“Wait,” said Gavin, holding up his hand.
“Gavin,” Owen said.
Owen sighed, but he waited, watching the horde advance. And advance, and advance. They were getting so fucking close. If they got much closer… “Okay,” Gavin said. “Now.”
Owen pulled the lever. The zombies didn’t stop coming. There were gunners on the walls with them, but if it came to shooting, bullets only slowed them down. Even direct shots to the head didn’t kill them. The only way to get rid of them was to destroy their bodies entirely.
Or to get them cold enough.
As Owen pulled the lever, the sprinklers Frederick had designed rose up from the ground and started sprinkling, spraying the zombies from foot to waist. Almost immediately, they stopped moving as the liquid nitrogen hit them, freezing them. Then their legs started to shatter, and they fell down, the rest of them hit by the spray. Hundreds, thousands of zombies fell to their trap.
And the rest retreated. “I’d hoped it would take them longer than that,” Gavin muttered, gesturing for Owen to turn the sprinklers off. The zombies moved back, way out of range of the sprinklers. And they stood there.
Gavin shook his head, and Owen followed him into the watchtower they were using as a base. “Why couldn’t we have had Night of the Living Dead?” Gavin complained. “Fucking super smart hive mind centipede zombies aren’t fair.”
Owen kissed his cheek. “They’re not. But they’re what we have. Bob, any progress on the one you captured?”
Bob was sitting at a table, security footage of Rudy’s cell on a screen. “Not yet,” he muttered. On the screen, Rudy was just sitting there. Staring at the camera. “They’re a true hive mind—there’s no one we can kill that’ll incapacitate the rest of them. We know the demon uses a main body, but destroying even that won’t put a stop to it. It might set it back a little bit. But I’m sure there’s a way to use the fact that they’re a hive to strike at all of them at once. If we can figure that out…”
“We can kill all of them together,” Owen finished, looking up at the alarm as it went off. “Already?” They couldn’t have figured out how to get past the nitrogen sprinklers that fast, right?
“Proximity alert from the east,” Gavin said. “A different horde, shit.”
He brought up the security cameras, and it was indeed a different horde. They had sprinklers in the east too, but this one was bigger, and there was only so much liquid nitrogen. “If both hordes attack us together, we’ll have to abandon this position,” Bob said.
“They will attack us together.” Gavin frowned, tapping a keyboard and zooming in on the hoard. “Look who’s come to visit us.”
On top of a car in the centre of the horde was a boy, skin mottled, head tilted, hair falling out. He was grinning, centipedes crawling all over him, inside and out. “It’s him,” Owen said. “The boss.”
“Little Mr. Arkhewer himself,” Gavin agreed. “Tell Franz to start evacuating everyone into the tunnels. And tell Ignatius to get the missile ready.”
“We haven’t properly tested that,” Bob warned. “It might not work.”
“But it might,” said Gavin, watching Derek on the screen. Derek seemed to watch him back. “And if we have to lose more ground to this monster, God help me I’m going to blow up its boyfriend before we do.”
Owen nodded, and they all got to work. They’d lost way too many people already, and none of them were coming back—at least not as anything they wanted to see. Maybe this time they’d be the one extracting losses, instead of taking them.
Maybe this time.