Read Under a Graveyard Sky-eARC Online

Authors: John Ringo

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

Under a Graveyard Sky-eARC (9 page)

BOOK: Under a Graveyard Sky-eARC
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“That’s it,” Tom said, setting the head down on the floor and taking the bag. “See that red?”

“Blood?” Durante said, leaning forward to look.

“Spinal cords should be pure white or a slight yellow,” Tom said. “That red you see is virus bodies. Big bundles of millions of individual viruses. Which makes this one a winner.” He carried the bag over to a cooler, opened it up and dropped the bag on the ice.

“Four more to go…”

* * *

“I assure you I decontaminated the outside before I brought it over,” Tom said, setting the cooler down on the doctor’s desk.

“Which is why you’re wearing nitrile gloves?” Curry said. So was he. And goggles and a light respirator. He opened up the cooler and pulled out one of the bags. “Should I ask?”

“There are people in the city who have pet monkeys,” Tom said, tonelessly. “They get zombieitis too.”

“It’s not zombieitis,” Dr. Curry said, examining the spinal cord. “Itis refers to inflammation. Positive for H7D3, though. Zombigenic? Nobody has a really good term yet. This ‘monkey’ would be about five foot seven at a guess…”

“And in good enough shape to chase a woman two blocks,” Tom said. “Fast monkey. Your point?”

“None, really,” Dr. Curry said. “I’ll be doing the work in the hot zone. And I suppose that twitting the person who brought it to me is one of the stupidest possible things I could do all things considered.”

“Doc, as long as you’re producing vaccine, you’ve got nothing to worry about,” Tom said.

“That had a faintly sinister tone to it, Mr. Smith,” Dr. Curry said, starting to suit up.

“And if you think I’m
not
feeling rather sinister at the moment, Doc, you’re an idiot,” Tom said, yawning slightly.

“I’ll keep that firmly in mind,” Curry said.

* * *

“Voila,” Curry said, holding up a vial from the door of Tom’s office. “Primer.”

“Come in all the way, please,” Tom said. “That wasn’t quick.”

It is, to say the least, a tedious procedure,” Curry said, closing the door. “The longest part as a process is separation through a medium. But I even checked the attenuation level. It’s good.”

“I need a detailed SOP on how to produce it,” Tom said, walking over and taking the vial. He held it up to the light, then paused. “Sorry about the sinister thing earlier. We need you for more than vaccine. This is an ongoing issue and I’ve convinced Dr. Bateman that you’re definitely needed on the evac. So you’re secure.”

“Trust you?” Curry said with a snort. He pulled out a couple of syringes. “Ready to shoot up?”

“Very,” Tom said. “And I’m, of course, trusting that this works and isn’t going to give me the virus. Or be some odd poison.”

“See how sinister things can get?” Curry said, pulling out a dose from the vial and rolling up his arm. “Me first. How’s that?”

“I can think of at least ten ways this could be a trick,” Tom said, injecting the biologist. “Starting with you’ve already given yourself the vaccine and this is just water.”

“Oh ye of little faith,” Curry said, shaking his head. “I take it you’re on the executive evac list? Like I want a zombie your size to go nuts onboard? How are we getting out, by the way?”

“Depends on the situation at the time,” Tom said. “Probably helo to the airport, then jets to the remote site. Which means I need vaccine for the pilots and crew as well. How much did you get?”

“Forty doses,” Curry said. “Of the primer.”

“From five…primates?” Tom said, grimacing. “That’s all?”

“That’s all,” Curry said. “Despite the nodules being visible, there’s not really a lot of virus there. Less than rabies for example. Roll up your sleeve.”

“Okay,” Tom said, taking off his shirt. There was no way he was getting the sleeves all the way up his shoulders. Then he rolled up his t-shirt sleeve. He held up his hand at the doctor. “Just… Gimme a second.”

“What’s wrong?” Curry said, then laughed. “Oh, my God. Seriously?”

“I’m okay with getting shot, knifed, blown up and shot again,” Tom said, grimacing. “Tatoos, even. I just don’t like needles, okay? Just…” He closed his eyes and turned his head to the side. “Just do it quick…”

“Said the virgin,” Curry said, stabbing in the needle and injecting the vaccine. “There, done, you big baby.”

“Uh, uh…” Tom said, shuddering. “I hate that. I really really do. Although I hate even more that you only got forty doses.”

“And that’s just primer,” Curry said, handing him a small black package. “More for your bully boys. That’s just the first dose for forty people. And figure on a minimum of ten percent wastage. And ten percent is low. We’re going to need a lot of…primates.”

“We’re looking at a minimum of two hundred doses for critical personnel alone,” Tom said. “Damnit.”

“Two hundred?” Curry said, his eyes wide. “You’ve got that many planes?”

“You forget the support staff at the remote site,” Tom said, putting his shirt back on. “The helo pilots aren’t part of the evac but they need to be vaccinated. Nor are certain critical personnel on this end. They all know that. But they’re holding out for the vaccine if nothing else. After the primaries the next goes to pilots to take vaccine to the remote site. There’s a schedule. But a minimum of two hundred doses. Two twenty if you’re talking ten percent wastage.”

“I’m going to need an assistant,” Curry said, shaking his head. “That’s more work than you realize.”

“I’ll put out an ad, shall I?” Tom said. “‘Minion wanted. Must have a complete lack of squeamishness and a sociopathic personality…’ Actually, if I thought they’d keep their mouth shut, I know a couple of people in the club industry like that… No, wouldn’t work… You?”

“Not anyone I’d trust,” Curry said, shrugging. “I mean… I’m trying to avoid thinking about what we’re doing.”

“Saving lives?” Tom said. “Come to think of it… What do you need in the way of an assistant?”

“Just someone with a strong stomach and good intelligence,” Curry said.

“How old?” Tom asked. “I mean, would an intelligent and…” He paused in thought. “Would an intelligent and
diligent
teenager work? I know where I can get one of those that I’d trust.”

“A teenager?” Curry said, frowning. “I’m not…”

“I’m thinking of my niece,” Tom said. “She and her family are down lurking in the Hudson on a sailboat at the moment.”

“Thinking of jumping ship?” Curry asked, then frowned. “Or jumping
on
a ship?”

“There’s nothing wrong with a back-up plan,” Tom said, chuckling. “I presume
you
have one. If
I
didn’t they shouldn’t have hired me. She’s a straight A student and she’s interested in science. And she’s closed mouthed.”

“This is a pretty big secret,” Curry pointed out.

“Which is going to get out, at least as rumor, before long,” Tom said. “I’ll get them in here and let you interview her. I’ll cover the specific details. That’s on me.”

“Are you going to clear it with Bateman?” Curry asked.

“Dr. Bateman does not need to know the details of the vaccine acquisition,” Tom said. “That way if it blows up in our face, he can sacrifice us both to the so-called justice system with a clear mind.”

“I can just feel the love,” Curry said. “You realize you’re putting your niece squarely in the crosshairs?”

“She can lie and say that she was just doing lab work and had no clue what she was doing,” Tom said, shrugging. “We cannot. But I’ll need to get her parent’s approval. Which means a trip to the River.” He picked up the vial and tossed it up and down. “I’m going to need the rest of this. Any specific requirements?”

“Keep it on ice,” Curry said. “Refrigerated anyway.”

“Get the rest to Dr. Simmons,” Tom said, walking to the door. “He has the schedule…”

CHAPTER 8

“Dad, we’ve got inbound,” Sophia said, ducking into the saloon.

“Harbor cops?” Steve said, setting his iPad down. He had to admit he was as bored as the girls just sitting in the harbor. But he also wasn’t leaving until Tom called it.

“Small fast boat,” Sophia said. “Open. Center console fishing boat I think. I only see one bloke.”

“Rig up,” Steve said, stepping up to the cockpit. He picked up a pair of binoculars and regarded the approaching boat. It was probably just someone passing through the area but people were using sailboats to evacuate. It was just as possible that someone wanted this boat. He considered the driver as it approached. Big guy… “Stand down! It’s Tom…”

* * *

“You could have
called
Uncle Tom,” Faith said. She was still in her hastily donned body armor. “We nearly blew you away.” She took the tossed coil of line and secured it to the stanchion.

“Why am I not surprised?” Tom said, grinning. “Sort of an opsec situation. First of all, I come bearing gifts.”

“I hope that they don’t include the flu,” Steve said, frowning. “We’ve been very careful about protocols and I’d hate to catch it from my brother.”

“I’m clean,” Tom said, picking up a large black pelican case and hoisting it over onto the deck of the sailboat. “And so is this. It’s all been decontaminated. And part of the gifts is vaccine.”

“Hallelujiah,” Stacey said, grinning. “The news said that it wasn’t going to be ready for months!”

“And we need to talk about that,” Tom said, dropping another case over the side.

“What is all this stuff?” Faith asked.

“More weapons,” Tom said. “Ammunition. Legal releases for holding it. First aid materials. More masks and filters. And…” he said, lifting a small cooler over the side. “The first delivery of vaccine. And now,” he said, climbing over the rail, “Steve, Stacey, we need to talk. Alone.”

“Girls, front cabin,” Steve said.

“Aww, Dad!” Faith said.

“Seriously,” Tom said, pointing. “It won’t be long. Sophia, no eavesdropping.”

“I won’t,” Sophia said, grabbing Faith’s arm. “Come on. We’ll find out eventually.”

* * *

“I’d accept a drink if it was offered,” Tom said.

“What, you want to raid my bar?” Steve said, waving him into the saloon.

“We’d better talk out here, though,” Tom said, following him in. “Stacey, I haven’t really said hello.”

“Vaccine, medicine and ammo is the best hello you could have sent,” Stacey said, hugging him. “How are you doing?”

“I’ve been better,” Tom said, taking the offered whiskey. “I probably should have brought you some of this as well.”

“We’re okay on it,” Steve said, waving out of the saloon. “If we start using it to pass the time we’re done for.”

“How’s it been?” Tom asked as they sat down in the cockpit. Steve tactfully closed the door.

“Boring, really,” Stacey said. She’d poured herself a glass of wine. “We’ve had harbor cops tell us we had to move twice.”

“Not much pull there,” Tom said. “But the most they can do is fine you. And I’m pretty sure they’re too busy to do that…” He paused and took another sip. “This is good. Smooth.”

“Bushmills Honey,” Steve said. “Why are you stalling?”

“Because I don’t know where to start,” Tom said. “What do you know about vaccines?”

“Depends on the vaccine?” Steve answered. “There are a bunch of different ones and various ways they’re produced. Why?” he asked, suspiciously.

“You know the thing about who you’d call to help you move bodies?” Tom asked.

“Yes,” Stacey said, cautiously. “Do you need us to help you move one? Who did you have to kill to get the vaccine?”

“Several people,” Tom said, taking another sip. He’d been avoiding drinking since the vaccine mission. “And I’ll have to kill several more.”

“You’re serious?” Steve said. “Tom…”

“It’s more complicated than you think,” Tom said. “And not. The easiest and fastest way to make a vaccine is through using killed virus. The only source of the virus, the only place it grows, is on spinal tissue. And the only species it infects is primates. And the only readily available primates are…?”

“Humans,” Stacey said, turning slightly green. “Oh God, Tom. Oh good God.”

“The excuse is that unlike rabies there seems to be no way to reverse the damage,” Tom said, taking another sip. “Once a zombie, always a zombie. And vaccine will save people like, oh, you and me and the girls. But they are, also, unquestionably human. So it is just as unquestionably murder. I have people to…help me with the heavy lifting. And sedated zombies are
very
heavy. But the biologist who is producing the vaccine does not have help. So I thought to where I could find someone that was trustworthy enough to not talk about what they were doing…”

“How much do you need?” Stacey asked. “I mean…”

“I only got about forty doses from our first run,” Tom said. “And after I said I needed two hundred doses, four hundred actually since there’s a primer and a booster, I got the estimate upped by higher. So the answer is: a lot. The general idea is to keep producing until we hit the eject bar. Or, rather, shortly before.”

“I can…” Steve said, then looked around.

“Would you like me to think ahead for you?” Tom said. “The boat needs to be secured. Although the girls and Stace are trained by you, they’re not you or I. I could detail someone to secure the boat but given the circumstance I’m not sure who I’d trust to hold a boat in the harbor. So you need to stay. And Stacey is your engineer, not to mention just about the kindest person in the entire family. I don’t see her as an assistant to our resident mad doctor.”

“Is he mad?” Stacey asked.

“No more than Steve or I,” Tom said, shrugging. “Bit of an arse, but then so are Steve and I,” he added with a grin.

“You’re saying one of the girls,” Steve said. “To assist you in murder.”

“Assuming that this ever comes out,” Tom said, “and assuming that people don’t just ignore it and assuming that Sophia’s role in it ever comes out, the most she could be charged with is accessory after the fact. The only person’s who are going to know she knows what she is doing are more culpable by far. And you can be assured I’ll be moving heaven and earth to make sure she’s not locked up when the fall comes. To the point of having the plans ready for the prison break.”

“Which will be difficult for you to affect if you’re in prison as well,” Steve pointed out.

“Which is why
you’re
going to have them,” Tom said, grinning. “The other reason for you to be out
here
, brother of mine. Seriously. I need Sophia. You have my assurance as her uncle that she’ll be secure while she’s on the island. Oh, and she’ll get paid. In gold.”

“Why would people ignore it?” Stacey asked, temporizing.

“Because I know I’m not the only one with this bright idea,” Tom said. “I don’t have any hard data on that but I guarantee that NYPD is doing the same thing. The cops aren’t going to go without vaccine. Nor is NYFD. And all the same rationales hold. One: it gets dangerous zombies off the streets without having to put them in permanent isolation. Which is consuming so many resources it’s getting ineffective. Two: it saves people. Yes, it requires that some die that others live but they’re already effectively no longer human. At least that’s what I tell myself in the middle of the night. Oh, and for another reason to release Sophia: it gets her off the boat. That’s less resource use and I know that she and Faith have been driving you nuts.”

“I’d rather you took Faith,” Steve said, shaking his head. “If I hear the word ‘bored’ out of her mouth one more time I’m going to throw her over the side.”

“Which of them would you rather have producing your vaccine?” Tom asked.

“Sophia,” Stacey and Steve said simultaneously. Then chuckled.

“Send them both,” Tom said. “I can find something to occupy that little hellion that doesn’t involve being on a BERT.”

“BERT?” Stacey asked.

“Biological Emergency Response Team,” Tom said. “And I’ll ensure they both get the same protection as any of our execs. They’ll be safe. They can quarter with me. I’ve got the room.”

“You’ll regret that,” Steve said, looking at Stacey.

“We’ll have to talk to them about it,” Stacey said. “It’s…”

“A horrible thing to ask,” Tom said. “But it’s necessary.”

“Let me go get them,” Steve said.

* * *

“We get to get off the boat?” Faith said.

“Let me get this straight,” Sophia said, carefully. “My uncle is chopping up people to make vaccine?”

“Possibly,” Tom said, calmly. “And yes.”

“And you want
me
to help?” Sophia said.

“You wouldn’t be directly involved in termination,” Tom said. “Or harvesting. Or certain other aspects. Just working in the lab with Dr. Curry to produce the vaccine. The worst part is the first bit. Dr. Curry will handle that. After that it’s just centrifuging and irradiating materials.”


I’ll
help,” Faith said. “If it gets me off this boat!”

“I’ll find something else for you to do,” Tom said. “Although I’m not sure what. I can’t exactly put a thirteen-year-old on guard duty…”

“You don’t trust me?” Faith said. “Thanks a lot!”

“At my back, sure,” Tom said. Okay a little white lie. He’d rather have her in front so he wouldn’t get shot by an AD. “In a lab? Let’s face it, Faith, you’re not detail oriented.”

“True,” Faith said, grinning. “You’d trust me at your back? Really?”

“Really,” Tom said. “And I’ll figure out something useful for you to do. But not anything involving securing, terminating or harvesting. Oh, and if this
does
come out and the authorities become involved, nobody knows nothing. Understood?”

“Oh, yeah,” Faith said, making a zipping motion on her lips. “Sealed tight.”

“I’ll do it,” Sophia said, shrugging. “It needs to be done and I can see why you chose me. I…appreciate the trust if not… Really don’t want to chop up people stuff. But… Okay.”

“I’m sorry I’m asking,” Tom said. But he’d already been back and forth enough on the subject. “But…yeah. Thank you. And there’s another bit,” he said, pulling out some paperwork.

“You need to hire me?” Sophia asked.

“You’re going to be an intern,” Tom said. “We’ll handle that paperwork at the bank. This is paperwork making your parents ‘associated security contractors’ with the Bank and paperwork to permit the vast store of weapons I’m sure Steve brought to be legally held in New York harbor…”

“You can’t even have weapons in New York
harbor
?” Steve said. “What the hell is wrong with this place?”

“The law on it is iffy,” Tom said. “But what they’ll do is have the Coast Guard board you with some NYPD harbor patrol people along. If there are weapons, they may not, legally, be able to seize them but they’ll do a bend and spread on you looking for an excuse. Right now, the City and various corporations, hem, hem, are hiring security contractors left and right. This is all the paperwork. You fill it out, I’ll file it and get the certification back to you. Technically, you’re not fully legal until the certs have been authorized by the appropriate bureaucrats. But with the certs pending review, you’re covered enough. And the office that does the certifications is overrun right now so nobody should geek.”

“When do we leave?” Faith asked, standing up. “I need to get dressed.”

“As soon as your parents finish filling out the blanks on the paperwork and you get packed,” Tom said. “Why do you think I brought the big boat? And dressed how?”

“Dressed for Zombie New York!” Faith said. “You don’t think I’m going walking through the streets of a New York overrun by zombies in
street clothes
do you?”

“Yes,” Tom said, carefully. “Yes, I do. Because you’re a thirteen-year-old girl. If you go walking through the streets of New York dressed up like a zombie contract hunter in Fallujah, you’re going to get escorted to juvie. Where, like as not, some kid will go zombie and bite you. So, yes, you’re going to go dressed in street clothes. I’ve got security waiting to pick us up at the dock.”

“Are there zombie contract hunters in Fallujah?” Steve asked.

“Yes,” Tom said. “And like I said, the idea is catching on in the States. Better to have contractors securing them than police. Put a bounty on them. There are legal issues. There always are. So go get packed for a few days at Uncle Tom’s cabin. Or condo in this case.”

“Can I
bring
my gear?” Faith asked. “Just in case?”

“No firearms,” Tom said, rolling his eyes. “Other than that, if you can carry it you can bring it.”

“Oooo! Got that!” Faith said, darting below.

“And no bows, crossbows or blowguns!” Tom called after her.

“I hate you Uncle Tom…!”

* * *

“Well,” Kaplan said, catching the tossed rope. “I can see the family resemblance…”

Sophia had packed one “good” outfit: a cream business suit and matching shoes. Which was what she was wearing. She was carrying a briefcase and had a backpack over her shoulder. And, because she wasn’t stupid, she was wearing a nose/mouth respirator.

Faith on the other hand…

She
had on body armor. And a full face mask respirator. And a tactical helmet. And a full coverage uniform. And tactical boots. And tactical gloves. And a radio. And a machete. And a kukri. And two or three more knives. And three, count ’em, three tasers, cause Uncle Tom hadn’t mentioned tasers…

“Can you move in all that, kid?” Durante asked.

“Yep,” Faith said, her voice slightly muffled. She bent down and picked up one of Sophia’s duffles, then tossed it through the air to hit the former SF NCO in the chest. “Shoot, move and communicate. That get through to you?”

“Loud and clear, kid,” Durante said, laughing. “Let me guess: You’re the lab rat.”

“Like she knows a pipette from a test tube,” Sophia said, stepping delicately onto the dock. “I see you have the bags, Faith dear.”

“Like hell I do,” Faith shouted. It was muffled by the respirator, which sort of ruined it. “Get back here and do some
work
for a change!”

“We’ve got it,” Kaplan said, climbing in the boat. “Just head up to the car.”

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