Chapter 10 - Entry 3
June 20th cont.- June 22nd
A heavy silence hung over the gathered crowd as George kept shouting into the mic. Abruptly he stopped, turned in a slow circle, and sighed. “Well shit.”
Orders flowed from Olora and George in a steady stream after that; broadcast over the building’s PA system and through runners sent to various posts. Guards manned positions along the rooftop and hidden bunkers built inside the treeline. Kitchen staff began making preps to feed people around the clock. A lot of coffee was brought up from the basement.
Storm shutters on all the first floor windows were secured and guards near the fence’s two gates got pulled back to positions closer to the main building. All in all they turtled-up and locked down in a well-planned and practiced manner that showed no small amount of discipline.
Meanwhile I sat there with my thumb up my ass and nothing to do but watch.
The group had a command and control center of sorts on the first floor where a conference room had been stuffed with video monitors and communication equipment. Maps were mounted to the walls and a big white board was being updated with names and positions.
I followed George and Olora inside the room and had myself a look around. Mostly I tried to stay out of everyone’s way. Basically there were five Posts, each with three men, stationed outside the building. Each Post was linked to a single operator inside the command center. Other folks inside the center watched security camera feeds or coordinated with other stations inside the main building like the cafeteria and medical clinic. A trio of teens waited near the door to act as runners and gophers.
After the initial burst of orders, things shifted into autopilot as training kicked in and their defensive plans were set into motion. I moved to stand beside George and Olora, who occupied a central spot in the room where they could see and hear everything.
Gradually the room grew quiet and the post-adrenalin rush left everyone feeling spent and tired. Runners went to get coffee more often than deliver orders. Folks hunkered down for a long, stressful night.
“Post Three reports lights on the highway,” One young lady said an hour later, looking over her shoulder and putting a red thumbtack on the wall map.
George nodded but didn’t say anything. Just sorta stood there watching and waiting.
“Car headlights. They stopped a half mile from the front gate. East on First Street.” The same girl added a few minutes later.
And that was it. Nothing else for another hour.
Then a different girl stood up from her seat and put another red thumbtack on the map. “Post Five reports headlights on the road a quarter mile west on First Street. They just turned on. No movement before or after.”
All eyes turned towards George, who stood staring at the map with a frown. When he finally seemed to notice everyone watching him, he offered a smile and laughed. “Looks like she’s got us surrounded.”
“Contact!” The first girl shouted abruptly. “Post Three.”
George moved to stand behind the girl as everyone held their breath.
“Nevermind. It was a zombie.”
And so it went for several hours. Occasionally one of the guard posts would report a new pair of headlights suddenly turning on along roads that touched the perimeter fence. Five all together. But never any sign of Jaeger.
Midnight came and went while the field reports grew fewer in between and the yawns came more often. There was one brief moment of excitement when Post Two failed to report during a comms-check. Runners dispatched found the three guards asleep but unharmed. Feeling largely useless, I went to bed around four in the morning and didn’t wake up till lunch was almost over.
After asking around, it wasn’t hard to learn that nothing else had happened. Jaeger effectively kept most of the group awake all night by doing nothing more than moving a few cars around and turning on their headlights. No one went out to investigate once the sun came up. Everyone assumed they were booby-trapped.
I headed back into the command room after eating and found an exhausted group with little to do. Only Olora seemed unphased by the stressful, sleepless night. Not many returned the smiles I tossed their way.
“George, Post One isn’t responding to the radio check. Should I send runners to wake them up?”
“Yeah. Go ahead.” He answered, then turned to Olora and spoke. “We need to pull some of the men back so they can sleep.”
“They can last a little longer.” She said.
I casually moved to stand behind a tall, skinny kid who had fallen asleep and gently nudged him awake.
“Post One is awake now. All clear.”
An hour passed and I spent the time running coffee to the exhausted group. Red-eyes were wide open when I stepped back inside. Everyone sat up straight in their chairs.
“What the status?” I asked George, watching as new pushpins were added to the map board.
He chuckled and took the coffee mug I offered with a nod of thanks. “Car alarms started going off outside the perimeter.”
“It’s enough. The sound’s attracting a lot of zombies.” One of the radiomen offered over his shoulder.
“Enemy of my enemy,” Olora commented softly from George’s side.
“What are you going to do about them?” I asked.
George shrugged, “Nothing. The fence will hold.”
And so it went, daylight burning fast as a growing crowd of zombies gathered around shrieking car alarms on all sides. George pulled one man out of each guard Post and had them sleep for a few hours before rotating out with the next. It wasn’t much but with the loss of ten men during the failed attack against Jaeger, trained personnel were in short supply.
The fireworks started at sunset. Literal fireworks. Jaeger lit up the sky like the Fourth of July, sending rockets and streamers flying over the main building in a steady stream. Guards, and no small number of non-combat personnel peeked out windows at the impressive display. Fortunately with that many eyes watching outside, reports flew in as zombies filled the inner grounds.
A camera showed the pair of gates set into the perimeter chainlink fence, both hanging open while the undead poured inside. Between the fireworks and car alarms sounding all day, I’d have wagered every zombie for five miles had come to pay us a visit.
George ordered his men to hold their fire, feeling pretty sure the building’s walls and secured windows would keep everyone safe inside. A few hours passed before one of the camera watchers noticed the outer gates had been secured again, locking the zombies inside.
“Sir! Jaeger’s speaking on my frequency.” Shouted the skinny kid I’d woken up earlier. The room grew silent.
“Put it over the speakers,” George ordered. Jaeger’s voice crawled through the room a minute later.
“Soooo. Here’s the deal,” She started, pausing for a moment to loudly inhale and exhale what I assumed was cigarette smoke. “We’re at the point now where folks are gonna start dying. That can be avoided though.”
George spoke then, prompting her to continue. “How’s that?”
“George and Olora. I want their heads on a platter. Give me them and everyone else can live.”
“I don’t think so,” George shot back.
Jaeger chuckled. “Suit yourself.”
The first gunshot came across the room’s speakers through Jaeger’s mic before she switched it off. People screaming echoed down the hallway. Reports started filing in after that.
Fireworks were still going off overhead, effectively blinding the guard Posts as Jaeger shot out windows on the second and third floor. Her patterns were random, both in target and interval, but the results were consistent; one shattered window with each pull of the trigger.
Initially people panicked, fearful of getting shot and terrified that zombies would enter through the broken windows. In time though they realized only the upper floors were being targeted and it was relatively safe so long as they stayed clear of the windows.
We rolled through another midnight without any loss of life. The fireworks and pot-shots both ended abruptly then, leaving a void of temporary silence that the undead outside quickly filled. Their moans seemed to vibrate the walls along with the pounding of fists against metal shutters and sturdy doors.
“Sir,” Said the skinny kid again, “Jaeger said ‘Sweet dreams’.”
“You think that’s it for tonight?” One of the young gals manning the radio asked.
“That’s what she wants us to think,” Olora replied harshly. “She’ll attack as soon as we let our guard down.”
And so a tense, sleepless night passed by slowly. Every noise made in the night warned of potential danger that never came. Few could rest with the horde of zombies relentlessly hammering away. Their moans carried easily through windows left shattered with jagged glass teeth that did little to block the cold wind blowing.
Or the stink of so many undead bodies just outside.