Max stared at the small video screen on the backpack. When they had been shown how to operate the bomb they were impressed with the interface, which they could unlock using the codes provided by the military. The controlling computer allowed them to actually scale up or down the bomb and set a time delay and was incredibly easy to use. The screen they were looking at now didn't show any of the same options. It showed Draper, his large grin with white teeth gleaming in contrast against his black skin. The group had bundled back into the truck and driven to the interstate before stopping and investigating the beeping noise coming from the pack. The video had paused about halfway and Bill had restarted it from the beginning using the interface on the touch screen.
It showed Draper sitting in one of the rooms on the ship, his back to a gray colored wall.
“Sorry to do this to you.” Draper did look slightly guilty, averting his eyes for a moment from the camera that was recording his words, “First things first, if you are seeing this message it means you opened up the pack to take a look at why it is beeping. I set an alarm to get your attention, I hope now is not a bad time. This device is still a bomb, it is still very dangerous. No offense to any of you, but it is naïve to think the military would put a nuclear bomb in the hands of people who are essentially civilians. No disrespect is meant to Sergeant Ostling and his fine record of service. Before you get riled up let me tell you what you do have. For the record we have one too, so you are not the only Guinea pigs on this run.”
Draper paused and swallowed, the wiped his hand across his brow before continuing, he looked tired, “What you have is known as a positronic bomb. It has been in development by the Air Force for over fifty years and cost us....well, money doesn't have the same meaning now, does it? Suffice it to say a large portion of the research and development money has gone into making a non-nuclear alternative explosive device. You ever wonder why we agreed so readily to the bomb cuts in late eighties and nineties? Or why nearly every president can cut our stock pile of nukes even further for political gain? Well wonder no more, these weapons are a state secret, I don't even know how many exist or in what forms.”
“So what does it do? I can reassure you that it is just as devastating as a nuclear device. The effects will be almost identical with one small difference, there will be no fallout. The one you are carrying is equivalent to ten kilotons of TNT. For a frame of reference the bomb we dropped on Hiroshima to end world war two was approximately fifteen kilotons. So why the bait and switch to give you a more powerful bomb? The funny thing about Military regulations is that this bomb is classified as experimental equipment, which you are authorized to test. The other quirky thing is that you are not, as drafted and retired soldiers, authorized to use nuclear weapons, not without years of training. So there you go. We could have broken the rules, but in a civilized society rules and regulations are what set us apart from the animals.”
“The bomb can still be used as you were instructed with two exceptions, first you cannot change the yield, it only has one setting; 'Big Boom'. Second, you will want to get much farther away from the device before you set it off. A mile would be good. At that distance you will need to be under cover from debris, but, as I said, there won't be any radiation to worry about. Don't worry about the technology; we tested one of these babies in Denver three weeks ago; it worked just fine and took out the main aggressor there, I believe Max and Stewart can vouch for that.”
“Good luck soldiers, fulfill your mission.”
The screen faded to black for a moment then automatically reset back to the first frame.
“Who is Sergeant Ostling?” Stewart asked.
“Me.” Ruben said
“All my life.”
“Is no one upset about this?” asked Max.
The five of them stared at one another, then Bill shook his head, “Not really, we have a more powerful bomb, we have to get far away to use it if we want to live. It's experimental. Big surprise coming from Draper. I am more surprised they sent us five yahoos out to get this job done alone.”
“With all due respect Lieutenant, I think a small team like ours stands a better chance than a combat brigade. Plus they need all the men they have to help in the fighting out in Iowa.” Ruben said.
Bill shrugged his shoulders, looking unconvinced, “I know we have Max, but would it have killed them to send a few Special Forces guys with us too?”
“We are ‘special forces’, untrained, unconventional. Special.” Stewart said.
“I am not sure I like what that implies.” Bill said, “Ruben you said something about knowing why they didn't infect you back there, what do you know?”
The old man nodded his head, “Yeah, the one guy with the messed up mouth, he wanted to start in on me right away. The other warned him not to.”
Stewart rolled her eyes, “Sure, I had to kill the rational one, instead of the freak.”
Ignoring her comment Bill asked, “So what did you hear?”
“Apparently this part of the country has some sort of law again, and it involves not eating anyone still alive.”
“What do they do with us?” asked Max.
“There is a camp in town here. I guess, from what I heard, there are camps all over the place.”
“That’s…disturbing.” Stewart said.
“We gotta go get them.” Ruben rubbed his eyes, “You can imagine what it would be like, people crowded together, every once in a while someone disappears. It could be your wife, your neighbor.” Ruben looked at Bill, “Your kid.”
Shaking her head, Stewart said, “No. No way. I am all for saving people, but we have to keep the larger mission in mind.” She pointed to the bomb. “If we take out the big guy, the rest will fall like dominos.”
“That’s what I am afraid of. Without the big guy keeping them in line, who’s to say what will happen to the people in the camps?” Ruben asked.
“It’s my call.” Bill said, “I can pull rank if I have to. But…as we are ‘special’ forces I want your opinions too.”
“We should find them.” Ruben said firmly.
“Kill Sentry, come back here and help them.” Stewart said.
Max looked like he was thinking things over, he knew what he would do if they were his kids. “Where are they? Did they say Ruben?”
Ruben shook his head.
“We can’t be running all over trying to find them and who knows how many zombies there are? I think we have to go on.”
“Javier? You have an opinion?”
The young man, nodded, “Yeah. I keep thinking, what if it were my family? My little brothers or mom and dad? I think we have to try and help if we can. Like Max said though, we don’t know anything. We can’t fight an army.”
“We barely managed to fight out of this mess.” Stewart said, waving her hand around the front of the hotel.
“Okay, let’s get back in the truck. I didn’t want to travel at night, but we are heading further down the road.” Bill said, when everyone stared at him he added, “That’s an order people. Let’s move.”
Ruben stood still, as if contemplating saying something. Javier stood behind the old man, then brushed his shoulder with one hand and turned away. Shrugging Ruben gave Bill a sloppy salute and turned to get into the truck.
“It’s gonna be a sucky ride with no windows. Do you want to try and get a different vehicle first?” asked Max.
“No, we need to get moving before the zombies over there get organized and come after us. Can you see them Max?”
Max looked towards the other hotel, “They are there. More are coming from the west. Fast. Maybe in cars.”
“Then I’ll risk driving this. How many Max?”
“Fifteen. Twenty. Enough. If this is what they are sending our way, imagine how many they have in town. No way we could rescue those people Bill.”
“That is about what I figured. Still, it hurts. We gotta keep our eye on the prize.”