Project New Horizon
“Proximity alert,” Daisy’s smooth voice announced, jerking me from my reverie. I looked up at the large screen to see Daisy zooming in on the convoy approaching.
“Alex, I see the convoy a few miles out,” Luca’s voice came over the radio. He was currently in the Tower on the watch.
“Thanks, I have them on screen,” I replied, studying the vehicles. I saw there were three large vehicles and two Foxhound light patrol vehicles at the front and rear of the convoy. “Fort Walker to the Kelvedon Hatch convey, do you read?”
“This is the Kelvedon Hatch Convoy, Major Harrison speaking,”
“About two miles from your current location is a field in Rydal, stop there and await your escorts,” I ordered them.
“Yes, Sir,” I almost heard a touch of rudeness in his voice, but I watched as they made there way forward, “Noah, Amanda, are you ready to go?”
“Ready as we’ll ever be,” Amanda replied. I imagined the pair sat on Quad bikes ready to go by the doors.
“Tom, are you prepared with the doors?”
“Preparing to receive them,” he replied tonelessly. We were all still reeling from the death of one of our own but had to get on with it. Apart from Rachel, the newcomers had all been confined to their room.
“Sarah, how’s it going with the cameras?”
“good, monitoring the internal ones, but still have some of the externals feeds gone,” she replied from the Security room. I turned to look at Talia, who was in the Control Room with me. “How’s the security system looking?”
“Tobi would be a hell of a lot better; he set up everything. But, I think I have a feel for it,”
“Are Rachel and Simon ready to go open the gates,” the pair were also on Quad bikes preparing to open the gates at the end of our ‘driveway’.
“Then go, good luck!” I heard a rumbling underneath our feet as the doors began to open and the four emerged into daylight. I had to watch them on the satellite feed as the four tiny specs roared up the road. They stopped at the two sets of gates allowing Amanda and Noah to roar off into the open world.
“Noah and Amanda are away, gates are secure again,” Rachel reported. I looked back to the satellite feed and saw the trucks were idling in the field waiting for their escorts. There was nothing in the immediate facility, but not sure if the satellite would even pick up zombies approaching.
“Kelvedon Hatch, your escorts are seven minutes out,”
“Confirmed,” was the reply.
The next twenty minutes was a tense waiting game as the escorts arrived at the convoy and circled them, before leading them back to the mountain.
“Convoy is outside the gates,” Luca reported from his perch.
“Talia, you have the control room. If there are any major issues, let Mac know so she can take command,” I told the younger girl, who nodded. I made my way down to Level One and swiped my card to access the Mechanical Bay; everything had been locked down in anticipation of the arrival of our guests. I entered the large room to find the vehicles just pulling up, and the door was closing with a boom. Noah parked in front of me alongside Amanda.
“Any problems?” I asked as Noah removed his helmet.
“No, but Major Harrison is an asshat,” Noah seemed uncharacteristically angry.
“I’ll deal with him,” I replied and looked at Amanda, “Can you relieve Mac and tell her to get down to the conference room,”
“I will, but she’s going to argue with me,”
“You’ll let us know if anything does happen, but she and Larry need to be there,” I told her, even Amanda had mellowed out since we arrived. Less of the nasty teen she was becoming. I heard a door slam; then my attention turned back to the vehicles. Out of the lead Foxhound, a man in combat fatigues stepped out. This must be Major Harrison; he was certainly grizzled like an old warrior. I heard another set of feet, turning to see two boys approaching. One was a few inches taller than me with curly black hair, while the other was about five-foot-nothing and looked like a vampire in a suit.
“You, Walker?” Harrison grunted.
“I am Commander Walker, of Fort Walker,”
“You’re a fuckin’ child,” he swore.
“I am Commander of this facility,” I stood straighter, “You would do well to remember that when I have a couple of batteries of weapons aimed at the convoy,”
“You would kill innocent children,” I narrowed my eyes at me.
“I must protect the base at all cost; you could be marauders or infected,” I replied evenly, then turned to the two boys’.
“Welcome to Fort Walker; my name is Alex Walker,”
“I am Finn Harris, and this Lil Vamp is Oli Burnson,” he gave the smaller boy a grin. The younger boy just sighed, I got the impression the younger boy endured Finn. He was a little like our Tobi.
“When can I get my weapons?” Harrison, not liking being ignored, butted in. I turned to look at him.
“Once we have the whole group in the Lecture Hall, then we will organise you taking our weapons,” I spat. Noah stood a little back from me, and I heard the door hiss. Without looking, I knew Simon and Matty had entered. “Finn, could you organise your group into ten’s, then Simon can escort them up to the conference room,”
“No problem,” the pair turned away and began to arrange their group into smaller groups so my team could escort them up to the Conference room. Noah followed me as I led Major Harrison back to the first vehicle.
“Now, why are you in need of our weapons and how much do you need?”
“I thought Brass went over this with you,” the major replied, with a bit of insolence.
“They did not explain much, so I want a run down,”
“Soldiers have been flooding into Kelvedon Hatch. We seem to be losing the war, the Ravagers seem to grow every day,” Major Harrison replied, finally relaxing a little bit; suddenly he looked very weary.
“Ravagers?” I asked curiously.
“It’s what we call those things attacking us,” He replied, still a little stiff, but he relaxed marginally.
“But you are about to deprive us of the means to defend ourselves,” I argued.
“You are well hidden here; satellites cannot find you. No one knew of your actual location, even though they searched hard for it since they learned you were here,” the major answered, some of his anger coming back.
“You can have what’s in the main armoury; you can bring four men with you to unload,” I told him.
“I’ll take whatever you have including the secondary armoury on level two,”
“Fine, but two men for the main armoury and two men for the secondary armoury. You will take weapons only, nothing else,” I conceded, not willing to budge on the issue, “and you’ll be escorted the whole way,”
“Agreed,” I looked around to find Noah, Matty and Simon all with rifles looking rather convincing. They had trolleys in front of them, ready and waiting. Major Harrison ordered four of his men off the vehicles. I moved over to Noah as we watched the men disembark.
“Keep an eye on them; I have no trust in them whatsoever. Don’t let them take more than they should, try to keep some of the ammo back, especially for the handguns,”
“OK,” Noah replied simply, watching the military men. Simon and I escorted Major Harrison, and some of his men to the main armoury as Noah and Matty went to the secondary armoury with the other two.
An hour later we had all reconvened in the Mechanical bay; now the men were loading the weapons onto the trucks. Luckily the gun lockers had not been found giving us at least twenty automatic rifles, plus the weapons that had been hidden away. I could see Tom’s figure in the window of the control room watching over us like a hawk.
“You’ll tell your command that I protest vehemently to taking our weapons, you are leaving children virtually defenceless,” I told him, thinking about the cold decision Command were making.
“You are not defenceless, you’re practically living in an impenetrable fortress,” Harrison snarled.
“Well, they better not get ideas about taking this place, because we will defend it to the hilt. There are external defences,” I told the Major, not sure if I was bluffing or not. His face became bright red.
“I’ll let them know,” he ground out as they finished loading up. Noah stepped up and handed me a rifle as we mounted our quad bikes. After a few minute delays, the pair of us escorted the convey out of the Mountain and back onto the open road. Once we reached the field where they were first met, we stopped. Major Harrison got out of the truck and looked me over appraising me, it seemed.
“I’d say it was a pleasure, but your nothing more than a snot-nosed brat,”
“Good, you’ll understand when I give you these,” I handed him over the bag that had been on the back of my Quad bike. He opened it to find the firing pins for the larger weapons and several handguns,”
“You little shit,” he told me angrily.
“You don’t want to mess with us,” I gave him a final warning and mounted the Quad bike. Noah followed me back to the Fort, “Luca, are they moving away?”
“Moving back the way they came,”
“Daisy, how are our guests?”
“Restless, but they are healthy,” she told me. Noah opened the gate, and we got inside without incident. There seemed to be no Ravagers about, as Major Harrison called them. The door boomed closed behind us as I stepped off the bike.
“That was a hell of a stunt,” Noah crowed, I had never seen him so excited.
“Wait until they get bak to Kelvedon and discover my other surprise,” I told him with a laugh, Tom joining us in the bay.
“What have you done?” the tall black youth asked.
“They only have heavy weaponry, the rifles they have are simulators,” I revealed to them, “the real rifles were hidden away by Mac and myself a couple of nights ago,”
“Why didn’t you tell us?” Tom looked a little hurt.
“Not that I didn’t trust you, but the fewer that knew, the better,” I explained then tapped my radio, “Would all department leaders meet at the Lecture Hall on Level two .”
As the department leaders gathered, everyone else had assembled in their various departments. Five minutes later I walked into a very crowded Lecture room with a noise level exceeding a few laws, I’m sure. Quite a few of the group were seated, but a large number of kids had to stand around the back and sides. My team stood behind the lectern while I noticed Finn and Oli near the front. I stopped up to the lectern, taking a glance at Larry. His face was completely closed off. I knew we were going to have to have a funeral soon. Planning ahead, I picked up the air horn I had placed in the lectern and fired it. It certainly got their attention as they all turned to look at me.
“Good morning, I am Alex Walker. I am the base commander of Fort Walker. Mac is my second in charge; she is also head of the Medical department so that you can come to us for anything. I’m sure you all know the situation by now, but while at Fort Walker, you are safe,” I told them, “However, that does not mean we can rest. We have a future to build, and each of you has been tasked into a department, to perform jobs to keep the mountain, and eventually society working.
There are ten departments in all if you feel uncomfortable or don’t want to work in your assigned departments speak to your head of department, and we’ll try to move you. Though you will get time off, you will have to work too. I’m going to run through the departments and names; then your leader will take you to your assigned department before they show you where you’ll be sleeping,”
“Who assigned the departments?” a tall blonde-haired girl called out. She looked down her long thin nose at me.
“Myself and my team, after extensive research,”
“I might not want to be assigned somewhere,”
“Everyone has to work,” I replied firmly, “Now some people may be working in two departments. You will have free reign of the base, some areas will be locked off, and access is through a key card. Depending on your department you will be assigned these. We will start with Hospitality, this is Simon, and he is the Head of Hospitality and our head Chef….”
I began reading off names and the first group left with Simon. I stood in front of the Recon Group, Admin and Engineering. Talia had taken the Tech support group into the control, while Tobi was ill. Noah had taken the security group to cover for Nathan while he was ill.
“You must be Helen?” I approached the fourteen-year-old girl. She had blonde hair with purple stripes. Her purple, Roxy glasses enlarged her hazel eyes.
“I sure am,” she answered confidently.
“I want you to take on the role of Head of Admin,”
“what do I know about that?” she asked curiously.
“Well, you did intern for a local newspaper and was the Editor-in-chief of your school newspaper,”
“You seem to know a lot about me,” she returned fiercely.
“I do indeed,” I told her, “If you accept, go with Matty and your team, and he’ll explain,”
“He’s like eight,” she looked Matty over, but she wasn’t dismissing him.
“Eleven actually,” Matty rose up on the balls of his feet and glared at her.
“I like him,” she barked out laughter, so Matty led her and her team around to the admin offices to explain everything. As I turned back to the other groups, I noticed Finn had lingered rather than go with security,”
“Is there anyone any good at plumbing?” I asked the engineering team, and a small boy stepped forward.
“My dad was a plumber, erm my name is Andy, sir,”
“Tom, can you get him looking at the plumbing for Level six,” All I saw was a slight nod as Tom led his team out. I turned back to the Recon team; the seven of them were between twelve and sixteen, “right then, let’s get off,”
I led them down to the armoury, where Adam, Rachel and Bastion met us. I opened up the armoury, which appeared a bit barer but the rifles were there as were a fair few handguns.
“Right, you’ve been selected to be our scouts or recce teams, because you’ve all got unique talents,” I explained, “We’re going to have three teams of four, each will go out on recces and supply missions. I am the leader of the Alpha team,”
“But surely you can’t go out if you’re the base leader,” a bronzed boy asked.
“I’m not going to stay inside all the time, besides if anything happened to me Mac would take charge,” I joked. The boy looked nervous, but he relaxed a little.
“I’m sure his team will take good care of him,” Rachel added with a grin.
“This is Rachel, Adam and Bastion; they were out there for a long time, so know a fair bit about survival. Harué (Haa-ruw), Adam and Tucker, can you step to the left,” Adam moved over followed by a young Japanese girl and a small boy, I had not noticed. Tucker Westbridge was supposed to be fourteen, but this boy looked pre-adolescent, maybe about 10-years-old. I must have been looking at him because he sighed.
“I am fourteen; just a bit delayed,” Tucker cracked to everyone’s laughter. He was a strange boy, besides being very short he wore a pair of ripped black jeans, faded LED Zeppelin tee shirt and had bright blue hair.
“I think I’m going to like you, kid,” I told him and got a nod in reply.
“I’m Rachel; I’m the team leader for Charlie team. Clover, Ethan and Bastion can you join me?” Rachel introduced herself as a tall Jamaican girl joined her and Bastion. A normal-looking kid moved to join them also.
“What about us?” a mousy looking girl asked. This must be Tanya, though she looked innocent and sweet, I knew she was one of the top cross country runners in the country, as well as a keen martial artist.
“Noah is your team leader; however, he had to introduce the new security people to where they are working,” I explained.
“Nearly all the vehicles are dead, Kelvedon managed to save some of them, somehow, are we going to be on foot?” one of Noah’s team asked.
“You all know about Ravagers, right?” I asked, getting nods all around, “Well we prefer not to make too much noise, so we’ve procured horses,”
“I’ve never ridden,” Tucker declared.
“Don’t worry, before you go out our Veterinary team will teach you how to ride, you’ll soon learn,” I told them, “Now everyone has at least some firearms training, yes?”
“I’ve only had a little bit; my father hated that I preferred taking apart his remote-controlled cars to going with him to the range, I think he wanted a boy,” everyone laughed, knowing this small girl did boy-orientated hobbies anyway.
“Don’t worry. We’ll give you some training on that too,” I assured them, noticing for the first time that each of the team had duffel bags on their shoulders, “For now let’s get you orientated with the base, then I’ll show you the dorms,”
Over the next hour, I took them on a tour of the base, showing them on the facilities including The Arcade, where they could spend their leisure time and where we would all eat. I led the team to the Accommodation level, showing them the laundry rooms and the showers.
“Do we have to shower with everyone?” Tanya looked nervous, and so did a few of the others.
“No, there are individual showers, but you may have to wait your turn,” I told them and led them into the dorms. Rachel went into the girls while I led the boys into the male dorms on the left, where a lot of the others were already beginning to unpack. My groups of boys went off in search of their friends and found beds with them or each other. I leaned against the door watching the chaos when I noticed Finn approaching me.
“They’re a good bunch of kids,” he said.
“They seem to like it, will they get on with my bunch?” I asked.
“There are a few overripe apples,” he grinned, “But most of them are friendly,”
“Let’s go and have a chat before lunch,” I told him and led him down to my office, offering him a seat on the sofa as I pushed the door closed.
“Wow, this is nice,” he commented, looking around, while I took a seat opposite him.
“Allows me to get some work done and get away,” I shrugged, “What do you think of the mountain?”
“It’s a damned sight better than Kelvedon; we were cramped while the adults looked down their noses at us,”
“That Harrison seemed like an arsehole,” I commented.
“He didn’t like any of the kids and felt we were a burden,” Finn returned, “Why were you so angry with him?”
“We had been ordered to hand over most of our weapons to them,” He looked utterly shocked.
“That would make us defenceless,” he blasted.
“I know, luckily I managed to trick him and save a lot of our armoury,” I returned, then looked at him gravely, “Let’s start on the right foot, we’ve had a few problems here. We have a saboteur on base,”
“What? Do you know who it is?” Finn asked, watching me curiously without anger.
“We’ve got evidence, but until they do anything serious, I’m allowing them to stay in the general population, believe me when I say we are watching them,”
“How can you watch the saboteur twenty-four-seven?” he asked.
“Daisy, can you tell me where our Saboteur is?” Finn looked around wildly for another person.
“They are currently in the Admin offices,” her cool voice replied, startling Finn.
“Finn, I would like you to meet DAISY; Digital Artificial Intelligence System. She helps monitor the base,” I explained, “I would like you to recognise Finn Harris as a Tier Three commander, fourth in command,”
“Recognised, welcome to Fort Walker Finn Harris,”
“Wow, she is incredible,” he breathed.
“She’s a big help, allows me to monitor what’s going on in the Mountain,” I told him, then added, “Unfortunately we have another situation on base, yesterday five people become sick, one has since died. We think it’s the Lazarus virus,”
“That’s bad; you’re probably best speaking to Max Cauldwell. His dad was the lead scientist at Kelvedon,”
“So far we don’t think it’s contagious,” I explained, thinking about his suggestion, “But it means, someone else infected them,”
“I take it you’ve been out, or at least you suspect someone?” Finn suggested.
“We rescued a group of seven recently, the five were infected shortly after and had no visible wounds. Two never left the base,”
“You might have to search their rooms,”
“I’m reluctant to do that, we’ve just offered them sanctuary then I break my promise by searching their rooms,”
“That might be your only course,” came the reply. Silently I agreed, but I was still unsure.
“Let’s call it a day. I’m sure we’ll get to know each other. Can you work with Noah to get security sorted until Nate is better?” I swallowed a lump in my throat, hoping he would get better.
“Sure, we’ll keep the place secure. But you will need to tell me the saboteur and suspects if I’m to work as Base security,”
“I know, give me a couple of days to get everyone settled in and have George’s funeral, then we talk again,”
“I’ll go for that,” he gave me a grin. I led him out of the office, we walked up the stairs but separated on Level Three. I passed through to the Medical bay reception, seeing it empty; I made my way to the Quarantine ward. I found Rachel with Alyssa standing looking into the ward; the strong black woman was talking quietly. I had barely spoken to Alyssa since she arrived, only knowing she was a trainee nurse.
“How are you both?” I asked, trying not to startle the pair.
“I don’t know how to help him,” were Rachel’s first words. Alyssa patted her on the back.
“I’m sure Mac and Alyssa are doing all they can,” I tried to reassure her, which seemed to brighten up a little. I looked into the ward to see Mac with another boy, both wearing gloves and white coats.
“That’s Oscar,” Aly spoke up, “He’s our new medical boy,”
“Oh, it’s a bit of a small medical team,” I wondered if maybe there were more trained people out there.
“I think we’ll be fine, there are some people with medical experience on the Recon teams,” Aly answered with a smile.
“I’m sorry I haven’t had a chance to talk to you yet,” I apologised.
“I know that you’ve been busy,” she shrugged, taking a bit more notice I realised she wasn’t that much older than us.
“How old are you? If you don’t mind me asking,”
“Nineteen, I started Nurse training when I left school,” she said proudly.
“How’s our pregnant lady, Amy, doing?”
“It’s Ashley; she’s in the normal ward, but doing well at the moment,” Aly corrected me.
“Good, hopefully, she can have the baby happy and healthy. Our first baby in Fort Walker,” I replied wistfully.
“I’m sure she will,”
“If there is no change, I’ll leave you to it,” I told them and got goodbyes from the pair. I left the Medical bay and headed straight over to Research. As I entered the reception area, I heard some lively discussion going on. I turned right and entered the lounge to find the four researchers bent over a screen looking at something.
“Their blood shows high levels of Vitae Mortuus,” the older boy was speaking.
“But how come they haven’t changed?” Amanda asked.
“My father only said no children had turned; there were only ever adults,” the smallest boys’ high-pitched voice replied.
“Is this a different strain then?” Sarah now asked.
“If you compare the two, down to the molecular level, they appear the same, but I would say this is a purer form. One taken directly from our attackers,”
“So our killer is in league with the aliens?” I spoke up, finally, causing them to whirl around to look at me.
“That would be my assessment,” the oldest boy replied.
“Alex, this is Tom and Max,” she pointed to the oldest and the youngest.
“Fellas, this is Alex, our esteemed leader,” she grinned at me.
“Pleasure to meet you both, I’ve been told you’re the person to speak to about the virus,” I directed my comment to Max, the youngest here.
“I don’t know about that,” the boy replied humbly.
“Finn was adamant you knew your stuff,”
“He’s a good guy,” the boy blushed.
“So have we got a cure, can we save the four in that room?” I asked, trying not to think of Tobi. If I started thinking about him, I would break down and right now that couldn’t happen.
“At the moment, no, is the simple answer. Due to my father’s research, we know a little about the virus, but nothing of how it affects children,”
“This is the first documented cases,” Tom’s eyes seemed alive. We’re going to have to find another name with three Tom’s on base.
“I want answers, you four seem bright, so I want to see a cure,” I told them harshly and walked off. I know I was unfair to them, especially as adult scientist’s had not even found a cure yet, but I was worried about Tobi.
Days had passed, but there was still no signs of any change from our patients. They seemed to be sleeping, but there was nothing we could do about it. However, my mind was occupied with something else as Larry, and I had taken George to be buried on the family farm. Ben, Matty and the rest of Recon Alpha were also with us. Alpha was on their first outing and was on security, while we held the funeral. I looked at Larry on the quad bike, his littler brother behind him and their brother’s body on the trailer. I could not see his face, but I knew how upset he was.
Larry led us around the sprawling farmhouse and through the land until we reached a grove of trees. I noticed it had a small fence around it; then I realised it was a small cemetery.
“This was where Mum and Dad hoped to be buried,” Larry pointed out, his voice muffled by his helmet. Harué, Adam and Tucker spread out, taking a point in a compass to watch the horizon for dangers. Immediately Larry and I went to work digging a grave. By the time we had finished, both of us were dirty and sweaty.
“I think this will be dee enough to stop scavengers,” I told Larry, taking note of the red-rimmed eyes.
“He was the youngest of us. He wasn’t meant to go first,” he spoke, almost to himself.
“We don’t expect anyone this young to die,” I tried to console him.
“I’m going to get the bastard that did this and wring his neck,” Larry snarled.
“We will find who did this,” I assured him. We scrambled out of the grave, then slid the ropes we had bought with us under the board with George’s body on. He was still covered in a white sheet as we lowered him into the fresh grave.
“Shouldn’t we be saying something?” Ben sniffed as Larry picked up a shovel to throw the dirt back in the grave.
“What do you mean?” Matty asked.
“The priest usually says something when they are burying the dead,” Ben insisted. Larry looked at me and shrugged.
“The only two religious people are Mac and Tobi,” I held back a gulp at his name.
“Can you say something?” Ben pleaded, and Larry had the same look. I tried to remember the last funeral I had been at and the ones I had seen on TV.
“Erm, George Theodore Knight may have gone from his mortal bodies, but he shall live on in our hearts and in God’s arms we, therefore, commit their body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in the sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life.” Where all that came from I don’t know, but I got a thankful look from Larry as the pair of us once again filled up the grave. Matty’s arm was around Ben as the boy sobbed.
“Are the others going to die?” Larry asked quietly coming around to my side as Ben and Matty got the ‘gravestone’ from the trailer. I hugged Matty closer as Larry and Ben placed the marker. They had somehow salvaged a shieve of metal and stencilled George’s name, date of birth and date of death onto the metal. They bowed their head and quietness entered the grove except for the gentle whisper of the wind.
“Commander, Alex, erm Sir, I’m getting movement on the satellite,” The watch commander of Control C informed me.
“Alex is fine, thanks for the heads up,” I replied and received a whistle from Tucker, indicating that he had seen something, “I’m sorry we don’t have more time, but we have to get back,”
“Thank you, Alex, for allowing us to bury him,” Larry gave me a watery smile. We all mounted up and headed back to the Mountain.
Several hours later, dinner had been served, and as part of my new routine, I entered the Quarantine ward and pulled the curtain around Tobi’s bed. I settled next to him and took his hand, rubbing my thumb across it slowly.
“What a day, buddy! We set up the rota for the control teams and then we had George’s funeral, which wasn’t pleasant, I don’t need to go to your funeral,” I heard a noise from outside the curtain realising Mac or Rachel were out there.
“Look, you can’t die on me, I don’t know what I would do without you, mon petit ours,” I whispered to him and gently kissed his head. I felt his hand squeeze mine; then, his eyes fluttered open.
“What did you just call me?” he replied thickly. I looked at him astonished before calling out. Alyssa came around the corner, looking similarly astonished, but she was all professional as she checked him over.
“I think he will be fine, his fever has decreased, and I see no signs of any type of infection,” she said.
“Will you go get Mac for me?” I asked, refusing to move.
“I’ll be right back,” she smiled and left the ward. I turned back to Tobi with a smile, taking in his beautiful looks.
“You haven’t answered my question yet, what did you call me?” I blushed and gave a small smile, feeling like a naughty school child.
“Erm, little Bear, it’s the only French I know,” he growled that little bear noise. It was the sweetest sound I had heard in a long time.