Carlie Simmons (Book 1): Until Morning Comes (8 page)

BOOK: Carlie Simmons (Book 1): Until Morning Comes
7.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Chapter 21


“So how long y’all been holed up in here?”
said Jared to Amy, while looking over the eight college students slumped on
chairs around the mortuary science room. Some were sitting while others were in
clusters, leaning against each other, trying to feverishly call out on their smartphones.

“Since Tucson became cannibal central,”
said Amy, folding her arms and brushing a lock of brunette hair off her shoulder.
“How is it you made it here?”

Jared tucked the Glock in his beltline
and ran his fingers over his day-old scruff. “Just out for a morning jog when everything
went to hell in the city. I hunkered down near a bank a few blocks from here
and then made a dash for it when I saw some lights on campus.”

“And you always go for a jog with two
pistols, eh?” said Amy.

“Yeah, well, I happened across these on
my sprint through downtown.” He leaned a hand on the wall and looked over Amy’s
figure and into her eyes, then down at her left hand, which had a gold
engagement ring. “And what’s your story, sister—you an ambulance driver for the

“Paramedic for the city,” she said,
flicking her badge with a finger. “But I teach on campus two days a week and
was prepping for a lecture tomorrow—until I saw the rampage outside. I gathered
up anyone I could find in the building and we headed down here, figuring it was
the most secure place in the area. That was probably fifteen hours ago.”

“I don’t know what’s safe anymore,”
Jared said, slumping against the cool concrete wall. “This day sure turned out
a lot different than I ever expected,” he said, thinking back to the marshal
who had planted his face on the pavement.

Amy tossed him a bottle of water. “Stay
hydrated. By your accent, it doesn’t sound like you’re from around here, and being
out in the heat all day can turn you into jerky pretty fast.”

“You got it, Doc, thanks,” he said,
twisting off the cap and gulping down the liquid. He reached into his back pocket
and pulled out the package of slightly squashed Gummi Bears. “Here,” he said,
tossing them to Amy. “My admission fee for letting me enter your fine abode.”

Amy opened the package and pried out a
single sweet, then she walked over to the others and began dispensing what

Jared looked around the dimly lit room.
The stainless-steel tables had become makeshift workbenches filled with gauze,
water bottles, and an assortment of bludgeoning weapons like an ax, splintered
broom handles, and golf clubs. On the rear wall was a garden hose and spray
nozzle along with bottles of bleach that were used for sanitizing the floor
after autopsies. The entire room had a strong clinical odor, and the floor was
slightly sloped, with a small drain at the center.

Jared scanned the other people slumped
around him, taking in their features along with anything shapely or sparkly that
caught his eye. Sitting in the corner closest to Jared were three women in
their late teens. One was short with a round face and red hair. She had on a
silver watch and dangling gold hoop earrings with a high luster that looked
like the real thing. Next to Pumpkin Head was a blond woman who had a splatter
of blemishes on her face and was wearing a faux-gold necklace with a ruby-red
insert that looked like it was from Malaysia. Lying beside Freckles was a tiny
woman with silky black hair that stretched past the soft curve of her back, but
she was devoid of jewelry.

A few feet away from the Raven were two
young men leaning back on their chairs and frantically trying to text on their smartphones
while quietly cursing. One of them was gangly with dented cheeks that made him
look like he had been beaten with a bag of coins when he was younger. Next to Pockmark
was a heavyset guy with a nose like a toucan and a shaved head. Jared noticed
that neither of them wore anything on their wrists or hands, figuring they
spent most of their money on computer games or porn-on-demand videos. Across
from Bird Beak were two dark-skinned women. The petite one on the right wore a
medley of Western and Mexican clothing and glitzy cowboy boots.

Besides her wavy jet-black hair and
shapely figure, she was heavily adorned with gold rings, bracelets, stud
earrings, and an alluring necklace whose high sheen was evident even in the dim

put her on the list of first to yank outta here.
her head on Tex-Mex’s shoulder was a lanky woman with a pleasing neckline and
delicate fingers that bore a single gold Claddagh ring. From the moment Jared
arrived, she had been talking constantly to her friend. Her mouth never seemed
to stay shut as she nervously yakked about her roommates, pet goldfish, and her
classes. He gazed over her lovely features and then felt the urge to plaster
duct tape over her beestung lips. Instead he glanced away from Chatty Cathy and
looked over the last lone figure slouched against the wall. He was dressed only
in cut-off shorts and a tank top, his long dreadlocks almost as grimy as his
bare feet.  Jared shook his head as he stared at him.
Maybe that’s what
smells like an old sponge and is fouling up the air in here. He probably doesn’t
have to worry about getting chomped on by those things. We might want to use
him as our secret weapon.

Jared turned away from Floor Mop and
glanced up at Amy, who was filling some water bottles from the metal sink. He
walked up and stood beside her, noticing her slender features and lovely eyes.
“You have a plan for finding help? Do you have a two-way radio?”

“We’ve been cut off since we got here,
dude, and our phones don’t work for shit,” said Floor Mop.

Amy shrugged her shoulders. “No one
knows we’re here. I figured we would wait until morning and then I’d go
upstairs and take a look around and see about getting in touch with the

“There ain’t nothing to see up top.
They’re all dead—the cops, the folks who lived and worked downtown. Hell, most
of the buildings are gutted or burnt out. From where I holed up, I saw hundreds
of those prune-faced freaks bounding across the streets, tearing up anyone they
got a hold of,” he said, leaning both hands on a table. “At first there were
just a handful of ’em chasing people but, by nightfall, the city had emptied of
anyone alive and only their hungry shrieks echoed off the streets.” He paused
as he felt the wide eyes of the others in the room upon him, their mouths
agape. “As far as I can tell, I was the only survivor in the region—everyone
else got torn to pieces. Still, there must be a few guys alive in the central
downtown area,” Jared said.

“How’s that?” said Tex-Mex, who had
moved closer.

“Because a couple of those things that
were about to grab me all of a sudden suffered from Exploding Head Syndrome as
somebody with a rifle nailed ’em dead center—somebody from a rooftop downtown
who had eyes like a barn owl. Whoever it was saved my ass.”

Chapter 22
White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico


President Huntington stood before the
immense wall-sized computer monitor, digesting the visual images of destruction
before him. Satellite newsfeed from around the world showed every major city
being impacted by the strange disease as streets still ran amok with wanton

Around the secure bunker eight floors
below the facility, his ad-hoc staff of analysts, military personnel, and
remaining Secret Service agents were busy collating data from the surviving
field operatives spread around the nation.

Eighteen hours earlier he had been in
Albuquerque at a ceremony for WWII veterans and now half of his cabinet were
dead or missing, the country’s civil infrastructure was shattered, and his
daughter was still in harm’s way.

His eyes grew heavy from lack of sleep
and he exhaled deeply as he saw General Adams approaching. With the
vice-president dead and many of his military advisors gone, the always
forthright three-star general had become his closest confidant on tactical matters.
Huntington stood stoically with his arms folded across his chest in an attempt
to hide his constant fist-clenching. “The DEA group in Tucson—have they
commenced their rescue?” he said to General Adams.

“My team is in touch with them. They’ve
just departed and we’ll know very soon about their progress. There is a major
storm rolling in from Baja that could hamper their efforts.”

“And what about our allies in the UK,
Europe, and elsewhere—how have they been impacted by this?”

“London is still under attack, with their
death toll in the millions, similar to our large cities here. Germany, France,
and Spain have fallen and are black holes right now. In Israel, Denmark, and
Japan the more geographically isolated areas have escaped some of the
large-scale devastation but no single place around the globe seems to have been

“And it appears that there are only a
few defensible regions in the U.S. that remain safe havens—is that right?”

“The analysts have told me that Cape Cod
and Newfoundland are still intact in the east. Fallon Naval Air Station in
Nevada is where our remaining special operations teams from the western states are
gathering to set up an incident command post. We should have more of those
units online over the next few hours and have a better grip on our remaining

“I don’t understand how it could’ve come
to this—we’re the most well-funded, well-informed country in the world, and we
were somehow hamstrung enough to have missed this coming at us.”

“Agreed, sir, but the tiger is out of
its cage and now we have to consider containment efforts before we risk losing
any more people.”

—you mean drone
strikes. You can skip the pc jargon, General; this isn’t a round-table meeting
of UN delegates and political pundits.” Huntington pulled his shoulders back
and raised an eyebrow. “Drone strikes are off the table for now. I’m not going
to vaporize our cities. You don’t burn your home to kill a mouse, General. That’s
insane, not to mention the collateral damage to remaining survivors still left around
the country.”

“Drone strikes might not seem like an
option now but with the current exponential rate of spread, we know that cities
like L.A., Denver, New York, and others will be completely overrun in
ninety-six hours,” the General said, walking up closer to the computer
monitors. “This option may rise to the forefront soon if we’re to have any hope
of salvaging the remaining areas and keeping those regions intact that are
already secure. We can even commandeer the drones from here.”

“We’ll revisit this topic later,
General. For now, let me know when we have something from the CDC on what
exactly we’re dealing with, and grab me the minute you have word on my

Chapter 23


“It sounds to me like the Secret Service
and their protectee are safe where they’re at,” said Martin, a lithe DEA
operator with a caterpillar-thick mustache. “Why not have them stay put through
tonight, and after we retrieve our families and regroup here, we can extract the
detail on campus?”

“Because the orders were given,” said

“The university is only a few miles away,”
said Matias. “We should be able to get in and out quickly, if we can coordinate
with them.”

“Yeah, but we’re also wasting precious
time right now getting back to our homes,” said Martin. “I say we get to our
families first, as planned, and then retrieve the others on campus. All the
rules of engagement have changed, sir.”

“These are all solid tactical solutions;
however, getting back to our neighborhoods is eleven miles one way with the
vehicles. That’s not going to be a short drive given all the accidents and
clogged streets, especially if we encounter other survivors along the way. The
helo can only hold a few and it’s low on fuel.”

Shane mulled over the recent orders and
then thought back to the conditions on the street that he had witnessed during
the daylight. He intimately understood the critical window for survival in the
heat without power and water. Being recently divorced, he thought more of his
men than his own personal life. Matias had already been in touch with his wife
and kids in Phoenix at his sister-in-law’s house prior to comms breaking down
and Rory was a long-time bachelor. As for the other men, whose families resided
in the nearby suburbs, Shane knew how imperative it was to get to them without

Before the others could speak, Shane
stepped forward, placing his hands on his hips. “Look, if this was any other
day, I’d be giving the order to throw your gear in the rigs and be on our way
downrange to the university, but not today. You’re going to have to decide if
you are coming with me or going your own way back to your family. Your honor
and integrity as warriors will not be diminished in any way in my eyes. I am
good with whatever you choose.”

The men all bore grimaces and the
tension in the air was evident. Shane moved to the vehicle and rolled up the
city map. “I’m leaving for the university as soon as we have their location and
have figured out our extraction plan, so hop in the helo if you’re with me. If
not, then the other vehicles and armory are at your disposal. Godspeed, my

During the next hour, Shane pored over
the sat-imagery sent to him on his mobile laptop. He could see clusters of
dozens of people spread in dorms and buildings around the university. He
identified eleven groups of survivors spread around the campus. Some were only
a few people while others numbered up to fifty.

He had pinpointed the location beneath
the pharmacy building and detected six heat signatures, two of which were
heavily armed. “This has to be them,” he said to Matias, who had just come down
after packing the rest of the helicopter on the roof with tactical gear.

“What’s the plan once we get to them?”
said Rory.

“Get ’em out and back here. This building
is the most secure and well-equipped facility around here. Then it’s up to D.C.
to finish their end of the girl’s extraction. After that, I plan on heading
south in the helo to provide air support for the rest of our guys retrieving
their families.”

“And what if we come across other civilians
on campus? We just gonna fly past ’em waving a banner that says, ‘this helo is
reserved for the president’s kid’?”

Before Shane could answer he inched
closer to the laptop screen, scrunching his eyebrows together. “Looks at this,”
he said, pointing to a cluster of nineteen figures huddled in the cafeteria of a
large dormitory. He zoomed in on the image and could make out the figures
squatting nearly motionless as a cluster of forty or more creatures were moving
in the hallway outside. “Look at how those things are massing. At first, they
were all spread out in different directions until the lead ones picked up on something
and they all unified. Are they going off of sound or scent when they detect
their prey?”

Matias looked at the glowing red glob of
creatures flooding the hallway enroute to the unsuspecting survivors, two rooms
away. “Madre de Dios—it’s like a wildfire sweeping through the building.”

Within seconds the wave of creatures
began assaulting the flimsy doors separating them from the survivors. Shane and
the others watched helplessly as the creatures broke through the barriers and
flooded inside. The heat signatures of the students were reduced in under a
minute and then the creatures dispersed throughout the hallway as if their
grisly collaboration had never occurred.

“Is this for real, man?” said Rory, who
tightened the baseball cap down on his forehead. “How is it that we can even
get heat signatures on those creatures—I mean, aren’t they dead?”

“I’m not sure what to make of them—alive,
dead…somewhere in between. But one thing’s for certain, we need to get there
fast. Those students who were just killed are infected and will be adding to
the growing numbers of those things.” Shane slammed the laptop closed and stood
up. “Let’s saddle up. We may not have much time.”

BOOK: Carlie Simmons (Book 1): Until Morning Comes
7.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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