Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Kent for a Day, Fool for an Unlifetime

Things were starting to come together, and not a moment too soon.

There hadn't been time yet to complete a head count, but there had to be more than a hundred people bustling about the compound. Kent stood atop the easement belonging to the lumber distribution facility that occupied the space directly across from the Gerber factory he was once employed by, yet still worked at. A strange situation to be sure, but the work that was now being done there was far more important than any task undertaken there previously.

Yesterday, “survival gear” and “gear for survival” would have meant the same thing to him, but not any more. It was easy to see what products fit the new and valid description of survival gear. One needed only to look at which crates sat empty and which hadn't been opened at all.

Kent's eyes caught some movement to his right, prompting him to snap his left hand upward while pressing down with his index finger.

“Got two moaners over in G2.”

As his finger relaxed, the small two way radio in his hand cried with static for a moment before closing the transmission with a click. “Roger that,” the box squawked, “red intercepting.” Kent kept his eyes focused on the intruders as they lumbered towards the center of activity he hovered over. The rumble of an eight cylinder engine being given a healthy amount of gas ricocheted up and out of the alley between the two buildings to his South as a deep red colored Ford pickup truck shot out onto the main roadway. A medieval looking steel contraption thrust from the front of the vehicle and was stained a color which almost matched the truck's paint. The device was once a small snow plow, but it now resembled what would happen if a bus load of swords was dropped into a chicken coop.

The zombie's lack of survival instinct was obvious as they paid no heed to the vehicle roaring their way. Lining up the perfect shot took very little adjustment for the driver, and the undead were scooped up and impaled swiftly. Jaws still snapping at the man piloting the craft, the creatures struggled to break free of the razor wire that was tearing their muscles into useless bloody chunks.

The driver slung his head part of the way out of the window and bellowed, “hit it!”
A slender teenager who had been seated in the bed of the truck popped up and snatched the bright yellow rubber grip at the end of a long rod that jutted upward from the back of the truck. With a sharp tug, a winch groaned to life and began to quickly draw in the length of urethane coated cable which ran over the top of the cab and connected to the wire mesh where the zombies were ensnared. The grinding cries of metal on metal were sharper on the ears than the wire's tiny blades were on the ghouls as it constricted around them. Flesh, sinew and bone were shredded, leaving hunks of diced human and buckets of blood in a wide trail behind the pickup, as if some Lovecraftian slug had slithered its way down the street.

Four hours, Kent thought to himself. These men had four hours to get that truck ready, and they were able to construct that... thing. He couldn't help but smile. If necessity is the mother of invention, desperation gives birth to something much more profound.

“Hey, Kent?”

While not actually a question, the soft request that floated up from his feet certainly sounded like one.

“I think I worked out how to secure the walkways against the expected mob's ebb and flow.”

Seated on the roof next to him was a young man hunched down a bit too close to the screen of a rather expensive looking laptop. His crisp white dress shirt still displayed the lightly starched creases along the sleeves placed there by a dry cleaning shop which was most likely abandoned by now. The bright white was broken up by broad splatters of burgundy dried blood, which actually looked quite good next to the dark chocolate brown of his skin. On the laptop's screen was a web of intersecting lines and figures, which were mostly indecipherable to Kent. The young man wasn't on Kent's list of invitations to the compound, but he was proving to be a critical asset in the construction. Michael was his name, and he had the sort of demeanor that made it seem all too appropriate to use his whole name, rather than truncating it to something like “Mike.” He had arrived carrying his laptop and a crimson coated fire axe not long after they began securing these buildings. Apparently, he followed his college flame to the Northwest with his freshly printed structural engineering degree in hand. While the relationship left him with nothing but an empty apartment to leave his office for, his training was providing him with plenty of new friends.

“If our inventory of the available materials is accurate, we should have the resources necessary to begin constructing the preliminary support structure to allow movement between structures, prior to the final framework being assembled,” Michael was just getting warmed up. Kent squinted slightly as if his eyelashes could somehow decode the drawings that were being explained to him. It wasn't working.

With an uncharacteristically soft press against the overly engrossed man's shoulder, Kent interrupted: “Michael, I believe that you know what you're doing, so I need you to start instructing the crew on what to do, and quickly.” The radio cut him off with a yelp that was partially muffled by the palm of his hand. Once again, Kent brought the box up near his head, “go ahead.”

“The head count is finished, and it looks like we're doing better than expected. But... there's something you need to know.” No closing static jumped from the radio, so Kent knew there was more to be said, even as the silent moment dragged out to the end of his patience.

“Sharon's not here yet.”
Ssshhh-cluck. The connection snapped closed.

Kent was squinting again. This time, it was as his teeth ground down upon each other and his head turned slowly to face the East. His gaze bore down on a destination past these warehouses and parking lots, underneath the highway, through treetops and power lines and two story homes. A solid three mile long staring contest against a sandy colored split-level brick target.