Chapter Fifteen

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The next day, after a long-awaited reunion with my friends and a good night’s sleep, I arose to see we were on the coast of Melbourne.

I looked through our cabin window, watching the skyline of my hometown as the ship slowed to a stop in the ocean. An army helicopter flew up ahead, returning to one of the war ships after dropping flyers over the city. The captain’s voice filtered through the speakers in the hall, and I opened our door to hear what he was saying.

“The Melbourne rescue operation will commence in thirty minutes,” the muffled voice said. “All rescue volunteers; prepare to disembark. I’ve been informed we still need another five or six volunteers on the rescue boats to assist in the transportation of survivors. Anyone who would like to help out, please report to Bill at the induction area.”

“I want to volunteer,” said Jo, who had joined me at the door.
“Me too.”
We left Lea and Skye sleeping soundly in their bunks and walked up the three flights of stairs to the induction area, where Bill was waiting.

“We’d like to volunteer to help on the rescue boats,” I said when we reached him.
“Great!” he said. “We need as much help as we can get.” He handed us each a life jacket. “Put these on. All we need you to do is stay on the rescue boat while we move survivors from the barge to the ship. As you know from your own experience, these rescues can be overwhelming for survivors, so your job is basically to comfort anyone who needs it and help them to and from the boat.”

“We’d like to help too,” a voice said from behind me, and I turned to see Wyatt and Ben walking towards us. Bill handed them life jackets and led us down to the rescue boats.
“We need two volunteers per boat,” he said. Two boats sat swaying next to the ship, each with a driver waiting for volunteers to join them, and Wyatt and Ben jumped aboard the first while Jo and I jumped on the second. We were about to take off when a third volunteer joined us, a short bearded man with a camera hanging from a strap around his neck.

“This is Max,” Bill called from the ship. “He’s a photojournalist. He’ll be going with you to document the rescue.”
I nodded and smiled at Max. “Hi,” I said before we started speeding towards the port.
“Are you a survivor?” he asked as the boat crashed against the waves. He had a noticeable American accent.
“Yes,” I said. “Jo and I were rescued in Sydney.”
He raised his eyebrows. “Really? And you’re willingly going on a rescue?”
“Why wouldn’t we?” I asked, confused by his question. “We’re from Melbourne, and we want to help.”
“I’m just surprised you would voluntarily go back into the danger zone,” he said. “I mean, at least I’m getting paid to do this. No way would I actually choose to be here. It’s depressing as hell.”
I narrowed my eyes at him, wondering if he meant to be as insulting as he sounded. I looked at Jo, who rolled her eyes at me, making me smirk.

We pulled up next to one of the barges, waiting for the first load of survivors. I stood up to get a better view of the operation, and all I could see was chaos. On land, survivors outnumbered the zombies that surrounded them, but they were far from safe.

Most of the uninfected were fighting off the horde, with military joining the war and snipers firing at the monsters as fast as their guns would allow. People were scrambling onto the barges, crowding the entrances to a dangerous level. Screams and cries were coming from every direction as some people were attacked by zombies and others begged to be let onto the barge.

Even thousands of military personnel and volunteers still was not enough to save everyone. It was the most saddening and horrifying sight I had ever seen. I felt helpless, all I could do was stand there and wait for survivors to be cleared of the virus, only then could I help them onto the boat and take them to the ship.

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