Watch out!” Lisa shouted as another shambling form was caught in brake lights, a yellow and red outline of staggering humanity.
The van screeched its tires as the driver careened around the form, avoiding it by briefly rolling into someone’s yard and returning to the street with a noticeable thump.
“I saw him, er…it.” Kaylee said with a thin veneer of confidence over a high-pitched voice. I just figured it wouldn’t make it so far across the road before we passed is all.”
“Ow.” Michael stated in a strangely calm voice, while pulling himself off the boxes of groceries that took up most of the center floor of the van. “Whatever you did Kaylee, please don’t do it again?”
“Look, you want to drive?” she snarled, turning to look in the back seat, and taking her eyes off the highway ahead. Before Michael could reply Lisa snapped, “Keep your eyes on the road, please!”
Kaylee turned around and grumbled over the steering wheel. “You can drive too Lizzie if you don’t like my driving! What do either of you care anyhow? It’s not your van.”
“Um…. because we’re riding in it?” Michael offered, with only a little of his usual sarcasm in the statement. He rubbed his sore back and continued “Not to mention we’re not even supposed to be here! On the streets that is.” He leaned over and tried to take a reasonable tone. “Besides, with this weird plague going around I’m not sure how long it would take an ambulance to make it to us.”
Lisa finished the thought. “Plus, what if those people made it to us before the EMTs did?”
The blonde woman shuddered and replied “Ok, ok, ok. But we don’t want to keep at a crawl either do we?”
“You’re right on that.” Michael remarked while moving to hunch between the two girls in the front of the van. “Go ahead and turn the headlights on. We’re well within the subdivision at this point and I can’t see police lurking around here when there’s more important stuff going on downtown.” He glanced through the windshield, squinting to see through the rain plummeting onto the glass. “Heck, with this crap coming down we could hit someone normal, and we REALLY don’t want that on our conscience. I don’t, anyway.”
As one the two girls nodded, and Kaylee flicked on the lights. The twin white beams cut through the night and rain, illuminating about 20 feet in front of the vehicle. ‘Not great’ Michael thought, ‘but it sure beats two feet of visibility!’
As the van turned a corner, a small figure barreled across one of the lawns and waved frantically at the vehicle. “Huh?” Kaylee said, automatically slowing down the van.
“It’s a little girl.” Lisa said, leaning over Kaylee to better see out the driver’s window. “She’s moving fast, and isn’t infected.”
“How can you be sure?” The driver remarked with uncertainty in her voice. But she slowed the van and cracked the window open an inch to talk with the child.
“Please!” gasped the girl, a brown haired kid of about 8 years old. “You’ve got to help my Mommy and Daddy!” Despite the rain, the child was only wearing pajamas and was barefoot. Yet she seemed not to notice in her anxiety and fear.
“What’s wrong with them?” Kaylee asked, her suspicion giving way slowly to concern. “Are they infected with the, whatever, that’s been going around?”
The girl blinked, and stared at the blonde girl with confusion. “Infecitd? No, daddy’s just sick. Mommy tried to help him but he’s chasing her in the house. Jilly’s back there too, I don’t know where. Please? Help us?”
Michael thought getting involved was a mistake. They needed to get home, get this food in the house and see about reinforcing the place. Despite a flood of reasons why they should just move on home careening through his mind, he heard his own voice say “Yeah, we’ll help. First, get inside here so it’s safe.”
She looked uncertainly at the van. “Mommy said we’re not supposed to get in cars with strangers.”
“We’re not strangers,” Lisa said over Kaylee’s shoulder in a calm and reassuring tone. “We’re going to help you. Strangers don’t do that do they? I’m Lisa, this is Kaylee and Michael is back there. What’s your name?”
“ummm, Maggie,” she said slowly, her hair now plastered to her scalp thanks to the torrent of rain.
“Ok, hello Maggie! We’re not strangers anymore.” Lisa smiled and gestured to the side door of the van. “Now come in out of the rain and tell us what’s going on.”
* * *
With a metallic slam, the van door closed and Michael walked around to the curb. Kaylee was already out and handing her keys to Lisa. The brunette now sat in the driver’s seat and was helping Maggie put on a seat belt in the passenger side of the van.
“Ok, the gas pedal sticks a little in this thing, so punch it whenever you’re going to put on the gas.” The blond girl instructed Lisa. However, she seemed to only be half listening, looking with concern at Michael. “Are you sure you’ll be ok, Mike?”
Game 3: On the way home
Scenario: This scenario is from the Two Hour Wargames scenario book for ATZ, Haven. This was originally designed for two police officers responding to a 911 call, but I modified it to use with our merry trio. The only changes were:
*1. The older of the two children (Maggie) will flag down the survivor’s van, thus already attaining one of the scenario goals. A bit of a cheat, but I couldn’t figure out another way to fix this.
*2. I changed the layout of the house to the one in the photo. The first one looked really odd, and I wanted something that I could use my Dwarven Forge in. You’ll also note the very back of the house is stonework…I ran out of wood DF parts!
*3. Unlike the original scenario, I’m allowing zombies to be generated outside the house since Lisa is staying in the van. I imagine this will more than balance getting Maggie as a freebie in turn 1.
Otherwise, the scenario runs as stated.
Time: It is about 3 am, and there is a rainstorm reducing visibility to 9 inches.
Michael approached the doorway with his carbine at waist height, so as to aim it towards whatever his body was facing. Or that’s what they said on the Military Channel anyway. Kaylee was behind him, her earlier bravado giving way to fear. Staying only one step behind Michael, her white-knuckled grip on her bat revealed her tension.
The door was almost completely open, no doubt swung by little Maggie as she rushed out of the house. There were lights on inside but no one in view.
Leaning against the doorjamb, the man raised his weapon to first cover the kitchen open area and then the doorless entry to a hallway. Again, nothing could be seen or heard.
“This is weird.” The blonde woman behind him whispered. “Where is everyone? Do you think the kid was just out of it, thinking there was a problem?”
“Dunno, but I doubt it.” Michael replied. “Stay here and watch the hallway while I check out the kitchen. Yell if you see anyone.”
Kaylee flexed her grip on the baseball bat. “Oh I will, don’t you worry. You’ll know as soon as I do.”
‘So will half the neighborhood’ he thought to himself as he slowly creeped toward the kitchen. Kaylee seemed like a decent enough girl, but they’d only known her for half an hour. She also was a bit bossy and seemed to have a chip on her shoulder. ‘I just hope that doesn’t get her killed. Or us, for that matter.’
With that cheery thought he made his way into the kitchen. It was empty of people, though he did notice a drawer on the floor. Apparently it was a knife drawer, as several were lying scattered about. He also noticed some smeared blood on the floor and refrigerator. Not a lot, but enough to make his skin crawl.
‘Is this the mother’s? The possibly zombified father’s? The kid’s?’ The thoughts made Michael’s flesh creep. Maggie was untouched, so it had to be one of the three. Could it have been a wound on the zombie? Or did someone get bitten? Shaking out of this train of thought, he turned and gave Kaylee a silent “OK” sign and moved to the hallway. Kaylee started to follow, but Michael gestured for her to close the door first. She did, and returned to him with a questioning look.
He whispered, “We don’t want anything coming up behind us, do we?”
“Oh, right.” She blanched and nodded vigorously.
He gestured to the right hallway, which ended at a window with a door on the right. “That looks like a bedroom, go check it out.”
The blonde began to look mulish. “Why me? You’ve got the gun!”
“Because…” Michael sighed, trying to keep their conversation to a whisper. “Because it’s likely not the Master bedroom, it’s too small. So, it’s probably one or both of the little girls’ bedrooms. And I think a little kid is more likely to respond well to someone with a bat than a stranger with a gun.”
“Uh huh…” She whispered in a cynical tone. “And this wouldn’t have anything to do with me being a woman would it?”
Michael shrugged, “Frankly? Yes, and if you get over the non-existent sexist comment and think about this logically you’ll see that it’s a better idea.”
Kaylee grumbled to herself, but moved toward the bedroom door. Michael rolled his eyes heavenward and muttered in return. This was going to get real old, real quick if he had to explain every little thing to her before she’d help.
He continued to look down the hallway to the left, which seemed to open up in a den or something. Lights were still on, but no one was in evidence. Weird…
* * *
Kaylee brushed her bangs with a sweep of her hand, holding her bat tightly in the other. The door in front of her was closed, and was decorated with construction paper flowers and hearts. Within two of the hearts were the names Maggie and Jilly. Michael was right, but damn if she would admit it to the jerk. ‘He obviously thinks since he’s the MAN he’ll be in charge. I’m not going for that, and if his girlfriend buys that line from him I’ll just take off.’ She knew guys like him, and they were always trouble. Right now, they had more important things to think about though.
She carefully turned the knob and pushed the door open. Huddling halfway in sight of the interior, she raised her bat and prepared to whack anyone crazy enough to attack. Nobody did, which was a nice change of pace as far as she was concerned.
The room was a stereotypical little girl’s room, with a large princess-style bed on the left side of the area. Toys and some clothes were scattered on the floor, but there was nobody in evidence. She was about to turn back and tell ol’ Mikey that it was clear when she heard a faint noise. Turning, Kaylee scanned the room. Perhaps from the closet?
Moving gingerly toward the closet on the other side of the room, she passed the bed and heard it again. Like a strangled sob? Not the closet….under the bed? Great…right now there could very well be monsters under the bed!
Swallowing nervously, she got down on her knees and pulled up the blanket to see under the bed. Huddled on the far side of the opening and flat against the wall was a small girl, not more than 5 years old. “Hey there,” Kaylee whispered. “Don’t be afraid, we’re here to get you to safety.” The little girl just stared in terror and tried to curl up into an even smaller ball. The blonde again brushed her stray locks away from her face and tried again. “Come on out, we need to go.” Then, inspiration hit her. “You can trust us, Maggie told us to come get you.”
The name of her sister seemed to click something behind the child’s terror-stricken eyes. “M…Mh..Maggie? Sent you?”
“Yes,” Kaylee replied, trying to keep her own voice calm while peeking over her shoulder at the doorway. “But we need to hurry, come on!”
Slowly at first, then with speed the girl wiggled out from under the bed and hugged Kaylee. Kaylee hugged her in return, then did her best to free herself from the child’s surprisingly strong grip. “Ok sweetie, now hold my hand while we go outside ok?”
The child, apparently named Jilly from the decorated door, simply nodded and followed her; though keeping an iron grip on her hand.
* * *
Michael saw the two emerge from the bedroom and smiled, thinking it would be a good time for a ‘maternal Instinct’ comment but for once common sense prevailed. “Ok, the den’s apparently dead…er…quiet. So, I’ll cover you from the door and you get her out to the van with Lisa.”
“Ok.” Kaylee replied, apparently more concerned with the girl’s safety than to one-up Michael. Just keep us covered in case one of those things comes around in the yard.”
“Will do.” And with that Kaylee picked the little girl in her arms and sprinted toward the van. Her bat was held awkwardly over her shoulder, and Michael knew she’d never get it up in time to defend herself or her burden. So, he kept one eye outside in the yard and the other at the hallway across the living room.
Nothing bothered the two in their short run across the yard to the waiting van. The rain had even lightened up, only a mist at this point. Lisa unlocked the side door and Kaylee slid it open and set Jilly inside the vehicle near her sister. The two children hugged each other and started to sob again.
“Everything ok in there?” Lisa asked, looking at Kaylee in the rear view mirror.
“So far so good, but we’ve only checked out about half the house so far.” She smiled at Lisa with some of her old confidence returning. “Michael’s just stood around being macho with his gun while I did the real work.”
Lisa snickered. “Michael isn’t that bad. Really!”
“If you say so.” She replied dubiously and turned to leave the van. Moving to close the door, Jilly broke away from her sister and shoved her little hand out at Kaylee. “Whataminit! Take this.”
Kaylee took the small set of keys from the girl. It was one of those models where the key chain fob also turned on and off a car alarm. “What’s this for?”
“I was gonna hide in there once I got less scared.” Jilly said in a small voice. “You could give them to Mommy so she can find a place to hide.”
“Ok, hon.” Kaylee pocketed the keys and grasped the sliding door. But she’ll probably be coming with us. I’ll give her the keys though. Their conversation cut off when the door was slammed shut. Now able to grasp her bat again with her usual manic grip, the blonde turned back toward the house and skidded across the wet grass to the open door. Michael was still at the doorway, posing with his gun like some kind of commando. ‘What-ever!’ she thought to herself. ‘We have to get some things straight if I’m going to stay with this clown.’
* * *
Lisa watched Kaylee’s retreating form until she could see both her and Michael silhouetted in the door opening. The lights cut off with the closing of the door, and she sighed. What were they going to do with two little girls if Mike couldn’t find their mother or father? Could CPS take them in, what with everything going on?
Distractedly she glanced back into the rear view mirror to see the two children sitting at the very back seat and chatting about being wet, the yucky mud, anything but the current situation. ‘Can’t suppose I blame them.’ She thought to herself. ‘Would I want to dwell on….?’
Lisa caught movement near the back of the van. She turned the lights back on and saw illuminated in the brake lights three of those horrible sickos. The closest one was the worst, with half his face missing; the cartilage and tendons of his face visible and flexing as he bit repeatedly into the open air.
“Crap!” she put the van into drive and it the gas. As Kaylee warned, she had to pump the pedal hard and so screeched out from the house more loudly than she wanted. ‘That’s ok, that’s ok.’ She reassured herself. ‘More noise means they will follow the van and not go to the house. Like Mike said, I’ll just lead them around the block then zip back here. I’ll pick Michael, Kaylee, and the girl’s mother up; we’ll get back home and wait until all this blows over!’
“Hey, where’s mommy?” Maggie asked, leaning to sit back in the passenger front seat. “Where are Mitchell and Casey?”
“Not to worry dear.” Lisa replied, keeping a calm voice as they slowed at the intersection. The idea seemed to be working, the three infected seemed to be following the van and ignoring the house where Michael and Kaylee went; all the houses actually. “We’re just going to go around the block. We’ll be back in a jiffy.” She tried a reassuring smile to the children, and it seemed to be working. That, and Jilly was rummaging through the food. “Do you have any pop tarts?” the little girl asked, oblivious to the danger outside.
* * *
The door to the room creaked as Michael slowly pushed it open with the barrel of the carbine. For a relatively modern interior door it sure made a lot of noise. ‘How very Tales From the Crypt,’ he thought as he squinted in the darkness. As nothing jumped out at him, he stepped into the doorway and reached with his left hand for the light switch. It flickered on, and the room was revealed as an office. A desk with two bookshelves was the total of the furniture decorating the area. Michael leaned over and glanced under the desk. Nobody home, it appeared.
“Great.” Kaylee stage whispered at her squatting companion. “Two doors and we get the one without anyone in it.”
Michael glared up at her and whispered “Shhh! Do you want to draw whatever’s in the house?”
“Sure, if it means we get outta here quicker” Again the blonde swung her bat at the air. “Let’s face it, nobody’s home anymore. Maybe the mother took the guy to the hospital? Or even…”
Her ideas were interrupted by a woman’s scream coming from the other side of the house. Pushing past her, Michael rushed to the other doorway and kicked it open. Kaylee stared for a second, then shook her head and followed.
Michael saw the back of a man, staggering toward a bathroom. He seemed to have forced the door open and a woman was inside begging him to stop it. “Hey!” Michael shouted, bringing his weapon up to his shoulder.
The figure turned around, and stared at Michael with milky eyes. His grayish face was expressionless for a moment, then with a snarl he staggered toward the two in the doorway; unconcerned with the carbine pointed at his head.
“That’s all I needed to see.” With that, Michael fired at the creature at point blank range. The bullet went into the zombie’s right eye, but at an angle and exited out the right temple. Dark red blood spurted from the wound and knocked the thing over to the ground. Michael realized with one look that the creature was still active, and so walked toward the former person and raised the weapon to his shoulder, aiming it at the man’s forehead.
“Leave him alone!” came a scream from the doorway. Michael glanced up just in time to take a baseball bat to the side of his head. The carbine’s stock and his right forearm took some of the blow, but it was still enough to stagger him. With a grunt, he dropped the carbine and fell near the creature. He moaned and held the side of his head in obvious pain.
“You leave my husband alone! He’s sick!” the unhinged woman screamed at her husband’s shooter and raised the bat for another strike.
“Stop it!” Kaylee exploded into action, shouting and using her own baseball bat to knock the woman’s aside. “Your husband’s not just sick, he’s trying to kill you!”
“No! He understands me!” The wife of the undead monster staggered back but retained hold on her own bat. “You want to hurt him too! I won’t let you!” She charged the younger woman with a screech and the melee was joined.
* * *
Meanwhile, Lisa was grinding her teeth in frustration. Despite circling the block she returned to the house only to find that the infected had turned around and were walking back toward her first location in front of the little girls’ house. As she pondered what to do, Maggie looked up from her pop tart wrapper and said “Hey, those freaky people are coming back.”
“Yes…” Lisa replied in a forced calm voice. “They are…so, we’re going to go back the other way and try to lead them down the street.”
‘What about mommy and daddy?” Jilly squealed from the back. “They might come out and we’ll be gone!”
Lisa performed a highly illegal U-turn in the street and then glanced in the rear view mirror again to make sure the zombies were moving toward the van. ‘Great,’ she thought to herself. ‘Now Michael has me calling them zombies.’
The return of the van did seem to catch their attention again, so Lisa moved slowly back down the road. This time, she kept the van moving at a crawl to keep their attention. This time she would wait until well down the connecting street before speeding up.
* * *
“Stop it!” Ducking behind a TV stand, Kaylee’s shouted attempts at reason were getting nowhere. The lady was obviously nuts! So, with some reluctance she waited for the guy’s wife to overswing again and then lunged in with a solid smack to her head. She’d been aiming for the back of her head but instead she took it full on the side. With a coughing moan she staggered and fell between Michael and what was once her husband. That unfortunate was staggering to his feet. When it saw his wife fall down, he fell upon her and started tearing at her flesh.
Kaylee stood horrified as the man started chewing chunks of meat from his gurgling wife. Michael was still disoriented, but had enough presence of mind to skitter back and fumble with his carbine. Though he did get ahold of it, he couldn’t bring it up to aim at anyone or anything.
So, the blonde shook herself out of her stunned horror and swung the bat as hard as she could down on the zombie’s head. There was a sickening crunch of bone and he fell over the body of his wife. Though one of his legs continued to twitch, he seemed to be out of the fight. Still, Kaylee smashed his head again to be sure, then drug him off the wounded woman beneath him.
She was coughing up blood and bleeding profusely. Jesis!’ Kaylee thought franticly. ‘What do I do?’ As she glanced around for something to staunch the blood flow, the torn woman gave a final cough and collapsed across the floor. She didn’t move, and her eyes stared unblinking, fixed on the ceiling.
“Ohgod” Kaylee said, and tried desperately not to be sick. She looked away, and saw Michael pushing himself to his feet by leaning on the doorjamb with his shoulder and using the carbine as a cane. His eyes looked dilated and he didn’t seem to be able to concentrate on anything in his vision.
“G.g..gotta check on her.” He mumbled, gesturing weakly at the woman on the floor.
“No way guy,” Kaylee said, glad of something to do other than look at the corpses in front of her. “What we’ve got to do is get you out of here!”
“No…gotta make sure..” Michael swayed and Kaylee caught him under the arm and turned toward the door. “C’mon let’s get going. Nothing left for us around here Mike.”
“But, but….” The man on her shoulder kept trying to speak but seemed to lose track of a thought again. Only when they were in the Den he said. “S-she was bit, she might become…”
A cold hand gripped Kaylee’s chest. That’s right! Anyone bitten by those things just might… She suddenly turned toward the door and Michael nearly fell over with the movement. Absently she put him against the wall and stuck her head back into the bedroom.
Dead eyes met hers from the floor. The woman was starting to sit up, and as her filmed over eyes met Kaylee’s she tried to moan. Instead, only a wet gurgling sound came from her ruin of a throat. This didn’t seem to bother the walking corpse, as the once-protective wife shoved the body of her husband off her legs and started to try to get to her feet.
Kaylee couldn’t deal with another one. Not this soon, and not someone she saw alive not five minutes ago. Nearly leaping out of the doorway, she grabbed the semi-coherent Michael and dashed to a back door.
* * *
“This is ridiculous!” Lisa shouted in exasperation. She had driven the van very slowly around the turn. So slowly that a couple of times the creatures nearly caught the van in their grip. But she managed to draw them around and once on the side street parallel to the house she hit the gas and speeded back around. So fast, she nearly hydroplaned on the parallel intersection and had to slow a bit to return to the house her boyfriend was somewhere within.
What awaited her was that same group of zombies once again coming around the corner, backpedaling once again toward the house. In fact, they’d apparently even gained a convert as the small group was now four in number.
“What is this, the local zombie MENSA group?” Remembering her passengers, Lisa kept her language from becoming more colorful and instead decided on a change of plan. This time, they’d drive right past them while they were still at the corner and make the trip a complete circle. Or square. Or whatever. Then repeat the block but this time leading them further down the side street.
Fortunately, the two children seemed to enjoy the speeding up and slowing down of the van. They even squealed with delight at the hydroplaning, blissfully unaware of the danger they had been in. ‘Once more unto the breach, dear friends…’ Lisa thought sardonically as she gripped the steering wheel and aimed the van for the group.
* * *
Using her shoulder to open the back door Kaylee dragged the woozy Michael out the door and into the garage. Kaylee had hoped that the door led to the back yard, but no such luck. She did see another door at the far side of the garage, maybe that led outside? Would Lisa notice them in the backyard? ‘Probably not, and if I left her man while I ran to the front to flag down Lisa she’d probably run me over.’ Kaylee thought sourly.
Suddenly the garage was filled with the sound of car honking and alarms going off! Blinking, Kaylee was momentarily surprised. What happened? What would set off the car alarm? Then she remembered, the keys in her pocket. She must’ve hit some button or something while pushing through the backdoor. She dug the keys out of her jeans and quickly deactivated the alarm. “Waitaminute…” She said to herself. “This just might do the trick!”
Gathering up Michael she unlocked the SUV with the remote and pushed him into the passenger door. He stumbled in, unable (or unwilling) to put his gun down so she just locked him into the seatbelt across the thing. She slammed the door and moved around the back of the vehicle to hear a crash against the backdoor. It had swung shut, but now was vibrating in its frame as something hammered at the door. It wasn’t locked, so it would only be a few minutes before that cadaver figured out the doorknob!
Not stopping to investigate if there was any kind of door key on the ring, she fumbled at the car door to get in the driver’s side of the vehicle. Having seem way too many horror movies, she checked the back seat before getting in. Nothing!
As she sat in the seat she heard the deep hammering noise of something at the garage door. It was one of the thin aluminum types and she could see dents forming where fists were banging on the surface. “Great!” she shouted in fury. “What now?” her luck held out though as when she started the SUV the vehicle purred to life immediately. A quick glance at the fuel gauge showed three-quarters of a tank! Now grinning, she put the car into drive and slammed on the accelerator.
The zombie outside the garage had been a utilities employee in life. He’d been killed while checking meter readings in the yard of a delinquent customer. When he rose, he staggered out into the world and did his unthinking best to spread his disease of undeath. One of his victims was Mr. Al Bailey, the former owner of this house. However, he was unaware of this and wouldn’t have cared if he had known. All he knew was there was noise behind this metal wall. Noise meant food, so he hammered his decaying fists against the surface of the barrier. If he could have thought, he might’ve been concerned by the sound of a car engine starting within, and the screech of tires on concrete. But he couldn’t so he didn’t.
It was in this state of blissful ignorance that his unlife was put to an end by a 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee rolling over the garage door, which was rolling over him in turn. Kaylee couldn’t hear the noise of the utility worker’s unlife coming to a crunching end, but if she had it would have only added to her whoop of glee as the SUV peeled out of the driveway and into the street.
The rain had almost stopped now, so Lisa could see the SUV barrel out of the garage of the house and speed up towards the van. Only when it was within 20 feet did the driver of the Jeep remember to turn their lights on. The Jeep moved to level the driver’s window with Lisa’s and with some relief she saw a grinning Kaylee at the wheel. Michael was next to her, apparently sliding his arms out of the seatbelt and putting them gingerly to his head.
“Oh my, are you two all right?” Lisa’s statement was to both of them, but Kaylee could see her eyes locked on Michael’s hunched form. “It’s ok,” she answered, “Mikey took a hit to the head but it’s not serious. Let’s go back to your house…I’ll follow.”
“But what about…” Lisa cut off her sentence as she saw Kaylee glance nervously at the back of the van where the two girls continued to chatter away at each other. The blonde looked back at Lisa and mutely shook her head no. Nodding, Lisa rolled up the window and led the way down the street. Back home? Where it was safe? Lisa found herself beginning to wonder if anyplace was safe anymore.
The End –