Earth Undead Chapter 2
Billiot killed the lights, pulled a remote control from his hand and punched in another code and a large wall monitor protruded from the far wall with a dull click.
“While the rest of the world is scrounging for scraps of food and water, you guys are sitting on all the cool toys here in your fortified compound,” Stabler muttered.
“Put a sock on it Ace,” McCallister said. “The footage you’re about to see was captured from a security feed outside the main gate at our Pueblo base.”
“I see the old Pueblo site is still up and running,” Stabler said. “We never did get around to shutting it down.”
“No, zombie apocalypses tend to sidetrack people.”
“How much mustard gas do we still have down there from World War One?” Stabler asked. “It’s not like chemical weapons work on the undead.”
“That never stopped us from trying,” McCallister said. “I don’t understand the mechanics of all this zombie disease crap, but somehow even though vital functions shut down, part of the CNS is still able to receive messages from the brain, which in turn animates them, so the thought was to concentrate on chemical and biological weapons that would basically cripple brain function.”
“Nice,” Stabler said with a wry grin on his face.
“We never really did ever have a lot of luck with that. The base is more of a necessary evil now than anything,” McCallister said. “The Pueblo Chemical Depot houses more than 60 percent of the world’s chemical weapons stockpile. So, basically, every warlord de jour, not to mention the berserkers, would love to get their hands on them, so needless to say, it’s heavily guarded.”
They quieted down and focused on the grainy image on the screen. It was a haggard, emaciated figure covered in dirt, sand and blood and carrying nothing but a raggedy rucksack. He dropped to his knees and waved his hands in the air yelling, “Don’t shoot, I know where he is. I can take you to him. I can lead you to him, please don’t shoot. He’s our only hope. He’s alive.”
“Who is the nut job?” Stabler asked.
It was Billiot this time, who answered.
“His name is…well was Gary Barger. He was an immunologist, really not much more than a glorified lab tech,” he said.
McCallister agreed and added, “He’s not the big fish. Now watch.”
The man, Barger, scrambled to remove the rucksack from his back and then rose shakily to his feet as he pulled what looked like a small cigar box from the pack. He removed a white piece of cloth and un-wrapped it and held a severed finger with a weird looking green ring up to the security camera. “This is his finger. He sent it with me as proof of life and identity. He’s alive and being held hostage in Miami.”
At that point, several armed guards came into view, grabbed Barger and the feed cut out.
That scene was replaced by a still image of another guy, in his mid-thirties to early forties with brown hair and glasses. He wore a polo shirt with a white lab coat over it and he was obviously smiling for the camera.
“Now him I recognize,” Stabler said. “He’s that other immunologist, epidemiologist and virologist, the famous guy. I can’t think of his name.”
“Parker,” blurted Billiot abruptly.
“Yeah, Parker,” said Stabler. “Mr. Patient Zero himself. He was just headed off to Nepal right about the time of my…incident.”
“You mean arrest,” McCallister said. “Yeah, that was what about 10 years ago. He never did find Patient Zero. The truth of the matter is that they probably never knew who it was in the first place. You listen to the conspiracy theorists, you’ll hear all kinds of crazy ideas – chemical agent created by the North Koreans, a strain of Ebola that somehow mutated. They say it attacks a lot like meningitis does, which, like I mentioned earlier, doesn’t mean shit to me because I’m not a doctor. Anyhow, shortly after he gave up on Nepal and the quest for Patient Zero, he went down to Miami with a SEAL escort to try to rescue a group of scientist types. Communications with the team was lost somewhere around Orlando. He was never heard from again. Parker, along with the SEAL team and the scientists they were trying to rescue were all presumed dead, at best; reanimated at worse. This is the first indication, well the second actually, of any kind that Parker was alive.”
“Never send a SEAL to do a Ranger’s job,” Stabler muttered.
“Okay girls, you’re all pretty,” McCallister said.
“Funny,” Stabler said, and then stretched. “What does the raving lunatic in the desert have to do with Parker? Were they really together?”
“From evidence we’ve gathered it looks like it,” Billiot said. “In addition to the finger and the ring, Harvard Medical, he also had Parker’s medical certificate and some other items.”
“The finger and the ring could belong to anybody,” Stabler said.
“Prints match a set we had on file for Parker,” Billiot said. “The same goes for a DNA sample we ran on the tissue from the severed finger. And yes, he was clean, no infection.”
“What about Barger?” Stabler asked. “You referred to him in the past tense.”
“He was infected,” Billiot replied.
“Miami to Pueblo, especially on foot isn’t an easy trip, or a very quick one,” said Stabler. “What’s the incubation period for the zombie disease these days?”
“It’s still the same, from the time of bite anywhere from a minute or two to 24 hours,” said McCallister. “He was infected by not by a zombie bite.”
“By what then?” asked Stabler.
“Smallpox,” McCallister replied.
“Smallpox was eradicated in the 1970s,” Stabler said.
“It’s a brave new world Stabler,” said McCallister. “The land is taking back the earth. Diseases we haven’t seen in decades are making comebacks.”
“Where’s his body?” Stabler asked.
“The CDC guys came in their HAZ-MAT suits and took him away.”
“The CDC fell,” Stabler said.
“Everything on the entire eastern seaboard fell,” McCallister said. “The White House fell, the Pentagon Fell, Fort Benning fell, Fort Bragg fell…”
“Fort Bragg was evacuated,” argued Stabler. “I led that mission, with no casualties I might add. The only reason you’re even here today, that our military exists at all is because of that mission.”
“Yeah, you’re a regular fucking hero, Ace,” McCallister said.
“Time is ticking,” Billiot said. “Look, Barger also had a video tape on him too that Parker made. It’s time-stamped about a month ago but…”
“Time stamps can be altered,” Stabler said.
“Which is why we have a team analyzing it now,” Billiot said.
“So, lets say I decide to take the mission,” Stabler said. “Since I’m such a bad guy, what’s to prevent me from just jumping ship, bailing on the mission, finding a ship and setting sail for the closest non-infected island paradise.”
“I’m glad you asked that,” McCallister said. “Being the brilliant strategist that I am, I considered that.”
“So what are you going to do, inject me with smallpox? Nano-bites?”
“Of course not, we’re not barbarians,” McCallister said. “No, we have a little extra incentive for you. Show him the slide.”
The slide changed and this time, for the first time during this whole debriefing, Stabler’s composure visibly fell away and was replaced by something completely murderous.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” McCallister said. “Colonel Henry Moore. You recognize this guy don’t you? He was the one who actually headed up the crusade to put you away after your, how did you refer to it earlier, incident? It wasn’t me. I wasn’t happy that you killed my son and my friends, but this guy, this is the one who used my anger to help seal the deal.”
“There’s more to it than that isn’t there?” Billiot asked.
“I’m glad you mentioned that Billiot,” McCallister continued. “He’s the one that bombed that little shithole suburb you and your family lived in outside New Orleans isn’t he, when the outbreaks first began wasn’t he? Do you see the irony here?”
“My wife and kids weren’t infected,” Stabler said. “Neither was anybody else on that side of town. The people on the aircraft carrier were. There was a difference.”
“Again, so you say,” McCallister replied.
“What does Moore have to do with any of this?” Stabler asked.
“Like we always knew he would, he finally showed his true colors,” McCallister said. “Next to you and Benedict Arnold, he’s probably the biggest traitor in American History.”
“I’m not a fucking traitor,” Stabler said.
“He went off the reservation about three years ago,” McCallister said. “He overthrew some Nigerian crime lord that had made a name for himself in Atlanta, before it fell again. He’s killed American soldiers, civilians like your wife and child, embezzled millions of dollars not that the dollar holds any value whatsoever in this day and age. Intelligence sources say he’s been down south but honestly, we didn’t know where. We thought it was New Orleans until Barger showed up with his wild ass tale. Like I said, we’re analyzing the recording now.”
“Sir,” said Billiot. “Time.”
“Look,” McCallister said to Stabler’s guards. “I’ve got a staff meeting right now that I’m late for. Take him down to the showers, cut his hair, feed him what he wants and get him fresh fatigues. Meet us in the hangar in 30 minutes.”
“I’m not cutting my hair,” Stabler said.
“Wheer you’re going it’s like a soda pop top that opens right up to your brains,” McCallister said. “Zombies still eat brains you know. They eat flesh and intestines, but they really like brains. You might want to consider that Stabler.”
“Call me Ace,” Stabler replied as the guards led him out.
As the door shut, McCallister exhaled deeply.
“How did I do?” he asked Billiot.
“You sounded like the perfect asshole, sir,” Billiot replied.
“I didn’t overplay it?” he asked.
“No, I especially liked it when you strangled him,” Billiot replied.
“I wasn’t playing then.”
“At this point he’s going to take it,” Billiot announced. “He’s not going to refuse. Despite his anti-hero bullshit, deep down Ace Stabler is a patriot.”
“You don’t think I know that son,” McCallister said.
“Then what’s your concern?”
“He’s been locked away for a very long time, do you think he’s up for it, physically and mentally?”
“Christ, I hope so,” McCallister said. “He really is our only hope.”