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“I could, but they don’t have a flamethrower here. Now let her know.”

“I’m on it.” The connection died.

Grabbing the top box of grenades, I paused only long enough to check that its contents were both intact and well secured. Then I ran.

Becks met me halfway down the hall, somehow managing to run silently in her combat boots. There was one more skill I’d never mastered. “What are you doing?” she demanded, tone barely above a whisper. “Mahir called me! He said you told him to do it! I could’ve been killed! Are you really planning to use grenades?”

“You got a better idea?”

“No, but the risk of structural damage—”

“Is minimal. Are the zombies where you left them?”

“What? Yes.”

“Then you would have been killed if you’d still been in that hallway.” I kept moving, holding the box up just enough for her to see the shape of it. “I’m going to aerosolize me some dead guys.”

“You’re insane.”

“Yeah, probably.” I pulled the first pistol I’d snagged out of my waistband, passing it to her. “Stay out here and guard my back. Oh, and if you could call Dr. Abbey and tell her to turn off the lab ventilation system until the spray settles, that would probably be good. I don’t want to zombie-out the whole room trying to save them.”

“You’re dangerously insane,” Becks amended—but she took the pistol, and added a quick, “Good luck,” before retreating farther down the hall.

I felt better knowing she was out there. One close call per day is pretty much my limit. I walked until I reached the end of the short hall leading to Dr. Abbey’s lab. The zombies were still trying to claw their way inside, their moaning echoing through the confined space until it seemed loud enough to drive a man insane. They were still focused on the prey in front of them, and not on things moving around behind them. That was good. I’d be changing that in a moment, but for now, distracted zombies were in my best interests.

Putting the box of concussion grenades on the floor, I opened the lid and pulled out the top two. They were designed for use in situations like this one, and would do maximal damage to soft tissue—such as zombies—while doing minimal structural damage to the building surrounding the zombies. They were usually used for large government extermination runs. A series of helpful cartoon thumbnails on the inside lid of the box used stick figures and the universal sign for NO to remind me that I shouldn’t use concussion grenades without putting on a gas mask first, since aerosolized zombie isn’t good for anybody.

“Too bad I have no respect for safety precautions,” I muttered, and pulled the pin on the first grenade.

I might be willing to stand in the open air while I created a fine red mist of viral particulates, but that didn’t make me stupid. I chucked the first grenade into the middle of the mob, causing about half of them to turn in my direction. I threw the second grenade about three feet in front of the mob. Then I ran, pausing only to grab two more grenades out of the top of the box. I pulled the pins and threw them behind me, into the path of the onrushing mob.

One, said George. Two, three…

“Four, five,” I added, and kept running.

The first grenade went off with a low crumping sound, muffled enough to tell me that it had been buried by a substantial number of bodies when it exploded. The other three went off in rapid succession, each of them a little louder and less cushioned by the weight of the bodies on top of it. I kept running. When Becks came into sight ahead of me, I stepped to the side, giving her a clear line of fire, and pulled two of the guns from my waistband.

“God, I wish we had cameras on this,” I said… and then the infected who’d managed to survive my little party tricks came shambling and running down the hall, and I forgot about cameras in favor of keeping us both alive.

They were a sorry-looking bunch, even for zombies. It’s true that you can kill a zombie with trauma to the body; once they lose enough blood, or a sufficient number of major internal organs, they’ll die like everybody else. The trouble is that they don’t feel pain like uninfected humans do, and they can keep going long after their injuries would have incapacitated a normal person. Some of the zombies making their way down the hall were missing arms, hands, even feet—those stomped along on the shattered remains of their ankles, shins, or knees, giving them a drunken gait that was somehow more horrifying than the normal zombie shuffle. One had a piece of grenade shrapnel stuck all the way through his cheek, wedged at an angle that would make it impossible for him to bite even if he managed to grab us. That wasn’t going to stop him from trying.

“Becks? You clear?”

“Clear!” came the shout from behind me.

“Great,” I said, and opened fire.

The bad thing about setting up a kill chute like the one we were in is that it can just as easily turn into a “die” chute. The good thing about setting up a kill chute—the reason that people keep using them, and have been using them since the Rising—is that as long as your ammo holds out and you don’t lose your head, you can do a hell of a lot of damage without letting the dead get within more than about ten feet of you.

The injuries to our mob were extensive enough that most of them weren’t moving very quickly, and the ones who’d been shielded from the worst of the blast by the bodies of their companions were hampered in their efforts to move forward by those same bodies. The fast zombies got mired in the slow zombies, and their efforts to break free of the mob just slowed everything down a little more. Becks and I didn’t bother aiming for the fast ones. We just went for the head and throat shots, and kept on knocking them down.

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