River Of Night – Snippet 07
“Who says!” demanded the schoolteacher. “What kind of dictatorship is this, I have rights!”
“In order of your questions…” began Tom, “they say so.”
He gestured to the little group of Bank of the America’s staff.
Durante nodded and Kaplan smiled toothily. Risky and Copley flanked them, grim faced. All were fully armed.
“Hey, I do say so too,” offered Astroga, looking up from her ever present green notebook. “What he said.”
“And no, you don’t have any rights.” Tom said, continuing with surprising gentleness. “None of us do. There are no cops. There aren’t any courts. Civil rights, enforced by courts and policed by law enforcement, simply don’t exist, at least for now. But, we can be responsible to each other. Or not.”
He answered Bua forthrightly. “Do you want to leave?”
“I want to get out of here, yeah,” Dina said, sniffing. “But doing anything alone is suicide and you know that.”
“And that’s the point,” replied Tom, sighing. He looked around the rest of the room. The kids were clustered around Emily while Dina had segregated herself in a corner. “We’ve survived thus far by exercising discretion and patience. We aren’t going to overcome our next set of problems using just superior firepower.”
“Ha,” Fat Ralph snorted. The youngest of the remaining Cosa Nova gangsters had been trying to fit in, but he whether he was an asset or a liability remained a question. “There is no overkill, theres-“
“Yeah, yeah, we know the quote, Ralph,” Durante said. “It comes from a comic strip. If that’s where you get your tactical doctrine it explains why there’s only two of you guys left.”
Durante was the second of Tom’s special hires, and his military resume was even more redacted than Kaplan’s. Before the Fall, he’d been part of the original Biological Emergency Response Team, or BERT, that Bank of the America’s had fielded under Tom’s leadership. Locating and capturing the infected that they needed had become routine. The actual “harvest” – extracting the still warm spinal tissue needed for manufacturing the attenuated live-virus vaccine production – hadn’t.
But Tom, Kaplan and Durante had persisted, and trained others, like the NYPD.
And Ralph’s old boss, the former head of the Cosa Nova organization.
Ralph subsided. His surviving friend, Vinnie Mouse Sacks, laughed quietly. Sacks, as he was previously known, never passed up a chance to stick it to someone else, perhaps because he had not yet escaped the insulting nickname that his old boss had stuck to him. Both men had mostly recovered from the gunshot wounds they had suffered during the fighting in the City.
“Moving on… the plan broadly is this,” Tom resumed smoothly, and tapped a map of the southeastern U.S. “Our goal is to reach Bank of the America’s Site Blue. It lies in Tennessee, 400 miles west of our current location. Site Blue should have a large number of bank survivors. It’ll have much more room, it’s defensible and there should be some communications equipment. There should also be people that we can trust already there. Halfway there we’ll try to stop at a place where I hope some of my friends are holed up, basically another SAFE, sort of like this one. I certainly don’t intend to walk, so we are taking the two Suburbans that were cached here and will keep our eyes out for another vehicle.”
He paused and used one finger to trace the route west.
“There are highways nearly the entire way, but…” he tapped the closet medium sized city, Petersburg, and then a few others that lay westwards, “…they’re close to population centers so we shouldn’t expect that they will be passable.”
He scanned his audience, reading hope in some faces, fear in others. “His” team kept their game faces on.
“Questions so far?” Tom offered.
“Is next SAFE also for Bank of the Americas?” Risky asked.
“No, its a private connection, a sort of personal real estate investment from before.” Tom said.
“I’ve got one,” Emily said, tentatively raising her hand. “Can we vaccinate the kids?”
“That’s a question, alright,” Tom replied with pursed lips “As some of you know, and the rest guessed, we have vaccine. What we don’t have is a doctor who can evaluate if younger kids can tolerate the kind of vaccine which we’ve got. It isn’t recommended for children because the vaccine contains attenuated live virus. It made my thirteen-year-old niece very ill, and she’s about the same age as the kids with us. Also, we’ve been keeping the case cold using the vehicle batteries, but I don’t know how long the vaccine will be good for. A competent doctor could tell us â€“ and that is another reason to get to Site Blue.”
“I got another, Boss,” Durante said. “Day or night?”
“What Gravy means is whether we travel in the daytime or the nighttime.” Tom nodded at Durante. “The answer is that we can do either, but there are pros and cons. Zombies and uninfected humans rely primarily on their vision. Night vision isn’t magic, and performance of the goggles varies. You can still only see so far. The further we can see, the more advance warning we have about a potential danger then the more time we’ll have to decide when to push and when to run. And at night, any uninfected adversary will have an advantage, since we’ll be moving into their space. At night we have less warning. Our natural advantages is that we’re still thinkers and problem solvers while the infected aren’t. I intend to use that. Thus we’ll move during the day. We’ve got a few sets of night vision devices but batteries and spare parts are a question so we save them for emergencies.”
“When do we leave?” piped up Risky.
“Day after tomorrow,” Tom replied easily. “so start packing your personal gear, but pack light. Kaplan, you’re on comms and navigation. Copley, food and water. Gravy, you’re on weapons. Bring everything we have ammo for, including Mk19 that we dragged here from New York.”
“You sure, boss?” Durante replied, dubiously. “We’ve got almost no ammo for that pig, it takes forever to deploy and it’s going to take up a lot of room just by itself”
“Thus, packing light,” Tom said. “Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.”
“Hey, boss!” Astroga nearly yelled, waving her hand in the air. “Really important question!”
“Oh?” Tom answered cautiously. “Go ahead.”
“Road trips require music,” she said. “What are the rules?”
“Oooh, music!” Katrin said enthusiastically, and started singing. “Party rock is in the house tonight! Everybody just have a good time!”
“Every day I’m shufflin’,” chorused the other two middleschoolers, before standing and pumping their arms and skidding their feet on the carpet.
Astroga whipped her notebook about.
“Wait, what?” Copley inquired, looking back to Astroga. “No. Just no.”
And the meeting ended on a higher note than Tom had expected.
“Good evening everyone,” Joanna politely opened the meeting. “This is the second monthly anniversary of our safe exit from New York. On a terrible, terrible day, when so much went wrong, many sacrificed everything in order to evacuate as many others as possible. I propose a minute of silence to commemorate the fallen.”
She bowed her head and murmurs sounded around the table as everyone else copied her example.
Joanna had carefully positioned herself in the ad hoc council from the outset, persuasively offering her experience in disaster management and recovery efforts. She’d actively pitched in at the start, but slowly withdrawn from the most demanding physical work, instead organizing the camp with the handful of other informal leaders. Camp meetings had been over attended at the start, but as the weeks passed, most staff had fallen away, tired or depressed. At this point, only a handful of bank staff still attended, and most of them were not Smith’s people. All of Joanna’s staff, both the old and the new, as well as some hangers-on were present.