Nine: Captain Walker
“Would someone care to tell me why we are slowing down and turning off course?”
Having rushed from his morning inspections to the bridge, Captain Walker was irritated. After all, no one had cleared anything with him. Unless it was an extreme life threatening emergency, it was understood no changes in course were to be made without his okay, even if the person doing the changing was the ship’s chief navigator. But it was that crew member that answered. Or better yet, pointed.
Walker looked out the forward window. They were close enough to their home port they could see the docks. “What the hell is…?” He couldn’t believe his eyes. The docks were packed. Not with supplies, provisions, or other cargo. No, it was swarming with people. Even from this distance, he could see the crowds, though it looked more like an angry mob. They were still too far away to see exactly what was going on, but it was apparent there was a large altercation of some sort.
The navigator, a middle aged sailor named Rohrbaugh, handed him his binoculars so he could take a closer look. Walker took them and held it up so he could see through the dual lenses. “Holy mother of god,” he muttered.
Through the viewfinder he could see them. People walking or shuffling across the docks, stopping to attack others at random. Some people ran, trying to avoid the attackers. They appeared to be trying to find a hiding place, but the sheer number of people wouldn’t allow this. In desperation, those fleeing jumped off the wharf and into the sea. Others appeared to be walking off the docks as if it were a road that kept going. Walker watched a group step off the edge of a pier and disappear under the waves. The undertow sucked them down into the water and they acted like it was nothing. No screams or yells for help from what he could see. He panned the binoculars around and saw a small child pounce on a large dog. The animal tried to shake the child off to no avail. The kid bit down on the dog’s neck and blood shot out. Walker turned from the scene as an adult shambled up to the child and pulled him off the dog only to bite down on the kid’s head. The binoculars slipped from the Captain’s hands and hit the floor of the bridge.
“My god, what is happening!?”
Communications Officer Blake Travers spoke up. “Contagion, sir. I think.”
Walker turned to look at him. “What kind of contagion does this to people? They look like something out of The Walking Dead.”
“I don’t know sir. I’m not even sure that’s what it is. I was talking to someone at the home office and that’s what they said.”
“What else did they say?”
“Not to come in.”
Walker looked over at Rohrbaugh. “Is that why we are stopping?”
“Yes sir,” the navigator replied. “Based on Travers information and what we can see here, I felt it best to take caution.”
The Captain nodded. “ Good job. Carry on.” He took a deep breath and was getting ready to give his next orders when the door to the bridge burst open. One of the security offers, a rookie on this cruise, stood there breathless.
“Sorry Captain,” he interrupted. “We have some people overboard. Starboard side.”
“Did you radio your superior and inform him?”
“I couldn’t reach anyone sir, so I came here.”
Walker turned to Blake. “Are inter ship communications down?”
“Not that I’m aware of. I’ll check.”
Returning his attention to the security officer, he asked, “have any efforts been made to rescue them?”
“Yes sir, one lifeboat is in the water, but when I left it seemed there were too many people in the water. They were swarming over the boat.”
Walker raised an eyebrow, thinking ‘swarming’ was not a term many used in a positive way. In most cases it was like saying the boat was being over run.
“sir, you should see this.”
It was the navigator again. When Walker turned towards him. He immediately knew what it was his officer wanted him to see. Two speedboats had left the dock. One ran right over people in the water. The other followed in its wake.
“Now, who the heck is this?”
“Captain,” Travers said. “Our ship communications is down. There’s some kind of signal jamming it. I’d say its some kind of military grade.”
“Why would you say that?”
“Because they threatened to come out here and get us.”
The captain looked at him sharply. “What do you mean?”
“I was talking to someone from our home office. He said there was a contagion and for us not to come in. Then someone new got on the Morse and asked if we were the St. Fitzgerald. When I said yes he said to come in. It freaked me out, so I grabbed the message transcription and came to alert you.”
“Let me see the transcription.”
Blake handed him the papers. Before the captain looked at them, he peered out the front at the approaching speedboats. For a moment, they didn’t look to be together. One seemed to be chasing the other, for the first boat was not coming in a straight line, but weaved its way back and forth across the waves. Still, he didn’t think much of it and instead inspected the communication officer’s papers. He nodded a few times as he read and then passed them back to Blake. The captain seemed thoughtful for a moment and then spoke. “He said it was nuclear. I would assume if something had detonated, we would have seen it.”
“He also said it was an accident, sir. Perhaps it was a nuclear leak. A crack in the warhead or its casing.”
Suddenly there were some light pops in the air, like distant fireworks or a weapon going off. The people in the boats were shooting at each other.
“What the devil now,” Walker exclaimed, as everyone watched the exchange. The captain reached down and picked up the binoculars he’d dropped just minutes ago. Setting his sights on the speedboats he noticed the closest ones contained three people. Two men and a woman. The driver appeared to be hispanic, while the other man and woman were African-American. Civilians by the looks of it, though the African-Americans wore labcoats. The driver had on a flak jacket.
In the pursuing boat, it was easy to tell why it was having trouble catching the first one. It was loaded down with six men , all wearing military uniforms and apparently armed. Every last one, except the pilot of the craft were firing at the first boat. Wood chips flew off the side of it as a barrage of bullets made contact. The Hispanic driver swerved the boat, bringing it around as if he were going to face the gunfire head on. Soon it became apparent why.
The woman took the wheel, while the Hispanic lifted something from the bottom of the boat. It looked like a rocket.
TO BE CONTINUED
Zombie Drift 9. Paul D Aronson. 2018. All Rights Reserved.