Dockside Defense

Two light machineguns and a dozen small arms reached out and began picking off the lead elements of the oncoming tide of undead. Retreating now would mean leaving three tractor trailer loads of desperately needed supplies and equipment behind. This was their chance to actually put something in those warehouses back at Hope Harbor. To Krueger's left the deck gun fired with a deafening crack. To his right, the twins were fumbling their way through firing the LMG they'd just fetched. Out on the docks a hand grenade went off, tearing a stalker to pieces. But there were still dozens more coming.

A crewman screamed and Krueger turned, bringing the business end of his battle rifle with him. A stalker had lept onto the ship! But before he could squeeze the trigger a bolt from a speargun pierced its eye and sent it plunging back off.

"Not on my ship, you son of a bitch!" the grizzly old captain said, stepping out of a hatch onto the deck.

"Much appreciated, Captain," he said and turned back to the docks.

The deck gun fired again. It wasn't particularly accurate, at least not in the hands of civilians, but in this instance it didn't need to be. The radius of damage was large enough that even a near miss could take out one or two.

The fighting was fierce! It reminded him of his last days in Zimbabwe, before the capital fell. Those days were as dark and desperate as any. They all knew they were fighting a loosing battle but they kept fighting anyway. Was this so different? He emptied his magazine and popped in another; his last. The machineguns stopped firing; empty. It was about to come down to hand to hand fighting...

Suddenly he realized that he couldn't find any more targets. He scanned left to right, left to right... nothing. Where the hell were they?!? All he saw were the smoking remains of those they'd already put down.

"Holy shit, we did it!" someone screamed from the dock.

"You bet your ass we did," someone else yelled.

Krueger almost didn't believe it. Slowly he let out a breath he didn't even know he'd been holding.

"Alright, everyone! Let's get down there and help them get the supplies onboard before anything else comes along," he barked to his now cheering squad. "And somebody go find Noah."

The next few hours were blissfully uneventful. A few men stood watch while ZCs and crewmen alike hurriedly transferred cargo from trucks to ship. The Hetzer, with all crew and Commandoes accounted for, then pulled away and headed back towards Hope. Food of course made up the larger portion of their booty, but also packed into the cargo hold were medical supplies and surgical equipment for the island's med center. Even a portable x-ray machine made it onboard. Most, Krueger included, had pocketed a few items for their trouble. Authority was pretty strict against ZCs keeping supplies for themselves, but it was generally accepted that the occasional roll of toilet paper or deck of cards was worth overlooking considering the risks taken.

In the waning hours of the night, just as the sun was about to creep over the horizon, the three teems sat, exhausted on the front deck. It was frigid, so they all sat wrapped in blankets, waiting on the sun to make an appearance. Someone had cracked open a couple tins of celebratory spam and started passing it around. Krueger sat with one of his former Arrow squad members nestled up to him. She was pretty in a punk-rock kind of way with her short spiky hair and plethora of tattoos up and down her arms. But at the moment it was purely to share body heat.

"Well, looks like Vitro Harbor is off the insert list for a while. What happened?" Krueger asked across to Sergeant Clark, commander of Hammer squad.

"What happened," a tall, blond haired commando chimed in, "was that we got there and half the god damned hospital was covered in the Flesh. We should be dead!"

"What's 'The Flesh'," a civilian crewman asked, joining them.

"It's how you know that you're literally in hell. It clings to the souls of your boots as you walk through it, and slowly climbs you if you stand still too long. It's the embodiment of the pathogen if you ask me," Krueger's companion said.

"Wow, 'embodiment'. That's a pretty big word for you," another joked.

"Hey, fuck you Stokes. I'd rather be torn apart by walkers than digested in that shit," she angrily shot back.

"We really don't know shit about it. With all the things out there trying to chase us down and kill us, nobody's really taken the time to study a carpet of flesh that you'd have to fall asleep on for it to hurt you," Krueger added in.

"There was something else. I noticed it and I know some of you did. When they were near the Flesh... it was like they were being... directed. Normally Zombies just attack, running straight at you, no strategy or forethought whatsoever. But these ones, they ran behind obstacles and jumped over them, almost like they were trying to take cover. They came in groups instead of singularly. But when we took off and got away from the hospital, they... well, they went dumb again," Sergeant Clark finally said.

It was a sobering thought that immediately dampened everyone's good spirit.

Krueger looked over at his squad, bruised but alive, battered but not broken. They'd survived their first mission. How long would their luck hold out?

Just then, the first rays of sunlight crept over the distant horizon. Only time would tell.

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