Monday, February 2, 2009

Rendezvous: Chapter 9

Once inside, Dee was laid on the couch. Everyone was informed that she was not injured, but had simply passed out after combat with the zombies had ended. Further questions were deflected until later. People started shuffling about - all the gear had been packed while Seamus and Dee were gone, and there wasn't much to do except worry about Zed.
"Well, let's be off," Cameron suggested after an uncomfortable silence. "Better to put distance between us and Zed as soon as possible."
"No," Seamus said, "I think we should take our time with this. Haste makes waste, and when human lives are at stake, we can't afford to hurry."
"Well, as long as we're comparing conventional wisdom, a stitch in time saves nine, so we should get a fucking move on." Murmurs of agreement came from the group.
"Are you kidding? There are still zombies out there. We need to take stock of the situation first, then secure an exit and make our way out slowly and steadily. We're too big a group for a quick escape to work, and our focus should be on doing things correctly and safely, rather than quickly." Others in the group muttered assent.
"No offense, but I flatly disagree," Cameron rejoined. "The one advantage we have over Zed is our speed, and we should press it. Zed's going to keep coming until we're dead or turned, and so long as we have the opportunity to put distance between the two of us, we should take it."
"I'm with Seamus on this one," Sam interjected. "We made a plan, and we should stick to it. Panicking and acting out of fear is just going to do us in."
"Correction," Kevin responded, "Dee made a plan. We decided to go along with it. Back then, I think it was a good plan, but now, I'm not so sure."
"Well," Seamus sighed, "Dee still seems to have the best idea how to handle these situations, despite the fact that she's been acting a little strange lately."
"In case you haven't noticed," Cameron interrupted, "Dee's out cold right now. The last thing we need is for the person telling us what to do to crack under the pressure, and I think this sets a pretty damning precedent."
"Goddammit, Cam, the reason Dee's out is because - except for the two or three dozen I put down - she killed every zombie out there! Of course she's fucking exhausted!"
"Except the ones who went to the church," Cameron reminded him. "And that was a significant chunk, let me tell you."
"Whatever. The point is, as Sam said, we've got a plan and I still think we should stick to it. Our main advantage over the zombies is not our speed, but that we can think, and that is the advantage we should press most: not acting as quickly as we can to flee and flee and flee, but acting as best we can and making the most of our actions. It's our planning, not our speed, that will get us through this."
"Sure, fine, but right now, I think the best action we can take is to get a fucking buffer zone. Zed's distracted by the church, so fuck the plan, I'm clearing out. Anyone else who wants to act now should come with me." Some of the others began to stir.
"Excuse me," Hank spoke up. "But I think that splitting up would be a very bad idea. We don't know what the zombies' cognitive capacities are - they may actually forget about us after they're done at the church, and move on. In that case, staying here and keeping quiet is actually the best course of action, and anyone leaving will be actively dooming those who stay behind by drawing attention back to this place and depriving us of manpower. I don't think this should be permitted. However, if the zombies are able to remember that there are people in this building, then going now is actually the best option, and any who remain behind are doomed anyway and also dooming those who go by adding to the zombie horde and depriving those who leave of manpower."
"So we're fucked if we stay here," summarized Cameron, "Just so long as somebody leaves? Fine, I'm going, and therefore everyone else should, too."
"Not quite," Hank responded. "As I said, we need to act as a group. Splitting up, whoever is right, will do harm to both sides. But right now, we don't know which course of action is the best. So I suggest we put it to a straight-up vote. With Dee unconscious, we have an odd number of people here, so we don't have to worry about breaking ties. Can everyone agree to act as the group decides we should act?" More commotion from the crowd, now. They saw strength in Hank's argument, and while they didn't want to risk being held back from their preferred course of action, the desire to stick together was even stronger. "Everyone who will agree to act as the group votes, raise your hands." In seconds, every hand was in the air. Cameron's was the last, grumbling assent as he really didn't want to go it alone. "OK, I'm going to get some paper, and we're all going to write down our votes: 'stay' or 'leave.' That way, peer-pressure won't influence it as much as hand-raising, and we get a closer approximation of what each individual wants to do."
Hank went to his backpack and took out a notebook, then handed out a sheet of paper to each person. Pens and pencils were found, then Hank collected the votes and counted them with both Seamus and Cameron watching. There were ten votes to stay, seven to leave. They would stick to the plan.
Over the next several hours, people staged gear by the exit so that it could be moved out as soon as they were ready. Seamus related his findings from the advanced scouting he and Dee had done to the group, and they came up with a plan for how to snag more gear and then get to Wal-Mart in one piece. As night fell, Dee began to stir. Sam immediately went to her side. Dee was muttering and tossing in the throes of some manner of nightmare. Sam held Dee's hand and stroked her forehead, but it did little to calm her. She noticed that Dee's abdomen was twitching regularly; placing her hand over Dee's heart, she felt it struggling to leap out of her chest. The blood rushing through her abdominal aorta was coursing so strongly, her heartbeat was visible in her belly.
Sam began gently shaking Dee's shoulder in an attempt to wake her. After a few moments of this, her eyes opened. She was startled initially, as those who were working had begun using flashlights with red cellophane to make less light. Upon recognizing Sam, they embraced.
"Oh, God, Sam - I don't know what to do."
"Why? What's the matter?"
"I'm just - I'm having these - I don't know. What time is it?"
"It's, uh, Friday evening. It got dark a few minutes ago, you were only out for an hour or two."
Dee collected herself and looked around. A small crowd had gathered to see how she was doing.
"So - what are we up to? What did I miss?"
"Well," Jack began, "Cam and Seamus started a civil war, Hank instituted democracy, and the people united and started working together for no wages. Then the benevolent dictator stepped down, and the people lived in harmony. Until you woke up, anyway."
"Dammit, Jack. Rosie, what happened?"
"Well, Cam and Seamus got into an argument over whether we should take our time leaving or make as quick an exit as possible, Hank put it to a vote, and we decided to stick to our previous plan. Now we're working to get everything ready so we can take off tomorrow morning."
"Like I said," Jack stated slowly, rolling his eyes and waving his hands.
"OK, sounds good. I'm glad to know that we can still handle internal conflicts in a civil fashion. What's the update on Zed?"
"Well," Jack said, "While you and Seamus were having your barbecue, the people in the church got all hopped up on God-smack and decided to start singing The Battle Hymn of the Republic, and so some of the zombies went there. You guys finished off your half, but Team God seems to have fallen through on their end. In fact, I think they've probably lost by now." So the music hadn't been entirely in her head. That was good.
"What's it look like now?"
"Umm - I don't know."
"Well, who's up in the Crow's Nest?"
"Nobody. We didn't want to make all that noise opening and closing the door, in case the zombies forgot about us."
"Well, who's keeping a lookout?"
"We've all been packing until just now. We figured we'd take stock of the situation before we left, and deal with it as it arose."
"Well, has anyone been making Molotov cocktails with the gas in the truck?"
"Shit!" Cameron winced. "I didn't even think of that! Stupid!"
Fortunately, the zombies had not turned their attention back to the Dojo after going to work on the church. Everyone took a part in bringing the gasoline and water inside, so the job was done in less than five minutes. A lookout was posted at the windows. No zombies seemed to have taken notice of their actions. Cameron found some glass bottles that hadn't been taken out to the trash, rags, and funnels, and gathered them near the center of the main room, then stood up on a chair and addressed the crowd.
"The Molotov cocktail is named after Vyacheslav Molotov, a Russian Prime Minister who bombed Finland. As an aside, yes: I am a history major. Why do you ask? Moving on: the device is simple. It works better in different conditions and with different materials, but, as they say: when life gives you lemons, burn the fuck out of zombies however you can. You take a bottle - in this case, a bottle of Miller Lite." Cameron picked up the beer bottle, and placed the funnel. "Pour in some of the fuel. Not a lot, just enough to ensure that it'll burn. Half ought to do. Now, here comes the hard part - ignition. Generally, you want to use some heavy duty matches, but in this case, we're going old school. How we do this is relatively easy, but tricky. We take these rags and rip or cut them into long strips, like a candle's wick. Then, we soak the rags in gasoline. Now, we lightly wring out the rag, so that it's not dripping fuel all over the place. Finally, you just wrap the rag around the top of the bottle, and if you can make a sort of a plug out of it, then that works even better. This is not the best method of making a Molotov cocktail, but it works, and that's about all we need right now. Then, light and throw."
The group would not make the grenades until or unless Zed turned his attention back to the Dojo, but they risked exposure once more so that Cameron could take a group up to the roof for a demonstration of the grenade's effect. Everyone was impressed, and many half-hoped that the opportunity would arise to put them to use.
After double-checking their work and determining who would take which watch duties overnight, everyone headed for bed. There was no telling what tomorrow would bring, but they would be well-rested for it.

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