Front cover of What Went Wrong

Front cover of What Went Wrong

Chapter Fifteen : The Admiral

The station seemed to be a lot busier. The friends had to stand aside several times, as soldiers came through carrying boxes and weapons. The trooper who was leading them, didn't seem to have any problems finding his way, but Jim, Dave and Clara were totally lost. They seemed to be entering a sub level of the station, one that was never seen by passengers. Countless painted brick walls and more squeaky floors with fluorescent lighting led them to a large staff cafeteria. The colonel was sat on one side with Momo, part of a large group of other officers. They all seemed to be waiting for somebody, and were talking quietly amongst themselves, Momo waved discreetly to them. The soldier who had led them here indicated to them to sit down separately from the group and be quiet. He then disappeared.

The three friends sat silently, for within seconds of finding some chairs, another uniformed man entered from a side door, several more followed and stood behind him. He had a lot of gold decoration on his dark blue uniform, and the group of assembled officers stood to attention.

A s you were.” He said, “I am Admiral Ikin. He stopped for a few seconds, he looked around the assembled officers, as they all took their seats, then continued. “I joined the navy when I was eighteen years old, and I have worked my way up. I am not one of those people who joined the navy as an officer, I started at the bottom and worked bloody hard, only hard work and determination got me where I am today. That is what I expect from each and every one of you.” His thick Yorkshire accent had that commanding quality essential for good leadership. Jim decided he liked the Admiral already, his red face and silver hair, his whole persona seemed to project a no nonsense kind of man.
This briefing is to bring you all up to speed on recent events. Any questions will be answered, just raise your hand, and I expect all of you to be taking notes. As you all know, the last forward operating base fell yesterday.” Momo's head dropped slightly. “We have not got a full picture of what happened, but we do know this. Whatever caused the infection, jumped stage one completely, stage two was spontaneous and every civilian in the building became infected. The situation was made much worse when one of the patrolling vehicles penetrated the perimeter wall. One of these events could have been contained, but both seemed to be too much for the defenders to cope with.”
As Momo's head dropped further Jim couldn't contain himself.
Excuse me sir, but those soldiers saved our lives several times, and those people stuck inside the van too!”
I asked for questions to be asked, not statements to be shouted out!, who are you and why are you here?, this briefing is for officers only!” the indignation was obvious in his voice, and a low murmuring had started within the group.
John started to rise to his feet, but Jim continued.
It's not right to make it sound like those soldiers couldn’t cope, they did a fantastic job, they kept us safe enough. We were in Rover Two, the second vehicle sent out to rescue the civilians. We're not in the army, we just borrowed the uniforms.” Jim was blushing now, he hadn't meant to cause a scene.
I would like to hear what you have to say then. Come up here, and explain to the group exactly what happened, if you would.”
Even though Jim wasn't in the military, he knew that when an Admiral asked for your time, it wasn't a request. He made his way over to where the officer was standing, and as Ikin sat down he cleared his throat.
There’s no point starting from the beginning, I’ll just tell you what happened from the bus. Me and Dave over there were put on a bus to Manchester. The bus was stopped by a Land Rover, but before we could turn around, a lot of zombies tried to eat us. The driver ran off, along with all of the passengers, and only us three were left.”
three?” questioned Ikin, you mentioned a chap called Dave?.”
Oh sorry”, Jim said, “Dave, me and the Colonel over there.” he nodded towards John. “He'd got injured in the panic to leave the bus. Well we managed to escape from there, and we tried to return to the safe zone, but on the way the roads were blocked. Momo there,” again another nod towards Momo, “picked us up in a helicopter, and took us to your forward base. We hadn't been there that long, when a sniper spotted a load of zombies surrounding a van. We all volunteered to go and see if anyone was still alive inside.”
And was there?” Ikin again.
Yes sir, Women and children had been hidden inside for a number of days. We loaded them onto the two Rovers, but the one with the radio left us there, and we didn't know our way back. Clara over there stayed with us, “ She gave a little wave, her turn to blush now. “With some of the children, and we drove around until we saw the flares.”
Flares?” asked the Admiral.
Yes sir, flares were being fired from the rooftop. We used them to find our way back.”
Before he could continue, John raised his hand. “Sir, the flares were for the helicopter to find us, it was just advantageous that the Rover used them too.”
Advantageous or not, it sounds like a good idea to me.” He turned back to Jim, Continue”.
Well, we used the flares to find our way back, but when we got there the base was in darkness. We drove through the hole in the fence and stopped just inside. We got out of the Rover, and Momo said he would check the buildings out. We couldn’t see any soldiers anywhere. After a few seconds Momo came running back out, with a lot of zombies coming after him. We jumped back into Rover Two, but he just ran past us.”
Why did he do that?”
Me and Dave had pushed the fence panel back into place. Momo ran straight past us, and pulled it down again. We turned our Rover around, and then waited for him to come to us, but he didn't, he ran past us again, and got into Rover One. If he hadn't pulled the fence down, we would have been stuck. We then drove back out through the hole and into the street, that's when the helicopter appeared. The zombies coming out of the gate were shot at by the helicopter, then we got told to come here. We passed the children from our Rover over to the one Momo was now driving, and we were led here by the helicopter. The snipers on the roof kept us safe near the van, and Momo kept us alive inside the base.”
Who is Momo?” Ikin turned to face the group.
Momo slowly got to his feet, “Major Momo to oun Esho sir, I was the commander of the forward operating base.”
Your unit please?”
My unit was formed just before we came here sir, First UK Regiment, We had engineers, medics, infantry and a small special forces unit attached, altogether 600 men sir.”
And how many men got out of the base Major?”
To my knowledge sir, none of them.” Momo couldn't keep his head up.
It might interest you to know that quite a lot of them did make it out.”
Momo's head snapped up. “They made a stand in a nearby warehouse, we are expecting them here in a few hours.”
Momo's face split into the biggest grin possible.
It seems as though we had the wrong impression, I would like to talk to you further.” he looked at Jim, “and you too”.
Of course sir” Momo retook his seat. Jim just nodded.
In light of this information, I will move on to the briefing, but first, who was the British Army liaison?”
I am sir” John sprang to his feet.
I need you to wait with these two” It was not a request.
Yes sir!” John seemed pleased to be included.
OK then, the trains will be leaving at 0600, does anyone not know what their positions or responsibilities are?”
The briefing continued on for several more hours, by which time Dave and Clara were snoring gently.

With a gentle shake Dave woke up instantly. Jim, John and Momo were all stood in front of them. Clara had been sleeping with her head on his shoulder, and started to stir with his movements.
Come on you two, the Admiral wants to see us.” Jim said with a grin.
Dave wiped around his mouth, as though he had been dribbling, and Clara ran her fingers through her hair.
That was the most boring meeting ever!” Dave exclaimed,
"Boring but essential”, John replied.
The national anthem started to sound again, this time though Dave knew it was his mobile phone immediately. He stepped away from the group with the phone pressed closely to his ear. The others exchanged worried looks, but Dave returned shortly, a huge grin plastered across his face.
"That was Ella!, silly cow broke her arm, not her bleeding ribs!" he looked capable of dancing.
"Great news!" Exclaimed Jim, "How did they get that wrong?"
"Buggered if i know, but she's fine, and she told me to look after you!"
"Charming!" said Jim laughing, he was desperately trying to hide his relief. He had been worrying about losing Dave, for the Manchester part of the journey. John broke the magical spell by saying, Come on you lot, he won't be happy if we keep him waiting.”

The Admiral had taken possession of the train station managers suite of offices. Maps of London filled the walls, and a small army of soldiers sat at desks, or were answering telephones. One of the Admirals aides direct them to his office, and after knocking loudly, opened the door for them.

The group of five stood before the Admirals desk, he was on the telephone.
Ikin waved them over to some chairs, but John and Momo stayed stood to attention. They all stayed silent, but Dave seemed to find a squeaky chair.
After replacing the receiver Ikin looked directly at Momo.
It seems as though I owe you an apology lad.” he placed both of his hands face down on top of the table.
No apology is needed Admiral.”
Bollocks lad, I made you guys out to be incapable of holding a base, I was wrong and I don't like to be wrong.” He looked at John, “Why the hell didn't your report contain the details we've just heard?”
It did sir, I handed my full report, along with Major to oun Esho's, into a clerk outside.”
Really!, Wait here”. The Admiral thudded past and straight out of the room. His voice could be heard at full volume, and they all felt sorry for whoever was receiving it.
The Admiral swept back into the room, holding a stack of paperwork.
Here's your report Colonel, it seems I owe you an apology as well.”
Sir, no apol.....” He was interrupted by the Admiral.
That's quite enough of that lad, I told you I've earned my rank, I wasn't given it, so when I cock up, I admit it.”
I need to know. Did your soldiers put up a fight?” His shiny grey eyes were centred on Momo?”
I was not there Admiral, but by the number of dead zombies lying around, I would say yes they did.”
Colonel, you remained at the base correct?” His stare turned to John.
Yes sir, and yes they did, they put up an incredible fight. In fact if Rover One hadn't crashed the fence, I firmly believe the base would still be intact sir.”
Really Colonel. Do you have any idea how the civilian population became infected?”
No sir, and as you mentioned earlier, there was no sign of the stage one infection.”
I will let you into a piece of highly speculative, but still sensitive information. If only to ease your mind and conscience. Whilst you were involved in the civilian rescue mission, a helicopter landed at your base.” Now his whole attention was direct towards Momo. “It carried a team of doctors, sent by the Ministry of Health. Sit Down sit down.” John and Momo sat in the two chairs in front of the desk.
Do you remember this Colonel?” Ikin asked John.
Yes sir, quite clearly, but I don't see the relevance.”
The relevance is this Colonel, the Ministry of Health was lost to us a number of days ago.” He stopped talking, possibly to allow his words to sink in.
Whoever sent the helicopter was not from our Government.”
But sir, they gave the civilians an anti infection injection!” John said, much louder than he had intended.
No colonel, they gave the civilians the infection.”
The Admirals words hit them all in the face. Who would possibly infect civilians purposefully? Why would anyone do this?
I don't understand sir?” John seemed unable to process this information.
We have known for some time now, that groups of the undead appear at random correct?” They all nodded. “Well it has become apparent now, that whoever is responsible for these deliveries, are speeding up the process, by deliberately infecting anyone available. They didn't offer your soldiers the injection, as it would be obvious to anyone that any type of vaccine would have been administered already. The doctors came and infected those civilians with the stage two infection, then they left before it could become apparent.”
So let me get this right” Dave said, “You have someone with a helicopter flying around, injecting people and spreading this virus?”
Yes.” The Admirals answer was short and to the point.
If we'd stayed at the base, we'd be dead now then.” Dave's face had gone white.
It does indeed seem that way. The timing of your rescue mission was very advantageous. Your soldiers are currently being collected now Major, and I would like to ask a favour of you.”
Anything sir” Momo replied.
My son Is in command of a base similar to yours, only this one is in Manchester. I could order you to got there, but I would prefer it if you would accept my request.”
Of course sir, what do you want us to do?”
I would like you to take your men and embark on the last train tomorrow. From there I would ask you to travel to the base, and find out why we cannot raise them. In light of our discoveries, I need to know what has happened.”
It would be an honour sir” Momo said.
No lad, it would make an old man happy, and besides that I wouldn’t ask anyone else, you and your guys have performed a miracle, only a handful of other soldiers ever made it out of a fallen base, you have over four hundred on your hands.”

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