Authors: Suchitra Chatterjee
Tags: #Zombie Apocalypse
“Any wild garlic nearby?” I asked Phoenix.
“Then why would they think he is alive?”
Phoenix didn’t answer. He moved the cursor so I could follow the line of trucks, which were parked along a once elegant grass verge.
“Have you got Zimmerman’s sister’s address?” I said to Phoenix. Stupid question, of course he had. Seconds later, we were outside the address and I saw familiar faced soldiers, no longer in biohazard suits, but in their combats, milling about a large house in a well-kept garden of at least five to six acres.
I got a glimpse of Private Salter, he was sitting on the step of one of the army trucks, his arm still in a sling. He looked bored.
“Can you get into the house?” I asked.
Phoenix expertly hovered the miniature drone near some neatly trimmed ivy over an oak front door. It eventually opened and I saw Nat, he was carrying a pink bundle in his arms that was moving.
“I wish this had sound,” I muttered.
Phoenix moved his hand to a button on a black box behind his computer screen. There was a crackling sound and then there were voices.
“Audio was difficult,” he said, “But not impossible.” I heard shouting. The drone moved through the house, keeping high up so it wouldn’t be detected.
We flew into a large room, filled with fine furnishings and several people. Phoenix gently put the drone onto a light fitting that had an overview of the whole of the room. The moving images from the video were panoramic and clear.
Phoenix had provided me a photo of Zimmerman and he was sitting on a chair at a large shiny oak dinging table, his head in both of his hands.
An older woman was standing by a fireplace. Beside her were two young boys. One was about six or seven years old, the other no more than four or five. The old woman had her arms around the boys. Her face was wet with tears and the boys had a look of bewilderment on their faces.
I saw Wolf and Elise. Duke wasn’t in the vicinity, but I suspected he wasn’t far away.
“…will be leaving in the morning,” Wolf was speaking, his voice sounded tinny, but he was audible.
The Professor’s head shot up, “And go where?” he said.
“Epsilon Command Base 2 in London,” Wolf replied tersely.
“You don’t want to be going there,” Zimmerman said.
“Those are the orders,” Wolf said flatly.
“Tell him why he doesn’t want to be going there, Aaron,” the old woman’s voice was filled with pain and anger, “Tell him you bastard!”
“Rachel…” Zimmerman began, but his sister interrupted him with a hiss as she clutched at the shoulders of the two boys.
“Don’t you Rachel me you son-of-a-bitch, it’s because of you my Grandchildren don’t have parents anymore!”
“I told them not to go to London!” Zimmerman wailed, “I begged them not to!”
The Drone camera footage was good and I said as much to Phoenix.
“Only the best technology and hardware,” Phoenix said.
“Yeah,” I said dryly, “For mass murderers.”
“You didn’t tell them why!” Rachel was screaming at her brother, “You didn’t tell them that the world was going to end did you?”
“It was an accident,” Elise’s voice cut over Rachel’s and the older woman turned her wrath on the female officer.
“It was no accident Captain, it was done on purpose, by the people my brother worked for, he warned them that the pathogen was not ready to be deployed, oh yes he was part of it, only he knew what it might possibly do…”
“Shut up Rachel!” Zimmerman shouted, and he slammed both his fists onto the table “Shut up! I tried to get you to listen, to come back with me to America, but you wouldn’t, you wouldn’t leave, that’s why I came here to you!”
Elise looked at Wolf who was staring at Zimmerman silently.
Wolf turned and shouted out a soldier’s name, “Take the children to Lieutenant Barnes,” he ordered the female soldier who was called Topaz.
The two boys didn’t want to leave their Grandmother, but she soothed them gently, stroking their hair, kissing their bewildered faces and telling them to go and sit with their sister and she would be with them soon enough. The boys went with Ellis, both looking back at their Grandmother, fear in their eyes I suspected. I wanted to feel sorry for them, but I found I couldn’t. I felt nothing for them at that moment.
“How did you survive?” Wolf spoke once the two boys were out of hearing, “All the other survivors were found in remote areas, you are in a town that is now empty of people.”
I had been thinking about that too. I leaned over Phoenix, my eyes glued to the screen.
“He inoculated us,” Rachel said bitterly, “We didn’t know, he put it in our food, only it made Poppy sick.”
“It wasn’t meant for babies,” Zimmerman mumbled and he rubbed his tired face,” I couldn’t make much, and I hadn’t tested it, I wasn’t sure even it would work…”
“Did you give it to your niece and nephew-in-law?” Wolf asked flatly.
Zimmerman nodded his head.
Wolf laughed softly, “Then they will have survived the contagion, that is until the Twice Dead got to them, then they would have been ripped apart and eaten alive,” his words had the impact he intended them to have.
Rachel’s hand shot to her mouth, she swayed, but she was one tough woman, she didn’t fall to the ground and scream hysterically as so many would have done.
“They were going to do it with or without me,” Zimmerman said pitifully to his sister, “They said they would allow my family to be part of the chosen, but you refused to come to America, so I came home, hoped I could persuade you to change your mind, but it wasn’t supposed to happen so soon, it wasn’t supposed to happen for another six months.”
He sounded bewildered by this.
“Sir,” Elise began; I could hear the shock in her voice, but Wolf held up his hand to silence her.
“And now we know the truth about the contagion,” Wolf said, “So Epsilon Command, once they have you under their control will get rid of us, because we know the truth.”
“You’re a soldier,” Zimmerman said in a spirited voice, “You follow orders.”
“Only up to a point,” Wolf said coldly, “You aren’t worth saving Zimmerman, but if I leave you here Epsilon Command will only send another unit to get you, probably sacrificing more ignorant soldiers in the process because most of the cities are overrun with the Twice Dead that appear to have a plan, any idea what that plan is?”
“Twice Dead?” Zimmerman said in a dazed voice.
“It’s what a group of disabled people who survived the contagion called them,” Wolf said, “I was made to abandon them, they weren’t worth saving apparently.”
“Dear God,” Rachel had to sit down then, I was surprised that our fate had affected her more than the fate of the world itself, “Aaron, what have you done?”
“I wanted to save you and the children,” he said pathetically.
“You should have left us to die,” the old woman shook her head, “At least we would have all been together.”
“You’d have been turned into one of those things!” he cried out, “I told Ivan…”
“It doesn’t matter,” Rachel turned to Wolf, ignoring her brother for the moment, “For what it is worth Colonel, I am sorry, really sorry.”
“You weren’t involved ma’am,” Wolf said, “Captain; get the troops ready to leave right now.”
“Where are we going Sir?” Elise said.
“Back to Thorncroft.”
My eyes went huge at these words, “Oh shit,” I whispered.
“To collect Private Jasper and Corporal Peters?” Elise said. So they had been missed. Sooner than even they had anticipated.
“No, to join them,” Wolf replied and I groaned out loud, “Do you have any more of this inoculation you created?”
Zimmerman shook his head, “I can make more, but I will need some of the pathogen…” the explosion of glass made me step back and even Phoenix pushed his chair away from his computer. He momentarily lost control of the Bee-in-the-SKY and it fell, but no one noticed it because the Twice Dead body hurtling through the French Windows followed by gunfire was what everyone in the room was interested in.
Phoenix had to take the Drone right up to the ceiling to get it out of the way of flying debris. Not wanting to lose the Bee-in-the-SKY, he flew it out into the open through the shattered doors.
I had briefly seen Elise and Wolf pulling their guns, but that was it, and outside it was chaos because there was more than just one Twice Dead.
“Oh Christ,” I said and I thought about Private Salter. Where was he? Was he still sitting on the truck step? Had he been bitten, or worse, eaten? Oh Shit!
“What is going on?” I turned at the sound of the voice. Corporal Peters was standing at the door, I wasn’t quick enough to put myself between him and the computer screen, but that wouldn’t have made any difference as the audio was still on.
He strode into the room and pushed me to one side. He stared at the screen and what was on it, shock etched on his face as he watched the scene unfold from the lens of the Bee-in-the-SKY. Bullets flying about, people screaming, Wolf and Elise’s voice shouting out orders.
“What the fuck?” Corporal Peters grabbed hold of my arm, “What the hell is this?”
“Your old unit getting the shit kicked out of it by the Twice Dead!” I twisted free from his hold.
“Where are they? What the hell is going on?”
“They’re about 70 miles away from here,” I said, it was no use trying to hide anything anymore from the young soldier, “They were redeployed by Epsilon Command, to pick up survivors, Corporal Peters, this contagion didn’t happen by accident, it was done on purpose.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” Corporal Peters barked at me.
“They went to this place to pick up a man called Zimmerman,” I grabbed the papers that Phoenix had printed off from his bed and shoved them under his face, I had to make him believe me and so my brain went into overdrive with what I had to say, “It was a mass Human Cleansing, no one was supposed to survive worldwide, a New World Succession for a new world, only it went tits up, the pathogen that caused the contagion wasn’t safe, Zimmerman apparently tried to warn his fellow scientists, but they didn’t listen to him, he returned to his family here in England to try and save them, but the pathogen was released earlier than even he expected, but he had created an inoculation for the pathogen, that was why Wolf was sent to Birenchester, Zimmerman probably managed to get hold of someone in your Epsilon Command and that is why your quarantine here was cut short.”
Corporal Peters was standing rock still, clutching the papers I had thrust at him, his pupils were dilated, but at least he was listening to me.
I took another breath, “And that’s not all, Duke and Charles, they are Epsilon Command plants in your unit, the rest of you, well you are all just combat soldiers, cannon fodder for their use, all the other survivors that were rescued, they’re dead, apparently they contracted the contagion when they were taken from their place of rescue, only that wasn’t what happened, they were murdered by whoever was an Epsilon Command plant in the military unit that found them.”
“Murdered?” I could see that Corporal Peters didn’t believe me. Didn’t want to believe me. He shook his head.
“Bullshit,” he said. He started to walk away when he heard Wolf’s voice again on the computer screen. His eyes swiveled and I realised that Phoenix was playing back what the Bee-in-the-SKY had recorded. Thank fuck Phoenix had included a recording ability into his Drone.
The young soldier watched and listened, right up to the attack of the Twice Dead.
“Now do you believe me?” I said quietly.
He didn’t speak for a moment, but when he did, I saw he had gone into soldier mode and I was glad, “If all survivors were being killed off, why wasn’t the same done to all of you?” he snapped at me.
“But it was, only we knew more than any of you,” and I told him about the vaccinations we were supposed to have been given and also the phials that Duke had put in the Yellow Room, replacing the medication that Paul was taking for his pain.
“All the Zombies,” Corporal Peters said trying to quickly process the mass of information I was throwing at him, “I thought they were heading for cities.”
“So did we,” I said grimly, “Something has changed, don’t ask me what, we know Jack Shit.”
“They are the Twice Dead,” Phoenix spoke as he flicked the Bee-in-the-SKY back on. We saw that some of Wolf and his people had got away, trucks were moving, there was no sign of Wolf’s jeep, obviously it had been abandoned.
I couldn’t see who was in which vehicle, but there had been casualties, before Phoenix moved the Bee-in-the-SKY to follow the departing vehicles I saw a host of Twice Dead devouring several combat clothed bodies, they were umbrellaed over their doomed prey, rising and falling like deadly mutant swans.
“I hope those Epsilon Command bastards are having their entrails sucked on,” I said to Phoenix.