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Zombie apocalypse fiction – Ruth’s Story #71 Assault on the cannibal Costco enclave

December 22, 2012

I leave our dripping, O.D. green tent dressed in full battle rattle, as the Americans say. I emerge into a cold, damp, very dark early morning. A sodden, windless and moonless landscape greets us as we climb into our rides.

I napped in my warm bedroll for a little bit before it was time to leave, but my eyes still feel gritty like they are full of sand. I wish I could crawl back into my warm bedroll. Thoughts of pulling Shack into my bedroll with me flitter though my sleep-deprived mind. I am becoming a dirty old lady!

Sam and Doc oversaw the loading of the attack force as we climbed into the idling trucks. I am sure the drivers have had less sleep than we have since they had to be up earlier to prepare the trucks. I am assigned to the third vehicle in the convoy, the second M-35 deuce and a half.

I am also second in command with a young tow-headed lad named Tyler assigned as my battle buddy for this assault. I have seen the young Caucasian boy around the convoy’s camp a few times, but have never spoken to him. PFC Tyler appears somewhat younger than Shack, but I see he too wears the “1,000 yard stare” like so many of the soldiers.

I follow Tyler, climbing into the canvas-covered cargo bed of our assigned woodland camouflaged M-35. Dividing our force and command structure between several vehicles reduces the chances that the loss of a single vehicle and its occupants halting our attack.

A desert tan Hummer with a flashing IR strobe on the roof leads our merry little convoy. The woodland green camouflage Hummer bringing up the rear in the tail end charlie position also has a flashing IR strobe on the roof. Hopefully, the two IR-tagged Hummers can keep the rest of the vehicles between them without losing anybody.

All convoy vehicles mount a 240B in the roof with one of the assault force personnel assigned to man it while in transit. When parked, the convoy protection detail, who is also our drivers, will man the 240s and protect the trucks. Not sure how much linked 7.62 NATO the boys brought along. If we hit trouble, I hope they brought all the ammo they could cram in the bins.

Saturating everything, a light drizzly mist does little to mask the noise of our approaching assault force. Sitting in the back of the second, bouncing, rough-riding M-35 deuce and a half truck on a hard wooden bench seat brings back memories of similar occurrences in the IDF.

Wedged against one of the mortar lads near the canvas flap rear of the deuce’s bed cover, I cannot see much inside the truck. I did notice the pair of old woodland green camouflaged M-923 five tons following my deuce are each towing an empty drop-side box trailer.

All of the trucks diesel engines smoke quite a bit; the exhaust frequently changing color and bouquet. I understand, from the lads, that the trucks are burning a combination of acetone paint thinner, various blends of vegetable oils, waste motor oil, and various grades of diesel fuel, charcoal lighter fluid and kerosene.

The scavenging lads collect any motor oil, vegetable oil, and nearly any flammable fluid that can be poured into a diesel. These old military lorrys are more forgiving of the shitty fuel they are being fed than civilian engines would be by design. The lorry’s engines may not produce the best performance and smoke like a bastard, but a running truck is better than a five ton paper weight.

Using NVGs, driving without the benefit of headlights or street lamps, the transport drivers have to keep their speed slow so as not to hit anything with enough force to damage the truck. Driving with NVGs can be done, and indeed we have been doing it for some time, but it is neither pretty nor fast. Slower speeds are mandated by the tunnel vision effect of the NVGs and complete lack of depth perception.

More than once our rookie drivers smack into an abandoned car or other rubbish left in the roadway. I cannot be sure, but judging from the occasional wet sounding impact and squishy bump in the road, I am legitimately certain we run over a fair number of zombies.

All convoy vehicles have crudely welded “zombie grills” on the front. The grills made from cut up scavenged scrap metal absorb and deflect the impact of hitting a zombie. The zombie grills may be as ugly as sin, and remind me of a horrid Mad Max homage, but they do their intended purpose protecting the delicate radiator and cooling systems of the vehicles.

The heavy metal zombie grills also protect the vehicle from the frequent collisions with detritus. The military vehicles normally have a heavy ugly front bumper anyway; so adding the zombie grill does not exactly detract from the vehicle’s aesthetics.

Sitting in the back of the second deuce and a half, these members of the attack force jostle against each other as the driver maneuvers the cumbersome truck. Despite the slow pace, constant weaving around debris in the roadway, our driver does a fairly worthy job of getting us to our destination. Each of us is alone with our thoughts as we ride.

I resist the strong urge to continuously check my watch. After not wearing a watch for so long its presence on my left arm feels strange. I have a watch somewhere in my purse back in the convoy camp, but have gotten out of the habit of wearing it.

Unbelievably, I hear someone snoring; it is too dark to see whom. None of us within the attack force have activated our NVGs, saving the batteries for the assault. We all carry extra batteries both for NVGs and weapon optics, if required.

I seriously doubt the capability of a soldier to install tiny, hearing aid sized batteries in weapon optics using NVGs. We also carry several double A batteries for our FMRS radios just in case their installed lithium-ion battery packs die.

After a cold ride through the dripping darkness, we arrive at the drop point for the two mortar squads. The six blooper trooper lads carrying their over loaded rucks jump out of the canvas-covered deuce and a half trucks leaving the canvas flap open. The three privates, one corporal, a specialist and a buck sergeant check each other over quickly and nod their readiness.

Subsequent to some brief gear rearrangement, the mortar lads shoulder their bulging rucks and prepare to head for the marked convenient hill. Checking their gear a final time and getting their NVGs settled, the mortar lads stand in the dark misty early morning. After checking their FMRS radios and a quiet pep talk and final gear check by Nikola, the mortar lads are sent on their way.

After the blooper trooper lads disappear into the dripping wet, dark conifer forest, Nikola climbs back into the lead Hummer. The convoy pauses a moment or so to determine that the mortar teams did not leave anything behind and the attack force drives on. I hope the 60mm mortar lads get set up on time as they are integral to the success of this attack.

Our attack plan requires all components to remain radio silent until 03:55. At which time each component will signal that they are in position and ready by clicking their radio a prearranged number of times identifying each component. When the three assault forces reach our jump off point, we too check our issued FMRS radios.

Everyone yanks their NVGs into place, turns them on and prepares to move. Our NVGs are newer models with rain settings, but this light pissing mist is too faint to register. We do have to wipe the drops of condensation occasionally off of the lenses.

Weapons and gear are checked and cyalume lights are lit off. I check Tyler’s gear and he checks mine as the attack squads stack up. Nikola quietly and quickly reminds us that even though we are not expecting a counter attack; do not bunch up so that a single grenade could take out most of the force.

Nikola’s hawk-like face with gentle crow’s feet in the corners of his eyes seems pale and drawn in the pale green light of his NVGs. The dirty blonde stubble of his five o clock shadow seems darker in the bad light. I note that Nikola is not carrying his suppressed large frame Glock pistol again; probably because 10mm ammo for his beloved model 20 is scarce. While there is plenty of 40 S&W, 10mm is not that common.

I am not terribly surprised to see the wire frame stock of an APB (Avtomaticheskij Pistolet Besshumnyj automatic silenced pistol) sticking out of the top of a butchered Makarov brown leather holster on Nikola’s belt. The fat suppressor for the ubiquitous Spetsnaz pistol erupts out the bottom of the hacked Mak’s holster. I wonder if Nikola’s father, a Spetsnaz Afghanistan veteran, taught Nikola to butcher a Makarov holster or if it is something he picked up while serving with Spetsnaz GRU troops in Chechnya.

Roughly a half mile trot through the misty, sopping darkness wearing NVGs in full battle rattle is not exactly fun. Clipped to rucks and LBVs, the faintly glowing cyalume lights in US Army issue O.D. green plastic holders help identify friendlies. The chemical lights also help to prevent losing or confusing anyone in the dark. It is extremely unlikely that a zombie or a cannibal will have a chem light on them.

Luminous IR patches on the soldier’s uniforms leap out at me through the dripping darkness. The soldiers have their rank, name and blood type clearly marked with reflective IR badges. I notice that above Tyler’s IR blood type patch he wears a luminous IR patch that says “NO PEN.”

I am not sure what Tyler’s unique patch means; my first thought is that he lacks writing utensils. I have never seen such a patch and ponder its meaning. During a brief rest stop, Tyler sees me staring fixedly at his strange, glowing patch. Tyler quietly informs me that it is a medical warning that he is deathly allergic to penicillin.

Water drips off our Kevlar combat helmets, sometimes going underneath our collars and down our backs forging a cold, chilling path. Using abandoned cars as cover, the frontal assault force weaves through the dark, pockmarked Costco parking lot. Luminous glowing square tabs on the back of everyone’s helmet cover, commonly referred to as “cat’s eyes,” as well as the shielded cyalume lights help us follow and identify each other.

I hear quiet swearing ahead of me and see someone has tripped and fallen into a very large puddle on their ass. The soaked, clumsy soldier is hauled out of the puddle by his battle buddy. I hear quite teasing and chiding of the clumsy soldier. Despite our dripping, aquatic assault comrade, we continue our trot through the huge parking lot.

Nikola’s roof top assault group along with the interior assault group runs for the back of the cannibal compound. Our trip to the Costco took longer than anticipated due to zombie avoidance and we are a few minutes behind schedule. Nikola and Tyler armed with shotgun like grappling hook throwers prepare to fire climbing ropes on to the roof of the Costco.

The interior attack squad quickly unrolls a two-part, putty-like acidic compound. The boys stick the crap to the tin siding in a large rectangle that a soldier can step through with ease. When the two parts of the putty-like compound mix, a powerful acid is created which quickly eats through the metal siding.

Once the acidic putty has done its work, the lads grasp the metal with heavy leather work gloves and quietly as they can rip the large square of metal away from the side of the Costco building. Apparently the metal sheeting is hot, as the lads quietly swear about the heat permeating their gloves.

Once the sheet metal is clear, the fiberglass insulation inside is cut away and the interior assault force slips into the Costco. Once gathered inside the dark Costco, the lads start to make their way towards the front of the building. As the interior assault boys walk deeper into the Costco I can hear them not too silently whisper about sputtering torches illuminating the interior towards the front of the building.

Nearly as soon as the interior assault lads step through the hole in the wall and start working their way through the nearly tomb-like dark interior, I hear clicks on the radio signaling mortar units in place and ready. Nikola leads our assault force with me as second. He checks his watch then his radio and nods at me and we get ready.

Nikola and Tyler fire the oversized, shotgun-like grappling hook guns, launching our grappling hooks trailing rope on to the roof. As our grappling hooks land on the roof, we cringe at the thumping clanking noises as the two guys yank on the ropes ensuring the grappling hooks bite into something.

If the fucking cannibals inside did not hear the thumps of the grappling hook guns firing, the grappling hooks landing on the roof and remain blissfully unaware as the grappling hooks are drug across the roof, then we might still have the element of surprise. No help for it now, time to get our asses on the roof.

Both soldiers ensure the grappling hooks are firmly set and then we climb up the side of the Costco. Using two ropes it takes only a few minutes for our small assault force to reach the roof. After the last man is up, (after all, I am the only woman in the assault force) he pulls the ropes up behind us so that no one else can follow.

Leaving one soldier to guard the ropes and our ass, the four of us trot quickly to the front of the Costco. Surprised to not find a guard on top of the building we quickly trot for the front. Walking as quickly as we can on the slick metal roof we hunch over so as not to silhouette ourselves. Reaching the front of the store, I drop my ALICE pack and walk out on to the patio-like overhang covering the entrance of the Costco.

It took longer than we had planned to get the interior assault force into the building and we are barely in position on time when Nikola clicks his radio signaling we are in position and ready. The rapid clicks of the other units quickly follow over the radio.

We faintly hear the deep thumps of the mortars firing in the distance. For the first few rounds, at least until we get our spotter set up on the roof, the mortar lads are going to have to spot adjust their own rounds. Within seconds the tear gas and IR illumination mortar rounds start to fall well short of the cannibal’s communal area.

The mortar lads do a good job of walking their fire into the target area. Despite scattering tear gas and parachute IR illumination mortar rounds all over the Costco parking lot, the mortar lads do finally get their rounds in to the communal area. Our spotter corrects the mortar fire and calls for IR illumination rounds only as our mortar lads have dropped some tear gas rounds on the frontal assault force.

By the time the mortar lads get rounds falling on target within the communal area, we hear the distinct crack of rifles followed by the distinct whump of flash bangs and sting grenades from both inside the Costco and the front. So much for a coordinated attack; as the cannibals are well aware of our assault and our attack goes to shit from the start.

Seeing several cannibals milling around underneath me, well silhouetted by the slowly dropping parachute IR illumination rounds, I quickly pop the pins and drop my tear gas and sting grenades. Tyler and the other soldier also drop their riot grenades. Nikola, I note, lays flat on the roof and makes an effort to toss his grenades into the Costco entrance.

Accompanied by the detonation of the numerous grenades, with the billowing clouds of tear gas surrounding the cannibals, I pull out and then unroll my shooting mat from the bottom of my ruck and take a prone shooting position over the lip of the patio. Simultaneously, Tyler takes his position, setting up his M240B on a bipod with the other soldier handling the belt.

Displaying his effectiveness with the Russian 43mm pump-action grenade launcher Nikola cranks the damn thing like a meth-fueled maniac. Leaning over the roof in an awkward position, Nikola manages to get most of his grenades into the Costco. I just hope he does hit any friendlies.

The cannibal’s sporadic return fire is hardly effective but they manage to react faster than we anticipated. I see a few of the frontal assault force are pinned down but I do not have time to worry about their fate. In the early chaos of battle, it is too difficult to determine if our assault is successful or not.

Tyler’s assistant gunner is also our mortar spotter and he adjusts the mortar fire with his radio several times. He is not exactly in the optimal position for a spotter, definitely within danger close limitations, but we do what we have to do. Despite the occasional IR or tear gas mortar round falling outside the target area, including a few into the trees and a couple even on the Costco roof, the mortar lads are doing a decent job.

I ensure that my POF AR15 is still on semi, and aided by the IR illumination rounds search for targets. I do not have long to wait for a target to present itself. I start dropping cannibals with head shots as fast as I can squeeze the trigger. My decision to use the ACOG was a far better choice as most of my shooting is done while I have both eyes open searching for targets.

Since most ranges are less than 100 yards, I am still using the common M855 ball ammo, rather than the precious M262. I place a pair of short, straight 20 round black anodized aluminum magazine on my shooting mat to my right side. Thankfully, I am using military magazines as after the permanent Assault Weapons Ban of 2014, possession of any magazine holding more than 10 rounds was a felony. I suppose with a zombie apocalypse such silliness as gun control is an obsolescent idea.

The first small magazine is fully loaded with M995 black tip armor-piercing rounds just in case I need them. The second 20 round magazine has a piece of red tape around it and a piece of rough sandpaper glued to the bottom. This tactile and visual marking informs me that the second magazine is loaded with M856 tracer rounds. I am not overly fond of shooting tracers in my rifle, but they certainly have their uses.

Beside the two smaller 20 round magazines, I set two 30 round, flat dark earth color Magpul polymer PMAGs. The two polymer magazines are fully loaded with the precious M262 ammo just in case I need to reach out there and hit something. I am very fond of the Magpul PMAGs; they are some of the best magazines I have ever used.

From the noise below, it sounds as if the cannibals are not suffering as badly as we had hoped from the tear gas. I note the flash bangs and sting grenades also appear to have a lesser impact upon the cannibals than hoped. Even up here on the roof my ears are ringing. I cannot imagine being in a sheet metal building suffering the concussive force of the flash bangs and sting grenades.

Doc said something about possible increased lung capacity in the cannibals; I wonder if that means that they suffer worse from the effects of the tear gas. Maybe increased lung capacity means that they can hold their breath longer to escape the billowing clouds of tear gas. The wet mist does reduce the effectiveness of the tear gas a little, which is one of the reasons that we are using so much.

Sporadic fire from the cannibals is ineffective in the beginning. Our attack is a complete success as a failure. The cannibals did not have any guards posted, but they rallied and responded quicker than we expected. We did not want to wait for a hunting party to leave, so chose to attack even though the cannibals are at full strength. Not waiting longer before launching our attack was because we were impatient, we want to move on rather than tarry any longer in one spot.

The cannibals were caught between the inside assault force, who are now busily dropping cannibals like bad habits, and the other two attack groups. In the first part of the attack, the cannibals were not doing so well at all, I thought, but they rallied well. Quite a few cannibals were shot in the first few minutes of the assault that I think our attack force got a little complacent.

For the first few minutes cannibal casualties are high, and then somehow the cannibals managed to rally. A particularly tall, bald cannibal wearing cutoff blue jeans, dark leather work boots and a white fur-lined, dark-colored, denim vest. The denim vest, worn without a shirt underneath, flops open revealing the rippling muscles of the cannibal’s torso.

The tall cannibal leaps from the ground to the roof of the Metro bus in a single bound as if he was a deathly pale, bald, cannibalistic Superman. His bald pate shining in the early morning lit by the IR flares, with dark blue pulsing veins on his bulging arms, the flying cannibal appears to be moving in slow motion.

Everyone is so stunned by this unprecedented display of raw power, which puts to shame the leaping ability of any major athlete that our assault stalls. Armed with a sawed off, pistol gripped, black pump shotgun, the cannibal on top of the Metro bus manages to crank off two rounds while still airborne before he landed on the roof of the bus.

The speed and savagery with which the tall cannibal was able to utilize his shot-gun was astonishing. I do not believe that I have seen semi auto shot guns fire much less faster. Doing a midair single forward somersault roll, the cannibal landed on the roof of the Metro bus squatting on his haunches.

The first round from the cannibal’s shotgun appears to have missed its mark. A female cannibal dressed in a shredded, dark blood stained paisley sun dress with her tits hanging out stands up in front of one of the frontal assault soldiers who hesitates too long, possibly distracted by the sight of her tits. The female cannibal shoots the hesitating soldier in the chest with a Beretta 92 pistol just seconds before I turn her head into a red misty cloud with white chunks of bone.

The second shot-gun round from the tall cannibal on top of the Metro bus hits another frontal assault soldier knocking him flying. Within seconds after the cannibal on top of the bus fired his second round, a green six wheeled John Deer Gator UTV rolls up with Doc at the wheel. Doc is in full battle rattle wearing a pistol in a shoulder holster. A large black medical bag lays on the bench seat beside Doc in the cab of the UTV.

While covered by our comrades, the injured soldiers are unceremoniously dumped into the flat-bed of the UTV. Once the injured soldiers are in the flat bed along with their weapons, Doc floors the UTV, whipping it around and hauls ass away.

The cannibal on top of the Metro bus has by now emptied his shot-gun and is now furiously stuffing rounds in it, reloading from his vest pockets while kneeling. Rounds are pinging off the sheet metal sheathing around him. Before he can complete his reloading, the tall cannibal is struck by a fusillade of rounds, including at least two to the torso from my rifle.

Viciously rocked by the swarm of rounds striking him, the large cannibal is knocked to his knees. Still kneeling on the roof of the Metro bus the cannibal does not seem terribly hurt despite the sheer number of rounds that hit him. That is until Nikola launches a Shmel rocket through the front window of the Metro bus. The Shmel turns the bus into a blazing, exploding conflagration that instantly incinerates the cannibal, his shotgun and several nearby cannibals.

Using the burning Metro bus for orientation, our mortar spotter calls in HE rounds, a gutsy and dangerous move. Our mortar crews are firing from a position that is to the south so any rounds that go too far will sail over us. Rounds that drift too far to the left (from the mortar crew’s perspective) could hit us.

The HE mortar rounds land within the Costco parking lot thankfully missing friendly forces. The newer mortars are much more accurate than the older models I saw used in the IDF, thankfully. The Stryker mortar crew asks over the radio if they need to fire and the mortar spotter declines their offer.

The few HE mortar rounds and the loss of the Metro bus and tall cannibal, appear to take the fight out of the cannibals. Backlit by the blazing, smoking remains of the Metro bus, the rest of the cannibals are quickly eliminated. Nikola orders the soldier on the rear of the Costco roof to move the ropes and his ass to the front of the building, which he does as quickly as he is able. After Nikola secures the climbing ropes, he quickly slides down to the ground joining and directing the mop up detail.

Just as the rising sun peeks completely over the hills, the other soldiers climb down from the roof taking their weapons at Nikola’s instructions. I wave at Tyler as he slithers down the rope to the ground. I am left alone on the roof in over watch position. If they fired the 240B, I was unaware of it. I watch the soldiers go through the compound shooting at least one round in to the head of every dead cannibal.

I note that Nikola is using his Nagant revolver rather than the APB still holstered on his belt. The slight cough of Nikola’s Nagant revolver is quieter than the cycling of its action as he thumbs the hammer back each time. Putting a round in the head of each dead cannibal is cheap insurance that they will not animate shortly.

I watch Nikola casually flick empties out of his Nagant revolver with his fingernail and the ejector rod while he holds a squirming, severely wounded cannibal youth down with his right boot on its neck. After putting the ejector rod back in its place on the pistol, Nikola quickly reloads his revolver.

The utter fact that the young cannibal boy is still alive despite several rounds to the torso and the protrusion of his intestines through his left side is an amazing display of mutant hardiness. After reloading his revolver, Nikola quickly dispatches the youth with a round between the eyes stilling its movements. Shooting the wounded cannibal is probably a merciful thing to do considering its injuries. It is easier to think of the cannibals as things rather than people.

Shortly after the soldiers certify that all cannibals are truly and significantly dead, the mortar Stryker rolls up dropping off the two Infantry mortar teams. Nikola, still in overall command of the assault force, calls the transportation detail to bring the trucks to the Costco. Silence follows Nikola’s radio transmission so he repeats his instructions in a firmer tone. Silence is the only response.

Swearing softly in Russian, Nikola dispatches the Stryker and the two Infantry mortar teams to the location of the transportation protection detail. Per the operational communication plan the assault force changes radio frequency to a prearranged frequency. Our communications might be compromised.

Even though we are not using encrypted radios, but civilian FMRS radios, a frequency change might allow us to communicate without being overheard for a little while. If someone out there has a good scanner or Range Direction Finder (RDF) gear, it will not take them long to eavesdrop on our communications. After the communications shift, Nikola calls Sam, giving a brief summary to the colonel on the command frequency.

Dispatched by Nikola and roaring off in a cloud of exhaust smoke, the Stryker disappears. While the sounds of the Stryker roaring off fade, our assault detail begins an inventory. Most soldiers opt to load full magazine into their weapons. With the rising sun, NVGs are turned off and pushed up on helmets out of the way.

With the lull in activity, several soldiers guzzle a bottle of water or two. Some soldiers empty their Camelback if so equipped. I watch soldiers tend to their battle buddies, as bottles of water and Gatorade are poured into empty Camelbacks. Smokeless tobacco and even a few cigarettes are passed around and lit. I pat my pockets and realize that, although I have my old Zippo lighter, I am out of cigarettes.

While I am drinking my second bottle of water somewhat slower than the first which I guzzled, I observe that the cannibal barricade is a bit worse for wear now. The flaming Metro bus is going to be a wonderful zombie attractant. I wonder how much longer it is going to burn.

Finishing my water and jonesing for a cigarette, I listen to the radio traffic. Total count is 53 dead cannibals which is transmitted back to command which does not confirm the count from the observers who were off by 30. Total expenditure of munitions will have to wait as we hear nearby some sporadic unsuppressed fire.

Nikola calls the mortar Stryker on the radio who replies that our transportation detail was ambushed. One of the Hummers with a M240B on the roof is gone. Five of our rear guard are dead, with the sixth badly wounded. The two M-35s have been stripped of weapons, supplies and drained of fuel. Both M-923s and the Hummer are likewise stripped and drained.

The Stryker is now chasing the fleeing stolen Hummer. Sam comes on the radio asking for location and quickly coordinates a pincher movement to reclaim the convoy’s stolen gear. Radio traffic between the pursuing Stryker and the assault force attempting to cut off the fleeing Hummer is furious.

While our assault force is busily wrapping up the Costco assault, Sam coordinates the retrieval of our stolen Hummer. Once cornered, a brief firefight ensues, which results in four dead thieves, and a mildly damaged Hummer.

The mechanics are dispatched to get the transportation trucks running again and then see if they can repair the stolen Hummer. I listen to the occasional radio chatter from the recovery and repair. The rest of the morning and early afternoon are spent gathering and cataloging materials from the Costco. I got to enjoy a warm MRE BBQ Spam chunk for breakfast washed down with MRE orange flavored drink. It has been a while since I used the old water activated MRE heaters.

After a while, from what I can gather over the radio, it sounds as if the mechanics were able to successfully recover and repair the Hummer. The two M-35s, the two M-923s and the Hummer are refueled and sent to the Costco to begin loading. Our stolen material is also recovered. I listen with interest as Sam details a burial squad for the dead thieves. The recovery of the stolen Hummer costs us more in wasted ammo and more preciously, time.

I am still on the roof of the Costco on sharpshooter over watch detail. Nikola checks in with me occasionally to make sure that I am not in need of anything. I was given the last Shmel rocket from Nikola’s man-pack as well as all of his lethal, antipersonnel grenades. Sitting on the roof watching everyone while sipping MRE orange flavored drink from my canteen, I occasionally have to drop a zombie that wanders too close.

Thankfully, by late morning the damn burning Metro bus has pretty much been reduced to a flame gutted, smoking wreck. I am certainly going to have nightmares tonight after seeing that burning bus. I do not talk about it ever, last person I told other than writing it in this journal was Amy; my mother was killed by a suicide bus attack in Tel Aviv when I was ten.

As I sit on the roof in the light drizzly rain, I hear a familiar voice below me. “Oh, Rapunzel please let down your hair.” I look down to see Shack, huge white absorbent pad on his forehead, black eyes and all, striking his best Shakespearean pose. Because of the medical patch on his forehead Shack’s K-pot does not fit him correctly.

I bet it hurts like a bitch to have his helmet digging into that long cut on his forehead. “Ha, Ha, very funny Shack.” I say to him as he drops his comical pose. “Hey, I am ‘sposed to come up there and spell you for a latrine break and I got something for you,” he shouts up at me.

“Alright hang on, do not get your panties in a bunch,” I reply. I grab one of the climbing ropes and make sure it is well tied to one of the large pieces of ventilation equipment on the roof. I toss the rope down to Shack who clambers up the side of the Costco nearest my position like an ungainly chimp.

I grab Shack’s hand to help pull him on to the roof. “Damn, I have not done that in a while,” he says. “I shoulda worn gloves, damn,” he says shaking his hands. I notice they are red where he grasped the rope. I kiss Shack on the cheek which causes him to turn redder than his hands.

“I am going to go behind that farthest piece of ventilation equipment for my toilet,” I tell him. “Kay,” is Shack’s response as he takes position behind my gun. “Hey is this a carbine or a rifle,” Shack suddenly asks stopping me from leaving.

I am particularly hurting, as not only do I have to seriously use the facilities but I have also started my period. I typically get some bad cramps at the start of my menstrual cycle. “Shit, Shack you choose a hell of a time to ask about my gun,” I snap at him.

He waves at me with an offhand, half-ass flip of his left hand. “’Kay, go do your thing, and then tell me.”

Growling at him, I walk stiff-legged behind the ventilation equipment and do my business. Uh, I make a mental note to ask Doc for some hydrogen peroxide for my laundry. I am always grumpy during my period and hate that I have to suffer menstrual cycles again. I was on the new improved Depo-Provera which was awesome. But, I neglected to get my new shot since I was not in a relationship with a male and did not have to worry about pregnancy.

Shit I hate this business, but it is part of being a woman no matter how unpleasant it is. Finishing my necessities, I walk back to Shack using one of the alcohol wipes from my MRE breakfast to clean my hands. “So what is it you wanted to know about my rifle and just what did you bring me?” I ask Shack.

“Well, your rifle has a carbine length barrel but the hand guards are rifle length,” he says. “And I was given this for you to use while you are up here.” He pulls an old pair of O.D. green armored Steiner US Army binoculars from his LBV handing the large binoculars to me.

I pop off the lens caps and look through them adjusting the binoculars to fit my face. I recognize the binoculars as an older pair of range finding binoculars that should come in handy right now. Despite their age and obvious hard use, the binoculars are still crystal clear. The Germans make good shit. I perform a few range measurements on easily discernible features in the parking lot. I make a mental note of some of the ranges.

Dropping the binocular strap over my neck, I say “Shack you are damned observant. Yes, my rifle has a carbine length barrel but has the gas block installed in the full length rifle position. This prevents the piston driven carbine from being over gassed. The gas block also has an automatic excess gas bleed off function as well. Granted there is not much muzzle sticking out past the hand guards but with the suppressor mounted it looks almost integral.”

Shack nods at me and changes topic. “Tommy took a shot-gun round to the chest. Doc says his SAPI plate stopped most of it, but it was a buck and ball load. One of the buck shot pellets struck him in the left arm and ‘nother to his left shoulder while the ball slug struck him at the far right edge of his SAPI plate. He has some cracked ribs, significant bruising, a broken left arm and broken left clavicle. Doc’s got ‘em knocked out now, says that if he does not get infected from the broke ribs and arm he has a decent chance of makin’ it. ‘Spose he is outa the scullery now for good. ‘Nother guy took a nine mil round to the SAPI chest plate; plate stopped it but he has some cracked ribs but should be OK. Guy’s fuckin’ lucky the nine mil round was a civvy hollow point and not a military FMJ.”

I put my arm around Shack’s shoulders and hug him tight. Poor bastard has lost so many friends. “Jimmy’s gone, he took a shot gun round to the face,” he says with his face buried in my chest. “Five of the guys left to guard the transpo trucks are dead too; the sixth guy’s iffy ‘cording to Doc.”

I hold Shack while we stand on the roof of the Costco. It sounds as if the After-Action Review (AAR) is going to be interesting. I did notice that the sting grenades, flash bangs, OC and CS munitions were less effective than we expected. The CR grenades seemed to have a far milder effect than I was led to believe by the old British literature I had read years ago. During the British Mandate for Palestine, the Brits were quite fond of using CR gas against Zionist Insurgencies.

We also had a few of the CR grenades fail to detonate which is not to be unexpected since we were using grenades more than 70 years old. Nikola’s 43mm non-fragmenting HE grenades were also less effective against the cannibals than what I was led to believe they would be. After reading about their use in Soviet and Russian AARs from conflicts in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Central Asia, Chechnya, Georgia, and Ossetia I thought the grenades would be far more effective than they were.

The cannibals were first generation KCAP infected cannibals, and even they were difficult to kill by shots to the body. Collective American soldier training teaches shoot for the center of mass. In a stressful situation such as combat, you revert to your training. The tall cannibal on top of the Metro bus even after being struck by more than 20 different rounds, although most likely dying was still able to effectively use his shotgun.

Had Nikola not immolated the tall cannibal, it is very likely that he would have continued to fight for an unknown length of time. Looking around Shack’s helmet I keep an eye on the Costco parking lot. I watch our Scouts zipping around tagging the zombie infested cars with various colors of spray paint.

The big, wide dripping “Z” enthusiastically sprayed on each side of a zombie laden vehicle appears to be a source of great fun for the Scouts. The youths tear around on their fucking ginormous black and chrome Harley motorcycles, each armed with several cans of different colored spray paint. Apparently they have made a game out of who can tag the most cars.

Probably the first time ever, in which delinquent motor cycle youths are encouraged by their elders to run amok defacing private property with great elation. I have seen the homes searched and cleared by our Scouts as well. In a similar manner to the marking process used by FEMA, homes cleared by our Scouts are marked on the doors.

Our markings are little simpler than FEMA’s though. A big Nike-like dripping swoosh on the door means checked and cleared nothing of interest. A big “Z” with a short horizontal bar through the center of the letter indicates checked, nothing of interest and zombie infested. Sometimes a number painted beside the door indicates number of zombies spotted inside.

The same big “Z” painted on the door but with a long vertical line running through the middle of the letter indicates checked, zombie infested (hopefully with a number painted beside it indicating approximately how many zombies inside) and warrants further investigation. Houses, I have noticed, marked in this manner are usually ones that have solar panels on the roof, or ones that the Scouts can see from the outside, materials and goods inside desired by the convoy.

Our Scouts are dispatched with detailed shopping lists. The Scouts are ordered not to ever enter the buildings, but are only to mark what they find and radio back their findings. Longfeather, who was a Pathfinder instructor in the Army many years ago, has been teaching the Scouts the finer points of navigation by compass and map. The rumble of approaching diesel engines interrupts my musings about the Scouts.

Shack, I realize, has dozed off in my arms so I gently shake him awake. He blinks at me a few times. I kiss Shack on the cheek which immediately causes his face and ears to turn quite crimson. He sputters something incomprehensible to me, but then suddenly I realize why Shack is so embarrassed. I feel the hard, yet pliant pressure of Shack’s erection pressing against my leg.

It feels like Shack might be well hung. Oh, man! Shack, if it was not for that time of the month you might have gotten lucky on the roof of a Costco! I have been celibate now for more than two months, which is a record for me. Celibacy sucks – I have never liked it. I find the thought of taking Shack’s cherry intriguing, as I have never been with a male virgin before.

Shack leaps away from me as if I have a communicable disease. Yanking at his trousers, trying to rearrange himself in that typical male manner, Shack turns his back to me. Ignoring the elephant in the room, we stretch, both of us cramped from sitting together so long. Shack still beet red, turns his back farther to me and tries to shove his erection in some direction so that it will not be as prominently displayed.

I briefly consider teasing Shack since English is rife with sexual innuendos, but decide against doing so, as it would serve no good purpose. While I would look at the teasing as foreplay (God, if only I was not on the rag!), Shack would probably be mortified. He, in his inexperience and uncertainty, might also construe my teasing in the wrong way. Men’s egos are fragile and I do not wish to scar the poor guy before his first time.

I also have to gently overcome the very conservative PK that still resides deep inside Shack, despite how much he professes to have lost his faith. Alone and silent with our thoughts we stand together over the entrance on the roof of the Costco. Looking out over the roof together, we watch the transportation and material moving detail roll into the communal area, protected by the mobile gun system Stryker towing a trailer.

Shack and I watch as Nikola organizes a working party to get the materials from the Costco loaded on the trucks and into the trailers behind the Stryker and M-923s. The M-923s are also loaded along with the pair of M-35s. Halogen work lights on long, thick electrical extension cords are strung into the tomb dark Costco. The work lights are powered by inverters in each idling vehicle which causes their idle to increase slightly as the engines take the electrical load.

It finally takes three truck trips to empty the Costco. Shack and I stay on the roof watching the whole process. Our lunch consisted of a MRE tossed up to us by one of our companions. Shack and I traded MREs, as I got the BBQ Spam chunk again and Shack got the vegetarian cheese tortellini which he hates.

Numerous bottles of water are tossed up to us, keeping Shack and I hydrated despite the constant light drizzle that is enough to dampen our outer clothes but little else. Shack and I take turns dropping the occasional zombie that wanders into the parking lot. During a lull in the shooting, Shack and I have a little fun making a rough range card on a piece of lined notebook paper. I am still hoarding the heavy 77 grain M262 ammo.

Shack and I have been using the old NATO standard M855 62 grain ammo. I noticed that some of this ammo we are shooting is the older 2010 Danish non-green painted M855/SS109. For some reason DAMC (the Danish defense contractor) did not specify green paint on the tips. If you lack the shipping cartons only way to identify this ammo from regular, non-penetrator ball ammo is by the use of a magnet.

Shack and I are keeping score and so far we each have dropped 13 zombies although Shack missed once so I am ahead by one. We keep the competition light, and it helps break up the monotony of sitting on a roof in the drizzly rain all day. Shack avoids touching me for the rest of the day. I do not want to push him, so I give him his space.

I try not to make a big deal out of Shack “popping wood” against me. I do have an older brother and remember how my brother was at a similar age. I know that for boys around Shack’s age, this is a delicate time when they are caught between being a boy and a man. While I think of Shack for the most part as a man, in many ways he is still a boy, despite the length of his service and experiences.

It is nearly dark by the time the final material is hauled out of the Costco and all gear is stowed. Our supper was another MRE. This time, I got the horrid, chicken with tomatoes and feta cheese MRE while Shack got the Asian style beef strips. My cherry turn over dessert was not bad but I would have rather had the plain M&Ms from Shack’s MRE.

Shack and I climb down from the roof when we are called by Nikola. Shack thankfully taking my ruck with the three Shmel rockets lashed to it while I lash my rolled up shooting mat to Shack’s nearly empty ruck.

On the ground, I cannot remember how to properly tie the knot in the rope so that we can recover the rope. With a smirk, Nikola scoots up the rope to the roof and reties my knot. Nikola is much better at tying knots than I am. Then I remember that Carol said that he was a Starshina 3rd Class, so that means he was a sergeant in the Naval Infantry. Well, that explains Nikola using the naval term “working party” for the detail to empty the Costco.

Since he is a squid, Nikola should be good at tying knots which he proves as he zips down the rope and yanks on it causing the long, wet black rope to puddle at his feet in great long loops. He winks at me as we roll up the rope and toss it into the idling Hummer. Climbing in the truck’s back seat, I sit beside Shack on the outside in silence all the way back to the convoy’s camp.

After we get back to camp, we are told that an AAR will be held at 20:00 in the command and mess hall tent. There is a churlish undercurrent I notice within the camp. I am beat; tired from staying up all damn day, when I am used to being asleep. I note that I am not the only one feeling the pressure of interrupted sleep patterns.

I take a seat at one of the long folding plastic tables in the cantina and command tent. Waiting for the rest of the convoy with the exception of the perimeter guards to join me, I sit idly at the table. Shack and Carol are the first to join me, Shack bringing me a plastic Thermos cup of luke-warm black pekoe tea. Shack is so good to me. Nikola saunters up a few minutes later, giving a warm butterfly handled metal canteen cup of mint tea to Carol.

Shack, sitting across the table from me, guzzles a 20 ounce Red Bull while Carol holding hands with Nikola sits at the table beside me. As the appointed time gets nearer, more soldiers and the few civilians of the convoy quickly fill the tables. Jenny, the Princess’ daughter, comes up to me and offers her thanks for helping her yesterday. Jenny mentions that her mom is grateful too, although she will never admit it to my face.

I understand, because her mother and I had a rough start to our relationship. Jenny skips off, but not before showing me her new brown leather pocket holster that somebody found. Her new holster now holds her Baby Browning pistol. I am glad that Jenny at least has something better to hold her pistol, rather than letting it rattle around loose in her pocket. Jenny leaves as a haggard looking Doc comes strolling in just before Sam.

I halfway wonder if someone is going to call attention, but no one does so I suppose we have not gone that far military yet. Just as I am processing that thought Randy walks in the tent and sees Sam standing at the front and all of us sitting.

With a bellowing voice, Randy shouts “What, did you all go brain-dead. Ahhh-tennn-schunn!” With that the military members of the crew and even some of the civilians leap to their feet. Sam leaves us standing for a minute, and then says simply “seats” causing everyone to drop back on their ass.

With no preamble Sam gets right into the AAR. I will not quote Sam directly as most of it was pretty mundane and you can figure out from my details of the attack that it did not go as well as we had hoped. The convoy suffered eight dead (the injured soldier watching the transportation trucks died from his wounds), two wounded (Tommy and the other soldier whose name I did not catch) with one soldier in serious condition (Tommy again).

Sam is not pleased at all with the cost in material and especially the loss of soldiers. I do not know how seriously the other injured soldier is other than what Shack told me and Sam does not enlighten me if there is a change in his status.

From the AAR summary it does not sound like we gained anything of great value from the Costco. Weapon expenditure was lighter than I expected, but the unexpected momentary loss of a Hummer is particularly distressing as that caused the convoy to waste precious time and cost seven lives for little gain.

The damage to the other vehicles and the recovered Hummer is slight. We failed to detail a strong enough rear guard watching the vehicles while we assaulted the Costco. Of course, there was no way that we could have planned for an attack by four obviously skilled males. The attack against our trucks appears to be a target of opportunity and not a planned attack.

The Scouts led by Longfeather believe the four young men dressed in civilian camouflage hunting clothes were likely in the area and observed us leave the vehicles with little protection. Attacking such a target is understandable from the other survivor’s point of view but it still does not make it any better.

The four men that attacked our truck protection detail were skilled at arms and had either spent time in the military or were well trained. The men were maybe not Infantry but definitely Combat Arms. Their recovered weapons are three M4 clones and one semi-auto CETME. The M4s have a MEPRO 21 illuminated reflex optic mounted. The CETME has a standard German Hendsoldt Z-24 scope mounted in the standard HK claw mount.

All four males were carrying Glock 17s and had nearly identical equipment. The fact that their equipment was standardized is interesting. I wonder had the four men approached us in a friendly manner if we might have been willing to at least make an offer for them to join our group or at least trade.

A consideration is that while we did kill the men, and recovered our materials, the men might have been part of a larger group. If there is a larger group out there comprised of members such as those men, than we might have a serious threat. The Scouts are detailed to search a wider area tomorrow morning to see if such a threatening group might exist.

The amount of wine we recovered from the Costco is significant and causes some grumbling. Americans typically prefer beer to wine. Several pallets of beer were also recovered which is greeted with a few halfhearted cheers. The pallets of hand sanitizer, dish soap and laundry soap will come in handy.

Sam is not at all certain that the material we recovered and the experience with the cannibals was worth the loss of life. We did learn about the hardiness of the cannibals and that will help us better plan combat in the future but it was a costly lesson learned. Hind sight is always clearer. It is hard for even the most seasoned commander to lose troops.

The pharmacy in the Costco had been looted long ago. Almost the entire over the counter medicines were also gone although a few scattered common medications were recovered. All of the hard liquor was also gone as well as all of the paper goods, canned goods, and bags of grains.

Sam is disappointed with the lack of effectiveness of the riot control munitions upon the cannibals. There was no way to know without attempting an assault, just how exactly the cannibals would react to the non-lethal munitions. Sam notes that we are not the guardians of morality and doubts that next time we will bother attacking such a well-fortified cannibal position again.

After answering a few questions Sam leaves the meeting after only 30 minutes. Sam promises that despite the fact that he is rusty, there should have been better planning for this attack. It is obvious that Sam blames himself for the poor outcome of the attack and the loss of life.

Randy calls attention again as Sam leaves the tent. Once Sam is gone, quickly followed by Doc, who mentions in passing with the implicit expectation that all will attend, the burial for our eight slain soldiers will be held in the morning.  Doc ducks out of the tent and Randy dismisses the company.

An immediate murmur of conversation erupts within the tent. Most people leave, some going to find their bed rolls. Despite drinking a second Red Bull, Shack is already flagging. I watch him display a toothy yawn several times. I pat Shack on the hand and tell him to go crash along with Nikola who are day crew. Carol and I are night crew so we need to stay up for a while to reestablish our schedule.

Nikola places a long wet smacker on Carol which causes her to flush prettily. Pregnancy seems to agree with her as she has that glow that people say about pregnant women. She mentions that she is going to go tuck Nicky into bed. The smirk on Nikola’s face details just what kind of tucking Carol is going to be doing. With a little ass grabbing and horseplay, the happy expectant couple takes off in a hurry, leaving Shack and I sitting at the table as the chow hall slowly empties.

Shack and I sit in silence for a few minutes while Shack finishes his third Red Bull. Shack still will not meet my eye, so I tell him again to go to bed. I stand up and head for the radio shack, with Shack trailing behind me. Before I get across the camp, Shack catches up and walks beside me the rest of the way to the radio tent.

While Shack goes to our tent, (I hope Nikola and Carol are done or arranged for some privacy) I enter the radio shack and send Shen to his bed. Poor guy has been stuck in the radio tent for nearly 19 hours. If I understand Shen correctly, little has changed other than the fact that now we need to use an old World War 2 era manual hand crank every hour or so to charge the batteries.

After Shen leaves, I strip off my LBV and Dragon Skin vest glad to be rid of them for a little while. My old faded O.D. green Army field jacket is damp outside and sweat soaked inside. I separate my jacket and liner hanging them to dry along with my still over loaded LBV. I spray the inside of my jacket and jacket liner with Febreze. I consider spraying my LBV, but it is too wet.

Hoping that my jacket will smell better once it dries, I plop down in a chair at the table. Shack must have read my mind because he brings my weapon cleaning kit from the Dodge truck and sits in the chair opposite mine. Despite the fact that Shack should be in his bed, I am glad for his company. From his red face and embarrassed silence, I guess Carol and Nikola are not done. In comfortable silence Shack and I break down our weapons, and begin to clean them.

Our pistols need a brief wipe and oil to remove the water accumulated while in the weather. After the pistols are oiled and put away we start on our rifles. While I am showing Shack how easy it is to clean the AAC M4-2000 suppressor on my AR15 Nikola walks in to the tent followed by a flushed and disheveled Carol. Without saying a word Nikola breaks his weapons down and cleans them while Carol attempts to comb her hair into some manner of order.

The familiar smells of military issue weapon cleaning fluid and oil are punctured by the acrid smell of the charcoal lighter fluid Nikola is using to clean his Nagant revolver. I tease Nikola for smoking while using a highly flammable substance to clean his weapon. He shrugs, finishes cleaning his weapons, and puts them back together.

Carol fights to get her hair into some semblance of order, mostly resigned to the fact that she is still going to look like she just got a good rogering no matter what she does to her hair right now. While Carol fusses with her hair some more, refusing to admit defeat, I explain to Shack that because my rifle’s gas port is in the longer rifle position my gun runs cleaner as more of the gun powder burns.

This is a continuation of the conversation we had on the roof of the Costco. Shack nods at me but I can tell that I have lost him; he is far too tired to care about my rifle right now. I kiss him on the cheek again which causes him to blush. He jumps up mumbling something about going to bed. Nikola kisses Carol again and he walks with Shack back to their bedrolls.

Most of the torturous night is spent listening to radio static, and cranking the Godforsaken, son of a pox-ridden whore, charging handles in a rotating shift with Carol. Both of us nod off asleep more than a few times with Carol almost falling out of her chair once. We laugh at how tired we are. To ease the monotony, Carol regales me with some of her nautical tales.

She tells me some of her experiences in the Combat Information Center (CIC) on an Arleigh Burke class destroyer during the first days of the KCAP epidemic. She was able to listen firsthand while the world we knew quickly died. It sounds as if the destroyer she was on possessed very good communications gear. Eventually even Carol runs out of enthusiasm for talking and we sit in silence for a while listening to the radios static hiss.

God, I have never been so happy to see Shack and Nikola in the morning. Carol and I must look like holy terrors with our bloodshot eyes. The boys give us each a bowl of thick cinnamon and apple flavored oatmeal. Carol receives an insulated plastic mug of hot chocolate while Shack procured some more of the honey sweetened black tea for me in the old plastic plaid Thermos.

While shoveling food in our mouths, we brief the boys on the utter lack of anything spectacular during the night. Shack, drinking another large 20 ounce Red Bull, mentions that Tommy is awake and appears to be doing well. The other soldier apparently is not doing very well; Doc gives him about 50-50 odds of pulling through. The 9 mil round struck him over the heart in his SAPI plate. Nikola drinking thick, black sweet coffee mentions that we have to get going soon for the burial.

We assemble outside underneath the large pine trees to bury our eight slain comrades. Sam mentions that in normal times he would order a rifle salute for our lost comrades but we cannot do so for a number of reasons. Sam says some good things about the dead men that although they are dead, as long as we remember them they will never be truly gone.

Two of the slain men had been with Sam since JBLM. The other six dead soldiers had come from farther south, with one each respectfully from the Nevada and California National Guard. None of the dead men were particularly religious, but as the saying goes “there are no atheists in a fox hole.” Shack steps forward holding a King James Bible, and quotes Romans 6:3-9.

My father is a Jordanian, moderate Muslim and a Rhodes Scholar in his youth. My mother was a moderate Jew who was raised Orthodox, but drifted to more liberal Judaism after studying at Stanford in California. Despite my mixed heritage, I am not particular to any religion.

While I partially listen to Shack, I remember how my father loved a good friendly religious debate. No religious text was banned from my parent’s library. Saturday supper at my family’s house often included Muslim, Orthodox, and Hasidic Rabbis as well as numerous Christian teachers. If you were capable of calmly and rationally discussing your religion, you were welcome to our supper discussions.

My parent’s believed that we all worshipped the same God; we just called Him different names and used slightly different texts. Differences such as the number of prophets, and whether Jesus was just another prophet or truly the Son of God, were topics for friendly debate. Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses and members of other Christian faiths, such as the Catholics, were amazed that my father not only had copies of their scriptures in his library but knew them well enough to quote from them. Sometimes my father knew the religious scriptures better than the person professing to follow that religion.

After Shack finishes with amen that would do a Southern Baptist preacher proud, Randy dismisses the company who disperses to perform their assigned tasks. It is bath day for Carol and I so we grab our kits and head for the line. No matter how fucking tired I am, I am going to shower. The boys take over the radio. Once in the shower line we hear that propane is running low and the showers are not quite as hot as some would like.

As Carol and I are dropping our dirty clothes off at the laundry after our tepid showers, we hear the outer perimeter guards call in the approach of an armed group of people. Tension in the camp is high as everyone scrambles to get into full battle rattle. Dashing into the radio shack I slip on my field jacket and my Dragon Skin vest tossing my LBV over it.

Taking cover behind the Dodge truck I watch as a group of eleven men and two women stroll into the camp. All of the people are carrying identical civilian camouflaged back packs and wearing identical civilian camouflaged clothing. The group obviously has some training as they know how to walk properly as a squad without bunching up.

I do not see any body armor, but I do notice that everyone is armed with either an M4 with the exception of two of the men who carry CETMEs or similar clone HK rifles. Each person has a large Glock in a hard sided holster. I remember the four thieves we killed yesterday and wonder if these might be some members of that group.

Sam approaches the apparent leader and I watch them talk for a few minutes. Both men are wary of each other but neither makes any overt hostile action. After a few minutes of talking, the leader of the civilian camouflaged group turns, puts his fingers in his mouth and whistles loudly.

At the sound of the leader’s whistle, tension rises until we see six young children led by two male youths come running out of the brush. The two male youths each carry a M-1 carbine with a pistol grip and folding wire stock. The two boys with the M-1 carbines each carry a holstered pistols on old US Army O.D. green web pistol belts, which unless I miss my guess are Ruger 22/45s.

The two armed youths herd the six young children to the adults. Jenny, our only child left in the camp comes out and takes the whole group of children to her mother’s laundry. The children will be fine there I hear Sam tell the survivalist group leader. Things happened so fast, but I did a good look at the survivalists, which I will detail in the next installment.

The civilian group with the colonels walks into the command tent. Word comes over the radio for the staff to assemble in the tent in ten minutes. My bath and sleep will have to wait. I quickly trot into the command tent and take a seat as indicated by Sam. Once the staff is assembled Sam brings us up to speed quickly.

  1. Tim permalink

    Woo hoo!

  2. Greg Landgraf permalink

    Thanks for the update!

  3. John Guide permalink

    Welcome back! I feel like a lapsed vegan having his first filet mignon.

  4. S. Lane permalink

    Thanks for the new chapter, great writing.

    S. L.

  5. phil. permalink

    its been so long i’d forgotten all about you.
    was a good long chapter.

  6. I have to admit I enjoyed the first few chapters the most but this looks interesting.

  7. Tim permalink

    I would love to hear a parallel story from a guest author detailing the survival tale of the new group. They should be able to offer some great intel and maybe some background on the evolution of the cannibal group.

    • That is a possibility if a guest author would want to tackle that story line. I had intended the survivors as a separate story line but found my draft far too similar to James Wesley Rawles, so for now I have shelved it.

  8. Anonymous permalink

    A little technical point here. I used to make the SAPI (and ESAPI and XSAPI and the Special Forces variant) and they are designed to stop AP rounds from 7.62 and 5.56 rifles at point blank. 100% stop on first and 50-100% stop on 2nd and 3rd in spray pattern depending on generation. They are designated at NIJ level IV and will stop tungston core rounds as well. Even a NIJ level III soft vest (available to civilians) can stop 9mm pistols all day long. Upon stopping the round the SAPI plate will have deformation behind which can cause bruising but not serious damage. My company recieved multiple letters from soldiers in Afgan and Iraq with pictures of damaged inserts and stating they only realized the damage AFTER the battle and so never really felt it. To my knowledge we never had a field failure at the NIJ IV level failure with 800,000 sets fielded. Only when soldiers got hit around vest or were hit by IED or shrapnel from Arty did you have damage in the torso area (when side plates were used). I produced them from late 90’s to mid 2000’s. Also produced armor for helos (50 cal AP), transport aircraft (C17, C-130) and AAAVs for the Marines (20mm AP). With the right ceramic and fabric you can stop these threats!

    • Thanks for the information. I wore the old SAPI plates while in Afghanistan and Iraq and saw several times where the plates stopped 7.62×39 and 7.62x54R rounds. I took a 7.62×39 round between the shoulder blades and other than knocking me to my knees and some bruising I was fine. One soldier in my story was hit with a buck and ball round at the edge of his plate, and no matter how good the plate, if the buck round misses the plate it will not stop it. If you notice the soldier suffered bruising and injury because the round struck at the edge of the plate. Getting struck with a 1 oz ball of lead is going to do some significant damage even if the plate stops the round. Most of these soldiers are not the heavily trained and educated soldiers. Most are conscripts with minimal training and are also quite young. There is also a generally poor understanding among civilians as to how effective the plates are against certain bullets. I did not mean to imply that the SAPI plates were ineffective, or poor protectors. However in certain situations against specialty rounds like a buck and ball round, the SAPI plate will stop the round but the sheer impact force is going to hurt the wearer. Lacking proper medical care, the soldier that took the 9 mil round to the chest has some bruising, but without an x-ray machine they can only guess the full extent of the soldier’s injury. Thanks for reading and the information, and for making plates that saved my life and those of my fellow soldiers.

  9. Wow, excellent chapter with some great details! However, I was surprised not to see any mention in Ruth’s observations or the AAR about the COSTCO cannibal’s victims. Were any individuals rescued? There was not even a mention of the cages or anything related to cannibalism. I’m also not sure how the mutant cannibals got their increased strength. Did they eat some infected meat or KCAP zombies?

    • Jake, some of your questions will be answered in the next chapter. Ruth’s journal only covers what she remembers or considers important. The cannibals become that way by eating infected people, mostly ones that have not become zombies yet.

    • I’m going to point out a few things.One, I can’t tell you HOW many times I was asked if I was the other Warner sitser (*gasp* I just put my last name on the interwebs).Two, if I tried to do one of these, I would be watching movies in alphabetical order. Because I am OCD like that.Three, well, I don’t have a three, but it just seems wrong to have only one and two.

  10. Excelent chapter, Well worth waiting for. Thanks Bro. Merry Christmas and happy new year to you and yours. I can’t wait for the next chapter. M.M.

  11. By the way,How was my last chapter? should I keep on trying
    ? or leave it for more talented folks? M.M.

  12. MM your last chapter was pretty good. If you want to keep writing I will continue to read it. Maybe you should start your own Word Press blog.

  13. Thank you my man, You just gave me a reason to keep it going. I spent the holiday with my father in law who was my everglades mentor. the names in the tale as we move forward will be the folks we loved and shared the Everglades with, those who have passed on. Thank you again. what i would like to do is to give the story to you once I am able to move it along. Be well.M.M.

  14. I absolutely love your blog and find almost all of your post’s to be exactly what I’m looking for.
    can you offer guest writers to write content for you personally?
    I wouldn’t mind creating a post or elaborating on some of the subjects you write with regards to here. Again, awesome web site!

    • I am intrigued as to what you would wish to write about? I am not about to allow SPAM or blatant advertising for a tourist travel agency on my blog. I do not get a whole lot of readership so if you are trying to drum up business there are better blogs dedicated to travel that I would suggest. Let me know what your ideas are and perhaps we can exchange some ideas. I am not going to give anyone else permission to post on my blog without my approval and editing. If you understand and can use the native editing tools in either Word or Adobe, than I am willing to discuss ideas for another contributor. The last time I went down this route it did not end well.

      • phil. permalink

        I am waiting for episode #78.

  15. Robert permalink

    hope you are able to write mone often

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