Last Tactical Tuesday, GovX readers met SSgt Joseph Langley, survivor of the apocalypse detailed in Part 1. When last we saw him, a trio of men were on his tail. His options? Fire a warning shot at his pursuers, leave a trap, a message, or just leave silently.

You voted, and readers thought Joe should move on and hide his tracks.


The image of the three armed travelers quivered in the binocular lenses. Greybeard called out something, and Rusty moved closer to the boy and clasped his shoulder and cuffed his neck in a fatherly way. The boy’s shoulders relaxed, and he seemed to ease up, as if releasing the courage he had mustered to brave the woods. He lowered the .22.

Joe may have been immune to the disease, but he still allowed optimism to infect him occasionally. Sometimes, you need to raise a hand instead of your gunsights. Maybe the men weren’t hunting him.

Still, good intentioned or not, it didn’t mean they were welcome in camp. I can’t let them see me. They look like rookies, but I can’t take the chance that they’ll find a way to camp. He decided to cut a wide swath around them on his way back to camp.

Joe crawled backwards from a prone position on the rocky outcropping and stood up when he was out of view. He kicked the soil around as best he could to cover his tracks. Rainclouds formed above. The torrent would eliminate any trace of him and would hopefully provide the cover he needed to pass the men.

The sky darkened over the conifer forest. Ribbons of rain fell through the windswept trees. Joe moved purposefully and with every amount of awareness he could summon, but the intense downpour limited his vision. The day moved quickly. He stepped up his pace.

A rockface ahead. Joe wiped his face and grabbed a tree branch and hoisted himself up. The Mk-14 over his shoulder clattered against the rest of his gear. The pack was sodden and heavy. He climbed hand over hand.

The root loosened.


It crumbled free and Joe lost his grip. He tumbled backward and fell hard.

Raindrops fell onto his face, the sky itself mocking his haste. He lay there a moment, praying a burst of pain wouldn’t appear somewhere on his body. A sprained leg. A bruised tailbone. Anything.

Feeling nothing but wounded pride, Joe stood. He decided to go around the damn rock wall.

He trudged around when a sound amidst the din of the storm caught his ear. A panicked voice, a yell. It had to be the men.

He should have moved on. He should’ve used the situation to his advantage to gain some further distance between himself and the men.

But the way Rusty spoke to the boy. That hand on his shoulder.

He should’ve left them.


Joe let his pack drop to the ground, swung his rifle up, and bolted through the forest toward the commotion. The rain whipped into his face and the yelling intensified. Two voices. Not three. And something else. A deep-cored growl as if from the earth itself.

The terrain lifted up. The sounds of the commotion below him. He chambered a round and advanced along the edge of the cliff, hoping to use a high vantage point. He looked down.

Thirty feet below stood a brown bear, on its haunches, nine feet of fleshrending rage. It roared. The kid cowered behind Rusty, who stood cornered against the cliff face. He struggled frantically to clear a jam from the kid’s .22. Where was his weapon?

Joe dropped to one knee and took aim at the bear’s head.

He fired—right when the bear lowered its head. The bullet struck its back, and it barked in pain and spasmed violently.

“GET DOWN!” Joe yelled. He flicked the rifle’s selector to full auto and unloaded on the writhing beast. The bullets slammed into the animal’s back, the haunches, the neck.

Joe’s ears rang. He registered the rain as dull, soundless thuds on his head and neck. The rifle barrel glowed white and the acrid scent of spent brass lingered in the air. The bear was dead.

Rusty and the kid stood up. The kid was transfixed by the felled animal, rain soaking into its matted fur and a pool of blood forming under its great head. Joe stood and removed the empty magazine in a soundless haze, his ears aching from the shots.

Joe called out to the two. “Stay there!” He said. He reloaded the rifle and headed down the cliff. The pressure in his ears began to subside. The boy and the man stood in the forest clearing, wide-eyed and soaked. The rain abated some.

Don’t take the chance, he thought. Joe raised the Mk-14 at the unarmed man.

“Where’s the other one,” Joe said. “The guy with the grey beard. Where is he.”

“No!” the boy said. “Don’t!”

Still stunned by the shots, Joe became aware of something in the trees to his right.

Greybeard stood at Joe’s 2 o’clock position, aiming a rifle at his head. His right shoulder rested against a tree trunk, steadying himself. The rifle barrel shook. He’d never pointed a rifle at another person in his life. But a threat nonetheless. Joe kept his sights on Rusty.

He hadn’t even two seconds to consider his options when the boy dashed forward. He stood between Joe and Greybeard’s AR-15.

“Don’t shoot him, uncle,” the boy said to him. His voice was deeper than Joe expected.

The four survivors stood in the unsympathetic wilderness, their rain-soaked clothes heavy and cold as the storm faded.


A. Lower his weapon.

B. Try to talk himself out of this situation.

C. Take the kid hostage.


Voting has ended and the story continues! Read the next part here.

Leave a comment:

Steven H.

10/5/2015 4:07 PM


Ryan T.

10/5/2015 4:19 PM

I would have to go with B. You have proven yourself to be lethal but at the same time merciful. Placing a person, who has had no experience in combat, in a situation that requires the finesse of negotiation can be tricky. You will need to convey that you were only trying to help and that you mean no harm. After a dynamic incident that they all just experienced most likely adrenalin will be flowing, and some bad decisions might come of it. Joe is a pro, with a calm voice and reason he can convince Greybeard to back down. RT

Bryan G.

10/5/2015 4:48 PM

B. If he lowers his weapon or runs, he could easily be shot. If he takes the kid hostage, he makes himself a threat. The best option is to convey that he isn't a threat and slowly remove himself from the immediate area back into the woods while it's still raining and he can more easily dissapear from the other three.

William L.

10/5/2015 4:49 PM

B. He should control the situation through conversation. However, he shouldn't take his sights off of Rusty. It's a Mexican stand off for sure, but the kid sees Joe as a savior and may be able to talk some sense into his uncle before everything goes south.

wayne s.

10/5/2015 5:15 PM

B. Make old man lower his weapon first, then hug it out

Joshua W.

10/5/2015 5:42 PM

Lower his weapon and talk his way out of the situation. They may be able to help each other.

brenda k.

10/5/2015 6:54 PM

B. Nothing to gain in any of the other options. Taking will likely elicit a response that will likely yield enough information to make your next decision.

Christopher P.

10/5/2015 10:40 PM

B. The other options will leave him vulnerable.

James U.

10/6/2015 2:37 AM


Scott W.

10/6/2015 3:55 AM

B. Try to talk his way out. Lowering his weapon is surrendering, taking the kid hostage or running for it would be foolish, no one is faster than a bullet. Most likely he just needs to show them that he is not a threat unless they are.

matt c.

10/6/2015 4:10 AM


Patrick J.

10/6/2015 4:33 AM

I will go with "B." Joe has shown he is capable with a weapon and with the boy cutting off the uncle's sightline he has a few spare moments. Now is the time to talk. Because of his training, Joe has the upper hand. Perhaps he has been through USASOC's Conflict Mitigation or Cross-Cultural Communications course but in any case he has experience, he has been to Iraq or Afghanistan where his conversations centered around tiny "smart cards" with silly icons on them. Clearly, he can talk this group down....but he has to make sure "dad" hasn't cleared that jam in the old .22.

Edward R.

10/6/2015 5:43 AM


Ryan N.

10/6/2015 6:35 AM


Brannon G.

10/6/2015 6:43 AM

B. Try to talk himself out of this situation. Adrenalin is high for the other three men as well as their fight or flight response. Joe just appeared out of nowhere and unloaded onto that bear. Greybeard isn't sure if Joe is friend or foe, so it would be best for Joe to talk himself out of this situation.

Mark S.

10/6/2015 6:43 AM

B. He needs to convince gray bread he is not a threat, but still having his M-14 ready to fight.

Samuel W.

10/6/2015 7:28 AM

B. Lowering the weapon makes him a more vulnerable target. Taking the kid hostage after just saving him is foolish. Running for it, again, a more vulnerable target. Keeping the M-4 up and aimed, while talking it through puts he and grey beard on the same terms and threat level.

Clinton C.

10/6/2015 8:10 AM

B. It's the only reasonable thing to do in the situation.

David B.

10/6/2015 8:19 AM


George B.

10/6/2015 9:13 AM


James R.

10/6/2015 9:17 AM

B. Talk gets him further than any of the others. But after talk, get out of there. They are still unknown and should be considered potential threats. Joe needs time to assess them. And he can't properly assess them if they know where he is/what he wants/where he's going.

James R.

10/6/2015 9:21 AM

Do you mean M-14 or Mk 14? Because the M-14 doesn't have a full auto option...

Brent H.

10/6/2015 9:52 AM

Oops. Typo. Fixed. I knew the MK-14 Enhanced Battle RIfle featured full-auto, but I must have forgot the K when writing it. I appreciate it.

Harvey B.

10/6/2015 11:01 AM

The M14 actually did have a selector switch that allowed full auto but was seldom used. The civilian version obviously doesn't have that option though.

Eric A.

10/6/2015 9:23 AM

B. Try to talk himself out of this situation.

Harvey B.

10/6/2015 10:54 AM


Richard S.

10/6/2015 11:21 AM

All available options suck. Joe should have stayed in hiding. However, Since Joe has to live with these choices he made the same choice I likely would have. Having said that. Option "B" is likely his best chance to escape a bullet in the gut. So, Joe utilizes all of his U.S.M.C. N.C.O. knowledge and summons up the ghost of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman and proceeds to talk his way out of the standoff he currently finds himself in at the moment. After which, Joe proceeds to vacate the area.

Roger B.

10/6/2015 12:01 PM


Richard W.

10/6/2015 1:13 PM


Bobby B.

10/6/2015 2:10 PM

B. Stay in control and gain intel.. Buy the way, I do not think a Marine would "spray and pray" at that point. He would have fired 3-4 more rounds in a tight lethal group. Maybe a SEAL or Green Beanie would have. ( Just kidding ). If you were wondering, I was a Seabee. I like the story, keep up the good work.

Bill a.

10/27/2015 9:53 PM

i agree, in fact i think any one with a decent firearm experience (i.e. hunting or training ) i grew up in a hunting family and learned to ethically take game and throughout the three training classes i've been through i've learned shot placement is the quickest way end to a fight

Jerome M.

10/6/2015 2:19 PM

Agree that B. is the most reasonable. However, if Joe can't talk his way out, he may be traveling with the group for a bit.

Christopher H.

10/6/2015 3:25 PM


Destry W.

10/6/2015 4:53 PM

B. Why more blood shed. Especially his own.

Ronald B.

10/6/2015 6:09 PM


Ronald B.

10/6/2015 6:12 PM

then B

Sean A.

10/6/2015 6:54 PM

A..lower his weapon and start a conversation

Jeremy M.

10/7/2015 8:19 AM

B, tell Greybeard you are not a threat, and give him the chance to lower his first.

Mykeal B.

10/7/2015 8:00 PM


David A.

10/7/2015 9:14 PM

B. Joe can talk him self out of this situation he saved their lives and in the process find their intentions. If Joe finds himself without a choice I say option E. Kill everyone.

joseph s.

10/8/2015 7:20 AM

B. Talk yourself out of it, they font seem bad so good communication is key here.

Cory K.

10/8/2015 10:46 AM

B. It would seem that it is the best option in his situation. Taking the kid hostage presents himself as a threat. Running or lowering the weapon puts himself in danger. Proving himself to useful/lethal but merciful is the best way to ensure that him and the other three all stay alive.

Isaias G.

10/8/2015 10:49 AM


robert b.

10/8/2015 2:55 PM

A. lower weapon. Shaking gun and the kid between them as well, I don't think the grey beard was going to shoot. Joe saving the others and killing the bear is on his side of survival.

Christopher K.

10/10/2015 12:34 AM

B. The only security in this moment is with the rifle up...talking is the only choice. Lowering the weapon loses what little leverage he has, running just gets him shot...

Brian N.

10/10/2015 2:53 PM


Michael M.

10/11/2015 9:26 AM


Roger P.

10/11/2015 4:08 PM


Brandon B.

10/12/2015 7:52 AM

B. The other survivors are shell shocked, be ready to eliminate all threats, but try to keep your hands clean

Eric L.

10/12/2015 10:34 AM

Option B. Attempt diplomacy. No need to shed blood if one doesnt have to.

Steven W.

10/14/2015 9:01 PM

B. already assessing the situation. He can make the assumption that they are not much of a threat individually. But if provoked they accidents could happen. Using the situation, Joe should be able to talk everyone down. Expressing how he had just saved the lives of Greybeards 2 counterparts and could have easily killed both of them as well, but instead felt compelled to talk out the encounter with them to assess if anyone was hurt, as he has experience to help them if they have injuries. Also he needs to maintain control of the situation because although the kid is standing between Greybeard, there are 3 of them and they are currently standing at different angles so action towards one group would allow the other to make a move towards him.

Shawn D.

10/15/2015 4:02 AM


Jesse S.

10/15/2015 10:06 PM

B. You still have a defensive posture, but talking may bring a mutual stand down...

Stephen W.

10/17/2015 10:39 AM


Mac P.

10/18/2015 2:51 PM

I agree with Ryan T. Joe should take option B. Its the only choice that makes sense with Joe's character.

Angela G.

10/19/2015 7:11 AM

B. Communicating that he was only meant to help and does not want to harm them is the best option in my opinion. Yes, he is still ready to defend himself if necessary but he should be ready to lower arms once they do the same. I think with the boy stepping in it will help sway uncle Greybeard and they can come to an understanding......and then all eat some bear together! :)

Jason G.

10/19/2015 7:30 AM

B. Try to talk himself out of this situation, lowering the weapon could show weakness, and invoke an inappropriate response from Greybeard.

Miles B.

10/19/2015 12:14 PM


Kyle G.

10/20/2015 9:20 AM

B. Guys seem like they're amateurs, far away from a safe place. Joe helped them out. Theyre in a lose-lose unless it's resolved peacefully.

Ivan B.

10/20/2015 9:27 AM


scott h.

10/26/2015 7:05 AM


Toni A.

10/27/2015 2:19 PM


Bill a.

10/27/2015 9:39 PM

B. i would never lower my weapon against a potential threat. taking the kid hostage isn't right in any way especially in the christian word i'm 'bout, and running away is not i the heart of any true warrior.

Leroy J.

10/28/2015 8:04 PM

B is the only logical thing to do.He has the training and experience if he keep his cool he can control the situation and save the day and no one dies.

Kevin L.

10/30/2015 7:29 AM

B. That kid and his father owe you a life debt! You should be given the chance to leave and never look back, or even help them get where they are headed.

bryan b.

10/30/2015 10:58 AM


William E.

10/30/2015 3:05 PM

B: try to talk it out, but be ready to blow his a-- away!

Kenneth W.

10/30/2015 5:43 PM

A. Try to de-fuse the situation. Then extract himself from it.

Travis F.

11/1/2015 10:08 AM


Cameron B.

11/1/2015 12:19 PM


Chris P.

11/2/2015 9:04 AM


George B.

11/2/2015 9:42 AM


Nicolas V.

11/3/2015 10:07 AM

B. Obviously these people are not combat hardened but they still pose a threat as long as weapons are up. Talk it out and mutually agree to lower weapons. There is no sense in taking a chance they wont kill you if given the upper hand. Let the greybeard respond to the kids plea to not shoot then begin the conversation.

Mark K.

11/4/2015 2:51 AM

Never Lower your weapon, now is the time for diplomacy. selection B

Edwin S.

11/9/2015 2:30 AM

B - already showing himself as capable of some force and compassion.

Jennifer S.

11/9/2015 4:18 AM


Matthew K.

11/9/2015 6:12 AM


Donald A.

11/9/2015 10:00 AM


Troy G.

1/5/2016 8:30 AM

I'd go with A and then B. I'd reduce the threat. Obviously they're scared already and fright is a terrible motivator. I'd let them know that I'm no threat to them and I just saved their lives. It's a shitty deal, but it's that or die. You can't take off running, you'll just get shot in the back, and you can't take the kid hostage, you both may get shot.

Gabriel S.

1/5/2016 10:40 AM


Keith J.

1/5/2016 8:29 PM