Dutch had finished briefing me and supplied me orders designating me as a Chief Warrant Officer 2nd assigned to Criminal Investigation Command, so I guessed for the time being I was an MP again. By the time the briefing was over, I had: Finished repacking my duffel and ruck for Iraqi conditions. Drawn an interceptor body armor set and night vision goggles. And finally been issued my sidearm.
The pleasantries finished, I ran back out to the waiting helicopter and boarded it for the quick hop to Pope Air Force Base where I would get on the C-141 which was my ride to Baghdad. I was the only passenger on this flight, the cargo bay filled with a couple of hummvee pickups and assorted crates, so I unrolled my sleeping bag in one of the truck beds and alternated between reading the incident report and napping during the insanely long flight.
The report made interesting reading. A squad of soldiers on mounted patrol in an MRAP, had responded to a 'bodies found' report. When they got to the area, they found a couple of locals ripped to pieces along with a a lot of AK brass strewn from said local's rifles. The weirdish thing was there was copious quantities of greenish slime all over the ground and a rotting set of bones in a relatively clean set of DCUs. The name tape and dental tied back to a Sergeant First Class Peter Albrecht of 5th Special Forces Group. SFC Albrecht had gone missing and presumed KIA when his A-Team was wiped during clean-up operations of the Battle of Karbala back in 2003.
Curiouser and curiouser. I saw why the General had wanted me for this, with my experience with things with glowy green blood and the walking dead. Anyway, Dutch's orders were find out what happened, see if they're more of them, and if so...deal with them. I could do this.
When we finally landed at Logistics Support Area Anaconda up at Balad Airbase I was rested and ready to get to work. That is, as soon as I met up with my partner on this case. Dutch had said that he was with another agency that specialized in fighting weird bio-terrorism and that there was some overlap between our groups. I hoped that meant there wasn't going to be a turf war.
Walking over to the terminal, I pointed my pistol into the clearing barrel and did not get the surprising bang before I entered. Always a good thing. Next step was to go through the check in with orders and new ID in hand. It was surprisingly quick and soon I was in the main terminal area looking for my contact.
A youngish voice sounded off behind me. It took a while to respond to my 'rank' and I made the connection that I probably should turn around. Behind me was a kid just out of high school with an MP brassard. I did not ever look that young and stupid! Okay maybe I did and I was.
"That's me. I mean I'm Summers...Chief Summers that is," sometimes I feel I'm just not cut out for the spy-age necessary in my line of work.
"I'm PFC Milgram ma'am. I'm supposed to be you and the sergeant's driver."
"Is the sergeant here yet?" I guessed this sergeant was my new partner.
"Yes ma'am..." he began. I held up my hand.
"Stop right there! Do not call me ma'am. Chief, Summers, or even Buffy are fine. Yes I know it's a flaunting of military protocol, but get your flaunt on. Okay?"
"Uhhhh...Yes Chief. Buffy?" he looked confused.
"And no laughing. It's a perfectly good name," some things you just have to cut off at the bud.
"Right Chief. Sergeant Ledger's in the truck waiting. He got in a hour ago," he managed to answer.
"Okay then, I've got my gear. Let's go!"
"Need a hand with your bags?"
"I'm good," I slung my ruck over one shoulder, my duffel over the other, and scooped up my sports bag in my left hand. Milgram blinked, shook his head and then took the lead.
He was parked in a well guarded loading area with a big guy sitting in the runner's hatch behind the .50 cal.
"You're my partner?" were the first words out of his mouth.
"Yup. You read the file?"
He nodded and asked, "Seen anything like this before?"
I threw my gear into the back seat and after climbing into the front passenger seat replied, "Maybe something similar at least. You?"
"Not exactly. But it seemed pretty close to something I ran into."
"You know we're going to have to read Milgram in," I looked over at our driver who was studiously trying to pretend he didn't exist and that maybe we'd forget him.
"Yeah, we'd better," Ledger climbed down into the back seat. "Introductions then. Real ones."
"Sounds good to me. Captain Buffy Summers, US Special Operations Command. Call me Buffy or Summers. I'm attached to a unit that I don't think has a real name."
"Captain Joe Ledger, Department of Military Sciences. Joe or Cowboy works for me."
We both stared at Milgram who looked a combination of awed and terrified.
"Well, your turn Milgram..."
"Private First Class Steve Milgram. 503rd MPs. Uh what's going on?"
"Congratulations Steve," I said you've just been cleared to learn how the world really works and if you talk about it to anybody, Joe or I will just have to kill you! Understood?"
He nodded, a terrified expression on his face.
"Now as for what's going on...I'm thinking zombies. Joe?"
"I would have thought so Summers, but let me tell you about my morning wake-up call..."GLOSSARY
Warrant Officer -- A soldier that is "Warranted' a Officer's rank by they nature of their expertise with a technical skill. In the table of ranks they are short of adjacent to regular commissioned Officers are but very seldom in command of anything but a unit consisting of their specialty.
Chief -- Normal term of respect for Warrant Officers. Derived from the full titles of 'Chief' Warrant Officer 2nd Class, 'Chief' Warrant Officer 3rd Class, 'Chief' Warrant Officer 4th Class. Also called WO1, CW2, CW3, CW4 respectively.
Criminal Investigation Command -- The Army equivalent of CSI and special crimes task forces.
Interceptor Body Armor -- Standard issue armor and helmet set for use in combat zones.
C-141 -- Starlifter. Large transport aircraft.
MRAP -- Mine Resistant Ambush Protected. Large personnel carrying truck. Seen as a Decepticon in the Transformer's movies.
DCUs -- Desert Camouflage Utilities. Standard military uniform until the release of the ACU (Advanced Camouflage Utilities)
SFC -- Sergeant First Class. The 8th in ascending grades (of 13) of Enlisted soldier rank. Also called an E-7
AK -- Standard term for any Soviet designed Kalishnikov automatic weapon. (AK-47, AKM, AK-74, etc.)
PFC -- Private First Class. The 3rd in ascending grade of Enlisted Rank. Also called an E-3.