THE RISING HORDE: It’s All About Soy Sauce
As the zombie horde closes in on SPARTA during one cold desert night, a certain promoted senior noncommissioned officer does his final check of the troops manning the perimeter…and a certain condiment becomes a point of discussion.
“Man, check that shit out,” the Doofus said as he stood up and looked over the sandbagged revetment he manned with Roche and Shen. He had his night vision goggles pushed up on their helmet mount since there were so many floodlights everywhere. Roche did the same, and he looked toward the north. The city of Odessa was on fire, and it left a glowing orange smear that seemed to stretch across the entire horizon.
“Never seen anything quite like that before,” Shen said from behind him. “Not even when I was in L.A. once during the wildfire season.”
“That shit’s definitely messed up. I mean, even if it’s just Odessa, it’s still an American city that’s burning to the ground.” the Doof shook his head sadly. “Never thought I’d see that kind of shit here at home.”
“I hear you, Doof,” Roche said. “I don’t think any of us ever did.”
Shen raised his SCAR to his shoulder and peered through its night vision scope. He slowly panned the rifle from left to right, then stopped suddenly. “Target, about four hundred meters out…single zed, coming in from the desert—” A muffled crack sounded from the observation tower to their left, and Shen grunted in disdain. “Scratch that. There was a target coming at us.”
Roche grinned. “Don’t sound so down and out, man. A few million more where that one came from.”
“Rangers, you guys doing all right?”
Roche turned and found Command Sergeant Major Gartrell standing beside their position. He held his AA-12 in a ready position, and like the rest of the Rangers manning the wall, his NVGs were pushed up on their mount, ready for use when required. Roche knew Gartrell was a hard-assed SOB, one real hard-charger who would ride a troop hard just to make a point. But he’d also fought the stenches in New York City, which was no party at all, and he’d even been left behind the lines by himself for a few days. Any guy that could get through that and walk out alive was someone Roche thought he should pay attention to.
“We’re good here, Sarmajor. Just waiting for the hammer to come down.”
“It will, don’t worry about that.” Gartrell looked at Roche directly for a moment. “Roche, is it? I thought you were one of those Darth Vader types.” The reference was to the SOICS gear that some of the Rangers used to give them additional mobility and greater firepower during raids. While still new to even the special operations community, the high-tech exoskeletons were already well-regarded as powerful tools that turned individual soldiers into significant force multipliers across the battlefield. But the Army changed slowly, and any new technological advance was always met by some flat-headed Neanderthals who pooh-poohed its utility. So SOICS-equipped Rangers were called Darth Vaders, and the intimation was they were more robot than human.
“We’ll only deploy that outside the wall,” Roche said. He pointed past the sandbags toward the tiers of deep trenches, berms, HESCO barriers and concertina wire. Gartrell looked in the direction he indicated, and Roche pointed out the SOICS troops manning the decontamination/hazmat areas that had been set up inside the wire. Back when they were still allowing civilians inside, that is.
“Up here, SOICS isn’t of much use since we don’t have to cover a lot of terrain to fight,” Roche explained. “We’re just moving along the CONEX containers. But if the stenches can make it through the wires and trenches, we’ll man up and deploy it against them down there, to keep them back from the berm.”
Gartrell nodded and looked toward the inferno on the horizon. He regarded it for a long moment. “When did that start? Looks like the entire town’s going up.”
“About forty minutes or so,” said Shen. Gartrell nodded to him, and when the sergeant major looked back at the blaze, Shen started making faces behind his back. Roche kept his face blank, even though it was kind of funny. Very juvenile, but funny too, kind of like a man putting his head inside an alligator’s open mouth and daring it to bite him.
“So Shen, you wear the Darth Vader outfit too?” Gartrell asked.
“That’s right, Sergeant Major.” When Gartrell didn’t turn back to him, Shen made another face, flipping his tongue in and out of his mouth as if he was licking an ice cream cone at full speed. Roche shook his head slightly, and the Doofus hid his grin behind his hand.
“Then I’ll tell you what.” Gartrell turned back to Shen and looked at him flatly. “If you don’t stop making faces when my back is turned, I won’t kick your robot balls so hard they’ll need to give you a full series of WD-40 transfusions to bring you back from the brink of death. What do you say to that, Ranger?”
“Uh, I say that’s a great trade, Sarmajor,” Shen said, surprised that Gartrell had known about his antics all along.
“Hey Sarmajor, check this out,” the Doofus said. He apparently thought Shen needed some saving, so he rolled up the sleeve of his uniform and showed his tattoo to Gartrell. “Whadya think of this? Pretty awesome, huh?”
Gartrell looked at the tattoo for a long moment. “‘Soy sauce?’ You got a tat that says soy sauce, son?”
The Doofus looked like he was about to jump off the side of the tall container they stood on. “What? Sarmajor, you know Chinese? This says ‘killing dragon,’ man!”
Gartrell looked at him evenly. “I know several key words and phrases in several different languages, soldier. That tat says ‘soy sauce.’ Which means you’re either very odd, very stupid, or very gullible and got punked in a pretty major way.”
“Oh fuck.” The Doof looked at his tattoo with wide eyes. “Are you fucking kidding me, Sarmajor? Tell me you’re fucking kidding me, man!”
Gartrell looked at him with a hard, almost reptilian gaze. “Do I look like I’m having a ha-ha moment, Ranger?”
“Oh fuck,” the Doofus repeated.
“Snap out of it, son. Look at it this way—at least the zeds will know who to turn to when they want to season their next meal.”
“Gee, thanks a whole hell of a lot.”
Gartrell patted the Doofus on the shoulder. “Remember, son. I’m here for you whenever you need me.”
In the home stretch, so this might be the last look into what’s happening with The Rising Horde. Do look for an extract from White Tiger over the next few days, just for a change of pace!