Monday, February 13, 2017

Dark Winter: Chapter 23


Animal Mutha here, on the DL and on the move.  

I am telling you, my bastard children, Washington is now the Forbidden Fucking City.  There is no sense of reality emanating from that collection of Mandarins, court eunuchs, and assclowns. There is a major shoot out about to go down on the Michigan State University campus between two branches of (what used to be) the United States armed forces.  Washington ordered it and there is no doubt in my fucking mind they aren’t even sure why they did it. But since they ordered it, it has got to be done.

Some good Jarheads are about to get murdered, people. Their own side is gonna do it and their own government commanded it.

The Marines who protected the folks in Spartan Stadium during the Zombie Attack are heroes and today’s left hates American heroes. You can only be an officially approved hero today if you are like Matress Girl, the White Black man from Black Lives Matter or that sad ass dick-girl that used to be an Olympic athlete.  But Real-Time, put it all on the line to save somebody else's ass and maybe get your own blown off in the process...that kind of hero?  They hate those.

So Colonel John Castillo, who lost sixty percent of his blood supply fighting in the streets of Fallujah, and Sergeant Major Richard Cahn, who won the Medal of Honor during OIF, are going to put to death today so some spoiled little shits from New York City can feel good about themselves.

Remember how much you hated the last two Superman movies, kids?  There’s a reason for that.

This broadcast is brought to you by your good friends at Reynold’s Reloads.  “When you need  reliable ammo, that’s good as factory packed but a quarter as cheap.  Think Reynold’s.”  Just ask around, they ain’t in the book.

I cannot believe I have a fucking sponsor, now.

--Right on the Left Coast -- pirate broadcast.  

Switchyards, Lansing Michigan

She was a steampunk dream of a locomotive engine.  An art deco beauty of a smoker.  A relic from a time when America wasn’t ashamed of being the greatest nation in the world.  She looked like submarine on rails with a cyclops eye blasting light out of the center of her beautifully rounded cowl.  Her upper half was painted jet black and her lower half a dull red like the fires of hell.  In her day she had been the fastest thing on Earth and at seventy years old she could still hold her own.

At the moment, pretty much all diesel train engines had either been sequestered for government use or were just plain impounded so they couldn’t use any precious fuel.  But Lauren was one of the very few museum piece coal engines left in the country.  She had been condemned for being a coal burner and had been sentenced to death of a thousand cuts. Which had brought fountains of tears in certain quarters.  She had been prepped for one last run last weekend up to Traverse City and back, and then she was to be sent off to the wrecking yard.

But suddenly she had been given one last service to perform for her country.

Clancy McGrath was grinning like a madman.  Sixty seven years old and he felt like he was eighteen again..  Why the hell had he retired?  Because they forced him to, but it wasn’t like he needed to quit.  He was still spry as hell and ready to roll.  

On the rails with crazy ass Marines, again.  

John’s friend had style he could say that much for the man.

A wanted man, beaten to pulp and on the run from the Lawdogs and he had time to pick up two -  Count’em, two - beautiful women.

One a hot MILF belle from down south. The other a cool Russian ice statue with plenty of fire under the ice.  You could tell that by the way she was barking orders into her phone.  

Clancy was not the sort to question questionable fun.  Never had been  Rescuing his sweet beloved and wrongly condemned Lauren just after evening chow easily certainly counted as both.

The tracks were now beating a familiar rhythm under his feet just as they had all for pretty much all his life.  He had fallen into the business when it was assigned as his MOS during the Vietnam years and he has been in love with the rails ever since.  To think he got drafted into his dream job.

“We’ll be at MSU in about twenty minutes. What are you doing for the rest of the train?” Clancy asked.  He turned down the tune playing on his iPod.  The cabin of the locomotive engine had been thundering out

“Aint no rest for the wicked
Money don’t grow on trees
I got bills to pay
I got mouth to feed
And ain’t nothin in the world for free”

“It’s covered, Marine.  We’re all over it.” Cahn took a moment off from shoveling coal into Lauren’s heart to smile at him.

Clancy’s big new friend had a nice smile.  As big and mean as a crocodile’s.

MSU Veterinary Hospital

The overloaded forklift went from a hydraulic growl to a groan as it’s crushing burden was lifted off the ground. MSU’s gigantic poultry incubator had been built in the 1930s.  Back when “built to last” meant outlasting the pyramids of Giza.  Which also meant it was about as heavy.

“Watch it!” Doctor Mattingly, DVM, bellowed at the  Marine operating it. “There isn’t a replacement this side of the twentieth century for that thing.”  They were going to need the elegant old girl.  It was going to be the hardest winter any of these young snots had ever known.  Food was going to get scarce, fast. At best they were going to be on fifteen hundred calories a day, during winter.  These boys were used to eating twice that much.  Those chick brooders were going to be the difference between life and death.

MSU Library

“Forget about that stuff, Stacia,” Jessika called out.

“We’re going to need textbooks,”  Stacia yelled back from her end of the library.  Her team of looters was sweeping the shelves, in taxonomy.

“I think we got a lot of that stuff on the server,” Jessika said.

“Think? Or know?  There is no going back for seconds on this stuff.”

“Aux just called, before you ask, yes, she’s fine.  She wants us to hit Special Collections hard.  Old manuals, the Foxfire stuff.  Woodworking, metallurgy, hobby books.  Knitting and crocheting.  Also patterns.  Lots and lots of patterns.  We won’t be able to do much in the way of printing on paper.”

“All the more reason to grab texts.  Have Carrie’s team do that.  My guys are busy,” Stacia said.

“Carrie’s looting the Fashion Design classroom.”

“For fucking what?” Stacia was exasperated.

“Sewing machines.”

“Oh,” Stacia granted and was silent for a moment, “I guess the Sears Wishbook won’t be out in time for Christmas this year.”

“The What-book?” Jessika whirred in Millennial  confusion.  This was her bedtime and she wasn’t going to get any sleep tonight.


///NeedLOCATIN
Andrea was scared.  Really for the first time in her life, scared.  Every other time she had said how much she was scared, she really meant she was just very, very worried.  Usually about some minor figure on the right wing complaining about Gay Marriage.  With the help of her friends on Facebook and Twitter she could reliably work herself up into a public display of outright panic over something like that.  But she could instantly turn that off by playing Candy Crush.

This was different.  This was heart pounding, dry mouth scared.

Apple was off her nut.  She had tried calling the Campus Police when that Nazi had attacked her, but there wasn’t a Campus Police anymore.  Apple had then called the Lansing Police Department and they had transferred her straight to the Marine Security Detachment. The Nazis were the only law on Campus and now they were looting the campus.  

Apple had thrown herself on the floor and screamed at the top of her lungs for five minutes.  Drumming her heels as if they were mallets and pounding her fists on the floor until they started to bleed.

After she had finally run out of steam.  She looked at Andrea and croaked, “Someone has to do something.  We have to tell somebody.”

Now they were skulking around campus dressed in black like they were freaking ninja’s, uploading videos.  They couldn’t get too near Maia hall or the Animal Sciences Lab where the Marines were taking most of the stuff they were stealing.  That was too dangerous, they were trying to stay in the shadows and shoot at a distance.  She looked at the loot of the university that was being swept away.  The books, the lab equipment, the computers.  The...was that Sparty? Were they taking that ginormous statue with them?  Oh my God they were.

It was all being stolen from them.

All of it was vanishing.

They had built a safe space on this campus for other people like them.  No one could hurt their feelings here because no one was allowed to.  It felt like what they had been doing was so important.  They were going to remake the whole country in this campus’s image one day. They were going to bring what they had made here to the rest of the world.  There wouldn’t be any more global warming. The tides would recede. There would be no guns anywhere.  Every culture in the world would respect every other culture and embrace every individual.

They were so strong together.  

So strong.

And now they were cold and scared and lights weren’t staying on anymore and there was only crap food to eat.  It was all canned and none of it was Certified Organic.  There were people with guns everywhere and none of them were cops.  

Why did anyone have guns?  She had never known anyone in her life that had guns, except for Grampa Martins.  Thinking of that left her feeling even more scared.  She had actually called him up and asked if she could come to his place in Leelanau.  He said she could but he had also said....she fought back the tears thinking about it...he said she couldn’t bring Apple with her.

“Okay,” Lille said, “I think that’s enough footage from the Library.  We aren’t going to be able to get near the lab.  They got snipers covering the whole area with a firing field.”

Military jargon never sounded quite right coming from Lille.

“Fine,” said Apple.  “I was saving the best for last anyway.  Come on,” she beckoned.

“Where are we going?” Andrea whined.

“Just shut up.  All right,” Apple barked.  “We are going to where we can really fuck those pieces of shit!”

They had finally reached their destination and Andrea had the shakes.

These trailers were being kept at the other end of campus for a reason.  They were covered in quickly spray painted biohazard symbols.  The rumors about them were horrifying.  They were called Special Research waste materials.  That almost certainly meant human bodies.  Nobody was even denying it at this point they were just refusing to talk about it.

“They can’t shut us up once we show the world what these monsters are doing,” Apple said bravely if nasally through her broken nose.

“Nazi’s gonna Nazi.” Lille said with a smirk.  “Okay camera is running, my phone is uploading.”

Apple centered herself in front of the camera and struck a sort of newsman’s pose. She was about to give an opening speech on the horrors that were about to be revealed to the world when they all heard a banging coming from inside the trailer.

“Oh! My God!”  Apple clapped her hands in delight.  

Andrea was suddenly just as elated.  She was feeling a lot of the old campus radical excitement.  This was really going to fry them.  They had screwed up. After butchering out one of their victims, they hadn’t bothered to check for a pulse and had thrown a live body into the trailer.  Or maybe they didn’t care if the body was alive or not.  Like Lille said, Nazi’s gonna nazi.  

Andrea threw the hitch lock on the trailer.  Get an interview.  Get the victim to say something about a Russian Girl.  And then she and Apple would really be able to settle some scores.

Apple gripped the edge and flung the gate open.

They all nearly vomited barely able to keep from retching because a rotting, legless  corpse with green fluid dripping off it fell out.of the trailer and hit the ground with floppy, wet smack.  Its skin was loose and peeling in places, exposing the white of bone on its skull. The smell was the concentrated sickly sweet stench of decaying flesh.  

A moment later Andrea went ahead vomited.

Apple stepped back with her hand over her mouth.  They had all  heard movement inside the trailer.  “Are you okay?”  she called.  

“How could anybody be okay in that thing?” Lille asked sarcastically.  He wasn’t going to do anything more than stand where he was.  Getting into that trailer was out. It was just out. Whoever was in there would have to rescue himself.

There was a scrabbling, scratching noise from around Apple’s feet.  She pointed the flashlight down and Andrea screamed at the top of her lungs.

The corpse had propped itself up on it hands, it’s dry empty eye sockets were locked on Apple.

It’s mouth clicked open and it coughed.  There was nothing else you could call the noise it made from it’s lungs but it was a completely wrong kind of cough.It was a near liquid belch from it’s lungs.   A fine spray of black particulate matter with droplets of greenish grey and purplish red shot out of it’s nose and mouth.  Hitting Apple right in the face.

Then it was Apple’s turn to scream. First in shock and disgust. But then she was suddenly reeling wide eyed.and clawing at her face.  Gasping frantically.  Pulling the micro droplets that were burning her face even deeper into her lungs.  She clawed at her face, rubbing the zombie’s fluids into the cut on her nose.

The corpse turned on crunching wrists in Lille’s direction. The camera hit the ground and Lile was off at a dead run screaming, “Nooooooooo!” Into the night.

Andrea lurched drunkenly forward and grabbed Apple’s hand.  

There was more shuffling and banging from the trailer.  A wave of twitching corpses washed out of trailer.  The smell was even worse now.  The mound of crawling dead started to disentangle themselves.  

Andrea was white with terror of the unearthly.  She lurched forward and grabbed Apple by the hand, jerking her along behind her while the fat girl coughed and belched.  

“Ow,” Apple cried, “Owie!  Hurts! Hurts!”  Wailing like a small hurt child that now understood that real pain wasn’t just a skinned knee.

“Come on baby please run!  Please run!”  Andrea pulled at Apple's arm silently cursing Apple’s Curvy and Proud physique.

Why did she have to make everything so difficult? Why couldn’t she have exercised just a little instead of claiming the gym was a form patriarchal oppression.

She jerked Apple along harder.

“No no nono no no nonononononononononoNOOOOOOOOOAAAARRRGGGGGGGGGGG!” Apple’s chattering staccato turned into a scream of inhuman rage. Her face changing from red to near purple with veins on her face standing out like a thick net.  Andrea felt Apple’s fingers become claws as they dug into her hand.

“Apple!” Andrea screamed one last time as Apple jerked her body back, headbutting her so savagely it broke  her jaw.  Andrea staggered in agony and utter shock.  Apple tackled her and brought her to the ground.

Apple flipped Andrea over on her back and crawled on top of her. Apple seized her hair and jerked her head back.   Andrea had one last moment of clarity as she saw Apple’s contorted face of hyper-rage, her eyes already turning deep red.  

It’s not supposed to work that fast Andrea thought to herself just as her partner in life tore her throat out with her teeth.

MSU Veterinary Hospital

“Easy boy,” Okasana purred at the skittish stallion, a beautiful Gypsy Vanner,  as she was leading him up the ramp.  “That’s my boy.  That’s my baby.”  The last thing she needed was for Ramses to lose it here, of all places.  He was only here at the vet college to have some very neat stitching done in order  to minimize scar tissue. Ramses was a show horse and he absolutely knew it.

It made him a pain in the ass.  Still, waste not, want not.  There was zero point in leaving him in his stall to die.

This train was something of godsend, so far as Aux was concerned.  Her husband (she stole a moment to smile at that) had really come through on this one.  In what planning she had been able to accomplish before his escape, she had had to tragically write off the a beautiful string of horses that some estate had recently donated to the university.  Now they were back on the menu.  

“No,” Aux suddenly called out to one of the handlers.  “We’ll be loading Ramses first then the cattle, then the mares.  I’ll have  to put him in the tiger car, he’s going to be skittish enough as it is.  I don’t need a bunch mares around him setting him off.”  Aux would have preferred to have put the horses in one of the elephant cars but the elephants were still in them.  They had had enough trouble getting tigers off loaded.  Where the hell had Dad learned how to herd tigers? Aux wondered.  They hadn’t been fed for three days. They were currently being staged at MSU Stores.  The doors would probably hold.  They should be okay until the morning.  As irresponsible as it was, they would be left to be someone else's problem.    Leaving the elephants where they were was the best choice of many evils.  It looked like they would be leaving with them, since those cars were in the middle and there was no way to decouple them.

The worrying part was that John and her husband seemed to have some worrying ideas about keeping the elephants.  They were trained elephants after all.  You don’t run into trained elephants everyday.  They even had a handler.  He had stuck around to look after his performers when the rest of the circus people had gone back down to Florida.

Boys and their toys.  At least they weren’t trying to hang on to the tigers.

Ramses snorted and whinnied loudly as she finally got him aboard the train.  She was considering drugging him.  Then she considered drugging herself.  How many days had she gone without sleep?  

She was starting to feel as out of it as Chelle was the last time she saw her. Aux suddenly wished that she hadn’t thought about the last time she had seen Chelle.


Michigan National Guard Headquarters

Chelle was slightly better for sleep then she had been doing lately.  Enough so that she now felt it was such pity Charlotte hadn’t seen her way clear to killing her.  Actually, that was Aux’s fault.  Her friend had had a clue or two by then of what was going on between her and John.  Or to be accurate, what the two of them had been trying to get going between them when the world exploded in their faces.

Kent was, unsurprisingly, setting a terrible example for everyone.  Sobbing and blubbering inconsolably about the death of the President.  The CNN anchor was crying too as she read the details of his passing.  After heroically battling SOD the President had succumbed to it’s effects and died of a stroke.

“H-he belongs to the ages now,” Jennifer Kent choked out, red faced.

Chelle briefly considered offering advice on the virtues of sleep to the...What was her title today?  She kept changing it.  Special Executive Director, now?  Since the civilian Governor of Michigan was down with SOD, and the deputy governor wasn’t leaving Grand Rapids for Lansing anytime soon.

Jennifer Kent was clearly the one in charge.  

Much like Captain Edward Smith was the one in charge of the Titanic.

Chelle decided to keep quiet.  Kent was mad enough about Shocker’s escape and losing Kerensky - not that it was her screw up.  However, Kent was used to using Greggory as a whipping boy.

I suppose, Chelle considered, things would have been neater, or perhaps cleaner, if Shocker or his...wow...sister had killed them.  

“I’ll tell John if you kill my friend.  And no, Charlotte, you can not kill me and just explain it to your brother.  He won’t accept your apology,” Aux had threatened.

Charlotte cocked her head and thoughtfully readjusted her grip on the Beretta.  She presumably knew Shocker better than anyone.

“Besides, there is your son to consider,” Aux added.

Now that Aux was armed with Chelle’s Glock 17, there was a bit of a Mexican stand off between the two of them.

“All right, Darlin,” Charlotte lilted to Aux, “We shouldn’t have a scuffle amongst family.”  She smiled with natural cruelty, “that doesn’t turn out so well in our family.  Which I am delighted to have you as a part of.  Honestly, I am.  You are quite everything I could have hoped for, for our Dickie.”

“Stop calling, me Dickie,” the deep and, frankly, terrifying voice of Shocker Cahn now rumbled in like approaching thunder.

He turned towards her.  “Hello, Chelle,” He said to her, not unkindly.  He was undoubtedly doing a cost/benefit analysis of killing her on the spot but, upside, he would be polite about it.

Chelle couldn’t keep her eyes off the M-4 carbine in his hands.  “Hi  Shocker,” she may as well keep the tone cheerful if she was about to be murdered.

Gregory whimpered in terror.  It attracted Shocker’s attention.  “Don’t piss yourself.  I’m not in the mood.“

“That side railing looks solidly mounted,” Aux suggested.

Shocker considered for a moment and then nodded.  He tossed Chelle three sets of handcuffs, one  of them covered in blood.  “Cuff yourself and Medina to that, if you would, please.”

That seemed like a pretty good deal to Chelle at the moment.
 
A few clicks later, Chelle and Gregory were shackled to that wall.

Charlotte put down her Berretta and walked over to Chelle and Medina to checked the tightness of Chelle’s cuffs.  

She clicked Chelle’s down to a tighter fit.  Vasquez internally shrugged at that, it had been worth a try.  Then Charlotte quickly frisked Gregory, relieving him of his phone and small executive pen knife.

Then it was Chelle’s turn.  Charlotte found the Glock 26 kept around her left ankle and the M&P Shield around her right.  She lifted her eyebrows and began to frisk Chelle again a bit more slowly this time.  Keeping Medina’s now open pen knife gripped in her teeth.

Charlotte stopped suddenly when she was working Chelle’s torso and dropped the knife into her hand.  “There something here. Maybe a wire.”  Charlotte said.

“Check it.”  Shocker said

Chelle started to say, “There is no wi...”

Charlotte ripped open Chelle’s shirt.  The buttons flew everywhere.  Leaving her bra encased cleavage bare.  There was obviously no wire. Suddenly knife in hand and striking like a cat she sliced open Chelle’s bra...

...precisely.  Without leaving the slightest scratch behind.  Chelle’s breasts were now naked in the cold airport air breeze.

Charlotte!” Aux snarled.

“My mistake.” Charlotte said apologetically.  “No wire,”
“If you are done, we need to get to the Lansing Mall,” Shocker said with cold finality.

“Of course,” Charlotte replied to her brother her eye’s locked on Chelle’s.  Then she pinched Chelle’s nipples bruisingly, savagely hard while brutally twisting them. And for the first time, Charlotte really dropped the mask.  For a moment Chelle got to see the real Charlotte, as rage filled and as inhuman as any zombie.  A monster even worse than her brother.  “Stay away from my husband!”

Chelle gritted out through the pain, “how did John end up with psychopath like you?”

“Knock it the fuck off Charlie!” barked Cahn. “You are on thin ice as it is.”

Charlotte released Chelle’s nipples.  “Not a psychopath, dear.”  The mask was back in place.  “A sociopath, a rather deliberate construct of our father’s.”  Charlotte turned to Cahn, “by the way there is something I need to talk to you about, Richard.”

At least I was able to get four whole hours of guilt free sleep after they left, Chelle thought to herself.  Even with Greg staring at my bare tits the whole time.

“We’ve been searching Lansing Mall for hours.  There is no sign of them,” She overheard Greg reporting to someone.

“I had said it was diversion,” Chelle called over her shoulder.

“Why didn’t they listen to you?” Said a basso profundo, slightly scratchy Voice of Doom.

Chelle turned around and was suddenly face to chest with the Kurgan.

It was the easiest way to describe him. Cold grey eyes, a shaven head and Roman nose that should have been oversized but looked right at home on this living statue of Caesar. Skin almost greyish white, and yes there was scar on his throat from ear to ear.  Someone had unsuccessfully tried to cut it.  An Army Tower of Power was on his shoulder and one star on his epaulettes, a fruit salad that did not consist of squat-to-piss ribbons was on his chest. And all of it was topped by a green beret.  

“I didn’t go the right schools,” Chelle replied truthfully.

That got a smile from the Kurgan.  “I did but it didn’t do me a lot of good.”

Then he professionally  ignored her.  “I am Brigadier General Nicolas Ciotti. I’d ask, who’s in charge here but as of this second it is me.”

MSU Spartan Square

“Captain, with all due respect, grow the hell up,”  Master Sergeant Anguiano said to Shocker’s back.  Shocker was still chafing under the burden of his new rank. Right now, John was ridiculously irreplaceable because there were no junior officers who could step up to replace him. He only had two and one of them was Poon.  There were a few high AFQT scores amongst the recruits.  And a few of the grad and undergrad students looked promising.  But they were going to have to manufacture their own junior officers, so as of now Shocker’s little hobby of being a Gentleman Ranker was over and done with.

Shocker was finishing up spray painting a rather famous Marine Corps slogan on the side of the train.  “Just finishing my tag, Top.”

Such a pity, Shocker thought.  I was rather proud of being an eighteen year Sergeant Major.  Being a Captain is something of a demotion for me.  On the other hand being a Private was more of a demotion, so I can live with that.

“Sir!”  A voice from the roof called down to him, “movement!”

Shocker was up the fire ladder and on to the roof in a heartbeat.  He scrambled up to the sniper’s hide while checking his watch. Zero four hundred.

If John was in charge of the OPFOR, I would be expecting the attack about now, Shocker thought to himself.  Fortunately Wagoner remained the dickless wonder he was born to be.  Most of the really vital stuff was loaded. The barricades were in place. At this point everyone is just picking fun things to loot.  John was talking about making an early night of it.  Discipline isn’t what it needed to be in the first place.  Some of these Recruiters had been out of the Fleet for years.

Shocker low crawled up the side of the roof beside MacKay, “where?” He asked.

“Starboard side, two o’clock, in the treeline, Sar-Sir”!

Shocker ignored that while he squinted.  He let his eyes lose focus and looked just bit to the left of where he should be focused.  Sure enough his peripheral vision did what it was designed  to and caught movement.  Lots of movement

“I know, sir,” MacKay acknowledged.  “But I’ve got nothing on the NVGs.”

That didn’t fit.  There were ways to fool night vision goggles.  An emergency Space Blanket with a poncho liner tied to it would work.  There were others.  But anybody who knew any of those tricks wouldn’t be making that much clear, obvious and detectable movement.

“Flare!” Shocker ordered.  There was a thump and then the ground in front of them was  bathed  in an eerie glowing red as the flair descended on its parachute.

The now illuminated landscape offered up a vision from Dante’s hell.  Rotting shuffling, legless bodies were dragging themselves towards them. The NVGs couldn’t pick them up because their bodies radiated no heat signature.  The dead not being notably endothermic.

Shocker fought down real terror for the first time since he was a little boy, hearing his father’s voice from his study.  He could only stay there, frozen in one spot, as he saw them crawling out of the woods.  Slowly, ponderously, shakily.  Not really meant to move at all, anymore.  Those that had four limbs were making better progress, moving only one limb at a shuffling time, never entirely losing contact with the ground, fingertips staying in constant contact with the earth that should have claimed them. They never moved with any real sense of balance.  But these corpses could clearly move, just the same. And they were shambling as fast as they could.

“Sir!”  Sir?” MacKay wanted...needed orders.  

Okay, Cahn said to himself as he tamped down the terror.  He could get that far.  What was next?  The First Rule.  Right.

First Rule, get ahold of yourself and then Second Rule your get ahold of your go-to guys.  Hell, his go-to guys were doing better than he was at the moment.

Shocker keyed the walkie talkie.  “Direwolf 3 to Direwolf 6. I have eyes on Stage IVs in the treeline at two O’Clock from my position.  Confirmed Stage IV Zombies.  I am engaging. Over.”  

A moment later his radio crackled with John’s voice, “Acknowledged. Stage IVs in the wire. Direwolf 6 out.”

Shocker unslung his own Springfield Arms M-1 Competition.  “Go for the arms.  We have to break these things down before they get anywhere near our people.  They are unbelievably contagious.”

“Shouldn’t we shoot them in the head, sir. I mean that is where the Zombies usually...”

“No, it’s a waste of a bullet,” Cahn overrode him.  “Their brains aren’t part of the equation. These things can move without any head at all.  Now, engage! Engage! OPEN FIRE!”


“Acknowledged. Stage IVs in the wire. Direwolf 6, out,” John dropped the mike.  “That’s it, Top!” Castillo ordered. “We’re done. Get the dependents and civies aboard. We are pulling out now!”

The distant dull barks of Cahn’s rifles were already thudding through the night. Then the 240’s ripped into life, bringing back waves of memories for all the Marines present.

Show Time.

Top Anguiano nodded and was off at a run, roaring “Game over Marines!  We’re calling it an’ hauling it!  Drop everything and start embarking the pax instantly! I want that shit done an hour ago!”  

John saw Clancy was off at a hobbling run for his engine with a big smile on his face, puffing out as much steam as his beloved Lauren.  Glad somebody is having fun tonight, John thought as he keyed his mike, “This is Direwolf 6. Retrograde!  Retrograde! Retrograde!”

MSU Library

“Retrograde!  Retrograde! Retrograde!” Jessika heard Colonel Castillo's voice crackle over Naisbett’s radio.

Naisbett was looking at his on radio in wide eyed horror and then he was barking at her and the rest of her team.  “Time’s up, we're leaving now.  Drop it and go.  Last one in gets eaten by the Zombies!”

Some of the girls were too startled to do anything. A couple of them clearly wanted to argue with Naisbett. They had had a long night and this was the fifth trip back to the Library.  They weren’t used to being spoken to in such a manner and they wanted to let him know it.

(*BOOM*)

The girls screamed as Naisbett’ rifle vomited a round into the ceiling.  It left their ears ringing like a cherry bomb had gone off next to them.

“I SAID FUCKING MOVE!”

The girls started to run in a panic towards the library door.

“Not. That. Way!” Naisbett nearly screamed.  “The order was, ‘Retrogade.’ Which means We are being overrun by Zombies, so we are taking the steam tunnels. Head for the basement.”  When they had first arrived Naisbett had scouted out their primary, secondary routes of exfiltration.  The tunnels were their tertiary route to out there and he hadn't scouted it out because he was certain he would get lost in them.  Now it was their first and only line of retreat.

The girls were wide eyed in terror.  In their minds, zombies were only a potential threat, never a real one.  It was like worrying about being raped and murdered on Eight Mile in Detroit.  You knew it was a possibility, which was why you never went near Eight Mile.  You avoided all of Detroit, if you were really worried about it.  Eight Mile wasn’t supposed to hunt you down.

The girls started to run for the basement.

“Can you find your way around in the steam tunnels?” Stacia asked.

“Absolutely!” Naisbett said.  Fuck no, he thought to himself.  Do I look like a gerbil?

MSU Veterinary Hospital

“Maxim, what can you tell me about these things?” John asked with his rifle at the ready.

“Not much more than I already did, Jonathan,” Maxim was in the train already, with a window open, his own rather handsome Mosin Nagant rifle resting on the ledge.   “The first place these damn things ever turned up was Komsomolskiy Island.  We didn’t have time for to do much in depth research as they were killing all of us. There wasn’t much left to autopsy after the nuke went off.”  He concluded, “I’m as much in  in the dark as you are.”

“You’ve got nothing?” John asked tiredly.

“Fire bad?”  Max shrugged.  “They avoided it, anyway.”  

There was a klaxon-like, high-pitched reverberating series of screams cutting through the night.  John jerked his head around.  These were human, that was something.  Or they had been until recently.

“Howlers!”  The night wouldn’t be complete without being attacked by more and different Zombies, now would it?”

John keyed his mike, “Marines you are weapons free.  Open fire!”.

The night erupted in a blasts.

MSU North Neighborhood

“Sir, gunfire!  That butcher Castillo is killing the Afflicted,” Major Wagoner nearly screeched at Ciotti over the radio.

Ciotti had had Wagoner on the line for nearly five minutes and already knew him well enough to demote him back to Major.

Almost no opposition to speak of and he was busy waiting until freaking daylight to attack from the North.  Then blame Castillo and/or/maybe Cahn for everything that might be considered unfortunate.  Not a bad plan if you happen to be an absolutely balless wonder, as well as a complete shitbird. This country hadn’t produced this big of an appalling fuck-up of a wartime political appointee since the Civil War, Ciotti thought to himself.

All the activity going on in front of Wagoner meant one thing.  Castillo was bugging out. And that had to stop that right fucking now.  West Michigan might be a different country in a few hours.  The Fall was starting.  Ciotti had beknown that it was coming for years.  The country he had fought and bled and murdered for was going to shatter if men like him didn’t stamp out all the brush fire rebellions that were turning into firestorms.  He had his duty.  He had his orders.  He wouldn’t have made it through SF selection if he hadn’t followed orders to the letter when he was on his own.  It was what they looked for.  It was who Ciotti was.

“When are you taking down your targets?”  Ciotti asked him.

“As soon you arrive sir,”  the twerp said brightly.

“Start.  Now.” Ciotti tamped down his fury.



“Direwolf 2 to Direwolf 6,” Mac’s voice crackled over the radio.

“Direwolf 6.  Go,” John replied.  

“Real movement sir. I think Shithead Wagoner’s attacking early.  

That’s what I get for starting to hope that I could get out this alive.  Somebody must have stepped on Wagoner’s dick big time, John thought to himself.  Or else he has just been outright relieved.  Even the Army has to be getting tired of his shit by this point. Twenty of my Marines here and they aren’t up to speed.  That’s all I’m bringing to this party.

But Wagoner is attacking from the wrong side. He was planning on a dawn raid.  And if it’s still Wagoner in command he will remain excessively cautious.

If we hold him long enough, the train will get away.  The rest of the command is at the Ponce along with the General.  Project Seldon can proceed without us.  

Alamo time.



Finally, Castillo.  You and that pet gorilla of yours are finally going to get it right up the ass. Wagoner was grateful for the Ciotti’s order.  If things went wrong now, he could now claim that he had been forced to attack in suboptimal conditions.

His men were starting their infiltration. Getting into position to make their assault.

A pity he didn’t have a few helicopters.  Or even one.  One Apache and this would have been over within minutes.  The problem was there wasn’t air power at all available in Michigan.  

Still this was going to be pretty much a cakewalk.  Zombies apparently had Castillo tied down.  M-240s were blasting into the night with short controlled bursts.  Must be a big troop.  Really big.

That wasn’t uncommon, at this point.  

A lot of Detroit had gone dark today. Flint as well. Blackouts in all of the big cities were an issue, at this point.

He had talked Jenny into temporarily pulling back to Lansing to coordinate with federal reinforcements as soon as those arrived. Those assets would be on the road in a few hours, but they wouldn’t be available for this fight. Those cities would have to look after themselves, for a short while.  There was a lot of bitching from that quarter but there was nothing on the news, so it was probably safe to ignore it.  If it wasn’t on the news everyone who mattered would assume it had to be minor.

And there was some really good news on the horizon.  President O’Hara was going to be rescinding some of the more restrictive ROEs regarding the Afflict...fuck it...The Zombies.  

Wagoner was glad he was on hand for this, but this was as far into the combat zone as he was going.  This wasn’t Detroit.  Some gangbanger with a pistol wasn’t a real worry. Any range over thirty yards and he was safe enough there.  

Marines with rifles on the other hand were a lethal threat five hundred yards out.  He knew they were armed with rifles that were accurate to a thousand yards but thankfully they weren’t that good.  Or at least most of them weren’t that good.

Shocker Cahn on the other hand, was that good and he would be looking for some serious payback.  

Well, he wasn’t a showboat like Castillo.  He didn’t have to play hero.


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