Station Zero

Moments I remember, from a day in an abandoned shopping mall playing the kind of games I usually run.

KNOW THE AREA

First run. Midgame. Twenty people are hanging around in the 'safe' room, zombies staring at us from both entrances. Almost nobody has a working weapon. We have seven of the eight power cells we need to call the helicopter, and by interrogating the priest I've got the location of the last one - in the basement.

I try to form a squad but nobody's focusing for long enough. I'm already hoarse and can't get the group's attention. People are scared. It's probable death out there but certain death in here.

So I get bored of waiting, and run, unarmed, into and through the horde. The space is wide and the zombies are slow-moving so, with a bit of zigzagging and a dive roll, I'm through nearly unscathed. A few survivors have followed, and we sprint to the far end of the mall, looking for the stairs to the basement as the horde pursues.

And we overshoot. In fact, we lose it completely. By the time we reach the far end of the mall I'm the only survivor left, and I'm quickly cornered and devoured.

CHECK THE VENTS

Round two. I start as a zombie. A dozen human survivors make their way towards the roof early, thinking there's a helicopter coming. They're wrong, and with us between them and the stairs, they're trapped in the machine room. They've got lots of weapons including a couple of very long swords, and the corridor's only a couple of metres wide, so the horde pushes against them uselessly. We're getting nowhere.

I clamber up onto the airconditioning machines on the right hand side, crawling between the top of the machine and the ceiling. A couple of players spot me as I growl, but there's too much cover for them to hit me and they're hesitant to waste their ammo.

And while the survivors are fixated on me, a second zombie has crawled underneath the machines on the left hand side and popped out behind them.

As soon as I hear the screams I jump down from the machinery, landing amongst the survivors. Their perimeter is broken, and they panic. The horde pushes them back onto the roof, then rushes them and finishes them off.

ARM THE MOB

Round three. We finish clearing the basement and our four-person squad emerges into the main hall of the mall. We're overrun by two dozen heavily armed survivors, fleeing past us and screaming "white knight! run!" Nobody's in charge. I shout "YOU HAVE TO KILL IT! IT HAS AN OBJECTIVE!" and the lead survivors skid to a stop, turn, and repeat my command to the others. Unnaturally quickly - a matter of a few seconds at most - the mob stops, closes up, brings heavy weapons to the front and charges back the other way. We hear gunfire and screams but, with a pistol, a knife, and a spade among the four of us, we don't get involved.

They kill the knight. Turns out it didn't have an objective. We scarper before the mob remembers who told them that it did.

WATCH YOUR BACK

Later, we get caught up on the stairway with a huge mob of survivors and an even bigger mob of zombies. Somehow three of us manage to extricate ourselves, fighting hand-to-hand to exit the stairwell into an abandoned shop, with the horde close behind us. We're nearly clear, holding back to see if Simon has made it out, when a White Knight pops up in front of us, wielding a sword and a club. It's too fast so we're going to have to kill it.

Nick immediately wades in with the spade and pushes it back, then I go berserk with the knife, screaming incoherently as I batter the monster and ignore the hits I'm taking in return. I've taken too much damage, so my plan is to take out the Knight to save the squad, then die dramatically. Somehow I succeed in pinning it down, the horror still thrashing but unable to get up from under my knife point, and I'm pondering what to do next.. when the horde catches up. Oh. I'd forgotten about them.

I'm torn to pieces instantly.

After a suitably dramatic death scene, the Knight helps me up and shakes my hand. Then we go looking for the rest of my team.

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