Scott Andrews

Operation Motherland



Chapter One

I celebrated my sixteenth birthday by crashing a plane, fighting for my life, and facing execution. Again.

I'd rather have just blown out some candles and got pissed.

'Hello? Is anybody there? Hello?'

'Lee? Oh thank God.'

'Dad? Dad is that you? I can hardly hear you. Where are you?'

'Still in Basra, but we're shipping out soon. Listen, I don't know how much time I have. Is your mother there?'

'Er, yeah.'

'Put her on, son.'

I'd been scanning the terrain for about ten minutes, looking for a decent place to land, when small-arms fire raked the fuselage.

Stupid, careless idiot; I'd been flying in circles, just asking to be shot at.

The problem was that I couldn't find the airport. I could see the river snaking to the sea, the city straddling it and blending into desert at the edges. I could see the columns of smoke rising high off to the north, and the boats bobbing in the long abandoned harbour. But I couldn't see the bloody airport. So I had to get closer and look for somewhere to land.

I'd managed to fly thousands of miles, refuel twice without incident (if you didn't count that psycho in Cyprus, but he wasn't that much trouble) and make it to my destination unscathed. Then, on arrival, I descend to within shooting distance and wave my wings at anyone who fancies a potshot.

I bloody deserved to be shot down.

I pulled hard on the control column, trying to raise the plane's nose and climb out of range, but it didn't respond.

'Oh shit,' I said.

I was at 500 feet and descending, nose first, towards a suburban street littered with abandoned cars and a single burned-out tank. I tried to shimmy the plane left or right, pumped the pedals, heaved and wrenched the control column, anything to get some fraction of control.


Too low to bail out, nothing to do but ride the plane into the ground and hope I was able to walk away.

My arrival in Iraq was going to be bumpy.

'Jesus Dad, what did you say to her? Dad, you still there?'

'Yeah, just… I, um… listen, Lee, there's something I have to tell you.'


'The plague, from what we've been hearing here, it's sort of specific.'


'You only get it if you've got a particular blood type. No, that's not right. You don't get it if you've got a particular blood type. Everyone who's O Negative is immune, that's what the doc here told us.'

'And everyone else…'

'Is going to die.'

I was coming in clean towards the road, lined up by pure chance. If the road had been clear, and if I could've got the nose up, I'd maybe have had a chance. But I was heading straight for the fucking tank, and no matter what I did the plane was just a hunk of unresponsive metal.

There was another burst of gunfire, and this time I could see the muzzle flash of the machine gun on a rooftop to my left. His aim was true and the plane shuddered as the bullets hit the tail, sending fragments of ailerons flying into the tailwind. I yelled something obscene, furious, defiant, then pulled the control column again, more in frustration than hope.

And, hallelujah, it responded. That second burst of fire must have knocked something loose. I never thought I'd be grateful that someone was shooting at me.

Of course, at twenty feet and however many knots, there wasn't that much I could actually do.

The nose came up a fraction, just enough to change the angle of attack from suicidal to survivable. Not enough to actually stop my descent, though.

I'm pretty sure I was yelling when the tail of the plane slammed into the turret of the tank, snapped off, and pitched the plane nose first into the hard-packed earth.

The world spun and tumbled as I screamed in tune with the crash and wrench of twisting metal. The plane somersaulted, over and over, down the road, bouncing off cars and buildings, losing its wings, being whittled away with every revolution, until it seemed there was just a ball of warped metal and shattered plastic cocooning me as it gouged the ground, ricocheting like some kind of fucked-up pinball.

Eventually, just as the darkness crept into my vision and I felt myself starting to black out, the world stopped spinning.

My head was swimming, there was blood in my mouth, I was upside down, the straps of my harness digging into my knotted shoulders, but I was alive.

'One more life used up, Nine Lives,' whispered a familiar, sarcastic voice in my head. I told it to piss off.

Then I realised that I was wet. I reached up and wiped the slick liquid from my face. When my eyes could focus and my dizzy brain began to accept input, I realised that I was soaked from head to toe in fuel.

I heard gunfire in the distance, as someone started taking shots at what was left of my plane.

And I couldn't move.

'All of them?'

'All. Lee, you're O Neg. So am I.'

'And mum? Dad, you there? I said what about Mum?'


'Oh. Right.'

'Now listen, she might be safe if you can just quarantine yourselves. Don't leave the house, at all. For any reason.'

'But what about food? The water's been switched off, we've got no power. There's these gangs going around attacking houses, Dad, they've got guns and knives and…'

'Lee calm down. Calm down. You mustn't panic, son. Breathe… You okay now?'

'Not really.'

'I know. But you're going to be strong, Lee. For your mum.'

'She's going to die isn't she… Dad?'

'Yes. Yes, she probably is.'

'But there's no doctors, you know that right? The hospital's been closed for a week. They put these signs up saying to wait for the army to set up field hospitals, but they haven't shown up. They're not going to, are they?'

'No, I don't think so, not now. I know it's hard, but it's all up to you, son. You're going to have to nurse her. Until I can get there. I'm coming home, Lee. As fast as I can. You've got to hang on, understand?'

'But what if you're not fast enough? What if something goes wrong? What if I'm left here, alone, with… with… Oh God.'

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