“Max! Max! Are you watching them? Stay focused buddy!” came Bill's voice.
“Sorry.” Max mumbled. Looking towards Bill's pointing arm. A couple of zombies were wandering down the pier where he now stood, they were not yet close to the car the group had pulled across the dock as a barricade.
Once the bombardment had finally ended the remaining members of the group Max, Bill, Stewart, Javier, Ruben and Chen had managed to get to the marina, where they were hoping to sail a boat out of the harbor and into Lake Michigan. Their retreat was still hazy in Max's mind, he knew they had taken the train tracks behind the Art Institute up a few blocks to get away from the artillery shells that never seemed to end. The tracks were set lower than the surrounding streets and through luck or fate none of the shells had fallen on them. The ones that burst to the sides sprayed them with dust and debris and in one memorable instance had shaken all of them from their feet as well. After taking a set of concrete stairs back to street level, they had found a white SUV with most of its windows shot out, just waiting for them with the keys in the ignition. A pack of zombies had gathered around the vehicle and getting through that with their two wounded, Chen and Stewart, had been harrowing. Stewart had finally seemed to snap out of her constant dazed state when one of the zombies had grabbed her legs and started to pull her under the waiting car. As soon as everyone was loaded up Bill had outdistanced the pack of mostly slow zombies and brought them to the marina. Now Max and a barely coherent Stewart were watching the car they had parked across the pier with Chen's assistance while Bill, Javier and Ruben went from boat to boat trying to find one with a motor they could start.
The city was engulfed in a huge dust cloud that was barely breaking up in the constant wind from the lake, the sound of a helicopter could be heard, but none of them could see it.
“Hey, I brought a first-aid kit I found on the boat, let's get you guys cleaned up,” said Bill, “Everyone keep an eye peeled on the car, if anything gets around it we'll go deal with it. Try not to shoot, I don't want to draw more of them.”
Chen and Stewart were standing near a guardrail at the beginning of one of the docks, both were leaning heavily against it and there was blood splattered at their feet.
Pointing at the blood, Max said, “Chen I think you are bleeding.”
Max pulled open the man's trousers where Ruben had ripped them open and looked at his wound. The bandage was bright red and dripping. “Shit. We need more bandages. I don't know if the first aid has any big enough for a gunshot wound.”
Stewart shook her head, “I left my first-aid kit In my pack. I haven't seen my bag since before we went into the building.” She hesitated a moment, then called out, “Hey Ruben!”
“No luck yet, keep your britches on!” the old man yelled back.
“No, is there another first-aid kit, I don't think the one Bill brought will be enough.”
“Oh, yeah, hold on a second.” Ruben disappeared into the boat and came back up with a larger bundle than Bill had, the orange duffel bag had a bright red cross circled in white printed on it
“Yeah, that should help keep me and Chen from bleeding to death.”
“You too?” Max asked he hadn't noticed any bleeding wounds on her when they approached. Stewart's head had long since stopped bleeding, it did need to be cleaned, like Max the woman looked like she was made of dirt instead of flesh and blood.
“Yeah, my legs are cut up.”
Fear seized Max's heart in an icy grip, “Stewart...did they bite you?”
Stewart looked away, “Hell if I know. I haven't had a chance to look yet.”
“Here. Catch!” Ruben said from the boat. Then threw the duffel bag to Bill, who caught it and opened it up.
“Calm down Max. Just stay steady here. We can't do anything yet, but look the cuts over and see.” said Bill, “At least there is plenty of stuff in this kit.”
“Hey Max, catch this.” Ruben said, then tossed Max, a bright orange case about the size of a bundle of copier paper. Max almost fumbled it into the water, but managed to knock it to the dock with his last grab. The box spilled open to reveal a flare gun with six flares. “Good catch.” Ruben said with some sarcasm, “When you see the helicopter fire off a flare, maybe they will notice and come pick us up.”
“Oh, uh, sure Ruben. Stewart get your pants off.”
“I'll handle it Max. You watch for zombies sneaking around the SUV and the helicopter.” said Bill, pulling out his knife to cut down the legs of Stewart's pants.
“Geez Bill, you are a total cock blocker, I think Max had other plans.”
Bill laughed, “Boots too.”
Max turned away and scanned the sky for the helicopter, which they could still hear, but not yet see in the dust cloud. He kept stealing covert glances Stewart's way as Bill inspected her wounds.
“Looks like cuts to me, except this one. That could be a bite. I am no expert. It looks like you grazed your foot there too.”
“Yeah, I felt that one too, but I thought I just got my boot. I was more worried about killing the zombies and not shooting out our tires at the time.”
“It was a close call.”
“Does it look like a bite? I can't tell.” Stewart said.
“I just don't know. I think you will be okay, even if it were a bite it had to come through your fatigues and I doubt it got infected. I think you will be okay. Let's get you bandaged up.”
“And me. Don't forget about me bleeding to death here.” said Chen from one side.
“Oh, you haven't passed out yet? Okay. Then you too.” said Bill with a grin.
At that moment the edge of the dust twirled around in a miniature cyclone and then the helicopter burst forth into the sunny afternoon. Max raised the flare pistol and fired into the air, then reloaded and fired again at a slightly different angle. The helicopter had been moving off to the right, but changed course slowly and flew towards them. There were guns mounted in open doorways on both sides of the aircraft, each was manned and pointing towards them as they waited on the dock. Slowly the helicopter stopped and hovered about thirty feet off of the ground, then it slowly began to sink until the skids rested on the pier between where Max was standing and the car. Javier and Ruben hopped out of the boats they had been in and formed up with the others into a little group.
A tall black man climbed out of the helicopter and strode confidently towards them.
“Max. Bill. Everyone. I told you to stay with the train.”
“Good to see you too Commander,” muttered Ruben under his breath. Javier heard him, but it was doubtful anyone else had due to the noise from the helicopter, which had not been shut down.
“Draper. How did your mission go?” asked Max bitterly over the noise.
“I am here, so are you; don't look so angry or I might not offer you a lift out,” shouted Draper.
“That bird looks pretty full already.” Ruben yelled from behind Bill. “Think we can squeeze in there?”
“Yes, I think you can. Let's get your people boarded sergeant.”
As they helped Stewart and Chen along Draper leaned over and yelled into Max's ear. “Did you get the target?”
“The sniper did, I saw the guy killed right in front of me. Bill and I had him cornered behind a statue, but the sniper had a clear shot at him. There was another one too, a woman, but she didn't get finished off, she only got hit in the neck. Last I saw her, she was twitching.”
“You didn't kill it too?”
“Colonel, we were headed that way when bombs started dropping on us, they blew up the sniper's building and huge chunks of that were falling like rain all around us. We ran and were lucky to get away, we had better luck than the sniper anyway, he probably died when his building collapsed.”
"Probably. We went back and looked for her. The sniper was a woman, a specialist by the name of Kimberly Tania Tucker. Her partner was Randall Steven Goodcrest, we tried to locate them, but the area was too saturated with dust and rubble for us to see anything. My understanding is Randall may have died from an infected wound earlier, because Specialist Tucker called in the artillery strikes."
Draper looked back at the dust cloud, then nodded once and swung his hand towards the helicopter, "Let's get out of here."
Once Max was strapped in Draper put on a pair of earphones and the helicopter took off and flew out over the lake. Max and the others didn't have headphones and talking above the noise was more trouble than it was worth. Bill's grin and the way he kept slapping Max on the shoulder conveyed enough information to the other man that he was thrilled that they had made it. Looking behind them Max saw that the dust was slowly drifting away, revealing the broken bones of the dead city.
“Now what?” he thought, “This isn't over, there is still someone out there who sent these zombies to Chicago. Dr Sentry, if Red was telling the truth anyway. Someone has to deal with them. Someone like me. Florida. How do I get there from here?”