Uncertain World: The EMP Survivor Series Book 2, page 1
The EMP Survivor Series – Book 2
By Chris Pike
The EMP Survivor Series
by Chris Pike
Copyright © 2016. All Rights Reserved
Edited by Felicia A. Sullivan
Formatted by Kody Boye
Cover art by Hristo Kovatliev
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored, or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means (electronically, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the proper written permission of the copyright owner, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This book is a work of fiction. People, places, events, and situations are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or historical events, is purely coincidental.
Books in the EMP Survivor Series:
Unexpected World - Book 1
Uncertain World - Book 2
Unknown World - Book 3 (coming February, 2017)
Unwanted World - Book 4 (coming mid-2017)
To my readers: Thank you. This story would not have been possible without you and your encouragement. Y’all are the best! And to my family who has put up with all my crazy ideas and work-shopping sessions, y’all are the best too.
“He conquers who endures.”
Table of Contents
So, what kind of story is this?
We have the story of an EMP unleashed on the United States, extinguishing the modern ways of society heralded by a brilliant flash of light.
Some would say it was as tantalizing as if they were gazing upon the northern lights. A mesmerizing phenomena, capturing the timeless beauty of the world. Its oceans and skies, deserts and verdant forests, great civilizations of glittering skyscrapers lit by man’s invention. Of magnificent sports arenas and luxurious ocean liners, of the busy hum of life on a downtown street: food vendors, cabs, cars, rail, traffic lights, buses.
In a flash of light, it ceased.
There were no more cell phones, instant messaging, or lazy afternoons channel surfing. No more information at the tap of a few keystrokes, or medicine, or communication, Bluetooth, apps, texts, fresh water, sanitation, rush hour traffic, radio stations, CDs, light at the flip of a switch, airplanes, drones, or anything connected to the modern world.
This is a story of a man who lived his life according to the way society said he should: get a job, marry, have children, and live happily ever after. And he would have lived happily ever after except for the unexpected death of his wife and a flash of light that forever would change the world.
Dillon Stockdale had thrown himself into his work, fighting bad guys as an assistant District Attorney during long days at the local courthouse. He was supposed to have retired and grown old with his wife, have grandkids he bounced on his knee, entertaining them with spooky ghost stories. However, it wasn’t meant to be. His wife died suddenly, derailing his carefully planned life. He immersed his grief in work, meaningful work, or so he told himself, because at work he was able to escape the bleak loneliness of their house, a landscape as barren as the moon.
He was a man strong of mind and body, a no nonsense man who couldn’t be bothered with small talk and cocktail parties, shiny loafers and bowties, and casual laughter, because under the façade of a civilized man lay a man sizzling for change.
We also have a woman, Holly Hudson. As lonely as Dillon Stockdale, yet who on the surface she ‘had it all,’ being considered successful by society’s standards. She was his formidable adversary in the courtroom, known to be unflappable and one who won impossible cases, a worthy foe by any standard.
From her perfectly coiffed hair and silk suits, it was impossible to break Holly’s porcelain veneer. But like any fine china, the tiniest crack or chip could undermine the integrity of a structure, collapsing it into unrepairable fragments. Yet from the broken pieces picked up and reassembled, something new came.
One day during a brief moment before the EMP struck, when it was quiet in the courtroom, Holly had snuck a peek at Dillon, admiring the way he carried himself and the confidence he exuded. Confused and embarrassed, she immediately distracted herself by perusing a legal brief, yet her interest had been piqued.
Soon after, a crack appeared and widened into a dark chasm at the realization she had never baked cookies for a Cub Scout meeting, or tucked a child into bed, or dried tears from a scraped knee, all because she was afraid to live, or to feel regret, or to lose someone she loved.
She had indeed suffered a tremendous loss at a tender age, and had felt it ever since in the molecules of her soul.
She had found meaning in her life by throwing herself into work (or so she told herself), poring over legal briefs and case files and researching obscure laws that had only garnered a slide in a law school lecture, all to win a case. Her determination made her a formidable opponent in the courtroom and won her not only cases, but the admiration of fellow colleagues.
We also have Cassie, Dillon’s daughter, who has forged her own way in modern society, belonging to the generation who grew up in the internet age. Like her father, she is tenacious and perseveres. She’s smart and will rely on all her wits to survive in this new world.
Ryan Manning, a young man who befriended Cassie on the ill-fated flight that crash landed in the swamps of Louisiana, has entered a new life as well. Together, they survived and gradually learned to trust each other, divulging their hopes and dreams of lives interrupted.
Battles will be won in hand to hand combat instead of keystrokes on a keyboard, or sending a drone to do the dirty work, or the input of a few coordinated numbers, or the push of a metaphorical red button.
Indeed, the new way of life will require each of them to walk the maze of unseen dangers encountered in places they thought were safe.
“Don’t make any sudden moves and nobody gets hurt.”
Ryan Manning, Cassie Stockdale, and James Morley, survivors of a plane that crash landed into the Louisiana backcountry had been walking for several days when they made camp under a massive Virginia oak on a dry patch of land.
The trek across unfamiliar terrain had been more taxing than they could have imagined. That, and the fact they weren’t prepared for a hike, had made matters worse.
Weary and hungry, they made a fire to warm their hands.
Cassie lay shivering under the thin gray airplane blanket, her cold toes poking out of the frayed ends. Her tennis shoes and socks had gotten soaked the day before so she had put them by the fire to dry out.
Long fingers of the morning sun threaded through the trees and onto the land. The grass was wet with shimmering dew; the morning air still cold from the night.
Cassie had been awake for a few minutes, listening to the morning awakening with the sounds of the woods, dismissing the crackling of twigs breaking as an animal scurrying in the brush. When she heard that ominous command, a burst of adrenaline flooded her body. It wasn’t exactly the kind of alarm clock she had hoped for. Her heart hammered against her chest and she lay as still as she could. Maybe whoever it was would take what they needed and leave. She opened an eye a slit taking in her surroundings.
She was on her side, facing the withering coals. James was sleeping on the other side of the dying campfire. He was snoring and had his back to her.
He wouldn’t be any help.
Earlier, Ryan told Cassie nature was calling and he had to go do his business. “I’ll only be gone a few minutes,” he’d said.
A terrified thought crossed Cassie’s mind. Suppose whoever had said Don’t make any sudden moves and nobody gets hurt had already hurt Ryan, or worse, killed him.
Cassie held her breath, afraid to move.
“I know you’re awake, little lady, so you can get up. Be quiet and don’t make any fast moves. And keep your hands where I can see them.”
The man shouldered a weathered old Winchester model 12 pump action shotgun. He racked the handguard to chamber a round to show he meant what he said.
Cassie took a quick glance at the guy. “Don’t shoot,” she pleaded.
“Do as I say and nobody gets hurt.”
Cassie estimated the man was about fifty, his clothes worn yet clean. And though he was built like an ox with wide, muscled shoulders, his skin weathered from the sun, he didn’t appear as menacing as his warning words were. There was something kind about his face, although Cassie couldn’t quite put her finger on it. Cassie’s heart skipped a beat when he leveled the shotgun, pointing it directly at her.
“What do you want?” the man asked.
“I’m wondering the same thing about you,” Cassie replied.
“I ask the questions, not you. What are you doing here?”
“Wrong answer,” he shot back. “Try again.”
“Camping for the night,” Cassie said, hoping the waver in her voice wasn’t noticeable. She smiled, but with apprehension. “We’re trying to get home.”
“Where’s home?” the man asked.
The man doubled over and let out a belly laugh so loud it spooked a flock of sparrows perched in a nearby tree. “Houston! You’re walking home to Houston? From here! I’ve never heard of anything so ridiculous.”
Hearing the commotion, James woke, rolled over, and asked, “What’s going on here? Who are you?”
“Name’s Garrett,” the tall man’s voice boomed. “And you?” he asked, motioning with the shotgun.
“Whoa,” James said. His hands went up in the air, indicating he wasn’t a threat to the man. His eyes zeroed in on the deadly end of the shotgun. “We don’t want any trouble. I’m trying to get home too.”
“To Houston like your lady friend is?”
“Austin, actually,” James said.
“This keeps getting better and better, don’t it? Y’all on some kind of reality TV show or something?”
“All the camera men and production crew went home for the night to their five star hotel, complete with room service,” Cassie deadpanned. Her earlier smile had evaporated into an impatient frown.
“Naked and Afraid meets Bear Grylls,” Garrett said, “but without the naked part?”
“I’m joking,” Cassie said.
“Me too,” Garrett replied.
Rising, James brushed off his pants and said, “I’m James Morley. This is Cassie Stockdale.”
At hearing the name ‘Stockdale’ Garrett lowered his shotgun and swiveled his attention to Cassie. “Stockdale, huh?”
“Yes,” Cassie replied weakly.
“You any relation to Dillon Stockdale?”
“Why?” Cassie asked. Her eyes flicked to James, hoping he would give her some type of instruction on what to say.
“You his daughter?” Garrett asked.
Cassie took a long moment about how to answer, knowing that people didn’t like district attorneys because maybe a relative of theirs had been prosecuted and put away for a long time. Taking a gamble this Garrett guy wasn’t one of them, she rose, stood straight, and announced proudly, “I am.”
Garrett ran a hand across the stubble on his chin. “I thought I saw a faint resemblance.”
“Do you know my dad?” Cassie was instantly relieved they had found a friendly face. She was also intrigued that someone of his backwoods appearance would be familiar with a big city prosecutor from the next state.
“Not personally, but I know he was prosecuting Cole Cassel. That son of a bitch,” Garrett said. He kicked the toe of his boot in the dirt, loosening a rock embedded in the fertile Atchafalaya Basin soil. “Been reading about the trial in the Houston paper. Seen your daddy’s picture in the paper. I get it specially delivered to my property twice a week. It’s a little late, but it’s still news. I like to keep up with current events, even if I do live way out in the boondocks. Funny thing, though, I haven’t had any mail delivery at all this week.”
“Why are you following the trial?” Cassie asked, interested in this new revelation.
“That bastard Cassel killed my son in NOLA. Left his wife to raise my grandson without his father.” Garrett looked away and cleared his throat. “My son was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was gettin’ milk and bread at a convenience store late one evenin’ when a turf war broke out between Cassel and a rival gang member. My son was an innocent bystander.”
Garrett explained the rest of the story that a crooked district attorney, who had since been disbarred because of kickbacks, failed to introduce evidence at the trial that would have successfully convicted Cole. “The trial was a sham from the beginning.”
“I’m sorry about your son,” Cassie said. “Cole’s a bad man, but my dad is smart and honest and will see to it he goes to jail for a long, long time. I talked to my dad a few days ago and he said he thought he was about to win the trial. If he can’t get justice for your son, then it will be for somebody else. The penalty will be the same.”
“Let’s hope so,” Garrett said. “So tell me what y’all are doing here.” His eyes swept over the camp. “And where’s your camping equipment? I’ve never seen such a poor camp. With that and the fact you’re on private property, you’re lucky I didn’t shoot you. I’ve had a problem with poachers lately. A game warden was killed last year, and they never caught the murderous SOB.” Glancing at James, still wearing scuffed oxford shoes, Garrett added, “And who camps in a suit?”
“I didn’t have a choice,” James said gruffly. “If I had known I was going to have to walk home I would have dressed accordingly.” He glanced at his shoes. “And I would have worn boots instead of oxfords because my feet hurt.” He removed a shoe and massaged his foot.
“Got a point there,” Garrett said.
Cassie interrupted. “You won’t believe this…”
“Try me,” Garrett said.
“We survived a plane crash, and when nobody came for us, we walked out of there.”
“Really?” Garrett said incredulously. “Some sort of prop plane or something?”
“No,” Cassie said. “A 737 with about a hundred people on the plane.”
“That’s no good. Where’d the plane crash? And where’s everybody else?”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Everybody else is dead,” Cassie said. The words hung in the air while Garrett digested the revelation. “Me, James, and…” Cassie trailed off, diverting her eyes to the ground. “I don’t know where the plane crashed. I’m guessing somewhere southeast of here. The land all looks the same. We’re lost.”
“I can believe that. Good thing I found you ‘cause you are in the middle of acres and acres of swampy woods. You could have died out here.”
Cassie and James agreed.
“How long have you been walking?” Garrett asked.
“Several days,” Cassie said. “Do you have anything? Water or food you could give us? I can repay you once I get home.”
“That won’t be necessary. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. And as of now, Cassie Stockdale, you’re my friend. I’ll get you something to eat at my house,” Garrett said, hitching his chin in the direction where the house was. “It’s no Hilton, so if you’re expecting anything fancy, you’ll be disappointed.”
“We will be extremely grateful for whatever you have.”
“Just you and uh…” Garrett said, snapping his fingers.
“James Morley,” James said, the irritation is his voice mounting.
“Only you and James?”
Cassie snuck a peek at James, hoping he would help her make a decision regarding her decision to keep Ryan’s presence a secret. She wanted to believe Garrett was a decent guy, but still wasn’t convinced one hundred percent. If anything happened out here, nobody knew where they were.
The unmistakable sound of a shotgun being racked caught their attention, and it wasn’t Garrett doing the racking.
“Don’t anyone move,” a surly male voice said. “I’ve got a loaded shotgun that can take out two of you with one blast.”
To say Garrett was utterly surprised was an understatement. His mind did a quick search for voice recognition, but he failed to match the voice with a face. It had a Cajun inflection to it, not so much southern, but the sound of someone who had lived in the swamp all his life. Garrett did as told and didn’t even blink. He was breathing slow and steady, keeping attuned to the voice coming from behind him.
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