Read Orbital Decay Online

Authors: A. G. Claymore

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Horror, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Genetic Engineering, #Hard Science Fiction, #90 Minutes (44-64 Pages), #Post-Apocalyptic, #Science Fiction

Orbital Decay (7 page)

BOOK: Orbital Decay
10.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

“Look, Lise, I bet every time something massive happens, there’s some poor schmuck who got caught up in it against all odds and everybody thinks he’s nuts.” He held up the packet. “I need you to trust me on this. I’ve got enough for seven shots in here. That’s you, Brendan and whoever happens to have O-negative. The retrovirus goes dormant after a few days but it stays in the blood for a while. If we give it to the O-negatives, they can cut their hand and inoculate anyone. Their red blood cells survive the process to pass on the immunity.”

That seemed to convince her. Ben was the last person she expected to hear this kind of stuff from and yet, he was making sense. “One percent chance?” She took the packet and opened it, heading for the counter at the back of the room. She pulled out the syringe. “Just the one?” She waved it in front of Ben.

He nodded.

“Gwen,” she said, turning to a young woman behind the counter. “Could you get me some boiling water, please?”

“Sure thing, Doc.” The young woman flashed her a smile before turning to the stove.

“I feel like a junkie,” Lise muttered as she drew a dose from the vial. She held it to a vein on the underside of her forearm. “Here goes nothing.” She slid it in.

Or everything,
Ben thought as he watched the plunger slide down.

“Daddy!” Little Brendan came into the room in the middle of a hurricane of young children, shouts, squeals and angry retorts. He ran over and hugged Ben’s leg. To him, this was just a day of adventure, topped by seeing his father two days ahead of the agreed schedule.

Ben rested a hand on his son’s head and looked up at Lise. She was gazing down at her little boy, fear and hope mingled in her features. “There’s no choice to make,” he said softly. “Nobody will escape this infection. Sooner or later it’s going to wipe us all out unless we can spread the cure. This…” he stopped and swallowed hard. “This is the only chance he’s got.”

Nodding, Lise turned to the pot of boiling water that Gwen had set on the counter. She popped the needle off the syringe and dropped it into the hot water. Gwen caught on immediately and turned to the counter on the far side, coming back with a set of tongs.

“Mommy’s going to give you a shot, Bren,” she said with forced cheer as she fished out the needle. “It’ll keep you from getting sick!” There were tears in the corners of her eyes. She might be killing her precious little boy with this shot.

“I’ll need to sit in your lap, Daddy,” he looked up at Ben with the solemnity that only a three-year-old boy can possess. “So you don’t get scared.”

Brendan took the shot better than his parents, perhaps reluctant to show fear in front of his new playmates. When it was done, he had to squirm to get out of Ben’s arms. He raced off to join a small group pretending that a sleeping bag was a tent.

It took a long time for Ben to get his emotions under control. Abe helped himself to coffee and a sandwich and moved a discreet distance from the young couple. Lise took over Brendan’s perch on Ben’s lap and leaned her head against his shoulder.

“He’s going to be OK, right?” she whispered.

“He will,” he answered forcefully, as though he could make it true through sheer force of will.

“Honey,” she said, still at a whisper, “who is that guy?”

Ben followed her gaze and saw Abe, finishing off a sandwich. “That’s Abe Peters. He was one of the government guys trying to kill me so CPD could close out the Mortensen case.” He chuckled. “He’s had a change of heart.”

“Just like that?” She lifted her head to look her husband in the eye. “He goes from your worst enemy to your best pal like flicking a switch?”

“Keeping me quiet didn’t seem nearly so important once the plague got loose. Kind of like what Granddad used to say about flying those secret bombing missions in Cambodia. It was sure as hell no secret for the Cambodians.”

“You trust him?”

“Hell, he’s still a risk,” Ben said mildly, “but we’ve all had to redefine what constitutes a risk, haven’t we?” A sleeping bag tumbled past, looking like a giant caterpillar, complete with many pairs of tiny legs. Ben sighed, patting Lise’s knee. “We need to get everyone together, give out the shots and then get back to the shuttle.”

“I can’t leave,” she answered indignantly. “These people took us in; saved our lives.”

“And we’ll give them five shots,” Ben answered reasonably, “and they’ll pass it on until everybody’s immune. But we’ve got an entire planet of people out there that needs this stuff.” He lifted her left hand, the vial still clasped in her fingers. “I’ve got the researchers that made this waiting over by Wampum lake, along with Abe’s shuttle. We need to get back to them and get them to somewhere they can work without getting overrun, and we need to start getting this out to any living humans we can find.”

Five shots later, they were saying their goodbyes. Once the five had survived the two-day incubation period, they would pass it on to the rest of the refugees. The pastor had already organized five armed parties to escort the ‘Five’ once they were ready to go out into Chicago, carrying hope in their veins for all who wanted it.

“Thank you, Detective Marks.” The pastor shook his hand. “Giving that last shot to Michael was the right thing to do. He’s the only other doctor we have, now that Lise is going to be leaving us.” Michael was the man who had started to show symptoms earlier. His poor family was even more distraught, pulled back from the thin comfort of certain despair, but teetering now on the brink.

“We were getting pretty low on hope around here until you boys showed up,” the big man went on. “Heck, son, we were running on fumes. But now…” He looked around the room, nodding at a young man sitting with his wife. “Now we’re gonna send out our ‘Blood Missionaries’, just as soon as we can. An hour ago, we were wondering if any of us would get through this. Now we’re planning to take our city back, and after that…” he looked at Ben. “We can send out teams to other cities.”

“Well, thanks for taking my family in,” Ben flexed his right hand to restore circulation.
Does he shake everyone’s hand after Sunday service?
“I never would have found them, if not for you.”

“And yet, folk still say the Good Lord doesn’t work miracles anymore.” The pastor chuckled. We’ll draw attention to the rear,” he offered, nodding toward the back door that Ben and Abe had come in through. “You folks should be able to get out the front door without too much trouble.” He turned and led them down the hall to the sanctuary, stopping to pop his head in an office.

“Edna, could you put something on the back speaker, please?” He resumed course for the front door, Ben’s party in tow. “They’re drawn to any man-made noises. Music pulls them in like flies on honey, poor souls.” He took a quick look through a side window and then pulled the door open. “God be with you,” he said simply.

And they were outside in the cool air.

A scratchy song was playing in the distance. “I think that’s ‘Falling in Love Again’, in German,” Abe said. “Sounds like an old copy from the ‘30s.”

“If this day gets any weirder,” Ben muttered, shaking his head. “I suppose this is the new normal, now.” He unslung his G-19. “Alright, we probably drew most of them out of the main street already, so we’ll head back the same way. Nothing fancy, just straight down the middle and shoot anything that isn’t human… anymore.”

They moved over to the corner. It looked quiet. They set off at a brisk walk. Lise had to carry Brendan, so running wasn’t really an option. Halfway to the creek, they stopped for a short rest next to a midsize sedan that was pushed up against a streetlight. Its taillights gleamed dully in the gathering dusk.

They all jumped as a car horn sounded. There was a driver in the sedan, though he was in no shape to drive anymore, and he was leaning on the horn with his elbow as he scratched at the window.

“Shit!” Ben’s heart was racing. “We’ve gotta get moving.” He moved to pick up Brendan, but Lise stopped him.

“I’ve got him,” she said firmly. “You need both hands to deal with the results of all this noise.” She nodded over at the car with its grisly occupant, the horn still blaring.

Sure enough, the street was coming to life, or a grotesque facsimile of it. They hadn’t cleared out this street after all. Far from it. There were at least ten shuffling revenants moving into the street ahead of them.

“Daddy, I need my costume too!” Brendan chided.

“Oh God,” Lise muttered. “He thinks it’s Halloween.”

“Let him,” Ben answered quietly. He brought the weapon up and started firing as he moved forward. “Abe, take the left side. I’ll take the right.”

No longer caring about noise, they moved down the street at a fast walk, shooting everything that moved. Lise followed with a very confused little boy. They reached the end of the street and crossed into the back yard of the house with the pool. Ben rounded the corner and found himself face to face with a man who must have been the owner… once. He fired into the man’s rotting head at point-blank range and gagged as some of the spatter hit his open mouth.

They pushed the canoe down the bank and into the river, Abe holding the bow while Lise put Brendan in the middle before taking the rear seat.

“Abe, sit in front of Brendan and keep an eye out,” Ben said, still trying to work up enough saliva to spit out the taste of rot.
Thank God I got that shot last night.
“Lise is better with a paddle than both of us put together so I’ll take the front and she’ll steer.”

The trip back was slower – they had more weight and they were travelling against the current. It seemed to take forever to reach the rail bridge and then they came to the camp. Two of the infected who hadn’t come after the canoe the first time were still there, feeding on the remains of a dog.

“Daddy, what are they doing?” Brendan’s three-year-old mind had no context to put this into and he was mystified, wondering if this was normal behavior.

It was Abe who answered. “Little buddy, I need you to watch the woods on that side of the canoe.” He pointed away from the scene. “Can you do that for me?”


Ben turned to find his son earnestly searching the woods on the right hand side of the boat. Little Brendan seemed to be accepting the new reality better than some adults – so far.
Will he ever remember what life was like before today?
He caught Abe’s eye and gave him a quick nod of thanks, before turning back to his efforts. On her own, Lise was barely keeping up with the current.

They rounded the last bend and the highway was there, but now a smoking Humvee lay on its side at the bottom of the embankment, and an angry scar in the grass led up to the new hole in the railing. The roof had torn loose and lay half in the water.

“That’s new,” Ben commented as they drew even with the scene. “Must have been a patrol vehicle. Oh Hell!” He stared in horror as the driver, still strapped into his seat, tried to get at the body on the passenger side. The driver had succumbed to the infection and lost control. The Army wouldn’t be able to stop this if they were already infected. “Abe…”

Two three-round bursts hit the driver and he stopped moving.

“Daddy!” Brendan’s little voice was showing the strain. Lise must have kept him from seeing the shooting during their run to the boat but he had been looking straight at the driver when Abe shot him. “I want to go home now!” A whine was creeping into his voice. This was no longer an adventure. He was reaching his limits.

“Hold on, little buddy,” Ben grunted as he drove his paddle through the water as hard as he could, driving them into the dark beneath the bridge. His son started to cry openly now and the sound was torture for Ben. This was no scary movie, accidentally found on the TV, this was reality and Ben desperately wished he could just change the channel.

They finally reached sunlight on the far side and Lise angled them toward the bank.

“Other bank,” Ben wheezed as he pushed the nose back over. The nose ground into the weeds and he hopped out, pulling the bow up, Abe stepping out to join him. He reached in and picked up Brendan, tiny arms nearly choking the life out of him.

“It’s ok, little buddy,” Ben spoke softly into his ear. “We’re safe now.” Lise stepped out of the boat and gently stroked the back of his head.

“That might be a bit premature,” Abe said quietly.

Ben followed his gaze and saw a handful of dead people moving between the shedding trees. They were heading toward them.

“Must have heard the Humvee crash,” Abe speculated as he started to put them down with his G-19. “But then…” He looked over at Ben. “Better get moving. The sound of weapons fire will probably bring more of ‘em.”

BOOK: Orbital Decay
10.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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