Synopsis: A decommissioned U.S.A.F. fighter-pilot-turned-cargo-transportation-officer oversees the decimation of mankind from its dead brethren from the confines of an air force base in southern Illinois, while in preparation for a daring mass exodus to the refuge of the only cities that avoided the outbreak of Death's coming on a white horse: aircraft carriers. Alongside his copilot and a fireteam of Army Rangers assigned to escort duty, they attempt to survive in a world that is slowly, yet surely, rising Hell to the surface of the Earth.
Calm and assertive in crisis situations, Major Andrew E. Haller has seen more than his fair share of combat in 2003-2004 when assigned to the 1st Fighter Wing in Virginia, but requested to be reassigned a much more stable occupation within the USAF, stateside, after an incident which is classified by the United States Air Force.
Haller was born September 28th, 1970 in Phoenix, AZ. He obtained a college degree in 1992 at the age of 22, and attended Officer Candidate School for the United States Air Force soon afterwards. Haller always dreamed of flying, so he became a combat pilot and flew three separate operations in the Iraq War, until being relieved from duty after a classified incident. Instead of being discharged, he requested to be transferred to a different squadron, and was then assigned to 375th Airlift Wing. From this new assignment from 2004 to the present, he attained the rank of Major in 2006, and currently flies transport missions for various government officials.
A week before the outbreak, Major Haller landed at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois for a refuel. During the refueling process, a crewman noticed the aileron of the left wing on the aircraft was damaged, possibly due to collision to another, yet small, aerial object, or through means of takeoff or landing. Major Haller and his co-pilot, First Lieutenant John H. Jerson, were grounded until the part could be replaced or fixed, which took nearly five days, due to difficulties, but the two officers were ordered to remain at Scott Air Force base until further orders due to a developing possible crises within a few major cities in the United States and select European countries. Little did anyone know that a mechanical failure led them to stay in one of the last secure bastions of safety the world had left to offer anyone...
Chapter 1: Quarantine
Major Haller sat in the cockpit of his plane, checking over the systems to make sure the C-21A was in working condition. The Lieutenant was in the back of the plane, stocking supplies and weapons on-board.
When the first few initial outbreaks started occurring, Andrew Haller was grounded due to mechanical problems at Scott Air Force Base, in Illinois. National Guard and Reserve troops acted quickly, blockading most of the perimeter, which was secured within an hour of the outbreak, and any infected inside the station were eradicated. The Guardsmen left only one viable entry point to the base, where survivors could enter after a strict and thorough cleaning and quarantine process; this entrance was well secured and could be locked off with a pretty heavy gate if needed, as to prevent a breach in security with whatever means necessary. There were attempts made in the few days following the outbreak from certain bands of survivors aiming to raid the military installation by force, which ended their lives tragically and unnecessarily. Nowadays there are only those rescued from various choppers brought in, and rarely someone approaches the main gate after following the various signs guiding them to the front, though reiterating, this has happened less and less.
The base commander was among those initially infected, as well as one of the first to be put down; his X.O., Lt. Colonel Brian Giles, had assumed control of the now stranded forces at the air base. Refuge centers were set up in the barracks, and an inventory was taken every 2 hours to manage how many supplies went into maintaining the base. Every able bodied flying craft had been ordered to be ready to evacuate on a moment's notice in the event of a breach in the perimeter. All soldiers and crewmen had been briefed and fully armed, with a number of around 25-30 army personnel patrolling each entrance, including the barred off ones. The airfield also had extreme security measures taken, and any unauthorized civilians who left the refugee zones and entered the airfield area were to be shot on sight, due to the possibility they may try and learn how to fly a fighter jet in five minutes...into a gate.
With these strict regulations and orders enforced, the major asked two air force technicians to aid him in stocking his aircraft, along with lieutenant Jerson, and prepping it in case a message was cast to evacuate. God knows where they would go, but naval forces that were out at sea had called in, stating the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan and it's fleet were standing by offshore to receive ferrying flights on deck for survivors. It was a long shot, but aircraft carriers posed as an ultimate refuge in quarantine situations, especially for the undead.
"You guys pack everything okay?" Haller asked, without taking his eyes off the systems in the plane.
The lieutenant called back, "Yeah, just stocking the two rifle bags in here. They weigh so god damn much. Must have put at least five M16's in each of them...plus enough ammo for each that could serve enough lead to each shooter firing them, and maybe some snacks too, I'm unsure on that last one. Anyway, do they really think we'll need that much, I mean, we won't get shot down, cause zombies are pieces of shit that don't have the slightest idea how to use any anti-aircraft weaponry, and it's basically void since there are none on our route. The weather conditions have been perfect recently, so no natural causes will take our bird down. And aren't we going to be ferrying soldiers anyway? I mean, they'll already be armed themselves anyway. The only way we will fall from the sky," he stopped for a bit, grunting while trying to heave the duffel bag into the cargo compartment above his head, "is if we overstock the aircraft and we don't even take off due to the weight."
The Major thought for a second, then replied, "The crew on-board the carrier need supplies, and that includes weaponry. This bird is a supply craft, so it can manage the 2000 pounds of equipment we are putting on. Hell, you should know your aircraft's statistics."
Jerson responded curtly, "Yeah, yeah...3,153 pounds of cargo. Still, it doesn't feel like that when you have to bring it in with only three people. You chose the easy job of checking the flight systems, which should have been completed 15 minutes ago." He had to give Jerson that one, as the Major decided to lay back and see how long it took for his lieutenant to notice he was slacking off. It wasn't laziness as much as it was payback, since John had done the same to him a month previous. "Fifty this time, Jerson," he took fifty-dollar bill from his wallet, stood from the pilot seat, walked into the passenger area, and handed the bill to his co-pilot with a slight pat on the shoulder, who had just finished securing the second duffel bag in the ceiling compartment, "fifty this time..." The lieutenant took the bill, puzzled at first, then recalled the event a month ago, where he had handed the Major a ten after he hadn't noticed his co-pilot's slacking for over an hour of work. "But a fifty is useless now!" he proclaimed. Major Haller, smiling to himself, simply ignored the protest, walked down the exit ramp, and stepped onto the runway.
As he walked towards the barracks, Andrew passed the ever present line of aircraft that spanned the length of the wide field of tarmac. Since the preparation order was given, all aircraft remained either outdoors and covered, or within the hangar bays ready to take off within a 15 minute window of opportunity. A constant fear is that, since fuel is a rationed commodity, no evacuation drills were ever ordered past loading people onto cargo or transport planes, and the most unprepared people in an evacuation would be the pilots themselves. While he was confident in his own abilities to take off and maintain a constant and steady course towards a destination on a moment's notice, Haller was unsure about other pilots who may be prone to panic in the uncertain times of late, and would cause grievous damage due to accidents made during take off and clearance; the last thing anyone needs during an evacuation is a plane wreck blocking a runway, costing the base personnel precious fuel and time trying to reroute other aircraft to another separate, and equally crowded runway. This ever present problem seemed, due to the base's security measures, a much more threatening aspect than the walking undead outside the fenced security posts surrounding the air base. It wasn't an unknown concern, however, as many of the pilots had brought the issue up with the acting-Commanding Officer, Colonel Giles, who had instated a performance drill within the next week, the orders of which would hopefully be written up and distributed to the evac pilots later today at most. Besides, it wasn't like there was much else to do on the base for the memo writers anyhow.
Haller continued his leisurely trot past the hangars on the east end of the west runway, passing the large structure in time to flag down a passing jeep with another crew of airmen on their way to the barracks area to give their own report to their flight commander. While it is suffice to say a large amount of personnel were rescued before the outbreak reached the base perimeter, managing the entire ten square kilometer property would spread the available forces too thin. Instead, an order was given to all reporting personnel to retrieve usable supplies and non-perishable foodstuffs, and bring them to the store rooms and hangars within the airfield area, and secure the runways and surrounding buildings to build a physical perimeter, which in the long run probably saved lives by keeping things centralized. A grim statistic, however, was the fact that despite these saved lives, many of the approximate 3,500 personnel and civilian survivors currently at the base would have to be left behind in the event of a mass exodus because of capacity limitations of the aircraft available, which means that high priority personnel and civilians would have to be evacuated first, or at the very least before a "catastrophic breach of perimeter" occurs, and there simply isn't enough fuel to ferry everyone via air transportation. While a secondary plan is to meet up with a Carrier Group at the nearest coast, the Naval Station in Norfolk, Virginia was 900 miles east, and the endless hordes of undead would be the least of their problems among the roaming bandits and raiders that stalked the wasteland that used to be the United States. A caravan of military goods and cargo would be difficult to protect in that situation, and again the burden of available fuel to move both the civilians and the goods would end up leaving valuable assets behind in order to even make it to Norfolk, let alone secure the harbor long enough for a carrier group to load everything up and go within a short amount of time, when usually they spent weeks or months restocking and preparing their voyages in less-hectic times. The logistics of the situation simply didn't add up, and current orders were to await evacuation until a proper and viable exodus effort could be devised, and at best, only a thousand personnel would be able to board the aircraft currently available, which even then was pushing it; everyone else would have to be left at the base, and the grim realization of this isn't helping the morale amongst airmen and in-the-know civilians who've pitched in to help where they can.
After a short and silent drive, the main barracks came into view, a sprawled, almost arachnid-shaped two story structure that spread five sections out on either side of a main elongated central hub. A water tower stood nearby, inbetween the expanse of woodlands nearby that, although secured, haunted many in refuge at the base in fears of an undead herd crossing into the perimeter. Most of these fears are quelled by the rangers from Charlie Company who patrolled this perimeter 24/7, so far having yet to see any corpse decide to investigate, but no one at the installation were taking any chances; Romero movies may have influenced this stark paranoia, but if there were any complaints, nobody said a word. The Major waved goodbye to the fellow crewmen who dropped him off at the main entrance of the building that faced the runway, and they nodded and waved in turn before driving off to their own destination. Haller had to admit, seeing two squads of soldiers lining the front of the building was a relief to know that some order of structure in military command had been retained; he waved off the salutes however, reminding the guardsmen that if they saw him again, they shouldn't waste their movements in that they'd be better off watching the perimeter than his returned gesture of respect. They seemed like a good bunch of men, but he doubted they'd understand, or if it'd matter when he left as they'd most likely change shifts, and he wouldn't encounter another of them again, stopping his thoughts briefly to ponder this until continuing forward into the building.
Haller wasted no time passing the lobby, removing his cover as he headed up to the Lt. Colonel's office on the second floor, which doubled as a command center of sorts upon first glance with a group of around 20-25 strategy experts, logistics personnel, and military planners focusing on the problem of "Operation: Hell Exodus," as it came to be called, at the sound level of a small murmur of voices within the majority of the large, cleared out bunk room, occupied by tables and land-line call centers coordinating flight orders, as well as all other orders of business about the base. Numerous charts that tracked supply usage, accounts of duties, personnel numbers, and checklists covered the wall in a neat pattern of printouts, easily readable to the right kind of person trained in doing so. Colonel Giles himself stood behind a small, unfitting wooden table with nothing on it save the Colonel's tiger-stripe camouflaged cover, off in the far corner of the room, by the line of windows and across from the entrance, looking through a manila folder's contents. He was a tall man of six feet, three inches, his black crew cut accented from his firm expression and an Airman Battle Uniform, adorned with black oakleaves stitched into the collar of the camo jacket, and even blacker than black polished boots that to a first impression seemed to have never seen a speck of dirt despite the mileage they've been put through over the years. Giles noticed Haller's presence out of the corner of his eye, yet continued reading from the report in his hand.
"Major," he replied matter-of-factually in a slightly graveled voice, unimposing yet firm to the ear.
"Colonel," Haller replied, with a smart salute to his superior. "Reporting as ordered, sir."
Giles returned the salute half-heartedly, preferring to treat his subordinate officers with a less strict set of guidelines but somehow kept to maintaining order and respect from them himself, which conveyed a feeling of stable serenity rather than a normally assumed relaxed setting, which held true even before the outbreak event occurred. Still managing to not look up from the folder in his left hand, the response caused Haller to drop his own hand back to his side, "I can see that, Major...speak plainly."
"Sir, Skybird is stocked to capacity and ready for takeoff upon given the order. My copilot and I will await further instructions until such an order is given."
"Excellent...relax a bit Major, you're edginess is unbecoming of an officer under my command." Giles placed the folder onto the table near to his cover, finally bringing his gaze to Haller.
"Simply reporting as I feel I should, sir."
The Colonel continued in a calmer tone, nodding a few times before walking to look out the window past the aircraft that lined the runway. "That's all and good Major, but what I'd like to see is what you showed when you first arrived here. Your calm demeanor, as useful as it is, only presents itself as evidently as it should to lower end personnel, but all I ask is that you follow my orders and speak plainly and not hide what's on your mind, at least when wearing it all over your face." He arrested the almost curt sentiment with a short smile, turning back briefly to deliver it to the Major before again returning to his surveillance of his air base; the smile defused what normally would be a statement taken in reprimand from other commanding officers. "I realize you have concerns as many of the other pilots do because of the capacity limitations; they aren't pretty figures. Leaving almost two-thousand people on their own is the last thing I thought I'd have to make the call on when I took this post, but it's becoming a reality faster than I'd want it to and I'm reaching out for ideas amongst those like you who have to actually perform the burden. Hell you pilots have probably thought this over better than I have, yet those I've turned to before now still haven't the slightest clue to get every living soul off this tarmac and into safety, wherever that may be. So throw me a bone and speak your mind, Major."
"...Well, sir." Haller went to his own suggestions within his mind, as fruitless as he thought they'd be. "We could possibly ferry airmen to other airfields in the area, gather fuel with the available KC-10 which landed upon the grounding order, and possibly acquire more aircraft to broaden our capacity, but even then the efforts may not yield what we'd hope for, possibly even wasting fuel for less than beneficial missions, which I don't think we can risk at the moment. Other than requesting or finding outside help from the carrier group or other survivors in the area, I frankly can't see many options to get everyone out of here. People will have to stay behind no matter what we do, and consensus among the pilots recently is that there simply isn't enough fuel to ferry every single person out onto the carriers on the east coast, except the military personnel and I'm sure a lot of those men and women don't want to leave if the civvies are staying. I'm not a military strategist unlike these guys," he gestured to the men behind him, as Giles continued to look out onto Scott Field with concern to the situation presented to him again, "but as I'm sure everyone's already told you, the problem is fuel and the shortage will kill people. I don't have a solution to that past drilling the earth below our feet and all that would do is break up the runway. I apologize for not having the solution you want, sir."
Colonel Giles solemnly carried on looking out the window as he answered, "That's fine, Major. I don't expect miracles, I expect ideas; yours have already been spread to me from other pilots, but it's good to know that there are solutions, even if they aren't perfect." He glanced back to the folder on his desk, then finally giving the Major a stable gaze when speaking to him. "We do what we can, but for now I need you to take this," he quickly tapped the folder on the table while speaking, "and bring it to your copilot to review, after which both of you need to head up to the Ranger encampment at the north end of the runway out there. Ask the watch commander for Fireteam X-Ray from the elements of Charlie Company that were intercepted and told to land here; the mission parameters are outlined in the report, as well as the dossiers of the men I'm assigning to your...Skybird. Now I have some logistics to attend to, so I'll cut this short and rest assured that you can read correctly, and I apologize for being unable to fully outline the mission, but it's important you get to the carrier group with the package they have. I'm sure you don't mind playing courier a little longer, right Major?"
"No need to ask twice with me, Colonel." The major retrieved the folder with his left hand, and held it at his side.
"Good...dismissed. Enjoy the view of Hell when you're up there flyboy."
"We always do, sir." the Major replied, saluting the Colonel, this time receiving a more proper return, before turning on his heel and heading for the door, as the Colonel himself walked off to speak with the members of his strategic logistics unit, that were ever presently marking routes and proposing numbers in a corner of the room, with an even busier map of 'Hell' looming above the officers as they diligently planned into the afternoon.
"Not available on location? What the fuck is that supposed to mean?" Jerson was puzzled, almost baffled at the neatly printed bold lettering on the order document outlining their 'football' cargo's location. "That...that better not mean we actually have to go and, and..." he pointed his finger within a random direction out the window of the fuselage area of Skybird's hull. "...and land out there, right? Right?! Because that's not safe, moreover dangerous, and-"
"Jerson settle down." Haller spoke sharply. "Let me finish reading over the sitrep so we understand enough before we both flip out about landing in hostile territory, okay? For now just...just take a break and sit in the cockpit for a while or something. I'll only be a few minutes."
Jerson nodded with a murmured, "Yeah, you're right. Fly over hell and Satan wants to meet you for violating airspace. What a blast..." He turned for the cabin door, closing it behind himself to a serene silence after the click of the lock.
Haller turned his attention back to the document:
PACKAGE (CALL-SIGN "OX TAIL") UNAVAILABLE ON LOCATION. QUERY FIRETEAM X-RAY FOR FURTHER DETAILS REGARDING RETRIEVAL COORDINATES.
"OX TAIL" DETAILS REPORT LARGE SUITCASE SIZED CONTAINER WITHIN TWO (2) KILOMETER RANGE OF L-Z (CALL-SIGN "PAPA BRAVO").
PERMISSION TO LAND HAS BEEN GRANTED BY ORDERING AUTHORITY. HOWEVER, L-Z "PAPA BRAVO" IS UNDER HOSTILE CONTROL: EXERCISE EXTREME CAUTION WHEN ATTEMPTING TO LAND.
ELEMENT X-RAY WILL PROVIDE ASSISTANCE IN SECURING L-Z "PAPA BRAVO", IN WHICH AIRCREW (CALL-SIGN "SKYBIRD") WILL HOLD POSITION FOR REFUEL ON LOCATION UNTIL ELEMENT X-RAY ACQUIRES "OX TAIL", AND RETURNS TO SKYBIRD'S POSITION FOR IMMEDIATE EXTRACTION.
AFTER EXTRACTION IS COMPLETE, COORDINATES WILL BE BROADCAST OVER CHANNEL GOLF-NINER-TWO FOR LOCATION OF CARRIER GROUP (CALL-SIGN "TRIDENT") UPON REQUEST OF SKYBIRD:
CONFIRMATION CODE [0A549E6920] ZEERO-ALPHA-FIVE-FOWER-NINER-ECHO-SIX-NINER-TWO-ZEERO.
CWO-4 CARTER WILL PROVIDE OPERATION OVERWATCH UPON ONE (1) KILOMETER TO L-Z "PAPA BRAVO" TO RECEIVE OPTIONAL FIRE SUPPORT MISSION FROM UAV DRONE (CALL-SIGN "REAPER 1-1"). REAPER 1-1 WILL THEN DIVERT TO SCOTT AFB FOR REFUEL FOR RETURN TRIP TO TRIDENT.
FIRETEAM ELEMENT X-RAY:
75TH RANGER REGIMENT, 1ST BATTALION, CHARLIE COMPANY, PLATOON B, 3RD SQUAD:
(FIRETEAM LEADER) - SSGT. GREGORY CRENSHAW
(SUPPORT GUNNER) - CPL. CALEB WILLIAMS
(GRENADIER) - SPC. OWEN MONTGOMERY
(COMBAT MEDIC) - SPC. NATHAN YURICKCALL-SIGN "SKYBIRD":
375TH AIR MOBILITY WING, 458TH AIRLIFT SQUADRON, 375TH OPERATIONS GROUP:
(PILOT) - MAJ. ANDREW HALLER
(CO-PILOT) - 1LT. JOHN JERSON
(AIRCRAFT) C-21A TRANSPORT (CALL-SIGN "MAMABIRD")CALL-SIGN "TRIDENT"
CSG-9; CVN-72 U.S.S. ABRAHAM LINCOLN
(AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER) - W-4 LISA CARTER
(PILOT) - CPT. HOWARD RAYNER
(AIRCRAFT) MQ-9 REAPER DRONE (CALL-SIGN REAPER 1-1)-------------------------
Haller read the document over a few more times before finally closing the manila folder and turning his head towards the cockpit door. "Jerson! Get in here bud."
Jerson unlocked the cabin door, ducking his head as he climbed out. "Yeah boss?"
"Don't call me that; X-Ray knows the landing coordinates, God knows why they couldn't combine their report with ours, but we'll have to get them before doing anything else. As far as I read, we'll have a drone for support to clear the L-Z of any hostiles, and stay overhead, while we refuel at the location, (yeah I don't like that part either), wait for X-Ray to pick up our cargo, return, takeoff, head to the Carrier group, and land to await further orders. Our secondary mission is to deliver our current cargo to the U.S.S. Lincoln, so our ride back to Scott AFB will be lighter at least."
Jerson replied grimly and sarcastically, "Great...full course meal, we're serving ourselves up."
Haller pointed his pen at John, "Only things we'll be serving are our country, and some lead to the dead to help them on their way. Orders are orders, just have to try not to die when following them. Speaking of orders, could you head up to the North Ranger Encampment and bring our V.I.P.'s to their cabin? Let'em get situated, maybe build a rapport, learn their names, and get those landing coordinates as soon as possible."
"Sure thing; you gonna stay here?"
Haller scratched his chin and looked down at the folder on the table before him. "Yeah, need to go over a few more things. We'll clear for takeoff in 14 hours after chow and bed rest."
Jerson chuckled, "Like I said: 'full' course meal."
Haller smirked as he threw the pen at the Lieutenant, who merely dodged it as he ducked out of the plane swiftly on his way. "Get moving L-T! There's work to do."
"Sir, yes sir!" Jerson mockingly responded from outside, his voice fading the further away he got.
Haller stared back at the folder on the table again. "Yeah....work to do."
To Be Continued...
Edited by Flash879, 25 June 2012 - 09:44 AM.