Time of darkness.
PT's journey - Chapter 1
Time of darkness
"When there's no more room in hell, the dead will walk the Earth"
(from the movie "Dawn of the Dead" by George A. Romero)
I hadn't been really religious in my entire life... well, let's say that I have never been ANY religious and I still am not. I am still today surprised to remember how many times that word had passed through my mind in the early days... and months... of what now we know as the "Time of Darkness", when the humankind really came on the edge of total estinctions. Today, sitting in our warm, safe homes, surrounded by all the typically early-21th Century comforts, we can make our esteems: 400'000 to 1, in the darkest days. 400'000 Worms-For-Brainers for every living human. That's what we will teach to our children, those lucky little pure souls who'll have the luck to never have to face what we have faced. If you want my personal opinion, we are all just getting back to the old days. Here in Neo-Sparta, we have reached a different kind of society, and we can be proud of it. The rest of the world looks at us as an example. But we still have to watch out not to become as we were, not to retake the road that led our societies, our entire world, so dangerously close to total ruin.
By the way. Hell. That's what I saw from my window. Well, it was a pretty wide window, of a pretty wide hotel room. It was the luxury penthouse of the Caesar's Palace hotel in Las Vegas, these days in February. I was in my first year as a professional, post-Master journalist career for an important Italian gun magazine, and I had been dispatched to report from the SHOT Show. What the fuck, now I think. The epidemic had been going on globally for months, yet the Governments worldwide had been so blind, and so good gagging the information sources, that now it all seems to me like a contest for the best "Head up the ass". Dunno if he was the winner, but the President of the United States at the time could surely have placed between the first three, with his big grins to the tourists: "You are welcome, enjoy the great American destinations...". All kindness and smiles when most small cities and rural areas, mainly in the Bible Belt, had already been overrun and were kept quarantined by the Army and the National Guard. Even the Mexican government had strenghtened the boundary security measures, dispatching entire armored units of the Army to protect the border. It wasn't made to stop the illegal immigration FROM Mexico.
I was in my Hotel the last day of the Show, when the infection overran Vegas. There had previously been several cases during the past months, but hey, Vegas is Vegas, they had kept it all well shut and silent. Let all the happy tourists and gamblers come over, relax in the warm and friendly embrace of the Sin City, and forget all their troubles.
The hord came swarming down fron the North Las Vegas township, and they were freakin’ millions. Clearly they couldn’t have been all “domestic” stinkers. A big, shining, noisy city as Vegas, full of living people, lured them in like the stink of shit summons the flies.
I knew they would have went swarming building by building, as noise of sirens and military vehicles echoed throughout the city and their stench and creepy call was paired only by screams and shouts of the living.
Mainly, what I did was to gather all the guns I had in my room. I had one revolver, one pistol, and one scoped carbine that I had took there from Italy to participate to a shooting contest during the SHOT Show. Obviously everything had gone FUBAR, but hell, they did had manage to run everything as if nothing was truly happening, until the very last day. I also had a new rifle, a scoped semi-automatic bull-pup, which I had procured right there at the Show. I was about to call my relatives in California to see if they could keep it there for me as I could not import it in Italy legally. Not that I would ever had a chance to do it anyway, since. I knew there was no way any longer to leave the Country. The thing was just as big as my worst nightmares and fantasies had been since the first time I had enjoyed zombie movies as a child. I had seen and re-seen “Dawn of the Dead” too many times to be blind on what was going on, since the very beginning. I had been preparing a shelter at home, stockpiling ammunitions and supplies for months, yet now that safe place was thousands of miles away, and I was closed in a hotel room in what seemed as its own nickname, “Sin City”, had led the devil, or God itself, to ultimately cast a curse upon it and throw the entire place down to the very centre of hell. I just hoped that my family, whom had been looking at me as to a fool for all that time, had had the time to use the shelter for their own safety.
I locked myself inside my room, at the eight floor of the Caesar’s Palace. I tried to use the telephone, and obviously the line was down. Not that I felt the need to call anybody… well, except my family. Once again, I knew perfectly what was going on. The epidemic had been around for months, with minor outbreaks, and every time the involved Governments called for the situation being “Fully under control”. I knew since the very first time I had heard of the virus (called the “Solanum”, or something like that), that if the world governments wouldn’t have removed their heads from deep inside their sphincters ASAP, the shit was definitely going to hit the fan soon. At the magazine, we had tried to use our website to warn the population. For months, we had been discussing on-line all the news about the outbreaks, diffusing advisements about what to do. We had been called “fools”, “agitators”, somebody even called us “terrorists”. But minor outbreaks had already been reported in Italy by the time I was about to fly to the USA. We knew for certain that our advisements had been used by local and Regional authorities, and that them had saved lives.
I just sat down there, locked in my room, and waited. For hours. All night long. Screams, shouts, gunshots and yells echoed throughout the city for the entire night. At one point, them must have come dangerously close to the place, because I heard the people running out of their rooms in my floor and in the others, rushing down the stairs, screaming and yelling as they searched for desperate escape through the Lobby, the gallery and the Palace casino. The pale-skins must have ultimately found a way in. I heard noises of battle and desperation coming from the ground level. As all the hotels in Vegas, the Caesar’s Palace had a casino, and there were armed guards. They opened fire like mad. I was tempted at one certain point to go down and squeeze a few shots, or maybe it was just my conscience, calling me to be a man rather than a pussy and run to save those lives. My instinct, the one that kept me alive for so long after that first, fright night, Just kept me hooked to the spot. I was, well, I –AM- a great shot. Nonetheless, how many of them could I bring down before being overwhelmed? How many rounds of ammunitions did I had with me at the time? Not many. How many of those walking carcasses were walking around the roads of Vegas? Hundreds of thousands. Maybe millions. They assaulted highly-crowded places, from households to hotels to hospitals, lured by the smell of living flesh and driven solely by their savage primal hunger instinct.
The Clark County Police and the Nevada National Guard, I knew, had prepared for the invasion by establishing roadblocks to shoot down everything that stenched like dead and moved like alive. A great tactic, if it would have been made to stop anything else, like a civilian riot. Problem was, they were not civilian rioters. Rubber batons and CS gas meant nothing to them. Gunshots were the only way to deal with them: shooting their limbs would have slowed them down, ever teared the limb out if well-aimed; shooting their spine could have paralyzed them, turning ‘em into crawling larvae. But the headshot was the only real stopper with those motherfuckers. They knew no mercy, no rationality, no fear. And they had extremely developed senses, especially hearing and odorate. The gunshots coming from the roadblocks, though effective in stopping the hord for a certain amount of time, just called them like the music from an ice cream van calls the children. They just kept them coming, ‘till the Police and the Military ran out of ammunition and were overwhelmed. How stupid they were. Their main error was to establish those roadblocks right there, at road level. If they would only have established shooting positions from the windows of the surrounding buildings… but in no way they were going to. Tourism and gambling were still too important for Vegas.
All I could do was try and stop the stenchers from reaching my floor. I called all the lifts up, and blocked every one of them by keeping their doors open with everything I could find, mainly chairs taken from the rooms around. Then I reached from the staircases and activated the fire alarm. I had to get along with that terrible ringing noise and some stinky water coming out from the sprinklers on the ceiling, but what I obtained was to have the firewalls close: those thick, heavy metal doors literally shut down the floor from the rest of the hotel. Of course, them could be opened by several ways, by a common human at least: there were override commands on both sides of each, the hotel Security and personnel had keys to activate them, and usually even the Fire Department had special cranks for that purposes. But I seriously doubted that the Zs could lay their hands on them, and even so, I didn't really thought that they could learn how to use them. And they COULD learn several things, in fact: since the very early phases of the epidemic, many "infected" had been seen re-enacting what seemed to be habits of their past life, even arriving to develop the ability of using basic tools. They never arrived to a high leve, even apes can use basic instruments. Some of them could open doors if them were closed, but couldn't arrive to perform "precision" tasks such as using a key to open a lock. Some had even been seen shooting a firearm. No, really: once they had one in their hand, they tried to reach for the trigger with their index finger and pull it. They never went much far. Mostly the blast and the muzzle flash scared them, so did the effect on nearby Zs that moaned in pain when hit by a bullet, and by the way they simply couldn't take the recoil and they couldn't take aim. So they simply cast the gun away with pain and fear.
Then I used a service passage to reach the Penthouse, and I took possession of one of those fancy suites that would have otherwise costed me at least 6 months of pay per night. I could have remained in my smaller, yet still perfectly comfortable and safe room ten floors lower, but in the Penthouse I had direct access to the helipad on the floor, this meant that I would be close to any help that could arrive from the sky. Plus, while all the rooms were equipped with a little minibar fridge inside with some beverages and candy bars, the Penthouse suites all had small private kitchens, thus I had food and beverages for two days, 48 hours that I could have spent in a safe place trying to catch a hold on what was going on in the Country and around the world before getting forced to put myself in danger fo look for some.
At a second try, several hours after the first, the telephone lines were still off. Turning the TV on, I found out that the Pay-TV circuit of the hotel was down (damn, no porn that night, hehe), and that all channels, either standard, satellite or cable, had been taken over by the Emergency Broadcasting System. All them displayed was the FEMA emblem on white background and a running text of "Stand-By for further informations". Overall, the hotel still had power, as well as most of the city. I could see almost the entire urban area from the windows and the terrace, and the casinos, hotels, and most part of the other buildings still were shining with their lights. I could see large spots of dark in the area of North Las Vegas, but that had been the gateway of the hord to enter the city, and I wondered that either the rotting-heads or the escaping crowds must had caused some damage to the local grids somehow. After all, Las Vegas consumed in one night as much energy as the entire city of Milan did in one month, and the only source of power big enough to satisfy that enormous need was the hydro-electrical complex of the Hoover Dam. Probably it had been overwhelmed, but that was such a big compound that it still had to be on somehow.
Yet the Penthouse rooms had a broadband Internet access jack, and when I tried it, I found out that the Net was still on. Well, so much for the invention. Back in the 1960s, the Net had been conceived as a mean of communication that could survive and keep on through nuclear attacks, and well, that was no nuclear attack, but it was definitely succeeding in its task, at least as far as boradband and direct/cable access networks. If the Net was to go down, it would have been for the excessive dependance on standard telephone lines it had been based upon in the early times of its civilian availability in order to save bucks and worktime on implementation.
I soon discovered the grim truth about my homecountry. Italy had fallen. The very little international press agencies that had been reporting from there in the past hours had interrupted all updates as early as two hours earlier, the latest news talked about Army units isolated and overwhelmed by the mass of stenchers, and even rumored about the Government having authorized the use of some nuclear warheads "gifted" from America as a mean to arginate the phenomenon. It was no big news. Almost all countries that had nuclear weapons had used them against their own territory or against neighbouring countries, hoping that it would have stopped the mass of worm-eated walkers. But this, I would have discovered only later.
I knew that I was safe for the moment, and for a lot more time if I'd have wanted, but I had something to do. I had to be prepared for a long stand, and up there in the high rises of the hotel, I was safe enough. But I had to be able to escape quickly if I'd have needed to. I took the next two days to prepare a plan.
First thing I did, grabbed my guns, I unblocked the service elevator and went down to the "Personnel Only" area of the hotel. It had been shut down from the rest of the hotel since I had activated the fire doors, so there were very little walkers around. I grabbed a fire axe and used it to get rid of them, just to save ammunitions that I could have needed later.
I opened my way to the kitchen. It was food galore! Just like Scatman Crothers said in "The Shining", I could have lived there for more than one year and never ever be forced to eat the same thing twice. Since the power was still on, everything was okay with the fridges and all the rest. I didn't needed to use the immense kitchen of the hotel/restaurant/casino, I had the small thing up in my room, and that was enough already to make my own chow. Yet I had something else to do. Power was on 'cause the Hoover Dam was definitely still producing it and putting it into the grid, but what if the grid would have suddenly downed? The hotel had an independent generator, but how much would have it lasted with the extreme consumption of power for the entire structure? The Palace Casino and the Gallery on the other side of the building were still screaming mad with all their machines and attractions working. I walked through the Control area and searched for the power grid controls. With my luck, it was very selective, with switches to shut down particular parts of the place. I turned off anything that wasn't the kitchen, the Penthouse, the elevators, and the security system. In the Security area I found a gun rack, but it was plenty of both weapons and ammunitions. At one certain point, even the Casino/Hotel Security had been involved in the fight against the undead crowd. Sometimes I still wonder what stopped me from going down and help them rather than remaining secured in my room. Now I know: it's what kept me alive in the first 24 hours of the Zombie Overrun.
There was a backdoor in the kitchen, for supplies. It was a big thick metal door, and odd enough I heard no moaning or bumping on the other side of it. Slowly and carefully, I opened it and saw why. The Supply bay was a closed area, with a metal protection grid all around and a huge gate. No stencher had managed to pass through, nor I think they were ever attracted by that particular place. The Casino, with all that noise, must have had a way bigger bait.
There were no vehicles in the Supply bay, but I had to get one in order to prepare my getaway for the next day. This meant that I -HAD- to go out, in the street. In the Kingdom of the Dead. Crap. I have never considered myself a coward, definitely, yet I dare anyone who survived the Zombie plague to state that he hasn't crapped his pants at least once in that time. It took all my courage to pass through the Supply bay and get out, in the back street.
SHIT, them were all around! I counted... I stopped counting when I reached twenty. With my carbine in my hands, I could easily bring them all down in seconds. But the shots would have called more to the place. I didn't wanted my gunshots to be launch invitations for all the Zombies in Nevada. Yet, I just couldn't stay there. They would have noticed me, sooner or later. It wasn't clear yet whether those motherfuckers could actually see the living as normal humans, or if them could smell them, or whatever; yet I knew that they could listen and hear. The typical noises of human activities lured them to the meal just like the stench of shit lures the flies. One zombie noticed human activity, and moaned; one click away, another Zombie heard his fellow moan, and moaned in response... and the place was crowded wth walking corpses in a matter of seconds. That's how it worked. Even gunshots called them in, and that's why the blockades of the LVPD, he Nevada State Police and the National Guard had been uneffective, just as any similar initiative taken by Police and Military authorities in the rest of the USA and worldwide. The sounds of battle called them in like crazy. Hence why I made myself a note about getting a sound suppressor for one of my firearms at least. Being able to kill them without calling others in could have saved my life in the future.
I was about to get back in and renounce for the day, when I found it. There was a Pick-up truck with hard cover on the back, parked sideways just a few yards from me. I couldn't recognize exactly the model, it seemed an Opel to me anyhow, it was black with darkened windows, and it had reinforced front bumper, red-and-blue flashlights on the top, and the insigna of the Federal Emergencies Management Agency on the front doors. It was simply parked there. Alone.
It was then that I saw more walking corpses come down the alley from behind the corner. I realized my error, went back into the building and to the Power grid controls. I re-activated the power to the Palace Casino and to the Gallery. There was no human activity any longer in there, yet the noise, it just kept them calling in. Obviously I would have paid it if the grid' went down, but in that case, I would have known it since the emergency lights would have automatically switched on when the power supply would have passed to the generator. By the way, I went back out just to notice that, at least, the renewed noise from the building was calling them back in. The fire doors were shut, isolating the Palace Casino and the Gallery from the rest of the building but leaving wayouts open, so I had nothing to fear for those ghouls. They couldn't get in.
Them all ultimately turned around the corner and went back to the bulding at once, except for one, which I surprised getting out of the Supply bay and crushing his head with the fire axe before he could notice me and moan. Then I approached the Pick-Up truck and carefully inspected it. There was nobody on board, either alive... or not, not in the cockpit, nor in the back or in the cargo van. The keys were in, there was plenty of fuel, and borh a CB radio and a car stereo that seemed not to work, or at least not picking up any transmission. There was nothing else: no supplies, no weapons or ammunitions, no papers, nothing useful. I slowly drove the Pick-Up truck back in the Supply bay and locked it in, getting myself ready for the trip of the day after.
I woke up at dawn and rapidly went off for my excursion. The ghastly image of what was once the Sin City started to haunt me as soon as I got out of my safe refuge. Later on, and for the entire time of the Zombie war, I would have seen many other cities turned into ghost towns; all survivors had, at one certain point, and all of them will tell how "their" ghost town was the scariest in the world. Well, you should try thinking about Las Vegas as a ghost town. Everything was still on, from the street lights to the Casinos, from the fountains to the light games, as if the city was still waiting for visitors to fleece. Only there were no other visitors except the living dead, slowly crawling by the masses inside and out those strctures built for fun and entertaining and turned into horrible dens of death and horror in the time of one night. I saw horrible things, from stains of blood to corpses of little children eaten by dozens of living dead at once in an orgy of splatter-gore. Damn Las Vegas. I still have nightmares today.
Most roads were stuck with either what was left of the Police blockades or the wreckages of the vehicles of people who had tried to escape from the city. By the way all of them were crawling with walking corpses, so I had to avoid them, and this took me a longer time than I expected to reach the Convention Center.
All from the SHOT Show was still there. The Security and the people who were dismantling it after the closure had probably been caught by the stinkers; I could see enormous stains of blood, traces of dragged bodies... no noise around, but it didn't meant that them couldn't be there. They were really able to move without making any noise.
By the way, the place was still full with the stuff, and it was killer! For -REAL-, I mean. First thing I did, I reached the Arms-Tech Ltd. booth, grabbed a QD.223 sound suppressor and fitted it to my Beretta RX4-STORM carbine. In this way, I had a great mean of self-protection in that place, being now able to kill Zombies without calling others in. I had a list of things to take, and managed to find everything and load the Pick-Up truck properly as fast as I could. The hotel was a safe haven for now, but I both needed some means to make it even safer, and to ensure myself a quick and secure way out and enough survival goodes and equipments should I have had to leave the place in the near future. Once done, I got back to the Hotel, parked the Pick-up truck ready to go in the Supply bay and locked it in. I was smart enough to park it into a particularly hidden corner of the bay, a closed area that probably once was the private parking for the Chef or something similar, and to cover it with a plastic tarpaulin; I hadn't seen anybody else alive around, but I couldn't risk my pick-up truck, and all its precious equipments, to be spotted by looters.
One of the measures I had previewed to strenghten safety in what was going to become my small fort came in the form of some stuff I had taken from the SHOT Show: a few boxes of Tannerite, 12-gauge shotgun shells loaded with 00 buckshots, fishing reel, and a handful of Turkish pistols with ammunition, small .32-Acp PPK clones that I would have never relied my life upon but that looked good for what I needed.
I prepared the traps just a few feet over the fire doors -inside- what had to be my safety area. I prepared bombs using empty glass bottles found in the kitchen and filled them up with Tannerite compound, and the powder and pellets from the 12-gauge shells. Then I set several "points", six or seven, each one with a cardboard box containing 5 bottles of Tannerite compound and shotgun pellets. The fishing reel was stretched at a few inches from the floor and hidden under the carpet, while the boxes were hanged on the wall at two and a half feet of height and hidden behind some light pieces of furniture. The .32 pistols were connected to the fishing reel, secured to the wall via a few hooks, hidden as well, and aimed to the boxes. If anyone or anything, make it be a Zombie or a looter, would have tripped in the fishing reel, the .32 pistol would have gone off, firing a round right in the cardboard box and triggering the Tannerite bottles. The explosion wouldn't have been strong enough to endanger the structural stability of the stairways or corridors I had placed the traps in, but them were placed at a right height to result fatal for multiple intruders that would have found themselves in the range of the blast. The spread of pellets contained therein would have done the rest for a few feet away. It would have been good to waste, to say, the first ten or maybe twenty Zombies that could have managed to pass through a fire door, or even an entire groop of looters. I thought about signaling the presence of the traps: I didn't wanted them to kill some rescue team that might have arrived. But the coming of rescue was a possibility that became more and more improbable hour after hour, and if some looter would have tripped through it, well, my heart wouldn't have cried blood about them. I am sure that any looter that would have stumbled in my little fortress would most probably tried to kill me for it.
Subsequently, I spent my night in hunt. With the fortress secured, and most of the rotten-brainers walking through the Palace Casino and the Gallery, I was free to search what was left of the hotel complex and kill the few that had managed to remain in after I had closed the fire shutters. I therefore used a trolley to gather the corpses and took them to a room in the second floor through the elevator. From there, I cast them all down the window. Now I was -REALLY- in a safe place, with plenty of chow and commodities to spend time waiting for a rescue that, I knew, wouldn't have come so fast. My only link with the outside world was the DSL/cable Internet that was somehow still on, while the telephone lines were down. I tried to use the satellite mobile that I had gathered from the SHOT Show, and it did worked, but I tried, to say, a dozen numbers from people I knew both in the USA and Italy, obtaining no access to the local line whatsoever. Only the number of a relative of mine in France actually ringed, but nobody answered.
I know many could criticize me for taking a lonely, and comfortable, stand in one of the pillars of consumism while I should have been out helping people. I have guilty feelings myself when I think to all the people who died while I was safe, sound and comfy in the Caesar's Palace. Yet, I don't know what I could possibly have done in that phase of the outbreak, except maybe to die. AFAIK, there were no survivors in Vegas other than me, those who had escaped the zombie overrun of the city had managed to flee to other safe havens. I still have to be contacted by anybody who survived and stayed in LV at the same time as me. I would have liked to share my place and my comfort with somebody else, with a friend to speak with, especially when my stay became long and boring, then distressing, worrying, a lonely long torture that almost drove me to insanity. I expected rescue within days, maybe weeks. I remained at the Caesar's Palace alone for almost three months.
I spent my time on the Internet, trying to collect informations, using what was left of the Italian net and my magazine's website to advise people about what to do. Through it, I actually received reports from my homecountry about people who used those advises and managed to survive. So, I can't really tell I wasn't useful.
When I was bored, I grabbed my guns and went to the terrace. I had stockpiled a terrific amount of ammunitions from the SHOT Show, around 4000 to 5000 rounds overall inside the Pick-Up truck ready to go, and at least double in a communicating room in the Penthouse, to be used as a reserve stockpile to take my stand should have the Zombies overran the place. When I was bored, I simply loaded my FN FS-2000 rifle, to which I had also fit a bayonet lug for a combat knife/bayonet of Italian manufacture, and went to the terrace. It had a great high-magnification hunting scope with mil-dot reticule and integrated rangefinder, and with its long barrel, it was eagerly accurate. I used to bring down from 100 to 200 targets a day, when I felt tired of staying in front of the computer. There was nothing else to do: other broadcasting systems were all down. The goddamn radio and TV, even those Emergency Broadcasting Systems that were prepared to stand up and inform the people in the event of a nuclear war, had fallen at once when Nevada became Z-place. Odd, in fact, I thought. In Nevada there were two major US military installations, the Nellis AFB and the motherfucking Lake Groom Facility, mo'fo'in' Area-51, that were specifically prepared to be relay stations for the EBS. Area-51, I guessed, was one of the places where the Federal Government of the United States and/or the Security Council of the United Nations could have taken refuge in such an event, along with the former NORAD compound in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado. My guess was that the enormous amount of refugees from all infested parts of America had led those places to collapse. That had happened in other parts of the world. Israel itself had nuked the whole Middle East, I learned later, to keep his boundary safe, but shortly thereafter it had ben overrun by millions of refugees from the Middle East itself, from Africa and Europe.
Sardinia. My island, my place of birth, had succumbed too. Those were the last news I had from my country before the Italian internet went down. That was what got me in the ultimate blues. Sure, I had everything to survive... but nothing left to survive -FOR-. Nor I knew if now I had the will itself to survive.
This, until that night in the early May. That was when I woke up crying for all the people I had loved and lost, instinctively grabbed my pistol from the bedside table and stuck the barrel in my mouth. I can now see that my mind was completely switched off. I wasn't thinking, or anything. I would have seriously done it if the Computer wouldn't have sent that annoying beeping signal that announces that you have a Live Messenger's contact. I used to hate that sound, but then, what the fuck? It was about one month since I had heard it for the last time. Nobody had tried to contact me directly. Now somebody was. I left my gun down, promising to get back and give it a good blowjob if the news weren't good. A part of me hoped them not to be, so that I could have kissed this valley of pain goodbye. Another part of me seriously hoped it wasn't one of those mo'fo'in' Spambots that had survived the collapse of most of the Internet.
'Neo Sparta: Haven if you can make it. Bring beer.'
Time of darkness - Part 2.
Before the start: sorry for the delay, I had promised this for the weekend, yet I have been stuck with home improvement works and emergencies from the magazine, all in the same days. I have been busy far beyond my will.
"What we got here is... failure to communicate... some men you just can't reach. So you get what we had here last week, which is the way He wants it... well, He gets it. I don't like it anymore than you, men".
(Guns 'N' Roses, ''Civil War'')
I remained astounded for some seconds, staring unbelieving at the flashing monitor of my Laptop. I grinned sardonically, thinking of a joke or something. Definitely an inopportune joke, seen the situation.
"Neo Sparta". A nice mental masturbation from the good old days when the world was still alive and well and we used to talk on the Board about this "Shit hits the fan" plan for all gun owners, should the entire world have one day outrightly banned all civilian firearms ownership. Nice idea, yet a stupid one. How could we have thought that, in such an event, gun owners would have been allowed to find a place for their own to safeguard their interest? It would have been us against the world. If the ultimate end of such a world ban would have been to cancel civilian gun rights from history, as it would have surely been, the world wouldn't have allowed the gun owners to preserve even a single spot of resistance. The gun owners worldwide would have been searched house by house and executed on the spot with all their families, and then their bodies burned down with their guns, rather than being allowed to enact such an initiative and instill courage and ideas of rebellion in all the oppressed people worldwide. I was totally persuaded of that, simply because I know that this is how dictatorship works.
But. I rapidly examined the header of the message. The recipients list was undisclosed, and "we" were all there. All the members from the USA, including that stupid Bacon Guy that used to sneak a peek on the Board just to piss me off. Well, I would have really loved to have him with me right now, no matter the past. When I was a teenager, in my worst days, I had often fantasized to get away from the whole world and find a spot to die alone and sad. What an Idiot (with block "I") I had been. Only then I could actually realize that. Just like I briefly realized that maybe goode ole TJ wasn't kidding. Maybe he and a few guys had managed to sanitize a zone and render it habitable again, for a last stand or a new beginning of civilization. It would have been like in the end of that Robert Rodriguez' movie, "Planet Terror", somewhere close to the sea, with plenty of food and many beautiful girls? HAH! Keep dreaming, little jerkoff Italian! It will take years before you'll see pussy again!
At least the message seemed to come from his computer or something, this disproved the rumors that I had received in the past weeks about the last desperate attempts of the United States Government to stop infected refugees to swarm in from deeply infested Mexico by simply nuking out everything from Corpus Christi, TX, to Calexico, CA. But who knew. Maybe it was all true.
Somehow, I had a quick reminding of my trip in China a pair of years before, sent by my magazine to test their bull-pup weapons system. Splendid trip. Great cities, breath-taking panoramas, great military bases with full weaponry to shoot till the cow goes home, and 24/7 escort by two astoundingly beautiful female Second Lieutenants from the People's Liberation Army Public Relations Bureau, a 27-y-o fresh out of the academy and a 30-something "veteran" that I had both scored since the very first day. I had kept in touch with both of them since then, having lost contact only after the major outbreak in PRC. Last news from them were that them had been dispatched to the heavily infested area of the North-Korean border. I hoped them to be alive. I was seriously persuaded to have fallen in love -at least- with one of them.
By the way, the message was desperately short and lacking informations, and thus desperate was the mission to reach the place. First of all, where did it was? Why TJ didn't provided the location or the coordinates? Maybe he was afraid of somebody "uninvited" to intercept the message because the place could not sustain an enormous amount of refugees. Or maybe for some reason he had very little time to send the message. In this last case, I couldn't trust that much the safety of the "Haven".
The computer beeped again with another message. I quickly checked it. Again, recipients list undisclosed, and again, we were all there. The sender was Armorer, our rezident shotguns expert and failed teacher. Hah, nice guy.
'Who's still alive, and where are you? --R'
Another deadly brief message. Roll call time. I pondered about -NOT- telling that I was alive, but quickly discarded the idea. Sure, I was in a safe place. But safe for how much time? I was alone and I had plenty of food and water, I had energy, and an escape mean ready with full supplies to sustain a long travel. Yet, how much more time I could have spent there? I was already going crazy for the loneliness. Only minutes before, I was blowing the barrel of my gun. Even if the idea of others being still alive, and possibly the opportunity to keep in touch with them, could have helped me to keep grip on life, what about the slow death I was preparing for myself? Supplies would have slowly runned out, and if I hadn't had any rescue, I would have been pretty fucked up. Even faster should the power grids have suddenly died. Not mentioning that the fortress had its weak points. The Zombies could have remained outside forever, or could have somehow found a way in. Maybe, like in Romero's movie "Dawn of the Dead", looters could have come and opened the doors for them. The traps could have stopped for very little time. I had prepared only a very small number of them in order not to undermine the structural stability of the stairways that I might have needed to escape. I had demolished a great part of the external fire ladders so that I didn't had to worry about them as a possible way in for Zed-heads and looters. One single point of failure at any time, even within two minutes, and I would have been trapped on the last floor and undeniably fucked up.
Not to mention that, now I knew, there were survivors. Maybe needing me. And I was seriously convinced, as I still am now, that being there no life after death, the only really meaning things that we can do are the things that we do in this only and sole life and world, and that the only "Life after death" that we can aspire at is the life in the memory of those who survive. If we do good things, we live on in good memory by our beloved, and that's like Heaven. If we do bad things, we live on in bad memory, and that's like Hell.
Somebody out there might have needed me right here and now. I rushed to the keyboard.
"PT, you rezident Kommie. Alive and well in beautiful Vegas".
I pushed the "Send" button, and the program froze for two second. Then the PC chimed in a bad tone, and a pop-up message appeared on the screen:
"Connection lost. Impossible to send the message. Please check your connection status and try again."
SHIT! The goddamn cable Internet connection! I knew it would have fallen, one day or another, but why now? WHY GODDAMMIT NOW! The Interned connection had kept me updated with all the bad news for all the time I had been there, trapped and alone in my own fortress, giving me a full real-time inside view of the world falling into its apocalyptic end and giving me a great help in falling in my deep suicidal depression and death wish status, and now, right now that I knew that somebody was still alive, now that I had regained the will to live, now it was abandoning me? FUCK YOU, COCKSUCKING BASTARD!
How could it have happened? Maybe Zombies, or maybe men, had somehow, accidentally or not, destroyed a hub, a server, an uplink. I rapidly took a look around: the emergency lights in my room were not on, so the power grid wasn't down. No, it just was the damn cable connection.
I could establish a phone connection, through. Right, Telephone lines were still down, but I could link up with a satellite connection. Those damn metal birds should have still been there, orbiting around our blue ball, watching sardonically, or simply disinterestingly, their masters dying off slowly in their world. Some of them still had to be keeping a communications link on. And one of the things I had gathered from the rumbles of the SHOT Show could have been pretty handy. It was a satellite cellphone called "Thuraya", made in the United States for the Middle-Eastern market, especially for Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Djibouti and the United Arab Emirates. It was a pretty little thing, able to catch up with five different satellite communication nets, including Iridium, INMARSAT, and the very same Thuraya, an all-Arab sat-com net. I kept it in my room, just in case. I quickly took it out from its hard case, turned it on, linked it to my computer through the port of my integrated modem, and attempted to establish a connection. The cellphone beeped in response. I glanced at its display:
"Signal inadequate to perform the asked operation. Please check functionality and try to enhance receptivity before retrying."
I couldn't understand how it was possible, except that maybe the building, with its full ferroconcrete structure and all its electrics and electronics still going on, could have been jamming the signal. I quickly turned to the hard case to find the solution.
And the solution was in the form of a stand-alone supplementary deployable antenna made by LandSea Systems for disaster relief operations of the US Coast Guard.
I rushed out of my room, with the antenna system in my hands and my Tanfoglio P-25/ADP selfloading handgun in a holster behind my back. The rooftop with the helipad was right over me. I could place the antenna on the roof, lower the cable down to my terrace and let it in through the glass door to reach the Thuraya cellphone. I entered the service corridor, and at the end of it, I found the ladder and the big, thick metal door to the roof. There was a big red scary placard on it: "Warning, strong winds, fall danger, operating rotors", etcetera. The door was kept closed by a big, HUGE Yale padlock, whose key was hanging to a nail on the wall right at my left with a red keyring. I opened the door and went out.
"Strong winds" my ass. The day was perfect, with a deep cobalt blue sky without a single cloud on sight, at least 35°C of temperature, you do the math for °F, and not a breath of wind. And as for the "Fall danger", the whole perimeter of the helipad was fenced with about three metres of metal grid. Placed to prevent "Accidental falls" or suicides?
What astounded me was the small helicopter, parked about two metres from me. I couldn't tell the model by the moment, but it was just like the one used by Tom Selleck's black friend in the TV show "Magnum P.I."; even the colours were the same. All ports were open, I could see there was nobody inside. How did it happened? Since how much time was it there? How could I not have noticed its landing? I was sure nobody could have entered the Hotel; the door was closed with the padlock, and as far as I knew, it had always been.
I was still wondering when I felt the snatch over my shoulder, and the pressure, the horrible localized pressure that tells you that you're fucked up. I screamed, like a little girl I now can say, raised the stand-alone antenna with the left hand and used it as a blunt instrument, striking it hard against something I couldn't see on my back. I hit something, though: I heard -It- moaning, the snatch on my shoulder lost grip, and I rolled on the floor and stood up driving out my gun just to see it. Motherfuckin' ugly and stinky, with pieces of rotten meat falling down his face, ragged clothes, and a blue Navy helicopter pilot cap on his head. Right behind it there were three more, two of which were young women, one half-naked, the other one limping on a broken pair of high-heels shoes. The pilot Zombie raised his pale, think arms, his long hands stretched towards me, the fingers moving like long worms trying to clutch at my face.
Horrified, I raised my pistol and pulled the trigger. No recoil felt; the golden empty case pirouetted shining in the air as the Zombie's head blew away in a blackish and reddish cloud and its dead body fell down.
<< Die, motherfuckers, die...! >>
I aimed at the other three Zombies and fired three different shots in one and half second, moving the barrel steadily from one Zombie to the other, blowing their heads off and watching them going down with a moan and a thud like the one of a sack of potatoes left down a stairway. Then, franctically, I took a look at the rip on my shoulder. Fuck, I thought, I am bit, I am fucked, I am sacked, I am a fucking walking deadmeat. I rapidly thought again to the feeling of a gun barrel inside my mouth, while inspecting the rent with my heart literally stopped and my lungs on fire. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuckin' FUCK...
I sighed in relief almost instantly. There was no blood, no sign of bit. The motherfucker had only managed to tear out a piece of my shirt and its rotten teeth hadn't found their way to my flesh. I mentally thanked... well, any God I knew the name of, from Allah to Jahveh to Buddha, Shiva, what the fuck, I tried not to disappoint any. Next time I might not be so lucky. Odd for an atheist, isn't that? Well, guess the old saying is right, there are no atheists on a battlefield. And that -was- a fuckin' battlefield, you can rest assured. A fucking planetary battlefield.
I quickly went to secure the LandSea Systems antenna to the metal fence, opened it, and left the cable down through the fence to my terrace. Then rushed back inside, closing the roof door with the padlock back again, and carefully checking the entire floor with my gun at the ready for any Zombie that might have sneaked in, before returning to my room. I rapidly and franctically connected the Thuraya cellphone to the antenna cable, almost fainting when the cellphone beeped with full signal acquired.
The laptop connected itself to the INMARSAT satellite system almost instantly, and just as instantly the line went down. Satellite net dead. The modem and the Thuraya cellphone did their work perfectly in second, checking the Iridium net and finding its way in with a new chime that sounded to me like the fuckin' Ode to Joy. The computer linked itself back again to the Internet with renewed energy. Less than one second later, the computer trilled.
"Message successfully sent".
I fell sitting on the edge of the King-Size bed, then lost grip and fell back-down laying on the incredibly soft and comfortable mattress, laughing like one fuckin' possessed. It felt like sinking into an infinite, cosy, soft and safe abyss, and I was more than happy of it. Shit, I never desired a chilled can of Coke like I did then.
Time of darkness - Part 3.
"This isn't the Republicans versus the Democrats, where we're in a hole economically or... or we're in another war. This is more crucial than that. This is down to the line, folks, this is down to the line. There can be no more divisions among the living!"
(from the movie "Dawn of the Dead" by George A. Romero)
The chilled can of Coke finally helped me to stop laughing like an idiot. At least I knew I wasn't alone, and it was more than I expected in the worst days when I was driving nuts. By the way, the Laptop chimed again with a new message within minutes, and my heart exulted. We were starting again to get in touch, we, the living, and we could at least form a core of Resistance for the humankind. My Country had liberated itself from Nazism with a Resistance movement, and if there was something I had always dreamed about, as a Kommie, was to be part of some Resistance movement. Yippie-Ki-Yay, undead mo'fo's, I thought, reading the message.
It was from Mk23, one of the many senior members of the board. I didn't knew much of him, except that he was half-Taiwanese. Who knew, maybe he had some contacts in the mainland China. Someway to find news about the two PLA chicks.
'El Paso being overrun from Mexico. Avoid. Will meet PT at:
Wickenburg Municipal Airport - 33 57'56.00" N 112 48'13.50" W
Will secure and await Armorer's arrival/further communication.
PT, get these from the SHOT show for me if possible:
MP5 select fire trigger group
Tromix Saiga select fire parts
Select fire Bushmaster Carbon-15 5.56mm LE Pistol'
"Sure", I thought with a grin. "Who do you think I am, fuckin' Santa?".
Nonetheless, I liked the idea. At that point, I would have done anything for anybody. I just had enough of being alone. This meant that I would have had to leave out my safe place, and I wasn't that happy of it, after all. I thought about suggesting him of reaching me in Las Vegas, but I quickly discarded the idea. There was much much way from Arizona, and the trip was risky. The roads had to be, mostly, clogged with vehicles, and dead escapees and refugees, which meant -Zombie- escapees and refugees. The city itself was a nightmare, even for the very little that I had seen from my hotel and the only time that I had got out of it heading to the Show.
I checked Google Maps, it was still working, and I shook my head rapidly. I was desperately trying to avoid him a long, risky trip, and THAT was exactly what HE was calling me to: head south, pass Nevada and enter Arizona just to Rendez-Vous in some municipal airport in a shithole town in the middle of Nowhere County.
What was the worst point? I liked the idea.
I would have left the day after. I confirmed with another message and quickly packed my bags, including the laptop and the satellite phone. I granted myself one last, long, comfortable hot bath with Jacuzzi, a sumptuous dinner, a good booze, and a nice night in bed. Them would have been the last ones for God-Only-Knew how much.
I woke up next morning at dawn, perfectly lucid despite the booze of the night before, and again granted myself a good breakfast and a long, hot shower. I also packed some fresh chow and goods, which would have surely been hard to find around, in some "Fridge Transit Bags" that were nothing but small externally-powered fridges to be powered though the power outlets of the car. With luck, the FEMA Pick-Up truck I had prepared had several of them in the back. Plus, I spent some time in reinforcing the existing barricades and traps in the building, and preparing new ones. Who knew, maybe something would have gone wrong, and maybe I would have been forced to get back to the Palace, maybe with some other survivors. It would have been good to preserve the place Zombie-free, just in case.
I finally kissed the place goodbye and moved from the Caesar's Palace at 11:15 a.m., in that very same morning. I headed to the ruins of the SHOT Show area, once again, passing through what was once one of the greatest cities in the world. Everything was rumble and destruction. The enormous number of car wreckages couldn't block completely the wide streets of Las Vegas, but sometimes I had to change direction to pass through what was left of a Military or Police blockade.
What was worse were the bodies. Hundreds of dead bodies were laying around, everywhere. Some were being eaten by dogs, birds, and all sorts of any other animals. Some others were just laying there, with several other dead corpses of animals laying around. Those were the dead Zombies, or people eaten alive by them. The virus that caused the Zombie infection was fatal to animal lifeforms. Eating Zombie flesh or otherwise contaminated meat caused almost immediate death.
I noticed that the sky was turning ash-grey from North, stopped for a second and got down of the car, watching towards the neighbourhoods of North Las Vegas. Well, I had seen this movie once, "28 Days Later", where the survivors of a Zombie epidemic in England (who would have told it?) watch in disbelief as the entire city of Manchester burns out of control. Well, that was what was going on in North Las Vegas. Several building in Vegas itself were burning down without any control, and I shook my head. The possibility that the fire would just burn itself out without extending itself further were close to zero. Maybe all my efforts in securing my little fortress at the Caesar's Palace for a possible future return had been all useless. Probably, should I have turned back to Vegas one day, nothing of what I was seeing now would have been still at its place.
A shuffling feet noise on the asphalt and a bunch of whispered moans at my back captured my attention. I quickly turned around. Zombies. About twenty, maybe thirty, moving towards me, so slowly, so painfully... them weren't fresh ones. Fresh ones were dangerous. Fresh ones could RUN, just like if they were alive. At least that was what REALLY fresh ones could do, and I meant dead since no more than one month; after that, decomposition severely afflicted the muscular structure, a sort of Muscular Dystrophy from hell, that prevented them from performing fast moves, than sometimes to raise their upper limbs, then even to move. The older Zombies just dragged themselves to their death for decomposition, but this we, the humans, would have discovered only much, much later: the Zed Heads had a life expectance of around 20 years after turning undead, so what we were seeing there were just the early phases of their self-destruction.
I quickly but calmly reached for my Beretta RX4-Storm carbine inside the van. Great little carbine it was, with 12'3"-bbl equipped with flash hider (originally a Phantom, then replaced by me with an Arms-Tech Vortex), pistol grip and 5-position collapsing stock: a version normally on sale to civilians in Italy, and restricted to LE sales in the United States. It had an upper Picatinny rail that I had equipped with a Leupold Mk-4 CQ/T tactical optic. It was also now equipped with an Arms-Tech QD.223 sound suppressor that I had gathered from the SHOT Show and that fit perfectly with the new Vortex flash hider, and I wanted all of that 'cause I didn't wanted my shots to call on me all the Zombies that were swarming the streets within 20 blocks. Rapid but frosty, I started to bring'em down: one shot one kill, all clean headshots, from a distance ranging from 50 to 10 metres. Obviously I always aimed at the closer ones, and often I stopped to take a look around and at my back to rest assured that others were not approaching me from behind or outflanking me. I emptied an entire 30-rds STANAG, but I took them all down. A nice, steady, not too tense training session. It was nothing else. I got back to the drive towards what was once the SHOT Show.
What I found was worse than I expected. There was almost nothing left. Since when I had passed through to gather what I had inside my van, the place had been ran over by hundreds, maybe thousands of undeads, and maybe looted. Several Zs were still there, and I took them down with my silenced RX4-Storm carbine at dangerously close distance. One came so close to me that only the point-blank contact of my weapon against his face prevented him from biting me off a piece of neck.
I made a mental note to myself to present Mk23 a substantial bill one day or another, just for the disturb.
I found the TROMIX booth, and had no problem with the parts he had asked. I had to gather the MP5 select-fire trigger groups from several booths, POF-USA and Professional Arms, while I didnt' found a LE model of the Bushmaster pistol, I took a civvie one and converted it to select-fire by myself using an M-16 trigger group gathered from the DIEMACO booth.
I also found a little thingy from myself: a PRO-TEC light helmet, like the one used by the DELTA Force and the Italian COMSUBIN Navy SpecOps command.
Past noon, I was hitting the road once again, this time getting out of town. I had printed some maps from Google Maps to reach Wickenburg, and if I was fast enough, I could have got there by that same night. Only, I had to avoid the roads, ALL roads. I had to travel through the desert, using my GPS to navigate myself. If city roads were blocked and clogged, Interstate routes, Highways, Freeways and Motorways couldn't be better. Them were the main thoroughfares where the desperate masses of escapees and refugees had swarmed when the shit hit the fan, and everything I could think about when I thought of those places was hell. A hell of wrecked cars, vehicles on fire, and of course dead bodies.
And that's exactly what I saw, especially on the Nevada-Arizona state line, which I passed riding through the desert but driving along the Route 93, past Henderson, Nevada, and around at the height of Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam.
The damn Hoover Dam. There were private contractors there, providing help to the Dam Security Service of the US Department of Energy. It was Wackenhut personnel, so I thought. I could tell it from the two burned-down HMMWV vehicles blocking the access gates to the dam. Two zombies, one in US-DoE uniform and another one in Wackenhut uniform, were nearby, browling each others like dogs for some piece of slimey, reddish, stinky stuff. Outer the gates, everyting, and I literally mean -everything-, was fully coloured in blood red as if some screwball conceptual-artist painter had washed down the whole place with buckets of crimson taint. I drove my pistol out of the window and shot both down.
The Route 93 was no better. The burnt metal of civilian vehicles, Pick-up trucks, vans, sedans and Station Wagons, confused and melted itself with the parts of other vehicles, Ford Crown Victorias in Police Cruiser layouts, Chrysler Grand Cherokee and Dodge RAMs, and even others like HMMWVs. There were mainly, well, anything. City and County Polices from the nearby localities of Nevada and Arizona, State Police vehicles of both sides, and contractors: here them were mainly Blackwater Security, the US-DoD certified Slaughterers of Iraqi Civilians. I guessed what kind of perverted idea they could have conceived to make that mess, but everything was clear when I found the other wreckages: military trucks, probably National Guard vehicles, all melted one another like in a frenzy metal orgy. On one side of the road, there were the rests of two Abrams tanks and a few Bradley AFVs, overturned and completely destroyed, opened like tuna cans. Everythere there were burnt body parts. A human barbecue.
The place had been bombed, or shelled, to prevent refugees from overrunning Nevada. The National Guard had probably been sent to stop the escapees before they could cross the bridges on the Lake Mead, and the Blackwater Security, who were patriotic enough to protect the New Orleans civilians from being disarmed by Police during the Hurricane Kathrina emergency, had probably opposed resistance, at least doing something good in their lives, so the soldiers must had been forced to ask for artillery or air support. Bastards.
A red thing laying right there on the edge of the road captured my attention. I slowed down and looked through the left window. It was a puppeet, a simple, girlie rag doll with blonde hair and a red dress. I stepped on the accelerator hard before I'd start crying. I would have never forgot it.
For the rest of the day I avoided coasting or even getting close to any major Route, dependin' on my GPS to make it to Wickenburg. The only troubles I found, I had them passing through a small town that must have had around 1000 inhabitants, all of which suddenly surrounded my car while I was crossing the Main Street at an extremely slow speed to pass through the remainders of some campers that had capsized on the road. I just took a look around and found them all around me, bumping on my truck, moaning. Hungry, angry, and dead. All of them. I stepped hard on the accelerator, and ran over about a dozen of them that were right in front of my truck. Then got into reverse and repeated the operation about a pair of times. When I left the city, I stopped at a small abandoned gas station on the road, to refuel and to wash out the rotted pieces from my vehicle.
By dusk, I was already enough inside Arizona to be almost on sight of Wickenburg. Or at least my maps and GPS told me so. All I saw at the horizon was another dead city, with no lights except the ones of the uncontrolled fires that were burning it down building after building; the flames were high, red and yellow, and cast a column of grey smoke towards the red sunset sky. The sky was blood red itself. Maybe an omen of the future of mankind. As if it would have been any different from its -past-.
By the way, I quickly turned my Laptop computer on, and connected it to the Internet with the Thuraya satellite cellphone. I was a paying subscriber to this online maps service, MapQuest, that gave you basically anything you wanted as long as you could pay for it. The service was still on, who would have said it, and in seconds I had a full perspective of the Wickenburg Municipal Airport, or the Wellik Field as it was called. Just a small terminal and a runway for touristic flights in the middle of nowhere, its very same existence threatened by continued housing development in the area. While examinating the maps, I shook my head thinking what would have been logical to think, maybe, in the pre-Zombie world: How happened that the Internet could provide such detailed maps of high-sensitivity targets to any paying customer? What if I was a terrorist? It was plain logic that the US Government would have done nothing to stop this kind of threat. In their logic of "Global War on Terrorism", or "Global Colonial War for the Control of Fossil Fuel Resources", the terrorism was an important part: it kept them on power, and everything had to be done to ensure its survival and strenght of action. Bastards. George W. Bush was no President any longer, it made some years now, but I prayed, yes that's what I did, that some hord of zombies had somehow reached him in his Crowford ranch and eaten his brains while still alive.
By the way. As I had imagined, the only way to reach the airport without getting stuck in some high-risk residential area was to approach it from North, through the service gates. I hit the road again... well, if it could be called a road anyway, and I reached the north service entrance road to the Wickenburg airport by 22:00 that night. It was a pitch dark night, no moon, no stars, and the sky strangely black. It must had been for the smoke of all uncontrolled fires ravaging all along the State, the Country, the World. I bet Smokey Bear was crapping his pants right now.
It was a thick, dirt road, and odd enough it was completely clear, as if nobody had crossed it in months, as if the endless convoys of escapees and refugees worldwide were just a figment of my imagination. The only obstacle in my way for about 2 Kilometres seemed to be a red notice planted on one side of the road, saying something about "Airport Area, No unauthorized personnel". Shit like that. By the way, the dark night was lightened only by the high-beams of my Pick-Up truck, if there was anything outside of the road, even very close, I couldn't have seen it.
I finally reached the Airport perimeter. Odd enough, the satellite view shown that it had no perimeter fence, but now there was one, three-meters tall, made out of stuff looking like junkyard scraps, concrete bricks, pieces of metal fence, barbed wire, and other stuff. Certain points beared improvised notices, pieces of wood with block letters written in red paint:"No trespassing - Armed surveillance"; but I could not see anything like movement sensors or surveillance cameras. Outer it, I could see the marking lights on the edges of the runway, and some lights in the terminal and the control tower. Wellik Field still had power, but if there was somebody inside, I couldn't tell by then.
I could finally tell only once I reached the gate, again an improvised one, taken from somewhere else, maybe a private house or something. It was open, and there was a vehicle blocking the road, a white GMC Yukon truck with the star-shaped insigna of the Arizona State Police on the front doors. The red-and-blue lights on the top were on, flashing their coloured bolts in the pitch black night. I slowed down and switched on the dipped headlights, approaching the Police roadblock just like I would have approached it in the pre-Zombie world. I was instantly dazzled when somebody, or something, pointed a spotlight towards me from the Police vehicle, and I drew up my vehicle just a few feet away from it. When my pupils shrunk enough to resist the intense light, I saw two figures moving towards me from behind the Police van, slowly and carefully but with decision, their pace too firm to be Zombies. When they put themselves between the spotlight and me, I could see them were wearing full Riot gear with the Arizona Department of Public Safety insigna on it. I couldn't see their faces, the lights of my car reflecting on the vizard of their helmets that they were keeping on their faces. But I could see them were armed with rifles. One had an Heckler&Koch MP5-A5 collapsing-stock sub-machinegun, for sure, equipped with a tactical light mounted under the handguard, in the standard way for the MP5s. The other one had a kick-ass bolt-action rifle, a .30-06 Winchester Model 70 as I could recognize from the action, with something like a custom camo fiberglass stock, and equipped with a Leupold scope. If they had serious intentions to shoot me down, they would undoubtably have done it in one second. Maybe the 5'56mm rounds of the M-16 wouldn't have passed the armor of the FEMA Pick-Up truck, which -was- armored; but the .30-06 candies would have shattered my reinforced windshield in a finger snap.
I was starting to suspect something, but I still didn't knew -what- sounded so damn wrong to my instinct. All that I thought was that I had a night vision device in my trunk, too, and that, being at their place, I would have used it too.
The cop with the MP5-A5 remained at his place, his rifle at the ready and steadily aimed at me. The one with the Winchester Model 70 came towards my door and signaled me to open the window. I obeyed, and the cop raised the vizard of his helmet.
He... actually -she- was a woman. In her '50s at first sight, she had a thin face with small nose and mouth, and piercing iridescent eyes. Her hair seemed to be dark, as far as I could see under the edge of her helmet. Even under her Riot gear, I could smell her perfume. Intense and sweet. Chanel, maybe... no, way too much fruity. She reminded me of that actress, Greta Scacchi, and I wondered that she had to be a pretty nice MILFy, only twenty, twenty-five years before. Even just ten. She deeply stared at me for one second, like scrutinizing the my equipment and the inside of my truck.
« So you're a soldier?» she asked, briefly, with a clear and firm voice tone. That was not an idiot question. I had gathered the gear I was dressing from the SHOT Show, and was the full combat gear of the Italian Army Special Forces, chiefly the one of the 9th "Col Moschin" Regiment, the Italian Army Rangers. I had also found a red beret, and I was wearing it. I had also found a PASGT helmet, but I kept it in the trunk, just like the PRO-TEC.
« No, Lady.» I shook my head, taking one second to examinate her gear. She had an identificative plate on the helmet. It said "Coltrane". The rank on her shoulder straps indicated that she was a Lieutenant.
She stared at me again. « So who are you?»
« Just a civilian.» I shrug my shoulders. « Gunwriter. Italian.»
« And you got all this stuff in Italy?»
« No, Lieutenant.» Now the lady was becoming rather annoying, yet I still had no reason to believe that she was looking for any trouble.
« So, Mr...» the Policewoman grinned. « Italian gunwriter... may I ask you what takes you in my beautiful Country?»
« I've been trapped in Las Vegas after the SHOT Show, Lady. For the outbreak.»
The Policewoman was still checking the content of my truck. « And that's where you took all this stuff and your guns, right?»
« Positive, Lieutenant.»
The Policewoman tipped the wing. « And may I ask you what let you think that you had any right to embezzle private properties... Mr. -gunwriter-?»
I sighed and shook my head, and the female cop didn't liked it at all. She passed the rifle from the right hand to the left, and put one hand on the holster she had at her belt. It was a closed holster model, I couldn't tell what kind of handgun she was carrying. Of course, she was doing it 'cause aiming a handgun inside the van would have been much easier than pointing at me that bulky bolt-action rifle from so close. Or maybe she had no round in the chamber. The lady -was- definitely looking for trouble. Or at least she looked like.
« Be -gentle- with me, Mr. Gunwriter. You'd better. I'm not asking you again!»
"Deranged", I thought. This lady was behaving as if she was still on duty in the pre-Zombie world. But again, I couldn't know why. Maybe she had orders. After all, she was guarding an airport. Perhaps the situation in Arizona was better than I had thought; maybe the Local authorities or the State government were still efficient, or even better, maybe Arizona was somehow still under control of the Federal government. This clashed, thought, with all the news I had received about the place from the Internet; and with the evidences that I had found on the State line with Nevada. The people on the road had definitely been shelled to prevent them from crossing the State line. Again, there was something that I didn't liked one little bit, and I couldn't clearly realize what it was.
One fast, foolish thought crossed my mind in half a second. Dispatch the cops. I could have done it. I was undoubtably much more prepared than them, I was well armed, and, could they believe it or not, I was in a position of advantage. I could have shot the Policewoman from inside, with one of my handguns. I would have aimed to her neck, which was the weaker exposed point since I couldn't know if her Riot gear was of the kind that provides ballistic protection against small-caliber gunshots. If I needed some surprise effect, I could have opened the door to kick the lady down. Then I could have dispatched the cop in front of my vehicle, either by getting down and shooting him in the legs and in the neck, or by stepping on the gas pedal and running him over. He would have of course opened fire at my truck, but the .5'56mm rounds of his M-16 rifle wouldn't have passed my armorer windshield.
I quickly discarded the idea, though. I wasn't going to kill any Police officer. It was... it IS not something that the good guys do. And besides, I didn't really wanted to kill -ANY- living. Period.
« The stuff was abandoned, Lieutenant,» I replied. « I needed it for survival.»
The Policewoman nodded slightly. « I see. And you needed a Federal Government property vehicle for the same reason?»
« It was abandoned too, Lieutenant. You won't believe the mess that Las Vegas is. Whoever could have been sent there to give a help, is dead. Lady.»
« Sure. Isn't like you... made the things any easier?»
« I didn't shoot anybody, Lieutenant. Well, nobody that wasn't dead already.»
The Policewoman stared at me again for two, long silent seconds. Then she laughed, a long and crystalline laughter, and I felt like the pressure cooker vented off. She shook her head, with a big smile.
« Okay, Mr. Gunwriter, that's the situation here. I have around twenty cops in the Control Tower, local and State guys. We have been kicked out of Wickenburg by the stinkers, and we're left alone, but we can take a stand here for a while. We have enough supplies to hold on, and with the ones you have in your truck, looks like you've granted yourself the right to be left in. Only, I'll have to ask you to deliver your guns to me. All of them.»
I raised an eyebrow. Shit. Disbanded cops. Now I understood why she was behaving like in the pre-Zombie world. A strange psychological mechanism. Like the Shopping Mall security guards in the 2005 remake of "Dawn Of The Dead" (I'm good in making strikin' comparaisons, am I?): in the time of chaos, when even the authority that they represent falls away, they still think they are the last bulwark of Law and Order and the only authorized depositories of legitimate power and legal use of force, trying to "Serve and Protect", and to regulate, something that doesn't exists any longer and that probably will never come back.
The Policewoman wasn't stupid. She scowled at me again, perceiving with her cop senses that something was wrong with me. « Any -problems-, foreigner?»
I slowly nodded. « Yes, Lieutenant, definitely. Especially in the part when you ask me to surrender my guns. Lady.»
The female Police Lt. Rolled her eyes and snorted, like trying desperately to keep grip on good manners. « I have to ask you -again- to leave your guns here before I let you in, Mr. Gunwriter. We are professionals. We can protect you. And besides, you are infringing several local, State and Federal laws with your guns. I could not let your guns or let you go anyway. Let -us- protect you, Mr. Gunwriter. Everything will go just fine.»
« Like with the New Orleans people after Kathrina?»
Shit, I shouldn't have said it. The Policewoman was angry as hell, and now wasn't doing anything to hide it. She pointed a finger at me, with her hand gloved in black it really looked menacious like the barrel of a gun. « Now, -listen-, foreigner...»
« Lady...». The other cop, the one with the MP5 sub-machinegun, timidly raised the vizard of his helmet, and I saw that he was nothing but a clear-face rookie, male, in his 20s. «I think you should leave him his guns.»
The female Lieutenant slowly rapidly turned towards him like an angry Pit-Bull turns towards the direction of a sudden noise. « Did you just -said something-, Enos?»
Shit, I didn't liked her tone at all. She now looked, and sounded, like -really- deranged.
The rookie cop gulped, trying to find the courage to reply. « I mean... gunwriters are good shots, generally. Great shots. He might be helpful. I mean... not a fucking burden Maybe he could help us with that... problem in the Terminal.»
It was then that, I thought, I heard the noise. Something like a V8 engine, approaching the road right behind me and then suddenly stopping. Whatever vehiche it was, it had to be some badass truck or something, proceeding with its headlights down. Like if the driver was afraid of being spotted. I couldn't see any light behind me. But the female Police Lieutenant reacted like she had heard it too. She pointed at the spot.
« Have you heard it?»
« Yes, Lieutenant.»
« Yes. Maybe.»
The rookie nodded, embracing his MP5-A5, and walked steadily past the Police van, past my Pick-up truck, and disappeared in the black void of the desert beyond the road, the light attached to his rifle turning into a small bright spot in the dark night, smaller and smaller. The female Lieutenant surveilled his moves for a while, and as she wasn't looking at me, I briefly thought of my carbines, just laying there, in their rests, centimetres away from me.
She approached again my left window, coming really, -really- close to me, and spoke in a rattlesnake hiss. Not low enough to keep me from hearing, though.
« Okay, man, now open your ears before I decide to make the concept enter your mind by carving it on a clay tablet and sticking it up your ass 'till it reaches your brain: you are just another one of those shithead NRA Lifetime Lunatics with your fucking paramilitary weapons, as far as I know you are a looter, and you are violating about half of the laws that I know. I am not going to let a potential spree-shooter in the terminal with his fucking guns, with -your- fucking guns, and I am not going to let you go with your fucking guns around the world. As I am not going to let anybody go around in that way, and I mean -anybody-. Understand? Now you have two choice: either let your guns out of the window, or I'm shooting you alien sonofabitch right now and getting it over and done!»
Suddenly, the word "Deranged" didn't rendered the exact concept any longer. "Paranoid hotheaded megalomaniac gutterslut" was much more appropriate. Now I knew what had made my sixth sense tickle in alert, but it was way too late to sneak off the situation.
« There still is the Second Amendment to respect, Lady. And there are Federal laws against disarming civilians in emergency situations. You are Law Enforcement officials. And this is an emergency situation. You have to uphold these laws. And you just can't let people around unarmed in this mess. You... you just -can't- violate them at your will just because you are a Democrat or something!»
The female Lieutenant acted fast, like an eagle predating a small mice. She raised her 30-06 rifle and smacked me in the face with its butt, passing it through the open window. Then she stepped back and pointed the gun at me. « FUCK YOU, LITTLE COCKSUCKER! Fuck your Federal laws, and as for your fucking Second, I'll be sticking it up your -ass- like we should have done to all you gun fanatics YEARS AGO! Do you know what, little cocksucker? You idiot are leaving your guns to me, in one way or another!»
Shit, I really felt so numb. My left temple was burning, and my head was banging like a fucking head-drum at the rythm of my heartbeat. I closed my eyes and opened them again with a moan, just to see the fucking bitch aiming at me her beast .30-06 rifle. She grinned, and I heard her hiss again like a snake.
« Mr. and Mrs. America, turn them all in!»
"Shitter", I thought, rapidly examining my options. The bitch had a kick-ass rifle that could shatter my skull in split-second, and it would have took time to me to reach one of my guns. Sure, if my head wasn't feeling like a basket ball inflated too much and about to explode I could have tried to reach one of my guns. Yet options werent' much. I looked through the black hole at the end of the rifle barrel like I would have stared to the doors of hell.
« Three seconds, Mr. Gunwriter», she hissed. « Three!»
Raising my head, I briefly stared at my rear-view mirror. The Rookie cop, his damn rifle with tactical light, was a small bright yellow dot in the distance. If he'd only turned around... maybe he could have helped me out with his Lt.
Then, I saw the light flicker and disappear. In a second, like an UFO appearance or a ghastly phenomenon. This lit a lamp in my head. The dark, the silence... it just scared me.
Where was the goddamn rookie cop?
I remained puzzled for a few seconds more. Not much, maybe two or three. But there was something plain strange in the way the rookie had vanished into the night. I rapidly realized when the last message I had received on my PC came to my mind again like a flash.
"Will meet PT at Wickenburg Municipal Airport"
« Two!», the female lieutenant shout.
I regained enough readiness of mind to put two words together.
« Where's the other officer, Lieutenant?»
« Just get the -fucking- rifle down and get your hands up if you don't wanna die!» I growled. I knew what would have happened. Slowly, I moved my right hand at my thigh holster.
« FUCK YOU!». The female Lieutenant yelled, bending her right index finger on the trigger of her .30-06 rifle. She never applied any force to it.
I had just the time to draw my Tanfoglio P-25/ADP pistol to see her fall. The two hits, sudden and silent, and strong like Mike Tyson's uppercuts, came literally from within so fast that I could hardly establish which one came first. All I knew is that the first one struck her in the face, unprotected since the vizard of his riot helmet was raised; it literally kicked the helmet off her head, along with a generous portion of grey matter.
The other one passed very close to my window, buzzing like a raging hornet, and hit her right in the center of her chest, busting through her rigid Riot Gear protection armor with a dull "Crack!" noise and overpenetrated through her entire body, crashing the spotlight of the Police van behind her and suddenly turning the night a little bit darker.
Obviously, she was already dead by then. The body fell on its knees like a marionette whose strings were suddenly cut off, and then face-down in the dust. Period.
I slowly got out of my truck, raised my sight towards the black night sky and sighed. I hadn't wanted it to end in -that- way. I had done everything to prevent it from ending like it did. I guess the Lieutenant, the lady named Coltrane, actually somehow asked for it, but the young rookie, well...
I turned towards the black void of the night, as I saw a human figure proceed towards me. I kept myself securely repaired behind my truck, my pistol held at the ready. I could never know. I still felt a little bit numb. The bitch had hit me hard.
« Ryan?», I called.
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