Oscar Mike – Chapter Four

zombie_briefing

Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.

-Confucius

In the distance, the thunderous roar of jet engines could be heard. Their loud shrieks announced that they were flying into the morning sky, soon to descend on their target area and begin softening it up. While they waited for the noise to die down and the briefing to begin, Dezba looked around at all the familiar faces of 1st Platoon. This included Rickson of 2nd Squad, Tate of 3rd, and Saunders standing in for 5th.

Dezba looked to her last and nodded, receiving a smile in turn. Enough time had passed that he knew how to read her expressions. And at that moment, he could tell they were both feeling the same about their current situation. Once more unto the breach, their platoon leading Bravo Company’s charge. But without their CO to lead them.

He also Grayson standing behind Rollins, still the NCO of 4th and still the one making sure that the man who wore the silver bars had everything he needed to get the job done. A good platoon sergeant he was, at no point showing the slightest sign that he was pissed or worried over the shuffle that had taken place.

Perhaps he had the right of it. Dezba knew that whatever misgivings he had right now, there really was nothing that could be done about it. The new Lieutenant was about to be tested, that was certain. But he also knew the rest of them were going to be closely scrutinized as well. Haynes was never one to forget or forgive so easily. And from the top down, just about everyone in the platoon had pissed him off at this point.

Nothing left to do now but do their jobs and hope it all worked out. Maybe they’d get lucky and stay under the radar for this op.

Rollins waited for the noise of the the jets to die down a little more and quickly got to talking.

“Alright, people, listen up because we only got enough time to go over this once. Last night, aerial reconnaissance did another fly over the communities that sit to the south-east of town. Word is, they didn’t notice any sign of civilians, and we know for a fact that they haven’t been using their mobile transmitters for about a week. Command now believes they’ve been compromised, and we’re to proceed accordingly.”

Tate raised his fist. “Sir, does that mean we’re knocking over Sombrillo before hitting Espanola?”

“Negative, Sergeant. Our orders remain the same, confirm the presence of Whiskeys in or around the compound, then clear the front door. The Brigade Combat Team will still be rolling through to sanitize the place once we’ve determined the status of the community. A reminder, those heavy tanks that will be leading the charge will be shooting M1028 canister rounds almost exclusively. Those things can turn an entire horde into pulp, but aren’t exactly known for precision shooting. So we better be sure about the status of those houses. We roll in, we check it out, then we let the heavies do their thing.”

He looked around to see if anyone had any more questions so far. Satisfied, he moved on. “In terms of air support, the 150th is sending a few Spectres our way. They’ll be on station just as soon as we find our way into the town proper. Any spots not currently painted as hostile territory will still be intact, which means we will have the option of blasting them. But I don’t think I need to tell anyone that at that point, confirming the presence of civilians will once again be our priority. Captain Garcia and everyone above him were clear about not wanting any civilians dead. Not by our hands.”

Everyone assembled nodded and grunted an affirmative. Rollins looked around for any more questions. Dezba raised his arm.

“Sir, is the ammo provision still in effect for small arms?”

Rollins looked the slightest bit uncomfortable and cleared his throat before answering. “Yes, Sergeant. The Captain stressed that all grunts are to make sure their bayonets are fixed before we go in. If we can avoid wasting bullets on the undead if and when they get in close, so much the better. And the same holds true for air and heavy tank support. As the current ROE goes, if it is believed that we can take an objective without covering fire, we are to do so.”

“And who’s call is that, sir?” asked Saunders. Rollins looked at her, his discomfort giving way to visible annoyance.

“Mine, Sergeant. And I’ll be with you all every step of the way. So if you’re not sure, you run it by me first.”

Dezba looked to Saunders, noted the same look of annoyance forming on her face. He wanted to say something, intervene with some sound advice of how she shouldn’t be poking the bear. But it just wasn’t possible to get the shit back in the horse at this point. He chose instead to distract Rollins with another question.

“Sir, just how many survivors are we expecting to find inside the town?”

Rollins looked back to him and didn’t seem too surprised by the question. “Well, that’s the good news, Sergeant. The same aerial reconnaissance that declared Sombrillo and the other settlements dead claimed they saw signs of people being dug in on the east and west banks. Which means the horde didn’t get em all.”

Dezba nodded. “That is good news, sir.”

Rollins smiled mildly. “If there’s nothing else, then…” he nodded to Grayson, who immediately started barking orders.

“Alright, get to your Victors and ready your squads. We are wheels up in ten mikes!”

They immediately dispersed, each squad leader heading off to their vehicle. Dezba was sure to stall long enough to get behind Saunders and follow her a few steps. He waited til Rollins and Grayson were out of earshot too, and sidled up next to her.

“Sergeant,” he said, announcing himself.

“Sneaky,” she said, with a roll of the eyes. “Aren’t you supposed to be reporting to your Victor?”

“Yeah, but… I kind of wanted to ask you something before we shipped off.”

“Oh yeah, what’s that?”

He stopped her and turned to face her head on. He could instantly tell from the look in her eyes that she wasn’t too happy to be talking right now, and any discussion on the subject he had in mind wouldn’t go too well. But it wasn’t something he could let slide. Another chance might not come…

“Is your… head in this? I mean, are you looking to end your career in this man’s army or what?”

Saunders looked away and unslung her weapon, cocked it once to check the chamber. “I don’t have time for this. We’re pushing out.”

“Andrea, I miss him too. And we all know it was a shit move, the way he got canned. But we gotta press on, right?”

Saunders avoided his eyes. Even though they weren’t turning red or getting moist at the moment, he could tell she was holding back quite a bit. He couldn’t blame her, he knew what was going through her mind at exactly that point.

“And it’s not your fault, so don’t even go there. Whatever issues Haynes had with Braun go way further back than anything that happened in the past few months. The guy’s pretty much had a hard on for him since the Mage first put him in charge of 2nd Battalion. We’ve all had to deal with him at one point or another, so don’t think this is about you here.”

Saunders began shaking her head. Her face was softening a little, but she was still nowhere near convinced. And naturally, she raised a perfectly valid counter point.

“The guys a hardliners and an asshole, and you’re telling me you don’t have any qualms about following him into battle?”
Dezba sighed. “Yeah, I do… But who amongst us hasn’t had an asshole commander at one time or another? We’ve been lucky, having guys like Braun and the Mage in charge for so long. Maybe we got soft.”

She finally looked up to meet his eyes, reslung her weapon and took a deep breath. “Guess it’s time to get hard again, huh?”

“Maybe,” Dezba said, with a shrug. “You sure you’re up for this?”

Saunders made an irate sigh. “I’m fine, okay. The doc cleared me for duty and the headaches haven’t been coming back.”

“Not what I was referring to, Sergeant.” He looked her straight in the eye and lowered his voice a few decibels. “How are you doing otherwise?”

To that, she emitted a low sigh and looked at the ground. She gave the dirt a few gentle kicks with the toe of her boot.

“I’m sad and I’m pissed. I miss Mill and Jones, and I miss my CO. But what can we do? We have to move on and set our sights on the next thing. Not like there’s anything that can be done about it now, right?”

Dezba nodded. “I’m sure it’ll all work out in the end.”

“Right…” she said, looking resolute at last. “Now let’s go kill some ugly fuckers!”

“Leave none undead,” Dezba replied.

Oscar Mike – Chapter Three

STEN

“In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”

-Charles Darwin

The room was flush with the aroma of metal filings and machine grease. And the acrid smell of burnt metal was also there, the telltale signs of forgers at work. The few open windows in the factory shop had managed to keep the air quality bearable, but it did nothing to remedy the heat situation. Whether it was the result of an unseasonably hot summer, or of melting down steel and nickel to make castings, the entire floor was predestined to feel like the eight ring of hell.

Braun’s obsessive face wiping could attest to that. His wet, clingy shirt and the way his khakis were sticking to his legs were another indication. He couldn’t imagine how anyone on the floor could stand the aprons, gloves and protective goggles they were forced to wear. Were it not for the hot metal components they were required to handle, he was sure they would all have stripped down to their skivvies a long time ago.

As they walked between stations on the assembly line, the foreman – the venerable Art Mitchell – showed him the fruits of their operation. Between wiping his face, Braun made entries in his notebook, noting the numbers and models produced.

“Our total haul for this past week was one-hundred and eighteen SMGs, eighty-nine service pistols, and two-hundred bayonets. Our intakes accounted for roughly two tons of recycled slag, a mix of steel, iron, nickel, tin and copper. And we managed to get just enough zinc from you people to fashion the firing pins.”

Braun nodded, making a note of it. He knew an appeal when he heard one, and would have to run that by the higher ups. Ever since they had set up shop, Mitchell and his workers had become the sole source of weapons and munitions for the town militias. His designs were seen on just about every city block now, the proliferation of weapons models that were well-dated, but ideally suited to modern needs.

But as always, expanded production meant that more resources would need to be obtained. The slag heaps and waste materials generated by the war could expect to keep producing plenty of iron and steel for the time being, but rare minerals and chemicals like zinc and chromium were quickly running out. Which meant resource extraction, in the old fashioned sense, would once again need to resume.

There were departmental rumors that some Smithsonite mines was being contemplated south of the capitol. Apparently, it was part a larger scheme to rebuild Socorro now that it too had been repopulated. But he could not say with any confidence that it was true, or assure Mitchell and his people that these proposed mines would become a ready source of zinc compounds, or even that they had a group of chemical engineers on hand that could extract it for him.

Such was the nature of things in his new role. He had learned to become a cog in an apparatus that was simply trying to get things done and see to a rising tide of production and manufacturing needs. At the center of it all was the rapidly expanding population of the region, people who had been fleeing the undead hordes and looking for a safe place to set down. Beyond simple shelter, food and water, all anyone had wanted back then was to know they could go to sleep at night and not spend their days in constant fear.

But now, with the cities of Santa Fe and Albuquerque resettled and rezoned, and dozens of townships besides, the more intricate matter of how to meet the less basic needs of their inhabitants was always on everyone’s mind. Beyond food, shelter and water, people were once again in need of basic comforts, and had to be organized to produce and distribute them. Braun heard much from each and every group he was tasked with listening to – the Agro Co-Op, Utilities, Weapons, and Materials – and knew much about their problems. But proposing solutions was beyond his pay grade. Gathering relevant information and making recommendations to those who actually had the power to do things, that was what he was he was tasked with. And according to those he reported to, it was a very important task.

Which reminded him – another thing in his job description was to investigate complaints made by other groups and see if he couldn’t find out what the source of the problem was. In this case, it was the people who kept track of weapons distribution that had asked him to inquire.

“I understand you experienced a drop in production back in early April.”

“Ah, yes,” said Mitchell, suddenly sounding grave.

“Okay. Any reason why that would be?”

“It’s simple, really. Our smelters and production lines run on electricity. And when the electrical grid is intermittent, our equipment stops working.”

“Right…”

Mitchell continued, still sounding and looking very much irate. “You may have heard about the brownouts we periodically deal with in town here? I know it’s not as common up north where you were from, but down here, it’s a way of life.”

“I’m sorry, sir. I’ll make a note of – ” he stopped short as his mind backtracked to the one nugget that stuck out in that last complaint. “How’d you know I was from up north?”

“Are you kidding?” Mitchell ran his hand up and down the length of Braun’s profile. “The buzz cut hair, the khaki pants, the way you walk… everything about you screams infantry, son. And people do talk.”

Braun frowned. “People have been talking about me?”

“Yeah. A lot of my workers were happy as hell to know that they were reporting to a former grunt now. They figured having someone who actually understood the nature their work, instead of some pencil-pushing bureaucrat, would make life easier.” The way Mitchell punctuated this with a grunt told him exactly what he thought of the end result.

“Well, as I said, I am new to this.”

“We all are, son. I guess we just do the best we can.”

Braun didn’t reply. Putting his pen to the pad again, he made the note, as promised. If he was going to avoid any such mistakes in the future, he needed to let his superiors know that they needed to do a better job of communicating with other departmental superiors. Otherwise, guys like him were going to wind up looking stupid in front of guys like Mitchell. He was sure to spell it in all uppercase letters and underline it twice.

BETTER INTERDEPARTMENTAL COMMUNICATION.

“Anyway,” Mitchell said, sounding suddenly uncertain. “What happened to get you stuck with us down here?”

“Long story,” Braun said hesitantly.

Mitchell chuckled. “Piss off the wrong person, huh?”

Again, Braun didn’t reply. Eventually, Mitchell nodded and let it drop.

“Shall I show you some of the fruits of our labor?”

Braun shook his head and tapped his pen against the notebook. “No, I think I got all the information I need right here.”

“I meant, would you like to see the firing range. We set one up so we could test fire every weapon that rolled off the line.”
Braun felt suddenly piqued. He hadn’t been expecting a hands-on demonstration. “That would be… lovely.”

A few minutes later, and Braun found himself in a large storage room on the buildings ground floor. The air was much cooler, and the smell immensely improved. Instead of the tangy odor of grease, filings and molten metal, there was the familiar smell of cordite.

They stood together, Mitchell and he, looking down range from a series targets – which in this case consisted of standing two by fours that held up sheets of foam insulation cut into the profile of men. Directly in front of them was a long counter covered with guns and open cases of ammunition. Braun recognized the three models: a short stock semi-auto rifle, a submachine gun that resembled an old STEN, and a Colt automatic.

The sum total of everything Mitchell and his crew had been working on since they first set up shop. Mitchell motioned to the nearest weapon, which happened to be a copy of their standard submachine gun. Braun stepped forward and took hold of the weapon. He noticed an inscription carved on the side.

Freak Killer 2.0

He raised the weapon to his shoulder, tested the sights and the weight.

“You recognize what that is, don’t you?” said Mitchell.

Braun nodded, lowered the weapon to get a better look at the assembly. In essence, the weapon was just a single, long tube of metal, a wiry metal stock, and a magazine sticking at right angles to it. The front end was especially long, thanks to the addition of the built-in suppressor.

“A venerable old design. How did you know how to recreate it so exactly?”

Mitchell crossed his arms. His tone became that of a proud father. “I had a set of the old blueprints at home. Metal working has always been my vocation, and old firearms my passion.”

“No wonder the Council saw fit to put you to work here.”

Mitchell laughed. “Well, the way they saw it, someone needed to be making sure we had a supply or replacement bullets. And no offense to your friends there, but most of our guns didn’t take five-five-six or nine millimeter ammo. Once they formed a militia, it just made more sense to create a standardized set of weapons and ammunition.”

“Hence the Freak Killer?”

Mitchell began speaking in proud tones again. “I was hard-pressed to come up with a model that was both easy enough to produce but reliable in the field, and simple enough to strip down and reassemble that someone could do it with a bare minimum of training. STENs were the perfect concept – designed with simplicity and a minimal number of components in mind.”

“Not to mention minimal expenditure of materials,” said Braun.

“Well observed. Perfectly suited to our purposes, wouldn’t you say?”

Braun raised the weapon again and chambered a round. He aimed at the nearest target, and squeezed. The weapon let off a metallic clack, and a small thunk sounded in the target down range. He took in, and let out, a small breath as he lowered the weapon, an old habit.

“Not bad,” he said. “And quiet too.”

“Stealth is another thing we non-military types take seriously. Loud gunshots have a way of drawing the infected to towards you. Don’t imagine you grunts ever worried about that, huh?”

Braun shrugged. “No. Drawing them in was kind of what we wanted to do. Easier to kill that way.”

Mitchell shook his head. “Well… you’re in our world now. Try to adapt.”

Zombie Weapons (addendum)

Can’t believe it but I seemed to have forgotten an all important aspect of zombie fighting with my last post (Zombie Guns). We all know there are certain kinds of firepower that excel at smashing zombie brains. But when it comes right down to it, there’s something to be said for a truly old fashioned weapon. The kind that relies on your swinging arm, or perhaps a little gasoline! I am of course referring to melee weapons, the kind that are designed for hand to hand.

So I am amending my last list to include some prime zombie smashing equipment. I also think I will amend the rules from the last post. Instead of four guns, I think we should get our pick of three plus one melee weapon. That seems fair, and works well with the whole balance of firepower and versatility thing. Bullets run out, but what you got in your hands can keep on killing until you break it or you get overrun! Dammit, all this talk of zombie smashing is making me

Melee Weapons:
The weapon on truly last resort, what you grab a hold of when all else fails or you just plain run out of ammo. In this case, what matters is either blunt force trauma, slicing power, or a combination thereof. Weight and balance are also important, as is compactness and portability. Since this is your last weapon, it should fit on your person without trouble and not be a hassle to get around.

Axe:
Chopping wood is just one of many uses for this traditional tool turned zombie killer! On the one hand, you can use the blade to chop zombie skulls, then you can turn it around for a little blunt force trauma. This allows for swinging back and forth without having to worry about making sure the sharp end is pointed forward. And it can also be used with one hand, keeping the other free for other weapons!

However, as anyone who’s chopped wood for an extended period of time knows, swinging an axe can get pretty tiring! And even though it can be swung with one hand, its hard to do that and shoot or stab from the other, know what I mean?

Baseball Bat:
Ah yes, the symbol of America’s pastime and the favored weapon of gangsters, gang-bangers and thugs everywhere! And in the event of a zombie apocalypse, its also pretty handy for smashing the heads of the infected/undead! In terms of blunt force trauma, it can’t be beat. Its tough wooden frame can take down a zombie with a single blow, and a few more will finish the job! It’s also quite wieldy and not heavy, making repeated use easy.

Downsides? Well it requires that you keep a hand free to carry it. Otherwise, you need a special carrying sleeve to hold it which can take up added room. Miniature ones can be snuck up your shirt sleeve, but that presents its own problems.

Chainsaw:
What is it about chainsaws that are just so cool? Is it because they’re gruesome and ruthless, at least in the right hands? Perhaps. But in the right hands, they are also a very good zombie killer. A single slashing cut can take off a zombie head, and simple contact can hew off limbs and chew through their ugly flesh!

Naturally, the size and weight of this weapon can make it a bit unwieldy. And of course it requires two hands which can make cycling between weapons difficult. And last, it requires gasoline to function, which means it has a limited term of service. Lots of killing power, but you pay for it in other ways.

Chainsaw bayonet:
Now here is a pretty awesome combination! The raw killing power of a chainsaw with the added functionality of a bayonet. In addition to providing the user with the grinding power of a chainsaw, it also frees up their hands so they can tote their rifle. This combination gives them killing power at a distance and an effective melee attack if any zombies get in close.

The downside of this is obvious though. The added weight to the front of the rifle makes for depleted accuracy and portability. Basically, a soldier has to hold the front end constantly, forcing them to shoot from the hip instead of taking aim. And again, the weapon is only functional so long as it has a gas supply.

Claymore:
The sword that made Scotland proud and its warriors feared! Heavy, long, sharp and beautifully crafted, this sword is famous for knocking off heads and limbs with single strokes. Its long blade also makes for a good reach against flesh-hungry zombies!

Downsides? Well, its size and weight make it hard to wield. As long as you got two arms and big muscles, you can swing this around and take out any zombie in the vicinity. But anyone doing this can expect to get tired fast. And like the chainsaw, it requires two hands, making cycling difficult.

KA-BAR:
The knife made famous by the Marine Corps, or was it the other way around? No, I’m pretty sure the Marines were doing fine before this knife came along. Still, its effectiveness as an infantry weapon make it a perfect addition to any zombie killing arsenal. A good 7 inches long, sharp as hell, and made of steel with a carbon tip point, a good thrust will render zombie brains inoperative.

As for downsides, can’t think of many. In close quarters, this is a good weapon to have, being lightweight and requiring only one hand to wield. Of course, the fact that it can’t take off zombie limbs means it can only kill when plunged into a zombie’s skull. And in its current form, it can’t be fixed as a bayonet, making it less versatile than some other blades here.

Pigsticker:
The little bayonet that could… F*@#! up the face of some zombies! Yes, this spike bayonet has undergone a revival of sorts thanks to the prospect of a zombie apocalypse. Small, adaptable to any rifle, and capable of taking out a zombie brain with a good poke in the eye, this weapon is both portable, versatile, and effective!

It’s small size and the fact that it can be mounted on top also doesn’t eliminate the possibility of a grenade launcher attached to your rifle either. However, the spike is somewhat limited in some respects. Being small and thin, it can’t really penetrate a skull with ease. Overuse can also break it, and its range is somewhat limited.

Samuria Sword:
My thanks to Goran Zidar for suggesting this one. In the event of a zombie attack, this weapon is definitely one I would want on hand! Made of folded, tempered steel, good weight and wieldy, this sword can cut through bone, flesh, knock off heads, and limbs all at once. It can even chop into the brain pan of a zombie when used in an overhead attack.

But of course, the sword still takes two hands to wield effectively. What’s more, in the event of a head attack, it can get stuck in vertebrae and skull bone if not used properly. Always remember to snap the blade back at the end of the strike!

SKS folding bayonet:
This Soviet-era bayonet is famous for being the only gun mounted blade that is retractable. This can be a time saver when it comes time to prepare for a zombie charge, or ensure some added safety should you want to leave the bayonet on full time.

Downsides are few, but the folding attachment means that a stiff blow can detach it from the fixed position. In a zombie fight, you don’t want to find your bayonet folded back on you, thus forcing you refix it between brain stabbings! Having this bayonet on also means you can’t have a rocket launcher fixed to your weapon.

Machete:
Much like the baseball bat, the machete’s greatest features are its simplicity and brutal efficiency. And just for fun, I selected the Kukri machete, the Nepalese inspired variant which is the workhorse of modern machetes. Few weapons can out-cut this one, and a single blow is about as effective as that of samurai sword. But the Kukri manages to accomplish this with a much smaller frame, making it more compact and portable.

Potential downsides… Well it’s not the easiest thing to carry when not in use. Its curved blade means that you’d need a special holster since you can’t expect to just stick in your pocket, not unless you want to sever something vital! And since it’s smaller than a sword, you can’t really sling it over your back. So yes, portability might be a bit of an issue.

M9 Bayonet:
Last, but certainly not least, is the standard M9 infantry bayonet. A favorite amongst the US Army and USMC, the M9 is effective, reliable, and a quick kill option when fixed onto an assault rifle. Fixed at two points to a weapon, the odds of it coming off are also unlikely, making it a sturdy killer as well.

Drawbacks include diminished accuracy, which has been a problem since WWII. Soldiers usually resolve this by waiting until the enemy is close before fixing them. However, this presents the problem of having to take the time to slap it on while the zombie’s approach!

Are You Ready?
Okay, so the rules are clear right? One melee weapon, three guns. GO! My new picks are as follows:

Melee: Kukri Machete
Small Arm: Calico
Shotgun: USAS-12
Rifle: Stey AUG

I’m ready for some zombie smashing! Let me at em!