I didn’t have to wait long. The first infected appeared at the edge of the light cast by the fire trucks, a female that had already broken into a sprint even before we could see her, apparently enraged by the bright lights. Nearly every rifle on top of the wall opened up and kept firing until the body was pulped into mush. I immediately got on the radio and screamed at the NCOs to get their units under control. As a group I estimated they had just blown through four or five thousand rounds of ammunition to kill one infected. Up and down the line I could hear the NCOs yelling and cursing and couldn’t help but smile as the moment took me back to my youth. The rain was coming harder now, the lighting and thunder a constant. A young boy ran up to me, breathless and slipping on the wet metal roof of the container I stood on. I reached out to help him regain his balance but he managed it himself and stuck another walkie talkie out for me to take.
“So you can talk to my dad, I mean Jim Roberts,” he said, turned and dashed off and slithered down the ladder the way I used to be able to move. I raised the radio and identified myself.
“Major, we’ve got you close to 3,000 feet of wall built. Do you want us to turn the corner or start stacking?” He was shouting over the roar of the forklift’s diesel engine.
“Turn the corner but head south with the wall a couple hundred feet before you start stacking. I want them funneled in to the rifles.” I answered.
“You got it.”
I raised the other radio and sent Alpha unit of the ready reaction force to the west end of the wall, telling them to provide security for the forklift drivers while they were placing the containers. While I did this a dozen more females appeared in the lights, but this time only the shooters on the containers directly to their front opened up. These were the shooters stationed on the container I was standing on and most of them were picking their shots and making them count, but there was one that was popping off rounds as fast as he could. I went over to where he lay prone on the container and kicked him on the bottom of the foot to get his attention. He stopped firing and looked over his shoulder, then started to swing his rifle around and stand up when he saw me. Reaching out I pushed the rifle back onto the sand bag, pointed in a safe direction and squatted next to him and told him to watch how the people on either side of him were shooting. He nodded and turned back to watch them before facing front again.
The next wave of infected was larger, close to 100 females this time. They sprinted into the light screaming so loud I could hear them over the rain drumming on the wall, only the thunder and sounds of rifle fire drowning them out. The firing was slightly more disciplined this time and all 100 were cut down well short of the wall. Firing died out and everyone seemed to be holding their breath, waiting. The rain intensified and I was thankful for the lights. Without them, in the pouring rain, we wouldn’t have been able to see the infected until they were piling up against the wall. I paced up and down the wall, nodding to the NCOs as I moved through their area. Rachel stayed with me and Dog paced us on the ground, looking up at us as he moved, distinctly unhappy at being left out of the action. I paced as far as the eastern machine gun, manned by Wilbur, squatting down next to the old vet.
“Gunny?” I asked him.
“Yes, sir. I was.” He replied, hands on the M60 and eyes trained out on the far edge of the light.
“Knock the sir shit off, Gunny. I’m John.” I said, also keeping watch on the front.
“Yes, sir.” He responded with a grin.
“Smart ass Jar Head.”
“Yes, sir. That I am, sir.” He laughed, then straightened up as bodies appeared downrange.
Female infected burst into the light, running flat out, and I didn’t see a back edge of the group. Slapping Gunny James on the shoulder I stood and unslung my rifle as the shooters engaged. The sound of rifles firing blanked out all other sounds, infected bodies dropping well away from the wall, but more females hurdled the dead and kept coming. I sighted in on a running figure and dropped it with a head shot and kept finding and dropping targets until I had burned through a magazine. Changing magazines I strode to the west along the wall, checking on the NCOs and shooters. Several shooters were frozen, just staring at the screaming females running at us and I pulled them out of line and sent them down the ladders, telling Rachel to go down and find replacements. She scampered down the ladder like a monkey, Dog meeting her at the bottom, and started moving through the people at the bottom finding volunteers.
I only pulled six people off the line and I was surprised that the number was so low. Lots of people think they can pick up a rifle and go into combat because it looks so easy in the movies, but until you’ve had an enemy trying to kill you and you have to pull the trigger to save yourself and the man next to you no one really knows how they’ll react. Some people are built for it, some aren’t. Rachel was back with six new shooters in short order and I pointed them at the NCOs who quickly plugged them into place. Football players were already dashing up and down the line, gathering empty magazines and leaving full ones, and I glanced down below to make sure there was still a crew loading magazines. Satisfied I turned my attention back to the front.
The wave of infected was thickening and there was already a two foot high pile of bodies downrange, and it was growing, but the volume of females was increasing and they were slowly pressing their front edge closer to the wall. Raising a pair of binoculars I looked to the sides of the highway and saw females moving through the forest, their speed tempered by having to fight through the underbrush. The shooters in front of them were engaging, somewhat more successfully than the ones focused on the highway. The herd kept increasing in numbers and soon the highway was a solid mass of infected bodies. Males were now in view and were pushing and stumbling forward, often gaining a lot of ground as the shooters were focused on the much faster females.
I was just turning to run down the wall and tell Gunny James to join the fight when his machine gun started firing. He was targeting the mass of bodies at the far edge of the lights and a moment later his grandson joined him and two streams of fire reached out and started chewing up the infected. Bodies were torn apart, limbs severed and heads exploded, but the infected still pressed forward. They knew no fear and had no self-awareness to warn them that what was happening to their comrades was about to happen to them. Soon every weapon on the wall was firing and the piles of bodies in front of the wall continued to grow and the leading edge crept closer.
Raising the binoculars I checked the edges of the pavement again. Infected flowed through the woods in numbers too large to count but the shooters were spread along a nearly half mile front and were keeping them back for the moment. I looked to the east where the terrain should be working in our favor, and for the moment saw nothing moving. Back to the highway I watched as the press of infected bodies continued to increase as they flowed forward and over their dead brethren. The males were stumbling over the difficult footing but the females seemed to not even notice they were running on fallen bodies rather than a nice smooth road. Inexorably the herd pushed forward against our fire and were now no more than 50 yards from the wall.
The firing kept up and we were burning through thousands of rounds a minute. I ran to Gunny James’ position and checked on his ammo supply. He was an old hand and was doing a good job of maximizing what he had. Running the other way I was also pleased to find his grandson was just as frugal. If I survived this I was going to find a Marine and apologize for having snuck onto Camp Pendleton where I painted the battle cannon on display at their welcome center a shade of hot pink. Maybe.
To the west I could see Jim Roberts and his crew setting the first upper row of containers. The shooters on the container already in place had to move out of the way while the new container was stacked in place, then a ladder on the end got them on top of the new container and they were now 20 feet off the ground. Looking at the front edge of the herd pushing in I knew we’d get overrun before the second level of the wall was in place. Turning I went to the nearest ladder, waiting for one of the football players with an armload of full magazines to finish climbing up then raced to the ground and straight back to where the police officer had dropped off the mortar for me. Rachel was at my side and Dog ran with us, taking up a guarding stance when we stopped at the waiting crates.
Using my Ka-Bar I pried off all the lids then quickly started setting up the mortar. The 60 MM mortar is really simple. There’s a round base plate that lays on the ground onto which you set the closed end of the mortar tube. The mortar tube is just that, a tube with a closed end and a fixed firing pin at the bottom. It’s only about four feet long or so and about a foot from the muzzle an adjustable bipod is attached. The bipod has an azimuth adjustment built into it for setting the elevation of the mortar. When you get it where you want you simply pick up a mortar bomb, align it at the mouth of the tube, let it go and be sure you move behind the plane of the muzzle. The bomb drops down the tube where its explosive propellant strikes the firing pin, ignites and it is propelled out of the tube like a bullet out of a rifle. The biggest difference here being that the tube is not rifled as the mortar bombs are stabilized with fins. The idea is they are shot in a high arc and fall down onto your target. 60 MM mortars are one of the smaller sizes the US uses, but they still pack quite a nice punch when all you’re using them against is flesh and bone.
Mortar set up I adjusted the azimuth to 75 degrees, made sure Rachel and Dog were behind the tube, then dropped the first bomb and spun away to avoid the muzzle blast. There was a deep thumping sound and I turned to look down range. A few moments later there was a bright flash and loud explosion from beyond the wall. Grabbing the radio I called the NCO responsible for the section where I’d been standing and asked where the bomb had struck.
“Your distance is good, hitting about a hundred yards down range, but you need to adjust left. That one hit in the trees.” I turned the mortar a few degrees to the left then sent another round on its way. A moment later the NCO called and told me I still needed a few more degrees to the left. Making the adjustment I let another round fly and waited for the report.
“Spot on Major. Right on the yellow line if we could see it. Fire for effect!”
I started sending a round every ten seconds, wanting there to be enough delay for the hole I was blowing in the herd to fill back in with more infected. After six rounds I adjusted right a couple of degrees and sent another six rounds with the same timing, then moved to the left and sent another six. Telling Rachel to stay with the mortar and make sure it wasn’t messed with I ran for the wall to see what effect I was having. Climbing a ladder I noted that the firing by the shooters hadn’t slowed and was dismayed when I reached the top of the wall. I looked at a solid sea of infected and they were now within 30 yards of the wall. What the fuck? The NCO for that area saw me and ran over, looking almost comical as he ran flat footed to keep from slipping on the rain slicked metal.
“Each shell kills dozens and blows a huge hole in their ranks, but they flow into it in seconds and just keep on coming.”
“Damn it. OK, I’m going to send up a couple of the reaction units and step up the rate of fire. We’ve got to hold them until this wall gets raised.” I turned and flew back down the ladder, not waiting for a response. Running for the mortar I keyed the radio and told Bravo and Charlie units to deploy to section 12 which was the center section. The two NCOs acknowledged as I reached the mortar.
“Feed these to me as fast as I can fire them,” I said to Rachel. “And for God’s sake, don’t drop one.” She went a little white, but nodded and pulled a bomb out of its case to have it ready to hand to me.
I started firing as fast as I could feed the bombs into the tube. Every tenth round I adjusted a little to the right, then back to center, then left. I was keeping up a good rate of fire, explosions from the far side of the wall coming every two to three seconds. When I was about half way through my supply of rounds I paused to check on the wall building. The stacked sections were getting closer, but were still a long way off. The rate of fire from the wall had not lessened one bit and I was starting to worry we were going to run out of ammo before we even got the wall raised to 20 feet. Pushing the worry aside I started feeding the mortar again, the explosions resuming with the same frequency. I was in a rhythm; hang, drop and turn, grab new round and repeat and was caught by surprise when I held my hands out and Rachel didn’t have a bomb ready for me.
“That’s all there is,” she said, straightening up and stretching her back. I looked at the empty crates, still surprised, then shook it off and headed for the wall. Rachel and Dog ran with me, Dog rushing ahead through the pouring rain and not about to be left out again he bounded up the ladder ahead of us. Great. Who was going to carry his big, furry ass back down?