By Ethan Stec ’25
A War Without Pause
Embedded deep on that Nacht das Elends, a Monday evening in the circa November 12, 2021 in the industrial city yet dystopian, Pocahontas, Massachusetts, residency performed as usual. The ‘usual’, just one another day for its inhabitants stitched into the confines of a biohazardous conflict.
It was in those very nineteen-thirty hours, fifteen-year-old Hertzog Nero Hirschmüller was on an objective to return to his elders’ ranch-styled home located on Berlin Street adjacent to an aqua-blue bacterium-free creek and luscious forestry. Hertzog was a dedicated on-duty member of Pocahontas’s Cadence Campus. He had a deep matured voice, a silky cauacasian-white skin tone, chocolate-brown combed and kempt hair, as well as light-blue eyes. His Saxon accent was smooth and buttery and infallible.
Hertzog wore his traditional cadet uniform, parade-styled. A navy-blue colored overcoat with a decorated rack of ribbon bars, shoulder boards, a khaki dress shirt, full-length flared jodhpurs resembling that of the European cavalry officers which met at the thighs, boots, gloves, a gray aiguillette, and finally, a navy-blue colored Garrison cap.
The ROTC program of the Pocahontas Educational Department accepted only the brightest of students into the admissions, as well as those with a burning passion to serve and protect the city of Pocahontas for the years to come.
It trained youth as young as the age of nine and granted them into the Pocahontas security self-defense force at the age of eighteen. And then those who were admitted were obligated to teach the same ideals onto the next generation.
Hertzog had recently wrapped up a rendezvous inside the school’s assembly that spoke of the ongoing hazards of a malignant virus known as the, ‘Shashka CP-1984,’ currently plaguing any and all living organisms. The lieutenant of the cadency, a seventy-one year old former American Green Beret officer who served in ‘Nam, explained the strain to have enough strength and capability to wipe out an entire populace in a matter of days. Supposedly rumors went that the Shashka virus originated in Ethiopia before the closing days of World War II and swept through an entire Royal Italian air base, killing all personnel stationed there. No signs of forced entry, asphyxiation, or bullet casings. Other speculations include the Shashka CP-1984 virus being the offspring of some experimentation conducted by the Japanese Unit 731 or a Soviet experiment gone haywire.
All that was confirmed is that the virus was unaccounted for almost eight decades. It had made its way via the Angola-Zaire border and swam by foot into the Eastern Seaboard. First infecting sea creatures which were consumed by the fishing peoples of Rhode Island.
Unfortunately, the Security Force of Pocahontas, Massachusetts, a private militia company under the wing of its detachment commander, Major General Bime Frederich Sullivan, had the city under lockdown. That called for closed roadways, an increase in guards per land area, and increased checkups on civilians. Nothing out of the ordinary.
And of course, a body count.
As Hertzog made his way through the dimly-lit lamp posts of Kellogg Street and Warsaw avenue, he brought himself to a halt as he began to glance with semi-concentrated eyes. An irregularly large circular obstruction stood in his way, stating in bold lettering, ‘This Vicinity is Under Security Occupation. Please Move Along!’ On the lower half of the sign, a German interpretation which read as. ’Diese Umgebung steht unter Sicherheitsbekleidung. Bitte ziehen Sie mit!’ Hanging underneath the German translation were Russian cyrillics that decreed as. ‘Эти окрестности находятся под оккупацией безопасности. Пожалуйста, двигайтесь дальше!’ The English language was the main lingua franca of the city.
The sign engrossed all entries into the highways which were clogged with cherry-red SUVs and snow-white Sedans in vertical lines to the brim. ‘
’Just my luck.’’ Hertzog whispered to himself. ‘’Damn city is always heated.’’
It took Hertzog an additional eight to ten miles by foot. His footsteps left two inch deep markings in the mudded soil. The repeating barrages of gunfire echoed in the distance, to him most likely a target practice drill, or to others, simply fireworks. Until he finally waltzed through the streets of a miniature Little Italy and Chinatown, the aroma of the freshly baked cannoli patisseries and pan-fried jiaozi dumplings crawled into his nostrils, as they were prepared by well-suited and equipped kitchen staff who maintained a pristine working environment. And then came the voices and thunderclap cackles of the sous chefs in their equal-colored olive-drab cooking uniforms and cooking hats.
And then the neon-orange Chinese New Year’s lighting situated above Hertzog’s head and Mandarin pasted onto the restaurant entrances, blossomed. As he ventured into the slums however, he spotted a duo of martial-like able-bodied men. They were dressed in secretive, covert gear and headwear. The men did not pay close attention to the wandering child near them, but Hertzog’s curiosity could have ended in his fate. He backed three feet, scurried on his way to Berlin Street, knowing full well those men were not of the Security Force, nor could have been local security.
But the sight of firearms did not escape Hertzog as shortly after, he came upon four military utility HUMVEE trucks, colored tan and fitted with a fifty caliber machine gun turret, and a colossal single flecktarn-camouflage medium Panzer IV mecha tank parked beside an old bistro shop. The Security Force of Pocahontas were disposing of the deceased in jet-blue tubular body bags. Eggheads were inspecting civilians who had surrendered themselves without choice. The scientists were specially-trained men and women with medical degrees in pathogenic bacteria, and much more advanced skills than those of the sixteenth-century European Plague doctors.
The scientists spoke with English accents and they wore hooded whitish-gray hazmat suits complete with attached socks, respirator face masks, elastic wrists, and a pair of goggles. They checked for symptoms of the Shashka virus, the most common included rapid chills, sweating, blood turning a bluish-color, and an orange curvy line that hung inside the eyelid. This ‘line’ commonly seen with touches of blistering pus was the telltale sign of an infected individual. Those infected were to be terminated under city guidelines as to not spread the infection onto others. A soldier of the Security Force apprehended the young Hertzog who stood in awe. He took a kneel and lowered his rifle.
‘’You look lost,’’ he began. ‘’Could you please comply and lift your head.’’
Hertzog stared into the troop’s eyes whose voice was slightly muffled. Hertzog stood, frozen, statue-like.
‘’The guns we carry are not the horror you see. Its the ignorance of you people who aren’t willing to help us solve the situation.’’
Hertzog identified the soldier to be of the private second class rank as his gray-colored chevrons were painted in the center of his uniform.
Radio static in the background echoed throughout the atmosphere and Hertzog could decipher the radio operator’s voice. ‘’Standby, Zulu.’’ the security operator stated. The Security Force soldiers of the Pocahontas Self-defense force wore all elite special forces garments. They had black-colored military fatigues and level IIIA military bullet-proof vests which could handle several nine-millimeter parabellum ammunition, gray elbow pads, knee pads, gloves.
The bottom-most area of their pants had stretched into their bloused combat boots. The soldiers were fitted with spider-pigmented PASGT helmets, a balaclava that covered their whole face except for the two eyes which were enveloped by a pair of military Revision goggles with orange glass lids. Their circular shoulder patches included a stylized illustration of a black mamba snake.
Last, they holstered Swiss-manufactured Sig Sauer 552 Commando tactical assault rifles which included a vertical foregrip, a semi-visible magazine of sixty-rounds of heavy-caliber ammunition, a telescopic scope, and a sound moderator sealed onto the muzzle of the fire-weapon. All of the apparel added more to their menacing-like stature.
The men were of mixed nationalities, dominantly Irish, Italian, American, Polish, Japanese, and Nigerian, and spoke with their native accents.
Herztog spoke for himself, and responded to the soldier with a certain stubbornness. ’’Not every person in Pocohantas has to be subjected to your cruel tyranny.’’
The private first class chuckled and lowered his rifle to the point where the muzzle of the barrel nearly touched the street ground.
‘’You Germans are all liars. And I…’’. The commanding officer of the Pocahontas security base picked up on the chatter. ‘’Foxtrot four, give me a status update. Foxtrot four come in, do you copy, over.’’ the commanding officer stated.
The soldier held both his index finger and middle finger to his radio device and responded. ‘’Copy, Central. Area is under tight perimeter, over.’’ ‘’Good.’’ the commanding officer began. ‘’Report if the situation changes, over.’’. ‘’Received and understood, out.’’ the soldier ended the transmission.
Hertzog reverted his attention to the male scientist who called out, ‘Infected!’. The middle-aged citizen opened his mouth and looked on with fear as he was grabbed hold of by a soldier and glued onto a square-shaped brick wall. He was of Malaysian parentage, his skin was a warm caramel, his head shaved, and he had a miniscule raspberry-like birthmark on his right facial cheek. He had thin eyebrows and wore a pair of tight blue denim jeans, white athletic sneakers, calf-length unbranded socks, and a red slim-fit turtleneck long-sleeve shirt. His back leaned against it and he shut his eyes tightly. The soldier put his left leg forward and his right leg remained to his rear.
He fired a single shot which lit the alley in a fiery reddish-orange blaze and punctured the ill man between the two eyes. Blood spewed from the rear of the cranium and splattered onto the surface area of the brick obstruction. ‘’Send it in!’’ the soldier ordered. The troop allowed passage for a portable cleanup crew of six personnel to arrive.
They were of average weight, in tangerine-colored jumpsuits with a hood that stretched over their heads, rubber gloves, and a black MIRA safety gas mask. They heaved the humanoid carcass in a forward motion. One crew member grabbed hold of the two shoulders, another by the two legs. Hertzog watched as the body was escorted elsewhere into the back of a small convoy of light-weight tan Dodge M1918 repair trucks. One troop of slightly higher authority and decoration approached the private second class.
‘’Ishamel.’’ he stated. ‘’Yes, corporal.’’ he responded. ‘’That child.’’ he pointed his index finger. ‘’You may have a mask and a gun, but you’re not immortal, none of us are. Is he a sick one?’’
The troop walked closer with slow-paced movements.
‘’Look up please.’’ the soldier ordered. Hertzog adjusted his skull upwards, and stared into the blinding flashlight. ‘’Alright, you’re green.’’ he said. The soldier abandoned the area and traversed back to his platoon.
Hertzog had quite a stoic expression on his face, unable to rid the imagery of gray teared-up eyes. The private stood upwards and raised his rifle.
The corporal intervened. ‘’You stand down,’’ he ordered. The corporal spoke to Hertzog. ‘’You understand why we do this. ‘’This virus, this terrorism kills the people, our soldiers. And it’s up to you that you take action and follow the guidelines. But if you neglect to comply, you die like a dog.’’
The child did not understand the full concepts of what the history books spoke of separation and Holocaust, but he had never seen it before first-hand.
Hertzog always cited events like these in his papers when studying in the academy, the Auschwitz Concentration Camp, the Nuremberg Trials. Civilians rallied and killed. Tested on, they pass or they face their demise. In a world so scorched and blistered, death would simply be a luxury. It goes without saying that the wheat was removed from the chaff.