"Commander, the information you requested has arrived." The uniformed trooper places a folder on the well worn oaken desk, snaps a salute, then quickly leaves.
Cobra Commander sits back in his chair, elbows on the leather armrests, fingers steepled. He peers at the manila folder steeling himself to look inside.
For 8 years the war has raged on. Man vs undead. Cobra vs the remnants of the US government. So far he has been winning on both fronts. In fact he's been using the undead in his battle against the new G.I.Joe team. The strategy has been simple, get a horde to follow a team to Salem, Oregon the capitol of the New States of America, point the mass of flesh eating monsters at the walls, and make the fledgling government use their precious resources to stop the creatures from feasting on those inside. It worked surprisingly well. Until it didn't. All went as usual, the team of troopers had rounded up a horde made up of several thousand walking corpses. They had already chosen the attack point as well as the area where they would splinter off leaving the swelling mass to attack. When they arrived at the location where they'd double back, a team of heavily armed Joes were waiting. They suffered heavy casualties, the first to the Joes in well over a year.
There was no way the Joe team could have guessed where the next attack would be. Which meant there was a mole. Cobra had recruited a number of former Joe operators as well as operatives and agents from numerous US Federal Agencies but none were on the mission or a part of the planning process. Cobra Commander spared no resources to find the information in the file in front of him. Now he hesitated to open it. Leaning forward he pressed the intercom button. His assistant answers, "Yes Commander"
"Get me Generals Tomax and Xamot. Immediately. When they arrive make sure I am not interupted under any circumstances."
"Yes Commander." Cobra Commander sits back fingers steepled, waiting.
It takes only a matter of minutes for a knock at the door to draw his attention away from the dossier. He calls out, "Enter." The door opens slowly. Generals Tomax and Xamot are no strangers to the office of the Commander having assisted in every aspect of the creation of New Springfield and the continuing attacks on Salem. They were however unnerved at the unannounced meeting. They step in coming to a stop and saluting. "You called for us Commander." Tomax says.
"Yes. I did."
They remain standing as no seat is offered. "What can be so important as to take us away from..."
"Are you questioning me Xamot!??? The words are growled not as a question but a warning.
"No Commander." Xamot stands rigid like a rabbit seeing the snake and hoping it doesn't see him. His brother freezes next to him.
"Gentlemen." Not Generals. The two instinctually know this will not turn out well. "As you know the last mission to Salem was an abject failure."
Tomax interjects, "Sir we know things didn't go as planned..."
"SILENCE!" The word reverberates through the office. He looks from one to the other his gleaming mask showing nothing of his face. It simply mirrors the reflections of two very still and very uneasy Cobra Generals. "Inside this folder is the reason why." He slides it across the desk. "I went to great lengths to get this information."
"I said silence. I will not repeat myself again." The threat is not only implied but punctuated by the placement of a shining silver revolver on the desk. "I have yet to open the folder but have been told what it contains." He looks at each man again, beads of sweat beginning to form on their brows. "I'm going to ask you to open it and to deal with it." He then goes silent relaxing into his chair in the familiar pose with steepled fingers. "Open it." He doesn't direct the order to either man in particular.
Tomax reaches out, "Brother don't" Xamot's hand grasps his brothers wrist catching Tomax of guard. "Why not brother?" "No good will come of it. This is clearly a test by the Commander. A test of our loyalty to Cobra." Tomax looks at his brother's pleading eyes. "Don't." Is all Xamot says.
"Brother I don't know what you think this may contain but we have been ordered by our Commander. I shall not ignore that order." He twists his wrist away. A tear runs down his brother's cheek. He turns to look as he flips the cover open. Inside are photos. Photos that cannot exist. Photos of him handing information to a Joe operator. His vision swirls. The world around him seems to come crashing down. A cacophony of sound erupts in his head. "What... How?" He stammers looking at the Commander seeing only the reflection of his own palpable fear. The Commander turns his head toward Xamot. Tomax sees something in the reflection he can't quite comprehend. He turns towards his brother not realizing that he had retrieved the pistol from the Commander's desk and now had it leveled at his head. "B-b-Brother." Xamot cocks the single action weapon. "I'm sorry brother."
"NO..." The earsplitting sound of the .357 cuts off the word as Tomax's head splits open like an overripe melon. Behind his mask the Commander smiles. Xamot turns towards the man. "I'm sorry Commander." In one smooth motion the gun is under Xamot's chin, the trigger squeezed, and the lifeless body falls to the ground with a wet thud. The Commander's smile grows. He presses the intercom, "Get me a clean up crew."
"Right away sir."
December 24th, 2016, 11:49pm
"Go! Go! Go!" Thomas swings the broken shotgun connecting with the skull of the nearest rotting corpse reaching out to grab him. The blow knocks the ghoul back but it staggers forward. Thomas takes the opportunity to get through the open door slamming it shut behind him. "Grab that bookcase get it over here." Two of the adults inside drag it in front of the door. "We gotta cover these windows. Find anything you can. Put more in front of the door." The three adults grab everything not nailed down and pile it in front of the door and windows. "I'll see if there is another way out of here." Thomas goes off into a side room. He comes back a moment later the look on his face tells the adults all they need to know. A little boy, 7 years old reaches for his hand, "Daddy?" The one word says everything. The questioning pleading frightened tone speaks volumes. Thomas reaches down pulling his son into his arms, "It'll be okay Adam. I promise." He knows he's lying. He knows it's only a matter of time before everything comes crashing down and the ravenous maws of the undead feast on their flesh. He also knows he won't let his little ones be their victims. He walks over to the other children. His children. The three stand close together tears streaming from their eyes.
He stoops down. They run to him. He holds all four close. His daughter Jenny. Little Mikey and Michelle. Twins he found hiding under a bed in a house early on. Michelle pointed a pistol at him. She squeezed the trigger. The hammer clicked empty. They were 4 at the time. He wasn't technically their father but they became his kids as he devoted his whole being to protecting them. They, along with his 2 little ones were his whole world. Thankfully he found help along the way; Abner the big biker tattoos up and down his arms, Lisa the teenage girl who held her own better then most, and Sindy the grandmother. Now here they were.
We huddled in the corner resigned to our fate. For years we struggled and fought to survive but on this night our time had come. Our ammunition was long gone. Our firearms nothing more then piles of bent and twisted steel and plastic. When the last round was fired we had resorted to using our rifles and pistols as bludgeons. You ever hit someone with a gun? You used to see it in the movies a lot. A quick crack to the head and down went the bad guy. Turns out it's not so easy. The skull is designed to protect the brain. You have to bash over and over again to destroy the gray matter. It takes a toll on your weapon. Eventually they break.
We fought the undead off long enough to make it into a building. Somehow we got the door closed and barricaded then worked on the covering the windows. It was haphazard and we all knew it wouldn't hold. That we were just delaying the inevitable but the kids were worth it. "Let's move to a different room." Thomas led the group to a second floor bedroom. The sounds were quieter now but ever relentless. The other three adults grabbed what they could and tossed it on the stairs. Anything to slow down what would soon be happening.
"Hey it's Christmas Eve." Thomas said looking at the kids as Sindy, Abner, and Lisa walked in. Even with the banging of the undead the mention of Christmas got the little ones' attention.
"Let's see what we have here." Sindy said reaching into her backpack. The children watched wiping tears from their eyes. She pulled 4 small packages wrapped in old newspaper tied with bits of string. She handed one to each child. "Go ahead. Open them. I don't think Santa will mind." They did excitedly. For weeks the adults had searched for a few items that might comfort the kids and make Christmas more bearable. A doll. A small dump truck. An old action figure. A stuffed bear. They found them and did their best to clean them up. Each child lit up seeing their new toy. They didn't care about the scratches chipped paint or small tears. They were just kids being kids.
The adults watched tears in their eyes. "Thomas?" Lisa's voice was a tense whisper. Thomas looked at her. "I know." Quietly they all pulled small knives out placing them on the bed. "Not yet. Let them play." They watched the kids each lovingly playing like there was no such thing as monsters. The sound of shattering glass drew the adults attention but not the kids. Sindy' hand slid toward her blade. Thomas put his hand on hers. "Not yet." Tears rolled down his cheeks. They had talked about this eventuality and knew what had to be done. The zombies would not kill the children. "Please. Not yet. Please." She pulled her hand away nodding.
"Look Daddy. It's snowing." Little Adam held his dump truck and pointed out the window. "Do you think Santa's still out there?" Thomas went to the boy, he knew he didn't believe in Santana anymore and was just asking for the littler kids. "I bet he is." Michelle put her hand in his "Do you think he's scared of the monsters?" She looks at him eyes big and full of wonder. "I don't think so. He can fly in his sleigh."
"I wish I could fly." Mikey said finding a place to sit in Thomas' lap. "Me too buddy." Jenny crawled on too. He kissed the tops of each of their heads holding them as close as he could.
Without warning there was a noise on the roof. A clatter. The sound of bells. "What the..." Abner looks up.
"It almost sounds like... hooves." Lisa says following the sounds above her.
Thud. Thud. Thud. "That sounds like footsteps." Sindy whispers. Thump. The sound reverberates in the room. Thump. Thump. Thump. The footsteps go back across the roof. The hoofbeats start again followed by a quick dragging sound. Then it's gone. As they all stare at the ceiling above them they hear it echoing in the distance. "Ho! Ho! Ho!"
"I'm going to check it out." Abner finds his way to the roof. When he gets there he is in disbelief and shock. A large red bag sits in the middle of the flat rooftop overflowing from it he sees the muzzles of rifles and shotguns. Rushing over he looks inside; body armor covered in magazine pouches stuffed with fully loaded magazines. Shotguns of various sizes and styles fully loaded. Rifles locked and loaded. Chainsaws fueled and ready to go. An arsenal worthy of an army dropped on the roof. It takes several trips to get it all back inside. Each adult putting on body armor and grabbing weapons. "It's a Christmas miracle." Thomas whispers. "Let's put these undead down for good."
Somewhere in California. 2016.
It’s been nearly 30 years since that fateful night back home. I still have it, Van Helsing’s Diary. Just in case he comes back. I don’t know how it would happen but then again zombies now rule the world. In between Dracula and the undead we had quite a run.
We kept the club going through school. A couple years before Patrick and I graduated, Rudy went to technical school to become a machinist. He’s also studied to become a gunsmith and taught himself all he could about being a blacksmith, all while he entered archery competitions. Horace joined the Army right out of high school. He said he hated being known as “Fat Kid.” He enlisted in the Infantry, went Airborne, became a Ranger, and ended up in the Special Forces. He became a mountain of a man with combat experience all around the world. When he finally got discharged he came home and joined the company. Eugene joined the military too. He went National Guard as 25C radio operator/maintainer. He stayed with the company the whole time. Patrick and I went away to college. Eugene kept the Monster Squad afloat while we studied. We both received BAs in Biology. My little sis, Phoebe, went on to study ancient languages at UCL (University College London). She worked as a translator on the side. The Monster Squad became a company, complete with; tax id, workers comp insurance, the whole nine. It wasn’t easy though.
See, after the final battle with Dracula the government took over our town, within 24 hours our small piece of America was swarming with federal agents from various branches: FBI, CIA, NSA, we even have photographic evidence of MIB, Men In Black, but no one would believe us, we were just kids with crazy imaginations. Somehow they were able to convince nearly the whole town that a storm had resulted in a tornado touching down and causing the damage. The dead cops, they were injured by debris trying to get people to safety. Those cops gave their lives trying to stop the Forces of Darkness from taking over, they’re heroes. The reports of monsters written off as delusions. No matter what we said, what evidence we presented, we were laughed at and patted on the heads. The patronizing was infuriating. But rather then get discouraged and break up the club we doubled down and began researching other legends, building our armory: wooden stakes, silver bullets, arrows, knives, any arcane items we could get our 12 year old hands on. It wasn’t until we were all older that we began including firearms.
What kept us going? Stories of other groups mainly Mystery Inc. who traveled the Midwest and California, the Goonies up in Oregon, and the Ghostbusters in New York City. They were all over the news, especially Mystery Inc. While they uncovered that most crimes were caused, not by monsters but rather greedy men in elaborate costumes, we wanted to focus on the other things that went bump in the night. We researched the reports of Gremlins of California, the Critters of Kansas, I got to go on a Graboids hunt in the Midwest. We tried to find the Necronomicon, rumors have it that some Vegas magician had it locked it. We investigated the nightmare man called Freddy, we checked out Camp Crystal Lake. We had some successes, eliminating cursed mummies as well Lycan, and even some stray vampires. The Monster Squad began to have a reputation of taking on the jobs everyone else was scared of.
Then THEY came. The undead. The zombies.
We were definitely better prepared then the other groups around the states. We had the experience fighting for our lives, we had the weapons, and we had two guys with the training, Eugene and Horace. Horace had trained us with Eugene’s help. So we knew how to shoot, how to avoid detection, squad combat, the whole nine. It’s served us well these last few years. We’ve secured a warehouse and have been able to stockpile loads of supplies; food, water, medicine, ammunition. There’s a garden up on the roof as well as a water reclamation unit to collet rain water. We put in a septic system and our perimeter is tightened up tighter then Gill-Man’s ass. Lately we’ve been picking up radio chatter about strange things happening. Stranger then the dead walking. Cults and “Old Gods” type stuff. We’re planning a trip to a location nearby where it’s said that Mystery Inc is being held captive by an abomination. We’ll see if we can help.
We are the Monster Squad.
Date: May 1st, 2015. time: 2100 hours. Location: Vipers' Den, somewhere in the Colorado Rockies.
"Hey Doc." The voice pulls him out of his reading. He puts down his well worn copy of "The Real Ironman. The Autobiography of Tony Stark" and glances at the clock on the wall.
He doesn't try to correct the man. He had tried for a while. He was told a degree didn't matter, he was the one keeping them all healthy and alive. Besides wasn't Hawkeye one of the doctors on MASH. He'd given up after that. Now everyone calls him Doc.
"Yes?" Sitting alone behind the desk in the large and currently unoccupied infirmary the long time Mediviper looks at the Rockviper standing in front of him. "What's up John?"
"Oh nothing much. Just thought I'd come check on how my favorite Doc is doing." He pulls up a chair and flops down into it. "Whatchya reading?"
"Tony Stark's autobiography."
"Yeah? I'm more of a Steve Roger's fan myself."
"Oh yeah. Big fan." He pauses for a minute getting a faraway look in his eyes. "That Steve Rogers was everything I wanted to be. Did I ever tell you about my time in the Army?" He hadn't but Hawkeye had read his file and knew all about it.
“I was in the 10th Mountain Division:
We are the 10th Mountain Infantry,
With a glorious history
On our own two feet,
All our foes we'll defeat,
Light fighters marching on to
We go where others dare not go,
Through the heat or cold or snow,
We are proud to be in the Army of the free.
Climb to glory, Mountain Infantry.
Climb to glory, the Light Infantry."
He sits silently as thoughts race across his face. "Four years. Four of the hardest years of my life." Another pause. "I enlisted right after 9/11. Figured it'd be a good job. Support my wife and kids. Help the country. All that good Patriotic crap ya know." He doesn't pause for an answer. "Anyway, there I am in Afghanistan getting shot at by jihadi pieces\\] of shit and my wife is stateside shopping with food stamps. Fuckin' food stamps. I'm risking my life and the government won't pay me enough to support my family.
They drop over 60 billion dollars on a plane that doesn't work while my wife goes hungry so our kids can eat. Fuck is that about?
So there I am in the shit. Getting shot at. You know something, that didn't scare me, being shot at. You know what did? Not knowing if the electricity would stay on back home. I had done it all the right way; graduated high school, got an Associate's Degree, was gonna get a BA in geology but then the Twin Towers…” He goes still remembering back to the day that changed the United States forever.
“…anyway I enlist. You know what an Associate's Degree gets you? Jack and shit. Oh sure I was a Specialist, fuck everyone and their mother were Specialists. You know what a BA gets you? A chance at OCS, better pay, business recruiters waiting to swoop you up, a real life after the Army. That's what they get.
I'd get letters from home, an email about how my wife had to get groceries donated to her. Donated! Why does my wife need donations?
Four years I was in. 3 deployments. I was up to re-up my enlistment, Carol and I fought about that. I don't know what I was thinking. Anyway, one night we really got into it. Yelling at each other. Kids crying. I left. Went to the bar. I was nursing a pint when a guy sat down next to me. Said he was a recruiter for a PMC firm. Wouldn't say which one, Opsec and all that he said. I swear he knew everything about me. Said he had a job to offer me. Slid me his card. Told me he'd written a number on the back of it, my starting salary. He said not to look at it till he left. He ordered us a round and told me all about the benefits my family would get; relocation, rent free housing in a house with a yard, the medical, dental, the whole nine yards. He told me I'd do 3 months on 3 months off. It'd be a 5 year contract, after that we'd renegotiate.
He paid my tab and told me he'd call me in a few days, I hadn't even given him my number. I went home, we had a small 2 bedroom apartment off base. My kids shared the larger bedroom, my wife and I in the smaller one. It was more like a glorified closet if I'm honest. I didn't tell Carol at first. I needed to make up for the fight.
Carol is the best thing to happen to me.
So a couple days later I tell her. She's suspicious and said if something sounds too good to be true it's cause it is. But she said I could check it out. He called the next day. I went on a tour. A tour. He showed me where I'd be trained and showed me a model home. He asked if I wanted to talk to my wife some more. Maybe bring her by. No hard sale. No pressure. I told her all about it and signed up.
On day one I met everyone else in my training unit. All of us had similar stories. It was a week before we learned we had signed up with Cobra. Don't get me wrong we weren't a bunch of idiots. We had suspicions but when we walked in to an amphitheater and saw the back drop it became clear. We were all Vets mind you. We all served our countries, every one of us honorably too. Not a slacker among us. No POGs either. We had heard about Cobra, who hadn't? They were fucking terrorists. They murdered civilians. They were the dregs the worst of the worst of society. We had heard that Cobra was in 'Stan supporting those assholes.
Turns out Cobra was there.
Did you know Cobra Commander sent two squads of Rock Vipers to Afghanistan to help find those POS? They worked with the Special Forces several times doing stuff the US couldn't do themselves. You'd never see that reported on the nightly news. The Commander hated Bin asshole. Hated that he killed innocent people." The Rockviper sits forward, "Did you know the Commander did everything he could to keep civilian casualties to a minimum? Yeah Alley Vipers cause havoc and mayhem but how many civilians have they intentionally killed? No carpet bombing. No accidental drone mishaps. I'm not delusional Doc, I know innocent civilians die, that's the cost of war, but not nearly the same number. It's not comparable. You ever met the Commander?" He pauses clearly hoping for an answer.
"No I haven't had the pleasure."
"I did. You know what he asked me? He asked me to tell him about my family. I told him Carol, little Tommy and Bethany. He asked how my kids were doing in school. How we liked our neighborhood. He asked me how we were doing with the deployment schedule. If I was holding up okay. He literally looked me in the eyes and said, 'Sergeant, I know that this is probably not how you saw your life going. Secretly working for a group labeled terrorists, but it is for a common good and in the end you'll realize that this was the best decision you've ever made.' Then he shook my hand and left. There was no cackling or grandiose speech, just one man talking to another man.
You know Brian, you and Emily should stop by for dinner soon. The kids love your dogs."
"I think we can do that."
"Great. I'll let Carol know. Anyway I should get going. My squad is next on patrol rotation. I should check over my gear. Good talking to you Doc."
"See ya later."
"See ya." And with that the Rockviper known as Cairn, Sergeant Walden, John pushed up from the chair and walked off. Hawkeye had gotten used to these interactions. He and John really were friends so he didn't mind the sharing. If letting his buddy unload meant he was more focused and safe out in the field then it was well worth the time. It was just another hat he wore in his infirmary. He thought about putting up a sign, Psychiatrist .05 cents. Nah better not.
Date: March 17, 2015. Time: 1300. Location: Somewhere in southern Ireland
St. Patrick's Day. A day celebrated the world over by flooding any drinking establishment with even a cursory chance of being "Irish" or at least the one with the most plastic green decor, and indulging in a pint of the finest ale, stout, or whiskey that happy hour prices advertise.
Nowhere was this more true then in the United States, where generations of Irish immigrants took the once venerated holiday and turned it into shit show filled shenanigans. From Boston to New York to middle of nowhere middle America, people lined up to not remember what they did. If America was #1 with the St. Pats binge drinking crew the Irish capital of Dublin was a close second. Tourists would flood the streets looking for the traditional St. Patrick's Day celebration totally unaware that tradition meant church. Instead they'd get what they really wanted, sloppy drunk on cheap, yet still overpriced, green drinks.
Those days are long gone now.
The streets of Dublin, and all of Ireland in fact, were torn asunder by the flesh eating mobs that took the small nation by storm.
The Queen had tried to assist her Irish citizens, mobilizing all her forces. However, as history had taught the world, when it came to the defense of the United Kingdom what really happened was England was kept safe while everyone else was essentially on their own. In Ireland the survivors rallied together rising up to protect neighborhoods, then single blocks, then a street, and finally a single building. As the numbers of citizens dwindled the numbers in the horde grew. In the end THEY won. The current population of the Emerald Isle is unknown, at least it is to the five who have been defending and protecting a relic from another time. A relic from another place.
The Hooligans are a small highly specialized unit of Irish Army Rangers tasked with safeguarding the Stargate. A passage to other worlds. The only one in all of Europe and one of only a handful around the world. With the potential power of the Stargate it had always amazed the members of the unit that the totality of the British military hadn't come and taken control of it. Instead the five hand picked mission specialists were all that kept it from falling into the wrong hands. Whose those would be they had come to question as of late.
It has been six years since Idaho. Five since the fall of London and Dublin. Four and a half since everything went belly up. The Hooligans; Dublin, Castor, Brimstone, Scáthach, and Gunna had been on site from the beginning watching the world fall. They had stood their ground admirably as the personnel of the small Stargate complex began turning. It was no easy task to eliminate the very people they were assigned to protect but the horde had caught them off guard. The battle took them to the outer doors of the room holding the Stargate. The ensuing battle became one of many "last stands" the Hooligans amassed over the intervening years. After the smoked had cleared and the bodies counted, 295 personnel along with 371 civilians had been disposed of.
Several more assaults had occurred with diminishing numbers each time. For the last year they hadn't seen a single zombie, nor anything or anyone else. They talked about abandoning their posts and going out into the real world but there was no good reason other then curiosity. They had more then enough supplies, especially after raiding the small village 10km from the base.
So they stayed and waited, for what they weren't sure.
"Really? Blood sausage?"
"Damn right. My gran made the best damn blood sausage in the U.K. What about you?" Gunna takes a swig of water from his canteen, he already knew the answer, 'fish & chips.' They've had this conversation hundreds of times since it all started, 'what food would you have if you could have anything?'
"Chicken Tikka Masala."
Gunna spits his water across the room choking as he tried to speak. For three years the answer was always the same. "Wh-what the..."
"Yup. Chicken Tikka Masala. There's this Indian place Kashmir, in Galway, best damn Chicken Tikka Masala probably on the planet."
"I'm just messin' with ya. Fish & chips of course." The fiery redhead lets out a small laugh, "You should see the look on your face. It's like you've seen a ghost." Scáthach’s smile slowly disappears as she realizes that Gunna not only isn't laughing but is looking right past her.
The cottage they are in is typical for the area. Small, 2 floors, 2 bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs, a small eat-in kitchen and living room on the first floor. The living room includes a couch covered in a gaudy floral pattern, facing a small fireplace with a flatscreen TV mounted above the mantel. A couple of cushion covered chairs sit off to the side facing each other currently occupied by Scáthach and Gunna. Gunna's chair also facing the grimy double window. That looks out onto the derelict street. Scathach slowly turns in her chair. Her jaw drops. Time slows as the two try to process what is heading there way.
The two soldiers have been coming to the cottage for years. It sits nearly in the center of the small village 10km from the Stargate base, it is the only town within 25km. Connected to the base by an underground passage the cottage was always planned as an emergency escape route should something happen at the facility. After the first battle at the station the team commander, Dublin decided that the cottage would be a good look out for zombie hordes or attackers making their way towards the base. Since then the shifts have been a week at a time, overlapping, so that while one person is leaving the next is on their way.
Two years ago all they'd seen was the random zombie straggler. One watcher would walk out, dispatch, and dispose of it. This became little more then routine. For the last year even that routine has faded. The village had no survivors. In its pervious life it had been an elaborate ruse. The village really being housing for all the Stargate staff. Positioned at such a distance to allow those at home to escape or defend their world from an extraterrestrial event. Now the Hooligans were all that remained.
That was until today.
Outside the window coming methodically down the street were people they had hoped to never encounter. Before the fall there had been numerous briefings on the actions and movements of those coming down the street. The afternoon sun glinted off the midnight black helmets. The red face masks identifying their ranks. Iron Grenadier Troopers. A platoon of Destro's finest soldiers were a mere 4 small village blocks away and they weren't alone. Supporting the Iron Grenadiers was a Razorback, a large piece of armor with an intense amount of firepower, the missile racks at the ready, an officer in a blackened mask different from the rest controlling the turret. It barely made it down the narrow village street but it was carefully making its way toward the two Hooligans’ current location.
It took mere seconds for the realization to set it, the Stargate was going to come under siege. They jumped into action grabbing weapons and gear, Gunna snatching his radio, "I'm calling it in."
"Hardline coms only. We don't know if they're listening." Scáthach responded.
“Roger that.” Grabbing the hardline, a phone right out of the 1960's with a single direct line to the watch station. He impatiently held it to his ears, three blocks away now, he knew back at the watch room a red light was flashing and a tone was squelching. "C'mon. C'mon."
"Anything." Scáthach asks her meticulously kept sniper rifle pointed down range in the direction of the Razorback, the officer in her sights.
"Does it sound like it.” The tension in the room threatening to spill out. At the fourth ring, "Hey what's up." The lackadaisical voice of Brimstone on the other end.
"We have a level one threat. Repeat. Level one threat. Over." Two and a half blocks.
Hearing the message brings Brimstone forward in his seat, "Received. Level one threat." He immediately enters several commands into the computer in front of him and hears the foot falls of the other Hooligans coming to the watch room. "Count. Over."
"Platoon. 2 squad trooper. 2 squad heavy. Armor present. Razorback." Two blocks. The IGs suddenly stop the officer barking orders from atop the imposing armor. Teams of two begin kicking in doors and doing full top to bottom sweeps.
"What's going on out there...?" The silence from Gunna puts Brimstone on Edge. Dublin and Castor listening in.
"Door to door. We're bugging out." With that Gunna slams the phone down on the receiver. Hearing the call, Scáthach immediately turns towards the basement door. The two waste no time getting downstairs, flipping a switch, and watching the furnace slide to the side revealing a set of dimly lit stairs heading to the corridor connecting to the Stargate operations center. They head down before the furnace has fully moved and flip another switch sliding it back into place. Before its settled back they are already on the sled, a one-time use quick extraction vehicle utilizing combined pulley and air booster systems designed to let them cover the 10km in minutes. Scáthach hits the power button which releases a quick hiss of air, then the release. The force of acceleration pushing them against the barely padded backrests.
They come to a quick stop at the end of the long tunnel. Waiting for them are Dublin and Castor. Meanwhile Brimstone continues monitoring the long range sensors.
“Update." Dublin asks strain clear in his voice.
Gunna is first to respond, “They showed up out of nowhere. Then started kicking in doors. One platoon. Two squads of IG Troopers and it looked like 2 squads of IG Heavies. Most definitely heading this way.”
“Don’t forget the nasty looking’ Razorback manned by Darklon.” Scáthach adds.
“Yeah I was trying to not think about that.”
“Darklon? Shit.” is all Dublin could say. They all know the odds are not in their favor. Dublin stands tall, “Activate all perimeter defensive measures. Prepare to defend the Bonn. Castor prep the auto-destruct. We can’t let the Stargate fall into Darklon’s hands.” Without another word the Hooligans set about readying their defenses. The Stargate had remained dormant for years. All those trained in its operation having been turned into mindless flesh eaters. No one on the other side was trying to come through either. Nonetheless the possibility of it falling into the wrong hands, someone like Darklon and the Iron Grenadiers, was unimaginable. Castor set to work readying a self destruct mechanism that would go off in one of two circumstances, either all the Hooligan’s biometric scanners would register them as dead or if any one of the Hooligans entered their personal code. Either method would have the same results. Setting off a chain reaction explosion starting at the Stargate and then each relevant system in turn. In two minutes all that would be left is a crater and scarred earth.
Brimstone called out from the workstation, “Perimeter sensors are going off line one at a time.”
Dublin immediately headed over, “What do you mean?”
“I mean it looks like they know where all our tech is and they’re disabling it as they reach it.”
“How far out are they?”
“If I’m right they’ve come through the village completely and are approximately 9 klicks out.”
“Shit.” Doing some quick calculations in his head, “We have less then 3 hours before it lights up. Do what you have to do to. Pray to whatever god you hold dear.”
The Hooligans set out, readying magazines, cleaning and checking spotless weapons. Going over in their heads how they want to die. The minutes tick away in silence. Dublin replacing Brimstone at the console, watching as each sensor array goes off line marking the ever encroaching enemy forces. One by one the other Hooligans gather behind him, watching over his shoulders. 7 klicks. 6 klicks. 5 klicks. 4 klicks. 3. 2. 1. “They’re less then 30 minutes out. It’s almost time. You all know what you have to do. Hold you position as long as you can. They’ll be in range of our remaining automatic defenses any minutes, but if it goes anything like it has, they already know where they are and will disable them. Leaving just us. You all know what’s at stake here.” Heads slowly nod in agreement. “I want you all to know it’s been an honor serving with you.”
“Same here sir.” Castor.
“Never would have made this long without ya sir.” Gunna.
“It’s been an honor to serve by your side sir.” Scáthach.
“Sir… We have a bigger problem.” Brimstone’s tone and voice gets everyone’s attention. “Look at the readouts.” They all turn. The monitors for the Stargate were off the charts. The video feed showed that somehow the gate was turning, aligning, preparing to open. Then the all too familiar sound, fwoosh, the liquid like surface propelled forwards then settled back, it’s surface glimmering.
Dublin could only muster, “Bloody fuckin’ ‘ell.”
Date: March 9, 2015. Time: Unknown. Location: Somewhere 65 miles from New Springfield
It's been six years since that fateful night. The tragic 911 call that came to announce the rising of the undead. The screams had been played by the media over and over again in the early days. The screams became symbolic of the times.
6.8 billion people hunted down to unknown millions. Could be hundreds of millions. Could be 1 million. Billions joined the ever growing ranks of the undead. Hundreds of millions more died due to the nuclear fallout. Still more found their end due to starvation, dehydration, the resurgence of once extinct illnesses, others to suicide, then there was the unspeakable loss of life at the hands of monsters.
Right now none of that mattered. Right now all there is is survival. The lone stranger needed to make it to New Springfield, come hell or horde.
He had hunkered down when it all happened. He had supplies to last several years. They'd run out 2 years ago. He'd spent the intervening time scavenging. There hasn't been much to find. Living things are scarce. Living things that are easy and safe to eat even more so. Then there's the water.
He'd seen all the movies growing up. He'd been a fan of that one show the Walking Walkers. Stupid name, "walkers." Were they all related to that Texas Ranger? His kids perhaps? Or had the people in that show never seen a zombie movie?
That would be some weird alternate reality shit. A world where no one made zombie movies. Or tv shows. Or t-shirts, bobble heads, candy. Mmm. He'd chop off his own hand for a candy bar. Perhaps a Snickers. He can see the commercial now; some undead bastard is chasing a bunch of people on a soccer field and someone yells, "Hey Mark eat a Snickers." The dumb fool holds his hand out to the zombie, candy bar in hand, the thing turns, grabs the arm, and tears into it. Blood squirts wildly into the air. The shambling piece of crap looks up, flesh clinging to its chin and winks at the camera teeth glistening. The fresh maker.
No. That's not right. Damn it. His thoughts are jumbled. It's hard to focus on any one thing for too long. Except for his goal. Get to New Springfield. The last people he came upon had told him all about it. They have big strong walls with armed guards at the top. Enough food and water for everyone. Enough food to plump them up. He was tired of thin, bony, wiry meals. He dreamed of fat, soft, scrumptious morsels.
He licked his lips just thinking about it. New Springfield. The ultimate all you can eat buffet. He was nearly there.
Date: March 7, 2014. Time: 0735. Location: Free World Radio, Dodge City, Kansas.
"Hello..." :indistinguishable mumbling: "... Are we broadcasting?" :indistinguishable mumbling:
We've been off the air for so long, actually we thought we were done for. We were surrounded. We'd been cut off. We had to stop reporting to defend our small retreat. Out of ammo, out of food, and out of hope. Our water had gone dry two days prior. We knew about the "Rule of 3s" and the "3 days without water" was weighing heavy on our minds. We were resigned to our fate. We would soon be dead. Then undead.
"If you can hear this know you are not alone. There are pockets of resistance around the world. Cobra is leading the charge of reclaiming our lands from the hordes of undead flesh eaters. You heard that right. Cobra has established multiple safe zones around the world. The largest is New Springfield. If you can get to any Cobra controlled territory you will be protected and provided for."
The rifle fire came quick and controlled. We had no idea who it was. We had hoped it was the military, we had heard the stories, hell we reported the stories of rouge military factions. They would be better then being eaten alive. At least they'd kill us quickly first.
We were able to smell the cordite. The staccato of shots went on for what seemed like forever. Then just as suddenly as they began they stopped. "HELLO TO THE SURVIVORS INSIDE." The voice projected over a bullhorn sounded commanding. "WE HAVE SECURED THE AREA. IF YOU ARE IN NEED OF FURTHER ASSISTANCE PLEASE SIGNAL." We were definitely in need of assistance. So we took a chance and opened the door.
We couldn't believe what we saw. Men and women all around our station. Most in blue uniforms. Other in varying types of camouflage. All armed and wearing masks. Then we saw the sigil. The Cobra. We knew we had made a mistake. Several large tanks, HISS Tanks, rolled up followed by several other vehicles of varying size.
A man approached. He wasn't wearing a mask and his rank insignia identified him as a Major. "Sir, I'm Major Clay Moore. You're safe now." He extended his hand. A smile on his face. I was in shock. I took it unsteadily. The big man before me turned and shouted "Medic!" Several soldiers ran up red crosses on pouches identifying them as medics. "Take care of these people. Full once over." He turned to look back at me, "Sir are you and your people hungry?" I was barely able to nod my head. He turned back to the medics, "Fill 'em up too. Food. Water. Give them whatever." He once again turned to me, "Sir you go with these folks. They'll take care of you. I'd stay with you but we've got a lot to do if we're gonna get your station up and running again." The medics took each of us off to a tent that had been set up. As we walked we saw all kinds of activity. People moving bodies of the truly dead. Others with all kinds of tech gear moving into the station building. Others doing what I came to learn was sentry duty. Everyone was doing something.
That was two weeks ago. Since then the station has been secured; a large stockade was built around it with lookout posts at the corners. Our signal has been boosted with all kinds of technology that had only been rumored to exist before the undead. We have a round the clock compliment of soldiers. Major Moore has moved on to secure more areas but he left us in the hands of Lieutenant Garcia. He apparently worked in broadcasting before the apocalypse. As for supplies, we have all we need and then some. The extra is for anyone who makes it here alive and infection free.
"We will be broadcasting around the clock the locations, longitude and latitude, as well as local identifying land marks of all Safe Zones held by Cobra. Know that help is finally here. Our government failed. But rest assured Cobra will not."
We all know there's propaganda mixed in to our broadcasts from this point on. But wasn't there always? And isn't a little propaganda okay if it helps save lives?
Date: February 1, 2013. Time: 0900. Location: South America, somewhere along the Amazon River.
In a small office on a lower level of the Vipers’ Nest the men who had been the original guardians of the post gathered.
“Why are we leaving here man?”
“Because those are our orders Crouch.”
“With all due respect, screw orders man. They don’t make sense. We have a stronghold here. We have food, water, supplies, weapons. Look at this place. Look at all the guys who fought to get here. Now we’re just gonna leave it all? Just like that?”
“Not all of it. We’re keeping this base active with a small unit just like before.”
“Then why the hell do we have to leave?”
“Because your Commander has bigger plans for you.” The voice catches the Vipers off guard. It always does.
“Agent, didn’t hear you come in.”
Turning towards Captain Onesi, “And you never will.” Turning slowly back towards Viper Crouch, “The Commander has placed a lot of trust in you and you have proven yourself worthy of that trust. I’ll assume you don’t want to disappoint the Commander. Am I correct?”
“Very good. Now if you’ll excuse me gentlemen I have to see to a few last minute arrangements. I suggest you men find your way outside.”
The air is alive with the energy of the amassed troops; excitement, anticipation, apprehension, and under it all permeating everything fear. Upon the arrival of Cobra Commander preparations had begun immediately from readying transports, to issuing new uniforms, armor, and weaponry. The men and women gathered at Vipers’ Nest had known what the end goal was, returning to the United States and reclaiming it for Cobra. Now the day had come.
Standing before his assembled troops Cobra Commander looks out assessing each man and woman before him. He has come to know every one personally, learning their fears, their passions, hearing stories about their families. He has used the passing months wisely, uncovering what drive them, what motivates them. He knows many have lost everything, unbeknownst to his troops he also knows that there will be reunions for some when they reach New Springfield, reunions that will only solidify their loyalty to Cobra and more importantly to him. Now is the time, they haven’t lost anyone in months, the locals who have survived have turned to them as saviors, and that is what they have come to believe themselves to be. He raises his hand and immediately a stillness spreads over his army.
“I stand before you humbled by your perseverance and strength. I will not lie to you both of those qualities shall be tested as we are about to embark on the next stage of our journey. The expedition we are about to undertake shall be drought with peril. We will undoubtably be forced to confront untold hordes of the undead, vicious bandits and marauders, and let us not forget the natural and man-made threats; disease, the unforgiving elements, nuclear, chemical, and biological fallout, not to mention the destruction of infrastructure. We will be paving our own paths for much of the journey. And through it all we must stand together. We must stand as one, united. It is true some of us may not survive the the trek, however we must not let our loss be in vain.
We shall fight shoulder to shoulder to protect each other. We shall offer refuge to those who seek it and we shall defend them as vehemently as we do ourselves. We shall travel as a beacon of light in this dark new world. We shall be a place of hope for any and all who need it.
We return to the United States not as a hostile force determined to take over, but as saviors looking to restore peace and order. Our order.
Along the way some of you may feel the calling to spread the word of our mission, of assisting those who need a guide. I encourage you to answer that call.
Already our ranks grow in the north. As we speak Lieutenant Colonel Bludd along with Captain Claymoore are working to reestablish routes of communication, travel, and trade in preparation of our arrival.
Men and women of all races, creeds, religions, and backgrounds are flocking to our New Springfield. They have thrown off the shackles of corporate control, influence, corruption, injustice, inequity, and inequality. Those that are able are joining our cause. They are taking up arms to defend our future.
We shall rise from the ashes of the old world. We shall stand with open arms accepting, assisting, protecting those unable to defend themselves. We shall stand as leaders for humanity.
We go forth now with glorious purpose. To New Springfield. For the innocent. For Cobra.”
“COBRA!” The thunderous response shakes the very ground of the jungle.
As the convoy begins to roll out the men of Vipers’ Nest look back at the place that had become their home. Nearly 8 years of living and working in the isolated listening post had left an indelible mark on the tight knit unit. As they drove off they watched the jungle close around the dirt road enveloping the reinforced doors.
Date: October 28, 2012. Time: 0900. Location: Somewhere in Nevada
That infernal grin. And that sickening cackling. I won’t go away. I won’t stop. It’s been incessant since this all started; day, night, it doesn’t matter. That smile of shattered rotten teeth and dead eyes filled with blazing hellfire…
“Harry.” The slap across his face is quick and hard leaving his cheek tingling.
“What was that for?”
“What was that for?” Throwing his hands up in frustration the exasperated Ron turns towards Hermione, “You deal with him. I can’t.” Her eyes go from the man she loves to her constant companion, the man they both feel compelled to protect.
“Harry where have you been?”
“I was here.”
“Yes, your body was but your mind… It was definitely somewhere else. Do you remember where?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I also don’t see what all the fuss is about. So I didn’t hear Ron. So what.”
“So what?” Frustration edging towards anger drips from Ron, “We’ve been trying to get your attention for 3 hours!” The words hit Harry like a sucker punch.
“You’ve been out of it Harry. Totally unresponsive. We’ve tried everything; splashing you with water, shaking you, loud noises.” The pity in her eyes leaking into her voice.
“Finally I slapped you.” The anger replaced with sadness and a touch of guilt.
“I’m sorry Hermione. I’m sorry Ron. I really am. I don’t… I don’t know what came over me.”
Ron places his hand on the shoulder of his best friend, “It’s okay Harry we’re here for you. You’ve just gotta tell us what’s going on. We need to know. We deserve to know. And… I’m sorry I hit you.”
“You’re right Ron.”
“Then let us help you.”
“It’s… It’s the Necrinomicon.”
“You know very well that it’s more then just a ‘book’ Ron.” Irritation spilling over into his voice.
“Okay man. So what about it?”
“I think it’s responsible for all this.”
“Well maybe not all of it but definitely something.” Looking at his friends he can sense their apprehension. “Do you remember when this all started back at the ___?”
“Of course. How could we forget Harry?” Hermione asks incredulously.
“Well when we went back to the room and got it I opened the box.”
“You did what?” The anger back in Ron’s voice.
“I looked at it. It was, awake. Smiling even. It hasn’t stopped. It’s burned into my mind. When I close my eyes there it is. And now even when I’m awake I see it.” He anxiously locks eyes with Hermione, “That’s where I was. Watching it. It just grins and now… Now it’s laughing.”
“The book laughs?” interrupts Ron, doubt plain on his face.
“No not the Necrinomicon. It’s something in the background. Something sinister. I don’t quite know how to explain it. But I swear it’s real. Even now I can here it in the background. Can’t you?” Ron and Hermione look at one another then back at Harry. Ron speaks up first, “Sure man, we hear it.” The relief on Harry’s face is all the reward they need for the white lie. “Give us a second will you Harry?”
“I’m not crazy.”
“No one is saying you are.”
“I’m not crazy. I’m telling the truth.”
“It’s okay buddy we believe you we just need to take a second to talk about where we go next.” The pair walk hand in hand across the wrecked hotel suite, sure that Harry won’t overhear their conversation, “He’s getting worse Hermione.”
“How many pills do we have left?”
“6-7 days max and that’s at half doses.”
“That’s not good.”
“No. It’s not.”
“We’ve gotta find more.”
“Yes Ron I know we do.”
“Hey.” He places his hand on her cheek making sure they make eye contact, “I’m not the enemy.” She places her hand over his nuzzling into the warmth of his strong fingers. “I know Ron. I’m not frustrated with you, just all of this. The world is falling apart at the seems. There are zombies eating people, tearing them limb from limb everywhere we go. And Harry, he’s losing his grip on this reality and there is nothing we can do.”
“Stop right there. As long as Harry has us that won’t happen. As for what to do, there has to be a pharmacy or a clinic we haven’t searched yet.”
“You know those things are always at them. Every single one we’ve been to. It’s almost like they are waiting for us.”
“True, but that just means we keep doing what we do, killing zombies and finding meds.” He looks deep into her eyes, “We’re in this together, all of us. We’ll help Harry like we always do.” Her smile is all he needs. As he is about to turn back to his friend muttering across the room from them he feels her hand in his, “Ron?” He turns, “Yes.” The kiss catches him off guard but he gives into it. Their arms circling one another. Holding each other a reassuring strength spreads between them. Slowly they pull away from one another. Ron looks down at his love, “We’re in this together never forget that. Now let’s get back to Harry.” They turn back towards the former Vegas legend, a magician and illusionist of the highest caliber now sitting on a dirty couch knees pulled up to his chest, arms pulling them in close, muttering over and over, “The Old Ones are not happy. The Necrinomicon is.”