Pied Piper Of London

The trip in to London was uneventful and without walker incident for the most part, Joanna took up the passenger seat and Rain was
happy by herself in the rear seating. I was told to make my way to Kings Cross railway station; there was an area on the north side
of the big station where some building work had been going on before Umbrella had used it as their base and now the BSAA had
control of it. It would take about 30 mins or so and I advised Chris of this which he acknowledged.

As we drove, Joanna asked about me, I had the sneaking suspicion she was going to anyway, and I of her in return to pass the time.
The company was pleasant enough I have to say so that helped. I told her some of the little details that made up my life and kept
things like service life out of it, not for want of not telling her you understand, it's just some things were still on the classified list.
A lot of which, no person outside of the Regiment was supposed to know about.

As for herself, she was an orphan and grew up in an orphanage in New Orleans and had spent near all of her childhood there.
In her adult life, she had some 'family' and they were from the orphanage like her. She had what she called a kid sister by the name of
Kandyse, didn't expand beyond that and I didn't ask. I told her of my sister and her family in Australia, for some reason I didn't mind
telling her about things like this and found it easy to speak to Joanna. That 'very comfortable in her company' feeling came back and
I liked it.

The 'why?' didn't bother me as such but I was at a loss to explain it and there are times when I do prefer not to have unanswered
questions. I put this one on the ever expanding 'to do' list.

We were about 5 miles from the place when the speaker on the Bowman crackled. Chris informed us that over the past fifteen minutes,
a large walker contingent had arrived on York Way due to some gas bottle racking with empty ones in it had collapsed and made one
hell of a racket. They were clustered around the gate at Tapper Walk and that was the only way in and out of the compound. All their
helos were out and about so couldn't extract us.

Even if they had been able to lift us out, I didn't want to leave the Mastiff as it could come in useful, plus I liked the big old monster.
I slowed to a stop and had a think for a minute.

"Hold tight where you are Chris, I have an idea, back in about 20 mins, your lot going to be ok for a bit?"

He confirmed that the gate and wall Umbrella had installed would hold up against just about anything so he believed they were all good
for now. Rain was looking, or what I assumed was a little worried but it was hard to tell, I didn't put her on the spot about it and just
swung the Mastiff about and headed for my home.

Rain asked what the plan was but that little devil on my shoulder was back and I just said "All will become clear my short and heavily
armed associate, so fret thee not"

I could see out of the corner of my eye that she looked at Joanna, who just shrugged and smiled.

Arriving at that back street to get to the rear entrance, the Mastiff fitted between the walls like an only slightly loose cork in a bottle so
that was good enough. What the hell I thought, may as well have some house guests for a few minutes. I got bombed up, locked down
the Mastiff and beckoned the ladies to follow. Getting in was the simple affair it was last time and we were standing in my bedroom
once more.

"Feel free to have a look about, this will take only a short while."

Rain wore a resigned expression which was the opposite of Joanna's but they both did just that and I went to my wardrobe. I took out
my portable radio/CD player, still with the odd paint splash mark from its days on building sites and had a quick leaf through my discs.
Selecting the ones I considered appropriate I then hunted down my spare batteries container. Lord bless the makers of Duracell,
I pulled out three lots for the player and they were still good until 2015 so that sorted that. I also got my spare set of Osprey body
armour from my case and my old Kevlar cover so was pretty much good to go.

I found Rain and Joanna in the living room. Joanna was looking at the book shelves and Rain was going over the photos and stuff above
the TV. I just looked at them for a few seconds then interrupted their musings.

"Right then ladies, got what I came for so if there's nothing else, are we good to go?"

Joanna just looked at me and smiled, then back to the books. "Y'all do have yourself a few books then ah see."

I told her it was one of the three things I loved in life, She asked what the other two were.

"A comfortable home and a comfy chair to sit in while I read, I need nothing more."

This she seemed to approve of and Rain made mention of the vastly oversize easy chair. Joanna made comment that it was big enough
for two and just winked at me. Rain said nothing but that was just her way I surmised. We left quickly and were on our way.

I asked Rain to put the batteries in the CD player and use the first disc I handed her but not to play it yet. I made a reference to the Pied
Piper of Hamelin, which they both knew the rough outline of the story. I informed them we were going to pull the same deal and asked
Rain to stand by at the top hatch with the music when we were in position. I worked the Mastiff round the back streets it would fit down
and ended up at the junction of Goods Way and York Way alongside the canal, south of the gate and radioed Chris to update him
on the plan.

I gave Rain the nod to standby; she cranked the volume up and held her finger over the 'PLAY' button as I turned north the reach the
walker mob. As the gate area came in to view, there must have been about fifty of the bastards clustered around and filtering out in to
a line at the wall and a pretty impressive wall it was too. About twenty feet in height and almost looked prefabricated but I had no idea
what it was made from. It was a light grey in colour and completely smooth.

Made up in sections of about thirty feet long and I had to really look for the join in some places. Balfour Beatty Construction would have
given their collective right arms for this kind of gear.

I swung the Mastiff around 180 degrees at a junction to some small transport place yard. "Rain, let's rock me dear!" and we did.
The first bars of Rare Earth's 1971 ditty 'I Just Want to Celebrate' came from the speakers, which got their attention well and truly.


Guitars and drums kicked in, likewise my fingers drumming on the steering wheel.

'I just want to celebrate another day of living,'
'I just want to ceee-lebrate another day of liiiii-iii-ife!'
'Put my faith in the people, but the people let me down,'
'So I turned the other way and I carry ooo-onnnn anyhooooooow'

I got the Mastiff up to just above the shuffling speed of the walkers and sped up slightly when the 'faster than the rest' slowly separated
from the pack. Rain actually let out a shout and sounded enthusiastic which came as a surprise to me and Joanna but a welcome one.

"It's working! HA!"

I switched on the cameras and could see she was right on. I turned left and drove slowly down Copenhagen Street and like the good little
rats they were standing in for, the walker pack followed. Chris reported they were all clear at the gate and I told him if he had eyes on the
pack then let me know when the last of them had turned in to Copenhagen St. The music echoed off the buildings and drew them like a
bloody magnet. After just over 200 yards as we reached the junction of Copenhagen and Caledonian, Chris confirmed they were all
round the corner.

Appropriately enough, the track had reached the,
'Doin' it all get ya down no nooo-noo-oo, don't let it turn you around and around and around and around'
part and I turned left and let it get to my favourite line.

'Well I can't be bothered with sorrow and I can't bothered with hate no no'
'I'm using up my time by feeling fiii-iine everyday-yay-yay-yay-yay'

I reluctantly told Rain to switch it off and come in as we had made enough noise.

Once she was in her seat I floored it up Caledonian Road and slowed to a crawl after about half a mile to reduce noise in the hope we had
not attracted any more of them, then turned left in to Market Road which would take us back to York Way and to the gate. Clear and
smooth the rest of the way and the gate opened as we arrived. It was just like the rest of the wall but set back a few yards from the
main parts left and right. In and safe, I parked up as soon as I could.

Rain opened the back doors and got out; she was actually smiling which was a welcome first for her. Joanna sat there smiling at me, then
leaned over and put her arms around my neck and warmly kissed me on the cheek, which I returned, just out of politeness you understand.
And if you believe that, there's a bridge over the River Thames I'd like to sell you.

She broke away after and smiled. "Ah do believe ah am surely impressed sir!"

I must have been grinning like an idiot but simply responded "One tries ones best milady."

Chris and a few other people similarly dressed and armed as Rain came over, some animated but muted conversation took place between
her and the small group. Chris shook my hand after I had helped Joanna down from the Back of the Mastiff, whether she needed my
help was doubtful but she didn't object. He had a smirk on his face but addressed me in a matter of fact tone.

"Good to see you all back safely and that's the kind of thinking I believe we need."

I responded in kind.

"Glad to be here. Well, hand me a cup of something to drink, find me a place to sit down and we'll discuss it...
in that order preferably."

He told Rain and the rest to stand down, told Joanna that there were things requiring her attention in the comms hut. He gestured toward
a two storey portacabin like structure and started walking so I followed with a quick smile and a wave to Rain and Joanna. The compound
was huge, must have covered an almost square quarter mile. I saw quite a few of the large metal transport containers, all in gleaming
white and labelled with the Umbrella Corp. logo.

There were several of these portacabin like buildings but grouped in to four distinct areas at the cardinal points of the compass. The hard
packed dirt of the compound had seen quite a bit of activity with vehicle tracks and boot marks going between the buildings. Rain and her
group headed toward one lot of the portacabin like structures which were all single floor places and there must have been about six of
them in two rows of three.

Joanna was walking to a three storey place with more than just a few antennas and a couple of satellite dishes parked on the roof. In all I
counted roughly 30 people around the area, all but a few were armed and near everyone except Joanna and Rain's group had clothing with
a BSAA shoulder patch on their sleeves. In fact it occurred to me that none of the gear Rain was wearing had any kind of marking on it.
I couldn't see much more of the compound but made a note to have a good look about if I stuck around for any length of time.

We walked up an exterior flight of stairs, along a rear walkway I hadn't seen at first and through the second door. If these were originally
Umbrella property then their interior decor consultant was colour blind, bored or seriously fucking lacking in imagination. Or all three.

A slightly satin white seemed to be the order of the day with black furniture; I'd seen surgical rooms with more warmth and charm.
Granted the furniture was very well made and the way I sunk comfortably in to one of the two black leather and chrome framed office
style chairs in here was testament to quality manufacture. The desk Chris sat behind was no less well constructed, the glossy black top
was covered in folders and loose paperwork.

A couple of maps adorned the walls; they showed the greater London area and a close up one of the center of London. Notes and circles
in marker pen were on the maps, one in black denoted the area we currently occupied and a few more close to us. The smaller areas
were marked in red and underlined, I assumed for less than wonderful reasons.

Chris had a big mug of coffee on hand for himself and another he handed to me which I thanked him for and he spoke first.

"I get the impression you're not one to waste time so I'll get to the point. Additional to what we have already spoken about, it's the
tactical side that concerns me. My people in what we call the black team are my main concern; they deal direct with biohazard and
are usually the first in to an area where we've had an outbreak or related problem."

He continued. "So far we have been quick, lucky and good enough to deal with them but mostly they have been just the walking dead.
This new breed of biohazard is a different matter."

I could see he was one who could very competently give the order to place people in harm's way but was having misgivings about what
he may have to ask of them in the immediate future.

"They are good don't get me wrong but apart from one, they are all from a police background but the new situation requires some
military thinking which we are short on with the people we have. In fact all of them jumped ship at different times from Umbrella
security when they found something related to the dirty tricks Umbrella was getting up to and joined the BSAA."

That made me frown slightly and Chris didn't miss it. He said he had an idea what I was thinking and the same had gone through his mind
at the time but all of them had proved themselves more than once so he had no reason to question their motives. I made a mental note but
let him continue.

"So being mostly cops at heart and some of the things they were being ordered to do went against the grain, firing on civilians
with no apparent reason was just one example. We need to come up with a tactical doctrine for dealing with biohazards and this is
where we think you can be of help to us...if you would consider joining the team."

I let that hang for a while and got my thoughts in order.

"Ok Chris, I think I understand what you're driving at. You want me to go over what you're up against and formulate the best way
to make those things go away with extreme prejudice, yes?"
He nodded.

"Okedoke then, assuming that all goes according to plan, what's the end game? What is your final objective?"

Chris spoke and with no small measure of resolve in his voice and body language.

"To finally close down Umbrella for good, undo the damage they've done as far as we possibly can and get Albert Wesker."

A plan I could get behind, this much was true but I wanted my own terms understood.

"Here's my part then Chris. I'll happily help you do just that, put me down as a consultant or whatever fits the bill as
far as the paperwork is concerned. I don't care if you even pay me or not as I do not wish to formally join the ranks so to speak."

He said he understood but seemed to be waiting for the payoff so I cut to it.

"But in return for my assistance, Wesker is mine. No arrest, courts, lawyers or any of that bullshit. There isn't a court
in the world that can hand down sentence appropriate enough for what he's done as far as I'm concerned."

He didn't verbally agree with that comment but he didn't openly object to it either.

"From what I've found out so far, that bastard is directly responsible for what has happened to London and elsewhere correct?"

Chris nodded so I continued in a calm but direct tone of voice.

"So when it comes down to ending up face to face with him and as far as I'm concerned it will; Wesker is going to get his
fuckin' head cut off by yours truly and there will be no exceptions. Those are my terms."

I sat and watched as he digested this, the cog wheels were turning for certain.

"I'll have to discuss this with my bosses and that may take a little while so for the time being..." He handed me a folder.
"Have a look at this and get yourself some chow, we have a fairly decent commissary on site, it's on the floor below this and
I'll come find you once I've finished talking to my superiors."

I left him with that and went out and downstairs in search of the food serving place he'd spoken of. My nose did the leading and walking
through the open door at one end of the building, I had found my nosh loaded nirvana.

I removed my beret out of habit. You only need get screamed at once in the service for not removing headgear in the canteen and it gets
pretty ingrained there and then. The commissary as Chris had called it, covered about three quarters of the ground area, well laid out
with tables and arranged neatly with four chairs to each table. The far end from the door was occupied by one of those long serving
counters manned by two people and it appeared that lunch or something like that was being served.

There were a few people in here; some armed but all either getting food or sitting and eating in groups and chatting. Without preamble,
I strolled up and had a look at what was on offer, suffice to say I wasn't disappointed. I strolled away with a plate loaded with fried
eggs, sausages, beans and what appeared to be fried sliced potatoes. This lot backed up with several slices of bread, an honest to
goodness large mug of tea and I was sorted.

It should go without saying that I think I had twice the amount that anyone else had but as is the way with the British Army soldier, I had
no shame where free food is concerned. I chose a table unoccupied and was left that way.

I made the lot on my plate vanish in record time which is another skill learnt from service time and there are very few that don't master it.

I saved one fried egg until last and that got parked between two slices of bread with some tomato ketchup. This I savoured and had that
'quest objective well and truly achieved' feeling.

Some of the folks in here looked my way and I responded with a look back and a friendly nod. After the grub had vanished, I enjoyed my
tea and looked over the file Chris had given me. All the material in here originated from Umbrella so I expected a giggle filled read
and it was laid out like some kind of damn sales brochure.
The literature referred to these things as Bio Organic Weapons.

Christ on a Segway...

This was not exactly what one could consider light after meal reading matter but it did give me an insight in to what this outfit and
possibly I, would be up against. This was a file on the 'biohazards' as Chris had referred to them. The first pages were about a
creature named a 'Licker'.

I have no idea who came up with the name but I assumed it was some fucker in an Umbrella lab coat with a less than stable mental attitude
as to what constituted whimsical. I looked at the page of file photos on this less than handsome beast. It had a dog like physical body and
a habit of propelling itself on all fours but the size was approaching a grown man. No hair or the like, in fact it more resembled a creature
that had been skinned.


Very muscular and possessing large four toed paws, each toe ending in a rather large claw. This, the file told me enabled them to climb
walls and ceilings. Devoid of sight, they had advanced hearing to track and attack with. Powerful jaws with many sharp teeth and a very
long tongue with a hardened bone point used to impale prey. They had shown themselves to be very quick, extremely agile and able to
jump or leap several times their own body length. Also they usually travelled in packs rather than solo.

Well this was getting better by the bloody second.

Noted was the characteristic exposed 'brain' on the head, they exhibited an ambush mentality and were naturally quiet, preferring to wait
out prey rather than actively going after it. Sound could be used to attract them though and they rarely, if ever ignored any sound loud
enough to get their attention. When moving they could be detected by the sound their claws make and some form of communicating hiss.

From what was known already, combating these creatures requires heavy calibre weapons or many smaller calibre rounds expended.
Apparently their musculature of such dense makeup that pistol calibre such as 9mm, is fairly ineffective.

I wouldn't want to meet one of these in a dark alley, or even a well-lit one for that matter.

The next pages didn't exactly inspire an 'easy to deal with' feeling either.
The next and thankfully last one of the rouges galley was a rugged looking critter called a 'Hunter'

Some five to six feet tall and looking like a cross between a lizard and a hooded cobra. Bipedal with long arms and legs terminating in
four fingers and toes with large claws.

What is it with the large claw thing? I was thinking they had some kind of sharp object fetish going on here.

The physical makeup was a powerful muscular creature, its back and head were covered in scales which had proved them to be proofed
against small calibre weapons and certainly resistant to edged or blunt weapons. No neck to speak of as the back scaly part continued
up to the top of the head and forward to the nose above a mouth full of sharp teeth.

Whoever the sick bastards that came up with these things were, they seemed to have a thing about mouths full of sharp teeth too.

Binocular vision with a sense of smell that would give a bloodhound an inferiority complex, they hunted in pairs usually but were
not beyond teaming up with others in to a pack. When taking prey, they had a habit of putting their head down and charging. A lump
like that coming at full tilt would need to be stopped pretty decisively!

I started having a few ideas about that as I finished the paperwork on theses abominations. I had taken a last slug of tea when Chris
appeared at the table.

"Mind if I join you Ben?"

I indicated the vacant seat opposite and he made himself comfortable, I said nothing as he eyed the folder, then looked at me.

"So now you know what we are up against, we have had some success in combating the B.O.W's of lesser stature than these but
it's been limited. Right now there are at least four Hunters and an unknown number of Lickers out there and they will certainly
have to be dealt with before we can hand over to local forces."

I thought about this for a few seconds and then got straight to the point.

"I have a few ideas but the main question remains my friend, are my terms acceptable to your higher highers or not?"

He looked me in the eye as a smirk crossed his face.

"Well Ben, let's just say that they want you on board but have left the final say so to me considering the terms of your...
'employment' with the BSAA. I agree to those terms and would be glad of any help you can give us."

We shook on it as I am one of them old fashioned types that still take a handshake of agreement as a serious bond. I rose from the table
and he followed suit.

"Right then Chris, first things first, show me the armoury mate!"

Chris nodded. "Straight to business huh? I can do that."

Across the compound and to the eastern lot of portacabin structures, he led me to their armoury. A pretty well stocked one it was too,
No shortage of MP5A3's, pistols and suppressors, G36A2's, a couple of FN Minimi light machine guns and one AA-12 auto shotgun.
Magazines a plenty for every weapon with stacks of standard ammo boxes for each type including subsonic ammo. Several boxes of
smoke, stun and frag grenades made up the number nicely. I flexed my fingers and got to work looking over the gear while Chris just
stood and watched.

All the weapons were in immaculate shape, used for certain but kept in top notch order. I knew of a few folks from my past that the
sight of this would have made them very happy bunnies. All the 9mm for the pistols and 5.56mm stuff for the automatic weapons were
the standard ball rounds, the auto shotgun were stocked with sabot, solid slug, '000' lead and F size steel buckshot. Decent load outs in
the norm but this was far from that.

After about 10 minutes, I had a good idea of what would be required. Finding paper and pen, I started to scribble out a shopping list.
Once done and happy with it, I handed it to Chris. He read over it and seemed to be thinking for a few seconds.

"This will take at least a few days to get a hold of Ben; you think this will all be necessary?"

I nodded. "Absobloodylutely! That lot should have us covered for most eventualities I think."

He seemed to accept that, folded the paper and said he'd get on that immediately. Stepping out of the armoury, he led me to the building
where I could find a place to ground my gear and get to know the Black Team as he called them. As we approached, Rain and a fella
were standing outside talking as we approached. Chris called to Rain and told her to show me the place and meet the rest of the team,
this got a nod out of her and she agreed. Chris made his farewells and left to take care of the shopping list. She came over to me.

"So you decided to join up with us Ben?"

I just nodded and left the specifics out of it, she offered up the apparently standard fist bump which I responded in kind to, her mood
turned instantly enthusiastic.

"Fuckin' A man! C'mon and I'll introduce you to the guys."

She stepped over to the fellow she was originally speaking to and introduced him as their team leader Carlos O.

A lean built but fit six foot frame with definite Latin looks, hair almost as black as Rain’s with thick eyebrows over deep brown eyes.
A few days' worth of stubble on a strong chin and had an easy going manner about him, he had the look of a man who could smile easily.
That smile came out as we shook hands in a good firm grip. He welcomed me aboard and we went inside to meet the rest.

Nicholai G. A well brawny fellow with a fairly noticeable Russian accent. He had the sort of strong, square jawed face that you wouldn't
argue with. Blue grey eyes that had a hawk like quality that missed little I suspected. A short dark ginger mop of hair and eyebrows
completed a strong overall impression even if he didn't much come above five and a half foot tall.

Yuri L. Another heavy set Russian but a little taller than his associate, dark haired with an almost average face looks wise apart from the
only ever so slightly out of kilter nose which indicated a break in the past. This guy had a definite military bearing which I picked up on.

The last member was Thomas A. A tall wiry Aussie with firm set features, he looked like he was dark haired but this was covered by a
slightly battered and well used bush hat with one side pinned up. The eyes were a striking blue and his manner was of the typical
easy going Aussie way.

All of them greeted me in a friendly manner, I got the impression that Rain had done some groundwork there and this was borne out as
we chatted. Thomas handed me a can of chilled lager, it's a general Aussie thing that they are always more accepting of someone who
will share a beer with them and I was happy to do so. I opened it, clinked cans with him and we settled down to talk.

After an hour or so, I was getting the impression these were all good people just trying to do right and possibly make up for mistakes of
the past considering who they used to work for. Yuri it turns out was former Russian Army and though he didn't say, I suspected he was
Spetsnaz at the very least. He and Thomas appeared to be the jokers of the group and quick fire banter seemed to be the norm
between them.

I found myself beginning to like this crew. Carlos certainly gave the impression that he cared a great deal about his people and the banter
that passed between the rest of them was of the usual mockingly insulting type but I felt that they had a deep trust of each other.

Carlos showed me a place I could bunk down and stowed my gear in one of the free lockers. This place was certainly laid out like a small
barracks with single beds and lockers for each though this lot and yours truly only ended up occupying half of the room. Unlike the office
that Chris occupied, this was strictly utilitarian with an attached multiple shower and wash basin area. It was better than some places
I'd been so I wasn't going to knock it.

Over time, I unloaded all my gear from the Mastiff and packed it all in to my locker, I politely refused any of the offered gear when
Carlos asked and told him I was used to my own stuff which he accepted. It was late afternoon when I had lunch with the team and was
pretty much squared away, so went off on a walkabout to get a feel for the compound. It dawned on me after a short while just how well
kitted out the place was. High efficiency generators of a design I've never seen. Just enclosed units with no markings besides the Umbrella
logo and brief operating instructions of the near idiot proof variety.

The water had recycle and filtration units also of the enclosed type with much the same logo and markings. Everything that ran the utilities
here was of a step or several above anything I'd seen in the past or present for that matter. The walls surrounding the place likewise, some
form of plastic but bastard hard, solid and very smooth. A clandestine scratch with the blade of my Gerber hardly left a mark I could detect.
It would take Spiderman to get over a wall like this in one go.

The areas beyond the buildings were flattened and marked out in the manner of helicopter landing areas, two of which came in and landed
while I was strolling around. A pair of Augusta Westland Merlin's in RAF livery. Seems this outfit could get whatever was needed and that
sat just fine with me. Some people in the compound immediately appeared and started off loading box upon box of stores, mostly food and
medical supplies as far as I could see so two of the most important things covered.

I was almost done wandering when I heard Chris call my name. He informed me that he'd managed to source all the stuff on the list and it
would be here in a few days. Apparently they really must have had some pull in high places to get it done that quickly but I wasn't going
to question it. I thanked him for it and we talked about the team. I gave them all the thumbs up and said that I had no reservations about
working with them but I'd have to have a private chat with Carlos as he was their leader and I didn't want to start stepping on anyone's toes.

He agreed and seemed happy to leave that to me. He said that everything would be on hold until the stuff I'd put on the list arrived so I
would be left to my own devices for at least a couple of days. He got back to his tasks and I was walking across the area inside the
building perimeter and thinking about dinner when a voice with a southern American accent called out from behind.

I turned as Joanna walked up; she stepped right up to me and slipped her arms around my waist as that lovely smile blossomed on her face.
I placed my arms likewise around hers' though the height difference made my hands ended up just below her shoulder blades but that didn't
seem to bother her. I returned the smile.

"So where've you been hiding me blossom?"

She told me that she had been at work with her friends on cracking more of the Umbrella corp. information they had left behind in their
computers. Sloppy of them to leave that behind I thought, they must have left in a damn hurry. Joanna confirmed they had indeed left in
a big hurry and didn't have time to properly destroy the information they contained, the stuff they were sorting through could take
a while. I told her that stuff was way above me.

"I'm only on my 'Janet and John book of big words' number five so anything above a typewriter or word processor and
that's me out of it.”

She laughed and said she doubted that. I informed her that half the time was spent spell checking stuff due to the size of my fingers
hitting more than one key at a time, which was the norm. She seemed surprised that I had little knowledge of computers and even
more so when I said that email is something I'd heard of but almost never used. I'm still a paper and pen sort of bloke, a closet luddite
if you will. Joanna appeared to wish to resolve that situation as soon as time allowed and I told her she was in for a long job there.
The smile had never left her face, the tone of her voice turned serious but in a pleasant fashion.

"Ah don't mind what I'm doing as long as ah get to spend time with you."


You know, normally I'd be thinking why the hell would this beautiful woman want to spend time with me for but in all honesty, I was
instantly feeling exactly the same way and was somewhat captivated looking in to her lovely eyes. The sound of a polite clearing of
the throat came from behind Joanna and I suddenly noticed two people there. A man was standing and a woman beside him in an electric
wheelchair, the man looked a bit embarrassed but the girl was grinning like the Cheshire cat. She was the first to speak.

"Sooooooo, this is the one who you wouldn't stop gushing about this morning then Jo."

The voice was that soft southern Irish accent that I didn't mind hearing. The girl herself was no slouch in the looks dept. either.
I couldn't tell how tall but surmised no more than five foot five, slender and with a dark complexion and very slight Indian continent facial
features which made the accent a bit of a surprise. All in all though, a quite lovely young lady to be certain and her prominent cheek bones
stood out even more as her mouth turned from grin to very wide smile when Joanna's face flushed at her statement.

The bloke seemed in a turmoil about what to do next and the look of embarrassment went from slight to very. He was about six feet tall
and average build, handsome fella with a firm jaw line, prominent chin, blue grey eyes, ginger hair and an apparent half smirk when
embarrassed. Said smirk had not altered and in fact increased as his embarrassment seemed to grow. He removed the black rimmed
glasses he was wearing and gave the lenses a wipe with a handkerchief that came from an inside pocket in his jacket then placed them
back where they came from.

Joanna collected herself and introduced the two, Carl L. who was the communication specialist and Naimh O' C. who was both
communications and computer in specialisation. As with some Irish names, the pronunciation is different than how it's spelt, the name
'Naimh' is usually pronounced 'Neev'.

I shook hands with both and Naimh seemed to take some amusement in Carl's discomfort. Rescue was required so I spoke up.

"Come on then you lot, let's get some dinner inside us yes?"

Carl agreed in an English accent and off we went to the commissary though Joanna didn't seem of a mood to remove both her arms from
around me just yet so settled for one, I did the same for her as we walked. Naimh moved the little joystick on the arm of the chair
and started rolling; I didn't ask what had happened to get her in it. We reached the palace of scoff and Naimh went to commandeer a table
for us while we got sorted out with the food and drinks. As usual, I loaded up with gusto.

We sat and talked over the ins and outs of what they did and thankfully, the techno speak was kept to a minimum. It was very nice to find
that for as lovely she and Joanna were, they both had a high level of expertise in computers and communications. Suffice to say these two
were the cutest geeks I had ever seen.

Carl didn't say much and I just took this to be his way. He interjected here and there but nothing much above shop talk with what they
were doing. Naimh gave me the third degree, digging for details about me for some strange reason. No matter how many times it had
happened, I never felt the need to talk about myself that much and try as I might; I never found it to be a topic of conversation I
was good at. Not that it stopped Joanna from sliding in comments about my book collection and ability to quote poetry which both of
her friends found surprising.

Thankfully neither of them asked for a rendition of the St Crispin's Day speech from Shakespeare's Henry the Fifth or the like so I was
saved that, even though I could hear the cog wheels stepping up a gear in Naimh's brain. I just kept the 'me' stuff to a minimum and
managed to avoid some of the questions by simply saying there are things I couldn't tell them about my time in the service so that
avoided having to waffle about a good 10 years of my life story which helped.

After about three quarters of an hour, Naimh and Carl made their exit but Joanna seemed to have no intention of moving, apart from
taking the seat opposite me and asking about what Chris and myself had discussed. I kept it light and made no mention of the deal
struck, precise details on that topic was not exactly what I would have considered to be polite table conversation. I told her I had
agreed to help out for however long I was required. She seemed just a little bit unhappy about that and I assumed that what I had said
implied I would only be doing this for a short time.

I felt it would not be forever but it wasn't going to be over with within a few days for certain, this would take a while. I told her this and
it seemed to brighten her up again. I suggested we take a walk, Joanna agreed and we left our seats. I passed by one table where the
Black team were gathered they all said their hellos and waved, Rain looked at me and Joanna, she just smiled and winked at us as
we left the commissary.

Early evening and fairly quiet, Joanna and I just took a walk, seemingly heading nowhere in particular. For some time neither of us spoke,
it just didn't seem necessary. After a while though, I felt I needed to say something to her, mainly to get us to a point where she would
understand exactly my intentions here. I didn't want to lead her on or give her any illusions, she didn't deserve that.

We stopped down by the canal side of the wall, we could talk in private and the chance of attracting any walkers from the sound would be
minimal, not that I think anyone could have heard something like conversation through the material the wall was made from.
She stood with her arms around me and looked up in to my eyes.

"Joanna, what is it you are looking for from me?" I spoke in an honest tone and asked because I was genuinely.
Her answer was spoken in likewise manner.

"Ah don't know, since we first spoke on the radio..." a pause as she seemed to be thinking up the right words. "Ah felt like there was
a connection if that makes any sense, ah liked the sound of your voice and dumb as it may seem, ah liked you just from that."

I thought about this for a few seconds and readily admitted I felt the same thing but couldn't explain it. She told me that she felt a familiar
comfort being with me, the way she put it was that she doesn't know me but she knows me, she couldn't explain that feeling but also felt
that she didn't really care to have it explained right at that time. I had to be honest with her and myself that she had just voiced exactly
how I felt. I told her this.

I had no idea where this was going and had little care about that. I have no idea if anyone has ever felt that way but I did and apparently
she did as well. I wrapped her up in my arms and held her close for a while, it felt like the most natural thing I'd ever done. The sun was
starting to sink below the horizon as the clouds over London turned bright russet to red.

Eventually I took her hand and we started to walk back toward the bunk houses. I opened up to her and spoke with honesty.

"I'll be honest Joanna; my aims are simple in this. I want to get Wesker, make him pay in blood for what he has done then get my
home back. I want to do what I can to make sure this never happens again. Those bastards in Umbrella are responsible and pardon
me if this sounds selfish but I want my home and my life back... or at least as close to how it was as I can get."

She squeezed my hand.

"Ah can understand that, you have a lovely home and ah enjoyed the short time ah spent there.
Wouldn't all mind comin' back to visit someday."

For some reason I resolved to make that happen and the thought made me smile. "And you would be most welcome there me darlin'."

She slipped an arm around me and I reciprocated for the last few yards to the buildings where I assumed most folks slept. We arrived and
she turned to me, stood on tip toe and gave me a brief but very nice last kiss before going to her room. Our eyes locked for a few
moments and she closed the door with a smile as I stood and watched.

I slowly made my way to the team barracks with my brain in high gear, thinking about what was to come and Joanna at the same time
which caused a bit of a thought pile up. I decided on an early night for a change and see what fun and games tomorrow had in store
for me when it gets here.

Rising early next morning, I got some morning exercise in with a few running laps of the perimeter as the sun crept over the horizon.
After a shower and shave, some breakfast was in order and the commissary did not disappoint. The staff manning the food trays had
got the message fairly quickly and my plate was stacked to a little more than what I thought might be standard so good on 'em for
picking that up. The sizable pile of eggs, bacon and toast got a good seeing to.

I sat for a while when Joanna came over with her food and sat opposite, A warm smile radiated from her face as she sat down and looked
at me. Her dress was somewhat different this morning; it looked like a fairly well fitting but non-de script medium blue boiler suit. We got
the usual morning pleasantries out the way then I had to ask if she was pulling double duty as a mechanic.

She laughed and said no, she only had one set of clothing with her and that had to be laundered occasionally, this was the only other thing
she could find. I suppressed the urge to say that turning up for breakfast in her skivvies would have made a few folks drop their tea,
myself included for certain. I thought for a second and decided on a course of action.

"Well then, looks like you could do with a spot of clothes shopping me sweetheart!"

She looked at me and her brow furrowed slightly. "How do you mean Ben?"

I really was starting to like the way she said my name. The way she spoke almost made it sound like my name was spelt B-e-y-n.
I suggested that if she needed some new clothes, we may just as well go and get them if she had the time to spare.

"Ah don' know, ah have a few things can wear but it's not like we can just go pick them up from anywhere here."

She paused seeing my spreading grin and I reminded her that I never leave home without my all-purpose purchasing power. A quizzical
look from her and I mentioned that crowbars are acceptable for shop openings and fast goods pick up everywhere. Joanna appeared
uncertain about that but I also mentioned that I could do with some reading matter from my place, which seemed to do the trick.
She was in tentative agreement but had some things to do first so maybe after lunch if she could convince Chris to let her go.
I simply nodded in her direction.

"It's a date then!" That got a happy smile from her, which was always nice to see.

I cleared it with Chris for me and he was ok about it, he said that Joanna was also good to go as she had several programs running that
would take time to work on the computers that they were trying to crack. Before I went, Chris wanted to show me something just to
make sure I truly knew who and what we were facing. I followed him to the one set of buildings I'd never been in to. A somewhat
grim faced armed guard saw us approaching and opened the door for Chris and me. This building had exterior windows but they were
completely black. Going through the door of the portacabin, I had to stop to take it in a bit.

We were standing in an airlock of sorts, double doors electrically operated led to a small area with what appeared to be a changing room
then in to the main area which we could see clearly through the floor to ceiling glass or plastic panels. He tapped a combination in to the
keypad on the side of the first set of doors. A few clicks, a slight hissing sound and the doors slid open, just wide enough for one person
to go through at a time. I was sincerely hoping we didn't have to leave in a hurry. The whole ground area of this was given over to what
appeared to be a laboratory.

I noticed somewhat uncomfortably what appeared to be a mortician's slab table to one side.
I was getting that 'not going to like this' feeling again.

One person was already working here and she came over to the second set of doors. She hit an unseen switch, the first set of doors closed
and after a slightly uncomfortable few seconds, the second set opened. She looked at us both.

"Morning Chris, this must be Ben?"

Chris introduced the head of their bio research team on site Dr Diane C. Just over five and a half feet tall and possibly early thirties, Long
chestnut brown hair tied back in a ponytail and brown eyes that seemed like they were dilated but the lighting in here was about normal.
A fairly square jaw line made for a serious look and the smile toward me was genuine but faded quickly as she turned to Chris. The white
lab coat seemed to belong to someone else by the way it certainly didn't fit well.

She had an easy-going manner but appeared like she had been burning the candle at both ends with the slight dark lines around her eyes.
She spoke as if in answer to an unasked question in a definite mid-western American accent. Her voice was matter of fact and some of
her fatigue was showing through.

"The preliminary tests are complete; we have evidence of both T and primitive G virus usage. No test subjects remain except one
that we can only assume they hadn't got round to yet. He's dead unfortunately. We have a significant supply of anti-virus though
and after running it through all the tests we have, I rate it as clean and cleared for use should we need it."

I spoke up to ask the doctor a couple of questions; she immediately said to call her Diane so I did.

"Diane, let's assume I know nothing about these viruses and don't have a degree in bio-chemistry, what do those bloody
things do exactly?"

I obviously wasn't the first to ask from her reaction but with good grace, she gave me the bullet point run down. If a human is alive at the
time of T-Virus infection, all higher brain functions are destroyed and who they may have been ceases to exist. This leaves only the
cerebellum, the rear lower part of the brain to govern behaviour. This leaves the infected with a very animalistic behaviour.

As the virus spreads, it damages the hypothalamus which is like the bodies auto pilot. It tells you when you are hungry, tired, thirsty and
the like. This produces a massive flood of natural drugs like hormones that every person has in to their system. These effects, combined
with the painful symptoms of the infection, induce a psychotic rage, persistent hunger, and increased aggressiveness in those infected.

I remembered my first up close encounter with the walker at the boat club so that explained a few things.

She told me that should the human host be unconscious or near death at the time of infection, only the lower brain functions happen.
These functions are responsible for the most primal instincts, such as walking and eating. In either case, their late-stage appearance
and behaviour are the walkers everyone had seen so far.

It can, under certain circumstances, mutate the host through various stages in to a Licker.
I must have looked a bit aghast at this.

"So Diane, these Licker things were once humans, yes?"

Unfortunately she nodded and told me the G Virus is a mutagen of a different breed and somewhat more dangerous. Unlike the T Virus,
this can't be passed via scratch or bite like the T Virus, it needs to be injected and must be made DNA compatible with whatever it is
injected in to. My brain filled in the rest as I looked around. The four large cylinders at the far end caught my eye.

Some form of gleaming metal reaching from floor to ceiling with large clear areas to see what's happening inside. I could see three were
empty but one at the end had some green coloured liquid, the silhouette of a human body floated within, lit by low lights. I walked over,
Chris and Diane remained silent but didn't follow. I ignored all the equipment in here that made it look like a cross between a brewery,
a science lab and fuck knows what.

I looked at the figure in the cylinder; all the readouts for pulse and brain activity were flat lined. The body slowly rotated in the liquid but
the tattoo on the right shoulder stood out. A green dragon over a red rose with the motto underneath "Honi soit qui mal y pense",
from the Anglo-Norman "May he be shamed who thinks badly of it."

The badge and motto for The Princess of Wales Royal Regiment, British Army Infantry. I felt an old feeling come back, one I hadn't
experienced in some time, one I can only describe as a cold fury. Something a few American colleagues had referred to as 'killing angry'
which said it all for me. I am always of the opinion that any soldier knows righteous revenge; I would have that revenge no matter
what it took. Wesker would die by my hand and god help any fucker who got in my way.

I thanked Diane and Chris in flat tone and left the building.

I walked for a while without aim while my mind went over the situation, working tactics, scenarios and details. My anger slowly receded
and was replaced by calculation of steps that would lead to the eventual goal. Granted some of the blanks would get filled in as time went
on and the attitude of patient planning gained ground with me as it always did. In time it would happen by either chance or design but I
resolved that the end goal would not be denied me. In time it would happen and it would happen by playing a game.
My game. Putting him in a position by deliberate action, that king fucking rat was going to dance to my tune alone.

I don't know how long I had been wandering when a voice called my name.

I turned and noticed I had walked up behind the commissary area; Joanna came up to me at a trot with that lovely smile, which faded as
she looked at me with some concern.

"What's wrong Ben?"

I tried to think of an answer that would cover it all but gave up, I put it all in the mental locker marked 'personal to do list' and just shook
my head, mustering up a smile for her.

"Oh, just having a good think about things me gorgeous, the ole noodle can only handle one or two things at a time rattling about
up there ya see. Sometimes I forget to breathe, which can be embarrassing."

I have no idea if she believed me but said nothing; she just put her arms around my waist and rested her chin on my chest looking up in to
my eyes. I don't think I could ever get tired of looking in to those beautiful blue green eyes of hers. Nothing was said for a few seconds.
She looked down and stepped on to my boots to get a couple of inches more height which amused me no end, then with one hand, slowly
drew my head down and gave me a very gentle kiss on the lips. It was soft but charged with affection the like of which I'd never known.

I have never, ever had a kiss of such simplicity but such genuine heartfelt emotion behind it as that. Well I say never, but there was
something about it that felt...familiar.

No woman I'd ever known had kissed me like this before but, dammit, I felt like I had been kissed by this lady before now.
The phrase 'took my breath away' doesn't even begin to cover it.
I was completely lost in this, everything else, all the problems and anger just melted away. I had no idea how long we kissed but I was both
elated and sad when it ended. I leant down and put my arms around her waist and lifted her gently off her feet and held her tightly.
The light laugh followed by the slight groan of pleasure said all it needed as she buried her face in my neck and I did likewise to her.
And the strangest thing is, none of it felt strange.

I simply whispered an inadequate but sincere "Thank you" and let her slide back down on to her feet. More words were not required as
she took my hand and we went to lunch. We must have looked like a couple of love-struck teenagers in the commissary and I couldn't
have cared less. We ate, smiled a great deal at each other then made plans for the trip.

First up was to snag some edible stuff just in case, then a stop at a clothing place for a bit of smash and grab action, then to my gaff for a
while for the reading matter selection. The food was easy to come by, apparently a stash of 24hr MRE packs were still laying around
from the previous occupants so two of them got swiped. Some fresh water was got hold of in two five gallon plastic containers so
all good there.

The Mastiff got a quick look over and headset radios were furnished for us both. I had never seen these things before. They looked like a
set of upmarket headphones but with just a single earpiece designed to hook over the ear and a mike setup that conformed to the cheek of
the person wearing it. This is connected to a small box with a keypad, by a short length of wire.

Joanna was good enough to give me a run-through of the operation and told me this was liberated Umbrella tech. It had a good five mile
range in built up areas and the power had been shown to last upward of six hours on transmit. Many times longer just in idle mode. The
agreed frequency number was just punched in and it operated by an advanced VOX system. Some folks get all the shiny kit to play with,
Umbrella seemed in no shortage of it so why the hell not. I made a visit to the team barracks and asked if there was anything required by
anyone there, a few items like batteries and beer were asked for so that got added to the list.

I grabbed my weapons and loaded everything up, Joanna said her goodbyes to people while I privately assured Chris I'd look after Joanna
and bring her back safe and sound.

"I know you will Ben, one thing though. This isn't the military so...fraternisation with others is not frowned upon here; as long as
the job gets done then I have no objections. Besides, I'll be honest that Joanna seems very happy in your company so that's all good
from my standpoint."

I jokingly told him that while I fully understood what he was saying, in reality I was not an official member of the BSAA. But even if I
was I couldn't have cared less what anyone thought. It was the first time I'd actually seen Chris laugh and he ended by saying that he
was glad we got that cleared up.

He made his goodbyes, Joanna and I climbed in to the Mastiff for our little journey. I considered the best place for clothing of the
female persuasion with a decent variety so off to Oxford Street we went. Joanna seemed somewhat excited by the trip and to be honest,
I shared that perspective.

The Mastiff was good for about 600 miles on full tanks which it had when I left Hounslow Barracks, the gauges had barely moved so I
had no fuel worries. First stop was Esprit clothing in Oxford Street. There were some walkers around but no large groups I was thankful
to see. Seemed like they were getting less fond of daylight as time went on which worked in my favour so I wasn't going to question it.
The journey was uneventful, which was a bonus and we pulled up outside the shop. The central steel shutter was down but the side
ones were up. A few walkers were in the area but no more than three or four close by.

MP5SD at the ready, we got out and I directed Joanna to be ready for the shopping dash. I put a couple of rounds through the side
window and it obligingly collapsed. I then dropped the closest walkers and we both moved in to the quiet darkness of the store.
I motioned Joanna to wait and threw some small change in to the gloom.

It sounded off nicely and after a few seconds, no sound came from anywhere in reply. I still wished I had my furry walker detector but
this would have to do. It would seem that Joanna had a deffo nose for the clothing she liked but I advised that the 'try before you buy'
option was out due to time constraints. Within ten minutes, she was loaded with jeans, shirts, foot gear, some very nice white lacy
underwear which made her blush slightly when I noticed it, and a couple of jackets finished the clothing thing.

Checking the coast was clear and it was clear enough, we got the stuff in the back of the Mastiff, in and away in short order. I looked
at Joanna and she was grinning like a Cheshire cat. This made me laugh and she followed suit, partly from the amusement but it helped
get rid of some nervous energy for us both.

"Ah know ah shouldn't but ah quite enjoyed that!"

Her feeling of excitement was catching and I was happy she was enjoying herself. I swung the Mastiff down Park Lane with only minor
swerves to avoid a few knots of walkers. For no apparent reason, I took a left at Hyde Park Corner and headed up Constitution Hill.
We rounded the Victoria Memorial and I put on a pontificating tone of voice.

"And if you look to our right, you will see Buckingham Palace, locally referred to as Buck House. This is the home of Her Royal
Highness, Queen Elizabeth the Second, not in residence at this time one hopes!"

Joanna had her face glued to the window. "Wow, that's some place! Ah have only ever seen it in pictures."

"Isn't it just sweetheart, I'll see if an invite to the next garden party can be wrangled for your lovely self. How do ya feel about tea
and cucumber sandwiches? With the crusts cut off of course. Never eat 'em meself, cucumber makes me fart like a good 'un!"

She laughed, made a face and slapped me playfully on the arm. "Ben! That is terrible!"

She was still laughing as we passed through Buckingham Gate, round Bressenden Place and in to Vauxhall Bridge Road, I turned right in
to Lupus Street as I knew the location of a decent off license that would furnish the requested drink and batteries. A quick smash and
grab raid later had the required goods and plenty of them stashed in the back and then followed Lupus Street all the way down until it
joined Grosvenor Road and made the final turn to get to my place less than half a mile away which we reached quickly.

As before, I backed the Mastiff in and effectively blocked the back street. I reversed until the rear was almost at the gate to the
yard and stopped.

"And we're here me darlin'." I shut down the engine "Welcome home Joanna!"

I have no idea exactly why I said that. We both looked at each other for a second and I think we both realised just how right that sounded
by the way my spreading smile mirrored hers. The gate was undisturbed and it took three trips but everything we needed and some stuff we
probably didn't was unloaded and in my still secure flat. We had a quick cuddle standing in my bedroom, Joanna smiled broadly and spoke.

"Oh by the way..." She then pulled my head down and whispered in my ear.

"Cucumber does the same to me.."

I think it took a minute or so of embarrassed smiles and giggling for that revelation to pass and then I suggested she go have a seat and I'd
make a cuppa. She said that she'd like some tea as she’d got used to drinking it when she was working in Scotland. I asked what she had
been doing in Scotland, she just smiled and said to make the tea and she would tell me all about it after she got changed in to some new
clothes in the bathroom.

So on that note, I smiled and got busy digging out my field gear with the camping stove. The MRE ration pack thankfully had some tea
bags so they got used immediately, some conversation through the bathroom door about milk and sugar and drinks were served. I locked
the window down in the bedroom at an inch for ventilation, left the radios and my sidearm on the cabinet beside the bed and then
grounded the rest of my combat kit in the living room.

Out of nothing more than habit, I took off my very comfy boots and put on my equally comfy house slippers. I parked up in my big easy
chair and breathed a sigh of relief as I pulled my foot stool over and put my feet up. I had seriously missed my home. I took a goodly
slurp of tea and relaxed in my personal hidey hole from the world and felt truly at peace for the first time in what felt like a
bloody long time.

"So...what do y'all think?"

Joanna was standing at the door to the living room, a hell of a nice sight she was too and with no shortage on fairly sexy style.
Satin black leather high heeled knee length boots, a pair of very snug fitting blue jeans with a figure hugging zip front black leather
waistcoat. It was also apparent by her bare arms that she had excellent muscle tone, just a nice amount of definition and
by no means overly done.

'Well fit' I do believe is an appropriate way to put it. I think it must have been several seconds before I was aware of the very broad
idiot grin on my face.

"I'm terribly sorry darling; I've just forgotten what you asked."

That got a lovely smile from her and she took a few very deliberate slow steps to the middle of the room, which was followed by a slow
pirouette. She repeated the question. I tried to construct a decent sentence with the words 'hot' followed by 'as hell' with 'drop dead sexy'
and 'knockout' in there somewhere, failed dismally so made do with just those words. Her response was quite simple and the voice was
satisfied in manner.

"Oh good, it worked then." The smile had not altered one bit, in fact it was even warmer and more lovely than before if that was possible.
Which it was apparently.

My brain finally got around to moving my arm to indicate to her mug of tea while my eyes didn't move from the beautiful lady before me.
I think my tongue was hanging out too but she made no mention of it. Joanna just laughed and slid in to my lap sideways and I slipped an
arm around her as she settled in to my chest. She shuffled slightly to get comfortable then just said "Nope, that won't work."

Then got up and sat again but astride my lap, facing me. She slipped her arms around my waist and I reciprocated.

"Yeah, that works."

She may not talk much at times, but what an ideas girl. And I fully agreed.

We sat, kissed and cuddled for a very enjoyable while; I think we both felt warm and comfortable right where we were. I was certainly
enjoying the closeness and Joanna was making contented noises so all was well righteous in our little corner of the world. She laid her
head on my shoulder and I gently stroked her hair as a question came back and gently tapped for attention on the inside of my skull.
I asked her again about Scotland and she spoke in a quiet voice but the honestly was palpable.

"Oh yeah, well it started out like this..."

She reminded me that she was raised in an orphanage and when she had grown up, there was her, her 'sister' Kandyse and a fellow called
Andy which more or less made up 'the gang' as she called them. A woman that she just called 'Momma Wisdom' ran it and she was
mother to them all. Joanna, Kandyse and Andy had a close friendship and she openly admitted she had the hots for Andy but he only had
eyes for Kandyse. Between themselves and a few friends, they had considered forming a band, then did so and had done some gigs in the
local area for quite some time and had the beginnings of a fan following.

She however felt that the possible friction between them over the emotional situation led to Joanna making the decision to leave and get a
job elsewhere. She moved to Atlanta and got a job working IT in a bank for a few years, it was her first full time job and she had an
apparent flair for working with computer technology. It was during her work there that she did something, as she described and openly
admitted, incredibly stupid being still young and more than a bit naive.

She didn't go in to details and I didn't press her as this seemed difficult for her to say, I just held her and she continued. After she
was arrested, charged with fraud and given a suspended sentence with probation. She served that and decided that she should leave and
came to the UK searching for work.

An IT and Internet security firm in Scotland took her on and thankfully didn't dig too deep in to her recent past luckily and she was
accepted on a work visa. That was where she met Naimh and Carl, they worked together as the techno bods sorting out problems and
defending systems against hacking. It was after a year and a bit there, she and the others were head hunted for want of a better term,
by the BSAA. They were told they had need of their skills even though they were fully aware of Joanna's past. She, Naimh and Carl
accepted and has been with them ever since.

That was some six months before the London outbreak. She had become very adept at breaking in to systems and decrypting information
so her skills came in very useful for the BSAA.

I asked if she had made any contact with friends and family in New Orleans, she said no to that apart from sending whatever money she
could to the orphanage as her way of helping them. What she had done it seems while working at the bank, was to siphon off all the
smallest fraction of small change, the round up and down to the nearest cent. This she planned to collect and send it to the orphanage
under the mistaken impression that it would never be missed. It was missed fairly quickly however and she believed that she would just
take the fall and not mention the real reason so not to bring the orphanage in to disrepute.

Yes, it was incredibly stupid of her but I could see where she was coming from with the scheme. I could neither congratulate nor condemn
her for it so just let it go without comment. She did honestly ask if that made me think less of her. To be honest it didn't change one
damn thing of how I felt about this lovely lady in my arms and told her so. She appeared to accept that and gave me a squeeze. I'm no
shrink but it seemed to me like she had the habit of running away from personal problems. To take the leave it behind and go elsewhere
option, rather than facing the problem and sorting it out.

I put this to her as delicately as I could and suggested that once all this Umbrella business was done, she take some steps to maybe mend
those bridges, especially with her friends and 'family' as little was more important than that. If she wished it, I would go with her and
help in any way I could. Joanna lifted her head and we looked in to each other's eyes. I could see tears welling up.

"Y'all would do that for me?"

Her voice quivered ever so slightly as she spoke. I simply smiled, gently brushed her cheek with my hand and spoke with honesty and
I hoped, a reassuring tone. My words seemed to come naturally and I meant every one of them with all my heart.

"Just let anyone try and stop me my darling Joanna. Here and now, I give you my word that I will happily do that for you
and we will do it together."

She seemed to think for a moment then just rested her head back on my shoulder.

"Ben, why is it that ah believe in you completely and my heart knows you will? We've really only just met and yet...
ah feel I know you."

I silently asked myself that same question in regard to knowing her, and then gave voice to that.

"I feel I know you too, I can't explain it, but I do." I thought on this for a few seconds then recalled the philosophies of old.

"Well I say 'I can't explain it' but how's this?..."

I told her of the writings of Nietzsche and others about the lives we live and possibly live over again. I mentioned Eternal Recurrence,
the idea that everything, down to the tiniest details has happened before, is happening now and will happen again in precise repetition.

"There are some that hold to that but I'm inclined to go with a different twist that some have suggested. What if that's only correct
of the soul or souls? I'm no philosopher but what if our souls, we two, have done this before? Been together in past lives, known
and maybe been lucky enough to have loved each other."

Joanna appeared to consider this for a while.

"So y'all think we have met in this life because we, our two souls, have been together before are meant to be together now
and in our lives to come?"

I was considering an answer but she spoke first.

"Ah like that, ah like that a lot and it explains it better than ah ever could have."

We held each other tightly for some time but I had to agree with her. All this, the way we were right at that point, felt natural and correct.
I spoke in little more than a whisper to her.

"I have no idea if it's all true but to be honest I hope it is, and I can only hope that I have done right by you in lives past, will do
right by you in this life and all the lives to come."

I wanted her and everything that was the woman she is, that was the only conclusion I could come to. There are times that matters of the
heart were not things I pondered greatly on. I wasn't looking for someone, nor was I not looking. It was something that, like most of my
life was never on my list of things I wanted or indeed, did not want. At heart I am a simple man with simple needs that had been fulfilled.
Sharing my life with someone was just never part of the equation, an option never really considered, until now.

She lifted her head and we gently kissed, I could sense a need from her and it was reflected in the need of her I felt.

"You wait here, I'll go make up the bed."

Without words, she stood and I went to the bedroom. Clean linen was acquired and I changed the bed and quilt cover. The late afternoon
sun streamed through the windows making it quite comfortably warm in the room. I finished and turned, Joanna was already standing
in the doorway.

"Ah couldn't wait."

I looked, smiled and held my arms out to her.

It may have been because of the situation that we found ourselves in; London belonged to the dead with little hope in sight. Maybe we just
needed to let off some steam? I know not but that wasn't how it felt. We didn't have sex, we made love to each other and yes, there is a
difference between the two. A singular intensity; the meeting at that physical and emotional peak where two people become one entity in
the purest sense that cannot be described, it has to be experienced.

We re-learned of each other that afternoon, the passion from each of us and her tears mixed freely as our bodies moved together. I smelled
her new familiar scent and tasted of her as she did with me. Time, situation and surroundings became irrelevant.
It was we, us, together as one.

We rested after, still entwined in each other, no words, gentle caresses were all that was needed. The sun was starting to get low in the sky
but I paid scant attention. The radio bleeped and with the utmost reluctance, we came back to the present. I reached over to the side and
picked it up, placing the headset on, I hit the REC.

A deep breath "Happy Wanderer here, go ahead."

It was Chris asking our situation. I informed him all was well and we were thinking of making a start to head back considering how late it
was, my watch confirmed almost 18:30hrs.

"Walker activity is starting to build Ben; you may have left it a bit late."

"Yeah we may have Chris, Sorry about that." I thought for a second or two then looked at Joanna.

"Well, we're pretty secure here Chris. It would take quite a bit for anything to get in here so I fully believe we are safe. Rain knows
the layout so you can check with her but I reckon we are good to stay here tonight and come back tomorrow morning."

Joanna nodded with an almost pleading look on her face. Chris came back.

"Wait one Ben." There was about 30 seconds of silence during which I gave Joanna a kiss and a reassuring look.

"Ok, Rain confirms so we'll see you tomorrow. You take care of yourselves out there; I can't afford to lose either of you."

I nodded and smiled at Joanna. "Will do Chris; see you and the gang tomorrow morning, Happy Wanderer out."

Joanna let out a breath of relief and settled back on my shoulder as I took the radio off and placed it back on the low chest of drawers
beside the bed. We held each other close; she gave me a gentle squeeze and a light kiss on the neck.

"Thank you Ben."

We were both more than happy to stay exactly where we were.

As the sun set, we rose and used some of the water for a quick wash, then the ration packs were dipped in to and I cooked a meal, slinging
in some of the dried herbs I didn't take to Eel Pie Island helped. Suffice to say it may not have been gourmet cooking but it fed us both.
It didn’t hurt that I had snagged a bottle of rather good Californian red wine and used a few candles I always kept on hand to light the
table as we ate. Strangely ad-hoc romantic but it worked for the both of us.

For that evening and in to the night, there was little conversation. We sat cuddled up in my easy chair and watched the wavering shadows
cast on the walls from the candle flame. The occasional loving kiss and looking deeply in to each other's eyes was the only activity we
engaged in, anything else seemed unnecessary. It felt like a constant communication between us without a word being said.

It was somewhere around midnight when we returned to the bedroom, gently slipped under the duvet and held each other close. Joanna fell
asleep before me but the sound of her steady breathing and the feel of her body close to mine sent me to the land of nod in very contented
fashion quite swiftly.

I dreamt of that grassy field bathed in warm late afternoon sunlight. Joanna and I snuggled up and leaning against the solitary oak tree,
my little angel read Wordsworth as she lay along a low hanging bough. Tranquillity of the purest kind filled me and I awoke with a happy
relaxed feeling.

The current company only added to that and I simply watched as she slept. I listened to her breathing, enjoyed the feel of it against my
chest and the feel of her skin against mine. All good things must end however but this was only a prelude to the life I hoped we'd share
as soon as obstacles to that were removed and they bloody well would be.

Joanna must have woken up but did not open her eyes, A broad smile and contented groan followed by her arms tightening around me.
I did likewise which she seemed to appreciate. After a while she looked at me and we kissed in the same loving fashion as we had behind
the commissary. I whispered a good morning and she said it certainly was.

Sadly we had to move eventually, I checked my watch and it was just a bit past 8am. We had a bit of a wash and brush up then dressed.
I in my now bog standard combat gear. Joanna as yesterday, with the addition of a nice and snug fitting white t-shirt under the waistcoat.
With little talk, we loaded up and were ready to get underway; she called the base and informed them of our arrival time. After some short
conversation Joanna told me that the area was clear to the gate which suited me. She took one last look around and I could tell she was
sad to leave.

"Ah will miss your home Ben."

I smiled and wrapped her up in my arms. A few seconds thought and I made a decision.

"Don't you worry me sweetheart, we'll be back here, in our home, soon enough."

Her face lit up at the 'our home' inference but she said nothing and just gave me a squeeze which was happily returned. We got in the
Mastiff, departed and drove in comfortable silence. I glanced at Joanna occasionally; she had a fixed gentle smile which broadened when
she glanced in my direction.

She had an air of contentment about her which mirrored my own.