Read AZU-1: Lifehack Online

Authors: Joseph Picard

AZU-1: Lifehack (25 page)

BOOK: AZU-1: Lifehack
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The sound rang out, and when Regan
turned back, she saw devastation. Her knees felt weak. Alisia stood
motionless, stunned by the horror she’d caused. “They were already
dead, they were already dead.” she chanted in her mind. She could
feel her arms tremble a bit. Focus. Focus.

About two dozen zombies remained in the
middle, spared from the terrible onslaught. The carnage on either
side was littered with squirming parts. Blood dripped from the
ceiling. Regan stared at the surviving zombies, who looked confused
but unconcerned. But one of them was different. One was not so
new.

A decayed hand rose from the older
zombie’s side, holding a revolver. Regan screamed, and tackled
Alisia down. A shot rang out as Regan scrambled them behind a large
potted plant.


What the fuck?!” Alisia
said.


One of the zombies! Has a
gun! He shot at us!” As if by cue another shot rang out, and a
chunk of their concrete cover broke away.


It can’t be a zombie! Are
you sure it’s not some human defending himself or
something?”


No! He was rotting!
Definite zombie!”

Alisia was still skeptical. “You! With
the gun! We’re human! Cease fire!”


Kiss my zombie ass!” came
the response with another shot.

The girls looked at each other,
puzzled. A talking zombie who knew how to use a gun? Regan
carefully stuck her head out the side to peek. Sure enough, the
older zombie was slowly walking towards them, holding his gun. He
walked smoothly like a human and his expression showed
intelligence. He spotted Regan, and as he corrected his aim she
ducked back in. A bullet ricocheted where her head had been, but by
now, Alisia’s P90 was aimed and a short volley of bullets shattered
his arm. The arm and the gun fell to the floor.

The zombie stopped.

He looked at his arm.

He looked at Alisia.


Bitch!”

He stooped down and used his remaining
arm to pry the gun loose. Alisia wasn’t about to have that, so she
shot off his other arm. He stood and looked at both arms laying on
the ground.


Ack! You’ve disarmed
me!”


What the hell?” Regan said,
“We’re talking with a zombie! What’s going on here?”

The zombie looked at Regan. “Well, what
do you expect, this?” The light of intelligence suddenly left him
and he moaned, staggering forward.


Well.... yeah!”

The zombie didn’t respond, but kept
advancing.


Screw that.” Regan opened
fire and took it down.


Missed me!” Came the same
voice, but this time from the ambling crowd of zombies who were
only now cluing in to Regan and Alisia. One of them jumped forward,
breaking into a run, moving like a human. It dashed for the fallen
handgun which was closer to it than Regan or Alisia. They dropped
him in mid stride before he got far. The newly fallen zombie called
out from the floor.


Uh... that didn’t hurt!”
Then his face went dim and stupid like a normal zombie. The voice
came from within the group again. “Didn’t hurt at all!”

Yet another zombie broke apart from the
crowd, this one diving for nearby cover. The girls didn’t manage to
hit the new one, but deciding to narrow their opponent’s options
and remove variables from the battlefield, they shot down the
remaining handful of mindless zombies.


Ooooh, my toys!” the last
zombie bemoaned from behind his potted plant.


What the hell are you?”
Regan said as Alisia walked over to its first body, the older
zombie.


I’m a zombie! Duh!” he
called out.


Yeah, fine, but why are you
talking?” Regan said.


I get so
lonely!”

Alisia glanced at Regan. “A.I.?” She
asked softly.

Regan opened her mouth, but was
interrupted by the zombie. “Haha, I am not an A.I.”


Good ears.” Alisia
commented.


The Autar A.I. was a
magnificent piece of code, if I must say so myself,” the zombie
said, “But it’s not capable of holding conversations, and it still
had a pretty feeble understanding of bodily kinetics. And no
appreciation of firearms.”


So you’re either a much
better A.I., or a human controlling zombies through the server.”
Alisia said, prodding the body of the older zombie with her
boot.


Duh.” The zombie
taunted.


I’m guessing human. I
assume you caused this?” Alisia’s boot found something big and hard
lodged in the older zombie’s chest cavity.


Ya, that’s me.” The zombie
replied. Regan’s head spun at the thought of a human causing this
on purpose. At least Autar’s fall was an accident, right? It was a
faint hope she’d clung to for the sake of faith in
humanity.

Alisia reached down getting a hold of
the twenty centimeter wide metal canister she had found. It was
caked in dried blood. She held it up for Regan to see, then looked
towards the zombie. “So, this would be your handiwork then. What is
it?”


Well...” The zombie
hesitated. “You’re going to find out anyway, I guess it doesn’t
make a difference.” He took the opportunity to brag a bit. “It’s a
mobile server. Good long battery, can carry a shitload of nanites,
and a half decent transmission radius. Keep it, I have
lots.”

Alisia found a clasp and opened it up.
As promised, a battery, and a lot of circuitry.


It could have been a bomb.”
The zombie said. “You’re pretty brave.. or dumb.”


It didn’t seem to fit your
M.O. to use a bomb.” she said, fingering a power switch inside.
“So, what’s your name?”


Ha! Nice try. But I guess
you have to call me something.. how about... uh.. what’s Autar
backwards...? Ratua? No, that sucks. Uh.... ooh, this is cool, how
about Samhain?”


Samhain?” Regan
asked.


Hmm.. you’re right. A bit
dorky still, and fact is, he wasn’t actually the Celtic god of the
dead. Ooh! Egyptian! Anubis! No, no, that’s been done. Charon? I’m
not into boats.” The zombie looked off into nowhere while he
thought and rambled. “Namtar? Rudra? Dorky, no. Thanatos has been
so done. Tartarus? Tartar sauce. No. Hm. Erebus! Yes! Call me
Erebus! Son of Chaos, brother of Nyx!”


What the hell ever! Why are
you doing this?” Alisia asked.


Did you know that Erebus
has a volcano named after him? Some people used to think of Erebus
and Hades as the same guy, but I think the-“


Shut the fuck up.” Alisia
pressed the switch in the mobile server, and he fell limp. The
scattering of writhing parts they had made stopped moving, and the
rest of the zombies in other areas of the mall fell to the
ground.

Marking notable things with VTags on
the way, the girls carried the mobile server out, trudging through
the cooling gore. They came to the entrance as decontamination
teams were arriving.

Alisia’s head spun with worries and
tried to grapple the implications of this ‘Erebus’. She looked to
Regan. She just looked tired. That sort of deep-soul tired. Regan
looked to Alisia. Under the warming sun and the press helicopters,
she held onto Alisia and pushed back weary tears.

~~~~~

Chapter 35: Unwind

~~~~~

While Alisia took care of the paperwork
and other post-mission business on base, Regan and her rattled
nerves wandered towards the base bar. Parker spotted her on the way
and tagged along. At first Regan resented the unexpected company,
but Parker’s easy demeanor soon chipped away her resistance. Before
she realized it she was thankful for the company. It wasn’t long
before they were seated in a booth, lagers in hand.


So, what’s up?” Parker
asked.


Up? We just came back from
a successful mission and I thought I would come down and pollute
myself a bit.”


Regan, come on. Me and
anyone tuned into the news today saw how rattled you
were.”


The news?!”


Yeah, there was a press
chopper sharing the air with us when you guys came out.”

Fuck. Just what she needed. The entire
world watching her have a breakdown. “Lovely.” She took a deep
drink of her beer. “Don’t tell me... ugh, I don’t wanna know what
they said about me.” Weak, they would say. Weak, damaged, fragile
survivor of Autar. No wonder Alisia was repulsed by her.


No.. nothing overdone.
Something like ‘here we see Major Terone and Regan Grier, obviously
this has been a trying day,’ blah blah blah.”


Well.. that’s survivable.
Nothing like ‘Look at the lesbian crybaby curling up to her
unrequited love for a little cry’?”

Parker smiled softly with sympathy in
his eyes. “No, your secret’s safe from the world for now. It was
pretty rough though, huh?”


I’ve seen worse, it just
reminded me of a lot of stuff.”


The first fall.”


Yeah. What a mess that was.
Seeing all those people.. well...” Regan slid into her own little
world and her eyes began to glaze, staring into her
drink.

Parker tapped his finger abruptly on
the table. “Topic change!”


Meh?” Regan looked at him,
still a little removed from the world.


Let’s talk about something
else.”

Three body canisters containing samples
from the mall mob were wheeled into the Yute base lab on trolleys.
Alisia was now a passing acquaintance to the aged lab head, ‘Doc
Brock’ who looked like he was in desperate need of some sun. She
handed him the mobile server she had recovered and told him what
she knew.


So, if you can figure
anything more, or if you notice anything different about these
zombies, it might help track this guy down.”


Why would these zombies be
different?” the wiry scientist asked, already prodding the
canister.


Whatever or whoever was
controlling them, and taking possession of them.. well, these ones
might have something extra on them or in them to make it possible.
I don’t know. Also compare them to the one we brought in from the
warehouse office job. I’m pretty sure our new friend ‘Erebus’ was
in there too, for a bit.”

Alisia thanked him, and waved towards
the back of the lab where she spotted a few faces eyeing her. She
headed back to the airlimb and arrived just in time to see a
civilian delivery man with a forklift style dolly loading a palette
of miscellaneous goods onto the airlimb under Regan’s
supervision.


Just leave it in here,” she
said, gesturing to the floor of the main bay. “I’ll worry about it
from there.”


What the heck is this?”
Alisia asked, a little annoyed.


Heeeheee... I went and did
some net shopping the other day. It’s here!” Regan peeked into the
plastic-wrapped bundle of products as the delivery man set the hand
cart’s forks down. Regan thanked him with a chipper smile, and
dismissed him. He walked past Alisia who was still a little
stunned.


What the fuck did you
buy?”


Oh, all kinds of things.
Hey, ‘leesh, do we have a new mission?”


No. Until the lab boys tell
us something or another attack breaks out, we’re on easy
standby.”

Regan dug her nails into the plastic
package and smiled like a little girl who’d had too much sugar.
“Ha! Then it’s time to go!”


Go? Where are y-“ Then
Alisia suddenly remembered about Regan’s birthday. “Oh, Regan, I
haven’t had a chance to get you anything...!”


Bah! I don’t need your
presents; I just need your presence! Remember? My tropical spot!
Get Kris to drop us off!”

Alisia regretted agreeing to come with
her on her little vacation, but it was too late to back out. With
any luck she could park herself by the hotel pool and Regan
wouldn’t pester her too badly, being surrounded by the public. Ack.
The public. Regan might react badly. She would need support. This
was going to be an interesting and difficult trip.

~~~~~

Chapter 36: Evil Exposed

~~~~~

Kris settled down and curled up to her
new favorite victim, Parker. The heat and sweat would be unpleasant
in a while, but for the moment they just soaked each other in,
nested into Parker’s bed.


So, you have no interest in
Alisia?”


No,” Parker said, “What an
odd thing to bring up now.. got a jealous streak or
something?”

Kris sneered to herself. So the nice
little puppy had a bit of ego. “Mmmmm, no,” she purred, “I just
wondered...” She paused, and touched Parker in a way that got his
attention. “I was just wondering what she’s doing right now...”
Kris sighed, “She’s got to be feeling... lonely, in that big room,
all alone.”

Parker smirked. “It sounds like I’m the
one who should be feeling jealous.”

BOOK: AZU-1: Lifehack
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