Front cover of What Went Wrong

Front cover of What Went Wrong

Chapter Seven : England

The city of Portsmouth contains Britain's busiest Naval base. The bulk of the Royal Navy is based in this one location, and usually a harbour pilot is required, to guide in the larger vessels. No pilot came out to meet the Ark Royal.

The carrier anchored out in the mouth of the port. The ships seemed to sit for hours before anything happened. Without being aware of it, the decision had been made to send someone into the port. Due to her size, the carrier would not be making the journey. After a conference across the flotilla’s radio’s, a much smaller warship entered the channel.

HMS Severn was a River class patrol boat. She was 79 metres long, and carried a crew of twenty men. It had been decided to send her, as she was the smallest military vessel present. Her size should allow her to be more manoeuvrable. For entering the port, she had taken on another twenty men, Royal Marines dispatched from the carrier. These highly trained men had volunteered to go ashore. The plan was to follow the channel, navigate up towards the military area and then launch two Zodiacs, rigid inflatable craft. Each one could carry ten men and all of their personal equipment. After leaving the patrol boat, the Marines would use the Zodiacs to find somewhere safe to land, then search the internal part of the docks, to try and find the reason for the apparent silence.

The tourists were stood on the flight deck of the Ark Royal. It seemed as though everyone was standing outside, on every ship or boat assembled.

Jim turned to Dave, "How silent is this?".

"I know mate. I’ve never been here before, so i don’t know what its like normally, but where is everyone?.

Both men stood and stared out into the port. Ships, boats, yachts and motor launches, all moored in neat rows, each vessel gently bobbing on the water. Any type of boat you could name was here. The only thing missing was people. The collective anticipation was almost visible.

Since they had arrived, not one person had been seen, not even a dead one. They watched as the Severn left the flotilla, and turned to enter the channel.

She travelled around five hundred feet, then started to blast her horn. The sound echoed up and down the silent port, it also made everybody jump.

It made sense to send out signals. The horn would travel for miles, and anyone who could hear it, would know that a ship was active in the port. As she progressed further away from the carrier, her horn took on a pathetic, almost mournful tone. She then turned to follow the channel, and was lost from view.

"Lets go and get some coffee mate. I want to check on Ella too." Dave turned as he spoke and after a few seconds Jim followed.

The trio were sat together in the mess hall. Both of the men wanted to return back to the flight deck, but Ella had complained about the boredom.

They had decided to be chivalrous and stayed below. The conversation had followed the usual pattern. Dave was laughing about everything, Ella saw a conspiracy in everything, and Jim just wanted to get home.

Ella and Dave were telling each other bad jokes, when a different noise, other than the unhappy ships horn, filtered through the open porthole.

It was the sound of a battle. They rushed out of the mess hall, intent on reaching the flight deck.

Most of the tourists had gone below, but now they were streaming back outside. It looked like most of the crew had joined them. Naval uniforms of all ranks mixed in with flowery shirts and Bermuda shorts. Jim, Dave and Ella joined the throng, and all eyes were staring towards the channel.

Nothing unusual could be seen. Everything looked as it did earlier. The mixed assortment of boats bobbing gently, the wind rustling through furled sails, everything looked the same. The sound however was completely different.

Gunfire could definitely be heard. A mixture of smaller pops and louder deeper bangs. A deep loud engine could be heard. The sounds travelling up and down the channel sent shivers up and down the spines of the waiting people.

Within a few minutes, one of the rigid inflatable craft came speeding into view. One of the crew was waving frantically from the bow of the craft, and around eight more men were huddled inside the boat. As the small black inflatable approached the centre of the channel, the Severn came powering in her wake. Her sides were full of men shooting. They appeared to be firing onto the dock side. The other inflatable was nowhere to be seen. As the first boat approached the carrier, it started to slow down.

The Severn however had stopped in the channel. She had turned slightly and her main deck gun was firing repeatedly onto the dock side. Figures could be seen falling into the water. Men and women were streaming along the dock, following a single black clothed person. He was running as fast as he could and the ships guns were firing into the large crowd behind him. The tourists watched in amazement as he jumped over a lunging figure. The guns were keeping the throng from getting close, but they couldn’t fire into the few figures in front of him.

"He’s carrying something!" someone shouted. It was true, the man had something in his arms, it was a child!

As everyone had been watching the action on the dock side, no one had noticed another ship move into the channel. This ship was much bigger than the Severn, and she had a lot more guns.

The Destroyer HMS Daring slowed down near the Severn. She dwarfed the patrol boat.

Within seconds of reaching her desired position, two massive machine guns opened up from her deck. These Phalanx guns could shoot a missile from the sky, and they decimated the running crowd. Body parts flew everywhere and within seconds left no one standing. As the noise of the heavy guns ceased, individual shots could be heard from the carriers deck. A sniper was firing towards the running man.

Everyone could see the man clearly now. He was holding a child, she looked to be around three or four years old, and she was clutching the mans chest. With both of his arms around her, he barrelled into a reaching figure. They all fell to the ground, and the girl rolled from his arms.

He was set upon in seconds. Four large men, who had appeared from nowhere, were pulling at his arms, trying to bite through his armour, and he seemed unable to stop them.

The sniper fired, and one of the men fell, his head exploding. Another fell, then another. The man on the ground pulled his side arm out and quickly dispatched the remaining zombies. One of the undead had been crawling towards the girl, She was soon stopped by the accurate firing of the sniper. The man quickly picked up the child and carried on his run. He seemed to be heading towards the end of the docks, closest to the ships, the wall here was only five or six feet above the water.

The Daring had been following his progress closely, and she had started to move with him. Her Phalanx guns opened up again, this time ahead of him, and he stopped running for a minute. A group of maybe twenty zombies were annihilated in seconds. The sniper fired again, and a zombie fell right behind him. The noise of the guns was so terrific he had’nt heard it. The phalanx guns fell silent again, and he carried on running. A few hundred yards away, hundreds of zombies had appeared. He was running straight at them, but as the dock curved he couldn’t see them.

People on the deck tried to shout to him, but he was just too far away.

Being further out in the channel, the Daring had seen the crowd. Her main deck gun fired, and the shell exploded right in the middle of the zombies. These must have been quite fresh, as blood flew up in all directions. Arms, legs and pieces of meat showered the area, and by the time he had reached the area, nothing was left moving.

The man finally reached the end of the dock, he was now as close to the ships as he could be, and the small black inflatable had moved closer. He climbed onto the small wall and jumped into the water. The guns were firing directly over his head now, constantly pumping hot lead into the growing crowd of the undead. Zombies were appearing all along the wall now. One after another was destroyed by the ships guns. If the sniper was still firing now, you couldn’t tell, the incredible noise from the ships drowned everything out. Destroyed zombies fell from the wall, a constant rain of flesh splashing all around them.

The man bobbed in the water, and the little girls long blond hair floated ll around them both. Within seconds the inflatable had returned, and the crew had dragged the floating figures on board. The Zodiac then power away from the dock wall and it’s carnage.

A massive roar went up from the ships. People cheered and screamed. The Severn and the Daring had now stopped firing, and slowly made their way back to the flotilla, the inflatable craft was lost to view. The wave of euphoria washed over the tourists, and some had started singing and dancing. Men and women hugged and kissed each other. Even the crew joined in, at this point rank made difference.

It was a massive relief to everyone. People were celebrating, others were talking excitedly. Zombies couldn’t stand up to warships!

Just look at how they had been destroyed! We need to keep firing. Look at that crowd gathering on the dock side.

Dave was cheering loudly, but when he looked towards Jim, all he saw was tears running down his friends face. Jim fell to the deck, on his knees, his head buried in his hands.

"Christ mate, he saved her!, he got her out!"

"Come on love, the ships helped him, they kept him safe!" Ella sounded a little more subdued then Dave, but still excited.

"You don’t understand. This is our biggest naval base." He paused, trying to compose himself, " This is our biggest base, and they took it over!, How the hell could Antosh and Jess survive this?"

The realisation hit Dave in the face. Ella put her arms around Jim, and he sobbed uncontrollably.