Chapter Seven Part Two - Bus

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Lighting a cigarette as she strode towards the waiting Corporal, Annalise gave the man the quick once over. Joan was right when she said he was pretty to look at. He had one of those army physiques that are hard to maintain upon leaving the service, unless of course, you happened to leave the service due to a zombie apocalypse. The kind of life most people led nowadays was quite likely to tone even the portliest of bodies.

“You’re in charge?” he asked, and Annalise got the distinct impression he’d appraised her in a similar fashion to that which she’d subjected him.

“I am,” she replied, the sensation of cool steel against the exposed skin of her back a welcome comfort. She did not expect this meeting to turn violent but she always felt better knowing her sword was there and ready for action at a moment’s notice. “My companion tells me you and your group require shelter.”

“That’s right,” the Corporal replied with a nod. “There are two hundred of us, as near as makes no difference. How many of you are there?”

“Enough,” she said. “We do have plenty of room though. That said, we can’t afford to let simply anyone into our home.”

“That’s understandable enough,” he said. “I assure you though, you have nothing to fear from me and mine.”

“No offence but you’re going to have to do better than that,” said Annalise with a chuckle. “We’ve quite recently discovered that people are just as big a threat – perhaps even bigger – than the Zeds themselves.”

“Zeds?” the Corporal asked with his head cocked to the side.

“Yeah y’know, zombies…”

“I know what Zeds are,” he replied, and this time it was his turn to chuckle. “One of the civilians in our group calls them that. I’ve not heard anyone else use that term before.”

“Is that right?” Annalise asked, resisting the urge to cock her head as he had.

“Yeah, we picked Craig up almost a fortnight ago. He was heading for Southampton, crazy bastard.”

“Craig?” Annalise’s ears pricked up at the familiar name and though she tried not to show it she could not help but wonder if it was the same Craig that had been a part of their group before they had made it to the hotel.

“Yeah, that’s all we were able to get out of him. His name and the word ‘Zeds.’”

“Fair enough,” she replied with a shrug. It might be Craig, but she would have to wait to find out. There were questions she needed to ask Corporal Simon Daniel before she even thought about letting his party through the doors.

“So what do I have to do to convince you?”

“Answer my questions,” she replied. “How did so many of your group get injured?”

“Most of the injuries occurred when we sought refuge at another hotel,” he replied. “We’d just arrived in Brockenhurst and came across a place that looked good. Apparently not though. The regiment in charge weren’t willing to allow civilians to stay, nor were they willing to let us leave when we said that wasn’t good enough.”

“You had to fight your way out?” Annalise asked, smiling at the thought of the men responsible for the deaths of many of her friends might actually be dead themselves.

“Yes, it wasn’t pretty.”

“I should imagine not, we had a run in with those at that hotel a while back… How about the rest of the injuries?”

“Ashurst,” he replied with a shrug. “Another place we thought we’d found sanctuary, yet it turned out to be the most bizarre place. As far as we could tell everyone living there was local. They’d created a militia of sorts to protect their village but any strangers who passed through were used as bait to catch their dinner.”

“To catch their… Wait, what?”

“Yeah, that’s right," he replied, shuddering. “They ate zombies… Zeds.”

“That’s just, wrong!”

“You’re telling me!”

“I hope you didn’t leave anyone alive.” She smiled and he smiled back.

“Glad to see we’re on the same page.”

“Me too,” she replied. “Right, we’ve got plenty of room and I do mean plenty. A few of the rooms on the East Wings are occupied but there’ll be more than enough for the civilians of your group.”

“Military taking the West, then? We’ll go two to a room, three if necessary. We’re quite used to sharing our personal space. We’ll need space to set up an infirmary, too, if you don’t have one already. We have a nurse and a couple of field medics with us.”

“Sounds good to me, Corporal,” she said with a wink. “Bring your people down, the doors are open.”

***

Annalise wasn’t entirely sure what she had been expecting but it is fair to say that whatever it might have been, it probably wasn’t to see an articulated lorry making its way slowly around the corner at the end of the drive. She had not seen anything as large as that on the road for months.

In close proximity was a red London bus, a double-decker, followed by several smaller vehicles including army Land Rovers, two or three mobile homes and four cars towing caravans behind them.

“Jack’s gonna’ be in for a surprise when he gets back with Sarah and the boys,” said Joan with a smile. “Plenty of pairs of hands to help him out now, though. I guess it won’t be long before his farm’s going strong.”

“I think you’re probably right,” Annalise replied once the noise from the lorry’s air brakes had ceased. “Looks like we’re going to be pretty busy here for a few hours. Do you want to go and check on Hope whilst I give the Corporal a quick tour, then we can open up one of the outbuildings to make room for an infirmary.”

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