Posted: November 14, 2015 in Book I Terror in Texas
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It was at least a couple hours before dawn when Captain Marcus Griggs made his report.

Major William Bishop glared at him. “What in the fuck do you mean, she’s gone?”

“Hill and all of her squad. Only ones left are those two dick-heads she was bitching about.” Griggs answered.

“So we’re down to eighteen men?” Bishop answered.

“Plus the two idiots from Hill’s squad,” Griggs answered. “What do we going to do, now? We need more men if we’re going to survive this shit storm?”

Bishop turned to look at the remaining men and vehicles he now considered his Army. Finally, he answered. “The country is under martial law. That means the military can requisition assets and that includes men as far as I’m concerned.”

“Time to start recruiting for this man’s army.” Griggs laughed. “About time we quit running.”

“Get me a map of the area,” Bishop ordered.

Two minutes later, Griggs spread a detailed Texas map out on the table. Both men studied the roads and surrounding countryside. “We’re here.” Bishop pointed his finger to an intersection. “We’re here. We’re heading north and connect with 470 then west.”

Griggs nodded. “And then, sir?”

“There’s a little town called Utopia. I was through there once. It only has two ways in or out of town. There’re only a few hundred people and most of them shouldn’t be a problem. We give them a choice, join up or….”

“Meanwhile, I’ll keep an eye out for a few good men.” Griggs laughed.

Bishop scowled. “I want you to take four men and those two dipshits and go after Hill’s squad. I want ‘em dead.” After a moment, he added. “If you have any trouble with those two, morons cut ‘em loose. Permanently.”

“Yes sir,” Griggs gave a careless salute.

“We roll out of here at dawn,” Bishop added. “We’ll leave one of the Strykers so you can follow if you don’t make it back in time.”

Griggs called out to the men that would go with him. He reached in the Stryker and retrieved two radios from the unit. He tossed one to a man after setting the frequency.

“Smith…you stay here and if I call, you bring the Stryker.” He clipped the radio to his belt. “The rest of you, gear up. We got six deserters to take care of.”

One of the two remaining men from Hill’s squad asked. “What about us?”

Griggs glared at the two men. “You’re either part of the problem or part of the solution.” He pulled rifles and ammo from the Stryker. “Two days rations. Lock and load.”

He didn’t bother to wait for the men scrambling to gather weapons and supplies. He headed out through the trees.

Bishop and the rest of the soldiers prepared to bed down until dawn.

When Smith was left standing alone by the Stryker, he climbed inside the vehicle, closed the door. He wanted nothing to do with Griggs, but he didn’t have the nerve to sneak away like Hill and her bunch. He made a bed of blankets in the back and pulled a magazine from his pack. He’d have to leave the vehicle when it got hot, but for now he thumbed through the glossy pages of the magazine ignoring Bishop and his crazy shit.

Griggs watched the ground for signs. It was easy enough to follow the six deserters where they raced into the woods. They had run single file through the dark. The four men and two women had been desperate to get away from the camp and been careless. There were broken branches and turned stones so tracking was no problem.

The shadows cast by the ridges of the footprints grew long and stood out in the growing light. Griggs set a pace that quickly drew ragged gasps from the men following him. With a grunt of disgust, he finally slowed his pace and continued pursuit at a pace they could manage without falling over.

The sun climbed higher in the sky making shadows shorten. By midday, the footstep no longer created shadows at all. Finally, Griggs called a halt. It had been a quarter mile since the last sign.

It was obvious that since the sun came up, the deserters were actually making an effort to obscure their passing. Between that and the glare of the sun, it was becoming more and more difficult to see where they had passed. He was beginning to wonder if they had veered off and he’d missed the sign.

Griggs stopped to reach in his pack for a bottle of water, one of the men following him bent over breathless while yet another collapsed to the ground, exhausted. The remaining four took the time to hydrate, but overall looked no better than the others.

Griggs capped the bottle then looked off in the distance. Through the trees, he could see bright rays of sun on an asphalt roadway. “Move out.” He ordered.

When the group cleared the tree line, Griggs saw a multitude of footprints alongside the road. Some prints made by shoes, while others by bare feet. He noticed several puddles of a dark oily sludge mixed in the dirt at the edge of the road or on the asphalt. When he stepped closer, he caught a whiff of decay and rot. He felt the bile rise to the back of his throat.

“Infected. Must be twenty or thirty of ‘em.” Griggs commented.

The corner of his mouth tilted up in a malicious grin. If they had a herd of the infected after them, this was going to be good.

“Double time. We got a show to witness…” Griggs announced.

The first shots could be heard less than an hour later. Griggs forced the team into double time despite the hardship being caused by the harsh pace. Heavy boots echoed on the asphalt as they chased the shimmering waves of heat. The sun glared off the blacktop, making the soldiers squint against the brightness. The road made a sharp curve to the left and disappeared behind a stand of trees.

The gunfire rose in volume then fell silent. Orders were being shouted by a gravelly voice that was obviously not military. Griggs and the team drew up short when they rounded the corner and saw a dozen men surrounded by at least two dozen of the infected.

The men fighting the infected were dressed in assorted versions of motorcycle garb. Black leather, patch adorned jackets, and chains spoke volumes. They used machetes and a variety of handheld weapons to kill the infected one at a time.

“Well, well, well…” Griggs shouted. “You boys seem to be in a pickle.”

“Fuck you!” The gravelly voice answered as he swung a tire iron into an infected man’s head. The blow was glancing and slid off the side of his head taking a patch of scalp with it. He stumbled then righted himself and reached for the man again.

“We could give you boys a hand….or we could just stand here and watch. Up to you.” Griggs answered.

“Come on, man. We’re out of ammo.” The man answered.

“This man’s army is looking for new recruits. You boys interested in signing up?”

The bikers were outnumbered and the infected pressed their advantage and grabbed at one of the bikers that took a step too far from his comrades. He stumbled and two monsters grabbed his arm. He was pulled from the group and disappeared into a clutch of half a dozen flesh eaters. His screams lasted at least one full minute before he fell silent.

The leader shouted in rage. “Fuck! Yes, damn it. Whatever! Kill these fuckers before I lose any more men!”

Griggs laughed and shouted above the din. “All you boys signing up?”

With a shout to the affirmative, Griggs turned to his men. “Handguns. Let’s clean house.”

Without hesitation, the six men walked toward the cluster of infected. They each took aim and six infected fell. They repeated the process again and six more fell leaving only four more facing the bikers.

The bikers attacked the remaining infected then walked to their recently deceased companion and drove a tire iron through his left eyes. When only bikers and soldiers remained, they turned to stare at each other.

Will Ryder stepped to the front of the bikers and laughed. “So we joined this man’s army?”

Griggs held the handgun loosely, but still out of the holster. You boys wouldn’t be considering reneging on your recruitment package, would you?”

“Hell no. You boys got ammo and probably have access to a lot more.” Ryder laughed. “Just know we ain’t the marching type.”

Griggs laughed again. He walked up to Ryder and stuck out his hand. “Neither is this man’s Army.”

Ryder laughed and slapped the back of the biker standing next to him. “My boys need a little R & R. We’ve been kicking ass and pissing on the nameless…” He walked to a black bike and opened the saddlebag. He drug out a strip of dried beef and tore a mouthful off.

“Have you boys seen any more soldiers? We’re looking for half a dozen deserters.”

Ryder looked at his men then laughed. “If they were anywhere ahead of us, they may be walking, but they’re not still alive. We ran into the main body about half a mile up.” He pointed at two of the dead laying on the ground. Two were in remnants of military garb matching that of the men in front of him. Both were so badly mangled on their faces to make a visual identification. “These buddies of yours.”

Griggs walked over to the bodies and kicked the first to its back. He looked down and studied the body. It was hard to find facial features in the mass of torn flesh. The camo t-shirt bore no name and since no roster had been taken of the survivors at the roadside park. It was impossible to tell by just looking at the body.

One of the men stepped up to Griggs side and pointed to the second body. “This one could be Bailey. It’s about the right size, but the face is so chewed up…. Dog tags are gone so can’t be sure.”

Griggs turned to the man. “Hicks, right?”

“Yes, sir,” Hicks answered.

“You better be right.” Griggs grinned. He pulled the radio from his belt and spoke into it briefly. Then he turned to Ryder. “We’re resting here while our ride comes up.”

Griggs walked back around the curve in the road and out of site of the pile of bodies. He made his way across a shallow ditch to a stand of trees. He dropped his pack from his back and settled on a stump amid the new growth of trees. His men followed suit.

Hicks sat down a few feet from Griggs. “You think they’ll come?”

Griggs shrugged. “They’re out of ammo. No skin off my nose, either way. It was worth figuring out Hall’s team is dead bait.” He laughed. “Only regret, I didn’t get a piece of ass off that bitch.”

Ryder and his men stood amid the bodies and watched the soldiers walk away.

“So what’s the plan?” One of the men asked in a deep whisper. “Kill ém.”

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