January 1st, 0833 hours: Louisville, Kentucky
The pen in my hand felt weighted. My fingers had a hard time keeping the Bic upright with enough motion to produce small black checks beside the names on the notebook. My stomach threatened to revolt the morning’s breakfast in protest of my decision to sacrifice—probably more akin to murder—one of my men. I could make the decision less personal and order a civilian detained, but even the thought of that made me feel more dirty and disgusting than I already did. I wondered if General Henry ever felt like this. Surely he must but, when it comes to sacrificing one’s soldiers, Henry was an old pro.
I’d narrowed the list down to three—Corporal Clint Powers, PFC Daniel Francesca, and Private Merrill Howard.
Powers was a piece of work. In ’96 he was arrested three times, once for striking a fellow soldier, once for dereliction of duty (apparently, Powers deemed it more necessary to watch strippers than to guard the armory), and once for domestic violence. I didn’t know the details of the domestic violence charge, but Powers looked every bit the part of a stereotypical wife beater. I doubted anyone would miss, let alone care if Powers turned up missing.
Francesca was just a bad soldier. He scared easily, he was allergic to almost everything, and he couldn’t shoot an M-16 worth a damn. I could deal with any one of those three shortcomings, but all three together, in one man, made Francesca expendable.
I checked Howard’s name twice. The man had no compassion for anything alive. Two days into our mission, a platoon leader reported insubordination from Howard. Apparently, Howard decided it would be cool to riddle someone’s dog full of bullet holes even after Lieutenant Meers ordered him not to. I also didn’t think it coincidence that later that same night, a sentry discovered Meers bound and gagged with his drawers around his ankles. Someone had hog-tied, beaten, and decorated the lieutenant’s face with faux whiskers and dog-ears. Everyone knew who was responsible, but proving it is a different matter. If the incident would have happened a few days later—after I realized the world had changed for good—I’d have executed Howard on the spot.
I relieved Meers of duty and ordered him back to Fort Knox. He was a good officer, but after that humiliation I knew he’d be a liability. Howard, on the other hand, remains one of the best pure killers in the company. His killing skill was the only thing that stayed my hand.
I sighed as I slammed the notebook shut. One of those three men had to die.
Why just one? Seems to me more than a single question needs answers. I wasn’t accustomed to General Henry giving me advice inside my mind. Even stranger was the fact I found it good advice.
Yes, I needed to know if the zombies were contagious. I also realized I didn’t know if a newly dead would rise without contact from a zombie. Was the phenomenon still in the air?
Another question nagged at my mind. One I would most certainly need to know if the zombies proved contagious and natural deaths didn’t rise on their own.
What about Max, was she contagious?
Sometimes, being the leader really sucked.
January 1st, 1211 hours: Louisville, Kentucky
I let the men enjoy New Years Day without orders to march forward. One day off wasn’t going to make much of a difference; the dead would wait until tomorrow.
The men appeared to enjoy the time off—such as it was—and the absence of liquor and whores didn’t seem to bother them. A day without cracking skulls was reward enough.
A few of the more energetic guys put together a rag-tag game of football. I sat outside HQ and enjoyed watching them pummel each other in the snow. I thought about many things as I watched. Was the NFL a thing of legend now? Public schools, malls, and movies, were they gone for good? Hell, I didn’t know if I had a commander-in-chief anymore—not necessarily, a bad thing considering the quality of man who’d occupied the presidency the last few years.
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