26 Stories

Zombalien: Chapter 1

So I think (as much as I think about anything these days) that this may be the novel I work on. It’s based on a screenplay I wrote a gojillion years ago when Sci-Fi was still “Sci-Fi” and not “Sy-Fy” and put out stuff like “Mansquito.” It’s hokey and fun, and I think maybe it has a good chance at legs as anything in this day and age.

And also, I totally missed posting last week, so this is that last week. I’ll have my next story next week, as schedule (I hope).


Zombalien: Chapter 1
22nd Floor


               The end of the world—or rather, an end of the world (humanity’s bit, at least)—started with the best of intentions. There was an old saying about that, but it won’t be rehashed here. The people who kicked it off undoubtedly would have felt bad about it, had they not been the first ones to go. At least one of them, with their dying thoughts, mused that they should have seen this coming. That implementing radical methods to extend human life would probably have some unforeseen results. They were, in fact, fairly certain that there had been several movies about this exact type of hubris, but they had been scientists, and would have professed that there was a line between movies and reality.


               And so, civilization ended, though humanity was trying its very best to hang on. It did that, survive, even in the direst of circumstances. While cities burned and world governments collapsed, while giant corporations tried to find ways to cash in and maintain relevance in the face of an ever shrinking market, individuals lived and died in the chaos. It was just that the living had gotten ugly, and the dying uglier still.

               It wasn’t easy to eke out a literal living when the dead would rise and attempt to devour anyone still breathing. It sure made the days of slaving for a paycheck and putting up with the PTA seem easier, which was what Nicolette had to hang on to while she and Damian were raiding the pharmacy for medical supplies. Back at the base, antibiotics were in short supply, and while this pharmacy had been hit more than a few times, it was easy enough to check again to make sure something hadn’t been missed. Even one or two extra doses of any kind of prefix-icilin might save someone’s life the next time an arm brushed against a rusty nail or a skinned knee when septic. Granted, if a neighbor decided to up and take a bite out of someone’s arm, no amount of medicine would do any good, but it was also nice to have a Tylenol or two to make them feel a little better.

               Before the execution.

               Which was why it was a shame when Nico and Damian had to open the gas lines and set off the spark that turned the pharmacy into a fireball. When the zombie shambled out, on fire, they both took the opportunity to put bullets in its head. At least the rest would burn in the ruins, their flesh melting beyond the ability for it to move. The intense fires would also kill whatever infection it was that the corpses spread. Or so it was assumed. There were a lot of assumptions going around. But it for Nico, the fire was good enough to ensure that she and Damian got away with what little they could salvage.

               “Well,” Damian said, “that was a cluster fu-“ He choked on his last word as something yanked him back and tore a chunk out of his shoulder. He screamed, more in surprise than anything else. Nico, on instinct, raised her gun and put a quick round between the empty eye-sockets of the zombie that had bitten her lover. It dropped and Damian fell to the ground, groaning.

               “Nico,” he said, turning his eyes to meet hers. “Please… you kn-“ Without hesitation, Nico put a bullet through his brain, too. She sighed, allowing herself a split second to grieve, and then scanned the dark alley they had (stupidly) turned their backs to. She saw the silhouettes there, shambling forward in that jerky, puppet like way that they moved. Too many to make shooting worth the effort, especially since they were slow.

               “Sorry, Damian,” she said to the corpse at her feet. She would cry later, but there was little time to let the loss cripple her now. Especially, she realized as she turned to head back to the extraction, when she saw that her way was blocked by another horde of the undead.

               “Fuck.” She did a quick bit of math; she could take four more of them out and still have one more in the magazine for herself. Four fewer zeds might not make a difference for her, but it could make it a little easier for anyone coming around later. Slight margins of improvement were victories. Taking down four here, the one that got Damian, and the handful they’d burned out in the pharmacy for just two lives wasn’t a bad trade. Of course, for her it Was bad, but they had to think bigger. Think humanity versus… anti-humanity. Whatever the corpses were.

               She leveled her firearm and pulled the trigger four times in rapid succession with four clean headshots. “Still got it, “she mumbled before she turned the gun on herself and closed her jaw on the hot end.

               The APC rolled over the line of zombies before Nico could pull the trigger intentionally. Unintentionally, the surprise caused her hand to constrict, and she felt in her teeth the gun’s hammer click mechanically against the firing pin. Huh, she thought, as the realization that she hadn’t spread her brains out behind her in an artistic spray. Miscounted. The fifty-caliber on top of the APC roared as Gunner mowed down the stragglers.

               “Nico!” he shouted.

               “Uh-huh?” she tried to mumble around the barrel of her gun.

               “Did you miscount again?”

               “Uh…” she replied, pulling the gun out. “No?”

               “Jesus Christmas,” he said, swinging the fifty in her direction, which she took as a sign to drop. IT belched fire, and the advancing zombies from the alley disintegrated. “Damian?” he asked.

               She rose. “No.”

               “Aw,” he said, “Sorry Nico. I liked him. Kinda hoped he’d ditch you for me.”

               “Mourn later,” she said.

               “Get anything?”

               “Some indigestion meds.”

“Oh. Any… you know…”

“No,” she replied. “You’re going to have to get it up on your own, Gunny.” She jumped onto the APC and grabbed a handhold.

“Fuck. Tucker ain’t going to be happy.”

“Is there anyone you haven’t at least tried to sleep with?”

“Ain’t tried you, yet. Out of respect for you and Damien.”

Nico smacked the APC’s hull near the driver’s side twice in rapid succession. It jerked forward as Tara got the sign that all were aboard who were coming aboard. “Well,” she said, “guess I’m free again.” That’ll make the grief worse.

“I’d a’ rather had Damien back on this APC with ya’.” The fifty rotated as the APC pulled away and blasted some parting shots at some of the leftovers who had decided to follow, making quick work of them.

“Yeah,” Nico murmured, watching as Damian’s corpse receded in the distance. “Me, too.”

                                                                           *             *             *             *

               She did cry later, alone in her bunk. It was an ugly cry. But it was hardly the first.  

*             *             *             *

               Somewhere deep in an old military facility, tied into advanced medical servers, a hard drive whirred and ground. Algorithms ran and calculations were tweaked.

               Scenario Delta twelve, error. Terminating scenario.

               Simulations ran against millions of advanced processors. Possibilities were calculated and recalculated, attempting to adjust for new data.

               Preparing scenario Delta thirteen, incorporating new…

     The processors adjusted as long-quiet data channels flared to life.

               Interruption. Receiving transmission from NASA probe Prometheus. Inbound object. Identified as non-terrestrial.

     Again, calculations ran and adjusted. Variables changed.

               Reassessment. Running scenario Omega one. Omega one override. Running omega protocol.


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