Monday, August 4, 2008

Chapter 31 - On Approach

June 14th, 2008
6:33am
KLAF Maintenance Terminal

"I don't expect any trouble topside," T.Rex cautioned the Fools around him, "but just in case, let's pair off, with one person carrying double bags and the other ready to clear any threat. That said, grab your gear and climb up when you're ready, and once we're all up we'll evaluate the situation from there."

Ryan stayed at the bottom of the maintenance room, checking each pair and helping Fools shoulder extra equipment before sending them up the rungs. Peace carried Beard's bags and Angel Hair chivalrously offered to carry Kamikaze's equipment. That left just Cowboy and T.Rex standing at the bottom of the ladder.

Cowboy shifted his feet impatiently, glancing up at the outlet in the ceiling. "I take it you wanna go first?" T.Rex asked preemptively.

"Please?" Cowboy said with a wide grin, bouncing up and down.

T.Rex motioned towards the ladder and Cowboy sprung into action, grabbing his bat and racing up the rungs. Chuckling, T.Rex took one last look around the room, taking advantage of the faint light to look around for items they might have missed. Satisfied, he grabbed his own pack before slinging Cowboy's supplies over his shoulder.

It was a short climb up the rungs, and the increasing sunlight felt comforting to T.Rex as he neared the exit. Near the top he held on with his right hand and readjusted the packs with his left, to better fit through the narrow hole. Finally, with the help of the Fools already out, he exited Purdue's tunnel system.

Rubble, Beard, Cowboy and Kamikaze stood around the exit with weapons drawn, scanning the immediate area for any threat. Angel Hair was combing over the equipment, checking the bags in the early sunlight. When T.Rex emerged, they looked at him with a mixture of expressions, most of which looked less than impressed.

T.Rex looked around, confused. They were standing just a few feet from where he had predicted they would exit, and he was pretty proud of that. "What?" he said, defensively.

Peace spoke first. "I thought we'd get out somewhere closer than the airport."

The Fools were standing near the center of the Purdue University Airport, the first university owned airport in the US. It occupied a large piece of land covered almost entirely by concrete, located to the immediate Southwest of campus. The land was dominated by the two medium sized asphalt runways at the Southern end. The primary runway ran approximately East-West, while the smaller secondary runway was oriented Northeast to Southwest. Closer to campus was a series of hangars and buildings that housed classrooms, workshops, and other related buildings.

"Look," T.Rex began, "
There aren't many tunnels that run directly under residence halls, and those that do are pretty well sealed up. I studied the maintenance maps, and this was the closest exit I could find that didn't put us smack dab in the middle of a building full of people. I didn't want us to have to fight our way out, okay?"

The Fools grumbled, clearly unhappy with the result, and T.Rex was slightly annoyed. He tried to ignore that feeling and concentrate on his next idea, the one that made the airport an especially attractive destination.

Kamikaze was never one to suffer petty squabbles when there was a more important goal. "Where next, T.Rex?" she asked above the chattering of the Fools.

Ryan swung around and pointed to the tan colored building closer to campus. "Next, we head to the control tower."

Rubble and Angel Hair dragged the tunnel cover back, sealing away their exit, as the rest of the group gathered up their equipment. The Fools jogged together across the barren airport grounds unopposed, reaching the tower in moments.

Just outside the squat building, they paused as T.Rex tried the rear entrance. It was locked, just like most of the doors they'd come across. It was not, however, as heavily secured. Frustrated, T.Rex jammed his crowbar into the door frame and wrenched it backwards, ripping apart the locking mechanism inside.

The door swung open, revealing an eerily quiet interior. Several cubicles defined the ground floor in front of the Fools, arrayed in a standard grid pattern. Identical computers graced each workspace, with a Xerox machine visible at the end of the hallway formed by the cubicle walls.

"I don't like this," Beard growled from the rear. "Plenty of crevices for zeds to hide in."

T.Rex scanned the walls, looking intently for access to the tower. "I'm not asking you to like it," he said over his shoulder, "but I am asking you guys to hold down the fort while I take a look around upstairs." He started to walk the perimeter of the room, neck craned as he searched for a way up.

"I think somebody should go with you," Rubble pointed out as the rest of the Fools slowly began to canvass the room.

T.Rex stopped, remembering his own rules about the buddy system. "Good point," he conceded. "Cowboy, you're with me," he said, waving his friend over.

Cowboy ran over as T.Rex found the elevator. T.Rex clicked the up button several times, but nothing happened. "Figures," T.Rex muttered. Together, T.Rex and Cowboy followed the edge of the room until they came across a nook in the back wall that contained the stairwell.

"We'll be back in just a few minutes," T.Rex shouted to the other Fools before easing the stairwell door open.

T.Rex leaned over the railing and saw that the staircase extended several flights upward before ending. He led the way up the stairs, in his head cursing the lack of power in the building as they passed the sixth floor. Finally, after ten flights, they entered the control room, slightly winded.

The control room featured a 360 degree view of the landscape around them. Rows of specialized computer terminals lined the walls, and a massive center console featured hundreds of switches and dials. The room was silent.

Cowboy turned to T.Rex. "You're a pilot, right?" he said. "Can you call for help on all of this stuff?"

T.Rex slumped his shoulders as he ran his fingers lightly over the dormant consoles. He thought back to his flight lessons and a wistful and nostalgic feeling washed over him. "I wish, man. Maybe if we had power I could sit down and figure some of this stuff out, but I'm used to tiny little airplane radio controls, not this massive center. And technically I never got my license."

"What if we found a plane?" Cowboy asked, rooting through a drawer of terminal charts.

Ryan searched his bag. "That's a tricky problem.
A tiny Cessna or even a low wing Piper I'm pretty sure I could handle. But anything I had a chance at figuring out on such short notice would be far too small for the seven- no, eight of us. Then, at this airport specifically, the next smallest plane is a huge jet, and I have no experience with those things. I maybe could land one in an emergency, but that's probably pushing it.

"That's assuming, of course, we found a plane that didn't have a prop lock. Or a throttle lock. And we found fuel, and it was the right kind, and I could work out the weight balance, and there was a place we could go that had a clear place to land, and... and... well, there's a lot of stuff. Let's just say don't count on us flying into the sunset to safety, okay?"

Cowboy flicked a few dead switches on the wall nearby. "Weaksauce, man."

T.Rex found his binoculars in his pack and gingerly removed them from the case. He stood and began to survey the campus around him, soaking in a view most students could only dream of.

To the East, the sun was just beginning to clear over the far end of campus. A thin column of smoke rose in the distance, illuminated by the sun's rays. To the South, a large thicket of trees and construction preceded the Wabash River. To the West was the bulk of the airport runway, and it gently faded into fields of corn.

Adjusting the focus on the lens, T.Rex looked North and tried to concentrate on the very end of campus. He could see several buildings of Purdue Village, the housing district for married students. Around those houses were many zeds, including a few that were quite small.

Most likely little kids, he thought with a shudder. Poor little guys probably never had a chance.

Shifting his gaze slightly, T.Rex followed Airport Road past the Village and found McCutcheon Hall. He took a few steps to his left and just a bit of Hillenbrand Hall came into view. He frantically scanned his girlfriend's building, looking for any sort of sign of survivors or distress. Every window was covered with curtains or was dark, holding no answers. The sidewalks around Hillenbrand were empty, except for a single silhouette lurching aimlessly. The roof was emtpy.

What were you expecting? T.Rex mocked himself. That Jenny would be standing in one of the windows waving back? She's probably hiding in one of the rooms trying not to draw attention to herself. Now quit fucking around and go get her!

Placing the binoculars back in the case, T.Rex looked at Cowboy. "We're done here," he said with a steely gaze.

T.Rex and Cowboy quickly descended to the ground floor. Ryan shoved open the stairwell door and headed for the exit. Without breaking stride he called out to the Fools, "Recon complete, let's get going."

The improv team gathered outside the control tower, waiting for further instructions.

"Beard," T.Rex called out. "I want you up front now. Plot us a course to the Western edge of campus, just skirting the edge of the forest that holds the high ropes course, the one near the soccer fields. You know what I'm talking about?"

Beard just nodded.

"We follow that course to the Northern edge of Purdue West. We'll cut in, straight through the parking garages, and that'll put us right behind Hillenbrand. Got it?"

Beard nodded again and peeked around the corner of the control tower, surveying the airport buildings. He began looking for zeds and potential cover. The rest of the Fools geared up, ready to move at a moment's notice.

"Are you sure we should go into the woods?" Rubble whispered to T.Rex, sounding very unsure of the plans.

T.Rex shouldered his pack. "It's getting light out, and if we just make a mad dash for Hillenbrand, every zombie in Purdue Village is going to come after us. If we stay inside the trees, that will hopefully obscure our movement enough to make it to Jenny without alerting all those zeds."

I'm getting sick of all of these plans ending up someplace not Hillenbrand, T.Rex thought.


Current Word Count: 43,236

10 comments:

  1. As always, loving the story. I had to make sure that I read it before I started heading up north...


    Cowboy flicked a few dead switches on the wall nearby. "Weaksauce, man."


    Not nearly as good as....

    Cowboy shifted his feet impatiently, glancing up at the outlet in the ceiling. "I take it you wanna go first?" T.Rex asked preemptively.

    "Please?" Cowboy said with a wide grin, bouncing up and down.


    ...pretty much rocks that I'm in the story...just sayin'

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  2. wow i am getting so pumped for the ending

    it really is coming together nicely.

    i liked how for the first part i'm thinking heck yeah they can fly out of purdue...but you quickly ended that thought. I love that about the way you write. Something comes up where everyone assumes the next step and then you completely change it and make it clear why that would never work....so good. I'm getting addicted to this story. You need to keep writing.

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  3. If it wasn't for the prologue negating my hopes, I'd think Jenny would turn out to be the Head Zombie that ends up killing all of you in the end...

    le sigh

    No offense Jenny ;)

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  4. ". . . steely gaze."

    reminds me of

    "You're a steely eyed missile man."

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  5. Well, Scott, that wouldn't make for much of a story. Ryan and I have already discussed this sort of situation, and if I were a zombie, he would have to kill me instantly, even though it was me.

    It would just end up with a really sad Ryan (... at least I'd hope?), and no one wants to read that!

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  6. For a moment, I was going to suggest you should have sent all the unladened fools up first, but then decided that your way is quite effective as well, so I support it too.
    I'm glad you finally got your epic feat in. You're too humble, map master.
    Whether there were zeds or not, it seems to me the best idea would be to knock down the cubicle walls.

    ""We'll be back in just a few minutes," T.Rex shouted to the other Fools before easing the door open." - I'm unclear as to the location of the door
    "But anything I had a chance at figuring out on such short notice would be far too small for the seven- no, eight of us. " - "whom did you forget" I find myself asking. Probably yourself, but maybe someone else.
    "To the East, the sun was just beginning to clear over the far end of campus. A thin column of smoke rose in the distance, illuminated by the sun's rays." - it's symbolic foreshadowing. We're going to be saved by the Japanese!! :)
    note: that's as much for Peace as for you.
    "What were you expecting? T.Rex mocked himself. That Jenny would be standing in one of the windows waving back?" - I actually thought the same basic thing, but based it in that closed windows have to be closed by someone, so there's hope in that.
    "Beard nodded again and peeked around the corner of the control tower, surveying the airport buildings looking for zeds and potential cover." - I think the clauses need to be separated by a semicolon where you have a comma. I know it has some grammatical foible, and I think that's the fix, but won't swear to it.
    @Jenny
    Ya, but imagine the epic conflict; the inner monologue; the intense wave of inner development. That one fact would make this book comedic, action-packed, suspenseful, mythological, and bildungsroman.

    Ryan - way to go on this chapter. Not nearly as action packed or suspenseful as your best chapters, but the only grammatical flaw I found was ridiculously nitpicky, and I don't even know for certain how to fix it. Not only that, but I still enjoyed ever word. Let's here it for Ryan
    TIMEOUT!

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  7. Angel "Steven Saltsman" HairAugust 17, 2008 at 2:01 PM

    HUZZAH!
    guess that's what happens when you read the entry a week late.

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  8. @ Cowboy

    Glad you enjoyed those parts, and I'm glad you like being in the story. I like having you in it. :D

    @ Mike

    Thanks buddy! That is such a great compliment, because that's really one of the things I'm striving for as I write.

    @ Scott

    WHY WOULD YOU WISH FOR THAT?!

    @ Benji

    I try to gaze steelily as much as I can.

    @ Jenny

    I'm glad we've had that talk, by the way. And I would be very sad, but that doesn't change what needs to be done.

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  9. @ Steve

    I'm glad you approve of my exit strategy. Also, I like to imagine being the map hero, but my epic moment is still to come :D

    Let's imagine there were a LOT of cubicle walls, and they were reasonably well anchored?

    Yeah, that was me forgetting to count myself. Remember how I have to pair off the Fools at practice to remember everybody?

    Haha, way to read waaaay into the Eastern symbolism.

    Fun fact: Hillenbrand works really hard to keep the windows shut and blinds drawn in to conserve a/c during the summer. Thus, most windows would be covered and shut.

    I just chopped up that other sentence.

    Also, points for making me learn a new word (bildungsroman).

    Thank you for the compliments...I think it's good to break up the action sometimes.

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