Book: Recovery (2015)

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I was still standing there checking over the grenade launcher when I heard the door to the alley bump open.  Spinning, I got the weapon up just in time to smash it into the face of a leaping female.  We tumbled backwards, falling onto the body of one of the Russian soldiers I’d just killed.

The female was small, a girl somewhere in her early teens actually, and while she was fast and ferocious she just didn’t have enough mass to be very strong.  Holding her snapping teeth at bay with the RG-6, I freed a hand that had been tangled in its sling and grabbed a fistful of her long hair.

Yanking hard and to the side I pulled her off of me and rolled with her, letting my new toy clatter across the floor.  Her head controlled by my handful of hair, she began trying to claw at me but my arms were longer than hers.  The heavy canvas shirt I wore protected my skin and I was able to reach my Ka-Bar and end her struggles with a swift thrust to her throat.

Leaping to my feet, I dashed for the door when I heard the slap of running feet.  As quietly as I could I pushed the door closed, carefully locking the deadbolt.  I must have succeeded in securing the entry without the infected noticing me because there wasn’t an immediate pounding on the door from them trying to break in.

Had the dog whistle actually worked?  It was pretty fucking slim evidence but it was a younger infected that had found me.  Moving through the dark office I grabbed the grenade launcher off the floor and, avoiding the bodies, headed for the front of the building to get a view of the street.

As I watched I took a moment to check my injuries.  The side of my shirt was soaked with blood as well as a growing area of my jeans.  Pulling the shirt open I twisted to get a look, grimacing at the burning pain from the bullet wound.  Getting a better look I was relieved to find that I had indeed only been grazed.  A shallow furrow was carved in the side of my abdomen, right where a love handle would be if I hadn’t run it off crossing most of the fucking state of Oklahoma on foot.

There was a small restroom in between the front and back rooms where I grabbed a wad of paper towels and pressed them against the wound.  It hurt like hell but I left them in place and buttoned my shirt.  Nothing vital had been hit, and though the wound was bleeding freely it wouldn’t lose enough blood to cause me any problems.  I hoped.

Turning my attention back to the street I saw a sizable group of females were already on the asphalt in front, dashing around as they checked the area.  More poured in from adjacent alleys as I watched.  There were a few young ones but most were adults.  I had no idea if my theory still held any water or not.  Maybe adult infected could hear better than an uninfected adult.  Maybe not.  I wasn’t about to blow the whistle again to find out.

The number of females in the street quickly swelled until there were at least two hundred of them milling about.  They would stalk up to the front of a building and push on a door.  If the door opened, several of them would continue on inside.  If it didn’t push open they would move on without trying to pull. 

I tried to remember how the doors on the front of the department store worked.  Did they just swing out, or would they move in either direction?  I couldn’t remember, just knew that they were unlocked and I was around the corner and couldn’t see the front of that building.

But I could see the bank building, and its doors apparently swung in.  A handful of females slipped inside and less than a minute later I heard the chatter of an AKMS firing on full auto.  Every head in the street snapped in that direction, screams erupting from dozens of throats as the females charged.

Blinds were ripped off a window on the third floor as one of the Russian soldiers looked down into the street.  He disappeared quickly as the infected began flooding through the entrance into the building.  I must admit I had a big smile on my face as I watched.

Moments later more rifles started up and soon it sounded like a war zone.  I could hear four distinct weapons and I tried to picture in my mind what they were doing.  Coming down wouldn’t be an option.  There were just too many females, and more were arriving as I continued watching.  Males were also starting to stumble into the area, running into cars and tripping over curbs to fall flat on their faces before getting back to their feet and resuming their movement towards the noise.

I kept listening, suspecting the Spetsnaz were heading for the roof.  There was very likely an open staircase in the middle of the building with no way to block it off.  Two of them would hold position, firing into the raging mass of infected while the other four moved.  Then they would pause and two of the ones that had moved would provide covering fire for the first two to join them.

The building was old and the stairwell was probably tight, not allowing more than two shooters to engage the females at a time.  I was expecting to hear the hard crump of grenades at any moment, then remembered that normal Russian doctrine was that if there was a grenadier with the unit the rest of the men didn’t carry hand held grenades.  And their grenadier was lying dead in the back of the building I was standing in.

After a couple of minutes of battle I heard the HIND approaching.  They must have made a call for assistance over the radio.  The massive helicopter came into a hover over the center of the street, the bellow of its engines and fierce down draft from its rotor shaking the building hard enough that I was concerned the plate glass window in front of me would shatter.

I took a step back to avoid any potential falling shards as I saw figures appear on the roof of the bank.  They’d made it to the top.  The helo chose that moment to open up on the street with its rotary canon, shredding infected as well as asphalt and vehicles.  I couldn’t see the Dodge from where I was hiding but hoped I was due for some luck and it hadn’t just been turned into a big hunk of scrap metal.

The HIND stopped firing and slipped sideways until it was over the roof of the bank.  A door to the troop compartment opened as it slowly dropped down to pick up the soldiers.  The helicopter was no more than a hundred yards away, stationary as the men ran for the safety of the open door.  The heavily armored open door that allowed access to the interior of the big aircraft.

I knew the range of the RG-6 was close to four hundred yards, and the one in my hands was loaded with high explosive grenades.  I should be able to put two of them through that opening without too much difficulty.  Stepping forward I grasped the front door knob, ready to yank it open, raise the launcher and fire.

As my hand wrapped around the knob, I stopped.  Sure, I had a big, fat, juicy target just hanging in the air waiting for me to swat it.  But if I did there was another HIND somewhere in the area that carried enough ammo, rockets and missiles to effectively destroy every building in the downtown area.  They might have orders to capture me but I didn’t doubt they would start scorching the Earth if one of their helicopters was blown out of the sky.

At the moment they weren’t sure I was here.  Yes, they’d seen the police car, but it was hardly the only black and white in America.  Besides, I didn’t think the fact that it said Oklahoma State Police on the side and we were in Kansas would mean anything to the Russians.  Better to keep my head down and let the infected run them off.

Retreating back into the darker recesses of the building I watched as the soldiers quickly scrambled aboard their ride.  Standing there thinking I was satisfied with the outcome after all.  They hadn’t found Katie, or me, and enough infected had shown up to send them back to the safety of the aircraft.

If they passed off the two missing men that I had killed as having fallen victim to the infected, maybe I was in the clear for the moment.  Would they chalk this up as just having missed me and return to base?  I wasn’t willing to bet either way, or even make a guess.  Without knowing how emphatic their orders to find me had been I had nothing to base an assumption on.  Or would they assume I was responsible for their missing comrades, get pissed off and come after me with a vengeance?

Infected continued to arrive in the area, though in smaller numbers.  The HIND began a slow orbit, almost certainly looking for the missing soldiers as well as a clear area so the six remaining troops could disembark.  The females kept watch on the helicopter, following it through the streets as it moved over the downtown area.  They were doing a great job of making sure it didn’t land and put boots back on the ground.

  Realizing part of what these guys were doing I went into the back room and waited for the HIND to move away.  When I heard it circling several streets away I looked through the peephole then cracked the back door open and peeked out.  The alley was clear and I quickly dragged the two bodies through the opening.  I wanted the Russians to find them, to be able to recover their men so there was one less reason for them to stay in the area.

But the two men had obviously been killed with an edged weapon.  That wouldn’t do for their comrades to find.  They’d never leave until they found me and exacted their revenge. 

Knowing how to get around that, I lifted one of the soldier’s rifles and fired a long, full auto burst into the air.  I held the trigger down until the bolt locked open on an empty magazine.  I knew there was no way the men in the helicopter could hear the gunfire over the noise of their machine.  Dashing back into the building I slammed the door and flipped the lever to lock it.

I pressed my eye to the spy-hole, watching the alley.  It didn’t take long for the first females to show up, and they did exactly as I hoped they would.  They fell on the bodies with screams of delight and began feasting.  In minutes their teeth and nails had obliterated the evidence of how the men had really been killed. 

Of course an autopsy would show the truth.  There would be damage to bones caused by the Kukri that couldn’t have possibly been made by the infected.  But there wouldn’t be an autopsy.  Why would there?  And even if there was, it would be hours or days before it could take place and I planned to be long gone by then.

The HIND passed over the front of the building several times then finally the pilot widened his pattern enough to see down into the alley.  The helicopter went into a hover directly overhead and I could imagine the discussion that was taking place.  They were determined to recover their teammates’ bodies, but as I could see through the peephole there wasn’t much left of them by now.

They would have liked to use the helo’s cannon to clear the alley of infected, but if they did that they’d chew up the bodies they wanted to retrieve.  That only left them with two options.  Fly away and leave them behind, or come down and get them the hard way.

I well understood their dilemma of conscience.  When I’d been in the Army I’d never left a fallen brother behind.  But then there’d always been somewhere to take a body so it could be laid to rest and the family could get some closure. 

Since the attacks, well, I’d left a lot of bodies where they’d fallen.  Most recently my good friend, Gunny Zemeck.  I’d had to leave him for the scavengers in the middle of a field in Oklahoma because there was nowhere to take him and no way to bury him.  But it was harder for the Russians.

If they recovered the bodies they could be taken back to McConnell Air Force Base, which they were occupying.  From there a flight home to mother Russia and a military funeral.  No, they weren’t leaving without their brothers.

Eventually they did pretty much what I would have done.  As the HIND hovered they opened the troop compartment doors and the Spetsnaz began picking off the infected with their rifles.  One at a time.  It took them a while but they eventually thinned the number of females in the alley to a manageable number.

Watching through the door I saw four ropes hit the ground, a moment later four figures sliding down and bringing their weapons up the instant their boots hit the pavement.  As they fired and kept the infected back, two more slid down and quickly scooped what was left of their brothers into two body bags, which were clipped onto a thin cable. 

The remains were winched up.  A few moments later the six Russian soldiers stepped into loops on the end of each rope, two of the lines with dual passengers.  I saw one of them twirl his hand in the air before grabbing the rope then they were lifted straight up.  The helicopter would fly a short distance to a safe location where it could set them down then land so they could climb aboard.

I listened as it moved slowly away, relocating to the front room when I realized they were heading for the bank building.  It took them less than a minute to complete the maneuver, the last man climbing aboard and turning to look back out at the street below.

At first it seemed as if he was looking through the glass front of the building, directly at me.  But I knew that he couldn’t see through the reflective film attached to the inside surface of the window.  He sat that way for a few long seconds before closing the armored door.  The rotor noise changed and the HIND quickly gained altitude and disappeared over the rooftops to the east.

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