Earth Undead Chapter 4
The flight wasn’t very eventful, so Ace used most of the time to sift and sort through supplies. He checked and re-checked the chute a few times to make sure it was in proper working order. Around the fourth time he caught himself checking it, he laughed to himself, realizing trust wasn’t one of his strong suits. But, by the same token, it wasn’t like McCallister instilled much confidence either.
Ace realized the bottom line was that he was walking into a mission that was basically doomed. If he had to calculate his chances of success, he estimated it was only about a 25 percent, and that’s if everything went off completely without a hitch. He knew from experience, that no mission ever went off without a hitch. There were always unknown factors and variables that could screw up your mission, or worse get you killed, in a heartbeat.
He also inventoried his supplies and removed any items that he thought would weigh him down. He kept the essentials which included a combat knife, a machete, the Uzi, the Glock, water purification tablets, the hatchet, a handful of protein bars, a few changes of socks, maps, sun screen, insect repellent. He discarded the heavier and bulky items, like a tent, sleeping bag, shovel, and a flashlight. Flashlights were no good. They could get you killed quickly.
He debated over a 50-foot coil of sturdy rope and a pair of night-vision goggles though. There was always a need for rope, but by the same token it was usually awkward and not easy to use or manipulate, especially in situations where time was of the essence, or in tight and cramped quarters. He ditched the rope, but kept the night vision goggles.
He also kept a lightweight hammock that could be tied between trees for sleep, not that he really though he was going to be getting much sleep during his time on the ground. Still, it wasn’t a bad idea to have it. Even if he didn’t use it to sleep in, he could possibly be used as a net, of sorts, which could slow down a zombie if need be.
Eventually he went back up front, sat in the passenger seat and began sharpening his combat knife and the machete. He and Adams rode in silence for a long while until Adams finally said, “If you got out and pushed we might go faster.”
Ace laughed and nodded.
“It’s not exactly like I’m in a rush to get on the ground,” he replied. “I was calculating my survival odds a little big ago. Needless to say, they’re less than awe-inspiring.”
A gust of wind, or turbulence, forced the plane to buckle slightly and Adams gripped the controls tighter in his hands.
“Getting a little bumpy there,” Ace said.
“Yeah, I think we’re coming into some weather,” he said. “The good thing is, we’re almost there, only about twenty minutes out.”
“You fly pretty tight,” Ace said, trying to make small talk. “Air Force?”
“No, Polk County Mosquito Abatement, in Tennessee,” Adams said.
“You’re shitting me right?”
“No. I took piloting lessons right out of high school,” Adams said. “I loved it. I moved down to Miami for a little while. You know, imports and exports.”
“Smuggling,” Ace grinned.
“It was good money, but it just kept getting riskier and riskier,” Adams said. “I got out of it before I was put out of it, either by the feds or by a bullet. My mom took ill so I moved back to Tennessee to help her out. She died. I worked for about six years for the county before the zombies, before everything went to hell in a hand-basket.”
Ace just nodded.
“Everybody was saying west, go west,” Adams said. “The military, or what was left of it, was trying to stabilize itself. Fuck, it’s still trying. But they had these adviser guys, you know, guys like you, special forces and they were setting up these civilian training camps because, fuck let’s face it, what the fuck did school teachers, retail sales people, lawyers and computer programmers know about killing anything, much less zombies. I did boot camp and everything. They grouped us by skill sets. They almost shit a brick when they realized I was a pilot. I’ve been doing this ever since.”
Ace glanced over the instrument panel and realized there wasn’t much activity there. Adams saw him looking and he grinned and shook his head
“If you’re looking for pretty lights you can forget it man,” Adams said. “Nothing on this bucket of rust really works, except for the fuel gauge, and that’s only when it wants to. I do it all by feel and by sight.”
“Good way to get yourself killed,” Ace said.
“Hey, I’ve made it this far,” he replied.
Another gust of turbulence buckled the plane and Ace cringed and muttered, “Jesus.”
“Yeah, about that, he can’t help you much at this point,” Adams laughed. “Your life is in my hands now. I’m going to drop us down a little bit, we’re coming up on a big thunderhead.”
“Why not just climb, get above it,” Ace asked.
“I told you, we’re almost there,” Adams insisted. “If I get above the clouds at this point we won’t be able to see the ground. I’d hate to drop you right into a skyscraper. Fuck, hang on.”
Ace did and the plane dipped, nose first, sharply down for what seemed like an eternity, before finally straightening out some.
“Holy shit,” Adams almost shrieked, as they came into St. Louis proper.
“What?” Ace asked.
“Look at the ground,” Adams said.
Ace did. He wasn’t sure if it was a trick of the eye, the rain on the cockpit window or if his equilibrium was somehow off, but the ground appeared to be moving. It looked like the largest colony of crawling ants he’d ever seen.
“What the fuck, the ground is moving,” Ace said.
“That’s not the fucking ground man, that’s zombies,” Adams yelled over the engines and now, the thunder. “You can’t chute into that shit. They’ll eat you alive before you even plant your fucking boots on the ground.”
They flew a little more, looking for a possible clear spot for Ace to drop into but there was none.
Instinctively and reflexively Adams began veering sharp to the left and brought the plane around in a wide arc.
“What are you doing?” Ace yelled.
“Turning around,” Adams yelled. “Going back the way we came.”
“What?” Ace yelled.
“Not back to Montana you dumb shit, back just around twenty miles to Chesterfield,” Adams hollered back. “I know a place.”
Visibility was down to practically zero and lightning continued to illuminate the cockpit as thunder and winds seemed like it was going to shake the plane apart.
“Forget dropping, I’ve gotta bring us down,” Adams yelled. “Strap in, this might hurt a little bit.”
“Seriously,” Ace said.
“I’m serious as a fucking heart attack,” he screamed, as he fought to buckle himself in with one hand and guide the plane with the other.
“The wind feels like its going to rip us apart,” Ace yelled.
“It’s not the wind, it’s the engine vibrating. I think we’ve got serious problems,” Adams said.
As they began to descend, Ace could barely make out a badly overgrown runway through the now torrential rains. Ace felt his stomach rise up in his throat as they came closer and closer to the ground.
With a sickening lurch, the wheels made the first contact with the ground. The jolt nearly sent them both through the cockpit window, as the tires bounced twice more before completely finding the runway. Even though his jaw was clenched tight, Ace’s teeth were still chattering
Once, as a teenager, the front tie rod on Ace’s old Mustang went out. He was on an old gravel road and wasn’t going fast, but never forgot that feeling. As they continued rolling down the runway, there was a horrific grinding sound which made the rear right side of the plane drop to the ground, followed by an awful grinding sound that reminded him of his old Mustang.
Just at that second, Ace glanced up and saw someone standing in the middle of the runway.
“Fuck we’re going to hit him,” Ace screamed, and there was a deafening thud as the body made impact with the front end of the plane. Momentum was still carrying them down the runway, and there were more thumps. Ace looked and realized it had been more than one person standing in the middle of the runway.
It was Adams yelling that snapped him out of his reverie.
“It’s not fucking people it’s zombies,” Adams yelled as the plane finally, thankfully came to a complete stop.
Ace glanced around his eyes darting to the right.
“There was a building back there with a ladder going to the roof,” Ace yelled.
“Are you sure?” Adams replied. “I can’t see shit in this fucking rain. Are you hurt?”
“No,” Ace said. “Just stiff. Come on we have to move.”
“Are you crazy?” Adams said. “I’ll take my chances in the plane.”
But Ace was already up.
“We have to get to that roof,” Ace said. “We can’t stay in the plane. They’ll just keep gathering and gathering until we can’t move at all. We have to get the advantage on them.”
Ace slung his backpack on, grabbed the machete and the Uzi and stood ready at the doors. But Adams raced past him, over to a dusty tarp on the other side of the plane. He was moving a couple metal cases out of the way.
“Here, quick, give me a hand with this,” he said, as he tore the tarp away.
Underneath was an M-60 machine gun, in pristine condition.
“Open that crate over there and grab us a couple of grenades,” Adams said, as he rested the M-60 from hiding and opened another one of the boxes, which held ammo belts.
Ace stuffed a couple grenades in the leg pockets of his fatigues and then shook his head, as he wrested the M-60 away from Adams.
“Here, give me that,” Ace said. “You’re making me very nervous.”
He steadied the M-60 and wrapped a couple ammo belts around his chest.
“You look like Pancho Villa,” Adams laughed.
“Yeah, Buenos Noches, motherfuckers,” Ace said. “Allright, make a beeline straight for the building. You go up the ladder first.”
“One second,” Adams said. “He quickly opened the door, pulled a pin on a grenade, tossed it out and slammed the door back shut. Wait for it.”
The blast shook the small craft and then Adams kicked the door open. Ace opened fire with the M-60 and jumped out of the door, immediately opening fire. There were only about ten zombies, right outside, and some staggered and some fell as the rounds pierced their rotting flesh.
“Go, go, go,” yelled Ace and Adams made a break for the building.
Ace ran alongside of him. He saved his ammunition as they jogged towards the ladder. They both tried to keep their footing in the slippery, overgrown grass and the knee-high weeds that were growing wild in the cracks of the pavement.
There was a group of around thirty zombies, loosely scattered, wandering with no aim or purpose, at least not yet Ace thought, standing about ten yards to the right of the ladder. Adams hit the ladder running. The noise they made as they approached the ladder, and as Adams started scrambling up, caught the attention of the zombies and a couple of them turned around, with blank looks on their faces.
It was as close to looking surprised, Ace thought, as zombies can get. He lowered the M-60 and began firing. By this point, Adams was most of the way up the ladder and he reached down and yelled, “Here hand it up to me.”
Ace did and in that split second, two zombies were practically on him. He swung the hatchet sideways catching a female in the side of her already decomposed face. One emptied out black and hollow eye socket stared at him glumly and he jerked his arm back hastily, to try to free the hatchet but it was embedded too far into the zombie’s face, so he left it instead and scrambled up the ladder.
His left foot slipped slightly on the wet wrung of the ladder and he felt fingers brush his boot as he clambered up. It seemed to take forever to get up the ladder, and Ace glanced back to make sure the zombies hadn’t “evolved” enough to figure out how to climb up a ladder.
But instead they just glanced up, deep hissing guttural noises gurgling in their throats as they looked up in what Ace thought looked like disappointment. They soon began shuffling around though, resembling a group of drunken vagrants, as Ace pulled himself up and over the roof of the building, face and chest first into the wet asphalt.
He was exhausted and out of shape. He didn’t move. Adams was yelling something but Stabler’s heartbeat was pounding in his ears. He just stayed there, face down, letting the downpour pummel his back as he tried to catch his breath.