Read These Dead Lands: Immolation Online

Authors: Stephen Knight,Scott Wolf

Tags: #Military, #Adventure, #Zombie, #Thriller, #Apocalypse

These Dead Lands: Immolation

BOOK: These Dead Lands: Immolation
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THESE DEAD LANDS

IMMOLATION

by
Stephen Knight and Scott Wolf

 

Copyright © 2015 by Stephen Knight and Scott Wolf

Kindle Edition

The United States of America is falling before the armies of the dead. Leading the sole survivors of the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division out of the overrun city of New York, Captain Phil Hastings heads for the safety of Fort Indiantown Gap, a National Guard training facility deep in the woodlands of Pennsylvania. Joining with other remnants of the military, government, and civilian communities, Hastings and his men must try to keep the tsunami of corpses from taking over the world and plan the resurrection of the nation.

But first, they have to outlast the ravages of the dead … and the living.

Dramatis Personae

The Soldiers

Captain Philip Hastings:
Commanding officer of A Company, 1
st
Battalion, 87
th
Infantry, 10
th
Mountain Division (Light Infantry) assigned to Task Force Manhattan. Call signs: Crusader One One/Lakota One One

Sergeant First Class Carl Ballantine:
Surviving senior noncommissioned officer, A Company. Call signs: Crusader One Seven/Blackfoot One Seven

Staff Sergeant Hector Guerra:
Noncommissioned officer, A Company. Call signs: Crusader One Two/Apache One Two

Sergeant Hartman:
Light infantryman. Call signs: Crusader One Two Alpha/Blackfoot One Two Alpha

Sergeant Mike Reader:
Light infantryman. Call signs: Crusader One Two Bravo/Lakota One Two Bravo

Private First Class Craig Stilley:
Light infantryman. Call sign: Apache One Three Alpha

Private Jay Tharinger:
Light infantryman. Call sign: Apache One Three Bravo

The Dependents

Kay Ballantine:
Ballantine’s wife

Josh Ballantine:
Ballantine’s eldest son, age 9

Curtis Ballantine:
Ballantine’s youngest son, age 7

Diana Li:
Former stripper, one of the survivors of the zombie outbreak in Boston

Kenny:
Autistic boy, age 6

Fort Indiantown Gap

Senator Henry Cornell:
Former lightfighter who is currently the Senate’s
president pro tempore
. COG designate

Melissa Cornell:
Cornell’s wife

Colonel David Victor:
O-6 with one of the 101 Brigades, now ground force commander at FITG. Call sign: War Eagle Six

Colonel Alex Jarmusch:
Garrison commander at Fort Indiantown Gap, senior member of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard

Captain Chan:
MP officer

Lieutenant Munn:
Pennsylvania Army National Guard officer and and Train Engineer

Major “Pontiac” Bonneville:
Staff officer serving under Colonel Victor’s command

Lieutenant Colonel Efstratios Gavas:
Cavalry unit commanding officer

Lieutenant Colonel Herbert:
Victor’s Executive Officer

Command Sergeant Major Oratious Parker:
Victor’s senior noncommissioned officer

Major Gaylord:
Pennsylvania Army National Guard officer

Others

MSG Slater:
Special Forces NCO from 7
th
Special Forces Group, survivor from Task Force Boston. Call sign: Papa Zero Three

Bill Everson:
Retired gunnery sergeant, US Marine Corps

Walker:
Delivery truck driver

Ronny:
Civilian survivor

Through binoculars, Hastings
watched as his three soldiers hurried toward the abandoned semi on the highway. It was surrounded by a sea of dead vehicles of all shapes and sizes, from tiny Smart cars to luxurious motor homes. The Jersey Turnpike had always been a traffic nightmare even in the best of times, and Hastings was disappointed to find the end of the world hadn’t improved things. He scanned from left to right, taking his time, always keeping track of the soldiers in battle dress as they jogged toward the choked interstate and made their way across the debris-laden field that separated them from the still river of steel and fiberglass. In the distance, billowing clouds of black smoke rose into the air. Philadelphia was on fire, and had been for days.

The clutter created a complex background, making it difficult to spot any deadheads that might be lurking in the area. Hastings probably wouldn’t see any until they moved, and then it might be too late for Tharinger, Reader, and Ballantine. Losing the soldiers to the horde would be bad, but the two M114 Humvees parked on the reverse side of the hill where Hastings lay were almost out of fuel, which made the risk acceptable. Without reliable transportation, the remainder of the 10
th
Mountain Division (Light Infantry) was going to be out of luck.

“You see anything?” Hastings asked, keeping his voice low.

Staff Sergeant Hector Guerra looked through the scope of the suppressed M110 sniper rifle he’d pulled off the dismembered corpse of a Special Forces soldier they’d found after pulling out of New York. “Negative.”

The Green Berets had been tasked to blow up the George Washington Bridge to contain the walking corpses streaming out of the Big Apple, but they’d been overrun before they could accomplish their mission—a good thing for Hastings and the others. If the bridge had gone down, they would have been trapped in Manhattan with the rest of Task Force New York, which meant they would have been dead already.

“If you see something, tell me. Don’t shoot first,” Hastings said.

“I get it, Captain. You’ve told me that five times already.”

“No need to get testy, Hector.”

Guerra grunted. Hastings continued his scan. Both men were lying prone at the top of the hill to minimize their silhouettes. Behind and below, Stilley and Hartman guarded the Humvees and watched the back door. If any reekers approached from behind, they would radio warning. No one was to shoot unless it was absolutely unavoidable. Gunfire drew them like flies to shit, almost as surely as they homed in on a blood trail. There were thousands of reekers in the area, and the men just didn’t have enough ammunition to go around.

Ahead, the three soldiers slowed as they ascended the embankment that led to the highway. Moving cautiously, they climbed over the guardrail and made their way to the semi. Each man carried a five-gallon gas can. Fifteen gallons of diesel wasn’t a hell of a lot, but they hoped to make a couple of trips. One of the Humvees was almost dry, and the other had maybe an eighth of a tank left. They’d be lucky to make it another five miles before they lost one of the hardy four-wheel-drive vehicles.

Hastings panned left to right and back again, sweating beneath his helmet and heavy ballistic armor. The impulse to watch the soldiers make their way to the truck and begin siphoning fuel from its saddle tanks was almost overpowering, and he struggled to remain focused on his job: watching for zombies so he could give the soldiers enough warning to either take cover or retreat.

“Got one,” Guerra said. “To the right of the guys, about two hundred meters to the north.”

Hastings swung the binoculars in that direction, but he didn’t see anything but abandoned cars and trucks, most with their doors wide open, some splattered with dried blood. Crows picked at human remains lying on the hot asphalt. “Can’t see anything.”

“By the red Ferrari, on our side of the highway.”

Hastings found the red car. It was a Lamborghini, not a Ferrari, but he didn’t bother correcting Guerra. He still didn’t see anything, then a flash of movement caught his eye.
There.
A little Asian girl wearing a bloodstained Dora the Explorer T-shirt and nothing else. A huge wound marred the otherwise perfect skin of her left thigh, and Hastings could see bone peeking through the tattered flesh. The girl was a reeker.

Hastings spoke into his radio headset’s boom microphone. “Ballantine, you have a reeker headed your way, about two hundred meters to your north, walking between the cars on the other side of that truck you’re at. It’s a kid. Over.”

As he spoke, he heard a shrill, pealing scream. Sometimes, the reekers moaned as they shambled along, but most of them were silent until they saw something that captured their interest, like a living human being. But the kids, they almost always screamed or cried. That was horrifying in and of itself, as if the animated corpses that had once been children could remember their lives and grieved at their own passing.

“Yeah, we hear it, sir. Does it have a visual on us? Over.” Sergeant First Class Carl Ballantine was a seasoned combat vet who had seen multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and had spent more time in Indian Country than anyone else in the squad. Just the same, there was a strong undercurrent of tension in his voice.

“Negative, it does not see you yet. Over.”

“Roger that. Let us know if it crosses over into our lane, and let us know when it closes to within a hundred meters. Over.”

“You’ve got some time, Ballantine. It’s a shambler, has a bum leg. Over.”

“I’ll consider that a point in our favor. Over.”

The radio fell silent.

“Keep an eye on that reeker,” Hastings said then went back to his scan. As he panned past the soldiers, he saw they were at the truck and already filling one of the gas cans.
Good.

More shrieks came from the highway. They sounded different from the first.

“Fuck. More of the little pricks,” Guerra said. “What the fuck? Did a preschool get turned into a bunch of deadheads? I count four—no, five more reekers. All kids.”

Hastings continued his scan. “Same range?”

“Roger, right behind the first one. All walking in a neat little line.”

Hastings got on the radio and passed that information on to Ballantine.

“You guys might want to take cover for the time being,” he advised.

“On it,” Ballantine responded. Hastings saw the soldiers climbing into the semi’s cab. They moved slowly, cautiously, making as little noise as possible. Hastings saw Ballantine crawl in after Reader and Tharinger and slowly pull the door closed after him.

Hastings shook his head slightly. It was well in the eighties already, with high humidity. The truck’s cab would probably be as hot as a sauna.

“We’re buttoned up. Let us know when we’re clear,” Ballantine transmitted.

“Roger that. Chill out for a few. I’ll let you know when you’re good to go. Break. Hartman, SITREP from you. Over.”

“We’re good down here, Six. Stilley has finally stopped talking. Over.”

“How did an oxygen thief like Stilley survive the zombie apocalypse?” Guerra asked. “That loudmouthed fucker’s going to get us killed.”

Stilley, the other soldier guarding the back door, was a native New Yorker and had no idea what a whisper was, even under the direst of circumstances. Hastings figured Guerra might be right, but there was nothing anyone could do about that right now. He would speak to Stilley again later. He had to figure out how he was going to get the soldier squared away before someone did something drastic like put a bullet in whatever passed for his brain.

“I’ll take care of it,” he told Guerra.

“Fair warning, sir. You don’t, I will.”

“Keep your pants on, Guerra. You do your job; I’ll do mine.” Hastings didn’t feel anger or irritation at the sniper’s challenge, but he filed it away as something else he would have to attend to, later, when they didn’t have troops in imminent danger.

The gaggle of undead children crept past the semi. They didn’t slow, though one of them looked over at the abandoned gas cans for a moment as it staggered by. That was it. Nothing else. No indication they knew living flesh was near.

Hastings scanned the area thoroughly, looking for any more reekers. He saw nothing, but he knew they were around. He keyed his radio. “Ballantine, you guys seem to be good now. We can’t see anything from our side, but you might want to check your right before you climb out. Over.”

“Roger that.” A brief pause followed. “Ah, we can’t see any activity from here. We still good to dismount? Over.”

“Roger, you’re still good. Over.”

The driver’s door slowly opened. Ballantine stepped out on the rig’s running board and looked in both directions. Cautiously, he lowered himself to the asphalt, his M4A3 assault rifle clutched in his right hand. Hastings couldn’t see the man’s face behind the MTek blast visor and facial armor, but he was certain even a steadfast trooper like Carl Ballantine was sweating bullets. The heat and humidity would ensure that, even if fear failed to inspire perspiration.

Ballantine moved toward the open saddle tank and took a guard position as the rest of the soldiers climbed down from the truck. They resumed their siphoning mission immediately.

As Hastings went back to his scan, he asked, “Ballantine, how are you guys holding up? Over.”

“Hot as hell, Six, but still living. Over.”

A beverage truck lay on its side several hundred feet from where the soldiers stood. The vehicle had apparently been involved in a multi-vehicle pileup. It was surrounded by a myriad of plastic bottles scattered like expended cartridges, gleaming in the sun.

BOOK: These Dead Lands: Immolation
5.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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