Steve pushed the door open and stepped down the hallway towards Kirkpatrick’s office, with Max, Stewart and Tom trailing him closely. Once everyone was in the hallway Steve stopped and pointed to the floor down near the end of the hall, there was blood on it.
“Stewart, it looks like you get to earn your pay now, ma'am.”
Officer Stewart scowled at Steve and stepped in front of him; while her back was turned, a high-pitched scream came from behind her. To her credit, Stewart just turned, dropped into a lower profile and ducked to the right. Max did just the opposite. He jumped six inches into the air, pivoted to the left and almost dropped his trusty bat. It was all he could do not to become a babbling idiot. Steve, started in on the “Wha-wha-what,” but quickly recovered and scowled at Max.
Stewart immediately started a smooth glide towards the screaming, almost jogging, but checking every opening she went by with the coolness of a professional. Max followed as close as he could, but lacked her precision, he only hoped she found and took care of any ‘problems’ before he got there.
'So much for my macho image,' he thought to himself,'Long live the woman's rights movement!'
The screaming started getting louder and more persistent, Stewart's pace increased to a quick jog. Max was the one who saw the woman dart out of a side passage on an intercept course. Without even thinking, Max rushed the older blonde haired woman getting ready to pounce on Stewart from behind. He let out a battle cry and threw himself forward swinging the bat as he went. He missed, completely woofed. STE-rike one! However, his momentum carried him into the woman and as he tripped and went down, he landed on the back of her legs, which brought her down on top of Stewart's legs.
Time seemed to slow way down for Max then, he dimly recalled hearing a gun go off, and heard Tom and Steve yelling, as if they were three feet under water. His vision was dominated by a half torn face of a woman who could have been his mother, her grimacing visage turned towards him as they fell together to the carpet. For one brief second in time everything seemed frozen, just stopped. Then, as if someone turned on a light switch, everything started again. Reality seemed to speed up to double that of normal, as if it was in a hurry to make up for the pause. Max, Stewart and the zombie woman went down in a heap. Max caught the butt end of the bat in his groin and was certain his entire body balanced upon that point for a good part of eternity, before he teetered over. Stewart managed to pull her legs out and to one side before Max landed hard on top of the zombie woman.
'Funny'Max thought, 'Normally I would be moaning on the ground clutching at my racked balls crying like a baby, but here I am still in the fight despite the pain,' which was immediately followed by,'Stop thinking and kill this bitch!'
It was par for the course that he lost hold of the bat in his fall, but his arms and legs still seemed to work okay, 'The head, the head, gotta control this bitch’s head! With the bitey parts!' he thought. He would be damned if he would have his wife hear of how he was eaten by some zombie grandma. Max pinned the zombie down and started screaming incoherently, not sure, of how to hold her down and hold her head in place at the same time.
“Duck!” He heard, and then WHAM! He was hit right on the shoulder.
“Steve! You asshole! Stop hitting me!” Max screamed.
“Get off the bitch you stupid shit! Move your fucking ass off her! Duck! Duck!”
Max rolled off the zombie barely in time and Steve’s driver hit the woman’s wrist. It broke with a loud thunderous crunching sound. This freed up his hand and Max moved it to try to control the woman’s head. This was a mistake, as he soon learned; the woman started punching him in the chest with her broken wrist and it hurt. She was forcing him underneath her and Max heard Steve yelling, “Yeah, yeah line her up for me buddy!”, so he continued the roll and let the woman on top of him. Two gun shots went off, but the zombie on Max was not hit, a second later, Steve’s club drove in the side of the zombie’s head, sticking there, like a nail in a piece of wood. The zombie twitched once, then twice, and then started moving again.
Steve yelled, “Die bitch, Die! Fucking die! Die! Die!” and pulled his club back. The zombie stuck as it was on the end of his club went with his pull and this freed Max to get to his hands and knees and look around for his bat. By the time, he recovered his feet, bat in hand, Steve and Tom had battered the old woman zombie into the next life, again. Max looked for Stewart and did not see her anywhere, he moved down the hallway into Kirkpatrick’s office area and spotted Stewart behind the secretary’s desk, ass end out, she was talking to someone under the desk. Kirkpatrick lay nearby; he had taken a gunshot to the head.
“C’mon, lady, it's okay now, I put him down, we are all normal out here. It will be alright, come out of there.”
Slowly Stewart and the young secretary came out from under the desk and stood up, Stewart did not stop moving until they stood next to the office door with the desk between them and the body, motioning for Max to stand in between them and the corpse’s feet. Max moved over as Steve and Tom came down the hallway.
“Shit, you didn’t have to leave us there! What the hell was that all about? Team work people, no ‘I’ and all that?” said Steve.
“You had it under control, three on one? Three men in the prime of their lives versus one old lady? I think she,” Stewart motioned with her eyes towards the secretary, “needed more help to deal with her problem. What’s your name Miss?”
“Amelia, my name is Amelia, Officer. Thank you, thank you! I don’t know what happened to him, he was so nice before, he never did anything like that. I mean he was hurt and had blood on his arm, I don’t know what he was doing!”
“He was a zombie Amelia, old man Kirkpatrick joined the living dead and was gonna get himself a bite of his secretary for breakfast.”
“Steve!” said Max and Stewart together, but only Max continued, “That ain’t helping!”
Stewart asked if anyone was in Kirkpatrick’s office, Amelia nodded her head no and they all went inside. One of the benefits of having an executive’s office was a lock on the door; Max twisted it as soon as Tom had made his way in. Stewart sat Amelia in one of the guest chairs, went over, and got a cup of water for her from the sink.
“Drink this, take a breath and try not to think too hard, we have to explain what is going on and it is a lot to swallow.”
Amelia nodded and Stewart began with the start of her day leading up to how she had ended up at MAC Co. rescuing Max. She went on to summarize what she thought was going on, people were turning into zombies, like in a B horror flick and were trying to eat anyone alive that they caught, which brought them to Kirkpatrick’s office.
“We want you to use the PA on the phones to call everyone here, so maybe we can rescue more people, and then come up with a plan on what we want to do.”
Amelia let out a bitter laugh, “Use the PA? That is why you came up here? You could have used it from any phone in the building.”
Max and Steve looked a bit sheepish and shrugging his good shoulder Tom said, “We don’t know how. Who would any of us ever page?”
Amelia looked at him for a second, then nodded and went over to the office phone and picked it up. “What do you want me to say?”
“How about: ‘If you are still alive come to Kirkpatrick’s office.’” suggested Max.
“Good enough.” Amelia pressed a couple buttons on the phone and said, “Attention all MAC Co. personnel, this is a state of emergency, we are all gathering at Kirkpatrick’s office. Please stop whatever you are doing and come to Kirkpatrick’s office on the second floor immediately. His extension is forty three - forty two if you need to call. Repeat: gather at Kirkpatrick’s office right now on the second floor. A-One.” Amelia hung up the phone.
“A-One? What was that for? Steak?” asked Steve, edging out Max by maybe half a second.
“It is the security code for an emergency. You didn’t know? Didn't you go to training? The codes are there to let everyone know if it is an emergency or not. You really don’t remember hearing them? Oh, by the way, I wouldn’t sit in that chair, that’s where Kirkpatrick was when I found him.”
Steve jumped out of the chair as if it were on fire and then tried to regain his composure by saying, “So now what? Sit and wait? Should one of us go make coffee?”
Stewart looked him in the eye and said, “Why thanks Steve, what a good idea! Why don’t you bring the whole pot in when it is done? Move the old man’s body into another office while you are at it too, would you?”
“Say, I wasn’t of… Sure, sure thing. Any helpers? Max?”
“Fine, no problem, we are keeping this door open though, okay?”
While Max and Steve made coffee, people started to trickle to Kirkpatrick’s office and the surrounding area. They made more coffee while they listened to the survivor’s stories and gathered intelligence on where the last zombies were seen, putting them up on Kirkpatrick’s white board. After thirty minutes the office was downright crowded with seventeen people, there were various ages and both genders were represented. Steve had started to classify them as they came in, some were hiders, some were defenders, somewhere offenders. Steve had worked out these categories as he started hearing similarities in the stories; all of the people had one thing in common: they were survivors. When Max pointed this out, Steve said, “Duh, Sherlock. What next great obvious fact will you point out? I think we fall into the ‘defender’ category, we did not hide out, did not go looking for zombies to kill, we just dealt with the hand God tossed us, eh?”
“Uh, why is it important?”
“I dunno, just an observation of my own, I always liked to think I would not cower and hide if the shit ever hit the fan, you know Max? Turns out, I did okay when push came to shove. I mean I killed a lady to save your ass. I killed her dead man. You owe me.”
“You killed a zombie, not a lady; let’s not start making them human. Yeah you did okay Steve, better than I did. I am not sure why I sucked so bad at bashing her head in. In fact I am like, zero for three man, backed out on Nancy, got saved in the men’s room and you had to drag that last one off of me. Fuck.” Guilt once again washed over him as he thought about how easily he had been convinced to stay and not try for his wife and kids. Maybe he was a hider.
“Ah, maybe you are a ‘hider’ at heart, just trying to follow my example so you don’t lose face?” Steve said, casually.
“Jah, fuck you too, loser. I did not exactly run away when I saw the old bitch jumping for Stewart, did I? So you can take your ‘hider’ classifi...”
“Sorry to intrude,” Officer Stewart interrupted, who didn’t sound sorry at all, “You mentioned my name girls? Bring that fresh pot of coffee along and come into the office. I don’t think any more people are going to come up here now.”
With a little grumbling, Max and Steve followed Stewart into the office. Stewart glanced at Kirkpatrick’s chair and then opted to sit on his desk, facing the small crowd. She asked if anyone could think of a plan of action, a dozen voices spoke up, most involving stuff like, “I need to go and get my wife or husband or kids, then we can go…somewhere.”
“Hold on, hold on there, we first have to decide if that is at all feasible? Are we going to work as a team? Go around to each person’s house, school, or other job site and find everyone we care about? Who doesn’t have family or friends to go check on? Anyone?”
Only Tom raised his hand, “Uh, I just have roommates, my folks live in North Platte.”
Steve mumbled softly, “No shit?”
Max elbowed him to keep quiet, and then said, “Why didn’t you raise your hand? You’re divorced, eh?”
Steve glared at Max, “So, divorce means my parents live in North Platte too? C’mon I got a sister, nieces and a nephew in town too.”
“Okay, okay, just I never hear you talk about ‘em and the only pictures you have on your desk are of your current lay and sports heroes. Lighten up Steve.”
“Listen up ladies, and gentlemen.” Here Stewart looked at Max and Steve, “If we can be quiet for a minute and toss out ideas one at a time it might be more productive. Max?”
“Uh, sorry, I think we need to make a break for the cars, head out and go our separate ways to check on our families. I think we should have a place to meet once we do that so we can get together, and we should tell anyone else where we are meeting, so we can all get together for, um mutual defense?”
“I think we should sit tight and wait for the army to come settle this problem,” said a middle-aged woman in a snappy business suit whom Max could not quite name.
“Hider.” whispered Steve quietly to Max.
“Okay, any other ideas? C’mon people! We have only two plans of action: Go or stay and wait for the cavalry? There has to be another way.”
Other than Max and the ’hider’, no one else seemed inclined to throw out any suggestions, when it became painfully obvious that no one else would put forth any ideas, Stewart said, “Well, okay, how about we wait for a few hours and if the guard does not show up we break for the cars?”
“What? Our families might need us now and every hour we sit in here there are more of them out there, we should strike out hard and fast and get the heck out of here.” Max said.
“Max, we are all worried about our families, call them, tell them to sit tight and wait for the military to move in. I know it does not sound like a good course of action, but for every civilian on the street it is one more car they have to move off the road to get through and, potentially, one more zombie they have to kill to mop up the problem.”
“Well, we could have it both ways, who wants to leave now and who wants to stay? I mean there is nothing saying we all have to do one plan or the other, or the hybrid you threw out, is there?”
“No, there is an expression ‘Strength in Numbers’ though, right now they have the numbers and the strength, right? Why not wait for a bit and see if our boys in the military can reverse that?”
“What about ‘divide and conquer’?” asked Max.
“Ah, Max, not to be picking a nit, but that was divide your enemies and conquer them, not divide your allies and conquer your enemies,” said Steve.
Max glared at Steve, then smiled briefly and said, “Look at us, debating old sayings when our coworkers are dead or undead and the world as we know it is crumbling around us. And they say Nero fiddled on the roof too, eh? Is that what we are doing?”
“Ah, Max, the fiddle wasn’t invented until like the seventeenth century,” said Stewart.
Max rolled his eyes and replied, “Sheesh people, is everyone a history buff? C’mon, aren’t we supposed to be coming up with a plan of action here? Not debating Max’s intelligence?”
“Well I am staying right here, waiting for the guard to come and put these rioters down. I have already spoken to my husband, his work is shut up tight, like ours, and he is perfectly safe. I think we should just divide into teams and the people who want to go can go, while the rest of us stay and hold down the fort,” stated the older woman. “The people who stay could maybe distract the people outside by yelling out a door or something away from the parking lot and, if it does not work out, they can letting the ‘go’ party back into the building.”
“See? I guess some managers actually are worth the money.” said Steve, “I vote for her plan!” The older woman barely glanced at Steve, but the look spoke volumes about how Steve was really lucky that this was an emergency.
Stewart said, “I am still not sure this is a good idea, if they let the zombies know we are here we might have problems later on. Let’s think about this for a few minutes before we do anything okay? Finish up the coffee first and then make plans.”