Authors: Ricky Cooper
Tags: #Zombie Apocalypse
'Stand fast and lower your weapons.'
The voice came out slightly muffled, spoken as it was, through the Nomex balaclava covering his captor's features. Baker cast an appraising eye over the men before him, their matte-black uniforms devoid of any identifying markings. The Gerber tactical daggers held inverted on their chests and the Sig-Sauer 9mm pistols in hard-shell drop leg holsters gave Baker pause. His eyes drifted to the top left pocket on their battle vests.
As his gaze alighted on the woven black thread of the dagger inside the conjoined and inverted V's, his blood ran cold.
'Do as he says. Baxter, Clarkenwell, lower your weapons. Kingsley, you as well; this lot don't fuck about.'
The black sergeant grudgingly let his weapon drop, the rifle bouncing against his frame as it hung on the three-point tactical sling that snaked its way around his body.
'They who I think they are?'
Baker simply nodded as he watched the soldiers approach; with one smooth motion, the operative unsheathed his knife and slipped it behind the Cordura sling across Derek's chest, then with a short, sharp, flick of his wrist, cut the weapon free of Baker's body. A heavy clatter echoed around the empty building as his weapon hit the hard, unforgiving concrete.
The sound echoed around him as it was answered by the heavy metallic clunk of its brethren as they were sent crashing to the floor. Baxter, a pain-filled wince riding through him, watched as his weapon collided with the unyielding ground. Staring at the impassive eyes of the operative before him, he spoke.
'I hope you're going to pay for me to have the sights fixed and the barrel re-blued.'
Baxter's sarcastic comment was met with a clenched fist slamming heavily into his solar plexus.
Bolton's hands were tucked behind him, the steel scaffold pole cold against his skin. The winter's chill seeped through him as the metal's water-etched surface sucked at his skin, the ice clutching at him as it tore at his flesh. He winced when he moved, the sharp bite of the icicles' teeth snipping lumps from his palms as he flexed his fingers.
The operative before him held out a cigarette. Bolton let a small, derisive chuckle echo through his throat as he leant out, his lips parted slightly to clasp the filter. The soft paper and cotton tip stuck to his chapped lips as he settled back on his haunches. The yellow, flickering dance of the lighter in the operative's hand stung his eyes as he sucked at the processed stick of tobacco.
'So, Bolton, where are they?'
Bolton blew the blue, tar-laced smoke from his nose as he looked at the shadowed face in front of him. Its hawk-nose sneer made his hands itch with the desire to smash it from this world.
The sneering face creased with anger as Bolton once more drew in the nicotine-drenched smoke.
The face's fists clenched, the watery blue eyes dancing with a barely suppressed rage. The glittering stain of manic psychosis pranced just out of reach as they bored into Bolton.
'The rest of your team—Davies and the others!'
Bolton's smirk sent ash trickling down the front of his rig as he stared back at the face in front of him.
'Oh, I thought you meant your wife and daughter. I was going to say they're down the road in the Premier Inn; didn't know your kid was into anal.'
A brick-sized fist crashed into the side of Bolton's head, sending him sideways. His hand squealed as his flesh ground against the pole, blood seeping from around the flex cuffs. Shaking his head, he pulled himself back onto his knees, blood trickling down the side of his face as it gently pulsed from the rippled tear in his hairline. Relaxing his lips, he let the cigarette's smoke fill his lungs, the burst of nicotine calming his nerves as he steeled himself for his next reply.
'Okay, you got me; your mother was there too.'
His head snapped left as a boot tore into him, the ridged, grit-covered sole tearing into the side of his face; a trail of torn skin and soil-filled grazes covered his jaw and cheek bone as he once more levered himself onto his knees.
'I am going to ask you again; where are they?'
Bolton spat the snapped cigarette away, blood trickling from his torn lip. He ran his tongue over the centimetre-deep tear, the taste of copper filling his mouth as his own blood coated his tongue.
'Okay, sorry. I meant to say we're all meeting up down there; Davies has gone to get the beer. Then we're all going to sausage slap the three of them!'
His head snapped backwards, a deep metal-filled thrum filling the air as his head hit the pole; stars filled his vision as another punch landed, sending him sideways into the floor. He struggled onto his knees again, blood pouring from his nose and face. He felt the sting of freshly opened flesh as his eye began to swell; hawking up a mix of mucus and blood he spat it on to the floor.
'You don't like me, do you, James?'
Bolton winced sharply as he smiled, watching the watery blue eyes as they drank in the sight of his battered face.
'Shit, whatever gave you that idea? I love everyone—just ask your mother and daughter; hell your wife is so "loved" that she's taken more of a pounding than Omaha Beach on D-day.'
The sharp toe of a boot slammed into the side of Bolton's head, his vision swam as he forced himself to stay upright.
'Who gave you the call?'
Bolton's lip twisted as he smiled, blood pooling in his mouth.
'I think his name was Sook jit; oh and that's pronounced, suck shit.'
The dancing ballet of psychosis edged ever closer to the pair of pale, watery blue eyes as he heard the clenching of a gloved fist.
Bolton spat out a molar, a twisted blood-covered smear of nerve and gum trailing after it.
'One last time, where is Davies and the rest of your team? You know I don't like hurting you like this; it's too... messy, doesn't get you anywhere.'
'You don't like hurting me? Is that why they're doing it? Then again, your wife had some wild ideas... those I liked. This... I could take it or leave it.' He pitched sideways, his eyes going dim, the sound of leather on flesh filling the air as the three men around him beat him into submission.
Rawlings staggered along, his hands held clasped behind his back, the flex cuffs biting deep into the flesh of his wrists. A sharp shove between his shoulder blades sent him staggering as he fought for purchase on the rain-slicked tarmac. He raised his face to the rain as he finally lost his footing and fell to his knees, the hard shell of his kneepads clacking off the water-laden surface.
A muffled grunt caught his attention. Glancing to his left he watched the battered form of his long-time friend and squad mate fall in beside him, blood oozing from his nose and lips as his head hung limply against his chest.
'James, bro, you okay?'
Bolton's one good eye cracked open, a roguish grin flourishing on his rapidly swelling features.
'They got nothing.'
He tried to wink, only to find his swollen cheek and brow too painful to move. Rawlings heaved as the tattered and torn left side of Bolton's face fell into view. The light played off the shimmering mess of torn skin and flesh cut so deep that the sinew and the shadowed glinting of bone teased Rawlings' closed eyes, the hot sting of tears burning their way through.
Baker marched out of the building, Kingsley at his side. The sloshing footsteps of Baxter and Clarkenwell followed in their wake.
A soft chorus of affirmations graced his ears as well as a solitary static-filled double click. A smile teased his lips as he stoically walked towards the blurred shapes ahead, his mind whirling as he began to cycle through all the options before him.
Davies watched through the scope of his rifle as Baker and the others were pushed towards the group waiting in the centre of the car park, their captors grabbing hold of their shoulders and forcing the four men to their knees. With a short motion of his hand, Davies sent Hamilton and Jones through the shifting shadows as he rose to a hunched crouch and made his way slowly forwards.
The illuminated sights of his optics settled on one of Broadhead's captors. A smooth flick of his thumb set his weapon to automatic. He watched as the black-clad soldiers moved into position around Baker and the others.
His finger grazed the trigger; the need to open fire was stronger than anything he had ever felt in his ten years as a soldier. Grinding his teeth together, he watched as a cadaverous shape appeared behind Rawlings and Bolton. It moved between the black-clad troopers who were standing over the two kneeling soldiers like a pair of daemonic watchdogs.
He wanted nothing more in the world than to clamp his finger down on the trigger, unleashing a storm of death upon those who would cause his friends and family harm. But he knew that for all the good it would do, it would harm those he wished to save tenfold. In an agonising moment of visceral self-betrayal, he pulled his finger out from the trigger guard and watched the events unfold.
Baker stared with contempt and hatred at the man responsible for the deaths of many he had held dear.
The twisted, smirking visage of the blonde man was like a knife twisting in Baker's very core. The molten seeds of rage burned deep in his soul. He shook and twisted his shoulders, his flesh tearing as he tore at the flex cuffs binding his hands behind him. The hot, coppery smell of his own blood wafted up from the wet floor beneath him as it poured from his ripped skin, soaking the sleeves of his jacket and pooling in the fingers of his gloves.
Motion in the corner of his eye distracted him from his own rage. He watched Kingsley rise, his movements almost feline as he sprang from his knees and launched himself forwards. A glimmer of wet, carbon-fibre-infused plastic ended Kingsley's efforts as the stock of a weapon crashed into the base of his skull. Like a marionette with no strings, Kingsley slumped to the floor, blood seeping in a thin, diffused halo about his head as the flesh began to bleed.
'Valiant effort, but alas it was too little too late; once again, Derek, you have fallen short of the last hurdle and failed as you always do.'
Ridgmont slowly stepped forwards, his face now lined and creased, no longer the pale young officer Baker had known twenty years before.
'Why me? Why us? All we've ever done is our job. I can't be held accountable for the actions of others. You know this isn't the way an officer does things. Hiring killers… what, are you a coward?'
Ridgmont's features contorted into a feral snarl as he reeled from the barbed words.
'You have the gall to call me a coward? Me, the man who pulled you from the fires of hell itself. It is you who are the coward, sir, not me!'
He gesticulated wildly at Baker, the nickel-plated 9mil in his hand glinting in the cold moonlight.
'Pulled me from the fires of hell? You were the one who sent me in there—me and the rest of Charlie Company! How many of your men died? How many of them begged you to send in armoured support while they were cut to ribbons in open ground? Men with families, men with mothers and fathers; sons and daughters.
'Begging, all of them begging you for help while those around them died, including your own son. And you call me a coward; you're the one who marched your men into the meat grinder, all for a handshake and a lump of tin.'
Ridgmont's eyes went dark as he stepped back, reeling from Baker's words as the bound and kneeling lieutenant carried on.
'I was there. I saw him pulling his own men from the field through a hailstorm of lead. I watched as he took round after round and still pulled two of his command team to safety.
'Do you know what he said to me as I sat there trying to stop him from bleeding out? Do you know what he said as his blood slipped through my fingers? "Tell my father I'm sorry." His dying words, Ridgmont, were not some grandiose platitude or heroic statement; they were nothing more than an apology to the man who had sent him to his death.'
Baker glared. Ridgmont's lips curled into a venom-filled smile as he stared into the eyes of hatred. Lifting his pistol, he weighed the implement of death, letting it float in his hand as he brought it to bear.