Afterflood6 - Got A Light?
Our convoy cut across to Pennant Hills Road until the turn off to Dural at Boundary Road. At the back end of Pennant Hills High School we saw abandoned cars, some smouldering piles of zed corpses and no sign of life except a swag of minah birds trying to scare off some crows and currawongs who’d been nosing around the zeds, hoping for an easy take away feed. The aircon in my car was open windows, the inbuilt unit having shat itself a few years back on a run to Louth races. I wound up the windows but not before some of the foul stench of burnt zeds hadn’t crept in to say hello. “Fuck off!” was my response to the visiting stink in the form of a Winnie Blue. A reasonably successful attempt to cover the reeking, burny zed smell. Tobacco Smoke 2 - Zedstink 1.
The trip out was through the Cherrybrook McMansion defile, then the semi-rural Dural, then Kellyville until we hit the road out to Windsor, Richmond and the college. Normally the drive out to HAC would have taken me an hour but in the convoy we were only hitting the bottom end of Kellyville after statual trip duration. We cut across on Annagrove Road to Windsor Road. We pulled up in the left lanes to generally chat while the senior cops and army blokes conferred over radios, maps, thermos coffee and cigarettes. I went and found Heather,
“How’s the Barina going? Still got the beep beep mojo? “
Heather shrugged. And what a lovely shrug it was. I had to get over this obsessive crush but I couldn’t help but be drawn to her beauty. Maybe it was an attraction sharpened by the whole disaster, run-for-your-lives scenario but it was there and it was real. Get a grip son.
“Beeping not so much but getting me there. That was a bad stink near Penno High. Always thought that school was a bit more cleanskin than that.”
“Yeah, middle class sensibility meets bush setting and McMansion Gen Y candidates. Wasn’t like that in my day of course. None of these over achiever types back then. Just a bunch of us wasters trying to grow dope in the bush, hassle the girls at lunchtime and generally pretend to be ultra cool inner city types. Massive fail of course but it was a fucking hoot at the time and kept us out Kings Cross junkiedom. For historical reference, we never stunk as bad as those burning zeds. “
Heather backed and filled on her own school days;
“Asquith was pretty much the same ‘çept for that whole all-girls school thing. There were some really fucked up bitches who grooved on hurty bully-chick behaviour. Luckily I didn’t cop it as much, they seemed to leave me alone.” I nodded a sage nod,
“Well, that’d be because you would have out hottied them. Not much they could do about that.”
“Thanks for the job reference but they did try. Luckily my dad used to teach me some hitting moves for when creeps might get a bit too touchy. They seemed to work against bitchy Britney wannabees just as well. Except the crotch kicking thing, didn’t bring that into play. Nevertheless it wasn’t a bad place to go. “
I retrieved my hip flask and offered her a hit,
“Well even Asquith chicks would have learned the benefits of hip flasks.”
She hesitated before taking a quick gulp and handed it back. I took a swig and capped it as I saw a cop approaching. I pocketed the flask, took out a Winnie and lit up. The cop went up to Heather,
“You own the Barina, right?”
“Yeah, what’s up? Rego’s fine and its got no defects.”
The cop frowned slightly,
“No, nothing like that. You seem to be getting a flat tyre.” With that he left us to it. I reckoned it had been an excuse for him to get a close up perv on Heather. Hell, I would have. Had, was doing, would do until her dad-taught hitting of creeps like me started. We both walked back to her car and found the near side rear tyre was lower than the rest. Heather fossicked around the boot and brought out a tyre pressure gauge. A quick check showed that the offending tyre had 12 psi. A minute later it was a tad below. It wouldn’t make it to HAC so we changed it. The spare measured 38 psi. Good girl. We deflated it down to 32. Just as we’d finished stowing the old tyre and tools the sirens whooped a few times indicating time to move out. Before we did the air was rent by a flight of four fighter jets heading towards Richmond air base. In the distance I saw a few choppers and to the east two transport planes, Hercules I guessed, which were heading to the air base as well. It was reassuring that the air base was close to HAC. Nothing like having some military might on tap to soothe the nerves.
We drove up Windsor Road and then at Mulgrave took a left. It was almost spitting distance now. All we had to do was follow Hawkesbury Valley Way, a couple of Golf Courses, the air base then left to HAC. On the home stretch now. As the convoy headed out there were other things lurking. With intent. Well not so much lurking but shambling along working their mouths, zed style, and I’m not talking about a post football match “played to our game plan” presser.
There was a gazillion of the fucks shambling around some sort of resort. The lead cop pulled the convoy to a halt and the army guys started unpacking weapons and ammunition. I got my shottie and hung back, waiting for Heather. She was sporting her assault rifle, looking every bit like one of those chicks in machine gun magazine photo shoots, scarily attractive. We joined the rest of the convoy passengers, shepherded by two of the soldiers and two of the cops into line behind two of the buses which were parked sideways across the road. The truck with the cannon was in front, the other buses angled to the sides. The soldiers advanced in line, scoping the terrain for best firing positions. Eventually they set up four machine guns and deployed in a firing rank. Behind them a squad of ten soldiers set up mortars. Another digger was on top of the lead bus with binoculars, radar and map. I went up to a soldier and offered to join the line but he declined the offer.
“If they get close enough feel free to join in.” He then moved off to the side of the road, taking up an observation point but facing the way we’d come. Another soldier was on the opposite side, also checking the rear. The cops called all us passengers together and explained that there was a zed horde in front. It was milling around but posed a threat both to the airbase further up the road and HAC itself. I asked the question,
“Why not just bomb the shit out of them? The airforce is up the road, they have bombs and stuff.”
The cop responded, wearily, like this had been an argument won and lost many a time.
“We need the infrastructure. Roads, buildings, power lines, pipes, that sort of stuff. If we can avoid blowing it all up we will. We don’t want to spend the next hundred years rebuilding this stuff. And no, not even a few choppers. They’re need up at Penrith.”
We all sat down behind the buses and waited. After about ten minutes I heard a whoomp, a whistling rushing and an explosion in the distance, then some more shouted orders and a few more whoomps. A few more explosions were quickly followed up by a rapid volley of more mortar work. A couple of minutes later it stopped. The smoke from the rounds was clouding above us soon joined by a few bursts of machine gun fire. I was keen to see the action but the cops were keeping us sheltered and low. The machine guns then opened up with nore rhythmic bursts. This was joined by some shots from two rifles, firing rapidly but not on automatic. They sounded more solid than the assault weapons I’d heard at Beecroft. I looked at the copper, raising my eyebrows. Heather answered my question,
“Heavy rifles, probably sniper gear. I’d say the guys using them are just doing it for shits and giggles. Dad used to say snipers are like that sometimes.” She checked and re-checked her own weapon. One of the soldiers came back behind the buses;
“Ökay, those of you with weapons and are keen can come up front now. If you haven’t killed any of these before the idea is to take out their brains. Aim for their heads. They won’t stop until the brain is knocked out. “ He was pointing at his own head, front, centre and side, indicating the best places to aim. “Come on, let’s go.”
Ten of us followed him to the front line The machine gunners had advanced and reset their weapons further apart. The other soldiers were lying prone in firing positions, taking pot shots at some remnant zeds. About a hundred metres up the road and to the side was a scene of zed devastation. Piles of them were grouped in hideous, stinky piles of zed deaddom. I cheered, whooping and yelling out,
“Excellent capping of zed boys, brilliant work!” I moved to the side, following Heather as one soldier retorted,
“ Äin’t over yet matey. There’s more coming.“ he then let off a burst from his weapon, two zeds falling as a result. They were still out of range of my shottie but Heather was working the bolt on her illegal AK knock off. She raised it, clamping down slightly and fired for two seconds. The barrel swung upwards before she caught the movement and pushed it back down.
“Fucking cheap, communist piece of crap!” she swore, “ Dunno why Dad liked this one. Silly old bastard.” Then she squeezed the trigger again, this timekeeping the barrel down and aimed head high at a cluster of shambling zeds, two of whom fell down. By now everyone else had joined the party and the remaining herd of about fifty zeds were dropped. The soldiers with rifles got up, spaced themselves and advanced We followed behind, wary of stray zeds. I made sure I had both barrels loaded and soon joined the line. It was a mixture of soldiers, try hards like me and Heather. Her proficiency at weapons, self defence and ability to stay cool was starting to scare me a tad.
We advanced twenty metres when one soldier spotted and dealt with two zeds at the side. Soon a few more in the line were taking pot shots at the stumbling filth. By fuck they stank. Heather was in her own world raising the rifle, firing, putting it down, reloading, firing. I noticed a group of three to my right and aimed at the centre one. The shottie boomed my displeasure at ol’ stinky zed and I was surprised when the top half of its head disappeared in a familiar shower of zed cappingness. I swung and aimed for the zed to its right and this time took out the left half of the skull. It collapsed. I quickly reloaded and raised the gun again, only to hear Heather scream a warning,
“Right, to the rear!” A group of a dozen zeds were shambling to the machine gunners, who couldn’t fire as we were in front of the barrels. Similarly we couldn’t shoot because we might hit the gunners. Now that was a whole piece of tactical crap in my book. Should. Not. Happen. Then I heard the solid sniper rifles start popping away. Then a few shotgun blasts as two cops appeared from behind the buses. Maybe not so bad, tactics=wise. Turned out the gunners were still in situ in case we had to make a running retreat. Once we had run back behind them they’d be free to deal, then we’d set up a firing line. That was the theory as explained later over some home brew.
The soldiers fanned out to the side, telling us to stay put and take out anything which came towards us. In the background, directly in front and further up towards Hawkesbury racetrack I noticed a couple of explosions, followed by three more. Big black clouds mushroomed up and a faint echo of really heavy machine-gun fire reported the presence of someone else dealing out misery to zed. The soldiers didn’t falter, kept on their sweep before returning. They then formed us in a line and we approached the piles of zed. Some were still trying to crawl out of the foul mess and we went around capping the lot. Off to the right we noticed a few buildings. Up the road was some sort of hotel resort, no doubt catering to golfers and fly boys. Back towards us on the same side was a weight loss and health resort. Must have been lean pickings for zed in that place, hence forcing him on a road trip. I cracked the joke with Heather who smiled indulgently before satisfying herself there weren’t any more zeds. I pointed out the black smoke in the distance. We both shrugged it off but the soldiers appeared interested. Very fucking interested indeed as they quickly herded us away from dead zeds and back to the convoy. The top soldiers and cops conferred again, there was more radio crackle and then they ordered us to get the convoy moving. This time the truck with the cannon led off, now carrying six extra soldiers stripped from the buses. The cops ushered us into line, two of their cars taking up the rear, each carrying two soldiers. The truck led us through, sometimes off road to avoid a pile of zed corpses, sometimes on the pavement. The thick smoke was billowing to the left if the racecourse, as we pulled up a couple of hundred metres to the side. Two soldiers from the truck dismounted and scoped out the scene. Others moved around the perimeter of the convoy, the machine gunners unloading their weapons and moving to a small rise. To the right and ahead we saw a couple of choppers land at the air base and could now make out a fortified perimeter, piled up against which seemed to be a few thousand zed. I couldn’t see much more out of my side window and windscreen. All passengers were signalled to stay inside their cars. One of the soldiers scoping the explosion site yelled out,
I threw myself out the door and lay down beside the car, not knowing what the fuck to do. Nothing happened, so I stood up and looked to the smoke. Then something did happen. To the right of the fire was a building, looked like a warehouse. Then it blew its top, literally. A massive gout of flame lifted the roof which was then persuaded to turn into micro bits of charred roof, quickly followed by the walls. Another explosion followed its friend on some sort of fiery quest and was quickly followed by its smaller tag along pal, the type that always follows the big kids when there’s a promise of fun and mayhem. To me it looked fan-fucking-tastic. Big rolling balls of fire, billowing smoke and a building being converted to charred pieces of its constituent parts, sort of like what happens when you toss a can of your sisters hairspray onto a campfire, only crunchy. Not that I’d ever consider doing anything of the sort.
The shock wave hit us and knocked me down. Luckily by that stage a lot of its energy had dissipated and there was no physical damage except a few bruises. In summary Your Honour the defence maintains that it was a standout occurrence, not likely to be repeated. I even yelled out a Homer Simpson “Woo hoo”. One of the soldiers, rushing past to check things out looked at me as if I were a loon. I did not care. I watched in awe as the fire rolled out and into itself and the smoke formed a small mushroom cloud. Everyone by now was out of their vehicles, the soldiers were checking themselves for blast injury and the radio chatter started up. A chopper raised itself off the airfield and headed towards the smoke. Maybe this whole thing had been planned and our timing was off. Perhaps something had just cooked off after power and gas had been left on. But at a racetrack? It had me all confused, as it did Heather. The Chinese rifle was starting to look a part of her. Fuck! My shottie! Once again I’d ventured outside without a weapon. Heather noticed my frown,
“Worried about the boom booms now?”
“No my lovely young rifle wielding jelly fish victim. More like a recurring ‘no pants’ dream.” I nodded at my shotgun lying on the front passenger seat and added,
“Happens too often that I’m leaving a friend behind when I venture out.”
“Hmm. You are a conflicted soul. Try reading some Gurdjieff. He’ll sort you out.”
“Fucking vegan, hippy shit. I’ll stick with my shottie thanks. And an ACDC soundtrack.”
Heather walked to my car, reached in and took my gun. She handed it to me.
“Here’s your penis extension, Angus. Make sure you don’t shoot too early.” I was beaten but had one lame thing to say,
“Don’t tell me to come, I’m already there.”
Our verbal tinkerings were interrupted by the soldiers and cops ushering us all to a meeting next to the truck. The chief cop addressed us,
“The airbase wants us to check this out. They don’t have spare people at the moment, seeing as how they’re dealing with a major stink in Penrith.” He sounded like a football coach who was trying to pep up his team during a half-time speech at Penriff Park. Go the flannies.
“ We need to walk in a cordon a hundred metres south then west. We’ll split into pairs. We’re looking for bits of metal, plastic, anything. Don’t touch it, just jab a flag next to it.” He then pointed to a pile of little flags on the ground. “Those needing armed help see me. We take off in five minutes.
We fanned out, twenty metres between each pair. The idea was we’d cover five metres then walk back like mowing a lawn. It was apparently standard search techniques. To me it was standard boredom techniques. Except that I was still in Heather’s company. Our sector took us next to a small shed, then across a single lane of road. We checked the shack and found nothing except an old bridle, a rusty stirrup and a yellowing copy of Sportsman. It had Vo Rogue as a lead subject . Ancient.
We went further on and heard an engine in the middle distance. I got my gum ready and Heather checked her rifle. The next two pairs were also looking in the direction of the noise and seemed unsure of how to react. Heather called out,
“We’ll handle this!” I looked at her,
“Yeah. Sounds like a fucking big V8. Noice move H baby. We’ll steal it and do a Gold Coast run.”
The car, no truck, no bastard son of big fuck off F100 came towards us. Heather was waving. As it approached I noticed it had but a driver. On the back was a big, ugly machine gun type thing. Looked like the Gattling Gun from “bBattle Wagon”, a western which taught the world never, ever let The Duke get pissed off within reaching distance of a proto machine gun. Thinking of John Wayne reminded me I had a couple of cigars in the box in my top pocket. Small ”Ämandas” , Willem II, but I felt the need and lit one up. Heather looked at me and I gave her the last one. The truck pulled up as we puffed out some smoke. Must have looked silly but I was enjoying the smoke and was very curious as to who was driving this bushpig kiler ute. The driver waited, seeming to fiddle around the dash. He didn’t appear to be dwarfed by the size of the vehicle. Heather went and checked out the back, making humming noises at the cannon thing. The driver opened the door. I eased my shottie into a relaxed yet ready position and stepped back a pace or two. His large frame unloaded, he looked at me, nodded and he went to the back of the truck. Heather stepped back as he approached and cocked her rifle. But she really only had eyes for the cannon. The big man clambered onto the rear tray, unlocked and unbolted some mounts and lay the huge gun on its side. Then he clambered down, not saying a word. I checked out the gun as well. Looked massive, really heavy, probably need a crane to unload it. The big man turned to us, pulled out a cigar from his shirt pocket, smelled it, smiled, clipped off the end and jammed it in his mouth. Being a gentleman I fired up my Bic lighter for his oversized smoke.
“Cuban. Romeo y Julieta if that means anything to you hillbilly love birds.” His American drawl seemed to echo for a brief moment, then he reached out a massive paw and I took it, giving the firm grip as good as I could manage. My right hand welcomed its release.
“Rhino’s the name, trouble’s the game. Solving it that is.”
He arched an eyebrow as he shook Heather’s hand and went to the back of the truck, sliding, then fucking hoisting the big bastard onto his shoulder , the huge gazillion ton cannon. It was a real life Arnie act except his biceps were bigger than the Guvernator’s. I offered to help him with it but he declined, looking at his right bicep, then at us, saying,
“No siree folks, you do not get these from petting kitty cats.”