Authors: Dayna Lorentz
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Survival Stories, #Health & Daily Living, #Diseases; Illnesses & Injuries, #Social Issues, #General
An imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
PUBLISHED BY THE PENGUIN GROUP■ Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA
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Copyright © 2013 by Dayna Lorentz
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
No easy way out: a No safety in numbers book/by Dayna Lorentz.
pages cm Sequel to: No safety in numbers.
Summary: “Teens Marco, Shay, Ryan, and Lexi form new allies in the quarantined mall-as the bodies pile up, the disease mutates, the Senator’s authority is questioned, and it becomes clear there’s no one to trust”—Provided by publisher.
[1. Interpersonal relations—Fiction. 2. Survival—Fiction. 3. Quarantine—Fiction. 4. Biological warfare—Fiction. 5. Shopping malls—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.L8814Nk 2013 [Fic]—dc23 2012032618
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
October 21, 20—
SHOPS AT STONECLIFF MALL
LOCKED DOWN BY NATIONAL GUARD
Yesterday evening, the National Guard ordered that the Shops at Stonecliff mall be quarantined until further notice. After a week of near radio silence from government officials on the situation within the mall, it was revealed yesterday in the early afternoon that a flu virus had been released into the air vents of the mall and that all people inside have been deemed exposed to the contagion. While the Centers for Disease Control have promised more specific information on the type of virus, they have yet to release any reports. They have also declined to provide information on the situation inside the mall or the conditions of the people quarantined except to say that the situation is secure, that a qualified individual has been appointed to manage the population in the mall, and that the people inside have been provided with all the resources they will require for the duration of the quarantine.
sources, however, claim that the situation in the mall is anything but secure. One local resident has been using a high-powered telescopic lens to observe the mall and he reported seeing crowds rushing past the windows of the food court’s atrium after the announcement yesterday. He also claimed that the government evacuated the facility in a hurry, suggesting some problem inside the mall, perhaps related to the movement of people.
There have also been reports of arrests of individuals outside the mall. Mary Havershaw of Ossining reported that her neighbors Barbara and John Kravis have been locked inside their home for the past twenty-four hours. “Barbara went to buy some new pillows at that mall last Saturday,” Havershaw stated yesterday morning via telephone. “She got out before the quarantine, but now they want to lock her down too, like those other folks.”
reporters confirmed that a patrol car is outside the home and the home phone number has been disconnected.
After the demonstration of two nights ago, police have cordoned off the streets around the mall, allowing only local traffic into the area. This is in addition to the thirty-foot-high fence erected around the parking lot of the mall, which has been reinforced by cement barriers and is patrolled by the National Guard. News helicopters have been banned from flying over the airspace within the fence’s perimeter, though there were reports of a government helicopter on the roof of the mall earlier today.
If you have any family or friends inside the mall, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has set up a hotline through which you can receive information about your loved ones. The hotline number is 1-800-555-XXXX. The FBI has asked that you not try to approach the mall, as any trespass within the perimeter may result in your being arrested or detained for testing.
t was like reading the cast list for a twisted new reality show—
Mall Quarantine: Shop ’Til You Drop . . . Dead
Age 24, Pace University
Age 36, pregnant, Dental Hygienist
Age 16, asthma, Ossining HS
Except this wasn’t a show, it was reality. Some of these people really were dead.
That kind of thinking was too depressing, so Lexi Ross decided to not even focus on the names anymore. She just input the words. Her mother, Senator Dorothy “Dotty” Ross, the now official head honcho of the mall, had charged her with re-creating the population database her father had made for the government hazmat people. When they bolted from the building, they took all copies with them, which suggested that locking all the civilians in a mall with a killer flu was not the only secret they were keeping.
The monotony of the task—logging name after name into the program—was soothing, and a welcome break from the screaming chaos of yesterday’s mall riot. So she sat like a good little girl typing away in the dank employee lounge in a corner of the Apple Store’s stockroom.
Age 18, Tarrytown HS
Age 14, Rockland HS
The only frustrating aspect of the task was that all the relevant information was handwritten on scrap paper. The Senator had given Lexi the lists of names created on the first night of their collective captivity—this was all the government had left behind. Scrawled next to some entries were chronic conditions, and employers or schools. Some names had a cryptic
marked beside them in the margin. More relevant information—like whether or not the person was still alive—was not to be found on the page.
As Lexi flipped a rumpled sheet over and began scanning her next entry, she was startled by her mother’s voice over the mall’s loudspeaker.
“Attention, residents of the Shops at Stonecliff. I apologize for the manner in which yesterday’s announcement was made. It was not our intention to cause anyone to panic.”
Understatement of the year
. How coy of her mother to label a mall-wide riot a mere instance of “panic.” Lexi had spent the previous evening pinned down by a gurney and the dying, then dead body that had occupied it, all buried under collapsed curtains and whatever else from the medical center the rioters had stomped down on top of them.
“Anyone who suffered any injuries as a result of last night’s incident should report to the medical center located in the PaperClips on the first floor. Anyone with any medical training should also please report to the PaperClips to assist in helping those injured.”
Lexi wondered if there was anything the medical personnel could do to cure her of the memory of being trapped under a body—alone—for hours, all that time convinced she’d left her father to be trampled to death by the crazed masses. She could still feel the cold, dead, clammy skin against her back.
She glanced over the top of her laptop to check on her father, and saw that he had fallen asleep on the lounge’s crummy, fake leather couch. Turned out, he’d spent the night trapped under rubble, too. Only he had the additional disadvantage of having been shot by a looter with a nail gun and having his arm broken after being pushed down an escalator. Compared to that, trying to sleep without suffocating while being crushed by a corpse didn’t seem so bad.
Lexi decided to let her father rest. Closing her computer, she relocated from the stockroom to the sales area of the Apple Store. At least from there, should the masses decide to riot for a third time, she’d see them coming.
Her mother droned on over the loudspeaker: “. . . if you begin to develop symptoms, including chills, a cough, or a runny nose, please report to the PaperClips for treatment.
“Security guards will be handing out medical masks and hand sanitizer. Please wear your mask and apply the sanitizer before touching any surface and before meals. Avoid touching your face. These small measures will help prevent the spread of the disease.”
Too little too late.
If only her mother had announced the flu as soon as she knew about it. If only the stupid government had hinted that they figured everyone inside the mall had a disease. Maybe people would have taken precautions. Maybe that saleslady Lexi had tried to save in the Abercrombie wouldn’t have died.
“We have been given additional cots by the government and will set these up in three locations within the mall. Families, please report to the HomeMart for registration and assignment of beds. Women and girls, please report to the JCPenney; men and boys, please report to the Lord and Taylor. These locations will be your Home Stores.”
Organization: This was the Senator’s specialty. Lexi’s mother had a label maker and by god, the woman knew how to use it. Only Lexi was not sure everyone in the mall would appreciate Dotty’s penchant for pushing people around. For example, how would all those kids accustomed to nonstop hooking up in the Abercrombie, no parental units in sight, deal with single-sex dorms?
“If you are in need of a change of clothes, depots will be established on the first floor of each Home Store where you can trade in your clothes for a new set. You will no longer be able to purchase clothing. You will also not have a choice in what clothing you are given. We apologize in advance for any inconvenience this may cause.”
Lexi nearly dropped her laptop from the burst of laughter that shook her. Just wear whatever they hand you?
won’t cause a riot?
“We have been given sufficient quantities of food by the government for the duration of this quarantine, however long it lasts. Meals will be served in the first-floor common areas. If you have a life-threatening food allergy, please notify the security guard when you register at your Home Store. Other than life-threatening conditions, we cannot accommodate any dietary requests.
“If you have any comments or concerns, please bring them to the attention of one of the security guards. We will try to address every situation to the best of our ability. This is an unusual and trying situation, but we are all in this together. By working together and following a few simple rules, we can all make it through this with the least incident and suffering. Thank you for your patience and attention. God bless you all.”
Lexi gave it a day, maybe less. No one would go for this. She flipped open her computer on one of the barren tables—the salespeople had cleared the decks of valuable merchandise to keep the looters at bay. Not like there was much use for laptops and iPhones anyway, what with no cell service or Internet to speak of. The screen blinked on and she got back to work.
Age 20, SUNY-New Paltz
Age 52, pacemaker
Age 45, Lawyer
Age 17, West Nyack HS
“Thought I’d find you here,” Maddie said, entering the Apple Store.
Lexi glanced up from her laptop screen. She could cry seeing her friend walking around like one of the living; the last time she’d seen Maddie, she was pale as a vampire and lying under a puffer coat on the concrete floor of the Abercrombie stockroom.
“You know me so well,” Lexi said, trying to sound as cool as possible.
“Well, you do have the Apple logo tattooed on your face.” Maddie gave Lexi a one-finger shove on the forehead, then slumped onto a neighboring stool. “
Geraldine Simpson, age sixty-two, Prilosec
? What is this, a list of people we’re
inviting to live with us?”
Lexi laughed despite her otherwise black mood. “I’m doing a job for my mother. It’s a new list of everyone in the mall. The government took all the records when they abandoned us.” She pointed to the stack of crinkled paper beside her.
“How do you know she’s not dead?” Maddie said, slicing a finger across her neck.
“I guess we’ll know once people check into their Home Stores,” Lexi said. “Or don’t, in which case I click the box marked ‘deceased.’”
Maddie contemplated this as she flipped through the pages. “Thanks,” she said finally, laying the papers aside. “Without you, I wouldn’t be checking in anywhere today.”
Lexi nodded, though did she really deserve to be thanked for what any decent human being would have done?
Decent human being
here obviously excluding Ginger Franklin, a coward who abandoned her friends to save her own bony butt. Lexi gritted her teeth and continued to type.
“What happened to you?” Maddie said, spinning on her seat. “I thought you’d come back after dropping your dad off in the med center.”
Lexi wasn’t sure what to say, so she went with the truth. “I got crushed under a gurney during the riot. I spent the night under a dead body.”
“Sucks to be you,” Maddie said.
“I spend the night under a dead body and
“Well, it does.” Maddie shrugged and elbowed Lexi in the side. “At least it wasn’t your first dead body.”
“That makes it better how?”
“I don’t know,” Maddie said. “I’m trying to cheer you up.”
It was more than anyone else had tried to do. “Thanks,” she said, hoping that moved them on to something else topic-wise. She typed another entry into the system.
Maddie spun slowly on her stool. “We’re all going to die, right?” she said after a few minutes.
“You just survived the flu,” Lexi said. “If anyone’s going to live, it’s you.”
“But that’s why the government left,” Maddie continued. “They’re going to blow this place up with everyone in it or something. To keep the virus from getting out.”
This horrible, hopeless option had not occurred to Lexi. She wondered if it had occurred to her mother. It had to have. “There’s no way they’d do that,” she said, more to herself than anyone else.
“Why not?” Maddie said. “There’s like a couple thousand people in here.” She waved a hand at the stack of rumpled papers. “What’s that compared with the millions outside these doors?”
“My mother would never let that happen,” Lexi said. “She’s not the kind to go down with the ship.”
“Why would they tell her about their plans?” Maddie said. “Us disease carriers are obviously far down on the need-to-know list, given how long it took them to share the news about the flu.”
Lexi’s heart rate was climbing. If her mother hadn’t known about all the dead bodies in the Pancake Palace’s freezer, what else didn’t she know? What if Mom was as in the dark as the rest of them? What if she was just as screwed as everyone else? Lexi felt a wave of sympathy for her, and the sensation was strange to say the least.
“My mom is not out of the loop,” Lexi said, as if saying the words made them true. “She knew about the flu days before they announced it. She told me.”
“She told you?” Maddie said, eyes bugging. “And you thought that wasn’t something of interest to the rest of us?”
“I couldn’t tell,” Lexi said. “My mom made me promise.”
“Dude!” Maddie yelled. “There are some promises you just don’t freaking keep!”
“Look, I’m sorry!” Lexi yelled back. Yelling felt better. “I didn’t think you’d get it!”
“Well, I did!”
“It’s not like if I’d told you, you wouldn’t have gotten sick! We’ve all breathed the stuff in.”
you were kissing every guy with a pulse.
Maddie grabbed her stool. “Everything’s woozy,” she said. Her face drained of blood.
Lexi took her arm and helped her to the floor. She propped Maddie against a shelf and brought her some water from the lounge in the back.
“You shouldn’t be walking around if you’re still feeling sick,” Lexi said.
“I had been feeling better,” Maddie mumbled.
“I wish you hadn’t gotten sick. I’m sorry for not telling you.”
“I’m sorry for yelling,” Maddie said, lifting her head. “This whole thing just sucks.”
“Let’s make a pact,” Lexi said. “No more secrets. I tell you everything, you tell me everything.”
Maddie smirked. “Not really a fair deal, since you’re the only one with secrets.”
“You’re the most popular person I know,” Lexi said. “Who knows what you’ll learn from the cool kids in the mall? You give me intel from the masses, I give you intel from my mom. Deal?” She held her hand out.
“Gossip for actual information?” Maddie took her hand. “You’re getting a pretty raw deal.”
Holding hands with Maddie, Lexi felt relief flood her body. She had a friend, someone to share secrets with. She wasn’t alone. “I’m okay with that.”
Maddie let go first. She gulped the water. “I guess we should check into our Home Store,” she groaned.
Lexi stood and examined the stack of names she had yet to enter. It was at least another hour or two of work.
. Her dad would put it in when he woke up. Or someone else could do it. It’s not like data entry was brain surgery. Her mom could do it herself, for that matter.
“Let’s go,” Lexi said, closing her laptop.
• • •
“Can we please stop running for like one freaking minute so I can get the fire extinguisher foam off my face?” Ryan Murphy grabbed the nearest shirt and pulled.
Drew halted. “Shrimp,” he said. “Your face is messed up.”
Not like anyone looked good in the fluorescent gloom of the service hallway, but certainly Ryan had a decent excuse for whatever mess his face was. Just that morning he’d pulled a Lazarus and defeated the flu, then he’d free-fallen some thirty feet to rescue the ass who ruined their entire rooftop escape plan, only to be captured by security and then rescued in a cloud of fire-extinguisher foam. He swiped the wicking fabric of his climbing shirt over his skin and felt something smear around.
“That didn’t help,” Drew said.
“Can we stop at a bathroom or something?” Ryan rubbed his hands on his face and came away with crusty white crap.