Book: Transmission

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Next: 20. 1


Lee Roach and Synthia drove through the dark streets of Oklahoma City.  They were in the pickup Roach had found abandoned in Arkansas.  He had borrowed a heat gun from the motor pool and used it to melt the adhesive lettering off the vehicle’s doors, then had unbolted the orange light bar from the roof.  There wasn’t anything to be done with the spotlights that wouldn’t leave large holes in the truck’s sheet metal, so he’d left them where they were.  The truck was now just another anonymous Ford F-150, and Oklahoma was full of Ford trucks. 

The truck was the extended cab version, giving him an extra couple of feet of space behind the front bench seat.  In this space a woman lay unconscious from the drugs Synthia had slipped into her drink while pretending to be another refugee just looking for a friendly ear.  The woman’s hands were cuffed behind her back. 

Their destination was a small, abandoned motel on the far side of the city that Roach had identified from reports shared by the Oklahoma City Police.  The handcuffs on the woman were convenient, but would also lend a degree of credibility to the story Roach had created in the event they were discovered driving around.  He would say the woman was in the Air Force and had deserted and he was just transporting her back to the base.  He had gone so far as to dummy up a file on the woman with a photo he had taken as part of the processing of arriving refugees for which he was responsible.

It was a pretty thin cover, and he was certain it would have never held up in a pre-attack world.  Now, the chances of even being questioned by a roving police officer were so slim as to be nearly negligible.  If by some strange chance he was pulled over, his Air Force law enforcement ID should quickly send the cop on his way.  But he was prepared for the worst, a pistol in his lap that he had taken from the Tinker evidence locker.  He had no qualms about shooting a cop, and he had a weapon that couldn’t be traced back to him.

Synthia sat next to him in the middle of the seat, her shoulder touching his.  On the passenger seat rested a large purse, full of the restraints and other toys they anticipated needing for their evening’s adventure.  Playing the part of an Air Force officer’s wife, Synthia had removed all the piercings that her clothing didn’t cover.  She had also dyed her hair to a single shade of black and had started using heavy makeup to cover the majority of her tattoos. 

Roach glanced at her, not exactly sure what he was feeling.  He didn’t know what fondness for another human felt like.  Certainly had never felt love.  All he knew was lust and the need to act on his desires.  Synthia looked back at him, her eyes glowing in anticipation of what lay ahead.  She smiled and placed her hand in his lap, working his zipper down and reaching inside his trousers.  A moment later she firmly grasped his stiffening cock and squeezed hard.  He groaned with pleasure, slowing to maintain control of the truck as she alternated between roughly stroking him and gripping him as tightly as she could.

They arrived at the motel in a few minutes, Synthia withdrawing her hand when Roach turned down a side street.  He circled the property twice, slowly, looking for any sign of habitation.  The area appeared to be completely deserted.  It was the far northern edge of town, and the residents that were still alive had relocated closer to the center of the metropolitan area.  They felt there was safety in numbers, and they had reacted to persistent rumors that infected were wandering around the edges of the city.

When all appeared safe, Roach pulled into the dark parking lot, hiding the truck behind a tall block fence that screened the office from the road.  Zipping his pants, he stepped out with the pistol in hand and surveyed the area.  After a couple of minutes of seeing nothing other than dark and quiet buildings, he moved to the glass door that opened into the lobby.

The door was locked, but Roach was prepared with a small tool that was specifically designed for law enforcement to quickly and easily break glass.  With a sharp blow he shattered the safety glass within the door, knocking a small hole in it that he could reach through.  Turning the deadbolt lock, he pushed open the door with both flashlight and pistol up and pointed ahead of him.

The motel lobby was small and dirty, smelling of stale coffee and cigarettes.  A forgotten houseplant struggled in a cheap, plastic pot and a large rack of glossy tourist brochures occupied the wall opposite the reception desk.  Roach ignored everything, moving behind the desk and after a quick consultation of a room map, grabbed a key from a large, shallow drawer.  The key was on a ring attached to a large piece of battered red plastic.  113 was painted on the plastic in faded and chipping gold paint.  Dropping the key in his pocket he went back outside.

Turning right, he stopped at the first door he came to and knocked softly.  Waiting a few moments he knocked again, equally gentle.  He wanted to knock loud enough to get the attention of any occupants of the room, but not loud enough for the sound to carry and attract any infected within hearing distance.  After another 15 seconds he inserted the key, turned the lock and with his body to the side, pushed the door open.

When there was no immediate shout or charge of an infected, he poked the pistol and flashlight around the door frame and peeked inside.  The room was small, semi-neatly made up and empty.  The door to the bathroom was open and he could see it was empty as well.  That left only the shower as a hiding place for anyone or anything that might be inside.

Stepping through the door, he quickly moved to the bathroom and checked.  All clear.  Glancing around with the light, he wrinkled his nose in disgust.  The room was supposedly ready for the next guest to check in, but it wasn’t a place Roach would have picked if he’d had any other option.  The shower walls were covered with ancient, pale green tile.  Black mildew grew in almost every grout joint.  The tub was chipped and permanently stained with the dirt of a thousand guests. 

Moving back to the main part of the room he saw a particle board dresser with numerous cigarette burns and chunks of laminate missing, a fogged mirror hanging over it on the stained wall.  The bed was a king, covered with a thin and threadbare comforter that looked like the same material that had been used to make the muumuus his grandmother had worn.  The bed visibly sagged in the middle.  To either side sat a small nightstand, both bedside lamps and a cheap alarm clock bolted down to them.  There was no TV in the room, but he had brought his own entertainment.

Three hours later, Roach and Synthia walked out of the room to the waiting truck.  They were both exhausted, yet euphoric at the same time.  The young woman had been strong, but then to have survived in the world since the attacks she would have to be.  Each of them had engaged in sex with the woman, gradually ratcheting up the abuse as they grew more and more excited.  Due to her inexperience, Synthia had accidentally cut her too deeply and nicked an artery.  She had bled out and died quickly at that point, Roach and Synthia coupling on the bed next to the woman as she shuddered her final breaths.

When they left, they didn’t bother to try and dispose of the body.  The odds against it being found were astronomical.  Even if it was found, who had the time and resources any longer to conduct a homicide investigation?  Roach felt very secure, not the least worried about the DNA that both he and Synthia had left on and in the woman’s body.

They drove carefully on the way back to Tinker.  Roach was surprised when they began encountering infected males, but assumed they had wandered in off the plains surrounding the city.  He didn’t see the females that were chasing the truck, continuing to follow the sound and glowing taillights when they couldn’t match the Ford’s speed.

Passage through the main gate was simple now that he had a current Tinker Security Forces ID.  The guard flashed a light across Roach’s badge wallet that contained the card, saluted and waved them through.  Driving slowly once on the base, he followed a perimeter road that passed the giant hangar where he processed refugees. 

When the road turned it came near the barrack where many of the refugees were being housed and he slowed when he saw a figure strolling in the grass along the edge of the pavement.  Pulling to a stop he told Synthia to roll her window down and leaned across her to speak.

“Good evening.  Mrs. Chase, right?  Captain Roach.  We met when you first arrived.”  His voice was warm and friendly, a broad and welcoming smile on his face.

“Good evening, Captain.  How are you?”  Katie replied, turning to face the truck but not walking up to the passenger door.

“I’m fine.  May I introduce my wife, Tammy?  Tammy, this is Mrs. Chase.  She made it here all the way from Arizona with a bus load of kids.”  Roach was careful to use the name Synthia was going by, masquerading as her dead sister.

Katie stepped up to the truck and extended her arm through the window to shake Synthia’s hand.  Roach kept the smile plastered on his face as he slipped his left hand into his pocket and withdrew a pair of hand cuffs.  There was no one else around, and finding her out walking this time of night was a stroke of luck he might never have again. 

All he had to do was lunge and slap one end of the cuffs onto her wrist and quickly lock the other to the steering wheel.  This would give him time to jump out, run around the truck and subdue the trapped woman.  He expected her to fight, but stuck halfway in a vehicle window with her wrist cuffed to the wheel, how much of a fight could she put up?

Synthia was reaching to shake her hand and Roach was tensed to make his lunge when sirens began blaring and bright lights on top of poles scattered across the base snapped on.  Suddenly it was like daylight and Roach paused.  It was just as well for him.  When the sirens started Katie yanked her arm out of the cab, drew her pistol and moved away from the truck, looking all around the area for what was causing the alarm. 

Roach knew this was the perimeter alarm, not air raid.  Lights wouldn’t be coming on for an air raid, and there was a different tone to the sirens.  There was a problem at the fence.  Either it had been breached, or was about to be.

“What’s going on?”  Katie shouted, pistol held in a two handed, low ready grip.

“Perimeter alarm.”  Roach shouted back.  “You need to return to your assigned barrack.” 

He stepped on the gas and roared away, cursing whatever had triggered the alarm.  A golden opportunity to get his hands on the Major’s wife and it was just snatched away from him.  Once those sirens started and lights snapped on there was no way he was going to touch her and risk someone seeing him.  Pounding the wheel in frustration he slid to a tire-protesting stop in front of his house, dashing inside.  He had the woman’s blood on him, not much, but enough that it might be noticed.

Taking a 30 second shower he jumped out and dressed in a clean uniform without bothering to dry off.  Telling Synthia to stay in the house and lock all the doors, he ran to the Humvee parked in the driveway and roared off.  He had been briefed on where to report in the event of different alarms, but couldn’t remember where he was supposed to be.  He was closest to the main gate, so that’s where he went.

Before he arrived he heard first one, then a second machine gun start firing.  The Russians?  Were they attacking?  But that didn’t make any sense.  They wouldn’t commit ground troops without first softening up their target with an aerial bombardment.  That meant infected!

Screeching to a halt behind a phalanx of Hummers, all with machine guns pointed towards the gate, Roach hopped out and moved forward for a better look.  There were dozens of bodies lying on the asphalt just outside the perimeter fence, but what drew his attention were the hundreds of infected that were pushing forward toward the chain link gate.

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