It wasn’t the Germans this time, which would have been more comfortably mundane than what had surrounded the idling Chevy outside the power station. Germans were almost boringly dangerous and perpetually at odds with the Five. The threat outside was something native to Chicago, zombies.
When the bombs had given the Windy City their great big sloppy kiss there had been little warning, but there had nonetheless been some. That warning had allowed those who were prepared to seek out cover in underground bunkers, and they had done so. In the following years of isolation food had run out and so had dignity, civility, and finally humanity. The humans trapped in their tombs had turned on each other and had become something other than human, something foul and bestial that knew nothing of any virtue known to man. When water had run out it had forced the creatures above ground into a sun they hadn’t seen in almost a decade. They hadn’t found it to their liking and now they dwelled in the sewers of the city in large animalistic tribes.
The general belief was that they’d all gone slowly mad from lack of proper nutrition and low grade radiation poisoning, the only thing truly known was that when they emerged from their tombs they’d been bat-shit crazy and hungry as Hell. They preyed on looters, natives, and Germans alike and would only lay down and die when they ran out of blood to bleed. Some seemed to vaguely recall civilization and still wore tattered suits and ruined trousers over their disgustingly filthy skin, but they could not be reasoned with, only killed.
“There’s quite a few of them,” said the Driver as he peered through a peephole in the door.
“Yes,” said the Robot, “it would be inadvisable for us to engage them. My weapon limb could scythe through them with great effectiveness, as could our Thompson machinegun. Unfortunately they would mob us and possibly devour you three if we were to take such an action. It would be more prudent to wait them out.”
The Driver shook his head and said, “Not if they tear the Chevy apart while we’ve got our tails tucked between our legs.”
“Better the Chevy than us,” said the Gangster.
The zombies had in fact begun banging on the Chevy, not necessarily tearing it apart, but they were banging on it with their nerve dead fists and any one of them could easily break the windshield or gnaw apart the tires if they were diligent.
To the Driver the Doctor said, “Do you want the honor? Or shall I?”
The Driver sighed and said, “Gimme the remote, I’ll do it.”
The Doctor nodded and handed a small black remote with a large red button and a little piece of antenna on it to the Driver. The Doctor was a fan of big red buttons. The Driver put his thumb to the button and there was a loud clunk from outside as the trunk of the Chevy opened, which got the attention of the mob surrounding the car. The Driver pressed the button again and there was a loud whuff of expelled air and a body went flying out of the trunk and sprawled in a heap about ten yards from the mob.
Bleeding and growling the Vampire dragged itself to its feet and stared at the meatbags before it. If you looked at the thing and unfocused your eyes it almost looked human. It was about the height of a man, maybe six feet, perhaps a bit on the skinny side but still reasonably sized. Its legs and arms had the same joints and bends as a human’s did, and its skin had a grayish tinge that might indicate sickness or nearness to death on a human.
Its face was even human-like, save that its nose was closer to its face than a human’s was and it was completely bald. Its ears were long and large and pointed, almost like a bat’s. It had lips, but they were thin and gray like its skin. Its eyes were clearly inhuman and wholly black, just like its fingernails. Obviously the gills on its neck and the breathing apparatus covering them were inhuman as well.
The Vampire stared at the zombies and the zombies stared back, it swung its head from side to side, its nostrils flaring and then its eyes slid to the peephole the Driver stared through. The Vampire smirked at the peephole before turning back to the horde that was inching towards it, then it opened its mouth and revealed its teeth. There was a cracking sound like cartilage snapping and its mouth doubled in size, looking like some endless tunnel covered in serrated fangs that led to Hell. It clenched its fists and the sound happened again and when its spread its fingers the black fingernails too had double in size.
Inside the power station the Doctor said, “Up to the roof gentlemen, we’ll offer cover fire and hope it will play nice once it has fed.”
The team moved to obey while outside the Vampire sprang into action. It was clearly stronger than a man, it threw the first zombie to reach it at the power station and before it hit the building it had ripped apart two others with its massive jaws and caved in the skull of a third with its long talons. They were a mob though and the weight of numbers was against it, despite this it surged through the horde, its very skin left the dirty once-men wounded and bleeding. The gray skin of the Vampire was tough and thick, and also composed of tiny serrated scales that could flay skin with ease.
It was hard to choose which was more gruesome, the fact that the Vampire was swallowing limbs whole while it fought, or that even with appendages and chunks of their torsos missing the zombies fought on bellowing in pain and anger as the Vampire devoured them while they tried to mob it.
Savagery, speed, and strength counted for much, but the Vampire was still outnumbered by the zombies and their weight of numbers was beginning to have an effect. More and more the Vampire had to pull its limbs free of the grasping hands of the zombies and pause to pry their broken teeth from his abrasive skin. He was in no danger of death or grievous injury, yet, but the odds would eventually run against him. Immersed as he was in bloodshed he cared nothing for the odds, like the myths his people were the inspiration for, once the bloodlust took hold of him it was reluctant to release him.
Atop the roof of the power station the Robot was speaking, “If I fire now there is statistically speaking a very large chance many of my rounds will strike our compatriot.”
The Gangster stepped forward and readied his Tommy gun, “Thing ain’t any more human than the poor shits tryin to eat it, I got no problem killing that what ain’t human.”
The Robot amplified its voice to be heard over the noise made by the Gangster’s piano and said, “This will make it more reluctant to return peacefully to the lab.”
The Doctor nodded and said, “Then we turn off the breathing apparatus and suffocate it, hopefully it will black out before it eats one of us.”
The Driver’s only contribution to the discussion was to lob a frag grenade towards the zombies. He was a professional and bore the Vampire no true ill will so the grenade exploded at the far end of the mob and turned half a dozen zombies to pink mist, the scent of which seemed to spur the Vampire on. It was as inured to pain as the zombies it was eating and though it was aware of the rounds that struck it, and their source, it ignored them even though they knocked it back a step when they met its flesh. Despite the skinny, somewhat emaciated appearance of the Vampire, it was still almost as durable as the Robot and the craters left in its gray skin by the .45 caliber rounds were minor wounds to it.
The Robot hurled itself from the top power station, its speed was superior to that of a man but it was still five hundred pounds of metal and circuitry so it didn’t go far. When it landed it cracked the pavement and quickly moved into a run towards the mob of zombies, intercepting rounds from the Gangster’s Tommy gun as it did so and offering the Vampire a brief respite from the large caliber rounds. When he met the zombies his gun arm became tangled in the mass of limbs and smelly flesh so he began hitting them with thundering blows with his metal fist, the once-men came apart like wet sacks of flesh.
The Vampire had paused only for a moment when the Gangster began to let rounds fly and it swiftly moved back into action, roaring as it slashed limbs off with its talons and only growing silently when it choked down mouthfuls of arms and legs and even chunks of shoulder blades.
The Doctor said to the Driver over the din of the Tommy gun, “If only it understood how rare it is for any creature to take such joy in its work.”
The Driver shrugged and lobbed another frag grenade, he’d been trying to avoid the Robot and Vampire and Chevy so it only caught the far distant edge of the thinning mob and only three zombies met their end this time. He made tsking noise as he mourned the waste of munitions and pulled a compact pistol from his hip and began taking shots at zombies below them.
As the Vampire ate his foes, they too took chunks of his abrasive flesh from him in ragged mouthfuls. He was fast and fought a running battle through and around the mob as they stumbled around him, but he was slowing. He bled from hundreds of bites and bullet craters in his skin and though his savagery was unrelenting, he was still a living creature that bled and felt pain, though only dimly in his battle madness.
The Robot activated an internal microphone and transmitted a quick blurt of information to the Doctor, “We must end this, his reserves are diminishing.”
“Agreed,” the Doctor subvocalized into his own microphone.
One gauntlet flashed and a shield of energy knocked the Vampire aside, blocking off the majority off his foes. He snarled and leapt to his feet, redoubling his efforts against the zombies before him. Now that he had only four or five to hold his attention the Vampire was even more brutal in melee, he reduced his foes to mewling sacks of meat, no longer pausing to rip a limb free and devour it. He was a self contained slaughterhouse, not even bothering to roar anymore.
With the Vampire safely segregated away from the mob the Robot determined it would be in the group’s best interest for him to engage his weapon limb. He beat apart the eight zombies surrounding him and shouldered his way to the edge of the mob, pulping a few with his great strength as he did so. Once free of the mob, which mostly concentrating on attempting to eat the Vampire, he began cycling his guns up and let fly into the crowd. The high caliber rounds, much superior to the Gangster’s .45s, cut apart zombies as if it were some invisible reaping scythe.
When the gun finally fell silent it was just the Vampire and the Robot staring at each other across a field of wet meat. The Robot was no worse for wear than when he had started the day, though he was splattered with gore and his internal sensors showed him to have expended roughly 33% of his ammunition reserves. The Vampire however was in rough shape.
“I must give you one chance, so I do ask that you stand down peaceably and return with us to the lab. Will you do so?”
Vampires lived and died and fed in much the same way humans did. They were stronger and faster than humans because they expended their biological resources at a much increased pace compared to humans, and their inner workings were much more efficient than humans. They were also forced consume massive quantities of protein, usually in the form of meat, and they died younger than men as well.
The Vampire snarled, its chest heaved as its lungs labored under its extreme exhaustion. Ragged bite wounds and bullet holes stood out like huge pockmarks on its skin surrounded by coronas of slick red blood. Its stomach was distended from all it had fed on, as if it were some obscene pregnant creature waiting to give birth. When it spoke it spoke with a slightly sibilant hiss to its esses.
“There is no peace among my kind; we do not stand down or call anyone master, not even little men of orichalum.”
Its belly began vibrating rapidly, and suddenly shrank in size as its stomach instantly consumed the meat there. As the Robot began stepping towards it, the Vampires wounds began to knit themselves back together as it burned off excess energy to regenerate and resupply it with expended adrenaline and shed blood, Tommy gun round fragments and the broken stubs of nails and teeth began ringing against the pavement as they were force out of the Vampire’s body. It snarled and lunged for the steadily advancing Robot.