69) Super Sunday, 2/21: 6:00 AM and After… “Because We’re Americans?”
The pilot of the great, Black Hawk chopper, Captain Rausch, circled the One World Mall, desperately peering out onto a vista of desolation, chaos and fire. He turned to his co-pilot and Navigator, Lieutenant Mabry, saying…
“Any luck trying to raise LeeBee?”
“Trying,” Mabry echoed. “Nothing. Haven’t heard from the local commander… fella by the name of Capps… since a quarter to five. Parking lot’s full of bogeys… must be five hundred people ‘round the place and they don’t look too happy…”
“Maybe more than we oughta take on…” Rausch considered.
Mabry looked back into the belly of the Hawk. Ten fully-armed Screaming Eagles were waiting expectantly, weapons at hand, the prospect of combat pungent in the air as smoke from the burning mall. He turned back, glancing out the side window, pointed…
“Looks like a bunch of people on the roof, I count four… oh shit, there’s all sorts of bogeys coming through that other door… whattya think?” He lifted binoculars to his eyes.
“Recognize any of those four…” Rausch questioned.
“Can’t see… they’re civilians. One of ‘em looks hurt, might be Sonny if he’s wearing that idiot toupee,” Mabry snorted, derisively, “… there’s also a woman…”
The Captain licked his lips. “Giga-Grrrl?”
“Not dressed like one. Might be… we don’t go down there, they gotta life expectancy of about five minutes…” the Lieutenant guessed.
Captain Rausch made up his mind. “They might possess information. We’re goin’ in… open the hatch and have the boys ready to rumble…”
“If it ain’t Sonny…”
“We extract what they know and toss ‘em back…”
Beneath, Tom, Westy, and Kristi waved frantically towards the big, black bird with the Screaming Eagles logo as zombies at the north end of the burning mall fanned out, staggering forward. Two more sections of roof collapsed into incandescent flames – the southwest corner above Mad Sam’s Steakhouse and a smaller section to the north, above where the chocolatíer had provided a delicious grave for Jack Gobelman. As the Hawk settled down on the middle of the roof, they raced towards the copter, Westy and Tom helping Kristi drag a befuddled David forward across the melting tar. Rausch opened his window to face General Westmoreland Soames.
“We’re here to pick up Big Sonny Sonnenschein…” the Captain said,
Westy shook his head. “He’s dead. I saw him go…”
“Shit!” Rausch clenched a fist, pounded the dashboard. “What about Faubourg, Fred Faubourg… big fellow, suit and tie. Captain Lester Capps? The Giga-Grrrlz… Jarlo Knupp?”
“Still down there,” said Tom Eppert. “Think some of the girls got out of Giga-Plex, after that…”
He shrugged. Behind them, automatic gunfire erupted as the Screaming Eagles in the belly of the Hawk mowed down the vanguard of an advancing zombie army. The remainder, some still clutching their loot, some abandoning it, fled back towards the fiery portal, dodging more sections of roof as they collapsed.
“S’a no go, Captain…” Mabry shook his head, “better abort, and quick. Place is gonna do a World Trade Center any moment, now!”
“Fuck! OK, we’re aborting…” Rausch turned to his navigator. “Tell they guys to close the hatch and hang on…”
“You’re just gonna leave us here?” Tom protested. “You’re not gonna let us on?”
Kristi Chaine reached into her purse for a badge that she held against the window. “Because I am Manager of the Research Division, Federal Communications Commission, and, since Mr. Cooth also perished recently, acting FCC Manager? Which makes Mr. Lee, here, interim Research Manager. We’re important people…”
“Because we’re Americans?” Westy added, as David rubbed a smear of blood from his head and blinked…
“Citizens?” Tom appealed…
“Well… alright, Lou, give ‘em a minute, only the government personnel – you others can’t get in, no ride…” the pilot warned Kristi, “better leave the two lame-os behind and I’ll forget that part about the FCC…”
“We’re not leaving anyone behind…” Kristi disagreed, and Tom and Westy shook their heads in concord.
Pilot and navigator looked at one another… looked out across the abomination of the desolation… looked at one another again.
“Stop arguin’, then, and start hustlin’…” Mabry shot back, then picked up his com, “…hold it on the door a minute, back there…”
The three survivors dragged David around to the side of the Hawk where two Screaming Eagles pulled him into the copter. As the others exchanged fire with the last of the howling zombies, Tom and Westy pushed Kristi up then vaulted into the belly of the bird as it lifted off… seconds before the entire midsection of the Mall collapsed into a pit of fire and screaming, cursing looters. Rolling across the floor of the Hawk, clothes in scorched tatters and head bleeding profusely, David looked up, asking Kristi…
“So… you wanna catch the game at my place tonight?”
And, as the One World Mall imploded entirely, flames knifing through the first pink and purple shadows of the dawn, the helicopter soared away into the night.
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