Apocolypse

Trekker47

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No one gave much thought to the plague in the beginning. At first, it was simply thought of as a bad flu season. It was a few weeks before the medical community realized they were dealing with something more than the flu. With no cure, other than treating the symptoms, the truth was initially kept from the public. As the plague continues to spread, the officials decided on an aggressive quarantine plan which necessitated informing the public. While National Guard units were quickly called up, it soon became clear that more support was needed. That was when several active duty units were added to the mix, including Nora’s unit. For her part, she found herself deployed to the Mid-western United States where her expertise was put to use. Whether it was bioterrorism or nature getting her revenge, the military was eventually overwhelmed. The decision was then made to regroup in non-contaminated areas and go from there.


One final mission and a milk run at that. Provide medical support for a convoy leaving the Hot Zone for Orion Airfield. From there, everyone would board Air Force transports to a cleared area. A sudden rockslide caused a breakup of the convoy. Nora’s driver swore he knew a shortcut to reach the other side of the highway and turned down a service road. Several turns later found the Humvee stuck on a narrow dirt road. After a day it became clear that rescue was not forthcoming so the group set off on foot. A disagreement on the second day as to the correct direction of travel left Nora on her own. Quickly picking up a river, she followed its path in the hope it would lead to civilization.


(Present Day)

Seeing a break in the forest, Nora decided to investigate. If nothing else she could return to the river and continue her trek. As the woods cleared, Nora was greeted with the sight of a modern-day ghost town. Several abandoned vehicles littered the street. The buildings were still recognizable but were starting to show signs of neglect. Vines had started to creep over several foundations, the grass had clearly not been mowed in several months and scattered windows were broken. Off in the distance, two construction cranes sat over a pair of half-completed office buildings. The distant howl of dogs reminded Nora of the potential threat from wildlife. Despite being armed, she wanted to avoid being mistaken for someone with ill intent. Pulling her distinctive Maroon Beret from a pants pocket, Nora placed it on her head before stepping onto a sidewalk near some sort of factory. Heading in a westerly direction, she cautiously made her way.

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It was strange how quickly everything progressed. News said that an epidemic was spreading throughout the nation, then silence. Most people figured it was nothing more than just news meant to defer people's thoughts and constant worrying. How wrong they were. In the time that followed, many people were taken from their homes, relocated. All under the command of the highest powers that be. Even still, people seemed to have faith that what was being done was for the better of everyone.

The ones betrayed the most, were those sent to take care of the ailing in the final hours. When all else had failed, contractors were called up. Their mission, eliminate the disease at any cost necessary, and that is what they did. Whole cities, villages were wiped out to eradicate the illness before it could spread any further. It had been a fall back plan from the beginning. Why else the Midwest?

Terry had been one of the many called upon for this liquidation. The order was simple enough, and easy enough to fulfill, but once their guns were turned upon those not infected, those who had been assisting, he didn't have the heart for it anymore. He would go through the engagements, firing no shots, or blatantly missing. It was wrong. The people were uninhibited by this nameless disease, but there were to be no lose ends of what had happened. When it would all blow over, the media would claim that the infected were mere casualties to their sickness.


But the end never came...


Alone, Terry now made his way throughout burned out streets and villages. Trekking the many miles from one place to another. He had no goal, no destination. His only thought was to keep moving, same as it had always been with lack of orders. On the horizon, a desolate town shown against the mid afternoon sun, almost surreal in it's appearance. It was like something from a 70s Sci-Fi film. Unslinging the rifle from his shoulder, he began his approach, steady but alert.
 

Trekker47

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As Nora explored the industrial section of the city, she kept an eye out for any identifiers as to her exact location. She had a general idea of what direction Orion Airfield lay from base camp, but she was no longer at base camp. Without GPS or even a map, she had to rely on her compass and some good ol’ fashioned dead reckoning. If all else failed she would head in a northwesterly direction, hoping to pick up I-80. From there she could either head west towards the Pacific coast or continue north and hope to reach Canada. Maybe she’d get lucky and find some semblance of civilization.

For now though her main priority was supplies. While she was comfortable in her wilderness survival skills, an interstate route would take her away from most wildlife. She saw several business names, but no patterns indicating a town name. It was clear that search teams had been through the area as evidenced by the markings by the doors. A red X indicated the premise had been searched, with the left quadrant indicating who had carried out the search. She didn’t recognize the markings but judging from the date on the top portion, the searches were carried out in the early days of government response. It was likely local Guard units or some other local law enforcement agency. The bottom quadrant mostly indicated empty structures, but as she started moving into the residential area she expected to find indicators of dead bodies.

Nora had covered about three blocks when she spotted a figure heading in her direction. He was armed with a rifle, but was too far away for her to identify who he worked for. Deciding to take a risk, she pulled a signal mirror out of her pocket. Turning slightly to better catch the sun, she flashed the light at him three times. For the moment she let her rifle rest on the sling, but was prepared to grab it should the need arise.



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Keeping his head on a swivel, Terry moved down the street, sticking on the shoulder. It was unlikely that a vehicle would appear, especially considering the silence around him. The true reason, the ditch that was to his right. It was not overly sunken or complex, but it provided cover if the need should arise. Something that most people didn't take into account in the movies, and that was one of those things that had always bothered him. A smirk appeared on his lips and a scoff escaped him as he thought about it.

This was short lived. A light came across his eyes, usually not something to worry about, but the consecutive three times was enough to let him know it was man made in some from. The sniper dropped to his knee, releasing his grasp on the rifle as he secured it on the ground in front of him, bipod deployed. With eyes scanning the horizon, the man pulled a range finder from his right cargo pocket and brought it to his eyes to assist in his scanning.

He was comfortable enough to believe he was not under attack, or at least not at the moment. The lack of fire at least gave him enough time to locate the source of the light, a soldier, M16 shouldered, and mirror in hand. Glancing around the figures surroundings, he didn't immediately see anyone else. It could be an ambush. He turned the range finder back upon the soldier and hit the trigger, roughly 800 meters. Replacing the range finder into its place, he picked up his rifle, lifting it toward his shoulder as he began a slow, even more cautious approach, using mile markers to assist him with his updated distance from the figure.
 

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Her signal mirror caught the man's attention, but his reaction wasn't quite what Nora expected. He stopped, but instead of acknowledging the signal in some way, dropped to one knee. His rifle was set out in front of him in such a way to enable him to shoot from a laying position. Nora watched as he pulled something out of his pocket and studied her for a minute before standing back up.

The man started walking towards Nora, but at what appeared to be a cautious pace. She didn't really blame him. She was seemingly the only other person in the area and armed with a military rifle. An M18 was secured in a holster strapped to her left thigh and she was clearly wearing military gear. If the man knew anything about beret colors, he might mistake her for Army Airborne as they also wore red. The rank insignia on her chest was difficult to read except when up close which left the AFSOC patch on her left sleeve as the biggest indicator of her branch of service. The PJ tab on top was another, yet more subtle indicator.

Her other sleeve contained the unit patch, which she had just recently switched back to her home unit of the 103rd Rescue Squadron. While many units' logos incorporated the Air Force Guardian Angel logo somehow, the 103rd went with a grinning Cheshire cat wearing a red beret. The one patch that remained the same no matter her assignment was the subdued American flag above her unit patch. Hopefully, this would be enough to signal to the other person that she was a legit military member and not some random militia member.

In a way, she was glad for the slow approach as it reduced the likelihood of either one shooting the other accidentally. Keeping a loose grip on her rifle, Nora mirrored the cautious approach. When the two of them were about a block and a half away, Nora stopped.

She was unsure how to greet him so she fell back on her name and rank. Figured it would be a good starting point.

"I mean you no harm. I'm Technical Sergeant Nora James, United States Air Force. I got separated from my unit during the withdrawal."

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As they neared one another, Terry would stop near the same moment she did. His khaki BDU trousers and simple tactical blouse looked like something any everyday, run of the mill civilian could have purchased, but there was one thing that made him stand apart from the rest. It was something she would not have noticed at the starting distance, but now as they stood only a block and a few apart, one could tell that his rifle wasn't a normal hunting rifle.

Still shouldered and trained upon her until she identified herself, the GM6 Lynx gave its own wicked glare. Finally lowering the rifle, still at the ready if needed, he would nod his head once simply. He had orders, eliminate all loose ends, but now that he was the last of his squad of six and an unknown number of weeks out in the field with no contact, he didn't feel the need to follow through. It was not normal of him, but then again the order in and of itself had never sat right with him.

"Terry Sanders," he said in a deep, empty voice, "Einherjar Task Force." The Einherjar was a lesser known PMC, but one whose missions were usually nothing short of total elimination. His mere presence in this setting would be unnerving to those who knew of them. He was more than certain that the pararescueman, well woman, before him would not recognize the name.

"How long have you been separated?" he followed up, moving closer toward her. His movements were still slow, but they didn't seem as cautious as they had before. His eyes scanned their surroundings intermediately as he moved to close space, though they always returned to her. He would stop short of 25 meters, enough distance to be able to talk comfortably and see one another more clearly but still enough distance to allow for a rapid response.



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GM6 LYNX

1578973144582.png
 

Trekker47

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The man wore no identifying items on his outfit. That likely ruled out any direct military affiliation, as even the state militias followed general uniform guidelines. His choice of weapon caught Nora's eye more than his clothing. While she wasn't familiar with every style of rifle out there, it was clear the weapon was designed for maximum damage. Not out of place on a battlefield, but a bit peculiar in the present situation. She had confidence in her body armor, but not against such a large caliber. He was still cautious, but thankfully not trigger happy.

After she gave her information, he identified himself. He gave no rank, just a name, and taskforce. At least now she knew she was dealing with a contractor. She had encountered some of them in the desert, where they were called 'mercs' by those who didn't agree with their presence.

The man now known as Terry asked how long she'd been separated from her unit. With a glance at her watch and some quick calculations, Nora gave an answer.

"Not quite a week. How long have you been out here?"
 

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He looked around again, continuing to survey the area. He shook his head a little bit as his eyes landed on her once again. "A few weeks," he said in the same flat tone. Terry saw no need to hide it, hell she was the first person he had come across since the last of his squad had died. Two had died from wounds, raiders or people just defending themselves, he didn't really know. The other two were taken by the disease. Terry saw to them personally.

Finally, he would sling the .50 rifle over his shoulder after pushing the barrel into the receiver for transport. "Where were you heading sergeant?" he asked as he moved toward one of the near by buildings, peering inside. It looked ransacked, but that was expected. Without waiting for a reply, he would push the marked door open, drawing the FNP from his side. He slowly began moving in, stopping only once to motion her to follow.

Terry didn't know this TSgt Nora James, but in the present situation, she did not seem like a threat. In fact, he was surprised that she hadn't been a little more cautious, then again the military didn't mention the contractors, nor would they be expecting that they would have been left behind. Things might be calm now, but eventually people would start coming out of hiding for supplies. Humans had a bad habit of going to a dark place when things became slim.
 

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Nora couldn't quite place it, but there was something off about his voice. He sounded tired, not she blamed him. He apparently had been on his own for several weeks, and who knew what events lead up to his isolation.

He showed no outward signs of infection, which was encouraging. Why some people fell ill and others didn't, remained a mystery for Nora. Her job had been to help identify the infected and separate them from the general population.

She also patched up her fellow troops when angry civilians, usually family members, tried to fight back. At one point they even countered some "Sovereign Citizens" who tried to use some warped Constitutional logic as justification for ignoring the quarantine. They backed down after a Stryker offloaded a group of Soldiers as backup.

Nora was relieved when Terry shouldered his rifle.

"Where am I heading? Generally speaking, I'm heading in a Northwesterly direction to hopefully find civilization. That might change if I get a better idea of just where I am."

She glanced at the markings as she entered the building. It had been occupied when searchers entered. A sign behind the dusty, cobweb-covered, reception desk gave the company name as Vertex Electronics. It didn't sound promising from a supply standpoint, but this wasn't her decision. Some empty beer bottles on the floor made her wonder if some through an 'end of the world' party.

"You looking for anything in particular?"

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Looking over the dilapidated lobby, Terry would holster his sidearm. He knocked a few bottles over the floor as he walked, not worrying about noise that he made. It was obvious that no one occupied the building. There were no footprints in the building dust, or even fresh supplies to suggest it.

Letting out a slight hmm he would acknowledge her plan of action, though he didn't seem to be so intone with it. It was haphazard at best. There was no guarantee that she would find what she was looking for, especially something as vague as that. For the time being, he just continued searching the shelves and cabinets.

"There," he said, making a quick movement to a locked display case. Looking over the contents for a brief moment, he would once again draw his sidearm, only to use the barrel to bust the glass. For a few seconds, a bell alarm went off but it soon died out due to the lack of power. It must have had just a little juice left from an UPS located in the store.

Pulling out a box, he looked toward Nora before tossing it in her direction. "You need GPS to get anywhere, now more than ever," he said before beginning his search once again. "We need a radio," he added, now including her in his search, "Short range, long range, doesn't matter. We just need one that is mobile." Now he had moved passed including her in the search, but including her as if they were a small, two man squad of their own.
 

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Accepting the tossed item, Nora turned it over.
"A GPS certainly makes navigation easier. Although as my survival instructor was fond of reminding us, 'a map doesn't need batteries or a satellite signal to work.' Speaking of which."

Pressing the power button, she pleased when it turned on.
"Thank goodness for long-life batteries. Regardless of how we plan on leaving, we should stock up on food. Obviously, if we find a suitable vehicle we can carry more food than on foot."

She paused as an idea came to her.
"Did you happen to see a camping store? Assuming it hasn't been looted, would be a good place to find non-perishable food and a radio. Plus I could use a change of clothing."


As Terry continued forward, Nora turned left through a door marked "employees only." The short hallway curved to the right before opening up to an assembly line. Half completed televisions sat where the workers had abandoned them.

Heading back out the direction she came, Nora gave a quick report.
"Nothing of use down there, unless you want to catch the latest Soaps."

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He nodded a little. A map would be beneficial, but at the same time, neither seemed to know just where they were yet. For now, he'd settle for the GPS, it made their current situation just a little simpler. Eventually it would die without a a source to charge it, but they'd address that at a later time. He didn't want to stay in the area longer than needed, too many possible ambush spots.

"I didn't," he said plainly, "Though I had bigger concerns at the time." He looked over to her knowing she understood where he was coming from. "If we're quick, we can see about looking for more places to scavenge, but I would prefer to be out of town before sundown."

Terry might not have been the one in charge of planning in his former squad, but he didn't want to risk any unnecessary complications. Finding her had been one just the same, though at this point he couldn't find reason to believe it a bad one.

"If we're finished here," he said as she reported on the back rooms, "Then we should get moving." This time he waited for a response before moving out the door, sidearm still in hand as he tactically moved down the abandoned, yet cluttered, streets.
 

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"I understand. Figured I'd ask. I haven't had time to scout around much."

In some ways, she would have preferred to deal with a fellow servicemember. Even if they were of a different branch, she would have a good idea of their training and expected capabilities. On the other hand, this way she didn't have to worry about rank getting in the way.

Nora followed him out of the building, keeping an eye out for any potential hostiles. Her plan had been to spend the afternoon scavenging before heading back into the woods around twilight. She had picked out a spot about half a mile into the woods that should provide enough concealment to spend the night. However, she was no longer the only one making decisions.

"Agreed, I've seen enough horror movies to know that staying the night in an abandoned hotel doesn't end well. Who knows what specter we'll roust from slumber."

She chuckled at her own joke.
"On a more serious note. I'm all for skipping town by sunset. Depending on how far away you want to get, we have at least 90 minutes until we need to worry about it. I suggest we keep going and keep an eye out for any location that looks useful. Probably skip over the residential areas, unless someone has an unused doomsday bunker."


They headed down the sidewalk in silence until a billboard caught her eye.
Bob's Sports Emporium, opening soon!

Looking around, her gaze followed a long winding road that lead to a large storefront emblazoned with the store name.

"Eureka. Up for a shopping trip Terry?"

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He was rather quiet for the majority of the walk, letting her continue her own monologue. His eyes continued to track as they went down the road. He was glad that he was not the only one left about, but at the same time she did seem to talk quite a bit. He didn't know if it was her nerves, the lack of human interaction, or if it was just her nature, but it would take him some time to get used to.

As they moved, he saw the large building come into view about the same time that she mentioned shopping trip. He let out a slight sigh and shook his head at the comment. "Let's hurry," he said as he looked up the winding road, "Large shop... might take more than a few minutes to clear it."

As they got closer, he started to notice some boats for show outside in a little show area. His mind began to wonder if they would find something else inside. An ATV would be a godsend, but he didn't want to get Nora's hopes up with mentioning the possibility.

Terry pulled the large sliding doors open once they arrived, moving in first to ensure a safe entry. "Alright," he said simply once he was satisfied, "I say we split up." He pointed to a cart and then looked to her. "Take that, load it with what you think we could use," he said as he grabbed one himself, "Meet me back here in thirty. If anything happens, shout." He then moved off to look for supplies, his main concern being ammo, backpacks, and non-perishables.
 

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“Half hour shopping spree, every girl’s dream. Although not necessarily at a sporting goods store. Thankfully you’re dealing with a Texas gal, I’ll meet you back by the front entrance at 16:47.”


Seeing Terry head off towards the hunting section, Nora headed to the camping area of the store. Along the way she passed by clothing, but decided to double back to it towards the end. She had one extra uniform stashed in her pack, and clothing could easily be acquired from other sources if the need arose.


While it was tempting to throw everything in the cart, there was a good chance they’d been on foot for the time being. That meant they’d have to limit the weight of their gear. The first thing that went in her cart was a hatchet and some fire starting supplies. Next she grabbed items to provide shelter from the elements. Thankfully it was Spring and not Winter, which meant snow wasn’t a major concern. Another important item was a water filtration kit for times when boiling water wasn't practical. Several personal hygiene items and a handful of flashlights were tossed in as well. Most of the food items were packaged in large plastic buckets, not very useful in the current situation, she placed a few in the cart anyway. If nothing else, they could be removed from their buckets and carried in something else. Hopefully Terry had better luck on that end.

She continued browsing the surrounding aisles until her watch alarm alerted her time was running out. Heading back towards the front, she detoured through the clothing section. Nora grabbed several articles of clothing that were her size as well as a few she thought would fit Terry.

Returning to the entrance, she was Terry headed that way with a full cart of his own.

“So shall we divy up the goods and head out?”
 

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Shaking his head a little at her comment, Terry made his bee line toward the hunting counter first. It was simple enough finding 5.56 rounds for Nora, but his own took a little longer. He was glad that they were in the mid west and things like this were readily available, albeit somewhat difficult to obtain.

Moving further along, he grabbed two large backpacks. They were not as large as a molle ruck, but they would suffice. Not far from that were MREs. Being a survivalist item, the store didn't have as many as he had hoped, but he wasn't going to waste time going into the back to look through stock.

As time neared its end, he moved back toward the front, looking to her cart for a moment before tossing a backpack to her. "Start filling," he said before he began to do the same, "We'll separate it out later." And just like that, he began to stuff items into the back he held. He grabbed more of the heavier weight items, packing the container to near seam splitting.

"Did you happen to grab any first aid?" He asked without looking up. In his own rush for ammo and non-perishables, he had forgotten one of the essentials that most forgot until it was needed.
 

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This time Nora refrained from making a joke, she accepts the offered bag and begins packing. Having a few items specifically for Terry, a sleeping bag and some excess clothing, she drops them in his cart.

"First aid kit, I have one here somewhere."

She pats a medium camouflage pack strapped to her vest before digging in her shopping cart.

"I have my own, but never hurts to have extra."

Finding what she's after, Nora tosses him a red zipper pouch with 'First Aid' in white lettering.

"Catch"

Going back to packing she stuffed the extra clothes in first, followed by loose food items from the crate and then a lightweight 3 person tent without the carrying bag. The other larger items went in next, before stuffing the smaller goods and shaking them down. The sleeping bag was tied to the bottom of the pack before she hoisted the whole thing onto her back.

She briefly considered donning her helmet but decided instead for a camouflage Boonie hat she found on the shelf. Nora motioned towards the door.

"Shall we?"

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Terry's back was more or less packed with usable items, items that would eventually disappear. He donned the pack once completed and shouldered it easily. "Right, let's move," he said leading the way out once more. The added weight would slow them down, but it was not too bad.

The sun was not out of sight, but the sky had started to turn a deep orange. It would be setting soon. He had wanted to hit another shop or home before heading out, but it didn't look likely. With a sigh, he looked over to her and nodded a little away from the town. "I guess we should start heading to the woods."

He waited for her reply, making sure she was fine with that. While waiting, he would lower his rifle. Pulling the bolt back, he ensured a round was in the chamber before releasing it. Gun at the ready, Terry was set to move.