Heading down highway seventy five was a lot less hectic than Max would have imagined. There were a few wrecks but they had seen no one in the first two hours of travel, which is as long as they had planned to go that afternoon.
“About a half an hour before sunset. Let's find a place and hole up for the night.” Stewart said.
“In Jellico?” asked Max.
“In the outskirts.”
“How far did we get?”
“About seventy five miles.”
“Not too bad for two hours.”
“At this rate we'll be home for Halloween, yeah.”
They drove in silence until they approached the next exit, when Max said, “Sweet a 'Days Inn', that will be perfect. Or do you want to stay at the 'Best Value'?”
“The Days Inn is closer to the highway, we'll stay there.” said Steward, “Any zeds for us to worry about?”
Max concentrated, nodded, “Both hotels have some, the ones in the Days Inn look strong, but not quite at the Einstein level, what did Drapers guy call them?”
“The not quite super? A 'Jenner', I think.”
“Makes sense they can move as fast as us, but aren't all freaky strong. Yeah a few Jenners in the Days Inn, I think there is an actual Super in the Best Value. So I bet we end up fighting them all before the night is out.”
“How many in town?” asked Bill.
Max concentrated for another moment as Stewart pulled into the parking lot in front of the hotel. “Quite a few. Thousands, with a few Jenners and Supers scattered around.”
Stewart stopped the truck and then said, “Okay, listen you guys, we need to get some stuff cleared up here, is an Einstein a Super, is a Jenner? And what about the ones that go beyond Einstein, or is Einstein the top? I am all about threat assessment here, but we need to be using the same dictionary for definitions.”
“Shambler, Jenner, Einstein, Super.” Bill said, “With 'Zed' as a term to describe them all, much like 'zombie'.”
“It kinda puts Einstein down, with him not on top like that.” said Ruben, “He was the smartest man ever, shouldn't we respect his memory a little more?”
Stewart snorted, “Smartest man ever? Have you read about his personal life? I would say he was the smartest Physicist ever, but Hawking has advanced the field too.”
“I am not calling the smart ones 'Hawking'.” said Max.
Turning to him Stewart said, “Oh I am not proposing that. Einstein came first he gets to be top dog, as far as I am concerned, but these...” Stewart waved her hands at the hotel, “creatures...the smartest ones, go beyond Einstein. I like Bill's order, it will help us know what you see Max and help us meet the threat better.”
“I suppose. They are on the move now. If I had to guess the super in the Best Value is the controller, these Jenners are just following his lead.” said Max.
“How much time do we have?” asked Bill.
The windshield cracked as a body landed on it where it met the hood of the truck. Startled, Stewart, let her foot off the gas and the truck jerked forward and stalling the engine before she could recover.
“God damn it!” swore Stewart.
“They're here.” Max said belatedly.
“Shit.” Javier said, “Which way do we go, Lieutenant?”
“Out the driver's side, there are guys in the building, about ten, uh, Jenners, with two Einsteins coming from the passenger side and they have guns.”
Stewart paused, to look at Max, “Your power has gotten better if you can see what they are carrying.”
“No, I...” gunfire exploded a second before the windows on the passenger side were shot in. Max tumbled out of the driver’s side door, pushing Stewart with him, while the other three scrambled out the back. Composing himself, Max fired at a shambler coming out of one of the windows, then said, “I can't see the guns with my mind, I saw the zombies and they had guns.”
“Gotcha.” Stewart looked at the front of the truck, there was a body on the hood, it had hit the bottom of the windshield and was twitching slightly. She put a bullet through its head and then popped up to take a shot at the two zombies who were making their way through the parking lot towards them.
“One is inside moving fast down the hall. The others are coming over from the other hotel now too.”
“How many?” asked Bill.
“A couple of dozen here, another dozen from the other hotel. Most are shamblers.”
Their truck rocked as something hit it, a zombie with a pistol leaned over the edge of a nearby vehicle. Before he could aim and fire, he was hit by the combine fire of Stewart, Ruben and Javier. The things black haired head was thrown back riddled with holes onto the top of the vehicle.
“That is what I call ventilation!” Javier said.
Max looked at Bill and couldn't help but smile. “What?” The older man asked him, frowning.
“Nothing, I was just thinking that this isn't Chicago. These guys don't know what they are dealing with. We'll be okay.” Turning Max aimed at a drape filled window and waited, a moment later he fired and the Einstein inside clawed its face and fell back into the room.
“If you say so.”
“Quit your jabbering and start shooting!” yelled Stewart.
Max went prone and pointed his shotgun underneath the vehicle, aiming for the leg of one of the remaining zombies with a gun. He fired and the zombie was thrown off balance and out of cover, where he was shot by Javier, who muttered, “Ventilated.” before switching to a new target.
“More coming behind us!” Max yelled.
“Fast or slow?”
“Jenners followed by shamblers, I think the super is lagging behind...moving to the back of this place.”
“I'll take Javier and we'll watch your asses, if you guys can keep an eye on this?” Ruben said, shifting his shotgun to point behind them, “I don't suppose you can tell if they have guns?”
Max shook his head, “Nope. Don't go too far!”
Ruben shrugged his shoulders and pointed at Bill, “I follow his orders, but I won't get far, I'm an old man!” Ruben and Javier took off towards the west end of the building. They arrived in time for Ruben to shoot a teenage zombie girl who ran around the side of the building as quiet as the night is black. The girl tumbled head over heels and Max watched her body fade to black before she ever hit the ground.
Javier let loose with a barrage of gunfire that cut the next two runners off at the knees, they skidded to a tumbled heap a few yards in front of Ruben and he fired at one, killing it again before it could scurry behind a nearby car. Both Ruben and Javier ducked for cover when one of the zombies fired a gun back at them. Max couldn't be certain, but it sounded like the sharp retort of a pistol, dangerous but not as bad as facing a shotgun or rifle. Hopefully these zombies would be poor marksmen like the others they had encountered on their journey so far. Max was not accurate either, but he had the advantage of knowing where the enemies were.
He rolled to one side and took cover behind the rear tire of the pickup. He then aimed where he thought the zombie was on the other side of the car and fired. The shotgun didn't have the power to go through the vehicle completely but he was hoping to spook it into raising its head or running for better cover. The one behind this vehicle was too smart for either of those tactics, in fact all of the above average zombies, those that Max could sense with a 'light blue' sort of color, were holding their position. ‘What are they waiting for?’ thought Max, ‘Ah, shamblers and their friends in the hotel.’ Out loud he said, “We might have a problem.”
“What?” asked Stewart who fired at a shambler coming out from the lobby door. The shambler went down and the entrance door behind it shattered into a million jagged slivers of glass.
“It's not dead.”
“Thanks, what's the problem?”
“Some of the faster ones are moving up to the second story of the hotel.”
“They probably have guns.” Bill guessed.
“That'd be my bet. What do we do?”
So far no gunfire was being directed at them, the only activity was between Ruben and Javier and some zombie out of Max's line of sight around the corner of the hotel.
“We won't have any cover here, we need to move away from the front of the building so they can't fire directly down on top of us.”
“Now?” asked Stewart.
“Before they start firing on us, yeah. Unless you wanna get pinned under the truck?”
“I'll go first. I will get to that line of cars and the ditch between here and the road. Once I get into place I will cover you if someone starts firing.” said Stewart.
“Perfect. I am going to run over to Ruben then we will join you at the ditch. I sure wish we had been given a case or two of hand grenades, they might've been useful after all.” The group had debated the usefulness of the small explosives versus their weight and discarded carrying even a small supply because the shrapnel generally didn't kill the zombies they hit.
“Yeah stupid us.” With that Stewart rose from her crouched position and ran across the parking lot towards the ditch.
A moment later Bill ran toward Ruben and Javier, when he was within twenty feet of them he yelled, “Get to the ditch, we got Jenners with guns on the second floor of the hotel!” then he too veered to the ditch that ran between the highway and the parking lot.
Ruben stared at Bill momentarily, then at Max as he broke and ran to the ditch. Gunfire blew out a window on the second floor as a zombie there open fired. Javier took one last shot at the zombie who had been trading fire with them and announced, “Got him sarg! Let's go!”
Ruben, however, didn't move, he mouthed the words, 'What the fuck' while he stared at Max high tailing away from the truck. The truck where their gear was. The truck where the nuclear bomb was sitting, left by everyone as they fled.