Read AZU-1: Lifehack Online

Authors: Joseph Picard

AZU-1: Lifehack (5 page)

BOOK: AZU-1: Lifehack
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This caught the eye of the nearby
soldier. “Ma’am, if I heard right, I wouldn’t suggest going to
AutarLabs.”


Why the hell not?” She
snapped.


Well, aside from the
attacks all over the city, we’ve had reports that AutarLabs is
having especially strong creature-presence.”


Creature?! Call a duck a
duck already, we’re dealing with zombies.”

A passing evacuee piped up, “I think
they prefer living impaired.”

Regan gave him a vicious glance as he
slunk away.


Regardless Ma’am,” the
soldier continued, “I really don’t think you stand much of a chance
unless you come with us now.”


.... and my brother...?”
she quietly said to herself. She looked down the street. It was
mostly clear, how hard could it be to find Harold? She patted the
soldier on the back. “Hey man, thanks, but I’ll catch the next
bus.” and she ran off.


Ma’am! Get back here!” He
took a few steps to chase her but saw she was determined. He
decided to stick with the crowd who were more
cooperative.

~~~~~

Chapter 6: New Reign

~~~~~

As Regan got farther from the airlimb,
its sounds, and the people, she began to realize that the city had
been undeniably, fundamentally changed, and it would never be the
same again. Despite distant sounds of the airlimb taking off,
sporadic gunfire, and the occasional sounds of the odd lurking,
groaning zombie, an oppressing quiet managed to weigh so heavily
that it seemed to slow Regan’s stride.

Night had snuck up and few lights were
on. Many were damaged. Others just had no one to turn them on. Cars
sat silently in the streets here and there and no people could be
seen, not even panicking ones.

The gore which in daylight had stood
out bright and alarming had now sort of blended in with the city.
From immaculate in the morning, the evening bore dingy bloodstains
and smears from desperate panic. These weren’t stains on a
sparkling city. The blood was now part of it. This was Autar’s
blood. This was just the way things were now.

Regan found herself staring at the
blood and occasional body so intently that she forgot momentarily
about the escape she had just recently refused. With her heart
pounding, she forced herself to think of the brother she aimed to
find. Focus.

A flicker caught her eye, and she
looked up to a streetlight that struggled with some malfunction. A
few blocks further down she could see a digital advertising screen
showing a mix of static and some computer error message. Regan
imagined some control room somewhere, maybe half shot up, maybe
being ripped apart by zombies.

She turned a corner and stopped in her
tracks. Just before the next intersection the street was filled
wall to wall with a mob of zombies, very similar to the group that
had claimed those cops earlier. This group was closer, and she
could see them a little better. Many were badly injured, missing
limbs, chunks out of their torsos or heads. The injuries would be
incapacitating if not fatal to humans, and crudely displayed the
vitals of these freshly claimed. The variety of people who had been
taken into the mob included brutalized children, and more police
officers. How many of the zombies’ injuries were from gunfire, and
how many were inflicted while the victims were still
living?

Regan realized fully that these
monsters were recently people. Ordinary people with lives of their
own. All that had been taken from them. They were dead, but not
resting, their bodies being puppeteered around in cruel dispassion
to what those people meant. Revulsion, pity and anger washed over
Regan, and forced her to stare.

They were headed for her slowly, as if
they just happened to be ambling in her general direction. It was
more than enough to justify a detour. She picked a street and
walked quietly out of view of the mob, hoping not to attract
attention. Safe from their gaze, she ran for about a block and a
half.

She paused to rest, leaning against a
building to catch her breath. Across the street there was a church.
A crude sign was strung across the closed doors. ‘Evacuated’ She
wondered if they were alright, or if they were part of the mob she
just ran from. Did they toss holy water at them?

A familiar sound approached. An airlimb
passed overhead heading the opposite direction she was. She
considered trying to wave it down and just get out. But they’d
never spot her, and she had a brother to find. She hardened her
resolve and started walking again.

Less than a minute later she heard the
crash echo from behind. It was too much of a coincidence; it had to
be the airlimb. Her first reaction was to run and help but then she
realized the mob was between her and the sound. She could only hope
that if the people on board were alright from the crash and had a
clear path to the outside. It was about this time she realized how
hard it would be to eventually find her own clear path out. It’s
not as if she’d find her brother, get a happy ‘game over’ and get
magically teleported away.

She cursed her stupidity. For all she
knew Harold got out already on an air- damn, he might have been in
that crash!

Fear of the zombie mob left her and she
began running again. A building she could see ahead housed a mall.
If it had an entrance on the other side, it might lead out behind
the mob and she could get to the crash.

She burst into the ravaged mall and ran
down the hall. Ahead there were a dozen or so zombies scattered
across the hall but her fear and logic couldn’t catch up with her.
She picked out the weak spot in their haphazard blockade. As she
passed a deli she picked the small folding menu board off the
ground. Its top handle made it a good weapon if swung so its panels
were angled to cut through the air.

The menu impacted the jaw of an
unsuspecting zombie with a distasteful crack, knocking him out of
the way. Regan’s recovering target and the others nearby turned
their attention to her. They began to follow her but she was
already running away, further down the mall. The menu was awkward
to run with and striking with it made her hand sort of sore, so she
dropped it and kept going. After turning a corner she saw the glass
doors of the exit she was hoping for. It was there alright, but it
didn’t lead behind the mob. It went straight into the thick of it.
She ran close enough to get a better look and rested, hands on her
knees, checking things out.

Nope. They were packed thick through
the street and up against the glass like the world’s worst mosh pit
crowd. Hundreds of them. She’d have to go back and around somewhere
else. She was still catching her breath when she heard the glass
start to crack. Damn, they noticed her. Her body wasn’t too happy
about running again but it reluctantly obeyed. She made a mental
note to pace herself in the future. Outrunning these guys wasn’t a
big deal unless you’ve been running a lot, which she
had.

She turned the corner and saw where she
had hit the zombie before. That thin barricade of zombies wasn’t so
thin anymore. The ruckus had apparently attracted more zombies out
of nearby shops. About thirty more.


Fuck, fuck, fuck!” she said
in her gasps. Looking around, she picked a store hoping for a back
exit. She ran through the shoe store and barged into the back. She
pushed on the fire escape door and the alarm bell erupted
furiously, a meter from her head. “I don’t need this right now!”
she yelled at the bell, and pushed on the door. It bumped something
and then opened more. The mob was out there too. If the alarm
hadn’t gone off she might have heard the moans of the dead sooner,
but as it was she barely dodged the grasp of one particularly
bloody fellow. Closing the door was not an option anymore, so it
was back to running.

She ran into a store across the hall,
wondering how long she had until something caught up with her. As
soon as she got to the store she saw it was already infested. Odd,
nearly all the zombies had taken clothing off the racks and put
some on. Almost all of them had chosen obnoxiously bright coloured
shirts and she could swear one had a hair barrette clipped to a
chunk of exposed brain.

Regan stopped to look at this in
disbelief. She commented quietly, and stunned, “Never get caught
dead in a Hawaiian shirt.” She blinked, and headed to the next
store over.

Well, it wasn’t a store, it was a bank.
And it looked empty. She ran to the back, but on the way she saw a
dead guard. No, he used to be a guard. He was a dead zombie now.
Well, that was an oxymoron. He was an inanimate zombie. And he had
a head start on decomposition. Too bad he didn’t have much for a
head.

It looked like he.. it.. had been
shot.. a lot. Judging from the wounds, and the assault rifle at his
side, it could have been his partner. Autar liked their over-armed
guards. Everything had to be bigger and better in Autar. At least
it was good to see that with enough head trauma, these things would
go down for the count.

Regan scooped up the weapon which she
later learnt was one of many variants on the classic ‘Fabrique
Nationale Project 90’, and headed for the back. No back door. By
the time she was ready to try another store, zombies had congealed
into a loose crowd out front. That wasn’t the way. It looked like a
last stand situation. She went behind the counter and leaned on it,
aiming at the crowd. She glanced at her ammo. This was pointless.
The generous fifty round clip had maybe fifteen shots
left.


Why am I hiding behind the
counter? They don’t have guns!” She stood normally. Aw heck, if she
was gonna die, she may as well have fun. She used a chair (which
nearly rolled out from under her) to get up on the counter and made
her best heroic gun-toting pose. She paused, looking into their
faces. They were people. They were innocent. They had families,
some who weren’t even in Autar and didn’t know yet. Some had
brothers and sisters. They were people. Were. They weren’t people
anymore. She choked down her pity, and summoned her bravado
back.


Alright you bandito
gringos! You aren’t getting into my sa-“

She stopped, and blinked. “My safe...?”
She hopped down, and ran to the back again. There was the walk-in
safe, door left open as if the bank were currently operating. She
got in and hauled the heavy door shut. The simple interior control
panel only had four buttons. Lock, open, lights on, and off. She
hit the lock and heard the bolts sliding shut. Stunned in her new
sanctuary of calm, she staggered back against the far wall,
dropping her gun as she went. The safe was about the size of a cozy
living room, but there was nothing cozy about the cold metal lock
boxes that lined the walls. She slid down the back wall into a
seated position, staring at the door. How much air was in here? The
thought got put on hold as the zombies started scraping at the
door. It was barely audible, but it was an inescapable, desperate
sound. She may as well get comfortable.

~~~

Captain Harringer, in many ways a model
soldier, walked into the cockpit of the unmarked Lancer airlimb.
Its dark interior was lit only by status lights and control
displays.


Here, Sir.” the copilot
said, standing to give up his seat for Harringer, “Chief’s on the
line.”

Harringer nodded and took the seat in
front of a display with a waiting call. He tapped the screen to
take it off hold, and the sullen visage of Mr. Book
appeared.

Mr. Book turned his attention to the
display. “Harringer, report.”


We just unloaded our third
trip of evacuees. The other three limbs are at about the same
progress. It’s getting harder and harder to find survivors. Over
the last hour, resistance put up by the infected has mushroomed.
The harder we focus our forces, the thicker they counter. The more
we take down, the more there seem to be to retaliate.”

Mr. Book groaned. “It’s probable that
the infected you take down won’t stay down very long, Captain. Do
what you can, but don’t risk any of our boys. There’s all kinds of
reasons that we can’t afford that.”

Harringer nodded. “Sir, you realize
there’s no way we can get a significant number out of
Autar.”

Mr. Book grunted. “Of course. But it
will be significant to those we do get out.”


And out of curiosity, how
do we hide our involvement?”


That’s my job, Harringer,
Don’t worry about that. There’s going to be more than enough
confusion flying around to bury this operation in.”

~~~~~

Chapter 7: Broken Bird

~~~~~

Once or twice the sounds from the other
side of the safe’s door stopped, but whenever Regan peeked out, the
zombies were still in the area and the sound of the door opening
attracted them. She’d have to be more patient and wait for them to
wander farther away.

She took off her jacket and curled it
up for a crude pillow. She sat back down, when her terminal rang.
It was amazing that the signal got through the safe. Hoping it was
Harold, she rifled though her ‘pillow’ to find it.

The display read ‘Incoming: Kris
Taylor.’ Lovely. Just who she wanted to hear from.

BOOK: AZU-1: Lifehack
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