For those of you who don’t know what Up From the Depths is, its a 6 book series that details the events of an ensemble cast before, during, and after an apocalyptic event.
So what makes it stand out? The ensemble cast for one.
There is no ‘hero’ character within the entire series. There are characters that perform heroic actions but not one single hero character.
What is the apocalyptic event?
The event is a viral outbreak that turns the infected into cannibalistic psychotics. Think bath salts, 28 Days Later, The Longest Day, and George Romero and you have a basic idea.
While the horror/zombie genre is not exactly new, Up From the Depths does attempt to take it to a new level. That means there is a more real-world reason for the outbreak and the series takes more of a look at how governments, military commands, and military units would react.
Other books and films focus on civilian reaction to an outbreak. Look at the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead as an example. The only actual military references are Fort Pastor, mentioned a few times by various characters and shown on the news, and the helicopter that flies over. Outside of those few instances, that’s it. There has been other novels that feature military actions and a zombie outbreak but, for the most part, the genre focuses primarily on the ‘normal’ people.
Up From the Depths takes the reader into the world of the US Military and places them squarely on the front lines during the events that span the series. While the books do have a focus on the military units there are also ‘normal’ people in the series as well. You might call them ‘civilians’.
Here are some selected excerpts from books 1-5 and a special sneak peek at book 6:
Book 1: Denial Measures
Madigan Army Medical Center, Joint Base Lewis/McChord, Washington State
MAMC’s Command Suite, a series of offices just off the Medical Mall area, overlooked the main entrance and provided a spectacular view of the Cascade Mountain Range. Barnes opened the door to the outer office of the medical center’s commanding general. He knocked once on the inner door then opened it, ushering Waller before him. The hospital commander’s office was located at a corner, giving the occupant a majestic view of the manicured hospital grounds. Lieutenant General Walter Scott was behind his desk reviewing reports when the two men entered. His command consisted of the hospital and the medical companies that supported it.
One of the office walls was covered with diplomas, certifications and unit photos, the obligatory ‘I Love Me’ wall that general officers were required to have. On the opposite wall, a large oil painting of the hospital hung. When the two men had taken seats, Scott pulled open a drawer and produced a half empty bottle of Jack Daniels and three glasses. Behind his desk was a mini fridge hidden inside a credenza, from it appeared a 2 liter bottle of Coke.
“Jack and coke?” he asked. Normally none of them would consider drinking while officially on duty, but these were far from normal times, Waller shook his head.
“You may want one by the time this is all over,” Scott said as he prepared the drinks, pouring in much more Jack and much less coke than he normally would have.
“That bad?” Waller asked. Scott didn’t answer just pushed the glass in Waller’s direction.
“One hour ago, we were at 85% capacity with more cases arriving. All the hospital support units have been activated. The civilian logistics area is overworked and backlogged with pull orders.”
Scott took a drink before he continued. “All the patients that aren’t part of this have been moved to other floors. I’ve designated that floors 2 thru 5 are for the incoming. That may work short term. Long term, I don’t know.”
Scott paused to gauge the reaction from Waller.
“We have to be optimistic about this and hope that it burns itself out soon or we’re going to have to make plans on where to put the patients that aren’t serious. Maybe use some of the old hospital facility.” Scott leaned back in his chair and looked at Waller.
“Now for the bad news,” Scott announced as he set his glass down and held up a fax.
“This is from the CDC. They’re recommending immediate quarantine of any infected until such time that they can send a team to gather samples and evaluate the extent of infection. However, they have no idea when they can send a team given the current circumstances.”
He placed the fax on his desk and held up another.
“This fax is from USAMRIID. They strongly urge that all infected be immediately quarantined and then terminated with extreme prejudice to prevent the further spread of this disease. They don’t seem to care about blood samples or any other samples for that matter.”
He dropped the fax on his desk and reached for his drink. Waller picked up the fax and read through it once, blinked a few times and read through it again just to make sure he understood what was written there. It was clear what The Rid meant. Quarantine was no longer a viable option. The way the orders were worded, there was a lot of gray area. The Rid was skirting Article 118 of the UCMJ, Murder. If Martial Law was declared then technically, the infected could be classified as enemy combatants but even then that was a bit of a stretch when it came to Escalation Of Force (EOF).
“I’ll take that drink now,” Waller said as he reached for the glass and took a long swallow.
Later in Book 1: Denial Measures, we’re introduced to James Martin and Rocky Marcone in the small town of Tenino, Washington, south of Olympia, Washington. Two of the civilians aka ‘normal people’.
“Say J. You hear what’s been going on back east?” Rocky asked. Martin shook his head as he read the back of a can of soup.
“No, can’t say as I have. What’s the Big Apple have going on now?”
“Shit, they’re talking about riots in the major east coast cities and overseas then they go on to talk about some new sickness that supposedly caused the riots. They’ve repeated the broadcast of the president ordering the 82nd Airborne into New York about a dozen times.” Martin looked up.
“Sounds to me like a real problem for those New Yorkers. On the positive side, there might finally be parking available.” Both men chuckled at that statement whether from the uneasiness of the events transpiring or maybe just to assuage any concern they might have.
“It sounds serious. I heard one guy on the radio talking about the dead coming back to life and how it’s the end of days. Real hellfire and brimstone type shit,” Rocky commented. The older man looked around the store before reaching under the counter and producing an Ithaca M37 shotgun. “I like to keep this handy for close encounters. You never know when the shit will hit the fan.”
Martin nodded and grinned a little.
“I know you and your wife are shooters,” Rocky continued, “I’ve seen you both out at the gun club once or twice. Your wife’s a damn good shot.”
Martin nodded without answering. Only in a small town could this type of conversation happen; in larger cities, residents would have issues or go into full panic mode when discussing weapons in public let alone actually firing them. Rocky put the shotgun back under the counter when the little bells above the door rang, announcing another customer’s entrance.
“Seems like this event gets bigger and better every year,” Rocky commented on the activity outside the large windows that faced the main street, Sussex Avenue, before he went back to reading his newspaper.
Martin nodded and continued with his shopping, looking for items that were on his list. It wasn’t until he reached the cereal aisle that he felt something peculiar, like the sixth sense he used to get when deployed. The only other customer was the man that had entered a few minutes ago and was standing at the far end of the aisle looking out the window, slowly swaying back and forth as if listening to a tune only he could hear.
In those few seconds, Martin sized him up, automatically placing an invisible grid pattern over him with red dots highlighting areas that would incapacitate or kill. It was an old habit that he had tried to break for many years but now, it seemed strangely pertinent. He looked around the store to see what might be causing the uneasy feeling and his eyes were drawn back to the other customer.
The man was wearing medical scrubs and hospital slippers. Without the slippers, the man would have looked like a doctor but there were no hospitals in town or any emergency clinics. With just a doctor’s office, a veterinarian and a dentist where had this person come from? Martin observed the other man out of the corner of his eye all the while trying to shake that uneasiness. Slowly making his way down to that end of the aisle he realized that he would need to pass by the other man to go to the next aisle or retrace his steps and go back the way he had come.
“Excuse me there buddy,” Martin said good-naturedly as he started to warily move past the other customer. The other man slowly turned to face him, immediately Martin saw that there was something physically wrong. The other man’s face was twisted into a grimace and there was a large flap of skin hanging from the left side of his jaw line exposing the deep red tissue, tendons and muscles along with the sharp white of bone. Martin recoiled and moved sideways as the man took a step towards him.
“Buddy you need some medical help,” Martin stated then called out, “Rocky! Call 911! This guy’s hurt pretty bad!”
Rocky looked up from his newspaper then stood up causing the stool to scrape on the tile floor as he moved towards the phone on the wall. Martin watched the other man as he advanced towards him forcing Martin to back up. No way was he going to turn his back on the man. He took note of the disconnected IV line hanging from the man’s left arm and the blood stains on the front of the scrubs. The stains didn’t match the head injury. Looking closer, Martin could see that there were also blood stains around the man’s mouth and some dried streaks of blood on the chin. What the hell did this guy get into? he thought to himself as he backed down the main aisle. He could hear Rocky calling 911 and also sirens from outside and what he thought might be screaming.
The other man suddenly started swinging his arms, hurling canned food and other items off the shelves and onto the floor. Each time the man moved closer to Martin, he swung his arms and sent items tumbling to the floor. He then stopped and looked down at the mess he had made and then back at Martin.
Unexpectedly, the man lunged towards Martin, with arms outstretched and a look of pure evil on his ruined face. Martin dodged, threw his hand basket at the man and backpedaled until his heel caught the edge of a counter and he fell to the floor. The other man caught the hand basket and squeezed it until it was a mangled mess before tossing it aside. He fixed Martin with a glare and started to move faster towards him, guttural noises emanating from his mouth. Martin was frantically crawling backwards like a crab down the aisle, grabbing items off the shelves, throwing them at his pursuer. His retreat was stopped when he hit the large counter that held the cash register.
Behind him he heard Rocky hang up the phone and start to ask what was happening when he saw the customer lunge at Martin, arms outraised and an angry grimace on his face. Rocky grabbed the shotgun from under the counter and tromboned the slide.
“That’s enough of that shit,” he stated quietly to the other man.
In Book 2: Acceptable Losses, we see the US Navy SEALs, a detachment from Shark Platoon, searching a building for survivors and encountering difficulties not just with the infected but with logistics.
“Shit. Ell-tee, they’re a might stirred up in there.”
Willis’ only response was to break into a light jog and motion everyone to hurry up. He keyed his radio as he ran.
“Six One, Two Seven we’re going to need immediate extract ASAP!”
“Six One copies.” Vaughn throttled up and brought the HH65 to a hover over the courtyard. He switched to inter-plane comm and made sure that the rescue basket was ready before switching back over to the main net.
“Coast Guard Six One to gunships, we have a team extracting from the courtyard, can you assist?”
“Helo Six One this is Raptor flight lead. We got you covered.” Vaughn looked to see the two gunships move towards him with the AV-22 following.
“Two Seven, Six One how many survivors you got with you?”
Willis waited until they were all inside the courtyard and the door secured before answering.
“Six One, we have twelve, I say again one two souls.”
“Shit,” Vaughn said aloud as he looked over at his copilot.
“Copy that Two Seven. Wait one.”
Willis looked up at the hovering helicopter, expecting to see the rescue basket motor out on the winch arm and began its descent. A muffled explosion echoed from inside.
“That’s the doors Boss,” Smith casually commented.
“Six One, what’s the delay?”
“Two Seven, we have a problem up here.”
“Say again Six One?”
“We don’t have enough room to extract all of you at once,” Vaughn radioed.
We also catch up with Hotel Porter Jack Larkin after he and his friends, Arthur Higgins, and Leesa Tobias, have made their way to Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Here we see where Larkin is meeting with the officer that is in charge of RMA Sandhurst.
“What about the rest of the armed forces?”
“I don’t know. Most of the officers and staff left when this all started. The officers to their parent commands and the staff to their families. Before the phones died, we had contact with other units; now; I don’t know who all is left.”
“But you have soldiers here.”
“Yes, we have a few. Some were here already for training and others filtered in from other areas.”
“What about the ones who brought us here?”
“Sergeant Thapa? He’s part of the Sittang Ghurka Company that’s stationed here. When this all started, he and his people went out and brought in their families and some of the former Ghurkas that had mustered out. He can be a right frightening chap when he wants to be.”
“He and Corporals Khenga and Naveen patrol the immediate outside area. The rest are assigned to other sections of the grounds. So far, no infected have gained access.”
“What about relief? Is there someplace where they’re working on a cure for this?”
Hyde-Smythe shook his head.
“Not bloody likely. The last communiqué we received wasn’t too cheery. The infection moves too fast for conventional containment methods. As to relief, we can’t expect any to be arriving in the near future.”
Larkin frowned and shook his head.
“I don’t understand Major, you just told me that there most likely won’t be any relief and that we should make the most of it. Aren’t you supposed to tell me that reinforcements are on the way and a cure is in the works? You know, reassure me that everything is going to be all right again.”
Hyde-Smythe leaned his elbows on the desk and clasped his hands together, finger intertwined.
“My policy is to be upfront on everything especially when it affects matters of life and death. There’s no reason to sugar coat the situation. We’re on our own here and everyone that elects to stay within these walls needs to know exactly what type of situation this is.”
Larkin nodded, understanding that the events that had occurred and were most likely still happening, were larger than he had initially thought. This wasn’t a simple power outage with some sick people, this was a national, no, he corrected himself, this was a global catastrophe.
Hyde-Smythe watched Larkin as he reacted to the news.
“I know it’s a lot to take in all at once.”
Larkin looked up at him.
“Bloody right, I don’t understand, isn’t there an underground bunker or some other type of place where people are working on a cure?”
“There may be, sadly, I have no idea if there is or not. I couldn’t tell you what’s happening a few meters from here.” A look of resignation came across Hyde-Smythe’s face, “There’s no way of knowing how bad it is or far its spread. It’s entirely possible that the every inch of the planet is now infected.”
We also return to Frank Durst, John Stone, and Frank’s sister, Sharon as they finally arrive at Stone’s Custom Truck and Salvage Yard in Elko, Nevada after escaping Sharon’s neighborhood and infected husband, Tom.
“John, I can’t accept that all those people were sick or something. I’m having a hard time believing they all were like Tom was.” Durst shook his head. “What you did back there, I can’t accept that either. It was way over the top even for you.” Stone didn’t say anything in defense of his actions. “When all this is over, as much as this pains me to say, I don’t think we can remain friends,” Durst muttered still bothered by the recent events.
Stone slid back in the recliner and looked over at him.
“Frank, if we all live through this and you still feel that way, then so be it.” Stone refocused his attention on the television as the pictures now showed a major city in flames.
“Franklin Jefferson Durst! How dare you say that to the man who saved our lives!” Sharon exclaimed. The outburst startled both men who unconsciously recoiled from the force of it. Turning to Stone, Sharon continued, “I’m sorry for my brother, he can be an asshole at times, like right now.”
Sharon was about to continue when the announcer mentioned Las Vegas. All three looked at the screen as camera footage showed citizens outside one of the casinos on the Strip running through the streets. The on-scene reporter was being jostled as he tried to report what was happening.
Behind him caught in the camera was utter chaos as vehicles of all make, model and description attempted to move on the crowded streets. Screams and gunfire could be heard as the newsman tried to describe what was happening. Abruptly the cameraman was bumped with enough force that he and the camera fell to the ground. The camera, still filming, showed legs of people running as the microphone picked up more screams. Suddenly, the image was filled with the reporter’s face as he stared lifeless into the lens. Repeated attempts from the studio anchor to talk to the on-scene reporter went unheard as the image changed to that of the hovering news helicopter that was also on the scene.
“Holy shit,” Stone muttered quietly before he stood up and walked to the back of the house.
Durst and Sharon watched transfixed as the images of carnage continued. Stone came back into the room with a holster strapped to his waist and his Colt .45 now sitting in it. Several magazine pouches had joined the holster at his waist. In one hand he had an M4 rifle and mounted under the barrel was a shortened Remington 870 12 gauge pump shotgun. In his other hand was a surplus engineer’s bag which he dropped on the floor next to his chair. Sitting down and laying the rifle across his thighs, he opened the bag to reveal several magazines for the rifle and boxes of shotgun shells.
“That can’t be legal,” Durst commented when he saw the weapon. Stone grinned at him as he fed shotgun shells into the weapon.
“Hell no it ain’t. I won’t tell if you won’t” Stone replied as he finished loading the shotgun and then reached into the bag, grabbed a magazine for the rifle, slapped it against the palm of his hand to seat the rounds then inserted it into the receiver. The loud sound of the action being worked woke Sharon from her fixation of the television screen.
“Where did you get that?” she asked. Stone looked up at her like he didn’t have a clue as to what she was asking then looked down at the combo weapon now held in his hands.
“Oh, this? I lost a tooth some time back and next morning instead of dollar I found this under my pillow.”
In Book 3: Collateral Damage, we see more of Master Sergeant Alan Hathaway and what’s left of his National Guard unit.
Master Sergeant Alan Hathaway sat at the kitchen table of an old farm house on the outskirts of the small town of Shelley, Idaho. The house had been there for several decades and the family that had owned it had seen generations grow up inside its walls. Set far enough off the main road to not be visible, the home had remained hidden from the chaos and infection that had rampaged through the surrounding cities and towns. Hathaway and Corporal Valdez had located it while conducting a recon of Shelley. Their Hummer was currently squeezed into the small barn sharing space with an ancient Massey-Ferguson tractor. The Hummer was backed in to provide them a quick exit. If they had to run, they could only go as far as the fuel in the tank would take them. The spare cans strapped on the back were bone dry. The other Hummer was behind the barn, up on blocks and covered with several tarps. They had stripped everything useful from it. Hathaway had insisted that they get the distinctive vehicle out of view of anyone who came around.
Spread on the kitchen table were cleaning supplies and various weapons. One weapon, an old USMC Ka-Bar knife, in a modern jump sheath sat to one side. Hathaway gazed at it as his hands worked. That combat knife had been his grandfather’s. It had been issued in 1941 and lovingly cared for over the years. The only thing he had done was replace the leather sheath with one that was more versatile. He felt the pressure of the Colt 1911 tucked into the back of his pants. He had already stripped and cleaned that handgun. It too had been handed down through his family. His mind traveled back to the task at hand, cleaning his Beretta M9, which lay disassembled in front of him. His uniform shirt was hanging on the back of the chair and his load bearing vest draped over one of the other chairs. Leaning against the wall was his M4 and on the kitchen countertop was the combat cased armored laptop, open and turned on, a small hourglass rotating as secure connections were made between it and another system. He picked up a toothbrush and cleaned a section of the handgun frame as his mind thought back to all that had happened in the weeks since infection.
That night in Idaho Falls was one he truly wished he could forget. He had taken command of a small squad after losing Captain Steele and contact with the National Guard TOC that had been at the Armory. Private Wilson had been killed by the infected as he had escorted civilian survivors to the Hummer. Private Axtell had been engaging the infected in short bursts with the M2 heavy machine gun from his position in the turret of the Hummer. Between the three of them, Hathaway, Axtell and Valdez, they had beat back the encroaching horde just enough to move the Hummer down a side street and next to Captain Steele’s Hummer.
The president, evacuated to Raven Rock Military Complex (RRMC) aka Site R, as Washington D.C. is overrun by the infected, has to deal not only with an unchecked violent outbreak but, with his wife who has suffered some kind of mental breakdown.
President Hamilton Jefferson Wood stood in the doorway of his quarters and watched the US Navy Corpsman check over his wife. Standing on the other side of the bed, the Chief Medical Officer, a naval commander, Henry Burlington, supervised and offered advice. Dana Wood lay on the bed, staring at the ceiling, occasionally blinking but otherwise unresponsive. Burlington walked over to Wood and indicated they should step into the other room.
“Will she be alright?” Wood asked. Burlington looked back towards the bedroom before answering.
“I’m not sure, Mr. President. Physically she’s in great shape, heart, lungs, reflexes. But,” he paused and slowly shook his head “Mentally, she appears to have withdrawn into herself. We’re running tests now to see if it’s a total mental withdrawal somehow related to what’s been going on or maybe some other issue.”
Wood nodded looking towards the bedroom.
“I understand you found her in the shower?” Burlington asked.
“Yes, yes I did. She was just sitting there on the floor, rocking back and forth,” Wood explained.
“This may seem a bit insensitive but was she taking any prescribed or other medication, maybe something she had with her before this all happened?” Burlington quietly asked.
Once the news on how severe the events outside RRMC had filtered through to the personnel inside the mountain, there had been an increase in the use of ‘recreational’ narcotics and some minor pilfering from the medical stores. It wasn’t uncommon for someone to fake an injury enabling them to request a prescription for pain killers only to be found later to have died from an overdose. Between the illicit drug trafficking and soldiers and civilians sneaking out the West entrance, essentially the back door to Site R, there was an ever increasing loss of order and control within the complex. Wood had tried to maintain order within the complex but with the loss of communication with the outside and the rumors that flowed through the complex, more and more people were slipping from the facility to find their families or try to survive outside. He had to come up with some sort of plan before both a total loss of control occurred or all the personnel left.
Wood shook his head, “Not that I’m aware of. Maybe an aspirin, some vitamins, but nothing that I can think of that would cause this.”
Burlington nodded his head and looked at the bedroom door as the corpsman exited and walked towards them.
“I drew some blood for testing. Not sure what we’ll find. The physical exam showed no abnormalities, no cuts, bruises, insect bites or tissue damage.” It was left unsaid what the type of tissue damage he was referring to. “I gave her something to help her sleep.” Burlington nodded as the corpsman left the room and returned to Sick Bay.
“We should know more in the morning, Mr. President.”
Meanwhile, on the outskirts of Flagstaff, Arizona, Ronald Chambers and Candace Reed are coming to terms with their options of long-term survival.
Ronald Chambers wiped his brow and looked at the solar panel one last time to make sure the bolts were tight. He was on the roof of his home after climbing up the ladder that was leaning against the side of the house.
The wide brimmed hat he wore was already sweat soaked around the inside of the head band, staining it an off white color. This was the third time in the last few weeks that he had climbed up on the roof to fix the panel. The roof, although flat with an elevated edge, had four large solar panels that provided limited power to the interior of the home. This one panel was the problem as one of the bolts that connected the frame to the mount was stripped allowing the panel to move out of position when a strong wind blew through the arroyo that the home was at the mouth of.
He rubbed his chin and felt the rough stubble of a beard forming already. He and Candi Reed had been rationing water and in the last few weeks, food as well. His main concern was that their water supply would run out before their food did. Although the house was fed from a deep underground aquifer, he had no way of knowing how long the pump would continue to function. They had been unable to find any spare parts for it and were worried that it could fail at any time. So far, they had used any and every available container for water storage and had been lucky enough to find a case of Waterblocs, which were like small juice boxes that had a straw attached, in one of the cleverly designed and hidden interior storage closets. They had scoured the computer database in the safe room for more details about the home and had seen an adjusted floor plan that showed several storage areas not included in the original plans. In that same closet as the water were a highly detailed topographical map of the immediate area and several other maps not as highly detailed of the state. Under the rug and a false floor they discovered four cases of MRE style meals. The remaining storage areas had been empty.
Chambers glanced in the direction of the main gate. He could barely make out the now dried out form of what used to Harold the former security guard. Being tied to the metal gate and exposed to the direct sun and heat had apparently killed the virus or at least dehydrated the body to the point of death, this time. Chambers was in no hurry to verify this as the thought of dying a second time was still a new concept to try to wrap your mind around.
Chambers and Reed decide its time to leave and not a moment too soon as they have unexpected visitors that literally drop in.
“That’s four cases of water plus one and half cases of canned food and half a case of MREs,” Chambers said as he checked it off.
“That matches with what I have over here,” Reed replied looking at the items stacked on the floor.
“Two sleeping bags, one camping stove, three canisters of fuel,”
Reed looked around before replying, “Got it.”
Chambers checked it off his list then tucked the pencil into the metal clip on the clipboard.
“And a partridge in a pear tree?” he asked jokingly.
“Oh you!” Reed replied. Chambers stepped forward and swept her into his arms. Their lips met in a heated kiss. A low buzzing sound broke them from their embrace. It was getting louder as if getting closer. They stepped outside the garage and looked around then up, finally spotting a reflection of light. It was a plane in the sky. It was passing overhead but it was difficult to tell what kind of plane it was. Suddenly, several dark shapes dropped out of the rear of the plane.
Before either of them could ask what they were, parachutes deployed slowing the falling objects. Chambers tried to keep the plane in sight but it was soon lost in the distance whereas the objects that had dropped out the back swooped overhead under their canopies and took the shape of six men and two bundles.
Chambers and Reed shielded their eyes from the sun as they watched them fall to earth, or rather into their yard. The six men landed in various areas in the yard and began to quickly gather up their parachutes. One man strode toward them; he was wearing a camouflage uniform, a vest bulging with pockets, pouches and implements. He pulled a floppy hat with a wide brim matching the camouflage pattern of his uniform from the thigh pocket of his pants and put it on his head. His rifle was on a sling that enabled it to hang in front of his chest within easy reach. The other five men fanned out and formed a protective cordon, scanning all corners of the high fenced yard. This man, obviously in charge of the small group, stopped a few feet from them.
“Are you Ronald Chambers, Doctor Ronald Chambers?” the dark haired, ice blue eyed man asked. Chambers started to speak but had to swallow a few times to get enough saliva.
“Yes, yes I am,” he replied. The other man’s face broke into a grin that was partially relief and happiness. He extended his hand to Chambers.
“Lieutenant Willis, US Navy. We’re here to get you out.”
Frank Durst, John Stone, Frank’s sister, Sharon, and two other survivors, John and Cassie, have made it to New Mexico where Stone delivers one of his custom trucks. The location is remote and the new owner, Elwood St. John, is quite eccentric. Over their stay at his renovated facility, they decide to head into the now walled city of Clovis to do some trading with other survivors.
Elwood St. John stood outside the Quonset hut wearing a tan and faded boonie hat, Israeli paratrooper boots, canvas shorts and a loud red and white Hawaiian print shirt. Tinted, flip down lenses had been mounted to his ever present glasses. Stone had done a double take when St. John had first exited the facility then returned to his checklist, slowly shaking his head. At least St. John was armed, as evident from the OD green duty belt with UM84 holster enveloping a Sig Sauer 228 and the Shooting Systems shoulder holster containing a large frame revolver. Pouches on his belt held extra ammunition for both weapons.
The rest of the group filtered out over the next hour and milled around either singly or as a couple. Mecceloni and Cassandra stood off to one side and watched the rest. Mecceloni was dressed more tactically, desert pattern BDU pants tucked into a pair of lightweight combat boots, three button 5.11 Royal Robbins navy blue shirt, a bulging tactical load bearing vest, M4 slung across his chest and sidearm in a thigh holster. A Cold Steel Master Tanto knife was horizontally attached to his vest above the magazine pouches. An OD green boonie hat on his head and tinted aviator sunglasses completed the ensemble.
Next to him, Cassandra was attired almost the same, her crimson hair tucked up under her OD boonie hat but an FN P90 hanging from her vest instead of an M4 and a HK P45C in a thigh holster. She wore a pair of mirrored Ray-Bans to protect her eyes from the sun.
Durst looked more like he was a rock groupie dressed in a pair of faded 501 jeans, an old KISS concert t-shirt, the Kimber he had acquired back at the salvage yard rode in a Uncle Mike’s forward canted holster on his belt. His M4 was slung barrel down over one shoulder. A faded baseball cap with the CAT logo was perched on his head. With the several days old growth of hair on his face, he looked more like a good old boy out for a night on the town than a survivor of a zombie apocalypse.
Durst caught Stone’s eye and jerked his head in St. John’s direction. Sharon stood next to St. John, in OD green pants, tan t-shirt with a multi-cam baseball hat, her hair in a ponytail. She had an HK MP5A3 slung over her shoulder with extra magazines tucked into the pouches of a tan MOLLE vest.
“Well hell, the gang’s all here,” Stone muttered looking up from his shopping list. “Ok everyone, I’ve divided the cargo and put the expensive shit in the Tahoe,” he indicated to one of the black SUVs that was now out of the garage. “The other stuff, the lesser value, easily traded stuff, is in the Cut-Vee.” He looked up at the sky then over to the main gate.
“We’ll be leaving in a few so if anyone needs to piss, now would be a good time to do it,” he stated before walking to the CUCV and opening the door.
There were a few minutes of discussion between the companions before they broke up into groups and went to the vehicles. Durst walked to the CUCV after seeing everyone else head to the Tahoe. He’d rather ride with Stone as he preferred his company to St. John or Mecceloni. Getting in he noted the Benelli M90 laying on the dash, Stone’s M4 propped up between the seats, ammo cans on the floor and a case of grenades within easy reach.
“Jesus, John, you plan on fighting a war?” Durst asked as he got in and closed the door.
“I like to be prepared. Clovis is a secure city. As secure as they can make it considering what’s happened,” Stone stated. “But, there’s always a chance that something can go wrong between here and there and triple-A isn’t around anymore to provide roadside assistance,” he added closing the door and starting the engine.
Events are not what they seem when the group, at the Clovis open market, encounters another group that has other intentions then just survival in the aftermath of a zombie outbreak.
“What the hell?” Durst asked when he heard shouting and shooting over Corman’s singing. He glanced towards the entrance to the market but couldn’t see anything through the crowd.
Looking towards Stone who was still in their vendor space, he caught his eye and motioned for him. Durst ducked under the canopy and was about to ask a question but his sister beat him to it.
“What’s going on out there?” Sharon asked her eyes wide and furtively looking around. St. John had drawn the large frame revolver from the shoulder holster he wore, keeping it in his hand as he crouched behind the stacked crates of apples.
“Shit if I know but it sounds like something serious,” Stone replied as the firing increased.
“Look at that!” Durst exclaimed pointing towards the main stage.
The companions looked towards where the Reverend had been standing only now his followers had formed a barrier around him with police issue riot shields effectively blocking small arms fire and the infected from reaching their leader.
“Why did they do that?” Sharon asked.
Instead of answering Stone rose up and triggered two rounds into an infected that staggered into view.
“That’s why! Fuck me!” he exclaimed as he saw more of the infected appear. “We got deaders inside the wire!” he announced as he began to engage more targets.
“We got to go!” Durst yelled out as he saw more and more infected tear through the market attendees. A loud siren began wailing, echoing through the city.
“Shit, shit,” Stone muttered, dropping out an empty magazine and slapping in another. More and more infected were appearing, some of them he recognized as reanimated vendors. Durst watched a small group of traders that had formed a barricade out of picnic tables and garbage cans get overrun and torn apart.
“We got to go!” Durst yelled again looking around for some avenue of escape.
“Follow me!” Stone called out as he crouched low and moved behind the market booths.
Sharon grabbed St. John’s hand and pulled him along as the man seemed to be in shock. Durst brought up the rear of their little gaggle as Stone weaved them in and out of the small walkway between the booths and the fence. The loud wail of the siren overpowering the moans and screaming.
This path kept them out of sight of the infected for the most part. Stopping at a corner of the high fence, Stone quickly took his bearings then led them towards the parking area gate stopping again when he saw the semi trailers backed into the containment area, the parking area gate closed and locked and hundreds of infected blocking the way.
“Oh fuck,” he muttered. Looking back at his group he saw their scared and worried expressions. Damn.
Glancing back towards the parking area, he strained to see if his CUCV was still there. He could just barely see the faded desert tan paint. So close yet so far. The crates they were sheltering behind began to splinter as one of the M60s in the tower opened up.
“What the fuck?!” he cried out in alarm as he tried to make himself smaller behind the only cover he had.
“Why are they shooting at us?” Durst yelled over the din of the siren, shooting and screaming.
“I don’t know!”
Escaping the chaos of the market, the group makes it to Cannon Air Force Base only to realize they aren’t safe yet.
“You may have noticed that Major Reinhold isn’t all there,” Buzz said wiggling his finger around the side of his head in a circular motion and rolling his eyes. “The Colonel kept him on a short leash,” he added.
Leaning closer, “A lot of us think this whole dead walking thing has unhinged him.” Looking around the hangar as the ground crew, mechanics and pilots checked their aircraft. “A lot of people went all weird when they first saw people who should be and were dead, get up and start walking.” He nodded his head knowingly. “You know what I mean. You’ve seen it.”
“Buzz,” Stone said. “Why are we in flight suits?”
“I’m sticking your asses on this plane and getting you out of here,” Buzz replied hooking a thumb towards the MV-22. “You’re a medical support unit,” he pointed to Sharon and Cassie.
“You three are PJs,” he said pointing to Durst, Stone and Mecceloni. “And you,” he said pointing to St. John. “Are now a flight surgeon. Welcome to the US Air Force.”
Before he could continue, LeFleur entered the hangar pushing the cart now laden with all the crates and deployment bags to the rear ramp of the tilt rotor.
“How’s that help get us out of here?” Mecceloni asked.
“Simple. We’ve been running special ops out of here since before the world ended. You’re in sterile flight suits, no names, no unit and no rank. You tell the pilots where you want to go and they go. No questions asked and no one the wiser.” The throbbing roar of a four engine, turbo prop AC-130 gunship filled the hangar as the lumbering aircraft waddled past the open hangar doors.
“Sonovabitch,” Buzz muttered as he watched the heavily armed and armored gunship roll past.
“What the fuck is that idiot doing?” he asked no one in particular.
A Hummer roared in from the apron, squealing to a stop before disgorging Kit-bag.
“We have to go! We have to go now!” Kittinger yelled out as he ran over.
“What’s the rush?” Buzz asked looking around, expecting to see an army of security police surrounding the hangar.
“The main gate, it’s been overrun! Infected are inside the perimeter! It looked like everyone from town and then some,” Kit-bag said as he checked his M4 combo weapon.
In Book 4: Movement to Contact, we return to Sergeant Alan Hathaway late of the Idaho National Guard. He and the remaining members of his unit have traveled to Wyoming in an attempt to rejoin other military forces and fight back the infected. Stopping at a government facility, they see a strange prisoner transfer and end up rescuing a US Army captain from a strange series of events. She reluctantly becomes their OIC.
The dirt crusted, camouflaged Hummer crossed over the state line from Idaho to Wyoming using a US Forest Service road that was a road in name only. The three men had switched off driving to put as much distance between them and the Dupont Federal Center while their passenger fitfully slept. The constant rumble from the diesel engine, the rattle of loose gear and the slipstream of wind whistling through the overhead roof hatch had lulled the occupants into an almost vegetative state. The decision to leave the area the way they did fell on the senior NCO of the small unit. He had led them out of the nightmare of Idaho Falls when they had been cut off by hordes of infected. It was also his decision that had led them in the direction of what they had hoped to be an active government or military installation. Appearances are not always what they seem as they soon found out upon arriving at the subterranean complex. Scouting the perimeter, they had witnessed a prisoner transfer. Something about that evolution didn’t look right. Following the transport vehicle, the three National Guardsmen had watched as the prisoner detail drove to a very remote location, parked, tossed a body bag into the nearby ravine, and prepared to sexually abuse their prisoner. In this changed world, that activity was becoming more and more commonplace. Rescuing the prisoner and removing the guards had led them to where they were right now, crossing the state line on a road that barely met that definition.
“Sergeant,” Axtell said to get Master Sergeant Alan Hathaway’s attention in the back seat. “Hey, Sergeant,” he called out a little louder.
“What you need, Ax?” Hathaway replied. He had been looking out the side window lost in his own thoughts.
“We need fuel soon,” Axtell stated. “And some serious rack time,” he muttered to himself, stifling a yawn.
Hathaway pulled out a trucker’s roadmap that he had appropriated from the same truck stop as the cases of bottled water that were stacked in the rear cargo area.
“Just outside of Alpine there should be a fuel point. We’ll check it out,” Hathaway said as he consulted the map. Beside him, Angelina Brandon moaned a little then jerked upright, eyes wide, looking around.
“Easy there, Captain,” Hathaway said, “You’re among friends.”
Brandon frantically looked around the inside of the Hummer then calmed down enough to sit back in her seat. She looked over at Hathaway who was studying her.
“I remember you,” she said quietly before casting her eyes down at the silver space blanket she was wrapped in. The swelling above her right eye had gone down enough allowing her to regain limited vision. Looking up and meeting Hathaway’s eyes she gave a look as if asking if he was responsible for the blanket and bandages. Nodding in answer, Hathaway shifted in his seat and reached back to his pack, opened up his first aid kit and removed a chemical cold pack. Cracking to activate it, he handed it to Brandon who placed it over her swollen eye.
“Thank you,” she said in a stronger voice. Hathaway nodded then returned to his map. Brandon adjusted herself in the seat before settling down and looking out the window on her side. Miles passed in silence before she spoke again.
“Where are we?”
“We just passed into Wyoming a little ways back,” Hathaway explained as the Hummer bounced through a drainage ditch and entered a two lane highway. “Right now, we’re looking for a fuel stop.”
“Do you have any water?” she asked.
Hathaway reached back again, poked his finger through the shrink wrap and pulled out a bottle of water from one of the cases and tossed it to her. Brandon caught the bottle with ease, letting the cold pack drop to her lap while she unscrewed the top of the plastic bottle and downed most of it’s contents in a few swallows, wincing a little at the pain from her split lip. Leaning her head back and taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and savored the taste of the water. Placing the water bottle between her thighs, she returned the ice pack to her face, tilted her head back and closed her eyes.
“Where did you come from?” she asked, eyes still closed.
“Idaho Falls. We were involved in evacuating the city,” Hathaway said. “Before everything changed.”
“Long ways from home,” Brandon said quietly.
“That we are,” Hathaway agreed.
“It’s almost unbelievable,” Brandon said.
“Believe it. We were there,” Hathaway said.
“No,” Brandon said. “That’s not what I meant. I believe you were there, it’s just we were told that there was no one left topside. That the virus had killed everyone. Infected them. Killed or infected, pretty much the same thing.”
“Who told you that?” Hathaway looked at her sideways.
“The CG of the complex, General Spears, and Major Quintanna,” Brandon stated shuddering at the mention of the man who had tortured and beat her.
“General Spears announced a few days after we lost contact with the surface that there was nothing left up here. Everyone was dead.”
Valdez and Axtell shared a look while Hathaway just shook his head in amazement.
“Asshole,” Axtell muttered quietly from behind the wheel.
Hathaway was silent. He was glad that they hadn’t walked up and knocked on the door to the Dupont Federal Center. Who knew where they might be now if they had.
“He lied to all those people and we believed him,” Brandon admitted.
“You really a captain?” Valdez asked turning partially in his seat to look back.
“Yes, I am,” Brandon stated. “I’m Captain Angelina Brandon.”
“Well, shit,” Valdez started to say before he caught himself. “Sorry ma’am, uh captain.”
“It’s ok corporal…ah?” Brandon said.
“Valdez, ma’am, Corporal Emilio Valdez,”
“Pleasure to meet you, Corporal Valdez,” Brandon stated lifting her head and looking forward.
“Who’s our driver?”
“Corporal Axtell, Ma’am. Marcus Axtell,” Ax stammered out from behind the wheel.
Brandon looked at Hathaway with a question on her face.
“Master Sergeant Alan Hathaway, captain,” Hathaway announced. Brandon looked at the bottle of water between her legs then craned her neck to look in the rear cargo area.
“Looks like you boys have been at this for a while. That’s a pretty fair amount of supplies. How long have you been out here?”
“Since before,” Hathaway said.
“Before what?” Brandon asked.
“Since before the dead started walking around. Now all the dead are dead or thereabouts and the living are dying,” Hathaway said. Brandon looked at him confused.
“A couple of days after it all started. We,” Hathaway indicated towards the two other soldiers, “We were called up for civilian relocation and protection. Higher didn’t tell us what was going on. It was all need to know. By the time we knew anything, we were in a world of shit,” Hathaway explained, folding the map up and stuffing it inside his vest.
Brandon looked at the left shoulder of his uniform seeing the Airborne, Ranger, and Special Forces tabs stacked on his sleeve creating the ‘Tower of Power’ as some referred to it.
“Special Forces huh?” she asked with a nod.
“That was some time ago captain. Back when I was young and dumb and full of piss and vinegar,” Hathaway said. “Now I’m just a NCO in the Guard or what’s left of it,” Hathaway stated realizing that the National Guard was probably a thing of the past as was a vast majority of the US military. As much as he didn’t want to admit that out loud, there was a very solid reason for the loss of communication with command. It wasn’t equipment malfunction, that had been ruled out. It was something far more involved.
“You’re still operating as a unit. That says something for your leadership skills,” Brandon observed.
Hathaway chuckled darkly. “Some leadership skills. Most of my unit is dead. All that’s left are these two.”
The interior of the vehicle was quiet as each of the passengers thought back to their own personal losses in the months since infection.
“What was that place, Captain?” Hathaway asked looking at Brandon. She fixed him with a blank look then realized he was asking about the Dupont Federal Center.
“Project Blue Light,” she replied. The blank looks at her response meant she had to elaborate on her answer. “Back there, not far from where you found me, the Dupont Federal Center. It’s a huge underground complex. They called it Project Blue Light for some reason.”
The soldiers exchanged glances.
“We saw some of the outside,” Hathaway stated.
“It’s like an iceberg, the majority is under the ground,” Brandon said.
“With your rank, that puts you in charge of this little unit,” Hathaway said changing the subject.
Brandon turned and looked at him with raised eyebrows.
“Sergeant, I’m a researcher not an operator. My field experience is limited to going out to the range once a month and qualifying. I spent most of my time in a lab looking through a microscope,” she explained. “You were the operator and it looks like you still are,” she said. “You’ve kept these soldiers and yourself alive out here for a long time. I’m not one to step in and tell you how to do it. You guys would call me a Fobbit. I think. Or something about rear echelon something or another, REMF, or something like that. I’m not even remotely qualified to take over command of this unit.”
Hathaway nodded slowly. He really didn’t want to accept Brandon’s excuse for not taking command but he did see her logic in it. This reminded him of his SF days. Back then, rank wasn’t an issue unless you were on post. Deployed, no one cared about rank; no one wore rank unless they needed to impress an indigenous politician in a third world shit hole. But, the other units were very rank structured. Big Army had become more of a political machine then a warfighting finishing school.
“If it’s all the same to you, ma’am, I’d like to re-establish the chain of command. There aren’t any rear echelons any more. And I doubt there’s any operating FOBs to have Fobbits. Before you, we were operating under the assumption that somewhere there would be a chain of command to report to. Now, with you here, we have that chain. It doesn’t matter to me where you came from but, I’d feel a whole lot better if we re-established a command structure so there’s no confusion,” Hathaway said looking at her. He didn’t add that the chain of command was sacrosanct and even if the world was over, they still needed the hierarchy of rank or they would be nothing more than armed rabble. At least with an officer in charge, they’d have a rank to look to for orders. Hathaway would make sure that they stayed alive and moderately safe. In actuality, he just wanted someone to bounce ideas off.
Brandon looked at him about to object but then realized what he was trying to do. By having a clearly defined chain of command, they would continue to operate as a military unit. And it would give her a point of focus.
She looked at him in silence then nodded agreement.
“Very well, Sergeant,” she said officiously, “I want to see your map to verify we’re heading in the correct direction,” she said extending her hand towards him. “By the way, that makes you the senior NCO. You okay with that, Top?” she asked.
Hathaway smirked as he pulled the map out of his vest and handed it to her it with a subtle wink.
“I think I can manage,” he replied.
Brandon allowed herself a grin before opening the map and orienting it to their direction of travel. She noted the red circles denoting hazards and unknown areas and the green lines of travel that Hathaway had marked on the map.
“Corporal Axtell, what’s our fuel status?” she asked.
“Less than half full, captain,” Axtell reported.
“Corporal Valdez, do you see the sign for a truck stop?”
“Yes ma’am, we’re 4 klicks out from it.”
“Corporal Axtell, make sure you find it soon. Once we get there, Sergeant Hathaway will have overall tactical command,” Brandon announced as she folded the map up and handed it back to Hathaway who hid the grin on his face at the subtle redirection she had used. He was glad to see that she could read a map and wouldn’t need to be instructed on land navigation. At least not too much.
“Hoo-ah?” she added.
“Hoo-ah!” all three soldiers chorused.
They rode in silence until Axtell slowed to a stop, pulling off to the side of the road out of habit although there was no other traffic. A few hundred yards up ahead on the opposite side of the road was a small truck stop with several semi trucks parked in the lot. Only two vehicles were parked out front facing the large, dark glass windows. One was an older sedan, some kind of family car with four doors and lots of windows. The other was a late model pickup. Both vehicles had flat tires and a coating of dust, dirt and the remnants of a light snow. Small patches of white were scattered on the ground where the sun hadn’t melted it giving evidence that the temperature was dropping.
“Captain, how do you want to play this out?” Hathaway asked quietly.
Brandon looked over at him then leaned forward to get a better a view of the truck stop. She knew what he was doing, making her understand that she was technically in charge. Leaning back and putting the ice pack back in place, she looked over at him.
“Tell you what sergeant, you take charge of this and if I see any deficiencies that need to be addressed, I’ll let you know,” she stated.
“Fair enough, captain,” Hathaway said grinning. Brandon was falling into the OIC delegation role as he expected she would. “Ax, take us to that tanker truck. Valdez, when we stop, you flank right I’ll go left. Hoo-ah?”
“Hoo-ah,” both corporals responded.
The Hummer slowly crept across the road and stopped next to a silver semi tanker that had the DOT numerical designation for diesel fuel, 1202. Axtell shut of the engine as Valdez bailed out his door and ran to the front of the truck, weapon up and tracking.
Hathaway piled out and jogged to the rear of the trailer and scanned the parking lot over the sights of his rifle. Axtell stepped out and stayed by the driver’s door as he looked around slowly, his rifle barrel down but ready. Brandon, a little more slower than the others, for obvious reasons. It was quiet; save for the stiff, cold breeze that rattled papers and other debris in the parking lot.
Brandon involuntarily shivered as the chill wind tore through the light-weight, blood stained, day-glow orange coveralls she still wore. Hathaway hissed from his position then motioned Axtell to start fueling. The corporal jogged to the rear of the vehicle, let his rifle hang by its sling, and unstrapped the two fuel cans then carried them to the side of the tanker. He crouched down and looked under the large truck before straightening up and studying the controls to operate the pump.
“Top,” he called out quietly, “I don’t know if this will work,” he said. “We’d have to crank the truck to get the pump running and that would let all the eaters in the area know we’re here.” Axtell looked around then the hose that lay in the trough next to the large cylinder that contained fuel.
“This isn’t going to work. The hose won’t mate to the can,” he said. There was a considerable size difference between the two openings. Hathaway jogged back to where Axtell was crouched and looked at the hose then the fuel cans.
“Well shit,” he muttered. This was the first time they had attempted to refuel in this manner. All the previous times, they had siphoned fuel from other vehicles using a length of garden hose.
“Forget that, move up to the tractor tanks and start siphoning those,” Hathaway directed. He hated to leave all the fuel in the tank behind but there were no other viable options. He made a mental note to mark this location on the map as a possible refueling point.
Axtell shot him a sullen look. He hated using the hose, last time he had received a mouthful of diesel that took him a week to get the taste out.
“Problems?” Brandon asked.
“We’ll have to siphon from the tanks, captain. The hoses aren’t going to mate with the tops of the cans,” Hathaway explained.
“Wait, do any of you have a water filter?” Brandon asked. Hathaway looked at her strangely then realized what she meant. “It will mess up the filter but we can use it to pump out the fuel.” He caught her use of ‘we’ but didn’t say anything.
“Ax, get your water filter,” Hathaway ordered. Axtell jogged back to the Hummer and dug out the MSR hand pump water filter from his pack. He held it up, fixing Hathaway with a puzzled look.
“Put the siphon end into the tractor tank and the other end into the fuel can,” Brandon explained. Axtell snagged one of the cans on his way past then unscrewed the cap on the tank. Dropping the siphon end into the tank, he started pumping the handle of the filter. Fuel slowly began to flow into the can. He looked up with a big grin.
Hathaway gave Brandon thumbs up then moved back to his position at the rear of the tanker thinking about where they could locate an actual hand crank fuel pump. Maybe at a small fuel distributor or a mobile heavy equipment service company they could find a hand operated fuel pump. He continued scanning his area then focused on a phone booth just a short distance away. Public phones, and booths were almost an anachronism as everyone seemed to have some sort of cell phone.
“Captain,” he called out.
Brandon looked over at him as he gestured for her to come to him. She cautiously walked towards him, her head on a swivel trying to watch all directions at once, her movements and the wind tossing her matted hair. Hathaway reached down with his left hand and drew his M9 handing it to Brandon butt first.
“Doesn’t do any good to have you stand out here without a weapon,” Hathaway said. “You good to use this?” he asked. Brandon nodded and accepted the sidearm. She checked the loaded chamber indicator, ejected the magazine, reinserted it, then flipped the safety off all while keeping the barrel pointed in a safe direction and her finger outside the trigger guard. Hathaway was glad to see that at least some rudimentary range safety skills had been retained. Satisfied that she was comfortable with the weapon, he gestured for her to take his position then jogged to the phone booth. Opening the phone directory, he paged through it until he found the listing he wanted. Tearing that page out of the book, he stuffed it into his vest, and then jogged back to Brandon who had tied her hair into a knot at the back of head.
“This is taking entirely too long,” he said quietly as he glanced towards Axtell then continued to sweep the lot.
“I agree,” Brandon said, “but what other options are there? I didn’t notice any lights on when we pulled up and that usually means there isn’t any power. There might be a backup generator but we have no idea where it would be or if it even works. After all this time, finding someplace with its own power would be like winning the lottery.”
Hathaway shot a sideways glance at her; the young captain was catching on pretty quick to life in the world outside the safety of an underground bunker. It took over two hours for Axtell to pump out the fuel from the semi tractor’s main tanks and transfer it from the fuel can to the tank of the thirsty Hummer. In that time, they hadn’t seen any infected but the temperature had dropped considerably. Enough for Brandon to be shivering as she stood guard.
Hathaway retrieved the space blanket from the interior of the vehicle and handed it to her.
“It’s going to get colder, you should get inside. We’re almost finished here.” Brandon nodded, wrapped the blanket tighter around her shoulders and got inside the Hummer. At least inside the vehicle the wind was decreased. It only whistled through the hinges and seams around the roof hatch. Hathaway looked out across the plains; the change of seasons was well under way. He knew they would need to find someplace to hunker down for a while and warm up. Probably have to hunker down over winter the way the weather was looking. They definitely needed winter clothing and Brandon could use something besides the bloodstained orange prisoner jumpsuit to wear. Testing to see if he had the start of hypothermia, he tried to touch his pinky finger with his thumb. The lack of coordination was the first thing to be affected. He could still touch those fingers together but it was an effort. He glanced over as Axtell strapped the now full cans to the back of the Hummer. Not a moment too soon as far as he was concerned. Motioning to Valdez, they piled into the Hummer and headed back out onto Highway 89 traveling south with the heater turned on high.
Back in the UK, Jack Larkin, Leesa Tobias, and Arthur Higgins have somewhat settled in at RMA Sandhurst.
“Are you sure?” Jack Larkin asked as he sat beside Leesa Tobias on the bed in their shared quarters.
“Yes,” she said looking at the floor.
They sat in silence, knees touching.
“Well, if that’s how you feel then that’s how it’s going to be,” Larkin said standing up and walking to the door.
They had had this same conversation in the weeks since he had returned to Sandhurst and each time, her reply had been the same. Each time they had reached this point, he had been able to talk her out of her decision. This time, it was different. Tobias reached down and picked up the small day pack that had originally come from the Royal Windsor Hotel. She stopped at the door and looked at Larkin.
“It’s only for a little while. Just until things settle down some,” she said placing the palm of her hand against the side of his face.
He closed his eyes and felt the warmth of her hand against his skin then stepped back, opening the door wider. Tobias removed her hand and slowly shook her head, knowing what she had to do. Larkin watched her walk away towards the medical area of the building before closing the door.
Later that day at the evening meal, Larkin was joined by Arthur Higgins.
“I heard you and Leesa are split up now.”
“What?” Larkin asked looking up. “How did that get around so fast?”
“One of the mechanical blokes was up there running wire for the sound powered phones we found in storage and overheard some talk in medical,” Higgins stated. Since discovering crates of sound powered phones in a long forgotten storage room in the basement utility area, wiring and placement of the phones had become a priority. Still, Larkin was a little shocked at the speed at which the news that he and Leesa were separated had spread.
Larkin was about to speak when he saw one of the soldiers rush into the dining room, lean over and began speaking quietly to a senior NCO that was at a table of other soldiers. The occupants of that table rose abruptly and ran from the room. Higgins witnessed the same commotion and looked back at Larkin with wide eyes. A loud claxon broke the silence with its shrill tone.
The remaining people in the room froze for a moment then leapt to their feet. It was unusual for such an alarm after all this time observing a lower noise level. They knew what to do and had practiced the drill without the siren.
“What’s going on?” Larkin yelled above the noise and shouting.
“I think there’s a breach in the wall!” Higgins shouted over the noise.
“Stand to!” one of the remaining soldiers in the room yelled to his mates.
“Move! Move!” Someone yelled by the doors.
Larkin looked around the room, indecisively. He knew his station was in the North Tower but Leesa was in the opposite direction. Higgins grabbed him and pulled him towards the doors. In the hallway, both of them could see soldiers and civilians running back and forth then the stutter of a heavy machine gun vibrated through the floor. Higgins looked at his friend then indicated to the mechanical room. Larkin nodded as Higgins pushed through the crowd, unlocking and opening the door, standing in the doorway bracing it open.
Larkin shouldered his way through the crowd trying to get inside the dining room, a designated safe area. The soldiers had dispersed to their positions all accompanied by the increasing sound of weapons fire. Behind Larkin the doors to the dining room closed with a thud followed by the sound of the crossbeam being lowered into place effectively sealing the doors.
“In or out mate, I have to seal this door,” Higgins stated nervously. Larkin stepped all the way inside and watched as Higgins closed and locked the door. They stood looking at the heavy door for several minutes before Higgins spoke again.
“That’s that.” Outside the door, weapons fire grew more intense. Larkin wasn’t sure but he thought he heard screaming as well.
“We should head down,” Higgins stated nervously. Larkin nodded then followed him down the stairs to another door, this one a solid metal door on heavy duty tracks. It was probably a hold-over from when the academy had been remodeled. Higgins slid it open, stepped through then motioned for Larkin to follow him. Higgins slid the heavy door shut then worked the odd locking lever.
“Fire door,” he said answering Larkin’s questioning look before heading off into the bowels of the building.
And in the small town of Tenino, Washington, now christened Firebase Cascade, the new home of the 1st Special Forces Group after evacuating Joint Base Lewis McChord.
Deck O’Toole walked down Sussex Avenue towards City Hall. Cascade had been transformed over the last few months into a bustling city. The population had grown as more survivors migrated to the area. This increased the drain on supplies but as a benefit, swelled the ranks of the Home Guard. What amazed him was the amount of foot traffic on the sidewalks even in this rain.
People hustled about using carts and wagons instead of cars as fuel was rationed. This didn’t affect the residents as the city was still small enough that one could reach downtown from anywhere inside the secure perimeter in just a few minutes.
Climbing the stairs to the mezzanine level of City Hall, O’Toole nodded to the two Home Guard members who stood watch at the doors. Pulling off his dripping poncho and stepping inside, he looked around the old city council chambers before closing the door behind him. The ornate sandstone and marble fireplace that was the centerpiece to the former council chamber, was in use. Its heat was already drying O’Toole’s poncho and warming the room to a comfortable level. Colonel Carter was seated at one end of the table in conversation with James Martin who was standing by a large map of the local area on the wall. Both men looked up as he entered. The other occupant of the room sat off to one side sipping a steaming beverage from a white Styrofoam cup. O’Toole eyed him warily, not sure why he was here. Hanging his poncho on the coat rack, he looked over at the third man in the room as he shifted his FN SCAR around to a more comfortable carry position.
Giscard Epurer watched impassively as O’Toole entered. Beside him, leaning against the wall was his FA MAS rifle.
“Captain,” Carter said in greeting indicating a chair. O’Toole nodded, removed his boonie hat, shaking it to knock the excess water off it then sat down. Martin nodded before he sat down and opened the file in front of him.
As O’Toole waited for the colonel of 1st Special Forces Group to begin the briefing, his mind wandered back to the US Army Reserve Center in Tumwater where he and his forage group had taken refuge after leaving Capital Forest. Once they had secured the main portion of the building, he had sent out teams to search the interior for anything useful. Reports had come back that all the exterior doors were secure and locked. From the inside.
That meant only one of two options. Someone was still inside the vast building, probably hiding out in the warren of rooms and offices. That was the best case scenario. The worse case was that whomever had secured the building could already be symptomatic and was waiting to be discovered.
US Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Porter rounded up his entry team and they began a systematic sweep and clear of all the rooms ending at the door providing access to the basement. When the reserve center had been built, the basement had contained a compact, four-lane small arms range while the rest was delegated as storage. Over the years, the range had been remodeled into storage areas, additional classrooms, and offices.
Porter’s group entered the darkened spaces and cleared the rooms one at a time until they came to the last classroom. Chief Porter had entered first and encountered a rifle stock to the back of his helmet then the world spun as he was thrown down, disarmed and brought to his feet to be used as a human shield. The man who had so swiftly taken him down and acquired his sidearm now demanded to speak to whoever was in charge, his voice had a distinct accent. Several minutes of yelling back and forth ensued before someone called for O’Toole. The conversation from that point on resulted in the man releasing Porter and allowing O’Toole to enter the room.
The young Special Forces captain was unprepared at what he saw inside that room. Along one wall, cases of MRE’s and bottled water were stacked floor to ceiling. Blankets and sleeping bags were laid out in a small section of the floor near the back wall and in a far corner; a barricade of furniture protected a group of six young children. The man identified himself as a member of the French Consulate from Seattle presenting O’Toole with his identification.
O’Toole handed the ID folder to Sands who had accompanied his 1IC downstairs.
“Gas-card Hey Poo-Poo?” Sands asked trying to pronounce the name.
“Giscard Epurer,” the Frenchman corrected him.
“Gizzard?” Sands asked as he tried again to pronounce the name.
“Giscard,” The man said slowly enunciating his first name.
“OK, whatever,” Sands said handing back his ID. O’Toole knew that Sands was fluent in several languages, French being one of them and knew that his sergeant was checking the man out by purposely mangling the pronunciation.
“Mr. Epurer, I’m Captain O’Toole, US Army. Can you tell me how you got this far south?” O’Toole asked. “We heard that Seattle had been overrun.” Epurer looked at the children then back at O’Toole.
“We shall speak of this outside in the hall,” he stated, indicating the door. The soldiers warily parted and allowed him to exit then followed him outside.
“Those children have been through enough. They don’t need to hear what happened to them all over again,” Epurer said once they were outside the room. O’Toole nodded agreement.
“I’m sure they have but I need to know how you got down here and specifically inside this building,” O’Toole stated.
“We were at the Tacoma History Museum. It was a field trip for the children of the consulate staff members. I saw what was happening and gathered all the children together and headed to the van. It was then that I realized that we would not be able to make it back to the consulate.”
“Your ID says you’re Director of Consular Affairs,” O’Toole stated. “That position isn’t kid wrangler. If I had to guess, I’d say you’re DGSE which makes you a spook in my book.”
Epurer gave O’Toole a Gaelic shrug.
“Think what you will, Captain, what I am or was makes no difference now. All I am is a survivor,” Epurer stated gesturing to the men around him. “Like all the rest of you.”
“OK, fair enough. How’d you get here?” O’Toole asked, taking a visual inventory of the French man. Epurer appeared to be in good health. His clothing was worn but not frayed. He wore a light beard like pretty much every male did since world had ended. O’Toole thought back to what the children had looked like. They wore a mix match of civilian and salvaged military clothing, presumably taken from the personnel lockers inside the Reserve Center.
“I was able to get the children into the van after stopping and grabbing some supplies from one of the official cars.” O’Toole looked back into the room and saw a FA MAS rifle laying on top of a tactical vest on one of the tables.
“OK,” he said slowly nodding his head at Epurer’s reference to ‘supplies’.
“From there it was just a matter of finding a way out of the traffic snarl on I-5. We got on Highway 7 and headed east. That first day, we reached Eatonville. It was there that the last member of the security team died from his wounds,” Epurer explained. “I gathered what food was left in that town and headed southeast staying on the back roads. The van broke down a few miles from here. I had considered using your state Supreme Court building as a viable location to secure but the bridge between this side of town and the state capitol had been destroyed.”
O’Toole glanced over at Sands. It had been their team that had dropped the bridge that Epurer was referring to.
“This building appeared untouched and structurally sound,” Epurer continued. “I hid the children in the fire station across the street while I cleared this building,” he said casually as if describing doing the laundry. O’Toole and Sands exchanged a sideways look. Both men knew it wasn’t a simple task to clear a building that could be inhabited by large numbers of infected without support.
“After that it was only a matter of securing it and making sure there was enough food and water to last for a while.”
“And Directors of Consular Affairs normally carry around a bugle?” Sands asked flawlessly in Epurer’s native tongue using the nickname for the French made bull pup configured rifle.
Epurer chuckled lightly before fixing the sergeant with a cold look.
“Of course not, the item you’re referring to was taken from one of the now dead security men,” Epurer replied in English.
“And you just happen to know how to use it?” O’Toole followed up.
“These are changed times captain, you either adapt to them or you die,” Epurer stated flatly. “As you can see, I have several charges that I’m responsible for,” he said indicating the six children still in the room.
“Mr. Epurer, you’ve all but confirmed to me that you’re more than you appear. My sergeant here just used a nickname for the rifle in the other room and you knew it. That makes you more than just some desk jockey. Combine that with the fact you disarmed and took down one of my entry team without killing him and that all adds up to you being way more than some admin puke,” O’Toole stated. Epurer looked at him blankly.
“I really don’t care,” O’Toole said holding up his hands. “You protected those kids and found them a safe place. That racks up some serious points in my book.”
“We are both more than what we appear to be, captain. You and your sergeant are obviously Special Forces,” Epurer said. “Are you ‘good guys’ as you Americans like to say or will I be forced to beg for my life?” he asked, tilting his head and cocking an eyebrow up.
“We’re definitely the white hats here, Mister Hey Poo-Poo,” Sands drawled before O’Toole could reply. The Frenchman looked at Sands and shook his head at the way his last name had been shredded.
Book 5: Defilade, brings us back to some characters we were first introduced to in Book 1 and later reappeared in Movement to Contact, Book 4. That would be Sierra-3, the Forward Recon Team that was abandoned on the rooftop and left to fend for themselves in a city that is now overrun with infected, New York. Finding other survivors who have taken shelter in the New York Museum of Natural History, Sergeant Stanislaus Luzetski gets introduced to an eclectic group.
“Ski, this is Anatoli Breckhov, of the Russian Embassy,” Warrant Officer Dayna Doyle said as she introduced the senior non-commissioned officer of Sierra-3 Forward Recon Team to the Eastern European diplomat. Stanislaus Luzetski extended his hand in greeting.
The two men shook hands, the Russian was a slight built man with the beginning of a middle age spread about his waist but his grip was firm. The man that stood behind him, an obvious bodyguard, was built like a bear. A Russian bear to be exact.
“So this is the infamous Sergeant Luzetski,” Breckhov said with a smile.
Ski looked a little confused.
“You have me at a disadvantage, sir,” he said.
The Russian chuckled at the other man’s discomfort.
“We have never met but word, as they say, travels fast,” the Russian said in way of explanation.
Ski shot a glance at Doyle who just shook her head.
“Come, we shall talk about this inside,” Breckhov said as he motioned the two American soldiers inside the hall of American History. “I have always liked your history of the American West,” Breckhov said as they walked past displays. “The Native American would have made excellent Cossacks.”
Breckhov’s bodyguard, introduced only as Arkady, followed them in silence, his eyes impassive as he watched everything. Further inside the hall, more Russians could be seen, sitting on appropriated office chairs and other furniture removed from the administrative areas of the museum. Ski counted a total of ten Russians with most of them looking like heavy muscle. Who was this Breckhov guy? They were directed to a small corner in the back where a sofa, a couple of lounge chairs, rug and table had been placed. Breckhov motioned them to sit as he took a seat on one of the chairs. He made a gesture to his silent guard who stepped a few paces away and turned to face the gallery.
“I hear that you, Sergeant, have spent some time in this once great city seeing the sights as it were. I’d imagine that the lights on Broadway just aren’t like they used to be. Given the current events, I’m sure your time outside wasn’t a pleasant one,” Breckhov said as he reached over and poured some tea into three cups before placing the cups on the table. “Sugar? Honey?” he offered before he added both to his cup.
“My team and I have spent a little time outside seeing the sights as they were,” Ski said, taking a sip of the steaming liquid. Breckhov watched over the top of his own cup as he sipped noisily.
“Don’t be so modest, Sergeant. I know that you and your Sierra-3 Forward Recon Team are part of the 82 Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team. You were dropped into New York to contain what was then referred to as civil unrest. I also know you have spent quite a bit of time out there among the unfortunate. That speaks a lot of your skill.”
Ski hid the surprise that the Russian knew his team designation. Sure, it wasn’t a big secret when they were deployed but to have someone who wasn’t in the US military know chapter and verse who he was attached to was a little disconcerting.
“We call them Zulus, sir,” Ski said, placing his cup on the table.
“Always with the political correctness. The bullshit you Americans come up with to make yourself feel better about the real world always amazes me,” he said, the tone of his voice changed from pleasant and friendly to more serious. Doyle and Ski sensed the change as well.
“Forgive me,” the Russian said. “I forget how great your country is and then I let my own personal views distract me from what we were talking about.”
They sat in silence for a few tense seconds before Breckhov leaned forward, placed his now empty cup on the table.
“You want to leave this place but there is someone holding you back. A man unfit for command,” he said. Doyle and Ski glanced at each other and leaned back on the couch.
“No, that’s not why we came to you,” Doyle finally said.
“Come now. We both are too long inside this place to play games,” Breckhov said. “You and I know that the man is a disgrace. He is no commander. He is a burden, a liability I believe its called. If he was in mother Russia, a man of his inabilities…” the Russian gave a knowing look, “well, he would have been removed and replaced. Or just…removed.”
“Sir, we didn’t come here to discuss anything about Colonel Wiener,” Doyle quickly said.
“I didn’t mention names, yet you admit that he is a problem,” the Russian said with a knowing look. There were several seconds of uncomfortable silence.
“Forgive me for being so blunt,” Breckhov said, then leaned further forward and said quietly. “We both know that he’s the only thing holding all these people here. If he were gone, we’d be able to leave this island of the dead. All of us would be able to leave. I have a family I would like to see again.”
Ski watched Doyle’s eyes grow wide then return to normal. It happened so fast that most people wouldn’t have noticed it. He was sure Breckhov had caught the change in her expression just as he had.
More tea was poured during the awkward silence. Breckhov studied the two American soldiers in front of him as they studied him. There were subtle signs of familiarity. It was obvious that they had known each other prior to this event. The clues were there for someone of his years and experience to see. He hid the grin that threatened to form on his face by sipping his tea.
Placing his cup back on the saucer with a clink of porcelain, Breckhov spoke.
“I have known many men like him. He knows he is inferior to a real soldier, what you Americans would call a hard core stud, a warfighter, I think the term is.” He watched the expressions on the American’s faces. The sergeant, was a shrewd one, hard to read but the female engineer, not as difficult.
“Sir,” Doyle started to say.
“Call me Anatoli, we’re all friends here,” Breckhov interrupted.
“Anatoli,” Doyle began again. “As I said previously, we’re not here to discuss anything about Colonel Weiner. I’m only showing the sergeant around our little corner of the world.”
Breckhov nodded knowingly.
“Of course. We are just making conversation.”
“Exactly, conversation,” Doyle confirmed.
Breckhov grinned at Doyle’s discomfort.
“Chief Warrant Officer Doyle,” Breckhov said. “For the sake of conversation, are you happy to be cooped up in here? Inside a building of questionable integrity while outside, hundreds, possibly millions of your fellow citizens have succumbed to an infection that makes them very eager to get inside?”
“Sir, Anatoli, Its only Warrant Officer, not Chief,” Doyle said. Breckhov nodded. Had she been in Mother Russia, she would have been a real officer, he surmised.
“Of course, my mistake,” Breckhov said as he poured more tea. “I would love to see the sights again,” he added whimsically as he sat back and noisily sipped his tea again.
Luzetski and Doyle finished their tea and politely excused themselves.
“I’m having a hard time relating what just happened to reality,” Ski said after they had walked quite a distance. Doyle shot him a sideways glance.
“In what way?” she asked.
“Just a few short hours ago, I was outside the perimeter facing a very real risk,” Ski said. “Now, I’m inside this place and…shit. I don’t know. Maybe it was better to be outside.”
Doyle didn’t know how to respond to Ski’s statement.
“I’ll drop you off with the rest of your men,” Doyle finally said. “Tomorrow, maybe, you’ll have a better perspective.”
Off the Pacific Coast, a floating museum, one of the last battleships, has sailed from Hawaii to the west coast with a crew of retired sailors, active personnel, and civilian survivors.
The spray of the ocean washed the foredeck of BB-63, Missouri. Up in the Citadel, Captain Gavin Horatio O’Reilly, United States Navy (Retired) watched the horizon through binoculars. This far into their voyage all they had come across were ships with no crews. Technically, those vessels still had crews but not personnel that were able to perform their assigned tasks as they had fallen victim to the Reset Virus. Several times they had to make course corrections to avoid collisions as some vessels were still under power and moving on their assigned routes until they either ran out of fuel or ran aground.
O’Reilly lowered the optics but continued to stare at the sea. He glanced over at the bridge wings and saw the lookouts slowly swiveling their high power optics to scan for other waterborne traffic. This reminded him of the old sailing days he had read about as a youth. No electronics, no GPS, just sharp-eyed lookouts. Only this time the ship wasn’t made of wood but of iron, steel, and the blood of those that had seen her through combat.
“Charts,” he called, using the old term for what was now designated as navigator. The bridge crew didn’t respond but as one looked over to the gray haired man who was bent over studying the map on the chart table.
“Charts!” O’Reilly yelled louder. One of the younger sailors nudged Senior Chief Petty Officer(Ret) Arvin Pickering.
“What?” he asked as he looked at the sailor. The sailor pointed at the captain. Pickering reached up and adjusted his hearing aides. Several seconds of pops, whistles, and squelch came from the Senior Chief before he answered.
O’Reilly shook his head as he swiveled his command chair and looked at the retired Senior Chief.
“Where are we at, Senior Chief?” O’Reilly asked, stepping down from his chair and walking to the chart table.
“We’re 575 miles West of Bremerton, Cap’n,” Pickering reported. “Bearing 120 mark 5. Current course and speed, I estimate time to arrival at 1500 hours tomorrow.”
O’Reilly nodded as he studied the chart. To have made it this far without the use of modern navigational aides took skill and years of experience. Senior Chief Pickering had both. Using compass and sextant to gauge distance, location, and bearing was the mark of a true deep water sailor. To have made it this far with less than the normal Iowa class crew complement of 2700 was another feat unto itself. Of course, with the engine room having been modernized in the late 1980s and not having any of the gun crews save two of the retirees who spent their time checking and rechecking the systems of each of the three turrets made the crew they did have focus on keeping the ship running.
O’Reilly returned to his chair and continued his vigilance of the sea.
“Captain,” one of the bridge wing personnel said.
“Go ahead,” O’Reilly said.
“Looks like a storm forming. We’re going to get fog the closer we get to shore. Probably some gusts and lots of rain.”
“Copy that.” O’Reilly swiveled his chair, brought up his binoculars and studied the dark clouds moving towards shore. With luck, they might make landfall after the storm had come and gone. Without radar, he would have to rely on his lookouts to spot land.
“All ahead two-thirds,” O’Reilly ordered.
Below decks, in the Combat Information Center or CIC, several of the sailors that had been on active duty at Pearl Harbor and had found their way to the Missouri in the chaos that ravaged the Hawaiian Islands, tried to understand how to boot up the older systems that had been installed before the ship had become a floating museum. The systems that had replaced the older 1940s era equipment were still ancient technology from the 1980s and early 1990s.
“Oh my God,” Petty Officer 2nd Class Steve Pratt said as he tried to get the sonar system to boot up for the twentieth time. “This stuff is like playing Pong. Bet it still uses DOS.”
Seaman Ernesto Kimmel looked at him strangely.
“Pong?” he asked. “DOS?”
“Never mind,” Pratt said. “It was way before your time. Before my time too,” he added as the test screen finally showed on the display. He waited for the self-test to complete before he tried the system boot. An error code appeared and the screen went dark again. He had been working on this system since they left the Hawaiian Islands months ago and this was the only progress made.
“Damn,” Pratt muttered. “This shit probably does have cathode ray tubes.”
“Hey! Hey! I got something!” Petty Officer 3rd Class William Teller announced excitedly from his station. He had been trying to understand how the communications equipment worked when through the experimenting of flipping switches up and down and turning dials, he had come across some kind of broadcast. Turning the volume up so everyone in the CIC could hear.
“…Attention …vessels, … Port …inthrop ..base. … by … restricted …without … inspected first. … base is … security lockdown. … check … force. … not … exercise. Deadly force … authorized … vessel … fired … to heave to. … all vessels. This… Winthr… Naval base. … not attempt … pass … … markers …. inspected … is conducting … lockdown.”
The transmission was weak, fading in and out with a lot of static that garbled the transmission.
“Well, that’s something,” Pratt said. “See if you can clean that up and narrow down where it’s coming from.” Yeah, and maybe they could get the radio directional equipment to work, he thought to himself.
“On it, PO,” Teller said, turning down the volume and studying the equipment. Thumping and heavy breathing from the passageway announced the arrival of Chief Petty Officer(Ret) George Brown. Brown used a cane with four small feet on it’s base that made a distinctive sound when he moved through the Missouri and suffered from respiratory issues. Some of the sailors referred to him as Darth, a term lost on the younger members of the crew.
“What have you youngsters come up with?” he asked as he stepped inside the CIC.
“Afternoon, Dar…Chief,” Pratt said, catching himself. “Teller seems to have found a radio signal.”
Brown looked over at the other petty officer then moved towards him.
“What did you find, shipmate?” Brown asked as he stopped next to the radio operator station and wheezed a little from the exercise.
“Chief, I think I found something, sounds military or maybe from some emergency agency,” Teller said as he tuned in the signal again and handed Brown a headset. Brown held it to his ear and listened, nodded, handed the headset back to Teller then leaned over and hit a series of switches. The transmission was static free and not garbled as it came through the speakers.
“Attention all vessels, this is Port Winthrop Naval base. Do not attempt to pass by the restricted markers without being inspected first. The base is conducting a security lockdown. 100 percent identification check is in force. This is not an exercise. Deadly force has been authorized and any vessel will be fired upon without warning that fails to heave to. Attention all vessels. This is the Port Winthrop Naval base. Do not attempt to pass by the restricted markers without being inspected first. The base is conducting a security lockdown. This is not an exercise.”
Teller quickly looked at the retired CPO with wide eyes and an open mouth then back at the speaker then back up to the senior NCO.
“You’re going to catch flies like that or hurt your neck,” Brown said.
“What did you do?” Teller stammered out.
“Adjusted the gain, turned off all the other shit that you had running in the background, and allowed the signal strength directional finder to locate the source,” Brown explained.
Teller slowly shook his head. He had spent hours just experimenting with how to turn the system on and scan frequencies and then days determining how it actually worked. Brown had solved a series of problems in just seconds.
“The system is really pretty simple,” Brown said, taking a breath. “When you know what you’re doing with it.”
“Chief, would you mind staying here for a while?” Pratt asked. “Maybe you could take a seat and and act as supervisor for us. A lot of this gear is older than we are and you seem to know how it works.”
Brown hid a grin then nodded and walked over to one of the vacant chairs at the radar console and sat down.
“I was due for a break anyway,” Brown said and he tucked his cane next to the console and leaned back. He glanced up at the ship’s clocks mounted on the bulkhead. The different clocks, all analog, showed the time zone difference between Hawaii, and the West Coast. The other four clocks hadn’t been reset to represent any particular time zones. He leaned back and his foot hit something under the console. He bent over and glanced at the breaker box mounted near the deck that was under the console that held the dark, non-functioning radar scope. They hadn’t been able to get the radar to boot up the whole time since leaving Hawaii and had to rely on a deck watch to scan the sea. It was on the list of systems to troubleshoot but hadn’t been as yet. The lever providing power to the box was in the down position meaning it was off. Next to the breaker was a box that contained the fuses that acted as surge protectors to save the delicate electronics from damage during combat operations.
Brown leaned down and worked the clasps then opened the fuse box. Inside, he saw that there were three fuses present as it should be and out of those three, only one was locked in it’s brackets. He shook his head. How had this been overlooked? he mentally asked himself. Straining and stretching further, he removed one of the loose fuses. It was large, about the size of carbonated beverage can with metal caps at both ends and two prongs centered on those caps. He held it up to the light and studied it. It appeared undamaged. He blew dust off of it, wiped the contact ends with his shirt then leaned back over and pushed it into place until it clicked. He repeated this for the other fuses. He verified that all three were secure in their slots then closed the box and leaned back in his chair with a sigh. He took a couple of deep breaths. Damn this emphysema, and kicked the power lever into the up and on position with his foot before he reached over and pressed and held the reset switch. The Radar or Plan Position Indicator, screen flashed, stuttered, then stabilized as the sweep arm moved around the circular screen. Other indicators on the board lit up as well showing that the console was now receiving power.
Brown reached over, picked up the headset for the PPI station and plugged it into the jack.
“Bridge, CIC. Radar is up,” Brown calmly announced. The other sailors in the room turned and looked at him in disbelief before turning back to their own consoles.
“Hey, Chief,” Pratt said. “You have any idea if what happened in Hawaii happened everywhere else?”
“I don’t know,” Brown replied. “From what I saw before I came to the Mo, it looked like it was everywhere and then some.”
In New York, the survivors discover a way to leave Manhattan but have to deal with the millions of infected that now roam the streets. Then have a plan though. Shock and awe.
“We have a way to get out of here if you’ll all just remain quiet and listen,” Ski said as he faced the crowd of survivors in the Great Hall. The acoustics were great in this part of the building and he was able to stand on the second floor balcony and talk to the people gathered below him
“The problem we have is that we can’t move along the surface streets. The streets are clogged with abandoned cars. If we were to go that route, we’d be all jammed up and fair game for the infected,” Ski said. He saw the looks on the faces below him. There was a large majority that nodded agreement mixed in with those that had gone pale at the thought of venturing outside.
“I’ve been assured that there is a way out. But, that way is not easy. Warrant Officer Doyle will explain,” Ski said, stepping aside as Doyle stepped up to the railing.
“The only route available to us is through the sub-basement where we can access the utility tunnels,” Doyle said. There was a murmur of conversation that swept through the crowd. “The route is easy to follow and will allow us to get where we need to be without compromising safety.” She paused and looked down at the faces looking at her.
“We have four hours to get to the south end of Manhattan Island. We will be leaving within the hour. That will provide us a margin of two hours,” Doyle said. “Barring any unforeseen events, we should all be out of here and somewhere safer by the end of the day.”
“Why do we have to leave?” a voice called out from below. Doyle scanned the crowd until she saw the person that asked the question.
“Reverend, if we’re not out of here by then, we’re never going to be leaving this place.” Doyle said addressing the minister and leaving out that anyone left on Manhattan Island that somehow survived the initial wave of Fuel Air Explosives would be vaporized by the Tomahawk missiles and their low yield, tactical nukes.
“That means we have to start moving right now,” Doyle said. The murmur from the crowd grew louder as more voiced their opinions on whether to leave or stay.
“Those of you who are leaving, meet in the lower level archive section in twenty minutes. Take only what you can carry in one bag,” Doyle said. “The rest of you, if you aren’t coming with us, that’s your choice. I wish you luck.” She stepped back from the railing and nodded to Winchester who grabbed two of the soldiers in Doyle’s combat engineer unit and started giving them instructions.
Luzetski looked over at Wiener. The colonel hadn’t said anything since his visit to the roof. He just stood off to one side, listening and watching. It wasn’t Ski’s problem if the man had received a hard dose of reality. Ski glanced over the rail and down at the crowd.
The faces of the people gathered in the Great Hall looked at them with a mix of emotions. Fear being the strongest. They were safe inside the museum. At least that’s what they told themselves. They had been safe since they had taken shelter inside the huge monolith of stone and marble. Now, they would have to venture outside and face the terror of a city full of flesh craving maniacs.
Ski had listened to what Doyle had said. True, they were in a world of shit but they were secure for the time being. That lulled a lot of people into a form of complacency. He toyed with the idea that they could Alamo up where they were. There was plenty of food and water. Ammunition for about a month if they didn’t get into heavy contact. But, if they stayed here, even with those limited amenities, the roof would come crashing down on them in a more than a metaphorical way. The only option open was to escape and evade. He watched as the civilians started moving. Those that were eager to leave grabbed what was theirs and headed for the archive section. Those that were undecided milled about talking amongst themselves. He was glad to see that the ESU officers and the two paramedics grab their gear and headed down. His observations were interrupted as Doyle touched his arm to get his attention.
“That went well,” Ski said.
“As well as could be expected,” Doyle said.
“What now?” Ski asked.
“Now, I need you and your boys to get up on the roof and spot for what’s going to happen next,” Doyle said. “Make sure you have all your gear and you’re ready to roll as soon as the main event is over.”
”Main event?” Ski asked, looking at her questionably.
“Little Big Horn. Remember?” Doyle said. Shaking his head, Ski looked at her.
“With a name like that, it had better be good,” he said.
“Don’t worry, it will be,” Doyle said as she looked at her watch. “Be up there in thirty.”
“On it,” Ski said as he looked for Pruitt, caught his eye and nodded. Pruitt led him to where the rest of Sierra-3 were waiting. They had commandeered an anteroom and were checking their weapons. Ski nodded to them as he entered and took back his rifle that he had left with them for safe-keeping. Ejecting the magazine, checking the action then slapping the mag back in place and chambering the first round, he looked at his team.
“You heard what was said. We have a way out but before we can evac, Warrant Doyle wants us on the roof,” Ski said.
“What for?” Jiminez asked as he shouldered his patrol pack that still contained the team radio.
“She said it was for something she’s calling Little Big Horn,” Ski said.
“Don’t like the sound of that,” Graham said.
“What’s Little Big Horn?” Jiminez asked.
“1870s massacre of US Army forces facing a numerically superior hostile force,” Pruitt said.
“Shit,” Jiminez said.
“Exactly right,” Ski said. “Lets hope this one turns out better.” He slung his rifle, adjusted it to hang across his chest, butt high, barrel low then grabbed his own pack and began stuffing loaded magazines into it.
“Grab everything that goes bang and then head on up to the roof,” Ski said as he closed the flap on his pack, shouldered it and left the room. The rest of Sierra-3 lingered just long enough to finish stuffing their tactical vests with magazines and slipping grenades into any open space left before they followed their team sergeant.
Ski stood on the roof of the Museum of Natural History and looked at the streets below him. He brought up his binoculars and scanned the perimeter of the park. What he could see was swarming with infected. It looked like army ants in a nature film. The diseased minions of the Reset Virus filled every single inch of pavement with more pouring into Central Park. They were packed tight against the fence that surrounded the largest metropolitan park in the nation and wandered among the vehicles on the street. The Hesco barriers around Fort Ti contained a few hundred who seemed to be aimlessly wandering around not knowing how get out of where they were. More of the afflicted were now present, shuffling and shambling through the park, across the baseball diamonds, the jogging and walking paths. There had to be millions of them, disappearing into the man-made canyons of buildings that covered Manhattan Island. All of them seemed to have one purpose in what was left of their rotted brains; get to the humans who were barricaded inside the museum. How long could life go on like this? He understood that the world had changed but, for how long could the human race be expected to hold out against something like this?
“Dear Lord, For what we are about to receive, I pray I live the next five minutes well,” Ski muttered as he lowered the binoculars and tucked them into a pouch on his vest. He ejected the magazine from his rifle and began reciting a prayer known among soldiers.
“Lord, make me fast and accurate. Let my aim be true and my hand faster than those who seek to destroy me.”
He inspected the rounds in the magazine, tapped the mag against his leg then slapped in back into the receiver. He worked the action, ejecting the live round he had previously chambered and watched it fall to the roof.
“Grant me victory over my foes and those that wish to harm me and mine.”
He looked over at his men, they were taking up positions and aiming into the mass of infected that filled the park across the street. Ski bent and picked up the live round and tucked it into a pocket on his vest.
“Stand by to engage!” Doyle called out, readying the command detonation board that was leaning against the low wall that enclosed the roof.
Beside him, the men of Sierra-3 joined Luzetski in his prayer.
“Lord, if today is truly the day that you call me home,” Their voices grew louder until they were shouting.“Let me die in a pile of empty brass!”
“Light ‘em up!” Doyle yelled out.
That brings us to Book 6 Secondary Objectives. At the time of this posting, this book is still in progress. Below is a teaser from one of the chapters.
“We do have an exit strategy, right?” Lance Corporal Anders asked as he fired his rifle at the approaching mass of infected.
“We do. Hold on while I think of something really spectacular,” Staff Sergeant Reginald Oakland replied as he dropped out the spent magazine and reloaded his M27. If there was a high value target in this area, they’re Zed food by now, he thought.
“Goins! Get Lighthorse on the horn! Tell them we are Sierra Oscar Lima and in need of immediate extract!” Oakland yelled out as he serviced the targets in his zone of responsibility.
Marine Force Recon Team Able had been inserted into Lake Erie hours earlier after receiving their mission objective, the recovery and extraction of a high profile person or information on the whereabouts of said HVP. In the weeks following the tactical nuclear strike, entering a large city, any former major population center was risky. The radiation count was still high enough to cause health issues if there was prolonged exposure. And there were the infected that for some reason, still roamed the areas, apparently unaffected by the residual radiation.
Team Able had made landfall without contact and began moving inland. A firestorm had ravaged most of the waterfront leaving nothing but black, charred, skeletal remains of what were once structures and vehicles. The streets were clogged with abandoned vehicles and hastily made barricades. Travel through this maze was slow. Slower still while wearing full MOPP-4. It wasn’t until they had reached the two mile mark that they were truly fucked. These infected seemed to have evolved if that was even possible. They had waited until the recon team was deep into the metal maze before pouring out of the buildings and encircling them. Half of their team had been swallowed up including their sniper and OIC before the rest had fought their way to the roof of a small, semi-collapsed self- storage complex.
“Sergeant! I got Lighthorse!” Goins called out.
“Outstanding,” Oakland commented as he reloaded then keyed his radio.
“Lighthorse, Lighthorse, this is Ripper. We’re in a world of shit and need immediate extract. How copy?”
“Ripper, Lighthorse, what’s your pos?”
“Lighthorse, Ripper, we’re three klicks south, southwest of the waterfront. Marking with strobes.”
“Copy that, Ripper. We’re on the way. Mark your area with smoke.”
“Negative Lighthorse, we’re marking with strobes. Be advised this is a hot LZ.” Dusk was fast approaching, no way an aircraft could see smoke at night. There was a long pause on the radio before the MH22 pilot came back.
“Copy that, Ripper. How will I know where you’re at?”
“Jesus Christ,” Oakland muttered before keying the radio. “Lighthorse, Ripper, just look for all the fucking tracers going downrange and that’s us.” This is going to suck.
“Copy that, Ripper, ETA five mikes.”
Oakland glanced at what was left of his team then down at the massed infected. They might be able to stay alive for the next five minutes.
“Hold your mud, Marines! Extract is five mikes out!”
The first in the series, Denial Measures, is scheduled to be released in 2015 through Permuted Press.