Hook, Wrench Bender
“There 2 o’clock.”
“I see it.” The pilot sets about getting his helicopter in line with the small airfield. They’d been flying without issue looking for a place to land and possibly resupply when suddenly they were hit by rifle fire. Some survivors decided no one should be taking to the skies. The damage didn’t seem bad at first. Then the main engine went. His years of experience and training took over. Autorotation was the only way the bird would land. He lowered his pitch, reducing his lift and drag, and started descending. Keeping the correct glide angle was tough, but so far, so good. His passenger, a mechanic he’d known for years now his apocalypse survival partner held on tight. “Don’t worry, man. I’ve got this.” He believed his words; he just hoped his skill set was up to snuff.
As they approached the landing zone, he pitched the nose up, causing a flare. Then he leveled off. The copter touched down without so much as a bump. “Holy hell, thank you for being a good pilot.”
“Thank me later we gotta get the hell out of here.” They both undid their seatbelts and jumped out. They ran towards the hanger 200 yards away. As they ran, the hanger’s main doors began to open. A motor started, and someone began towing out a helicopter, a Bell 222. They didn’t stop running. They covered the distance quickly. The person pulling the copter turned, raised a pistol, and shot. “Sonuvabitch!” The two men fell to the ground as the person continued pulling the helicopter until it was clear of the hanger. They quickly undid the tug and jumped in. The sounds of the engines starting brought the two men to their feet. They ran towards the chopper just as the first groans of the undead filled the air. Arms waving, they made their way. The pilot was trying to take off in a hurry. They made it to the side, “Please help us!” They looked over their shoulders as the shamblers began hitting the fence. “Please!” Lights start to show through the trees as something came down the road.
“Shit!” The pilot nodded towards the back door. It slid open, and they jumped in. “Thank you!” The pilot gets the bird in the air. The zombies at the fence line continue to grow in number. However, they aren’t a threat. The threat is the fast-moving pickup with muzzle flashes coming from the bed.
“Hurry, hurry, hurry.”
The pilot continues to gain altitude. The pilot from the downed copter puts on a set of headphones he motions for his companion to do the same. “Thank you!” The pilot doesn’t respond. “People call me Hook. This other guy is a Wrench Bender.” Silence from the cockpit. “We’d probably be dead if it wasn’t for you.”
“Can it.” The only response from the pilot. The two sat quietly. Hook settled into the leather executive chair and closed his eyes. Wrench Bender stared out the window at the passing ground. It was eerily dark. Power went off almost immediately in the area, and other then a handful of structure fires and ground fires, it was black. Before he knew it, he was off visiting dreamland. He only woke when Hook shook his shoulder. “What, man?” He opened his eyes and pressed back into his seat. All he saw was the black circle of the rifle barrel.
“Get out! On the ground now!” The two scrambled out of the passenger compartment stumbling to the ground. “Facedown! Spread those legs! Hands behind your heads!” They didn’t think of protesting. They’d seen bodies on the side of the road with the holes from headshots from behind. They quickly realized they would be joining those poor unfortunate souls. “Now who the fuck are you and where did you come from? Who the fuck were those assholes chasing you? Why were they?”
Hook’s mouth was dry from fear. He tried licking his lips before speaking, “I’m, John. Most people call me Hook. This is Andy, we all called him Wrench Bender.” He tried to look back and felt the barrel press into his temple, and his stomach sank.
“Hey, miss. Miss. Please. You saved us. Please.” Wrench Bender visibly flinched as the barrel whipped towards Him, “Please. We were trying to find someplace safe. We got hit by gunfire. It screwed our bird. We didn’t know you were there. I swear.”
“On your knees. Slowly.” This was it. Their time was up. They got to their knees and closed their eyes. “Why’s this shit have to happen to me?” They opened their eyes and looked at the person holding them at gunpoint. Their rifle pointed at the ground. “You’re a pilot?”
“Yeah. Private pilot. Mostly execs and people with money. You?”
“I’m asking the questions.” The rifle was back up near instantly.
“You don’t know those assholes that were shooting at my copter?”
“I swear to you we don’t.”
“Shit.” She was thinking of what to do next, “Cross your ankles.”
“You’re ankles. Cross them.” They did. She lowered the rifle. It stayed tight to her on a sling. She unholstered a pistol, “You move you die. Got it.” They shook their heads. She quickly and thoroughly searched each one. She removed several folding knives and a couple of multi-tools. “You survived without firearms?”
“Left them in the copter. We were kinda in a rush.”
“Well, you two are damn near worthless. Okay, get up.” They stood. For the first time, they got a good look at the woman in charge of their fate. “You said you’re a mechanic?”
“If it whirls, I can fix it.”
“Okay, maybe you aren’t useless.” She turned toward Hook, “That was a nice landing you made back there.”
“Name’s Sam, go by Sparrow most of the time now.” She took a step back, “Sorry ’bout all that. Okay, I’m not sorry. Still don’t know or trust you.”
“We totally understand.”
That meeting took place at another time. Since then, the trio has hopped from one locale to another. They’ve found more helos then they could fly. The better ones get stashed for the eventual “just in case” scenario. They’ve had more than their fair share of run-ins with undead and unfriendly living alike.
They met Falcon during one of those run-ins.
“Ya seein’ that.” Hook pointed off to the left. A plume of smoke rose into the air. “We should steer clear.”
Sparrow was about to reply when a giant fireball exploded up into the sky. “Holy shit!” She banked hard to the right. For the first time in weeks, the radio crackled to life, “zzzt...Major... G... Joe... zzzt... request assis...” Sparrow and Hook stare at the receiver, Sparrow grabbed it, “Repeat last transmission. Over.” The silence of the radio filled the cabin. “Helo pilot this is Major Falcon of G.I.Joe. We can hear you but not see you. We are surrounded and need extraction for four. Over.”
Sparrow immediately began turning towards the smoke. “The hell you doin’?”
“You heard him. He’s military and needs help.”
Wrench Bender shouted from the back, “Who gives a damn. We gotta steer clear of that shit storm.”
“I give a damn. I took an oath. I’m not going to let them die without trying.” She grabbed the radio, “Major, this is Sparrow what’s your current location? Over.”
“Sparrow we are on the roof of a warehouse. The enemy has surrounded us. Over.”
“What’re my L.Z. options? Over.”
“There are none. Over.”
She turned towards Hook, “You ever do a hot extraction?”
“Oh shit.” He quickly undid his harness and squeezed into the passenger cabin. He took a piece of webbing and clipped it from his waist to a D-ring mounted overhead. Wrench Bender followed suit. Once secured, he opened the door, “All clear back here.”
“Falcon listen up. I’m coming in fast. There will be no touchdown. We gotta do a hot extraction. Over.”
“Hot extraction. The best spot is Northeast corner. Over.”
“Received. See you soon Ranger.” She brought the bird in low and fast. Constantly adjusting due to wind conditions, the thermals created by the fires, and the continually changing visibility. “You ready, Hook?”
“We’re a go back here.” The group of survivors stayed low, heads down, as the prop wash blasted roof debris into the air.
“3. 2. 1.” Sparrow kept the helicopter hovering within feet of the building. Falcon stood and sent his troops over. They ran and made the jump from the roof to the copter. First Forge. Then Bowyer followed by Smith. Falcon took the rear. As soon as he was clear, Sparrow brought the chopper skyward and swung it back in the direction it came from. Falcon immediately reached for a set of headphones. “That was some top-notch flying pilot.”
“Thanks.” Sparrow stifled a smile to the compliment. Falcon handed the headset back to Hook and strapped into a seat. The adrenaline finally wore off. Sparrow headed to one of the many safe zones the trio created over the intervening years since they met. After an hour in the air, she touched down. The landing zone is in the middle of the woods, far from the city. A wall made from the trees the trio took down to create the space bordered the landing zone. A small shack sits in one corner. There is no gate in the wall; the only way in is over it.
Wrench Bender pointed at the shack, “Head over there; we’ll be there in a few.” The passengers got out of the helicopter while Sparrow, Hook, and Wrench Bender went about their post-flight inspections. They went over the helicopter top to bottom. “We’ve just enlisted, haven’t we?”
“What do you mean, Wrench?”
“I mean, I know you were in the Army, and that was how long ago? We saw you out there. You’re ready to go back. Which means we’ve enlisted.”
Sparrow stopped, “I don’t know, man. We’re a team. I’m not going anywhere or doing anything without you two.”
Hook chimed in, “Like he said, ‘we enlisted’ cause we sure as shit aren’t leaving you to the wolves.”
She laughed, “Guys, all we did was rescue a couple of people. No one enlisted in anything.”
“Yeah okay.” They all went back to their respective jobs.
The four rescued survivors walked over to find the door unlocked. They stepped inside the small building. Opposite the door was a couch, a small table in front of it, to the left, a bunk bed. A small table and chair set sits under the lone window next to the door overlooking the enclosed landing area. To the right was a desk with various radio gear, a computer, and several monitors. Solar panels on the roof and several small wind turbines fed a bank of marine batteries that, in turn, powered the listening post. Bowyer took it all in “Cozy.” He made his way to the couch, propped his feet up on the table, and nodded off.
“How’s he do that?” Smith asked no one in particular while taking a seat at the table. Forge sat across from her, “I don’t know, but I’m jealous.” Falcon pulled out the chair at the radio set up and plopped down.
It wasn’t long before their rescuers joined them. When they entered Falcon stood, “I can’t thank you enough. We thought we were done for back there. When I heard you chopper...”
Sparrow looked at the grizzled Army Vet, “It’s not a problem.”
“You said something on the radio back there. ‘Ranger.’”
“I’m a Warrant Officer, Army National Guard. We all heard the stories of the G.I.Joe team. It was damn near everyone’s goal to make the team, to be a part of it. I studied every bit of info I could find. I read Wild Bill’s book a dozen times. You’re mentioned in it more than once.”
“A Warrant Officer, eh. Well, Ma’am, it’s a pleasure to meet you.” He offered his hand.
“Pleasure is mine, Sir.” Their shake is firm and professional.
The group spent the next couple of days going over their supplies and coming up with a plan. Sparrow, Hook, and Wrench Bender explained where all their supply depots were. They’d established spots all over the country, each just within the average maximum range of the various helicopters they had stashed. They explained that there is no shortage of choppers, it’s the fuel they’ve had the hardest time with. Fuel only has so long of a shelflife, and all the fuel from the old world was no good. They’d found several outposts that somehow got back to refining fuel—a couple they’d made trade agreements with. A couple of others ended in firefights.
“We need to find a place within striking distance of New Springfield,” Falcon said, looking down at the map. He’s looked at it a hundred times and at the outline of growing Cobra territory.
“Well, this is the best spot.” Hook pointed his finger at a spot on the map. “Radio chatter has it relatively snake-free, and we have a trade agreement for fuel with this enclave here.”
“Do we all agree?” Falcon looked around the room. Everyone nodded in agreement. “Okay. So we get here and start stockpiling what we can. This will be our new base of operations with these spots being our Bug Out Locations.” He looked at the men and women in the room, “You don’t have to do this. You’re free to leave at any time. This isn’t the military anymore. There’s no contract.”
“Yeah, we know.” Bowyer looked up from the chair, “But what else are we gonna do? Go back to The Bizarre selling crap and doing trick shots.”
“Alright. We start taking the fight back to Cobra.”
Categories: G.I Joe Chapters