DRIP. DRIP. DRIP.
The smell was absolutely terrible, we were in the sewers of London, and I was almost gagging with the awful smell. I looked back at my ‘crew’; Tobi, looking younger than I had ever seen him before; Noah, appearing to be silent yet determined and Finn Harris, his head nearly touching the roof of the circular sewer.
“Where do you think everyone went from Kelvedon Hatch?” Finn asked. We had arrived early to find the base completely empty before we moved onto our drop off point.
“Hopefully, they are still alive,” I told him.
“How much further?” Tobi whispered, shivering in his black uniform.
“Another half mile, and we should reach their camp,” I replied quietly. I could barely believe that it had roughly been twenty-two hours since General Forsythe had told us the Special Forces group had failed, and Kelvedon Hatch was compromised. After we had lost all communication with Kelvedon Hatch, I had called a meeting together for an hour later.
“In roughly twenty-seven hours, the Cataii are going to begin siphoning off our planet core,” the youngest researcher, Max Cauldwell, began the meeting. All the Department heads were there, including the complete Research team.
“Excuse me, I could have sworn you said we had twenty-seven hours,” Larry stared at the boy, astonished.
“He did. After the Special Forces team failed, we discovered they will begin mining about 1500 tomorrow. So we have less than twenty-seven hours to save our planet.”
“I thought we’d be able to just get on with life,” Simon, our resident chef, slumped back in his chair.
“Is there no way to negotiate?” Helen, Head of Admin, asked. Mac and I shared a look as Finn spoke up. He had taken over as head of Recon to let me Command the base.
“We tried that; it ended in a lot of deaths,” he spoke tonelessly.
“We have a plan, though,” Sarah spoke up just as everyone became despondent.
“In an hour?” I asked them incredulously.
“We’ve had a plan since before the Special Forces group,” Tom Graves, the eldest researcher, told us sheepishly.
“Tom and I have been deciphering a lot of the alien information with Amanda,” Sarah swallowed, “Tobi has been helping us with the technical stuff,”
“Their engines, for lack of a better word, are incredible, and to be honest, we don’t understand them all, but we have found weaknesses. Weaknesses that we can exploit,” Tom continued for Sarah, “We send a small team in, and place charges in un-shielded points that will destroy the ship,”
“Explosives?” Mac exclaimed, shocked.
“OK, so we destroy the Harvester, but then what about any other ships?” I asked.
“We can help you reconfigure some of the larger guns on the ship and aim it at the mothership; we think the ship shields will be destroyed instantly,” Sarah took up the explanation.
“You think?” I looked at her sceptically.
“Amanda theorised their shields are configured to allow their armament to get through, so they don’t have to drop the shield when firing on something,”
“That’s a pretty big IF,” Mac added.
“We’re 90% sure that the mothership will be destroyed,” Sarah returned firmly.
“So the only question is, how do we get to board the ship?” I asked, looking at the three researchers.
“There’s an intern camp in north London, every day at the same time they send shipments of something back to the main ship,” Max began bringing up a map of London, “If you can get to this spot here, we’ll guide you through the sewers, and then you’ll arrive near to the drop off point. They leave at 1100hours.”
“So we have to get aboard this ship by 11am, then get to the Harvest ship, then we have three hours to plant the explosives, destroy the mothership and escape all without being caught,” I clarified, “This is absolutely insane!”
“But it’s the only plan we have,” Mac countered. “Otherwise, we all die tomorrow.”
“Well, when you put it that way,” I slumped back in my chair, looking around the entire team, “what are the odds of this succeeding?”
“40% chance,” Max pipes up, getting a slap from Sarah. I looked up at the screen, unseeing as I went over the logistics. The others murmured amongst themselves for the moment while I considered everything.
“It’s going to have to be a small team, either four or five people,” I spoke up, then looked to Izzy and Matt, “Have we got any explosives?”
“We do, though I have no idea what type it is; Noah could tell you more,” Izzy explained.
“I’m not sure on the exact type, but I could set up a detonator on it,” Noah shrugged.
“Right, so Noah is on the team, as is Finn,” I suggested.
“I’m going,” Tobi spoke up. I looked at my friend, not entirely sure he was ready for something this big. “I’m the only one that can read the schematics, know where to place the explosives and program the guns to fire on the mothership.”
“I can’t argue against that, but I don’t think you should go,”
“Damn right, you’re not going; you’re too young,” Mac spoke up at once.
“We’re at war, Mac, I have the skills, and we don’t have enough time to train anyone else,” Tobi argued back.
“He’s right, Mac; he needs to go, which is why I am also going to protect him and the other three,” I said firmly. Everyone began to shout at once though I heard Mac above the others.
“You have pulled us all together here, and now you want to swan off on a suicide mission,” she bit angrily.
“No, I don’t, but I have to lead them. I can’t get others to go, and I can’t stay here to watch them as they go on this mission,” I stood by my reasoning. They argued back and forth for the next half hour, but eventually, it was decided that Noah, Finn, Tobi and myself would go.
“Alex,” Tobi’s voice jolted me out of my thoughts from the day before. I checked my gun then scanned the dark corridor ahead. “Are you OK?”
“I’m sorry, my thoughts were completely elsewhere,” I answered sheepishly.
“You need to be focused, boss,” Finn reprimanded me. I shook my head to rid my mind of the last few days then focussed on the mission. Setting the pace, the four of us moved through the sewers rapidly until we reached a T junction.
“Where do we go from here?” I tapped into the mic.
“You’re going to go straight ahead, for several hundred yards before you turn again, then you’re almost at your destination,” Max’s voice came through the earpiece. Just as I stepped into the centre of the junction, a horrible keening cry began to echo all around me. I found the noise coming from the right then the rushing sounds of several people running. In the harsh lights of the gun-light, I began to see the form of several zombies.
“Go, go, we’ll catch up with you,” I barely noticed Finn grab Tobi as Noah and I fired our suppressed rifles. I heard the guns’ popping sound as the creatures began entering the lights from a grate above. They were truly horrible, it had been several months since the beginning of the ‘apocalypse’, so some were beginning to decompose. They began to stumble over some of the creatures we were hitting and bringing down. But the tunnel was starting to fill up.
“Let’s go,” I shouted to Noah, knowing we had to go now. Noah nodded and ran ahead of me; every now and then, I would turn to fire my gun at the rambling crowd of Zombies. Noah and I caught up with the other two boys as we splashed through the dirty muck of the sewer. I could hear the growling behind me as sweat dripped down my back but knew better to run than engage. My wrist device pinged, letting me know we had reached our exit.
“Stop, this is our exit, guys,” I called as we reached a ladder. Finn went up first as Noah and I spun around to aim down the sewers. Luckily we had left the horde behind, but they weren’t that far. I dropped the empty magazine out and reloaded. Noah followed my example.
“All quiet,” Finn called down
“Tobi, you’re next,” I told the boy who scrambled up the ladder like a monkey. Noah nodded at me once Tobi had told us he was up. Just as Noah began to ascend, the horde turned the corner. I aimed quickly, firing at the creatures’ legs in the front row, tearing shreds of skin and bones, completely pulverising the legs. Though not dead, the first row fell, causing the other behind to slow down as they attempted to climb over the others. I slung the gun around onto my back, grabbed the ladder then shimmied up. As I broke into open-air, I saw the rest of my group hiding behind some bushes just ahead of me. Climbing through the hole, something grabbed my foot. I looked in horror as a man in a jogging suit was latched onto my foot. I panicked, slamming my other foot into the creatures head when it suddenly let go. I scrambled up then, with Finn’s help, managed to get the cover over the hole. Faint moans come from below, but nothing came out after five minutes.
“That was close,” Finn patted me on the back. A cold shiver went up my back as to how close that had been. Tobi and Noah looked at me, concerned, but I shook them off.
“How close are we?” Noah asked quietly as Finn watched the perimeter, though we had come out in a small corpse of trees in a little park.
“Several streets over, there is an industrial estate where they must be keeping supplies or something. That’s where they keep the transport ships,” I told them.
“OK,” everyone nodded their heads as I turned towards the street. I could see through the trees. Once again, I took the lead hiding behind the trees until we reached the street. The road was dead. Usually, a London road like this would have traffic passing through, people on the sidewalk, families shouting and screaming. A weak wind blew some empty crisp packets down the street; there were black bags of rubbish strewn up and down and green bins on their sides. It was incredibly eerie for London.
Finn moved up, taking point as I fell back behind Tobi and Finn. The four of us moved quickly, following the brick houses until Finn led us into an alleyway. So far, except for the sewer, our trip had been remarkably clear; I hope our luck held out. We moved for another twenty minutes, slowly making our way through several streets until we stopped in our latest alleyway. In front of us was the edge of the industrial estate with metal fences erected all around. I pulled my bino’s out then surveyed the estate. There were three large warehouses centred around a large open area, tarmacked for vehicles. In the centre of the tarmac lay the transport ship, bigger than the one we had taken.
About the size of an Antonov An-225 Mriya, except it was rectangular. Boxes were ready all around it; I could also see normal humans putting crates onto the ship. I immediately spotted the fence where the SAS had cut into it, so it had not been detected.
“How long until we get that distraction?” Finn asked as I panned the bino’s forwards, seeing at least three of the Aliens standing taller than the humans with them, their white armour shining. I took a look at my watch.
“We’re right on schedule, ten minutes until Andre lights up the front door,” I told the other three.
“Be Careful; I want you to come back alive,” Mac came over the radio. As soon as we got on the ship, we’d lose communication except for local sets. I looked over the other three, all of whom appeared anxious, but we knew we had to do this.
“Are you ready?” I whispered. I got three shaky nods, taking Noah’s hand; I needed a little encouragement as I pulled him into a hug. Finn looked away with a grin on his face, But Tobi gave a little disappointed look before turning away. “Look, I know I haven’t said anything before….”
“I know, don’t worry,” Noah seemed to be reading my mind.
“Thanks,” he gently turned his head up to give him a sweet kiss. Noah stepped away, allowing me to clear my throat. The other two turned back around with small grins. I began checking over my weapons, making sure they were all working. Finn had the backpack with the explosives in it, though Noah had some too if we were separated.
That was our cue! Explosions came from the east of our position near the gate. I could see humans and aliens running towards the industrial park’s front entrance through the bino’s. I immediately dashed for the broken fence with the others close on my heels. Getting to the fence, I held it up, so the rest of my team could scramble underneath. I did a quick calculation thinking a risk might have to be taken; instead of my original plan of hiding behind boxes, I dashed for the transport. I knew the team were with me because I could hear them behind me.
While the aliens were focussed elsewhere, the four of us reached the transport running up the ramp. Immediately we were in the cargo hold. I could just see an elevator door some 200 feet in front of us; I guess this was the cockpit. Straight in front of us was a corridor with individual sections, several hundred in fact that held whatever cargo they were taking up to the main ship. I took a quick peek down the corridor on the left and noticed it was full of cages, several of them occupied with human children. I gulped the sudden need to vomit. Ignoring them, I led my team into the corridor with the boxes.
“This one,” I told them, selecting a section close to the ramp. We scrambled over the boxes, then made a makeshift hole in the centre. Re-arranging the boxes around us, we made it look like nothing had been disturbed as we were waiting for the movement of the ship. The mini-scientists had estimated it would take roughly an hour to get to the Harvester, then hopefully, we would be able to get off. The SAS notes they had received showed the transport crew were minimal, so hopefully, they left the ship alone on the other end so we might be able to escape undetected. It seemed like an age had gone by before we heard the engines’ rumbling, then the big transport began to move. The four of us settled in for the wait.
As we lie there, my mind went back over the meeting the day before when our ‘scientists’ told us about the ship.
“The Harvester is a research centre, we believe from all the data we have,” Tom Graves explained.
“You believe?” Tom, our engineer, said sceptically before I could speak. I’m sure there were too many Tom’s in the Mountain.
“There are certain areas blacked out, while others are harder to translate,” Sarah continued glaring at Tom. “But we are 90% sure it is a research vessel rather than an attack one; those will be on the Command vessel.”
“The one we are going to fire upon and destroy,” I stated rhetorically.
“Yeah,” Tom G agreed emphatically. “Now the actual ship is shaped like a wheel with four ‘leg’s coming off it.”
“What are the legs?” Larry asked.
“They are basically massive drilling lasers; four of them will dig into the ground around London and drill down to the molten core, where they will ‘suck up’ the lava.” Tobi happily explained. Both Mac and Finn appeared to be pale, as did most of the Senior staff.
“There is an outer circle, which we believe is where the stores and the docking bays are, then an inner circle we think are labs or something similar. Finally, a rectangle in the centre which we think houses the control centre and more Labs.”
“So what do we have to do?” I asked with a sigh.
“First, you’ll need to plant some of the explosives in each of the legs before you move through to the engineering room, plant some more explosives before aiming the weapon system at the Command ship, then escape.”
“Oh, so easy peasy then,” Larry said sarcastically.
“Do we have any idea how busy the ship will be?” Finn asked, starting to calculate the risks.
“We think the Harvester is minimally staffed because it can be remotely piloted from the Command ship. Our thinking is there will be Cataii researchers, but not many soldiers as they obviously won’t be expecting an attack,” Sarah answered.
“But in that research, you have not come up with a Rosta list?” Larry spoke angrily.
“No, unfortunately not,” Sarah returned placidly. “Tobi has the knowledge to set the weapons platform towards the Command ship.”
“I’m still not happy with the fact he has to go,” Mac looked me in the eyes.
“Me neither. Are you absolutely positive the weapons will destroy the Command ship?” I looked at Sarah and Tobi.
“We’re not 100%, but we are fairly certain,” Sarah answered resolutely. Tobi nodded too.
“Right then, we need to see what explosives we have first, then make sure the plan is as airtight as we can make it,” I told them all.
“One last thing, you won’t be able to communicate with us once you are on the transport ship, Sarah winced, waiting for the explosion to come.
“You what? You didn’t feel this was necessary ten minutes?” I did explode because this was valuable information she should have told us near the beginning of the meeting.
“You’ll have Local communication with your team, but you won’t be able to talk to anyone back on earth,”
“Well, this is just fucking great,” Larry shouted, and I agreed with his statement, but I need to be the rational one.
“OK, so be it. The plan goes ahead as we said. Finn, I want you to gather the gear together, Noah you’ll go with Matt and Izzy to organise the explosives. Tobi, I need you to make sure we have all the maps and schematics correctly; I want to leave nothing to chance,” I ordered. I got a ‘yes, boss’ from them all, and the meeting broke up. I flicked through some paperwork when I realised Mac was still in the room.
“Make sure you bring yourself and Tobi back alive, or I’m going to come to hell and kick your butt,” She told me sternly.
“What makes you think I’m going to hell?” I asked with a grin.
“Be serious, would you?” she returned, glaring at me for making jokes.
“OK, Daisy, will you Enact Prime Directive Alpha Alpha One Four?” I asked politely.
“Control has been transferred; MacKenzie Callaghan is in command,” the calm voice of Daisy replied.
“What did you just do?” the girl looked at me wide-eyed.
“You now have complete control over the Mountain; Daisy will respond to you now, as she did to me,” I explained.
“Do you not expect to come back?” Mac asked quietly.
“I do, but in the remote chance that I do not come back, then I want the Command to go to you. With Daisy, you have absolute authority, in case anyone argues,” I told her, then gave the girl a hug.
“Come on, Alex, we’ve landed,” Finn’s words jolted me out of my memories. I shook my head, bringing me back to here and now, realising that we had indeed stopped.
“Right, you three stay here,” I told them, then quickly slithered over the top of the cases. I kept low as I made my way towards the back of the ship. The ramp was down, but there did not seem to be anybody about. I looked out; we were in some sort of a hanger bay you saw in sci-fi films. Not far from the entrance was a wall, but I saw more of the ships we had as I looked around. I saw several doors along the big hanger, but I was positive there was no one about. I ran back to the section we had hidden in.
“We’re all clear.” My three team members emerged, stretching their bodies. I didn’t hear the noise of the ‘prisoners’ they had bought with them, so they must have already removed them from the ship. “Come on, we’ll get into the ship proper, then get ourselves orientated.”
“Yes, Sir,” the three snapped, grinning at me. I led the way back to the end of the ship, looking out once again but still empty. I caught a glimpse of a window, but that was on the far side of the hanger. I went first, slithering down the ramp off to the ship’s right, allowing it to be between myself and the window. Finn came next, then Noah handed Tobi down as he was still relatively short. Noah followed, then we were making a mad dash for the nearest door, which slid open as we got close. My heart began pounding, but the corridor beyond was empty.
I took an immediate left, moving down the brightly lit hallway. It was almost a replica of something from Battlestar Galactica or StarGate made of metal. It appeared put together by humans. I came to a door on the right, which had strange scratch-like writing next to it. Probably a label or something.
“It’s a storage room,” Tobi piped up quietly.
“Right, get inside, we’ll work out where we are, then move on from there,” I ordered. Tobi pressed something on a panel next to the door, and it slid open, revealing more boxes similar to what was on the ship. The four of us moved towards the back of the room, then stopped. Tobi immediately pulled out something similar to an iPad, though it was translucent with a pink glow. His finger’s whizzed across the screen like he was some kind of robot.
A few minutes later, he turned to a panel in the back corner; pulling some tools from his bag, he took off the gleaming metal square. All I could see were white cables that seemed to be wrapped in some kind of gelatin substance. Tobi grabbed some wires from his bag then somehow managed to connect them.
“What are you doing?” Finn hissed. Tobi put a finger up to make the boy pause; this seemed to anger the teen even more.
“Right, I’ve managed to connect to the computer in real-time; even when I disconnect, I’ll have a real-time map of where everything is,” He showed us what looked like blueprints on the screen, but there were four pulsing dots in one of the rooms.
“Will they be able to detect it?” Noah asked.
“I’ve got a program that allows me to hack into their security system and delete any traces, we can’t access the weapons from the screen, but I’ve got a rough idea of the map and where people are,” Tobi explained.
“Well done,” I told him, patting him on the back.
“I’ve also found what I think is a rosta, it looks, if I’m translating it correctly, like they have thirty scientist on board and twenty soldiers,” he continued.
“OK, so fifty personnel on board, it’s a lot, but hopefully this gives us an advantage,” I said.
“There is one problem, the only way we’re going to be able to get to the weapons is from the Command deck.”
“Shit and fuck,” I swore loudly. Turning around, I went over everything in my mind coming up with a plan. “Where are most dots at the moment?”
“The aliens are the red dots; there are currently thirty in the central Research centre,” Tobi showed us the map, pointing to the plan, most of them showed up in the central area, “ten In the Command deck and ten in a room over here, I’m guessing some kind of canteen.”
“What are these?” Noah asked, pointing to a lot of blue dots. On the secondary circle, there were a large amount of blue dots in one area.
“Prisoners?” Tobi hazarded a guess. Crap, the original plan had been to take one of the smaller ships to escape. Noah had been getting piloting lessons from Andre. I noticed several blue dots on their own in the research laboratory.
“Right then, change of plan. We plant the explosives on each ‘leg’, then Noah and Finn, you’ll get the prisoners out if you can, let me know if you cannot. Get them back on board the ship we came in. Tobi and I will go to the research labs and destroy the Command ship,”
“We shouldn’t split up,” Noah whispered.
“I know, but we need to get those people out. I’ll need to use an explosion as a diversion to get some of the aliens out of the Command deck,” I told them with an air of finality. The other three reluctantly nodded as Tobi scanned what appeared to be an iPhone before handing it to Finn.
“This is a mobile map,” Tobi told him simply. We took another look at the map, making sure there was nothing near us as we edged out of the room. The group and I ran through the corridors, continually keeping a watch out for anything. Tobi led us to the first of the legs. He bypassed the security to get inside. I would not know what I was looking at; there were pipes with glowing blue liquid, large ducts and tubes running in all directions. I saw lots of twinkling little lights. Tobi immediately began directing Finn and Noah to spots on where to put the explosives. I had been told they were all ready to go, connected to a remote in Finn’s pocket.
In just over an hour, as it reached one o’clock in London, we had managed to place all the explosives, only having to hide from two patrols while we did. As we finished up, I checked to make sure Tobi still had his handgun; I had been giving him lessons on the weapon for a few weeks. Finn handed me over several pieces of explosives, I knew they were inactive at the moment, but that did not stop me from worrying.
“Right, I want you to see if you can get any of the prisoners out,” I told Finn and Noah, who both shook their heads but would do as ordered. I reminded Finn that I would call him when I needed the distraction. I shook hands with the pair, not sure if I would ever see them again.
“Let’s go,” Tobi whispered as we went the opposite way to our friends. The boy turned at a T-junction leading me into the inner ring. We avoided another two patrols hiding in alcove’s, then following the circular hallway around until we met the central area hallway. Now we were going to have to be more careful than ever. The engineering deck was one level above the Command deck, underneath the Research deck that we had come into.
“What do we do first?”
“I think we need to visit the research first, then we plant the explosives,” I told him.
“We plant the explosives first,” Tobi said firmly. I goggled at him then realised that he was right, there were still many red dots in the research area, so the chances of us being found out went up. We skulked down the corridor taking the stairs quietly as Tobi led me through a maze of engineering. How we managed to get through without meeting anything amazes me to this day. I was quickly directed to where I should place the explosives, the last of our substance.
“Right, let’s go,” I told the boy, and we went through a different exit to get to the opposite side we had entered. Again we avoided more patrols before we reached the room that Tobi had pointed to on the map. Inside there were several red dots, but less than ten and six blue dots. I looked into the windows to see cages on the opposite side of the room with what appeared to be six human children, I couldn’t guess ages, but they were less than fifteen the lot of them.
I also saw the Aliens, who were not wearing the white armour I had seen. They had white coats on like lab scientists, but they were over seven feet tall, standing on two legs. They were humanoid in appearance if you discounted the tails and the cat-like faces. There appeared to be only one guard in there and five scientists, three of them surrounding a bed of some sort. I could just make out someone strapped to that bed.
“Oh shit, follow my lead and have your gun ready,” I told Tobi before checking my weapons were ready with the safety off. I took a deep breath nodding to Tobi, who opened the door. As humans, if a door opens, you look. The Aliens looked up as we entered. “Everybody stop, don’t move, or I will fire.”
Several things happened at once; the guard immediately went for his weapon, which I had hoped he would be too stunned to do. However, my reflexes kicked in, allowing me to bring up the rifle firing with reasonably good accuracy. I had a suppressor on the end, but the shots still sounded loud as I peppered his armour, but somehow I managed to down him before the creature could get off a shot. The other Aliens screeched, but Tobi was shouting something that sounded remarkably like the Alien language. They all moved towards the centre as he waved his handgun at them, all appearing afraid of us.
“Alex,” A familiar voice called out to be making me look at the bed.