Chapter 49: Skirmish in the Dark


13 HOURS UNTIL FAILSAFE

"…Look, Bill, it's not like that, alright?" Francis said.

He stumbled over his next words, but was interrupted by the soft sound of knocking on the hotel door. Bill frowned and made his way across the bedroom toward the doorway into the living area.

With no warning whatsoever, a large and stocky figure appeared in the doorway. The cone of Bill's flashlight illuminated the bared teeth, the wild eyes, the blood splattered all the way down his front.

The large man screamed in blind rage and tackled Bill through the doorway, back into the bedroom with a crash.

"Holy fuck!" Francis shouted.

He shone his light back toward the doorway to see two more gaunt figures appear. Before he could squeeze the trigger, the nearest infected woman knocked the MP5 out of his hands and then scratched him across the face.

"Ah, you bitch!" he roared.

Before he knew what was happening, the attackers were all over him.


Zoey just about jumped a mile in the air when she heard sudden shouts and screams on the other side of the hotel door. However, before she could do anything about it, two doors burst open further down the hall. She snapped her flashlight up to see a man and woman bearing down on her, their faces contorted with rage. They hauled themselves down the hallway at her, leaving bloody handprints on the once-pristine white walls.

The young woman whipped up her pistol, and the subsequent muzzle-flash illuminated the forerunner's brains splattering across the wall as his body crumpled face-down. However, the offender behind was on her before she could realign her aim and, to her horror, the gun was knocked from her hand.

The infected woman screeched in rage and her hands closed in around her prey's neck. Zoey gasped in pain as she was hauled to her feet and then thrown against the wall, the hands around her neck tightening.


Bill lay on his back on the floor of the suite bedroom, pinned under the immense weight of a man who, at that moment, was doing his utmost to sink his teeth into the war veteran's jugular. His M4 carbine had been thrown clear across the room, and he was unable to reach for his sidearm, courtesy of his arms being otherwise occupied holding the insane man back.

Francis was not faring much better, having being scratched several times across his face and arms by the two infected women in the room. His hand shot down and drew the Beretta 92 from his holster. A muzzle-flash momentarily lit up the room and the death snarl of the nearest banshee, a sizzling hole in her face.

However, he was immediately tackled by the other woman, the pistol wrested from his grip. He was thrown backward against the wall and roared in pain when she bit into his forearm, drawing blood.


"Holy shit!" Louis exclaimed to the sounds of gunshots, one of which happened just outside the safe-room. He cast a longing glance at the machine pistol sitting on the safe-room table in dismantled pieces. Goddamn it, they have to go and get attacked while my Glock's being cleaned…

He swung open the steel door, leading with his SIG-Sauer and flashlight.

The young man was immediately met with a pair of dead white eyes.

His knee-jerk reaction of pulling the trigger saved his life. The Common Infected just outside the door convulsed and fell, an exit-wound through the cranium.

Louis took a moment to regather his wits and comprehensible thought, before stepping out into the hallway, legs spread wide, pistol held in a firm two-handed grip. He immediately caught sight of Zoey being held up against the wall by a raging woman. He rushed forward, pressed his SIG-Sauer to the attacker's head and fired.

Zoey took a deep breath of air and rubbed her neck. "Thanks, Louis. You saved my life."

"Don't mention it. Where are the others?"

The former college girl stooped to recollect her fallen pistol and motioned toward a closed door. "Something's going down behind there. Cover me and make sure nothing comes in behind me."

Louis nodded and pressed his back up to the wall, holding his pistol up near his head and keeping watch in both directions for any more Common Infected that may appear. Zoey, for her part, held her gun to the door's keyhole and fired twice, annihilating the lock.

She pushed the door open and rushed into the suite, hearing the sounds of struggle coming from the bedroom. Upon reaching the doorway, her flashlight found Bill, pinned under a particularly bulky male. She let out a cry and delivered a hard kick to the man's chest, knocking him off Bill. The infected man's head snapped up to face her, his eyes wild and livid. He opened his mouth to roar in anger, but never got the chance as Zoey shot him through the eye.

Meanwhile, Francis grappled with the woman who had him up against the wall and managed to pry her off his arm. With a surge of adrenaline, he spun her around and threw her against the window. The glass shattered and the infected woman let out a cry as she stumbled through it and out into the dark evening sky, falling eight storeys straight down.

"Are you guys alright?" Zoey asked breathlessly.

"Yeah… thanks," Bill answered shakily, climbing to his feet.

"Francis, you're hurt," she said, noticing that he was grasping his arm as blood oozed from the wound.

"I'll be fine," he said dismissively.

"Come on, let's get you patched up," she insisted. "Louis and I found a first-aid pack in the safe-room, on the body of an army medic. Let's go, before more people show up."

"What happened?" Bill cut in. "Were you two attacked?"

"Yeah... I was ambushed in the hallway." Zoey grimaced as she recalled the bloodthirsty madness in her attacker's eyes as she was throttled. It was something she would likely never get used to. The young woman jerked involuntarily when she felt Bill's hand on her shoulder, turning her back to face him.

"Were you bitten?" he asked.

"Huh?"

"Zoey, were you bitten? Or scratched?"

"Uh, no," she answered, checking herself over.

Bill visibly breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank goodness."


12.5 HOURS UNTIL FAILSAFE

Later on, the two suitcases of clothes had been dragged back to the safe-room. While Bill treated Francis' injuries, Louis scavenged a pair of jeans and a white polo shirt. Apparently, no matter the situation, the man had style.

Zoey, having made the guys turn around while she changed, found herself a clean short-sleeved white shirt and a pair of dark jeans. However, she elected to keep her red track jacket – it had been part of her uniform when she was on the women's field hockey team in college. It was silly, but the jacket helped to serve as a reminder of better times, and she preferred to hang onto it. Besides, it was not that dirty – just a few dirt-marks here and there –

Her train of thought was cut off by a strange noise that issued from the radio's speaker without warning. Bill rushed over to the table and began to adjust the dials until he finally found the right frequency.

"– lost east sector of the terminal to the Infected. Falling back to the runway."

Horrible screams and gunfire could be heard in the background.

"We need backup and heavy fire support now!" a different voice shouted. "There's a fucking twelve foot tall monster tearing through our ranks!"

Bill and the others exchanged glances. Just what the hell was going on over there? He seriously started to wonder if going to the airport was the right idea. But then again, it was the only plan they had at present.

He waited for a few more minutes, but no more transmissions came through the radio. He picked up the microphone. "This is William Overbeck, broadcasting from the Harbour View Hotel. Can anyone read me? Over."

There was a moment of silence, before a crackled voice came through. "Lieutenant Robinson, is that you? Over."

"Robinson is dead, son," Bill replied, identifying the man next to the radio by his dog-tags. "I'm all you've got."

"If you aren't Lieutenant Robinson, then you aren't authorised to be on this channel," the voice answered coldly. "Clear off – we need to keep this line open for official traffic."

"I am broadcasting from the Harbour View Hotel – your garrison here is dead. I have three more civilians with me and we are requesting asylum, sir."

"…The Harbour View Hotel? You'll have to speak with Captain Williams – he's in charge of this base. Broadcast again in thirty seconds."

Bill nodded at the others. They were finally getting somewhere. He waited exactly thirty seconds before speaking into microphone again. "Captain Williams. I am sorry to intrude on your channel like this. My name is Sergeant William Overbeck, and I have three more civilians with me. Over."

There was a hiss of static, before –

"What?!" a new voice barked. "Who the fuck are you? Over!"

Zoey was taken aback by how stressed the man on the other side of the radio sounded. Francis looked testily over at Bill while the man in question raised the microphone again.

"My name is Sergeant William Overbeck, and I have three other civilians with me. We are requesting asylum. Over."

"Sergeant Overbeck, unless you're flying a C-130 Hercules-sized escape vehicle, I don't want to talk to you right now. Take a seat and take a fucking number."

"Listen to me, boy," Bill practically snarled. "Isn't it your job to protect the public? I want you to give us some goddamned instructions right now, or when I crawl my way out of this mess – and you mark my words that I will – I'm gonna personally find your commander and chew him out for a piss-poor effort. Over!"

"Is that so?" Captain Williams' voice sounded less than impressed. "Let me tell you something, sir. You missed the evacuation by over five days."

Five days…? Zoey took a moment to close her eyes and breathe deeply, lest she lose her shit completely.

"What you've stumbled onto is the tail-end of a lost battle," Williams continued. "We're pulling out. So unless you can get your asses to the airport by 0530 hours tomorrow morning, there won't be anyone left in Newburg that can help you. Over."

"That's… news to us," Bill finally answered, at a loss of anything else to say.

"There's something else you should know. If you can't get to the airport in time, then get the hell out of the city. Since we were unable to retake it, the failsafe will be in effect. Be advised – it is in your best interests not to be in or anywhere near Newburg after dawn tomorrow morning. Over."

The old man's frown deepened. "What is this 'failsafe' you're talking about exactly? Over."

"There are a number of refugee camps in the area, and it's too dangerous to leave an entire city full of the Infected which could threaten them. To this end, the failsafe will be executed at 0600 hours – an entire squadron of F-16 fighters loaded with high-ordnance bombs. If you're caught on the ground when they get here, you're fucked."

The group had not thought it possible, but their night had just become a whole lot worse.

"What?" Lous exclaimed. "They're going to level the entire city? I don't believe this!"

Fucking army, Francis thought to himself. Bunch of useless prats.

"We'll make our way to the airport," Bill spoke into the radio. "Where can we meet up with you? Over."

"Our defence is focused around the main runway," Williams answered. "Make your way there. Over."

"Got it," he answered. He made to start gathering their supplies together, when the captain's voice spoke out again.

"While you're out there, I have to ask… Have you seen any of my men downtown?"

The four survivors glanced warily around the room at the grisly remains of the army personnel, before Bill spoke into the mouthpiece again.

"No one alive, I'm afraid. I'm sorry."

"…I was afraid of that. Good luck, and Godspeed. Over and out."

Without a word, Bill gathered their remaining food into the backpack and handed it to Louis, before gearing up. The others followed by example, and were soon ready to depart.

"We stay on-route, and we'll get to that power-plant Zoey mentioned soon," he announced. "I saw it earlier in the map book."

"What about all the Infected out in the streets?" Francis pointed out tersely.

"They should have lost our scent by now. We stay low, and keep quiet."

"If all else fails, we have the safe-room to fall back on," Louis offered, in an effort to raise spirits.

"If all else fails, we'll be zombie chow." Bill tossed the red first-aid pack across the room over to Francis, and then lifted his assault rifle. "We'd better get moving. We have some ground to cover."