X Squad: Die A Lot More
by O.J. Anderson
Three unmarked black vans come rumbling down Mary Sanders’ gravel driveway. She checks her watch; that was fast. The vans come to a halt where Mary awaits waving her hand in the air, a hundred meters from her big country farmhouse.
Even before the lead van’s suspension settles, an action figure leaps from the passenger side and circles around to meet Mary. He asks her, “Someone call about a zombie problem?”
“Yes, me,” Mary says. “Thank you for coming so soon.”
Jack Creed wears black fatigues with a pistol belt. Spit-shined combat boots. Aviator sunglasses. Bushy mustache. Toothpick. Head like a knuckle. His presence has an immediate calming effect on Mary. This is the guy you want in time of crisis. This guy knows how to handle things.
“Bring me up to speed,” he says.
“What’s the situation? What’s going on? Where are they, in the house?”
“Oh, yes, right. They’re inside.” As soon as Mary says, this Jack Creed makes a series of hand and arm signals to his crew, all of which are unintelligible to Mary. From the vans come twelve men dressed exactly like Jack Creed.
“Smith, Jones,” Jack says. “Gear up.” Two men grunt. All the vans’ doors are flung open and equipment is unloaded. Jack shouts, “Support position, twelve o’clock. Bravo team, take the left flank. I want eyes on the back of that house. Nothing goes in, nothing gets out. Radio check in two mikes. Doc, you stay with me. Let’s move, people.”
The metallic clickety-clack of combat gear being readied. One of the men tosses Jack a small walkie-talkie.
Turning back to Mary, Jack asks, “How long have they been on the premises?”
“Gosh,” she says. “Um, I really can’t say. I only just got here a few hours ago. I live in the city.” Mary nods and scratches her cheek with her cell phone. “This is my weekend getaway. A fixer-upper as you can see. Kind of a therapy thing.”
“Ma’am, the sooner you tell me what I need to know, the sooner we can get to work.”
“Right. Yes, of course. Sorry. I don’t know how long.”
“So you arrived on site only a few hours ago. And how were you alerted to their presence?”
“Well, I was coming down the driveway and I heard my stereo being played really loudly. It was one of my old Neil Diamond albums. I didn’t know what was going on. I thought maybe I was being robbed, or maybe someone had moved in. I had no idea. So, I sort of snuck in.” Mary stops, shudders.
“Then what happened?”
Crossing her arms and pressing an index finger under her nose, Mary looks like she’s about to be nauseous. “That’s when I saw them,” she says. “And smelled them. There were about six of them in the kitchen. One had a towel wrapped around its head.”
“Mm. Probably took a bath. Were you harmed in any way? Did they touch you?”
“No. I took off right then. I ran out to the car and started backing down the driveway, but they weren’t chasing me. So I sat there for almost an hour, waiting. They didn’t seem to notice or mind my being out here. Is that a good sign?”
“No, ma’am. That’s a bad sign. Zombies can be very territorial. If they’ve been in there a while, and they like it, they’re not going to give it up very easily.” Squawk over the radio. Black 1 checks comms with Jack, Black Ace.
The two-man recon team, Smith and Jones, all geared up for zombie combat, go sprinting past Jack and Mary toward the house.
Jack tells her, “I’m sending in a recon team to assess the situation. See what type of zombie we’re dealing with. Then we’ll execute the raid accordingly.”
Mary asks, “Type of zombies?”
“Mm. Two basic types. Type Ones are usually some sort of research gone bad kind of scenario. Someone goes fooling around with genetics, DNA, radiation, and whatnot, we get a call. Those are the preferred type. Easier to kill. But my hunch is that these are Type Twos. The nasty ones. Is there a cemetery nearby?”
Mary nods. “About a mile that down the road.”
“Thought so. Type Twos are pure evil. Demonic possession. Nuthin’ but nasty. They usually come popping out of cemeteries.”
Nervous laughter from Mary. Been quite the week. She forgot her lines during a presentation to deodorant executives. Her boyfriend suddenly needed some space. And now her country house is possessed by zombies. At least she has Jack Creed. She asks him, “Get a lot of calls for Type Two zombies do ya?”
He frowns. The toothpick moves from one corner of his mouth to the other. “Here and there,” he says. “We get a little bit of everything: zombies, cyborgs, evil clones, mutated animals, aliens. You name it, we kill it.”
A heavy volume of gunfire erupts from within the house. The first floor windows blink orange. Loud hissing and groans. An explosion. The kitchen windows blow out. Over the radio comes a garbled transmission from the recon team. More gunfire.
Jack Creed seems to understand the radio message. He grunts and says, “All right. Pull back.”
A moment later, Smith and Jones come running out of the house unharmed. Mary looks at them wide-eyed, her hand covering her mouth. Assuming Jack Creed and his men know what they’re doing, she doesn’t say anything about the explosion.
Smith stops and reports: “We got at least two dozen Type Twos in there. I dumped a full clip into one and all it did was piss it off. I tore a couple of ’em up with a frag.”
Inside, the zombies are wound up. Their moans and hisses drift out through the blown windows. A couple of them look out. One is nothing but skeleton. Another is only partially decomposed. A machine gunner from the support team fires off a burst and shatters the skull, tatters the clothing, rips off an arm.
“Roger that,” Jack says. Into the radio: “Bravo team, what’s your status, over?”
Bravo team, now two hundred meters away crouched in the woodline: “In place, over.”
Jack shouts, “Let’s get to work, gentlemen!” He takes Mary by the arm and guides her back to the car.
At the twelve o’clock position, right in front of the lead van, Mary sees two large weapons being fixed into tripods. She looks over her shoulder as they walk away. “So, um, are those things some kind of electromagnetic pulse cannons that destroy evil or something?”
“No, ma’am. Those are Mark 19 forty-millimeter automatic grenade launchers. Look, it might be best if you left for a while. Could get messy.” They pass a large piece of equipment kept under a tarp. “Anywhere you can kill an hour and a half? Neighbors?”
“Hour an a half? That’s all?” Mary opens the car door, delighted by the news. “Sure. I could just go into town for a coffee, get the paper.” About to step inside, she stops and asks, “Are you sure that’s all it’s going to take? An hour and a half?”
“Yes, ma’am. We should be going post-op in one hour.”
* * *
Bravo team calls back that they’ve gained access to the den. The volume of gunfire being expended inside the house is enough to invade a small city. More grenades blow glass out across the yard. M-60s from the support position alternate ten round bursts through the kitchen windows at targets of opportunity. The Bravo team leader calls for a salvo of forty mike mike right through the front door. The zombies are trying to retreat up to the second floor.
“Roger that,” Jack says. “Get your heads down.” He holds up three fingers to the support team leader.
The Mark 19s rip off short bursts. An eruption of smoke and splintered wood billows out. There is now a fifty-foot hole in the front of the house. Right inside is the remains of a staircase, where a zombie in a gray suit clings onto the banister, dangling ten feet in the air. It is promptly cut in half by the gunners.
Jack Creed says into the radio, “Gimme a status report, Bravo team.”
Zombies on the second floor throw household items out the window at the support team. Hair brushes. Perfume bottles. An ashtray. A vase.
“Roger, Black Ace. No casualties. We’ve got the south end secure. Looking for alternate route to second floor, over.”
The rate of gunfire slows. Bravo team leader radios that he has found another staircase at the east side of the house. They’ll secure it and begin clearing the rest of the first floor.
But before Jack can even say, “What’s the status of the basement door?” the gunfire goes from sporadic to steady. In all directions. Bits of wood siding come flying off. Three quick explosions. The house trembles.
“What’s going on, B team?”
“It’s an ambush.” In the background of the transmission: eerie moaning, gunshots, the screams of a wounded man. “We got a man down, over.”
“Roger. Pull back to south end. Mark the entry point and prepare casualty for evac, over.”
To Alpha team, waiting in reserve behind the lead van, he says, “Get ready to move, A team!”
A minute later a purple smoke grenade pops on the lawn just outside the entry point. Jack sees it, turns to the medic kneeling behind him. “Let’s go, Doc!”
Alpha team pushes in first and relieves Bravo. Ramirez is cut up pretty badly. Doc sticks him with a morphine ampule and gets to work on stopping the bleeding. One of the Bravo team members covering the hallway has a zombie’s arm gripped tightly to his ankle. Several severed zombie heads lying about the floor growl and hiss at them. Alpha team picks up the suppression fire from the two doors in the den.
Freddy, the B team leader, briefs Jack: “It’s a meat grinder in here. There’s got to be close to a hundred. Maybe more. We’re running low on ammo.”
Jack says, “Right. Take your team and help Doc evac Ramirez. I’m about to turn these bastards into a fine powder. Go!” Calling back to the support team, he tells them to remove the second floor. They’re coming out.
Bravo stretches out a pole-less litter and carries Ramirez away. Jack briefs the A team leader and they prepare to move out. The Mark 19s launch a massive volley at the second floor. Zombies scream but their voices are muted by the booming thunder of the catastrophic forty-mike barrage. The big house groans and sways, spitting kindling into the air.
By the time both teams make it back to the vans there is no second floor. Zombie heads can be seen peeking over what is left of the walls.
Once Ramirez is safely placed in the van where Doc can thoroughly treat his wounds, Jack walks back to his anti-tank missile still hidden under the tarp.
* * *
Mary Sanders is speechless, standing behind her car door, mouth hanging open. There’s nothing left but the concrete foundation. A ring of smoldering pieces of wood circles the area where the house once stood. Jack gives her the down and dirty of what happened.
“I’ve got one man down,” he tells her. “He’s in stable condition. He’ll be all right.”
She shakes her head. Lets her arms flop down to her sides.
“They put up one hell of a fight. Tough bunch. Like I said, nasty. A lot more in there than we’d anticipated. You must have had the entire cemetery in there. Didn’t matter much in the end though. We got ’em. Always do. I don’t think you’ll be having any more zombie problems for a long while.”
Mary laughs. “Yeah, because I don’t have a frigging house! You destroyed my house.”
All Jack Creed says is, “Mm-hm.”
“That’s it? Mm-hm? You destroyed my house and that’s all you’re going to say?”
“Ma’am, high explosive anti-tank missiles tend to cause a lot damage.”
“Anti-tank missiles? You fired anti-tank missiles at my house!”
“Well, there wasn’t much of a house left at that point, but maybe you know of a better way to get rid of a hundred Type Two zombies?”
Mary is almost speechless again. “Uh, excuse me. But if I’d known of a better way I wouldn’t have called you idiots.”
One thing Jack Creed doesn’t fancy is being insulted, especially by a woman. He turns away and walks toward the van. All the gear is put away. The crew is loaded and ready to go. He sticks his finger in the air and waves it in a circular motion, signaling the drivers to fire up the engines.
Mary follows him. Jack says to her as he walks, “Ma’am if you’d have preferred being torn to pieces and eaten, then you shouldn’t have called us.”
“Uh, no, I would have preferred that you get rid of the demon zombies and not destroy my house. I thought you guys had tricks, gadgets, special supernatural contraptions, foams or something.”
Jack stops in front of the lead van. “Foams?”
“I don’t know!” she shouts. “You destroyed my house!”
“Well what did you think the Mark 19s were for? To scare them off?”
“How the hell am I supposed to know what a Mark 19 is?”
Looking through the windshield at Simmons, Jack Creed rolls his eyes, giving him the “women” look. He continues to the passenger side door. Opens it. “Ma’am, you lost that house the minute they walked in there. And once evil moves into your house, it doesn’t move out. That house had to be destroyed. I’m sorry, but it was the only way.” Jack gets into the van. Slams the door.
“Well, what am I supposed to do now?” Mary asks him.
Jack Creed pulls out his toothpick, drops it on the ground. “Build a new one.”
Copyright © 2006 by O.J. Anderson