Officer Dan Simpson was bone tired. He had been leading patrols into the city everyday of late, sometimes twice a day. With large chunks of the Internet shutdown by power outages, the pandemic and up-to-date phone books increasingly hard to find, his local knowledge of Edmonton was more valuable than ever.
Many of the troops on the base hadn’t grown up in Edmonton and didn’t know much of the city beyond the places they and their families had frequented before the pandemic erupted.
With the help of Dan and his fellow officers, whom Dan had worked very hard to coax out of their PTSD shocked shells and back into serving the public, troops from the base now had well-stocked supplies of food, had located hundreds of survivors over the past two weeks and had dealt with thousands of infected.
His typical day started with a unit briefing, discussing transit routes, security, rules of engagement, and so on. To allow him to sleep just a little longer, he usually ate breakfast during the briefing. Some people had grumbled at first, citing the lack of manners, but eventually most saw the wisdom in his line of thinking and now most people were alternating eating and talking.
The pandemic had ravaged the Edmonton Police Service – less than five percent of its officers had survived the chaos of the past six weeks – and worst of all, those that had survived were those with the least experience to deal with its effects. Scanning the assembled officers, it looked as though Dan was the only Tactical Team officer in the room, excepting a couple of senior officers that had served a decade or more ago to flesh out their resumes enroute to their positions of command.
Dan though it probably had something to do with the swagger and gung ho attitude most Tactical Team officers needed to make it onto the team in the first place, he thought to himself. On several occasions, he had heard of Tactical Team officers take on dozens of infected only to meet a hideous end. Dan had been lucky because he had been grounded – although many of his former comrades probably would have called it hindered – by having Ed Teller as partner. Ed had been a normal traffic constable and didn’t have the attitude and military experience most Tactical Team members did. Consequently, Dan had been much more careful when confronted by infected than he might have been had he been accompanied by Tactical Team members. Unfortunately, Ed had not survived the fall of North Division and Dan had been largely rudderless for days after he had arrived on the base.
It had taken several days for Dan to break out of his funk and get back to work. Not wanting to sit on his ass, he had volunteered to lead a patrol back into the city. He led them to several different food distribution warehouses and had secured large amounts of food. Prior to that, most missions had been dismal failures, either coming back to the base empty-handed or being forced to retreat because of large numbers of infected. His knowledge of the city had made that possible, and coupled with his past military experience, gave him a mystique on the base.
A Captain entered the tent, and the soldiers milling around the coffee maker suddenly stood to attention as a non-com shouted, “Attention!”
“Gentlemen, our planned mission has been scrubbed due to an urgent situation at 742 Signals Squadron. They have reported that they are surrounded by hundreds of infected and the fenceline there is in danger of collapse. Our mission is simple – wipe out the infected and secure the compound,” he said.
“You heard him, let’s mount up and kill anything that doesn’t have a pulse!” a warrant officer at the front of the room shouted.
With that, Dan followed the crush of bodies hurrying out of the room and onto the grounds. More than a dozen vehicles were waiting, most with their engines already running. Dan ran to where Privates Barker and Hall had parked their G-Wagon and hopped in. Other troops scrambled towards their assigned vehicles and jumped onboard. The Captain twirled his hand in the air and the convoy headed off.
The combat engineers had already deployed two of the bridges necessary to cross the intricate series of huge trenches that now surrounded the base. Once the convoy reached the third and final trench – colloquially known around the base as ‘The Moat’, two bridging tanks moved into place. One, lifted the bridge from the middle trench as a precaution, then the second tank dropped a bridge over the outside trench. The convoy inched across the bridge, careful not to damage the trench, then formed a laager as they waited for everyone to cross.
Once the last vehicle had crossed, the convoy roared off to the east. Behind them, the bridge was once again removed and the bridging tank began its slow retreat to the confines of the base.
Barker gunned the engine and raced well ahead of the other vehicles.
“Slow down lead foot,” Hall said. “We don’t want to get too far ahead or we might get cut off.”
“Intel showed nothing between the base and 742 Signals Squadron’s outpost, but Hall is right, slow it down champ,” Dan said.
Barker eased off the gas pedal and within a few seconds, the LAV behind them caught up. Less than a minute later, Barker slowed again as he negotiated a dogleg in the road ahead.
Like most cities in North America built in the 19th and 20th centuries, Edmonton was laid out on a typical grid system, with streets running north and south, and avenues running east to west. However, occasionally a road ran diagonally and it created all sorts of havoc for urban planners. Highway 15, an extension of Edmonton’s old Fort Road, ran northeast to southwest – or vice versa depending on the direction you were travelling. As such, when an avenue or street intersected with it, they usually had a slight dogleg to accommodate turn lanes and signaling equipment and so on.
Just as Barker was about to turn south to cross Highway 15, Hall yelled out, “Contact left!”
Dan replied, “What do you got?”
“Twenty to thirty potential hostiles coming out of the Temple!” he shouted back.
Dan scanned the building and saw a small group of people staggering towards the convoy.
“Charlie Two-One, contact left. Possible infected. Permission to engage,” Dan requested over the radio.
“Permission granted, but fire warning shots first to verify infection,” came the reply.
“Fire a burst over their heads, Hall,” Dan said.
“Sure thi–,” his reply was cut off by the C-9 firing a five round burst. Hall waited a second, then triggered a second burst.
“No reaction, they look hostile,” Hall shouted. Seconds later, he fired again, knocking several over like bowling pins. Most of them got back up and continued their march towards the convoy.
Dan noticed Barker had stopped the G-Wagon.
“Let’s get moving Barker. We’ve still got a mission to accomplish,” Dan ordered.
The G-Wagon lurched slightly and sped away, crossing the highway. The E-LAV behind them let loose with its heavy machinegun and cut several of the infected to pieces, scattering limbs and body parts in several directions, then it too resumed its march eastward. As the convoy passed the temple, each vehicle slowed and fired off a burst or two and then continued onwards.
“What the hell is that crazy place?” Barker muttered.
“It’s a Sikh Temple, I can’t remember the correct term for it though,” Dan replied.
“You mean like a Paki? Or do you mean an Indian?” Hall replied.
“Sikhs are not really like either one – Pakistanis are mostly Muslim and most Indians are Hindu. Sikhs wear turbans, carry a ceremonial knife, have a separate religion and want a separate homeland. Some of them even resorted to terrorism to bring it about, but they got crushed by the Indian government.”
“How the hell do you know so much about them?” Barker asked.
“I knew a couple Sikhs on the Force back in the day,” Dan replied.
“Okay Hall, we need to head north on 17th street NE – that’s a left on the road ahead,” Dan said.
The G-Wagon slowed and Hall made the turn. He had barely finished when dozens of infected appeared out of nowhere, erupting from the trees and ditches lining the road.
“Contact Left! Contact right! Contact centre! Fuck, contact everywhere,” Hall shouted and opened fire.
“Barker, back it up and let that E-LAV take point!” Dan shouted over the gunfire.
Barker jammed on the brakes and threw it in reverse. Fists thumped off the sides of the vehicle.
“Shit!” Barker yelled as the E-LAV filled up his rearview mirror and blocked his path down the road.
Barker slammed on the brakes again and turned the wheel hard, yelling, “Hold on!”
He gunned the engine and the G-Wagon flew off the road and into the wheat field located next to it. Hall fired madly at anything that moved.
“I can’t see shit!” Barker shouted.
“Turn left again,” Hall shouted back, then he opened fire once again.
Barker turned left and drove blindly through the tall wheat and grimaced as bodies flew left and right as he barreled through them like a bull in a china shop. Then one particularly corpulent zombie bounced off the hood and spider-webbed the windshield, blinding his vision.
“Don’t stop for anything,” Dan shouted, grasping the handhold above the door so hard his knuckles quickly turned white.
Five seconds later, the G-Wagon hit a rut and flipped, cartwheeling in the wheat.