Now we’re back to offer our weekly free Thriller excerpt:
From the author of the sensational Amazon.com bestseller, Alice in Deadland, comes another unique and action packed take on the zombie genre.It began with stories of undead Taliban rampaging through Afghan villages, and faster than anyone could have anticipated; the darkness spreads through the world.
In a world laid waste by this new terror, four unlikely companions have been thrown together- a seventeen year old boy dealing with the loss of his family, a US Navy SEAL trying to get back home, an aging, lonely writer with nobody to live for, and a young girl trying to keep her three year old brother safe.
When they discover that the smallest amongst them holds the key to removing the scourge that threatens to destroy their world, they begin an epic journey to a rumoured safe zone high in the Himalayas. A journey that will pit them against their own worst fears and the most terrible dangers- both human and undead.
A journey through a wasteland now known as Zombiestan.
And here, for your reading pleasure, is our free excerpt:
Mullah Omar sat down for what would be the last meal of his life.
Of course, at that point he had no way of knowing that this would be last time he would have his frugal meal of dates, bread and figs, but years of living on the run from the Americans had taught him that death could be lurking around any corner. Death was not something that worried him, but the one fear he did have was that he would not be able to see his plans through. The men he was meeting today were his best and perhaps his last hope that he may yet live to see the day when the Taliban once again ruled over Afghanistan and that the Americans paid dearly for the devastation they had brought upon his people. Next to him was a man who looked like a portly college professor, with thick glasses, and a flowing white beard, sharing in his meal.
Ayman Al-Zawahiri looked at Omar, sensing the man’s apprehension about coming into the open.
‘My brother, eat well. After today, we will feast as our enemies burn and rot!’
Omar just shrugged and continued eating. Al-Zawahiri may have sounded confident, but he had his own fears to contend with. After Osama Bin Laden had been killed just months earlier in a US raid on his hideout in Abbotabad, Al-Zawahiri had been whisked away by his minders in the Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence from his safehouse in Peshawar to a small village on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Both Al Qaeda leaders had been given sanctuary in Pakistan by elements of the Pakistani Intelligence agency, but with the daring US raid to kill Osama in the heart of Pakistan, his minders had told him they could no longer guarantee his safety. Al-Zawahiri had tried to reach out to the Al Qaeda foot soldiers, confident that he could take on the mantle of leadership that Osama had once worn but was shocked when they paid him no heed. He didn’t have the charisma, the vision, or so he heard of them whispering when he was not around. That was why he had hatched this plan, one so audacious that even Osama would never have dreamed of it, and co-opted Mullah Omar, who had come out of hiding in the caves to join him in organizing the mission. He knew that without Mullah Omar’s help in organizing logistics and security inside Afghanistan and Pakistan, his plan would never get off the ground.
The four men with them looked much like Mullah Omar, gaunt and lean from years of living as fugitives in their own land, wearing black turbans that the Taliban favoured, and armed to the teeth. Compared to them, their two visitors looked woefully out of place. They were overweight, dressed in ill fitting suits and looked out of breath and tired from the journey that had brought them from Pakistan to the small hut nestled on a perch in the Shahikot valley in Afghanistan.
One of them tried to say something, as if anxious to get the business he had come for over with, but Mullah Omar silenced him with a single wave of his hand. He never liked being disturbed while eating. That was a habit he had picked up from his mercurial friend. Osama’s memory stung as Mullah Omar recalled how the Americans had shot his friend dead in cold blood. He had no great love for the fat Egyptian doctor who fancied himself a revolutionary and thought he could fill Osama’s boots, but he was willing to help in a plan that would both avenge Osama’s death and bring the Taliban back to power in Afghanistan.
Al-Zawahiri turned to one of the Pakistanis.
‘Now, show me what you’ve brought.’
The man he had addressed was sweating profusely despite the cold outside, and wiped at his brow with a handkerchief.
‘We want to serve the struggle against the infidels. That’s why we are here.’
Mullah Omar’s eyes narrowed as he studied the man. A soft, city bred, corrupt government scientist. Intelligence had shown that in spite all his claims of piety, he indulged in loose women and gambling. Mullah Omar shook his head sadly at what things had come to. Just a few years ago, a sinner such as this would have been stoned to death. Now he not only had to deal with them, but had to pay them.
‘Hamid, I know all about how pious you are. The five million dollars you seek are with us. Now, just show me what you have and let’s all get out of here.’
The man called Hamid motioned to his companion, who had been sitting a few feet behind him. The man got up and asked the Taliban bodyguards to help him. Two of the black turbaned men helped him pull two heavy boxes into the middle of the room. Mullah Omar studied the boxes curiously. He had never received formal education and to him, the babblings the scientists subjected him to meant nothing. He knew that science was nothing before the will of Allah. Otherwise how would a mere village preacher like him have been blessed with the opportunity to lead the faithful in Afghanistan? That conviction had helped him keep his faith even after the infidels had invaded his land and scattered his men.
Hamid started talking, something about Caesium 137 bought from the Chechens, Uranium from Pakistani stocks, Botolinum from Libya and something called Tetrodotoxin. Mullah Omar felt his head hurting from the complicated words, and then stopped Hamid.
‘I know nothing of all of this. I just want to know if what you claim this can do for us is true. Abu Jafar, is this as these men claim?’
The man called Abu Jafar leaned towards Mullah Omar. He may have looked like the other Taliban bodyguards, but he was in fact a biotechnology doctorate from an Ivy League university. He had spent the first thirty years of his life as an unremarkable Iraqi immigrant in the US, working as a researcher at a leading pharmaceutical company. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the exhortations of the preacher at his local mosque had brought him into the fold, and with his education and qualifications, Osama and Mullah Omar had realized he was meant for greater missions than strapping on a bomb and blowing himself up.
‘I have confirmed it. If we use these wisely, we could bring the infidels to their knees.’
Al-Zawahiri, an educated man unlike Omar, was rubbing his hands in satisfaction. Before coming to the meeting, he had done his research on the material these Pakistani scientists claimed to have. He knew that used correctly, they could devastate the West. The Americans had made such a fuss about Weapons of Mass Destruction, and even destroyed Iraq hunting for fictional WMDs. Now Al-Zawahiri would show them what Mass Destruction really meant- when several Western capitals were all hit simultaneously, each with a different weapon. He smiled at Hamid.
‘Then Allah has indeed shown us the way. Give these men their just rewards and send them on their way.’
Mullah Omar and Al-Zawahiri retreated to the back of the hut while two of the Taliban bodyguards stepped behind the Pakistanis and shot them once each in the back of the head.
‘Muzzle flashes! I see muzzle flashes, Sir!’
Captain David Bremsak immediately held up his high-powered binoculars to take a closer look at the hut. He could see nothing inside, but he trusted Dan, the sniper in his small four man team. If Dan had seen muzzle flashes inside then it was clear that the hut was occupied by someone other than a shepherd taking an afternoon nap. He turned to the bearded man wearing dark wraparound sunglasses to his left.
‘Mike, I think we have ourselves something here.’
Mike Fotiou just nodded with a slight smile and picked up his portable radio.
‘Eagle Eye, confirm hostile targets at the last co-ordinates we sent.’
There was a click in response, as Mike took off his glasses and looked at David with his blue eyes.
‘You know what I could really do with? A cold beer and some juicy steak.’
David laughed. They had been trekking in the mountains of the Paktia province of Afghanistan for the last fifteen days, living off their rations and the land. They were members of the secretive Task Force 121, created to hunt down HVTs, so called High Value Targets, in the seemingly never-ending `war on terror’. Osama was dead and fish food by now, but his acolytes were hard at work, and David’s job was to hunt them down.
David reached into his pack and took out some chewing gum.
‘This is the best I can offer by way of hospitality.’
Mike popped it into his mouth and smiled. The two other men also took the gum that David passed around. Dan already had his eyes glued to the scope of his M82A1 Barrett sniper rifle, while the fourth man, Rob, was to his right, his own M4 carbine at his shoulder. The four of them had been inserted into the area when a local informant had passed on news that Mullah Omar, the one-eyed Taliban leader and Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Osama’s deputy, were both reputed to be on the move. In the world of HVTs, that was about as high as it got, and their mission was to report in on movements, and call in air strikes if they found anything.
David saw that Mike had his own M4 at the ready by his side. In his two years with TF121, David had worked with a lot of other spooks, but what made Mike better than most CIA desk jockeys who joined them on missions was the fact that he had been an Army Ranger before joining the CIA’s Special Activities Division. He might be a spook now, but he was at heart a warrior like them.
David turned to Dan.
‘What the hell did you see? A ghost?’
‘Even better, Sir. Frigging Mullah Omar just stepped out to take a leak.’
David stared through his binoculars with incredulity. There was no mistaking the face he had studied a dozen times or more in pre-mission briefings. Yes, there he was, Mullah Mohammed Omar, the leader of the Taliban, standing a kilometer away with his pants literally around his knees. It would have been funny if they did not have some deadly serious business to attend to. David’s orders were clear on what they were expected to do if they did encounter any HVTs. He turned to Dan even as Mike asked Eagle Eye to launch.
‘Dan, take the shot.’
Specialist Daniel Barnett took a deep breath and then fired a single shot. The fifty-caliber bullet fired from the Barrett sniper rifle was designed to punch through light armour. What it did to Mullah Omar’s head was not a pretty sight. The Taliban bodyguards inside saw their leader fall a split second before they heard the unmistakable report of a heavy weapon being fired. They were about to rush out when two Hellfire missiles slammed into the hut, fired by a Predator drone loitering thousands of feet and a couple of miles away. The explosions incinerated everyone and everything inside.
David had seen more than his share of fighting and killing in his ten years as a Navy SEAL and then with Task Force 121 but this was by far the most exhilarating mission he had ever been a part of. His mind was reeling at the implications of what they had achieved. With Mullah Omar gone, it was more than likely that the Taliban would cease to be the more or less unified force they had been, and perhaps more amenable to a peace deal with the Americans. And if Al-Zawahiri had indeed been with him, then killing him just months after Osama, would cripple Al Qaeda. With this one mission in the mountains of Afghanistan, they may just have changed the course of history.
‘Pack up, boys. We don’t want to be around when the Taliban get here.’
As silently as they had come, the four men picked up their gear and began their hour long trek through the jagged peaks and narrow passes to reach their exfiltration point, where a chopper was en route to pick them up. They were deep in enemy territory and as much as they would have liked to go in closer to verify their kills, the Predator overhead had already warned them of approaching Taliban forces.
Half an hour after they had left, three pick up trucks climbed the pass leading to the hut. More than twenty heavily armed, black-turbaned Taliban warriors leapt out, weapons at the ready. But when they saw that they were too late to save their leader, several of them sat down, stunned and in shock. From the last truck emerged four men who looked totally out of place. They were all dressed in western clothes, two of them were white and two were black. They were Al Qaeda’s most prized foreign operators. Men who had been born and bred in Western society, but had converted to the cause along the way. Men who had western identities and passports and could carry their jihad deep into the infidel’s lands. They were to have been the carriers of the deadly cocktail of poisons Al-Zawahiri had come to take delivery of.
They stood looking at the burnt remains of the hut and the men who had assembled there. None of them had known about the exact contents of what special weapons their leaders had themselves come down to take delivery of, and many of the uneducated Taliban warriors poked at the wreckage at random till one of the Western Jihadis told them to be more careful. One of the Americans wondered aloud if the American Predators were still overhead and if they should just get away as fast as possible. The Taliban were going to have none of that. They had lost their leaders, and were now collecting body parts, intent on giving Mullah Omar a fitting burial. One or two of the Westerners tried to reason with them that getting away immediately was the only sensible thing to do, but the illiterate Taliban soldiers pointed their guns at them and told them to wait. The grisly task took fifteen minutes, their hands cut and chafed in many places as they sorted through the charred remains. Unknown to them, they both inhaled and ingested into their bloodstreams a cocktail of some of the most deadly toxins known to man.
The Taliban were silent, many of them in tears. Their Jihad had suffered a massive setback.
Little did they realize that their Jihad was going to take on a horrifying new dimension, and that they were to be the ones to strike the first blow in it.
‘Mom, I said I’ll do it later.’
Mayukh Ghosh put his headphones back on, satisfied that he had postponed yet another plea by his mother to clean up his room. But this time, it seemed that she was not going to be as easily put off as usual. The door to his room swung open and his mother was there, hands on her hips.
‘Young man, you will listen to me when I ask you to do something.’
Mayukh stopped playing on his PS3 to talk to his mother. When she started any sentence with the words ‘young man’, it usually meant he was in bigger trouble than usual.
‘Mom, it’s not a big deal. I’ll clean up my room over the weekend.’
His mother moved some of the CDs and sports magazines strewn across his bed and sat down on it.
‘This isn’t just about your room. You’re seventeen now and you’ll be in college soon. You need to start thinking more seriously about what you want to do with your life. I mean, look at you.’
Mayukh sighed loudly, which only served to irritate his mother even more.
‘You just loiter around with that good for nothing friend of yours and play video games all day. You need to pay more attention to what your future will be like.’
Mayukh had already tuned out. He had heard this lecture many times, and was in no mood to hear it again.
‘Mom, I know what you’re going to say. All your friend’s kids are doing well in school, they’re so well behaved, they all have a plan. I’m sorry I’m such a disappointment, all right?’
With those words, he walked out of his room, slamming the door shut behind him. He knew he would be in big trouble when he got back home, but for now he just wanted to be by himself. He rode his bicycle for about twenty minutes, the cold November air blasting into his face. Winter was not yet fully upon Delhi, but pedaling as fast as he could, the wind felt freezing. It was just what he needed to cool himself down. Finally, his legs aching, he stopped to catch his breath. His usually curly and long hair (another cause of his mother’s angst- why couldn’t he get a haircut?) was now falling all over his face, and he wondered what was it about parents, anyways? Whatever he did never seemed to be good enough. And if they suddenly had discovered that he needed to be more responsible, weren’t they to blame in any way?
Mayukh’s father was a senior government officer and he had grown up surrounded by people ready to do his father’s bidding, never having to work too hard at anything. For his parents to suddenly wake up and demand that he miraculously become independent was more than a bit unfair. He was now old enough to realize that his father’s connections had got him into the best schools, and had ensured that he never had to join a queue to do anything. But he was not yet old enough to realize that one day, when his father retired, he would have to learn to fend for himself without that safety blanket.
However, for now, he was content to sit at the nearby shop and drink some Coke and curse the unfairness of it all. He asked the man for a cigarette, and he hesitated as if sizing up how old Mayukh was. At close to six feet tall, Mayukh was very tall for his age and together with a physique that came from four years of playing football on the school team meant that nobody could guess he had just turned seventeen. That was till they looked closer at his face- for his eyes were still the open, trusting eyes of a kid. But the shopkeeper was not interested in such subtleties and passed on a Marlboro.
Mayukh puffed away, imagining what his mother would do when she found out he smoked on the sly once in a while. He didn’t like it much, and usually coughed his guts out, but none of his friends would ever know that.
His mobile phone beeped and he picked it up. It was his best friend, Shiv.
‘Dude, are we on for our session tomorrow?’
Then, Mayukh remembered the mood his mother had been in, and added.
‘Hey Shiv, is it okay if we meet at your place instead?’
Many things brought the two boys together- a love for cars, a fair distaste for studies and above all else, a passion for gaming. They could spend hours in front of their PS3s, joining forces in myriad online battlegrounds, blasting away at whatever villains it threw at them. With the mood his mother was in, Mayukh figured this time, it might be more prudent to go over to Shiv’s place instead of sitting in front of the PS3 in his room.
Mayukh noticed the TV playing in a corner of the shop. There was a banner scrolling across the bottom of the screen. One or two other people who had come to buy cigarettes at the shop had stopped to watch. One of them said aloud what was on all their minds.
‘That is one screwed up country, isn’t it? First the Taliban, then bloody Osama, then the American war, and now this. They should just nuke it and end the misery.’
Mayukh never spent too much time in front of the TV, least of all watching news, but over the last twenty-four hours, there was no avoiding the news that had been coming out of Afghanistan. It was all over the Net, and all over every news channel. He could hear the newscaster read out her lines.
‘The US military has repeated that the sudden upsurge in violence following the reported deaths of Mullah Omar and Ayam Al-Zawahiri is not a cause for concern and represents the death throes of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.’
The screen cut away to a balding, white man in a military uniform.
‘We won a major battle in our ongoing war on terror two days ago with the strike that took out the top leadership of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The Taliban are now little more than disorganized rabble and the spate of suicide bombings yesterday just show how desperate they are getting in their attempts to destabilize Afghanistan and the progress the democratically elected government has achieved. Our mission is on track and I am confident that the day is not far when peace returns to Afghanistan.’
Mayukh’s phone rang again. It was Shiv.
‘Dude, what do you want to play- Medal of Honor or Dead Rising?’
‘Come on, Shiv, don’t try and change the game just because I keep wasting you on Medal of Honor.’
There was a pause before Shiv responded.
‘But I want to kill some zombies. I was reading this amazing book in which zombies come to life. Wouldn’t that be cool?’
Mayukh took a deep breath. Shiv was cool, but sometimes he just took everything too literally.
‘Shiv, zombies exist only in frigging video games. Speaking of which, we are on for tomorrow and I am going to whip your ass.’
Abu Jindal, who had once been known as Nadir Dedoune, felt like crap. His head hurt, he kept throwing up every hour or so, and his skin had taken on a strange yellow complexion. As he looked at his reflection in the window of a Duty Free shop at Karachi airport, he wondered what bug he had picked up. Perhaps this had all been a stupid idea after all. Growing up as an Algerian immigrant in a poor ghetto outside Paris, he had never known anything other than grinding poverty. There were no jobs, no opportunities, only the condescending and spiteful looks of the rich white French. That was till he met Mullah Amir, who preached to small groups of young men at the local mosque, and had opened Nadir’s eyes to the atrocities being committed against Muslims around the world. He had found a new meaning and purpose to his life- to wage Jihad against these infidels. He had made the trip to Afghanistan to take part in some mission that he had supposedly been chosen for. The running around and firing of guns in a camp inside Pakistan had been fun enough, but then he had been totally terrified by what he had seen after the Predator strike that had killed Mullah Omar, Al-Zawahiri and the others. His mission on hold, he had been told to leave immediately.
‘Emirates Flight 605 to Paris via Dubai is now ready for boarding.’
It was 5:30 in the morning, and Nadir bought a cup of coffee. No sooner had he taken a sip than he rushed to the bathroom, emptying the contents of his stomach into the sink. When he had retched himself dry, he washed his face, and then looked down to see clumps of hair in his hand. There were a couple of bald patches on his head where the hair seemed to have just come off.
What was happening to him?
All he wanted to do now was to somehow get home and see a doctor. He took out a cap and put it on to cover his hair. He tried sleeping through the flight, though he had to get up three times even before the flight reached Dubai to throw up. On the third occasion he saw blood in the sink. The flight was delayed in Dubai by several hours, which made his life even more miserable. A couple of hours after the flight had left Dubai, the woman sitting next to him, bored of watching the Sun gradually set over the horizon, turned to order a drink. She saw him start to shake, as if having a fit.
‘Sir, are you okay?’
Nadir couldn’t hear her. His eyes were glazed over and as he shook even more violently, his cap fell off. He was now nearly hairless, his hair lying in clumps all over his seat. As she watched in horror, boils seemed to break out all over his body, oozing pus and blood. He then retched all over the seat in front of him. Passengers screamed, and a Flight Attendant shouted out whether there was a doctor on board. By the time a doctor got to him, Nadir was lying lifeless, a ghastly apparition, covered in his own vomit, pus and blood, a deformed, hairless yellowed being where there had once been a handsome young man. The French doctor felt for his pulse and then shook his head sadly at the Flight Attendant.
‘Il est mort.’
There were horrified gasps from several of the passengers who had gathered around to see what was happening. They all began to move back to their seats as the Flight Attendant wondered what to do with the body. Suddenly one of the passengers exclaimed to the doctor.
‘Doctor, he’s speaking.’
The doctor leaned over near Nadir and saw that indeed his lips were moving. There was still no pulse. He leaned closer to hear what he was saying. He jerked back when he heard one word.
Then Nadir’s eyes snapped open.
He sat up calmly, as if nothing had happened, looked around, and grabbed the black scarf from the Flight Attendant’s neck. He then proceeded to calmly tie it around his head, as everyone around looked on, speechless.
Then he leapt out to bite the screaming doctor’s hand.
On three other flights headed for New York, London and Washington, the men who had accompanied Nadir to the camp in Afghanistan similarly transformed as the Sun set.
David Bremsak knew nothing of this, sleeping his first full night’s sleep in close to a month. His bunk at Camp Delta just outside the town of Gardez was hardly luxurious, but it beat humping up and down the Shahikot Mountains wondering if he was in some Taliban sniper’s sights. He was dreaming of Rose, her long, blond hair, her smell, her touch, when he was woken up. He looked up to see Dan, his M82 in hand.
‘Captain, sorry to wake you up.’
David looked as if he was ready to murder Dan.
‘This better be good.’
Dan reached over and handed over David’s M4 and vest.
‘We’re under attack.’
That got David’s attention, and he grabbed his gear and rushed out of his cabin. Mike had also just come out of his cabin next door, wearing a Kevlar vest over his t-shirt, carrying an M4 as well. The CIA officer shouted out at David as he saw him.
‘The Taliban must have gone nuts. Trying to attack us here is suicide!’
There were soldiers milling around everywhere. The members of the small TF121 detachment were `guests’ here, sharing the base with its usual occupants, an Army Ranger unit. Given the secretive nature of their HVT hunts, and the time they spent outside in the mountains, David and his men had never really got to know the Rangers too well. But now David saw their Commanding Officer, Major James Lafferty, roaring orders to his men.
‘You there, reinforce the western side! I want snipers covering every angle.’
David jogged over to him. Compared to the lean, wiry SEAL, the Ranger Major looked like a giant pitbull.
‘Two of my boys are down. Some Taliban must have sneaked in and attacked our sentries.’
David considered that for a minute. He had been fast asleep but there was no way he could have slept through gunfire. James must have read his mind.
‘They bit them. We never picked them up till they were too close.’
David took in the bizarre details.
‘Did we get them?’
James looked down straight at his eyes, and David thought that he saw fear in the giant man’s eyes.
‘The boys pumped them full of bullets, but get this, the two of them fell down, then got back up and ran away.’
The Ranger who had shouted sounded scared, and David could sense that as word of the raid got around, everyone was spooked. It was one thing to deal with an enemy who shot at you, and reassuringly stayed dead when you shot back. What did you do with enemies who bit you and then got back up when you shot them? He saw Mike a few feet away. The CIA officer had seen his share of crazy stuff, but this was something too weird even for him. The Rangers were now busy tending to the two wounded men, who were bleeding profusely from bites to their hands and necks.
‘Get them Medevaced now!’
The next morning, they were airlifted to Kabul and then were on a flight to Ramstein airbase in Germany, when doctors at the base in Kabul said they just could not deal with the strange symptoms they were seeing. When the flights landed, horrified medics found everyone on board bit and scratched by their patients.
David and his team were out on the road again. He had heard that he was being recommended for a Navy Cross for the mission that had taken out Mullah Omar and Al-Zawahiri. Medals were always nice, but the biggest thing on his mind was the fact that he was finally doing something that mattered. His father, a New York firefighter, had perished in the rubble of the World Trade Center, and David had dedicated every single moment of his life since that day to avenging his father, and the thousands of others who had died on 9/11. He didn’t look like much a warrior, standing five feet eight, and with a lean body, but what he lacked in size, he more than made up in determination and speed. He had hung in there when stronger and more experienced men had quit all around him at SEAL training in Coronado, and then he had taken his revenge in missions around the world- from Iraq to Afghanistan.
Mike was right by his side.
‘Do you reckon there’s any truth to this at all?’
‘Mike, I’ve seen all kinds of terrorists and tough guys. They all like to talk it up but believe me, when you shoot them, they all stay down. Our boys must have been just panicked. Most of them are just kids on their first combat tour. I bet they never even hit those Taliban once.’
Rumours had been spreading like wildfire all over Afghanistan. Tales of black-turbaned Taliban who had come back from the dead, and who could not be killed. Monsters who had superhuman strength and speed, and were rampaging through whole villages at night, biting and scratching people and then disappearing into the mountains. David and his team were to check out the last reported sighting. Their brief was simple. Find out if these mythical `undead’ Taliban existed, and if they did, then to shoot a few of them dead to prove to the Afghan people that they were just a figment of someone’s imagination, or as David suspected, the Taliban propaganda machine in overdrive.
They were an hour into their hike through the hills when Rob spotted some movement behind them in the dark. David turned around to see a black turbaned man standing on a small hillock just fifty feet behind them.
How the hell had anyone got on their tail without their noticing it?
David brought his M4’s scope to his eyes. With his night vision optics on, what he saw was bathed in a ghostly green light. Their stalker had a black turban tied around his head in the fashion the Taliban favoured, but the rest of him scarcely looked human. Despite the cold, he was wearing tattered clothes, revealing a body covered in boils, pus and blood. His skin was a sickly yellow and his mouth was open, revealing teeth with jagged, sharp edges.
‘Dan, drop the bastard!’
Dan brought up his M82 to his shoulder but even before he could take aim, the man had disappeared from sight, moving faster than David had seen any man move. Just then Rob screamed, an ugly, keening sound. David turned to see him on the ground, a black-turbaned man on his chest, leaning over and biting his shoulders and chest. David’s M4 was up in a flash and he fired a three round burst into the man. The shots sent the man sprawling against the rock face, but then to David’s horror, the man got up. Close up, he looked even more horrible than the other man David had seen through his scope. He smelt like a cross between a dead mouse and a toilet that has not been flushed or cleaned for some time. His eyes were focused on David, and his lips were pursed back, revealing the sharp, blood-covered teeth.
Then, he leapt at Mike with surprising speed and bit him in the arm. The CIA officer had his handgun out and fired three 9MM rounds at point blank range even as the man’s teeth sank into his left hand. The black turbaned man fell to the ground, and then seemingly jumped off the edge. David peered over to see him climbing down the sheer rock face. He then saw the two wounded men on the ground, blood oozing from their wounds. David had never been a particularly religious man, but he crossed himself, shuddering at the horror of what he had just seen with his own eyes.
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