Forrest Avenue turned out to be Nathan Bedford Forrest Avenue. He is best known as being the first Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, but was also a brilliant general for the Confederacy during the Civil War and a son of Tennessee. Despite all of that I was quite surprised to see a street named after him in the hyper politically correct times we live in…. er, lived in, I corrected myself. Not much time or place for political correctness when the people trying to kill and eat you ran the gamut of color and ethnicity and could care less if you were black, white or purple. We were all finally and truly equal. Somehow I didn’t think this was the dream Dr. King was talking about. All of this ran through my head as the truck pulled to a stop in a parking lot for a large home improvement store that sat at the intersection of Forrest Avenue and the state highway we had followed into town. People were streaming into the parking lot by the dozens and I knew I needed to get them organized. We were fast running out of time.
Jumping down from the truck’s running board I turned to Rachel when she dropped to the ground next to me. “Did you see the hospital we passed about half a mile back?”
“Yes. Why?” She asked, adjusting her rifle sling to free her hair which she then whipped up into a quick braid to keep it out of her face.
“My hands are killing me. I can’t grip anything. Would you run back and see if you can find something that would numb them? Something that would be a local. No morphine or valium or anything like that.”
“On my way,” she said, turning and dashing back up the road, Dog running at her side.
I looked around at the quickly assembling throng and didn’t waste a moment detailing several men to unload the trucks and organize the weapons. I was mentally cataloging and prioritizing what else needed to be done when a loud horn sounded from behind. I turned to see the largest forklift I had ever seen approaching down the highway with a huge, steel shipping container held a few feet off the ground in its forks. Behind it were three more forklifts with similar burdens. I trotted over to meet the one in the lead, stepping up on the side of the massive vehicle that was driven by Jim Roberts.
“Where do you want it?” He shouted over the roar of the diesel engine.
“Smack in the middle of the intersection, running east and west.” I shouted back, pointing at the location and gesturing with my bandaged hand. Jumping down from the forklift I stood back and watched as Jim dropped the first container on the asphalt. The first piece of the wall, 40 feet long, 10 feet high and 10 feet deep was in place. I saw Jim raise a walkie talkie to his mouth and less than a minute later three more containers were in place and we had 160 feet of wall in place. The forklifts spun around and charged back towards the rail yard. The men were still unloading the truck and organizing the cargo and I walked over to the large crowd and raised my hand in the air. They went quiet and pressed forward to listen.
“Glad to see all of you here!” I shouted. “We have about two hours at most before the first infected start arriving and a lot to do to get ready. First, I need everyone experienced with a military rifle to move over by the deuce and a half.” I pointed at the truck and about 300 people separated themselves from the main group and moved to the area I indicated.
“OK, next we need about a thousand sand bags.” Immediately a heavy set man stepped forward from the front ranks of a large group of boys. A quick look at their jackets and I realized it was a high school football team.
“We’ve got that,” he said. “Where do you want them stacked?”
“To the right of the stacks of weapons.” I pointed, he nodded and trotted off with 80 football players at his back.
“We need ladders to get to the top of the containers.” An early middle aged woman stepped forward.
“I’m Jess. I’m the manager of the Home Depot right there. Lots of ladders. Follow me!” She turned and headed across the parking lot, a couple of dozen people falling in behind her.
“Radios. Walkie Talkies. We need at least 30, all on the same frequency.” I called out to the group.
“I own a CB and Ham radio shop. Got you covered!” An elderly man headed for his car at the far side of the parking lot and a couple of women joined him to lend a hand.
I spent another couple of minutes detailing groups to collect water and medical supplies, then the second truck arrived and the men that had just finished unloading the first one immediately set to work. Four more containers showed up a minute later and our wall doubled in length. Stepping over to the group that had served in the military I shouted out asking for NCOs – Non Commissioned Officers or Sergeants – and was rewarded with about 30 raised hands. I waved them forward to where I was standing.
“We’ve got,” I turned my head and did a quick count of crates and did the math. “Looks like 750 rifles. I want to put 500 on the wall along with our two M60s. Each of you grab 25 shooters and make sure they seem to know what they’re doing. As soon as the sand bags and ladders are here, get them a rifle and have them grab a sand bag on their way to the top of the wall.” The sand bags would be rests for the rifles and hopefully improve the shooters’ accuracy. “Doesn’t look like there’s enough bodies, so start picking people you know that can shoot to fill out the ranks. Get going!”
“You six stay with me.” I pointed at six older men who were standing closest to me. Two of them had globe and anchor tattoos on their forearms. I might crack jokes but I’d never turn down help in a fight from a Marine. The other four were from the same generation but didn’t have the look and when I asked found that two were retired Navy CPOs, one retired Air Force and the other had been in the Coast Guard.
“We need a 250 man ready reaction force,” I said and the two Marines quickly nodded understanding and agreement. A reaction force is held in reserve to swiftly move into an area of the battle where there is a risk that the front lines will be overwhelmed. It can often mean the difference between victory and defeat. “Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta.” I pointed at each one of them in turn as I said the designator for their piece of the reaction force. Having made a very spur of the moment assessment I assigned Navy as Alpha and Bravo which would be the first units I called if we needed to use them. I expected them to have the least experience in a firefight and be the least effective so I’d throw them into the grinder first. My two Jar Heads were Charlie and Delta. Again the two Marines nodded their understanding of what I was doing and the four of them set off to start rounding up shooters. I was left with the AF and CG non-coms and assigned one to put together a group to load the lose ammo into magazines. I had the other oversee the filling of the sand bags, and when the football team was done with that he would conscript them to be ammo runners for the shooters, collecting empty magazines for the crew doing the loading and delivering full magazines back to the top of the wall.
Everyone was scurrying around and I was surprised how quickly all the people had jumped in to help. Of course they’d all had a couple of weeks of the apocalypse to get used to the idea that everyone needed to pitch in if anyone wanted to survive. Besides, there was a reason Tennessee was called the Volunteer state. More containers arrived and were quickly placed. The forklift drivers showed their skills, maneuvering the large containers into place with an apparent ease that I knew only came from years of experience. The wall was quickly spreading out and I was starting to feel a tiny little glimmer of hope, but reminded myself that the containers were only 10 feet high and we still had a lot of work to do and almost no time to do it in.
Ladders started arriving and were put in place to give access to the tops of the containers. Grabbing one of the men that was heading back to get another ladder I told him to find as many cans of white spray paint as he could get his hands on, then sent him running. My plan was to have 500 shooters spread along the top of the wall, each shooter needing about five feet of space, so I needed 2,500 feet of wall completed before the infected arrived. I did a quick count and came up with 16 containers, or 640 feet. Wanting a look I strode to the closest ladder and climbed, grimacing at the pain as I gripped the rungs. As I reached the top of the ladder and stepped onto the roof of the container a rumble of thunder sounded behind me. I turned and while I couldn’t see the clouds in the dark sky I could see the play of lightning through the clouds. Shit. All we needed right now was a storm. I turned back to the south and looked down the highway. No infected were in sight, but I knew that wouldn’t last long.