Friday, May 20, 2016

Dark Winter: Chapter Seven



Top Secret
(Compartmentalized Information)
(Personal For Admiral Albert Noel)


Memorandum
From Maj General Darlene Sertorio, (Commanding General CJTF 491)  

To Admiral Albert Noel, (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff)  


First the good news.  The Cellular Immune line of research looks likes it’s going to hit pay dirt.  The Stage III’s all have stem cells that are trying like hell to kill the ZT952 prion.  The reason they don’t succeed is that SOD grows so damn fast that it overwhelms the entire organism before the stem cells can respond effectively.

I was afraid we would have nothing to work with at all. The CDC will undoubtedly keep pushing the humoral line because Doctor Jenson as you know has committed himself publicly to that.  He would rather see the world go down in flames than admit he’s wrong and he has friends in the White House.  So we need to sit on this for a couple of days, while I collect enough evidence to blow him completely out of the water.  

Bottom line; you have my purpose built bioweapon against SOD as promised.

That was your good news for the day.  Now for the bad.

Two items.

  1. Both of the Kerenskys are convinced that the ZT952 prion is artificial.  They are keeping that to themselves but members of the staff have come to the younger doctor Kerensky and voiced the same concern. I am beginning to think they are right.
  2. There is a fairly major problem with harvesting the stem cells...





The ground crunching under foot was dangerous.  It was far too loud and way too distinct. Too easy to identify as feet pressing through the crust of the frozen crusts of snow.  

John was doing his best to stay on the patches of of brownish-green.  He kept his footsteps arrhythmic. One step, a pause then several quick steps.  

Breathe and then threat scan.  Take his step, then plan his next step. Where could he take three steps on grass?  Where could he take only step one on snow after that if he had to?  Breathe, then threat scan, step and repeat.

What made things worse was he didn’t have a lot of time.  He had to move more quickly than was ideal.  There was plenty of background traffic noise.  Which was both a help and a problem because very soon someone was going to spot both the dead zombie and a man in a uniform.  
Then he would be answering all kinds of awkward questions about the dead zombie.

An ignorant bastard might mistake him for a cop.  Maybe.  Hopefully.  But it would only take one man to recognize that the scrambled eggs on his visor as the laurels of a Marine Corps Field Officer. And. He. Would. Be. Made.  There was exactly one Jarhead Major on the MSU campus.

Now that he thought about it, he was being overly cautious.  The old MSU hog shed had been well and thoroughly sound proofed, hogs not making for the quietest of neighbors. Sound proofing goes both ways but the doorway was still open to the outside air.

He took his white barracks cover off his head.   Marines in uniform are never seen bareheaded outdoors.  It doesn’t happen.  Don’t be absurd.  That couldn’t have been a Marine Major.
Now he only looked like a man in khaki trench coat...

...with gold oak leaves on his shoulders...And bright blue trousers with big red stripes down the seams. Still, every little bit helped.

The terrain wasn’t all flat.  A few pine trees would provide cover.  Plenty of snow on the branches,  though not a lot.  He couldn’t camouflage himself, naturally but he could keep out of line of sight.  He briefly considered swapping out his brown leather gloves for the white dress gloves he had in his coat pocket but it would have been pointless.

He was almost at the open door.

John was hoping against hope that the zombie had been a one off.  That the campus cops had only misplaced one.  Just lost track of it when one or two of them went off to get cup of java..  

Oh sure, and why didn’t anyone poke their heads out when a gun went off?

And (different subject) why is the door still open when there is a hydraulic closer on it?  The answer to that one was at least, was obvious.  The door was hung up on something that was covered by a small mound of snow.

John edged closer, his spine now flat against the outside wall of the shed. Metal wall was bitingly cold against the thin fabric of the the hilariously misnamed All-Weather-Coat, a trench coat that was designed with North Carolina winters in mind, not Michigan’s.  

He was close enough to hear what was going on inside now.  The hairs on the back his neck stood up.

Good Lord, won’t someone help me!  Oh please, please are there any men there at all?  What do they want of us?”  

John had been around them enough to make out, the vaguely archaic pronunciation of flashers.  He also heard shuffling, grunting and growling from Stage IIIs.  And  no human voices at all.

Something very, very bad had happened.  No point in making entry.  Time to call it and haul it.  Super John could not handle this one all by his lonesome.

To the rear, march. He was starting to back out when a glint of shining metal caught his eye.  He realized that the snow covered thing that was keeping the door open was a short length of a railroad track.

John looked back at the door and saw that someone in the last day or so had installed loops on either side of the doorway.  Heavy loops.  The I beam was a field expedient door bar.

John blessed and cursed the campus cop who thought of it.  Now, there was something he could accomplish.  Now, he couldn’t run away.  No choice.  No damn choice at all.  

North of two hundred and fifty of them were in the Treatment Station. God knows how many are actually loose.  It couldn’t be that many.  They wouldn’t free each other but it must have been enough to overwhelm the campus cops inside.  How the hell did they get loose in the first place? He quietly raged for a moment.     

Did some student come in and free them for some bizarre social justice reason?  Zombie privilege?  

To the rear, march. He reversed direction and inched forward.  

It seemed simple enough.  Release the door, close it  and then slide the bar in place.  The loops looked to be over engineered by a factor of twenty.  It should hold long enough for the cavalry to get here

Two problems. One: the I beam was heavy.  He could lift it but not juggle it.  It take him an eternity of a ten seconds to get the bar in place.  Second; he would have to cross the open doorway to get to it.  If the zombies were just milling around amongst the flashers they wouldn’t see him but if there were a few in the outer office they might.  In fact, they probably would.

It’s the only plan I have but It should work.  There wasn’t a lot known about the zombies but some things were emerging.  They couldn’t work out mechanical puzzles for one thing.  Not even problems that a chimp could figure out. They could manage going up stairs but going down them was likely to send them into a tumble.  They couldn’t work out ladders at all.

All right, slightly more (cringe) complicated plan.  Get to the other side of the door, praying he wouldn’t be seen.  Free the door but block it with his foot while he lifted the bar.  Let the door’s hydraulic pump do the work of silently closing it while he got the bar into position to thread it through the loops. Once the door was shut, throw the bar through.  Super John saves the day after all. Yay me!  Time elapsed for this evolution was now at about three seconds once he released the door.  

That still left the problem of the open door.  It was a huge building.  Going all the way around the facility to close the door from the other side was a tempting non-starter.  They would have other howlers out scouting before he could get to it from the that side.

He would have to cross in the open.

He took a breath scanned one last time, sank to a /// term for sprinter’s launch/// and launched.

John pounded three steps, spun around and down into a kneel and pulled the Smith and Wesson Shield out of his pocket again.  Then waited.  He opened his mouth to improve his hearing and listened.

All activity inside had screeched to a halt

They had clearly heard something.  They were listening themselves. His breathing was now a deafening roar in his head  Was one of them going to finally check the door now?

John’s heart was in his ears but he kept himself cold for all of it while he waited for their decision.  His body wanted him to pant.  He wouldn’t do it.  He was in control.

The ice started to melt around his knee, wetting that spot on the trouser leg.  Conducting cold into his kneecap.  John remained unmoving.

Finally, shuffling and sniffing noises began again inside.  They had gone through what passed for a decision making process and were now exploring the outer office again.  They would move on to the outside quickly enough, though.  

Go time.

John holstered his gun and griped the I beam.  It was frozen to the ground.  Damn it!  Then how did the door get stuck? Ah, a small nugget of ice was caught between the I beam and the door, blocking the door’s recoil.
Alright, I’m a little on the committed side here. How frozen is it?  John clamped his hands on side of the steel post, straightened his back and strained hard with his legs and pulled with his arms.  

For a moment there was nothing, then he felt a slight give.  John gathered himself, braced his legs lifted hard again.  

His door bar came free with a mild crunch of snow.  He had to work fast.  He had to get it done now or he was taking up residence in the Land of the Fucked.

He curled the I beam up in his arms. Aimed it at the first loop and lifted his foot.

The door began to swing silently.  A little slow for his liking but it was closing.  Closing.  

SCRAPE

It came to an abrupt halt again on the ice.

Another shove with his foot. A second scrape and the door was closing again.  

He had the bar in the first loop ready to go.  The door slowed to an agonizing crawl as the hydraulic pump reached the last three inches of it’s mission.  It was designed after all to not slam the door.   

It was down two inches.  There was no sound from the inside again.  
Now it was down to one inche. John braced himself. One hand on the end of the bar, legs bent, ready to thrust it home.

Less than one inch now.  The latch was in contact with the doorframe  starting to turn inward. The door was almost clear of the second loop.  John smiled. He had won.

The door exploded into him.  

It caught him on the side of the head like hammer.  His feet were losing their grip on the ice.  If he went down here it was way past over.

He dropped one end of the beam into snow, anchoring it as three of the zombies came charging into the afternoon air.  They fanned out sniffing the air and swinging their heads from side to side.

John pulled himself up on the beam, regaining his balance, just as the one closest to him swung his head in his direction.  It’s dead red eyes locking on to his.

It’s wasn’t going to end like this.  NOT LIKE THIS!

John crouched as it charged and used his shoulder as fulcrum, cocked his hip and spun the small I beam over his back.  Twisting his torso expertly. Whirling it precisely into the zombie’s head with every ounce of his strength. The zombie’s skull snapped wetly open with dull moist thud, spilling its brains on to the ground in red, grey puddle.

John’s hand dove into his pocket and jerked out the M&P Shield. The other two were charging him now.  He brought up the short barreled gun and in a supreme moment of self-discipline mastered himself for a few terrifying nanoseconds. He had to go for a neuologic. The brain is not a huge target, even at two feet.  It’s easy to miss with such a short barreled gun.

Perfect sight alignment. He kept the three dots in a row.  

Perfect sight picture.  John was using the black of the zombie’s left pupil as a handy aiming point. Aim small...Miss small.

Trigger control; he fought to make himself squeeze and not jerk.

Breath control, he couldn’t breath just then anyway.

Its fingers were less than an inch from John’s throat when the trigger broke.

The recoil of the high velocity round punched into John’s wrist as the round launched itself out of gun.

He missed his target.

The round landed two inches to the right and couple down. right at about the base of the zombies’ nose.  The hollow point of the round went flat as it destroyed the roots of the zombies two front teeth.  Ripped through the skull and in a flat trajectory tore apart the zombie’s brain stem. Killing it instantly.

The third was close behind second.  As the second went down, John took a moment and waited for it to go past the moment of commitment.  It began stumbling and tripping over the bodies of its fallen brother.  

John stepped into its attack.  He shot out his left leg stiffly,  while he collapsed his right leg, dropping his center of gravity almost to to the ground, keeping his balance grounded with both of his hands on the cold, wet snow.

The third zombie shamblingly tripped over his leg and  tumbled into a faceplant into the snow.  It’s arms suddenly frantic to get it up off the ground again.

John spun around and leaped onto it’s back.  He drove a knee on to the back of it’s head.  Momentarily pinning it. He planted the Shield at the base of it’s skull and this time just went ahead and jerked the trigger.

The gun punched his wrist again.  Blood and spinal fluid spritzed onto his dress blue trousers. The zombie was still.

He heard them coming then.  A bunch of them and they were not even trying to be quiet about it.

They were galloping for the still open door.

John hurled himself at the door and forcing it to close.  The last inch, an agony as the hydraulic pump fought him to keep it from slamming it home and disturbing the folks inside.  

*click*

The latch caught.  The door was closed

Instantly there was thundering, pounding bashing sound as the door was hammered from the inside.

John frantically looked for the I beam and found it.

There it was.

Under three bodies.

There was no way in hell he was going to get to that thing before the already groaning door gave in.  His gun now had four bullets left and he had been too damn lazy this morning to bother with a second magazine.

Back to plan A.

RUN!

He took off at a dead sprint headed north.  Now that he was moving, where the hell should he move to?

The vet lab was tempting.  The vandalising stupidity of the Animal Rights movement had turned the vet building into a fortress. His men were there and they were armed.  Which was going to mean a shitload of dead zombies when he hit the door.  Career death for everyone and the project quite likely being taken out of their hands.  And then God only knows what stupid shit was going to happen to it if Wheaton had any say in it at all.  

What they were doing there was necessary but illegal as hell. The zombie experimentation was legally human experimentation with subjects that were incapable of consenting.

When he had gotten a hundred yards away, John briefly hoped the zombies had lost track of why they were  trying to force open the door and gone back to doing whatever the hell it is they like to do when they aren’t biting the throats out of people.  

There was a wrenching clang from behind him that ended that hope.

He spared a quick glance.  There was a lot them pouring out of the building.  A lot.  Way more than the dozen or so he had thought he was facing.  

They were all fours on the ground and in dead silent hot pursuit of him

He hit Storage road?.  If he swerved left might run into a passing car he could catch a ride with but if they kept following him,  he would be risking the zombies taking an interest in Spartan Village.  A lot of families there.  That couldn’t happen.

Instead he cut across Recycling Drive between the power plant and some storage buildings.  Both would be locked today.  Not that it would matter, neither of them had what he needed.

He risked another glance behind him.

“HOLY SHIT!”  

There were  better than two hundred zombies behind him.  Pretty much the whole treatment station had gotten loose.  That was way beyond his worst case scenario.

John was starting to face the ugly fact that he had called this one wrong.    He should have lead them to his Marines and damn the body count.  At this point there were going to be a lot of dead civilians no matter what he did next.

He needed high ground, where they couldn’t follow.  A ladder that led to an otherwise inaccessible roof top would be perfect.  

He scanned quickly while ran. There was a construction project on the side of the recycling building.  Lots of scaffolding leading to the roof.  If  he turned now he might just make it.
John veered back, giving up desperately needed ground between him and the horde.  The horde mindlessly changed course and devoured the distance between him and them.

He pelted hard, his lungs pulling cold air down into his lungs, lowering his core body temperature.    The corefram shoes were becoming a life threatening problem in the snow.  He just couldn’t get any traction with them.

They were getting close enough that he could almost swear that he could feel the ground vibrating through his feet.

He leaped for the scaffolding and started shambling up the side of it as they came charging up to him.  

He nearly lost his grip when the first of them slammed into the thin steel pipes of the temporary structure.  He dangled by one hand for just a moment.  He frantically grabbed the slick, ice cold piping of the scaffold.  It groaned in metallic protest to stress it was never meant to endure.

John knew it would come down in second.  Okay, Marine, he said to himself, it doesn’t matter if it will be down in seconds because you will be over the top long before then.  Just like the obstacle course in Bootcamp.   He threw a leg over the top, braced his other leg against one of the vertical poles and leveraged his torso hard against it.  He spun over the top, the cold, thin piping biting into his nuts.  He ground his teeth and grabbed the next length of the vertical piping. The scaffolding  shuddered again, the metallic groan turning into a shriek as the piping started to bend.  

His feet lost traction again because of the smooth soles of this dress shoes, his shin crashed  down onto the piping, the pain sharp and burning. “Screw this!” John kicked off his shoes.  Planted his stocking feet onto the ice cold pipe and launched himself upward.  He grabbed  the wooden planking on the top of the scaffold, using his own momentum and strength to pull himself over and onto the catwalk.

The whole structure started to list as the metal bent under the zombie’s assault.  John felt himself sliding down, in moment the thing would come down, and he would be trapped and torn to pieces.  He didn’t try to stand.  He just rolled twice across the catwalk.

He sat up, frantically reaching for the edge of the building.  The fingertips of his left hand just barely over closed over the top of the brick.  He almost had his right hand on the edge of the roof top when the scaffolding finally collapsed with a cascading ringing crash of falling hollow metal - leaving John Castillo hanging from the roof by one hand.  A large hoard of zombies gathering beneath him stared at him with limitless hunger and inhuman hatred.

Compared to few seconds ago this didn’t seem to be anything much to be worried about.

He reached up with his right hand, grabbed the roof and hauled himself up over the top.

John let himself lie on the roof for a moment and panted a out quick prayer of thanks to a god who had clearly found his antics amusing enough to keep him alive for another day.

He fought down laughter.  “Not damn now!.  You’ve got things to do.”  First and foremost, call for help.  John got quickly to his feet which were already getting too cold for his liking.  Hopefully he wouldn’t be up here long enough to have to worry about losing a toe or two to frostbite.  It wasn’t really that cold.  This wasn’t the dead of winter yet.

However, the dress socks were now doing more harm then good.  The skin tight drenched material was wicking away body heat.  He pulled them off as he scanned the roof top.  There was a rooftop door hatch with the hatch thoughtfully removed.  The hole was covered by a blue plastic tarp.   Okay cold and barefoot and surrounded by zombies but at least he had a way off the roof.

He fished his phone out of the pocket.  Yay for the milspec dumbphone.  It still worked.  A smartphone would have been smashed to pieces.

“Hey, what the hell is going on out there?”  John heard a voice from the other side of the building.

“No, no,no NO!” John’s voice rose to a bellow, as he ran to the other side of the roof.

A bald man dressed in cheap rumpled corduroy, who had what was left of his greying hair tied into a man bun.  Had stomped out of the building.  

What in hell is that old ass hippy professor doing in the recycling center on game day?  

“Get back inside!” John roared.

The old man looked up at him and scowled reflexively, “I don’t take orders from fascists!”

“Zombies! Damn it they got out.  Get inside now!”

John heard the scrambling noises coming from the side of the building.  They had heard the old geezer.

“What?”  Clearly, the old hippy knew that fascists are never right about anything.  He started out of the building and walking towards the racket.

John was in no mood for a debate, he drew his pistol and aimed it at him, “inside, now!”

The old man screamed, “shit!” And ran back inside.  

“Close the fucking door!” John roared futily.

The zombies came piling around the corner in time to see the old man vanish inside.  They came on in a delighted scramble of arms and legs, tearing up gouts of snow as they charged the for the open door.

They jammed themselves into the doorway, briefly blocking it. The zombies began frantically crawling over each other to get inside and get at the old man.  John heard a frightened scream.

The zombies had breached the building.

John  pulled back the tarp and started down the stairs.  He had to try and get the old idiot up to the roof and then...John  hadn’t thought that far ahead.  What the hell was he supposed to do then?

He heard a mad scramble on the stairs and screams of “Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!”

“This way! Up here!”  John shouted as he pelted down the steps, then stopped.

There was sharp ninety degree bend in the staircase and the turning point was blind.  Good ambush site.  John firmly set himself into two handed stance and settled on a point of aim as he  yelled, “Hurry!”

The old hippy rounded the corner saw John and shrieked.  He slapped his hands over his face and fell to the ground cowering.

The first of the zombies came charging around the corner and John fired.  It went down like a puppet with the strings cut. The next one leapt over the body of the first and ignoring the old man.  This one was gunning for John .  John fired again but this one kept coming, from the arterial gout of blood, John knew he had clipped the carotid and the wound trajectory probably went all the way through it’s torso.  It  would kill it in a minute but these only went down for a neulogic.  They couldn’t go into shock.

He fired again and the zombie stumbled like it had taken punch but it kept on coming for him.

The old hippy with the stupid man bun suddenly started screaming wide eyed in truly shocked unfamiliar, agonizing pain.  Something very wrong was happening to his body.  The zombies had him.  He started being dragged backwards down the stairs.  His fingers clawing at the steps as the zombies pulled and tore and ripped at him.

John fired a third time at the one that was still focused on him.  It’s legs collapsed and didn’t seem to care.  It started pulling itself toward him on it’s arms.  At least it’s slow target.

John aimed in carefully in a weaver stance and squeezed the trigger.  

*click*

It was the loudest thing he had ever heard in his life.

Misfire.  In a spinal reflex John performed immediate action on the gun.  Slapped the bottom of the magazine and then jerked the slide back to feed the next round.  The slide locked in place as the round flew out.  The dud was his last bullet.

It ricocheted off the wall and John reflexively snatched it out he air. Back to plan A

Run!

He tore up the stairs and back out on to the roof.  Okay not good.  He ran to edge of roof and started scanning.  There was a closed dumpster about six feet from the building with a metal lid.  Right next to the road  There were still zombies milling around the building but they weren’t looking up.

He absentmindedly fed the dud round back into the Shield and snapped the slide home.  You never know

He’d have maybe a second before the zombies were after him but at least he would be on the ground again.

Then John spotted the most beautiful thing he had ever seen in life. A twenty year old battered blue F-150 coming down Green Way.  John had never loved the sight of any vehicle more in his entire life.  

Timing was now everything.  He back peddled about ten feet.  He could no longer see the truck.  He’d be guessing.  

He looked over his shoulder at a scratching noise from the doorhatch.  A zombie had poked it’s head out and started scanning.  It’s eyes locked on John and it started to howl.  There was scrambling rumble sound from inside the door hatch.  The one’s inside the building were coming for him in earnest again hopefully the ones outside would follow their lead.

Steady now.  No panicking allowed at the moment.  Launching off the building early wouldn’t make the truck get here any faster.

Five, four, three, two.  They were out on the roof now,  he could feel it shaking under his bare feet.  One.

John launched as gnarled fingers snatched at the hem of his trench coat.  He sprinted for the edge of the roof.  His hands held straight.  His fingers slicing the air as the roof tore at his bare feet.  His left foot hit the edge of the roof and sank down on his left leg.  He pulled in his right leg and with perfect timing fired himself off the edge of the roof transferring his momentum to his leap perfectly.

He turned as he hit the dumpster lid.  Rolling as he dented it.  Knocking the wind out him but thank god the steel lid didn’t give under his impact or he would have been trapped in the dumpster.
The zombies that had been milling around the outside of the building.  Stopped milling and turned their heads in his direction and charged.

But John was already rolling to his feet.  He jumped from the top the dumpster just as the F-150 motored on by.  John landed in the bed of the truck with a loud thump.


Terry Jackson’s glory days were long behind him.  The truth was they hadn’t been all that glorious or all that long ago.  He was only thirty even if he felt like an old man.  He had been a running back for the Spartan’s eight years ago.  He was good enough to have been an eighth round draft choice for Green Bay but he was cut before he ever dressed for a game. Two years later and he wasn’t even good enough to be a red shirt.

A degree in physical education was good enough for him to get a job as a ground’s keeper at his old school.  He liked it at first.  Everyday was a bit like homecoming for him.  Then the kids stopped remembering him.  The guys his age had stopped coming to actual homecoming a couple of years ago.  He was now young old man.

Still he couldn’t complain he thought to himself as he listened to the game on the radio while driving down Incinerator Road.  He was sorry he wasn’t going to be seeing the game today but time and half was....

*WHAM*

“What the fuck!”

Something had slammed into the bed of his F-150.

He snapped his head around and looked out the rear window.  There he saw them. Naked screaming and on all fours charging from around both sides of the recycling building and pouring off the roof and coming for him.  Then he realized what had landed in the truck

It was barefoot and wearing a Trench coat it looked right at him and smiled hugely.

“Oh God! Oh God! Oh Shit God!”

Terry stamped on the accelerator screaming, “OH SHIT!”




John was hurled against the tailgate as the F-150’s engine roared.  Which would have been okay given everything else that happened to him in the last five minutes.

Except the driver suddenly and violently started swerving the truck from side to side.  Popping three wheelers each time he did it.  Tossing John back and forth like a ping pong ball.

“I’m not a zombie! You fucking idiot!”  John managed to  yell between bounces.  

He needed to convince the moron that he honestly had no desire to kill and eat him.  Or at least not eat him.  He speed crawled, up the cab and did something no zombie would do, he knocked on the window.

Wrong call.

The driver screamed even louder jerked the wheel too hard and sent the truck over it’s center of gravity two tires left the ground at the same time and he rolled it over the side, end over end.  

John was dropped out of the bed in shower of glass as the cab’s rear window shattered.  He looked around for the zombies and sure enough found them.  They were about fifty yards away.  

The idiot in the pickup was doing all right apparently.  The truck had ended up back on it’s wheels but two of it’s tires were blown.  The F-150 tore out in a shower of sparks from the bare rim grinding into the road.

John got to his feet took two runnings steps before, swearing, “SHIT!”  He had a chunk of glass in his foot.  He pulled it out nearly screaming and set off on a limping run.  The arboretum was the closest thing that was offering even a chance of safety.  

He was making bad time now.  Desperate to ignore the the pain in his foot.  “Just mind over matter.  They don’t mind and it don’t matter.  Shit!”  He snarled his defiance at his own pain.  

He didn’t want to look back.  There was no point he knew they would be following him and he didn’t want to see how much of blood trail he was leaving behind him.  That might get him down.

Humans are not meant to run as quadrupeds.  It’s less efficient for them, it makes them a bit slower then the average man.  Quite a bit slower then a very fit man, like John.  But they were faster then a crippled man.  They were getting close.  He could hear their panting. their feet tearing through the crust of the snow.

There was one tree ahead.  An oak.  The lower branches had been trimmed away.  The zombies couldn’t climb it but how could he?

By climbing like nobody else could, that’s how he told himself as he dug down for one last bit of energy.  

This was it.  If he missed this one it was over.

He focused in the tree trying to find a spot that looked better then any other to try this.  There wasn’t.

At the last second he jumped off his bad foot.  Planted his good one on the trunk of the tree and parkour ricocheted like flea into the underside of branch.

He wrapped his arms around it and threw a leg over top.  He was working his way to the top when he suddenly felt the bark biting into his arms and leg. His coat was jerking into his shoulders pulling him off the tree and away from safety.

He looked down.  Sure enough one them had the edge of his coat in his hands and was violently jerking it.  Thrashing like a rabid dog who had a nice juicy leg in it’s maw.

Other zombies would be joining him in seconds.   

John clamped the limb hard with his left arm and started fishing in his coat pocket for the Smith and Wesson Shield.

No time to aim. No time to even get it out of the coat pocket. Just point, pray and pull the trigger on what had been a dud round.

CRACK

The zombie fell to the ground in a boneless heap.

John threw himself over the top of the branch just as the zombies’ buddies showed up.  

They were jumping and snapping at him but they couldn’t reach him.

John looked over his new home.  Vaguely wondering if the branch was going to break for no reason or if the tree itself was going to suddenly topple over just for the hell of it.  That being the kind of morning he was having.

After a couple of minutes of successfully not dying  John decided it was time to call the cavalry. He dug out his still working Kyocrea Duraforce and dialed the lab.

“Top Anguiano.  It’s Major Castillo. Listen...”

John stopped he heard warbling scream of two maybe three howlers.  Most of zombies wandering around the base of tree suddenly took off.  Zeroing in on the cries of the  howlers.  Running with all their might towards Spartan Stadium and the feast that awaited them there.

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