V plague book 11 mercile.., p.7

V Plague (Book 11): Merciless, page 7

 

V Plague (Book 11): Merciless
 



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  They must have seen the strobe before I was able to shut it down. Not well enough to pinpoint my location, but certainly enough of a look to start searching in the right area. Shit!

  Hugging the ground, I crawled a dozen yards to take advantage of a small pile of boulders. Not large enough to completely hide behind, but enough to keep my form from standing out against the ground. Peeking around the edge, I checked on the approaching Russians.

  The six of them had formed up, spread out along a line of about 150 yards. That meant a 30-yard gap between each man. Not much space, especially in this unforgiving terrain. But, with their slow pace, and the aid of night vision, nothing would be able to slip between them. That left the option of going around.

  I was about two-thirds of the way from the left end of the line, somewhere between the second and third man. Looking behind me, I wasn’t happy when I confirmed there weren’t any terrain features that I could use for concealment. It was no different to my front. If I started trying to crawl away, they’d spot me.

  That left one option. Head towards the ocean and climb down the bluff I’d been using for shelter. The only problem with that was I’d be trapped on a narrow strip of beach with nowhere to go. Entering the water wasn’t even a consideration. I’d noted large ice floes bobbing on the waves. It was most assuredly cold enough that I wouldn’t last more than a couple of minutes.

  Hoping I could descend the steep bluff without falling to my death on the rocks below, I began crawling towards the upper edge. Pausing when I arrived, I glanced behind me and caught my breath in surprise. Lights were approaching from behind the line of Russians. A land vehicle!

  The soldiers had noticed, turning and facing the new arrival. Their rifles were up and a moment later they spread out to encircle whatever was driving towards them. Seeing my opportunity, I moved away from the edge and stood, running laterally along the top of the bluff.

  I didn’t know where I was going. There wasn’t a forest to disappear in, or canyons to hide me from them. But putting distance between us was preferable to being re-captured. I didn’t know for sure what had changed that the Navy was trying to get me back, but I had taken their interception of the Russian plane as good news that the secret weapon system was online and operational.

  When I reached a point that was clear of where the Russians had been searching, I flattened myself against the ground again to watch. I was curious who was driving the vehicle I’d seen. I hadn’t been able to get a good look at it, but it had seemed large. Too large to have been brought by the enemy helicopter. So if not the Russians, who the hell was it?

  The vehicle had stopped short of the Russians, and I was able to get a decent look at it with the night vision goggles. It looked like an overgrown Hummer, only without tires. At each corner were large, triangular shaped clusters of wheels that were wrapped in a tread. It looked like something you’d expect to see at a research station at the South Pole. What the hell was it doing here?

  It didn’t appear as if whoever was operating it was aware he was being circled by the soldiers. The front doors popped open and two men wearing parkas with pistol belts tightly cinched at the waist stepped out. One of them held a military style rifle loosely in his hands.

  They both glanced around, but neither was wearing night vision and couldn’t see the Russians closing in on them. All of their attention was on the single soldier who had let his rifle hang on a sling as he walked towards them. These weren’t Russians, and they were about to die.

  Damn it!

  With a deep sigh, I stood and began moving forward. I wasn’t opposed to helping the new guys, even though I didn’t know who they were. All I did know was they apparently weren’t friends of the Russians. At the moment, that was enough. That, and the opportunity to take the fight to the enemy and maybe find a way to get inside that nice, warm vehicle.

  The six soldiers had formed a large circle around the spot where the vehicle had come to a stop. One of them, probably the squad leader, was slowly walking forward as if to greet the two men who had driven up. While he was taking his time, keeping them distracted, two more were coming up behind them. The remaining three had gone prone on the ground, covering their buddies with aimed rifles.

  My first target was a soldier lying behind a small pile of rocks. His back was to me and he was on his belly, rifle held in his hand which was braced on the stones. I rushed forward, trusting the howling wind to cover the sound of my approach. Running in a crouch, I slowed and dropped to the ground when I was within ten yards of him.

  A quick survey of the rest of his squad told me I hadn’t been spotted. All eyes were on the vehicle. None of them were paying any attention to each other. I covered the distance on knees and elbows, knife gripped tightly in my right hand. Close enough to touch the Russian’s boots, I paused and leaned to the side, peering forward. Checking, and hoping his finger wasn’t on the trigger. The last thing I needed was a reflexive pull that would fire the weapon and alert the rest of his squad.

  Glad to see it indexed along the receiver, I carefully got my feet under my hips, squatting. With a lunge, I uncoiled my body and came down on his back. The knife went into the side of his neck, and I twisted it as I reached forward with my left and pinned his finger outside the trigger guard.

  His body went rigid and he bucked twice, then began twitching. I turned the blade again and he went still. The tension went out of his hand and it flopped to the ground when I released it. Withdrawing the knife, I quickly removed his pack. It held a small amount of rations and a couple hundred rounds of ammunition. A chest rig held several spare magazines and three grenades. I yanked it free as well.

  Looking around, I saw that the Russian had come to a stop about thirty yards away from the front bumper of the vehicle. I couldn’t hear anything, but it looked like he was shouting at the two men. Behind them, the pair of Russians were still closing.

  Squatting close to the ground, I quickly put on the chest rig and pack. Picked up the rifle and made sure it was ready to go with a round chambered. Satisfied, I started moving forward. To my right was another soldier with his weapon covering the meeting. Far to my left was the third, but I’d lost sight of him.

  The Russians were moments away from taking out these two guys. It was time to crash the party. Pulling one of the grenades, I yanked the pin and threw it hard in the direction of the Russian I couldn’t see. Spinning, I brought the rifle up and aimed at the one covering the ambush.

  I fired three rounds, seeing his body jerk twice through the scope. The rifle was unsuppressed and loud. But not as loud as the grenade when it detonated. Whipping around, I scanned the area where a cloud of dirt and snow was being cleared away by the wind. Seeing movement, I fired several times, catching the surprised soldier with my last shot when he raised his head to see who was attacking him.

  Gunfire started up from the direction of the vehicle and I dropped to the ground and looked through the scope. The Russian squad leader was down, and so was the man without a rifle. The survivor was sheltering behind the Hummer and exchanging fire with the two soldiers who’d been coming up behind him. I started scrambling sideways to get a shot, then buried my face in my arms when the vehicle exploded in a brilliant flash.

  The Hind roared overhead a moment later, banking sharply. It had fired a missile, destroying the Hummer and the man using it for cover. Continuing its turn, the pilot suddenly jinked hard an instant before a Surface to Air Missile (SAM), fired from over a ridgeline, turned it into a fireball.

  In slow motion, the huge helicopter emerged from the flames, the entire tail section tumbling away. Gaining speed, it fell to the ground with a shattering impact, another gout of flame engulfing its remains.

  On the far side of the burning Hummer, the two surviving Russian soldiers slowly got to their feet and turned to look in the direction the SAM had come from. I leapt up, changed magazines, and headed directly for them. Swinging wide around the blistering heat from the vehicle’s funeral pyre, I a
dvanced on them.

  My rifle was ready, tight to my shoulder. When I drew within fifty yards, one of them looked over his shoulder and saw me. I fired, shifted slightly and fired on the second one before the first hit the ground.

  Closing the remaining distance, I fired a short, full auto burst into each to make sure they would stay down. Reversing course, I found the squad leader on the far side of the Humvee.

  He was still alive. Barely. He’d taken two rounds in the chest and lay on his back. His night vision had been knocked off his face and I could see the pain and fear in his eyes when I looked down. He tried to say something in Russian, but after only a few words, I shot him.

  11

  Headlights appeared on top of the ridge at the same time I pulled the trigger. I stood where I was, waiting for the vehicle to arrive. I still had no idea who these guys were, but as the old saying goes, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. I just hoped they’d heard the same adage.

  It approached slowly, but I was unable to make out any details. I couldn’t look directly at it with my night vision because of the blinding lights. Turning the goggles off and pushing them on top of my head didn’t help. I still couldn’t see beyond the glare.

  I walked forward slowly, rifle slung at my side and hands extended. Trying to appear as non-threatening as possible. According to Katie, that’s not possible for me. She’s always said that I’m one of those people that give off a vibe, warning others to not mess with me. I don’t know if that’s true or not. Right now, I wanted to appear friendly so I waved as the vehicle came to a stop.

  The bright lights spotlighted me, and I couldn’t tell what was going on beyond them. There was a low rumble of a powerful engine idling, but other than that I could only hear the moaning wind. There could have been a dozen soldiers piling out and pointing weapons at me for all I knew.

  “Do you speak English?” A voice with a French-Canadian accent shouted from behind the lights.

  “Better than you,” I shouted back.

  I guess he didn’t appreciate my sense of humor as he didn’t respond or say anything else for almost a minute.

  “Stay where you are. If you reach for a weapon you will be shot,” the voice finally said.

  A moment later, three figures stepped in front of the lights and began cautiously approaching. They were just silhouettes and I couldn’t make out any details as they walked toward me.

  “On your knees,” a new voice shouted.

  “American,” I shouted back. “Major John Chase. US Army.”

  They weren’t impressed and I was ordered to get on my knees again. With a sigh, I complied, folding my hands on top of my head before they had a chance to tell me.

  Once I had submitted, two of them came forward on either side of me. The third man stayed where he was and I could tell a rifle was aimed at my heart. I was getting an idea of who they were, but decided to keep my mouth shut for the moment. They were understandably jumpy and probably more than a little pissed off over the loss of their buddies.

  I was quickly disarmed, searched thoroughly, then told to stand and walk towards the light. Keeping my hands on my head, I did as I was told. The three of them carefully guarded me as I approached, maintaining good spacing so I couldn’t make a grab for one of their weapons.

  Stepping into the gloom behind the lights, I was met by the shadowy figure of a man several inches taller than me. That doesn’t happen often, and accustomed to usually being the tallest person in a setting, it was slightly disconcerting.

  “American Army?” The man asked.

  I recognized the accent, placing him as the first voice that had shouted at me. Deciding it was time to show some gratitude and respect, I nodded my head as I answered.

  “Yes. Major John Chase. Thank you for your help with the Russians.”

  “I don’t suppose you have any ID?” He asked, suspicion clear in his voice.

  I shook my head. My eyes had adjusted and I could see that all of them were wearing winter camouflage snow suits and carrying C7 rifles, the Canadian version of an M-16. Subdued color Canadian flag patches were on their shoulders. No rank insignia was visible on any of them.

  “I am Captain Henri Dumas of the Royal Canadian Air Force,” the man introduced himself. “I received a communication about you. Was told you might have survived the crash of a Russian plane that was taking you to Moscow.”

  “You have me at a disadvantage, Captain,” I said. “I don’t even know where I am. I thought Greenland, but now I’m guessing one of the Canadian islands.”

  “All in good time,” he said. “Tell me the name of the woman who contacted me. If you’re who you say you are, you should know it.”

  “Petty Officer Simmons would be my guess,” I said.

  “Right,” he said, visibly relaxing. “Well, might as well put your hands down. Are there any more Russians out there?”

  “Not that I know of. Only saw the one helo and the six troopers that got out. They were looking for me.”

  “Then let’s get out of the weather and back to base,” he said, turning and opening a door on the side of the idling vehicle.

  This one was another Hummer, fully enclosed, but without the tracks of the first one I’d seen. I climbed into the back and the Captain and one of the men sandwiched me on the wide seat. The other two climbed in front. The sudden lack of wind and warm air from the heater was absolutely luxurious. I looked around briefly, noting the used launcher for an American Stinger, a shoulder fired Surface to Air Missile, in the cargo area.

  “So, where are we?” I asked as the driver shifted into gear and we began bouncing over the rocky terrain.

  “Ellesmere Island. We’re assigned to CFS Alert,” the Captain answered.

  CFS stood for Canadian Forces Station, but I had no idea what Alert was.

  “Never heard of it,” I said, rocking back and forth with the motion of the Hummer.

  “Most northerly, permanently inhabited location in the world,” he said proudly. “Only 800 kilometers from the North Pole. We tracked the helo as it approached, but weren’t able to get a warning out to the patrol that arrived ahead of us. Sometimes radios aren’t very reliable in this environment.”

  “I’m sorry about your men,” I said.

  He looked at me for a long beat before turning to stare out the frosted window.

  “We’ve been safe here in the Arctic,” he finally spoke. “Well removed from the horrors as the world tore itself apart. Now you Yanks and the Russians seem intent on destroying what’s left.”

  I bristled, but somehow managed to hold my tongue.

  “Well, us Yanks didn’t start this,” I said, earning a scathing look from him. “And how is it you’ve managed to stay safe?”

  “The virus can’t survive the cold,” he said.

  “How do you know that?”

  “There’s 58 people at Alert. Half are military. The rest are all variety of scientific researchers. That’s what our chief scientist has told us.”

  I nodded, hoping he was right. He may have rubbed me the wrong way, but that didn’t mean I wanted to see him, or any of his men, become infected.

  “Do you know what’s happening in the world?” I asked, hoping to change the subject.

  “We’ve been monitoring comms from both the Americans and the Russians. Full scale war is what’s going on. You’ve launched some sort of super weapon that has devastated much of Russia. Your Navies are locked in a battle across the globe. Thousands of missiles have been launched, and chemical weapons are being deployed.

  “Russia has struck back with nuclear weapons. Most of their ability to launch has been destroyed, but they were still able to retaliate. Two of the islands in Hawaii were hit as well as the Bahamas.”

  “What?” I said, cold fingers of dread wrapping around my heart.

  Rachel was in the Bahamas. I’d sent her there, on her way to Australia. Thinking I’d sent her to safety. The Captain looked at me, seeing the expression on my face. For a mo
ment, there was a softening of his countenance.

  “Are you sure?” I asked in a whisper, barely able to breathe.

  He stared at me for a moment, then nodded.

  “I’m sorry,” he said after a stretch of silence.

  “Which islands? Is Pearl Harbor still operational?” I asked, shoulders slumping.

  “Maui and the island of Hawaii,” he answered. “The missiles inbound to Oahu were successfully shot down by one of your ships.”

  “But the Bahamas…”

  “Did you have someone there?” He asked gently.

  All I could do was nod.

  “I’m sorry,” he said. “My family was in Montreal when the attacks happened. It was one of the initial nerve gas targets.”

  I managed to stop myself from asking why he hadn’t gone to find them. His circumstances were his own, and I had no business judging him. Or even making him feel like I was. I hadn’t exactly made it to Arizona to rescue my wife. The only reason she had survived was because she was resourceful as hell.

  “You must be pretty special,” he said after several minutes of silence.

  “What do you mean?” I asked.

  “There’s a plane on the way to pick you up. Somehow, in the midst of a war, someone is coming to get you.”

  I didn’t know what to say. Couldn’t imagine that Admiral Packard had found the resources to spare a plane to save my ass.

  12

  I was quite the curiosity to the military and scientific staff when we arrived at the station. But station was probably being a little generous. It was nothing more than a couple of dozen, very large metal containers that had been transformed into living and working spaces. They were arrayed around a central hub that housed a cafeteria and common gathering spaces.

 

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