Writers Note: Here is another key chapter that I wrote before the damn sequel came out and I totally flipped when I saw the movie. Anyway, enjoy.
30 Days Later
Chapter 10: Across the Pond
Clear skies promised to bake up and an awful stench come noon from the hundred or so fresh corpses that lay scattered about the yard. The mess in the kitchen and food from the previous night sat spoiled and untouched. The house was as silent as the dead.
Major West stood by the remnants of shattered glass doors overlooking what was left of the garden. His face was scratched and dirty and his uniform disheveled and soiled however it was the least of his concerns. The sanctuary he'd created had crumbled in a single night. His dream of starting over had turned into a nightmare. The arrival of the women was supposed to mean new life and guarantee survival of man but it seemed to only weaken it.
The carefully timed explosion seemed to alert every waking Infected within earshot. Even with diluted numbers the soldiers stood strong. Some Infected worked their way to the main gates and tried to climb the iron bars. Others attempted to scale the walls but became snagged on the barbed wires. Davis and Bedford took their guns to the front yard and picked them off through the fence. When the crippled gate finally gave away, the soldiers were forced to retreat into the house.
Private Bell was captured on the steps and devoured. His leg still sore from the knife wound, it failed him as he turned to flee. His demise allowed enough time for the remaining men to take positions in the foyer. The Infected smashed through the windows of the drawing room to their right flank. They sprayed both entry ways with every thing they had. A few carefully aimed grenades through the windows put helpful gaps in the continuous onslaught. A thick cloud of gun powder smoke floated through the air. The men feared the house would catch fire at any moment.
When ammo was getting low, all hope seemed lost but miraculously the flow of Infected started to slow and finally ceased. Tired and hungry, the soldiers remained vigilant through the night for any signs of movement. At first light they finally pushed the corpses from the door way and accessed the damage. The beauty of the first floor that had taken the women days to accomplish was now riddled with bullet holes, splintered wood, and shards of broken glass.
The soldiers headed to the downstairs basement expecting the worse. Both girls still lie where they had been tied up, unconscious and unresponsive. A closer observation showed they had not died during the assault but without medical attention it appeared death was imminent. Afraid to move the girls right away, West had pillows and blankets brought down for them. Hannah's arms were cleaned and bandaged. Jones volunteered to keep watch over them till the Major plotted their next move. The next few hours were critical.
The future of their little group seemed uncertain. There were countless bodies and gallons of Infected blood to be handled. New mines needed to be laid and the front gate had to be fixed before nightfall. It was clear the mansion wouldn't even withstand a mini-attack with gaping holes in the windows and walls. With only the five of them working together it would take days to get everything up to par, but was it worth the risk?
Clifton emerged from the gloomy house. "Sir."
"What is it?"
"She's awake now."
"Wake Bedford and prepare the trucks." He was silent for a moment in thought. We're leaving."
Clifton acknowledged the order and let out a heavy sigh after West had gone. Frustrated, he kicked over a body that lay draped across the railing.
Inside the basement the Major gently motioned for Jones to leave the room and kneeled next to Lucia.
He tried again.
Her eyes rolled around as she struggled to focus. She felt fingers touching her hair and face. After a few moments her vision cleared enough to see the older man's strong brow hovering above her.
Lucia made a noise which he took for a response.
"You survived the night, so I hope that means you'll live. You've always been the fighter," he paused and stroked her hair again. "You didn't have to do this you know. Things were peaceful here. I . . . might have put you through a lot but it was for your own safety."
"Where's Hannah?" Lucia said once she found her voice.
Her mouth was incredibly dry. "Selena?"
West hesitated. "Dead."
"It didn't have to be this way Waverley. We could survive and be happy together. We still can be."
"You still don't get it, do you?" Lucia sighed heavily. She felt like crying but couldn't muster the moisture to produce any tears. "You have no right to decide what our future will be. Infection stole our lives away from us and you took away the bit of freedom we had left. We decided to take back control."
West only stared at her silently to take in her words. It was as if he were hearing her for the first time.
A rapid knock at the door shattered the moment.
"What is it?" He called angrily.
It was Davis. "Sir! There's an army brigade coming up the road!"
West hopped to his feet and snatched the door open. "Are you sure?"
The young private nodded and pointed toward the front of the house. "Yes, looks like there's a whole fleet of them!"
Major West started down the hall with Davis in tow. He paused briefly to send Jones back to the basement before hurrying outside. He almost didn't believe his eyes. A long train of armored vehicles were coming up the dirt road. A sudden bolt of relief, realization, and anxiety struck the Major all at once.
England was alive.
The sheer size of the brigade proved it. Such a thing wouldn't exist if there weren't some corner of the country still thriving with life. But whereas he should have felt happiness he suddenly felt the anvil of reality. What story could he possibly give to explain the raped teenager and the drugged woman handcuffed in the basement?
Clifton and Davis pulled the barb wire gate open graciously allowing the vehicles access to the front yard.
"We're fucking saved!" Clifton laughed hysterically.
There was no time to think.
The vehicles came to a halt in front of the house and armed British soldiers hopped out and awaited command. Among them was an older man rich with an aura of superiority and a rank to match it. Lieutenant-Colonel Warwick stepped out of a hummer and approached the house. West and the others stood at attention and saluted him respectively.
"At ease Soldier. From the looks of things I'd say you and your men have had it rough. You're lucky we found you in time."
"We're relieved to know that there are so many survivors."
"More than you think," Warwick replied giving the mansion a quick once over. "Your broadcast tipped us off on your location. How many of you are there?"
"Only five sir, including myself; all part of the British Army," he said proudly.
"You've done well here Soldier. Most of the survivors we've found have nearly starved to death," he said. "Have you come across any civilians?"
"No Sir. The few we've seen fell to the Infected before we could reach them in time."
Clifton and Davis exchanged glances but said nothing.
"That's too bad. I was hoping to bring a few back with me to base camp."
"Our broadcast has been playing for weeks now and no one else has come forward. We fear that all the surviving civilians in the area died while trying to reach us."
"That's unfortunate. We've seen so few make it out of the cities alive," he said sympathetically though his stone features remained solid. "That's quite a shame indeed."
With a flick of his hand the troops waiting behind him rushed into the mansion. A pair of them moved next to Clifton and Davis who eyed them suspiciously. Major West glanced at another group rounding the building to enter the side doors in confusion. Red flags lit up his senses.
It was then he noticed a dark-haired man disguised in military camouflage step out of a hummer. Jim trotted past the two officers making eye contact with West as he went by. The Major's expression turned into surprise as he watched the younger man disappear into the mansion. He turned back to Lieutenant-Colonel Warwick who glared at him with a cold, hard stare that made his heart pound.
Inside, the soldiers spread out cautiously all over the house.
"Hannah?" Jim called as they snaked their way through the halls. "Selena?"
They moved upstairs toward the bedrooms. Up ahead a door opened and Bedford poked his head out. The soldiers seized him at once and checked his pockets for concealed weapons. The surprised Private swore out loud but his protests went ignored.
Jim hurried into the bedroom to search for his friends but found no one and returned to Bedford. "Where are they? Where are they damn you!"
The man holding the fallen soldier squeezed harder.
Bedford gritted his teeth in pain. "In the basement."
Jim was down the stairs in a flash.
"The basement!" He called ahead.
The nearby soldiers reached for the door knob as it swung open. Jones shrieked in surprise at the sight of several guns aimed at him at once. Before he could mutter a word they yanked him out and onto the floor.
"What the bloody hell? I'm one of you!" He demanded. Finally he spotted Jim. "You! I thought we killed you!"
Jim followed the soldiers into the basement. Hannah's motionless form was the first to be found. He fell to her side and tried to shake her awake her but she was unresponsive. He noticed right away she was deathly pale. Someone upstairs announced the discovery and called for the medic. Jim began to tear up and squeezed her hand. It was then he saw the bandages and the bruises on her arms. The exposed skin around her collar was littered with passion marks. The sight was too much and he began to tremble.
"There's another one over here."
Jim rose to his feet and found Lucia where the Major had left her sleeping. "Lucia!"
The young American was drenched with sweat. Jim touched her hair and shook her shoulder a bit. Her head flopped around as if she were lifeless. A streak of dried drool ran from the corner of her mouth to the blankets.
"Lucia?" He begged anxiously. Her skin radiated with the warmth of a fever. "Wake up. Open your eyes."
"We got two!" A soldier called from the hall as more men entered the basement to check it out.
Jim wiped away the tears from his cheeks. "Yes, I've come back get you like I promised."
She tried to smile but winced instead. "Turn that music down please. It's giving me a headache."
"What music? There is no music."
"Someone set the cat on fire again," she muttered, visibly struggling to keep her eyes open. "Tell that jerk-off he can hang his own damn drapes."
"What's the matter with you?" Jim brushed her hair back to observe her pupils. "Did they give you something?"
"Selena?" She asked suddenly.
"Do you know where they're keeping her?"
"I'm sorry," Lucia spoke so low that he had to lean in close to hear her. "Selena is dead."
Jim gasped in disbelief. "What?"
Lucia blinked at him sleepily. "She's gone."
A C.M.T. and his assistant rushed into the room. Jim moved out of the way still shocked at the news.
"What's her name?" The assistant asked him.
"Lucia," he replied swallowing hard. "I think she's been drugged."
"I got a pulse over here," the C.M.T announced from Hannah's side. He shined a miniature flashlight into her eyes with his fingers pressed to her neck. "It's faint but it's there. No signs of the Rage virus. We need to get this one back to base right now." He said lifting her in his arms.
"Send a stretcher back. We got to get this one on ice." The assistant called after him as he removed Lucia's handcuffs.
Jim slipped out of the room to let her be examined in peace and walked slowly into the foyer. There were soldiers going through every inch of the house looking for more suspects and survivors. Upon stepping out onto the porch there were gunshots coming from the side of the house where a starved and weakened Mailer was being kept. Someone shouted that all was well and everyone went back to their duties.
The five accused men were lined up in front of the house on their knees with their hands fastened behind their head. Several others stood around them on guard. Major West watched Jim come out of the house dragging his feet. He went over to the wall, leaned against it, and lowered his head. Lieutenant-Colonel Warwick headed over to him and spoke. Jim closed his eyes, said something, and shook his head in grief.
The C.M.T. stood before the commanding officer at attention.
"Sir, two female civilians were found bound in the basement. The girl is in need of immediate attention. I have to fly her back to base now or I'll lose her."
"Do whatever it takes to keep them alive." Warwick replied then dismissed him.
The C.M.T. hopped into a truck where Hannah had already been loaded up and it took off with an escort in tow. A stretcher was pulled from another vehicle and dragged into the house. Shortly thereafter, Lucia was carried out. The sweat on her face and body started to dry but underneath her temperature was rising. The assistant trailed along side of the stretcher asking her questions to keep her conscious.
West watched as they loaded her into the truck. He cast his eyes downward, wrought with embarrassment, and a sort of fear he never believed he'd ever feel again. After all these weeks, the arrival of a rescue party didn't seem likely or even possible to him. How could there be when the entire world had suffered the same fate? Somehow he didn't believe Warwick's story about hearing his broadcast. If it was clear enough to reach them now it was clear enough five weeks ago. They hadn't come to rescue their own; they came to rescue the women.
Overcome with emotion, Jones came to see the truth behind the Majors agenda and the result was here. For the first time in five weeks, he realized their wrongdoings and it made him ache inside.
"I'm sorry Lucy!" Jones cried out to her. "I'm so sorry!"
"Shut it you wanker," Bedford snapped.
"That's not gonna fucken help," Davis growled.
No one knows exactly when he moved but Jim slipped passed the armed guards and landed a hard blow on Henry West's face. The Major fell backwards and prepared to defend himself.
"I'll kill you!!" Jim screamed and landed a few more blows. Two soldiers grabbed him by the arms and pulled him back before he could advance any further. "You killed her! You fucking killed Selena you bastard!"
West got back to his knees under the watchful eyes of his guards.
"We didn't kill anyone, they did that to themselves!" Clifton protested. "We had nothing to do with it."
"Shut your gob!" One of the guards snapped.
Jim relaxed and squeezed his eyes shut as he began to sob out loud. The two soldiers led Jim over to Warwick who signaled for them to release him. Jim struggled to control his breathing. His vision was blurred with anger and tears.
"Go with them Jim," the older man said. "We can do the rest here."
Jim nodded and jumped into the back of the truck with Lucia.
The five accused watched the truck and its jeep escort leave the property and disappear down the dirt path.
Jim sat in silence as he watched the medic prepare a syringe. He swabbed Lucia's arm with a cotton ball and began to draw blood. Even though the truck was gently swaying back and forth, he made the whole process look simple.
"Jim, I need you to talk to your friend here." The assistant told him. "Keep her awake while I radio ahead so they'll be ready for us when get on the ground."
Jim nodded and crawled over to where Lucia was laying. Her eyes were half open and glazed over. He touched her face and she made a noise. At first he didn't have the slightest idea of what to say to his foreign friend. He couldn't help but feel sorry for himself and sorry for the girls for having to suffer for so long. He was too late to save Selena and now it might be too late for the others. Jim swore to himself if they all died he would never stop coming after Henry West until he was dead.
No judgment could satisfy Jim but to beat the very life out of the Major with his bare hands. Tears welded up into his eyes once more. Selena was dead. It was certain to him that her death wasn't quick, but a slow bleeding torture. He didn't want to see her body... if they found it. He wanted to remember her just as beautiful as she was the night when he first met her...
Jim managed to escape the mansion but getting away from the Infected in the forest proved to be much more difficult. He was forced to drive many miles out before he could finally stop the car. He found the secluded area where Frank, he, and the girls had spent the night and rested. When morning came, he ate some food that was left over in the car and contemplated on how he was going to save the girls. He returned to the blockade minutes before a jeep approached carrying Mitchell and Bedford.
Fortunately enough for Jim they didn't see him and he was able to retreat. He parked the taxi in the woods and snuck his way back to the mansion. He got as close as the front yard before he had to stop. Remembering West's tour of the house, he recalled him saying that the lawn was full of land mines and traps. The only way to get close to the house was to follow the road and risk being seen.
Jim returned to the taxi a couple of hours before sunset. He drove around the surrounding areas, taking roads he had never seen before. He had to find some sort of shelter for the night and fast. He came across an empty cottage sitting in the middle of nowhere. It looked safe enough, so he covered the windows and barricaded himself into the back bedroom.
The next morning he was awoken by a low humming sound. At first he thought it was part of a dream but soon realized that it wasn't. He hurried to the nearest window and peeked out as a jet passed high overhead. Jim ran out of the house screaming and waving his arms but the pilot didn't see him. After that he became determined to flag it down. It passed by every other day and each time it never saw him. Jim searched the house for buckets of white paint but all he found was red and blue. He wrote out the word "Help" in the grass with big letters and drew an arrow pointing at the cottage. The rain washed most of his message away and the colors were too muted be seen from the air.
Finally he got the idea to tie brightly colored sheets together instead and laid them out on the lawn. He was picked up the next day. It took some time to convince the powers that be that his friends were being raped and tortured by surviving military personnel. Jim noted their reluctance to do anything about it at first but they finally agreed to go to the mansion. A few thermal images of the house the previous night during the battle gave undeniable proof that there was life still thriving inside those walls.
After a ten minute ride, the truck and its escort passed through the ruins of the 42nd blockade. It was crawling with soldiers whom were shifting through the rubble. If it weren't for her condition Lucia would have cried out in joy for she would be the first to point out that they were all American. The soldiers allowed the truck passage and the three vehicles continued on.
Up ahead there were two helicopters sitting in the middle of the road, their blades still spinning. A heavy defense team covered the surrounding areas near the copters along with sandbags and barb wire. They arrived as the one carrying Hannah lifted into the air and flew away. The soldiers unloaded Lucia and put her into the other chopper. Jim followed quietly.
The medic checked Lucia's vitals again. Her heartbeat was slow and steady but her temperature remained high.
The engine revved up and the vessel began it's ascent into the sky. It rose above the tree line and started heading southwest towards the Isle of Dogs where thousands of British civilian survivors had fled. During the beginning of Infection, the surrounding countries offered a helping hand to England in it's time of need. The Rage virus never made it across seas or the even the ocean. The world around the tiny island was still intact. Even England's politicians had made it out of the country alive. Refugees were scattered all around the surrounding nations across the English Channel.
The chopper flew over several warships and aircraft carriers floating in the waters around the Isle of Man. Each one was topped off with an allied flag. To the south French and Norwegian fleets patrolled the channel waters and scanned the English countryside for more survivors. As the helicopter closed in on the shore, a voice cracked on the radio and requested identification. The pilot gave them a quick reply and they were immediately given the okay to continue on their present course to safety.