Sitting at the table in the command and mess tent surrounded by the extended Johansen family, I listen to the conversations going on around me. I get the sense that this family fervently hopes to join the convoy. The colonels at least appear to be considering allowing the family to stay. Adding the Johansen family to the convoy does add significantly to the number of children in our company, a rare commodity today.
We have, technically, decided to refer to ourselves as a company rather than a convoy, but I still think of it as more of a convoy of motley vehicles. Company does sound better and is more in alignment with the pseudo-military way that the colonels are running this rolling buffet.
The Johansen family offers the possible location of supplies and fuel as their buy in to the company. Previously, they did some significant urban exploration (urbex) around their neighborhood. The family describes how earlier in their explorations they located a couple of abandoned railroad trains; one Amtrak passenger train, the other a freight train.
The freight train did not yield anything of value other than a pair of weak Chinese rip off Maglights with near-dead D batteries, a few slightly used alkaline AA batteries and a general purpose first aid kit in a large green tin with a hinged lid. The first aid kit is marked “Property of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Rail Road.” Nothing spectacular is in the BNSF first aid box, but it is a good thing to have around just in case of a zombie apocalypse.
The BNSF first aid kit contains many of the usual generic lime-green adhesive bandages in a variety of sizes. Under the bandages are several white gauze eye pads with four rolls of off-white surgical tape. Beside the eye pads and surgical tape lay 10 sealed clear plastic bottles of saline rinse. At the bottom of the kit are several vacuum sealed OD green military style large triangular bandages common in such government mandated general purpose first aid kits.
I note that the triangular bandages are the older variety without the included safety pins. Damn, in improvised field medicine the safety pins come in handy. I have a feeling that several of those ugly green triangular bandages are going to be used for bathroom tissue. We ran out of TP weeks ago and have been boiling rags. Boiling soiled rags imparts a certain odor to our camp.
The generic adhesive bandages are of the variety that are typically either too small or too large to cover your injury commonly found in such government mandated general purpose first aid kits.
Found in one of the freight train engine’s operating station was a small one-handed fireman’s hatchet with a bright yellow fiberglass handle. From the state of the bloodied hatchet, with chunks of coagulated I do not want to know what stuck to it, I assume that it has seen frequent use. I have had enough dispatching zombies with a damn axe. I would much rather kill zombies with something longer so that I do not have to get so fucking close.
Looted by survivors earlier, the passenger train revealed little of worth. It sounds as if several locked cars were heavily infested with zombies. Found underneath one of the passenger seats in an empty and open car were three, 10 ounce, plastic twist top, green glass bottles of non-carbonated Lane’s Honey and Lemon Health Drink. The three bottles were in a small red and white plastic Igloo cooler. Other than someone’s dropped medicine bottle containing 43, 20mg capsules of Prozac, the passenger train was a bust for anything else of worth.
An intriguing note though was that both trains appeared to be carrying a significant amount of fuel in the engine’s tanks. The Johansen family is offering the location of the trains, and the location of a small dairy farm that also might have a large supply of red dyed agricultural diesel in an underground tank.
Unless the Johansen family is holding out on us, and I would not blame them if they were, the offer of the location of more fuel is extremely tantalizing. To sweeten the deal, the family also mentions that they might know the location of some gasoline. Exchanging fuel for letting the Johansen family join our company is not a terrible trade in my opinion. I would accept them, but that decision has to come from Sam.
Shack leaves and returns quickly to our table carrying two steaming Styrofoam cups of tea, both of which smell like a fresh Christmas tree. Seeing my quizzical expression, Shack explains that Doc has had the cooks making gallons of hot spruce tip tea. Spruce tips have vitamin C and a little bit of sugar to help ward off scurvy and give everyone a little more energy. I think that it is rather awful, and Shack chuckles at the awful face I make. Doctor’s orders are for everyone to drink at least 16 ounces of the horrid stuff.
I grimace and choke down the awful tea, missing my magnificent collection of exquisite Chinese teas all that more. Shack departs, with our cups to refill them. I so cannot wait for his return so that I may suck down more hot pine tree tea. It was only a few days ago that I was whining about the awful black pekoe tea, now that seems like a dream compared to this pine tea shit. Grumbling to myself quietly, I listen to the conversations still occurring around me for a while.
The older wife, Marie appears to be in charge. For the most part, the younger wife Jean, and Bill the husband, following her lead. Jean appears to be mainly concerned with the children and follows whatever Marie and Bill decide.
After exhausting the food supply in her Everett home, Jean drove with her children and a few of their things to Marie’s house in Lake Stevens. Bill had been in the Marines in his youth serving one tour. He had dabbled a little in prepping, going so far as to buy body armor and weapons for his family but nothing else. The more I listen to their story, the more I piece together.
The women are actually the first ex-wife (Marie) and the second wife (Jean) of Bill. When KCAP struck, the two women put aside their differences and combined households. Not sure what caused the divorce, but it appears that the two women have put it behind them for a common cause – their survival and that of their children. Not sure what else is up with the family but they do not set off any of my alarms, so I guess that they are ok for now.
The combined family, who it turns out are not Mormon, was getting along well enough until supplies in Marie’s house ran out. The firearms were locked in the basement of Jean’s house in a large, good quality safe that only Bill had the combination for. As far as they know, the safe and its contents are probably still there. The women were reduced to using Bill’s golf clubs and the kid’s softball bats to fend off zombies and looters.
Golf clubs are a poor choice of weapon. A thick, heavy wooden softball bat is a decent zombie killer. Golf clubs tend not to do extremely well against zombies as the shafts tend to either shatter or bend. After exhausting Bill’s collection of highly expensive golf clubs, the family was forced to leave Marie’s house seeking food, weapons and ammo.
Their obscure rural neighborhood in Lake Stevens was never checked by the National Guard. The combined family had watched most of their neighbors pack their belongings in their vehicles and drive off. Looting started almost immediately afterwards. KCAP ripped through their expansive neighborhood so fast that the few people who did become zombies were either easily avoided or killed. Small, obscure rural areas were quickly emptied of people.
For a while, the Johansen family survived by raiding their neighbor’s abandoned homes. After emptying the homes closest to their house, the family decided they needed to find a new location. The family had enough recumbent bikes for adults, but they had to scavenge to find enough bicycles for all of the children.
From what I overhear of the discussion, it does not sound as if the Johansen family had planned on using their recumbent bikes as a survival tool. The recumbent bikes were a good idea, but the family did not count on the cold and the weight of supplies. Canned goods are exceedingly heavy and bulky. The recumbent bikes can only carry so much weight and are not good for hauling freight.
The family had been traveling for a while, moving from one neighbor’s house to another. After a bad encounter with another group of survivors, who tried to steal their food and weapons, the family decided they needed to find another larger and better armed group of survivors to join.
The family mentions that some of the other survivor groups, other than cannibals, are not interested in taking in new members. Most of the survivor groups will not accept men, preferring to kill them outright. Women and young girls might be accepted for one of three reasons. Fuck, eat (literally, not a euphemism for oral sex) or trade. Pretty women and young girls are exceptionally desired and are either to fuck or to keep as a trade item.
After a particularly harrowing escape from a cannibal enclave underneath what is left of the eastern Highway Two trestles, the Johansen family found themselves in company with several other surviving stragglers for short periods of time. The Johansens mention that most survivors either headed south or north as quickly as they could travel. The family learned quickly that small groups of survivors and loners did not have a damned good chance of survival.
The Johansen family witnessed several lone survivors and even small groups of survivors wiped out by the packs of zombies, cannibals and even other survivors. The cannibals are rare, with just a few camps that the Johansen family knows of. The hordes of zombies passed through a while ago. Likewise, most of the survivors have already passed through the area and might have missed some lucrative areas that only locals would know about.
The obscure rural areas are mostly free of zombies but are also completely devoid of anything to eat. The lack of people in the rural area meant a distinct lack of zombies, so the family found themselves eventually back in their old neighborhood. The family feared getting eaten or killed more than starving to death. Exploring the outskirts of their old neighborhood for homes that had not already been looted, the family ran into Bill who was frantically searching for his family.
Bill was drafted back into the Marines when the draft was enacted a few months ago. Hard to believe it has been almost six months now since KCAP exploded. Bill was at Twenty-nine Palms when it was overrun by zombies. Fleeing north, it took him a while to reach his family.
I briefly listen to Bill describe his harrowing travel north through heavily zombie and cannibal infested southern California. Bill confirms the use of several neutron bombs in California. The bombs were dropped on the city of Sacramento. The greater Los Angeles and San Diego areas were the victim of several neutron bombs. Most everything is dead within the bomb’s area of effect, even the damned pigeons and seagulls.
From the brief summary given by Bill it sounds as if his long walk from northern California to northern Washington State was fraught with danger and hardship. He lost the smallest finger on his left hand somehow. Bill also lost most of the gear which he took with him when he left the Marine base. Some of the gear he lost when he lost his Humvee and had to proceed on foot. Some of the other gear he lost to bandits. Finding his family while he was walking through their old neighborhood was lucky indeed.
Bill took several weapons from the Marine base with him and those he managed to keep somehow. His family is carrying true M4s, not civilian AR15 clones. Each rifle has an AN/PVQ-31 Rifle Combat Optic (RCO), better known as a Trijicon ACOG, mounted to the top Picatinny rail. Each rifle also carries an AN/PEQ-2 TPIAL mounted horizontally on top of the forward handguard just behind the gas block. Each adult family member also carries a Glock 17 in a shoulder holster on the front of their coyote tan plate carrier.
After a brief happy reunion, the combined Johansen family decided that they wanted to head north. Bill had been hearing tales of survivors in the Great White North of the Canadian Northwest Territories before he left the Marine base. His wives had heard from other friendly survivors heading north about the supposed safety offered by the cold, extreme northern latitudes. The idea of a community of survivors gave the family hope. The family knew, however that they were not going to be able to get there on their bicycles.
The Johansen family was camped to the side of the road in the woods and watched our company roll past. The family then observed us for a while in order to ascertain if it would be safe to approach. They were understandably cautious, having watched other small groups of survivors in similar situations annihilated, their supplies and weapons stolen, and the women raped, eaten, or enslaved not necessarily in that order.
Sam is intrigued by the suggestion that the Johansen family’s desire to backtrack south. The Johansen family claims that KCAP spread so fast in their remote Lake Stevens area that the Sports Authority, Safeway, Bartell Drugs and Target stores are largely untouched. Bill knows where some gasoline and diesel might be found because he worked in the office of one of the largest bulk fuel transportation companies in western Washington State.
Bill worked as a bulk fuel truck driver at first working his way up the company ladder. Bill mentions that most people would skip the bulk fuel station as they look as if they are already looted. Bill believes that there still might be some fuel still in the large bulk tanks.
Bill says that most of the fuel pumps are burnt and not working or damaged by ignorant fools. Bill knows how to properly work our fuel tanker HEMTTs which would be a bonus. None of our lads quite know exactly how to work the fuel tanker HEMTT’s equipment. The lads have been doing it by guess and by golly. Someone actually trained that knows what the fuck they are doing would be comforting.
Bill’s MOS in the Corps was 88M (truck driver), 3531 (motor vehicle operator) and 3534 (semitrailer refueler operator). He does not wear his sergeant’s stripes anymore, despite still wearing his MARPAT combat uniform. I suppose if Bill and his family are accepted in to the convoy, Sam will reinstate him.
While the boys and the prospective new members talk shop, my mind wanders, and I half listen to their conversation. Shack was telling me earlier about today’s radio traffic, and I mull over what he told me. Shack mentioned the weekly VP’s broadcast. Other than the medical and science knowledge, the rest of the VP’s broadcast was pure propaganda bullshit.
Recalling propaganda makes me think about China taking over Australia the year before the KCAP pandemic. China’s actions was a hot topic and something that kept the intelligence community busy for many, many hours. Most intelligence analysts felt that China invaded Australia to seize its vast open land and rich mineral wealth. The disarmament of the Australian people by their government provided a disarmed populace with which the Chinese troops subjugated somewhat easily. Since the Australian population was for the most part disarmed there, was little armed resistance.
No Wolverine guerillas among the Aussies. Some of the Aussies were smart enough though to keep their weapons despite the laws. Regrettably the brave folks that kept their weapons were far too few to have any real effect upon China’s invasion and occupation force.
In the intelligence community there were many force projection discussions and predicitions because of China possessing its first nuclear super aircraft carrier. The formerly Soviet bird farm was stuck for more than 20 years in the shipyards. When the Soviet Union fell apart, the Chinese bought the incomplete nuclear carrier, but lacked large enough shipyards for the vessel. The creative Chinese shipbuilders cut the Soviet carrier in half and then reassembled it when done.
Many felt that because of the debt that China held for the Western world, most notably the US and the Eurozone, that no Western nation would attack China. There were many who felt that China would probably get away with seizing Australia as the Western world would not risk losing its number one lender and trade partner, treaty with Australia or not.
The zombie apocalypse made China’s invasion of Australia a moot point. I never did hear the Vice President mention anything about Australia anyway. The smaller island nations got wiped out by the KCAP virus within a week or so. I hope there are some Aussies hiding in the bush somewhere surviving as we are trying to do.
I suddenly realize the conversation has gone quiet around me and that everyone is staring at me. I suddenly feel put on the spot.
Looking around the table I get the distinct impression that I have been asked a question and totally missed it. Sam has the raised eyebrow appearance of a disapproving father catching his naughty child daydreaming during a stern lecture. I feel as if I am about to be sent to the school principal’s office or made to stand in the corner wearing a ridiculous pointy hat.
“I am sorry I completely missed the question,” I mutter.
“I asked, Ruth,” Sam says. “If you thought we should backtrack the whole convoy or just part of the convoy to get the supplies and fuel.”
“I think we should send the Scouts on motorcycles to check before we decide anything so drastic.”
Seemingly content with my answer, the group goes back to talking around me, so I pick up my cold forgotten cup of shitty pine tree tea and gulp it down. I listen for a few more minutes as it is decided that we are going to stay in this camp site for at least another day.
Scouts are to be dispatched tomorrow morning with Bill. The Scouts are going to be using nearly the last of the gasoline to verify his claims. I hope for his sake that Bill is not full of shit and is not attempting to lead our Scouts into an ambush. Sam considered the ambush possibility; I hope he took steps to prevent an ambush. Longfeather quietly invites Bill to witness how the Apache treat traitors should he be full of shit.
Shack gets up to get us some more shitty pine tree tea, and I lose interest in the conversation again. My mind starts to wander. I begin to contemplate facts from some of the earlier VP’s weekly broadcasts. I do not remember if the VP’s broadcasts ever mentioning if a “Typhoid Mary” was ever found.
As far as I know no person has or ever will be immune to the KCAP virus. One of the more interesting facts announced by that week’s VP broadcast is that the KCAP virus was found to be teratogenic. We did not really think much of what that meant for the pregnant women of the convoy until much later, when Sarah delivered the first of her twins. But that is a story for another time.
One of the most perplexing facts about the KCAP virus is how it can act so differently depending on how the virus enters the body. If you are bitten by a KCAP zombie, you will quickly die and become a zombie within approximately two to three days. However, if you eat KCAP infected flesh, you get to become a blood thirsty ghoul with some surprising physical abilities. There was never a definitive amount of time established that needed to pass in order for a KCAP cannibal to die and become a zombie.
It was assumed that the KCAP virus reached critical mass within the cannibal which eventually killed it. As I mentioned before, cannibal zombies are exceedingly rare.
After my third Styrofoam cup of God awful pine tree tea, the meeting breaks up, and personnel scatter to accomplish their tasking or to go to bed.
After tucking Shack into our bed roll and chastely kissing him good night, I spend the night sitting in the radio tent with Nikola listening to hissing HF static. There are hardly any broadcasts on the airtonight. We did hear some very faint transmissions that we could barely make out that sounded like “ontosh” or something but neither one of us figured it out. Even the Vice President’s narrator seems muted extremely early this morning.
The camp goes about its business, with nothing too noteworthy occurring.
That morning in the mess tent, it is announced that the Princess is pregnant. She and Rick are now a couple. Not that the news surprises anyone, any blind halfwit could have told you that. So that brings the total of pregnant women in the company to three. Sarah will be the first to deliver in about five months, with Carol about three or four months later and the Princess due in about six to seven months.
After eating breakfast, Shack and I walk back to the tent holding hands.
Just before I crawl into my bedroll warmed by Shack who just got out of it, the Scouts are dispatched with a heavily armed escort. The Quad 50 and the 20 mike mike are both set up in a defensive perimeter as well as the mortar and the mobile gun Stryker (MGS). Our surviving Stryker pair eats a frightening amount of fuel and are extremely picky about fuel quality. Sam hates to abandon them, but we may not have a choice.
The MGS Stryker is loaded with canister, HEAT, and Anti-Personnel Tracer (APERS-T) rounds. A few days ago, I talked for a while with some of the gun Stryker lads. They mentioned that they only have four of the canister rounds which is a crying shame. The canister rounds found considerable favor with tank crews for making fucking ginormous cavities in the hordes of zombies.
Regrettably, the US military did not see fit to procure too many of the 105mm canister rounds from the manufacturer probably because of cost and perceived political fallout. The US military, in particularly, the Army and Marine Corps, did not load out its armored gun vehicles with more than two canister rounds. The crews had to procure more of the canister rounds, by any creative method that they could use. Regrettably the Russians did not bring any canister shells with them.
Even if the Russians had brought some canister shells, Nikola informs them of something that I had forgotten. The T-90 has a 125mm gun compared to the M1′s 120mm.
Despite being slightly smaller than the 120mm version, the M1040 105mm canister round should be nearly as effective as its larger cousin. Only containing approximately 2,080 tungsten balls, the 105mm canister round has an effective range of about 500 meters.
I have not yet seen an APERS-T round used upon zombies, so I cannot attest to its effectiveness. However, I did witness several M1 Abrams tanks using 120mm canister rounds to delightful effect upon massed hordes of zombies. There are few things that will puree at once a wide swath of zombies like a canister round will.
Thankfully, the zombies are not intelligent enough to avoid the muzzle of a cannon. The tanks were mostly able to drive right through the zombie hordes making a horrid mushy soup in the streets. Even abandoned cars did not slow the tanks down as they just rolled over them. Watching a US Marine Corps M1A2 Abrams shoot a canister round with zombies less than a foot from the muzzle was an image I will never forget.
When the tank fired, the closest zombies instantly disappeared into a flaming, bloody red mist. The two things that finally stopped the tanks were a lack of fuel and ammo. Once the tanks ran out of fuel and ammo, the crews could only remain buttoned up inside so long before they had to abandon their vehicle. Once on foot, the poor bastard tank crews were as susceptible as the rest of us.
Our mortar M1129 Stryker is loaded with high explosive and illumination rounds. The HE rounds are fuzed for either proximity or near surface burst. The mortar crew has some version of a sub-calibre insert which allows the larger 120mm mortar to fire the older 81mm mortar rounds. The older 81mm mortar rounds are not as accurate, but they have more of them.
In 81mm mortar rounds, which the lads tell me they will use first, saving the much better 120mm rounds for later, there are white phosphorus, HE, and illumination. The HE rounds come in light, medium and heavy versions. The lads will shoot the light 81mm HE rounds first because they have the farthest range, 5,180 yards.
When I was walking towards the tent with Shack, I noted the guards on the perimeter of our camp. With the chain link fencing erected and a somewhat hastily hollowed out trench around the outside perimeter, we hope to be able to withstand all but the largest zombie horde.
Quite a few M14 “toe popper” AP mines were placed around the perimeter of the trench. The M14 AP mine has not been in active service for many years. I wonder where the boys picked some up. The few Russian soldiers under Nikola’s direction placed several PMN-2 AP mines and several Russian clones of the VS-MK2 AP mine as well around the perimeter. Concertina wire and other tangle foot traps were also placed around the perimeter.
The lads carefully marked where the AP mines were so that a living person would be able to read the warning and avoid the mines. The clear marking should make retrieval easier as well. Bill and his family said that most of the zombies within this area were attracted south towards the gunfire and roaring flames of Everett. There are still a few zombies around, I am sure of it, because not all of the zombies could have possibly made it to Everett.
Our camp maintains noise and light discipline, but there is only so much that a company this size can do. You cannot truly hide a convoy this size which was one of Iain’s more salient points. It was also the main reason he did not want to remain with the convoy. He felt that the company would attract too much attention. I think Iain would have been a welcome addition to the convoy.
Despite looking like a cross between Paul Bunyan, Dirty Harry and a fucking freak of a Medieval Crusader, Iain was one hell of a fighter obviously possessed of a cool demeanor. Suddenly a pair of humongous, furry Wookie-like paws envelope both of my shoulders. I scream and nearly leap out of my chair.
Thankfully, the cold cup in my lap is empty; otherwise I would have spilled it all over my lap and maybe the keyboard. Not sure if Iain has many spare parts for the computers in the Bunker, but as working computers are exceedingly rare now, I do not want to destroy any part. Iain glances at the monitor momentarily, and at the black and white text displayed.
“Crusader and lumber jack I get, and are apt, but Dirty Harry?” Iain’s polar ice blue eyes look down at me upside down. “I don’t look anything like Clint Eastwood, although I understand he was a tall man as well.”
“It is that big fucking blue Model 29 you carry under your left arm when we are in the field. You do realize that less than three percent of the US population was a tall as you.”
“Oh, yes, well I bought that pistol before Eastwood’s movie made it popular. A small, wiry man with a cigar, wearing a gigantic 10 gallon hat from Salmon, Idaho convinced me to try the round. I’ve liked it ever since. By the way, supper is ready. I guess you didn’t hear me shouting for you from the kitchen.”
Iain leaves the office and I watch him disappear. I stand and stretch my arms and legs. I pick my coffee cup up off the floor and glance into it. Looking into my cold empty coffee cup brings back pleasant memories of sipping tea with Shack. I miss that boy terribly!
I can faintly hear Rachel and Iain talking in the dining room. Iain has promised me that he will try to locate some tea the next time we leave the Bunker. I hate coffee, but I crave caffeine more. I scoot the chair underneath the office table and shut the computer down.
Shutting off the desk lamp plunges the small room into tomb-like darkness lit only by the aquaponic tanks along the walls. With the computer off, the gentle burble of the water circulating through the grow beds can be heard. Thankfully Iain’s Bunker has a nice genset to keep all the pumps and grow lights lit as well as running the ventilation fans. I look over at the fish swimming in the tank, and hope that we are not eating either tilapia or rabbit again tonight.
The grow beds are an excellent idea because they do provide us with fresh greens without having to go outside. I am not overly fond of fish but now is not the time to be culinary picky. Iain is the only person I have ever met who grows his own ginger, ginseng, horseradish, and golden seal. Iain says that the ancient Chinese mariners never suffered from scurvy because every good Chinese junk had a small garden in which they grew ginseng.
Iain is a master at making sure that we get enough vitamins for our health. We do go outside occasionally to get some sun and check the state of affairs. Iain’s huge cattle ranching property is very remote and isolated in southeastern Oregon. Occasionally, we do get trespassers and poachers after one of Iain’s livestock. The thieves are usually after the black Angus cattle but the free ranging goats, sheep and pigs have also been targeted.
I hear an irritated Iain shout for me to come to supper again. Looking down at the cluttered table and the scattered scraps of my Journal notes, I reminisce briefly back to those early days with Shack. More than a year has passed since I was with the convoy. It does not really seem that long ago. It is said that time flies when you are having fun, but there is nothing fun about surviving a zombie apocalypse.
I turn off the small lamp over the table and leave the office, and the past to go join Rachel and Iain for supper. Tomorrow, I will work some more on my Journal. I think that, for tonight, I am going to watch an old movie, eat some popcorn, and take a hot shower. Maybe we will light a fire in the stove and cuddle up in a blanket. I will try not to think of the past for a while tonight. Supper smells fantastic, and I realize that I am frightfully hungry.
Shack, after he gives me some breathing space, details the day’s events. He starts off by telling me about how the Scouts found way too many Canadian geese on the grass in a nearby playground. Quickly dispatching the scavengers with a couple of the .22 suppressed rimfire weapons and plenty of ammo, the convoy hoped to harvest quite a few of the geese.
All of the convoy’s rimfire weaponry, with the exception of two revolvers and the sole model #41 pistol, wear improvised suppressors. These improvised suppressors are either an automotive oil filter and PVC or just a straight PVC contraption. Before I joined the convoy, Mal and some of the other engineers found a few old paperback books in some poor prepper’s looted, fire gutted house.
The cheaply printed, thin, black and white books describe in detail how to make improvised suppressors using PVC piping, various PVC plumbing fixtures and one or more automotive oil filters. The improvised suppressors are then fitted on several different semi-auto .22 rimfire weapons, shotguns, and even the ever pervasive 1911.
Surprising is the fact that the little books survived. Books are getting scarce, and useful ones, especially about something as unusual as improvised suppressors, are becoming exceedingly rare. The little books are something that would be in the “good shit to know in case of a zombie apocalypse” category. Every looted prepper’s house we have seen obviously had, at one time, contained a large collection of printed books.
Far too many people trusted all of their useful knowledge on computers, or other digital format. Computers and digital formats are adequate until you are in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, your batteries have died, and there is no longer an infrastructure providing utilities. Knowing which plants are edible, emergency field medicine, and yes even, how to make improvised suppressors, since the damned zombies are attracted to noise, comes in handy.
Our hodgepodge collection of rimfire weapons allows the convoy enough variety so that the shooter can select the best weapon for the task at hand. There are quite a few of the ubiquitous Ruger Mark One, Two and Three .22 rimfire pistols most of which have been issued to the Scouts. A lonely blue Smith and Wesson Model 41 .22 rimfire pistol was claimed by Sam. We have only two rimfire revolvers, the first a 10 round Smith and Wesson model 617 with a four-inch barrel.
Someone put some serious money into the little terribly expensive model 617 as it has the proverbial glass rod trigger that breaks in single action at some stupid ultimately light trigger pull weight. Double action is probably in the three-pound region, but the trigger is still silky smooth. Perhaps the only area I feel that a revolver can beat any other pistol is in the smoothness and crispness of its trigger pull.
Auto pistols, by their sheer nature, usually have horrid triggers that are hard to pull or creepy. My little Hi-Power’s trigger was massaged by an expert gunsmith. I suspect an equally skilled gunsmith worked over the 617’s trigger. No factory would release a pistol with that light, and smooth of a trigger pull as all of the gun manufacturers were all extremely leery of getting sued, hence the term “lawyer’s trigger.” Revolvers are capable of having a super smooth trigger, and the 617 proves that with its trigger.
The damn 617 is the most expensive rimfire pistol we have in the armory with the model 41 coming in a close second. Of course, cost now is totally irrelevant. It is a shame that we cannot suppress either the 617 or the model 41. Doc Jamal claimed the heavy 617, although I noticed that Terrance carries it most of the time.
The second rimfire revolver is a nine shot stainless steel Ruger Single Nine. The little stainless single action Ruger pistol is chambered in .22 rimfire magnum and holds nine rounds as its name suggests. The convoy does not possess a whole lot of the .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire ammunition. The little stainless single action pistol even with a six and a half-inch barrel is awful loud.
I did like the red fiber optic front sight on the Single Nine. The stock Ruger wooden grips are too thick for my hands. I liked the heft of the gun, but I do not care for single action revolvers. I hate having to unload each cylinder one at a time. The Ruger Single Nine’s trigger is a horrid “lawyer’s trigger” that no self-respecting gunsmith would let out of his shop, so I suspect it is factory stock.
The .22 WMR has proven an effective zombie killer with frontal, head shots at about 20 feet. We have some of the newer pointy red polymer tipped 33 grain .22 WMR ammo, which has been, an inconsistent performer on zombies. Some of the polymer tipped rounds will either deflect off of the cranium or slide under the skin along the skull, not penetrating.
Close range head shots using rimfire ammo have proven quite effective, but I rather would have a larger calibre (I prefer the proper British spelling) weapon though. I certainly would not use a revolver if I had a choice. Of course, being picky now about your weapon might become something of the past as ammo becomes scarce. I may end up using a revolver, just because of what ammo we might be able to locate for it.
Nikola appears to like revolvers somewhat, but only in particular circumstances. When he uses a revolver, most of the time, it is his old, suppressed M1895 Nagant wearing a Russian 9mm Pistolet Besshumnyy (PB) suppressor. Spetsnaz are not known for using revolvers, most prefer a more modern, faster shooting suppressed pistol like the Stechkin Avtomaticheskiy Pistolet Besshumnyy (APB). I know that Nikola has at least two of the APB pistols; one each, chambered in 9x18mm Makarov and the other in 9x19mm Parabellum.
The crazy Russians when they crash landed their fucking ginormous Antonov An-225 Mriya had the damned thing packed to the gills with any kind of weapon and ammo they could grab. Inside the gargantuan aircraft were 100s of thousands of rounds sealed in tin “spam” cans. Nikola says that they have several tens of thousands of rounds of the unique but corrosive 7.62 Nagant revolver ammo.
I still have never quite cared for revolvers. We do have a few of the newer .17 calibre weapons, but none in a revolver. The ammo supply is not as prodigious for the .17 calibre weapons. Our collection of .17 calibre rifles includes a lonely Savage and a Ruger bolt-action rifle. I am not that familiar with the Savage .17 HMR rifle but the other rifle I recognize as a stainless Ruger 77/22.
Before the convoy got a hold of it, someone had the little Ruger rifle custom converted to fire .17 Hornady Mach 2, a round that I am also thoroughly unfamiliar with. From what I understand, the .17 HM2 is the old .22 Stinger necked down to .17 calibre. The little .17 HM2 round has been an inconsistent performer on zombies. Sometimes the little round deflects off of the zombie’s head or does not penetrate enough for an immediate kill.
Although the little Ruger rifle handles well and is a dream to shoot, but I dislike having to get so close to a zombie to ensure the little bullet kills the zombie. A shot through an eyeball at a slight upward angle from the Ruger 77/22 kills a zombie with fair regularity. Shooting upwards through the gaping, bloody, open mouth of a zombie is another shot that produces a kill fairly regularly with the little .17 HM2.
The Ruger 77/22 is quite popular in Israel and Lebanon with farmers and livestock owners. My father’s eldest brother, uncle Hasim had a hoary blue and rust Ruger 77/22 that he would use to shoot pests. When I visited my uncle during the summer, in the cool evenings, we would often sip tea while shooting pests out of the olive groves surrounding his house in the hills of Bint Jbeil.
I enjoyed those long ago evenings with my old uncle, a scarred veteran of the Lebanese Civil War. Visiting my cousins in the summer, I had to dress as a young Arab girl. I never had a problem posing as either a Jew or an Arab. My father and uncle spoke French, Arabic and English within the Lebanese side of the family. My father’s side of the family was all well-educated and although not wealthy, the family lived well. Uncle Hasim and his family preferred to speak English and French at home.
Uncle Hasim kept his little 77/22 rifle handy by the door, shooting rodents and the occasional feral pig that wandered into his olive groves. He liked the little Ruger rifle because it was quieter than his AK, and just as easy to get ammo. I wonder what my uncle would have thought of the little .17 calibre rounds. Our other odd ball .17 calibre weapon is another round and gun that I am unfamiliar with. A lonely little CZ 527 bolt-action carbine some outfit named Match Grade Machine converted to fire .17 Ackley Hornet.
The little French gray coated CZ 527 has a 20 inch fluted barrel and wears a black Tactical Solutions Axiom suppressor. Not sure where these guys found the little CZ carbine, but someone put some serious money into it. It is a shame for someone to have lost the rifle and another shame that we only have 250 rounds left of the unique ammo. Not a factory caliber, the .17 Ackley Hornet is a wild cat derivative of an old production round, the .22 Hornet, so when the ammo is gone, the rifle is useless.
The hotter .17 calibre center fire and a few of the largest rimfires do a decent job of killing zombies. I have watched a few of the lads with the Savage bolt-action .17 HMR rifle pop zombies at 150 yards. The little CZ 527 carbine shooting Berger 20 grain molly coated hollow point bullets (according to the hand written label) has been used to pop zombies out to 250 yards. Only problem with the hot little .17s is, they are loud as hell and even harder to suppress than the more common and slower .22 rimfire.
The shot of the little rifle can be suppressed quite well, but the supersonic crack of the little .17 calibre round screaming through the sound barrier attracts zombies just like any other loud noise. Same problem we have on some of the other high velocity weapons. We can suppress the shot of the weapon, but the supersonic crack of the bullet is far too loud.
We are running out of what little subsonic .22 long rifle rimfire ammo that the convoy had acquired somewhere. There are only a few thousand of the little green Remington subsonic ammunition, and they have been carefully hoarded. As we are leaving our tent, Shack informs me that the convoy scavengers were armed with a couple hundred of the subsonic Remington .22 long rifle ammo when they were sent after the geese.
The scavengers blew the geese right off of the grass, most shot with a single round. They were able to shoot most of the geese before the few survivors flew off. I am not sure what the cooks are going to do with the two dozen or so large geese, but at least we have some form of protein that does not come in a brown plastic MRE baggie. Fresh meat has been scarce.
I shudder as I remember the other day that someone shot a rather large male raccoon. An attempt was made to cook the disgusting thing which looked far too much like a fat, skinned, small dog for me to stomach. For some reason, the raccoon was utterly disgusting; most who were brave enough to try it said that it tasted like rotting fish or unwholesome meat. Even liberally doused in ketchup, BBQ sauce and/or Tabasco, the raccoon was unpalatable.
The raccoon had a thick layer of greasy yellow fat, which when rendered was so noxious it had the Princess on all four barking at the earthworms. It does not take much lately to cause the Princess to toss her cookies; she could not stomach the smell of the raccoon fat to make soap. The poor cooked raccoon was tossed into the latrine with little fanfare. I fervently hope that the geese are not the fiasco that the raccoon was.
Canadian geese are quite large. I remember seeing large flocks of them in the parks, in D.C., but what I remember the most is the lumps of their green shit everywhere. I remember someone once mentioned that each Canadian goose produced a pound of poop per day. It certainly seemed that way with their green shit all over the parks.
I have never eaten a goose, so I do not know how it is supposed to taste. At least they will not be full of little bits of shotgun shot. Shack informs me that hunting and fishing have been thoroughly nonproductive. It is too early in the season for any berries, and with the cold there might not be any berries or fruit this year at all.
What little flowers there were had been killed by the frequent frosts, and freezing temps. The flowers on the black berry bushes which Sam calls the kudzu of the Pacific Northwest has shriveled and died. Everywhere it is cold and damp. We have not seen the sun in more than five days. Everyone has taken on a pale pallor, even those of us with darker skin, have noticed the change. A constant gray haze hangs over everything, the smell of smoke hangs in the air constantly.
The mention of cold and fire sends Shack off on a tangent about fire wood and the utter lack of dry suitable fuel. While Shack was describing how some of the Scouts crafted fire-hardened wooden spears, he also mentions that they have taken to carrying some of the .22 rimfire semiautomatic pistols fitted with PVC improvised suppressors.
Up close the .22 rimfire can be effective at stopping a zombie if you can hit them in the head and use several rounds to confirm a kill. Still not something I would do unless I was in an absolute safe spot that the zombie could not reach me should I fail to kill it. We have tens of thousands of rounds of .22 rimfire ammo, so burning a little is no problem.
Shack explains to me how the Scouts have been riding circles around lone zombies, one (or more) of the Scouts playing distraction (i.e. – bait) while another Scout rides up close behind the zombie and shoots it at the base of the skull with three or more rounds. Effective yes, but also dangerous as all hell. Shack also nonchalantly informs me that about half of the Scout’s motorbikes are out of fuel.
The empty motorcycles are now parked on one of the flat-bed HEMTTs. There was some discussion earlier today about abandoning the motorbikes, but there is some hope of soon locating more gasoline. At the rate the convoy is burning gasoline, it will not be too long before all of the vehicles are out of gas. I still do not like the idea of kids on bicycles.
Fucking kids on bicycles again playing tag with a blood thirsty cannibalistic zombie. While adjusting my boot laces after retying them, Shack mentions that our Scouts are not the only ones who are on a bicycle. While the night shift slept, a survivor group, all on recumbent bikes rode into our camp. What the fuck! I tried to interrupt him, but he cut me off telling me that all my questions will be answered in the mess/command tent.
While Shack and I are walking from the latrine to the mess/command tent, we take a moment to step into the shadows and have a toe curling, thigh moistening good snog. It has been a long time since I just made out with someone. It has been fun teaching Shack. He is a fast learner, listens well and is willing to take advice in bed, a rare trait that I have not found often in men.
We have not yet had a chance to pop his cherry, but that day is coming. The tension and the buildup between Shack and I have been pleasant. I have not been in that fuzzy new relationship period with someone in a few years. While I have had more male lovers than female, my longest lasting relationships have all been with women. Shack will be my youngest lover ever and my first male virgin.
After our enthusiastic but brief snogging session, while walking a little slower than necessary to the mess/command tent holding hands, Shack tells me about that day’s radio traffic. Regular twice weekly broadcasts by the Vice President’s camp occur each Wednesday; once at noon Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and repeated again at midnight GMT.
That week’s broadcast we learned that the first cases of KCAP within the US occurred around significant municipal airports in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, San Diego, SeaTac and Washington, D.C.. Cities with a population of about 500,000 were wiped out after about four days. We also learned that once KCAP broke out of Asia, it took seven to ten days to wipe out all but approximately 10 –15% of the world’s population.
At first aggressive quarantine was partially successful at halting the spread of the KCAP virus. The Chinese did a damn good job of keeping it contained for a while. Thankfully, KCAP got loose at first within a very remote, sparsely populated area. As the world later learned, so far the only proven cure for the KCAP virus is something that thoroughly destroys the brain. No matter if it is a bullet, a crow bar, or a cricket bat; as long as the brain is destroyed it halts the spread of the virus. The only sure way to halt the spread of KCAP is to hit hard and hit often.
The VP’s camp has also been broadcasting medical information about the KCAP virus; most of it is way past my understanding. The medical stuff comes with little warning and often comes in large blocks of time some as long as an hour or more. Broadcast in a droning nasally voice with a definite New England accent, the medical information, quickly becomes a snooze fest for most people after about ten minutes.
Part of the VP’s broadcast from yesterday, also included information concerning a few theories on how KCAP is able to cross the blood-brain barrier into the central nervous system. Once into the brain, KCAP starts attacking the oligodendroglia, breaking them down and creating new connections. I had to ask Doc what the hell oligodendroglia cells were.
According to Shack, Doc Jamal knew what oligodendroglia was and gave him a quick explanation. Doc had done a lot of work with neurologists attempting to reconnect or repair optic nerves. It was always Doc’s hope that someday he could cure blindness or restore someone’s vision. Doc has a firm understanding of the importance of the oligodendroglia.
Doc is still baffled though by the ability of the KCAP virus to jump the blood-brain barrier. The fact that KCAP has been verified as a virus rather than a bacterium, according to Doc, allows us to make some general assumptions. The KCAP virus cannot reproduce by itself, despite the fact that it has bacterial-like properties, which might explain some of the desire of the infected to bite, transmitting the virus.
Over a year later, I am sitting, in the Bunker deep underground, endeavoring to organize my journal notes and combine them in some coherent manner. I remember that week’s broadcast was the first time that we heard of the possibility that the KCAP virus might be a mutated Chinese bio weapon that got loose. Possibly a descendant of Soviet Cold War era bio weapons, the KCAP virus, has some aspects of a retrovirus and is a self-evidently man-made virus.
With the tenacity and strength of a retrovirus, KCAP has been a medical nightmare. DNA strains of rabies, measles, encephalitis, Spanish influenza of 1918, swine flu (H1N1), bird flu (H9N2), Ebola, Yersinia pestis (formerly Pasteurella pestis or Black Plague), smallpox, foot and mouth disease (FMD), and mad cow disease have all been isolated from samples of KCAP infected brain cells.
In KCAP the presence of DNA samples of mad cow disease, properly known as Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle and Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease, in people, has been a mystery that was baffling, as well. How the hell did, the fucking mad scientist, get all this shit to blend together is a real mystery. The KCAP virus is a real witch’s brew that some fucking insane son of a bitch cooked up in a lab.
Another one of the baffling finds within the KCAP virus was genetic material from the Toxoplasma Gondii (Toxo) virus which usually only affects cats and mice. KCAP, despite having a thick and hardy viral envelope, also has some of the tendencies of a norovirus. KCAP has increased resistance to chlorine-based disinfectants, alcohols and detergents.
Another surprising scientific find in KCAP was DNA material and trait characteristics of Trichinella spiralis. According to the radio broadcaster, the current version of the KCAP virus had to have been made sometime after 2011. March 2011 is when the T. spiralis draft genome became available by DNA methylation. KCAP has T. spiralis’ ability to enter the blood stream, lymphatic system and is able to encyst itself in the muscles and brain tissue of the host.
Encysted KCAP in the muscles of an infected person remain until the person is either eaten or dies from KCAP infection. Susceptible animals and humans infected with KCAP, that die are reanimated by the KCAP virus. If an infected person is eaten, the KCAP cysts in the meat burst open in the eater’s stomach, triggered by stomach acid, infecting the person with KCAP.
Interestingly enough, a person that eats KCAP tainted meat does not become a zombie quite as quickly as someone who was bitten by a KCAP zombie. KCAP, consumed through infected meat, takes longer to metastasize in the body than if someone were bitten. The KCAP virus acts much like the T. spiralis viral animal forming cysts in the muscles.
At some point, hastened if the infected person continues to eat KCAP infected meat, the virus reaches critical mass and kills the host. How long for the KCAP virus to reach critical mass is open to conjecture. When everything went to shit, no one knew how the virus acted in the cannibals. Called “supes” or “super Zs” by the troops, the zombie cannibals, were identified back east, in the Druid Hills and at Emory University, GA. With the speed and strength of an elder KCAP cannibal, the super KCAP zombies are a terror.
The super Zs have been, thankfully, exceptionally rare. Only a few super Zs are known to have existed. When the CDC main HQ in the Druid Hills was overrun with zombies, there were two super Zs identified within the facility. One of the super Zs, patient #ZED2443, was known to have escaped. The other super Z, patient #ZED54431 was believed to have been incinerated along with the CDC HQ by BLU-82 “daisy cutters” and GBU-43B “MOABs” dropped by planes from Robbins and Moody Air Force Bases.
No super Zs have been identified yet on the western seaboard. No one knows how long the cannibals can survive with the KCAP virus it could be years or months. The KCAP virus has proven to be not particularly adaptable, and despite its bastard hybridized heredity, still is susceptible to heat and oxygen.
Unrelated virus strains do not hybridize naturally in nature. A highly improbable genetic tweak reduced the incubation time of KCAP dramatically. KCAP infection can happen in as little as five minutes depending upon the infection site. Should someone become infected in the neck region (e.g. – bitten on the neck), KCAP infection can happen within mere seconds.
Transmission has always occurred by the immediate exchange of bodily fluids just like Ebola. KCAP appears to require an extraordinarily narrow avenue to spread requiring a wet, oxygen free environment. Viruses cannot share genetic information. Viruses assemble genetic parts but do not mix and match from different viral families. KCAP changed those rules. Before KCAP, it was utterly scientifically unknown for two radically different viruses such as rabies and influenza to swap traits.
Last theory I heard, before the VP’s weekly broadcasts ceased altogether, was that the brain control function of the Toxo virus was blended, with a whole lot of other shit, to make a mind altering, rage inducing, mind controlling super virus. This virus was engineered to make the infected person super aggressive, highly contagious and to seek out others whom they can infect. The KCAP virus has the same annoying tendency of Toxo to ride and hijack white blood cells.
The KCAP virus not only hitches a ride on the white blood cells, it also turns them into chemical factories, churning out more KCAP cells. The presence of Toxo causes a problem because the pregnant cannibals are able to carry to term. Normally Toxo causes a pregnant woman to either miscarry or her child may be born with birth defects.
I remember from later VP broadcasts, we learned that the early studies of captive KCAP cannibals showed all the traits of myostatin-related muscle hypertrophy. How the KCAP virus acts so differently, is a mystery. I would actually like to meet the seriously fucked up person who created the KCAP virus.
From the VP’s last broadcast, it did not sound as if KCAP had gone airborne yet. All KCAP needs to do is go airborne to fuck things up even more, if that is even possible. It already has the rage effect of rabies, and if KCAP is indeed mutated with several strains of influenza than it already has the building blocks needed to mutate into an airborne strain.
Coming back to the present for a moment again, I am sitting at our office table in the Bunker. I am surrounded by the rumbled, stained scraps of my Journal written on any piece of paper I could scrounge up. I cogitate back upon those dark, early days of the KCAP pandemic.
Lately, I have been attempting to collect all of my Journal notes into a cohesive collection. It has been rather more problematic than I expected. Iain has been extremely supportive of my trip down a rather unpleasant memory lane. I pick up my forgotten cup of cold coffee, cross my legs and sit back in my chair thinking of the past.
I remember that week’s VP broadcast was the first time that I also heard of the SIR (Susceptible Infective Removed) epidemic model by Kermack and McKendrick (1927). Some other epidemic models were discussed in other transmissions later. I was not sure of their worth and how it would help develop a cure or vaccine.
So far there have been no recovered subjects (assumed permanently immune), only those infected who were removed by permanent death, the only cure for KCAP. That week’s broadcast was also the first time that I also heard the R0 value of KCAP placed at 100. R0 is interpreted as the number of secondary infectious individuals generated by a “typical” infectious individual when introduced into a fully susceptible population.
For comparison, the R0 factor for Diphtheria, spread by saliva is 6 – 7. Based on studies from the Center for Nonlinear Studies, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos NM (before they were overrun) KCAP appeared almost intelligent, according to the VP’s broadcaster. The KCAP virus drives the infected to attack other, non-infected persons in order to spread the virus.
Generally when someone gets sick, they stay at home drinking hot chicken noodle soup, scarfing saltine crackers while watching shitty day time TV. For some reason which is not fully understood yet, the KCAP virus drives the infected out of their homes. Early containment policies asking people to remain in their homes failed.
Those early attempts were predicated on experiences from earlier epidemics. No one had any experience with a zombie apocalypse because, despite all of the popular fiction and movies, there had never been a true zombie apocalypse. Those early containment efforts failed in part was because as soon as people were either dead (because they were kay-capped) or infected, they got the munchies and decided to go looking for a snack.
Not only people were attacked by the ravenous infected – dogs, cats, cows, horses and other domesticated animals were slaughtered, as well. So far only swine, primates and humans are still only creatures that are susceptible to the KCAP virus. I have wondered for a while now how long it would be before the KCAP virus mutated again, into birds or an airborne strain.
So far the KCAP virus has not mutated at all which is odd I have been told repeatedly, and not just by Iain who certainly would know. A theory proposed once in one of the later VP broadcasts mentioned that since the KCAP virus included parts of the bacterium Y. pestis it might not mutate at all. Samples taken from plague victims buried in Europe disclosed that the Y. pestis virus had not mutated in over 660 years.
The proposed theory, which I only heard once, was that the creator of the KCAP virus “locked” the virus preventing it from mutating further. Later VP broadcasts also revealed that the KCAP virus as having a lot of the properties of a bacteriophage and is able to infect common bacteria.
The KCAP virus spread like wildfire, so it did not take long to create large colonies of infected. The hungry infected and dead gathered in two distinct groups. KCAP zombies will attack and kill the occasional lone KCAP cannibal but for the most part the two groups coexist peacefully. The cannibals took over large structures like parking garages, tunnels, bus barns and large retail centers.
The KCAP zombies wander in vast hordes, absorbing more zombies as they pass through areas. The massive zombie hordes appear to have no definitive leader. The zombies shamble about following lights, sounds and chasing any movement they happened to notice. Somehow the zombies recognize each other and merge into a fragmented, shambling mass.
A few of those early zombie hordes were reportedly able to be seen from the International Space Station. One of the astronauts permanently stuck on the space station was a Russian hero of the state. Concerned for his countryman, Nikola attempted several times to reach the space station on the radio.
Some of the VP’s earlier broadcasts had mentioned that the space station had spotted several nuclear explosions. You would think that the poor bastards stuck up there would have a front row seat watching the human race die. For a while, it was hoped that perhaps the space station personnel might have kept a tally of how many nukes they had seen.
From some of the VP’s regular broadcasts in those early, dark days we learned that two of the astronauts committed suicide. The Russian cosmonaut took a short spacewalk minus a space suit. I do not recall hearing how the other astronaut, a Japanese man died. Alot of the information passed by the VP’s radio traffic was extremely technical. Most people, I do not believe, understood the ramifications and the value of what the broadcaster was sending.
The KCAP mathematical modeling is mind-numbing boring. However, it does reveal some intriguing possibilities. Despite several promising avenues of intervention against zombies, most ultimately prove futile and just delay the inevitable by a few more days. The best options are complete sequestration and arming oneself to the gills, attacking the zombies often and with extreme prejudice.
The first radio broadcast of medical and scientific information caught the daytime radio crew by surprise. We missed most of the early morning broadcasts. The radio shack day crew grabbed anyone that can scribble quickly on paper what was being transmitted about the KCAP virus. The day crew missed some of the first broadcast. I am not blaming him, but it did not help that Shen was alone on the radio.
Shen’s English is getting much better, but that is conversational English only. The rapid medical and technical English was too fast too soon for Shen to catch. He has done well using translation books, but he is far too slow in this instance when the information might be so valuable. Not sure if the information could be of any use at all, but it did sound as if they are attempting to broadcast information to help anyone that might be attempting a cure or vaccine.
We have been writing the VP’s broadcasted information on any piece of paper we can find. Paper is becoming scarce as a lot of it gets used to start fires. With the cold worsening, fire and warmth are becoming more pressing. Paper burns easily and hot, so a lot of it, is getting burnt. One of the reasons that my journal is written on so many different pieces of paper and in various note books, lined pads, etc. is the sheer lack of and demand for good paper.
Where we are in the soggy Pacific Northwest, finding dry, clean paper has been a challenge lately. Keeping paper away (without shooting anybody) from freezing people who are just sick and tired of being cold and looking to burn anything for warmth they can get their hands on has also been a real challenge. Our scavengers and the Scouts try to find useable paper, but a lot of times they find only the ashes.
Even protecting books has been a real challenge, as well. People see them as an unnecessary bulky weight, and an immediate source of heat. Despite the rational of the information and knowledge contained in those books, desperate people sick and tired of being cold are hard to convince. I fear for the later generations. With all of the books either burnt or destroyed, how are they going to find a cure for KCAP or even create a facility to attempt to find a cure?
I sincerely doubt there is anyone left alive that has either the facilities or the ability to find a cure for the KCAP virus. Remembering back to those dark early days, I recall watching whole collections of encyclopedias, and other large books shredded to use in an all too brief fire. Treating or controlling KCAP is going to be impossible later with the lack of knowledge I fear is out there.
At least we know there are at least a few survivors out there since Shack mentioned another group of survivors. Other survivors must be living in abandoned farmhouses in the country, conspicuously empty shopping centers and the Winchester pub. One problem with the early post-apocalypse scenarios and mathematical modeling was predicated upon the assumption that each attack would be carried out with more force than the previous.
At first, in the early days of the KCAP epidemic when supplies were plentiful, it was feasible to increase the intensity of attacks. In the first week or so of the outbreak, when governments and large standing armed forces existed, attack intensity was ramped up significantly. Nukes, MOABs, ATBIPs, Daisy Cutters, napalm and anything else was quickly employed.
At first most nations that possessed ocean harbors welcomed refugee ships and aircraft which turned out to be a monumental mistake. Strict quarantine should have been employed, with all vessels sunk and all aircraft shot down. We know now that strict quarantine might have worked had we done it in time, but at that time, I would have gladly, ignorantly boarded a plane back to Israel.
Thinking now of Israel, I reflect again back to those early days which reminding me of another shocker we later learned about KCAP from the VP’s broadcasts that shocked Doc to his core and changed Sarah forever. I realize that I have been sitting at the desk for a while in the Bunker holding my cold cup of coffee. My legs are asleep, so I uncross them and stand stretching out the kinks.
Iain and Rachel call to me from the kitchen, God love that man at least he can cook. Rachel is not a terrible cook either. Actually Iain is a magnificent cook, thankfully as I cannot cook for shit. He tells me that supper will be in an hour. Sitting back in the office chair, I lean forward looking over what I have gathered for this entry in my journal. Thinking of food reminds me of that day long ago when Shack and I entered the command/mess tent. I was still with the convoy then, and Iain was off somewhere not yet part of my life.
As Shack and I enter the mess hall, joining the dinner queue, I note there are several new faces in the crowd. Sam and Doc are talking with these people, so I assume that they are the bicycle mounted survivors that Shack mentioned. Sam waves us over to their table, so once Shack and I are served, we trot over to their table.
I sit beside a woman wearing a coyote tan combination chest harness and plate carrier. The butt of a black semi auto pistol sticks up on the left side while four AR15 magazine pouches cover the midsection, each pouch holding two magazines. A slim bearded man and another woman possibly slightly older than the woman I am sitting beside comprise the group. I count seven children the eldest a boy perhaps not much younger than Shack.
I note that all of the adults in this group are all carrying AR15 M4 clones, wear identical coyote tan combination chest rigs and plate carriers, and carry either the same or exceedingly similar pistols. The eldest youths, a tall boy and a slender girl, both who look a lot like their parents are armed with Ruger Mini-14s.
I am starving, and I try not to shovel my food in my mouth. Shack, on the other hand, has no such concerns, shoveling his food as fast as he can into his mouth. I am surprised to find myself somewhat embarrassed by Shack’s lack of table manners, but decide to let it be.
Sam makes the introductions which I half listen too as I am starved and trying not to gulp my food down. Unless I misunderstood what Sam said, it sounded as if he said this group was a man, his two wives and their children. What are these survivors Mormon? It would not surprise me that some Mormons might survive a zombie apocalypse.
The Mormon faith in particular was known for stockpiling food, which is not a bad idea zombie apocalypse or not. The group appears to wear near identical plate and chest harness made by an outfit called Infidel Body Armor according to the tag. The fact that this group thought ahead enough to purchase body armor for the adults is interesting as is the fact that they did not choose any head-gear.
This group all either wear a ball cap of some fashion or as in the case of the two women and all the children, go bare-headed.
Although, what I heard next really surprised me.
 Smith, Robert. “A Report On The Zombie Outbreak Of 2009: How Mathematics Can Save Us (No, Really).” vol. 181, no. 12 (Dec 8, 2009), p. E297-E300.(n.d.)
 “Scholars Put Braaains Together To Thwart Zombies.” (n.d.): Gale: Opposing Viewpoints in Context.
 Hastings, Alan. “A Bright Future For Biologists And Mathematicians?.” vol. 299, no. 5615 (Mar 28, 2003), p. 2003-2004.(n.d.)
 Callaway, Ewen. “Plague Genome: The Black Death Decoded.” Nature 478.7370 (2011): 444-446. Academic Search Premier.
 “Scholars Put Braaains Together To Thwart Zombies.” (n.d.): Gale: Opposing Viewpoints in Context.
Folks, I have to take a brief break from writing these stories as I have the opportunity to get my old job back. No worries, the Ruth stories will continue, and some others that I have in the works, but for now I need to concentrate on my career (or lack thereof). Like the great general said “I shall return!”
Still travelling north bound on highway 9; the convoy has made slow but steady progress. A few days have passed since the last entry in my journal. The weather is getting worse; significantly so since my last entry. The frequent rain is bitter cold, and laced with blackish gray ash. The snow storms remain intermittent but are getting more frequent and are lasting longer.
It took a few days for me to notice that the snow turned from white to dark ash gray. We also noticed little black bits in the snow. Not sure if the snow color is going to continue to darken, but the gray is rather unnerving. Rather than reflect light, like white snow usually does, it is as if the dark gray snow absorbs light making it darker. The days are gloomy enough, with the dark snow covering everything; it seems as if we never see the sun.
With a preponderance of uncontrolled fires, and a proclivity for nuclear weapons, a huge amount of material has been tossed into the atmosphere. Large portions of urban areas are either in flames or recently burnt. Each nuclear weapon hurled tons of ash and steam into the atmosphere. Scattered radio traffic reports large fires burning in forested areas. Other than what we heard from other survivors, we have no real concrete evidence of where these forest fires might be.
Reports of which cities have been nuked are suspect at best. Nikola was aware of several nukes used by Chinese and Russian forces to stem the zombie tide. He was in the Lake Balkhash area when Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan all dropped nuclear weapons in the area attempting to eradicate the zombies.
Nikola knows that the areas around Lake Balkhash and what is left of the Aral Sea are an inhospitable nuclear wasteland. He also witnessed China’s 39th Group Army use 155mm rocket-assisted shells fired from self-propelled PLZ05 and towed howitzers in to the Yarkant River area. The unsuccessful artillery shelling was followed by several days of conventional saturation carpet bombing.
Nikola’s accounts of the failure of conventional ordinance to halt the spread of the KCAP virus is probably why China’s Second Artillery Corps commenced shelling the Yarkant River area with Dongfeng-27 Medium Range Ballistic Missiles (MRBM). An accurate count of how many nukes used is impossible as so many were used by so many different countries. Many of those who authorized the release of the nukes are now either dead or a zombie. Best guess of total expenditure of nuclear weapons is around 100 or so.
Most reports agree that no nuclear weapons were used on land in either North or South America. There are unconfirmed rumors of several neutron bombs used in California, most notably upon the cities of Sacramento and Los Angeles. Since California had the highest pre-zombie apocalypse population, the alleged use of neutron bombs in that state makes sense.
Several nukes were used at sea by US, Canadian, Chinese, Taiwanese and British forces among others. Russia, China, India, Pakistan, and several other countries freely used nukes on land. India and Pakistan enjoyed a brief exchange of nuclear weapons. With the world in utter chaos, and so many different nuclear weapons used, if the human species survives, we may never know the exact details.
Between the nuclear weapons and ginormous non-nuclear weapons like the daisy cutters, MOABs, ATBIPs, etc. cubic butt loads of material was kicked into the atmosphere. The steam, smoke, ash, dust, etc. floating around up there is causing temperatures to drop rapidly as we enter the beginning of what could be a long nuclear winter.
Despite what the calendar reads, temperatures are dropping fast. Yesterday’s day time high was barely above 44°F and the nights are consistently dipping a few degrees below freezing. The hills and mountains surrounding this valley are all coated in a dark gray creeping blanket of snow. The snow in the mountains is gradually getting darker as more debris falls from the sky mixed with the snow.
Most of the falling material is mildly radioactive, not enough to cause anyone harm, but still something you do not want to dance naked in. We still check every day with our big boxy yellow Geiger counters, just in case we need to keep everyone under shelter. In camp every night several Geiger counters with long cabled remotes are placed around the perimeter.
There have been no reports of a radiant (radioactive hot) zombie for some time. Perhaps our Geiger counters will warn us of approaching radiants. We have noticed that the Geiger counters do tick up a little when the cobalt lightning ferociously rips across the dark skies. The cobalt inter-cloud lightning, which might be a product of all the shit in the atmosphere, has been frequent and getting stronger.
At night while the convoy travels, the bright cobalt blue lightning ripping through the clouds has become a frequent companion. Seeing lightning and snow together has been interesting. Lightning and hail is the other common occurrence. Our dirty snow storms are more frequent; although the snow down here does not last long during the day it still dampens everything and turns to ice when the sun sets.
Shadowed areas and low-lying portions of the roadway do not thaw at all during the day. Some of these shadowy and low areas have built up a thick layer of ice, with several crunchy layers sandwiched together. Due to the trial by fire, all of the drivers have gotten much better, including yours truly, at driving on the slick roads.
I was never very good at driving in the ice and snow, but I have gotten much better with more practice than I ever wanted. Thank God, I was not driving my beloved little Lotus while learning to drive in the snow and ice. Learning to drive on the ice and snow is hard, doing it while wearing NVGs really makes things interesting. Our snow plow has not had to remove snow yet, but if it continues to get colder, that might change.
Yesterday, we were close enough to see what is left of the city of Everett, Washington. The Scouts were able to search some of the outlying buildings and homes. We knew from what Iain and the GBR had told us that the bridges of highway 2 and I-5 over the Snohomish and Skagit Rivers were blown to bits by the Air Force.
Most of highway 9 other than being blocked with cars is still standing. The Air Force bombed any significant bridge on the major highways in a misguided attempt to stem the spread of KCAP. Even smaller highways with large trestle or bridge structures like State Route 529 were methodically bombed. If we are going to enter the city of Everett and search the naval station, we might have to go overland rather than on a highway.
We have gotten much closer to Everett Naval Station, but still have not made the decision if we are going to search it or not. Our Scouts have gotten close to the naval station but other than observing it from afar, they have not entered either it or the city of Everett. From what the Scouts were able to see, almost all of the naval station’s buildings have burnt, and they counted three naval ships sunk at the piers.
We are fairly certain that Everett Naval Station is either looted, or inhabited. While the US Coast Guard buoy tender sunk beside the pier is probably not of interest to us, as are the pair of sunk US Navy frigates, and what might be a destroyer (according to Carol) the buildings may be of interest. Some of the buildings are large enough that they might offer shelter. Unfortunately the buildings might also have someone or something inhabiting them.
Inhabited by what is the problem. With our backs to the water trapped in a small naval station with no boats is dangerous. Zombies occupying the naval station would not be as much of a problem as cannibals occupying the place. Based upon our last encounter with KCAP cannibals, none of us are too anxious to attack them again unless given no other choice.
Because we are travelling along one of the more remote roadways, we have not come across any more survivors or cannibals since we parted from Iain and the GBR. Zombies have been infrequent, other than those that are stuck in abandoned cars, which has been a welcome break. We have been camping in the woods on the edge of the highway.
The last place that we had a large enough clearing to park all of the convoy vehicles together was at the Walmart on 64th and highway 9. Yesterday we camped in the forest alongside the Quilceda Creek and a small, unnamed pond fed by the creek. Fresh water certainly has not been a problem to find but ensuring the water is drinkable has been problematic.
Short of boiling all the water, we really have no way of treating large amounts of water for drinking. While there is plenty of water for washing potable, safe drinking water is scarce. Doc has a limited amount of iodine, but the Princess ran out of bleach ages ago. We have no suitable filtration system, and ran out of the little halazone tablets a long time ago.
Due to the wet weather and cold, dry firewood is in critically short supply. While camped along the small pond and Quilceda Creek, the Scouts and scavengers found several remote abandoned homes. The homes were quickly cleared of the few zombies and then stripped of anything that would burn. Burning people’s expensive furniture is a shame even if I understand the necessity of it.
I cringed a little as I watched the Princess and Jenny wielding axes, eagerly smash apart someone’s very expensive dark teak armoire. The interior structural wood of the abandoned homes was stripped tearing out the interior walls for the dry lumber they contained. One of the homes had beautiful hardwood floors which was ripped up and burnt.
As the Scouts and scavengers ripped apart nearby homes for firewood, some of the lads went on a fishing excursion. The Quilceda Creek and the small pond I did not believe would have any fish in them but to my surprise quite a few fish were collected. The lads tossed several concussion grenades and a few sting grenades into the pond and creek.
With the explosion of the grenades, dead fish quickly floated to the surface. Swiftly gathering the dead fish, the lads came back with enough for quite a large fish fry up. Guided by Longfeather, a lot of the larger fish was filleted and hung out to dry underneath tarps to protect the meat from the snow and rain. While the meat was drying, guards were posted just in case vermin decided to come by for a snack. With the racks of drying fish, our camp took on the impression of an old Native American village.
The lads caught mostly trout out of the pond and the Quilceda Creek, the majority of which I learned were hatchery stocked rainbow trout. I also learned that there were a few native cut throat trout and a couple very large triploids caught as well. Triploids, the lads told me, are a sterile crossbreed of trout made in a lab; all they do is eat and get very big. I was able to identify the few bass but could not tell what species they were until the lads told me that they were smallmouth bass. Surprisingly, the grenades killed a lot of yellow perch and something the lads called fathead minnows.
Rafts of dead, little one to three-inch long fathead minnows piled up in the ripples of the creek. I hope the local wildlife enjoys the bounty of all the little dead fish we left them to eat. Flocks of sea gulls quickly gobbled up all the little dead fish. I was sure that the ruckus of the sea gulls would attract unwelcome attention. Before the flying rats ate most of the dead fish, there were some hopeful hunters from our group looking to nail a few raccoon, opossum, or maybe even a bear, but no such luck was had.
Despite the unlucky hunters, we had enough meat to feed everyone. Enough wood was ripped from the abandoned homes and nearby forest to last a few days. For the first time in a week or so, we actually got to take luke-warm showers which felt unbelievably nice. Our Scouts and scavengers found evidence that squatters had recently occupied the abandoned homes.
We are out in sparsely populated rural Snohomish County with widely spaced homes and no major urban sprawl. We have not seen a living soul that is not a member of the convoy in days. None of us are sure who the squatters were, but they have moved on so they are not our worry. We have other more pressing things to worry about than some squatters.
With houses so few and far apart, and none occupied by the living in a several mile radius, our Scouts cleared a large area. Regrettably, with the spread out houses, that also means that supplies are running very low. Spending some of our stock piled virgin vegetable oil for a fish fry up was an awesome treat and a real morale booster for the crew.
Despite lacking eggs and milk for fish breading, the cooks did a great job and actually got a light breading on the fish. Jokes of mercury poisoning, and complaints about the lack of beer and hushpuppies aside, the fish fry was a welcome break. Even the few individuals, who professed not to like fish, ate some. Doc made sure that both Sarah and Carol got plenty of fish to eat.
After using the vegetable oil for the fish fry, while it was still warm it was filtered through rags and then dumped into diesel fuel tanks mixed with motor crank case oil. Because we are out in the boondocks, we have been less fortunate finding supplies left behind by departed owners. The highway has enough abandoned vehicles that we collect the motor oil from, but other supplies are dwindling quickly.
Our Scouts have been very busy. Despite the fact that the Harley motorcycles get very good fuel economy, gasoline is in critically short supply. If we do not get lucky and find a large supply of gasoline real soon, our Scouts are going to be back on their bicycles. I am glad that we kept the Scouts old bicycles just in case we need them.
After we drove all night we parked again this morning near a small private lake which none of us could determine the name of our convoy quickly established camp. A ring of homes surrounds the small lake. Several private wooden docks on the small lake are ripped up for their lumber which the Princess quickly used. Two of the homes were flame gutted wrecks. The Scouts search the surviving homes, and other than recovering lots of wood and broken furniture from their interiors, discovered nothing else of interest.
Shack wakes me that evening with our customary routine. We ran out of black orange pekoe tea a while ago so I have been drinking this nasty chai stuff. It has enough caffeine to get me going, but tastes like crap. Shack does not blush any more when he sees me bare from the waist down. He actually patted my bare ass the other day when I bent over to grab my trousers. Shack does appear to find me desirable, despite sleeping in my wooly Army surplus green socks.
He and I did get into a rather hot make out session yesterday and I almost pulled him into my bed roll. If it were not for getting cock blocked by Carol flopping into her bedroll like a tired, beached walrus, huffing and a puffing, I might have gotten laid. Shack was embarrassed to get caught by Carol sitting in my lap with me trying to eat his tongue. I have never had much for breasts, but I have large nipples and dark aureoles courtesy of my Arab heritage.
Shack had a good firm grip on my left tit, twisting and pulling on my nipple in a way that sent shivers all up and down my body while we hungrily ate at each other’s mouth. I thought I might come just from Shack kissing me and playing with my nipple which got pleasantly hard in his fingers. Sometimes I can come just from having my nipples stimulated especially if I have had a long dry spell.
If cock blocking Carol had not burst into the tent, I might have popped Shack’s cherry. I regret a little bit not taking Shack’s other hand and shoving it into my very wet pussy. I doubt Shack has ever had his hand in a girl’s pussy. Thinking of being his first gives me a little bit of a thrill. I know that he has never gotten past second base before and damn I should have flagged him to steal home.
While Shack and I were making out, Nikola and Shen were in the radio tent. Poor Carol had to piss again and afterwards she ducked into the radio tent to say hi to her honey. Nikola told her about the radio traffic that they heard during the day. Carol got so excited at the news she burst into our sleeping tent interrupting Shack and I.
Nikola and Shen had found a couple of radio broadcasts. At first, as I was a little pissed at Carol for interrupting me when I was good and primed for an excellent rogering, I could have cared less what fucking radio traffic they found. On his way out Shack mumbled something about Carol pulling a C3PO on Han and Leia but I did not understand his reference.
Still fuming at Carol while an embarrassed and red-faced Shack ran for cover, I grabbed my clothes. Shack bolted for parts unknown. As I calmed down, listening to Carol as I dressed, I understand that the radio traffic might have been interesting, but damn it I would have rather gotten a good fucking than listen to the propaganda bullshit on the radio.
Shen and Nikola found another government propaganda broadcast stating that the last US vice president was still alive and fighting the hordes of zombies. Madame vice president was still fighting the good fight according to the broadcasts reminding me of similar propaganda for Ernesto “Che” Guevara many years ago. The broadcasts are supposedly coming from the VP’s headquarters somewhere deep in the Catoctin Mountain Park’s forests.
I hope the radio broadcasts from the VP’s HQ are true and are either someone’s idea of a sick joke or some government ass hole attempting to bolster false hope. If the radio reports can be believed it sounds like the VP has a sizeable force with her and considerable weaponry. If the VP does truly command tanks and air craft as the radio broadcasts claim, I wonder where she is getting her supplies.
Why she left the ultra-secure and not so secret “Cactus” bunker at Camp David, which the VP was using I am not sure. I know that Camp David was overrun by zombies, but the radio transmissions indicate the VP is leading troops from the forests of Maryland. The broadcasts were on a lower band level HF channel, Nikola tried to contact the sender but there was no response.
The way the radio broadcast played we felt that it was obviously a recording. We just wondered who recorded it when and who decided to play it. Even the colonels were not impressed, and answered with a typical male noncommittal shrug. Most of these transmissions are believed by most to be blatant propaganda by the useless, ineffective and shattered remains of the US Government.
There has been some discussion about the fate of the VP and if she is truly at Camp David, or, and I think is more likely, at the nearby Raven Rock Mountain Complex also known as Site R. There are several Continuity of Operations Planning (COOP) facilities like Site R that the VP might be using for her HQ. She is smart though, if it is really her, to not say specifically where she is.
Anyway, government propaganda bullshit yesterday aside, Shack this evening woke me with another cup of the awful chai tea. While I dress, Shack fills me in on the events of the day. I was half listening to Shack and half wishing and reminiscing about him pulling on my nipple and possibly fingering me to an orgasm. I cannot remember the last time I had an orgasm. Definitely last time Amy and I were together prior to the KCAP outbreak. Christ, was it that long weekend we took to Ocean City, Maryland? Has it been that fucking long? Slightly distracted thinking about sex, I at first miss the importance of what Shack is telling me.
I know that we are critically low on gasoline, with the Scouts being dangerously low. When we run out of gasoline, there has been discussion of abandoning the large Harley motorcycles. Putting the kids back on the BMX bikes is not exactly something that I want to see happen, but I understand the eventuality of it happening as petrol supplies are drying up.
We did pass the burnt out ruins of a petrol station a few days ago along highway 9. Other than the occasional small red plastic gas can of lawn mower petrol, we have not found any gasoline in a very long time. Facing a critical petrol shortage, the Scouts have been searching a wider area. We are at the point on the highway, that if we are going to cut over to explore the Everett Naval Station, we need to make that decision tonight before we leave camp.
Shack prattles on for a while as I am daydreaming about jumping his bones, when I suddenly realize that he said something about the naval station, bicycles and petrol.
I am sorry a little bit that I have not written in my journal at all the last few days. There has been remarkably little of worthwhile note that has happened. I have been far too tired to write “same shit – different day.” Our weather has been intriguing to observe the last few days. It has been cloudy, and heavily overcast with little to no sun shine at all.
Since we travel at night when it is usually the coldest, we have had to contend with slick roads. Despite being early July, temperatures are still in the low 40s (Fahrenheit) during the day. The nights are considerably colder; often well below freezing. For early July, the weather has been unseasonably cold.
It is also getting colder which is unusual even for this area I am told by some of the lads who are from this area. Usually this area would be in early summer weather. The colonels have been keeping track of the temperatures using temperature gauges installed in several vehicles including my Dodge.
The fancy electronic gear is enjoyable, but we have to get used to the idea of losing all the electronic toys eventually. There will be no electronic devices made for many years again if ever. Weaning the convoy personnel off of the electronic devices is going to be hard. We also have several GPS units, which the Army lads call “plotters” that we could use to track our progress, but there is some dispute over the veracity of the information.
In normal times, the GPS satellites would be maintained and remain in their positions. While it is possible that most of the GPS satellites are probably close enough to the proper position, the fact remains that no one is maintaining the GPS system which means that information from the GPS system may not be as accurate as it used to be. Probably out of habit, some of the lads do look at the GPS information, but I find it too disappointing to see just how far we have not traveled each night.
We are still slowly travelling north on highway 9 which runs north – south through the low-lying Snohomish River valley. Thankfully, there is no snow lying on the ground consistently as I have rarely driven in snow and did not relish the idea of doing so again. The occasional few inches of snow falling during the night as we drive makes the roadway treacherously slick. There are also the occasional drifts of snow in shadowy areas often with ice underneath them.
We have had to contend with black ice, frost, and the occasional snow or hail storm. There has been a lot of the pretty cobalt blue inter-cloud lightning streaking across the night skies. Due to the huge, dark heavy clouds, the bright cobalt blue lightning is startling vivid in contrast.
During the cold nights, we are often repeatedly pelted with hail or light to heavy snow storms. Most of the snow does not stick for long, melting during the day while I sleep. The wet patches of roadway, however, will ice over at night, and sometimes these can be tricky. Carol nearly jackknifed her truck and the radio antenna trailer in a patch of ice one night.
The colder weather at night is enough to slow the zombies considerably, but not cold enough to freeze the zombies solid. The wet and cold makes off-road travel precarious. Almost all of the convoy vehicles have gotten stuck at least once. We are becoming old hands at pulling stuck vehicles out of the muck. The partially frozen mud is particularly slick. The slick roads do make the snowplow’s task easier while we are on the pavement.
Weather and its little foibles aside, travel has been slow but steady. Most of the highway is narrow, generally one lane each direction with rare portions widened. The highway, like any other road these days, is packed with abandoned cars. Almost all of the cars on the highway either ran out of fuel a long time or were siphoned by someone before we came along. However, almost all the cars that the Scouts check have motor oil in the engine crankcase.
Used motor oil is one product that we have not run out of, at least not yet. Despite the fact that the diesel engines smoke like a bastard burning the used motor oil, at least we are still moving. The Scouts are able to find lots of abandoned vehicles that still have oil in them. Most people think to siphon the fuel, but it seems no one else has thought to drain the crank case oil.
We have been running a real witch’s brew of fuel in all of the diesel engines. Good high quality diesel fuel is a thing of the past. We have used heating oil, kerosene, lamp oil, various lubricating oils like WD-40, and anything else. Nothing that will run in a diesel engine is being passed over.
The Scouts occasionally locate a fast food restaurant that has some waste fryer oil someone else missed. At an Ivar’s restaurant a few days ago, the Scouts lucked into not only a full waste fryer oil tank behind the facility that someone missed, but three full kettles of congealed used fryer oil inside. All the food was stolen long time ago from the Ivar’s, but someone skipped all the old fryer oil which the Scouts quickly marked for collection.
Day before yesterday, the Scouts lucked into a dairy farm that had a buried agriculture diesel fuel tank missed by everyone else. Nearly full of 300 gallons of red dyed agricultural diesel, the buried tank, was a welcome, lucky and needed find. The GBR was smart to eschew motor vehicles altogether, as most likely we will eventually lose all vehicles as we run out of petrol.
Speaking of the GBR, they seemed to be a rather uptight, religious bunch to me. Maybe I am overly sensitive to religious zealots, but that was the impression I got. The two older women repeatedly fingered rather ornate rosaries wrapped around their right hands and wrists. Despite their religious proclivities, the GBR was friendly enough.
From the GBR, we did learn of another survival group that is up on Steven’s Pass. Iain was not aware of a survivors group in the newer, longer Cascade train tunnel up there either. The fact that Iain was familiar with both the older Cascade Tunnel finished in 1900, and the newer, longer Cascade Tunnel (finished 1929) was surprising.
Iain and the GBR said that a partial cave-in blocked the older Cascade Tunnel several years ago. When the older train line was moved to the newer tunnel, the old line was made into a hiking trail. After the cave in, the Forest Service closed the old Cascade Tunnel for safety reasons. Something similar, a cave in or worse might have happened in the newer Cascade Tunnel. There is no way to discover the fate of this survivor group without someone running up there.
With no power to run the ventilation fans, lights or open and close the doors, the Cascade Tunnel might be a difficult place to live. Iain and the GBR did not believe the older Cascade Tunnel was safe, but what is safe these days is a lot different from what was safe a few months ago. The GBR have not heard from these survivors in quite some time.
The GBR and Iain felt that the cold and isolation might have gotten to the survivors living in the Cascade Tunnel. Living in an old train tunnel is going to have similar problems to what we are going to face in the timeworn mines of the NWT. We did appreciate the GBR telling us of these survivors and the help from Iain.
Iain and the colonels told the GBR that we would be on the lookout for any survivors if we happened to be in that area. Iain was not heading into the Cascade Mountains, and was being tight-lipped about where he was heading. But even though we were not heading in that direction, we told the GBR that would look for other survivors, despite how unlikely it would be that we could come across any survivors from that tunnel.
Trading the GBR coarse lye soap, liquid laundry detergent and hand sanitizer was beneficial for all as the GBR traded us some fresh eggs. Just as we are sick and tired of MREs and beans and rice, the GBR was sick and tired of reconstituted peanut butter and crackers. Mixed with a little water, a bit of vegetable oil and some salt, the reconstituted peanut butter is not awful.
Although, I certainly understand how eating reconstituted peanut butter every day could get tiresome. For our convoy, however, getting to eat peanut butter that does not come in little brown MRE plastic squeeze tubes is a delightful change of pace. I can only dream of a favorite pre-zombie apocalypse meal like Swimming Rama on a bed of fresh young spinach. The reconstituted peanut butter offers a change to our meal variety which has been rather bland lately.
Not sure what the cooks are going to do with several five-pound tins of peanut butter powder, but the eggs were immediately consumed. Since fresh eggs do not last long, even if coated in mineral oil, we ate them immediately for dinner that evening. Other than some lucky tins of powdered eggs a few weeks ago any eggs, especially fresh, are but a faint memory. These were duck eggs, which I had, never eaten before, but they were particularly tasty.
Other than the fresh eggs, I was also surprised to learn that we not only traded several M4s to the GBR but also a pair of old M60s. With the M60s went a few cases of older 7.62 NATO ball ammo, a couple of old duffle bags full of loose ammo links, and a pair of manually cranked ammo linkers. Not sure if the M4s,M60s and ammo were worth the fresh eggs, but God as my witness, they were delicious!
Only armed with civilian AR-15s, the GBR was at a significant disadvantage compared to someone armed with military hardware like a true select fire M4. Because of the confusion propagated by the liberally biased media on what truly is an assault rifle, most semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 were banned under the permanent Assault Weapons Ban of 2013. I was pleased to see that the GBR was smart enough not to register or turn in their AR-15s. I paid through the nose for my POF AR-15, which I never did register as it came from Israel with me.
I was fairly well-traveled around the world, but this is my first time in Washington State. I have been to Canada once before, but on the other side of the country, Quebec. I have to admit that I have always wanted to see more of the United States. I always thought that there would be time eventually to explore but never planned on a zombie apocalypse.
The whole world has been turned on its head with the KCAP outbreak. The last few days, we have seen little evidence of other survivors. We have passed plenty of corpses, some consumed by animals or zombies, and lots of zombies trapped in abandoned cars. Other than Iain and the GBR, we have not seen another living soul in a few days.
Even animals have been scarce, and hunting has been poor for our scavengers and Scouts. After dinner (breakfast for me) on the day we left the Snohomish Armory, I discovered a disturbing note left on my vehicle by someone. Stuck underneath my driver’s side windshield wiper like a parking ticket, the note was obviously a torn piece of blue lined notebook paper.
Whoever wrote the note (I suspect that it was Iain) has a good legible writing style. Written in blocky, all capital letters with a dull pencil, the note was short and to the point with no frivolousness. The note, addressed to me specifically, suggested being careful as women are getting extremely scarce. The note specifically mentioned that beautiful women are getting scarce and a highly desirable commodity to either fuck or eat. I do not believe the note was inferring the euphemism for oral sex either.
Warning of extremely large groups of well-armed raiders who might attack to steal the women, the memo was concise but lacked any real information. Because of the danger, it suggested disguising all of the women in the convoy. Our convoy moves at night, and that is good as we are less likely to get attacked. Most attacks, according to the note, occur during the day. The note also warned us to stay away from the key urban areas, as they are infested with cannibals and zombies.
We have heard these warnings before. I mentioned the note later to Carol and the Princess at our first rest stop that night. When we stopped for the midnight meal, I gave the note to Sam who is the colonel in charge of the convoy at night. Doc is in charge of the convoy during the day while the night shift sleeps. Sam talks to Doc about the note later, but I am not privy to their conversation.
We three (Carol, the Princess and I) early that morning talked to the colonels about the convoy’s women. We discussed some possibilities about hiding the women, but decided on nothing concrete. A later meeting with all of the women (no matter their age) of the convoy, including the hugely pregnant Sarah, decided that every woman should be armed at all times.
We also decided that all women would carry at all times radios, whistles, and at least one large bladed weapon as well. An outfit the size of ours is extremely hard to disguise, so we figured that the best course of action would be to arm everyone heavily, and prepare as best that we can for the possibility of an attack. Although we have not seen it yet, we have heard the warnings far too often for us to take them lightly.
Allegedly, a few survivor groups have done a brisk trade in women. Any kind of sweeping breakdown in society, such as a zombie apocalypse, brings all the slime balls, freaks and other baser elements of society out in droves. According to Iain, there are signs posted near some of the principal roads informing passersby that certain groups will trade food, medicine, bottled water, weapons and ammunition for beautiful young women. Iain said that most of these groups just kill everyone then steal the women rather than give up materials they need as well.
While Iain was with us, I did learn that the older, slender Asian woman cook, Chloe, is from Salem, Oregon. Chloe had a rather lengthy talk with Iain asking him several questions about the city and its surrounding areas.
Chloe’s ex-husband and their two grown sons lived in Salem before the KCAP outbreak. Iain did not know much about Salem as he has not been out there in a long time. Iain assumed that like most significant urban areas that Salem was probably over run with zombies. Iain did promise Chloe that if he heard anything about Salem that he would attempt to send word to her.
During the short time that Iain was with us, he surprised me constantly. His skill in medieval martial arts notwithstanding, Iain was a man full of surprises. It seriously surprised me, as well as everyone else, that Iain spoke fluent Mandarin and Cantonese switching from English without even a blink. Iain was able to talk easily with Shen in his native dialects.
Shen’s English is improving, although he still has a remarkably thick accent. Nguen is barely conversant in Mandarin, although he is getting better working with Shen to improve his English. Chloe is not that proficient in Mandarin as she was born in the States to Americanized Chinese parents who spoke nothing but English.
The news that Chloe has a pair of grown sons is surprising. The four cooks pretty much stick to themselves unless they are serving meals. All the cooks are also day shift, so I have little interaction with them. To reduce the cook’s workload, Sam assigned another one of the male 1%er FEMA camp Army survivors, Moffat to drive the fajita truck during the night.
Must be crowded with five people in the fajita truck but so far they seem to make it work. Moffat, whom the lads have nicknamed Fozzie, is a young, light-skinned African-American boy barely 18 years old. Tall and big-boned, with what Sam calls “angry inner city youth attitude,” Moffat is from Atlanta, Georgia. I do not understand the meaning of Moffat’s nickname until Carol explained that his voice sounds exactly like a certain Muppet character.
Probably due to his youth Fozzie, tends to be a follower. He just recently earned his weapons back and is still under probation. Sam is displeased with Fozzie’s actions while he was in the 1%er FEMA camp where he performed some less than savory actions. Sam has given Fozzie a single chance to redeem himself. Sam placed Fozzie on notice that if he fucks up again, he will be summarily shot on sight.
The convoy found a larger boxy U-Haul trailer that the cooks took possession of quickly. Not sure if Fozzie has ever driven a large panel truck with a trailer before, but he has been doing a good job last couple of days even hampered by the unfamiliar NVGs. The cooks keep the trailer filled with food, and guard it jealously during the day to prevent thievery.
Thievery is not that common in the convoy, but there have been some mild pilfering mostly of food stuffs and toiletries. The cooks are careful to protect their inventory and are justifiably suspicious of anyone that lingers around their truck and trailer between meals. Quite often, one of the cooks has to chase someone away from their truck and trailer.
Because he drives all night, Fozzie sleeps during the day, so it is up to the cooks to keep their vehicle and supplies secure. The cooks rotate guarding their vehicle and cooking in a schedule known only to them.
I have not talked to Chloe terribly much at all and only learned her name yesterday in the mess tent in passing. Not by any design or by choice, the women of the convoy are spread out and we rarely see each other. Well that is except for Carol whom I am with every day as she is part of my squad.
Other than on shower day, when all of the ladies are together, I rarely see Sarah as Doc has her on permanent bed rest. She has gotten fucking gigantic, and Doc believes that Sarah could be due in a few weeks. Without any kind of OB/GYN in the convoy, Doc and Terrance are the best medics we have.
Neither Terrance nor Doc Jamal has ever delivered a child, but there is a first time for everything. Sarah might be their first, but there are oft-repeated rumors of possible other pregnancies in the convoy. Carol and I have heard and even seen the Princess barking in the latrine like a beached sea-lion. There is some speculation that the Princess might be pregnant, and I understand even some serious wagers have been placed.
Carol is starting to develop more of a baby bump, and her clothes are starting to get tight on her. She is doing well otherwise although Carol wishes that we might run across a midwife who is not a zombie. A midwife may be able to guess accurately how far along Sarah and Carol are by measuring their fundus according to Doc Jamal. The days are passing quickly.
Yesterday or was it the day before? The days and nights are blending together with the monotonous routine. Anyway, yesterday I think it was we stopped for the day in the parking lot of a large Walmart along highway 9. The Walmart was almost but not a total loss. Obviously hard-fought over, and looted several times, the Walmart was a gutted and burnt out wreck.
Initially the Scouts thought that nothing of worth would be found in the Walmart. Most goods were gone and several fires had raged in the store, but for those who dig around and think outside the box, there were several items of worth discovered. Many glossy magazines, some trashy paperback novels, and a few odds and ends were recovered by the scavengers.
The older woman with the GBR mentioned that they had some books on home delivery among other topics but did not have a copy to spare. From the way, the woman talked it sounded as if their group had been planning for some time and prepared for some kind of major disaster. Owning a whole bunch of books in print is smart as there may be no power for a computer.
Our Scouts continue to scour every building we pass for any books that may be of use. The Scouts have been grabbing every medical book they find. The GBR did not bring any books to trade which is a shame as we could have used some more. Most people it seems to want books to use either as rolling papers (especially bibles) or fire starter. Our Scouts have done a good job of collecting any paper that we might use for tinder. The cardboard compactor at the Walmart was partially full, which was a lucky find.
Pulling all the cardboard out of the Walmart compactor took some time but rewarded the convoy with a lot of burnable material. The Scouts routinely find old pornography magazines, and other such trash that gets summarily tossed in the fires. Although I am fairly certain that some of the lads are keeping a little of the pornography for their own entertainment. The GBR appeared to be fairly religious, so I doubt they have any porno in their compound.
The Walmart parking lot was one of the few places that we had enough room for all of the convoy vehicles since parking at the Snohomish Armory. The Walmart parking lot was easily cleared by the snow plow, and there were not too many zombies around other than a few which were quickly eliminated. Zombies trapped in cars were left where they were as they were not a threat.
We are out in the remote areas of highway 9, so parked for the day in the Walmart parking lot passed by extremely quietly for the most part. Occasionally, a few zombies wander too close, and these were eliminated either with a sharp pointy stick, or a large bladed weapon. Hunting was not productive as nothing considered edible, even in this day and age, was killed.
Searching the cars in the Walmart parking lot was not terribly productive either. All of the vehicles in the Walmart parking lot were drained of fuel but once again nearly all of the cars had full crankcases of motor oil, which the mechanics gathered. We almost lost one of our young Scouts as she was crawling underneath a lorry parked behind the Walmart.
The young female Scout came nose to nose with a crawler. Thankfully the crawler could not get its teeth through her BMX helmet no matter how much it tried. Her screams brought her fellow Scouts to her aid, which quickly clubbed and stabbed the offending crawler. Finding the two lorries parked behind the Walmart was fortunate as their crankcases held quite a bit of motor oil.
The Princess other than possibly being pregnant has settled into the laundry and water boiling role quite well. While we were parked at the Snohomish Armory, the Princess used a lot of broken wooden furniture from the armory for fire wood as well as wood cut from the wooded area behind the armory.
Alongside the highway for the most part have been quite a few forested areas that we have been able to cut firewood. Thankfully the convoy did not expect me to wield either a saw or an axe. I have used an axe enough. The sound of an axe striking wood attracts zombies, so the convoy attempts to use quieter means to cut firewood.
While we were parked in the Walmart parking lot, the Princess was able to use wood sourced from broken furniture taken from inside the store, as well as wood taken from the forested areas. So far there has not been ample amounts of dry firewood to burn, but we have not tried to burn anything green. Quality firewood has been extremely scarce, and with our supply of propane exhausted, the Princess may experience difficulty getting her fires either hot enough or to burn long enough to accomplish her tasks. We need to avoid anything that emits a heavy amount of smoke which might attract too much attention.
There is supposedly coal in this area somewhere as there are rumors of coal mines north of us near the Canadian border. Not sure if there is any industry to get that coal anymore either as some of the older gentlemen that our Scouts encountered a few days ago said that the coal mines went out of business in the mid-1950’s. The older unarmed gentlemen sitting in a fire gutted church, appeared to be waiting to die. There was not much we could do for the elderly men, but we appreciated them sharing their knowledge of the area with our Scouts. I had never heard of coal in the Pacific Northwest. I wonder if Iain knew anything about coal in this area?
Finding some coal would be fortunate, but we have no clear idea where the old mines were, and it sounds as if they went out of business an awful long time ago. The old timers said that the old coal mines were not profitable and suffered fires, flooding, collapses, and were too expensive for the owners to operate. We also lack the heavy equipment that would be needed to access the coal.
Global warming be damned; if we had coal we sure as hell would use it. The Princess fired her laundry and water boiling apparatus with any fuel available. We ran out of propane a long time ago. Combustible material like firewood is labor intensive to gather and in short supply. Some of the hardwood ashes could be used to make lye soap, which was done when we were burning old oak furniture. Since we are mostly burning trash and pine, most of the ashes gets dumped into the latrines which helps cut the smell. Broken furniture is handy to some degree, but is an exceptionally limited commodity.
Finding several sacks of BBQ briquettes in the Walmart was lucky as well, as the Princess got to use those for her fires as tinder. I did hear some grumbling though that her pots are hell to clean if she gets the fires too enthusiastic. The other injured soldier from the assault on the cannibal enclave, Robert has been lucky because as it turns out he was not quite as injured as we first thought.
Only suffering some bruising, but no cracked ribs, Robert has been doing a good job assigned as one of Sam’s bodyguards. Doc thinks that Robert might have a heart murmur or something similar because of how the round affected him even though it was stopped by the SAPI plate.
Speaking of the injured, Tommy has been doing Ok. Doc Jamal thinks that he might have a good chance of surviving, but he is going to be in a lot of pain for a while. Doc is unsure how well Tommy will heal; only time will tell. Tommy is the youngest service member in the convoy, being barely 16. Tommy lied about his age when he was drafted out of high school. The few times that he has been awake, Tommy has joked that he certainly went to extreme measures not to get sent back to the scullery. Shack visits Tommy daily, checking on his friend.
Another thing of note, which I can think to mention, is that we lost contact with group B. Not sure what happened, but we have not had any radio contact with group B in several days. Sam and Randy were considering sending some of the Scouts to see if they could locate group B, but I am not sure what they decided.
As I finish this entry in my journal, there is some discussion about going to a nearby US Naval station. From the maps and Carol whose destroyer pulled in there a few times, Naval Station Everett is only a few miles away. Supposedly one of the smallest naval stations, there is some argument over the merits (or lack thereof) of going to the naval station. We have also seen a helicopter with a search light flying at night in the general direction of the Everett Naval Station. I wonder if it was same helicopter that flew over us several days ago?
As I close my journal and fall asleep, I wonder what the colonels will decide today while I sleep. I am supposed to be an S2, but I sure as hell do not feel like one.
Just before, Shack and I stepped from outside into the dim, shadowy parade hall, I spot someone in the shady wooded area behind the armory. Dressed in old woodland green camouflage military fatigues sitting upon a horse with large brown and white spots, the person leaves nearly as soon as I spot them. Shack says over the radio that the rider took off out of the woods “like his ass was a’fire, and his head was a’catchin’.”
Shack describes the rider as a young male, but I did not get a good enough look to determine sex. I also hear Shack describe the brown and white horse as piebald. I only know that because I heard Shack’s description of the horse and rider over the radio. I am not that familiar with horses. I did wince though at the sound of the riding crop repeatedly striking the poor beast.
Another convoy member that Shack says must also be from the country describes the horse rider riding “hell bent for leather.” Shack mutters something, which sounded as if I needed to read more Kipling, whatever the hell that means. I am not sure immediately if the rider is one of ours or not. A commotion of radio traffic indicates that Shack and I were not the only ones to see the Pony Express hauling ass.
I gather by the subsequent radio conversations that the rider was most unquestionably not one of ours. Sam and Randy advise the perimeter guards and our over watch snipers on the roof to be on the lookout for a possible attack. Sutton mentions that he could have dropped the rider, but Sam decides the let the rider go since he made no hostile action.
Shack and I, momentarily distracted by the horse rider, forgot all about the extraordinarily tall sword-wielding hirsute man until he grabs my arm. I did not realize that I had my pistol in my right hand, finger on the trigger until his very large, warm hand covered my wrist gently but firmly. I do not remember drawing my pistol. Shack I note also has his pistol out.
Speaking with an odd accent, which I cannot quite place, the exceptionally tall man says, “Save your ammo. I’ll take care of these few zombies. A blade does not require reloading.”
The tall man turns from Shack, and I to face the zombies. With his right hand, he pulls the sword from its long black, studded leather sheath across his body in one swift motion with no wasted movement. The massive black and silver-handled sword slides out of the sheath with an evil, lethal hiss. I see a Christian Gothic cross deeply etched on to each of the flat sides of the wide octagonal end of the sword’s handle.
Obviously supremely skilled and used to handling the thick heavy sword, he holds it vertically as if it weighs nothing with his right hand. As if saluting the zombies, he momentarily touches the wide sword blade to his smooth broad forehead. With fluid grace surprising for a man so large and muscled, he wades into the zombies with smooth, lethal efficiency.
I could see that the sword blade is exceptionally wide, easily as wide as my whole hand. The blade is double-edged with a deeply scalloped, wide blood groove running from the blade’s tip to the handle. (I later learn that blood groove is inaccurate it is properly called a fuller.) The sword blade did not look particularly sharp, not like some of those wickedly sharp Japanese swords that I have seen in movies such as Kill Bill.
The sword looks heavy and terribly lethal. With a blade nearly five feet long and the easily over seven-foot tall wielder’s considerable reach, he merely had to step forward about a half step to reach the first zombie. Bringing the sword down with an awful whistling swoosh, he hits the first zombie in the left temple with a brutal horizontal chop, burying the sword in the zombie’s face.
Wrenching the sword free with a sickening, wet sucking sound, he kicks the first zombie in the sternum off of the sword’s blade. As the first zombie collapses, he pivots dipping the sword handle near his knees. With both hands on the sword handle, he violently thrusts the point of the sword vertically up underneath the second zombie’s chin.
With a sickening wet crunch, the thick blade pierces the zombie’s palette shredding the brain. I watch the Kevlar helmet on the second zombie rise with the point of the sword embedded in it, the helmet chin strap sinking into the rotting flesh of the zombie’s neck.
With the sword point buried in the second zombie’s head and helmet, the man violently twists the sword ripping it vertically through the dead zombie’s face. Exploding from the face of the second zombie, the sword blade scatters teeth and bloody chunks of bone everywhere.
Whipping the sword blade violently over his left shoulder, flinging blood and chunky bits of bloody brain and skull, he swings it swiftly hitting the third zombie with a short vertical chop straight through the eyes across the bridge of its nose ripping the whole top of the zombie’s head off.
While the top part of the third zombie’s skull and part of its brain is still air born, he steps lightly backwards and plants an elbow hard into the face of the fourth zombie. Staggered by the hard unexpected blow the fourth zombie falters. Blade held horizontally, stabbing with a short violent vertical jab from the shoulders, the man buries the sword into the face of the fourth zombie under its Kevlar helmet rim.
Ripping the sword from the face of the fourth zombie with a fountain of black blood flinging more bloody bits of bone and brain, he moves too quickly for the last zombie to grab him. Ducking under its arms, he steps to the left of the zombie whipping the dripping sword over his left shoulder.
Holding the sword in a two-handed grip in a position with the tip near the level of his extremely nice, tight, blue jean clad ass, he whips the blade down grunting shortly with the effort. Shack calls this the sky-to-ground move. With a wet sound, the quick violent two-handed vertical chop to the center of the zombie’s forehead, the sword splits the zombie’s head, and Kevlar helmet like an overripe melon.
The leading edge of the sword stops in the center of the zombie’s neck. Stepping forward following the collapsing zombie, he lets it fall on to the floor while keeping a light grip on his sword. Standing with one black leather booted foot on the supine zombie’s chest, he wrenches the blade from the zombie scattering more blood, bits of bone and teeth.
“See, no need to use bullets for so few,” he remarks causally. Bending over, he rips off a large chunk of the uniform blouse from the last zombie he killed as if this is a common occurrence. Using the torn shirt, he nonchalantly wipes the gore off of the sword with practiced ease while walking back towards Shack and I. I notice incredulously that he is not even breathing hard.
As if it were the most normal, causal thing in the world he drops the ripped bloody shirt piece with which he used to wipe the sword blade clean on to the parade hall floor. Sliding the sword back into its sheath on his left hip with a final lethal hiss, he places his large hands on his wide generous hips like a disapproving father observing naughty children.
The man is heavily muscled and large-boned. He has the smooth lines that look as if he gained the muscle naturally. The man clearly does not have the hard, lumpy look of a gym rat. I would place his height over seven feet tall, maybe seven and a half feet. The man probably weighs better than 300 pounds but is not fat at all.
“I’ll need to oil my sword later,” he remarks to one in particular. “Now, who are you?” he asks, arching his thick, bushy brown unibrow at Shack and I.
I noticed that he nearly has a single solid eye brow across his wide thick forehead. This man needs some serious manscaping. His shaggy, dark brown hair is worn a little long just barely touching the collar of his plaid flannel shirt. His piercing vivid blue eyes with light, silver flakes remind me of pure glacial ice. His eyes are nearly swallowed by the vast bushy dark brown beard that erupts from his face beneath them.
The man has a wide and large nose which peeks out from the beard like the tonsure of a Capuchin monk. I assume that he has lips underneath all that fur, but I could not hardly make them out, despite an occasional flash of flesh. His thick beard runs right into the collar of his shirt, and I could not see where his neck and face blended. This man is seriously hairy!
The man does not wear any jewelry; no wedding ring, earrings, not even a wrist watch. I recognize the large revolver in his shoulder holster as a stainless Smith & Wesson model 629. Both pockets of his flannel shirt bulge with contents. The delicate silver herringbone chain of a pocket watch trails from the left shirt pocket to a shirt button.
The wide light brown leather belt running through the belt loops of his blue jeans is bare except for a wide silver belt buckle. The belt carries the brown leather sheath of a knife that I bet, by the stacked brown leather handle, is a standard KA-BAR fighting knife.
Riding low on his generous hips just below the light brown leather belt in his pants is the thick, black studded leather sword belt. The sword sheath and belt match each other. Judging by the wear patterns on both, they obviously have been together for some time. The steel octagonal butt of the sword sticks up above his waist almost even with the butt of the 629. The tip of the sword sheath nearly touches the ground.
“Hello, cat got your tongue, or rather a zombie?” he asks.
Oh shit! I realize that I have been staring up at him, mouth agape and he has asked me two questions. I must look ass stupid. You just do not see every day a well over seven feet tall man wield a five foot long sword, like some demented Medieval Crusader, chopping zombies down with casual ease. The smooth lethality of this man reminds me of the old Samurai movies that Shack mentions when he occasionally reminisces about the old days.
Note to self, Ruth – never piss off seven-foot tall freak with sword!
“Uh, Ruth, I am Ruth” I managed to stammer out. “This is Shack,” I mention gesturing to Shack. I realize suddenly that I still have my pistol gripped in my hand and hastily holster it. Shack likewise holsters his pistol. Looking behind me, I realize that we have several members of the convoy who also witnessed the unexpected prowess of this extraordinarily large man.
Clay, the wounded soldier from the assault on the cannibal enclave, with whom I have gotten to know since then must have played Dungeons & Dragons because he mentions behind me that the sword the hirsute individual was wielding is a bastard sword, also known as a sword of war.
“Well, hi Uh Ruth lovely to meet you and you too Shack. What brings you to the new Snohomish, Washington National Guard Armory?” he asked, arching those damned bushy eyebrows again, his arms crossed across his chest like a disapproving school principal.
“It is Ruth, I mean just Ruth,” I stammer again what is wrong with me, I cannot get my tongue to work right!
“Well, Ruth what brings you here?” he asks again. “And Shack, is that like the old basketball player? You don’t look like a brother.”
“I … I mean we, were hoping to find some ammo, maybe some supplies, but it looks as if we are too late” I motion around the empty and obviously looted armory. Shack then corrects the tall man on the spelling of his nickname and how he came about it.
“The National Guard units disbanded or abandoned their posts and took almost all their weapons and equipment with them. Anything the departing soldiers left has been long ago looted by other survivors.” The large man seems terribly calm.
Sam and Doc Jamal arrive in the parade hall. The man continues to talk. “I was hoping that there might be some diesel around here. That blue Ford pickup parked at the front is mine. I have been running it on waste vegetable oil (WVO), but I need diesel to warm the engine up to operating temp before I can run the WVO. Good diesel is getting mighty scarce.”
Sam and Doc perform basic introductions. Turns out that the large, furry man’s name is Iain, and he is from somewhere in Oregon. As Sam details a small squad to clean out the parade hall, our convoy settles into its daytime routine. Shack and I walk back to the radio shack holding hands, which makes me feel like a giddy school girl with her first crush.
Sam, Doc, and Iain go into the command and cantina tent and disappear. Shack and Nikola tucks Carol and I into our bedrolls. Despite giving a good snogging to Carol, which I thought might lead to something more, Nikola departs the tent to go listen to the radios. We just finally got the only surviving AN/PSC-5 radio working again.
Nikola hopes that the PSC- 5 radio might pick up some new radio traffic. Surprisingly, Shen was quite a bit of help to get the PSC-5 manpack radio to work, saying that he had worked with similar Chinese army clones. Shack kisses me on the cheek, and I fall asleep quickly sleeping through the day.
When Shack wakes me up with his customary hot aluminum butterfly canteen cup of sweet black tea, he seems urgent to talk. Sitting up in my bedroll, I see that Carol is already out of her bedroll. The fact that Carol has not stowed her bedroll for travel today tells me that we are probably going to stay for another day.
Sipping hot tea, flavored with some nasty no-calorie sugar substitute, I grimace at the horrid aftertaste. While Shack refills my aluminum cup from the old battered plaid plastic Thermos, I ask him what is going on with convoy.
“As you gathered, Ruth,” Shack says in response to my probing. “We are staying at least another day here. The mechanics managed to squeeze a few gallons of diesel out of the dregs of the bulk tank. They have also collected all of the waste motor oil that they could find. They also collected spare parts for some of the vehicles. It appears that most people thought to drain the fuel tanks, but no one thought to collect the motor oil.”
Shack talks while I get dressed. At least he does not turn away and does not turn red anymore at the sight of my body. Sitting down to put on my boots, I listen to Shack continue to talk.
“Iain was a tremendous help. He has been scouting around the Pacific Northwest by himself for a few weeks. He has several maps upon which he has annotated bridges that were dynamited by the Army Corps of Engineers or bombed by the Air Force. Pretty much any serious bridge on any significant highway has been blown to shit either by the Engineers or the Air Force.”
Shack and I walk to the latrine and afterwards to the chow hall where we grab some grub. Gabe and the cooks have done a good job. We are out of tortillas again, except for the occasional MRE tortilla. Dinner tonight is a whopping heaping bowl of beef-flavored Ramen noodles with orzo mixed with red kidney beans, green peas, lima beans and little, brown, crunchy nuts which I cannot identify.
Picking at the little brown nuts, Shack sees my confusion and takes pity on me. “They’re pine nuts. Longfeather found a whole bunch of pine cones in the wooded park behind the armory. Had the Scouts collect all of the pine cones they could find. Spent most of the day busting them apart and taking the pine cone nuts out. Seems the Native American tribes used to eat quite a few pine nuts. The Princess is using the pine cone bits as fire starter in her Chinese laundry.”
I note that the Princess has her laundry cranked up on full and appears to be using wood. Shack tells me that the propane supply is running low, and we are going to be leaving some of the empty bulk propane tanks here. We will also be dropping one HEMTT, the diesel tanker as it is empty now. Stripped of any spare parts, the HEMTT is unceremoniously left at the very back of the armory motor pool.
The Princess’ laundry has also become the de facto water purification site. The water tanker HEMTT has made a few trips to a nearby river to refill. The water tanker has also refilled all of the water buffalos in the convoy. Fresh water is in plenty supply, but drinking water still needs to be boiled before use.
The colonel’s station wagon is the other change in the convoy. The colonels finally gave up on their little battered station wagon and took over a pair of Humvees, assigning a corporal to drive each of the colonels with two more soldiers for protection detail. Splitting the colonels makes tactical sense, and despite their friendship, not having them in the same vehicle makes more sense than risking losing both of them together.
Sam says not having to drive all night anymore will take some pressure off of him and lets him focus more on the convoy leadership. The colonels with their assigned drivers and three bodyguards seem content with the change. The next few days will tell how the colonel’s change works out for the convoy.
When Shack goes to sleep in my bedroll, along with Shen and Nikola in their own bedrolls beside him, Carol, and I take over the night radio watch. Seems Iain did not stick around terribly long, taking off in that battered 1986 Ford pickup; same model year that I was born. Iain has been bopping around on his own, moving slowly and quietly as to avoid attracting too much attention. I am surprised that Iain has survived all by himself for so long.
The long quiet night passes without anything eventful happening. Carol and I talk all night long to keep each other awake and alert. Thankfully, a thoughtful Nikola and Shack made sure we were well supplied with hot coffee and tea. Shame that there is only the nasty tasting no-calorie sugar substitute sweetener. There is very little radio traffic on the air. Even the religious nut jobs have fallen silent, or we are finally out of their range.
Carol tells me a lengthy tale about Nikola and the Scouts attempting to find a few milk goats. Carol is fully showing and has a delightful baby bump upon which she rests her coffee cup. The need for milk goats is so that if Carol cannot breast feed, we could use the goat milk for the baby. I consider telling her that Bedouin women use camel’s milk as well, but it might make her ill at the thought.
Goats are pretty common in Israel with some of my cousins raising them occasionally. Not too sure about finding goats around here as they are not that popular in the Western US, compared to dairy cattle. Most of the farms we have passed have been long looted of anything of edible or other value.
In the morning, the boys relieve Carol and I. Carol, Shack and I get some breakfast from the chow tent, oatmeal again. Most of the convoy personnel are taking advantage of the opportunity to sleep indoors for a change. Today is a shower and laundry day, so Carol and I get to take a quick shower and change our clothes.
Freshly showered, sliding into my bedroll feels so damned good. Shack kisses me good night, and I am nearly instantly asleep. Shame too, because I had half of a thought to pull Shack into my bedroll for a good night tumble.
I do not wake until Shack wakes me in the usual manner with some more of the black pekoe tea sweetened with more of the awful tasting no calorie sugar substitute. I meant to tell Shack to skip the sweetener.
While I dress, I note that Carol’s and all the rest bedrolls are gone, so I assume that we are moving tonight. Shack is really excited this morning. As I dressed, and while we walked to the latrine and then to the chow hall; Shack talks non-stop. It appears that the convoy had an exceptionally busy day while I slept.
Noting the busy vibe in the convoy, as the tents are being stored and all gear readied to move, I listen to Shack detail the day’s events. While he talks, I am glad that they let me sleep, but I sort of wish they might have woken me up. After all, I am supposed to be an S-2 officer in this outfit. I cannot be much use intelligence wise if they do not wake me up.
Around noon, several men and a couple of women on horseback rode up to the armory gates. The thing that amazes Shack the most is that these folks had a couple of camels with them. The camels are apparently rescues from a local zoo and are employed as pack animals. I am all too familiar with camels. I despise the fucking disgusting animals maybe more so because of my Arab heritage.
The horse riders leading the laden camels are from another group of survivors in the nearby mountains east of Snohomish, Washington. These survivors came to trade, offering several cases of canned foods, and several bulk sacks of grain, flour, sugar and salt. The survivors also traded several smoked salmon, apparently a common food item around this area.
Our convoy traded several basic M4s (minus optics) with several cases of M855 ammo. With each M4 came six standard 30-round magazines. These survivors had civilian AR15s, but no machine guns, so Sam traded them several of our spare M4s. We had more weapons than personnel anyway. The survivors called themselves, the Gold Bar Rangers (GBR), not sure how they came up with that snazzy name.
The GBR informed us that highway 2, east bound out of Snohomish up over the mountains is impassable. Several of the bridges and large portions of the raised highway were destroyed either by the Corps of Engineers or bombed by the Air Force. Interstate 90 east bound is also in a similar state with large portions of the raised highway blown to bits by the Air Force. The GBR also mentioned that the I-90 snow shed, whatever the hell that is, was also bombed by the Air Force.
There is an unusual amount of wet, heavy snow in the Cascade Mountains. With more snow building up nearly every day, the passes through the mountains may not be open for several months if ever. The GBR mention that even at their place they have several feet of snow, which is unusual for the end of June.
With no snow removal, the roads that do survive through the Cascades are impassable right now. The unusually cold spring weather has dumped more snow in the mountains. The GBR did suggest that highway 20 east bound might be passable in a few months if the snow bothers to melt away.
We do have a snow plow with an experienced operator. Speaking of that operator, Rick mentioned that before the Washington Department of Transportation disbanded, there were reports of more than 115 feet of snow in some parts of the Cascade Mountains while they were still measuring.
More snow has fallen since then with the unusually cold spring. Rick also repeatedly mentions the extreme danger from avalanches in the mountains. Rick does not believe that a single snow plow could forge a way through the snow. The risks of getting stuck up there and ending up like the Donner party is too strong.
Going over the mountains to the city of Twisp and from there north into Canada to the Canadian city of Osoyoos was the convoy’s general idea. Sounds like getting over the Cascade Mountains may take longer than we hoped.
The convoy pulls out of the Snohomish armory heading north on highway nine.
Once the convoy staff is assembled, Sam without preamble jumps into the meeting. “These ladies and gentlemen, are a group of survivors originally from Henderson, Nevada.” Sam pauses a moment to sip some coffee and look around the tent at all of the assembled personnel.
“Regrettably, four of this group’s members attacked our convoy protection detail without asking for permission from Don, their leader. Had Don and I known of each other, it is unlikely that Don would have sanctioned an attack on our trucks. Despite the regrettable loss of life on both sides, we have decided to part politely. We will be returning the weapons and material taken off their dead.”
Sam, still standing at the head of the tables, looks around again and crosses his arms over his chest, which pushes his pistol in its leather tanker holster down a little. “We are also going to be giving Don’s group one of our extra PRC-117 radios since these guys are lacking any kind of communication gear. Regrettably, we do not have an extra vehicle to spare. Anyway, they feel that a vehicle and a company the size of ours attracts too much attention anyway.”
There is a little discussion and questions posed about what the group of survivors experienced. I will not quote the whole discussion here in my journal, but the gist is that the survivors were hard-core preppers. They had some kind of compound that was immediately besieged by various groups of the ill-prepared.
The survivors made the all too common mistake of letting their neighbors know that they had stockpiled food, water, medicine and weapons. They probably thought nothing of it at the time but telling their neighbors that they were preppers was one of the stupidest things they could have done. Might as well hang a sign on the front door, inviting looters. When the SHTF, these same neighbors decided to take by force the supplies stockpiled by Don’s group. The survivors were able to withstand several weeks of a veritable siege, but eventually they had to leave their compound.
Despite a good bug out plan, they still lost a few members in the bugging out process, as well as a couple of their vehicles. The loss of personnel and the supplies in the vehicles was minor and they managed to make it to their first way point. After traveling for several days to their alternate site, they found their target site inhabited by well-armed squatters.
Rather than risk a battle with the squatters, the survivors group decided to move on, heading in a general northwards direction. Eventually they ran out of fuel for their vehicles and taking what supplies they could carry, left their vehicles and proceeded on foot. Don’s group of survivors started with 20 people on foot. As Don’s group travelled generally northward, they have gradually lost personnel to zombies and marauders.
Don mentioned that the uncontrolled fires from Boise and the surrounding cities (Nampa, Caldwell, etc.) were spreading like wildfire to the neighboring suburban areas, and into the brush and grass lands. The survivors had to either evade or go through several brush fires on their journey through the Treasure Valley.
The Treasure Valley, much like any other major urban area, is heavily infested with KCAP zombies. Boise, and the surrounding cities, was almost completely engulfed in flames. It appeared, as they passed through the area in the foot hills, a vast majority of the surrounding cities like Meridian, Nampa and Caldwell was burning as well.
Don mentioned that the large fires in the valley floor driven by the unusually high winds had reached tornado-like proportions. Seeing a roaring fire tornado must have really been something to see. The roaring swirling fires started to create their own inward drafts, strong enough to suck people, loose items and generally anything small into the fires.
A good thing about the fire tornadoes was that it destroyed a lot of zombies attracted to the bright fires, but it also drove the residents out of the cities in droves. Unusually persistent and strong, cold, dry winds from the north fanned the fires, and even in an area noted for cold and wind, temperatures were unseasonably cold and the winds exceptionally strong.
The fire tornado reached approximately a third of a mile wide, with winds in excess of 155 miles per hour, or equal to an F3 tornado on the Fujita Scale. Most fire tornadoes are short-lived but this one persisted for several hours. Don’s people observed the huge fire tornado uproot 50’ tall trees, and pitch flaming debris up to three miles away.
Don’s group had to avoid not only the fires, but other groups of survivors passing through the area, as well as desperate people from the cities and urban areas. The extreme cold took its toll on the unprepared and thankfully to some degree, slowed the zombies down. Desperate people from the cities, cold, hungry and fearing for their lives, acted in ways unthinkable to them a few weeks previously.
Reduced to eating canned dog food for several weeks, some members of Don’s group watched desperate survivors turn to cannibalism, eating the children, elderly and infirm first. Some people who were eaten must have been bitten by a zombie but not turned yet, as within 72 hours Don’s people observed the cannibals begin the physical transformation brought on by the KCAP virus.
First the person loses all their body hair and their skin becomes an albino-like white, losing all pigmentation. Dark skinned people, become various shades of ashy-gray depending on how dark their skin was before becoming a KCAP cannibal. Fingernails and teeth turn black, and rapid muscle growth begins which causes extreme hunger as the virus drives the person to consume more fuel to feed its changes.
Driven by nearly insatiable hunger, the nascent KCAP cannibal goes on a feeding rage attacking anything and anyone nearby. Only the strongest survive, as the weaker cannibals are eaten by the strongest. The infected cannibals eating each other, strengthens and enforces the KCAP virus in the survivors. Don’s group did not stick around to note the full extent of the cannibal transformation but noted that speech and most cognitive functions did not appear to be effected.
They did note, however, the complete lack of emotion or remorse in the cannibals, having watched fathers and mothers consume their own offspring; children eating their parents with no outward concern. Doc Jamal believes the KCAP virus destroys parts of the neocortex responsible for remorse and empathy, while enlarging and encouraging the basic, primal “lizard brain” buried deep at the base of our brains.
The cannibal’s lizard brain enlarges and compresses the rest of the brain, causing headaches and parts of the brain to die as it is compressed against the skull. The cannibal’s cranium is unable to enlarge. The cannibal’s brain stem thickens and enlarges, with the whole nervous system enlarging.
The cannibal’s increased, thickened nervous system, allows faster reflexes and greater speed. Along with enlarged lungs; the heart enlarges and the circulatory system enlarges and thickens. The cannibals can process oxygen more efficiently and their heart enlarges to nearly twice its normal size. Interestingly enough, despite the enlarged circulatory system, the blood supply to the lizard brain remains the same, indicating a creature driven more by instinct rather than reason.
The lizard brain idea is based on a famous triune brain theory developed by Paul MacLean. Jamal believes that the KCAP virus enlarges and strengthens the lizard brain portion of the human brain. The lizard or reptilian brain controls the body’s vital functions such as heart rate, breathing, body temperature and balance. Doc Jamal believes that the enlarged and strengthened reptilian brain with the loss of parts of the neocortex results in a creature that is driven by impulse rather than reason.
Encountering a group of survivors deep inside the Lucky Peak State Recreation area, Don’s group of survivors learned that most of the Treasure Valley was lost to zombies. There were supposedly some pockets of survivors in the cities, but those were cut off by hordes of zombies plus the fires and not given very good odds of survival.
Don’s survivors travelled through the surrounding foothills even though it took significantly longer. Crossing the Snake River near Ontario, Oregon, Don’s group of survivors encountered a large number of survivors attempting to take boats north. Some former Air Force personnel from Mountain Home Air Force Base revealed the possibility of a significant colony of survivors in the Yellow Knife area of the North West Territories, Canada.
Terrance asked several questions about Mountain Home; it appears that he knew some people there. Regrettably, the survivors bypassed Mountain Home Air Force Base and most of the Treasure Valley by a large margin. Don’s group traveled through the abandoned farm lands in the valley between Payette and Fruitland, Idaho.
There have been rumors circulating about survivors in the Canadian NWT for some time. Don’s group like many other groups of survivors (including ours), heard that survivors in the Yellow Knife area are living in several of the large, abandoned gold mines. If this is true, living in the abandoned mines would make sense as a subterranean mine provides shelter, but lighting could be a problem, among many other things.
Mal and some of the other mechanically inclined individuals have wondered how the folks in the old NWT gold mines solved the problem of heat, light, fresh air, not to mention basic needs such as sanitation. Living underground like a bunch of gophers might be a good way to hide from the zombies, but it comes with a whole bunch of new logistical problems.
Of course, we all assume that the Canadians and other survivors in the NWT are going to either have room for or even allow us to move in to the area. From what these survivors have said and from what we have observed on the road, there are thousands of survivors heading north.
Little else of worth is gained from further discussion and before it gets ugly, Sam dismisses the convoy personnel. Doc out of the goodness of his heart gives the survivors some basic medical supplies. Jenny appears to have fun talking to some children near her age. With the loss of Jenny’s twin, it must be hard for her to be the only child in the convoy.
The weapons and material from the four dead men are given back to Don’s group, and they leave without any further words. There is much anger on both sides for the deaths, but no sense in causing more useless death by fighting. Not exactly a friendly parting, but we are not shooting at each other again, so it is better than most partings these days.
I finally crawl into my bedroll near noon, dead exhausted from being awake more than 30 hours straight. Shack helps me take off my gear, and then my boots. With a quick peck on the cheek, Shack then tucks me into my bedroll. I am asleep almost immediately, as is Carol beside me.
My dreams are dark and violent, filled with burning buses, flaming cannibals, and caged naked women. While I did not think of it much, and it was hardly mentioned in the AAR, the interior of the cannibal complex featured prominently in my dreams. The interior assault lads mentioned finding a midden pit hacked through the asphalt filled with cracked human bones.
Regardless of my dreams, all the cages in the cannibal complex were empty. By the amount of fresh blood splashed around, the interior assault boys felt that the cannibals had a merry feast just before we attacked. I did not know about it until later, when Mal told me about it, but the Scouts and the scavengers took all the metal cages, chains and anything else of worth. Some of the material is going to be used to make repairs or reinforce the protective armor on the convoy vehicles, while other material will be stockpiled for later use.
I think one of the reasons that Nikola stuck me up on the roof is so that I would not get a look at the interior of the Costco. In a way I appreciate that as my dreams are going to be filled with nightmares enough as it is. Despite my dark dreams, I sleep until Shack wakes me up with a few gentle shakes of my shoulder. Shack has his morning offering of a tin canteen cup filled with slightly sweetened tea.
Sitting up in my bedroll, I realize that my hair has come undone and is all over the place. I am sitting on my pony tail which is pissing me off. I have to stand up to untangle myself, and when I do, I realize that sometime during the day, while I slept, I took my pants off.
Dressed only in my white cotton wife beater and a small men’s plaid long sleeve flannel shirt, I did not think before I stood. Oh well, no help for it now. As I attempt to untangle my hair, Shack sitting on the ground on the edge of my bedroll, I realize belatedly, gets a good lengthy look right at my crotch.
By the slack-jawed open mouth stare fixed on Shack’s face, I suppose the sudden sight of my bare Mons Venus, displayed at his nose level when I raised my arms above my head to fool with my damned hair, surprised him. Sitting down cross-legged on my bed roll, I realize that I still have my US Army green wool socks on. Yeah, oh boy! So I must look really sexy to a young virgin boy.
I take the cup of tea from Shack and kiss him on the nose which, amazingly, causes him to turn even redder. Shack, after my kiss, snaps his mouth shut. “What is the matter Shack, never seen a naked woman before?” I ask, teasing him a little. I know he has seen me undressed a few times these last few weeks; at least he does not turn his back now when I use the latrine.
“Uh, no, I mean,” Shack seems at a loss for words. “You don’t have any … um,” Shack seems to be struggling so I take pity on him. “Shack, I grew up in the Middle East where it is very hot. Being bare makes it easier to keep clean when there is not a lot of water for bathing. Most Middle Eastern women traditionally keep everything below the neck bare for hygiene sake. It is a cultural thing.”
I so badly want to tease Shack about staring at my bare pussy, but I need to visit the latrine and do my necessaries as I am still having my period. I am not exactly feeling horny right this moment. At least I am not cramping too badly this evening. Thankfully, I have enough feminine articles to last a while.
I have to remember to ask Doc to make sure that the Scouts collect any feminine hygiene articles they find. I know Mal is post-menopausal, but I am not sure of the other ladies. I admit that I have been lax in determining the needs of my fellow women in the company. Mal pretty much keeps to herself, while the three cooks and the Princess are not exactly social butterflies in the company. I kneel on my bedroll digging around until I find my trousers buried deep in my bedroll.
Shack turns his back while I pull on my trousers. The tea he brought me is more of the same black pekoe tea although this time it tastes like he sweetened it with sugar rather than honey. I finish the first cup and Shack pours me another from the old, battered plaid plastic Thermos. I miss my collection of fine Chinese teas from my condo; wish I would have grabbed some before I left.
Shack and I hit the latrine, and then to the canteen where we grab breakfast for me, dinner for Shack. Breakfast is several long strips of red mystery meat wrapped in a tortilla with brown long grain rice and cooked pinto beans. I wash my deal down with a few cups of tea while Shack bemoans the lack of Red Bull and Mountain Dew, having to suffice with Coca Cola. Shack informs me that the Scouts and guards have been lucky; finding a couple of cows and a deer earlier in the afternoon. The meat should last a few days for the convoy.
The next few days are fairly boring and standard. Travel through the night, sleep during the day. Our new Dodge truck with its healthy, turbo charged 5.9 Cummins diesel engine does pretty well despite the fact that it is being fed a steady diet of vegetable oil, kerosene, acetone, and lighter fluid mixed with diesel.
Nothing liquid and flammable is lost. Our Scouts and scavengers are busily collecting any flammable fluid that might run in a diesel engine. Even several bottles of scented, colored and insect repelling outdoor Tiki lamp fuel and torch oil were poured into the diesel tanks.
Even fed a shitty diet of fuel the Cummins has more power than the old Smart car. Despite only having the Dodge a few days it, has survived more abuse than the little Smart car could handle. As time passes and we travel further north, the roads are getting much worse and travel much more difficult.
While I did not think much of it at first, the four-wheel drive came in handy several times as did the 12 ton Warn winch on the front bumper. The most recent use of both was when we had to pull the colonels’ station wagon out of a ditch. Thankfully, the previous owner of the Dodge had all the accessories like snatch blocks, tree trunk protector, recovery straps, and various types of ground anchors tucked underneath the bench seat that Shack is snoring upon now.
Shack likes the four door cab of the Dodge pickup as he stretches out across the rear bench seat and sleeps during the night while I drive. The more room of the Mega Cab is nice compared to the old Smart car, but I do miss the fuel economy of the little car. Our Dodge truck also fends off the abuse of running off-road and through various debris better than the little delicate Smart car.
Other than the Scouts chasing some fucking elusive goats that managed to evade capture, the past few days went by in relative, monotonous boredom interspersed with the occasional moment of terror. Like a few nights ago, when we stumbled upon a fucking ginormous horde of undead in the highway.
Apparently, this horde appeared during the time between when our Scouts scanned the area and when we attempted to pass. This horde was as long as we could see, spread over all four lanes of the highway. Unsure exactly of how a horde that size could suddenly appear like magic, but the Scouts swore it was not there previously.
The horde of undead forced a hasty back track over some shitty roads that were not scouted previously. Some further unforeseen backtracking and less than stellar alternate routes made the experience one of the more notable if for nothing else, then for the sheer fact that we did not lose any personnel or vehicles.
So far my little Smart car is the only vehicle casualty we have suffered. The colonel’s station wagon is probably going to be the next vehicle that we are going to have to replace. The roads are getting much worse. The sheer numbers of zombies we either have to drive around or through are taking their toll on the colonel’s medium-sized VW station wagon.
The diesel engine in the colonel’s station wagon is also not as tolerant of the shitty diet we are feeding all of the diesel engines in the convoy. Despite the mechanics attempting to bypass most of the electronics and smog control on the colonel’s station wagon, it is still a highly complicated piece of German engineering.
I do not believe the Volkswagen engineers planned that the diesel engine in the vehicle would be subjected to such abuse. I suppose it is a testament to the fine engineering that the engine has run so well for so long despite its diet.
It has been weeks since the Scouts located a petrol station that was not either already plundered or a burnt out wreck. Even petrol collected by draining the vehicles that we pass is getting scarce as we are not exactly the first to come up with that plan. Although the Scouts are able to acquire a lot of used motor oil which is what most of the vehicles are running now with the exception of the Strykers and HEMTTs whose engines cannot tolerate shitty fuel. Fine diesel fuel is running scarce and there is even talk of having to abandon one or more of the HEMTTs and Strykers. The Strykers and HEMTTs average five miles per gallon.
The M-35s and M-923s with their very basic diesel engines are able to run just about anything other than straight gasoline. The Scouts were lucky a few days ago and found a few houses that had some #2 heating oil in old, forgotten underground tanks.
We have to do a lot more off-road travel lately, something that I am thankful for the Dodge truck’s four wheel drive. Although an automatic transmission would be nice rather than the five speed manual. I rarely am able to get the Dodge into any gear higher than third anyway.
The snow plow surprising enough is doing fine despite the abuse it suffers, but it has the same engine problem as the Strykers and HEMTTs. Most of the roads are only passable for short stretches and this requires a lot of weaving and backing on the part of the snow plow. Rick and the Princess has, apparently, become an item in the last day or so, something that I did not see as a possibility. Maybe some sex will help mellow the Princess.
Nothing really noteworthy happened to include in my journal over the next few days. I did have a rather lengthy discussion with one of the Army 1%er FEMA camp survivors about his experiences while in the camp. While horrible and certainly nothing I would wish upon anyone, it is not anything that we have not heard before. Despite the physical and emotional abuse the FEMA camp survivors appear to be in good spirits, and the company’s moral is decent.
Our convoy pulls into the Snohomish National Guard Armory early one cold rainy morning. There has been sporadic amount of sleet and hail tonight and it is particularly cold tonight. For the end of June, it is damned cold. I do not have a way to be certain, but to me it almost appears to be getting colder, which is odd. Maybe I am just more sensitive to the cold since I hate cold weather.
The convoy members are looking forward to sleeping indoors for a change. Gabe and the cooks have been doing a good job keeping the company fed but meat has been getting scarce. Beer and wine are but a faint memory. Shack has sorely missed his Red Bull and Mountain Dew. Everyone is tired of either MREs or beans and rice, but that is what we have to eat. I shudder to think of Don and his bunch eating canned dog food. Shack said something about an old movie called Mad Max, but I have never heard of it or understood the reference.
Shack and I have been getting closer and it appears that most people in the convoy consider us an “item” despite the persistent rumors that I am a lesbian. Although, I do think Shack would be surprised to hear that, as he is the only one to hear about some of my love life. Other than Carol and Nikola, and now the Princess and Rick, there are no other couples in the company.
Rumor is rife with suggestions that Gabe is dating one or perhaps all three of the female Army cooks, but so far the four cooks have not enlightened anyone. Mal and Terrance seem to have grown close, not sure if they are an item yet, but they have been spending a lot of time together. Terrance is a fair hand with several musical instruments. Sometimes Terrance will play for the company. Surprisingly Mal has a beautiful voice and sometimes will accompany Terrance.
As our convoy rolls into the Snohomish armory through the wide open gates, I pass a dark-colored, four door Ford pickup parked in front of the armory. Shack tells me the boxy thing covering the bed of the Ford pickup is a camper shell. When the last of the convoy vehicles are in the armory compound the gates are closed behind us and chained shut.
By the way the gates and everything is open, I have a feeling this place was gutted a long time ago. As is our typical routine for the day, we circle the vehicles and park in our assigned spaces deep in the yard. Once the place is cleaned out, we might get a chance to sleep indoors. Shack is snoring again, having gone back to sleep on the bench seat behind me. I give him a few more minutes of sleep.
Getting out of my idling truck, I stand and stretch watching for the colonels to come around and approve the day’s parking. As the day crew starts breaking out the camouflaged netting and the tents, the Scouts gather for their morning preparation and brief.
Our merry little convoy is settling into a routine rather well, with everyone’s role established. I shake Shack awake and after he gets dressed, he helps me stretch the camouflage netting over our truck. After the camo netting is over all the equipment, we erect our still damp canvas tent aided by Carol, Nikola and Shen.
After our musty smelling tent is erected, Nikola and Shen erect the radio antenna while Carol, Shack and I unload the radios and batteries. Shen’s English is getting much better and he can almost be understood now. Shen, Nikola, Doc and I have all been out of cigarettes for about a week now and we all crave a smoke badly.
While the cooks are preparing breakfast, Shack and I wander around outside the armory looking for the latrine and to see what we can find. It feels nice to stretch our legs. Some early scouting has already told us that the armory has been picked clean of any weapons and all vehicles are either stripped of anything useful or destroyed. There are signs of a significant battle recently around the armory. The Scouts report what might be a large, mass grave in the wooded park behind the armory.
An exceptionally hirsute tall, brown-bearded male has been seen wandering around the armory. Everyone is cautioned to look out for him as he might be the owner of the blue Ford pickup parked in front of the armory. A remarkable thing about the description of this hairy man is that he apparently carries a huge stainless revolver in a brown leather, Dirty Harry rig under his left arm. Oh, and he is also armed with a very large sheathed broadsword hanging on a wide black leather belt on his left hip.
When the sword part of the description came over the radio, it was met with a flurry of questions. Who the fuck runs around with a sword? When clarification came back apparently this guy is carrying a sword straight out of the middle ages, like he was some kind of Dark Ages reenactor. The few times this tall fellow has been seen around the armory, he has been dressed in blue jeans, a long sleeve plaid shirt and leather work boots.
There is quite a bit of radio discussion about the heavily muscled dude with an honest to God sword! The sword has a thick chunk of metal with an etched Gothic cross on the butt like this dude is some Holy Crusader. There is some discussion that there are signs of people squatting in the armory for a while.
The mechanics think there might be a few gallons of diesel fuel in the bottom of the huge bulk tank in the motor pool and will collect all the motor oil they can find. A latrine is established and guards are dispatched after another breakfast of oatmeal flavored with maple syrup this time.
Shack and I walk around the armory a few more times while eating before going inside. Shack actually holds my hand for a little while as we walk around which is very nice. I have finished my monthly curse, and I find the idea of seducing Shack getting more appealing the longer I am with him. I feel like a dirty old woman wanting to seduce someone more than 10 years younger than I am.
The perimeter guards have mentioned a few zombies in the trees around the armory, but this area appears to be mostly abandoned, so hopefully there will not be too many zombies around inside. The civilian buildings nearest to the armory, both across the street and the highway are burnt out hulks.
It looks as if this area was fought over and looted a long time ago. There is probably not much of value here but with the nice thick fence and a few large buildings, the armory might give us some shelter for the day. Sleeping indoors would be nice but the five of us with the radio gear will sleep outside while some might get to sleep inside once they clear the buildings.
Shack and I walk into the parade hall where we practically collide with the very tall bearded man. Behind the very tall heavily muscled man, who is easily over seven feet tall, are several zombies wearing current issue US Army fatigues.
I leave our dripping, O.D. green tent dressed in full battle rattle, as the Americans say. I emerge into a cold, damp, very dark early morning. A sodden, windless and moonless landscape greets us as we climb into our rides.
I napped in my warm bedroll for a little bit before it was time to leave, but my eyes still feel gritty like they are full of sand. I wish I could crawl back into my warm bedroll. Thoughts of pulling Shack into my bedroll with me flitter though my sleep-deprived mind. I am becoming a dirty old lady!
Sam and Doc oversaw the loading of the attack force as we climbed into the idling trucks. I am sure the drivers have had less sleep than we have since they had to be up earlier to prepare the trucks. I am assigned to the third vehicle in the convoy, the second M-35 deuce and a half.
I am also second in command with a young tow-headed lad named Tyler assigned as my battle buddy for this assault. I have seen the young Caucasian boy around the convoy’s camp a few times, but have never spoken to him. PFC Tyler appears somewhat younger than Shack, but I see he too wears the “1,000 yard stare” like so many of the soldiers.
I follow Tyler, climbing into the canvas-covered cargo bed of our assigned woodland camouflaged M-35. Dividing our force and command structure between several vehicles reduces the chances that the loss of a single vehicle and its occupants halting our attack.
A desert tan Hummer with a flashing IR strobe on the roof leads our merry little convoy. The woodland green camouflage Hummer bringing up the rear in the tail end charlie position also has a flashing IR strobe on the roof. Hopefully, the two IR-tagged Hummers can keep the rest of the vehicles between them without losing anybody.
All convoy vehicles mount a 240B in the roof with one of the assault force personnel assigned to man it while in transit. When parked, the convoy protection detail, who is also our drivers, will man the 240s and protect the trucks. Not sure how much linked 7.62 NATO the boys brought along. If we hit trouble, I hope they brought all the ammo they could cram in the bins.
Saturating everything, a light drizzly mist does little to mask the noise of our approaching assault force. Sitting in the back of the second, bouncing, rough-riding M-35 deuce and a half truck on a hard wooden bench seat brings back memories of similar occurrences in the IDF.
Wedged against one of the mortar lads near the canvas flap rear of the deuce’s bed cover, I cannot see much inside the truck. I did notice the pair of old woodland green camouflaged M-923 five tons following my deuce are each towing an empty drop-side box trailer.
All of the trucks diesel engines smoke quite a bit; the exhaust frequently changing color and bouquet. I understand, from the lads, that the trucks are burning a combination of acetone paint thinner, various blends of vegetable oils, waste motor oil, and various grades of diesel fuel, charcoal lighter fluid and kerosene.
The scavenging lads collect any motor oil, vegetable oil, and nearly any flammable fluid that can be poured into a diesel. These old military lorrys are more forgiving of the shitty fuel they are being fed than civilian engines would be by design. The lorry’s engines may not produce the best performance and smoke like a bastard, but a running truck is better than a five ton paper weight.
Using NVGs, driving without the benefit of headlights or street lamps, the transport drivers have to keep their speed slow so as not to hit anything with enough force to damage the truck. Driving with NVGs can be done, and indeed we have been doing it for some time, but it is neither pretty nor fast. Slower speeds are mandated by the tunnel vision effect of the NVGs and complete lack of depth perception.
More than once our rookie drivers smack into an abandoned car or other rubbish left in the roadway. I cannot be sure, but judging from the occasional wet sounding impact and squishy bump in the road, I am legitimately certain we run over a fair number of zombies.
All convoy vehicles have crudely welded “zombie grills” on the front. The grills made from cut up scavenged scrap metal absorb and deflect the impact of hitting a zombie. The zombie grills may be as ugly as sin, and remind me of a horrid Mad Max homage, but they do their intended purpose protecting the delicate radiator and cooling systems of the vehicles.
The heavy metal zombie grills also protect the vehicle from the frequent collisions with detritus. The military vehicles normally have a heavy ugly front bumper anyway; so adding the zombie grill does not exactly detract from the vehicle’s aesthetics.
Sitting in the back of the second deuce and a half, these members of the attack force jostle against each other as the driver maneuvers the cumbersome truck. Despite the slow pace, constant weaving around debris in the roadway, our driver does a fairly worthy job of getting us to our destination. Each of us is alone with our thoughts as we ride.
I resist the strong urge to continuously check my watch. After not wearing a watch for so long its presence on my left arm feels strange. I have a watch somewhere in my purse back in the convoy camp, but have gotten out of the habit of wearing it.
Unbelievably, I hear someone snoring; it is too dark to see whom. None of us within the attack force have activated our NVGs, saving the batteries for the assault. We all carry extra batteries both for NVGs and weapon optics, if required.
I seriously doubt the capability of a soldier to install tiny, hearing aid sized batteries in weapon optics using NVGs. We also carry several double A batteries for our FMRS radios just in case their installed lithium-ion battery packs die.
After a cold ride through the dripping darkness, we arrive at the drop point for the two mortar squads. The six blooper trooper lads carrying their over loaded rucks jump out of the canvas-covered deuce and a half trucks leaving the canvas flap open. The three privates, one corporal, a specialist and a buck sergeant check each other over quickly and nod their readiness.
Subsequent to some brief gear rearrangement, the mortar lads shoulder their bulging rucks and prepare to head for the marked convenient hill. Checking their gear a final time and getting their NVGs settled, the mortar lads stand in the dark misty early morning. After checking their FMRS radios and a quiet pep talk and final gear check by Nikola, the mortar lads are sent on their way.
After the blooper trooper lads disappear into the dripping wet, dark conifer forest, Nikola climbs back into the lead Hummer. The convoy pauses a moment or so to determine that the mortar teams did not leave anything behind and the attack force drives on. I hope the 60mm mortar lads get set up on time as they are integral to the success of this attack.
Our attack plan requires all components to remain radio silent until 03:55. At which time each component will signal that they are in position and ready by clicking their radio a prearranged number of times identifying each component. When the three assault forces reach our jump off point, we too check our issued FMRS radios.
Everyone yanks their NVGs into place, turns them on and prepares to move. Our NVGs are newer models with rain settings, but this light pissing mist is too faint to register. We do have to wipe the drops of condensation occasionally off of the lenses.
Weapons and gear are checked and cyalume lights are lit off. I check Tyler’s gear and he checks mine as the attack squads stack up. Nikola quietly and quickly reminds us that even though we are not expecting a counter attack; do not bunch up so that a single grenade could take out most of the force.
Nikola’s hawk-like face with gentle crow’s feet in the corners of his eyes seems pale and drawn in the pale green light of his NVGs. The dirty blonde stubble of his five o clock shadow seems darker in the bad light. I note that Nikola is not carrying his suppressed large frame Glock pistol again; probably because 10mm ammo for his beloved model 20 is scarce. While there is plenty of 40 S&W, 10mm is not that common.
I am not terribly surprised to see the wire frame stock of an APB (Avtomaticheskij Pistolet Besshumnyj automatic silenced pistol) sticking out of the top of a butchered Makarov brown leather holster on Nikola’s belt. The fat suppressor for the ubiquitous Spetsnaz pistol erupts out the bottom of the hacked Mak’s holster. I wonder if Nikola’s father, a Spetsnaz Afghanistan veteran, taught Nikola to butcher a Makarov holster or if it is something he picked up while serving with Spetsnaz GRU troops in Chechnya.
Roughly a half mile trot through the misty, sopping darkness wearing NVGs in full battle rattle is not exactly fun. Clipped to rucks and LBVs, the faintly glowing cyalume lights in US Army issue O.D. green plastic holders help identify friendlies. The chemical lights also help to prevent losing or confusing anyone in the dark. It is extremely unlikely that a zombie or a cannibal will have a chem light on them.
Luminous IR patches on the soldier’s uniforms leap out at me through the dripping darkness. The soldiers have their rank, name and blood type clearly marked with reflective IR badges. I notice that above Tyler’s IR blood type patch he wears a luminous IR patch that says “NO PEN.”
I am not sure what Tyler’s unique patch means; my first thought is that he lacks writing utensils. I have never seen such a patch and ponder its meaning. During a brief rest stop, Tyler sees me staring fixedly at his strange, glowing patch. Tyler quietly informs me that it is a medical warning that he is deathly allergic to penicillin.
Water drips off our Kevlar combat helmets, sometimes going underneath our collars and down our backs forging a cold, chilling path. Using abandoned cars as cover, the frontal assault force weaves through the dark, pockmarked Costco parking lot. Luminous glowing square tabs on the back of everyone’s helmet cover, commonly referred to as “cat’s eyes,” as well as the shielded cyalume lights help us follow and identify each other.
I hear quiet swearing ahead of me and see someone has tripped and fallen into a very large puddle on their ass. The soaked, clumsy soldier is hauled out of the puddle by his battle buddy. I hear quite teasing and chiding of the clumsy soldier. Despite our dripping, aquatic assault comrade, we continue our trot through the huge parking lot.
Nikola’s roof top assault group along with the interior assault group runs for the back of the cannibal compound. Our trip to the Costco took longer than anticipated due to zombie avoidance and we are a few minutes behind schedule. Nikola and Tyler armed with shotgun like grappling hook throwers prepare to fire climbing ropes on to the roof of the Costco.
The interior attack squad quickly unrolls a two-part, putty-like acidic compound. The boys stick the crap to the tin siding in a large rectangle that a soldier can step through with ease. When the two parts of the putty-like compound mix, a powerful acid is created which quickly eats through the metal siding.
Once the acidic putty has done its work, the lads grasp the metal with heavy leather work gloves and quietly as they can rip the large square of metal away from the side of the Costco building. Apparently the metal sheeting is hot, as the lads quietly swear about the heat permeating their gloves.
Once the sheet metal is clear, the fiberglass insulation inside is cut away and the interior assault force slips into the Costco. Once gathered inside the dark Costco, the lads start to make their way towards the front of the building. As the interior assault boys walk deeper into the Costco I can hear them not too silently whisper about sputtering torches illuminating the interior towards the front of the building.
Nearly as soon as the interior assault lads step through the hole in the wall and start working their way through the nearly tomb-like dark interior, I hear clicks on the radio signaling mortar units in place and ready. Nikola leads our assault force with me as second. He checks his watch then his radio and nods at me and we get ready.
Nikola and Tyler fire the oversized, shotgun-like grappling hook guns, launching our grappling hooks trailing rope on to the roof. As our grappling hooks land on the roof, we cringe at the thumping clanking noises as the two guys yank on the ropes ensuring the grappling hooks bite into something.
If the fucking cannibals inside did not hear the thumps of the grappling hook guns firing, the grappling hooks landing on the roof and remain blissfully unaware as the grappling hooks are drug across the roof, then we might still have the element of surprise. No help for it now, time to get our asses on the roof.
Both soldiers ensure the grappling hooks are firmly set and then we climb up the side of the Costco. Using two ropes it takes only a few minutes for our small assault force to reach the roof. After the last man is up, (after all, I am the only woman in the assault force) he pulls the ropes up behind us so that no one else can follow.
Leaving one soldier to guard the ropes and our ass, the four of us trot quickly to the front of the Costco. Surprised to not find a guard on top of the building we quickly trot for the front. Walking as quickly as we can on the slick metal roof we hunch over so as not to silhouette ourselves. Reaching the front of the store, I drop my ALICE pack and walk out on to the patio-like overhang covering the entrance of the Costco.
It took longer than we had planned to get the interior assault force into the building and we are barely in position on time when Nikola clicks his radio signaling we are in position and ready. The rapid clicks of the other units quickly follow over the radio.
We faintly hear the deep thumps of the mortars firing in the distance. For the first few rounds, at least until we get our spotter set up on the roof, the mortar lads are going to have to spot adjust their own rounds. Within seconds the tear gas and IR illumination mortar rounds start to fall well short of the cannibal’s communal area.
The mortar lads do a good job of walking their fire into the target area. Despite scattering tear gas and parachute IR illumination mortar rounds all over the Costco parking lot, the mortar lads do finally get their rounds in to the communal area. Our spotter corrects the mortar fire and calls for IR illumination rounds only as our mortar lads have dropped some tear gas rounds on the frontal assault force.
By the time the mortar lads get rounds falling on target within the communal area, we hear the distinct crack of rifles followed by the distinct whump of flash bangs and sting grenades from both inside the Costco and the front. So much for a coordinated attack; as the cannibals are well aware of our assault and our attack goes to shit from the start.
Seeing several cannibals milling around underneath me, well silhouetted by the slowly dropping parachute IR illumination rounds, I quickly pop the pins and drop my tear gas and sting grenades. Tyler and the other soldier also drop their riot grenades. Nikola, I note, lays flat on the roof and makes an effort to toss his grenades into the Costco entrance.
Accompanied by the detonation of the numerous grenades, with the billowing clouds of tear gas surrounding the cannibals, I pull out and then unroll my shooting mat from the bottom of my ruck and take a prone shooting position over the lip of the patio. Simultaneously, Tyler takes his position, setting up his M240B on a bipod with the other soldier handling the belt.
Displaying his effectiveness with the Russian 43mm pump-action grenade launcher Nikola cranks the damn thing like a meth-fueled maniac. Leaning over the roof in an awkward position, Nikola manages to get most of his grenades into the Costco. I just hope he does hit any friendlies.
The cannibal’s sporadic return fire is hardly effective but they manage to react faster than we anticipated. I see a few of the frontal assault force are pinned down but I do not have time to worry about their fate. In the early chaos of battle, it is too difficult to determine if our assault is successful or not.
Tyler’s assistant gunner is also our mortar spotter and he adjusts the mortar fire with his radio several times. He is not exactly in the optimal position for a spotter, definitely within danger close limitations, but we do what we have to do. Despite the occasional IR or tear gas mortar round falling outside the target area, including a few into the trees and a couple even on the Costco roof, the mortar lads are doing a decent job.
I ensure that my POF AR15 is still on semi, and aided by the IR illumination rounds search for targets. I do not have long to wait for a target to present itself. I start dropping cannibals with head shots as fast as I can squeeze the trigger. My decision to use the ACOG was a far better choice as most of my shooting is done while I have both eyes open searching for targets.
Since most ranges are less than 100 yards, I am still using the common M855 ball ammo, rather than the precious M262. I place a pair of short, straight 20 round black anodized aluminum magazine on my shooting mat to my right side. Thankfully, I am using military magazines as after the permanent Assault Weapons Ban of 2014, possession of any magazine holding more than 10 rounds was a felony. I suppose with a zombie apocalypse such silliness as gun control is an obsolescent idea.
The first small magazine is fully loaded with M995 black tip armor-piercing rounds just in case I need them. The second 20 round magazine has a piece of red tape around it and a piece of rough sandpaper glued to the bottom. This tactile and visual marking informs me that the second magazine is loaded with M856 tracer rounds. I am not overly fond of shooting tracers in my rifle, but they certainly have their uses.
Beside the two smaller 20 round magazines, I set two 30 round, flat dark earth color Magpul polymer PMAGs. The two polymer magazines are fully loaded with the precious M262 ammo just in case I need to reach out there and hit something. I am very fond of the Magpul PMAGs; they are some of the best magazines I have ever used.
From the noise below, it sounds as if the cannibals are not suffering as badly as we had hoped from the tear gas. I note the flash bangs and sting grenades also appear to have a lesser impact upon the cannibals than hoped. Even up here on the roof my ears are ringing. I cannot imagine being in a sheet metal building suffering the concussive force of the flash bangs and sting grenades.
Doc said something about possible increased lung capacity in the cannibals; I wonder if that means that they suffer worse from the effects of the tear gas. Maybe increased lung capacity means that they can hold their breath longer to escape the billowing clouds of tear gas. The wet mist does reduce the effectiveness of the tear gas a little, which is one of the reasons that we are using so much.
Sporadic fire from the cannibals is ineffective in the beginning. Our attack is a complete success as a failure. The cannibals did not have any guards posted, but they rallied and responded quicker than we expected. We did not want to wait for a hunting party to leave, so chose to attack even though the cannibals are at full strength. Not waiting longer before launching our attack was because we were impatient, we want to move on rather than tarry any longer in one spot.
The cannibals were caught between the inside assault force, who are now busily dropping cannibals like bad habits, and the other two attack groups. In the first part of the attack, the cannibals were not doing so well at all, I thought, but they rallied well. Quite a few cannibals were shot in the first few minutes of the assault that I think our attack force got a little complacent.
For the first few minutes cannibal casualties are high, and then somehow the cannibals managed to rally. A particularly tall, bald cannibal wearing cutoff blue jeans, dark leather work boots and a white fur-lined, dark-colored, denim vest. The denim vest, worn without a shirt underneath, flops open revealing the rippling muscles of the cannibal’s torso.
The tall cannibal leaps from the ground to the roof of the Metro bus in a single bound as if he was a deathly pale, bald, cannibalistic Superman. His bald pate shining in the early morning lit by the IR flares, with dark blue pulsing veins on his bulging arms, the flying cannibal appears to be moving in slow motion.
Everyone is so stunned by this unprecedented display of raw power, which puts to shame the leaping ability of any major athlete that our assault stalls. Armed with a sawed off, pistol gripped, black pump shotgun, the cannibal on top of the Metro bus manages to crank off two rounds while still airborne before he landed on the roof of the bus.
The speed and savagery with which the tall cannibal was able to utilize his shot-gun was astonishing. I do not believe that I have seen semi auto shot guns fire much less faster. Doing a midair single forward somersault roll, the cannibal landed on the roof of the Metro bus squatting on his haunches.
The first round from the cannibal’s shotgun appears to have missed its mark. A female cannibal dressed in a shredded, dark blood stained paisley sun dress with her tits hanging out stands up in front of one of the frontal assault soldiers who hesitates too long, possibly distracted by the sight of her tits. The female cannibal shoots the hesitating soldier in the chest with a Beretta 92 pistol just seconds before I turn her head into a red misty cloud with white chunks of bone.
The second shot-gun round from the tall cannibal on top of the Metro bus hits another frontal assault soldier knocking him flying. Within seconds after the cannibal on top of the bus fired his second round, a green six wheeled John Deer Gator UTV rolls up with Doc at the wheel. Doc is in full battle rattle wearing a pistol in a shoulder holster. A large black medical bag lays on the bench seat beside Doc in the cab of the UTV.
While covered by our comrades, the injured soldiers are unceremoniously dumped into the flat-bed of the UTV. Once the injured soldiers are in the flat bed along with their weapons, Doc floors the UTV, whipping it around and hauls ass away.
The cannibal on top of the Metro bus has by now emptied his shot-gun and is now furiously stuffing rounds in it, reloading from his vest pockets while kneeling. Rounds are pinging off the sheet metal sheathing around him. Before he can complete his reloading, the tall cannibal is struck by a fusillade of rounds, including at least two to the torso from my rifle.
Viciously rocked by the swarm of rounds striking him, the large cannibal is knocked to his knees. Still kneeling on the roof of the Metro bus the cannibal does not seem terribly hurt despite the sheer number of rounds that hit him. That is until Nikola launches a Shmel rocket through the front window of the Metro bus. The Shmel turns the bus into a blazing, exploding conflagration that instantly incinerates the cannibal, his shotgun and several nearby cannibals.
Using the burning Metro bus for orientation, our mortar spotter calls in HE rounds, a gutsy and dangerous move. Our mortar crews are firing from a position that is to the south so any rounds that go too far will sail over us. Rounds that drift too far to the left (from the mortar crew’s perspective) could hit us.
The HE mortar rounds land within the Costco parking lot thankfully missing friendly forces. The newer mortars are much more accurate than the older models I saw used in the IDF, thankfully. The Stryker mortar crew asks over the radio if they need to fire and the mortar spotter declines their offer.
The few HE mortar rounds and the loss of the Metro bus and tall cannibal, appear to take the fight out of the cannibals. Backlit by the blazing, smoking remains of the Metro bus, the rest of the cannibals are quickly eliminated. Nikola orders the soldier on the rear of the Costco roof to move the ropes and his ass to the front of the building, which he does as quickly as he is able. After Nikola secures the climbing ropes, he quickly slides down to the ground joining and directing the mop up detail.
Just as the rising sun peeks completely over the hills, the other soldiers climb down from the roof taking their weapons at Nikola’s instructions. I wave at Tyler as he slithers down the rope to the ground. I am left alone on the roof in over watch position. If they fired the 240B, I was unaware of it. I watch the soldiers go through the compound shooting at least one round in to the head of every dead cannibal.
I note that Nikola is using his Nagant revolver rather than the APB still holstered on his belt. The slight cough of Nikola’s Nagant revolver is quieter than the cycling of its action as he thumbs the hammer back each time. Putting a round in the head of each dead cannibal is cheap insurance that they will not animate shortly.
I watch Nikola casually flick empties out of his Nagant revolver with his fingernail and the ejector rod while he holds a squirming, severely wounded cannibal youth down with his right boot on its neck. After putting the ejector rod back in its place on the pistol, Nikola quickly reloads his revolver.
The utter fact that the young cannibal boy is still alive despite several rounds to the torso and the protrusion of his intestines through his left side is an amazing display of mutant hardiness. After reloading his revolver, Nikola quickly dispatches the youth with a round between the eyes stilling its movements. Shooting the wounded cannibal is probably a merciful thing to do considering its injuries. It is easier to think of the cannibals as things rather than people.
Shortly after the soldiers certify that all cannibals are truly and significantly dead, the mortar Stryker rolls up dropping off the two Infantry mortar teams. Nikola, still in overall command of the assault force, calls the transportation detail to bring the trucks to the Costco. Silence follows Nikola’s radio transmission so he repeats his instructions in a firmer tone. Silence is the only response.
Swearing softly in Russian, Nikola dispatches the Stryker and the two Infantry mortar teams to the location of the transportation protection detail. Per the operational communication plan the assault force changes radio frequency to a prearranged frequency. Our communications might be compromised.
Even though we are not using encrypted radios, but civilian FMRS radios, a frequency change might allow us to communicate without being overheard for a little while. If someone out there has a good scanner or Range Direction Finder (RDF) gear, it will not take them long to eavesdrop on our communications. After the communications shift, Nikola calls Sam, giving a brief summary to the colonel on the command frequency.
Dispatched by Nikola and roaring off in a cloud of exhaust smoke, the Stryker disappears. While the sounds of the Stryker roaring off fade, our assault detail begins an inventory. Most soldiers opt to load full magazine into their weapons. With the rising sun, NVGs are turned off and pushed up on helmets out of the way.
With the lull in activity, several soldiers guzzle a bottle of water or two. Some soldiers empty their Camelback if so equipped. I watch soldiers tend to their battle buddies, as bottles of water and Gatorade are poured into empty Camelbacks. Smokeless tobacco and even a few cigarettes are passed around and lit. I pat my pockets and realize that, although I have my old Zippo lighter, I am out of cigarettes.
While I am drinking my second bottle of water somewhat slower than the first which I guzzled, I observe that the cannibal barricade is a bit worse for wear now. The flaming Metro bus is going to be a wonderful zombie attractant. I wonder how much longer it is going to burn.
Finishing my water and jonesing for a cigarette, I listen to the radio traffic. Total count is 53 dead cannibals which is transmitted back to command which does not confirm the count from the observers who were off by 30. Total expenditure of munitions will have to wait as we hear nearby some sporadic unsuppressed fire.
Nikola calls the mortar Stryker on the radio who replies that our transportation detail was ambushed. One of the Hummers with a M240B on the roof is gone. Five of our rear guard are dead, with the sixth badly wounded. The two M-35s have been stripped of weapons, supplies and drained of fuel. Both M-923s and the Hummer are likewise stripped and drained.
The Stryker is now chasing the fleeing stolen Hummer. Sam comes on the radio asking for location and quickly coordinates a pincher movement to reclaim the convoy’s stolen gear. Radio traffic between the pursuing Stryker and the assault force attempting to cut off the fleeing Hummer is furious.
While our assault force is busily wrapping up the Costco assault, Sam coordinates the retrieval of our stolen Hummer. Once cornered, a brief firefight ensues, which results in four dead thieves, and a mildly damaged Hummer.
The mechanics are dispatched to get the transportation trucks running again and then see if they can repair the stolen Hummer. I listen to the occasional radio chatter from the recovery and repair. The rest of the morning and early afternoon are spent gathering and cataloging materials from the Costco. I got to enjoy a warm MRE BBQ Spam chunk for breakfast washed down with MRE orange flavored drink. It has been a while since I used the old water activated MRE heaters.
After a while, from what I can gather over the radio, it sounds as if the mechanics were able to successfully recover and repair the Hummer. The two M-35s, the two M-923s and the Hummer are refueled and sent to the Costco to begin loading. Our stolen material is also recovered. I listen with interest as Sam details a burial squad for the dead thieves. The recovery of the stolen Hummer costs us more in wasted ammo and more preciously, time.
I am still on the roof of the Costco on sharpshooter over watch detail. Nikola checks in with me occasionally to make sure that I am not in need of anything. I was given the last Shmel rocket from Nikola’s man-pack as well as all of his lethal, antipersonnel grenades. Sitting on the roof watching everyone while sipping MRE orange flavored drink from my canteen, I occasionally have to drop a zombie that wanders too close.
Thankfully, by late morning the damn burning Metro bus has pretty much been reduced to a flame gutted, smoking wreck. I am certainly going to have nightmares tonight after seeing that burning bus. I do not talk about it ever, last person I told other than writing it in this journal was Amy; my mother was killed by a suicide bus attack in Tel Aviv when I was ten.
As I sit on the roof in the light drizzly rain, I hear a familiar voice below me. “Oh, Rapunzel please let down your hair.” I look down to see Shack, huge white absorbent pad on his forehead, black eyes and all, striking his best Shakespearean pose. Because of the medical patch on his forehead Shack’s K-pot does not fit him correctly.
I bet it hurts like a bitch to have his helmet digging into that long cut on his forehead. “Ha, Ha, very funny Shack.” I say to him as he drops his comical pose. “Hey, I am ‘sposed to come up there and spell you for a latrine break and I got something for you,” he shouts up at me.
“Alright hang on, do not get your panties in a bunch,” I reply. I grab one of the climbing ropes and make sure it is well tied to one of the large pieces of ventilation equipment on the roof. I toss the rope down to Shack who clambers up the side of the Costco nearest my position like an ungainly chimp.
I grab Shack’s hand to help pull him on to the roof. “Damn, I have not done that in a while,” he says. “I shoulda worn gloves, damn,” he says shaking his hands. I notice they are red where he grasped the rope. I kiss Shack on the cheek which causes him to turn redder than his hands.
“I am going to go behind that farthest piece of ventilation equipment for my toilet,” I tell him. “Kay,” is Shack’s response as he takes position behind my gun. “Hey is this a carbine or a rifle,” Shack suddenly asks stopping me from leaving.
I am particularly hurting, as not only do I have to seriously use the facilities but I have also started my period. I typically get some bad cramps at the start of my menstrual cycle. “Shit, Shack you choose a hell of a time to ask about my gun,” I snap at him.
He waves at me with an offhand, half-ass flip of his left hand. “’Kay, go do your thing, and then tell me.”
Growling at him, I walk stiff-legged behind the ventilation equipment and do my business. Uh, I make a mental note to ask Doc for some hydrogen peroxide for my laundry. I am always grumpy during my period and hate that I have to suffer menstrual cycles again. I was on the new improved Depo-Provera which was awesome. But, I neglected to get my new shot since I was not in a relationship with a male and did not have to worry about pregnancy.
Shit I hate this business, but it is part of being a woman no matter how unpleasant it is. Finishing my necessities, I walk back to Shack using one of the alcohol wipes from my MRE breakfast to clean my hands. “So what is it you wanted to know about my rifle and just what did you bring me?” I ask Shack.
“Well, your rifle has a carbine length barrel but the hand guards are rifle length,” he says. “And I was given this for you to use while you are up here.” He pulls an old pair of O.D. green armored Steiner US Army binoculars from his LBV handing the large binoculars to me.
I pop off the lens caps and look through them adjusting the binoculars to fit my face. I recognize the binoculars as an older pair of range finding binoculars that should come in handy right now. Despite their age and obvious hard use, the binoculars are still crystal clear. The Germans make good shit. I perform a few range measurements on easily discernible features in the parking lot. I make a mental note of some of the ranges.
Dropping the binocular strap over my neck, I say “Shack you are damned observant. Yes, my rifle has a carbine length barrel but has the gas block installed in the full length rifle position. This prevents the piston driven carbine from being over gassed. The gas block also has an automatic excess gas bleed off function as well. Granted there is not much muzzle sticking out past the hand guards but with the suppressor mounted it looks almost integral.”
Shack nods at me and changes topic. “Tommy took a shot-gun round to the chest. Doc says his SAPI plate stopped most of it, but it was a buck and ball load. One of the buck shot pellets struck him in the left arm and ‘nother to his left shoulder while the ball slug struck him at the far right edge of his SAPI plate. He has some cracked ribs, significant bruising, a broken left arm and broken left clavicle. Doc’s got ‘em knocked out now, says that if he does not get infected from the broke ribs and arm he has a decent chance of makin’ it. ‘Spose he is outa the scullery now for good. ‘Nother guy took a nine mil round to the SAPI chest plate; plate stopped it but he has some cracked ribs but should be OK. Guy’s fuckin’ lucky the nine mil round was a civvy hollow point and not a military FMJ.”
I put my arm around Shack’s shoulders and hug him tight. Poor bastard has lost so many friends. “Jimmy’s gone, he took a shot gun round to the face,” he says with his face buried in my chest. “Five of the guys left to guard the transpo trucks are dead too; the sixth guy’s iffy ‘cording to Doc.”
I hold Shack while we stand on the roof of the Costco. It sounds as if the After-Action Review (AAR) is going to be interesting. I did notice that the sting grenades, flash bangs, OC and CS munitions were less effective than we expected. The CR grenades seemed to have a far milder effect than I was led to believe by the old British literature I had read years ago. During the British Mandate for Palestine, the Brits were quite fond of using CR gas against Zionist Insurgencies.
We also had a few of the CR grenades fail to detonate which is not to be unexpected since we were using grenades more than 70 years old. Nikola’s 43mm non-fragmenting HE grenades were also less effective against the cannibals than what I was led to believe they would be. After reading about their use in Soviet and Russian AARs from conflicts in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Central Asia, Chechnya, Georgia, and Ossetia I thought the grenades would be far more effective than they were.
The cannibals were first generation KCAP infected cannibals, and even they were difficult to kill by shots to the body. Collective American soldier training teaches shoot for the center of mass. In a stressful situation such as combat, you revert to your training. The tall cannibal on top of the Metro bus even after being struck by more than 20 different rounds, although most likely dying was still able to effectively use his shotgun.
Had Nikola not immolated the tall cannibal, it is very likely that he would have continued to fight for an unknown length of time. Looking around Shack’s helmet I keep an eye on the Costco parking lot. I watch our Scouts zipping around tagging the zombie infested cars with various colors of spray paint.
The big, wide dripping “Z” enthusiastically sprayed on each side of a zombie laden vehicle appears to be a source of great fun for the Scouts. The youths tear around on their fucking ginormous black and chrome Harley motorcycles, each armed with several cans of different colored spray paint. Apparently they have made a game out of who can tag the most cars.
Probably the first time ever, in which delinquent motor cycle youths are encouraged by their elders to run amok defacing private property with great elation. I have seen the homes searched and cleared by our Scouts as well. In a similar manner to the marking process used by FEMA, homes cleared by our Scouts are marked on the doors.
Our markings are little simpler than FEMA’s though. A big Nike-like dripping swoosh on the door means checked and cleared nothing of interest. A big “Z” with a short horizontal bar through the center of the letter indicates checked, nothing of interest and zombie infested. Sometimes a number painted beside the door indicates number of zombies spotted inside.
The same big “Z” painted on the door but with a long vertical line running through the middle of the letter indicates checked, zombie infested (hopefully with a number painted beside it indicating approximately how many zombies inside) and warrants further investigation. Houses, I have noticed, marked in this manner are usually ones that have solar panels on the roof, or ones that the Scouts can see from the outside, materials and goods inside desired by the convoy.
Our Scouts are dispatched with detailed shopping lists. The Scouts are ordered not to ever enter the buildings, but are only to mark what they find and radio back their findings. Longfeather, who was a Pathfinder instructor in the Army many years ago, has been teaching the Scouts the finer points of navigation by compass and map. The rumble of approaching diesel engines interrupts my musings about the Scouts.
Shack, I realize, has dozed off in my arms so I gently shake him awake. He blinks at me a few times. I kiss Shack on the cheek which immediately causes his face and ears to turn quite crimson. He sputters something incomprehensible to me, but then suddenly I realize why Shack is so embarrassed. I feel the hard, yet pliant pressure of Shack’s erection pressing against my leg.
It feels like Shack might be well hung. Oh, man! Shack, if it was not for that time of the month you might have gotten lucky on the roof of a Costco! I have been celibate now for more than two months, which is a record for me. Celibacy sucks – I have never liked it. I find the thought of taking Shack’s cherry intriguing, as I have never been with a male virgin before.
Shack leaps away from me as if I have a communicable disease. Yanking at his trousers, trying to rearrange himself in that typical male manner, Shack turns his back to me. Ignoring the elephant in the room, we stretch, both of us cramped from sitting together so long. Shack still beet red, turns his back farther to me and tries to shove his erection in some direction so that it will not be as prominently displayed.
I briefly consider teasing Shack since English is rife with sexual innuendos, but decide against doing so, as it would serve no good purpose. While I would look at the teasing as foreplay (God, if only I was not on the rag!), Shack would probably be mortified. He, in his inexperience and uncertainty, might also construe my teasing in the wrong way. Men’s egos are fragile and I do not wish to scar the poor guy before his first time.
I also have to gently overcome the very conservative PK that still resides deep inside Shack, despite how much he professes to have lost his faith. Alone and silent with our thoughts we stand together over the entrance on the roof of the Costco. Looking out over the roof together, we watch the transportation and material moving detail roll into the communal area, protected by the mobile gun system Stryker towing a trailer.
Shack and I watch as Nikola organizes a working party to get the materials from the Costco loaded on the trucks and into the trailers behind the Stryker and M-923s. The M-923s are also loaded along with the pair of M-35s. Halogen work lights on long, thick electrical extension cords are strung into the tomb dark Costco. The work lights are powered by inverters in each idling vehicle which causes their idle to increase slightly as the engines take the electrical load.
It finally takes three truck trips to empty the Costco. Shack and I stay on the roof watching the whole process. Our lunch consisted of a MRE tossed up to us by one of our companions. Shack and I traded MREs, as I got the BBQ Spam chunk again and Shack got the vegetarian cheese tortellini which he hates.
Numerous bottles of water are tossed up to us, keeping Shack and I hydrated despite the constant light drizzle that is enough to dampen our outer clothes but little else. Shack and I take turns dropping the occasional zombie that wanders into the parking lot. During a lull in the shooting, Shack and I have a little fun making a rough range card on a piece of lined notebook paper. I am still hoarding the heavy 77 grain M262 ammo.
Shack and I have been using the old NATO standard M855 62 grain ammo. I noticed that some of this ammo we are shooting is the older 2010 Danish non-green painted M855/SS109. For some reason DAMC (the Danish defense contractor) did not specify green paint on the tips. If you lack the shipping cartons only way to identify this ammo from regular, non-penetrator ball ammo is by the use of a magnet.
Shack and I are keeping score and so far we each have dropped 13 zombies although Shack missed once so I am ahead by one. We keep the competition light, and it helps break up the monotony of sitting on a roof in the drizzly rain all day. Shack avoids touching me for the rest of the day. I do not want to push him, so I give him his space.
I try not to make a big deal out of Shack “popping wood” against me. I do have an older brother and remember how my brother was at a similar age. I know that for boys around Shack’s age, this is a delicate time when they are caught between being a boy and a man. While I think of Shack for the most part as a man, in many ways he is still a boy, despite the length of his service and experiences.
It is nearly dark by the time the final material is hauled out of the Costco and all gear is stowed. Our supper was another MRE. This time, I got the horrid, chicken with tomatoes and feta cheese MRE while Shack got the Asian style beef strips. My cherry turn over dessert was not bad but I would have rather had the plain M&Ms from Shack’s MRE.
Shack and I climb down from the roof when we are called by Nikola. Shack thankfully taking my ruck with the three Shmel rockets lashed to it while I lash my rolled up shooting mat to Shack’s nearly empty ruck.
On the ground, I cannot remember how to properly tie the knot in the rope so that we can recover the rope. With a smirk, Nikola scoots up the rope to the roof and reties my knot. Nikola is much better at tying knots than I am. Then I remember that Carol said that he was a Starshina 3rd Class, so that means he was a sergeant in the Naval Infantry. Well, that explains Nikola using the naval term “working party” for the detail to empty the Costco.
Since he is a squid, Nikola should be good at tying knots which he proves as he zips down the rope and yanks on it causing the long, wet black rope to puddle at his feet in great long loops. He winks at me as we roll up the rope and toss it into the idling Hummer. Climbing in the truck’s back seat, I sit beside Shack on the outside in silence all the way back to the convoy’s camp.
After we get back to camp, we are told that an AAR will be held at 20:00 in the command and mess hall tent. There is a churlish undercurrent I notice within the camp. I am beat; tired from staying up all damn day, when I am used to being asleep. I note that I am not the only one feeling the pressure of interrupted sleep patterns.
I take a seat at one of the long folding plastic tables in the cantina and command tent. Waiting for the rest of the convoy with the exception of the perimeter guards to join me, I sit idly at the table. Shack and Carol are the first to join me, Shack bringing me a plastic Thermos cup of luke-warm black pekoe tea. Shack is so good to me. Nikola saunters up a few minutes later, giving a warm butterfly handled metal canteen cup of mint tea to Carol.
Shack, sitting across the table from me, guzzles a 20 ounce Red Bull while Carol holding hands with Nikola sits at the table beside me. As the appointed time gets nearer, more soldiers and the few civilians of the convoy quickly fill the tables. Jenny, the Princess’ daughter, comes up to me and offers her thanks for helping her yesterday. Jenny mentions that her mom is grateful too, although she will never admit it to my face.
I understand, because her mother and I had a rough start to our relationship. Jenny skips off, but not before showing me her new brown leather pocket holster that somebody found. Her new holster now holds her Baby Browning pistol. I am glad that Jenny at least has something better to hold her pistol, rather than letting it rattle around loose in her pocket. Jenny leaves as a haggard looking Doc comes strolling in just before Sam.
I halfway wonder if someone is going to call attention, but no one does so I suppose we have not gone that far military yet. Just as I am processing that thought Randy walks in the tent and sees Sam standing at the front and all of us sitting.
With a bellowing voice, Randy shouts “What, did you all go brain-dead. Ahhh-tennn-schunn!” With that the military members of the crew and even some of the civilians leap to their feet. Sam leaves us standing for a minute, and then says simply “seats” causing everyone to drop back on their ass.
With no preamble Sam gets right into the AAR. I will not quote Sam directly as most of it was pretty mundane and you can figure out from my details of the attack that it did not go as well as we had hoped. The convoy suffered eight dead (the injured soldier watching the transportation trucks died from his wounds), two wounded (Tommy and the other soldier whose name I did not catch) with one soldier in serious condition (Tommy again).
Sam is not pleased at all with the cost in material and especially the loss of soldiers. I do not know how seriously the other injured soldier is other than what Shack told me and Sam does not enlighten me if there is a change in his status.
From the AAR summary it does not sound like we gained anything of great value from the Costco. Weapon expenditure was lighter than I expected, but the unexpected momentary loss of a Hummer is particularly distressing as that caused the convoy to waste precious time and cost seven lives for little gain.
The damage to the other vehicles and the recovered Hummer is slight. We failed to detail a strong enough rear guard watching the vehicles while we assaulted the Costco. Of course, there was no way that we could have planned for an attack by four obviously skilled males. The attack against our trucks appears to be a target of opportunity and not a planned attack.
The Scouts led by Longfeather believe the four young men dressed in civilian camouflage hunting clothes were likely in the area and observed us leave the vehicles with little protection. Attacking such a target is understandable from the other survivor’s point of view but it still does not make it any better.
The four men that attacked our truck protection detail were skilled at arms and had either spent time in the military or were well trained. The men were maybe not Infantry but definitely Combat Arms. Their recovered weapons are three M4 clones and one semi-auto CETME. The M4s have a MEPRO 21 illuminated reflex optic mounted. The CETME has a standard German Hendsoldt Z-24 scope mounted in the standard HK claw mount.
All four males were carrying Glock 17s and had nearly identical equipment. The fact that their equipment was standardized is interesting. I wonder had the four men approached us in a friendly manner if we might have been willing to at least make an offer for them to join our group or at least trade.
A consideration is that while we did kill the men, and recovered our materials, the men might have been part of a larger group. If there is a larger group out there comprised of members such as those men, than we might have a serious threat. The Scouts are detailed to search a wider area tomorrow morning to see if such a threatening group might exist.
The amount of wine we recovered from the Costco is significant and causes some grumbling. Americans typically prefer beer to wine. Several pallets of beer were also recovered which is greeted with a few halfhearted cheers. The pallets of hand sanitizer, dish soap and laundry soap will come in handy.
Sam is not at all certain that the material we recovered and the experience with the cannibals was worth the loss of life. We did learn about the hardiness of the cannibals and that will help us better plan combat in the future but it was a costly lesson learned. Hind sight is always clearer. It is hard for even the most seasoned commander to lose troops.
The pharmacy in the Costco had been looted long ago. Almost the entire over the counter medicines were also gone although a few scattered common medications were recovered. All of the hard liquor was also gone as well as all of the paper goods, canned goods, and bags of grains.
Sam is disappointed with the lack of effectiveness of the riot control munitions upon the cannibals. There was no way to know without attempting an assault, just how exactly the cannibals would react to the non-lethal munitions. Sam notes that we are not the guardians of morality and doubts that next time we will bother attacking such a well-fortified cannibal position again.
After answering a few questions Sam leaves the meeting after only 30 minutes. Sam promises that despite the fact that he is rusty, there should have been better planning for this attack. It is obvious that Sam blames himself for the poor outcome of the attack and the loss of life.
Randy calls attention again as Sam leaves the tent. Once Sam is gone, quickly followed by Doc, who mentions in passing with the implicit expectation that all will attend, the burial for our eight slain soldiers will be held in the morning. Doc ducks out of the tent and Randy dismisses the company.
An immediate murmur of conversation erupts within the tent. Most people leave, some going to find their bed rolls. Despite drinking a second Red Bull, Shack is already flagging. I watch him display a toothy yawn several times. I pat Shack on the hand and tell him to go crash along with Nikola who are day crew. Carol and I are night crew so we need to stay up for a while to reestablish our schedule.
Nikola places a long wet smacker on Carol which causes her to flush prettily. Pregnancy seems to agree with her as she has that glow that people say about pregnant women. She mentions that she is going to go tuck Nicky into bed. The smirk on Nikola’s face details just what kind of tucking Carol is going to be doing. With a little ass grabbing and horseplay, the happy expectant couple takes off in a hurry, leaving Shack and I sitting at the table as the chow hall slowly empties.
Shack and I sit in silence for a few minutes while Shack finishes his third Red Bull. Shack still will not meet my eye, so I tell him again to go to bed. I stand up and head for the radio shack, with Shack trailing behind me. Before I get across the camp, Shack catches up and walks beside me the rest of the way to the radio tent.
While Shack goes to our tent, (I hope Nikola and Carol are done or arranged for some privacy) I enter the radio shack and send Shen to his bed. Poor guy has been stuck in the radio tent for nearly 19 hours. If I understand Shen correctly, little has changed other than the fact that now we need to use an old World War 2 era manual hand crank every hour or so to charge the batteries.
After Shen leaves, I strip off my LBV and Dragon Skin vest glad to be rid of them for a little while. My old faded O.D. green Army field jacket is damp outside and sweat soaked inside. I separate my jacket and liner hanging them to dry along with my still over loaded LBV. I spray the inside of my jacket and jacket liner with Febreze. I consider spraying my LBV, but it is too wet.
Hoping that my jacket will smell better once it dries, I plop down in a chair at the table. Shack must have read my mind because he brings my weapon cleaning kit from the Dodge truck and sits in the chair opposite mine. Despite the fact that Shack should be in his bed, I am glad for his company. From his red face and embarrassed silence, I guess Carol and Nikola are not done. In comfortable silence Shack and I break down our weapons, and begin to clean them.
Our pistols need a brief wipe and oil to remove the water accumulated while in the weather. After the pistols are oiled and put away we start on our rifles. While I am showing Shack how easy it is to clean the AAC M4-2000 suppressor on my AR15 Nikola walks in to the tent followed by a flushed and disheveled Carol. Without saying a word Nikola breaks his weapons down and cleans them while Carol attempts to comb her hair into some manner of order.
The familiar smells of military issue weapon cleaning fluid and oil are punctured by the acrid smell of the charcoal lighter fluid Nikola is using to clean his Nagant revolver. I tease Nikola for smoking while using a highly flammable substance to clean his weapon. He shrugs, finishes cleaning his weapons, and puts them back together.
Carol fights to get her hair into some semblance of order, mostly resigned to the fact that she is still going to look like she just got a good rogering no matter what she does to her hair right now. While Carol fusses with her hair some more, refusing to admit defeat, I explain to Shack that because my rifle’s gas port is in the longer rifle position my gun runs cleaner as more of the gun powder burns.
This is a continuation of the conversation we had on the roof of the Costco. Shack nods at me but I can tell that I have lost him; he is far too tired to care about my rifle right now. I kiss him on the cheek again which causes him to blush. He jumps up mumbling something about going to bed. Nikola kisses Carol again and he walks with Shack back to their bedrolls.
Most of the torturous night is spent listening to radio static, and cranking the Godforsaken, son of a pox-ridden whore, charging handles in a rotating shift with Carol. Both of us nod off asleep more than a few times with Carol almost falling out of her chair once. We laugh at how tired we are. To ease the monotony, Carol regales me with some of her nautical tales.
She tells me some of her experiences in the Combat Information Center (CIC) on an Arleigh Burke class destroyer during the first days of the KCAP epidemic. She was able to listen firsthand while the world we knew quickly died. It sounds as if the destroyer she was on possessed very good communications gear. Eventually even Carol runs out of enthusiasm for talking and we sit in silence for a while listening to the radios static hiss.
God, I have never been so happy to see Shack and Nikola in the morning. Carol and I must look like holy terrors with our bloodshot eyes. The boys give us each a bowl of thick cinnamon and apple flavored oatmeal. Carol receives an insulated plastic mug of hot chocolate while Shack procured some more of the honey sweetened black tea for me in the old plastic plaid Thermos.
While shoveling food in our mouths, we brief the boys on the utter lack of anything spectacular during the night. Shack, drinking another large 20 ounce Red Bull, mentions that Tommy is awake and appears to be doing well. The other soldier apparently is not doing very well; Doc gives him about 50-50 odds of pulling through. The 9 mil round struck him over the heart in his SAPI plate. Nikola drinking thick, black sweet coffee mentions that we have to get going soon for the burial.
We assemble outside underneath the large pine trees to bury our eight slain comrades. Sam mentions that in normal times he would order a rifle salute for our lost comrades but we cannot do so for a number of reasons. Sam says some good things about the dead men that although they are dead, as long as we remember them they will never be truly gone.
Two of the slain men had been with Sam since JBLM. The other six dead soldiers had come from farther south, with one each respectfully from the Nevada and California National Guard. None of the dead men were particularly religious, but as the saying goes “there are no atheists in a fox hole.” Shack steps forward holding a King James Bible, and quotes Romans 6:3-9.
My father is a Jordanian, moderate Muslim and a Rhodes Scholar in his youth. My mother was a moderate Jew who was raised Orthodox, but drifted to more liberal Judaism after studying at Stanford in California. Despite my mixed heritage, I am not particular to any religion.
While I partially listen to Shack, I remember how my father loved a good friendly religious debate. No religious text was banned from my parent’s library. Saturday supper at my family’s house often included Muslim, Orthodox, and Hasidic Rabbis as well as numerous Christian teachers. If you were capable of calmly and rationally discussing your religion, you were welcome to our supper discussions.
My parent’s believed that we all worshipped the same God; we just called Him different names and used slightly different texts. Differences such as the number of prophets, and whether Jesus was just another prophet or truly the Son of God, were topics for friendly debate. Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses and members of other Christian faiths, such as the Catholics, were amazed that my father not only had copies of their scriptures in his library but knew them well enough to quote from them. Sometimes my father knew the religious scriptures better than the person professing to follow that religion.
After Shack finishes with amen that would do a Southern Baptist preacher proud, Randy dismisses the company who disperses to perform their assigned tasks. It is bath day for Carol and I so we grab our kits and head for the line. No matter how fucking tired I am, I am going to shower. The boys take over the radio. Once in the shower line we hear that propane is running low and the showers are not quite as hot as some would like.
As Carol and I are dropping our dirty clothes off at the laundry after our tepid showers, we hear the outer perimeter guards call in the approach of an armed group of people. Tension in the camp is high as everyone scrambles to get into full battle rattle. Dashing into the radio shack I slip on my field jacket and my Dragon Skin vest tossing my LBV over it.
Taking cover behind the Dodge truck I watch as a group of eleven men and two women stroll into the camp. All of the people are carrying identical civilian camouflaged back packs and wearing identical civilian camouflaged clothing. The group obviously has some training as they know how to walk properly as a squad without bunching up.
I do not see any body armor, but I do notice that everyone is armed with either an M4 with the exception of two of the men who carry CETMEs or similar clone HK rifles. Each person has a large Glock in a hard sided holster. I remember the four thieves we killed yesterday and wonder if these might be some members of that group.
Sam approaches the apparent leader and I watch them talk for a few minutes. Both men are wary of each other but neither makes any overt hostile action. After a few minutes of talking, the leader of the civilian camouflaged group turns, puts his fingers in his mouth and whistles loudly.
At the sound of the leader’s whistle, tension rises until we see six young children led by two male youths come running out of the brush. The two male youths each carry a M-1 carbine with a pistol grip and folding wire stock. The two boys with the M-1 carbines each carry a holstered pistols on old US Army O.D. green web pistol belts, which unless I miss my guess are Ruger 22/45s.
The two armed youths herd the six young children to the adults. Jenny, our only child left in the camp comes out and takes the whole group of children to her mother’s laundry. The children will be fine there I hear Sam tell the survivalist group leader. Things happened so fast, but I did a good look at the survivalists, which I will detail in the next installment.
The civilian group with the colonels walks into the command tent. Word comes over the radio for the staff to assemble in the tent in ten minutes. My bath and sleep will have to wait. I quickly trot into the command tent and take a seat as indicated by Sam. Once the staff is assembled Sam brings us up to speed quickly.
Shack awakens me by waving an US Army surplus tin canteen cup filled with hot, honey sweetened orange pekoe black tea under my nose. I can catch the light clover flower fragrance of the honey in the hot tea. I hear that the action in the camp is still highly active; I suppose preparing to get going for the night. Sitting up in my bedroll, I stretch and sip my tea.
Carol, I see, is already out of her bedroll, which lays empty beside mine. I wonder if she is still suffering from morning sickness. The fact that Carol has not stowed her bed roll, nor has Nikola, whose empty bed roll lies farthest to my left against the canvas tent wall, endorses my suspicion that we are not moving tonight.
Shack looks a little worse for wear with the darkest pair of black eyes I have seen in a long while. He wears a large, white absorbent medical dressing over the right side of his forehead. The pad secured with generous strips of white cloth medical tape is obviously bothering Shack as he is constantly touching it.
Shack is full of exuberant energy and cheerful news this evening. Shack happily informs me that our little Smart car is “toast” according to the mechanics. We cracked something called the transmission pan which caused it to bleed most of its oil. Other things in the transmission called the throw-out bearing, and the synchros are also shot. The mechanics have no way to fix the small car, so the Scouts have procured us a new vehicle.
Our new (to us) Dodge truck was obviously someone’s work truck, maybe a carpenter, and has not been babied at all. Despite the dents, rust, and other signs of abuse that you would expect from an almost 45-year-old work truck, the mechanics said that the truck is in excellent running condition. The four-wheel drive Dodge may be scruffy looking, but it should serve us better than the little Smart car.
Shack cheerily lets me know that he has already moved all of our gear to our new vehicle, which he is happy to mention, is an automatic so I will not have to do all of the driving anymore. Our new steed is an old, long bed, standard cab white Dodge pickup. The truck is four-wheel drive with a non-intercooled Cummins turbo charged diesel.
Shack mentions that the truck has a “whole shitload” of miles on it, but it runs well and does not smoke frightfully much once warmed up. The Dodge has a faded red fiberglass camper shell. An L-shaped 105 gallon auxiliary fuel tank is installed in the truck bed. The auxiliary fuel tank is tucked underneath a single door, diamond plate tool box.
The tool box in the truck bed is full of a variety of tools, primarily for woodworking. An assortment of power and manual wood saws, a few squares, and several different styles and weights of hammers are also in the tool box.
Shack also mentions that a relatively new Stihl chainsaw with an 18 inch blade is also tucked into the tool box. Beside the chainsaw is a one gallon gas can of mixed gas and a white plastic gallon bottle of thick bar oil.
I am not tremendously familiar with the use of a chainsaw, having never used one, although Amy as a firefighter was quite adept at using one. Shack seems quite happy about the discovery of the chainsaw, although I think the noise of the damn thing will draw too much attention.
Nearby where our new Dodge was found, the Scouts found a flame gutted house with several heavy, locked metal cargo shipping containers in the tall chain link fenced back yard. The house, a burnt out husk with nothing of value inside other than the burnt remains of three adults and two youths in the basement, was a total loss.
While I dress, Shack ever the gentleman, turns his back as he prattles on. The shipping containers behind the burnt out house had seen better days; they obviously were beat upon and shot several times in a futile attempt to gain access. Heavy padlocks and sturdy steel chains secured the double doors on each of the five cargo containers.
Shack states that previous would-be looters lacked the necessary tools to access the cargo containers; thankfully the convoy has the proper tools. Upon discovery, the Scouts called back to the convoy to see if the colonels wanted to access the shipping containers immediately or wait for darkness.
The colonels made the decision to access the containers now rather than wait for later because they felt the longer we delayed the greater risk of looters attacking. Better to open the containers now, collect the material and run rather than wait for darkness. Delaying could give other looters time to prepare an ambush.
The Scouts requested a couple of trucks with heavily armed escort, bolt cutters, an acetylene torch and other metal-cutting tools, but the result was worth it. Despite the clamor, which attracted more than just a few zombies, the group recovered several 50 pound sacks containing different types of rice, beans, and sugar.
Particularly appetizing news was the discovery of several 50 pound sacks of pickling, ice melt, rock and table salt. Shack mentions that the recovery team also found several boxes of kosher salt, not that I genuinely care. The discovery of salt is fantastic news though as salt is essential to survival.
Shack, off topic on a digression, describes how the convoy is getting smarter about using silent means to kill zombies. When circumstances permit, convoy members are to use knives, hatchets, and other silent weapons to kill a zombie without endangering themselves or others. I make a mental note to slip my SOG shovel on to my web belt.
Back on topic, Shack mentions that one of the large metal shipping containers was full of Sparkletts blue plastic five gallon water bottles. The sealed plastic water bottles will come in handy, as fresh water is essential and in short supply. Nobody is sure where the plastic water bottles came from. A few of the Scouts opined that maybe someone robbed a Sparkletts water delivery truck.
Quite a few large food service tin cans of beans, chopped and whole green chilies, mixed vegetables, whole tomatoes (with and without seasoning), various canned veggies, hominy, tomato paste, chicken, beef and turkey stock, las palmas sauce and several cans of liquid queso with and without jalapeno peppers were recovered.
Numerous glass jars full of different pickled foods were also recovered from the shipping containers. Jars of various pickles, peppers, olives, sliced beets, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, pizza and spaghetti sauce, salsa, and just about anything else you can think of that comes pickled in a glass jar, was in the containers.
Shack echoes the opinion of some convoy members that the containers must have once belonged to a prepper, possibly of Hispanic heritage. The last two cargo containers were stuffed full of older cardboard cases of MREs, general medical supplies, and Kirkland brand paper towels and TP.
No ammo or guns were recovered from the cargo containers; those might have been in the fire ravaged house. The discovery of more TP is welcome news although Shack mentions that even with rationing, the new Kirkland brand TP supply might last a week at best. The Kirkland paper towels are going to be used for TP as well, although it will be a tad rough on the bum.
The vast majority of the food stuffs were still in their original cardboard shipping containers. Several cardboard boxes were marked as either Kirkland or other familiar Costco brands. Many believe the previous owner probably acquired most of his goods from the nearby Costco.
For a moment while Shack talks, I wonder was the former owner of the cargo containers an employee of Costco? He (I suppose it was a male) might have stolen the Costco items during the anarchy of the zombie apocalypse. Or maybe he was a customer that slowly acquired the products legally.
Once the KCAP virus assaulted densely populated areas like Shanghai and Singapore, it spread like wildfire literally around the earth in mere hours. Despite the best efforts of the police and National Guard, looting was rampant quickly followed by rioting.
Once again I listen to Shack as he rambles on about the Scout’s busy day. Fortunate I consider myself, that I was stuck in SeaTac Airport rather than in the city. Shack interrupts my reflections as he informs me that, in a separate location, the Scouts located some bulk propane tanks at a propane company.
The mechanics want to investigate the propane tanks tonight using the attack on the Costco as cover. The group is using an inordinate amount of propane says Shack according to the mechanics, whom seem to be in charge of the propane supply somehow. We, the convoy, Shack mentions are too close to vast urban sprawl to risk any kind of fire betraying our position.
When our recovery team and Scouts left the burnt out house and emptied cargo containers, ruined food stuffs abandoned by the recovery team were immediately seized by starving survivors. A minor conflict ensued, which resulted in numerous injuries, a few deaths and the attraction of more zombies who attacked the injured with considerable relish.
Our Scouts and recovery team were able to slip away in the confusion. I hope those starving survivors do not become ill eating the moldy foodstuffs; I suppose that might be the least of their worries.
Shack mentions that the Scouts got to evaluate a few of the other groups of survivors who were also looting. Most of the other groups were not as heavily nor as well armed as our Scouts and their entourage. Most of the other groups if they had a gun at all it was a civilian handgun, a hunting rifle or shotgun. The Scouts also noted a distinct lack of discipline, unit cohesiveness, and proper weapon training.
Exceedingly few survivors own military grade weapons. Ammunition is in extraordinary high demand and exceptionally short supply. Even the rumor of ammo is enough to create a minor conflict. The Scouts reported that while they were being watched by the other survivors, they felt like sheep among starving wolves.
The other survivors obviously were desirous of the fully loaded LBVs and weapons carried by our Scouts and escorts. Carried by survivors, tools such as axes, pitchforks, hoes, and other common, large bladed tools are in abundance.
Weapons like wooden baseball bats, pieces of metal pipe, tire irons, and heavy metal tools like breaker bars and large wrenches were seen carried as weapons by other survivors. Improvised weapons outnumbered firearms significantly.
Shack believes our Scouts and their escort were risk evaluated by the other groups. Had our Scouts and escort not have been as well armed as they were; Shack echoes the Scout’s belief that the other survivors probably would have attacked our crew and take the stuff (Shack’s word choice not mine) they recovered.
Shack and the Scouts believe that the sight of the professional soldiers carrying assault rifles, a SAW or two backed up by a pair of armored Hummers each carrying a Ma Deuce did not hurt either. The two military deuce and a halves used to convey the recovered materials back to the convoy were each armed with a M240B in the roof pintle mount.
The worry is now that someone might have observed where our vehicles went. While the Scouts reported that no vehicle followed them, there is no way of being sure that the group has remained hidden. The Scouts and perimeter guards are on alert in case our recovery team was followed. One facet of an operation like this is that the sheer size of the company makes keeping it hidden a near impossibility.
It was shrewd of Sam to divide his company into three smaller units. Smaller units are easier to transport and conceal. Larger units attract too much attention and are more difficult to hide from the enemy, living or dead.
After Shack and I hit the latrine, we grab some chow. I note that Gabe and the cooks have been busy. Tonight’s feast is something that I have never eaten before but is apparently common in the southern US. Supper for Shack, breakfast for me is a dish that the boys are calling dirty rice, a mixture of cooked white rice and beans.
The dirty rice, while rather bland, is filling, and there is plenty to go around with generous portions and several servings if so desired. Small pieces of chopped meat that I cannot identify (and probably do not wish to) are in the rice, as well as chunks of red and green bell peppers, onions, and I think I detect a hint of celery.
Following the example of some of my fellow diners, I liberally add Tabasco to my heaped dish. I also add a few pickled Greek pepperoncini peppers to my bowl from a large open gallon glass jug. I pass on the offer of small Mezzetta pickled hot banana green, wax peppers from a much smaller glass jar.
I appreciate a decent screaming fit as any other girl does. I will, however, pass on the bright red face, trying to guzzle gallons of water and the other painful, comical antics of my fellow diners who are foolish enough not to heed the warning on the side of the small jar.
I am not sure what the Scoville rating is of the little green, wax peppers, but judging by the reaction of the few brave souls who try them, it appears to be in the ludicrous range. I do not need a compelling case of the trots during a zombie apocalypse or a sore bum either.
Beer is liberally passed out with each convoy member given two cans or bottles of various brands of beer. I hear through cantina intel that our beer supply is running low which causes some grumbling. The beer is warm, but tasty and washes supper/breakfast down.
While eating in the cantina, Shack and I are joined by Carol. From her, I learn that the colonels put a couple of the SF boys to watch the cannibal inhabited Costco. The initial reports according to mess hall gossip do not appear auspicious. It looks as if the Costco has been the site of several previous pitched battles.
There is further discussion and speculation as the three of us queue up to drop our dirty dishes off. No matter the nationality of the army one thing soldiers love to do is gossip. While, in the queue, I see our four cooks are busy.
I am surprised to see a sweat soaked disheveled Reginald arm pit deep in a large galvanized tub full of dirty dishes and hot soapy water. He appears to have pulled double duty both in the laundry and the scullery as Carol calls it. Must be a naval term for the place where pots, pans and cooking utensils are cleaned.
Reginald does not look overjoyed with his predicament. I overhear the four cooks complaining that he is slow, lazy and is not thoroughly washing the pots and pans. I see Reginald being helped in the scullery by a slight Caucasian fuzzy red-headed youth that Shack informs me is Tommy, he of the misplaced NVGs.
I ask Shack why he is not in the scullery with Tommy. Shack replies that he was in there for breakfast and lunch. With his whining, Reginald pissed off Sam today. He disappeared for a while, shirking his work in the laundry, so Sam stuck Reginald in the scullery until further notice, luckily freeing Shack.
There is little room for more than two people in the hot cramped confines of the scullery trailer. Since Tommy’s and Reginald’s transgressions are worse than Shack’s, they continue to remain in the scullery while Shack was released with a stern warning. Shack lost his NVGs because he was accidentally stupid, Tommy just plumb forgot them somewhere.
While walking back towards our vehicles Carol, Shack and I learn from Doc Jamal that Sarah is expecting twins. The poor girl has been put on bed rest until further notice. Doc is concerned that because of her youth, Sarah might experience a terribly difficult delivery. Although I am disappointed with the way Sarah teases Shack, I understand she is going through a difficult time and will try to cut her some slack.
I note Doc has a lovely dark hard wood walking stick, with an ornately carved bulbous head. I know a shillelagh when I see one and comment on the quality of Doc’s ornately carved walking stick probably made of hickory or iron wood. The bulbous head of a shillelagh makes an excellent zombie head smashing weapon.
I also congratulate Doc on his excellent choice of weapon. Doc thanks me, but then goes on to explain that, although very similar to an Irish shillelagh, he is carrying a pink ivory knobkierrie. A gift from the Zulu Nation when Doc, was working in Africa many years ago, he concurs that it makes a wonderfully quiet zombie slaying tool, although he has to get a little too close for comfort to use it.
While Shack and Carol check in with Sam, I duck into the O.D. green canvas tent “radio shack.” Seated at the white plastic folding tables, shrouded in a thick gray haze of foul-smelling cigarette smoke, wearing headphones Nikola and Shen are each operating a PRC series radio set.
Leaning my AR15 against the table, I sit down beside Nikola in a folding chair that creaks underneath me. Nikola, lit cigarette hanging out of the corner of his mouth, slips the right earphone off his ear, and looks at me.
“Not so much radio traffic, Ruth, most is either religious zealot preaching end of days here and repent we must or is HAM operator looking for other operators. Shen found some Chinese radio traffic but English not so good so can say what is found. He try with books.”
I look over at Shen and see him diligently writing message traffic with a blue ball point pen on a yellow legal pad. Very thick English to Mandarin and Cantonese hard back dictionaries lays open on the table beside Shen. He has a look of intense concentration on his face as he writes and then looks in books for the translation.
Looking around the tent, I note the folding tables are well stocked with just about every language I am familiar with to English hard and soft back dictionaries. There are enough yellow legal note pads, writing utensils and other office supplies to do a large law firm proud.
That is the most Nikola has talked to me since I have known him. “Did you hear from the other units Nikola?” I ask him.
“Da, all units report was stopped for day. Continue proceed tonight towards rendezvous.”
“Did you let the colonel know Nikola?”
“Da, colonel know.”
“I know what?” Suddenly a voice says from behind startling me. I whirl to see Sam standing in the doorway dressed as usual in faded, well patched woodland green BDUs with a brown leather tanker holster holding his .45. I notice that Sam is wearing his glass eye instead of the black leather eye patch, which gives him a rakish appearance. His black leather combat boots are well polished.
An O.D. green web belt with a gray plastic snap buckle circles Sam’s slender hips. The belt holds four extra magazines for the suppressed L34A1 Sterling sub gun in his arms. The suppressor, folding stock and flat wooden fore grip is particularly distinct on that weapon.
A woodland green camouflage canteen cover wraps the US Army green plastic canteen hanging from Sam’s belt over his left hip. On his right side, a sheathed large single bladed knife hangs. I would bet just about anything that his is a KA-BAR fighting knife or close clone judging by the brown leather stacked handle.
“About the other unit’s progress, colonel” I reply.
Sam nods at me. “Oh yes, Nicky told Jamal and I about the other unit’s movements. I was hoping that there might be some radio traffic from our destination, but so far nothing but silence. I hate driving into a vacuum not knowing what is up there. I’d certainly like to reach someone and apprise them that we are coming. Only transmissions Nicky has found so far are a couple of HAM operators, one in Montana near the Canadian border and one down by Cody, Wyoming. Neither radio jockey was much help. By the way, we’re staying another day and pulling out tomorrow night. The Scouts are doubtful of the Costco holding anything of worth, but we have a plan to hit the cannibals in the morning. We have a briefing at 19:00 Ruth, I’d like you to be there.”
“Sure colonel, I will be there.” Sam nods at me again and walks out of the canvas tent into the deepening darkness. “Good job, Nikola” I say patting him on the shoulder. Nikola slips the earphone back over his right ear and also nods at me, while lighting another cigarette from the crumbling remains of the previous.
“Take radio and see if you can find something in language you speak. Maybe you find Hebrew radio, or other language.”
Following Nikola’s suggestion I turn on the newer PRC radio in front of my seat with a flip of the switch. Looking underneath the table, I see a motley collection of automotive and heavy machinery batteries hooked together powering the radios. Now I know why the mechanics were grabbing every battery they could locate.
I had heard the mechanics are seeking to acquire solar panels from houses and business to charge the convoy’s batteries. Underneath the table, I see several of the very expensive, distinctly red, Trojan six volt, deep cycle batteries. I wonder, did the Trojan batteries come from somebody’s expensive home solar set up and are now being used to power our radios.
Thankfully the Israeli army uses mostly American equipment, so I am extremely familiar with the PRC series of radio sets. In a highly familiar manner, (I have done this uncountable times) I take a headset; plug it into the PRC radio in front of my seat placing the headphones over my ears.
Slowly searching the radio frequencies on the dial in the broadest ranges possible hunting for any radio traffic that I might be able to decipher, I spend an hour or so. There are vast blanks of empty radio territory on the dial. Even using auto scan, I find only a few broadcasts.
I find remarkably little traffic that the other radio operators have not already located. Most radio traffic that I locate is in the lower and higher FM and AM bandwidth ranges. I find utterly nothing in the VHF, EHF and ELF bandwidths.
Silence in the ELF bands is surprising as that is the way most navies communicate with their ballistic missile submarines when they are deeply submerged. I know from the colonel that at least a few of the American ballistic and attack subs are still at sea. Granted we lack the crypto to be able to decipher those submarine ELF transmissions, but utter silence I did not expect.
Other than the few religious nut cases Nikola mentioned, there is little on the air to interest anyone. A few HAM operators passing radio traffic looking for missing family and friends, but there is little response or hope of finding missing people. I have very little hope of finding a HAM operator in D.C., but if I do, I might ask him about Amy.
I am surprised that I did not find any transmissions in Arabic, Farsi or Pashto. I expected to find at least one transmission. If someone in the Middle East is transmitting, perhaps their radios are not powerful enough to reach here. The Middle East was badly affected by the KCAP pandemic.
I did expect to find at least one strong and survival-minded government broadcasts, but even those transmissions have gone silent. Even 121.5 MHz International Air Distress (IAD) and 243 MHz Military Air Distress (MAD) are silent, which makes sense as there are likely few planes.
I give up eventually and slip out of the smoke-filled radio shack, the chilly evening air feeling peachy after the stuffy interior. It has been a while since I smoked so much in one sitting, boredom will do that to you. Standing outside alone with my thoughts, I happen to catch sight of Reginald, slinking off into the bushes in an alarming manner that makes my skin crawl.
The way his black oversized raincoat bulges, Reginald obviously has something hidden underneath which he is trying to conceal. I am utterly fucking positive he is planning something insidious. The way he looks around furtively, cements my opinion that the slimy bastard has stolen something and is slinking off into the bushes to enjoy his purloined treasure.
I watch Reginald slink deeper into the bushes, certain he has stolen food, or maybe some booze. I suddenly see a small pink high top Converse sneaker punch out from underneath his jacket. The sneaker is obviously kicking repeatedly but having no effect. The only person in the camp wearing pink Converse sneakers is the Princesses’ daughter.
A faint gust of wind causes Reginald’s coat to flutter open slightly before he can close it. As I suspected, I see that he has the Princesses’ daughter clasped to his chest with his arm around her neck. Her large dark blue eyes are wide with fear in her flushed red face over Reginald’s flabby arm.
I take quick mental inventory of my equipment. My AR15, slung over my right shoulder, wears its AAC M4-2000 suppressor and my holstered Hi-Power wears its AAC Evolution suppressor. I momentarily consider shooting Reginald, but decide against it. Grabbing my rifle sling, I pull it over my head to the left so that the sling now crosses my body at an angle bisecting my breasts.
With my hands now free, I take a few steps quietly following the hunchbacked retreating form of Reginald. Slipping into the brush as silently as I can the blackberry thorns prick at my skin. Most of the brush is comprised of something I heard the soldiers call Scots Broom. Ostensibly, it is a common invasive species of bush in the Pacific Northwest.
Stepping quietly and carefully, so as not to alert Reginald to my presence, I try not to lose him in the dark. I momentarily wish for my NVGs. Stepping on a branch would let the shifty bastard know someone is following him. I am unsure what his reaction would be with regards to the child, so I do not want to spook him.
I cannot risk a shot because I do not want to risk hitting the child. The way Reginald has her clamped to his chest, hunching over her, even a shot to the head is too risky in my opinion. Both of my weapon calibers are notorious for over penetration.
Coming into a small grassy clearing, in the center of several blackberry thickets, I see Reginald still hunched over the struggling little girl. From my angle, I cannot see what he is doing. Moving to the right slightly to remain in Reginald’s blind spot, I can now see that he has a hand shoved down the young girl’s pants while his other hand chokes the poor girl holding her down on the damp ground.
Gray Duct Tape covers the young girl’s mouth and I see her small fists beating on Reginald’s shoulders. Reginald is whispering something in to the girl’s ear. I can see panic in the girl’s wide blue eyes; tears stain her face.
I briefly again consider shooting Reginald but decide it is still too risky, I might hit the child. Stabbing him, however, has it merits. I slip my Glock fighting knife silently out of its sheath. Stepping carefully through the thick, wet matted grass, I observe the young girl watching me approach Reginald from the back.
Now within striking distance, I bring my right leg back; shifting my weight onto my left leg. Snapping my foot in a horizontal kick, I strike savagely with the hard steel toe of my boot into the center of the nerve plexus of Reginald’s right outer thigh.
I distinctly hear the snapping dry branch sound of Reginald’s femur breaking when my steel toe hits his thigh. This is a common Krav Maga strike point which renders the leg useless for a minute or two, but does not usually snap the femur. The kick is even more effective when you are wearing heavy steel toe boots, and you are kicking an unawares opponent.
Reginald screaming as if he has been castrated his leg spasming uncontrollably and unable to support him collapses on to his knees. Reginald’s right thigh bends at an impossible angle, and he shrieks shrilly again as the broken ends of his femur grind together.
Unaware until later, that Reginald has dropped the child onto her bottom, I close in now intending to slice Reginald’s throat. I grasp a fist full of Reginald’s greasy, lank hair. Honed to a fine edge, my Glock fighting knife held in my right hand is poised to rip into Reginald’s neck when there is suddenly a small-caliber gunshot quickly followed by a second shot.
Stunned by the two-gun shots, which I was close enough to feel the heat and shock wave, I fail to realize that Reginald has slumped over on his face and has ceased shrieking like a scalded cat. When I realize that I am no longer holding Reginald, I see the Princesses’ daughter holding a small, double-barreled, stainless steel derringer in her shaking hands.
Sheathing my knife, I roll Reginald’s corpse onto its back just as Sam, the Princess, Shack and four of the perimeter guards come crashing through the brush like infuriated bulls. I have seen enough corpses knowing instantly Reginald is dead the voiding of his bowels and bladder only confirms what I already knew.
Looking down at Reginald’s corpse, I see that he has a pair of small holes in his forehead about three inches apart at a slight angle. The small, powder burn surrounded holes in his forehead seep blood slightly. The holes contrast markedly with the stunned look on the corpse’s face.
The two shots did not exit the cranium as there is no exit wound on the back of the head. I am grateful that the child did not miss her target. It looks as if the derringer was practically against Reginald’s forehead when she shot him.
I look at the Princesses’ daughter, whom at this point I still did not know her name, and although visibly shaking and wide-eyed, she does not appear to be hurt. Doc Jamal appears with his medical kit, shoving his way through the small crowd just as I rip the tape off of the child’s mouth eliciting a shriek of pain from her, the first noise she has made.
Sam is the second person to break the stunned silence his hands on his hips like a disapproving father observing naughty children. His Sterling slung over his right shoulder, Sam says, “Somebody want to tell me what the hell happened.” I take the small derringer from the shaking young girl; Shack is the first to answer the colonel’s demand.
“Sir, I saw Ruth head into the bush with murderous intent on her face, so I followed her to provide back up. I arrived just as Ruth kicked the shit outa Reggie’s leg. She was gonna gut the bastard, but the little girl shot Reginald before Ruth could use her knife.”
The Princess rushes to her daughter, clutching her in her arms. I hear some whispered endearments and assurances between mother and daughter. Looking at the Princess, I ask a question that I already know the answer to. “You armed your daughter. I take it that this is another one of your husband’s pistols.”
I pop open the small, double-barreled High Standard nickel-plated stainless derringer and see that it is one of the very common .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire pistols. The small derringer with white, ivory grips is showing its age but is still in excellent working condition.
Leaving the derringer open, I hand it back to the shaking girl, who after a few dropped rounds manages to reload it from a red plastic Hornady box in her left jacket pocket. The girl snaps the derringer closed and drops it in her left jacket pocket. No one says otherwise.
“Just who was your husband?” I ask the Princess. “He had considerable taste in weapons, not something that I would expect from a wealthy urbanite lawyer.”
“Before he went to Harvard law, and became a wealthy lawyer, my husband was a Washington State Patrol officer.”
“That explains the guns” I tell her, sighing and shrugging.
“Yes, I never actually cared for guns or thought nobody, but the police or military needed one, until now. I am glad my husband insisted we keep the guns and refused to get rid of them even though I begged him to do so. When panic hit, the first thing everyone was searching for was guns and ammo. My neighbors, who were the nicest, most liberal people you ever met, kicked in my front door and tried to steal our guns. I ended up shooting them both, and I had known them more than 20 years.”
The Princess turns from me and asks her daughter if she is OK and she gets a shaky nod. Then I hear the Princess ask her daughter, Jenny, why she did not use her pistol. Huh? What pistol. Jenny reaches into her right pants pocket and pulls out a silvery Baby Browning .25 ACP pistol.
Jenny explains that her pants were too tight to be able to get the Baby Browning out of her pants pocket, so she grabbed the derringer. I note that Jenny transfers the Baby Browning to her right jacket pocket. Reginald’s corpse is unceremoniously stripped of anything of worth and left where he lays.
Walking back to the convoy after Sam dispatches the perimeter guard back to their posts, I note that Jenny is visibly shaking in her mother’s arms. Poor girl, I hope she is able to cope. I notice that it is almost time for our staff meeting; as a matter of fact we are almost late.
I follow some of the other staff members in a quick trot to the cantina tent which also serves as the command tent. The two colonels take a seat along the folding plastic tables and without preamble Charlie, one of the burly SF soldiers, starts talking.
A hand drawn map is passed around for everyone to look at as we lack any means of mass copying it. It takes a while to circulate the room. The map causes numerous questions and side conversations. Sam finally has to halt the map’s passage by confiscating it, which stops the side chatter. Charlie is told to continue by a gruff Sam.
The observers believe the Costco has changed hands several times with each consecutive group looting and damaging it more than the previous. The observers describe the Costco parking lot and entrance as resembling down town Baghdad with bullet-ridden and burnt out cars scattered throughout the parking lot. Also, mentioned is several zombie infested cars in the parking lot.
The sheet metal façade of the Costco building is badly bullet pock-marked with several large poorly repaired holes. There are obviously signs of previous heavy weapons use against the Costco. The asphalt parking lot around the entrance is badly pockmarked, and riddled with scorch marks.
The roll up doors on the front of the Costco have been blown away, in their place is a makeshift assortment of car doors, scrap lumber, plywood, and miscellaneous other junk blocking the twin entrances.
Since there is no power, the cannibals appear to be using the front of the store only. A make shift barricade of sorts in the parking lot protects the front of the store. The barricade consists of stacked shopping carts chained together, abandoned cars, and another reinforced articulated Metro bus.
The Metro bus this time is not operational, but does provide significant cover to the defenders. Wrapped in corrugated roofing panels, the Metro bus will be difficult to overcome. Behind the Metro bus is a large open area which appears to be the cannibal’s communal area.
Within this large open, communal area shielded by the Metro bus and the barricade, are the cages used to keep fresh meat. When some poor bastard is brought in either by trade or caught by one of the hunting parties, they are tossed into one of the cages for safe keeping. At present, the cages are empty.
The communal cooking is also done in this area on a large cinder block fire pit covered with a metal grate. Fuel of choice right now is wooden pallets. A large stack of wooden pallets lies within the communal area next to the fire pit.
In the evenings after the last meal, the grates are lifted off the fire pit and trash is burned as well as larger pieces of pallets and other scrap wood. The cannibals sit on folding chairs around the fire pit, drinking wine from bottles, often late into the night.
Used by women to cook meals several soot stained pot and pans lie on the grate over the fire. It is intriguing to note that the collapse of civilization has caused a return to the traditional gender assigned roles. So much for women’s lib.
Women do the cooking and cleaning while men hunt, gather food and protect the group. No children are presently within the cannibal enclave. However, the observers report a couple of the cannibal women might be pregnant. There is some grumbling about shooting pregnant women.
The cannibals enjoy hunting people for sport and fun. The observers note that women do not join the hunt, but are eager to partake of the meal that results from the hunt. Reminds me of the Hemmingway quote about hunting man. “There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter.”
The person to be eaten is starved for at least three days, but given all the water and wine they can drink. If the poor, doomed bastard is not sufficiently drunk before cooking they are force-fed at least a gallon of wine. Apparently the wine adds flavor to the meat which the cannibals seem to enjoy. The doomed, drunken person is then dragged to and tossed on the fire pit.
With a festive, party like atmosphere, when a person is to be eaten, the meal is stripped of its clothes, held hand and foot, and tossed naked on the grill when it is sufficiently hot. First cooking is usually on the back.
Long steel chains fastened to the hands and feet of the meal keep it spread eagle over the fire. The poor bastard, after cooking upon one side for a while is flipped over and cooked upon the other side; the cannibals seeming to prefer their meat medium rare. Most people are dead by the time they are flipped, but sometimes they are barely alive when flipped over.
From the observers, it appears that the cannibals hunt people for fun, as they have been observed cooking and eating other food. The cannibal camp has a near festival feel to it when they catch or decide to butcher and eat a person. Perhaps it is some great festive occasion for them.
The cannibals will not be too difficult to remove as they lack any obvious, heavy weapons according to the observers. The cannibals do have a few rifles and shotguns, but all are civilian weapons. However, there is no telling what they might have tucked out of sight in the cavernous building.
The inside must be dark as can be, and the observers doubt there is little left of worth in the building. The cannibals were doing a brisk trade in fresh flesh for various large bottles of liquid hand soap, bleach, laundry detergent, hand sanitizer, and booze most notably bottled wine. The last person was butchered the day our observation commenced, and no more has been caught since.
A few attack options are considered. The final plan considered and approved is a three-pronged attack. The first attack group will attempt to enter the Costco through the back of the store, and using NVGs attack from the rear.
The second attack group will attack from the roof, rappelling down into the communal area. The third attack group will perform a frontal attack, causing a disturbance which will draw all attention to them. The third attack group is also responsible for launching the tear gas into the Costco main structure.
The convoy has acquired a lot of non-lethal tear gas and other riot control munitions that are of little use against the dead. The cannibals though are quite alive and are likely susceptible to the effects of the tear gas.
Doc gives us a brief summary of how we can identify someone infected with the mutated minor strain of the KCAP virus and what we can expect from them in combat. Those infected by eating meat tainted by KCAP lose all of their bodily hair, become exceedingly pale and lean with prominent blue veins, and highly defined muscles. Fingernails and toenails turn black and eventually fall off.
Speed, reflexes and muscle mass, are all increased while sense of taste slowly, gradually dwindles to nothing at all. The mouth becomes bright red, with receding gums and the tongue becomes a vivid dark blue or black. The lips become thin and nearly shapeless. The eyes remain unchanged, with the exception of prominent red veins that no amount of Visine can cure.
The other senses remain unchanged with the exception of a slight dulling of the sense of touch and substantially increased pain tolerance. Doc has no experience with how the cannibals will react to the tear gas, so flash bang grenades and other disabling nonlethal antipersonnel weapons are included in the assault plan.
All attack groups will be issued Oleum Capsicum (OC), 2-Chlorobenzalmalononitrile (CS) and Dibenzoxazepine (CR) hand grenades. I am surprised to hear that somehow they got a hold of several of the old British CR grenades from the late 1950’s and early ‘60s. How the hell did they get those?
All assault parties are to wear gas masks, which we hope the cannibals lack. A squad of M224 60mm mortars will bombard the cannibal communal area first with HE and Infrared Illumination (IR) rounds. The third attack party will be issued extra CS 40mm grenades.
I am surprised at the variety and number of antipersonnel and riot control grenades in the convoy’s armory. Ostensibly most of the material is left over from riot control efforts that proved largely futile. There are also numerous O.D. green, baseball sized OC/CS sting grenades handed out to the attack groups.
The sting grenades, which conveniently are the same size as an American M67 frag grenade, combine a concussive explosion with 60 hard rubber .45 caliber balls and a charge of combined OC and CS gas. Nasty business.
The antipersonnel grenade armed attack groups will also be backed up by one of the Strykers we recovered from the 1%ers camp. This particular Stryker, which turns out to be a M1129 Mortar Carrier, is fully loaded with a full complement of grenades.
Mike, field promoted from buck sergeant to captain by the colonels, is in charge of our two Strykers and their crews. While the damned 105mm cannon-carrying Stryker is rather obvious, the M1129 Stryker to the uninitiated looks similar to the usual infantry Stryker when its roof doors are closed.
I have never seen a M1129 before. After the staff meeting breaks up, I spend a little time getting familiar with it and its crew. The newer Strykers, with their upgraded turbine engines can burn just about any flammable liquid fuel, unlike the HEMTTs and Hummers which are restricted to diesel only. Once I have satisfied my curiosity, I leave Mike to prepare the mortar Stryker and crew for the assault and go find Nikola.
I find Nikola in the radio shack. He is assigned to the second attack group and will carry his GM-94 grenade launcher, Threadcutter rifle and one RPO-A Shmel man-pack. I am assigned as Nikola’s assistant and sidekick carrying a second Shmel man-pack. I am to provide sharpshooter over watch protection from the roof of the Costco with my suppressed POF AR15.
Since I am providing sharpshooter cover, I consider swapping the optics on my carbine from the old ACOG I have on it now to my Leupold VX-R patrol rifle scope. After brief deliberation, I decide to stick with the ACOG as the assault ranges are not going to be particularly lengthy. The ACOG is also NVG compatible while the patrol rifle scope is not.
Our attack is planned for an ungodly 03:00, very early in the morning while it is still dark. Most of the evening is spent preparing our gear for the attack after which the day crew naps best as they can.
After a bland lunch (Carol calls it mid rats for some reason – what rats have to do with the meal I am unsure) of cold, dirty rice and MRE snacks washed down with warm beer we start assembling our kit. Trying to be as quiet as we can, so we do not disturb our slumbering friends, we gather our equipment
I spent an hour or so with Nikola before lunch learning about the RPO-A Shmel. I have never used one of these weapons before, despite the fact that I have read about them several times. The Russians, especially the Spetsnaz and Federal Security service (FSB), are particularly fond of them. Of course, the boys did not think to grab a printed instruction manual as the CD-ROM instruction manuals are less than worthless.
Nikola’s abbreviated lessons are all theory as we cannot launch one of these weapons for a plethora of reasons. Not only are there a finite quantity of these weapons, but launching one is tantamount to announcing to the whole damned world where we are.
After the Shmel lessons, Nikola finalizes his kit. Nikola, I notice, chooses several non-fragmenting 43mm HE and some Fuel Air Explosive (FAE) thermobaric grenades for his pump-action grenade launcher. Not for the last time, I am sure; I wonder just how many of the proprietary 43mm grenades the Spets lads brought with them. After stuffing a black cloth grenade bandolier, Nikola leaves to take a nap before the assault.
Supper consists of a thick, mildly spicy chili like meal, washed down with our last cans and bottles of warm beer. More time is spent going over the attack plan once again. After the attack plan is finalized with no major changes, the attack groups separate to prepare gear. Several of us attempt to nap for a few minutes after our kit is finalized.
Shack has been assigned to convoy guard duty since he is still listed as walking wounded, or “down checked” as he calls it. Nikola, now dressed in tiger stripe camouflage BDUs, Carol, Shack and I all sit in the radio shack along with Shen who is also assigned convoy guard duty. The radios are on auto scan, and we give them half an ear as we once again check, clean and prepare weapons.
Assembling our kits for the last time, I note that Nikola elects to carry a suppressed Nagant M1895 revolver. I watch as he takes a suppressor off of a Makarov pistol and screws it onto the revolver. I ask him about the effectiveness of a suppressor on a revolver which I thought was impossible if not impractical.
I get an unexpected lesson on the peculiarities of the Nagant M1895 revolver, its ammo and the Russian 9mm suppressor screwed on to its barrel. Rather than carry his preferred 4th generation suppressed Glock 20 pistol, Nikola elects to carry the Nagant revolver because it is much quieter and easier to shoot.
The Nagant revolver is not known for being a particular heavy hitting man stopper, but up close, and head shooting it should prove adequate. The Russians brought numerous 1,092 round sealed tins of Nagant 7.62 x 38R revolver ammo, some of it more than 100 years old. Nikola elects to carry Nagant ammo that is only a mere 70 years old with corrosive Berdan primers.
While I check my magazines, I watch Nikola use cheap charcoal lighter fluid to clean the Nagant pistol and suppressor. He says it removes the corrosive salts and residue better than some traditional gun cleaning fluids. The corrosive powder and primers of the old Nagant ammo are not something that I thankfully have to worry about.
My Browning Hi-Power pistol is loaded with Federal 147 grain subsonic rounds. I make sure to remove all the non-subsonic ammo from my pistol magazines. A quick cleaning and oiling of my gear and it is as ready as possible.
Everyone is wearing full body armor and current US Army issue MCU 2/P gas masks with a fresh canister and sealed spare. My Dragon Skin vest is the best I have and will have to do. Nikola elects to wear the Russian equivalent of an Interceptor vest with SAPI plates.
Full ammo load outs are issued. I am astounded when I am issued 150 rounds of Mark 262, Mod 0, 77 grain, open tip 5.56 ammo. I am told that this is all of the heavy 77 grain ammo. I am admonished to use it with extreme care. It makes sense that they issue to me, the heavy 77 grain ammo as my POF AR15 has a ridiculously fast 1 in 6.5 inch twist barrel.
Both Nikola and I are each given an old but serviceable frameless, medium-sized, O.D. green ALICE pack. We toss a first aid kit, spare ammo, a few MRE snacks, and several bottles of water into the packs. We lash the Shmel man-packs to the outside of the ALICE packs. To our LBVs we lash the antipersonnel riot control grenades added to our usual frag grenade load.
I watch the mortar Stryker head off to take its carefully plotted position. As we board the trucks that will take us within a mile or so of the Costco to launch our attack, I ponder the likelihood of this attack going to hell quickly. I squeeze into the truck sandwiched between Nikola and part of one of the M224 mortar teams.
Something sharp and damned hard is hitting me in the leg I think the lad beside me is carrying the recoil plate for the mortar. His ruck bulges with cardboard mortar canisters. I always hated mortars. I hope the lads assigned to the task are at least proficient with the damn thing.
I notice sitting in the back of the truck, with interest, one of the young soldiers assigned to protect the convoy trucks while the assault team is away. This soldier carries a black, suppressed, Wilkinson Arms Linda 9mm machine pistol with collapsible M4-style shoulder stock, red dot sight and several high-capacity magazines. Interesting choice of weapons, I wonder if it is another 1%er acquisition.
As we ride through the dark forest along the highway, each of is alone with our thoughts. I hear a few quietly whispered prayers, which is not an awful idea before combat no matter your faith. Shack is about the closest thing we have to a chaplain. He is back in camp with the rest of the convoy. With almost two-thirds of our combat strength dedicated to this assault, I hope those we leave behind will be OK.
As the sun starts to set, activity increases around the camp getting ready to roll. Before parting with Sam, (who gave me a pair of silver captain’s collar insignia which I pin to my right jacket pocket) I learned some thought-provoking things.
The components of the thermobaric bomb’s payload are a closely guarded manufacturer’s secret as is the workings of the mortar assembly used to launch the payload. The TBIP weighs a little over five tons yet delivers a payload equal to 11 tons of TNT. The TBIP has a 2,000 yard blast zone, kills everything within an area of approximately three miles and causes deafness up to four miles away.
Sam possesses a ticking time bomb that could explode at any time. TBIPs are called a GBU-47B by the troops. This is not an official designation since it is not air dropped although it can be air delivered, but, not as a bomb. The TBIPs use some sort of caustic nanofuel. The nanofuel corrodes the casing and degrades as time advances.
This tragic design flaw was not discovered until the nanofuel manufacturer suffered a large explosion at a plant killing 70 people and destroying everything in a four mile radius. After the plant explosion, the TBIP’s fuel canisters were made thicker and of a harder material to further delay the corrosive effects of the nanofuel.
A common soldier theory is that the TBIP’s nanofuel is a mixture of two fuels, which do not like each other so much kept separate until dispersal. The theory is that when the two fuels combine heat is generated which eventually builds and ignites the fuel, resulting in a smaller, but still extremely lethal explosion. When dispersed by the dispersal charge, the heat built between the two fuels is insignificant by the time the ignition charge detonates.
According to another popular soldier theory, the ground TBIPs were designed to be carried into target areas in a discreet cargo container. Their stated, at least publically, intent was to sanitize large urban areas of structures, mines, and other antipersonnel devices.
Sam explained that the first charge acts like a mortar, launching the primary fuel container aloft some 500’. Once the fuel canister reaches its set height a dispersal charge disperses the nanofuels. Timed by an electronic timer, once the dispersal is at optimum, an ignition charge ignites the dispersed fuel.
Removed from the shipping container, the TBIPs unlike like their larger cousins the ATBIPs, have to be hoisted erect and then large steel supporting legs extended and bolted in place. Certainly not plug and play. TBIPs need a firm foundation not only to support the weight of the explosive device but also withstand the recoil effects of the mortar.
If TBIP falls over or the foundation is not strong enough to withstand the mortar charge’s recoil, the TBIP may not properly disperse its fuel charge. Ostensibly this happened a few times in Iran where TBIPs failed to detonate properly. Sam thinks that on this spot because of the soft soil, optimum height will not be reached and neither will optimal dispersal. So the bomb might not be as powerful as it could be.
Whether previous TBIP failures were due to human interference, tampering or due to insufficient hardiness of the foundation after the soldiers departed, is debatable. The TBIP’s nanofuels are highly toxic, and if ingested cause a lingering, painful death. I feel terrible for those poor, unfortunate souls who died a slow, horrible death after inhaling the caustic nanofuel. Feeling your lungs slowly turning to Jell-O drowning in your own blood is a horrid way to die.
Used to destroy utterly chemical processing plants, refineries, and other petroleum infrastructure, in Iran the TBIPs were brutally effective at crippling the Iranian economy. Once the city structures were cleared by Infantry (supposedly) to ensure no civilians were left, the TBIP would be brought in and erected in the target area. The other use of the TBIP is as a morale booster for allied troops and a real pisser on the morale of the Iranians.
Nikola said that the US copied the Russian’s, but the American nanofuel is corrosive and eats the casing, reducing its effectiveness and control. The Russians were some of the best thermobaric bomb makers in the world and used them extensively. Apparently the Americans did not get it quite right.
The boys found this big sucker, as Sam called it, on the tarmac at JBLM fully fueled and ready to deploy. Only problem was, it never made it to its intended target. As Sam and a few of the other soldiers were standing on the tarmac at JBLM, Nikola and all who came with him, crashed their fucking ginormous Antonov 124 on the run way.
Luckily for all involved, the Condor (NATO’s designation for the AN-124) was out of fuel when it was strafed by Washington Air Guard F-15s. The Condor’s pilot had been trying to reach Boeing field, but ran out of fuel. A strafing by a couple of F-15s caused the crash landing at JBLM. Nikola mentioned with some pride that had the Air Guard pilots been flying Sukhoi Su-34s, they would have been blown out of the sky.
As Nikola explained they were lucky, because the F-15s were out of missiles, and the AN-124 is a gigantic plane to bring down with tiny American guns. In Vladivostok, Nikola and his boys stuffed the AN-124 to the gills with old Soviet weaponry, all the vodka they could find, and hauled ass.
Crash landing practically at Sam’s feet, the two groups joined forces and has been together ever since. Since Sam is not sure just when the TBIP was fueled, and there was no paperwork with it, he figures this time is as good as any to get rid of a potential hazard.
During the Iranian War, well at least the three months it lasted before the KCAP pandemic broke; quite a few TBIPs were used clearing large sections of Ahvaz, Isfahan, Qom and Tehran. There was some international fervor over the US using TBIPs in key urban areas.
Use of the TBIPs though was supposed to keep civilian casualties low. With over 70% of Iran’s population urban, moving large segments of people looked better in planning than it actually worked. The US troops were locked in bitter fighting attempting to clear major cities.
The new US President, in office less than six months, did not want to risk the civilian casualties even with precision guided munitions. The President felt that because of the tightly crowded cities, that even precision munition, had an unacceptably high civilian casualty rate.
Like most wars fought by political fiat rather than generals on the ground, the Iranian War was going poorly for the US. High casualty rates, both of Iranian civilians and US soldiers, plus accusations of troops not clearing buildings before detonating TBIPs in urban areas, was a PR nightmare for the young US President.
The KCAP outbreak and how rapidly it ripped through the densely packed Iranian population finally put a stop to the Iranian War. The US troops and the Iranians suddenly had a far more persistent and deadly common foe.
Literally within hours of the KCAP outbreak, the Iranians and Americans went from bitterest of enemies to comrades in arms. In Qom, US troops besieged by massed zombies, retreated from their positions to the Iranian’s. After the initial shock of US troops, diving into the Iranian positions wore off, and vice versa, the two sides agreed to a cessation of hostilities between them.
The TBIPs were now employed by theater commanders against zombies with the blessing and aid of the Iranian soldiers. The truce between Iran and the US was never officially sanctioned by either government, but the battle field commanders took matters into their own hands fighting a common foe that neither could overcome alone.
When countries with troops overseas recalled all their troops home, many like I, were unable to return. Recalled troops did not necessarily fare better, as often the aircraft and vessels used to ship troops back to their mother country came under fire from panicked defending home forces.
The desert tan HEMTT that had been carrying the TBIP I realized was disguised as a fuel tanker. The desert tan HEMETT is the flat-bed cargo truck variant. The now empty HEMTT is loaded with a 55’ faded red paint and rust cargo shipping container and quickly stuffed.
Just before the convoy gets underway an assembly is held where Sam congratulates the newly promoted individuals, including me. Brief introductions are made with succinct excerpts of military service.
Ostensibly somewhere Sam has access to some good intel, because extraordinarily few people alive know I was in the Kidon. Thankfully Sam does not mention either the Mossad or the Kidon when he introduces me. Sam’s summary of my almost 12 years of service is well crafted if no one looks too hard at the gaps in service.
Apparently this bunch is more organized than I realized. Now I am supposedly going to be in S2 according to Sam. This is going to be exciting.
Apparently though, not all is cherry in Sam’s army as there are a few malcontents. Captain’s bars were also offered to Longfeather who is another ‘Nam vet, but he flatly turned them down. I wonder if I am the second choice to Longfeather for the S2 position.
Most of the civilians are adjusting well I have noticed. I ran into Nguen this afternoon as I was walking with Shack back to our little car. Nguen has slimmed some since I saw him last losing the pudgy cheeks and slight beer gut that he had.
Despite the long midnight black hair down to his collar, Nguen actually managed to look almost military. Former military have a particular way that they carry themselves which civilians just lack.
Nguen may never have that military hard edge, but I am glad to see him competent with his M16. I notice Nguen has picked up a decent-looking M9 in an old O.D. green Bianchi flap holster. Man it has been ages since I have seen one of those old Bianchi holsters with the hip extender.
Nguen’s kit is rounded out with a proper bayonet for his M16 and five magazines for his Beretta with one in the gun. His old woodland green camo LBV is the same generation as mine and holds the same load out. I see a small piece of black electrician’s tape on the spoons of all four of Nguen’s pineapple frag grenades.
After chatting about inconsequential things with Nguen for a few minutes, I ran into one of the few male civilians from the FEMA camp that is coming with us. This guy, at one time, was some macher over at Amazon with gazillions of dollars in the bank.
The way his clothes hang off of Reginald (he does not want to be called Reggy), I am betting that he has lost a considerable amount of weight. Assigned to the Princess and her laundry trailer from hell, poor Reginald probably has to work hard for the first time in his life.
Reginald classified as an eater by the Rogues and was due to be traded to the cannibals for fresh meat, somehow managed to survive several weeks in the camp. Unlike an older man, who sold his daughters and wife to the Rogues and then ultimately to the slavers in exchange for food (who was summarily executed by Sam with a single 45 shot to the head) Reginald happened to be carrying a remarkably well armored briefcase full of gold coins.
Reginald was spared by the Rogues because he claimed to know the existence of more gold coins and the Rogues, ever greedy, were waiting for the chance to squeeze it out of him. Reginald claimed the gold coin stash was outside the gates. The Rogues mighty mean fish in the compound pond, knew that outside, they were less than small fish in a big pond. Typical criminals, true cowards at heart.
The Rogues not being all that excited to leave the safety of the FEMA compound knew that outside they were walking delicatessens. So Reginald survived while the Rogues plotted how they were going to get this stash of gold supposedly in a bank vault downtown Seattle. Sam took the gold coins, but is not going to waste resources trying to get into a bank for more.
Why waste so much energy trying to acquire gold? You cannot eat it, wear it, or shoot it and for gold to have worth as a trade commodity there has to be an operating mercantile system somewhere that values gold. Right now TP, food, fuel, and ammo are more precious than gold. Hard to keep a zombie from eating your face with a gold coin.
Poor Reginald was abused by the Rogues who urinated on him, chained him to a post at night like a dog, threw scraps of food at him, and made him copulate with a male corpse at gunpoint Reginald possibly has some mental issues. Probably a shrink would have a magnificent time with him, but he has to buck up if he is going to survive.
At least Reginald smells better now that he got to bathe for the first time in weeks. Boiling his clothes, which the Princess told me was once a frightfully expensive silk blend suit from some designer I have never heard of, was a significant improvement. Sam said that we will get Reginald some new clothes when he finishes slimming down.
Sam thinks that Reginald will probably drop another 30 to 40 pounds and might actually put some muscle on. No sense fitting Reginald to clothes now and having them not fit in a month or so. Reginald was given a jacket and wet weather gear that fits his current rotund shape. When I see Reginald first thing comes to mind, is a chazer bleibt a chazer.
I hope Reginald does not annoy the soldiers in the back of the snow plow. Ben with his Negev is back there, and I do not wish to burden him with a test of patience. Benkamin is not a ben-yokhid and does not appear to be spoiled, but the oldest male child is cherished in Hebrew households. Ben may not have the patience to deal with Reginald’s whining.
There is something that I just do not like about Reginald. There is nothing I can put my finger on, but my gut tells me he is slime. I just do not know why nor can I prove it. Maybe it is his lank greasy, mouse-brown hair with the bad comb over. Face it, Reginald you are going bald accept it.
I still just do not know what it is, but something just strikes me as off with Reginald. I do note that Sam has not chosen to arm Reginald. Unlike the Princess, who still carries her little S&W 9mm in her shoulder holster, Reginald is weaponless. Even the Princess’ daughter is armed now with a large, fixed blade knife on her belt. I see the clip of a folding knife in the daughter’s right pocket.
Donning my Kevlar helmet with the attached NVGs feels like placing a mill stone on top of my head. Even with the improved helmet suspension system and padding there is no getting around the sheer weight of the damned helmet. The last couple days without this damn thing on my head were a blessing.
Shack is in full battle rattle again. Although now I see he has picked up a black nylon shotgun shell bandolier which he wears across his chest. I note with interest the shotguns shells appear to be a mixture of military double ought buck O.D. green shells and bright green Remington #4 buckshot loads.
Shack carries a black exceedingly short pistol gripped shotgun with a folding vertical, foregrip I recognize the weapon immediately as a Serbu Super-Shorty 12 gauge made on a Mossberg 500 receiver. Great, Shack has gone Mad Max on me. Shack is pumped about the weapon which apparently belonged to one of the Rogues.
I wonder if he has shot the stubby shotgun yet as recoil with the three-inch shells is vicious. Shack also has a medium-sized cardboard box filled with miscellaneous shotgun rounds collected from the compound.
Looking into the box, which Shack places at his feet in our little car, I see everything from ancient red paper two and half-inch fowling loads to some dubious-looking obvious home loads. There are also several of the old novelty two and three-quarter inch 12 gauge shells in the box most likely made before such shells were outlawed.
I believe the flechette rounds will have little effect on zombies out of the stubby barrel. The so-called Dragon’s Breath, buck and ball, bolo (whatever the hell that is), and Rhodesian jungle loads might prove effective against zombies.
The paper 12 gauge cartridges despite their age are in excellent shape. I wonder if some of the old paper cartridges might contain black powder. Most of the paper cartridges are either number four or number one shot, usually used for fowling. Might be zombie lethal close range, but not at a distance.
Sam (or someone) found an old Dragon Skin SOV-3000 vest that is close enough to my size when pulled over my plaid long sleeve shirt. The old vest is way over its six-year life expectancy, but something other than shirt and jacket fabric between me and getting noshed by a zombie is welcome protection.
Shack and I spent a few minutes adjusting my Dragon Skin vest and then my LBV to go over the whole damn mess. I feel funny in the vest, but it is lighter than the Interceptors the Army guys are wearing. I also appreciate the fact that the Dragon Skin lacks hard, rigid plates so it is more flexible than the Interceptors with the SAPI plates installed.
My vest’s color is the old US Marine Corps MARPAT which clashes a little with my woodland green camo LBV and, if I can get it on over the vest, my faded O.D. green Army coat. By the time Shack and I get my kit sorted out, it was nearly time to roll. I kiss Shack lightly on the cheek, which causes him to blush, and we climb into our little car.
As Shack walks around the little Smart to the front passenger seat, I notice that this poor car has suffered in my care badly. Not quite the kind of car, in hindsight, I should have grabbed in a zombie apocalypse, but I was thinking small, light and wondrous fuel economy.
At the order to start all engines, I think of weekends and Amy who was a colossal NASCAR fan. I hope somewhere out there Amy and her firehouse mates are Ok. I know that the probability of survival is fairly abysmal for first responders in a zombie apocalypse, but I have hope that somehow Amy survived.
I follow the VW station wagon in front of me, driving through the ruins of the southern fence and down a short street. I do not have time to watch my GPS so I have no clue where we are. Once on some long street going south the convoy increases to max speed with a sense of urgency to put distance between the convoy and the TBIP.
Screeching around a corner the tires on the HEMMTs and Strykers smoking and chattering, we barrel down an abandoned street. Suddenly we come to a screeching, tire hopping smoking stop to fuel Scouts low on fuel. While refueling, other Scouts freshly refueled tear off on their motorcycles.
After the unexpected fueling stop, we get going again. Barreling south as fast as Rick can push the snow plow, we suddenly hear a tremendous explosion behind us. Panicked looking in my rearview mirror, I swerve a bit.
“Ruth, it is Ok, that was the explosives on the gates and buildings.” Shack says calming my fears of imminent flaming death.
No sooner than the words are out of his mouth, an incredible cacophony erupts behind us. In the fading light, we can see numerous cannon muzzle flashes. After the initial barrage, the firing breaks down into sporadic bursts.
“Get those suckers,” I hear Shack say next to me.
Suddenly cutting right, through what used to be the parking lot of the Bothell Public Works Department we take a tire screeching short cut around the Bothell public library. I hear the mechanics on the radio say something with much profanity about being careful not to shear tires off the Strykers and HEMMTs.
“Scouts already cleaned it out,” Shack tells me as we rip past the library. “Got a whole bunch of good reference books outta there. Seems that no one took many of the books on useful plants, medicine, and other stuff to help us survive. Mostly seemed only thing people wanted a book for was to use it for fire starter.”
Roaring past a flame gutted Papa John’s Pizza and a Big Foot Java that looks unscathed, we carom back and forth like billiard balls back towards the 522 freeway. As we get closer to the freeway the number of abandoned cars increases, and our progress slows considerably.
Looking behind us with his head out the door, Shack wishes for some junk food. “Man, I could eat a whole pizza. I’d love me some fresh hot pizza pie. Hey, I know your thing is tea, but that java shack back there, the scouts said was full of all kinds of coffee stuff. We got some coffee junkies so they grabbed it.”
It is fully dark now, with the barest hint of red sky in the western sky. I do not know if the last vehicles made it back to the convoy. I do not hear anymore shooting behind us, and I know that we are still well within the kill radius of the TBIP.
Just as, I am about to yell at Shack to pull his head back in the car and close the window, his Kevlar helmet smacks into the midsection of a zombie at nearly 40 mph. The impact is brutal and quick slams Shack face first back into the window frame.
Whipping the wheel away, I grab Shack by his belt and yank his skinny ass back into the car. I realize that I am screaming at him. Blood covers his face and chest. His helmet is smeared with zombie gore in a grotesque mohawk. Thankfully Shack had his chin strap fastened, or he might have lost his helmet.
“Shack are you Ok! Talk to me Shack! Meshach (Fuck! I realize I do not know if he has any middle names!) Rogers you answer right now!” I only know his last name because it is on his uniform.
Grabbing my radio in a panic, I am about to yell for help when Shack comes to.
“Ah, fuck I thnnk I boke my nose.” Shack says while gingerly touching his nose. I see that he has a long, nasty gash over his right eye running from his right temple to just past his nose. Shack’s nose does indeed look broken, and I can see the marks of his teeth in his lower lip.
His face dripping with rivulets of blood, Shack angrily wipes at his face with his sleeve. Shack blows his nose noisily, but nothing comes out. “Ow! Fuck that hurts” he says when he touches the sides of his nose.
“Ugh, I got zombie shit all over me! Ah, fuck I lost my NVGs, the colonel’s gonna put me on shit house detail for weeks. I’d be doing push-ups ‘till the cows came home, but we can’t waste the calories. Only reason I know that is because poor Tommy got an ass reaming from the Old Man too like I’m gonna get.”
I push the talk button on my radio now that Shack is awake and although babbling seems to be alright. I am worried about concussion from the impact. With the zombie crap all over Shack, I am also worried about Shack’s cuts getting contaminated with the zombie gore.
“Doc Jamal can you hear me, this is Ruth,” I ask over the radio. Almost immediately the reply comes. “Ruth, this is Jamal go ahead.”
“Shack head butted a zombie at 40 with his helmet. He has a nasty laceration to his face and lower lip, possibly a broken nose.” I do not think that Shack’s injuries are pressing, but I want to make sure. “Shack has zombie shit all over his helmet, face and shoulders. I am worried about him getting KCAP.”
Tearing through a Bothell park and ride, we cut at an angle across Kaysner Way (we almost hit the sign post) slamming into a green belt. Ripping through the green belt, we explode out of the greenery onto a street which is remarkably, mostly clear of cars.
After a few minutes of silence as we tear down the street, Jamal finally answers my radio call. “Shack’s injuries do not sound life threatening at this time. His chance of contacting KCAP though his cuts is extremely slight. The KCAP virus is an obligate anaerobe; it dies in the presence of oxygen, which is one of the reasons why a shot to brain kills zombies. Strip the cover off of his helmet and double bag the cover and the soiled uniform. When we stop for the midnight break, I will look at Shack.”
Shack shrugs and we do as Doc Jamal suggested. No help for it now, we will have to wait a while until we stop. Through the first part of the evening and night, it is a fairly routine. Shack strips off his splattered uniform blouse, cramming it in the plastic shopping bags containing his helmet cover. He still cannot see very well out of his right eye which is starting to swell.
We manage to tie a small military first aid bandage over the wound without me wrecking the car. The bandage quickly soaks with blood, but it slows the bleeding enough that Shack can see out of his right eye a little.
Watching Shack maneuver his six-foot frame around in the passenger seat as he slips out of his Interceptor vest and blouse is an amusing sight. Shack still has not reached his full growth and is in that awkward stage between man and boy.
Shack is starting to develop a deep, broad chest and thick heavily muscled arms, but right now he still has slim, boyish hips. He reminds me a little of the cartoon character Foghorn Leghorn, but I will never tell Shack that.
Finally, at nearly midnight we reach the University of Washington, Bothell campus. Mike goes off on a tear looking for his Stryker, which appears to have magically disappeared. There is a woodland green camouflage tarp that is large enough to cover a Stryker lying in the spot which he said the Stryker was parked.
While Mike is on his tear looking for his ghost Stryker, Shack gets checked out by Doc Jamal. Other than a possibly fractured nose and possibly a torn muscle in his neck, Shack is fine. His lower lip though painful, swollen and nasty looking is superficially cut by Shack’s teeth. Doc uses 24 small sutures to close the cut over Shack’s right eye which was nearly to the bone.
Covering the sutures over Shack’s eye with an O.D. green adhesive wound dressing, and some surgical tape, Doc explains that someone infected with KCAP will start to display dark, heavy veins running from the source of infection towards the heart. Since Shack shows none of those symptoms, he is fine.
Shack goes off to get a new pair of NVGs after a good dressing down by Sam. There are a finite number of working NVGs in the company; we cannot afford to lose them head butting zombies. The stupid felons running the FEMA camp we are about to incinerate traded away all of their NVGs.
A sheepish Shack rejoins me in our little car. He has changed into his spare uniform blouse and although his Interceptor vest still has dark stains of zombie shit on it, he lacks a spare vest to change into. We spend some time adjusting his new set of NVGs.
Jamal hooked Shack up with some support bandages for his nose and some pain pills that Shack calls Ranger candy. He is starting to develop two intensely dark black eyes. Some of the soldiers tease Shack that he looks a raccoon.
During the latrine break, I overheard several soldiers mentioning that we are running critically low on TP. Seems one thing everyone hoarded the most is TP. Rumor has it that we are going to have to start using rags, bagging them and boiling the rags to clean them. Ugh! The thought of boiling soiled rags is nauseating. God imagine the smell.
We never did find Mike’s Stryker – someone absconded with it. Getting back on the road, I heard through the soldier rumor mill that all vehicles and personnel are accounted for. Sam intends to set off the TBIP just before sunrise.
Shooting north ripping through the college campus we jump onto Beardslee taking it north to I-405. The amount of abandoned cars increased significantly once we got near the major highway. Unfortunately, this means our progress slowed considerably.
The highway overpass was impassible so we ended up going through the dirt along the side of the overpass and cutting horizontally across the I-405 freeway. Ironically because we cut through the traffic from the side it was much easier to shove cars out-of-the-way.
Crossing I-405 rather quickly we jump the berm and climb back onto the roadway. Tearing through the shrubbery and other foliage was not seemly for my little Smart car. My car starts making unhappy noises in third gear. I inform Mal behind me, but there is nothing to do for now but push on.
The colonels are unhappy because we wasted too much time looking for Mike’s missing Stryker. Zooming south along 120th Ave NE, the Scouts inform us of another FEMA camp and mass grave to the west of us in two large sporting fields.
The Scouts report that the FEMA camp looks deserted except for lots of zombies standing around. The mass grave is open, and there are a lot of unburied bodies lying around it. Neither site sounds worth investigating to the colonels, so we press on.
Once on the highway again on the wrong side of the road, we progress at a decent pace. My little car has started to develop a shudder now, and I occasionally get a couple of flashes of the check engine light. I have to hold the stick in third gear now otherwise the transmission pops out of gear. I have yet to be able to put the car into either fifth or sixth gear.
My right arm gets tired pressing the stick holding it in gear so Shack and I switch off holding the tranny in gear. This goes on as we tear through the outskirts of Woodinville. Finally, Shack gets tired of holding the damn car in gear too and unravels a paracord bracelet he wore on his right wrist.
Using some of the black and O.D. green paracord, Shack fashions a loop tied to a cup holder that I can slip over the stick holding it in third gear. This is a marked improvement and much appreciated. Shack has been dozing on and off through the night. His face looks ghastly in the green light of his NVGs.
Towards morning we finally reach the intersection with highway nine. Pulling off to the side of the road to the east of highway nine and SR-522, the convoy pulls into a large, thickly wooded area. My little car is not liking the off-road travel and lets me know by flashing the check engine light at me repeatedly. I also keep getting another red flashing light that says “trans” which I assume means the car realizes something is wrong with the transmission.
While the convoy arranges our vehicles in the established pattern for the day, the Scouts are off zipping around like maniacs doing their thing. I am seriously flagging and am having a hard time keeping my eyes open. I notice that the mechanics, Quad 50 and 20mm cannon are brought into the center of the ring along with the taco truck, and the snow plow pulling the Princess’ laundry trailer.
Once the canvas tents are erected, and the day crew prepares to take over as the night crew collapses. Sam sets off the TBIP. Even here, several miles away, the heat and the flame can been seen and felt. The concussion force was enough to ripple the canvas tents.
The titanic billowing fireball is followed by an incredible amount of smoke. Within seconds, wispy gray ash falls on our position. The smoke from numerous fires can be seen in the distance. Secondary explosions ripple around the area. As the sun rises, beams of light pierce the smoke with bright spears.
Collapsing into my bedroll, Mal and the mechanics want to take a look at my little car so I have to move my bedroll, causing me to grumble. I finally shack up with Carol and Nikola like the first night I was with the convoy. As Carol and I lay beside each other, she tells me that Nicky will have an intelligence brief ready for me in the evening when I wake up.
Nikola, I cannot call him Nicky, is busily erecting the portable 180 foot tall radio tower aided by several soldiers. While we sleep Nikola is going to catch up on the other unit’s progress. Nikola is also in S2, but so far our whole squad consists of Nikola, Shack, Carol and I.
Not much of an intelligence department if you ask me. Well we are still getting organized, maybe things will change. I will see how this intelligence briefing goes in the evening, for now I just want to sleep.
As I am drifting off to sleep, Carol already sleeping deeply beside me, I hear whispering soldiers mention that the Scouts found a cannibal enclave in a large Costco not too far south of our position.
From the soldier’s not particularly quiet conversation, it sounds like the cannibals were busy butchering some fresh meat when the Scouts roared by on their bikes. Some shots were exchanged, and a motorcycle was lost when its gas tank was punctured.
The unlucky Scout who lost his ride managed to dump the bike and double with another Scout back to the convoy. As I finally fall asleep, I have this sneaky suspicion that we are going to be attacking cannibals soon.