Apocalypse Empire (Book 1): Apocalypse Origins (9 page)

BOOK: Apocalypse Empire (Book 1): Apocalypse Origins
3.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Shirley frowned as she considered his words. "The
military has better gear. Surely they can deal with the infected."

James shook his head again. "Look, take Emerald Falls.
If just ten percent of that two hundred thousand turns, how many is that?"

Shirley paused to do that math in her head. "That's
what, twenty thousand?"

Jackson nodded. "And that's just Emerald Falls. What
about the larger cities? There's not gonna be any stopping this outbreak. Not
man to man anyway. Maybe they'll bomb some cities to contain it. Maybe that
would work. But that doesn't help us. Either we die to the infected or we die
along with them if the government bombs the city."

"What do we do then?"

"We're gonna need to get outta the city at some
point," Jackson said. "Between the infected and the people, it's not
gonna be safe."

"When should we go?" Shirley asked. If you had
asked her a few hours ago if she'd throw her lot in with someone, she'd have
laughed in their face. She trusted Jackson though. He'd already proved he could
keep her safe. If he felt they needed leave, then that's what they needed to

"We'll give it a day or two," Jackson replied.
"We need food and rest. I also want to see if I can get my hands on a
better weapon at some point. Stay ready though. Sleep with your shoes on."

Shirley raised an eyebrow. "Why on earth would I sleep
with my shoes on?"

"We might have to leave suddenly," Jackson
replied. "If it happens that way, the last thing you want is to have and stop
and worry about your shoes."

"I'm in trouble if we have to much running," she
said indicating her heels.

"Give them here," Jackson said. Shirley frowned
but handed the shoes over. Jackson quickly broke the heel off of each shoe and
handed them back.

Shirley chuckled. "A few hours ago that would've pissed
me off. But I guess that makes sense."

Jackson smiled. "You're welcome. When we do leave,
we'll try and hit a store and get us both some better gear. We're not gonna get
far with what we've got."

Shirley nodded. "I think there's a Rick's Sporting
Goods not too far from here. A few blocks maybe."

"That'll be our first stop then. We'll need better
clothes. Tents and such too."

"Alright. That's our plan then."

Jackson nodded. "Will you be okay here? I wanna look
around. See if I can't find another exit out of here. I don't trust those
guards and their rifles."

"You think there's another way out of here?"

"Should be. Don't see them putting in an elevator
without there also being a stairwell."

Shirley nodded. "Okay, I think I'll get some rest until
they feed us. Didn't sleep all that well on the floor earlier."

Jackson nodded. "True. Not a bad idea. Don't know when
we'll see a real bed again."

Shirley shivered at the thought. She'd do what she needed to
survive but the thought of not sleeping in a bed made the city girl in her
scream in protest. Jackson chuckled at the look or her face.

"You'll manage."

"I know," Shirley replied, "doesn't mean I
have to like the thought of not sleeping in a bed."

Jackson smiled. "Fair enough. Alright, I'm gonna go
look around. See you in a bit."

Shirley nodded and laid down. She was asleep before her head
hit the pillow. It felt like only a few minutes had passed when she felt
someone shaking her awake. Opening her eyes, she saw Jackson sitting next to
her on the bed.

"Hey," he said. "It's nearly six so they're
about to hand out the rations."

"Alright," Shirley said as she stretched in the
bed. "Did you get some sleep?"

Jackson nodded. "I did. Also found what I was looking

Shirley nodded. He must be referring to the stairs.
"Good," she replied.

"It's guarded but we'll deal with that when the time

"Okay. Where is it?"

"It's just past the bathroom area."

"Alright. Let me up. I could eat a horse."

Jackson chuckled and moved out of the way so she could get
up. They headed towards the common area and got in line. At the end of the line
there were two guards that were handing out a small box to each person. They
waited for their turn and found a table to themselves. They opened their boxes
and saw a sandwich along with an apple and some potato chips. Normally, they
might not find such fare appealing but they each dug in and were done in

"Is that all?" Shirley asked sadly.

Jackson shrugged. "Better than nothing I suppose."

"I'm still hungry though."

Jackson nodded. "You and me both."

"Shirley! You made it!"

Shirley turned to see her fiancé, Jeremy Dunst, heading
towards her. She stood up to greet him and he swept her up in a fierce hug.
"I''d feared the worse when I couldn't reach you on your cell," he
whispered in her ear.

"I'm okay, Jeremy," she said as she hugged him
back. "Jackson kept me safe."

Jeremy looked over at Jackson who had been looking away to
give them some semblance of privacy. "Thank you, Jackson. I owe you a debt
I can never repay."

Jackson shrugged. "I wouldn't let anything happen to
her. Besides, don't think I'd be here if not for her so we helped each other in
the end."

"Still," Jeremy said, "it had to be rough
getting here."

"Nothing I couldn't handle," Jackson said with a
small smile.

Jeremy looked back to Shirley. "Everything will be okay
now, you'll see. The government will be here soon and everything will go back
to normal."

Shirley smiled. "I sure hope so. Today was pretty

"Tell me about it," Jeremy said. He led her away
from the common area so they could talk. As they left, Shirley glanced back
towards Jackson and he nodded in response. Reassured, she let herself be led



Henry: Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta, Georgia


Henry sat at his desk with a glass of whiskey in his hand.
Another drink or two and he should be at that place where thoughts didn't
happen anymore. He wasn't sure he could live with himself. He had
deliberately lied about the severity of the crisis in that interview this
morning. By the time he had taken the interview he had known a few crucial
things about the virus.

The first was that there would never be a cure. Tests on
subjects brought in by the army had shown this. Further testing since the interview
had confirmed it. The virus induced a virulent fever that severely damaged
the higher functions of the brain. Speech, problem solving, and so on were all

The virus was a work of art in a way. Fevers of over one hundred
and seven degrees could easily be fatal if medical treatment wasn't provided in
a timely manner. The virus somehow induced a fever, but only long enough to
kill higher brain functions. The victim survived, but everything that made that
person who they were was burned away.

Autonomic functions remained intact. Subjects could breathe
and take sustenance without issue. The subjects were extremely aggressive.
Strangely though, they didn't attack other people that were
infected. They'd learned this first hand. One of his techs had been
unlucky enough to get bit by one of the first subjects the army had brought
him. When he showed signs of infection, he'd been placed in the same room with
the first subject. They hadn't attacked each other.

Henry mourned the loss of his tech. What his name? Harry?
No. Gary Wilks. He'd been a dependable worker but his loss did reveal some
important information. The time from infection to loss of higher brain function
took approximately two hours. Further, it seemed a bite is what spread the
virus. Another tech had gotten infected blood on him in that first incident but
wasn't showing signs of infection. He was currently quarantined for safety
but it was probably safe since he hasn't shown signs of infection yet. He'd give
the order to let him out in the morning. He took another sip of his whiskey.

A cure wouldn't serve much purpose. The loss of higher brain
function meant that the subject was dead for all intents and purposes. Even if
he developed a cure, there'd be nothing but a vegetable left. The subject could
eat, sleep, and eliminate waste, but that would be it. But this isn't what
had him drinking. He'd lied on that interview today. The infection would
spread. People would starve you to death in their homes waiting for help that
would never come. That's would perhaps be a blessing though. The unlucky would
survive an attack from the infected and then join their ranks. Perhaps they
would even attack their loved ones.

If he'd said something, people would at least know that needed
to protect themselves. Part of him said it wasn't his fault. After all, the
army had told him revealing that information would be considered treason. But,
was that just cowardice in disguise? I'd he'd been brave enough maybe some
people could have prepared themselves for what was coming.

On the other hand, he was in a position to make a
difference. Telling the country the truth might have assuaged his conscious,
but he would have been removed from the project. The truth of the matter was
that someone else could easily get it wrong. That wasn't arrogant. Henry was
the best in his field. If any solution could be found, well he was the one to
do it. 

He accepted that intellectually. The guilt however, wouldn't
release its grip. He writes his empty glass. At least not without some
assistance. One, maybe two more and the guilt would be gone, is only for a
little while.

The sound of his door opening ended his dark reverie.
Looking up he saw Captain Nick Jacobson in the first, a look of duty on his

"What are you doing?" he demanded striding into
the room.

"Just having a drink," Henry replied, his voice
slurred from the drink.

Nick crossed the remaining distance and knocked the glass
from his hand. He leaned over the doctor, his hand on either side of his office

"The country I love is dying," he said in a low
voice. "Not by an enemy I can fight, but from a virus I can't even see
with my eyes. I can't do anything about that. But I'll be damned if I stand
here and watch your drink yourself stupid!"

Henry looked sadly at the shattered remnants of his whiskey
glass. So close to quieting the guilt for a while.

"Look at me when I'm talking to you!"

Henry jumped. "Sorry. I'm just- the interview

Nick posted away and stepped back. "The interview?
That's what's bothering you? You had your orders. I don't agree with this
orders, not with what's coming, but those were our orders."

"I could've warned people," he mumbled.

Nick shook his head. "The smart ones can read between
the lines. That O'Hara dropped a few hints. But there's nothing you can do
about that. You can make a difference. So do it."

"I can't make a cure," Henry replied. "The
virus destroys higher brain function. There's nothing left to save. I may be
able to make a vaccine of sorts given enough time."

"That you'll have. We'll be evacuated soon. The new
location should have everything you need."

"Alright," Henry said, "guess I'll get back
to work."

"Not yet. Sleep off the drink. Maybe there's no cure
but stopping this thing from spreading works too. You can't waste time on
mistakes. I'll give you four hours to sober up."

Henry nodded and stumbled over you the couch on his office.
His position frequently required long hours that made it more efficient to
sleep here at times. Oblivion claimed him before his head got the pillow.


He awoke later to someone knocking on his office door. He
got up and stumbled towards the door. Opening it he saw one of Captain
Jacobson's men, fist poised for another knock.

"I'm up! You can stop with the banging."

The soldier merely nodded, no trace of pity in his face. The
jerk. No appreciation for a man with a hangover. He probably had knocked way
harder than he had needed to. Henry sighed and headed towards the bathroom. He
splashed some water on his face and was able to finish waking up. Next stop was
the lab. He had to see what he could do to at least stop the spread of this
thing. He was the only one that could.

He made it his lab and nodded to his assistants. He spent a
few minutes letting them bring him up to date on the results of the tests that
they had been running. As expected, there was no headway towards a cure. The
one piece of good news was that they had been able to confirm that the
infection was built using the rabies virus. That didn't necessarily make developing
a solution any easier but they could at least focus their efforts on something
they knew. 

Examining the results for himself he came to believe that
whoever was responsible for this had somehow managed to modify the rabies virus.
Rabies was nearly always fatal if prompt treatment wasn't administered.
Paralysis usually occurred and the victim would die from cardiac
arrest or respiratory failure. He'd have to keep a subject isolated for longer
to see if this held true with the infection they faced. 

This confirmed his initial suspicions. The bite from an
infected person spread the disease. That meant that it was the saliva that
carried the infection. Could he develop something that would stop the virus
from spreading? A treatment that would allow someone to survive a bite? Typical
rabies treatment was extremely time sensitive. If a victim got medical
treatment in time, a series of shots would prevent the virus from taking hold.

That was a start but he'd first have to identify the foreign
elements present in the virus. The incubation period was vastly accelerated.
With rabies, one could usually expect an incubation period of days, weeks, or
even longer. This infection took hold nearly immediately with full infection
occurring within two hours. Anything he developed would have to be administered

This was a tall order. Typical rabies treatment took around
two weeks. Could he come up with something that could beat this infection?
Henry sighed and stood to stretch cramped muscles. He'd been at this for nearly
three hours. Prevention remained the key, he thought. That's how regular rabies
treatment worked. 

Several days passed in this vein. The doctor would rise
early and spend around twelve hours in the lab. After that he'd eat a quick
dinner and retire for the night. He could've pushed himself to stay up longer
but knew getting this right was so critical that he couldn't afford any
mistakes due to fatigue. It was another day in the lab when the sound of
someone's footsteps gained his attention.

"Doctor," a voice called.

Henry turned and saw Captain Jacobson standing several feet
away. "Captain," he replied.

"There's been a change in plans. We're evacuating
today. Transport will be here in an hour."

"An hour? That's hardly enough time to pack up our lab
equipment," he said, frustration evident in his voice.

"Pack up your notes. We've already sent your specs
ahead so you'll have new equipment. Right now, my men are in the process of
preparing some specimens for transport."

"What's going on? Why the sudden change?"

Jacobson sighed. "We can't hold this position. The
virus is spreading and there are just too many of them. We're starting to run
low on ammunition. It'd be suicide to tray and maintain this position. We have
to get out of the city."

"Alright. I'll prepare my notes."

"Any luck so far?"

"Little," Henry replied, "it looks to be a
modified version of rabies. That gives me a starting point but I have to
identify the foreign elements before I can develop any sort of treatment."

"That's some progress at least," Jacobson replied.
"With a more secure location you'll be able to find what you need to

Henry didn't share the captain's optimism but he nodded
anyway. "Alright, captain. You said I have an hour. I've got work to do." 

Henry looked around and hoped his new facility would
actually have everything he needed. He wouldn't be able to do anything with
inferior equipment. But maybe the government wouldn't skimp on expenses. Henry
set to work. They did the majority of their notes electronically so he just had
to make sure he had up to date files on his tablet. They also had a server
where everything was backed up so that was an added layer of insurance.

An hour later, he stood on the roof of the building
surrounded by his techs and the captain's soldiers. The helicopters were
landing and Henry squinted to prevent debris from getting into his eyes.
Once the helicopters were down, Jacobson had everyone loaded in short order. As
they lifted off, Henry saw the reason for the quick evacuation. Looking
down, he saw thousands upon thousands of people swarming the area around the
compound. Already, they were over the barricades the military had erected.
Jacobson had been right. They would have died if they had tried to stay in the
building. Henry shook his head. The rate the infection was spreading was

"Crazy, right?"

Henry turned to the solider sitting next to him.
"What's that?"

"I said it's crazy," the solider replied as he
nodded towards the chaos below. "I was out on spreading the word about
evac. It's crazy down there. More of those things every single day."

Henry nodded. Atlanta was a large city. If just a fraction
of people attacked survived they'd be looking at thousands of infected. That
doesn't even include the surrounding area. Counting the suburbs, those numbers
could easily be much higher. Wait. Evac? Evacuation. Had the city been

"You said evac," Henry began, "has the city
been evacuated?"

The solider nodded. "The captain had a spread the word.
We rode up and down the streets with bullhorns. Risky business let me tell you.
Got chased by infected nearly every time."

"How many people made it out?"

The solider shrugged. "Don't know about that. Our
orders were to keep the CDC secure. That didn't quite sit right with the
captain though. He had us get the word out. Not sure how many people paid
attention and got going while the getting was good if you know what I

Henry shook his head. "I don't. I haven't left the
facility since this all started."

"Ah," the soldier replied. "Well, it's like
this. The first day or so things were pretty quiet. There were infected running
around but there weren't a lot of people about. But then, there were rumors of
a message from that O'Hara newscaster lady. Apparently she got on the air and
told everyone that her interview with you wasn't the whole truth. That they
needed to protect themselves. Far as I can tell, people didn't take her
seriously at first. Thought it had to be a mistake. But after a third day of
not hearing anything people thought that maybe she was telling the truth.
That's when they started leaving their homes. Hitting grocery stores and the
like. That's when things got bad. With so many people around, the infected had
a field day."

Henry nodded. With that many people about, the infected
would have attacked everyone in sight. Those that survived would have
contracted the infection and attacked others in turn. That explained what he
was seeing below. He felt a bit of relief that Shirley had gone on the air to
warn the people. That helped with his guilt a little.

"How do you know all this?" Henry asked.

"Talked to a guy on his way out of the city. He told me
about the newscast. The rest I kinda just assume but it makes sense."

Henry nodded again. "I suppose it does."

"That's why I said I wasn't sure how many made it out
while it was clear."

BOOK: Apocalypse Empire (Book 1): Apocalypse Origins
3.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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