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The truck stopped outside a two story warehouse. The second floor was entirely glass, while the first floor was made of cinderblock.  Nyko looked around as he was shoved out of the truck, and roughly shoved in the door.  The lights came up on a stark white room, with a single desk at the far side, covered in Plexiglas.

The door closed behind Nyko and Andy, leaving them alone in the room.  There were no chairs and no place to sit.  Where the door had been was now the tiniest crack.  Both men felt their ears pop when the door closed.

Andy shifted his weight nervously from foot to foot, but Nyko didn’t move, and Andy wasn’t going to break the silence.  After several minutes, a woman clad in what looked like white military fatigues stepped into the booth at the back of the room and beckoned them forward.  Nyko walked up to the window and stood with his feet spread and his hands clasped behind his back.

“Disrobe. Leave your clothes on the floor, and place your hands in the blue circles.”

“What blue circles?” Nyko asked.

She nodded over his shoulder, as two neon blue circles lit up on the wall.

“We’re not staying,” he said.  “We’ll just make our way out.”

“Unauthorized personnel must be decontaminated before being sent to quarantine.”

“Whoa, whoa.  There’s been some kind of fucking mistake here.  We’re not going to god damn quarantine, we’re not fucking staying here.  Just open that fucking door back there and we’ll leave.” Nyko paused for a moment, and then, as if it had just occurred to him, added, “Peacefully.”

“Violence will not be tolerated.  Disrobe for decontamination.”  Her face never changed. She showed almost no hint of emotion, outside of a small tick of her upper lip in frustration.

Nyko put his hands on the plexiglass.  “Listen honey.  We’re getting the fuck out of here.  Open the god damn door.”

She leaned in slightly closer.  “Disrobe. You have thirty seconds to start.  She looked down at a button on the desk, and grinned ever so slightly as she moved her hand over it.

“Fuck you,” Nyko said.

“Your choice,” she said.  Perhaps the only time she broke from the script.  She pushed the red button. Nyko’s ears popped again as gas began to flood the room.  In seconds, his vision began to blur, and then narrowed down, like he was looking through a long tunnel.  Less than a minute later, he felt like he was falling.

“Hey y’all, I think he’s wakin’ up.”

The room slowly stopped spinning around Nyko, who realized his eyes were closed.  His head felt like someone was hammering railroad spikes into his temples. Nyko opened his eyes.  Soft white light came from everywhere. The ceiling and walls seemed to glow, driving icepicks into his head.

His crew was all sitting on the floor around him.  He turned his head slightly to see Andy, dressed in white fatigues just like everyone else.  He patted his side, his gun was missing. He patted his chest, the knife that hung from a lanyard under his shirt was gone.

He croaked, “Did they leave us anything?”

Brian held his hands up with his fingers splayed.  “Even cut my nails off, Boss.”

“Fuck. Did they gas you too?”

“We think they shot us with darts at the station. Jonas found the spot on his arm where they got him,” said Terrell.  I was carrying a bunch of iron tubing to help Jonas. Then I woke up here. Tubes must have fallen on me, my arm is pretty beat, and I think I have a broken rib.

Andy groaned and rolled over on his side. “Derrick, see to Andy.  Jonas, what do you know?”

“I saw some spaceman looking guy in the parking lot.  I turned to call out to the boys and went down.”

Nyko looked at his friend.  He was wearing the same white fatigues as the rest.  On closer inspection, there was a slight grey digital pattern in the fabric.  “How long have you been here?”

“Maybe ten minutes before they dumped you in here. They came from the middle of that wall. Door appeared, they dumped you and Andy, and closed. We were all pretty disoriented still, but they were in and out before we had a chance to even move.”

Andy was up, sitting with his head tucked between his knees.  “What the fuck was that shit?”

“We know there are at least two of them. They’re going to come for us eventually. They have gas that knocked us out immediately, and based on the feeling of delousing powder on my balls and the fact that my fingernails are not only trimmed but filed smooth means we were out for a while.  Jonas’ boots are tailored for him.  Look how they built the platform up.”

“Best pair of boots I’ve owned in a while. Even when I had a cobbler he took a couple days to fix up my boots.” Jonas walked across the room, showing off his new boots.

Brian spoke up. “They took good fuckin’ care of us. Why would they give us new duds, make J-man some new boots and clean us up if they were just gonna kill us?”

“I hope you’re right, brother,” replied Nyko.  “All we can fucking do now is wait the sons of bitches out.”

As if on command, the door opened.  Four men walked in, and stopped standing in a tight group.  Nyko stood quickly.  His five men lined up behind him.

All four were wearing full helmets, a larger version of the mask Andy tried on.  Solid white face masks, with a blacked out visor.  A single crease in the facemask ran vertically from forehead to chin.  “The leader of this group will step forward,” one of them said.

Nyko stepped up.  “The fuck do you want with us?”

“You are from Las Vegas?”

“Yes,” Nyko said.  He’d told them that much.

“How many survivors live in Las Vegas?”

“I don’t fucking know the answer to that,” said Nyko.


“Maybe a hundred? Hundred and fucking fifty?” Nyko said.

“The temperature of your face just rose three degrees. It is imperative that you are truthful.”

“I run a god damn bar. I don’t get out much. I have about a hundred fifty fucking regulars. I have no way to estimate the population of god damn Las Vegas.”

“Then you are no use.  A meal will be delivered in an hour. Quarantine will be complete in twenty hours.”

The four men spun and walked out. The sliding door sealed behind them.

They sat in a circle, idly chatting, killing time until the door opened from the bottom and six trays were slipped under the door.  The food came in a bowl and tasted like some kind of grain mixed with water. “We have twenty hours.  Get some sleep,” Nyko ordered.  “We all feel like shit. Gonna need the crew in top form if we’re going to get out of this fucking mess.”

Nyko stretched out on his back, hands under his head and closed his eyes. He didn’t sleep, but he laid there trying to look like he was.  Instead he spent the next twenty hours thinking about Charlotte and wondering how his bar was.  For the moment the urge to travel was gone, he just wanted to be home in his bar.

The time passed agonizingly slow.  Most of the crew slept for several hours on the cool, hard floor, but even though it was relatively warm in the room, it got cold very quickly.  Nearly everyone got up to do jumping jacks, pushups, or some other sort of exercise to increase their core temperatures at some point during what Nyko assumed was the night.

There was no way to know the passage of time.  Andy tapped the music in his head out on his thigh, making no noise.  Jonas paced, breaking in his new boots.  Derrick lost himself in daydreams, thinking about anything other than where they were.

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<< Chapter 22                                                                                            Chapter 24 >>

If you like Sci-Fi, I hope you’ll check out The Evolution of Vaughn, available for your Amazon Kindle.

Taylor’s return

One of my author-heroes, Chris Philbrook, is releasing his epic “Adrian’s Undead Diary” in book form.  Today is the launch day for book 5, Wrath.  I was honored to write the forward for book 5.  I hope you’ll go check it out on Amazon.

Now on to the chapter!

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<<Chapter 10                                                                                             Chapter 12 >>

The beautiful blonde bolted down the darkened streets of New Vegas, fully aware that she was out well past curfew.  If the New Vegas police caught her, she’d be thrown in jail for the night.  If the night gangs caught her, she’d be in for something far worse.

The Casinos were massive; there was no way to go behind them.  Most of the hotels backed up directly to the wall, in order to save time and materials.

Taylor ran from every bit of cover she could find to the next bit.  First stopping to breathe behind an old bus stop, then she darted into an alley and stood behind a pile of trash while she waited for a pair of police on bicycles to pass.

When they were gone, she sprinted across the front of Bally’s and then she was at the guard booth on Flamingo.  Almost home free.  “Robbie,” she called softly.

Robbie came out of the booth, followed by his partner, and then another man.  “Shit,” she swore under her breath.

The third man out of the booth spoke with a deep, authoritative tone.  “What is your business with the guard after curfew, ma’am?”  Taylor spotted the sergeant’s bars on his NVPD uniform shirt.

She couldn’t say anything about Brad.  She couldn’t say anything about Robbie.  She knew the city police hated Nyko, but it was her only out.  “I work for Nyko.  He sent me into town to give some papers and fuel estimates to the governor.  I left them with his assistant, but then I got distracted by a painting in the lobby and stayed far too long admiring it.  I just need to get back.”

“No one goes through the gate after dark,” the man said.  “As you well know.”

Taylor poured on her wiles, stepping forward towards the sergeant.  “I know, but I just got caught up.  I’m so sorry, it’ll never happen again.  Is there just any way you can make an exception for me, just this one time? I promise you’ll never see me out after curfew again.”

As she closed in, she noticed that the sergeant was sweating profusely.  His cheeks were ruddy.  It was warm, but no-where near the daytime highs.  Sweat ran down his forehead, which he mopped with his arm.  When he lifted his arm, she saw huge dark circles under his armpits, and his hands were shaking.  Gotcha, she thought.

“I just happen to have something that might help cool you off.”  Taylor pulled out two single-serve bottles of Knob Creek Whiskey.  “They’re still sealed.”

The man’s tone changed, and Taylor suddenly wondered if she’d misjudged.  “Do you have any idea what the penalty for trying to bribe an officer of the law is?  On top of the penalty for having alcohol inside the city.”

“Oh, it’s not like that at all, honey.”  Taylor practically purred.  “You just looked powerful thirsty, it’s so hot, and your uniform is so… Tight.  What if I just put these down over here, and then got out of your hair?”  Taylor stepped a few feet to the right as she spoke, and set the two bottles on top of a barrel.

“I suppose, if I were to look the other way for just a second and you were gone, it would save me a ton of paperwork,” he said.

“I suppose it would,” replied Taylor stepping towards the gate.  Robby opened the small pedestrian door in the middle of the massive gate.  As she passed through, Robbie whispered to her.  “How’d you know that would work?”

“I work in a bar.  I can spot an alcoholic a mile away.  See you next time you’re out.”  She brushed a kiss across Robbie’s cheek and bolted off into the night as the gate slammed closed behind her.

Taylor ran for several minutes before stopping beside a pile of rubble, left over parts of the Barbary Coast or Burbon Street casinos, if she had to guess.  She put her hand on the pile and focused on breathing.  She was in good shape, but it was difficult running in the sand, and her backpack was heavy.

She heard a voice whispering behind her.  “I such pretty hair.  I’m going to turn you inside out!”  Taylor spun around in time to see stars as someone hit her squarely in the eye.  She stumbled backward, tripped over a rock and fell flat on her back.

Her backpack cushioned her fall, but when she stood, she felt something cold and wet run down her lower back and her pants.  “Shit. Not the antibiotics, not the antibiotics,” she mumbled to herself as she started running.

He was chasing her.  “Come on, girl.  Put it in your mouth,” he said, louder this time.  He was gaining.  She wasn’t going to be able to outrun him.

Taylor stopped in her tracks.  “You want me to put it in your mouth?”

She turned to see the man chasing her.  He was gaunt, every one of his ribs showing under thick, dark-tanned skin.  He had a bandanna covering his face, and yellow-lensed ski goggles over his eyes.  His hair was completely gone.

“Yes!” he said, seeming confused. “Wait, no.  Your mouth.”  He stopped running about two feet from Taylor.  “Yes, that’s how it works. You put it in your mouth.”

“Okay,” she said.  “Get it out.”

Her attacker fumbled with his pants in an attempt to get them down as quickly as possible.  When he did, the smell nearly knocked Taylor down.  He smiled.  He was missing all but two or three of his teeth. “Now, put it in your mouth.”

“Your mouth,” Taylor said.

“No, your mouth!” He screamed.

The girl remembered her first conversation with Nyko, about four months after the infection started.  Brian brought her in out of the waste, where he found her cowering under a burned out car.  She was malnourished, hours away from dying of dehydration.  Her face was so sunburned she could barely move her mouth.

She was sitting at a table in the bar. Charlie brought two glasses, a pitcher of water, and a jar of pickles.  A few minutes later, Nyko came walking in, sat down and poured himself a glass of water.

He took a long drink as he looked her over.  “What’s your name, kid?”

“Taylor,” she replied between bites of pickle.

“I’m Nyko.  This is my joint.  We have bunch of jobs open around here.  You can pick one.  No one stays for free, but we’re not all work.  We’re a family.

“My family is all dead,” she replied.  “My mom was infected.  My dad and older brother were killed by a gang for a gallon of water last week.”

“My family is gone too.  This is my family now.” Nyko said.  “The world is different.  People lost their humanity, even those living inside the walls.  You’re a pretty girl, and people out there are going to try to do bad things to you.  If they haven’t already tried.”

The second part was more of a question than a statement.  Taylor looked at Nyko.  He was a kind man, she could see it in his eyes, despite the exterior he presented.  “I’ve been lucky.  No one yet.”

“Some day, someone will try.  When that time comes, you need to stop thinking and act.”  Nyko paused, gauging the girl’s will.  “And when you act, you act swiftly and violently.  At your size, once they have you pinned down, you won’t be  able to fight them off.  You’ll have to end the attack before it gets started.  Do you understand?”

“I think so,” she replied.  ”

Taylor knelt down in front of the disgusting marauder who was swinging his hips back and forth, making his junk slap against his thighs.

In one smooth motion she pulled out her knife and cut it off, balls and all.  The marauder screamed, and clamped his hands on his crotch.  Taylor shoved his cock in his open mouth, silencing his scream.

“Like I said.  Your mouth.”

She ran for all she was worth, leaving the screaming man behind her.

“I did it, Nyko.  Just like you said,” she whispered to herself as she arrived at the saloon.

Taylor stopped in the bar and grabbed Charlotte.  “I did it.  I got three bags, but I broke one on the way back.”  She slid her backpack off and opened it.  “Oh no.”  Taylor’s face sank.  “I broke the antibiotic.  I’m so sorry,” she said, pulling out the empty bag.  “A man knocked me down.  I fell on it.” Taylor started crying.  “I just wanted…  I just wanted to be useful.”

“Oh, god Taylor, you did amazing.  You got an IV kit.  We didn’t have one. Brian and Andy just left to look for antibiotics, we’ll get him started on these two saline bags.”

“Really?” Taylor asked, her eyes hopeful.

“Yeah, baby.  Great job.  Really.”

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<<Chapter 10                                                                                             Chapter 12 >>

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<<Chapter 8                                                                                                 Chapter 10>>

“Charlie!” Jonas shouted as he brought the truck squealing to a stop.  “The Boss is hurt!”

Andy and Brian ran over to the truck and gingerly laid Nyko down on the concrete.

“What happened,” asked Andy.

“Stabbed in the gut,” said Jonas.  “I blasted the fucker’s head off and drove here.”

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