The smell of blood and cordite filled Senior Airman Samuel Peterson's nostrils as he hefted his M249 automatic rifle, ponderously making his way through the empty street under the weight of his gear and salvage.

Samuel, Sam or Kuma to his friends, could only be described as a bear, what with the way he was built and the way he liked to hug others. Sounds strange, yes, but many knew that Sam was an eccentric to begin with. He stood at six feet two inches, had a medium muscular build, and sported a week's worth of facial hair. His eyes were brown around the edge of his irises, with a hint of green around the pupil. His reddish-brown hair was a far cry from military regulation now, as it had become unruly and came down to the tops of his ears. He wore his ABU trousers, green steel-toe combat boots, a sand t-shirt, and a rifleman's harness as his preferred outfit. He had long since rolled up his ABU blouse and tucked it into one of the various pockets of his rucksack which housed three crate fulls of 5.56mm NATO ammunition, all belt linked. He carried two assault packs for his M249 in individual pouches, both of which were slung across his body and resting on his left hip for easy access when he needed to reload. On his right leg was a drop holster, securing his sidearm which was an M9 pistol, as well as a USMC Kabar fighting knife, which was strapped to the outside of his right shin. He had a machette strapped to his rucksack, just over his right shoulder. He wore his kevlar helmet, and taped a pack of cigarettes to the right side of his helmet so he wouldn't crush them in any of his pockets.

There were others with Sam, three in fact, that claimed he was modeling himself after some character in Full Metal Jacket, or Platoon. Sam didn't deny those claims.

The next in the column formation was Senior Airman Isaac Tennerman. Isaac, while shorter than Sam, was no less *cough* intimidating with his tobacco pipe and curling moustache. Isaac came up to Sam's shoulders in terms of height, and had a significantly slighter muscular build. Where he lacked in strength, however, he made up for in intellect. Sam was no idiot, but he couldn't hold his own in a debate with Isaac if his life depended on it. Isaac's brown hair was still within regulation, being an inch-and-a-half, though his curly moustache was most definately outside of standards. His chocolate brown eyes often twinkled when he was in a good mood, or if he were being mischevious. He wore his full uniform, along with his Security Forces beret as well as his own rifleman's harness and drop holster. He was armed with an M4 carbine with an M203 grenade launcher attatched, an M9 pistol, and a machette which was strapped to the side of his own rucksack, which contained several IFAK's (Individual First Aid Kit), and a crate full of 40mm low velocity HE rounds.

"Hey, Kuma, when are we gonna take a break?"

Sam stopped and turned, looking back at the only female in the group, "We can take a break now, if you want to, Jess."

Airman First Class Jessica Heartilly, a red-haired, green-eyed spitfire stood at about the same height as Isaac and had a petite build. Her long, red hair was tied up in a bun to keep it out of her way when she worked. She wore her dark blue, C-130 maintenance jumpsuit along with a toolbelt slung across her hips and black steel-toe boots. She was armed with an M9 pistol and whatever tool was in her belt, and carried a smaller backpack than the others, though her's was loaded up with MRE's (Meal Ready to Eat) and bottled water.

The last guy in line, Senior Airman Brian Richardson, merely shook his head as he dropped his rucksack, "Not all of us can truck it like you, Sam."

Brian was only an inch shorter than Sam, and had a lean muscular build that was larger than Isaac's build, but smaller than Sam's. He wore an outfit similar to Sam's, with an ABU garrison cap instead of a kevlar helmet, and was armed with an M14 sniper rifle and an M9 pistol, as well as his own combat knife. He had short black hair, which he kept within regs, and steel gray eyes. He was this team's marksman, while Jess was the mechanic, Isaac the medic/grenadier, and Sam the all-around tank.

"All y'all have to do is speak up if you're tired," Sam grumbled. Sam had a bit of a country boy accent, not that it really bothered anyone.

They had a humvee up until awhile ago, the axel having broken under the stress of plowing through so many undead as the team made their escape from Yokota Air Base, which was right next to Tokyo proper. They had an M240b machine gun back then as well, though that had long overheated and run out of ammo by the time they ditched the humvee. They were currently on their way to Izu Peninsula by way of route 16, route 129, route 412, route 246, route 255, and eventually to route 135 and were passing through Kawazu, near Minami Elementary School, when they heard the sounds of survivors being overrun by a horde.

"Should we help?" Brian asked.

"Do you need to ask?" Sam frowned as he chambered a round and jogged ahead, seemingly unhindered by the amount of gear he carried. Everyone else looked at each other, then ran after the bear of a man as the distinct rattle of automatic fire echoed through the street.

The outbreak had started earlier that month, and Yokota Air Base was quickly overrun due to how close it was to Tokyo, what with how many locals lived nearby. The USAF had at first attempted to provide first aid, relief, and had opened its gates in an effort to provide sanctuary to survivors. Because of this, Yokota AB was overrun from within, even after they had shut the base down and restricted access to the installation.

Few people made it out of Yokota Air Base, many of those were military personnel who were trained in the use of firearms and armed up with them everyday. Even fewer, in the case of A1C Heartilly, were lucky to be counted as a good friend of several Security Forces members.

They had vacated the vicinity; after acquiring a humvee, a crate full of MRE's, some water, and as much ammo as space allowed; and made their way south, hoping to get away from the city. Radio contact with the other installations on mainland Japan were quickly lost, effectively isolating the refugees and cutting them off from any support that might have survived. A direct exit out of the city was made impossible by the sheer amount of infected civilians. Even a reinforced vehicle, such as a military grade humvee, can take only so much punishment before breaking apart. The M240b machine gun that was mounted on the top of the humvee was put to work by an enthusiastic SrA Peterson and quickly ran out of ammuntion. Even if they had more ammo, they wouldn't have been able to use the gun since the barrel was so hot that it had warped after sending so many rounds down range.

They had abandoned the ruined humvee in front of Takane Elementary School, which was being used as a rally point for civilians and Japanese Prefectural Police, and leaving a majority of their supplies with the refugees there before continuing southward on foot.

Sam, Isaac, and Brian have been on several deployments, so they are used to rucking long distances. Jess, on the other hand, was not. It's not like she was a hinderance, but they took more breaks than they would have if she weren't there. It was a good thing they rescued her, though, since she has more technical expertise than the guys did.

When Brian, Jess, and Isaac came around the corner of the building, they saw Sam standing between a group of seven people and a horde of infected, calmly firing his M249 into the waves of undead. The school was clearly overrun, but the group of survivors may not have known that going in. They certainly did now, though.

"Jess, Isaac, get those civilians back. Sam, tactical withdrawal," Brian said, just loudly enough for Sam to hear.

Sam merely nodded as he stepped backwards as he continued to fire. When he ran out of ammo, he reloaded the automatic weapon in practiced motions as Brian picked off whatever zed that got too close to Sam.

There was an elderly man, a middle aged man, and a young man amoung the group of survivors that were armed with various improvised weapons. The three women and one child were all unarmed.

"Nee-san, are we going to be alright?" Jess looked down to see a little boy, no more than eight or nine years old, tugging on her jumpsuit's leg.

Jess smiled and ruffled the boy's hair, "We'll be fine, munchkin."

"You really believe that, don't you?" One of the women, the youngest of the three, picked up the boy as they fled the school.

"I do," Jess nodded, "those three are the best at what they do. Silently now, boys!"

Now that they were far enough away from the school, the guys slung their weapons and pulled out their blades, still forming a protective circle around the survivors. Surprisingly enough, the infected were far fewer in number several blocks away from the school. Still playing it safe, however, they continued running until they were well away from the place and closer to what appeared to be a train station.

"I don't know if this is the way we want to go, wouldn't people crowd around the public transit systems to get away?" Jess asked softly so as not to attract the attention of any nearby zeds that may have been out of sight. They made sure the area was clear and decided to rest for a moment. The Americans rallied up and put their heads together on what they should do.

"True," Isaac said, taking a puff from his tobacco pipe, "but there won't be any trains running now. Those would have stopped early on in the outbreak. We can follow the train tracks to the next city to avoid anymore zeds in this city."

"Yes, but we only have enough supplies for the four of us. What about them?" Brian asked, jerking a thumb in the other survivors' direction.

"We'll take 'em with us. We could procure some supplies, dry goods and water, from the convenience store and have 'em carry what they can. We definately can't leave 'em here since some of 'em are unarmed, and they got a kid. S'just not right," Sam said, cracking his neck as he nodded towards the convenience store that was located across the street.

"Isaac and I will go check it out while you run the plan by them, Sam," Brian said. With that, he and Isaac jogged across the street and ducked inside the seemingly abandoned convenience store.

When Sam and Jess approached, the middle aged man stepped foward, "Thank you for saving us, but what I want to know is why were four Americans in the area when there aren't any bases in the area."

Jess raised an eyebrow, "No problem, but does it matter why we were in the area? Yokota AB was overrun, now we're cut off and on our own."

"Easy, Jess. Sir, we're doin' what we can to survive. If it means helpin' civilians along the way, all the better. Now, we're plannin' on followin' the railroad to the next city over, but we don't have enough food and water for all of us. My two buddies went to check out the seven eleven over there to see if it has any food or water for you. Now what I want to know is if you want to head out on your own, or if you want to stick with us," Sam said seriously. The man paused and looked at his family. The elderly man and the middle aged woman both nodded.

"Alright. We'll stick with you until we meet with more survivors. My name is Miyahira Kenji," The man said.

"I'm Samuel, but you can call me Sam or Kuma. This is Jess, and I'll introduce the others when they get back," Sam said, "it's funny, though. We're linkin' up so we can help you out and protect you. The motto for my unit is 'Defensor Fortis.' You know what that means?"

Kenji shook his head, "No. What does that mean?"

"It means defenders of the force. We are a group of humans standin' against a threat that will snuff out our lives without a a second thought. Those things aren't human anymore, and we will make sure that you and your family will make it to a safe place. You have my word on that," Sam said. He looked across the street and saw one of the guys signaling him with a flashlight.

"I'm sure you and your family are tired, so let's camp here for the night. We'll head out at first light, following the tracks to the next city," Sam said. Kenji nodded, then got his family to their feet and across the street.

"Everyone inside? Good. I'll take first shift, so the rest of you get some sleep," Brian said.

"Sounds good to me," Sam grinned. As everyone found a place to lay out, Brian turned to watch the store front as the streets began to darken.