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Authors: RW Krpoun

Payload

Payload

Book One of The Yard Gnome Action Team

By RW Krpoun

 

 

Copyright 2014 by Randall Krpoun

ISBN-13: 978-1502968364

ISBN-10: 1502968363

 

 

 

 

Dedicated to my wife Ann, who brought the cover together, and to the real Yard Gnome Action Team, who stand ready for the day when the zombies rise.

 

 

 

Addison

Things were getting rough-his mother had always plotted to kill him, but to date she had never contracted out the job to zombies. He thought he had thrown her off his trail by operating only under the code-name Addison, but obviously it hadn’t worked.

No doubt it was his teeth-the woman was obsessed with them. If they weren’t essential to the future he would have handed them over years ago, but the stakes were too high for compromise. It was bad enough she had gotten his baby teeth, but he hadn’t been fully read into the situation in those days.

Addison slumped against the beige sofa, careful to keep his face in the appropriate demeanor of a drug-hazed patient and pretending to watch the 80s sitcom on the flat-screen idiot box for the benefit of the cameras disguised as smoke detectors. He was in the dayroom, a large airy space well-lit by sky lights, with colorful but not too energetic paintings hanging on pastel walls. Comfy beige furniture sat on the pinkish tile floor, occupied by a few dazed patients in pale blue scrubs.

He had lifted the duty nurse’s phone and was listening to the news via a single ear bud because patients, or ‘clients’ as the staff were required to call them, were not allowed access to the news. They were claiming it was a flu and fever-induced hysteria but he knew: his mother was raising an army of zombies. When she had enough they would come for him, and for his teeth. She had tried before, but never on this scale-her situation must be getting rather desperate.

Slender, olive-skinned, and hard-featured, with his dark hair now worn in a crew-cut, Addison could (and had, in the past) pass as Italian, Greek, Hispanic, or Native American. He moved slowly and kept his head down in a habit long developed to hamper surveillance gear, which made him look shorter than he actually was. However, even slumped into the sofa it was apparent he was a man in good physical condition, the sort of muscle tone that suggests professional training or hard work, and which in fact was a combination of both.

So far the incidents were primarily in Indonesia, but hot spots were cropping up elsewhere, and the situation had his mother’s fingerprints all over it. He monitored the news the way a man in a minefield watched the ground: watching for the minute irregularities that would warn him of violent death lurking just beyond his view.

It had been yet another of his strokes of genius to be committed to the River Arms Care Facility-she would never think to look for him here. It did mean cutting his hair, but the prospect of sixty days completely off the grid was worth it. Naturally, he had prepared an escape plan immediately upon his arrival as a matter of personal policy, and now it looked as if it would have to be implemented.

His multi-level assessment of the situation was disturbed by a slender man in blue inmate scrubs joining him on the sofa. “Any word on the offensive, Addison?” the new arrived sub-vocalized, staring blankly at the TV.

Captain Jack Sawyer, as he insisted on being called, looked a bit like David Niven in his later years, if the actor had shaved his head and spent a couple weeks in Auschwitz. Captain Jack was a bit tight-lipped, but would admit to being an officer in the SAS currently wrongfully detained by the US government after a counter-terror operation went horribly wrong.

Addison had hacked Sawyer’s file on one of his nocturnal forays, and knew that the man was an accountant and Civil Air Patrol officer from Jacksonville who had had a nervous breakdown, but tolerated him because Captain Jack could maintain operational security and was one of the few here who respected the value of a code name.

“Worse.”

“Blast. I suggest we might do well to leave this facility-the guards will certainly execute any prisoners still in custody when things begin to go pear-shaped.”

Stowing the phone, Addison essayed a minimalistic nod. He normally operated alone, but his pre-commitment planning had not included the possibility of a zombie apocalypse and he saw there might be some issues arising from endless waves of Undead.

“I take it you have a plan?”

Another nod.

“Then I might suggest we include Doctor Matheson. He is remarkably well-briefed on the approaching crisis, and a medical man is always an asset.”

Addison pondered the suggestion. As the Captain noted, Matheson was clearly on top of the current crisis in all its particulars, but on the other hand the man was a complete loon. He wasn’t even a doctor, as Addison’s hacking had determined, but rather a dental technician who had had a psychotic break stemming from a germ phobia run amok. He was stable now, but was also convinced that he was a CDC virologist. Points in his favor were that like Addison and the Captain, he consistently avoided taking his medication, and like the Captain he was reliable in terms of operational security. He was also a computer operator of considerable ability, far in excess of Addison’s skills.

“Let him know: tonight, travel light. Be ready after lockdown, no break in routine until then.” Heaving himself to his feet Addison wandered out of the dayroom, casually bumping into the duty nurse and slipping her phone back into her pocket.

 

Journal, Staff Sergeant Marvin Burleson

Date/time stamp
: 1 September 0536 hrs  

Deb, still writing on this. What the hell, right? This, my wristwatch and some clothes are the last things that you could say are personal property. Without you, all I’ve got left is the Army.

I still miss you, babe. I can’t believe how long it has been-seems like both yesterday and a hundred years ago.

I’m sitting on the flight line with the rest of the company and some OPCON’d assets waiting to board. Not sure if this is the start of an exercise or just a readiness test. They kicked us out of the rack at 0430, and here we are.

Something is going on-I’ll write some more later.

 

Date/time stamp
: 1 September 0621 hrs    

Well, it is not a complete drill-they issued us a full unit of fire and four tear gas grenades each, and we’re in the air right now. The rounds are still in packaging, so it isn’t a live op, but something’s up.

They ordered all cell phones, tablets, and that sort of stuff to be left behind; I stashed this and my field solar charger in the shock plate pocket of my body armor, but nobody checked me-since this doesn’t have a Net connection, it shouldn’t have counted anyway. Who would think Marv the Maniac would have snivel gear?

 

Date/time stamp
: 2 September 1938 hrs   

Still in Miami, guarding while Customs and other flavors of Feds search ships and containers. Why, no real idea. First thing this morning we loaded our mags but left ‘em in the pouches. The Rules of Engagement are real strict, but the Feds are acting like they’re going to war. Apparently they’re using us because they’re searching foreign ships-no legal barrier to use Regular Army in that case, I guess. Why they need Rangers, well, who knows. Probably because it sounds cool.

We catch the news when we can-major trouble in Indonesia, some sort of coup or something, fighting in the streets, lots of trouble. A famous (I’m told) CNN reporter and her whole crew are dead, got caught up in the crossfire.

 

Date/time stamp
: 3 September 0620 hrs     

Deb, they dropped the Rules of Engagement real far, not like Afghanistan, but pretty loose, and we locked and loaded. The Navy is sealing off ports, the Reserves & Guard are being called up, and every member of the military is coming home-every man, ship, and plane. Fort Hood’s rolling everything it has got to the border, Bliss, too. Apparently Indonesia isn’t a coup, its flu, bad stuff. The squids will turn back ships while the Custom guys, guarded by us, search those already here. You can’t believe how many containers there are. They’re worried about the bug getting loose over here, I guess, but we haven’t found many people stashed, and none were sick.

 

Date/time stamp
: 5 September 1436 hrs     

Deb, its getting bad. Asia is ate up with the bug and apparently it drives people absolutely crazy. They weren’t kidding about the pull-back: other than ships at sea every US serviceman is in the States. The Navy is turning away or sinking anything that gets close to our shores. This is scary stuff, the bug. Rumor is it may be man-made, some bioweapon that a muslim terror group was prepping in Indonesia. Only one platoon left on port duty, the rest headed off to other duties this morning. Tired-we’re working fifteen on, five off.

 

Date/time stamp
: 7 September 1511 hrs      

It has gotten a lot worse-Japan is going under, and both India and China have got huge problems. Russia has outbreaks, and it has showed up in Africa and the Middle East. Real wild rumors about it, end of the world stuff. We’re down to my squad, a commo geek, and First Lieutenant Copenhagen as OIC. They’re moving military and Emergency Service dependents to secure sites to make sure everyone stays put.

Rumors are going crazy and the government is trying to stonewall to keep panic down, but you can see that the bug drives people homicidal-those it doesn’t kill right off. There’s not a lot of video because news crews are getting decimated; it looks like only able-bodied adults survive the onset of the flu.

 

Date/time stamp
: -----------------         

Stupid time doohickey got turned off, and I’m too tired to figure out how to turn it back on. It’s the 9
th
, and its official: the bug made it here. We can shoot infected people on sight, and the brass are advising to shoot fast. The bug in the final stages is like PCP -orders are to aim for the head, nothing else works very well. Looks like they may have contained it, but who knows for how long. Feds still at it-they’re tearing up ships and containers now-crazy.

 

Date/time stamp
: -----------------         

Been getting antsy-the whole military is operating at high gear trying to hold the country together, and I’m stuck leading a full squad of Rangers playing rent-a-cop. That ended tonight, the 10
th
: they found what they were looking for. It is a bomb of sorts, I suppose. I saw them hauling it out, suited up like astronauts. More a sprayer thing, but it’s a bomb in terms of intent. Biowar, babe. LT Copenhagen put us on alert: once they extract a sample from the warhead they’ll destroy the rest of the bomb and we will be escorting the sample to a medical facility-CDC or military I’m not sure. Seems that the eggheads think the bug in its undeployed state will give them a big edge in research. Don’t see how, but that’s not my problem. All we have to do is make sure it gets to point B from point A.

 

Date/time stamp
: -----------------         

The bug is in Miami-refugees coming in from somewhere, most likely Cuba, they say. We leave in an hour, three teams with three samples, travelling by land, sea and air. LT Copenhagen with the geek will go by sea on the
Robert Yered
(some kind of Coast Guard cutter). I got second pick and took air; I’m taking one Ranger (Bucky) and giving Sergeant McPherson the rest of the squad, as he might need the firepower. We roll at zero two hundred on the 12
th
, so I’m gonna grab some Zs.

I hate to say this, but I’m kinda glad you’re not here to see this, babe.

 

Addison

After dealing with the nightly med issue, Addison slipped his roommate two of the blue pills ground up into a pudding cup and laid down on his bed. It wasn’t healthy overdoing meds that way, but his roommate was clearly an observer assigned to watch him and such an assignment entailed risk.

At nine they cut the lights out, but his roommate was long-gone in happy land by then. Addison waited until Orange Wing’s nurse aide made her first round of room checks before moving-he had continually studied all staff’s habits since his arrival and knew that this aide would spend the next hour watching
True Blood
on her Kindle Fire before going to discuss the episode with her friend on Green Wing; she wouldn’t be back until nearly midnight. Inmates weren’t allowed watches, but he had swallowed a tiny digital clock the size of a Tylenol before being admitted.

Arranging his bedding, he packed toilet paper into a sack and swiftly trimmed hair off his roommate’s head with a razor blade. With glue purloined from Arts and Crafts he attached enough hair to the bag to make it appear to be his head to a casual glance from the window in the door.

Finished, he put on clean scrubs and two pairs of socks. Hanging his flip-flogs around his neck on a cord woven from sock thread, he recovered his tools from their hiding places.

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