Read Anvil Online

Authors: Dirk Patton

Anvil (4 page)

6

 

I stumbled
and fell to my knees when Rachel pulled on me.  She was dragging me
towards a small hole in the side of a bluff, but I didn’t want to go.  I
wanted to keep following Katie.  To catch up with her and protect
her.  I tried to push Rachel away, but she was stronger than I was.  

A moment
later Irina’s face appeared in front of me as Rachel worked my body through the
hole.  Together, they pulled me into the darkness and rolled me onto my
back.  Immediately, fingers began unhooking, unfastening and unbuttoning
my clothing. 

“W-w-w-w-w-hat
the hell?”  I stammered through a shiver.

“You’re
hypothermic,” Rachel’s voice said from the darkness as my vest was pulled over
my head.  “If we don’t get these wet clothes off and warm you up you’re
going to die.”

“K-k-k-k-k-atie,”
I mumbled.

“We heard
her,” Irina said in my ear as she raised my upper body to work the shirt off my
arms.  “We thought we were being attacked, but I think she brought you to
us.  She saved you.”

I understood
the words Irina was speaking, but the concept wasn’t registering.  All I
could think about was that Katie was getting farther away and I was wasting
time.  I raised an arm and tried to push them away, but I was too
weak.  Irina worked my final shirt over my head and began rubbing my arms
with her hands as she pressed her body against mine.

Rachel had
my boots and socks off, now struggling with my pants.  I tried to push
Irina away, but she held me in a tight embrace.  Her face was close to
mine and she whispered into my ear as Rachel tugged on my pants.

“Katie is
infected.  She brought you to us so we could save you.  If you go
back out there you will die.  She is obviously thinking.  She will
seek shelter.”

I finally
understood what Irina was saying.  Emotion overwhelmed me and a sob
escaped my lips.  Tears began flowing and there was nothing I could do to
stop them.  Laying in Irina’s embrace I cried like a child.

I felt my
pants come off and heard Rachel tell Irina to move me on my side.  No
longer fighting, I cooperated when she gently pushed me into position.  A
moment later one of them spooned against my back as the other pressed in
against the front of my body.  I couldn’t tell which was which. 
Whoever was behind me was vigorously rubbing my exposed arm. 

We lay that
way for some time as their combined body heat slowly warmed me.  Neither of
them spoke as I cried, not battling the emotions that had taken over.  I
drifted, somewhere below the level of consciousness yet still awake and aware
of what had happened.  Then I slept, but not for long.

Feeling
began returning.  My skin tingled as it warmed, feeling like ants were
crawling over every inch of me.  Then the pain set in.  Soon it was
all I could do to not cry out as every fiber in my body felt like it was on
fire.

The pain
finally subsided and I was itching all over like I’d been dragged through a
patch of poison ivy.  As feeling returned, so did greater awareness of the
situation and a measure of control over my emotions. 

“I need to
go after Katie,” I mumbled.

I felt the
body in front of me shift as she turned over.  Then it was pressed tightly
against me as arms went around my neck, pulling me into an embrace.

“The wind is
howling and your clothes are still soaked,” Rachel said in my ear.  So now
I knew which one was where.

“Fire,” I
said, wondering why they hadn’t already lit one.

“No way to
start one.  Wood is wet,” Rachel answered without loosening her hold.

“My vest,” I
said.  “Ammunition.  Open a round and use the powder to start the
wood burning.  Lighter in my pants pocket.”

I was still
warming, and with the warmth came exhaustion.  It was comfortable between
the two women and my eyes were growing heavy.  I just wanted to sleep,
unable to force my body to start moving to go search for Katie.

My back was
suddenly cold as Irina moved away from me and I shivered.  Rachel began
rubbing her hand across the exposed skin and threw her leg over mine in an
attempt to make up for the loss of Irina’s heat. 

I could hear
Irina going through my clothing as she searched for the items I’d
mentioned.  A gust of frigid air blew across my bare skin when she moved
the jacket covered bush that was mostly sealing the entrance.  A few
minutes later there was another blast of cold air when she returned.

There was
the sound of ammo being ejected from a magazine, then a scrape as she worked
bullets out of their brass cases.  Branches rustled as she broke and
arranged them, then the scrape of the wheel on flint from a disposable
lighter.  Over and over.

“Flint’s
wet,” I said, recognizing the problem without having to see it.

For several
minutes I could hear Irina blowing air, presumably across the lighter’s flint.  Rachel
continued to stay tightly wrapped around me.  When Irina tried the lighter
again it must have lit as it only scraped once then there was enough light in
the small cave for me to see Rachel’s face inches from mine. 

The gun powder
ignited with a whoosh, the air immediately filling with the odor of burnt
sulfur.  Irina said something in Russian I didn’t recognize, then lit
another round’s worth of powder.  This time, after the initial flare of
light and acrid odor, there was the crackle of wood starting to burn.

Soon it was
brightly lit inside the cave and Rachel slowly peeled herself away from
me.  For the first time I realized she was nude other than a pair of
panties.  Painfully sitting up and turning to face the fire, I saw that
Irina was in the same state of dress.  Looking down I noted that I hadn’t
been given the same courtesy as I was completely nude.

“Really? 
Couldn’t leave my underwear on?”  I asked Rachel.

She didn’t
say anything, just dug through a pile of clothing I recognized as mine. 
Finding my underwear, she held it up so I could see and gently wrung the thin
fabric.  Water poured out and soaked into the sandy floor of the cave.

“Point
taken,” I mumbled, looking around for something I could use to cover myself.

Irina was
busily spreading clothing across sticks she had stuck into the sand.  She
had built the fire at the entrance so the smoke would vent and not suffocate
us, and was now positioning our garments to dry.

“Thank you,”
I said, looking first at Irina then Rachel.

They both
nodded, Rachel reaching out and gently touching my arm.

“Katie
brought you to us,” she said softly.  “Stood right outside the opening and
screamed, then took off as soon as she saw me.”

“She must still
be able to think.  She’s not all the way gone,” I said, hearing the
optimism in my own voice.  Irina and Rachel exchanged a glance.

“What?” 
I asked, not liking how they’d looked at each other.

“Maybe she
isn’t, but she’s still infected,” Rachel said, looking into my eyes.

“What the
hell is wrong with you?”  I asked, starting to get mad.

“Nothing. 
I’m sorry.  I just don’t want you to think she’s still the same woman and
let your guard down.  Yes, she brought you here.  Saved you. 
Some part of her is still in there.  But just because it’s there now
doesn’t mean the infection doesn’t progress, and…”  Rachel’s voice trailed
off and she lowered her gaze.

I had been
getting mad, and what Rachel said didn’t help.  Anger threatening to boil
over, I was starting to open my mouth when Irina spoke.

“You are
both right,” she said in a stern voice.  “There is some of Katie still
inside, otherwise she would have killed you rather than bringing you to
us.  But you cannot count on that the next time you see her.  This is
not her fault.  It is the virus to blame.  Rachel is giving you sound
advice; the same advice I am giving you.  I know it hurts to hear, but you
need to hear it.  And listen to it.”

I stared
back at her for a few moments, anger coursing through my veins.  But not
anger at Irina or Rachel, just a blind rage at the situation in general. 
I had thought our biggest threat was from the Russians or the infected. 
It had been a while since I’d worried about the virus.  Now…

“How the
fuck did this happen?”  I asked, turning to Rachel.

“I have no
idea,” she said after a moment of making sure I wasn’t about to explode. 
“You’re sure she had the vaccine?”

“She said
she received it when they were vaccinating everyone on base at Tinker,” I said,
blowing a deep breath out.

“Then it
makes no sense,” Irina said.  “The vaccine was tested for over two years
and was found to be one hundred percent effective.”

“Unless the
virus has mutated,” Rachel whispered, a haunted look crossing her face.

7

 

We spent the
next hour or so constantly turning our clothing as close to the flames as
possible.  It dried slowly, and I selfishly made sure the first item to be
ready to wear was my underwear.  Not that there’s anything wrong with
sitting around naked with two beautiful women, but I was feeling self
conscious.  Odd for me as I’ve never been one to give a crap if someone
gets an eyeful.

Perhaps it
was the stress and emotion of our situation, but I sat near the fire with my
legs tightly pressed together until I could pull them back on.  There were
warm spots, and spots that were still damp and cold.  Naturally, the
dampest and coldest spot wound up tight against my balls.  But it wasn’t
wet enough to be a concern and I felt about a thousand percent better with just
that little bit of modesty restored.  Genitals covered, I scooted away to
make room for the girls to finish drying their shirts.

“What do we
do now?”  Rachel asked, turning her shirt and fluffing it to get warm air
inside.

“I don’t
know yet,” I said, staring into the flames.  “I’ve been trying to figure
that out.  I want to go after Katie, but I don’t know what the hell to do
if and when I find her.  She’s going to be fast and strong.  Hard as
hell to catch.  And if I do catch her, I don’t even know how I’ll control
her.  There’s no option other than knock her out again, and I’m not sure
continuing to pound on her head is such a great idea.”

Irina opened
her mouth to say something but caught her breath and turned to look at the
opening to our tiny cave.  I knew better than to speak when someone is
trying to identify a sound, but Rachel asked her what she heard.

“Shhhh,”
Irina hissed, moving as close to the fire as she dared and cocking her head for
a better angle to hear.

Rachel
looked at me and I shook my head, telling her I didn’t hear anything. 
After a few long moments, Irina spoke softly without changing the direction she
was facing.

“Rotors,”
she whispered.  “They’re looking for us.”

“The fire,”
I said, worried about the smoke leading the Russians directly to us.

Irina already
had the same thought and quickly scooped up handfuls of sand from the floor of
the cave and smothered the flames.  The temperature in our refuge quickly
began dropping.

“Get
dressed,” I said, reaching for my pants.  “This is as dry as we’re going to
get.”

The two
women nodded and after a few seconds of sorting through the clothing they began
covering themselves with the less than dry garments.  Damp fabric against
your skin isn’t comfortable, but it was the best we could do.  At least
we’d had time to remove the majority of the moisture and weren’t sitting in
soaked clothing.

I changed
places with Irina, leaning my head through the opening to scan the area.  It
was a grey morning, snow still falling slowly.  The sound of two separate
rotors was clear on the cold air, but neither seemed to be particularly close. 
As I listened it sounded like one of them was slowly moving along the flood
control channel, heading south, as the other was in a large orbit over an area
on the opposite side of the water.

At least for
the moment they weren’t searching the specific area where we were hiding. 
Shifting my attention, I looked at the ground outside the cave.  From my
angle I could make out the jumble of prints that had been left when Katie led
me to safety.  They had been mostly filled in by fresh snow.  I knew
where to look and what I was looking at.  It was doubtful the tracks could
be spotted from the air.

“We’re OK
for the moment,” I said, moving fully back into the darkness.

My eyes had
adjusted to the light outside and I couldn’t see either of the women. 

“Will they
send ground troops to search?”  Rachel asked from the gloom.

“I don’t
think so,” I said, looking in the direction her voice had come from.  “Too
much country to cover on foot when you have air assets available.  They’ve
probably got them waiting to load onto trucks and head to any area…”

“What?” 
Irina asked when my voice trailed off to silence.

“I was
thinking about regular ground troops.  There were quite a few Spetsnaz,
and they may very well send out a bunch of small squads to sweep the
area.  Either of you have any idea how far from town we are?”

My eyes were
adjusting to the lack of light and I could make out both of them shaking their
heads.

“We must
have traveled several miles,” Irina finally said.  “We were in the water
for a long time and it was moving swiftly.”

That thought
comforted me to a degree.  The farther away we had been swept by the
flood, the less likely it would be for the Russians to be able to find
us.  I relaxed a notch, but reminded myself to remain vigilant.

“So what do
we do?  Where do we go?”  Rachel asked.

“For now, we
stay put.  We have shelter and a pretty good hiding place.  The
Russians aren’t searching in the immediate area, but if we start moving while
it’s light we’ll be pretty easy to spot.”

We lapsed
into silence for a few minutes, each of us lost in our own thoughts. 
Occasionally the sound of a rotor reached my ears, but I wasn’t hearing
anything to indicate they were approaching.  But it was only a matter of
time.  I had no doubt they were performing a grid search and eventually
one of them would pass directly over us.

“Tell me
what happened after I got out of the Jeep,” I said to Rachel.

She nodded, pausing
as she collected her thoughts.  Her story wasn’t surprising, now that I
knew I hadn’t killed everyone with the grenade launcher.  Pain and anger
swept over me when she told me Scott had been killed by the tall Russian I’d
shot while rescuing them.  She didn’t know what had become of Colonel
Crawford, Igor or Dog.

“You didn’t
see them?”  I asked.

“The Colonel
was running with Katie and me when we were attacked.  Dog was with us,
too.  Scott was hit in the leg and Dog was heading for him when the
helicopter Martinez was in went down.  That’s the last I saw of him or the
Colonel and I never saw Igor after the firefight started.”

“Could they
have survived?”  I asked, not ready to contemplate the loss of so many
more.

Katie
turning.  Martinez dead.  Scott dead.  Sure, I’ve lost friends
and fellow soldiers in combat before, but that doesn’t make it any less of an
emotional impact when it happens.

“I just
don’t know,” Rachel said.  “Oh, and they did kill the prisoner.  The
one we thought was immune.”

“Who?” 
I asked.

“Johnnie
something.  They found him in a jail, I think.”

“Not
surprised at that one,” I mumbled, remembering finding the man.

“Who were
you talking to that was helping?”  Irina asked.

“A survivor
I ran into when I got to town,” I said.

I’d already
forgotten about Titus and a wave of worry passed over me.  The man had
saved my life and hopefully hadn’t given his in the process.

“Survivor? 
Was he vaccinated?”  Rachel asked, excitement causing her to raise her
voice.  Irina and I shushed her simultaneously.

“No
vaccine.  He was in a bomb shelter with his family.  They
turned.  He didn’t.”

“Immune!” 
Rachel whispered.

“Probably,”
I said.  “What’s the big deal?”

“The same
reason the Colonel was taking the prisoner to Seattle!”  Rachel was
growing more excited and reached out and grasped my arm.

“Katie and I
left to find you before Crawford decided what to do with him.”

“With an
immune subject there’s a possibility a cure can be created,” Rachel said. 
“Where is the man in Mountain Home?”

“If he
survived, he’s probably back in his bunker,” I said, hope lifting my spirits
and making me antsy to go find Titus.

“Then that’s
what we should do,” Rachel said.  “Find him and Katie and get both of them
to Seattle.”

“Can it
really work?”  I asked, trying to control the growing optimism I was
feeling.

“It’s
possible, but by no means certain.  There’s a lot of factors I don’t
understand related to virology.  It might not work, but it’s the best
chance we have.”

“Quiet,”
Irina mumbled barely loud enough to be heard.

I looked at
her.  She was staring intently out of the opening.  I turned my head
and saw four Russian soldiers slowly working their way across the open ground.

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