Only the Dead Live Forever (6 page)

BOOK: Only the Dead Live Forever
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11.

 

 

 

The morning came
with a brightness that Brad had forgotten existed in this part of the world. He
had gotten used to the cool, long rainy days and cloudy skies. It was all they
had seen since they’d arrived on the platform. Now the sun was shining brightly
through his cell’s windows. The steel roof above him was radiating the heat.

He sat up in his
bunk and rested his feet on the cool tile floor. The living cell he now
occupied was far from luxurious, but it beat the hell out of anything he had
stayed in since the first of the attacks. There wasn’t much to it; a large
wardrobe locker and a desk sat on the wall opposite his tiny bunk. His gear was
piled in front of him, taking up much of the floor space.

Brad heard a
commotion in the hall. He stood, stretching and yawning, then pulled on a pair
of MultiCam trousers before he opened the door and walked out. The men were
moving about, strapping on their armor and prepping their weapons.

“What’s going on
guys?” Brad asked.

“We're going
outside. Chief said we’re going to take back the top deck. Good shit, right
Sergeant?” Private Craig quickly answered.

Brad moved
across the hall and into the lounge. He found Brooks drinking down a bottle of
instant coffee.

“You have any
more of that?”

“Sure, help
yourself,” Brooks answered, sliding a couple of packets of the instant coffee
across the table.

Brad twisted the
cap off a bottle of water and emptied the packets in. Shaking the bottle, he
watched the liquid change color. “So the guys tell me we’re moving outside
today.”

“Yup. Chief
wants the deck secured as soon as possible; with the sun shining bright it’s
the best time to take advantage of the momentum we built last night.”

Brad took a swig
of the bitter, barely warm coffee just as Sean walked in the door from
downstairs.

“Good morning
sunshine! I see someone decide to sleep in today,” Sean said, moving to take a
seat at the table. “I assume Brooks filled you in on this morning’s mission?”

Brad nodded as
he yawned and took another long sip from the bottle.

“You think
you’re up to taking Swanson and a couple of the new guys out on your own? Brooks
and I will pull the other two along. Probably best to leave the fly boys and
civilians to hold the fort.”

“Works for me; better
if we move as fire teams out on the deck anyhow. When do you want to get
started?”

“Get your stuff
together. We all meet below in fifteen.” Sean said, smiling.

Brad tossed his
empty bottle into the trash can and moved back to his cell to prep his gear. The
Marines were up, slapping each other on the backs and getting fired up for
today’s operation. The bravado and camaraderie gave Brad flashbacks to a time
before all of this shit—back to a time when he was running patrols with his own
men. When Brad would get the pre-mission jitters and share in the excitement of
going out.

Brad suited up
and stepped into the hall just as the last of the men were making their way
down the stairs. He found them assembled in the first floor lounge around the
pool table. Sean had a fire emergency escape map of the platform laid out on
the table. He had the three exits to the lower decks circled in red, and big X’s
drawn through the doorways leading into the other two structures.

Sean looked across
the table at Swanson and the group of Marines. “We’re going to sweep and clear
the outside. Corporal, I want you to pick two of your Marines and join Sergeant
Thompson,” Sean said.

“No problem, Chief,”
she quickly replied back. “Wilson? You and Craig are with me.”

“Okay good. Captain,
I want you and the civilians to hold this position. Nobody gets in or out while
we are outside. Be ready to open the doors in a hurry.”

“Understood,
Chief,” Bradley answered.

“Brooks and I
will form the second fire team with you two then,” Sean said, pointing across
at Walkens and Nelson, who nodded back in acknowledgement. “Gentleman, this is
going to take a while but we’re not going to be rushed. Time is one thing we
have plenty of.”

Sean broke down
the rest of the plan to secure the third deck. They needed to first barricade
the main stairway going down to the second deck. Then they would cut the
remaining two ladders that led below to ensure that nothing could sneak up
them. When they were sure that all ingress and egress routes were secured, they
would work on clearing the final two structures.

“If everything
goes as planned, maybe we’ll have lights and running water tonight,” Sean
joked. “Let’s gear up and be ready to step out in five mikes.”

***

Brad was stacked
against the exit door, looking at his team. “Let keep this simple, guys. Maintain
eye contact with one another and cover your sectors. Don’t go pointing your
weapons at your buddies. If we make contact, listen to the sound of my voice,
I’ll tell you where I want you. Too easy, right?”

“Too easy,
Sergeant, we got this,” Swanson answered for the others.

Brad looked up
and nodded to Brooks, who unlocked the doors. Bill and Tony helped him push
hard on the doors to ease the pile of broken and twisted bodies piled against
it from the previous night’s battle. The right side opened just enough to allow
the teams to exit. Brooks moved out with his team in tow and cut right; Brad,
moving at the same time, took his team to the left.

Once outside,
Brad moved just beyond the blind corner where he had been surprised by the
giant primal days earlier and took a knee. The walkway was covered with corpses
and the smell was horrible. They had been living with it for weeks now, so it
didn’t hit him as hard as it had in the past. Swanson took a knee across from
him, the two Marines just behind and facing in the opposite direction.

Sean’s team
moved down the walkway towards the helipad stairs. Brad waited for them to get
to their location and set in position. He sent Swanson and Wilson forward and
then followed behind with Craig. Each team moved in concert, leapfrogging each
other so that at all times six of the eight fighters were covering while two
moved. Moving slowly, they overlapped their sectors, bounding and covering each
other’s movements, until they reached the storage deck.

Brad’s team was
on line just off the walkway looking down the right side of the storage deck. Sean’s
group had taken up positions to the left. The deck appeared clear other than
some tossed-about crates and torn tarps flapping in the subtle ocean breeze. The
sun was in full effect, heating everything up. Brad could see bodies lying on
the ground in various states of decay, but so far there was no movement.

Brad looked to
Sean, who pointed at his own shirt collar indicating he wanted Brad to move to
his position. He told Swanson to take charge and keep her eyes on the
surroundings, then ran at a low hunch to Sean’s position and took a knee.

“What’s up boss?”
he asked.

“Okay, let’s
clear this deck in line. Eyes on everyone at all times. It’s pretty hot and
bright out here so I don’t suspect we have any hiders, but let’s not take any
chances. If anything, we can at least work out the kinks with the new guys. You
take the right side, we got left, don’t get in front of us, keep the firing
lanes open, and we’ll meet at the stairway,” Sean whispered.

“Got it, Chief,”
Brad answered and turned to return to his group.

Brad’s people
moved slowly, clearing every corner and obstacle as they moved on line with
each other. The deck held pallet after pallet of MREs, cases of water,
ammunition, and fifty-gallon barrels of different assortments of fuel. Most of
the heavy stacks appeared undamaged. The most they found was sheathes of ripped
plastic, flapping from crates, that had probably been blown loose in the storm.

They stepped
over downed bodies while taking note of the weapons on the ground. Slowly they
navigated the piles until the stairway came into view. Pallets and crates had
been hastily pushed in front of the stairs in a worthy, although unsuccessful,
attempt to barricade the entrance. The stairs opened up to a double-wide mouth,
reminding Brad of the entrances to a subway tunnel.

Brad’s group
found cover to the right of the stairs just as Sean’s team was dropping into
position on the left. Sean signaled for Brad to get eyes on the target while
Brooks and one of his Marines crept forward toward the barricade. After several
tense minutes, Brooks came to his feet and indicated the area was secure.

Brad brought his
team forward and they moved to the stairs to gather near Sean. Sean quickly put
them to work re-enforcing the barricade. The Marines dropped cases of spare
parts and anything else they could lift into the stairwell until it was
completely congested. It wouldn’t keep out a raging mob, but they also wouldn’t
be able to break through without notice. Before moving on, Sean reached into
his dump sack and handed Brad a handful of ties and some rubber wedges he had
prepared earlier.

“We are going to
move out along the walkway toward the support buildings, same as before. If you
come up on any entrances to the buildings, don’t worry about clearing them. Just
secure the doors as best you can, zip tie the latches, and pile shit against
them or wedge these blocks into the doors. When the deck is secured we’ll begin
moving into the structures,” Sean said.

Brad nodded his understanding
and they moved out just as before. Brad’s team moved down the long walkway
leading to the first of two support buildings. “That’s the power station,”
Swanson whispered to Brad.

Brad just nodded
in acknowledgement as they continued to move forward, covering Sean’s team’s
movements as they covered his. Brad’s team was skirting the seaside railing
while Sean’s team was looking into the platform on the other side of the
walkway. Wilson raised his hand and pointed at the tip of a ladder that reached
over the side of the platform from the lower deck.

Brad approached
the ladder and looked down; he could see the empty deck below. He pulled a
heavy wrench from his pack. The wrench fit the ladder bolts perfectly just as
Tony had told them it would. With some heavy pulling and kicking, the first
bolt broke its lock and started turning. They hadn’t ever seen a primal climb a
vertical ladder, but he would sleep better knowing that the ladders were gone. After
some heavy turning, all of the bolts had been removed and Brad kicked the
ladder. It fell free and tumbled to the bottom deck with a loud clatter.

Brad waved
Sean’s team forward and they moved to the power station where they found the
doors hanging open. Brad peeked inside and could see the open engineering spaces.
The one-story building’s large open bay appeared to be empty, so they closed
the door and sealed it shut as best they could. Moving forward, they watched as
Sean’s team removed the second ladder and secured the doors of the controls
building.

They gathered in
shade near the open walkway in front of the power station. Brad dropped to the
ground and drank from a bottle. He guzzled it halfway down before tossing the
other half to Sean, who finished it before sticking the empty in his pocket. It
had only taken two hours to clear the deck, but those two hours in the sun had
exhausted them.

Sean sent two of
the Marines back to inform the others that the decks were clear and to begin
the process of removing the dead. The rest of them would get to work on
clearing the two remaining buildings. It had already been a long day, but it
was far from over.

 

 

12.

 

 

 

The rest of the
team stacked up on the door to the power station. Brad pulled the wedge from
under the door, and at the count of three he yanked it open. They held a small
firing line just outside the entrance, waiting for a rush of primals that never
came. After some uncomfortable minutes, Brad moved in front of the doorway and
cut inside, with Brooks close behind him.

They found
themselves in a large, steel-clad building with one long open bay. The room was
dark, hot, and stank of burnt oil and weld dust. There was a small workspace in
the corner with an instrument panel and a bank of switches. The far wall was
lined with huge generators. The opposing wall held a number of machines and
tool and die equipment. Brad and Brooks carefully walked the room and searched
the shadows.

“Room’s clear,”
Brooks called out.

The rest of the
team entered the building and began to look around. Sean went to the workspace
and searched through piles of papers and engineering drawings, but found
nothing useful. “Swanson, what do you need to get the lights back on?” he
asked.

“I’ll need some
help getting fuel drums swapped out, and then it should be as simple as kicking
the gennies back up and bringing the breakers online. Bill and Tony would be a
lot of help. They
are
the platform engineers, so this is their
expertise.”

“Very well. Take
Wilson and Craig back to the lounge and grab Bill and Tony. Let’s get this
place powered up,” Sean said.

He walked
outside and away from the building, followed by Brooks and Brad. They stood
against the railing looking down at the sea. The seas were still choppy but the
clouds had all but disappeared. Looking down, they could see that a number of
the vessels that had been there earlier were now gone; they’d probably been
destroyed from being smashed against the platform’s pylons in the storm, or
came loose from their moorings and drifted away.

A large
Pakistani-flagged fast attack craft and another smaller military ship still sat
tied side by side below them. The smaller of the military ships showed a great
deal of hull damage, but the other looked to be in good condition. Farther off,
a large fishing boat sat, drifting away from the platform but still connected
by a long length of stretched heavy rope. There was no sign of life on any of
the ships; they looked dead in the water.

“What are your
thoughts on the FAC?” Sean asked Brooks.

“Hmmm, looks
like a MRTP-33. Hull looks okay from here, but I’d have to get in the water to
really check it out. I don’t know; guess if we followed the coastline we’d be
okay. We could always trade up later,” Brooks answered.

“You really
thinking on driving that thing eight thousand miles?” Brad asked, looking to
Sean.

“Well, sailing
actually. Those ships are pretty reliable; would make a good platform for
raiding ports as we make our way home. Nothing says we can’t find a better
method along the way, though.”

“Okay, but how
the hell are we going to get all the way down there?” Brad asked.

“Guess we fight
our way down,” Sean replied.

Tony and Bill
came up behind the trio talking at the rail. Tony looked down at the ship.
“Chief, I didn’t mean to listen in but we don’t have to take the lower decks at
all.”

“How’s that,
Tony? You care to explain?”

“Well shit,
Chief, if you plan on taking that there boat, you would have to resupply it
with the crane anyhow; I mean to lower down fuel and such. The crane and
operator’s station are up here. I could drop you and your men right on top of
that thing without ever going downstairs.”

“Son of a bitch,
now that’s a good idea, Tony!”

“Yeah, you’d
still have to get down there and secure it though—make sure none of them things
are on board and keep them from jumping on it from the docks. I figure you
could sneak on, untie it, and then attach it to one of the pylons farther out.
That should keep them off ya.”

“That’s good
thinking, Tony. How are we coming with the power?”

“Should be on
shortly, Chief. The kids are bringing over more fuel right now, so guess I
should get back over there.”

“Good work. And
thanks, Tony. Let me know if you have any problems.”

Bill and Tony
turned to walk away just as the Marines rounded the corner with a cart full of
fuel drums headed to the power station.

“Let’s keep that
in mind for a while. I figure it’s time to get back to work. We need to clear
the control building before sunset … I don’t expect much trouble, the doors
were swung open and the windows were broken out when I sealed it up earlier,”
Sean said.

They gathered up
and walked past the power station. Brad peeked in the door and saw a flurry of
activity. The Marines were working hard, refueling the power plants. “I think
we can handle this on our own, guys,” Sean said. Brooks and Brad nodded in
agreement. They had been through far worse without the help of anyone, Brad
thought to himself.

The men finished
the walk to the one-story steel building. There was a large tower, not unlike
an air traffic control tower, only on a much smaller scale. The tower extended
a good seventy-five feet into the air and appeared to be topped by an
observation bubble. A radio antenna extended another hundred feet above that.

Sean and his men
stood near the door. As they had discovered earlier, there were several large
windows in the face of this building at shoulder height. The windows were all
smashed and Brad could easily see inside. The sun was in the perfect location,
and light was filling most of the structure. Sean readied his MP5 as Brooks
kicked the wedge from the bottom of the door. Sean touched the handle and the
door swung open.

They surrounded
the entrance in a half-circle, listening and waiting for anything or anyone.
After a few minutes, Brooks swept into the room and cut left. Brad moved in and
to the right, closely followed by Sean. The men had become very good at working
together. Very little verbal or hand communication was required with the trio;
they had become a tight cohesive force.

Brooks
positioned himself at the end of the room at the entrance to the next doorway.
The team stacked up and cleared their way through the entire first floor. They
found offices filled with banks of computers and control panels that appeared
to run the rig’s drilling equipment and life support systems. Fortunately, no
primals or bodies were found inside. This building must have had early warning,
or was possibly unoccupied during the attacks.

They found a
locked hatch to the observation tower but waited before breeching it. Satisfied
that the rest of the building was clear, they relaxed their posture and began
looking around. Brad found a large control panel labeled ‘desalinization’. He
pointed it out to Sean, who smiled and said he hoped it was still operational.

“Damn, between
the systems in this room and the pallets of food and water on the decks, we
could make a home here for quite a while.” Brooks said.

“Sure as hell
seems that way. Let’s just hope all this shit works,” Sean said.

As if on cue,
they heard a rumble from the power station. The noise quickly evened out to a
purr, and suddenly the lights in the control room popped on. Several of the
control panels started lighting up and the computers began to beep and boot up.
The men smiled at each other as they examined the gauges and dials.

Brad looked back
at the desalinization panel; the status lights quickly went from flashing red
to solid green. The digital gauge on the fresh water tanks showed full. Another
indicated that the boilers were back online and water pressure was nominal.

“Hell yeah! Look
at this,” Brad said, pointing at the gauges.

“Hot showers
tonight guys,” Brooks laughed.

The celebration
was short-lived, however, as the sounds of gunfire and screams erupted from
outside.

“What the fuck
is that? Move to contact, let’s go!” Sean yelled.

Brooks quickly
put his game face back on and stepped out at a quick trot towards the source of
the firing. Brad was right behind him, moving parallel to Sean. The intensity
of the firing had quickened and was now mixed with the sounds of primal moans.
Brooks turned a corner and his MP5 barked. He didn’t stop; he kept moving
forward, keeping the weapon at his eye, and firing controlled shots as he
moved.

Brad sped to
keep up. He had his own weapon at the ready as he saw a mass of figures at the
end of the walkway near the cranes. Sean’s weapon began to fire next to him.
Brad searched for targets, trying to distinguish friend from foe.

He finally saw
one of the Marines on his back, struggling. A primal was bent over him, clawing
and chewing frantically. Brad held his breath and took careful aim, then fired
two rounds. His first shots landed in the primal’s hip, spinning the primal
away from the Marine. Brad fired again, connecting with its upper chest and
head. The beast arched backwards before falling slack against the deck.

Brad pivoted in
search of more targets while leaving his eye against his optics. He scanned
from left to right. The firing stopped and was replaced by the screaming of the
man still on the ground. It was Ben Walkens, one of the Marines who had been
assisting with the cleanup. Brooks ran quickly to his side and dropped down,
cutting away Ben’s body armor and clothing.

Walkens had
scratches all over his face, and deep cuts and chunks of flesh missing from his
left shoulder and arm. Brooks pulled a small bottle of alcohol from his aid bag
and dumped it all over the Marine’s face and onto his wounded arm, then grabbed
a gauze pad and began scrubbing the wounds. Walkens screamed frantically in
pain. Nelson had moved forward and was trying to hold the injured man so Brooks
could work. Brooks gave Walkens a dose of morphine, then stood and walked away.
Sean approached him.

“How’s it look?”
Sean asked.

“You know damn
well how it looks, Chief. He’s cut wide the fuck open and you know what that
means. I poured as much alcohol as I had in the wounds and cleaned them as best
I could. Who the fuck knows? Maybe it will kill the infection. How the fuck did
this happen?” Brooks stood, shaking his head.  “Chief, I need a minute,” he
said with deep frustration in his voice.

Brooks turned
and walked away from the scene. Sean approached Walkens, still on the ground
and a bit more calm with the morphine in his system. Nelson was sitting next to
him, applying a pressure dressing to his arm. Brad was walking among the dead
primals, double checking that they were terminated.

“How you
feeling, pal?” Sean asked Walkens.

“I’m gonna turn
into one of those things, ain’t I, Chief?”

“We don’t know
that. Brooks is a good medic. Let’s just wait and see, okay buddy?”

“Just don’t let
me turn into one of these things, Chief,” Walkens pleaded.

“Just relax;
we’re going to take good care of you.” Sean reached into Brooks’ aid bag and
gave Walkens another dose of the morphine. Walkens’ gaze faded and he looked
away, talking to himself.

Sean looked back
to Nelson. “What the hell happened, Nelson?”

“Me and Ben … we
was moving things … clearing the deck. We heard the power kick on … we was
smiling and … joking about hot food tonight.” Nelson’s voice started to break
as he looked down at his friend. The rest of the men had arrived at the scene
and started to gather.

“It’s okay,
Nelson. Just tell me where these things came from,” Sean said softly.

“From there,
Chief.” Nelson pointed to a caged lift.

“How the hell?
The lift was secured; it was in the lockout position. Bill and Tony said they
checked it,” Sean exclaimed.

“That’s right,
Chief, the engage bar was set to lockout,” Bill confirmed.

“I don’t know,
Chief, we was standing right here. We heard the lift click; then the light
turned green and it started to rise. Them things must have engaged it and
pressed the operate button,” Nelson said.

Just then they
heard the lift click again; the green light switched from green to red, and it
started to drop into the lower deck.

“What the fuck!”
Sean yelled. Brad and Sean ran forward, weapons at the ready, watching the lift
drop. “Shut that thing down!” Sean yelled to Bill.

Bill ran to a
control box and started digging through wires. “The breaker is below; I can
kill it from here though … I just gotta find and disconnect the ground.” The
lift finished its move to the lower deck, making a loud
clunk
. The red
light went out. The lift made another loud
clunk
, the light turned
green, and it started to move up again.

“Any time now
Bill!” Sean yelled.

“I’m working on
it Chief!”

Tony ran
forward, fire axe in his hands, and shoved Bill out of the way. He swung the
axe and severed half of the bundle. The lift still moved. Tony quickly adjusted
his feet and swung hard again, severing the bundle in a bright spray of sparks.
The lift hung dead with a short six inches of the top extending above the deck.
The green light went out.

BOOK: Only the Dead Live Forever
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