Authors: Dave Rowlands
By the time I could see, Machete had already wandered over to a small group of Dead, putting one down with her pistol, the sound getting the attention of the other six. A second round came from her gun, downing a second shambling corpse. The third bullet missed, grazing across the temple of the fairly well-preserved Dead one. She easily corrected her aim slightly and blew its head to pieces. The rest of the Dead fell as easily, and I congratulated her on some fine shooting.
Apocalypse Girl had roasted a massive amount of pork that she had discovered in the stasis chambers, which turned out to be quite possibly the tastiest meal I had ever eaten. When I told her this, a single tear ran down her cheek. Smiling, she thanked me, then politely excused herself and bolted from the mess.
I am not going to record the conversation that I had with her upon chasing her down in this journal, suffice to say that it was rather personal and heated. Everybody in the entire world could probably have heard us, we were that loud discussing it.
I knew how she felt, she knew how I felt, but somehow... Sometimes, some things need to be said.
Year 1 A.Z.
The Colonel was on the radio this morning, shortly after dawn, claiming that she was no more than a dozen kilometres from our location and could we please make sure the way is clear for her and her troops. Checking the satellite images around the facility, we were able to easily pinpoint her location. Hers was, after all, the only large group of Living people around. There were a few relatively small groups of Dead between her and us, which we warned her of, then we signed off.
We watched from high above as The Colonel's army mobilised itself quickly, moving from one large, spread out bunch into a long column that snaked its way towards us. The first, smaller group of Dead were obliterated without needing to so much as slow down, the second group they didn't slow much for. In the halfhour since they had begun to move they had destroyed the Dead that lay between us and began to wind their way up the exterior dirt track.
Sister, Apocalypse Girl, Machete and I went topside to greet our allies as they arrived. Watching the military trucks and Jeeps pull up into the yard filled me with a sense of relief that I hadn't experienced in what seemed like forever.
The Colonel jumped out of the leading Jeep, almost running towards us in her hurry to embrace old friends. I had forgotten how short the woman was, she was barely half-a-head taller than Machete, yet possibly the most imposing person I had ever met. Mind you, I had seen her execute a trio of people that had been eating the Dead, not to mention watching her shoot her own superior officer when the man had gone irrevocably insane.
The Smart Couple were close on her heels, throwing their arms around first Apocalypse Girl, then Sister, then me. Machete was then quite thoroughly hugged as well, just because she was there, really.
The Colonel barked orders for her men to fortify the position, set up a squad of guards to watch the main entrance and issued orders that nobody was allowed in without her say-so. Then, she and our scientific comrades followed us inside and underground.
The Colonel wanted to gun Disciple down once she learned who he was, but didn't when Apocalypse Girl talked her down. Even so, my former friend was warned to stay the fuck out of her way, and if she hears of him doing anything like what he and his Followers got up to in Melbourne she wouldn't hesitate next time. He knew she meant it, too, offering up none of the usual smartmouthed bullshit that he would have to anyone else. Disciple was understandably eager for us to be on our way after his encounter with The Colonel, but, at least in part purely to be a bastard, I told him that we would leave tomorrow morning. I wanted to spend some more time with Apocalypse Girl before leaving her behind.
The Colonel talked about the ingenuity of the people of Coober's Nest, how impressed she had been that so many had managed to survive not just the Dead but the mutants that had begun to roam the wastes that the central regions of Australia had become. She was equally impressed by Digger, having come through his tiny town of survivors. They had offered assistance and had eventually left a small squad behind to help them fend off Dead and mutants, though Digger had stubbornly refused at first. It was only after The Colonel had mentioned her grandfather, whom Digger had known well, and some of his exploits in Tobruk and New Guinea that he had relented and afterwards, they had parted as firm friends, saluting one another respectfully. The Smart Couple had managed to synthesise vast amounts of the inoculation for the Dead Plague and they had been certain to vaccinate everybody that they could, military or civilian. The fact that several of The Colonel's men had been savagely mauled by the Dead and bore the scars to prove it while remaining quite polite and not trying to eat anybody was convincing enough for pretty much everyone. Nobody wanted to become one of the Dead after all, and the ability to withstand being bitten was, to say the least, a huge advantage.
Apocalypse Girl and I spent some time with The Smart Couple in the computer lab, catching up for the most part. Smart Guy had managed to discover a way to make a mobile phone battery last almost indefinitely, installing it in Apocalypse Girl's phone, which she wanted me to take with me. “So we can keep in touch,” she told me as she handed it to me. We sent a couple of test messages to each other just to make sure she was familiar with the procedure using the computers, though we had the radio as well, it would serve as a good backup and we could use it for more … private and intimate communications. About thirty or forty civilians had decided to come along with The Colonel, some of these from Coober's Nest, including Dentist and Ginger. The red-headed Irishman claimed that they were only visiting, but the pair were mightily impressed with the medical facilities and stasis chambers. Ginger was already thinking, he told me privately, about setting up a trade route between here and Coober's Nest, using places like Digger's Trench as stopover points along the way.
The Colonel decided to use Alice Facility as a base from which to strike against the Dead, though there were precious few of those left in the immediate area, this meant that she would be sticking around for at least a week or so, long enough, hopefully, for Disciple and I to complete our mission in The Empire and return via train. If she had to go anywhere, she would make certain that the others here realise that Apocalypse Girl, Sister and Scout were running the show.
After dinner, Apocalypse Girl wanted to spend some time alone.
Year 1 A.Z.
Checking my backpack for the umpteenth time I secured Apocalypse Girl's phone, Scout's crowbar and the massive blade that Machete had given me. I checked that I had plenty of ammunition for my gun, grabbed a handful of lighters from Apocalypse Girl's own stash that, by now, would be nearing the thousands. Apocalypse Girl and Machete had refused to leave my side until I stepped on the train, which made
preparations slightly difficult, but it might be a while until I return.
Disciple awaited me at the train station, already packed and ready to go. Sonny, Scout, Sister and The Colonel waited with him, all but Sonny looking askance at Disciple with suspicion, The Colonel especially promising death for any betrayal. Three of The Colonel's men stood behind her, awaiting her orders.
As I said my farewells to my friends, The Colonel called one of her men forward. Jarhead took a stiff stance as she ordered him to make certain that I make it home safely. He saluted, then took position behind me. “That uniform might be a bit conspicuous, mate,” Disciple told him. Jarhead swapped clothing on the spot with Sonny, then took up his weapons. “Military grade weapons could be a dead give-away, too,” Jarhead grunted. Scout offered her shotgun in trade for his assault rifle. After swapping over supplies of ammunition, Jarhead stood to attention directly behind me. “Okay, if you're going to walk around looking like you've got a pole up your arse we're dead for sure. Relax, mate.” He relaxed, a little. Disciple sighed.
The train was reasonably straightforward to use, just a matter of forwards and backwards, really, at differing speeds. Even on the slowest setting, however, I felt that we were moving far too quickly into the unknown.
Jarhead wanted to know where exactly we were headed, Disciple simply shrugged. “We'll find out when we get there, I suppose. It's somewhere near Brisbane, that's all I know. You know the mission?” Jarhead said all he was told was make sure that
made it back alive. “Well, we're going to take out the three Bosses of The Empire.” Jarhead looked unimpressed. He told Disciple that might be
mission, but it was not Jarhead's. I was starting to like this guy.
I asked him what he thought about heading into Imperial territory. Jarhead shrugged. “I don't think anything about it. I'm here to protect you, that's all. As soon as I heard you were heading off somewhere alone, I volunteered straight away.” I was taken aback slightly, so I asked him why he chose to volunteer. “Mate, after you bashed some sense into me when I got those soldiers killed, I figured I owed you one.” Looking at the man, finally recognising him, I realised that I should not have attacked someone that large. I had clearly not been thinking that day. I mumbled an apology which he smiled and waved away. “I deserved that beating. It taught me something about the importance of human life.”
We continued down the tunnel at a pace far too rapid for my liking, though Disciple claimed it would have been completely safe to crank it up to full power. Jarhead stood with me, however, and we kept it nice and slow. The carriage we were in, though it obviously contained some kind of engine, was totally silent as it glided about a foot above the floor level of the tunnel.
Nothing but darkness lay before us, and we ate in silence. After we were done with our meal, Jarhead asked Disciple what had happened to his arm and face. A scarred visage stared at him, unblinking, for the longest time, when he finally spoke. “It was about two weeks after the first Dead got back up. I was with this group led by a bit of a religious zealot, who called himself The Abbott.”
Disciple's eyes took on a haunted look as he continued. One day, he told us, while some of the men that should have been on guard were busying themselves with some female entertainment, the Dead suddenly found their way into camp and started chewing on people. One had decided that Disciple's hand seemed a likely meal, taking a large chunk out of it as he escaped the carnage. He hadn't stayed to help anybody out, but by that time nobody was left. He saw one other person, a woman, climbing into a suit of motorcycle leathers and helmet, who then ran for all she was worth down the road. A moment later, it clicked. I had known that woman. She had been my friend. Biker. All of a sudden an almost uncontrollable urge to throttle the living shit out of Disciple arose inside me. I choked it back down instead. I could always kill this fucker later.
Disciple had taken advantage of the fact that the Dead were busily devouring his companions to take a meat cleaver and hack off his own arm at the elbow, after building as large a fire as he dared in a small house that was nearby. Then he cauterised the stump by heating up the blade of his cleaver and applying it to the wound. Luckily, he didn't pass out until afterwards.
Unfortunately, when he fell unconscious he also fell forward into the fire. Since then, the Dead would always go for anyone else before him. If he were alone, sure, they would attack him on sight, but were he with anyone else they preferred another meal. Laughing dryly, he suggested that they didn't like him because he'd managed to partially cook himself.
When he finally came to, he found himself in the awkward position of having to use his own severed arm as bait to lure the few Dead that had managed to wander into his location out into the rain, so that he could secure the building he had crawled into, where he remained, silently watching as our group came through after the rains finally stopped. He had recognised me, he said, straight away. On the other hand, he also saw that we had adopted Biker into our group. She would have had a few things to say about him, so he chose to keep quiet. After that, he found his way into the same group of bandits that had shot at us as we drove past in the Greyhound.
Almost perfectly synchronised with the end of Disciple's story, the train came to a stop at the station. “End of the line, boys,” Disciple said, and we clambered out from the train car, making camp on the platform for the night. Jarhead recommended that we keep a watch out, just in case, though it seemed unlikely that there was anything dangerous out there. I agreed.
Year 1 A.Z.
The next morning found us whole and unmolested by Dead or any other kind of mutated fauna or flora. Disciple wanted to get a move on immediately, but Jarhead and I had different ideas. We wouldn't get anywhere near any of The Bosses without information, after all, and Jarhead wanted to know where we could find some.
Disciple simply shrugged, saying that as far as he knew they were all holed up in Brisbane somewhere. Much, if not all, of Queensland was now part of The Empire, though they had found few of these facilities, if Disciple was to be believed. Hoping that this one was clear, of both Living and Dead, we moved out from the train station, climbing the stairs to the elevator. The elevator which, for some reason, had power running to it.
We rode the lift up as far as it would go, weapons at the ready as the doors slid open. Nothing. The corridor was perfectly well lit, but there was no sign of any activity. Calling out carefully, we advanced along the corridor, glancing through every doorway we came across. Still nothing.
Investigating the armoury and stasis chambers we resupplied, carrying as much as we were physically able to. There was no way of knowing how long we were going to be out here, in unfamiliar, hostile territory. The plan was to get in, kill The Bosses, get out alive again and fuck off back to Alice Facility. One thing I have
hated about plans; they rarely go according to plan... I could only hope that this one would.