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    WARNING: Stories on this site may contain mature language and situations, and may be inappropriate for readers under the age of 18.

    THE LAST VOYAGE OF THE WYOMING by Oliver Scanlan
    August 2, 2011  Short stories   Tags:   

    “We have to tell the crew…” Highfield observed, grimacing.

    “Are you sure that’s wise?” Farris replied, “I mean, how many of them will have families…y’know…in the area.”

    “That’s why they need to be told. Come on Cal, they’re professionals. They’re trained, we owe it to them to…”

    “They will not know,” Captain David Reiner spoke for the first time in the meeting, and ended the conversation, “what we have to do, we have to do. I won’t risk a mutiny; moreover, I think if they are going to be forced to do such a thing, it is best that they be ignorant of the fact.”

    There was a silence then, in the huddled closeness of the captain’s cabin.

    “We are going through with it then sir?” Farris asked.

    “Read the message again. Out loud this time.”

    “From National Command Authority, to Commander, USS Wyoming. Be advised that Biological Anomaly containment has failed. Conventional military operations have proved ineffective. Security of United States now depends on prompt action to neutralise threat at all costs. The release of strategic arms has been authorized. You are hereby ordered to attack targets according to updated strike package SLBM 99-001. You will then stand by for further instructions.”

    “It read any differently out loud than it did last time?”

    “No.”

    “XO, ten minutes ago, Lt Farris told me that the communication he’s holding in his hand, the communication from our Commander in Chief, was authentic and you concurred. Have you changed your mind?”

    “No sir,” said Highfield.

    “Well then,” Reiner took out a bottle of whiskey from under his bunk.

    “I bought it for the day we actually launched the goddamned things. Very illegal but I thought, at that point, what the hell.”

    They drank, and the tension receded slightly.

    “Thing that gets me, is that it’s zombies…I mean, shit,” said Farris, his voice high pitched and wavering.

    “I believe you are referring to the ‘Biological Anomaly’,” said Highfield sourly. For reasons pertaining to morale and the general welfare of the services, talk of ‘zombies’ was banned.

    “Back when it was the Reds, I always had this recurring nightmare that we’d survive it, initially, and we’d be the ones who’d have to sail back into port, and find out what was left. It’s going to be that way now, I’m finally going to do it, pop the hatch and see what a nuke strike looks like up close. Say what you want about the BA, they don’t have fast attack subs out here hunting us.”

    They listened to Reiner’s Midwest brogue as they waited a spell, taking their time with the whiskey. But it had to end. And the captain stood up, saying nothing. The other officers made to go. Highfield, however, stayed behind.

    “Something I can help you with XO?”

    “I just don’t understand, when we left Kings Bay there were only scattered incidences, random attacks. I don’t understand how in three months…”

    “Steve, I don’t get it either. Come on, let’s have another drink.”

    Reiner poured two more generous shots, they clinked glasses. Then the captain retrieved a sallow folder from his small work desk, handed it to Reiner.

    “I’ve been getting updates from the wise men over at Defence Intelligence. First graph they sent out showed the numbers of BAs / zombies roughly doubling every month. I got a second one through the next day, revised projection, showing it doubling every two weeks. Last one came through a week after that, and it was exponential.”

    “They must have known, else why put us to sea.”

    “We are what we always have been, the backup; the absolute last resort. Only thing different is, they actually need us this time, they need us to do the unthinkable. If I had to guess what’s changed, last update said they were going to set up a cordon outside the main east coast axis. Six divisions, national guard, reserve, green army and a marine expeditionary unit. If they’re calling us in, I reckon it’s safe to say the cordon’s been breached. But I don’t think the ‘why’ is your problem Steve. I think you’re stalling for time, so it’s best if we just skip the BS and get to it.”

    Reiner took another sip, looked down at his feet.

    “I don’t think I can do it sir.”

    “Well that’s going to be a problem, what with you being the executive officer of the boat and all. Can’t do it without your agreement Steve, you know the rules. It’s amazing how many hoops you have to jump through before they allow you to kill ten million people.”

    “It’s just, I left Boston in the middle of the night, those were the orders. Immediate. I told Kathy not to wake the girls, said I’d be back in a few weeks, because, well, that’s how it usually is with emergency call ups. I went in to their rooms, smelled their hair, kissed them on their foreheads. I just, y’know, I just wish I’d said goodbye.”

    “Can’t be helped Steve. You know why we do this? No matter how terrible it is, the man up the chain is in the know and he reckons this is the best thing to do and he knows more than we do. We jeopardise that by not following orders. You don’t want to have ten million deaths on your conscience, well neither do I. But if those critters are through the cordon, breaking out into the Great Lakes and the Western plains, we’re talking 100, maybe 200 million deaths. Then there’s the oath you took, if you remember, I know it’s a long time ago. Then there’s old master chief Wilkins’ on why follow the chain of command. He was a rough old boy, Korea vet, and when I was an ensign at Annapolis, if you can imagine such a thing, he’d tell us we do what we do ‘because at the least boy, at the very goddamn least, you get to go to your grave like a sailor, and an officer in the United States Navy. And the stairway to heaven is packed with the millions who’d kill for the privilege.’”

    Reiner laughed along with the captain, too hard and too long. But the laughter, just like the whiskey, had to end. Then Reiner spoke again;

    “Now I need you to do something for me.”

    “What?”

    “I need you to go up to the bridge, set condition 1 for strategic missile launch, strike package SLBM 99-001, targets are Atlanta, Richmond, Washington DC, New York and Boston, four warheads a piece. I’ll be up in a minute.”

    “Aye aye sir.”

    Captain Reiner sat down on his bunk, allowed himself another swig of whiskey. And as he heard the orders shouted across the fifteen thousand tons of submarine under his command, he breathed a prayer.

    16 Comments

    1. Good story! Would definitely like to read more.

      Comment by Glenn on August 2, 2011 @ 12:08 pm

    2. Good Writing, if a little short 🙂

      Comment by RPGZombie on August 2, 2011 @ 2:08 pm

    3. Truly the last voyage: after they kill all the living on the east coast where will they dock? Radiation won’t kill zombies, & the fallout will kill off survivors 100’s of miles away for years to come, you’d think the DOD/Pentagon would know that already. So unless they all mutiny from capt. on down its just a ship full of zombies to be. Hopeless compounded by human stupidity – I like it.

      Comment by D.Mc on August 2, 2011 @ 4:29 pm

    4. I loved the story and the way the Gov would think like destroying the world with Nukes. Zombies wont die either and the Nukes would create more Zombies with the poison rains that will carry radiation and zombie DNA to spread more Zombies across the East cost. Best way to destroy them is with the brain.

      Comment by Rene on August 3, 2011 @ 3:29 am

    5. Bravo, just like on the beach one of my favorites !

      Comment by FRANK on August 3, 2011 @ 6:03 am

    6. The dialogue and attitudes seemed pretty solid to me, very realistic. I find the tactics questionable but, like the skipper of that boomer, I don’t know everything that’s going on. It’s the nature of the military that sometimes you have to trust your brothers and sisters in uniform and you have to trust your leaders to know what they are doing. Good slice of life story, I’d like to see more. btw, it would not “incinerate the whole east coast”

      Comment by T.J. McFadden on August 3, 2011 @ 6:17 am

    7. I’m on the edge of liking and not liking. The idea is alright, but it doesn’t seem like enough detail.

      Comment by Ashley on August 3, 2011 @ 7:55 am

    8. I like this. It’s not the best short story I’ve read on here, but I like it. I agree with the early post. It captures the doom and gloom of On the Beach. Perhaps flush it out. Maybe give Captain Reiner a little more internal struggle? Good work, though!

      Comment by Chris on August 3, 2011 @ 12:20 pm

    9. Apologies… meant to write “flesh it out”. Didn’t mean to throw the work in the toilet!

      Comment by Chris on August 3, 2011 @ 12:22 pm

    10. Twenty nukes from a Boomer on the East Coast would not result in lethal levels of radiation for months afterwards. The weapons would be employed as air bursts resulting in a minimum of fallout and prevailing winds would carry the radiation out to sea. The danger from fallout falling into the ocean would be lessened even further because water is an excellent radiation shield. I can see the decision making process and why.

      Comment by Dave Tyra on August 3, 2011 @ 3:50 pm

    11. WOW. Puts you in the position ‘What would I really do’
      Situation would have to be desperate to use nukes, not likely scenario. Nothing a few guys with crowbars could help make a dent in anyway.

      Comment by Luke on August 3, 2011 @ 4:38 pm

    12. I like this single set piece a lot. I agree with others. The use of tac nukes in this situation isn’t a global thermal nightmare some are making it out to be. I think the evil will justify the means in this situation. There will likely be more contamination from dead bodies and dirty structure/vehicle fires caused by the undead panic then from the relatively clean burn of an atomic furnace. It’s still a terrifying proposition for two men to have that burden though.

      Comment by RandyB on August 4, 2011 @ 11:25 am

    13. Good story. The XO would not be living in Boston. Ours lived in Kingsland or in NE Florida.

      This story asks the question “What would you do?”

      Comment by Keith on August 5, 2011 @ 10:04 am

    14. I liked this story very much. Enter, get punched in the gut, exit.

      Comment by brycepunk on August 7, 2011 @ 9:25 pm

    15. Amazing what you can do with just dialogue 🙂 I really liked this.

      Comment by Pete Bevan on August 16, 2011 @ 4:25 pm

    16. Nice story, but a bit of a tame ending, not? I was expecting a suicide or at least mutiny. But perhaps exactly because of that, it actually is a very suitable ending …

      Comment by David_VDB on September 21, 2011 @ 5:46 am

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