Operation: Zombie Clause
Characters: Lt. Meaker, Anthony Rodriguez, David Johnson, Jacob Smith, and Charlie Agotti
Place: Mattydale, Salina, New York.
Time: 2347 Hours 12/24/20–
Christmas in Syracuse. Normally a festive setting rests upon the city; now only the light snowfall and dim moonlight show any sign that time has not frozen along with the undead on the streets now devoid of life. The only vehicles that remain on the empty roads are long abandoned; most were used in attempts to gather loads of supplies for the nearby Blue Zone or to save some conglomeration of survivors who had put out distress signals. Sometimes the rescue team would arrive too late, after the survivors who had barricaded themselves turned on each other and then on the rescue team. The few U-Hauls and up-armored buses were heaps of junk on the roads, occupied by rodents or the dead.
The inevitable Christmas thaw had been approaching. The occupants of Blue Zone knew it, yet none ever mentioned it. Slater saw it fit to give the Corpse Corps a Christmas break. None were allowed outside of the safe zone, and everyone attempted as normal a holiday as they could. No one had much to give, upsetting many parents since they had little to surprise their children with other than socks and ZEDs, crudely put together toys made of kitchenware or tattered clothing that barely fit. The day off raised morale, but also discouraged many. In the attempt to spread Christmas cheer all that was accomplished was forcing the inhabitants of the Blue Zone to remember the situation they were all forced into. Even so, families prepared to make the best of it.
“Listen Slater I understand the situation just as much as you do, but we need something to give these people more hope than just a day off from the office. Some of these parents are becoming more stressed trying to ensure that the children have a good Christmas with the little we have.” Meaker never would question a superior officer unless his men were at significant risk, yet here he was fighting with his CO when his men were completely safe.
Slater sat behind his desk. A map of Syracuse hung on the wall behind him, a blue outline showing the border of the Blue Zone, and thumb tacks to mark where Corps members had gone missing.
“Meaker, it’s not that I doubt your ability, but the rest of these men are not Delta Force. You can’t expect to take four men with you on a dangerous mission, during a thaw we both know is coming and expect them to accomplish said task. These are kids and old men were talking about,” Slater said calmly. He of all people knew Meaker’s intentions and understood him better than anyone, but he didn’t need his best man taking unnecessary risks on a vengeance quest.
“Besides Meaker, Corpse Corps doesn’t loot, you know that.”
“For Christ’s sake, Slater! I highly doubt the management of Toys R’ Us or Wegmans is going to be pissed that we took some of their merchandise. We’ve got a higher priority than keeping our conscience clean; I personally don’t care about your moral pledge to not steal. We’ve got a duty to these people now, and we need to see we fulfill that obligation!” Lt. Meaker slammed his fist down. He had ulterior motives for wanting to go outside: He knew the dead were thawing and was ready to deal a blow to their numbers; the survivors were a ticket out of the Zone.
“Watch your tone, Lieutenant, I don’t care what you think. No one goes outside the wire. Dismissed.”
Meaker snapped a salute before storming out, the door slamming behind him. Slater sat and thought. The only reason he didn’t punish Meaker for his blatant insubordination was because he needed him; the only reason Meaker spoke out of turn was because he knew it.
Jacob Smith sat in his home, looking at his sleeping children. His eight year old son and five year old daughter snuggled cozily under a pile of ripped blankets and jackets. In one corner of the house was a wood stove he had put together made out of car parts and a former kitchen oven. A lone log that he had saved for Christmas was warming the small shanty. In the center of the small structure against the far wall was a sapling pine tree, decorated with crude hunks of metal that glimmered in the light cast by the fire. Underneath the Charlie Brown Christmas tree sat two gifts wrapped in newspaper and old grocery bags, signed From Santa in black Sharpie. The twenty-eight year old stood up and closed a curtain that separated the room and walked over to the small fire. It was amazing to him how something as small as fire became something to be desired. He sat down and rest his head against the wall. Just as his tired eyes began to close, there was a knock at the door.
Jacobs’s eyes shot open and darted across the dimly lit hut he called home. The knocks at the door repeated, more impatiently this time. Jacob stood and dragged himself to the door made out of sheet metal and plywood. He pulled it open and to his great despair saw his Company Commander.
“Oh hello, Sir. Is there anything I can help you with?” he said faking a smile. To be honest, the lieutenant was the last person he wanted to see at that moment.
“I need you to go get Rodriguez and Johnson. Tell them to meet me at Hangar 4” replied the LT without hesitation.
Jacob reluctantly nodded and obediently said his Yes Sir. Meaker turned around to leave when Jacob blurted out “Sir? Do you want me to be at the hangar too?”
The LT didn’t even acknowledge the question; Jacob knew the answer already. Jacob Smith gave his children a kiss, grabbed his gear, and walked out the door. He made sure to stop at the shack next to his and ask the old couple there to make sure his children were OK till he got back.
*****Edited to this point.*****
The scene was very similar around Blue zone, families spending time together on the eve of a tradition they still wanted to hold dear. It wasn’t about religion, The Muslims and Jews of blue zone celebrated with the Christians and atheists. Families gathered together trying to have a laugh that they all so desperately needed, there was no eggnog, no alcohol, no cigarettes or cigars; no mistletoe, no turkey dinners, no pies or grandmas homemade cookies. Yet even as time dragged on past midnight and into Christmas people seemed to forget the mess they were in. If only it seemed so.
David Johnson was in his home, holding hands with his wife of three years in bed, he ran a finger gently along her bronze skin. She was the most beautiful creature in his eyes, and was thankful every day that he was with her. The two shared an intimate kiss when the knock came. “MotherFrakker” Johnson already knew who was at the door. The door shot open and instead of meeting his CO it was Smith from his Platoon.
“The LT wants you to meet him at hanger 4, get your shit you know how he gets when you make him wait.”
Johnson was furious, “What the Frak, whys he always gotta get the black man to do his shit for him? Why can’t he ever make you do his dirty work!?”
Johnson got his gear and was out of his home in no time, walking next to Jacob Smith.
“Am. I wrong? Every time he needs shit to get done he calls me, that man’s a racist.” Smith rolled his eyes while the angry African ranted beside him.
Smith walked up to Rodriguez’s door and knocked once before the door opened. The man in front of him had his gear on already and just simply nodded to Smith.
“I could hear you two a mile away.”Rodriguez said adjusting his patrol cap.
Anthony Rodriguez was a former 10th mountain Division soldier, at all times he kept a 9mm Beretta holstered to his leg. He was one of the most qualified in the corpse corps as far as volunteers went. Rodriguez took the lead and the three walked together towards the hanger.
It was easy to see why they had been chosen by Meaker as squad leaders, Smith had been a police officer before Zack had shown up; Smith was a favorite among the squads. He got along with the men and listened when they had a problem. Johnson was good at leading his men, He was a determined brawler and very competitive, yet understanding of his men’s problems. Rodriguez had been a soldier for four years before Blue zone and had fought Zack many times, he was a natural leader, when his men had a gripe he listened; then like Meaker told them to suck it up.
Smith, Johnson, and Rodriguez walked into the hanger, it was empty and bare. The planes had been torn apart to be used in the construction of peoples “homes” every possible crate or supply box had been removed, all that was left was an empty concrete room. Smith looked up at the large 4 on the wall then to the empty room.
“The LT’s running late, that’s a first”Johnson said, his voice echoing in the large room.
“Maybe he had to kick Agotti’s ass cus he didn’t want to leave.” Smith thought aloud.
“Wouldn’t be the first time” Johnson said chuckling.
“There he is” Rodriguez pointed at Meaker walking in front of a small Italian man.
“Looks like we beat ya this time LT.” said Johnson from across the room.
“Don’t get used to it Johnson, If I didn’t have Mario here to slow me down ” said the LT with a smile.
Charlie Company’s CO stood in front of the other four; he was in full combat gear. His future force warrior system on; Kevlar all over his body that he had taken from fallen soldiers and cut so it would provide armor on his arms and legs as well as torso. His combat boots and multi cam Uniform on, he looked like he was going back to war, the only thing he was missing was his Rifle that had run out of ammunition a long time ago.
“Alright I’ve called you all here because we’re going to be going on a snatch and run op.” he spoke calmly and to the point as usual, the other four paid close attention to any detail as they had been trained.
“This op is not going in the books, there’s not going to be any documentation done by clipboard. None of you will speak about it after this point. It’s pretty straight forward, we move to downtown Salina, raid a toys r us, and local food stores. We bring the toys and food back here and distribute it to the populous in the morning. This is going to be a possibly dangerous mission, as you all know Zack is thawing out there.”
All four cringed at the thought; the good thing about the winter so far had been that Zack had been immobilized, if only till spring.
“But we all know what were dealing with, Zack’s not our only problem, we’ve got time to worry about. I want this done quickly and effectively… no fuck ups Johnson.”
The LT looked at the four men in front of him one more time.
“Let’s get this done”
Time: 0137 Hours 12/25/–
It was a clear sky out by the time the five had reached their destination, the temperature was rising and snow and ice were melting.
“Oh my god look!”
Smith turned around at Johnson’s cry expecting the worse, instead he saw the black man in front of him swinging around a plastic light saber from the release of Star wars Episode 3.
“Dude I haven’t seen one of these in forever!”Johnson shouted with glee as he swung to toy around, smacking toys off the shelves.
Smith was looking at Johnson speechless.
“Will you put that damn thing down we’ve got a job to do, your acting like a child” Smith said trying not to laugh at how ridiculous the man looked twirling the plastic blade around and making the whirring noise with his mouth.
“Aww c’mon man, have some fun once in awhile shit ya sound like the LT sometimes.”
Smith couldn’t help but pick up the toy and after swinging it a few times watch it leave his hand towards Johnson. After the toy struck the man in the head Johnson looked more surprised than mad.
Before he could tell what had happened the two were engaged in a toy light saber battle. Laughing like a couple of children as they smacked each other with the hard plastic.
The two stood laughing for a minute before noticing the shadow cast on the floor, they both looked up at the same time expecting the LT but were even more overcome with fear when they saw the outline of a child about ten. The figure stood there looking at them, arms limp and skin Grey. They couldn’t see the figures face till it took a lazy step forward and the light revealed a face that had been eaten off. The child’s jaw hung loosely from the damage done to it before it turned, and without warning it let out a shrill scream.
Smith and Johnson had never heard such a horrifying sound before, their eyes went wide and faces became pale. Without thought the toys fell to the ground and they began to run. Both sprinting through the labyrinth of aisles, smith looked back to see the Z running after them, not walking like the others had.
“Jesus Johnson it’s running after us!” Smith shouted, his voice trembling with fear, sweat running down his forehead. The two crashed into an aisle as they tried to round a corner. Smiths’ eyes opened to those two empty holes in the z’s head that once held eyes.
He let out a scream of terror, this is it he thought. I’m dead. Suddenly the face was pulled away from him by Rodriguez. Anthony Rodriguez threw the child off of Jacob and proceeded to pummel the Zombies skull into a puddle with his ZED. Smith sat against the aisle shelf, his heart pounding so hard he thought it would bust out. Anthony looked at smith raising his ZED
“did you get bit?”
Smith shook his head quickly knowing why Rodriguez was asking. As Smith stood he noticed some movement behind Anthony and could only think of yelling and pointing. Anthony turned to see a swarm of dead clawing their way towards them, adults and children alike.
“FALL BACK to the electronics!”
Smith looked to his right to see the LT waving for them to follow him.
“Can’t believe I volunteered for this shit” Johnson remarked as he ran past Smith.
The three followed Meaker to the electronics department; the Nintendo wii’s and Xbox’s were still in the glass cases. Charlie Agotti was already there waiting for them, there were only two ways the Z’s could get into the electronics, and Charlie had been fortifying the position. At one end was a pole set across the walk path, so any slow moving Z’s would trip over it, exposing their heads to a well placed ZED bash. The other end had been barricaded to funnel the walking dead into a bottleneck so they could be taken out one by one.
The five moved into the area they had to defend. The sounds of screaming fast moving dead could be heard as they scrambled to get to their next meal.
“Smith, Rodriguez you take the back! Agotti stay in the middle and help anyone who needs it, Johnson you’re with me. Get ready, here they come!”Meaker shouted while readying his blade.
Smith watched the opening in front of him large enough for one man at a time, he lifted his ZED. Feeling the sweat drip from his brow, his gaze was drawn to the floor to see the face of a very fat, very dead child looking up at him before he smacked it away with his ZED.
The child’s rotting face was peeled off by the lead pipe, before the limp body hit the floor Smith’s attention was directed to the next rotting body shambling through the gap towards him. Smith and Rodriguez both struck the zombie in the head simultaneously. The Z’s head popped like a balloon, almost comically sending the “Get R done” hat it had been wearing tumbling to the floor. The headless body stood for a good second before it began to fall. Upon impact a smaller fast moving Z lunged at Rodriguez, knocking him down, Smith managed to grab the ghoul and pry her off of Anthony before she could bite him. She was dead before Anthony got up.
Charlie stood in the middle looking back and forth at the two battles, Meaker and Johnson were wide open, only a pole separated them form the Z’s, yet more were managing to get through on smith’s end. Only five minutes later and the store had been cleared. Any Z’s had been dealt with, and the crew began grabbing toys. Each of the five carried some toys, in either one to three packs. Rodriguez and smith had three bulky backpacks to hefty, but none complained.
The five made it to Wegmans without any further hiccups, and gathered as much food as they could. Mostly canned goods, everything else had been eaten by rodents or went bad long ago. A can of cold tomato soup was more precious than gold in the Zone. all five cleaned the store of anything and everything they could carry, all of them were overburdened with the amount of food they had grabbed. Even Meaker was slowed by how much he was carrying.
The walk back seemed to take years.
The zone was brought to life by the shrill screams and cheerful cries of children throughout the shanty town. many parents rushed from their sleep fearing the worse, only to find their children full of glee. All around Zyracuse families awoke to full stocks of food, and gifts for the children, more than enough to get everyone through the winter.
Smith was woken by his children, who dragged him to see the gifts that “Santa” had brought him and his children. Earlier that morning, Meaker had made the rest of the squad go to their homes and had alone distributed the loot.
John sat in his home, a room with enough space for a bed, his gear, and push ups on the floor. He sat on his bed drawing slow drags on a Cigar, shirtless for the first time in days, His chest covered with a layer of sweat. He wondered to himself how children believed an eighty year old morbidly obese elf could accomplish playing Santa when he barely managed. In his left hand was a picture of his wife and daughter. He slowly, and gently tucked the wrinkled and faded picture into his breast pocket and set his vest on the floor. Meaker finished the cigar, placed the butt into an ash tray, and lied down to sleep.
Slater was almost run over by a group of children gunning each other down with Nerf guns. All around the Zone were groups of people eating unrationed portions of food. Slater stopped a couple of men who had emptied a few cans of beans and were noticeably drunk from the plethora of Zone made moonshine.
“Where did you get all this food?” Slater asked a woman as he made his way through the crowd.
” You tell me, I woke up and there was a pile of food in the corner of my home, Its like that all the way around the Zone. The kids even got toys” The woman said to Slater with a smile.
“You didn’t have to do this captain, you have everyone’s thanks” She said before laying a kiss on his cheek and walking away.
Slater started off towards Meakers hut, a noticeable determination in his stride, he was about ten meters from Meakers door when Smith stepped in front of the Captain.
“Merry Christmas Captain”
“Same to you Smith” Slater said quickly trying to maneuver around him, The Captain was surprised when Smith stepped into his way again, purposely impeding his progress towards Meaker.
“Can I help you with anything sir?”
“You can get out of my way, I need to talk to the Lieutenant”
Smith forced himself between Slater and Meakers door one more time.
“I haven’t seen him all day, I checked his house when he didn’t wake Myself and the other squad leaders. I know him too well to assume he was giving us a break for the holiday so I checked and he isn’t home.”
Slater sighed before looking at the hut one more time.
“Alright… when you see him tell him to report to me immediately”
Smith nodded and watched Slater stomp off. As soon as Slater was out of sight Jacob turned and walked to Meakers hut and knocked on the door. Smith heard some shuffling inside before the door opened.
“This better be good Smith” Meaker grumbled.
“I just wanted to thank you sir, I’m sure you can hear how happy the whole Zone is.”
Meaker closed the door without saying a word, Jacob stood there for a second before setting a grocery bag full of canned goods in front of his door. Smith, Rodriguez, Johnson and Agotti had all pitched in by giving up some food for their leader. Aside from extra rations, Christmas had given the survivors some hope, the moral boost that everyone, Including Meaker needed.