Having escaped Phirul aboard a rusty boat –now dubbed the “Jailbird” in honour of Vinnie’s recent heroics–the surviving survivors (and a few more of their band who had met up with them later) prepared to set off for Florida… or Newfoundland… or possibly the Maldives. Before they could do so, however, Dirk discovered something that none of them had expected: Myles, it seemed, might still be alive!
The hard-bitten ex-PI had been trying the CB radio in the wheelhouse when he stumbled upon part of a faint conversation. Someone, it seemed, had found a survivor in a ransacked house in Phirul. They didn’t give him a name, but he was wounded, nervous, and apparently wheezing. Amid the static, the voice on the radio had also said they would bring him back to “the fort.”
Dirk’s attempts to communicate with the unknown survivors had proven fruitless: either the signal wasn’t reaching them, or they were choosing not to reply. Still, the fragments of conversation he heard before all went silent suggested that “the fort” might be the former Fort Gingrich, a National Guard base some 40 miles or so east of Phirul.
The news generated a heated debate among those on board the Jailbird. Some argued that they should try to mount an expedition to find the brilliant scientist, whose research into the zed plague might prove vital to all their futures. Others pointed out that it was far from certain that the conversation had referred to Myles at all, or that even if it had it was equally uncertain that he would survive his wounds. Several highlighted the heavy cost they had paid less than a day earlier, with Eddy and Ben both having been killed during the journey through Phirul. Freddy said Myles was a jerk, who had just slowed them down.
In the end, Demi resolved the debate by simply going to the engine room of the Jailbird, draining the fuel tanks, the ripping out every wire she could find. In her mind, rescuing Myles was more important than anything else.
“Well, the dame’s decided it,” chuckled Dirk, who admired her spirit. “This boat’s not going anywhere for a while, so let’s go see if we can find the egghead.” “It’s a long way,” remarked Vinnie, “we’ll need wheels.” As Brother Cadwell muttered a prayer, Dick Danger combed his hair, and Sven just muttered, a group of volunteers was assembled for a dangerous rescue mission…
Objective: The survivors must locate one or more working vehicles, and exit the north side of the board in these, en route to Fort Gingrich. The must also secure at least 15 supplies with which to sustain their journey and possibly barter for Myles’ release.
Survivors: Brother Cadwell (monk), Demi Delite (independent contractor), Freddy (street thug), Sven (insane groundskeeper), Barbara Costa (fashionista), Dirk Bogart (private investigator), Vinnie Bognavic (ex-con), Dick Danger (reality TV megastar).
* * *
Leaving the stricken Jailbird behind, the Survivors sloshed through swampy woods under a darkening sky towards the town of Gumbo Junction. Clambering over a stack of rotten logs, Vinnie shot Demi a nasty look. “Good job, Princess,” he sneered. “What an incredible smell you’ve discovered!”
“Quiet,” Dick snapped. “We’re getting close to the town.” Suddenly, Fisher began to growl, and Brother Cadwell readied his crossbow – just in time, as a zombie came stumbling through the bush and into the Survivors’ midst. Sven and the monk set about the undead with axe and crossbow, quickly dispatching the shuffler. Dick suddenly yelped in pain as another zombie emerged from under the brackish water and chomped on his leg. Dick blew open the creature’s skull with his sidearm, then looked at his injury and winced. “It’s just a scratch,” he said, smiling weakly.
The rest of the Survivors emerged from the swamp and continued towards the town: Dirk, Coach and Barbara headed towards some prefabricated buildings and a couple of parked emergency vehicles while Freddy and Demi made their way towards the church. A few wandering zombies shambled forward, and Coach – fired up after several days cramped on the boat – rushed forward with his bat, staggering one zombie while Barbara shot another down. Coach finished off the zombie he’d battered, but it managed to bite him on the wrist in the process.
The commotion drew a pack of hungry feral dogs from their den under the church’s porch, and they began sniffing around for any stragglers they might pick off. Sven and Dirk beat down yet another zombie, and then with Barbara and Coach’s help, managed to make a sufficiently intimidating spectacle that the feral dogs shied away. Vinnie stopped to shake mud and snakes out of his boots while Brother Cadwell and Dick continued towards the parking lot.
Freddy hopped through a broken window into the church – and climbed right back out again as he nearly landed on a zombified priest. The intrusion drew the attention of two more zombies, which made their way into the street and pursued the Survivors, who were by now all headed for the warehouses. One of them caught up to Freddy, who dodged its claws and jammed an arrow through its eye before ducking into one of the warehouses with Demi and Barbara. Inside they crushed an ankle-biter and found a case of canned soup. Vinnie and Sven found a vending machine in the second building and emptied it of candy – except the Milk Duds, which Mr. Messiah insisted were the “sugar-coated teats of Satan the Devil.” Vinnie consoled himself by pilfering a bag of Skittles while no one was looking.
Outside, Dick and Brother Cadwell managed to scare off the pack of dogs completely, and Dirk and Coach had reached the fire truck and police car. After rummaging inside the truck for a few minutes, Dirk reported that there was no gas – but that the battery was still charged. Brother Cadwell climbed the fire engine’s ladder to get a better view, and shot an ankle-biter that was drawing near to the distracted Dirk. Meanwhile, Coach finished his search of the police car, finding a box of inexplicably well-preserved donuts. Unfortunately the gas tank had already been siphoned and someone had made off with the battery. As if to punctuate the news, it began to rain.
All the searching had drawn the attention of several zombies, so the Survivors turned their attention to the grim business at hand. Vinnie lured three shufflers into a narrow alley between the warehouses, cutting them down in a hail of gunfire from his submachine gun. “Say hello to my little friend!” he shouted, quite unable to help himself. Barbara rolled her eye at him, and gunned down another zombie that had wandered over from the church.
After re-grouping in the parking lot, the humans set off deeper into the town, in search of fuel. Demi pushed into the nearby CDC building, hoping to find some files or notes that might be of use to Myles when he was eventually found – but she was chased back out into the street by several zombies in lab coats. Freddy ran forward to help just as a fast-moving zombie rounded the corner and headed straight at him! As Freddy scrambled to ready an arrow, a shuffler burst out of the CDC building, clubbing him to the ground. A second later, the runner descended with tooth and claw; Freddy gave a shrill scream and perished.
Brother Cadwell rushed forward to avenge his comrade, failing to notice an ankle-biter crawling out from behind a hedge. Coach did notice, however, and punted it through the police car’s windshield. “Woo – it’s good!” he shouted. But his celebration was cut off by a fearsome and agile zombie that suddenly burst from behind the warehouses, scattering discarded palettes and barrels. “Game on, baby!” Coach roared and counter-charged the Hunter. At the last moment, Coach slid under its lashing claws, between its legs, and popped back to his feet behind it with feline grace and speed. As the mutant zombie turned to face its prey, Coach’s bat connected with a sharp wet “crack” that sent the Hunter’s head flying through a second-story window. “Home Run!” Coach howled.
Sven decapitated the Runner that had murdered Freddy, but a nearby shuffler savaged Fisher, who fled whimpering out of sight; Brother Cadwell crushed the offending zombie’s skull with his warhammer. With the help of Sven and Barbara, the other zombies outside the CDC were quickly destroyed. Barbara walked over to the fallen Freddy – who had begun to quiver and twitch most unnaturally – and placed a two-hundred-dollar boot on his chest. “This is all we can do for you now,” she said, and put two bullets in his head. After a quick prayer over the corpse, Brother Cadwell claimed Freddy’s bow and arrows, gave Coach his crossbow and divvied up the supplies Freddy had been carrying.
Outside the town hall, Dick gunned a shuffler down, only to have another sink its rotten teeth into his side before his machete found its mark. Dirk and Vinnie forced their way into the town hall, and though they found nothing of interest inside, Vinnie spotted a school bus parked across the street. Demi, shaken by Freddy’s death, joined the two men inside. “This looks like a good place to regroup,“ Dirk said. “We can take a minute to catch our breath, patch up the wounded.” Demi thought she might powder her nose, so she cautiously pushed open the door to the ladies’ room … and instantly retreated, screaming. Behind her, a writing mass of fat, black rats boiled up out of the toilets and swept across the floor. Dirk tried to get to Demi, but the squeaking horde forced him back. He withdrew the way he came, crushing rats under foot until he slipped and smacked his head against a desk. He emerged back in the street, clutching a bleeding welt and waving off the others. “No good,” he said. “Rats – thousands of ‘em!”
“So, it’s Vinnie’s family reunion?” Dick said with a smirk. Someone chuckled.
Inside the town hall, Vinnie kicked open the front door and emerged not far from the school bus, shaking vermin off his jacket. Demi followed, yanking a particularly tenacious rat out of her hair. “That,” Vinnie panted, “was messed up.”
The Survivors regrouped around the bus, but Demi had more bad news – like the emergency vehicles, the bus had no gas. It seemed the group would never get a break.
Or would they? Just then a plane passed high overhead! Elated, the Survivors rushed towards an abandoned construction site; perhaps the earth-movers would still work? Maybe they could somehow signal the plane?
Brother Cadwell dispatched a wandering shuffler with his bow while Demi, Babara, Dick and Dirk checked out the construction vehicles. Coach dug around inside the foreman’s trailer and came up with a few packs of batteries. Vinnie decided to check out the Humvee that had been abandoned on nearby Jayhawker Bridge. As he approached, he was met with a heart-breaking sight: a zombified little girl, crawling wretchedly towards him in a filthy night gown, clutching a blood-stained teddy bear in one pustuled hand. She made sad snuffling sounds as she dragged herself towards Vinnie, her little mouth working. Vinnie shouldered his weapon, walked up the pitiful creature … and curb-stomped the little freak. “I don’t like kids,” he said to no one in particular.
Then from the construction site, a dull roar and a shout of joy: Demi had managed to get the dump truck working! True, half the fuel was gone and it needed maintenance, but it ran. Barbara called shotgun while Dirk and Dick piled into the bucket.
“We’re letting a woman drive?” Sven wondered aloud.
“Hey,” Demi snapped back from the cab, “I know my way around a car!”
“Especially the back seat, right?” Mr. Messiah quipped.
The racket made by the dump truck had drawn a trio of shufflers towards the bridge, but Vinnie, Sven and Brother Cadwell quickly dispatch them. As Coach jogged over, Vinnie managed to find the Humvee’s keys under the driver’s seat. A moment later the vehicle rumbled to life! Coach high-fived Mr. Messiah and Brother Cadwell climbed into the back of the Humvee, breathing a prayer of thanks. Just then, Fisher emerged from under the bridge and jumped onto his master’s lap – the dog had miraculously survived! Sven spotted an ankle-biter by the side of the road and Vinnie executed a three-point turn that reduced the zombie to a greasy smear on the grass. Then he pulled in behind the dump truck and followed Demi down the road.
As the little convoy reached the outskirts of town, however, a large group of shufflers suddenly appeared in their path, drawn by the sound of diesel engines and gunfire. Barbara, Dirk and Dick fired at the mob from the dump truck, cutting down several before Demi plowed through the zombies, leaving a slick of blood and pulverized bodies in her wake. The Humvee followed close behind, expertly fish-tailing to take out a single zombie that had somehow survived.
The mob of shufflers proved to be little more than a speed bump.
The road to Fort Gingrich lay open, and Demi blasted the air horn. “Myles, we’re coming for you!”
* * *
Sadly, tragedy would not be long in striking. Within a few hours, both Coach and Dick Danger succumbed to the bites they’d suffered and had to be put down.