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Authors: Micah Gurley

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The Rise of Macon: A Zombie Novel (Macon Saga Book 2)

BOOK: The Rise of Macon: A Zombie Novel (Macon Saga Book 2)
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The Rise of Macon

 

 

by

Micah Gurley

Prologue - Iraq 2007

"Attention private."

Neil dropped his green duffel bag on the dirt and sprung to
attention. Back straight, eyes front, fingers along his pants seem.He didn't
move a muscle, barely breathing as he heard footsteps approach from behind.

"Sloppy private, very sloppy. I expect better from a
boot!"

"Yes, Sir!" Neil screamed, keeping his eyes forward.

Neil heard footsteps pass around him, and caught a glimmer
of a man moving to his front. Beads of sweat streaked down his face, as he
stood like a statue, not daring to wipe them off. A tear dripped into his eye,
the saltiness stinging him, but he didn’t close the eye, didn’t flinch. He was
master of his body.

"Sir? Sir? Don’t they teach rates and ranks at Paris
Island anymore?  Inexcusable! Disgusting! Sorriest example of a marine that
I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen some things, son."

Another man joined the first, just keeping out of Neil’s
line of sight. Neil couldn’t make out any details, though he tried desperately
to see as much as he could, without actually moving his eyes. He considered
taking a quick glance, but he’d been caught too many times to chance it. He
kept his eyes straight.

"And look at the uniform!"the second man barked."Why
those folds are in the wrong place! His boots have scuff marks on them and he’s
only been in the country thirty minutes!  How’d that happen Private? Did you
meet some insurgents on the way from the plane?"

"No…"Now, Neil had a problem. The first man said
he wasn’t an officer, but Neil couldn’t tell his rank, or that of the second
man. The Private’s hesitation and stutter easily caught the attention of the two
men.

"No, no... nooo. What’s wrong with you private? I
expect marines to be able to talk correctly!"

"That’ll be enough Sergeant,"a third voice said,
this one calmer and less mocking.

The two men, who’d been on either side of Neil, immediately
stood to attention at the sound of the new voice.

"Yes, Sir. Just giving the new private first class a
warm welcome to the fold, sir."

"Yes, I heard, let’s see if we can push it along.We
have convoy duty in two hours, Staff Sergeant"The Lieutenant turned to an
older man who had walked up with him.“Could you make sure everything’s in order?“

"No problem LT. It'll be taken care of,"responded
the Staff Sergeant. He waited, let the Lieutenant walk off, and then turned to
the two jokers, who both squirming a little. His eyes continued from them to
the young private and he scowled."At ease, Private."

Neil stiffly, and promptly, fell into the position. He
interlocked his hands behind his back, still looking forward.

"You two idiots,"growled the Staff Sergeant, "get
to clean the windshields on the trucks before we start. Get to it!"

Mumbles and complaints followed the two soldiers, both
walking angrily to the motor pool. The staff sergeant faced the young private,
who hadn’t moved an inch since he assumed the new position.

"Well private, "the Staff Sergeant said, "that’s
not how we normally greet new people, but those two ... well, they’re special."

"Yes, Staff Sergeant!" yelled Neil, causing the
Staff sergeant to wince.

"Okay, Neil, "the sergeant said, taking a look at
the young man’s name tag."You’re not in boot camp or MOS school anymore. Calm
down. No screaming or yelling like that, got it?  And can call me Sergeant
Hicks."

"Yes, Staff Sergeant,"Neil responded, this time
with a lower tone. He shook the hand offered to him.

Hicks stepped back from the young private and took a closer
look at him. The private's uniform and boots were ironed, polished and creased
so well he looked like he stepped out of a recruiting commercial. Even his cap,
which seemed to be ironed, sat at the perfect angle on his head.

"This kid was really going to stick out,"thought
Hicks.

"Okay, let’s get you settled, and then we have to
report for a run this evening. "The sergeant started off and Neil quickly
grabbed his duffel and started after the sergeant.

Neil wasn’t mad at the two jokers.They were having a bit of
fun, it was expected after all. His excitement and joy at being here couldn’t
be ruined by that or anything else. He’d spent his whole life getting ready for
the Marines. When others in boot camp complained and talked of home, Neil
smiled and tried to act like he agreed, but he didn’t. He loved boot camp!  The
drills, the discipline, the fighting, he even loved the drill instructors. They
were making him better, right?  Neil had a hard time wondering why everybody
didn’t join the Marines.

Neil was a third generation marine, following his
grandfather and father in the honorable service. He’d been raised on stories of
courage, honor and sacrifice for their brothers and sisters. He craved to be in
those stories, to storm beaches and live the life of a Marine. No, he wasn’t
mad at those guys, they were his brothers, and sometimes brothers gave each
other a hard time.

Neil looked around, eyes wide, as they walked through the
marine base to his barracks. Everything was just as he had imagined. Brown
colored, Marine style tents were set up in a row and marked in an orderly
fashion, while marines walked to their various tasks. Neil could hear the sounds
of trucks and tanks, running and smoking in the distance, preparing for battle.
The sound of home.

  Neil didn’t notice the extreme heat or irritating wind
that blew through the camp, throwing up dirt and grit in people eyes, hair and
clothes. He didn't see hardship, suffering or obstacles, but glory and valor.

They stopped by a long, rectangular brown tent, sitting at
the end of a long row of tents.

"This one's yours. Grab an empty bunk, stow your gear
and report to the mess hall to get something to eat. After that, we'll have our
briefing. You've got thirty minutes. Got it?"

"Yes sergeant," answered Neil, lowering his voice
in mid-sentence. It was a tough habit to break, and to add to that, he was just
plain excited.

"Good," the sergeant said and turned to go. He
stopped, "And Private, a bit of advice, change uniforms, you look like
Sunday morning, and that doesn't fit around here."

Neil smiled, "Yes, Sergeant."

The sergeant nodded, without a smile, turned and walked
away. Neil could barely suppress his glee as he entered the tent. It was dark
and cooler inside the tent. Four cots lay on both sides of a small aisle that
ran thought the middle. Far from being orderly, the tent was a mess, something
which threw Neil off for a few minutes. It didn't fit into his idea of being a
marine. Everything should be orderly and in place, maximum efficiency, though it
wasn't his job to criticize, but to learn.

Neil changed and exited the barracks, in a hurry to get to
the mess hall. He slowed his pace, not wanting to seem overeager. Nobody liked
that
guy.  Once inside the mess tent, he grabbed a cotton candy colored plastic tray,
placed it on the rack in front of him and moved down the line to collect his
food. He glanced at the food and smiled, he loved marine food.

Neil sat at an empty table and began to dig into his food,
when two large men dropped their trays across from him. He looked up to see
both of them wearing large goofy grins.

"Hey there private, mind if we join you?" asked a
voice Neil recognized. His would-be tormentors. Neil smiled and waved a hand to
the seats they were standing beside. The two men sat down and kept looking at
Neil, who resumed eating.

"Hey man, we were just messing earlier. Just having
some fun. You looked all clean and squared away; we couldn't just let it
go."

"No problem sergeant." Neil said, smiling at the
two men, "I was just surprised is all, I didn't get a good look at you two.
I actually thought it was two women talking to me."

The sergeant's smile faded, recognition dawning at the
answer. The other man busted up laughing and slapped his friend. "He got
us there Sergeant." He reached his mitt sized hand across the small table."I'm
Blank. Dave Blank. Neil smiled and shook the man's hand. Dave had a firm grip,
which made sense, since he was a collection of muscles that left little room
for anything else. He stood just a few inches taller than Neil but must have
outweighed him by about 100 pounds. The guy was intimidating, but wore a huge
smile you couldn't help but like.

"Alright Blank, don't get married to him the first
time you meet." The sergeant looked at Neil and smiled. "I guess
you're all right for a boot. I'm Sergeant Corbett. Welcome to the shit! Now, let's
finish eating and get to the briefing. You can hang with us, we'll steer you
clear of any problems."

Neil watched the two men dig into their food like they were
on a mission. He felt great, already welcomed into the brotherhood. He'd
actually heard that retort about woman from another guy in school, but no need
to tell that to these guys. He adapted and overcame. Now, he was ready.

Neil tagged along as they made their way to the briefing. Introductions
were made, crude gestures given and Neil met the rest of the platoon. Attention
was called and a Captain walked briskly through the middle aisle to the front. He
took a step behind the podium, calling out “At ease” in a commanding voice.

The men, all quiet now, took a seat and kept their eyes on
their commanding officer. Neil immediately had a man-crush on the captain. He
was older, maybe in his thirties, with a tight hair cut that showed graying
hair. His face consisted of hard lines and determination. His eyes, bright and
piercing, scanned the room of marines. Neil waited for the man to talk.

 "Good afternoon," the captain called out to the
room.

"Afternoon sir," came the uniform reply of 27
deep voices.

"Okay, we have a standard convoy run today, but let me
be clear, there's nothing standard about it. I except all SOP's to be followed.
Everyone gets back here safe. Understood?"

"Understood sir," replied the chorus of men.

"Good enough. Your lieutenant will be giving the brief.
Pay attention and make me proud." With that, the Captain waved the men
down before they could get up, and walked back through the aisle, exiting the
tent.

"Okay guys, let's get this over with," the
Lieutenant said, as he stepped behind the podium. Neil turned to listen, eager
to soak in every word.

"Okay, you're with us boot," said Sergeant
Corbett to Neil as the briefing ended. Neil stood up,quickly followed the
sergeant and Blank out of the large tent, and across the grounds to the motor
pool, where six Humvees waited.

"This one is ours, boot," Blank said, opening the
door and placing his pack inside. There’ll be four of us in this one, and we'll
be the caboose on this food run. You can sit behind beside me in the back. I'm
the gunner if it comes to that."

"Copy that," Neil replied, with his business
face.

Blank laughed, "I can already tell, you're going to
give the sergeant plenty of good times."

Two hours into the trip, Neil's excitement faded. The first
hour was a rush filled indoctrination, which captured all his senses. The
sights, sounds and smells of his first foreign country, added to the euphoria
of being in his first warzone, sent Neil's mind spinning. He loved it. Soon,
though, the exotic trees, the burned-out tanks and the dry smoky air became the
norm, as he was thrown around in his seat like a ball in the back of a pickup.

"I'm going to throw up," grumbled Sergeant
Corbett in the driver's seat. "These pot holes are a foot deep. We're
going to pop an axle, I swear it."

Nobody listened. The Sergeant had been complaining about
the road the entire trip. Neil, sick of it, had shut out most of it, in his
excitement. He had to agree though; it seemed more like an obstacle course for
the Humvee. Either they were plowing down into a hole, or climbing broken trees
or vehicles. The result was the same, a bone jarring, teeth snapping experience
that left you dazed and shaken. The briefing said the road was drivable and it
was, barely.

"At this rate, we'll never get there," the
sergeant said, not bothered by a lack of response. Neil didn't know what to
say, it wasn’t his place to talk. He'd just learned from Blank, that the
sergeant had made rank a few days ago. Apparently, he was overdue, but kept
getting in one form of trouble or another. Neil understood.

"Look at that." Corbett pointed to a trash can
sized hole in the road. The disinterested driver, more concerned about controlling
the steering wheel, didn’t comment. "The hole will snap the axle for
sure!"

"Yeah, what can you we do? We can't leave the road. SOP,"
replied the bored marine.

"Screw that, just edge to the side of the road a bit
and we'll miss most of it," said the sergeant.

For the first time, Neil noticed Blank sit up and look
ahead. "Hey Sergeant, this road is a bitch, I know, but maybe we shouldn't
leave it."

"Come on Blank, don't be such a woman, we're not going
to drive more than a foot or two off the path. Hey boot?  You tired of this
shaking? Of course you are, see, it's the kid’s first day over here and we're
going to make him sick."

Blank gave Neil a shrug, sat back in his seat, and looked
out the window, letting it go. Neil didn't like the idea of going against the
SOP, but no one was going to listen to him, especially if they didn’t listen to
Blank.

With his instructions given, the marine steered the big,
brown Humvee off the road and avoided the hole. At the same time, Neil started
to feel the difference in the ride. The gravel was larger on the side of the
road, but there weren’t huge holes for the Humvee to dump into. A tradeoff.

The radio squawked to life, "Corbett, get your ass
back on the road now!" barked the staff sergeant. Neil thought this little
adventure had gone far enough, when Corbett picked the radio up.

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