Thanks! We're nearing the final part of the story now, but there's still plenty more to come.
First, Pete has a busy day...
Friday 25th May
Things are moving pretty quickly here. Last night after dinner I stayed up late playing cards with the squad, and after I played the confused lad from the country card they gave me a little history lesson.
When the outbreak hit Lintin the survivors quickly aggregated into three main groups. The surviving police and army set up camp in the town college and took in lots of people, trying to keep society going. On the other side of town a local street gang took control of their tower block and began expanding, forcing survivors to join them or give up their supplies. These are the buggers in the red bandannas who tried to take my car. And then there was Section 9, who built their blockhouses and started eliminating the dead. Many survivors in their zone moved to their central compound, taking menial jobs in exchange for protection by their forces.
Everything was pleasant until supplies started to run out and the groups started encroaching on each other’s territory. Then they fought over what was left, each side battling the other two for anything of value. Section 9 had trained personnel and a huge stockpile of weapons; the two civilian groups didn’t stand a chance. When the soldiers from the stately home arrived in town they found less than a third of the college people left alive and promptly evacuated the starving refugees out to the countryside. The gangs formed an uneasy and very one-sided alliance with Section 9, choosing getting bullied and exploited over being shot in the streets.
Then at the start of April Section 9 vanished. A regular patrol found the blockhouses empty and the central compound deserted. The civilians who lived with them had vanished too, the few witnesses they could find said a convoy of trucks had left in the middle of the night. With them went all their military equipment, food and medical supplies, as well as any clue about what they were doing and why they left. It’s a blow for my search, though a bittersweet one. If they were still here I can’t imagine me sticking my nose in would go down well, at least with their building empty I can have a look around.
I told the squad about my house full of gear and a bit of an argument kicked up. Smithy was having none of it, saying my cockups were none of their business. Ash was on my side, he wanted to help me get my things back and put me back on my feet. Meg just kept quiet and chewed gum, I get the feeling she’s sat though this a fair few times. Davis watched the two men squabble for a few minutes before speaking, his voice was quiet and millpond calm but silence fell as soon as he opened his lips.
“When we survived we took an oath to preserve and protect human society. We do not pick and choose to whom that oath applies.”
And that was that, we rolled out this morning.
It felt good, riding through the town all tooled up and ready for action. After so long I was in control and projecting my will instead of bending to fate, with four veteran warriors and heavy hardware on my side there was no fear, only anticipation. Much to the chagrin of Smithy, Davis had given me ammo for my MP5 and a spare Kevlar vest and I took up position in the truck bed with Meg. She gave me a lesson in basic unit tactics and took pot-shots at the dead was we drove past, her aim was incredible.
When we arrived at the house we hit heavy undead resistance. When the swarm moved on a fair few had been left stuck in the house and garden and they came out to welcome us in force. We backed up down the drive, formed a firing line, and got stuck in. They went down in waves, our accurate fire filling the air with brown mist. We finished them off with bayonets, less than five minutes after we arrived we were walking through the door. Me and Ash cleared the house of stuff as the rest of the squad kept up a perimeter, and ten minutes later we bundled back into the Land Rover to head for home. Meg nicely informed me that my trusty old car was a pile of shite and she’d hotwire me something much nicer back at base, so I bid it a fond farewell.
Just as we were heading for home when it went south. Out of nowhere a round ricocheted off the bonnet and took out the door mirror, Davis swerved hard and we hit the deck as Smithy opened up with wild suppressing fire. We pulled into a cut-though between two roads and bailed out. On the other side of the alley was an abandoned car that blocked our exit, we took cover behind it as Meg searched for our shooter. A mini periscope was produced and she scanned the street, the guys had their guns up and ready as they covered our flanks. Tense minutes passed before Meg called it; a man in a trashed shop 100 yards away. She grabbed her rifle and swung around the corner, as she crouched a round whistled past and threw up cloud of plaster but she stayed rock steady and fired a single shot. Quiet returned as she announced a hit, then all hell broke loose.
Davis and Ash were covering opposite ends of the alley and both opened up at once as figures came out of cover in the houses on both sides. Smithy was screaming blue murder at me as he fired his sidearm, the crossfire keeping him from reaching the gun turret. I was on Davis’ side and joined in, firing bursts as bullets slammed into the car we were hiding behind. If the alley had been empty... I wouldn’t be sat here writing this. I could see three of them, flashes of red on their clothing told me all I needed about their motives and I sent a swift burst into the chest of a man as he jumped from behind a car. For a moment his scream was audible over the gunfire, then his lungs breathed their last and he was silent. Davis snapped off a round into a second, blowing him backwards. Number three realised which way the wind was blowing and dashed back through the house to safety, with our bullets tearing past him as he ran.
With one side clear Smithy went for the MG. Thankfully the roar of the automatic weapon cut off him streams of profanity against me for getting them into his mess. As I looked round I realised with a horrible jolt Ash had been hit, his entire thigh red with blood. Davis screamed at me to cover the back as he ran over and grabbed the med bag, pulling a tourniquet out as the bald man writhed in agony. Revenge was swift; Smithy sent a wave of metal rain roaring across the street and tore the houses apart. I felt a hand on my arm, Meg pulled me into the truck bed as the squad piled into the Land Rover and Davis floored it. We radioed ahead and the base were ready, their medic rushed Ash into a makeshift surgery as soon as we got through the gate.
I was an outsider to their worry and went and sat in my little room with my head in my hands. Two days I had known these people and my actions had almost got us all killed. Thank goodness the bullet missed the artery - Ash should make a full recovery. After a few hours Davis came up to me and sat down opposite, his uniform still splattered with Ash’s blood. I made to speak but he cut me off with a single raised finger.
“What happened today was not your fault. If not today, an attack would have come tomorrow, or next week, but it would still have come. Ash will recover and our enemy is weakened. You’re a good man, Pete, and you fought well today.”
The Sergeant stood up to leave and I blurted out a hasty “but Smithy...” For the first time I saw a soft sadness amongst in the strength in his eyes as he replied.
“Smithy has lost too many friends and found too many enemies. We all have, but he feels it more than he should. The world is a harsh enough place without the enemies in our own heads.”
And with that he went, and left me to my thoughts.