Zaitsev sat in the cold rain at the Baltimore airport waiting for his transport to arrive. Airport terminal B was the only surviving structure aside from the control tower within a five-mile radius of the airport and even that building didn't have a roof. He glanced over and saw a man walking through the terminal. "Is it here yet Nikolay?"
"Da," the man smiled. "Best hurry up or we will leave without you."
Zaitsev stood and heaved his gear on his back and walked out to the tarmac. The whole place was buzzing with activity despite the pouring rain. Dirty pools of rain formed everywhere and mixed with the soot and cement dust settling on the ground and the volatile aircraft fuel and oil. The rain made his wool clothes and backpack seem to weigh twice as much as it actually did. The smell of the wet wool, sweat, gunpowder, blood, and fuel brought Zaitsev to the brink of nausea. When he took a look at the plane that didn't help much either.
A beat-up old Antonov An-12 that looked like it needed to be put out to pasture sat there on the tarmac clearly being overloaded with troops and their gear. It looked extremely antiquated compared to the new MiG-29 fighters and Antonov An-22 transports parked behind it. It even looked dated compared to the Tupolev Tu-16 Badger aircraft from the Great War brought in for use as tankers.
Zaitsev hopped aboard and before he could find a seat the aircraft lurched forward and taxied to the runway. He found a seat between two fresh conscripts just as it lifted off. Both of them looked worried. "You know if we are hit by a missile we will be the first to die," Zaitsev grinned. "The fuel tanks are right above our heads. Now I don't know about you but I would rather die quickly than after a two minute screaming fall to an abrupt stop."
One of the conscripts turned pale and started heaving. "If you are going to vomit do it in your helmet. Oh and be sure to remove the liner first," Zaitsev said.
"Vasili stop messing with the children. We don't want to be knee-deep in vomit for the whole flight do we?"
"I was just having fun, Nikolay."
The rest of the flight was uneventful with the exception of a large amount of turbulence and a few MiG "fly boys" showing off and scaring the conscripts.
The landing was a welcome feeling to Zaitsev even if the airstrip was still a contested area. As the plane touched down some sporadic machine gun fire erupted from the right side of the field. With the plane still moving very quickly, the co-pilot ran to the back and opened up the cargo doors and opened fire on the Allied position with a machine gun while some of the conscripts assisted with their Ak's.
The co-pilot laughed as he walked back to the cockpit. "Welcome to Jacksonville, Florida everyone. Have a pleasant stay and be sure to lay down some covering fire as you exit the aircraft."
As the conscripts started filing out of the plane, the palmettos around the airstrip erupted in gunfire again. The first ten went down without knowing what hit them. Zaitsev felt a sharp pain in his left leg and hit the deck sliding head first down the ramp.
"Govno! Somebody shot me in the leg!"
"No, I believe you were hit in the ass!" Nikolay said as he slid down the ramp after Zaitsev.
As quick as the firefight started, it stopped. Zaitsev struggled to his feet and limped to the only hangar on the airstrip.
The medical area was in the far corner of the hangar. Fortunately there was a doctor, or at least someone trained to deal with bullet wounds, available and examined Zaitsev's wound.
"Well it was only a scratch but it's a deep one. I'll have you stitched up soon and you should be back out fighting in a few hours."