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