Book: Recovery (2015)

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There wasn’t a big selection of police vehicles in the rear lot.  I had succeeded in finding keys for every one and began opening candidates to inspect them.  I immediately dismissed two prisoner transport vans, moving on to a Chevy Tahoe.  It was several years old and had a lot of miles on it.  Over 200,000.  I was sure it had been well maintained but wanted something that had better odds of being reliable.

Resigning myself to the row of Dodge Chargers I went to the one parked in the slot with a small sign that reserved the space for the station commander.  I suspected it would have the least miles on the clock and hadn’t been abused by daily patrols of hundreds of miles of open road.

The car was almost new with only a few thousand miles recorded on the odometer.  It even smelled new and clean inside, probably never having done anything other than transport the boss from home to work then back again.  It was set up like police cars everywhere with a heavy-duty push bar on the front.  A badge on the dash labeled it as “Police Special”.  It sat low to the ground with fat, speed rated tires and when I started the engine it settled into the throaty, rumbling idle of a large displacement V8.

“Find your toy?”  Katie asked with a sarcastic grin.

I revved the engine a couple of times, comforted by the sound of raw American muscle. 

“And it’s got a Hemi,” I grinned.

Katie shook her head and turned away.  Shutting the car off I popped the trunk and loaded in the ammo and weapons I’d taken from the armory along with the pump and hoses I’d need when it was time to refuel.  Ready to go, I turned to Colonel Crawford.

“Scott should be here within an hour,” I said.  “Any more thoughts about what you’re going to do with the jail bird?”

“Haven’t decided yet.  Like I said, the Captain and I are going to try and find his arrest report and see if he’s telling the truth.  Honestly, the more I think about it the more it’s bugging me that he hasn’t turned.” 

“Russian agent?  Sent in ahead of time?”  I mused.  If that were the case he would have been vaccinated before the attacks, which would explain why he was still alive and normal.

“In BFE Oklahoma?  That’s a hell of a stretch,” Crawford said, shaking his head.  “We’ll figure it out.  Maybe once Scott gets here I’ll use the FSOC and have a conversation with Dr. Kanger in Seattle.  Get his opinion about whether of not he might really be immune.”

We spent another minute saying our goodbyes, the Colonel reassuring me they’d be following as soon as the Bradley arrived.  I opened the Charger’s back door and Dog jumped in.  Katie was already in the passenger seat fiddling with the navigation system built into the dash, trying to input the route Petty Officer Simmons had sent.  Martinez wrapped her arms around me and kissed me on the cheek, then walked around the car and leaned in to hug Katie.

Climbing behind the wheel I started the engine and let it idle as I got the seat, mirrors and steering column adjusted to my liking.  Fastening the seat belt I had to take a second to pet Dog when he shoved my arm with his nose.  I guess the station commander didn’t ever transport prisoners, as there wasn’t a barrier between the front and rear seats.  That was fine with Dog.  He liked to stick his head into the front when I drove.

“Nav doesn’t work,” Katie said, stabbing at the touchscreen.

“The EMP.  It’s what caused the Osprey to crash and probably took out all the GPS satellites.  Nav won’t work without them.”

“That’s just marvelous,” Katie said, exiting the mapping app and leaning back in her seat to stare at the small sat phone screen.  “Wait a minute.  How’s the Bradley navigating?”

“It must be using the NSA satellite,” I said after a moment of thinking about it.  “Don’t know how that’s working with only one of them up there, but the GPS system over North America is out of commission.  I’ve been away from it for a while but I do remember that the military was looking at alternatives to the network of GPS satellites.  Maybe they got something else I don’t know about.”

Katie nodded and kept looking at the phone.  I backed out of the spot and idled around the building, following Martinez and the Colonel who would open the gate to let us out.  Reaching the front parking lot they walked to within a few yards of the chain link and Crawford raised his rifle and put down the small group of males who were banging against the fence.

When the last one fell Martinez pulled the gate open, stepped through and dragged a couple of bodies out of the way so I didn’t have to drive over them.  Not that rolling over a corpse should cause any damage to the Dodge or its tires, but why take the chance when you don’t have to.

“Which way?”  I asked, braking as we reached the highway.

“Left,” Katie said without hesitation.  “West for 104 miles until we pick up US highway 183, then we turn north.”

Turning the wheel I hit the gas and the cruiser shot out of the driveway with a snarl of exhaust.  Accelerating, we blasted through the small town at 80 miles an hour.  It was really a tiny place, not much more than a wide spot in the road, and when we cleared the far edge I tromped on the gas pedal and couldn’t stop myself from grinning as the speedometer swept past 100 and kept going. 

I settled in on 120 and had to glance at the knobs and buttons several times to figure out how to set the cruise control.  Speed locked in, I glanced over at Katie who was studiously avoiding looking at the speedometer.  She’s never been a calm passenger and I knew this was going to be a rough trip for her, but we needed speed.

The car handled like a dream, settling down on its suspension and hugging the two-lane ribbon of asphalt.  It was no less than I expected from a vehicle purposely modified for police use and was why I had chosen the law enforcement complex to find a car rather than stopping off at a dealership and taking something new off the lot.

Katie began to relax and looked around the interior, opening the glove compartment then the small storage area in the armrest between the two front seats.

“Need a pair of shades?”  She asked, holding up a nice pair of Oakley wrap-around sunglasses.

Smiling, I took them from her and slipped them on.

“How do I look?”  I asked, trying to see myself in the rearview mirror.

“Just devastating, honey.”  She said, reaching across and rubbing my smooth head.

We drove for half an hour, covering sixty miles.  The road was flat and smooth and I decided to push our speed higher, then remembered I was supposed to call my eye in the sky.

“Is there Bluetooth in that sat phone?”

Katie plucked it out of a cup holder, the charging cord stretching out from the power port on the dash.  She turned the screen on and started looking through menus.

“Yes, there is.”  She said after a few moments.  “Want me to set it up with the car so it’s hands free?”

I nodded and she set to work.

“Who are we calling?”  She asked once the pairing was complete.

“Speed dial 2,” I said.  “A Navy Petty Officer in Hawaii that has access into a functioning satellite.”

Katie pushed and held the button, a moment later the sound of a phone ringing blaring out of the car’s speakers.

“Hello, sir.”  Petty Officer Simmons answered before the second ring ended.

“Hello, Petty Officer.”  I said.  “I’m on the road in a black and white state police interceptor.  West bound on…” I paused, not sure what highway number I was on.

“I’ve got you, sir.  You’re the only thing moving for two hundred miles other than a Bradley.  Stand by a moment.”

There was close to a minute of typing and mouse clicking then she came back on the line.

“I have eyes on you, sir, and I’m scanning ahead.  You’re really moving.  I’m tracking you at one twenty-three.”

I glanced down at the speedometer, which was solidly on 120.  I’d trust the multi-billion dollar NSA satellite over the instrument built into the Dodge.

“How’s the road ahead?”  I asked.

“You’re clear all the way to US 183,” she said.  “There’s a couple of cars crashed as you get to the intersection, blocking most of the road, but other than that it looks to be clear sailing.”

“Thank you,” I said.  “What are things like on the ground in Idaho?”

“It just started snowing and there’s heavy overcast, so I don’t have them on visual any longer.  I’m able to track them on thermal.”  I didn’t like the tone in her voice.

“What are you not telling me?”  I asked.

She was quiet for a long moment before continuing.  “I’m getting other signatures on thermal.  Stalking them, I think.”

“Russians?”  I asked, exchanging glances with Katie.

“No.  They’re smaller.  I don’t think they’re human,” she said.

“You mean infected?  Spit it out, Petty Officer.”

“I think there’s a pack of wolves on their trail, sir,” she said in a rush.  “But, I can’t get a look.  All I have is thermal and it’s not giving me a great image.”

I was stunned into silence.  Wolves?  I didn’t think there were any left in North America.  But then I’ve been wrong before.

“One more thing, sir.  That car you’re in will get you there in a hurry but they’re a long way back in the wilderness.  You’re going to have to switch to a Jeep or something like that when you get there.  And I’m guessing you don’t have cold weather gear.”

“You would be correct on the gear,” I said.

“OK.  The last city of any size you go through will be Twin Falls, Idaho.  I’m going to start looking there for a suitable vehicle and an outfitter that will have the gear you’re going to need.  If I can’t find anything I’ll work my way back along your route until I find something.”

“You’re a Godsend, Petty Officer,” I said.  “Do you mind if I call you be your given name?”

“Not at all, sir.  It’s Jessica,” she said, sounding surprised and pleased at my request.

“Thank you, Jessica.  I’m John.  Save all the “sirs” for a more official setting.”

“Yes, sir.  I mean John,” she said and I could hear the smile in her voice. 

“You’ve got the number.  Call me if anything changes.”  I broke the connection with a small button on the car’s steering wheel and pressed on the accelerator.

The engine responded and the speedometer needle climbed steadily until it stopped on 140.  There was more room in the throttle but the car wouldn’t go any faster.  The tachometer was stalled a few hundred RPM below the red line and I suspected the computer was pre-programed to limit the engine before it could be revved high enough to cause damage.

I had driven this fast before but it had been a long time.  The world outside whipped by, making it seem as if we were flying very low.  Someone who really knew what they were doing had performed whatever modifications had been made to the suspension.  The car was stable and despite the break-neck speed I felt I had good control.  Then I reminded myself that at this extreme speed even a tiny error on my part could end not only our rescue attempt but also our lives. 

“We’re about nine and a half hours to Twin Falls,” Katie said after scribbling some numbers on a traffic ticket pad and doing some math.  “At this speed.  Can you keep it up?”

“Do we have a choice?”  I asked without taking my eyes off the road.

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