Read Under a Graveyard Sky-eARC Online

Authors: John Ringo

Tags: #Fantasy, #Urban, #Paranormal, #Contemporary, #Fiction

Under a Graveyard Sky-eARC (11 page)

BOOK: Under a Graveyard Sky-eARC
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“Move you idiot!” Faith said, body checking one of the mike wielding reporters out of the way. “Follow me, Soph!”

“Watch out, rentacop!” the reporter said, pushing back. “I can get you charged with assault!”

“You want
!” Faith said, pulling out her baton. “Move or I’ll
you assault!”

“Just keep moving, Faith,” Durante said, giving her a shove.

“Can you tell us what you were doing in the building…?”

“No,” Sophia said, holding her hand up to shield her face from the flashes.

“What is your relationship to BoA…?”

“Say no comment,” Durante said.

“No comment…”

“Can we get your name…?


“Was the afflicted hostile…?”

“You’ve got the wrong person…”

“Damned straight,” Faith muttered.

More security poured out of the building and with their assistance Durante managed to get them to the car without actually injuring anyone in the crowd. Which had grown to include the usual gawkers. New Yorkers would ignore anything except paparazzi, which generally meant celebrities.

“Is that Lindsay Lohan…? Did she get arrested again?”

“No!” Sophia screamed as the door closed.

“Oh, crap,” Durante said. “Move it. To the condo. If we’ve got trailers see if you can lose them but don’t do a Princess Di.”

“Rentacop?” Faith said, buckling her seatbelt. “

“They thought you were part of her security detail,” Durante said, chuckling.

“Son of a bitch!” Faith snarled. “I make the tabloids but I

“You might want to remember what we’re actually doing here,” Sophia said, her face tight.

Durante waved his hand to indicate it was not a subject for discussion.

“New York,” Faith said, looking around at the unusually light afternoon traffic. “I don’t get the attraction. It stinks. It’s crowded. The people are rude. And there’s barely a scrap of green in the whole place.”

“You wanted to come,” Sophia said.

“Because it was better than being stuck on a sailboat,” Faith said. “But not much.”

“The food’s good,” Durante said. He really didn’t like New York much, either, but he felt he had to come up with some virtues. “And the girls are… There’s a lot of…art and culture…”

“The girls are hot?” Faith finished. “Or easy?”

“I’m not going to have this conversation with my boss’s teenage nieces,” Durante said. “It’s got its attractions. Of course… A lot of them are closed right now.”

“Hang on,” the driver said, swerving. A naked woman was running through traffic, hitting the cars as she ran as if trying to push the traffic onto the sidewalk.

“Zombie?” Sophia asked.

“Could be,” Durante said. “Probably. But this is New York. She could just be high. You don’t know until you run a blood test.”

“So, about the food thing,” Faith said, her stomach rumbling.

“We’ll get you delivery,” Durante said. “One other benefit to New York. You can get any kind of food in the

“I’m not really hungry,” Sophia said.

“I am,” Faith replied. “I need food. And after an almost continuous diet of Mountain House, I need
food. Is there Italian?”

“Best Italian in the world,” Durante said. “Better than Italy. Although mostly it’s mom and pop places. But we can get some delivered.”

“I just want a shower,” Sophia said, looking out at the city. “Nother zombie.”

“That’s a zombie,” Durante agreed. Two NYPD officers had the zombie restrained but it was clear that he’d bitten a passerby. The passerby was a punk with a gigantic pink mohawk who was crying and holding his arm and appeared to be begging the officers about something. The officers didn’t seem to be listening.

“And another one on the way,” Faith said.

“Indications are that if you clean the affected bite quickly the chances are reduced,” Durante said. “And they’re saying now that if you get the flu, the secondary virus is reduced if you take potassium supplements.”

“Yeah, the separation at the b phase telemerase site is inhibited by potassium,” Sophia said. “But it’s not an either or thing. If you take enough potassium to totally inhibit expression, it’s a lethal dose. But if you have a strong immune system, then having any inhibition of the expression gives your immune system a chance to beat the beta expressor. If you have a strong immune system. And bites are tough. The beta expressor is aggressive and resistant. It’s a matter of how much viral load you get through any source…”

“I take it you were listening at work,” Durante said.

“Dr. Curry has every channel that’s working on this running continuously in both the hot and the cold zones,” Sophia said, shrugging. “So, yeah, picked up a little. More than I can talk about in the car. He’s got the updated spread graph for one thing. The one that’s way ahead of the news.”

“Can I ask…” the driver said, then paused.

“It’s getting worse,” Sophia said after a glance at Durante. “Lots worse. The thing is… This virus is, molecularly, spit and baling wire is the way that Dr. Curry described it. After a while it’s just going to burn itself out.”

“Soon?” Durante asked. This was more than he’d been getting.

“Not soon enough,” Sophia said with a sigh. “Look it’s… The virus, the influenza one, is really complicated. It’s a dualistic expression. That right there is waaay out there. And two centers, UCLA and College of Rome, have both come back with pretty good models showing that dualistic is impossible to support over long term. Probably why it never evolved in microorganisms. There’s some fundamental problems with it chemically. And flues mutate. But the way that they mutate…. they just mutate. They can get more lethal, more infective, or less lethal, less infective, stop being infective or lethal at all or any combination. This one, the real killer is the beta expressor, the zombie virus
in the flu. CDC and Pasteur both ran models of it over multiple replications and it just…breaks pretty quick. It doesn’t mutate to be more lethal or more infective it stops working at all except as a mild flu bug. It stops being able to express the zombie part.”

“So the plague’s just going to…stop?” the driver asked.

“Yes,” Sophia said. “But it’s not going to be soon enough. Look, you buy a new computer. And you don’t know it, but there’s something wrong with it. Every time you turn it on, one little random bit of software goes wrong. Now a computer can go a long time like that. Or it can break the first time you turn it on. It’s random. That’s what’s happening with all the flu viruses. As they replicate, sometimes they break. Or get closer to breaking. As more and more break, the flu will burn out. The question is, if it will burn out before it kills the world.”

“And the zombie part?” Durante asked. “We’re getting a lot of transmission from bites now.”

“Yeah,” Sophia said, grimly. “They’ve broken out the transmission graphs by bite or flu and bite, or at least blood transmission, is starting to pull ahead of flu. There was one case in South Carolina where a husband apparently gave it to his wife through, well, fooling around. Then he zombied but didn’t bite her. She hid in the bathroom. And she had no flu antibodies. So they think it was sexually transmitted. And then

“Ouch,” Faith said, shuddering.

“The beta expressor isn’t really robust, either,” Sophia said. “There are four different models that people are arguing over but it looks as if it’s going to slowly degrade back to basically rabies or just fall apart. Like I said, spit and baling wire.”

“And with that we’re at the condo…” Durante said as the driver pulled up to the entrance. “Don’t wait for me. I’ll find my own way back.”

“Yes, sir,” the driver said.

“Dibs on the shower,” Faith said.

“Age before incompetence,” Sophia replied.

“This is going to be sooo much fun,” Durante said.


“So I see you made the news,” Dr. Curry said, moving his cursor to highlight particular points of the virus. His voice was muffled by the moon suit.

“I didn’t really have a way to avoid them,” Sophia said, carefully squirting prepared attenuated virus into vaccine bottles. “Well, if I’d know they were going to be out there we could have taken a back way I suppose.”

“This isn’t something we want to end up on the nightly news,” Dr. Curry pointed out.

“Tell me about it,” Sophia said.

“Although, it already has,” Curry said, gesturing to one of the plasma screens. The YouTube video was of a reporter outside a warehouse. The caption said “vaccine chop shop found by NYPD.”

“I hope like hell that’s not us,” Sophia said. The sound was turned down.

“Drug dealers,” Curry said with a snort.

“So we’re in competition with drug dealers?” Sophia said. “How’s drug dealers get involved, anyway?”

“People want the vaccine,” Curry said, gesturing at the laboratory he’d been provided. “Drug dealers fulfill economic needs that others can’t or won’t.”

“I don’t know that I’d want to get vaccine from drug dealers,” Sophia said. “Not knowing what I know about how it’s produced. And that’s

“In which you are wise,” Curry said with a snort. “Over two hundred people have become infected due to bad vaccine. If it’s not properly attenuated: Instant zombie.”

“You’re sure this is attenuated?” Sophia said, holding up one of the vials.

“That’s what I’m checking,” Curry said, gesturing at the screen he was using. “The binding sites are still there but the RNA is well and thoroughly trashed. I’d say that this RNA has less coherence than rabies but the binding sites are about as robust. That’s good for vaccine. Not sure what it says about the organism long-term. What is worse, most of the ‘vaccine’ that’s being bandied around in the City is nothing but colored water.”

“Why colored?” Sophia said. She held up one of her completed vaccine bottles to the light. “This is clear.”

“Because they’re drug dealers?” Curry said, shrugging. “People want to
something for their money. Who’s going to believe a drug dealer who gives them a shot of clear liquid.”

“Who’s going to believe a drug dealer, period?” Sophia said.

“I take it you’ve never gotten into illegal drugs,” Dr. Curry said.

“I’m not an idiot,” Sophia said. “Drugs can seriously screw up your life. Of course, so can the zombie apocalypse but I didn’t have any control over that. So, no, I don’t do drugs. I drink a little but my parents are okay with it in moderation. Faith doesn’t even do that. She only drinks water and fruit juice.”

“I suppose I should be impressed,” Curry said. “I’ve dabbled in drugs from time to time. Heck, I dealt when I was in grad school. If you have a biochemistry lab at your disposal, cranking out a little LSD is no problem and it’s one way to pay for grad school.”

“Seriously?” Sophia said.

“You might notice what we’re making here, miss,” Curry said, mirthlessly.


“One shot of zombie vaccine is going for fifty dollars on the street,” Curry said. “Which is a good price. The question being whether you’re getting vaccine or not. Or ‘good’ vaccine. Some of them even have mild drugs in them to give a feeling that something is happening. Which, even if the dealers get the right attenuation, can cause the vaccine to be nonfunctional.”

“Seriously,” Sophia said. “People who get their vaccine from a source like a drug dealer are getting what the deserve. Speaking of which, I’m done.”

“Let me do a cross check and then we’ll get it over to Dr. Simmons,” Curry said. “Quality control is the best control…”

* * *

It had been filing.

By afternoon of the next day, Faith had had enough. She’d had enough of the questions about her experiences in the tunnels. She’d had enough of the gossip. She’d found out, quickly, that her uncle’s big “secret” was anything but. The rumors were all over the place that The Bank, capital letters, was producing vaccine. And just as many rumors about how, most of them more or less dead on. She’d gotten tired of the side-long glances and the vaguely worded questions about where her uncle was gone to all day. People even referred to the “BERT” van in the sort of hushed tones reserved for nuclear secrets. And then there were the subtle questions about “how do
get the vaccine?”

And she’d had it with filing. It was boring and pointless since most of this was going to be relics of a bygone age in no time.

She’d paid attention when she’d had to turn in her stuff the first day. All of
stuff was back in the apartment. That didn’t mean there wasn’t “stuff.” The locker room had
she’d need to go zombie hunting.

* * *

Faith stepped out of cover, aimed carefully and zapped the zombie in the back with the taser.

“Nice,” she said as the zombie dropped to the floor. She darted forward and slammed the narcotic injector into the back of its thigh, holding it as she thought the instructions indicated.

She was rewarded by the two and a half inch needle driving through her thumb and a gush of tranquilizer squirting onto her facemask.

“Shit!” she screamed, hopping around and shaking her hand. The needle steadfastly refused to exit her thumb. “Cock-suck… Fuck! Rat turds! Ow!”

She grabbed the injector and pulled it from her thumb, tossing it across the corridor.

“Well,” she said, shaking her hand. “At least it’s num…b. Mum… Oh cap… No… No…bad…”

The zombie was getting to its feet, which was the bad part. Besides being slightly stoned by the small dose of tranquilizer that had gotten into her system. And her right hand flopping uselessly.

“Very bad,” she said, drawing another taser left-handed. She couldn’t get her usual dead-on targeting since she was getting a bit of double vision. “I think he’s about…”

Which was where he was. The zombie let out a screech and dropped to the floor, spasming. Again.

“Perfect,” she said, then wondered why there was blood dripping on the zombie’s back. She looked at her hand and thought it through. There was blood. Dripping. From her thumb.

“Blood pathogen,” she said, drunkenly. “Not good.”

She pulled off the tactical glove, and the rubber glove under it, and looked at her thumb. It was swollen, bleeding and discolored.

“Is that normal if you AD yourself with an injector?” she asked the empty corridor.

The answer was another zombie howl from the south.

And the zombie was getting up. Again.

She pulled out her last taser and fired, hitting it in the groin.

“I said
down!” she said to the hissing and whimpering zombie.

“This is soooo not good,” she said, finally injecting the zombie and then fumbling in a taser reload with one hand flopping useless. She could
zombies heading her way by the flop-flop of their bare feet on the concrete. “I really,
need to start allowing adult supervision… And reading the directions more carefully. And eating all my vegetables… They need these in semiautomatic… With a magazine…”

She turned and fired the reloaded taser just in time to stop the zombie coming from the north. There were two more in the other direction…

* * *

“Durante,” Kaplan said, holding up the office phone. “Your girlfriend’s calling.”

“I don’t have a girlfriend,” Durante said, working on paperwork. Turned out that even in serial killing there was paperwork. Time sheets, materials… It just glossed over a lot of stuff.

“That would be the boss’s niece,” Kaplan said, grinning. “She wants to talk to you.”

“What now?” Durante said, picking up the phone.

“Line two.”

“Hey, Faith, how’s the filing going…? Uh, huh. How’d you get an injector stuck in your thumb…?”

Kaplan spun around in his chair and quirked a “Spock” eyebrow.

“And how’d you run into a zombie…? And you got the taser where…? And you ran into this zombie…? Uh, huh. Uh, huh. Okay… Okay… Sure. You just stay right there, okay? We’ll be down in a jiffy. Yeah. That would probably be best… Uh, huh. Bubye now.”

He hung up the phone and looked at the wall thoughtfully.


“Roll the full tac team to level B-9, section forty-two,” Durante said, standing up carefully. “Loaded for bear. And I mean right GOD DAMNED NOW!”

he hit the door running…

* * *

When Tom got there it was all over but the flex-cuffing. Faith was still up on the air-handler, wrapping a bandage around her thumb and there were nine, count ’em, nine zombies, male and female, on the floor. At least two, considering the cranial damage, involved the blood splattered crowbar resting next to her.

The security team wasn’t bothering to flex-cuff those.

“Hey, Uncle Tom,” Faith said in a mixture of nervous and cheerful voice. “Did you know your basement was absolutely
with zombies?

“Wasn’t really aware,” Tom said, carefully. “Need to talk with Brad from building security about that. Faith…aren’t you supposed to be up in the

“Yeah,” Faith said. “About that… Filing’s not really my thing. And with the bad thumb and all…” she said, holding up the appendage.

* * *

“Hi,” Faith said, hanging her head. “I’m Faith. I’m supposed to help with the mail…”

* * *

“Uh, oh,” Steve said, watching the approaching boat.

The anchorage they were in was designated open. They weren’t in a channel or anything. It was an out-of-the-way spot on the Hudson on the Manhattan side. But Harbor Patrol seemed to want to stop by.

“Stacey, police visit,” Tom yelled through the hatch. He’d had watch.

“Roger,” Stacey said. She quickly picked up the ready weapons, two Saiga shotguns, two pistols and an M4 semi-automatic carbine and began emptying them. That was simply a matter of dropping the magazines and storing them. Then she proceeded to lock all the weapons in their containers.

By the time the boat pulled alongside, everything was locked down. And she and Steve were both in respirators with nitrile gloves on.

“Harbor Patrol,” the loudspeaker boomed from the small trawler. “Permission to come aboard for health and safety inspection…”

“Granted,” Tom said shouted. It was muffled so he waved for them to board. Not the best way to talk to police, wearing respirators, but they’d managed to avoid the flu so far and the vaccine wouldn’t yet have taken hold. “Stacey, paperwork?”

“On it,” Stacey said, shoving the last pistol case into a locker and locking

“Good afternoon, sir,” the lead officer of the two man team said. His nametag read: Torres. They were clearly bothered by the respirators but
were wearing nitrile gloves. “First question, are there any weapons on board?”

“Yes, officer,” Steve said. The two officers’ body language went immediately to “defensive.” “We’re an associate security contractor for one of the onshore banks. We have quite a few weapons on board for that reason.”

“Contractors,” Officer Torres growled. “Great. Just flipping great.”

“May we use a certain amount of discretion in the conversation?” Steve asked.

“Anything you say we’re required to restate if so asked,” the officer said.

“Discretion in that is all I’m asking,” Steve said, grinning. “We’re a back-up jump plan for some executives. In the event that things get bad enough that protection from law enforcement breaks down, the weapons are for protection of the executives.”

“How many?” Torres asked.

“With the weapons and
, I’m sure you’d use the term ‘arsenal,’” Steve said, smiling again. Stacey handed him the paperwork for the weapons as well as the stamped form that they had registered as security contractors in and for the State and City of New York. The form included a list of all registered weapons ammunition and “paramilitary equipment.”

“Jesus Christ,” Torres said. “Arsenal is right. You can’t have all this stuff sitting in the harbor!”

“Included in the paperwork is my BATF FFL license,” Steve said, calmly. “As well as my certification as a Class III firearms instructor, tactical firearms instructor and law of weapons instructor. My wife is a tactical firearms instructor as well and is a reserve Virginia police officer. This is not meant to be offensive, Officer Torres, but I
police officers. Part time anyway.”

“In Virginia,” his partner said.

“I once taught a class for some of your NYPD SWAT people,” Steve said. “A Lieutenant… Hansen comes to mind?”

“You mean
Hansen?” Torres said, suspiciously. “Out of the One-Thirty-Second?”

“Five-ten, two hundred?” Steve said. “This was five years ago or so. Weight may have changed. Blue eyes, shaved head. I detected balding… Wife’s name… Cynthia or something like that? Five years and we only chatted briefly outside of class.”

“Stay where you are?” Torres said, pulling out his cellphone. He walked up to the front of the boat for the conversation.

“How’s it going for you guys?” Steve asked.

“All good, sir,” the officer replied.

“My two daughters are onshore,” Steve said. “They paint a rather lurid picture.”

“Lurid?” the officer said.

“Vivid in color,” Steve said. “Presented in shocking or sensational terms. Sorry, I only instruct in firearms during the summer. The rest of the time I’m a high school history teacher.”

“Got it,” the officer said. “My dad’s a teacher. He used to spend summers and holidays working odd jobs.”

“How’s your family doing?” Steve asked.

“So far so good,” the officer said, shrugging. “People are scared. I mean, what can you do about a plague?”

Steve tilted his head and tapped the respirator.

“They won’t let us use those,” the officer said, balefully. “I guess…” He looked up as Torres came back from the front of the boat.

“Aussie, huh?” Torres said, looking at him oddly. “I thought it was Irish.”

“Australian accent mixed with southern tends to sound that way,” Steve said, trying not to sigh.

BOOK: Under a Graveyard Sky-eARC
9.25Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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