Roach was worried. The maintenance Sergeant and the Security Forces Airman he’d killed and buried in his back yard were drawing a lot of attention. At first there had been a lot of concern that they had turned, that maybe the vaccine wasn’t effective, and this had dramatically raised the profile of, and the search for, the missing people. Her vehicle, equipped with a GPS locator, had been found quickly where Roach had hidden it behind the base chapel. Now there was an effort to pull and review the archived footage from all the cameras around the base chapel and the water treatment plant.
Unsure if there was a camera focused on the areas where he’d attacked the two people, Roach had retraced his path from that day and been dismayed to see one on the front of the chapel that was pointed directly at where he’d taken the Security Forces Airman. But it was a long way off and didn’t appear to have a long lens on it. Its focal point was most certainly the parking lot in front of the building, but if it captured him in its frame would they be able to enhance the image and make an identification? There were also numerous cameras in and around the water facility that he could see from the road. He didn’t dare try to gain access to the plant to see how many more there were for fear of drawing unwanted attention.
He had approached the Major that had vetted him when he first arrived at Tinker, with an offer of assistance on the investigation. The Major was leading the investigation, but rejected Roach’s offer, telling him to stick with his assignment of overseeing the refugees. With infected ringing the base there weren’t any new ones coming in, and Roach’s duties had shifted to baby sitting the large civilian population that had sought shelter at the Air Force base.
Concern was quickly becoming panic for Roach as the investigation moved forward. He hadn’t been careful, acting on impulse in getting rid of Synthia. His lack of planning and preparation had started a domino effect, resulting in the death of the maintenance worker at the water treatment plant and the young Security Forces Airman. How had he been so careless?
Sitting in his small living room, Roach considered taking his rifle and going in to the Security Forces offices and killing the Major and anyone else in the building. He thought about how he would do it, how it would feel to pull the trigger and see these people cut down. With a smile he decided that was the right course of action, then thought better of it and began mumbling to himself as he thought. It would only delay the inevitable. And there would be more cameras that would capture him in the act.
He had to leave the base. That was the only answer. If he stayed here, a Security Forces tactical team would be knocking his door down and dragging him away at any time. He couldn’t let that happen. He’d rather die than go through the humiliation of capture and a court martial. He had to escape. But how? And to where?
Roach got up and started pacing, still mumbling to himself as he weighed his options. Driving off the base wouldn’t work. There were too many infected at the fence and the base was on a hard lock down. That left flying. But how the hell would he coerce and maintain control of a pilot? And if he could, where would he go that was safe?
Walking into the tiny kitchen, Roach poured a finger of whiskey into a cheap glass. He downed it in one gulp, coughing as it burned his throat. Out of frustration he threw the glass against the wall where it shattered into a hundred glittering pieces. When the glass broke, his mind suddenly cleared and he was able to think without the distraction of panic. The first step was to find a safe location.
Back in the living room, Roach pulled out his Air Force issue laptop and booted it up. After dealing with numerous login protocols he was online and knew exactly which sites to check. A few clicks later and he was reviewing the reports of the numerous scouting parties that were being sent out daily. The scouts were tasked with locating resources, primarily food and medicine, that the base needed to continue operating.
As a side benefit, they were also searching and cataloging large buildings that could be fortified and used to house civilians if necessary. It was these that Roach began eagerly reviewing. He rejected many of the structures that were listed. Hospitals and schools had too many windows and too many doors for him to even hope to successfully barricade against the infected. A sports arena caught his eye, but he dismissed it after reading the scout team leader’s comment that infected would have to be cleared out before the location could be occupied.
Then, two thirds of the way down the page, he found the perfect place. It was large, coming in at nearly 45,000 estimated square feet that was all on a single level. There were no windows and very few entrances, and the team had secured all of the doors on their departure, noting how to access the building from a rooftop helipad. It was already cleared of infected. There were several kitchens, and though it was noted there was lots of fresh food that was rotting and would need cleaned out, there was also an estimated two tons of canned and non-perishable food in storage.
Roach changed programs and pulled up a map of Oklahoma. It was about an hour away by helicopter, and there weren’t any major cities close. That meant there shouldn’t be a large population of infected in the area. Clicking back to the report, Roach noted the coordinates of the building on a notepad and sat back to think about how he would get there.
His neighbor! The man was a pilot, assigned to a transport wing, and flew Globemasters. But Roach knew he was also rated for rotor wing or helicopter. Controlling the man wouldn’t be hard. He was a newlywed with a pretty young wife. He would do whatever he was told to do to save her. Accessing another system, Roach was pleased to find the pilot was currently on a flight that was in-bound to Tinker from Fort Hood in Texas. He’d be on the ground in less than 90 minutes.
Roach moved to a window that looked at his neighbor’s house. Standing there he stared and continued to flesh out the plan in his head. Half an hour later, he felt he was ready. The plan was more rushed than he would have liked, but he knew there was a clock ticking down the last moments of his freedom if he remained on the base. Part of him was surprised that about a hundred Security Forces hadn’t already broken his door down and taken him into custody. That is if he made it into custody and wasn’t shot for “resisting arrest”.
In the bedroom he made his preparations and quickly changed into a fresh uniform. A 9 mm pistol was part of his uniform, the daggers concealed in his clothing weren’t. He set a short barreled H&K automatic rifle on the bed, not wanting to have it with him for the first part of his plan. Checking himself in the mirror he was satisfied with what he saw and walked out the front door, marching smartly to his neighbor’s house and ringing the bell.
The houses were small and it didn’t take long for the woman to answer the door. She was young and pretty, but chunkier than Roach liked his women. He pasted a smile on his face when she started to open the door and held it as she looked at him through the screen.
“Hi,” he said, brightly. “Vanessa, right? I’m Captain Roach from next door.” He turned slightly and pointed at his house.
“Hi.” She said, a curious look on her face. She hadn’t met Roach, but knew her husband had spoken with their new neighbor a few times. She’d seen him and his wife coming and going, sometimes at odd hours.
“I’m really sorry to bother you, but I’m hoping you can help. My wife, Tammy, is having a bit of a rough time. I don’t know if you knew we barely escaped from Nashville, and she’s having some issues and could really use another woman to talk to. I was hoping…” Roach let the last sentence trail off, depending on her to be eager to jump at the chance to help another woman.
Vanessa pushed the screen door open and stepped into the doorway. “Oh, the poor thing. Of course I’d be happy to talk to her. Military wives have to stick together. Bring her around and we’ll have a good talk.”
Roach made a pretense of hesitating as if embarrassed before speaking again. “See, that’s the thing. She’s locked herself in the bathroom and won’t come out and I have to report for duty. I’m sure you know how that is. I don’t really want to leave without knowing she’s OK, but my CO won’t be very understanding if I’m late.”
“Oh.” Vanessa said. “Of course. Let me turn the stove off and I’ll be right there.”
“Thank you!” Roach called as she turned and hustled into the kitchen.
“No problem.” She said over her shoulder.
A few moments later she pushed out through the screen, pulled the door closed behind her and walked with Roach the short distance to his house. When he opened the front door he leaned in and shouted for Synthia, calling her Tammy, telling her they had a guest. Feigning disappointment he shook his head and stepped back to usher Vanessa through in front of him.
Stepping into the living room she glanced around at the furnishings. There was no need to orient herself to the layout as the two houses were identical copies of each other, and several hundred more than had been built by an Air Force contractor to a single set of unimaginative but functional floor plans. Roach followed her in, softly closing the door after him.
“Bathroom?” Vanessa asked, confirming that was where Synthia (Tammy) was. Roach nodded and reached into his pocket.
Vanessa turned and started to walk to the short hall, still unaware of the peril she was in. Roach stepped behind her, drew a lead filled, leather sap from his pocket and hit her across the back of the head. One thing he was skilled at was disabling his victims without causing serious injury, and he struck with just the right amount of force to knock Vanessa to the floor, unconscious, but otherwise unharmed.
Returning the sap to his pocket, Roach picked her up and carried her to the bedroom. He put her in the kitchen chair he had positioned ahead of time. It was sitting directly in front of a dark blue blanket that covered the window. Quickly restraining the woman, he also gagged her so she couldn’t scream and possibly be heard by a passerby.
Next he opened the closet and pulled out the rest of the items he needed. A wide, leather belt that Synthia had purchased at the Base Exchange went around the woman’s body, just below her breasts. Roach attached a large analog clock to the belt, and on either side of it a bundle of six road flares, heavily taped to disguise them. Finally he attached several wires that ran from the back of the clock and disappeared into each bundle of flares.
Stepping back he eyed his work and smiled in satisfaction. Raising a small digital camera he had been using to record images of all the refugees, he took several pictures of Vanessa from different angles. After reviewing them on the small camera screen he deleted them, turned on a couple of lights in the room and shot several more. When he reviewed these he was happy with the results.
The images showed Vanessa tied to a chair, gag in her mouth, a bomb strapped to her body. The red hand on the clock face, which indicated the time the alarm was set to sound, was set for seven hours from now. Roach was confident that anyone that wasn’t EOD – Explosive Ordinance Disposal – rated would look at the photo and completely believe it.