Momo was ecstatic at the news. Over 400 of his troops had survived!
He almost ran to the control room, desperate for any information.
The rest walked slowly to the mess hall. It was amazing how stress and pressure can suppress your appetite, but now with this good news, they all discovered how hungry they actually were.
“The Admiral asking Momo to find his son, is a big honour you know.” John said to Jim, “It means he trusts him.”
“Ah” said Jim in return. “He did seem ready to send Momo back to Nigeria, services no longer required and all that.”
John, Jim, Dave and Clara were all sat in a crowded coffee shop. The army had turned several of them into twenty four hour mess halls. John and Jim were sat on one side of a small table. Dave and Clara were sat opposite them, and Clara couldn't believe how fast Dave was shovelling food into his mouth.
“Are you even breathing?” Asked Clara. The group burst out laughing, and Dave stopped eating, scrambled egg was stuck to his chin.
“What?” he asked, “I haven't eaten in days!”, he continued his race to empty his plate, amid more laughing.
“Right guys, it's 23.15.” John said.
“Eh?” Dave said, food escaping from his mouth.
“Quarter past eleven” Jim said rolling his eyes.
“Why didn't you just say that then?”
“I did!” John responded laughing. “Anyway it's time we all get some shut eye. The trains start leaving at 05.30, that's half five to you Dave!”.
“Go on, pick on me!” Dave laughed back.
“Momo and I are on the first one, then the troop train will leave at 05.45, then yours will go at 06.00. It will not wait for you, so don't miss it.”
“Don't worry John, I wouldn't miss it for the world.” Jim replied. A strange excitement filled his eyes.
“Right, I shall see you guys in Manchester then.” John stood up and shook their hands in turn. He walked away from the table but then turned before leaving.
“Jim, If your father in law and your daughter are made like you guys, then I’m sure they will be fine.” He waved then left the shop.
Jim wiped his eyes.
“Oh don't start that again!” Dave said, but he still patted Jim on the shoulder.
“I'm fine” Jim said, “The sight of your eggy chin made my eyes water is all!”
Dave and Clara laughed, his bravado was transparent, but still meant something.
They were shown to one of the waiting rooms. All of the plastic seating had been removed, and steel bunk beds were arranged in neat rows, thick itchy green blankets were thrown on top of each one. All but one set of bunks was occupied.
“Mine!” Dave said and promptly jumped onto the lower the bunk.
“Ours you mean!” Said Clara, and jumped in next to him.
“Oh!” was Dave's surprised reply.
“He's a good lad, but not very quick!” laughed Jim, who was left with the option of climbing into the empty top bunk, or sleeping on the dirty floor.
He opted for the bunk, and knew he wouldn't be awake for long. Adrenaline and tension could only keep a person awake for so long, and he knew the days ahead were going to be tough, if only the giggling from below would stop.
Any thoughts of over sleeping were rudely disrupted. It felt like every soldier in the station needed to walk through the waiting room. Jim snapped awake with the first stomp of army boots. He lay there for a few seconds, then swung his legs out onto the cold floor. Clean sets of clothes sat in three folded piles, a white note paper clipped on top stating who they were for.
He found his pile, and quickly got dressed, safe they may be, but it was incredibly cold in the room. He noticed a large metal bin marked 'Dirty', and assumed it was for the dirty clothes. The only thing he had retained, was his black trainers. He made the bed and then gave Dave a slight shake.
“Dave, it's time to get up.”
Dave meanwhile was quite happily asleep, and didn't respond in the slightest.
Clara had her arm over his chest, and a sleepy pale face peeled itself from behind his back.
“What time is it?” She asked.
“Time we were up and moving” Jim said. “Dave, Dave!” he hated waking people up, especially those who ignored him.
“I'll get him up.” Clara said, “You go find some coffee or something.” She could hear the impatience in his voice.
“OK.” he said simply, then left the busy room.
“OOO there's a girl in here!” an excited voice said from somewhere in the room.
Clara dropped her head back down with a groan. None of them had realised this was a male only sleeping area.
“OOO give us a kiss then darling!” A Cockney voice called out.
“Fuck off action man!” Dave retorted loudly. Clara had jumped at this, she hadn't know he was awake.
Loud laughter filled the room, but it was all good natured enough.
“Come on then 'Darling',” he said sarcastically, “lets go and find some breakfast.”
The station was a hive of activity. Hundreds of soldiers were lining up. The platforms were a sea of dark green with black shiny weapons mixed in. The troops themselves were in three distinctly different groups. The line closest to Jim was heavily armoured. Black helmets covered their full faces, and several of them were dressed in what looked like shark suits. Large heavy looking machine guns were carried by what could only be described of, as very big men. This group were talking quietly amongst themselves, and not many were left on the platform. Special Forces Jim guessed, professional warriors from god knows where. These men must be going on the first train, tasked with clearing the line for the following two.
From where he was standing he couldn't really see much, so he looked around and found an empty staircase. He quickly climbed the steps, and turned to look at the spectacle below.
Three trains sat along each of the platforms. The closest one to him was to be the first one to leave. The front of the train was a large steel box. The size of a normal passenger carriage, with steel covered windows running along the sides. Following this, a large folded yellow crane dominated the whole section. Another steel box and then two engines followed, all heavily coated in shiny steel plates. The rear of the train was yet another steel box. Jim stood staring in awe. Although the train itself was only 6 carriages long, he knew hundreds of well armed men had filled the compartments. He almost wanted to travel with them, just to see how the defences would work.
The last of the Special Forces had been secured by now, and Jim could see John and Momo walking along the platform. At each steel window, they were stopping and shouting something. As if in reply, the steel panel would snap upwards, and several machine gun barrels would appear. They were obviously testing the windows, ensuring they would allow the troops inside to use their weapons.
Jim tried to shout to John and Momo, but the noise was just too loud.
He gave up after a few attempts, they had climbed aboard the middle container anyway. He looked around, and saw Dave and Clara standing near the middle train, they seemed to be arguing. He quickly went down the stairs, and pushed his way through to his friends.
“Why can't you just do as your told woman!” Dave said gruffly.
“I am not your woman!” Clara said, her hands on her hips, “Tell him Jim, I can come to Manchester if I want to!”
Jim stood still, unsure of what to say. Both of his friends were staring at him. Both of them wanted his support.
“I don't know, I......”
His voice was drowned out by a loud siren. Flashing lights appeared everywhere, and the surrounding soldiers all stopped their talking at once.
Weapons were brought up by everyone present, and a pregnant silence befell the station.
The station public address system crackled into life.
“We have a breach on the south side hospital wing, could station security please attend. Could the trains please continue loading, T1 is due to leave in 2 minutes.” With a loud crackle, the metallic voice went silent.
Around thirty men ran towards the hospital wing, each one disappearing through the double doors.
Following the new developments within the station, Dave seemed to have changed his mind.
“OK, you can come, but you have to stay with us right?” He looked straight into Clara's eyes, “No popping off to do any shopping OK?”
“OK” she replied, between his overpowering sexist display, and his shopping comment, she was more than a little confused.
The loud distinctive two tone sound of a British train filled the air, and a loud roar challenged it in volume. The remaining soldiers raised their arms and shouted encouragement as T1 started to leave the station. The atmosphere was contagious, and the three friends found themselves cheering too.
Only the sound of gunfire had an effect on the crowd. Heads started to turn, and soldiers moved away from the hospital wing corridor. T1 slipped away with less and less funfair now, but the noise of fully automatic weapons could be heard chattering away.
“Must be close.” A soldier said to another. They were directly behind Jim and the couple, he couldn't help but hear him.
“How would you know that?” Jim asked him.
“He's on full auto. If they was far away, he'd be using single shots.”
Jim turned to look at Dave and Clara. They were now holding hands, but Dave still gripped his shotgun with his free one.
The firing stopped, and a loud scream rang out. Clara buried her face into Dave's shoulder, “Why aren't they helping them?” She cried.
“Cos we got no ammo yet!” The soldier snapped back.
“We have!” exclaimed Dave. He released Clara's hand, and pulled on Jim's sleeve, “Come on, we can help them!”
The waiting crowd had retreated further from the doors. The two friends pushed their way through, and stood silently for a few seconds.
“Remember your safety, and follow me!” Dave said quietly to Jim.
They advanced through the double doors, the heavy wooden and steel closing with a bang. Smoke could be seen swirling up towards the strip lights, and the corridor was in a strange semi darkness. They couldn't identify it, but the sharp smell of cordite filled the air, and empty bullet casings littered the floor.
With Dave leading, they walked slowly down the corridor, Dave trying the door handles of several doors, before finding one which would open.
He whispered for Jim to stay in the corridor, and he entered the room alone.
This was the room where Clara had been. He recognised the bed, only this time, the patient hadn't walked out of here. Four of the undead were busily pulling pieces of flesh from the dead patient. Her head lay to one side, blood spattered up and along her face, and her blonde hair was now a mixture of red and gold. They hadn't noticed Dave enter the room, but when the head of the closest zombie to him exploded, they all looked at once. He fired a second time, and another fell, half of his rotten face disappearing in a brown slimy mist. The remaining two zombies, tried to walk through the bed. Their arms were stretched out as if trying to reach for him. Dave aimed and destroyed another attacker, leaving just one. This time Dave hesitated.
The zombie appeared to be a child. She looked to be around 12 years old, and her flowery pyjamas gave Dave a clue to as to how she had become infected.
The girl had died whilst in bed, then found her way out of her home, and into the streets. Now she was here, and was actively trying to get to Dave.
She had bumped and bounced her way along the bed, and now she was clear to approach him. Her dead grey eyes stared straight into his soul, and her jaws banged together in a never ending chewing cycle. She moved to within 3 feet of him, and then he fired.
Her head flew up into the air, and landed with a bang on the floor. He had missed her head, and shot her in the neck. Her mouth still moved, but her body had ceased all functions, falling to the floor in a strange kneeling down position. Dave stood sickened for a few seconds, and only the sudden movement of the dead patient shook him from his thoughts. Another shot from his gun soon made her still again.
He pushed his way out into the corridor, and Jim stood there waiting. He looked terrified, and Dave patted him on the shoulder in a reassuring manner.
After pushing more shells into his shotgun, Dave took the lead, but before they could move any further down the corridor, running footsteps approached from behind them.
The corridor was full of troops, each one carrying a large looking rifle.
“Leave it to us lads!” One said as they ran past.
Jim breathed out loudly in relief, Dave looked at him and said, “Its OK to be scared mate, it means you still care”.
“You don't look scared!” he answered.
“You've not seen inside my pants!”
After leaving the corridor and meeting up with the anxious Clara, the three friends boarded the train. The soldiers on the platform had hastily passed out ammunition, and quickly boarded the train too.T2 was being used to transport much needed supplies to the Manchester forward base. The same steel box sat at the very front, but this time the two engines followed immediately behind. 6 passenger carriages then another steel box made up the rest of the train. Hundreds of soldiers had boarded at the same time, and they had struggled to stay together. Inside the carriages, the seats had been removed, and steel boxes had been stacked up against the ends. The last passenger car had been the most accessible, and this is where they found themselves.
“Thought this was the supply train?” Dave said.
“It is” Jim replied. They were all looking out of the windows, vertical steel bars had been fitted down every pane.
“Maybe these boxes are all the supplies they need?” Clara said.
“Well it won't keep a city fighting then.” Dave replied.
Speculation and thoughts of a dead city filled their heads, and silence soon filled the car.
The two tone train horn filled the air, and T2 jolted to a start.
The journey to Manchester had begun.