Sunday morning brought light rainfall. Those who had not awoken at dawn were roused at about half past eight by a warm sunshower. The group gathered in the middle to discuss the situation, and how to deal with it.
While the rain lasted, its noise would serve to mask their conversation to the ears of the zombies down below, so the group could afford to speak in normal tones. Once the group had exchanged greetings, Dee spoke up.
"Jack, you're usually up early. What have you seen?"
"Zombies. Zombies everywhere."
"And nary a drop to drink," Kevin said with a grin.
"Right," Jack continued. "They don't seem so intent on getting to us any more, though. They're kind of just spread out around the surrounding area, like they were around the apartment."
"OK," Dee said. "Cameron, have you spotted anything through your binoculars?"
"Yeah, a couple things. The wave that overtook us last night? That type of formation isn't anywhere in sight, but there are zombies spread around as far as the eye can see. The other thing is that the highway interchange looks pretty clear. From what I could see, people seem to have mostly pulled over before abandoning their vehicles."
"Good catch," Seamus said. "What about traffic? Anyone come through?"
"No, not that I saw."
"Damn. There could be clogs elsewhere around town."
"Not necessarily," Dee responded. "In dense urban areas like Chicago, yeah, that's probably the case. But we're practically out in the sticks, and as it appears from Zed's numbers, most people have just been staying in their homes like good, docile cattle, trying to wait it out. Besides, this junction here is the busiest one in town; it's where all three highways come together, and if it's pretty clear as Cameron says, then the others are probably even moreso."
"Fair enough," Seamus said. "But what kind of traffic did you see down there, Cam?"
"Uhh - mostly eighteen-wheelers. Only a few cars."
"Yeah, that's because this is where the business traffic mostly flows," Seamus continued. "The exit on the North side of town could be clogged with college kids wanting to go up to Chicago or the suburbs to see their parents. Or parents coming down to check on their kids. There's no telling."
"Good point," Dee said, after considering this for a moment. "I still think we should check it out, though. If we can use the highways to get around town, we can lure the zombies on there, where they won't be able to catch us as we pass. We could also use the terrain to our advantage: the ditches, overpasses, and fences are all good obstacles to put in Zed's way."
"OK," Kevin interjected, "But what then? If we re-supply and make camp somewhere else, the zombies will be able to find us there. I mean, it's almost a sure shot that they'll be around wherever we end up, and those that pick up our trail while we're driving around would just join in when they arrived wherever we stop. If we come back here, we don't know how many are inside, and might not be able to re-take the interior before we just get a repeat of last night."
"That's true," Dee responded. "We actually have a couple options."
"What do you think we ought to do," Bill asked. This lady had been responsible for a lot of the planning that helped them survive the night. He didn't know what her story was, but she and her crew were definitely making the difference between life and death for him and his.
"I don't know, actually. Each option has the potential to work, but there's also a significant amount of risk associated with each course of action, as well. Without the knowledge of just what the risk factors are, it's hard to judge which will put us in the best position. I think we should lay out our choices, and decide as a group which one we want to pursue."
"Makes sense," Seamus agreed. "So what are our options? Is it pretty much 'stay' or 'leave' again?"
"More or less. I mean, we can try to re-take the store here, or we can try to go somewhere else in town, or we can leave town altogether. There are good and bad ways of going about each of those, though. Let's call them Plans A, B, and C.
"Now, Plan A is going to be to take back the store. What we'd want to do here is get a crew of people down to ground level - I think we can lower the ladders to the roof of the auto garage, and from there down to the parking lot - and hop in the trucks out back. We can try to draw the zombies off from the immediate area the same way we did at the Dojo. We'd hop on the highway and take it up to the North end of town, and get off at The Home Depot. I want to pick up some electrical supplies there, wire and such, to get the generators running. We can also grab some insulation and what-not to seal off the entrances to the store, rather than clearing out the bodies. We should probably also pick up what food we can from grocery stores, if we get the opportunity. Then we'd come back and go in through the garden gate with Bill's keys, enter the store, and kill the zombies inside. We'd throw the bodies out the shipping bay doors, and basically be invisible from the outside. Now that we know to stay away from the edge of the roof, I don't think we'll have any repeats of last night.
"There are risks, though. For one thing, if the zombies to the West have linked up with another town, there could be more around than we'd be able to draw off. We have no idea how far their range is for whatever communication they've got - they may well just keep coming. We also don't know how many are in the store, as Kevin pointed out. It's possible that we will be unable to dispatch them all before the zombies spread out again, and they may catch us in the middle of things. That puts us back at square one."
The crowd was clearly divided. There were weeks of supplies in the store below, and it seemed a waste to just leave them behind. On the other hand, they didn't want to deal with an event similar to last night any time soon. Dee let them contemplate this option in the rain before continuing.
"Plan B is that we all leave and try to occupy another spot in town. There are some spots which are just out of the question - the mall is too much ground for our numbers to secure, and seems to have been the site of a recent battle, anyway. Menards is also out - lots of useful stuff in there, but the enormous picture windows by the front entranceways would be impossible to secure. The same goes for every grocery store I can think of. The Home Depot has smaller entranceways, no gigantic windows, and the supplies to secure it are right inside - but there's no food, save for what we bring. There's a more robust garden center there, though, which could prove more useful in the long-term. The Wal-Mart on the East side of town seems to have been the site of another attack, but it might be easier to take that one than to re-take this one.
"The most obvious downside to this plan, as Kevin pointed out, is that there very well could be zombies already surrounding wherever we end up. If that's the case, we won't have time to fortify our position before the onslaught becomes too much to handle. I think the risks are slightly higher, but so is the potential reward - we could get more space between us and Zed, which means better fortifications."
This did indeed sound better to the group, but the risk of the unknown was a rather frightening one - was it really so wise to abandon their position on a gamble? Staying where they were was also a gamble of a kind, but the dangers they risked here would do them in anywhere.
"Plan C has the highest risk, but also the highest potential reward. If the zombies from here have linked up with zombies from another town, and their chain of communication is able to reach that far, then they're going to keep coming until they kill us or drive us back to the roof of wherever we are. We may be able to re-take the ground level a couple times, but really, it's only a matter of time from there until people start dying. If that's the case - but only if that's the case - then our best option is to leave town and try to find another outpost of survivors or a deserted area where we can start over.
"The risk here actually isn't Zed, but our fellow humans. I mean, we're a fairly unlikely bunch, here. We're nerds - we made games of collecting knowledge, we even joked about how extensively we'd hashed out our zombie apocalypse survival plans, and most of our parents have imparted knowledge to us that's bound to help us survive. Rosie's parents grew up on a farm, Seamus' father is an auto mechanic, my dad worked as an independent contractor, and my step-mom's a nurse. Cameron, your dad's a career soldier; Kevin, your dad's an electrician; Jack, wasn't your dad a foundry worker or something? A good number of us have some martial arts experience, too, and from the looks of things, we'll all be able to get along in the long-term. My point is, how many other groups are there likely to be who are as well-suited to living this out as we are? Or, the other side of that, how many groups are there who would be able to survive, but who we would also want to hang out with?" At this, there were murmurs of agreement.
After some brief discussion, the group came to a consensus. In terms of zombies reaching other towns, they figured that even though the more urban towns around them could have experienced the zombie outbreaks quicker, there was a very small chance that the distances between had already been crossed. Plan C was the last resort. Plan B also took a backseat, as the other Wal-Mart was in the middle of a residential area with less visibility of the surrounding terrain, and The Home Depot lacked a gas station. Plan A seemed to have the lowest risk and to put them in the most secure position that they'd be able to maintain.
Dee laid out the details of her plan. The four rental trucks, each with a driver and passenger, would head out to the highway interchange, where they would drive North around town until they got to the exit by The Home Depot. If there were any knots of traffic along the way, the trucks would be able to go off-road at some point to get around the congestion. They wouldn't need to drive at high speeds, and actually wanted to give as much time as possible for the zombies to give chase, so that they could all be drawn off of Wal-Mart before losing interest. After getting more supplies from The Home Depot, the caravan would drive down the East side of town for gasoline and groceries. They would also check out the hospitals, and finally head out to the country roads that circled around town to lose their zombie tail and approach Wal-Mart from the South. With any luck, Zed would have vacated the area by that time, until he spread out again - they estimated that this could take anywhere from four to eight hours, depending on how long the zombies persisted in their pursuit.
"OK," Dee said, once the planning had finished. "Four trucks means eight people. Each driver should have a crowbar, and everyone riding shotgun should have - umm, a shotgun. I definitely want Rosie, Cam, and Seamus with me. I'll take volunteers for the other four spots." Eight other people volunteered, so they partnered up and played rock-paper-scissors to determine who would go. "All right. Seamus, you're with me. Cam, you're shotgunning for Rosie. Make sure to bring your binoculars, too. Seamus, grab a walkie - Jack, since you're staying behind, can you handle the other one? Good. Sam and I will drive the two trucks in front, you four just follow us. If we pull over, it's to talk, so make sure you pull over with us. Everybody clear? Great. Let's fuckin' roll."