Authors: Mark Tufo
Zombie Fallout 8 – An Old Beginning
4 Mark Tufo
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Edited By: Joy Buchanan
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: To my wife - She gets me!
To my hard working beta readers,
Vix Kirkpatrick and Kimberly Sansone, I hope you know how much I appreciate your input.
As always to all the men and women in uniform and the first responders, I appreciate all the sacrifices you endure to ensure our way of life. I will always be a fan of yours!
This is for a brave little boy named Raiden Quinn P. may you be granted the strength to overcome all that has been set in your path. The Tufo family will hold you in our thoughts and prayers.
Book of Talbotisms
: My life would be easier if I were dead.
It is hell. Unending darkness would have been a
more welcome void. Each second is dragged forth into a hopeless eternity. My self is being seared away even as I am forced to remember who I was, who I am. Each sin must be paid for in its own way. Tomas, help me!
“June, do you really believe what they say about him?” Will asked as he pulled himself away from the microscope he was peering through.
“You’re looking at the evidence right there in front of you,” June, his lab partner and sometimes bed partner, replied.
Will was a little too skinny, and his nose too large for her liking; but the end of the world had severely curtailed her choices. She’d been chosen for this project because, even though she was a brilliant biochemist and was near to the top of her field, it was her gambling addiction that had ultimately paved the way. She would have been on a short list for the
Demense Group anyway; it was her large debts to some shady characters that had forced her hand, so it was she hopped from one evil to the next. She knew enough about her flaws to realize that she may have accepted the Demense Group’s offer even without them paying off her crippling debts. That was just the icing on the cake. The rub though, was they owned her now; she couldn’t leave this facility even if she wanted. And where would she go? The world had gone to shit. The only thing worth doing now was Will.
They’d not directly come out and told
her, but she’d learned through her research that the zombie virus came from this facility. They just had too much information on it, literally hundreds of documents on the virus. As if that weren’t bad enough, they were now experimenting with animals to see if a crossover could happen.
June had done all in her power to thwart Will’s progress, sabotaging his experiments as subtly as she could. Whenever he got close to discovering the truth, she would reach her hand into his pants and he would forget pretty much everything else on the planet. Discovering a vaccine for a zombie bite had fallen squarely on her desk, and she
’d done it. It was the brilliance of Doctor Baker’s work that had pushed her to the results she’d been striving for. She’d used her experimental vaccine on the large black man known as BT and the Talbot son, Justin. She’d warned everyone that she wasn’t sure if it would work or if there wouldn’t be horrific side-effects. She didn’t want them to yet know she’d been successful but she couldn’t let the man and boy die. If there was any way to salvage her soul she was going to try.
She was warring within herself over how much she wanted to give these old cronies who would wield this vaccine for their own devices, making a world of have and have-nots from who was left. The “haves” in this case would have more power than they already did and that was what it always came down to for those small-minded, small-dicked men. Power was a drug much like gambling, she mused. She admonished herself for giving grief to someone else’s vice.
Will was hunched down, his eye nearly connected to the microscope. June smiled. She couldn’t figure out why he didn’t just look at the thirty-two inch monitor that showed the exact same thing he was looking at through the eyepiece.
“Evidence? I don’t see anything except some strange thing that may or may not be a virus. One thing for
certain is that it’s dead, not dormant.”
“Are you sure?” She got up from her chair.
“Here…look.” He pushed away from the scope.
“I’ll look here.
Thanks.” She was standing in front of the monitor.
“Oh yeah, right.” He grabbed his laser pointer. “See the edges here? If this were dormant, and not
dead, they would not be this blackish color and frayed like they are on the edges. This virus, and I’m hesitant to say that, is not viable for an injection.”
“All the vials are like this?”
“I just pulled this sample out of the cryo-freezer.”
“Could the freezer have done this?”
“It was dead before it got in there.”
“How long was the virus outside the host?” June was reaching over Will, looking for the paperwork, her breasts pressed up against his nose, his glasses pushed askew.
“Umm, what were we talking about?”
June had grabbed the
log and was pulling away, hardly noticing the flustered flush to her partner’s face. “Two minutes? Two minutes from extraction to freezing. How could it have died that quickly? Can we possibly bring the host here so he is closer to the freezer?”
Oh, I don’t think that would be wise,” Dixon said from the doorway. He was the senior member of the Demense Group.
“Mr. Hawes, it’s good to see you!” Will
got up quickly. June put her hand to her mouth when she noticed that, much like a pimply faced high-school freshmen who could not control himself, Will was housing a tent in his trousers. How he could
notice she didn’t know. Dixon did, though, avoiding the oncoming scientist’s handshake as best he could.
“Sit, sit,” Dixon urged Will. “Show me what you’ve got. It’s imperative that some headway is made with these samples.”
The talk of work got Will back on track. “Right, right.” He turned back around. “Well, sir, I’ve taken slide after slide, and on every one of them, the agent you are asking me to isolate and replicate is dead…not dying or dormant…just flat out dead.”
“That’s good, right?” Dixon asked
; coming closer, but not too close.
“If we were trying to make an antidote, I’d be more inclined to agree with you. But when you want this virus to thrive and be suitable for infection, it needs to be healthy and alive. Something like a flu virus or hepatitis can live outside the host for hours, and in some cases up to four days. That’s why they can be so easily transmitted. This looks and acts more like rabies. It dies within seconds, if not instantaneously, of being outside the vector host. The only way to pass that from
person to person or mammal to mammal is through a bite. And given all I know about the donor, that fits.” Will had a shine in his eyes, hitting his stride and talking about things that fascinated him.
“So you’re saying I could have him drained of blood and it wouldn’t make a difference?”
“None at all,” Will said matter-of-factly.
Internally June winced. She’d known the moment that Dixon Hawes had extended his hand, when they’d originally met, that she was about to make a deal with the devil, but her options had been entirely too restricted to refuse.
Now, however, upon reflection, how bad would broken kneecaps really have been? She would have died in the outbreak, and her unremarkable but mostly upstanding life could have drifted off peacefully into the sunset. Now, though, she had a gnawing pit in her stomach that future annals would someday record her acts as grievous and traitorous to all mankind. It was the tarnishing of her legacy that scared her the most.
Will’s nonchalance didn’t surprise her in the least despite the fact that they were talking about killing another human being. It was all about the possibility of doing something unique and revolutionary—not what it took or who was going to get hurt to reach to that point.
“Would I be able to see the host?” Will asked.
“You could see him, although, I would not recommend getting near him. What he has
makes rabies look like scabies.”
“Is there a chance he would bite someone that would be more compliant?”
Dixon thought about it for a moment. “It’s possible. I have leverage.”
Dixon turned and left, now with the unenviable task of thinking who would be trustworthy enough with that sort of power. He wanted it to be
himself, but he’d no sooner get in that cell with Michael than he would a pit viper. He could feel the malice radiate off the man even from the monitor he had in his office.
Here I sit, locked up in a cell again. It’s not like there isn’t some reason out there I shouldn’t be here for. Lord
knows I’ve done enough stuff in this lifetime and probably a few others that merit me being caged. Not my family though, they’re the innocents in all this. I came here (well maybe not
per se, but somewhere) with the express and sole purpose of getting help for Justin and BT and to also help Doc Baker in any way that I could. Had I known how far over the edge the Doc had been pushed, I would have struck out earlier or tried harder to get to him while we were still out on the road. The man lost everything and was holding me responsible for the bulk of it. And some of the fault was mine; I’d had a lot of time to replay everything that had happened thus far in this new, fucked-up world we found ourselves in. Could of, should have, would have…those are all the stupid words I come up with.
shoved a stake in Eliza’s heart the very first time I laid eyes on her disease-ravished body. I
left Tommy up on the Walmart roof. I
done both had I known a tenth of what I do now. I’ve risked everything to keep my family safe and made the choices at the time that I thought would further that cause, and where has
gotten me? I’m in a cage, next to one of my best friends, and nearly my entire family is in this same facility. Safe for now, but at some point, that will change; whether it’s when they get what they want from me or realize that they can’t. Either way, it’s a razor-sharp and ultra-thin rope I’m now balancing on, and at any moment, I could fall to either side or be split right down the middle from it.
“How long have I been asleep?” Dennis asked, sitting up and rubbing his eyes. He’d had the unfortunate luck of hopping a ride with what I could only describe as the anti-Christ, Mrs. Deneaux. I’d seen cats with fewer lives than her. The woman probably had a wing in hell
named after her.
“Long enough that I ate your dinner,” I told him.
For the last couple of days, we’d had no visitors except for a guard named Hiccup, who delivered our meals. I don’t know if he was on any particular schedule or just dropped off food randomly. I didn’t have much to go on in regards to the passage of time. We had no sunlight and no clocks other than our internal ones, and without some sort of way to calibrate those, it was nearly impossible to say how long we were down here for sure.
“Was it good?” He stood up and stretched.
“The usual. Filet mignon, garlic mashed potatoes and a nice Pinot Grigio.”
“Dammit, no wonder I drooled in my sleep.”
“You drool in your sleep anyway, who you shitting?”
“Have you slept or have you been pacing the entire time?”
“Six thousand, seven hundred and twenty six-steps since you fell asleep.”
“You should get a hobby. Hear anything about your family?”
I shook my head.
“I’m sorry about this, man.”
“Not your fault,” I told him. “In all honesty, I could say the same to you. There’s at least a half dozen times I could have left Deneaux on the side of the road with a fork lodged in her throat.”
Dennis shrugged his shoulders. “Got a feeling it would have turned out like this no matter what you did.”
“Just my luck to hitch a ride with the Demon Queen.”
“Yeah, the horns should have given it away.”
“I was in a bit of
a pickle when I got in the truck, didn’t have time to ask for her stance on basic human decency. Any ideas?”
“Yup, as soon as some idiot gets within my grasp, I’m going to pop his head off like a champagne cork.”
Dennis involuntarily put his hands to his throat and gulped hard.
We both turned as we heard
a door open down the end of the corridor. We couldn’t see from our angle, but it sounded like more than one individual was headed our way.
“Where is he?” a voice bellowed out.
My heart soared—it was BT; and if the volume with which he spoke was any indication of his health, then he was doing pretty good.
“Geez, he’s right down here. You sure you don’t want any chicken? It might keep you from being so angry. It keeps me from being sad.” It was Porkchop, BT, and hopefully a key…and a machinegun…and a helicopter. No, scratch the helicopter. If we had one of those, chances were we’d need Trip to pilot it. That would
probably not work out well.
“Who’s with you?” I asked down the corridor.
“That you, Talbot? Who the hell am I kidding? Who else would they feel the need to throw into the slammer?”
“The slammer? What is this, 1940?” I asked Dennis.
“Why are you asking me? Ask him…oooh…I see why you didn’t ask him, he’s huge. He’s your friend, right?” Dennis was subtly moving away from the bars and deeper into his cell.
“He’s mostly a friend, although I think he’d kill me if he had the chance.” I was smiling like the village idiot right now. A lot of things were wrong, but BT looked good, and that counted for more than a little.
“You look like you just got your first handie. You alright, man?” BT asked as Porkchop rolled him up to my cell. BT’s legs bumped into the steel bars as Porkchop let go of the wheelchair in an effort to lick his fingers clean.
“I’m mostly fine. You look good, man. You alright?” I had my hands wrapped around the bars.
“The kid has rammed me into three doors, a wall, two armed guards, and now your cell. If I survive him, I think I’ll be okay. I see they have you locked up. Your craziness finally caught up with you.”
I nodded. “Hey, I keep my insanity cloaked in normalcy.”
“Keep telling yourself that. You know it was only a matter of time, right, Mike? I mean society, even as screwed up as it is, has to have some sort of rules and regulations. They can’t just let someone like you keep wandering around.” He was grinning as he spoke. “It’s pure anarchy with you loose.”
“You like this shit? This funny for you?”
“Yeah, pretty much. Who’s the cracker?”
“This is Dennis.”
“We grew up together. He’s cool.”
“So what, then? Is he just guilty by association?”
“Good one. No, he had the unfortunate luck to cross paths with Deneaux.”
“Holy shit. You’re lucky you’re still alive. She makes black widows seem decent.”
Dennis gave BT a waning smile.
“How is everyone?”
“Everyone is fine for now.” BT got serious. “Trip keeps talking his crazy
shit to me and I’m going to have to plant him, man. I just won’t have a choice. I mean, I know you like the guy and all, but he keeps telling me I must be from another planet or at least a crossbreed with an alien. He thinks I have half Genogerian blood running through me, whatever the hell that means.
“He scares the hell out of me, Mike. I mean, I thought
type of crazy might be catchy, but his just radiates off of him like plutonium. I don’t want him to make me sick.” BT kept going on like this. “Help me, man!”
He pulled himself up from his chair and wrapped his hands around the bars much like I was on my side. I’m still not sure how a man with fingers as large as his could manipulate them so deftly. I felt him smoothly shove a folded-up piece of paper under my palm. Even the security camera, if it had super slow motion capability, was not going to pick up the sleight of hand.
“I cannot tell you how good it is to see you,” I told him.
a plan?” he asked. He already knew the answer—it was a long running joke between us. I’d yet to have a fully formed or functioning plan since this shit-fest started. Why break the trend now?
“Just going to wing it, I think.”
“They said I could only have a few minutes down here. I just wanted to make sure you were doing alright, man, and…and I wanted to thank you.”
“This must be hard for you,” I said to him.
“You have no idea. I had it all thought out, but now, looking at your smug smirk is making me debate letting you know how I feel.”
“I get it. It’s all good.”
“Just…Mike, stop for a sec. I just need to tell you how appreciative I am. I know you had Justin’s health in mind as well, but you risked everything for me. Not that I would have ever forgotten the thousand other things we’ve done together. But this, man, this I will hold above the rest. I don’t know how I’m ever going to repay you, but I will.”
I made sure to safely palm the note before I wrapped my hands around his. Well, wrap is a stretch. But you get the idea. “You keep our family safe, BT. That’s all I ask, and we’re more than square.”
He opened his mouth.
Before he could speak, I cut him off. “And yes, that includes Trip.”
“Let’s go.” A guard was heading toward us.
“You take care,” he said to me. “Nice to meet you, Cracker,” he said to Dennis.
“Umm, yeah, likewise, I guess.” Dennis held his hand up weakly.
“Come on, BT. I know where they keep the jars of peanut butter.” Porkchop was struggling to maneuver the chair around. BT’s knees whacked into just about every bar.
“You’re going to break my damn kneecaps. Just get me back to my quarters. You get a hold of peanut butter, and I’m going to have it all over me like the chicken grease.” I could hear BT complaining all the way down the hallway and partly down the next before the door to the cellblock closed.
“He’s your friend?”
“Yeah. When he doesn’t want to kill me, we get a long pretty well.”
Getting completely out of view of the cameras was no easy feat, but I needed to know what BT had risked getting me in that small, folded-up square of paper. I decided to feign sleep. At least I’d been provided with a blanket for warmth, although it seemed to be made of burlap. I turned to the wall and pulled the covers completely over my head before unfolding the note. The print was tiny, which I thought kind of funny given the massive fingers used to write it.
In military installation of some sort, family safe.
Doc is lying or was told to. Justin and I were guinea pigs for a whole keg full of experimental drugs, apparently we’re clean now. When you get out…
(He had much better faith in me than I did.)
…take a left down the corridor to Quarantine area. Once inside there, go to Blue Wing. I’ll have a beer waiting.
“Thank you for that,” I said, barely audible.
“You taking a nap?” Dennis asked.
“Not really.” I folded the piece of paper up and stuck it in my pocket. I thought about eating it, but who knew what germs BT might have had on his hands at the time that he wrote it.
We sat there a few more hours, reminiscing about our earlier, much less complicated lives. We would invariably come around to Paul, as he was a large part of just about any story we could conjure. We’d laugh for extended periods of time; only to then have equally as large moments of silence and reflection.
Human life, in relatively normal times (if such a thing truly exists), is rife with change, loss, and gain. It is the nature of life itself. The thing with loss, though, is that it is generally incremental, and this gives us time to accept, grieve, and mourn for the passing away of a life, a relationship, maybe our innocence, or even a job—whatever it may be. As human beings, we need to work through this time of adjustment. Some never do or require the guidance of therapists,
or a myriad of drugs—whether prescribed by a doctor or self—to each their own. I’m entirely too guilty to point a finger at anyone else.
During this shit—this zombie invasion, apocalypse, or just plain zombie cluster-fuck—change and loss have come at such a rapid pace that my mind has not been able to keep up with it. I have not been able to give
every bereavement its due. A day of reckoning will come when the accumulated weight will crash down upon me, and this balancing act of surviving and coping will implode. If I still had a soul, I’m pretty sure it would be fairly threadbare and riddled with holes. Someday, I will be sitting on a porch with my family safe and secure, and I will toast everyone I lost. Odds were that I was going to get pretty shit-faced that day.
“Oh, man, do you remember—” Dennis was cut short as we once again heard traffic coming our way.
“I feel like we’re at the zoo and we’re the damn exhibits,” I said grumpily.
“Oh, shit.” I placed my head in my palm.
“What’s the matter?” Dennis asked with alarm.
“Ponch! Ponch is that you? Hey, man, could you bail me out, I’m in jail again,” Trip said as he grabbed the bars. “I told Don Carlos that guy was a cop, but he didn’t listen, sold him three kilos of Arabica beans, and now I’m here, man!”
“He sold a cop, coffee?” Dennis asked me.
“Just go with it,” I told him.
“How are you doing?” Stephanie, Trip’s wife and I’m sure a person up for sainthood, asked.