Return Of A King: A Zombie Chronicle – Sequel – Chapter 21 (Reprise)

Chapter 21 – Twenty First Century, The End Of Days

A meeting had been called at 0700 by Delancey at which Andy Turner and Gerard duBois were in attendance.

“Right, lads. I’ll not beat about the bush; we’re between a rock and a hard place.” Christopher’s face was pale, his features strained by what he was going through. It didn’t help matters that he was mainlining coffee and hadn’t had sleep for thirty six hours now. “The Europeans want to shut the UK off from the rest of the world. They would stop flights, boats and trains in and out of the UK for as long as it takes us to get the bodies back. Communications would also be halted through radio and electrical interference. We’d be severely handicapped by all this, and it would take years to recover from it considering our current parlous economical state.

“The upside is I’ve received a stay of execution, so to speak, of thirty-six hours. I have also been talking to the PM and despite all these threats to our economy he doesn’t seem to be able to make headway with the Security Services. He’s being blocked by the Security and Intelligence Coordinator who argues that the bodies are perfectly safe. I also don’t think they believe any of the threats from Europe. I’ve tried to get more detail via the Home Secretary, but he’s now obfuscating and so I still don’t know what the hell ‘safe’ actually means in this case.”

“Gerard and I have looked at the plans you passed to me,” Andy added. “From what I can see, I think I’ve identified a way in through the sewers underneath. We’ll have to set some small acid charges so we can enter through this thinner bit, here. It’s only concrete with rebar.”

“Sorry to interrupt, but what’s an acid charge?” Christopher asked.

“It’s something pretty new. Essentially it’s a small explosive charge that fires a new and powerful acid mixture into concrete that is then eaten away from the inside. It makes only a fraction of the noise of a usual explosive charge and will eat through enough of the wall for us to easily pick out the remaining concrete. It will dissolve the rebar as well. I’ve seen it used once, pretty damn impressive.”

“That sounds pretty neat. Good work.”

Andy nodded and continued his appraisal. “The rest of the plans are really detailed which is great but very strangely lack some fundamental information just where you need it. If you look at the area they’ve set up as a mortuary, and I believe that’s where the Newborns are most likely to be stored, it all looks pretty much like what you’d expect to see, but then there are these blobs,” he indicated the offending articles, pointing at the print-out. “They have no name, identifying shape or labelling. So I don’t know if they are gas canisters or what. Perhaps liquid nitrogen which would make sense considering they will need it for their work, but the quantities are all wrong. There’s way too much.”

“Look at how they are laid out in the room. Could they be part of a self-destruct mechanism? You know, in case of total contamination, or zombies,” Gerard offered, smiling mischievously.

“Okay, if you can’t work it out with certainty,” Christopher said, casting a chastising glance at Gerard, “make a list and I’ll try and get you some answers. Gerard, your turn. Tell me about your plans.”

“Sure boss. I’ve picked twenty eight men for this op. They’re all people I’ve worked with before and I know they can do it. I have demolition experts, biohazard guys and lots of muscle. Muscle will get this thing sorted quickly. Looking at the blueprints I agree with Andy on the ingress point. That thin wall leads to a storage closet. We can get through its door using more acid to melt the lock away. It’s silent and quick and then we’ll be in the target area proper. We’ll fan out and secure the floor; there shouldn’t be any real resistance as any workers still present at that hour should only be scientists and lab technicians. Based on your fear of our plans being leaked from political quarters, we’ll be ready for a fire-fight anyway.

“As soon as we’ve located the bodies, we’ll make sure they’re still sealed in strong bags and begin their removal through the sewers. There’s a two hundred yard walk to get to the surface and our awaiting carriage, hence the need for some heavy duty muscle. Fortunately the sewer is almost man-height so the job is relatively low effort. Apart from six men I’ve allocated as guards and the biohazard guys, if each person does two journeys we should have the whole operation completed inside two hours elapsed time, the acid trick taking about forty five minutes of that. I’ll get the biohazard guys to make sure there aren’t any samples left in the lab. Then we have the journey back to plot thirty four just in time for tea.”

“Will you all be suited up? Just in case?” Delancey asked.

“Of course, boss. I just hope their guys are as smart or we may have more than forty two returning with us.”

“Excellent. I guess you should reposition yourselves down to London and get some rest. What time do you want to begin your operation?”

“We’ll go down the rabbit hole at 2200 hours, do the dirty with the acid at 2205, enter the labs and recover the bodies, finishing just before the bewitching hour. Then it’s a three hour drive up here again.”

“Are you on uppers?” Andy asked, frowning at his man. “You’re acting a little strangely.”

“Nah, just tired. I get a little hyper when I’m knackered. Once I’ve had some rest I’ll probably begin to talk normally again.”

“Good. Get on your way then. We’ll stay in touch via secure phone. And Gerard,” Andy put his hand on the man’s shoulder.

“Yes?”

“Get some sleep on the truck. You’ve had a long day.”

“Sure thing.”

*

It was 2155 in the evening and the operation was still on. The Security Services had not cooperated at all, either to define the word ‘safe’ or to agree to release the bodies and any samples they may have taken. It was the worst case of interagency non-cooperation Delancey had ever seen and he’d seen some crap in his time.

A large workman tent had been erected against the back of one of the two trucks and extended to cover the entrance to the sewer. Gerard duBois checked his watch again and saw another minute had passed by painfully slowly. He donned his headgear and walked over to the hole in the ground. With their equipment on their backs the first four men, including Gerard, were laden like pack horses. Getting down the hole loaded up like this was a challenge and they had to be assisted by those left behind in phase one. duBois felt like Neil Armstrong descending the Lunar Module’s ladder to the surface of the moon, except he didn’t have weightlessness to assist his movements.

He and three others walked briskly to the assigned point in the tunnel. The floor was slippery and the stench was terrible at first but soon the scent receptors in his nose were full and the effect of the offensive smell dissipated somewhat. Taking off their back packs, they took out the two rings of explosive acid bombs; one was a spare and was carefully placed to one side. Gerard pulled out a battery powered drill and, using a paper template they had marked up previously, made twelve small holes in a circle before the explosives were then pinned to the wall using small u-nails, the shaped charges aligned correctly over the newly-made holes.

Preparation complete, they moved away from the blast site, leaving Gerard to set it off. When they were clear he pulled the cap igniting the fuse and retreated quickly to join the others and arrived just as a small crump was heard.

“Was that it?” one of the men asked.

“What do you want? A bang that can be heard for miles?” The operative just shrugged, question asked, question answered. “Now we wait, it’s 2205 so we’re on time.”

Waiting was never Gerard’s strong suit, so the forty five minute wait felt like hours, so he dozed on and off. At last, at 2250 he walked to the blast sight and was surprised by what he saw. A neat ring had formed; the brickwork concrete and rebar had dissolved allowing the centre of the doughnut to sag outwards. Picking up the cutters they had brought, two of them set about snipping the remaining iron tangs. Gerard and man number four caught the disk carefully and laid it to one side before washing their gloved hands in what appeared to be a flow of clear water coming from a nearby outlet pipe, all the while hoping the acid wouldn’t be able to eat through their gloves. They had been assured it wouldn’t but there weren’t many people who would trust in assurances of this nature without seeing it for themselves.

duBois clicked his throat mic twice signalling the others to come to the blast site. One of the advance men had already crawled into the hole and confirmed they were in the right place. He had also squirted acid into the lock of the room’s door, beginning the lock-picking process. With all the men at the ready, they began filing into the cramped room, Gerard in the lead with a crowbar. Prising the door open he slipped out into the corridor. So far, so good. The corridor was dark with only emergency lighting in evidence causing long and deep shadows that made it difficult to determine familiar shapes. There appeared to be no-one to witness their ingress. He waved the rest in and they began to spread out, checking for hiding places and personnel.

Hearing a click off to one side, Gerard swung around bringing his gun to bear. A man stood there, gun pointed directly at him. Shit, it’s an ambush, he realised, while standing stock still and hoping the man would not shoot. A silenced round from a second man that had come into view whizzed past his head and he returned fire. An intense fire-fight broke out and flashes lit up the hallway, the strobe effect making it difficult to identify and line up a target.

“Hold your fire!” he called into his throat mic. Slowly the firing subsided until silence reigned again. Finding a light switch, he flicked it on revealing a number of inert bodies and one injured man writhing in pain, blood liberally sprayed around the area. It appeared that only his people had survived the encounter, purely by dint of numbers it seemed. Doing a quick tally he counted four of his men dead and one injured. Of the others there were six dead.

“Get him out of here!” Gerard shouted to his people, pointing at the injured man. “It’s probably safer in the sewer for him.”

Two of his people responded, dragging the unfortunate man back the way they came in. Looking around again, duBois saw two scientists wearing biohazard suits cowering in a corner, trying not to be noticed. He strode over to them.

“Were they waiting here for us? Or were they just additional security?” They remained resolutely silent and unresponsive. Gerard fired a shot, the round whistling between their heads before embedding itself in the wall behind them.

“We were told there might be some trouble tonight so they sent these guys down just in case,” one of them replied immediately, terror on his face. The other elbowed his colleague hard, trying to get him to shut up.

“And where are the bodies that were brought in here?” he said, reminding them of his determination by aiming his still warm gun at them again. The same helpful one pointed across the room to a double stainless steel door.

“But you can’t go in there without knowing what you’re doing; they’re highly contagious I’m told.”

“Have you taken any samples yet?” Gerard asked.

“A couple.”

“And what have you done with them?”

“One’s in the electron microscope right now.”

“Shit. That means this room is almost certainly contaminated.”

“How?” one of them asked, his curiosity piqued.

“The electrons will excite the contagion to a semi-gaseous state. As the microscope vents into the room it means that they are already in the air in here. I presume no-one not wearing a suit has been in here since their arrival?”

“Absolutely not.” The same scientist responded indignantly.

“That’s the first right thing you lot have done so far. I presume you filter the air before exchanging it to the outside?”

“Of course,” the scientist said, rolling his eyes at the science 101 questions, for a moment forgetting who held the gun.

“Right, we are relieving you of the bodies and all your samples. Don’t think of crossing me, there might still be a chance you could have been caught in the cross-fire from the earlier contretemps.”

The pair caught the meaning immediately and nodded furiously that they understood the threat.

“You won’t be able to get into the storage area for the bodies,” one of them stated knowingly.

“Why is that?” duBois asked, getting a little tired of the clever dick’s attitude.

“The room is on a time-lock and neither of us has the access authority to over-ride it. So you’ll just have to wait until morning.” The smugness was too much for duBois and the scientist earned the butt of his rifle on the side of his head. The other scientist, fearing the same treatment finally spoke.

“He was telling the truth, you know.”

“Yeah, well his attitude really sucks. So you’re telling me you can’t get in there right now?”

“Absolutely I am.” The man’s hands began to rise in supplication; he didn’t want the same treatment as his colleague.

“Alright. Once you’ve gathered both samples and shown me where the air filtration unit is, I want you to sit back down.”

Turning around, Gerard signalled to one of his men, the demolition expert, and pointed at the door. “Make a hole in that, we haven’t got the keys.” Nodding his head the man set about placing small blobs of C4 around the lock and jamming detonators into the putty-like substance. The men retreated back into the sewer for safety, carrying the unconscious scientist out with them. After a moment they heard a dull thud. Gerard and one other man went back inside to check out the situation as it now stood.

The door was slightly ajar; the explosive had done its job perfectly. Peering around the edges to look for alarms or booby traps Gerard finally pulled it further open to examine the contents when they both heard an ominous click and looked at each other in surprise. Looking inside they saw a red digital clock counting down from fifteen seconds.

“Shit!” Gerard shouted, pushing his colleague. “Run!”

Needing no further encouragement they both tore out of the room and landed in the sewer face first in a pile of limbs. “Come on everyone, run! There’s a bomb in there.” The stampede appeared comical as all of the slickly suited men stumbled over each other scrambling to get away from the probable blast zone.

And then it came, a percussive rumble followed by a hot shock-wave as the explosion launched the men like grape-shot down a barrel, the tunnel directing the blast away from the lab.

Gradually the percussive effect of the blast cleared along with the smoke and dust. Helping each other, the sorry-looking, sewage-covered men made their way back to the surface and their launch point. Gerard was the last one out of the dank, stinking hole. Stepping out of the tent, he peered over towards the Millbank building in time to see thick smoke rising into the late evening sky.

“Oh, Jesus,” he cried. “Now I know what they meant by safe.”

For miles around the fire could be seen raging, the intensity of the smoke so dense it could even be seen against the night sky, the underside of the plume illuminated by the roaring flames and street lighting.

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