The Last Patrol

Paul Fahrenheidt

Paul Fahrenheidt

Many a man thought himself wise, but what he wanted he did not know.

Hell came to Oklahoma thirty-two minutes after the commencement of WARDAY. The steel spires of Oklahoma City standing tall atop the plains turned to a glass bowl in about fifteen seconds after three warheads detonated like dying suns. The entire state government was vaporized in an instant. 

Approximately forty-five seconds later, a single warhead struck downtown Tulsa. Two-hundred thousand people became a footnote in the thousands of funeral pyres lit across the United States in the worst two hours ever recorded in the course of human events. The skyscrapers built by Oil Barons over one-hundred years were twisted into rusting pretzels of steel stripped of all semblance of buildings by razor sharp winds kicked up by the sheer force of the Samson Option. 

It’s disputed amongst scholars whether places like Oklahoma were blessed or cursed for lack of nuclear targets. Some put forth the simple-yet-undeniable truth that those caught in the Metropoleis of New York or the District were blessed with almost instant incineration. If one read the two or three surviving records of Oklahoma in the weeks, months, and years immediately after WARDAY, they’d be inclined to agree with the argument.

And it would have undoubtedly been far worse, had nearly the entire 45th Infantry Division not been on their yearly FTX at the exact moment of WARDAY.

Oklahoma housed four known military installations prior to WARDAY. Tinker Air Force Base was wiped off the earth along with the rest of Oklahoma City. Fort Sill was deemed important enough to warrant two warheads. Vance and Altus Air Force Bases were both hit by a warhead, despite being little more than training centers. 

Yet the sixty-thousand acres of farmland purchased by the Oklahoma State Government in 1983 for $55 million, with the explicit purpose of setting up a new training area for its rapidly expanding National Guard, was spared. Located just south of the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, approximately ninety-percent of the division’s total personnel were present on those sixty-thousand acres.

God had spared the Thunderbird division from a quick death, only to have them undergo their own Book of Job in the great plains.

* * *

The ash-filled drops of black rain fell around twelve pairs of eyes darker than the droplets. They wore fatigues patched in dozens of places with squares of blue denim from jeans and green canvas from duffel bags. Their faces were coated in patterns of skull-shaped mud and tears of soot. In their hands they held rifles, some as much a relic as the men were.

One held an M-16 his father had used in Viet-Nam, a child’s war blip on the radar forgotten as soon as the first warhead fell by all except him. Another gripped a Winchester 30-30 repeater, a shard of the once-warm nights when he watched Bonanza with his three brothers who were all vaporized in Tulsa. A third fiddled with some slapped-together contraption made from plywood, pipe, and springs. As much a danger to him as it was to whomever he was pointing it towards.

And so on for all twelve of the once company-sized element. One or two of them wore kevlars, but most had cast them aside in favor of boonies and patrol caps which breathed better on the endless patrols of forest and plain. If Kong zeroed your skull, no helmet was stopping that bullet.

A low drum-beat of rolling thunder sounded above their heads, a child’s echo of the thunder they’d heard a decade prior. They were arranged in an L-shaped ambush around a bend in what used to be a nature trail, where ash-coated trees defied the geiger counters and grew on. Kong seemed to favor it over the main roads, and three LRRS units had been caught and shot in as many weeks within three miles of this spot.

Captain Miles Agee leered through the scant-lit forest for any signs of movement. Alpha Company SOP was that the CO initiated fire during an ambush. It had been so since Captain Agee was Sergeant Agee ten years ago. Back then he was one of eighty. Now he was one of a dozen.

He was one of the few who still wore a kevlar, painted in a chipping olive coat with a massive black swastika painted on the front of the helmet. Eight years ago it got him stares. Not because it was a Swastika (Many in the 45th quickly adopted their old unit insignia in the horrors of the post-WARDAY world,) but because it seemed to give OPFOR a perfect point of aim. At least that’s what his old PL told him before he got shot in the throat outside a Texaco gas station. Agee kept it because, ironically, it seemed to bring him luck.

His eyes scanned the treeline. It was a miracle that any sunlight made it down to the forest floor at all, between the three filters of clouds, rain, and canopy. Yet enough made it through that Captain Agee could see about fifteen feet in front of him. His white skin was concealed under ash, mud, and fatigues, something he’d found revealed one’s position if not suitably covered up.

The handful of niggers in the division didn’t have that problem. The problem they had was resorting to the ways of their ancestors in the presence of any living pair of tits they came across. Not that the white soldiers were any better, but most COs didn’t like the thought of a nigger raping a fourteen year old white girl that he could be raping. So the AG reorganized the niggers that weren’t summarily executed into a single unit, which very quickly went A.W.O.L. and disappeared into the plains. Course, Agee missed having a nigger or two under his command when they’d clear buildings. They had a sense the white boys seemed not to, and always knew when a room was trapped or had some meth-addled fuck hiding in it.

A branch snapped. Captain Agee narrowed his eyes and snapped his head towards the source. Was it a deer? There were still a few around here and there. Was it a falling limb? No, those made a different sound. Snap. Captain Agee had zeroed the sound and was watching a line of silhouettes form before his eyes, like shades materializing out of the gloam.

Agee’s Medic, Specialist Hawley, was in the prone next to him. The flaxen blond hair gifted him by his danelaw ancestors was the last remnant of youth about him. He was eighteen when WARDAY happened, not even out of High School. His parents worked in Oklahoma City and he cried for three days straight after WARDAY. Two months later he was stomping in some injun’s skull in a meth-induced frenzy. He was near thirty now, stone-cold like the rest, well practiced in the art of giving and taking life.

Captain Agee nudged him, pointing to the line of black outlines walking towards their ambush. Hawley nodded, and raised his M1903 Springfield towards them. Agee counted them. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven? No, only six. Typical size for a LRRS team. They were some twenty feet away. Agee remembered his basic NCO course.

“Do not engage if you don’t outnumber them three to one.” The graying Master Sergeant with a Pacific Campaign ribbon said to him, in a corner of his mind he kept tucked away from the ash-black rain. That doctrine was out the window now. Kong had more than the Thunderbirds, surprise and discipline was all the Thunderbirds had now.

Agee watched the line of black-clad Khansmen tip-toe towards his ambush. They were lean, just as lean as his boys were. Their weapons were also a mish-mash, their faces painted with the same mud and the same ash. They were ten feet away. For all he knew, they may have been contractors or electricians like he was before the rain turned black. Agee caught the thought. They were rounding the corner now, three feet from his face.

He raised his M-16 and fired off three rounds. The forest was, for an instant, lit with the rays of the absent sun as his dozen men opened up the dying light of the United States Army National Guard. Six black-clad bodies hit the ground, none of them firing a single shot.

Agee shouted to his men to assault through and set security, as he moved to clear the bodies. A routine which had become as deeply ingrained in his memory as the face of the first man he’d killed. He didn’t need niggers when he was in ambush.

* * *

Major General James Marion was the best Adjutant General the Oklahoma National Guard ever had. He dramatically expanded the size and strength of the state’s Guard, bringing it back up to division strength while equipping it with brand-new equipment. He raised training standards to airborne levels, and before long the Oklahoma Guard was considered among the best in the country.

He was vital in the acquisition of the sixty-thousand acres that he was set to turn into the biggest National Guard installation in the country. It was by fate and fate alone that he wasn’t in Oklahoma City on WARDAY. Here he was, a rising star in the Army and in Politics, now severed from that world by two hours of Nuclear fire.

Yet he had survived. His chain of command had survived. His division had survived. Most of his equipment had survived. Where could the potential of such a position end? And what did he do with it? Did he declare himself as Führer of the Thunderbird Reich? Did he plan to build culture on the backs of his stockpile of bullets and men to shoot them? Did he seize the laurel wreath handed to him on a silver platter by the goddess of fortune?

No. He declared himself acting Governor of the State of Oklahoma, and that he would step down when he was able to re-establish a semblance of order and civilian government. He became a warlord, sure. One of the most feared and respected in the eastern great plains. Refugees flocked to his fortress in droves, eager to become his slaves in favor of bread. Yet he made them all, “Citizens of Oklahoma,” and set up governing civilian bodies.

He seized the food and able-bodied fromthe weak tribes around him, sure. But he always ensured to cite the Selective Service Act or some other long-burned piece of paper to justify his act under Federal and State law. The hypocrisy would have been hilarious if it didn’t make him the most hated man in the eastern Great Plains.

Immediately after WARDAY, he had an army of nine-thousand. Easily among the largest on the planet to survive the bombs. Within a year it had dropped to five-thousand. This was out of his control, muclear winter and radiation would always take their toll. Within two he was down to one-thousand men. He could not abandon his cause of keeping order, of restoring civilian government, of bringing back a dead nation.

His executive officer, Brigadier General Farley, broke into his office with a squad of fifteen men. Marion was ritually lynched before the entire division, and Farley declared himself in charge. Yet the damage was done.

Now, ten years after the bombs fell, the 45th Infantry “Division” was down to five-hundred men. Farley ran it better than Marion ever had, yet the goddess of fortune had scorned him. There were barely enough men to keep the bandits and the malformed out of the Ammo plant. And the tales of a new Khan rising in Chicagoland… if only Marion was lynched sooner.

But the refugees were gone, no one wanted the reign of the Thunderbirds. The ammo was near spent, and rations were getting tighter. Patrols were fewer and further between, meeting stiffer resistance than they once had. Surrounding hamlets stopped paying tribute, and no retribution could be carried out. 

Yet the men who remained did so willingly. There was nothing else they could do. The Thunderbirds was their tribe, their brotherhood, their warband. They still sang songs in the mess hall over grog and dwindling MREs. They still shared a woman among their squads whenever they found one. They still recalled times before the bombs when the world made sense.

They still covered their helmets in Swastikas and Thunderbirds, in Guard decals and “Born to Kill” scribbles. They still put on their patched woodland fatigues and laced up their soleless boots to patrol the wasteland around them. They still followed orders without question. They were relics to everyone but them, to them they were living.

But they all knew they’d die fighting the Khan.

* * *

Hawley was lying on the tiled floor with his head split open, Captain Agee swung his M-16 like a club at the offender. The Kong was caught in the gut and doubled over, Agee brought the butt-stock down on the back of his neck. The Kong fell to the ground like a sack of bricks, his spine shattered.

Captain Agee was breathing deep, heavy breaths. The Ammo plant had been besieged for two weeks now, and with each Kong assault more Thunderbirds died. General Farley was killed a week ago, defiantly emptying the clip of his M1911 into a squad of what had to be convicts. No one knew who was in charge now, no one really cared either. The Thunderbirds knew what happened to those who resisted the Khan, and they’d rather die fighting than live to see what came next.

Agee looked around at what used to be his squad. Two months ago, there were twelve. Two days ago, there were six. His eyes looked from body to body. Hawley, Kit, Beaverdam, and Jessup were on the ground with their innards spilling out. Sergeant James Tyrone was leaned up against the wall with a tourniquet on his left arm cut off at the elbow. It became clear that Agee was the last able bodied man in his squad, maybe in the division. The Kongs had cleared out, maybe for a minute, maybe for a day.

Captain Agee exhaled and stood up straight. He looked over to Tyrone, who was staring off into the distance. Tyrone was an insurance salesman before WARDAY. He used to own a nice house just outside of Bartlesville, and made more in a week than Agee did in a month. The bombs turned this mild-mannered insurance salesman into an avatar of hate, a man with an all-consuming fire which burned for bloodshed. Now, it seems the fire had all burned out, and the mild-mannered insurance salesman gazed upon the world again.

“Miles…” Tyrone said without looking at him, his voice small and timid.

“What’s going Jim?” Captain Agee said, kneeling next to the sole survivor of his company.

“I think I’m gonna have a barbeque at the place this weekend, invite all the NCOs and their wives. Maybe catch the Chiefs game. I… I think it’ll be nice after all this.” It came from Tyrone’s mouth, but the man who spoke it had been dead for ten years.

“Yeah- I- I think that’s great Jim. We need a weekend off, especially after all of this.” Captain Agee said, tears welling up in his eyes. Tyrone nodded, but kept staring off into the distance.

“Make it quick- please. Please Miles make it quick.” Tyrone said, repeating it like a mantra. Agee nodded, and reached into the holster on his belt for his Beretta. Three bullets were in the clip.

“Are you thinking about getting steak or ribs, Jim?” Agee said, checking the pistol before chambering a round. Jim was snapped out of his chant.

“Steak I think. And… a couple cases of PBRs. Lord knows the guys are gonna want a drink, Miles.” Tyrone said, keeping his eyes away from the pistol.

“I think that’ll be swell, Jim. I think that’ll be-” The sentence was cut off by the discharge of a 9 mm round. Tyrone slumped to the side, no longer troubled by this world. Captain Agee stood for a second, numb to what he’d just done. Then, like coming off of a drug, he fell to his knees bawling. He flung the pistol across the room and curled up into a fetal position, his sobs the lone noise which echoed through the halls of the ammo plant.