Table of Contents
Also by Craig DiLouie
Paranoia The Great Planet Robbery
This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this novel are fictitious and not intended to represent real people or places.
Although the locale where this story takes place is a real one, various liberties have been taken, and this book does not purport to offer an exact depiction of any particular place or location.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the publisher.
TOOTH AND NAIL
Copyright © 2010 by Craig DiLouie
Schmidt Haus Books
.A Salvo Press Imprint
Main cover istockphoto image by Ninjaprints, London
Cover istockphoto image of gas mask by Andreas Gradin
eISBN : 97-8-160-97700-3
For Christine and Mieka
A lot of people helped make this book possible, but I owe special thanks to two: Anthony McCurdy, friend and veteran of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), and Chris DiLouie, my brother, writing comrade and always ready editor.
AG: Assistant gunner
AO: Area of operations
AWOL: Absent without leave
BDU: Battle dress uniform
CDC: Centers for Disease Control
CO: Commanding officer
FEMA: Federal Emergency Management Agency
FPF: Final protective fire
HE: Heavy explosives
HEAT: Heavy explosive anti-tank
HK: Hong Kong (as in Hong Kong Lyssa)
H&S: Headquarters & Supply
HVAC: Heating, ventilation and air conditioning
ID: Infantry division
IED: Improvised explosive device
KP: Kitchen police
LAV: Light armored vehicle
LAV-R: Light armored vehicle (recovery model)
1LT: First Lieutenant
2LT: Second Lieutenant
MIA: Missing in action
MG: Machine gun
MP: Military police
MRE: Meal ready to eat
NCO: Non-commissioned officer
PFC: Private First Class
POGs: People other than grunts
ROE: Rules of engagement
ROTC: Reserve Officers’ Training Corps
RPG: Rocket-propelled grenade
RTO: Radio/Telephone operator
SAW: Squad automatic weapon
SINCGAR: Single-channel ground and airborne radio system
TOW: Tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided missile
USAF: United States Air Force
USAMRIID: United States Army Medical Research Institute for
VCIED: Vehicle-concealed improvised explosive device
WP: White phosphorous
XO: Executive officer
“Never will I fail my country’s trust.
Always I fight on—
Through the foe,
To the objective,
To triumph over all.
If necessary, I fight to my death.”
—From “The Infantryman’s Creed”
“Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster.”
The end of the world will not come without a war
Standing at the checkpoint behind concertina wire and sandbags, sweating in his body armor and holding an M4 carbine, PFC Jon Mooney closes his eyes and instantly falls asleep on his feet, nodding under the weight of his Kevlar helmet. Then his eyes flutter open and he believes, just for an instant, that he’s still in Iraq manning a roadblock in Baghdad’s Adamiyah District, with Apaches throbbing overhead and Iraqi kids hawking cold sodas and sniper rifles popping in the windows.
His heart racing, his eyes flicker, assessing threats, and settle on the giant billboard across the intersection for what seems like the hundredth time. The big ad, packed with models frolicking in a frothy pink bubble bath, is mounted over a Burger King nestled between a nameless electronics store and a discount clothing shop. He doesn’t understand the ad, doesn’t even know what it is supposed to be selling. It calls to him, promises some sort of escape he desperately wants right now, but cannot name.
This is not Iraq. This is New York City.
The Burger King and all of the stores are closed on this part of First Avenue due to the epidemic, their fronts screened by black metal grates as if the street were a giant prison. Abandoned cars and litter choke the streets and sidewalks radiating out from the checkpoint up to the concrete roadblocks placed a block away.
This is supposed to be home.
Midtown Manhattan looms over this grimy street scene, skyscraper windows winking in the sun. Mooney squints into the light until he finds the gleaming crown of the Chrysler Building. Everything looks quiet, almost serene up there. A man could stop and rest for a while in the breeze.
Forty-six hours ago, he was sitting on a runway halfway around the world with the rest of Charlie Company’s Second Platoon, waiting for his ride home. Of course, they weren’t calling it a retreat. The Brass called it the Emergency Redeployment, the officers on the ground called it the Extraction, and the enlisted called it Suckfest and the Mother of all Clusterfucks and “a great way to get killed.” Whatever you wanted to call it, the military began pulling out tens of thousands of soldiers all at once while the Iraqi government folded up into the Green Zone and the tribes-men returned to settling old scores when they had time between fanatical attacks on the retreating Americans.
The soldiers, returning home on anything that could fly or float, were redeployed throughout the United States. The logistics of the withdrawal of forces from bases around the world back to the homeland boggled the mind. Mooney’s light infantry rifle platoon, still burned by the Middle Eastern sun and digging sand out of their pockets, got assigned this stretch of First Avenue in Manhattan.
The mission: Provide security for Trinity Hospital.
Not exactly the homecoming that Mooney had been looking forward for the past year, but at least nobody was shooting at him anymore.
Near the checkpoint, the old man has returned and is again hounding people trying to get through the soldiers and into the hospital. “I wouldn’t go in there if I was you,” he warns. He’s clean shaven, with long, scraggly gray hair. He wears a T-shirt that announces: THE SMARTEST DUDE IN THE ROOM.
“But I’m hungry,” a man says. “The stores are low on food and I’ve got nothing.”
Corporal Eckhardt, Mooney’s team leader, waves through a young woman obviously infected with Hong Kong Lyssa, supported by a man who could have been her husband or boyfriend. The woman is lit up with fever and twitching.
“Sorry,” Eckhardt is saying to those next in line. “We are not doing food distribution at this post. Here’s a list of sites you can try. The list is from the City Government.”
“People go in there,” the old man says, nodding at everybody within eyeshot. “But they don’t come out.”
The old bastard is practically gloating over this news.
Mooney sighs as he watches people streaming through the abandoned cars, seeking care among Trinity’s rapidly dwindling beds. The infected never seem to stop coming. He’s tired of military service. But soon it will all be over for Jon Mooney. Twenty-seven days and a wakeup, his discharge comes through and he’s out of the Army, and Alpha Mike Foxtrot—
motherfucker—to Iraq, New York and the rest of it.
The days are crawling by. He and most of the other guys in the platoon are kids, nineteen or twenty years old, but they wear patches on both shoulders, indicating that they have combat experience, that they are veterans. They are infantry: lean and fit and hungry. Mooney is tired and he has already seen too much that he’d like to forget. He just wants to go home and return to collecting vintage records and staying up until two in the morning watching bad TV. He’d like to see if he can get things going with Laura again. Maybe get his own place, some secret refuge where he can be alone for a while.
“Next!” barks Eckhardt. “Come on, let’s go, people.”
“Everybody goes in there, but nobody ever comes out!” the old man crows.
“Mister, I believe it’s time for you to shut your dicktrap,” says Specialist Martin from Weapons Squad, leaning over his tripod-mounted .30-caliber M240 perched on a pile of sandbags and aimed up First Avenue. Sitting on the ground next to him, the assistant gunner, the guy everybody calls Boomer, laughs.