Sunday, June 15, 2008

Chapter 24 - Trapped

June 14th, 2008
Horticulture Drive

T.Rex had an uneasy feeling. It was a combination of thoughts collecting in the back of his mind: the narrow escapes at the shed and in the greenhouse, almost losing Beard, twice he'd screwed up and gotten himself into close calls, and on top of that the doubt and fear of Jenny's fate now weighed even more prevalent on his mind. It was hot and sticky out, and he nervously shifted his grip on the crowbar to a new, cool section of metal.

As the group ran into the night, they crossed a strangely empty parking lot. Parking on campus was normally such a valued commodity, especially lots that held A, B, or C spots - like the one beneath their feet. Still, the prevalence of automobiles was still evident around the Fools, and Ryan paused behind a mammoth black SUV near the edge of the lot and gathered the group behind him.

T.Rex was getting used to this pattern. Run, fuck up some zeds, hold, scan, repeat. He gazed across South University Drive for trouble. Moans and growls sounded nearby, but that no longer held much information except to remind them that they were in the thick of zed country. Still, something felt even less right than normal, and the darkness around them obfuscated things. I don't remember that set of buildings having very many bushes in front of them, he thought, staring across the lot at the Food Services buildings. Shitty park job on that bus, too-

A horrifying scream broke out above the Fools, slightly muffled. The Fools, completely caught off guard, screamed back more or less in unison, unsure of what was happening.

"Guys. Guys! GUYS!" Kamikaze yelled over the rest of the Fools, the first to recognize the situation for what it was. "It's a zombie trapped in the car. Let's get moving."

The rest of the group looked around sheepishly. Worse, it dawned on them that the group scream only drew more attention to their position.

Wait. Bus? T.Rex was confused. And now the bushes are different. "Alright, guys, let's move out again," he said without conviction.

Seven Fools jogged across the parking lot, and across South University Drive. As the ABE came into view, so did the massive horde of zeds. A crowd of snarling creatures slowly marched towards the group, mismatched in step but united in feral determination. Together, the creatures formed an enormous mass that spilled over both sides of the Main Service Building nearby.

As soon as this threat was in focus, Ryan stopped dead in his tracks. Rubble and Angel Hair ran into him and nearly knocked him over before T.Rex signaled for the group to hold. Together, they stared at the army of darkness before them.

Ryan quickly considered their options, knowing that each fraction of a second of indecision was costing them ground to the advancing zeds. Behind them--East--was a trail of destruction and a stream of agitated zombies following them. To the South was a lake, separating them from the Wade Power Plant. To the West--directly ahead--was part of a horde of agitated zombies, split by the Service Building. To the North was an even bigger horde of zombies.

"We're pooched," T.Rex muttered under his breath. Beard took the initiative and gathered the Fools into a defensive posture in the grass around them. They anxiously awaited orders from the former Captain.

T.Rex's mind raced. Water is a universally bad idea- we'll tire ourselves out and lose our equipment trying to stay afloat, plus we have no way of knowing how zombies will react. Most likely the zeds would sink to the bottom of the lake but continue after us without slowing, without rest. This pits their greatest strength against our very human tendency to get tired. Heading North makes no sense because we'd have to fight through the largest zed force before making it to the main portion of campus. That's the last thing we need, because main campus is a defensive nightmare, not to mention swarming with zeds. Probably.

An ultimatum was quickly forming in his head. Basically it boils down to two choices. Straight ahead and fight through the zeds...or back where we came from. And fight through zeds.

He wasn't keen on the thought of turning tail and giving up, having pissed off countless zeds just to run back to the apartment and hide. Really, though, the decision was made the moment they'd climbed down from the roof.

T.Rex gritted his teeth and adjusted the grip on his crowbar. Jenny is that direction, and so that's the way we're going. But first, we thin out the crowd a bit.

Ryan knew attacking the group of zeds head on was foolish. With the crowd of zeds coming from the bus, the ones following them, and the other random ones nearby, he estimated they were outnumbered approximately 40 to 1. Their only chance of survival was to funnel them and figure out a way to escape the trap they found themselves in, and to avoid being surrounded.

"Fools," he said to the group with forceful conviction, "we head for the Machine Shop and make our stand. MOVE!"

The order was carried out without denying, like an improv show in full swing. Shifting to an attack/move formation, Beard led the group to the smaller building nearby.

The Purdue Machine Shop was a squat rectangular building located near the South end of campus, nestled amongst the Service Buildings. A distinctive yellow I-beam stuck out of the side of the building, supporting a crane unit that hovered over a cavernous loading dock. Next to the dock was a large garage-style door with two clear oval portholes, guarding an entrance connected to the parking lot by way of a large concrete ramp. Beyond this the only features of the building were a handful of small windows, situated for ventilation high above ground level, and a partially rusted sheet metal roof.

Differences between the two groups was evident right away. The Fools sprinted across the lot and up the ramp leading to the Machine Shop entrance. The zeds nearby continued to stagger forward at the same pace, seemingly unaffected by the burst of energy displayed by their prey.

The Fools gathered in front of the garage door to the Machine Shop. "Peace!" Ryan called out, keeping an eye on the advancing zeds. "Lock check. The rest of you, weapons check."

Peace's reply was swift and discouraging. "Looks bad, sir - dual industrial locks. I might could pick 'em, if I had other tools and an hour."

"Wait," Ryan said "I thought you brought all your stuff. What other tools would you need?"

"Uh, a gun? Dynamite? Some sort of plastic explosives?"

Ryan whirled around and faced Angel Hair, the thinnest Fool. "I'm gonna make you a hole," he said urgently, gesturing towards the clear plastic with his crowbar. "I need you to wriggle in there and get that door open, no matter what. We'll hold 'em off. Got it?"

Angel Hair nodded. Ryan yelled and swung the curved end of the crowbar at the plexiglass repeatedly, chipping away at the edge with furious strokes. When a large enough crack opened, he wedged the crowbar in and braced against the door with his leg. He took a deep breath and wrenched the tool backwards, the muscles in his arm straining as the plastic piece resisted.

"You stupid...sonofbitch piece of plastic!" he grunted. The other Fools lent their hands and together they covered the entire length of the crowbar. With a deafening pop, the plastic separated from the door and shot out, sliding down the ramp and settling at the bottom.

As Angel Hair dove in, Rubble shouted to him "Watch out for zeds in there!" as a warning.

The rest of the Fools turned to face the slowly advancing wave of zombies. "What now?" said Kamikaze.

T.Rex pointed at Cowboy and Beard. "Molotov."

Grinning, the two gingerly removed the large bottle of alcohol from Beard's pack and poured a generous amount into a separate container they'd saved. Rubble produced a strip of cloth saved from a garment they no longer needed and stuffed it into the top of the bottle.

"May I?" Cowboy asked eagerly. Beard merely gestured towards their foes, head bowed slightly. Gripping the bottle, Cowboy cocked his arm back and held it in place. Beard produced a lighter and made sure everybody was back before giving it a light, then tapped Cowboy on the shoulder as he stepped away.

Cowboy took aim and heaved the bottle through the air. Like a magnificent firework, the lit bottle arced through the air before smacking onto the pavement just a few inches in front of the lead zeds. An enormous fireball erupted and spread to several zombies, making an audible sizzle as the necrotic flesh began to burn.

"Huzzah!" six Fools cried in unison, fists raised into the air. "Nice shot!" Kamikaze congratulated, echoing the sentiments of the Fools around them.

By now, more zeds from the North had wrapped around the building and added to the giant crowd of creatures bearing down on the Fools. The fire attack was a sorely needed morale boost, but they all knew the zombies would not be stopped so easily.

Beard poked his head into the hole made in the door. "How's that door coming, Angel Hair?"

A large keyring with a dozen or so keys flew out of the hole and landed at the group's feet. "Try those! I'll keep looking, though!" came Angel Hair's voice, made quieter by the apparent size of the room he was in. Occasionally a beam of light flickered in the darkness as Angel Hair searched the Machine Shop for an answer.

"Peace, do it," T.Rex ordered, but by then Peace was already trying the second key in the locks.

"Do you want us to wade out and start pickin' off stragglers?" Cowboy said, gripping his baseball bat tightly.

"No! Do not engage." T.Rex commanded. "With the number out there, we're liable to get surrounded and tired out way too quickly."

Beard took a few practice swipes at the darkness with his hatchet. "We'll stay on the elevated ramp and hold them as long as we can. We have to buy Angel Hair time with everything we have, because if he can't get this door open, only T.Rex is small enough to fit through that hole."

Current Word Count: 31,819


  1. ooh, I get first comment.
    “I might could pick 'em”
    I don't care if that was intentional or not, but the idea of Peace breaking into a southern hick character for no apparent reason mid-apacolypse is beautiful.

    At one point, it felt like Zork, and it was good.

    Did I already have a flashlight?

    Damned defiance of fire safety code, doors aren't supposed to lock people inside...damn it.

  2. "mismatched in step but united in feral determination"

    Looove it.

  3. @ Benji

    I was secretly really proud of that line :D :D

  4. @ AH

    First, I don't necessarily take it as Peace in a character...I think it's something he just might say normally. The word choice was intentional, though. Perhaps under stress, he reverts to a slightly Southern voice like in QC?

    Zork? Never seen that show...

    Yes, there are six flashlights spread between the seven of us.

    Also, I don't know if this building follows a normal fire code, since it has a much different purpose and construction than normal buildings. Moreover, this is a large industrial roll-up door, not a single person swing in/out deal. The locks are changed accordingly [at the very least in my head].

  5. Zork is a text based adventure game, and the origin of the Grue that comes out of the darkness as you may recall. I know you'd never played it, but thought you might have tossed it in for people like Tripod and me. I don't know fire code for buildings and doors like that, but I'm mighty particular about how/when/why me and my friends die.

  6. Damnit, Steve...I think we've had this discussion before, about the Zork. I knew what a Grue was from extensive wikipedia research, but I've never played.

    That said, I'm glad you got some enjoyment out of it. So far, you have not been eaten by a Grue.

    I'm not 100% how the locks/fire codes work, either, but it's my story and I'm liberally applying my storyteller's license.