Copyright © 2014 by Christian Bergman, All rights reserved.
All people, places, and events are fictional … except when they aren’t.
The Nudist War – Day 51
Eddy was running for his life. How stupid could he be to let himself be caught with the Zs between him and his car … and without a weapon. The Surf Pack was gaining on him. They could run faster in soft beach sand than he ever could. If he could just make it to the water. Zs can’t swim.
• • •
As usual, MAN awoke to Maggie’s wet tongue slathering across his face. “Pfft, pthhtt,” MAN wiped his face and mouth off with the sheet, “Maggie, do you need to go out?”
“Okay, okay.” MAN got out of bed and stretched. Maggie was at the door, “woof woof.” Maggie bounced up and down as MAN got dressed. He opened the bedroom door and she was gone.
“WOOF WOOF” Maggie was already at the stairwell, unable to control her excitement and barely able to hold her bladder.
“OKAY, OKAY, I’m coming, I’m coming.”
MAN had no sooner opened the stairwell door, than Maggie was through and bounding up the stairs. He followed as best he could. When he did get to the rooftop door, you would have thought she had been waiting there forever. He opened the door and she bolted to the middle of the roof, stopped, squatted, and peed for what seemed like an eternity. Her sense of relief seemed to permeate the air. Only after she was finished did she realize that Maxine and Wolf were there too.
“HI MAN, HI MAGGIE,” Maxine shouted.
“Shhhh,” MAN answered, “let’s not attract the horde to us.”
“Oh, sorry,” Maxine replied in a softer voice. “I forgot.”
“Just try to keep your voice down when you’re on the roof,” MAN then turned and bounded up the stairs to the helipad to talk to the spotters. “Bill, Jim, how are you boys this morning?”
“I’m okay, I’ll let Jim speak for himself,” Bill replied. “We still have a significant nudist population on the island. About a quarter of them wandered up to the northeast corner of the island and are milling about there trying to decide where to go next.”
“Half of them headed south towards San Luis Pass, toward the Seaside, but we can’t tell if they’ve left the island yet,” Jim added, “the remainder seems to be just milling around the main part of the island dazed and confused.”
“Just keep a watchful eye out for me. Let me know if anything changes.” MAN borrowed a pair of binocular’s, made one last survey of the shoreline, and walked back down to the roof. “Maxine, are you and Wolf coming back down?” He held the door open.
“Yeah, I guess.”
Maggie and Wolf bounded into the stairwell and down the stairs. Maxine followed somewhat dejectedly.
Man closed and locked the door behind him. “What’s wrong? You seem a little down in the dumps this morning?”
“Oh it’s sumpin’.”
“It’s just that I … I feel like I’m a prisoner.”
“I think we all feel that way Maxine,” MAN assured her. “I don’t think that it will be like this forever. There are plans to isolate Galveston from the mainland and turn it into a safe haven. Once that happens I think we’ll start seeing life getting pretty much back to normal. The first part of that has already been accomplished by severing the I-45 causeway.”
“I hope so.”
Maxine unlocked the door on the eighth floor and let Wolf and herself in. MAN and Maggie continued down to the sixth floor.
• • •
The invading horde of nudists from the day before had turned southwest in the night and crossed over San Luis Pass on their migration to Mexico. With the demolition of the I-45 and rail causeways connecting from Houston, the San Luis Pass bridge was the only other land route to the island. Everyone agreed that a repeat invasion from that direction was unlikely. Nevertheless MAN was in discussion with the Army camp at Ellington Field regarding who would demolish the San Luis Pass bridge and when.
Eddy had been searching for the Surf Pack. They were the prime candidates for capturing the live Zs that Zürich needed. He had to find out if they had gone south with the horde or if they had somehow stayed behind. He had been flying down San Luis Pass Road at his usual speed, heading toward the Seaside when something caught his eye at the edge of the surf. He slammed on his brakes, sliding sideways to a stop, and backed up.
There it was at the edge of the surf … the blanket … his blanket … his grandmother’s blanket. Without thinking, he jumped out of the car and ran down to the surf to grab the blanket. He picked it up looking at it in disbelief. Without a doubt, this was the blanket. He turned it over and over looking for any sign of blood stains or anything out of the ordinary. Nothing. It was his blanket, a bit sandy, a bit damp, but his blanket nonetheless.
Only then did he notice the Surf Pack running down the beach toward him from the southwest. He grabbed the blanket and made a run for his car. The Surf Pack cut him off. It was now a matter of life and death. He dropped the blanket and ran for the water. He would come back later for the blanket if he lived. He strained with every fiber of his muscles to outrun the Zs. They were faster than him, but he was closer to the water. He made it to the water just in time and dove in. It was a cold fall day and the water was colder still. The shock of the frigid water nearly caused him to pass out when he hit it. Still, he swam as hard and fast as he could, out away from the shore.
When he reached a safe distance from shore he turned, exhausted and freezing, and looked back. She was in the water swimming directly toward him. Lean and muscled, she was like an Olympic swimmer. Every stroke was a thing of beauty. She closed the gap in no time and was soon face-to-face with him treading water. She reached out and hugged him close to her firm naked body. In doing so they both sank below the waves. Eddy struggled to get free, but her grip was too strong. She was warm, so very warm. She seemed to pull the cold and fear out of him, replacing it with a warm, content glow. As they sank, her lips met his and she began to kiss him slowly and passionately, her tongue darting in and out to caress his. She tasted sweet, yet salty with a hint of sea foam. Her kiss seemed to go on and on forever. Then she squeezed him tightly and then without warning, she let go. He watched her sink into the depths.
• • •
Eddy woke up gasping for air.
“Now that was an interesting dream,” he thought to himself. He lay in bed a long time pondering its significance. Who was she? Why has she taken over my dreams? He vowed to study the security cam videos of ‘Miss Scarlet’ some more. He had to figure out why he kept dreaming about her. Surely her physical beauty alone couldn’t be the reason for his dream obsession … or could it?
Eddy got dressed and wandered into the break room. As he passed the restroom he heard Jess’s morning-after-interferon vomiting.
“Poor kid I hope it’s worth it.”
Tom was already in the break room drinking coffee.
“Mind if I join you,” Eddy asked.
“Pull up a chair.”
Eddy made a cup of coffee and did just that.
“So … what’s the plan for today?” Tom asked.
“Hmm, what day is today?” Eddy asked in return.
“Has it been a week since our last conference call with the CDC? ” Eddy thought out loud. “Yeah, that’s right, Jess was retching this morning.”
“Oh, Jess had Interferon last night for her MS and she was throwing up this morning. Same as last Friday; exactly one week later. So it must be Friday. We’re supposed to have a conference call with the CDC in Atlanta on Fridays.”
“Ahhh, Okay.” Tom responded.
“Okay. So we call CDC at 1:00 PM. Beyond that my schedule is open. For that matter Jess can call into the CDC by herself, I really don’t need to be there. I guess what else we do depends on if it’s safe to be outside.”
Jess had walked in during Eddy’s last few sentences. “What about the CDC? Oh, yeah, it’s Friday. The CDC call. Yeah, I can sit in on it without you.” She sighed. “Another hour of my life I’ll never get back.” She paused, deep in thought. “Think I’ll wander down and check on Matt. He has better coffee.”
“Gee thanks. Hey, it was the best I could find.” Eddy whined.
• • •
Jess opened the stairwell door on six and yelled “Hello, anybody home?”
“IN HERE,” MAN’s voice boomed.
Jess made her way to the radio room where MAN and Brian were talking to someone on the radio. “… roger that 14:00, our heliport. See you then. Out.”
“What’s up?” Jess asked.
“Acting Base Commander Kuwanyauma Smith is coming in by helicopter from Ellington at 2:00 PM,” MAN answered, “to discuss plans for purging the island of Zs.”
“Kuwanyauma?” Jess repeated. “Wonder where he got a name like that?”
“She is of Hopi descent. Kuwanyauma means butterfly showing beautiful wings,” Brian informed her.
“You’ve been schooled.” MAN chortled. “Coffee?”
“Yes please,” Jess replied, still pondering the name Kuwanyauma. “I was just telling Edmund that you have better coffee. So, Brian, how come you know so much about this ‘Acting Base Commander Kuwana-what’s-her-name’?”
“Brian and the Ellington radio operator have developed quite the rapport. How late were you and Sheila up talking last night?” MAN enquired.
Brian blushed noticeably, “It’s Shelly, Corporal Shelly Walters.”
“How late?” (silence) “Hmmm?”
“Brian’s a bit sleepy today.” MAN chuckled. “Brian, coffee?”
“Yes … Please … ”
MAN returned with three coffees, gave one to Brian, and ushered Jess into the kitchen. He pulled out a chair for her and then sat down himself. “Yeah, so, this Acting Base Commander Kuwanyauma Smith is getting choppered over at 2:00 to discuss plans for eradicating the Zs from Galveston Island. She wants to establish a forward base at Scholes International Airport, and begin a search and destroy operation. I told her about the Z capture request by the WHO and she said the Army would work with us, but that she was under orders to clear the island by the end of the month. They want to be able to isolate Galveston from the mainland and relocate families here.”
“You mean we might eventually be able to walk around outside without weapons?”
“Well that might be a ways off … but we might be able to walk around outside with out the fear of needing to use our weapons. The sooner we catch our Zs for the WHO, the sooner the Army can declare open season on nudists.”
“So … what is the outside situation with regard to the Zs? Are they still overrunning the island?”
“The nearest I can tell is that about half of them have left the island or are heading that way to the south. The other half appear to be wandering aimlessly about the seashore and various other parts of the interior of the island. It’s still not safe out there.”
“YO, ANYBODY HOME?” Tom and Eddy appeared, walking in from the stairwell door.
“IN HERE,” MAN returned fire.
Feeling clever, Tom asked, “so MAN, what’s the plan?”
“Waiting,” MAN smirked.
“Waiting? On what?” Eddy returned.
Man let out an audible sigh. He really didn’t want to explain this all over again. “Jess, would you be so kind as to explain what’s going on to the newcomers?” Jess explained it all ito Tom and Eddy as best she had understood it.
“So were waiting until 2:00?”
“MAN’s waiting until 2:00. I’m waiting until 1:00 for the call with the CDC. You’re all welcome to join me. The arrival of Kuwana-who’s-it is the perfect excuse to cut our meeting short well before 2:00.” Jess still wasn’t happy with having to be the only one talking to the CDC.”
“Sure, I’ll join you,” MAN offered. He looked at his watch, “it’s almost 10:00, let me get some stuff done and then I’ll meet you back up on eight before 1:00.”
Tom and Eddy excused themselves and headed back to the stairwell. Jess turned to leave when MAN tapped her on the shoulder. In a low voice he said, “you should stay,” and smiled.
• • •
Acting Base Commander Kuwanyauma Smith was, at forty-seven years old, a handsome woman. Holding the Army rank of Lieutenant Colonel, she had posted to the Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base three weeks into the initial HZV outbreak, right about the time of the first awakenings.
Both of her parents were of Hopi Indian descent and she spent many summers visiting relatives in Arizona. She was an extremely bright and ambitious child who excelled in school. An Army Brat, she had always planned on a career in the Armed Forces, so when the opportunity presented itself, she applied to West Point. She was the pride of her family when the acceptance letter arrived and even more so when she graduated with honors. Her career took her around the world, but when offered the possibility of working close to home she jumped at the chance. The 902nd Military Intelligence Detachment located at Fort Huachuca Army base had been her home for the past five years. While there, she supervised the men and women responsible for maintaining the extensive fleet of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, aka drones) used to train UAV pilots and to patrol the US – Mexico boarder. It was this experience that brought her to Ellington Field.
With the HZV epidemic in full bloom, the Army decided to make Ellington Field it’s base of operations for the Texas Gulf Coast. It was already home to the 111th Reconnaissance Squadron with it’s compliment of Predator and Reaper UAVs and the Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base. With easy access to rail and roadways, military grade runways, an existing military presence, and a well secured perimeter fence system, Ellington Field was a strategic piece of real estate in the war against the nudists.
Airlift operations moved light armored vehicles, additional UAVs, attack and support helicopters, and cargo planes to the new Camp Ellington. Kuwanyauma Smith arrived from Fort Huachuca, along with it’s contingent of UAVs. She soon became second in command. When the Z horde arrived from the north, two days ago, the former Base Commander went aloft by helicopter to survey the scene. Unfortunately for him and the helicopter crew, the chopper developed engine trouble and soft landed in the middle of the horde. Although unhurt in the landing, the nudists made short work of them.
Lieutenant Colonel Smith immediately assumed the position of Acting Base Commander. It was her idea to drive the horde south across the causeway onto Galveston Island and then sever the causeway from above using Hellfire missiles fired from two Reaper UAVs. Once the horde was safely contained on Galveston Island, she convened a meeting of her immediate subordinates to devise a plan to exterminate them. It was during this meeting that she received word of the radio contact from the CDC Special Circumstances complex. Not one to turn down help from any quarter, she arranged for today’s meeting with the CDC survivors.
“Corporal Walters, please confirm our 14:00 arrival time with the CDC folks and make sure that the Maintenance and Flight Crews have a working bird ready to fly,” she instructed the radio operator. “I don’t want a repeat of what happened to the last Base Commander.”
“Yes Ma’am. Roger that!” Corporal Shelly Walters replied.
• • •
The CDC concall went off as usual with MAN, Jess, Eddy, and Tom in attendance. No progress had been made on anything and to make matters even more disturbing new HZV cases continued to pop up here and there. At quarter of two Jess announced preemptively that they were expecting Army visitors and cut the concall short. As soon as she hung up MAN let out a pent-up sigh, “Oh thank god, I couldn’t have survived another minute of that. Is it like that every week?”
“Every week,” Jess and Eddy blurted out in unison. They immediately realized what they had just just done and began giggling. Tom just looked confused.
MAN looked at his watch. “Think I’ll go up to the helipad and wait for Acting Base Commander Kuwanyauma Smith. Anyone want to join me? Jess?”
“Sure I’ll go,” she answered with a strange sparkle in her eyes.
“I’ll meet you on six, once she gets here,” Eddy replied. Tom shook his head in agreement.
• • •
On the helipad MAN, Jess, Jim, and Bill scanned the sky to the north with binoculars. “What time is it?” Jess asked.
“2:01. I should think that the Army would be a bit more punctual. Wouldn’t you?” MAN mused aloud.
“I think I see something. Yes, I definitely see a helo coming in from due north,” Bill announced. He was looking through one of the high-powered spotting scopes.
“Okay, yes, I see it now, Black Hawk,” MAN observed. Four sets of binoculars were trained on the helicopter as if nothing else mattered. Soon it was close enough to see with the naked eye; close enough that each side gunner and his minigun was plainly visible. Now the thump thump thump thump of the rotor blades wafted in and out on the changing wind currents. Now the sound was loud, constant, and getting louder. “Let’s get off the helipad,” MAN yelled over the sound of the rotors. They scrambled down the steps to the roof as the Black Hawk made a circling pass and began it’s landing approach from the south into the prevailing north wind.
Kuwanyauma Smith waited for the main rotor to spin down somewhat before opening the copilot’s door and stepping out onto the helipad. She quickly walked hunched-over to the steps and climbed down to roof where MAN, Jess, and the two spotters stood waiting. MAN and Jess shook hands with her as Jim rushed over to open the stairwell door.
“Will the crew be joining us?” MAN asked once they were in the relative quiet of the stairwell.
“They wait with the bird,” Lieutenant Colonel Smith replied tersely. MAN and Jess exchanged glances that silently communicated a common observation … hard ass.
They all made their way to MAN’s sixth floor kitchen ‘operations room’. Eddy and Tom were already there standing expectantly. “Coffee? Tea?” MAN asked politely.
“I’m good,” the Lieutenant Colonel replied. “Who’s in charge here?”
“I am,” Jess and MAN replied together. “I am responsible for CDC operations and MAN, err Matthew, is responsible for security,” Jess quickly clarified. Kuwanyauma blinked in confusion.
“You,” she turned to MAN, “you’re a SEAL.” (Not ‘former SEAL’ or ‘ex-SEAL’, just SEAL, more of a statement than a question.)
“Yes, Ma’am” MAN replied.
“What is the security status here?”
MAN proceeded to tell her about the changes he had implemented since moving in; the welded elevator doors, twenty-four-seven spotters on the roof, communications gear, etc.
“I heard about the airport and the Seaside,” she said. “Please accept my condolences. I know they must have been good people. I share in your loss.”
“Thank you, Ma’am.”
“Okay, here’s how it is going be. I’m going to establish an office here. I’ll use your radio room and operator, Brian, I believe his name is. Corporal Walters has briefed me.” She turned to Jess, “I’ll need quarters for myself and a staff of six.” Then to everyone, “we’ll be using the helipad and garage. You do have vehicles? If not we’ll make do with what is on the island. We’ll secure a block or so around this building as a safe zone. Then we’ll establish a safe corridor between here and the airport. After that we start airlifting troops, munitions, supplies, vehicles, and air assets. Oh, and of course we will need temporary quarters for the advance troops until they have secured the safe zone and established quarters in the surrounding buildings. You do have space for fifty troops temporarily?”
Jess, Eddy, Tom, and MAN shot glances back and forth at each in silence.
“Okay then. I’ll need keys to the stairwells and we’ll need to get the freight elevator running. We may as well get the rest of the elevators running between the upper floors while we are at it.” She held out her hand. “Keys?” Flustered, Jess tried to say something, but barely managed to stammer “here” as she handed over her keys. “I’ll be back tomorrow.” With that Lieutenant Colonel Kuwanyauma Smith turned, walked down the hallway, opened the stairwell door and was gone.
Eddy was the first to speak, as the distant sound of the departing helicopter signaled the Lieutenant Colonel’s departure. “That went well,” he said sarcastically.
MAN and Jess just shook their heads. “Tomorrow is going to be a brand new day,” MAN sighed. “That certainly didn’t go the way I expected.”
“Damn it,” Jess stammered, “I just handed her my keys. Now what am I going to do for keys?”
“Here, take mine,” Eddy offered.
• • •
Eddy stood on the helipad as the Black Hawk approached. He moved to the stairs and took a step down to get off of the helipad and out of the way of the chopper as it landed. It was a cold, wet fall day. The downwash from the rotor blades was like a freezing gale in a winter storm interspersed with a hint of warm exhaust-scented air from the jet turbine engines.
The helicopter touched down and the turbines and rotor blades began winding down. Eddy waited patiently. Soon the doors flew open and the crew began to disembark. Something was wrong. Very wrong. Eddy’s stomach churned in fear as he began to back down the helipad steps. He ran to the stairwell, but the door was locked. He searched for his keys, then remembered he had given them to Jess. He pounded on the door, screaming for Jess, anyone, to let him in.
The naked crew members walked slowly down the helipad steps. Eddy banged harder on the door. He screamed and begged for someone to let him in. Now the naked crew had turned toward the stairwell, slowly walking toward Eddy. His hand was bloody as he pounded against the metal door. His throat was raw and sore from screaming.
Suddenly the door flew open and he tumbled into the stairwell. Someone caught him before he could fall down the stairs. He turned and bolted the door just in time to keep the chopper crew out. He turned back around and stood face to face with the naked green-eyed, red-haired woman. As she tried to hug him, he broke away and ran down the stairs. With relief he saw MAN and Jess coming up the stairs. But, but, but they had no clothes on.
Eddy woke up screaming.
• • •