Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike – Part 8 – Chapter 82

St. Louis, Missouri, 4 June 2011, 0835 hours local; Countdown: 6 months, 26 days

Evan Torelli held on for dear life as the LAV crashed through the burnt-out wreck that was a sedan. The six-wheeled mini-tank jostled around as it sped around an abandoned semi tractor. The vehicle commander opened fire on a small group of zombies with a machine gun. The heavy bullets tore the undead into little more than decaying hamburger. Evan swallowed hard to keep his breakfast from coming back up. It all seemed so cool when they started out. Now Evan was praying he wouldn’t be tossed from the speeding LAV as the convoy raced down the highway.

As Evan was put into some cobbled up armor, Mateo announced the Marines reported some people that matched the general description of minions in downtown St. Louis near the river. Zombie Strike flew into Busch Stadium, which the Marines turned into a collection point for rescued civilians. The pristine fields were torn up to make room for dozens of tents and helipads. There were also four big guns sitting in right field. Chief Stahl told Evan they were howitzers. From the stadium, the team joined a convoy going out to rescue some trapped civilians near where the minions were reported. Jim and Evan were on the lead vehicle, which the Marines called an LAV-25, and the chief called a Baby Striker. The Marines didn’t seem to like that name for their tank. Evan leapt at the chance to ride on top of the tank. In retrospect, it wasn’t one of his better decisions.

The convoy of two LAV-25’s and four armored trucks turned down a side street. The cracks of gunfire echoed through the streets. That would be the civilians the Marines came out to rescue. They managed to barricade themselves on the roof of a fast food joint. As the convoy roared out of the side street, Evan saw a massive horde swarming the restaurant. The LAV screeched to a halt. The turret swung at the zombies at the front of the store.

“Evan, ears!” warned Jim. Evan turned on his hearing protection a bare instant before the big gun of the LAV opened fire. Evan felt the thundering hammer of the auto cannon through his entire body. If Evan thought the LAV’s machine gun tore apart zombies, it was nothing compared to the big gun on the tank. The Marines were using a new type of ammunition for the big gun nicknamed “Mini-Grape.” Evan didn’t understand the name, but it essentially meant the gun was shooting out dozens of buckshot with each round. The zombies were shredded with all the efficiency of a food processor. The second LAV opened up at the back of the restaurant as the four armored trucks roared up to the store. A platoon of Marines stormed out of the vehicles, firing at the undead as they went. The horde seemed to melt away at the combined firepower.

“C’mon kid, time for us to start our mission,” Jim said, pointing to where the rest of Zombie Strike was waiting. Evan and Jim slid off the LAV. As they approached, Evan nearly gagged at the smell. The two Brits were busily smearing everyone with a thick, sticky goo that was the source of the odor.

“What is that?” Evan said as Slim approached.

“Nasty Stuff,” Slim answered.

“No kidding,” Evan retorted, “I don’t want that stuff smeared all over me.”

“Get used to it, boyo,” Slim said, “This stuff keeps the zombies off of our back. Hopefully, long enough to find our quarry and stop them.” Evan closed his eyes and tried not to breath too deeply as Slim applied the Nasty Stuff.

“Relax, you won’t notice the smell in a bit,” Slim said, moving on to Jim. The cowboy stood nonchalantly as Slim applied the Nasty Stuff to his armor. Evan tried to choke back the stench as Mateo motioned for the team to gather around.

“The minions were seen on this street,” Mateo said, highlighting a side street on everyone’s PDA. “From here, there’s a couple of good places to hole up. The warehouse and the office building. Everything else is too exposed to view for the minions. We’re going to try the warehouse first.”

“Better pray they’re in the warehouse. Trying to root them out of the office complex will be bloody rough,” Sport chimed in. There was a murmur of agreement amongst the more experienced team members.

“Jess, you and Billy are on point. Evan you follow them. Try not to shoot anything unless you have to. I don’t want to bring out a horde quite yet,” Mateo said. “Remember people, we need to capture the minions to find out why the Truth is in St. Louis. That is why we’re here.” The team members nodded at Mateo, and he motioned for Jess and Evan to start. They were maybe a hundred yards ahead before the rest of the team followed. There was something exciting and lonely about being at the point position. Well, Jess and her dog were the actual point. He was right behind them though. That counted, right?

Jess and Evan walked a few blocks before Jess stopped suddenly and leaned on one of the buildings. Evan rushed up to her, searching around for the ninja-suited minions. Jim said that minions could work magic. Maybe Jess was under some sort of spell.

“Are you okay?” Evan asked.

“Yeah, I’ve just been out of sorts since we landed in this town,” Jess explained, recovering to her feet. “I don’t know why. The Steve said I wasn’t coming down with anything.”

“You want me to take over?” Evan offered. Jess smiled at the teen, and Evan nearly forgot how to talk.

“No, I just get waves of vertigo. I’ll be glad when we finish this operation up,” Jess answered, “Now let’s get moving before Mateo starts getting annoyed. Or worse, the chief.” From the look on Jess’s face, Evan never wanted to get on the soldier’s bad side. The two smiled at each other. Jess took a step forward and froze. Her dog started a low growl. Evan searched for the threat. Evan was thrown off of his feet as the wall of the store next to him exploded. As the dust settled, Evan looked up at the twelve foot monstrosity. It screamed once and attacked.

[Zombie Strike Part 8 Chapter 83]

Bushmaster Is Back

I recently discovered that Bushmaster is back in business. Right now, they’re showing off they’re ARs. They’re teasing a redesign of the ACR. Considering the one of the reasons I went with the Bren was because the ACR wasn’t in production, I am intrigued. I’ll add it to the “want” list.

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike – Part 8 – Chapter 81

Kirkwood, Missouri, 4 June 2011, 0120 hours local; Countdown: 6 months, 26 days

Evan Torrelli screamed in horror as the zombie that had been his mother lunged at the SUV. He was torn from the world as his mind grappled with what he was seeing. His friends and his family staggered towards the trucks. They were worse than dead. They were defiled by whatever made them rise in decaying mockeries of the people he loved. Mateo and Jim said something to him, but the words just sounded like noise. Evan felt the SUV rock as the Marines stormed out into the street. He heard the pop-pop-pop sound of M16’s and the deeper sounds of the heavier rifles from the Zombie Strike shooters. Jim reached in and grabbed Evan out of the back of the SUV. Jim dragged Evan to the back of the truck while firing his revolver single-handed. In a moment of brief clarity, Evan wondered how Jim could fire the big .500 without breaking his wrist.

“Evan, get it together,” Jim said, slightly shaking the teen.

“That was my mom,” Evan murmured, his voice barely audible over the moans and the gunfire. Jim’s eyes went wide. He let out a string of curses. Evan looked up at Jim with pleading eyes. “Nothing feels right.”

“Don’t worry, kid. We’ll get you through,” Jim said, his voice tight, “Just stay here.” Evan wasn’t sure how long he sat on the street, slowly rocking himself as the battle raged around him. It felt like somewhere between days and years. Familiar movement broke through his trance. Evan looked across the street. A crawling zombie was dragging its half-mangled body towards the group with a stubby arm. It was slow. It wasn’t drawing attention. Evan looked around. The Marines and the Zombie Strike team was busy fighting the forty or so walkers attacking from the front. No one was paying attention to the crawler. Evan stared as the crawler moved over the asphalt. Why wasn’t Jim paying attention to that crawler?

A Marine stepped back, right into the crawler’s grasp. The crawler launched at the Marine’s ankle. The Marine screamed as the zombie slammed into him. He toppled over, almost frozen by sudden panic. Evan snapped back into reality. All the horror turned into a burning rage. The need for violence overcame him. Evan leapt to his feet and sprinted to the Marine. Evan grabbed the Marine’s M16 and slammed the butt of the weapon on the zombie’s head. It moaned, so Evan hit it again. And again. And again. The head fractured and split open, but Evan didn’t stop. He kept hitting the zombie until the butt of the rifle was slamming into the asphalt. Evan felt two giant arms wrap around him. Jim snatched the M16 from his hands. Evan felt a sharp jab in his arm. He turned to see The Steve smiling and holding a hypodermic gun. Evan struggled, but then felt his body go slack. Everything went black.

When Evan regained consciousness, he was lying on a hotel bed. He sat up and regretted it instantly. His stomach lurched with the sudden movement. Carefully, he stepped into the bathroom. He barely had the lid of the toilet up before he emptied his stomach. Drained, Evan lay on the cool tile of the bathroom and cried. His mind cruelly replayed the last words of his father while showing him images of his mother as a zombie. Why couldn’t he have been faster? Why couldn’t he have saved them? Evan felt more than saw as someone stepped into the bathroom. He craned his head around to see Mateo Cortez leaned against the counter. Evan felt his face flush with embarrassment. Oh God, why did Mateo have to see him in this condition?

“That concoction of Steve’s really takes it out of you, doesn’t it?” Mateo asked. Evan tried to talk, but all that came out was some grunting. He couldn’t even get off the tile floor.

“Relax Evan. You’ll start feeling better in a few minutes,” Mateo said crouching down next to the boy. Evan looked up at Mateo suspiciously. The Zombie Strike team leader let out a tired laugh. “I speak from experience. You’re not the first one who’s ended up on the bathroom floor after getting a shot of Steve’s sleepy-time juice.” Evan could feel his strength returning as Mateo talked.

“When you’re ready, there’s some food in the other room,” Mateo said, standing up, “We’ll talk while you eat.” Evan tried to stand as Mateo walked out of the room. It took him a couple of tries before he could sit up. As Evan waited for his strength to return, anger and shame seeped into his mind. Slowly at first, his emotions began to boil as images of his family flashed in his mind. The potent mix drove the last of his weakness out of him.

Quivering with sudden rage, Evan picked himself off the bathroom floor. He stormed into the front room of the hotel suite. Mateo was doing something on his PDA. Evan’s eyes narrowed as he took three steps and threw a punch at Mateo’s head. Mateo easily sidestepped the clumsy blow. Before Evan could take another swing, Mateo had the teen in a wrist lock. The most painful part wasn’t the lock, or even that he missed, but the look of sad understanding on Mateo’s face. Evan screamed in helpless rage. Evan collapsed into a chair when Mateo released the hold. Before Evan could even think about standing up, Mateo thrust a plate of food into his hands.

“Eat,” Mateo ordered, “Between last night and Steve’s drugs you’re on the ragged edge. Food will help.” Evan didn’t want to believe him, but the smell of bacon and eggs awakened a ravenous hunger. It was all Evan could do not to shove everything in his mouth at once. As he ate, the rage washed out of him.

“Is there anyone left?” Evan asked.

“No,” Mateo answered. The smallest glimmer of hope was extinguished with an almost crushing brutality. “We matched up your family. Their remains are being shipped out to your family’s farm. Your uncle wants you to come home right now.” There was an undercurrent in Mateo’s voice. Evan couldn’t figure out the peculiar look in Mateo’s eyes.

“What?” Evan finally asked as he finished off the last of the eggs.

“To be honest, I can use you here if you’re willing,” Mateo said.

“What?” Evan asked, nearly dropping the plate in shock.

“Evan, those men you stumbled across? They’re responsible for all of this, and it’s much worse than just the outbreak in Kirkwood,” Mateo said. He turned on the television. The image was of St. Louis’s skyline. A thick cloud of black smoke hid many of the buildings. He could barely make out the Arch. Next was a video from a helicopter of thousands of zombies cramming the streets around the Old Courthouse. As the camera panned across downtown St. Louis, it looked like the entire city’s population was now zombies. Another video started of Marines holding off a zombie horde while people boarded one of the gambling steamships.

“They’re responsible for all of this?” Evan asked, unable to tear his eyes from the television.

“Yes. We don’t know why, but we intend to find out,” Mateo said, “If you’re willing, I want you to help us hunt them down.”

“That’s crazy,” Evan said, his mind trying desperately to make sense of everything, “I’m just a kid. I don’t even have a driver’s license yet! I just saw my mom as a zombie last night, and now you want me to go fight the guys who did that to her. It sounds like a bad kid’s movie!”

“Evan, you proved yourself to the team last night. I wouldn’t ask you if I didn’t think you could do this. Truth is, for this kind of operation, I need all of the shooters I can get. The Marines and the Army are too busy to give me anyone. I’ve seen you do amazing things with a shotgun. I’ve seen you stand and fight when others would’ve just run away in terror. At the end of the day, it’s your call.” Mateo looked at the PDA in his armor’s bracer.

“We’re leaving in an hour,” Mateo said. “You’ll need to be downstairs in thirty minutes to armor up. If you don’t think you can handle it, the front desk clerk has a packet to get you back to your uncle’s.” Mateo walked over to the door and stopped. He turned back to Evan. “In all honesty, you should go back to your uncle. This is going to be beyond dangerous.”

“So why offer to bring me along?” Evan asked.

“I told you, I need all of the help I can get,” Mateo answered as he stepped out of the door. Evan filled a glass with water and took a long drink. His parents would have told him to get over to his uncle’s just as fast as he could. Evan knew he needed to get someplace safe and just grieve for his family. Why was he hesitating? Some of it was that one of his heroes asked for his help. That was hard to turn down. As he thought about it, the real reason emerged. Mateo and Zombie Strike were going after the people that turned his family into zombies. His sadness and shame changed into a burning desire for vengeance. Evan finished the water and slammed the glass down. He didn’t even notice as the glass shattered in his hand.

Evan stormed out of the room to find Mateo.

[Zombie Strike Part 8 Chapter 82]

Small Amusements

Yesterday, I saw this listing come across my FB feed. You really need to flip through the interior photos to see why it’s amusing.

The real amusement was sending it to The Wife, and then listening to her exclamations of horror and bewilderment at the interior decorating.

Monday Fiction – Zombie Strike – Part 8 – Chapter 80

Kirkwood, Missouri, 4 June 2011, 0100 hours local; Countdown: 6 months, 26 days

Evan Torrelli almost went deaf as The Steve opened up on the zombie horde with the machine gun. The Steve swept the flame-spewing weapon in a tight arc. On the other end of Zombie Strike’s position, Chief Stahl was making similar patterns with his machine gun. A couple hundred yards down the street, scores of zombies tumbled to the asphalt. Only a few of the zombies were taking head shots from the two machine guns. The rest were either standing back up into the fusillade of gunfire or crawling along the asphalt. Five explosions erupted in the middle of the horde. Evan swallowed back the sudden taste of bile as body parts were thrown through the air. It wasn’t like when someone used a grenade in the movies. In real life, the grenades shredded everything around them.

Evan focused on the zombies closest to him. Two caught his attention. They were shambling just outside the machine gun’s firing arc. Evan gauged they were about a hundred and fifty yards away. A bit long, but Evan’s patience was almost gone. He needed to do something.More by instinct than rational calculation, Evan aimed the shotgun and squeezed the first trigger. The heavy slug slammed into the zombie’s forehead and tore the head apart. Evan was already aiming for the second zombie. The shotgun bucked as Evan placed the second slug a little lower. The slug lanced through the zombie’s right eye. Evan was reloading before the second zombie hit the ground. Evan searched for more targets. That’s how he had to think of them. These were just mere targets with not even the dignity he gave a deer. Four shots took down three more zombies. The last one tore off an arm, but the target wasn’t down. Evan slammed two fresh shells into his shotgun. Before he could finish off the zombie, Jim came up behind him and took the zombie down.

“Slow down, kid,” Jim said, working the lever of his rifle. “Take your time. You’ll get a more harmonious outcome.” Almost as if to prove his point, Jim casually aimed at a crawler and fired. Evan took a deep breath. He could feel his blood pounding through him. Evan brought the shotgun to his shoulder, drew a bead on a zombie that just stood up, and fired. The zombie collapsed back to the ground.

“See, easy,” Jim said, clapping the teen on his shoulder. Evan smiled as he took down another zombie. He quickly fed two new shells into the shotgun. As he brought the weapon back up, Evan noticed the two machine guns stopped firing. Evan looked over at The Steve, who was staring at something in the air behind him. Evan started to turn, but The Steve yanked him to the ground.

The night turned into a surreal daytime as powerful beams of light illuminated the street. Evan had a bare second to recognize the sound of helicopters before the area exploded with the sound of chainsaws on steroids. Looking underneath the SUV, Evan watched with horrified fascination as the zombie horde was torn apart as thousands of bullets rained down. When the chainsaws finally stopped, The Steve let go of Evan. The four attack helicopters screamed over them. Two other helicopters hovered above the team. Ropes were flung out the sides. In less than a minute, a dozen soldiers in full gear were on the ground. At least, Evan though they were soldiers. Chief Stahl quickly corrected the teen.

“Figures. Marines are always horning in our action,” the former soldier growled as the Marines cautiously approached the team.

“Kenn was a Marine,” Mateo reminded his deputy.

“And I haven’t exactly forgiven him for that,” Chief Stahl retorted.

“Place your weapons on the ground and identify yourself!” demanded the lead Marine. Evan mimicked the rest of the team and slowly placed his shotgun on the asphalt.

“Mateo Cortez. Zombie Strike. This is my field team,” Mateo explained. The lead Marine motioned to the other Marines, who relaxed.

“We thought it might be you, Mr. Cortez, but we had to be sure,” the lead Marine said, slinging his M16.

“How many other groups are fighting off zombie hordes with fully automatic weapons?” Chief Stahl asked, sarcastically, “And why are the Marines here?”

“To answer your first question, sir, a few civilian militias ransacked the National Guard Armory. There have been reports of automatic fire all over the city. As to the second, we’re here to kill zombies,” the Marine answered.

“Hurrah!” the other Marines chorused. Mateo shot the chief a look. The chief shrugged and went to put away the machine gun.

“So why are the Marines out looking for my team?” Mateo asked.

“Orders are to bring you to the command post, sir,” the Marine said. “Since headquarters is establishing the CP, we need you to remain in place.” Evan felt his stomach drop. He still had to get home. He still needed to try and save his family. Mateo looked over at Evan and nodded.

“Marine, I appreciate you have your orders, but we have our own. Now you’re welcome to come along, but my team can’t wait here for your commanders. Team mount up. Drop the running boards if the Marines want to tag along.”

“Mr. Cortez, I can’t let you-“ the lead Marine started before The Steve slid up next to him. The Steve said something to the Marine, but it was too low for Evan to hear. Evan snatched the box of shells off the hood and climbed into the back of the first SUV. The lead Marine grimaced, but waved his men to the SUVs. Evan was squished between two Marines. Four others climbed onto the running boards. Evan smiled weakly at the two Marines. They stared down at him questioningly.

“Um, sir, you’ve got a kid back here,” one of the Marines said to Mateo as the Zombie Strike field leader stepped into the SUV.

“Local guide,” Mateo said.

“But he’s a kid,” the Marine continued. Evan’s ears burned with embarrassment and anger at the Marine’s tone. He wasn’t more than a few years older than Evan.

“Son, let me explain something to you,” Jim said as he slid into the driver seat, “That kid just battled two hordes of zombies with us. And he was taking them out at a hundred and fifty yards using that scattergun of his. As far as this team’s concerned, the kid’s proved himself more than the Marines have so far.” The Marine looked down at Evan with wide eyes. The SUV’s sped through the remains of the zombie horde toward Evan’s home. From what Evan could see, Kirkwood was now a war zone. Buildings, cars, even people were on fire. Several buildings looked like they had been hit by a bomb. From every direction, gunfire and zombie moans could be heard.

The two SUV’s turned onto Evan’s street. His heart plunged as he saw his neighbors’ homes. A few were blazing infernos. The others were deathly quiet. His own home was around the bend, at the bottom of the cul-de-sac. He wanted to shut his eyes, to not see what happened to his home. He forced his eyes open. As his house came into view, Evan started to hope. It wasn’t on fire, and it was brightly lit. That hope died when he saw the zombie horde standing in the cul-de-sac. Then, the headlights of the SUV shone on his mother. She turned and moaned.

[Zombie Strike Part 8 Chapter 81]

Friday Quote – Thomas Paine

Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins… Society is in every state a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.