Web of Ruin: Chapter 12

It had been hours since the conflict with the robot invasion force had begun and subsequently ended, and hours more still since the waves of walking dead had wandered into the walls of the hero’s compound. Although the breach in the walls had been sealed, hundreds of zombies milled about inside the walled perimeter.


Carbon crouched in a tree fifty feet or so away from the wall. She could see String Theory’s plug in the wall; the fires still burned in the area surrounding it. Unfortunately, the outside of the compound was still crawling with thousands of hungry moaning cadavers. Fifty feet could be a mile as far as she was concerned; all she needed to do was clue a couple of them to her presence while trying to sneak through the crowd and she would be be stranded in a sea of cannibalistic dead people.


Some of the burning transport ship popped and exploded, catching Carbon’s attention. A second later she noticed that the zombie’s attention had been caught as well, with the throngs being drawn to the noise. Maybe enough of their attention would be drawn for her to sneak by and scale the wall…


She slowly climbed down from the tree she was perched in and looked for a way through the crowd. She shook her head; even invisible, she figured it was only a matter of time before one of the undead bumped into her. Instead, she stalked away through the woods, carefully avoiding any stragglers that came near. She didn’t want to set off an alarm and draw them toward her. Not yet.


She found several wrecked robots strewn over a relatively small area. Judging from their condition, they had been destroyed in the crash. Several of the large rifles the bots carried were nearby, and a tree stump burned from a fuel spill. One of the destroyed robots was a centaur, its chassis cracked open and the oversized cannon rounds they carried spilled out. Thinking quickly, Carbon started pulling the rounds out of the shattered metal body.


She made a pile of them, arranged like an old fashioned campfire. She then “sprinkled” the pile with ammunition from the rifles. in a matter of minutes, she had a large pile of ammunition, possibly with hundreds of rounds. She then crawled closer to the burning fuel. It was sticky, and burned very hot, appearing almost like napalm. She pried open one of the nearby robots to locate where the stuff was kept. In the lower torso, she found a tank that appeared to carry at least ten gallons of the stuff.


She went around to the rest of the broken robots, about ten in all, and stabbed holes in them right where the fuel was located. Thick, soupy hydrocarbon fuel spilled onto the ground forming puddles. Each puddle received another dash of ammunition, followed by a trail of fuel from each individual puddle to the big ammunition pile in the center. She pried out a full cell from another bot located farther away. Some of the zombies were getting curious, but she paid them no mind; they still couldn’t see her.


her last step was to pry a hole in the cell and place it near one of the larger pools of fuel. She lit a nearby large stick from the stump and lowered it into the cell until its fuel caught flame. She then hurried away, not wanting to be nearby when it went up. She ran until she was about a quarter of a mile away, then drew her pistol and turned. She hoped she was still a good enough shot for this to work.


There was a loud crack as she fired off a single round. She held her breath for a fraction of a second, until she saw the fuel cell jump and spin just a little. It was enough. A zombie wandering nearby turned to see what had moved, and was staring right at the cell as it fell over and lit the puddle below. The fire spread faster than she expected and was intense enough that she felt it over a thousand feet away. The intensity alone was enough to ignite the zombie, which just wandered through until it was consumed and collapsed.


Keeping the large tree she was behind between her and conflagration, Carbon raced back toward the base. In seconds, the ammunition began succumbing to the intense heat, and small explosions could he heard in the distance. Then a series of cannon shells went off. It sounded like staccato, random shots, but each was loud and concussive. Almost as a one, the army of walking corpses turned to regard the dancing lights and loud percussive bangs of Carbon’s fire.


She managed to lift herself up into a tree at the last second as a group of five zombies walked by. She climbed behind the trunk just in time. The main pile had apparently heated to the critical point that every round was exploding. Many wandering cadavers were cut down as flaming hot bullets and cannon shells rocketed through the forest. The tree Carbon was on was actually hit by a cannon shell as bullets tore through the group of zombies that had just wandered by. She rode the falling plant until it was close to the ground then leapt off into a roll.


Right into a group of three undead. Her balance off ever so slightly, she bumped into one of them. Its eyes widened, its mouth opened and she could hear the breath as it was about to begin moaning. Moving with inhuman speed, she drew her blade and cleanly severed the zombie’s head before it could make a sound. She then cut straight across to the one on the right, cleaving its torso from its midsection up through the armpit, and then flipped the sword and thrust it straight out through the face of the last one.


She glanced around nervously, but the rest of the crowd seemed more focused on the spreading destruction she had set up than anything else. The groups became sparser and farther between the closer she got to the base, until there were just occasional stragglers she could easily walk past. Finally, she reached the trailer wall and scaled it. When she could finally see fully inside the compound, her heart sank.


One of the hummers was destroyed, and fuel and ammunition lay strewn around a ruined phalanx.A hundred or so undead milled about, banging on the door to the garage. She might be able to get over to the main building, but if she remembered the protocols correctly, it was sealed up tight as long as there was a breach in security, which included unauthorized personnel in the courtyard.


She looked at the mess near the broken sentry gun. “Well well well…” She muttered to herself. hadn’t she just done the same thing outside the perimeter? Carbon walked along the top of the oversized metal wall until she reached the fix String Theory had put into place. Flames still burned strong on both sides of the wall, and zombies were thinner near it.


Carbon slowly climbed down into the courtyard. The zombies would pause every so often as more ammunition in the distance went off. Every time, she stopped moving and held her breath. She needed a way to get some fire over to the spilled fuel, but there was nothing convenient nearby like dry wood or fuel-covered rebar.


She had a moment of inspiration. She walked up to a nearby zombie, and opened her face covering just a bit, so that it could see part of her face. Immediately, its eyes grew wide and its mouth dropped open. The zombie’s arms reached out for her hungrily, and although it moaned, the echoing din in the courtyard prevented its friends from hearing it. She backed up, guiding it close to the flames. The zombie trundled around the wreckage, not touching the fire.


Carbon’s head cocked to the side. “Really?” She let out an exasperated sigh. As it neared, she closed the front of her face cover, effectively blinking out of site. The zombie hungrily grabbed and bit at the air where she had just been standing. She responded with a strong kick to its side that cracked several ribs, and sent it sprawling into the flames. Heedless that it was now blazing, the zombie rose up and walked toward where she’d kicked from.


Carbon decided not to play it safe, in case its eyes burned away and it could no longer follow her, and she dropped the cloaking altogether. The zombie hurried after her, and she led it straight toward the ruined phalanx. Now other zombies noticed her and converged. She had to act quickly or she’d be food. She let the burning zombie reach grabbing distance, then lopped off an arm. She kicked the flaming limb over toward the ruined sentry, then ran with all speed toward the building. She ducked behind its metal siding just as a great roar filled the courtyard as the gasoline lit and the ruined hummer exploded.


Seconds later, there was a steady, random sound of bangs and pings as the minigun ammunition went off, turning the entire courtyard into a killing zone. Carbon made her way onto the roof of the building, then turned on her radio. “Guys? Guys, can you hear me?”


String had been pacing nervously for hours, hoping for some sign that Carbon was still kicking around outside. The first clue that she might still be alive was the sudden series of explosions over a mile out in the woods, followed by an exodus of most of the zombies surrounding the complex.


Then, many minutes later, another explosion in the courtyard as a flaming zombie walked into the spilled gas and lit up the entire southern courtyard with fire and speeding bullets. Big Mac was calculating the number of zombies killed and remaining after the explosion when everyone perked up to the sound of a smooth, slightly accented voice. “..uys? Guys, can you hear me?”


“Holy shit, lady! You had us worried!”


Carbon slumped onto the flat roof of the hangar, relieved that she would not be left out in the cold forever. “Hey Al. I don’t suppose you can break quarantine and let me in there.” “Sorry, friend, that’s the computer, not me. Not even Mac can supercede that. Where are you, Reap.”


Carbon laughed. “The god damn roof.” Al’s laugh was loud and genuine. “Just wouldn’t be you if you didn’t run things right up to the wire, eh?”


“No kidding… What do I have to do to get back in, kill all of them?” She asked.


String Theory nodded, though he knew she couldn’t see him. “Yes, every one of those sumbitches need to be out or dead before lockdown will lift. I do have some good news though.”


“What’s that?”


“There were a hundred and twelve of those things. Now there are only seventy four.”


Carbon looked over the side of the building. “Great. Just over six dozen to myself? How many experience points do I get for each one? That’s like five points apiece right? hardly seems worth it, I doubt I’d even level up.”


They both had a good laugh, while one of the technicians looked up the experience point value of a zombie just out of curiosity. “You’ll be okay up there for a bit, won’t you girl?” String asked. Carbon shrugged. “I think so. There’s some rain water up here, but I am S.O.L. as far as food goes. I’ve got a week or so, maybe more if there’s rain.”


“You can starve?” String asked.


“All that super healing has to come from somewhere, right?” she said flatly. The two technicians turned to face String Theory. Everyone could plainly see that things had suddenly become more desperate.


“I can sneak down and hunt during the day, but I am going to need to try and sleep at least some at night. I have no idea what will happen if one of them bites me, and I don’t think anyone wants to find out.”


In the fading light of that first day, Carbon killed over twenty zombies. She pushed herself later, using the flames to light things up for her. She couldn’t believe the security system even locked out the floodlights, but String explained that it didn’t need them, so why not leave the enemy at a disadvantage?


A few days later, she had managed to cull the numbers down to less than thirty. As their numbers became sparser, the zombies were harder to track down. With a couple of tractor trailers, the hummer wreckage, the shed and the spillover from the crashed transport, they had plenty of places to hide.


By day five, she was noticeably weaker and growing tired and listless. She was also running out of rainwater, and that which she had was down to rusty puddles she had to almost lick to get any moisture from. String Theory kept a constant vigil, trying to keep her spirits up as she battled walking dead and slowly succumbed to exposure.


Day six, she had successfully killed several more, but became dizzy and almost did not make it to the roof as a zombie almost bit her ankle. The people in the bunker watched in horror on the monitors as the powerful skilled woman was beat down by the simplest human requirements.


She laid on the side of the roof, one arm dangling down, a crowd of undead gathered below hungrily reaching for her. “Hey, what’s in the shed?” String keyed his mic, but didn’t respond. “I’m not sure…” Carbon lifted herself up and turned on her cloak. “I’m gonna find out.” Her voice was slurring as her dehydrated tongue began to swell. “Just a second, hun. Let’s see if anyone else knows first.”


Carbon waved her hand at him dismissively. “Damnit, she’s getting delusional.” Carbon stood and stared at the side of the building opposite of the one she had just been sprawled on. The court looked clear. She reached inside and drew upon the strength years of training had created in her. She crawled down the side of the building swiftly and circumvented it on her way to the shed. Her sword was drawn, and she had no intention of slowing down or being seen.


She passed two walkers on the way, and swept her blade across, taking both of their heads at the neck. The rest of the crowd did not see her as she approached the door. There was a heavy lock on it, but a quick downward snap from the butt of her sword broke the lock. She swung the door open and stepped inside, quietly closing the door behind her.


She could just see the inside through the dusty windows. There were the basic supplies one would expect to find in a shed, rakes, brooms, a lawnmower. Cans of gasoline. Flares. Grenades. There were even a few old water bottles for a water cooler. Without hesitating, she sliced the top off of one, then sat down and drank, the heavy bottle getting lighter as her belly filled with water or spilled all over her.


Al called for her. “Gwen, you still with us?” “Hah! Yeah, I just found some water! The shed has lots of useful toys. Now keep it quiet, I need to keep a low profile for a bit.” Carbon slinked around the shed gathering up anything she thought could be useful.


She cobbled together a plan, which seemed brilliant in her current state.  She kicked open the front door and tossed two five gallon drums of gas at the crowd. Out came her pistol, and she fired three shots into each. The zombies turned to see what the commotion was and she grabbed several flares and lit them at once. Bright flames blinded her as she tossed them into the group.


As she blinked away the spots in her eyes, she saw the gas puddles burst into flame, engulfing much of the group. She called hysterically as she pulled the pins from grenades and tossed them into the crowd. Concussion grenades popped loudly and blew limbs off of flaming zombies. more crawled out from behind the trucks and the back of the shed. She recklessly tossed the remaining few into the shadows, sending at least two more flying into the air.


She drew her sword and charged the flaming undead. She cut them down with ruthless efficiency, and as their numbers dwindled, she turned her attention on those approaching from the darkening shadows. Lit by the flames, they were as easy to see. rather than simply lopping off their heads or limbs, she would stab them through the face, then fling them onto the fire roaring behind her.


One fell over her, and she dropped onto her back, rolling backward and using her foot to heave it overhead into the funeral pyre. She leapt back up to her feet and swung her sword in front of herself, anticipating an attack that didn’t come. She swooned. Dizziness swept over  her and she started to fall. She heard footsteps approach and hoped that her starvation prevented her from returning her as a zombie herself.


Cobalt set the unconscious Carbon down on the floor of the garage. “Can you believe she killed twenty five of those things in one attack?” He looked over at the large , thick necked man staring at the sleeping woman in disbelief. “I can, but then, I’ve seen her fight before.”


Cobalt and String Theory oversaw the medical team as they moved Carbon onto a gurney, stripped her of her armor and hooked her up to an IV unit. At String Theory’s assurance, they did not hook her up to an EKG or any other equipment since she would heal any damage as soon as she was properly nourished.


He checked in on her a few hours later and she already looked better. The paleness in her skin was gone and replaced by her normal more olive complexion. Eventually, her eyes fluttered and she bolted upright in her bed, confused and a little bit terrified, since her last memory was of falling on the ground in a yard filled with zombies.


“Hey, she’s up!” came a familiar voice. Carbon shook the cobwebs from her head and blinked several times to try and focus on who was speaking. She was in a plain white room on a hospital bed, one of several on her side of the room, and across the row from her on the opposite line of beds were two familiar faces, Trembler and Lightfoot. Lightfoot was leaning on her husband’s bed and stood up straight to walk over to her friend. A vicious bruise surrounded an equally vicious cut across her forehead, just missing her temple.


“What the hell happened to you two?” Carbon asked in a husky, tired voice. Lightfoot laughed. “Oh nothing, i got hit in the head with a metal plate and he was shot in the leg. You know, normal stuff. We didn’t kill over a hundred zombies over a week while starving and dying of dehydration.”


Carbon shrugged. “I survived, you would have too.” Lightfoot laughed. “Actually, I would have crushed them all into goo and come inside for corn flakes.” She said with a smile and a wink. “Well, not all of us were born gods, lady.” Carbon countered. An evil grin split her face. “Plus, a little bump on the head wouldn’t have knocked me out, Lightweight.”


Carbon reached out for a glass of water on a tray nearby. Lightfoot smiled and the glass lifted into the air out of reach. “I am a vengeful god.” Carbon levelled a fake glower. “I can cut your head off.” The glass dropped out of the air, only stopping as it reach the tray. Lightfoot put her hands up in mock supplication and backed away. “You really are fond of that move, aren’t you?”


Carbon shrugged as she downed the water. “It works, don’t knock it.” She stretched out and leaned back on the bed, adjusting it so she could sit upright with no real effort. “So I apparently got them all?”


Lightfoot was suddenly animated. She jumped onto the end of Carbon’s bed, swooned a little, but then started explaining what she saw, almost babbling. “They patched in the monitors in here to the outside feed and we got to see the whole thing when you attacked from the shed. You should have seen it! Oh, right. But we saw everything! You tossed out a couple cans of gas, shot them, then hucked the flares at them and woosh! Zombarbecue!”


Carbon was giggling at her enthusiasm. Behind her, Trembler was shaking his head. “Jesus, honey. They gave me thorazine, what did you get? Meth?” Barely glancing back at her husband, Lightfoot flicked her wrist and a pillow from one of the other beds flew at Trembler and hit him in the face. He laughed.


Sequestered from the rest of the world, they could laugh. It was fortunate for them that they had seen the hardships life could bring almost daily for years, so they were well equipped to handle the loss of literally everything. Simple things like sitcoms, candy bars and beer were soon to be memories and nothing more.


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