“The helicopter is an hour out.”
The Commander looks up from the stack of documents on his desk. His hood hides any hint of expression from the Crimson Guard standing before him. “Good. I’ll be leaving to get ready momentarily.” The Guardsman snaps a salute and turns to leave. “Siege.” He turns sharply on his heel. His mask hiding the uncertainty on his face. “Double my escort. Also, make sure all available personnel are assembled on the grand lawn.”
“It shall be done Commander.” The tension eases out of his body.
“We want to make good impression for our news guests.”
“Most certainly Commander.” Another salute and the crimson clad soldier hurriedly exits. As the door clicks shut the Commander stands and turns towards the reinforced bullet resistant floor to ceiling window overlooking his new domain. New Springfield has risen from the ashes of the apocalypse as a beacon of hope. He takes it all in. It is the closest thing to the metropolis of old. A bustling city with electricity, running water, thriving markets, even an entertainment district. While outside the walls, beyond the one mile clearing separating this new world from the old, the undead rule.
He then turns to the large map on the wall. Once it would have been a map of the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Now, it’s something else. It marks the boundaries of the new territories. Those in red, under his control, grow daily. The map is red from just north of New Springfield down into Central America and northern South America. His domain expands to the east right up until the irradiated Wastelands. Beyond the Wastelands lie the Badlands under the control of the United Tribes. He looks carefully at the territory. “They will need to be dealt with eventually.” He says to the empty room. Beyond that, running to the Atlantic is No Man’s Land. A place where rival warlords carve up territory faster then they can claim it. The red stops at the Rockies to the west. That is about to change.
He steps away from the window. It’s time to get ready. With the new arrivals landing his position as leader of this new world is one step closer to absolute.
An hour later he stands at the edge fo a landing zone flanked on either side by a large contingent of Crimson Guard. The Commander and Sieges seem unaffected by the downwash. As the rotors begin to slow the side door opens. Several Vipers jump off followed by a group of old men in suits. The first heads towards the Commander the others herd the men to the side of the landing pad away from the still spinning propellors. Two more Vipers drag a man, clearly unconscious, from the aircraft. The first Viper off, an Officer stops in front of Cobra Commander, “Package delivered Commander.”
“Good good. Well done.” The Commander nods his head in the direction of the unconscious man as a MediViper runs up to check him. “It seems you had a bit of a problem.”
“Nothing we couldn’t handle Commander. Just an old Joe that didn’t like seeing us.”
“You brought back another Joe. Do you know which one?”
“Dialtone. A communications expert.”
“Very good Major Onesi. If you will have those men brought over.”
“Right away Commander.” He turns to head back to his men.
“See to it that you and your men get the next 5 days off.”
“Yes Commander.” Major Onesi double times back to the rest of the Vipers’ Nest group. The suited men are escorted to Cobra Commander. The five guests walk briskly towards the masked man. A look of awe on each of their faces.
Under his mask a smile spreads across the Commander’s face, he spreads his arms in front of him. “Welcome to New Springfield, Mr. President.”
In its previous life, it had been a relatively sleepy community made up of anglers and loggers. Most residents said it was a good place to raise a family. Then THEY came.
The once quiet community became a hive of activity. It was the final fallback point for the remaining government for the former United States of America. Their final stop before being pushed back into the ocean to head to Alaska and having to give up the mainland.
For years, they survived. The President moved there from Salem, Oregon and it became the de facto capital. Several miles south of the city, they built a ten-mile wall to protect it from the undead. The first wall was made of materials left from the surrounding areas logging industry, along with various cargo containers, fencing, and anything else that could potentially slow down the zombies. They erected several other walls separating farmland from where the survivors lived. The wall that enclosed the 20-block city center was heavily reinforced concrete. If a final stand were necessary this is where it would happen. If the horde or even worse, Cobra, made it this, far it would be all hands with rifles. In the event of an evacuation, staged nearby were both sea faring vessels and various light aircraft. The population of Warrenton had been just over 5,000 pre-apocalypse. With the surrounding areas, it was just over 37,000. After the fall, the population was scarcely 1,000. Most of those were scared civilians. The rest were a mix of politicians and military forces. They held back the undead. Kept Cobra from killing the last remnants of the US government. Moreover, they had carved a life for themselves in a world hell-bent on destroying them.
Then it happened...
The tall reinforced concrete barrier begins to undulate under the sheer force of the assaulting horde pressing against it.
"Fall back! Go! Go! Go!"
People run. The barely trained civilians fall over themselves trying to escape. The highly experienced military personnel move with their head on a swivel, on the lookout for the first sign of a breech.
"Evac status?!" The question shouted into the radio clipped at his shoulder.
Static. Then, "Level Four clear. Level Three clear. Level Two clear..." Static.
"Level One evac status?!"
"Level One full loss." The voice different. Gravelly. Not Dialtone's. The Vice President.
"Repeat last transmission." Disbelief in his voice.
"Level all Level One. That's an Order!" The President shouts. The communication came on an open channel. Everyone within earshot of a radio heard it. Not once but twice. The civilians were to ???be left behind.??? Left as a distraction to allow the upper Levels time to escape. Left to the snapping maws of the undead. Left to die or worse yet, turn. Panic spreads like a forest fire. Beachhead stops in his tracks turning towards the wall just as the first section begins to collapse. He sees it in slow motion. It reminds him of footage from the fall of the Berlin Wall. The entire section slams into the ground. A giant cloud of dust kicks up into the air. Before his eyes THEY come. Flowing through the hole they made like water bursting a dam. Arms outstretched. Mouths agape. Searching for a meal. Instinctually he raises his rifle and squeezes the trigger. The first round finds its target; a head explodes in a cloud of pink mist. The next miss their marks. They still punch through the corpses of the undead knocking them off their feet, but they all slowly make their way back up. As he takes aim, he sees another rifle in his periphery. Then another. 13 rifles spit lead death at the growing mass of zombies. Magazines empty. Drop. Fresh magazines slapped in. Bodies fall. Some truly dead. Others merely slowed. The horde grows ever closer. Closing the distance between themselves and their next meal. The men know their fate. Their rifles begin to run empty. Sidearms are drawn. Smoke and the smell of ammunition fills the air, thick enough to cover the smell of rotting flesh. Pistols fire dry. Knives, hatches, even several swords find their ways into hands. Then into skulls.
The Final 13 never speak. They focus on the task. Hoping their presence affords the citizens left behind a few precious moments to make an escape.
Joes till the end.
MSG Big Brawler
SFC Cross Country
SGT Short Fuse
SGT Fast Draw
Tarzan’s estate - east of Lake Victoria British east Africa - (Kenya)
Times have changed as has the Lord Greystoke. He has watched as his beloved Africa fell into the hands of one warlord or another. As UN forces were helpless to aide the sick and hungry. From one conflict to the next he was on the frontlines defending his home and his extended family, his legend never waning. Once considered a Big Bwana, a Chief, and to some a King. He has shed all titles, except those given by his noble British birthright. He no longer sees himself as superior to the people of Africa, he knows himself to be a guest in their land. Some argue that his upbringing in the jungles by the Mangani make him more then deserving of the title of African, but as the world evolved so too did Tarzan’s view of himself and those around him.
It has been 81 years since he last undertook this trek. Then, as now, he was leading the brave Waziri. Only this time it is not in the hopes of rescuing or revenging Muviro's daughter, he buried Muviro and his daughter Buira many decades earlier. Today the Waziri led by Duma, a brave man of noble heart and stalwart courage trek for other reasons. Nor will he be forced to find his beloved Jane, for she is with him. As is the scared little Manu Nikima. The long line of Waziri march on in silence. They carry their traditional weapons of bows, arrows, spears, and shields. However times have added to their armory the British Army Bullpup SA80. However these they use only in the most dire of circumstances, there is a new danger in the jungles. One that will undoubtably be drawn in by the sounds of machine-gun fire, foul-smelling soulless corpses.
He is no stranger to the dangers of Africa from the sweltering jungle to parched savanna, the mighty Bolgani to the brave Sabor he has faced them all. And won. Death instills no fear in his heart so long as it is an honorable death. However, in the world now death comes at the cavernous gullet on the shambling undead. A death that is most certainly anything but honorable. Never has Tarzan faced such adversaries. Immune to the mighty hold of the Lord of the jungle. Unafraid of the many wild denizens. Even the savage Sabor turns and runs when the scent spoor of the undead is in the air.
At the insistence of his beloved Jane he had reluctantly watched the reports coming from around the world. At first confined to the shores of the United States it quickly spread until it was on their doorstep deep in the heart of Kenya. The first one had been a member of a tribe from Tanzania it had made its way over 300 miles. It's body was torn and battered. Any garments that had once covered it body had fallen victim to the thorns and brambles of the dark jungle. Lord Greystoke was on the veranda speaking to Duma about precautions that should be taken with regards to the growing threat. The screams shattered the still African air. Immediately the brave Waziri warriors ran led by Greystoke only to come upon a scene of pure horror. The thing had its head buried in the soft belly of a small child, a woman wailed in pain as blood flowed from her chest. A man laid prone on the ground unmoving in a puddle of his precious life blood. In a red fit of rage Tarzan lashed out at the creature, grabbing a handful of its hair and pulling, he didn’t expect the head to tear clean off, yet, even severed from the body the mouth snapped at the air. It wasn’t until Tarzan sank the blade of his father’s knife hilt deep into the skull that it finally met true death. Then those attack arose, possessed by the primal urge to feed.
They had lost good warriors and many innocents that day.
They had fought bravely.
Nothing had prepared them for what they faced.
That was the day he came to fully understand how contagious the plague was. Even the smallest scratch or bite led to infection and un-death.
The treacherous trek to the Kavuru village they are undertaking, is due solely to the fact that Tarzan’s supply of perpetual youth pellets is all but gone. Tarzan , Jane, and Nikima each have one pellet remaining. It must be taken on the night of the upcoming full moon. Should they fail to secure any more, their youth will surely slip away. When last they escaped the Kavuru village it was burning to the ground and and the madman Kavandavanda was dead, a bullet from Tarzan’s pistol having pierced his heart. For nearly 6 decades the abductions of young women had all but stopped. In that time any that went missing were attributed to Sheeta or Sabor. Then the disappearances began anew. Tarzan thought not of Kavandavanda and the Kavuru but of human traffickers. Traffickers had become a plague, they beset his beloved Africa with their sites set on the young. Tarzan worked tirelessly to ensure that those of his adopted homeland knew of what to look out for from the men that stole women to sell into slavery. Now, his future depends on his memories of the heavily protected city and its inhabitants. Surely Kavandavanda could not have been the only one to know the secret. Perhaps unknown notes were found by the surviving Kavuru and deciphered allowing the pellets to be made anew. He knew from what they were made, “the pollen of certain plants, the roots of others, the spinal fluid of leopards, and, principally, the glands and blood of women - young women.” He knew his life was extended by the deaths of untold innocents, and yet he valued his life and that of Jane above all else. Both he and Jane know their longevity is at stake, their legend.
In the past they would have order Duma and the Waziri into the jungle to engage in the safari so that they could secure the vital pellets. However, this is not the past. Tarzan and Jane sat down with Duma and the counsel and laid out exactly what was at stake, “We do not know what exactly would happen should we run out of pellets. We may grow old slowly or we may lose our youth all at once. But whatever the case, our time will run out.”
“Tarzan, you have lived a long life. To ask us to risk our mortal lives so that you may seek continued immortality is, unconscionable.” Duma said a hint of anger in his voice.
“You are correct. It is a purely selfish request.” Responds Tarzan. “And yet I am asking.”
“You aren’t even certain that these pellets exist. You would want us to leave our village, our families, at a time when the world is overrun with walking corpses.” The anger in Duma’s voice now clear.
Tarzan hangs his head, “I am sorry for insulting you with this request.”
It was several weeks before the horde arrived. They swarmed the village like the Saifu Ant, engorging themselves on any living thing and anyone that their jaws latched on to. Tarzan, Jane, and Duma rallied the Waziri and fought valiantly to protect and defend their families yet they were forced to flee into the darkness of the thick verdant jungle. For several days the survivors of the massacre traveled heads hung low. Tarzan scouted ahead raising his nose to the sky, as Usha brought the scent spoor of wilderness to his flaring nostrils.
Tarzan made his was back to the group, now refugees in their own land, “It is clear ahead. The undead haven’t made it here, yet. We should be safe for a night at least.”
The group stopped and immediately set to the tasks of making a camp. Bomas were erected not to stop Numa or Sabor but to slow down the ravenous zombies. The work is done as quickly and quietly as such work can be done. After gathering the wild edibles of the area and a small Bara they set about eating. Tarzan and Jane sat away from the others. Duma approached, “Tarzan.”
“About what we were talking about before, going to the village, for your pills.” He turned and looked at the gathering of Waziri warriors and families. “We’ll go.”
Around a small fire sit a group of men and women. Made up of scouts of the Unified Nations they listen with rapt attention to one who is a leader among them. Beyond them with clear senses and solid nerves, searching the darkness stand the guards, warriors of the highest caliber, taught from birth to be proud of their heritage, trained from the onset of the end to be stalwart, brave, fearless. Conditioned to look a demon in the eye and destroy it. Efficient quiet killers. From all corners of the great nation, the former United States, they came with their tribes to the Badlands in hopes of finding means to save their people. Under the guidance of one of their own, a man known among all, a man trained by the United States in the art of war, they united. They fought the white man to a standstill. However, many lives were lost to THEM.
Civil War. That's what some called it. Others terrorism. It all depends on their perspective. We call it Freedom. We fought for months, the government refusing to back down. I can't blame them really. We were declaring that the land they were on was ours as we were its first inhabitants. They claimed it theirs by virtue of being the government. Turns out we were both wrong. It was THEIRS. THEY overtook both sides. While we were busy fighting one another THEY came in and nearly eradicated us. It happened in ones and twos at first, a private on their side, a young warrior on ours. Then the tides turned in THEIR favor. There started to be more of THEIR spawn in the Army field hospital and in our infirmary then there were people to look after and care for them. It didn't matter whether it was a single tooth breaking the skin or an all out mauling the effect was always the same. Death then reanimation. The only x factor was the time it took. A small bite could take hours, in several cases days, a severe wound near instantaneous.
The Elders claimed it was the vengeful spirits of the dead coming back to punish those who abused the land. Even Spirit scoffed at that. After listening to the Elders who claimed to have spoken with the ancestors of the many tribes he said, 'I have experienced many events during my time; birth, death, love, hate. But this is the first time I have felt fear. Pure fear. These things are evil. They are no spirits. They are spiritless. They have no being within. They are hollow shells with no purpose other than death.' The tribal elders couldn't believe the words of Spirit. Eventually they had no choice but to listen.
Now we are no longer "Native Americans" as there is no longer an America We are one.
Our tribal identities were the hardest to let go. Seminoles, Apache, Iroquois, Sioux, Crow, all the Nations together. All believing their customs, traditions, and identities the greatest. Many nights Spirit and I spent hearing and settling personal disputes between groups of young warriors full of stubborn pride. We can no longer afford individual identities. In time we taught them that if we are to survive we must be as one.
On the eve of the 10th anniversary of our Freedom we find ourselves still at war. Yet we continue. We thrive. Our enemy has changed. The federal agents and National Guard are still here. Only now they are the walking dead. They have become more dangerous. Once the death from their weapons were permanent. Now they add to their ranks.
Journal of Norville Shaggy Roberts.
I decided to write down my thoughts after it was born. After it emerged.
It's been six months since it was born. Six long months. After delivering the thing Hatch and Emily disappeared in the middle of the night. I assume to escape the...
That's what it is in the truest sense of the word. It's abominable. It is worth of and causes disgust and hatred.
It's also a fast growing and developing beast. It's not human that much I know. In six months it's grown faster than any living thing should. It began talking within 2 weeks of being born, walking in 3. It now stands almost as tall as Velma.
Even with all that is happening in the world; zombies, evil cults, damn marauders, this thing is unbelievable. At first Scooby and I kept our distance. Now Scoobs seems unfazed by it. He will even play with the thing. Scooby chases a ball for the thing like he did when he was a pup. The only thing that keeps me around is Velma, although I don't think she really needs me.
Emil, that's what Velma named it, Emil Dinkley. It calls her "mommy." It tried calling me "daddy" I couldn't handle that. I lost it. Screamed. A lot. Now if it needs my attention it calls me Shaggy. It's weird. It almost looks like its feelings are hurt when it calls me by my name.
It's playing fetch with Scooby as I write this. Scoobs doesn't know any better I guess. He just likes to play.
The thing has an uncanny ability to know when those things are around. And those things avoid it like the plague.
It also hunts, it brought back deer, a turkey, a couple goats. Somehow it even caught a couple chickens. We keep them on the roof of the Mystery Machine and every so often we get a couple eggs. I guess the thing is helping keep us alive.
I still hate it.
"Hey Shaggy what are you doing?" He looks up from his scrawl filled notebook and sees the inquisitive eyes of Velma. "I'm just like, writing down some stuff."
"What kind of stuff?" Suspicion in her voice.
"Just, y-you know, stuff. Nothing important."
"Can I see?" He quickly closes the cover. "No. I-it's like private stuff. My inner most thoughts. Yeah that's it."
"Uh huh." Her voice doing little to hide her doubt, "Maybe you and I can join Scooby and Emil in a game of catch?"
"Y-you go play. I think I'll like stay here and keep watch. Don't wanna be snuck up on by some hungry undead." Velma closes the distance between them, leans down to look Shaggy in the eyes, and places her hands over his, "Shaggy I know you've been... Uncomfortable with Emil. But you don't have to lie. We haven't seen any of those things in weeks. And when we do they scurry away as fast as they can."
"That doesn't scare you does it?"
"Why would it? We're safe."
"B-because they're scared of that thing."
She cuts him off anger seeping into her voice, "That 'thing' is your son. That 'thing' is keeping you and your dog fed. That 'thing deserves some respect."
"Momma?" The plaintive voice startles them both. "Why you mad at da... Shaggy?" His eyes show concern.
"I'm not mad at Shaggy. We're just talking. Everything is okay." Her face is all smiles for the thing standing in front of her.
"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.”