Date: November 11, 2014. Time: 1315. Location: Mulberry, KS.
- Wh-wh-wher am I? -
The large dog lifts his heavy head from the cold floor. His eyelids are heavy and are fighting against his opening them. His body aches, it's like he had been playing with one of his litter mates all day or out chasing the bad smelling things. It takes him several minutes to rise to his feet. They feel unsteady under him, like they are not his.
- Wh-wh-wha's rong wif me? -
He stands in place unmoving. Trying to move his head brings him back to the floor. His insides hurt. Coughs and convulsions grip his body. Opening his mouth the contents of his stomach rocket out.
- Bad meat. - He growls from the floor. He's felt similar to this before, last time his favorite parts disappeared. This is worse though, he worries that his new favorite part is gone. With renewed tenacity he struggles to regain his feet. He looks at each one in turn making sure they are his. He looks between his legs, a wave of relief flowing over him, it's still there. After several more failed attempts he is able to not only stand but look around.
The room is lit but just barely, a high placed window allows some sunlight in. He looks around for his people he doesn't see them. He smells the air unwilling to trust his eyes which he knows show him funny things. Only the musty smells of rotting wood, dust, and mold fill his nostrils.
Slowly, carefully he walks around the room. He finds the door and scratches at it. It rattles but does not open. He smells under the door. Nothing. He barks. The sound echos around the small room and hurts his ears. The pain makes his eyes go funny. He won't do that again.
- Where ar dey? -
The dog wonders why his people locked him up. He strains his memory trying to recall what happened. He remembers the people playing with his friends. The bad meat. Then… He walks the perimeter of the room again looking for anything. Coming back to the door he jumps up slamming his giant paws against it. It shakes but again stays closed. He looks at the window. Five feet off the floor the window sits. It looks big. He cocks his head to the side trying to figure out… An itch distracts him. He scratches at it with his foot and tries to chew it off. It goes away, - Dat il teach itch to bodder me. - His task complete Scooby sits down wondering where his people are. He looks at the door. Then the window. He scans the room. A pile of large crates are stacked near the window. Scooby walks to the door. He scratches at it again. Still locked. He looks at the window. Somewhere an idea is growing in his canine brain.
As he sits staring first at the door then the window he hears it. A faint almost inaudible scream. It's his person. Shaggy. He stands growling. What he heard lasted less then a second but it was enough. Scooby charges the crates throwing his weight against them. Once. Twice. The third time they topple, several breaking in the process.
Others fall in front of the window. He climbs on them carefully placing his feet with each step. The window is just the right size. He could go out it but not only is there glass but also wood on the outside. This perplexes him. Sitting on top of the boxes head again cocked to the side Scooby tries to make a plan. As he sits he hears keys at the door. He turns looking at it. Rising up. He smells the air but can't tell who is on the other side. It might be his people. As the door knob turns Scooby lowers his head and bares his teeth. His instincts telling him it is not his friends. It opens, "Now just what the hell is going on in there?" The man says no more. As quickly as he opened the door the Great Dane is upon him, his powerful jaws sinking sharp teeth into the man's jugular. And just like that Scooby Doo is free. He stands over the man letting loose a long menacing growl that would terrify even the bravest of men. He looks left and right. Seeing an open door to the outside he heads for it. Carefully he looks, listens, and most importantly sniffs the air before leaving. The smell of people is faint. He steps out into the sun. The building where he was a captive is directly across from the church. He runs across the street to the open church doors. He enters with a snarl only to find it empty. Quickly he put his nose to the ground and searches for his people.
Left and right the dog walks swinging his nose. Sweeping for a scent trail. Finally he finds one. It is almost gone but its enough. He follows it out of the church and down the street. He comes to a door. Pushing his muzzle against it it opens. Inside all is black. He is at a loss. His instincts tell him to run away. But his people are there and he knows its not good. Pacing back an forth in front of the door Scooby tries to make a decision. Instinct is a powerful thing. Then he hears it again, the scream of his person. Before his mind understands what his feet are doing he is through the door. Darkness envelopes him. His eyes are no good, but his ears and his nose… He tracks the direction of Shaggy and Velma with efficiency, the winding path designed to confuse and confound no match for his mighty nose. His sense of smell takes him directly to a large door. Pushing against it it stands closed. Defiant to his strength. He scratches at it to no avail. The smell of his people is strong from under it. As is the stench of blood and gore. He knows they are on the other side. He jumps against it. Digs at the floor. Nothing works. Inside he can hear the rising discord of a group. Above them he hears the loud voice of the man in the robe. Louder still the screams of not just one but now two. Shaggy and Velma scream, their voices booming throughout the underground labyrinth. The combination of the noise and the scents drives Scooby into a frenzy. Again and again he jumps at the door slamming into it.
The timeless wood absorbs each impact. Others stronger then this one have tried to enter the chamber which it blocks none succeeded.
Inside the scene is one of utter desperation as Shaggy and Velma plead and scream, their fear mounting with every breath.
Outside Scooby's rage boils over. He uses his body as a battering ram slamming repeatedly into the door. A door that has stood the test of time. A door that rested the Vikings. A door that has resisted gods. He has no chance, yet with the loyalty demonstrated only by canines he struggles on. Man's best friend. The first beast to be coaxed out of the darkness by the waiting hand of man. A creature who for millennia has stood as guardian, protector, companion, friend. A beast whose heart is true. No guile. No deceit. No jealousy. Just the purity of an evolutionary track that brought man and dog together. Never before has the door faced such clarity of purpose. Never has it faced an opponent free from the commission of sin. The magics which bind it, which give it strength, begin to wane under Scooby's selfless determination. Blood courses down his side, from his paws. His nails begin to break under the unabated clawing. The blood drips to the ground. The rock digests it as it has all the life fluid that has fallen upon since before time began. The wood cracks.
He hears the words of his person. Begging. Pleading. Scooby doesn't stop. His throat horse from his endless barking. The wood gives. The door bursts open. Something unfathomable. Scooby's eyes immediately fall upon his people. Tied atop one another on the macabre stone. Their fur is missing. Their screaming is continuous. A man stands in front of them back to Scooby. Above his head he holds a blade. Surrounding them a crowd of people lost in trance, bodies swaying in erratic fashion as they shout recitations.
Scooby runs towards his people. The incantations never cease. The followers completely engrossed by the primitive words. The giant dog launches himself at the man before him. He sinks his fangs into the back of the mans neck knocking him forward. The sharp blade in his hands nicks the ropes tying Velma and Shaggy down. Seeing their canine companion the two struggle against the ropes. Lacerations spread as they fight the binds. Scooby drags the man to the floor dropping him like a rag doll. Father Flagg coughs and chokes as blood fills his lungs. Power escaping his body as the followers continue on, their trancelike state holding them rapt.
The rope holding Velma and Shaggy gives. After several more determined twists they are free. From the sarcophagus they fall to the ground, bodies bruised, battered, and bloodied. With fire in her eyes Velma reaches for the man at whose hands she suffered. Her small hand wraps around his throat digging in. He does not struggle. "You?!" Her words angry as she recognizes the man before her, his expertly applied prosthetics having been torn off when Scooby attacked. She had seen his picture before; he was a sociopath of the highest order, a master manipulator and hypnotist, rumored to have psychic abilities, a known agent of Cobra, Crystal Ball.
A wretched smile creeps across his face upon her recognition knowing his reputation had preceded him.
"Why?" The one word spit from her throat like venom.
"The Great Old One. He has spoken. He has chosen."
"There is no Great Old One."
"Blasphemer!" Hissing blood he knows how this all ends, as do his followers. "Our GOD has demanded it." As if addressing an unheard voice he continues, "I would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for…" The blade enters his heart without a sound. The body crumbles to the ground. Velma stands bloody knife in hand. She watches as the blood drains from the corpse. The ancient stone taking in each droplet. The chanting ceases. Without a word the people file out of the cavern leaving Velma, Shaggy, and Scooby in utter silence.
"Where are they going?"
Velma turns and watches as the last of the believers exits the cavern. "To their graves."
The three stumble and struggle their way back to the Mystery Machine. The streets of the town empty. The full moon high. They do their best to tend their wounds. Velma refusing offers of help from her friend. Instead Shaggy focuses on his dog. Between each pass of the alcohol soaked bandage Shaggy scratches Scooby behind his ears. He takes the dogs head in both hands and looks into his deep black eyes, "Thanks Scooby Doo." A big wet tongue is Scooby's reply. Shaggy finishes with the dog then works on his own wounds knowing there are some that no amount of antiseptic will heal.
"Let's go." Shaggy turns to the words to find Velma bandaged and dressed. Wearing one of her trademark pleated skirts, knee socks and combat boots, her sweater replaced by a tank top. In her arms she struggles to hold an M-60, ammunition draped over her shoulder. On her belt several fragmentation and thermite grenades.
"Don't Shaggy. We are ending this town."
"Oh I'm not gonna stop you. I just want to know where I can get one of those." He nods towards the big weapon.
"You can have this one. It's too much for me anyway." He stands and takes the hefty machine gun.
"It's gonna feel better in a minute." She grabs a SAW. The weapon is lighter and more manageable then the M-60 but just as destructive. They had procured the military weapons from the home of a self-proclaimed gun nut, Craig McConnel, the same guy who had given her the file on Crystal Ball as well as other Cobra operators who meddled with the macabre and otherworldly. He said he had no more need for either the weapons or the files, he was going to head to the sea and spend his last days surfing the waves. He had gone on about how weapons couldn't save him at the end of the world. Now however, while they might not save Velma and Shaggy from the end of the world they just might save their sanity.
Charging the weapon, "You ready Shag."
"You better believe it."
The night is filled with the reverberation of machine gun fire. Much to the chagrin of Velma and Shaggy none of the towns occupants put up a fight. They find them lying in their beds awaiting the Grim Reaper. When the smoke clears the streets are flooded with the blood of the guilty. Velma and Shaggy head to the building from which they escaped the terrors of the underground lair. They toss several grenades into the coal-black passage. The explosion rocks the very foundation of the town.
Velma, Shaggy and Scooby silently limp their way back to the Mystery Machine, replace the weapons in their crates, buckle up and drive into the night.
Deep underground the concussion from the blast knocks one of the votives from its pedestal. It shatters upon the floor, the broken stone revealing the decrpit body of a creature identical in appearance to the statuary. It takes but a single breath with which it lets out a nightmarish shriek before shriveling and being consumed by the timeworn rock.
Upon the dais the Sarcophagus has sat unchanged since its creation. Defended and protected by the demons at the five corners. With one destroyed their power wanes. A crack appears in the ancient container. Green light escapes. From somewhere within and beyond a laugh.
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: August 23, 2011. Time: 1207. Location: Somewhere in the Pacific.
"Sir we're coming up on the atoll."
"All scans check clear."
"Scan again. I highly doubt we've found the only zombie free chunk of rock in the Pacific."
Sgt Cruze turns back toward the various monitors before him dedicated to the ship's sensors; radar, sonar, night vision, even thermal; all displaying the signals from the buoy floating on the surface tethered to the gray beast below. The EEL has been scanning since the small landmass came within sensor range. The collective breath of the men on board Poseidon's Trident is held in anticipation, hope that they may be able to roll topside. Since the attack on Cobra Island they have kept to the bottom of the depths. Pushing their hammerhead to and past the limits of its construction. Their only interaction with the surface coming in the form of short trips to the top in one of the Trident's one-man attack submersibles. They have watched via the buoy as the world turned upside down, as hordes of the living dead overtook the lands while humanity was helpless to stop them. The men of Poseidon's Trident have faced the decayed monsters on the floor of the mighty oceans. They have seen coral reefs decimated under the relentless feet of the undead. They have fought and killed more then their fare share of the demonic creatures. They know the dangers they face should they open the hatches only to be surprised by THEM. Even one could be the ships undoing. One bite. One scratch. And the battle that they have fought so hard would come to an end. However, the prospect of being able to stand on land after so many months under sea is worth the risk. Each time they came to a landmass prior to today they would send up their buoy only to find it crawling with THEM.
"How's it looking?" Sgt Paul cranes his neck trying to get a look at the various readouts.
"It's looking good. Now back off man. Captain all scans are clear. Their is no sign of the living or the undead."
Captain Wright stands in the cramped area behind Sgt Ganson, who is currently in the pilot's position. "Take us around one more time. I want to make 100% certain that if we open the hatches there are no surprises."
"Yes sir. Taking her around." Despite the palpable tension the men know better then to question their Captain. Ganson steers the giant vehicle around the perimeter of the atoll again, the buoy on the surface guided along via small water jets.
From the Navigator's station Cruze calls out, "Sensors say all clear Captain."
Captain Wright hesitates. He knows that taking his men above ground could end with one or more men falling prey to the hungry maws of the zombies. He also realizes that his men can't take much more of the strain of being under water. As well trained as his men are he's noticed fuses getting shorter. Conversations taking place less and less. Even the witty banter and sarcastic name calling during their underwater battles has ceased. And then there's the smell. If his men don't get topside soon he may not have any men to command.
"Captain your orders."
Ganson's question shakes the Captain from his thoughts. With a deep breath he settles his nerves. "Haul in the buoy. Bring her around. Straight into the lagoon. Suit up men. Full load outs for each of you. We're making landfall."
No sooner is the order given then the men set about their tasks of preparing to land. There is no round of applause or shouts of joy, this isn't a movie. Instead there is shared relief. The vessel remains nearly silent as the men ready themselves. Until, "Hey O'Leary, you might get the chance to spank it in private up there."
"Fuck you Paul."
And just like that the tension is gone. The back and forth known and shared only by brothers in arms retakes the ship. The Captain knows this is the right choice. Still, there is a nagging in the pit of his stomach. He knows this is exactly what his men need. He just wonders how much it's going to cost them.
They bring the Hammerhead around. Straight into the lagoon. The giant wheels tearing into what was once They cross the threshold, the barrier that separates the sea from the lagoon. a living thriving coral bed. Home to hundreds, possibly thousands of aquatic plants and animals. Now nothing but the calcium skeletons of the dead. The continue along their path. The water growing more shallow each passing second. It doesn't take long for the grey behemoth to break the water's surface. The sight before them shocks the men. It takes their breath away. "Sir are you seeing this?"
"Yes I just… I can't…"
Before them lies a tropical paradise. The protected reef on the interior of the lagoon teeming with life. Even behind the thick glass canopies of the Hammerhead the men can see the shapes darting under the water as they press forward.
"I said full stop." He doesn't need to repeat his order. Poseidon's Trident shudders as it comes to rest.
"Gentlemen we may be looking at the last reef of its kind, certainly the first we've seen in months. We're going to tread lightly. Find a course where we'll do the least damage. we gotta preserve this. If not for future generations, for our stomachs." The men understand.
"Sir request permission to crack the hatches. We can get a better look and plot a better course."
"Permission granted." For the first time in ages the seal of the main hatch is broken. The hiss of air is music to the men's ears. Fresh air streams into the cabin. Mack and O'Leary broker for position to be first up. O'Leary wins. Reaching the top he takes a deep breath. The crisp clean sea air hasn't yet been tainted by the smog and ash of the dead world. They seem to have found an oasis in a desert of dead sea.
The trip into the lagoon is uneventful. They pick their way carefully. Attempting to avoid unnecessary damage to the fragile ecosystem.
"Men, we're going up. I want all eyes open all triggers ready. Assume hostile infection. Two by three clearing. Cruze you stay here and monitor our progress. Anything flashes you let us know. O'Leary you're with me. Let's do this."
The men make their way one at a time out of the hatch. Weapons ready. Each man scanning his sector of fire. The Hammerhead and its crew a startling contrast to the lush green flora and clear blue waters. Captain Wright is first to step off the Hammerhead and into the waters. Waist deep he makes his way noiselessly, the lapping of the waves the only sound as each man follows suit and takes position. They scan not only the beach and lush vegetation beyond but the water before them. They know all too well that one of THEM could right now be dragging its decaying corpse towards their position. Moving out of the water like phantoms the men sweep forward. Each dropping to a knee as the proceeding man takes froward position. They continue in this fashion searching for signs of an enemy. All the while each man thrilled at the fresh air. As they creep forward the Captains fist goes up. Each man stops. Through hand signals the Captain sends his men into the brush. Minutes pass as the men search the small crescent shaped island. No words are spoken, no sounds uttered. These men know what they are doing and it shows. Too bad the only witnesses to the perfectly executed clearing were those of the rats scurrying under foot and the birds loudly squawking form the trees. Finally, "Bravo team?" The break in the serene silence answered without hesitation. "Clear."
"Alpha team clear."
- "Tango team clear." - Over the headsets Cruze responds in order.
"Ganson head back the boat, back her up on the beach over there, near that clearing in the trees. Break out the netting. Mack, Paul secure the site get the packages out and set up. Paul and I will stand watch."
"Aye aye Captain."
The work is completely with regulated efficiency. The Hammerhead is back onto the beach the tread marks covered by Mack and Paul as it goes. The set up is fast, cam netting pulled out and laid over the Hammerhead breaking up the silhouette from any unwanted prying eyes. All exterior hatches are opened and the air exchange turned on full. Clothes are taken out and hung on lines between trees.
"Sir permission to swap out gear."
"Permission granted." The men quickly swap their ACUs and plate carriers for board shorts and tees. Each still dons a pistol belt and their rifles are stacked within easy reach. A fire pit is dug, a wall to die the light from view of the sea is built. The men sit around eating and relaxing on dry land for the first time in what feels like ages. Stories are swapped and laughs are shared. All the while there is a pit in Captain Wright's stomach that just won't let go.
THE EVENTS DETAILED IN THIS ENTRY TAKE PLACE AFTER CHAPTER 24 BUT BEFORE CHAPTER 44
Date: Unknown. Time: Unknown. Location: South America, somewhere along the Amazon River.
"Are you sure? I do not want another incident."
"We added restraints to his wrists and neck. The restraints are tight and padlocked. He's under 24 hour guard. I assure you there will not be another incident."
"Lee there better not be. It'll be your ass in a sling."
"I understand sir."
The two Cobras enter the medical bay of the outpost. As they enter a Viper in full gear snaps to attention.
"At ease Crouch. You know if you didn't work so damn well with that BAT I'd have you Court Marshaled for being such a smart ass."
"Sir thank you Sir!"
"Take off that damn helm. I don't like not being able to see your face."
Viper Crouch removes his helmet and stifles a smirk.
"How's our guest doing?"
"Well Sir, he's been in and out of consciousness."
"I'm sure you played no part in that?"
"Absolutely not sir. I have been a very good boy." A leering smile on his face.
"Lee. Wake him up. Crouch. Call the rest of the team here. Let's make sure this guy understands who he's fucking with."
"Yes sir." Lee walks over to a cabinet and prepares a needle. He walks to the unconscious enemy and preps him for the injection that'll wake him. As he waits for the rest of Vipers Nest to arrive, Lee can't help but anticipate the pain he'll inflict on the enemy who caught him off guard. Worse was the relentless harassment from the other Vipers. No one makes him look like a fool.
"Sir the men are here."
"I hear them Crouch." The men filter into the small room. "Where's Fintak?"
"He thought he picked up a signal so he stayed behind to find out for sure."
"Thanks, Kosa. Lee, give him the shot."
"Gladly." Lee injects the chemical cocktail of stimulants into the vein of the badly beaten and swollen Joe. This solution wasn't one he learned in med training. This is one of Interrogator's personal favorites. The effect is near instant. Sneak Peek's eyes fly open, his body convulses against the straps at his wrist, ankles, and neck. He chokes. His body working against him. Against the spasms he catches glimpses of the room; stainless steel cabinets, grey walls, bright lights, men in blue. Then it all comes flooding back to him. His taking of an enemy only to be shot. His attempt at escape. His recapture. The abuse of the last… hours? Days? Weeks? How long has it been? Jesus. How long has he been here? His body is numb. His ears ringing. Vision blurry. What the hell have they done? Too many questions. Too many unknowns. Mumbling. What is that mumbling?
"God damn it Lee why isn't he talking?"
"He will Sir."
"Damn it. I told you to wake him…"
"He's awake Sir."
"Yeah and no fucking use to us. What the hell did you give him?"
"Just an 'energy drink.' He should be fine."
"What the fuck is an 'energy drink'?"
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: July 1, 2011. Time: Unknown. Location: South America.
Somewhere in the Amazon two Cobra Operators make their way towards their designated rally point. Designation Vipers Nest. One is a long time Range Viper, a master at procuring supplies, tracking, and wildlife survival. The other a Swamp Rat. Trained to be tougher than the gators, snakes, and killer insects that share his home. Both experts. Coming across one another while on the way to the Vipers Nest they decided to travel together. Long ago they ran out of ammo and abandoned their firearms. Now they fight blade-to-head against the undead.
"What do you think happened to her?"
"I don't give a shit." With a thunk the heavy machete comes down on the skull of the creature dragging itself across the ground teeth bared scratching its way toward the men. Once a woman. Now a threat. "I don't humanize them. I kill them."
"But they were human once. Don't you have any sympathy?"
With lightning fast reflexes the Range Viper turns on the unsuspecting Swamp Rat, "Sympathy? Sympathy? You want to know if I have sympathy? When this all went down you know where I was? Home. With my wife and kids. That surprise you Rat? An RV like me having a family? Well I did. I had a beautiful wife, my high school sweet heart. We married right after graduation. Right before I left for the Army. She was an Army wife through and through, traveled to all the crap duty stations and never once complained. Brought our two beautiful daughters into the world. I wasn't even there when Alicia was born, I was in some third world suck. After the Court Marshal, when I joined up with this outfit, she stood by me. When this shit started I was home. On leave. We lived in a nice suburban house. Had a minivan for crying out loud. Lived the good life. Finally made the 'American Dream.' Then this."
He swings the gore covered blade into the corpse.
"I was able to hold THEM off. We bugged out like we practiced. Headed to a safe house. Got stopped at a damn Army road block. Had my clean id. Figured we'd get through no issues. These fuckers…"
He slams it into the head of the truly dead thing again.
"… they came out of no where. The ground pounders opened fire. Mowed down the first wave of the fuckers. I got the girls down on the floor of the van. One came through the window. Tried to get my Linda. Got a hollow point instead. The Army, those guys fought well. Rushed us through the check point. No questions just save the civilians. I watched in the rearview as they were over run. Sons of bitches never stopped firing. We got to the safe house. They wouldn't let Linda in. She was bitten. I sent the girls down as I held my love in my arms till she passed. When her eyes opened…"
He stumbles over his words. Holding back emotions he can't bear to accept. The skull mask blazed with a crimson hand print hiding his face.
"The bullet went clean through. I could see the bloodied ground."
The weighted blade finds its way into the gristly remains.
Again it finds its mark.
"We were there, in the safe house, 3 days. Waiting on the transport for our families. The Commander had ordered that no one was to be forced to leave their loved ones till they were extracted. On the third day THEY came. Broke through. We were armed. We fought for our kids. Our families. For Cobra. There were too many. Even for us."
The blade sinks into rotted flesh.
"My girls. Alicia was 6. Took ballet. I missed every one of her recitals. Katie was 3. We used to go to the park. She loved the jungle gym. Loved climbing. She was starting gymnastics classes."
The head rolls off the shoulders of the thing on the ground.
"Sympathy? I have none."
The Swamp Rat is taken aback by the story of his comrade. He places a hand on hisshoulder. "I'm sorry man."
Determined green eyes look back through the empty sockets of the mask, "The Commander vowed to wipe these things off the map. Total eradication. I plan to ride with him till it's done."
"Let's kill these fuckers." The Swamp Rat kicks the creatures head into the brush.
Date: July 7, 2011. Time: 1548. Location: Deep under the Pacific.
Deep under the cold waters of the Pacific a submersible is being pushed to its limits. Its specially designed tires churning up the ocean floor. At the beginning of the battle for Cobra Island the elite team stood their ground and worked to defend their post, successfully sinking several hijacked Moray's crewed by Storm Troopers and traitors. As the battle raged and it became obvious that defeat was inevitable they reluctantly followed the order to Survive, Escape, Resist, and Evade. They were able to escape the onslaught of the good General Eisenkopf. The third of four units formerly assigned to patrol the waters and beaches of Cobra Island the Hammerhead and its crew now aimlessly travel the Pacific while following Cobra protocols to the letter.
The quarters are cramped. The air stale. The schedule tight. The men are forced to "hot bed" in order to grab any down time. The few movies downloaded have been watched to the point that each man can recite the films beginning to end. The only thing keeping the submariners from mutiny is there unwavering loyalty to Cobra and unsurpassed discipline that comes from being some of the best, Cobra EEL.
Each man has been drilled and conditioned for extended underwater survival. All are qualified Secto-Vipers trained in the use of the various submersible offerings in Cobra's Navy. But first and foremost they are EELs. The original Special Forces group of Cobra. Trained in the manner of Navy SEALs the EELs pride themselves on their ability to fight all comers in any environment. Cobra invested heavily in its defense forces cross training each member to ensure proficiency in all positions necessary for the multi-million dollar defense platform to perform its duties uninterrupted in times of strife. Further more each member of a Hammerhead unit has undergone further training with either Snow Serpents, Lampreys, Hydro-Vipers, Medi-Vipers, or a combination of.
The loss of the other three units was a blow to morale yet this unit, Poseidon's Trident, perseveres. They have spent many long months in the pressurized compartments of the underwater behemoth their only respite the rotating opportunity to go topside in one of the small one man sentry subs. "Damn man when is Mack gonna get back? I need to go topside." Looking out the small view port behind the main pilot station the anxious EEL has little more to do than sit and wait.
"Relax yourself Ganson. You'll get your chance we all do." The Captain of the vessel sits taking his turn at the helm of the juggernaut.
"Sorry sir. It's just…" The frustrated EEL points through the small hatch to the rear compartment. "I know we have air scrubbers and oxygen recyclers but they don't do anything about the smell."
"He's right sir it smells like stale boxers and dirty socks in this tin can." The response comes from EEL Paul who is at the navigator's position.
"There's not much we can do about that right now. We're 20 atmospheres down. There isn't a place for us to roll topside and crack the hatches for miles. It is what it is gentlemen."
"I know." Ganson turns eyes fixed into the dark depths. Mumbling, "When is Mack gonna get back?"
The ship falls into silence. The silence only known to those who travel under the sea. Fans and filters the white noise of the deep. The calm is broken as a sonar screen comes alive with movement. "Sir we have incoming."
"Can't be sure. From the sonar sig looks like 40-50."
"Time till intercept?"
"At current rate of speed with currents 10 minutes."
The Captain brings the Hammerhead to a full stop, cranes his neck, and shouts back into the ship, "Alright you fish, suit up and get in the water."
The response is immediate. Despite the limited space the men work like a well oiled machine Ganson and two other EELs gear up; wetsuits, helmets, rebreathers, fins, and weapons donned. "Ready Captain."
"Get out there. Use extreme prejudice."
The three EELs; Ganson, Cruze, and O'Leary exit one at a time through the single person airlock. First out is Ganson. As he clears the Hammerhead he peers into the inky dark. The ship having long extinguished its exterior lights in favor of high tech optics. His comrades exit in turn. Each takes a pre-assigned position and waits to eradicate the enemy. --"Ten meters and closing."--
- "Roger." -
- "Let's do this." -
At their current depth their underwater armory; ADS, APS, and ASM-DT amphibious rifles are of no use. They are left with spearguns, tridents, and knives. Which each wields with deadly intent. Seconds feel like hours as the three men wait for an enemy they can not see.
- "Where the fuck are they?" - Just then a hand reaches up, a grip of steel takes hold of Ganson's ankle and begins to pull him down. As he gets pulled closer the small light from his helmet unveils the horrific sight before him. From its current state it looks to be one of the first of THEM to be taken to the bottom. It's grey skin hangs loose all over it's naked body, clothing having been lost to the water long ago. It's eyes empty sockets of darkness a sign that the natural denizens of the deep couldn't pass up making a meal of the hunter. Its mouth full of blackened and broken teeth. He sees it's hand stripped of flesh yellowed bone held together by tendon alone. Were they topside it would have been the first moan of a swarm, down here there is only the silence of the undead. Instinct takes over and the diver swings his speargun around and places it directly between the sinkers eyes. Releasing it's load the speargun sends a bolt straight through its skull. It passes through the waterlogged flesh and bone of a second target before lodging into the skull of a third.
- "Contact." -
- "No shit Cruze." -
Cruze swims just above the ghoul it's arms stretching upward as it tries to grab him. With a burst of speed he drops behind the creature, grabs it's head, and punches his dive knife through the base of it's skull. The impact makes the head burst like an overripe melon sending forth a cloud of infected material. - "Damn man I'll never get used to how they disintegrate." -
- "Don't think you're supposed to." -
And just like that the battle begins. The underwater swarm is upon them. The EELs always staying above the creatures using their spearguns to skewer the heads of the infected.
- "I'm out." -
- "Me too." -
- "This is about to get even uglier." -
The mindless beasts climb on the Hammerhead looking for any way to peal back the pressurized armor so they can sink their teeth into the tasty morsels inside like sardines in a can. Inside, "Captain. I think you better take a look at this."
"What is it?"
"I'm sending it to your screen now."
The Captain looks at the sonar picture in disbelief. "Alright this is going to be a long night. Tell 'em."
"Yes sir. - Guys we have more inbound. - "
- "Yeah we're dealing with that." -
" - Negative. This is a new threat. Sonar is picking up a horde. Too many for a true count but it looks like… Well it covers the sonar screen completely.
"You've gotta be fuckin' kiddin'."
Hearing the reaction of his men the Captain attempts to reassure them, "- Sorry gentlemen this is no joke that is one massive horde heading our way. I'm suiting up now to join you. We're gonna be here a while. -"
- "Why don't we just bug out Captain?" -
"- No can do. They'd most likely follow us. We have to eliminate the threat in order to proceed with orders. -"
- "Shit." -
- "I double that." -
- "Where the fuck is Mack?" -
The Captain leaves the ship to join his men. The fight wages on till finally, - "Initial kill count 43 sunken, waterlogged, exploded zombies sent to Davy Jones' locker." -
- "Don't get cocky yet. We still have more coming." - The vibrations hit them. - "Fuck was that?" - As if terrified the waters tremor with the movement of the Horde. As one they march ever forward. Seeking out life to extinguish. The ground beneath their feet rumbles. The water immediately fills with the detritus and decay of the undead. - "Zero visibility sir. I can't see shit." - Were they able to see it even these highly trained Special Forces troops would retreat. THEY cover the stationary Hammerhead in moments. More arriving each second. Like ancient warriors of Atlantis the EELs fight on. Tridents plunging into the skulls of the unearthly things.
The bodies of the zombies accumulate tripping up their flesh craving comrades. Time drags on, each man rising above THEM only to dive down and attack. Each lunge increases the risk of being caught by one of THEM.
- "Damn it. Get it off me!" - An unlucky grab by a fiend carries EEL O'Leary to the bottom. THEY cover his body as he fights to escape. - "Get the fuck off me!" - He fights twisting and turning as the creatures try to strip the protection of the dive suit from his body.
- "Hold on man. We're coming for ya." - His team mates respond with haste, knives sinking into temples, tridents thrust into skulls they work furiously to rescue their mate before the teeth of one of THEM finds its mark. The battle intensifies as each diver finds himself in the grips of monsters. They tear at the wetsuits of the men unable to penetrate the thick kevlar lined material. Their helms providing extra protection from the wretched things as the exposed bones of fingers scrape and pry like deranged claws in futile attempts to extract the grey matter of the men. Were the men wearing civilian SCUBA gear they would certainly join the ranks of the sinkers.
As they fight each man breaks free from one assailant only to fall prey to another. The rescue of O'Leary all but forgotten as they become locked in a life or death struggle on the ocean bottom. There is no com chatter only the occasional grunt as each man knows that he is not alone in the battle for survival. The horde is full upon them. The men forced to the ground trying in vain to defend themselves. - "Paul get that thing started get out of here." -
- "I can't Captain." -
- "That's an order Sergeant." -
- "No sir, I can't. The intakes are clogged. There's just too many of them." -
The piles of ghouls grow larger as they climb atop one another driven by the never-ending need to feed. A crackling comes over the headsets of each man. - Bzzt crr bzt - It grows louder till, - "Why wasn't I invited to the party?" - A small tactical sub modeled after the great hunting fish the barracuda shoots across the top layer of the piles flooding the depths with disintegrated remains. -"There you are you bastard. What the hell took you so long?" - The agile craft swings around for another pass destroying a dozen more creatures as it crashes through them.
- "Well you know. I went top side found a cruise ship, danced, drank, ate, had a good ol' time." - He continues using the sub as a weapon of retribution striking the undead.
- "Fuck you man." - A renewed vigor passes through the EELs as salvation seems to be at hand. Still the men fight in silence each taking down attackers until able to kick above them.
- "Welcome back Mack 'Bout damn time." - the massive horde keeps coming. - "Men I think we need to call it. We've gotta clear the intakes of the Poseidon and get the hell outta dodge." -
Mack puts his small sub in suspension mode, small computer controlled water jets ensure its precise location through small corrections against the current. Armed with speargun in one hand trident in the other he enters the fray. The EELs attempt to clear the never-ending army of undead. For each one they remove two more take its place. - "It's no use Captain." -
From inside all Paul can see is the decayed flesh of the horde as bodies press and smear against the ports. - "Sir I think I have an idea that can save Poseidon." -
- "What is it son?" -
- "I can purge the ballasts. She'll shoot topside like a cork. They're sure to come off as we climb." -
- "No can do sailor. Broaching at that speed you'd die of decompression sickness. We need every man we have." -
From outside, - "Sir we may have bigger fish to fry." -
- "What is that Ganson." -
- "Sir we've got ten minutes of air left. We didn't want to say anything but now…" -
The Captain falls silent while continuing to dive down and eradicate the threat to the men under his command. After several minutes he swims up to them, - "These things just keep coming. We're low on air. The Hammerhead is dead in the water. I don't see how we can get out of this." - He dives down dealing a deathblow to another of the undead sinkers. As he comes up he calls out, - "Mack." -
- "Yes sir." -
- "How much air is left in that Barracuda you brought back?" -
- "She's at 90% capacity sir." - Putting two and two together the EELs swim over to the waiting Barracuda. - "Hook up and fill up." - Each man hooks his rebreather into one of the subs air tanks. - "Men shit looks bad I'll give you that. But we aren't gonna be chum tonight." -
The night drags on. Hands reach out of the watery abyss to be met by the swift thrust of finely wrought steel. Teeth fall to the bottom as they fall from destroyed remains. The only respite for the men being short breaks at the Barracuda. Hours slip by. The men no longer know if it's day or night as the sun is unable to penetrate the depths. Inside the Hammerhead Paul continually updates the Captain and crew on the sonar readouts wishing he too was out there fighting besides his comrades. They cut the Horde down drastically. - "Okay men get back inside, first out first in. Will just run the rest of these bitches down." - The men reenter the sub, a long process whereby the dive chamber fills to equalize pressure, opens, the diver enters, the chamber drains, the diver removes his gear careful to prevent contamination from any gore that may linger on the suit. All the while the rest of the team remains outside fighting the monsters. The Captain is last to come aboard.
"Yes sir. No injuries." replies Mack.
"The dive suits are beat to shit though. Don't think they'd last another trip out never mind an engagement like that."
"How many do we have left?"
"We have one full set for each of us. After that it's skivvies and flippers."
"Understood. Toss the suits. Paul find us a damn atoll or island we gotta go topside it fuckin' reeks in here."
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: 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: July 27, 2011 Time: 1820. Location: South America, somewhere along the Amazon River.
A full 12 hours later the men of Vipers Nest began to come around. Their heads groggy form the effects of the toxin used by Agent X 99. Each man found himself tucked squarely in his bunk with new tightly pressed uniforms, squared away gear, and highly polished boots sitting on the chests at the end of each bunk. The sounds of classical music danced through the air as did the aroma of fresh coffee and of all things bacon. Fresh bacon!
Lt Onesi, Viper Lee, Viper-Pilot Nason, Tele-Viper Fintak, and Techno-Viper Kosa each geared up in their small bunk rooms. The new uniforms striking different from the old "Jungle Viper" uniforms, which were nothing more than the standard Viper uniform only drab green as opposed to Cobra Blue. Yet at the same time they remarkably similar. The Helms looked the same form the outside yet when put on a whole flurry of new data raced across the visor. A full Heads Up Display like seen in helicopters alerted the wearers to enemy numbers and location of friendly forces, all shown on a 3-D terrain map. The voice activated night, thermal, and binocular vision enhancements kept the hands free for weapons use. Of all the men Techno-Viper Kosa and Tele-Viper Fintak were the most impressed. Coming out their rooms they assembled in the hallway. Onesi joined Fintaka dn Kosa while they waited for Lee and Nason. "Sir have you checked this stuff out." asks Kosa excitement in his voice.
"Yeah I checked it. What's your take on it?"
"This stuff is generations ahead of anything that's supposed to be out in the next 20 years."
"Sir, my helm is beyond anything I could have imagined. Anything I could do form the central terminal I can now do. Hell I don't even need the tech pack anymore it's all integrated directly into the uniform."
Two doors open and a newly dressed Nason and Lee step out. Lee seeing the Pilot's new uniform let's out, "Holy shit Nason look at you."
"Yeah no crap man. I couldn't find my other flight suit. Look at you guys."
The men each take a minute to look over the new gear of the others. Each commenting on the new tweaks as well as the more ergonomic placement of certain high value items. As they talk Onesi comes to a realization. "Shit!" The four men turn and look at their officer.
"What's the problem LT?"
"What's the problem? This for one." He replies pulling at his uniform. "Where the hell did these come from? And do I really need to remind you we were fuckin' poisoned by Agent X 99. With all of us out who's been watching the Nest? What's been happening?"
"What do you wanna do?" Asks Lee.
"I say we get our weapons, find the fucker who did this, and ask a few questions."
"There will be no need to locate your weapons Lieutenant Onesi I assure you." The voice from behind them startles the men. They turn and find Agent X 99 standing behind them with a tray of steaming coffee mugs. "Coffee? I would have made cappuccinos but it appears as though the issuing of one for your operations was neglected."
"Lieutenant. Before you start rambling off questions demanding answers why don't you take your mug and follow me."
"Right and swallow more poison."
"Oh don't be obnoxious. I didn't poison you. I merely exposed you all to a concoction of my own device, one that simply put you to sleep as you are well aware of."
"I will not leave the Nest unprotected either Kosa or Fintak needs to be in the control room."
"You really are a fine piece of work aren't you Lieutenant. Rest assured the Nest has been secured as have your guests the Mortal and Sneak Peek, I saw to it myself. The B.A.T. is on station outside. Should anything try to breech the Nest we shall have sufficient notification to allow us to mount a defense. Now please take your mug and follow me, my arms are tiring from holding this tray."
Onesi wearily steps up and takes his mug, a Cobra Blue mug with a Joe logo crossed out ala Ghostbusters. Each of the men in turns takes theirs none drinking the dark brew. "I made sure to pour each to your liking. Now if you will." Agent X 99 turns and walks off. He turns at the corner of the hall without looking back. The incredulous men look at one another then follow. They follow him through the dim corridors of the Vipers Nest. He stops at a maintenance closet. "Here we are gentlemen. After you." Agent X 99 opens the doors and waves the men in.
Looking at the closet door, but not into the space itself Onesi comments, "With all due respect Agent X 99…"
"Agent will be just fine Lieutenant."
"Whatever, Agent, that's a closet man. There's nothing in there but conduit and cleaning supplies."
"You say this without even looking within. I say, when the Commander and I picked you men for this assignment we really thought you'd be more attentive. I'm shocked that you never found what lies within on your own. Disappointed actually. Now please stop wasting our precious time the Commander will be here shortly."
"You keep talking about the Commander like you know where he is."
"That's because I do. He is now 32 hours away form the Vipers Nest accompanied by Generals Tomax and Xamot, as well as the men you sent to fetch him. Now please do not make me ask you again, step this way." He again waves the men to the closet. They share a brief look. "I assure you gentlemen I am not crazy. I am however beginning to get frustrated. Now if you will…" His hand waves them into the room. Onesi enters the dark space followed by Lee, Nason, Fintak, and Kosa. Agent X 99 steps in closing the door. The room is pitch black. There is a clicking form the direction of where Agent X 99 should be, then the sound of gears turning. Light begins to make its way around the edge of the back wall. It opens to reveal a set of stairs. Light filters its way from the bottom of the long staircase. "Again gentlemen I ask that you please enter."
"What the hell is going on sir?" Asks Lee, a look of bewilderment on his face.
"I have no idea. I say we find out." Onsei makes his way down the spiraling stairs followed by the Agent, his main trailing behind. They walk down several stories the bottom opening up into a large room. Half a football field the area is packed with crates, 2 of which are open. Also filling the space is a tanks unlike any the men had seen before. Vaguely resembling the Cobra HISS tanks these new ones have a wider footprint, seems sleeker and look faster, they also appear to be better armed. At the far end is something they've never seen before. An aircraft looking like a cross between a jet and a helicopter with wings folded back and large propellors facing upwards sits gleaming black paint giving it an ominous appearance.
"I see that you really had no idea this room existed. It's for the best. This is where the new uniforms you are wearing came form. When Crouch and Akin arrive they too will receive theirs. Now follow me as I explain.
What you see before you are prototypes developed by Cobra, yes I said Cobra not M.A.R.S. The technology that is integrated within the fine machines before you is a bland of M.A.R.S., Stark, and Wayne Industries." He stops in front of the two large black tanks. "This, gentlemen, if the most advanced weapons platforms in the world. The HISS V. Capable of speeds up to 200 mph with an effective 'on road' range over 1000 km this beast is equipped with duel chin mounted machine guns, a top mounted 50cal liquid cooled gatling gun, and can be further equipped with a variety of modular weapon systems, all of which we have in storage here in this room. It has an elevating body which allows it a 360 degree field of fire. Needless to say, it deal out punishment beyond anything currently on the battlefield. Sgt Lee you are a qualified HISS tank driver correct."
"Isn't it true that you also passed advanced Motor-Viper training. Aced the course if I remember correctly."
Looking up at the newest HISS Tank Lee replies, "Uhh… Yeah."
"A man of few words I see. Well Sergeant you shall be piloting this magnificent machine."
Looking at Agent he asks, "I really get to drive that?"
"Yes Sergeant you will. Now if you will all follow me let us continue our tour." The group silently walks towards the aircraft at the far end. "I'm sure you have all asked yourself why a pilot was assigned to a jungle listening post that was equipped with a single Trouble Bubble, a vehicle even the most new blue shirt is trained how to operate. Well Warrant Officer Nason here is the only pilot to ever fly Wild Weasel to a draw in a Rattler. He is also the only pilot in the history of Cobra to successfully train as an A.V.A.C., Strato-Viper, Heli-Viper, and Gyro-Viper. When it came time to find a candidate to pilot this beauty there was only one option. This gentlemen is the next generation FANG flight system. We dubbed her the Black Dragon. She is the only one her kind. She has the speed of a jet combined with the maneuverability of a helicopter. She integrates WRAITH Stealth technology obtained from M.A.R.S. as well as white noise cancelation technology and advanced weapons systems including a chin mounted machine gun, retractable 50 cal gating gun, and two payloads of cluster bombs, of which several new types were created just for this particular bird. I know the rotors may give her the appearance of being clumsy but she tops out at near Mach 1. Yes, she has out flown and outfought even Destro's most advanced fighter the M.A.R.S. Series 1 Gunship, it may have been faster but our little Dragon here still took it out. In the new world she will be the standard for air superiority. And to think there were those that said prop planes went the way of the dodo."
Agent turns to look at the assembled men. "As I stated before, gentlemen, you were hand picked by the Commander under my advisement. You have all shown to either be the best at your speciality or having the potential to be. Not only that, but your camaraderie with one another is highly valued. You have trained with one another to a point where words are not needed for each member to know what is expected. You are going to be the model for the new Cobra.
Lieutenant you should be proud of what you've established here. You single handily took down a Cobra Mortal, no small feat. Your men are responsible for capturing a Joe and you continue to hold him captive. The way you have all continued to follow internal protocols and remained loyal to the Organization has not gone unnoticed.
Onesi your continued loyalty you will become the leader of a new unit, your men will of course stay under your command and will be supplemented with a small group of my selection. They will write about your victories in the history books as we retake the former United States. For generations to come people will be talking about The Plague."