The new Earth’s Survivors book, To Build A Nation

EARTH’S SURVIVORS: TO BUILD A NATION

Copyright 2019 Dell Sweet all rights reserved.

Cover Art © Copyright 2019 Dell Sweet

This excerpt is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This excerpt may not be re-sold, copied or given away to other people. If you would like to share this  with another person, please point them to this blog. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

LEGAL: This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living person’s places, situations or events is purely coincidental. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the author’s permission. Permission is granted to use short sections of text in reviews or critiques. The Earth’s Survivors characters are copyright protected.


This excerpt is not edited for content


June 22nd Year Two

The Nation

Candace’s Diary

Another long day, but, Mike, Chloe, Ronnie and Adam are off to see what they can find and I am left here to lead and run the meeting.

There will be a group coming in just a few days: I only know they were over to the west somewhere; Rollie has dealt with them a few times. It’s the same problem Sam had, settling too close to the old world; several places have done that and are now having problems with outsiders. As far away as we are we still have problems. I say that because of what recently happened.

We still don’t know how they found us or what their motivation was, but if they know we are here others will also know we are here. It could be the lights; Rollie had mentioned they could be seen from sixty miles away.

We have four new posts: One at each point of the compass; added to the others we had, plus every cave has their own observation post on top of Ridge Mountain. We’ve got sand bags going along the rocky trails to cut down on rock chips; believe it or not, children, the bags to make the sand bags were hard to come by. But Rollie found them somewhere and they are on the way.

I can’t see how Sandy can get any bigger. She is due next month. Was I that big? Patty tells me I was bigger, but I can’t imagine it. Cindy is due in August. Debbie and I are on the fence; will we have babies this year or just over the line in January? Chloe definitely next year; and Pats too: Lisa and Sharika are due about the same time as Pats.

I am really happy with a song that Bonnie and I are writing together. I think we’ll play it soon: We titled it “A woman like me”. It’s the first time I have worked on something with someone else. It’s tough to do, but in the end I hope it comes out well. Hopefully we’ll do more together.

Candace folded her journal closed and slid it in a drawer. The babies were asleep; the kids as well.

Patty had a thick book in her hands Music notation and chords, Candace saw.

“What’s doing, Pats?” Candace asked as she settled on the bed beside her.

“Learning the basics of writing music and scales, and chords, and I don’t know how you keep it all straight, Baby,” Patty told her.

“I don’t see why you keep a body like that covered up, Honey,” Candace said. She pulled up Patty’s over-sized t-shirt and wiggled her head up under it.

“Hey, that’s for the baby,” Patty said.

“Sorry, Lover, wrong direction.” She popped her head out from under Patty’s t-shirt and tugged at the elastic waistband of her sweatpants with her teeth. Patty arched her back and Candace slipped her sweatpants and panties down with one quick movement; she worked her way down.

The island

Mike, Ronnie and Chloe

They had run no more than two or three minutes when they heard thrashing through the trees ahead of them. They came to a quick stop and faded into the greenery on the sides of the wide path they had been following.

Mike held the rifle ready and calmed the dog with his other hand. A large group of women came into view at a trot, struggling to carry a fat man on a bier that rode on thick poles resting on their shoulders. The fat man held a military machine gun in one hand, pointing it up in the air: The bier danced up and down, the women struggling to carry the load. Mike stepped out into the pathway: Pointing his pistol into the air and fired a short burst. The women in front screamed and tried to stop, but the momentum of the women behind them knocked them over. The bier crashed to the ground, nearly in front of Mike. He reached down and snatched the machine gun as it hit the ground. The fat man grunted in pain as he slammed face first into the hard-packed dirt of the path.

A woman toward the back threw herself to the ground and fell to her knees as if in worship.

There were several women and two young girls. Mike sent Ronnie and Chloe back with word to bring the trucks up: Once through the heavy kudzu near the water, they could negotiate the path easily he knew. There was no fight left in this group. Many of the women wept openly, several leaped up and began to kick and pummel the fat man, but he was beyond feeling. Most likely he had broken his neck in the fall. Although two women had also attacked him right after he had fallen, jumping up and down on him, kicking his head and body. By the time Mike had gotten them to stop the man was gone.

When the trucks arrived they made their way back to the encampment. Mike ordered several of the women to carry the fat man’s body back to the camp. He followed behind the women, the trucks behind him.

Once they reached the camp and released the fat man’s captives, it was clear several of the women were more hated because of the things they had done, and it was hard to keep the captives from killing them with their bare hands. As it was; several were badly beaten before the beatings could be stopped. Mike had found himself having to threaten to shoot people on both sides before they would calm down.

One dark-haired woman came over to Mike.

“You seem like a nice guy; I guess you just don’t understand.” She pointed at a particular woman. “They killed my son… They did… She took him, her right there, they ate him, don’t you see? They ate him and you’re protecting them… If I had a gun I’d kill you just to get to them,” she told him.

The whole conversation was low pitched and calm, but the woman’s eyes were mad. Heavy bags hung under them, red-lines spider-webbed the whites. She stared at him a few minutes longer and then walked away. As she went, she suddenly lunged at the other woman. A sharp bone spearhead appeared in her hand and she drove it into the woman’s throat. Ronnie stepped up and clubbed the woman in the head with his rifle; she collapsed like dirty laundry in a heap. Mike raised his voice.

“That is enough: Next one jumps, from either side and I start shooting. And I mean it.” He glared back and forth between the two groups. No one spoke.

“Chloe, take those captives somewhere: Somewhere where they can get cleaned up. Adam, go with her. Jeff.” He waited until the big man looked at him, “You still with us?”

The big man nodded.

“Them,” Mike continued, “go with them and talk some sense into them. When you get back we’ll have this mess cleaned up, and try to work up some food. What is there to hunt on this island?” Mike asked.

“Cows,” Jeff said.

“Cows?” Mike asked.

“Yeah… A couple of wild herds on the other side of the island,” Jeff said.

“Mike nodded. “Ronnie? Adam? Take one of the trucks and get at least two, maybe three. Jeff… That is my woman,” he said pointing to Chloe. His warning was clear. After everyone left, Mike turned back to the large group of women.

“Is there a stream, river, lake, some sort of water close to the ocean? Because if not we’re walking all the way to the ocean.” They wound up at a small stream nearby.

“Don’t be shy, get clean,” Mike said. “Is that all you have to wear,” he asked, indicating one of the loincloths.

“There are boxes of stuff back there… He wouldn’t let us wear it,” one woman volunteered.

“Good. Scrub that shit off, get clean. Throw those things away. We’ll get clean stuff when you get back,” Mike said.

When they came back Mike had some of the women hand out clean clothes. By the time the other group came back the body of the one woman had been removed and all the other women were dressed in real clothes.

The two groups declared an uneasy truce.

Ronnie and Adam came back with two cows and a pig: Soon the smell of roasting meat filled the air. Evening closed in and as darkness set in Chloe helped some of the other women find clean clothes to wear.

The nation

As the sun set in the main valley, the lights came on in the new addition to the school and the track in back of the school.

“Run Patty, run,” Candace shouted.

Lilies Journal

I cannot believe I played baseball tonight. We all ate hugely and then went down to the new ball field on the pretext of testing the bats. We had a game going within a few minutes. Just pick-up teams we threw together. Nobody cared, we just wanted to play ball.

Pats, me, Candy and Debbie were all in the same team. But we got it handed to us.

Tom, yes my own husband, Josh, Brad and Alexa were the best hitters on the other team. They got us one by one, and we made them work for it too.

We had been hoping to hear from the guys that are away. Sometimes they’re in range, but nothing. Maybe another few days: I know they are out for very specific things, wiring being the majority of it, but real plumbing articles like toilets, sinks. Specific types of computer and hardware and software that Stephen and Lisa want. And of course, they have huge lists from just about everyone.

Well, my Tom has a sore shoulder from hitting all those home runs so I guess I’ll rub it out for him. You know, for a little while, it seemed like the old world, a good part of the old world, tonight. And that felt good.


Earth’s Survivors: To Build a Nation.

Coming in early spring 2019 from Dell Sweet



 

The Earth’s Survivors series on iTunes/Apple

EARTH’S SURVIVORS I-Tunes:

Book One: Apocalypse, free eBook. The end comes swiftly. Few will live, fewer still will survive. The Earth’s Survivors series of books follow the people that survive and set out to rebuild their lives… #ApocalypticFiction #iBooks #Horror

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/earths-survivors-apocalypse/id963866999?mt=11


 

Book Two: Rising from the ashes

EARTH’S SURVIVORS Rising From The Ashes #iTunes #Apocalypse From L.A. To Manhattan lawlessness is the rule #eBook  https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/earths-survivors-rising-from/id595453162?mt=11


Book Three: The Nation

The Nation takes shape and the people who will build it.

Billy and Beth have reached Manhattan and a small camp with those they met on their trip across the country. They are waiting, for what they do not know… #eBook #horror

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/earths-survivors-the-nation/id602902809?mt=11


Book Four: Home In The Valley. Building the first and most important settlement.

Follow the struggles of the Earth’s Survivors as they begin to put the pieces of a new society together. One that can keep everyone safe. #Apocalypse

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/earths-survivors-home-in-valley/id1015548804?mt=11


Book Five: Plague #Undead Plague outlines the sudden rise of the dead across the country. First it was survivors who should have died and didn’t. Then it was reports of people coming back from death. Now it is an epidemic raging across the planet #eBooks https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/earths-survivors-plague/id1015630497?mt=11


Book Six: Watertown

A virus capable of raising the dead comes up missing from a top secret lab. Watertown tells the story leading up to the Apocalypse. The story of Billy Jingo, Ben Neo and Jimmy West, and a drug deal that goes very wrong… #PAW #iBooks

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/earths-survivors-watertown/id1086227131?mt=11


Book Seven: World Order. The final book. Will the Nation crumble or rise…? We had walked for days. The desert seemed never ending, plateaus, sand dunes, the bleached bones of cattle. The sun rose, the sun fell. #Dystopian #Horror #iBooks

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/earths-survivors-world-order/id1086393733?mt=11


Book Eight: To Build a Nation: Coming spring 2019.  #iBooks #ZombieFiction #ApocalypticFiction


SE 1 Contains the first two books, trivia, cast and more. Save, eBook… https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/earths-survivors-se-1/id1017135329?mt=11


SE 2: I-TunesSE 2 contains books 3 & 4, character bios, diaries, trivia, more, eBook…

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/earths-survivors-se-2/id1017126399?mt=11


SE 3: iTunes contains the Outrunner books. The Outrunners are the people who fight the dead to keep the nation safe…

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/earths-survivors-se-3/id1081677032?mt=11


SE 4: The Story of Mike and Candace. The most popular group from the website writings were Candace and Mike. https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/earths-survivors-se-4-the-story-of-candace-and-mike/id1212723662?mt=11


SE 5: Books 6 & 7. The complete text of books Six and Seven in one volume. #Preppers #Dystopian #iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/earths-survivors-se-5/id1212582642?mt=11



 

A free look at Alabama Island from Author Dell Sweet

ALABAMA ISLAND

Copyright 2011 W. G. Sweet all rights reserved.

Cover Art © Copyright 2018 W. G. Sweet

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your bookseller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

LEGAL

This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living person’s places, situations or events is purely coincidental.

No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the author’s permission. Permission is granted to use short sections of text in reviews or critiques.


ALABAMA ISLAND


12:30 am

New York: New York

Carl Evans watched from the mouth of a dark alley. It was one of the things he loved about this place. You could hang out in an alley, smoke cigarettes all day and night long if you wanted to, and nobody said a word to you. Where else, but New York could that be true, he asked himself.

He leaned back against the wall, one sneakered foot propped on the brick behind him to hold him, the other flat on the cobbled stones of the alley. Another thing about New York, he thought as he inhaled deeply of his cigarette, and then let the smoke roll slowly out of his mouth. Old things everywhere you looked. These cobblestones for instance. He wondered how old they truly were.

“Young man.” The deep voice startled him from his thoughts. He lifted his head to see an old, gray haired gentleman standing at the mouth of the alley a few feet away. His face was creased and seamed. His skin so dark it was nearly blue. A cane in one hand supported his weight.

“What’s up, Pops?” Carl asked politely.

The man placed his second hand on his cane and leaned forward. “That cigarette will kill you.”

“Pops…”

He held up one hand as Carl began to speak. “Just telling you. Don’t need an argument. It will kill you. The big tobacco’s, they knew about it back in the day when I was a boy chasing that habit. And they knew about it when it was in commercials in magazines, and T.V. and what not. That cowboy died from it you know, they knew it and they still know it. It will kill you. In case you didn’t know it I wanted you to know it.” He straightened his back, lifted the second hand, nodded once, and moved across the mouth of the alley disappearing as though from some sort of magic.

Carl chuckled, lifted the cigarette to his mouth, took a deep drag and then found himself blowing the smoke out, dropping the cigarette, and crushing it. The old man had ruined it for him. He hadn’t smoked in ten years, but it tasted as good now as it had then. And he had figured with the way things were nobody had much time. Certainly not enough time to die from cancer or some other nasty surprise from cigarettes, but just the same the old man had ruined it for him.

He looked down at the blackened mess he had made as he ground the cigarette into the cobbles. Just as well, he told himself, it was time. He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a small silver canister. He inhaled a sharp breath involuntarily. He knew what it was. Knew what he was doing, but he still couldn’t believe he was actually going to do it.

He fingered the small red button on the top of the silver canister, hesitated, and then pushed it down. Something inside clicked. There was no other sound in the stillness. He tossed it down the alley, turned, and walked out to the sidewalk.

Route 81 rest-stop

Outside Watertown New York

1:00 am

A black truck pulled into the rest stop and two men climbed out; walking toward the rest rooms that sat in from the road. Concrete bunker looking buildings that had been built back in the early seventies. They had been closed for several years now. In fact the Open soon sign was bolted to the front of the building; rust streaked the sign surface. It seemed like some sort of joke to Mike Bliss who used the rest stop as a place to do light duty drug deals. Nothing big, but still that depended on your idea of big. Certainly nothing over a few thousand dollars. That was his break off point. Any higher than that, he often joked, you would have to talk to someone in Columbia… Or maybe Mexico, he told himself now as he sat waiting in his Lexus, but it seemed that since Rich Dean had got himself dead the deals just seemed to be getting larger and larger. And who knew how much longer that might last. He watched the two men make a bee line for the old rest rooms.

“Idiots,” he muttered to himself. He pushed the button, waited for the window to come down, leaned out the window and yelled. “What are you, stupid? They’re closed.” He motioned with one hand. “You can’t read the fuckin’ sign or what?”

Both men stopped and looked from him to the sign.

“Yeah, closed. You can read right? Closed. That’s what it says. Been closed for years. Go on into Watertown; buy a fuckin’ burger or something. Only way you’re getting a bathroom at this time of the morning.” He had lowered his voice for the last as he pulled his head back into the car, and turned the heater up a notch. The electric motor whined as the window climbed in its track. He looked down at his wrist for the time, 1:02 A.M., where the fuck was this dude. He was late, granted a few minutes, but late was late.

A sharp rap on the glass startled him. He had been about to dig out his own supply, a little pick-me-up. He looked up to see the guys from the truck standing outside his window. “Oh… Fucking lovely,” he muttered. He pushed the button and the window lowered into the door, the motor whining loudly, the cold air blew in.

“And what can I do for you two gentlemen,” He asked in his best smart ass voice.

The one in back stepped forward into the light. Military type, Mike told himself. Older, maybe a noncom. A little gray at the edges of his buzz cut. With the military base so close there were soldiers everywhere, after all Watertown was a military town. It was why he was in the business he was in. It was also why he succeeded at it.

“Did you call me stupid,” The man asked in a polite tone.

“Who, me? No. I didn’t call you stupid, I asked, what are you stupid? Different thing. The fuckin’ place is closed… Just doing my good deed for the day… Helping you, really, so you don’t waste no time,” Mike told him.

“Really?” The man asked.

Mike chuckled. “Yeah really, tough guy. Really. Now, I did my good deed, why don’t you get the fuck out of here ’cause you wore out your welcome.” He opened his coat slightly so they could see the chrome 9 mm that sat in its holster.

“Really,” the first guy repeated.

“Okay, who are you guys, frick and frack? A couple of fucking wannabees? Well I am the real deal, don’t make me stick this gun in your fuckin’ face,” Mike told them. He didn’t like being a dick, but sometimes you had to be.

“You know what my mother always said about guns?” The second guy asked.

“Well, since I don’t know your mama it’s hard to say,” Mike told him. He didn’t like the way these two were acting. They weren’t cops, he knew all the locals. If it had been someone he had to worry about he would have handled this completely differently. These guys were nobodies. At least nobodies to him, and that made them nobodies to Watertown. If he had to put a bullet in… His thoughts broke off abruptly as the barrel of what looked like a .45 was jammed into his nose. It came from nowhere. He sucked in a deep breath. He could taste blood in his mouth where the gun had smashed his upper lip against his teeth.

“She said don’t threaten to pull a gun, never. Just pull it.”

“Mama had a point,” Mike allowed. His voice was nasally due to the gun that was jammed hallway up to his brain. “Smart lady.”

“Very,” the man allowed. “Kind of a hard ass to grow up with, but she taught me well.” He looked down at Mike. “So listen, this is what we’re gonna do. You’re gonna drive out of here right the fuck now. And that’s going to stop me from pulling this trigger. Lucky day for you, I think. Like getting a Get Out Of Jail Free card, right.”

“This is my business spot… You don’t understand,” Mike told them. “I… I’m waiting for someone.”

“Not tonight, Michael.”

“Yeah, but you don’t.” He stopped. “How do you know my name?” he asked. There was more than a nasal quality to his voice, now there was real fear. Maybe they were Feds. Maybe.

“Yeah, we know you. And we know you use this spot as a place to do your business. And I’m saying we couldn’t care less, but right now you gotta go, and I’m not going to tell you the deal again. You can leave or stay, but you ain’t gonna like staying,” The guy told him.

“Listen… This is my town… If you guys are Feds you can’t do shit like this… This is my town. You guys are just…”

The guy pulled the trigger and Mike jumped. He fell to the right, across the front seat. Both men stepped away from the car, eyes scanning the lonely rest stop from end to end, but there was no one anywhere. The silence returned with a ringing in their ears from the blast as it had echoed back out of the closed car interior. The shooter worked his jaw for a moment, swallowing until his ears popped. He lifted his wrist to his mouth. “Guess you saw that,” he said quietly.

“Got a cleaner crew on the way up. You’ll pass them in the elevators. The boss is waiting on you guys.” The voice came through the implant in his inner ear. No one heard what was said except him.

He nodded for the cameras that were picking him up. “In case you didn’t hear it, someone is supposed to meet him here so your cleaner crew could have company.”

“Got that too… We’ll handle it.” He nodded once more, and then walked off toward the rest rooms as the other man followed.

Once in back of the unit they used a key in the old rusted handset. It only looked old and rusty; it was actually an interface for a state of the art digital system that would read his body chemistry, heat, and more. The key had dozens of micro pulse sensor implants that made sure the user was human, transmitted heartbeat, body chemistry, it could even tell male from female and match chemical profiles to known examples in its database. Above and to the sides of them several scanners mapped their bodies to those same known profiles. Bone composition, old fractures, density and more. All unique in every man or women. The shooter removed the key and slipped it into his pocket. A few seconds later a deep whining of machinery reached their ears, the door shuddered in its frame, and then slipped down into a pocket below the doorway.

A second later they stepped into the gutted restroom. Stainless steel doors took up most of the room; the elevator to the base below. They waited for the cleaner crew to come up and then took the elevator back down into the depths.

~

The Bluechip facility stretched for more than five miles underground. Most of that was not finished space, most of that was connector tunnels, and storage space bored from the rock. The facility itself was about three thousand feet under the city of Watertown in a section of old caves that had been enlarged, concrete lined and reinforced. The rest area was one of several entrances that led into the complex. An old farm on the other side of Watertown, an abandoned factory in the industrial park west of the city and a few other places, including direct connections from secure buildings on the nearby base.

John Pauls and Sammy Black had Alpha clearance. Both were ex-military, but most likely military clearance was no longer a real matter of concern this late in the game, Sammy thought as they made their way down the wide hallway. The word coming down from those in the know was that in the next twenty-four hours the human race would come very close to ceasing to exist at all. No confirmation from anyone official, but regular programming was off air, the news stations were tracking a meteor that may or may not hit the Earth. The best opinions said it didn’t matter if it hit or not, it would be a close enough pass that there would be massive damage. Maybe the human race would be facing extinction. The government was strangely silent on the subject. And that had made him worry even more. The pass was estimated to be right over the tip of south America. So maybe formalities like Alpha clearance weren’t all that important any longer. If only Mike Bliss had given that some thought before he had pissed him off.

The halls were silent, nearly empty. Gloss white panels eight feet high framed it. It had always reminded Black of a maze with its twists and turns. Here and there doors hung open. Empty now. Always closed any other time he had been down here. So it had come this far too, Black thought. He stopped at a door that looked like any other door and a split second later the door rose into the ceiling and Major Weston waved them in.

Alice, he had never learned her last name, sat at her desk, her eyes on them as they walked past her. One hand rested on the butt of a matte black .45 caliber pistol in a webbed shoulder holster that was far from Army issue. Her shoulder seemed a little puffy on one side… Padded unevenly: Probably injured, Sammy thought: Even so, he had no doubt she could still shoot them both before they could even react.

Alice was etched into one of those name pins that the Army seemed to like so well, but oddly, just Alice, no last name, rank or anything else. She wore no uniform, just a black coverall. The kind with the elastic ankle and wrist cuffs. No insignia there either. He had noticed those months before. Her eyes remained flat and expressionless as they passed her desk.

“Alice,” Sammy said politely. She said nothing at all, but she never did.

“Sit down, boys,” Major Weston told them. He spoke around the cigar in his mouth: Dead, but they always were, and there was never the smell of tobacco in the office. They took the two chairs that fronted the desk.

The Major was looking over a large monitor on the opposite wall that showed the north American continent. This map showed small areas of red, including the northern section where they were. The rest of the map was covered with green. “Where we are and where we need to be,” he said as he pushed a button on his desk. The monitor went blank. He turned to face the two.

“So here is where we are. You know, as does most of the world, that we are expecting a near miss from DX2379R later on tonight.” He held their eyes.

John shrugged. “I’ve been doing a little job, must have missed that. It’s not gonna take us out is it?”

“Saw that on the news a few days back. Guess we dodged a bad one,” Sammy said.

“Right… Right,” Weston said quietly. “But that cover was nothing but bullshit.”

“It’s going to hit us?” John asked.

“Maybe… The fact is that we don’t know. One group says this, another group says that, but it doesn’t matter because it will probably kill us off anyway. Direct hit, near miss, it is going to tip over an already bad situation with the Yellowstone Caldera.” He raised his eyes, “Familiar with that?”

“Yellowstone park?” Sammy said.

John nodded in agreement.

Weston laughed. “Put simply, yes. Yellowstone has always been an anomaly to us. Back in 1930 the Army did an exploratory survey of that area. What we came up with was that there was a section of the Rocky Mountains missing. Looked at from the top of Mount Washburn it was easy for the team to see that the largest crater of an extinct volcano known to exist lay before them.”

“I guess that’s about what I thought,” Sammy agreed.

“Yeah. We all think that. Except it is not true at all because the Yellowstone caldera is not extinct, it is active. Active and about to pop. There have been several warnings, but we took the recording stations off line quite some time ago, so there has been no mention of it in the news. Budget cuts,” he shrugged. “So everyone is focused on this meteor that may or may not hit us and instead this volcanic event is going to blow up and when that happens the rest won’t matter at all.” He clicked the button on his desk and the monitor came to life. “All the red areas are spots where the surface pressure has increased. There was, at one time, many active volcanoes on the north American continent.” He clicked a button and the map changed to a view of the European continent with many of the same red shaded areas.

“All over the Earth… Higher pressures. Up until a few days ago the brainiacs were still arguing over whether this could even happen.” He laughed. “It is happening and they are arguing over whether it can happen. Well, we had our little debates and then we realized that history shows clearly that this has happened before. Several times. Call it the Earth’s way of cleansing itself.”

“But it’s not an absolute, right?”Sammy asked.

“Don’t start sounding like the scientists.” He reached below his desk and came up with six small silver cartridges. Each had a red button mounted on the top with a protective cap over the button itself. He clicked a button on his desk, and a picture of destruction appeared on the screens. It was obviously an aerial shot, looking down at a chain of islands. Smoke hung over the chain, reaching as high as the plane itself. As the plane dropped lower, rivers of red appeared. “That picture is an hour old. That is… Was, the Hawaiian chain.”

Sammy twisted further to the side, staring at the monitor. “How can that be…? I mean everyone would know about it.” He turned back to Weston.

Weston nodded. “And that would be true except the satellites are out because of the asteroid. Shut down to avoid damage. That is the official word.” He clicked the button on his desk and the monitor went dead once more. “I started this out saying that none of it matters and that is true. The Yellowstone caldera is going to erupt sometime in the next few days. Not a maybe, not an educated guess: If the satellites were up you would know that the park is closed. It has already started. We have had a few small quakes, but the big stuff is on the way.”

“Super volcanoes… Earthquakes that modern civilization has never seen… The last super eruption was responsible for killing off the human population some seventy-four thousand years ago. Reduced it to a few thousand. And that is not the biggest one we have evidence of.” He lifted his palms and spread them open, sighing as he did. “So it is a double whammy. If we survive the meteor the volcanoes get us, or the earthquakes because of them, or we’ll die from injuries. And I think those of us who die outright will be lucky. The rest of us will have a hard time of it… Staying alive with nothing… We will probably all starve to death.” He paused in the silence.

“Those cartridges are a compound developed right here in this complex for the armed forces. Project Super Soldier. SS for short. That kept people from looking too deep; they assumed it was something to do with the Nazi youth movement here and abroad. We let that misconception hold.” He waited a second for his words to sink in.

“SS is designed to prolong life past the normal point of termination. It allows a soldier to survive longer without food and more importantly without water. Does something to the cells of the host, I don’t pretend to know what. What I do know is that the people above me made the decision to release this…” He picked up a mug of coffee from the desk and sipped deeply. His eyes were red road maps, Sammy noticed now; like he hadn’t slept in a few days. He picked up the two cartridges; holding them between thumbs and forefingers, rolling them back and forth.

“A few months ago this facility… I fucked up and allowed several vials of the virus to be stolen… The people responsible have been dealt with, but the damage was done.

“Shortly after that theft we began getting credible stories of contamination in Brazil… Nothing else anywhere else, but it doesn’t matter. This virus is tenacious, it will spread from Brazil to the entire world and it will just be a matter of time. The upper ups read those reports from Brazil and believe this may be the last hope for mankind if it is released now… In time to save the world… Before the end comes… So, accidental… Purposeful, I don’t know what that theft and contamination was meant to be, but it tipped the scales and now the entire world is going to be let in on it.” He sighed deeply and rolled the cartridges across the desktop; Sammy and John caught them.

“So this is it for us. I guess you realize that you probably won’t get paid for this. No money is going to show up in your account. I will run it through before I pull the plug, but I truly believe the machinery will be dead by the time payday rolls around. So this is something I’m asking you to do.” He pointed to the cartridges that both men were looking over. Sammy held his as though it might bite him.

“Those babies are really all we have to hope with. Most people will die outright. They will never make it past the quakes, eruptions, and the resulting ash clouds and gases. Up here we should be okay as far as gases go, eruptions, but there are fault lines that crisscross this area. This whole facility is bored from limestone caverns. Probably won’t make it through the quakes, although it is a good eighty miles from the closest line,” he shrugged. “Maybe, maybe not. My point is there should be a good chance for survivors here.”

“So we do what with these? Can they harm us?” John asked.

“Harm you, kill you? No, but you will be infected the minute you push that button. It will protect you the same as anyone else. There is enough in a single cartridge to infect about five hundred million people,” Weston said quietly.

“Whoa,” Sammy whistled. “Why infect… Why not inoculate? And why six cartridges… Three Billion people?”

“Minimum, three billion. That is before those infected pass it along: After a while it won’t matter. As to the question of infected, this is a designer virus. You catch it just like the flu. We infected whole platoons by releasing it in the air over them. Eighty-Nine point seven percent infection rate, but that doesn’t really matter because it infects people close to you and those people will infect you… Sneezing, waste, sex, water, food, it gets into and on everything. And once it is in you, either orally or via bloodstream you will be infected. The human body has nothing to fight it, no reason to be alarmed or believe it’s anything more than a virus. And that same response will help to carry it to every area of the body as your own defenses manufacture white blood cells to fight it. So you may as well say a one hundred percent infection rate.” He paused and rubbed at his temples.

“Be glad they decided on this. They have some others that will kill everybody in the world in a matter of days.” Weston nodded at the raised eyebrows that greeted his remarks. “I don’t doubt that the merits of which way to go were hotly debated,” he finished gravely.

“The virus is designed to live within the host, but it can live outside of the host. It can stay alive in a dead body for days, even if the body is frozen. In fact that just freezes the virus too; once the body is thawed it will infect any living person that comes along. So those,” he pointed to the silver cartridges, “are overkill. Same stuff is being released across the globe. Great Briton… Germany… Australia… West coast just a few hours ago. Manhattan has already been done, all the East Coast in fact. I want the two of you to head out from here. One vial here, then one of you head west, the other south. Go for the bigger cities… Water supplies… Reservoirs… Release it in the air or water, it doesn’t matter. There are men heading out from the south, the west coast. The Air Force will be dispersing the same stuff via cargo planes tomorrow or the next day… As long as they can fly, if we can even make it that long, and that isn’t looking really good right now…” He rose from the desk. “I’ll see you out.” He turned to Alice. “Alice… Pack us up.” Alice nodded as Sammy and John got to their feet, but her hand remained on the butt of the pistol. Rubber grips, Sammy noticed as he passed her.

“Alice,” he said.

“Um hmm,” Alice murmured.

Sammy nearly stopped in his tracks, but managed to hide his surprise as he passed by into the hallway. The Major fished two sets of keys from his pocket. “Parked in the back lot. A couple of plain Jane Dodge four-bys. Drive ’em like you stole ’em. Leave ’em where you finish up. Hell, keep ’em if you want ’em. Nobody is going to care.”

The three stood in the hallway for a few seconds longer. Sammy’s eyes locked with the Major’s own, and he nodded. The major walked back into his office, and the door rose from its pocket behind him. Quiet, except the slight buzzing from the fluorescent lights.

John shrugged as his eyes met Sammy’s, waiting.

Sammy sighed. “You heard the man… West or south?”

“Flip for it?” John asked. His mouth seemed overly dry and he licked his lips nervously.

Sammy pulled a quarter from his pocket and flipped it into the air. “Call it, Johnny.”

“Tails,” John said just before the quarter hit the carpet.

Sammy bent forward. “Tails it is. You got it, Johnny.”

John looked down at the carpet. “West, I guess.” John said.

Sammy nodded, looked down once more at the quarter and then both men turned and walked away toward the elevator that would take them back to the surface.

Haley

Market Place: Watertown, New York:

Early Morning

“I don’t give a fuck what you think, girl. Get that fuckin’ money in the bag, and get it in the bag now.” He shifted away, leaning back from Haley, but with the mirrored sun glasses it was hard for her to tell whether he was still looking at her or away from her. The drawer had hesitated opening, the reset from switching to emergency power, just a sticky register, something, she had tried to explain it, but he had taken it personal. Like she had meant to have it happen. Thankfully it had opened immediately the second time. She picked up her cash drawer and dumped it into the green plastic garbage bag he held. The ground trembled a little under her feet causing her to sway, and they both paused, waiting…

There had been earthquakes. A few aftershocks in between the major jolts, and then the power had gone out. This was, Haley hoped, only a tremor.

It had been the new assistant manager’s bright idea to stay open. To be a gathering place for people in the neighborhood until someone in charge showed up. It was three A.M. and no one in charge had shown up. Twenty minutes ago three people had walked through the front door: All dressed in military fatigues; all wearing the mirrored sunglasses and some sort of scarves or bandannas tied around their heads and below their noses. Hair, eyes, all the features you could look for and remember were gone. They would probably never get caught, there was nothing to remember. Never mind the fact that the alarms were out, the cops hadn’t been seen for hours, and they were robbing the market in the middle of some kind of disaster. Haley only hoped they made it fast and didn’t hurt anyone. The oldsters, her nickname for the older folks that lived in the area, couldn’t handle a lot of shock. Already some of them were overly frightened and shaking.

Her eyes swept around to the other two. The one guy seemed slightly heavier through the upper body, but the fatigues were out sized, so it was hard to tell. The last had a deep booming voice that he had only used once when they had come into the market, kicked the chocks that held the automatic doors open out of the way, and announced the robbery. None of the three had spoken since then.

There were twenty-eight people in the market, mostly the oldsters from the Old Towne neighborhood who had come to the market area because the lights were still on, and there were other people there. Old Towne was a far suburb of the city of Manhattan. Some young couples lived here, but getting into and out of the city was sometimes too much and before you knew it a face you had gotten used to seeing was gone. The oldsters with their pensions and fixed incomes stayed. The commute into the city, as rarely as they had to make it, meant nothing to them. Crime was usually low; it wasn’t a bad place to live.

A tremble passed through the floor once more; weaker than the last. It felt like a heavy truck passing over a bridge, no more than that, she thought.

Three earthquakes had hit so far, each one stronger than the last. Haley herself had watched the lights of downtown dim and then wink out. All of those old buildings that had lit up the sky over the old public square every night for as long as she could remember, gone in the wink of an eye. The flat screens that hung above the checkouts had winked out, and the two televisions at the front of the store that were on every hour of every day blacked out and then came back with snow and static. The skyline had lit back up, but it was flickering in places.

Haley had grown up in the Grant projects in Harlem. Six months ago she had made the move north to Watertown. She took a room on the north side of the city and up until a few weeks ago she had still made the trip back and forth every day, but she had found a place, a small walk-up, not far from the market. It was okay for now. And living near downtown suited her, or had. She didn’t know how this was going to change the equation.

The power had not come back on in the downtown district. The lights were running by generator. The generator was necessary for the meat department at the back of the store. It wouldn’t run forever, but it was on now keeping the meat freezers and the cold cases working; running the low powered emergency lighting system inside the market.

The robber that had been in front of her moved down the line to the next register when the shaking stopped, bag in hand: The other two stood silently at the front of the store, some sort of rifles with clips held in their hands, watching, Haley supposed, through their mirrored lenses.

The man with the bag had reached the end of the line when a much heavier earthquake hit and things began to tumble from the shelves, falling into the aisles. Above her she watched the ceiling lift from the painted cinder block walls and then slam back down once more. One second she had been looking outside at the massive bare limbs of the oaks that lined the other side of the street and the next she had been looking at the backside of the corrugated panels that made up the roof of the market. It had happened so fast that she wondered to herself if it had really happened at all. The thin steel roof trusses that held the corrugated panels twisted as the roof slammed back down, squealing as they did. It seemed impossible to her that they could continue to hold the roof.

Her eyes swept quickly around the inside of the market. Most of the oldsters were screaming, cowering where they stood, trying to melt into the floor, but a few were standing stoically; watching parts of the ceiling begin to fall. Haley held the side of the dead conveyor belt in her checkout lane as the floor rose and shook. The robbers scrambled to stay on their feet; the stock tipped and tumbled, rolling across the floor.

The looks on some of the oldster’s faces said, “I knew this is how it would end,” and Haley believed in that split second that they really had known all along that the world would come to an end in the downtown market square just like it was right now. They had been children playing in the school yard, young lovers chasing after one another through the tall grass, parents seeing their child off to school on that first day: Pensioners walking to the box to get their check as the little girls that lived next door played hopscotch on the sidewalk; old folks coaxing the cat into the house through the back door, and they had known. They had known all along. Her eyes swiveled back to the front of the market, and that was when the roof at the front of the store collapsed. The robber, the one with the bigger upper body screamed and jumped back, and Haley understood then that he was a she. Her scream seemed like a signal to everyone, and a fraction of a second later they were all, oldsters, employees and robbers, running for the back of the store as the ceiling of the market collapsed onto the tops of the aisle shelving. The lightweight steel girders grinding and screeching as it came down.

The doors to the back stock room slammed open and the crowd poured into the rear storage area, coming up against the stacks of boxes and crates, and stopping. Just that suddenly the situation had changed. They were no longer running for their lives, they were being herded like cattle by the three and their waving, motioning rifles, holding the doors open, pushing the stragglers, cut and bleeding, into the area as the last of the shaking stopped. Large clips depended in a curve from those rifles, Haley noticed. They were in their hands, but they also had other weapons slung upon their backs by straps that looked every bit as capable as the ones they held in their hands. The one with the thicker chest, the one who at least screamed like a woman, kicked the doors shut and they stood, choking and sneezing as the thick clouds of dust swirled and billowed in the emergency lights.

Outside:

The old Chevy began to rock on its springs, lunging first right and then left. It took a harder lunge to the right, and then jumped forward and slammed head on into the side of the building.

“Fuck, Calvin. Fuck,” the woman driver screamed. She held a rifle with a long banana clip that slammed into the ceiling. Her finger squeezed the trigger tightly for just a brief second and spat a burst of bright white light and noise; a jagged hole appeared in the roof of the car.

“Bitch, what the fuck?” Calvin screamed as he tried to roll with the shaking car, hanging onto the dashboard. The four in the back added their own comments, and in a second the entire car erupted into cursing and yelling. The ground movement tossed the car once more, picking it up and slamming it sideways into a truck that had slid over three spaces. The screech of grinding metal and breaking glass silenced the screams and yells from the car. The car bounced away from the truck, jiggled from side to side and then settled onto the ground; one tire flat, the nose bent upward.

“Get out… Get out of this motherfucker,” Calvin screamed. Bricks and pieces of concrete block began to tumble from the roof line as the main wall of the market bulged out and the false roof structure that fronted the store titled backwards and fell into the store space. A few of the huge glass windows that fronted the market cracked with loud audible clicks: Spider webs running like bolts of lightning top to bottom, and then shooting off to the sides. Huge walls of glass that were now held together only by the aluminum frames they rested in.

“Jesus… Jesus, those bitches will go… I know it,” one of the men that had been in the back seat muttered, as he tumbled from the car and staggered away. One tall window groaned, splinters of glass shooting onto the sidewalk, and the front passenger side of the car, and then collapsed in a small pile onto the concrete as if to prove him right. Screams surged out from inside the store mixing with their own. A thick cloud of dust billowed out through the opening. The glass glittered like gemstones in the sparse light from the interior of the market.

“Out… Out!” Calvin yelled. A small section of brick bonded to concrete block fell over and crushed the nose of the car, pinning it to the ground. Steam erupted from the buried nose of the car and rose into the cold air, mixing with the dust as it did. Calvin skipped backwards, the hard heels of the combat boots he wore getting little purchase on the asphalt. He fell backwards with the momentum, his hands splaying behind him, immediately cut on the glass and other debris that covered the asphalt. He wrenched himself forward and began to pluck at the pieces embedded in his palms. His eyes rose and swept across the others as his fingers worked. Murder, Shitty, Chloe, Tammy, he ticked off the faces mentally. “Who?” he asked. His quick head count had come up short.

“Rosie,” Tammy said. She was a thin girl with a shock of kinky pink hair. The name was picked up by the others.

Rosie had been in the front with him. She had been the one that had shot through the roof of the car. She was nowhere to be seen. Calvin stood, dusted his bleeding palms against his fatigues and walked around the edge of the car. Rosie’s boot clad feet protruded from under the car. Not moving. A pool of spreading blood seeping past the wheel that rested partway onto her body, and out into the lot. He stopped. “Rosie’s done up,” he said aloud. He raised his eyes from the pavement as a gunshot came from inside the market. He swore to himself. “Better see what’s happened inside. Stay right here,” He frowned as a second shot rang out. “Fuck… Listen, if it goes bad, get the fuck out… Just run.” He waited for Murder to nod. Murder was his first. The one he trusted the most. He trotted toward the front entrance, his rifle in his hands, safety off.

The Stock Room:

Things moved fast after the doors swung shut. The one with the thick chest tore off her bandanna and shook her head as if to get the dust out of her hair. White-blond hair flew about her face. She bent over a second later and vomited. Haley smelled it on the air instantly, and fought the gag reflex that started in her own throat. A few of the oldsters didn’t make it, and the small floor area was covered with sprawled and bent double bodies a second later as more became sick. Haley kept her eyes on the three. A second later the other two tore off their bandannas, and Haley’s heart sank.

The one with the deep voice spoke again: A tall pimple faced white boy, Haley saw. He couldn’t be more than fourteen. “Get these,” he said, as he passed long pieces of plastic to the other two. The plastic made no sense until a few seconds later when the other two began slapping the zip ties around one of the oldster’s wrists and tugging another through the first before pulling them tight.

“Oh God. Don’t do that to me,” Annie, one of the new clerks screamed. She bolted forward as if making a break for the now closed stock room doors, and Haley watched as the pimple faced white boy raised his rifle. He squeezed the trigger once. Annie collapsed to the floor in mid stride, like a kite that had spilled all of its air at once. One leg spread before her, the other at an angle behind her. Her body skidded along the floor an inch or two and then stopped. She sighed loudly. Her mouth was closed tightly in a grimace as she slowly tipped over to the floor. Her eyes were open, and for a second Haley thought maybe she was seeing, but then something in them shifted, and she knew she was gone. Haley turned away as a few of the oldsters began to mutter between themselves, a few others began to cry. Jason, the new Assistant Manager, stepped forward.

“Listen,” he began in a loud voice. “I don’t know who you people think you are, but you’ve killed someone now… Killed someone!” He stopped and looked incredulously at the three who stood closer to the doors. His eyes cutting down to Annie and then up once more. The pimple faced boy raised the rifle once more, Jason opened his mouth, and the boy shot him in the chest before he could say another word.

The blast was amazingly loud in the closed area. Louder than the other shot had been, and a large section of Jason’s smock turned instantly red, puffing out behind him. He sank slowly to the floor, his mouth working as though he had one last thing to say, but he said nothing. He reached the floor, tipped sideways, and a flood of dark blood spilled from his mouth. After that no one spoke: The other two went back to tying wrists with the zip ties, and time seemed to jump forward in quick little jerks as Haley watched them do her own wrists and then move on.

They would kill her now, she knew it. Nineteen years of living through the violence of the projects: Making it out; all to die in the back of some market stockroom over a few dollars that didn’t even belong to her. And they would do it. There was no reason not to now. They had let them see their faces. No reason to tie them. No reason to remove the bandannas. No reason at all.

A sharp banging came from the side of the stockroom and Haley twisted her head quickly. The door that lead out to the sidewalk, Haley knew. A voice calling, and the pimple faced white boy raised his own voice in answer; turning toward the sound.

“We’re good… We’re good,” he yelled in that voice that didn’t seem capable of coming from him. He turned back, his eyes scanning the crowd. They stopped on Haley.

“Where is that fucking door?” he asked. “Where’s it go to?”

She motioned with her head. “Behind the boxes… There, at the end of the aisle. Goes outside… Out front.”

“Show me, Bitch.” He moved forward and his rifle barrel dug into her stomach, and then upward, dragging heavily across the edges of her ribs as he lifted the barrel and motioned with it. She stifled the urge to cry out. She could feel blood trickling downward, across the flat of her stomach under the smock she wore. She walked the short distance to the door, and found herself suddenly falling as he shoved her hard to one side, and slammed down on the door width bar; swinging it open.

Haley’s forehead hit the concrete hard, and she slid forward on her chest, rolling into a skid of cereal boxes. She was out cold before the boxes tumbled to the surrounding floor, hiding her body.

The Padlock Situation:

“What the fuck? The one called Calvin said as he stepped into the room. The pimple faced kid held up the bag of money as he stepped forward to go through the door, the other two behind him. Calvin caught the edge of his shirt and shoved him backwards hard.

“Why’d you kill some? Why’d you do that? Didn’t we talk about it? Didn’t we make it clear? What the fuck?” His eyes swept over the two bodies that lay on the floor, blood running away in small rivulets toward the floor drain near the swinging doors that lead back out into the store area.

“The cunt on the floor tried to rush us… No choice!” The kid’s frightened, pale-blue eyes stared up into Calvin’s own eyes. A small smile played at the corners of his mouth.

“The other guy played hero,” the blond said. Her face was slicked with sweat, making it seem even darker than it was. She stepped forward slightly, trying to hold Calvin’s eyes with her own. Calvin’s hand flashed to his waist, and a second later he bought it up in a sharp thrusting motion. The kid gasped, his mouth opened, and a small trickle of blood ran from the corner and across his cheek. Calvin watched the life begin to bleed from the kids’ eyes before he released him. The kid slid to the floor as if in slow motion. Calvin sheathed his knife: The blonde stepped forward as if to catch the kid, and Calvin raised his rifle.

“You got something to say?” he asked.

The blond wagged her head. Tears glistened at the corners of her eyes. She stared down at the body on the floor.

The Parking Lot:

Chloe looked from Murder to Tammy. She had already started backwards at the shot. It had taken all of her resolve not to run. Tammy stood trembling, her eyes trapped, and unable to stay in one place for long; lighting first on Chloe, then Murder, then back to Chloe.

“Chloe! Fuck. Chloe!” Tammy hissed. “Let’s go… Let’s fuckin’ go.”

Far away the scream of an engine came to her, and Chloe’s eyes swiveled back to Murder. “You know he’ll kill us too… You know it.”

“Shut up! Shut the fuck up, Bitches. Just let me…” Before he could finish the words, Shitty, who had been standing right next to him, had turned and sprinted a few feet away. He stopped and looked back, sweat trailing down his face, panic bright in his eyes.

“That fucking engine, Man. It’s coming here… Listen, Man. Listen.” They all listened for a second. “It’s cops… I ain’t fuckin’ waitin’.”

There may have been some hope of Murder holding them together, but at the same instance he had that thought a burst of automatic gunfire came from the market and he found his own feet moving. He followed the other three as they ran for the shadows at the back of the lot.

The Stockroom:

Calvin motioned to the blond and the other remaining kid and they stepped through the door out onto the sidewalk and the cold air. The blond started to walk away, but Calvin curled his fist into her hair and dragged her back. She cried out involuntarily as he pulled her around to face back into the stockroom.

“Can’t leave it like this,” he told her. “Your man fucked it up; unless you want to be in there with him you better take care of it.” Her eyes pleaded, but he pushed her away; turned loose of her. He raised his rifle, holding it on her. “Take ’em out,” he said quietly. “Take ’em out.” She turned to him once more, briefly, and then turned back, raised her own rifle, and began to fire into the stockroom. Things happened fast after that.

Cops:

Calvin turned at the sound of tires screeching on the wet pavement. A kind of low grade squalling as the tires slid to a stop, muted by the rain slicked roadway. He turned, fully prepared to flash the rifle, and show whoever this was that it might be smarter to take off. He wasn’t prepared for the sight that greeted him.

A police van had skidded to a stop halfway across both lanes of the street and cops seemed to boil out of it: A half dozen. All armed. All dressed in riot gear, and bulletproof vests, Calvin saw. He fully intended to keep turning, but at nearly the same time he saw them his legs seemed to be pushed out from under him, and he felt himself falling as an eruption of noise and smoke filled the air all around him. He tumbled through the doorway into the dim interior. Just outside he watched as the blonde and the remaining man sprinted for the only shelter, the stockroom, but the cops were on both of them just that fast. They fell even as they made the doorway, sprawling on the heap of bodies just past him. The rapid shots fell off to single blasts, and then stopped. Two heavily armored cops ran forward, flanking the door, hesitated only briefly, and then jumped through the doorway into the room beyond. The silence held for a brief second longer and then one called back. Calvin fought to keep his eyes open, convinced that if he could do just that one small thing everything would be alright.

“Toast… Done up.”

The one that had called out turned, light flashing dully from his black body armor. He started for the door when his eyes fell on a thick padlock hanging next to the door. He grasped it as he leapt through the doorway; the other followed. They both bent and picked up the few scattered weapons that lay on the sidewalk; tossing them into the darkness of the stockroom, and then the first one slammed the door shut. He ran the padlock through the welded plates on the door and snapped it shut.

Calvin heard the click. His vision was lost in the absolute darkness of the space. He had already tried to move. He couldn’t. It was useless. It had seemed so important to try to move though. So important just a few moments ago. A few…. He blinked, but he still saw nothing. A buzzing started in one ear, and then that ear seemed to fill up with static, breaking the buzzing sound up into little bursts of confusion that tore away into his brain. He blinked and tried to listen harder, but there was nothing to hear, then…

“Come on, come on, come on!” This from one of the cops crouched back by the van where it idled on the roadway: Vapor curling from the exhaust pipe and lifting into the air: The two sprinted back, jumped into the rear of the van; holding the doors partially shut with their hands and the van roared away. It turned two blocks down and disappeared onto one of the side streets. The motor could be heard screaming on the still air for a few moments longer, and then it was gone. Silence held the street, and then snow began to fall lightly. Within a short time the entire street was covered in a coating of snow as lightening flashed in the dark skies above Old Towne.

The darkness began to suddenly take on more weight, and the fear that he might be dying settled in more fully with Calvin’s other scattered thoughts. A puppy he had had… So real… Its whole body was wagging right along with its tail. It was … was… When?  What? Gone… A birthday party… Not his… He had no gift… The sound of the lock clicking shut… Echoing, and then as suddenly as the light had left with the slamming of the door it flared back into existence: A bright ball up near the ceiling. A light to be sure, but unlike any light he had ever seen. It flared brighter… Brighter still, and then he felt himself rise, confused at first and then stepping from the shadows of the room and into the bright lights of a hallway. Panic jumped into him… How could he be walking? How could he be?

He spun, meaning to step back into the darkness, but the darkness was gone. All that remained was the over bright hallway that lead to… Whatever it led to. He couldn’t make an answer for it come to him. None at all. He stood briefly, still facing what had been the darkness of the back room, but now was only a smooth white expanse of flat wall, and then he forced himself to turn around… It meant… It meant the end… The end… He slid one foot forward and then the other, forcing himself to walk.

Haley:

She came awake in the dark. She was shivering, the cold of the concrete seeping deep into her body. Her head ached, but when she tried to lift her hands to it she remembered that they were still zip tied behind her back. Boxes tumbled away from her. That caused panic to settle into her for a brief moment until she realized that whatever had happened was over. The stockroom was graveyard silent, a thin blueish line of light seeped under the swinging doors about twelve feet away. Shadows began to emerge from the darkness as her eyes adjusted: Bodies, and then the thick smells of coppery blood and vomit came to her. She fought the urge to gag.

She was convinced she was alone, equally convinced that this was just a trick. She waited, and then waited a little longer, but nothing changed as she watched the line of light under the door. Occasionally it would flicker. Nothing else. She made her decision, carefully got to her feet, and stepped around the bodies to the swinging doors.

The roof was collapsed onto the tops of the aisles. The steel of the shelving units held it suspended there. Most of the emergency lighting was out, but a few lights were still lit: Some hanging by wires into the aisles. The space in the aisles to the roof was tall enough that she didn’t have to stoop over as she made her way to the front of the store. She stopped in the darkness at the mouth of the aisle, and looked out through the shattered front windows in front of her. Snow fell on the street beyond the glass. Lightning flashed sporadically in the skies, the sound of thunder sometimes close, sometimes far away: The lightening blue-white flashes of light on the snow covered street.

She waited: For what she didn’t know, but nothing came, nothing changed. She stood, listening to the clicking and buzzing from the flickering fluorescent lights of the market. She bumped against the sharp edge of an end cap that had partially buckled, jutting out next to her: Blood trickled away from her arm, rolling to her wrists which were still bound, her hands, swollen, were cold and numb. She turned and used the sharp edge as quickly as she could to cut through one of the zip ties that bound her wrists. Rubbing until one tie flew apart, making a plastic clicking sound as it hit the aisle floor and skittered away. She moved her wrists around in front of her and into the light.

A thin line of blood ran away from the wrist that had been encircled by the tie. Whether from the sharp metal she had used to escape the zip-tie, or the zip-tie itself she could not tell. A few more seconds of careful rubbing with the sharp metal edge and the other plastic cuff fell to the floor. She stood and rubbed feeling back into her hands. They came alive with sharp pins and needles nearly making her cry out. She flexed them, working blood back into them, and looked out at the falling snow. The whole world seemed quieted by it.

She looked around the entire front area of the store. It appeared empty, but it was hard to see anything; there were few lights working. The roof collapse had shortened the entire space, trapping what lights remained working inside the aisles, hanging from their wires. There were no sounds, no movements. She was alone, she decided. She stood for a few moments longer, still rubbing her hands, and then walked past the checkouts, stepped through a shattered front window, and walked off down the street into the falling curtain of snow.


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Yellowstone from author Dell Sweet

YELLOWSTONE

Copyright 2018 W. G. Sweet all rights reserved.

Cover Art © Copyright 2018 W. G. Sweet

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your bookseller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

LEGAL

This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living person’s places, situations or events is purely coincidental.

No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the author’s permission. Permission is granted to use short sections of text in reviews or critiques in standard or electronic print.


WARNING! This preview contains violence and explicit language


PROLOGUE

Somewhere in the World

Overclocking: SS-V2765

 

“Stay down next to the friggin’ bank, Hunter!” Beeker yelled. Beeker could see that Hunter probably wouldn’t be hanging around for much longer. He didn’t have the wits that Simpson had had. And a fire fight was no fuckin’ place to have to baby sit. Why was it that he always ended up with all the ass-holes any way? They had been pinned down in this particular position a sandy beachhead for four days. Sand and water in front of them, mountain and jungle behind them. They were on the other side of a river, and if the man upstairs the man that pulled all the friggin’ strings, Beeker liked to think, didn’t do something damn soon they might not see five.

The fire was just as heavy as it had been on the first day. Non-stop. Round after round of machine gun fire, and mortar rounds that came so fast it was hard to tell when one ended, and another began. Hunter crawled over, eating some dirt as he came. But at least he had crawled. The numb son-of-a-bitch had walked the first few times; like he was out on a goddamn Sunday stroll.

“Sergeant Beeker?” he whisper yelled over the sound of the gunfire. “Shouldn’t we maybe take the shit now, sir?”

“Hey, fuck you, if I say we lay low, we lay low. We take it like we’re supposed to, no deviations on my watch. Now, shut up and crawl your white-ass back over to your position, mister, NOW!”

The shit was V2765. The thing was, Hunter had already had it at least once, the rest of them hadn’t and never would. But Hunter had come with the vial clearly marked as a booster shot… He didn’t need that yet.

Hunter went, he didn’t have to be told twice. Beeker was one mean bastard, and he had absolutely no desire to mess with him. Even so this whole situation didn’t set well in his mind, and that was mainly due to the fact that it didn’t make any sense. And how in hell could it? he asked himself. There was no answer, because there could be no answer at all. Fifteen days ago he had been safe and sound in… In… It wouldn’t come. Someplace. He had been someplace, not here, and he had been… Whatever he had been, or where ever he had been it wouldn’t come. He could almost remember, like it was right there, just beyond memories…

He could remember waking up here with Beeker, Philips, and Ronson. In the middle of… Of… Where am I? He didn’t know that either, and they weren’t disposed to tell him. Other than waking up in the middle of this fire-fight, he couldn’t remember jack-shit. He made the outside perimeter, and curled up into a near ball as he pressed himself into the dirt embankment.

Jungle all around… Not the Middle East then… Where he had been… Had he been in the Middle East? Fighting… Fighting the… He couldn’t make the information come to him, but it seemed as though it was just barely out of reach like all the rest…

Bluechip… Volunteer? For? Thoughts floating around in his head… They had given him a shot… Some sort of booster? Yes, booster… Booster shot… For, what? He asked himself, but he had no idea.

“About fucking time,” Beeker yelled above the roar of gunfire… …They had been pinned down for the last several hours, with heavy fire. It had finally fallen off somewhat, and it was time to make a move: Beeker was no fool, he had every intention of getting his men the hell out, including that test case they had laid on him…

He’d already lost four good men on this mission. He couldn’t see losing any more. He looked across the short, smoky distance, directly into Ronson’s eyes, and signaled left, away from the sand, towards the jungle that pressed in from behind them. A quick sideways flick of his own eyes told him that Hunter and Phillips had caught it too. Beeker signaled Ronson out first, then Phillips, and then Hunter. It was a slow go; belly crawl for the first few hundred yards. The bullets continued to whine above them, but they all made it one piece. Two hundred yards in they were able to stand. The jungle finally offering some protection. Beeker led the way quickly yet carefully, through the lush greenery. The others fell in behind him silently. Two miles further through the dense jungle, and they finally lost the distant sounds of gunfire, and the jungle fell nearly silent. They fell silent themselves, moving as quietly as they could from tree to tree: Aware of the noises that surrounded them. A short while later when the gunfire had completely fallen off, the jungle seemed to come back to life. Bird calls, and the ever present monkey chatter. That was a good sign to Beeker, if the jungle was full of soldiers, the birds sure as fuck wouldn’t be singing. They pushed on through the night, and morning found them in a small village with a main trail running through the middle of it. They walked quietly through the village end to end… Burned out… Empty… A good place to rest-up.

“Oh, man,” Ronson complained. “Fuckin’ cra-zee,” Beeker agreed wearily. He was leaned back against the side of a burned out hut, smoking a cigarette he’d pulled from inside his jacket.

Hunter didn’t have the slightest idea where they were, let alone what they were talking about. Beeker had led them through the jungle and at first light they had come upon this village. They had crept in warily, ready for whatever lay before them. There had been no need, it was empty; a couple of dozen scattered bodies busy gathering flies: Burned out huts. The design wasn’t familiar to him. He had thought Beeker would move on. He hadn’t. They were still here. But where here was, and how Beeker had found it, eluded Hunter.

“Sure as fuck did thought we was done,” Phillips agreed.

“Yeah, well, we made it this far,” Ronson said. He grinned, and then the grin turned into a full fledged smile, and he began to laugh. Phillips joined him, and a second later, when Hunter was sure Beeker was going to open his mouth to tell them all to shut the fuck up, he started laughing too. “Oh… It’s good, look-at-him,” Ronson said, holding his side, and pointing at Hunter, “he don’t have a friggin’ clue.” That seemed to drive all of them into hysteria, Hunter saw. Including Beeker, who was usually hard-nosed and moody. He was doubled over too. Holding his sides. Tears squirting from his eyes.

“That true?” Beeker asked at last, once he had managed to get the laughter somewhat under control. “That your friggin’ problem is it, Hunter, you don’t have a clue?” he stopped laughing abruptly, and within seconds Ronson and Philips chuckled to a stop. “Do you have the slightest idea where your ass is?” Beeker asked seriously.

“No… Well, a jungle, I guess,” Hunter answered.

“No… Well, it could be a jungle, I guess,” Ronson mimicked in a high falsetto.

“Is it?” Hunter ventured in a near whisper.

“Look…” Beeker waited for silence. “Take a break, it’s going to get worse. Why don’t you have a smoke and kick back… Enjoy the break?”

“Well, the thing is that I don’t smoke, bad for the lungs. I’m pretty careful about my health.”

“Really?” Beeker asked politely. He chuckled briefly, lit another of his own smokes, and then spoke softly. “I would like your complete attention, Hunter, do I have it?”

“Yeah, sure…”

He cut him off, his voice a roar. “In case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a fuckin’ war goin’ on, you pansy mother-fucker. A fuckin’ war, Hunter, you understand that, you ain’t gonna live much fuckin’ longer anyway. Get with the program mister, now!”

Hunter’s eyes bugged out, but as Beeker finished he forced himself to speak. “I know that… I can see that… It don’t mean I have to die though, not necessarily.”

“Man, Beek, don’t waste your time, he hopeless, same old shit, like Simpson. Like all those friggin guys before Simpson,” Ronson said.

Beeker drew a deep breath, winked at Ronson, and then spoke. “Yes it does,” Beeker said calmly. “It does because you ain’t a regular. You ain’t been here long enough, and you don’t mean a fiddler’s fuck to anybody. And that sucks, but that’s life, Hunter,” he paused and looked over at Ronson. “How long was the last one, fourteen days, am I right?”

“As rain,” Ronson replied coolly.

“And where are we now?” Beeker asked.

“Seventeen?” Phillips asked.

“Uh uh,” Ronson corrected, “eighteen, man, remember? Simpson bought it eighteen days ago, and this ass-hole came into play. Replacement, supposedly.”

“Right!” Beeker said. “It is eighteen, and that’s why nobody gives a fuck about you, Hunter. Eighteen’s too far, you’ll be done at twenty, it never goes past that, and I’ll bet bullets to bodies you’ll buy the farm long before we’re done with eighteen, see?”

“No,” Hunter said slowly, “I don’t see.” Seventeen? Eighteen? What the hell was that all about? he wondered.

Ronson chuckled. “I think he’s confused, again, Beek.”

“I think he was fuckin’ born confused,” Phillips added.

“Seventeen? Eighteen?” Hunter asked aloud. He didn’t get it, not completely anyway.

“Have a cigarette,” Beeker told him.

“I told you, I don’t…”

“Yeah, right, fuck that noise, there’s a pack inside your jacket… Check it… See if I’m right.”

Hunter fumbled with the jacket snaps, and finally pulled the jacket open. A half pack of smokes resided in the inside pocket. A silver Zippo tucked in beside them. He looked up with amazement.

“So?” Beeker asked, smiling widely.

“One of you guys stuck them there, while I was sleeping, has to be,” Hunter said.

“And when was that?”

Hunter thought about it. He Looked over at Beeker. Beeker just smiled.

“Don’t you get it yet, Hunter? Don’t you feel like an extra in a play.”

“Bluechip? Volunteer for SS-V2765? … Wow, they must have zonked your brain, man…

“Look, it was hard for Simpson too. He was with us for twenty days, and you know, I liked that sucker. He was all right for a white dude. All you guys show up… Combat ready… Except you’re all fucked up in the head… No idea what to expect or even where you are… It aint supposed to be that way, so we always have to lay it out… You are one of them, Super Soldier, we call it over-clocked… You’re gonna get dead, and you know what? Then you’re coming back… Don’t ask me what the fuck is in that shit they give you, all I know is you’ll get dead and then you’ll come back from it and they’ll ship you out… That booster shot? It ain’t exactly a booster shot. I don’t know what exactly it is, but once you’re gone I know this, it’ll bring you back.”

“Yeah, back… In the beginning some didn’t come back, it don’t matter though, ‘cause they come and got them too… But the last several months they, all of you, come back… Dead and then you’re not… And then they’re here and you’re gone and then in a few days some other dick-wad shows up in a supply drop…”

“What? A supply drop?” Hunter asked.

“Oh yeah… Supply drop… Wrapped up like a… Like a douche, man..”

“Uh uh, Beek, man, that line was really Revved up like a Duece,” Ronson said.

“Okay, bad analogy… I hate that fuckin’ song anyways… Always did, but you guys come wrapped up, like a package, man. We unwrap you and you’re alive… We leave you be for awhile and next thing you know you’re sitting up… Walkin’ and talkin’.”

“Yeah, boy… Fuckin’ freaky shit,” Phillips said. “Mucho freaky!”

Hunter swallowed hard, lit up one of the smokes from his jacket, and leaned back against the side of the hut. The silence held.

“So,” Beeker finished quietly, “you gotta deal with it man… You just got too… It won’t be long…”

Yellowstone by W.G. Sweet “Super volcanoes… Earthquakes that modern civilization has never seen… The last super eruption was responsible for killing off the human population some seventy-four thousand years ago.” He paused in the silence.



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America The Dead – W. G. Sweet


 

His shirt stank, stuck to him with sweat. His boots were melted in places. The leather looked sandblasted and ratty. He took two of the pills, washed it down with water. Next big town, he told himself, he would get clothes… #UNDEAD #Dystopian https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/america-the-dead-survivor-stories-one/id1436765995?mt=11


“Grow up, John, as for those two?” He looked over at Madison and Cammy. “Don’t mess with them anymore… I understand your thoughts might have gotten messed up… It’s tough times like this that can do that, but they are their own, not your own.” #action https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/america-the-dead-survivor-stories-two/id1156649961?mt=11


He had gone up to the roof twice during the day and looked over the city.

It appeared to be dead. There was a precinct only two blocks away, deserted, doors hanging open. Looters were carrying away cheap computer systems and who knew what else… #Survive https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/america-the-dead-survivor-stories-three/id1156638728?mt=11


Kohlson turned to him. “Go on in, do CPR if you want. They don’t pay me enough to do it. I don’t know what that stuff is. Look at the way the Doc suits up. Clayton Hunter will be in rigor before anyone gets there, besides… It’s Airborn, dude…” #Horror https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/america-the-dead-survivor-stories-four/id1156637747?mt=11


We came across a dead man laying by the road. I could have sworn he moved, so I hurried to him, but I got closer and I could see he was long dead. We stood a moment and then left. Later when we came back he was gone, and I thought, was he dead? Was he? … https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/america-the-dead-survivor-stories-five/id1157353753?mt=11





 

Earth’s Survivors The Nation

Earth’s Survivors: The Nation

Book 3, Earth’s Survivors – Earth’s Survivors

Dell Sweet

This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.

Description

The survivors are on the road looking for a place to begin again…
Mike awoke before dawn. He lay quietly, feeling the heat from Candace’s body where it pressed up against his, and thinking about what the future might be.
The first thing he had thought was that whatever had happened to the world would be made right. That somewhere there was someone still in charge, and eventually that person would get everything back on track. The world would be fun again. Television, phones, electricity, the Internet, the mortgage on his house, all of it. That turned out to be a pipe dream. The whole idea had dissipated quickly. Even so, when they had finally started out, he had held out some hope, and they hadn’t come far, but Jeff and his people had, and it was the same everywhere. There was no man sitting in an office somewhere waiting to get everything back in shape, and if there was, he would have to be a complete idiot, because he’d be waiting an awfully long time.
The dead woman Jeff had told him about bothered him a great deal. He had remembered a day he had gone out, after things had fallen apart. He had heard airplanes in the night. In the morning, there was some sort of blue liquid they had sprayed all over the city. He had wondered about that. Why? What was it? And the bodies in the market… Had it been dogs? Had it been dogs that had been… eating them? There was no nice way to look at it, or put it.
If Jeff was crazy… But he wasn’t. He seemed as sane as any of them did. No. He couldn’t write it off to crazy or not crazy. He obviously believed what he saw. He had to mark it down to… To what? He asked himself. To…
Candace stirred and pressed closer to him, and then settled back down. Gray light began to creep into the room. He could see the outline of her body.
The movement, the light seeping into the room, sent his thoughts along an entirely different line.
For the last two days he had found himself thinking in an entirely new direction. All the old s**t is gone, and that’s okay. He didn’t care at all if he never saw electricity again. In fact, he’d rather not have it, and even if there was a way to fix it all, he didn’t want to go back. He was positive, in fact, that they couldn’t go back, none of them, was positive he wouldn’t be able to live that way again, when less than a month ago his entire life, his entire focus, was wrapped up in the old way. Hadn’t he been watching the countdown show for the end of the world? Reality TV every night? The big party for the end of the world? And really, that had simply been a joke.
Nobody, at least most people, didn’t believe the world was going anywhere. It was just another thing to occupy the head. Even the terminology, World Ending, was b******t. The world did not end. We think so highly of ourselves that we believe that the end of society means the end of the world, and I guess it did for us… some of us. But the end of the world? No. The world will go on and on when we are nothing at all but dust upon the ground.
Now it really was gone, and not only didn’t he miss it, he didn’t want it to come back. He didn’t want to chase across half of what had been the United States looking for some semblance of the old world. His mind was at rest; he was happy. He allowed one hand to stroke the length of Candace’s body. Very happy, he decided. Candace stirred again. One of her own hands came down his side, across his abdomen, searching.

…More



Earth’s Survivors Apocalypse, now free at Amazon for the Kindle

Earth’s Survivors Apocalypse Kindle Edition

Earth’s Survivors Apocalypse follows survivors of a worldwide catastrophe.

A meteorite that was supposed to miss the earth completely, hits and becomes the cap to a series of events that destroy the world as we know it. Police, fire, politicians, military, governments: All gone. Hopes, dreams, tomorrows: All buried in a desperate struggle to survive.
From L.A. To Manhattan the cities, governments have toppled and lawlessness is the rule. The dead lay in the streets while gangs fight for control of what is left. Small groups band together for safety and begin to leave the ravaged cities behind in search of a future that can once again hold promise…

It was the most tired I had ever been. I laid my head down and I was gone for a little while…
The sun is down all the way here. I went back upstairs. Nothing on the horizon. That time of evening when the sun is down and the moon has yet to rise. Very dark. Can’t see anything in any direction. Thought they must be all sleeping in the barn, but I heard some movements out near where I… Never mind what I did there, I’ll get to that soon enough, I guess. I only heard it once, but I know damn well it’s one of them… Some of them…
I don’t believe the whiskey is going to make it to daylight, but I have a feeling I’m not going to make it to daylight either… Feeling funny now, not myself… I’ll try to get this done…
It was the 15th when I came awake in that truck. Hot, but desert heat…
September 15th
It was late afternoon when Johnny awoke. Somewhere in the day Lana had wound up beside him. He lay still, unwilling to let her go, his hand was curled protectively around her. Lana moved and he felt the sleep leave her body. One moment soft and willing, the next a live wire.
“You didn’t cop a feel did you?” Lana asked in a mumbled half sleepy voice.
“Lana, can’t you ever just say something like, good morning?”
She twisted her head around and smiled. The secret smile she rarely ever gave out. “Good late afternoon,” she said and the smile slipped away. There was still something there, but it wasn’t that secret, vulnerable glimpse into her heart that it was usually. She stretched, yawned, and her feet came up against the door. “Next vehicle we get is an SUV so we have some place to sleep too.”
“I don’t know, I kind of liked this,” Johnny said before he could shut his mouth down.
Lana laughed and it was the unguarded Lana once more. “As long as you know what the deal is.” She twisted her head once more, and then her entire body so she was looking directly into his eyes.
“I… I know the deal,” Johnny said. The press of her body was maddening.
“We really don’t need to talk it out?”
Johnny shook his head and looked away. “I’m a little too old for you, Lana. I know.”
Her eyes became sad. “Let me just say these few things.” She took a deep breath and then began to speak. “I am attracted to you. I considered sleeping with you before you became my friend, before I knew it couldn’t work between us. I even considered it after… Maybe ten minutes ago too, but it would cost me a friend because it wouldn’t mean to me what it would mean to you. It has nothing to do with age or anything else.” She held his eyes as if willing him to understand.
“It’s like you see me as this fragile little princess, and I am so far from that, Johnny. So far. I can’t see why you try to see me that way.” She laughed. “It’s a thing men do. Like… Like that is love, you see? Instead of love just being about all the other stuff… The things I admire about you, you about me. The things in common, the things that we share, the parts of you and me that are real that end up in the mix… But no, I’m a princess, unattainable beauty, something to worship, and it has nothing to do with what I really am at all. I have lived that way, tried to live up to that. It’s not possible… The man I need is out there, I hope. Just someone that looks at me as me.” She watched his eyes…



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A look at Zero Zero from Dell Sweet


ZERO ZERO

By DELL SWEET

Published With Amazon Digital

Copyright 2014 Dell Sweet

Copyright 1976, 1983, 1987, 2009, 2014 independAntwriters Publishing & Dell Sweet. Copyright renewed 2015, Dell Sweet. All rights reserved

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your bookseller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Much Thanks to: M. Laughlin, C. Maxon, G. Dell, C.J.


FOREWORD:

Somewhere in everything that I have written over the last seven or eight years, resides the story of this book. I spent a few hours trying, but I could not find it. There are times where I irritate myself and this was one of them: Because although I could have easily rewritten the information I spent the better part of an hour looking for it; as if somehow that made more sense. Of course it didn’t turn up. Things that were close to explaining it turned up, but not the text I remember writing. So I will write the story once more.

In 1976 I was a young man and I wanted to be a writer. I wrote a short story about this closed up series of caves where bad things happened. I didn’t know what bad things happened there, only that they were bad; probably very bad. I had some vague ideas, Russians, Dead people, Military types. All the things that used to scare me back then. I struggled for what was probably a few months and managed a short story that had very little to do with the caves and more to do with some post apocalypse cave man who was affected by radiation deformities, part of which made him want to kill and eat other people. That short story was sixteen pages long, handwritten, and everyone who read it thought maybe it was a joke of some kind and maybe I should consider doing something else instead of writing.

So I put it away and life took a giant step forward to 1983. I found myself working at home and had a lot of extra time on my hands. I happened across the manuscript as I liked to think of it, all sixteen yellowed and dog eared pages, and began to re-write it. It held my attention for a while and then life took another step forward to 1987. Still working at home, only now involved in the world wide web, as we called it. A thing most people thought would go nowhere at all. I got back into writing and fell into that story. This time it actually went where I wanted it to go, where I thought it should go all those years before. I wrote it and then wrote a sequel, and then a few dozen short stories and then life took another giant step.

When things shook out again it was 2010 and I was in a position to once again write. I thought about that first book, and the sequel, and the short stories, all lost now, gone to who knew where. Thinking didn’t bring them back but it did get me writing again. The first thing I did was re-write that book. It came out nothing like that long before first book had: It had taken a few twists and turns in the writing; in trying to remember what the other book had been about so many years before, and colored by all the things that had happened during that passage of time.

In any event I liked it, so I wrote another part and added it to it, and then another, and pretty soon there were twenty books written from that long ago first book. A series really. Then I wrote another book, and  another, and one day I woke up and realized that I was not still hoping to be a writer, I was a writer.

Sometimes I would think about that first book and regret losing it, but I would also remind myself that if I had not lost it I would have never written all of the other books that I had written, or at least not the way they were written,. Maybe they would have been better, maybe worse. Who can tell when you think about changing circumstances. I moved on, literally forgot about those books and stories, and then one day my son called me and told me he had found those files in a digital format. All of them. He doesn’t know if we can get them or not, or if they will be readable if we are able to get them. He only knows we have a shot at getting them.

To make a long story short we did get them, and everything except for the second book was easy to get and download to my own computer. The second book was not easy at all. I ended up using a program that downloads the file no matter what condition it is in. It simply fills the corrupted sections with zeros. Amazing. I got about 95% of the second book that way. Small sentences missing here and there, a few words or a paragraph there, but easily reconstructed.

I marveled over the technology that allowed me to pluck that book out of time, nearly twenty years of it, and then took a walk back through time and read that first book and those short stories from way back then. There were some that I did not even remember writing until I began to read them and then the story flooded back into my head. It was great.

The thing was life was busy and I had a lot of work laid out in front of me. It took awhile to get back to that first book. I debated over whether to do anything with it except read it and then let it sit. But after I read it I decided that in very many ways I liked it as much as the books I had written to replace it. In some ways even more.

That is this book you are about to read. Started when I was a kid just out of the service with a young wife and son, finished when I am at the other end of that spectrum. Kind of funny. Maybe it puts end to what I began. I don’t know. I do know I liked the book then, I thought the story just flowed from me and I really felt a part of it, and that has always been the hallmark of good writing to me, being right in the story. Falling into it. Starting to care about the characters and their circumstances.

So here it is forty years late: The road to publishing this book was a hard one, but I hope that you like it as much as I have enjoyed watching it come together.

Dell Sweet

July-24th 2014


This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living persons places, situations or events is purely coincidental.

This novel is Copyright © 1976 – 2014 Wendell Sweet & independAntwriters Publishing. Dell Sweet is a publishing name for Wendell Sweet. All other copyright notices are herein encompassed. All national and foreign rights are reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the author’s permission.

Permission is granted to use short sections of text in reviews or critiques in standard or electronic print.


ZERO ZERO


Preamble

June 15th

Ira Pratt stared at the squared board lost in thought. If he moved to the right, he would surely lose two checkers. Maybe, he thought, as many as four. Moving to the left would not help either. There was actually only one semi-safe move to make, and that was straight ahead. But even that move could put a hurtin’ on his few remaining checkers, he thought. Nothing to do for it though, but move it, and see what happened.

He stared into the thoughtful eyes of the older man across the table, trying to read them. No good, he was a master at hiding his thoughts. His face was calm and carefully composed, not so much as a smile played at the corners of his mouth.

Ira gave in and decisively moved one checker forward and then leaned back into his chair, waiting to see what the older man would do.

“Well, I see you have left me little choice, Ira,” the older man said. He picked up one of his own checkers and carefully slid it forward as he finished speaking.

“That was what I was hoping you’d do,” Ira said grinning as he jumped two of the older man’s checkers.

“No doubt about it, Ira, you’re just too good for me,” the older man replied. He smiled widely, and pleasantly, and then changed the subject. “How about we take a short break, Ira, maybe go for a walk. You must get tired of beating me all the time?”

“Well,” Ira replied, “I kind ‘a get the idea you let me beat you some times, but sure, I wouldn’t mind a break at all.”

“I would never let you beat me, Ira. It is a good thing we don’t play poker though. I might gamble the entire kingdom away trying to beat you,” the older man replied laughing. “Besides I have my reasons for wanting to take a break right now. I see it like this, if you and I take a break, maybe once we return your concentration will not be so keen, and then maybe I will win one of these games for a change.” He rose from the small table as he finished speaking. “Ready, Ira?”

“Yep.”

Ira closed his eyes. He could have kept them open, and a few times he had, but the trip was unnerving enough without adding the visual aspects to it. Not that there was anything to see except darkness for the split second they would be traveling, he thought. Still…

He opened his eyes. They had actually only been shut for less than a second, but in that space of time they had traveled a considerable distance, or at least seemed to have. The small table that had been before him was gone, replaced by a lush green valley. A calm blue river flowed across the valley floor far below. He followed it with his eyes as it wound away in the distance.

“It’s beautiful,” Ira exclaimed, “but will it still be…?” He let the question trail away.

“Yes it will, as will several others, Ira. But it need not be this place, there are so many to choose from,” the older man informed him. “Come.”

Ira blinked, and when he opened his eyes they were standing in a high mountain meadow. Wild flowers covered the meadow, and a large, summer-fat herd of deer grazed peacefully among them. A large buck raised its heavily antlered head and stared at the two men, but perceiving no threat went back to grazing the field.

“This is also beautiful,” Ira said quietly.

“It only matters where, Ira. There are so many. There were even more, and there will be again.”

“I’ll have to tell Cora about this place, and the other,” Ira replied, still watching the deer graze.

“You should, Ira. In fact, there will be many things to tell her. Things she will need to know, Ira.”

“Tonight?”

“Yes. The time is short.”

“I was afraid of that,” Ira said slowly.

“There is no reason to be afraid, Ira.”

“I know that. I guess I mean afraid, as in I wish it didn’t have to happen.”

“I knew what you meant, Ira, but it is necessary. As much as I would wish that it was not, it is.”

Ira nodded his head slowly. “I know.”

The two men stood in silence for several minutes, watching the deer in the field. It seemed so peaceful to Ira, a good place to be, a good place to live, and that made it harder to accept that most of it would soon be gone. The older man spoke, breaking the silence that had fallen between them.

“Would you like to look at some others, Ira?”

“I believe I would at that. I think I’d like to look at as much as I kin before it’s gone, I guess. Does that sound wrong?”

“No, Ira, it does not, I too wish to look… Ready?”

Ira nodded but did not close his eyes. Darkness enveloped him, and a sense of speed. The absence of light was complete; he could only sense the presence of the older man beside him as the traveled through the dark void.

– 2 –

Far below the small city of Watertown New York, Richard Pierce sat working before an elaborate computer terminal. He had just initiated the program that managed the small nuclear power plant hidden deep below him in the rock. A small handset beside the computer station chimed, and he picked it up and listened. He did not speak at first, but as he listened a smile spread across his face. “Very good,” he said happily, when the caller was finished, “keep me advised.” He set the small handset back into its cradle and turned his attention back to the screen in front of him. The plant had powered up just as it was supposed to, no problems whatsoever, and that made Richard Pierce extremely happy. Two more days tops, he thought, and then maybe I’ll get out of this dump.

He supposed he should feel honored that he was even here. It was after all one of the biggest projects in the country, albeit top secret, but he could not help the way he felt. He was close to a mile underground, totally cut off from everything and everyone, and he hated it. If he had a choice, which he had not, he would never have come at all. But he had written the software that handled the power plant, as well as several other sections of the underground city, and that made it his baby. There were a couple of small bugs, mainly due to the fact that no one had been allowed to know what the entire program was supposed to do. The way the rewrites were going however, it looked as though he would not be stuck here anywhere near as long as he had originally thought, and that was something to think about. He had begun to feel that he would never leave this rock bound prison, and wouldn’t that be a real bitch.

– 3 –

At a large gravel pit on the outskirts of Watertown, Gary Jones carefully maneuvered the wide mouth of the loader bucket over the dump box of the truck, and pulled back on the lever closest to him to release the load. Ain’t this something, he thought as he slowly topped off the dump box, barely 10 AM and we’ve already sent out twenty seven truckloads of gravel to the base.

Six men out sick, and another forty truckloads to deliver before five tonight. What in hell are they doing with all this gravel? He wondered. It was a question he had asked many times before, and still had not gotten an answer to. Uncle Sam paid well though, and on time to boot, so he guessed he probably shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. He signaled the driver, and he pulled away with a whoosh of air as he released the brakes. Another dump truck lumbered up to take his place, and he pushed the questions out of his mind as he began filling the box.

– 4 –

In Seattle Washington, Harvey Pearlson sat at his wide mahogany desk and talked quietly into the phone.

The extravagantly appointed office was located on the top floor of one of Seattle’s most highly regarded newspapers. Pearlson had worked his way up from the bottom, after starting as a carrier in 1955, sixteen floors below.

“No,” Pearlson said quietly, “I don’t want to know. I just thought that maybe it could be handled in some other way.” He listened for a few minutes nodding his head as he did.

“Yes, yes I see, but?” He rubbed his eyes as he listened. “No, I don’t,” he said emphatically, “I happen to like him a great deal, and if you give me the time…” The voice on the other end of the line cut him off, and he once again listened quietly.

“I see,” he said, once the voice had finished speaking. “No, I do understand. I won’t. Do you think I’m that stupid? Give me a little credit here, will you. You wouldn’t even be aware of it if I hadn’t called you in the first place, for Christ’s sake.” He listened for a few seconds longer, then hung up the phone.

There was no reasoning with Weekes, he told himself, and he was going to do what he was going to do. For Frank’s sake, he wished he had never called him at all. Too late now though, he told himself, far too late. After all, he had done his best to swing Frank away from the story, but Frank Morgan was not a man who could be easily swayed, and, he told himself, unless he wanted to find himself in the same circumstances, he had better just shut up and let it go. He reached over and thumbed the intercom button.

“Cindy?”

“Yes Sir?”

“I’m going to be out the rest of the day, Cindy, and if Frank Morgan comes looking for me before he leaves, you don’t know where I am, correct?”

“Yes Sir.”

“Anything important comes up you can reach me on my mobile, Cindy.”

“Yes Sir, Mister Pearlson.”

Harvey Pearlson picked up his briefcase and left the office. Whatever Weekes had in mind, he wanted nothing to do with it, and he didn’t want to be available for any sort of questions that might arise either. It was unfortunate enough that he had started the whole ball rolling;he had no intention of sticking around to see where it ended up stopping. No, he told himself, the lake was the best place to be. The only place to be, and he intended to stay there until the whole thing blew over just as he had been told to.

He took his private elevator down to the garage area, walked across to his Lincoln, and drove out of the parking garage, turning right on Beechwood. He passed a hooker standing at the corner of the building, and thought just how badly Beechwood Avenue had gotten as of late. He would have to speak to the security people when he got back from the lake. Putting up with the hookers that had taken over the avenue at night was one thing, but broad daylight? Standing right in front of the frigging building? No, something would have to be done, and if the security people couldn’t take care of it, maybe he’d speak to Weekes. After all, he owed him one now, didn’t he? He pushed the thought away, signaled, and pulled out onto the loop. In an hour he’d be at the lake, and then he could forget about the whole mess, for today at least. He eased the car up to sixty, and leaned back into the leather upholstery to enjoy the drive.

– 5 –

April 11th 1952

Ira Pratt drove the old tractor carefully down the side of the slippery hill. It had been raining for close to three days, and it didn’t look as though it was going to let up right quick, he thought.

The rain was causing all sorts of problems, and not just for him, he knew, but for the cows as well. The biggest problem was the creek, and the only way the creek wasn’t going to be a problem was to unplug the thing.

He sat on the tractor as it slipped and slid its way down the hill through the gray sheets of rain. Ira let out a sigh of relief once it reached the bottom. For a second there, he had been sure both he and the old tractor would end up in the creek, but God was smiling on him today.

He slipped the worn gearbox into neutral, and sat looking at the rush of muddy-brown water. The creek was a good four feet above the point of flooding, and he wasn’t sure it was a smart move to try to put the tractor in that. The tractor was sure footed, but so was a goat, and he’d seen more than one goat end up on its ass. But there wasn’t anything else for it. If he didn’t move the trees that were clogging the creek, and flooding it out and over the banks, then he might as well just sit back and watch a couple more cows drown.

Ira knew cows, pretty much anyhow, and every one that he and Cora owned were just as stupid as any other cow he’d ever seen. The cows didn’t understand flooding, they didn’t understand how the water could weaken the banks, and so the big dummies just walked on down to the creek, just like any other day, and got swept away when the bank crumbled under their weight. Three days of rain and four dead cows, and though cows were stupid, they weren’t cheap.

Ira sat in the pouring rain and stared at the creek. Normally, the creek was no more than eighteen inches deep at the most. Course normal wasn’t what it was today, he thought, and wishin’ it was wouldn’t make it so. It was his own damn fault, he reminded himself.  Two of the trees that were clogging it had been there last summer, and hadn’t he promised Cora he’d take ’em out before fall? He had, but he hadn’t, and so here he was in the pouring rain fixin’ to half kill himself to get ’em out.

Looked like the best way, Ira thought, might be to try and snag the biggest one right from the bank. He squinted as he shielded his eyes to peer through the rain. One thing was for sure, sittin’ on the tractor and thinkin’ about it, wasn’t gonna get it. Reluctantly, Ira climbed down off the tractor and edged closer to the bank. The rain was coming down hard, but the section he stood upon seemed solid enough. “Probably what the cows thought,” he muttered as he moved closer.

He walked back to the tractor, unwound a long section of chain from behind the seat, and walked back to the creek. The top of the bigger tree was sticking a good three feet over the bank, and he was glad that it was. He could see that the water was rising faster, and moving along quicker, and he had no wish to get any closer to it than he had to. Quickly, but carefully, he wound the chain around the tree and pegged the links with an old bolt to hold them. Looks good, and solid as well, he thought as he slipped the other end of the chain over the bucket. He genuinely didn’t want to try and turn the tractor around. In fact, he thought, as muddy as the ground was, he’d be damn lucky just to get it back up and away from the creek when he finished.

He gave an experimental tug at the chain, and then climbed back up on the tractor. Carefully, without grinding the gears any more than he surely had to, shifted into reverse. He played the clutch out slowly and brought up the slack in the chain.

“Well God?” He asked, looking skyward, “You keepin’ a watch down here? I could sure use a hand about now, Lord. Amen,” Ira finished.

He let the clutch out a little further, playing the gas pedal as he did, and let the tractor go to work. The oversized tires spun, caught, and the tractor began to slowly back up the steep bank, pulling the tree out of the muddy water as it did. Ira released the breath he had been holding, and just as he did the chain snapped in two. Ira barely had time to register what had happened, when the old tractor flipped, crushing him beneath it.


One


 ALEA IACTA EST


ONE

June 15th: Seattle Washington

~1~

The wind kicked up along Beechwood Avenue in Seattle’s red light district. A paper bag went rolling along the cracked sidewalk: Skipping over Willie LeFray’s feet where he stood watching the traffic… thinking. One trick… The right trick… Somebody with money and he could call the night good. Just enough to get a good high… Or enough to get enough shit to get a good high tonight and maybe a good high tomorrow when it all wore off and the jingle jangles set in? … Maybe, he decided. Maybe. Willie stood watching the cars as the paper bag bounded over his feet and tumbled along the avenue.

– 2 –

For Franklin W. Morgan, just Frank to his friends, June 15Th, had been a particularly hard day.

As he sat at the small, scarred, wooden table at Mikes Pub on Sixth Avenue, nursing a shot of gin, his thoughts turned inward, mulling over the same problem he had been mentally chewing for the last several weeks. It always came back, no matter how far away he pushed it.  It slipped right back to the front and began to hammer away at him. But today was much worse. It had seemed endless as it dragged on, and he had been able to concentrate on next to nothing. He had avoided the office, and Pearlson, no sense compounding things when he was so close to the truth by chancing a confrontation with Pearlson.

Pearlson was… Pearlson was, a piece of shit, he thought. However, at the moment it wasn’t just Pearlson that had him so keyed up and anxious, it was leaving, and, he supposed, that was just as it should be.

The thing that had made it difficult to get through was the pressure and anxiety he always felt when he was on the trail of a promising story. That and the stress associated with the story.

It was not so much the stress his job placed on him; he had always dealt with that quite well. He knew what it was, and what it had been for several weeks now. All of those late night calls to his sources in New York. No sleep, virtually working around the clock; sifting through the information this source or another provided; sorting out the truth from imagination, and getting to the facts, or as close as he could get to them. That, coupled with the fact that he had been the only one, save Jimmy, who believed it, and now Jimmy was apparently missing so he could add the disappearance of a good friend to the growing list of worries that kept him up at night. This was turning into a three ring circus damn fast, and he didn’t like. He didn’t like it at all.

He was sure now, or as sure as anyone could be. But, who the hell would believe him? Not his editor, that was for sure. He would not soon forget the day two weeks ago, when he had approached the subject with him either. It had been partly his own fault, Frank realized. He had not been as prepared as he should have been. He had also possessed no hard facts, he reminded himself, and he had speculated far too heavily for Pearlson’s taste. Even so, he was just as convinced as he had been then. No. More so now, he amended.

Two additional weeks of digging into it, with Jimmy’s help, had produced a wealth of information, and it was no longer just conjecture as the old man Pearlson had said, but a steadily growing stack of cold hard facts.

Pearlson had still laughed, and told him he should try writing fiction for a living. But there had been something else lurking just behind that laugh, hadn’t there? Perhaps a hint of nervousness maybe?

Pearlson had also suggested that just maybe Frank needed a vacation, and, things being the way they were Frank had taken him up on the last suggestion.

Screw him, Frank thought as he sat at the table and drained the last of his drink… Just screw him.

That was what had made his days so long and his nights so sleepless, he reasoned. Churning around in his head was all of that knowledge… Along with fear, fear of what that knowledge may mean.

But did he actually know anything? He asked himself, and could he actually prove what he did know? Yes, Dammit… And just as suddenly, probably not. He couldn’t prove all of it yet, at least not entirely, he admitted.

Not for much longer though, he told himself, the proof part of it was about to change. He had made plans to go to New York. Directly to the source, so to speak, and find out just exactly what was going on. No conjecture, no guessing, no screwing around at all. If Pearlson wanted facts, Frank would get them one way or the other, he had decided. And the suggestion to take a vacation couldn’t have been a better cover for him to go under, he reasoned.

No, he decided, it wouldn’t be much longer at all. Two weeks in upstate New York and he would know for sure. Frank saw no way that Pearlson could kill the story then. Not faced with cold hard facts.

But Pearlson could be an idiot, what if he still rejected the truth even after the facts were presented, he asked himself. Well, if he did, Frank reasoned, that would open up a whole new set of problems. Maybe Pearlson was involved somehow… Maybe not, but the whole thing had smelled of a cover up from the start, and if Pearlson cut the story loose, if he still placed no faith in it, then there had to be a reason, and maybe… And maybe shit! If it turned out that way, then maybe it would be time to move on.

He rose slowly from his chair and fighting his way through the crowded table area, made his way to the bar.

“Another Gin, Mike,” he said, once he had gotten the old man’s attention. “On second thought hold the ice , just straight up.” He stared miserably at the jukebox in the corner that blared incessantly, and silently urged it to fall silent as he waited for the drink. His thoughts, still clouded, turned back to the problem he was constantly turning over in his mind, when a glance at his wristwatch reminded him of how late it actually was.

He turned his attention back to the bartender. “Shit! Mike, I’ve got to go see the kid’s and I am already late,” he threw a twenty on the bar, “that should cover the tab.”

“What about this?” Mike asked, holding up the shot glass.

“You drink it, Mike, I truly am late. I’ve gotta go,” Frank replied as he started to turn towards the front door.

“Hey?” Mike called in a questioning manner. Frank turned back to the bar.

“Get some sleep, Frank,” Mike said, “your eyes look like two piss holes in the snow.”

“Yes mother,” Frank joked, “I will.”

Frank smiled to himself. They always played this game, and had been at it for the twenty years that Frank had been coming into Mike’s. Mike seemed to think it was his duty to mother him, even more so since Jane had died.

“See you in a couple of weeks or so, Mike,” Frank called as he stepped out the door. He glanced at his watch once again as he did. I’ll never make it, he thought, no way.

He resigned himself to the fact that he would more than likely be late, and not for the first time this week. He had already been late three times, picking up Patty and Tim from the sitter.

Cora Pratt, the sitter, could pitch a real fit when she wanted to, he thought. “Well I’ll deal with her when I get there,” he mumbled to himself. Besides, he thought, tonight I don’t have to pick them up, just say good-bye for two weeks.

The heat assaulted him as he stepped out of the air conditioned comfort of the bar, and he winced.

Twenty seven years of living in Seattle had not changed a thing for him. He felt about the city as he always had. It was too hot in the summer, what there was of it, and too damn cold and windy in the winter, and it wasn’t home. He still thought about it as a place he was only visiting. He never had gotten used to it, and, he knew, he never would.

Frank worked the handle upward slowly, pulling the driver side door of the company car open carefully. He had to as this one stuck if you were forceful, and then he would end up crawling over the damn passenger seat to reach the driver’s side. It seemed to him that he had once had this car when it was new. It was hard to tell though as it was a pool car, and the younger generation of reporters in the press pool beat the hell out of all the cars.

“Too many hot-rod kid’s driving the piss out of them,” he said aloud as he keyed the motor and pulled the Plymouth Voyager out into the traffic. He headed out of the city, towards the suburbs and Cora Pratt…



 

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Earth’s Survivors SE4: The story of Candace and Mike

Earth’s Survivors SE4: The story of Candace and Mike

Posted by Geo Dell 04-28-18

Happy Saturday! This morning I will leave you with a look at Earth’s Survivors SE 4 which will be available the first part of April at all the major booksellers.

A little background on SE 4 and what it is: SE 4 is the story of Mike and Candace. In the Zombie Plagues Mike and Candace are prominent characters, but in the Earth’s Survivors books they are barely mentioned at all. This book gathers all the story lines of Mike and Candace and brings them together and provides the missing pieces that explain where they went to. This is yet another fan suggested book. Candace and Mike are the Characters that the most questions are asked about in both series. Hopefully this will satisfy those questions, Geo…

Earth’s Survivors Se 4: The story of Candace and Mike

By Dell Sweet

The Earth’s Survivors SE series follows follow Mike, Candace and a few other survivors as they struggle to stay alive in a vastly changed world. In the early morning hours of March 1st great change came upon the entire planet, touching the small northern New York town where Mike and Candace lived. Earth’s Survivors SE four is the only story that completes the original story of Candace and Mike…

This is Copyrighted Material!

This material is NOT edited for content

THE EARTH’S SURVIVORS SE 4

The story of Candace and Mike

PUBLISHED BY: Dell Sweet

Earth’s Survivors: SE Four: the story of Candace and Mike is © Copyright 2017 Wendell Sweet, all rights reserved.

Additional Copyrights © 2010 – 2012, 2014, 2015 by Wendell Sweet, All rights reserved

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your bookseller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


Company

The small crowd of people was armed, Mike saw, long before they actually reached the wide street and crossed over into their parking lot. Behind him, in the store, he had heard the sound of breaking glass several times. Presumably Candace and Patty breaking open display cases.

“Think they can see us in here?” he asked.

“Probably too dark,” Glenn answered as Candace and Patty came back with their arms loaded down with high powered rifles and shotguns.

“Careful,” Candace said, her breath coming fast. “These are loaded.” A small line of blood ran away from one knuckle as she passed Mike a rifle that looked like it would be more at home in a war.

“You’re hurt,” Mike said.

Candace laughed. “Just glass from a case… It’s nothing.”

“Not a girl,” Mike said

“Or even close,” Candace agreed with a smile. She stepped close to the front of the entrance way, still deep in shadow, but just behind the shattered doors.

There were a dozen of them when they came to a stop just thirty feet away from the doors. Women and kids, the old man and a younger guy hanging toward the back. The two men and three of the women were armed.

“We know you’re in there,” The lead man shouted out. He was an older man, short silver hair, thin, the ragged remains of a suit hanging from his shoulders. “We don’t want trouble… Just company… Safety… The nights are pretty bad now. I guess you know.” He made to step forward again.

“No… Right there is fine,” Candace said.

The man stopped. “I told you, we come in peace.” The man said as she stepped from the shadows. Ronnie moved out with her and a second later Patty and Mike joined her. Mike motioned to the rest to stay inside.

“Every bad alien movie I ever saw started just exactly that way,” Candace said.

“Is that what you think?” The man asked. “Aliens? Well, I’m no alien… I don’t know what happened but I don’t think it was alien, or aliens, unless you count the meteor that might or might not have hit us. And I’m obviously not one of the gangs or I wouldn’t be out here in the daylight talking to you.”

The silence held a long time.

“You hear me?” The older man said.

“I heard you,” Candace agreed. “What do you mean one of the gangs? Not one of the gangs?”

The man laughed. A short hard laugh that had nothing to do with amusement at all. “Are you serious?”

“If I wasn’t serious I wouldn’t have asked,” Candace told him.

“But… Okay… Why can’t we do this in there? Look at what I have here… A handful of scared mothers with a few children. The young guy at the back is okay. Why don’t we do this in there? I don’t like being out in the open. It’s just the gangs we have to worry about.” He looked off in all directions as he talked.

Candace looked over the group and then over at Mike. “Nothing we can’t deal with,” Mike agreed. Her eye’s met Patty’s and then Ronnie’s. They both nodded. “So you know there are more of us inside. Don’t be stupid.”

“Wouldn’t think of it,” The old man agreed. “John,” he said.

Candace just nodded and motioned him forward.

Early evening

They were all gathered around a small fire that Glenn had started for heat and light. The nights were still cold. Glenn had built the fire in an empty fifty five gallon drum they had rolled out from the back. It the smoke detectors had still been working they would have had trouble, but as it was the smoke just gathered high up in the steel rafters and found its way to the outside from there.

“What do you know,” John asked. “That might be a better place to start.”

“Practically nothing,” Glenn answered. “We all met downtown a few days back… Earth quake… Meteor. Everything wrecked and no answers.”

John nodded. “Okay,” He rested his head in his hands for a moment, and then looked up. His eyes were red; the bags under his eyes bruised and heavy. “The second. It happened overnight, the first, the end of the first. I don’t know what it was, anymore than you do, but I suspect the meteor they said would miss us didn’t. Maybe that started a whole chain of events. So, aliens? No. I think our own government did us in though. I can see your view too, because there is something alien about it. About the way we would view it, the way you would view it. Yesterday the planes came over. Big Cargo planes. Sprayed blue stuff over the entire city. We thought for sure we were done right then, but whatever that was it didn’t kill us, didn’t seem to do anything to us… But I wonder, I really do…” He seemed to zone out for a second.

“John?” Glenn asked quietly.

He laughed. “Sorry. I need sleep. Sleep is what I need. Gangs,” he took a deep breath. “This city, most of the cities I’ve been hearing about on the CB are controlled by Gangs now. They’re out all night rounding us up. The other survivors…” He frowned heavily. “I’ll be straight, not much use for other men… ‘Less they think like them. Not much use for the children either. Women, gas, cash,” he laughed again. “They seem to think a day will come when it will all be worth something again.”

“You don’t?” Candace asked.

“I don’t,” John agreed. “I think somebody mucked up badly… I can’t believe it was all an accident. Washington? Dead. L.A.? Dead. New York? Dead as well. There have been reports of the President being killed. In the end the Secret Service deserted him. The few that remained fled. The whole thing fell apart. And it’s no better in other countries from what I have heard on the CB. Some of it could be exaggerated… Could be fear talking… But I don’t think so. I think most of it is absolute truth. I think it all failed and we’re on our own. That’s what I think.”

Candace looked over as Patty sprang to her feet and walked away into the darkness of the store. “I’ll be back,” Candace said. She got up and followed.

“I appreciate the truth, John,” Mike said.

John nodded. “Upset us too. Nothing for it that I can see.”

“Where are you from,” Mike asked.

“Rochester… Haven’t heard much from it except there is a glow to the west… Could be they still have power there.”

“Hey inside!” This from the parking lot that was now edging quickly toward twilight.

“Shit,” Ronnie said. “Forgot all about that.” He jumped to his feet and headed to the opening, Mike right behind him.

“Guess we’ll have to post a guard or something,” Mike agreed. He stared out at two small groups that stood in the darkness looking around at the deepening shadows. Ronnie spoke.

“What is it you want?” Ronnie asked.

“What is it we want? Are you kidding me? We want in there, out of the cold, the night.” The guy was tall and dirty looking in the darkening light, but Ronnie supposed they all probably looked a little rough. “Talking like that ain’t gonna get you in here,” Ronnie told him. “In fact it will get you an invitation to hit the road.”

A woman who was leading the second group, off to the right of the first group spoke up. “Look, man. We’re all on edge right now. We just want to share your shelter. Manny is not so good with diplomacy.”

“Manny?” Ronnie asked.

She nodded to the other group, “Manuel… Manny.”

“These groups ain’t bad,” John said from beyond the doorway, hidden in the shadows.

“You vouch for them?” Mike asked.

“No… I won’t go that far. I will say I have seen them around… They are not part of the gangs that are all over the place at night in the city. Not these two.”

“Good enough for me… Ed? Ronnie? Anyone else have an objection?”

“We’ll just watch them kind of close,” Dave said.”

“Okay… Well, somebody better go get Patty and Candace… Just to be safe.” He turned back to the parking lot and the two waiting groups. “Slow,” he called out. “Slow and keep those rifles pointed down.”


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