Shock (Wildfire Chronicles Vol. 2)

BOOK: Shock (Wildfire Chronicles Vol. 2)
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Shock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

K.R. Griffiths

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © K.R. Griffiths 2013

All rights reserved

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This one’s for everyone that read
Panic

Thank you
.

 

One

 

Bodies everywhere. Pieces of bodies, to be more precise. The oozing, glistening lives of what looked like dozens of people reduced to smears and stains on the trees; obscene puddles on the ground.

John
Francis took in the scene, trying to remain as impassive as possible, at least externally. Inside, his guts churned. He’d seen bloodshed before, of course. Hell, he wouldn’t be anywhere near his current job – or this godforsaken place – if he hadn’t. He’d seen bodies in the desert, punctured by bullets, exposed; the sand creeping over the wounds as though trying to preserve the modesty of the dead.

At its most extreme the violence he had
witnessed took the form of a roadside device, drawing human flesh and fragmented steel together like some terrible magnet. That had been bad enough. Nothing could quite describe the feeling of seeing a severed human leg sitting on the ground in front of you, hearing the dumbstruck screams of its former owner, so John never tried. When people asked about those days spent in that Hell of baking sun and baked sand, which wasn’t very often, John let his eyes bore holes into them until they went away.

None of that was like this. That was violence with an agenda, no matter how plain wrong anyone thought it might be. This was
violence on a massive, almost cartoonish scale. Explosives had been used, that much was obvious. Guns too. Small calibre, high rate-of-fire. Edged weapons? Almost certainly. Teeth? Fingers? The bloodbath was inexplicable and slippery; skipping away from the rational mind’s grasping attempts at comprehension.

John looked at the carpet of entrails and gore that covered the forest floor, felt his stomach lurch.
He had been briefed on what to expect, they all had, but nothing could have prepared him for
this
. What they had seen from the chopper en route had been unsettling enough: great swathes of the countryside they passed over seemed to be burning, the towns and cities pockmarked by craters and eruptions. It looked like something directly from Hollywood; a huge budget blown on special effects.

The end of the world is manmade. Batteries included.
John shook the thought away.

When the chopper had landed outside the tiny town, John had thought h
e had it all under control. But up close…
Christ.
The violence was an expanding universe, spreading out in all directions. From the look of it, the infected, reduced to mindless animals, had begun to tear at anything that moved with whatever they had to hand, and then someone had waded into the midst of it all armed to the teeth like fucking
Rambo
on crack.

Well, not just
someone.
Someone in particular.

He cast a glance around the group. The faces of the team were grim, stoic. John wondered
if he was the only one feeling like the hinges in his mind were rusting over.

“Fucking chaos
.”

The Cap’s voice, low and even, cutting through the still air.
The first words he’d spoken since they left the chopper at the clearing.

“You get anything from this
, Hound?”

They all had codenames, to be used at all times.
It had seemed like overkill, given the situation, but still, orders were orders. Just animal names, which they picked themselves. Hound was the best tracker they had, hence the name. He was wiry, intense. Scary eyes. John trusted him instinctively.

Hound shook his head.

“Looking for a trail in this is like looking for an appendix in a forest full of fucking dismembered organs Mouse. I’d guess maybe we’re close, as for which direction…” He shrugged.


Mouse’. The Captain’s idea of humour. John kind of liked it despite himself. Had expected him to go for Lion, Tiger, Bear, Shark. Some typically macho shit like that, but the choice had proven a canny one, generating a belly laugh among the team and helping to dissipate some of the tension that had built up in the hours after they had learned they were to leave the safety of the base on what was, none of them liked to admit aloud, probably a suicide mission.

All s
ix of them had followed the Captain’s lead and picked their names with heavy irony once they boarded the chopper. The pilot, Ash, went for Butterfly. In addition to Mouse and Hound (“Sounds like a pub name,” Butterfly had giggled, sending another roar of laughter through the group) there was Flea, the smallest of them; Rabbit, named for what he declared were his usually successful attempts to fuck anything that moved; and Panda. John had made the mistake of calling himself Cat, because he was the quickest among them. Clearly not quick enough however, to realise that the name would inevitably be amended to ‘Pussy’.

The Captain’s shoulders slumped, almost impe
rceptibly.

“Looks like we’re doing a foot
search then lads.”

“Shit, Cap,” Rabbit mumbled glumly. “You’d think the assholes in charge might have left us some form of communication as a contingency you know? They really have to dump all the GPS satellites?
Sent us back to the damn dark ages here.”

Panda snorted. “You reckon those assholes know what they are doing Rabbit? We wouldn’t be here if they did. Hell, we’re meant to be tucked up safely, guarding nerds and bastards sitting on solid gold chairs, rig
ht? And yet here we are: ‘safety’ lasted less than a week and we’re out in this shit already. And given who we’re looking for, I’d say the satellites are the least of their problems. They fucked up mate, big time. And he got out years ago, I heard. This is a fuck up that’s been a long time in the making.”

John nodded. He wasn’t alone then, they all felt it, that unease deep in the gut. They had been sent here out of desperation. Their presence was a
dice roll. John had gambled on infrequent occasions. Never won.

Mouse was letting them get it off their chests, John knew it. He had been a highly decorated soldier, a devout believer in authority and the chain of command. He had been a leader, but
he didn’t strike John as a thinker. He would lead the team to the gates of Hell itself.

Orders
.

“Alright lads, stow it. We’re here, we have a job to do and we’re doing it. We know the bastard is underground someplace, and we know it
’s close, close enough that he popped up to empty a few thousand bullets into these miserable fuckers. Either he’s part of this mess, or he has returned to his little nest. We move out, five metre spread, and we move
quiet.
We all know what noise means.”

John thou
ght back to the chopper landing with a shudder.

The town had been almost entirely dark as they had circled overhead, only a faint glow from the embers of a huge fire that had nearly burned itself out in the centre of town providing any illumination. The streets
appeared still. It had looked to John, face pressed up against the chopper windows, cheeks numbed by the heavy vibration of the engine, like something from a museum, like one of those historical towns preserved by some well-meaning charitable society or other to give intrigued onlookers a glimpse into the past. It was true of St. Davids as well, he had supposed. True also that this place was now just another piece of history, a relic of a time that, although it had passed only recently, certainly did not look like it would be coming back.

It was different to the bombed-
out, crumbling settlements he had seen in the desert. Different and the same.

The
chopper had circled three times, the men inside searching keenly for movement and seeing none in the dark land far below, finally settling down on farmland a mile or two from the town.

They came from the trees before the rotor had even begun to slow, ten, perhaps fifteen of them; drawn toward the shrieking engine. Oblivious to anything else
; guided missiles made flesh.

“Do it quietly!” Mouse had hollered over the
fading roar of the engine, sliding the door back and charging out of the chopper, unsheathing his sword. The weapons had seemed ridiculous to John, and he hadn’t been alone in thinking so, but their usefulness quickly became apparent. The damn creatures weren’t deterred in the slightest by weapons, couldn’t even see them. Knives would have allowed them to get too close. Knives meant death or infection. Guns were noisy, and would bring more of them down upon you until the bullets ran out. The length of the swords - and their silence - gave the team a chance.

They were clumsy with the weapons, untrained and faintly ridiculous, but they were effective, the mindless horrors running straight into the wide arcs of swinging steel, their deaths a chorus of whispers
cut into the air and dull, wet thuds. Barely loud enough to hear above the wind, silent enough to ensure they drew no further attention once the chopper engine hum had died away into the night.

The chopper ri
de had been full of talk about zombies, about the walking dead. The man who had sent the team to St. Davids had promised they weren’t dealing with reanimated corpses here. There was nothing supernatural about the mission.

Staring at the fallen bodies, John had known the
intel had been correct. These things died in exactly the same manner any human cleaved in two by a sword would die: messily, instantly. They weren’t reanimated corpses. They were humans, and the difference was all the more unsettling. What the hell was John a part of? What had these men, these rich bastards wielding science like a weapon, done? To reduce a human being into a blind, shrieking predator, willing to impale itself on the point of a sword to get closer to its prey?

John drove the point of his
weapon into the neck of a twitching shape at his feet, a middle-aged woman wearing a homely beige cardigan. One of her feet was bare, the other still locked snugly inside a bloody slipper. As her movement ceased, and the field was finally still, he found himself wondering about her. Somebody’s mother, granny maybe. Probably home baking or watching quiz shows or gardening at one moment, a remorseless killer the next.
Christ
.

“Pussy!”

The Captain’s voice;
raised a few degrees above room temperature. John shook away the thoughts and returned to the present.

“Move out.”

John measured out a gap of five metres or so from his nearest two colleagues, and began to advance, stepping carefully around the chunks of gore that littered the ground.

The ‘search’ was laughably short, barely ten feet of progress into the trees made. John knew, as soon as he heard the distinctive
snick
five metres to his left, how woefully underprepared they really were, how all their weapons and all their training had been rendered useless by a situation they never had a chance of controlling.

In the split second following the
snick
John had time to hear Panda cry “Shi-“ before his voice was lost in the deafening roar of the landmine erupting up through his body and the accompanying blinding flash that took a grisly snapshot of the forest around them.

Fractions later, the concussive blast ploughed into John, an invisible juggernaut that lifted him off his feet and deposited him in darkness.

 

*

 

To most men it would
probably have been remembered as the night they took on a pair of knife-wielding thugs with their bare hands. To John it was simply the night he met
her
. When he got a chance to look back, he realised it was that chance meeting that started it all.

Six months back in the country he had been protecting for the best part of a decade, and John found him
self sleeping in an old friend’s garage, working for a pittance as a bike messenger, darting through the streets of London carrying paperwork from one businessman to another, finding that the drivers on the cramped streets were almost as deadly and difficult to avoid as the bullets had been.

BOOK: Shock (Wildfire Chronicles Vol. 2)
2.33Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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