"How long will it take?" Vance asked Gerald as the facility was brought online and they watched the wastewater travel through the various treatment processes—each one removing more and more from the wastewater.
"The treatment process normally takes approximately 24 hours, but seeing as what we're working with, I'd wager it'd take us 36 hours or more." Gerald answered.
"And the water will be drinkable?" Vance looked at the wastewater with a look of distaste on his face.
"Many people have that same reaction, but yes, our plant is one of the few that does toilet to tap, so the water will be very much drinkable. After the chemical treatment, all the parasites, bacteria, and viruses in the water will be killed off."
"Seems like a pretty shitty job."
"Haven't heard that one before." Gerald retorted.
"Well, even if it took a zombie apocalypse, just know that I now have a whole new respect for your occupation. I'll let you get back to it." Vance nodded and walked away.
Those with nothing to do followed Vance to the center of the complex into the administration building, where they made dinner and had a meeting.
"What do we do about the bodies in the field? It's starting to attract scavengers." One of the younger men who had been patrolling earlier asked.
"Should we bury them?"
"Burning them would be less work and we could get rid of anything that might spread."
Will had been planning to say something when Vance spoke up before him.
"I think we should leave them as they are." Vance said. "Even without the bodies, those scavengers you mentioned would have been attracted by the smell from the plant. Might as well keep them away from the plant so Gerald and the others can work in peace."
After dinner, they set up rooms to rest in before they needed to change shifts with those currently on patrol or operator duty.
Will secured a room for himself, Donny, and Karen. Between the three of them, there was always one person keeping watch as they got their rest in before they took over duties for another patrol team.
It was still dark when they went out for their patrol in the early morning. Will stopped by the car to grab a few things but discovered that someone had tampered with it overnight.
In his ultraviolet vision, there were prints all over the driver side lock and the trunk, there were even prints around the cracked windows. Will felt a faint hum of electricity buzzing in his senses, coming from behind the car. After a quick search, he found a small device, tucked behind the license plate.
A GPS tracker? Will guessed as he examined the sim card sized device. He couldn't see any incoming or outgoing waves. Whoever planted this here, do they have satellite access or are they playing the long game and plan on waiting until things are up and running again?
He put the tracker back where he found it and checked the car to see if anything was missing. After finding nothing out of place, he joined up with Donny and Karen, starting the patrol shift like nothing had happened.
They had an uneventful shift, where they only had to deal with zeroes that came in periodically after being attracted by the smell of blood emitted from the field.
Several problems cropped up as the temporary operators made mistakes on a job that they weren't trained for, but with Gerald working in high gear, they quickly recovered and slowly got the hang of it throughout the day.
That night, the mood picked up as Gerald confirmed that everything was on track. Donny and Karen joined Jason and a couple others in a game of poker while Will was cleaning his gear across the office when they suddenly hear gunfire from outside.
"You think it's something hard to catch or another super zombie?" Jason casually asked as he dealt the cards.
They generally conserved their ammo unless they ran into something tougher to deal with.
"Dunno, I'll go check." One of the men sitting by the door said. As he was standing up, the radio suddenly buzzed.
<Help! Something's out here!>
More gunfire followed immediately after.
"Shit!" The chairs screeched as everyone scrambled to get up, grab their gear, and hurry outside.
By the time they exited the administration building, the gunfire grew even more intense as more weapons joined in. When Will finally rounded a building and got a view of the field, he caught a glimpse of something at the far end of the field, running away into the trees and out of sight.
The wild shooting into the darkness soon stopped as everyone arrived and aimed their flashlights into the field.
"What happened?" Vance demanded.
"I went to take a quick leak and something came out of nowhere and took out Rob and Hao." A shaken young man said.
"What was it?"
"I'm not sure, I didn't get a good look and it was too dark." The young man had dropped his flashlight at some point.
"I saw it briefly." Jacques stepped forward. "It definitely wasn't any animal I've ever seen, it was humanoid. It looks more like an alien you would see on TV. It also grabbed a few bodies with it on the way out."
Will's heart almost stopped for a moment when he heard those words. An alien? Are the Talon here already? That can't be right. It's too early.
"And I don't think any of our bullets hurt it either." Norman added. "I think it was more alarmed by the loud noise more than anything."
"Alright, we're shrinking the patrol circle. I only want you staying within range of the facility's lights when it's dark. Instead of trios, I want teams of four now. And if you need to take a piss, make sure another team is nearby." Vance said.
The people from Redwood Place Apartments went out into the field to collect the bodies of their two comrades.
"Shit, we shouldn't have come here." One of them muttered.
"We should have stayed home like they said on the radio." Another one agreed.
The man in charge of them had a look of shame as he lowered his head.
When they came back with only one of the bodies—the other one apparently had been taken away, the group examined the wounds of the dead man. He had a deep slash across the gut that looked like it had been done by a claw. The problem was that this man had been wearing body armor, and it was ripped apart.
"What do you think, Biology Student?" Norman asked as he and Jacques stepped next to Will.
Will went over the clues in his mind. Humanoid alien with claws, super strength, and at least Cat-1.
"I don't know." Will said truthfully. "It's very strong though."
Jacques' searched Will's face as if he was trying to confirm if he was lying or not.
"I should get some rest, it's going to be a long night with the extra shifts." Will turned to head back to the administration building.
Most of the people were tense for the rest of the night, but no more attacks came. When the sun finally rose, there was a collective sigh of relief.
Jacques had Jason control a drone to scout where they had last seen the "alien". People gathered around to observe what was going on as the drone flew over the trees.
Nothing was found around the vicinity of the tree line but once Jason directed the drone to fly further in, a blur suddenly shot out from the trees and darted straight for the drone. The moment the drone was hit, Jason lost control of it's movements. The screen displayed the drone tumbling to the ground and the camera landed facing upwards. A raven landed shortly after and pecked at the drone again, causing them to lose the video feed.
"I guess we now know where that raven went." Jacques said.
"Great. So we've got two super zombies possibly working together." Vance let out a breath.
Good news arrived when midday came around. The final analysis and testing revealed that the water was good to drink, everyone's mood was uplifted and there was a small celebration. A few beers were brought out and a toast was shared before the people from Nirvana and Redwood prepared to leave in order to secure their water, since they were out of the service area.
Nirvana left a small team behind to help operate and defend the plant but Redwood had all their people pack up to leave.
"What are you doing?" Vance confronted to the leader of Redwood.
"We've already sacrificed two of our people for this." The man replied with an undertone of anger in his voice. "Isn't that enough?"
"This isn't what we agreed on."
"You can shove the agreement up your ass. We've done our part, and now we're leaving." He signaled for all his people to enter their vehicles, and they quickly left as Vance cursed at them.
"What do we do now?" Donny quietly asked Will.
"We do what we came here to do. We'll have to be careful at night. If it looks too dangerous, we'll just have to evacuate earlier than expected."
Vance left some instructions for his people that were staying behind—Norman among those people, before his large group departed. As soon as they were on the road, Will could see radio waves being emitted from Vance's vehicle but no one on the complex was receiving any of it.
That night, with the general atmosphere from the others leaving, having to pull double-duty for patrols, and with the possibility that something may still be lurking in the darkness, everyone was especially on edge.
A few people overreacted when they spotted zeroes moving in the darkness and started firing. It didn't help when Norman claimed that he might have spotted the "alien" moving in the field. Will also felt like he might have spotted it once near the edge of the trees during his patrol but it quickly slipped away before he could bring out his binoculars for a closer view.
The next morning, many of those on patrol duty agreed that they only had one more night in them, and so, although people were a little jumpy, the night passed by without incident. People began to relax once morning came but something came up once there was enough light out.
"Is it just me or does it look like there are fewer bodies out there?" Karen asked when they came out for their morning shift.
"Maybe?" Donny was unsure.
"Look closer to the trees."
Will scanned the field and noticed that, although there were now more bodies closer to the complex because of their smaller area of patrol, there were far fewer bodies by the tree line. This would make retrieving the corpses out in the field more problematic for him in the future. Burying the corpses wouldn't help either because that would mean he'd have to spend extra time digging them up. Extra time out there.
"I think our stalker has been sneaking away food." Will said.