Homefire

Zombie or Post Apocalyptic themed fiction/stories.

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SJNoftz
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Homefire

Post by SJNoftz » Tue Jun 09, 2015 11:44 pm

Hey guys, I haven't posted here in forever, and didn't post much back then, but that's beside the point. Anyway, here's my contribution to the fiction section, Homefire.

I've had to take a few liberties in the interest of tying things together, as well a not knowing the interior of classified US Military/Government facilities. I also know that my punctuation and grammar may be off here or there, but this is just a fun throw-together for me, so I haven't proof-read this other than looking over it after writing it and spell-check on my word processor, so forgive anything that isn't quite right.

The first chapter here is just a quick introduction of the atmosphere and situation, further chapters will have far more character development. So, thanks for reading and I hope you all enjoy.

Cast of Characters:
GRIZZLY 16-
Gunnery Sergeant Steve "Rolls" Royce, MARSOC, Team Lead.
Staff Sergeant Tony "Dolly" Parton, MARSOC, Assistant Team Lead.
Hospital Corpsman's Mate 1 Roger Kindly, NSW, Corpsman.
Staff Sergeant Luke Vega, ASOC, Engineer/Assaulter.
Sergeant Walt Griss, MARSOC, Breacher/Assaulter.
Special Warfare Operator 1 Mike Bukowski, NSW, Communications.
Sergeant First Class Pieter "Vlad" Sjevko, ASOC, Medic

SITE R COMMAND/CONTROL-
Lieutenant General Carl Fader, US Army, Site R Commander.
Colonel Cheryl Falco, US Army, Executive Officer.
Command Sergeant Major Richard Spitzer, US Army, Site R Senior NCO.
Colonel Mark DeRenzo, AFSOC, Special Operations Task Force Command.
Major Luis Raval, US Marine Corps, Ground Forces Commander.
Major Paul "Hammertime" Hammersmith, US Army, Site R Security Commander.
Lisa Tiernan, United States Government Representative.

SITE R Key Players-
Commander Scott Ybarra, US Navy, Chief Surgeon.
Captain Matt Gugino, US Army, Quartermaster.
Phil May, Civilian Contractor, Communications Specialist.
First Sergeant Ernie Kiff, US Army, Motor Transport Supervisor.
Sergeant Major Thom Lohela, US Marine Corps, Ground Forces Senior NCO.
Senior Chief Petty Officer Pete Takahama, USN, Chief Armorer/Gunsmith.


***
The sky was clear and the air was cool, a light wind was coming down from the mountains. Within a month, autumn would begin to give in to winter and the area would be buried in snow as the temperatures plummeted.

The entire Fairfield County area of Pennsylvania was almost entirely abandoned, only a few people remained and most of them were planning on relocating as well. Philadelphia had fallen a week before and hoards were coming inland fast.

Most sane people were trying to get the hell away from wherever they were if there wasn't a high-level infection risk, traveling to the open arms of Canadian wilderness where the Canadian Armed Forces were openly taking refugees regardless of citizenship. The problem was, the fight to survive was already being lost and that fight had barely even started.

Armed forces numbers in most countries were steadily being drained, and not only by the walking nightmares picking their way across the globe. Desertion, lack of supplies, low morale, and psychological collapse were tearing through the services like scythes through wheat. National Guard units were the worst hit after being mobilized for crowd control and force security for evacuation centers.

Now, the bulk of the North American continent was being abandoned by its people. United States military forces were doing their best to evacuate citizens by air and sea to safe zones in the Pacific Ocean and into Canada and Alaska, as well as Iceland and Greenland through quickly-brokered agreements between various countries seeking refuge on the arctic island nations. Planes left small hard-scrabble runways in the middle of nowhere by the dozen as Air Force assets used every aircraft they had at their disposal, the large runways of major airports lost weeks before as infection spread like wildfire.

Day by day, the number of people left alive worldwide dwindled, and as the last parts of the well protected western nations fell, those left alive were left scrambling for ideas. Most of Europe evacuated to the mountainous regions of Scandinavia where multi-national defense forces were setting major safe zones in the fjords and mountain valleys. The Chinese were fighting madly on the streets of their cities, trying to keep their factories from shutting down as tens of thousands of PLA units reinforced manufacturing centers. The Russians pulled back to Siberia after failed all-or-nothing counterattacks in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Australia was fairing best, as it locked down its citizens, mobilized every military, police, and rescue service, and tried to keep its beaches and airspace empty with massive patrols by air and sea. Still, fuel was finite. Every country had tried to do what they could, and nothing so far had worked completely.

After failed containment operations, both outside and inside US borders, the President, Congress, and Senate had all agreed to put in place a hastily formed plan to safeguard the country's last, greatest resource; its citizens. The exodus was planned, prepared, and executed within a month, as monsters tore through towns, cities, and countrysides alike. Held off sometimes only by a few remaining guardians as safe zones evacuated uninfected personnel.

The problem was that no matter how hard the military worked, it was impossible to get everyone. In fact, it was hard to get almost anyone. People located more than two hours from evacuation sites faced extremely dangerous and most likely fatal trips to their nearest airstrip or military convoy assembly area. Many were located impossibly far from either. And then there were those left in areas that had fallen into hostile hands and, thus, were not ventured into by military forces. Most cities and metropolitan areas fell into this position, the surviving inhabitants left to watch as death came for them in screaming crowds.

The few military forces that weren't evacuation were batting down the hatches as they prepared for a siege, hoping to wait out their enemy rather than fight him toe-to-toe.

Sitting in the passenger seat of a Cougar MRAP vehicle, Gunnery Sergeant Steve "Rolls" Royce looked at the all but dark houses the small convoy passed. A few lights still burned while power was still on, but that wouldn't last long. He doubted the lights were sign of human life, but probably automated lights or those left on by owners long gone. Three local airports were still running evac flights north to joint US/Canadian safe zones in Alberta, and most people were taking advantage of that.

Royce was part of the small American stay-behind mission, tagged Operation Homefire by the US military. Several hundred American servicemen and women had opted to stay behind in numerous areas to keep boots on American soil, hopefully providing footholds for future operations to retake the country.

Most people staying behind were specialists; doctors, nurses, communications personnel, mechanics, air controllers, and various other administrative and rear-echelon types. Some were conventional military and security personnel, there to provide security for the installations with mountains of recovered arms and ammunition. Fewer still like Royce were from US Special Operations Command, who would provide reconnaissance and outside-the-wire patrols to be the eyes and ears of each site's command.

Those who volunteered had to be single if at all possible, have at least three years left to their current enlistment, and have skills that were deemed critical to operations. Spots had filled fast for Homefire positions, which deeply impressed Royce since almost everyone who volunteered had been through hell and back, then volunteered to go right back out for more. The most important were doctors and skilled technicians like gunsmiths and mechanics. Then came trigger pullers like Royce, but few people with even a small contribution were turned down.

So here Royce was, a career NCO who, thanks to a massive shortage of SOF officers, was commanding a team of seven men. Two Navy SEALs, two Army Special Forces soldiers, and two other Marine Special Operators like himself, thankfully from his own team. The mash-up team had only met six days before, but they'd have a good amount of time to get to know each other as they waited for winter to end. Still, Royce would rather have had his entire team together. He had worked in joint special operations task forces previously and respected his colleagues from partner units, but he and his fellow MARSOC shooters were cut from the same cloth, it was more like home with the guys on your own team.

Royce and his team, callsign Grizzly 16, were part of the final supply convoy going to one of the military's stronghold's; Raven Rock Mountain Complex, a large communications outpost near the Pennsylvania/Maryland border meant to be an underground Pentagon in the event of a nuclear attack during the Cold War. It had been retrofitted over the previous two months with heavily reinforced walls, hasty solar paneling, fuel reservoirs, and sleeping quarters for 450 men and women.

Coming in with the men of Grizzly were the last round of supplies for the time ahead. Preserved food, batteries, ammunition, computer parts, fuel, tools, and all the various items that were necessary for a spartan but functional daily life. After the vehicles were pulled in and offloaded, Raven Rock, or Site R as it was called, would be sealed up tight for eight straight months.

Royce looked at his watch and took a deep breath, shaking his head. What he hated most was that he was looking forward to it. For the last year things had gone from weird, to bad, to nightmarish at light speed.

At first it had been BBC and CNN reports about random acts of violence in Africa, entire villages full of blood and body parts. In the first weeks it was thought to be the same kind of violence that Africa had seen for centuries as tribes fought with each other, then it was obvious it was something else entirely.

Before the world realized they were facing a global pandemic it had already spread well beyond controllable areas. Cities began to fall rapidly while nations tried to come up with answers to containment. NATO began ordering airstrikes on infected regions, bombing entire cities into submission with enough high-explosives to put the entire second world war to shame. Some less civilized countries ordered their armed forces to kill any civilians outside safe zones without a second thought.

By the time the virus made its global debut, there was little anyone could do. Hundreds were infected and turned into bloodthirsty murderers daily, and while the military did what it could, even the survivors of policing operations weren't left unscathed. Royce had seen children tear into the parents with teeth and claws, and vice versa. He'd seen a crowd of people realize an infected person had made it into their numbers, then watched the panic spread through everyone faster than the plague ever could. He'd watched his home city of Detroit burn like a candle in the dark from the back of a CV-22 Osprey, knowing that men, women, and children were still trapped within the blaze, certain death waiting for them if they waited for the fire or ran into the waiting crowds of Romeos waiting for them.

Now, Royce was going to one of the remaining safe areas on American soil, and he was happy about it. Behind heavily reinforced walls, locked doors, and hundreds of armed personnel, maybe, just maybe, he'd be able to sleep. Or at least not worry about the alarm sounding that wherever he was sleeping for the night was being overrun, a situation that had happened more than a few times.

"There it is," Mikey said as he pointed from the driver's seat.

Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Mike Bukowski was one of the team's two SEALs, a commo specialist from SEAL Team Four. He'd been the last person assigned to Grizzly 16, but immediately got along with everyone. The team's kid at twenty-six, Mikey was soft spoken and almost insanely positive, even in these terrible conditions. He didn't push buttons, he knew his job, and he knew that in the situation they were in, team cohesion was vital to making sure everyone stayed alive. A team had to be close no matter what, but when there was no cavalry, when they were going to be living on the razor's edge for a long time coming, making sure the team stayed close would mean the difference between life or death.

He was pointing to the line of lights that indicated they'd arrived at Site R. Most were vehicles pulling out the last of the civilians from the area, some belonged to other vehicles carrying in supplies. Either way, the hill that housed Site R would be dark and empty of exterior life by 0400, the deadline for the shutdown.

"We're here, Dolly, you guys set back there?" Royce radioed back to the rear of the convoy.

In the rear of the convoy, Grizzly's second Cougar was being commanded by Royce's MARSOC teammate Staff Sergeant Tony "Dolly" Parton. He'd received the unfortunate nickname while the team had been on a night out in Reno two years previously before a deployment to Afghanistan. Parton had hated it at first, but, with time, it grew on him.

"We're set," Parton said over the team's radio channel. "About ready to get off the road, it's damn spooky out here."

"Heard that," Staff Sergeant Luke Vega, one of the team's Special Forces soldiers, said.

The team road in silence in their two vehicles as they approached Site R, watching the lights get larger and larger as they approached the facility. Royce felt his heartbeat quicken as they approached, feeling that if something was going to happen, it would of course happen right as they were approaching. He kept his right hand wrapped around the grip of his rifle firmly as they waited in line behind several large trucks at the gate, watching as the guard scrutinized the vehicles, making sure no unauthorized people or objects were being brought in.

Finally, it was their turn as Mikey rolled the Cougar up to the gate where several older Sergeants from the 101st Airborne were waiting.

One of the men walked up and waited as Royce cracked his door open. "Grizzly 16, convoy escort and site SOTF element," he said, handing an order sheet to the soldier.

The airborne sergeant looked them over and nodded. "Good to have you along, Gunny," he said. "You boys are the last ones in for the duration, pull up and my boys'll point you to 1st Sergeant Kiff, he'll get your parked and offloaded."

"Roger, thanks Sarn't," Royce said.

"Anytime. Welcome to Site R," the soldier said, and Royce closed the door.

They were home.

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Re: Homefire

Post by Halfapint » Wed Jun 10, 2015 2:34 am

So..... I hate to say it but this story reminds me a LOT of another that's on here. You're writing style is similar, and I totally dig it! You should hit up Redsky's story (This is his story) you'd like his style. Anyways I'm diggin the names..... Rolls Royce and Dolly Parton.... hahahhaha so good!

As someone else on here said...... You as the writer are not the editor, I hate it when people criticize peoples writing. It's your job to produce the story and do a reasonable job at editing. I found errors with yours but they didn't at all bother me. Continue with your writing!

I personally cannot WAIT for the next chapter! Feel free to PM me if you need help with story lines or questions. Thanks for the new story!
JeeperCreeper wrote:I like huge dicks, Halfapint, so you are OK in my book.... hahaha
Spazzy wrote:Tell ya what... If Zombies attack and the world ends I'll hook tandem toddlers to a plow if it means I'll be able to eat...

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Re: Homefire

Post by DAVE KI » Wed Jun 10, 2015 2:36 am

Like the build up, this is going to be good.
"We'll Fight Them, Sir!, Until Hell Freezes Over, And Then We'll Fight Them On The Ice! Sir!

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Re: Homefire

Post by 223shootersc » Wed Jun 10, 2015 8:14 am

Very good start, need MOAR please :clap:

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Re: Homefire

Post by Topkicks girl » Wed Jun 10, 2015 7:39 pm

Really like it so far!

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Re: Homefire

Post by SJNoftz » Thu Jun 11, 2015 11:43 pm

Thanks for the kind words all, here's the second installment and I'm in the process of hammering out a third since I need to be up as late as possible this evening/morning for work.

So yeah, chapter two.

***
As planned, the exterior doors of Site R closed at 0400 and its occupants all observed a few moments of silence as they all realized that once those doors opened, the world would be a completely different place. Nobody knew how many other safe zones would stay secure, how many more hoards of infected would form. Nobody knew if the country they called home could ever truly be called home again.

After the vehicles were parked and left in the hands of the Motor Transport personnel, Royce and the rest of the team grabbed several pallet jacks and offloaded all of their equipment from their trucks. Each man had several bags, packs, and cases containing mission and personal gear to supplement the equipment that would be issued from Site R supply.

The men of Grizzly 16 were led through the facility to a large warehouse-sized room complete with giant shelf lined aisles. Royce felt like he'd walked into a completely emptied Costco Superstore. The massive room had been re-purposed as the enlisted-man's barracks; each man got a small "room" that was part of the shelving unit, one man would take the floor level spot, another would sleep on one of the shelves above. Each "room" was covered by hastily hung blankets for privacy, and had a rack and a couple of lockers.

"Better than sleeping in the truck," Parton said.

"Hell, this is better than my dorm in college," HM1 Roger Kindly, the team's Special Warfare Corpsman, said. "At least I'm separated from the rest of you animals by something."

Royce chuckled. "You just get yourself targeted for every prank we've got," he said. "Three marines together in a closed space have a shitload of pranks to play."

"Great job," Mikey said as the team reached their designated rooms near the door. "Now I'm gonna be targeted by proxy."

The jokes were sincere, but uneasy, no one was truly happy or in a good mood. They were safe, but the situation outside was still fresh in everyone's mind and would remain that way. Just because they had places to sleep and food to eat didn't mean they were happy. There was a lot of worry of how well each man could take the stress ahead. Royce himself felt worn out and restless at the same time and the hell that engulfed the world had barely even started.

Still, he'd take a warm, dry bed any day of the week.

At thirty-seven, Royce had been a Marine for seventeen years. First in an infantry battalion in the 7th before making the jump to Force Reconnaissance after two tours. When the new Marine Special Operations Command was activated he became a MARSOC Critical Skills Operator. In all that time, he'd slept in deserts, jungles, mountains, and cities in every kind of dwelling. Ditches, foxholes, filthy bunkers, bombed out buildings, sweltering tents, spending days on end in the same clothes, soiled and filthy from the environment. When you'd spent as much time in miserable conditions as he had, being warm and dry was as close to heaven as you could get.

Royce climbed onto the shelf above Parton and looked around. The area was about twelve feet long by eight feet wide, spacious enough for his personal gear without much issue and since they were near the door, they were also near the head, which would make life a whole lot easier. Seeing his new home, he began to settle in.

Tossing his personal gear up into his loft that was his room, Royce began unpacking and doing what he could to make the space more comfortable. He'd packed his own pillow and memory-foam sleeping pad he slipped onto his rack and then laid his sleeping bag atop them. The bag itself was one he'd bought himself; fleece lined and very comfortable, especially since it was a fairly cold facility and would only get colder as the winter started and heat was used sparingly to preserve power.

He next went about unpacking his gear, most of which he'd spent thousands of his own dollars procuring. His body armor rig and his lightweight 'Rhodesian' chest rig were both aftermarket with pouches he'd also bought, all in a mild earth brown color the Corps called Coyote Brown. His belt kit, which carried a few items like his sidearm, a few spare magazines, his field knife, and a small dump pouch for empties was also mostly standard equipment, except for his custom-made Kydex holster for his 1911 and his knife, a Spartan Blades Nyx fixed blade that he'd carried for years.

Next he hung his cloths in the provided locker. He had combat uniforms, all made by Crye Precision, in a selection of camouflages; traditional woodland(the MARSOC standard), Multicam, and several in Marine Pattern desert and woodland. On top of his cammies, he had a few pairs of jeans, cargo pants, and a huge amount of socks, skivvies, and t-shirts. Lastly he had a numerous jackets, fleeces, pullovers, and long underwear pieces for cold weather operations. Each item had a specific place as Royce's OCD went into overdrive organizing everything just so.

Next, he put away his boots, nine pair to be exact. Three were his go-to civilian hiking boots; Keen mid-height waterproof hikers that he swore by. Then he had a pair of Keen trail sneakers he'd wear around the facility while on duty for comfort. Two pairs were fleece-lined Merrell cold-weather boots with aggressive tread and special clamps for gaiters and snowshoes. Finally, he had three pairs of Oakley SI-8 combat boots, which he had as extras as he preferred the lighter hiking boots.

Finally, Royce put away the five Pelican cases that housed his weapons, each one in its own case. The special operations community in general had a much larger armory and freedom of choice when it came to firepower. Royce took advantage of that in spades when he pulled weapons for this deployment. The first four cases housed the weapons the Marine Corps issued him; a 10.3-inch barreled short-barreled carbine with a Daniel Defense Mk.18 rail system set up for close-quarters battle, an M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System rifle, a Mk. 13 Mod. 5 sniper rifle, and a Benelli M1014 shotgun he'd grabbed on the off chance he'd need a scattergun.

The last case held Royce's personal rifle. He'd built the weapon himself, using only the absolute best parts available through private purchase. Lightweight, extremely well balanced, and setup exactly the way he wanted, it was a 5.56mm rifle with a 14.5-inch bull barrel, MagPul STR stock, and Centurion Arms rail system. Outfitted with a US Optics 1.5-6x optic, off-set Aimpoint Micro T-1, PEQ-15 laser system, and SureFire scoutlight the weapon was Royce's go-to choice for a weapon. Smooth, tight, and always on target.

Checking over each weapon with care and respect, Royce packed the long-guns away under his rack, he sat down and took off his hat, a worn flex-fit ball cap carrying the logo of his beloved Detroit Red Wings. As he sat he watched the men around him put their gear away and focus on small things, just as he had.

They didn't look like typical group of soldiers, sailors, and marines you saw in movies or on TV. Their previous deployments oversees and the unconventional nature of their work allowed a lot of freedom with how they kept themselves. Most wore beards and their hair was longer than military standard, something that was usually changed when on bases, but the previous months had been so taxing that grooming standards had fallen a bit by the wayside in general.

They were a good group, even if they'd been thrown together last minute. Royce and Parton had been part of the same Marine Special Operations Team(MSOT) for two tours and knew each other well, and he'd gone through most of a deployment with the third marine in the unit, Walt Griss. Griss was a country boy from Nebraska who'd spent his childhood blowing up mailboxes and bowling two-liter bottles of soda down aisles at the local Safeway. Marine Corps discipline had channeled his inner-wildman and made him into one hell of a breacher, a true artist with the various tools, weapons, and explosives used for breaching doors, windows, and walls. He took pride in his work with good reason.

Kindly was the team's primary medical expert, a fifteen year SEAL veteran who'd deployed numerous times as a primary Corpsman for his SEAL platoon. He was a soft-spoken man from what Royce could tell and he chose his words carefully. When Kindly had something to say, others listened to him because they could tell just by the way he carried himself that he knew what he was talking about. Royce was glad to have him on the team if for no other reason than an experienced, well rounded Corpsman was something that came around only once in a lifetime.

Luke Vega was, like Griss, an expert with explosives and breaching. However, as an Army Special Forces soldier, he was trained additionally in construction and repair of just about anything, part of the SF job of rebuilding a nation once they'd helped tear it down. From what he'd heard, Vega had grown up dirt poor in Brooklyn before joining the Army to be a paratrooper. He was well experienced and highly motivated, always trying to prove that a poor kid from gangland could have more gravel in his gut and brains in his head than most people could ever hope to have.

The second SF soldier was Sergeant Pieter "Vlad" Sjevko, a naturalized American citizen who'd moved from Romania to the US with his parents when he was a child. A joke early in his career had turned into a rumor that he was a distant descendant of Vlad the Impaler, the basis for Bram Stoker's Dracula. Sjevko was a fifteen year veteran and had a Silver Star for stitching up a teammate who'd been wounded on his last deployment while under fire, pausing from his work as the team's medic to return fire on hostiles who were only twenty meters from his position.

Royce himself was a son of Motor City; Detroit, Michigan. As a kid he'd watched the beginning of the American motor industry downfall. He'd watched thousands of people, including both of his parents lose their jobs as the transmission plant that employed them shut down, all but destroying their family. For his mother, it meant managing a SevenEleven in nearby Pontiac sixty-five hours a week, for his father, it meant drinking and doing what he could for odd jobs. For Royce, it meant failing out of the University of Michigan, after a few years of partying and going to class drunk, and a trip to the recruitment office near his home.

As everyone finished putting their gear away, the facility's intercom system buzzed, pulling everyone's attention away from what they were doing.

"All personnel of Site R, this is General Fader. Right now the exterior doors to the facility are sealed for as ordered by Operation Homefire guidelines. Currently, at twelve other locations across our nation, our fellow warriors are following the same procedures and preparing to wait out our winter-long lock-down. We are on a communications blackout, even with our sister facilities, to maintain the lowest possible profile, a decision many that came with a lot of difficulty from our superiors.

"Ladies. Gentlemen. I know you're tired, I know that we've all had so much taken from us over the last month; our friends, families, homes, everything we hold dear. Today is the first step towards taking back our homes from our enemy. The day where we return home may be far in the future, but because of what we're doing, we have a future to look forward to. We will hone our skills, change our tactics, and, in the end, will reclaim what is ours in a world that we may no longer recognize. This, I promise you.

"The sacrifices of the men and women, both military and civilian, over the last months will not be in vain. I'm incredibly proud to be in command of such a group of men and women; those, who in their nation's darkest hour, volunteered to go right back into harm's way to secure footholds so that there may be a tomorrow. Soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines, you are the tip of the spear in the most important battle in human history. We'll be facing the hand of death when those doors open, ladies and gentlemen, and so help me we will overcome. Good morning, Site R, the battle has just ended. The war starts today."

The intercom clicked off and Royce could picture their new CO, still in uniform in front of a microphone, reading the speech he'd written or had written.

Royce respected the point Fader was trying to make; the guardians in the facility were on an island in a sea of death, pain, and suffering. It would be their job to wade into that uncertain water in the future, and it would be a hard-won fight.

Everyone in the bunkhouse had gone quite, deep in contimplation. Men from every state in the union and a few from outside its borders, all united in a way that, not even in previous wars, had been matched. Regardless of age, experience, creed, race, or branch of service, they were together now, and they had to act that way or the fight ahead was going to be that much harder.

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Re: Homefire

Post by SJNoftz » Fri Jun 12, 2015 1:40 am

Why not a third before I hit the hay for the night.

***
Life slipped into a kind of odd normalcy at Site R after a few days.

For Royce the day started at 0630 with a trip to the gym with the team until at least 0800, with a mix of cardio and weights, followed by a breakfast of powdered eggs and instant coffee. Then, at 0900, Royce would dress in a fresh combat uniform and low-top trail sneakers and attend the daily briefing with Site R's command staff where the day's objectives were listed and any issues with the facility were run through.

When the meeting finished, usually around 1030, the team turned to keeping up their perishable skills; fighting, shooting, and working with the many tools and explosives they worked with daily on deployment. While ammunition couldn't be spared for training more than light use at Site R's hastily built indoor range, they used Simunition rounds to practice close-quarters combat drills. They fought endlessly with each other wearing safety pads, practicing the brutal hand-to-hand craft they'd been taught, simultaneously keeping sharp and venting the frustration each man felt.

After training, each man did what they could around the facility to help other departments in whatever way they could. Kindly and Sjevko went to sickbay, Mikey went to the intel shop to help monitor civilian and military radio frequencies, Vega and Griss went to MotorT and Maintenance respectively, while Parton helped out in the supply warehouses by cataloging and storing equipment.

Royce found a place in the armory, stripping and cleaning the crates of used weapons that had been shipped to facility for use and storage. Piles and piles of M16A4s, M4s, M9s, and various other individual arms. As Royce stripped down the weapons and cleaned them out he knew that many of them were there for one reason; their previous owners didn't need them anymore. The weapons coming in didn't have any documentation attached, but he knew that units that had been badly mauled had turned in the recovered weapons of their fallen teammates. It was a chilling thought.

Free time came for the day shift at 1800 when dinner was served. The men of Grizzly 16 spent most of the evening free time working out more and having a long dinner before turning in for the night. They fell into a rhythm that resembled day and night, though it could have been any time at all outside, their views to the exterior of the facility were limited to cameras placed around the mountain. At 2000 hours the main lights of the facility went off, both to simulate darkness and to conserve power being gathered by the solar farm topside.

As days turned to weeks, the team started to bond.

"So how the hell did you get to be called Dolly?" Kindly asked Parton as he ran with Parton and Royce on a couple of treadmills. "Apart from the last name."

"Long story," Parton asked.

"Bullshit," Royce said with a laugh. "Mr. Parton here grew up in Knoxville, and after a few too many shots of Jameson at Harrah's in Reno, admitted to our MSOT that as a he kid he'd beg his parents to bring him to Dollywood in the Smokies all the damn time. Said that he loved ol' Dolly and her park."

Kindly burst into laughter and had to stop running. "Of all the places, you wanted to go to Dollywood?" He said between gasps of breath.

"Shut up," Parton said. "You know a better expression of Smoky Mountain excitement and family fun, get back to me."

"When you're right, you're right brother," Royce said. "You wanted excitement in Detroit you got drunk and ran around the old Packard factory. Only prize you ever won was not getting tetanus."

Kindly started his run again and shook his head. "Waiting out the apocalypse with white trash marines. I can't think of anything better," he said.

"Could be worse," Vega shouted over from his weight bench. "Could be in the Navy. Oh, wait..."

At night the team usually sat around in front of their bedspace and played a few hands of cards. Poker, cribbage, hearts, and blackjack mostly, betting cans of soda and pouches of juice. In the relaxed, closed atmosphere, they formed a closer bond, the one shared by the elite warriors of special operation. Royce and Parton shared stories of raids with Afghan Army Commandos in the Hindu Kush mountains. Kindly recounted tales of night patrols in Fallujah with Marine units, hunting Al-Qaeda Iraq cells and bomb makers, getting into brutal room-to-room gun battles.

They shared stories of their upbringings, Royce, Vega, and Griss were all from broken homes, destroyed by drugs, booze, bad people or a mixture of all three. Kindly was the son of a doctor and a college professor who felt the need to serve and care at the same time. Parton was a straight-A student with a degree from Cornell in Political Science, but left his degree and ability to attend the US Naval Academy to pursue an enlisted career after 9/11. Sjevko, tri-lingual and super-model handsome had studied performing art in Chicago before joining the army after meeting a former Special Forces soldier at a party.

As each man spoke, the others were quiet except for a few clarifying questions or a wise crack at a weak joke within the story. In situations like these, each man knew that they were opening the door to their histories so that they could all become closer, know each other well enough to understand how the others ticked. It was a tradition as old as mankind; sharing your life's details with those you trusted and those who trusted you so you could better work together.

After a month rolled by, the team had started to work as a single organism. They stuck together, they ribbed each other mercilessly and pushed each other's buttons, but in a way that only brothers could. While conducting close quarters battle drills they began to know each others movements before they did them, learning to move in perfect sync with each other.

While there were still jokes about inter-service rivalry, the men all stopped even thinking of their teammates as different in that respect. They were no longer a miss-matched group of operators, they were a unit, a fighting force that worked well together and was ready for what the world was going to throw at them.

During meals, the team started going over satellite imagery, labeling areas and highlighting things that could be of interest when they started going outside the wire.

"This spot looks like a bottleneck, could be completely closed if there are abandoned cars."

"If we stay out a night or two I think this spot would be a good OP; good sight lines, looks like an attached garage where we can hide the vehicles."

"Let's not discount hostile humans out there. Guys living on the edge, they might take shots at us out of habit, we can't just light up anyone who shoots at us. Gotta talk 'em down so we don't have to shoot 'em."

"I'd give my right leg for AC-130 support on this. Last deployment our JTAC called one on station during an ambush on the way back from a hit, it was like having the angel of death watch your back."

Further and further, the team melded and life got to be a little easier.

It was at about this time that Royce stopped being able to sleep through the entire night. He began having nightmares about three to four hours into his sleep cycle, five if he was lucky that woke him with a start. Afterwards he was never able to get back to sleep.

At first he would lay on his rack and stare at the ceiling, but this began to make hi anxious, feeling like something was going wrong. So he got proactive. Once he woke up, Royce would throw on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, his boots, and holster his Springfield Armory Operator on his hip, then walk. He'd walk through most of the upper levels of the facility, systematically looking at the various exterior doors and pointing his flashlight down the various darkened corridors.

It wasn't that he didn't trust the security forces, far from it, Major Hammersmith, Site R's Force Security Commander, ran a tight ship and even sent a squad each day to run through some CQB drills with Grizzly. It was Royce's mind ran constant what if's and could-be scenarios. Until he saw for himself that those doors were locked and that those soldiers and marines were still walking their patrols, he couldn't put those thoughts to rest. After his tour, which took about nintey minutes, he'd sleep just fine afterwards.

At first the guards looked at him like he was crazy, then they started to recognize him and nod in greeting, then they began to talk as they walked together. Soon he was known by all the night-shift guards, many of which admitted to feeling better having the highly trained and experienced special operator with them.

Three months into the stay, as Royce dropped down to the ground quietly, he saw Mikey standing in the aisle waiting, fully clothed. "Trouble sleeping?" He asked.

Royce nodded. "You?"

"Have been for awhile, been trying to read once I wake up but I can't seem to get back to sleep. You walkin'?" Mikey asked, slightly sleepishly.

"Yeah, I like to take a look around, make sure everything's copacetic," Royce said. "Care to come along?"

"If you don't mind the company," Mikey said.

From the darkness behind Parton's sheet there was some noise. "Gimme thirty seconds," Parton said. "I'm tying my shoes."

Mikey and Royce waited until Parton came, obviously awake for some time. "I've been waiting to be invited on one of your trips for three weeks now," he said. "Now I've gotta be the third wheel."

"Want me to get down on one knee?" Royce asked, patting Parton on the shoulder. "Light some candles, ask you the right way."

"I'd pay to see that," Griss said from his rack. "Now shut up, some people sleep like human beings."

From then on, the three of them went out every night, sometimes joined by another member or two. After the walk through, making sure that everything was as it should be, they'd return and sleep for another couple of hours before the morning workout.

It was once snow had fallen outside and the facility started to get cold that Site R was faced with its first problem.

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Re: Homefire

Post by DAVE KI » Fri Jun 12, 2015 4:02 pm

That is a great post. Keep it coming.
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Re: Homefire

Post by 91Eunozs » Fri Jun 12, 2015 9:56 pm

Great start! This is really, really good... Great premise and well written too.

Like you mention in your first post, there are a few typos like the typical "hoard" vs. "horde" and a few places where spell check won't catch the error like "hop" vs. "hope" and "hi" vs. "him" as well as the standard extra word here and there where a passage has been revised, but they're irrelevant!

Very well done and very much looking forward to see this one develop!

I'm hooked!

Edit: Would like to hear more on the rationale behind the comms blackout in this scenario too as that seems a little counter-intuitive to me. Or maybe I'm just reading too much into a great story...you're on a roll, go with it! :lol:
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Re: Homefire

Post by SJNoftz » Fri Jun 12, 2015 10:35 pm

Another part to put up before I get my couple hours before work starts. Thanks again for the kind words.

***
Royce stood with Parton in Site R's Tactical Operations Center(TOC) with Colonel Mark DeRenzo. DeRenzo was Site R's liaison for the Special Operations Task Force-East, who, like the men of Grizzly 16, was waiting for his job to actually start. Until Grizzly was going outside the wire and the crew of SOTF communicators and support personnel were doing their job, he was a warm body who did whatever the command staff needed.

Also in the room was General Fader's XO, Colonel Cheryl Falco, Major Hammersmith, Major Luis Raval, Site R's Ground Forces commander, and a couple of lieutenants that Royce didn't recognize. Everyone was dressed in warm clothing as they stood, the limited heating of the facility made the ambient temperature around fifty-five degrees, chilly but not terrible.

"Ladies and gents, we've got an issue that needs sorting," DeRenzo said. "Power's dropped thirty-five percent in the last week, if it dips another ten, we're going to be losing operating power and General Fader has said that's not an option, so we're breaking protocol."

DeRenzo pointed to a map on the wall, it was a topographical map of Raven Rock Mountain, broken down into sections with facilities and locations marked in block letters.

"We've lost power from twenty-two separate cells, nine on one side of the mountain, thirteen on the other. Now we can't lose that much power, so we need to get out there and repair them," DeRenzo said. "General Fader doesn't like the idea of us leaving the facility before the end of winter, and neither does Representative Tiernan, but I've convinced both of them that we can't just wait and hope for the best on this one. I told them that we could get out there and solve the problem quickly and quietly.

"So, with that being said, Grizzly 16 is being placed in tactical command of this operation. Plan out a way for Lieutenant Greene and Lieutenant Quaid to get their teams out there and repair those cells. Cameras and censors haven't shown anyone or anything getting into the wire, but we're not assuming anything. Gunnery Sergeant Royce, you'll be in command of all ground forces once you get out there, so let us know what you need and we'll push it through," DeRenzo said. "Any questions."

"Sir, what's our go-to plan if the facility exterior isn't secure?" Royce asked.

"If you encounter hostiles of any kind, fall back to the facility interior and we'll rethink our plans of getting out there," DeRenzo replied.

"What's our timeline here?" Kindly asked. "How fast do we need to get out there and how long do the maintenance teams need?"

"You should try to be quick about being out there, we want all forces in well before sunset so there won't be any lights visible. Also we've got a weather system coming in this afternoon, light snow but it'll bring down visibility to about two miles, so shoot for that as your jump-off point," DeRenzo said. "As for the work, what's you timeline Lieutenant Greene?"

1st Lieutenant Jim Greene stepped forward, a clean-cut, young US Army officer. "My boys have been training on the cells since we got down here, so we're confident that so long as the problem is external, which it appears to be, we can fix any problem at a maximum time of one an hour, if it's simple we could be looking at up to four an hour," he said. "It all depends on what exactly we find here."

"Anything else?" DeRenzo asked.

The room was silent. Colonel Falco appraised the room silently, yet to have said a word.

"Alright, take some time and hammer out a plan then get it done," DeRenzo said and left.

Royce stepped forward and looked over the map for a moment, then nodded, forming something in his head.

The meeting went on in special operations manner, what the British Special Air Service called Chinese Parliament. Everyone, from the most senior and junior personnel got a say in the plan. Some plans were too optimistic, some too hard to coordinate, but no plan was without its strong elements that were put together. Personnel lists were put together, teams were formed, armament agreed upon, and a full plan hammered out.

It helped that it wasn't a complex operation and chance of running into opposition were incredibly low, but it couldn't be treated that way. They were possibly facing an enemy that was as far from what the men and women in Site R had ever been trained to fight. They weren't the ghost-like Taliban in the mountains of Afghanistan, or the brazen, veteran insurgents in Iraq. They were fighting monsters.

No research had been able to pick up what the hell made their enemies do what they did other than it was some sort of parasitic infection; highly transferable from person to person, and able to turn a person from fine to a death machine in less than four hours. It wasn't clear how alive a person was through the infection, but it was clear that there was nothing left of that person. A memo sent out after a reconnaissance flight in Sierra Leone had labeled them Reanimated Human Beings, since it appeared the dead could get right back up after infection. Shortened to Romeo Hotel Bravos, or RHB, in military jargon, ground troops began calling them Romeos.

Romeos were about as fast as an average human walking at a fast pace, though not quite as balanced. They could move faster if they knew prey was nearby, which they tracked with frightening efficiency in ways no one could figure out. Killing a Romeo was about as easy as killing a human in terms of direct death; a shot to the head, heart, incredibly damage to the lungs, stomach, spine. The problem was, they felt no pain and, thus, had no motivation to break off an attack, even if they had six or seven bullets through them. Head shots or massive trauma to the chest were the best bet.

With this in mind the plan was set.

Grizzly 16 would split, Royce, Kindly, and Griss would secure one half of the mountain, Parton, Vega, Sjevko, and Mikey would secure the other half. With each team would be ten Ground Forces personnel, armed and ready for a fight. Waiting in the wings would be a platoon of Force Security, ready to cover the exterior team's retreat back inside with a blistering level of gunfire. If all went well, the Royce figured they could secure the mountain in about three hours, leaving the maintenance crews only a few hours of daylight to get their job done. However, the same plan could be carried out the next day, and the next, until their jobs were done.

Rather than leave from the main entrance on ground level, the teams would go to the top of the mountain via elevator to the facilities exterior communications building. A small office facility on top of the mountain had housed most of the base's daily operations before Homefire started, but during the lock-down, it had been mothballed until the facility was reopened in the spring months. The teams would go up and exit from the facility that way, clearing downhill in snowshoes, fully armed.

With the plan approved, Royce and the men involved in the operation went about getting ready; drawing ammunition and putting on full rattle battle gear.

As Royce laid out his gear he had a system he always followed to avoid forgetting anything. First he put on his uniform and boots, putting on thick long underwear under woodland camouflage combat pants. On his upperbody he put on two thermal layers and a Triple Aught Design softshell jacket. Checking all of his pockets for his medical kit and tool kit.

Then he put on his belt kit, making sure his holster and magazine pouches we secure, along with his knife along the back of his belt. Next he slid on his armor plate carrier, checking to make sure his rifle magazines, communications gear, assault pack, and bolt cutters were all in place on the front and back. He then made sure his combat application tourniquet was secured to his left shoulder.

Then he checked his weapon. He was bringing out his personal carbine, which he'd sighted in the indoor range the previous day. He checked his optics, laser, and flashlight, then made sure the magazine release and bolt release were smooth and unhindered.

Finally, he slid on a pair of Outdoor Research gloves, and his Columbia wool watch cap. Double checking everything, he was ready to fight as he climbed down, now wearing sixty pounds of additional weight in armor and equipment. Still, it felt good to him to be doing what he knew how to do best.

Three hours after getting the call to go, the thirty men going outside gathered at the main elevator before going up in groups of ten, the first containing a couple of GF soldiers and all of Grizzly 16.

Royce waited as the elevator slowly went up the shaft towards the commo building, feeling his heart beat fast. His senses were heightened, his adrenal glands open, and his mind focused solely on the job ahead. Everything he thought about was the job in front of him, and how to get all of the guys under his command back without getting hurt. This was the first test, the first time they'd be doing anything in the new world.

The doors opened and Royce and Parton went out first, their weapons up as they searched the dark, quiet building. Outside they could hear the wind hitting the windows and walls. Small amounts of light could be seen filtering in through the window's security shades.

Once the building was secure they waited for the next two loads of shooters to come up, kneeling and setting security by the doors outside. It took a few minutes to rally up before everyone tested their interteam radios. Finally, Royce tested the last commo line.

"Wildfire Main, this is Grizzly 16 Actual, radio check," he said, calling Site R's command element by their callsign.

"Grizzly, Wildfire Main, we have you five-by-five," one of the communications guys in the facility said back.

"Roger, have you same," Royce said. "Grizzly is moving to waypoint alpha."

With the Force Security guys now coming up and getting ready, they performed their last checks while the exterior group strapped on their snow shoes and rallied by the doors, everyone tensing up and getting ready for their first steps outside in four months. Royce set his jaw and got ready, it was time to go to work.

With everything set, Royce unlocked the door he'd be using to get out and took a long, slow, deep breath, then turned to Kindly.

"Let's make some money," he said.

Kindly raised his rifle to cover the door and put his hand on Royce's shoulder, letting him know he was ready to go. "On you," he said.

Royce turned the handle and pulled the door open, letting in a rush of cold, fresh air which washed over every man like a wave of freedom on his skin.

Without another thought, Royce brought his rifle up and stepped out, searching through the falling snow. He allowed his train of thought to wander for a second as he stepped out.

Holy fuck. I'm outside.

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Re: Homefire

Post by SJNoftz » Fri Jun 12, 2015 10:39 pm

91Eunozs wrote:Great start! This is really, really good... Great premise and well written too.

Like you mention in your first post, there are a few typos like the typical "hoard" vs. "horde" and a few places where spell check won't catch the error like "hop" vs. "hope" and "hi" vs. "him" as well as the standard extra word here and there where a passage has been revised, but they're irrelevant!

Very well done and very much looking forward to see this one develop!

I'm hooked!

Edit: Would like to hear more on the rationale behind the comms blackout in this scenario too as that seems a little counter-intuitive to me. Or maybe I'm just reading too much into a great story...you're on a roll, go with it! :lol:
Shit, I totally meant to include more on that. I'll put more in, but, short version in the idea was that the military wanted a little information as possible getting out about its stay behind forces until they'd gone through their lock down phase so that remaining refugees wouldn't try to hinder the operation's main objective. That meant securing even traffic between other stay behind forces. It's a bit convoluted, I know, but I needed an excuse to make it so Site R was in a complete blackout, even with its sister sites so they would have no idea what would be going on when the doors opened.

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Re: Homefire

Post by 91Eunozs » Fri Jun 12, 2015 11:45 pm

Thanks!

Appreciate that and the bonus MOAR!

I will not pick nits re: secure satellite links and other mechanisms we use, or I guess I should say "they" use since I'm on terminal leave and will be officially retired in a couple weeks! :lol:

Also, a minor point but they'd be a JSOTF (Joint Special Ops Task Force) instead of a SOTF, composed as they are of multiple members from multiple services...

But enough of my musings... Great story...

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Re: Homefire

Post by DAVE KI » Sat Jun 13, 2015 12:00 am

It's all good to me. No pickinics or miss speled words :lol: . By the time I see them and am done I usually forget. Great post!
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Re: Homefire

Post by Halfapint » Sat Jun 13, 2015 1:53 am

LOVE THE CLIFFHANGER! You can only do that to us once an a while before we rebel. Ask TB here................. He loves himself a cliffhanger but does them every time.


hehehehhee

I love this story, it makes me read slow, and know what you mean. Love it, keep it up!
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Re: Homefire

Post by Snapshot7.62 » Sat Jun 13, 2015 9:47 am

Very good!
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Re: Homefire

Post by SJNoftz » Sun Jun 14, 2015 7:46 pm

91Eunozs wrote:Thanks!

Appreciate that and the bonus MOAR!

I will not pick nits re: secure satellite links and other mechanisms we use, or I guess I should say "they" use since I'm on terminal leave and will be officially retired in a couple weeks! :lol:

Also, a minor point but they'd be a JSOTF (Joint Special Ops Task Force) instead of a SOTF, composed as they are of multiple members from multiple services...

But enough of my musings... Great story...


I should've known that, I read about all I can on SOF(avoiding way too stylized stuff), but as I'm not in the service I'm certainly not up on command structure as much as I should be. But, since I'd like to be as accurate as possible, I'll most likely switch that up, so if you catch something else big about command structure that could be a little more spot on, let me know.

I did however know about the ridiculous amount of secure commo gear that's available even to the civilian consumer. Like I said, I know it doesn't hold together very well, in fact that was one of my issues with TNT's "The Last Ship". I'm as guilty as Michael Bay's pet project.....

So with that glaring inconsistency, I'd like to remain as accurate as a civilian history fan can be, a well as being respectful to the men and women I'm trying to write about. But still, thanks everyone for the kind words, working on another part or two before the end of the night.

EDIT: The Michael Bay thing got to me too much, I'm scrapping the commo blackout story. Since it wasn't really part of the story anyway, it's not hard to change.

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Re: Homefire

Post by SJNoftz » Sun Jun 14, 2015 11:32 pm

Here's another part before I turn in for the evening.

***
The snow outside the door was high, but the wind had thankfully kept it low enough that Royce could step into it without much effort. The white powder crunched as he got his snowshoes on top of the surface, searching his assigned sector on the point of his column. He kept his weapon's stock tight to his shoulder and searched through the falling snow carefully, searching for anything out of the ordinary.

Cold air stung his face and burned his lungs as he breathed deeply. He'd not breathed fresh air for months and suddenly he realized how stale the air was inside the facility. It was amazing how good it felt to be outside and away from his bunk. Unfortunately, the amount of danger that the team could potentially face was far larger than the wonders of the outside world.

"Wildfire, Grizzly 16 is external, beginning sweep," Royce said and started moving forward.

The thirteen man column that made up the alpha cell moved off into the snow, not bunched up and making sure to maintain 360-degree security. Royce, Kindly, and Hass all carried SureFire suppressors on their rifles, so they would be primarily engage any hostiles they came across. While the weapons were not silent like in Hollywood, they were quiet enough that the sound would be muffled. Any hostiles that weren't close by may not be alerted.

Royce kept moving slowly through the snow on a predetermined path, searching the snow ahead of him for tracks, listening for any unnatural noises to the trees around him, and always searching the area, waiting for anything to move in the snow.

The snowfall was steady but not particularly heavy so it didn't ruin the team's ability to see the area around them, however long-range shooting wouldn't be as easy in the kind of weather they were in. Royce hoped that there wouldn't be any shooting. Even with a security platoon waiting to support them, hauling ass up a snowy hill with Romeos coming after them wasn't what he called a good time.

Be clear, just cut us this one break and be clear, Royce thought as he walked, sweeping his sector.

"Grizzly 16 Alpha, 16 Bravo, we're at waypoint bravo. Negative contact," Parton said.

"16 Bravo, 16 Alpha, roger. Same on our side," Royce said.

The search took painstaking hours as the two teams trudged through the snow, switchbacking down and back up the mountain slowly and methodically. Every so often, the teams would stop and search the area around them, making sure everything was as it should be. The Ground Forces guys, a mix of marines and soldiers, kept up just fine with their special operations colleagues and maintained noise discipline perfectly, always watching and making sure they could lay down serious firepower if they needed to.

Each team of ten GF was prepared with two Automatic Riflemen, each carrying an M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, each an improved Para version of the weapon with a retractable stock and rail attachments of optics and accessories. Each firing at roughly 850 rounds per minute, they were serious ass to carry into a fight, a bigtime force multiplier. Royce hoped they wouldn't need the weapons.


As he patrolled, Royce found himself missing everything he had when on previous deployments. In active combat patrols in the past he'd been part of an entire operational Marine Special Operations team of usually around fifteen other MARSOC operators, one of which was a Joint Terminal Attack Controller, a marine who'd been highly trained in how to communicate with aircraft and fire support controllers. JTACs were crucial since, if the team got into trouble, he could call in a huge amount of fire superiority in the form of fighter-bomber, Predator UAVs, Apache or Cobra gunships, or mortar/artillery support.

On top of the full team, which often also included a special operations trained Combat Assault Dog, there would be another ten to fifteen support personnel keeping constant tabs and ready to send a Quick Reaction Force in armored vehicles with heavy weapons. Now he felt alone, left in the wind by no choice of his own or his commanders. That was warfare now; help was limited and the cavalry might not come.

Royce dropped the line of thought and put his head back in the game, they had a hill to clear and he was going to get it done. Step by step, sweep, listen, look, take a sip of water, sweep, listen, look. Everything was muscle memory, the kind of thing he'd been trained to do for almost twenty years. He'd done literally thousands of similar patrols in both training and combat.

About two-thirds of the way through the search a loud thump rang out from Royce's nine-o'clock. The entire team dropped to a knee and trained weapons in 360-degrees, making sure they weren't being flanked. Royce looked through his low-power scope, scanning quickly but methodically, leaving nothing unchecked. If a Romeo had gotten inside the wire and was stalking them, it would make its presence known very soon, and the team would smoke it about as quickly as they could see it.

All expert marksmen and well versed in combat shooting under extreme circumstances, Royce had no worries whatsoever that the men around him could smoke-check any hostiles nearby with lethal precision. So long as the enemy force wasn't everywhere at once and stronger than they could keep together, they could at least make a hole to hopefully break contact.

After a few minutes searching the trees around them, they determined that snow had fallen off a branch and hit the ground heavily, making the noise. Not dangerous, but it put all of Royce's nerves in an even higher state of alarm, he felt a tightness in the small of his back that only came in moments of high stress.

The alpha cell finished its sweep through their area's solar array, spread out to search between the panels as completely as possible. The panels were a fairly new design that, when triggered from the base station would divert energy to heat the cell and melt snow that had built up, blocking the cell from collecting solar energy.

As the team patroled through the array it was like walking through an odd alien crop, all the metal frames and cells placed at even intervals in perfect rows. A few feet seperated each cell and walking through them would've been enjoyable if Royce wasn't looking for possible threats through the cold, using every ounce of energy he had to focus on what he needed to do to get his job done.

It took just over the three hour mark that the team had estimated to make it back to the parking area at the top of the hill near the facility. There'd been no contact, no sounds in the distance, nothing at all. It was quiet.

The world around them was quiet. Everything was gone, hiding from the weather, or dead. It made for an eerie world with no exterior stimuli, as if someone had hit a pause button and stopped all life where it had been. Or, more accurately, a stop button. Life hadn't simply stopped where it was, it was destroyed, torn apart by the very people who lived it.

"Well, that was the most uneasy I've ever been," Sjevko said as they stood around outside, now enjoying the open weather.

"True that," Vega said. "Everything feels....different. I dunno, maybe it's because we haven't been out for so long, but I don't quite recognize it out here."

"Ambient noise," Royce said.

The team turned and looked at him.

"What?" Mikey asked.

Royce looked around in the snow and took a deep breath. "Planes, birds, cars, other people, dogs, there's none of the ambient noise that we're used to on a day-by-day basis. Even when you're out in the country, there's so much ambient noise that we don't even pay attention to."

He kicked the ground with his right boot, now free of snowshoes.

"Well, we didn't pay attention to. Now we can't," Royce said.

The team was silent for a minute as they thought about the implications of what he said.

"Well," Parton said, sticking his hands in his pockets. "Thanks for that, I'll sleep a little sadder tonight."

Everyone smiled a bit and turned towards the communications facility where the maintenance team and a handful of soldiers came out as security. The soldiers coming out looked around in wonder as snow hit their faces and fresh air filled their lungs. It was a how Royce wished he'd been able to come out and greet the elements, not barely being able to enjoy the moment as he swept the area.

The group of men and women outside the facility had grown as the ground forces and security shooters all came out into the fresh air to enjoy it for a few moments before heading back into the facility to wait for another few months before they could go out again.

Before long it was deemed too late for the maintenance operation to go forward, so everyone agreed that it was time to head back in for the night and get back to it at first light. Grizzly 16 stayed behind and watched as the rest of the soldiers and marines went back inside, getting their last fill of the outside. They'd be back out tomorrow, but Royce wanted to enjoy it himself while he could.

The team was standing by the entrance of the commo facility when one of the GF guys who'd come with his cell, Sergeant Bosche, stopped. "Glad to get out here with you," Bosche said. "First light?"

Royce nodded and fist bumped Bosche. "You know it, brother," he said.

Bosche turned to walk inside before stopped and looking past Royce.

The team turned and saw one of Bosche's men standing about twenty feet away, looking into the snow away from the building.

"Garza, get your shit together, lets go," Bosche called out.

The young man stood and didn't say anything, just stared out into the snow. It was like he wasn't there.

And everyone could there was something very wrong.

"Garza?" Bosche asked. "Garza, c'mon, let's hit it."

Royce could feel tension in the air, the hair on the back of his neck stood up. As he stared at the young man standing away from him, there was the kind of feeling in the air before a lightning storm.

It was then that Royce realized what was going to happen.

Bosche and Parton realized at the same time and, as the three of them started running towards the young man, the rest of the team realized as well.

"No!" Royce shouted as his sprinted through the snow.

It was too late.

In one fluid, well trained motion, twenty-five year old Private First Class Ian Garza, of Hartford, Connecticut reached down, drew his sidearm, raised it, and fired a single round with the barrel firmly under his chin. Before anyone could reach him, he died instantly, falling to the ground like his lifeswitch had been turned to 'off'.

"Christ!...." Royce shouted, sliding to a stop, and recoiled backwards.

Everyone stopped and looked as soldiers flew out of the commo building to see what had happened, some took up security positions in case of an attack. All of Grizzly and Bosche all stood and just stared in shock as Garza's body settled into the snow, blood pouring from the wound.

Royce finally came to his senses and took of his hat, running his hand through his hair before grabbing the PTT switch for the command net.

"Wildfire, Grizzly 16, we've got a friendly KIA, alert medical," Royce said.

The radio immediately errupted. "Grizzly 16, this is Wildfire Actual," came the voice of General Fader. "Are you under attack, I need a contact report now."

Royce was quick to correct himself. "Negative, no danger Actual. A Ground Forces asset killed himself," Royce said.

There was silence on the net for a few moments. "Roger Grizzly," Fader said. "We'll have a Hero Escort moved up to you."

Royce stood and stared at the body, feeling a million miles from the world for a moment, the depression of the entire situation suddenly weighing down in his shoulders.

Site R had its first casualty not from the enemy, not from sickness, not from anything that could be seen or heard, but from fear. Garza had allowed the fear into his mind; fear of being alone, fear of dying, fear of losing everything, and he let it win, the easiest thing to do.

Royce turned away and rubbed his eyes.

There was still work to do.

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Re: Homefire

Post by 91Eunozs » Mon Jun 15, 2015 12:04 am

Great post... Powerful imagery.
Molon Latte...come & take our coffee order
Doctorr Fabulous wrote:... It's fun to play pretend, but this is the internet, and it's time to be serious.
zengunfighter wrote:... you don't want to blow a tranny in the middle of a pursuit...
woodsghost wrote:... A defensive gun without training is basically a talisman. It might ward off evil, but I wouldn't count on it.

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Re: Homefire

Post by jackorchuck » Mon Jun 15, 2015 7:15 pm

Enjoying the story, another slant on the Z holocost, thank you.

PS, I am a sucker for military themed stories.

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Re: Homefire

Post by SJNoftz » Mon Jun 15, 2015 10:17 pm

Thanks guys. I'm a fan of military themes as well. Sadly, the military often plays the bad guy in PAW stories, so I wanted to take the other side of the field on this one. Maybe locking themselves away doesn't make them the good guys, but, especially in upcoming parts, it will become more evident they're not the bad guys.

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Re: Homefire

Post by SJNoftz » Tue Jun 16, 2015 12:00 am

***
The day after Garza's suicide, a funeral service was held before the young soldier's body was put into deep freeze before burial in the spring. All off-duty personnel were ordered to attend in battle uniform for a speech from General Fader and last respects, but everyone knew the order wasn't needed. Service didn't matter, every soldier, sailor, airman, marine, and even the few civilians in the facility were bonded together. Not all got along, most didn't even know each other, but the stress and gravity of their situation brought them together.

As the 300 men and women stood in one of the two vehicle bays, they all stared at General Fader as he stood on a small stack of boxes.

"Warriors of Raven Rock, it's with great sadness that we're all together today. We're together to mourn the loss of Ian Garza, Private First Class, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, United States Army. A veteran of the war in Afghanistan, Garza was one of the last American soldiers to remain in South Korea as our forces were called home, defending Camp Humphries on the line before leaving before the camp fell in July. He was sent to Los Angeles where he served on the line again, defending civilian evacuation sites all along the west coast. Finally, he volunteered for Operation Homefire, his experience as an infantryman making him a vital asset to our facility.

"It's men like Private Garza that make this country the place it is, born and raised in Hartford, Connecticut, he enlisted in the army at twenty-one after working as police officer in his home city. He was a man that lived to serve the country that took his parents in from their native Cuba, and lived to protect his brothers in battle.

"Private Garza tragically killed himself during a patrol outside the facility. He waited until the mission was complete, ensuring that all of his teammates were safe before taking his own life while outside. He wanted to make sure everything went to his standards of excellence, to make sure he wouldn't let his brothers down."
Fader looked around the room and then at the podium in front of him.

"Because of his heroism in conflicts past and present, as well as his flawless service record, I'm posthumously promoting Private Garza to Sergeant First Class Garza. Already on track for Corporal, Sergeant Garza would've had his sergeants stripes before long. I intend to make sure he gets what he deserved. When he is put to rest when the snow melts, we'll remember this as he's laid to rest."

General Fader nodded to Command Sergeant Major Richard Spitzer, Site R's senior NCO. In typical military fashion Spitzer began to call out all the names of the men in Garza's platoon, each one responding "Here Sergeant Major!" until Spitzer reached Garza's name last.
"Sergeant First Class Ian Rosalez Garza," Spitzer called.

As silence rang loudly in the room, a sound system began to play a recording of Taps, everyone in the room standing with their hands behind their backs, heads down. Faces were straight, gazes were solemn. These ceremonies were unfortunately something most everyone in the room had attended, many for people they knew. This one was somehow even worse to attend. Everyone knew that there was some part of them, however small, wanted to follow Garza's example. That tiny voice, a voice most didn't even hear saying "just quit, don't worry, it'll all be over" softly.

After the ceremony was finished with a few more speakers and a prayer, everyone lined up to pay final respects; salute and say a few words to the metal casket that held Garza's body, out of storage for the ceremony, draped in an American flag.

It took about thirty minutes for Grizzly 16 to make their way up. Royce saluted sharply, then placed his hand on the casket, taking a deep breath.

"I wish we'd gotten to talk more. Go easy, brother, we'll make sure the job gets done," he said softly, and walked away, letting the Parton say a few words.

Royce hadn't really known Garza. He'd seen him around the barracks a bit and he'd been a part of Royce's cell during the patrol. He'd done his job, stayed quiet, and stayed on target the whole time, a good soldier. Being outside must have awakened the fear that killed Garza in the end, or maybe it was just despair.

They'd never know.

Royce returned to his bunk and laid down, feeling drained of energy as people milled around the barracks, not sure what to do until their next watch came up. In Parton's room below, he heard a game of cards being played. Everyone was just taking a day to process.

Staring at the ceiling, Royce started to thinking about the path that had brought him to where he was. What was most surprising him, was that he felt less lost and alone than he had in the past. The world had ended, everything he knew was gone. His home in Oceanside, California was gone. His collection of vinyl MoTown records, gone. His brand new Chevy Colorado, gone.

Royce had grown up with few possessions. When his parents lost their middle-class jobs in Buick when Detroit began to fall into its steady decline, his mother's wages barely covered the rent for their terrible apartment, clothing, food, and his father's bar bills. His father, who until then had been a quiet, reliable line-worker became a drunk, abusive, shell of a man, unable to cope with day to day life without a bottle or two of Jack Daniels. He worked shit jobs once every few months before being fired or quitting.

Royce's father, Lou, had died when he crashed his car into a wall at high speed, not stopping for a t-junction. He'd been drunk, but Royce and his mother had seen his father drive drunk a hundred times without that kind of issue. Royce knew, even at thirteen, that he'd killed himself.

It was then, as a boy, not even a young man, that Royce felt fear and despair closing in, telling him to let go and just let it all go. Watching his mother work her fingers to the bone making sure her son stayed in school while she worked ten hours a day if it was a slow shift. His mother, Mary-Beth, followed her husband with a heart attack when Royce was sixteen and became ward of the state of Michigan. This led to a few years of being rebellious and a real hell raiser as he drank, smoked, and regularly broke
the law in a variety of ways.

His high-average grades and numerous letters of recommendation from teachers had landed him a place in the University of Michigan, which he promptly wasted by ditching class, drinking and smoking even more, and making campus security earn their pay as he ran from them regularly in the middle of the night. Less than two full years passed before he was dropped due to his grades, leaving him with debt and nowhere to go.
Royce, like most young men since the inception of telelvision advertising, had seen tons of recruitment commercials for every branch, but while walking to a job interview in Pontiac, Michigan one day, he walked into a Marine Corps recruiting station. A few weeks later he was being screamed at by a Marine Drill Instructor while he learned how to precisely fold clothing and walk in step with his classmates. A first he thought he'd made a massive mistake.

It turned out that Marine Corps discipline didn't show him how to channel his trouble-making side, it showed him that he was just making bad decisions. It taught him he wasn't alone, he was never alone. From the most rear-echelon to the most combat-experienced, there were men and women like him and they were all working for the same purpose. Recon and MARSOC did even more for him, putting Royce into a small, tight-knit community made him feel like he had a family.

After the hell of his upbringing, the apocalypse was terrible, yes. It was tragic, and terrifying, and depressing, and soul-crushingly awful in every way, but it could be worse. He looked around at the men around him and thought of his team of warriors, his brothers in this hell. Face hell alone, you'll either lose or draw. Face hell with the people you trust beside you, even if you lost, you'd have your head held high.

"Hey Rolls, you okay?" Parton said, a few steps up the ladder to his room. "You've been laying silent up here for like two hours."

"I'm good, bro. Tough couple days," Royce said.

"Yeah," Parton said. "Drop on down here, Mikey just got his ass handed to him twice at cribbage and wants another rematch. Maybe a three-person game would make him think he can play."

"Fuck you, jarhead," Mikey said from below.

Parton leaned down. "It's not my fault they only teach you guys how to do your hair and wear giant Ray-Bans in the Navy, rather than how to be good at stuff," Parton said.

"Easy champion," Kindly said from his bunk, where he lay reading. "Them's fightin' words."

"Yeah, we'll see how that goes," Royce said with a laugh. Alright, hold what you got, warriors. Mandatory cards and cokes, nobody ducks out."

Royce dropped down to the floor as Mikey grabbed a soda from the case under Parton's bed.

"Oakleys," Mikey muttered. "It's not Ray-Bans, it's Oakleys."

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Re: Homefire

Post by SJNoftz » Tue Jun 16, 2015 11:08 pm

I know y'all hate cliffhangers, though this one shouldn't be too bad. I promise at least on more tomorrow, possibly two. I'm about to start my weekend, so there'll be more coming.

***
Months continued to pass. Maintenance fixed the solar panels so they continued to function and full strength, and weekly patrols were carried out from that point on, usually under the cover of snow or low clouds. On top of everything else, two staff members from General Fader's TOC who carried Psychology degrees began seeing anyone who wanted to talk privately about concerns or doubts.

As time went by, the snow began to melt, the weather warmed, and, before long, it was spring in Pennsylvania. Spring was the time that every man and woman was dreading and waiting for at the same time. Spring was when they went outside the wire.

It was early April when the call came down from General Fader's TOC for Grizzly 16 to report for a mission package. Royce had the entire team attend, ready to answer any questions the command group had. They'd been preparing to work outside the wire for months and everything had been planned to a T, from weapon loadouts to contingency plans.

It was 1530 when the team walked into the TOC in clean combat uniforms. Royce, Parton, and Griss in woodland camo, Vega and Sjevko in Multicam, and Kindly and Mikey in AOR2. Waiting inside the room was every major player in Site R's chain of command; Fader, Falco, Spitzer, Raval, DeRenzo, Hammersmith, and Represenative Lisa Tiernan, the US Government's eyes and ears in Site R. Every Homefire installation had a civilian government representative who sent reports back to the presidential offices located a lifetime away in Fairbanks, Alaska.

"Gunnery Sergeant Royce," Fader said as the team came in. "It's time for you and your men to get out there, are you ready?"

Royce saluted and waited as Fader returned it. "Yessir, we've been preparing for this since we came down here. Whatever it is you need, we'll get it done," he said.

Fader nodded. "I know you SF types are full of piss and vinegar ready to get things done, but I need to know you boys are ready to get out there and do what we need."

Royce nodded, sighing inside his head. In his years as a special operator he'd seen, more times than he could count, staff officers who had no idea what SOF was about and what kind of men made up its ranks.

More people than he could ever hope to count figured guys like Royce, with their sleeve tattoos, beards, and custom weapons were cowboys, guys who lived to pull triggers and kick down doors. Nothing could be further from the truth. The SOF community existed as a collection of professionals; experts in everything from communications to intelligence gathering and analysis. Royce was a scout/sniper by trade, but had attended courses in more disciplines than most people did in their entire lives. He spoke passable Dari and Pashto, along with fluent Russian, could HALO parachute jump, perform Combat Lifesaver medical care, train foreign soldiers, and gather intelligence from local sources. Their operations were planned to meticulous standards, and everything was put together with the kind of OCD attention to detail that made the Rain Man blush.

"Not a problem, sir. We specialize in going into situations like this, and we're prepared for any eventuality regardless of the mission profile. Whatever it is you need done, we'll do it," Royce said.

"Sergeant," Representative Tiernan said, stepped forward. "We have no doubt your skills as soldiers are top notch, but we can't risk losing any personnel at this facility and the committee that's overseeing Operation Homefire is nervous about first time missions like this. Are you prepared for what you might find out there?"

"Yes, ma'am. We've been drawing up plans for everything from broken-down vehicles to hostile human contact and everything in between," Royce said. "We're prepared to defend ourselves, friendly civilians we may encounter, and this facility to the best of our abilities from any force we may encounter."

"Self-assured group," Falco said quietly, but loud enough for Royce and the others to hear.

"Your operations inside the wire for the repair operations were top notch," Fader said. "This is a whole lot bigger, and they'll only get bigger from here."

"Roger, sir. We understand the situation and that it's important to keep our strength up," Royce said.

Fader looked around, then at Tiernan, who very slightly nodded.

"Alright, well this is the first time out, so this is going to be fact-finding only," Fader said. "You'll take four vehicles out and do a looped search that goes out, to our west, north, and back south to the facility. Altogether, it will probably be about seventy-miles worth of driving."

Royce nodded as Fader pointed to a map of the area with a route highlighted in red.

"This will bring you through several small towns, as well as the closest thing that resembles a city, Waynesboro. Move through, get an idea of what's going on, then get back here. What you do on the road is your call, but don't take any unnecessary risks and make sure that you don't stray off the reservation, no matter what it is you see," Fader said. "Major Raval."

Major Luis Raval had remained the poster-child marine; high-and-tight haircut, fresh uniform, and regulation boots. He was a strict but fair man, and his men liked him well. Royce had spoken to him a few times, figuring who would be best to go out with Grizzly once they went outside the wire.

"Alright, Gunny, I've detached Staff Sergeant Kyle Bronsky, his best fireteam, and a machine gun team to go out with you. They'll do what you ask and they'll stay on target. They're my best squad, so make sure you bring 'em back safe," Raval said.

"Roger, sir, appreciate the assist. We'll plan with Bronsky and his boys before heading out tomorrow at first light," Royce said. "We'll integrate with them and make sure that we can all communicate effectively."

Raval nodded. "I know you will, Bronsky's guys are the best at what they do. We won't have a repeat of last time," he said and dropped his head slightly.

Fader nodded. "Once you have a plan, submit it along with any equipment you'll need, then let First Sergeant Kiff what vehicle's you'll need and their fuel loads," he said. "Ms. Tiernan, do you have any questions?"

Representative Tiernan looked at the bearded men before her, then nodded. "Just do your jobs right, make sure that we made the right call with having us all stay behind," she said.

Royce nodded. "We won't let you down," he said.

Fader nodded. "Alright, gentlemen, get your shit together and get ready. You've got a hell of a day tomorrow," he said.

As soon as Grizzly left the room, Royce started talking. "Dolly, draw all the ammo you think we'll need. Coordinate with Bronsky and make sure his boys are loaded up, I want to be prepped for a fight. Rog, Vlad, get all the medical gear you can for casualty treatment and load it up. Mikey, make sure our comms are good and get Bronsky's guys set on our freq, I want everyone talking and reporting what they see. Walt, Vega, get MotorT, we'll get vehicles and I want them inspected not just by them, but by us too. We'll run GMVs for this, MRAPs might be too heavy and big for what we're going into," he said.

"Where are you off to?" Parton asked.

"I'm gonna get a QRF together and coordinate with Bronsky for a convoy plan and a timeline. Everybody meets in three hours for a mission workup in conference B. Let's get to work," Royce said.

As the team split up, Royce took a second to take a deep breath and get himself ready. This was what they'd been planning for and it was time for Grizzly 16 to earn their keep.

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Re: Homefire

Post by scoutsniper » Wed Jun 17, 2015 7:11 am

Love the story man. I'm a active Marine and your info about most your stuff Marsoc is spot on! Nice to hear about them instead of more navy seal stories lol. Keep it up brother!
"One shot, one dead mother F@#$!#.

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Re: Homefire

Post by SJNoftz » Wed Jun 17, 2015 12:36 pm

scoutsniper wrote:Love the story man. I'm a active Marine and your info about most your stuff Marsoc is spot on! Nice to hear about them instead of more navy seal stories lol. Keep it up brother!
Thanks dude, I really appreciate that, especially since this kind of stuff is your day to day life(minus the zombies, of course). All the compliments mean a lot, I'm glad I'm not spittin' in the wind and making everything sound really stupid. I'll keep it going.

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