Monday, February 2, 2009

Rendezvous: Chapter 6

Dee stayed up in the Crow’s Nest to take a look around while Jack went inside to inform the rest of the group. She couldn’t see any other zombies, but the one in the street was now coming straight for the building. She also took a good, long look in the direction of the power plant again; no visible activity. That was good. Hopefully, there was some kind of clue there that could help them out.
Jack came back up to the Crow’s Nest with about half a dozen others who wanted to see the zombie. They all got a good look through the binoculars. Cole muttered something about his people arriving - in their role-playing games, he had always leaned towards necromancers and other death-themed characters.
“So if it’s just the one zombie,” said Lane, “Why don’t we just kill it?”
“We will,” said Dee, “But first we want to find out a couple things about it.”
“Like what?”
“Like what kind of zombie it is.”
“Huh? It's a fucking zombie! Do they come in flavors now?”
“Cameron, if you please.” Taking a step back from the group, Cameron straightened his posture and cleared his throat. While all eyes were on him, Dee went to the chest and began loading bullets into the clip of the pistol.
“Well, folks, there are three basic zombie types. Type One is the ‘Romero’ zombie, i.e. ‘slow and stupid.’ Then there’s your ‘Revisionist’ zombie, which is faster and possessed of a primal intelligence, and sometimes not technically a zombie but the living host of a parasite. The third category is really a catch-all, miscellaneous zombies that don’t fit either main stereotype. This would include your intelligent, culture-capable, trap-setting zombies which are still slow; your philosophical zombie, which can’t be distinguished from the average Joe; and the original 'nzumbe' from the Voudoun traditions - though that last is really more of a mindless servant and less of a threat.
“At a glance, I’d say what we have down below is a Type One. Now, he may be a trapper, but we can’t tell for sure at this point. There are a number of sub-categories he could fall into, as well, which only time will tell. For instance, we don’t know how long these suckers will last - could be a few days, could be until they’re beheaded. We don’t know how long they’ll burn before they collapse, or even whether they’re afraid of fire. We also don’t know how the disease spreads - could be by bite, could be a bloodborne pathogen. God help us if it’s airborne. But until we’ve had a good, long time to observe and fight them, we won’t be able to tell for sure.”
“Which is why I’m about to go do some science,” Dee said, slamming the clip home and putting the pistol down the front of her pants. “Take notes, everyone. This is gonna be on the test.”
“You waited for just the right moment to do that, didn’t you?”
“Maybe.” Dee winked and went down the ladder.
A few minutes later, she came out the front wearing a jacket and her welding goggles, a bandana tied over her nose & mouth and a bag over her shoulder. Watching the zombie for a few moments, she observed that he was still about a block away from her, had changed his trajectory on spotting her, and had slightly quickened his pace. Satisfied that she had some time, she walked out to the middle of the street and set the bag on the pavement, then removed a bottle of rubbing alcohol, a three-foot length of pipe, a T-shirt, the gun, and the downstairs walkie-talkie. She radioed in to the roof.
“Breaker, breaker. This is Zombie-Swatter. Crow’s Nest, do you read me? Over.”
“I read you loud & clear, Zombie-Swatter,” Cameron responded. “Do you really think this mumbo-jumbo is necessary? Over.”
“Absolutely not, but it’s fun, so what the fuck? I’m gonna run a few tests on our friend Zed here. You just keep your eyes on him in case I miss something. Over.”
“Copy that, Swatter. Be careful.”
“Roger that, Crow’s Nest. Zombie-Swatter out.” Dee clipped the walkie-talkie to a belt loop, then picked up the pipe and walked in the zombie’s direction.
When she was about two yards away, Zed started lunging, falling over every once in a while. He got back to his feet afterward, but kept lunging at Dee. She was able to dodge his assaults with ease, leading him away from her gear. Once she was confident that this behavior pattern would not change, she readied the pipe, and the next time he went down, she smashed his hand. The zombie didn’t seem to notice. When he next fell, he couldn’t catch himself with that hand, and tumbled to his elbow. Dee smashed that, and again the zombie seemed oblivious. Even as he began lunging for her anew, he raised his ruined arm as if he expected to be able to grab her with it.
“Subject shows no response to blunt trauma,” she said, walking back to her gear. “Have not seen any other zombies in the street. What about you? Over.”
“Confirm no reaction to pipe-beating. Confirm no zombies in the street. You are clear to proceed, as far as we can tell from up here. Over.”
“Copy that. Testing response to fire next. Swatter out.” Dee wrapped the T-shirt around the end of the pipe, doused it in alcohol, and lit it on fire with her Zippo. Once again, Dee circled around the zombie to lead him away from her stuff, and began waving the torch in his face. There was no response aside from the constant lunging, so Dee backed off a few paces and laid the torch in the path between her and the zombie. He seemed to notice the torch now, and went around it, then continued lunging at Dee. She headed back to her gear again. “Fire does not deter subject, but subject will avoid fire as an obstacle en route to victim. Can you confirm? Over.”
“Confirm observations on fire. You are still clear in the street. Over.”
“Copy that. Testing effectiveness of firearms next. Swatter out.” Dee picked up the pistol. Thumbing the safety off and chambering a round, she took a few steps toward the zombie and aimed for a moment before firing into his shoulder. Zed seemed not to notice. Dee fired two rounds into the zombie’s chest, and he fell on his back. After a moment, he got back to his feet and kept coming. A shot to the thigh did not slow him in the slightest; a shot to the kneecap dropped him to one knee, but he kept coming. A viscous dark fluid was oozing from the gunshot wounds, but the zombie did not appear to suffer from the leak. After waiting a few minutes, circling in a wide arc to keep her target in the same spot, Dee aimed the pistol carefully and shot the zombie in the head. The exit wound caused his head to pitch forward, then he fell over and stopped moving.
“Subject shows no response to gunshot wounds unless bone structures are destroyed or subject is shot through the head. Can you confirm, Crow’s Nest? Over.”
“We confirm - goddamn, we confirm. Looks like we got ourselves a gin-you-wine Type One here, with a twist of environmental awareness. Over.”
“Copy that, Nest. Swatter’s coming home to roost. Over and out.” After making sure she didn’t have any zombie bits on her, Dee bagged her gear and came back inside. She left the pipe outside, on the off-chance that it had acquired some kind of magical residue that could infect the Dojo overnight.
Seamus woke up hearing gunshots. Shit. After making sure he was properly awake, he rolled out of bed into a crouch and crept to the window. In the intersection below, he saw Dee, dressed like some kind of desert bandit. She had the 9mm, and there was a man advancing upon her. Seamus watched with disbelief as she shot him in the leg, then again a few seconds later, bringing the man to his knees. Was he dreaming? Dee walked in circles around the man, whose left arm also appeared to be in pretty bad shape, and as he lunged after her time and again, despite his various injuries, Seamus remembered the zombie conversations from the previous day. So that's what a zombie looked like.
Seamus winced involuntarily as Dee shot the zombie in the head, then he got dressed and headed out to the common room of the Dojo. There was quite a commotion as Dee came up from downstairs and the rest of the group came in from the roof - everyone had heard the gunshots, and everyone wanted to know the skinny on Zed.
Cameron Davis stood up on a chair in a corner of the room and called for order. He was really in his element now: zombies were his thing. The group's fascination with zombie apocalypse scenarios had been largely his doing, renting zombie flicks for late-night parties and recommending zombie literature to others. He even owned a crowbar he had used for a Halloween costume once. All joking aside, he really was fairly well-prepared for a zombie invasion. That was why he couldn't wipe the shit-eating grin from his face as he addressed the small crowd before him.
"Everyone, listen up! We have a situation here. As you have heard, a zombie has been spotted in the street. We have not seen others yet, but if I've learned one thing from zombie movies, it's that where there's one zombie, there's a million. We were able to do a few brief tests before dispatching the one outside." At this, he tossed a gesture to Dee. "And we've discovered a few things. These are in fact the slow and stupid kind of zombie, and they are very durable. They do not fear fire as a weapon, but they will walk around it like an obstacle when in pursuit of a victim. The only confirmed way we know of dispatching them is a bullet to the head; it is therefore overwhelmingly likely that the classic methods of beheading and skull-crushing will also work.
"Right now, we need everyone to just stay calm. We need to take stock of our situation here, and figure out a plan. If you spot a zombie, do not - I repeat, DO NOT - engage it without first alerting others to the zombie's presence. Do not engage multiple zombies unless absolutely necessary. Also, no Lone-Rangering! We need to stick together, or we'll die alone. Are there any questions?"
Nobody could think of anything to ask. The situation was too overwhelming a distraction. Dee unloaded and replaced the gun, now with four bullets left, and then finished hooking up the generator and plugged in the walkie-talkies and rechargeable batteries for the power tools that had been used in the construction of the rain cache. Cameron was back up in the Crow's Nest, Kevin had returned to door duty after the group briefing, and things pretty much returned to business as usual, except for more zombie-related conversations.
Seamus found Dee sitting cross-legged on the Southeast corner of the roof, smoking. He lit up and sat down to join her.
"So where'd you learn how to fire a nine?"
"My uncle Ralph used to take me hunting up in Wisconsin. I'd shoot windows out of abandoned buildings with a BB gun that had been made to look like a real gun as a training weapon."
"You must have practiced a lot."
"Yeah. The kickback on the real thing was more than I'd expected, but the fundamentals are the same. Y'know, squeeze with your finger, not your whole hand. That kind of thing."
"Yeah." Seamus took a long drag and exhaled through his nose. "Look, I don't want to be a dick or anything, but I don't buy that story about the fight at the football frat. How'd you two get away without a scratch?"
"Oh, it was the truth. Just not the whole truth."
"Well, then what's the whole truth?"
"You wouldn't believe it if I told you."
"Fuck you. Try me."
Dee looked around behind her. They were fairly isolated, and talking quietly. Nobody would hear. She took another drag and looked Seamus straight in the eye. With deliberate pacing, she recounted the previous day's events.
"We actually got kidnapped from Walgreen's. Rosie and I were unarmed, and they had us cornered. They took us back and handcuffed us to beds in separate rooms. Then they got drunk." Dee's stare turned icy. "Then Frank raped me. So I killed him. The others didn't take too kindly to that. So I killed them, too." The look in her eyes said she was telling the truth, but Seamus was having a hard time swallowing. Dee took another drag from her clove cigarette. "Tom - the driver from the other night - he had the pistol, but one of the guys didn't like how things were going, so he double-crossed Tom and freed Rosie. Then he took off on his Harley. Rosie and I got our shit together and came back. You know the rest."
Seamus held eye contact with Dee for a few moments longer. She was unflinching, dead-serious. He found he couldn't hold her gaze, so he took another drag. "That's awful hard to believe."
"I don't care. It's the truth. Ask Rosie, if you want."
"No, I'll grant you two probably have your story straight. What I don't buy is that one girl killed a whole football team right after being raped. I mean, you're a steely bitch, but - I don't know. You really did it? I mean, wait - before you answer - look, if it's just something you don't want to talk about, just tell me, and I won't pry further. This isn't just another cover, though? You actually killed them all?"
Seamus stared at her for a long moment.
"Jesus fucking Christ."
Dee finished her cigarette and then went up into the Crow's Nest with a bottle of liquor. Cameron greeted her with a nod.
"Nothing yet?"
"Nope. So far, that zombie down there's the only one."
"Huh. OK, well, I think we should consider packing up and heading to Wal-Mart."
"You joking? We've got supplies here, and we're safe. The only way zombies are getting in is if they make a pile up to the top. We don't know what's going on at Wal-Mart, and it's far less secure than our setup here."
"Think about the long-term, Cam. We have a couple days of food for everyone, maybe enough to get to next Wednesday. We have no way to grow food. Sure, the zombies can't get in, but if they surround us, then we can't get out. This is a secure trap, but a trap nonetheless. Wal-Mart has a garden center and a roof to grow shit on, a sporting goods department, a stockroom full of canned goods, two main entrances that could be rather easily barricaded, and shipping doors that can be used to escape, if necessary. It's got more space, more options, more resources, and maybe even more people to help us get everything running. We need to take it before the zombies do."
"Hmm - yeah, I hadn't thought of it like that. I had kind of assumed that if the military didn't clean up in a couple days, we were dead anyway."
"The military could take weeks or months to get to us, if they even come at all. Their priorities will probably be to protect politicians and then to re-take major centers of industry and agriculture. We're pretty fuckin' low on the priority list. And all of this assumes that they don't all get killed on the way, which is also a possibility."
"Good point. Wal-Mart it is, then. Guh," he shuddered, "I never thought I'd be looking forward to spending an extended period of time there."
The two of them called Seamus up and started drawing up plans for how to move everyone and everything to the Wal-Mart on the West side of town. The first thing they decided was that today was Planning Day, and Saturday was Moving Day. They were going to need more vehicles, and the most likely source was the rental trucks at The Home Depot. In order to get those and other supplies, they would want to be prepared both for dealing with zombies and other people. Kevin's car, a low-end sports car his parents gave him at high school graduation, would be used to scout before Sam's wagon would show up with people and weapons. They had considered all piling into the truck instead, but it would be too dangerous for the people in back, and they didn't want to put all their eggs in one basket, anyway. Dee and Seamus were going to take the truck out today and do some forward scouting, as well as take a look at the power plant. Meanwhile, everyone else would help pack and stage things for removal at the Dojo. One walkie would stay inside, the other would go with the truck. They decided to rotate lookout detail with two people at a time, so that one could inform people on the inside of any developments or retrieve the next shift without a lapse in coverage. However, since the main threat now was zombies and not other people, the binoculars would go with the truck in order to get more information at a safe distance.
After hashing out the last few details, Dee and Seamus finalized their route. They would first head South, then East out of town to scope out the power plant. They'd also take all the empty containers they could find with them, to make use of any abandoned gas stations they might happen to find. After that, they'd head up the East side of town, checking out the mall, the grocery stores, Menards, Wal-Mart, and The Home Depot. Then it was over to the West side to get the situation there, and then back to the Dojo. They'd take two weapons each, in case trouble showed up. After briefing the rest of the group on what was to occur over the next couple hours, Dee and Seamus grabbed a pipe and crowbar each and made for the truck. It was about 2:30 PM.
The zombies had heard the gunshots earlier, and were all converging on the noise. At about 3:00, they came in view of the Crow's Nest. They were pouring in from all sides.

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