Authors: Ashley Fontainne
Tags: #drugs, #post apocalyptic, #sci-fi, #zombies, #fiction
Cover and Interior book design by
One of a Kind Covers
Copyright © by Ashley Fontainne 2016
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locations, organizations, or person, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Published by RMSW Press, LLC
ISBN 13: 978-0692633106
ISBN 10: 0692633106
THE DISCOVERY - Two Years Ago - Monday - December 20
– 6:15 a.m.
The morning started out like any other inside the cramped area he’d called home for far too long. Everett’s old body rested atop the worn mattress—which was more like a hunk of concrete with an overlay of foam—inside a room no bigger than a small SUV.
Conditioned from years of rising early, Everett stared at the dark ceiling. Without the need of an external alarm clock, Everett woke up at precisely six-fifteen, just as he’d done since high school. A twinge of stiffness in his back made him groan while exiting the cot. Grabbing what he needed from the small closet, he unlocked the gray metal door and headed to the bathroom.
On autopilot, he showered, dressed, and walked alone down the twisting hallways to the lab. Everett stopped only once on his way at the makeshift cafeteria, grabbing some black liquid masquerading itself as coffee for breakfast.
He made it to his destination. Leaning down, he let the security system scan his retina and waited for the metal door to unlock. Once inside, he donned the white lab coat hanging on the back of his chair, took a swig of tepid coffee, and then made his way over to the rows of cages.
What he saw made the room spin, thus ending the comparison to any other day.
Everett couldn’t seem to remember how to breathe. Blinking proved to be just as difficult. Mouth agape, body rigid, and his butt securely stuck to the uncomfortable chair. A random thought of the time in kindergarten when Jimmy Fassler wiped superglue in Everett’s seat popped into his frazzled mind. Hands clammy and sweat pouring from every single gland, his visual cortex struggled to digest the images beaming in from the optic nerves.
Maybe the retina scanner fried my eyes?
Everett had spent ten long, grueling, and life-altering years at the facility. Eighty-seven thousand, six hundred hours and counting from the moment he’d been blindfolded and ushered inside the ultra-secret laboratory. He still didn’t really know where he was, or even if actually in the United States. Everett hadn’t been out of the compound since his arrival. All he knew was the location was a mile underground. Then again, was that even the truth? That’s what he’d been told in clipped, hushed tones while bound, unseen hands of his colleagues—captors as he referred to them inside his head—leading the way. Considering the installation and work were classified, he could be anywhere.
Everett’s stunned mind pulled up memories of the day he’d been hand-picked by the Director of Research, Dr. Roberta Flint. Out of the blue, and reasons still rather uncertain or clear to Everett, he’d been recruited to work on Code Name: Rememdium.
When Dr. Flint first approached him, Everett actually laughed—hard—once she finished her slick presentation and made the offer. A grim smile tugged at the corners of his mouth while remembering how he’d questioned the woman’s sanity and credentials. When Everett grasped Dr. Flint was serious and the interaction wasn’t some sadistic prank, he laughed again. He’d spouted out something rude and uncalled for about the use of the Latin word for cure as the name of the project.
“Why in the world should I believe you? The project name isn’t even correct! I may be a tad rusty on my Latin, but I seem to recall the word for cure is remedium.”
“No, you are correct, we simply added our own twist for various reasons we’ll discuss later.”
“Oh, can’t wait. Listen, I can’t imagine why you’re here and spilling your guts. Thought you said Rememdium is a covert operation? The kind only men in black know about? Off the grid, Area 51 shit?”
“Dr. Berning, I assure you only five people outside of the testing facility are aware of Rememdium, including you. As a civilian, you will be granted the highest level of clearance: Top Secret. We’ve already performed an SSBI check on you, among others. You passed them all. The next step is for you to accept our terms.”
“SSBI check? Others? Non-military terms, please.”
“Single Scope Background Investigation. That’s all you need to know at the moment.”
“Yeah, that certainly cleared things up for me. So, accepting your terms? Exactly what does the acceptance entail? I’m guessing something along the lines of giving up my soul to the good ol’ U.S. Government? Maybe burning my fingerprints off too and providing me a code name like E?”
“I appreciate your dark sense of humor, Dr. Berning. However, this isn’t the time for jokes. What this means is you will no longer exist, at least as far as the outside world is concerned. Rememdium requires something beyond determination and devotion: personal sacrifice. Discovering the cure will forever alter humanity, though you won’t be able to revel in the glory once the discovery is made. None of us will. Our reward will be the immense satisfaction of knowing we helped eradicate addiction. Imagine a world without drug addicts! The ripple effect into other areas of society will be immense and far-reaching. Truly game-changing.”
“And if I decide not to accept the offer?”
“We already know what skills you possess, Dr. Berning. Your doctoral thesis and late-night blog posts on the subject matter caught our attention. You’re just as interested in wiping out addiction as we are—though for a different reason. You won’t.”
“I might,” Everett had countered.
The memory of Dr. Flint narrowing her sable brown eyes at Everett flashed by, making cold shivers run up his spine. How she’d stared at him from the other side of the table inside his miniscule kitchen like he was a meal about to be devoured. Dr. Flint’s jet black hair, beautiful face and dark eyes couldn’t hide the cold, distant look on her face. Her features almost seemed to harden, like alabaster drying in the hot desert sun.
When she spoke, Dr. Flint’s tone was ominous and downright terrifying. “We would simply find someone else, and assist you in the course you’ve considered taking many times, Dr. Berning. Plain and simple.”
Before the unscheduled—and certainly unexpected—visit by Dr. Flint, Everett had been a broken man. He’d lost his job as Director of Research Administration Services at Emory University after turning to alcohol to numb his pain from the accident. Everett worried he would never be able to get past the overwhelming loss of his entire family if he didn’t move, so he left Atlanta and returned home to Little Rock, Arkansas soon after their deaths.
He fought hard to try and recover from the loss of his wife, children, and both of his parents and in-laws a year prior, yet the sorrow overshadowed every thought.
Dr. Everett Berning’s old life ended in seconds. A driver high on methamphetamine with a blood alcohol level over 2.0, t-boned the SUV driven by his father-in-law, Bertrand. The family outing for an afternoon of shopping and bowling was over in mere seconds inside a pile of charred metal on Peachtree Avenue.
One week before Christmas.
A trip Everett begged off from because he had reports to finish before the holiday break.
After moving into the old house left to him by his grandparents, Everett filled the lonely days teaching chemistry and microbiology to students at a local technical college. It was the only job he could find after falling from academic grace. The students were more interested in posting, tweeting, sharing, and tagging shit on the Internet than learning about science. Though frustrating, Everett pushed the annoying traits of the next generation out of his daily thoughts.
With the entire group of his loved ones no longer a part of his life, Everett contemplated killing himself four separate times, each in different ways. Every time he’d come close, something inside his mind whispered to wait. Forced his hand to remove the gun from his mouth; stopped the same hand millimeters from quivering lips before depositing a handful of sleeping pills. The hesitant voice in his mind made him pause before putting the garden hose in the exhaust pipe of his vehicle, and step on the brake pedal before going over a cliff.
The clinical side of Everett’s brain considered killing healthy tissue a waste. The emotional side craved for the last minute changes of heart to be from his deceased wife, Carol, reaching across the dimensions to stop him.
Everett’s hatred for drugs started the day his family was wiped out.
Taking up Dr. Flint’s edict to find a cure for addiction really didn’t take much persuading on her end. Even the not-so-veiled threat about killing him if he decided not to take the job wasn’t what swayed Everett’s decision.
Finding a cure—permanently, so no one else would suffer like he had—did. He’d convinced his shattered mind that’s why he was still alive, the reason he was a scientist, and why he’d been chosen to lead the charge to discover an end to the worldwide scourge of addiction.
Wits finally back in full swing Everett shook the old memories away. The time for ruminating in the past was over, for it was time to revel in the victories of the present. Soak up the elusive moment ten years in the making.
A twinge of sadness made his chest clench when he glanced at the calendar on the wall: December 20
. Exactly eleven years since his old life ended. Out of habit, his thumb found the wedding band still on his ring finger, rubbing the smooth platinum.