Sunday, March 27, 2011

Early work on "Biremediation"

Early Draft on my "Anti-Zombie Apocalypse" story...

Bioremediation  (bī'ō-rĭ-mē'dē-ā'shən)
The use of biological agents, such as bacteria, fungi, or green plants, to remove or neutralize contaminants, as in polluted soil or water.

“I swear I saw lights up ahead there.”  Lt. Daniels wiped a soiled rag across his face, smearing the mud around more than removing it.  Looking up at the sky he saw nothing but clouds and the drifting of snowflakes.

“Probably another “Omega Man” type.  We’ll barter for supplies with this one.  No sense in wasting ammunition if necessary.”  The Sarge nodded ahead trough the tree line and looked expectantly at Daniels.

“Damnitt I hate being the low man on the totem pole…”  He groused before slipping his night vision goggles down and moving ahead of the four man unit.  Daniels had not gone three feet before the first moan became clear.  “Fuck…”  He whispered and raised his rifle.  “We have Zeds!”

The Unit ran together, Sarge, Daniels, Coop, and Lilly formed a tight bunch and tried to find cover.  The problem was, the woods were full of scraggly trees and branches.  Not strong enough to climb, and hardly any damn cover to be found.  Enough downed branches to make movement an issue however, in addition to the snow.

“Daniels, how many?”

“Just the first shamble but…”

The groans started, followed by the growls.  The group as one dropped their goggles down and opened fire.
The first rule of surviving zombies, it never really matters how many were spotted, there are always more coming.

“Head out of the trees!”  Sarge yelled.  “Head towards that light!”  He could see the light on the horizon as well, and the group charged towards the dim beams in the blowing snow.  Lilly was snarling and suddenly he heard the ”saw” fire up.

“God-Damnitt Lilly!  We don’t have a lot of ammo for that minigun left!”

“You wanna fuckin’ plough through the dead heads and these fuckin’ trees, be my guest!”  She shouted back while still firing.  “I’m clearing us a God-Damned path of both!”  Sarge felt her move and then suddenly they all were running down the gun mown path, ignoring the growls and moans of the dismembered dead they ran over.  The armored boots crushed skull and bone, as well as protecting them from grasping arms and flailing entrails.  The military got that right at least, armoring their soldiers.

Too bad armor didn’t do shit against a virus.  One drop of infected blood, one bit of infected tissue, even a tear was enough to transmit the virus.  Then you had forty eight hours before you died, and one hour before you came back dead, hungry, and angry as hell.

Clearing the tree line the unit staggered into an open field with ragged netting on rusted soccer goals standing at either end.  The lights were still a bit off on the other side of an old parking lot on a remarkably intact building.

Someone was standing on the steps leading up to glass façade and looking at them through binoculars.
“Head to the building!” Sarge ordered.

“No SHIT!” yelled Coop who whipped around and lobbed a grenade at the following pack of Zeds.  The explosion ripped into the rotted flesh and blew viscera everywhere mixed with mud, snow, and wood.   The sickly smell of rotting meat blended with burning flesh and wood. 

“Coop you ass!”  Daniels yelled, ducking the flying bits while running across the open lot.  “Was that our last Grenade?”

“Last of the military grade!”  Coop laughed and patted his backpack filled with his scavenged gunpowder made bombs.

That was when the arrow shot past Coops shoulder, slammed into the head of a Zed emerging from the ground by his boot, and ricocheted into the pack regrouping from the grenade before it exploded into something green and sticky.

The film flew into the first few members of the Zed pack and where it hit, the flesh began to dissolve.  Despite what any zombie film may say, it’s really hard for a Zed to move without any muscle, and the green stuff ate right down to the bone in seconds, filling the air with a stench never intended by any God or Devil.

Coop paused to stare before Sarge grabbed his collar and drug him across the parking lot to the steps where the figure stood.

Clad in black and wearing night vision goggles, the figure looked down at the four military members staggering up to where she stood.  That was all they could tell about the figure as the outfit was baggy and concealing except for the feminine curves.  The full face mask except for the goggles didn’t help them in any type of recognition either.

The woman lowered her longbow and then drew a strange sidearm that looked like the bastard child of a water pistol and a nerf gun from her hip and aimed it at the group just as they reached the stairs.  Pressing her ear she whispered quietly before nodding.

Finally looking at the group the woman said “Get inside.”  The voice brooked no argument of her orders.  Not like any of Sarge’s group would have argued anyway.

Rule two of surviving Zombies, if you find shelter, take it.

As soon as they entered the high glass façade of the building, two other people dressed in black quickly came up, leveled the same odd weapons at the group before the first woman went over and bolted the door behind them.

“Lady that fucking glass door will never hold.”  Coop said, trying to make out the Zed pack in the snow.  His vision was obscured by the blowing wall of white before there was a loud squawk and a set of speakers in the ceiling flared to life. 

“Good Lord, watch your language young man!”  The voice said in a professorial and fatherly tone.  “There are ladies present, even in your own group!”

“Oh ow…  my virgin fuckin’ ears…”  Lilly sarcastically drawled while looking at the black clad figures.  They were taking off the facemasks one at a time, making sure at least one of them always had that weird weapon aimed at the group.

The speakers resonated with an exasperated sigh. “Can’t say I don’t TRY to keep some respectability about here.  O.K. team check them out, and if they clear use decon procedure 2.  Contact me if you need anything.  I’ll be…”

“In the lab Dad…  I know.”  The archer had finally taken her mask off.  Auburn hair and bright blue eyes looked up at the speakers as if this type of conversation were normal.

“No, not the lab, the kitchen.  I’m cooking dinner smartypants, for us and our guests… if they clear decon that is.”  The woman laughed and shook her head before turning to the group of military personnel.

“Uh…”  Sarge began before the woman holstered her weapon and gave a hard stare at the group.

“Welcome to what we call the Lair.  The man on the speaker is my father, Dr. Aryk Halverson.  My name is Freya Halverson and yes I love both my father and mother who are both alive and here.  Yes we try to save people who come here, and no the glass doors will not hold if a Zed attack came, but it won’t come because we are well defended here.  No I won’t tell you by what until you all come with me, strip down, and get into the thing that looks like an automated carwash for people.”  With that she marched out of the room and held the next set of doors open, looking at the four officers expectantly.

“Um… Strip?”  Daniels was able to get out before one of the young men in black on the side of him sighed and nodded.

“It’s to see if you have had any contact with the Zed virus via bite, scratch, or other means.  That and you really don’t wanna ride the decon 2 unless you like having your clothes soaked.”  He paused and looked at Lilly before smiling.  “You can each go separately and in privacy if you’d like.”

“Hell yes I would like.”  Lilly grunted as she pushed past the rest of her team and handed her weapons to the other young man standing at the door.

“LILLY!” Sarge roared.  “You just gave our weapons and limited ammo to an unknown agent!  Get back in line soldier!”

“Sarge… fuckoff.  These people obviously have been here a while, they have their own weapons, and you didn’t spot the three snipers at the top of the stairs covering your balding ass.  They can have the fucking saw if they want if it means I’ll finally be clean after three God forsaken weeks in this zed ridden hellhole.”

Sarge stared at Lilly openmouthed and then looked up the staircase to his right.  Two more men and a woman waved down at him from the metal balcony while holding longer and fiercer versions of the odd sidearm the others had.

“To be honest you may have wanted to stay outside.”  Freya smirked at the group.  Immediately the four officers all tensed up.  Everyone here dressed in black, they had odd weapons, they were not worried about the zeds, this whole place smacked of wrong and this odd woman was about to drop the bomb on them.  

“My dad’s cooking is pretty bad.” She stated before ushering Lilly into the decon chamber and closing the door on Sarge, Coop, and Daniels.

No one had noticed the growls and moans of the Zeds outside had stopped.
“It’s all really simple.  I worked for the military when the outbreak hit, and then the command structure fell apart when the virus struck the upper echelons.”  Dr. Halverson gestured to the bottle of wine at the end of the table which Coop gladly uncorked and began to pour.  

The diners sat in a modified cafeteria where at least forty other people dined as well.  Only some were clad in the strange black uniforms, but all seemed to be listening in to the newcomers’ conversation.

“Tell us about it.”  Sarge grumbled through a slice of garlic bread.  “We’ve been wandering for like three days without any contact with anyone.  Its hell on Earth out there… but here…”

Dr. Halverson sighed.  “It’s a prison in here as well until I get the problems with what I’m working on figured out.  I was able to get my family and some friends and make it here to the first university I taught at.  It’s small but functional, and the greenhouse as well as the location of many food suppliers nearby came in handy.  Not to mention the medical technology companies we were able to “harvest” from for both our rescue and research needs.”
Mrs. Halverson smiled and shook her head.  “My husband would bore you to death with the technical details if you let him.  We’re safe and secure here, and we try to rescue survivors or put down infected as much as possible.  We have not really expanded our borders yet past the university grounds but it’s a start.”

“I just still can’t believe you’ve done so much in this hell already doc!”  Daniels said over a piece of meatloaf.

Dr. Halverson shrugged and sighed.  “I just want to do more if I can.”

“Ever the hero complex dad.”  Freya sighed and grinned.  “He’s not happy saving one or two people from the Zeds, he wants to save us all.”

“And I will if I can.”  The Doctor quipped while toasting with his glass of water.

“Yeah… good luck with that.”  Lilly muttered sarcastically.

“Excuse me young lady?”

“Doc, if you had not noticed, the world has gone to hell.  There is no law and order out there anymore, only survival.  Do you know what we would have done to you and your family if we found out you were not armed and protected?”

A laugh echoed in the dining hall and all eyes fell on one of the older troopers sitting at an adjacent table.
“Probably the same damn thing me and my men tried when we got here.”  The man patted the stump where his right arm should have been and looked meaningfully at Sarge, Lilly, Daniels, and Coop.  “The Doctor is not stupid, and knows damn well what desperate folks will do.”

“What Tyler means is I know how to defend myself and my family.  I may not be a fighting man, but I have my ways and my toys.  I also know to treat people like people… otherwise Tyler would never had stayed here after that little incident.”

Tyler laughed and nodded.  “Hard to argue with a man who saved your life when he could have killed me.”
“Look, I know it’s getting all “Lord of the Flies” out there, and that’s one of the many reasons I am trying to maintain civility in here.  We have food and energy thanks to the greenhouse and some quick thinking on my wife’s part.”

Mrs. Halverson shook her head.  “You built the solar panels, I just mentioned them as an option.”

“We have weapons, and space, and we have books as well as supplies thanks to this being a university.  We have a little city in other words, and so I try to keep laws and peace here.  I’m no king or emperor, and I don’t lord it over the folks who choose to stay.  Simply put, you can stay if you’re willing to work to help us all.  You can leave whenever that stops working for you.”

Lilly shook her head.  “Not much of a choice really.  Where do you go when the choice is a safe haven or being eaten by Zeds?”

Doctor Halverson shrugged and sighed.  “I can only do so much.  If people are desperate to find something wrong they will inevitably.  I can’t magically send you somewhere so you can live how you like, but I can offer security here if you follow the simple rules.”

Sarge looked at his unit.  This place was just getting weirder and weirder, and this doctor just seemed too God-Damned… nice to have made it this far.  Someone this nice did not become the leader of a community of survivors, or recruit men who tried to kill him, or even trust a bunch of AWOL soldiers coming in from nowhere.

“How are you protecting your area Doc?”  Sarge asked finally.  “How do you keep all this and keep the Zeds out?  How the hell do you keep all this at all and not deal with human greed or desperation?”  

“How the fuck are you all so happy!”  Lilly shouted suddenly.  “Don’t you know the world is dying out there!  The dead could come and kill us all while we’re playing happy neighborhood here!  Why do you have fucking hope!  There IS no hope!  All we can do is survive!”

The room went quiet for a long moment and then Dr. Halverson began to laugh.

“Every Zombie survival guide, every movie, every book, every comic or cartoon ends up saying that same very thing doesn’t it?  We have all of them in the library you know.  I’ve studied them all, from the most outlandish to the military documentaries of the initial outbreaks we’re living in.  I’ve seen the data projections and know full well that almost every scientist, military man, politician, and even religious man has said we are living in the end of days. That there is no more hope.  That humanity is about to be swept aside by its own dead and, as you say young lady, all we can do is survive.

“I have only one reply.  Bullshit.  People have been looking for ways to simply survive, not to fight back.  Don’t give me our weapons are useless or that if we die we only add to their numbers, those are only problems in an overall equation that no one has looked at totally.  Not even me I hasten to add, but I have been looking at it from a different angle.  This is not a punishment from God, or science gone amuck, or any other reason you can think of.  I am treating this plague like a toxic contamination gotten out of hand and nothing more than that.  To that end, I have asked a simple question…  How do you deal with contamination of this magnitude?”

“Doc are you telling me…  are you saying you have a cure?”  Sarge stammered.  Coop and Daniels looked at the doctor in a terrified manner while Lilly stared open mouthed.

“Of course not.  There is no cure for being dead.”

“So?  Why hope?”  Lilly whispered.

Doctor Halverson smiled again.  “Toxins kill, and in doing so spread.  We have dealt with this in nature before and have found ways to clean up the toxins and eventually the environment.  It’s the same thing here and…”
An alarm went off and Dr. Halverson smiled before standing up and gesturing to the windowed wall behind the diners.

“Talk about ideal timing.  See for yourself what I mean.”

The snow was still blowing like mad, but even through the wall of white visible outside the converted cafeteria people could make out the shambling horde of Zeds marching across the fields towards the lights on the exterior of the building.  The moans were barely audible through the glass but everyone in the room shuddered knowing what that meant.

The Zeds smelled them, and were hungry.

“Fuck… we are so dead.”  Coop whispered looking down the entire length of the wall and finding the outside space crawling with the dead heads.

Before panic set in, suddenly the front row of Zeds in view vanished.  Pulled down into the snow before explosions of viscera and gore erupted from where they once stood.  Some… things came up quickly after and slammed into the packs behind.

There was no sound other than the moaning of the Zeds and their quiet dismemberment by the blurred forms moving through their ranks.  It was over in moments.  What once was a sizeable Zed horde was reduced to gore splatters and rendered limbs in moments.

And then one of the things came up to the windows with an arm in its mouth, trotted along the edge until it found a door, and then sat in the driving snow before pawing gently at the glass.

“What… the fuck… is that?”  Whispered Lilly staring at the beast.

“That.”  Said Dr. Halverson, finishing off his glass of water and then walking to the door.  “Is Hope.”

Opening the door Dr. Halverson let the creature in, who seemed to trot inside gaily before squeezing its jaws shut and snapping the limb in its mouth.  In a feat of dental dexterity, it quickly flopped the bits side by side and sucked them into its maw before crunching happily.

“Hope?”  Doctor Halverson said while patting the thing’s head affectionately.  “You’ve been a very good boy tonight Haven’t you?”
“The Doc is off his God-Damned rocker if he thinks those… those THINGS can stop a horde of Zeds.”

“Damnitt Coop are you fucking blind?  Those things DID stop a wave of Zeds!”

“Shutup both of you!”  Sarge barked at his men.   “That thing was not alone if you remember… I counted at least two more of those… creatures before the Doc’s pet came trotting in.”

“Eater of the Dead…”  Lilly whispered.  Coop looked over at her huddled on the bunk provided by the doctor.  They were stationed in an old conference room above the library.  The table and chairs were moved aside and bunks were set up for them.  Lilly was sitting on one of these with her arms wrapped about her legs and a distant look on her face.

“Oh crap don’t go mental on us here Lilly.”  Coop whispered as he came to her side.  She flashed him a look that would have melted iron before tossing a book at his feet.  “If any of you idiots took the time to actually fucking read or talk to the people here you would know what those things were.  The Doc doesn’t hide it.”

“What do you mean Lilly?”  Sarge asked while picking up the book.  It was a text on Egyptian mythology.
“The Doc was a geneticist before.  He even looked at the virus causing this hell.”  Lilly spat and rubbed her head.  “I got that from his daughter and the names of those things.”  She gestured to the book and looked at the men about her.  “Freya could see I was freaked out and tried to comfort me with information.  It kinda worked… but now I’m freaked out for a different reason.”

“A book on myths?  How the hell does this help?”  Sarge asked.

“Page 394 jackass.  And those things are called Ammits…  Eaters of the Dead.”

--->Will continue when I have more

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