Authors: Ginger Booth
Tags: #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Military, #Post-Apocalyptic, #Dystopian
by Ginger Booth
Copyright © 2016 Ginger Booth
All rights reserved.
Cover photo © Hasenonkel | Dreamstime.com -
Cover design by Ginger Booth.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author‘s imagination or are used fictitiously.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying,recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the author.
New York, October.
Gladys Petrosian lived at the top of a twenty-story apartment block in Brooklyn. She hadn’t lived here before Ebola broke out. She colonized this place after the power died. No one else wanted the twenty-floor walk-up. So many had died in the fires last winter, with no way out. They tried to cook in their apartments, or heat themselves in the bitter cold. The buildings caught fire, and there was no water to put the fires out. Yet another horrible way to die.
But Gladys was more afraid of the people than the flames. No one could give her Ebola, up here, away from them all. No one could kill her for her food. There used to be more people in the lower floors of the building. They’d fallen lower and lower as the food ran out. Too weak to climb.
There used to be more people.
The roof was all hers, up above it all. She had half a block’s worth of apartment homes to draw on for raw materials. And canned goods, once, but those were gone. Shower liners made excellent rain catchers for water. Other shower liners, slashed, created an overhead netting to keep the birds out. Or if they got in, the birds were trapped, easy to catch. Pigeon was her favorite. It was a good day, when she caught a pigeon.
She had a farm up here. Her seed collection was limited. But she’d hoarded a few potatoes until spring, and planted them. Sunflowers. Beans. Basil. Her own home-made manure, she joked. Potting mix from the apartments, odds and ends. It wasn’t much. She was starving, like everyone else. Not that she spoke to anyone else. Not in months.
A child cried on the fifteenth floor. That had been maddening. Why did he have to climb up her building to die? She would escape up to the roof and sing to herself, so she didn’t have to hear him. She didn’t have enough to share. But the crying finally dwindled and stopped last night. Tomorrow she’d climb down to look, from a cautious distance. Armed with kitchen knives. Maybe.
Today she cooked the last of the potato harvest. In a solar pizza-box oven, like the ones she taught the kids at PS 282 to make. Seventh grade science. Soon it would be too cold to cook potatoes. There wasn’t enough. There wasn’t nearly enough to make it to spring.
Maisie Mora waded at the edge of a beach near Port Jefferson, Long Island. She didn’t call herself that anymore, though. Syringe was her new name. She traded sex for food, and had for months. If she got the chance. Usually they just took the sex and gave her nothing in return.
But that one guy was too rough. She’d grabbed a dirty syringe off the ground and stabbed him in the eye with it. Of course he’d beaten her for it, and left her in an alley. Good riddance. The new gang of kids she roamed with wasn’t so bad. But she called herself Syringe to remind them not to mess with her. She wore the syringe on a string around her neck. It wasn’t really the same syringe, just another one she’d found. It made her feel tough, like her father the soldier. Not weak, like Mom, who died of Ebola and left her stranded here, on the wrong shore.
She gazed out across the Sound. Connecticut was over there, barely visible, a hazy grey line on the horizon. Bridgeport. That’s where the ferry was, to Port Jefferson. She’d taken it across the Sound once with her family. She imagined swimming across, home. Daddy would be so proud of her, swimming across the Sound! But the daydream fractured, crumpled. Daddy wouldn’t be proud of a thirteen year old whore, running with a gang. And it was 10 miles across the Sound here. Syringe couldn’t swim that far, even before, when she had enough to eat.
She used to fantasize that Daddy would come find her. Or that she’d find the ferry still running in Port Jefferson. She’d tell them what an important soldier her father was in Connecticut. They’d call him for her, and carry her across the Sound, back home.
That was a long time ago. She didn’t want to be found anymore. She just wanted to eat.
A hermit crab scuttled over her foot. She grabbed for it, slurped the life out of its tiny body. That didn’t satisfy her hunger at all. But it did inspire her. She made for the tide pools, to hunt for the periwinkles that clung to the rocks. That’s why the other kids put up with her, in the gang. They were city kids who didn’t know how to find anything to eat. But she did. Never enough, but some.
Interesting fact: The final President of the United States was the second who had never been elected.
I wonder what the Founding Fathers thought they were doing, when they first set out on the American Revolution. They couldn't have foreseen the globe-spanning American empire that would emerge from their friendly debates over a pint of beer in the colonial pubs of Boston or Philadelphia, or the parlors of Virginia. Personally, I was hoping for a romantic weekend getaway. My boyfriend Emmett and I could have used the break.
It was a rough couple weeks leading up to our summit meeting at the Coast Guard Academy in New London. I was so excited to get the invitation to present, that I convened a meeting of my hacker team the very next day to get started.
The guys – and they were all guys except for me – lounged around Dave’s industrial loft office space in the center of town. He’d done it up beautifully as a hacker haven. Whiteboards, chalkboards, and giant paper pads adorned the exposed brick walls, interspersed with a nerf-ball hoop and dart board. Power outlets and Gigabyte Internet cables abounded in the work zone. We were selective about what traveled the airwaves, preferring a hard-wired connection controlled by our firewalls. Desk space was a free choice of picnic table, breakfast counter, stand-up desk, or dual-monitor workstation.
The non-work area was larger, complete with kitchenette, ping-pong, foosball, and the meeting lounge we met in now. That was furnished with a beat-up collection of old couches, folding tray tables, and bright crocheted afghans, all grouped to face a 65-inch monitor that was probably liberated from a sports bar. We had most of the screen set to duplicate my laptop screen, leaving a wide strip along the left to show the two members attending remotely.
It was a far cry from the Fortune 100 corporate cubicle maze down in Stamford that I used to work out of, only a year before. Not all changes in the world that past year were negative. Not that I’d ever commuted down to Stamford if I could avoid it, anyway. I had a telecommuter office at home. But I’d allowed that pasteurized corporate miasma to invade my personal space via my office, so that I could better relate to the suits in Stamford. This hacker lair felt closer to my real world of granite bays, marshes, woods, orchards, and vegetable gardens. Here even Mangal, my coworker and best friend of a dozen years down in Stamford, sat in stocking feet on a floor pillow.
“Time,” Mangal announced. Not all of our corporate manager ways had worn off. Mangal and I were still sticklers for beginning a meeting on time. “Dee Baker called the meeting. What’s up, Dee?”
“Thank you, Mangal,” I began, “and thank you all for coming on such short notice.” I met each of the seven present by eye, and looked directly into the video camera for the off-site attendees. “This is big, guys. Niedermeyer has convened a summit meeting in New London in two weeks, at the Coast Guard Academy. You’ll remember Captain Niedermeyer. He’s the Power in the Coast Guard and Navy around here.
“Now the Calm Act plan says we do nothing about New York, or open any borders, until March at the earliest. But we all know that the Ebola survivors in the city can’t wait another five months for relief. They’re starving, they’re dying, they’re our neighbors.” I paused, and was glad to see that most of the gang nodded solemn agreement. Not all. Our graphic designer Will, also late of UNC in Stamford, frowned and wriggled in discomfort on the couch. Leland, our man in Canadian intelligence who attended remotely today, just pursed his lips.
I pressed on. “As I understand it, Niedermeyer’s concept is to re-unite the Northeast around the grand cause of relieving New York City. The summit meeting is to present proposals for how we can do that – and whether it’s safe.” I tossed that last bone to Will, whose wiggle quotient was building toward an interruption. Will reported to me for years at UNC. I knew all too well when he was about to erupt. He subsided into the couch with a huff.
“Now, I’ve caught two parts of this,” I pressed on. “I’m asking for help with both of them. Two people from the New Haven area have been invited to present at the summit – Emmett, and me. You know Emmett as my boyfriend.” That got a couple of chuckles. But I added an explanation for the benefit of the Amen1 hackers I didn’t know as well. “Major Emmett MacLaren is also the lead community resource coordinator – the Resco – for the greater New Haven area –”
“We’re under martial law. He’s our marshal,” Popeye interrupted with a summary. As with all of the Amen1 hacker half of the Amenac partnership, I didn’t know his real name. I barely knew Popeye at all. The full-body tribal tattoos and piercings, under black biker leathers, didn’t fit my usual social circle. He wore black wraparound sunglasses, even late at night. I found him hard to connect to.