I pushed out through the metal exit door and the first thing that hit me was the smell of burning jet fuel from the massive fire at the far end of the flight line. The fire was close to half a mile away but it was large enough to light up the entire area. Silhouetted between me and the fire were hundreds of infected, some shambling in our direction, others apparently mesmerized by the fire and just standing there staring. Closer to the fire several figures stumbled along as their clothing burned. As I watched they eventually fell to the ground.
There were a couple of dozen infected males within 50 yards of us and I started firing single head shots, dropping them as we moved forward. Behind and to my left another rifle started firing single shots and the two of us quickly dispatched all the infected that were too close for comfort. When the last one fell I glanced around, expecting to see Roach, but Rachel smiled at me and lowered her rifle. I guess the time on the firing range had paid off.
Overhead I could hear the heavy rotor of the Pave Hawk as Anderson kept it in a tight orbit over the area. Masuka came forward and touched my arm and pointed off to the right, her arm indicating a spot a few degrees above the horizon. I looked and saw an impossibly large jet that appeared to be hanging suspended in the air. The optical illusion was quickly dispelled as it grew larger by the second. The Globemaster is the heavy lift aircraft for the Air Force. It’s almost 200 feet long with a wingspan as wide as the aircraft is long. They are capable of carrying armor and troops anywhere in the world and are one of the largest aircraft in the US Military inventory.
As I watched the pilot brought the gigantic plane down onto the runway closest to us and the four massive engines roared loud enough to shake the ground when he activated the thrust reversers to slow down. The plane rolled for a long way as speed bled off then the noise reduced as it rolled to a stop and the engines were throttled back to idle. I glanced around in dismay as every infected in sight zeroed in on the new arrival and started shambling towards it.
“OK people, double time. Let’s move!” I shouted and started running, leading the way towards the idling jet.
We were several hundred yards from the Globemaster and I couldn’t count the number of infected that were in our way. The only good news here is that the military is predominantly male so there were very few fast moving females to deal with. A couple of them noticed our small group and broke away from the main body that was collapsing in on the plane and sprinted directly for us. Dropping to a knee I brought down one of them while she was still over 100 yards out, missed the second one with my follow on shot then split her head open when I fired again.
The group had stopped behind me when I went to my knee but they stayed close with me when I rose and started running again. Males were shambling towards us on our flanks and rifle fire started up behind me as we ran. I was glad to hear single shots, not full magazines being emptied in a couple of seconds. I slowed our run to a fast trot to help us aim better and started engaging targets directly to our front as the converging males took notice of us and started turning to attack. I burned through my first magazine, did a quick change and started firing again. My accuracy was suffering due to running while I was shooting, often taking two or three shots for each infected. Slowing down to a walk was not an attractive option though as time was not on our side. We still had at least 300 yards to go to reach the plane.
“Anderson,” I called on my comm unit.
“Go for Anderson.” The response was immediate.
“We need some air support down here. Too many infected in the way. We’re not going to make our ride.”
“Stand by, Major.” A few seconds later he was back, “Major, turn on your strobe.”
I reached up to my shoulder and flipped the switch on a small infrared strobe light attached to my vest. Light in the IR spectrum can’t be seen by the human eye but it would be very visible to Mayo through his NVGs and would let him keep us spotted and hopefully not hose us down with the minigun.
“Got you,” Mayo’s voice came over my earpiece.
A few moments later the Pave Hawk roared into a low hover a hundred feet over our heads and the minigun started chewing up the infected in front of us. A red tracer was placed in the ammo belt at a ratio of one for every 100 rounds, but the rate of fire of the minigun is so high that it looked like a solid stream of red reaching down and destroying the shamblers to our front. Mayo used very controlled bursts to both conserve ammo as well as more effectively keep the weapon on target. Quickly a nice wide path opened up in front of us and I took down the half dozen infected that had been too close to us for Mayo to engage.
When the last infected in front of me dropped I noticed there were no sounds of firing behind me. Glancing back I saw the two MPs just standing there watching the light show from the minigun. Infected were closing on our flanks and they weren’t paying any attention. Spinning I fired twice at the right flank, each round finding its target and dropping an approaching infected. Rachel turned with me, saw the danger and started firing at the left flank, killing an infected moments before it would have wrapped up the MP on that side in a deathly bear hug. I ran back to the left flank and smacked the MP hard on the side of his helmet before getting in his face.
“You dumb motherfucker,” I shouted, my nose an inch from his. “If you want to die, let me know and I’ll drop you myself. You will pay attention and you will keep these people safe. Am I fucking clear?!”
“Yes, Sir!” he shouted back, eyes wide with fear.
I held his eyes for half a second, looked over at the other MP to make sure he’d gotten the message then glanced back at Roach, who wasn’t there. Shit. I scanned the tarmac behind us but couldn’t tell which of the multiple bodies might be his. Grabbing the MP I’d just dressed down I shoved him to the rear of the group and told him he was on rear guard. Running to the front I sent Rachel to the left flank, told Dog to go with her, and started running towards the plane again.
The path that Mayo had cleared was already collapsing as more infected pushed into the area and I yelled for the group behind me to move faster. Rifles started firing behind me and I was burning through a lot of ammunition to keep the path open. I was about to call Mayo on the comm unit when the Pave Hawk roared back into a hover and the minigun opened up again. Bodies started disintegrating from the heavy slugs which continued on through them to also shred the pavement. We ran through the aftermath of this, the air thick with a fog of pulverized asphalt mixed with body fluids from the devastated flesh of the infected. Sure wish I had a mask on. We still had a good distance to go when the minigun fire ceased, infected quickly moving into the open space it had carved.
“Minigun is jammed,” Mayo’s voice told me over my ear piece.
Not bothering to acknowledge I changed rifle magazines again and slowed so I could maintain a level of accurate fire, but there were so many infected the herd was closing in faster than I could shoot them. Even though the three rifles behind me were firing single shots they were all firing as fast as their triggers could be pulled. I was worried that nerves were getting the best of Rachel and the two MPs and they weren’t hitting anything, but I couldn’t spare a moment to check. Three females were pushing through the lumbering males and one of them had just broken free of the press of bodies and was sprinting directly at me.
I had her head lined up for a shot when a body slammed into me from the side, very nearly knocking me to the ground. Reflexively my finger pulled the trigger and the round punched into the female’s body instead of her head. She stumbled for a step, then resumed her sprint. I glanced to the side and saw Major Masuka on the ground wrestling with an infected female that had apparently sprinted into the flank and tackled her. The two of them had then slammed into me. Taking care of the more immediate threat first I pulled my pistol to engage the sprinting female to my front who was now almost close enough to touch. Whipping the pistol up, I fired just as she launched herself into the air. The heavy bullet destroyed her face and punched out the back of her skull, but the corpse was already in motion and slammed into me, knocking me back onto my ass.
Kicking the body away I scrambled back to my feet, grabbed the long hair of the infected that was on top of Masuka and yanked the female into the air, letting a badly bleeding Masuka scramble to her feet, and tossed the infected a yard in front of me. A male tripped over the female and fell on top of her giving me a moment to holster my pistol and bring my rifle to bear. Two fast shots dispatched each of them then I raised my aim, searching for the two other females. They were less than 10 yards away and I snapped off two more quick shots to put them down. More males pushed in as they fell and there was nearly a 50 yard deep wall of flesh between us and the plane.
“Get that goddamn minigun going!” I shouted into the comm unit.
Blasting through the remainder of the magazine I put in a fresh one but instead of starting to fire I grabbed a grenade off my vest, yanked the pin with my teeth – always wanted to do that and it only took the apocalypse to make it happen – counted to three and tossed it deep into the mass of bodies in front of me. A heartbeat later it detonated and cleared a small area. I repeated the process with five more grenades until I was out, then brought the rifle up and started dropping infected again. The firing behind me was still at a furious pace and I could hear three distinct rifles so I was reasonably confident our rear and flanks were still intact. Males kept pressing in all around us and I was about ready to go full auto just to keep them out of grabbing range when a machine gun started hammering away from the side, cutting a swath through the infected.
I didn’t have time to look and see who had joined the fight, rather maintained my rate of fire to keep a couple of yards of clear space in front of me. We were no longer moving, having bogged down completely in the crush of bodies, but after a minute of well-placed machine gun fire I was able to start slowly moving forward, shouting for the group to stay tight on my back. I kept firing, the rifles behind me still in action and the machine gun hammered away and bit by bit we began moving faster despite having to continually step over infected bodies that littered the ground.
Finally reaching the far side of the herd of infected I sped up to a fast jog, looking around to make sure the group was staying with me. It looked like everyone was there except for Roach. Major Masuka was starting to lag behind, her uniform blouse soaked in blood from the nasty looking bite marks on her arms and face. I could only see three infected still between us and the plane and I slowed but shouted at the group to keep running. Taking careful aim I dropped the three in front of us then turned to the rear as the last of the group passed me. A solid wall of infected stared back at me as they shambled forward, arms raised as they sought out their prey. I did a quick scan and didn’t see or hear any females, turned and trotted after the group.
Looking around as I ran I spotted our saviors. An up-armored Humvee with a pintle mounted machine gun was sitting 50 yards to our right, a carpet of dead infected surrounding it. I didn’t recognize the driver or gunner, but couldn’t have been happier to see them. I waved and the gunner waved back as the driver pulled forward and positioned the vehicle between my group and the pursuing infected. The gunner opened up and knocked the first few ranks of bodies down, the driver turning and following us to serve as rear guard.
Ahead I saw Masuka stumble and go down to her knees. I ran forward and waved the MP on that flank away as I scooped her up and over my shoulder. Burden secured, I ran to catch the group. Behind me the machine gun sounded occasionally, keeping the infected’s advance to a minimum. There was a scream from a female and another burst from the machine gun silenced the bitch. Overhead the Pave Hawk returned to hover and I stopped and turned to watch. The minigun started firing and Mayo walked it down the whole front rank of the herd, then reversed direction and adjusted fire into the main mass. Bodies either fell or just disintegrated, depending on how many of the high velocity slugs struck them. The effect was absolute hell on earth.
No mortal army could endure that kind of punishment and not break and run for cover. But the infected weren’t like any mortal army on Earth. They showed no fear. No awareness that what was happening to the ones in front of them was about to happen to them. They kept coming, stumbling over the body parts on the ground in their path, not deterred in the least.
“Save your ammo,” I called over the comm unit. We were clear to the plane and there wasn’t a tactical reason to keep expending ammo. A moment later the minigun fell silent and the Pave Hawk moved off, going back into a tight orbit around the air field. The Humvee pulled up behind me to guard my back. I waved my thanks to the driver and turned and ran for the Globemaster.
Ahead the group was getting close to the plane and the rear ramp was descending to accept them. I could see Rachel had moved into the front, Dog staying at her side, leading the group. The back of the ramp touched the tarmac just as she arrived and stepped aside to wave the group into the cavernous opening. She didn’t see the female infected running at her from the far side of the plane, but Dog did. He leapt at the same time as the infected, meeting her in the air and crashing to the ground with his jaws locked on her throat. A moment later he raised his head, blood dripping from his muzzle. The female infected lay still.