Sam is on the other end of the radio. “Ruth, cease mortar use immediately. Your mortar rounds are falling among friendly forces!” Sam screams at me.
I yell at Junior to stop using the mortar. I have to scream to be heard over the rhythmic chatter of the machine guns. The damned Russians have brought up a SG-43 Goryunov medium machine gun on my left side to compensate for my exposed flank.
The forest is full of zombies. Our mines are expended, and the explosives are quickly getting used up as well. We start lobbing Willie Pete grenades, followed by frag and then smoke grenades. The forest is far too damp for even the WP grenades to cause a fire, but the smoke helps confuse the zombies.
Our lads open up with 40mm grenade launchers while the Russians use theirs. I worry about the expenditure of irreplaceable ammo, but figure that worrying over ammo is pointless if I am dead. One of the men along my wall is shooting an Intratec TEC-9 pistol with the old 32 round magazines that you can only load 30 rounds.
The old TEC-9 pistol is a piece of shit, but its high-capacity and light weight are appreciated. The TEC-9 was never known as a particularly accurate pistol but at this close range its accuracy is sufficient for killing zombies.
We occasionally hear the heavy mortar and the Styker cannon fire behind us. Just as I begin to call in our ammo status, the zombies disappear from the woods. There are a few straggling zombies but the large force of zombies has petered out. I am not sure if that is because we killed so many, or the zombies have wandered off somewhere else.
We have not seen one single non-infected human attacker all day. Over the radio the other wall sections call in. So far only the Adventists beside me are the only ones wiped out. The few zombies that made it inside the wall are quickly killed.
Junior asks about my peroneal strike that shattered the zombie’s leg. Most modern armies teach the peroneal strike in hand to hand combat so I know Shack is familiar with the technique. It is one of the most painful strikes to the body one can suffer but I am not usually strong enough to shatter someone’s leg.
A few days after the battle, Shack and I sneak down by the water. Lying on our clothes, we quietly make love in the grass. Lying beside Shack staring at the clouds, Shack touches my legs gently running his large calloused hands along my thighs. Heat rises in my body at his touch, making me thankful for having a young lover with the stamina of youth.
I caress Shack in a more intimate manner. “You know you have put on a lot of muscle since I have known you,” Shack remarks. He breaks my concentration by speaking so that I take my mouth off of him.
Holding the wet length of him, I ask “Is that what you want to really talk about now?” I gently suck on him again and hear him sigh. I can feel his pulse throbbing in his member. “Uh, no now that you mention it, but I was thinking what Junior said about your peroneal strike. You have gotten much stronger, perhaps more than you have ever been.”
I do not want to talk right now and occupy Shack with other things. We later walk back to camp holding hands. I have noted that we are not the only couple to sneak out of the compound for romantic trysts.
Clean up takes a few days, but we eventually repair the worst of the damage. Our dead are buried, and it could have been worse. We lost 23 souls, including Honey’s baby. The mercenary force led by Shack’s father, fled to the east leaving behind several dead and wounded.
The wounded were snacked on by the zombies before we could get to them and had to be killed. Cleaning up the mess from the merc’s camp, it appears that they left in worse shape than they arrived. Many vehicles were abandoned in their camp, along with a lot of weapons and supplies.
Shack’s father is not among the dead. We are not sure if he is infected, but Shack is troubled by his father’s disappearance. I found Shack leaning over a small pile of items looking at something in his hand.
Placing my hand on Shack’s shoulder I squeeze silently letting him know I am there. He holds up a token. Badly faded and scuffed, I have a hard time reading the round token. “It’s my dad’s eight years sober coin,” Shack explains. “It used to hang from his dog tag chain.”
We eat shrewbread that evening for breakfast, along with leek, potato, sorrel, and parsley soup – supposed to puree soup, but no power to blend it properly. Shack and I get prepared to resume our radio watch. Honey is joining us later if Doc clears her. Honey is still healing after losing her child and an emergency hysterectomy.
If it were not for the fact that Honey is infected, she probably would have died. Her medical condition causes her to heal much faster, so Doc thinks in a few days Honey will be released from hospital. Honey is going nuts confined to bed.
The human body functions as an antenna of sorts, and if you are aware enough to detect what that antenna is receiving you would be surprised what people can figure out. Despite Honey’s convalescence, she has correctly guessed what is going on in the camp.
One of the interesting things that Honey was able to determine is that Doc infected himself while operating on her. We now have three infected individuals in the camp. Doc, Honey and the little monster can communicate with each other in a way that none of us are aware of.
I have not seen the youngest infected person in the camp and was surprised at how much he has grown. His normal brother is still rolling around and barely crawling, while the infected child is already walking at only five months old.
With Honey confined to hospital, the little monster walked across the camp to Honey’s bed. He crawled into the bed with her, and they have been sleeping in hospital together since.
That night we get notice that our much delayed Kayak Point expedition is back on the schedule. I still wonder if we will ever discern who was sending the coded messages. I also wonder what friendly forces was Junior shelling?
If it were not for the stupid, clanking cowbell hanging around the zombie’s neck, the fucker would have grabbed me before I realized that he was even there. Thankfully, I heard the bell just before its nasty hand grabbed my hair. This zombie lacks a flaming tire.
Spinning quickly, my hair in its customary ponytail caught by the zombie’s left hand pulls out from underneath my field coat. Tethered to the zombie by my hair, with both hands, I swing my Cold Steel Special Forces shovel over my shoulder.
The flat shovel blade strikes the zombie in the face. Its face and jaw broken, dripping broken, loose teeth the zombie snaps at me like a rabid dog. The sounds made by the pieces of cowbell zombie’s broken jaw grinding together are sickening.
Yanking on my hair, cowbell zombie snaps at me again. I spin inside its arms so that I am face to face with the much larger male zombie. A pair of knee strikes to the mid-outer thigh between the leg muscles shatters cowbell zombie’s left femur.
Some of my male Krav Maga instructors describe an outer thigh strike as more painful than a kick to the balls. Lacking balls, I am not able to determine if their opinion was true, but an outer thigh strike which at the minimum, paralyzes the leg, is extremely painful.
Unfortunately, zombies do not feel pain. The zombie drops to its knees, the jagged ends of its shattered femur erupt through its rotting flesh. Cowbell zombie’s left hand is still holding on to my ponytail. I swing my shovel again; the sharpened edge of the spade severs the zombie’s left hand at the wrist.
The twitching severed hand clutching a few wisps of my hair slides down my back falling to the ground. With a sickening crunch, before cowbell zombie’s severed hand hits the ground, I bury the sharpened shovel blade in its forehead. Twisting the shovel’s handle with a spray of black gore, I yank my shovel from the dead zombie’s forehead.
With hands reaching for me, a second zombie staggers out of the underbrush. The zombie’s hands are tipped by bloody and chipped painted and manicured nails. This zombie lacks both a cowbell and a flaming tire.
Dressed in bloody ragged light blue hospital scrubs this female nurse zombie is an older one near full transformation. Nurse zombie still has her white plastic name tag pinned to her blouse; I cannot read it due to the blood covering it. Her feet still wear the incredibly tacky white Crocks.
My knife shreds through the leafy undergrowth burying itself in nurse zombie’s left eye. Disorientated, the zombie nurse staggers on its feet.
I close the distance in four strides slamming the knife deep into the zombie’s brain with a vicious palm strike against my Glock field knife handle. Twisting the knife, I wiggle it side to side ensuring nurse zombie is truly dead.
Beside me one of my men dispatches another zombie by plunging his Wasp knife up through the soft palate into the zombie’s brain. When he depresses the trigger, the zombies head explodes in a disgusting chunky shower of brain, hair and white pieces of bone. Yanking the knife from the corpse, the man removes the spent 800 gram CO2 cartridge.
Dropping the spent gas cartridge on the ground, he installs a fresh cartridge into the knife. Walking beside me, he wipes the Wasp knife off with a rag. I do not know this man’s name, as he is a recent arrival in camp. He wears operator-style black BDUs, with desert tan, US army style boots.
Fashion sense aside, the man appears to be a competent fighter. A battered FDE Steyr AUG hangs over the man’s back. He replaces the Wasp knife on his left hip hanging from his OD green, old-style army pistol belt. Hanging from the belt on his right hip is a pretty, satin nickel CZ 83.32 ACP pistol with a Fitz-style open trigger guard.
Loaded with a menagerie of bullets, the little CZ pistol has a 15 round magazine. I was never fond of the little 32s as I always consider them too underpowered. I certainly would not choose a 32 as my sidearm in a zombie apocalypse. I suppose, though, that one cannot be too picky about finding a weapon in a zombie apocalypse, and a 32 is better than no pistol at all.
As our troops kill the few zombies, that stagger through the forest, we hear the occasional low-frequency thump of a mine detonating. Many more zombies stagger out of the forest, some worse for the wear showing obvious signs of wading through a mine field.
Not sure how many mines we have left, but the zombies are quickly exhausting them. Realizing that our troops are quickly being overran by the zombies, Nikola and I call our men back. Yelling at Junior, I run with my men towards our fortified position.
Hearing the low thump and the whistle as the first mortar rounds sail overhead, I yell for my troops to prepare to kill the zombies behind us. Running towards our lines, one of my men falls underneath several zombies. His screams are short-lived.
Hurdling over the stacked logs, my surviving men take their positions. I yell for the men to prepare to detonate the claymores and other explosives placed in front of our position. At my command, the explosives rip through the trees, killing many of the zombies.
As I yell for the men to commence firing, Shack runs over yelling in my ear. “All the Adventists on our left are dead. Someone slipped over their wall and slit their throats. Not sure how many enemy forces are inside. The colonels are attempting to replace the lost Adventists.”
Nikola’s and my lads open up, decimating the first ranks of the zombies. The grenade launchers obliterate the zombies. The fuel air bombs effects are not as effective outside as they are indoors. FABs kill by over-pressurization, incredible heat and by consuming all available oxygen.
Used indoors, a FAB ruptures lungs as it consumes all the air. The intense pressure wave shatters eardrums, causes blindness, and is a horrible way to die. The thermobaric grenades carried by our troops have a lethality radius of about ten feet.
The zombies in the immediate area of the thermobaric grenade’s blast are deflagrated, disappearing in a fiery cloud of zombie bits. Zombies on the fringes of the thermobaric grenade’s blast are badly burned and injured, some enough so that they die a few seconds after the explosion.
I do not want my men to expend the few thermobaric grenades they carry. At my command, several frag grenades get tossed among the zombies, further reducing their numbers. Unfortunately, the gun fire, explosives and men yelling attract more zombies. I just hope the number of zombies does not exceed the amount of ammo we have.
I hear the squawk of the radio behind me. I hear Junior talking in the radio set, but I cannot make any of the words out as they are drowned out by gunfire. The Princess’s daughter continues to lob HE mortar rounds into the forest.
Junior taps me on the shoulder. Placing his Kevlar helmet against mine, he says “Uh, Ruth, you may want to get this.”
He holds out the handset to me.
Fucking deer! However, the deer hurriedly rushing past indicates something else is in the forest pushing the deer past us. We have not seen deer in several weeks. If it were not for the fact that we are nearly in combat, some of the lads would have shot several deer.
We certainly could use the fresh meat. Fresh meat has been scarce, with our foragers having to venture farther from our camp. It has been a real trial keeping hungry people from attacking the few farm animals we have managed to spare.
“I meant Viet Cong used 800 tons of explosives from failed US ordnance. Mujaheddin did same Soviet ordnance and then, later American. Russia make good explosives.”
While talking to me, Nikola takes a moment thoroughly cursing his Russian crew. I am not sure encouraging the Russians to dig deeper and faster by questioning their likely parentage and the manner of their conception is an effective management method.
Russian is a coarse language with a rich curse vocabulary. Cursing in French is beautiful, but Russian cursing is much more creative. Nikola’s urging causes me to consider if maybe my fighting hole may not be deep enough. While I am considering the lack of depth of my hole, Nikola starts talking again.
“General had many weapons in his bunker we stole. Include many tons explosives. By way, note with Polish pistol said got from VC deserter.” He fingers the odd-looking duck-bill on the front of the Polish machine pistol.
“Same caliber my Stechkin. But only one magazine. Hope not need Polish pistol not best close weapon. Empty magazine soon – slow reload.”
After the paniced deer bounded through our position the forest is still. I scan the forest with my binoculars until I feel my eyes strain. Shack uses a thermal imager, searching for any warm bodied object. Of course, the dead zombies will not show on the thermal as they are ambient temperature.
Suddenly an ear-shattering rifle shot echoes through the forest. The shot came somewhere from behind us.
“Might be PTRD-41 14.5mm anti-tank rifle. Sent a few lads out with heavy rifle to cripple vehicles. Don’t have many rounds.” Falling silent, Nikola looks around.
Lowering the thermal imager from his eyes, Shack remarks, “Well, after we left bags of uncut Bolivian marching powder laced with rat poison where they were sure to find it, it might have cooled their ambition to attack us.”
I knew that our Scouts had located someone’s happy stash of uncut powder. I was not aware that the Colonels laced it with Strychnine and had it placed where the attackers might find it.
“Yeah, the Scouts tucked the laced dope in the door panels of some fucking huge SUV that had ‘I’m the local dope dealer’ all over it. Had to make sure it was not too obvious though, ‘cause we didn’t want to make them suspicious.” Shack’s breath fogs as he speaks.
This late in the afternoon, the temperature has started to drop. The shadows are getting longer. I am not looking forward to a night spent shivering huddled in a muddy hole. We cannot build a fire, so we are going to freeze.
I need to talk with Nikola about how we are going to arrange for our troops to sleep and setting of the guard rotation. I also need to get in touch with the Adventists on my left flank. I have not seen the Adventists at all which worries me.
I mention the lack of Adventists on my left flank to Nikola. We consider walking over there to talk to them when Shack, looking through the thermal again, yells that he has movement.
“Fuck! Shack what is it?” I yell at him.
“Don’t know but it is fucking huge in the thermal.” We hear something crashing in the forest, and unless I am crazy I distinctly hear cowbells. Maybe I am going crazy.
Just as I doubt my sanity, Nikola says, “I hear cows.”
Now we can all hear several cowbells. Stampede I am wondering? The crashing in the forest gets louder. I smell smoke as well. I hear talking to my left, I fucking hope that it is the Adventists in their position.
“Great balls of fire,” Shack yells. Jamming my binoculars to my face, in the fading sunlight I can see several zombies staggering towards us through the forest. Each of the poor bastards has a flaming tire wrapped around their arms. A clanking cowbell hangs on a chain from around the flaming zombie’s waist.
“Are they trying to burn the forest down?” Shack mutters.
“Distraction technique. We shoot burning zombie it falls and ignites forest. Eventually zombie will fall and forest will burn anyway. Surprised poor bastard survived this long.”
“I smell gas,” Shack says.
“It’s called necklacing. You take a tire shove it over some poor bastard’s shoulders. Then you pour gasoline into the tire and light it. The tire burns hot and a long time.”
“Nikola, Ruth what the fuck do we do?” I notice all the men are looking towards us. A light sleet starts falling. The sleet will not be enough to extinguish the burning tires, but it is enough to make us miserable.
“There is only a few burning zombies. We need to go out there kill the zombie and throw dirt on them extinguishing the fire.”
“Easier said than done, Ruth.”
“I know sweetheart, but it needs to be done. Nikola and I will each take five members of our teams, killing the blazers. You will be in charge of our section while we are gone. See if you can send someone over to check on the Adventists on our left flank.”
I can tell from the stern set of his lips, Shack does not like what I have told him to do. After I choose my five, Shack details one of the men to run over to the Adventists.
The 12 of us quickly surround the blazers. Using long-handled spears, we skewer each blazer through the body underneath the flaming tire. Once skewered, we pin the blazer to the ground. When the blazer is down, it is shot twice in the temple with the suppressed Kel-tec PMR-30 carried by one of my men.
The little 30 grain, red-tipped Hornady bullets kill the blazers quickly without exiting the opposite side of the cranium. The bloody battle is brief but we manage killing the blazers without setting either ourselves or the forest on fire.
Using our shovels Edward, along with one of my men and I toss dirt extinguishing the last blazer. I hate the smell of burning flesh. It is going to take me forever to get this stench out of my clothes and hair.
Suddenly, a zombie stumbles out of the thick forest undergrowth; his flesh-dripping skeletal hands snag my hair.
During the planning of this combat, defense mortars, other than the heavy ones, were discarded because of lack of qualified mortar operators. Sitting on the ground with his feet in the mortar pit, Junior pulls the thick mortar tech manual out. He is furiously ripping through the pages giving himself a crash course in mortar deployment.
One of the Russian soldiers, seeing Junior struggle with the mortar runs over. Helping the youth set up the mortar, with either Nikola or I translating when the Russian soldier’s English fails, Junior gets the lightweight mortar erected and pointed in somewhat the correct direction.
Leaving the two men and woman as they prepare mortar rounds and pre-dial the mortar, Nikola and I inspect our defensive positions once more. Then Nikola and I have really nothing to do until combat commences other than watch as the trio sets up the mortar. With no one but enemies to our front it will not matter if Junior tosses mortar rounds too far.
Fuck, I crave a cigarette! Nikola and I watch our respective troops as they work.
“Is very similar Russian 82mm platoon mortar. Alexi best mortar driver in old platoon.” He says with a note of pride. I notice that when under stress, Nikola’s Russian accent gets much worse. I wonder privately if he is aware that his speech changes so much.
“Nikola, where did you get that ancient Polish machine pistol? And where is your Stechkin APS? You Spets lads are never without your favorite machine pistol.”
Noting that Nikola’s ever present brown holster is missing, I wondering if I might already know the answer to my questions.
“Left APS with Stiva’s little mother. She need more than me maybe. Protect son. When stole plane we took from old Soviet general’s secret bunker. General in youth Soviet Spetsnaz advisor Viet Cong. General many years’ service; many skeletons secreted in closets as you say. General stole from VC, printing press plates fake US hundred-dollar money. Positive America similar plates Soviet rubles during Cold War. Now printing plates worthless – money worthless. Only life valuable.”
In silence for a moment we watch our respective troops as they plant claymores, and other command detonate antipersonnel mines around the perimeter. With a combination of Russian and American explosives strung among the trees, I hope any attacking force will be decimated enough forcing them to retreat never attempting an attack again.
Military operational planning details an assaulting force as having as much as a three-to-one disadvantage because the assaulting force has absolutely no cover. We have wired the trees with explosives, turning what little cover the assault force may seek into mined hell.
I would not like to be within those trees when the explosives strapped to them detonate. The thought of all those chunks of sharp wood propelled at speeds nearing the speed of sound make me shudder.
One problem with a force attacking with zombies is that zombies do not care if their fellows are slaughtered. Zombies and other KCAP infected lack any kind of morale, so killing a large number of them does not tend to hinder their attack effectiveness. We will have to slaughter the waves of zombies, surviving long enough to kill the human attackers behind them.
Watching an American soldier placing a pair of claymore mines, one at the base of a tree and another about shoulder height on the tree trunk, I shudder to think of an attacking force having to wade through our trapped perimeter. The soldier’s buddy runs detonation wires with the clackers to their fighting position.
“Fucking hope the explosives are enough.” I mutter under my breath. High-quality explosives are something that we are not able to replace. Sure we can make crude explosives, and even have had some luck making black powder, but good explosives are going to be in short supply quickly.
I know that Jeff worries about the expenditure this combat will cost versus what will be left for the continued trip north this coming winter. Travelling in the winter is supposed to be easier with everything frozen; crossing rivers and other barriers will be easier. Or at least that is what the current “I Believe” button is labeled.
That is assuming that the ice will be thick enough supporting our heavy vehicles. I am not going to volunteer to be in the lead vehicle searching for safe ice. No fucking way! If Rick and the Princess volunteer to take the ginormous snow plow on ice they are crazier than I think they are.
I just hope all of the fucking infected are frozen solid so we do not have to worry about them chasing our ass. Then again if we are dead, then there will not be a convoy to travel north. I have lost track of who is travelling north and who is not as the damn people keep changing their mind.
Nikola seeing the pensive look on my face speaks.
“America not learn from mistake Russia make in Afghanistan. Shame America did same mistake before in Vietnam. Think would learn like Russia, not mistake twice.”
“What the fuck are you talking about? Speak English God damn it!”
Waiting for Nikola’s response I look at him. Suddenly the Russian lad standing behind the protective plates of the closest Dushka spots movement in the forest. He screams a warning in Russian.
I yell at the man now enthusiastically racking the charging handle of the Dushka to speak English. Nikola yells back at me that the man does not speak English. Shack yells our contact report into the old AN/PRC-117F Multiband Multi Mission Radio (MBMMR) field radio set.
Shit! We dive for our fighting holes and weapons.
Picking up Honey, Shack tosses the furiously bleeding pregnant girl over his shoulder. Running to the Dodge pickup, he throws Honey across the seat. Shack tears out of the forested area narrowly missing several trees, pelting us with pine needles, pine cones and dirt.
In a battered deuce and a half, Nickola and his assigned fighters arrive at their defensive section. My fighters take their positions, digging fighting holes, and erecting whatever barricade they can. I watch Nikola’s Russian crew do the same.
One thing about Russian soldiers, they fucking know how to use a shovel. I note that Mal’s beau is included in the soldiers assigned to Nickola’s defense force. It is still cold this early in the morning. The frost has not burnt off of the ground.
Despite the cool temperatures, we quickly strip to our shirts while we dig, piling dirt where it will most likely catch bullets rather than using our bodies stopping bullets. After digging our holes, we start dropping trees. Amazingly enough, in the hectic tree cutting operation, no one is hurt despite trees falling every which way.
Cutting logs from the fallen trees, we stack them against the barricade. Hopefully, reinforcing the motley perimeter barricade with mounds of dirt and trees might slow the attackers. Piling dirt around the cut logs holding them in place, we start placing our weapons in convenient spots. Ammo is piled next to weapons.
I make sure that each of my fighters has six frag grenades, two smoke and at least one WP grenade. In the center of our formation, I have one light machine gun, an American M-249B along with a far too young-looking former American soldier behind it. At each corner, I have an American M-240B. Beside us, I see that Nikola has opted for a pair of Dushkas in the corners, with a battered, OD green PKP in the center.
I could have opted for one of the M2Bs, or even pulled the GAU-19 out of the dump truck, but I felt that this was a better arrangement. I worry that the heavy machine guns maybe too difficult to move should we be forced to fall back to the secondary positions. The Russians have no such compulsions, grabbing the Dushkas with relish.
I have to admit that the sight of the heavy, ancient Russian machine guns does comfort me a little. If the attackers remain true to form, the Dushkas could decimate their vehicles. The machine gunners start hammering limitation stakes in their position, in the hopes of preventing friendly fire – which is not.
I also note that Nikola is toting a KBP GM-94 his Russian, odd ball pump-action grenade launcher. It is probably loaded with the thermobaric grenades favored by the Spetsnaz. Each section has a surprise for the attackers, which I verify is in place, loaded and ready.
As I walk around my defensive position, I confer with Nikola for coordination. Since the Dushkas sit higher on their tripods, as long as my troops remain lying on the ground, the Russian heavy machine guns can fire over our heads. While Nikola and I are talking tactics, the battered old Dodge returns, Shack at the wheel.
Parking the truck, Shack walks over to us. I am glad to see Shack return as he is my second-in-command. Shack has his M4 slung across his back. His Serbu shotgun is in its customary position. His Russian knife hangs from his LBV. Today, Shack carries an ancient, American M79 40mm grenade launcher on his back with an OD green 550 paracord sling.
Shack carries a ragged, cloth bandolier, hastily sewn together. The bandolier holds an eclectic assortment of American 40mm grenades. From the few grenade tops that I can see, Shack went heavy on HE, HEDP, anti-personnel flechette, shotgun, and the rarer American thermobaric grenades. Clipping his grenades to his LBV, Shack rattles when he walks. I note that his BDU pockets bulge, thya are probably stuffed with more ammo or grenades.
“Honey’s in surgery. She’s lost the baby and may bleed to death before Doc can get her sealed up. Doc says the cannibals are tough and heal fast – only reason she has not died before now. He said something about Honey having some fucking thing called placenta accrete – if I’m even fucking pronouncing that right. She’s going to need a hysterectomy, at least, if Doc can stop the bleeding. No more kids for her.”
“She is so young.” I say aloud. Silently I wonder how she survived so long. I also privately wonder that when she was raped, her insides were damaged. I feel sorry for Honey, but I know that she is tough young woman. I cannot think of her as a little girl anymore. The loss of Honey on my crew is upsetting.
Nikola mutters something that I do not catch. He is wearing his Saint George’s medal pinned to his coat. Now that heavy labors are done we have donned our coats and hats once again. I am surprised to see Nikola is carrying a battered Polish PM-63 RAK machine pistol.
“Since we are down one, Honey’s combat skills being second to none, I brought some reinforcements.” Shack points to the parked Dodge truck where I just realize that Junior and the Princess’s daughter are climbing out of the truck bed.
I see, approvingly, that the pair possesses the assigned number and type of grenades rattling on their bulging LBVs. Everyone packed heavy for this operation. Not a time to skimp on the amount of ammo you are carrying. We brought a little food, but a lot of water as well as much ammo as we could cram in our pockets.
Junior and his lady each carry an M4 slung over their shoulders. Junior’s M4 has a M26 Modular Accessory Shotgun System (MASS) underneath the barrel. Seeing the very short 12 gauge shotgun makes me happy. Seeing what else the pair are carrying makes me even happier.
Between them, they carry a pair of 40mm grenade ammo cases. Lying on top of the grenade ammo is a weapon I am grateful Junior brought with him – a Milkor MGL-140 40mm grenade launcher. Once inside our defensive perimeter, the pair immediately starts digging a fighting hole behind my place, near the center.
Not seeing it until her back was to me, the Princess’s daughter has an ancient, disreputable-looking Ithaca model 37 “Stakeout” 12 gauge pump shotgun strapped across her back. The old shotgun with its 13″ barrel and pistol grip was a famous street sweeper in its day.
Leaving the girl digging furiously, Junior runs back to the truck. Returning he carries another weapon that I am pleased he added to our arsenal. Junior carries an American M224 60mm lightweight mortar tube. Returning to the truck for another trip, he returns with the mortar plate and stand.
As Junior turns for another trip to the old truck, Nikola and I detail a couple of our troops helping Junior drag the ammo for the 60mm mortar to the hastily dug mortar pit.
Sam starts the briefing the evening before battle. “Numerous attempts at establishing some form of truce or parley have failed. Of course we never sent a messenger, as they would likely either kill the messenger or hold them hostage.”
Sam sips his room temperature Coors beer. “We left messages taped to MRE cases, but none of our overtures was returned. We’ve reinforced the barricade walls, and doubled the number of mines around the perimeter. Our Scouts indicate that this bunch has no finesse or strategy. Expect a full frontal assault.”
That night all is quiet in the radio shack. If it were not for the battle, tomorrow we would have struck our sleeping tent – the last tent standing in the compound. The Adventists do not have much of a radio system to speak of yet.
Our Scouts along with a few of the skilled Adventists have searched for radio gear to leave with the Adventists. We have found several radio sets for receiving but so far nothing for transmitting. We cannot spare any of our radios.
A few hobby GMRS/FRS radios located in an old prepper’s stash will be left with the Adventists. Our Scouts found all the preppers dead in their small concrete bunker. Poor bastards all died of food poisoning or something similar. Perhaps they died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
The haul from the prepper’s stash was disappointing. Either someone beat us to the looting or the dead did not have that much stuff before SHTF. Even the Adventists are learning the hard way that it is far better to be prepared than attempt to survive after a zombie pandemic hits.
Shack, Honey and I are rudely awakened early as some assholes decide dropping our tent early is a good idea. I don’t know if the assholes knew we were sleeping inside or just did not give a shit. A screaming match between the assholes and Shack ensued.
At least after the men realized we were sleeping they were a little apologetic. Angry armed men are dangerous. Grumpy armed men expecting combat the following day are especially prone to fighting with each other. Thankfully the men did not come to blows, but some heated words were exchanged.
Our tents stored in the trucks the Convoy is taking north, get a good scrubbing with bleach and water before being wrapped in tarps and stored on the trucks. Being around my old Dodge pickup, which I have been away from gave me a sense of nostalgia.
Opening the door to the old Dodge pickup, released a pent-up miasma of unwashed bodies, discarded food wrappers, and other ungodly scents. My eyes watering, I rolled the windows on the truck down.
While we have a small solar panel mounted on the roof, I am uncertain if the old truck is going to start after sitting for over a month. The old truck’s engine chugs a few times but does not start. I am supposed to take the old truck and the troops assigned to me, to our section of the barricade to defend.
If I cannot get this damn truck started I am unsure how I am going to get my troops to our assigned position. Just as I am beating my head on the damn steering wheel, Shack shows up carrying a propane torch and an OD green canvas small tool bag.
Shack pops the bonnet open and fiddles underneath the damn thing for a minute. Later he tells me that he takes the air cleaner off, and holding the propane torch nozzle over the intake, hollers for me to crank the engine.
When I crank the engine, Shack cracks open the propane valve pouring propane into the engine. Not sure how much propane Shack dumped into the engine but it fired and ran a little fast for a few seconds. Shack tells me that was his fault because it took him a minute to shut off the propane.
After the old Dodge truck warms up and recharges its batteries, I drive the hulking truck down into the compound. Our trucks that we are not using at present are parked in an old field which has become our waste disposal site for bodies.
Other drivers are moving their trucks into the center of the compound as well. We want to move all the vehicles where they are less likely to get damaged. Some of us also need to transport troops to our assigned spots.
Driving the old Dodge again, after I have been out of it for so long makes me nostalgic for the early days with the Convoy. Finding an empty package of cigarettes makes me realize that I have not smoked in several months. Funny how other things replaced my need for nicotine.
Shack, Honey and I along with the eight men assigned to defend our section of the barricade, attend a brief before we all turn in for the night. The radio shack is manned only by one person tonight.
Our briefing was fairly simple. We hope that the opposing force does not realize that we have military hardware. The Stryker MGS and the mortar Stryker will remain out of sight in the center of the compound. The surrounding areas are already mapped for grid reference artillery plotting. All the barricade defense section commanders, such as I, have radios and a fairly accurate hand drawn coordinate map. With eight section commanders, along with Sam and Doc, the artillery lads could be busy.
Observing the tactics of this bunch, when facing a barricade they like to drive a large vehicle up to the barricade. Tossing a large grappling hook and chain, they pull the barricade apart with the vehicle. One of the best pieces of intel came from the survivors of the Lake City Way Barricade.
I have not seen Sutton and Randy (AKA Laurel and Hardy) much at all since we settled with the Adventists. We are on different work schedules, but it is nice to see the boys are alright. Another welcome sight is Mal, our young female light wheeled mechanic.
Mal has been assigned to vehicle maintenance on the other side of the compound. I rarely see Mal but am glad to see Carol and her catching up. I am surprised that Mal is not listed as combat capable and I realize why when I catch sight of her profile.
Mal holding the hand of a large Russian soldier is obviously pregnant. She has that nearly-ready-to-pop look, as if she has smuggled a large beach ball underneath her parka. Mal stands beside the pretty young Asian woman from the Lake City Way Barricade.
Dressed in body armor for the first time in months, everyone has taken on the familiar lumpy shape of fully loaded soldiers. The familiar weight of my PASGT helmet on my head reminds me of the seriousness of the situation. I note that the Princess, also obviously pregnant, is carrying her S&W 686 pistol again.
Sam calls the final meeting together. “Alright folks let’s check any last minute items before we load into the vehicles. At least this bunch is somewhat punctual. Our observers have observed them loading up on Bolivian marching powder and Dutch courage. Once they are good and loaded, the bunch will commence the attack…”
Suddenly Honey emits a bloodcurdling scream interrupting Sam’s brief. Dropping to the ground, she clutches her stomach. I see a flood of bright red blood soaking through her pants around her crotch.
When Shack and I relieved Carol, Nikola, and Nguen with little Stiva in his basket in the radio tent, they confirmed that they intercepted many coded radio messages. No one knows who sends the coded messages. Shack, Honey and I throughout the night listened to the coded messages.
Honey is feeling poorly, and is bleeding again. She is worried about her baby. Despite Honey feeling out of sorts, she was able to take her turns cranking the charging handles. I appreciated her help, as I desperately despise cranking the charging handles.
After the day crew relieved us, we grabbed some breakfast and promptly dropped into our bedrolls. Shack and I lay awake until we heard Honey snoring. We gently and quietly made love falling asleep afterwards.
Poor Shack had to get up early this afternoon. Nikola and some of the other Spets lads along with Shack, Longfeather and the other Ranger-tabbed soldiers teach our Scouts and new recruits from the various groups. Dealing with creatures attracted to noise, tactics taught kill without noise. I still teach Krav Maga, but Shack and Honey are my only pupils. Honey, Princess and I still practice yoga.
The Russians, several of who are remaining behind when the Convoy leaves, have been very generous giving several silenced weapons to both our soldiers and the Adventists. Nikola gave and then taught Shack how to use a PSS Vul (Wool in English) silent pistol.
Honey received an ancient MSP Groza (Russian for “thunderstorm”) silent pistol. The old Groza is a double-barrel, derringer-type firearm designed in 1972 by the former Soviet Union. Long out of production, the little Groza was once a favorite clandestine tool of the Spetsnaz and KGB.
I have only seen pictures of Groza pistols. From my studies and service experience, I knew that Groza pistols were used in Central America during the Cold War. Last time that I recalled hearing of Groza pistols was during the American Second Afghanistan conflict where several American service men were killed by Mujahideen using ex-Soviet Groza pistols.
Carol now carries a OTs-38 Stechkin silent revolver in a shoulder holster in a generic black nylon holster. The bulky and rather unwieldy silent revolver rides butt first under her left arm. Another pistol that I am only passingly familiar with, the Stechkin silent revolver I have read about in books.
The newest of all the silent weapons given away by the Russians, the Stechkin revolver should not be confused with Nikola’s Stechkin APB (Avtomaticheskij Pistolet Besshumnyj) made by the same company. Nikola and most of the Spets lads love the older APB pistol despite newer and supposedly better pistols released by Russia.
Nikola has added a black slip on rubber padded grip sleeve to his APB, but otherwise keeps it as it was issued to him when he served Mother Russia. I know that there is no shortage of 9×18mm Makarov ammo but I wonder how much of the quiet special purpose ammo the Russians were able to bring with them.
Before the KCAP pandemic and the zombie apocalypse, 9×18mm Makarov ammo was prevalent loaded by several American ammo companies. As far as I know, no one other than the Soviet Union and then the Russian Federation loaded SP ammo as used by Honey’s Groza, Shack’s NRS-2 knife, Carol’s Stechkin revolver, and Shack’s Vul.
I know that Nikola gave Honey and Shack two, 20 round boxes each of the SP ammo. With no way of reloading the SP ammo or making our own substitute ammo, the Russian SP ammo and their pistols are regulated to emergency or clandestine necessity only.
Shack likes his little Russian Vul pistol which reminds him of an overgrown Walther PPK. Shack searches for a rubber padded sleeve similar to what Nikola placed on his Stechkin for his Vul pistol but otherwise left it as it was given to him by Nikola.
Shack has to be careful that he does not lose the Vul six round magazine. Vul magazines are impossible to replace. Unfortunately, the Russians did not grab any spare Vul magazines when they fled Russia. I hope that the sudden Russian largess does not portend something awful.
Shack also received a Russian NRS-2 (Special Scout Knife) from Nikola with a full accessory kit. Shack received two boxes of 20 cartridges each of the special purpose ammo SP-3, and SP-4. With the weighted insert replacing the firing mechanism and barrel, Shack is not yet as good as Nikola at throwing the large Russian knife.
Nikola’s skill throwing the NRS-2 knife was displayed when, defying all odds, a lone male zombie wandered into the camp. Miraculously missing all the mines, tangle foot traps, and guards the lone zombie shuffled into the main courtyard.
Dressed in the remains of a leather jacket and other biker attire, the zombie looked somewhat confused. Minus one foot, the zombie had a lurching gait. Nikola exiting the dining hall with his family in tow, saw the shuffling zombie just as Shack and I exited the dining hall with Honey following behind.
“Oh, fuck!” Honey’s appropriately yelled upon spying the zombie in the courtyard. At Honey’s outburst biker zombie spun towards our group revealing one side of his face and neck is hideously burnt. Biker zombie reached out towards our group with both hands.
Reaching for us I noticed that biker zombie was missing several fingers as well as most of the meat from his arms and hands. Slapping for my Hi-Power on my hip, while Shack reaches for his Serbu shotgun pistol, without thought we all scatter giving room for weapons deployment.
Nikola however beat us all to the shot. Tossing his NRS-2 knife with an almost casual underhand cross-body flip from his left side, the large heavy-bladed knife sank to the hilt in biker zombie’s left eye.
Dropping his arms, biker zombie looked confused for a second his lone eye blinking attempting to focus upon the strange thing that suddenly appeared in his face. Honey and I as well as several other people were stunned into inactivity by the fact that the zombie was still alive despite the large knife buried in its head.
Biker zombie’s arms started reaching up for the knife handle when a thunderous ear-shattering boom startles us all. Shack’s Serbu obliterated biker zombie’s head in a chunky cloud of hair, bone bits, brain chunks and black blood.
“Oh, fucking yuck!” Queen of the obvious, Honey remarked.
Shack cranked the small vertical handle on the Serbu chambering another round of Rhodesian jungle load. Ejecting the smoking, slightly transparent shotgun hull, Shack looks around at the gathered crowd. Shack joined by Nikola walk the four steps or so to the zombie’s corpse.
Shack prods biker zombie’s headless corpse with his boot tip while Nikola searches for his knife. Nikola finally finds his bloody knife lying in the snow piled against the side of what eventually will be the Adventist’s central armory. Picking up the dripping knife, Nikola wipes it on the snow. The blade must not have been sufficiently clean as then he repeats wiping the knife blade on the zombie’s corpse.
After Nikola is satisfied the knife is sufficiently clean, he pulls a small dented can of 3-in-1 oil from his pocket lightly oiling the blade he inspects it for damage. “Forget remove firing mechanism,” he mumbles while looking at the knife. Sheathing the knife back on his left leg Nikola gathers his family and leaves.
Looking at Shack I see that he has opted to carry the large Russian knife in the American manner strapped vertically, handle down on the left side of his LBV. I noticed that many of the American SF trained men carried large bladed knives in this fashion. Longfeather carries a Vietnam era Marine KaBar knife in the same manner.
Nikola only commented once on Shack’s choice of place to carry the Russian knife. Nikola mentioned that it would be hell to undo all of that 550 paracord in order to be able to use the wire cutters installed on the tip of the knife sheath.
Like two unstoppable armies, our forces prepare to do battle with the opposing force led by the elder Rogers. Showdown should be tomorrow afternoon if all goes according to plan.
Shack and I talk for a little while before drifting off to sleep. After Shack falls asleep, it takes me a little while to go back to sleep. Nestled in the warm security of his arms, it is difficult for me to remember that I am nearly 12 years older than he is.
While I have seen much more of the world, that was the old world that no longer exists. The youth of today has had to adjust rapidly to a radically different world. Many of the things that once were important today are now about as important as the study of metabolomics.
From Shack’s assessment of his father it appears that the elder Rogers, addicted to either drugs or alcohol or both, has turned into something that Shack hardly recognizes. Shack watched his father for a long time last night observing him swallowing pills, drinking alcohol and abusing female captives.
Shack’s description of his father’s actions sounds as if his father, assuming that he lost everything, sunk into despair. Shack described how when the KCAP pandemic struck his father and he had to kill his younger twin brothers, who were both nine years old at the time. The twins killed Shack’s mother.
Shack and his father caught the twins on either side of their mother in the bed she shared with his father, ripping their mother’s corpse apart with their teeth and hands. Upon Shack and his father’s entry, the twins leapt from the blood-saturated bed attacking both men. Because of their smaller size, Shack and his father were able to fend off the small zombies.
Shoving the twin zombies into the master closet and barring the door, Shack and his father quickly dressed. Arming themselves from the safe in the master bedroom, the men were fortunate that they were armed when the twins shattered the master bedroom closet’s door leaping towards the two men.
The two men dodged the first attacks of the little infected monsters but ultimately came to the decision that they had to kill the infected brothers. Despite numerous bullets to the body which twisted and spun the small monsters, it did not kill them.
No one knew then that most importantly, the amygdala of the infected brain has to be destroyed. We know now that barring destruction of the amygdala, the brain stem has to be severed otherwise the infected remains mobile. A bullet to the brain, just like in the movies has to destroy the majority of the brain.
The usual sniper tactic of aiming for the spot just underneath the nose tends to vaporize the brain blasting it out the back of the head in a spray of blood, bone chips and hair. Barring destruction of either the brain stem or the amygdala, destroying the medulla oblongata tends to incapacitate the infected.
Shack and his father knew none of that information at the time. Shack did not know how many rounds of ammo his father and he wasted until they learned that only a shot to the brain, destroying it, is the only sure way of stopping the infected.
After killing the twins, the men reloaded their weapons just as the shredded corpse of Shack’s mother started dragging itself across the blood sodden sheets. This was the first time that Shack observed that the infected can turn into a zombie with the celerity of a lightning strike.
Despite the danger to himself and Shack’ incessant pleading, Shack’s father was unable to shoot his wife, the mother of his children. Shack’s father scooted across the floor as fast as he could until his back hit the bedroom wall.
The infected woman crawled across the floor towards Shack’s father. When she was just about to bite his father, who was frozen by horror, Shack placed one well-aimed 9mm hollow point bullet between his mother’s eyes ending her misery.
I have heard the rest of the story before of how the two men fled west, and how they became separated. I know that Shack assumed his father was dead, just as his father must have assumed that Shack was also dead. Left unsaid was the question of what to do about Shack’s father.
I woke earlier than I would have liked. I quietly dress, leaving snoring Shack and Honey resting until it is time to rise for tonight’s radio vigil. Wandering to the new combination kitchen and dining hall cinder block house, I grabbed a cup of decent blackberry leaf tea.
Sitting in the warm dining hall, I observe some of Brenda’s gatherers carrying five gallon buckets of mushrooms. I overhear one of the gatherers mention that he found a good amount of Dryad’s saddle mushrooms. He mentions that a decent thick paper might be made from some of the older specimens that are not really fit to eat.
The gatherers drop their bounty off in the kitchen and wander out. I remain sitting for a while longer, until it is time to rouse Shack and Honey. Walking across the compound yard, I notice another hand-fasting ceremony proceeding in front of the frame of what eventually will be the chapel.
The five men and three women join together in a large communal marriage. Rain is central in the group of women with Adela and another woman that I do not know flanking her. The five men are arranged behind the three women. Two of the men I believe are Russian judging by their weaponry and dress.
One of the women observing the ceremony mutters that Rain is marrying three of the men likely to have fathered her child. I overhear one of the older men mutter that the group is a Heinlein-like group marriage.
Not sure what he means, but I am surprised by the inclusion of Adela in the group. Apparently I am not the only one surprised by Adela’s inclusion as one of the men remarks to another about her inclusion. Another man voices the opinion that Adela is ensuring her place within the Adventist’s company by marrying into a group.
Another man makes a wise crack that Adela’s possession of a pussy is enough for her inclusion into almost any group. Some quiet laughter follows his remark. After the ceremony ends, the crowd dissipates quickly.
Entering our sleeping tent, one of the few remaining tents on the farm, I note that Honey is already awake. While tying her boots Honey smiles at me. I smile back wondering if perhaps I am not sending the poor child mixed messages.
I still have avoided talking with either Honey or Shack about what happened the other evening between Honey and I. Gently shaking Shack awake I kiss him lightly on the lips. While Shack dresses I summarize the group marriage ceremony for him.
After I finish my narrative he shrugs, muttering that with more men than women, something is likely to change. I know that Shack and I as well as Carol and Nikola have received offers and suggestions to no longer be exclusive with our bed partners.
So far none of us have opted for an open or group sleeping arrangement. Although I feel guilty about my involvement with Honey, I am not the one who sought her out in a sexual way. I was never into the whole polyamory thing no matter how popular it might have been at one time.
I have always practiced serial monogamy. Just because there is a zombie apocalypse, it does not cause me to suddenly spread my legs for every stiff dick in the camp. Shack, Honey and I cross the farm-yard walking to the dining hall. We will relieve Carol and Nikola on the day shift after we eat.
I wonder if Carol and Nikola intercepted any more code transmissions. I am still wondering who is sending the coded messages.
I join a standing crowd of people on our perimeter watching the fire’s glow.
“Do we know what is burning?” I ask Doc who is standing closest to me. I assume that Shack does not know since we just woke up.
“The cities of Everett, Marysville, Stanwood and something on the island are burning. Don’t know how the fires started but large portions of the cities are engulfed in flames. Shame losing all the buildings but it does clean out quite a few zombies.”
While watching the flames to the south of our position in the cities of Marysville (closest) and Everett (farthest south), I see that there is a black helicopter flying over the flaming cities.
“Doc, did the helicopter start the fires?”
“Don’t rightly know Ruth. But the damn thing’s been flying around the burning cities for a while now. It darts back and forth – even flew over our camp a few times. Got some asshole dressed in one of those Big Bird-yellow hazmat suits leaning out of the rear side door when it flew over us. Guy in the hazmat suit was holdin’ some sort of instrument in his hand when he flew over us. Some of the guys flipped him off as he flew over but he made no sign that he saw the gestures.”
We watch the glow of the fire reflected upon the ever-present clouds. Despite the continuous damp rain, the cities fiercely burn. Thick oily smoke rises into the cloudy sky. The helicopter flies around for a while then heads south and disappears. Eventually the crowd breaks up as people return to their beds or whatever job interrupted by the fire.
Immediately after the supper crowd sits down to eat, Doc and Sam hold a planning session. They want to send the Scouts out with Longfeather in the morning to assess the fire’s extent and damage.
Sam agrees but the Scouts are going out heavy, taking the MGS Stryker with them. The Scouts are also taking two Hummers. The first Hummer has a M2B on the roof. The second Hummer carries a M19 40mm grenade launcher on the roof.
While the lads prep the vehicles for tomorrow’s foray, Shack, Honey and I grab supper. Settling in the radio tent we prepare for a long boring night. Fortunately the night was anything but boring as some interesting news came over the radio around midnight.
The VP (I guess we should really call her Madame President) is back in the battle against the hordes of undead. She took some time off to have a child and get married, but now that domestic home life is settled, the VP is taking the fight to the undead.
Mount Weather is completely lost and full of the undead. I am not sure where the VP got the old W45 warhead armed Medium Atomic Demolition Munition (MADM) but she had it dropped down the elevator shaft of the sealed Mount Weather. When the MADM exploded the ground shook but there was no smoke or fallout escape.
Dropping a nuclear bomb into a zombie nest is one of the most creative ways I have heard for killing thousands of zombies with one shot. Even if the VP is back in the fight, the radio broadcast had a very uber-propaganda feel that I automatically mistrust.
Shack ever the pragmatist, shrugged his shoulders. “Who cares? But isn’t the VP a little old to be having another child this late?”
“She’s in her early 50s. She lost her first husband and children in the evacuation of DC. Her family never made it out of the District.”
“How do you know that Honey?”
“Because I heard it on the TV several months ago, Shack back before all the news stations went off the air.” She sticks her tongue out at him.
The rest of the night passes uneventfully. The next evening, the returned Scouts brought some interesting news. Sam briefs the assembled company at supper. Although we are not military anymore, old habits die hardest. When Sam enters the cinder block house we still rise to our feet.
After the room returned to their seats, Sam starts the meeting without preamble. “There is a well-organized and well equipped force out there. They use zombies as shock troops, and burn out any resistance they encounter. This force is made of folks that are either former military, police, or were preppers and survivalists. We have not seen any military weapons other than a few M16s. One of the tasks of tonight’s raid is to find out what heavy weapons, if any, they possess.”
“The Scouts ran into some of their advance scouting forces. None of our boys and girls were hurt but we did kill several of their members. They most likely know our position. Gear and weapons descriptions leads me to believe that this is not an organized force, where everyone carries the same weapon. We’re on heightened alert, as today two of these assholes were caught sneaking through the forest on our flank. Thankfully they were caught by some of the clever booby-traps.”
“We might not get lucky next time. This force has steadily worked their way north, burning and pillaging as they go. They are less than a day from us, so tonight we are going radio cold. Listen only – no transmissions unless I authorize them. All personal radios are to be on receive only as well. Maintain light and noise discipline.”
“Longfeather’s taking the Rangers and other SF folks, including the Russian Spets’ lads out on a harassment and interdiction raid. Goal is taking out the scouts, sentries, destroying or looting supplies and damaging vehicles. Hopefully, the sharpshooters with suppressed weapons can trim their command structure, but we do not want to tip them off until morning that they were attacked.”
Out of the corner of my eye I see Carol nursing Stiva, grasp Nikola’s hand tightly. He raises their joined hands to his lip and kisses her hand. The huge chunk of ice on Carol’s left hand shimmers in the candle and lamplight lit room.
While Sam talks, Shack leans over and whispers in my ear. “While I was in the can, Longfeather signed me up for tonight’s raid since I was a Ranger. It’ll just be you and Honey tonight in the radio tent.”
That night in the radio tent it was very quiet. Poor Honey suffers from cramps and has even had some spotting of blood. Cranking the charging handles, I missed Shack not only for his turn on the handles but his quiet company. Honey spent most of the night in pain, hunched over and was not able to crank the handles for very long.
Several times we picked up several pieces of Morse code. Deciphering the Morse code revealed messages such as “page six, paragraph 4, third word” and “preface, second paragraph fifth word.” Someone is transmitting in a code, but who I wonder.
After eating breakfast, Honey leaves to talk with Doc while I climb straight into bed. Before drifting off I watch Honey enter our tent, strip naked and slide into her bedroll. We still have not discussed what happened between us. I feel guilty for not telling Shack, and drift off to sleep with that thought.
Sometime later I am startled awake as someone cold and naked slides into the bed spooning against my warm back. At first I fear it is Honey seeking a repeat, but feeling stubble and smelling smoke underneath which is the familiar scent of Shack, I am relieved.
Relaxing into Shack’s cold embrace, he wraps me in his arms, his right hand slides down my right arm grasping my hand. He seems troubled. Not wanting to wake a (thankfully) snoring Honey, I turn my head slightly towards him.
“Shack what is wrong? Did someone get hurt or killed?”
“No, that’s not it. Some minor injuries but nothing major. I saw my dad, he leads the bunch of assholes. I almost shot him.”
(Sorry for the delay in posting this chapter. Family matters kept me from the keyboard, otherwise I would have posted this yesterday as I was supposed to. Damn holidays!)
Today I helped Iain harvest mushrooms from the lower grow rooms. High in vitamin D the mushrooms are a welcome addition to our diet. We do not get much sun as we spend most of our time inside the bunker.
The mushrooms grow in plant and food waste, recycling material from the bunker. Iain and I gather dry grass, straw, used paper towels (when such things existed), and food scraps reloading the harvested mushroom trays.
Iain joked about growing mushrooms in used toilet paper, but I told him in no uncertain terms that would I ever take used TP down here for growing mushrooms. If he wanted to collect used TP, he is welcome to do it by himself. The fact that I have to use a composting toilet is gross enough.
After the mushroom harvest, Iain and I moved into the hydroponics section, selecting a few choice tilapia and rainbow trout to eat. I am always amazed at the size of Iain’s bunker. Iain’s fortress built over several years and expanded many times, started in the mid-1950’s at the height of the Cold War. Built to survive a nuclear war with the former Soviet Union the bunker is an awe-inspiring sight; at least from the inside.
Even though I have lived with Iain for several years, there is always some room or part of the bunker that I have not before visited. Iain’s huge hydroponics system spans several rooms and two floors of the bunker. He explains the hydroponics system as we work. The hydroponics system requires frequent maintenance.
Iain’s hydroponic system uses ceramic media balls over which the water from the fish tanks is pumped in a continuous cycle. Plants in the media are watered by the fish tank water in a circulating system.
We harvest pot herbs, salad greens, and fast growing root vegetables such as kale, beets, radishes, turnips (yuck!), spinach, loose-leaf lettuce, and broccoli. Several varieties of peas including pole, snap, and snow peas also grow in the plant beds. Bush beans, something I have never seen until I lived in the bunker, also grow but not as well as other plants.
Iain wanted to grow citrus and fruit trees, but does not have either the space or the ability to heat the rooms sufficiently for citrus. Unfortunately, my favorite strawberry does not grow well in underground hydroponic systems either, but rhubarb does well.
Iain has several species of fish in the hydroponics system. The recent addition of rainbow trout from the river nearby offers a fast growing, cold water-loving species of fish. The hydroponics system is slightly warmed by the cleverly hidden solar panels near the roof, choosing cold water tolerant fish is a smart choice.
Iain also has edible tilapia, channel catfish, yellow perch and bluegill in the fish tanks. There are quite a few crayfish in the deeper tanks, which Iain tries to convince me taste like miniature lobster. The koi and plecostomus catfish help keep the system clean, but Iain jokes that in a dire emergency they could be eaten. I hope that he is not serious.
We feed the fish daily according to schedule, mostly commercial fish food. Iain is rationing the commercial fish food as it is running out. Outside we forage for grubs and insects, feeding the fish what Iain calls “treats.” I still think that a hellgrammite is an evil looking fucker of a bug, but the fish love them. Iain has mentioned venturing out of the bunker soon on a foraging mission again for supplies.
He wants to take the truck this time rather than the horses so we can recover more goods. If we leave the bunker again we will have to fill and set the automatic fish feeders. Iain worries that something will happen while we are away and he will lose all the fish and plants. It is a risk but one that he has taken before. The need for information and news and for supplies necessitates our leaving the bunker once in a while.
I ponder a supply run while watching the greedy fish eat. The fish separated into tanks and further separated by pipes and screens prevents undesirable predation. A scattering of freshwater clams (mussels) in several tanks are not as productive as Iain would like. Over the years, the mussels have not increased in number to a sufficient quantity for a viable food source.
A creative system of mirrors on the bunker roof directs sunlight into the plant rooms. The sunlight is beneficial for the plants and us, because we need what little sunlight we can get and of course the plants appreciate it. Installed in the roof, grow lights powered by either the diesel gen set (in an emergency), or the wind and water turbines receive infrequent use.
Grow lights however emit a little warmth similar to the sunlight that also warms the rooms slightly. There is an electric heating system for the bunker, which Iain uses sparingly because of the power drain on the gen set. A creative array of wind turbines and a buried water turbine somewhere provide most of the power for the bunker.
Iain has a large, eclectic array of solar panels cunningly hidden so as not to attract unwanted attention. The dehumidifiers in all of the bunker’s rooms drain into the hydroponic tanks. Despite the heat from the dehumidifiers and other sources, I am always cold in the bunker.
I often drink hot tea in the bunker. Today I drink some of the last of the South African rooibos tea. Thankfully, Iain prefers tea to coffee, and while he prefers black tea to my preferred green, at least we agree on tea rather than coffee. I am also grateful that Iain has several bee hives in the upper floors and upon the earth-covered roof.
Iain’s bunker is well stocked with sweeteners, but I prefer the flavor of honey to that of sugar in my tea. Some teas such as Iain’s favorite South African honeybush tea do not require sweetening. Iain likes to keep a pot of honeybush tea simmering on the stove in the main room, filling the air with a pleasant honey-like aroma.
Iain has several fire places in the bunker, and we use the ones in the main room and the master bedroom often. Much as when we are outside, Iain worries that the smoke from the fireplace might attract unwanted attention. We use the fireplace mostly at night when it is hardest to determine the direction from which the smoke comes from.
Thinking of smoke and cold takes me back in time to the convoy upon the farm with the Adventists.
Rudely awoken by someone screaming inside the tent, Shack, and I pile out of our bedroll and hurriedly dress. Next to us beside her bedroll Honey is likewise dressing, she no longer attempts to hide her nudity from Shack.
I suddenly realize that I smell smoke very strongly. I catch Honey’s eye and say simply “smoke” to her. She nods her head at me.
“I smelled it when we woke up. Smells like a huge, hot fire. Lots a’ chemicals in the fire like tar, tires, paint, and other shit.”
Honey’s sense of smell is much better than ours. “Can you tell the direction the smoke is coming from?” Shack asks as he sits lacing his boots.
“South of us a bit is all I can tell. The smoke is getting stronger, which either means the wind is blowing it harder or that the fire is getting closer.” After that proclamation Honey quietly finishes dressing.
With the new construction on the Adventist’s property of cinderblock houses and buildings, I did not believe there was much that could catch fire. The old cement mixers used for mixing thermite and other chemical weapons are finally used for what their builders originally intended.
We dash out of the tent, expecting to see the world on fire. We were not too far off target in our expectations.