Sunday, June 22, 2008

Chapter 26 - Battle Cry

June 14th, 2008
Machine Shop

Angel Hair ran his hands over where his hair used to be and stared down the key cabinet. "I guess our two keys should be in here somewhere," he said, confidently.

"Just one key, actually," Ryan corrected. "The keyring you threw out earlier opened the inner door lock. Now we're looking for a padlock key."

"Hrm," Angel Hair pondered aloud. "It wouldn't be any of these funky shaped keys here," he said, pointing to a transparent drawer of specialized plumbing keys. "We can rule out all of these, since they haven't been cut yet," he noted, waving his hands over hooks holding several dozen blank keys.

The moans of the undead resounded in the Machine Shop, mixed with more gunfire and yells. "We don't have time for guesses," T.Rex said in a frustrated tone. He crouched down and wrenched open a drawer at the bottom of the cabinet. It was filled with a wide variety of tools, and T.Rex rummaged around a bit.

Ryan removed an enormous pair of bolt cutters from the drawer and handed them to Angel Hair. "Tell them to cut the chain and get in here now." Angel Hair nodded and scampered back to the door. Finding nothing else of much value, T.Rex slammed the drawer shut and followed him back to the door.

Angel Hair had already passed the bolt cutters through the oval portal at waist height. Together, T.Rex and Angel Hair waited nervously inside the Machine Shop, not wanting to crowd the small ramp with another body. It was up to the Fools on the other side to use the cutter to break the chain and remove the lock so that the door could be drawn up. This was all while holding off the horde of approaching zeds, whose moans and groans were much louder.

Standing with Angel Hair in the Machine Shop, T.Rex noticed they had both left their packs outside on the ramp, leaving them temporarily out of supplies. Angel Hair had his flashlight, the only thing he grabbed before selflessly diving into the Machine Shop to find a key. T.Rex, armed with only a crowbar in the middle of a strange building, clutched his weapon and tried not to think of what would happen if the Fools outside failed.

As they waited, T.Rex regretted destroying the chain. Ideally, once the door was open and the Fools were through, they'd send one of the two of them back out to re-lock everything and keep the zeds out. Chances were good that the zombie horde was too close, though.

Metal scraped against metal as the chain was removed on the other side of the door, "Open! Open! Open!" the rampside Fools yelled in unison with the traditional Foolish repetition. Angel Hair and T.Rex sprung into action and together, they heaved the door up.

Outside was pure chaos.

Three large fires raged nearby, a product of the molotov barrages, and several zeds staggered around still on fire, igniting others. A pile of limp zeds formed a loose 180 degree arc around the ramp, and a pile of spent shells collected at Kamikaze's feet. Brain matter painted the concrete in every direction, and the stench of the carnage was formidable. Zombies lie dead from arrows poking out their heads at various angles, and even as Angel Hair and T.Rex stared outside, Beard continued firing his pistol in methodical fashion, eliminating the biggest threat in order. The closest zeds were within arm's reach of the ramp, with a sea of them just a few feet further.

Peace stepped in first carrying the bolt cutters, the chain and lock, and the rest of his tools. Cowboy came in next, hauling his pack as well as the ones left by T.Rex and Angel Hair. With a twang of bowstring, Rubble fired a final arrow and picked up his own equipment, running back into the Machine Shop to join the others.

"Go!" Beard shouted, his rate of firing increasing. The pistol roared as Beard dropped a Hispanic looking zed and then two brunette female zeds in rapid succession. Kamikaze fired one last round from the rifle at a particularly obese zed near the foot of the ramp before picking up her pack and ducking inside.

Beard twisted at the hip and fired a pair of bullets where Kamikaze was just moments before, keeping two zeds from climbing onto the ramp by killing one outright and knocking the other into the crowd below. Backpedaling, he twisted and fired again, killing a piercing-laden zombie reaching for where his foot was previously.

Abruptly, he turned and dashed into the Machine Shop. A half second behind him Angel Hair and Rubble slammed the door down, sealing away the zed army.

"Fools, fan out for recon and defensive measures. I want weapons checked and reloaded, and get me anything that can either barricade this door or fuck up some zeds!" T.Rex cried out. Beard paused next to him and rested a moment, leaning forward and bracing his hands on his knees.

"You could've kept going out there," T.Rex joked.

Beard stood and adjusted his weapon. A cartridge slipped from the handle and clattered on ground, empty.

A pair of decaying arms reached through the hole in the door and grabbed at the air, prompting both T.Rex and Beard to take a few steps further away, just in case. Soon, a few other arms joined in and formed a tangled mess of limbs grasping for prey from the door. Not long thereafter, the door started to rattle as the zeds crowded the top of the ramp, pushing and pounding on the thin aluminum door.

"If they had any intelligence at all, they'd just raise the unlocked door and come and get us," T.Rex observed.

The brackets keeping the metal door whined as they strained to keep the door in place. "About how long do you figure we have until they break through the hard way?" Beard asked T.Rex.

"Looking at the size and placement of the brackets, I'd say we have no more than 15 minutes," he said, looking around the frame of the door.

Beard grinned. "That's more than enough."

Taking survey of the interior was easier as T.Rex's eyes grew accustomed to what little moonlight shined through windows near the ceiling. The Machine Shop smelled like a giant garage, with faint traces of motor oil and WD-40. Above them was irregular scaffolding, with power strips and dormant shop lights hanging near workstations. The Fools, armed with flashlights, pored over the interior for anything they could use.

Near the wall closest to the door was a series of wooden shelves arranged like aisles at a grocery store, containing boxes of parts, half-assembled motors, rags, scrap metal, toolboxes, tires, PVC pipes, and hundreds of other pieces of miscellaneous maintenance equipment. The wall opposite of the door was a giant peg-board, which held industrial hammers, screwdrivers, augers, drills, hand saws, and dozens of other tools of varying sizes and styles. It also contained the key cabinet discovered earlier, and several large objects obscured by tarps. The wall with the door had a cabinet of clear plastic bins with light bulbs, nuts and bolts, screws, washers, pins and needles, nails, fuses, hinges, and a thousand other small items.

The center of the building was mostly open as a workspace, but it was lined with several large workbenches. The benches supported a variety of equipment like a lathe, a drill press, several die tooling machines, a few circular saws, and other industrial machinery. There was even a computer attached to one of the machines, presumably for computer-aided design work.

Not much light made it to the rear of the building. Shining a flashlight around, T.Rex saw a pair of ATVs tucked away next to some red barrels and wooden crates. More mounds of equipment nearby sat quietly covered by tarp, and stacked nearby was a bunch of spare plywood. In the furthest corner he noticed a bulletin board next to a strange door marked "Caution".

T.Rex began to delegate. "Angel Hair, I'd like you to go check out the door in the back, and see if there's anything useful." He nodded and scampered off.

"Cowboy and Peace, you two move some of these workbenches to try and block up the door." They saluted and started clearing the benches.

"Kamikaze and Rubble, I want you guys to move our packs to the back for when we have to fall back, and look around for anything that might possibly be a good weapon." They also went right to work.

T.Rex stood near the door with Beard. "How bad is the ammo situation?" he asked, lowering his voice.

"Pretty bad, " Beard admitted. "Rubble used up all but a few of his arrows. I emptied two and a half magazines, so I've got one left with seven shots. Kamikaze was pretty selective about her ammo, though, so I think she's still got a decent amount saved for you. Check with her for the final count, but I'd guess she has 50 rounds left."

Cowboy ran up with a sour look on his face. "Bad news, man. The tables are all bolted to the floor. We can't move any of them."

Beard was incredulous. "Really? Why would somebody do that?"

T.Rex's heart sank. He realized that with the electricity still out, the saws and power tools in the shop were giant useless weights. The tables were the only real furniture to barricade the door with, and they couldn't be moved. Worse, there probably wasn't anything in the shop that would make a better weapon than the machetes and crowbars they'd acquired already. His snap decision to head for the Machine Shop was rapidly turning out to be a very bad idea. Unless they could come up with something decisive, he feared it would be their tomb.

Just then, one of the four brackets bracing the door broke. It snapped into several pieces, skittering across the concrete floor. With one less support, the door now shook harder under the combined assault of the zeds outside.

"Beard," T.Rex whispered to his friend, "we're running out of time. I don't know how much longer the door will hold, so I want you to get the group fired up with a Battle Cry, okay?"

Battle Cry was an improv exercise they'd invented about a year and a half ago as a way to boost energy backstage before a show. It was crucial to be enthusiastic at a show, and this was designed to get everybody loud and bold.

"Fools!" Beard cried out as another bracket snapped behind him, "Oval up on me!" Kamikaze, Peace, Cowboy, Rubble, and T.Rex dropped what they were doing and gathered around him. Beard stood in front and took a deep breath, and in his best Gerrard Butler voice gave them his favorite words of courage from 300:

"This is where we hold them!" he yelled to the group at full volume, stomping his foot for emphasis. "This is where we fight!"

"This is where THEY DIE!" He jumped into the circle and clapped his hands. The Fools around him answered the clap, and then together they all broke out into a primal scream, yelling to the circle with clenched fists until their faces were red.

The third bracket gave way and ricocheted off of a cabinet. With less supports, the door buckled much more wildly under the fists of the undead outside. A few arms snaked into the building from the side of the door with no brackets, and the moans grew louder as the remaining bracket squealed under tension.

The Fools turned to face the onslaught, now kept at bay by the tiny piece of metal. They all gripped their weapons and drew up whatever courage and energy they had left.

"Can I get Rubble to give me a hand with something?" Angel Hair yelled from the back of the shop.

Are you kidding me? T.Rex thought. Maybe some kind of generator for power? He knew Rubble had experience working with engines. "Yes," T.Rex yelled back, "but this had better be something awesome!" He nodded to the back and Rubble broke the line to hustle back to the strange door. The Fools shifted to compensate for the gap and waited.

An idea suddenly shot through Ryan's mind like a bolt of lightning. "Fools! Everybody go take cover behind something and wait for my signal to charge, okay?" he said, suddenly.

The Fools looked at each other, confused. Ryan started to jog back to the rear of the Machine Shop. "I mean it!" he yelled. "Take cover!"

T.Rex went back and found his pack with the other equpiment. He drew the rifle from the case and made sure the safety was off, and that it was loaded with one of the few precious remaining bullets. He slung it over one arm and ran over to near the ATVs.

He ripped away the tarp covering several large red barrels he'd spied earlier. He unhooked the bungee cord holding them all down and gingerly laid one barrel on its side. Noting the sloshing contents, he rolled it a few feet away with his hands and aimed it at the door, bracing it with his foot.

As if on cue, the last bracket snapped. The Machine Shop door crashed to the floor with a thunderous boom, and a half dozen zeds flopped in under the pressure of the crowd pressing from behind. They snarled, grasping for the prey they'd chased into the building.

T.Rex shoved the barrel with his foot and sent it rolling across the Machine Shop floor. It careened over the concrete floor and collided with a pair of zeds, knocking them back into the first wave of zombies coming through the door.

In one smooth motion, T.Rex unslung the rifle and brought it against his shoulder. He glanced through the sights past several zed legs until he zeroed in on his target.

Squeezing the trigger, he sent a single bullet flying across the Machine Shop at the round red barrel...

Current Word Count: 35,422


  1. “Zombies lay dead from arrows poking out their heads at various angles, and even as Angel Hair and T.Rex” – very minor, but you lie yourself or lay something. The way it’s phrased, the zombies are placing death, which is a cool thought.

    “Above them was an irregular scaffolding,” the idea of “a scaffolding” seems weird, but I don’t know

    “The Machine Shop door crashed to the door with a thunderous boom”

    I’ve never understood whether or not zeds have memory and an attention span. They’re not driven by survival, yet they seem to need to reproduce, or feed. Zombies are weird.

  2. Changed noted, fixed. Thanks. It just goes to show my grasp of the English language is far from complete. Hopefully the errors are not too painful...

    I've specifically avoided discussing the hows or whys the details of my zombies. I say mine because there's varying accounts of how or why zombies act, come about, die, etc. There's a bit of leeway, I guess. I've heard some good explanations (see: Zombie Survival Guide), but you'll have to keep reading to see if I touch on it in a later chapter.

    Lastly, they don't appear to be driven by survival, nor really to reproduce...that's just sort of a zed-ification side effect? They really just want to feed, that's all.

  3. I'm going to be visibly disappointed if Angel Hair didn't find what I think he found.


  4. @ Jamie

    Now I'm curious what you were expecting. Care to share?

    Lemme know if I do or do not meet your expectation, if you would. (Your answer should be in the next chapter...)