My examination of the creatures body explained a lot.There didn't appear to be any recognizable internal organs in the body cavity.Just a mass of fiber tubing ranging in size,some still leaking greenish 'blood.' But there was a definite brain in the head. Next time,head shots, or at least exploding head ammo. My backpack vibrated briefly signaling that the spare drum was re-loaded.I stayed put,watching,waiting,unwilling to believe there was only one of these things here.Moments later,the holster on my hip vibrated also,telling me the stinger was ready.Time to move out.I thumbed the selector on 50s drum to exploding head,felt a quick confirming shudder, and headed for the huts on the ridge.
The huts,maybe twenty or so,were arranged in a shallow semi-circle facing the grove.Upon entering the first one, and seeing the chaos and destruction of the interior,it was obviously the scene of a fierce battle. There was a lot of dried bloodstain,both red and green, but no bodies,or even body parts.The next three were much of the same,with little or no evidence of the identity of the occupants. In the fifth hut,among all the rubble,I found a diary,the cover of which read 'N.Tams'. As I was about to browse through to verify the author's identity,I froze. In the grove,through the open doorway,something moved. Stuffing the book in my vest,I raised the 50 and stepped into the open. Damn,the trunks of at least five trees were beginning to swell and deform.
Too many. I remembered when entering the compound there was a guard tower just inside and to the right of the gate. The tower was twenty or thirty foot tall,and only accessable by rope ladder. Slinging the gun over my shoulder, I leaped down the shallow rise, and ran for my life through the writhing grove. Scrambling up the rope and into the tower shack I turned and looked back. At least a half dozen of leaping things were heading straight to me. Pulling the ladder up,I unslung the a/g and fired a short burst at the lead thing.Chunks of 'flesh' were blown off the creature,but it merely turned around and headed back to the grove, presumably to repair and rejoin the fray. Something had to change,or this wasn't going to end well.
Thumbing the drum selector to incendiary, I fired a short burst at the nearest tree,hoping to start the grove on fire and take the trees out of the fight.The trunk caught fire as I hoped,but immediately poured out a heavy stream of neon green sap that smothered the flame.
Guessing that the creatures could not stray too far from the grove,flight seemed the only option left,but I needed a good head start if I was to get far enough away fast enough. Walking around the small shack,I checked my options. Two sides faced the now teeming grove.Behind me was the gate,maybe fifty feet or so. To my right the shack floor extended over the top of the stockade wall. I could drop the ladder over the wall and safely reach the ground, but they would be through the gate in a flash.
Glancing up I caught movement in the distance. Raising the gun I scoped in on the landscape. Luck may be with me after all, a Walker! Massive,armored,and slow, Walkers were never much of a threat to me if seen early enough. Although heavily armored over much of their two ton plus bodies,and moving on six huge taloned legs,their underbelly was vulnerable to well placed rounds. Now I needed to lure it here.
Raising the 50 and sighting in behind it,I switched to explosive rounds and fired. The result was what I hoped for, the beast jerked it's fanged head up,turned to it's right,and headed towards the compound. The tower began to tremble as treethings started pulling themselves up the supports.I fired another burst behind the Walker to speed it up,switched to armor piercing,and emptied the drum at the nearest creatures. The two topmost fell off to the ground,one dead, one with ineffectual holes punched in it.
Swapping ammo drums,I shouldered the a/g and threw the ladder over the wall. The Walker was halfway through the gate when all tower movement stopped. Looking down I could see the treethings swarming over the Walkers body,one already in it's jaws. This was a battle it would ultimately lose,but would take long enough for me to put distance between me and them. Scrambling down the ladder I ran south as fast as possible,unsling the 50 and bringing it to the ready. The landscape was rife with danger, some now behind,many more ahead.