- "War would end if the dead could return."
- ―Stanley Baldwin
In the debris of the battlefield, an M4 sub machine gun stood erect by its bayonet, which was firmly planted in the ground. A pair of Dog tags saying "Kelth, Tim L, Type A blood, a social security number, USMC, medium size gas mask, Christian." Atop this gun lay a worn and tattered helmet. A Mameluke sword lay beside it. Under this barren soil lied one of the last of the American heroes.
Joe looked upon this sight with a great sadness in his heart. Stallion, Twitch, and George stood beside him, each looking upon the makeshift grave, a grave made similar to millions who have died over the last few centuries. The last of the team greived like each had learned how to over the years. Twitch walked away in sadness, unable to look upon the grave any longer. George pulled out a bottle of odka, and walked away drinking his sorrows away. Stallion lit a cigarette, and went over to Joe, trying to console him, but left after he was unsuccessful. And Joe just stood there, frozen in his place, thinking he'd thrown a mans life away.
He'd lost men when he was in the air cav, and in his time with the Rangers, and even in his Special Forces days. He'd always reacted by going numb. But Tim's death was somehow different. This man was one of the last Marines on the planet, and now he was dead, because Joe had failed. He'd had his usual faction misconceptions about the corp, being a ranger and a rival of the group, but all that went out the window when he saw that this marine was as good as most of the Rangers he had served with.
Of course, Collins died as well, but he had barely known Collins. They cremated him and let his ashes fly into the wind. Stallion had known Collins, and known this was what he wanted. This troubled Joe, as Joe had never even known what Tim would have wanted.
Day passed into night quickly. He didn't leave the grave side until close to midnight, when a firm hand on his shoulder reminded him that he was alive. Captain Andy Rushing, a big burly black man, formerly of the US Navy SEALs, and leader of squad 2 of 3 in the resistance.
"Showed up a little late." Joe grunted.
"Thats because our base got plowed by the Zemka."
Joe tuned on his heels. "Wanna repeat that?"
"The Zemka caught on to us, Joe. They sent at least eight hundred Zemka to the base. My men and Sesslie's fought as long as we could, but we were forced to retreat."
Joe covered his face with his hands. "Casualties?"
Two of my men, two in the other unit, including Sesslie, nineteen of the twenty four civvies we found, Governor Bowie's adviser. Two Civvies died on the retreat."
"God Damn it." said Joe. It must have been bad, for an Old War hero like Susslie to die. He'd been a Marine as well. Seemed like they were a dying breed. "Who do we have left?"
"Well, me, Petty Officer Third Class Hank Couppe, one of my SEALs, Staff Sergeant Mark Beaton, Air Force. The guys left from Sesslies squad are Private First Class Keenan Labou, Army, formally of the 101st air cavalry, Corporal Kevin Sanders of the Marine Corp, and Chief Petty Officer Kayla Martinez of the Coast Guard.
"Okay, so all together we got three Rangers, two SEALs, one Army air cav soldier, one coast guard NCO, one air force enlistee, and a SWAT trained man. Eight men and a woman. Jesus Christ, Andy."
"I know things look grim, but c'mon, it could be worse..."
"No, I don't see how it could. Nine to guard four, all of which may die from exhaustion let alone weaponry, a cocky as Governor calling the shots..."
"Yeah, no. I don't think he should be considered anything but a civvie. But, then again, its you call."
Joe blinked rapidly, and shook his head. "Repeat that?"
"With Sesslies dead, your the highest ranking member of this unit, and hell, possibly the entire country. Its your choice."
Well thats just fucking grand, now isn't it? though Joe. He never wanted to be anything but a field sergeant in his military life, and now he was in charge of a multi-branch squad of misfits after Armageddon has already happened. He sighed. "What are the civilians names, backgrounds?"
"Another problem there, man. Susslie had the dossiers of these guys."
"Well now, thats step one, isn't it? If they are hunters, cops, vets, we need to get them rifles and teach them the ropes. We're too underhanded to turn away anyone willing to fight, as much as I hate to say it."
"One of the boys, Jared, he said he was a big game hunter on the way over. Strong dude, said he'd fight if we needed him."
"I'll talk to him. Tell Stallion to talk to the other two."
"Aye." said Andy, and he moved into the building. With one final look at Tim's grave he entered the building.
"I'm lookin' for a Jared."
"Yo." said Jared, moving forward. "What can I do ya for."
"A last name to start with."
"Alright. They said you were a big game hunter?"
Jared laughed. "Nah, just a local hunter. Did enlist for the Marines, but they couldn't except me because of back problems. I was also a Fire Fighter back in Scranton. You want me to play ball?"
"I want you to realize that this is completely your choice. An untrained man in combat is likely to die, and fast."
Jared's smile faded. "I lost my entire family, friend. We very well may be all thats left. If I didn't fight I'd be a coward and I'd be spitting on my wife and kid's graves. I'm going to fight."
Joe decided he liked this man. "Alright. Follow me, we're gonna suit you up with an M16 and a USP .45, much like the old Colt .45s.
"Can I get a rifle? Maybe an M14 with a scope?"
"Hold your horses, there, Jared. We're starting off easy. You prove yourself as a marksmen, we'll set you up. Consider yourself Private Jared Butch."
"Right, man." said Jared. Joe sent him over to George for testing, arming, and ruck up. Then he went over to Stallion and Andy.
"Whats the final call?"
"Nobody willing to play game, but we did get a medic. Former plastic surgeon." said Stallion
"Great, scum of the earth is gonna be our medic."
"Jared?" asked Andy.
"Being suited up now. Turns out the guys a firefighter and coulda been in the Air Force had he not had back problems in early life. I got a good feeling."
"Well, the other civvie is a dude in his fourties not willing to play ball." said Andy. "He's a pacifist." they all scoffed at that revelation. "Bottom line, Nine of us, one untrained hunter, a medic, a civvie, and a pain in the ass governor who's already bitchin' that we're being fascist not letting him be in control."
"Where is our fine Governor at the moment?"
"Well, erm..." said Andy.
"What?" asked Joe in confusion.
"Me and my men... well... he's tied up at the moment.
The three had a great roar of laughter at that.
"Speech time, sir." said Stallion.
"No, I'm serious."
"Fuck." Joe groaned. He stood up on a chair, and looked out at the crowd of people. "Uhh, guys can I get your attention here?"
"Look, its no secret we're in a bad way, but I know we'll get out of this. We're heading for Ohio, figure since we've searched Pennsylvania up and down and New Yorks home to a battalion of Zemka, thats the best place to look for survivors, regroup, and bring the fight back to the bastards. Lets face it, we're on the edge of American genocide. We all saw the Armageddon the Zemka's lasers brought, but we have new, better ways to fight them now. Now we know they ain't invincible. We just need more people. Our primary concern is that no one gets left behind, and be damn sure we're gonna handle it that way. This right here? This is the history of the United States at stake. And we will win.