Prologue

It was eight a.m. on a frigid February morning in the town of Morgan, Colorado, a quiet town that remained quiet still, only thirty miles from Boulder. The snow fell heavy and silent on the empty buildings, and paired with the wind, had turned most every building into a snow dune. This was the same situation almost everywhere. Those who prayed for snow had their prayers answered in the early, freak blizzards throughout November, however, most did not live to enjoy it. When the infection had begun to sweep the eastern seaboard in late October, those who weren't dead or dying from the unidentified virus were moved to quarantine zones, which many people thought was the exact opposite of what would normally be done in that situation. the popular question was often "Who's protecting who?" the general public thought the virus to have been obviously man-made and intentionally released as a cruel, yet effective population control measure, and although the virus did eventually kill those infected, it seemingly reanimated them into a violent, mindless and often cannibalistic mob.

Night continued to fall on the barren town as the faint sound of an engine approaching slowly broke through the silence. A pair of headlights followed shortly after, breaking the horizon with blinding light. A body froze in the lights of the truck and was thoroughly owned by the massive truck. The nomadic wanderers drove through the town, lead by a paramedic and a police officer, hauling weapons, food, water, and other survivors in the transport truck, a deuce-and-a-half as it were, to the west coast with their sights set on the open sea.

Anna Caruso W: 125lbs – H: 5'6" – B: Slim

Mark Carson W: 176lbs – H: 5'11" – B: Average

Anna was a smart, capable paramedic heading to a small apartment in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Anna was alone and unqualified to be handling calls by herself, and there was nobody at dispatch to go with her. So she holstered her newly issued .32 Beretta Tomcat, the keys to an ambulance, signed out, and was on her way. At this point, she was very fatigued on a long day far from over.

She arrived at the apartment to find the source of the call: another paramedic named Mark Carson, who'd locked himself in the back of an ambulance covered in blood, clutching the microphone and a hammer. "Not the greatest spot to hide." said Anna, with her hand on her hip. He rolled his eyes.

Anna followed the blood trail up to the gloomy house with her eyes and turned back to Mark. "Is there anyone alive in there?" he shook his head and answered bluntly; "No, it was a DOA...it bit Joe...killed Mary. Anna's nose began to detect a terrible stench. She pulled her pistol in response. Her instructor had told her about the smell and what comes with it. He said to aim for the head. "...And you'd better not miss." He said tactfully. "We have to go. Conclude your business on the radio, grab what you need and let's go." Mark hung up the microphone, grabbed his hammer, and extended a hand. "Help me up, please, I hurt my leg running to this ambulance." she holstered her Beretta and helped him up, immediately re-drawing her gun.

"Get in the ambulance, they're getting closer!" she looked around nervously, seeing three, then four of the creatures coming from down the street, as many more joined them as they walked, limped, ran, shuffled towards the new meat. Anna brought herself back to reality, and ducked inside the ambulance. "They're coming, go!" Mark shouted as Anna started the car and drove off in haste. "Thank you, I was beginning to think no one was coming." said Mark, relieved. "No problem." she said in between yawns. "Should I drive?" said Mark, one hand already on the wheel. "Could you? That would be great." They pulled over, switched places and continued on their way. Anna slept and dreamed of better days.

Kianna Platte W: 129lbs – H: 5'7" – B: Average

Raoul Koner W: 210lbs – H: 6'1" – B: Athletic

Raoul and Kianna were heading southwest in their stolen Cutlass Supreme, hungry and tired from their earlier battle. Raoul was known for his hospitality, which wasn't common among many gangsters these days. Scratching the blemishes on the back of his head, Raoul checked his gun, a MAC-11 with very few rounds left. He looked over at his companion, Kianna Platte, who was sleeping. He'd never thought much of her until now, when she had quickly become the only other living person within a mile. Now they were closer than brother and sister. They had survived the past two days together. As convenient as it was, the two were in the same car when it happened, fleeing the scene of a gunfight to avoid persecution by the police.

Yesterday, a rival gang she drove by had provoked Kianna. Unbeknownst to her and her passengers, one of them had concealed a handgun in their waistband. The man drew his pistol and fired multiple times at Kianna's car, hitting the fender, her window, and one of her fellow gangsters in the back of his neck. Kianna stopped the car, opened her door, and fired four shots of her own. She was a keen shot, as three of her bullets found their way into the chest of the main gunman. The rest had scattered when they heard the sirens approaching. "We have to go!" abandoning their original car to steal the nearest one, a late-model Oldsmobile, as it were. Kianna and her two other passengers surrounded the car, guns drawn in multiple directions, as the sirens grew closer

Once Kianna achieved entry, she quickly went to work under the dash. The sirens were now less than a block away, she could see the lights flashing. She rubbed one wire with another, and as soon as the engine kicked over, she twisted the wires together. "Okay, let\'d5s roll!" but the police had already opened fire, and Kianna had already closed the door. She watched past the window as her friends spurted blood from various holes in their chests. Uncertain of what to do next, Raoul, who'd heard the shots and saw Kianna take cover in the car, ran up and crouched beside the car, his MAC-11 spitting lead at the police officers, who ducked back into their cruiser and called for backup. Raoul motioned for Kianna to unlock the door. She did so and pushed the door open as Raoul Clambered in the car. The vast interior housed much garbage and empty cigarette packs that made it seem quite tiny. "What are you doing here?" Kianna asked Raoul as she stomped on the accelerator, feeling the car surge forward.

Raoul withdrew the empty high-capacity 47-round magazine and replaced it with a full one from his pocket. "When there's a fight on our turf, I'm there." They were driving awful fast now, civilians were whizzing by them, as were military trucks. "What's the army doing here?" asked Kianna. Raoul shrugged and placed his MAC-11 under his seat. He felt around under the seat to find duplicates of today's newspaper with a strange headline. "Hey, Kianna, listen to this: "Infected Mob Cripples Midwest, Estimated Death Toll exceeds two-point-five million as victims continue to be found..." Kianna listened calmly as Raoul finished the article, her face subtly revealing her confusion. "Well...should we keep heading south?" Raoul folded up the newspaper and returned it to beneath the seat. "How does California sound?" Kianna smiled. "Now we're talking. Lets go." she took the next left onto the interstate, and they continued heading southwest.

Frank Bell W: 162lbs – H: 5'10" – B: Average

Vincent Kohl W: 205lbs – H: 5'9" – B: Heavy

"This isn't Franks first time in handcuffs, apparently," said Sergeant Vincent Kohl to his partner as he scanned through Frank Bell's file on the computer of the squad car. Frank sat up and stuck his tongue out, jokingly displaying his tongue stud, a glass sphere with a hand flipping the bird inside it. It was a gift from his ex. "This is his 14th misdemeanor in a month!" Sergeant Kohl looked back at Frank. Smiling and accomplished, he laid back down in the back of the patrol car. For the past two blocks, Frank had been undoing his handcuffs. The two officers continued talking, and Frank felt a satisfying click. Frank slid them off and reached for the door handle, which wasn't there. "Oh, right." Frank said quietly. He reattached one of his handcuffs, amused at his own stupidity, and laid down across the seat, trying to sleep.

He had been drinking over a bad fight with his lover when the police subtracted him from his neighbor's front lawn. Frank had a strangely accurate set of senses, even when he was smashed, but now he just felt numb.

He'd begun to settle into a comfortable position to nap in when a violent jolt rattled him out of it and threw him into the barrier of the cab. The last thing he'd remember would be his already swelling head.

Frank groggily awoke to the familiar feel of handcuffs tightening around his wrists. "Can you walk, Frank?" When the world stopped spinning, he awoke to Sergeant Kohl kneeling over him on the sidewalk, shotgun in hand. "My forehead is bumping, man." Sergeant Kohl stood up. "That's not what I asked you, but at least you're alive, unlike my assistant." Still senseless, Frank looked over at the cruiser, with a truck messily attached to its front end. Frank began to walk towards the cruiser to see Sergeant Kohl's assistant skewered in several places with iron reinforcement bars from the truck's roof. "Oh God." Frank said mournfully as he turned back to Sergeant Kohl, who was still trying to compose himself.

Frank seen some considerably gnarly accidents in his life, but this were too gruesome a scene. Normally, it would be about this time that onlookers would begin to loot the scene of whatever booty was valuable, and he would exploit this opening as quickly as possible. (His smarts and fickle personality had proven useful many times, and combined with his industrious disposition, he was a reliable source of mayhem to the local police departments.)

But there weren't any people around. No looters, no curious pedestrians, nobody. Not having a cop or paramedic around was strange, considering that there was a cop stuck like a pig in Kohl's passenger seat, and a smoking wreck in the middle of a usually crowded intersection. A slight breeze ran through Frank's curly, red hair, and he determined that it was too quiet for comfort. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his Mp3 Player. Choosing, from the 'Songs' submenu, he selected "War on Sound" by Moonbabies, and turned up the volume. Unaware of his dwindling battery level and Sergeant Kohl attempting to get his attention, he began to calculate his escape. And then Sergeant Kohl grabbed him by the arm and led him away. Frank turned his head and was about to ask Sergeant Kohl to remove his left ear bud when his battery died and he could hear again. "...Got to get walking to the 3rd precinct building..." Frank groaned as Sergeant Kohl further explained the situation; riots, infection, evacuation, as well as the strange calls he'd been getting all night.

David Vasquez W: 196lbs – H: 5'11" – B: Tone

The two were untiring on they're journey, passing many shriveled bodies along the way. Frank stopped to rejoice about a toppled pop machine, with many unopened cans lying about. He filled his pockets with them and continued walking. They continued to walk among the demolished buildings and destroyed vehicles until they came across a large truck idling on the side of the street. "Maybe these guys can give us a ride!" Frank energetically exclaimed, jumping at a chance to quit walking for a while. The back of the truck was filled with maturing fruit and other consumables. Frank struggled to pull himself up into the truck bed to see if there was any ripe fruit that could be eaten. "Just stay here, I'm going to check around." Frank was already happily biting into a tomato with blatant disregard for his favorite shirt, now with tomato juice all over the front. Sergeant Kohl, hearing a series of dangerous clicks, turned and cocked his shotgun. Facing him was a man with an M4 pointed at him. The man's battle-hardened face clearly showed he was experienced in combat, but with something still resembling kindness showing behind those sharp eyes "Hi there," he said in a hearty, slightly growl in his tone. When the man came to the verdict that this man wasn't infected, he lowered his primary weapon, and Sergeant Kohl did the same. "Y'all want to help me load this truck?" Frank poked his head out over the side of the truck curiously.

"Can I have some food?" Frank said, holding the tomato behind his back. "You can have an apple, if you can find a ripe one, to go with that tomato you already swiped." Frank swore under his breath, but was still proud of his achievement. Sergeant Kohl extended his hand, and the soldier accepted it. "Sergeant Vincent Kohl, Detroit Police Department." said Sergeant Kohl to the soldier. "Corporal David Vasquez, Michigan National Guard." He pulled out his secondary weapon, examined it, and walked over to the back of the truck to see Frank finishing an apple. "Hop out and help us load up the truck, so we can leave." Frank raised an eyebrow at the gun in his hand. "Is that a Beretta?" David looked at his gun. "Yes it is; do you know how to use one, mister...?" Frank tossed the apple core into a garbage can across the street. "Frank Bell, and yes, I do." He nodded in approval at the groovy basket Frank made and holstered his secondary weapon. "Nice shot, Frank. Now please help us with theses boxes so we can get out of here.

Frank stood up and jumped out over the side of the truck. Vincent was already on his way back to the truck with a seemingly heavy crate in his hands. He placed it in the back of the truck and hopped in the back. "Sergeant Kohl? Can you take these handcuffs off? I'm not of much use with my hands like this." Vincent shook his head and said "Just stay in the truck."When David and Vincent were both alone in the building, they talked about where they'd go first. Vincent suggested his precinct building, and David rebutted with how bad the alternator on the truck was, and suggested a garage. Vincent agreed and picked up the crate and began to walk back to the truck. "Two more weeks, and I could have resigned." said Vincent, wistfully.

Frank sat in the passenger seat of the truck's cab, staring at the phony wood grain dashboard. He opened up the glove box in search of replacement batteries for his Mp3 player. Finding them, he inserted it into the Mp3 player and turned it on. He felt the truck's rear sink slightly and looked back through the rear window at Vincent as he set the truck in the back. Frank turned back to his Mp3 player and selected "Ground Control to Major Tom" by David Bowie. It seemed like an appropriate song for the situation. He was beginning to play air guitar when the driver door opened and Vincent climbed in and sat down. Frank pressed pause on his MP3 player and turned his head to face Vincent.

Are we leaving yet?" asked Frank. "We'll be heading out right quick as soon as Corporal Vasquez comes back." Frank smiled and took his ear buds out. "Sergeant Kohl, where will we be going first?" Sergeant Kohl kept walking and answered; "Corporal Vasquez will drop us off at the precinct and be on his way, but we have to find a garage, the alternator is going bad on this truck." Frank nodded and re-inserted his ear buds.

He was about to press play when he heard and felt something hit the driver side door. He removed his ear buds and opened the door. "It's about time, let's get-" Frank stopped and recoiled in horror at the half-eaten body of a child, no older than 8, standing in front of him, maw agape, teeth bared, and nostrils flared. "Oh, bloody hell!" he shouted as he scrambled back over to the other door, trying to escape from the horrid sight in front of him. if it actually were to attack him, Frank wouldn't have the use of his arms, with his hands cuffed behind his back, he would have a serious disadvantage. Frank yelled and kicked at it's head. landing a blow dead center, the creature recoiled.

"Sergeant Kohl, help me!" but both Sergeant Kohl and Corporal Vasquez had their own problems to deal with in the form of a zombie mob scrambling toward the truck. "Make your way to the truck, we're leaving!" said Vincent as he raised his Shotgun and flicked off the safety. he dispatched the nearest body and jacked the next round into the chamber. "Not without the supplies!" yelled David as Vincent ran to the open driver's side door, grabbed the dead child by the back of it's shirt and threw it headfirst into a telephone pole. It's head exploded on impact in a shower of gore and sinew. "Then get them and let's go!" Frank said as he drew his legs up towards his chest and brought his bound hands to the front of his body in an attempt to bring his hands in front of him. Frank tried three times and still couldn't get his cuffs over his feet. finally realizing that his legs were too long and his time too short, he gave up with a sigh.

"Frank, open the door!" said David as Frank felt the truck shift as David heaved the crate, then himself, into the back of the truck. "We're set, Kohl, let's go!" David shouted and hit the cab's roof twice. Vincent threw the shifter into 'Drive' and stomped the accelerator. the truck's rear wheels slipped for a second, but soon caught traction as the truck lurched forward, plowing through the oncoming wave of bodies shambling towards the truck with determination. Inside the cab, Frank was screaming, but Vincent was laughing. The truck rocked with every body that fell under the tires, with the occasional sickening squish of rotten heads being flattened or the disgusting crack of a torso collapsing under the weight of the truck. David had his hands full keeping the ones they didn't hit from climbing into the back. Vincent was having no trouble avoiding abandoned vehicles.

As they drove away, David, more than once, caught an outline of what might be a person in the 3rd floor window of an adjacent office building. He was then sure of this when a shot rang out and a body fell from the back of the truck, its chest now a gaping pit of entrails. That is, the entrails that weren't strewn about the cargo bed. The silhouette waved with both hands and stood up. Vincent was alarmed at this, and opened up the cab's rear window and said; "Vasquez! There's a survivor in the building behind us! When the crowd thins out, we should check on him!" David nodded and said, "It's entirely possible. But first, we need to find an alternator and drop off these supplies, Sergeant!" Vincent grimaced and replied, "Let's go find us an alternator. Frank, remind us to stop back here later." Frank turned his head and nodded. "Aye..." he said softly, looking through the rear-view mirror at the human shells behind them, slowly getting smaller as they drove away.

Icarus Ross W: 186lbs – H: 5'11" – B: Athletic

Specialist Ross lowered his hand and reloaded his scope-fitted M38 Mosin Nagant rifle and continued to give cover to the travelers he had seen earlier until they were out of the undead mob's reach. He set his rifle aside and walked over to a stack of long, wooden crates stockpiled here by his friends, who were covering the other sides of the building and its entrances. He grabbed up the crowbar lying on the ground next to his AKM, and swung at its lock. He hit it dead on, decimating the rusty padlock into pieces. He opened the crate and smiled at what lay inside. What lay inside this crate was a RPG-7, with an incendiary grenade already loaded into it. "How careless," he mumbled to himself. "If this thing would have gone off, we'd be left unarmed, if not dead. What careless morons."

He reached in and carefully withdrew the RPG from it's crate and walked back over to the broken window from which he had been covering the travelers and looked down. The mob hadn't dispersed yet, which was just what he wanted. "Perfect." he said, readying the RPG in his hands. He aimed at where they were most heavily concentrated and fired. The tube jumped in his hands and fire erupted from the barrel, along with the deadly explosive. He lowered the tube and watched as the grenade tore through the abdomen of a body and exploded behind it in a cloud of white-hot flame, engulfing everything within 15 feet. Some were incinerated, some were blown back, and others just caught fire and wandered around, aimless and oblivious.

Ross smirked, picked up his AKM, and walked towards the stack of crates. The flames cast abstract shadows everywhere as he approached the crates. He placed the RPG back into the box and closed the lid. He slung the assault rifle over his shoulder and walked towards the stairwell, drowning his boredom with questions of futility in his actions. With every step down, a new question arose, followed by a confusing, yet satisfying answer.

"Why do I keep destroying them?"

"Because you can."

"Why do I stay here?"

"Because they need you to. Why do you question everything?"

"Because it keeps me alive."

When both sides of his brain stopped bickering, he was already at the basement door, which had been locked in several places. He knocked thrice and announced his name. There was a pause, then a series of mechanical sounds from the heavy locks. The door swayed slightly and began to open as the hydraulic piston filled with liquid. He walked inside and breathed deep. The air was stale and smelt of blood. Still, it was far more bearable than the rest of the building, which became a slaughterhouse when, a month ago, the door was locked with infected people still inside. Two weeks later, Ross and his seven surviving squad members stormed the building and cleaned the place out from the ground up. About a dozen survivors remained uninfected and were allowed to remain in the basement, provided they could defend themselves and remain productive members of the underground community.

In total, there were nineteen occupants of the building's basement; fourteen of which had been there since the building's condemnation. The survivors already had a small but ordered community before Ross arrived, but they were without security or practical weapons. Ross' best friend and commanding officer Second Lieutenant Mai Xi had begun training the survivors in combat, survival, and evasion. It was going well. The two other squad members; PFC Brian Whelk and CPL Günter Hale, were busy trying to sort out their weapons cache from the HUMVEE they parked in the garage. These weapons were salvaged from armories, police stations, pawnshops, and a department store (You'd be surprised what you'd find in a K-Mart, like an AR-15 chambered in .50 Beowulf, for instance).

The fifth squad member was Staff Sergeant Paul Rodriguez, who was wounded from a stray bullet in his lung, currently sleeping in the 3rd floor bathroom. He'd chosen to sleep there for reasons still unbeknownst to his fellow soldiers. Some say he sleeps there because the basement smells too bad. Others say it's because he likes the silence. Ross chimed in, "Because he wants to. Let him sleep wherever he pleases. at least now he can sleep." Nobody contested that, and let him sleep as he pleased.

Okay, back to Icarus.

Icarus stepped over the threshold and turned to the guard, who had been the chief accountant for the Able Shipping Company, on the fourth floor, and had been thinking of quitting anyway. The scenario was now much more interesting. He pushed his glasses up the bridge of his middle-aged nose and smiled. "Welcome back, Ross. How many did you get with that RPG?" Ross shrugged and estimated forty-three. The accountant scribed the number down and removed his glasses. "I saw something interesting on the cameras whilst you were up there. It was a large truck with three men inside it. I only caught a glimpse of them before the left the field of view," Icarus scratched his chin. "Did you see them?" Icarus walked behind the desk and leaned over towards the security camera monitor that was replaying the large truck previously mentioned being loaded by a single soldier, when two others, a policeman and a sharply dressed teenager joined him. "That soldier looks familiar," said Ross as he attempted to zoom in on the familiar soldier. "Freeze that." The image slowed to a halt and the man's head and torso were in clear view. A smile crept across Ross' face as he said to himself, "Why, hello there." Icarus sat down on an overturned bucket and rested his head in his hands. "Call Rodriguez down here, if he can walk, Tell him it will interest him."