road. She was clearly not a zombie; she held a silvery attaché case in her right hand, and a small pistol in the left. She continued towards them as if they weren¶t even there. Cameron rolled down the window and made ready to get himself into a firing position, when James laid a hand on his shoulder, stopping him. James shook his head, never taking his eyes off the young woman walking in their direction. Cameron looked from James, to the woman, back to James and then to Parker, who returned his look of serious curiosity. Cameron slowly returned to his seat, un-cocking his gun and positioning it between his legs. James cocked one of his MAC 10s, the other one on the dash, and stowed it inside his trench coat. He killed the engine and dropped down onto the pavement, catching a breeze at just the right time so as to make his trench coat billow, embellishing his landing. James left the door open as he walked to meet the woman in the white lab coat, who was apparently comfortable in walking through a city filled with undead.
She gave him no greeting as they neared; only acknowledging his presence at the very moment when they came face to face, her gaze up at his own, and a neutral expression on her face. James was immediately struck by her looks. She was one of the most attractive girls he had ever seen«at least, the most attractive one he had ever seen wearing a lab coat. She had her mousy brown hair done up into a textbook perfect ponytail, and she smelled faintly of new computer hardware. She was considerably shorter than James, she maybe a little more than five feet, but she walked with the grace of a gymnast. Her obsidian eyes gazed into his, and James felt as if his insides were being examined and noted carefully. This made him uncomfortable, so he began the conversation awkwardly. James extended a hand towards her, ³I¶m James, who are you?´ Snorting from amusement, she stowed her pistol in her lab coat, exchanged the attaché case to her left hand, and firmly gripped James¶s hand with her own thin, creamy palm. Her fingers wrapped expertly around the back of his hand, and James felt that even if he wished to, he could not extricate his hand from her grasp. ³I am Professor Emily Crichton, head director of the Eve of Life project. I am pleased to make your acquaintance, James.´ Her voice chilled James. Despite having clear physical and armament advantages over Emily, he felt as if he could not even begin to stand a chance against her, should he choose to conflict with her. The way she expertly pronounced each syllable and vowel made the boy feel humbled and weak. James let go of her hand, and she obliged to remove her own. ³What is this ³Eve of Life´ project you are referring to?´ Emily cocked her head to the left ever so slightly, observing him as if observing a cat behaving in an amusingly curious way. She straightened her head and began. ³So you wish to know do you? I suppose I can tell you. The Eve of Life project is a government funded research and development project, aimed toward drastically extending the longevity of human life and/or the restoration of said life from death.´ Furious understanding swelled up within James. ³So«you¶re the one.´ Emily smiled sweetly, ³I beg your pardon?´ ³You«you created those things«the zombies.´ Emily¶s smile turned to an expression of remembrance. ³No, we didn¶t create the zombies,´ she looked off into the sky, ³well«not on purpose anyways. We created a disease that spreads via fluid to fluid bodily contact, which brings a newly dead person back to life. However the virus had its issues. Once back to life, the corpse continued to rot, as it only stimulated the nervous system, while all other bodily organs and systems remained effectively dead.´ ³How did the virus get out?´ ³It didn¶t.´ ³Well obviously it did,´ James said icily. ³It didn¶t, test subjects escaped from the facilities. We weren¶t aware of what had happened until it was far too late to stop them. We informed the federal authorities who then took matters into their own hands. I¶ve no idea what they¶ve done about the situation, but I do know that we are allowed to continue our research under military guard and surveillance. No inconvenience what so ever,´ Emily smiled gaily and giggled softly.
She switched the attaché case back to her right hand and drew her pistol. Awareness sliced at James¶s gut, and he stretched his fingers, ready to grab his gun at any moment. ³Now, if you¶ll excuse me, James, I have to continue on to my destination.´ Her stony gaze then returned to her face as she attempted to walk passed him. Instinctively, James grasped her arm, halting her progress at his side. ³Hold on-´ James began, but she interrupted him. ³If I were you, James,´ she said coolly ³I would leave this immediate vicinity.´ As if it were on cue, a roar emanated from around the corner at the end of the street. Fear coursed into James¶s blood. Throwing all self restraint to the wind, he let go of Emily and drew his MAC 10. As if nothing had happened, Emily continued down the street a few more steps, and then disappeared into a nearby alleyway, directly at the truck¶s side. James hurried back to the truck, and started the engine right away. ³What¶s wrong, James?´ ³Something¶s coming,´ James replied ominously. Parker said nothing, staring off into the alleyway into which Emily had disappeared. Slamming on the gas, James tore forward down the street, and rounded the corner, looking to face whatever monster lie in wait. A small boy, pale in complexion, dressed in a blue coverall, stood in the middle of the street. He was no more than seven or eight; he stared at James in the truck, under his shortly cropped brown hair, the intensity of his gaze chilled James more than Emily¶s had. The boy let out a roar, the same roar that James had heard earlier, and sprinted madly for the truck. Half way there, a zombie stumbled out from an alley and fell in the path of the boy¶s charge. Seeing the boy, it reached hungrily for his legs. With sickening ferocity, the boy pounced on the moaner and tore its head from its shoulders, heaving it across the street and into a building. Seething, the boy¶s gaze snapped back at the gaping visages of the three boys in the truck. He let out another roar, but it was cut short when James slammed on the gas. The truck powered forward and into the boy as it attempted to pounce at them. The grill smashed into him, cutting his pounce off in mid air. Screeching to a stop, the boy fell forward, bloodied but conscious. James flung it into reverse and shoved the gas pedal down to the floor board. Screeching to another halt, James rolled down the window down and leaned out, MAC 10 brace against his chest. He walked the shots in, and clicked off at least a few dozen rounds up and down his body. James stopped firing and observed his kill through the light smoke gently rising from the muzzle. The boy laid motionless, blood pooling around him slowly. James pulled himself back into the vehicle rolled the window up and looked at his two passengers. Cameron had a look of seriousness spread across his face, but never took his eyes off the dead boy in lying in the street. His forefinger rested on the cocking lever of his rifle. Parker looked at James with an expression of repressed shock. After a moment, he closed his eyes and nodded once. With that, James turned the truck about, and began the drive back to the others.
³So that¶s what happened,´ James finished. He sat back in his lounge chair and looked over everyone, examining their facial response. Nick and Harrison both bore looks of shock, obviously unable to fully process James¶s story, despite confirmations from Parker and Cameron. Alex hid his expression with crossed fingers which covered his face from his eyes down. His eyes held a very serious look in them, as they stared back at James¶s own. Alex¶s mind was a buzz. ³We¶ve got to do something,´ Nick stated matter-of-factly. ³I agree,´ James said, leaning forward. ³What can we do?´ Harrison burst out, ³We don¶t even know where their«erm«facility is!´ ³I do,´ Parker said, staring into the coffee table. Silence fell upon them, as they all looked to Parker, Harrison with an incredulous visage. ³I watched Emily go down the alley and enter into a door. I don¶t know if that¶s the place, but, it¶s a start.´ Everyone murmured in agreement, Harrison shrugged, agreeing. ³So,´ James started, ³tomorrow?´ No one objected. ³Tomorrow then. Today, we prepare.´ The rest of the day was spent packing weapons and munitions, ensuring that the truck and bike had a full tank of gas. Every possible scenario was run through, and prepared for. When night finally came, as James lay on the couch, awaiting sleep to come and take him, he felt ready. Harrison steered the truck to the right, following James as he led them back to the sight. The sun hid itself behind a wall of clouds, not wishing to witness anything the six of them were to do. The biker boy flashed a hand up, signaling to slow to a stop. Harrison obeyed. When they stopped, Parker immediately looked out the window. ³Yup,´ he said, nodding approvingly, ³this is the place.´ The truck doors slammed as the five of them got out, and followed Parker into the alley, James not too far behind. When they reached the door, Harrison came to a realization. ³Oops,´ Harrison said, fidgeting with his coat pocket. He procured a small black, ovular shaped object, pointed it at the truck and pressed a button. The truck chirped and flashed its lights in response. James cocked an eyebrow at him. ³What?´ Harrison begged. ³I don¶t want anyone stealing it.´ Alex chuckled lightly. Shaking his head, Parker cocked his gun and reached for the door handle. Everyone readied their own weapons in response. Hand resting on the grimy handle, he looked back at everyone. James looked at the rest of them, glancing over them all calculatingly, and then gave Parker a stiff nod. Parker threw the door open and brought his gun to bear. White fluorescent washed over him, emphasizing the oils on his face and saliva on his lips. His eyes twitched back and forth, to and fro over the scene before him, which only he could see.
After a moment, he looked back at them with an odd look on his face, and then started forward. Alex followed suite, XM8 held up, ready to fire. He looked back at the others. ³It¶s an empty hallway,´ he stated. He followed Parker in, keeping his weapon up. Nick came in behind Alex, who was then followed by Harrison, Cameron coming behind him, facing backwards, then finally James, who gently closed the door. They were in a wide, empty hallway, fluorescent, rod-like bulbs above them casting a disturbingly false glow upon them. Their nerves were on edge, for the hallway smelled heavily of rotting flesh. If their eyes had been closed, they would have all swore that there must have been hundreds of zombies crammed into the small grey passageway. As they walked, their loose column formation became even looser, until they were no more than a moving huddle. Of all of them, Harrison was the most relaxed, swinging his riot guns loosely at his sides, however Cameron, kept rotating slowly as he walked, sweeping the way with his M4, expecting any kind of opposition to pop out the walls and attack them. The memory of the little boy flashed in his head. Coming to the end, there was a dark, stained wooden door. The polished brass knob betrayed the look of the place. Parker grasped the knob and slowly opened the door, to reveal a similar hallway, only much smaller. They were all expecting, by the look of the door, to be allotted into some large, fine ballroom, with a warm glow and people in expensive clothing purchasing expensive food and drink. The new hallway only allowed them to travel at most two abreast, and that was cramped, where as the initial one could fit all six of them, straight across, with plenty of room to spare. They regained their column formation and slowly made their way down the passage. They came to a corner, the passage bending off to the right. Parker held up a hand, stopping his friends¶ movements. Harrison gripped his riot guns more tightly. Flattening himself against the wall, he every so slightly peeked around the corner. He snapped his head back and looked at the others. ³There¶s two soldiers at the end of the hallway, guarding a door.´ ³Did they see you?´ James inquired. ³No,´ Parker whispered ³at least, I don¶t think they did.´ He stole another quick glance. ³No they didn¶t.´ ³So what do we do?´ Harrison asked? Before anyone could answer, Alex marched purposefully around the corner, leveled his XM8 and fired two bursts down the hallway. He turned back to their shocked looks. ³The way is clear,´ he said without emotion. Suspicion coursed through through James like an invading force. He met Alex¶s eyes, the same seriousness still bore within them, and annoyance welled up within James¶s psyche. Without another word, Alex turned and began down the hallway. Reaching the door, the six of them were careful not to disturb the bleeding, gas masked bodies of the now dead soldiers. Cameron noted their weapons«Pancor Jackhammers; fully automatic shotguns. The door was the same as the earlier one, dark stained wood with a polished brass knob. Their suspicions of a fancy ballroom within were again denied, this time with an almost pure white hallway, illuminated by a glowing, pale ceiling. There were several more doors in this hallway, three on each side until it branched off to the right and left.
The doors were all labeled, ³Janitor¶s Closet, Locker Room, Public Relations, Storage Closet One, Storage Closet Two, Storage Closet Three.´ Dissatisfied they reached the end of the hallway, and observed two brass placards adorning the wall. The first one pointed to the left, and was labeled ³Research and Development.´ The second pointed to the right, and was labeled ³Monitoring and Response Station.´ James scratched his chin ponderingly and then said aloud, not taking his eyes off of the signs. ³Harrison, Cameron, Parker, go left. Alex, Nick, we¶re going right.´ Nods and murmurs of understanding. The two groups branched off and disappeared around their respective corners. Cameron led his group down the white hall. They moved carefully, slowly, stopping at every corner and at every sound, ready to respond to anything. The smell of the rotted flesh still stung his nostrils, but by now he was used to the feeling, and smelled nothing. After several twists and turns they came to yet another of the stained, dark wood doors. A brass, flowery label adorned it. ³Research and Development.´ Cameron grasped the handle tightly, knuckles turning white. He turned his head and whispered orders to Harrison and Parker, who nodded understanding. Cameron took a deep breath, and flung the door open; it slammed noisily against the wall within. Parker and Harrison immediately stepped in, weapons brought to bear, less than a second later, Cameron rose between them, rifle ready. They were greeted with the masked looks of surprise and shock of several men and women in white, sanitary suits. Moving among them, but now pointing weapons at them were a dozen, BDU clad soldiers. The room was a mix of things. On one end, several tables supported delicate glass beakers, tubing, flasks, boiling liquids and other laboratory equipment. On another end, several steel cubicles like rooms flashed from the sparks and bright lights of chemical cutters. At the far end, Cameron saw the end of what could have been a firing range. They stood there, staring at each other for a few moments, dumfounded. The silence was only interrupted by the occasional grinding sound of some sort of cutting mechanism in one of the cubicles, the worker oblivious of what his associates outside were doing. One of them walked calmly out his cubicle, turning over a cube like object in his hand, observing his handiwork. He looked up, saw the three intruders, and turned, calmly walking back into his cubicle. ³Stop what you¶re doing, and no one gets hurt!´ Harrison suddenly shouted out. Cameron¶s eyes widened in disbelief at what Harrison had said. A man at a table, who had once been observing a boiling green liquid, put down his clipboard and unzipped his sanitary suit. He withdrew a small revolver and aimed it at Harrison. ³We have pledged our lives to our work. You must leave or die,´ the man stated, words fiery and passionate. ³Well that sucks,´ Harrison stated. Then he aimed his riot gun at the man, and blew a rather large hole into his chest. The room erupted into chaos. Harrison, Cameron, and Parker fled for the safety of the cubicles, bullets and buckshot whizzing and screaming about them. Papers, wood splinters, fragments of glass flung into the air,
creating a vision of complete discord. Panicking, the people in white fired at anything that moved, whether it be their fellow workers, or military guards. Cameron bent down at his waist, keeping as low as he could. He stumbled into one of the cubicles and struck the worker within with the butt of his rifle. The man fell back, unconscious into his revolving chair. He pressed his back against the steel wall of the cubicle and stole the swiftest of glances around. Picturing the scene in his head, he aimed his rifle around the corner and blind fired. The muzzle spat and chattered erratically, most of the bullets flying wild and hitting nothing, while some found their mark and pierced the bodies of soldiers or research workers. Hit in the knee joint, one worker tried to slide his way to the door, but the angle of Parker¶s cubicle gave him too clear of a shot. The man convulsed and fell limp, his blood pooling. Killing living people felt so much different than killing zombies. Though the three of them knew that what these people had done killed thousands of innocents, and they intended to kill the three of them, each downed opponent gave them a pang of regret. The need to survive, however, quickly over-rid these feelings, until the next kill had been made. Harrison fired off his fourth shot, and ejected the shells from the chambers of his guns. Squeezing his legs to hold the guns in place, he shoved the shells into their tubes, and closed the breech with a sharp flick of his wrist. He stole a quick glance around the corner, but wrenched his head back, bullets chipped away at the area where his head had just been. Gritting his teeth, he fired blindly around the corner, and was rewarded with a sharp scream that was drowned off by the random, mixed sounds of gunfire. Cameron shoved a fresh clip into his M4, and leapt for a cubicle just across from his own. His path was traced with bullet holes. Seizing his opportunity, Parker stood quickly and fired a sweeping blanket of bullets, face tight with frustration. Two green and brown figures fell, clutching their guts, as Parker ducked back under, bullets showering him with bits of metal. ³AMMO!´ Cameron shouted. Parker stole a quick glance out of his cubicle, locating Cameron firing around the corner of his own and then scrambling back within. He pulled a group of three magazines taped together from his hip pouch and lobbed them towards his needy friend. Out of ammo, a desperate soldier tried to rush Harrison, knife in hand and yelling madly. Harrison pumped a round into his gut, and the man fell. Crying out he wallowed in pain as he bled profusely from his lower abdomen. Harrison silenced him with another shot to his head, denting his helmet and spraying blood out of the man¶s mouth, staining the white floor. Ripping the tape off of the clips, Cameron ejected the spent one in his rifle and smashed in a full one. Without thinking, he suddenly looked to the desk before him. A man in a white sanitary suit, bleeding from several gunshot wounds, sat slumped over the desk. Next to him was a rather large and strange looking gun. At first glance it looked similar to a revolving grenade launcher, but on closer observation, one noted that where the chambers of explosive rounds should have been, flasks of bright green liquid shown instead. The barrel was much thinner, and had Latin inscribed on the side. The muzzle was a thin cross with two small squares of metal on the left and bottom end of the cross. Cameron stood, hunched over the magnificent looking thing, and quickly read over a note pad tucked underneath it. ³The AUZDW, model number: 200. AKA
µChapel Blaster.¶ Chamber contains a total of eight flasks of PH 0 acid.´ The rest of the pad was soaked with blood, and impossible to read, but Cameron had read enough. Slinging his rifle over his shoulder, he carefully lifted the heavy gun from its mount. It clicked loudly; barely audible over the firefight raging on around him, but the sound became muted to the boy, as he found the cocking lever and pulled it excitedly. The two small squares traveled to their opposite ends, opening the end of the muzzle, a flask of acid rotating into the chamber. Cameron wasn¶t entire sure, but he could have swore he heard a Latin chant emanate from somewhere on the gun. The sounds of the skirmish once again became apparent to Cameron. He gripped the rubber handles, which conformed to his fingers; adrenaline shot through him, giving him a sense of power. Foolishly, he rolled out of the cubicle, drew a bead on a nearby soldier, puzzled by the look of the boy¶s new weapon. Cameron smirked ever so slightly before squeezing the stiff trigger. A thin jet of greenish fluid shot from the end and splashed over the man¶s face. The soldier threw his rifle to the floor and fell onto a table behind him writhing in pain, clawing at his face. His mask and flesh sizzled away in thin grey smoke as the fierce liquid ate away at him. Soon all of his skin had been consumed and the still ravenous liquid burned into his skull. His screams became mottled as his vocal cords were burned, but were moments later silenced. He fell limp; smoke continued to rise from his head and neck. Witnessing the horror, the last few white-clad researchers fled desperately, along with a smallish soldier. Now only a few more guards remained. They remained in hiding. Though they were brave enough to stay behind they weren¶t brave enough to pop their heads up, seeing what had happened to their friend. An uncomfortable silence fell upon the room. Harrison and Parker cautiously looked about, and saw Cameron standing in the open, with an odd looking weapon. Deducing that it was safe, they stood and joined Cameron. After a few more seconds, Cameron announced: ³If you flee now I promise not to harm you.´ The last two guards quickly rose and fled frantically from the room. Harrison looked over the Chapel Blaster with awe. ³Cameron, what¶s that?´ he asked, giddily. Cameron grinned and cocked a full flask into place. ³It¶s my new play thing.´ James pressed his ear against the dark, stained wood door labeled ³Monitoring and Response Station.´ He heard a frustrated curse within. Pleased, he signaled to Alex. Alex kicked forward with all his might, knocking the door off of its weak hinges. It smashed noisily onto the floor within. The three of them calmly entered, as there were no guards to worry them. Instead, for figures, two female, two male, garbed in white lab coats stood and sat at a massive monitoring center. The center must have had over thirty different televisions, stretching the height of the room«somewhere close to fifty feet. The televisions were all the feedback of different security cameras, most of them throughout the city. One on the second row caught his attention; it showed Cameron, Harrison and Parker engaged in a pitched firefight in what he guessed must have been ³Research and Development.´
A short, skinny, desperate looking man threw himself to his feet from his chair and sprinted past the three boys, into the hallway beyond. Not Alex, nor James, nor Nick made any attempt to stop him. Professor Emily sat statuesquely at a corner of the center, in front of a large glass cylinder, which contained a thin red, glowing tube. Her legs were crossed, and she held a steaming cup of coffee in her right hand. A look of mild amusement mounted on her face. The other female, name tag labeled ³Carina´ had a more alert appearance. She pressed her lips tightly together, making them two thin white strips on her equally pale face. Her dark brown hair was done in a messy, loose bun. Her fingers drummed nervously on the arm of her office chair, and her russet eyes swept back and forth from each boy and back to her colleagues, never stopping once. A small green monitor behind her beeped softly; she reached around and flipped a switch, turning it off; her eyes remained glued to the scene. At the center of the monitoring station, an angry, balding man stood, looking over his shoulder at the three boys. Looking back at the monitors, he folded his arms and shook his head. He turned about, glaring at them firmly. He bore no name tag. The brief silence was pierced by Emily. ³Well, hello James. It¶s good to see you again.´ James turned his head to look at her. A smirk formed itself on James¶s lips. He wanted to say something clever, but could think of nothing. He suddenly noticed that the room smelled like an office, contrary to the death soaked odor in the hallway. ³So you¶re the recent thorn in my side, eh?´ the unnamed man spoke. Frustration dripped from his words. ³We¶re here to stop the Eve of Life project.´ James met the gaze of the old man and looked to him ferociously. ³How very heroic,´ the man jeered just before bursting into a maniacal laughter. He stopped himself, and pinched his nose gently. ³I¶m sorry, but this is far too cliché. You six think you can come blundering in here, and stop a project that has been funded with millions of government dollars, just like that?´ he snapped his fingers. ³Grow up,´ he roared with a sudden intensity. ³This is not the only facility. If anything this is the smallest facility. There are many more locations world wide; there is nothing you can do to stop this project.´ James aimed the MAC 10 in his right hand at the old man. ³We can at least stop it here. What you¶ve done, created those things, is wrong, and I intend to do something about it.´ ³Did you not listen to anything I told you,´ Emily interjected. ³We did not create those things on purpose. They are the first stage in a developing process. We do not intend to create any more«prototypes, for lack of a better word. We have recently reached perfection.´ With her last word was emphasized with an embellishment from her hand at the cylinder next to her. ³This is the perfected virus. The true Eve of Life. Anyone who has died within four hours and is infected with the virus will be brought back to life within minutes. Anyone who is in good health who is infected with the virus,´ she smiled devilishly ³will live on for ten times the average life expectancy. You become virtually immortal.´ ³So do you honestly believe that the end justifies the means?´ James retorted. ³Yes,´ Emily stated pleasantly. Wrath flooded James. He wanted nothing more than to strike out, to kill Emily and her horrid creation which had cost so many lives. He
couldn¶t, though, for he knew that the end product was something of miracles, and he could not bring himself to harm it. ³You people are brilliant,´ Alex gasped. James turned his head so fast that it cricked. Alex let his gun hang at his side, mouth wide, and expression of admiration upon his face. ³You have discovered the closest thing to immortality that anyone could have developed.´ James looked sideways to Nick. Nick shifted his grip nervously on his rifle. James lowered his gun. ³I want it,´ Alex suddenly burst out. ³I want it. I want to live forever. Infect me! Please!´ Carina looked to her colleagues. Emily¶s expression remained the same; however the anonymous doctor looked to her questioningly. He eventually then looked over to Emily, awaiting her response, unfolding his arms slowly. ³Alex what are you saying?´ James asked uneasily. ³Have you gone mad?´ ³Don¶t you see? This can make us live for nearly a thousand years! This is what we should be fighting for not against!´ Alex turned again back at Emily and shouted out. ³INFECT ME!´ Emily cocked her head slightly in amusing curiosity, and then straightened it again. She looked at the Eve of Life virus at her side. She raised her left hand and held it above the top of the jar. ³Do you see this cylinder?´ she inquired without looking to Alex. ³Yes, I do,´ Alex said breathlessly. ³The top of this cylinder holds a small needle. When enough pressure is applied to the top, the needle injects the recipient with three deciliters of the Eve of Life virus. Those three deciliters represent over six years and sixty million dollars of research and production. We only have three deciliters,´ Emily looked to Alex darkly ³and you can¶t have them.´ Alex¶s expression faded. Sorrow filled the very depth of his emotions. Then suddenly he rose, furious at Emily¶s statement. ³THEN I SHALL TAKE IT BY FORCE!´ Emily stood. We would sooner destroy it, and then allow you to have it.´ She calmly reached for a button on the console next to her. Alex leveled his rifle and fired. A perfect red hole popped into existence in the center of Emily¶s chest. Her eyes closed as if she were falling asleep, and then she fell forward. She lay as if she were faking her death, as if she would soon rise and laugh fiercely in Alex¶s face. Blood pooled slowly in a perfect round shape about her body. The balding man took a step away from the body; his visage was thick with shock. In an act of desperation, Carina suddenly launched herself from her chair and made for the cylinder¶s console. Alex traced her path with a stream of bullets, but James struck out with his gun, knocking Alex¶s rifle up, shattering the television screens above. Carina reached her goal and smashed a button on the console. The cylinder disappeared downwards into a vacuum suctioned hole. Alex was stunned. ³NO!´ In outrage he struck James with a hard blow across the face. James stumbled and fell to the floor. Nick leveled his rifle, sighted down the barrel, and shot Alex in the knee cap. Grunting in pain, he fell down onto his bad knee. He observed the bloody, frayed hole in his BDUs and then glowered at Nick through his unclean glasses. Seething, Alex
rose and limped towards the monitoring station. ³If I can¶t have it,´ he hissed, ³then no one can.´ Carina and her associate moved out of Alex¶s way and made for the passage. Alex fired off a burst of gunfire into the console where the virus was moments before. Carina stopped short of the hall entrance, and then ran back to her console. She typed in a quick command, Alex watching her fiercely, and then flipped a black switch. A shrill alarm sounded. Alex looked around him and then back at Carina, asking the question with the expression adorn his face. Carina stood, looked him in the eye and implied to what she had done. ³Burn in hell.´ Shouting out in fury, Alex brought his chattering rifle about, but Carina ducked under his line of fire and fled while Alex tried to reload. James and Nick followed. As James sprinted down the hall, he could have swore he heard a roar of frustration escaping the room he left behind. The five nearly met at the same at the fork in the hallway. They didn¶t ask questions or say anything, they continue on their way to the entrance they came in, fighting against the crowd of fleeing guards and researchers. They reached the door and dashed for the truck. Before they could reach it, the building behind them erupted in a great fireball. The explosion tore the air apart, pounded at their eardrums, and lifted their figures into the air. Cameron closed his eyes, not out of willingness but from reflex. He clung desperately to the Chapel Blaster, hoping and praying that his cascading flight would not fling him into a building nearby. His prayers were not heard over the roar of the blast. His back impacted the hard stone of a structure and he flopped to the ground. On impact he flickered his eyes for just a second, he saw large bits of debris and flames shooting past him, into buildings, the air, and nearby alleys. Cameron blacked out. James awoke. The first thing he noticed was a massive weight on his back. Opening his eyes, he discovered that a concrete block was lying on his back. ³Hey,´ James coughed dryly, ³someone help me out here.´ He heard the shuffling of uneasy feat on debris and felt the burden rolled off his back, crunching smaller bits next to him. James arose sorely. His muscles ached, his bones ached, his ass ached. Rubbing his rump soothingly he peered around with dust lined eyes. They came to rest on his rescuer, Nick, who had already moved on to helping lift boulders off of Harrison, judging by the cursing. James flopped down onto the ground, and leaned back against the block. His eyes rested first upon the smoldering remains of the building, and then looking up into the clear blue sky. A light breeze carried the smell of rock and brimstone away from his nose, and instead carried the more pleasant smell of fresh air. Harrison sat down in front of him. ³Hey, MAC.´ ³What?´ ³What the hell did you do?´ ³Blew us to hell and back.´
Harrison chuckled, but clutched his ribs. James barely managed a smile. James returned to watching Nick aid people stuck under the boulders. A few of them were either guardsmen or researchers, who upon being aided, shuffled or scuttled away as fast as they could. One of those was Carina, who clutched a nasty, bleeding wound on her right arm as she stumbled past James. James did not follow her with his gaze, but called to her. Carina stopped. ³What?´ she responded. ³Did you destroy it?´ Harrison looked to her, a tired expression under his blood spattered visage. ³No,´ she replied, hanging her head ³I didn¶t, I did my job. But I¶m retiring now. A helicopter should be by soon, our head quarters was alerted when I started the self destruct sequence.´ James did not respond. Carina deduced that he was satisfied, and she stumbled down the street and out of sight. Not knowing why, James brushed aside a small, jagged rock. His throat grew dryer, and he swallowed. Gingerly, James picked up the broken, black, plastic framed glasses.
The five old men sat in various outdoor lounge chairs, the night pierced by the dim porch light. Parker leaned upon the porch railing, finishing off a cigar. They sat silently puffing, observing the darkness of the night and listening to the chirping crickets as they hid themselves in the damp dirt beneath the wooden deck. Nick tapped the glowing ash of his blunt over the edge of the deck; one cricket fell silent. A moan at the side of the porch caught their attention. A mangled, mud stained zombie tried ineffectively reaching through the wooden bars of the porch side at the nearest man, James, who sat comfortably in a wicker chair. Calmly, James put down his cup of scotch and picked up a pistol off a glass end table. He took careful aim and shot the zombie between its eyes. The bang reverberated off the nearby houses; a dog down the street started barking. Cameron rose from his wicker chair and went over to investigate his long-time friend¶s kill. ³Excellent shot,´ he rasped. ³So are we still on for tomorrow?´ Harrison inquired, finishing his drink and flinging his extinguished cigar butt somewhere into James¶s yard. ³Yes, 12:30,´ James replied, finishing his own scotch. ³Well, I¶ll see you all then.´ Harrison rose waved his farewell and strode into the darkness towards his car. As he drove off the other three each rose in turn, gave their thanks for James¶s invitation and bade their farewells. James stowed the pistol in his back pocket, collected the glasses and brought them inside, turning off the porch light as he entered. He submerged them in a sink filled with soapy water and went upstairs, not bothering to turn off the TV in his living room. He wandered into his bedroom. The small, burgundy room was dimly lit by a small desk lamp. On the desk were various papers; bills, notices, various mundane things. Several pictures were pinned or taped to the corkboard above his desk. One of them was of him, Nick, Parker, Cameron, Harrison and Alex, all sitting in James¶s living room, playing a video game system which James no longer had and could no longer remember. Below it, was a picture of himself, Nick, Parker, Cameron and Harrison, standing in front of a helicopter. The five of them were all in uniform, and they all had a serious look on their faces. They were not alone in that picture though, some of their comrades, in the same uniform were grinning and shouting unknown things at the camera. James could not recall their names. Standing before his desk, he pulled open a tiny drawer at the top, and picked up a small key. He closed the drawer and looked down at a larger drawer below it. He used the key to undue the padlock on it, and slowly opened it. The muffled sound of a buzzer rang out from his TV below. James breathed in the scotch and smoke hinted air as he observed the object he held gingerly in his hand. After a moment he laid the broken black, plastic rimmed glasses on the desk. He clicked off the light, and turned out of his room.
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