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Authors: John Ringo

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

Under a Graveyard Sky-eARC (24 page)

BOOK: Under a Graveyard Sky-eARC
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Her Navy counterpart was a commander who was now, apparently, the CNO. Or, and this had been a low level, everybody recognized as sort of pointless, discussion, a boomer commander in the Pacific might be since he had the local guy by date of rank. Actually,
boomer commanders had him by date of rank. There was also an Army colonel who was a pretty decent sort and damned good at poker and a Marine lieutenant colonel she suspected had been shoved off to a nothing post because nobody in the Marines could understand how he made lieutenant colonel in the first place. And the fact that he used to not only be a nuclear weapons maintenance officer but security commander for a storage facility sort of scared the shit out of her. Total flake.

“There were the news reports that some groups had been producing clandestine vaccine from human remains,” the flake said. Lieutenant Colonel Howard Ellington twitched right after speaking, one of his habits that had Brice right on the edge of murder.

“CDC?” Galloway said. “Comment?”

“It was doable,” Dr. Dobson said. “And, quietly, it was recognized in the immunology community that some people were doing it. By that I mean people with degrees who were in some sort of position to get the…materials. Which, admittedly, was being an accessory to murder. Given how things ended up going… I’m not going to point fingers or condemn. It wasn’t even particularly hard to do and much much faster than the alternatives. Frankly, if we’d just…processed those who became full neurological from the beginning we probably could have stopped this in its tracks. But nobody, then, was willing to even consider it. In retrospect…”

“That’s a hindsight I’m not sure I want to explore,” Galloway said.

“We may have to, sir, with respect,” General Brice said.

“Explain,” Galloway said.

“If we’re going to get vaccine to the uninfected crews… There aren’t a lot of other choices,” Brice said. “I don’t see anyone being able to produce the… Dr. Dobson…?”

“What the general is saying is that the attenuated vaccine is
easy to make,” Dobson said. “Not easy and there are dangers. But it’s doable. Whereas the crystal formation serum… We’ve got some here. Now. But it is exceedingly unlikely they have either the ability or the equipment to build it. And from the sounds of it, killing infected does not really bother some of them. Frankly, Mr. Galloway, the attenuated virus from infected homo sapiens is the only valid choice in terms of vaccine for the crews.”

“There’s one problem I’d like to bring up,” Commander Louis Freeman said. “Using an untested vaccine produced by people whose credentials we don’t even know on our last remaining operational military arm raises some issues.”

“You think?” Galloway said, chuckling.

The one of the things going for the NCCC, in Brice’s opinion, is that he had a great black sense of humor.

“Then there’s the whole chopping off people’s heads to make it, commander. I’m cognizant of the issues, Commander and we’ll cover them if and when we get to that point. But since the agenda for the rest of the day is watching the world not miraculously spring back to its feet, I’m declaring a blue sky discussion. Dr. Dobson, you know, more or less, what is required for…attenuated vaccine?”

“Yes, sir,” Dobson said. “General lab equipment. A controlled source of radiation such as an x-ray machine. Infected spinal cords. And a blender.”

“I think I know where the nukes can get some radiation,” Brice said.

,” Dobson said. “I’m not sure exactly how much you can release from a nuke’s engine or how you’d do it. But the most important part is that it be
. If you get too much, you do too much damage to the virus and it’s useless. Too little and you infect those you’re trying to vaccinate. That was one of the major mistakes that drug dealers, who were selling virus that was, in fact, attenuated, made. Some of them infected their customers, others gave them ‘vaccine’ that wasn’t much more than tap water with some random organic material in it. On the other hand, some of the materials collected off the street might as well have been made here. It was that good.

“There’s a way to do a release,” Commander Freeman said. “How controlled?”

“The radiation dosage for creating the primer is forty-three millicuries per second per milliliter in a standard microtube,” Dobson said. “For the booster, thirty-seven millicuries. If you’re off by as much as a millicurie or a tenth of a second, you get either useless or infection. That’s the danger of attenuated virus.”

“Damn,” Galloway said. “What would you suggest using if we, and I’m starting to think we can’t, use this method?”

“A cesium x-ray machine,” Dobson said. “And a lot of prayer. I’d suggest testing specific lots of the vaccine on specific crewmen. Absent them having picked up a microbiologist along the way or having someone familiar with successful attenuated vaccine production…”


“Fish or cut bait?” Steve asked. “You want it or no?”

The 67' Bertram Convertible had taken a beating from the three zombies that had survived. It looked as if there had originally been six. But according to Stacey none of the damage was critical and it was basically a good boat.

“You missed your calling in life,” Blair said, shaking his head at the feces all over the saloon. “You should have been a yacht broker. It’s going to be a hell of a lot of clean-up.”

“If you don’t want it, I’ll find somebody who does,” Steve said. “That’s not being a prick. But if you don’t take it, somebody will. Sophia would take it like a shot.”

“Oh, I’ll take it,” Blair said. “I’m tired of getting beat to death on the

“How are you with Sophia taking the
over?” Steve asked.

“Today?” Blair asked. “I’d like to take both into Bermuda and get this one cleaned up before changing over.”

“I can live with that,” Steve said. “Your crew could use some in-harbor time. By the way, if I haven’t said this, you’re doing a hell of a job. But after?”

“I’m good with Seawolf taking it,” Blair said. “She’s young but she’s good. What about the other captains?”

“You heard the vote the last time,” Steve said, shrugging. “There’s not anybody else with the same level of experience. Not that we’ve got right now. Maybe later. The problem’s going to be a crew.”

“You’re the history teacher,” Blair said, grinning. “That was always a problem for captains. Was before the plague. Good crew, anyway. Watch she doesn’t steal yours.”

“Which she probably will,” Steve said. “Okay, somebody’s got to drive this into Bermuda. Then get to work on it. When you’re ready to change-over, give me a holler. I’ll make sure the rest of the captains are good with Seaw… Sophia taking over.”

“Almost got you there,” Blair said, smiling.

“Da, you’ve got a call from the
Sea Fit
,” Sophia said, over the radio.

“Gotta go,” Steve said. “Good luck.” He stepped into some shit and shook his boot. “Seriously, good luck.”


* * *

Sea Fit, Wolf
,” Steve said. It was just easier that way.

You’re going to need you
Cooper’s team on this one
,” Captain Sherill said.
“Big Coastie. And I mean
. One of their Famous class. More like a destroyer.”

“Oh, crap,” Sophia said.

, are you monitoring?” Steve called.

“Roger. Location?”

“Three one point nine one five by seventy point seventy five two.”

“Roger,” Steve said, looking at the spot. “Be there in about…three.”

Cooper will be about six
,” Chris sent.

, Wolf, over,” Steve said. He sighed and shook his head. “
, Wolf, over.”

“Uh… Victoria…?”

“Tell Victoria actual to expect company,” Steve said. “Get the
warmed up. We may have some customers.”

“Sorry, what?”

“Tell Mike
Sea Fit
found a cutter,” Steve said, carefully. “Did you get that?”

“I…what’s a cutter?”

“Is there any possibility I could speak to Mike?” Steve said, calmly.

“Yeah, hang on…”

* * *

“He’s going to go back to Bermuda and kill
,” Fontana said. He had his feet kicked up on the helm of the
and was enjoying the radio play.

“Mild Steve?” Chris said, turning the big boat to head to the reported location. “The guy who put a gun to Jack Isham’s head and pulled back the hammer?”

“Faith says when he gets real polite it’s bad,” Fontana said.

* * *

“He’s going to flip his lid,” Bundy said.

“Bet you a dollar,” Fredette said, trying not to laugh.

“Where are you going to get a dollar?” Bundy asked.

* * *

“We’re eventually going to have to work with these jokers, aren’t we?” Commander Bradburn said, leaning back in the conning chair. Pretty much the whole sub was listening in. There wasn’t much else in the way of entertainment.

* * *

“I will not go over there and kill everyone,” Steve said, calmly. “I won’t. Human life is precious. At least, uninfected human life…”

“You said you wanted to save the world, Da,” Sophia said, then paused. “Da?”

“Yeah,” Steve said.

“What’s that?” Sophia said, pointing to port.

Steve pulled down a pair of binoculars and examined the splash of spray on the horizon. They’d seen whales and even dolphins aplenty in their voyage. Lots of birds. Flying fish. But never something scooting along on the surface more or less parallel to them and putting up a whisp of spray.

“That…” Steve said, lowering the binoculars, “is interesting.”

“What is it?” she asked.

“What it is is something you didn’t see,” Steve said. “Just…we’re going to forget we saw it for now. I’ll talk to you about it later. Okay?”

“Yes, Da,” Sophia said, looking at him.

“That is…important,” Steve said, getting up and walking off of the bridge.

* * *

Bundy looked at the frequency monitor and ran back a recent recording.

“Submarine paralleling the Tina’s Toy, this is Commodore Wolf, over. Submarine paralleling the Tina’s Toy, this is Commodore Wolf, over…”

“Damn,” Fredette said. “Short ranged hand-held.”


* * *

“Damnit,” Bradburn said.

“Apparently they’re not quite as incompetent as all that.”

“Thank you, XO,” Bradburn said. “Drop the aerial. Make your depth one hundred meters. Come to course one nine zero. Quarter speed…”

* * *

“Bloody hell,” Steve snarled as the ESM mast disappeared below the waves. “For this I paid my bloody taxes?”

* * *

“Okay, this is going to be a bitch,” Steve said, looking up at the massive cutter.

“There’s a real easy place to board on the side,” Faith pointed out. “At least we’re not going to be climbing ten stories or something.”

“Note the surviving zombies on the helipad?” Fontana pointed out. “We got anybody but the three of us?”

“Sophia,” Steve said. “She can be my number two. You guys get things worked out?”

“He’s more or less trained,” Faith said, absently, looking through the binoculars.

Fontana and Steve traded a look as they both tried not to laugh.

“I know you’re trying not to laugh,” Faith said. “Apparently you don’t get dry humor. Yeah, he’s good to go, Da. I say we come close alongside and try popping them with an AK.”

“You know how well that went the last time,” Steve said.

“I’m pretty sure I’ve got this rolling thing down,” Faith said.

“The only people who have ever gotten ‘this rolling thing’ down were the Jedi Knights,” Fontana said.

“Jedi Knights?” Faith said, lowering the binos and looking at him in puzzlement. “I’m talking for real, not science fiction.”

“It’s the nickname of SEAL Team Six,” Steve said. “Alas, I think Faith is right. But
going to try it and I’ll use the M1.”

“I’ve been to sniper school,” Fontana said. “Maybe…”

“Sergeant Fontana,” Steve said. “If anyone is going to kill his crew and sink his boat, it should be the captain.”

* * *

Steve waited until the boat was on the up-lift and stroked the trigger.

“High,” Fontana said. “Again.”

“I’d rather be high than low,” Steve said, jacking another 7.62 round into the chamber. The weapon was a Springfield Armory M1A rechambered for 7.62x39, something that the gunsmith who did it considered very near sacrilege. But Steve was a big believer in ammunition commonality. He just couldn’t find any AK variants he considered accurate enough. “High means they don’t come back at us at high velocity.”

He waited, then fired again. This time he scored a hit.

“He’s down,” Fontana said. “Chest hit.”

The problem was the low rail on the side of the flight deck. It was barely knee high on the zombies but it was high enough that the flying deck of the Toy was barely at the same level. And it was steel. Hitting it would have the round come back at high velocity. And, of course, both boats were rocking in the swells, which weren’t minor at the moment.

One of the zombies tumbled off the flight deck trying to reach the yacht and splashed into the water.

Apparently, it wasn’t the first time. A shark closed in before the zombie had surfaced.

“I suppose we could try to lasso them off,” Fontana said.

“No,” Steve said. “Sophia,” he said, keying his radio.


“Close approach. As close as you can get and not hit the cutter.”

“Shorter range, more accuracy,” Steve said as the yacht started to pull away for a closer run. “And maybe some of them will try to jump.”

“Maybe I should tell Faith that,” Fontana said, standing up.

* * *

“Okay,” Steve said, taking another zombie down. “This is fish in a barrel.”

“More like zombie chumming,” Fontana said. “You should see the water.”

The human body, contrary to Hollywood action films, tends to fall face forwards when shot. Some of the zombies had tumbled over. One had tried to jump. She hadn’t made it. Most that were shot tumbled over the side.

“I’m trying not to remind myself that these are U.S. Coast Guard personnel who are merely infected with a horrible plague,” Steve said, stroking the trigger. “By preference, I’d have preferred to bury them wrapped in flags, not in the belly of a tiger shark.”

“There are probably some survivors who are not zombies,” Fontana said. “Hopefully they’ll understand…”

* * *

“Okay… Bloody,” Steve said. They’d checked three of the on-deck hatches. All were sealed and had some sort of electronic lock on them. They were also quite resistant to a Halligan tool.

“There’s a set of clothes over here,” Faith said, picking up the uniform. “It’s got an ID on it. Would that work?”

“Is it a universal?” Fontana asked, taking the ID and examining it. “And the answer is yes,” he said pointing to the small chip on the badge.

“But will it work?” Steve asked.

“No,” Fontana said, swiping the badge. The lock remained red.

“Okay, let’s look for others,” Steve said. “The lock-down may be based on seniority or other access. We’ll gather them up and check them all…”

* * *

“Try this one,” Fontana said, handing it over.

“A lieutenant’s didn’t work,” Steve said. “Why would a Chief Petty Officer’s?” But when he tried it the lock went green.

“It’s a Coastie thing,” Fontana said, shrugging. “Navy too. A Chief outranks a Lieutenant any day.”

“What’s a Chief?” Faith asked. “What’s a lieutenant for that matter?”

* * *

“Any zombies?” Steve asked, banging on a hatch.

He was rewarded by the beginning of “shave and a haircut.”

“Close your eyes,” Steve shouted. “Understand? Close your eyes!”

He undogged the hatch and tossed in a chem light.

“Use that to adjust your eyes,” Steve said.

“Thanks for finally coming,” the man at the hatch said. “Jesus, where have you guys

“It’s a long story,” Steve said. “But we’re not Coast Guard or Navy. Just a volunteer civilian group. You need water?”

“The worst sort of way,” the guy replied. “We’ve been carefully recycling piss for…well for a long time.”

“Bottles,” Steve said, tossing them through the door. “I’m going to keep clearing. I’ll be back in about five. I need to make sure this area’s clear.”


* * *

“Who’s senior?” the respirator clad man said. The voice was muffled from the respirator but he had a Commonwealth accent. Bobby couldn’t tell which. Possibly Irish.

Petty Officer First Class Bobby Kuzma was the senior of the six survivors of the USCGC Campbell, WMEC-909, slumping on benches in the crew mess so he raised his hand.

The man was just about covered in lights, which were still painful to Kuzma’s eyes. From what little Bobby could see, he was just as covered in armor and weapons ranging from some sort of AK variant shotgun to a large hunting knife. He even had the head of a Halligan tool sticking up over his shoulder with the tool in some sort of holster.

Another armored figure, a woman from the walk but it was hard to tell, entered behind him.

“I found a cache of sunglasses.” Woman. Young. That was all Kuzma could make out.

She started to hand them out. A while back, before the world came apart, Bobby would have thought it idiotic to wear sunglasses in the mess. Now, even with the lights off, they were a welcome relief from the lights the group were wearing.

The first man shut off a couple of the lights and came over to Bobby.

“Need to talk,” he said, holding out his hand. “Can you walk?”

“I can walk,” Bobby said, but he took the hand.

The man led him down the crew mess and then pulled off his mask with a grimace.

“Ugh,” the guy said, grimacing. “We use these for the smell. I’d say let’s go outside where it’s a little better but I don’t think you can handle the light, yet.” He pulled out a cannister of Vicks VapoRub and rubbed it on his nostrils, then held it out to Kuzma.

“You get used to it,” Bobby said, waving his hand.

“Two things,” the man said. “More. First, I’m Steven Smith. Australian by birth, naturalized American citizen, former Aussie para, former history teacher and currently, and I put quotes on this, ‘commodore’ of a flotilla of small boats clearing this patch of the Atlantic. I’m called Captain Wolf or Commodore Wolf and the group has named it Wolf’s Floating Circus. Basically we range between Bermuda, where we’re using a disabled ocean-going tug as a supply base, and the coast of the U.S. We’re actually just around Bermuda right now because there’s only six of us and one of them’s a wanker that isn’t worth the cost of fuel. It’s an all-volunteer effort, which is a bit like herding roos. Which, trust me, are
than cats. I tried it one time as a lad.

“So to what happens next,” Smith continued, “the normal next thing is we get you over to the boats, give you a scrub-down and get some chow in you. Usual sort of at-sea rescue thing except the scrub-down part. That was originally because we feared the virus, these days it’s because it’s, well, become tradition and people tend to be ready for a shower.”

BOOK: Under a Graveyard Sky-eARC
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