Fighting the Dead:The Last Town #4By: Stephen Knight
And frightened almost out of his mind.
We have to get out of here, he told himself once again. The statement played through his mind on an endless loop, but escape from Single Tree was virtually impossible until the next morning, when he and Meredith would board a bus for Reno. From there, they would try to cut across California and get to the relative safety of San Francisco. The Bay Area was hardly trouble free at the moment, but San Francisco was holding out. Geography worked to its advantage, channelizing the dead into a relatively narrow area of approach where the SFPD and National Guard could make a stand. While most of the coverage focused on Los Angeles, a few details about the preparations in San Francisco did get some airtime. A great swath of the city’s southern boundary was being fortified as the authorities prepared to face the inevitable: a great, stinking mob of dead that would eventually take hold in the south and move to the north, in search of prey.
“Jock, turn it off,” Meredith whispered from the bed. “Please. Just turn it off.”
Sinclair, sitting on the foot of the bed, turned and looked at her. Meredith was hunkered down under the thin covers, her eyes wide and terrified. She seemed to have aged a dozen years in the past two days. Stress and Meredith did not go well together, he noted not for the first time, and the first casualty of her distressed state was her regal good looks. Sinclair sniffed and wondered why he couldn’t have found someone with just as much wealth who was a little hardier. And younger.
With a sigh, he switched off the television and tossed the remote to the pillow next to her. “Fine. Watch some Big Bang Theory or something, darling. In the meantime, I’ll go out and try to find us something to eat.”
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
“Okay, the stationhouse is gone for good, and the hospital’s out of commission,” Reese told the rest of the cops in the mobile command center. “And the Guard can’t hold back the dead around here. We’re going to have to consider pulling out and setting up somewhere else.” As he spoke, more hovering Apaches poured fire at the advancing zombie hordes. In less than a week, their numbers were in the thousands, and according to one of the hospital staff, there was the great possibility that their reproduction rate had been severely underestimated. At first, the medical community had thought they were dealing with just a simple virus, a type of respiratory syndrome that was both fatal and untreatable when contracted. But restricting its spread was relatively easy, and there had been indications that the original viral outbreak had been abating. But those who died from the virus—established at a rate of one out of ten people—rose up again anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours after expiring. The virus they carried was much more efficient, able to replicate at an astounding rate the second it was introduced into a living host. Those who were bitten had hours to live, and conversion into what was known as a necromorph or a reanimant was absolutely guaranteed. Reese thought of all the people who had been bitten in the sprawling hospital which practically surrounded them. Even though the Guard had been systematically exterminating any zombies it found, there was little chance they’d found all of them. Which meant Reese and his meager command were sitting ducks.
The Apaches had managed to hold off the hordes for the time being, but they went weapons dry in only a few minutes. There was a rotation going on, where dry aircraft were replaced by helicopters with full magazines and rocket pods, but there were gaps in the coverage. There weren’t enough helicopters to go around, and requests for what the Guard called CAS were going through the roof. That meant the Guard troops on the ground had to engage, and according to the latest report he had received from Colonel Morton, they were running out of .50-caliber ammunition. That meant the great guns in the Humvees would fall silent, and Reese knew those were the only weapons that could keep the multitude of stenches at bay.
“So where are we going to go?” asked one of the cops, a patrolman Reese didn’t recognize. “Hollywood Station is gone, we’re not in contact with any other units … where the hell do you suggest we go, Detective?”
Reese rubbed his face. His eyes burned, as if they were on fire. His hands shook, and he smelled like he’d been at one of LAPD’s firing ranges for a day straight. He looked over at Sergeant Bates, who leaned against an interior wall. Bates stared back, his blue eyes vacant but still sharp. Reese envied him. Even though Bates was stuck in the same shit as the rest of them, he wasn’t ready to throw in the towel.
Outside, pounding rotor beats changed in pitch. The latest pair of Apaches to arrive was breaking station, heading back to LAX for more ammo and fuel. Reese listened to the sound of their passage, whirling rotors growing more and more distant. No other aircraft approached, aside the drone of a single news helicopter orbiting high overhead.
One of the tri-barreled .50-calibers opened up, spitting out a short burst.
“We could try for the Bowl,” Reese said, still looking at Bates. “A lot of civilians were relocated there. They’ll need our help.”