Chapter Twelve : The Van
Omo started shouting orders, and several of the sniper teams came running over. Now there were six separate teams aiming at the crowd of zombies. He continued with his instructions until he was satisfied with their positions.
Dave and Jim stood with the colonel now. Omo looked towards them, John simply nodded and Omo shouted out “ Igba isisiyiwayi!”.
“Does that mean fire then?” Dave asked. The colonel looked at him, “No, that means now”.
Loud coughs could be heard from the assembled rifles and considering these were silenced, not much could be heard above them. John passed more binoculars to Jim and Dave and indicated for them to watch.
All around the van, zombies were falling to the ground. More and more ceased to move, as the snipers found their targets. Heads exploded in dull red clouds, and some of them spun around as the bullets ripped through.
Time and time again the undead would be replaced by more, and for quite some time it seemed as though the van would never be clear. The pale face could be seen through the windscreen again, it looked like a child.
The remaining zombies saw her too, and their onslaught continued. One of the bullets went a little wild and the passenger window shattered. The men could see the zombies dive towards the window, but the snipers had seen it too, and they managed to keep them from entering.
“We have to get down there John” Jim said, “We have to get down there now!”
“The bridge is gone Jim, I cannot risk a helicopter. The only way is to drive to the next bridge and then double back. But we have no assets or even eyes in those areas.”
“Give us a vehicle John, we have to try.” Dave was in full agreement with Jim, his expression said it all.
“Ok, i will keep the snipers covering the van, come with me and we’ll get you a vehicle. Omo, on me!” with this he limped towards the stairwell door.
Omo quickly followed.
Less than thirty minuted later, Jim and Dave stood in the car park, both men were now wearing full army uniform.
Their Land Rover was next to them, the engine idling gently and a very sharp looking wedge had been attached to the front bumper, neither of them knew what it was for.
Omo had tried to explain the basics of using a rifle, but was soon left with the feeling that the two men were not understanding him. The colonel approached the trio, another soldier following behind him.
“Omo, give up on the rifles, give them these instead.”
The soldier held two shotguns in his arms. “These are Spas 15’s, they hold ten shells and they don’t need cocking on every shell. You point it at something and pull the trigger. If you hit it in the head, it dies, if you hit it in the body, that part of the body goes somewhere else.”
“Now that’s my kind of gun!” laughed Dave.
“It does’nt look like a shotgun” Jim said.
“That’s because it has a box magazine. It’s not fed with individual shells. There are some magazines made up for you, and the Rover has more loose ammunition if you should need it. Now listen up, Dave you especially.
These are not toys. These will kill a human just as well as zombies, don’t mess around. These are last stand weapons. If the undead get within forty metres of you these will take them out, the only problem is that they are very very loud. You fire one and every zombie in the area will hear you, then they will come looking. I am only giving you these because of what you are doing. are we clear?” His whole friendly persona had vanished, this was the Army officer talking.
“Sure” said Dave.
“Yes John, last stand weapons. How do we find our way to the van?”
“I have a taxi driver upstairs, he’s willing to drive you. Keep him safe guys, i promised his wife he would be back by nightfall.”
“He’ll be as safe as us John” Jim replied.
The colonel then started talking to Omo. Jim and Dave looked over the shotguns, trying not to feel uncomfortable with the heated conversation taking place around them.
“I cannot seem to talk Omo out of going with you.”
“Oh!” Jim was surprised, “We didn’t know he was coming either.”
“Well he insists, and so do two other guys. So altogether six of you are going.”
“We wont fit in the Rover John, not with a family as well.”
“No you’re right Jim, your taking two. You guys are with Omo in Rover Two, the others are in Rover One. Both carry medical packs, rations and ammunition. Only Rover one has a working radio though, so don’t get lost. London is no longer safe, the roads do not look the same as before.”
“Bit big for a quick rescue don’t you think?” Dave asked.
“Well that’s the other interesting news, we clear this base tomorrow. At midday we begin the evacuation, by fifteen hundred hours, we will all be gone.” He looked at each of the men in turn, “So get out there, grab that family, and get back here. We cannot wait for you.”
His face reflected the sadness he felt.
“We’ll be back John, don’t you worry about it mate” Dave said with a big grin.
“Well if i was’nt worried before, i am now!”
Dave laughed out loud, but all Jim could do was hope no one noticed how dry his mouth had become.
“Do not worry my friends, Omo will keep us safe!” Omo’s big booming laugh filled up the car park.
The short road leading from the car park ended at the steel wall. The colonel was standing by the side of Rover One, he was talking quickly to the driver. He stepped back and waved over to a small group of Nigerian soldiers. These then started to hammer away at a section of the scaffolding. This was removed in a matter minutes and when they reached the steel lined wall itself, they paused and looked to wards the colonel. He waved again and they started to unbolt the wall piece. One of the gun positions on top of the wall opened fire, heavy bullets spraying into the unseen distance.
“No No No!” screamed the colonel, “Only silenced weapons!, You will just draw attention to us!” He limped as fast as he could towards the access ramp, climbing up it as fast as his leg would allow him.
The wall section was moved out of place, and Rover One shot out and into the city, Rover Two was right behind.
Jim was driving and he looked back through the rear view mirror at the rapidly receding base, the wall piece had already been replaced, and the heavy machine gun had stopped firing. From this side of the wall no soldiers could be seen. Maybe this was the reason for the base remaining intact, no sign of life could be seen.
Rover One was being driven by a small native Londoner. he knew the streets like the back of his hand, yet he was still shocked at how everything had changed. As they approached the first corner, they could see what the heavy machine gun had been firing at, a group of around twenty zombies lay all over the road. Some had been killed, properly this time, whilst others were still moving. Rotting arms and legs littered the surface, and the two Rovers drove over several torso’s. Loud squelching and snapping noises could be heard, but the lack of bright red blood probably made it easier.
Rover One led the way to the closest intact bridge, passing numerous signs of battle. Building were pock marked, where bullets had struck them, and large sections had fallen into the road. Several times the two Rovers had had to slow down, to be able to drive safely through the obstacles.
Jim had the road to concentrate on, but he could not stop his mind from wandering. The handful of zombies they had killed near the bus, had been a surprise. That was an act of necessity. This was different, this time they were going out to deliberately kill zombies. He understood that these were beyond saving, he knew what they were capable of, but he still had the feeling that this was wrong. That the zombies were people too, that maybe they could be captured and treated, maybe they could be helped.
The pathetic figures they were now passing didn’t seem to want any help.
Arms and fingers were smashed by the armoured Rovers, and more than one was thrown to the side of the road by the large, metal wedges mounted on the front of the Rovers. Men, women, children they were all here. Some had clothes on, some were naked, some seemed to be in a very poor condition, whilst others looked relatively fresh. Necks ripped open, limbs missing, one woman had no skin left on her face, only her exposed breasts allowed for recognition. The zombies who tried to follow the Rovers were soon left behind, the two vehicles smashing their way through.
“Why don’t we kill these buggers then?” Dave asked Omo.
“These buggers are not near the van Dave, we cannot get bogged down here. We must keep going.”
“Doesn’t make sense to me mate, if you can see a zombie, we should kill a zombie.”
“There is an estimated two hundred thousand undead walking the streets of London alone Dave, even if every soldier was to hit their target, a direct head on battle would never work. They don’t get tired remember.”
“I know, i know” Dave grumbled.
“Jim”, Omo said quietly. Jim looked over to his friend, “Stop thinking. There is no point asking questions now. We will do what we need to do, and then we can think together, ok?”
Jim just looked back at the road, but he tried to follow Omo’s advice.
Jim found he had to drop back a little from Rover One, as the lead vehicle was turning corners, or traversing around obstacles, they had nearly collided. He found the journey was much safer with the distance between them. The journey which should have taken around ten minutes, was getting close to an hour, when Rover One started to flash his hazard lights.
“We are close” Omo said from the passenger seat.
“Remember, stay close to me, and only use your weapons if you are under direct attack. My men will open and enter the van, so we will stay outside, ok?”
Rover One stopped suddenly and Jim was forced to swerve to the left.
Bright red doors filled the windscreen, and for a few seconds they all thought that they would crash into it. Luckily though Jim managed to stop with inches to spare. The Rovers had stopped amid a huge pile of smashed up zombies, the snipers had obviously carried on.
“Fucking hell mate!” Dave exclaimed.
“We must move, now!” Omo said and then climbed out of his door. The huge Nigerian soldier climbed on to the roof of his Rover, and looked through the sight on his rifle. What he could see gave him a very worried expression.
“We have maybe five minutes!” He looked towards his waiting troops, and signalled for them to move.
The two men quickly ran over to the van, corpses littered the floor, and the pavement couldn’t be seen at all. They had to climb on top of ripped up decaying flesh, just to reach the smashed window.
The first soldier reached the window. He looked through and could see blood all over the steering wheel and dash board. The snipers had not kept the front of the van clear. A large ply wood screen separated the front from the rear of the van, and he could see bloody hand prints all over the small hatch. A few bones and scraps of stained clothing were all that remained of the driver.
The other soldier banged on the side of the van, and shouted, “This is the Army, is anyone inside the van?”
Within seconds the back doors burst open, and people started to pour out.
Three women and eight children had been hiding in the back of the Transit van. they looked filthy and half crazed, but they listened to what the soldiers were saying to them.
“We have to go now!” Omo shouted, Jim and Dave followed his gaze, What appeared to be a solid wall of the undead was walking towards them.
“There must be thousands of them!” Dave said.
A large grey dead man appeared around the side of the Rover, he started to reach for Dave, the shotgun started to rise but before he could fire it, the zombies head exploded.
“Snipers Dave!” Jim said, they both looked towards the distant building, knowing that they had some protective cover.
The women and children had been forced into the Rovers, it was a very tight fit, but after dropping some of their supplies, enough room was found.
Rover One started to pull away, Jim hit the horn hard, they still weren’t ready. The lead vehicle didn’t stop though, and they were out of sight before Jim could begin to move.
“Which way Omo?”
“I do not know, this is not my country!” came the elevated response.
He hesitated for a few seconds, but the mirrors were filled with reaching arms. Grasping fingers tried to hold onto the armoured sides, and even with constant fire support from the snipers, the tide seemed to be ever coming.
“Well wherever we’re going, can we go now!” shouted Dave.
Jim put his foot down, and the Rover lurched into movement. The powerful military vehicle easily pulled away from the sea of zombies, and Jim just tried to put as much distance between. The images in his rear view mirror rapidly faded, but he thought the eyes and the stares of the undead, would be with him forever.
Jim knuckles were white on the steering wheel. The Rover was now filled to capacity. The three men were now sharing with two women and four very frightened children. The smell was almost overpowering, but the strange thing was they made no sound.
“Is everyone ok?” Dave asked.
One of the women just stared at him, she had her knees up to her chest and was rocking back and forth. The other woman answered him without looking.
“We’re not hurt if that’s what you mean. Three days we sat there, where were you lot?” The anger in her voice gave way to tears.
“We only got to the base this morning. Why were you there?”
“There was four vans, we loaded up as much as we could, and we tried to leave London. We ran out of diesel, and the other vans just carried on and left us!, three days!”
“When we knew you was there, we came for you miss.” Dave’s voice had softened.
“Rubbish, we rang for help, and we got told to try and hold out as long as we could. We got told no one could be spared for just us.”
She stared straight into Dave’s eyes, “We were abandoned!, you fucking left us there!” She jumped from her seat and started to hit Dave in the head, her hands bunched together. Her blows rained down on him, and all he could do was try and protect himself. All hell broke loose inside the vehicle, It seemed as though everyone was shouting at once. Jim swerved the Rover, and she fell over. The children were underneath her, and for the first time their crying could be heard. Dave sat in shock. He didn’t know what to say. It hadn’t occurred to any of them what the van’s occupants must be feeling. None of the men at the base had known they had asked for help.
“Does anyone know how to get back to the base?” Jim asked, breaking the silence.
“We didn’t even know there was a base.” Sniffed the now saddened woman.
After trying to explain to her where the base was, they all realised that no one knew it’s address. How could they have missed that?, they were supposed to be following Rover One so had never needed to ask.
Jim just carried on following the road. He knew it would be dark soon, and they needed a place to hide. The women had silenced the children by now, and an uneasy calm had descended over the occupants.
Only the angry woman and Dave were awake in the back now. He hadn’t been able to look at her. Her outburst had made them realise how lucky they had been.
“What unit are you with?” her voice was barely more than whisper. Dave was surprised she was even talking to him.
“We’re not soldiers miss. Well Omo is, but Jim and me well, we just volunteered to come and get you.”
“I’m sorry then, Dave is it?” he looked at her for the first time properly.
Her bedraggled black hair was escaping from her pony tail, and her tear stained face shone in the lights of the dashboard.
“Yes miss, I’m Dave, that’s Jim and the big guy is Omo.” he nodded towards each man in turn.
“I’m Clara, she’s Jane, and i don’t know the names of the kids.”
Jim and Omo said hi, but continued looking out to the front.
“I’m sorry you were stuck there like that. We didn’t know.”
“I know, I’m sorry for hitting you. We just thought we were all going to die there. We heard helicopters and gunfire, then nothing. Terry, her husband, went into the front to see if it was clear, we were going to try and run. He left the van and then we didn’t see him again. His daughter Macey went through the hatch, but she was seen. The next thing we know we’re surrounded and the van is going over. Then we could hear loud snaps and bangs. Thuds and snaps, zombies dropping. We didn’t understand what was happening. The zombies were being killed, but we couldn’t see how.”
“That was us, or rather Omo’s soldiers. They saw you and were sniping from the roof. They kept you clear until we could get to you.”
“Thank you for that. Thank god for some decent people” she said quietly.
“Hey don’t call him decent, you haven’t seen him dance!” Jim said loudly.
The laughter filled up the Rover, and only when Clara had to shush an awakening child, did it stop.
After a little while, Jim slowed the Rover down, and eventually stopped. They were in the middle of a huge cross roads. Cars, trucks, vans and buses filled the full view. The whole column had been on fire, that was obvious, and bullet holes had peppered the metal work of most of the vehicles.
“What the hell happened here?” Jim asked.
“The Army have tried to stop people from leaving.” Omo replied, “By creating road blocks, they thought it would stop the spread of the infection.”
“So they killed all of these people?”. Dave said in disgust.
Bodies could be seen everywhere. Dark stains covered most of them, and the burnt, dismembered corpses told a tale of explosions and fire. The worst part of all though, was when some of the burnt corpses tried to get up and walk towards them. It seemed fire didn’t work well on zombies. The undead were trying to pull themselves free of the twisted cars. Arms were wrenched free and were left behind. Sticky fluids dripped and left marks on the floor. Jim waited no longer, he started to move the Rover, he did a complete U turn, and continued along the road they had just travelled down.
It was night time now. The street lights which still worked, cast pools of yellow light into the darkness. Several times they had driven straight into a zombie without even seeing it. Jim knew he couldn’t keep this up for long.
“We have half a tank left, and i’m getting tired. We need to stop somewhere guys.” He looked over to Omo, but before the huge Nigerian could respond,
a bright yellow star exploded in the sky. Jim instinctively covered his eyes, but soon he could see the small parachute above the bright light.
“It is a flare Jim!, they are showing us the way!”. Omo could barely contain his excitement.
Jim turned the Rover towards the flare, he knew he would be travelling into an area with smaller roads, but the flare meant people, and people meant safety. He no longer felt tired, a new excitement had filled them all.