Apocalypse origins, p.12
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       Apocalypse Origins, p.12

           R.A. Neely
 

  ***

  "Captain! Captain!"

  Nick jerked awake to the sound of his aide screaming over his headset. "What's wrong?" he asked as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes.

  "We're under attack!" As if to punctuate his statement, a nearby helicopter exploded. Nick surged from his seat and looked out the window as fiery debris rained down. Nick look around and saw that they were above a heavily forested area. It looked as if there was a clearing below that would accommodate them.

  "Take us below the tree line!" Nick yelled into his headset. "Don't touch down, stay about twenty feet up." Nick held on as the pilot quickly complied with his order.

  "What now?" the pilot asked over the headset.

  "We wait," Nick replied as he made his way to the co-pilot seat.

  A few minutes later, half a dozen jeeps sped into the clearing. Nick frowned as he saw that each jeep was equipped with what looked like M240 machine guns. This wasn't a random event. Nick had at first thought they had stumbled onto some sort of anti-government group. Or maybe someone that just wanted their supplies. Neither was the case here. This was a highly organized attack but by who? How did they know they'd be coming this way? Nick pushed those thoughts away. The why could be answered later.

  "Light 'em up!" Nick ordered. The helicopters unleashed a fusillade from their M230 machine guns. They managed to hit one of the jeeps and it burst into flames but the others managed to escape their initial volley. Nick cursed in frustration. They were at a severe disadvantage here. There wasn't that much space in the clearing so they couldn't maneuver for fear of hitting each other. The jeeps below though were free to use their mobility to full effect. They were able to evade the shots from the helicopters while returning fire on mostly stationary targets.

  Nick ordered the helicopters to rotate in place in an attempt to counteract the jeeps' mobility. The next few minutes passed slowly as the two groups exchanged fire. Fortunately, Nick's men were better trained and claimed victory. Unfortunately, two more helicopters had been shot down during the exchange. Nick asked for a status report and was relieved to hear that Pendleton hadn't been in one of those helicopters. He would mourn those that died, but Henry was their only hope of beating the infected. Nick ordered the helicopters to land and they quickly searched the downed helicopters for survivors. That done, Nick ordered some men to search the wreckage of the jeeps for some clue of who had attacked them. 

  The only things they had managed to discover was that the jeeps were military grade, so they were probably dealing with private contractors or some such. The second thing they found was an insignia on the uniforms of the men they had killed. It was a triangular black patch with yellow stylized letters. The patch read DE. Nick had no idea what that stood for and Terrence also came up empty. Maybe they could figure it out when they reached the facility. Maybe this was some sort of new terrorist group taking advantage of the chaos in the country. Nick gave the order and they lifted off and sped north. He didn't like the idea of leaving hostile militants on the loose but he didn't see any other choice. Developing Pendleton's treatment was the highest priority right now. That was their only hope of rebuilding everything the infected had destroyed.

   

   

   

   

   

   

   

   

   

  13 Highway, Southern Wisconsin

   

  Days passed and the group made their way towards Freyfield State Park. It was slow going due to the high volume of wreckage on the road. Hours every day were spent just clearing a path for the caravan to drive through. They first had to secure the area. No one wanted to be attacked by an infected hiding in a back seat or underneath a vehicle. Once that was done they had to go about moving the cars. That length of that task was determined by whether or not the keys remained in the ignition. If there weren't any keys, Gio had to come by and work her magic so they could move the vehicle. What would have normally been a four hour trip was taking days.

  It wasn't all bad though. The time on the road gave Greg the time to implement some of the ideas they'd been talking about. James continued teaching the guards krav maga and that was going pretty well. The gun training also went well. A lot of people liked the idea of being able to defend themselves. They didn't have enough guns for everyone right now but people would have the necessary training when that changed. The krav maga training for everyone else didn't go so smoothly. People didn't see the need for it since they were training with firearms. It wasn't until Greg asked one of them what they would do if they ran out of ammo that people stopped complaining. The only change Greg made was insisting that Carol, Laura, and Shirley participate in James' sessions. 

  Several days in, Greg found himself walking rounds with James. After clearing a path for the day, they'd simply park their vehicles alongside the road. Guards were placed at regular intervals to watch for infected or anyone else that had bad designs in mind. So far they had been fortunate, they hadn't seen any infected since leaving the trailer park. 

  "We're coming up on the park, sir," Don announced from the driver's seat.

  "Alright," Greg replied from the back seat. Greg glanced out the window and saw a sign indicating they were entering the park. The drive had been uneventful. The only change was that many in the group were looking at him with newfound respect. Or was that fear? Greg wasn't sure it mattered though. He wanted to keep everyone safe, which included these people now. It had only been a few weeks but Greg felt responsible for them. So maybe a little bit of fear was okay if it helped them follow directions. The light changed and Greg looked up to see that the sun's light was being filtered by the canopy above them. It had just gone from noon to twilight. A sign indicated the campgrounds were to the left and the caravan headed in that direction. They passed through an area filled with recreational vehicles. The elderly people milling about gave them fearful looks as they passed. What had happened here for them to look like that?

  A short distance after the RV’s they came upon a parking lot. They parked their vehicles and everyone got out to stretch their legs. Greg gathered his inner circle and they began planning on how the camp should be organized.

  "Jackson, Shirley, I'd like you guys to help with getting all the tents set up. Carol, Laura, you guys can get something going for lunch. Grab whoever you need." Greg was about to issue further orders when they were interrupted.

  "Hi, there!" Greg looked and saw three figures approaching them, two men and one woman. They were each dressed in dark colored clothing with a sidearm on their hip and functional looking boots. A badge on their chest indicated that they were probably some sort of governmental authority, not that that mattered much anymore. Greg thought they were likely park rangers or some such.

  "Hi," the middle figure said again as they reached the group. "I'm Russell Stubs, head ranger. Who's in charge here?"

  "I am," Greg replied as he took a step towards them, he extended his hand and Russell clasped it in a firm grip.

  "I just want to give you a heads up. We've got some bandits in the park. You might want to keep your group moving."

  Greg thought for a moment. He didn't want any unnecessary conflict but his people needed rest. This was also a great opportunity to have a service of some sort for Richard and the others that had died at the trailer park. They could also use this time to think of any other rules they wanted to implement. He'd told everyone how the old ways didn't apply anymore but the people needed something to order their lives by. Telling them old systems were gone was all well and good, what would he replace it with? This was also a chance to supplement their food supply. He had already planned on sending his hunters out.

  Greg shook his head, "Thanks for the warning but we're gonna stick around for a few days. My people need rest and I'd also like to get some hunting in."

  Russell nodded, "Alright, I won't try and stop you. Just felt I needed to warn you."

  Greg nodded,
"We'll deal with the bandits if they get in our way. I've got some thirty armed men at my disposal."

  Russell's eyes widened in surprise briefly before he regained composure, "That many?"

  "That's great!" the woman exclaimed. "We can take those bastards out!"

  "Excuse me?" Greg asked.

  "Sorry," Russell replied, "this is Melissa Edgars. As you can see, she's a bit passionate about our bandit problem."

  "Ah," Greg replied, "I'm not about to commit to anything. We were just in a fight a few days ago."

  "Please," Melissa began, "you have to help us. They're demanding all our food!"

  "Enough, Melissa. This isn't their fight. We can't expect complete strangers to risk themselves for us."

  "What if we paid you?" she asked.

  "Melissa!" the other man exclaimed. "We're not in charge here."

  "Byron and Kelly will agree, Cody. They want the bandits gone too."

  Russell sighed, "Sorry about that but what do you think?"

  "We'd have to discuss specifics," Greg replied. "After that, I'd have to discuss it with my men. Defending their families is one thing, this is something completely different."

  "I understand," Russell replied. "I'll bring it up to Byron and Kelly, maybe we can do dinner later tonight."

  Greg nodded, "Sounds good." The trio turned around and left the way they came. Greg looked around and saw that James was the only one left.

  "Everyone left to go do their jobs," he explained, "I'm doing mine." James chuckled at Greg's confused look. "Watching your back. This whole thing would fall apart without you. I figure the best way to keep my family safe is to keep an eye on you."

  "When did this happen?" Greg asked.

  "This morning was the final piece although people have been talking for a bit. They saw that you were going to be running things and figured protecting you was top priority. People are realizing that our survival is dependent on you."

  Greg frowned, not exactly sure how he felt about that.

  James chuckled again, "Deal with it, it's happening. There's five men aside from myself. I've removed them from regular guard duty. One of us will be with you twenty four seven."

  "I don't have any choice in this do I?"

  James shook his head, "Nope, it's already done."

  "Alright then, let's go see how everyone's doing.

  They left the parking lot and entered the camping grounds. To their right they saw several tents and a trail that continued on out of sight. Maybe that was where the rangers had gone. There were a number of people around going about various tasks. Some were tending to fires while others seemed to be just milling about. James nodded towards the left and they soon found their people.

  A number of tents had already been erected and others were being worked on. Greg saw Jackson giving directions to a group of people and was pleased to see things getting done. In another area of the camp he saw Laura directing some helpers to place bins in a specific spot. Hopefully that meant that lunch would be ready soon. Greg turned towards James. "I want you to sound out the men. See how they feel about a fight. I'll find out exactly what they're offering and we can decide."

  James nodded and motioned towards a man walking by. He was of average height and looked to be in decent shape. "This is Stephen Carter. He's one of the five that will be watching you."

  "Nice to meet you, Stephen."

  "It's an honor, sir. You saved my sister back at the trailer park. I'm happy to help."

  "I did?" Greg asked.

  Stephen nodded, "She was trapped with the other kids at the daycare. You showed up just in time."

  Greg thought back and remembered helping Carol, she had been trapped against the wall of a trailer home with some kids. "I remember. She alright then?"

  Stephen nodded again, "She's just fine thanks to you. If you need anything at all just let me know."

  Greg nodded in response, "I'm glad she's safe."

  "Alright," James said, "I'll go check on the men."

  Greg nodded as James walked way and decided now was good time to see how lunch was coming along.
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