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Fiction – Ruth’s Story #25 Getting ready to spend the night in the middle of I5

April 5, 2012

“I can ask,” she huskily whispers back to me. “We have more equipment now than people and more weapons than ammo. Stragglers have been wandering in all day. Unless they are military, friends or family, we have turned them away. Your group I did not expect we would have offered aid but apparently you made an impression on two soldiers who spoke on your behalf to the colonels.”

As I come around the car to Carol’s side, I see the medical officer has walked off towards what I assume is the medical tent. I see his slender back disappear as he ducks into the shelter.

“Why don’t you come into the radio shack for now? You can eat there and talk with the other radio operator if you want,” Carol says. She continues, “You and I make 50% of the female population in this camp, so you want to be careful. There have not been any problems yet, but you never know. Us ladies are kinda a rare commodity. There have been rumors of gangs abducting women for sex slaves. Thoughts like that give me the creeps.”

With that Carol turns and walks toward the north-center section of the barrier and ducks underneath the edge of the tarp. I quickly follow Carol anxious not to lose her in the dark.

Beneath the tarp (which I realize is made of layers of ripped FEMA tents, civilian blue plastic tarps and pieces of military issue canvas tents) it is nice. Out of the slight breeze it is a bit warmer inside the shelter. Several burning candles; some sheltered in small glass lantern covers gives the shelter a faint smoky light and probably adds a little bit of warmth.

Towards the rear of the shelter up against the side of a M985 HEMTT truck are a few folding plastic picnic tables. Various military communications gear is scattered across these tables. I spot at least three PRC-277s and one PRC-377. At least two PRC-77s radios are tore apart their parts scattered all over the tables.

To the left of the pile of military radios is a large flat gray cinder block. Resting on top of this cinder block is a cold, small folding metal Esbit stove. Resting on top of the Esbit stove is an aluminum, G.I. issue folding canteen cup.

Sitting at the table with all the military radios, using the PRC-377 is a pale Caucasian male with finger-length wavy sandy brown hair. This man is not terribly tall maybe around five feet ten inches tall but he has broad shoulders with smooth well-defined muscles. He wears a pale blue and white horizontally striped wife beater tee shirt. A thin brown leather belt holds his solid O.D. green BDU pants to his hips. Scuffed, low-heeled brown leather boots shuffle under the table.

Draped over the back of the folding metal chair in which he sits, is a solid O.D. green military blouse. He has a bit of a five-o-clock shadow and appears to be about as average a white male as you can get. He holds one ear piece from a set of head phones to his right ear while exceedingly slowly turning the dial on the radio.

Carol gestures at the soldier and says, “This is Nikola, the other radio operator.”

I note with interest, the ugly as sin black and brown weapon lying on the table that confirms my suspicion about Nikola. The rifle is a extremely rare ex-Soviet VSS (Vintovka Snayperskaya Spetsialnaya) 9x39mm special purpose sniper rifle with its attached suppressor. Made at the Tula Arsenal and often mistaken for a SVD because it shares a similar wooden stock, the VSS is a truly magnificent piece of Soviet engineering. I have only heard of these rifles as they are exceedingly rare outside the former Soviet Union. In the Mossad, we were briefed on the VSS as they do occasionally show up in the arms market.

I see the VSS (also called a “thread cutter” for some reason) is wearing the typical Soviet optic and a twenty round magazine from the AS rifle. The ammo for the VSS was rather rare back in the day, only made during the early 1980s. I wonder how many of the proprietary 9x39mm rounds the Spetsnaz sailor has left.

I ask Nikola, “How long have you been in the Spetsnaz?” in Russian.

Nikola turns and looks me at the sound of my voice speaking Russian. I see that he is fairly young probably not yet out of his twenties.

He replies in Russian, “Your Russian is very good, you sound like a Moscovite.”

I reply still in Russian, “That is because my instructor was originally from Moscow and I picked up her accent.”

Switching to English Nikola says, “I am the lone surviving member of my platoon.”

I ask Nikola in English, “How many rounds do you have left for the VSS?”

Nikola looks in surprise at me and asks in English, “You know what this rifle is?”

I reply, “I am familiar with its capabilities, but I have never seen a real one other than in pictures until today.”

Nikola replies, “I have enough ammunition for right now although I will not be shooting the thread cutter in full auto mode.”

Carol has watched us through this who exchange. She asks, “Ruth, how did you know Nicky was Spetsnaz?”

“Nicky, huh” I think to myself. I reply (out loud), “The tee shirt is a clue but the rifle is a dead giveaway. The VSS was only issued to Spetsnaz units.”

Carol nods at me and says, “Well I see you will get along well with Starshina 2nd-class Aleksashkin. We are the only Russian-speaking sailors left, not that means a whole lot now.”

“Any luck?” Carol asks Nikola placing her left hand on his left shoulder.

“Nothing but static,” Nikola replies tossing the headphones on the table in obvious disgust. “I am going to stretch my legs.”

Carol replies, “OK, Nicky I will watch the gear, see you later.”

Nikola stands and lifting his blouse, puts it on. Grabbing his VSS rifle and tossing the brown webbed rifle sling over his right shoulder, he nods at me, kisses Carol lightly on the cheek and leaves the shack.

“Welcome to the Radio Shack,” Carol says. “Nicky was part of a Spetsnaz company that was sent in to cauterize the zombie infection around the Aral Sea and Lake Balkhash. China had been fighting the zombie infection for nearly six months carpet bombing an area near the Yarkant River. The Chinese forces did an excellent job of getting most of the population evacuated, and were able to maintain and halt most of the spread of the zombie infection. The Chinese were also the first to use several nuclear weapons. By all accounts the Chinese did an excellent job preventing the spread of the KCAP virus for several months. There have been some suggestions that had China asked for help from the international community, things might not have gotten this bad.”

Carol pauses for breath and continues, “Unfortunately some of the zombies escaped but probably could have been controlled until engineers from Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan dynamited the dams holding water from Lake Balkhash. The engineers tried to drown the zombies but far too many zombies survived the flood and spread the infection that much faster. The zombie infection spread all over Asia and into southern Europe. Within 72 hours it was a pandemic once it reached a major population area.”

Carol pulls one of the chairs out and gestures to it for me while she pulls out Nikola’s chair. She removes her M16 (I was right it is an A2) and sets it on the table where the VSS was lying. She sits down and pulls her MRE dinner out.

“So how did Nicky get here from Russia?” I ask Carol.

“Oh, when things got really bad in Russia his company stole an Antonov An-124 and landed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord a couple of weeks ago,” Carol replies.

I plop into the chair that Carol offered me, setting my AR15 across my knees. I pull my own MRE dinner out. Carol and I sit in relative comfortable silence. We use a little water from a naked O.D. green canteen on the table to activate the food heater included in the MREs and eat our dinners in relative quiet. The hissing of radio static is the only accompaniment to our dinner.

I notice that both of our MRE dinners turned out to be BBQ ham steak with peanut M&Ms for desert. Good thing I never tried to remain kosher. Carol and I polish off our dinner; police our trash, both of us familiar with the military rituals.

After disposing of our trash, Carol reaches underneath the table pulling aside an old woodland camouflage tarp to reveal a medium-sized, square blue plastic Igloo cooler. Opening the white plastic lid on the Igloo, Carol reaches inside and pulls out two aluminum cans of Coors beer, offering one can to me.

“They’re warm,” she says to me.

I shrug at her and accept the offered can of beer. Unlike most women, I actually prefer beer to wine and hard liquor.

“How much beer do you have?” I ask Carol.

“We have a few cases that the guys took from some looters they shot yesterday. Not sure how much is left. The colonels said everyone can have one can or bottle of beer no bigger than 16 ounces each day. I am positive not everyone is following the rule, because some of the guys are already out of beer.” Ruth replies pausing to crack open her can of Coors.

I nod at her and crack my own can open, the familiar smell of beer is refreshing. I take a full deep drink of my beer, and although warm, the beer still tastes delicious.

“Nicky likes the beer a lot too and as the only radio operators left, we got our own ration of beer,” Carol says.

The wistful way Carol says the Spetsnaz sailor’s name I wonder if there is something between them, not that it is any of my concern. Nikola is certainly handsome with a fine physique and I could see how a woman like Carol could be attracted to him. I certainly would not toss him out of my bed even if he ate crackers in it.

Finishing my beer, I stand and stretch holding my AR15 in my right hand. While the MRE is not exactly fine cuisine, it is filling. With a full stomach (the first time in let’s see six days) and a can of beer I am suddenly sleepy.

Carol finishes her beer and stands as well. While standing, I look over the radio sets and see that most are on, hooked to large external batteries and long antennas. The utter silence of so many military radios is disturbing.

While Carol and I are standing, Nikola slides back into the tent his VSS rifle held at port arms. I notice he is wearing an old American woodland green camouflage floppy boonie hat and a pair of American night vision goggles (NVG) tilted up so he can see.

He walks up to Carol and lightly kisses her on the cheek confirming my suspicion about the pair of radio techs. Most of the Spets guys I knew were in communication or signal outfits for some reason, I am not sure why I had that odd thought right this moment.

I notice Nikola is now wearing an old O.D. green nylon U.S. Army pistol belt with the old plastic buckle. Hanging from his pistol belt on the right side is a newer H&K Mark 23 .45 pistol with an attached suppressor in a Kydex Serpa holster. Holstered in another Kydex sheath on his left side is his Spetsnaz fighting shovel.

Nikola places his VSS rifle back on the table and takes his belt off and sets it on the table over his VSS rifle. He then plops into the chair that Carol was sitting in while we ate.

“How’d it go?” Carol asks him sitting in his lap. Carol wraps her arms Nikola’s neck and kisses him. “Uhh, you’re all damp,” she says.

Nikola wraps his hands around Carol’s ample ass, and replies (in English), “I washed off. The perimeter is secure. For some reason zombies stand still in dark. When a zombie cannot see it stands still. Wearing the NVGs, we walk up to them and stand in front of them with no reaction. The rest of the SF guys were using NVGs to walk up to zombie and shoot them in head execution-style but then we realized that was a waste of ammunition so we started using our shovels and hatchets. A few of American Rangers have new clones of old Vietnam antipersonnel hatchet and were using those to kill zombies quite well. The American Ranger Sargent-Major has this ebanatyi pidaraz wicked hatchet made by some company called GG&G. That hatchet goes through zombie head like Politburo through vodka.”

“I am going to go check on the people that I was travelling with,” I tell them.

I duck out of the radio shack carrying my AR15 and walk back to the snow plow. I see the soldiers have given the riders enough tarps to cover the bed of the snow plow. Most of the people are bedded down in the sand; a couple of blanket wrapped bundles under the truck might be a few other riders.

One of the bundles under the snow plow moves, revealing Rick. “What’s up Ruth?” he asks.

“Uh, I was just seeing if everyone is OK,” I reply softly, dropping to one knee gently on the concrete.

“Yeah we are doing OK. The soldiers really came through for us. We have decided to head for highway two and head over Stevens Pass. Once over Stevens Pass, we are heading north for Canada,” Rick tells me.

“Sounds good,” I tell him. “But why highway two and this route?” I ask.

“Highway two should be pretty empty especially going east. I hope to avoid the larger concentrations of people. The eastern side of this state had a lot fewer people than the west side. Less people means less zombies. I learned from the soldiers that there have been way fewer zombies on the eastern side. Some of these guys are from Yakima and Spokane, and they tell me the only real bad spot was around Spokane.”

“Well I am heading for the Snohomish Armory which is off highway two anyway. I promised one of the Guardsmen that I met at the airport that I would check the armory out there,” I tell Rick. Rick shrugs at me.

“OK, get some sleep, sorry to disturb you, Rick” I tell him. “This may be our last chance to sleep undisturbed in a long time.”

Rick bundles back up as I walk away going back towards the radio shack. While it is only a couple of steps across the courtyard, I am breaking the “go nowhere alone” rule. The first full meal and beer have hit me, I need to grab a buddy, so I can visit the latrine.

  1. BobOK permalink

    I enjoy your story and am grateful to you for sharing it.

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