Ship of the Dead (An Omega Days Novel)

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9780425272640: Ship of the Dead (An Omega Days Novel)

“Readers who enjoyed The Strain Trilogy, by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, will find plenty to satisfy them here.”—San Francisco Book Review on Omega Days
In the weeks following the Omega Virus outbreak, survivors form desperate clusters, uniting to defend against hordes of the walking dead. But they can only hide for so long...

Father Xavier Church never wanted to be a leader. Nonetheless, he’s grown attached to his fellow survivors, and he won’t let anyone cause them harm—though he may be the one who inadvertently leads them to destruction...
Ex-con Bill Carnes may crave freedom, but he still prefers sticking with the group rather than fleeing to Mexico with his former cellmate TC. Maybe he’s changing. Or maybe the look in TC’s eyes is more dangerous than the undead...
EMT Rosa Escobedo gave up on hope after she watched the man she loved rise from the dead. But when a patient seems to start getting better, she can’t help but hope for a cure, even if it means risking her life...
As the numbers of the dead swell, the living are running out of safe havens—especially when the biggest threats lie within their own ranks.

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About the Author:

John L. Campbell, author of Omega Days, was born in Chicago and attended college in North Carolina and New York. His short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies, literary magazines, and e-zines, as well as in two of the author’s own collections. He lives with his family in the New York area, where he is at work on his next novel.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

A GATHERING OF SOULS

ONE

Rosa Escobedo should have stayed with her partner, should have been there to protect her mother. She should have tried harder to report to her unit. She did none of that and instead ran to save her own life. It hung on her as heavy as a cross, one she had carried since that terrible day.

That was the night Jimmy Albright punched the siren, blasting a high-pitched WHOOP-WAAH as he hauled the ambulance left, then snapped it hard right again, neatly cutting around a BMW that hadn’t bothered to pull over for the flashing lights. The rig sped after a pair of San Francisco Police Department Crown Vics, slashing through traffic on the Embarcadero.

“All I’m saying is something’s gotta give, Rosie.” He was smoking in the rig, a supreme violation for Emergency Medical Service crews, the butt clenched between his teeth as he maneuvered the heavy vehicle like a sports car. His red hair was closely trimmed, and he was tall and rangy, thin but with ropy, muscled arms. “You’re gonna burn yourself out.”

The two cruisers split right and left around an Alhambra water truck, and Jimmy came up on its flat back end with sirens blaring, puffing cigarette smoke out the corner of his mouth before he cut right. He cleared the truck’s bumper by six inches at forty-five miles per hour. In the seat beside him, Jimmy’s partner didn’t flinch. After three years together, Rosa was immune to his driving.

“I got it under control,” Rosa said. She was twenty-five, dark-haired and attractive, something noticed by every cop, medic, and fireman she encountered. Most of them asked her out. “If it gets to be too much, I’ll quit something.”

“Yeah, sure.” He stomped the brakes and flung the ambulance down an exit ramp.

Even in mid-August the evening was pleasant enough to let the open windows cool the cab, and Rosa cocked her right arm outside and watched as the city flashed by. “You just want me to quit dancing.” She didn’t look at him.

The rig’s tires squealed as he yanked it left, passing under the highway and chasing the two cruisers through the twilight streets. “We’re not going to have one of those conversations, are we?” he asked. “Because that’s not where I was going.”

She shot him a look. “That’s exactly where this is going.”

Jimmy flicked the butt out the window and made a disgusted noise, the kind people make when they are yet again starting down a much-traveled and worn-out path. “If you’re asking me if I want you to stop stripping for strange men—”

“Dancing!” Beneath the pressed white uniform shirt and dark blue cargo pants was a dancer’s body, firm and full-figured, without the silicone enhancements employed by most of the girls at her part-time job. Jimmy knew what was under that uniform, although that was over now, which made this topic even more difficult.

“Uh-huh, dancing around a pole and taking your clothes off. You want me to lie? No, I don’t like it.”

“See? I told you.” She flashed a triumphant smile and shook a finger at him. “I told you.”

“But . . .” He braked, slowing as he went through an intersection against the light. “I know you won’t quit because you make too much money at it, and med school is going to be expensive.”

“That’s right!” Rosa’s face was burning. She didn’t like talking to Jimmy about that part of her life. He was too close, both on the job and given their brief but pleasant time together, a relationship they had mutually agreed to end because it was making them distracted at work. And yet he was the only one with whom she could talk. It would kill her mother to find out, and her sister out in Sacramento could barely focus on a conversation with five kids constantly howling for her attention. Rosa didn’t have a boyfriend; she had no time for one. Secretly, she doubted that a decent guy—other than Jimmy—would have a stripper as a girlfriend. Dancer, she corrected herself.

“That’s right!” Jimmy shouted back, grinning and punching her arm across the cab of the rig, nearly sideswiping a parked car.

Rosa laughed and punched him back. “You can be so stupid.”

“I know. That’s why I’m dragging my white-trash ass around in this rig. You, however, are not stupid, and you don’t need this job. This is what you should quit.”

The cab fell silent as Rosa stared at him, and Jimmy followed the cruisers into a neighborhood of four- and five-story buildings with ground-floor shops and apartments above. In the distance, still blocks away, red lights of the San Francisco Fire Department were sparkling. It was a non-fire call with injuries, their dispatcher had told them.

“Jimmy . . .” Her voice was softer.

“I’m serious. Look at yourself, Rosie. You cranked out a bachelor’s degree with pre-med in record time, you’re about to start med school, and you’ve told me a hundred times what the workload will be like. On top of it you’ve got a Navy Reserve commitment. And dancing to pay for it all? You don’t have time to be out here with me.”

She frowned. This certainly wasn’t what she had been expecting. “I get practical experience out here. It keeps me sharp.”

Jimmy scowled. “That’s a bullshit answer. You should have your nose in a book, Doc. You shouldn’t be out here scraping bodies off the street, dealing with gunshot wounds, ODs, and abused kids. Up to your ass in human filth,” he finished in a mutter.

She couldn’t remember hearing him like this, so passionate and bordering on anger. For a moment her heart acted like it might do a little flip, and then settled. “I like being out here with you.”

“Yeah? Maybe you are stupid after all.”

They were in the Rincon Hill section, just off Folsom. The rig rolled to a stop behind a squad car just as the officers were sprinting toward a commotion at the front of a building. To the EMS attendants it looked like a crowd of firemen were fighting with a mob of civilians in the street, the white glare of a fire truck’s spotlight making a confusion of shadows dance on a brick wall.

“Hold on,” Jimmy said, clamping his right hand on Rosa’s leg just as she was about to jump out. They watched, stunned, as a civilian grabbed a fireman by the head and bit off one of his ears. Someone screamed, and another fireman hurled himself into the fight, swinging an axe. Cops drew their weapons and fired, making three red circles appear in the chest and belly of a fat man in a bloody wife-beater. He didn’t flinch, lumbered right at them and tackled a cop, pinning him with his weight. He bit the cop’s ear off before going for the face. The fireman with the axe split a man’s head open down the middle. The downed cop’s partner executed the fat man with a pistol to the ear, then rolled his bulk to the side, screaming “Medic!”

Rosa was out the right door and running to the back. Jimmy met her there and they opened the double doors together, grabbing their bright orange kits. Jimmy suddenly pinned her to one of the doors and moved close, startling her. “You be careful.”

She pulled away from him impatiently. “Let’s go,” and then she ran to where one cop was crouched over his fallen partner, holding the man’s head and pressing a hand to where an ear had once been. He was cursing steadily, glancing between his groaning partner and over to where the fireman with the axe, screaming like a mad Viking, had just put down another civilian. Two more people, both Asian women, were clamped to the fireman’s legs, chewing into his knees and thighs. No other cops were in sight, despite the second patrol car.

Rosa pulled on heavy purple latex gloves with a snapping noise and dropped beside the two cops, opening her kit. “I got him,” she said, pressing a thick gauze pad against the side of the man’s head and shouldering his partner out of the way. That cop stared at her for a moment, blinked, and started walking toward the raging fireman, raising his service weapon.

Jimmy Albright saw the gun coming up and cut left away from it, running toward the stoop of an adjacent building, where another fireman was curled into a fetal position, blood soaking the concrete around him. “I’m coming, buddy.” He dropped his kit and knelt, pulling on his gloves.

Rosa’s cop was struggling to sit up, gritting his teeth. “Fucking guy bit my fucking ear off. Marco! Where the fuck did you go?”

Marco continued to walk slowly toward the axe-wielding fireman and shot one of the Asian women on his leg through the head at point-blank range. The snarling body collapsed, but the bullet blasted through the skull and shattered the fireman’s knee. With a scream the fireman spun and swung the axe, cutting halfway through the cop’s neck, making the head flop to one side. As the cop sagged to his knees, the fireman took the head all the way off with a second blow, screaming something unintelligible. The ruined knee collapsed beneath him on the second swing, and the other woman clawed up his body until she was able to bite out his throat.

“Marco!” cried the downed cop, still trying to see as Rosa pushed him back to the pavement.

“He’s doing his job,” she said, hearing sirens and the beat of a helicopter in the distance. “How we doing, Jimmy?”

No reply.

She looked up and saw Jimmy on his back, eyes wide and sightless as a bloody fireman crouched over him, pulling red insides out of the medic’s body and cramming them into his mouth.

“Jimmy!” She bolted to her feet and ran toward them. The fireman looked up from feeding with glassy yellow eyes and growled. Jimmy’s body twitched. Rosa screamed his name again and ran back to the cop, ripping the nine-millimeter from his holster as he shouted a protest. She quickly checked the chamber and flicked off the safety, more than familiar with the weapon after a full tour in Iraq as a Navy corpsman assigned to combat Marines. Rosa walked to the thing eating her friend. “Fucker,” she whispered, and shot it in the forehead.

Her partner twitched again, and she let out a cry of relief, dropping to her knees beside him. “I’m here, Jimmy.” She started to cry. “I’m right here, baby.”

An off-key chorus of moans came from her right, and Rosa turned to see the axe-wielding fireman hobbling toward her on a shattered knee, his throat a raw, red void with flaps of esophagus hanging out of it. The Asian woman who had killed him lurched a step behind, and then more shapes, firemen and civilians and one of the cops from the empty cruiser they had seen when they arrived—all of them torn apart—shuffled out from behind a nearby Dumpster and one of the big red-and-chrome trucks. Her attention, however, was drawn to the decapitated cop’s head, lying on one ear and looking at her with filmy eyes. Its jaw worked silently, snapping at nothing.

Rosa turned and ran.

The cop Rosa had treated propped himself up on his elbows and saw what was coming. “Holy Christ!” He clawed for the hideout pistol strapped to his ankle and fired four times, hitting and missing, but stopping nothing, and then scrambled to his feet and ran into the deepening gloom.

Rosa jumped into the ambulance without bothering to shut any of the doors, watching the cop run away. She thought of how the Marines she had served with never left anyone behind, how they had ingrained that philosophy into their corpsmen, the Navy medics they all called “Doc.” But that was war, and this was some hellish nightmare, a drug addict’s dark fantasy.

And yet Jimmy had moved.

No, he couldn’t be alive after what she had seen. None of them could.

A moment later a bloody palm slapped against the windshield and she screamed. Rosa wedged the cop’s pistol between her thigh and the seat, threw the ambulance into a rocking, three-point turn, and seconds later was roaring away from the scene. She began whispering a Hail Mary as tears ran down her face.

·   ·   ·

A police helicopter—one of the few remaining since San Francisco decommissioned all but a few of its fleet years earlier—hovered slowly up Main Street. It paused to put a spotlight on the ambulance parked at a curb with its emergency lights flashing and rear doors hanging open. The beat of the downdraft whipped the trees along the nearby sidewalk, blowing leaves off limbs, and then the chopper moved on.

Rosa was in the driver’s seat, knees pulled up to her chest and arms wrapped tightly about them, rocking and crying. Jimmy was dead. She had left him there, and he was dead. She had run away. Her sobs filled the cab where there had once been two voices as she pressed her face against her knees, body shaking. Headlights slid by, but no one stopped.

Only a few blocks away from the slaughter, she stayed there for fifteen minutes, until her tears stopped and her hands quit shaking. She called her mother’s house, but there was no answer. She got out, closed the rear doors, and returned to the driver’s seat.

The radio was going mad. Calls to 911 and chattering code filled the airwaves, excited voices calling for more units, for Life Flight, for police and fire. Gunfire sounded in the background of some of the calls. And screams. The dispatcher called for Jimmy and Rosa’s unit, eager to send them on another call. Rosa ignored the radio.

Main was a one-way street, and she took it up across Mission, leaving the emergency lights on and banging the siren built into the rig’s horn to clear traffic. Around her, all appeared normal, people out at night unaware of the madness she had left behind. At the intersection of Market, however, she came to a full stop. SFPD was setting up yellow sawhorses, their cars crowding the street, all of their attention focused on the wide, brightly lit entrance to the Embarcadero BART station. Every officer seemed to be carrying a shotgun. One of them saw her at the corner and waved her in.

Rosa had no intention of getting involved in whatever this was, so she eased forward slowly, maneuvering around a sawhorse, aiming for the street on the far side of the intersection. She was a third of the way across when bodies spilled out of the BART station entrance, hundreds of them, mostly dressed in business attire that had once been pressed and sharp but was now bloody and torn. They staggered and lurched, pressing forward even though most had great chunks of flesh torn from their bodies, others with limbs twisted at painful angles or missing altogether.

A pair of tear gas canisters was fired into their midst. The crowd pushed through, more flowing out of the station behind them. A bullhorn command was given, and Rosa jumped as a volley of shotgun and pistol fire exploded into the crowd.

They didn’t slow.

More firing, and then the crowd was spreading out, tipping over barricades and pawing their way down the sides of police cars, cops falling back as the torn and bloodied commuters slammed into them like a wall, moaning and clutching and biting. Rosa stomped the accelerator and shot across the intersection. A young woman in what had once been a smart gray business suit—now with half her face torn away and her lower jaw missing—stumbled in front of the rig as Rosa hit the gas. She bounced off the grille with a thump and went fly...

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Descrizione libro Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2014. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Readers who enjoyed The Strain Trilogy, by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, will find plenty to satisfy them here. San Francisco Book Review on Omega DaysIn the weeks following the Omega Virus outbreak, survivors form desperate clusters, uniting to defend against hordes of the walking dead. But they can only hide for so long Father Xavier Church never wanted to be a leader. Nonetheless, he s grown attached to his fellow survivors, and he won t let anyone cause them harm though he may be the one who inadvertently leads them to destruction Ex-con Bill Carnes may crave freedom, but he still prefers sticking with the group rather than fleeing to Mexico with his former cellmate TC. Maybe he s changing. Or maybe the look in TC s eyes is more dangerous than the undead EMT Rosa Escobedo gave up on hope after she watched the man she loved rise from the dead. But when a patient seems to start getting better, she can t help but hope for a cure, even if it means risking her life As the numbers of the dead swell, the living are running out of safe havens especially when the biggest threats lie within their own ranks. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780425272640

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Descrizione libro Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2014. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Readers who enjoyed The Strain Trilogy, by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, will find plenty to satisfy them here. San Francisco Book Review on Omega DaysIn the weeks following the Omega Virus outbreak, survivors form desperate clusters, uniting to defend against hordes of the walking dead. But they can only hide for so long Father Xavier Church never wanted to be a leader. Nonetheless, he s grown attached to his fellow survivors, and he won t let anyone cause them harm though he may be the one who inadvertently leads them to destruction Ex-con Bill Carnes may crave freedom, but he still prefers sticking with the group rather than fleeing to Mexico with his former cellmate TC. Maybe he s changing. Or maybe the look in TC s eyes is more dangerous than the undead EMT Rosa Escobedo gave up on hope after she watched the man she loved rise from the dead. But when a patient seems to start getting better, she can t help but hope for a cure, even if it means risking her life As the numbers of the dead swell, the living are running out of safe havens especially when the biggest threats lie within their own ranks. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780425272640

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Descrizione libro Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2014. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. Readers who enjoyed The Strain Trilogy, by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, will find plenty to satisfy them here. San Francisco Book Review on Omega DaysIn the weeks following the Omega Virus outbreak, survivors form desperate clusters, uniting to defend against hordes of the walking dead. But they can only hide for so long Father Xavier Church never wanted to be a leader. Nonetheless, he s grown attached to his fellow survivors, and he won t let anyone cause them harm though he may be the one who inadvertently leads them to destruction Ex-con Bill Carnes may crave freedom, but he still prefers sticking with the group rather than fleeing to Mexico with his former cellmate TC. Maybe he s changing. Or maybe the look in TC s eyes is more dangerous than the undead EMT Rosa Escobedo gave up on hope after she watched the man she loved rise from the dead. But when a patient seems to start getting better, she can t help but hope for a cure, even if it means risking her life As the numbers of the dead swell, the living are running out of safe havens especially when the biggest threats lie within their own ranks. Codice libro della libreria BTE9780425272640

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