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To Sail a Darkling Sea

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To Sail a Darkling Sea

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Author: John Ringo
Publisher: Baen, 2014
Series: Black Tide Rising: Book 2
Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
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A World Cloaked in Darkness

With human civilization annihilated by a biological zombie plague, a rag-tag fleet of yachts and freighters known as Wolf Squadron scours the Atlantic, searching for survivors. Within every abandoned liner and carrier lurks a potential horde, safety can never be taken for granted, and death and turning into one of the enemy is only a moment away.

The Candle Flickers

Yet every ship and town holds the flickering hope of survivors. One and two from lifeboats, a dozen from a fishing village, a few hundred wrenched by fury and fire from a ship that once housed thousands...

Light a Flame

Now Wolf Squadron must take on another massive challenge: clear the assault carrier USS Iwo Jima of infected before the trapped Marines and sailors succumb to starvation. If Wolf Squadron can accomplish that task, an even tougher trial awaits: an apocalyptic battle to win a new dawn for humanity. The war for civilization begins as the boats of the Wolf Squadron become a beacon of hope on a Darkling Sea.



Wolf Squadron is an international volunteer search and rescue organization formed subsequent to most world governments falling in the face of the H7D3 "zombie" plague. Wolf Squadron is based around the megayacht Social Alpha, formerly owned by the late internet billionaire Mike Mickerberg, founder of Spacebook, and includes as of this writing over twenty small craft as well as the oceanic supply ship Grace Tan.

Wolf Squadron was founded by Steven John "Wolf" Smith, a naturalized American citizen, former Australian Army paratrooper and former high school history teacher. Mr. Smith and his family, Stacey "Momma Wolf," Sophia "Seawolf" and Faith "Shewolf" Smith began clearing boats and rescuing people just like yourself starting a mere two weeks after the cessation of broadcasts from the British Broadcasting System. As of the date of this pamphlet's production, four hundred and twenty-six persons have been rescued at sea including U.S. Army, Navy, Marine and Coast Guard personnel, with over one hundred and sixty coming from the cruise ship, Voyage Under Stars alone. Most rescuees have agreed to join in on the effort and we hope you will too!

Currently there are no land areas beyond desert and barren islands unoccupied by the infected. There are three known remaining governmental headquarters (USA: Strategic Armaments Command; Russia: Strategic Rockets Command; China: 4th Strategic Military Command) as well as a small contingent of the CDC. If you are American, the National Constitutional Continuity Coordinator (see below: "What is the NCCC?") is Under Secretary Frank Galloway, who maintains a continuity of civilian control of the U.S. military. All of the headquarters personnel are uninfected and therefore must remain in their secure facilities due to the hazard of infected. Similarly, the submarines you may occasionally see or have seen surfaced are also uninfected and cannot open up until a source of vaccine can be obtained.

Here are a few frequently asked questions:

Q: "Something" happened (rape, murder of noninfected human, incest, pedophilia, homosexual activity, "I'm pregnant by a guy I slept with after he killed my husband who had just turned into a zombie," etc.) when I was trapped in a compartment/on a lifeboat/life raft/small boat, etc.

A. "What happened in the compartment, stays in the compartment." If you feel you are in a state of threat from a person, relay this to your sponsor and you will be separated from that person. However, Wolf Squadron has no jurisdiction over actions taken prior to your contact with Wolf Squadron, and given the difficulties with prosecuting such issues, will only act to separate you from any perceived threat. If actions occurred in a compartment or lifeboat that fall under Uniform Code of Military Justice (including but not limited to sexual activity of a heterosexual or homosexual nature and/or sexual relations between junior and senior and/or disrespect for authority or any other violation of the UCMJ or standing orders) they are generally held under the same guidelines as agreed upon by the current NCCC and the current JCS. (Post-Fall DOD Regulation Nineteen.) Subsequent to rescue, military personnel are still under the UCMJ and there is a permanent "stop-loss" in place on all Military Occupational Specialties. As to issues that are not of a legal nature, what happened in the compartment, stays in the compartment....

* * *


SSG Gregory "Janu" Januscheitis scrabbled for magazines in the red-lit compartment and realized he was down to only two loaded mags. And while his assault ruck had two books and a bunch of Copenhagen, it was also fresh out of ammo.

"I'm out!" Lance Corporal Derek D. Douglas shouted. "And I cannot get this damned hatch shut!" The tall and rugged corporal was pressing hard against the door but the infecteds had their arms through it and it wasn't going to dog.

Condition Zebra, which shut all the watertight doors of the Iwo Jima, had been set as soon as the H7D3 infection started to rampage through the ship. But then the "dual expressor" virus changed from a simple flu to a "neurological affector blood pathogen." And lockdown only worked as long as you weren't battling fucking zombies, which you had to when one second your Alpha Team sergeant is laying down fire and the next he's stripping off his clothes and howling.

Then the abandon ship call went out from the acting captain and the doors pretty much all got opened.

J's squad wasn't even close when the call went out. The boats were gone.

Running out of ammo and with no hope of getting topside they'd taken the next best route: head for the big food stores of the assault ship and try to hole up. If they could find them and if they could fight their way through the zombies.

"Leave it!" he called from the next hatch. "Hug left!"

Januscheitis was an airman, not an infantryman like Smitty, but multiple tours in the Sandbox when he'd been in support of "advanced air ops" had really ratcheted up the basic "every Marine a rifleman" thing.

"Aye, aye!" Douglas called. He let go of the hatch and slammed back against the bulkhead, shuffling down the corridor as fast as he could while keeping his back to the port bulkhead.

J and Lance Corporal David Toback began slow, aimed fire at the infecteds pouring through the hatch. The reason they were firing so carefully was that bouncers in the confined spaces of a ship were as much of a problem as infecteds. They'd lost two squad members when they were wounded by bouncers, then overrun by the fucking zombies.

"He's not going to make it," Toback said.

"Check fire," J shouted. "Dive, Derek, dive! Crawl!"

As soon as the corporal hit the deck, J switched to full auto, ripping out the remnants of his magazine. As the corporal slithered across the coaming, the staff sergeant tossed his last frag into the corridor and slammed the hatch shut. There was a dull thump and a pinging on the door followed by howling.

"Where the fuck are we?" Toback asked.

"Four tack 157 tack two tack lima," Januscheitis said. "The stores compartment with the water spigot is two compartments aft and one deck down." He pointed in the general direction. He had a bump for direction which had so far helped them survive. Helped.

"We got more this way," Douglas said from the far hatch.

"Frags?" Januscheitis said.

"One," Toback said, holding it up.

"Well, what are you waiting for?" Januscheitis said.

* * *

"Got nothing this way?" Derek said from the next corridor hatch. "Not close, anyway."

"If the frag didn't attract them, noth--" Januscheitis broke off as a compartment hatch undogged.

The Navy fireman at the hatch found himself the target of three M4s. He carefully raised his hands.

"Friend?" he said carefully.

"Talking, at least," Januscheitis said, lowering his M4. "You know a shortcut to five tack 159 tack two tack alpha?"

"No," the fireman said. "But we were headed to a dry stores compartment that's got a desal line."

"One deck down?" Smitty asked.


"That would be five tack 159 tack two tack alpha," Januscheitis said drily. Navy. "Wait. We?"

* * *

With almost no ammo left, fighting their way through the zombies while escorting three Navy pogues was going to be a right bitch. And one of them was a split. Depending on how long they were trapped belowdecks... That could get to be even more of a bitch.

"Clear?" Toback said, listening at the hatch.

"It is or it isn't," J said, hefting his M4. He had six rounds left. Then it was melee time. You could melee the zombies. Problem was, avoiding getting bit. The fireman, actually a helo handler, had duded up in bunker gear, which made sense. The split, a cook, and the other pogue, a storesman, were just in NavCams. "Time to find out."

It wasn't. But the fact that there was firing from somewhere on the far side had drawn the infecteds off.

There were about ten of the infecteds facing the attackers. But it sounded like the other guys were about as down on rounds as J's remaining team. As he listened, they went from three guns firing to two then one. On the other hand, they'd cut down on the zombies.

"Open fire," J said, firing carefully. The M4s were supposedly designed to wound. They were, in fact, just absolutely awesome at wounding infecteds. And the nudist bastards would eventually bleed out. Eventually. He'd gotten sick and tired of that fighting hajis who got hit and just kept coming. It was getting absolutely infuriating with the infecteds. They just, like, shrugged the damned rounds off unless you got a head shot. They weren't "undead," just infected, insane and naked. But the bitty little .223 round of the M4s just barely seemed to faze them.

Unless they had their back to you and you shot two of the last four in the head. The other two were engaged in melee with the group at the far hatch and he wasn't willing to try it.

A crowbar wielded by a sergeant did for the last two.

"Thank you, Staff Sergeant," the sergeant of the new team said. He had two Marines and another pogue.

"Semper Fi, Sergeant," J said. "Any rounds in your pack?"

"Air, Staff Sergeant. We are clocked out. Got cut off, trying to make the boats..."

"Same," J said. "Trying to find a storeroom."

"Ditto," the sergeant said. "Any clues where one is?"

"Down one more deck," the split said.

"And back a compartment from the ladder," J said, pointing to the hatch. "Bets on what's down there? Frags?"

"I've got one left," one of the new privates said, pulling off his pack.

"And they say never use frags on a ship," J said, holding out his hand. "Gimme."

* * *

"What's the status on the storage compartment?" J said, tossing his useless M4 on one of the infected bodies in the corridor. Useless both in that they had no remaining rounds and in that he'd bent it on an infected's head. On the other hand, he'd avoided getting bitten. As had become patently obvious, that didn't mean you wouldn't zombie. It just meant you weren't guaranteed to zombie. Anybody bitten went in about six hours.

There were infecteds at both ends of the corridor, closed away by the watertight hatches. So far, they couldn't seem to open them but he was going to tie the damned things down just in case. It looked as if they were going to be here for a long time. There had better be food stores and water.

"There's a fresh water line, Staff Sergent," Sergeant Christopher L. "Smitty" Smith said. "According to one of the pogues, we're below the level of the fresh water tanks, so it should gravity feed. And about a gazillion tons of stores. But no way to cook them."

"Cooking is so far down the list of problems we've got, it's not even in sight," Januscheitis said. "First things first while we've got light is a quick assembly...."

* * *

"Before we even get with getting a roster," Januscheitis said, "who's got para cord?" He pulled a coil of it out of his assault ruck.

"Here." "Here." "Here..."

Pretty much all the Marines had at least some of the strong, thin line.

"Right," Januscheitis said. "First we're all going to strip. And, yes, that includes you, Seaman... ?"

"Gowen," the cook said. "Seaman Tonya Gowen, Staff Sergeant."

"We wash down," Januscheitis said. "We've all been exposed to not only the fucking flu but at this point the blood pathogen. Then do a bite check. Bites, cuts, abrasions, anything. I've got some betadine. Then back into light uniform. As soon as we're done, we're all going to secure ourselves."

"Secure?" one of the pogues said.

"Tied up," Januscheitis said. "At the ankles at the least. And we're all going to put in gags. And, no, I'm not being kinky. If we'd done this early on, half the bites we sustained, especially when sleeping, wouldn't have happened--"

"I sure as hell am not going to--" the petty officer started to say then growled and started tearing at his clothing.

Two of the Marines grabbed the PO by the arms and took him to the ground, face down, as he snarled and tried to bite.

"Oh, Jesus, Terry," Gowen said, turning away.

"Fuck!" Januscheitis said. He looked at the coil of para cord in his hands and sighed. "This isn't going to be pretty."

When Petty Officer Third Class Richard Samson's body had been placed in the corridor, Januscheitis began taking off his gear.

"I said strip, people...."

* * *

In two weeks they lost Toback, LCP Thomas Casad Mandell, one of Smitty's team and PO3 Patrick "Murf" Murphy, the storeman who had been with Gowen. For him the worst was putting down Deter. But you did what you had to do.

Murphy and Gowen had gotten pretty chummy in those two weeks. He'd stomped on that, hard. The subject of Gowen being the only split in the compartment had been raised nearly the first day. But he'd pointed out that zombie virus was a blood pathogen. Like, say, AIDS. Which had put the kibosh on fooling around. For a while. But you couldn't have five guys and one girl in a compartment for forever without something happening.

Which meant he had to have a "talk" with Gowen.

"According to our brief before things went to hell," Januscheitis started, "if you get the flu, you're asymptomatic for a week. Then you're sick with flu for a couple of days."

"I..." Gowen said. J had a long-duration watch with a glowing dial. It had never seemed bright until he was in a compartment in total darkness for two weeks. Now he could see her face panicking.

"What, Seaman?" Januscheitis said.

"I... got the flu, Staff Sergeant Januscheitis," the girl said. "But..."

"Not everyone who gets the flu turns," Januscheitis said, shrugging. "It's hit and miss. But the point is that while the neurological is building it can be a blood pathogen."

"Yes, Staff Sergeant," Gowen said, her face working. "And if... If Murf hadn't... It's not an issue, Staff Sergeant."

"Oh, it's a huge issue," Januscheitis said. The compartment was big. Big enough to have a fairly private conversation. "Once you're past that point, you're past it. Nobody, at this point, in this compartment, is going to infect through blood pathogen. Hell, we might even be immune to bites but I wouldn't bet on it. Thing is... Things can start to happen now."

"Oh," Gowen said. "Are you... hitting on me, Staff Sergeant?"

"No," Januscheitis said. "I'm getting to the point that this is going to be a huge issue unless it's addressed. There are five guys in this compartment. None of them seem to be homosexually oriented. And, in case you hadn't noticed, they've been expending H2O jacking off in the back of the compartment."

"I've... noticed, Staff Sergeant," Gowen said. "But..."

"And in case you hadn't been paying attention, things were going to hell in a handbasket back home before we hit the tipping point," Januscheitis continued, inexorably. "It has been two weeks and there's no sound of rescue, just howling zombies. Now, I think they'll die before we run out of food. Don't ask me about water. But we could be in here for days, weeks, months. Gowen, we could be in here for years."

"I-- Yes?" Gowen said. "I don't know where you're..."

"Gowen, I've been holding the guys back by my rank and the fact of the blood pathogen," Januscheitis said. "Smitty and Derek both know the bit about it no longer being an issue. I think Patel probably does. Gowen, there is one female in a compartment with five males. The next part is the..." He stopped and grimaced.

"Staff," Gowen whispered. "If... If you really need to... ?"

"I'm not the only one that will, does," Januscheitis pointed out. "If we knew when we were leaving... No problem. But this is like prison. Except with an unknown date of release. If it's not a death sentence..."

"So you want to pass me around?" Gowen said angrily.

"Keep your voice down," Januscheitis said.

"The hell with--"

"Listen, you little idiot," Januscheitis snapped, grabbing her arm. "I don't want to use you as MWR issue. I'm trying to make sure you get some control, okay? But that will only last so long if you keep playing cock-tease in a compartment where there are five testosterone-laden males who haven't had any in months and are thinking that you're pretty much all they'll have for the rest of their lives. So. There is no way in God's green earth that I can legally order you to put out. But if you don't agree to set up some sort of a schedule, if you think you're going to do the guy you like and not the rest and play petty games with your body in this hotbox, pretty soon you're not going to have a say. Hell, pretty soon I won't have a say anymore, and then we might as well all be zombies...."

Copyright © 2014 by John Ringo


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