Suspense R .  Mac Wheeler Multi - Genre Author SCI FI Fantasy
Thirty-three   years   after   an   engineered   plague   shredded   Earth's population,   technology   barely   sustains   a   starving   few   on   the eastern    seaboard.    After    returning    from    a    mission    to    the heartland,   Jason   Kates   ignited   a   revolution   that   turned   the CDC from a ruling order back to a scientific organization. Now,   Jason   leads   a   team   of   pioneers   west   to   feed   what remains   of   civilization.   The   convoy   must   cross   lawless   lands, avoid   scavenging   bands,   and   negotiate   passage   with   desperate clans.   But   he   and   the   tiny   Chloe   will   be   propelled   into   a   larger scheme.
Urban Fantasy Dystopian
Chapter One ~ Footsteps   shished    on   the   ancient   carpet   behind   me.   Didn't   take   a   genius   to   figure out   who   followed   me   from   our   final   punch-list   meeting,   nor   what   he   would   want.   If I    could    step    back    two    weeks    and    make    a    different    staffing    decision,    Eugene wouldn't   be   stalking   me   now.   His   record   didn't   imply   he   was   a   jerk.   Too   late   to replace him. But then, not too many stepped forward for this project anyway. "Can I have a word?" I   tilted   my   computer   so   I   could   read   the   time.   Hopefully   that   would   give   him   a hint   to   keep   it   short.   I   should   be   in   bed.   Hell,   I   had   brain   surgery   two   weeks   ago.   I deserved   some   sleep.   Doctor   said   I   was   good   as   new.   But   I   feel   different.   It   could   be the   stress.   Still   not   used   to   people   looking   at   me   and   expecting   brilliance   to   flow forth. One-thirty-two   in   the   stinking   morning.   Had   to   get   up   in   four   hours   to   be   on the road by sunup. "Should   have   spoken   up   in   the   meeting."   My   tone   edged   even   more   irritated than I expected. "I should be driving Noah 2." That   almost   made   me   laugh.   I   couldn't   imagine   him   handling   the   heavy   rig,   nor the responsibility of taking lead over the mission if I became incapacitated. "You   mean   Noah   1."   It   just   came   out.   It   wasn't   going   to   make   our   discussion   any easier. "Yeah,   actually   I   should,   but   I   don't   expect   you   to   do   what's   right   and   let   the better equipped man lead this." I   hadn't   stopped   walking.   I   hoped   to   get   to   our   apartment-cubby   so   I   could   cut him   off   and   disappear   behind   a   door.   This   discussion   was   not   going   to   help   our working   relationship.   All   I   could   hope   was   I   wised   up   over   the   next   fifteen   seconds and kept my true emotions to myself, or he might pull his gun and shoot me. My   loose   mouth   got   me   into   this   two   months   ago.   Please,   Jason,   show   you've learned something since then. He stepped in front of me forcing me to stop. "My   security   experience   trumps   all   your   fancy   degrees.   Dex   doesn't   even   have   a degree. The man is worthless." I   wanted   to   slap   the   SOB.   Dex   had   raised   so   many   issues   the   last   month,   come up    with    more    ideas    than    I've    ever    had    in    my    life.    I    wouldn't    have    a    lick    of confidence    in    this    project    if    he    hadn't    been    on    the    planning    team    early    on. Exploding   from   a   dozen   settlers   to   almost   two-hundred   expanded   the   complexity more than twenty-fold. All   I   could   remember   Eugene   ever   coming   up   with   in   a   meeting   was,   "That's stupid." "He's just a truck driver!" Eugene screeched. "Who's spent twenty years avoiding hijackers on Interstate Ninety-five." "I've spent ten years hunting them down." "Not what your record indicates," I said softly. "I've carried a gun for the CSF for—" "Watching security cameras." In   the   dim   light   I   imagined   him   fisting   his   hand,   and   I   involuntarily   flinched. That pissed me off more than being stuck with Eugene. "There   will   be   no   changes,"   I   said.   "I   value   your   strengths,   which   are   better suited   watching   our   backside   driving   Noah   3."   I   stepped   around   him,   not   intending to clip his shoulder. Perhaps   he   dipped   into   me,   or   deep-down   inside,   I   wanted   to   bump   him,   but   I didn't   expect   the   shove   that   came   next.   I   stumbled   a   half-dozen   steps.   Where'd   he find   the   muscle   to   do   that?   On   five-hundred   calories   a   day?   But   then,   I   couldn't   say I'm   at   the   top   of   my   form.   Frying   my   brain,   surgery,   sixteen-hour   days   in   constant meetings— I   turned   around   slowly   after   I   recovered   from   the   dizzies.   My   fried   brain   should have   been   coming   up   with   ways   to   mitigate   dropping   him   from   the   team,   but instead   it   focused   on   pulling   my   ten   millimeter   machine   pistol   and   putting   a   slew   of freaking slugs in his chest. I   counted   to   three.   It   was   as   far   as   I'd   ever   get.   "Noah   3   doesn't   have   to   have anyone   riding   shotgun."   Would   he   understand   that   subtle   challenge?   Might   have been too oblique. He glared. "Go ahead. Drop me. Let Terri drive Noah 3 alone." He   got   it.   I   took   a   deep   breath.   "You're   important   to   this   venture.   But   you   can be a pain in the ass." "This   is   bullshit,"   he   said.   "Pure   bullshit.   And   you're   the   one   on   a   soapbox   about the    CDC    getting    out    of    the    business    of    running    things.    You're    a    scientist.    You should be working on a cure." That   knife   shouldn't   have   made   it   between   my   ribs.   Maybe   it   nicked   because   I suggested   the   same   thing   to   Chloe,   the   last   time   we   nuzzled   up   next   to   each   other, whenever that was. It had been a freaking busy month. "Go get some sleep," I said. "You'll need to be sharp tomorrow." "Yeah.   Need   to   be   tip   top,   to   study   the   backside   of   a   tanker   for   the   next   four days." "Hijackers hit the back at the same time they hit the front." He   made   that   derisive   noise   deep   in   his   throat.   "No   one's   going   to   be   crazy enough to hit a convoy of twenty-two vehicles." "You have no idea how desperate people are out there." I   thought   back   to   the   day   I   left   Atlanta,   two   months   ago.   I   hadn't   even   gotten out   from   under   the   shadows   of   high-rises   when   I   passed   my   first   hijacked   convoy. How   far   would   I   have   gotten   on   that   journey   if   I   hadn't   been   in   a   three-seat   cruiser? Clearly   the   tiny   Security   Force   vehicle   didn't   carry   enough   supplies   to   risk   one's life.   No   one   had   to   bust   a   gut   figuring   out   that   I   was   armed,   either.   A   combination that surely saved my life. "Yeah," Eugene said. "You're so world-wise." I   lurched   at   the   metal-to-metal   screech   of   a   stairwell   door   behind   me.   I   couldn't help   looking   over   my   shoulder,   with   my   mind   on   hijacking,   getting   whacked   from the   rear.   I   was   elated   to   see   my   pixie-partner   clamoring   toward   me.   Those   hikers sure make her size-four feet look big. "Geno, what are you flinging against the wall now?" I   snorted.   The   instant   imagery   of   a   baboon   throwing   its   feces   at   the   bars   of   its cage struck me so clearly I almost cascaded into a guffaw. That was an insult to baboons everywhere. Eugene    looked    confused.    No    surprise    he    didn't    get    Chloe's    snark.    Maybe    I shouldn't   have.   Maybe   Chloe   and   I   have   just   synced   mentally   more   than   I   realized. She does finish most of my sentences. "It's Eugene," he hissed. "Not Geno." Chloe   threaded   her   arm   through   mine   and   pulled   me   down   the   hall.   I   was ecstatic   to   be   drawn   away   from   the   man   without   having   to   say   anything   more.   As we   stepped   toward   our   apartment,   a   shiver   went   down   my   back,   as   a   less   humorous visual   formed,   of   Eugene   making   an   imaginary   gun   with   thumb   and   forefinger   and shooting both of us. Chapter Two ~ Closing    the    door    behind    us,    Chloe    whispered,    "Klunkhead    looking    for    more responsibility?" "You have a very intuitive mind." I headed straight for my cot. For   the   last   night   in   civilization,   I   wished   we'd   taken   the   time   in   the   last   month to   clean   out   one   of   the   previously   converted   apartments.   Most   of   them   had   queen- sized   beds.   Sleeping   skin   to   skin   with   Chloe   before   hitting   the   road   would   be   nice.   I fell   into   a   heap   across   the   top   of   my   sleeping   bag,   eyes   already   closed.   The   light   in the   three-by-three   lavatory   we   shared   with   our   immediate   neighbors   flashed   on, before Chloe closed the door leaving me in pitch black. I   squirmed   just   enough   to   get   straight   on   the   cot,   and   to   smooth   out   the   quilted liner   of   the   bag.   I   opened   my   eyes   to   the   silver   sheen   of   the   moon   slicing   through the mini-blinds covering the windows, sighed, and closed my eyes. I    felt    Chloe's    hand    caressing    my    cheek,    so    I    had    fallen    asleep    while    she powdered her nose. She    pulled    my    tee    over    my    head.    I    grunted    my    displeasure.    I    didn't    mind sleeping   in   my   clothes,   but   she   followed   up   by   taking   off   my   shoes   and   socks.   By the   time   she   had   unfastened   my   pants   and   given   them   a   jerk,   I   was   deliberating   if my exhaustion beat out my desire to be fussed with. I growled like an ogre, but helped her get my jeans off. She   straddled   me,   her   cool   legs   slowly   drawing   against   my   hips.   Realizing   she was   naked   as   a   boll   weevil   got   the   snake   interested   in   what   she   had   in   mind.   Even though   my   mind   screamed,   "Go   to   sleep."   A   man   simply   can't   ignore   that   other voice. Her   throat   nuzzled   against   mine,   and   a   moan   escaped   from   me,   my   mind   still screaming, "I'm exhausted." But   she   found   me   with   the   tips   of   her   fingers   between   her   legs,   and   I   was   ready for a sprint to the finish, as long as it was a short race. But   damn,   she   was   in   no   hurry.   Once   inside   her,   she   stretched   her   legs   back over   mine,   maximizing   the   amount   of   flesh   we   could   press   together.   All   eighty pounds   of   her   floated   against   me.   She   barely   moved,   just   enough   to   move   her tongue   and   teeth   from   one   spot   on   my   throat   to   another,   and   to   thrust   just   enough to prove I still filled her. We   could   have   stayed   like   that   for   a   year   as   far   as   the   snake   was   concerned,   but my   other   voice,   the   one   connected   to   the   brain   that   knew   I   had   to   get   up   in   four hours,   wanted   her   to   hurry.   The   snake   lives   for   the   explosion,   so   we   may   have   been in concert for the first time in my twenty-seven years. Yet we both let her have her way. If   I   got   twenty   minutes   of   sleep   before   my   computer   rudely   made   us   jerk,   hell was freezing over. "It isn't your alarm," Chloe hissed. "What do you mean it isn't my alarm?" "I loaded an app—let you know when someone dialed you," she said. "Everyone knows I can't use my implant yet." She   was   wiggling   off   of   me   and   I   didn't   want   her   to   leave.   She   slapped   my shoulder    to    make    me    let    go.    Three    seconds    later    the    light    from    my    computer blinded me. "Old technology," she mumbled, "but it works." I   blinked   away   the   afterimage   of   the   supernova   and   tried   to   concentrate   on   the voice.   She   had   to   say   my   name   three   times   before   I   realized   the   connection   that   had been    inherently    part    of    me    since    I    was    seven,    was    being    duplicated    by    my computer.   I   was   using   a   phone   that   wasn't   directly   connected   to   my   synapses.   How novel. "Really sorry to wake you, Jason, but this is important." "Maura? What's up?" "He's—" An obvious sob interrupted her. "Dex is dead." That   earlier   supernova   sucked   all   the   air   away   from   Earth   with   an   explosion that   lifted   my   body   three   inches   off   the   cot.   The   headache   that   went   along   with   my fried synapses returned, compliments of a baseball bat to the temple. "Shit. No." "I   wish   you   were   having   a   nightmare,"   she   said.   "But   he's   dead.   I   had   security open    up    his    room    when    he    didn't    meet    me    like    we    agreed    at    four-thirty. Looks—looks like he blew his—oh shit, Jason." Not Jihad. "Where are you?" "His room. Sixth floor. Number twelve." "Ah, Maura. Be there in a sec." Chloe closed the app for me. "You think that asshole, Geno, could do this?" I   hadn't   moved   yet.   I   was   frozen.   And   that   question   froze   me   even   harder   into my   cot.   The   sound   of   a   hurricane   blasted   in   my   brain   and   I   swirled   around   the   cot with   vertigo   that   would   gag   a   goat.   I   almost   didn't   get   my   face   over   the   edge   of   the bed to save my sleeping bag when I spewed. "Shit," Chloe screeched, dancing to get away. "Can't you warn a person?" But   the   question   was   rhetorical.   She   was   already   returning   from   the   basin   with a damp paper towel. She held a bottle of water for me by the time I wiped up. Chloe mumbled, "I should have let you sleep." "I'm not complaining," I said. "Your body is." "Wasn't earlier." "Need   to   get   downstairs.   What   the   hell   are   we   going   to   do?   Not   like   we   have dozens sitting around waiting for a chance to go west with us. Not that many fools." "Shut up." "Just saying." I   had   my   jeans   on,   pulled   my   tee   over   my   head.   I   expected   to   get   a   chance   to shower, leave wearing fresh clothes. That's what I want to be thinking about? "How do I use that app?" I grabbed my computer. "Same spec as your implant, best I could code it." "Since when do you write code?" "Can't become a double-e without coding skills." "Oh."   I   turned   a   look   up   at   her,   which   I   hoped   looked   pathetic.   "I   have   to   work this. Will you see to Dex and Maura?" "Crap.   You   and   Dex   have   been   acting   like   brothers   the   last   two   weeks.   Don't   you want to see him?" "We have two-hundred people expecting to drive out of Atlanta in two hours." "Yeah. See your point. Shit." "Thanks." "You'll owe me." "I already owe you for last night. This morning, I mean." She   gave   the   crotch   of   my   jeans   a   tiny   rub   before   she   walked   away.   "Can't   pay that back, big boy." She   closed   the   door   on   her   last   word,   but   I   figured   it   out.   I   pulled   up   Janek   on my   non-implant   directory,   with   a   shudder,   and   pressed   dial.   I   felt   like   I'd   been beamed into a previous millennium. "Will   you   meet   me   in   the   basement   cafeteria?"   I   asked   without   a   hello.   "Now? Fifteen minutes ago." "Shit." My former boss groaned. "Aren't you gone yet? Leave. Just leave." "Then I'll come to your room." "Jeez. Let me piss, and I'll be there." "Thanks, Janek." © R. Mac Wheeler 2017
R .  Mac Wheeler Multi - Genre Author
New Order Apocalypse 2 Chapter One ~ Footsteps   shished    on   the   ancient   carpet behind   me.   Didn't   take   a   genius   to   figure out    who    followed    me    from    our    final punch-list    meeting,    nor    what    he    would want.   If   I   could   step   back   two   weeks   and make      a      different      staffing      decision, Eugene   wouldn't   be   stalking   me   now.   His record   didn't   imply   he   was   a   jerk.   Too   late to   replace   him.   But   then,   not   too   many stepped forward for this project anyway. "Can I have a word?" I   tilted   my   computer   so   I   could   read the   time.   Hopefully   that   would   give   him   a hint   to   keep   it   short.   I   should   be   in   bed. Hell,   I   had   brain   surgery   two   weeks   ago.   I deserved   some   sleep.   Doctor   said   I   was good   as   new.   But   I   feel   different.   It   could be    the    stress.    Still    not    used    to    people looking   at   me   and   expecting   brilliance   to flow forth. One-thirty-two        in        the        stinking morning.   Had   to   get   up   in   four   hours   to be on the road by sunup. "Should      have      spoken      up      in      the meeting."     My     tone     edged     even     more irritated than I expected. "I should be driving Noah 2." That   almost   made   me   laugh.   I   couldn't imagine   him   handling   the   heavy   rig,   nor the   responsibility   of   taking   lead   over   the mission if I became incapacitated. "You   mean   Noah   1."   It   just   came   out. It    wasn't    going    to    make    our    discussion any easier. "Yeah,    actually    I    should,    but    I    don't expect   you   to   do   what's   right   and   let   the better equipped man lead this." I   hadn't   stopped   walking.   I   hoped   to get   to   our   apartment-cubby   so   I   could   cut him    off    and    disappear    behind    a    door. This   discussion   was   not   going   to   help   our working    relationship.    All    I    could    hope was    I    wised    up    over    the    next    fifteen seconds    and    kept    my    true    emotions    to myself,    or    he    might    pull    his    gun    and shoot me. My   loose   mouth   got   me   into   this   two months   ago.   Please,   Jason,   show   you've learned something since then. He   stepped   in   front   of   me   forcing   me to stop. "My    security    experience    trumps    all your    fancy    degrees.    Dex    doesn't    even have a degree. The man is worthless." I    wanted    to    slap    the    SOB.    Dex    had raised    so    many    issues    the    last    month, come   up   with   more   ideas   than   I've   ever had   in   my   life.   I   wouldn't   have   a   lick   of confidence    in    this    project    if    he    hadn't been    on    the    planning    team    early    on. Exploding   from   a   dozen   settlers   to   almost two-hundred    expanded    the    complexity more than twenty-fold. All    I    could    remember    Eugene    ever coming   up   with   in   a   meeting   was,   "That's stupid." "He's     just     a     truck     driver!"     Eugene screeched. "Who's    spent    twenty    years    avoiding hijackers on Interstate Ninety-five." "I've    spent    ten    years    hunting    them down." "Not    what    your    record    indicates,"    I said softly. "I've carried a gun for the CSF for—" "Watching security cameras." In   the   dim   light   I   imagined   him   fisting his    hand,    and    I    involuntarily    flinched. That   pissed   me   off   more   than   being   stuck with Eugene. "There   will   be   no   changes,"   I   said.   "I value    your    strengths,    which    are    better suited     watching     our     backside     driving Noah    3."    I    stepped    around    him,    not intending to clip his shoulder. Perhaps   he   dipped   into   me,   or   deep- down   inside,   I   wanted   to   bump   him,   but   I didn't   expect   the   shove   that   came   next.   I stumbled   a   half-dozen   steps.   Where'd   he find    the    muscle    to    do    that?    On    five- hundred     calories     a     day?     But     then,     I couldn't   say   I'm   at   the   top   of   my   form. Frying    my    brain,    surgery,    sixteen-hour days in constant meetings— I      turned      around      slowly      after      I recovered   from   the   dizzies.   My   fried   brain should   have   been   coming   up   with   ways   to mitigate   dropping   him   from   the   team,   but instead    it    focused    on    pulling    my    ten millimeter   machine   pistol   and   putting   a slew of freaking slugs in his chest. I   counted   to   three.   It   was   as   far   as   I'd ever    get.    "Noah    3    doesn't    have    to    have anyone      riding      shotgun."      Would      he understand   that   subtle   challenge?   Might have been too oblique. He    glared.    "Go    ahead.    Drop    me.    Let Terri drive Noah 3 alone." He   got   it.   I   took   a   deep   breath.   "You're important   to   this   venture.   But   you   can   be a pain in the ass." "This     is     bullshit,"     he     said.     "Pure bullshit.   And   you're   the   one   on   a   soapbox about   the   CDC   getting   out   of   the   business of   running   things.   You're   a   scientist.   You should be working on a cure." That    knife    shouldn't    have    made    it between      my      ribs.      Maybe      it      nicked because    I    suggested    the    same    thing    to Chloe,   the   last   time   we   nuzzled   up   next   to each    other,    whenever    that    was.    It    had been a freaking busy month. "Go    get    some    sleep,"    I    said.    "You'll need to be sharp tomorrow." "Yeah.   Need   to   be   tip   top,   to   study   the backside    of    a    tanker    for    the    next    four days." "Hijackers    hit    the    back    at    the    same time they hit the front." He   made   that   derisive   noise   deep   in his    throat.    "No    one's    going    to    be    crazy enough    to    hit    a    convoy    of    twenty-two vehicles." "You     have     no     idea     how     desperate people are out there." I   thought   back   to   the   day   I   left   Atlanta, two   months   ago.   I   hadn't   even   gotten   out from    under    the    shadows    of    high-rises when   I   passed   my   first   hijacked   convoy. How    far    would    I    have    gotten    on    that journey   if   I   hadn't   been   in   a   three-seat cruiser?    Clearly    the    tiny    Security    Force vehicle    didn't    carry    enough    supplies    to risk   one's   life.   No   one   had   to   bust   a   gut figuring   out   that   I   was   armed,   either.   A combination that surely saved my life. "Yeah,"   Eugene   said.   "You're   so   world- wise." I   lurched   at   the   metal-to-metal   screech of   a   stairwell   door   behind   me.   I   couldn't help   looking   over   my   shoulder,   with   my mind   on   hijacking,   getting   whacked   from the    rear.    I    was    elated    to    see    my    pixie- partner     clamoring     toward     me.     Those hikers   sure   make   her   size-four   feet   look big. "Geno,   what   are   you   flinging   against the wall now?" I    snorted.    The    instant    imagery    of    a baboon   throwing   its   feces   at   the   bars   of its    cage    struck    me    so    clearly    I    almost cascaded into a guffaw. That      was      an      insult      to      baboons everywhere. Eugene   looked   confused.   No   surprise he    didn't    get    Chloe's    snark.    Maybe    I shouldn't   have.   Maybe   Chloe   and   I   have just   synced   mentally   more   than   I   realized. She does finish most of my sentences. "It's Eugene," he hissed. "Not Geno." Chloe   threaded   her   arm   through   mine and    pulled    me    down    the    hall.    I    was ecstatic   to   be   drawn   away   from   the   man without   having   to   say   anything   more.   As we     stepped     toward     our     apartment,     a shiver    went    down    my    back,    as    a    less humorous     visual     formed,     of     Eugene making    an    imaginary    gun    with    thumb and forefinger and shooting both of us. © R. Mac Wheeler 2017