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Authors: Joseph Picard

AZU-1: Lifehack (8 page)

BOOK: AZU-1: Lifehack
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She watched the ceiling and got out
carefully when she reached the bottom. No need to stir up a fuss
when she can just walk away. As she left the building she looked at
the elevator from the outside. There were at least four of them on
there.

They took notice of her and began
throwing themselves against the glass. A considerable smear of
blood blotted against the glass as they struck again and
again.

A crack sounded. A few more strikes
later, the glass broke and three of the four tumbled like wet
laundry off the top of the elevator, onto the ground. They started
picking themselves up, caked in blood and broken ‘safety glass’
bits. The fourth trudged through the break in the glass, and fell
behind the other three with the unpleasant crack of
bone.

Regan was a safe distance away by now,
but she didn’t need them following her and becoming a problem
later. She had the ammo to spare, so she took them down.

How easy it was becoming, to kill the
dead. Easier to forget they were people ever so
recently.

She took a moment to imagine their
names on some list somewhere on the net, while family members
wondered how to hold a funeral.

~~~~~

Chapter 10: The General

~~~~~

With yet another detour while evading a
mob, and another small scuffle, Regan was finally at AutarLabs.
Well, she could see it, anyway.

The building was surrounded by zombies.
That in itself was not a huge shock, but they were standing in a
crude formation. Nearly shoulder to shoulder and five zombies
thick.

The front of the building had about
fifty rows. Each row had five zombies in a line. Multiply that by
four sides of the property, plus lots of strays just wandering
around. That equaled to a lot of rotting people standing
around.

From a safe distance of two blocks down
the road, she used the VTag goggles’ magnification to look for a
weak point in the barricade, but found none. She did find another
odd thing however. The barrier also surrounded a large, open area
in front of the entryway. The kind of concrete front yard you might
expect a co-operation to grace with a fountain of some gaudy
abstract stature.

AutarLabs didn’t choose to have
anything there, but they had something now. Right in the middle
stood a large zombie.

This big fellow wasn’t quite a zombie.
It was twice the height of a person. Zooming in closer revealed
that its form consisted of random body parts and gore held together
by seemingly nothing more than will. It stood like a General behind
his troops, staring forward without any noticeable eyes.

It all seemed to have some kind of
purpose.

The only feature the General had
besides the random mish mash, was a loose cable hanging out of its
side. It didn’t look like a power cable. She zoomed tight on the
suspicious cable and raised the P90 to aim.

No good. The gun was so magnified
through the goggles that it was impossible to even know if she even
had it facing the right way, if it wasn’t for the fact that she
could feel it in her hands.

She looked around the building for
hints about how things were inside. A few windows had lights on and
one caught her eye. She counted what floor it was on. Thirteen,
fourteen, fifteen. It was Harold’s lab. At least, it was the window
he waved at her from before.

She zoomed into it as tight as she
could. She couldn’t see activity, but she couldn’t exactly see a
lot inside other than the ceiling. He could be just a couple meters
away from the window and be obscured thanks to Regan’s viewing
angle. On the plus side, there were no signs of violence that she
could see.

That was it, she needed in there. She
felt a bit more like she hadn’t just wasted her time. Now she just
needed to get past the General and his troops.

She zoomed back in on the General’s
suspicious cable. She sat back and lifted the goggles onto the top
of her head, and stared at the P90. She was still getting to know
the weapon. She had taken long enough to figure out how to switch
it from single shots to fully automatic firing, and she still
didn’t know what the little cable on the bottom was for.

A lightbulb turned on over her head.
She felt like an idiot. She pulled the little cable out and found
it plugged in quite nicely into the mysterious little socket on the
side of the goggles. She put the goggles back on
properly.

The goggles displayed ‘wait....’ for a
moment then popped up with ‘Accept weapon targeting data feed? Y/N’
Regan giggled at her stupidity, not having tried this before... but
then, she didn’t have a need to.

Now when she aimed a handy red icon
waved around in front of her. She zoomed into the General. The
aiming icon was shakier the more she zoomed in. The minor
unintentional movements in her aim counted for more at long range,
but she could deal with it. She aimed at the cable sticking out of
his side. It must be important. She switched to single
shots.

She fired and missed. She quickly fired
again and hit the cable, severing it. It fell to the ground. The
other end wasn’t attached to anything. It wasn’t important.
However, shooting it off was not entirely without
effects.

She zoomed out a bit to see that the
General had turned its eyeless head towards her. She zoomed out
more and saw about thirty zombies headed her way. They weren’t
moving faster than a brisk walk, but they were determined, they
were focused, they were following orders.

She switched to full-auto and targeted
one of the approaching zombies. It fell easily enough, but the
moment it did, another from the formation started towards her. She
shot it, and again it was replaced. She debated just mowing them
all down until she saw stray zombies coming from various directions
to fill the gaps.

The General..!

She zoomed back to him, and traced the
severed end of the cable, and visualized where it might be leading
inside his body. She fired. The General’s body jerked back a little
for a split second, and then the mounds of flesh moved and churned,
putting more of itself in the way of Regan’s attack. It was using
its flesh to defend whatever that cable belonged to and the P90
wasn’t getting through. Of course it was hard to tell even through
the scope, but repeated rounds just seemed to hit like pebbles
sinking into mud.

Small groups of zombies that she hadn’t
noticed before were joining in from most directions. Directly
behind her still presented a clear path, and if she didn’t take it
now, she’s be swamped soon enough. The zombies were still a fair
way away but she had seen how these openings had a way of
disappearing quickly. She pulled herself together and bolted.
Looking back over her shoulder for a moment, she saw Harold’s
window. She’d have to come back but she’d need a little help. She
knew where to get it, too.

~~~

Making her way though the city was
slowly becoming routine. The aggravations of dodging groups of
zombies and staying sharp for the stragglers was no less hazardous,
but she was getting a sense for how they behaved in
general.

They didn’t tend to pay close attention
to her if she was far enough away, unless she made a big sound.
That wasn’t the kind of thing she wanted to bet on though. Their
random ambling around made any non-secure places a risk to linger
in. It was starting to make a bit of sense. At least it had a
pattern. They liked to be near others. They ambled around and if
they found other zombies, they’d stick together for a while, often
creating these big mobs. If they instead found someone alive, well…
yeah. Chomp. Welcome to the club. It was all very
heartwarming.

Regan felt her little head wound. She
didn’t want to be in the club. It had been quite a while now. Did
she manage to avoid getting infected, or did a small wound just
take longer to convert you?

Some aspects of their behavior were a
little beyond her. Many of them seemed attracted to truly tacky
things. As she traveled, she spotted a mound of bodies, some
motionless, some shifting. Sticking out of the mound were about two
dozen pink, plastic, flamingo lawn ornaments. Zombie art.
Wonderful.

She made it to her destination, the
crashed airlimb. It was much as she left it, minus the mob that
chased her away.

The two zombies she’d gunned down were
still there on the ground, but they looked like they’d been
decaying for ages, not overnight. Even the skeletal structure
appeared to be rotting. Exposed bones were much thinner. The head
and rib cages seemed far more collapsed than her shots would seem
to account for.

Regan decided to keep clear in case
they were somehow diseased. This precaution felt a little silly
given the bite on the back of her head, but it didn’t hurt to keep
clear of them.

She went back to the armoury
compartment, and uncovered the container she had seen before. ‘AP
MASS IMPACT ACCELERATOR’. She knew AP meant ‘armour piercing’.
Hopefully it would apply to fleshy armour. She pulled the
dull-green metal container out to get a better look at it. About a
meter long and thirty centimeters wide, it had little wheels on one
end and a handle on the other so it could be dragged along like
luggage.

Ignoring that for now, she opened the
little latches on one side and flipped open the lid. To her dismay,
it wasn’t assembled and ready to go. It was in about seven large
pieces and had a sub-compartment of at least thirty little bits and
pieces. And no instructions.

She looked around the rest of the
armoury for any kind of manual, but nothing useful could be found.
A little label on the lining of the case pointed to the edge of the
lining and said ‘AMMUNITION’. Sure enough, by lifting the edge
Regan saw six large ‘bullets’, a couple centimeters across and
about twelve centimeters long.

That would have to be enough, since no
more were to be found around the airlimb. She tinkered with the
parts a bit, but it was soon apparent that it would take a long
time to figure out. It wasn’t safe to dawdle here if she couldn’t
keep her guard up.

She threw some more P90 ammo into the
box just because she was here again, and closed it up to drag it
back to her little locker room fort. To ‘home’. Before she left she
tried an experiment with a spare visor laying around. She turned it
on and got it to access the network she had created before. With a
little toying around, she was able to see though the second pair of
goggles using her first set. She left the second pair on the floor,
positioned to watch the entrances to the airlimb, and packed some
extra goggles into the metal case.

~~~~~

Chapter 11: Rally

~~~~~

The sound of the case’s wheels going
down the middle of the street attracted some attention here and
there but thankfully no mobs. The stragglers that took a liking to
her were spotted soon enough that she dispatched them at a safe
distance.

She made it ‘home’ to the locker room
and checked to make sure she didn’t have any unwanted pests settle
in while she was gone. She dumped her cargo on the floor near her
little ‘laundry bed’ and took out one of the spare visors and some
duct tape she had found, then went to the concession stand
outside.

She set up the goggles to her little
network, and taped them to the wall inside the concession before
picking out a ‘meal’, and returning to the locker room and
barricading herself in.

Well, the experiment worked. With her
main visors, she could view the other two she set up. The interior
of the crashed airlimb, (which currently had about five zombies
roaming around it), and the concession. Ah, she could now keep a
close eye on her precious treasure hoard of junk food. If she
didn’t get out of Autar soon, she’d have to raid a grocery store or
something. Artificially cheeze flavored food stuffs just aren’t a
balanced diet.

But then again, the infectious bite on
the back of her head was probably a bigger worry. That thought
slowed her down for a moment, and self pity wrapped itself snugly
around her again.

She curled up on her haphazard bed and
closed her eyes. She didn’t feel like she was turning into a
zombie. She looked okay in the mirror and the wound didn’t seem
especially bad from what she could see through her hair, but she
didn’t know anything about how these zombies worked. For all she
knew, some mysterious growth was developing around her vital organs
at that very moment, preparing to choke her from within or hijack
her brain.

What about Harold? She had no idea
where he was, and her best hunch was vague at best, behind an army
of corpses. Why did this have to happen?

Things weren’t all peaches and sunshine
before the zombies, but needing a job sure seemed like a small
problem now. Things were great! She was with the one person in the
world she could trust, and things... things were great.

Then this mess. Even that bitch Kris
would be welcome company now. What’s worse? Being alone in a city
full of people who don’t care about you, or being alone in a city
where they just want your body? And which was which?

She realized she was crying and sat up,
mentally scolding herself. There was work to do. She violently
flipped open the lid to her new ‘AP mass impact-‘ thingy, and tried
to focus on the puzzle of making it work.

BOOK: AZU-1: Lifehack
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