April Nillson, roving reporter for the internet news channel – “Underground Investigations”, sat in the window seat of the small, cramped apartment in Arlington House. The 18th floor of the tower block afforded one of the best views in the whole of Thanet and from it she could see nearly the entirety of the stricken Isle. The long window overlooked the sandy beaches of Margate’s coastline from Cliftonville in the south, right up to Birchington and St Nicholas at Wade in the north. The destruction caused by storm Daenerys was immense, tiles torn from roofs were embedded in the bonnets of cars and scattered across the roads and gardens of every town and village in Thanet. Trees, some centuries old had been uprooted and blown over, crushing anything underneath. Anything that had been loose or mobile was strewn across the landscape from wheelie bins to bicycles, rubbish and waste to foliage and clothing from washing lines! Worse than the detritus however, was the bodies.
As far as she could see (aided by the compact binoculars that she kept in her workbag) were the bodies of the citizens of Thanet. In every direction, along the waterfront, the streets and in the gardens of the residential areas were the broken, unmoving forms of the dead. All ages, all ethnicities, male and female, the dead covered the land in their hundreds, possibly thousands. April, despite being an experienced journalist wept at the horrific sight, the hot salty tears streaming down her face as she took in the devastation. Storm Daenerys had been massively destructive as it swept across the island particularly as it had been followed by a huge explosion somewhere off the coast and the subsequent tidal wave that had reinvigorated the river Wantsum, cutting the island off from the mainland. However, April knew that Daenerys wasn’t entirely to blame for the veritable carpet of bodies that stretched from coast to coast. Nope, no siree Bob! That honour belonged to the “D-Subs”, a term she had picked up from the surviving remnants of the Kent Police Service. The D-Subs or diseased subjects were the citizens of Thanet, infected with an unknown (at least as far as she knew) contagion that caused bizarre zombie-like behaviour. The D-Subs wandered mindlessly, herding together to attack the uninfected. Frenziedly biting their victims in order to spread the contagion, they seemed almost canabilistic, appearing to eat the uninfected humans as they tore huge lumps from their flesh. The victims would appear to die, only to “reanimate” minutes later as a D-Sub. Of course, some of them were so badly bitten that they couldn’t come back and they were the ones that stayed dead.
At first April had been excited by the breaking story as it unfolded, not knowing the extent of the outbreak. She had seen the violence erupting all around her and thought that it had been some type of mass hysteria event caused by a chemical leak from the local plant – Thor Industries. It wouldn’t have been the first time the shady company had been involved in a containment incident in Thanet. In fact, she had been working on a story about Thor Industries and its secretive CEO – David Wales, even as Daenerys crashed across the South East. Equally it could have been caused by a biological incident. Not too far from where she stood, in the medieval town of Sandwich was the “Discovery Park” scientific industrial estate, dozens of small scientific firms and think tanks all housed on the site of the old Pfizer pharmaceutical manufacturing plant, following the pharma-giant’s withdrawal from the area. God alone knew what horrors that lot could have cooked up between them!
April sighed, yeah at first she had been excited but as more and more people were killed by roving groups of D-Subs or worse from other survivors, yes she had seen the uninfected killing each other over baubles! Now she was not so effervescent, her dream story of capturing police brutality or uncovering shady corporations had kind of been superseded by a much larger and altogether more deadly one. Worse she had no way of even getting the story out! She had tried to contact her colleagues at “UI” only to find that she couldn’t get a phone signal, which meant of course that there was no internet either. She sighed again as she contemplated her state of the art mobile phone, once one of the most important possession she had ever owned, now a lump of useless plastic. A third sigh, talking of lumps of useless plastic, where the hell was her camera man – Bobby!!
Robert (just call me Bobby) Macpherson was in deep, deep shit, but true to form he didn’t quite comprehend the level of deep shittery that he currently found himself standing in. Not the brightest bulb in the box, Bobby was none the less successful in his chosen career, due in no small measure, to the astonishing reservoir of good luck that he seemed to possess. Time and again things seemed to just work out for Bobby, things that would, no should have blown up in his face somehow turned around in favour of the young man.
When he was at university studying “media” he was working as a waiter in an upmarket restaurant in London. One day he had tripped and thrown an entire jug of freezing cold water over the white blouse of a very shapely woman, sitting with a man who was old enough to be her father (but clearly wasn’t…). Bobby expecting to be fired instantly, apologised profusely and tried not to stare too much at the revealing sight, only to find the man take him to one side and stuff a wad of bank notes in his hand while he whispered “Thank you” over and over again. Buoyed by this success and not being the sharpest tool in the workshop, “Booby” Bobby as his work mates now called him, engineered another “incident”. Spotting another attractive young lady having a drink with another obviously older man, Bobby weaved through the crowded restaurant with a precariously filled jug of iced water. As he approached he failed to notice the tension between the couple at the table, oblivious as always to the trouble he was about to cause and intent on earning some cash. On cue, he tripped and the water flew with unerring accuracy to land across the expansive chest of the young woman, soaking the material and revealing what lay underneath the flimsy cotton. Recovering from his “trip”, he stood expecting to be taken to one side and thanked profusely from the grateful, if not grubby older fella. What he saw instead was the man reach beneath his jacket and draw a pistol!
Bobby had never even seen a pistol in real life, even in London firearms were a rarity, but there was no mistaking the ugly looking weapon. Gawping he looked from the gun to the woman, who looked horrified at the turn of events and desperately tried to pull her small jacket tighter around her blouse, not only to cover her generous charms but also the now revealed microphone nestled between her breasts. “Reporter bitch” the man holding the piece spat, ignoring the shrieks of the people closest to their table, “I’ll kill you!” Bobby, without thinking (naturally) grabbed at the weapon, knocking the man’s arm upwards and discharging the gun into the ceiling. The loud retort of the pistol round set the whole room into motion and chaos erupted all around them. Quickly recovering, the man levelled the gun at Bobby clearly looking to end the encounter as swiftly and as finally as he could. Luck once again came to Bobby’s rescue as an enormous woman crashed into their table in the stampede and knocked the thug to the ground, causing the pistol to fall from his grasp and land at the feet of the young woman. Now armed and pointing the weapon at her would be killer, she introduced herself to the flustered soon to be ex-waiter as April Nillson and their friendship began.
"Booby" Bobby was currently hiding in a small copse of trees, not far from a rather large helicopter. He had spotted the aircraft as it circled over the old Roman fort at Richborough, while he had been filming some background shots of the Discovery Park for April’s latest expose. Daenerys, while it had been raging had been terrifying and the tidal surge that had cut the island off was awesome in its intensity. But Bobby knew that April Nillson’s famed temper was rightly feared by all who had been on the receiving end of it, so he had stayed put, sheltered from the epic gale-force winds by the stand of English Oak trees. In the aftermath of the “Mother of All Storms” he had bunkered down and cracked on with the assignment given to him by the fiery reporter. Now he was torn, there was very little activity going on in the old Pfizer site and he was incredibly bored. On the other hand, the giant helicopter going over head and landing near the ancient ruins was much more exciting, not only that but three very serious looking men, dressed all in black had alighted from the aircraft and had drawn some very serious firepower! Bobby reached for his camera, zooming in on the shady looking trio and activated the long-range microphone that he always carried with him. With barely a crackle of white noise, the expensive tech picked up the conversation as if the men were standing next to the cameraman.
“He’s gonna be really pissed off when he gets here, Smith” the first man said, a hard, northern accent that Bobby was unable to place served to make the statement sound more threatening.
“Stow it Jones” the second man, presumably Smith replied in a clipped London tone. “How were we to know that the girl would take the package with her?”
Jones shrugged his reply to the question, clearly not having a better answer but just knowing that the Boss was gonna tear a strip off someone.
Bobby’s ears perked up at the sound of a mysterious girl and an even more mysterious package that was somehow very important to this “Boss”. As if on cue, a black SUV made its way around the last bend before the Fort and pulled up just short of the helicopter. Crouching down behind the scrub, Bobby quickly checked to make sure he was recording with the camera and zoomed in in an effort to capture the occupant of the powerful car. The Boss did not disappoint, clad in a long black leather coat and matching fedora the man pretty much screamed sinister! The trio from the helicopter stood to attention as he approached them, all three of them showing respect to the formidable man.
“Smith, your report”. The Boss spoke in a very neutral voice that could have been from absolutely anywhere in the world. The words uttered without inflection or volume somehow conveying menace none the less.
Smith flinched at the unspoken rebuke, but straightened his shoulders before replying. “We recovered subject Z, we’ll unload it into the temporary cryo-suite in the Fort sir.” Smith paused causing the Boss to raise an eyebrow. Smith sighed, “The package wasn’t with subject Z sir, we believe that the girl must have taken it. She was last seen driving the ambulance away from the scene.” Smith came to a stuttering halt.
The Boss stood silently, staring at the hardened mercenary for long seconds before he shrugged his shoulders. “So be it, the search is now the priority. I want that report and I want it now!” Again, he had not raised his voice but everybody, including Bobby felt the underlying message – there would be no excuses.
Smith coughed, he already knew the answer but he needed to make sure. “And the girl sir, what about the girl.”
The Boss stopped as he was about to get back into the SUV, turning back to look briefly at the three men. “The Company has no use for her - Kill her”
Bobby shuddered as he heard the total lack of emotion in the man’s voice as he passed the death sentence on a young woman. The cameraman felt sorry for the girl, she didn’t know the shadow that loomed over her. With the three soldiers of fortune gunning for her, she didn’t stand a chance.