Excerpt from Zombie Apocalypse
Book 2--Zombie Necropolis
Copyright 2012 by Bryan Cassiday
CIA black ops agent Greg Coogan couldn’t believe his eyes. If anyone outside of the Agency tumbled to this, the blowback would inflict incalculable damage on the CIA’s resurgent reputation.
After all, it was the CIA, along with the SEALs, that had been instrumental in the tracking and execution of the notorious Osama bin Laden. But now this.
In his midthirties Coogan wasn’t a novice, but, experienced or not, he didn’t know what to do. He had to tell someone, but who could he trust in the Agency? Agency employees were sure to close ranks on this one. Nobody in the Agency would want this particular intel to leak beyond Langley’s walls.
Though at this moment, Coogan wasn’t in Langley and neither were his coworkers. They were all hunkered down in the bombproof, airtight Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center in Virginia.
Sitting at his desk in his cubicle, Coogan was watching a video on his laptop concerning the Erasmus medical center in Rotterdam, Holland. The video had been sent to him as an attachment to an e-mail. He had been treated at the Erasmus hospital for a bullet he had taken that had just missed his femoral artery in his thigh while he was stationed in Europe a few years back, which might explain why the e-mail was addressed to him.
The medical center was a bleak-looking complex with towering cranes parked in its many areas that were under construction. A few pedestrians were strolling on a cement concourse outside of a white skyscraper that had large white block letters perched on top of it saying Erasmus MC.
Within moments, a nightmare began as a knot of medical staff workers in white scrubs were disgorged from the high-rise. The staff personnel staggered drunkenly toward the unsuspecting pedestrians and descended on them and, incredibly, commenced tearing them limb from limb.
Coogan turned his face away from the laptop’s screen in horror. He had to tell someone of his discovery. But who? The Agency was riddled with bureaucrats who would do anything to cover their asses.
If the intel Coogan had got his hands on leaked to the public, it could lead to a major overhaul of the Agency, and, Coogan knew, heads would assuredly roll.
Coogan could think of only one person he could trust—a fellow worker in the National Clandestine Service, otherwise known as the black ops arm of the CIA. The fellow worker was Chad Halverson, who was about the same age as Coogan.
They were both members of SOG (Special Operations Group), which was responsible for paramilitary operations in the NCS. Officially, Coogan and Halverson were known as paramilitary operations officers, who neither wore uniforms nor carried government ID. Unofficially, and off the books, they were in actuality CIA hit men.
Coogan had been trying to contact Halverson by phone for hours—with no success. Coogan, in fact, had no inkling where Halverson was. For some reason, Halverson wasn’t answering his phone.
Coogan reached for his encrypted Agency satellite phone and urgently punched out Halverson’s phone number one more time.
Coogan threw down his phone and cursed.
It was vital that he get in touch with Halverson.
Halverson found out it was much worse than anything he could have imagined.
As near as he could tell, the entire state of California had been reduced to a wasteland, a charred smoking battlescape of twisted debris strewn with corpses among fire-gutted, desolate, smoldering remains of buildings.
Banks of dirty yellow smog billowed across the flatlands in the Los Angeles basin, revealing plague victims everywhere around him as far as the eye could see, which wasn’t very far on account of the smog that obfuscated his vision and stung his eyes. The sallow, noxious smog wasn’t easy on his lungs either, for that matter.
Corpses sprawled in the middle of the streets. Corpses slumped over steering wheels in crashed cars abandoned on those selfsame streets. Corpses everywhere.
And then there were the creatures . . .
Even now a leash of them were approaching him, emerging from the smog with their signature herky-jerky movements. Their vacant milky eyes stared in his direction as the creatures wended their way past cadavers and detritus toward him.
The lead creature’s skin was in the process of disintegrating on its red and white blotchy face even while the creature walked. Its gimme cap that bore a hardware company’s logo above the black bill sat askew on the creature’s head.
One of the lenses in the ghoul’s spectacles was shattered. The ghoul didn’t care. It just kept shambling forward. Thick flakes of reddish purple skin peeled from the creature’s drawn cheeks and tumbled off to the ground to reveal bright white cheekbones.
The face of death bobbed and weaved Halverson’s way through the ruins of Los Angeles.
But how? Halverson wondered. How in the world could it have happened? And more to the point, given the circumstances, was there anybody else, besides him, left alive now?
Halverson was standing on Wilshire Boulevard, the main artery of Los Angeles. The wide thoroughfare stretched sixteen miles from the Pacific Ocean through Santa Monica through Beverly Hills to the heart of downtown LA where it ended at Grand Avenue. Without Wilshire Boulevard at its core, Halverson knew, there would be no Los Angeles.
He was standing on Wilshire where the 405 intersected it. He was facing eastward toward downtown. The creatures were shuffling toward him from that same direction.
Halverson figured it was time to head west. Maybe the infestation of creatures had not yet spread to the coastline. He knew for a fact they had infested LAX and the 405 heading north from the airport.
He struck off for the west at a brisk clip. He didn’t break into a run. There was no need. Though deadly, the bumbling creatures could barely walk. He could easily outstrip them by walking.
He was on the verge of fleeing the plague-infected creatures when he spotted a blonde that looked to be in her late twenties walking near the veterans’ cemetery on his right. She was wearing blue jeans and a pink blouse.
Pegging her for a creature he decided it would be best to head away from her.
She caught sight of him at the same time he laid eyes on her. She broke into a run away from him along the chain-link fence that skirted the necropolis.
That was strange, he decided. As far as he knew, the creatures could not run. They could only shuffle and jerk along. Unless they were in the process of mutating . . . But she had run away from him, not toward him. The thought of making a meal of him obviously hadn’t crossed her mind.
She must be human, he decided. He bolted after her.
She glanced over her shoulder, saw him giving chase, and, terrified, accelerated her gait.
“Wait!” he called out to her. “I’m not one of them!”
The gate in the chain-link fence around the cemetery hung open. She fled into the graveyard.
He charged after her.
She stumbled over a white tombstone in the well-manicured cemetery and fell on her stomach. She let out a cry of pain as she hit the ground.
Seeing her prostrate he pumped his legs harder, knowing she was within his grasp.
She scrambled to her feet, her face ashen at the sight of him nearing her. She lurched away from him. But she was off balance, he could see, and she tripped over another tombstone.
He caught up to her, gasping for breath.
“I’m not one of them,” he managed to say between gasps.
Her blue eyes wide with terror, she considered him. Like him, she was breathing heavily.
“I can talk,” he said. “They can’t talk.”
“What’s that got to do with anything?” she said, still apprehensive. “You could still be a rioter.”
“The riots. Look around you.” She gesticulated with her arms. “The whole city’s burned down. Where have you been the last couple of days?”
“Rioters didn’t do this.”
“Of course they did. Don’t you remember the LA riots? This has happened before. And now it’s happening all over again.”
“It’s the plague. The plague-infected creatures did this.”
Nonplussed, she stared at him. Then she screwed up her face.
“Are you nuts?” she said at last. “You’ve been watching too many reruns of Night of the Living Dead.”
“Look at the way those things walk,” he said. He pointed at the trio of creatures that had been tailing him earlier and now were making their way toward him and her in the cemetery. “Normal people don’t walk like that.”
She gazed at the three creatures. Confused, she shook her head, unwilling or unable to believe this was really happening.
“I just flew in from Washington, DC, yesterday,” he said. “When we landed, LAX was taken over by these creatures. They’re occupying the entire state, as near as I can figure. Maybe even the entire country.”
She grabbed her head with both her hands. “This is insane!”
He could not tell her he was a CIA agent. If he told her, she would think he had gone mad like the rest of the world had. He used his cover story instead.
“I’m a journalist,” he said. “I’ve been covering this outbreak of plague. The government thinks it started in China and spread here.”
“We’re already slaves to China. I guess it figures we’d get their disease.”
“I’m still researching the story.”
“This is nuts!”
“I flew here to find my brother. He was run over in a car accident. I couldn’t find him at the UCLA medical center. I don’t know where he is.”
“My clothing store burned down. I own a dress store.” She started sobbing. “I used to own a dress store. It burned to the ground in the riots.”
“I heard looting was going around. Maybe riots as well. But everything is being caused by the plague. The plague’s at the bottom of this catastrophe.”
She brought her hand down over her forehead and eyelids. “I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going on. I can’t contact anybody on my cell phone.”
He nodded. “Everything’s out. Nothing works. There’s no power.”
He took out his cell phone. He tried to turn it on.
She eyed his phone. “That’s a fancy mobile. What kind of phone is that?”
“It’s a satellite phone. An Iridium 9575.”
“Even satellite phones don’t work?” she said in disbelief.
He shrugged. “The battery’s dead.”
She removed her cell phone from her purse. “My battery works, but it doesn’t matter. I can’t get through to anyone.”
“Maybe you could use my battery in your cell. I can’t believe the satellites are knocked out as well as the cell towers.” She tried to prize her cell apart to get to the battery.
“Don’t bother. This phone takes a special battery. It needs a lithium-ion battery.”
“Maybe that’s what my cell has. Don’t they all use the same battery?”
“No. This satphone uses Low Earth Orbit Satellite technology for worldwide coverage.”
She shook her head in bafflement. “So?”
“So it needs a more powerful battery than yours does to transmit to a satellite. Your cell only transmits to a nearby cell tower. Yours can’t reach a satellite.”
“How did you get such a fancy phone?”
There was no way he could tell her the truth—that he was a black ops agent for the National Clandestine Service arm of the CIA.
“I told you,” he said. “I’m a journalist. I file reports from all over the world. I need to be able to contact the office at the paper no matter where I’m stationed.”
“No need to chew my head off about it.” She looked offended.
“We need to get out of here. We need to find out what’s really going on.”
“What’s really going on is my job’s gone. My company’s destroyed.” She started sobbing again.
“I think it’s even worse than that. The whole country may be devastated by this plague.” He shook his satphone in his hand in frustration. “If I can get a battery for this thing, I might be able to contact someone and find out what’s going on in the rest of the country.”
“What do you want me to do about it?”
“I’m not blaming you. I’m just telling you what’s going on.”
“You just said you don’t know what’s going on.”
He hung fire. He gathered his thoughts. “We need to find out what’s happening in this country. Then we can figure out what to do. Right now we need information.”
She threw up her hands in futility. “Nothing works. No phones. No Internet. No TV. How are we supposed to find out what’s happening? I don’t even care about that. All I care about is finding my daughter. How am I supposed to get in touch with her?”
She looked too supple to have stretch marks, decided Halverson. It was hard to believe she had a child.
“I know what you’re going through,” he said. “I’m trying to contact my kid brother Dan.” He paused. “I’m Chad Halverson, by the way.”
“I’m Victoria Brady.” She offered no further details about herself.
She still looked like she didn’t trust him all that much, decided Halverson.
The three plague victims had entered the graveyard and were closing in on them, he noticed. Where there was one, there were usually more nearby.
He looked at Victoria. It would behoove them to beat it from this place, he knew.
“We need to get out of here and we need weapons,” he told her.
He wondered if she knew those creatures fed on living human flesh. If she believed they were merely rioters, maybe she didn’t know yet. In any case, she would find out none too soon.