Chapter 21 - Tides of Darkness
Current location: Confounding Cul-De-Sac
Brent found himself in the front, leading the way back into the neighborhood. It was an odd experience, something he never thought he would ever be doing before.
Funny. He didn’t feel as afraid, or unsatisfied at being in this position as he would have been. Maybe it was because he wasn’t being forced to be out front as a scapegoat. He’d taken charge, and that had just naturally lead to this. Or it could be because he had the knowledge that his party members behind him would have his back.
Feeling the polished wood of the baseball bat in hand, he once more stepped down from the curb onto the asphalt of the street, no enemies in sight. So far so good.
Harry, Karisma, and Reisa crept along, matching his slow, deliberate pace.
As they were about to pass each single family house, Brent would peek left and right to make sure zombies weren’t lurking in the space between them. There turned out to not be any, so their progress was swift and smooth.
Here came the first obstacle, a side street coming in from the right to join the one they were on in a T-bone intersection.
Just like with the houses, Brent stopped before the intersection, carefully maneuvering to peek around the corner while exposing as little of himself as possible.
What he saw was… troubling. The side street wasn’t empty. There were a good number of zombies standing about, although thankfully none of them seemed to be of the fast variety.
Brent’s first instinct was to dash across as fast as possible, but that might make too much noise, and attract the zombies. One often meets their fate on the road they take to avoid it, he had heard somewhere.
They’d go at the same careful pace, he decided, but take a short detour around the left, using the house there to screen them from the side street zombies.
He turned around and pointed in that direction to the others, then waving his hand around in a gesture that he hoped approximated the idea of them going back to the street.
Man, he should have thought about how they would communicate during the stealth portion of the plan.
Everyone nodded, so it seemed like they had understood what he meant.
The house on the intersection was only one story high with a classic red brick exterior rather than vinyl, not that it really mattered. What was important was that it was large enough to hide them from view of the street, which it was.
Brent’s party went back onto the grassy lawn and through the gap between houses around to the backside of the brick house. They had gone about halfway along its length when Brent felt a sudden tugging at his shoulder.
He turned around. It was Karisma, pointing at something behind them: a lone zombie, shambling their way. It had apparently been hanging out behind a house as well.
Harry and Reisa had already seen it, and looked to Brent. Oh boy, time to make a call.
They definitely weren’t going to do the whole “let the zombie follow them” routine again. Reisa had all the ranged stealth weapons, so Brent pointed at her, then made a finger gun and jabbed it at the zombie.
It took her a while to understand, but she got the idea after Brent literally mouthed “shoot it”.
She awkwardly held up the pistol he’d given her. He was afraid she would cause an accident or something, but at least she had it pointed in the right direction. Click.
She fired once, and then twice. Click. She frowned, looking at the gun. Both shots had missed. Though to be fair, it was her first time and the zombie was still pretty far at this point.
Don’t give up, Brent mentally willed, and she seemed to hear him, as she kept trying.
Her trigger finger blurred. Click-click-click… In seconds she had fired every round in the weapon. There were a bunch of holes scattered across the ground and a few on a nearby fence, but it seemed at least one shot had hit its mark.
Reisa realized the gun was empty, and reloaded. Or at least, tried to reload. She seemed to be having trouble, and Brent grew anxious as the zombie drew closer. Karisma and Harry looked antsy as well.
Should he say something? Do something? Perhaps his explanation hadn’t been good enough.
She sighed, looked back at the group, and nudged her head towards the advancing undead. The gesture’s meaning was pretty clear cut: “You deal with it.”
And deal with it Brent would. The zombie had crossed the gap, and was now next to the same house as them.
He marched up to it, seeing its arms outstretched, reaching for his flesh.
No problem. He quickly dashed around behind it, and before it could turn around swung his bat at its head.
There was a muted crack as the blow connected with the skull, and the yellow hologram of a number 54 popped out as the zombie fell.
|Zombies Killed: 9
Hah, they really were just adds. Brent peered around the corner of the house and confirmed the sound hadn’t drawn any more, then walked back with renewed confidence. His hands were a bit shaken but other than that he’d barely broken a sweat.
54… so headshots did one and a half times the normal damage for melee weapons.
Harry grinned and gave Brent a thumbs up as he rejoined them, while the girls just looked relieved.
Retaking the lead, Brent took them back to the street. They came up on the soccer field without further incident.
Seeing zombies still occupying the field, the four of them ducked behind a nearby picket fence. The portal was still quite some distance off, but this was about as close as they could get without risking detection. It was time to test out whether they could damage it.
Brent took the Noisy Cricket back from Reisa for this purpose. There didn’t seem to be any issue with it, so she probably just didn’t know the reloading process. Brent took care of that.
|Weapon||Noisy Cricket (2/14)|
Crap. There were only two rounds left, as all their shooting before had used up most of the ammo in the cyan box. Now Brent was sweating. He only had two shots at this. Literally.
He stood up, raised his pistol to eye level, and tried to line up the green triangle sight with the portal. The structure itself was quite large, but it was a hollow frame with a whole lot of nothing in the middle. Brent’s video game intuition told him shooting the pink plane of light when it was activated wouldn’t do anything.
He had to hit the edge, the frame. He aimed at the top edge, as it looked slightly thicker than the others. He forced his hands to keep still, and squeezed the trigger.
Click. The shot whizzed right through the center. Brent cursed under his breath.
One shot left.
He had been aiming right at the frame, he was sure, but the shot had gone lower. He angled the pistol barrel slightly higher to compensate. Was it too high? The sight was now a tiny bit above the frame in his vision.
He clenched his teeth. There was only one way to find out.
Click. He fired.
A small spark flashed on the portal frame, and the blue number 9 floated above it.
He did not shout “YES!” this time, or make any other loud sound of celebration. That would be stupid. The sense of triumph was there nonetheless.
He crouched back behind the fence and informed the others of his success. He’d been right. The portal could indeed be damaged by their guns. It was just too bad that it had taken the last of his .22 LR ammunition to discover this, so the Noisy Cricket was no longer usable. At least this time it had been for a good cause.
“Good shooting, mate,” Harry whispered, “I figure Dr. K and I can hide out in the house here while you do your thing?” He jerked a thumb at the house the fence was connected to.
“Yeah, that should work. Once they’re gone you can move in. But keep an eye out, we might not be able to pull all of them. Uh, if its only a couple that could still work.”
Brent thought about his “thing”. Where would he lead the zombies such that he wouldn’t run smack dab into another horde?
He hadn’t really taken the time to study the layout of the neighborhood, and there wasn’t any time to do that now, but there was a simple answer. They could just go back down the street they came in from, which they had already confirmed to be relatively clear.
Harry and Karisma were already sneaking into the house.
He looked at Reisa. “Ready?”
The elf nodded, compound bow in hand.
Honestly, he was surprised she had come this far without chickening out or panicking, given her earlier behavior. He had expected her to want to hide in the house too, instead of helping him with this inherently most dangerous part of the plan. Well, his own boldness was also surprising and unusual.
|Weapon||M870 Shotgun (5/5)|
He stood up, and Reisa stood as well.
It was time to dispense with all stealth and subtlety. Ker-CHAK! Brent racked the slide of his shotgun in a meaningless display of bravado and took a deep breath.
“HEY! OVER HERE!” He shouted, jumping up and down while shaking his gun in the air. “WE’RE RIGHT HERE, COME AND GET US!”
His taunt worked like a charm. Every bunny eared undead head in the area swiveled to see him.
“THAT’S RIGHT YOU ZOMBIE BITCHES! DON’T FUCK WITH ME! I HAVE THE POWER OF GOD AND ANIME ON MY SIDE! HAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!”
Brent gestured and shouted a few more times until he could see all zombies in the soccer field now converging on their location.
He didn’t much like playing a tank role, but he’d be damned if he didn’t know how it was done.
His instincts told him to run, run as fast as he could, but the rational part of his mind clamped down on that urge.
“Stay with me,” he told Reisa, as he walked backwards slowly along the street, one step at a time. He needed to maintain aggro and keep all the zombies coming after them for as long as possible. If he went too far or broke line of sight too long they might reset and return to standing around where they could pose a threat to the portal destroying team.
He wasn’t sure how much of this Reisa understood, but she was following his lead for now despite the apprehensive look on her face. Their current pace was more than enough to stay ahead of the walking corpses.
Most of them, anyway.
As expected, some fast zombies came out of the figurative woodwork from his call, snarling as they dashed towards him. Brent counted one, two, three in total, and they were spread out.
The situation was still manageable.
BOOM! Brent blasted the first runner as it closed in, the powerful spray of pellets arresting its approach and knocking it to the ground.
|Zombies Killed: 10
He turned, racking the slide, and inflicted a similar fate upon the other two, one after the other.
|Zombies Killed: 11
|Zombies Killed: 12
He made sure to aim for their heads, and was rewarded by some pellets dealing 40 damage instead of 20, displayed in yellow as all headshots were.
That seemed to be all for the moment, so Brent took this opportunity to top off his ammo.
|M870 Shotgun (3/5)
|M870 Shotgun (4/5)
|M870 Shotgun (5/5)
Their slow and steady retreat continued. The even slower zombies began to coalesce into a single massive horde, funneled from the open soccer field into the narrower street.
The horde was now passing by the house Harry and Karisma were hiding out in.
Brent just needed to draw them down the street far enough so that the other two could make their way to the portal unimpeded.
And he had almost done it! The tail end of the horde was about to clear the house.
“To our rear!” Reisa called. Brent looked behind him to see two zombies walking out from the side street, obstructing their path.
Damn, he’d forgotten about the side street!
Who knew how many of the undead there had also been alerted by his taunts?
Brent’s mind raced to figure out how to deal with this new development. They could go around the backside of the houses like they did on the way in, but that risked losing aggro for a portion of the horde.
Speaking of the horde, it kept advancing, not giving him time to think.
Ugh. They’d have to fight their way through. There were only a couple behind them so it wouldn’t use up too much ammo.
“I’ll take care of them, watch the front!”
Brent marched over to the rear zombies, confident that his shotgun could take each one out in a single shot. And take them out he did.
|Zombies Killed: 14
Nice and clean. “Alright, it’s clear Reisa!” he called. Reisa glanced back and quickly jogged over.
The horde was now past the house. Only a little farther now.
Brent and Reisa reached the side street.
As they started to cross the intersection he saw many, though not all of the zombies were headed their way.
It was good that he hadn’t pulled all of them, but among the ones that he had was a tough zombie that was getting uncomfortably close, on course to intercept their crossing.
Great. Brent sized up this latest foe. The tough ones were veritable bullet sponges. They were bulky, bare-chested, and had brutish bestial faces, looking more like orcs than humans. Maybe they were orc zombies.
More importantly, he didn’t know how many shotgun blasts would kill it. They could probably give this one the slip if they were fast enough.
Brent pointed it out to Reisa. “Uh, we’re just gonna run around this one real quick, okay?”
“Okay, here we go!”
If only he had some kind of rapid dash or teleport ability. All he had were his feet, so he started pounding that pavement.
He tried to move to the other side of the road, but the tough zombie had reached the middle.
“Grrrrr…” It growled, raising its gloved fists. Was… was it going to punch him?
“Never mind, stay back. I’m gonna shoot it,” Brent said.
This was getting way too dicey for his liking. Brent raised his shotgun and fired at the head.
BOOM! Three number 18s popped out, as the tough zombie was staggered by the blast. It didn’t fall over like its lesser brethren, but the shot did seem to have slowed its progress somewhat.
Wait, 18? Wasn’t each pellet supposed to do 20? Come to think of it, the Cricket damage numbers had also seemed lower.
It made sense that tough ones would have some kind of damage reduction, but this would complicate calculations. He also hadn’t gotten any headshots, weirdly enough.
BOOM! Brent fired his second shot at the body, and this time it seemed like more pellets hit.
Before he could count them though, he heard Reisa shout from behind.
“Watch out! On your left!”
Brent looked and saw a fast zombie sprinting his way on the side street.
Reisa had an arrow nocked. “Should I?”
“No, I’ve got it,” Brent declined. She only had three of those, and might need them for her own protection.
He waited for it to get a bit closer and then blasted it.
BOOM! As expected, the fast zombie went down just from that.
|Zombies Killed: 15
Nice. Brent racked the shotgun slide, feeling very cool.
“BRENT!” Reisa screamed. Ugh, what could it be now?
Brent turned back to the front, just in time to see the red boxing glove rushing to meet his face.