“What in the hell was that?” Rachel asked once it seemed safe to talk.
“Can bats catch a virus that started in humans?” I asked her, stretching out to get a view of the horizon.
“Of course they can. They’re actually worse disease carriers than rodents. You don’t think…”
“I don’t know, but that was one shit load of bats. First the razorbacks, now these. What’s next?” I asked.
“What are razorbacks?” Irina asked.
“400 pound, bad tempered wild hogs with sharp tusks.” I said, turning my attention to Irina. “Was there any testing for this when the Chinese engineered the bug? Did you fucking people realize you were going to kill the whole goddamn planet?”
Irina met my stare for a few moments, then looked around the group. All eyes were on her and she eventually dropped her gaze to the sand at her feet.
“I don’t know.” She said in a subdued voice. “What do you want me to say? I’ve already told you who started this and why. Don’t forget why we’re out here in the first place. I’m trying to stop this before it gets worse.”
“Gets worse?” I turned to face her fully. “What the hell are you not telling me?”
Irina had lifted her face and looked me in the eye again. I could see the wheels turning as she tried to think of the right thing to say, so I interrupted. “We’re in this together, Irina. I accept that you’re trying to help, but you need to stop keeping things from me.” I wanted the unvarnished truth this time.
“We’re controlling the infected.” She finally said with a sigh. I was stunned. Wasn’t sure I’d heard her right. Controlling them?
“What?” I blurted out.
“How?” Rachel interjected. “How are you controlling them?”
“I’m not, but the SVR is. The nerve agent and virus send them into a rage, but left to their own devices they will remain solitary or in some cases form small hunting packs. There’s a way to control them. Make them form into what you call herds, and become an unstoppable weapon. That’s why Tennessee was converged on like it was. The decision was made to take out one of your main refugee aid centers.” Irina’s voice grew stronger as she became more confident that we weren’t going to flip out and blame her. Not that I didn’t have that impulse, but I knew she didn’t have anything to do with this and was trying to help us.
“The herds are being controlled and directed?” I prodded her.
She nodded. “From satellites. The Chinese discovered that certain harmonic frequencies can excite and attract the infected from great distances. Our engineers developed a way to transmit high energy pulses from a satellite that when they strike any dense object, like stone or steel, that object will then vibrate at the right frequency to emit the sound that attracts them. I don’t understand it, but what I know is it’s not a sound humans can consciously hear, but more like something we can feel. The infected are hyper-sensitive to the transmission and are drawn like moths to a flame.”
Son of a bitch, the humming I’d heard! It wasn’t just some random effect of the virus. It was their response to the inaudible sound waves they were feeling. And this herd had been on its way to Oklahoma City before I’d distracted them with a couple of nukes.
“But they can be distracted and diverted, right?” I asked, wanting to make sure I was piecing this together correctly.
“Yes. Loud noises, food and bright lights can distract them. Quite a few different ways, but then when the distraction is over they return to chasing the sound from the satellite.”
“Don’t you think it would have been a good idea to tell me this in Los Alamos?” I asked, trying to keep how upset I really was out of my voice.
“If you hadn’t shot down the plane carrying the bombs, President Barinov would be dead by now. My uncle would be in power and the transmissions would have been shut off. No, I didn’t think it was important for you to know at the time.” She was starting to get angry, but I didn’t really give a shit. She should have told me. I understand ‘need to know’ as well as anyone, and if there was ever a case of me needing to know, this was it.
Her comment also reminded me that her co-conspirators had been betrayed. Our new president had royally screwed the pooch. I suspected Irina’s uncle had already been stood up against a wall and shot for treason, along with everyone even remotely associated or related to him. The only reason Irina was still alive was the Russians wanted to use her to get their hands on the remaining nukes so they could be taken off the playing field. Well, they’d succeeded at that.
“Irina,” I’d just had a bad thought. “Do infected animals respond to the harmonics the same way infected humans do?”
She looked back at me, understanding dawning on her face. “I don’t know. I’m not supposed to know about the control of the humans. If my uncle hadn’t briefed me I wouldn’t know any of this.”
“Do you know which satellites the SVR is using?” We still had some Navy ships, and the Navy had missiles specifically designed to shoot down orbiting satellites. If we knew which ones to target.
“No, and I don’t think my uncle did either.” She answered.
Shit. There were way too many Russian satellites in orbit to start trying to shoot all of them down. Besides, their military was still intact. As soon as a Navy ship started firing off missiles to knock down their satellites, the Russians would pull out all the stops to sink the ship. A suicide mission is one thing if you know that in exchange you’ll achieve your goal. But to die for nothing was a waste of lives and critical military assets. Not that it was my decision to make, but that would be Admiral Packard’s thinking. And he’d be one hundred percent right.
Right now we needed to get the hell out of Texas and back to Tinker so I could brief Crawford and the Admiral on all the recent developments. Neither would be happy to find out we couldn’t trust President Clark.
“Passossee mayee yaitsa!” I heard Igor say. I wasn’t positive on the translation but was pretty sure he’d just said, “suck my balls”.
He was leaned out over the smaller rock, looking to the east with his night vision. I moved over next to him, lowering my goggles and facing the direction he pointed. A moment later I muttered my own version of his curse. At least one hundred females were charging across the desert. And they were coming our way.