Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Once and Future Kent

“Fend For Yourself”

Kent Akerlund stood with his arms akimbo as he stared upward at the large banner hung above his workbench. His vision narrowed to include only those three words. It was no longer just a company slogan. The phrase swelled within his brain and muffled the sounds that echoed throughout the high ceilings of the warehouse.

“You're Goddamn right I will” he muttered under his breath.

In place of a period at the end of the statement rested the Gerber Legendary Blades logo. A sword thrust downward into a mountain like the mythical Excalibur buried to the hilt within a stone. He who could draw Excalibur would be the one chosen to lead the people through their dark times. Kent passed his gaze down to the ax he held in his right hand. Twenty-eight point four six inches of glass filled nylon adorned with a forged steel head designed specifically for splitting a winter's worth of firewood year after year.

“Axcalibur”, he muttered. He even managed a soft and honest chuckle at his private joke.

It was no magical sword, and Kent would settle for it leading him through the dark time waiting outside the door. At this thought, his ears exerted their will on his inflated sense of pride and reminded him that a few friends were knocking at the side door. He let out a long exhale and rolled his shoulders and neck around in large circular motions. The sort of limbering exercises that seem useful but do absolutely nothing to help. Determination drove his heavy heeled steps towards the side entrance. There were only two doorways into the building. The fire escape at the back by the bathrooms was sturdy and quiet. He would worry about fortifying it later. The other was the normal entrance for the employees.

This was an old building. It had been used as the manufacturing center for Gerber for around forty years. The concrete foundation rose up about six feet off of the blacktop lot that surrounded it. Above that was ten feet of brick and cinder block wall. This is where the heavy door frame was secured. Even higher rose the steel beams and walls which held the large dirty windows and a sturdy roof. The grade of the roof wasn't steep since large snow accumulation was rare in Portland. This would make maneuvering along the rooftop a much safer affair, which he figured would come in handy. Half the length of the building contained a second floor about fifteen feet off of the ground. It housed the managers' offices and the break room. This would be a good space for sleeping quarters, and the stairs could be disabled if something went wrong.

Kent passed rows of large machines and tables. A myriad collection of tools and parts sat upon them. That's why he was here. Tools. Lots of them. Tools and survival gear.

Survival Gear.

Funny, that almost no one used any of it to survive anything. Well, maybe that had begun changing already. Perhaps that computer tech who liked having a set of needle-nose pliers with a screwdriver in the handle for convenience found it pretty damn beneficial to have a good serrated blade in there to sharpen a chair leg into a weapon. Survival gear, he was going to put that title to the test. His left hand pulled a sturdy pair of gloves from the thick tool belt which hung lopsided off of his waist. His feet stopped.

“This just won't do,” he said with a shake of his head. On a normal workday, he could stop to adjust his belt when necessary. He didn't have that luxury any more. The buckle's pin was forced into an unfamiliar notch two doors away from its usual home. It disagreed for a moment, but Kent was much larger than it was, and after all, it was just a belt buckle.

Kent ran a final check of his equipment. He pulled the Kevlar sleeves upward along his biceps as far as they would stretch. The TurtleSkin safety gloves were tugged down sharply onto his scarred hands. He hadn't thought all that much about safety equipment until he saw a coworker lose a thumb. The puncture and cut resistant gauntlets were ordered the very next day. They slid around his thick fingers and callused palms as if they were made from a mold of his hands. He was glad to have a broken in pair with him. They're a bit too stiff when brand new, and he needed as much dexterity as he could retain. On either side of his hips was a ridiculously sharp machete with a serrated blade along the back and a fifteen inch hand ax.

About four paces ahead of him stood the door. It shuddered under the constant abuse it received from the other side. Those things had seen him enter, and he knew there were at least a few of them out there. There were good and bad points to the current situation. On the good side, the stairwell leading up to the door came from the left and wasn't very wide. You couldn't fit that many people on it at any given time. Also, these creatures didn't seem to be very bright. It should be easy to trap them. They were also just humans, or they at least possessed normal human muscle mass. This meant that a one hundred-seventy pound man was only as strong as a one hundred-seventy pound man. On the bad side, they seemed to move in packs, so he had no idea how many of them were out there at the moment. Complete pandemonium could be heard outside. The elevated highway was a mere two-hundred meters to the East, and the mass of humanity trying to move along it was creating a cacophony of panic and destruction. He would just have to boot the door open and see what happened. Kent had taken a length of steel and secured it to two heavy tables by the door. With any luck, the dumb beasts would trip over the bar, and he could more easily dispatch them with a blow to the head.

“Time to find out if I'm the adder or the knight.”

His thick steel reinforced boot struck the push-bar on the door with all the strength he could muster. One snarling zombie was flipped backwards over the pipe railing that surrounded the concrete landing in front of the door. A second was knocked sideways towards the stairs. Kent didn't see a sea of undead outside, so that was good. He didn't have much time to scan the area as outstretched arms and snapping jaws lunged through the doorway at him. He hopped back a step and raised the head of the ax up next to his temple. As he had hoped, the first creature rammed its shins into his trap and crashed face first into the floor. A swift radial movement of his hands and the ax head was brought down with ample controlled force. The blade cleaved through the back of the once living man's skull and bit into the concrete floor with a resounding “clank!”

“Thus began the Battle of Camlann.” The words shook as they exited his mouth. Adrenaline was now pumping unabated through his veins, and his muscles quivered as if he had drank a pot of coffee before the fight. Oblivious to fate of the first one in the door, the second zombie pushed in and tripped as well. “Clarsh-Clank.” Another kill.


That wasn't the sound he wanted. There was no floor left for Kent to cleave through to. His ax head was now firmly lodged in the shoulder of one of the previous targets, and it didn't look like the next visitor was going to wait for him to shake it free. His left hand pulled up the hatchet from his belt and brought it across the next creature's temple. It stuck for a moment before a sharp kick to the lifeless thing's face loosened it up.

His right hand now drew the machete from its sheath as the seventh zombie pushed through the doorway. The weight on the trap from the bodies caused it to buckle, and the zombie stumbled mostly unchecked into the building. The machete caught it just below its left ear. The body dropped lifelessly to the floor, but the jaw continued to snap at him harmlessly. An eighth was already regaining its footing in front of him. Kent wasn't sure if these things kept their balance the same way living humans did, but he flipped the hand ax around to test it out. The flat hammer-like surface was brought across squarely onto the zombie's skull. The shock did seem to disorient the beast. Unable to keep its feet organized, it fell to the ground sideways. The machete bit into its eyesocket and cut deep into the brain. There was no getting that blade back quickly, so he let it go.

Shifting his remaining weapon to his right hand, Kent spun to face the doorway and engage... nothing.
No shuffling or moaning could be heard on the stairwell. There was only the snapping of the head to his left. In a large arc he brought the back of the ax down across the jaw of the still functional assailant. The bone ripped out of the socket and tore the entire lower half of its face off. The other side sat connected by nothing more than a short length of muscle and sinew. The eyes were unchanged. They darted around as if searching for a part of his body close enough to eat. The bit of muscle still attached to its jaw pulsed rapidly as it still fought to devour him. With a wiggle and a tug, Kent recovered his two-handed ax and turned to the mangled head.


After cleaning his weapons and securing them, Kent stepped outside. He scanned the area. It was an industrial complex, which was good. Less people around to deal with. To his right, he could make out some of the events on the highway. He was glad he wasn't up there. He wondered how long it would be until the screaming stopped. Walking to the front of his former workplace, he could make out more shapes shuffling about in the area. It wasn't the same as elsewhere in the city, though. Up on the highway, they were running and screaming. No idea of what to do. No plan. That's not what was going on here. In the street, some guys were using loading vehicles and trucks with makeshift weapons on the front to wipe out the walking dead. It's just how they do things. Tools are no good without people, and these were the right people. No analysts. No consultants. Not one of these guys prioritized action items. They built. They repaired. Kent had spent ten years in the Army Reserves. He looked at the situation and analyzed the possibilities. There were only two real options :
1.Run to a safe zone.
2.Create a safe zone.
He definitely liked the second option. This area made sense. It had large secure structures and lots of raw materials. Twenty yards ahead of him was a construction supply distribution center. Two miles away was a fresh water lake full of fish. There were two grocery stores within a mile of where he stood, and there were at least twenty other shipping, receiving and manufacturing buildings in the area. There had to be an inordinate amount of food and supplies in close proximity.

He had already made the calls, and people were coming to him. His family. His coworkers. Other laborers from nearby businesses. They were coming here to start construction on a secure compound. They needed to move quickly while the zombie threat was dispersed. They had the tools, the materials, and the people. What they didn't have was time. Of course, with a little luck, perhaps the time wouldn't be a factor. A young man eyed up Kent through the ten foot tall gate across the street. Kent nodded to him and looked both ways before crossing the street.

Excalibur helped to create Camelot.

“Let's see what Axcalibur can do.”

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