Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Fifty-Fourth Entry: The Coming Storm

August 19th

I had a dream last night. In the dream, none of this was happening; no Lovelock, no Mallville, no zombies. In the dream I worked in an office, and had my own little cubicle. Sharon was in the cubicle to my right, Beth to my left, and Gerry was on the other side of the wall, his chair facing me if I could see him.

My desk was littered with little plastic figurines. I remember seeing a tachikoma, a bob-omb, a Smurf with a wooden nose and feet (I think he was called Clockwork Smurf), and a Harry Potter LEGO minifigure. I don;t know what it was that I was meant to do at that desk, I didn't do any actual work in the dream.

There were other people there too. Tara was our supervisor, and Alex was her boss, and while I never actually saw her, I could hear Maria somewhere in the office cursing at the copy machine. I also saw Pippa pushing a mail cart, maybe she was some sort of intern or something; her hair was short and and a dark shade of red. She smiled at me when she handed my a small stack business sized envelopes as she pushed her cart past the opening of my cube.

“Psst!” a voice said to my right; I looked over and saw Sharon's head poking over the top of the cubicle wall.

“What?” I asked.

“You ready for the con this weekend?

“Yeah. Did you get your costume finished?”

“Yup! If you want to come over tonight, I'll show it to you. I think it looks pretty good, but my contacts haven't arrived yet.”

“I'm sure you'll be the best Suiseiseki there anyway,” I replied.

“Nerds!” Gerry's voice drifted over the wall, but there was no malice in it.

“Geeks, actually.” I corrected him

“You're just jealous. You wish you were cool enough to spend the weekend looking at scantily clad cosplay girls,” Sharon added.

“Are you going to be scantily clad?” Gerry asked.

“No,” I laughed, “Suiseiseki practically wears a burkha.”

“Pfft, forget it then. I have the Internet; I can look at all of the scantily clad women I want from the comfort of my home,” Gerry sniffed.

“Hey kids, some of us are actually trying to work here,” Beth reminded us over her wall, “If you guys have so much free time, I'm sure Tara can find more work for you to do.”

“Yes mom,“ Gerry said.

“Can we get everyone to move to the conference room please?” I heard Tara's voice nearby, “Alex has some announcements he wants to make.”

“Oh, the wardens call,” Gerry crowed just loud enough for those immediately around him to hear.

There was a hand on my shoulder, I turned and saw Tara looking like she did when I first met her; her hair was dark brown again and she was smiling warmly, “Come on,” she said, “We don't have a lot of time, and you don't want to miss this.”

As I rose from my desk, I woke up in my dark room on my makeshift bed on the floor. It took me a few confused seconds to realize that it had all been a dream. I cried for awhile; something I've been doing far too much lately. Everything there was so normal, and everyone was alive and safe, and it felt good. I wonder if there is some other reality somewhere where I am living that life. I wonder if that me realizes how lucky he is.

Things are bad all around right now; my life is falling apart again, and this journal is the cause of a lot of it. I knew I should have kept it with me and not gone back to hiding it in my room, but I didn't feel I had much to write about, and I wanted to conserve these final pages for what is coming; it seems like it is a good place to end this book, and start a new one; maybe things will be better in that one.

Pippa played a part in all of this, of course. I guess she feels that I have not been spending enough time with her (and to be fair, she has been left on her own a lot lately with Gerry being on runs a lot, me being with Tara, and Beth hanging out with Barbara, more on that shortly), so she decided to get back at me. She let Tara read the journal.

Now one might not think this is too bad a thing. I've never really said anything bad about her in here, and have indeed confessed my love for her repeatedly, and maybe if she had read the whole thing she might have seen that. She didn't read the whole thing though.

I came home two nights ago after my shift at the gate, afternoon this time, and it was miserable because it has been raining all week. It looks like winter may come early, but not early enough to really do us any good. I'll get to that more in a minute though.

I come into my room, and there's Tara sitting on my makeshift bed (she had spent the night) with the journal in her lap. She looked up at me when I came in, and I could tell from her icy blue eyes that I was in trouble.

“You son of a bitch!” Tara snarled.

I froze like a deer in headlights, “What?” I asked.

“How dare you play with my emotions!”

“Should I come in again, and we can start by explaining what I've done wrong?'

Tara held up the journal, “Pippa showed me where you hid it!'

Damn it, Pippa!

“Okay,” I said, still confused, “I was going to let you read it eventually anyway, but-”

“You lied to me!” Tara yelled. I could see now that the icy blue was ringed by red, like she had been crying.

“About what?”

“About Sharon!”

“I told you that we were together.”

“You didn't tell me that you got married!”

“It's not like it was a legal marriage or anyth-”

“You got married in a church by a preacher! Who gives a shit about a piece of paper from a government that doesn't even exist anymore?”

“You told me you had someone else too.”

“I didn't marry him! I wanted you! I kept hoping that somehow we would find you, and that you would be waiting for me. I finally find you, and you're not even the same person, but that's okay, because we all change, right?” Tara rambled, “But you didn't tell me that you got married! You kept me going along thinking that things were going to be good between us again. You treated me like an idiot!”

Part of me wanted to throw Oliver in her face. I still haven't explained fully to her why he was over here that day, and I somehow doubt he has either. Part of me wanted to tell her she was being an idiot. What I really told her was, “I didn't think it mattered. I mean she's... she's dead, Tara.”

Tara crossed the room and get right in my face, or as close as she could manage “If it didn't matter, then why did you keep it a secret from me?”

I suppose that's a fair question really, especially since Beth told me to tell her. I think I didn't tell her because I was afraid she would react like this, which I think actually validates my decision in a way.

“I wasn't keeping it a secret, I just didn't think it was relevant.”

Tara is a physically stronger person that she used to be; she may look frail but she hits hard. She slapped me across the face hard enough to make me stagger back into the hallway, “No, why would it be?”

“Tara, I-,” she slapped me again, “Stop doing that!”

“Don't talk to me!” Tara yelled, “Just leave me alone! I'm not your fucking consolation prize.”

This was all a bit odd coming from someone who is living with her on-the-road boyfriend, but also someone who only was seeing be because Alex Sigler was having it off with the woman I was in love with. I mean, wasn't our falling for each other just an accident to begin with? Was I really wrong for being with Sharon afterwards?

“I never thought of you like that,” I said.

“You never asked me to marry you either!”

“There were reasons I asked her, didn't you read it?”

“Yeah, I read how she tried to kill you! If I come after you with a sword, would you ask me then? Maybe I should lose my mind, would that do it? Should I just try and make you feel sorry for me?”

Her words were hurting a lot more than her hands, and I started replying in quieter tones, “If you had been there, if you hadn't chosen Alex over me, it would never have happened.”

Tara's eyes went wide, “So it's my fault? Fuck you!” With that she slammed the journal into my chest, and let it fall to the floor. She pushed past me, “Let me know when you grow up and stop being such a user!”

Tara stormed out of the house, punctuating her departure by slamming the door; an exclamation point at the end of her statement. I haven't seen her since. I tried to go to her house yesterday, but Toni answered the door and told me that Tara didn't want to see me.

“Do you hate me too?” I asked.

“No, I know that things can't be the way she is making them out to be, but you need to understand that she never stopped thinking about you, even when she was... you know, even then she still was thinking about you. Just give her some time, hon, she'll come around. You're not the only one that was writing out there on the road, you know?”

“Tell her I'm sorry, and I love her, okay?”

“You got it,” Toni looked sad, “I'm serious, she loves you so much, I think just seeing that stuff in writing was too much for her. She'll come around.”

“Just how much did she tell you?”

“Enough to make you sound like a bad guy, but she's just hurt, you know? I know you're not a bad guy.”

“Thanks, Toni.”

“You take care, and I'll send Bishop down if there's any developments, okay?”

“Yeah, thanks,” I did my best to smile, but I doubt it was very convincing.

Beth did her best to comfort me while keeping the I-told-you-so's to a minimum.

“ I told you to tell her,” Beth said.

“I know you did..”

“This is exactly the sort of disruption to this house that I wanted to avoid. Now you're upset, Pippa's upset,”

“What is Pippa upset about?” I asked, “This is her fault.”

“That's why she's upset. I don't think she meant to cause trouble this time. I think she genuinely thought that Tara would appreciate all of the things you said about her in it,“ Beth said, “apparently, anyway, not that I've read it.”

“Well she focused on the stuff about Sharon.”

“Women are strange, you should realize that by now. Toni's right though, if she really does love you, then she'll get over it. You should talk to Pippa though.”

“I really don't want to do that right now,” I said.

“I know, and you shouldn't until you are sure you're not going to yell at her, but you do need to talk... again.”

“How do I keep getting myself in these situations?”

“You're a man.”


“Listen, I need to get ready, are you going to be okay here tonight?”

“Do you have a date?”

“I'm just going to Bacchus with Barbara,” Beth answered.

“Oh? So what's going on there, anyway?”

“We're friends,” Beth replied, maybe a little too quickly.

“Okay, but you know you can talk to me as much as I talk to you.”

Beth bit her lip, “Okay, yeah, I like her.”

“Oh, okay.”

“Oh, okay?” Beth asked, “That's all you have to say?”

“What did you expect me to say?” I asked, “Can I watch, or something?”

“Well, kind of, yeah.”

“I think you are both attractive women, but I've got enough trouble with the woman I am already involved with, I don't need to go pissing you off. Plus I've seen how Barbara hits, and don't really want to be on the receiving end of it”

Beth looked at me strangely, “Did you already know?”

“I had wondered, yeah.”

“And it doesn't bother you?”

Now it was my turn to look at her strangely, “Do you really think that little of me?”

“No, it's just that guys usually act strange around me when they know, I don't know why.”

“They're just afraid that you'll steal their girlfriends,” I said, and winked.

“Well, Tara is kind of cute... the silver hair gives her a unique look.”

“I'll let her know you're interested.”

“I'll kick your ass if you do.” Beth said, and we both laughed.

I think that may only be the second time she's opened up to me, usually it's all of us opening up to her. It must get tiring for her to not have anyone to talk to.

Beth gave me a kiss on the cheek, “You really are a sweet guy. Tara's going to realize how lucky she is to have you. Just give her some time.”

“If we have time,” I said.

“Yeah, that. Are you coming out with us tomorrow?” Beth asked.

“Doctor Byron sent me an email and said that I could. I guess it'll be better to see what we're up against than leave it up to my imagination.”

“You should ride with me and Justin then,” Beth said, “We can play I Spy.”

“You don't seem very worried,” I commented.

“We've survived this long, I don't care how many zeds there are, they have to fit into four lanes to get to us, we'll wipe them out in a bottleneck like that,” Beth said with such confidence that I believe her.

I mean look at all the crap we've been through, and we've survived, and now we are part of an organized force who won't make the mistakes of the early days of the end. We will not show mercy, we will not treat them as human, and we will win. I am getting out of order again though.

A little while later, Beth came by my room before going out. I have to admit, she looked good.

“Pigtails?” I asked, looking at the two fountains of black hair spraying of the sides of her head.

“She likes them, maybe it's a teacher thing.”

“That's a little creepy,” I said, getting up off of my makeshift bed, and coming over to the door.

Beth shrugged, “Are you sure you're going to be okay tonight?”

“I'll be fine, just go already.” I said, gently pushing her down the hallway.

“Talk to Pippa, okay?”

“I make no promises.”

Beth stopped our progress down the hall, and turned to face me, “Really, you two need to talk... again,” she thought for a moment, “You know, really, the two of you are like some sort of really dark sitcom siblings.”

“I am glad to be here to amuse you.”

Beth chuckled, and gave me a hug, “Tara really will come around, you know?”

“If she doesn't, then it wasn't meant to be.”

“Wow, that's awfully mature. Do you really believe that?'

'I like to think that I do.”

Beth gave me a kiss on the cheek, “I'd better go, thanks for not freaking out.”

“I am a little insulted that you think I would,” I said, but smiling.

“Don't wait up, okay? I'm taking the car.”

With Beth gone, it was kind of like being home alone. Pippa stayed in her room, and I stayed in mine. I heard her in the kitchen at one point heating up a can of something to eat, but I kept my door closed.

I wanted to be the bigger person, really I did, but every time I thought about talking to her I got this incredible urge to either scream or cry. So once again it was Pippa that initiated things. I hope to God that this is the last one of these little talks we ever have to have.

It was close to midnight, and I was lying in bed reading when she knocked softly at the door.

“Can I come in?” Pippa asked softly.

I put the book aside, closed my eyes, and took a deep breath. After exhaling, I answered calmly, “Yeah, come in.”

Pippa opened the door slowly, and stuck her head in, “Do you hate me now?”

Hate is a bit strong....

“No, Pippa, I don't hate you, I'm just upset.”

“I'm sorry,” she said.

“I know you are,” I took a breath, and then tried to ask my next question as nicely as possible, “Can you just tell me why you did it? What was going through your mind when you gave her the journal?”

“I thought that maybe is she saw how much you missed her she would choose you over Oliver. I don't like him; he's a douche.”

“But Pippa, honey, my journal is private,” again, I was trying to keep my tone as pleasant as possible, “That's why I have asked you not to read it. I would have shown it to her when I felt it was the right time.”

“I know. I promise not to look in it again without your permission,” Pippa was studying the pink socks on her feet instead of looking at me, “Would it help if I went and talked to her?”

“No, you're not the one she's mad at, and she doesn't want to talk to me.”

“Beth says that she thinks Tara'll get over it.”

“Toni thinks that too, but only time will tell.”

“Do we have time?” Pippa asked, finally looking me in the face, ”I mean with the zeds coming?”

“Beth seems to think so. I haven't seen them yet, so I couldn't really tell you.”

“You're still mad at me, huh?” I guess I must not have been doing such a great job of hiding my mood.

“Yeah, I am, but I'm also tired and upset,” I answered honestly.

“I really was trying to help, like you and Beth did with Richard.”

“I know, and I appreciate what you thought you were doing, just please ask me before you do something like that again, okay?”

“Okay,” Pippa said.

“I'm going to be totally honest with you; I am very very upset right now, partly with you, partly for other reasons, but that doesn't mean that I don't care about you. Short of killing me yourself, there is not much you could do to change that.”

“So you'll still be my big brother?”

I think that was the first time she has ever referred to me like that, to my face anyway, and it made me feel bad inside for being so mad at her.

“Of course.”

Pippa came into my room, and knelt down on the bedding. She crawled over to me, and gave me a hug. I hugged her back.

“I love you, Pippa,” I said softly.

“Perv!” she whispered back.

“Not like that, you brat!” I said, playfully pushing her away, and then throwing a pillow at her for good measure.

Pippa scrambled to her feet, and ran out the door as I threw another pillow that harmlessly bounced off the door frame.

“Goodnight, big brother!” she yelled as she ran to her room. I heard the door shut behind her.

I went to sleep shortly after that, and had that dream. It was so vivid; maybe this is all a dream, and that's my real life. What I would give to live in that world; where Sharon, and Alex, and Maria are all still alive, and there are no flesh eating monsters roaming the Earth.

I fell back to sleep at some point after the dream, because the next thing I heard was Beth knocking on my door, “Come on, get up if you're coming with us!” she yelled.

I had slept a lot later than I normally do, it was already ten. I had to rush to get ready before Beth left. Gerry had gotten home sometime this morning, and was coming with us as well. Pippa wanted to come, but we all told her that she couldn't. I sometimes wonder how she likes essentially have three parents now.

Beth drove me and Gerry to the hospital where we would all leave from.

“So I hear that Tara read your diary?” Gerry asked during the ride.

“Yup, and now she won't talk to me,” I answered

“See, that's why I keep it all inside; up here,” Gerry tapped the right side of his forehead for emphasis.

“You can't keep it inside forever though, Gerry,” Beth said, “You'll lose your mind at some point.”

“I don't think that would be a great loss,” Gerry said, “Sorry to hear about you and Tara though, I hope you two make up.”

“I don't want to lose her again,” I said.

“You won't,” Beth insisted, “Just give her space and time and stop worrying about it.”

I looked at Gerry, and he shrugged in reply, “If anyone in this car knows about women, it's Beth,” he said.

“What's that supposed to me?” Beth asked indignantly.

“That you're a woman,” Gerry replied, grinning. Did she tell him before me?

Beth found a parking spot where she could plug in the Xebra so we could get home later. We joined Justin Lassit in a waiting Genetitech Security car; well, Beth and I did, Gerry went to ride with some other people from Acquisitions. Barbara filled the empty spot in the backseat with me. I would have offered to switch with Beth, but I don't know who she has and hasn't told about her lifestyle, and it probably would be against the rules for her to sit in the back anyway.

Our convoy to Harlan was pretty long. I think something like a hundred of us actually went. Even though Doctor Byron had not acknowledged the problem officially yet, a lot of people already knew what we could be facing and wanted to see it for themselves.

“I'm sorry about your girlfriend,” Barbara commented to me as we rode.

“Yeah, that's rough,” Justin said from the driver's seat, “I had a girlfriend once who found my blog, so I know what you're going through.”

“Just how many people did you tell?” I asked Beth.

“Umm... a few.”

It was early afternoon when we finally arrived in Harlan. I didn't realize there were places in America that are as isolated as Lovelock is. Well, in Alaska maybe, but not in the lower forty-eight. Our caravan slowed to a stop outside of town though.

Doctor Byron's voice crackled over the car's radio, “Could everyone please move towards the front? Thank you.”

“I guess this is where we get out,” said Justin, turning off the car's power.

We joined the group of people walking up the road to the top of the hill where a White SUV (electric, I'm sure) was parked. I could tell where Doctor Byron was standing amongst the crowd of security officers, scientists, and civilians like myself because she was holding a blue parasol up even though he sky was cloudy.

I worked my way to the front of the crowd, leaving Beth, Justin, and Barbara behind amongst the other familiar and unfamiliar faces. What I saw when I reached the top of the hill froze my blood. From there we could look down over a good portion of Harlan. I could make out the fenced off area where we had done the weapons tests not too long ago; it was easy to spot, as it was the only space in the town where I could see the ground. It seemed like every other square inch of the town was covered in the walking dead..

If you've ever seen army ants in action, then you have some idea of what this looked like; every visible open space was filled with writhing shambling undead. It was last Halloween multiplied by about 5000.

“So you see it!” Doctor Byron spoke loudly from close by; I hadn't realized I had gotten so close to her, although the parasol should have been a hint. Even without any sort of amplification her voice carried surprisingly well, “They are coming closer to Lovelock every day, and we will need to stop them or lose all that we have worked for.”

“This is why we have spent so much time building weapons. I knew that we would need them eventually, and that time has come,” Doctor Byron announced, “Tomorrow I will be making an announcement on TV about this, and everyone in Lovelock will be able to see what we are up against, and what I plan to do about it.”

It was then that I realized that I was standing in front of a KVMS news van. I looked off to the side of the road at the front of the crowd and saw a man with a large camera perched on his shoulder. He was filming the mob below us.

“I will let all of you know now what I am going to tell everyone else then; We will win, Lovelock will not fall to the animated corpses, humanity will not fail. We begin the fight for Lovelock now!”

A horn honked loud, and everyone turned at once to see one of the larger trucks trying to pull out of the column of cars into the oncoming lane. It crept forward slowly as men and women cleared a path for it. As it drew nearer I could see Doctors Carraway and Hutchins in the cab of it. Two security cars followed; I recognized Beth's friend Kyle in the passenger seat of the second one.

“Have at them, doctors!” Doctor Byron called, and everyone cheered.

Once clear of people the truck accelerated down the hill towards Harlan, and I could tell that the cameraman from the TV station was taping it the whole way. When they were about two hundred yards away from the slowly advancing front edge of the horde, the truck stropped. The two security cars stopped farther back, and made u-turns so that they were facing us at the top of the hill so they could get away faster.

The four security officers exited the cars, each one carrying what looked like FN 2000 rifles (they might have been something else, I was kinda far away). They spread out in front of the truck that the scientists were in, and watched the tide of undead slowly surging towards them.

Doctor Carraway hopped down from the driver's side of the truck, and doctor Hutchins from the passenger side. Before either of them got to the back of the truck the door started to slide up, and doctor Vang jumped out. Vang and Carraway climbed up the ramp and disappeared into the back of the truck.

When they started to roll down the ramp, a few people cheered, the rest did not know what they were seeing yet. Rolling down the truck's ramp, one after the other, were two of the Battlebot looking Da Vinci Scythe Chariots. They still had their two levels of curved blades on the top like pair of helicopter rotors, but now also had large curved scythe blades protruding from the sides of its body right above the tank treads, and a stubby, spiked, almost drill head looking thing sticking out of the front and back of the body. Basically there would now be no safe way to approach these things as long as they were moving.

Doctor Hutchins stood well back from the truck as Vang and Carraway jumped down from the back of the truck, and maneuvered the almost vending machine sized robots around to the front. They put their controllers down on the road surface, and ran around to the back of the truck while Doctor Hutchins went to each of the chariots and did... something to them. Even if I was standing right next to her whole she did it, I probably would still not be able to describe what she was doing.

While Hutchins tended to the robots, Vang and Carraway wrestled the trucks ramp back up. The zeds were getting closer to them now, and they needed to be able to get away quickly too. They pulled the truck's door down, and Carraway went and climbed back into the driver's seat while Vang joined Margaret Hutchins.

A zed broke free from the pack, a small one, a child. It was heading straight for Doctor Hutchins, who was now closest to the front of the zombie horde. The little ghoul was practically running, but before it got halfway across the shrinking gap between the zeds and the humans Kyle fired two shots from his rifle into the creature's head; the two weak popping noises reached my ears a moment after I saw the muzzle flashes. The momentum of the little monster carried it forward, and it slammed face first into the road. The child lay still.

Doctor Carraway didn't have quite enough room to turn the truck around in one try without running into the steep slope on the left side of the road, and had to back up to finish. When he was done though, he hopped back down from the truck, and rejoined Vang and Hutchins by the scythe chariots. It was time to put on a show.

I understood watching this that the whole point of this was to be a morale booster. Doctor Byron will make her speech in the morning, and counter the shock of what we face with this example of how we would face it. There were thousands of zeds in that pack, and there is no way that these two machines would be able to make a significant dent in their number, but it would show people that we are prepared to fight, and that we do have hope of winning.

The three doctors backed away from the scythe chariots, and as the blades started to rotate, people cheered. To me it looked like they were spinning faster that then had been the last time I had seen one, but then I wasn't so far away last time. The two Ginsu whirlybirds rolled forward towards the zombies at a high rate of speed.

Carnage is the best way to describe what happened next. When the spinning blades hit the first of the zombies it was like someone had dropped them into a blender; the blades cut through them like they were made of paper, paper filled with packets of blood, but paper all the same, sending pieces of heads and arms flying through the air in a spray of blackish infected blood. Headless and partially headless zeds fell into the midst of the other zeds as the blades protruding from the sides of the chariots bodies took their legs out from under them.

The scythe chariots cut a wide path through the zeds, but now moved slower as the treads had to climb over the bodies of the already fallen ghouls. More zeds filled the holes that the chariots cut, now surrounding the machines, but from our vantage point at the top of the hill we could still see them tearing through the flesh of the undead, sending a mist of gore into the air above them.

The most interesting thing to me, aside from seeing the zeds getting hacked apart a half dozen at a time, is that most of the zeds seemed to have forgotten about the humans now less than a hundred yards away from them. They were focusing on the scythe chariots. Part of me thinks that they were attacking them, that some part of them still knows to defend themselves, but then another part of me remembers Sharon.

I know I haven't written much of it, but I have not forgotten Sharon rising. I wish I could forget, but I can't, and I never will. I remember her asking me to kill her, and maybe it's only because she had just risen, and that was one of her last conscious thoughts, but I still believe she was in there. What if they were charging the scythe chariots because they were looking for that release? What if they were trying to free themselves from the rotting prison of their bodies?

Some of the zombies were still trying to get at the doctors and security officers though, and ones that broke from the pack were quickly dispatched with carefully aimed gunfire. Even with the scythe chariots cutting wide swathes through the mob, it still moved forward from the edge of Harlan and onto the highway. Like Beth said though, this is good for us, as it forms a relatively narrow bottleneck.

As the road travels up to where we stood, the sheer wall of the mountain forms the border at one side, and a pretty steep drop borders the other. Their front line could not be wider than the four lanes of road and the narrow shoulders at each side. If it weren't for the sheer numbers forcing them forward, a couple of the scythe chariots alone could probably hold them back.

Of course it was only a matter of time before disaster struck. One of the chariots, the one Doctor Carraway was controlling judging by him waving his hands around when it happened, tipped over. Some pieces of the metal scythes went spiraling into the air, but I think most turned to shrapnel shards that embedded themselves in the zombies that surrounded it.

Doctor Carraway looked angry; my guess is that the blades sticking out of the side of the machine were supposed to keep it from tipping onto its side as much as they were to take out the zeds' legs.

“Well that's no good,” I heard Doctor Byron say to a security officer near her, “Have them wrap it up, I think we got what we needed today.”

The security officer spoke into the radio mic clipped to his shoulder, and I could see the officer's below listening, and the relaying the information to the scientists. Doctors Carraway and Hutchins moved quickly back to the truck.

Doctor Carraway opened the driver's side door for a second, and then went back to join Doctor Hutchins at the back of the truck. The two of them pulled out the ramp while Doctor Vang had his chariot carve a path back out of the zeds, whose front line was now only fifty yards away.

A couple more zeds broke from the pack, coming towards Doctor Vang, but they were dispatched by the security officers before getting more than a few steps from their mob. Their corpses fell to the ground, and were quickly swallowed u by the advancing mass of ghouls.

As the scythe chariot rolled towards the back of the truck its blades started to slow, coming to a complete stop before actually got anywhere near any of the scientists. It had survived its first real test, and if two could do this how much damage could a bunch of these do?

The scientists loaded the surviving scythe chariot into the back of the truck. Other than its shape, the used robot looked nothing like the gleaming metal monster that had gone into the zombies, but was now a dark blackish red as every single inch of it was coated in zombie gore.

Doctor Vang did not ride in the back of the truck as they made their retreat, and who can blame him? I've smelled more than my share of dead zeds, and I can easily imagine how that machine must have smelled. Instead he rode in the security car that Kyle was riding in.

As they three vehicle drove back up the hill towards us, a voice called my name; it was Doctor Byron. “Yes, Doctor?” I answered.

“So what do you think, do we have a chance?”

I never really know how to talk to her. I feel like she's trying to trick me into something. I guess it's just that she radiates such intelligence that it make me feel stupid... or maybe it's just because she's an albino and I'm prejudiced. I would prefer it be the former though,

“There's always a chance, ma'am.”

“That's not much of an answer,” Doctor Byron commented, and I saw something in her eyes I had not seen before; fear. “You are scared though, right?”

“I would have to be an idiot to not be,”

“You're right,” she agreed, “I'm scared too, but we will win. I have been planning for something like this since the day I took over, and starting day after tomorrow we will take the fight to them, and we will not stop until the last one falls.

Since I had been thinking about Sharon, and the bit of her that seemed to be left behind when she rose I decided to take the opportunity to ask Doctor Byron something, “Doctor, can I ask you a question about the zeds?”

“The only way to learn is to ask, you are always welcome to question me.”

“Do you think there's anything left of someone when they change into a zed? A part of their soul that remains behind?”

“I am not the right person to be asking about the soul.”

“Alright, personality then. Is there something left behind of the person they were when they were alive? That girl in Doctor Grimm's lab-”

“Harriet Nivens,” Doctor Byron interjected.

“She looked like she was trying to speak to us, and I've seen... other zeds look like there was... I don't know, intelligence in them still?”

“Wow, you do not ask easy questions, do you?” Doctor Byron seemed legitimately surprised, “Come with me.”

Doctor Byron led us away from the crowd gawking at the horde of zeds slowly starting up the road towards us. When we were away from the bulk of the crowd she spoke again, “That has been a subject of debate since the beginning. I personally don't think the animated corpses possess anything that we would consider higher intelligence, but they do seem to retain some muscle memory which is why they can wield crude weapons and why some seem to know how to fire a gun.”

“Some do believe that there is a remainder of the living person in there. Not a soul necessarily, but a still active part of the brain; the part of the brain that makes you you.”

“What about Harriet? What did you do with her?”

Doctor Byron looked at the ground as if she were ashamed to look me in the eyes, “I don't really want to talk about that,” she said slowly.

“I'm sorry, I'll just go back to the car.”

Evelyn looked up at me, “No, I do not wish to keep things from you without good reason, and with what is coming I see no reason to lie about this. Harriet Nivens is being kept in the underground labs. I understand that the humane thing to do would be to simply destroy her, but Xavier was on to something, and she is too valuable....”

“I think I understand,” I said.

“There are times when this job forces me to do things I find... distasteful. If you think less of me for this I understand, I think less of me for this, but it truly is for the betterment of all.”

I looked into her oddly colored eyes and shrugged, “I know.”

“I sometimes worry I am becoming like Xavier. He wasn't a bad man, you know? He changed, and I worry that I too am changing.”

“You're not like him.”

“No offense to you, but you did not know him; not like I did. You only knew what he became, knew what he was at his worst. The monster that rose from the depths of his mind lays dormant in us all, but that I think you do know.”

Doctor Byron brightened suddenly, “Hmm, maybe you're not the only one that could do with a little counseling, huh? Enough of that; we have a war to win. Lets get everyone back to town.”

“Yes, Doctor,” I said,

“Oh, and I heard about you and Miss Lafferty; I am terribly sorry to hear about that."

Damn it, Beth!

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