At 1000 we were sitting in the same conference room. I felt like a million bucks after a good night’s sleep. Crawford breezed into the room and took his seat at the head of the table. Blanchard was right on the Colonel’s heels and Cummings wasn’t far behind. The Captain set about initiating a video call with Admiral Packard as Crawford settled himself and flipped open a leather bound notebook. Cummings studiously ignored me, said a bright good morning to Rachel, and then seated himself as far away from me as he could get. Dog was in his usual spot and kept an eye on the Chief of Staff. Good boy!
“What’s the infected situation, sir?” I asked.
“We’re holding our own. I have to brief the Admiral in a moment, so hang on if you don’t mind.” He didn’t take his attention off the file he had started reviewing when he sat down.
A few seconds later the screen at the front of the room flared and the Admiral stared out at us. Pleasantries were briefly exchanged, then Crawford began his briefing.
“Sir, the population of infected in the greater Oklahoma City area continues to grow. Tinker is currently surrounded and in a defensive posture. The only ingress or egress at this time is by air. Current estimates are 12,000 infected at our perimeter fence line.
“There is also confirmation that the virus has mutated and jumped species. Major Chase encountered several feral hogs yesterday that were infected. They exhibit the same aggressive behavior, though they don’t seem to discriminate between attacking infected or uninfected humans. Additionally, the differing effects of the infection on male versus female do not appear to carry over to other species. We have a researcher evaluating this information as well as looking into the possibility of the virus moving to other species.
“Vaccine production and distribution has begun and is steadily ramping up. As of 0700 this date, all military personnel at Tinker have been vaccinated and we are in the process of vaccinating all civilians that are on base before commencing distribution to the general population. The vaccine is rather simple to manufacture. There is a large veterinary medicine company located here that has a very high capacity lab and we are utilizing its equipment. We are currently producing approximately 10,000 doses per day.”
“That’s great news, Colonel.” The Admiral broke in.
“Actually, sir, it’s not.” Crawford countered. “Best estimates are that there are close to 250,000 survivors currently in Oklahoma City. Based on information from the GRU, and our own observations, we do not have time to manufacture and distribute enough vaccine to protect all of them before they turn. Our best guess is anyone not vaccinated has seven more days at the most.”
Everyone was quiet, doing the math in their head. In seven days we wouldn’t have enough vaccine to inoculate even a third of the local civilian population. By the time the vaccine was actually administered, we’d be lucky to treat a fifth of the population. That meant we were about to have 200,000 infected in our back yard.
“Can you hold out against nearly a quarter of a million infected, Colonel?” The Admiral leaned into the camera.
“We’re going to try, sir, but we’re working on an evacuation plan. Large transport aircraft are being brought in from the civilian airport as well as other Air Force bases in the region to prepare for that contingency. There are also scouts deployed to find suitable locations that are not already either occupied by the Russians or overrun with infected.
“Additionally, I’ve been working with the Air Force and sending out patrols looking for stranded military units. We’ve located a Marine Expeditionary Unit that went ashore in Corpus Christi when their ship experienced an outbreak. There are about 1,500 Marines still alive and combat capable. We’ve dispatched C-130s to pick them up and bring them here. I’ve also got a team going to Fort Hood to obtain some heavy armor, and we’re collecting all heavy construction equipment in the area.”
The Admiral looked like he wanted to ask another question, but it was 1020. An aide signaled to Packard that there was an incoming call.
“Looks like our Russian ally is right on time.” Packard said to make sure we knew Irina was calling in. He nodded to the aide, and a moment later I heard her voice.
“Admiral Packard, have you received approval to provide me with what we discussed?” She asked without preamble.
“Yes, Captain. I have.” He answered.
“Good. I assume you have Major Chase on the line.” The Admiral looked at me and nodded.
“Hello, Irina.” I said. “How’s the leg?”
“Hello, Major. It is nothing. Just a scratch, but thank you for inquiring. I’m glad your Colonel was able to locate you. Have you been briefed on the situation?”
“Yes. I’m ready.” I said, glancing at the laptop screen Captain Blanchard had open next to me. He would input the coordinates she provided so we could see on a satellite image exactly where I was supposed to meet her in the El Paso area.
When I’d first heard El Paso, I’d been surprised. Was it coincidence, or was Irina sending a message? I had grown up in the El Paso area. Well outside the city on a large chunk of desert, commuting a long way into town each day to go to school. I knew the Soviets and then the Russians had worked hard to create and maintain files on American SF Operators, and there was no reason to think they didn’t have one on me. It’s just always a bit unnerving when someone you don’t know has that much detail on you.
Irina read off the coordinates, Blanchard quietly tapping them into his computer. A moment later a red dot started pulsing on the satellite image he was displaying. I had him zoom to confirm I was right about the location I’d instantly recognized.
“Do you know where we’re meeting?” She asked.
“I hope you’re not playing games, Irina.” I said. “This is way too dangerous to be screwing around, trying to mess with someone’s head.”
“No games, Major. I just thought it would make you more comfortable to meet somewhere that you were familiar with. 2200 local time. Tonight. Will you be there?”
“Yes, Irina. I’ll be there.” I said, exasperation clear in my voice. There were a couple of beeps and she was gone.
“Care to enlighten us, Major?” Asked Admiral Packard.
“Her coordinates are right in the middle of what used to be my family’s land, sir.” I said. “There’s an old windmill and stock tank at the point where she wants to meet. She’s right. I know the area very well.”
“How secure is the area?” Crawford asked.
“It’s the middle of nowhere, sir. I suppose there could be the odd infected wandering around, but it’s either a long, rough hike or you need a sturdy horse, good four wheel drive or helicopter to get to the spot. It’s actually pretty smart on her part.” I said, remembering the place vividly.