Zombie horror genre loosely based on George Romero's films.
| UP FROM THE DEPTHS
Authors note; to get a better picture of the world this story takes place in, it’s recommended to view the remake of Dawn of the Dead 2004. The montage that takes place at the first part of the film was used to generate this story.
The Ohio Class submarine displaces about 30-32 feet when submerged and stands about 40ft tall not counting the ‘sail’ or antennas. By removing the missile tubes and changing the designation to ‘726’ it identifies the vessel as a Special Operations Force or SOF transport/asset. Definitions of certain abbreviation are in parentheses following that abbreviation.
While the rest of the country was reeling from news of mass rioting, civil disorder and alleged re-animation of the dead, an Ohio class former ballistic missile submarine, a ‘boomer’, was gliding silently unaware of the extent of chaos that was happening on the surface. This boomer had been decommissioned as a missile boat, re-designated as SSGN 726, its ‘Sherwood Forest’ of missile tubes removed and in their place, a two-section dive out ‘locker’ installed, encompassing the entire two-story space left from their removal. This locker was built for use by special warfare teams, SEALs (Sea, Air, Land, Navy Special Forces) and SDV (SEAL Delivery Vehicle, normally a ‘wet’ mini-submarine used as a taxi to insert/retrieve SEAL teams to their targets, can be used from surface ships as well.) units, and provided enough space for both units to work comfortably and have plenty of room for storage, including a ‘wet’ locker for dive out operations.
The boomer, christened the Claggett, was returning from an exercise to test a new SPECWAR delivery method. (Special Warfare, commonly referred to as NAVSPECWAR or Naval Special Warfare, encompassing SEALS, SDVs, SWCC) They had been operating under strict EMCON (Emission Control, no unauthorized radio transmissions); simulating wartime conditions so therefore had no normal communication with the outside world. In reality, due to the mass confusion resulting from the disorder, the low tasking priority of the Claggett, and the fact that it was no longer an active missile boat, left it out of the loop for emergency communications. The sub fell into the ‘out of service’ category much like the vessels being used to track whale migration patterns.
Captain Powell, Commander of the Claggett, a naval veteran that had come up through the submarine fleet and now had command of this vessel. Powell leaned over the chart table and mentally calculated the distance left. His short-cropped hair just now showing some gray, a set of half spectacles perched on top of head.
“Diving officer, make your depth 95 feet.”
“95 feet, aye sir.”
Powell moved easily towards the center section of the command bridge, his movements smooth like an athlete not those of someone who had almost two decades in the subsurface fleet, and operated the controls to raise the periscope.
“Sonar, any surface contacts?” he asked, waiting for the scope to rise to its pre-assigned height before he put his eyes to the rubber cups.
“Conn, Sonar, negative surface contact.” Powell swiveled the periscope slowly, looking at the calm surface above. He was glad for the polarization filters in place or the bright sunlight might have made him wince as it reflected off the water and into the expensive optics.
“COB, surface the boat.” Powell swiveled the handles upright on the scope and sent it back down. “Mr. Ridley contact CINPAC and let them know we’ve completed our testing and are returning to port.” (CINCPAC Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, commonly used to refer to command in general not just one person, although the position of CINPAC, CINCEUR, CINCALT are held by admirals)
Chief Wilson, or Chief of the Boat (COB), a burly man who was close to retirement and one that some of the younger sailors thought of as a father figure, leaned forward, relayed the order to the seaman manning the dive controls of the large vessel.
“XO, you have the Conn, I’ll be in my quarters reviewing the results.” Powell stated as he went aft of the command area, down a small ladder, through a passageway and into his quarters.
Further aft, just outside the wet locker/storage area, Lieutenant Willis, SEAL team commander; team Shark was reviewing the reports of the completed exercise. He was seated at a small bench, attached to the new bulkhead that was installed outside the dive out area, wearing his standard shipboard uniform, OD green Nomex flight suit, tucked into a pair of soft soled boots, partially unzipped to reveal the blue t-shirt he wore under it. This bench was his little oasis of space amid all the hustle of equipment being cleaned and stowed for the return trip. He was young by SEAL standards, having gone to BUD/S (Basic underwater Demolition/SEAL, the beginning step to become a SEAL) straight from Basic, no A school option, as he had been in Navy ROTC in college and from there to Seal Qualification Training or SQT. He tried to grow a mustache to look older but only succeeded in looking like he had a thin line of chocolate milk on his lip. He was sitting there reviewing the results of the new delivery method, which looked promising. Occasionally, Willis would glance up at his team as they cleaned and stored equipment, joking amongst themselves. His team was wearing a mix of uniforms, some in black BDU (Battle Dress Utilities) pants with the SEAL/UDT blue and gold t-shirt, others in UDT swim shorts with the same shirt, and a few with cut off woodland pattern BDU pants now made into shorts. What stood out the most was that all wore shower shoes, except those handling items that required steel toe boots for safety, strange when all the sub crew wore soft-soled tennis shoes or similar athletic footwear. The storage area outside the locker was still painted in that bright, light blue/green color that used to contrast with the dark red missile tubes. His team chatted and joked good-naturedly as they worked. Willis looked up and caught the eye of his team chief, motioning him over.
“Billy, what’s this about a snag?” Willis asked Billy Rogers, team chief. Rogers, a short barrel chested man having spent more than ten years with the teams sporting a shaved head under his baseball style cap with the SEAL emblem and a small red aquatic seal tattooed on his large forearm, walked over to where Willis sat.
“Ell-tee, its not that bad, one of the zodiacs hung up on the initial deployment. One of those tie down straps popped and slowed down the ascent rate, boat crew had to bail some water out of it. Damn thing almost inflated on the way up.”
“Thanks chief. I’ll talk to Berry about that, it was his boat.” Rogers grinned and walked back over to check on the dive equipment. Paperwork is never done. With some more training, a little fine-tuning, the method would be a boon to the SPECWAR community. Willis returned to his review, making notes in the margins for future use.
A little forward of Willis and his musings, Powell was updating his personal log, catching up on paperwork and was thinking about writing a letter to his daughter who was graduating this year from Stanford.
“Captain, flash traffic from CINCPAC.” The 1MC speaker barked in Powell’s quarters.
“Pipe it down here, sparks.” Powell ordered.
“To all commanders. Naval units currently deployed have been ordered to assist civilian authorities when possible. National civil unrest and rioting has occurred in major cities. Naval forces are now at DEFCON 2.” (Defense Condition 2)
That announcement made Powell reach for a legal size notepad, pushing aside his previous paperwork, preparing to take down pertinent information.
“Vessels returning to port are to remain offshore as long as possible. Under no circumstances are they to dock unless the facilities have been secured and no rioters are present. Rioters have taken control of several civilian port facilities and are to be considered armed and extremely dangerous. Use extreme caution if any are present. They appear to be infection carriers. A list of symptoms is being sent to you via secure SATCOM fax (Satellite Communication, normally a very secure encrypted form of communication). If for any reason you need to go ashore, go well armed. Any infected encountered should be avoided. If contact is inevitable, engage with extreme prejudice at your discretion. Further information will follow.”
Powell sat there, listening; intent to hear what might come next.
“Until control of the situation can be attained on a national level, all units still operating will be under regional command to be determined by the onsite commanders. That is all.”
Captain Powell had been taking notes at a furious pace, not wanting to miss out on any of the details. He underlined the word communication, as his first priority was to establish contact with other ships and land bases so some sort of chain of command could be determined. He reached over and snapped the intercom to the bridge.
“Mr. Ridley, notify all department heads and the embarked SEAL commander to be in the ready room in 10 minutes. Have Doc Brown there and bring a copy of the flash traffic with you.” He released the button and took a deep breath. Holy shit. What was happening? He got up and went to his private head, splashed water on his face before drying his face and hands, grabbing his notes and heading to the ready room.
Powell conducted the briefing and answered any questions he might be able to, which weren’t many. Most of the men assembled sat there with shocked expressions, except lieutenant Willis. Internally he was shocked at what Powell described, but he kept his emotions in check, partially due to training but mostly because he had always had a poker face.
“Sir, let me get this straight.” Lieutenant Peters, engineering section. “ Civilians are rioting and biting each other, which then gets infected and the victim gets violent? Sounds like a bad movie.”
“Lieutenant Peters, that is an assumption I’m not willing to make at this time. Its been suggested that we treat this as a viral/biological event. What we know is in the paperwork handed out to you. People are apparently attacking each other, biting, and the victims become violent hours later, apparently from infection. What I’ve read of the symptoms, it seems to work fast. Civilian authorities are having a difficult time restoring order and have requested military assistance. We will do whatever we can to support their operations.” Powell continued. “As you can see, section 4, third paragraph, it mentions that shooting the infected has no effect.” Powell paused to let that sink in. “Officially we don’t shoot non-combatants. In this case, we will view the infected as combatants if they don’t respond to verbal or warning shots, we will engage with appropriate force. Look at the bottom of section 4, it recommends shooting the infected in the head. That should be a last resort.”
Powell looked a Willis when before he continued. “From what Lieutenant Willis tells me, that’s against training doctrine. I think in this case, we’ll have to view each incident and then determine what level of force is necessary.” Powell looked at the assembled department heads. “Any questions or comments?”
“Captain, before coming here, I had radio try to contact Port Winthrop. Nothing yet sir.” Ridley added.
Powell nodded solemnly. The assembled men began talking amongst themselves.
“Very well then. Gentlemen. You have your orders. I want to see a complete list of our shipboard resources at 1400. Dismissed.”
All the department heads filed out except Lt. Willis.
“I’d like to get a copy of the medical information for my corpsman and offer my men for strategic recon of any shore sites.”
“See Ridley before you head aft.”
Willis turned to go but stopped at the door.
“Dave? Is this shit for real?” he asked.
“Yeah Jim, it would appear so.” Powell confirmed.
Several hours later, all the department heads had returned their plans and Powell was reviewing them in his quarters with Ridley.
“The only good news is from stores and engineering. Apparently we have enough food for 8months, maybe a year if we half ration.” Powell thought about how fortunate it was that the Claggett was not an operational boomer, with only half the normal crew, it increased their food stores. “This old tub is still listed as operational so supply loads us according to that. Engineering tells me the reactor was overhauled two months ago so we have prime fuel rods and the desalinization plant is operating at peak efficiency.”
Ridley nodded affirmation to all Powell had just read off.
“Sir the crew has heard some of it and you know how scuttlebutt is. They’re planning on watching some old zombie attack movie in the galley tonight”
“Whatever works for them. I want you to keep an eye on the crew for me and tell all the officers and senior enlisted to do the same. We can’t afford for someone to lose it.”
“Aye sir. One more thing, radio did have some sporadic contact about Fort Pastor on the civilian band. What we could make out was that it was a displaced person center and then something happened at the hospital. We’ve had no further contact.”
“I see. Have them keep scanning the civilian net, any information we can get will be beneficial. Any luck with any other naval vessels?”
“We did contact a tender out of Guam and a Coast Guard cutter off Point Magoo.”
“The tender we could use. Out of Guam? Damn. That’s a long trip for them. Any word on their crew or supplies on board?”
“Full complement. They estimate 22 days until they can rendezvous with us.”
“22 days? We can hold out that long no problem.”
“What about that cutter?”
“They were on a Caribbean drug patrol and were heading back to port when they got a distress call from a civilian sailboat. They report that two civilians were on board and something about the dead coming back to life and attacking the living.”
Powell looked at Ridley with a raised eyebrow.
“Obviously in some form of shock. Lets not spread that around.” If they only knew the truth, Powell thought, sure wish I did.
“Contact that cutter and let them know that we are attempting to reach Port Winthrop. Give them a sitrep, captain’s eyes only. Don’t tell them what type of vessel we are as yet. We’ll keep that on a need to know.”
“I’ll see to it.”
“Anything else Mr. Ridley?”
“No sir.” Ridley paused. “ Oh, there is one more item. We’ll pass the lighthouse at Dante’s Finger just after dusk. It’s been tradition to contact the lighthouse keeper. We might be able to us that for independent confirmation of the situation.”
“Very well Mr. Ridley. Ring me in my cabin when we get in range.”
“That will be all Mr. Ridley.”
“Aye sir.” Ridley turned and left the captain’s quarters.
Meanwhile further aft.
“Ell-tee you bullshitting us?” Jimmy Webb, team sniper asked.
“No Webb, I’m not. This is the real deal, no shit.”
“Gawd damn Ell-tee. What the fuck?” Hannaberry, the team commo expert added in his southern twang.
“Stow that shit Berry.” Rogers chided, pointing his finger at the man.
“You know what I know. This is some serious shit and we will be in harms way. Doc Johnson has all the details that command knows at this time. I want everyone to read it, make notes, review it, and discuss it amongst yourselves. When I get something new, I’ll pass it on.”
Just after 1730hrs.
“Sir, contact with the lighthouse keeper has been established.” The 1MC squawked in Powell’s cabin.
“Very well, I’m on my way.” Powell commanded.
“Hello Navy. This is the lighthouse keeper, Dante’s Finger. How goes it?” The voice crackled over the speaker.
“Dante’s Finger, this is Naval vessel Archangel One One. Request station verification.”
“Naval Vessel this is the operator at Dante’s Finger Lighthouse, station ID is KWXRL9857. How copy Navy?”
“Station ID confirmed. “
“You boys a little jumpy this evening?” the old voice asked.
“Negative on that Dante’s. Just checking out the signal strength, got a newbie working the comm gear.”
“Glad to be of help Navy.” The voice chuckled.
Powell entered the Conn and walked over to where Ridley and Chief Wilson stood listening to the radio exchange. Powell grabbed his deck coat from the locker, slipped it on, zipped it, then picked up a set of high powered binoculars from the shelf above the coats.
“Mr. Ridley. Slow to one half. I’m going topside to look around.”
“Aye sir, slowing to one half.”
Powell pulled climbed the ladder inside the conning tower to the upper deck. Fresh sea air and a strong breeze greeted him as he popped out the hatch, nodded to the deck watch then put the image intensifiers to his eyes. He automatically scanned the horizon before focusing on the lighthouse off the starboard. He reached down and flipped the switch that would allow him to listen in on the radio chatter.
“Say Navy, can you spare a cup of sugar for an old sailor?” the lighthouse keeper was asking.
“You short of supplies there Dante’s?”
“Ayup. My supply ship is running late and I’m down to my hard stores. Thought my radio was broke but then you called me.”
“Wait one Dante’s.” Powell heard the click as the inter-ship intercom kicked in.
“Captain. Request permission to send a shore party out and verify the conditions.” Ridley called up to the observation deck.
Powell thought for a few seconds, his eyes still pressed to the rubber eyecups of his binoculars as he stared at the lighthouse.
“Very well Mr. Ridley. Inform Lieutenant Willis he has a mission.”
In the aft area.
“Get those zodiacs prepped. Four man team per boat, Webb you and Lindsay cover our asses when we hit the rocks. You all remember rock portage so now we get to do it for real ladies.” Willis directed the team as they readied themselves, checking weapons and equipment.
Rogers would take control of one boat crew and Willis would have the other. The SEALs wrestled the collapsed zodiacs or IBS, inflatable boat, small, out the hatch and onto the deck where the rest of the team inflated and tied them off to the sub. Each man had an M4 with nightscope; the short barrel M16 that was slowly replacing the full size rifle, two with the 203, a 40mm grenade launcher attached and Doc Johnson had a M249 SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon using the 5.56 round same as the M16 and the newer M4.), the Belgian replacement to the older, heavier M60. They all had sidearms, Willis’s team being one of the few who chose to go with the large HK MK23 (Heckler and Koch) in .45 instead of what the other teams chose to use, the lighter, smaller Sig Sauer 226 or even the M9 Beretta. They all wore the black BDU’s; with black tactical vests configured to what position they had within the team.
“OK ladies, saddle up. We go in, check out the place, extract the lighthouse keeper if needed and exfil. I want it to go by the numbers and no mistakes. Gold team take the rocks, Blue team with me.” As Willis spoke, each man checked his weapons, equipment one final time and made sure his face was blackened, before Willis directed them to take to their boats. Powell watched from the tower as the SEALs efficiently boarded their small craft in the now choppy sea. Since the Claggett had moved closer to the lighthouse the waves became stronger. Willis paused before boarding to throw Powell a jaunty salute. Powell returned it and Willis was off.
The SEALs lay along the gunwales or sides of their rubber boats and made for the rocks at the base of the lighthouse. The only sign of their passing, a faint wake from the heavily muffled powerful engines. The first boat made the rocks and the point man jumped out to secure the boat while the rest of the crew dug their paddles in to hold the boat. The second boat went around to the supply boat dock and glided up to the shore. Through the use of silent hand signals, Willis directed his boat crew. Over the inter team comm net, two quick squelches notified him that the first team was in position. The men crept silently up the dock, weapons ready, checking every shadow and darkened area. Willis moved up to the door to the keeper’s house and motioned his men to take positions. Two more squelches notified him that the rest of the team was ready. He took one last look around, motioned to Webb, stepped onto the small porch and knocked.
Willis was about to knock again when the door swung open and a grizzled old man stood there, dressed in a well-worn white turtleneck, jeans, thick soled solid boots and a pipe clamped between his teeth. They looked at each other. The older man didn’t seem startled or even slightly fazed to see a blackened face man holding an assault weapon on his front porch, just puffed a few times on his pipe before speaking.
“Navy?” The old man asked around the pipe stem.
“Well damn son, come on in, I’m not heating the outside.” The old man swung the door open wider and Willis stepped inside. The keeper’s house was small, not much bigger than a cottage, the kitchen was made for one person, with an adjoining dining room filled with a folding table and some mismatched chairs that connected to the small living room that had a patched loveseat and an old recliner, a short hall led to what Willis assumed to be the bedroom and single bath. The door in the kitchen led outside to the short pathway and the lighthouse itself. The house smelled of aromatic pipe tobacco, brewing coffee and faintly, sea air.
“No sir. I’m Lt. Willis. We’re here to get you out sir.”
The old man paused from pouring coffee. He half turned. Willis could almost detect a slight mirth in the man’s voice.
“Get me out? Where we going lieutenant?”
“Sir, there had been major civil unrest. Our job is to evacuate all civilians to a safe area.”
The old man handed Willis a steaming cup of coffee.
“Safe area? What you think this is? I heard what’s been going on. Even seen some of it on the TV before the signal went. Seems to me this here is a safe area.” The old man said as he sipped his coffee.
“Give me a minute.” Willis handed the coffee back and reached up to his throat mike.
“Saber Two Seven to Archangel One One”
“Archangel One One, go ahead Saber Two Seven”
“Saber Actual request secure commo with Archangel Actual.”
“This is Archangel Actual, go ahead Saber Two Seven.”
“Actual, civilian realizes situation. Request permission to designate this safe zone. Also request additional supplies and medical stores be distributed until such time as we can locate a more suitable area.”
Powell paused while he considered what Willis suggested. He put the binoculars back up to his eyes and scanned the lighthouse island from point to dock. A barren rock, small, secured easily, no place to hide, surrounded by water on all sides.
“Saber Two Seven, Archangel Actual. Permission granted.” Powell called down to the Conn.
“Mr. Ridley, put us into the sheltered leeway behind the rocks then all stop. COB assemble a shore party and get a corpsman ready.”
The Claggett moved into the sheltered area using the rocks and lighthouse as a buffer from the wind and choppy seas. The little cove was a slight anomaly that created a natural breakwater, shallow waves and calmer seas.
Over the next few hours, a relay of zodiacs raced back and forth to the lighthouse island, illuminated by the powerful searchlights from the submarine. The little storage building was supplied with fuel for the generator and spare parts. The storage areas in the house and lighthouse itself were filled with canned food and MRE rations. A small group of sailors, one of them a lower ranking corpsman, volunteered to stay there and make temporary housing for any survivors that the Claggett might find. The old lighthouse keeper, Amos Coffelt was very happy to have company and Powell promised him to locate a supply ship or return with the supplies himself. As Powell was turning to leave, the old man handed him a picture.
“This is my grand daughter. If you find her, can you bring her to me? She’s all I got left in this world.”
Powell took the picture, looked at the young, college age girl in it, so much like Powell’s own daughter, and then looked back up at the old man.
“I’ll do what I can Mr. Coffelt.”
“Ayup. I wouldn’t ask any more.”
It was just after 2100hrs when the Claggett made the channel buoy.
“Mr. Ridley, any contact with Port Winthrop?”
“Anything on the civilian nets?”