Authors: S. Ganley
The Dead Don’t Bleed:
Part 1: The Outbreak
By S. Ganley
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The Dead Don’t Bleed Series
The Infected Series
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Don’t Bleed Series
© 2013, S.Ganley
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The earthquake measured only 2.1 on the Richter scale and seismic instrumentation indicated it was a shallow quake close to the surface. Computer models showed that the epicenter of the quake was located underneath a sand mining operation in a rural part of south central New Jersey. While earthquakes along the East Coast were not that uncommon, the magnitude, location and depth of this particular event registered much different than anything previously recorded in that area. The closest Geological Survey office to the epicenter was a small office in West Trenton, New Jersey and it took several tries on the phone before the overnight manager in charge of the systems at the Delaware Geological Survey office finally managed to reach a weary sounding operator.
Carl Woodley was a graduate student at Rutgers University studying geology, working the night shift at the Geological Survey center in West Trenton fulfilled his internship requirements but left a sour taste in his mouth. He had hoped to actually learn something during th
is two month internship program. Considering he was working for free, yet had to rent a local apartment to be close to the office, the least they could have done was given him an assignment that enriched his knowledge of the inner workings of their programs. But, that just wasn't to be, he quickly learned the office manager here gladly accepted non paid interns only to stick them in the least desirable positions that would otherwise have to be filled with someone from the regular paid staff. It was just Carl's luck that he got stuck with the night shift, two other summer interns at least had daytime jobs around the office where they could possibly pick up some useful information. The best Carl was able to do was spend his time tinkering with the computer systems and teaching himself how they worked and what they did. His on the job training consisted of fifteen minutes of don't do this and don't do that from a fat and sweaty supervisor who then tossed him a user manual and night watch checklist as he waddled out the door thirty minutes early. He was on pins and needles for the first week, reading and rereading the operations manual, checking and rechecking instruments and readouts. Now, down to the last six days of this summer of hell he often spent his nights either hopped up on Red Bull's playing video games on the survey computers or crashed out on the couch in the lobby. Tonight just happened to be a crashed on the couch kind of night after a long day spent typing his final paper to get credit for this program. He had to make up a lot of shit to put in the paper, if he based it on the work he actually did here the information would have fit on an index card instead of the required minimum of twenty five pages plus references. Since this part of New Jersey was not prone to seismic activity there really ended up being precious little for the night operator to do, but since this was a government funded operation the requirements stated that all Geological Survey offices with monitoring equipment remain staffed on a 24 hour basis.
The ringing of the phone wrenched him from what was otherwise a sound and peaceful sleep. While he was rubbing the sleep from his eyes and stumbling to grab the phone receiver in the nearby monitoring room he noticed that a flashing red light above two of the computers he was supposed to
be keeping an eye on were now fully illuminated. The normal dull and flat rhythmic recording lines on the paper printout were showing peaks and valleys that he had never seen before, but remembered reading about in a part of the operations manual under a bold heading of extremely urgent.
"Ah Shit," Carl mumbled to himself as he snatched the telephone handset and tried to disguise the sound of sleep in his voice. "West Trenton monitoring center, this is Carl."
"Carl, where the hell have you been? I have tried three times to reach this office." A very disgruntled and authoritative voice replied.
He thought about lying and making up a story about checking some equipment on the outside of the building, but if the guy
knew anything at all about the layout of this office he would know there was nothing outside that he would have to check. Then a sudden last ditch thought occurred to him.
"Uummmm, yeah, sorry about that, my stomach is a little uneasy and I was stuck in the bathroom."
"Whatever. Listen up. Are you getting the readings for an event with an epicenter east of you? My map shows it to be just a little north west of Coyle airfield, I can’t find any other map reference with a nearby city or town."
Carl rifled through the maps spread out on a wide table nearby and traced his fingers down both sides to follow the coordinates indicated on his computer.
"Ok, yeah, I found it, it looks like it is directly underneath a sand mine in a rural district. My computer is showing it to measure 2.1 and shallow, estimated depth almost exactly one mile."
He thought that sounded official, from what he remembered reading
in the operations manual that was the most important data he was supposed to have ready when asked.
He could hear the click of
computer keys from the other end of the phone then the caller returned, "You said a sand mine?"
Sweat started to bead on Carl's forehead, he wasn't sure if the man on the phone was calling his findings into doubt or just asking to verify what he himself was seeing on his own computer screen. This wasn't supposed to be happening to him, he had less than a week before he could kiss this place good
bye and head to the beach for the final three weeks of summer before fall classes resumed. If this ended up being some earth shattering situation or people were hurt or even killed and it turned out he dropped the ball somewhere, not only would he fail his internship but he could probably have to change majors, he would never find a job in this field with a mark like that on his record. Double checking the coordinates on the map he was sure that this was the correct answer, the Woodmansie Sand Mine was the only thing within miles of those coordinates. The information on his computer screen showed that the mine had been inactive for at least the last year.
Trying to keep his voice as level and professional as possible, he replied, "Yes
sir that is what I have on my map."
"Hmmmmm, ok that makes sense. My weather information shows that region had experienced heavy rains over the last two days. One of the shafts must have flooded enough to cause a cave in. With a sand mine there is a good chance the cave in happened over a fissure or sink hole. That would produce seismic activity at that level and it makes sense for the shallow depth."
Carl breathed a sigh of relief, things were suddenly looking up for him. Now he started to wonder if he could possibly even come out of this on top, maybe some kind of letter of recommendation for handling a genuine crisis.
As you know, anything over a two requires sensing units to be deployed. You've still got some work to do. I will be on shift for the next five hours. I want you to contact me with your satellite phone once you arrive on the scene and report your initial observations. I also want to echo test the remote units as soon as you have them in place to make sure we are getting a solid reading on each. It's going to be a long night, but I am confident you can handle it."
His visions of letters of recommendations and unlimited job offers were suddenly replaced by a panic deep in his belly. He remembered reading in the operations manual something about being responsible for responding to the site of any geological event measuring in excess of 2.0 on the Richter scale, this was a 2.1 and therefore fell clearly into that category. He also remembered being told something about the keys for the response truck hanging in the
key box near the back door. He was the on duty operator, therefore it was his responsibility to go to the sand mine and plant four remote sensors spaced three hundred yards apart on each point of the compass from the epicenter. He also needed to call this incident in to the local supervisor, that thought suddenly gave him hope. Surely the supervisor would recognize that sending a student intern to respond to an actual incident wasn't a wise decision. Despite his supervisors’ otherwise lazy and worthless work ethic, Carl was sure that in a case like this he would at least see the need to take personal control of the situation.
He had been lost in his
own thoughts for so long he forgot that someone on the phone was still waiting for his confirmation.
"Yes, yes, of course, I am getting ready to head there right now. It should take about two hours to get to the mine from here. I will call you once I have assessed the scene."
"Good to hear," then the line went dead leaving Carl once again totally on his own.
Turning to the corkboard hanging on the wall just above the computer monitor, he found his supervisors
home number and dialed it.
It took almost ten rings before the man finally picked up and as soon as Carl heard his
voice he knew he was in trouble. The man sounded drunker than a college freshman his first weekend away at school from mom and dad. After several tries Carl finally got it across to him that they had a situation requiring a response team to deploy to the site of a minor quake. He told him that he had already been contacted by their superior office and that someone was waiting on their call from the mine once the team arrived.
"Sounds like you have everything under control, keys to the truck are hanging by the door," with that the line disconnected. Carl was on his own.
Garrett Newton squinted hard against the glare of the morning sun reflecting back at him off the lake. With a practiced ease he flicked the tip of his fishing rod back and sent the lure flying to land with the softest of splashes in a perfect spot just between two submerged tree trunks. He knew that there was a nice drop off just past those trunks and he wanted to finesse his lure across the rim of the deeper water there and hopefully entice a nice fat largemouth bass to come out of hiding for a little breakfast. Today was his last day out on the lake and he was hoping to land a trophy worth bragging about, a quick photo of the beast for posterity and then he would send it back into the depths to live another day. So far everything he had pulled from the crystal clear waters had been well under any size worthy of bragging rights. In his younger days his father would take him and his younger brother here for long weekends of fishing and he still remembered pulling five and six pounders out of here with ease. But, over the years as urban sprawl crept further and further into the backwoods, lakes like this were becoming hopelessly over-fished. The days of the sport fisherman practicing catch and release seemed to be over and many of the newer breed of fishermen to visit lakes like this would more often than not take home anything they could catch.
This was his fourth day camping out alone along
side the lake. Ever since his medical discharge from the army four months ago, he found times of solitude like this to be much better physical therapy than what those doctors and shrinks back at Walter Reed kept wanting to put him through. Out of his ten years in the military, he had spent four of them on combat tours between Iraq and Afghanistan. He could still remember back to his first tour in Iraq, just six months out of basic training and only twenty two years old he had been scared shitless when the bullets started flying. He had always heard how the young troops first entering a combat zone were the ones who took the most chances trying to prove themselves, it turns out that it was actually the other way around. It was his fourth combat tour as a newly promoted Sergeant First Class where he started taking chances that would prove to be his undoing. As a young private responsible for only his own well-being he did his job well, but he never stuck his neck out any further than the mission required. When the bullets once again started flying and he was responsible for an entire platoon of soldiers, that was when he stuck it out further than it needed. Thirty five soldiers and one newly pinned 2nd Lieutenant just off the boat from officer candidate school depended on him to keep them alive. When they came under fire from a cleverly placed machine gun nest and the RPG's started to tear through the sky like swarms of angry bees he didn't hesitate to rush into the thick of it and drag three of his wounded boys to safety. His last trip across that street carrying a mortally wounded soldier over his shoulder was when an RPG detonated against the side of a parked car only a dozen feet away from him. The resulting explosion had blown him and the man he was carrying twenty feet across the street to slam into the side of a brick wall. He had fractured his back and picked up more shrapnel than he could count throughout his lower body. The soldier he had been trying to save had taken the full force of the blast across his head leaving little doubt that his would be a closed casket funeral. Garrett didn't make it to that funeral, instead he woke up two days after it in a hospital bed in Germany. It took three surgeries to remove all the shrapnel and until the doctors were confident he would ever walk again. Even though he was on the road to recovery, those injuries were enough to end his career. He could have fought it, he had known others that did. But he also knew that he would not stop taking those chances in combat, the next time he probably wouldn't be walking away. So he accepted the offer of medical retirement, earned a silver star, purple heart and a pension, then he tried to put it all behind him. But then the nightmares began, the shrinks tried to medicate him but he refused, he would find a way to live with it but it wouldn't be under a drug induced haze. It was here at the lake, alone with just his thoughts where he finally found peace of mind, the nightmares were still there, but they were at least bearable in these conditions.