The train came to a shuddering, violent halt. The three men in train car rolled to their hands and knees. The floor was sloped at a steep angle, which made it almost impossible to stand. They crawled to the door and rolled to the ground.
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Andy and Nyko roared off towards the walled section of the city, weaving down the empty streets between wrecked and abandoned cars. There weren’t many infected, singles and pairs occasionally in view. Nyko was paying specific attention to their surroundings, looking for anything to give him the lay of the land.
The closer they got to the city, the fewer houses they came across that had been ransacked. Half a mile from the wall, there were a few desiccated corpses here and there, sprawled out in the street, rotting where they fell.
A quarter mile from the wall, there were none. He’d expected animals to have moved back into the area. Arizona was home to coyotes, wolves and bears, in addition to the smaller animals that were food to the apex predators. There was no sign of wildlife at all, and given that Phoenix was between two major rivers, that was very odd.
Out near the new Phoenix Station, every single door and window was broken. In closer to the city, there were still locked homes and buildings, left untouched as they had the last time their owners locked the door on their way to work two years ago.
Andy drove them to the base of the wall, and stopped. There was wreckage at various points along the perfect wall, like the builders had run bulldozers in a perfect circle around some important central location. Buildings were cut in half by the wall builders. The sections that would have been on the inside were pushed out in a pile. Roads were dug up where the shining white barricade intersected them. The builders left piles of asphalt in the middle of the street, just feet away from the glimmering wall.
Nyko slapped the bars, signaling Andy to stop. They were cruising along some four lane road that paralleled this section. Andy pulled into a gas station parking lot and stopped the buggy. He didn’t even think about it, habit made him pull off the road.
“What’s up, boss?” He asked, turning the motor off.
“I want to get a closer look at it,” Nyko replied unbuckling his harness and hopping down out of the buggy.
The two men walked down a deserted side street. At the edge of the wall, a fast food joint was torn in half. It ended two feet from the wall, the inside of the store plainly visible as Nyko leaned in close. The wall itself seemed to be made of plastic. It was seamless as far as he could tell, one massive sheet of plastic running a hundred feet in the air and a mile or more in either direction before it curved out of sight.
“What the fuck is this,” Nyko said, putting his hand out.
“I don’t know if I’d do that, boss. No idea what it’s made of, but look at the trench. Nothing is touching it.”
Nyko looked along the wall where it met the ground. As far as his eyes could make out, Andy was correct. Grass, shrubbery, everything grew away from the wall, nothing grew towards it.
“Guess we need to find out of this thing has a gate. Maybe we just came up on it from behind.”
“Maybe. The fact that none of this stuff is looted makes me worried though,” said Nyko. “Houses with the doors and windows still secure. Probably tons of food, weapons, clothing and everything else still in them. Why wouldn’t the marauders have taken it?”
The pair started walking back towards the buggy. Andy asked, “What if there aren’t any marauders?”
“That scares me even more. There’s no way they got everyone inside the city. Look how hard Vegas tried, and still you fuckers didn’t make it in time. Someone had to be left outside the walls. And some of those fucks had to be crafty enough to survive, and yet a few more of them would be desperate enough to try to eat the infected, when they got hungry enough.”
Andy slid into the driver’s seat, and when Nyko was secured, he took off. For the next two hours they circumnavigated the wall, stopping at their original spot. There wasn’t any kind of gate or even any roads leading into or out of the city they could find. Phoenix was sealed off.
“Now, we go back to Phoenix Station, load up some supplies to pay for the trip, and head home. I’m going to start selling pleasure cruises to see The Great Wall of Phoenix.”
Nyko was glib about the whole thing, but Andy could tell he was sorely disappointed. The sun was setting by the time they started back to the warehouse. They’d spent so much time driving around everything started to look familiar.
“The first street sign I remember seeing was West Glendale, and we just passed that, so we’re pretty close,” Nyko said. “You remember this gas station?”
“I think.” Andy didn’t seem sure.
“Swing in. We’ll grab a fucking map and find the train tracks. Worst case, once we find the tracks we can follow them away from that fucking wall and get back.”
Andy pulled the buggy right up to the door and turned on the headlights and the auxiliary lights mounted above the bumper and along the roll cage.
The pair approached the store side by side, pulled the door open and stepped in. The windows were covered in two years of grime and dust, casting a dim yellow hue around the room. Andy pulled down a map and Nyko grabbed a couple packs of peanuts and stuffed them in his pocket, and tossed a few back to Andy.
“Wanna risk opening the fridge? Bunch of waters in there, and some skunked-to-shit beer.”
“Dude, fuck yeah! Brian will go nuts when we show up with a case of bud.”
“You do it. I’ll go outside and figure out where we are.”
Andy took a deep breath, opened the fridge door and pulled out two cases of Budweiser, then thought for a second, opened it again and grabbed two more. He was carrying the beer out to the car when he heard Nyko’s shotgun. He dropped the beer. Cans rolled in every direction. Andy vaulted the mess, hit the door with his shoulder and rolled out, getting to his knees behind the buggy. Nyko was standing out in the lot, shotgun in one hand and pistol in the other.
Two men dressed in white were laid out on the concrete in front of him, face down. A white car was parked in the lot. Andy pulled his gun and advanced on the corpses. One had a giant hole in his back, the other had no visible wound, but was lying in a spreading pool of blood. A bullpup assault rifle was on the ground beside each of them. Andy pushed the second man over with his boot. He was wearing a solid white face mask with a large black visor. The mask was cracked and broken; one eye was visible with a bullet hole just above it.
“Good shooting, boss. Where did they come from?”
“Fuckers just flew up in that car. They jumped out as I was coming out of the god damned store and advanced on me, guns drawn. I drew. They yelled something, I yelled for them to lower their weapons. The cocksuckers did not follow simple directions.”
“You think we ought to get out of here before more of them show up?”
“No. I think we get in their fucking car and see if they have a god damned radio. I didn’t start that fight, and I’ll be fucked if I’m going to run from it. Search these fucks and see if they have anything useful.” Nyko walked over to the car as Andy picked up their rifles and stowed them in the buggy.
He heard his boss from the car. “Is anyone listening? My name is Nyko. I’m the owner of the train. I’ve come to trade, carrying fuel, and other valuable goods. Two of your men are dead, because they approached in a hostile fashion.”
The gut-shot man’s mask was in good shape, Andy pulled it off and looked at it. He recognized the basic form from Afghanistan; it was a chemical weapons mask, filtration down to one micron with ports for supplemental air. The visor was unlike anything Andy had seen.
Wires ran to four different points on the inside of the glass. Andy held it up to his head, and was greeted with a heads up display. He looked around at the corners of the mask, causing the screen to flicker rapidly.
“What the fuck!” He called out. He kept his eyes forward and used his peripheral vision to read the edges of the screen. The top left corner said IR inside a square box. Andy flicked his eyes over to the box, and suddenly everything went to shades of green. Andy spun in a circle. There were people all around, using the darkness to conceal them. They stood out as if it were high noon in the night vision.
“Nyko! We got company brother!”
“Lots!” Andy picked up one of the short rifles. Instantly, a crosshair appeared on his visor, down along the bottom. He moved the barrel around, and watched the crosshair move across the screen.”
“Holy shit, they have mad tech, Nyko.”
Suddenly, seemingly from everywhere, including the earpiece in Andy’s mask, a loud voice boomed. “Unauthorized personnel, stand down. You have ten seconds to comply.”
Andy heard Nyko yelling into the radio. “We’re not your personnel. Do not fire.”
“You have five seconds to comply.”
“Nyko, I think we should consider it. We’re not going to get out of this fight. Say the word, brother.”
“Stand down,” Nyko yelled back. He climbed out of the car and held his hands above his head.
Andy put the rifle down. He’d been willing to fight with the boss, but he was glad to be surrendering. There wasn’t any way they could win this fight. He laid the rifle down, took the mask off and held his hands up.
The pair heard an engine in the darkness. A white Humvee pulled up and three men got out, dressed in the same uniform as the men on the ground. They zip-tied Nyko first, then Andy, and pushed them into the truck.
The truck sped off into the night. They drove for about an hour, before the truck turned straight for the wall. The driver didn’t slow at all. The truck’s headlights reflected off the gleaming white surface until the second they passed directly through to the other side.
Inside was, in every sense, an oasis. Nyko was familiar with Phoenix. This looked nothing like the city he knew. Inside the wall the adobe houses and stuccoed buildings were all gone, replaced by a massive green stretch of farm. The truck passed through the farm, Nyko judged it was two or three miles, before they crossed a river. On the opposite side of the river, massive skyscrapers rose, all glass and steel. Lights everywhere made it almost like daytime.
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Charlotte opened the bar at six, just like every night. She had a skeleton crew, with Nyko taking her best four employees. She had to put a couple of the girls in other spots. Teagan was working the front door, Taylor was with her behind the bar, and Ashley was working the DJ booth in Derrick’s place.
Continue reading The New Girl
Nyko’s men ran towards the front of the warehouse, towards the sound of the approaching vehicles. Only Jonas stayed in his spot. He was the eyes. His job was to spot attackers and call out their positions.
The men were well trained. Nyko and Brian collapsed inward to the front of the building. Terrell and Andy moved up to the front corners. The drive up to the warehouse was a long, straight road.
“Three trucks, each with two in the cab and four in the back,” Jonas called down.
“Blow the latches,” said Nyko.
Jonas reached into the bag he was carrying and pulled out one of the remote controls. It was a gun shaped unit, designed for driving a car. On the side was a wheel that had been intended to steer the car, and the trigger was the throttle. He flipped the controller on and squeezed the trigger.
One hundred yards away from Nyko’s position, a series of pops, no louder than a firecracker puffed tiny clouds of smoke up from the road bed. Those small charges lifted the latch on spring-loaded spike-strips. The spikes rotated up out of a small ditch in the road, pointing straight at the oncoming truck.
The first truck hit the spike strip. The tines hooked into the tires, flattening them, but also holding on to them. A year ago Brian had complained loudly when Nyko made him drive the stakes holding the spike-strips eight feet into the ground, and every time he had to reset them. But the effect was impressive. The truck was brought to a stop in less than three feet. The sheet of strips ripped partially out of the ground and folded around the wheels.
The front of the truck dipped and the rear flew upwards, launching the four men and enough hand-tools to fill a garden shed out of the back, cartwheeling through the air at fifty miles per hour. The rear of the truck fell back to the ground just in time for the second truck to slam into the tailgate. Four more men were ejected, this time from the second truck.
The force of the impact ripped the spike strips from the ground. All eight men were still in the air as the two wrecked vehicles spun to the left, and then rolled over sideways.
The men hit the ground, skidding on the asphalt. The third truck narrowly missed the pair of mangled vehicles that were still rolling over. The driver of that one must have had lightning reflexes to miss the collision.
He jerked the wheel to the right, then back to the left to swerve around the wreckage. He was in the middle of his maneuver when he ran over one of his compatriots. Driver number three locked up the brakes, skidding to a stop, sideways in the road. His real wheels came to rest on top of the corpse he’d just run over.
The driver of the last truck watched the carnage unfold, and had nowhere to go. He’d been accelerating to catch up to the group when the scene unfolded, and he never thought to hit the brakes. He smashed into the passenger side of truck number three, rolling it over. His passengers were thrown clear, and skidded to a stop on the pavement.
When everything came to rest, sixteen men lay on the asphalt, ejected from the cargo area of the trucks they were riding in. There were eight more men inside the vehicles. The driver’s side doors of of the first two opened, and at the same time, several of the wounded men started to get up off the asphalt.
Nyko waited until the driver of the first truck climbed out of the wreckage, then shouldered his heavy rifle and squeezed. He still had the door latch in his hand when the glass exploded and shards of glass and hollow point embedded themselves in his face.
The driver was spun around by the force of the shot and landed on his stomach. Several of the marauders were back on their feet, charging at Nyko, axes, hatchets, or whatever they could find in their hand. One of the remaining six was holding a shovel over his head, ready to swing it like a bat. None of them were in good shape. Those without shirts had very little skin left on their chests. One man’s nose had been ground off by the asphalt. Every one of them was covered in blood.
Nyko’s men opened fire. The marauders were cut down one by one. Not one tried to find cover or even slowed their charge, they were so consumed by aggression.
The last man moving, the driver of the second truck got out and held his hands up.
Nyko knew this was always the tricky part. One of them had to get away, one of them that was still sane enough to report back to their boss that they failed.
He started walking forward slowly, keeping his scope on the man. “Driver! Step around your truck and lay down on the road.”
“I have a cuddle fuck… I have a cup of soup… I have a message. Yes, message!” The driver yelled, seemingly thrilled that he got the right word out.
Nyko stopped. He was about thirty feet from the man. This was a new tactic. “What message?”
“Your train will be fucked by an antelope!” Brian burst out laughing from his position back by the warehouse. The sun was setting. They had about an hour before the bar’s patrons would be showing up, and had to have all this cleaned up by then.
“Is that your message? I have one for you to return,” Nyko shouted. Andy and Terrell advanced from the corner towards their boss, covering him. Both knew what was about to happen, as it had countless times before.
Nyko pulled a small notebook out of his back pocket and a pen out of the inside of his leather vest. He quickly scrawled a note.
Stay away from my bar and I won’t come for you.
This is your third and final warning.
If you come again, I will hunt you down and kill every one of you.
Everyone knew they would ignore the warning. But Nyko couldn’t just kill someone once they surrendered, and he certainly wasn’t in the business of keeping prisoners. So, he let the man go with a note, as he’d done the two previous times.
“Now, run along. Go back to your boss and tell him what a bad idea it is to come here.”
He’d been through this cycle a bunch of times. Three warnings, then they find the marauder camp and wipe them out. A few weeks or a month later a new group started up. No one knew where they came from, or where they’d been the last two years.
Nyko always figured they were the people of Las Vegas and the surrounding area who didn’t make it inside the walls in time. They held on as long as they could, eating whatever scraps they could scavenge before they resorted to eating the infected.
At first, there were no side effects from eating the disease ridden people. It built slowly. Some people retained more of their mental faculties for longer than others, but invariably, cannibalizing the infected lead to dementia and intense aggression. Marauders killed for fun. Many of them wouldn’t even eat regular food anymore. The dementia convinced them that everything else was poisonous.
In that regard, they served a purpose. They kept the infected population down.
“Let’s get this shit cleaned up,” Nyko yelled. “Haul the trucks around back, tomorrow we’ll see if there is anything we can use. Burn the corpses.”
Brian rolled up the warehouse door and came rolling out in a golf-cart pulling a trailer. The roof of the cart had been replaced with two massive solar panels. Fuel was everything, there was no sense in wasting it on yard-work.
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The next morning at daybreak, Jonas, Brain, and Andy loaded up in the Marauder’s truck to head out to the barn. They spent the day loading and hauling, and by nightfall were completely exhausted.
The maintenance shop was fully outfitted to repair any type of railroad car. Spare parts, specialty tools, and best of all, a massive tank of diesel fuel. The tank was, by Jonas’ estimation nearly full. The marauders were sitting on a gold mine, somewhere in the neighborhood of eight thousand gallons of fuel.
Jonas and Nyko had only gone a few miles on the train, but their initial estimations were that it would take about two gallons of fuel to move a mile. Jonas knew about two hidden diesel reserves he and Nyko had sourced, which totaled enough fuel to make the two-thousand mile circuit they had planned three times. This reserve would help them make it four more times.
That gave them enough fuel for a year of operation, Nyko would be thrilled.
The three men worked on the track-plow for the better part of two hours figuring out how it worked, how each of the mechanisms operated, and making sure it was all in good working order. In operation, it was a very simple machine.
A front plow, not unlike a snowplow, cleared the sand down to the tops of the rails. Just behind the sand-plow, a large broom-wheel spun very quickly to dig the sand out from between the rails, ejecting it out the side.
A secondary plow on either side at the mid-point of the locomotive pushed the sand eight feet on either side of the rails. As a test run, Jonas ran the plow up to the warehouse.
It functioned beautifully, leaving gleaming sand-polished rails in its wake. Jonas was giddy. He screwed a wooden crate inside the cab of the plow locomotive, lifting him high enough to see out the window at the flying waves of sand he pushed. The feeling of power was amazing, if felt like nothing could stop this massive machine.
Over the next several days, Jonas cleared the tracks all the way to the northern edge of the Canyon bridge. He liked the work. He learned that the faster he went the farther it pushed the sand, buying them more time between cleanings. On his last run, he had the stick forward running about forty-five miles per hour. Sand flew off the blades nearly twenty feet in either direction.
By the time the tracks were clear, Nyko was up on his feet. He was still only allowed light duty according to Dr. Charlotte as everyone had taken to calling her. No lifting or getting up and down, but he was able to supervise loading provisions on the train. If everything went well, this first trip would only be a couple of days down to Phoenix, then a couple of days back.
Nyko wanted to go meet with the Phoenix leadership before he started making official runs. Mostly, he wanted to know what supplies he could sell for the most profit. This was an expensive endeavor. Carrying passengers was one small revenue stream. Their drinking and eating in the bar car was another, but the real money was to be made hauling goods between the two cities. If he could establish and run the only trade routes between several cities, he’d be set.
As the departure date neared, Nyko felt Charlotte growing more and more distant. Finally, after she walked past him in the hallway without even looking at him, he put his hand on her shoulder and asked her to step into the office.
When they were alone in the office, Nyko crossed his arms and leaned against the door, holding it closed. “Spit it out, girl.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I have work to do,” Charlie replied, making a slight move towards the door Nyko was blocking.
“Not until you tell me what your problem is.”
She shook her head. “It’s nothing. I’ll deal with it.”
“We’ve been partners for a long time. I count on you more than anyone in the family. If something’s bothering you, I need to know about it.”
Charlie’s internal debate raged. Finally her stubbornness won out. “Nyko, I don’t want to talk about it.”
He had years of experience managing people in the shop, and was a naturally shrewd judge of character. “Okay. So, it’s me you’re upset with?”
She was always surprised by how easily Nyko could dig the truth out of her. The debate raged again. He’d get it out of her. She might as well tell him. “When you were injured, I stepped up and ran this place. I made the hard decisions. I sewed you up. I’m not a fucking nurse. I’m not a fucking manager. I don’t know all the things you know. I have no idea what I’m fucking doing here, I’m just making this shit up as I go, and what happens when I make the wrong call? What happens when I make the wrong decision, Nyko? When you leave, all these people will be counting on me. Depending on me for their lives and safety and security.”
Nyko nodded. “What could I possibly say to make you feel better, when I have all those same fears? I live in fear every day that one of you is going to get killed doing something for me. That marauders are going to show up at our door and overrun the place.”
“How do you handle it? How do you deal with all the pressure?”
“I don’t know,” said Nyko. “I guess because there is no other choice. This is life now. I try to make the best decisions I can with what I have. That’s the only way I can sleep at night.”
“And how can you leave all that on me?”
“Because you’re the only one that can do it. Because it has to be done. New Vegas is doomed, Charlie. There aren’t enough resources. They’re running out of canned food. There isn’t enough water to grow crops. There isn’t enough fertile dirt. Vegas was always a city ruled by technology. Without it, humans can’t survive here. But, do you know where we can survive? Southern Colorado. Kansas. The mid-west.”
“So you’re moving all of us east?”
“We can’t stay here. And I can’t move everyone and start an entirely new city with the resources I have. My only choice is to use what I have to earn what we’ll all need to survive.”
“What do you mean?”
“We can’t start a community with fifteen people, only four of whom are women. We can’t start a community without teachers and doctors and a hundred other vocations. We’re just a bunch of mechanics. I value the skills of every one of you. But we don’t have enough.”
Charlotte nodded as Nyko continued. “Also, I can’t take fifty or a hundred people out into the waste to make a place to live without the means to build a wall to protect us. We can’t go without the means to grow food, without the means to defend ourselves, and certainly without enough food to survive the first winter.”
Charlotte wondered when he’d made all these plans, and what else he hadn’t told her. “When were you planning on telling me all this?”
“When it was a real possibility. People need hope, Charlie. I need hope, a goal to strive towards.”
“So, what now,” she replied.
Nyko grinned. “Now you tell no one about this conversation. The goal is to get to Phoenix to prove that travel across the wasteland is possible, and to make it less frightening. If things work out in Phoenix, we’ll start offering pleasure cruises. We’ll get people used to the idea, and then we’ll take it a step further. All the while, buying and selling what we can, hauling freight between destinations, and stockpiling materials we’ll need when the time comes.”
“Do you ever not have a plan?”
Nyko smiled at her as she left the office, and then walked back into the warehouse. As he supervised the loading of the train, Nyko wondered if the pressure might be too much for her. She was only twenty four years old. She’d never managed anything until The Saloon.
The first trip was only scheduled to run three days out, and three days back. Jonas was bringing enough for three weeks. The rail truck, the scout buggy, and two dirt-bikes would get the whole crew back to The Saloon in the event of a breakdown. Nyko and Jonas had figured on triple-redundancy, and it was all coming together.
Tomorrow, the train departed. Nyko held his side as he limped back to his room, confident that everything was in good hands.
Taylor met Charlie at the door to the shower room with two towels. Charlie took the first one and wrapped her long, dark hair in it, piling the towel up on top of her head. She took the second one and dried off, then wrapped it around her waist. “Thanks, Tay.”
Taylor looked at her friend with soft eyes. “You okay? I don’t know how you stay so strong. I’m falling to pieces.”
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Nyko and Jonas worked furiously to get the truck moving. Once they had the air pressure lowered, Nyko drove, following the tracks, deep into the desert. Within about thirty miles, the desert gave way to sandstone and rock. The landscape was beautiful, if barren. The occasional cactus was the only green in the reddish landscape.
Jonas found a rail map in the pocket of his door and unfolded it out over the dash. “There’s a big canyon coming up in about a mile. The tracks and the road parallel each other there. I think that’s where we’ll find our maintenance garage.”
“I don’t know what bites a zombie,” Victor said, “And I’m not sure I want to find out.” Victor gestured with his hands now as he added, “Let’s check the garage and move on. I don’t want to stick around here too long.”
The two men left the perfectly stacked corpses exactly as they found them, and walked over to the garage. It had a small locking handle in the center. Victor reached down and gave it a solid twist, breaking the tiny lock and opening the door.
“Not much for security here in America, eh?” Sean asked from behind him.
Vic decided to brush the obviously condescending comment aside. He was still annoyed from what happened with James and decided it was going to be easier to ignore the gibe than to acknowledge it. At this point, he just wanted to get this the hell over with. “Those locks are for show. They were mostly to keep honest people out. A thief would get in whether there was a lock or not,” Victor said. “Watch out.” The man took another breath and heaved the garage door open.
The two men backed off, but there were no zombies inside the garage. A quick glance showed nothing particularly useful to Victor, but Sean started gathering everything he could get his hands on. Power tools, screws, nails, yard tools, bits of scrap lumber, tool boxes, everything he saw went into the back of the truck. Tookes stood in the entrance of the garage and watched him with great curiosity.
“Sean, these aren’t nice tools. We’re going to go through at least a hundred garages before we find the generators we need. Are you going to grab everything from all of them?”
“Every house in America has this many tools?” Sean asked, clearly surprised.
“No, but seventy-five per-cent of them will have better tools than this.”
“Fuckin’ American excesses,” Sean scoffed. With a shake of his head, he muttered something under his breath and put the rest of the tools in the back of his truck.
Victor pursed his lips together and instead of coming back with a prickly response of his own, he stuck with “Whatever,” and tossed a case of bottled water into the bed of the truck. The corpse piles had him a little on edge. Vic wasn’t sure if Sean was being intentionally abrasive or if he was just being overly sensitive because his mind was elsewhere but Vic knew he had to concentrate on the job at hand. He’d done enough of this to know it wasn’t just zombies you had to watch out for. Victor hadn’t ever seen zombies stacked like that; this was something new. And these days, “something new” was rarely a good thing.
“I’ll head to the next house. Just back the truck into the driveway when you’re done,” he said as he walked through the yard.
The two men repeated this process through four houses. By the time they’d reached the fifth house, the truck bed was full of junk. Vic walked over to the truck and scanned the truck, trying to keep the frustrated look off of his face.
“Sean, we’re not going to have room for the generators if you keep piling shit in the back of the truck. Remember, you can come back any time for this stuff,” he said, gesturing to the mound of stuff in the back.
“Not if some Drongo gets it first. Never know when I might need this,” he said, hefting a wood-stove pipe into the back of the truck. “Besides, we can always strap the gennies on the roof of the truck.”
There was a moment of awkward silence between them. “Where the fuck are you from?” asked Victor. “John never felt like he had to take everything.”
“John has talked non-stop about his ability to live off the shit you throw away, even now,” said Sean. “He just doesn’t say anything to you. Not that saying anything to you would have helped. Fuckin’ Americans.” Sean shook his head again and then headed back into the house for more trinkets.
Victor worked in silence for the next couple houses while Sean continued to pile every single screw, broken bucket, old mop, and half-empty bottle of cleaner he came across into the back of the truck. And the higher the pile grew, the more patience Victor lost.
“Sean, at this rate, we’re going to be three days trying to find these generators. We need to get water on quickly. I don’t want to delay much longer. I need to get home.”
“Nothing’s keeping you here, mate. We can handle the house full of zombies,” said Sean dismissively.
My loyalty to John is keeping me here, Sean. I don’t know what I did to piss you off, but we need to move. We’re ten minutes drive from your town. If you want to stay here all week and loot everything out of every house, that’s fine, but I’m going to grab a truck and find generators. Surviving in this world means not taking your eyes off the goal,” said Victor, gesturing with his hands. “You can’t just float along without a care. You have to make a plan and stick to it. I’m all for picking up a few things here and there, but this is ridiculous.”
“Alright,” Sean said. “Next truck we pass, you can take it and go get ya fuckin’ generators. I’m not passing up an opportunity to gather things that will make our life easier.”
“Fine. See you back at Hazardville,” said Tookes.
Victor walked away from Sean, who continued loading his truck. As he walked towards the next house, felt a sudden, small tickle on the back of his head. As he ran his hand over the sudden itch, he shook his head at the same time. The amount of bugs here was overwhelming – one of them was bound to be a mosquito.
He opened four different garage doors, never once encountering any undead, before he turned the corner and encountered another set of those unsettling zombie piles. Just like the first, there were six piles, each with twelve along the bottom row, seventy-two bodies in each corpse-pyramid. Tookes took a moment to stare at the piles, trying to make sense of it. There is definitely a pattern, he thought as he walked around and in between the piles. The corpses on the bottom seemed to be the ones in the best shape. Those at the top were missing legs or large portions of flesh, while those on the bottom seemed to have all their parts. In the middle of the piles were a couple missing arms, and several missing part or all of their face. Every one of them that he could see had the same bite mark on their neck.
Victor, as he often happened when he was alone, was reminded of a movie quote. “One thing about living in Santa Carla I never could stomach, the damn zombie vampires,” he said to no one.
Twelve piles of seventy-two. ‘All zombies when they died, that’s like nine hundred dead zombies,‘ thought Victor. ‘What the fuck killed nine hundred zombies?‘
After a few minutes inspecting the piles of corpses, Victor walked towards the garage of the next house.
“Thank God,” Victor said aloud, when he opened the garage door and saw the control panel to a whole house generator next to the electrical panel. One whole house generator would provide a huge amount of power, and would run on either propane or diesel. Both fuels would still be in abundance long after the gasoline went bad. There were three major components to it, the part that interfaced with the house wiring, the part that cut off the power grid so the electricity from the generator didn’t flow out and get lost in the grid, and the generator itself, which was probably mounted outside the garage directly behind the panel.
It took him about forty minutes to cut the panel down. He cut all the wires, leaving the generator connected to the house panel, so that John could see how to wire it when they got where they were going to put it.
The generator itself was bolted to a concrete pad which quickly proved to be the worst job. It was tucked back into some bushes. Everything in this god forsaken desert was covered with spines, prickles, thorns or barbs. These bushes seemed to be completely armored in all four. Ultimately he threw a tarp from the garage over the abominable shrub, which only slightly diminished the vexation.
Victor had to search six additional garages to find the right tools to unbolt the generator from it’s foundation. In the fifth garage was a small volkswagen pickup truck, fully restored to all of its mini-sized, 80’s glory. Shiny chrome wheels, low profile tires, and a huge stereo system completed the build. It was perfect for John’s group. It ran on diesel, and probably got forty miles per gallon of fuel. The truck had the utility of a bed, and easy wiring and mechanicals. Vic opened the door and say down in the driver’s seat. He was thrilled to see that the keys were still in the ignition. It had to have been at least six months since it had been started and yet the truck started with the first crank of the starter. As the engine came to life, that itch on the back of his head came back, but it was much stronger than it was previously. Again, he ran his hand over the spot and realized it was much harder to ignore it this time. That mosquito must have really dug into his skin and he was left wondering when the last time a mosquito drank the blood of a human that was still alive. With a slight cringe, Victor decided to not continue that line of thought.
It was almost three in the morning by the time Victor had the whole thing loaded into the truck, and was on the road back towards the compound. Victor was not the least bit tired, still feeling unsettled, driving the mini-truck towards his family. There was something nagging at the back of his head all night, besides Sean being a prick. It was a little bit like the hairs on the back of his neck standing up, except inside his head. It was like something was pulling him, and the more he concentrated on the feeling, the harder it pulled.
The little truck rolled to a stop, and Victor shifted his eyesight, looking for auras, or lack of. He was oddly reminded of an old spider man comic book, as if his spider senses were tingling. The minute he re-opened his eyes, his breath caught in his throat. He was completely surrounded by what he’d always thought of as negative aura, the type of blackness that surrounded zombies. His own aura seemed stretched away from his body, as if something was trying to suck the colors off of him.
Reflexively, Tookes solidified the outer edge of his aura, and stepped out of the truck. He left his hatchet and gun sitting on the seat, but had a fleeting wish that he was half a mile away safely behind Sammie’s scope, watching the goings on. He made a mental note to go by Fort Hood on the way home and recover his weapons. They wouldn’t do any good here, whatever this was was more powerful than anything he’d ever encountered.
He knew there was no sense in ignoring this, just like he knew that it had waited until he was alone to make it’s presence known.
“The theatrics aren’t necessary,” Victor said. “Show yourself.”
The runway was like the ending scene out of a movie. There were hugs and handshakes all around. Introductions were made, and Victor was finally able to put faces to all the names he’d been hearing for six months.
The last to approach Tookes was Sean, John’s twin brother. He had a huge grin on his face as he walked up, so Victor was surprised when shadows shot out from him. One of them solidified and developed into a right cross aimed at Vic’s jaw. Reflexively, Victor ducked his head, taking the punch right where his hairline met his forehead.
Sean jumped back shaking his hand, “Ahhh, ya fuckin hard-headed Drongo! I think ya broke my hand!”
“I knew you Aussies were a rowdy bunch,” said Victor. “But that was out of line. What the hell did I do to deserve that?”
“All that screaming you do! My head is still vibrating from that last one out at the army base,” he said, gesturing with his hands. “I’ve had to listen to you blasting my inner ear drums out for the last six months. You need to learn to control ya volume, mate.”
Tookes laughed. “To steal a phrase from your brother, I have a teaspoonful of concrete in my pocket. Swallow that with a cup of water – it’ll harden you right up,” Victor said with a grin. He stuck out his hand. Sean looked at him thoughtfully and then smiled again, gratefully accepting the handshake.
“John, lets put you and your whole family in one van, and we’ll all pile up in the other,” Tookes said to his friend. “We’re going to need to find a third vehicle and fuel up. We should get moving; the plane made a lot of noise and I’d like to be out of here before things get ugly again.”
The group crowded into any available spot in the vehicles, and the two overloaded vans took off towards the city of Yuma to find new transportation. Just inside the city limits, they pulled into a Chevrolet dealership. There were a handful of wandering zombies, which were easily dispatched.
John picked a white Silverado four-door pickup. James picked the same truck in tan. Victor and Marshall both picked Eco-Boost enabled suburbans. They were the newest model that could turn off up to four of the eight cylinders and, according to the stickers on the windows, got up to thirty miles per gallon on the highway. Behind the shop, they found the dealerships gas pumps and filled all four vehicles, plus the gas cans they had in the vans. Marshall transferred all the food and gear into the various new vehicles. Victor looked up to see John coming towards him. John’s face was troubled.
“Tookes, can I chat at ya for a minute, mate?”
“Sure John,” said Victor, knowing what was coming. It seemed like he had just had this same conversation with Kris not too long ago. Was everyone going to leave? He extended his hand and said, “Walk with me.”
The two men walked a short way away. As they walked, John absently rolled a cigarette, clearly uncomfortable with the entire situation. Victor didn’t want this to be harder on his friend than it had to be, so he spoke first.
“I assume from your choice of gas guzzling trucks, you’re not making the trip all the way back to the train.”
“Yeah, mate. Jo’s adamant. She says you’re gonna get me killed.” John paused for a moment, took a deep breath and said, “And, she’s right.” As he spoke, Vic fought back the flinch that was forming on his face. “I have my family to look out for now. Plus, you’ve won, mate,” John said. He was speaking with his hands now. “Laura’s dead. We haven’t seen fuck-all for zombies in the last eight hundred miles. It’s over, Tookes. It’s time to start living.” The Aussie paused and looked closely at his American friend. His voice dramatically softened as he continued, “You always said you were working to create a safe place for Max and we’ve done that. Good people died along the way, but we made this place safe. I met you on the side of the road, and followed you through the depths of hell.” He paused again before turning to fully face Tookes. “Go home Victor, it’s safe.”
“She’s not dead, John. This isn’t over, all it takes is one zombie and all this shit starts back up again,” said Victor sadly. “But I won’t stand in the way of your family. Blood comes first. Besides, Leo’s dead and I’m crazy. Your family needs you now.”
“You know if you ever need anything, just speak. I’ll have Nori taxi me wherever you are,” John said, putting his hand on Vic’s shoulder.
“John, I think of you like a brother. We’ll help you clear out a spot,” Tookes stated. “Do you have any idea where you want to go?”
“We passed a neighborhood right off the highway about thirty miles east of here. I checked it out when we drove by and it looks like a good spot,” he said. “It has a huge cliff on two sides, and the highway barricade on the third. All we’d have to do is close off the road leading in and it’ll be tighter than a platypus’ clacker.”
“What are you gonna do about water?”
“We’ll get it worked out. We’re Bushies,” he replied with a smile.
“Alright, man,” Victor nodded, “We’ll help you clear it out.”
John looked relieved, and Victor looked haggard. His team was falling apart, and there was nothing he could do about it. Leo left, and was now dead. Kris left and had a new life with Alicia in Tennessee. John was leaving. Thoughts and memories of the times they’d all spent together welled up and were quickly stuffed in the box – the box where he stored all his emotions to be dealt with later. And although he desperately tried to ignore it, “later” seemed to be creeping up on him much faster than he had anticipated.
It was a short trip to the little village John was talking about. Victor was filled with a sense of dread about the place, but chalked it up to John and his family leaving. They paired off to clear the houses. Each of the Americans had a lot more experience with this particular task, so each team had one American and one Australian. Victor paired with James, Marshall with Nori, and John with Sean.
Renee and Reggie led the rest of the crew and the children to find the local water source. The town was really just a flat spot at the bottom of a huge sandstone cliff. Thirty two houses, a general store, and a gas station made up the village. The highway ran along the south side. It was raised about ten feet high, with an impossibly steep hill and a guard rail at the top. On the north and west side, there was a sheer cliff that rose hundreds of feet in the air. The area was only accessible from the east from a small, two lane road. The narrowest part of the road was just over one hundred feet from the road to the cliff. Against the short western cliff face was the town’s water tower, just atop a wellhead.
“Jo, let’s head into the store there and see if we can find some supplies, and something for the kids to do,” said Renee.
“Are you sure? They haven’t cleared it yet,” said Jo.
“It’ll be fine, I have a few tricks of my own,” said Renee with a wink. “Would you mind watching Max, Maya, and Holly for a few minutes?” Jo nodded. Renee made herself invisible before continuing, “Zombies can’t see me either. I can scout the store, but it’s likely empty or we would have heard something by now. The kids aren’t being exactly quiet.”
“Okay, but if you hear me scream, come quickly,” Jo said.
“I wouldn’t go if I thought there was any danger,” she said. Renee began to climb the stairs and called over her shoulder. “I’ll be right back. I’m just going to look.”
She opened the door to the hardware store, and saw a very good sign. The shelves weren’t bare, and there was no sign that the place had been looted. It only struck her as odd for a single moment before she remembered how small the town really was. There was a high probability that the entire town either turned or had fled before raiding the stores. The parasites had spread so fast that most people didn’t have time to react or even realize what was happening being it was too late. Renee searched the store quickly; there wasn’t anything living or undead inside. Renee grabbed a couple of large styrofoam airplanes from the small section of toys and took them outside.
Renee reappeared infront of Jo and said, “Nothing in there. But I brought some toys.”
All of the children heard that magic word and ran over to them. Renee laughed as the planes were taken out of her hands and began soaring through the air. Jo was standing there watching the children play with a smile on her face. Max was talking to John’s older son and the girls were running around looking carefree and happy. The children were their hope for a future and so far, that hope was still going strong.
“We can find a generator to run the pump for a little while, but eventually you’re going to need to put a windmill up on top of that cliff to run your well pump,” said Renee.
“John knows all that. He can fix it up.” Jo paused and looked around. She had a sad smile on her face as she added, “This is going to be a good place for us. It has to be.”
“I wish you’d come back east with us,” said Renee. “It’s much easier living out there.”
“For you, maybe,” Jo replied. “This is what we know, and this is what we love. We came all the way here and I want the kids to be in familiar territory.” She crossed her arms over her chest now and looked down. “Our whole life was there. Everything we loved and all of that is gone now. We need something that’s at least…somewhat familiar. Besides,” she looked over to Renee with a small smile and said, “John says out at Victor’s place he feels like he’s going to drown with all the humidity.”
The two women looked up at the sudden sound of three shots that exploded in quick succession. Down the street, Marshall and James were standing near three dead zombies. Marshall yelled something they couldn’t hear, and John waved his hand out of the second story window of a house.
Victor and James worked well together. After the second house, James had the routine down pat and Victor let him take the lead on the third. James stood in front of the door and knocked hard. The two men stood silently and listened for any sign of movement. Victor backed up a step to try and catch a glimpse of anything inside the porch window, but everything seemed clear. Victor nodded to him, and James opened the door. The two men instantly knew something was wrong. The second James opened the door, the stench hit both men like a brick to the face.
“There’s gotta be a bunch inside,” said Victor, suppressing a gag. He had pulled his shirt up over his nose. “I’ve never smelled anything that strong. Keep your wits about you.”
“I know that smell,” said James. “I smelt it in a petrol station. Musta had forty zeds in it.”
The two men waded into the house, warily checking every corner, doorway, closet, and kitchen. When they finally opened the door to the basement, they found what must have been the entire population of the town milling about. Taped to the door was a note:
The situation is dire
We have no food. We lost water when the power went out.
It has been six days without water and we are dying.
We are desperate. The only way we can preserve our bodies and return to Your service is to infect ourselves.
When Max arrives, He will save us, smiting the evil from our bodies and returning us to glory
We will spend the rest of our lives spreading the word of Max.
I have sealed these people in this basement with one of the minions of the Evil Father Victor Tookes, so that they may be preserved until The Savior arrives, and moved on to spread the Gospel.
In the service of Max, Nathaniel Rotelle.
“Oh shit,” said Victor, frozen in his tracks.
Kris only heard the tail-end of a conversation as she was coming up the stairs. “Markus, I know you think you can do this. But I swear to God, you’ll be more of a pain in the ass than an asset. You can hardly walk for pete’s sake.”
“Alicia, come on. I can do this.”
“Bull shit. You’re sitting this one out and that’s the last I’m going to say about it.”
“Jesus Christ, Alicia. I’m–”
“Markus, stop being a prick and just listen to me for once in your life!”
As Kris peered around the corner, the brother and sister were standing across from each other. Even though Markus now stood a foot and a half taller than Alicia, she did not back down. Having been a US Marshall, she was used to making herself appear to be the largest person in the room. Although it was almost comical to watch the big man versus the petite woman, there was no doubt who would win this argument. The two of them continued to yell at each other. Alicia’s hand gestures were getting increasingly more and more dramatic and Kris knew she had to interject.
“She’s right, Markus,” Kris said from the doorway. “I know you think you can help but for fuck’s sake, please listen to her. We don’t have time for this. You’re staying, even if I have to hold you here.”
“Hold me?” He said, walking over to her. “Have you seen me?”
“Yeah, I have,” she replied, placing a hand on his upper arm, “But I can still lock your stubborn ass down.”
Markus started to laugh but before he got the chance, Alicia disappeared and then reappeared behind her brother. She placed her hand on Markus as well and in a swirl of chilly darkness, Alicia transported the three of them out of the house and to the opposite side of the farm. She was only there long enough to drop Kris and Markus off before disappearing again.
Alicia had dropped them off one of the spring houses on the property. She had chosen the one that was farther away from the house and the battle. The stones had all been hand-laid by Riley’s grandfather decades ago and even so, the small building was in excellent condition. Of the three spring houses on the property, this one was the least used. There was no furniture inside the single-room, save a couple of sections of an old tree trunk that were roughly the right height for sitting on. The spring bubbled up through the stone floor, creating a small pond right in the middle, before flowing out a channel built into the middle of the floor. The air inside the small building was almost chilly and Kris wrapped her arms around her body and sat down on one of the small retaining walls.
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” Markus said throwing his head back. He sighed heavily and began limping over to the doorway of the little house. “I’m going to fight.”
“No, you’re not,” Kris said. She tilted her head to the side and threw her dome across the floor and over to the door. She pulled it taut across the opening, making sure to seal the edges. He tried to take another step, and ran into the dome.
Markus drew his fist back and slammed it into the shield. Kris felt her brain vibrate with the force of the blow. He pounded on the shield over and over, lighting Kris’s brain on fire. She wasn’t about to let him win, no matter how strong he was.
She sealed the dome to the floor, and whispered as softly as she could, “Keep on goin’, big man. I’ll be here all day.” She trailed off and watched Markus closely. He was hell bent on getting out. He hated not being next to his sister, especially now that an attack was imminent. Knowing the land as well as he did would have been a huge asset and Markus refused to believe that he would have been nothing but a help to his sister. And now that she had gotten her way without a fair fight, he was angry.
Markus continued to beat on the inside of the shield for a full thirty seconds while Kris’s message bounced around, reverberating and gaining volume. She had separated the dome for only a moment to create a second barrier around her own ears; she knew how loud it would get.
The strength of the sound continued to grow and as it did, Markus’s speed dramatically slowed down. The large man shook his head, trying to ignore the pressure building inside his ears. Before long, he brought his hands up to cover his ears and he was grimacing in pain. Markus slowly sank to his knees, resigning himself to his fate. “Stop,” he muttered. He took a breath and then yelled, “Kris, stop!”
As the words exploded from his mouth, Kris collapsed the dome. In a second, she snuffed out all of the sound that was reverberating inside the small house. Moments later, the soft sounds of the woods and the gentle trickle of the spring filtered back into the air. Kris’s eyes never left Markus but she continued to maintain a look of neutral indifference. The man stayed on his knees and sighed again. Glancing over his shoulder, he met Kris’s gaze.
“You weren’t kidding,” he said simply.
Kris shook her head. “No, I wasn’t.”
“Alicia was telling me about what happened in Atlanta. Is that what…” his voice trailed off. Markus didn’t need to finish his thought – Kris already knew what he was going to say.
“Something like that, yeah.”
“Fuck me,” he muttered with a look of slight bewilderment on his face. He pushed himself up off of the floor and as he stood, a grimace of pain flickered across his face. “Man, just trying to get the hell outta here wiped me out. Maybe Alicia was right.” He looked over to Kris and smiled weakly. “But don’t tell her I said that.”
Kris laughed and said, “We’ll keep it between you and me.” She patted the stones next to her and said, “Come on. Sit next to me. Alicia would kill both our asses if something else happened to you.”
“You have no idea,” he replied with a laugh.
Martin and Neil took off on the two tractors heading towards the oncoming horde of zombies. When the they were about twenty feet away, Martin slowed dramatically and turned left. At the same time, Neil sped up, pushing his tractor to its maximum speed. The wire caught the outer edge of the zombies at waist height, and dragged them inward. Neil arced around the walking dead, and then rocketed down through the middle, closing the loop. He slowed down to match Martin’s speed as the two tractors dragged a hundred zombies towards one of the pits Joey had dug.
“It’s not gonna hold ‘em all,” yelled Martin over the sound of the two tractors.
“It’ll hold em’,” yelled Neil. “It has to. We can gather up the stragglers later.”
The two men dragged their haul of zombies into a pit where they separated the tractors and raked them in with the line. Martin circled around and reset beside Neil, and the two of them started over.
“This time you take the outside. You’re gonna have to gun the hell outta that tractor to keep up.”
“I know how this works, Neil,” said Martin. “Joey! Watch your ass; there’s a few stragglers.”
Joey hefted a spear over his head, and charged one of the few zombies that managed to avoid being dragged into the pit.
“I got ‘em Mart,” he yelled.
The two tractors rocketed off, repeating the same maneuver and dragged the rest of the horde into the pit. When they were done, the two men parked their tractors and walked over towards where Joey was spearing zombies.
“It’s like fishin’ in a barrel, Neil,” Joey exclaimed with a broad smile on his face.
Neil patted Joey gently on his shoulder and then said. “It was too easy.” He looked to Martin now. “Did that feel right to you? There’s gotta be somethin’ else going on here,” said Neil as he speared a zombie through the top of the skull. Something off to his left caught his attention. It was pitch black now and a small sliver of moon barely lit the landscape. On the ridge, silhouetted against the thin moonlight, were two lumps that shouldn’t be there.
“Joey, there’s two on the ridge watching us,” Neil said after several minutes of watching them. “They’re not doing anything, they’re just laying there. One of ‘em just moved his head, otherwise I mighta missed ‘em.” The older man pushed the brim of his baseball hat up off of his forehead, deep in thought. “Whaddya think they’re up to?”
“Looks like they’re fixin’ to start somethin. No way to know.” The younger man shrugged. “Weren’t no other zombies anywhere ‘round when I was scoutin’. We got em all, Neil.” Joey pointed behind the older man. “Watch behind ya. One comin’ up.”
Neil spun. With a grunt, he speared the zombie through the face, then put his foot on its chest to pull the spear out. He couldn’t shake the feeling that this was way too easy. Were the two smart ones sizing them up?
Alicia spoke from behind Neil. “Is it just the two of them?”
Neil jumped in surprise. “Holy shit.. err… crap, Alicia. When did you get back?” Neil asked quietly. “Sorry ‘bout my language. And yea, just two of ‘em.”
He heard her chuckle softly, but she didn’t reappear. “No problem Neil. You guys handle these. You’re doing an awesome job,” she put her hand on Neil’s shoulder. It was like a ghost was touching him. “I’ll go take care of the two supers.”
Neil heard Alicia’s holster click, and then her heard her work the slide, chambering a round.
“Alicia, I gotta tell ya. This whole “invisible” thing is weird,” said Neil spearing another zombie in the hole.
“Sorry, Neil. I don’t want them to know I’m coming. You three be safe,” she said. She lifted her hand from his shoulder and left the three men.
Alicia ran up the hill as fast as she could, cloaked in her invisibility. She knew nothing could see her. ‘Other than Kris,’ she thought to herself. Kris was such a mystery to her but on the other hand, she’d never known someone so well. Their minds had been merged not once, but twice. Kris’s mind was elegant, if slightly disorganized. She was the most beautiful person Alicia had ever known. Ever since she was 16, Alicia had openly acknowledged that she was attracted to women but there was something about Kris that was different. It was more than just a physical attraction; she adored what she saw in her heart. But then again, the way she bit her bottom lip was so… ‘Snap out of it Gander. Focus on the job,’ she thought to herself.
The lone woman reached the top of the ridge, where she paused for a second. Two zombies were laying prone, watching the three men by the pit work. She raised her gun and drew a bead on the first one. She let out a slow breath as she squeezed the trigger. Between the time she started to exhale and the time she squeezed the trigger, both zombies were on her with their hands at her throat.
“Shit,” croaked Alicia. The blonde to her right was her first target. She kicked him in the leg, then squirmed sideways and dropped to the ground. She helicoptered her legs, spinning on her back so fast her legs were a blur, in an attempt to sweep their legs out from under them. Both zombies leapt high into the air, dodging her kicks. They landed squarely on their feet as Alicia threw her legs upward and flipped herself onto her toes. She extended her arm, and pointed at the dark haired one. “You’re done.”
Alicia sized them both up. They had some skill, but she’d been top of her class in hand to hand combat, and her Krav Maga was better than the academy instructors. They were faster than she was, but she’d fought faster. The way she saw it, she just had to wait and bait them a little.
The woman decided to play with them a little bit. She grinned and asked, “You just gonna stand there?”
In perfect unison, the two of them split and circled around her. They came from both sides at once. The two men moved so fast that they were a blur. She dropped to her knees and brought her fists upwards, catching both zombies in the groin. ‘Stupid,’ she thought to herself. ‘They have no use for those.’
The two zombies brought their knees together, smashing Alicia’s head between them. The force of the blow made the woman see stars. Out of reflex, she wrapped her arms around their legs, and somersaulted backwards. As she moved, she twisted their legs and brought the two of them to the ground with her. She released one, rolled over sideways and scrunched her body up, breaking the leg she had in her hands. “That’ll slow you down,” she said, bringing her heal up to smash it into his face. As she did, she drew the KA-BAR knife from the small of her back. As she knew he would, the second zombie caught her heel. The moment she felt that pressure on her foot, she lunged forward and drove the knife into its nose.
The zombie with the broken leg screamed “No!” as she did, but it was too late. The blade penetrated the soft bones of the first zombie’s face, into the brain. The blonde zombie fell, dead, and Alicia jumped to her feet. She’d twisted the dark haired zombie’s leg up pretty well; he was a little slower getting to his feet. She wasted no time and drove her knife into his shoulder, severing the ligament that controlled the arm.
Alicia stepped back to catch her breath, knowing he was using the time to repair his leg and shoulder, but she needed a second to get her head. He was enraged, and had to be worried about how this fight was going to end. In less time than Alicia expected, he lunged forward, driving a huge fist into her nose. At the same time, he simultaneously kicked the inside of her thigh with the leg that had just been broken. He wasted no time, spinning and driving his foot solidly into her chest, knocking the wind out of her.
Alicia rolled over backwards and got to her feet, slightly dazed. The zombie closed the distance, launching another punch towards her already broken nose. Through the blood in her eye, she managed to bring her knife upward at the last second, driving the knife point-up through his arm at the base of his elbow. The knife-thrust stopped most of the energy of the punch, but he still connected with her nose, causing a fresh geyser of blood.
The zombie pulled his arm back, splitting it wide open. When the blade hit his wrist, Alicia twisted the blade, dislocating all the tiny bones in his wrist. “Heal that, fucker,” she said as she reached around grabbing his shredded arm. She stuck her fingers inside the slice she’d just created, wrapped them around his radius bone and yanked it fully out of his arm. Without missing a beat, she used drove his arm bone into his eye socket and left him wobbling on his feet, dead again. It was a full second before the corpse hit the ground.