The flares had guided them back to the base. They had actually been quite close, but their lack of local area knowledge had kept this fact from them.
They had found the avenue easily, and were all excited to see the wall panel standing open for them. Jim drove the Rover through the gap, and was surprised with what he saw.
Not one single person was standing waiting for them. Rover One stood in front of the building, but no passengers were on board. The boxes and crates were still here, as were the heavy machine guns, but no soldiers could be seen. Jim and Omo stepped out of the Rover. None of the floodlights were working, so everything was in semi darkness. This was not right, the base was due to be cleared tomorrow. Where the hell was everybody?
Only a faint shouting could be heard. It was too far away to be understood though.
Omo told them to reattach the fence panel, he was going to have a look round. He reminded them to keep their shotguns with them, but only use them if absolutely necessary. He then moved off into the direction of the office block.
Jim and Dave struggled to move the big steel square. It soon became obvious why the panel was not attached, the large steel bolts that were used to connect the pieces together, had been snapped off. Something had rammed the wall, breaking the panel free.
The two friends looked at each other just as Omo came running from the buildings entrance.
“Get in the Rover!” he shouted. Hundreds of zombies were pouring out of the building. More were coming from around the corner. Nigerian uniforms could be seen in the crowd. It was only then that the friends noticed the bodies. Hundreds of them were scattered around the compound.
The base had fallen!.
They all reached the Rover at the same time, but as Dave and Jim jumped inside, Omo ran straight past them. Jim turned the Rover around, and the headlights were pointed straight at the Nigerian. He was dragging the wall panel down again. Jim started to drive towards the hole, he slowed down for Omo, but the soldier ran past them again. Jim watched through the mirrors as the huge soldier jumped into Rover One, and started to move it in reverse.
Jim drove straight over the fallen fence panel, more zombies had appeared in front of them, but he easily crashed through. Omo spun Rover One around, and quickly followed them. The zombies had reached his vehicle, A Small number were now clinging onto the sides. As he crashed through the gap, some of the were scraped off the sides, leaving wet sticky patches on the fence, but one or two remained on the back.
The two Rovers reached the top of the avenue, and the night was turned into day.
They were all temporarily blinded by an intense bright light. And all they could do was slam on the brakes. A large black helicopter was hovering above the building in front of them. The searchlight mounted underneath them moved from the two Rovers, it now pointed towards the breached fence, where zombies were pouring through. Two jets of fire erupted from the short stubby wings of the aircraft, and thousands of red hot bullets pumped into the zombies. Figures danced and exploded everywhere. The two streams of hot steel moved backwards and forwards across the entrance. Only when a huge pile of body parts blocked the hole, did the firing stop.
“Go to Victoria Train Station. Go To Victoria Train Station!” An immensely loud voice commanded. The public address system clicked off and the helicopter moved over towards the top of the office block. The three men were now stood on the road. Omo was out of breath, but unharmed.
“What the fuck happened here Omo?” Dave asked.
“I think Rover One breached the fence, look.” Omo indicated the steel wedge on the front of Rover One, it was all twisted. Only the rear of Rover One had been visible before.
“Look out!” shouted Jim, one of the zombies from the back of Rover One had come around the side and none of them had their weapons!.
His stink reached them before he did, and black filth ran from his mouth.
The friends started to back up, but before he took another step, the top of the zombies head exploded into nothing. Another one appeared from the back of the Rover and they watched him drop to the floor. What was happening?
The helicopter could be seen hovering above the office block, and small figures were climbing up a rope ladder. The snipers!, they were still here!
“We need to move guys”. Jim said, “We should move some of them into the other Rover.” He was talking about the women and children in the back of Rover Two.
“Poor fucking John!” Dave said with some bitterness.
After some swift rearranging, the two vehicles resumed their journey. Omo had been able to contact the train station, via the radio, and the safest route was quickly planned. Rover One carried Omo, the still withdrawn Jane and the children, Rover Two now had Jim, Dave and Clara. The helicopter shadowed the convoy, providing over watch. This action, it turned out was lucky for them, the helicopter had to use it's main guns twice, just to keep the upcoming roads open.
During the journey Jim and Clara exchanged stories. They spoke of how they had become embroiled in this mess. Clara spoke of how she had ended up trapped in a corner shop with the others, of how there were six adults, and five children at first. Terry and Jane had stopped the children from running out after their father, he had left the shop to try and help their beleaguered mother. They had both eventually come back, but neither were alive. Luckily for them the shop had been well stocked. They had stayed hidden for two days before the parents had found them. She told him how they had seen the other three vans drive past, and Terry had said his van was right outside. Terry had got to the van OK, but the group had been eaten down to three adults and four children by the time they had got in. Terry had followed the convoy for nearly ten miles, but then they had ran out of fuel. The other vans had never once acknowledged their existence.
Dave simply snored through the whole conversation. He never seemed to be uncomfortable. The position he was sleeping in should have felt like a broken neck.
Within an hour, the bright lights of an army base could be seen, but what a base!.
This time there were no camouflage walls, no hidden machine guns. To approach the main entrance, the Rovers had to drive down a short, single lane road which led to the high, six inch steel gates. The access road was flanked by two storey buildings on both sides, soldiers could be seen in every window, and along the rooftops, creating a perfect killing zone. This base had three layer chain link fences, tanks and more soldiers than they had ever seen. All along the building tops, guns could be seen, lots of guns. Piles of dead zombies were strewn everywhere, the weapons must work then Jim thought. The helicopter left them at the gates, and it took less than five minutes to enter the base. Constant gunfire could be heard, and the children started crying in Omo’s Rover.
They were directed to a long line of similar vehicles, and after parking up, they all climbed out. This time they all remembered their weapons. A soldier and two nurses met them, the soldier throwing Omo a very smart salute.
The civilians were led away by the nurses, all but Clara who insisted on staying with the men, the friends were then led into the station.
Sand bagged dividing walls were everywhere. Familiar looking heavy machine guns covered every approach, and the sound of British soldiers filled the air. It was impossible to walk anywhere in a straight line, as the whole inner station area was divided into separate walkways and passages.
“Why is this like a maze?” Dave asked the soldier.
“Oh that' so if the zombies get in, they'll slow down, you know, so we can kill em. It stops em from walking straight in.”
“Oh, OK then” he replied. Dave and Jim just shared a puzzled look.
This was no hidden base, this was a hard fighting, right out in the open forward supply hub. Everywhere possible had a firing position set up, outside, inside, suspended above the entrance. If any zombies did get through the fence, they wouldn’t get very far.
The station still looked like a station, but somehow it seemed bigger. Each platform held stacks of boxes and crates, various different languages covering them. Soldiers stood at the end of every platform, on every staircase. Omo didn't seem concerned at all, but Jim and Dave started to feel a little uneasy. The obstructed passageway's idea made sense, but they both knew that sometimes you had to run, and if you couldn’t see where you were running to... the thought went on unsaid.
It was impossible to see down any of the platforms. Stacks of green metal boxes prevented any kind of view, that and the very big armed men guarding each and every entrance. It looked like each one was being kept separate from the main entrance and hall.
The soldier continued on through the rabbit warren, he led them deep into some obscure offices deep inside the building. After knocking loudly on the door, he entered the room. Omo waited outside, but Jim and Dave stepped inside.
“Well I’ll be buggered then!” Dave exclaimed, a huge grin spreading across his face. Sat behind the big brown desk, was none other than the colonel.
“Hello guys!, glad to see you made it!” John struggled to his feet. He shook hands with each of the men in turn.
“How the hell did you get here?, we thought you got eaten mate!” he laughed at his own joke.
“I was on the rooftop. When the zombies appeared, we climbed the building and held the roof. You guys are lucky you know, that was the last helicopter run.”
“Well we are eternally grateful John.” Jim said. He slumped into one of the chairs. “We got left behind by the other Rover, then we followed the flares back to the base. That was a very good idea.”
“Like I said Jim, very lucky. The flares were to show the helicopter where we were. We had no comms on the roof, the vehicles which had left had reported our position.”
“So what happened then?” Dave asked. “Did Rover One crash the fence?”
“Oh yes, but the zombies were already inside.” John leant forward and lit Dave’s mysterious newly appeared cigarette. “The whole restaurant area exploded with them. One minute it was business as usual, then the next thing you know, zombies everywhere.”
“The civilians?, but they were fine.” Jim replied. He was thinking about the families and other people who had been sat there. During the three hours it had taken to reach the van, and then return, the whole refugee population had become zombies.
“I went into the restaurant for my lunch, everyone was fine, roughly thirty minutes later, we had a base full of zombies. The whole floor had been infected. My guys were doing OK, they were holding on pretty well, we had been able to contain them and were slowly working our way through. Only a small group were outside in the compound. Then Rover One burst through the fence. He brought the contents of the whole neighbourhood with him. After taking out the whole panel, he emptied out the civilians straight into our small pack of car park zombies. The idiot got himself and everyone else killed.”
“There were children on that Rover John” Jim said sickened.
Clara stood in shock, she had thought the children were safe.
“I know Jim, we did all we could, but we just couldn't get to them in time. If it helps at all, I made sure they didn’t suffer.”
“Suffer!, they got fucking eaten John!” Dave shouted.
“No Dave, one of my men took them out with a grenade. They never felt it.”
“Jesus.” Jim said quietly. His head sunk into his hands, and tears streamed down his face. Dave pulled heavily on the last of his cigarette.
Clara sat down heavily on the floor. The room had started to spin, and the voices around her, took on a strange sounding echo. The lights started to fade, then nothing.
Clara wasn't aware of how long she had been asleep, or if she had even been asleep. She struggled to open her eyes. The first thing which became clear to her, was the voices. Jim and Dave were talking close by. Dave was saying something about Ella, and Jim mentioned Jess. She tried to open her eyes, but something seemed to be wrong. Her eyes felt like they were glued shut. She started to panic, a low moan coming from her lips.
“Don't try to move Clara, everything’s OK mate.” Dave's voice reached her ears. “You were given a sedative, give it a few minutes” She felt a warm hand touch her forearm. It seemed to be stroking her.
“I'll go and find John.” she heard Jim say.
She tried to talk, but Dave shushed her again.
“Hang on mate, just a few minutes. They gave you a muscle relaxant, to help you sleep.”
“Nnnnnngggg!” she said. This was very frustrating, and also a little scary.
“Just a few minutes, then you'll be able to move again. Just be patient woman!” he tried to sound stern, but despite her predicament, she knew he was joking.
He was correct and after a few minutes, Clara could open her eyes. Within half an hour she could move around the bed.
Jim, Omo and the colonel came into the room. They sat on the opposite side of the hospital bed to Dave, Omo stood at the foot of the bed.
“Welcome back!” Jim said smiling.
“What happened?” she asked.
“You fainted.” John said simply.
“But instead of being graceful, you smacked your head off the door on your way down.”
“So why the muscle relaxant?”, She knew that wasn’t normal.
“You were having some kind of seizure Clara. Are you Epileptic?” John was being his usual no nonsense self.
“Not that I’m aware of.” She said quietly, “never fainted before”.
“Well we are hoping it was only down to malnutrition and dehydration. But you may have to stay here at the station though.”
“I don’t understand?” she said.
“I'm going home Clara. I'm going to Manchester!” She could see the sparkle in Jim's eyes as he spoke. “The Army is sending a train to Manchester in the morning, and we've got a place on board.”
Dave couldn’t hide his excitement either.
“If you think I am letting you pair of idiots out of my sight, then think again. You two should have been killed several times up to now. You seem to be the luckiest people around. I’m staying with you guys!”
It seemed as though Clara had made up her mind. The three men all exchanged bemused glances.
“Bossy bleeding women!” Dave said in mock disgust.