Read Under a Graveyard Sky-eARC Online
Authors: John Ringo
Tags: #Fantasy, #Urban, #Paranormal, #Contemporary, #Fiction
“That’s a buttload of ammo,” Torres said, looking at the paperwork again. “You get a fire onboard and you’re a floating bomb.”
“Which is why we anchored well away from other boats, Officer,” Steve said. “As well as to avoid contamination.”
“Can see you’ve got that down,” Torres said, handing him back the papers. “Those weapons do not go on-shore until all your certifications have been processed, understand? We’ve had too many of you god damned contractors get gun-happy in the City.”
“If it makes you feel any better,” Steve said, “I agree with your opinion of most contractors. They tend to be unprofessional nuts with delusions of grandeur because they can walk around with the big guns. Part-time firearms instructor. Dealt with
many contractor wannabes.”
“The captain said you were a straight shooter,” Torres said. “No pun intended.”
“I’m glad he’s hanging in there,” Steve replied. “I didn’t really keep in touch,” he added with a shrug.
“Not a round of ammo, not a single gun, goes on shore,” Torres repeated. “I take it all your safety gear is complete?”
“Inventory, location and log book,” Steve said, handing over that paperwork.
“Yeah, we’ll…” he started at a honk from the boat.
“If it’s clear, come back,” the captain said over the loudspeaker. “Priority call!”
“Just…” Torres said, looking both ways.
“We’re not going to go zombie hunting in your city, Officer,” Steve said. “We’re perfectly content just sitting here.”
Torres shook his head and scrambled back over the side.
“You guys take care,” Steve said, casting off their lines. “And hopefully that takes care of
. I suppose hoping that there won’t be any more crises today would be too much?”
“Where’s the usual mailman?” The Executive Assistant for the Manager of Cost Accountancy was a lady in her forties with what Faith mentally dubbed “teacher face.”
Faith sort of preferred being the mail girl to filing. It got her some exercise and she got to meet and talk with people. Of course, half of them asked her why her sister was fighting a zombie. She’d given up trying to explain which was a bit of a pain. And her thumb still hurt like heck, which was another pain.
“Didn’t show for work,” Faith said, handing over the next set of packages. A lot of it was actually “mail.” FedEx was having trouble with deliveries. “No answer on his cell. H7? Left town? Who knows…” She was used to answering that question, too.
“Oh, my God…” the executive assistant said, looking at her computer.
“What?” Faith asked, craning over.
“Airplane crash,” the EA said, gesturing at her screen. “Go ahead.” She turned the sound up slightly.
“…these images were taken by a cellphone shortly after the crash…” the voiceover was saying. The plane had landed in a suburb and the caption read “Bellefonte, PA.” All that could really be seen was billowing smoke and flame. It didn’t even look like a plane.
“FAA reports that based upon the truncated call from the cockpit, one of the pilots may have succumbed to the secondary H7 virus… There are no reported survivors on the flight…”
“No wonder FedEx isn’t delivering,” Faith said.
“They need to get vaccine distributed,” the assistant said, shaking her head. “This shouldn’t be happening. Where’s the vaccine?”
“Depends on the type,” Faith said, shrugging. “The Pasteur method requires infected material. And it can only come from higher order primates. Since there are only so many rhesus monkeys in the U.S., there’s not much of a source from that. To do the other type requires growing the proteins. Two months, minimum, to do that. And then…”
“That’s not true,” the EA snapped.
“Which part?” Faith said, confused. “I mean, I’ve talked to…”
“It doesn’t take that long to produce vaccine! They’re just stalling because the vaccine companies want to run up the price!”
“They are?” Faith said, still confused. “According to Dr. Curry, you have to build the protein crystal…”
“Young lady,” the EA said, calming down. “I know you think you know what you’re talking about. But this is the fault of the Bush Administration allowing the drug companies to get run-away profits off of pharmaceuticals. They know that if they wait they can ask anything for their vaccine. And it will probably be dangerous to use even then. Vaccines are the cause of autism and allergies in children, another thing that the Bush administration allowed to run rampant. I think this virus was created by the drug companies just to make money. They’re making money hand over fist just with the tranquilizers for those poor infected people.”
“According to the FBI and the CDC, it appears to have been one person,” Faith said, mulishly. “They’ve tracked the spread.”
“Young people,” the lady said, shaking her head. “You believe anything your told, don’t you? Just because it’s on the TV, doesn’t make it true.”
“Okay?” Faith said. “I guess you
“Trust me, I’m right,” the lady said. “I don’t know who’s been filling your head with all that other nonsense, but this is definitely the fault of the drug companies.”
“Okay,” Faith said, frowning. “Well, I better get back to work. Mail to deliver.”
“Yes, you should,” the EA said, turning her attention away.
Faith continued on her rounds, dutifully dropping packages at offices. She got the usual round of questions. Where’s the regular guy? Didn’t report for work. No answer on his cell or home. Where did your sister run into the zombie? She didn’t. It was a misunderstanding.
There were more rumors. Everybody had a rumor. The H7 was God’s judgement on the world. It wasn’t really the H7 virus causing people to go zombie. It was all a plot by, choose one or more, the DOD, the Republicans, the pharamaceutical companies, the Democrats, Greenpeace, the news media to boost ratings. Until she started delivering the mail, she’d never heard of the Trilateral Commission or Skull and Bones. She’d had to have them explained. And woe betide if she questioned the explainer’s arguments. She was wrong. Anything that she’d heard from Sophia or Tom wasn’t true. It was all a plot by somebody.
“Hey, Gizelle,” she said, dropping off packages for Tom’s office. “Is my uncle around?”
“He is,” Gizelle said. “He just got back from a meeting out-of-office.”
“Does he have a minute for his second favorite niece?”
She typed a message into her computer and then nodded.
“Hey, Uncle Tom,” Faith said.
“Not to be unfriendly, but can you make it quick?” Tom asked. He was reading his computer in jeans and a t-shirt. Not normal executive wear. “I’m sort of swamped.”
“So, who really started the zombie virus?” Faith asked.
“Still unknown actor,” Tom replied.
“So… Not the Trilateral Commission?” she asked.
Tom looked up and grinned at her.
“Never, ever, trust a furfy,” Tom said, still grinning. “Is it possible it was an organized terrorist plot? Yes. What’s the rest? Big bankers?”
“That one never came up,” Faith said, blinking. “Drug companies. The Bush Administration. Something called ‘skull and bones.’”
“If you were working anywhere else it probably would have,” Tom said, leaning back in his chair. “Banks and bankers generally get blamed first and often. The blogs are full of conspiracy theories about the H7. And every group which has previously been cast as the villains in some other context are being blamed by some other group. That’s the way that people handle this sort of thing. During the Middle Ages the Black Death was due to the Devil and they killed cats to get rid of it. Since it was carried by rats, that was the worst thing they could do. But, no, it wasn’t any of the above.”
“I tried to tell people that…” Faith said, desperately.
“Don’t bother,” Tom said, shaking his head. “They won’t believe you. They only believe trusted sources like some guy who says he’s a researcher for the CDC on some forum they read every day who doesn’t know an enzyme from a lyse and is a janitor at a minor research lab in Peoria, Kansas. But they’ll trust them over all the experts because they speak truth to power! So just listen and mostly ignore it.”
“Does it really take two months to just produce a vaccine?” Faith said. “Nobody believes that.”
“I suppose I should get Curry to do a simple explanation and distribute it,” Tom said, making a note. “But, yes, from what I understand. The protein crystals take that long to grow on the matrix. Then you have to start making the vaccine from those. And then there’s a minimum four month approval window. And even with that, the vaccine isn’t going to be the best. They rarely get it exactly right the first time. It’s going to have more harmful side-effects than one that’s been through the full approval process. But if they can get that done before, well, everything comes apart, they’ll distribute it anyway. Because, you know, the world’s coming to an end.” He gestured at his computer.
“Don’t bother arguing, if there’s something that really seems relevant bring it to me,” Tom said. “Anything else?”
“Pretty much everybody knows the Bank has some vaccine,” Faith said nervously. “Some people say it’s from monkeys. Others that it’s from people.”
“The nice thing about all the outrageous rumors going around is that that’s just one more,” Tom said, smiling tightly. “Which is good. Anything else?”
“No,” Faith said, unhappily.
“If I can get in before oh dark thirty tonight, we’ll talk,” Tom said. “But no zombie hunting!”
“Been there, done that,” Faith said, holding up her thumb. “I’m sworn off until I can use a shotgun. Tasers suck.”
“Thanks for this little meeting,” Tom said, pointing at the door with both hands. “Now I have a boatload of work to do. And you should have a cartload.”
“Actually, I’m nearly done,” Faith said. “With this load, anyway.”
Faith dropped off her last few packages, then headed for the elevator. Just getting to the mailroom was a pain. BotA didn’t occupy the entire building but they had the top fifteen floors. The mailroom, on the other hand, was in the basement. Faith really didn’t like heights and every time she got on the elevator she was reminded of that.
There were three other people waiting for the elevator when she got there. They waited for the group onboard to get out, then Faith apologetically pushed her cart into the corner.
“Where’s the regular guy?” one of the men asked. He was wearing a BotA golf shirt and slacks, which Faith had learned was uniform for middle manager. She’d guess he was in IT from the look.
“Didn’t show for work” Faith said. “No answer on his phone.”
“There’s a rash of that going around,” the guy said, shrugging.
“You act like it’s some sort of joke!” the lady snapped. She was probably an EA or typist from the clothes and age. Mid twenties and dressed to show off her talents. She grabbed the manager by his shirt collar. “Bad things are happening!”
“Hey!” the guy said. “Calm down.”
“YOU calm down!” the woman screamed. Then she screamed again and started scratching at her arms. “WHAT’S ON ME? WHAT’S ON ME?” She started stripping with practiced speed.
“Oh, no, no, no, no, NO,” Faith said. “Calm down! Just don’t do this NOW!”
The woman shrieked and continued tearing at her clothes as the two men backed away from her.
“ZOMBIE!” Faith yelled. She didn’t even have her baton so she snap-kicked the woman in the stomach, causing her to double over. Faith picked up the cart and slammed it onto the woman’s head, smashing her to the ground. Unfortunately, the cart was rather light, didn’t knock the secretary out and came flying back up in a welter of undeliverable packages and internal memos.
The woman screamed again and leapt at Faith who had exactly no room for maneuver. Faith blocked the woman’s chomping mouth up and away with a forearm under her chin, then secured her wrist in a come-along. From there she was able to twist under and get a chokehold on the woman’s throat. The zombie was still wearing high-heels, if not a shirt or bra, and as the door to the elevator opened they both tumbled into the corridor. The group that was waiting for the elevator initially scattered, then several of them stepped around the two wrestling women and into the elevator while others apparently decided there were other places they’d rather be. The IT type darted out of the elevator and sprinted in a more or less random direction.
Faith suddenly found herself wrestling a zombie completely alone in the corridor.
“THANKS FOR ALL THE HELP AND SUPPORT!” she screamed. The zombie was incredibly strong for her size and Faith could already feel herself wearing out trying to maintain the holds. “COULD SOMEBODY KINDLY CALL SECURITY?”
“I thought you
security?” The woman was peeking up from over her cubicle and Faith now realized she had gone from alone to attracting a crowd.
“I’MTHENEWMAILGIRL!” Faith snapped out in one continuous scream as the thrashing zombie started rolling her down the hallway. “CALL
* * *
“Got a report of somebody wrestling a zombie on the thirty-second floor,” Durante said, looking at the alert code. Doing both the BERT thing and his regular job was starting to wear on him. And this was the ninth “zombie” alert today. On the other hand, six of those had been false alarms.
“Which means two zombies,” Kaplan said, standing up. “I’ll take my team.”
* * *
“Faaaith,” Kaplan said, standing in the hallway with his hands on his hips. “I’m
your uncle told you: no more
“She went zomb on the God damned elevator!” Faith swore. She’d finally gotten the woman into a hold where she couldn’t roll down between the cubicles with her legs scissored and one arm up behind her back. Not to mention the apparently entirely useless chokehold. She still wouldn’t quit squirming and Faith was just sooo impressed with all the help she’d been getting meaning NONE. “JUST TRANQ ’ER!”
Kaplan obligingly bent over and jammed a tranquilizer injector into the woman’s thigh.
“See, that’s how these things work,” Kaplan said. “The red end is the end the needle comes out.” He took a spandex bag from one of the other guards, who were looking equally amused, and slipped it over the woman’s head. “And now she’s not bitey.”
As the woman went flaccid, Faith pushed her away and rolled up and to her feet.
don’t let me have any cuts,” she said. “Other than, you know, the
in my thumb. I bashed her over the head with my mail cart but it didn’t stop her. And then she was bleeding all over me from the cut on her head.”
“We’ll get you down to decontamination, then,” Kaplan said, seriously. “I hadn’t realized it was that bad.” Faith’s front was covered in blood.
* * *
“I just thought about a problem,” Faith said.
The decontamination shower was, to her surprise, just a shower. Tile lined the whole bit. With funny tasting and smelling water. She’d been instructed to wash thoroughly with soap and that was about it. Kaplan had squirted betadine onto her thumb, again, for all the good it would do.
“And that is…?” the female security guard who’d been left with her asked.
“I don’t have any clothes with me except what I was wearing,” Faith pointed out.
“For future reference in your later years, I’ve always found it’s best to know what clothes I’m putting on before I take clothes off. Just a tip.” The guard’s voice was amused
“Very funny,” Faith said. “My clothes were covered in zombie blood. I couldn’t get them off fast enough.”
“I noticed,” the guard said. “I’ll go see if we’ve got a set of tacticals in your size.”
“Guy’s medium usually works,” Faith said with a sigh. It wasn’t her fault she was cursed with gigantism. “Hey! And clean please!”
“I’ll see what I can do…”
“Assuming I don’t have zombieitis and
later years,” Faith said, quietly.