River of night, p.1

River of Night, page 1

 part  #7 of  Black Tide Rising Series


River of Night

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River of Night

  Table of Contents




























  River of Night

  John Ringo


  Tom Smith used to be somebody. Now he's just another refugee, fleeing the smoking ruins of civilization.

  Well, maybe not just another refugee.

  Late of the Bank of the Americas where he used to be the global managing director for Security, Tom and his fellow survivors watched New York City burn. His plan to the save New York long enough to find a cure for the zombie virus hadn't survived the bloody scrimmage between angry cops, cunning gangsters, and rapacious City officials.

  Now only millions of infected humans, driven mad by the high infectious tailored rabies virus, inhabited the city.

  But Tom and some trusted allies were able to stay one step ahead and escaped offshore. Now they're holed up in a safe house in coastal Virginia and it's time to breakout.

  Between him and his objective, one of the bank's prepared evacuation camps in the Cumberland Valley, are hundreds of miles of clogged roads, burnt-out towns and howling mobs of infected humans who know only hunger. He must corral his motley team, complete with middle-schoolers, to navigate the treacherous landscape.

  And yet he feels his odds are good.

  But there's always someone smarter. And they like things just the way they are.

  Without a fat checkbook and the team of hired spec-ops mercenaries it used to bring, how will Tom Smith fend off entrepreneurial marauders, a brilliant sociopath or two and a kill-count hungry member of the E-4 mafia?

  And if he pulls it off, no one is sure how they will they re-start civilization.

  But Tom Smith has the spark of an idea.



  Under a Graveyard Sky • To Sail a Darkling Sea

  Islands of Rage and Hope • Strands of Sorrow

  The Valley of Shadows (with Mike Massa) • River of Night (with Mike Massa)

  Black Tide Rising (Anthology, edited with Gary Poole)

  Voices from the Fall (Anthology, edited with Gary Poole)

  MONSTER HUNTER MEMOIRS (with Larry Correia):

  Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge • Monster Hunter Memoirs: Sinners

  Monster Hunter Memoirs: Saints


  Live Free or Die • Citadel • The Hot Gate


  A Hymn Before Battle • Gust Front • When the Devil Dances

  Hell’s Faire • The Hero (with Michael Z. Williamson)

  Cally’s War (with Julie Cochrane) • Watch on the Rhine (with Tom Kratman)

  Sister Time (with Julie Cochrane) • Yellow Eyes (with Tom Kratman)

  Honor of the Clan (with Julie Cochrane) • Eye of the Storm


  There Will Be Dragons • Emerald Sea

  Against the Tide • East of the Sun, West of the Moon


  Into the Looking Glass • Vorpal Blade (with Travis S. Taylor)

  Manxome Foe (with Travis S. Taylor) • Claws that Catch (with Travis S. Taylor)

  EMPIRE OF MAN (with David Weber):

  March Upcountry and March to the Sea (collected in Empire of Man)

  March to the Stars and We Few (collected in Throne of Stars)


  Princess of Wands • Queen of Wands


  Ghost • Kildar • Choosers of the Slain • Unto the Breach

  A Deeper Blue • Tiger by the Tail (with Ryan Sear)


  The Last Centurion • Citizens (ed. with Brian M. Thomsen)

  Von Neumann’s War (with Travis S. Taylor)

  The Road to Damascus (with Linda Evans)

  River of Night

  This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.

  Copyright © 2019 by John Ringo and Mike Massa

  All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.

  A Baen Books Original

  Baen Publishing Enterprises

  P.O. Box 1403

  Riverdale, NY 10471


  ISBN: 978-1-4814-8421-3

  eISBN: 978-1-62579-713-1

  Cover art by Kurt Miller

  Maps by Randy Asplund

  First Baen printing, July 2019

  Distributed by Simon & Schuster

  1230 Avenue of the Americas

  New York, NY 10020

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Names: Ringo, John, 1963– author. | Massa, Mike, 1967– author.

  Title: River of night / John Ringo, Mike Massa.

  Description: Riverdale, NY : Baen, 2019. | Series: Black tide rising ; 7

  Identifiers: LCCN 2019004660 | ISBN 9781481484213 (hardcover)

  Subjects: | BISAC: FICTION / Science Fiction / Adventure. | FICTION / Science

  Fiction / General. | GSAFD: Adventure fiction. | Science fiction.

  Classification: LCC PS3568.I577 R59 2019 | DDC 813/.54—dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2019004660

  Pages by Joy Freeman (www.pagesbyjoy.com)

  Printed in the United States of America

  10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

  Electronic Version by Baen Books


  As always

  For Captain Tamara Long, USAF

  Born: May 12, 1979

  Died: March 23, 2003, Afghanistan

  You fly with the angels now.

  And for

  Lieutenant Kevin Partridge, USN (EOD)


  Desert Storm

  “All for one, one for all.”


  As ever, many thanks to our Alpha readers, including Griffin Barber, Roger Foss, Jack Clemons, Jay La Luz and Jamie Ibson. Thanks again to Mike Gantz for his guided tour of select TVA facilities along the Tennessee River. Thank you to Brandy “Tiny Fists of Death” Bolgeo, for design of a very cool, inexpensive electrical induction device. Ryan Johnson, founder of RMJ Tactical, spent an afternoon giving your authors a tour of his factory, looking at all the goodies—thank you, sir! Special thanks to Mr. Charles C. Williams, Jr., who very graciously loaned us the original surveys, design papers, and construction logs for the Watts Bar dam and generating plant. A big thank you also to Ginger Cochrane who alerted us to the existence of these invaluable reference materials. We were tempted to add lots of detail, because big honking dams are just cool, especially the turbines and power house assemblies. Additionally, special thanks to Mr. Bert Hickman, an electrical engineering specialist and Tesla coil expert with whom we consulted and who has personally designed and assembled some of the very special constructions in this novel. If anything, we understated what these genuinel
y powerful and quite real machines are capable of doing.

  Any technical errors in the book are our fault, and not that of our long suffering experts.

  And most of all, Thank You to all of you, our readers, who continue to enjoy the stories of the Black Tide.

  Don’t get bit!

  John Ringo, Mike Massa

  Chattanooga, TN



  During the endgame of the Fall, state governments and major cities of the United States lost their ability to provide essential services to their populations. This development was accelerated by the degree to which each state and municipality relied on electrical power that was generated from feedstock, be it natural gas, coal or oil. A unique government corporation formed in 1933, the Tennessee Valley Authority, spanned seven southeastern states and operated a variety of power generation facilities, including traditional fossil-fueled plants as well as nuclear power plants and hydroelectric facilities.

  These last had a dual role, providing not just immense amounts of electrical power, but also improving the navigability of the economically important Ohio and Tennessee Rivers as well as controlling the propensity of the region to severely flood during seasonal rains.

  Unfortunately, all sophisticated equipment requires human supervision and periodic maintenance. As H7D3 took firm hold in the region, the nuclear plants were safely spun down to cold iron. The infrastructure necessary to move fuel to the traditionally powered generating facilities broke down, and these fossil-fuel plants also went dark. Solar facilities and hydroelectric sources of power lasted the longest of all. However, the chaos of the Fall, the desperation of operators trying to protect their families and the inevitable fighting over increasingly scarce resources also impacted these parts of the formerly vast network of power generation and distribution that was the TVA.

  As the lights went out all over the world, the myriad ways that humans had shaped their world for convenience and entertainment were set afire, shattered or abandoned. As with any radical shift in the environment, there were adjustments. Domesticated animals that had become dependent on humans for their daily survival were rapidly converted into food by the dwindling numbers of healthy humans or by their far more numerous competitors, the infected. However, food animals and what stored crops existed were a limited resource, and the great civilization that was built on automation and sophisticated logistics crumbled into starving pockets of humanity.

  It was the beginning of a new dark age and a bad time to be human.

  On the other hand, there were winners and losers.

  The lakes and rivers that dominated the Tennessee Valley region provided a ready source of water to the infected that slowly dispersed from the population centers. A huge number of the dead ended up in the river system, and from a strictly pragmatic view, they enriched the ecology.

  Without any natural predators and now free of the bothersome humans, the channel catfish, the flatheads, and the mighty blues prospered, making the most of the expanded food sources so thoughtfully provided by their former hunters.

  It might have sucked for everyone else, but it was a pretty good time to be a catfish.


  October 17th

  Upper Chippokes Creek, the Chesapeake


  “When are we going to LEAVE this FUCKING house!” screamed Dina Bua, startling everyone around her.

  Bua, a young and well-adjusted drama teacher at an expensive private boarding school, had started the trip south in a condition of shock. After her last minute attempt to escape New York City with some of her students had ended in a cannibalistic welter of blood, she’d nearly been run over by some speeding SUVs and then had been caught up in a second zombie attack and then a terrifying gun battle.

  She had, understandably, nearly frozen in panic.

  Huddled with one other teacher and their remaining three students, she’d obeyed the directions of their rather scary rescuers. The soldiers or mercenaries or whoever were clearly accustomed to working together. Despite her apprehensions about her saviors, the long boat ride had been a ticket out of a nightmare that had erased the only home she’d known. Arriving at the little house tucked into a tributary on the James River, the pressure of the emergency had been reduced and she’d appeared to recover somewhat. She’d repeatedly thanked the tall, handsome Bank of the Americas official who’d appeared to be in charge of original group of eight from the boat docks. She’d pledged to do anything to help.

  Yet, Bua began to incrementally exhibit different symptoms of the strain she was under.

  Long after everyone else had accepted the loss of the cell network and either turned their phones off, or left them on airplane mode in order preserve battery life while using them as music players, she would periodically stalk through the interior of the small house, her iPhone at arm’s length over her head, hoping to see a single bar’s worth of reception. After the water utilities failed, complicating the task of daily depilation, she’d tried mightily to use treated river water to complete her toilet and shave her legs. Through a quirk of oversight, a supply of artificial sweetener in their hideout had been overlooked so while others added “unhealthy refined white sugar” to their coffee, she’d complained about not being able to enjoy one of the few bright spots in an otherwise endless succession of identical days. Still, she’d complained quietly, mimicking the low profile that her fellow survivors practiced in order to avoid attracting the attention of hunting zombies or predatory survivors.

  That is, she’d been quiet until now, when she just couldn’t take it one more day and started screaming. And screaming.

  * * *

  So far their party had survived not due to firepower but from exercising absolute discretion. Anything else put the entire group at risk and everyone knew it.

  Emily Bloome, the second schoolteacher, reached the screamer first. Driven to her knees by Bloome’s tackle, Bua fought and bit like a woman possessed. Bloome rolled away clutching her face, but she had very competent back-up. Kaplan, the former spec-ops trooper turned bank security specialist and Risky, the unexpectedly capable gangster’s moll, fell on Bua as though they’d rehearsed it many times, which in fact, they had.

  A panicked schoolteacher was a new opponent for them, but just not in the same league as their previous wrestling matches wrangling hyperaggressive, zombified humans infected with the man-made plague virus called H7D3. A vicious arm bar that painfully threatened to dislocate Bua’s elbow kept the panicking woman from bolting outside, and some duct tape and a belt sufficed to restrain the unhinged survivor while they fished some hemp rope out of a nearby gym bag.

  “Is she infected?” Risky asked, sweeping her dark bangs out of her eyes. “She went wild so fast!”

  Oldryskya “Risky” Khabayeva was an athletic five foot ten inches tall, and appeared to be in her late twenties. Years ago, her youth and sex had been enough reason for the traffickers to keep her alive, but the supermodel good looks that prompted their efforts to sell her to an Italian-American gangster had led to their deaths.

  It turned out that Frank Matricardi, the Jersey mobster who ran the Cosa Nova, had a real thing about human trafficking on his patch. So these particular kidnappers had, in the words of the head of the Family, been the subject of an involuntary business merger with Cosa Nova’s waste management brand. Ultimately, their remains joined the ceaseless pre-Fall stream of garbage that flowed from New York City towards landfills in other states. Risky had been part of Matricardi’s crew, first as an ornament, and later as a partner. They hadn’t loved each other, but there’d been mutual respect, especially at the end.

  After which she’d had the pleasure of killing Matricardi’s murderer herself.

  “Well, we’ve got all those patch kits just sitting there…” said Jim Kaplan, “Kapman” to his close friends. “Let’s draw a little blood, shall we?”

  The former Ranger—Green Beret, “unit name redacted—no such record exist
s”—trooper had been a security specialist inside Bank of the Americas’ pandemic survival plan. Now he was one of the trusted enforcers living in the safe house along the Charles River, just west of Newport News. He stretched towards a kit bag, but stopped when his boss waved him off. Kaplan rubbed his sore leg instead. Three months on, and the gunshot wound he’d picked up on the way out of the maelstrom that had been the fall of New York remained only partially healed.

  Risky had been teaching him yoga, of all things, so his flexibility was coming back, but he walked with a limp.

  * * *

  Tom Smith, the leader of this cheerful little band, squatted to look over the wild-eyed schoolteacher. She glared back silently, red-rimmed eyes perched above a duct tape smile.

  “We’ve only got so many of the test kits,” Tom said, shaking his head ruefully. “She doesn’t have any secondary symptoms, so I think that she’s just crackers for a bit.”

  Risky looked over from trussing the teacher around the knees. Tom noted that she was a dab hand with the rope.

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