Ivan Kovak had celebrated his twentieth birthday two days prior, but the day itself had been no cause for celebration. His older brother, Valentin, had been shot point blank in the head after the two brothers, along with their friend, Jackson Fedorov, had broken into the stronghold of Quinn Potters the night before Ivan’s birthday to steal something their military father, Lieutenant Roman Kovak, had known Quinn would have in his possession.
Eight years prior, after the atomic bomb had dropped on Washington, Roman had led a strategic and coordinated invasion by the Russians into the United States. This was the start of what would eventually become the most destructive world war to that point in time, where technological warfare had taken the place of armed conflict. Although the fighting had subsided in recent years, neither side had admitted defeat. And as of this point, both sides now shared a common enemy.
Ivan had advised Jackson to head straight to the fallout shelter with the item they had stolen from Quinn safely within his possession, as Ivan drove to Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Ivan arrived at a desolate gas station where he was able to recharge the Tesla, he had now been driving for two years through the desolate wasteland at a recharging station. He had been on edge as he did so, as he never knew when they would appear. Ivan felt relief as he entered his truck, before he turned the key, started the ignition and used his phone to tune into the song “Hound Dog” by his favorite singer, Elvis Presley. A musician his grandfather had introduced him to in Moscow when he was six years old. The song had calmed Ivan’s nerves before he started driving in the direction of a shopping mall a couple miles away.
Ivan glanced out the driver's side window at the countless abandoned vehicles on the city street. He thought of the waste and the death which had become his reality. There was no getting used to any of it.
And although his father had essentially brainwashed him into believing that the Americans were the cause for all of the destruction, Ivan couldn’t help but empathize with everyone who had lost their lives. Both throughout the United States, back home in Russia, as well as throughout the rest of the world.
Ivan arrived at the shopping mall, where he spotted several of the infected wondering around aimlessly beside the front entrance. Their eyes were glazed over, movements resembling those of someone heavily intoxicated, and skin was pasty white. A few were also covered in dried blood and wore filthy clothing.
Ivan hated the entire process which his father had imbedded in him over the past four years. Roman had insisted, however, that conducting tests on the infected was needed to reverse the extensive damage, find a cure and restore humanity back to its previous state.
Ivan glanced to his sawed-off shotgun which rested on the passenger seat, heart pounding out of his chest, before he lifted it, ensured it was loaded and with the shotgun in hand, proceeded to grab a satchel which rested beside it. Ivan swung open the driver's side door before rushing toward the mall. The infected had instinctively shifted their heads before smelling within the air. They then turned their attention to an approaching Ivan. At which point, their mouths foamed and pupils dilated to darkness before they began running frantically in Ivan’s direction.
Ivan glanced at the three infected, firing the shotgun into the head of an older male, who dropped to the sidewalk like a sack of potatoes. Ivan studied the remaining two infected who were rushing like rabid dogs toward him. He determined that the younger of the two infected, a girl who appeared to be roughly sixteen, would be satisfactory for tests his father would conduct. And with this, he fired a second shot into the head of an infected woman in her fifties, who then dropped to the ground motionless.
Ivan placed the shotgun on the ground, heart still beating out of his chest, as he reached into the satchel without missing a beat. He then removed a spray bottle which contained a yellow liquid. He allowed the girl to rush within two feet from him before spraying the bottle. After the liquid sprinkled her face, the girl stopped dead in her tracks while glancing around in an almost catatonic manner.
Ivan then removed a muzzle from the satchel which had been modified to fit the face of a human which he immediately placed on the girl. He then removed a rope from the satchel and tied it around her mid-section. As Ivan was in the process of directing the girl by the rope toward his truck, he noticed multiple infected within the mall proceeding to break through the glass door.
“Fuck!” said Ivan. He then rushed in the direction of his shotgun which he lifted just as the glass gave way and roughly eight infected came rushing outside toward him. With the rope in one hand and the shotgun in the other, Ivan proceeded to drag the girl toward the truck which was parked roughly fifty feet away.
As Ivan got within twelve feet of the truck, he heard “Suspicious Minds” playing. An infected male in his early twenties was quickly gaining ground on Ivan. As the infected inched within ten feet of him, Ivan fired off a shell from the shotgun which missed the head of the infected and hit him in the right shoulder. This did little to slow him down. Ivan tried firing off a fourth shell, only to realize the sawed-off was out of ammo. The male infected was now a mere few feet away. Realizing that he wouldn’t be able to get the girl into the back seat of the truck without putting his own safety at risk, Ivan let go of the rope, dropping the satchel in the process of doing so, before proceeding to rush toward his truck. At which point, Ivan swung open the driver's side door, got inside and started the engine before driving down the street.
As Ivan drove away from the mall, he glanced in the rear-view mirror and spotted the girl who was still tied up and wandering around aimlessly as a further ten infected had emerged and were now walking aimlessly within her proximity. Ivan knew that he was out-numbered and would be forced to find another infected before returning to the fallout shelter. He then glanced to the passenger seat where he had placed the sawed-off after entering the truck.
“Where the fuck is it?” asked Ivan anxiously to himself.
Ivan suddenly recalled how he had let go of the rope with the same hand which held the satchel.
“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” yelled Ivan, as he punched the steering wheel repeatedly.
Although his father had been confined to a wheelchair in recent years, Roman was no less intimidating. Ivan had always feared his father, who had mastered psychological warfare to destroy his enemies and manipulate his children to bend to his will. Ivan thought of the repercussions, not only for allowing his brother to get killed by Quinn, but now for dropping the satchel which contained the last of the repellent and modified muzzles. The repellent would subsequently require a substantial list of supplies Ivan would be required to risk his safety to retrieve.
Ivan once again glanced in the rear-view before making a hasty decision, which led him to turn the truck back toward the shopping mall and speed directly toward the group of infected. In the process of doing so, Ivan reloaded a few shells into the sawed off. Ivan pushed the peddle to the floor as he collided with the hoard of infected, causing the windshield to smash and several infected to fly over the truck. Ivan spotted the satchel a few feet away from the girl who was still muzzled and tied by the rope. He glanced toward the infected who were struggling to stand before Ivan jumped into the passenger seat with the sawed-off in hand.
An infected, who was positioned underneath the truck, attempted to grab at Ivan’s foot as he exited the truck. Ivan instinctively fired off a shell into the head of the middle-aged man, causing the him to slump over motionless. Ivan then rushed toward the satchel which rested a mere foot away which he quickly retrieved. He then turned back and quickly reached the truck, placing the satchel on the passenger seat before turning back to the girl. After doing so, the infected male in his early twenties rushed at Ivan, who then fired off a shell into his head.
Realizing that he now had an opportunity, Ivan grabbed the rope which was lying toward the back tire of the truck, which he grabbed before pulling the girl toward the back seat. A few of the infected had since managed to make it to their feet. A frantic Ivan fired off a couple additional shells, dropping two of the infected, before he finally made it to the back door. Ivan pushed the girl within the back door of the truck. The back of the truck had been modified to include metal bars which prohibited the infected from attacking the driver.
Ivan then slammed the door closed, and just managed to make it into passenger side door, but not before an infected had managed to follow him within the truck, having a tight grip of Ivan’s arm. Ivan used the butt of the sawed-off to smash into the forehead of the infected, causing the infected to fall back, but not enough for Ivan to be able to close the truck door completely. Ivan then grabbed a shotgun shell off of the passenger seat which he struggled to reload into the sawed-off as the infected had made it to his feet while proceeding to move in his direction. Ivan fired off the shotgun shell, causing the infected to fly directly back, this time completely out of the door.
Ivan then slammed the truck door closed, jumped to the driver's side, and shifted the truck into drive before speeding ahead. Ivan soon turned the truck in the opposite direction and proceeded to speed off. His heartbeat had since slowed, and Ivan began to feel an inner sense of calm, acknowledging that he had somehow managed to accomplish what he had initially set out to do, after all. However, Ivan would now have to replace his truck windshield and deal with his father’s unrelenting anger in relation to his brother having been killed by Quinn. Ivan took in a deep breath, and allowed the music of Elvis to temporarily calm his racing mind.