"This is Unit 1 of squad J-14," Unit 1 said into the microphone built into his helmet, "We're requesting immediate evacuation from Tehran. We need to have more squads to defeat the zombies and a hit squad for a being known as The Dark Shadow. Get in touch with the English Sanctuary and see what they know. Maybe bring in some of them. Spectre has said all of his squad has been destroyed and Unit 2 of our squad is down. We need assistance. Over."
"Roger that Unit 1," was the reply from England, "We will send helicopters and a hit squad immediately. Just remain in your current location."
"Negative," Unit 1 said, "We need to keep moving."
"We will send assistance to your location - make sure you're there in about five hours."
He cut the connection.
"Ok," Unit 2 said, "So we have five hours with that creature around. Should be easy, right?"
"Not if it's hunting us," Tara pointed out, "It knows we exist. The best thing we can do is just keep moving, like Unit 1 said."
"We should get going," Unit 1 responded, "We need to make the most of the daylight. It has a weakness to light so won't be able to come out. We need to scout around, kill every zombie we see and make it back here in five hours."
"How much ammo do you have?" Unit 2 asked, "I'm running low on my M4."
"Same," said Unit 1. Unit 4 nodded too, "We'll have to switch to our sidearms soon. Take Tara's shotgun, it has lots of ammunition and it'll take a while before we run out."
Unit 2 grabbed the shotgun, broke it and then fitted ammunition into the barrels. He clicked it back into place, fully loaded.
"Let's go," said Unit 1.
The zombies had moved since the night before. There were many more of them on the streets but they only took a short amount of time to dispatch, especially with the shotgun which was rather powerful and one round to the head took out about three zombies, if aimed right.
There was definitely something weird happening. The zombies were much faster than normal and their diseased bodies were running at about normal human pace. Their eyes were glowing a black colour.
"It's like what they were doing when The Dark Shadow was about," Unit 2 said.
"Keep your eyes open, and shoot it on sight," Unit 1 pointed out, "It is dangerous - trust me."
"It sounds it," Tara responded, "It sounds like the thing that was chasing me."
"Why would it be after you?" Unit 2 asked, "You're just normal. There's no reason..."
Tara shrugged, "I don't know."
A zombie screached and ran towards them. It had its arms outstretched and muscles clenched, as if it was ready to kill them. Unit 4 took out his pistol and shot it in the head, twice. It dropped at their feet.
"We need a mode of transport," Unit 1 said, "Who is the best driver?"
"Hey, I know it sounds weird," said Unit 2, "But Unit 4 is one hell of a driver. I saw him during the course. He holds the SOS record for the track - and he did it in his own car instead of one of the Vauxhalls. What is it you have... a 1980 VW Scirocco?"
Unit 4 nodded.
"And what is the top speed, 89mph?"
"See? He managed to beat the record in that - no offense - crap car, when the rest of us had decent ones. He should drive."
"Anyone object to Unit 4 driving?"
No one said anything.
"Congratulations 4, you can drive us around. Any choice in car? There are plenty around here."
Unit 4 studied the parked cars carefully. There were several sports cars - they were in a rather rich part of Tehran - but they wouldn't be good. They only had two seats.
Then he found a perfect one. A black BMW M5. He pointed to it.
"And now we have a car," Tara said, "Great."
Unit 1 took the square device out of his pocket. He aimed the circle on the side at the BMW then clicked a button on the top.
The doors unlocked themselves and the engine started rumbling.
"Ok, everyone in."
Unit 4 managed to navigate around every single zombie stood in the road at a speed of about sixty miles per hour. Like Unit 2 had pointed out, he was an amazing driver. He handled the steering wheel with expert precision and the BMW flowed around the street corners as if its natural state was to turn.
Unit 1 was sat in the passenger's seat and the rest filled up the back. They all had their weapons ready.
They passed underneath a large dusty-white skyscraper. Unit 2 looked out of the back window.
"Uh, guys..." Unit 2 said.
"What?" Unit 1 responded curiously.
"The building is kind of... collapsing. 4, go faster!"
Unit 4 stamped on the accelerator and the car started speeding down the road. There was a groaning noise as the reinforced concrete structure began to fall. Bricks and other debris were falling from it. Luckily the supports were only gone from one side, so it was falling rather slowly due to the fact the other two supporters were putting up a good fight from the other side.
They, however, could not cope.
The building finally gave away. It collapsed on to the road just behind them in the BMW with a very loud bang. Most of the building shattered upon impact. Glass smashed, bricks were crushed and a large cloud of dust was kicked up into the atmosphere.
"Nice driving, 4," Unit 1 said, "I wonder what the fuck that was."
"Uh, guys..." said Unit 2 again, "We need to leave. Now."
Tara looked out of the back window. A large, twisting cloud of black shadow was creeping towards them, hovering about ten metres above the ground.
"Go!" she yelled as The Dark Shadow set off in hot pursuit. Unit 4 pressed his foot down on the accelerator and the wheels spun, making a small cloud of smoke before the car jetted forward.
4 twisted the steering wheel left and right to avoid several zombies in the middle of the road.
The shadow was catching up to them.
Unit 2 wound down his window and started shooting at the shadow with his M4. It still didn't slow down. In fact, it was catching up to them.
His gun clicked empty.
"Right. That's it. I'm out of bullets in my rifle," 2 pointed out, drawing his pistol from its holster.
The shadow swooped down so the lower half of it was touching the road.
"It must have adapted!" Tara shouted above the roaring engine, "It couldn't survive in light! It's midday! Something must have changed!"
Unit 2 started firing bullets from his pistol.
4 spun the steering wheel to the right and took a ninety degree corner at about a hundred and sixty miles per hour. The wheels screached in protest but he kept the BMW under control. Not even the rear end of it skidded out of line.
The shadow still followed. The first tendrils of smoke attached themselves to the back of the BMW. This prompted Unit 2 to ditch his pistol once it clicked empty and began firing the MP5A3 in short bursts. All the bullets hit their target, though none did any damage.
"It's got on to the car!" Tara shouted.
Unit 4 stepped on the brake. The car did an emergency stop, slowing down from around a hundred and fifty to zero in a matter of metres. They were all thrown forward - including The Dark Shadow. It was flung over the top of the car and landed on the road.
"Ha! Nice one!" Unit 1 pointed out, as 4 turned a corner and pushed his foot all the way down on the accelerator again, after changing gear back to first.
The shadow seemed to recover as soon as they had turned the corner and flew after them.
"It's still after us," Unit 2 pointed out, reloading his pistol.
It was moving a lot faster than they were.
Unit 4 turned another corner at such a speed that not even he could fully control the BMW. The back end swung outwards and bounced off the corner of a building. It took a large chunk out of the concrete, and also the body work. 4 lost control. He tried to steady the car with a twist of a steering wheel but he had to brake to avoid colliding with a street light. He turned the wheel in the opposite direction so the BMW skidded to a halt.
He changed gear back to first again and pushed his foot down on the accelerator. But he was too slow. The shadow latched on to the back of the car and the black smoke started dissipating, becoming more solid and tendril-like.
A large blob of shadow smashed through the back window. Unit 4 tried to shake it off but didn't manage to. He changed gear and the car's engine lowered in pitch in appreciation.
The shadow attached itself to Unit 2's helmet. 2 tried to pull himself away but it was too strong. He was yanked out of the back window and was enveloped by The Dark Shadow.
"Bloody son of a..." Unit 1 yelled. He smashed the window with the muzzle of his M4 and started shooting. Unit 4 swung the car around a corner, slightly too wide. But he had meant to do that.
The shadow, still attached to the car, was sling-shotted into a shop. Unit 2 became visible and landed just next to the car in a heap.
Unit 1 opened his door and ran over to Unit 2. His helmet was cracked slightly and his feet were gone. All that was left was his legs and two bloody stumps, where white bone protruded.
Luckily he was unconscious.
The shadow leaped out of the shop, fully formed. Its triangular white eyes were creased into a snarl. Unit 1 opened the back door and put Unit 2 next to Tara. He shut the back door then opened the front and climbed back into the BMW.
Unit 4 made the car speed off down the road. But he was too slow, yet again. The Dark Shadow had attached itself to Tara's door.
"Helloooooo," it hissed at her, "I've been searching for you for a long timeeee."
"Catch!" Unit 1 shouted, throwing her the shotgun she had been found with. She caught it, swung it around and pulled the trigger. The recoil made the gun hit the roof and she ended up hitting herself in the face. But it had the desired effect. The Dark Shadow's face was torn up by the shotgun round and it screached, but didn't let go of the BMW. The tendrils of shadow wrapped themselves together again on its face.
Tara screamed as it flung the door off and reached for her with a razor sharp shadow.
Unit 4 opened his door as he swung the car around a corner. The metal hit The Dark Shadow and knocked it off-balance, meaning the shadow only sliced a shallow cut on her cheek instead of ripping her head in half.
"Ahhhhhh," it said with a sharp grin, "Unit 4, the silent oneeeee."
"On my count, jump!" said Unit 1 to Tara and 4. They both nodded in response.
The shadow hit Unit 4 in the head with a wall of darkness. It didn't seem to have any effect, though. The helmet absorbed almost all of the impact.
He swung the BMW around a corner and braked slightly to slow the car down to thirty miles per hour.
1 opened Unit 2's door and swung him out.
Then, Unit 1 and Tara opened their doors and leaped out. They landed on the road, rolling slightly before coming to a stop.
Unit 4 hoped Tara wasn't injured. He didn't jump, however. He had an idea.
Instead of slowing down, he increased the speed of the BMW. The Dark Shadow leaped on to the front of a car and screamed at him. 4 drew his pistol, and fired twice.
The first hit the shadow in the face, making it jerk back slightly. The second he hit the hinge on his open door and he jumped out.
The car door fell off as he did. Unit 4 landed on it on his stomach. Sparks flew as it slid down the road.
The BMW crashed into a telegraph pole. The Dark Shadow was still stuck on the front as the metal was crushed and shadows were scattered everywhere. As Unit 4 came to a stop, he heard a scream from the shadow as its body became more damaged than even the car.
Unit 1 and Tara jogged up to him. He climbed off the door and noticed that Unit 1 was carrying the severely injured Unit 2.
"Woah," said Unit 1, "That was A-Team shit right there."
Unit 4 cocked his head, not understanding the reference.
"Get into a flanking formation. We need to surround the shadow," Unit 1 said, laying Unit 2 down against a building then raising his rifle. Unit 4 nodded and raised his, too.
They advanced towards the ruined car. Smoke was billowing out of the engine and the shadow seemed to be stuck between the car and the post, despite the fact they were touching. It wasn't moving. Its head was resting against the front of the car.
"I think," Unit 1 said, "I think you've just killed it."
They moved either side of the fallen shadow. Still, it did not move.
Unit 1 put a bullet in its head. It flinched from the impact of the bullet and still it did not move a muscle. 1 stepped closer towards it, drew his knife and slammed it into the back of its head.
"See? Well done, it's-"
A thin disk of shadows sliced across Unit 1's chest. The kevlar body armour did nothing to stop it. He was practically sliced in half.
Tara screamed and Unit 4 sprinted away from it. Shadows swirled around the wreck of the BMW and it was thrown at them. He grabbed Tara and threw both of them to the side as the car hit the road and rolled past them, scattering pieces of metal everywhere.
Unit 4 began firing his rifle as they backed towards Unit 2, who looked to be waking up. There was a groaning noise from behind them.
Not made by Unit 2.
Made by a zombie.
Unit 4 spun and shot the zombie in the head. It didn't fall. It continued its course towards Unit 2.
It grasped 2's head with a diseased hand and sank its teeth into his neck.
"If you think you're going to kill me and get away with it," Unit 2 managed to say, gritting his teeth from the pain, "You've got another thing coming."
He moved his hand from behind his back. The string of grenades that were normally around his belt were in his hands, all with the pins taken out.
"Tell my wife I love her," he added, twisting his head to Unit 4.
4 nodded. Tara started crying.
The grenades exploded. The street was consumed by a ball of flames.
Unit 4 was temporarily distracted. But he would save mourning for later. If there was a later. The Dark Shadow was moving towards them, along with some zombies down the street. He began firing again, keeping Tara behind him.
Neither the zombies or The Dark Shadow slowed down.
Tara tugged on his sleeve, "There's an alley. Come on!"
When his gun clicked empty, he threw it at a zombie then ran with Tara down the alley she had seen. Unit 4 drew his MP5 and sprayed down the alleyway with bullets.
Zombies were coming from the other end of the alley, too.
"Oh shit," Tara said, "A shop. Come on!"
She dragged Unit 4 into a shop that was down the alley. He didn't have time to check what it was for. He smashed the window with his gun and swung himself over, clearing the remaining shards of broken glass with his armour. He helped Tara through as the zombies spilled into the shop.
Unit 4 dropped to one knee and began firing at the zombies who climbed through the glass. None of them fell, despite being littered with bullet holes.
He had to retreat back a couple of steps.
"There's no easy way to say this but..." Tara said, "I'm a mage."
Unit 4 cocked his head, but didn't stop firing his MP5A3.
"I can give or take away people's magic!" she continued, "I'm going to give you telepathic and telekinetic powers. Can't give you more than that or you'll die."
Unit 4 nodded.
Tara raised her hand and he felt a buzzing within his skin as he gained magic.
I wonder how this is supposed to work... he thought.
"Just think of something moving and it'll move. Oh, and you can talk to people. Not through your lips, but through your mind. I thought it would be helpful for you," came the reply from Tara.
If I die, Unit 4 said to her in his mind, I want you to know that I love you.
"I love you too," Tara responded with a slight smile, kissing the back of his helmet.
Unit 1 made a zombie's head explode. Which worked. The zombie fell on to the floor, dead. He moved a fridge into the path of the window using his mind, just as The Dark Shadow appeared inside the shop.
He held up his hand and a barrier of telekinetic energy held the shadow back.
Any ideas? he said to Tara.
"There must be a back entrance somewhere," she pointed out, "If you hold them off, I'll go look for one. And I'll call you if I find anything."
Ok, be careful.
She ran to the back of the shop as he concentrated on the energy. The Dark Shadow stuck a tendril of shadow through it and it dissipated into the air.
He made the broken shards of glass from the window spread across the room like thousands of tiny spears. Unit 4 backed away from The Dark Shadow that was grinning at him as it moved slowly closer towards him.
"There's a back door!" shouted Tara, "Come on!"
He sprinted out of the door. His MP5 was nearly out of bullets so he let go of it and swapped it with his pistol. Tara held the door open for him, but he let her go first before slamming the door shut behind him and placing a grenade just outside the door, without taking out the pin.
A zombie barged through it just after them, and he fired his pistol. The bullet hit the grenade and it exploded, taking part of the shop with it.
There was a soft thumping sound. It sounded like quick footsteps on the ground. He spun and fired two more shots from his pistol, but continued running.
They turned a corner, then stopped.
In fact, they smiled.
The Dark Shadow flitted after them around a corner. They were stood, unmoving. They looked to be breathing heavily - they had run out of breath.
"You should have been more fitttt," it hissed at them. They turned towards it and the horde of zombies that were following and filled the road.
"And you, Shadow, should have not killed my friends," Unit 4 said... but that was impossible. He couldn't speak.
"Get down on the ground!" yelled a voice as a thumping noise became audiable. Four helicopters appeared above the shadow, all shining down harsh white lights.
It winced, despite itself. Its adapatation was not fully complete.
Lots of soldiers slid down ropes from the helicopter and all raised their rifles.
More SOS soldiers. It was surrounded.
But he could take them all on at once. There weren't that many.
Or maybe there was.
The buildings surrounding the road all contained soldiers and mages. The zombies were suddenly dispatched quickly by an Apache that swung itself around overhead and blasted them all to hell with its rotating machine guns.
Mages closed in on it, fireballs in their hands and energy flowing at their fingertips. Armoured jeeps pulled up and so did a Challenger 2 battle tank. There must have been at least three hundred soldiers and maybe a hundred mages.
Too many, even for it to handle.
Its shadowy hands were forced behind its back and magical handcuffs were clicked in place. It could no longer control the shadows or anything of the sort. It was powerless.
The soldiers, apart from the snipers on top of the buildings, all flowed down on to the street. They were in perfect attack formation and were ready to fire at a single opressive movement. And bullets, after all, could now harm it.
Red dots from snipers covered its body and hundreds of Apaches flew overhead. More tanks rumbled and joined the large group of soldiers and vehicles that surrounded it. It was well and truly beaten.
"And," Unit 4 said, "This is only half of it."
F-22 Raptors flew overhead, chinooks hovered high in the sky and armoured vehicles roamed the streets. Gunshots could be heard as the SOS soldiers dealt effortlessly with the remaining zombies. More soldiers HALO jumped in from large cargo planes and normal helicopters covered the sky.
The Dark Shadow was loaded into the back of a large, armoured transit van. From experience, Unit 4 knew that it had reactive armour from tanks, a very powerful engine, bullet proof glass and run-flat tyres.
And the shadow would be surrounded all the time by the mages.
There was no way it could escape.
Tara hugged Unit 4 tightly as it disappeared from view.
"You have no idea how glad I am that's over..." she said softly.
I'm glad too. But... I have no friends anymore.
"I think I have a friend who can solve that," she said with a slight smile.
Extract from Unit 4's diary:
All in all, the mission in Tehran was a success. It had been the largest military operation in peace-time and Tehran has been pretty much levelled.
Tara is amazing. She's funny and kind and wonderful and I'm so glad I can actually talk to her now. We are, officially, a couple. I took her to a restaurant and we had a meal and all sorts.
And I do have friends.
The same friends I've had for five years. Unit 1, 2 and 3.
They died. They had definitely died. But a mage who could control souls was present during the operation. And Tara gave me the best present I could wish for.
It was too late for full reconstruction. It had to be just after they died for the mage to be able to recreate their bodies and bring them back to life. So it was a soul reconstruction.
And they're in my mind.
Unit 1, 2, and 3 are in my mind. I can hear them, I can talk to them, and they can talk to each other.
You have no idea how happy I am.
Not only that, but Tara has given my car magic. She's given it a personality. She knew my dream after reading my diary and thought it would help. The car, which said it was called Scirri, gave me advice on how to make it faster.
Its top speed was 89mph. Now it's closer to three hundred. Thanks to an upgraded engine, nitrous oxide that activates with every time I change gear for a few seconds and other things I've done.
I'm going to enter Scirri for a street race, and try and build myself a reputation. Fufill my dream.
Unit 4 pulled up in Scirri at the location of the magical street race that was about to begin. Nine cars were lined up down a road - there was a mix of everything. He could see several ferraris, a couple of BMWs and an Aston Martin.
Then there was him in his red 1980 VW Scirocco. The engine made a high pitched whine, that made Scirri seem like a pile of crap in comparison to the roaring Ferraris.
Let's show them what we've got, ok? he said to Scirri via their telepathic link.
I'm ready, Scirri replied.
He steered the Scirocco on to the starting line. The people who were watching sniggered when seeing his rather old car.
"Hey, take that back to the junkyard mate," a mage said.
Don't let them put you off, he told Scirri.
So Scirri sent a jet of nitrous oxide into the engine and the exhaust suddenly flamed blue, clearing mages from behind them and probably earning himself some respect from the process. It also made the engine sound quite a lot louder.
"Alright," said the person who was organising the race, "Have it a 'clean' race, no magic apart from what is in the cars and no violence. Three, two, one..."
A checkered flag suddenly materialised in his hand. He swung it and Unit 4 pressed down on the accelerator.
Scirri roared and blue flames jetted out from the exhaust as nitrous oxide increased the amount of energy the engine gave out. The cars flew off the starting line, all level and all equal.
But Scirri started to pull away.
Come on Scirri, he urged, changing gear, sending another burst of nitrous oxide into the engine and making the old car get further in front of the Ferraris.
A corner was coming up. He shifted down a gear, braked slightly and then placed his foot on the accelerator. The back end of Scirri swung wide around the corner in a slight drift.
Only half a mile more to go.
He heard the crowd cheering as he accelerated up to 200mph. The other cars were left behind, and still Scirri accelerated. Two hundred and fifty, two hundred and sixty...
Unit 4 pushed the nitrous oxide button on his dashboard and a continuous blue flame spurted out of the exhaust pipe as he raced over the finish line.
He braked and slid the car to a halt.
"Hey," he heard a mage say, "Let's call that guy Nitro. He's awesome!"
"Crappy car, good driver!" agreed his friend.
Scirri's bonnet swung open.
Uh... I don't think that's a good idea.
Scirri squirted a gush of oil out of the engine that hit the mage who disliked her and soaked his clothes and face. The oil lasted for a few seconds then Scirri cut it out.
The mage didn't look happy, but his friend laughed.
The other cars appeared at the finish line a couple of seconds later.
So, this is our first win Scirri. Didn't they say the reward was £10,000?
They did. We're rich Scirri pointed out.
Do you want to be involved in more races?
Of course, it's fun.
"Congratulations to Max and Scirri!" someone announced. He had made the name up. His real name wasn't Max. He just didn't want anyone to know his real one.
He smiled inside his racing helmet as a bundle of cash was pushed in through the window, despite the fact there was bullet proof glass in between. It must have been someone who could walk through walls.
The money landed on the passenger's seat.
Just so you know, this is the car Unit 4 has: