2 Chapter 12 The Spoils of War
The night passed in peace, the only disturbance having been caused by a bear that had paused to employ the fortress as an oversize scratching post. When the external floodlights came on, the creature took the hint and ambled in to the darkness. Nastia had only chased the creature away because it looked like it was going to settle down to take a nap. Mother Nature was doing just fine and had been an interesting sight that brought laughter as Nastia filled them in over breakfast. The planet would go on just fine even if humanity didn't make it.
Park's Army Base, was massive according to Robert and with only the five of them to cover its expanse, they could search for days before finding exactly what they wanted. Robert had made it clear that he was more familiar with the officer housing and the more "civilian" areas of the base and could only give them a rough approximation of where they needed to look: The base administration.
It was the logical place to start searching for maps and base inventory. At worst, they would find the former and not the latter. Being the skilled driver that he was, Robert parked the Fortress, bringing the side door in to near perfect alignment with the door of the building. That meant that they would have to be concerned with whatever was inside the building, or smart enough to crawl under the Fortress to get at them.
Cameron jammed the curved end of the crowbar just above the lock and slid the metal wedge down a centimeter or two and yanked hard. The lock popped with a clang and he stepped back and to the side, letting his comrades who had covered him advance first in to the building. Jaira led the rapid but cautious advance, the dark interior thick with the heady scents of humidity and abandonment that radiated towards them. The curtains and blinds had been drawn on all the windows blocking light, and the dust was inch thick upon the floor with no disturbances apart from theirs, "Odds are building's clear," muttered Natalie.
They riffled through a dozen desks before finding what they wanted, and retreating back to the well lit safety of the Fortress. They studied the maps and learned the lay of the land, discussing briefly before deciding on numerous areas of interest to explore including the base exchange, hospital, cafeteria and the warehouses that were the reason for their presence, "You reckon there military just left all their equipment behind?" asked Robert.
Cameron thought back to the early days, the first day of Armageddon when he had been home watching television, looking for any kind of useful information - as the saying went, nature abhors a vacuum and the looped television broadcasts were enough to make it clear that California had fallen within the first few days where other large cities had held out for almost a week and in some cases, two weeks before the tide of death had washed over them, "Not likely. California fell to the hordes in less than a week. Makes sense that most of the equipment and material would have been left behind."
Natalie shook her head, "It would depend upon the evacuation protocol issued. The base is still relatively intact and if all the doors are locked like those of the admin building then it makes sense that the base is empty too."
"What do you mean depending upon the evacuation protocol issued?" asked Nastia.
"There are dozens of different protocols and evacuation procedures. I can tell you what happened to New York and the five Burroughs: Somebody higher up the chain of command authorized the Dark Hammer Protocol," she paused, "Dark Hammer means that everything in the target area is to be considered either dead or expendable. New York would have then been burned out using fuel air explosives and napalm."
That brought a moment of stunned silence from them. "But California fell quickly enough so its more than likely they got the troops out and left whatever they couldn't move behind."
"So there should be plenty of stuff," said Robert.
"Should be." agree Natalie, "But the question is whether or not we can use whatever has been left behind."
They proceeded to find out, Robert simply moving the Fortress on to the base, demonstrating his skills as he parked with precision, leaving a narrow gap between the door of the fortress and the warehouse doors before they stormed the building.
Upon breaching the first warehouse, they stopped to stare in slack jawed amazement. Crates lined up in neat rows, all filled with firearms, ammunitions, explosives and other military toys. But they quickly turned their attention back to business and swept the warehouse splitting in to uneven groups as Natalie mounted the stairs that lead to the offices on the second floor, Nastia close behind.
The door squeaked on its hinges, and revealed a lifeless interior that told of a heroic last stand. Judging from where the corpses had fallen, somebody had flipped desks to create cover and barricades, killing at least a dozen of the undead before turning his pistol on himself. Whether he had gone insane or he had been bitten, at least he had not become the very thing he had killed.
The detailed inventory logs of the warehouse were scattered all over the floor. Yellowing, curling and scattered all over the floor but what they pieced together made it clear that they had found a mixed cache of firearms from pistols to squad level support weapons, explosives. The list went on for several pages to include grenades, LAWS, Mortars and several manpack missile systems and crates of ammunition. Natalie could only smile in delight as the other three swept the warehouse, killing the lone zombie pinned by fallen crates.
Having cleared out the base motor pool earlier in the day, they made a series of round trips, clearing a warehouse, taking whatever they wanted and making as many trips as was necessary to collect anything and everything that they could possibly want or need. It was clear that they were going to spend at least a week sorting through everything they took, and that was before they even got round to making the modifications necessary to outfit the Fortress.
Nastia had followed through on her arguments about their need for bigger, better and a variety of weapons as she cautiously loaded up crates of ammo, cases of different grenades, flares, and several cases of anti-armor weaponry. With the five of them, it still took them the remainder of the day, hard at work as in the late afternoon with the sun starting to set; Jaira maneuvered the forklift in to position, loading the rack of pallets on to the back of the truck as Robert kept watch. He was as relaxed as the rest of them, weapon holstered as he waited for Jaira to finish up. Their presence had attracted several lone undead in military fatigues from all over the base and all had been blessed with a second, permanent death, "That's the last of it!" called Jaira, it was just before dusk when they cleared the warehouse.
They relaxed in the coming days as they sorted out numerous issues they had to deal with. Economies of scale came in to play as they standardized their weapons as Natalie explained, "Lots of changes between this" gesturing towards the M16A4, "and its predecessors: The M16 – which is a relic from the Vietnam War. Unless you're a gunsmith, don't worry about the changes. They'll go over your head. Just remember three things: Shoulder strap, silencer and flashlight attachments come standard. M202 Grenade launchers and XMS-22 LWS systems are available but I'll show you all how to use those later. Lastly, you have a clip of thirty, that's three-zero bullets that you can fire in single or here round burst only. There is no full automatic spray and pray crap." The same standardization took place for other weapons, taking the Mossberg P-590 Combat Shotgun, and the 9mm Beretta M9 as their sidearm. The only place where they didn't bother standardizing was with their Sniper Rifles - Natalie had taken five different rifles, and even to the most unenlightened, it was clear she was suffering from a severe case of weapon envy.
With their personal armament needs met, they moved on to the Fortress and adopted squad level machine guns for Fortress gun ports: The FN Minimi machine guns also chambered for NATO 5.56mm. The roof gun port was a closed up steel bulb on a revolving collar that they would outfit with a MK19 40mm grenade launcher. They would also finally have enough shotguns shells to fully outfit the close quarter defense system that had been installed on the rig months ago.
The chain link gate around the motorpool had been closed since they pulled inside, and with the heavy double doors of the garage pulled shut and locked, they decided to call it a day, relaxing as they cooked dinner and ate, going from meal to jokes and then playful insults and final war with balled napkins the weapon of choice. Laughter rang out and during the laughter, the instigator of their playful war slipped away, disappearing in to the confines of the Fortress as he settled in to his bunk and stretched.
He froze. No matter how light on her feet she tried to be, he always heard her coming across the metal floor of the fortress. He flipped the switch and pulled the curtains plunging his bunk in to darkness. Cameron knew who it was, and what she wanted even as laughter reached him from the other three outside. Cameron cursed under his breath his boots askew were like a neon sign that gave him away. The wheels of his mind found no traction as he slid down in to his bunk. Why she came to him still had him confused.
Love was not something that really interested him in anyway – not to say that Jaira was unattractive - Out of the trio of women, he knew that Jaira was easily the most beautiful especially when she let her long hair down. But as he turned over to face the wall, her footsteps stopped and he closed his eyes and prayed that he would just get the darkness of sleep, without the dreams or the nightmares.
Jaira couldn't decide whether or not he was actually asleep or just getting his daily dose of solitude. Solitude… he preferred it to human contact, even hers and that still hurt. Just a little bit but it still hurt. She spied the boots and took advantage of the situation. If he was asleep he wouldn't care, and would just move over. If he was pretending to be asleep he would have to move over. He stirred uncomfortably in the darkness and that gave the game away as his stirring was not the kind of twitching that took place when he was in the throes of a nightmare.
He shifted again and she swooped down on him like a giant bat on its prey, sitting on the edge of the bunk, having kicked off her shoes. The problem was that Cameron himself didn't know if he was trying to keep her at arm's length or to let her just a little bit closer.
The laughter outside had died away completely as they cleared the trash and leftovers from dinner and Jaira wondered why her feet seemed to have developed a mind of their own. It would be the fifteenth time she would do what she'd done. He never seemed to notice when she literally rolled him over like a giant log to make some space for herself, and she didn't object when he had wrapped his arms around her as he pretended to be asleep – again.
She snuggled up against him and he wondered what he should do behind closed eyes. He'd been dealing with her direct intrusions in to his bunk for months now, but intrusion that it is, he had to admit even if was just to himself that there was something, nice about having someone to hold again.
Outside, the trio waited and watched with bated breath… but why they watched he wasn't sure. They would hear something long before saw anything. That was the generally accepted theory as they'd heard a lot and seen nothing at the Portland Junkyard months before. After several tense minutes of anticipation, the trio finished the cleaning and clambered aboard, locking the sliding door behind them as everyone collapsed in to their bunks and for the first time in a long time, the crew of the Fortress slept. The private betting pool between the three of them on that particular juicy topic got just a little bit larger as Jaira would never tell and their iceberg of a leader was not somebody they could just ask.
The proceeding weeks were filled with activity as they mounted the five machine guns in to place, making sure that they had decent ranges of motion laterally and vertically. After several instances of trial and error they had succeeded in mounting the guns, keeping the barrels outside to reduce the level of noise inside the Fortress. Laser sights were mounted to the guns, and they test fired a hundred rounds from each gun to make sure that they would shake and rattle to the machine gun beat without dislodging themselves.
The Spartans were well rested when they finally ventured out of the hanger, having lived on the base for almost three weeks with the only place of interest left being the base hospital, where as an afterthought, it occurred to them there would be an infestation of zombies.
Raiding from the ruins of civilization to fuel the rebirth of humanity seemed to be an acceptable way of life for Cameron, if not the rest of them. Truthfully after the destruction of Sparta, he was none too interested in being tied down to a single fixed location, fearful that history could repeat itself. The rapid fall of California meant that most of the human population was either dead, or had managed to get out of the state with the dead on their heels. But what it also meant was that pockets of human survivors would be scattered throughout the state. Already, whatever supplies that they had in excess were stacked and stored in buildings thorough the motor pool, and rigged with simple tripwire grenade traps. If they could not carry it, they were leaving it behind, but leaving them protected.
The base hospital was the best source of higher grade medical supplies that included antiseptics and antibiotics, and surgical equipment. Those things would be in demand for trade with any half way sensible community. Unfortunately, hospitals were also among the most dangerous locations to search for supplies and their preparations reflected this. Two were armed with their new assault rifles, and the rest with shotguns and submachine guns. All carried twin Berettas in thigh holsters and military body armor that protected everything except their joints, hands and head.
Within the confines of any medical facility, there were always undead, lots of undead as the patients and first victims of the "plague" or "disease" were taken to hospitals, where they died, rose up and slaughtered several of the medical staff, were captured and quarantined or restrained. Briefly studied before one test subject too many was strapped to a bed or a gurney and something somewhere broke or gave way, allowing all hell to break loose and spread like an epidemic. The walking dead often occupied every corridor and room.
But this hospital was eerily quiet as they moved down its corridors, sweeping from room to room, the flashlights mounted on the picatinny rails of their new assault rifles and submachine guns throwing pools of light around each room they swept, even as the under slung laser sights sent red or green beams of light lancing through the shadows and darkness.
Other medical supplies were easy enough to locate as they didn't look, simply spray painting the sides of trolleys, and carts that they would collect on their return trip through the building – assuming that they did not have to run from the dead. And that in itself was starting to worry Cameron like a Coyote gnawing at its own leg when stuck in a trap: Where in the hell where all the undead? He voiced his question and everyone else gave the only answer that they had as they moved up several floors and finally found the zombie mob.
They had yet to take any notice of the five, standing and milling about on the other side of a set of doors, the glass stained with blood and bodily fluids, cracked but intact. A chair and gurney had been hastily shoved in to place and it was that weak barricade that had kept the dead bottled up inside the ward. They sized up the number of undead contained and Jaira was the first one to say it, "Think we can take 'em?"
Robert looked at her and suggested that they just go back the way they came and leave the undead alone. Cameron was inclined to agree with that particular idea as he reached in to his pack, pulling a role of silver duct tape and several lengths of nylon fishing line, "Hand me a couple of those fragmentation grenades." Robert handed over a quartet of the deadly pineapples, and starting pulling and cutting strips of the heavy tape muttering to himself as he did so, "Zombies rise up, Armageddon comes and this stuff still holds the world together."
They quickly taped grenades to both sides of the corridor and strung up the trip wire attached to the pins of both grenades before moving down several more feet and repeating their trap. Hopefully it would provide enough warning of an undead breakout for them to escape. Moving down the staircase, they paused and set the same trap again and then on to the tedious task of taking whatever medications and equipment that they could reasonably transport. Thankfully, the undead stayed blissfully ignorant of their presence and activities. Having cleared the hospital of everything they could take, they placed a series of traps and flares, just in case.
Done for the day, they retreated back to their hanger and settled in for the night, but not before posting a sentry on the roof of their building, now having reason to remain paranoid. The night stayed quiet and peaceful as Cameron was relieved by Jaira who had it quiet, if not quieter than Cameron had as Natalie clambered on to the roof of the building.
They talked for a few minutes until the faint sound of engine whispered on the wind towards them, "Did you hear that?" Grabbing their binoculars, they searched and found the Ford E-series van that stayed its course, coming directly towards them. Jaira cursed. They had to stay just one more night… if they'd left like she suggested, whatever was fast approaching would not have become their problem to deal with.
A series of sharp firework like retorts broke the night's silence followed by another stream of return fire. The van swerved dangerously, going off the road for a minute, throwing up a cloud of dust before returning to the road, "Looks like we have angry guests," Jaira raced down to the fortress, scrambling aboard a touch out of breath as she shouted, "Contact!"