Jay believed Ryan. It turned out he’d been suspicious of Mel’s motives all along but had been reluctant to speak out in case it came back on him. “Pretty sweet that you’re gettin’ sex out of the whole thing. I thought you were keen on Georgina though? Isn’t that the reason for you doin’ all of this?”
“I’m doing what I’ve gotta do to keep things sweet while I work out a plan. If Mel wants me to bang his woman to keep me sweet then so be it. It doesn’t affect anything where Georgina’s concerned.”
“Speakin’ of what to do, have you thought of anythin’ yet?”
“I keep coming back to the same idea as it gives us the best chance of coming through all of this unscathed. The main problem is there’ll be collateral damage and a lot of it.”
“We sabotage the safe zone takeover mission.”
Jay looked sceptical. “Sabotage how?”
“There are many ways we can do it. We could inform the military beforehand, accidentally give away our position, you name it. As long as we beat a hasty retreat before the army swoop in we’re home and dry. We head back here, take care of Mel, and then it’s game over for his empire.”
“Wouldn’t we lead the military back here in doin’ that?”
“That’s where the collateral damage comes in. We’d have to leave New Haven. Gather up some of the more useful residents and get out of here fast.”
Jay let out a long sigh and shook his head with uncertainty.
Ryan shrugged his shoulders. “I never said it’d be pretty.”
“I can’t help feelin’ that negates the whole purpose of takin’ Mel out. We’re supposed to be freein’ the people of tyranny, not dumpin’ them straight into the middle of it.”
“We can’t take out Mel and not expect repercussions. The guys here are brainwashed by his bullshit. If we kill him then it’ll have been for nothing because we’ll soon follow him. I’m not ready to be a martyr. We’re doing this for us. We can start again; get out on the road and survive. If we keep our operation modest then there never need be a reason for us to give ourselves away the way Mel surely will here. He’s too power-hungry not to expand his empire and compromise us all.”
“I don’t know, Ry. I’m not sure my conscience could handle sellin’ all of these people down the river. They haven’t done anythin’ wrong. Followin’ Mel doesn’t mean they should be implicated too.”
Ryan spread out his hands. “You’ll have to help me think of a better idea then because I’m fresh out, bud.”
Jay looked defeated. He didn’t like Ryan’s idea. He didn’t want whatever became of the New Haven residents on his conscience if they went with it. Unfortunately, a better idea wasn’t coming to mind. Despatching of Mel out and about and making it look like an accident wasn’t possible because Mel wouldn’t be going with the teams to the safe zone. He never left New Haven and Ryan was right: if they killed him then the residents and soldiers would turn on them and either incarcerate or kill them. The disarray that the imminent arrival of the army would cause would present them the opportunity to kill Mel without anybody being any the wiser. While New Haven would fall, they’d be free to start again. They were resourceful enough between them to lead a new rebel crew.
“The key element of this whole ordeal is survival,” Ryan began again. “We’re not here to babysit people or wipe arses, Jay. We’re here to survive and we do that by surrounding ourselves with strong, self-sufficient people. Surround yourselves with weaklings who depend on you and you’re asking for trouble. Maybe we need to let go of the idea of a fully functioning society because the world doesn’t run that way anymore. Although these weak people might not deserve what’s coming their way if we go with my idea, we don’t deserve to put our lives constantly on the line so that they survive. We’re doing ourselves a disservice that way.”
Jay paused for a few seconds to consider Ryan’s words. “You’re right. All we’re doin’ here is featherin’ the nests of the weak people.”
“Don’t forget Mel. He gets more out of us than everyone else combined; a corrupt old army sergeant who manipulates young soldiers. He knows he’s full of crap; it just needed somebody not blinded by his military rank to see it.”
“Alright, we’ll go with your idea. Get your stuff together so we can leave as soon as we’ve got the wheels in motion. We’ll have to discuss it later as the guys are gonna arrive shortly.”
Ryan held up a finger. “One thing for sure though.”
“We rescue Georgina and bring along a couple of those medics. If they’ve discovered some kind of antidote then we’re not letting that disappear into the ether.”
Jay nodded. “No problem.”
The day of the safe zone takeover came around quickly. In that time, nobody saw or heard anything of Georgina, confirming every suspicion Ryan had.
Mel gave a rallying pep talk before the teams headed out to perform their task. Ryan smirked at Mel’s premature look of victorious pride as everyone scurried off like performing monkeys, blissfully unaware that today would spell the end of everything he’d built.
Besides Kas, the rest of Jay’s team hadn’t been filled in about what was happening. He’d needed a little talking around, though was eventually sold when they told him of the situation with Georgina and Anna’s attempts to pull the wool over Ryan’s eyes. Jay would worry about everyone else in due course.
The teams conjoined into three larger ones and climbed into the military vehicles. Each man was adorned in the disruptive pattern material clobber of the British Army. The nearest safe zone sat twenty miles east of New Haven. The convoy was due to stop half a mile outside it so they could reconnoitre the checkpoint and decide how to infiltrate it. This was where phase one of Ryan’s plan would be executed.
The chatter was idle between the men in the back of the truck. Ryan despised the way military types spoke to one another. It was as though they couldn’t switch off from the army life. He didn’t like their ego, failing to see the irony in his own judgement. It delighted him that Jay and Kas didn’t speak in that manner. They’d taken the decision to shake off the influence of the military once they’d given it the elbow to join the rebel cause.
After almost an hour travelling along the desolate country roads, dotted occasionally by abandoned cars and pockets of lurchers, the convoy arrived at the recon point. The vehicles were left under the cover of trees to keep them hidden. A high magnification sniper rifle scope was used to scan the entrance by one of the rebels.
Three things happened that went unnoticed: Kas sabotaged the radios of two of the trucks; Jay severed the fuel linkage pipes of the same trucks; Ryan skulked over to the rebel looking through the scope and slit his throat with his bowie knife. Everyone else was too busy talking or smoking.
Jay went around his men and quietly urged them to return to the vehicle, all of them doing so without question.
In the meantime, Ryan took the sniper rifle and checked the silencer was definitely attached. Satisfied it was, he took aim at one of the safe zone soldiers; it really didn’t matter which one. He lightly squeezed the trigger and sent a bullet through the brain of a soldier standing on a walkway above the checkpoint. He toppled from the walkway to the ground below outside the gate.
None of the rebels heard a thing as the soldiers went into an immediate frenzy. Ryan quietly put the sniper rifle back in the possession of the dead rebel with a tinge of regret; he’d enjoyed wielding the powerful weapon. Looking as nonchalant as he could, he then walked with a cheerful whistle back to the truck and climbed inside where Jay and Kas sat waiting.
Jay, behind the driver’s wheel, nodded at Ryan. “Done?”
A tight-lipped smile from Jay failed to disguise his apprehension. They were too deep in it now to back out.
The sound of a distant alarm struck up. That was the cue they were waiting for. Jay fired up the engine, released the handbrake, and gunned the throttle. There were shouts of protest from the confused rebels outside, but Jay didn’t hesitate.
Ryan grinned wolfishly as they sped by the rebels, pulling the pin on a grenade and throwing it out of the window at them. He looked through the wing mirror at the scattering men as the grenade exploded, sending some of them flying.
The grenade exploding would give away the position of the rebels to the military at the safe zone and they’d soon flood the area along with any nearby lurchers. The rebels made for the trucks to get away from the scene and radio New Haven about what had happened, quickly realising that neither was going to happen thanks to the sabotage of the two vehicles. Some of the rebels scattered in all directions. Others bravely stood their ground and were quickly overwhelmed.
All the while, Kas anonymously radioed the coordinates of New Haven to the military whilst in transit. That left only one more thing for them to do to complete the job.
Few people took notice as the truck made its way into New Haven. The mission was being conducted in the strictest secrecy so there was no reason for anybody to be suspicious.
As they pulled up, Jay told his men to gather up as many supplies and weapons as they could. With the rear cabin of the truck lacking windows, they hadn’t seen what Ryan did and were still unaware of the mission’s sabotage. All Jay told them was that New Haven had been compromised and they had to gather up as much as they could before leaving. They jumped to it while Jay, Ryan, and Kas discussed their parts to play.
“I think the best way to work this is that you two head to the medical facility to rescue Georgina and a few of the doctors while I take care of Mel,” Jay suggested.
“No, Jay. It has to be me to take down Mel,” Ryan quickly insisted. “He needs to know it was I that discovered his plans and ruined them for him. I need to see his face when I tell him that it’s all over. Don’t deny me that.”
Jay wasn’t sure he wanted it to be that way. Although Mel was a corrupt man, he felt that he perhaps deserved to die a more dignified death; however, he grudgingly nodded in agreement and told Ryan to make it quick and clean.
Ryan took off in the direction of Mel’s residence and let himself in. Anna wasn’t behind her desk and he made his way quietly upstairs, hesitating outside the office door. After a moment to mentally prepare himself, he kicked open the door and stepped inside with his pistol levelled.
Both Mel and Anna let out shocked exclamations. Anna was bent over the desk in a compromising position while Mel quickly stooped to pull up his pants.
“What the fuck is this?” Mel asked angrily as he zipped up his fly.
“Typical. We’re all out risking our necks while you’re here shagging!” Ryan said scathingly.
“Ryan, what are you doing?” Anna asked, having regained some of her dignity.
“Get out of here! This is between me and Mel!”
Anna didn’t hang around, briskly stepping out of the office and closing the door.
Ryan approached Mel, ensuring not to get too close as he knew that the older man was quicker and stronger than his years suggested.
“I get it, Ryan. You’re here to take over,” Mel surmised with a condescending chuckle.
“Not exactly, Mel. I regret to inform you that your little safe zone takeover bid has failed. Your men are either dead or lost in the countryside and the military is on its way here to bring an end to your empire.”
“I see.” Mel wasn’t entirely sure he believed Ryan. “And I suppose you’re the one who made it all happen?”
“I set the wheels in motion, though it turns out Jay and Kas don’t trust you either, so they assisted.”
“Any particular reason you don’t trust me?”
“Several. Chief among which, the fact you’re keeping Georgina imprisoned in the medical facility in the hopes of discovering some antidote and then sending Anna around to keep me occupied in the hope I’d forget all about it. Pimping out your woman; classy!”
“Imprisoned? Miss Stewart was a willing volunteer. I admit that Anna was acting out my wishes. That was only because I knew you wouldn’t leave well alone. The work going on in the medical facility is top secret and I don’t trust you. Turns out I was right not to.”
“I don’t believe you. Just like I don’t believe you wanted to take over a safe zone for any honourable cause. I’ve seen right through you. You want to find an antidote to hold everybody to ransom. You’re a megalomaniacal and corrupt old bastard!”
“And you’re a stupid, narcissistic man who only sees what he wants to see. My intentions have always been honourable. Do you think I could have led New Haven and the safe zone alone? I was fully intending to share the power around. I’m an old man. How much longer could I possibly have left?”
Ryan couldn’t respond. While Mel spoke sense, his ego wouldn’t allow him to readily believe New Haven’s leader.
Mel reached into his desk drawer, retrieved a file, and threw it on the desk in front of Ryan. “All the details about my plan are in there. Take a look when you get five minutes. All you’ve done is brought havoc to the people of New Haven. They’re now at the mercy of the military and I have no idea what they’ll do with them. That’s on your conscience and I hope it keeps you from sleeping. If I were you, I’d turn that gun on myself because, when people find out what you’ve done, they’ll kill you anyway.”
A short silence followed when Ryan broke into quiet laughter that steadily grew in raucousness. “You idiot! Nobody will find out what your plans were. You won’t be alive to tell anybody and I’ll be sure to shut your bitch up on the way out too. Everybody I choose to make the escape with before the army arrives will believe exactly what I say. They’ll all believe you were out only for power. Who’s going to disprove it?”
“You truly are a disgusting piece of shit!” Mel derided. “I knew you were trouble but decided I’d give you the benefit of the doubt. What a fool I was!”
“Indeed! What a fool! Perhaps, had you just levelled with me from the start about Georgina, I wouldn’t have taken this course of action.”
“Perhaps if you learned to trust people and were less full of yourself you wouldn’t have taken this course of action either!”
“Time’s up, old man. For what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”
“No, you aren’t!”
Ryan pointed the gun at Mel’s head. “No. No, you’re right. I’m not!”
“Ryan. Ryan, wait—”
A single shot rang out that cut Mel off midsentence. His right eye exploded in a spray of crimson as he fell and slumped dead over his desk.
Ryan looked down at the old man without remorse for a short while, then picked up the file on the desk and a nearby lighter Mel used for his cigarettes. He took the lighter to the file, threw it back on the desk, and then set a few more things ablaze. After ensuring the fires were catching nicely, Ryan made for the door, turning one last time to look at the corpse of Mel as he left.
When he reached the bottom of the stairs, Anna was standing behind her desk with a pistol held in a very shaky hand. He looked fearfully at her. “Please, Anna. Don’t shoot me. I thought we had something special going on.”
Anna relented, let out a tearful sigh, and lowered her gun slightly.
It was all the hesitation Ryan needed to raise his own gun and put a bullet in her right shoulder, causing her to totter back against the wall with a shrill cry. He smiled menacingly at her, pulling the trigger three more times.
She slipped down the wall, leaving a bloody trail, as the life quickly drained from her.
Ryan chuckled. “Shame. You were a damned good fuck!” With that, he left the building.
The sun beat down as he stepped out onto the street. It was as though nothing had happened. People got about their business; blissfully unaware that their world was about to come crashing down around them. Ryan didn’t feel bad. “Get them before they can get you,” he muttered to himself.
The truck then appeared a little further down the road with a honk of the horn. Ryan walked towards it, climbing into the front seat next to Kas.
Jay, still in the driver’s seat, looked across at him. “All good?”
“Yup,” Ryan said indifferently. “Did you get Georgina?”
“And all the doctors as requested. Some resisted so they might not be massively conscious at the moment.”
“Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do.”
“Did you make it quick?”
Ryan hesitated, fighting to repress a smirk that yearned to appear on his lips. “As quick as I could. I got him to admit everything. I was right all along. It was all about growing an empire and taking over.”
“That arsehole!” Jay cursed with frustration.
“Died like the snivelling coward he was too, grovelling for his life and offering me a place by his side if I spared him. No need to worry about him anymore. We can get out of here and start again.”
“Yeah,” Jay uttered, putting the truck in gear and pressing down on the accelerator. “Yeah, we can.”
New Haven passed by the window as Ryan looked out. They were soon out of the doomed safe zone and into the countryside. They’d be well away before the military arrived. By that point, the main building would be cinders and ash, along with the evidence that he’d lied about Mel.
Ryan thought about what he’d done and the pain his meddling was sure to cause. There was guilt in there somewhere, but not a lot. This was an apocalypse. This was about survival of the fittest. He was a survivor and he’d continue to survive no matter what it took.
LOOK OUT FOR A SURVIVOR’S APOCALYPSE STORY: SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST COMING SOON!