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A Captain's Promise
The door to the hospital had long since broken, the lock rusted away. A lot of damage could happen in one year. I shouldered the flimsy frame of the door, and it crumbled inward exposing the eerie half lit hallway of the hospital. Classic baby blue and white tiles decorated the floor, and for a moment the hospital almost looked normal, well if you ignored the bloodstains, debris, and the stench. It was the smell of death.
Static crackled in my ear, followed by a cool calm voice, “Boys, this is Crow. We’ve got Eyes on each side of the building, so we can cover every room, the only time you are vulnerable is in the hallways and the inner circle of offices, and so I’d advise making this one as quick as possible. Over.”
Before entering the building, I checked my six first, Bear on my back left and Ty on right, and then scanned the nearby buildings for Crow. I saw his crouched form upon a crumbling office building and flashed him a thumbs up before stepping into the building.
Glass crunched under my feet, followed by the click of my shoes on the tile floor. I kept precise track of the number of footsteps I heard, making sure we didn’t have any surprise visitors. Again the static crackled in my ear, this time followed by heavy breathing and a frightened voice, “Captain… You should get over here. Now. West wing, nearest room WW-26, floor 2. Over.”
Cocking my head to the side, I glanced into Bear’s eyes and he nodded, ever so slightly, and we burst into a full run. Doors flashed past me on both sides, and began to blur together as I gained speed. Soon I had reached a stairwell and flew up the stairs, two at a time. I reached the second floor, turned to the left and continued to run down the hall.
Crackling static again, but I didn’t slow, “Captain. Would you tell her I love her? You know… Ja,” His voice cut out, followed by a few crackles of static and then silence.
'Howard!' I thought, my mind racing. 'Only a few more hallways and I’ll be there. Hold on!'
I burst through swinging operation doors, rounded a final corner, and that’s where I found him.
“Howard?” I called out. He didn’t move.
I approached him slowly, rifle in hand, eyes sweeping the halls for any signs of them. Finally I heard him breathe, a ragged gasps of pain. I closed the distance between us and could see his eyes rapidly moving from side to side behind his eyelids.
“Howard? Howard?” I slapped his face. He didn’t even stir.
I reached down and pressed the button upon my com pack, and the familiar static filled my ear, but this time it was my voice over the airwaves. “We have an infestation, Howard is down but breathing, and his platoon is..,” I paused, “Missing in action. This is your Captain. Over.”
I released the button and stood up. Bear was standing beside me; I felt his heavy hand on my shoulder.
“He’ll be ok. Crow’s men will get him out, look,” He pointed out the window and I could already see the Eyes down from their perches, and closing in on the building, ready to evacuate the wounded. “But we have a mission to do.”
I looked at Ty, and he nodded in agreement, and then into Bear’s large blue eyes.
“Reload. Quickly. We have a dangerous infestation to deal with.” My voice was calm and controlled, the control a leader had to have despite what he felt. Silence fell again, smothering the senses. I motioned with two fingers and we proceeded down the stairs, leaving bloody footprints behind us.
I took point, Ty took left and Bear took the right, my semi-automatic military grade rifle pressed to my shoulder had a therapeutic effect upon me. My head was clear again, my hand steady, and my rage controlled. I had a greater responsibility than a downed comrade, I had people to defend, for that was the responsibility I had assumed when I had taken the title captain.
As we reached the bottom of the stairs, I saw them. What seemed at first glance a crowd of ragged people was soon revealed as a mass of flesh eating monsters, bloody and decaying, creatures of the undeath, who moaned and groaned as they shuffled about, creating a terrifying cacophony. Zombies.
I kneeled down, leveled my rifle, and fired. My aim was true and my bullet deadly, as one of the zombies dropped in its place. The moaning stopped, and I experienced the eerie ‘calm before the storm moment’ as every single zombie stopped, turned, and stared at me, but the calm only lasts for so long. In a brief second they had turned from silent monsters into a deadly mob, and we wasted no time unleashing a frenzy of bullets. The next few moments were a blur, and before I could truly grasp what had happened, the hall was full of bodies, blood splattered upon the walls, and only the unnatural silence of this world remained.
I tapped the button upon my chest, taking comfort in the static roaring in my ears, “Infestation has been taken care of. Send in Scavengers with Heavy Guards and then torch the building. This is the Captain. Over and out.”
A few hours later I stood beside the doctors as they patched Howard up. The skill at which they patched his cuts up was an indicator of how many times they had done this before. The lead doctor had been with us for almost the full year now.
When they had finished and put him to sleep, Doctor Grenwal approached me and began, “They bit him. He has a day, maybe, if we are lucky.”
“How far are we from a camp?” I questioned, my voice cold.
“A two days journey if the weather is well.” He replied, his eyes searching mine, looking for some hint of emotion, “And if they avoid you, which is unlikely.”
“Thank you Grenwal. Pack up, and leave. Head for the camp with a Scout patrol as your guards.” I ordered.
“Yes sir,” He answered, saluting me a s he turned away, “And Captain. It’s okay. Crying doesn’t make you weak. Just human.” With that he exited the tent.
I watched him go, before turning and entering the operating room.
The first thing I noticed was all the blood and the stench of anesthetics. Howard was on his back, his eyes closed, and his breathing regular, but he looked like death.
“Hey pal,” I began but halted, tears stinging my eyes. I wiped them thinking of the doctor’s departing words. ‘Some of us can’t afford to be human, Doc.’
After a brief moment of silence, he groaned and replied, “Captain. I’m sorry. I tried. There were too many and they were fast… faster then I’ve have ever seen before.” His eyes never opened, but his report was given like a true soldier.
“Soldier. At ease,” I pulled a chair up beside the stretcher and sat, “There is time for reports later, now lets talk about you. Tell me how you feel Howard.”
“I got bitten didn’t I?”
“I figured . . . I can feel it running through my veins. It hurts. Like fire being pushed through my veins” Between sentences he groaned in pain, “Captain... promise me one thing? Be here when I wake up? They can cure me can’t they? I’ve heard the rumor that they found it, that they found the cure. Is it true?”
I hesitated, a moment too long and I heard his sigh, long and low, “Course not. Was a nice bit of hope though, we have to keep hope, Captain, or we are no better than those things.” His reply was interrupted several times by coughing fits and painful grunts.
“We did find a cure,” I grabbed a rag and wiped the sweat from his forehead, “it’s a bullet.”
Again he fell into a coughing spasm, consciousness almost slipping but he held on, his hand flung up and grabbed my arm, “Tell her. Tell her. Tell her. I love her.”
“She has been sent for, she should be waiting outside. I could send her in and you could tell her if you’d like,” I answered, turning back to look into his now open bloodshot eyes.
He began to laugh but it turned into another coughing fit, this time blood accompanying the cough.
“You think I want her to see me like this? Like this…” He slipped under again, the anesthetics robbing him of consciousness.
His grip loosened on my shirt and I slipped into the outer part of the tent. There stood Sergeant Jaley, young, vibrant, and very beautiful; a little shorter than I was, with long locks of blond hair pulled back into two dirtied braids.
She stared into my eyes, her deep brown eyes boring into mine, “How is he?”
“Dying.” I replied, coldly.
“Anything we can do?”
“No.” I paused, about to pass along his last words, but she cut me off.
“I heard you two talking, sir, sorry to listen in. I heard his last requests,” She paused, tears filling her eyes, “but sir, he made you promise you’d be there when he awoke,” She stopped again, this time the tears flowed freely, “How?”
I let the silence be my answer. She cried harder, dropping to her knees, head in her hands as she shook her head and sobbed. I patted her on the back and turned to again enter the operating room.
Pausing, I looked back over my shoulder and whispered “Leave Jay. That’s an order.” She could only nod.
I re-entered the operation room, Howard’s eyes fluttered open and a smile played upon his face, but was interrupted by another bloodied coughing fit.
“Sleep Howard. I promised, I’ll be here when you wake up,” I replied tenderly, tears again stinging my eyes.
“You promised, Captain. Captain’s promise…” His voice faded as unconsciousness again over took him.
Bear walked in, his eyes cold as steel, “What are you going to do Cap? You promised you’d be here when he woke up, and as I recall you don’t break a promise.”
I lifted my pistol from its holster, cocked it, and held it directly above Howard’s head, “Yeah I did promise that, but what if he never wakes up?’