While the Yamadas were expiring in Nantou, the situation in Taipei went from bad to worse, with every corner of the capital mutating into a battle zone. The masses of the undead had made rapid progress, so much so that the city’s police force had reached the point of no return — there were more undead combatants in police uniform than there were live ones.
Facing near collapse in social order, the Ministry of National Defense, deeply ensconced in its impenetrable fortress in Dazhi, ordered that every male who had undergone basic military training, and who still had a heartbeat, be rounded up, drafted, and equipped with a domestically produced T91 assault rifle. Armored personnel carriers, CM-32 “Clouded Leopard” light infantry vehicles and a variety of jeeps created cordons around the city, and conscripts were ordered to shoot anyone who sought to break through. Special forces, meanwhile, were sent in deep to “cleanse” the city, guided by low-flying helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles, which beamed back crucial information on enemy positions.
For a while, the military intervention looked like it could turn the tide, as the twice-dead bodies piled up all over the city. But like a law of nature, the ranks of the undead continued to grow, as every death among the forces of the living gave birth to an enemy combatant.
Eventually the decision was made to evacuate the President, who along with his top aides had barricaded himself in the old Japanese building, from the Presidential Office. The effort, launched amid wave upon wave of zombie assaults, was a fiasco. First, it was discovered too late that the armored vehicles to be used in the evacuation were to wide to fit the road behind the Presidential Office, a situation that was further complicated by the presence of large quantities of abandoned cars. A breakdown in miscommunication nearly cost the president and his entourage their lives, as all had been rushed outside through the back gate, only to realize that the vehicles had not yet arrived. Immediately, they were targeted by a group of monsters, the presidential guards barely managing to keep them at bay with their pistols and assault rifles. Ammunition was running dangerously low when a CM-32, grinding past two vehicles in a deafening screech of metal on metal, came to a halt at the gate, about fifteen meters away from them. Without warning, the president dashed in the direction of the vehicles, leaving the guards and, not for the first time, the First Lady behind. Shots were fired, bodies fell on both sides of the president, the hatch was opened, strong hands pulled him in as blood-drenched claws clawed at him and missed, the hatch closed behind him, the First Lady screamed and screamed and screamed (not just with horror), and the armored vehicle went into reverse. There was no time to wait for the others. Masses of rotten flesh exploded under its heavy wheels in its frenzied escape, bathing the sides of the vehicle in a thick dark liquid. As the president was being driven to the safety of an undisclosed location, his staff and a harrowed First Lady fought a losing battle. In the days that followed, a short-haired woman, her clothes drenched in blood and an unsightly gash running from her left ear down to her shoulder, was seen limping round the now empty seat of government. Those who saw her would swear afterwards that even the dead could look pissed.
* * *
In other parts of town, officials and ordinary citizens alike also dealt with the horror however best they could. Many turned into cowards, doing whatever they could to save their skin, while others, including a few surprises, selflessly sacrificed their lives to save endangered souls.
With an extraordinary feat of bravery, one man alone, driven to extreme measures at the loss of his beloved city, managed in a single act to annihilate a large quantity of the putrescent creatures. In what later came to be known as the “Maokong gambit,” Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin turned an embarrassing city project into what could only be described as a weapon of mass destruction. For days, the mayor, accompanied by city councilors, had driven around the city, issuing orders and trying to maintain a modicum of order in a city that had quickly descended into chaos. On that fateful day, Hau, driven by fascination at the thought of a zombie panda, had requested, despite strong opposition from city councilors, that they drive to Taipei Zoo. Upon arriving at the animal graveyard, from which a great stench, shoved in their direction by a warm wind of pestilence, emanated, Hau saw a small group of small children, accompanied by harried mothers, being purchased by dozens upon dozens of creatures, which despite their flailing handicapped limbs, were quickly gaining ground. Without a second’s thought, Hau jumped out of the vehicle and screaming at the top of his head managed to gain the attention of the butchers. Soon enough, a battalion of monsters was in hot pursuit of the mayor and his aides.
In a flash of inspiration, fueled no doubt by an equal dose of desperation, Hau ran straight for the Maokong Gondola, while ordering his assistants to head for the machine room and turn the cursed project on again. Hau waited patiently, the door to a glass gondola cabin opened behind him, as the groans from the horde of creatures drew closer. Just as they were about to grab him by the collar of his white Flora Expo shirt, Hau jumped into the car and shut the door. At this point, the system came on, and the gondola, a few bony shapes dancing on top of it or hanging underneath, began its ascent. Below, another car quickly filled up with monsters in pursuit, then another, and another.
Strong claws were ripping the roof and soon they would break into the car and make short shrift of his life, Hau thought as the lush vista of deep-green trees and mountains drove by around and underneath him. Behind him, the car was crammed with the undead, all gazing at him, eager to devour their prey once they reached the top. An arm broke through, then a head. Soon, a the upper half of a zombie, black bile oozing down from between its bloated blue lips, was hanging upside down, straining dead muscles to reach his face.
Then, as he’d expected, the swaying began. On an ordinary day, service at the gondola would have been suspended, as it was too windy. He also knew that there were far too many occupants in the other cars, and that their combined weight would be too much for the system to handle. A mass of flesh dropped on top of him. The world swirled and suddenly the green tapestry below swung above him. Hau smiled. With a thunderous crash, the Maokong Gondola, long a symbol of ridicule for the mayor’s administration, came crashing down, crushing the mayor along with a great number of the undead.
One small victory for mankind, and there would be others. But deep in the south, dark shadows gathered. The army of the undead was about to find its spiritual leader.