Read Society: After It Happened Book 3 Online
Authors: Devon C Ford
AFTER IT HAPPENED
BOOK THREE: SOCIETY
Maggie woke Cedric with a cup of black tea. She always woke before him, and their morning routine had begun to reintroduce itself. They were busy, and they were happy.
The twelve others who worked on the gardens would be coming soon, ready for a fresh day of working in the chilly sunshine. Cedric woke and smiled at her, pushing himself up in bed and squinting as he put his glasses on. She left him to wake up, and went downstairs to open the gates to their own walled utopia. She felt nothing was wrong as he walked past the rows of greenhouses. Matty drove through the gates shortly afterwards, towing a benched trailer full of people.
They all greeted each other happily and Maggie laid out their plan for the day.
Cedric drank his tea and dressed, eager to join the others. He walked past the same greenhouses his wife had, without a care in the world. He slowed, his subconscious telling him something was different. He listened, and couldn't hear the normal sounds of the morning. He couldn’t place it, but something wasn’t right. A shout; not a normal raised voice as people would do to be heard, but something in the tone that reached his ears made the panic start to rise in him. He stood still, debating whether to run to find his wife or go back and call for help. He didn't want to startle everyone by firing the fireworks alarm, but he felt something bad was happening.
Slowly, he turned around and walked back towards the house. His walk turned into a run and his fear growing every second until his shaking hands reached for the big pump action Remington hung on the dining room wall. He kept it loaded, and flicked the safety catch off. He went back outside and heard more noises; a scream, another shout. He heard a single blast from a shotgun, and ran to the garden. Inside the old lean-to garage, he kept a pallet of fireworks ready to go. He dragged it out, uncovered it and lit the fuse. He didn't wait to see the bright rockets plume into the sky, instead he ran to the road and turned right to cross the fields and get to the gardens from the rear as the sound of the rockets echoed and reverberated between the old walls.
They were under attack.
Three of them were dropped off before the sun rose.
"Make me proud, boys" growled Billy from the driver’s seat of the car.
They walked the short distance in, and went along the wall until they crossed a field to climb fences and find a place to hide.
They waited for almost three hours until one of them heard someone walking towards them from inside the grounds. There wasn't supposed to be anyone here, he thought, fighting his panic.
Failure was not something Billy liked.
He forced himself to keep calm and stay hidden, waiting for the others to turn up. A woman came into sight and opened the gates. Good, they must be coming he thought.
A Land Rover drove in towing a big trailer. People were sat in the back on benches. Lots of people. Including the woman, he counted thirteen of them, but none of them had weapons he could see.
They all gathered around the woman, who was telling them what she wanted them to do. He flexed his shoulders and gripped the evil weapon in his hands, preparing for action.
"Now!" He said loudly, as he stepped out and levelled his sawn off shotgun at them. His two others emerged similarly armed, and took them all completely by surprise.
"In the shed, all of you. Now" he said. They didn't move.
He stepped forward and drove the savage short barrel of the gun into the belly of a fat lad with a scared, round face. He doubled over, retching and struggling for breath. "Now!" He said again. They started to move. “Where’s the fireworks?” he yelled at the woman. She seemed confused, making him shout it at her again. Silently she pointed to a box by a door into what looked like an office.
They filed into a large shed, where the other two dragged the creaking doors closed. The woman began to speak, so he fired a single shot in the air. The noise was huge, and she didn't finish what she started to say. The doors closed, shutting them in the dark. Mission accomplished, he thought. Now to wait and launch the fireworks when the others were in position. He sat down, relaxing for now. He smiled, knowing that he had done his part well.
He leaned back in cruel satisfaction, just as two dozen fireworks began to scream into the sky from the other side of the distant greenhouses.
Dan was awake, but he didn't dare move. Marie was asleep with her back to him, her hips and lower back pressed against his body. His right arm was under her neck, and couldn't be moved without waking her. His shoulder was locked; the pins and needles were creeping up his arm.
He was happy. The rumour that she was seen coming out of his room was a badly kept secret and was one that he refused to confirm or deny.
He heard the distant popping sound. It sounded like fireworks.
Fireworks, he thought. He hadn’t heard firework in ages.
“Fireworks!” He said.
His bliss was burst like a balloon and as he flew from the bed he almost tipped Marie onto the floor, inviting a string of swear words from her.
She turned to see him throwing clothes on in a panic. Ash barked at him, also startled at the rude awakening.
"What the fuck?" She snapped, dazed.
"Fireworks. The alarm." He shouted with wild eyes.
He ran downstairs, shouting at the others to wake up. A crowd ran from the dining hall, their breakfast interrupted, and he repeated his shout. He burst into Ops and threw open the armoury, loading his carbine quickly and shoving the ugly brute of a shotgun in the holster on his back. Steve ran in next, followed by half a dozen others. Dan looked at the CB radio. Nothing. He daren’t try and call them.
"The gardens" Dan shouted. Steve said nothing and began to arm himself. A few minutes later, his Rangers were equipped and he face the assembling crowd.
"The fireworks alarm from the garden was set off" he said "nothing on the radio to say it was an accident" he continued, pointing at the CB. "I'll go over and see what's happening"
He saw Leah and waved her towards him. "Fully armed" he muttered. "Get on the solar panel platform and cover the entrance" she nodded and walked away. No fear in her eyes, only a grim determination.
"Neil!" He yelled.
"Here" came the call from over the heads of others.
"Get Thunderbird Two, mount the GPMG out front" he nodded, unquestioningly, and left.
"Steve, with me. Joe?" He continued.
"Boss" said Joe from behind him.
"Clear the farm with Lexi. Stay on post until I call you back. Lex? Take a battle rifle as well and get up high" they understood, but nobody moved immediately.
"Go" Dan barked, scattering them.
Calm yourself, he thought.
"What about me, Boss?" asked Rich.
Dan thought that now wasn't the time to hold back.
"Kit up. Neil will be on the gun in front of the house, Leah will be on a solar tower. Place yourself in the trees to the left of the road where you can cover them both." He stopped, and grabbed his shoulder and spoke quietly.
"Can you do this? If you aren't ready, you say so right now"
"I'm ready" he replied, the flash of steel in his eyes reminding Dan that this man had seen war and did not want it to come to his home. "I’m ready" he said again with pure resolve.
Dan believed him.
"Chris?" He shouted. He wasn't there, he was on the farm with Ana.
"Ewan?" He tried.
"Here" came the little voice from somewhere around the knees of the crowd. "Everyone else who has been trained, give them a shotgun and some ammo"
Pete hefted his rifle and shotguns "Me and the lad will be down by the lake" he said, waiting for no confirmation. That was good, very good. If whoever was intruding knew this place they would know of the small access road leading to the rear.
Please let this be an accident, he thought to himself, as he strode outside flanked by Ash and Steve.
Dan forced himself to drive steadily, his eyes scanning for an ambush. Steve had also brought a heavy military rifle, and had his carbine on his back. He loaded a twenty round magazine, dropping an extra bullet into the chamber.
"Drop me short, I'll loop and come in from the back" he said.
"Ok. Sit tight and do nothing until I do" he replied. He slowed down as they approached a junction, allowing Steve to slide out of the still moving truck and sprint into the tree line. He'd need maybe three or four minutes to get into position quietly, thought Dan as he rolled as slowly as he could to the entrance and turned in.
Nobody there. Definitely not an accident.
He got out of the car, leaving the driver's door open.
"Down. Stay” He growled at Ash. He wanted him hidden for now.
He walked slowly along, weapon ready but relaxed. He called Maggie and Cedric by name, and only heard banging in response. They were shut in what they called the potting shed. He resisted the urge to open the doors yet; not wanting to fall for the classic 'come on' to put him in a kill zone. He waited.
If his opposition were trained, they would either be flanking him or waiting for him to make a move. If they were untrained, they'd be waiting for him to do what they wanted or expected.
He was sure he was being watched; his spine tingled with that familiar inexplicable sense. He stood still and waited. He saw a twitch of movement from the shadows of an open fronted storeroom; undisciplined, moving position for comfort.
He decided to play on their nerves.
"Maggie? Can you hear me?" She shouted, loud and clear.
"Dan?" Came the muffled reply and the sound of shushing.
"Yes. How many?" He asked
"I saw three with sawn-off shotguns" she said, correctly anticipating the next question.
The hidden man's nerve racked patience failed him. He emerged from the store room and walked towards him holding the shotgun at his waist. Dan looked at him, pulling a similar face to Ash before he is let loose.
"What's your plan, boy?" he asked him.
"Shut up" he replied nervously "guns on the ground"
He was still about twenty metres away, way too far for the sawn off to do any serious damage to him.
"No thanks" Dan said, deliberately trying to unsettle him.
"Let my people out and you and your two mates can go" he lied.
The man laughed nervously. "You'll put your guns down and join them" Nothing like a bit of bravado to express how truly scared you really are, Dan thought.
"I won't" he said "you'll have to kill me, but you'll need to be a lot closer to do that. You ever shot anyone with one of those?"
The man clutched at his gun with sweaty palms. He hadn't ever shot at anyone with anything, and he was worried that this man in front of him had. Probably lots of times.
Dan saw a slight shadow of movement at the extreme distance of the gardens. Steve, he hoped.
If it was, he was in line of sight. He turned and walked quickly to the building line before he sprinted around the back of the building and stopped behind the corner. The man had two choices; follow him or don't. One of his mates had gone to see where the fireworks had come from, and hadn't come back yet. The other one was hidden on the other side of the shed where they had shut the others away. He chose to follow him.
He chose wrong, and walked past the open door of the Discovery.
Dan watched from the corner of the building as the man's shadow crept closer. He timed it right, releasing Ash.
"GET HIM!" He yelled, hearing a snarl and a scream as he saw the shotgun fall to the floor.
He ran forward to secure the weapon and stop Ash from killing him.
Two things happened simultaneously. The man who had gone to check the house and the source of the unplanned fireworks came back after hearing the raised voices to see Dan at the corner of the building. He crept up on him, and as he moved he raised his gun to aim at the back of his head. He was about five metres away, close enough to decapitate Dan with a single twitch of his finger.
The other man hidden by the shed ran forward to help his friend who was being ragged around the door of the Land Rover like in a horror film. As he stepped out, Steve saw daylight behind his target. No longer fearing hitting someone friendly, he fired.
The man aiming at Dan's head smiled, and as he heard the shot from Steve's rifle he instinctively looked left.
Directly into the muzzle of Cedric's shotgun.
The man froze. He had no idea what to do, and there was nobody there to make his decision for him. He raised the shotgun, meaning to scare the old man.
The old man wasn't scared, and as soon as Cedric saw the man move he pulled the trigger. The flame spreading from the end of the barrel was the last thing he ever saw, as his ragged and torn body was flung backwards to slam lifeless into a low wall.
"Who's that?' Dan's voice called from around the corner, shaking Cedric from his entranced gaze at the dead man.
"It’s me. Cedric" he said as he rounded the corner, shotgun held low. He saw Dan dragging Ash off another man, who looked very pale and in obvious agony. A great lump of flesh was missing from his forearm, exposing fat and muscle. It reminded him of pictures he had seen of shark attacks.
"Maggie?" He asked, desperately.
"Shed, locked in" replied Dan as he got his dog under control. "Another one down further up, come out carefully - Steve's down there with a rifle"
Cedric held both hands in the air still carrying the pump action. With less regard for his own safety than he normally would have, he moved into Steve's line of sight and rushed to open the doors.
He stepped over the last man, now lying where he fell with his arms in a grotesque pose. Like a string puppet cut loose to fall to the floor. All that was missing was the chalk outline.
As the doors opened, Maggie threw herself into his arms.
Dan shut Ash in the Discovery and returned to the man on the floor. He slung his own weapon and picked up the sawn off. Opening the breach, he found both barrels loaded. He was whimpering where he lay curled up, legs thrashing with the pain he felt.
No wonder Dan thought; Ash had really taken a dislike to him. Blood loss was a concern, and he would probably never use that arm properly again.
On the off chance he lived, that was.
"Don’t go anywhere, treacle." He said with a worrying smile as he kicked him onto his back "I'm going to ask you some questions in a minute"