Chapter 7: Dismembered Hopes
"What in the hell did you think you were doing old man? You don't lop off a perfectly good foot just because a zombie takes a nibble out of it." Margo chastised Brad, trying (somewhat unsuccessfully) to be a comforting presence as the Phoenix Military Base doctor cleaned up his wound. Jules stood silently by the stretcher and observed with a scientific but kind detachment.
"No, what you don't do is abandon a perfectly good ship." Dale piped up, seeing Marconi's pain-sickened expression, and resolving to change the topic. "Best ship I ever worked on; Star Ride was," his eyes glossed over lovingly. "You know, all she needs is a new on-board electro-navigation patch, a little spit and polish, and she'll be good as new."
Margo raised an eyebrow at him questioningly. "Spit and polish will hardly be enough to hammer out all the dents made by that hoard of undead. When we took off, I literally couldn't see a scrap of hull; the whole ship was covered knee-deep in a hulking mound of putrid flesh and guts." She shuddered a little to emphasize what a disgusting job it would be to clean up.
Brad smiled groggily and promptly lost consciousness.
"Morphine’s kicking in" the doctor explained calmly, ignoring their conversation.
A few rooms over …
Clint shook Phil's hand vigorously and clapped him on the shoulder.
"Steady on, whippersnapper, I'm not as spry as I used to be." Phil joked, a big grin plastering both faces.
"You sure are a sight for sore eyes, and a welcome sight at that, Phil." Clint glanced around expectantly at the line of soldiers and officials in the small conference room, "Where are Zach and Andy?"
Phil hesitated before indicating with a comforting facial expression that there was nothing to worry about. "I'm sorry for the timing of it old friend. Your boys have gone out on a recon mission. You saw the wall, right?"
Clint nodded, successfully hiding the nervous feeling which punched him in the guts at Phil's moment of hesitation. The 10-ft high wall surrounding the whole Valley of the Sun seemed to be made of thick concrete blocks held together with some sort of innovative resin. He was impressed while flying over it.
Phil continued proudly: "So far; eighteen months and no breaches. But now the engineers are getting nervous. There have been recent observations made by some of the scout flyers that zombies are congregating just north of here, in the middle of the snow-covered desert about eight miles out from the wall, with no targets nearby other than an abandoned bunker. One of the scouts thought they might be digging. Obviously if they stop eating each other and start working as a team it implies that they're capable of organization, which further implies rough times ahead. More likely they're being attracted by some sounds or vibrations, seismic activity maybe, but it's all very strange. Andy and Zach are one of our best pilot/gunner teams, so they've been sent over there with a couple of others to see what's what. It shouldn't amount to any confrontation, don't worry. Their orders are simply to observe and report back."
"I hope so. It'd be yet another cruel twist of fate if, right when I got here...." Clint trailed off, unwilling to give his fears credence by putting them into words. "Anyway, I'm grateful that anyone is still alive on this hell-hole of a planet, I was beginning to think we were the last ones."
Phil's expression became even more encouraging and sympathetic. "Well, no time to catch up properly just yet." he apologized, "Consider yourself debriefed. I have to get back to communications. We just got a communique from the president of France if you can believe it. They're saying they're willing to help us out, but clearly, they're going to want something in return... Anyway, Kurt here will lead the way to the infirmary so you can meet up with the rest of your crew, then show you all to your rooms." Phil turned and nodded at a soldier who stepped forward and saluted.
We've already been here in the Valley for three weeks. Hard to believe...
The Valley of the Sun is still aptly named. The city is covered by a weather-control station the likes of which I've never seen. When it was constructed, it was used to cool the place down before the global weather went to shit. Now it's our main source of heat in this endless desert of snow. The city really is an oasis. I will admit, I like being able to walk around in regular clothes without the need to be constantly clad in a spacesuit. But all that creature comfort changes today. They've issued us each one of their custom flight-suits. These things are less clunky than our E.M.U.'s at least. They're also thermally regulated and supposedly ... bulletproof. I have an inkling that we'll soon get to see if they're zombie-proof as well.
It feels almost good to be getting back in the action again. I guess I'm just loony like that; can't stand staying put. I never could. I feel bad for Clint though. His two sons have been M.I.A since we got here. That man's bad luck is ridiculous. The very day he was set to meet his sons, his only family who he hadn't seen in years, and they were taken from him again, just like his wife, and the daughter he never got the chance to meet. Well, I reckon he's had enough of fate's whims. We're going to make our own for him from here on out. Dale and I are going up with him and three of the Phoenix MB soldiers on a rescue mission. The fighter-jet which was carrying Andy and Zach has been spotted wrecked a dozen klicks north of here, near a huge pile of unmoving carcasses. Our plan is to set down near the wreckage and investigate the site. We're holding onto a little hope that someone made it out alive and is holing up in the bunker nearby.
Jules is staying here with Brad; he's worried that Marconi's leg stump isn't healing quite right, and the doctors here don't seem to give a damn. Come to think of it, no-one here does, not even Phil. Clint is furious that it took this long to get the rescue mission organized, and I don't blame him. I don't trust the people here; something seems off about them. I'm probably speaking too soon. Could be all that time in space made me a little lone-happy. I mean, heaven knows I've never exactly been a social butterfly, but still, there's this look they get sometimes, a blank expression, faraway, and sort of ...hungry...
Ugh, enough of this crazy talk. Time to suit up and dive back into hell.
Margo Jessup, signing off.
"No... please... no... damn it!" Clint sobbed as he pulled Margo's body from the wreckage. Uncharacteristic tears started welling in his usually calm eyes as he saw the severe angle of her neck and realized she wasn't breathing. He checked her pulse to be sure, then choked down his anguish and looked up at Dale questioningly, "Are we the only survivors? What in the hell hit us? Did you see? How did we crash?"
Dale nodded in response to the first question, desperation lining his gaze as he scrambled for some semblance of sanity amidst the overwhelming horror, finally answering pallidly: "I could see from my position in the cockpit. There were frozen body parts being catapulted at us, from there." He pointed at the huge mound of carcasses a stones-throw from the bunker entrance. There seemed to be a makeshift gravity-manipulation-device set up next to the pile. A reloading-conveyor-belt was depositing the corpse-ammunition into a receptacle which was set even now to launch more gruesome ballistics at any aerial targets which happened to fly too close. Zach and Andy's ship had undoubtedly suffered the same fate; they could see the bloody spectacle of entrail-lined hull just past their own crashed vessel.
Just then, a feedback-screech from an old-style speaker squealed over the devastated silence, and a voice was heard clearly stating a simple order:
At the voice's command, the pile of corpses became animated, writhing and reaching to grasp and engorge themselves on anything they could touch. The dead MB soldiers also obeyed the command; stumbling over their own broken bones and crawling out of the wreckage through the melting blood-slushed snow to devour their comrades.
Clint and Dale locked shocked eyes as they lit their flame-lasers. That voice over the speaker. They both recognized it...
"Mycrovitch," they hissed in unison as they began burning back the scourge, both brains working overdrive to register the auditory information as fact.
Dale sensed movement out of the corner of his eye and turned his terror-stricken face behind them. Margo's body was moving as well. Shakily he turned his weapon, pointing it at her struggling form. There was a gurgling crunch as the body's broken neck was pushed back into place with its battered hands. Then fear flashed across the dead eyes as they saw the weapon pointed between them. Dale's finger started squeezing the trigger.
"Sorry Margo" he whispered.
"W-waaait." the figure rasped.
Written By; EstherFlowers1