Everyone with our teams learned today that we are never beyond that particular threshold.
Our last big building here in the downtown area to tackle was the civic center. We didn't really have expectations when we went close to it. After all, if there were people in it, living ones anyway, wouldn't they have seen us moving around and cleaning up the area for the last few days? Seems logical to me that people living in fear would try to get help from the folks who are actively eliminating the threat they are hiding from.
We opened the front doors to the place, kicked away barricades that easily kept zombies from getting in, but weren't nearly enough to stop a thinking, live human being. We figured the place was empty, either abandoned or full of dead folks. Wrong again.
Roger was just in front of me and to my right when the first shot caught him square in the chest. He dropped like a sack of bricks, and the rest of us ducked and jumped away. Several of them came through the inner doors, some with firearms but most holding knives or other similar weapons. All of us from the compound kept moving as the inhabitants began to fire on us in earnest, all the while I shouted at them that we were there to help, that we had food and places for them to live.
It didn't do any good. More of them came through the door, and we scattered. I know the civic center pretty well, and I ran up the ramp toward the top entrances. I kept on looking back, trying to judge the gunshots behind me and changing direction to avoid getting hit.
They had blocked off the ramp at the second floor. The guy chasing me had to know it, and he took his time when he came for me at the dead end. We both had guns pointed at each other's faces, each of us daring the other to take the shot. I was terrified to do so, because I thought for sure he would see my finger tighten on the trigger and take his shot at the same time.
So imagine my surprise when the guy's face disintegrates in front of me, spraying my face with chunks of flesh, bone, and brain.
Roger, you wonderful bastard! He's got a big bruise dark as night over his sternum, but my self-appointed guardian angel is alive. He was smart enough to wear kevlar on this trip. Most of us are armored, which is a bit of practical thinking that has kept us from losing a lot of people on scouting missions as well as exploratory ones like this. It kept us from losing any this time as well.
None of that was very shocking, though. Scary in the short term, of course, but what made us wretch was what we found on the main floor of the civic center itself.
All in all we fought about twenty men. There were no women, and it seems that all of the people that lived there came at us together. Maybe that was how they hunted their prey, trying to use overwhelming force. We'll have to ask some of the prey.
They were capturing people. Living ones. Keeping them alive by feeding them other people, fattening the prisoners up for slaughter like cattle. Given how few of them there were, I doubt that they had to kill many to survive, but apparently they enjoyed the work, because the prisoners we released told us that they killed someone every few days.
I have never met most of the ten people we released, but I know one of them very well. He's a friend from high school, someone that I hung out with a lot, and though we drifted apart as we got older, I still consider him a great friend and one of the few people I can trust completely.
His name is Neil. He's coming to live at the compound, and I can't tell you how glad I am that he's alive. You all will get to know him over time.
We're almost at the end of our break. Funny, no one wanted to have any lunch, but all of us needed some time to sit and relax, shed some of the stress. Have to call the compound and get some folks down here with food and clothes, have Gabby come and give the prisoners a once-over.
And we need some volunteers to help clean up this place. It's a fucking charnel house here, bones and blood and organs all over the place...jesus.
Maybe we should just let some zombies in here to lick it clean for us. I don't know if anyone should see something like this. Fucking cannibals.