AMERICA the DEAD: EPISODE SEVEN – Apocalyptic Fiction


Based on the series by W. G. Sweet

Episode 7


NetReadz Publishing


Copyright © 2019 by NetReadz All Rights Reserved

Writers: W.W. Watson, Geo Dell, W.G. Sweet, G.D. Smitty

This book, in this blog format, is licensed for your
personal enjoyment only. If you would like to share this book…


Based on the series by W. G. Sweet

Episode 7


NetReadz Publishing


Copyright © 2019 by NetReadz All Rights Reserved

Writers: W.W. Watson, Geo Dell, W.G. Sweet, G.D. Smitty

This book, in this blog format, is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. If you would like to share this book with another person, please point them to this blog entry. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living person’s places, situations or events is purely coincidental.

This material is NOT edited for content! This material is licensed to and is used with permission.

This novel is Copyright © 2019 NetReadz No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the authors permission.

Permission is granted to use short sections of text in reviews or critiques in standard or electronic print..



Watertown NY: Joel

A few days of rest had made a huge difference in how he felt and his leg had responded as he had hoped it would. It was still stiff, something was wrong in the knee, maybe, but he could walk and the more he walked the better he felt. He sat in a chair on his front porch now, drinking hot coffee, and watching the snow melt and drip from the trees: Once again it was warming.

 He had found a truck in the parking lot, managed to get it started and driven to his own house on Linden Street. His house had seen better days, but it was still standing. The house itself still leaning, but it was no worse than it had been that first morning when he had awakened to… whatever this was, he thought. He had had a hard time getting around the public square. Sometime in the days that had passed the entire downtown section had sunk and then flooded. Probably as Glenn had said, the cave system under the city had collapsed. Either all or partial, it hadn’t made much difference to the downtown area, it had crumbled and the water now owned it.

He had taken Massey street to get around the downtown area, and then cut cross streets to get to Linden. He had seen no one. Not even signs of anyone. Nothing. Bodies, smoke, nothing. Winter had returned and the entire town was covered with snow. He had driven to the top of State street hill and looked out over the city. Dead. No footprints in the snow. Nothing, and that seemed all wrong. There should be people. What had happened to all the ones who had stayed behind? Had they left too? Something else?

There were no clear answers. He had driven back to Linden street, stopping at a few stores on the way, searching out food and medicines and dug in. There was the old wood stove that he had used to heat the basement. A little work and he had got it going. There was a cord of wood that had been stacked outside the back steps that led down into the basement forever. He couldn’t remember how many years. He had rarely used the wood stove after the new heating system he had put in. It heated the basement, there was no need for the wood stove. He had promised himself that someday he would yank it out. There were two guys, had been two guys, he reminded himself, at work who had offered to buy it. He was glad he had never gotten around to it.

The wood stove had heated the house up fine. He had spent a few hours looking over the house after that.

It was rough. The foundation was cracked and had dropped about eight inches on one side. The house was leaning, but still solid. Maybe a few years of leaning would take its toll. Maybe the next earthquake, if there was one, but for now it was stable, and that was all he cared about.

He had taken another dose of antibiotics, along with three aspirin, and had fallen asleep in his own bed and slept for… He didn’t know how long, but time didn’t really matter a great deal anymore. He had slept a long time. He didn’t know how long a period and he didn’t care. He only cared that he had awakened with the headache gone, the swelling in his leg lessened, and the redness mostly gone when he redressed the two wounds. He had taken another dose of the antibiotics, skipped the aspirin, and restocked the wood stove before he ate a breakfast of canned meat and toast made on the top of the glowing wood stove.

He had been sitting here trying to figure out what to do. Something, maybe while he had slept, had worked its way into his brain and it would not leave. What if, his thoughts had asked, What if Haley was not dead? What if she had survived? Wouldn’t they have wanted to keep the women alive?

It troubled him because how could he know it? He had been badly injured, he had looked around, but right now, in the clear light of a day removed by several days of rest he couldn’t be sure what he had done. What he had looked at. How well he had searched. Whether she was there, gone, dead, alive. There was no way to know, except… Well, except to go back and find out, his mind supplied.

He sat there sipping at the hot coffee looking for reasons to ignore the thought that had just seemed to drop in on him, but he could not. He had to go back. He had to be sure. And it wasn’t just about Haley, maybe she was gone, maybe she wasn’t, but what about the others? Could he really have been the only survivor? Had it been their plan to kill them all or were they looking to take the men out so they could get to the women? That seemed more logical. And yes, there were bones, he remembered, blackened and burned by the fire. And body parts. He could see them vaguely in his mind, but he saw no faces. He saw nothing that convinced him they were all dead, in fact the longer he thought it out the clearer it became that they had to be alive. At least some of them. He had most likely survived because he had appeared dead. He must have appeared dead. Hell, he had been halfway to dead.

 He sighed, leaned forward, and the legs of the chair came back down to the floorboards of the porch. There was nothing for it and no reason to put it off. There was nothing here. This town was dead. Dead as dog shit, as they used to say. He had to leave anyway and he had no intention of heading east so west it would be. And Rochester was west anyway.

It could get him killed.

“It could get you killed,” he said aloud. And it could, he agreed, but that made no difference either. He stood, drained the cup and set it down empty on the rail. A half hour later he was winding through the stalled traffic of Arsenal street; heading out route 3 for Rochester.

Rochester NY: Joel

Joel sat quietly in the dark, his weapons gathered around him. He had gathered them from their own arsenals and they hadn’t even missed them. They, the people running this section of Rochester, might think they had their shit together, but they were nothing but amateurs. He had looked the weapons over several times. Thought out his plans more than a dozen times. There was nothing left, but to do it.

He had seen enough to know what was going on in Rochester. The entire city had been divided into territories by different gangs. He had watched the city for the last two days and nights. Walking boldly where he wished in the daylight, sticking to the hard shadows through the night. He couldn’t ask for a better picture.

The power was on still. He didn’t know how that was possible or why it was possible, but in the scheme of things it made his work easier. People with lights weren’t so concerned with people sneaking in. The lights gave a false sense of security at night. He had worked his way in and seen everything he needed to see, and then made his way back out in the gray light of morning that first day. Since then he had slipped easily back and forth across their lines as if they didn’t even exist.

He had started with the wreck. It sat where he had left it, on the outskirts of the city, near the downtown entrance from East Avenue. He had spent the best part of two hours going over it and there were more than a few things he had missed.

The first, and major thing, was that the Jeep he, Haley, and the others had been traveling in had not been directly hit. The one behind them had also not been directly hit… Scott, Jan, and Lilly had been in that Jeep.

Both Jeeps had been destroyed just the same. There was a large area of asphalt gouged out, and the tar had melted around both vehicles. The fire had been serious and had probably killed anyone who had not escaped the Jeeps, but some of them had escaped the Jeeps. More than just him.

There were bones, blackened, and wet now from the near constant rain. The body parts he remembered seeing were gone. Even so there were not enough bones to account for everyone. It didn’t mean that Haley was one of those that had made it out, it only meant someone had. So he had set out to find out who might have survived and where they were.

The second night had paid dividends. He had followed a returning group on foot with prisoners and slipped right back into their protected area along with them. From there he had simply followed those they had bought in as they were pulled and shoved along the streets to a two story house off Culver Avenue.

The house was guarded, but again, it was guarded to make sure no one escaped, not to keep people from slipping in. And even that was slip shod. It was late the next day before he had seen her, and he had wept freely as they had dragged her from the buildings front door along with Scott, Amber and a few others he didn’t recognize. Either the others were somewhere else or they had died or already been killed.

He had shuddered to think of what they might have been through over the last several days as he had made his escape and then finally decided to come back. It was too much to take in, and so he shut it down and followed them as they were dragged through the fresh snow, barefoot he saw, to another building and turned over to armed men there.

His mind had screamed, Do something! Do something right now! But his common sense had fought it down. That would be suicide. It would benefit no one. It would surely get him killed and probably them too if they realized that he had come here to free them.

They had not been long at the building, those that had bought them had stood around talking. Low tones, subdued, it seems they were none too happy about their own circumstances. It had been on the way back, after they had brought them back out and were headed back to their prison, that Joel had overheard their conversation.

Scott was alive because he had told them he had skills with carpentry. They needed skilled workers. So far he had refused to work for them. They had beaten him several times. Most likely they would kill him soon if he didn’t give in. He was probably holding out, enduring the beatings, hoping for some way out for the women, for himself too.

Haley and Amber were a different story. They had been brought over to be looked over by a rival gang who might purchase them as part of some trade. From the sounds of the conversation they had liked what they had seen. The deal would go down tomorrow if they decided to go with it: If he intended to get them out alive it would have to be tonight.

It had not taken long to gather what he needed. He had found weapons of every kind. Rifles, pistols, knives, hand grenades even. He had gathered them and bought them to the small wooded area in back of the house next door where he had been hiding watching the prison. There was nothing left to do.

A few minutes before, the guard had changed. The night shift consisted of only two guards, and they were already sharing a joint together out back of the building. He heard their low voices and laughter as he worked his way out of the woods, bringing only what he needed, and around to the front of the house.

He hesitated at the front door. He was fairly certain there was no one inside, but he couldn’t be positive. Anyone could have slipped in while he was out gathering weapons. He closed his eyes for a moment, shifted the pistol in his hand slightly, and then reached down and turned the knob.

The door swung open to a dark interior. Cold, no heat… No sounds. He stepped inside.

Rochester NY: Joel


It had almost gone without a hitch. It had taken him a few minutes for his eyes to adjust, but once they had he had set off through the house. He thought back on it now as he bent his weight to the shovel, digging more out of the bottom of the shallow grave…

As he had searched his ears began to tell him things too, they were upstairs, he could hear minute creaks as body weight shifted on the floors above him. He could hear weeping from somewhere above him too. The sound made a sob catch in his own throat before he choked it back and headed for the stairs.

Scott had been out in the open, tied to a post for the railing. Joel had caught him in the process of trying to fight his way free. His mouth was gagged, but he immediately stopped his struggles when Joel came into view at the top of the stairs. Joel bent forward carefully, the step creaking loudly, and cut the bonds on his wrists. A second later he was passing Scott a pistol as he worked to free his jaw up. Joel passed him a canteen, and Scott sipped carefully, his lips blistered and cut, before he handed it back. His voice was scratchy, rusted.

“Kill the ones out there?” Scott asked in his whisper croak. His eyes were hard.

Joel shook his head. “They’re getting high… Won’t be a problem… Where are the girls?”

Scott nodded and headed down the hallway with Joel following. He stopped in front of the door. “One of them went in a little while ago… Probably… Probably…” He shook his head, unable to continue.

Joel whispered, “Don’t lose it… We’ll go on three, fast, but don’t let the door make a lot of noise. Try to stab him, not shoot… Don’t want to alert those others.” He held Scott’s eyes until he nodded.

Joel turned the knob slowly and counted down quickly. His shoulder hit the door but it didn’t give completely, just flexed, cracked loudly, and then sprang back at them. He cursed under his breath. “Take it down, take it fucking down,” he whisper croaked.”

The door splintered and finally opened. The guard inside was waiting, a gun in one hand, the form of a nude female beside him, a vague shape tied to a radiator across the room. A hand rose and pulled the gun down. The gun went off as they were tackling the man, and then everything went bad fast.

Joel drew his knife across his throat to cut off a scream that had begun, but even he knew it was too late. Scott scrambled up and made his way to the radiator and began untying the woman there. Joel bent, pushed the man aside and saw Amber. She moved quickly and he pulled her to her feet. They were out the door seconds later, all armed with the pistols Joel had bought, all ready, scrambling down the stairs two at a time. The front door burst in as they hit the bottom of the stairs and the two men that burst through never stood a chance. They ran over the top of them as they were still falling and spilled out into the night.

The whole area was on alert. The guards were out, dogs running everywhere, Joel saw. The dogs were no problem. It wasn’t like the movies, the dogs didn’t know who they were looking for. They managed to make it three blocks north, nearly out, before Joel realized that Amber had been hit. She stumbled, he pulled her to her feet, but she stumbled again and when he looked back he saw the blood that covered her entire side and soaked her leg. There was no time, he bent and took her over his shoulder, hearing her cry out in pain as he did, but there had been no other option. They had made the blockade a few moments later and had, had to stop while they tried to figure a way around.

There were too many of them. Two dozen standing around watching, but they were not trained to do it. Most of them had never hunted, didn’t know how to watch, what to look for. Joel had laid Amber on the ground and Haley had pulled her into her arms and held her, both crying silently. Behind him, several blocks back at the house where they had been held the grenades he had rigged to a timer finally went off. The men scattered, ran, started to regroup and then began to run through the streets back to where they had been. Joel and Scott picked up Amber together and ran through the darkness, sticking to the deepest shadows for the next half mile until they were well beyond the city and the gangs that were out looking for them.

Joel and Scott collapsed onto the ground while Haley held Amber as she died.  Dawn had not been far away so they had taken refuge in a nearby house and waited the day away. No one had come near. They had rested up during that time and when it was dark once more they had left the shelter and brought Amber with them…

Joel bent to the shovel once again. They had all taken turns, it was nearly done. He took a deep breath, stepped away from the hole and the others nodded. A second later they were lowering Amber into the hole.

She was dressed in clothes the Haley had taken from the house just a short time before. A long dress, her face pasty white and smeared with dried blood. But peaceful nonetheless. A half hour later they were back in the house ransacking it, looking for anything that might help them. They had a half mile to travel, a short distance, Joel had thought when he had hidden the truck he had driven here in, but a long walk now that he knew they might be anywhere looking for them. They left a short time later and made their trip to the falling down garage next to a flattened diner where Joel had hidden the truck.

The house had given them virtually nothing. No water. No food, a couple of coats and that was it. The truck was a welcome sight with its cache of food and water, and they had spent the next hour just sitting quietly, eating, replenishing their fluids, not talking.

“You were dead,” Haley said at last. “The guy went over, kicked you, was going to shoot you in the head, but he decided not to because you were dead.” Her eyes were bright, tears perched on the lids ready to fall. They fell as Scott spoke.

“I couldn’t do anything, Joel. Nothing.”

Joel caught his own emotions. They had been right on his sleeve for days, it seemed. He took a minute and composed himself.

“Alive. I was alive. I came to and thought all of you had died. I was in bad shape, bleeding, leg messed up… I thought you were dead.” He stopped, gained his composure once more and then started again. “ Later, back in Watertown, I couldn’t remember if I looked well enough., If I made sure you were dead, but I decided I didn’t. I didn’t and it ate at me.” His throat tightened up and he had to stop. “So I came back,” He said at last.

Haley came to him and hugged him. “Thank you,” she said. “I am so glad you did.”

Scott nodded and they all fell silent once more. Haley wiped at her eyes and then stood and walked away. “Sorry… They were about to trade us… Pat…” She choked. “Amber and me.” The tears nearly overtook her once more but she fought them back.

“Okay… So we go back to Watertown again… I have my house set up. We go back and decide what’s next.” He looked down at his leg. Blood had seeped through the bandages. “Leg’s shot,” he said by way of explanation. The silence held for a second.

“I should look at that,” Haley said.

“Later,” Joel agreed. “Ready, Scott?”

“Yeah. Yeah I am.”

“Okay, let’s get going. I want to be as far away from this fucking place as I can be by daylight tomorrow.” A few minutes later they were running a fast as they dared in the moonlight, heading back toward Watertown.

April 15th

Watertown, New York


Joel sat on his front steps and quietly stared over Linden street. It had changed for the worse. More than a dozen small quakes had hit over the last few days since they had been back. The houses were leaning more, including his own. Last night they had received some skip coming out of Manhattan. For twenty minutes they had been in whatever pocket that had been there and they had talked back and forth like they were right next door. There were no more illusions. The people he had talked to had come cross country, all the way from LA. There was nothing left. It was all gone. There was no help on the way. The Army was not on the way to put things right.

“Hey,” Haley from beside him. He had been slipping deeper into thought again.

“You were drifting away,” She said, as if she had read his thoughts.

She did that a lot lately, caught him, or he drifted a lot lately, maybe both. “I was… I was thinking about all of it. I think we should go to New York, wherever they are, outside the city. They sounded legit,” He raised his eyes to hers.

“As legit as anything in this world,” she shrugged. She looked around the street that really wasn’t a street any longer. “Can’t stay here… I know you know that.”

“I know… I think safety, if there is anything like safety any longer, is going to be in numbers. And we don’t have enough numbers. We’re too few.” He looked at her and waited for her acknowledging nod.

“We can be there in a few days. If they are where they say they are,” Haley added.

“Do you think they aren’t? Did you feel something?” He looked unsure.

“No… I felt they were straight with us, and I felt their offer to join with them was straight too.”

“Anybody join this conversation?” Scott asked as he walked out of the house and sat down next to Joel. Joel Laughed.

“Join in. We were talking about New York. Those people last night,” Haley said.

“Ah. It’s a nobrainer though, isn’t it?” Scott asked.

“We think so,” Joel agreed. His face was pensive.

“Got concerns?” Scott asked.

“Same old stuff. Really it’s all about whether they’re real or not,” Joel said.

Scott nodded. “I think they are I don’t see the percentage in luring us down there if they’re just fakes. We’ll come armed and ready for bullshit, they have to know that.” Scott seemed to consider. “I just don’t see it. I think they’re the real deal. I’ve been thinking about it too,” he sighed.

Haley raised her eyebrows.

“The finality of it all. I mean the fact that from here to the other side of the continent the world’s done up,” Scott said after a lengthy pause.

Joel nodded. “Hard to wrap your head around, I get it. It’s the same for me. That’s what we were just talking about. So,” Joel brushed his hands against his, jeans and then stood from the step. He flexed his leg. Stiff but pain free. It needed exercise to work it out. “I guess we should go get a truck and get moving.”

Haley and Scott stood with him. “Where you think for a decent truck?” Scott asked.

“Probably check out on the strip. There are a few custom shops out there, about a dozen car dealerships and a few truck dealerships. I’d like to find something setup for off road. Save us some time screwing around… Probably save road time too.”

“And they aren’t staying there much longer. It will help us when we move on with them,” Haley added.

“Makes sense,” Scott agreed.

“Or strike out on our own,” Joel said.

“South?” Scott asked.

Joel nodded. “They said the land went into the sea.”

“They said there was land in the distance though,” Haley said at the same time as Joel. “It got into my head… Well, that’s not exactly true. It’s like I dreamed about it before they said it. Like I knew it would be,” he shrugged. “I know, spooky.”

“Not really. I mean the world is gone. All the things you count on. Maybe now there is survival… Some sense that kicks in and guides you,” Haley said.

“Now that’s spooky,” Scott said. They all laughed uneasily.

“Still,” Haley said. She let her argument drift away unstated.

Joel reached over and retrieved his rifle from where it rested against the porch post. He slung it over his shoulder and shrugged once to make it comfortable. “We,” he stared into the open doorway into the house and then stopped. “We don’t need anything here. We were running low all the way around, about time to resupply.” He took two quick steps to the door, tugged at the handle and began to close it. He stopped with the door still partway open and laughed uneasily. “Guess it doesn’t matter anymore,” he said. Haley smiled, a small, sad smile and she shrugged and turned away.

“Not really,” Scott agreed.

Joel released the door handle, turned and stepped down off the porch. He turned and looked at the house once they were a few hundred feet away. He walked backwards, taking it in. It looked ready to collapse. It was leaning, the foundation cracked and crumbled in places. He turned and caught up to Haley and Scott. He didn’t look back again.

Project Bluechip:

Watertown NY: Subterranean Military base.

Commanding: Major Richard Weston

Richard Pierce leaned back as Major Weston leaned in close to his monitor.

“So they’re leaving,” he said.

“I think so,” Pierce agreed. “We lost them a few times. We don’t have everything covered up there, so I can’t say they aren’t up to something, but my best guess is that they don’t have a clue about us. They’re on their way out… I could take it a little further.”

Major Richard Weston looked at him. “How so?”

Pierce reached forward and rifled through a small stack of messages beside his computer. “Came from your Intel guys… Communications” He paused to find his place in the message. “Yeah… Seems they talked via CB to someone outside of Manhattan yesterday… Your guys thought they would probably head that way. Seems likely that’s what is going on now. They have a truck, they’re making the rounds… Foodstuffs… Camping gear, weapons and ammunition,” he shrugged and looked up at Weston.

Weston nodded. “Keep an eye on it.” Pierce nodded as Weston walked away.

Watertown Center

Joel and Haley

“I say we’re good,” Joel said, He looked over the back of the truck. “Nothing left, but to…” He stopped as Haley suddenly went rigid beside him. Her pistol came up fast and a split second later he found he had shrugged his rifle from his shoulder and into his hands. Scott already had his rifle off safety and aimed. Joel turned and followed his aim to where a woman walked slowly down the street toward them.

“No closer,” Haley called out.

“I’m not armed… I’m not dangerous,” The woman said. “I need some help. Some help to get out of this place… Please.” She stopped reluctantly and looked back and forth from the rifles to Haley’s pistol. She wore a long denim shirt that hung over her jeans to mid thigh. She lifted it to show she had no weapons belted under it and then dropped it again.

She had a British accent. At times in her speech it sounded more pronounced, at others hardly there, as though she were trying to suppress it, Joel thought.

“Just need a lift out.” She spread her hands out flat, palms up. “Nothing else. I have been stuck here from the first, it’s complicated, but I got away from some people that had me.” She seemed to consider the three of them. “Maybe you have got no room to spare?” She looked from one to the other.

Joel spoke. “We have room, it isn’t a question of that. It’s a question of whether we’ll accept you to fill that place.” He lowered his rifle and motioned her forward. “Scott? Make sure she isn’t armed.” Scott nodded, lowered his rifle, re-slung it, and started forward. A second later he was patting her down. His hand found the inside of her thigh and started up.

“There’s a piece there,” she said quietly. Scott’s hand stopped suddenly, just below where the shirt overhung from her waist. He felt her tremble. “It’s small… I’ve been scared. Just something for safety.”

“But you said you had nothing,” Scott said as his eyes held her own.

“What’s up?” Haley called.

“Got a piece in her… I guess, her panties,” Scott raised his hand and carefully felt the small gun. Haley was at his side when he looked up. “Really small,” he said and shrugged. Haley passed him her pistol. “Keep it on her.”

Haley reached forward and freed the buttons that held the fly of her pants. She reached in and came out with a small .22 pocket pistol. She looked it over.

“Five shot… .22 Mags,” the woman said.

Haley looked up. “I can see that. “So why didn’t you say something? Or maybe, why did you say something? This is small enough to stay concealed.”

“Your mate was on his way up.” She shrugged. “Look. I’m alone. I had to have something. This town may look dead, but it’s far from dead. I’m just looking for a way out. The road. Leave this place. It’s been… It’s been bad.” her eyes seemed to cloud at the end. “Mind? It’s a bit cold.” she looked down at her open fly.

“Go ahead,” Haley said. She buttoned the fly back and then took a deep breath. “So?”

“So, What’s your name,” Haley asked.

“Pearl… You?”

“Haley… Joel, Scott,” she nodded to each with her head. “I guess she’s okay,” she told Scott. Scott lowered the gun and then handed it back to Haley a second later.

“We’re headed for the city,” Joel told her.

“Syracuse?” Pearl asked.

“No… When people say city around here they usually mean New York… Manhattan,” Joel said quietly. “Why should we make room for you, Pearl. Especially since you didn’t want to tell us about this gun?” He had taken the pistol from Haley and was turning it over in his hand. It was very small and didn’t seem capable of doing much harm.

“It will kill you well enough,” Pearl said as if reading his thoughts. “It’s a bad world. You need another shooter. Who knows what you’re going to run into between here and there.” She paused and then nodded at the pistol. “You can see I’m resourceful.” She met Joel’s eyes when they swung suddenly up to her own. “I’m not dangerous unless someone is tying to hurt me,” she finished quietly.

Joel raised his eyes to Haley and Scott. They both nodded. He looked back at her. “Guess you’re in, Pearl,” he told her. He tossed the gun and she caught it in one hand.

“I like it, but here,” Haley said retrieving a rifle from the back of the truck. She tossed it to her lightly.

“Zero to sixty?” Pearl asked as she looked over the rifle.

Haley pulled a clip from a pouch at her side. She frowned. “Guess so,” she said as she tossed the clip to Pearl. “I guess so.” Pearl socketed the clip home as she nodded.

“Okay,” Joel said. “Looks like we need another truck.”

Haley nodded and they all piled into the truck. Joel turned it around and started back out to the strip.

Project Bluechip

Richard Pierce

Richard pierce watched the two trucks pick their way around the wrecked pavement.  Lately he had found himself wondering what the outside smelled like? Was it sterile the way the air here smelled? Slightly burned? Something like that. It had a constant smell of hot steel. He really didn’t notice it unless he concentrated on it.

He had watched the three become four. So Pearl had made her way out. He could only hope she would remember what he had done for her. How he had cut her loose. Anyone else in this place would come unglued to find out he had not only let someone go, but that the natural containment of the project, encased over a mile deep in stone was now breached. He had let her out through the air ducting. It had taken two days of looking over the schematics to be sure that there was a way out and where it was, but he had found it and sent her on her way. She had found her way out, and that could only mean that project Bluechip was not a secure facility any longer. Air was being exchanged with the outside. Air sucked in from that same ducting, directly through the opening she had cut into the duct work, and then drawn in to their clean air supply. So, he thought now, why does it still smell like hot metal? He had no answer, except, maybe it took time. Maybe the small amount of air was not so noticeable. No matter, he knew it had been breached, he knew the truth.

Of course they would know. He had very little time, maybe only minutes before she was discovered missing. He felt cowardly about the way he had worked it out. He had sent her first, she had made it and so he knew it was safe for him to go. He had no intention of going along with the ones she had found though, He had his own plans, His own ideas, He had waited a long time to get out of here and he had, had a long time to think about what he wanted to do once he was out: Where he wanted to go. He punched up a camera view in one of the tunnels. The hole was obvious immediately. Ragged sheet steel curled away from the side of the pipe. So she had done it. She hadn’t found some other way, she had done exactly what she was supposed to do. The duct was breached. All he had to do was go.

He leaned forward and punched a series of numbers and letters into his keypad. Hiding it with the forward movement of his body. A second later the system switched over to a camera loop that it had released no more than a few minutes before, and once more the tunnel looked untouched: The duct piping solid and whole once more. He stood from his console and stretched.

“Christ,’ he complained loudly, as he fisted his hands and worked at his eyes. “This shit is about to put me to sleep, Graham.“

Graham looked up and smiled. “Not you. Usually you’re a bear for this shit.”

“Yeah, yeah, but not today. Not enough sleep. I’m going to the cafeteria… Get some of that shit that passes for coffee,” Pierce told him.

“Yeah, but what if Weston comes around?” Graham asked. He seemed alarmed, Pierce thought, and well he should be. There was no leaving the monitor station during a shift.

“Cover for me… Tell him I had to use the can,” Pierce told him quietly. When he looked doubtful Pierce added, “Come on, man, I’d do it for you, Graham. You know I would.”

“Yeah. I know.” He looked around the room quickly. “Okay… Just not too long, okay?”

“Not too long,” Pierce agreed. He clapped Graham on the back as he walked past him. “Not too long at all, buddy.”

~ Apocalyptic Fiction from Dell Sweet~

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