Author’s note: Sorry about the delay. I wasn’t totally pleased with how this turned out. I’ll almost certainly do heavy revision when I finish the book and get to editing. I, however, have messed around long enough, and I can’t can’t sit around waiting for inspiration to make this the way I think I want it.
For those of you who are new: You are now reading an online serial pulp novel. If you didn’t start at the beginning, you may want to do so. Chapter 1:Â Down By The Bay
Chapter 2 â€“ Hit the Road, Jack
The day I began my journey I woke up completely disoriented. In fact, I was pretty sure that I had somehow ended up in prison.
I opened my eyes and looked around. I was surrounded by four bleak cement walls. Below me was a polished cement floor. Above me was a cement ceiling, some large conduit pipe things and some heating ducts. The only door to the room was metal, with a large pane of safety glass, with the wire mesh set into it, just like they had in the front doors of my junior high. The lights in the hallway outside that windows provided the only illumination.
I was lying on a dusty, old, short, uncomfortable roll-away bed. The kind that folds up and they wheel into your room for you when you’re traveling and too cheap to just get a second motel room.
Am I in jail?
The air in the room was stale and just added to the emptiness of it all. My teeth felt slimy, and much more so than the regular morning sliminess. Like I hadn’t brushed in a week. My skin felt like it was covered in a sticky oil, like I had been out in the sun, gotten all sweaty, and then never showered off, and then did the whole procedure again five or six times.
I pulled off the thin blanket that covered me and sat up on the flimsy bed. I was wearing tan cargo pants and a blue shirt from a set of scrubs. My clothes looked like I had been rubbing them in dirt, and had small bloodstains in various places.
And my body, oh my body. I had aches, pains, and throbbings pretty much everywhere. Both my arms had bruises and scrapes.
Seeing my clothes and injuries lifted me out of the haze of sleep.
I wasn’t in prison. I was in a military base. An underground research base just outside the city of Oasis, where I had lived up until yesterday.
The memories of violence, loneliness, and despair flooded back in. Oasis had been overrun with a horrible virus. I had been infected. I almost died, but was the first to survive an experimental cure. I had been separated from the other survivors and found my way here, to the base.
By now I was pretty sure the military had finished bombing and burning the city to the ground. Even with access to a cure, the risk of widespread infection was just too great to let it stand.
To make matters worse, yesterday I learned some very disturbing things.
Yesterday, after a couple weeks of hell, I was told that news of what really happened in Oasis had been covered up. As far as everyone else in the country was concerned, Oasis had been destroyed by a series of terrorist explosions two weeks ago.
Yesterday, after narrowly escaping with my life, I learned why. The military had shut off Oasis to prevent word about the virus from getting out.
Yesterday, after everything else that had happened, I learned the most frightening thing of all. I learned who the government really wanted to hide the virus from. I hadn’t believed it until I had seen proof. When I did see proof, a pit had hardened in my stomach until it made me want to vomit.
Yesterday, I learned that we aren’t alone in the universe. I learned that Earth had been visited many times by a group of extra-terrestrials. I learned that these extra-terrestrials were not friendly.
I shook my head. Aliens. What in the world have I gotten myself into now?
I didn’t know if the door was locked, and I didn’t really know where to go even if it was open, so I decided to just sit and think about how incredibly crappy my life was.
It’s too bad I didn’t have enough time to work up a really good self-pity-wallowing. Before three minutes had passed, the door opened and a man in military uniform burst into the room.
“Oh, good, you’re up.”
I grunted, shrugged, then nodded a greeting.
The man was a good 4 inches taller than me. He a couple of extra pounds and probably twenty years on me as well. His uniform was decorated with all manner of ribbons, medals and awards. A little tag over his left breast read “Major Jamal Glover.” Under his left arm he carried two portfolios. In his right hand he had a small duffel bag. He must have pushed the door handle with an elbow. His uniform was a little wrinkled. He had dark circles and a hint of puffiness under his eyes. All in all, he didn’t look like he had slept at all during the previous night.
He tossed the duffel and one of the portfolios on the bed next to me. “How did you sleep?”
“Better than I have any right to, I suppose.”
“Grab that folder and that bag. We don’t have much time. We need to walk and talk.”
I stifled a yawn and grabbed the stuff.
He turned toward the door. “Let’s go.”
Before I knew it, he was out of there. I scrambled off the bed and out the door to see which way he had gone. A few half-jogging steps later, I caught up.
“The portfolio has the favor I want from you. There is a letter in there that is to be delivered to Alan Jex.”
Alan Jex? It took a moment for my brain to dredge up where I had heard the name before. “The radio host? The conspiracy guy?”
“Yes. And I’d like same-day delivery, but that’s probably impossible. I’ll settle for as fast as you can get down there. There’s not much time.”
“How as I supposed to get there? And where exactly is there?”
“He broadcasts from the KNRT building in San Antonio, Texas. You ever been there?”
“Well, I was raised just outside of San Antonio, so I’ve been there, but-”
“Good. Turn here.”
We veered down a side hall.
Without a guide, I could have wondered lost in the cement hallways forever. They all looked the same.
Major Glover pointed up ahead. “In there. Take a quick shower, then I’ll answer your other questions. There’s a change of clothes in that bag.”
Sure enough, it was a locker room, complete with a stack of fresh towels. The shower was warm and fantastic.
The bag had a dark blue jogging suit, a pair of boxers, a pair of white socks, a new pair of running shoes, and a thick white envelope.
The shoes fit right, but everything else was a little loose. I jammed my dirty clothes in the bag and put the envelope on top.
The whole shower and change couldn’t have been more than six minutes, but by the time I came out into the hallway, the Major was leaning against a wall with his eyes closed.
His eyes flitted open and his sucked in a breath through his nostrils.
Yep, he was asleep.
He glanced down at his watch and grunted. “No time.”
He set off down the hall again.
I was finally awake enough to stay caught up. “Why do you trust me with this?”
“I don’t. Corbin, here’s the deal. I don’t have a lot of options, and you just happen to be the best bet. Several of the other survivors spoke well of you. And things have gotten much worse overnight. For this base, I mean. Washington is… Well, you know about the viral weapon we developed here.”
I had been through two weeks of hell in the thick of things as it had ripped the city of Oasis apart. “All too well.”
“Well, it’s already been destroyed. Every sample we had. Washington is afraid of the extra terrestrials. They’re afraid it might get out that we killed one with the virus. They’re afraid to tell the public what we know about them. The people have to know. No question in my mind. They have to know. Washington won’t do anything unless people know.”
It struck me that the Major was committing treason by telling me all this. I wondered what could possibly be in the portfolio that was worth taking this kind of risk?
Major Glover continued. “Alan isn’t the most respected media personality out there, but he has contacts, he does have an audience, and he will listen to what I’ve written in that portfolio.”
We walked on for a minute or two. I had a million questions, but nothing I could seem to vocalize.
The Major pointed at a large double door. “That’s it.”
“There’s an underground tram that runs every hour to Safford. When you get there, wander around the parking structure until you find a brown Jeep Wrangler. Keys are in the ash tray. I put as much cash as I could get my hands on without raising any eyebrows in the envelope in that bag. You have to do this.”
My head still wasn’t sure this was even a good idea, but I heard the words “I will” exit my mouth anyway.
“Oh, and Corbin?”
“One more thing. I did some digging after what you told me yesterday.”
He reached into a pocket and pulled out a folded piece of paper. “If you need something to do after you make the delivery, here’s an idea. Now hit the road, I’ve got another meeting.”
He set off down the hallway and in a blink was gone.
I’d better get moving.
Keep Reading! Chapter 3 is here.