Extinction: First Strike
Author: Jack Skoal

Chapter 18
Nerves

Chapter 18
Quincy, Illinois / 17:09 Hours / December 1, 2013
Everyone is nervous as we gather our packs and load the Humvee’s. We have no idea how bad it’s going to be around the radio station, the women on the radio sounded pretty desperate. I spend some time checking over the 240B’s, oiling the dry steel and cleaning the dust from them. Carl and I had used the 240 before in our days of service, but feel that giving each other a quick refresher before we call the others over is a good idea.
We have six hundred and some odd rounds for the machine gun. They both seem to be in working order, other than needing a little lube. I pull the dip stick to the motor oil and drag it through an old rag. I repeat this several more times until I have enough oil on the rag to lube up the two 240B’s. The others search in the back of the Humvee’s and find four cases of M.R.E.’s, four cases of water, a medical stretcher, and more rounds for the M-4’s.
I call everyone over to the turret we were in. “Hey, listen up, guys come over here. Carl and I are going to explain how this thing operates.”
Standing in a semi-circle around us, they watch carefully as we explain how to load and unload the weapon, as well as how to clear a jam. We have each of them take a turn on the weapon and get a feel for it. By some miracle, they all seem to get the concept rather quickly. Normally we’d move on to target practice, but we can’t run the risk of a surprise attack of undead.
Before we leave, I call them all around the Humvee I’m standing on. “Look guys I’ll be square with you. I don’t know how bad it’s going to be at the radio station. Judging by the sound of the woman there it’s bad. Make sure all your weapons are cleaned and fully loaded; we don’t want any mis-haps. I believe we need to do this for a number of reasons. And I for one don’t want the deaths of those people on my mind. Everything we knew is gone and life is going to be a struggle from here on out. Even after we rid the world of this blight, life will continue to be difficult. But today we will make the first step at reclaiming our planet. If any of you want to stay back I’ll understand.” I look at each one of them, and receive from each, a look back indicating they are ready and they are with them.
We have a general idea of where the radio station is and discuss a plan before we set out. We manage to tread the out skirts of the city, avoiding contact for the first few miles of the mission. The dead begin to show their presence as we draw closer to the radio.
Carl is in the turret of the lead vehicle, allowing him to see the lights blinking on the radio tower before the rest of us. I can see him leaning down and telling Jimmy and Kaylee Ann something before he pops back up and signals for me to look up from the second turret. Then I see the lights blinking at the top of the tower in the distance as well.
I duck into the cab to inform Clyde. The Humvee is loud and the wind rushing by adds to the noise, so I have to shout, “Clyde! Hey Clyde!”
“Yeah?”
“I can see the lights on top of the radio tower blinking up ahead.”
He watches Jimmy swerve to avoid a creature and does his best to follow in his path, avoiding hitting it himself. Clyde continues to do his best to avoid hitting the other creatures, but clips one in it hip. It explodes against the grill and bits of flesh, blood, and innards sail through the air, misting me with the wretched slop. The upper half of its body lands on the hood and after its face smacks into the window, it continues its assault, unfazed. Clyde jerks the vehicle from side to side to try and toss the unwanted hood ornament, but it remains fixated.
Climbing out of the turret, I stretch over the roof. The creature is snapping at the windshield and crying a god awful sound. Reaching over to throw the creature off, my jacket gets caught on the mount for the machine gun. Clyde is having a difficult time staying on the road with the creature blocking his view, and the bumpy ride increases my struggle to unhook my jacket. He continues colliding with walkers that are shambling across the street, making him panic and is increase the speed of the vehicle, so that we’re nearly nut-to-butt with the other Humvee. The creature on the hood has diverted its aggression towards me now and is attempting to climb its way up the window. Its insides drag behind it, leaving a trail of blood tracing its path and further blinding Clyde. He works the wipers to clear the blood but it only smears it around and gets jammed under what’s left of the creature’s torso. The half a body has now made it to the turret and takes the machine in its grasp, using it to hoist itself closer to me. I pull up hard and rip the jacket free just as the zombie makes its way over the turret. Pulling my pistol from the holster that’s holding it close to my leg, I aim instinctively, relying on muscle memory to guide the bullet. I’m able to rapidly and effectively dispatch the creature. It flops down and slides over the side shield of the turret and rolls of the roof.
We’re getting close to the radio station now. I can now see the dead have surrounded the perimeter of the building. I call down to Clyde, “Get on the radio and tell Jimmy we’re going to get up alongside with them.” A moment later I hear Clyde talking on the radio, but the wind rushing by me makes it difficult to hear clearly what he is saying.
I can feel the Humvee picking up speed forcing me back in the turret. It didn’t take long to be side by side with the others. Leaning over the side of the turret I shout over to Carl, “When I give the signal tell Jimmy to stop.” I then duck into the cab and inform Clyde.
We’re a short distance from the wall of dead surrounding the radio station. I kick the back of Clyde’s seat to get his attention and when his eyes are on me, I slide my hand across my neck like a knife slicing my throat. The vehicles brake hard, tires scream in protest on the blacktop, leaving dark skid marks on the pavement, before coming to a stop. The sound alone is enough to signal our presence and we watch hundreds of mangled and tormented faces swivel in our direction. There’s about a two second delay before a wave of undead rushes towards us, wailing and thrashing their limbs in our direction.
I look at Carl, “You ready bro?”
“Ready as I’ll ever be,” Carl shouts as he charges his weapon, loading the first round.
We spin the guns around, taking aim at the hoard and let the guns rain fire down upon them. Rounds tear through decaying arms and legs, ripping them from the torsos to which they had long been attached. After the initial rush of adrenalin, my mind regains control and raise’s my aim higher trying to score killing shots. Below, Clyde and Jimmy begin readying more ammunition so that it can be swiftly loaded into our heating weapons. All the dead around the building, now alert to our presence, join their comrades in the attack. Rounds continue to lay them down in a complete blood bath. It’s how I imagined soldiers would have been mowed down during the civil war, if you introduced a modern weapons system to their staggered ranks of soldiers.
Carl’s the first to call out, “I’m down, cover me.”
I shift fire, pushing the undead advancing towards him back, giving him time to reload. I run out soon after, the expenditure of extra rounds to covering him drains the bin swiftly. Carl is back up now, but the dead have reached the front of our Humvees. Clyde hands me a belt before throwing the shifter into reverse and mashing the gas pedal. Jimmy is doing the same and in unison we begin our retreat. I have my weapon loaded in less than ten seconds and rejoined Carl in our slaughter of the army of undead.
Clyde and Jimmy each find a spot to turn around and we split up as planned. Carl and his group head north, further up the highway, drawing as many undead with them as they can. Clyde and I hurry back the way we came. I spin the 240 to the rear of the vehicle to track the wave of undead and try to conserve the rounds I have left, only firing on the ones that come close.
Clyde turns off the road and launches us into a field. We make our way back towards the radio station, trying to put as much distance between us and the dead as we can. The fields are rough and the bouncing slows us down, but we manage to separate ourselves from the dead, further and further as they are having a difficult time crossing the muddy field. I can still hear Carl firing in the distance as we approach the rear side to the radio station. I spin the turret back around to face the building and dispatch a few dead still lurking around it.
The masses of undead aren’t far behind us when we reach the building. Clyde lays on the horn in hopes of drawing out the survivors inside. We pull up close to a rear door and wait for the people inside to make their way out. The creatures are now closing in, forcing our move.
“Hey Clyde. Turn around; make another loop. They’re not coming yet.”
The dead are too close to wait any longer or attempt any kind of rescue. I fear we might be too late, and the people that had been calling for help are already dead.
I make the decision to exit the safety of the vehicle anyway. Jumping from the turret, I bring only my rifle and jump down off the hood onto the ground. Clyde drops his window, “Are you fucking crazy? What the hell are you do doing?”
Pumped full of adrenalin I yell back to him. “Just go! Make the loop again and keep them off my back.”
“You’re fucking nuts!” he says, shaking his head, but drives away to draw the dead around for another loop.
I bolt for the rear door and feel my heart slamming against my rib cage over and over. The moans of the plague-carrying puss-bags are like a shot of adrenalin injected straight into my heart. When I finally reach the door, I find it’s made of thick steel and won’t easily be breached. I try the knob but of course it’s locked. I’m not going to waste my time attempting to kick in this door in, so I move further down the building. The dead have not spotted me as I search for a point of entry, and I can see Clyde in the bright moon light making his way up the road with the creatures in close pursuit. Stealthily as I can, I approach a window I’m almost certain I can enter through. The glass is broken and tattered blood drenched clothing hangs from the jagged shards of glass. The hope I’d had of finding survivors inside is cut in half.
Using the sturdy butt stock of my rifle, I break away the rest of the glass and climb into the building. Emergency lighting illuminates the interior of the station and I hear creatures deeper inside slamming on a hard surface. It feels like a haunted house attraction at a carnival, but one where the things jumping out at you aren’t aiming for a cheap thrill. No this haunted house is full of creatures craving flesh, blood, and guts of the living. Not today. Not mine.
The interior of the steel-framed building is full of small office rooms built to look like a normal establishment upon entering them. False ceilings cap them off, adding to the illusion. Sounds echo strangely inside, and I have trouble pin pointing their origin.
I move out of the office I entered through and find a hallway with three creatures attempting to enter another room to the right. Creeping down the hallway, I aim for the head of the closet creature. I approach to within twenty feet and squeeze the trigger. I’m deafened by the sound of the primer being struck causes a chain reaction to the powder in the casing, resulting in the distinct high pitched crack of the AR-15. The volume is amplified by the steel structure, leaving my ears ringing. The now permanently diseased infected is hurled back, falling into another, knocking it to the ground. The one still standing turns its attention away from the door and howls as it tries to locate me. I shift the red dot over its face and repeat the process, dropping him next to his buddy. An even louder ring reignites within my ear canals, causing a sharp pain and my head to cock to the side in an effort to ease the pain. Moving down the hallway now, I search for a shot on the last one, trapped under its comrades. I fire a third shot and miss. Fuck. I fire again, this time striking it in the shoulder. It jerks hard from the round ripping through it, shattering bone and rotten meat, and let out a snarl. As I ready my aim for another shot I’m was taken off my feet by a violent force.
I slam into the adjacent wall and drop my rifle. A fourth creature has located me and is attempting to tear into my flesh as I struggle to hold it back. I scramble to hold its head back as I reach for my side arm, but its decaying flesh is slippery and separates from its skull. I Struggle to maintain control over it with my hands covered in the slime of its rotting flesh. It fights back harder, making sounds like a rabid animal. Every time I come close to grabbing my pistol, I have to retreat my hand to prevent teeth from sinking into my face. When I’m finally able to retrieve my pistol, I raise it to the rotten corpse while continuing to hold it back with my left hand, which is now wrapped around the creature’s neck. I shove the mussel firmly against its temple and pull the trigger, effectively shutting down the force that’s driving it forever. I watch as its head snaps sharply to the right and its body goes limp.
I pause for a moment to catch my breath and slow my heart rate, when the last creature manages to crawl out from under the first two I had killed. It charges down the hall towards me. The lifeless corpse I’d just extinguished is still on top of me, pinning me to the floor. I’m forced to raise the pistol and fire a second round from the clip, but I miss my target. While mindlessly squirming to free myself, I rapidly fire off two more shots. One misses and shatters a window to an office nearby, while the other finds the creature’s gaping mouth and detaches its jaw from the left side of its head. With its jaw dangling from its face it continues its charge, making a strange gurgling sound from its blood-filled throat. It dives at me with its tongue flapping from the place that was formerly its mouth, and plummets right into the end of my Colt giving me a clear shot. I fire and kill the fucking thing before it has its chance to convert me to the dark side.
I get out from under the pile of dead lying upon me and scan the hall for more threats. I find my rifle and move for the door that the creatures had surrounded. I try to open it but it’s locked. I pound on the door and call out, “Is anyone in there? Open the door; we heard your call.”
I can hear things sliding across the floor and banging around before it finally opens. I raise my weapon at whatever might be coming out, not wanting any more surprises tonight. A woman emerges from the room, she’s disheveled but very attractive through the fear and filth covering her. She looks to be in her late twenties and has a very fit frame.
“Is it just you?” I ask.
“No theres three of us. I’m Sta….” she starts.
“We don’t have time for introductions now. We need to move out.”
Two others file out, another young woman with blond hair and small frame, and an older man with glasses and salt and pepper hair.
“Thank you, thank you,” the man says, moving over to me so he can shake my hand.
“We need to hurry,” I reiterate, avoiding the shake so I can maintain control of my rifle. “My group will be coming back soon; we need to get outside.” I do my best to get the group organized and moving forward.
“I need to get my bag!” the woman states before she tries to run back into the room.
“We don’t have time. We need to go now; there are hundreds of those things coming back for us.” I grab her arm to try and keep us moving for the exit.
“I need that bag.” She pulls away from me and rushes back into the room.
As I wait for her to come back out, another undead emerges from the room I entered through. I fire the rifle and kill it before it can gain much ground. “We need to go,” I repeat with more emphasis.
The woman returns from the room with a brown leather bag on her back. She nods at us “Okay, ok let’s go.”
We make our way to the locked door I tried to enter through earlier. I unlock the door and crack it open. There are a few zombies pounding on the windows trying to find a way to the gun fire. I look out to the field but don’t see Clyde. I scan the area, but there’s still no sign of him. I can hear the cries of the undead in the distance moving closer.
I shut the door and quickly formulate a plan. “We need to get to the field back there. When I open the door, just follow me. We are going to be moving quickly and quietly.”
They are all scared by the looks on their faces and just nod their heads in unison. I crack the door open again and take another peek. I still can’t see Clyde but the undead have grown louder. “Okay, let’s roll.”
I open the door and move out, taking aim at the few pounding on the side of the building. I wave the others to start following, while still watching the creatures at the window. I move with the group holding aim at the creatures ‘till we are far enough out. The moon brightly lights the field where Clyde should be coming across shortly. I can see the outline of shuffling silhouette moving about the land.
Moving like cats stealthily cross the yard, we advance towards the open field. The infected can be seen shambling around the edges, advancing upon us. I don’t think they have noticed us yet since their demeanor tells otherwise.
In the center of the field I whisper to the others, “Hold up. Clyde will be here any minute.”
“What if he doesn’t show? What if those fucking things got him?” The older man says, breaking his silence since I found them.
“He’ll be here, don’t worry.”
We stood in a circle in the center of the desolate grassy area waiting, watching each others six. Finally I hear the big diesel engine of the Humvee approaching. I begin signaling to him that were out and ready for evac. Clyde must have seen me frantically waving my arms in the air because he turns sharply from his path towards our direction. I shout to the group to follow me and start running towards him to then realize that hundreds of undead are giving chase just behind him. The Humvee looks dirtier and more battle torn then when I had left it.
Clyde stops beside us shouting out the window, “Did someone call for a cab.”
We all climb into the Humvee and Clyde quickly speeds us off before the wave of undead can pounce with its claws and teeth. “Your sense of humor is one of a kind Clyde.” I state as we made our way to the north and I reclaimed my position in the turret.
“Hurry! Hurry!” the new comers take turns shouting after witnessing the plague horridly approaching from our rear.
As I crest the shields I can clearly see the anger in the hoard pursuing us. I reposition the 240B to the enemy and aim towards the closet of the pack, never firing only to be sure they keep their distance at a comfortable gap.
I bounced wildly in my perch not being able to see the bumps and brace myself for them in advance. Pressing my legs firmly against the rear divider for the trunk I’m able to stabilize myself somewhat, as we made our getaway to where the others are supposed to meet us on the main road to the North West of the city.
The victims of the plague seem to be evolving getting faster, stronger, and more coordinated in their motor skills. However there lack of cognitive thought keeps them at a dis advantage, they bump into one another tripping and falling to the ground without even trying to brace themselves. With each on that goes down it seems to take two or three with it. Steadily the distance between us and them grows until I can see the hoard no more.



 

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