Authors: James Rouch
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Espionage
Cover illustration: Russian Mi 24 Helicopter gunship.
NATO designation ‘HIND
Max speed 175 mph.
Typical armament. Four-barrelled cannon in remote under-nose turret,
128 57mm rockets carried in four pods slung from inboard stub wings,
4 ‘Swatter’ antitank missiles, outboard on wings.
THE ZONE Series by James Rouch:
THE ZONE 2
For Nora and Jim Mullee
Copyright © 1980 by James Rouch
An Imprint Original Publication, 2005
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without permission of the publishers.
First E-Book Edition 2005
Second IMRPINT April 2007
The characters in this book are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.
THE ZONE E-Books are published by
IMPRINT Publications, 3 Magpie Court
High Wycombe, WA 6057. AUSTRALIA.
Produced under licence from the Author, all rights reserved. Created in Australia by Ian Taylor © 2005
The Zone - Central Sector
The Third Battle of Frankfurt is now into its second week, with Russian and Hungarian divisions poised to take Aschaffenburg. All civilians living south-east of autobahn A683 between Darmstadt and Offenbach have been warned to prepare
for evacuation. There will only be four hours’ notice of it becoming a free-fire
Russian casualties since the beginning of the battle are put at 27,000, with 685
tanks and other armoured vehicles destroyed. NATO losses have not been
announced, but are said to be ‘heavy.
Twenty-seven people died, including five riot police, during disturbances at the
University of Stuttgart. It is thought more bodies will be recovered when the gutted
city hall is searched. It had been occupied by students protesting at the ending of
exemptions and deferments for military service. The cause of the fire has not yet
Since the beginning of the month, Russian advances in the central sector have
added a further nineteen hundred square miles to the Zone.
The West German government has protested strongly to the NATO Supreme
Commander over the decision to withdraw from Aalen without prior consultation,
and the subsequent use of nuclear demolition devices thought to have severely
damaged more than half the town. Triggered to catch the Russian 8th Guards
Army on its entry, first reports put enemy losses at more than 20,000. A revised
figure of seven to eight hundred has now been admitted.
‘They drove straight through us, like we weren’t there.’ The battalion commander pushed aside the fussing hands of a corpsman attempting to apply a dressing to the gaping wound in his shoulder, almost dropping the handset. ‘Yeah… yeah, I’m OK…’ His hand left red smears on the drab lump of plastic as he held it closer. ‘…It’s that Russian column you’d better worry about: came out of nowhere, blew our minefields apart and chopped my headquarters company to pieces. We threw everything we had, knocked out a couple of T84s and an APC, but the rest just kept right on going.’
Smoke, thick and black, drifted from the smashed and burning vehicles littering the roadside. The acrid fumes from the blazing tyres and ammunition forced a cough from the officer, and the involuntary action brought a spurt of blood from his wound. Again he had to hold off the hovering attendant. ‘You’re losing a lot of blood, sir.’ The medic persisted. ‘So are others. Go help them, see to me later.’ As the corpsman moved away, the officer was forced by growing weakness first to slump against the fragment-riddled side of his command vehicle, then to slide down its armour until he sat on the muddy, oil-coloured road beside the salvaged radio pack. The light rain was washing the stains from his hands and face, spreading them on to his jacket.
‘Yeah, I’m still here.’ Where the hell did the clown on the other end think he’d be? His concentration, had to compete with a swimming sensation inside his head and an overpowering feeling of strangely detached giddiness. It wasn’t unpleasant, rather like the early stages of inebriation. ‘…There wasn’t much time for counting… I reckon about twenty-five of the Reds’ latest tanks, plus an assortment of APCs, self-propelled artillery, flak and some fancy engineers wagons. Maybe forty, forty-five pieces of armour in all.’
It was becoming more difficult to concentrate on the words in his ear, harder to grasp their meaning. His gaze wandered to the crushed jeep in the centre of the road. Lying there, like a carelessly tossed cut-out, it looked unreal. What little was visible of the grotesquely flattened human form among the metalwork added absurdity, not horror.
‘What...? Say it again... I didn’t catch... no nothing. The only thing between that Ruskie regiment and Frankfurt, is half a dozen small depots that couldn’t muster more than ten clerks and fifty pioneers between them. If the Reds keep up that pace, you’ll have them coming in by the back door in about five hours… that’s right, five, f-i-v-e hours.’
The rain made no difference to the rubber and diesel fuel-fed fires. Across the road, the turret hatches of a Soviet T84 clattered up and down, as flames and roasting gases boiled from its furnace-like interior. Rain falling on the hull rose back into the air as steam, almost before contact.
Damn it. That voice was still nagging away at him. What the hell did it want now? ‘... Cut it off with what? Even if we could catch it, the best we could do would be to bite its tail. You want to stop that commie column - you got to chop off its head. All I can do is gather together what I’ve got left and try to prevent any more breakthroughs, make sure it doesn’t get reinforced.’
He looked up. Mixed with the falling rain that felt so good on his face was a mass of floating particles of lampblack from the burning tyres. The handset felt heavy, he wished he could use his other hand to help support it.
‘…I’ve got ten tenths… that column’s got cloud umbrella all the way. The Reds have picked a good day for a drive… Yeah, OK. I’ll give you a status as soon as we get sorted out. Do what you can to stir up Casevac will you, I’ve got more than thirty stretcher cases that need help real bad. Yeah... out.’
He didn’t bother to secure the radio, just let the handset fall as his arm flopped to his side. Maybe it’d be a good idea to get patched up now. Funny, he’d been hit before and had felt a lot more pain from wounds that didn’t look half as ugly as this one. The tumbling piece of shell casing had made a big hole, the torn edges of the material around it had been dragged in and were buried in the mangled tissue.
Still, whatever his problems, all this was nothing compared to what the poor SOBs who’d have to stop that Russian column would be letting themselves in for.
The floor of the old Chinook was smothered in mud, and its spar-ribbed walls and ceiling in tattered centrefolds and pages torn from
Eddies of the slipstream coming in through an open window caused some of them to flutter and pulsate obscenely.
‘Get your hairy paws off. Go buy your own.’ Dooley paused in the act of detaching a bent over crotch-shot from a bulkhead. He feigned disinterest as the co-pilot continued to eye him suspiciously. ‘Just seeing if she was a natural blonde.’ With a last lingering look at the model’s vibrator-filled rear, he sauntered to the far end of the cabin. A brief turbulence caused him to stagger and almost lose balance. He had to grab at one of the loaded pallets.
‘Sit down, you big lump. You go flying out a window and the civvies down there are going to think a nuke’s been dropped on them.’ Sergeant Hyde looked out. The suburbs of Frankfurt were behind them now, and they were just crossing the autobahn to the east of Hanau. Only a couple of the other members of the squad were visible in the equipment and stores filled interior, apart from Dooley, who sat morosely eyeing the extensive collection of soft porn from the top of a stack of ammunition boxes.
Libby sat by himself as usual, contemplating but not seeing the upside down stencilling on a case of anti-tank mines. Further away Burke could just be seen. He’d made a little cocoon for himself among the crates and was fast asleep.
At fifteen hundred feet the twin rotors of the elderly transport helicopter chopped through the passing wisps of the lowest clouds. The Chinook banked slightly as it turned on to a new heading.
Hyde’s burn-scarred mask looked up as Major Revell came back from the flight deck. ‘Do we have a fix on those Ruskies yet?’ He added nothing to the question. Since the time he’d learnt he and his section were to stay with the American outfit, the sergeant had made up his mind to treat the Yank officer with cold civility. Revell, for his part, appeared unbothered, and that irritated Hyde. All he wanted was out - to get back to his own battalion, or any British unit. Anything was better than being attached to this rag-bag squad, being treated with contempt or ignored by every Command in whose area they operated, until there was a really dirty job to do. Christ, they even had an ex-East German border guard among them, one of the despised Grepos, and the girl...
‘No location as yet. I’ve told the pilot to do a wide sweep, so we come up behind their last known position. I’d rather we tracked them than suddenly found ourselves flying over them, a target for the mass of SAMs and flak they’ve got.’
‘And when we do find them, what then? Hop on ahead and set up an ambush?’ ‘That’s about it. The orders say we stall them, and keep on stalling them while the Staff try to scrape together a blocking force that can finish them off.’
Corporal Cohen staggered back to join them. The twin chevrons on his sleeve were still clean and bright against his soiled and faded jacket. There were new contours to the bulging pockets in the flak-jacket he wore, evidence of shrewd deals with the chopper’s crew. ‘I just got word, Major. We can have an ECM platform tasked to us within fifteen minutes of finding the Reds.’ He sat down heavily and fanned himself with his clipboard. His pallid features confirmed that his most recent travel sickness cure was ineffective.
He wasn’t capable of expression, but Sergeant Hyde snorted his disgust. ‘One unarmed aircraft, stooging about overhead, doing a spot of jamming. Is that the best they can come up with?’
‘Well it’s better than nothing.’ Revell watched the rotor-blade misted rain travelling in horizontal lines across the window. ‘It’ll stop the Ruskies squawking for close air support, and if the crew of that jammer are any good, maybe they can even screw up the column’s short-range sets, force them to close up on the road.’
Hyde brightened at the prospect of the target that would present. Bloody hell, he’d had little enough to feel happy about since he’d been roped in with Revell. The Yank wasn’t like any officer he’d ever known, you could never tell when he was making a bleeding suggestion and when he was giving an order. It kept Hyde on edge; he’d have been happier with an officer who kept a bit of distance. You knew where you stood then.
Revell jotted a signal on the radio-man’s clipboard. ‘OK, send that acknowledgement and arrange for one frequency to be left open. Have it confirmed by whoever’s tasking the ECM mission. Electronic countermeasures are fine, so long as they don’t blanket us as well. And keep trying for that promise of air- support. Tell them anything will do. Hot air balloons, a couple of hang gliders, anything.’