“Jonas, I am having a tough time selling your setbacks to the others in power.” Senator Elisa Parker.
“We have their backs to the Missouri river. We had a toe hold in Iowa City even. I need more troops, I need more ammunition. I need someone in power who can talk them into giving up. We are not going to win this easily with four air strikes a day!” Jonas told her. The last comment was the maximum number of strikes Jonas could order in each day, due to fuel and supply constraints.
“Well they don’t even have an air force, so four strikes are more than they have to hit you with.” Parker said, “Your campaign is a grinder, churning our human volunteers into dead meat and mincing our zombies until they can fight no more. You told me six months ago the battle would be over, won, in fact.”
“You also said you would clear the way in congress to give me a carte blanche to deal with the Iowan’s if negotiation failed. I made plans based on your statement and you didn’t deliver.” It was dangerous, what Jonas was doing. The senator was quick to forget her own shortcomings and remembered those of her underlings forever.
The long pause lingered on, with Jonas refusing to soften his tone or offer excuses for his failings other than the lack of support.
“Jonas.” Parker began, “I see your point. Politically things became complicated when we nuked that group in Wyoming. The world’s gone to shit and I have liberal snowflakes worried about a couple of low yield nuclear weapon detonations. I was sanctioned and barely beat that. I took a hit, and the support I could gather for you was…less than I had promised.”
“I understand this. I refuse to be held to my original estimates when what I was promised never materialized. You’ve sent me two hundred thousand dumb zombies. You know what the Iowans are experts at? Fighting dumb zombies. They are the Spartans of fighting dumb zombies and have run into enough of the super zeds to know some tricks on dealing with them as well. Plus, aside from the aid I never received, the intelligence about their fuel reserves were dead wrong. They have biodiesel. They had REGULAR diesel. Where are they getting their goddamn fuel from? Last I heard there were no oil fields around here.”
“I’ve read your reports, you might not think I have, but I follow them closely. I think their fuel is coming from Texas.”
Jonas laughed, “Hah, right. No one knows what’s going on in Texas. I was lucky to get Doug as far east as I did.” Mentioning his missing, and presumed dead former driver hurt. “We need some eyes east of the Iowans, and south and north.” Jonas sighed.
“Okay, Jonas you’re the commander on the ground, how do you want to proceed in a way that will give me a victory?”
“You can’t be serious.”
“We can’t win here. Send the Iowans a diplomate, a living person! Propose that we pull back to say, Lincoln and call an immediate cease fire.”
“How is that a win?”
“It’s not a loss. The way things are going we are not going to win this, unless I get the resources I was promised. Go back to the senate, tell them their efforts to thwart you have resulted in this mess and that if they had backed you, we’d control everything from the west coast to Indiana.”
“Don’t advise me on politics.” Parker said.
“Don’t tell me how to run my military campaign.”
“Fair enough. What I hear you saying is that you cannot win this war against the Iowas?”
“No.” Jonas said, “What I am telling you is no one can win this war against them without the support I requested, and was promised, six months ago. Not me, not some up and coming braggart who will promise you everything so he can take over.”
“What about just pulling back, letting the Iowans go on the offense and then grinding them up?”
“That’s pretty close to telling me my business.” Jonas hesitated a moment, “It would be better than continuing to try and press forward. The main problem is that they are already on the offense. Yes, they are trying to take the ground they lost back…wait, that’s wrong, they ARE taking their territory back. They are already on the offense and we are just barely holding on trying to contain them. They will drive us west of Omaha in a matter of days. Lincoln will be the next stop.”
“I hear you. I understand. I will send one of our best negotiators to deal with the Iowans.”
“I think we need to get some people in place all around them too.” Jonas said.
“I agree, we need someone down in Florida. If I send you someone can you get them inserted?”
Jonas shook his head, but said, “I’ll do my best. Doug was under the radar and I think our best bet of infiltrating without drawing too much attention to ourselves. We throw a super zed into the region and everyone is going to know it.”
“What about a pair, one human, one zed?”
“Well, I have the human, you could peel the best fighter you have to send with him.”
“Were you not listening when I said what would happen if I do that? The locals will eat whoever we drop in alive.”
“Jonas, you tried stealth. Doug wasn’t the weakest of our assets, he should have been able to infiltrate. Now we need to try the other way. Some strong enough to take care of themselves, sending a pair will serve two purposes. First taking them out will take some effort.”
“We think. We don’t know.” Jonas said.
“Right, this is a learning experience. The second message they will get is that we are not afraid to lose a couple of assets if we must. We’ll send them with a message: Together we are stronger.”
“I don’t think that will work. I have an alternative, it borders on me telling you how to do your job, do you want to hear it?”
“What can it hurt?”
“We have had contact with a zombie mercenary group, their leader is named Jake. He and the Iowans had some sort of falling out right before this whole thing started, but from what I understand, the two groups are working together again. They are not staunch allies.”
“You think you might be able to turn Jake against them?”
“Probably not unless we are going to deal them a knockout blow. You know mercenaries; if they get a reputation for turning on their employers no one will hire them again.”
“I thought the Iowans didn’t work with the dead?”
“They don’t allow them inside their borders. My proposal is to get Jake to do the insertion for us. Either into Texas or further east. He helped with Doug, but I don’t think he has assets all the way to the east coast. It won’t hurt to ask.”
“I can send my man? And you’ll pair him up with your best guy and handle the insertion effort?”
Jonas knew he wasn’t going to win this battle, so he conceded as graciously as possible, “Yes, ma’am, I’ll take care of the ‘effort.’”
“Who will you send?”
“I was thinking Sergeant Mumong.”
“Haris? The hero of Wyoming? I don’t know that that is your best idea.”
“He is good at close defense, the best really.”
“He’s also a nationally known hero for bringing down those holdouts in Wyoming. If we lose him we could lose a lot of the popular momentum for the war effort.”
“I know that, which is why he has not been back to the front lines in six months. But he is more powerful than ever and I can’t keep having him on escort duty for our supply caravans. It’s a waste of a resource.” Jonas told her.
“It’s risky. I said you could send who you want, so if it’s him, it’s him. He’s Muslim isn’t he?”
“Sikh. Or was, who is anything now that we are living in the end of days? Does it make a difference?”
“We have a vocal minority of Muslims to appease…and a louder majority who thinks they caused the end of the world. I won’t play up the religious angle, unless it comes up.”
“You deal with the politics. Who is your guy?”
“I am going to send you Mister Black.”
Jonas said nothing, he was too stunned to reply.
Parker asked, “Are you still there?”
“You don’t approve?”
“I…I didn’t even know he was back from Asia.”
“We’re keeping it quiet. He works best if no one knows where he is.” Parker told him.
“Black and Mumong. That’s not a team I would have imagined together. He hates zombies.”
“He hates disorder more. And he is good at what he does.”
“What exactly does he do?” Jonas asked.
“Whatever is necessary.” Parker replied, “I’ll have him on the next supply caravan, arrange to have Haris escorting that and brief him that he’ll be Mr. Black’s companion so they can get to know each other.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Jonas said.
They hung up, leaving Jonas shaking his head about what had just happened. He called out to Gina, his assistant and Parker’s chief spy in his camp, to get the orders ready to pull the troops back to Lincoln.