"Dagnabbit, private!" General Radcliffe said, punching a zombie in the breadbasket. "I said to stand to attention and salute, not go drooling around like some kind of smelly hound on Thanksgiving!"
The private wheezed, groaned and swung its bloody claws at General Radcliffe. General Radcliffe whipped out a pair of handcuffs and, in a surprisingly swift move for a silver-haired general, cuffed the private to the steering wheel of a jeep. A gust of wind blew the flap of the canvas overhead like the rat-a-tat-tat of a machine gun.
"A storm's a-brewing," General Radcliffe said, glossing over the storm that had already broken his troops. The rumors had flown around the soldiers that zombies were real and they were shipped out to fight them. More than once, the soldiers under his command had come to ask him about it and he'd confirmed that a lot of dagnabbed porridge was about to hit the fan, but even he wasn't sure what kind of oats were in it.
The soldiers had been ready for the horde of fleeing survivors coming from the city. They'd formed makeshift crews to handle the survivors, to pass them into decontamination. Working independently, they had developed in the space of twenty-four hours, from the first spark of the rumor to the wildfire, a complete zombie apocalypse triage plan that would've put a desk and several billion dollars worth of military equipment between them and any engagement.
What the soldiers had not prepared for, however, was for no survivors at all.
No living man, woman, child or otherwise stormed their line. What stormed their line, slowly and without rancor, had been a wall of decaying flesh. It came on as an ameoba with bones and hair.
"Help! Help!" shouted a soldier on the other side of a second jeep. General Radcliffe leapt up into the jeep, slid across the bench seats, and applied his polished size 11 to the head of a sergeant on the other side.
"Eating your squadmate is a court-martial, soldier!" General Radcliffe yelled.
"Thank you, sir!" the soldier said, saluting.
"That's a nasty cut that you have on your hand, soldier, you had better report to the infirmary. And stop clawing at me!"
"Mmmuurrrrrr," said the soldier, continuing to claw at the decorations on the General's uniform.
"You defect quickly enough that the army is a better place without you," General Radcliffe said, elbowing the soldier in the face.
A blast of shotgun fire blew the soldier's head off. A squad of soldiers left a trail of blood, gore and hungry zombies behind them as they fought their way towards the General. Several of them saluted while the others fended off the horde. These were the 257th Artillery.
General Radcliffe snapped off a crisp salute in return. "I appreciate your moxie. What's the situation?"
"Fucked, sir," said Lieutenant Greyson. Sweat and blood covered her goggles.
"Military engagements are like lightbulbs, because both can be unscrewed. Pardon my francais, young lady," General Radcliffe said. "Did you pack the Firehogs and the Whale Guns?"
"Against the orders of the quartermaster, sir," Lieutenant Greyson said, grinning.
"That makes me happier than a hot pig in cold slop with a bucket of skunk beer. Our second ahb-jec-teeeev is to attach ourselves to that convoy truck and carve ourselves a path towards the city. One of those Whale Guns hefted a shell directly into the backseat of one of Hitler's favorite fuhrer wagons. Unfortunately, it nearly blew itself apart and our limey friends chose not to use it again."
"Excuse me, sir, did you say we want to go closer into the city?" Lieutenant Greyson asked. Behind her, controlled bursts of offensive fire did more to stem the zombie plague than a thousand gallons of interferon could dream about.
"That's why I said that is our second ahb-jec-teeeev. Our first and overriding ahb-jec-teeeev is to protect the people of Constantinople."
"But our orders were to hold the perimeter."
"No they weren't," General Radcliffe said.
"But I read them, they were straight from-"
"LieeeuuuuteNANT!" General Radcliffe barked, popping upright into a commanding stance like a champagne bottle had been opened beneath him and the cork had bounced off the inside of the top of his head.
"Sir!" Lieutenant Greyson said.
"You do not stand there and tell me to my dagnabbed face that you or any other lieutenants do ex-act-ly what I say and that I am anything less than grateful for your powers of inter-pre-ti-ta-tion! Do I make myself clear?!"
"Not exactly, sir!"
"Good, then interpret what I mean!" General Radcliffe bellowed. He pulled a revolver out of his jacket and led the way towards the trucks that carried the parts to the Firehogs.