Read AZU-1: Lifehack Online

Authors: Joseph Picard

AZU-1: Lifehack (10 page)

BOOK: AZU-1: Lifehack
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She walked up to the reception desk.
The automated receptionist was gone, ripped out of the floor. Pity.
Regan was kinda looking forward to some ‘human’ contact. The
elevator opened and even obeyed her button press to Harold’s floor
without a passcard, like she needed during previous visits. Luck
again made up for her own lack of planning ahead. This also meant
that zombies could have been riding the elevator at will,
especially if they had been ripping off computers.

The elevator opened onto her desired
floor. No zombies to be seen. She stepped through the doorway, and
a yellow light flashed overhead while a recorded voice rang
out.


Security alert!
Unauthorized personnel entering floor! Security has been
dispatched!’

Once the surprise wore off, Regan
rolled her eyes at the flashing light. She had imagined automated
net guns, or tazers or something. After the automatic receptionist
and Harold’s other bragging, the flashing light was a bit of a let
down. She slowly walked away from the elevator towards a posted
floor directory, and the flashing light gave up.

Once the automated fuss had quit, the
stifling silence of the hallway began to close in. The only sound
was the ever so slight hum of the lights. Regan walked towards
where Harold’s office should be, checking door labels as she called
out.


Hello? Harold? Or anyone
else with a pulse?” She held her P90 ready in case someone without
a pulse decided to respond. It was becoming apparent that perhaps
the entire floor was a desolate husk of former chaos. Disrupted or
broken furniture and dividers formed barricades here and there, but
the blood signs everywhere suggested that none of them were too
effective.

It didn’t look good for
Harold.

She found a door that was labeled with
Harold’s name, as well as several other names. It wasn’t an office
she’d been looking up to, it was a lab. The chaos shown here was
minimal compared to other rooms she had seen into. Pushing a fallen
stool aside with her foot, she entered and figured where the window
she was looking for was.

Sure enough, beneath it was a section
of counter that was Harold’s little corner. There was a picture of
Regan. It was her grade twelve picture. It was a little
embarrassing, but sweet that it was there at all.

There was a tape recorder with a note
stuck on it that said ‘play me’.

Regan held it, and looked at Harold’s
writing. Stared at it. At great length.

She didn’t really want to hit play, but
eventually her hand squeezed on the button, on no other impulse
than the fact that it was going to happen eventually.


Hello,” It was Harold, and
he sounded like hell. “This is Doctor Harold Grier. I’ve been
wounded rather nicely by one of those things.” Fuck. Dammit. Regan
slumped to the floor, letting the recorder slide a short distance
on the floor as it continued playing.


I’ve lost a good deal of
blood, and well, my crappy little bandaging attempt won’t do much
good. If you’re listening to this, you probably have a clue that
the nanite project here is the cause to this whole mess. I’m
guessing that thanks to my wounds, my own blood has some of the
little buggers.” Wonderful. Regan was probably filled with them by
now from her earlier bite.


It seems to be operating
much like a virus. How it’s transmitted, I can’t say for sure, but
I could guess bodily fluids are a safe bet. Saliva, or blood from
their wounds getting into the fresh wounds of a victim and
replicating. Once the host has been overcome, they presumably take
control, either by manipulating the nerves, or directly stimulating
muscle mass.”

Regan stared at the floor and touched
the back of her head where she was bitten. Yeah, that’s kinda what
she figured too.


But, now I’m kinda in a
good news, bad news situation. The good news is that my immune
system has been winning against the nanites, slowly but surely,
according to repeated blood samples. The bad news is that with the
amount of blood loss from my wounds, I’m pretty darn sure I’m not
gonna make it.”

Regan tried not to imagine how Harold
looked at that point, but grizzly images forced their way in. His
voice didn’t help either, staggered with pauses for slow, painful
sounding breaths. He also sounded tired. Very slowly slipping
closer to unconsciousness due to blood loss.


So now the question is...
at the point when I die, will my immune system have enough oomph
left in it to take out the rest of the nanites? I’m pretty sure I
won’t be alive long enough to test that… and certainly not
conscious. Wouldn’t that be funny? If I died, and my corpse
defeated the nanites in me after? If you’re listening to this, and
see my peaceful corpse lying around, feel free to have a giggle for
me.”

Regan took another glance around her
surroundings; just in the oft chance she missed something. There
was no body. Just signs of his bleeding, and a discarded, heavily
stained rag that had been a crude bandage. He was out there
somewhere, walking, roaming, a corpse. A puppet for a bunch of tiny
robots.


Little fuckers!” Regan
yelled. It echoed in the lab, mercifully covering up the recording
as Harold gasped a ragged breath.

She stared at the recorder bitterly.
He’d been working on nanites. Could he have in any way be
responsible for this mess? No.. not directly at least. Harold’s
voice resumed.


Oh. I don’t know when or if
this is gonna be found. If you can, and if she… if she made it out
of this… my sister, Regan... Regan Grier. Um. I don’t know. Tell
her I love ‘er. And. I don’t know what else. Just to look out for
herself. Regan, I’m not gonna be able to help you out anymore.
Learn to stand strong, okay? Um…. Yeah, I guess that’s
it.”

There was a click as his recording
ended.

She stood and stared at the little
device. Tears burnt in her eyes. She wanted to scream. Scream and
scream until she passed out. Stand strong, huh? She was trembling,
tense. Was this strength? What the hell kind of strength did he
expect her to have now?

She saw his silver ring. He always took
it off when working, and there it sat in the sill of the window,
waiting for him to come back and claim it. His sister would have to
do today. It was too big for her. She stared at it. If it irritated
him so much to wear, why did he keep putting it back on?

Regan almost cracked a smile. It was
like her. She irritated him too, but he kept putting up with
her.

And now he was dead.

Worse than dead, actually. If she had
gotten in faster, could she have done anything? Made him a proper
goddam bandage for one? So her big rescue… all this effort was for
nothing.

At least she knew now that whatever
nanites that were in her own body were doomed, as long as she
stayed alive. Now she could leave this city. This wondrous city of
Autar. This grave. She could walk to the wall, wave down those
snipers, and get out.

And leave Harold here to
wander.

Bullshit.

She owed him. Hell, even if she didn’t,
she didn’t have anything else. He was her whole family, and she
wasn’t about to just let these things use his body like that.
Besides, since Harold was all she had, she was all alone now. She
could be just as alone in Autar as she could out in the rest of the
world.

She stared out the window, gripping his
ring, staring across Autar’s vast terrain. Finding Harold would
take a while.

And then what? If nothing else, bring
his body rest. She put the ring in her pocket and walked into the
hall. This building was the logical place to start
looking.

Around the city, the new wall stood to
contain it. To contain the dead. Snipers sat in powerful gunnery,
watching the outskirts, ready to destroy any corpses that tried to
leave.

Around the wall, stretched the desert.
Before Autar was built, it was merely a lifeless stretch of desert.
Now it was home to death.

Around the desert, the world stared.
Stared at this wall, stared at this dead city. Mourning, shocked,
confused. Afraid that it could happen in their city, and wondering
how, and why.

Time passed, and forgotten by the
world, Regan searched.

And searched.

And time passed.

~~~~~

Chapter 14: Crown Keepers

~~~~~

The air around Autar was as still and
silent as a crypt. No crickets were heard at night, and no birds in
the day. Not here. Not for a little over two years.

The city had been left for dead, and
left to the dead.

Occasionally, the smell of a crypt
would wander out, carried by the wind. Decay, dust, and maybe a bit
of rust, or chemicals. The soldiers of the quarantine wall would
say “It smells like Autar tonight.”

Around this city was built a wall.
Thick and tall, it looked very much like a huge circular dam. On
the north edge of the wall there stood a great metal door which led
from the surrounding wasteland, into the wall’s interior. No door
on the north side faced the city.

On the south side an even greater set
of doors, almost fit for a coliseum, faced inwards to the city. To
pass through the wall into the city area one had to enter the wall
from the north, travel the entire distance to the south end, then
go through those doors.

The top of the wall was dotted with
sentry stations, each with a grim looking gun pointing in towards
the city. This has spawned the nickname of Autar’s “crown of
thorns”. These ‘thorns’, were the ZS-103 ‘zippers’.

The zippers were designed specifically
for the guarding of the Autar wall, and could deliver a lot of lead
to a precise target. A zipper’s floor mounting sported a sensitive
system of hydraulics and a noise suppressor, allowing the gunner to
pump 5.7mm hollow point rounds from a belt up to 1200 RPM, with
luxurious ease.

Corporal Robert Parker was one such
gunner. He leaned on the controls of his zipper, contentedly
listening to the chatter of the night watch. He was younger than
most of them, but his ability, likability, and level head tended to
make him the unofficial leader of the watch.

Parker surveyed his edge of the city
through the scope of his Zipper. Aside from the comm chatter, the
night was silent


I spy,” hummed the voice of
Richards, another gunner, “Something near the northwest
cornerstone, and it’s yellow.”


Yellow? Must be you,
Richards!” immediately retorted another voice. Richards seemed to
be heading up the game of ‘I spy’, and he was on the north side so
Parker had given up on playing much. He kept scanning the lower
area near the outskirts.

After hours since the last sighting,
Parker saw something move. “I have motion in the south lower
outskirts. I’m dropping a VTag on it...... Bam.” Parker centered
with crosshairs on the motion, and tapped a hotkey on his scope. A
VTag appeared on everyone’s display to show them exactly where he
meant. “Someone help me out here.”


I’m with ya,” reported
Jerins, who manned the station to Parker’s right. “Yeah, that’s
motion all right. Coming out from behind the rubble.”


Ok.” Parker replied,
“Major, you listening?” Parker hoped that Major Grant, the wall’s
CO, was monitoring things from his office as he often
did.


I see it.” The Major
replied. “Hold off a sec.”


Check.” Parker, Jerins, and
the Major watched intently while the other wall gunners kept radio
chatter to a minimum. Finally, the source of the motion revealed
itself.


Yup. That’s a zombie. Hey,
another one wearing a hawaiian shirt.” Jerins observed.


Permission to open fire,
Major?” Parker asked.


Hold up a bit,
Corporal....just wait for it......” The Major had predicted well.
The zombie made its way forward and moved a sheet of metal out of
the way revealing three more. “Ha. Silly twits. Let em come out
into the open a bit more.... and.... alright Parker, you spotted
it, Let em have it. Fire.”

Parker ‘opened up his Zipper’, and sent
a swarm of metal towards the small team of undead. The hollow
points practically exploded against the zombies, shattering and
obliterating them.

A few moments of silence passed. All
else aside, these things were once human, and they were now at
peace. Even the rowdiest of the team respected this. But respect
only lasts so long. A haggard-sounding voice came from Jerins’ com.
“Arrrrrrrr... whassa mattaaaaa? Didn’t you like my
shirrrrt?”

Such was the duty of the Autar Guard.
Keep the zombies at bay, keep the rest of the world safe. Of
course, it’s only a stopgap.

In the two years since the initial
incident, no one had forgotten, but most of the world was happy to
ignore Autar. Now and then the news would make mention of it and
run footage of the soldiers who came out alive.

The zombies never stopped coming, and
no cause was ever found. The officials in charge had decided
surprisingly early to essentially give up on Autar. The wall had
been built, the guard was in place, and there was no further threat
to the public.

BOOK: AZU-1: Lifehack
6.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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