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Authors: Nicholas Erik

Tags: #Fiction/Science Fiction/Post Apocalytpic

Paradise: An Apocalyptic Novel

BOOK: Paradise: An Apocalyptic Novel
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Paradise

An Apocalyptic Novel

Nicholas Erik

Watchfire Press

Copyright © 2014 Nicholas Erik. All rights reserved.

Published by Watchfire Press.

This book is a work of fiction. Similarities to actual events, places, persons or other entities is coincidental.

Cover design by Rebecca Frank

www.rebeccafrank.design

Paradise/Nicholas Erik. – 2nd ed.

Print ISBN: 978-1-940708-71-3

e-ISBN: 978-1-940708-36-2

1

The Calm and the Storm

Maverick was enjoying
himself.

Penelope, a young sales woman or junior product development manager at Elevation Industries, squirmed underneath him—he didn’t know who she was, nor did he care. The fact that his wife was at this party, so close by, didn’t matter, either.

It made everything better.

And Penelope seemed to be into it, too, which was always a plus—although Maverick could tell that she wasn’t sleeping with him out of pure attraction. She was attracted, all right, but it was to something else.

Money, power and the usual suspects. Not least of all his yacht, which was trawling along in the middle of the South Pacific, host to a handful of the drunkest people on the planet.

He smiled.

Penelope said between gasps, “What’s so funny?”

“Just happy to be here with you, babe.”

Even if she was faking the whole thing, her beam was genuine; girls were suckers for that type of thing. People, Maverick had found, were suckers for compliments—he’d built his success on it, one white lie after another.

He hadn’t always been Maverick; some time in the past, back when he wasn’t rich, wasn’t debonair, wasn’t hosting outrageous soirées on the open water, he was just John Tavington. As plain as John was, Maverick was just the opposite: corporate gunslinger, biogenetic revolutionary.

Penelope twisted. Must be good. Then Maverick was aware of light flooding the cabin. He rolled over in a hurry, more out of instinct than shame.

Josephine. His wife.

Maverick’s heart leapt; even if she knew about his indiscretions, getting caught with his pants down was never a pleasant experience.

But there she was with Ziggy, an up and coming hotshot who’d already made VP—and wouldn’t let you forget it—by the time he’d cracked thirty.

“What the hell?” They’d both been caught, and Maverick wasn’t sure whether he should be indignant or try to come up with an excuse.

“She’s cute, John,” Josephine said, her hand still close to Ziggy’s nether regions, “nice job.” And then she led Ziggy out to another room—since the master suite was occupied.

“So,” Penelope said after a long silence, “that was, like, pretty awkward.”

“You know Ziggy?” Maverick couldn’t help but wonder how he was between the sheets. It was what a man did—worried about how he stacked up in the world, even with things that didn’t matter.

“He’s a total douche,” Penelope said with a wave of her hand, “wanna do some coke?”

“I don’t think so.”

“You can snort it off my tits.”

That never failed to cheer him up; as the powder flooded his system, Maverick decided that he was going to fire Ziggy.

After all, Ziggy was screwing his wife.

Jackson was not
enjoying himself.

It wasn’t that he didn’t like a decent drink.

No, it was the atmosphere. Some people feed off craziness.

Him—well, the party just tired him out.

But Maverick had insisted he come. Jackson was the lead design engineer on their latest opus. It was going to blow the lid off of everything—the latest innovation in the fitness arena. FitTech was going to make getting healthy easy: for real, not like those bullshit infomercials. But, to make it easy for everyone else, Jackson had to work about three times as hard. His team couldn’t get certain bugs out of the software, and the release date was fast approaching.

Jackson didn’t have time to watch his colleagues get faced and stumble around the deck.

A shadow cut into his sun, and he looked up. Josephine. And someone he didn’t know, but should’ve recognized. Another guy. Christ, her and Maverick were something else.

“Hey sweetie,” Josephine said, her top almost off, “having a rough time?”

“Just thinking about the project,” Jackson said, trying to keep his eyes focused on her face. They were nice, he had to admit—the tits, not the conversation—but he wasn’t interested at the moment. Too anxious.

“Get your mind off that. There’s a party, you know” she said, and then bounded off, Ziggy in tow.

Jackson sighed, watching the sun retreat behind some clouds on the horizon. A slight nip of cool brushed through the warm air. He shivered; he wished he hadn’t come along. That wasn’t an option with Maverick; his parties were his business.

After this project, he was going to quit.

Nearby, but out of sight, he heard someone retching. He hoped they’d made it to the side.

Despite the buoyant
atmosphere, Britt still managed to ruin the day.

He’d been drinking since noon, and, stoked about his recent promotion—he was now the nominal second in command, behind Maverick—he’d been partying a little too hard. Some people can hold it together; others fall apart at the seams.

And then there was Britt, ass naked, stumbling about the hardwood deck, fists raised.

“Where is that pussy? Come out here, Davey, before I kick your ass.”

“I’m right here.” Davey had been passed over in favor of this drunken lunatic. He didn’t gel to being called a pussy. Both of them were young, testosterone pumping; Maverick liked having new blood running the show. Made everyone hungrier.

“Typical,” Britt said, “no wonder you didn’t get the job. Didn’t even know you were here.” A couple people laughed at this; others held their breath. Most of the guests weren’t the fighting type. Sure, they were all character assassins, sniping at each other from the shadows, but they were all pretty useless in hand-to-hand combat.

Even if they worked for a cutting edge fitness company.

Davey, on the other hand, was a health freak; he looked like a monster in comparison to the skinny and out of shape bodies splayed out in various poses across the deck.

Britt took a swing and almost fell. Davey absorbed the glancing blow to the shoulder and pinned him.

Britt started screaming.

“You no good bitches, get in here and help me. I’m your goddamn
boss
!”

And with that, a lackey or two joined the fray.

Soon the deck was stained with shocks of blood and even a few clumps of hair. Davey smashed his attackers’ bones—not because he
wanted
to, but because it seemed that he had to. Britt yelped as a closed fist rocketed into his nose.

“You son of a bitch, that cost me ten grand.”

“And you’re still ugly as hell.” Davey was panting, but the loyal dogs—and their owner—were in worse shape.

“Champagne, anyone,” Sam, a young waiter with a shock of brown hair emerging from his head, said, “or perhaps an appetizer?” He was unaware of the scrum; the waiters were told not to interfere, just to serve.

Britt glared at him, then flipped the tray into his face, shoving the young man to the ground.

“You think this is a joke? Coming in here like this is a
celebration?
” He slapped the young waiter across the mouth with an open hand. “You speak when we’re not busy.”

A strong grip lifted Britt from his feet and, in one smooth motion, threw him overboard.

Stunned gasps rippled through the revelers. The boat was anchored, but still—they were miles from shore, and Britt was wasted, bleeding. There might be sharks lurking in the placid blue waters—somehow, it had to be dangerous.

Davey didn’t pay Britt’s frantic screams and curses a second thought. He reached down and helped Sam up, giving him a small smile.

Sam nodded his appreciation and retreated to the kitchen, where the other waiters and staff buzzed about the poor treatment. They were being paid well, but it seemed like little compensation for the abject and humiliating treatment they’d already been subjected to during the past 48 hours. No one was looking forward to two weeks of borderline servitude on the island.

“Hey,” Melina said, when the din and rabble had gone too far, “we’re getting paid a lot for this. I’ve done worse. Much worse.”

That quieted everyone down. Everyone would rather be doing this than what she’d done.

The staff returned to work. With the sun setting above, it was time to prepare another luscious feast.

Josephine knocked on
the door.

“Maverick.” She rubbed dirt from the tips of her well-manicured nails while she waited for a response. “Maverick, sweetie? There’s a little problem on deck.”

Maverick, face buried in a mountain of covers and smooth skin, mumbled into the mattress. She banged on the door again.

“All right,” he said, “I’m coming.”

Even though the sun wasn’t bright, he had to shield his eyes when he opened the door. His world seemed to be oscillating between two speeds: bizarro slow and breakneck quick.

“What is it?”

Josephine flicked her platinum blonde hair back and adjusted her dress. She knew that she looked good; she just wanted Maverick to see it, too. He didn’t, and even if he could, he’d done so much cocaine that nothing downstairs was functioning.

Penelope had been disappointed about that earlier.

“Oh, nothing,” she said, “just thought you should know that Davey…” She stopped, a smile crossing across her made-up face.

“Davey what?”

“He threw Britt overboard. Thought you might want to sort it out.”

“Jesus, how the hell did that happen?” But she was already turning, one perfect bare foot in front of the other, pretending like she was out of earshot.

“What’d she want?” Penelope called from underneath the covers.

“Britt’s drowning.” The thought of a lawsuit, the media coverage flashed through his mind. The goddamn liabilities—why hadn’t he been out there, keeping everyone in line? Him and his damn dick, and his damn nose for coke. “Get dressed.”

“But babe, I’m just getting—”

“Play time is finished,” he said, rushing into a suit, “this is real world shit, all right?” Within a couple minutes, he was out the door. He paused next to another one of the cabins, where he could hear Josephine’s moans and cries.

He’d have to deal with Ziggy later.

Jackson was worried;
everyone else was ignorant, making comments about dinner and how it was getting dark, but they were all zonked. It was three in the afternoon, and the sky looked closer to dusk than a sunny Pacific day.

He tapped his fingers against the chair, trying to shutter the thought from his mind. He was just being paranoid; this happened a lot. The problem with being a chronic worrier and perfectionist was that no one in the company acknowledged his concerns. He knew what they’d say; he needed to loosen up, he was just being too analytical. Too much detail, not enough relaxation—they’d hand him a beer, maybe some whiskey, and tell him it would all be cool.

The fight cleared up; he could tell from the sound of the voices floating down from the upper deck. Shouts and cheers meant it was rocking; screams and hushed whispers meant somebody had done something bad. Silence meant disaster.

It’d been silent for about ten minutes, until Maverick showed up. The man screamed, which got everyone’s attention. No one had seen that before. Then Maverick came down to the lower deck, where Jackson was lounging alone.

“Christ,” Maverick said, fumbling in his pocket, “leave them alone, and they’ll kill each other.”

“You’re the boss,” Jackson said, “maybe they’re just following your lead.” The pair had known each other since they were kids; Jackson was, perhaps, the only one who spoke the truth to the CEO. Not that Maverick was intimidating, or threatening; everyone was just too busy having a good time, feeding at the trough, and trying to brown nose to talk straight.

“Maybe,” Maverick said, thumbing the cigar in his hand, “maybe.”

“I heard the fight. Who won?”

“I’d say that Davey kicked some serious ass.”

“Figures. Kid lives in the gym.”

“He threw Britt overboard.”

“Wow.” This got Jackson’s mind off the stormy horizon. “Britt okay?”

“They dragged him out. He’s pissed, but pretty quiet. Davey hoisted him up by the collar and just threw him over.”

“Damn.”

“Yeah, a grown ass man.” They both laughed at this. “Some party, huh?”

“You always did know how to throw them, John.”

“At least I’m good for something.” Maverick ran his hand through his salt-and-pepper hair as he spoke. He sounded old, even though he was only a few years past forty.

“They love you, you know?” Jackson was lying, but he figured it was the right thing to say.

“I know. I know.”

The two men stared off into the horizon, watching the sun retreat further into the darkness.

It was Ziggy
who broke the news. Despite his womanizing tendencies, he didn’t drink, so he damn well knew what time it was.

“That,” he said, jabbing a well-tanned finger at the horizon, “that’s bad news.”

“Aww, stop being such a puss,” Britt said, now recovered from his ordeal, “it’s just the dark.”

“That’s a storm, dumbass.” Ziggy had sailed a lot when he was younger; he knew what it looked like. Anyone with half a brain did, experienced or not.

“I think he’s right,” Davey said, “those are some serious clouds.” The group huddled closer to the edge, scrambling for a look, pushing against each other. Their drunken revelry turned to a rapid fire series of questions.

“You think we can still eat outside?”

“How far are we from the mainland?”

“This is going to ruin Maverick’s deck. He’s going to be so upset.”

“Man, I hope the water doesn’t come in my cabin. I hate the rain.”

Ziggy walked away in disgust; they were idiots, drunken fools. The blackness of the sky, meeting with the light shades of cobalt, turned his stomach over—and not much did. Corporate politics he could handle, although being caught with his johnson out, in the middle of the ocean, had been an unenviable position.

He walked up the winding stairs to the control room, where Captain Cooper was fiddling with some of the dials.

“How the hell did you drive us right into this mess,” Ziggy said, the words coming out in an angry deluge, “you’re the Captain.”

“Sir,” Cooper replied, “I’ll have to ask you to return to your quarters.” The request seemed too polite for someone who had a stereotypical seaman’s beard—down to his chest, almost—and toothpick dangling from his teeth.

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