June 14th, 2008
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