Authors: Christian Fletcher
“There’s a crew room for the pilots in there,” Cole explained. “They’ve got a long flight ahead of them.”
“So…are we going with these guys, or what?” I was almost pleading with Smith. The thought of a relatively stress free life in Scotland was more than slightly appealing.
Smith held his hand to his chin in deep thought, I guessed he was weighing up the pros and cons. He turned to look at Batfish.
“What do you think?”
Batfish shrugged. “I’ve never been to Scotland. In fact, I’ve never been out of the States. Oh, wait…I went to Mexico for a weekend once but I can’t remember much about that trip. It was Maria Vizcaya’s bachelorette party and we all got wasted on Tequila the whole time. Maria was crying a lot and saying she was too young to marry.”
“What do you think about
to Scotland?” Smith repeated with a slight tone of irritation.
“Hell, I don’t know,” she whined. “I can see the positive side but it seems a bit half
-assed to me. What if we can’t even refuel in Canada? And if we do get to Scotland, we probably won’t ever be able to come back here. Part of me wants to go but another part of me says leave this situation the hell alone.”
“What else are we going to do?” I sighed in exasperation. We ha
d a free ticket out of the zombie infested quagmire and my companions were dithering with their decision. To me, the opportunity was a no-brainer. “We’re just going to sail around on that fucking boat, getting into all kinds of shitty situations, as we usually do.” My voice rose a few octaves higher. “Then finally, we’ll all probably go one step too far, our luck will run out and we’ll get eaten or bitten and spend the rest of eternity wandering around moaning and trying to eat other people.”
“You done?” Smith asked me after my rant.
“We’re all going to die one day, Smith,” I said more quietly. “I just don’t want to end up like those things out there.” I pointed to the window. “If I die in an airplane crash, then so be it. At least I died trying to get to a better place.”
Smith sighed deeply and hung his head on his chest.
“You’ve certainly made your mind up about this, haven’t you, kiddo?”
I nodded. “I know it’s the right thing to do. It feels right for us.”
Smith gave Batfish a sideways glance. “Are you game? At best, it’s a free trip to Canada, at worst it’s a watery grave over the Atlantic.”
“Ah…okay, whatever.” Batfish shrugged and flapped her hands.
“Okay, kid. You’ve sold the trip to me,” Smith sighed.
I felt as though I had scored the winning touchdown at the Superbowl. “Yes!” I hissed, clenching my teeth and pumping my fist into the air. “I’m sure it’ll be great in Scotland.”
“It’s damn cold over there, isn’t it?” Batfish asked.
“I don’t think it’s much different to Pennsylvania in the winter,” I said.
“Have you been there before, Brett?” Batfish gave me an accusing glare.
“Well…no, I haven’t visited Scotland but I’ve been to Ireland and as you know, I used to live in London, England
, when I was a kid. My mom still lives in London. Me and Samantha went over there a couple of years back.”
All kinds of thoughts flooded my head at once. Samantha was my former girlfriend and I hadn’t seen or heard from her since we’d left Brynston in Pennsylvania over six months ago. I hadn’t had any contact with my mother in London since the apocalypse either. I wondered if they were both still alive.
Memories of my childhood and happy, intimate moments I’d shared with Samantha scrambled around my brain like a jerky home movie. The thoughts made my head spin and I suddenly felt nauseous and giddy. I shuffled over to a black upholstered swivel chair and slumped down holding my forehead.
“Are you okay, Brett?” Batfish asked. “You’ve gone very white.”
“Let me get you some water,” Chief Cole said. He moved to a water cooler next to the desk and poured the clear liquid into a paper cup. “I know it’s a lot to absorb in a short space of time,” he said, handing me the cup of water. “But it’s an opportunity for us all to start over. Maybe build some kind of life again.”
I nodded and sipped the water, which was welcomingly ice cold against my dry throat.
“I’m looking forward to it already, Chief,” I spluttered.
Cole gave me his scowl-type smile again and nodded his head.
“All we have to do is wait around for a few hours and we’ll be up in the sky,” I sighed in self satisfaction.
“I hate to piss on your parade, kid,” Smith growled. “But aren’t you forgetting something?”
“Err…the small matter of your dog and the two girls back on the boat.”
Smith’s words of reality hit me like a sledgehammer.
“Ah, crap!” I spat. “I’d forgotten all about them.” Guilt returned in waves. How could I have forgotten about Spot after all we’d been through together? How selfish I’d been to think only of my own safety, absent mindedly brushing off the welfare of Landri and Mignon.
“We’ll have to go back for them, Smith.” I leapt from the swivel chair, spilling the remainder of the cup of water down my pants in the process.
Smith raised his eyebrows and gave me a knowing nod. “Uhuh. We could also use that box of cash, guns and spare ammo onboard.”
“Well, you better get going, gentlemen,” Cole cut in. “The clock is ticking and these fly guys don’t want to hang around. I’d say you have two hours maximum.”
“Two hours should allow us plenty of time,” I said, flashing Smith a glance.
“Yeah, if we don’t run into any trouble.” He turned to Chief Cole. “Do you think we can use that
modified Humvee with Milner on the cannon?”
Chief Cole shrugged apologetically and shook his head. “No can do, I’m afraid, guys. That vehicle has been loaded onto the C-17 and a whole bunch of stuff packed behind it. The guys haven’t got time to take it all off again. We’ve got plenty more alternative vehicles you can use though. As for Milner…well, you can ask him to tag along but these guys are concentrating on getting out of here, right now.”
“So basically, we’re on our own,” I sighed.
Cole shrugged again. “Sorry about that, guys but we have to think about the bigger picture.”
“No problem, Chief. You’ve done more than enough for us,” Smith said, patting Cole’s shoulder. “We’ll ride this one out. You guys have your own agenda but I’ll take you up on the offer of a vehicle. What have you got?”
Cole stuck out his bottom lip. “Depends what you want. A fast ride will get you there and back quicker but offer less protection. A slower ride
of a military vehicle will have more firepower and armor plating but don’t forget you’re against the clock. Have you got much gear to haul?”
Smith slowly shook his head. “Only one box and human cargo. Something sleek and fast should be good enough.”
“There’s a Mustang Shelby in the parking lot out back. One previous owner, a pilot who won’t be needing it no more. Will that be adequate?”
Smith’s face almost lit up with excitement. I knew how he loved his muscle cars. “Now you’re talking, Chief. Where are the keys?”
“Still in the ignition, as far as I know. I’ll take a walk down there with you, just to check the coast is clear.” Cole moved to a gun rack to the left of the interior doors that the flight crew had disappeared through. The Chief armed himself with an assault rifle, loaded a magazine and nodded towards the exit.
We followed the big Navy guy back down the control tower staircase, passing the vacant reception desk and outside through the glass doors. The Air National Guard sentries still stood beside the exit.
“Not long to wait before we ship out, boys,” Cole muttered at the guards.
Smith turned on the flashlight
and the Chief led the way along a concrete paved path, snaking around the tower perimeter. A small parking lot sat in darkness behind the air traffic control tower, with only a handful of vehicles occupying the spaces. Smith waved the light beam back and forth in sweeps, checking for any unwanted company. A lone male zombie, dressed in ragged blue coveralls staggered into the light from behind a silver colored sedan.
“Stop!” Cole commanded. He lifted his left arm up at a ninety degree angle to his body, preventing us from proceeding.
We stopped in our tracks behind the Chief. Smith kept the light beam trained on the approaching zombie, who wailed, almost in a kind of greeting and cumbersomely waved his arms in a grabbing motion. Cole raised the assault rifle with the butt under his chin and assumed a firing stance. He fired one shot and I briefly saw a red dot appear between the zombie’s eyes along with a puff of crimson spray behind the head. Smith followed the zombie topple over backwards with the light beam. The coverall clad zombie lay motionless beside the sedan. Cole kept the rifle muzzle trained on the prone body for a few seconds. Smith scanned the lot again until we were satisfied the area was clear of undead.
“Okay, the Mustang is parked over there behind that RV.” Cole pointed
to the left hand corner of the lot.
Smith swung the light beam across the blacktop and we glimpsed a beige RV
that looked neglected and as though it hadn’t been used in a while. The tires sagged flat and the windshield was covered in debris. We walked around the RV and Smith shone the light onto the vehicle tucked into the adjacent space. I heard Smith physically gasp as he slowly trained the flashlight over the gleaming, dark blue Mustang with twin white stripes running across the center of the vehicle from underneath the front grill to the rear fender.
sure is a beauty,” Smith fawned. “You sure it’ll start, Chief?”
“Oh, yeah. Some of the guys have still been using it, mostly to get across the airfield in a big hurry.
It’s been maintained and gassed up by the flight mechanics. Go ahead, get in and try it.”
Smith handed me the flashlight and moved towards the car. He was grinning like a kid who’d been given the present he most wanted for Christmas as he opened the door. I felt slightly uplifted. I hadn’t seen Smith smiling like that for a long time. He folded himself into the driver’s seat and racked it right back to allow his big frame a comfortable position.
I turned and gave the parking lot a cursory sweep with the flashlight, just to keep on the safe side of caution. I swiveled around to face the Mustang when I heard the V8 engine roar into life.
“Wow!” I cheered. “That sucker sounds
awesome.” I liked the look and gravelly noise of the Ford.
“Sounds like a meat grinder, Brett,” Batfish whined. “Boys and their toys. Look at Smith, grinning like a tomcat in there.”
Smith gave the gas a few pumps, revving the engine to gain the full effect of the engine sound. The lights flicked on and I caught sight of the impressive silver ‘Cobra’ badge on the left side of the front grille. Cole, Batfish and I took a couple of backward steps as Smith crept the car forward from the parking space. We watched as he U-turned in the parking lot and drew alongside us. I thought Smith resembled a rugged actor playing the lead role in an action movie, looking disheveled in combat fatigues while driving a muscle car. He buzzed down the driver’s window to talk.
“Feels good, Chief,” he said, still smirking.
Cole nodded. “Just remember to hurry your ass up out there. Take the back route around the airfield and don’t go through the main road on the base. That way you can avoid large numbers of zombies until you reach the main gate.”
“Okay, got it. Come on, Wilde, hop in.”
I made my way around the car’s hood and slid into the passenger seat, immediately feeling the sensation of the engine purring in front of me. Batfish moved towards the car and realized there were only two doors.
“Are you going to let me in?”
“Batfish…I want you to stay here with the Chief, okay?” Smith rolled his head as he spoke.
“What?” She protested. “I thought we weren’t going to separate again.”
“I know…I know I said that but if anything happens to us on the way back, well…at least one of our little crew survives this way.”
I knew Smith was at pains with himself for leaving Batfish but I could see his logic. The car would be cramped, the dinghy would be cramped and I knew Batfish would be safe with Cole and his guys.
“Come on, boys, the clock is ticking.” Cole twirled his finger in a tight circle, a gesture that told us to hurry the fuck up.
“We’ll be right back before you know it,” Smith said with a nod.
Batfish sighed then shrugged. “All right, if you think it’s for the best.” She flashed me a brief glance and I recognized the disappointment in her eyes.
I tapped Smith’s thigh with my fingers. “Come on, let’s go,” I muttered, not wanting to prolong the agony.