The alarms began to ring and we were up and on the move in seconds. We had been conditioned to respond at speed. The routine was familiar from a thousand drills but I sensed immediately that this was different. I knew this was for real. I could taste fear and panic in the early morning air. I didn’t know why. I didn’t know what had happened. I had a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach that something was happening that was about to change everything.

In silence we collected our kit and assembled at the transports. I could see trepidation and uncertainty in the faces of everyone around me. Even the officers - the men and women who took orders from above and controlled our every action -

appeared bewildered and scared. Their fear and unexpected confusion was unsettling. It was clear that they knew as little as I did.

We were on the road in minutes and the journey took less than an hour. The early morning darkness began to lift as we drove through the city. We brought chaos to the rush hour, stopping traffic from moving and preventing unsuspecting people from reaching their schools, offices and homes. I saw hundreds of people but I didn’t allow myself to look into any of their faces. I didn’t know what was going to happen to them. I forced myself to avoid remembering that somewhere out in the fragile normality of the morning were the people that I had known and loved.

We continued through the heart of the city and out through the suburbs following major roads and motorways which eventually ran deep into green and uncluttered countryside. The 1

sky was grey and heavy and the light remained dull and low. The road narrowed to a rough and uneven gravel track but our speed didn’t reduce until we’d reached the bunker.

We were among the first to arrive but within fifteen minutes the last transport sped down the ramp and into the hanger. Even before its engine had stopped I heard an officer give the order to shut the doors and seal off the base.

Whatever it was that was happening to the world outside, I knew it was a disaster of unimaginable proportions.

The very last shard of daylight disappeared as the bunker doors were closed. I picked up my kit and walked deeper underground.

Part I


For most of the last forty-eight hours Donna Yorke had hidden under a desk in a corner of the office where she’d worked since the summer. Without warning her familiar surroundings had become alien, nightmarish and cold. On Tuesday morning she had watched the world around her die.

Along with the rest of her work colleagues Donna worked an early shift one week in four. This week it had been her turn to get in first and open the post, switch on the computers and perform various other simple tasks so that the rest of her team could start working as soon as they arrived at their desks. She was glad that everything had happened so early in the day. She’d watched four of her friends die. If it had happened just half an hour later she’d have seen the other sixty-or-so people in the office suffer the same sudden, suffocating death. None of it made any sense. Cold and alone, she was too terrified to even start trying to look for answers.

From her ninth floor vantage point she had watched the destruction wash across the world outside like a tidal wave.

Being so high above the city she hadn’t heard anything. The first sign that something was wrong had been a bright explosion in the near distance, perhaps a quarter of a mile away. She’d watched with morbid fascination as a plume of billowing fire and dense black smoke had spewed up into the grey air from the gutted remains of a burning petrol station. The cars on the road nearby were scattered and smashed. Something huge had ploughed through the traffic, crossed the dual carriageway and crashed into the pumps, immediately igniting the fuel stores. Had it been an out of control lorry, truck or tanker perhaps?

But that had just been the beginning, and the horror and devastation that followed had been relentless and of an unimaginable scale. All across the heavily industrialised east-side of the city she saw people falling to the ground. She could see them writhing and squirming and dying. And more vehicles were stopping too - some crashing and hitting each other, others just slowing to a halt. Donna watched as the destruction moved nearer. Like a shock wave it seemed to travel quickly across the city below her, rolling relentlessly towards her building. With fear making her legs heavy with nerves, she stumbled back and looked round for explanation and reassurance. One of her colleagues, Joan Alderney, had arrived to start work but by the time Donna had seen her the other woman had dropped to her knees, fighting for breath. Donna was at her side in seconds but there was nothing she could have done. Joan looked up at her with huge, desperate eyes and her body shook with furious, uncontrollable spasms and convulsions as she fought to draw in one last precious breath. Her face quickly drained to an ashen, oxygen- starved blue-grey and her lips were crimson red, stained by blood from the numerous swellings and sores that had ripped open in her throat.

As Joan died on the ground next to her Donna was distracted by the sound of Neil Peters, one of the junior managers, collapsing across his desk, showering his paperwork with spittle and blood as he retched and choked and fought for air. Jo Foster

- one of her closest friends - was the next to be infected as she walked into the office. Donna watched helplessly as the other girl clawed at her neck and mouthed a hoarse and virtually silent scream of bitter pain, suffocation and fear before falling to the floor. She was dead before she hit the ground. Finally Trudy Phillips, the last of the early shift, panicked and began to stumble and run towards Donna as the searing, burning pain in her throat began. She had only managed to move a few meters forward before she lost consciousness and fell, dragging a computer off a nearby desk and sending it crashing to the ground, just inches away from where she now lay. Once Trudy was dead the world became still and terrifyingly silent..

Donna’s instinctive first reaction was to get out of the office, but as soon as she was outside she regretted having moved. The lifts still worked to take her down to the ground floor (although they had stopped by the time she returned to the building) and their sliding doors opened to reveal a scene of death and destruction on an incomprehensible scale. There were bodies all around the reception area. The security guard who had flirted with her less than half an hour ago was dead at his desk. One of the senior office managers - a man in his late forties called Woodward - lay trapped in the revolving door at the very front of the building, his lifeless face pressed hard against the glass.

Jackie Prentice, another one of her work colleagues, was on the floor just a few meters away from her, buried under the weight of two dead men. A thick and quickly congealing dribble of blood had spilled from Jackie’s open mouth and gathered in a sticky pool around her blanched face.

Without thinking she pushed her way through a side door and stepped out onto the street. Beyond the walls of the building the devastation had continued for as far as she could see in all directions. She could see hundreds, perhaps thousands of bodies whichever way she looked. Numb and unable to think clearly she walked away from the building and further into town. As she approached the main shopping area of the city the number of bodies had increased to such an extent that, in places, the ground was completely obscured - carpeted with a still warm mass

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