Read The Search For A Cure Online
Authors: C. Chase Harwood
Tags: #Amazing and unique zombie series.
A Bird Colonel, dressed for deskwork, directed another squad to start transferring the scientific equipment. The two men walked over to introduce themselves, “Ms. Chancellor? Colonel Gilbert Shaw, director of the flight operations here. This is Captain O’Shea who will be leading the military aspect of your mission.”
Susan reached out and shook their hands, “No time to lose, gentlemen. We can talk about the particulars of the mission while en route.”
Captain O’Shea spoke with a soft North Carolina accent. “That’s fine, Doctor Chancellor, ma’am.” He pointed at the nearest helicopter, “If you and your team would board that one from the rear, Sergeant Bullock will get you seated. We should be ready in five.” He gave a slight tip of his helmet and went back to work.
Colonel Shaw, with a pained look in his eyes, followed alongside the scientists saying, “This equipment is the best the Army has in this area. Considering the pending re-invasion of the homeland and the myriad of other things we’re trying to juggle, we’re lucky to gain the use of them. Still, I’m told your mission gets first priority.” The man was clearly uncomfortable about giving up the two helicopters.
Susan said, “That’s correct, Colonel. First priority.”
The colonel offered a retreating smile and waved an arm toward the big aircraft. They were bigger than a city bus and sported dual rotors. “They’re designed for in-flight refueling, but unfortunately our tankers are stretched to the limit bringing our troops back from overseas. We’ve devised another plan. You’ll make two stops on your way to Florida. Both are Army airfields and should have plenty of aviation fuel. From the satellite imagery, there does appear to be evidence of infected humans in both locations. As a precaution, both have been targeted with a nerve agent bombing.”
Susan stopped them all twenty yards short of the loading ramp, “May I ask what type of nerve agent, Colonel?”
The Colonel mulled over his answer, then decided to just come out with it. The world was going to hell in a hand-basket, who gives a crap about being PC with chemical warfare? “It’s Novichok. We have limited supplies for applications such as this.”
“That’s a Russian product, no?” asked Tran.
The colonel ignored this, saying, “The thing to keep in mind with Novichok is that it’s sticky. It leaves an oily residue that can stay on whatever it touches for months. You touch this stuff and you die. Period.
Both re-fuelings will require that all personnel wear their chemical warfare suits - hazmat suits in your team’s case. Captain O’Shea’s troops are an elite fighting force and they are all veterans of overseas action as well as the evacuation. They’ve all handled a Shitfob or ten, so you are in good hands. You’ll of course have to land twice again as you return north. With any luck, you’ll remain incident free.”
“Now you’ve jinxed us,” said Aaron under his breath.
Rick Decker, a CDC blood analyst, piped in, “How come we don’t just take an airplane down to Guantanamo, get our helicopters there?”
The Colonel grimaced, “Gitmo’s gone, son. Cuban’s overran it last week. No way to take it back now.”
Susan started them walking again. “Well, there are only a handful of chicken farms in southern Florida, the most likely culprit is the one industrial size farm that we are targeting. I believe it’s called Happyland Farms.
“Known for their Plump Okeechobee Boilers,” added Tran.
Nikki drove without incident across the Maine border; not much –
Leaving New Hampshire – Welcome To Maine-The Way Life Should Be
- and kept going. They passed occasional houses and buildings, everything abandoned.
Knowing her fellow Americans, she was surprised that more people hadn’t stayed to make a stand. Then again, when an entire nation passes your doorstep trying to escape a marauding mass of mindless cannibals... and the threat of nerve gas- She had to stop making excuses for her dumb decision to stay. She had been a fool to agree with Bob and the other guys to hold out at the mansion. If she’d insisted on her intuition, as in - this is nuts, let’s get the hell out of here…. Heck, if they’d followed orders, she’d be safely behind the Saint Lawrence.
She cursed herself, then shook it off. She knew very well the pointlessness of lamenting spilt milk. The only path was forward. Accept the mess and get on with it. That’s what her father would say. Dad, the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corp, the decorated war hero, daredevil of Fallujah, Operation Iraqi Freedom - he’d stopped speaking to her when she’d been dishonorably discharged, well, really before that. She’d heard he was alive and helping coordinate the re-invasion. She wondered if he thought about her.
Jon’s snoring changed and she looked over her shoulder to see if he was awake. He turned on his side and pulled his knees up, still asleep.
She looked back down the road, dad invading her thoughts. She’d joined the Corp to find his heart, make him notice. When she was twelve (and just growing breasts of her own) her mom had suddenly contracted breast cancer and died within a month. It had happened so fast. Her dad had barely made it back from combat duty to be there for the end. As soon as mom had been buried, he had gone from the occasional visit while on leave to full time soldier, requesting repeated redeployments in The Long War. For him, his daughter remained a stranger connected by an occasional email and a rare, almost wordless, video chat. He had come back for the Fourth of July when she was sixteen. By then they were strangers. Awkwardly, he tried to insert himself as a disciplinarian in her then chaotically teenage life. It blew up into an inevitable screaming match and he left to go back to his unit before the celebrations began.
She was raised by a series of Marine Corps' Family Child Care providers (her dad picking up the tab and arranging for someone new each time she became “too difficult” for her surrogate parents). For most of them, the financial benefit of caring for a pre-teen with attitude who then grew into a teenager with severe anger and abandonment issues, just wasn’t worth it. So she bounced from home to home until she was old enough to enlist herself.
She guessed, no, hoped, that if she joined the Corp she’d get to see him, get close enough to be acknowledged - Daddy’s girl following in his footsteps. It didn’t work out that way. He had come to watch her graduate from boot camp, but that was it. He called once when word got around of her daring leadership during an assault on a Taliban stronghold in Waziristan, Pakistan. She’d won a bronze star (the trinket had helped when she was facing that possible court-martial for killing the rapist Sudanese chief). Her dad had asked her about the fight and she found herself embellishing what was really just a classic assault on a fortified house. The difference was that her actions had helped save the life of a US Senator’s son (a brave soldier who was pinned down and badly wounded). Her dad sniffed out the embellishments and the conversation turned from a pride-filled occasion to his disappointment with her need to lie. That was the last time she’d spoken with him.
She focused on the road and realized that she had drifted into the oncoming lane, not that anything was coming the other way. She glanced over her shoulder and smiled crookedly as a soft snore escaped Jon’s lips. She had to admire this reporter guy. He’d stayed behind to tell the tale. It seemed a bit suicidal, but his survival instinct was clearly intact.
They were approaching the Sugarloaf ski resort when Jon woke. He sat up looking dazed. “Wow, was I out. Where are we?”
“Some ski area.”
The hill was covered in meadows where in winter they would be covered in ski-happy revelers.
A large herd of deer grazed on the face of one of the wider slopes.
Jon wiped the sleep from his eyes. “It’s a good sign if deer can relax.”
They passed a sign indicating
Flagstaff Lake 1 mile
and just then, a green Subaru wagon came over the rise ahead. Nikki had to swerve into her own lane as the car shot past them going south. The driver had beeped repeatedly, flicked his passing lights on and off and disappeared, tires squealing around a bend. The deer bounded off into the woods.
“What the hell?” Nikki exclaimed.
“We better slow down.”
“I’m not sure I want to keep going.”
Jon climbed back in front and grabbed the map. “Can we turn around and go another way?”
“It’s a lot of lost ground, but yes. Problem is, it takes us to Route 201, a bigger artery.”
They passed a house. Nikki saw movement - a flash of a man in an attic window. “You see that? That guy had a radio.”
“Didn’t see it.”
“Mmm, this doesn’t feel good.”
“So let’s stop. Maybe we walk up to that rise. See what we see.”
“Let’s just take it easy, I’ll be ready to flip a bitch. Floor it if we have to.”
They went over the rise without incident and houses became thicker as Route 16 became yet another Small Town Main Street. Nikki feathered the gas and the brakes, not wanting to slow down too much and ready to floor it if she had to.
Jon looked at the houses and saw a curtain flutter here and there and then caught the eyes of a child watching them. “This town isn’t abandoned. There’s people in some of these houses.”
They came around the next curve and found themselves in a perfect ambush. The road ahead was blocked by smashed up cars. One car, just moments before, had overturned trying to stop. Its wheels were still spinning. A family was trapped inside, screaming.
Several men wearing assorted hunting and military gear stepped out from behind the cars, armed to the teeth.
Nikki swore, “Fuck. I’m such an asshole!” She slammed on the brakes, put the car in reverse, but had to slam on the brakes again as another group of armed men ran onto the road behind them and laid a telephone pole across it. They were trapped. A man wearing an Army officer’s uniform and sporting an M-16 stepped out in front of the others and leveled the gun. “Out of the car. Hands in the air. Fuck around and we shoot you.” He nodded to the side of the road where two bodies lay face down, apparently shot execution style.
Some of the men began pulling the people out of the flipped car, using little mercy.
Jon flicked on the cruiser’s PA switch and spoke into the mic. “You people are interfering with officers of the law. Hold down your weapons and let us pass.”
The guy with the M-16, flanked by a guy wearing sergeant stripes and full battle fatigues stepped up to the driver side of the car. Both Jon and Nikki pointed their weapons toward them. The man spoke evenly, his voice clear through the hole in the windshield, “Major Gerald Deighton, United States Army. You’ve entered my area of operations.”
Jon tried again through the PA so others could hear. “Step back from the car. Put your weapons down. We have urgent business.”
“We all have urgent business. Ours is recruiting soldiers for the defense of this town. You are not police officers. You are surrounded. You will pull to the side of the road, step out of the vehicle, leaving your weapons inside. This is not a request. We shoot all deserters.”
Jon turned to Nikki, “What do you think?”
“We do as he says. I’ve met enough of these angry PTSD types to know that it’s worthless to argue.” She nodded at the dead people. “Clearly they are not fooling around.”
The major said, “I can hear you just fine, ma’am, and I don’t cotton to the PTSD bullshit. The people of this town are doing their patriotic duty to defend and then take back this country.”
Nikki said, “Can you hear me tell my friend here, that you are probably bat shit crazy and have no idea what’s coming up that road?”
The sergeant elevated his weapon so it pointed directly at Nikki's face. Deighton said, “There won’t be a third request.”
Nikki put the car in park and unfastened her seatbelt. She and Jon stepped out, leaving their guns on the seat.
Deighton said, “That’s the right attitude. Keep it up and we’ll even give you your weapons back.”
Jon looked the major in the eye and tried to gauge the level of his sanity. He decided that he and Nikki were probably in big trouble. “Sir, the orders from our government are clear. All citizens are to get their asses up to Canada. The country is to be bombed with chemical weapons.”
“I’m well aware of the orders… Mr.?”
“Washington, Jon. I’m an embedded reporter assigned to the Army. My colleague and I have a job to do.”
“Perfect, then you can report from right here. The place where America started to take her country back.”
“Sir,” said Nikki again, loud enough for the couple dozen others nearby. “When we left New Hampshire, we had thousands of infected right behind us. My guess is there are millions of the things heading north. I was with a group of people holed up in an extremely secure mansion with heavy weapons and months of supplies. We were overrun in a few days. I’m the only survivor. I can see a couple of dozen heads here. What army are you planning to stop them with?”