Read Under a Graveyard Sky-eARC Online
Authors: John Ringo
Tags: #Fantasy, #Urban, #Paranormal, #Contemporary, #Fiction
“Where’s the zombies?” Faith asked, jumping onto the dock.
“Faith,” Tom said, trying not to laugh. “Just get in the Expedition,” he added pointing.
“Where’s the screaming crowds?” Faith asked, throwing her hands up in the air. “Where’s the random gunfire?”
“Queens,” Kaplan said. “But that’s sort of normal.”
“This sucks!” Faith said. “I’m bored.”
“Oh, just do NOT start,” Sophia said.
“This is going to be sooo much fun,” Tom said. “I should have looked in the phone book under ‘deranged minion.’”
“Craigslist,” Durante corrected. “There’s a whole section…”
* * *
“Mr. Smith…” the security guard said, carefully. The retired NYPD cop was, after all, talking to his boss. “You realize that most of this stuff is illegal to carry in New York City, right?”
“Just humor her,” Tom said. “It’s not worth the argument.”
They’d taken a side entrance to the building but it still had a manned security checkpoint where Faith, over protest, was being forced to disarm herself.
“God this is embarrassing,” Sophia said, hanging her head.
embarassed?” Faith said, pulling out yet another knife. Then the brass knuckles… “I’m being
! In a
“I’m in charge of building security,” Tom said, shaking his head. “Me. I’ll make sure you don’t have to fight any zombies while in my building.”
being a friend,” Faith said, dropping a sand bag cosh onto the pile. “There. Done. I need a receipt.”
“Just give her one that says ‘Bucket o’ weapons,’” Durante suggested. “I wish you were legal, girl. I’d propose.”
“Like I date old guys,” Faith said, then thumped him on the shoulder. “Just kidding. You’re pretty cute for an old fart.”
* * *
“So you’re the boss’s niece,” Dr. Curry said, dyspeptically.
Sophia’s previous experience in a lab was high school chemistry. She’d made her usual A.
She had no
what most of the stuff in Dr. Curry’s lab was for. There were big boxes with lights flashing on them. There were piles of complex glassware. There were computer cables snaking everywhere.
“Yes, sir,” Sophia said, trying not to appear as terrified as she actually was.
“You can take off the respirator,” Curry said. “This is the clean zone. The hot zone is back there,” he added, pointing to a door liberally covered with warning stickers. “Wait. Have you been blood tested?”
“No, sir,” Sophia said, starting to take off the respirator.
“Then keep it on for a second,” Curry said, pulling out a lancet. “I don’t want to get exposed if you are. Hold out your hand.”
He lanced the tip of her finger, then squeezed a drop of blood onto a small white card. The blood spread through a series of channels and as it did it turned blue.
“You’re clear,” Curry said. “
take off the mask.”
“Yes, sir,” Sophia said, finally pulling it off and shaking her head. “Whew. That feels better.”
“Don’t get used to it,” Curry said with a mirthless chuckle. “You’ll be in full gear in the hot zone. Okay, don’t get freaked by all this stuff. It’s useful but you won’t be working with most of it. Any of it probably. What you are going to be doing is working with vaccine production.” He paused and looked at her carefully.
“I understand that we’re extracting the vaccine, or the virus bodies anyway, from the spinal cords of infected primates,” Sophia said, carefully.
“Correct,” Dr. Curry said, nodding. “Just concentrate on that word. Primates. What you’ll be doing is, frankly, all the scut work. There are several procedures. Some of them are tedious and you’ll be doing the tedious ones. I did them when I was in college and grad school. I’m getting too old to pipette all day. And then there’s the washing up. I’ll be in there most of the time, all of the time at first, working with you. I’ll be doing the more complicated procedures. You just do as I tell you and you’ll be fine. The only real danger, since the material is a blood pathogen, is getting it into a cut. Do you have any cuts at all?”
“None on my arms or anything,” Sophia said, holding them out.
“Okay,” Dr. Curry said. “I do hope you brought some other clothes.”
“They’re outside,” Sophia said. “May I ask why?”
“Because there’s no way you’re working in a moon suit in a business suit and heels…”
“Mr. Schmidt, this is my niece, Faith,” Tom said.
Dave Schmidt didn’t work for Tom. He was one of the building engineers, which was an entirely different company. But they were sort of friends and if Tom didn’t find someone to entertain Faith soon all hell was going to break loose. And he was
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss,” Schmidt said, his brow furrowing.
“It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Schmidt,” Faith said, waving instead of shaking his hand.
Faith was being as close as she could come to being on “best behavior.” Given that not only had Uncle Tom divested her of all her weapons, most of her gear had been dropped in the security team’s locker room. She didn’t even have so much as body armor. In a zombie apocalypse!
“There are some real-world reasons that I’d like Faith to have a thorough grounding in large scale building design,” Tom said. “I know you have duties but would it be too much of an imposition for Faith to assist you in them?”
“There are regulations, Mr. Smith…” Schmidt said, uncomfortably.
“And we live in interesting times,” Tom said, smiling broadly. “Seriously, help a guy out here.”
“I…” Schmidt said, then shrugged. “Sure. No problem.”
“Thank you,” Tom said. “I owe you.”
“Can we speak privately, sir?” Schmidt asked.
“Sure,” Tom said, waving for Faith to step out. They were meeting in the engineer’s very nearly subterranean office.
“I…” Schmidt said, then cleared his throat. “I understand that BoA has access to vaccine, sir…”
“That rumor was quick,” Tom said, frowning. “I’ll neither confirm nor deny but for the purpose of discussion…?”
“I’d really like to get some, sir,” Schmidt said, his face working. “My…my sister has already… She’s in the confinement facility.”
“I’m sorry,” Tom said, sighing. “You understand that it’s a vaccine. It’s not a cure. There’s nothing, currently, that can be done for your sister.”
“Yes, sir,” Schmidt said. “But…I really don’t want to be that way and…I have children. And grandchildren.”
“I can’t get a lot of doses freed up,” Smith said, trying not to sigh again. “I’ll see what I can do. As long as you keep that Amazon out of my hair for a while.”
“I heard about the security checkpoint,” Schmidt said, chuckling. “A sword? Seriously?”
“Are you talking about the machete or the kukri?” Tom asked. “Yes, seriously. And okay, yes, I’ll see what I can do. Just…”
“Get her out of your hair for a while,” Schmidt said, standing up and sticking out his hand. He pulled it back after a moment. “Sorry. Can do. Lots to learn. And I’m a pretty good teacher.”
* * *
“So this is it?” Faith pounced as Tom left the office. “You’re going to turn me over to some fat old engineer to go dig around in sewers?”
“Faith,” Tom said, trying not to grit his teeth. “There is, in fact, a real world reason for this?”
“What?” Faith said. “What can I possibly…?”
“Building design!” Tom snapped. “Where are we?”
“I really have no clue,” Faith said. “I got lost a half an hour ago.”
“Which is the point,” Tom said. “Let’s say that things really fall apart. That you have to do stuff that no reasonable thirteen-year-old should have to do to survive. You think that knowing how big buildings like this really work won’t be useful?”
“Well…” Faith said, frowning.
“I also am incredibly busy,” Tom said. “I’m the head of security of a major international bank that millions of people depend upon in the middle of an international crisis! Are you really so selfish you think I should spend all my time pampering to your tantrums? Or that you should even be throwing them?”
“I’m sorry, Uncle Tom,” Faith said. “I… It’s just…”
“This will keep you occupied and hopefully interested,” Tom said. “While I try to save as many people as I can. So, yes, you’re going to get an introductory course in building engineering, which is at least half about how to find your way around in one. Which may just some day save your life.”
“I understand and comply, Uncle Tom,” Faith said. “But… What you’re asking me to do is creep around the, frankly, creepy bowels of a building with, you know, people turning into zombies without any warning. This is not, exactly, ‘keeping me safe.’ Sir.”
“You have a point there,” Tom said. “I’d planned on keeping you up on the executive level. Where we have posted security.”
of weapons?” Faith asked.
“The problem is what,” Tom said. “Almost anything useful is illegal for carry by a minor in New York.”
“I hate this place,” Faith snarled, then got ahold of herself. “Sorry. But…”
“I’ll get you an issue K-ll,” Tom said. “But that’s it.”
“Better than nothing,” Faith said, saluting. “Reporting for duty, sir!”
“Just… Don’t get yourself turned into a zombie,” Tom said. “Your mother would kill me…”
* * *
“I had no idea these buildings were so complicated,” Faith said as they were walking down another seemingly interminable service corridor.
“Every one of these buildings is basically a self contained city,” Dave said, proudly. He’d found he enjoyed the girl’s company. She might be a little firebrand but she was a smart one. And willing to pitch in no matter what the weight. Strong as hell, too. She’d carried a sixty pound circuit breaker up two flights of stairs without a single bitch. “More like a space ship. Air has to be pulled in and pumped to everywhere in the building. Then there’s water and sewage. Movement of materials. It’s a dance really. A great one.”
“What are those?” Faith asked, pointing to some huge…thingies.
“Air handlers again,” Dave said. “Currently they’re not running since the portion of the building they supply isn’t in use. No need for them. Nobody’s using the air.”
“And that is…” Faith stopped and tilted her head to the side. “What’s that sound?”
“Fluid flow?” Dave said, cocking his head. “Air flow? There’s an electrical hum…”
“I was thinking of the…” She stopped at the shriek.
The zombie had been behind one of the idle air handlers. It was covered in blood, not its own. Faith really didn’t want to see what it had been feeding on behind the box.
“Charlie?” Dave said, stepping forward. “Charlie, it’s me, Dave…”
“Don’t,” Faith said, putting out her hand. “It’s not going to…”
The zombie charged the twosome, keening.
It was the first time Faith had heard the zombie wail and it sent shivers down her spine. That was the sound early man had heard in the forests. It was the thing in the corner at night. The monster under the bed. In the closet. It was fear curled up into a ball and distilled. For just a moment she froze.
“No!” Dave shouted, backing up. “Charlie! No, no, no, NO!”
The zombie was fixated on the engineer. Which gave Faith her chance.
She whipped the K-ll into the zombie’s shin as it passed. She could hear the bones snap from the blow. But it turned on her nonetheless. She captured one grasping hand in a come-along, lifted the arm and spun under, tucking it up and back.
The strength of the zombie surprised her as did it’s complete disregard for pain. Any normal human would have been down on the ground with a broken leg and a nearly dislocated arm. The zombie just continued until it was fully dislocated, its teeth snapping to reach its tormentor.
Faith drove the butt of the K-ll into the zombie’s kidneys and was mildly unsurprised to get no result. It just didn’t notice pain at all. With that understanding, she flipped the club out and up, then across, hard, on the upper part of the zombie’s neck. There was a sickening crunch and the thing dropped to the ground.
“Oops,” she said, trying not to throw up. “I think we’re going to have to report this to Uncle Tom…”
* * *
“I didn’t mean to kill him,” Faith said, miserably. “I’d just tried everything I could to subdue him and nothing was working. I know you’re not supposed to use a baton on bone or the neck but…I couldn’t think of anything else to do…” she started sobbing.
“I’m surprised you could,” the NYPD officer said, shaking her head. “You gonna be okay, Miss?”
BoA security and the coroner’s overworked office had already cleared the bodies away. As Faith had feared, the zombie had been feeding on a previous victim. Both of them had been support engineers working in the area.
Faith was meeting with NYPD under the gaze of BoA’s General Manager for Security and Emergency Response as well as the Chief Legal Advisor. The experienced attorney was more used to contract law but he could dance the tune of criminal law. Juvie was, admittedly, not his expertise.
“Are you planning on charging my client?” the attorney asked. “She has cooperated fully.”
“Given the situation and everything else going on?” the cop said. “It’s up to the DA’s office but I don’t think so. I’d find it unlikely. Thirteen-year-old girl is defends herself and another person from an H7 EDP and the EDP is killed in the process? With a
? I’d say the
would want to interview her but not the DA.”
“I think we’ll try to avoid that,” Tom said. “If there’s nothing else?”
“We’d appreciate it if you’d keep her somewhere safer than the steam tunnels,” the cop said, standing up. “And she’s going to need counseling.”
“We’ll get her the best available,” Tom said. “Chad, could you walk the officer out while I talk to my niece?”
“Of course,” Chad said. “Officer?”
“Are you going to be okay?” Tom said. “And feel free to say ‘I told you so.’”
Faith grunted a laugh, then shrugged.
“I’d like to say the crying for the cop was all an act,” she said, tonelessly. “And some of it was. But, no, not really what you’d call okay. On the ‘told you so’ cause among other things I had to use a MELEE WEAPON. I’d planned on killing my first zombie at at
twenty-five yards! Not where I could hear the
and get blood all over myself! So, no, not okay. Okay?” She sniffed again and grimaced. “God, I HATE that I cry. It’s so…
“Think soldiers don’t cry?” Tom said. “Think your father never cried? You cry. You cry, usually, when nobody is watching. You cry in the shower. Or only when friends are there. People who know. Who understand. And you didn’t cry in the crunch.”
“Go me,” Faith said.
“I don’t think there are really words for this,” Tom said, shrugging. “I can get you all the counseling in the City. But it boils down to you did what you had to when you had to. If you hadn’t, then two more lives would have been lost…”
“One,” Faith said. “If worse came to worse I was going to break Dave’s leg and run for it.”
“That’s the spirit,” Tom said, his hand over his mouth trying not to laugh.
“I mean, even a twenty-two!” Faith said, throwing her hands up. “That way I could have shot his leg out at a distance!”
“Dave’s or the zombies?” Tom asked.
“Yes! Either! Both!”
“Well, you won’t have to worry about it again,” Tom said, shaking his head. “I should have been smart and kept you up here in the first place. I’ll…find some paperwork for you to do or something.”
“Great,” Faith said, crossing her arms.
“For now it’s back to the apartment,” Tom said. “I’ve already called Dr. Curry and told him that Sophia’s done for the day. And you definitely are. I’ll have someone run you over.”
“I…” Faith said, then frowned. “That’s the only thing that makes sense. But…I am
going to the apartment without my gear.”
“Uncle Tom,” she said, reasonably. “The next time I might not be able to say ‘I told you so.’ I know you’re running us over with executive protection. Are they staying on the door til you get there?”
“Uhm…” Tom said. He had had a hard enough time finding the personnel to run them home. There were a million tasks.
“There are still criminals,” Faith pointed out. “And unknown threats. You’re not going to leave us alone in the apartment without so much as a taser. Not this time.”
“Agreed,” Tom said, sighing. “I’ll have the security detail transport it. But no going zombie hunting!”
“Been there, done that,” Faith said. “All I really want right now is a bath.”
“And tomorrow we’ll…find something else for you to do.”
“Filing. It’s going to be filing, isn’t it?”
* * *
“Miss, I’m really sorry about having to disarm you when you came in…”
It was the same security guard and he really
look sorry. The story was already all over the building.
“You were just doing your job,” Faith said, thumbing at Durante. “He’s supposed to tote all my stuff for me. Is there anything in there I
carry in New York?”
She’d had to turn over the baton to NYPD “for examination.” But Tom had helpfully issued her a new one.
The guard leaned over and slid a taser across the table under the cover of his body.
“Drop this in one of your cargo pockets,” he whispered. “And if you do get in trouble, give me a call on the cell and I’ll call a few buddies…”
“Thanks,” she whispered back.
“Sorry, miss, but as I said, all this stuff is illegal for carry in New York without a permit,” he said, loudly. He handed the tote with her weapons to Durante. “Mr. Durante will hold onto it for you.”
“I understand,” she said, loudly. “Let’s go, Gravy.”
“Oh, my God,” Sophia said. She was in jeans and a t-shirt after working in the lab. She was starting to wonder if body armor wouldn’t have been the best call.
As they walked out of the building to the waiting car a photographer ran up and started taking pictures. Of Sophia.
“Ow!” Sophia said, turning away. He was using a heavy-duty flash and between her eyes not yet being adjusted and the descending sun it was like looking into a nuke.
“Hey,” Durante said, stepping between them. “Back off!”
“Miss, can we get your name?” a guy with a hand-recorder asked. “Are you the thirteen-year-old who fought off a zombie with a pair of nunchuks?”
?” Faith said.
“Out of the way,” Durante said, pushing the guy back. But there were a dozen or more coming around the corner from the main entrance. He keyed his microphone. “Unit fourteen. I’ve got a security issue at Entrance Six. Request support. Just keep moving, girls. To the car!”