Read Apocalypse Empire (Book 1): Apocalypse Origins Online
Authors: R.A. Neely
"It's alright," he said as he turned to face her.
"What's with the lights?"
"I heard a news cast from Shirley O'Hara. She said
those infected people are violent. They were attacked at the station and what
they showed made me think the shotgun was a good idea. I turned everything off
so no one would notice us."
James nodded. "That was good thinking. Where are the
"In the basement. They wanted to go to a friend’s house
with no school but I kept them home when they made that announcement about
staying off the streets this morning."
James nodded again. He knew he could count on Laura. He'd
made sure she knew how to use all of the firearms he kept around the house. His
nearly getting shot just now was proof that had been the right decision. If the
infected had made their way here, James was confident Laura would have kept the
kids safe. They walked into their living room and had seat on the couch.
"That's great, Laura. I was so worried when I realized
what was happening."
Laura laid her head on his shoulder. "I was worried
too. I didn't know what was happening out there." She sat up. "You're
James nodded. "It was pretty bad out there. We pretty
much don't have a police force anymore. I don't know how many officers
survived. The chief is dead, Jeffries too."
"What happened?" Laura asked with concern in her
James spent the next half hour relating the morning's
events. He finished with how Jeffries had drawn off the creatures so he could
get home to them. Laura put her arms around James, tears in her eyes.
James let the tears flow. Now that he was home, it was safe to grieve for a
time. Laura rubbed James on the back as she stood up.
"I'd better check on the kids. Don't want them to get
James nodded. "Alright. I'll be down in a bit."
Laura nodded and headed for the basement. James went to the
bathroom to splash some water on his face. No need to worry the kids by them
seeing him upset. James was about to head for the basement when another thought
brought him up short. Greg. How was he doing with all of this? He couldn't
contact him with the phones down so he had no way of checking on him. He
couldn't leave the house, he had to make sure his family stayed safe. James
headed for his Playstation 4 and fired it up. The phones were down but maybe he
could use the console to send a message. He typed out a quick message and hit
"Hey man, how are you? Things are crazy. Get here
Hopefully Greg was okay and would get the message. If he was
alright, James would feel more confident about this whole thing. He and Greg
had been practicing krav maga toegether for years. He also dragged him down to
the gun range whenever he could. That task complete, he headed to the basement
to be with his family. He didn't know how they were gonna get through all this
but he'd do whatever he needed to do to keep them safe.
Shirley waited until she got the all clear signal and
then sighed in frustration. She was absolutely disgusted with herself. That was
hands down the worst interview she'd ever done in her career. She'd never
been part of something that was so deliberately created to deceive her viewers.
Promote a certain point of view? Sure. Conservative networks printed their view
while liberal networks printed theirs. But this? This was outright lying.
She got it. The powers that be wanted to prevent mass panic. If there were any
chance of getting ahead of this thing, the last thing anyone needed was a bunch
of idiots running around rioting and looting. Shirley stood and began
walking towards her office. A few steps later her cameraman of five years,
Jackson Barnes, met her with a cup of coffee.
Jackson nodded and headed off in the opposite direction.
Shirley discreetly admired him for a few moments. Jackson was a handsome man.
He had this deep voice that nearly made her shiver at times. But that was
something she could never explore. She was a member of the city's elite. She'd
reached her position through a combination of her stellar career and her
engagement to the mayor's son.
He was an up and coming lawyer who would one day follow in
his father's footsteps. He was quite the catch. Keeping her position among the
elite required that certain...expectations be met. Becoming involved with her
ex-con cameraman simply wouldn't do. Even if he had a voice to make a woman go
weak in the knees.
Shirley reached her office and say in her chair. With
Jackson out of sight, her melancholy thoughts returned. The Pendleton
interview. The truth of the matter was that they were dealing with an outbreak.
The mayor knew this already. The interview was simply an attempt to prevent the
populace from panicking.
Being part of the city's elite made her privy to certain
information. She knew that the city's police force couldn't deal with the
outbreak. Help wasn't on the way because those assets were being mobilized to
more critical locations. But, she would be safe. Shirley touched her pants
pocket. There was an invitation inside about the size of an index card. It
granted her access to a shelter in the city. It was stocked with enough items
to support a group of people for weeks. So, she'd be safe, while the city
burned around her.
The guilt was eating her alive. Shirley was by no means an
altruistic person. She'd done her fair share of lying, cheating, and
backstabbing to get where she was. Not that she wasn't capable. She was one of
the best. But getting there meant she'd sometimes had to create...opportunities
for advancement. Her engagement to Jeremy was evidence of that fact. She held
little love for him. He actually had a number of habits that irritated her to
no end. But, he was nice enough. Life with him would be pleasant, if boring.
The important thing though is that marriage to him would allow her to maintain
her lifestyle. She wouldn't be on top forever. When that happened, Jeremy
would take care of her. She'd give him a kid or two and help make his political
career a success. Was that shallow? Maybe. Shirley preferred to think of
herself as practical. She was used to a certain level of comfort. She was
merely taking steps to ensure that comfort wasn't interrupted.
So Shirley wouldn't say she normally cared about the plight
of her fellow man. She did what she needed to survive and she assumed others
did the same. This situation was completely different though. How could she sit
safe while everyone else fought for survival? A knock on her door interrupted
her thoughts. She looked up and saw Jackson standing at the door.
"You alright?" he asked.
"Yea, I'm fine," she replied with a slight smile.
Jackson chuckled. "So staring at a computer monitor for
fifteen minutes is fine?"
Shirley glanced at the clock on her computer. He was right.
Some fifteen minutes had passed since she'd sat down. "Just
"What about? Must be important for you still be sitting
there so long."
Shirley thought. Maybe she couldn't do anything for the city
but she could at least keep Jackson safe. They didn't spend time together
outside of work but they'd been together for years. There was at least some
mutual caring and respect.
"Come in, and close the door."
Jackson raised an eyebrow but complied. After sitting in the
only other chair in the room, he looked at her expectantly.
"So you know the interview earlier?"
Jackson snorted. Of course he knew. He was her cameraman.
"Okay, silly question. But the point is that the
interview was basically the mayor trying to stop the populace from
Jackson sat there unsurprised. Shirley frowned at
him, "You don't looked surprised."
Jackson shrugged. "Doesn't take half a brain to see
that doctor wasn't really saying anything. Plus, the questions you asked
should've tipped off anyone paying attention."
Shirley nodded. "Well what's really going on is that
there is an outbreak. There's way more cases than what Pendleton admitted
"How are they keeping all this quiet?"
"The mayor asked them to."
"How's that work?" he asked.
"My understanding is that cities all across the country
are doing it."
Jackson nodded. "That makes sense. If they're gonna be
able to stop this a panic is the last thing that they need."
Shirley nodded. That was remarkably similar to her thoughts.
"How do you know all this?"
Shirley gestured, drawing attention to her diamond
"Okay, that makes sense. So what happens now? This
can't be what you've been sitting here staring about this whole time."
"It's gonna get bad. I mean really bad. The police
aren't going to be able to stop this. They simply don't have the bodies. So
it's going to spread."
"And once people realize they've been lied to..."
"They'll riot. Add that to the outbreak and I don't
know if our city will recover."
"Alright, this is sad and all but it's not like you can
control any of this."
"The...infected are becoming violent in many
"Some people have died."
Jackson whistled. "Wow. How could you sit on that?
That's like story of the year, easy."
"I was told if I mentioned the extent of the crisis I'd
be out a job." She paused. "Sitting here talking about it though,
maybe that isn't such a big concern."
Jackson nodded. "If it’s as bad as you say, getting out
of the city probably isn't a bad idea."
"Well it's happening everywhere. So where would you
Jackson shrugged. "I'll figure something out. I really
appreciate you telling me all this Shirley."
"Wait. I didn't tell you all this just for you to go
fend for yourself. I want you to come with me."
"Come with you where, Shirley?"
"There's a shelter. It's stocked with food and
supplies. I want you to come with me."
Shirley watched as a calculating look entered Jackson's
eyes. It passed quickly though. Maybe she had imagined it.
"My invitation lets me bring my family."
"I'm not your family, Shirley."
"It doesn't matter. They've accounted for the
Jackson shrugged. "Fair enough. I'll make my own way if
they turn me away."
"So, as far as why I've been sitting here. I feel like
I should've said something during the interview. How many people are going to
die thinking things will be fine in a few days?"
"They did threaten your job."
"Does that really matter if people are dying?"
Jackson shrugged. "Maybe, maybe not. If this gets
cleaned up, maybe you don't want to have bit the hand that feeds you."
"What would you have done?"
Jackson thought for a moment. "I don't know. But I
think it comes down to doing whatever helps you look at yourself in the
"Alright, so-," a series of screams interrupted her.
Shirley's eyes widened in fight.
Moving quickly, Jackson turned off the lights and pulled the
blinds down. A second later he locked the door. He then moved the blind a
fraction and peered out.
"What's -," Jackson held a finger to his lips and
responded in a low whisper. Shirley had to learn forward to hear him.
"It isn't pretty. Looks like some of your sick people
made their way up here." He looked at her. "What are we calling them
by the way? Zombies? No that doesn't work. They're clearly still alive."
Shirley matched her voice level to his. "Well they're
sick, so infected I guess."
Jackson nodded as he looked back out the window. "That
works. Simple, efficient even. So the infected found their way up here and
they're attacking people." A piercing scream punctuated Jackson's
Shirley jumped. She looked at Jackson. How was he taking
this so calmly? He stood there watching this like he was watching a game on
t.v. How is he not freaking out right now?
"What's happening now?"
"One just got bit. Looks like he got lucky."
"How's that lucky?"
"Well, after he got bit the infected shoved him and he
hit his head. Looks like he's unconscious. The lucky part is the infected moved
on to someone else."
"How can you be so calm?" she asked.
Jackson glanced at her before turning back to the window.
"You know that I spent some time in jail?"
"Yes," Shirley replied.
"For now let's just say that jail taught me how to
survive. Panicking isn't gonna help us get out of here."
"How are we going to get out of here?" Strangely,
she found herself drawing strength from Jackson. During their time working
together, she was the one in charge. The roles were reversed now. Jackson was
on charge here but it didn't bother her. She felt he would keep her safe.
"For now we'll wait. Hopefully the infected will move
on once they're done. Then we can head towards your shelter." He left the
window and walked towards her.
"Let's get on the floor," he said as he sat down.
"Less chance of being seen that way."
Shirley nodded and quickly complied. Seeing the fear in her
eyes, Jackson tried to reassure her.
"We'll be fine. No reason to take unnecessary
"Okay. What do we do while we're waiting?"
"Sleep," Jackson replied. At her look he
explained. "I don't know how hard it'll be to get to your shelter. Don't
know when it'll be safe to rest again when we leave here. So for now, we
I guess that makes sense Shirley thought. Shirley removed
her suit jacket and made a pillow out of it. Jackson sat with his back against
her desk and closed his eyes.
"We'll sleep a few hours and then I'll see if the cost
Shirley opened her eyes. For a split second, she thought she
was walking up like on any other typical day. Then she wondered why the ceiling
looked different. A moment later, all her memories came crashing back. She sat
up with a sigh of disappointment. Was it too much to ask that all this has just
been a crazy dream? That she was at this moment actually in her king size bed
Shirley looked around and saw Jackson standing at the
window. Was the cost clear? She'd be happy to be on her way out of here.
"Is it safe to leave?" she asked in a low voice.
Jackson shook his head. "Not yet," he replied in
"There's still one out there that I can see,"he said
moving towards her.
"Is it leaving?"
Jackson shrugged. "We might be able to sneak past it.
I'd rather not fight it without some kind of weapon if I can help it."
Shirley nodded. That made sense. She was completely reliant
on Jackson for her safety right now. If he wasn't ready then she wasn't budging
until he said so. She'd probably have been caught up in that initial attack if
he hadn't been in her office. She could imagine herself opening her door to see
what was happening and that would have been that.
"I did see something interesting though," he said.
"Remember the guy who got knocked out earlier?"
"Yes. You said he was lucky because the infected left
Jackson nodded. "Turns out he wasn't lucky. Looks like
he's one of them now."
"What?" Shirley asked, a bit louder than she'd
Jackson held up a finger for silence. He moved back to the
window and peered out. The infected was on its feet and shuffling around the
room. Looks like it hadn't heard them.
Jackson left the window and returned to Shirley's side.
"Didn't hear us," he said quietly.
Shirley hung her head in embarrassment. "Sorry,"
she said in a low voice.
Jackson shook his head. "We're fine. But like I was
saying, he's moving around like the ones that attacked.
"How can that be possible?"
"How can people be running around acting like
animals?" he asked with a shrug.
Carol nodded. "Point taken."
"Might be the bite though. Everyone else attacked is
still on the ground. He was the only one that survived an attack as far as I
"Are you sure it's the bite?" she asked.
"What if it's airborne or something?"
"Were already in trouble if it's airborne." At her
look he explained further. "If it's airborne we've already been exposed or
probably will be when we leave this office."
Shirley nodded her understanding.
"We'll wait a few more minutes and then try to get out
of here," Jackson said.
"What about the infected?"
"If it doesn't leave we'll just have to try our luck.
We can't stay in forever. We don't have any food or water."
Shirley nodded. "Alright. I'm ready when you are."
Jackson nodded and they spent the next few minutes in a
companionable silence. After around fifteen minutes the creature still hadn't
left the room and Jackson decided it was time to act.