Friday, August 16, 2013

Seattle Rain

When they realized what was actually happening, the first thing they did was blow the bridges. The thought was that by trapping the infection inside the city limits an evacuation could proceed without the need to carefully screen every person. Unfortunately, the infection had already spread far beyond the arbitrary county line, necessitating intense screening at all of the embarkation points. Far worse, however, was the wreckage from the bridges blocking the channel. What was a five-minute stroll from the assembly areas to waiting ships now became a three-mile slog through infested streets to reach the few unblocked transports at the mouth of the sound. I would have said “I told you so,” but I was a little busy fighting my way through the remnants of Seattle’s lock system to comment on any of my superior’s decisions at the time.

We had been stationed with the Army Corp of Engineers to ensure that the locks leading from the harbor to the channel stayed open and zombie free during the evacuation. It seemed a little counter productive to us, given that the four bridges downstream were nothing more than inconvenient scrap metal at the moment, but we set up our perimeter and held tight for two days. When we realized the evacuation had fallen apart and we’d been classified as expendable, a corporal who we fished out of one of the salmon ladders was kind enough to share that lovely piece of news, we figured it was time enough to go. Anyone left loaded up into the inflatable dinghies salvaged from a barge caught in locks. The last memory I have of the Pacific Northwest is zombies bursting out of the salmon shoots in the damn. I never found out if the living dead can be surprised, but they sure looked like it just then.

I first met Katy Wilson on the deck of the USS Essex a few years before the Outbreak. She was commanding a Marine Expeditionary Unit out of Camp Pendleton which had just finished up an six-month deployment in the Indian Ocean. They had been taking part in the U.N. peacekeeping mission along the demilitarized zone between China and India, acting as a mobile reserve and helicopter base for UNMICA (United Nations Mission in Central Asia). I had been assigned to her unit as a combat psychologist, part of new Defense Department program to help diagnose combat-related mental illness before it became too advanced, and expensive, to treat. After the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, the military had been swamped by the number of returning service members suffering from PTSD. It took a number of embarrassing scandals and a few unfortunate incidents to make the brass get serious about treatment. The last few recovery clinics were just emptying out when India and China decided to have at it. By the time the U.N. decided to send in peacekeepers, a number of people had decided it was better to provide care at the source than after the fact. Which is why I got to move from my air-conditioned office teaching command and combat psychology at the Academy to the sunny South Pacific. I was to spend the three weeks before they arrived home evaluating the Marines and developing standard practices for extended deployments. My first stop, after the head, was to discuss my assignment with Colonel Wilson.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

I'm hooked, I want more!