On the one hand, I deeply hated standing in place and doing nothing while Jess and Adam fought for their lives. On the other, I was silently thankful it wasn't me. I was hurting and almost incapable of movement after nearly half an hour of holding the shield in place. Had it been a matter of actually lifting it, I'd have collapsed a long time before. Instead I leaned my shoulder into its back and held on.
It took that long for the pair of them to clear the house. They thinned the herd down to make the New Breed easier to get to. Jess distracted while Adam sneaked up behind every smart zombie and killed them with a single hit. There was of course a lot more to it than that, but I can only relay what I witnessed through glimpses when I was able to glance over the top of the shield. Every few minutes they'd come over and clean off the zombies starting to pile up against my position, the few who couldn't be bothered to try for Jess, the harder prey.
In that half hour, they cleared the house completely. I was fucking thrilled to set the shield aside and move around, working feeling back into my arms. Jess vanished as soon as this first part of the job was done, darting from the garage to the bedrooms carrying a ladder and a bag full of salvage from one of the storage bins.
When she came back, Jess was all business. "Okay, we'll need some more blood. A good amount of it." She gestured to my slight wound and I obliged, rubbing a cloth she handed me against it vigorously to get the flow started again. She produced her own cloth and a small razor that looked liberated from an old shaving kit, scoring a line on the top of a forearm.
Adam blanched thirty seconds later when we handed the bloody cloths to him. "What do I do with these?"
Jess pointed toward the front door. "You're going to go outside and wave this in front of them. Be thorough. Get them to come in. Then, when all or at least most of them are inside, close the door. Go toward the bedroom we slept in last night. There's a hole in the ceiling with a ladder running into the attic. You leave the door open and let them filter into the bedroom. We'll drop down through the hole in your room, which I've secured, and head out the window."
I opened my mouth to say something, then shut it. "That's a really good idea."
"I know," she said. "That's why we're doing it. Worst case, they break the windows and eventually come after us. This way we don't have to spend all day wearing ourselves down to take them out."
I collected the things I thought we might need from the garage, careful not to indulge my inner packrat and overdo it. There would be other places to stop, more things to scavenge. We'd need to start getting serious about hunting soon, and finding new supplies, but having the tools on hand to survive out in the world was almost as important.
Jess and I climbed the ladder and then lowered ourselves down into the barricaded room using a rope she had secured inside the attic. The trip down was incredibly not fun for me; my arms almost gave out after the first foot. But I made it. We made it. Then it was just a matter of waiting as Adam did his thing, maybe ten minutes of work.
It was a plan brilliant in its simplicity, and I was caught up in a cycle of wonder at how different it was from my own ideas. This way trapped the enemy and kept us safe while using every resource available in a way that leaned heavily into its advantages. I was the initial distraction and defender. Jess was the active element and thinker. Adam did his ghost routine to draw the enemy in. We were a damned good team. By cutting the head off the zombie swarm--taking the New Breed, who were the leaders--we effectively neutralized their ability to organize against us as a single entity.
An hour after the first zombie hit my shield, we were through the window and on the road again. A few stragglers Adam hadn't been able to wrangle tried to follow us and were quickly put down. There was no way to know when or if more undead would show up, but given that they weren't supposed to be in this area to start, discounting the possibility would have been idiotic to a suicidal degree.
But for now, we were okay. Free to wander as we liked.
It wouldn't last long.