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The Flying Column (fiction)
A Bible is placed in front of me by a member of the “Committee”.
“Swear an oath, to tell the truth,” says the leader, “The whole truth, or so help you God.”
“Sorry, I’m an atheist,” I say, “That wouldn’t be right of me.”
“You trespass on our land, armed and bearing badges of a foreign country,” said the loud and fat member, “And now you tell us that you are a pagan son of a ***** who doesn’t believe in the Almighty?”
“Execute this bastard and send him to hell where he belongs,” replies the fat bastard very seriously.
I get quickly up from the stand in the stifling hot courtroom. The guards quickly train their rifles on me. I grin, and sit back down again.
“No, I think we have to hear this,” says the leader, sitting where a judge normally would, “regardless of his crimes and … immoral disposition.”
I am not particularly listening.
Several thoughts are buzzing around in my mind, distracting me from the conversation. Most of them consist of uselessness like, “**** this ********,” “Who are these **** nobodies?” and “When the hell are they going to come?!”
“Sir, like I said, state your name for the record,” says the leader, apparently repeating himself, although I’m not sure.
“Tom Barry,” I say.
“And your allegiance?” prompts the leader.
“European Union Nordic Task Force,” I say, “But that’s just my day job.”
Whispers and conversation break out after that. Amusing.
Fatboy is laughing his arse off. The leader remains silent.
“You’re fulla ****,” says Fatboy, “No way you pussies would come over here.”
The leader interrupts my reply.
“Alright, so you are military as your uniform indicates,” asks the leader, “Rank?
“’Lefteanant-Chornal’” I say, “Lieutenant-Colonel.”
“Alright Tom, tell us from the start,” he says, “Your story seems pretty far-fetched.”
It’s only far-fetched to you lot,” I shout, “Release me, I am not a threat to you.”
“Get on with it,” the leader insists, “Or I’ll chuck you in the jail with your friends permanently.”
“It will take a while,” I say, “A long while.”
“We have all the time in the world,” he replies.
“Fine,” I state, “I’ll give you a little background first if you don’t mind.”
“Do,” replied the leader, “We heard nothing after November 2nd.”
The infection started in European Russia sometime in late October, spreading from there to Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the US. The incubation period for the virus was initially seven days, or so I was told by the Doc. You know, the one you have locked up? The effects of the infection on the human body during its first stages were curious enough to cause several patients to be flown to the US for study. Bad idea.
Soon afterwards, the virus mutated, causing its incubation period to reduce to a few minutes, increasing its effects massively and changing its form from airborne to blood-borne.
At first, the unusual behaviour of the infected was put down to a public order problem.
Their activity was not observed until later, so the appropriate response to a mass riot was organised in Eastern European countries. However, the response teams and units soon became infected themselves. Perhaps you remember the footage of that reporter in Estonia being attacked? You know, the one where the camera gets dropped and she is seen being eaten by a cop?
After that, it became clear that it was a bigger issue than just mass riots.
The newly signed Treaty of Dublin emergency clauses were immediately enacted, and all European military forces came under one command. You Americans may remember hearing about it before you lost contact. The infection in Europe had reached Eastern Poland, Finland, Sweden, Norway and was well on its way into the Balkans. At the same time, it had reached the Middle East, China, and had started to spread rapidly here in the US.
The Parliament decided the Rhine and the Alps to be the Frontier where a defence against the infection would be made.
“What parliament?” asks the leader, interrupting me.
“The European parliament,” I reply.
He mulls over it for a second, then tells me to continue.
The day after, the Pyrenees were added to the list as it became clear that Spain and Portugal had been overrun as well. About sixty thousand Spanish troops made it to North of their country, and were holding nicely.
The Brits had quite a few outbreaks, but rapid response units set up to deal with terrorism controlled them, and they got the situation under control pretty quick.
The Italians had been pushed back to the Alps, although they were not short in numbers. Italian thinking was along the lines that they could retreat, let the infected batter the Alp line, and then counterattack. That said, a large force was also left in Taranto, to guard the naval docks and industry there. The USS Mount Whitney was seized by the Italian navy in Gaeta before that, I think they renamed it Manzini.
Mainland Greece had been overrun after an unsuccessful defence of the Corinthian Isthmus. They evacuated their remaining troops to Crete and their islands. They’re still there, last I heard, they were being supplied from France.
Ukraine was one of the first countries to act upon the virus, and a safe zone had been established in the Crimea. However, it lost most of its military rescuing its citizens. Israel held all their territories initially, as did Palestine. I guess all those checkpoints held the spread of the virus at bay very effectively.
Iraq created a safe area between the Euphrates and the Tigris. Iran has held out well, but I'd say Israel will turn them into a glass bowl soon if they already haven't.
“What about Ireland?” says the leader, “Your uniforms’ badges were mostly Irish.”
“Who gives a ****, he’s full of it!” shouts the fat committee associate.
“Basically, the same sort of thing that happened in the UK, happened with us as well,” I reply, ignoring the idiot, “Except our infection rate was tiny. By the time it had reached us, proper protocol was already in place.”
Now for the important part.
Up in the North, two pockets of resistance had formed in Norway.
In Oslo, the Norwegians refused to give up their capital, but were eventually convinced to do so by the British. However, it is in Narvik, way up North where it truly began.
Around eighty thousand troops from Norway, Sweden and Finland had made their way to Narvik for evacuation. Another Dunkirk in the making. Ironically, it was left to the British to evacuate them, but it wasn’t organised until December. I was there.
By the time we got there, they were running out of ammo, as bad weather kept planes out of the air. Thousands of infected came in groups, erratically. Some days there were no attacks, others swarms came at the defence areas. It took a month to evacuate them, and by then, the line was practically made of paper.
Breaches were being made all over the place. We got most of them out.
By the time Narvik was evacuated, the refugees were too much for Europe to house on a long term basis.
At the same time, contact with the US had been lost, and US forces in Europe were largely infected or detained.
The last reports from the US indicated that the Eastern Seaboard had been largely overwhelmed, and that the hordes were moving West.
The bigwigs weren't going to sit there. They immediately issued a declaration called the Cortés Doctrine.
To put it short, the point behind it was to seize key industrial and agricultural areas of North America. New colonialism.
Not a protest was seen across the survivor territories. The overcrowding and strain on food production was too much.
So, three Task Forces were formed.
The Anglo-French Escort Force would escort us to shore, and provide support for the first few miles.
The Anglo-Spanish-Italian-Greek Amphibious Task Force would land our troops onto American soil, and secure the landing area.
Ourselves, the Nordic Battlegroup, would proceed inland, eliminate uncooperative survivor groups, draw infected groups away from colony areas, procure military equipment and recon agricultural areas.
"Hold on," Fatboy shouts, "Are you tellin' me, that you Europeans INVADED?"
I ignore him.
By February of this year, the Fleet was ready, the Rhine/Alps/Pyrenees line was holding, and the humanitarian situation was dire.
The ships assembled off the coast of Ireland near Bantry Bay, and proceeded to cross the Atlantic.
The journey was rough, especially near the coastline of the US.
I heard the weather people talking about the end of a "noreaster" or something like that.
We were headed for the North East region.
I take the glass of water in front of me and drink deeply.
The heat was hell.
“And that’s the background to why we’re here,” I say.
“It’s ********,” Fatboy says, “And I’ll tell you why.”
“Oh really?” I say, chuckling.
“One, where are these thousands of troops now? We found you in a small group, walking!” he says,
“Two, the government wouldn’t simply have let you come in here, they would’ve hit back.”
I sit silent, putting my glass down loudly.
“Answer him,” says the third committee member, a woman who looks like a typical housewife, who has stayed silent up until now.
“One. They’re gone,” I say, “Two, your government doesn’t exist anymore. Hell, the United States of America doesn’t exist anymore really.”
“What?!” shrieks the woman, “We were sure that they’d set up a safe area in the West!”
“Lies,” I say, “Or bad assumptions.”
“You’ve come a long way from the North East,” the leader says, “I think it may take a few days for you to tell the story in full, so I’m adjurning this meeting until tomorrow. I want to hear the full story, no details missing.”
“No problem,” I say, “As long as I don’t get interrupted too often.”
“You don’t have a choice in the matter,” he replied, nodding for the guards to drag me off.
“It was a pleasure meeting you,” I say as I’m pushed out the door.
Into the dying sun. ****, why couldn’t they erect a few sunscreens while they were building the walls. Tennessee. Bad ******* choice. Should’ve known they’d be a bit more vigilant. Should’ve went to Illinois. That’s the last time I go to recon a target personally.
I walk to the jail escorted by three armed men, and back into the jail cells.
The building is pretty much a stereotypical small town jail.`A just large enough room, with three cells for about three to four people each. The guard is sitting behind a desk about ten metres away from the cells, listening to a radio show, broadcast from about a block away. The other five people who were captured with me sit relaxed in their bunks. I walk into my cell, and sit down on the bottom bunk.
Sgt. O’Leary doesn’t blink an eyelid from the book he has been reading for the past few days.
“How did it go?” he asks in Irish, flicking over a page.
“Great,” I reply, “I don’t think they believe me though.”
“You told them the truth?” he asks, again in Irish.
“Not entirely, but pretty much,” I answer.
“Keep it to English,” says the guard who’s trying to listen to the radio, “Or don’t speak at all.”
“What do you mean ‘not entirely’?” O’Leary whispers, finally putting down his book.
“I told them the rest of us had been wiped out,” I reply quietly, “To give the attack a good advantage.”
“That’s great, but when the hell are they going to do it?” O’Leary says quietly, “Shouldn’t they have come already?”
“You’re all questions today,” I say, “Don’t worry, Överste Olsson knows what she is doing.”
The lads in the other cells laugh. Due to the strangely balanced gender ratio in the expedition and current circumstances, military discipline regarding sexual relations had become impossible to enforce. Rumours flew around quite easily.
“Shut the **** up!” shouts the guard, “Why do I gotta be stuck with you **** Paddies!”
“Giving the men something to talk about while in here is a good idea,” O’Leary says returning to his book, “But I wish it was something more along the lines of ‘let’s get out of this ********’. Sir.”
“Understood, but that’s not possible right now,” I say, lying down in my bed.
I fall asleep.
I wake up the next day, at about 7am. Late for me. Well, late since the infection.
Strange considering I went to sleep very early.
O’Leary is lying on his back, drooling with the book in his hand.
“Alright you *********! Wake up! Present yourselves!” I shout at the top of my voice.
The guard falls out of his chair.
The fireteam immediately wake up, get fully dressed, and stand in a row through the cells, ignoring the metal bars.
“That’s what I like to see,” I say, “Good to see you boys are on the ball.”
“I’ll come in there and beat your ass to death!” screams the guard, extremely pissed that his beauty sleep was interrupted. Feck knows, he needs it.
I ignore him.
“Alright lads,” I shout, “I think some of you may be getting a little frustrated that we’re stuck in this ******** of a jail! Do not delude yourself, we could be here for a few days longer, but we will triumph over these savages!”
The men acknowledge my statement in with a loud shout in Irish.
The guard is absolutely infuriated. He picks up his baton, and proceeds to unlock the door to my cell. Eejit.
“Alright, since you won’t shut it, I’ll shut you up!” he shouts, entering the cell briskly.
The baton swings towards my face from the left. I grab it with my left hand, and yank it clean out of his hand. His face turns from angry to shocked just in time to be struck by my right hand, curled into a fist. How unprofessional. This guy clearly wasn’t a cop or a prison guard before the outbreak. It’s not like I’m complaining though.
O’Leary jumps past the poor guy, who lands flat on his arse, being completely unprepared to be struck. The search begins for the cell keys.
I kick the guard again for good measure, take his pistol, and restrain him with his own handcuffs. The lads stay in line the whole time.
“At ease lads, at ease,” I say, just as the door to the jail opens.
The leader, with several armed men walk in, rifles raised.
“Ah ****,” I exclaim loudly.
O’Leary is relieved of the keys he had found seconds earlier and put back in our cell.
“Normally, we’d just execute you for this behaviour,” the leader says calmly and coldly, “But you have too much very interesting information for that.”
He grabs the pistol from my hand.
The guard is released from his handcuffs.
“You try that again, we’ll execute one of your men,” he says, walking out the door again.
"I tried," I call to O'Leary as I'm shoved out the door.
I am pushed back to the courtroom.
There is a much larger crowd than before.
Apparently, I'm the entertainment for today.
I am sat back where I was the day previously.
The leader stands up.
"I hereby resume the hearing of the commander of the trespassers, whom will be charged, tried and convicted by Privy Committee," he says.
"Big on their formality as always," I mutter to myself, "It's rural Tennessee, not Buckingham Palace or the Champs D'Elysee..."
"Lt. Cnl. Thomas Barry, continue where you left off yesterday," the leader says addressing me, "Start from your entry into the United States."
"Firstly, it is just Tom Barry, not Thomas," I say, "Secondly, I have already told you, the United States has collapsed."
"Tell us everything from your entry onto the territory of the US, until the moment we captured you," the leader continues, pressing the issue.
I think it over for a second. The problem with telling them is simple, it breaks every protocol for being captured by the enemy.
On the other hand, they aren't an "enemy" really, just a group of survivors who got very very lucky. Besides, it's not like they're going to live to use the information.
I cast my mind back to when the fleet first arrived in American territorial waters, and begin to tell the story.
I was on board the aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle, in its situation room. Around me, the various commanders from the nations involved were standing.
The French Admiral, commander of the fleet was discussing where to land. The Spanish vice-admiral was convinced a landing via New York Harbour was best, but the British Royal Marine Commander Foster was having none of it, saying that the infected population would be too much for the first troops on the ground to handle. Myself, "Everstiluutnantti" Olli Jarvinen and "Overste" Freya Olsson were the junior officers in the room, and stood silent as the upper ranks bickered among themselves.
We were off the Delaware and Maryland coast, having weathered a storm on the journey, which had caused us to go further south than initially planned.
"What do you think, Barry!" shouted the British commander, "You agree that New York is too risky, yes?!"
I hadn't been particularly listening, I had been transfixed on the map.
"I think Boston is the best option, sir," I say, "We can access the Tri-State infrastructure there with less risk of being swarmed, and there is a possibility that my forces can secure certain survivor populations peacefully."
"I'm not sure that..." Freya started.
A worried French lieutenant burst into the conversation, and said something in rapidfire French.
The admiral returned it with an equally quick burst, and turned to us quickly.
"The Dupuy de Lôme has four contacts to the South, a large carrier, a cruiser and two destroyers," he said to us quickly, "The remenants of the 2nd US Fleet!" The British and Spanish naval commanders immediately raised their ships on the comms and waited for orders from the admiral.
"All support and landing ships turn north, the suggestion by our Irish counterpart will have to do as a comprimise. All destroyers and frigates line from East to West, and attack. Scramble fighters. Order the submarines to start anti-surface warfare." The Spanish and British commanders nodded, and relayed the orders.
"They have unreliable satellites, we have the advantage," said a French intelligence officer who approached us, "NASA control was overrun months ago, they're barely controlling them."
"They can still use radar based missiles," replied the Spanish vice-admiral.
We all turned to look at the monitor. The remaining ships of the US 2nd Fleet were marked in red, with the massively larger EU fleet taking up much of the screen. The Charles De Gaulle was the centre point.
I won't go into it too much, but it was quite a battle.
Missiles flew between the two sides, from ships and aircraft. Several EU ships were hit and sunk, mainly frigates who were bearing the brunt of the fight.
At first, the Americans were pounding the hell out of the EU line, but sheer weight of armaments began to take its toll.
The cruiser, which we later identified was USS Anzio, was struck by twelve anti-ship missiles, and burnt as it drifted.
It eventually sunk.
The destroyers, USS Bainbridge and USS Porter, sunk two ships between them, and damaged five others, including the Spanish carrier.
They were sunk by torpedoes and missiles respectively.
The carrier, USS Harry S. Truman, was sunk by missile fire from aircraft and a torpedo hit, after her tiny first wave was decimated by AAW missiles.
We assume that there was a drastic shortage of pilots and crew in general, probably due to the infection.
The EU fleet lost four missile frigates, two LSTs, a naval intelligence ship and a requisitioned civilian cargo ship carrying barricade materials and cement for barriers. The Spanish carrier, several destroyers and frigates were also damaged.
The frigates picked up the survivors on both sides.
By then, the landing ships were much further north.
"Barry, Olsson, Jarvinen! Return to your troops and prepare them to land," the British commander ordered, "A helicopter will be waiting on deck!"
We all saluted, left the room, and headed to the flight deck. We were silent.
"Barry, why Boston?" Olsson asked me as we walked, "It won't be much better than New York."
"I know it well enough," I replied, "Also, if we're heading West, why would we go through the more heavily populated NYC area?"
"I still think we should've went further North, via Canada...." Olsson rebuked, "We are the Nordic Battlegroup after all."
"We'd have to cross the Great Lakes and river bridges in Canada have been blown up for the most part," Olli interrupted, "Getting to our objective directly is the best course of action. Although I would have went further South and headed North by land."
The three of us arrived on deck, and the sea whipped us with wind.
We ran to the waiting helicopter once the air boss gave us the all-clear, and it took off.
The entire fleet was visible.
I then stopped to drink, the day was even warmer than the previous one.
The room stood silent. I had omitted much, but the impact was the same..
I guess they were a bit shocked.
Well, everyone except the leader.
"Move onto your landing on US soil," the leader demands.
"As you wish," I reply.
Two nights later, we rounded Cape Cod, and proceeded towards Boston Harbour.
To our surprise, lights were seen in what we identified as the South Boston district. In the otherwise pitch black coastline, it was a strange sight.
Radio chatter was intercepted. We hadn't been spotted, or at least, the survivors weren't letting on if we had.
The admiral had ordered that the lights be dimmed, and the jack and ensign of the US Navy be flown....
I flew with Overste Olsson to the Charles De Gaulle once again, to discuss how to deal with it.
If they had radio and lights, they had power, and they may not have appreciated our presence.
Not that they could do anything about it, we just had to plan for such an event.
"What do you think they will say?" Olsson asked me.
"I don't know," I responded, "We might have to neutralise the threat."
"Exactly what I was thinking," she said, "But do not hesitate, remember, we are doing this for a reason."
"I won't," I firmly replied.
The helicopter landed on the deck, and we were escorted to the bridge.
The admiral and vice-admiral was waiting for us. We saluted.
"According to our orders, you two are responsible for survivor groups," the admiral started, "How do you want to deal with this?"
He turned up the volume on a radio, and the sounds of people reporting in were to be heard.
"Sir?" I ask, "You aren't going to make the call?"
"We're the naval hierarchy," the vice-admiral, "And the other ground troops are for securing a beachhead only. The responsibility falls on you two as leaders of the Expeditionary Force."
"What units and support can you spare us?" Olsson asked.
"Command stated that they don't want us to use helicopters," the admiral said, "They want covert evaluation of the group first. So air support is out until they've been evaluated. We can't spare any other ground units either. You're on your own."
"Where will we land?" I asked.
"Columbus Park," said a French lieutenant who stepped in with a map of Boston, showing us the location, "It's the nearest place we can get you to by boat."
"Prepare your troops for a landing in two hours," the vice-admiral ordered, "Use of deadly force is authorised on any and all targets if deemed necessary by yourselves. Once ashore, choose your own route and objectives."
We saluted again, and were escorted back to the helicopter.
I was landed on the Juan Carlos I landing ship, where the Irish troops were waiting. It had been a long week, and they were itching to get off the ship.
I proceeded to the bridge, and got on the ship intercom.
"Prepare for landing operations, we're going ashore in two hours."
Morale, which had been low, spiked to a new high.
Within an hour and a half, the men and women were ready to land.
I raised the Tonnerre and HMS Ocean where Olsson and Jarvinen were preparing their troops.
They both confirmed their troops were ready, and we agreed to get waterborne after we came up with the landing plan.
I put on a combat uniform with urban DPM, then proceeded down to the Juan Carlos' landing craft, where the troops were waiting.
There I met my bodyguard squad, who had been assigned to me due to my tendency to get involved at the front line.
I shook his hand, after he saluted.
"What's your name?" I asked.
"O'Leary, sir," he replied.
"Where you and your lads from?" I asked as I got into the first landing craft.
"Cork, sir," he said as they followed me on.
"Cork? The bastards won't stand a chance against you lot!" I laughed.
"Launch in two minutes!" a Spanish ensign shouted to us.
I checked my watch.
The rest of the forward troops boarded the landing craft, which had already been loaded with vehicles.
I was handed my rifle, and helmet. I began checking it.
The occupants of the boat began to look at me funny.
"Aren't you meant to land after us?" a private asked.
"What? Never see a Lieutenant Colonel fight?" I said.
"Aren't you a bit young to be a Lieutenant-Colonel?" O'Leary said sceptically.
"Youngest in Ireland anyway," I said, sticking a magazine into my rifle, "Not young though."
"So how old are you exactly?" the private asked.
"Never ask a superior officer how old he is!" I stated, checking my NV, "Or she is."
O'Leary chuckled, "You not nervous?"
"Not in the slightest," I replied, "I got you eejits with me, don't I?"
The doors to the sea opened, and a chill wind hit us dead in the face.
A few people groaned. Each squad reported in, and we started out, my boat first.
I spotted the Swedes coming out of the Tonnerre.
We went from the near the end of Long Island, towards Pleasure Bay.
In the direction of the lights.
I fetched some binoculars, and peered through them.
There was a makeshift watchtower about two and a half miles away, and figures were clearly visible.
"Sir, you'll want to hear this," O'Leary said, handing me a radio.
"I'm tellin' ya, there's ships in the harbour and boats comin' this way!" shouted a voice.
"Fine. Raise the alarm, it's probably more raiders," came the reply, "All teams ready yourselves!"
A series of orders were issued then.
"Begin psychological warfare," I said into my radio, "Prepare for combat."
A few seconds later, the speakers that had been put onto each landing craft began to pump out a song by Rammstein at high volume.
I cringed. I reminded myself to slap the Swedish PsyOp Officer responsible. I was more of a Arctic Monkeys kind of guy myself.
By then, we had passed into Dorchester Bay, and we could see the landing zone.
Our music was attracting attention. Infected attention.
"Don't fire until you're on the beach!" I shouted, hopping onto the first APC that was on our boat.
The rest of the troops jumped into or onto the vehicles.
200 yards. 150 yards. 100 yards. 50 yards. 20 yards. Bang.
The door comes down and the APC roars into life, and begins driving.
"Open fire!" I say into my mic, and everyone on top of the APC began firing at the infected charging towards us at full sprint.
The infected swarmed around us. A man or two got dragged by the boots off the tops of the vehicles and biten. By then, the troops had enough experience from Narvik and other engagements to shoot their former comrades in the head without thinking. I wasn’t stupid enough to put the reservists who had been called up on the first boats in.
We soon eliminated the large group of infected.
The music stopped. The beachhead had been secured.
We drove into the centre of the park, across the road.
“Set up a perimeter around this field,” I ordered, “This will do as a good landing area.” O’Leary nodded, and barked orders of his own into his radio.
The four APCs that had been landed immediately set themselves up in a large square.
The men who had remained in the landing craft rushed across to the park, and entered the square.
I turned my vision to the North, towards South Boston.
The music and gunfire had clearly disturbed the residents of the enclave, who were clearly visible along the rooftops. Presumably, none of them had NV, so if it turned out that they were uncooperative, this was going to be a very onesided battle.
I ordered that the lights be put out.
I started to walk towards the beach again, after being notified by radio that the Finns were preparing to land. O’Leary and two others followed me. I stepped on a corpse, and stopped. A spluttering noise from the body’s throat erupted.
The body got up slightly, and started to chew on my shin. Or rather, my bulletproof shinguard. The men rushed to kill it, but I stopped them. The woman had been biten repeatedly on the face, and her cheek skin was ripped in places.
I quickly pulled out my USP and put a round between her eyes.
I continued my walk to the beach, as the men looked at each other.
Our landing craft had already started to return to the Juan Carlos, and the Finns landed from the French ships minutes later. Olli soon appeared in a jeep, which I duly hopped on.
“Welcome to America, may I see your passport and visa please?” I joked.
“Permission to speak freely?” Olli asked in his heavy accent.
“Granted,” I replied.
“It’s dark, there are corpses everywhere, I’m trying to conduct a landing,” Olli started, “And my commanding officer is a comedian. Sir, are you sure you are sane?”
“Dim the lights,” I ordered as we drove across the road, “The survivors to the North may be a threat.”
He relayed the orders to his troops, who complied.
It seems that I had answered his question with an order.
By then, we had made it to the defensive perimeter in the park.
O’Leary and his men disembarked from another Finnish jeep, and went back to their APC.
“Where’s Freya?” Olli asked me as we reached the centre of the square.
“She set up her perimeter in the American football field,” I replied, “Look south and you’ll see.”
In case you were wondering why three commanding officers referred to each other in such informal terms, the answer is that all three of us were involved in the Narvik operation together, and got acquainted afterwards. Of course, we kept it to a bare minimum around the troops.
A shrieking was heard.
“Report, O’Leary,” I said into my mic, “Where are the targets?”
“Can’t see them, sir,” he replied.
“Olsson? Have you got targets?” I ask after changing frequencies.
“Yes, many, coming from the south!” came the reply.
Gunfire started. Olli and I ran to my APC.
“How are we doing for ammunition gentlemen?” I asked O’Leary.
After a quick consultation via radio, the reply came.
“Could be better for the 20mm, plenty for our rifles, sir.”
“Olsson, we’re joining up with you,” I said into my radio, and issued orders.
The APCs and jeeps lined up in a double line to provide a safe corridor for the foot troops to pass. More infected appeared and ran to intercept.
Bullets ripped through the contaminated bodies. They never knew what hit them.
After all, compared to the hordes being fought off on the Rhine bridges back in Europe, this was child’s play.
We arrived on the football field.
The Swedes were holding well. The extra Irish and Finnish troops broke the camel’s back, and the infected were cut down in their hundreds. The Swedes all had bayonets fixed.
“We shouldn’t have split up,” Freya said in a matter-of-fact way, “The infected are more numerous than expected.”
“So much for them all moving West,” Olli replied.
“Remind me to kick the head of intelligence in the arse when we get back,” I muttered.
A Swedish corporal ran over to us, out of breath, and said something to Freya.
“The survivors are requesting our identities,” she said to us after hearing the full story.
“Did they find our frequencies?” Olli asked.
“I doubt it,” Freya replied, “They’re probably more than a little curious about the gunfire.”
Shooting was heard in the distance, from the direction of the survivor enclave.
The corporal ran over to us again, and reported to Freya in Swedish for the second time.
“The first line of defence of the commune has been broken,” she told us, “They’re going to be overrun.”
“What will we do?” Olli asked.
“We should use this opportunity to take the settlement,” Freya said, “We can eliminate the infected, and gain the survivors’ trust.”
I agreed. Freya radioed the fleet, and requested air support. The request was denied, the fleet was too busy using the helicopters to land troops in the airport on the other side of the harbour.
The foot troops hotwired several vehicles that were parked around the park, and we were mobile. The water was too shallow to land the rest of the armoured vehicles, so we made do.
We drove northeast from the park, towards the first defences of the enclave.
Within minutes, we were in sight of their southern entrance.
The enclave itself was actually quite genius. The survivors had collapsed large buildings, directing the falling structure on the roads they wanted to block, then cleared the rubble that could be climbed, to create a sheer face. They had also built structures on top of the existing buildings and bridges between buildings. Presumably, before they had blocked off the roads, they relied on height to keep the infected at bay.
The rubble barricades told us several things.
Firstly, that the survivors had some explosives people among them. Only a good demolition crew with enough equipment could pull such a feat off.
Secondly, it indicated excellent organisation. The lookouts, the radio chatter, the defences, the fact they still had power were evidence enough of that, but the rubble indicated that they were willing to go to extremes to keep out the infected and raiders.
Lastly, it told us that our intelligence on the area was old. Such work being carried out would have shown up on ESA satellite imagery. That was two kicks in the arse we now owed the European intelligence community.
The southern entrance itself was constructed from steel girders and wood. We stared at it from the end of the block, beside the sea. On the wooden gate with punji sticks at its base, the words “Southie Republic” were written in green paint. A bad attempt at a large shamrock below that was splattered with blood.
The gate was considerably larger that the surrounding buildings, by about a storey.
In the vicinity of the gate and the road before us, rotting corpses were strewn about the place. The sweet smell of rotting flesh hit our nostrils. Many of my troops threw up, but the Swedes and the Finns didn’t at all. Narvik had hardened them to the point that they were ruthless. In comparison, my lads were more susceptable to such things.
After observing the defences of the “Southie Republic”, we were forced to re-evaluate our situation. We held a meeting at Freya’s position.
“Do you reckon we can break through that gate?” I asked.
“Probably,” Olli said, “But that would leave the settlement itself comprimised, and useless for our purposes.”
“What about climbing the rubble?” I asked, “Get over them and open the gate.”
“Not an option,” Freya said quickly, “The rubble is dangerous, and if we’re spotted, it will be treated as an attack.”
“That leaves only two options then,” I supposed, “Wait until daylight for air support, or contact them.”
“Waiting isn’t an option,” Freya replied, “It’s still another four or five hours until it starts getting light again, and our ammunition isn't enough.”
“Alright, so we contact them by radio, and hope they let us in,” I said, “And if they refuse, blow the gate?”
“I agree,” Freya nodded.
“You two are in command,” said Olli, waving his hand dismissively.
He returned to his jeep.
“Alright, who’s going to contact them?” I asked Freya.
“Have you got anyone who can speak with an American accent?” she asked.
Just as she finished her sentence, the gunfire in the distance stopped.
We looked in the direction of the gate for a second, and then turned back to each other.
“I don’t think so,” I said, “We’ll just play the Irish card.”
“The Irish card?” Freya responded, “What do you mean?”
“These guys are most likely members of the Irish diaspora,” I replied, “If they find out that their fellow Irishmen have come to their aid, they might let us in.”
Freya pondered on it for a second.
“There is no loss in trying I suppose,” she shrugged, “Just be sure that you know what you’re doing.”
I returned to my APC.
I instructed O’Leary to change the frequency to talk to the survivors.
They were requesting our identities again, much more urgently this time.
I wondered why.
Bullets ricocheted off the armour beside me. My troops ducked for cover, and returned fire. I ordered them to cease firing, but it took a minute or two to stop due to the confusion. We had been spotted by the gate lookouts.
I took the radio.
“Cease firing, or we will shell your position,” I ordered into the radio, “This is the Irish Expeditionary Force, I repeat, cease firing or we will turn our artillery on your position.”
We didn’t have any artillery at the time, but they didn’t know that.
The firing stopped after another minute.
“Why did you not communicate with us when you arrived?” came the reply in a sceptical tone, “Why are you here?”
“That’s a long story,” I replied, “Let us in your south gate and we'll fill you in.”
“One condition, you have to disarm when you come in,” responded the survivor, “That’s the rules.”
“No can do,” I said, “The way I see it, you need us more than we need you, and besides, we’re military. You can either let us in, or we’ll shell you to bits, blow your gate and let the infected do the rest.”
A long pause.
“We’ll have to vote on it,” came the reply.
“Do what you will, but make it quick,” I stated, “I’ll be severely disappointed if you leave your fellow Irishmen out in the cold like this.”
“Well, that went well,” I said sarcastically, “You think they’ll let us in?”
“Maybe, maybe not,” O’Leary replied, “Depends on how well they’re doing supplies wise I think.”
They let us in after about fifteen minutes.
We found the place in chaos.
Civilians were running in one direction while armed men moved in another.
We were eventually halted at a crossroads by a group.
I got out to greet them, and the squad followed me.
"Tom Barry, Nordic Task Force," I said, introducing myself, "Who is in charge?"
"I am," said one of the men, "The name's Michael Reilly, I'm the President of this enclave."
"Well Michael, you seem to be in a mess right now, anything we can do to help right now?" I asked.
"Yes, we're about to be overrun on the Western Defences," he said after a pause, "Our last wall is being scaled by the enemy."
"Grand, where do you need us?" I asked.
"I'd like to know why you're here first," he said firmly.
"I don't think you're in a position to say that," I replied quickly, "Now do you want us to save your arse or not?"
He looked at me angrily, then sighed.
"Follow these men," he said finally.
"Thank you," I replied sarcastically, and then ordered the men back into the APC.
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