Authors: John Holmes,Alexandra Grey
It never fails.
Specialist Redshirt felt the rumbling in his guts, about ten minutes after he had eaten his
lunch MRE. Could be the water, could be the food itself. Good water and unspoiled food were getting hard to come by, almost three years after the Zombie Apocalypse had pretty much trounced Western Civilization.
The rest of the team sat finishing their meal. Doc and
Ziv picked idly at their MREs, the summer heat making it hard to eat. Red was standing watch, along with Ahmed, but he had to go. He motioned to Sergeant Toshi, who was stretching her legs.
Sarge, I gotta hit the treeline. Take over for me.”
She grunted and climbed to her feet,
tossing her rucksack onto her back and shouldering her rifle. Beside her, the big Swedish guy, Svenson, levered himself up off the ground. No one went anywhere alone.
They were taking a break in small clearing, just off the remains of Route 9, north
of Ticonderoga. To the east, Lake Champlain stretched out, a broad sheet of water reflecting the summer sun. Their canoes lay drawn up on the shore where they had stopped at sunrise. The team was heading north to see what remained of the Air National Guard unit at Burlington Airport, and then to check the locks at the end of the lake where the Richelieu River wound its way down to the Saint Lawrence. They had stopped for the day just north of Port Henry on the New York side of the river.
“Oh crap” muttered Red under his breath, and he dashed for the trees, setting his rifle down, dropping his pants, and barely making it before his guts exploded. Coming up behind him, he heard
Svenson starting to laugh.
“That’s what you get for picking a number eleven
MRE, Red!” he started laughing again, but it was cut off with a choking sound. Red saw the feathers of an arrow sprout from the big man’s neck, just above his body armor. He fell to the ground, grabbing at the arrow, a stunned look on his face, then spilled forward, choking.
Red scrambled to pull up his pants, yelling “AMBUSH” at the top of his lungs, and dove for his
rifle. He grabbed it just as burst of shots dug into the ground where he had been squatting. Recovering his footing he ran as hard as he could through the woods, away from the gunfire that had erupted between him and the rest of the team. He dove over a fallen tree, and then started to scramble around to the right, trying to get back in the clearing where the team was.
After a few minutes, he could see through the trees.
Two dozen figures in a haphazard collection of camouflage and carrying an assortment of weapons, everything from M-4’s to shotguns, had rushed the area, and a squad of them was moving towards where Svenson lay. He noted that they moved in covering fire teams, cautiously advancing.
Toshi lay out in the open, an arrow sticking out of her face, her feet drumming on the ground. Ziv was in the middle of a brawl, swinging his big combat knife. As Red watched, someone hit him on the back of the head with the butt of a rifle, and he fell to the ground. Ahmed was nowhere to be seen, and one man stood with a pistol to Doc’s head. Even as he watched, Doc let out a yell.
Specialist Eugene Redshirt, Irregular Scout Team One, United States Army, ran. Before he did, though, he fired a long burst from his suppressed carbine at the squad moving towards Svenson’s body. He saw one fall before he turned and ran deeper into the woods, deeper into the mountains surrounding the lake. Deeper into Zombie Territory.
As he ran, he heard gunfire behind him, and then a red hot poker zipped through his leg, and he stumbled and fell heavily on his face. His rifle flew out of his hands as he tried to stop his fall. Behind him he heard yelling as the ambushers started off in pursuit.
Redshirt got up again, holding onto his thigh, squeezing it tight to try and stop the blood flow. It hurt, but it felt numb
more than anything else. He limped deeper into the forest.
The sounds of pursuit died off, and then he heard one voice calling to him.
“Hey, you’re gonna die out there, and I ain’t wastin’ none of my men comin’ to get you. I knows yer wounded, and unarmed. I hope you got enough sense to kill yourself before you get eaten!”
He risked a look back and saw the squad heading back to the ambush site.
One of them held his rifle in his hands. Damn. His pack, all his extra ammo, food, everything was back at the site, as well as the rest of his team.
First things first, his leg.
The smell of blood and the sound of gunshots would draw any zombies, even though they had stopped at a deserted stretch of shoreline. He ripped open the leg of his pants and looked at the wound. A shot had creased the muscle, tearing out a bunch of skin and flesh. It hurt like hell but he wasn’t going to bleed to death. He pulled out a field dressing and wrapped it around his leg.
Redshirt started crawling back to the campsite, but flanked around to the left, where he could get a good view. A big motor boat had pulled up the shore, and the team was being hustled onto the boat. He counted more than twenty of the
reavers. They had stripped Sergeant Toshi’s body, but it didn’t seem like they were going to eat her. Not cannibals, then. As he watched, one put his boot on her head and pulled out the arrow. Doc was already on the boat. Ziv must have been unconscious, because they threw him into the bow like a sack of potatoes. The boat backed out of the shore after about half of the Reavers had climbed aboard, then headed north up the lake. The rest melted into the woods, moving as a disciplined squad.
He climbed slowly onto a high rock, and waited. One hour.
Two. Three. The whole morning passed before he saw the stay behind ambush. Three of them walked out of the trees, and used an axe to smash holes in the canoes drawn up on shore. Then they walked back into woods, following a trail that ran northwards along the shoreline.
His leg was starting to hurt, and he was hungry. The nearest safety he knew of was a hundred miles south, through wrecked civilization and hordes of zombies. Redshirt checked over his inventory. A silenced .22 automatic, 450 rounds of .22 Magnum ammo
in his Load Bearing Vest, and his survival kit strapped around his waist. It contained a hammock, 50 feet of line, lighter, some spare food, Poncho, extra five shot .22 revolver, 20 rounds of ammo, signal mirror, water purification tablets, and a multi-tool.
He slid slowly down the rock, pistol in hand, favoring his wounded leg, and made his way to the campsite, carefully skirting the perimeter, trying to make sure no one else was around.
Finding no one, he made his way in, careful to avoid the naked body of Sergeant Toshi. There was nothing left on the ground except some expended brass and some MRE wrappers. He quickly ripped them completely open and licked off whatever food was remaining inside.
Knew you were somewhere out there!” He heard the safety flicking off a weapon and raised his hands, then slowly turned around. In front of him stood a figure camouflaged in a set of old Army BDUs, wearing body armor and holding a pump shotgun pointed at him from about fifteen feet away.
“Drop the weapon and start walking” The
reaver motioned with the shotgun barrel. “Captain is going to be happ—“ As he started to swing the barrel back towards him, Red dropped his hands and dove to one side, firing his pistol as fast as he could. The shotgun boomed and his left arm stung, but he kept firing until the slide locked back. He stood up and walked over to the man lying on the ground, grabbing at his face and screaming. As Red watched, the man coughed blood out of his mouth, then shuddered and went still. Red kicked the shotgun aside, and started stripping the body of everything useable. Then he picked up the shotgun, ejecting the spent shell.
e looked the corpse over one last time. “You white people … you talk too much.”
The tractor caught on another rock, heaved up by the winter frosts. I jumped down, careful to land on my good leg, and stumped over to it. The prosthetic on my right leg, a blade of carbon fiber, was good, but the stump was still raw and painful sometimes and I didn’t want to irritate it.
oe had already brought the four-wheeler up, and I helped him lift the rock into the small trailer. It joined the others that would be dumped at the edge of the field, helping fix the rock wall built by farmers around 200 years ago. We were raising it high enough that a random zombie couldn’t tumble into the field. Three years later they were still thick on the ground in the ruins of the towns up and down this stretch of the Hudson River, despite our “clearing” trips we went on once a week. The field I was working was east of our little island fortress, and I was desperate to get some honest-to-God corn and wheat growing. Brit was doing pretty well with the garden.
“OK, Joe, let’s call it quits for the day.” He grunted in agreement, and waited until I had
secured my rifle on the ATV and hopped on. He twisted the throttle, and we headed back to the bridge. Joe was an extra hand who I had hired, a guy who had had enough of the FEMA camp in Albany. Didn’t say much, worked hard, and lived in a room in the old farmhouse. He was saving his New Dollars pay so that he could homestead somewhere properly, with a new wife. Hopefully somewhere close by. He was a good man to have around.
We pulled up to the gate on the bridge, and I got down
to open the heavy barrier. As I did, out of habit, I looked over to the canal, just checking to see what might have washed down river. Zombies occasionally, starting to rot once the water immersion killed the parasite. More often live ones who had just fallen in, and were still snapping and trying to climb out. Those I shot once in the head.
This time, I stopped and looked hard. Drawn up on shore, next to the ruins of our old house, was a canoe. Someone was onshore. I tapped Joe on the shoulder, and he jumped down next to me, readying his old lever action Winchester. I called quietly to Brit over the radio, keying the mike in a two tap alarm. Back at the house, her Motorola would beep twice, giving
her the “come quick, be armed” signal. Not that Brit went anywhere unarmed anyway.
I sent Joe off to the left, to flank anyone who might be moving up the left side of the small island. I moved
downshore, toward the canoe, first tightening the straps that held my leg in place. I approached steadily, looking over the site of my M-4, ready to fire a quick burst. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Joe come around the side of the old house foundation, and he gave me a quick “all clear” sign. We moved together towards the canoe.
On the other side of it
lay a figure, clad in the rags of an Army Multicam uniform. Rough bandages were around his leg and his arm, and he lay sprawled face down in the mud. I dropped my rifle in its sling and ran to him, rolling him over.
Specialist Redshirt was dirty, bloody, and chewed to hell. His ammunition pouches were empty, and his .22 pistol lay on the ground next to him, slide locked back. I checked his pulse and breathing. He was alive, but felt hot to the touch.
“Brit, this is Nick. Red is here, I found him next to a canoe on the old island. He’s wounded.” I checked his forehead; it was burning hot to the touch.
“Do you need me there?”
“Negative, we’ll bring him in on the 4 wheeler. He’s got a bad fever, looks like multiple gunshot wounds, infected bites. Get the Medkit out, antibiotics, IV, everything.”
’s eyes opened a little.
“Red, it’s me. It’s Nick. You’re safe.”
He whispered, and I had to lean forward to catch it. “Doc, Ziv, Ahmed, team captured.”
“It’s OK, B
rother, we got you. We’ll take care of it. Just hang on.” He squeezed my hand, then fell limp in my arms. I lifted him onto the trailer, and we started back. I left Joe to close the gate.
I sat looking at a map of Lake Champlain, lit by the kerosene lantern hanging in the kitchen. Brit sat across from me, cleaning her rifle. Joe was out in the tower, pulling first watch, keeping an eye open for any zombies or raiders that might be approaching under cover of the darkness. On the kitchen counter, a SINCGARS radio was tuned to the Fire Support Net at Firebase Horse, just outside Saratoga. Through long practice, I had learned to keep half an ear out for our call sign. It had been quite a while since anyone had called “Lost Boys” on the radio. I was out of the scouting business, for good, I had thought.
consisting of him, Master Sergeant “Doc” Hamilton, Sergeant Toshi, and couple of civilian scouts, including our old friends Ziv and Ahmed, had stopped by the farm last week on their way north. Doc had filled me in on what was happening, Army-wise. We had a satellite dish that fed us the news through the internet, and I had kept in regular touch with them on Facebook, while I recuperated from getting my foot pretty much hacked off.
,” said Doc, after he had checked on my stump, “Task Force Liberty has been held up just south of Poughkeepsie, pretty much at the I-84 line. I think they’re run out of fuel and manpower, and are consolidating. The radiation from Indian Point has pretty much held off operating on the east side of the river, anyway. They took a LOT of casualties in Newburgh and Pough-town. The Marines cleared Staten Island, are turning it into a giant Jarhead/Squid base. “
Apparently the consolidation had freed up the team to go north and check out the canal links to Montreal. They had only stayed one night, pulling out in their canoes the next night under cover of darkness. Almost the same mission we had last year, except further north.
As I looked over the map, I reached down and idly scratched between Rocket’s ears. He got up, stuck his head out the small flap cut in the door, smelled the wind for zombies, then came back to sit on my foot. Brit finished assembling her rifle, snapping it shut and then doing a functions check. Then she pulled out her pistol and started breaking that down. I could tell something was bothering her, so I asked.
“Are you sure you’re up for this?
” she said. “Red mentioned Port Henry when he woke up before. That’s a lot of travel on that leg.”
First off, we’re not going anywhere until Red is up for it. Give him four or five days, I think he’ll be back on his feet. The kid is tough.” She nodded in agreement, but I could see her starting to object again. I held up my hand.
“Brit, I’m not
an action adventure hero. My leg is gone, and my stump hurts like a bitch sometimes. We live forty miles from the nearest medical care, and I know an infection can be the death of me. I’m not friggin’ Superman.”
’re Superman in bed.” She placed her hands over her face and made an “OM NOM NOM” sound.
I laughed. “You’re still a pig, H
“There is a reason I won’t let you keep sheep here on the fa
rm, Nick. I don’t want you to stray.”
I threw an oily gun rag at her.
“Seriously, though, I’m going to call in a favor. If we walked or canoed it, it would take us a week to get up there. We need that time for Red to recuperate. I’m going to call FOB Orange, and see if we can get a ride.” Last I knew, Major McHale was still commanding the Aeromedical UH-60 company at the Forward Operating Base. Hopefully he could give us a ride.
“That and we need
intel. Someone in the S-2 might be able to give us some information on groups operating out of the Lake Champlain area. I know that they’ve picked up radio traffic and done overflights. It doesn’t do us any good to go in blind. Plus, we need to know if there are any zombie hordes moving around there.”
She got up and came around to give me a kiss on the forehead.
“Only because it’s our friends.”
I wanted out of the game as much as she did.