I mentioned yesterday, I wrote a new short story. It occurred to me a while back that I’ve never written about zombies. In addition, some of my readers have asked, from time to time, why I don’t write more about my military experiences. I decided it would be quite fun to do both at the same time and it was. I’m not sure if I could have produced an entire novel from this concept, but for a rather long short story it fit nicely.
Would you like a little sample? Ok then, best stop reading here. For the rest of you, what follows is your first glimpse of the new story.Esprit de Corps
Staff Sergeant Gibson peered over Lieutenant McRae’s shoulder as he traced a ridge with his finger on the map. The subdued blue light of his flashlight made the lines barely discernable.
“Is there a problem, Sergeant?” The LT folded his map and tucked it away.
“We’ve been in the Syrian Desert for nearly twenty two hours, sir.”
“What’s your point?” The moonlight reflected from the goggles perched atop his helmet as he cocked his head inquisitively.
“That’s twenty hours too long, sir.” Gibson took in the five men that made up the rest of his squad with a sweeping glance. They were barely more than shadows in the desert night. “This is a highly irregular situation.”
“Do tell--” McRae took a swig from his canteen.
“Our entire platoon is out here somewhere. We’re a Ranger unit, for Christ’s sake. In, out and on our way. Extractions only takes one
“Well, this isn’t an extraction and the orders were for all four squads to be deployed. We have limited intel on the target. We just know it’s near Al-Rutbah.”Whatever it is, General Seaton must want it something fierce.
Gibson wanted to press the issue, but knew better. If they wanted him to know what they were looking for, he would’ve been present at the briefing.
“It looks like we’re only about two clicks out. Send one of your men up that dune to see if we have a visual yet.”
“Corporal Hawkins,” Gibson said, his voice barely more than a whisper.
“Airborne,” he answered as he scrambled to his feet.
“I need a report from that dune.” He pointed to the east.
“Roger that, Chief.”
He took a moment to sling his M-4 rifle over his back before he clambered up the embankment, dropping to his elbows near the top.
“What the--?” He pointed his night vision binos down into the valley on the other side.
The moonlight lit up Hawkins’ face as he rolled to his back and Gibson could tell by the goofy grin the kid wore as he slid down the dune, they had found what they were looking for.
“Tent city with heavy armament, Chief. I’d say roughly fifty strong. They’re camped around a big ass camo net in the center. I’d say it’s about twenty by and it must be covering something…big.”
“With any luck, that something has an unlocked door in it,” McRae added with a grunt.
“This is some kind of secret munitions depot, sir?” Hawkins turned his attention to the LT.
“Sounds more like a Chem Lab to me,” Gibson said absently, already working out an entry plan in his head.
“Ah, some of our elusive weapons of mass destruction,” Private First Class Johnson piped in with a snicker.
“That’s the sort of opinion you need to keep to yourself, private.” Gibson intervened before his squad leader could.
Johnson used to be a Sergeant, but his continued clashes with Lieutenant McRae over why America was really fighting in the desert earned him a demotion.
“PFC Forelli.” McRae signaled for his radioman. “Cop a squat.”
Forelli dropped to his knees with the SINCGAR on his back facing the officer. The LT un-looped the headset, held it to his ear. Sergeant Gibson waited until McRae established comms before he turned to the rest of his troops.
“Alright men, you know the drill. Check your gear. I want everything cinched tight; nothing dangles and nothing gets snagged. When we go in, we’re gonna have to be quick and quiet. Bayonets are your primary; fire your weapons only as a last resort. Am I understood?”
“Hooah!” They replied in unison.
“Alright, we have clearance to proceed.” McRae stepped up to stand beside Gibson. “Are the men ready?”
“Locked, cocked and ready to rock, sir!” Gibson gave him a crisp salute.
“Then let’s move out.” He raised his hand above his head and dropped it to point east.
“Young you’re on point,” Gibson ordered. “Everyone else…fall in.”
They slipped over the dune and into the camp. Flowing between the tents like ghosts on a graveyard breeze. Young dropped to a crouch; held up his hand. Everyone else froze. Gibson held his breath as he heard two guards talking in their sing-song language. It was a full twenty heartbeats before Young signaled the all clear.That’s about right,
Gibson thought when they neared the edge of the camo net. A large tin shack stood in the center. Yeah, the LT’s door was there, but it had a guard posted on either side. Gibson quickly signaled directions for Private Brown to circle around and take out the one on the left, while he handled the other. He palmed his bayonet, the blade resting comfortably along his forearm. He made a wide arc to the right, creeping as close as he dared to the front of the opening. He watched the LT for the signal that Brown was in position.
McRae flicked his wrist. Gibson sprang around the corner. His left hand snaked out, gripped the guard’s mouth; pulled him forward, off balance. He swept with his leg, bringing him the rest of the way to ground. He pressed down with his right arm as they fell, pushing the blade against his throat. The resistance was brief. Gibson tried not to look into his eyes as the blade met bone, but he caught a glimpse of them, wide with surprise. It was enough. He could feel the breath on his hand as it grew weaker. Spittle and blood oozed between his fingers. He clamped down hard on either side of the body with his knees as it started to spasm. No noise.
He looked up to find Hawkins already helping Brown carry the other guard through the door. They dropped the bodies in the first empty room they came to as they swept the building. Room after room they found empty. Old newspapers and magazine littered the floor, but there were no other signs anyone had spent any time working in the building. He nearly ran into Johnson as he stopped short in a doorway.
“Sweet Jesus,” he whispered, frozen in place.
“What is it?” Gibson hissed, pushing the private out of the way.
“A whole lot of heartache, Chief.”
Shiny cylinders filled the room, stacked from floor to ceiling. They were strapped together in bundles that were six cylinders wide and three deep. Gibson stared at the gauges and controls that lined a panel in the front. Wires and tubes lay in lazy tangles throughout the bundles.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Gibson whispered.
“God willing, we’ll never see anything like it again,” Johnson matched his whisper.
“I don’t know what it’s for, but I assume we’re going to blow it to pieces,” Brown added.
“Satchel charges aren’t going to cut it. I don’t want to be anywhere near this thing when it goes.” Hawkins couldn’t pry his eyes away from the contraption.
“Forelli, let’s call this in.” McRae signaled for his radioman to step closer.
“Yes, sir.” Forelli knelt to offer the radio to his LT.
McRae’s hand trembled as he reached for the handset.
Gibson turned his back to him, studying the room, looking for some clue as to what exactly they were dealing with.
“Sergeant Gibson,” McRae was at his side, startling him. “Air strike is inbound for these coordinates. We’re to proceed to the rally point in Al-Rutbah immediately.”
“You heard the man; let’s get the hell out of here.” Gibson looked over the room one final time. What is wrong with these people?***