Frank looked over the work they had done so far, getting the sheets of plywood in place almost the entire length of the outdoor cage of the Home Depot. “Pretty good work for such a hurry,” he said, mostly to himself. His eyes drifted upwards to the top of the plywood barrier. “Damn, I wish we had enough time to get another row in place…. Eight foot, these things might be able to pull themselves up…”
From her position at the next board over, Dawn spoke up as she continued drilling. “Even if they manage to stand on top of these, there’s what? Another 12 foot of fence before they can get to the top. Anyway, if these are like the other zombies we dealt with, they’re not all that bright… or coordinated…”
“Hope you’re right…” said the Texan.
“Ok, last section to go,” announced Giles as he looked at the three foot section which was still bare. “We’re going to have to trim this one…”
“To hell with that,” said Buffy. “Get it in place, screw it down and we cut the extra bit off. You guys are so worried about getting it done, we hack it off with swords if we have to. It won’t be pretty, but it’ll work.”
Kennedy looked across the parking lot… “Guys, what ever you’re going to do, I’d do it fast… I think I hear them pulling out and those moans are louder to boot…”
All the banter stopped as the work crew poured into hammering out what little they had left to do, knowing that their time was just about at an end.
** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **
The massive vehicle lurched as Robin took it over the curb of the parking lot at forty-seven miles an hour.
“Everything ok back there?” he yelled as he cut the wheel to turn the bus. “I thought I felt something jerk pretty heavy…”
Nicole turned from her position near the rear windows of the bus. “Trailer’s still attached… We didn’t lose it… And the zombies are way back there, but don’t slow down.”
“Yeah,” came Rona’s muffled voice from beneath. “And try not to beat me to death while you’re at it.”
“There they are,” said Faith, pointing out the windshield of the bus as they approached the Home Depot.
** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **
“There they are,” said Frank, pointing as the bus came around the corner of the mall. “Everybody get out of the way…” he said as he eyed the approaching motorcoach. “That thing’s going to be a tight fit.”
As the vehicle rolled to a halt, Giles spoke up. “The trailer came free of the hitch. The only thing holding it in place are the chains.”
“That’s going to make it a bitch go guide in,” said Frank. “It’ll be faster to get it loose and wheel it in there by hand.”
Xander came bounding down from the bus, most of the girls following behind him. “Fine, great,” he said as he interupted Giles train of thought. “The zombies aren’t far behind us,” he said as he moved to the back of the bus. “More action, less talk…” The carpenter leaned down and tried to loosen the quick link that held the chains together. “Shit! They’re jammed…” he said in disgust.
“Somebody toss me a blade!” ordered Faith as she stepped up behind Xander.
A moment later, courtesy of Ariana, Faith had an axe in hand. “Out of the way, X,” she said. As soon as he was clear of the chains, Faith brought the heavy battleaxe down on the chains, snapping them in one shot. “There, now girls, let’s this thing in so Robin can back that beast in!”
Within second, a half dozen Slayers were positioned around the horse trailer, and with seemingly no effort at all, had it rolling back through the gates and to the back of the enclosure.
“Damn,” said Frank with a chuckle as he looked at his wife. “Wish we’d had these girls helping out at the ranch…”
“Ok,” announced Buffy as she came around the corner of the fence brushing plywood chips from her arms. “We’re good on the end. And everybody’s up here now from out back.”
Once the Slayers had cleared the trailer through the gate, Robin gunned the engine, moving the bus far enough ahead so he would be able to back it into the gate.
As the former Sunnydale High principal backed the bus up, Frank stood behind it, waving him back and motioning corrections as needed. “Man, this is going to be close,” he said, seconds before the rear of the bus passed through the gate with inches to spare on each side. The Texan noticed the bus was drifting to one side and motioned for Robin to correct, but his directions came too late and there was a grinding sound as the bus scraped against the steel for a couple of seconds before Robin was able to correct the angle.
The bus clear of the gates, Xander turned to Dawn. “We need to get the exterior doors of the store locked down tight. Take the keys, get everything locked down and double checked before those things get too close. If you can find `em, get the security gates down as well. Try and stay out of sight. In fact, anything you can block the doors with, do it. Those things can’t see us they might keep on going…”
“You got it, Xan,” said the young woman as she took off, fishing the keys from her pocket.
“Kennedy, Nicole.. Go with her… Move!” commanded Faith.
The two Slayers took off on Dawn’s heels.
From his position to the side, Andrew suddenly perked up… “I’ve got an idea!” he exclaimed. “You two,” he said as he grabbed Zach, who had been picked up running down the road, and Lisa, Frank’s wife, and ran inside, dragging them behind.
** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **
O'Shaunasey turned to Giles. “Rupert, have you taken a headcount? Everybody inside the gates?”
As Giles took count, remembering to include those who had just ran inside, the massive diesel engine of the bus rumbled to silence. A moment later, Robin stepped down from the bus.
“I count everybody but Rona… Has anyone seen her?” said Giles.
“I’ll get her,” said Faith moving to the back of the bus. Within seconds, she had popped open the last luggage compartment and helped the young woman out. “Sorry about that,” the dark haired Slayer apologized. Offering her shoulder for some of Rona’s weight, Faith led her back to the doors leading inside the Home Depot.
“Ok, that’s everybody,” said Giles as he moved to the gates. “Buffy, if you would give me a hand?”
Together, the two escapee’s from Sunnydale pulled the gates closed. “The key?” inquired Giles as the gates were closed, but not yet fastened.
“Dawn’s got them,” pointed out Xander as he moved up, a length of two by six in hand. Moving quickly, he slid the piece of lumber through the upper handles, effectively barring the gate. Then leaning down, he pivoted the steel drop shafts into the holes in the concrete and slid them down. “Ok, somebody grab me that other piece of two by four,” he said quietly as the moans began to get even louder.
Moving quietly, Giles picked up the indicated piece of wood and handed it to Xander, who as gingerly as possible, moved it into place.
As he looked over his shoulder, the carpenter couldn’t help but notice that every one of the Slayers was tense, their hands curled tightly around the weapons they held ready. With a motion, he got Giles’ attention, then gestured to the Slayers. After the older man had glanced around at them, Xander leaned in close. “They can sense the zombies somehow… Something to take note of, in case…”
Giles nodded. “Indeed, but right now, I’d feel a little bit better if we had that gate locked as well.”
Xander agreed and slipped through the doors after motioning everybody else through.
** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **
Just inside of the sliding glass doors, all of the refugees assembled, with Dawn and the two Slayers who had accompanied her coming up last.
“Far end doors are locked and all the outside security gates are down,” reported the young woman. “We dragged a display screen in front of the entry way at the far end as well, so they can’t see us.”
“Key for the gate outside?” asked Xander as he extended his hand.
Dawn quickly flipped through the ring, and then offered it to Xander, held by a single brass key. “That’s it,” she said… “Sorry, I should have left it here…”
“No worries Dawn,” replied the founder of the Scoobies. “I’ll be right back…” He quickly moved through the glass doors, the sounds of the moaning undead becoming louder as the sliding doors opened. A moment later, he had returned, and looked at the keys. “Need to find a place to leave these so we don’t loose them.”
“How about on checkout counter by the gates?” offered Andrew as he and the two others he had grabbed emerged from the returns area by the entrance.
“Sounds good,” said Frank as the entire group turned to look at the young man, who was standing there with an extremely proud look on his face even before the Texan acknowledged his idea.
“And why do you look like you just did something sneaky?” asked Buffy as she began to advance on the young man.
Andrew responded by gesturing behind him before he spoke. “I figured if they can’t see us, they might go away. So we grabbed a bunch of cans of spray paints and went to work on the windows…”
The group collectively noticed the windows, as well as the sliding doors, which had been blacked out, or at least fogged over, with quick application of spray paint. The dozen or so empty cans, which lay empty on the ground, showed how much paint it had taken to cover the windows which were on the other side of the security grating.
“Quick thinking Andrew,” commented Giles. “Very quick thinking indeed.”
“Yeah, that shall keep those things from seeing us as we remove all of the gear from the trailer and bus,” added Roger.
“Actually, we’re going to leave everything loaded for the time being,” corrected Giles. “Our immediate priority is to sweep the mall, make sure that all of the entrances are secure and that none of the undead have made it inside. Leaving the vehicles loaded will allow us to keep supplies with us if this position turns out to be untenable.”
The bulk of those present nodded, while the Slayers just shifted the grip on their weapons.
“Everybody ready?” asked Giles.
“Oh, joy…” said Xander as he hefted one of the shotguns which had been liberated during his looting of Wal-Mart. “Mall Crawl…”
End Chapter 6