After finishing with Roach I had turned to see Zemeck and Rachel standing on the roof watching me. Matt was still cradling Katie in his arms and I was glad to see she was awake. Rushing to them I was about to stop next to her when Rachel reminded me that Martinez was still in the lounge. Changing direction, I ran through the door and pounded down the steps.
Martinez was still lying where I’d last seen her, but she was awake. She didn’t look good, but then I’ve never seen anyone that had been shot that did look good. I took a second to pull my vest on and sling my rifle as I bent over her.
“You forgot to duck,” I said. She smiled a weak smile and told me to kiss her ass in Spanish.
“You just hang in there and make it through this and I’ll kiss your ass at noon in front of the flag pole.” I said as I slipped my arms under her body.
She groaned in pain as I lifted her off the floor. I couldn’t tell where she’d been shot, but there was a lot of blood that began soaking into my clothing as soon as I pulled her to me. Carrying her up the stairs I rushed over to the Pave Hawk where Rachel was working on Katie. Zemeck had laid her inside the back of the aircraft and I placed Martinez down next to her.
“You’ve got some explaining to do, buddy.” Katie said, grimacing as Rachel probed the wound in her chest. “Running around with two women that look like these two.”
“Thought I’d start a harem.” I said, holding her hand. “Got an opening if you’re interested.”
“I’ll give it some thought and get back to you,” she started to smile then caught her breath and closed her eyes when Rachel pressed an instrument deeper into the bullet hole.
While Rachel worked on first Katie then Martinez, the Osprey came into view. Zemeck was in radio contact with them and before they picked us up he directed them to where we’d left Stephanie and the kids. Once they were safely on board the Osprey swooped down over the roof for us.
The helipad was occupied with the disabled Pave Hawk and the Marine pilot didn’t want to trust the casino roof with the weight of his aircraft so he did an extremely admirable job of holding the Osprey in a stable hover less than a foot above the roof. He held it there long enough for us all to get loaded, raising the rear ramp and gaining altitude as soon as Dog, bringing up the rear, leapt aboard.
The two Marines Zemeck had originally brought with him, as well as the five soldiers they had gone to pick up, made room for us. They pulled seats loose and created plenty of floor space for Katie and Martinez to lie flat, then squeezed against the walls with the captive women we’d brought out of the casino. I settled down between the two women, holding each of their hands as Rachel worked.
Katie was stable for the moment, but Martinez was in worse shape. She’d taken two rounds, one in the leg and one in the abdomen. Rachel still wasn’t sure how bad she was, but assured me that if Martinez had lasted this long the odds were good that we’d get her to the hospital at Tinker in time.
The Trident missile flew perfectly, following its preprogrammed trajectory, which was intended to place it 50 miles directly above the Kansas/Oklahoma border when the timer program added to the nuclear trigger reached zero. Everything worked as intended, the warhead firing when the computer code sent the command.
Without the Earth’s atmosphere a nuclear blast expands dramatically faster and farther. The fireball grew to immense size, clearly visible from everywhere in North America. Massive amounts of gamma rays shot out in all directions. Dozens of orbiting satellites were destroyed in that initial EMP or Electromagnetic Pulse by the rays that headed away from the Earth.
The gamma rays that didn’t shoot into space came in contact with the atmosphere and collided with air molecules, depositing their energy in the form of huge quantities of ions and recoil electrons which were then aligned and accelerated by the Earth’s magnetic field. As they traveled along the invisible magnetic highways they began to lose energy, but any electronic device within a 1,500 mile radius of the initial pulse was susceptible to damage. The closer to the source, the stronger the energy and the greater the damage.
There isn’t much on a modern aircraft that isn’t controlled by electronics. The military requires that all of its equipment is “hardened” against an EMP, but the feasibility of protecting every sensitive electronic circuit on an Osprey against a High Altitude EMP is poor. Even more so when the EMP source is massive and less than 200 miles away.
We were flying south and didn’t see the fireball directly, but the dark landscape beneath us lit up at the same time the aircraft’s engines shut down. There were panicked looks all around and Katie squeezed my hand, pulling me down to wrap her in my arms.
“We’re going down!” The pilot shouted. “Brace for crash!”