Authors: Paul Anthony Jones
Also by PAUL ANTONY JONES:
Extinction Point: Exodus
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Text copyright © 2014 Paul Antony Jones
All rights reserved.
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 publisher.
Published by 47North, Seattle
Cover illustrated by Liam Peters
Library of Congress Control Number: 2013916756
Emily Baxter stood at the frost-encrusted window and stared out at a distant horizon beyond the Stockton Islands rimed with thick, red clouds. The storm she and Rhiannon had fought so very hard to outrun had seemed, for a short while at least, to be intent on sweeping after the two women, following them to the safety they had fought so hard to reach. But the threatening clouds had slowed their steady march across the sky and finally stopped, far enough away from their island sanctuary that Emily felt able to relax, just a little; far enough away to begin to hope.
The same could not be said about her feelings toward the man who had convinced her to make the trip to this tiny group of frozen islands off the northern coast of Alaska; the storm roiling through Emily’s blood was still a
way from subsiding. The deception that had led her on a trek thousands of miles to this place, that had cost lives, yet unquestionably saved her own and Rhiannon’s, had dug itself deep into her mind and lodged there. Jacob Endersby, the man who had seemed to be her guardian angel as he helped to lead her across two countries under the guise of trying to save her from the horrible product of the red rain, had been a lie. Emily, Rhiannon, and Thor had reached the Stocktons exhausted, haunted, but thankful, only to find Jacob’s motivation had not been as pure as he had led her to believe. Jacob was wheelchair-bound and trapped here in this icy prison, and Emily had been his only chance of surviving or ever getting off this rock.
There was no denying that Jacob had been correct in his assumptions about the alien invaders’ intentions or their aversion to the colder climate of the north. But he had failed to mention that he was trapped in this place and had outright lied to her that he was a part of a group of survivors rather than the reality that it was just him, alone here and doomed to a slow death by starvation once his supplies ran out.
Jacob had pled his case to her, telling her that he had not thought she would believe him if he told her he was alone, that there was no ulterior motive other than to bring her to safety, but Emily remained unconvinced. And when she thought back to what she had endured…what she had
and, God forgive her, what she had been forced to do during that terrible journey, it was all she could do not to leave him here.
And go where?
Where was there
than here? The storm had consumed everything within sight and now lurked at their doorstep like a hungry wolf.
But there was also no doubt in her mind that if she had not believed him she would have stayed in Manhattan and, most likely, died there.
And then there were Thor and Rhiannon; beautiful, confused, sad little Rhiannon. The child had been forced to grow up so very fast after first the death of her father and then the terrible loss of her little brother, Ben. Benjamin! His was a memory she would keep locked and unvisited for the rest of her life if she could.
Her head felt like it was full of tightly wound string that could unravel at any moment. But those emotions had to be set aside for now, there were more pressing concerns for her to worry about.
Not long after Emily and her companions had arrived at the research station, they had received a garbled radio signal, not from the International Space Station circling the Earth and Fiona Mulligan, its ever-watchful, but doomed commander. This new message had been from a British submarine, the
At the sound of the static-broken radio signal, Emily and Jacob had momentarily forgotten their differences and rushed to the radio room. But the garbled signal had not repeated. And now, almost four hours after the first message had been received, there had been no further contact with the sub.
As the minutes slipped into hours, Jacob had finally said he had chores to do and left (due more to the angry stare Emily would give him every time he opened his mouth, than any real tasks, Emily thought). And as time wore on first Thor then Rhiannon had fallen asleep. The girl was slumped in a chair in the corner of the room, Thor on his side at her feet. But Emily remained awake, periodically pressing the talk button on the tabletop microphone attached to the large radio transmitter.
“This is Emily Baxter calling the
. I’m here with three other survivors at the research station on the Stockton Islands. If you can hear me please respond.” She spoke the words robotically now, the initial tone of excitement her voice had carried had moved to anticipation only to be replaced by one of desperation.
Thor gave a long, luxurious stretch of all four legs, arched his back, yawned, and looked up at Emily.
“Glad you’re able to relax,” Emily said to the dog, which immediately set his tail sweeping back and forth across the floor.
She rose from her seat at the radio and started over to where a slumbering Rhiannon was snoring gently. She was about to shake the girl awake when a crackle of static snapped her attention back to the radio. Emily rushed back to the desk, grabbed the mike in both hands, and thumbed the talk button. “Hello? This is Emily Baxter calling
. Are you there?”
Another burst of static hissed from the speaker and then, as if he was standing in the room with her, a rich male voice burst from the speakers.
“Ms. Baxter, this is Captain Edward Constantine. I’m very glad to make your acquaintance. I hate to be—” The captain’s speech was suddenly broken by a wracking cough. The radio went silent for a moment then his voice once again filled the room. “My apologies. My crew has an emergency on our hands and we badly need your assistance. Are you the person in command there?”
Emily hesitated for a moment before answering. “Yes,” she stated firmly, “I’m the one you need to speak to.”
had been laid up at the Canadian Forces Base Halifax in Nova Scotia for resupply and some well-earned R & R for the crew the day the red rain had swept across the globe.
“Most of my crew were ashore on leave when we got an order from the Admiralty to put back to sea immediately as soon as I had enough crew to operate the boat,” the captain explained. “Only a handful managed to make it back in time. I cut it as close as I could, but we had only minutes, and orders are orders. The hardest thing I’ve ever done was leave my people behind. God help me. Thirty-seven of us. That’s all I managed to save, before we put to sea. Thirty-seven out of a crew of one hundred and eighty men.”
Even over the low-fidelity radio, Emily could hear the pain of regret in the captain’s voice. She wondered if she had that same tone in her own voice when she spoke.
and her crew had remained submerged, running radio silent, since that day, listening in disbelief as the world had died around them. Captain Constantine explained that the nuclear submarine could have stayed submerged for months if it had needed to, but two days ago a fire had broken out in the crew quarters. It had spread quickly, filling the ship with choking smoke. By the time the fire was out, four more of the crew were dead and another three had suffered serious injuries. Almost everyone else had suffered some kind of burn or smoke inhalation. The fire had damaged the sub’s medical bay, and with the storm swirling above the waves, they had begun to look for somewhere, anywhere, that they could put ashore to tend to the wounded and bury their dead. That was when they had picked up on the radio conversation between Emily and Jacob.
“With your permission, Emily, we’d like to use your station facilities, if you have the room for us?”
“Of course,” Emily said without hesitation. “Do you know our location?”
“We have your coordinates on our charts. You can expect us within the next two hours. I’ll sound the boat’s horn when we put ashore, so you’ll know to expect us. And Emily, thank you. Over and out.”
“Over and out,” Emily repeated awkwardly, trying but failing not to smile at how odd the words felt.
Emily turned from the radio. Jacob was sitting stone-faced in his wheelchair at the doorway. “You don’t think it would have been a good idea to ask me if they could come here, before you invited them?” he asked.
“No,” said Emily, flatly. “No, I did not.”
“Jesus, Emily. Did you stop to think about how their presence is going to impact us? We only have so much fuel and supplies to last. I really can’t allow you to—”
Emily felt her blood rush to her head as she took a step toward Jacob, her hands bunched into tight fists at her hips. “
are not in a position to
to do anything,” she spat. “You dragged us here for whatever reasons you had, and while I’m still not entirely clear how I feel about that, while we
here you will have no influence over my or Rhiannon’s life. Am
Jacob held her gaze for a moment, his own face flushing red from either anger or embarrassment, then he swiveled his chair and stalked off in the direction of his room saying nothing.
The argument had woken Rhiannon and she stared up from her chair at a red-faced Emily.
“Come on,” she told the girl, “I need your help.”
“What? What for?”
“We’re expecting visitors. We need to make sure we are ready for them.”
“I’ll explain later, just grab your coat and follow me.”
With a huge sigh Rhiannon pulled herself up off the seat. “That was comfy,” she said as though she had just been asked to give up her bed for the night.
“There will be plenty of time for sleeping later; right now you need to get your butt into gear and follow me.”
Emily tracked Jacob down in his bedroom.
“The other buildings,” she asked, “are they heated? Capable of holding the injured?”
“Yes,” Jacob said, the sullen tone in his voice making it obvious he was cooperating under duress. “Each building has its own generator. You’ll need to fire it up though. I’ve had them all turned off since…well, you know, since everyone left. The generator is in the small outbuilding adjacent to each of the living quarters. There should be more than enough fuel to power them for the next day or so.”
“Okay, I’ll find it.”
“But Emily, I’d suggest you leave one building turned off.”
Emily looked at him questioningly, expecting another attempt to re-exert control.
Jacob glanced sideways at Rhiannon, sighed, and spoke. “For the morgue, they’ll need somewhere to put the bodies.”
“Bodies?” Rhiannon asked. “What bodies?”
Emily found the generator where Jacob had said it would be and fired it up. Seconds later she heard the whine and rumble of the big industrial-strength heaters on the roof sparking into life, circulating the cold air out and replacing it with warm.
The inside of the second building was still above freezing thanks to the layers of thick insulation squeezed into the wall spaces, but only just. Within a quarter of an hour, though, the air was warm enough for Emily and Rhiannon to drop the hoods from their parkas. Ten minutes later the coats were off and draped over the back of a chair.
The two girls did a quick walk-through, moving from room to room. This building’s layout was similar to the one Jacob had claimed as his own, but it had a larger meeting area with four smaller office areas leading off of it. There were also several other rooms that served as sleeping quarters, the beds nothing more than hard-looking mattresses on a metal frame.