Book: Recovery (2015)

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The bass vibration of the approaching rotor quickly grew in volume.  I wasn’t certain but believed I was only hearing one of the helicopters.  When it passed overhead, low and slow, the building shook and I could tell it was only one of the two.  And it was very low.

So low that the rotor wash whipped the trees in front of the building and swirled dead leaves and trash up into the air as the machine passed.  OK, so here was one.  Where was the other?  Had they split up when they couldn’t find me, one of them returning to town as the other continued on course?  Or were they both making long, slow passes over different areas of the city, searching for any sign of me?

The HIND moved on for a minute, then I heard the pitch of the rotor change as the pilot circled and started another pass.  This one wasn’t directly over my location and I realized it was following the grid of the streets to search the downtown area.

As I sat there thinking about it, listening to the Russian helicopter, I kicked myself for not having gone to a residential area to hide.  I could have put the Charger in a garage and Katie and I could have settled in.  Probably in separate houses for the same reason we weren’t together now, but the suburbs might have been a better choice.

Dismissing regrets that I couldn’t do anything about, I kept my eyes trained on the street and tracked their progress with my ears.  The helo was on its third pass, now two blocks away, when I saw the first Russian.  He was moving down the street, rifle tight across his chest as he scanned continually.  He was the point man.

Behind him, well spaced, followed seven more Spetsnaz.  They moved in a coordinated formation that kept them close to the center of the pavement with a nice buffer zone around them.  All of them were very alert, moving slowly and inspecting every vehicle and the front of every building they passed.

It made sense.  They were doing exactly what I would have done in their situation.  They had been dropped at the edge of downtown, the helo searching from the air and ready to provide support if needed as they walked the grid.  Classic small unit tactics don’t change much from country to country.  Some shit just works.

And I hadn’t thought far enough ahead.  Hadn’t put us into as good of a hiding place as I could have.  I would have searched the downtown area first as well.  Checking all the houses spreading out from the city center would be a logistical and tactical impossibility without a lot more boots on the ground, and they probably wouldn’t even bother with their limited resources.

I leaned sideways in the chair to keep the point man in sight, catching my breath when he obviously spotted the black and white State Police car I’d tried to hide against the bus.  He signed to his team and they spread, entering and clearing the bus before approaching the Dodge.

The man eased up to it, rifle pointed at the interior until he could see it was empty.  He stepped back and signaled to his team.  They moved into a large, loose circle and began scanning all of the buildings in the immediate area.  Well, shit.  That’s what I get for not thinking.

Slipping out of the chair I stayed low and moved to the rear door that let out into the alley.  I looked through the peephole before unbolting its lock and opening it an inch to peer out and see if it was clear.  Nothing in sight, I kept pushing it open until I could stick my head out and look in the opposite direction.  All clear.

Raising the dog whistle to my mouth I took a deep breath and blew hard until my lungs were empty.  I did this two more times then pulled the door shut and relocked it.  I moved carefully back to the front room, staying to the shadows with my rifle up.

The Russians were still standing in the middle of the street but two of them had moved together and were gesturing at the surrounding area as they talked.  It was obvious they were deciding who was going to search which building.  I cringed when one of them pointed in the direction of the department store.

Repositioning at the gate that opened into the lobby, I prepared for what I was going to do if they started to enter the building where Katie and Dog were hiding.  A burst through the plate glass window would get their attention, and if I was really lucky might even hit one of them.

As soon as I fired I would turn and sprint for the back door, taking to the alley.  There weren’t a lot of places to hide and with the HIND hanging around overhead I didn’t doubt they’d be on me in nothing flat.  But finding me and taking me were two different things.

Maybe they’d be satisfied with just hosing me down with one of the helo’s machine guns or firing a rocket up my ass, but I was willing to bet their orders were to take me alive.  That gave me an advantage.  Where they would hesitate to shoot, I wouldn’t be so restrained.

After another few moments one of the men stepped away and waved at another to follow him.  They headed for an insurance office on the side street.  The rest of the squad turned and spread out as they approached the six-story bank building.  I breathed a sigh of relief, though I knew it wouldn’t be long before they made it to the department store.

Watching them, I quickly ran over the options in my mind.  I had thought there was a chance that the infected females I’d seen would hear the dog whistle and come running, hopefully bringing a bunch of their sisters to the party.  But it had been a bit and none had shown up.  Guess it was up to me.  Time to thin the herd.

Running to the back door I carefully cracked it open, checking for infected before pushing out into the alley.  Quietly closing the door behind me I ran to the far side of the building so I would be out of sight of the insurance office.  Moving forward I kept a sharp ear out for the HIND.

I could still hear the beast, continuing its search grid, but it was several streets away and flying too low for the flight crew to be able to spot me.  At the front corner of the office building I’d hidden in I paused, checking the street.  For the moment it was clear, no Russians or infected visible. 

Running hard, I crossed the street and continued on down the side of the department store opposite where the two Spetsnaz were checking the building.  Entering the alley to the rear, I turned and trotted towards their location, hugging the back wall of the building Katie and Dog were hiding in.

Passing the department store the alley turned to remain behind the buildings on the cross street and I followed it to the back door of the building the Russians were searching.  I had wanted to arrive before they opened the door to check the back but as I approached it cracked open a couple of inches and stopped.

I was fast approaching from the blind side and threw myself forward as I drew the Kukri when the door moved.  Running on the balls of my feet they didn’t hear me coming and pushed the door farther open, one of them beginning to step through to look around in my direction.  I was close now and lunged as the man’s upper body came into view.

There were two of them and I couldn’t get caught up fighting with the first and give the second guy time to shoot me.  Barely slowing, I slashed with the Kukri, the Russian spotting me as I started my attack.  His eyes widened, then I arrived, the razor sharp edge of my blade slicing into his throat.

Twisting, I slammed into his body, knocking him back through the opening and following him through.  His comrade was a few feet behind him and was already backpedaling when I suddenly burst into the room.  His AKMS rifle was up and pointed in my direction, but I had a fistful of his teammates vest and was using him as a combination shield and battering ram.

Keeping the momentum up I bulled ahead, the second man’s rifle discharging as I shoved the corpse into him.  The body muffled the sound of the shot but didn’t stop the bullet.  AKMS rifles fire a 7.62 mm round, which is considerably larger and more powerful than the US military’s 5.56. 

The bullet punched through my human shield and I felt a burning sensation along my left side as it carved into my flesh.  I had no idea if I’d just received a mortal wound, or only been grazed, but I wasn’t about to stop and find out.

As the body of the man I’d killed crashed into the other his rifle was knocked off target and he staggered back from the impact.  Leaping over the corpse I raised the Kukri and savagely slashed at my opponents head.  Ducking, he lifted his rifle to absorb the impact, the blade deflecting off the steel barrel.

He was pushed farther back by the force of my blow, trying to get the rifle back in front of him.  If I let that happen I was dead.  Pressing the attack I lunged in again, trying to slash the blade across his legs.  He managed to parry my attack with the AKMS barrel and lashed out with a left hook that I didn’t see coming.

The blow caught me squarely on the right side of my face, staggering me slightly.  He had dropped his rifle, useless in a toe to toe battle, and threw a vicious right as he pulled a thin blade that was longer than my Kukri’s twelve inches.  I blocked the blow with my arm, the impact of his fist nearly making me drop my weapon.

Pushing forward, I slashed again, steel ringing loudly as he blocked my strike at the last second.  If it had connected he would have been disemboweled.  Then I had to defend against a flurry of attacks as he feinted with his fist and stabbed forward with his knife.  After the third lunge I felt I had his rhythm and timed a slash with the Kukri to arrive as his arm was extended.

My blade whistled through the air, making solid contact with his forearm and biting deeply into the muscle and sticking in the bone.  He grunted in pain, dropping his knife and I kicked his right knee out from under him.  As he crashed to the floor, my blade still lodged in his arm, I drew my Ka-Bar knife and fell on him, ramming the steel into his throat.

He lay under me, twitching with frothy blood gurgling out of his mouth as he died.  His eyes stared up at me, accusingly.  The eyes are always the worst part of taking another man’s life.  In those last few moments they express so much that unless you’re a true sociopath you can’t help but feel the impact of what you’ve done. 

Not regret, especially when you’re fighting for your life or the life of someone you care about.  But unless you’re putting a monster like Wazi down, dying eyes have a way of putting a little black stain on your soul.  I wanted to look away, but didn’t.  When I was a young pup of a soldier, still wet behind the ears and thinking I knew everything, I’d had a war weary Master Sergeant named James Bost that was within a few months of mandatory retirement take me under his wing.

He had fought through the entire Korean War and also pulled four tours in Vietnam with the 1st Special Forces.  He was one tough son of a bitch that had truly been there and done that, and for as stupid as I was at the time at least I’d had enough sense to listen to the lessons he tried to teach me.

One of them was respect for your enemy.  Not sympathy or compassion, there’s no room for that on the battlefield, but respect.  And part of that respect is treating a fallen enemy who is about to die like a man, not some insect you just crushed under your boot.  So I looked into the man’s eyes for the few seconds it took him to pass. 

Master Sergeant Bost had taught me a lot of other lessons before retiring.  Without him I’m not sure I’d have become the warrior I did.  All of this ran through my head in the few seconds it took the Russian to die.  Climbing to my feet I stepped on his arm and yanked the Kukri free, cleaning it on his uniform before re-sheathing it at the small of my back.

Stepping to the other man I’d killed I reached down and grabbed the RG-6 grenade launcher that was strapped across his body.  I worked the sling free and hefted the weapon before taking the bandolier of spare grenades he had on his body. 

The RG-6 is a Russian made weapon that fires forty mm, caseless grenades.  It has a big cylinder that rotates as you fire and looks like a supersized revolver.  Just like most revolvers, it holds six rounds. 

The grenades I’d taken off the body were a mix of fragmentation for anti-personnel use and high explosive for use against unarmored vehicles and structures.  Neither would put much of a dent in the flying tank the Russians used as a helicopter unless I could land a round on a rotor, but it would go a long way towards evening up the odds with the remaining Spetsnaz.

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