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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.

    HAZARD COMPANY by Patrick Turner
    December 8, 2015  Longer stories   Tags:   

    MEMORANDUM FOR RECORD

    SUBJECT: Hazard Company Duty Appointment Orders

    1) Harold Monroe, Captain, 173rd Airborne BCT, Fort Carson Colorado, is hereby ordered to report for duty as Commanding Officer of Hazard Company, Special Operations Battalion

    AUTHORITY

    1) Captain Monroe is to transfer from current posting to Special Operations Battalion and assume duties of Commanding Officer of Hazard Company

    2) Captain Monroe is authorized 10 days leave prior to deployment.

    3) Further Orders upon Arrival…

    * * *

    Monroe crumpled the letter up and tossed it away in disgust. Hazard Company! How could they do this to him? Command of Hazard Company? Who would want it? Hazard Company was the dregs of the Army. Hazard Company got the nasty, dangerous jobs and was considered an expendable asset. That is why they were called a Hazard Company. It was practically a penal company. The worst offenders who hadn’t yet graduated to rape or murder were unceremoniously dumped there. Malcontents and thieves almost like Viking raiders of old. The men were known to be less than enthusiastic in their duties and had an unorthodox esprit de corps, as in none. There had been stories of some of the terrible shit that Hazard Company had been through, sustaining appalling casualty rates. They were in a way legends however, because the sheer Darwinian process of serving in Hazard Company ensured each man had brass balls the size of watermelons. They had the reputation of getting the job done, regardless of losses.

    Monroe had heard tales of the last such exploit. The entire company had been deployed into the path of a massive horde containing tens of thousands of Zekes in order to prevent an abandoned nuclear reactor from going into meltdown and contaminating half the state of Nebraska. Their job was to protect the team of nuke engineers while they went about the process of shutting down and cooling the reactor. It was supposed to be routine, and the company was there “just in case” shit went south. Well it did.

    It turned out that the area surrounding the plant was packed with thousands of survivors who were living off the nuke plant’s electrical generation. There was no way in hell the Army had the resources to airlift out a few thousand civvies within a few hours before the horde marched through the area, scouring all life before it. The unit was ordered to abandon the civvies once the reactor was scrammed. The Company refused orders and stayed behind. There was no other choice but to stand and fight. Supposedly the battle lasted for days as the massive tide of dead besieged the walled community. Supposedly there were so many thousands, that the walls collapsed from the weight and survivors were forced to spread out into the surrounding area. By the end of it, people were down to using spears and machetes. Only a couple hundred survivors made it through unscathed, mostly women and children. The men of the community were practically wiped out. Hazard Company itself lost half its men, including the CO. This was why Captain Monroe suspected he was now in his current predicament.

    Well, at least he could take the ten days off and go see his parents one last time, because he was almost certain that he’d just been handed a death sentence.

    * * *

    Ten days later, Monroe arrived at a special annex to Fort Carson far out in the boonies. It was a long drive deep into the wilderness and mountainous ridgelines along a treacherous mountain road. The Hummer the Captain was in was being driven by a stern faced and stone silent PFC who pretty much only answered “Yes, Sir” and “No, Sir” and volunteered no extra information about where they were headed. The hummer wound up into the rough countryside and down into a wooded valley and finally came upon the camp. Monroe got out and grabbed his gear then closed the door to the hummer. It peeled off, leaving the Captain coughing in a spray of dust and gravel; he turned around and looked at his new command.

    The company camp was nothing more than a ramshackle collection of WWII era Quonset huts set in the shade of a mountain in the middle of nowhere as far from any form of base infrastructure as could be found. The army couldn’t even spare proper quarters for Hazard Company. Monroe shook his head and made his way towards the ragged collection of rusted, half falling down huts, surrounded by half trampled barbed wire and leaking, falling over piles of sandbags.

    Just as Monroe was passing into the sandbag perimeter he stopped in his tracks and turned his ear towards a sound coming from inside a dilapidated machine gun pit. The sound was obviously that of a man snoring loudly and Monroe made his way over and peered into the bottom of the position.

    A ragged, foul smelling wraith of a man was haphazardly lying in the bottom of the machine gun position on a makeshift bed, a sandbag his pillow. His mouth was wide open to the sky above and each time the man breathed a loud snore would echo out of the hole. Dried vomit caked his shirt and the area and around him, a mason jar lying inches from his open palm where it landed when the man blacked out. Monroe turned and walked away, stupefied.

    Suddenly, the rickety, wooden door of one of the huts suddenly flew off of its hinges with a loud crack of splintering wood and landed in the dirt in front of the hut, quickly followed by two men struggling against each other. Both were large men, one was black and the other was white. They pulled from each other and the white guy swung in a large haymaker, connecting with a solid whack onto the jaw of the black guy, staggering him for a moment. Then the black guy recovered and returned the blow with one of his own to the white guy’s midsection. The Caucasian fellow’s wind flew from his lungs with a loud “ooph” and he crumpled to the ground where his assailant began pummeling him badly.

    The entire scene took on the overtones of a riot as soldiers of both races rushed out of various Quonset huts and proceeded to beat each other senseless, their curses and racial epithets echoing around the valley. Monroe skirted around the knots of wildly fighting men and continued on his way. His heart filled with dread at the idea of commanding this unit of malcontents, racists, and thieves.

    He made his way up to one Quonset hut that held a sign in the front that said Commanding Officer. However the “Commanding Officer” was crudely spray painted through in red, and a spray paint scrawl of CHICKENSHIT ASSHOLE was painted underneath. Monroe stared at the sign in shock for a moment and then sighed, before pulling open the squeaky door and stepping into his new command quarters.

    It smelled awful, like a barn. The floors were dirt. Sunlight poked through rusted out spots in the corrugated metal of the hut. Equipment and weapons were stacked haphazardly in every conceivable space. Between the weapons and ammo, were various foodstuffs. There were cases of MRE’s next to cases of old K-rations that looked like they hadn’t seen the light of day since 1972. Field radios of various makes and models, some looking like they were requisitioned from a Vietnam era rifle platoon were stacked up in one corner. In the center of the room there was a crate marked with the Coors Logo upon which sat a pyramid of empty Coors Light cans. Standing around that crate, a beer in their fists, was a motley group of four men.

    The barely visible stripes on the grubby and greasy BDU jacket of one of the men identified him as a Sergeant First Class. That was all the man had to identify his membership in the US Army and his rank. Otherwise he wore a pair of faded blue jeans, rather than combat boots he wore a pair of scuffed up Red Wing steel toe work boots. Rather than a field cap, he was wearing a Denver Broncos baseball cap. His long, unruly hair spilled out from underneath in long locks. The hat was reversed so that the logo faced the Captain. He listened for a moment as the four men continued their conversation, oblivious to his presence.

    “Shit man! That was nothin! Hey LT, you remember that time they sent us into Houston? Man, check this shit out. We get sent down to Houston as part of an op to rescue a couple hundred survivors who had been holed up in a skyscraper for several months. Man when we fast roped on to the roof and went down, we didn’t know what to expect. Unfortunately them people had been there a long time without food or nothin and drinking nothing but rancid water in toilets and their own piss. Can you believe that? Drinkin’ their own piss!” the Sergeant said, all the while flourishing his beer can around to add emphasis.

    “Anyway, more than a few of them had died of starvation and came back and were wandering around in various rooms. Other rooms would be packed with grubby kids and a few women living in their own shit and filth. We go in there and these people looked like they came out of an old Nazi death camp. Skeletons barely scraping by alive. Hell a few of them even got killed by accident when one of the new guys broke into a room and saw them laying around, all naked and moaning, too weak to move hardly at all. His dumb ass mistook them for dead fucks and put a bullet in each one of their beans before someone stopped him. Jeezus man! Some of ’em looked like they were cannibalized, not in that tore up fashion the Zekes leave you in, no. It was organized cuttin’. Like savin’ some for later type shit! Jeezus!” the Sergeant declared and then drained his beer before belching loudly and tossing it over his shoulder, narrowly missing Monroe. One of the men’s eyes locked with the Captain and the man’s eyes went wide. The Sergeant turned his head around to see Monroe standing there, his hands on his hips, nostrils flaring.

    “Oh my fucking God! Sir! I didn’t see you there! Look alive you dumb fucks, the new boss is here!” the grubby sergeant said loudly and then snapped to attention and threw up a salute, the rest followed suit quickly and smartly.

    “What the hell is going on around here Sergeant? Who the fuck are you and where do you get off just drinking and tossing the empties at your chickenshit asshole of a CO?” Monroe barked sharply. One of the men in the back, the dirt stained bars of a 2nd Lieutenant on his collar, made a half smile and a snort of a chuckle. Monroe was on him in a flash, literally touching nose to nose and let fly with a shout that would put the loudest sergeant major in the Army to shame.

    “Just who the fuck are you dipshit? Don’t tell me you’re one of MY platoon leaders!? I’ll rip your arms off your body and feed you to the Zekes you piece of shit, now explain yourself!” Monroe unleashed, the LT went white.

    “Sir.. I’m sorry sir, it’s just that things around here are kinda… loose since…” the LT weakly offered up. Monroe spit in disgust on the floor and then backed up 2 steps and looked at the four men, who had now shrunk to about three inches in height.

    “You listen to me and you listen well, because I won’t repeat myself. Whatever shit hole of an outfit the old chickenshit asshole let this place become is over with. From now on there is a new rooster in the barnyard, and unlike the old chickenshit asshole, this rooster will tear you a new chickenshit asshole. Do I make myself clear men?”

    “Yes sir!” echoed from the men.

    “Very well, now I want the three of you outside and breaking up the race riot taking place out on the quad and I want to see my company standing out at parade rest within 10 minutes and if that doesn’t happen, I swear to all the Gods you may or may not hold dear that I will personally shit down your throats. Now get out of my sight!” the Captain roared and the four men instantly ran for the door and, knocking it clean off its hinges, disappeared out it as fast as they could. Monroe smiled to himself and then looked up at the ceiling and rolled his eyes.

    * * *

    Ten minutes later, the men stood at something that looked like parade rest. The formation was ragged, disjointed. The men just sort of hung there limply. There was no snap to the men, just a general atmosphere of not giving a fuck. Well that was about to change Monroe thought to himself as he stood in front of the ragged bunch of sorry sacks of shit the Army had decided to place into his tender mercies. He was angry and frustrated as he looked at the outfit that was responsible for his safety and then involuntarily shivered. Fuck this.

    “Right dress Men! Come on look alive!” came from the SFC that had nearly beaned Monroe with a beer can. He didn’t have any oomph to his voice, and the men just sort of limply reached their arms out and dressed up their lines in a half ass manner. Jesus Christ, what was he going to do with this? Dirty Dozen? Fuck that, this was the Dirty One Hundred.

    “All men present and accounted for Sir!” the SFC called out and took his position next to two bedraggled and hung over looking Lieutenants. All three men had bags under their eyes and their breath and clothes reeked of stale beer and marijuana. They wore no standard uniform, just bits and pieces as each man fancied, all of it unwashed and awful smelling. They were unshaven and longhaired. They looked like homeless bums one might find on the street corner begging for spare change, not active duty troops. These men were supposed to represent the leadership of Hazard Company! Their ragged appearance and demeanor extended to the entire company behind them. It was obvious to Monroe that he had his work cut out for him.

    “Listen. I know this outfit isn’t exactly known for élan…and I can appreciate the individual…character of a unit. But this shit is out of hand. You fuckwits are NOT going to get me killed!” Monroe bellowed sharply.

    “Now I don’t know how the other guy ran this outfit, but I can tell you this. I have absolutely no intentions of following his ass into hell! So I’m going to tell each and every one of you right the fuck now. In the interests of my own survival if any of you disobey one of my orders I will blow your fucking brains out without warning or reprieve, instant summary execution.” the Captain said and picked out faces from the crowd to make stern eye contact with. None held his gaze for more than a split second.

    “This unit gets the nastiest, filthiest, God forsaken jobs the Army can find. The casualty rates are unacceptable. Starting now, I intend to keep each and every one of you alive for as long as I possibly can. I will play no favorites and I will treat you all exactly the same, just like shit! I don’t give a shit if you’re white, black, Asian, Jew, catholic, protestant or atheist. You’re all a bunch of walking ration tins for the Zekes as far as the Army is concerned. You may not like many of the things I will tell you to do, but you damn well better fucking do them.” Monroe barked out. He then stood a moment and let the words soak in.

    “First order of business is to police up this nasty pig sty you call a company bivouac. It stinks! You stink! How the hell can you men live like this?” Monroe asked.

    One of the Lieutenants, not understanding the rhetorical nature of the question spoke up.

    “Sir, we’ve been without running water for more than a month, the mains to this area are shot and the S-4 just ignores our requests. Basically says to go to hell.”

    Monroe shot him a glare and the young man instantly straightened, becoming aware that he had not been invited to speak.

    “Well. I assure you that one of my first tasks is to get you men the basic support that you need, regardless of how Army logistics feels about you.” Monroe responded.

    “I’m going to be holding interviews over the next week with each and every one of you. The entire company is going to be reorganized from the ground up, and I’ll be conferring with your platoon and squad leaders about how best to handle your individual skills, talents and… shortcomings. In the mean time, I want you all to return to your quarters. You have until 0530 to prepare for my inspection, anyone who fails I will whore out to the entire base for latrine and KP duties. Dismissed.” Monroe said and the men broke and smartly made their way back to their huts.

    One of the men, a big corn fed mother fucker with a deep southern drawl, spit a wad of chew into the dirt and then spoke up.

    “One question Cap’n” he called loudly.

    Monroe looked at the insolent soldier quizzically.

    “Do we have to bunk with the nigs?”

    Instantly, as if a switch had been thrown, the entire company squared off by race. The scene devolved into pandemonium and Monroe just shook his head and walked away, leaving the Platoon Leaders to resolve the sleeping arrangements.

    * * *

    The next six weeks were a blur for the men of Hazard Company and Captain Monroe. The sign referring to the effluent nether regions of barnyard fowl was replaced within hours of Monroe finishing. The first week he did as he intended and interviewed every member of his company for at least 30 minutes. He was appalled at the lack of care the Army gave this unit. It was always under supplied in just about everything except weapons and ammunition. There was a massive over abundance of that, although Monroe wasn’t sure if that was because of the preference of the army, or the men. Foods were MRE’s and whatever the men could scavenge from others on the base and surrounding area. The only water that was available was by making a two hundred meter hike with 10 gallon jerry cans down to a local creek. There were no vehicles assigned to Hazard Company. The Quonset huts were falling down around the men from age and lack of care. It was a clusterfuck. No wonder the men looked like they did.

    Monroe spent a huge amount of time on the phone pleading with Supply. The major in charge was always dicking around with requests that Monroe considered urgent. He was always being put off with the excuse of equipment and technical service shortages. Even simple, easy to obtain items like BDU’s, shirts, socks, boots and caps were denied on this paper thin excuse. He did manage, after 10 days of cajoling, to get the water mains repaired and turned back on. His men were grateful for that simple luxury and gorged themselves in fresh clean water. The captain even managed to have a new shower unit installed for the men to have a hot shower.

    One day Monroe slammed the phone down and rubbed his temples in frustration after yet another two hour argument just to get a couple vehicles requisitioned. Just at that moment, the SFC who had tossed the empty at Monroe on his first day walked into the ramshackle office the Captain sat in behind a beat up, dented and rusty field desk.

    “Morning Sir” the SFC said.

    “Sergeant Shales, have a seat. I need to discuss something with you.” Monroe said, indicating a half bent folding chair in front of the desk. Shales had a seat and Monroe regarded him. His personnel file stated that he was 28, had joined right out of high school back before the Zekes started getting up and eating everybody. He was the longest serving senior member of Hazard Company along with Lieutenant Allen. Jesus, the man had a thousand yard stare and Monroe could see that there was a very dark place in Shales’ mind somewhere that he kept locked away, while presenting a semi professional and friendly demeanor to his buddies and comrades.

    “Sir?” Shales said.

    “What did you guys do to piss off S-4 that got you and Lieutenant Allen and the rest of the men stuck out here?” Monroe asked.

    Shales ran his hands over his sandy brown, newly cropped hair and gave a sheepish grin to the Captain.

    “Well sir.. uh.. me and Lieutenant Allen sorta, accidentally, burned down one of the supply warehouses.” the SFC stated.

    “Just how in the hell did you do that?” the Captain asked incredulously.

    “Well, we were pretty drunk one night and uh.. the LT and I had RUMINT that Supply was keeping a load of frozen steaks in a warehouse. See his platoon had a rough time on a recent op and they needed a boost. So we broke in and were searching for the goods when the MP’s showed up. The LT reached for what he thought was an open box of CS grenades but it turned out to be a white phosphorous round. He tossed it to cover our tracks as we went out the back door and well.. the entire warehouse was destroyed in the fire sir.” Shales responded.

    Monroe’s mouth dropped, an entire warehouse of goods, destroyed by two drunken buffoons searching for some mythical steaks? No wonder they were condemned to living their careers out here in the sticks of the base. They were effectively exiled from civilization. This, along with dozens of other incidents of insubordination, thievery, and drug and alcohol abuse by the rest of the men had ensured that Hazard Company was treated like some dog shit on the bottom of Uncle Sam’s shoe. The Army didn’t even bother with court martial for a lot of offenses anymore. You just got assigned to a Hazard Company. After all, even a thief and a scoundrel can kill a few hundred Zekes before he’s used up completely, so the Army wasn’t about to waste manpower. If the guy ran off into Zekeland after arriving at the company, well best of luck to him. If the Zekes don’t get his ass the bandits will, and the bandits did not take kindly to boys in uniform. So most of the men stuck around and learned to survive.

    “Sergeant, it seems every other man in this company has been written up for theft. Perhaps we can put all this skullduggery to use. Focus it, so to speak towards more positive outcomes that can benefit the entire unit.” Monroe stated.

    Shales smiled wickedly. “Sir? What exactly did you have in mind?”

    * * *

    Once Monroe had figured out how to channel each of the men’s talents in positive directions, he focused them like laser designators on to improving their situation. He personally supervised the men, more like a platoon sergeant, than a Captain at least at first. He got down into the dirt and filled sandbags and HESCOs with them. He dug trenches with them. Supervised them but never micromanaged them. The unit began to respond. Morale skyrocketed. As Monroe walked the camp, he was pleased to see the men busy as ants repairing and mending their digs. The Quonset huts were being completely dismantled and the materials that could be scavenged were reused. The entire unit was moving underground.

    Rather than dick with Supply, Monroe located a mechanic within the outfit and sent him and Allen’s platoon out to procure some vehicles. They returned 3 days later with several civilian pickup trucks and a deuce and a half that was full of bullet holes.

    “What’s with the deuce and a half?” Monroe asked when he saw the bullet holes that peppered the cab, had spidered the windshield, blown off one of the mirrors and.. was that blood still smeared across the driver side window?

    A black soldier exited the cab of the truck and came up to Monroe and saluted, the Captain returned it.

    “PFC Holland, sir! We found it on the side of a highway about 25 miles from base. It had been there quite awhile, probably bandits ambushed it. There were no bodies when we found it, just some dried blood in the cab. The radiator was full of holes, but we managed to replace it from scavenging another wreck that was around. She’s a good truck sir!”

    “Very good Private. I have a squad from Shales’ Platoon over there expanding the east side of the compound and building a motor pool area. Get these vehicles over there and get them covered under tarps. No sense letting others in the area know that life is improving around here. Some might get jealous.”

    Holland grinned a white tooth grin. “Yes sir.” and then jumped into the cab of the big truck and led the caravan past him and over to the east end of the compound.

    Monroe turned and walked over to a group of men who were digging a new trench and emplacement line surrounding the entire company area. Monroe intended on turning the bivouac into a personal fortress. A Fort Apache, completely separate and self sufficient as possible from the rest of the base. No one gave a fuck about Hazard Company anyway, so he intended to assure that his men could live somewhat comfortably and securely in their exile.

    Lieutenant Pendleton and his entire platoon were dragooned into this duty. Monroe had delegated the entire planning and execution of the defenses of the camp to the young Lieutenant and he wasn’t a bit sorry. The young man was tactically proficient, perhaps even brilliant. He carefully surveyed Pendleton’s plans and found few if any real faults and gave his blessing. The young officer bloomed into a leader within weeks as he led his platoon in a real task for once besides throwing men into a meat grinder and drinking away the terror, guilt and grief he felt at doing so.

    Monroe was shocked at the latitude he was given by his superiors. His battalion commander, Lt. Colonel Starke told him to just babysit Hazard Company, and if they were needed, they would call. But otherwise his job was to keep “that wild band of longhaired outlaws out of trouble and away from me!”

    There was surprisingly little trouble after the beginning. Monroe kept the men so busy, they had little time or energy to engage in much shenanigans. He chose to overlook the smaller things, like pot smoking or gambling although he curtailed heavy drinking and instead rationed out alcohol personally as a reward to units who did particularly well at a task. It wasn’t like money was any good these days anyway. Basically the Army just took from the civilians what it couldn’t get from official stores. But the soldiers looked at it as a fair trade for protecting the civilians from both the bandits and the Zekes that prowled the unpatrolled roads and highways through the mountains. It was basically feudal, might makes right type shit out there. Tough world for everyone involved.

    Pendleton’s plan involved tearing down the Quonset huts and effectively moving the entire company to a series of underground earthen bunkers that could be easily supplied with electricity, heat and running water, all with a minimum of building materials. There would be a command/comms bunker and an ammunition storage bunker as well. The ammo bunker would be built out of concrete that the company managed to find. The entire compound from the outside would look like a giant triangle of barbed wire surrounding a trench line and a series of earthen mounds and bunkers. Almost no surface buildings would be visible.

    Each bunker would house a ten man squad in relative comfort and ease compared to what they had been living in before. The idea of moving underground as the cold winter approached appealed to the men and they worked diligently to dismantle the huts, dig the trenches and move the massive amount of earth necessary to build each of the bunkers to house the men and materiel they rapidly built up with careful bartering and scavenging from around the base and various civilians in the area. Monroe ensured the men worked efficiently, but otherwise allowed them wide latitude to accomplish their tasks. He was no prison warden, no matter what the Army thought.

    By the time fall came and the first snows began to filter down onto Fort Carson, the camp was complete and was essentially an impregnable fortress. Each building was connected to each other by a shallow trench. This then connected to the deeper perimeter trench. At intervals around the perimeter was an earthen machine gun nest and all were carefully sighted and surveyed to interlock fields of fire. Guards were rotated every 4 hours during the day and every 2 at night.

    Monroe and the men felt much more secure. Monroe managed to get electricity restored to the area. Each barracks bunker was equipped with a wood burning stove that had been scavenged from a hardware store in Colorado Springs. The chimneys poked up through the earthen tops of the bunkers and the entire compound had the look of a militarized Shire from a Tolkien novel. Comfortable underground living spaces. The men soon personalized them with personal artifacts, items and belongings, and the men were snugly at home by the time 14 inches of snow came in early December and blanketed the entire camp in white.

    * * *

    After the men had dug out from under the snow, life wasn’t too bad for them through Christmas. They celebrated it in their own way, over hunted meat and scavenged cans of vegetables mixed with MRE rations. It was tolerable for them at least compared to what they would’ve had to face had they remained above ground. To a man, they all were thankful that the Captain had the foresight to keep them all warm and cozy like hobbits. They spent the winter in relative luxury.

    It was mid-February when the Army finally remembered Hazard Company existed. Monroe was sitting at his battered field desk, now safely placed inside the new commo bunker along with all the radio and satellite equipment. Specialist “Eyes” Malone was off to one side at a homebuilt work table pouring over a disassembled PRC 25 radio. The various tubes and parts were all laid out in front of him and he was whispering technical gibberish to himself quietly when the phone rang next to him. He picked it up.

    “Hazard Company Operations”. Eyes said into the receiver that was balanced on his shoulder while he soldered at a wire on a board in front of him.

    “Yessir, just a moment.. Captain?”

    “Yeah?”

    “Battalion for ya” Eyes said and set the phone down. Monroe walked over and picked it up.

    “Yeah?”

    Monroe listened for a moment. “Yes sir. Be right there sir.” Then hung up.

    “Eyes, I gotta run down to the main base for a briefing, apparently the machine realized we still exist out here. Let Allen, Pendleton and Shales know to be ready for possible deployment planning when I get back.”

    “Yessir” Eyes said while throwing a salute like gesture at the Captain without even looking up from the table. Monroe wasn’t offended, Eyes was actually the “ears” of the Company. He kept all the company radio gear in working order and ensured that all three platoons could keep in contact with Monroe at all times if the situation ever came to them getting deployed. Well now that time had come.

    * * *

    Four hours later Monroe returned to the camp and parked one of the pick up trucks he had been driving in the motor pool area and made his way to the commo bunker. The two Lieutenants and SFC Shales were standing around going over lists of supplies they would need when he walked in.

    “Sir” was echoed around as he walked in, formalities were dealt with and Monroe got down to business.

    “Alright, seems we’ve drawn us a clearing operation. There is a small town about 80 miles away that the brass wants cleared for resettlement by refugees. Apparently there are some mines in the region the Government would like to get running again. The town is called Fraser, population 937. As far as anyone knows, there are no survivors living there. Recon flight shows about a hundred or so dead fucks wandering the streets and yards at any one time, but most are probably locked indoors. We’re to move in and clear a 10 mile radius from the center of town of any and all Zeke. Now I know this is a pretty large chunk of real estate to clear, and will probably take awhile. A few months at least. We have 14 days to train up the men and prepare for extended deployment into Zekeland.” the Captain said as a short briefing.

    Two weeks later, a convoy of twelve large two and a half ton trucks arrived on the dilapidated service road that ran in front of FOB Hazard. That was the official name the brass had decided to call their underground home. Though to the men it was known as “The Shire”, and the men living there jokingly referred to themselves as FOBbits. The company filed out through the main gate and except for a single squad left behind to maintain security at the camp, the company loaded up into the back of each truck and prepared for the long ride to Fraser. Several of the trucks were pulling trailers containing pallets of equipment and a bobcat front loader to use for construction of Forward Operating Base, Fraser.

    Monroe planned on spending at least 90 days on this operation, probably longer. Zeke tended to be single mindedly cunning in the way a small child can be cunning when angling for a cookie. There wasn’t so much pre planned thought as a sort of collective convergent instinct among groups of Zeke that grew larger as the hordes grew in number. One found them in all kinds of places. The predictable ones were houses, stores, and hospitals. Those are always the worst to clear. Fraser had a good sized medical clinic and Monroe expected heavy resistance from any Zeke there that were no doubt wandering the halls and grounds by the hundreds. They were nasty for pulling surprises on men, coming out of nooks, crannies, from under trash. Just about anywhere. They could lay around for days or weeks in a single spot, just like any other corpse. Then, when something gains their attention, they crawl to their feet and shamble mindlessly towards the source of the disturbance. If some poor asshole gets too close to what he thinks is just another dead corpse, he’d get bitten for sure.

    They also tended to clump together in thousands and mindlessly walk for weeks in any direction that food was last seen. They collected stragglers as they went, coalescing into massive crowds. There were tales of images from the ISS showing hordes in the millions migrating north and south throughout the Great Plains with the seasons, mindlessly following wildlife herds as they migrated away from the hordes. Like a tornado or a hurricane these hordes stripped swathes of countryside of all life as it was either consumed, or fled from the awful smell of decay of millions of slowly rotting corpses.

    This should’ve been a full battalion size op, but the brass decided that Hazard Company had faced worse odds and with “proper supply and support”, which Captain Monroe was convinced meant absolutely none, the brass were confident Hazard could get the job done. Casualties were of course a secondary concern. Monroe wasn’t so sure about his chances considering he was at the tip of the spear on this one.

    But, his was not to question why, his was but to do and die. So he did what the rest of his men had no choice but to do, he soldiered on. It took several hours to arrive at the drop point about 5 miles outside of Fraser itself near an old gas station. A long range patrol was sent out that way to scout the area and said that the gas station had gasoline in the underground tanks, and the area was mostly clear of Zulus. It was slightly elevated and would make a perfect FOB site. The trucks would stop, the company would deploy and using hand weapons clear the immediate area of any Zeke, avoiding using guns at least at first to avoid bringing the undead residents of Fraser down on their heads before they were ready.

    Then the company would construct a temporary FOB by building a HESCO wall around the gas station. Once this was complete the trucks would be refueled and sent back to Fort Carson, stranding the company 80 miles from safety in the middle of a Zeke infested wasteland. This was all old hat for Hazard Company. Their asses were always on the line like this. Monroe was convinced his men were fairly competent enough to carry out this operation with a minimum of casualties. These town clearing ops were nasty business, forcing men to get close and personal with all kinds of Zeke. Women and kids were the hardest ones for the men to put down in mass numbers. It helped when the Zeke was rotted and monstrous looking. Then it was easy to put him down, but the fresh ones. Those could be difficult as hell, especially the children.

    Lieutenant Pendleton had told Monroe about an op the company had a year before, similar clearing operation. The men came across a day care center full of undead children. The Lieutenant, drunk as a skunk and in tears, explained to the Captain how he looked in the windows of the place and saw the children, not a one of them older than 7, leading little parodies of children’s lives. One little boy, his face a chewed up mess, sat on his ass dumbly rolling a Tonka truck around. One little girl, her white dress stained black with blood and large chunks of flesh missing from her arms and legs,  had a blanket locked in a death grip that she dragged behind her as she wandered the play area with the other zombie children. It was eerie and disturbing just to hear the tale, let alone to have experienced it Monroe thought. Pendleton had to order men in there to put the children down, and turned away from the window as his men kicked the door in and gunfire erupted from within the day care center.

    Men could break down, lose discipline and turn savage and feral having experienced such horrors. Yet Hazard Company’s men, for some reason, despite all their petty criminality and lax discipline were dedicated to their task and held together remarkably well. The rumors of them being unenthusiastic about their duties may have applied in camp, but in the field, they were brutal and efficient. They still had hearts though, and such events could shred a man’s soul. Monroe was certain that there would be blood.

    * * *

    3 days later, a camp had miraculously grown out of the dirt outside of Fraser. It was a hub of activity as men prepared for their outbound patrols to begin. About thirty or forty ghouls had wandered up to the area while the camp was being constructed and were quickly dispatched. There was some confusion when a group of fifteen or so came out of the woods about ten feet from one of the squads filling HESCOs, surprising the men initially. Sergeant Shales was on the scene in a few moments and directed a quick and violent melee. Wielding their entrenching tools, most of the squad broke free and began smashing the skulls of the slow, rotted corpses as they slowly stumbled through the high grass. Within a few minutes the men were high fiving and laughing as they returned back to work. They made sick jokes about the corpses and what each other would do to one of the female corpses laying naked in the grass face down. Her body had fallen in such a way that her skeletal ass was in the air as if presenting it. A cloud of flies already gathering around her pale emaciated and rotted body, it was quite grisly.

    Allen and Shale’s Platoons were tapped to begin the first clearing operation. There was a small hospital just inside the edge of town. The men softly swore to themselves when they found out. Hospitals were the worst places imaginable. Being a key center of infection, they were always packed to the brim with lots of hungry and dangerous undead. Dozens of rooms and corridors made for an ugly amount of hiding places and opportunity for accidents. They were blood covered, rotten charnel houses. But they needed to be cleared, so it was best to get it done early.

    The chosen men were standing in a semi circle around Captain Monroe as he explained the situation using an aerial photograph of the hospital and surrounding townscape.

    “We’re going to clean out a whole mess of these things in one fell swoop. The first thing we do is set up a redoubt here at this intersection just inside town near the hospital and the town hall. Here we’re going to set off flashbangs and draw every single bastard that can shamble, walk, crawl or drag itself towards our position and take them out.  Be smart guys. I want everyone to make it out of this. Once we’ve cleared out the external Zekes, we’ll have to start the internal clearing operation. The goal is to take and clear the hospital and town hall in order to provide a foothold for us to move further into the town. This operation is going to take months guys, we’ll take our time and make sure we get every single deader in the town and surrounding area. We don’t want civvies to wake up for breakfast and find Zeke crawling out of the rose garden.” the Captain briefed to the men. The men answered with a Hooah.

    Allen, Shales, Captain Monroe and the rest of the men of the two platoons equipped themselves for the 5 mile march into Fraser. Buddies carefully checked each other’s equipment and loads. Spreading weight of ammo and weapons around evenly so that each man could carry as much as possible, but not be too slow to react to a sudden threat.

    “Form the men up into column Sergeant Shales. On to Fraser.” the Captain stated.

    “Hazard Company! Ten-HUT!” boomed out from Shales and the men snapped to attention with precision.

    “Lets get our asses on down the yellow brick road. That bitch Dorothy has some explaining to do.” Shales hollered out and off the men went, their boots clopping on the asphalt while Shales called out a cadence.

    Five miles later the men arrived at the intersection where they were to construct the redoubt. As the men came up on the edge of town, they stood ther silently at first as the chill spring wind in the mountains blew the trash and tumbleweeds and various detritus of a lost civilizaiton around the road in front of them. The buildings were mostly burned out wrecks here. Only the hopsital, scarred by fire in several windows and the city hall, largely boarded up and unscathed, remained for several blocks. The cracked, faded pavement of the main street had grass and weeds growing out of every gap in the asphalt. Rusted or burned out vehicles littered the sides of the street. Curiously, there were no dead wandering the street at the moment. Though that was about to change.

    The men quickly went to work building an improvised redoubt out of debris located around. They pushed several rusted out vehicles together in places and blocked off the entire street. An entire town with at least one thousand hungry corpses was before them. Monroe gave the order and several flashbangs were tossed out into the street in front of the makeshift barricade. The men all looked away and covered their ears as the concussion rolled through them and still disoriented them slightly despite the preparation. They recovered rather quickly though and stood to with their weapons. Waiting for the inevitable onslaught of the coming horde, the hellish moans and cries of which were already reaching a blood-chilling crescendo in the men’s ears as the first corpses began stumbling out of the nearby buildings, alleys and side streets and began to gather in the street.

    “I want one squad from each platoon behind us about 20 yards to be held in reserve and watch our six. Otherwise, you men know what to do.” Monroe stated.

    “Hooah Sir.” came from his platoon leaders and they rapidly went to make the necessary adjustments and await for the command to open fire. Monroe did not make them wait long.

    “Get some!” the Captain barked and within an instant the air was rent with the cacophanous noise of 40 well trained and heavily armed men opening fire with everything they had on the corpses in front of them. Corpses began to drop to the pavement, their heads popping and exploding in fountains of gory dark mist. The men, nervous and jittery at first quickly emptied magazines at the quickly growing numbers of dead that came crawling out of doorways, alleys, windows, from under trash, dumpster lids and vehicles. Each one was a mangled ghoul seeking their flesh and the men dumped masses of lead into them, then quickly dropped magazines and slapped a fresh one in.

    Slightly displeased at the waste of ammunition, Monroe went to Shales and Allen and ordered them to conserve ammunition at once. Single head shots whenever possible, and the squad machine gunners were to limit to short bursts. They nodded and spread the orders on down to the men. The corpses in the street began to melt to the pavement with astounding swiftness. The vast majority of the men had seen plenty of action against the zulus and most of it was automatic. As the dead corpses continued to collect into the street they were dispatched cleanly and efficiently.

    A continuous roar of small pops, cracks and zings echoed out over the town, drawing every dead corpse within earshot that could make their way towards Hazard company. The men now fired more discriminately, taking thier time and dropping the dead with much less waste of ammunition. Monroe nodded in approval at what his ears told him.

    The squad machine gunners, their weapons at their shoulders and braced on the roofs of vehicles walked tracer rounds into the clumps of rotten bodies, cutting them in half and exploding thier heads like watermelons. Also blowing off their fragile limbs and then thumping a few dozen more heavy rounds into them after they fell to keep them down.

    The front door to the hospital shattered and a massive crowd began to flood out into the street to join the scattered clumps of Zekes that were continuously being knocked down. Every now and then a corpse got back up and required a second helping of lead. The stench was overwhelming and some of the men choked, gagged and vomited from the violent odors that assaulted their olfactory senses. Monroe tied a bandanna around his nose and mouth to try and keep out some of the stench. Bodies continued to be mutilated by the steady fountain of copper jacketed rounds that were being delivered by the rump of Hazard Company. The squad machine gunners turned their attention on the big clump of dead that formed in front of the hospital. Red tracer rounds zipped out towards the knot of necrotic bodies and flesh gave way, caught fire, and shattered dry, brittle bones. The crowd just melted like wheat under a combine.

    For an hour the slaughter continued. The bodies were piling up on top of each other, holding many back and slowing them down enough that the pace of the killing became very leisurely. For another hour, single individual shots would ring out once every few minutes, but otherwise, the carnage in the street was nearly complete. It was a terrible sight. Piles of bodies, limbs all askew in every possible direction and in weird angles. Many of the bodies were skeletal in appearance, and there were dozens and dozens of crippled and mutilated zulus still writhing about which would have be dispatched by hand. Monroe shuddered at the disgusting, hellish scene he had just created.

    “Fix Bayonets!” Monroe roared. The sound of knives coming from sheathes and being attached to rifle ends was heard. Time to go in and get personal.

    The Captain gave the signal to Allen and Shales and they moved their men out from behind the barricade slowly. Monroe used hand signals to keep the two squads in reserve to man the barricade and hold it while the rest of the men finished the killing. The men spread out around and began spearing the skulls of moving corpses. Occasionaly a clawed hand would reach out and grab the boot of a soldier. That soldier would kick at the weak limb until it broke and then angrily spear the skull of the offending Zeke with a bayonet thrust. Single shots rang out here and there as the men finished off corpses in the street, or the occasional corpse that wandered outside a little later than the rest. Another twenty minutes and most of it was done.

    “Shales!” the Captain shouted.

    “Sir!”

    “Get your platoon lined up and ready to push into the hospital. Clear the lobby first and move on up by leaping your squads. Keep ’em tight and for God’s sake make sure everyone is good and covered up. I don’t want to have to deal with decimating our own men like the damn romans because of bites.”

    Shales gave a hooah and rallied his men towards the front of the hospital.

    “Allen! Get your platoon lined up and cover the street for any more stragglers. There are bound to be a bunch of them over the next few hours send some men out around the campus and clean up any wandering corpses that might be around, but be careful about it. I’m joining with Shales in the hospital.”

    “Yessir! Come on men perimeter around the entrance to the clinic.”

    Monroe nodded in satisfaction and disappeared into the dark, yawning maw of the Fraser General Medical Center.

    * * *

    The first thing that Monroe noticed was the stench. It overpowered everything else around him. The blood that was smeared in vast streaks and splatters across the walls. The spiderwebbed glass panes and shattered remnants of the medical center lobby merely added accentuation to that awful, all consuming odor. Skeletal remains, the evidence of chew marks on the bones were scattered around like an ossuary. Brass casings in hundreds littered the floor and skittered around as the men crunched over the broken glass and debris strewn floor and began clearing rooms and corridors immediately adjacent to the lobby.

    “Clear!”

    “Clear!”

    “Clear!”

    A gunshot rang out followed by the thud of a body hitting the floor..

    “Clear!”

    Monroe walked over to where Shales was standing, his jaw working a piece of chewing gum as he took in the awful scene.

    “Jeezus sir! Look at this place. It’s always the same in hospitals.” Shales observed.

    “Yeah Sarge, it is. Get the squads moving up and clearing the floors.” the Captain replied

    “Yessir. Pavel! Menendez! Get your men and take the staircases. Eyes! Take a couple guys with you and see if you can find the generators. If we can establish light and power, it’ll make the clearing safer. Holland! Put that fucking blunt out! You can smoke on your own time, right now you’re on Uncle Sam’s. Let’s get our shit together people this shit is no joke.” Shales barked out as he marched off to coordinate the assault squads for the move into the clinic proper.

    Shales took a squad himself and penetrated towards the back of the ground floor of the medical center which housed the ER. The scene in the corridors was chaotic. Beds lay toppled and overturned in the hallway. Bagged bodies were stacked up like cordwood along the walls of the corridor four layers deep. Blood was spattered and streaked on the walls. The squad came to a corner where a barricade had been erected and a short fight had taken place, several dismembered bodies were piled in the corner, torsos twitching and soft moans coming from the pile of dead flesh.

    The doors to the ER loomed at the end of the hall and the men slowed down. Shales stepped forward and peered into the narrow windows of the ER doors and shuddered at the sight. There were at least a dozen zulus in sight just standing there in the darkness. Their heads tilted at the floor, giving them the appearance of being asleep on their feet. Some wore hospital gowns of patients, a few nurses and a doctor all stood in the room, undisturbed.

    Shales motioned for quiet from the men and backed them down the corridor.

    “What is it Sarge?” one of the men asked.

    “Fucking shitload of Zekes just standing around in there. It’s pretty dark, I don’t know how many more I couldn’t see, but what I could see were alot.” Shales said and then thought for a minute.

    “Okay, it’s damn dark in there so we’ll need light. Gimmie some road flares. Good. We’re gonna toss a coupla these through the door and then we’re going in. Check your angles of fire. No friendly fire incidents. Everybody covered up good? No exposed skin. Good. Lets do this.” and Shales moved back down the hallway and the men behind him stacked against the door. Shales lit three road flares then pushed open the swinging doors and tossed in the flares. The dead immediately woke up and began moaning and turning towards the door.

    Shales, pulling two Barettas out and cocking the hammers back shoved open the door and went in blazing, the rest of the men following behind quickly. Shales lifted his left hand. BANG! Down went a corpse, then he raised his right. BANG! Another corpse disappeared. A shadowy form loomed out into the eerie red light of the flares towards Shales and the hideous, twisted face of a teenage boy, one eye hanging on a strand of tendon from a gaping eye socket presented itself. Shales used the butt of his pistol to strike the teen right between the eyes, shattering it’s nose with an audible snap and knocking it back. Shales then put his left hand pistol squarely on the teens forehead and pulled the trigger. The back of the teens head exploded outward and he dropped into a pile on the floor.

    Other men fanned out into the room and just at that moment, the power kicked back on and the men were momentarily shocked and blinded by the sudden lights that shined into their faces. The zulus however had no reaction to the lights and the few moments of hesitation among the men was enough for several zulus to close the distance and take down a man.

    The man screamed out as a huge chunk of flesh was torn from face as he was embraced by several zulus. He fell to the ground, the zulus on top trying to get even more delicious flesh while he struggled benath them. The other soldiers turned at the screams and fired taking the zulus in the head and one by one knocking them off the man, but the damage was done. The wounded man, wailing wildly “NO! NO! NO! NO!” flew through the swinging doors of the ER back towards the lobby covering his face with his hands. Gunshots rang out from the lobby as the men there realized what had happened to took the man out.

    The battle continued for a few more brief moments, and then it was over. The men stood huffing and puffing over the scattered corpses. Smoke and dust hung in the air in a thick fog, the reek of gunpowder and rotten death as thick as the dust. Black, congealed slime was spattered on every surface. This place would definately require hardcore decon when this op was over Shales thought to himself and then moved his men forward through hand signals to clear the rest of the ER of any remaining stragglers.

    * * *

    On the second floor, Sgt. Pavel Levchenko lead his fire team out of the stairwell and into an elevator lobby. The entire floor was in the shape of a giant rectangle, the corridor forming the border of the rectangle, with patient rooms off to each side. The elevator lobby stood at the bottom of the rectangle at the end of a long corridor that ended at the nurse’s station. The smell of decay was so overpowering the men coughed and gagged for a moment. The occasional low groan from Zeke could be heard in the darkness ahead.

    Levchenko prayed in his head in his native Russian. His parents and he had illegally immigrated to America in order to escape debts that Pavel’s father had accrued with the Russian mob. He joined up as part of a program to become a legalized citizen through military service. He had only had six months to go when the entire world went to hell. He had decided that staying in was the prudent choice of action considering everything else that was going on, and here he was leading a fire team into a horror house.

    The five men creeped down the hallway carefully, tactical flash lights slowly panning back and forth, searching for targets. Motes of dust hung in the bright beams as they advanced down the hall, sphincters on full pucker mode. They came to the nurse’s station. Papers were scattered all over the floor and a thick layer of dust sat on every surface. Computer monitors and keyboards were smashed on the floor. Wide streaks and smears of blood were evident on everything, even spatter spots on the ceiling. Several dismembered skeletal remains were scattered behind the desk. Levchenko panned his taclight up and then spotted them.

    There were several dead standing on the far side of the nurse’s station about fifteen feet away. They turned toward the light, their pale skin practically glowing in the taclights. Levchenko and his men took aim and popped rounds into them. Just as expected, a loud collective groan eminated from the entire floor as dead came slowly streaming out of the rooms and into the hall. There were a lot more on the floor then Levchenko had predicted. No matter, they had plenty of ammunition and space to trade. The men went to work, carefully popping rounds into the skulls of the dead as they came into view of their tactical lights, while slowly retreating backwards down the corridor and towards the elevator lobby..

    The dead continued to drop as they came into view and Levchenko had the men hold up at the elevator lobby near the stairwell. The men were able to spread out a little and still fire down the corridor, taking the dead out. The bodies of the slain lumped up in the corridor, blocking those behind and the soldiers began to relax as the corridor became a carnival shooting gallery. Levchenko knew that it was only a matter of a few minutes before the men had the corridor clear and they could move on and finish mopping up the stragglers remaining on the floor.

    Then Mr. Murphy of Murphy’s Law fame kicked Levchenko’s squad in the nuts. Eyes was hard at work in the basement getting the emergency generators running and at that moment he chose to hit the on switch. The generators roared to life. The power on the second floor kicked on suddenly and the entire corridor lit up a bright, intense white. The elevators in the lobby dinged and three of them opened, spilling packs of undead into the lobby right on top of Levchenko’s fire team. The men were caught completely by surprise, spooked by the sudden flooding of light into their eyes. At least twenty zekes flooded out of the elevators where they had been packed in shoulder to shoulder. They spilled onto the men in a big pile up and pulled them down in moments, feeding on any exposed flesh they could find.

    Levchenko turned and saw his entire team go down in moments, screaming wildly. He roared in anguish and fired an entire clip on full auto into the pack of writhing flesh but it did no good. A couple corpses reached out for him. He buttstroked one in the face with his rifle, breaking the stock. The Zeke fell backward into the pile of writhing necrotic flesh that was consuming his best friends. He dropped the broken weapon and drew a combat knife, thrusting it deep under the chin of the second creature as it grabbed hold of him. Its one eye rolled back into its head and it slid to the ground as Levchenko pulled his blade free. He looked for an escape route and found his way to the stairwell blocked by the crowd of feasting dead. So he turned and kicked one of the dead who was wearing a blood stained doctor’s coat square in the chest, knocking it back into one of the blood spattered elevators and then went in after it. He pinned the growling corpse against the back wall of the elevator by placing his left arm under its chin and forcing the thing’s head up. He swung his knife down, blade first and impaled it straight into the eye socket of the doctor, then wiggled it around in a circle.

    The snarling doctor zeke continued to struggle for a moment before bone gave way with an audible crunch. Levchenko forced the blade deeper into the thing’s skull. A putrid smelling gurgle emanated from the throat of the corpse, and it slowly slumped to the floor of the elevator just as the door shut, leaving Levchenko closed off from the frantic screams of his men as they were consumed. He hit the bloodstained button on the elevator for the ground floor and to his relief the elevator began to move. He waited as it reached the first floor and dinged open. He found the muzzles of several rifles pointing at his face as the door opened, young grim faces behind them.

    “HEY! HEY! Don’t shoot!” Pavel screamed. There was a moment of hesitation and then the men in the lobby lowered their weapons. Levchenko stepped into the lobby and then collapsed to the floor in tears, unleashing a torrent of grief stricken sobs at what he had just witnessed and barely escaped. The young men peered into the blood painted elevator and examined the corpse of the doctor leaning against the back wall of the elevator, a K-Bar handle sticking out of its eye socket.

    “Jesus Christ..” one of them muttered to the other.

    * * *

    On the third floor, Sgt. Menendez was having a better time. The lights kicked on just as the men reached the door from the stairwell into the third floor lobby. Mendendez slowly cracked open the door and peeked in. The elevator doors were closed, a number two blinking on the digital floor displays of several of them. Mendendez could see the dead, excited by the lights suddenly kicking on, begining to wander around, staring at the ceiling fixtures.

    Mendendez smiled and opened the door, the men went in and gunshots rang out, bodies dropped. The men continued forward, swiftly gunning down any corpse that came into view. After a few minutes, the floor was quiet, and the men went on and began clearing individual rooms. The rooms were filled with dismembered corpses, often still twitching or crawling about on mutilated limbs. The men carefully put each one down as they were encountered. Then moved on.

    * * *

    Captain Monroe stepped out of the lobby into the sunlight and away from the terrible stench. Gunfire could be heard popping off around the hospital as his men cleared the grounds. Eyes Malone came back from the basement reporting that the power was now back on. The Captain nodded and then looked out over the burned out main street. A small knot of zulus emerged from down the block and began stumbling towards the men standing guard in front of  the hospital. Shouts went up followed by “I got em!” and single, well placed shots rang out, exploding the zulu skulls. The bodies dropped to the street. The Captain shook his head. How long can men do this without going insane?

    He quickly found out when Levchenko came flying past him and put a fist squarely into Eyes’ jaw. He never saw it coming. The man’s Government Issue specs flew through the air along with a tooth as he went down hard on the street. Within a moment several men were grabbing Levchenko and holding him back while he screamed obscenities at the unconscious form of Eyes.

    “Bastard killed my men! He…killed my.. men..” Levchenko sobbed as several men pulled him away still screaming threats. Monroe sighed and went after them to find out what in the hell just happened.

    * * *

    After questioning Levchenko, Monroe had him sent back to FOB Fraser. He had witnessed four of his best friends ripped apart and his psychological state was a big question mark. Either way, the sobbing, ranting Sergeant had done enough for one day. Monroe sent a squad from Pendlenton’s platoon up the stairs to finish clearing the second floor while Levchenko and a two man escort walked the five miles back to the FOB.

    Eyes woke up a couple hours later. It was only a miracle that he didn’t have his jaw broken. He lost a tooth, and would be sore for a long time. But he’d survive. Monroe was enraged. He lost five men already dead and one to a section 8 for sure and they hadn’t even begun the clearing operation in earnest. This was just the warm up for when these men would have to go house by house. Once the houses were clear, they had to turn to the surrounding woodlands.

    Using a grid pattern, the entire company would hike over 100 square miles of ground during the next several months, clearing out the zulus and making the area safe for resettlement. Monroe wasn’t very happy about the prospects of success.

    Monroe stood, puffing on a cigarette and blew the gray smoke into the blue sky. What a fucked up world this is, he thought to himself. He grappled for some grand revelation, some meaning in all this death and terror. Unfortunately, he simply came up short. Monroe stubbed out the butt of his smoke and turned towards the hospital entrance. It was time to plan phase 2.

    To Be Continued.

    13 Comments

    1. Great story! Nice way to start after a really long vacation for the new editor

      Comment by Keith on December 8, 2015 @ 3:16 pm

    2. Very nicely written. Here i was about to think the site dead abdominal this gem was posted. Nice work sir

      Comment by Douglas K on December 8, 2015 @ 3:53 pm

    3. Awesome story!!!!!! I’m glad you guys are back.

      Comment by Jorge Acosta on December 9, 2015 @ 12:08 am

    4. Nice, still open this site everyday to see if there is new content and thats certainly worth the read! Lets hope that the next installment isnt to far away!

      Comment by Jeaniest on December 9, 2015 @ 1:35 am

    5. Great story!

      It’s nice to see a military story done with accuracy. Personally, it allows me to more easily suspend my disbelief and get into a story.

      Excellent character development. I could easily imagine the manner and appearance of all the characters.

      This would make a great novel.

      Comment by Big Daddy on December 10, 2015 @ 1:35 am

    6. Great job absolutely loved it. Can’t wait for the next part

      Comment by Bigbear13 on December 12, 2015 @ 11:20 am

    7. great to see stories coming back and a brilliant story to start it with.

      Comment by Derek on December 14, 2015 @ 10:48 am

    8. HOLY COW! I wrote and submitted this story years ago and completely forgot about it! Imagine my shock and pleasure at reading my own story with fresh eyes.

      Such good editing as well. I know that story was in a rough draft form really and didn’t think it would make the cut!

      Thanks for posting TOWWZ. I’ll have to start on the sequel!

      Comment by Patrick Turner on December 15, 2015 @ 12:57 am

    9. Great read! A nice way to break the ice from the vacation of the site! And yes please pound out that next chapter or seven!

      Comment by Hijinxjeep on December 15, 2015 @ 1:29 am

    10. Welcome back…yippeee. Have been checking often and to my happy surprise an awesome story emerges after a long slumber. Keep them coming!!! Awaiting patiently for the next installment.

      Comment by Spo on December 15, 2015 @ 2:41 pm

    11. Awesome, this is going to be an excellent story line.

      Comment by Terry on December 18, 2015 @ 12:10 am

    12. It,s too bad we can,t rate these stories like some other sites. Wow! What a great tale so far! 5 out of 5 stars! At no point did i find myself bored or incredulous…..nice work, thank you for sharing.

      Comment by Martin on December 20, 2015 @ 1:20 am

    13. Great read, hope there’s more soon.

      Comment by Doc on January 2, 2016 @ 6:51 am

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