Book: Transmission

Previous: 39. 1
Next: 41. 1

 

It was two hours later when Air Force Captain Robert Tillman walked through his front door.  He paused, hand on the knob, when he saw Roach sitting on his living room sofa.  Roach had his pistol resting on his right leg, hand lying on top of it.  He didn’t want to shoot the pilot, couldn’t shoot the pilot, but he didn’t know how the man would react.

“Close the door and sit down, Captain.”  Roach said, nodding at a lone arm chair a few feet across from him.

“Vanessa?”  Tillman shouted out, leaning slightly to the side to see into the kitchen.

“She’s not here, but she’s safe.  For the moment.”  Roach said.  “And every moment you waste by not doing what I tell you is bringing her closer to dying.”

Tillman was in shock, still rooted in place with the door knob gripped tightly in his hand.

“Pick up that camera and turn it on.  You’ll be interested in the pictures on it.”  Roach had left the camera on a small table that sat adjacent to the front door.

Looking down and seeing the camera, Tillman closed the door and picked it up.  Turning it on, his face went ashen when he saw the image come up on the screen.  He looked up at Roach, his face slack with shock, and Roach knew he had him.  The man had no fight in him.  Just fear of losing his bride.

“Why are you doing this?  What do you want?”  He stammered, seeming to have trouble breathing.

“Why isn’t important.  As far as what I want, well, nothing much.”  Roach said as if making casual conversation.  “I simply need you to fly me somewhere in a helicopter.  When we get there, I tell you where Vanessa is and how to deactivate the bomb.  Look closely at that picture.  See the red hand on the clock?  That’s when the bomb goes off.  You’ve got just under five hours left.  Where I want to go is about an hour by air.  Plenty of time for you to make the round trip.  When you drop me off, I tell you where she is.”

Captain Tillman couldn’t do anything other than stare at the picture. 

“Look at me, Captain.”  Roach said, waiting until the man raised his eyes.  “You have no choice in this.  Do what I’m asking and she lives and you’ll be back together in time for dinner.  Disobey me, try to warn anyone, do anything I don’t like and she dies.”

Roach pulled out a small radio transmitter that was used by Security Forces to call for back up in an emergency.  He was counting on it not being recognized by anyone that hadn’t used one before.

“This is a remote detonator.  I can kill her from a hundred miles away.”  He lied, but was masterfully convincing.  “Do you understand what you have to do?”

“I understand.”  Tillman said in a voice that was nearly inaudible.

“I didn’t hear you.”  Roach prompted.

“I understand, but if you’ve hurt one hair on her head…”  He never finished the sentence.  Roach had anticipated some resistance and as soon as Tillman said “but” he leapt to his feet, jammed the muzzle of the pistol into his throat and snatched the camera out of his hand.

“Take a close look, Captain.”  Roach said, holding the screen up in front of Tillman’s eyes.  “If you want to be a hero, be a hero by doing what I tell you and saving her.  Making empty threats that you have no way to carry out is a waste of time she doesn’t have.  Do you really want to find out what all those sticks of dynamite will do to her?”

“No.  Don’t hurt her.  I’ll do what you’re asking.”  He finally said through clenched teeth.

“Marvelous!”  Roach cried with a smile, thoroughly enjoying himself. 

For a moment he almost believed the lie that Vanessa was still alive, but he had killed her with a quick dagger thrust to the heart minutes after he’d taken her photo with the fake bomb.  Moving away from the pilot he turned the camera off and pocketed it, but kept the pistol in his hand just in case the man decided to try something stupid.

“Here’s what you’re going to do.”  Roach said, moving so the arm chair was between them.  “There’s a Pave Hawk fueled, armed and ready to go for a scout mission that’s scheduled to take off in two hours.  It’s on the apron in front of hangar 23.”

“How do you know that?”  Tillman asked, a surprised look on his face.

“I’m Security Forces, Captain.  There are not many systems on this base I can’t access.  Including flight planning and operations.  Now, no more questions.  Tick tock.  Remember?”  The man nodded, swallowing nervously.

“Here’s what’s going to happen.  You’re going to go straight to the flight line.  Once you arrive I want you close to that helicopter.  I’m going to create a distraction that will pull security away.  As soon as it’s clear, you are to board the Pave Hawk and be ready to take off immediately when I arrive. 

“If you’re not there, I detonate the bomb.  If there’s anyone with you, I detonate the bomb.  If you tell anyone and they try to interfere in any way, I detonate the bomb.  Vanessa’s life is in your hands.  Do what I’m telling you and a couple of hours from now you’ll be back together.  Am I perfectly clear?”  Roach stared into the man’s eyes, looking for any sign of rebellion.  He saw anger and fear, but nothing else.

“You’re perfectly clear.  I’ll be there waiting.  Where are we going?”

“I have a set of GPS coordinates I’ll give you once we’re in the air and clear of the base.  Now, I’ve got a couple of things to do and will meet you at the helicopter.  Don’t forget your wife’s life depends on your cooperation.  Say nothing.”  Roach wanted to keep reinforcing the threat.  He was a little concerned about overplaying his hand and pushing Tillman to go for help, but he had to make sure the man believed his wife would die if he didn’t cooperate.

“On your way,” Roach ordered, waving his hand towards the door.

Tillman stared at him for a few heartbeats before turning and walking away.  Roach stepped to the front window and watched him climb into his car, slam the door and start the engine.  As soon as he was out of the driveway and en route to the flight line, Roach holstered his pistol and dashed out the door and across the lawn to his waiting Humvee.

Driving cautiously, he crossed the base, passing the large hangars where the refugees were processed.  They were close to the perimeter fence, but there was a road that circled the base running behind them and this was where he headed.  Pulling to a stop on the pavement, Roach took a careful look around the area.

He was screened from the main part of the base by a hangar.  He could see at least a mile in either direction and there was no sign of any patrols.  In front of him, hundreds of infected were jammed tight against a 12 foot tall, reinforced chain link fence that was topped with dual coils of razor wire.  There weren’t enough of them to have started piling up and spilling over the fence, but there were enough to cause a hell of a panic.

Getting out of the Humvee, he unwrapped a stout chain from brackets welded to the front bumper.  The chain was long with hooks on each end and was there to aide in the recovery of a vehicle that got stuck off road.  Roach had a different use for it in mind.

Dragging the chain behind him, he trotted 20 feet to the closest steel post that supported the fence.  The infected grew more agitated every step he took towards them, the females starting to scream when he reached the fence.  Careful to avoid the fingers that were being thrust through the mesh, he threaded the chain around the post and slipped the hook on its end through one of the links.

Running back to the Hummer he glanced over his shoulder, surprised at how fast the crowd of infected was growing in response to the screams from the females.  Picking up the free end of the chain he hooked it into a D ring that was welded to the vehicle’s frame and stuck out through an opening in the rear bumper.  A quick tug and he was satisfied it was secure and climbed in behind the wheel.

Lifting the H&K off the passenger seat he worked the sling over his head and got it into a comfortable position.  A glance in the mirror and then he floored the throttle.  Roaring forward, the Humvee gained momentum as the chain paid out behind it, then after 30 feet it snapped taut.  The heavy Hummer jerked hard when it hit the end of the chain, the reinforced steel post resisting, but it hadn’t been designed to withstand the force Roach was able to put on it.

With a screech of tortured metal, the post started to bend at the first instant of tension.  A moment later it was torn lose from the concrete piling it was mounted to.  The chain link mesh that was attached to the post began to deform, but it had already been stretched tight when the fence was installed.  It gave a couple of inches, then began tearing with a sound not unlike fabric being ripped in half.  A couple of seconds later a 30 foot wide gap opened up in the fence line and infected began pouring through onto Tinker Air Force Base.

Roach drove a hundred yards as fast as he could, dragging the fence section behind him.  Screeching to a stop he jumped out and quickly unhooked the chain from the back bumper, hopped back in and roared away, female infected in hot pursuit. 

“If that doesn’t pull security off the flight line, I don’t what will.”  Roach thought to himself as he drove, a broad smile breaking out across his face.  He followed the perimeter road for a quarter of a mile then turned to cut across the base.  He had one more stop to make before going to the helicopter.

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