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.