Monday, September 8, 2014

Part 77

Everyone stirred their stew for a moment before shoveling it in their mouths.  These days, no matter what is happening, you have to fuel your body when and where you can.  The story upset me but it didn't stop me from eating.

Knowing I wouldn't like what I heard I still asked, "How long did it take?"

"Two days after activating the sensors on the wall we lost contact with every patrol out that direction.  A patrol was sent out to check on them and never returned.  We didn't have to wonder after that because the leading front of the biggest number of infecteds I have ever seen - up to that point - was bearing down on the town.  A few of us figured out what had happened right off ... come to find out there were a few of the docs and their staff that were against deploying the sound boxes but they were ... er ... shut up."

At that point I was dying to know two things.  What did he mean by "up to that point" and how were the dissenters "shut up"?  I didn't say anything though because Sarge kept on rolling the story out.

"There was no fence or wall that was going to keep out that horde.  The scientists were just plain freaked out by how wrong they had been proven to be  They'd put just about everything they had into the boxes being successful at controlling the infecteds.  When the proof that it didn't was staring them in the face several of them simply shut down, unable to process their total failure and its consequences.  The rest made their escape using vehicles only a very few had known they had - I didn't at the time and I've made it my life's work to make sure they don't have any more secrets like that.  I also make sure they are in the thick of it so that their personal skin is on the line ... none of this arms length crap.  If we bleed then they bleed."  It took effort but he controlled his obvious anger and got back on track.  "But that's now, back then all we could do was organize a mass and immediate evacuation of as many as we could.  We tried to grab the kids and old folks first but it was like trying to grab and hold onto water with your hands."  He stopped and gazed stonily at the stove pipe so hard I expected the poor thing to shiver.  When Sarge started talking again his voice had a dead quality to it.

"Thanks to the damn eggheads we'd lost the confidence of the people; no one wanted to listen, all they did was panic or run off on their own.  Vehicles left the compound half empty.  Our armory was emptied by the mob.  Those that prepared had a better chance but there are never any guarantees.  Most of those that tried to prepare got out of town but not all of them made it to safety.  A bunch of folks got caught in the cross fire as too many panicked and were fighting to get onto what vehicles remained.  We were overrun almost immediately.  We grabbed who we could and threw them in what armored vehicles we'd managed to maintain."  He paused and said, "I used to fish down in Key West a couple of times a year.  One time I went shark fishing with some buddies and one of the guys accidentally - accidentally on purpose you might say - chummed the water up more than was wise.  It started a shark feeding frenzy.  Scariest damn thing to be in the middle of.  The freaking fish were trying to take chunks out of the boat and it was rocking as it took multiple hits from some of the biggest monsters I've ever seen in the water.  A couple even tried to swim up into the boat.  Those panicked people and the infecteds acted just the same.  They were all just crazy."

I noticed Cochran shuddered so bad he nearly dropped his bowl.  He caught me looking and carefully set both spoon and dish down and stuck his hands in his pockets and walked off to stand outside even if it meant freezing his butt off.  All Sarge did was nod at Gwen and she followed him out.  Then he turned to me.  "Cochran got left behind by his patrol.  We found him during clean up two weeks later up in the attic of the school, half surviving on rats and water from the pipes.  It was another week after that before he said a single word.  Realistically he should have been discharged straight to the booby hatch but Command doesn't see it that way.  He's better than he was but ..."

"But you keep him with you to keep an eye on him."

Sarge nodded.  "He refuses to talk about what he went through but whatever it was it gave him an insight into the way infecteds act that has helped tactically when we are planning operations.  I keep him on my staff because I can and frankly 'cause it's owed him.  He gave up his seat on one of the last transports out when several little kids were found running around all alone.  I reassigned him to another vehicle but the message never got where it was supposed to go.  SNAFU."

"Will he be OK?"

"I think he will.  But he needs time he isn't going to get for  a while if ever.  At least I can make sure ..."  He stopped and shrugged.

"There's no such thing as a sure thing.  There never was," I tell him.  Then I told him a brief synopsis of what went on after I left and went out on my own.  "So you see ... even I've had to learn life isn't fair all over again and I thought I'd learned it pretty good the first time around.  But something tells me we still aren't through.  For instance, why exactly are you here?  I don't mean in my cabin but here here ... I mean here on the heels of this winter horde, a thing that shouldn't exist unless the puss brains have gone through a change or something."

"Or something," he said nodding.

"And that something would be?"

"The damn docs."

"Is this another experiment gone wrong?"

He shook his head.  "In their eyes this is an experiment gone right."


"Just let me tell it DeeDee.  It won't change the fact that they're a bunch of dumb asses but at least you'll see what we are up against ... and what you're gonna be up against."

I didn't like the sound of that at all.

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