Kirkwood, Missouri, 4 June 2011, 0030 hours local; Countdown: 6 months, 26 days
Evan Torrelli’s heart was in his throat as Jim sped through the streets. The teen didn’t even notice his surroundings. His mind kept replaying the last words his father said. Zombies were attacking his house. Instead of going to the police like his father told him to, Evan was going back to his house in the company of the world’s finest zombie hunters. That should have given Evan some hope, but all he could hear was the zombies crashing through the windows of his home.
"Boss, we’re starting to see the edge of the panic," Jim said to Mateo Cortez, the Zombie Strike field leader. Evan looked up and saw a wave of stampeding humanity coming down the road at them.
"Side street, now!" Mateo snapped. Evan was smashed against the window as Jim whipped the SUV through a quick turn and raced through a parking lot. The SUV bounced over landscaping as Jim dodged speeding cars fleeing the area. Jim drifted the truck onto a street and hammered the gas pedal. The truck jerked with the sudden acceleration.
"Oh good, I only have to play dodge-car now," Jim commented as he slalomed through cars driving down the wrong side of the road. "Chief, this is getting a bit insane, even for me."
"I am sticking right behind you," Chief Stahl said over the team radio net, "Try not to get us killed before we even get to the horde." Jim didn’t respond. He gripped the steering wheel tight and gritted back the pain from his earlier wound.
"With this much traffic, we should be seeing the horde soon," Mateo said, "As soon as we see the horde, we stop and evaluate."
"But we’re still a few miles from my home," Evan argued. Mateo looked back at the teen with a sorrowful expression.
"Evan, we will do everything we can to get to save your family, but we can’t do anything if we’re dead," Mateo said, "That means we have to fight smart, or we’ll find ourselves beyond crush without a way out." Evan wanted to scream at his hero to save his family. Wasn’t that what heroes were supposed to do? Evan slammed his fist against the seat. He knew Mateo was right. Evan spent too much time learning about how to fight the undead. After getting past the whole "shoot ’em in the head" basics, most of the posts were on how to push back the point of crush. The theory was simple. At crush, the sheer mass of a zombie horde would overcome the speed at which the defenders could put them down. The idea was to push back the point of crush through the use of modern weapons, prepared defenses, trained persons, and tactics.
"Chief, we’ve found the horde," Jim said an instant before slamming on the brakes and sliding the SUV. Evan was sure the truck was going to roll, but it just teetered at the edge through Jim’s slide. The second SUV slid next to them, forming a defense line against the horde of zombies. Quentin half-shoved, half-carried Evan out of the SUV. The teen barely kept a hold of his double-barrel against the rushing wall of human. Evan’s feet barely hit the asphalt before the meaty hand guiding him out shoved Evan against the side of the SUV.
Quentin’s expression clearly told Evan to stay put and not get into trouble. Evan nodded and the obsidian face broke into a comforting smile. Evan smiled back weakly. The smiles were wiped away by the cacophony of moans from the horde. Evan turned around and peered through the SUV’s windows. The entire six-lane street was filled with hundreds of zombies. Evan couldn’t make out much in the dim light from the streetlights, but the shambling walk was distinctive. Was his family in that horde? Could he fight them if they were? The questions and fear raced through him as he stared at the solid mass of undead.
"Matt, we got a mix of old corpses and fresh kills in that group," Jess reported. The girl sniper was perched on top of the second SUV. "I don’t see any minions or gollums."
"You have a count?" Mateo asked.
"A lot," Jess answered, "They’re hard packed in there, and that horde has to be at least a hundred yards deep."
"Boss, there are at least a thousand head out there," Chief Stahl said, "If we’re going to engage them, we need to break out the MG’s quick."
"Do it," Mateo ordered, "Jess, Slim, and Jim, engage at max range. Everyone else will engage as soon as the Chief and Quentin have the heavies up. Sport, I want a wall of frags about midway. See if we can break this up into some smaller hordes."
"We’re not going to make it home, are we?" Evan asked Mateo as evenly as he could. Mateo looked Evan in the eye with a neutral expression.
"I can’t let a horde this size keep moving. It’ll keep growing until it wipes out Saint Louis," Mateo answered. Evan looked back as Chief Stahl and The Steve hauled out two large machine guns from the back of the second SUV.
"Then I’ll go home on my own," Evan said defiantly. Jim’s hand grabbed the boy’s shoulder and spun Evan around. The normal cheerful expression on the cowboy’s face was replaced by a stone cold look of authority.
"No, you won’t," Jim said, "Even if you get past that horde, there’s probably more zombies. Past that will be the survivors, most of who will shoot first and ask questions later. You want to get home, then you got to help us fight." The cowboy shoved a box of shotgun shells into Evan’s hands.
"But my dad," Evan said before Jim cut him off.
"Your dad’s a good man. Would he want you to save his life at the expense of everyone else?" Jim asked. Evan shook his head, barely holding back the tears.
"Evan, I need you in the line," Mateo said, "Get over by The Steve and make sure nothing gets near him." The sudden order was a life line for Evan as he nearly drowned in a sea of emotion. Evan focused on Mateo’s order and trotted over to The Steve. The medic rested the machine gun’s bipod on the hood of the SUV. Evan set the box of slugs on the hood. He broke open his shotgun and loaded the first two slugs.
Three rifles cracked almost simultaneously as the team’s sharpshooters went to work. Evan’s mouth went dry. This was different then the fight at the school. Things seemed to happen so quickly. This time, Evan could only wait as the zombies inched into range. His mind raced through all the worst possibilities. Evan was terrified. Not about fighting the zombies. He knew he could do that. Evan was terrified that Zombie Strike couldn’t finish this fight in time to get to his home.
The thoughts stopped as the two machine guns opened up.