Authors: Christian Fletcher
“Did Kauffmann make it out okay?” Smith asked. “I can’t see in the mirror from here. It’s got damn snow all over it.”
Cordoba leaned out and wiped the snow off the mirror with her hand. “Yeah, he’s clear and he’s following us. Which way are we headed, anyhow?”
None of us could tell where we were in relation to where the C-17 aircraft was. The outside world was a blanket of white snow.
“Keep heading around the perimeter,” Milner instructed. “We’ll come across the runway sooner or later.”
“Can we stop and put our hoods back on?” Cordoba shouted. “Half my fucking face is frozen off.”
“All right, stop now and I’ll go check
Kauffmann is okay,” Milner said.
“I’ll come with you,” Smith said.
Cordoba slowed the
snowplow to a stop and hit the park brake. We all donned our hoods and goggles before Milner jumped out of the cab. Smith handed him his rifle, grabbed his own M-16 and followed.
I slid along the seat and watched the proceeding
s behind us in the side mirror. Streams of undead tumbled out into the snow through the busted roller door. They were still going to give chase. Milner and Smith approached the gas tanker cab but couldn’t see the mass of advancing zombies at the angle they moved. The gas tanker masked the massive hole in the wall.
I pressed the talk button on the headset. “Smith, Milner, you got company coming your way,” I said into the microphone. “There are a shit load of zombies coming out of that door we just smashed through.”
“Okay, roger that. We’ll be back in a minute,” Milner replied.
“I guess I ought to be thanking you,” Cordoba said.
I spun my head and looked at her. I couldn’t tell if she was messing with me as I couldn’t see her face covered by her hood and goggles.
“Saving my ass a couple of times back there,” she said. Her voice seemed different, more feminine and not like the rough, tough soldier she also was.
I was glad I wore the hood as I felt my face redden. “
Ah, well, thanks for coaxing me off that office roof to begin with.” I laughed nervously and flapped my hand.
A few seconds ticked by when neither of us knew what to say.
We simply sat facing each other. Maybe she didn’t see me as just another one of the guys. Maybe she had genuine feelings for me. Only time would tell.
The magic spell was broken when Smith and Milner opened the cab door and bundled back inside
, squashing us all together again. In another time and another place, Cordoba and I may have prolonged the moment and reacted differently, but now we had to get our game faces back on.
“Go, go, go,” Milner yelled. He spat the words out like machine gun fire.
Cordoba released the park brake and pulled the snowplow forward.
“Dyson’s in a bad way,” he blurted. “He’s got several bites to his legs and he’s definitely infected now.”
“What are we going to do with him?” Cordoba asked.
Milner sighed. “Only one thing we can do with him now. And that’s put him out of his misery before he turns. We all know there’s no cure for that shit and we can’t take him with us.”
“You want me to do it?” Smith murmured. “It might be better if somebody from the outside takes care of it. You guys have been together awhile.”
Milner shook his head. “It’s not my call. We’ll wait until we get back to the C-17. Chief Cole will have to make the decision, he runs the show.”
Cordoba continued slowly forward, sluicing the snow aside and clearing a pathway close to the airport terminal perimeter walls. Kauffmann followed close behind in the fuel truck. I glanced in the side mirror and saw the crowd of zombies fade away into the blizzard.
Milner tried to contact Chief Cole on the radio once again. This time the Navy Chief responded, much to my surprise.
“Milner? Where the hell have you been?” Cole’s deep voice boomed through the headsets.
Milner briefly recounted the sequence of events we’d endured inside the terminal
, he gave an existing head count and explained the current situation.
“The four MIA’s made it back to the aircraft,” Cole stated. “They got out the building when you guys got split.”
“Roger that,” Milner sighed. “At least that’s one piece of good news.”
“We’ll get the Humvee ready and some extra guys on the ground outside and prep the refueling crew,” Cole said. “
Good job, guys. Keep going, you can’t be far away.”
Cordoba had to maneuver the plow around several snow covered objects protruding from the ground. We didn’t know what the hell was buried under the snowdrifts and didn’t want to drive over the top in case the shapes turned out to be gas tanks or small vehicles or anything explosive and combustible. We were too close to completion to fuck up now.
We rounded the terminal building corner and made out the shape of the C-17, covered in snow on the length of its body and the wings. The aircraft emerged from the snowy haze, big and gray against the icy white backdrop. The ramp hung open and several figures meandered around the opening. A welcome, yellow glow from the aircraft’s interior light reflected on the snow on the ground around the ramp. The Humvee slowly drove down the slope and turned facing us side on as we approached. The heavy machine gun attached to the turret on top swept the horizon in steady arcs.
“I never thought I’d be so glad to see a military aircraft,” Smith sighed.
Cordoba swung the snowplow alongside the C-17 then snaked the vehicle in a series of ‘S’ shapes, clearing an area for the fuel truck to park up. Kauffmann waited a few yards away, motionless in the gas tanker while she cleared the snow.
When Cordoba was done,
Kauffmann pulled the gas tanker alongside the C-17 and the refueling crew went to work, busily rolling out the thick hose and pumping the aviation fuel into the aircraft.
Cordoba parked the
snowplow next to the Humvee. We grabbed our weapons and climbed out of the cab onto the snowy runway. A brawny, hooded figure jumped out of the Humvee passenger seat and strolled through the flurry to meet us.
“Good work, people but we’ll have to take care of Dyson,”
Chief Cole barked. “We can’t afford to put everybody else’s life in jeopardy, especially not when we’re in mid-air.”
Milner nodded. “We don’t know how long he’s got.”
Cole called over two of the Marines standing on guard. He turned his back to us and talked quietly to the two guys. They nodded and headed towards the fuel truck.
“I know it’s a shitty thing to do,” Cole shouted above the howling wind. “But we all know the outcome if somebody gets bit.”
I watched as the two Marines pulled a bloodied figure from the fuel truck cab. They carried the body, who I recognized as Dyson, out onto the runway and disappeared from view into the haze. I knew what was coming but still flinched when I heard a single gunshot from somewhere in the fog. The two Marines emerged from the icy mist and their slouched body language told me they hadn’t relished their brutal task.
They nodded once at Cole as they passed by. Job reluctantly done. Cole responded with an appreciative nod of his own and the two Marines returned to sentry duties beside the refueling truck.
I was desperate for a cigarette to help calm my nerves but I knew smoking while in the vicinity of pumping aviation fuel was a big no-no.
We stood in silence in a horizontal line with our M-16’s at the ready, staring into the snowstorm, waiting for the refueling crew to finish up and watching out for any zombies stumbling through the blizzard towards us.
Capaldi’s voice through the headsets broke the silence. “Sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings, guys but the fuel on that tanker is not going to be enough to reach our intended destination.”
“Shit!” Cole growled through his hood.
“There are two more trucks inside the motor pool,” Milner said. “Both are gassed up to the brim.”
“Looks like we’ll have to go back in there and get them, I’m sorry to say,” Cole groaned.
I felt my body physically sag. We’d been through hell to get the fuel truck out to the aircraft and now we were going to have to go do it all again. I didn’t know how much more my nerves could take.
Chief Cole suggested Smith and I sit this mission out but we wanted to be involved. We knew the motor pool layout and could provide directions back through the blizzard. Cole reluctantly agreed and briefed the personnel he chose to re-enter the terminal building.
I was pleased when he picked me to ride shotgun alongside Cordoba in the snowplow. Smith and Kauffmann would return with us and hop into the next fuel tanker when we got back inside the motor pool. An aircrew driver, Milner, Amato, and the two Marines who took care of Dyson would follow us in the Humvee to provide extra fire power and cover us when we swapped vehicles. I handed over the sets of gas truck keys and the M-9 handgun to Kauffmann.
Cole wished us luck and told us not to waste any time in returning. I didn’t intend to prolong our stay at Halifax Airport in the middle of a freezing winter snowstorm. Cordoba pulled away in the
snowplow once again, with the Humvee following in our wake.
We’d trundled slowly along, following our same route through the furrows we’d
previously made in the blanket of snow, when we saw shuffling shapes emerging from the fog, heading towards us. The bedraggled, walking corpses seemed unaffected by the harsh weather and fanned out in lumbering files across the snow cleared trail.
“Hostiles heading our way,” Cordoba informed Milner through the radio headset.
“Roger that,” Milner responded. “Lukas is ready in the turret on the M2.”
We heard the rattle of the heavy machine gun a few seconds later and the undead bodies began to drop into the snow. Cordoba didn’t deviate from the already cleared path and the plow blade sliced through any zombies who came to close.
We didn’t have much difficulty relocating the motor pool door we’d smashed through making our breakout. The fallen roller door lay bent and buckled on the ground by the open entranceway, already with a thin layer of snow forming over it.
Cordoba bounced the vehicle over the top of the twisted metal structure and back inside the motor pool. It felt as though we were returning to the scene of a crime when I saw all the bloody and broken bodies lying around the floor space. Cordoba moved the
snowplow at a crawl towards the two fuel trucks on the opposite side of the motor pool. She U-turned our vehicle and backed up a few feet in front of the gas tankers. I noticed a large bloody puddle surrounding a pile of guts, bones and gore on the ground, slightly to the left of the empty parking space where we’d moved the gas truck earlier. Shredded remains of combat fatigues and cold weather gear lay amongst the gruesome mess and I realized it was all that was left of poor Swann.
“Jesus,” I muttered, as I studied the grisly remnants. It was hard to believe the pile of bloody pulp used to be a walking, talking, breathing human being not more than an hour before. A lone, skinny male zombie crouched over the leftovers, sucking the flesh off what looked like a leg bone.
Milner drove the Humvee around in a tight circle in front of the
snowplow cab, checking the area for hazards. A few zombies still milled around the motor pool and began their slow, lumbering approach.
don’t shoot around the gas tankers,” Cordoba warned the rest of the crew through the radio.
Milner brought the Humvee to a halt
, broadside on to the snowplow cab and Amato, the aircrew driver and the other Marine jumped out the back doors. Lukas, the other Marine stayed in position in the heavy duty machine gun turret while the others sprinted towards the aviation gas trucks. Amato picked up a wrench from the floor and weighed it in his hand. He clumped the heavy tool around the back of the bone sucking zombie’s head as he moved by the horrific clutter of Swann’s human residue.
“Okay, go guys,” Cordoba hollered at Smith and
Kauffmann. “Let’s get these damn trucks moving.”
opened the passenger door and him and Smith bum shuffled across the front seat.
“Do you want me to show you where the battery jumper is?” I asked.
Smith laughed beneath his hood. “I think we can manage okay, kid.” He slapped me on the shoulder as he and Kauffmann clambered out of the cab.
They disappeared from view, running alongside the
snowplow body. Cordoba kept a watch on events through the side mirror. I wanted to say something to her about the way I felt now that we were alone.
We heard shouts of encouragement and instructions coming from between the gas trucks. Lukas fired off a few well aimed single shots from the Humvee machine gun turret at any zombies who came too close. The heads of the undead exploded into brown mist when the .50 caliber bullets hit their target.