Third Chronicle, Part 2

Posted: December 29, 2012 in Insanity Sublime, Zombie Apocalypse, Zombie outbreak
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SACRED is Thy Duty

I was thankful when the helicopter finally banked away and I could no longer see the scene below.  I felt sick, not nauseous, but emotionally … utterly heartbroken.

I heard someone yell over the din of the chopper, “Is the President safe?” I remember thinking, What a ridiculous questionWe’re on a helicopter with the President’s Seal … of course the President was safe.

At the time I really wanted to know who asked such an asinine question and really let them have it. Funny, the things you feel and remember so well at such times.

We descended at Andrews Air Force Base, and there, impressive as always, was Air Force One. Our helicopter landed about 500 feet away. Before we even touched down military jeeps were hurried over to be at the ready.

We were helped off the helicopter and into the jeeps and rushed over to the hangar next to Air Force One. There we joined a small group of waiting people who appeared to be assistants, secretaries and aides. We were offered a variety of refreshments.

I thought I would fall to the floor from shock, or hysterical laughter when I saw the tables covered neatly with red, white and blue table cloths and littered with every kind of hors d’oeuvre and snack imaginable.  The paper plates had the President’s Seal.  The forks were red, the knives were white, and the spoons were blue.

But then again, it was the President’s plane waiting just outside this hangar, and I guess it isn’t all that surprising that for the President and his guests, even through Armageddon, there will always be hors d’oeuvres and refreshments.

I knew I must be hungry if my head was going places like that, and I felt that eating because I was hungry was the normal thing to do, and so I should eat.

I realized that no one was gathered around the tables of food. Everyone was huddled somewhat close together looking anxiously at the President’s plane. I thought they should all probably eat too. 

Well, I thought, I’ll lead them by example.  Then on second thought; No, I’ll just lead them.

They looked miserable and I felt someone should do something. I was a Congresswoman after all.

“Everyone … everyone, may I have your attention please?”

The group of huddled penguins slowly turned.

“I am Congresswoman Cynthia Lovewell, and I am very aware that this is been an afternoon of shock, and for some of us horror, but it’s not over, and may not be over anytime soon, and if most of you, like myself, take a lunch on or about noon, then we are all way past our snack time. It could be quite a while before we get a chance to eat again. The excellent serviceman of Andrews Air Force Base has seen to it to provide this assortment of food for us. I know you may not have an appetite, but that’s only in your head. It’s late my friends; I assure each and every one of you that your body is hungry. So I want you all to come over and get something to eat. Come on over and find something whether you want to eat or not. Come on, let’s get something in your bellies.”

I began to shoo them over insistently.

Eventually every one of those people came to the table and grazed if only for a short while. I myself put two little half sandwiches on my President’s Seal paper plate, and was contemplating fruit salad when something caught my eye.

I looked up to see the President of the United States standing in the open door of his plane speaking to a Secret Service man and pointing my way.

No.  No way. The President is not pointing at me.

He waved me over. I couldn’t believe it.

Like a commandment to the hypnotized I immediately walked to the stairs of Air Force One. I ascended to stand before the President of the United States of America for the first time. He was very tall.

“Congresswoman Lovewell, will you please come inside?”

He knows my name?

“Of course, Mr. President. Thank you.”

The President of the Free World led me to a large comfortable chair and gestured that I sit, and so I did. He sat down across from me, crossed his legs, rested his right elbow on the arm of the chair, and then set his chin in the crook of his thumb with his forefinger extended along his sharp cheekbone.

This was, I assumed, his customary posture for such occasions.

The President regarded me a moment.

“I saw what you did out there Congresswoman. You weren’t really concerned with whether those folks were hungry were you?”

“Only a little Mr. President.”

“Tell me why you did it then.”

“I looked at them and I saw bunnies, scared bunnies, and I

thought they needed to be given something to do, and were probably hungry too, even if they didn’t know it.”

The President gave a nod that said, That’s what I thought.

“I want you on my crisis staff Congresswoman Lovewell. I need someone like yourself who can make the right decisions in difficult times; simple, practical decisions. Are you willing to help me?”

“Of course Mr. President. Anything to help.”

The President stood, patted me on the shoulder and said, “Excellent.” and then sauntered off.

I remained in that big comfy chair flabbergasted that on the same day a viral infection was released across my country killing unknown thousands, I was offered a promotion by the President himself to serve as a special staff member. It was unreal.

I think that’s why I fainted.  It was that, or from the unbelievable embarrassment I felt as I realized that the whole time I had been talking to the President—The President!—I had been carrying around my paper plate and my two little pathetic cold cut sandwiches.

When I awoke I was alone. Someone had taken my sandwiches away. I could hear voices further upfront. I could hear the President’s deep and resonant voice above all.

I got up and headed that direction. A Secret Service man gestured for me to enter the room where the President, the remaining Joint Chiefs, and about fifteen White House advisers and a few other members of Congress were deliberating.

TV screens showed the progressive expansion of the epidemic.

The President gestured for me to enter and sit. He introduced me as his Special Adviser on Civilian Requirements and Deficiencies. Nobody asked for my credentials.

We took a few more rescued members of government on board and since we had room we took on the remainder of the aides and secretaries that were waiting in the hangar. Then Air Force One taxied and took flight.

At one point I was very politely but directly excused from the meeting for matters of discussion above my pay grade, so to speak. I took a notebook out with me, sat down and thought of what a Special Adviser on Civilian Requirements and Deficiencies does.

I wrote SACRD on the page.

I looked at it a moment, then below it I wrote SACRED.

I nibbled on the end of my pen for a moment then began writing.

I was startled as a stack of folders were set on the table in front of me. I looked up to see the President looking down.

“Go over these, Congresswoman. Make a projection as to the disposition of the ‘scared bunnies’ we will be dealing with and give me a recommendation as to how we get them to ‘go to the table to eat.’ What do we need, and what are we lacking? Can you do that for me?”

“Yes sir. I can.”

“Excellent.” He patted me on the shoulder again as he left. Then he stopped mid stride, and gestured to my note book.

“May I?”

“Of course, Mr. President.” I handed him my notebook feeling insecure.

The President pulled a beautiful fountain pen from the breast pocket of his shirt, made some scribbles, then returned my notebook.

The only changed was: SACREDHe has highlighted all the letters except “E.”

He tapped it with his pen.

“I like that. To care and provide is our sacred duty.”

I began to write that at the top of the page. My pen died at “provide”.

An advisor without a pen? Embarrassed, and unsure why I was, I made large swirls on the corner of the paper trying to bring my cheap ballpoint back to life.

The President hooked his fountain pen over the top of my notebook then strode away.

It was beautiful. Hand painted with brilliant lacquers; deep lapis blue with a pink and orange Koi fish swimming past a startlingly green lily pad, and every detail outlined with a thin highlight of gold. It was a work of art.

It is with that very pen that I now write this chronicle.

For the next number of hours we circled lazily above Washington DC, escorted always by four F-16s. I worked on my recommendations. Every half-hour or so an update was dropped on the table that had become my desk.

I learned a lot on that flight, a lot indeed.

The reports were staggering. It became obvious why India felt its only recourse was thermo-nuclear detonations. These infected people were, for all intents and purposes, and by all accounts, zombies. Dead people were coming to life and attacking living people. They were difficult to stop because they were already dead. Reports said some of the zombies were faster and stronger than live humans. I found that a terrifying prospect.

The United States was not the only victim. All across the Western Hemisphere capitals, large cities, hubs of commerce and industry were all willfully attacked by subversive extremists who, with malice and intent, released the zombie plague upon the world.

Asia, more or less, had been left untouched. That didn’t last.

Across Russia and in northeastern China the plague sprang up days later. Of all major industrial countries Japan held out the longest. They made their island a fortress. It was months before the first infection hit there. But with their dense population, small landmass, and fortress mentality Japan was wiped out almost overnight.

The so-called zombies were not cannibals exclusively. Reports confirmed they would chase down and consume anything but their own kind. There were reports of zombies eating packaged meat. Why they do not turn their voracious appetites on each other is a matter of much speculation since they will eat the dead flesh of anything else they find.

I heard mention several times regarding the Centers for Disease Control doing studies on the pathology of the alleged virus. The details I was not privy to. All I know for certain is that Atlanta is now a big red circle on the map, though apparently the President and his staff are still in contact with the CDC.

Air Force One banked sharply. I had almost forgotten we were flying, so accustomed I had become to the lazy circles we had to be doing over DC.  A Secret Service agent informed me that we have been diverted because Andrews cannot support Air Force One’s need for air cover. The Base was on the verge of being overrun.

Air Force One now had a full squadron of F-16s that had been scrambled in a panic before the zombies overran the base. I could see the fighter jets out the window. We and the “little birds” topped-off our fuel via air-to-air tanker and were now looking for a secure airfield to continue operations from. Not that I thought I could be of service, but because I was curious, I open the map and marked “X” where we had strategic Air Force bases and then I drew circles representing the current areas of infection, then I drew a second larger circle around each of those projecting at a current rate of expansion where the infection would be 24 hours, 48 hours, 72 hours, and then one week.

According to my circles, we were in a heap of trouble; in 3-7 days we would have no secure ground bases. I was sure that the President and his staff were looking at their own red circles and thinking the same thing.

The situation was, however, far worse than anyone knew.

Within hours after the first signs of infection in the primary target cities, outbreaks began in cities and towns inland such as Phoenix, Richmond, Pittsburg, Indianapolis, Portland, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Boise, San Francisco, Reno … and the list kept growing.

By the 18th hour I received a report of a severe outbreak in Oklahoma City that was quickly surging outward, and I realized my thinking had been incorrect in regards to rural areas.

Oklahoma City has a vast and heavily populated urban center—1.3 million in the metro area—and the wave that surges from its epicenter will have nothing to stop it or slow it down. Tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of zombies will descend into the sparsely populated country farmlands like my sisters ranch. The cattle ranches will draw the infected en masse. I have to have faith that Sean will stay and he and Eric will take care of them all.

I can’t think about that now! was my constant mantra.

With the loss of Oklahoma City, Tinker AFB, was no longer an option. When I was summoned to offer my recommendation the word was our current destination now was Whitman Air Force Base outside Kansas City. Whitman was a secondary choice because they had no F-16s only T-38 pilot training craft.

Our F-16s were “BINGO” fuel, which I learned was near empty. Air Force One could stay aloft another eight hours, but the “little birds” would have to set down soon whether the landing site was compromised or not. If we couldn’t get the fighters fueled, Air Force One would be flying during a state of National Emergency with no escort whatsoever.

The meeting was interrupted with the news that Kansas City was compromised with an outbreak. Whitman was about forty miles from K.C., that gave us two and a half hours at the infected maximum rate of speed. The call was made to go for Whitman to refuel the fighters, and if possible, AF-1.

As we approached, I became painfully aware of how close my family was. Hundreds of miles away of course, but on a map, they were just “right there!”

We began our circling pattern. Whitman radioed they were prepped to receive and refuel AF-1 should we choose to land her. They reported that infected were indeed closing on the base, though still many miles off.

The President ordered the fighters to get down on the deck and get topped off since we were far from BINGO fuel; at this point about 3/4 empty.

The pilots refused the direct order though they were flying on fumes. The President rescinded, and AF-1 began her descent. It seemed to take forever. AF-1 is an amazing plane but still it is an enormous aircraft. It takes a while to land and take off when you’re over 600,000 pounds.

Once we were taxied in and secure, the Whitman servicemen went to work to get the Boeing 747 refueled. It would be a process apparently, because they were neither trained nor equipped for the operation. Many of the 26 crew members of AF-1 pitched in to get it done.

The F-16s started coming in right after we were settled.

I followed a number of people off the plane to stretch my legs and take in some fresh air, with the polite but stern command from our Secret Service detail, “Not out of my sight, please.”

I wasn’t going anywhere. It was nearly three in the morning and I was exhausted.

As I ascended the steps to AF-1, I noticed that the airmen trying to refuel the plane were having some kind of trouble with their equipment. I didn’t give it much thought. I went inside, flopped into one of those big comfy chairs and was instantly asleep.

I awoke from my catnap to the President’s deep voice.

“So what does that mean, Colonel, in minutes or hours?”

“Another sixty to ninety minutes to finish refueling, at best…”

“So two hours. Go on.”

“At the hostile’s current rate of approach we have maybe ninety minutes.”

“So one hour or less. Goddamn that’s wonderful.” He headed back to the situation room. The base Colonel followed, and I followed the Colonel.

“Get me that Lt. Colonel who’s leading our escort up there on the horn. Put it on speaker.” The President calmly ordered.

The pilot came over the speaker.

“Fireball One copies, Big Bird. Over.”

“Colonel, this is the President. Good to speak with you again.”

“Roger that, Sir. What can I do for you, Mr. President?”

“We’re having some refueling difficulties down here, and we have hostile infected approaching.”

“Correct, sir. We have been monitoring on IR.”

“I need you and your boys to buy us some time. Can you do that?”

“Yes, sir. We will do what we can. Fireball One. Out.”

A few minutes later the sky lit up a brilliant orange. It was followed a second later by a muffled “WHUMF”. This repeated eight times. We all were excited and feeling that we’d have plenty of time now. Then the light show ended.

The Colonels fighters weren’t armed for air to ground anti-personnel attacks. They blew hundreds of the infected to pieces, but there were thousands coming. They did buy us time, but minutes only.

Then we got the bad news.

AF-1’s communications officer, Captain Wendell, hurried into the meeting room. He whispered to the General who then whispered to the President.

“Time, Captain?” The President asked Wendell.

“None, Mr. President.”

The President sat back and crossed his legs, rested his right elbow on the arm of the chair, and set his chin in the crook of his right thumb. This, I learned, was his customary posture for any occasion.

Tell those boys to abort fueling and button us up. Give the order for the evacuation of the base. Let’s get in the air while we can.”

His calm was uncanny.

When Capt. Wendell said “none” in regards to the time we had he was completely accurate. Zombies were storming the airfield as we taxied out. We had to stop because there were so many of them and, it was explained, the intake of the enormous Boeing engines would suck them right in and that would be the end of our flight plans.  So we all watched them through the port windows from twenty feet up as they came from the east; our first look at zombies.

Taken individually they didn’t seem so fearsome; just sick crazy people. But then the main mob came, and seeing them move together like a pack spread out across the airfield … that was frightening. Some aide exclaimed what we all felt.

“Good Lord, there are thousands of them!”

There were murmurs of agreement but no real conversing on the matter; no one felt like talking. Then, not unlike the mob, we all moved as one to the starboard side of AF-1 and watched as the wave of infected swept through the airfield. All of us except the President, that is. He sat in his chair, his face gravely concerned.

Gunfire erupted beyond our point of view. It went on for several minutes then was silenced.

Just like that it was over. We all took our seats and buckled up as Air Force One revved up her jet-turbine engines. Then 227,000 pounds of thrust sped us down the runway and into flight.

We took to the air at 7:45am Washington DC time. I learned that we didn’t get any fuel into Air Force One at Whitman. The attachment for the nozzle that locks into the fuselage was faulty and would not connect properly and therefore we were down to less than a quarter of our fuel and had just burned a lot taking off again. Estimates were conservatively at three and a half to four hours max flight time remaining.

Four hours goes by very quickly when you’re busy trying to figure out how to save the President of the United States, and yourself too. There was no place Air Force One could land and refuel that was not already compromised. So the next best thing was to find somewhere uncompromised to land regardless of refueling. Our little bird escorts were once again flying on fumes.

There were Air Force bases and city airports in rural areas of Montana and North Dakota that would be perfect in a different season, but at that latitude this time of year those options could be unavailable to us. Unmanned runways in the winter north would be impossible to land on.  It was decided though that we would give Minot AFB, in central North Dakota, a try.  It was a strategic bomber base and could accommodate AF-1 comfortably.

Less than five miles out, and already beginning our descent, the Pilots were informed that somehow, beyond all poor luck or possibility, an outbreak had occurred within the enormous base.

“An attack, Mr. President,” the General said. “Planned in detail and willfully executed.  It’s too perfect, too strategic.”  He went to the map and reviewed the progression of the outbreaks inland; always near a major military base.  You could see the timing of the events in the progression, and almost imagine Them formulating their pan, of which, I can only describe as Pure Evil.

So Minot was scrapped and we searched for another improbable option.

The Boeing engines roared as power was increased, and we banked back up to get above the weather.  Many of us stared out the windows and watched the snow-covered earth—our lost sanctuary—vanish beneath the shroud of clouds, and with it vanished much of our hope.  Only the President remain outwardly unshaken by our declining fortunes.

We had another problem as well; we were limited in choices by length of runway. A 747 requires minimum of 9,000 feet for absolute safety. The pilots of Air Force One apparently could land her with only 6,000 feet; 5,500 if the point was really forced.

It was decided that we would try for Perryton-Ochiltree County Airport in the Panhandle of Texas; a random little airport that no one had ever heard of before. Regardless of its anonymity, it had a 6,000 foot long runway.  We were all excited.  Then we learned that the width was only six feet wider than AF-1’s wheelbase—six feet for 600,000 pounds at over a hundred miles an hour in a crosswind.

Faces were pale.

The President stood and went to the cockpit.  Someone said that that was a first.  He returned with what appeared to be an honest grin of good humor.  Then he chuckled and said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, Captain Douglas had this to say regarding the rather narrow runway; ‘Plenty.’ I am inclined to bet on that kind of confidence.”

I could hear the collective sigh throughout the aircraft

harmonize with my own.  Then I realized what he’d done.

I don’t know why I didn’t second guess myself—if I had, I would’ve never done it—but I didn’t, and so I waltzed on over and helped myself to the seat at the President’s right, leaned over, and whispered, “Scared bunnies again?”

He smiled and offered an acknowledging nod.

I felt something indescribable.  I had just shared a private moment with the President of the United States, just me and him; the most powerful man of the most powerful country of the entire world. Well, as was anyway.

I know it sound goofy, like some kind of star struck schoolgirl crush, but it wasn’t anything like that at all.  You can’t understand until you’re in the same room with that kind of man, that kind of power.

I sat back and took in the view from the President’s end of the Joint Chiefs table.

A tap on my left shoulder snapped me back to reality.

The President gestured to my right. “I believe you have usurped the General’s chair, Congresswoman.”

I looked up to my right to find a none-to-please General Booker frowning down at me.

All at once I realized what I had done; what a terrible breach of protocol I had committed.

I apologized emphatically, and humbly slinked away determined to not show my face in that room for the foreseeable future.

It’s a fond memory.  I will have it forever I hope.

Well, according to the President, the Pilots said they could get us down safe. The airport was isolated and the surrounding area thus far had given no specific reports of overwhelming infection. The President gave the thumbs-up, and we started our approach.

The F-16s did a flyby on the airport at 6:41 on the evening of the 17th. As far as they could tell there were no hostiles anywhere near the area.

As we made our approach Captain Douglas made it perfectly clear that until we came to a stop it was his aircraft and he was in command. We were all to remain seated, buckled tightly in, and prepare for a crash landing.

As it was, those men in the cockpit of Air Force One showed why they had been promoted to their positions, and they certainly earned their reputations that day. The landing was rough but we all came through.

The Secret Service agents and others that including some ex-military and bodyguard detail personnel armed themselves and left the aircraft. We all watched anxiously out the windows as these fourteen men and six women, headed back down the runway towards the main airport structures.

No one had come out to greet us.  Air Force One had just landed at their airport—an event rarer than a UFO encounter, or winning the lottery—and not a single soul had shown their face. It was very quiet. Unnaturally quiet.

Radio reports came back all clear, no hostiles, no one. We all breathed a sigh of relief

So we had landed safely; ended one journey at the beginning of another. We were in the middle the Texas Panhandle, a region surrounded by legions of infected zombies, with the President of the United States, and perhaps all that remained of our government, and we had no resources other than what was on board the modified 747 on BINGO fuel.

 

Next: Mountain Man Max

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Comments
  1. rocco613 says:

    Awesome technical details!

  2. ltdalin says:

    I loved the President in this. Very poised and dignified. Also, the congress woman, of course.

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