Date: August 23, 2011. Time: 1221. Location: Somewhere in the Pacific.
“Aye aye sir.”
6 hours earlier:
Date: August 23, 2011. Time: 0621. Location: Somewhere in the Pacific.
“She’s within visual range sir.”
“Bring us up and along side. Prepare to board.”
“Yes sir.” The crew of the Hammerhead Poseidon’s Trident work quickly and efficiently in the cramped confined space to make ready the team that will enter the large vessel above them.
Once the pride and joy of the Joe Naval Fleet the USS Flagg sits in the water little more then a floating refuge camp. Long ago the crew had distributed the last of the rations, immediately afterwards small scale rioting had erupted requiring the use of what little ammunition the dedicated men and women had left. Once depleted the crew found itself forced to improvise, making it near impossible to more difficult by the day to maintain any semblance of order. It wasn’t until Admiral Keel Haul ordered that those disturbing the peace be summarily disciplined that he regained control over his ship. A series of stocks were made out of the available materials on board and placed on the center of the deck, those who chose to break the rules were made examples of. The addition of the stockades made the ship feel more like a medieval castle then the flight deck of a multi-billion dollar naval vessel, yet they got the job done. Using a hastily made whip the Admiral would deliver punishment to any wrongdoers. With each lash a small piece of Keel Haul’s soul died. It only took two men being punished to reestablish relative peace onboard the ship.
It had been months since those days. While the violence had ceased the death and disease hadn’t. The bodies of civilians received a burial at sea, while the bodies of service men and women were held below deck until such time as they could receive proper burial befitting their service. Illness and starvation only added to the deplorable conditions. The decks that had once overflowed with makeshift tents humming with the sounds of survivors now held the silent faces of fewer then 100. Those that remained were little more then walking skeletons. If it wasn’t for their ability to speak one could almost mistake them for the undead.
“Sir the men are ready.”
“Breach the surface. Come around her starboard side. Paul. Cruze. You two stay here and keep the old girl running. I want eyes and ears on everything. While we’re up there if a whale shits below us I want to know.”
“Well Admiral you ready to take us aboard?”
“Yes.” Like so many survivors in this new world Admiral Keel Haul had resigned himself to fate. Gone was the loud commanding figure of a hardened Naval Veteran, that had died slowly piece by piece with each body sent to the bottom to join Davy Jones. All that remained was the hollow shell of a man trying desperately to survive. No not to survive, to not die. His small band had watched from the control room of his massive ship as the Hammerhead made landfall on the atoll. It was then that the idea he might be able to lead a small team to gather supplies was born. He hoped they could find just enough to perhaps prolong the lives and ease the suffering of a few people under his watch. He knew it was a long shot. He knew the vessel couldn’t hold enough supplies for all that looked to him. But it was something.
Since their capture the men and women of the Flagg had not been mistreated. They were given food, water, and were even allowed to clean up using the outdoor shower system that had been set up, the best part being the bar soap they were given. They had long ago run out of such a luxury. The Captain of the Hammerhead had offered nothing but respect to the Admiral and his team. For that Keel Haul was eternally grateful.
For a moment he thought perhaps things could turn around, that this mission had led them to their unlikely saviors.
The boarding of the Flagg was uneventful. The Hammerhead hadn’t tried to conceal their approach so as they entered the ships belly they were met by a handful of men and women, uniforms clinging to their emaciated frames. In their hands they held a menagerie of melee style weapons; hammers, pipes, wrenches, lengths of chain. Each wore a holstered pistol which Captain Wright knew to empty. Hanging from sagging chest rigs and belts were fixed blade knives. The site would have been amusing were it not so depressing. Admiral Keel Haul seeing his people so fragile and frail yet still attempting to be strong in the face of certain death felt the last of his heart break. “Stand down. These men are here at my request.” His voice dripped sadness.
“Sir they’re Cobra…”
“So was Munita. Those labels… They mean nothing now. These men are the first contact with the outside world we’ve had in months and may be all that stand between us and a watery grave.”
The frightened crew had neither the strength nor the will to argue. They simply sulked back towards the top deck without so much as a word.
It was no wonder that the people on board the Flagg had abandoned the lower decks, the heat and humidity were unbearable. “Captain if you’ll follow me topside.”
“She’s your boat Admiral, by all means.” He made a sweeping gesture with his hand. “Lead the way.” As the Admiral stepped forward Captain Wright turned to his men, “Stay sharp.”
Much like the boarding process the trip topside was entirely uneventful. Once on deck the full scale of the tragedy that was the USS Flagg came into view. The survivors, if you could call what they were doing surviving, were living in abject squalor. Despite having thousands of square feet on the deck they were huddled in one section, the rest home to abandoned tents and other waste and detritus. The smell hit the men of the Hammerhead first, it was somehow worse then the stale stench below deck. Even in the open air the odor was horrendous, a vile mixture of shit and piss mixed with the unwashed body odor of the living. Captain Wright swallowed back a mouthful of bile fighting to escape his throat.
Areas of the once meticulously maintained flight deck were now slick with human excrement and urine. The stink of death clung to the men’s throat with each inhalation of breathe. Each man, woman, and child on deck looked like they were little more then a half step away from death’s door. “My god.” Was all the Captain could muster. Taking it all in he turned to his men, “Mack. O’Leary. Go gather any supplies we can spare; food, water, medicine. Get Paul to go cast some nets, let’s try and get some protein in these people.”
“Yes Sir.” Without another word Mack and O’Leary set out to complete the mission assigned to them, glad to no longer have to witness the suffering on deck.
“Admiral with your permission we will distribute what we can to those most in need.”
The Admiral’s response, “Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me yet. We certainly do not have enough for everyone but we will do what we can.”
Minutes later the two EELs arrived back at Poseidon’s Trident. They related what they had seen on the ship to Sergeants Paul and Cruze. No one argued about how scare their supplies were, or even questioned how they would restock what they were giving up, hands just went to work collecting what they could. As soon as it was amassed the men rebounded the Flagg and headed straight for the deck, ignoring the creaking and banging of the large ships underbelly. What little they had filled two rucksacks and was distributed faster then it had taken them to load the packs. They went to the few children first, then the sickest adults. The recipients meek “Thanks” and tear wet eyes of the refugees made the men of Poseidon’s Trident see just how lucky they had been all this time. It took several hours but eventually Paul returned having been able to locate and net a school of small fish, no easy task from the one man submersible he had taken. Nevertheless there were enough of the little fish to put something warm in the bellies of each person on deck.
After doing all they could up top the men of Poseidon’s Trident accompanied Keel Haul below deck to check on the integrity of the large ship. “We’ve done all we could but honestly she’s seen better days. We ceased all non-essential operations, we have plenty of fuel to keep running what we’ve been using; desalinator, communications, basic engineering. We could probably get her fully operational we just don’t have the man power.” Looking at the men behind him the Admiral ends his conversation. They continue on in silence. Their footsteps echoing off the bulkheads of the narrow lower decks. As they pass a crossing hall a slight hum, vibration, and something else catches the Captain’s attention, “Wait.” Stopping abruptly his men instantly brought their weapons to the ready, aiming down empty corridors. “Did anyone else hear that?”
“Hear what sir?”
“I’m not sure Ganson. I thought I heard something.”
“I assure you Captain all you heard was the settling of this big lady. She makes quite a few…” His words are stopped by the loud banging coming from down the hall.
“Admiral, is there anything we should know?”
“No, I swear.”
BANG! The sounds of faint shuffling comes from down a dimly lit hall. “Captain. I’m hearing something.”
Turning on the Admiral, Captain Wright grabs the man by the collar of his shirt, through gritted teeth, “What is down that hall Admiral?”
“Just… Just the bodies.” Tears streaming from his fearful eyes.
“What bodies?” The question comes out as a controlled growl.
“My men. I couldn’t throw them overboard. They were dead I swear.”
“And you didn’t make sure they were down for good?”
“Sir!” Anxiety growing in Ganson’s voice at the sound is unmistakable moaning. Slowly the sound of scraping feet grows in volume. The men target their rifles on the empty space before them knowing what is coming.
“Whatever you do don’t fire.”
“If there’s one there are likely more. You fire and all your doing is signing our death warrant. Not to mention we’ll all go deaf.”
“Should we head topside?”
“Negative. We need to eliminate the threat.”
The seconds tick by. After what seems like hours the creature is visible in the weak light. “Good god it’s Travis. He was on duty in engineering.” Hearing the cracking voice of the Admiral the creature lets out a bellowing moan.
“Sir what should I do.”
“Stand down Ganson. I’ve got this.”
“Sir…?” Before the EEL can protest Wright pulls his knife, a blacked out Kabar BK2, walks the distance between his men and the approaching creature, and sinks the blade hilt deep into the temple of the beast. It falls to the ground with a wet thump yet the moaning persists. First one distinct groan then another, followed by more. Each passing moment the noise grows in strength and ferocity. “Men I think we need to take this topside.” The men do not hesitate. Weapons hot they make their way through the dank maze of passageways following the Captain’s lead. The whole time the Admiral’s eyes dart side to side terror plain on his face. “Men if you have your ear pro use it. If you see one of those things light it up.” One by one in perfect since each man takes his ear plugs out of the small container dangling from the collar of their shirts and places them in. “Admiral, you failed to mention you were storing the dead.” There was no response from the man, the look on his face was enough. “Move it EELs.” They moved faster as one, like a well oiled machine, each man maintaining his post and covering their assigned firing line.
Making their way through the corridors Keel Haul swallows back his fear, “Captain through that bulk head and up those steps 3 levels and we’re out.”
“You heard him, go.” Pointing in the direction the Captain stops to look behind. Coming around the corner a pair of outstretched graying hands leads the way for the snapping jaws behind. “Go. Go. Go.” They double time it out into the waiting sunlight. They move as one onto the flight deck, the sight of the armed men weapons up and pointing in the direction they just came from causes panic amongst the withering refugees. It doesn’t take long for the creatures to topple out of the doorway. Lead screams and the smell of cordite fills the air, as do the whimpering shrieks of the unarmed survivors. Men and women, Naval uniforms sagging on their rotting remains stream out arms outstretched seeking their next meals. “Hold them back!” The Captain barks the order as he changes the magazine in his sidearm. The shots are well timed and well placed, one after another the creatures meet true death, only to be replaced by more of the snarling horde. Captain __ grabs Keel Haul as he tries to back away, “Look at what you’ve done. You’ve brought this on yourself.” Between sobs the Admiral replies, “I swore an oath to protect those men and women.”
Shaking the blubbering man, “How many?” Keel Haul doesn’t answer.
“Magazine!” The shout of Mack is answered by O’Leary, “Last one.”
“Shit I’m out.” Ganson pulls his blade ready to meet the enemy hand to hand.
Looking at his men, the refugees, and the monsters flowing from below Wright barks out his order, “EELs! Abandon ship! NOW!” Knowing their escape route is blocked and not being familiar with the layout below deck the EELs take the most expeditious route off the Flagg. One by one the men run for the edge of the deck and take a flying leap into the cold water below.
Screams fill the air as the disheveled refugees fall prey to the ravenous zombies. Others fall from the deck into the briny depths pursued by the undead.
The men climb onto the Hammerhead and quickly get inside and seal the hatches. Immediately the crew get to work moving the vehicle away from the death trap before them. Looking out the small portholes the men watch as the ship falls into utter chaos.
“Captain what should we do?”
Knowing what that ship holds the Captain has no choice.
Date: August 23, 2011. Time: 1221. Location: Somewhere in the Pacific.
“Aye aye sir.”
Without another word Sergeant Paul presses a button, the torpedoes speed away from the retreating Hammerhead. They run true to their target.
THESE EVENTS TAKE PLACE PRIOR TO THE EVENTS IN CHAPTER 55
Date: Unknown. Time: Unknown. Location: USA.
Prior to the shit hitting the fan the town had a small population, the one thing that worked against them was Route 87. Scared, confused, and armed thousands had taken to the road trying to escape surrounding areas, no one knowing where it was safe. Reports changed hour to hour where the evac areas, FEMA camps, and safe zones were. It seemed like they were falling to the creatures faster then they could be set up. The resulting traffic jams were like buffets for the spread of the disease. From car to car the walkers went attacking anyone they could grab. Men, women, children, no one was spared. Had the road not been built the town may have survived relatively unscathed but the greased palms of the mayor and the town board overruled the numerous objections of the residents.
He remembered the day he responded to the call for help from the town. The had taken a group of Guardsmen in a small convoy; 2 deuce and a half and 2 Humvee. They were stopped at the edge of town by the traffic. Cars blocked the way, people busy fighting with each other fell prey to the undead. He didn't know what to do. The radio was squawking with the desperation of the town leaders, holed up in the municipal building. He ordered the large trucks to lead the way pushing the cars out of their path. He told his men to pick off the infected from the Humvees. Easier said then done. The Weekend Warriors wasted hundreds of rounds trying to hit the growing, yet still manageable, number of undead. They hit just as many uninfected as they did the contaminated. His order was one of the many poorly executed plans that led to the rumors of soldiers firing upon citizens. It was also the turning point in his life and idea of survival. The Guard Unit had been getting smaller as every morning they awoke to find another of their ranks having disappeared in the middle of the night. The failure of the mission was the last straw for the Guardsmen they all left. Choosing to try and save their own families and themselves over trying to maintain order.
They never did make it to the mayor. The traffic was too thick. Watching the van racing through the streets that had stopped him in his tracks reminded him just how much the fire had changed. The van slammed into gutted and burned out cars and swerved around the larger trucks and SUVs. They had nearly made it out of the town proper and onto the relatively more open road when it happened.
It wasn't the largest horde, he had whittled down its numbers, but, like many things over the years he just stopped. He had stopped keeping track of the horde, consoling himself with the notion that should it come back he would let them take him. He didn't go out of his way to avoid them but neither did he seek them out. He knew they were down in the valley which was one of the reasons he had stopped scavenging through the rubble. Now the mass of undead flesh had gathered.
His attention having been fixed by the van's movements he didn't see where the gang had come from only that the van collided head on with it. He could tell the driver had thought he could plow his way through it. He would have too if it weren't for the several bodies that had been wedged into the wheel wells. It came to a screeching stop and was immediately surrounded. He couldn't hear anything but he could see it all. He had no intention of going down there. He had given up on helping people after the debacle trying to reach the trapped politicians. So he watched. The creatures scrambled over one another trying to claw and bite their way into the van. Hands smeared blood and ash on the sides as the mass pounded on them. Still he watched. He saw the driver's side window go part way down, a gun barrel poking through the grate. The rapport of the shotgun echoing through the valley, he knew it would draw even more of THEM to the scene. Still he watched. He heard the gunshots again and again, first from the driver's side then the passengers. Two distinct sounds meaning at least two firearms and probably two survivors. He could see the smoke rising from the tires as the driver tried in vain to dislodge the corpses. The van rocked back and forth. He knew that inevitably the horde would flip the van and get the trapped terrified people inside.
The monocular was tossed into his bag.
With a renewed sense of purpose he ran into the cabin grabbing his favorite firearm, the M60. He grabbed one of the bags full of ammunition belts and ran out sure to secure the door behind him. He took to the trail dodging branches and roots making it to the Deuce and a Half. The old workhorse started with a shudder. He threw it into gear and headed towards the town. He knew it was only a matter of time. The cloud of dust rose as he tore down the mountain dirt road. The truck jumped as it hit the pavement. He knew that once he cleared the curve in the road he'd be near the van. He hoped the occupants were still safe the near continuous gunshots slightly easing his worry. Rounding the bend he slammed on the breaks. Ahead of him less than 100 yards sat the van. It was still surrounded and rocking under the weight of the decayed dead. Once on the roof he loaded up his weapon and with a smile on his face unleashed lead hell. The rounds tore through the bodies of the dead smashing into the concrete sending bits of rock flying through the air. Those closest to him turned towards him, arms outstretched they walked directly into his line of fire. Nearly all fell under the heavy barrage only to drag themselves across the ground, others were sent to their true deaths by a round to the head. He stopped only to reload sending round upon round downrange.
Inside the van Velma, Shaggy, and Scooby Doo watched the "crazy bastard" mowing down the horde. In a matter of minutes the horde had been cut in half, many literally. Shaggy flashed the lights of the van to signal the heavily armed man. Without releasing the trigger he waved his left hand holding the giant weapon one handed like some and action movie star. Shaggy continued trying to dislodge the bodies stopping the Mystery Machine, first forward then back. From the passenger side Velma resumed firing at the horde. Unable to get the van to budge Shaggy turned it off and took to gunning down those who got close from his side. In the back Scooby lay on the floor his big paws over his ears. Shaggy and Velma had both taken to keeping ear plugs handy. The first time they fired one of their weapons from the van taught them that the reverberation could be just as dangerous as the bullet.
The slaughter continued for what felt like forever. Half way through the big man on the truck got off the roof and fired while walking towards the van. His shots became more controlled. Short bursts rather than long sweeping passes. His smile never changed.
"I g-g-guess so." They each take a moment to reload their weapons, Shaggy's a Mossberg Shotgun, Velma's a hunting rifle. They had other weapons but weren't familiar enough with their care never mind their operation to use. That all changed upon meeting the big Army Vet. Looking back at Scooby, "Scoob you stay here. V and I will be right back." The big dog whimpered in response the sounds of the weapons hurting his sensitive ears. Shaggy opened the doors, stepped out, and began picking off walkers.
"I say we meet our mysterious savior." With weapons at their sides they made their way over to the heavily armed man wearing the huge smile.
As they draw near he looks at them, "Well that was damn fun. Thanks."
"W-w-well like the pleasure was all ours." the tall lanky one with the shot gun responds.
"You really saved our asses there mister." The statement from the short nerdy looking girl in an oversized sweater, skirt, and combat boots.
Date: July 3, 2013 Time: 1200. Location: Central United States.
Deep in the heart of what was formerly the United States of America a long abandoned small town has been re-occupied; debris has been cleared, barricades erected, watch towers raised, homes transformed into barracks, the small town clinic reestablished, armories, dining facilities, and entertainment spaces opened. Life inside the walls passes each day as normally as possible. There is a buzz of activity in the air as men, women, and children go to and fro, outside the walls people tend various crops all under the watchful eyes of the guards standing ever vigilant, always on the lookout for walking corpses or marauders. What is it that makes all this possible?
Just outside the town, beyond the cultivated plots, on the forest's edge men and women take up arms. The training is brutal yet all those who are here are survivors. They have survived; the raising dead, the plagues of diseases thought long gone, looters, and the military in-fighting. They have come to this place seeking protection behind its walls and a warm meal. What they got was more.
They found the opportunity to fight back. To gain the skills necessary to no longer live in fear of the undead. They hope to no longer be survivors hiding from the undead but to become saviors to the living.
Over the course of 16 weeks they are drilled day in and day out in land navigation, threat assessment, Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE), and most importantly enemy eradication and disposal. They are taught how to fight the enemy in unarmed combat, with the use of blades and bludgeons, and while looking down the barrel of a sidearm or rifle. They work on minimal food and water with almost no rest. No one opts out of the course though most will never complete it falling victim to THEM. Their only saving grace being the promise that their families and loved ones, if any, will be cared for. There has been no shortage of volunteers. Men and woman from all walks of life sign up. There are no judgements based on a person's past, all who volunteer are given the same opportunity. Police train with men they arrested, former US Military personnel train with conscientious objectors. The man leading the training isn't preparing the new modern US Army. No, Lieutenant Colonel Bludd is preparing the next generation of Cobra Viper one specialized in urban pacification with an affinity for the exterminating the undead, their official designation; Cobra Reapers. A play on the character of the Grim Reaper as these men and women are to be the hand of true death for the shambling carcasses polluting the continent.
The final stage of training is called the Gauntlet. It is a two mile long quarter mile wide corridor made up of sections of neglected interstate, deserted homes, and forsaken forrest bound only by the occasional makeshift fence or wall. Haphazardly strewn about are the stalled, smashed, and burned out hulks of family sedans, pick ups, SUVs, delivery trucks, and an overturned semi. Walkers and draggers roam the grounds unhindered. A raised walk way allows Bludd to watch each trainee's progress.
Bludd watches from above as the man starts to make his way toward the growing pack of creatures. He is no stranger to combat. He has fought on six continents and been involved in every major battle of the last two decades. He found himself stateside when it all happened. For over a year he survived watching his beloved country become a desolate landscape of death and pestilence. He offered help in the form of training to those he came across, his motto being "Give a man a fish he eats for a day, teach a man to fish he'll eat for life." In this new world that's what people needed, training and he had undergone the best.
"Get goin' you lazy louse!" Spittle flies through the air as Lieutenant Colonel Bludd screams at the staling trainee. His voice echos over the landscape attracting the attention of THEM. The closest ghoul turns in the direction of the noise, a gurgling moan escapes its black lips. The sound starts a chain reaction as each of THEM is drawn toward the location of their next feast. Many of the dilapidated vehicles start to rock and shake as those forever trapped by seat belts thrash and struggle. Skeletal hands shoot out of broken side windows. Others scrape against the tempered glass relentlessly. The tall grasses at the roads edge sway under the movement of bodies dragging themselves towards their next meal. The cracked and broken pavement does little to slow the progress of those still able to walk. Many of THEM are wearing the uniform of a trainee; black t-shirt, black cargo pants, black boots, heavy black gloves. The bite marks on their necks evidence that they were unable to complete this final stage of training. The recruit turns his eyes up to see the face of a man who just rang the dinner bell. The sneer on Bludd's face grows in twisted amusement as he looks down. The recruit doesn't know how many of the zombies are in the vicinity he just knows that in order to complete his training he must get out alive.
Over the last 16 weeks. He has been cold, wet, hungry, and tired. He has had his physical and mental ability pushed beyond anything he faced while serving in the Special Forces. The addition of THEM to the daily training made Ranger School look like pre-school. He surveys the scene before him trying to mark a course. The yelling from above doing little to help his predicament. He knows the Gauntlet has an 80% "wash out rate" and he will not be one of THEM. He can't help but question if he has made the right decision.
He couldn't believe the stories he heard of Soldiers slaughtering innocent civilians. He knew there had to be an explanation, perhaps they were "treating" infected, something, anything. Then he saw it. He had been shadowing a Marine Platoon as it made its way West. They had come upon a barricaded warehouse. Inside was a group of 21 survivors. He'll never forget them; nine men, two boys, seven women, and three girls. Seeing help had arrived they rushed out to welcome their saviors. They were met by the raised barrels of M16s. At first he thought they were going to check them for infection, which they did. What came next shocked him to the core. The men and boys were lined up, forced to kneel in the street, and shot execution style. The women and girls… Three fought bravely, one was even able to send two Marines to their graves as she successfully pulled one of their sidearms. The others… That evening is burned into his memory as the night he was forced to kill men in uniform.
After that night he was a man lost. He cared not whether he lived or died. He's not sure when they found him, or where. Last thing he remembered was curling up in the corner of an empty house. Next thing he knew he was being carried on a stretcher. He flashed in and out of consciousness. When he finally came to he was on a bed in an unfamiliar room. Sunlight was shining across the room as a gentle breeze came through the open window. His vision swam as he turned his head towards the bright light. He heard the door click open as a nurse entered. "I see you're awake. That's good." The tall lean man went to the end of the bed retrieving a clip board turning toward the machines he jotted some notes then returned it to its original location. "Can I get you anything?"
Eyes fixed on the nurse, "Wa…"
Seeing the words struggling to escape the nurse interrupted. "Water. Well I'm not sure you're ready for that but I'll see what I can do." He left the room leaving the door open behind him. He came back a friendly smile brightening his face, "Good news and bad. Bad first. I can't give you water. But the good news is I can give you ice chips." The nurse steps to his side and gently helps him sit up. "Here ya go. Don't go too fast now." He places the dixie cup of crushed ice to his lips and tips it just so. The ice feels good on his parched throat. He takes a few more pieces.
"Thank you." The words barely audible scrape out of his throat.
"No worries. My name is John and I'll be here for a few more hours. I you need anything just ring the bell. With a smile he turned and walked out again leaving the door open. For several days John arrived each morning to help him with breakfast and left each night to be replaced by Susan another nurse with impeccable bedside manor. On the fifth day John entered as usual, "Good morning sir, you're looking much better today. Let's take a look shall we." He picked up the clipboard, checked the various instruments and monitors, and looked up, "Great news. I think today is the day." It was the day that led to this new life. Nurse John removed the various sensors and instructed him to get dressed, "You'll find fresh clothing in the bathroom." Sure enough he did. All black. After putting on the clothes he was escorted to the office of the "Commanding Officer." The door was opened and he was bid entry. The office was a standard hospital office. Plaques and diplomas lined the walls. Photos of a family here and there. A small sofa sat near the back wall. A large oak desk, richly stained, took up the center of the room. A high backed brown leather chair was turned toward the large airy windows. He couldn't see who was in the chair but knew it was occupied. John walked him in and offered him a chair. He took it with a nod. Sitting he watched as John left in without a word. Silence filled the room. A clock on the far right wall ticked away the seconds. Finally the chair turned. He stared in shock at the man filling the seat. It was not the man from the pictures.
"G'day. I 'ope your stay has been sa'isfyin'." The man locked his good eye on him, his other covered under a black patch, a smile touching the corners of his mouth making his thick handle bar mustache twitch.
Six long months later and he finds himself about to become a member of a new SOF unit for an organization he spent his entire military career trying to topple. The moment he recognized Bludd he thought he'd be subject to beatings, tortured, even killed. But that never came to pass. He was given an offer. Join or leave. It really was that simple. He could become part of something new. Or he could take his chances in the wastes. He was given 48 hours to think about it and allowed full access to the compound with the understanding that he could leave at any time should that be his choice. What he saw as he walked around amazed him; children playing, families laughing. Sure there was the ever vigilant Cobra presence but they seemed to be solely focused on protecting those inside. He learned that the people were the families of the Troopers. That anyone who could make it to the entrance of the walled in city was given admittance so long as they were not infected or somehow otherwise posed a threat to the safety of the inhabitants. He had dinner in the clinic and heard tales of rescue from others. It didn't make sense. These were his Enemy. The "bad guys." Ruthless terrorists hellbent on world domination. Yet he saw it with his own eyes, groups of people going outside the compound to tend crops. Children going to classes. His mind fought against it but in the end. He stayed.
He has not been subject to anything beyond what all the other trainees have under gone. He hasn't been the subject of extra brutality despite his former position. He has been treated like every other recruit. Even now he knows that Bludd has started each prospect's race across the Gauntlet the same way. Their is no personal animosity simply the desire for the best. Taking it all in he goes. He has been trained by the best and trained the best. This is one more training exercise, only this time the stakes are higher then anything he's faced.
He has no weapons to use and no time limit. The only rule is survival. The first ghoul that had turned at Bludd's shout locked onto his position. It lurches towards him arms outstretched. Its bottom lip had been torn away exposing teeth and bone covered in dried blackened blood. It's eyes are sunken and grey. Its broken skin secreting a puss of nauseating ooze. The other trainees had attempted to avoid confrontation with the undead at all costs, many ended up paying or that decision with their lives. Bludd watches in astonishment as the recruit runs head long at the monster before him. He grabs it by the head and smashes it repeatedly into the charred remains of a Cadillac Escalade. Spinning he turns towards the on coming shamblers his gloves caked in gore. With a savage growl he charges. He is a raw force of destruction. His expertise in escape and evasion all but forgotten. He snatches two of the closest things slamming their heads together, the sickening sound of skulls splitting is followed by rancid brain matter spattering the ground. He is far from subtle as he paves his path of destruction crushing the craniums of any who came near. For one unlucky dragger true death came under the heal of his heavy black boot. He took his time making sure he got each and every attacker who came near. Bludd watches from the catwalk in silence, awed by the sheer brutality of the scene playing out below him. He was the lone witness to a transformation that would forever change the man below, Bludd knew that when the man left the Gauntlet below he would not emerge as the Joe who took the namesake of the harsh back country of his former homeland there would be no coming back. The trail of bloodshed finally ends. Hours after entering and hearing the steel door lock him in perdition he at last arrives at the exit. He stands peacefully waiting for the door to open.
"'Ell thawas a amazin' ting ta watch." Bludd stands aside making way for the man. He looks as if he had just emerged from the deepest bowels of Hell. His once red hair black with carnage. His uniform encrusted with the ichor and entrails of his enemies. The handful of recruits who had successfully run the gauntlet stood in formation eyes locked in awe on the thing that stood before them. He took his spot and snapped to attention. Bludd stood before him, "As I said, thawas amazin' ta watch. You went in there a wanker of a puppet regime and came out sometin' else." Turning his attention to the group he continues, "Once 'e was a member of our sworn enemy. 'E fought to protect the corruption and evil of a guvment 'ell bent on destroying' the world in the name of profits. 'E was a worthy foe but he has seen the light and has witnessed the wickedness that was our former adversary. The man known as Stuart R. Selkirk is no more. Reapers today we add another to our fold." Bludd turns to a man behind him holding a tray, upon it sits a silver crest, a pair of crossed sickles behind a hooded skull. He takes a step towards the man in front of him he places the pin over the mans heart and thrusts the end into his flesh, there is no outward expression of pain, "Congratulations and welcome to the Reapers. Brothers and Sisters welcome our newest bringer of true and final death…" As was the ritual each man or woman who passed the trials of training and survived was assigned a call sign, a name by which others would know him or her. Bludd knew the perfect name for the new Reaper. "…welcome Skull Buster."
Date: August 23, 2011. Time: 0207. Location: Somewhere in the Pacific.
The men of Poseidon's Trident have spent the past 21 days on this island. They have kept busy replenishing the freshwater stores on the Hammerhead from the single spring on the atoll along with drying fish which they have caught from the lagoon. The Captain has been careful not to deplete the population within its waters as he knows this area may be needed again in the future. He has also led the men in daily PT, physical training, determined to get as much use from the land as possible. His men performed their limited PT regime while under water but there is nothing better then a beach run, always with gear and rifles.
The time has been a welcome respite from the horrors of the deep. Lacking major shipping lanes few if any vessels ventured into the area prior to the end. This has meant that THEY aren't as prevalent. There have been a few stragglers which have been quickly dispatched and disposed of. For the most part the time has been quiet yet, despite the tranquility the men have remained diligent; protected fires burn each night, guard shifts are rotated, weapons loaded, the Hammerhead always ready for war.
Tonight is like every other night except there is no moon to light the evening surf. Complete and utter darkness engulfs the atoll. Where others would be terrified these men know they own the night.
"Did you hear that?"
"Sounded like oars splashing."
"Yeah." There is no argument, no excuses, no brushing aside of what was heard. For these men it is always better to be safe than sorry. The two EELs grab their rifles. Each dons a pair of advanced NODs, night vision optical devices. O'Leary takes watch while Ganson quietly alerts the rest of the team. "Heard something." He does't need to say more each man knows his duty. Like a well oiled machine each man takes his post. Sgts Ganson and O'Leary begin a perimeter search. It takes only a matter of minutes. With hand signals and whispered voices they proceed. Weapons hot and ready they silently stalk the beach from the tree line. Approximately 50 yards from their camp they see them. Tracks.
O'Leary takes a knee and examines the tracks from the cover of tropical brush, "Looks like four possibly five. By that trail I'm guessing zodiac. SEALs?"
"What the hell are they doing out here?" The two continue on. They find the small semi-inflatable raft the preferred infiltration vehicle of the elite Navy SEALs concealed under palm fronds. "Radio back. Let 'em know to expect company."
"On it." The message is sent on an encrypted channel. "I knew this was all too good to be true."
"It was only a matter of time." Before heading back towards the Hammerhead the men sabotage the small craft, pulling out a few wires from the outboard motor. The tracks lead them in a round about way back towards their camp. "They knew we were here."
"Musta' been watching us." With increasing stealth the two advance when out of no where shots ring out. The familiar sound of ADS rifles mingles with the quick staccato of M4A1. The two quicken their pace in hopes of flanking their attackers. They come up behind the interlopers quickly drawing razor sharp blades across the throats of two closest before quietly melting back into the brush. The others realize the loss and are taken off guard by the two front attack.
"Dammit. Keep firing." The man's eyes show signs of extreme wear. His beard unkempt. He quickly takes in the situation and realizes there is only one option reluctantly he orders for withdrawal. The two grab their dead comrades and dissolve into the darkness of the jungle. The firing from the men of Poseidon's Trident continues. As the three aggressors pick their way back to their small craft the two EELs ambush the group. Each quickly grabs one of the attackers causing them to drop their comrades. Pressing a glistening knife to the throat of one of the men Sgt O'Leary calls out, "It's over. You're out numbered and out gunned. If you want these men to live drop your rifle." There was a time when the men wouldn't have been so easily caught. When they would have fought off all comers with the fortitude of tigers. A time when their commanding officer would have resisted tooth and nail. That was a time before THEY came. Now their leader hangs his head dropping his weapon to the ground. Falling to his knees he interlaces his fingers behind his head, familiar with what would come next. "Good." The EELs release their captives forcing them to their knees along side their leader. A snapping sound brings Ganson around weapon up.
"Woah there big boy." The familiar voice of Captain Wright announcing the arrival of the crew of the Hammerhead. Wright and Sgt Cruze step from out of the foliage. Sgt Paul having stayed behind to guard their camp and their craft. "So what do we have here? The last vestiges of the former SEALs? Did you really think you'd be able to take us?" Captain steps forward looking down on the men before him, their hands having already been quickly bound with zip cuffs. They wear the long ago retired BDUs of the Army. Boonie hats block their eyes hiding their faces even more then the thick grease stick camo they had applied. "Well?" In another day and age the men would have stuck to their guns giving only name rank and serial number.
Now is not that time.
The man who had led the expedition speaks, his voice is gravely with age and wear. He is too beaten to raise his head, "We didn't think we could take you out. We were… we were hoping to avoid a confrontation. We just wanted supplies. Thought we could grab some of yours and be off before you realized it."
Captain Wright looks down, venom in his eyes, "You expect me to believe that? You expect me to believe armed SEALs weren't looking for a fight…"
"I'm the only SEAL." This from one of the men on his knees.
"What was that?"
"I'm the only SEAL. Forrest, Brian. Sergeant. 701-54-8793. I'm the only SEAL. The others aren't…"
The Captain recognizes the name immediately, "Brian Forest a.k.a. Wetsuit." He turns to his men, "Looks like we have ourselves a Joe. Let's see who else we have." He removes the hats off the other two prisoners.
The identity of both shocks him.
The first is a woman. Not only a woman but one that he has seen on Cobra Island. A well known and respected agent of Cobra. One who was ranked among the world's best assassins. A woman the Captain is all too familiar with Vypra.
The second is a legend of the open waters a man once feared by all in the Cobra Navy. A man who led the most powerful ocean going vessel ever created the USS Flagg. Admiral Keel Haul.
He quickly looks at the dead men. Turning their corpses he immediately recognizes, Frogman of Ation Force SAS squad and Corporal Smith a Lamprey of the Cobra Navy that had applied to be a part of the Poseiden's Trident. Neither he nor his men can believe their eyes.
"What is the meaning of this?" His words spit at Vypra. She hangs her head in shame. Her hollow cheeks telling more of the story then words would have. Captain Wright looks to his men, "Check them all for weapons then double check them. Make sure they are secured. Then give them food and water." At the mention of having their hunger and thirst quench the two raise their heads. They offer no opposition to being led away. "O'Leary make sure these two get a decent burial."
For the first time Admiral Keel Haul looks up tears streaming down his face, "Thank you."
The Captain looks upon the man once feared the world over with pity. "You're welcome."
Admiral Keel Haul looks up, for the last hour he has been relating his story to the man between mouthfuls of dried fish and gulps of freshwater, "We were doing well, had plenty of supplies; beans, bandages, and bullets you know. We were far out at sea when it happened. We came across a derelict cruise ship. I ordered her scuttled we were preparing when we saw her. A woman on deck. Waving a red flag. She was frantic. I… I couldn't sink her. A boarding team was made, volunteers only, but you know being Joes everyone volunteered. Despite all we had been through, all we had seen, all we had done… We still clung to our oath. So they went to the cruise ship. Found the woman, also fond the whole things was full of infected. How she lived so long we had no idea. Turns out it was your Vypra. Apparently she had been on a vacation when it all went to shit. I didn't even realize you guys took vacations." He stuffs more fish into his mouth followed by a giant mouthful of water. His decorum all but gone. "Well once we figured it out, and it took a while, we locked her up. How we missed it, a valve open when it shouldn't be. Missing rounds of ammunition. Crew members disappearing… Listen, I've been in this man's Navy for longer than most. Some say I was a relic. THey were probably right. But I always did right by my men. I always kept my word. But this…" He raises his bound hands to the world. "No one could have been prepared for this. Then with word of the Cobra Civil War, we were spread thin. Too thin. We just…" His voice trails off as tears roll down his cheeks. "Captain, I know I'm your prisoner but my girl, she's still out there. We've been barely keeping her alive. She's little more than a floating casket at this point. And I don't know ho much longer she can stay afloat. Hell, I've been barely able to keep us alive. I can take you to her. She's no good to you strategically, all her arms have all been depleted. We have a few thousands rounds of 5.56 left. But there are people. Some Joe, some from other places. They're dying one by one. We have no food. Our desalinator stopped working when Vypra… Well let's just say she wasn't a nice house guest."
The Captain listens on with growing pity. By Cobra regulations he is to keep the prisoners and bring them to the nearest Cobra facility for incarceration. The traitors are to be publicly executed. Given the situation he cannot transport the prisoners. Besides where would he bring them? He hasn't heard word one from any of the Cobra upper echelons since bugging out. He seriously considers setting them all free and even giving them supplies enough to survive. Survive what? Once their supplies are depleted they'd be back in the same position. Dying on the open water. Adrift at sea in a failing world. If what Keel Haul has been saying is true the world's government's have fallen. There is no more United States. No more Joe team. Just pockets of survivors and hordes of THEM. For all the Captain knows Cobra has fallen and they are the last left. His thoughts are interrupted by Mack, "Sir you need to see this."
He turns to find his man standing behind him a print out in his hand. He stands, "What is it."
"Sir it's our orders."
"Orders? From who?"
Captain Wright stands and takes the paper out of the Sergeant's hand and quickly reads each word. After re-reading it he hands it back. "Tell the men to ready the Trident. We have our orders."
"Yes sir." The sergeant snaps off a sharp yet uncharacteristic salute, the Captain long ago ended the practice with his crew. He knows it's only being given now for the benefit of their guest. He salutes back and turns to the Admiral who had remained seated.
"Well Admiral looks like things just changed. Now where is the Flagg exactly?"
Date: Unknown. Time: Unknown. Location: South America.
:: INCOMING ENCRYPTED MESSAGE ::
I've found the Snake's position in the grass. I have managed to gather names and call signs on the Snakes in what is called Vipers Nest.
Lt. Onesi, call sign Alpha 1
Tele-Viper Fintak, call sign Xhairs
Techno-Viper Kosa, call sign Spectre
Pilot Nason, call sign Stormavik
Sniper Akin, call sign Dark Horse
Viper Lee, call sign Viper
Viper Crouch, call sign Narceron
Viper Young, call sign Yeti
Viper Logan, call sign Wolverine
The unit has a single BAT in its service. It has been upgraded for the surroundings having a clip fed and wrist mounted full auto weapon firing standard 5.56x45 mm NATO rounds. As well as having a circular saw, chain saw, and flame thrower attachment for clearing vegetation.
I have yet to see any armor capabilities. I have witnessed the use of a modified Spec For XLR 250, a modified civilian pick up, and on one instance a modified Trouble Bubble.
The unit receives a single supply drop via air each month. There seems to be no regularity to the deliveries. I have witnessed dozens of such drops. The number and size of crates drops has varied. I have yet to asses the contents of these drops.
I have recorded troop movements. They run regular sweeps of the area and are highly organized. These are not new troopers stuck on a shit assignment. I'd venture to say that these are seasoned Cobra Vipers.
The men of Vipers Nest tend to leave the locals alone. However, I have witnessed several raids on the village where the Vipers "search" the area. They never find anything during the search. However, the effect does keep the locals in line.
I am including a crude schematic of the exterior of the Vipers Nest.
I have yet to see anything that gives me reason to believe that this is some sort of super bunker.
Will continue recon.
:: END TRANSMISSION ::
Date: October 11th 2012. Time: 11:28. Location: The PITT.
Storm Shadow looked up at the cage he was set in, metal bars, dingy sofa, lumpy bed with thread bare wool blanket and lumpy pillow, a tray of food brought daily, and a constant guard stationed outside. He heard footsteps, brisk footsteps, and the door opens, partial over lights spray in around the figure, 6ft 8in maybe? Storm Shadow looked at the man his eyes glistening as dust sweeps around him, via the air conditioner.
“Hello old master” says the man, his face masked by a helmet, only his Azure eyes remain un-hidden.
“Nunchuck my old student, you have come to release me?” Asks Storm Shadow, an idea forming in his head.
“You have chosen the wrong side master. You should have just been neutral in this conflict”
“I came for you Nunchuck, it is you who has chosen the corrupt side of life” Storm Shadow leaps to his feet in a fluid move.
“You do not intimidate me old fool, you can’t barge in here kill 2 Guards and surrender yourself just to see me can you?”
Storm Shadow raised his eyebrows, “Let me tell you how corrupt the Joes are, they sent 2 men to kill me, what have I done, I support the Commanders belief, could you be ordered to kill me because I believe in something you don’t?”
“No, but that isn’t the point” Nunchuck never had the chance to finish his sentence as he was knocked to the ground. Minutes later he comes to. He finds himself staring up at Storm Shadow a small blade fashioned from a piece of the sofa from his cell held tight at Nunchuck's throat.
“Join me or Die!”
Just then Burn-Out a guard known for carrying a flame-thrower while on guard duty steps around the corner. All he sees is the cell open and a man on the ground he let’s rip with his weapon. Naplam fills the small corridor and the unrelenting blaze burns Nunchuck a cinder, Storm Shadow escaping through an air vent.
Burn-Out looks at the charred remains and unloads his pistol shot after shot tearing into the lifeless corpse. As he turns from his handy work his throat is shredded by Storm Shadows Knife. Storm Shadow picks up Nunchuck and makes his way out of the PITT to the nearest Medi-Viper outpost.
Location: Secret Cobra Medical Compound, Mexico.
1 year later
After serious plastic surgery and cybernetic implants Nunchuck finally steps up, He suffered amnesia after the burning, seizing the opportunity, Storm Shadow manipulated his mind into a perfect add-on to Cobras Ninjas.
His Left-forearm was converted with Cyber technology and skin grafted on over the Cybernetic arm.
His thighs received cybernetics and his face needed grafting and his chest has a new suit of armor which sustains his breathing, heart beat and other organic parts. He was the first to go under this much “Re booting” as the Doctors call it. Nunchuck steps forward a new man.
2 months later
Dusty and Sandstorm look down at the small cropped buildings in amazement as they see an 8ft beast walk out of one of the small adobe mud homes.
“Is that Storm Shadow?”
Asks Sandstorm who was looking down the barrel of his 50 cal.
“No, It must be a Merc or something” answers Dusty also looking down his scope.
The Joe Desert specialists, Dusty and Sandstorm, were on a mission to find and eliminate Storm Shadow, all they knew was that Storm Shadow was recruiting hundreds of highly trained men and women to the Commanders cause.
If the Mercenary down there looked in their position he would see nothing but sand, sand and more sand, one of the many reasons Sandstorm loves Mexico. Dusty and Sandstorm were in a Dug-Out their roof was 3 layers of Camouflage netting covered with a fine layer of sand with 5 inch holes in the Dug-out facing the Compound. Dusty and Sandstorm were there for days, waiting for something to walk out of the small buildings Iron reinforced door.
“So when is Storm Shadow comin’?” Asks Sandstorm, it seemed to Dusty that he wouldn’t be coming.
“To be truthful I have no fucking clue”
That was the end of their day conversation now it was more hours looking through their scopes at the buildings.
The end of the conversation might be rescheduled.
“Woah looks like a platoon of Vipers just came out of that outer building. Stingers come up from the ground. Tunnel is left of Building Oscar. Wait a minute” Sandstorm scrawled to the back of the Dug-Out and looked through one of the holes.
“Shite, Convoy coming in 12 Humvees, 2 M2 Bradleys, 2 T90’s and 6 Apc’s!”
Dusty looked down his scope never batting an eye lid as he saw the mysterious Merc jump in a Humvee filled with Crimson Troops.
“I don’t know who this guy is but he is trouble, spelt with a Capital T”
Date: Unknown. Time: Unknown. Location: Unidentified River.
I never thought I'd live to see the day she died.
She lasted longer than most thought she would but in the end she just wasn't strong enough.
Once life flourished in her briny depths. Now… Her waters have been stripped of life. I haven't seen a whale in… Well it feels like forever now. Sharks are gone. Craps, lobsters, clams. All of 'em gone. I find myself taking to the rivers more and more. They're not much better in terms of aquatic life, but the "scavenging" is better. That's what I'm doing right now. "Scavenging."
At first it was easy. I'd float with the motor out of the water making me look adrift. There was always some self-made pirate who'd come along and try to take what's mine. They were always shocked at how well armed my men are and how well practiced they are at securing and boarding other vessels. We'd take what we needed. We'd leave what they needed to survive. Unless they fought. Most didn't. We'd end our expedition by disabling their motors, nothing permanent mind you just something that would take time enough to fix for us to make our escape. That was then.
Now, the boat we're chasing down is a small 20 footer. The name River Princess is barely discernible on her stern. Her once white exterior coated with the grime of the new world. Her small motor is no match for us.
Us. Hmmph. I just wanted to help those I could. I know things. About survival. About the sea. I wanted to help. I took an oath. Swore to protect my fellow citizens. I tried…
"Admiral should we close the gap."
"Yes. Let's finish it."
The order is given. Just like that the second motor on each vessel kicks in giving us all a burst of unexpected speed. They never stood a chance. Our three boats surround them. Men with boarding hooks crouch low on deck. They've learned never to underestimate those we board. They were right to learn that lesson. A loud crack sounds. It's echo carries in every direction. As if the motors weren't enough now the dinner bells been rung. They'll be on the banks soon. Clawing at the air.
The shot was the husband. Father. Provider. Protector. The shot missed. Didn't take much for my crew to tackle him to the ground and bind him. I stepped on board without much of a thought. That's not true. I thought, 'Is this really what it's come down to. Taking from one to provide for another?' Huddled on the deck before me were the husband, his wife, and their daughter. They looked like they came from money. He still wore a blue blazer. The kind from a yacht club. The wife wore a rock that had to weigh her hand down. All signs that this "scavenging" run could be very profitable for us.
"What do you want?" He looks up defiantly, blood pouring form his nose.
My small boarding party stands at my back. Four in all for this run. Three men one woman. They all look to me. Look to me for food. Clean water. Protection. What do we want? "What do ya got?" I respond without emotion. I've done this too many times. Stopped thinking about it, don't remember when. Had to. Couldn't do it if I thought about it.
"What? Nothing. We have nothing."
"Well that's not true. You have a boat. You have gas for her engines. You must have some other supplies. Let's just see what treasure you have below deck shall we."
"No. Please. There's a box of supplies over there. A bag of stuff up near the bow. Please all that's down there is my son. He's scared. Sick. Please take everything else. Just leave him alone." Terror. True stark terror enters his eyes. I see it in his wife and daughter's. Shit. That can only mean.
The scream. It sickens me. Another one of my crew gone. "Everyone off. Now!" The remaining three quickly retreat to their craft not before grabbing the aforementioned box and bag. We leave the family bound on the boat. The thing claws its way topside.
The tears start.
It slowly makes its way toward its formerly family. Mom tries to hide behind dad. Dad stares at the thing. Tears streaking his sunburned cheeks. It only takes minutes for the thing to attack each of it's family members and for them to turn. I give the order, "Send her to the bottom."
The firemen take a small boat to her starboard side, away from the things. The torches are tossed. It takes much longer for the flames to eat away at what once was probably only used on weekends and holidays for jaunts on the river. When she finally sinks to the depths another piece of me goes with her.
By now the shore is clogged with THEM. Their arms out stretched their jaws slack. They reach for us. Some enter the water disappearing below the surface. They don't breathe. Meaning they don't drown. They just walk along the bottom one purpose in mind.
I look around at my crew. Men and women. Mothers and fathers. Sons and daughters. Civilians. Most of them anyways. Some lifted off the decks of derelict pleasure craft dehydration and starvation having nearly claimed their lives. Others plucked form the water, the only thing keeping them from meeting the mouths of the undead bellow them the life jackets they had the good sense to put on. Still others begged to join us after we overtook their small craft. Now each of them a hardened veteran of the seas. Scurvy Dogs. That's what they call themselves. Admiral. That's what they call me. I'm no Admiral. Admirals are courageous leaders, inspiring confidence, and exhibiting honor. Like Keel Haul. I've lost all that. I just left one of my own along with a family on a boat. I watched the infection spread. Watched the boat burn. There is no courage, leadership, or honor in any of that. No I'm no Admiral. Hell I'm not even an Officer. Never was. CPO. Chief Petty Officer is the highest I ever earned. CPO Delgado. Once a Joe. Now a pirate.
Date: october 6th Time: 0940 Location: Haverhill, Suffolk, UK.
Five men gather around the tower, they quickly sprint to a manhole, the cover comes up with a clang as one of them quickly pulls it up. “In! In!” ordered one; they all began their descent into the dark dank sewers. They trudge through the accumulated waste. The smell of death permeates the air. They stop their advance as a body floats towards them “Do a quick ID check Vince."
“Sir! The body... it’s come up as agent… Shana O’hara.” muttered Vince.
“Damn, I’ll send a message to Hawk” replies SGT. Thunder sadness in his voice. But there is no time for mourning now they have a mission to complete. They continue on and stop wading through the excrement in front of a set of ladders leading up. The manhole cover falls from above splashing down in front of the Joe team as a voice echos through out the sewer “That’s our informant.”
Agent Raven stood above, at the ready, crossbow in one hand and a briefcase in the other; one by one they ascend out of the rank sewer tunnel. They enter a nondescript garage. It's filled with rows of tables; each table littered with 50 and 100 gram bags of different narcotic; cannabis, crack, cocaine, meth, cut-up magic mushrooms. Taking it all in Downtown gasps “This has to be worth millions!”
Agent raven nods, briefly showing a scar under her ear, “Correct, now, here is the plan.” She quickly replies. She begins issuing orders, “Thunder you and Flak-Rain will be driving those vehicles out of here" She points to several luxury sedans parked on the far side of the garage, "Careful they're hot. Downtown get up on the roof with Vince and keep an eye out for unwanted company. The Lieutenant and I will be placing these Nano Bombs in strategic places” she opened the briefcase to show a few assorted bright green metal containers.
“Gas masks on men lets move!” ordered Thunder.
They pull on their masks and ensure a tight seal before all simultaneously sprinting away. Thunder and Flak-Rain make their way towards the 2nd floor. As they go Thunder asks, “Where did Raven get that scar from?”
“What scar?” Flak-Rain stoops jogging and turns back toward the sergeant a look of incredulity on his face.
“The one under her ear.”
“Dammit!" Flak-Rain says then immediately hits his the transmit button on his com, "Dense! Vince! Downtown! That wasn’t Agent Raven! I repeat that wasn’t Agent Raven!”
Vince turned to Downtown “You stay guard I’ll be back!”
“I heard ya.”
A short while after Vince left Downtown gasped, “Oh shit!”
Agent Raven turned too see Thunder and Flak-Rain running towards her Dense saw too and instantly jammed his sub-machine gun in the impostors temple “On the fucking ground bitch!”
The impostor went down to her knees and slowly her hands went up. Thunder crouched in front of her and grabbed her chin and twisted her head sideways showing a small incision, he shoved his finger through and tugged ripping a bunch of “skin” off, he looked at Dense and Flak-Rain, Dense held a MP-5 and Flak-Rain pointed his M16 a the rip of skin “Now pull it all off Vince can identify her when he gets here.”
Thunder began pulling off the skin when, BREEEEKKKK!
“The fuck was that?”
“Sir! Downtown here, a plane just crashed looks like Raven brought back-up!”
Thunder looked down at the impostor and slowly turned his M4 towards the doors; Dense edged towards her and then with one quick pull ripped the latex mask off her, revealing her true face.
She had high cheekbones and pure hazel eyes witch gleamed as she said “Finally that mask was doing my head in!”
“I know that accent! Are you with PIRA?” Muttered Dense
“Yes I am, PIRA doesn’t like cobra either and they’re stealing our business.”
Thunders radio crackled, “Thunder, Narco-Vipers and a bunch of civvies running towards target building counting 11 in total, there being followed by . . . A horde of . . . Rioters? I don’t know but sir we need too get out of here!”
Dense briefly glanced at the unimpressive looking doors then he pulled out his pistol and placed the muzzle under her earlobe, “I say we drop her then piss off out of here and blow the bombs, fuck the civvies there probably Cobra supporters.”
Thunder gasped in embarrassment, “Where is Raven?”
The impostor glanced at him with a confused face, “You did come through the tunnels I would have thought you’d have found her?”
Thunder glared at the woman kneeling before him as realization dawned on him, “Drop her.”
Dense smiled with glee, “With pleasure Sir!”
The quick pop pop of Dense's sidearm echoed through the space. Two bullets smacked into the side of her head, exploding out the other side with so much force pieces of her brain flew 3 meters away. Vince appeared at the corridor to the groups left, he jogged towards them and then cautiously trod over parts of brains and skull, “You could of made a smaller mess.” moaned Vince, Thunder grabbed hold of his radio “Downtown! Can you rapel down the building?”
“Who do you think I am Action Man? Be there in a sec!”
Thunder and company started running towards the manhole. The unmistakable sound of gunfire could be heard outside, Thunder grabbed hold of his radio again “Downtown you there!”
“Yes but the Narcos are shooting at that horde of . . . UP?”
“What the fuck are you Mr and Mrs Acronym?”
“UP I made it up stands for Unidentified Peeps!”
“Hardy fucking ha!”
Date: July 26, 2011. Time: 0832. Location: South America, somewhere along the Amazon River.
The cell isn't cold, dank, ill lit, or uncomfortable. In fact it isn't even a cell, it was the bunk of Viper Young before his untimely demise. There does remain a… lingering… odor but it's not intolerable. Sneak Peak thinks to himself, "It's not as bad as a wet yeti." For two years this room has been his prison. Captured through shear dumb luck he has continued in his attempts to gather information waiting for the day he can communicate with the PITT. He has investigated the ventilation ducts, which he came to the conclusion are not only too small to gain access to but also would never support him. Before putting him in the room the Vipers stripped it of every possible item that could be fashioned into a weapon. All that remained was the mattress, pillow, and wool blanket. He knows each and every nook and cranny, each crack in the wall and chip in the paint.
He came to learn the Vipers' schedule, at first there was no pattern, they would feed him randomly sometimes it felt like only an hour had passed between meals other times days. He doesn't remember when the switch came but eventually the guard rotation became more regular. His meals had more substance, he was no longer given the bare minimum to sustain him, they started providing him full meals. Sure they're essentially MREs but at least he now has the energy to maintain fitness. Pushups, sit ups, jumping jacks, running in place, anything to help bide his time and keep his body ready for action. He was in the middle of one of his workouts when he heard keys in the door. Normally he would have been brought his meal when he was at sit up 500. They didn't show. Now he had run more than 4000 lengths. He stopped in his tracks. Perhaps today was the day they decided to kill him, that would mean his anomy attempt to escape.
He watched as the door handle turned. The door opened. In stepped a man. A plain, average looking man. His pinstriped suit pressed to perfection. His shoes gleaming from many long nights of polishing. The recognition of the man was near instant. Before he could even react the man said with a strong clear voice, "Sneak Peek. So very good to see you again." The look of disbelief was plainly apparent on the face of the long time captive. "Well, aren't you going to say anything?"
Stepping forward he reaches out and places his hand upon the man's shoulder, "Chuckles, is it really you?"
"Who else would it be?"
"Is it over? Are those things still out there? You know what, it doesn't matter. Let's get out of here. I need to get to a computer and send a message off to the PITT."
"I'm afraid you won't be doing anything of the sort." In the time it took Sneak Peek to blink the look in the Joes eyes went from welcoming to one that was dark and devoid of all emotion.
Taking his hand down he looks at his teammate confused, "What do you mean man? I have to get out of here and report in."
"No Sneak Peek. You don't. But don't worry all isn't lost… Yet."
The look makes the hair on the back of Sneak Peek's neck stand up. Stepping back he puts distance between himself and the man in front of him. They had worked together on several Operations in the past, last he knew Chuckles was deep undercover in Cobra in an attempt to get close to and assassinate Cobra Commander, what happened since the plagues hit he had no idea. Unsure of what to say or do Sneak Peek asks, "What's going on Chuck?"
"I'll keep it simple. I'm here to offer you a way out of this room. A way to once again put your talents to work. I'm here to offer you a choice. And now it's decision time…
The first option is death. I assure you however death will not come quickly. You will however hope, beg, and pray for it. The second...
Date: September 17, 2009. Time: 1034. Location: South America, somewhere along the Amazon River.
"He's been in and out of consciousness for the last couple of days. He keeps mumbling about Lifeline and Doc. He doesn't seem to know where he is."
While the men of Vipers Nest are well compensated the one thing they lack is a Medi-Viper. Lee is the closest they have, he took all the courses offered beyond the basic combat lifesaving training that all Vipers take but decided not to pursue the Medi-Viper Corps. Thankfully they haven't needed any treatment beyond the occasional insect bite. Although in the Amazon an insect bite can be just as lethal as a bullet, only in most cases its more painful.
"When will he be ready for interrogation?"
"Well sir, when ever you want."
"Good. Prepare him. I'll be there in 5."
"You got it boss."
Viper Lee walks out of the small office of his commanding officer and down the long hall towards the infirmary. Like all the rooms of the Vipers Nest the infirmary is small with bare and thick reinforced concrete walls. Inside are side by side hospital beds, one currently occupied by the strapped in and unconscious Joe, Sneak Peek. The other empty. Around the room are several stainless steel cabinets of varying sizes each holding all manner of first aid gear. The wall mounted cabinets are of the same stainless steel but with glass inset in the doors allowing for easy view of all the instruments and materials within. A standard operating table sits to the far right.
Everything within is just as Lee left it. He glances at their prisoner, donned in only a hospital gown after having been stripped of weapons and gear, before prepping the needle of adrenaline that will awaken him. It takes only a matter of moments for Lee to prep what he needs. He'll inject Sneak Peek when Onesi arrives and then they'll question him. Oh the fun. Not only did Lee take the more advanced med courses, he's also one of a handful of Vipers to train with the Interrogator himself. Yeah he's looking forward to trying a few things. With the thought of his training a crass smirk crosses his face as he steps to the table to check his victim. He reaches for the wrist strap to ensure it hasn't loosened at all.
Just then his victim comes alive. Pulling free of the straps he's been loosening over the last several days, Sneak Peek makes his move. He lunges at the Viper at his bedside, before the Viper can make a noise a powerful hand is at his throat cutting off all sound. The force of Sneak Peek's momentum brings the two to the ground. Sneak Peak uses his weight to his advantage driving his knee into the groin of the unwitting enemy. Still unable to yell out a call for help the Viper fights back. Trying to pry the hand from his throat while attempting to drive his thumb into his attackers eye socket. He twists his body with the impact of Sneak Peek's knee. Putting the pain out of his mind he struggles on. Finally he finds his mark. Driving his thumb into Sneak Peek's eye the hold at his throat loosens. He inhales a deep breath and fights on.
The two struggled to their feet. First one then the other would be in control. Lee fought with a ferocity and skill Sneak Peek had never witnessed in a Cobra Viper before. Even more astounding to Sneak Peek is that Lee didn't call for help once he was free of Sneak Peek's death grip. However the noise of the fight was bound to attract attention. Any moment now Sneak Peak knew another would enter the room and he'd be done for. He had one chance of survival and that was to take the Cobra hostage and work his way out. With the ferocity of a panther he launched himself once last time at his enemy. Now or never. He would win the battle or die trying.
Again Sneak Peek's momentum gave him an advantage. He heard the air expel from the Viper's lungs and reacted. Locking his arm under the Viper's left arm he placed him in a modified choke hold. Just in time.
"Let him go mother fucker!" Akin burst into the room a rifle instantly trained on the enemy now using his comrade as a shield. Behind him the rest of Vipers Nest look for clear lines of fire. "I said let him go mother fucker!"
"Lower your weapon or I'll break his fuckin' neck."
"I'll drop your ass where you stand."
"That may be true but you'll be down one scumbag snake."
"Let me through Akin."
"Sir. I can take him. One shot."
"I want him alive."
"Let me through." Akin raises his rifle allowing his superior to pass into the room. As Onesi passes he raises his voice, "Once I'm in put a bead on him. If he does anything to Lee. Decorate the room with his grey matter."
"Of course Sir."
"How are you soldier?"
"I'm okay sir. This is uncomfortable as all hell but I've felt worse."
Onesi steps into the room and quickly assesses the situation. There is a Joe combatant holding one of his men using him as a damn shield. "Listen, Sneak Peek is it. Do you mind if I call you Sneak Peek? As you can see there is no where for you to go. There is only one door into this room and well, you see Akin there, he wants nothing more than to pull the trigger. The man just loves shooting things. I'm quite certain he can take you without injuring Viper. But that doesn't help any of us does it. You let Viper go. We'll ask you a few questions. And we'll let you go. How's that sound?"
"Sounds like a crock of shit Alpha 1. Can I call you Alpha 1? I say you move the fuck out of my way or I'll snap his neck like a fuckin' twig. You see if I'm going down, I'm taking at least one of you fuckin' snakes with me. I've spent too much time out in that shit hole with those things, that death means shit to me right now." As he speaks he puts increasing pressure on the vertebrae of Viper Lee. Yet no sound comes out. Sneak Peek thinks to himself, -Kinda ruins the whole effect if the fucker won't cry out in pain.- "I said get the fuck out of my way. Or he's fuckin' dead."
"Sir, can you just take this asshole out already. He fuckin' stinks like ass and I think he's getting a lil' excited. It's creepin' me the fuck out."
"You sure Viper?"
"Akin. Do it."
A single shot rings out. The rubber bullet hits Sneak Peak in his shoulder. As he drops his human shield Lee reaches for the shot of adrenaline and slams it into his former captors leg. The reaction is instant. Sneak Peek's vision blurs, his heart races, and ears ring. At the moment Lee is clear of Sneak Peek the other Vipers tackle him to the ground. They beat him as his body worked against him. Then he was out again.
When he came to he found himself strapped down to the same bed, this time the straps were padlocked and a Viper in full helm and gear with a rifle was standing at the foot of his bed. He had added straps at his ankles and throat. That was all he was able to make out before the rifle butt slammed into his head.