“Welcome to Fort Walker, new friends. Hopefully, you can be safe and happy here. Hopefully, you’ll contribute, and all our lives will be made easier,” so sue me, I’m not exactly the best person at giving speeches. I looked around at the room and the newcomers, who all looked fresher than when we met raising my glass of Coca Cola. Everyone shouted ‘hear, hear’ as we sat down to eat the delicious meal Simon had provided. Once we were halfway through, I sat back looking around my table; Mac, Matty and Tobi were there as usual, but I had invited Rachel and Andre to sit with us.
“So Rachel, what did you like to do before all this started?” Mac asked, eying the other blond girl.
“Video games, lots of video games, but I did really enjoy orienteering. I was also a girl guide Ranger,” she replied with a smile, then turned to look at me, “What are you going to want out of us? Work-wise,”
“Well, we’ve got ten different departments, and I’d like for your seven to join one of the departments,” I told her and even had Mac staring at me, “I was hoping you would lead Beta Recon Team,”
“We’re going to need to send teams out into the world to gather supplies and get information; you’ve spent the last six months out there and know better than anyone in here,” I replied, seeing her flush.
“What are you going to have me doing?” Andre asked.
“Nothing for a long time, you need to rest up and heal your leg,” Mac supplied.
“Yes, Ma’am,” he saluted her but gave Mac a dazzling smile. She looked away, blushing, and I noticed Big Tom staring at them with a strange look.
“I’ll accept that, who am I going to lead?” Rachel asked. Mac and I shared a look, but she nodded.
“In a few days, we are expecting another fifty children from 11 to 16,” I told her.
“Does that mean you can communicate with other places?” Andre looked up with a grin, happy all of a sudden.
“Sorry, we’ve managed to contact two military bases, but there is not much left of either of them,” I explained and his face fell, “We’ll assign people to your recon group and go through some training,”
“That’ll be good. I really want to contribute to the group,” Rachel nodded.
“When will we get to see the rest of the base?” Andre asked. I shared a look with Mac.
“Well, we’ll at least wait to get the new group in and then we’ll take everyone on tours and get you all settled into your new jobs,”
“I can understand that,”
“Good, now let’s finish this meal, and we’ll take you up to our quarters to have a little celebration,”
A half an hour later we had all finished the meal, and the Winters’ boys had collected all the plates. I stood up again, looking at the newcomers.
“Before we head up, I’d like to introduce the newcomers to a few people,” I told them, then pointed out Mac, “Mac, is in charge of the medical section, but she is also my second so when I’m not about you can ask her anything. Tobi is in charge of communications and anything to do with technology,” pointing out my best friend, then I pointed to Nate,” Nathan, Nate, is our head of security so he’ll be monitoring everything,”
“Thank you for your hospitality,” Rachel said.
“Mac, can you take them up to the VIP section?” I asked.
“Sure, if you’ll come this way,” she motioned for the others to join her as I grabbed Larry before he could head back up.
“I was hoping you could introduce me to the horses,” I told him, his eyes lit up.
“Of course, I need to go check up on them to see how they are doing,” he replied. We talked all the way down to the Mechanical Bay. He explained everything that had happened on his trip to get horses, which was not a lot, to be honest. It seems they had a pretty easy time of it.
“So did you collect anything else while out?” I asked, just before we reached the Mechanical Bay.
“Yeah, we stopped by my parent’s farm, which was totally deserted,” I almost heard a hitch in his voice.
“Were you hoping to see them?” I asked him softly, deciding not to rebuke him for going off track.
“I was hoping Mum and Dad would be there, yes, but there was no sign of them, no sign of a struggle or note,”
“What did you take?”
“A Little bit of food in the pantry and my father’s weapons; two Remington Model 700’s, a Mossberg shotgun and a Browning X-bolt,” I stared at him, and he grinned, “My Dad had a lot of pest problems, but we also hunted on our land,”
“We may need to use the weapons eventually, the creatures we come across, well I’d rather not get too close to them,” I told him.
“So they are zombies, then?”
“I guess you can call them that, but they are different from anything I’ve seen on television and film,” I admitted, “The Survivor group called them Mouldies and Hoodies, one was quick and the other slow,”
“I’m not sure if I want to come across one,” he swallowed; it was the first time I had seen the taller boy nervous.
“They are dangerous, which is why I think we have to use long-range weapons and only use close combat when necessary. The Recon teams are all going to be supplied with knives though,”
“What’s the Survivor group like? Do you trust them?” Larry asked, changing the subject.
“They seem alright, that Rachel seems tough and of course they have adults with them,” I explained.
“She’s rather pretty,” he answered dreamily then stared at me, “Are you worried one of the adults will take over as leader?”
I stared at him, wondering how he could be so perceptive when he seemed to act like a dumb jock most of the time. I did think him, and Bastion might get along well, but now I’m not sure.
“A little,” I confessed, “But I don’t think they will try, we are firmly in charge here, and they will have to get along with what we tell them,”
“Good, you’re a good leader,” He told me. I looked at him, shocked, “Despite our differences, you were the right choice to be the leader here. You’re level headed and can think things through,”
“Wow, thanks,” I was absolutely gobsmacked at his compliments.
“Don’t get used to me saying that often,” he said gruffly, lightly punching me in the shoulder. We shared a laugh, as I swiped my card through the machine to access the airlock into the Mechanical bay. The pair of us walked through, already getting a pungent smell of a horse, but it wasn’t overwhelming. Larry led us over to a corner where he had set up the stables, “I know it’s not great on them, but we’ll try to get the horses out often,”
“You know more than me,” I conceded, looking it over. A wooden fence had been erected, and hay lay all over the floor, covering the concrete. In the corner was a building, allowing the horses to have some privacy. Right now, though, they seemed to be just relaxing and getting their bearings. There were six of them in all of a variety of different colours, but they come over butting him as soon as they noticed Larry. He laughed, pulling out sugar cubes from his pocket and feeding them.
“This one here,” he patted a black horse, “is the dominant male, a stallion, he’s in charge of the herd,”
“He’s an absolute beauty,” I gently stroked him, and he huffed at me, “Does he have a name?”
“The sun god,”
“Yep, protector of the young and lord of archery, herds and flocks. An apt name really,” I nodded my agreement as we stroked Apollo one last time, then I was led to a wooden shed they had built. Inside Larry showed me around the saddles and equipment inside, “Before we start the recon runs, Amanda and I will start teaching you all how to ride a horse,”
“Why Amanda?” I asked curiously.
“She’s ridden since she was a toddler, exceptionally talented,” he explained.
“I’ve been riding for a few years,” I admitted. Larry gave me a critical look, eying my nerdy body.
“Really?” He raised an eyebrow, “I thought you would be scared of horses,”
“No,” I laughed out loud, “Though I’m probably nowhere near your level of horsemanship, I’ve been going to rider school for two years, I quite like the feel of sitting on a horse. What are these?”
“That’s my dad’s saddles,” Larry replied, looking sheepish. The saddles were beautifully crafted, but each looked like they had a rifle holster on them, “My dad was a bit of a Wild West nut, so he had these crafted so he could look like a real cowboy and have his rifle with him on our land,”
“Sounds cool,” I admitted as we made our way back out of the Mechanical bay and started back up towards the VIP area. Larry and I continued to talk about the Wild West films his dad used to love.
“The only time I ever saw him cry was when the news broke that Clint Eastwood had died six years ago,” Larry told me.
“I’ve heard of the man, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of his films,” I confessed as we passed the fourth floor.
“Father worshipped the man; he told us that before we were born, he travelled to the U.S. joining a cattle run for the summer,”
“That would be awesome. I like riding and everything, but even after two years I’m still cautious around horses,”
“So you should be,” Larry laughed as I swiped my key to the VIP floor. As we entered, I could immediately hear music, so the pair of us followed the tune and passed my apartment onto the open deck. The sun was beginning to go down, bathing the whole area with golden light. Off to the side near Mac’s apartment was a table with cookies and mugs on steaming, I assume hot chocolate.
Andre was sat on one of the loungers with his foot up, and Ashley was seated in a wheelchair close by. I noticed Mac was stood with Rachel close to the pair chatting happily. Larry joined some of the others at the table while I observed everyone. Bastion was stood by the large window, nursing on a drink, but his eyes were watching Tobi and Noah very carefully. I followed his gaze and noticed Noah was bathed in sunlight, making him look angelic. The music changed to an old song called ‘You are the reason’ by Calum Scott.
There goes my heart beating
’Cause you are the reason
I’m losing my sleep
Please come back now
There goes my mind racing
As Tobi talked, Noah turned meeting my eyes, green eyes lit up like emeralds, and a small smile lifted his lips. I found myself falling even more in love with the boy than I had been. His auburn hair looked even redder in the dying sunlight.
And you are the reason
That I’m still breathing
I’m hopeless now
I’d climb every mountain
And swim every ocean
Just to be with you
And fix what I’ve broken
Oh, ’cause I need you to see
That you are the reason
“How’d the visit to the horses go?” Kelly asked, breaking my reverie. I looked at her, subtly analysing our saboteur.
“Great, they are wonderful animals,” I told her, “They’ll certainly be good use when we go out,”
“That good, what do you make of the new people?” she asked. I recognised the girl was angling for information.
“Not bad, they will fit in well,” I told her shortly, “But what about you? I’ve barely spoken to you recently, how are you feeling?”
“Erm, I miss my parents, but I understand the reasons we are down here,” she floundered a little bit.
“Do you miss going to school knowing your dad was the headmaster?” I asked.
“Sometimes it was hard, I was taunted a lot,” she played up the sympathy card.
“Sarah told me he was good at computers, has he always been a teacher?” I asked casually and noticed she stiffened up.
“He trained in technology in MIT in the U.S., but decided to go into teaching,” she replied, only the rubbing of her hands giving away she was nervous.
“Oh wow, he must be pretty good, but you obviously love teaching too. You’re brilliant with the kids,” I complimented her, trying to make her feel at ease. Her shoulders dropped a little, and she gave me a beaming smile touching my arm.
“Your sweet to say that, I’m glad you’re leading us,” Out the corner of my eye I noticed Noah glaring so I subtly shrugged.
“Thank’s a lot. I better see how Mac is,” I moved away to meet up with Mac and listen in to her conversation. She gave me a quick nod but continued to chat to Rachel and the other two.
“How’s your leg doing now?” I asked Andre, squatting down.
“Feeling loads better, your girl, Mac, she patched me up,” he smiled at my best friend.
“She is amazing, the internship she did in America has certainly helped a lot,” I replied as I took notice Andre was wearing grey tracksuit bottoms and top but had red piping down the side and on the sleeves. I was shocked to see a logo of a mountain and Fort Walker on it, “Where did you get those?”
“I made them,” Sarah told me coming up beside us, she looked a little nervous.
“You made them?” I raised an eyebrow at her.
“Well, I found the clothes, meant to be a ‘uniform’ for those inside the Mountain and added the piping and the logo,”
“When did you do that?” I asked astonished.
“The last few months, I’ve only got a few adult sizes, but I have plenty for children and plenty for when the new group arrive,” she returned and smiled, “I’ve got a special set for you,”
“Everyone will wear different colour piping depending on their station, I thought it best we had a ‘uniform’ for most of the time then the kids’ casual wear can be saved for weekends or in their rooms,” she answered, “You have the only black striped one and C.O. under the logo,”
“What does Mac have?” Though her back was turned, I gave Mac a grin.
“2IC,” Sarah replied with a smile herself, “She has dark blue piping, like the rest of the command structure,”
“When can you give them out?”
“I’ll get with Matty and Izzy to distribute them tomorrow,” she replied then continued, “While I have you, have you explored any more of the Lab area recently?”
“No, just the Labs,”
“I have done some more poking around with Amanda in the last week and discovered quarantine cells,”
“What do you mean?”
“There are a large observation room and three cells used for ‘quarantine cases’, in other words, we could bring some of those creatures in here to study them,” she explained.
“I’ve been up close with them and I rather not do that,” I told her. She nodded her understanding when I heard a quiet ping, “If you’ll excuse me,”
“Of course,” she moved away to talk to Izzy as I stepped back and opened my Wrist communicator.
From: General Forsythe
Briefing at 1500hrs tomorrow
“Are you alright?” Mac asked startling me.
“Sure, General Forsythe wants to have a briefing tomorrow, I’m guessing it’s to do with the group arriving in the next few days,” I explained.
“Should be good,”
“How is Ashley?”
“Getting ready to pop, I think she’ll be due in the next week, and it’s going to be tough, I’ve never dealt with a pregnancy,” she explained. I could tell she was agitated as she kept brushing her blonde locks behind her ear.
“You’ll be fine, is there no medical video’s you can watch? Didn’t you say Alyssa is a medical professional?”
“Yes,” she sighed a little, letting the tension out, “She’s actually delivered babies before,”
“There you go then, she can help you deliver the baby,” I laughed, “Plus you can use Daisy,”
“Thanks,” she returned and slapped my shoulder, making me laugh.
“How were the horses? Can Ben and Me see them?” Matty said excitedly, interrupting my conversation with Mac. The pair of them were looking at me eagerly.
“Surely you’ve seen a horse before, Ben?” I asked the brother of Larry.
“Ben and I,” Mac corrected at the same time giving me a look. Ben looked up at me with pleading eyes.
“Sure I have, but I wanted to show them off to my best friend,” the nine-year-old explained, “He’s going to love Apollo,”
“Well it’s too late tonight for the pair of you to see them, so maybe we can take some of the younger group down tomorrow,” I returned Mac’s look getting a nod in return.
“You’ve got the apartment to yourself tonight,” Matty said. I looked at the pair of them confused.
“We’re having a sleepover at Nate, Luca and Simon’s with Georgie coming too,”
“Firstly has Nathan agreed to that, he might not want a bunch of rugrats under feet, secondly when were you planning on asking me?” Matty gave me a sour face.
“We’re asking now,”
“No, you’re telling me now, has Nathan agreed?”
“Yes, he has,” Ben supplied. I immediately thought of a peaceful night without the pair.
“Then I don’t see a problem with-“ I was cut off by a commotion.
“Get away from me you dumb bafoon,” I heard Bastian shouting. Looking over at the source of the fight we saw Larry and Bastian toe-to-toe, the latter snarling at the farm boy.
“You need to be careful, Sebastian, you’re not in a small group anymore. Everyone pulls their weight here,” Larry growled, defending the Mountain. Rachel and I both moved to the pair as everyone watched on.
“Why the hell do you get the VIP quarters and we’re stuck in 2* accommodation?” Bastian moaned. So this was the conversation, why they were on level five, not six.
“Because we were here first and we are in charge of the mountain,” Larry explained patiently, but I could see him balling his fist. He was getting angry with the sportsman before him.
“I’m pretty sure the brats aren’t in charge of anything,” he continued pointing to Tobi and my brother.
“Actually, as I told you, Tobi is in charge of all communication here and technology. Matty is our quartermaster, so he gives out all the supplies,” I explained stepping in, but he towered over me.
“You’re just a nerd, why don’t you let an adult do the job or someone a bit more competent?” he asked. I began to get annoyed with him. How dare he? We rescue him, and he turns on us — ungrateful little swine.
“Take a deep breath,” Mac murmured in my ear. I released a deep breath, unclenching my hands.
“I think it’s time for bed,” Rachel stated firmly.
“No, I’m just-“ he was cut off by a glare.
“I think it’s time we went down to our rooms,” Rachel commanded, his jaw snapped shut, and his face went bright red, but he complied with her.
“I’ll escort them down to the rooms,” Mac volunteered. I watched them leave, noticing how the room got quieter as everyone else went for their beds. I tidied up the cups and just merged when I bumped into someone.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there,” I looked up finding myself looking into Noah’s emeralds.
“No problem, I was looking for you,”
“Really now?” I arched my eyebrow, but he just smirked.
“Well we haven’t had any alone time, but no I wanted to check on you after the bust-up with Bastian,”
“I’m fine,” I answered, but suddenly pulled Noah into my arms. He looked shocked at first, but then a slow smile spread across his face. I lowered my lips down and touched his. He tasted exquisite, as his mouth opened up his tongue met mine. Our tongues began to dual, but I felt myself becoming excited, this is further than what we’d done before.
“Don’t mind me,” Mac chuckled as she came around the corner.
“Wait to kill the mood, Hag,” I joked with her.
“I expect you’ll get me back, Nerd,” she replied, laughing and closing the door behind her. I looked back at Noah’s flushed face.
“We had better get to bed,” I kissed the tip of his nose and let him go to bed.
“Good Morning, Alex,” Mac greeted me as I entered the briefing room the next morning clutching a cup of coffee. I rarely drink the stuff, but after last night I felt absolutely drained.
“Do you have to be so loud?” I grumbled at her.
“Well, someone had a late night,” she smiled from her seat. Minutes later, we were joined by Matty, Tobi, Nate, Sarah, Simon, Larry, and Tom. They settled in at the table chatting lightly, I looked at them and noticed Nate looked a bit ashen, maybe he wasn’t well. Tobi’s conversation with Matty was punctured by coughing. Mac gave him a concerned look, but he just shrugged. I stopped the conversation by knocking on the table lightly.
“Right, good morning, tomorrow a 100 kids from OPGrowth arrive, and we’ve all got to get our eggs in one basket. Over the last few months, I’ve been working out the logistics and the people power,” I explained, “Therefore we shall have ten departments; Mac will head the medical division, Tobi will lead Tech Support and Communications, Nathan will be the head of security, Simon will be head of Hospitality-“
“Hospitality?” Simon asked, surprised.
“Catering, looking after everyone including Laundry and getting supplies from our Quartermaster, the head of Stores; Matty,” I continued, “Research shall be headed by Sarah while Veterinary & Agriculture will be headed by Larry. Tom will supervise Engineering,”
“That’s eight,” Mac pointed out.
“I will be in charge of the Recon teams, and hopefully one of the newcomers shall head the Admin & Teaching staff,” I finished handing out folders to each of them with brief overviews of everyone in their departments, “This will give you the personnel list of everyone in your departments, go over it today because when they arrive tomorrow, we’ll be splitting them all up into designated groups,”
“Tobi’s got the largest group for watches; there will be four teams to cover the Operations Room on six-hour shifts,” I told her.
“Will we have anyone for the Watchtower?” Nate rasped.
“I’ll have to draw a list up for that,” I looked at him, concerned, “Are you all right?”
“I think I have a bit of a cold,”
“Must be catching,” I nodded my head at Tobi, who appeared grey himself. Despite the laughter, I shared a look with Mac.
“Today, as I said, will be all about planning. Sarah, how many types of uniform did you do?”
“Ten, including yours,” she answered.
“I see where you’re going; maybe we could assign a different colour to each of the sections,” Mac spoke up.
“I guess,” Sarah replied, looking unsure of herself.
“Tomorrow, each of the nine department heads will wear the ‘uniform’. Can you work with Simon and his crew to make enough for everyone,”
“I can do that,” Sarah perked up a bit.
“How come I have to head Hospitality? I just like catering,” Simon spoke up.
“Catering is generally part of Hospitality, maybe one of your newcomers could handle that side of things,” I hinted knowing Lisa Williams had a background in the Hospitality industry, her dad ran a B&B.
“That’s good,” He perked up as we discussed a few more things, going over the group sizes and what we could expect. But I was getting more and more worried about Nate and Tobi. Nate seemed to be staring off into the distance listlessly, and Tobi seemed to be coughing even harder than usual.
“Right, I think it might be time to wrap this up for today,” I stood up just as a banging made us all jump. I strode over to the door opening it to find a dishevelled Rachel and a worried Noah, “What’s the matter?”
“Jamie has collapsed, he’s not responding,”
“Amanda and Georgie are both sick too, I’ve moved all three down to the Quarantine ward in the Medical Bay,” Noah added as we heard a thud. Nate had collapsed onto the floor, his eyes rolling into his head.
“Mac,” Tobi muttered showing off his hand, which had specks of blood on it. Mac and Sarah exchanged looks; then both stood up.
“I want everyone to take a shower in the Medical Bay, especially you two,” Mac commanded looking at Rachel and Noah, “Get rid of your clothes and put something else on,”
“Everyone else is to remain in the Ward,” Sarah added as Mac pulled a couple of sets of gloves from her pocket handing some over to Sarah, who gave her a mask. They shared a grin at their preparation.
“Noah, after you’ve showered, I want you to make sure everyone is in their rooms,” I ordered.
“Actually I don’t want Noah going anyone but the ward,” Mac indicated.
“Daisy, can you open up a base-wide channel,”
“Acknowledged, Channel open,” I could hear a hiss in my earpiece.
“This is the Base Commander, as of right now, everyone is confined to their rooms and apartments, please make your way to them now,” I heard my own voice over the intercom then it switched off, “Daisy after everyone is in their designated areas I want the apartments and rooms sealed,”
“Confirmed,” Daisy’s smooth voice said, Rachel was looking at me, but I had little time to explain right now. Between Tom and I, we got the boys down to the quarantine ward then everyone took showers.
More than an hour later, I stood in front of the window, looking in the ward at the ones quarantined. Georgie, Jamie, Amanda, Nate and Tobi were lying in bed looking lifeless. I was wearing our ‘uniform’ while my gloves had been secured until Mac deemed it necessary to return them. Larry came up beside me, looking at his little brother with concern. All five had been put on drips, Alyssa was outside with a headset talking to Mac and Sarah, who was in the room with the five.
“How are they doing?” I turned to look at him, he was pale too and his hair still wet.
“They’ve all dropped into a coma, we’re trying to make them as comfortable as possible,” Alyssa replied watching through the window.
“What the hell happened? Did they get bitten?” Larry asked.
“Neither Tobi nor Georgie was outside the mountain,” Noah spoke up before I had a chance to say anything. I watched Rachel pace back and forth so drew the two boys out of earshot. Larry looked back at the newcomers then at me.
“You suspect foul play?”
“I’m not sure, but the timing is a bit funny now. We rescue them, then four of our own go sick,”
“Jamie’s sick too,” Noah pointed out.
“But does the saboteur want us to think it’s come from outside,” I mused, “It’s funny how our security officer and communications expert has gotten ill,”
“Do you think it’s the same person that set the fire?” Larry asked.
“They’ve been with us six months, if it was them they had plenty of opportunities,” I explained trying to be careful, few people knew it was Kelly. I heard a door open to see Sarah and Mac emerge. They took off the plastic aprons, gloves and mask, dumping them in a Hazardous waste container. We all approached the pair of them.
“It’s like nothing we’ve ever seen before,” Sarah replied, getting confirming nods from Mac and Ashley.
“You’re young, you can’t possibly know every virus,” Rachel pointed out.
“Well, I love viruses, and I’ve studied them a lot,” She shrugged almost apologetically, “but sure, I don’t know all the viruses of the world.”
“I did a study of the main viruses on my internship, but I don’t know every virus,” Mac added, “But we’re pretty sure it’s not any current viruses,”
“Do you think it’s the virus that changed people to zombies?” Rachel asked.
“Is it contagious?” Larry asked, at the same time.
“We’re working on the assumption it’s somehow the virus, but we don’t think it’s contagious,” Sarah explained.
“We’re going to give it until tomorrow morning, but we’re 98% certain it’s not contagious,” Mac continued, “We’ve taken some blood samples and will try analyse them, maybe send the analyses to Kelvedor or Cheyenne,”
“Was Jamie bitten?” Rachel looked concerned.
“There were no injuries,” Mac spoke hesitantly and looked at me.
“Georgie and Tobi didn’t leave the mountain, so how did they get the disease?” I asked rhetorically.
“Well, then how?” Rachel asked and looked between Noah and me, then noticed the gun I had strapped around my leg, “You suspect one of us,”
“It’s awful suspicious how you arrive, and immediately our head of security gets ill,” Larry pointed out.
“You’re right, but why would we do that?”
“I don’t know, you tell us.”
“Could it be your saboteur?” Rachel asked, surprising me.
“I’ve not even going to ask how you know that, but if it was our saboteur why did they wait until now to poison five people especially one that’s never done anything,” I told her mentioning Georgie. I looked at my clock, “How are we going to provide lunch?”
“Assuming we are all either infected, or the virus is not infectious we may all eat lunch in the dining area,” Mac pointed out, “Amanda, Georgie and Jamie must have come into contact with everyone so we’re either all infected or we’re not,”
“OK Simon, can you get everyone lunch? But I want everyone confined back in their rooms as soon as lunch is over,” I ordered, looking at Larry and Noah, “We will escort everyone back to their rooms after lunch, Sarah you and I have a meeting at 3 o’clock,”
“Of course,” she looked a little puzzled but knew I would explain later.
“Right, let’s go,” I moved the other’s but looked to Ashley and Mac, “Will you be OK with them?”
“I’ve got my Radio,” Mac tapped her earpiece, “If something happens I’ll call you down.
“No problem,” I told her and followed the others out of the Medical area.
Lunch was a quiet affair; I explained that a few of the teens had gotten sick, but we were monitoring them carefully, and there was nothing to worry about.
“What do you make of their sickness?” I asked Sarah; we had been sat in my office talking since lunch, generally avoiding all bad subjects, but finally, I had to ask.
“It’s not clear, whatever it is, the sickness moves fast, like scarily fast,”
“But do you think it’s the same virus those creatures are infected with?”
“I don’t know, Dr Caldwell says the virus does not affect children,” she replied, “But there must be some kind of reaction, and they’ve not studied it yet,”
“Do you think they could have a cure?”
“Not at the moment, and I bet they’ve been working on it for the last six months,” she pointed out, then looked at me, “How are you doing?”
“What do you mean?” I looked at her startled.
“Well if my friend were sick, I’d be distraught,” she returned,
“Yes but I can’t afford to be worried, Tobi is just one of a group of people I have to look after,”
“I can understand that,” She returned with a sympathetic smile.
“Yes, I’m really worried,” I clarified. “But I can’t lose my head, not with others sick and a host of new people about to arrive tomorrow,”
“I get you,” she said softly. At the same time, Talia’s voice interrupted us.
“Alex, Corporal Strange and General Forsythe are ready.” I acknowledged her, then the pair of us made our way to the Operations Room. Giving Talia a nod, I got a headset on.
“Good Afternoon, General,”
“Alex, I’ve got Dr Cauldewell here too,”
“Sarah, our lead Researcher, is here, we’ve had a bit of an incident,” I explained, relating our trip outside, “Yesterday we rescued seven people bringing them back to the Mountain. This morning five people have gotten ill, four of our people and one of the newcomers,”
“What are the symptoms?” A new rich voice interrupted, I recognised Dr Cauldwell.
“Grey pallor, cough, blood in the lungs, vomiting, fever, coma.” Sarah took over speaking to the scientist.
“What about the incubation period?”
“Less than twelve hours, two of the patients were reported to have flu-like symptoms at 0900 hrs when they showed no symptoms before 2200hrs last night,” Sarah reported science like.
“They’ve slipped into a coma?”
“All five, as of 1230,” she answered, looking at me, this was news that Mac had not shared. I was beginning to get worried.
“Has any of them been bitten?”
“Two of them never left the Mountain,” I stepped in.
“Sounds like stage two,” Cauldwell muttered to himself. “Can you send the data over?”
“We took blood samples, and our machines have analysed them, but we only can do so much,” Sarah answered, approaching Talia. The pair of them sat at a computer; I suppose to share the Research with Kelvedon.
“Do you have any clue what it might be?”
“Come again,” I didn’t understand the Latin Dr Cauldwell had replied with.
“The Lazarus Syndrome is the virus that is affecting people, it turns them into mindless animals with psychosis and violent impulses,” Cauldwell explained, “But all indications say children are not affected by the virus, that they will not reanimate,”
“So they will die?” I asked alarmed.
“We have not had enough children to study the effects of the virus on adolescents and pre-adolescents,” Cauldwell tried to assure me in a brusque manner.
“Do you think that this is deliberate, Alexander?” General Forsythe’s plummy voice reined me in.
“I can see no alternative, as two of the sick have not left the Mountain in over six months,”
“You will have to do an investigation, what about the other saboteur?”
“It was not them, I suspect it is one of the newcomers,” I replied, seeing Sarah staring at me, mouth slack and eyes wide open. “Once we have the OpGrowth beta group here, I will begin an investigation, is it safe to allow them into the Mountain?”
“While Lazarus is extremely virulent, it seems the version you have has been introduced to your parents either by injection or orally,” Cauldwell added, “Saliva from bites is passed into the bloodstream and begins infection.”
“What if there was an exchange of, erm, fluids?” I asked embarrassed, remembering kissing Noah last night. Though knowing he didn’t have it, he could have been sick.
“You mean bodily fluids, as in sex?” Cauldwell looked for confirmation.
“Yeah, erm, such as kissing,”
“We’ve not researched the theory much, but potentially an exchange of saliva could trigger an infection,” Cauldwell explained, “But the incubation period is two hours, so first symptoms would appear two hours since bodily fluids were swapped,”
“Monitor the situation and let us know,” Forsythe changed the subject, relief flooding through me. “Now, Major Harrison should be arriving with the Beta group of OpGrowth tomorrow. Finn Harris is their unofficial leader,”
“I’ve read up on his Bio, he seems like a decent kid,” I replied, reviewing the fourteen-year-olds personnel file in my hair; Loves anything retro and has his music band or did have.
“Good, now I’ve got some bad news for you,” General Forsythe cleared his throat, “ Major Harrison will be taking some of your weapons tomorrow,”
“We are running low on stock and know you’ve got quite the stock there,”
“What are we supposed to use, harsh words?” I asked sarcastically.
“Major Harrison will leave you with some weapons, but we are senior officials and require them,” His adult voice come through; You are a child and will do as I say.
“No problem General, we won’t stand in their way,” I replied contritely but shared a look with Sarah and Talia.
“However, Major Harrison has a field medic on his team that can examine the sick for you and maybe give some pointers to your medical personnel,” Forsythe relented.
“Thank you, Sir,”
“Good, now I have another meeting to attend to so I will sign off and will talk to you soon,” Forsythe said, now that things were to his liking.
“Thank you, General, and thank you, Doctor, for your information,”
“I shall send over the information on the Lazarus Syndrome and review the research Sarah has conducted,” We signed off with Kelvedon Hatch, the Operations Room falling silent once again. I took off my headset and looked around as I ran through everything said in the last half hour.
“Sarah, I need you to take a blood sample from me and see why I wasn’t infected,” I ordered, not a trace of embarrassment clouding my voice.
“You may have natural immunity; in most viruses, there is 1-10% of the populate naturally immune. I don’t think I’ve heard of a virus where no one is immune,”
“But it is an alien virus, correct, so theoretically no one could be immune,”
“Theoretically yes, but I don’t believe that. The doctor said the incubation period, the time of infection to first symptoms, is two hours and it’s been longer than that since you shared bodily fluids, I assume,” her face flushed bright red.
“Right then, I want you to take some of my blood and analyse it anyway,” I told her, “I’ll let you know when as I’ve got some preparations to do,”
Night had fallen; there was still no change with our patients. All five had fallen into a coma and were hooked up to I.V’s. Daisy and Mac were monitoring them, but there was nothing else they could do. I had been sat in the Quarantine Ward for the last hour in a mask, gloves and gown, murmuring to a comatose Tobi. Diagonally across me, Rachel was in the same position. I looked up to see a flash of Larry standing at the window watching his youngest brother.
“How are they doing?” I asked Sarah quietly who was at the next bed over; she was lent over Amanda checking her vitals while Mac was with Nate.
“Not brilliant, but they are stable for the moment,” she answered, looking tired.
“Will you be alright?”
“Mac isn’t going anywhere, at least for tonight and neither am I,” she answered firmly.
“Hopefully, you’ll get help tomorrow. We’ve got one full-time Medical personnel, and I think most of the research team have a little medical training in their background, at least from the Junior Ambassador Program,”
“It will be nice,” Sarah nodded and went back to work. I talked to Tobi softly to not disturb the others, telling him about my conversation with Forsythe.
“You should get some rest,” Mac disturbed my general murmurings. I stretched, and my back ached, looking at my clock, I realised it had been over an hour since my conversation with Sarah. I looked around to see Rachel and Larry had left.
“Where is everyone?” I asked groggily.
“I sent them away, but didn’t have the heart to disturb you,” she replied sympathetically.
“Erm, I appreciate it,”
“You’ve got a big day tomorrow; you had better go sleep,”
“I don’t want to leave him,” I looked at Tobi, he could almost be sleeping, if not for the needle attached to his arm.
“I’ll call you if anything changes,” she promised. I got up reluctantly but knew I had to get some sort of sleep before tomorrow.
“OK, you let me know the second anything changes,” I stared at her getting a nod. I left the room putting the gloves, mask and gown in the biohazard bin outside the door. I washed my hands and arms before slowly dragging myself up the stairs.
“How are they?” Noah asked me as I rounded the corner towards my apartment.
“Stable for the moment, but no changes either way, thankfully,” I told him. “Did you do as I asked?”
“Yes, I’ve hidden the guns Larry bought back to us and at least one sniper rifle. I’ve kept a couple of rifles back, but we’ll probably going to need more weapons if they clear us out,”
“What about ammunition?” he grinned wolfishly at me.
“Oh, I got plenty of that stashed away,”
“Did you leave them any?” I asked, grinning back in return.
“Oh sure, they have a fair bit left to take,”
“I appreciate it, Noah, I’m not about to let them come in here and take everything,” I looked out the large window into the night, “I’ll need your help tomorrow. I’m thinking of doing a perimeter walk tomorrow,”
“I think that’s a good idea, with the Mountain being locked down we’ve been blind to our external security,”
“Good, go to bed and get a good nights rest,” I told him. Instead, I turned away from my apartment, knowing I couldn’t sleep.
“Where are you going?” he asked, concerned.
“Down to the Operations Room, I won’t be able to sleep while our people are ill,” I answered honestly.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” he returned, reluctant to leave me alone, but I shooed him away. I followed the steps back down to the Operations Room, which was silent at this time of night. I flicked a few of the monitors on, but the main screen was lit with satellite shots. A few towns over had what appeared to be a pyre burning in their town centre. I grabbed a headset but kept in my internal earpiece to hear if Mac called for me.
I let the radio flicker through the channels listening to the voices of people pleading for help when one voice stopped me.
“This Deacon Miles onboard the TCL Aurora,” it sounded like a teenaged voice.
“Aurora, this Commander Walker out of Fort Walker,”
“Oh thank god someone replied, we’ve been trying to get an answer for the last six weeks,” he sounded visibly relieved.
“What’s your location?” I asked curiously.
“We are in the North Atlantic Ocean, south of Ireland,”
“Say again, the North Atlantic Ocean?”
“Yes, I’m currently on a cruise liner,”
“Do you know what’s been happening?”
“Sure, Zombies have attacked, and the world’s gone to shit!” Deacon deadpanned.
“Have you been on the land since the beginning?” I asked curiously.
“No, but we’ve got enough food to last us for the next few weeks,” he answered.
“Who is us?”
“I have several kids with me, 8-14,” Deacon answered, “the rest have turned violent,”
“How are you able to control the boat?”
“Auto-pilot, one of the kids is like a prodigy or something, little Einstein,” He laughed. I heard a voice in the background.
“Yeah, I have on fo those myself,” I replied, thinking of Tobi, wondering if he’ll wake up or if he’ll become one of those things.
“Medical Emergency! Medical Emergency!” Daisy’s cool, detached voice spoke. I instantly panicked.
“I’ll talk to you soon, Deacon, but I have to go,” I ripped off the headset sprinting up the stairs to the Medical area. I entered heading straight to the Quarantine Ward, but Georgie’s bed was empty. I heard noises coming from the surgery and plunged in to find Mac on top of the gurney performing CPR.
“Sarah, go get Larry now,” I yelled, and she immediately ran off.
“Charged, stand clear,” Daisy’s voice spoke. Mac leapt off the small eight-year-old. He was so still and looked like a porcelain doll. A buzz went through the room, the paddles sending an electric shock into George’s tiny body. Immediately Mac began CPR again as I rushed forward, grabbing the mask and breathing bag. I pushed air into the boys’ blue lips as Mac tried to bring his heart back. On a monitor behind her, a single line bleeped telling us the heart rhythm had gone.
“Charged, stand clear,” Daisy’s voice said again. Mac moved away as another electrical pulse was delivered straight into the boy, but there was no noticeable effect. Mac started on the CPR also; I noticed Alyssa talking my friend through the actions quietly. Minutes passed, a third and fourth charge was directed into the boys’ heart.
“Not Georgie,” a scream bought me out of my reverie as Larry rushed in followed closely by Sarah who looked like she was crying.
“I think it’s time to stop,” Alyssa said softly.
“I’m not going to stop,” Mac replied harshly, tears streaming down her face. She continued trying to bring George back to life, but she was flagging. I crept around the gurney and took Mac’s arms, pulling her away from the boy and into my arms.
“He’s gone,” Alyssa spoke up. Larry screamed out loud and held his little brother, but we all knew the truth. George had died!