“Hold your fire!” The Russian yelled as she crouched behind the crumbling masonry. “We’re not zombies!”
After a short pause more shots struck the wall sending powdered stone into the air.
Guy lay in the foyer, his shaking hands clutched his chest in a vain attempt to stop his lung from collapsing. His mouth contorted into a soundless scream as bullets zipped overhead.
Tatania could feel her heart pounding in her chest, zombies were one thing. But being in the middle of a gun fight was something else entirely. She hadn’t felt like this since live fire training.
She waited for the shooting to stop. Time warped and bent as she crouched behind the stones. As they stopped flying, she blind fired her AK, dumping half a mag at the shooter.
A quick glance at Kate told her the red haired woman was frozen. Her eyes held a thousand yard stare. She should have been shooting, helping her suppress the enemy but the hardest thing to suppress was the instinct for self-preservation.
The shooting began again. Whoever was behind the rifle wasn’t well trained. A good rifleman would wait for her to make a move, not toss bullets around like candy.
As it stopped, Tatania glanced at Guy. He’d quit moving, not a good sign. But she couldn’t leave him there to die. She had liked his clumsy romantic advances.
Focusing on the task at hand she pushed all thoughts from her mind. It was time to suppress the shooter, find Blue and Zorro, and keep the teacher alive.
A large caliber bullet shattered a section of stained glass window nearby. Tom, the attractive boyfriend was trying to put the shooters head down.
She risked a glance into the interior as another round punched through the glass. Tatania leapt from cover and grabbed Guy by his sling, dragging him back to the relative safety of entryway.
“Kate, shoot!” She yelled knowing at any moment the shooter could recover and kill them.
As if on que the shooter began firing. Tatania saw muzzle flashes blooming in the choir loft. She felt the wind as a round zipped past her cheek. This was it, the next shot would hit her head and her short life would be over.
Kate watched her friend dive headlong into the jaws of death. Somehow she knew this would be the last time she’d see her again. She waited to hear the sickening thud of her limp body hitting the ground. Clutching the rifle tighter she grit her teeth.
Tatania yelled something but Kate couldn’t understand over the pounding in her ears.
Time seemed to slow down as she leaned out from the protection of the masonry. All thought evaporated as her rifle came up to her shoulder and muscle memory took over.
Trigger, trigger, trigger.
Something tugged on her vest and she moved back into the safety behind the walls.
Someone was yelling at her but it was outside the tunnel vision.
Kate’s head was turned, an angry woman with raven hair yelled at her.
“Sister, are you hit?”
The tunnel slowly evaporated and reality crashed back in a rush. Nothing hurt, other than the nagging pain in her calf. “I… I don’t think so.”
“Good. Now help Guy!”
Guy? What guy? She thought for several seconds before she remember their injured companion. “Guy!”
Down on her knees she knelt next to his lifeless body. Pulling open his jacket, revealing a formerly white t-shirt now soaked in blood. A pressure bandage appeared in her hand, she shoved it against the wound while feeling for the pulse on his neck.
Mr. Galbaldon’s eyes snapped open, locking with hers as she knelt with her hands on his body.
The eyes were those of an animal, not a man.
A quick erratic pulse appeared beneath her fingers.
“Dear lord, he’s turned.” She said as Guy’s mouth contorted into a vicious snarl, his lips pulled back revealing blood stained teeth. His fingers snatched her loadbearing vest gripping the nylon, bringing her face closer to his. She pulled back but the disease fueled monster’s grip was unbreakable.
The Russian girl jerked back behind the wall as several rounds slapped the floor of the church. Her eyes widened as she realized Guy had turned. Her boot lashed out striking him in the head.
Kate fell back as his body went limp from the fierce blow. Two shots from the Russian rifle ended Guy’s short lived zombie existence.
A side door of the church opened and Kate drew her Glock, she covered the shambling shapes with the front sight. Taking up slack on the trigger she was about to punch their center mass when Tatania yelled.
Kate let off on the trigger as she scrambled to her feet.
Blue was breathing heavily as he had Zorro’s body slung over his shoulder; blood coated their uniforms. Kate noticed the Smith and Wesson M&P in his hand, its slide locked back. He probably didn’t realize he was out of ammo in his adrenaline fueled state.
That reminded her to check her own rifle. Empty. She pulled the magazine out of the weapon and shoved it in her dump pouch. Feeling for a fresh magazine she found the last one on her webbing. Sighing she inserted it into the weapon and hit the bolt release.
Tom’s voice came over the radio, “Kate, you need to move. A large horde is coming toward you from beyond the church. And the shooter is still at large.”
“Roger that.” She replied, “Guys, a horde is going to hump us.”
The Russian grabbed spare magazines off Guy’s dead body and hastily shoved them in her pockets and pouches.
“One of yours?” Blue asked indicating the body.
“Yeah, he turned.” The Russian said as she rocked in an AK magazine.
“What in a couple of minutes?”
Tatania scanned the street, “He was shot in the chest. Talk later, move now.”
The survivors made their way back to the hole in the wall. A few Shamblers were quickly dispatched. The bright lights of Safe Zone were only a couple hundred yards away.
Runners came from behind; Blue and Zorro were moving painfully slow and would get them killed. Kate turned and fired killing a Runner a few steps from tackling the helicopter crewmen. Two more went down as she squeezed the trigger, but more replaced them from every shadow they passed.
Kate tripped, stumbling back out of control, as gravity was about to welcome her to the pavement a hand caught her.
This is it. I’m zombie food.
Instead of being torn she was pushed, somehow she recovered her footing and caught Blue’s eye. “I can’t carry both of ya!” the pilot yelled as he shoved her onward.
Kate would have liked to make some witty response but her lungs burned and leg ached. A Runner leapt from a partially collapsed rooftop in front of them, landing so hard its femurs shattered. The beast wailed before a shot from the hip silenced it.
The running horde was encircling them, soon enough she would be practicing the hand to hand moves the ZDF had taught her. If they could just make it to the hole in the wall, they might survive.
A Digger screeched, swinging its stubby mole like claws at her. She leapt back and jerked the trigger hitting what she believed to be its face several times.
Light streamed through it like a beacon from a lighthouse as if they were the stranded sailors clinging to a few scraps of wood amid storm tossed seas.
Something passed in front of the hole, partially blocking the light. Her heart leapt when she realized it was the ZDF.
It sank when she saw a heavy steel mesh being stretched to cover the hole.
“Hurry they’re going to lock us out!” She yelled over the howling Runners.
Concrete anchors were being fired into the remaining sections of wall. Once they were affixed there’d be no way to get inside without scaling a wall covered in razor wire.
Somehow she crossed the remaining distance and slammed into the mesh. A twelve gauge barrel appeared especially large when pointed at her. She cringed, half expecting a load of buckshot on the chin as a wide eyed ZDF trooper pulled the weapon away.
“Sergeant Roper, let us in!” She yelled.
He turned to the soldier holding the concrete anchor gun and yelled at him to stop but not before he fired one last shot into the wall. The gap was only a few inches tall, barely large enough to squeeze through. Tatania made it to the mesh while firing her Kalashnikov rifle at the approaching horde.
“Kate, keep them off Blue!”
The pilot was struggling to keep ahead of the horde. As the was instructed the teacher emptied the remaining rounds in her magazine, barely putting a dent in the seething mass of diseased flesh swarming behind them. Letting the rifle hang and she fired her Glock. The slide locked back and she fumbled at her belt with adrenaline fueled hands for a spare magazine.
There were none.
A Runner snatched her pistol out of her hand before knocking her against the mesh. Looking up at the howling beast she noticed it was wearing a tie dyed t-shirt before its head exploded.
“Come get some!” Sergeant Roper yelled as he fired his shotgun.
Blue arrived, and with numb blood covered hands she helped shove the wounded Zorro through the fence into the waiting arms of the ZDF troopers.
A .50 caliber machine gun opened up from the back of a pickup truck, hopefully giving them a bit more time before they were encircled by the horde.
Despite protests Tatiania shoved Blue toward the gap; she turned and smashed her muzzle in the teeth of a Shambler, knocking out yellowed molars before dispatching it with a shot from the weapon.
The crazy Russian girl pushed Kate toward the hole, “Go! Make babies with that sniper boy!” She yelled above the chorus of ZDF small arms fire.
Hands gripped her shoulders and pulled her through the wire mesh. Halfway through she came to a painful stop. The handle of her rifle had snagged on the barrier. Zombies snarled, Troopers yelled. One pulled a seatbelt cutter out and sliced the sling, she fell back into the arms of the Sergeant. A pang of loss was felt as her rifle disappeared amid the gray flesh.
Springing to her feet she yelled at Tatiana to dive for the hole, but it was no use. The horde was upon her. There was no way she’d be able to squeeze through without the beasts taking her legs.
The teacher yelled as she watched them close in to feast upon her adopted sister.
The Kukri knife flashed out severing limbs and heads. Tatania wasn’t going to go down so easy. She charged with a yell only an Amazon warrior could make, and disappeared amid the zombie flesh.
Kate fell to her knees as the last of the concrete anchors were fired into the wall.
She stood numb cold and nude in the decon shower as the zombie fluids dripped out of her hair and rolled off her skin. Dark thoughts assaulted her like a ravenous horde.
How could she be gone?
Why couldn’t I save her?
How many people had to die?
Who was shooting at us?
Why didn’t we leave the helicopter pilots to die?
A skinny blonde ZDF girl wearing examination gloves and a mask handed her a towel, numbly she took it and wiped her face. She stepped out of the shower and they helped her put the towel on.
She was ushered into a tent and another female Trooper helped her dress.
“Mrs. Morris, it’s alright, you made it.” She said as she helped her into a second-hand shirt.
“I did…” she replied, feeling numb.”…two others didn’t.”
The woman didn’t say anything else as she finished helping her with the clothes.
Kate didn’t remember the trip to Contagion Research, but she knew it was out behind St. Browning hospital.
“24 hour quarantine.” A guard said then the gate buzzed. She was led to a cell that was hardly better than prison.
At least it had Safe Zone TV.
Laying back on the uncomfortable bed she fired up the tube, protected behind a sheet of Plexiglas.
“…believe the helicopter went down due to mechanical failure. After all spare parts are becoming hard to find as the factories that built them are deep within the dead zone.”
“Nice cover story.” Kate said as she rolled her eyes.
“In other news Contagion Research is hard at work developing a vaccine against the contagion. Dr. Pasteur believes his team is coming close to a working formula that will allow Safe Zone residents to no longer fear…”
Kate turned it off. “Are you kidding me? What good is a vaccine if they bite your jugular out, or smash your skull against the concrete?” She shook her head, closed her eyes and let out a long overdue sigh.
“It changes everything.”
Eyes open, she sat up hitting her head on the upper bunk. “Owww!” Why does a quarantine room have a bunk bed? “Who are you?”
A tall thin man with a bad graying comb over wearing a lab coat and a hideous Hawaiian shirt stood beyond the bars. He smiled the kind of smile that a used car salesman gives and overeager buyer. “I am the man in the news.”
“Dr. Pasteur?” She asked. He nodded.
“But why are you…”
He sighed, “Watching over a quarantine patient?” He adjusted his small rimless glasses, “Yes that’s the kind of job an intern does, isn’t it?”
Kate’s head began hurting from more than just the impact with the top bunk, “You didn’t answer my question.”
“No I didn’t.” He chuckled softly as if almost embarrassed that he found the situation funny.
Kate began feeling rather uneasy, “What do you want?”
“You are a rather interesting case Mrs. Morris. In fact I’d say you’d make a good blurb for the ten o’clock Safe Zone news.”
“Why? I’m not interesting.”
He took a step closer, “Come now my young teacher, you are way too modest. You keep finding yourself in… bizarre circumstances.”
A light bulb came on, “What do you know about the shooter?”
He frowned, “Yes… about that. I can neither confirm nor deny the presence of armed infected.”
“What are they? How could anyone survive out in the Dead Zone?”
The Doctor nodded, “Yes very astute of you. I’m glad the children are being taught by such a bright young woman. You see… strictly speaking. They didn’t survive.”
Her eyes grew wide, she stood up to get away from the man, she felt like a cornered animal.
“Didn’t survive? You mean they’re zombies. But how…”
“How do they know how to shoot and make bombs?” He rubbed his temple with an ink stained finger, “They’re Carriers.”
“Yes. They’ve become infected with the disease but unlike their regular counterparts they don’t suffer from the impairment of the frontal lobe, but they do lose skin pigmentation, so they look like ‘zombies’ as most people call them.”
“But why would they attack Safe Zone?”
The doctor leaned his arms through the bars resting on the cross pieces, “Well we can’t let them inside seeing as they’re infected. A poorly timed sneeze could be disastrous! Positively horrendous!”
“We’ve offered them a cure but few have decided to take us up on the offer… well that is until word of the ‘cure’ got back to them.”
Kate felt the cold cinderblock wall up against her back, “You killed them, didn’t you?”
“My dear we had to. All infected must be put down.”
“They’re people, not rabid dogs!”
The doctor grit his teeth, the pineapples on his shirt danced and he backed away from the cell. “No! They’re worse. A rabid dog can only bite you. The Carriers shot down a helicopter! Did you not see this with your own eyes? Our ZDF forces are attacked whenever they venture outside the Safe Zone. No, they will all be put down like dogs.”
“So the vaccine is just a ploy to bring them in so you can Auschwitz them?”
The doctor took off his glasses and rubbed them against the hem of his coat. “I’m sorry Mrs. Morris. I really am. But I can’t allow you spread such horrible lies.” He said reaching into pocket and pulling out a silver case. He flipped back the cover and a hypodermic needle lay cushioned in a bed of foam.
The teacher didn’t have to ask, she knew what was in the shot. “So that’s it then. Even though I made it through the Dead Zone unscathed, you’re going to say I became infected.”
“If it’s any consolation, the piece I’ve had written up for the news paints you as quite the hero.”
“I’m not a hero. The true hero was Tatania, but she’s…”
The doctor laughed, “Dead? No she’s quite alive, well if you call that living.”
“Carrier?” Her heart pounded hard within her chest.
He nodded, “Unfortunately she’s been disobeying direct orders to turn herself in. But what can we really expect? Damn Spetsnaz.”
“Spetsnaz? Weren’t they Russian Special Forces? I didn’t think they allowed women to join.”
“Apparently they did. But that’s beside the point.” The doctor shrugged as he pulled the protective cover off the needle and a drop of green liquid fell to the concrete. “The news is going to say you were infected out in the Dead Zone, and I’m here to make sure you did.”
Kate swallowed hard as the cell door unlocked.