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Copyright © 2013 by Bryan Cassiday All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review to be printed in a newspaper, magazine or journal. All characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
ISBN 978-1482767759 Bryan Cassiday Los Angeles Printed in the United States of America First Edition: July 2013
BOOKS BY BRYAN CASSIDAY Sanctuary in Steel Zombie Necropolis Zombie Maelstrom Helter Skelter The Anaconda Complex The Kill Option Blood Moon: Thrillers and Tales of Terror Fete of Death
CHAPTER 1 “We‟re completely screwed. So what else is new?”
CHAPTER 2 At the wheel of the pitching twenty-foot sailboat named the Costaguana, Halverson was luffing south along the Southern California tidewater through choppy seas, a smattering of grey clouds racking overhead. For the time being he didn‟t see any flesh eaters along the shore. “I didn‟t say anything,” said Victoria, sitting on the thwart in the stern, peering up at him as the water sloshed against the sailboat‟s hull. Painted avocado green, the hull had seen better days. Its paint was peeling in spots and it bore nicks in its wood. The exposed wood was suffering from salt and water erosion. Wedged in a hole in the hull to prevent leaking just above the waterline on the port side was a severed human hand, its fingers extended seaward. Victoria was wearing a peach blouse and blue jeans with one of the front pockets torn and hanging down like a flap, courtesy of a flesh eater‟s attack. She wore it like a battle scar. The plague that had contaminated the world had not aged her one bit, Halverson could see. She still looked her years—twentyeight. “I was talking to myself,” said Halverson. Clad in jeans and a torn T, he looked at her with his ginger eyes, the color of a lion‟s. A few years shy of forty, he wondered if he‟d ever reach that age, what with the pandemic. Hearing the mast creak above her, Victoria craned her neck up and saw two legs in torn trousers kicking spastically. Its arms bound behind its back, the one-handed fortyish male flesh eater
was hanging by the neck from the top of the mast and twisting in the wind. “Why do we have to have that thing up there?” said Victoria. “To scare away other flesh eaters,” said Halverson. “Like a Jolly Roger.” “It‟s not like we‟re gonna meet up with a bunch of them on the ocean.” “What about when we dock?” “It gives me the creeps hanging up there.” “Hopefully it does the same to the flesh eaters.” “I doubt it.” “It‟s also handy for plugging leaks.” Halverson glanced at the flesh eater‟s arm that was missing a hand. Victoria rolled her eyes. “What‟s the point of keeping it alive?” “The flesh eaters won‟t pay attention to it if it‟s not moving.” Head tilted back, Victoria squinted at the ghoul, the sun shining in her eyes intermittently as the creature swung to and fro in the wind. The creature‟s jaws were champing the air like it was dying from hunger. Halverson‟s thoughts were elsewhere. “We‟re going about this the wrong way,” he said. “Instead of running away from the walking dead, we should be running toward them.” Victoria screwed up her face and squinched her blue eyes at him. “The sun‟s addling your brains. We‟ve been out here too long on the ocean.” “It‟s only been about a month.” “Seems like a year,” she said, head down, getting depressed thinking about it. “What I‟m saying is, we need to touch base with the people in power. That means we need to make land and then head east.” “Right into the mouths of the flesh eaters.” “We have to find out what‟s left of the government.” Even as he uttered them, he regretted his words. After all, he had found
out the hard way that somebody high up in the government was out to kill him. She raised her head. “Do you have some messianic complex to save the country?” “I want to see if there‟s any country left.” “Why does it matter?” “Sailing out here on the ocean isn‟t getting us anywhere.” “Where do you want to get? We‟re still alive. That‟s what counts.” True enough, he decided. As far as it went. “I don‟t want a bunch of infected zombies taking over. We have to fight them.” “Back to your messianic complex. Why do you have to save the country?” It was his job, Halverson knew. He worked for the National Clandestine Service of the CIA. But he couldn‟t tell her that. Nobody knew what he did. She believed his cover story that he worked as a journalist. She had a point, though. Why did he want to contact the government when he knew they were trying to kill him to silence him on account of what he knew about their involvement in the engineering of the mutated H5N1 zombie virus that had infected the world? “I don‟t want to live like a pariah at sea for the rest of my life,” he said. Victoria nodded. “I can‟t argue with that.” “We need to beard the lion in his den.” “Leave it to a journalist to come up with that line.” “If I didn‟t know better, I would think you didn‟t like me. We‟re not married, you know.” “And don‟t you forget it.” Halverson could not read her face. He did not pursue the matter. It was time for them to change their strategy, he decided. Instead of retreating, they needed to attack. “Are you with me?” he said.
“The two of us against millions of diseased cannibals? You got to be kidding.” “We can‟t give up. If we give up, we‟re dead.” “There‟s a big difference between giving up and walking into certain death.” “We have to get rid of them before they conquer the world. It‟s only a matter of time before they take over the oceans as well as the land.” “How can they take over the oceans if they can‟t swim?” Halverson shook his head. “I don‟t know. All I know is, I don‟t want to live on the sea for the rest of my life.” “I wasn‟t cut out for a life at sea either,” said Victoria, suddenly aware of her queasy stomach. “I‟m a hopeless landlubber.” She massaged her grumbling belly. “Then you‟re with me?” said Halverson, his hand on the wheel. “We have a snowball‟s chance in hell if we land here,” said Victoria, taking stock of the coastline that was, for the moment, deserted. “I didn‟t say we had any chance. I just said we should never give up.” Victoria sniggered. “Are you trying to talk me out of going with you?” “We can‟t give up.” “All I can say is, it was nice knowing you.” Halverson looked confused. “Then you‟re not coming with me?” “No, I am coming with you.” “Good.” She searched his face. “Are you sure you want to go through with this?” “No.” Victoria got to her feet and padded toward the gunwale. She stared at the seaweed-infested flint green water lapping against the hull below. She felt sea spray impinging against her cheeks as the sailboat‟s prow cut through the water.
“Why are we doing this?” she asked. “I have no idea.” She turned to look at him. “Then let‟s just forget it.” “And do what? Float around on the ocean till we‟re dead?” “SSDD, huh? The thrill is gone.” “We‟ve got to do something.” “Why?” Her barrage of questions was getting to him. “We just do it.” “Because you say so?” “That‟s as good a reason as any.” She peered back down at the ocean. “You‟re not convincing me.” “I can‟t even convince myself, let alone you.” “I can‟t think of a single reason to go with you.” “Don‟t you wanna get your face eaten off by diseased cannibals?” he said sarcastically. “That doesn‟t even dignify a response.” A gull gyred through a quarter of limpid sky, riding the thermals, gliding on snow-white wings. At least the smoke had cleared, decided Halverson, watching the gull. The fires had stopped burning along the coast. Most of what remained of Southern California lay in charred ruins. He scanned the coastline and surveyed the rubble that was interspersed with a paucity of buildings that remained for the most part untouched by the fires that had raged over the cityscape when the plague had started. “We need to reach civilization and defeat the walking dead,” he said. “It‟s just impossible. That‟s all. There are a few million more of them than there are of us.” Victoria didn‟t know if she even cared anymore. She had lost her only child Shawna to the plague. Victoria still hadn‟t recovered from the loss. “But we can think, and they can‟t,” said Halverson. Halverson spotted Marina del Rey on his left. Rows of sailboats and cruisers bobbed at the ends of their moorings in the
marina. A forest of white masts and rigging protruded from the sailboats. “What‟s that?” asked Victoria, gazing at the dock, her face etched with fear. Halverson was feeling misgivings. He couldn‟t help but think he was making the wrong decision.
CHAPTER 3 Halverson scoped out the dock that Victoria was eyeballing. A child not yet ten years old shambled toward a middle-aged man that was limping along the dock, favoring his left leg. He was wearing wire-rimmed spectacles and a red Angels baseball cap. Halverson could not tell if the man knew the kid was following him. They both could have been walking dead, the way they were scrabbling along. But Halverson figured the man wasn‟t. Sure, the guy was hobbling, but he could have had a bum leg. The kid, on the other hand, from the looks of him, could have been one of the ghouls. His jeans had dirt all over them. Of course, grimy clothes by themselves didn‟t prove anything, one way or the other, Halverson knew. In any case, the crew-cut kid was catching up to the halting man. Halverson was tempted to yell at the man to warn him about the kid. Halverson decided against it. He knew if he hollered, the loud noise would attract any other ghouls in the area, and that would be the end of the fortysomething guy and the kid as well— if the kid wasn‟t already infected. When the kid reached the guy, the kid lunged at the guy‟s thigh, took a bite out of the pant leg and the guy‟s flesh, and tore out a chunk of flesh along with a section of the femoral artery. The guy screamed at the top of his lungs as blood gushed out of his leg and jetted ten feet across the dock, splashing the weathered floorboards.
Leaning against the sailboat‟s gunwale, Victoria gasped and held her hand to her mouth. “Can‟t we help?” Halverson shook his head. “His artery‟s severed. He‟ll bleed out in minutes. We can‟t get there in time.” Not only that, scores of the walking dead were shambling out from among the nearby husks of buildings and descending on the hapless man as he tried to fend off the diseased kid. Victoria shut her eyes and pirouetted away from the ghastly scene. At last she said, “That‟s what‟s gonna happen to us as soon as we land.” The guy was lying on his back now and the kid was hunkered over him scooping bloody clumps of organs out of his chest and belly and scarfing them down while the guy squirmed in pain, Halverson could see. The guy was too weak from loss of blood to fight the kid off. What kid? decided Halverson. That was no kid. It was one of those things. A clutch of the walking dead were now shambling along the dock, closing in on the downed guy. The guy wasn‟t moving anymore, Halverson noted. Hopefully, for the guy‟s sake, he was already dead. Halverson couldn‟t imagine anything worse than being eaten alive. “We‟ve got to join up with what‟s left of the government and wipe those things out,” said Halverson. “Aren‟t you forgetting something?” said Victoria. “What?” “The government sent that drone after us to kill us with a missile at that bank in Santa Monica. If the infected don‟t kill us, the government will.” She had a point, Halverson knew. In the eyes of the CIA he was a marked man, since he knew, as well as they did, that the US government had funded the experiments that had created the zombie virus mutation of H5N1 at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam. It was that same virus that had leaked out of its airtight BSL3 (biosafety level-three) lab somehow and was now in the process of exterminating the world‟s population.
The thing was, nobody else knew about the US government‟s involvement in the funding, and the Agency wanted to keep it that way. Not even Victoria knew about it. He hadn‟t confided in her. She had no idea he was a CIA black ops hit man. All she knew was that an MQ-1 Predator drone had fired a Hellfire missile at them months ago and all but killed them. She had no idea why. But the government was the only part of civilization left that could defeat the walking dead, Halverson decided. The government possessed the weapons that could eradicate the creatures. That was why he had to find the government, whatever was left of it—even if it meant subjecting himself to its attempts on his life. All of the bureaucrats running the government couldn‟t be out to kill him. Could they? Wasn‟t there anybody left in the government who wanted the truth about the zombie virus to get out? Not if the truth imperiled their feeble existence, Halverson decided. Yet there had to be somebody in the government he could reason with. At least, he hoped so. He had no idea who he could trust in the Agency. He was convinced it was his immediate boss Andrew Scot Mellors, the deputy director of the National Clandestine Service, who had shot and killed fellow black ops agent Greg Coogan just after Coogan had revealed to Halverson over his satphone that the US government had funded the H5N1 experiments that had produced the zombie virus in Rotterdam. Halverson could not prove Mellors was the murderer, but it was Mellors‟s voice that had answered the phone after Coogan got shot. What about Ernest Slocum, the Yale-educated director of the CIA? wondered Halverson. Had Slocum ordered the hit on Coogan? Or was Slocum clean? Halverson had no idea who had ordered Coogan‟s death. It could even have been the president of the United States himself, the avuncular Grayson Cole, another Yalie. Halverson couldn‟t even begin to speculate. All he knew for sure was that Mellors‟s voice had answered the phone that Coogan
was speaking on after Coogan had got shot. It sounded like Mellors‟s voice, anyway, decided Halverson. The point was, somebody in the government was trying to waste him. That MQ-1 Predator drone hadn‟t fired a Hellfire missile at him and Victoria by accident back in Santa Monica after it had tracked him by homing in on his satphone‟s GPS. That was why he had had to ditch his satphone afterwards, leaving him without any means to contact the Agency now. If the president had given the order for Halverson‟s murder, then Halverson was up to his eyeballs in hot water. Halverson could not trust anybody in the government—and yet he had to contact the government because they were in charge of protecting the country from the walking dead. It left him squarely on the horns of a dilemma. The creatures had to be destroyed, and only the government, which was out to get him, had the wherewithal to implement the creatures‟ destruction. The problem was, the only thing the bureaucrats in the Beltway were good at doing was covering their asses—even if it meant murdering Greg Coogan to shut him up. “A penny for them,” said Victoria. “What?” said Halverson, shaking himself out of his reverie. “I was just thinking.” “Duh? About what?” she said, looking into his eyes. “We have to contact the government.” She pulled away from him. “Oh, that again. Your suicide mission.” “I hate it as much as you do, but I don‟t see any other option. We can‟t fight these creatures by ourselves.” “Why do we have to fight them? Why don‟t we just avoid them?” “How? They‟re taking over the world. If we don‟t stop them somehow, they will take over.” “But why us? Why do we have to do it?” He didn‟t want to think about it. “Next question.” Victoria offered him a lopsided smile. “In other words, you don‟t know.”
Halverson said nothing. Newton the iguana moseyed along the deck toward Victoria. She eyed the Day-Glo green and purple iguana. He had spent several months with them and now seemed like one of the family. He looked like he was dragging his stomach along the deck, like he could barely move. “Newton‟s not looking too well,” she said. “He‟s probably seasick,” said Halverson. “I don‟t blame him.” She patted her stomach. “Then let‟s land.” “Right in the middle of the ghouls.”
CHAPTER 4 The director of the CIA Ernest Slocum was holed up in the Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center just outside of Bluemont, Virginia. Built under a mountain in 1959, Mount Weather was nuke-proof. The CIA‟s staff from Langley had taken refuge in Mount Weather, as had President Cole and what was left of both his administration and the US Congress that had survived the plague. Like most every place else, Washington, DC, was overrun with the walking dead. Back in the day, the congress would have gone to ground in the bunker at Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. But that was then. This was now. The remnants of the Pentagon‟s staff were ensconced in Site R (Raven Rock) near Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. Like the fifty states, the District of Columbia wasn‟t safe from the pandemic that was sweeping the country. The president and the DCI were at that moment studying the giant flat-panel HDTVs that lined the wall opposite them in the makeshift Situation Room. The two men were looking at the TV screen in the center of the wall that displayed an image of a map of the United States. Each state was colored either orange or red. Most of the states were red, with the biggest concentration of red states on the West Coast and in the Northeast. “The West Coast and the Northeast are gone,” said Slocum, folding his arms across his chest. A graduate of Yale Law, a Skull and Bones man, the fiftyish Slocum was wearing a navy blue suit and a subdued burnt sienna
paisley silk tie. He had wound up the head of the CIA as a personal favor to President Cole, who had also graduated from Yale Law and had lured Slocum away from a lucrative legal career on Wall Street with the promise of a directorship at Langley. Slocum could have scored beaucoup bucks in a Wall Street law firm, but the allure of the corridors of power in the most powerful nation in the world was too heady a brew for him to resist. A few years older than Slocum, Grayson Cole was wearing a bespoke navy blue suit and a bright crimson tie. He had closecropped salt-and-pepper hair and a broad-featured face. His disarmingly gregarious personality set people at ease and won him elections. And yet there was an aloofness about him, an invisible wall that nobody seemed to be able to penetrate. In short, he had many so-called friends but confided in none of them. “The Centers for Disease Control tells me the plague spreads fastest in areas that have the densest populations,” he said. Even as he spoke, Pennsylvania was in the process of turning from orange to red. “The whole country will be contaminated in no time,” said Slocum, noting with alarm that only a minority of states remained orange. “Just how the hell did we get into this clusterfuck?” Slocum knew the president wasn‟t in the habit of using salty language, but the occasion demanded it. After all, the demise of the entire country was taking place before their very eyes. “It was the accidental escape of that mutated H5N1 virus in Rotterdam,” answered Slocum. Cole waved him off. “I know. I know all that. But how did we get to the point where we were even fooling around with that stuff. What was the thinking? Was it the Pentagon trying to create some biological superweapon that could wipe out the human race?” “As I understand it, the Rotterdam scientists were trying to create a superbug so that they could find the vaccine for it before the bug mutated naturally of its own accord.”
“What kind of thinking is that? Create a killer plague just so you can find the cure for it? I wouldn‟t call that thinking. I‟d call it not thinking. Wouldn‟t it be better not to have the plague in the first place?” Slocum shrugged. “I‟m not an apologist for these scientists.” “I‟m not asking you be an apologist. I‟m trying to find out what the hell these lunatics were doing and why.” “They believed they were anticipating the natural evolution of the disease, and by doing so they could suppress it before it got started.” “Instead, they got it started themselves, and they‟re wiping out the population of the entire world. Bravo!” “It looks that way,” muttered Slocum. “And we funded them?” “It seemed like a good idea at the time.” The president ran his fingers through his grizzled black hair. “How are we gonna stop this thing, Ernest?” “There‟s no known cure for the disease, and it has a kill ratio of a hundred percent. Not only that, after the infected die, they reanimate as cannibals spreading the disease exponentially. The more people that get infected, the faster the plague spreads.” “That‟s my point,” said Cole, still running his fingers through his hair and gazing at the sixty-inch flat-panel TV screen. “Our scientists are projecting that the world‟s population will be eradicated within a few weeks at the most.” “How do we stop this thing?” said Cole, entranced by the TV screen. Slocum paused. “Bombs will kill the infected.” Cole spun around and stared at Slocum. “They‟ll also kill the uninfected.” “No matter what we do to kill the infected, it will also kill the uninfected.” “The only way we can save humanity is by destroying it. Is that what you‟re saying?” “You heard what I said, Mr. President.” “That‟s unacceptable, Ernest.”
“It is what it is.” “Tautologies aren‟t answers. I don‟t want to win a legal argument. I want to wipe this plague off the face of the earth. You‟re not in a court of law now.” “I know that, Mr. President.” “Your legal background isn‟t gonna help you with this problem. You ought to know better.” “What I know is, we still have the ability to destroy these creatures with bombs because we still control the skies. We may not have that ability forever.” “There must be another way.” “I‟m listening, Mr. President.” Cole waved his hands in disgust.
CHAPTER 5 Cole took a seat in one of the cushioned leatherette chairs at the large walnut conference table that stood in the middle of the room. Standing near the table Slocum could not help but pick up on the fact that Cole did not use his hands to brace himself when he sat down. He sat down using the strength of his knees alone. It was one of Cole‟s many purposely adopted traits that demonstrated his vigorous health and enhanced his image as a youthful and robust leader despite his closing in on sixty years of age. “I can‟t impress this upon you strongly enough,” he said. “None of what I‟m telling you must ever leave this room.” “You have my word,” said Slocum. “If the public ever got wind of the scope of the devastation wreaked by this plague, we would have mass panic on our hands the likes of which history has never seen.” “They‟ll never find out from me.” “And they must never find out that we had any involvement in the creation of this plague virus.” “I‟m doing everything I can to silence all of the people who know about our involvement.” Cole bowed his head and studied the polished walnut tabletop. “I can‟t let the creation of this zombie virus besmirch my legacy.” “You can count on me, sir.” “Nobody tells the media about any of this.” “I don‟t know if any of the media are still left.”
Cole sighed, placed his palms on the tabletop, and leaned back in his chair. “There‟s always somebody out there who wants to get out the word.” “What‟s our spin on the situation?” Cole heaved another sigh. “It might be better if we said nothing.” “If we act like we don‟t know about the plague, the public will think we‟re out of touch and distrust us. They might even try to take things into their own hands.” Cole thought about it. “I see your point. We‟ll have to come up with some explanation for what‟s happening.” “Any survivors out there can see for themselves what‟s going on.” Cole nodded. “What if we blame al-Qaeda for using germ warfare against us?” Pacing around the table, massaging his chin with his left hand, Slocum mulled it over. “That might work.” “Tell them anything. Just don‟t tell them the truth—that we were involved in the engineering of the plague.” “Maybe the best thing for us is to keep the media out of Mount Weather.” Cole pulled a face like he was smelling a skunk. “That might incite them to make up stuff that‟s going on. Which could be even worse than what really is happening.” “How could it be any worse?” said Slocum dejectedly. “They could say we the government are the ones that are contaminating everybody.” Slocum stopped pacing and watched the TV screen. “We could invoke HSPD-20 to put a muzzle on the press.” “Homeland and Security Presidential Directive-20, which guarantees Continuity of Operations Plan, aka COOP, during a crisis,” said Cole as if to himself. “It might work. We could cite it to block any media questions.” “Why not?” “They‟re still gonna want to know what the crisis is.” Cole watched the state of Florida turn from orange to red on the TV
screen. He shook his head. “Who‟s providing us with this information about which states have become overrun with plague?” “The FEMA National Radio System, also known as FNARS.” “The same Federal Emergency Management Agency that blew the handling of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans?” Slocum ignored Cole‟s question. “FNARS is a highfrequency radio system that links federal public safety agencies and the US military in all of the fifty states. When we stop receiving signals from any state linked to FNARS, that state is considered lost to the plague and appears red on the TV screen here.” “Like I said before, FEMA has a spotty record.” “FNARS gives you access to the Emergency Alert System, where you can address the entire nation within ten minutes.” “What about TV? Can‟t I address the nation on the TV?” “Not the whole country. TV signals aren‟t functioning in every state. Radio waves are the way to go if you want to reach the entire populace during a crisis.” Cole shut his eyes and pressed his fingers against his eyeballs. “I can‟t believe this is happening.” “We‟re safe here, Mr. President. The Russians could nuke this place and we‟d still be safe. The walking dead can‟t touch us here.” Cole snapped his eyes open and stared at Slocum. “Are you saying the Russians are gonna take advantage of this plague and attack us while we‟re preoccupied fighting it?” “I‟m speaking hypothetically. Who knows how the rest of the world is going to react to this international holocaust? Some countries might try to exploit other countries‟ collapses and seize the opportunity to attack them to further their own worldly interests.” “Yet something else to worry about,” murmured Cole. “Like I said before, we‟re safe here from nuclear attack.” Cole folded his arms across his chest as he sat at the table. “We may be safe, but what about the rest of the country?”
Slocum had no answer. He watched Illinois convert from orange to red on the TV screen. At length he said, “If we have to flee, we can hole up in „Nightwatch.‟” “The National Airborne Operations Center?” Slocum nodded. “It‟s a Boeing E-4, a survivable mobile command post for the National Command Authority.” “It sounds like we‟re ready for everything—except the fucking plague. God damn it!” In a fit of impotent rage, Cole slammed his fist against the tabletop.
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