The Rhesus Factor / Quarantine part III
"Lets go, hustle up!"
Soldiers rushed about the ragged lines of refugees, trying to perform their inhuman task at an impossible speed. Orders came through, screenings had to be speeded up.
Dwayne and Brandon slogged their way through this chaotic scene of so-called military precision. People grappled with them, swore and threw small projectiles. It was pure madness.
"You're worse then CEDA!"
More curses and shouts rained down upon them. The two ignored as best they could and cast sympathetic glances toward the soldiers and Riot Officers trying to maintain some sort of order.
After a painfully slow advance through the park they reached the staging area. Several humvee's were parked in the street along with a Bradley's armoured vehicle.
Dwayne whistled, he seemed to have a love affair with machines, in particular the big ones, and the Bradley's, while not the most badass thing, was his firm favourite.
Brandon mopped some sweat of his brow and noticed that the streets were being closed off. Riot officers kept the crowds of refugees under control as groups of soldiers erected barricades tipped with razor wire.
Was the infection already here, outside the quarantine?
"Come on Brandon, get a move on," Hollered Dwayne.
He bounded down the steps after his buddy and approached the tent where the task force was assembling. The Lieutenant there was tired looking, and dirty like the rest of them, and he had that haunted look that all the men had who patrolled the outer perimeter.
"As I was saying… we enter the Quarantine zone at the east gate, we secure an LZ for the Pave lows and start evacing anyone still alive. I won't bullshit you, things are incredibly hot in there,"
He cleared his throat.
"We have confirmed reports of infected,"
The gathered soldiers murmured and began to argue among one another. It was Dwayne who voiced the groups concerns though.
"Why are we going in there then?"
The LT shook his head.
"I don't know, we don't question orders private, we execute 'em,"
"Fucking horseshit," Whimpered one of the soldiers.
"Once we're in…watch your zones of fire. Do not fire on uninfected individuals, only shoot if you have a clear shot," The lieutenant continued, his face growing increasingly sour.
"We are the best of the best, its us this falls to, are you with me rangers?"
One by one the men answered with a "Hooah." The LT gave them all a sad smile.
"Rangers lead the way, lets mount up. Allen, Matthews, you're up front with me. Casey, Havner, Randal you're following, Perry, Hamilton, Stone and Hill, you're the rear guard."
The men all rushed to their respective transports, all apprehension replaced with a longing for glory.
"You two," the Lieutenant gestured toward Dwayne and Brandon.
"Find a empty space in a vehicle where you can,"
With a "Hoorah" they were on their way. Brandon sat in the lead humvee, and craned his neck to find Dwayne. Sure enough he was riding on the side of "Rolling Thunder," the Bradley's.
The engine roared to life and the vehicle lurched forward. It halted long enough for a barricade to be moved aside before rolling on again.
"Papa Gator, this is Spearhead Charlie, we're Oscar Mike, will we have air support, over?" The lieutenant spoke into his radio.
Brandon couldn't hear the reply despite his best efforts, but the Lieutenants face informed him well enough. He threw down the receiver and sighed.
"Command just tell us to go 'f' our selves?" Enquired the driver, Allen.
"Seems that way corporal," Replied the LT.
"This whole operation is beyond FUBAR," Came the voice of Matthew's.
"Stow it Matthews, and someone get on that 50." Barked the lieutenant. Matthew's hopped up and took control of the gun.
It was unnervingly quiet inside the humvee. Brandon couldn't take it.
"Where did you guys serve before all this?" He eventually piped up.
"Fire base Phoenix, Afghanistan for a while, waiting for my tour to run out, when the shit hit the fan, you LT?" Yelled Allen above the sound of the engine.
"This is my first combat op,"
Matthews laughter filled the cabin. He Glanced down from the 50. His grimy face split with a massive grin.
"Looks like we got a war-virgin in charge of us,"
"I said stow it Matthews!"
"What, you afraid of a killer like me, afraid that I can pull the trigger and you can't?" Matthews replied, still in hysterics.
"Matthews, shut the fuck up!" Allen hollered. The LT was silent and looked away. The silence returned, deafening despite the engines best efforts.
"I was in the assault on Fallujah, I was heading back for my second tour when we were called back," Brandon whispered.
"No shit! I heard that was a shit storm there!" Matthews called. Brandon shut his eyes against the carnage of that battle; house to house, hand to hand combat. It was the bloodiest and most inhumane thing he'd seen , until now.
The Humvee bounced along the road, rattling the occupants about. Ahead the looming fence of the Quarantine zone came into view, and the East Gate, if it could be called that. A barricade hinged to swing open to allow trucks to dump larger amounts of 'carriers.'
"Slow down," the lieutenant ordered. Allen pulled over while the LT jumped out of the cabin and made his way over to the barricade. He conversed briefly with the officer in charge of it before waving the convoy forward.
As the approached the barricade was opened. Gun fire erupted cutting down groups of people who tried to rush out.
"Cease fire!" Screamed the lieutenant.
The men at the gate looked uneasy and continued to push open the heavy steel gate. The convoy rumbled forward and the lieutenant climbed back in. "Rolling Thunder" was the last through, and the gate snapped shut behind them. Corpses crushed under wheel as the convoy proceeded.
"Where we going in here?" Allen whispered, keeping his eyes peeled to the road. The Lieutenant fumbled with a map, scanning it carefully. It was a tourists map of New Orleans with military information scribbled on in red pen.
"Two blocks east of here is a park, we're gonna clear it and call the Pave low's. Set up a defensive perimeter and evac,"
Matthews groaned but the Lieutenant let it pass. The convoy snaked its way slowly through the streets choked with dead. Weapon reports tore through the air along with screams and groans. Occasionally an emaciated looking human or stray dog would pass by on the street, staring wearily at the vehicles trundling by.
"Its like Somalia man," Whispered Matthews as he craned the 50. Around to scan the rooftops. Brandon shrugged, it was as bad as they expected… A ghost town choked with the dead.
"Head's up, fire fight ahead," Hissed Allen.
Strobes of light and weapons fire broke the eerie silence of the dead city. Ahead sure enough, someone was shooting something.
"How the fuck did they get firearms?" Brandon exclaimed.
"We had reports of other refugees helping people in here, but we didn't expect them to send weapons in," The lieutenant stated, staring wide eyed at the conflict ahead.
A huge blast lit up the scene ahead. Allen skidded to a halt as dirt and rubble rained down and the air was full of a dirty mist.
"That sounded like a thumper… they got fucking RPG's too?" Yelled Matthews. Behind the convoy ground to a halt. The lieutenant waved his arm outside the window and consulted his map.
"That was the park, fuck."
He grabbed the receiver of the humvee's radio. "We got weapon reports up here, stay frosty, only fire if fired on, Oscar Mike,"
Various agreements came over the radio, and Allen moved on again.
"Watch those alley's Matthews," Brandon urged.
The fire fight had died down, occasional staccato bursts broke the silence in the distance. More people clad in rags made their way along the street and began to follow the convoy. They tried to speak, only moans escaped their worn out bodies.
Brandon felt sick, and the incessant moans wouldn't leave his ears. He wanted to shut it all out, to scream, but he couldn't. The convoy rolled on, paying no attention to the refugees.
"Shit, something big did go down here," Allen noticed as they entered the remains of the park. Craters, rubble and pieces of foliage was scattered around the entire location.
"Where the bodies…"
No one answered his question, but they all felt it in their hearts. The humvee came to a halt and they all dismounted. The rest of the convoy followed suit, and before long the men were preparing defensive positions.
The civilians continued to follow moaning up the streets. The lieutenant mopped some sweat of his brow and reached for the radio again.
"Papa Gator, spearhead Charlie, we're set for Evac, over."
After several long moments of static Papa gator acknowledged. The lieutenant clapped his hands.
"Alright lets go, Perry, Hamilton, begin to screen these people. Matthew's, Allen, stay with them and add security, the rest of you, fan out, check these buildings, we don't want any hotshot taking pot-shots at us, Hoorah?"
Brandon stuck with Dwayne and they made their way to the nearest house almost all of the others were burnt out shells. Brandon shuddered, charred bodies were visible in said burnt out houses.
They stacked up against the wall, Dwayne nodded and then kicked in the door. A woman on the far side screamed as she was thrown to the ground.
"Shit, are you okay ma'm?"
She didn't reply, she sat on the ground and shuddered, weeping slightly.
"We're gonna get you out, helicopters are coming to rescue you," Brandon ushered, she slowly looked at him, her hair hung in knots over her face, thick with dirt and grime.
"You're the ones who locked us in here!"
And with a shriek she ran off toward a hole blown in the wall. Dwayne made after her, Brandon checked what she was after writing on the wall.
CEDA abandoned us, the military fenced up, We're not sick!
Brandon felt his heart break at the anguish they'd caused. He hated himself and his uniform for it. He shook his head and was about to follow Dwayne when he heard wailing. Another woman was crying.
He looked around, she was nearby, upstairs maybe. She continued to cry, a sad mournful wail, like a banshee or a witch. He made his way up the stairs slowly, the stairs creaking under his weight, zips and magazines jingling as they hit against one another.
He could hear his own heartbeat above her cry, above all else.
"Hello?" He called, but received no answer, only more crying.
"It's okay, I'm not going to hurt you,"
He reached the top of the stairs; it was pitch black upstairs, and he turned on the flashlight held on the bayonet lug of his M16 rifle. Then he saw her, crouched in a corner and clad in tattered rags.
He took a step back in horror when he saw her hands, or what remained of them; she was one of them…the infected. He cursed his heart for beating so loudly. She stopped crying and began to growl.
With a quiet yelp he flicked the light off and made his way back slowly down the stairs. Trying to be as quiet as possible, wincing with every creak the floorboards made. He had made it halfway when his radio squawked loudly.
"Brandon? Get your ass back here, the choppers are landing!"
The figure above screamed and made her way down the stairs with a shriek. Brandon ran as fast as he could, heart in his mouth, he had made it out the door when his rifle's sling had got trapped on a loose nail. He desperately tried to tug it off before the woman found him.
He was too late. He screamed as she brought her serrated talons down upon him.
Dwayne had lost sight of both the woman and Brandon. She had gone on ahead, and he didn't really want to follow her into zombie-land. Brandon… he had been right behind him. Hadn't he?
A trio of pave-lows buzzed overhead toward the park. Dwayne decided he had enough of this, he scaled the wooden fence in the house's back yard and jogged up the street toward the park. Brandon should of seen them. Just to be sure, Dwayne grabbed his radio.
"Brandon? Get your ass back here, the choppers are landing!"
Static answered him. Dwayne shrugged and ran toward the landing choppers. The lieutenant was having a heated argument with the pilot of one.
"… do you mean you can't transport us all…Fuck that, you're bringing us back too!"
The pilot and the lieutenant continued their argument while refugees clambered up the ramps of the helicopters. Dwayne wondered mindlessly through the throngs of people before Matthews tackled him to the ground.
"Stay down! Someone's fucking shooting at us!"
Dwayne glanced around and noticed several in the crowd crumpling too. Whoever was shooting obviously didn't want anyone to get evacuated. A shot hissed by his head and he raised his rifle searching for a target.
One of the choppers dusted off, its weight allowance peaked. The lieutenant was yelling something, Dwayne couldn't make it out above the noise, of choppers, people screaming and gunfire. Then in the distance came a horrific blood curling howl, like a pack of wild animals. The refugees abandoned any sense of order, panic reigned and people, children and adults alike were trampled under foot.
Across the radio Dwayne heard the yell with impossible clarity.
His heart raced, blood drained from his face. He could see them in the distance, sprinting, foaming at the mouth. He raised his rifle and shuddered as the recoil travelled up his arm. The infected bodies were decimated by the heavy calibre rounds, blood gushed, limbs disintegrated and arteries burst open. Yet still they came.
"Only target the infected!" Bawled the Lieutenant.
"Which ones are infected? I can't fucking see?" Came Allen's outburst.
"Fuck this!" Screamed Perry in desperation.
"Abandon target selection, kill em all!" Matthews cried above the sounds of slaughter.
It was slaughter, blood ran in rivers around them as the refugees fell and the infected reached them. Dwayne flicked out his combat knife in time to slash the first infected across the neck. Arteriole blood sprayed across his ACU and he spat in disgust.
Perry was using his rifle as a club, smashing skulls of the infected. Matthews was firing disciplined bursts into the infected. Another chopper dusted off, leaving crowds of uninfected screaming in its wake.
"Fall back! Fall back!" Screamed the LT desperately. Dwayne looked over his shoulder toward the last helicopter, its ramp was raising. He cursed and threw his rifle at the infected screaming toward him. It leapt toward him and spun him round. It hissed and sank broken dirty teeth into his neck.
He bellowed in agony and stabbed it through the eye. He left the knife embedded and limped toward the chopper. Hill pulled him in, Stone wasn't so lucky, he was grabbed by the masses of infected pooling around the chopper.
"Fuck! Get us out of here, go!" Matthews bellowed at the pilot. The ramp remained partially open as the helicopter heaved itself off the ground. Dwayne vomited on the deck of the chopper and glanced back.
Brandon didn't make it.
Below slaughter continued as the infected attacked the refugees, screams and bloodthirsty roars filled the air.
"Shit, hang on!" Yelped the pilot. Dwayne noticed his worry too late.
"RPG!" Someone managed to scream before the tail of the helicopter was blown clean off in a blinding flash. Dwayne fell backwards on Allen, and felt the contents of his stomach empty again.
"This is pave-low Zulu niner, we're going down, repeat we are going down,"
Dwayne managed to whisper his mothers name before the asphalt soared up to meet the stricken bird.