Unacceptable Losses: Part Eight
Spoiler alert: This story follows on from the events in the zombie apocalypse novel Journal of the Living. It is best if that story is read first.
I was happy to be reunited with Pipa, Natasha, Alice, Ravinder and Leroy. The other captives included the surviving six I had been sent to rescue – Eileen, Julie, Sandra, Fay, Gwen and Sean. Physically, they looked okay. Mentally, they looked like anyone taken hostage by an armed group of psychos – terrified. Alice was talking to them.
The other six people – five men and a woman – were sitting on the floor against a wall, hands and feet tied up. The men and the woman were in their early twenties to early thirties, wearing dirty clothes that they had probably been wearing for weeks. They must have been captured by the Pure Bloods during their patrols before the fall of Oxford. They did not look like they had been hurt, though they looked scared.
Including me, there were eighteen of us locked in the room. Eighteen allies. I wondered if we outnumbered the Pure Bloods. If we did, maybe there would be a time when we could use that to our advantage. Unfortunately, two Pure Bloods stood outside the door, keeping watch through the Plexiglas, eliminating the possibility of planning an escape from the squash court.
I lowered my voice so nobody else heard. “They’ll probably kill us – or worse. I can’t imagine they’ll let Alice live for long. No matter what Keller says, I’ll never trust a Pure Blood. They’ve killed too many of my friends. We have to plan an escape – but we have to be smart. There are eighteen of us. We just have to work out a way of overwhelming the enemy. Any ideas?”
“We can do nothing with hands tied,” Natasha said. “We need something sharp. Cut free. Then we kill guards when they come in. Then we use their weapons to kill others.”
“I like your idea, but there’s nothing in this room that can cut through this plastic.”
“We have teeth,” Natasha said. “What if we bite through each other’s cuffs?”
“We can’t try that with those guards watching.”
“I will try,” she said. “Just hide me from sight.”
We formed a tight group. Natasha got down on her knees and gnawed at the plastic tying my wrists. I willed her to succeed, but there was no time to find out if it would have worked. The soldiers were returning. Luckily, Natasha stopped before any of them saw her. The soldiers entered the squash court and pointed their guns. Their leader strode in after them.
“Listen up!” Keller said. “We’re leaving this place in ten minutes. Everyone will be aboard a bus by then. We are taking your for short ride. Nobody will be harmed if you behave. You have my word as a soldier that I’ll release you all once I get my men out of hostile territory. But if anyone does anything, I will bring down the wrath of God. Does everyone understand?”
Keller didn’t wait for people to nod. He turned and walked out. His soldiers started moving people in small groups. I expected to hear gunshots any second. Mercifully, it didn’t happen.
I was in the last group to be taken out of the leisure centre to the bus parked outside. The hostages were sitting inside, watched over by Grinder in civilian clothes. The Pure Blood was toying with a sharp knife.
Keller had left a seat for me near the front, close to the driver’s seat. “Sit down, Kris. You are going to guide us out of the area. No tricks. Got it?”
“Yeah,” I said.
Before we drove off, Keller and his soldiers changed into civilians clothes. They merged in with the hostages. Keller sat down next to me wearing a suit. Slick started the engine with a screeching crunch, revving the engine too hard. We lurched forward, then came to a sudden stop. Slick tried again. The same thing happened.
“You know how to drive a bus?” Keller said.
“I’ll figure it out, sir.”
“Hurry,” Keller said.
Slick got the engine started for the third time. He even got it moving – but it was clear he wasn’t up to the task. A bus was a long vehicle. You needed training for driving it around tight corners. Slick struggled on the narrow lanes. He caught the side of an abandoned car, scraping paint, frightening everyone aboard. He started fish-tailing.
Keller fumed. “Stop before you crash, soldier!”
Slick braked. Keller went down the bus to Ravinder. “You’ll drive for us, but don’t try anything clever. I’ll shoot you and do it myself if I have to, understand?”
“Yes,” Ravinder said. He was untied and taken to the front. Slick sat in the seat behind him, then we were on the road again. “Uh, which way am I going?”
“North,” Keller said. “Into the Deadlands.”