Green parachute flares lit up the night over the dead zone. Kate buttoned her blouse as she peered out the window. Thankfully the piercing air raid alarm had quit trying to split their skulls.
“What’s going on?” Tom asked as he pulled on his load-bearing vest, and slung his scoped M14 over his shoulder.
The ground appeared to be moving like a carpet of ants. “Looks like a huge horde over by the southwest wall.”
The sniper unlatched the case holding his Barrett 107A1. It was a hefty thirty pounds of steel aptly named Thor as it seemed to harness the power of the Norse god to strike down demons.
“What are they doing?” he asked as he headed for the door.
Kate shrugged as she grabbed her Sig, “Milling about like they’re waiting for something.”
“Then why the deafening air raid alarm?”
Muffled gunshots echoed through the glass as survivors closer to the wall began firing at the horde.
Out in the hallway people were screaming. Tatiana had an AK-47 over one shoulder and a scoped PSL rifle in her hands. “Take the children to the safe room!” she ordered the panicked residents.
She looked up at the teacher and her fiancée, “Ah good, more rifles! Let’s get to the nest.”
The Russian woman pulled down a ladder leading to the roof and began climbing. Tom checked the chamber on the Barrett ensuring it was empty and handed it up to her.
“Beremennaya korova!” she yelled as she pulled the heavy rifle up through the hole.
“Your American rifle is pregnant cow!”
Tom smiled as he went up the ladder, “But she shoots straighter than your commie junk.”
“I’ll show you how good I can shoot.”
The wind on the roof of the block was cold and brisk. The building rolled under his feet as a blast wave slapped him in the face. A fireball lit up the night as glass shattered.
“What was that?” Kate asked as she pulled herself up. “Earthquake?”
Tatiana was lying prone, resting the barrel of her rifle on sandbags. She spat as she pulled back on the charging handle. “Worse, a bomb.”
Before the words had time to set in chunks of concrete began landing on the roof. Kate crouched down and covered her head as they were pelted. She screamed as a large chunk shattered inches from her head.
Tom was up firing his M14 as soon as the pelting stopped. Zombies started pouring through a massive gap in the wall. A huge section about thirty feet across was gone.
“How did they get a bomb? And how could they be smart enough to use it?” Kate asked.
“Don’t talk. Shoot!” The Russian said as she changed magazines in her Romanian made sniper rifle.
Kate nodded and went to work. There was no shortage of targets pouring through the gap in the walls. They were about five hundred yards away from the breach. She rotated the rear sight to the 400 yard setting and she tried to focus on breathing as she lined up on a Runner. Squeezing the trigger she sent a shot downrange, the Runner stumbled but got up and continued down the street.
“Where are they headed?”
Tom squeezed off a few more shots from his .308 caliber rifle. “Not sure. But they really want to go up that road. Tatiana what’s up that way?”
The former Russian student finished her ten round mag, she paused long enough to shove a new one in. “Contagion Research.”
The three survivors kept firing, Kate had been working on her marksmanship skills ever since she became a teacher again almost two years ago. Monthly marksmanship practice was required by the school district.
She lost track of how many beasts she took down, the wave seemed endless.
An angry bee zipped past her ear as she inserted another thirty round magazine into her rifle. The teacher shrugged and started firing again when another bee zipped by.
“Shit!” Tom yelled, “Someone’s shooting at us, get behind the sandbags.”
“Muzzle flashes! Old church!” Tatiana called out.
“That’s in the Dead Zone!” Kate yelled as she was peppered by sand as one of the bags was struck.
Tom got behind the Barrett, “Suppressive Fire!”
The trio started shooting at the roof of the church. Ceramic tiles shattered as the bullets slammed into the building. The muzzle flashes stopped. Whoever had been shooting at them had put their head down.
“Kate, watch the church, if anything moves shoot it.”
Tatiana and Tom continued pouring fire on the surging horde, too many were slipping through. Kate stared at the church in the eerie flickering light of the flares. Helicopters could be heard approaching above the screaming horde. Thankfully the ZDF Airfield was close by.
They roared past a few feet above the blocks. An AH-6 Little Bird, and a UH-60 Blackhawk entered the fight.
“Go get them boys!” Tatiana said as she watched her fellow pilots engage the enemy.
Kate tapped the Russian on the shoulder, “Tatiana shouldn’t we warn them about the contact at the church?”
She fired three more 7.62x54r rounds from her rifle, plugging a rather bloated zombie. “Good idea.” She said as she turned on her radio, already tuned to the ZDF air frequency.
“Blue Bird, this is Red Sonja, Block 3 overwatch. Be advised we have armed contacts at the church in the Dead Zone.”
A burst of static came back, “Say again Red, armed contacts? I didn’t know zombies knew how to use guns.” The pilot of the little bird said as they began strafing the horde with its twin GAU-19 Gatling guns.
After the strafing run she called again, “I repeat we took fire from the church. We suppressed them but they may still…”
Another explosion filled the air as the Little Bird was struck by an anti-tank rocket. The tail rotor disappeared and the little chopper began spinning out of control.
“Suppress the church!” Tom ordered as he shifted his aim.
Kate fired at the bell tower, emptying a thirty round magazine as fast as she could pull the trigger. The helicopter pilot somehow managed to slow his descent before crashing into the street in front of the dilapidated church. The former Russian student dropped her PSL and headed to the trapdoor.
“Where are you going?” The teacher asked as she swapped magazines.
“The church. Blue deserves better than to die by those huesos.” She said as she opened the door.
Kate swore under her breath, “Tom cover us!”
Their eyes met and an unspoken exchange passed between them. I love you
“Tatania I’m coming!”
Down below they found the gate guard Mr. Mendez busy herding the remaining survivors into the safe room. “Hey where are you two going?”
“The Dead Zone, we need more guns.” Tatiana said as she ran by.
Without hesitation he followed.
Halfway to the breach Kate nearly turned back. Her leg hurt, she was exhausted and afraid. She wasn’t a ZDF soldier, just a school teacher, what was she doing rushing into the Dead Zone?
A few Shamblers were making their way through the breech. The gate guard raised his SKS rifle and dropped two of them with quick headshots. “I hope you know what you’re doing!” He said to Tatania as he transitioned to another Zombie and double-tapped it.
“Of course not.” She replied with a smirk as she dropped a gray haired beast with a face shot from her Makarov.
“Red Sonja is that you by the breach? Don’t tell me you’re actually planning on entering the Dead Zone?” the Blackhawk pilot asked as he circled overhead, the miniguns spraying the ground uncomfortably close.
“Yes Al, we are going into the zone. Blue and Zorro don’t deserve to die in a horde.”
“You don’t even know if they are…” a twelve gauge flare shot up from the crash site.
“We’ll try to keep them off you.”
Tatania butt-stroked a reaching zombie and head shot it on the ground, “Thanks, but be careful. We’re not sure if the one who shot down Blue is still in the church.”
“Roger that.” Al said as the Blackhawk flew past the chapel both Gatling guns spraying the building with tracers.
The edges of perimeter wall were blackened from the explosion. Piles of corpses littered the concrete. Kate could hear her heart beating in her ears as they approached the wall. “Are you sure they’re all dead?”
Tatania moved forward poking a rather moldy looking zombie with the barrel of her AK. “I don’t know they look dead to me.”
The trio moved forward over the pile of dead bodies, an unnerving experience. So was passing through the walls that kept them alive. Kate hadn’t ever been on the other side of the walls since she had made it to Safe Zone over three years ago.
“What are we doing? We’re all gonna die!” Kate said as she clutched her rifle to her chest.
Tatania turned around and grabbed Kate’s arm. “Sister, I need you in this fight. Grab your rifle and start shooting!”
The teacher looked up and a saw a small horde coming their way. Guy dropped a spent magazine and reached for a fresh one. Before he could get it locked in the rifle a Crawler leapt from the back of the wall. Kate brought up her weapon and fired, hitting the beast in the chest slowing it down long enough for Tatania to hit it in the head.
“Thanks.” Guy said as he released the charging handle on his SKS, chambering a round.
The Russian pilot pushed him, “Maybe if you learn how to reload we wouldn’t have to save you.”
Rifle rounds zipped overhead. Tom was at work killing anything in their path. Kate looked up at the roof of the block and waved. If she lived, she promised to finish what they had started.
Behind the walls they’d be on their own, Tom wouldn’t have a clear line of sight until they were in front of the church. The helicopters had thinned out the zombies but there were still more of them around than the teacher would have liked.
Moving past wrecked cars, piles of rubble and bodies reinforced they were really in the dead zone. It smelt like charred rotting flesh and gunpowder. Another anti-tank round shot up from the church, zipping past the Blackhawk, narrowly missing the helicopter.
“Al get the hell out of here!” Tatania yelled into her radio. “Whoever is in there is well armed.”
“No Red, you need air support.” The UH-60 pilot protested.
The Russian double tapped a fat zombie before replying, “We can’t afford to lose two helicopters. Get back to base and get some tanks.”
The helicopter made one more pass, the door mounted guns cutting a swath through the undead army. “Roger that Tatania. I’ve got some Vodka back at ZDF waiting for you.”
“What the bottle you hide in the bottom of your footlocker?”
The raven haired woman smiled as she split the cranium of a beast that was trailing its intestines.
“Yeah I already stole it and replaced it with water.”
The pilot chuckled, “Well if you survive I’ll owe you another bottle. Go get Blue.”
Kate performed a tactical reload, shoving a half empty P-mag back into a pouch. She wasn’t sure how many she had left, ammo tended to evaporate during combat.
The streets didn’t have any Zed’s left standing, only a few Draggers were trying to catch them, but zombies with severed spinal cords didn’t move fast.
Rounding a dilapidated brick building the church came into view. The Little Bird helicopter had shed most of its rotors; and the fuselage was up on its side. A few Shamblers stood around it pounding their fists on the aluminum. Tom picked them off by the time they made it halfway down the street.
A dog barked and leapt at Guy, he jerked his Chinese rifle and fired, missing the dead canine, most of its fur was gone as well as a large patch of flesh over its ribs. It closed the gap before he could get a second shot off. The large beast latched onto his arm. The guard screamed as the teeth pierced his jacket.
A large Nepalese Kukri knife appeared in Tatania’s hand. Hacking at the beast’s neck she severed it in two hits. It whined one last time before dying. Guy shed his jacket and the severed skull with it.
“Mendez!” Tatania yelled, “Did it break your skin?”
“I don’t think so.” He stammered as he kicked the twitching skull away.
“Dogbies.” Kate shined her weapon light up the alley, “I hate those things.”
“Yeah.” Guy agreed as he picked up his fallen SKS and continued on toward the church, oblivious to the blood trickling down his arm.
The helicopter was empty.
“Blue, Zorro. Where are you?” Tatania yelled.
Guy went around the Little Bird, something caught his eye, bloody streaks. “They’re in the church. Look!”
The pilot and schoolteacher came around the helicopter, stepping in a puddle of JP8 jet fuel. They examined the blood heading toward the chapel doors.
Tatania shrugged, “How do you know it’s not zombie blood?”
Kate coughed, “Zombie blood is thick and coagulated. It’s a lot darker. No that’s from our pilots.”
The Russian swore in her native tongue, “This place is crawling with zombies, our pilots are injured. Plus is the shooter still alive?”
As if an answer to her statement, rapid fire pops echoed inside the church.
“Well is that our pilots or the unknown shooter?” Kate asked.
Guy scanned the street, “How do you know?”
“Those shots were 5.56 NATO. Our pilots only carry handguns.”
Kate looked back up at the towering block, “Tom, don’t let the ZDF flatten the church until we get back to the Safe Zone.”
The sniper replied, “You’re not seriously going in there?”
“What other choice do we have?”
He cursed and shot a running Dogbie behind them. “Roger, but you’re going to be on your own. I can’t see through those broken stained glass windows.”
“I love you.” She replied.
Tatania grabbed the handle. “Just think sister. Once we clean this out you can get married here.” She said then pulled the heavy wooden door open.
Kate shouldered her rifle, illuminating the darkness with her weapon light, revealing dilapidated rubble strewn interior. “I love what you’ve done with the place.”
Guy Mendez stepped up, “I guess I’ll go first.” He said before charging through. He scanned the foyer. Empty.
“Clear!” He yelled a split second before catching a rifle round in the chest.