Ice Monkeys [Drunk Monkeys 7] (Siren Publishing Ménage Everlasting), page 2
That couldn’t happen until they were one-hundred-percent sure that General Arliss’ food chain was free of moles, and that they knew exactly who in the Atlanta CDC wasn’t under Reverend Silo’s thumb.
They had some possible locations lined up, but until Bubba gave them a go-ahead they’d have to wait. And Uni couldn’t hang around up there without something to do. Papa wanted as many people as possible in Florida, on the ground and able to help protect the scientists and their lab.
Since Uni wasn’t actively working on their Georgia logistics, here he was.
Uni hoped he would be asked to go back to Georgia soon to finish those arrangements. Right now, he was bored out of his mind, and boredom could easily be deadly.
He wanted something to do.
Something that didn’t involve going into the carefully cordoned-off lab area, of course. They’d been able to add a decontamination area and several layers of protection to help keep anything from escaping the lab.
After Doc’s close brush with death by contracting a less severe form of Kite back in California, none of them wanted to risk exposure again.
“So what are you going to do today to kill time?” Victor asked. “Not just going to go whack off, are you?”
Uni gave his partner a disgusted scowl despite Victor’s good-natured grin. “Asshole. I’m thinking about taking one of the skiffs out and going fishing.”
“I hear Pandora’s looking for help with the garden.”
“Enjoy.” Uni drained the rest of his coffee. “I love that special snowflake, but I am not a gardener.”
Uni pushed away from the railing and headed inside. Chief and Annie were sharing cooking duties this morning, and the smell of eggs scrambling had Uni’s stomach growling for something more substantial than coffee.
* * * *
Victor knew he shouldn’t be yanking Uni’s chain, but he was getting restless, too. It was looking like they’d be in Florida for at least the winter, if they were lucky.
Sure, he could take watches and help with general duties around their island compound, but unless their gig involved flying a helo, he was pretty much twiddling his thumbs.
He followed Uni into the room now functioning as their chow hall and all-purpose room. Several men who weren’t currently on watch were either eating or waiting their turn to get food. In addition to the twenty original men who formed their SOTIF unit—aka the Drunk Monkeys—six of the two-man teams had paired up with women, bringing their core number to twenty-six. Add to that Q, Canuck, and Sin—the code names of three doctors from The List who were working on trying to stop this damn Kite nightmare that they had unwillingly helped create—and they were almost at thirty.
Their own little town, just about.
Two other civvies had made the trip with them from Seattle, but they parted ways upon their safe arrival in south Florida, headed north toward Orlando to meet up with their own relatives.
Victor got in line behind Uni and grabbed a mess kit. “Maybe I will go fishing with you. If you don’t mind the company.”
Uni looked over his shoulder at Victor. “You hate fishing.”
“I also hate gardening. If I have a choice, I’ll take fishing.”
Uni smirked. “Been seeing snook between the island and mainland, especially around the bridge. We catch enough, it’s fresh fish for dinner for everyone.”
“Just show me what to do.”
“That’s what she said,” Uncle joked from where he sat at a table with his partner, Zed.
Like them, Uncle and Zed had yet to luck out and pair up with a woman.
Alpha, their second in command, walked in with a tablet in hand. “Oh, good, there you are.” He made a beeline for Victor and Uni.
“Can we get chow first?” Uni asked. “’Cause I got a feeling you’re about to cancel my plans for the day.” Uni didn’t sound exactly upset about that, and Victor couldn’t blame him.
“Yeah. Bubba just sent us some interesting information. He thinks those videos and audio files that were posted to the Internet about Reverend Silo might have originated in the Atlanta area.”
Victor exchanged a confused glance with Uni. “No offense, but so? Lima’s our resident geek. Shouldn’t he be doing this?”
“He’s going, too. I need you and Uni to go with him, Omega, and Chief up to Atlanta and scope things out. While you’re up there, you and Omega can finish the logistics on the Atlanta safe house.”
Chief’s real name was Gia. She’d earned her moniker because she’d been a captain in the LASD, appointed chief by default at her station where they’d met her because the other ranking officers in her area had died or disappeared.
That was just as Kite literally exploded in the LA area and she bugged out with them, partnered with Omega and Echo.
“I didn’t think the Atlanta operation was a go yet?” Uni asked.
“It’s not. This is a final scouting mission.”
“Can I finish helping with morning mess first?” Chief asked without turning from where she stood at the stove. “Or do you need me now?”
“I need you five to get with me and Papa once morning mess is wrapped up.”
“Why her?” Victor asked. “No offense,” he called over to her.
She flashed him a grin over her shoulder. “Don’t worry. I won’t spit in your eggs.”
“Because she’s a cop and former military,” Alpha said. “You’ll need her skills on this mission.”
“Fair enough,” Victor said.
“Papa and I will debrief you all at the same time. The soonest you could leave is when Panda gets back from Tampa. That has to take precedence, since we need those mods done to get the plane back.”
“Ya know, if we had a damn chopper here…” Victor arched an eyebrow at Alpha.
“Oh, yeah, and that’s not something that would attract the slightest bit of attention, huh?” Alpha asked. “A chopper suddenly landing and taking off from here all the time? You don’t think that might pique people’s curiosity?”
Their cover story was they were working with DHS and the DEA on a top-secret mission. That was the story law enforcement at all levels, from local to county to state to federal, had all been told to keep them clear of their island and prevent questions from being asked.
The amphibious Derring 82X airplane they had could land on water or solid ground, but it was relatively small and quiet compared to a helicopter.
“I’m just saying.”
“Don’t worry. Omega is going to need Uni’s help. Bubba’s cleared us to get a satellite safe house facility ready. That’ll put you and Lima and Chief out in the field. You’ll get all the excitement you could hope for.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Victor muttered.
Uni grinned at him. “Be careful what you wish for, dude.”
“Shut the fuck up.”
Donna Epperson enjoyed the silence of the apartment. It was Friday morning, meaning she had the day off and her two roommates were at work until later that evening.
A smile filled her face.
Having grown up in a cramped house with three generations and several branches of her family all stuffed under the same roof, this felt like owning a private luxury mansion in comparison.
A room to herself. A bed to herself.
Not that she wouldn’t mind a hunk to share her bed with, but the next best thing to having a hunk in her bed was not having to share it, or her room, with anyone.
At least she’d been an only child. Her mom had made her father get a vasectomy, insisting one and done, especially since they didn’t even have a house of their own.
Heck, her parents still lived in that house with six other people.
Not a fraction as crowded as it’d been with seventeen people, adults and children, when she’d been a kid, but still too crowded for Donna’s tastes.
Nope, she wanted to be alone.
Donna sat up and stretch
Everything else she needed was within easy walking distance. It meant she could add more to her savings every month.
If she needed the use of a car, she could always give her roommate Lisa gas money to take her somewhere, or borrow her car if Lisa was off that day. Besides, the day was gorgeous, an early October cool front having shoved the last of Georgia’s humid summer heat right out the door.
The first thing she’d do would be to take a long, luxurious shower and use up all the hot water. Two things she couldn’t normally do, since they only had one bathroom in the apartment, and all three of them usually took morning showers.
After her shower she wrapped her shoulder-length brown hair in a towel and walked out, naked, to the kitchen to pour herself a cup of coffee from what her roommates had left behind in the pot for her. She wasn’t seeing any grey in her hair yet at twenty-eight, but even when she did, she’d be hard-pressed to color it.
There were far more important things to spend her money on, like savings.
The last thing she wanted to do was have to move back in with her parents and her other relatives, with no privacy, no peace, no calm.
She loved her family, but she didn’t like most of them very much. She definitely didn’t want to live with them.
Her mom had even begged her to come over for dinner that evening, the family wanting to get together to discuss the current events and possibly prepare to leave the Atlanta area for some hunting cabin her uncle had inherited and supposedly been equipping for survival ever since last July’s blow-up in North Korea.
No, thank you.
Whatever this Kite disease was, the CDC would take care of it. People had panicked during the last flu outbreak, too, and it had fizzled. Yes, it was horrible what happened in LA and Barstow, but that was literally on the other side of the darn country. And North Korea was on the other side of the world. The flu and other epidemics always hit the third-world countries the hardest.
This was Atlanta. A major US city. If her parents thought she’d ditch her job, when she actually had a relatively good job and so many people didn’t have jobs at all, they were nuts.
Her Uncle Davis had always been one of those prepper kinds of people. Conspiracy theories, all that crap. She’d never been to his hunting cabin, but it was supposedly out in the middle of farking nowhere, northeast of Atlanta. He wanted them all to head there until things calmed down.
Uh, what about a job?
If they wanted to bug out, sure, let them. If they left her a car, she’d even stop by their house a couple of times a week to check on it for them during her lunch breaks at work.
But she wasn’t going anywhere. Not without good reason.
Not when there were dozens of job applicants filing resumes with Human Resources every week at her bank branch.
She’d been damn lucky to get this job after college, and was slowly working her way up the ladder. She wouldn’t blow it by being irresponsible.
And what, have to move back in with my family when nothing happens but then I’m out of a job? Thanks, but no thanks.
By noon she’d gone to the grocery store, finished her laundry, remade her bed, finished her portion of the chores, and even put on a slow-cooker meal to have ready when her roommates returned home.
Now, I can chill! Reading, or brain candy?
They had basic cable and Internet as part of their rent package. She used the Internet to surf with her laptop and find every feel-good video she could put her eyes on. She steered clear of the news websites talking about Kite and pandemics and riots and…
Beyond local authorities in Atlanta telling them to use the face masks—which she did—and wash your hands and use hand sanitizer—which she also did—she wasn’t going to panic.
Did they have extra food? Of course they did. Last winter’s ice storms were horrible, the worst in nearly fifty years. They were absolutely going to stay prepared for events like that. That was only prudent, and what local authorities had warned people should do.
In what little “news” she’d allowed herself to absorb, Donna knew scientists and climatologists were blaming their wacky winter weather on the after-effects of China nuking North Korea.
As they drew closer to winter, Donna and her roommates had increased their food stash and cycled through their canned goods like they were supposed to, and had three large plastic five-gallon jugs they could fill with water. They also had candles and flashlights and batteries that they cycled through as well. Those kinds of precautions were realistic and prudent, especially with fall upon them and that winter predicted to be as bad, if not worse, than the previous one.
The brisk nip in the air that morning as she walked to the store had been enough to remind her of that.
They added a little to their stores every week. In fact, she’d added four cans of tuna fish and six cans of soup to their stockpile today, and used two cans of green beans from it for the slow cooker dinner now simmering on the kitchen counter.
Fortunately, her roommates were just as level-headed as she was in that regard. Be prepared. Don’t take any stupid risks. One of the many reasons she loved them so much and they got along so well together.
Donna turned off the videos, broke out her Kindle to read, and relaxed to enjoy what was left of her day off alone, happy in her blissful ignorance.
* * * *
Lisa arrived home first, a little after six. “Mmm, that smells good!” she said. “What is it?”
“Ground beef casserole. Sorry I couldn’t get a good deal on a better cut of meat.”
“No, it smells great. Thanks.” Lisa headed to the bedroom she shared with Ginny to drop her stuff. They had the larger bedroom, which was only fair, since it was two of them sharing it.
Donna was grateful she didn’t have to share. Worth every extra penny she paid in rent to avoid that, too.
Maybe one day she’d find a guy, but it wasn’t a priority for her. It seemed most of the eligible guys who weren’t total douchenozzles had enlisted in the military, or were married, or were gay.
She’d rather be blissfully alone than settle for less than she wanted. Besides, with her crazy work schedule, it didn’t leave time for much socializing.
Donna was getting ready to get up and join Lisa in the kitchen when her cell rang. She glanced at the screen before answering it.
Ugh. “Hi, Mom.”
“Aunt Cheryl said she’d come pick you up if I can get you to change your mind about dinner.”
Donna walked into the kitchen, where Lisa was ladling herself a bowl of the thick, stew-like concoction. “No, thanks, Mom. Already ate.”
She had to fight to keep from giggling as Lisa made an expression of mock-horror and waggled her fingers at her in a shame-shame motion. They all knew Donna was not only a terrible liar, but that she hated lying.
“Please, honey. Things are getting horrible all over the world and—”
“Mom. LA is how many thousands of miles away? Look, if there were any danger, they would have been telling us. I’m sorry, but I’m in the middle of trying to start a load of laundry and I need to get this done. Love you! Say hi to Dad for me. Bye!”
Donna hung up before her mom could get another word in edgewise, then set her phone to silent mode and put it on the counter in case her mom tried calling her back.
Lisa giggled. “Holy crap. Two lies to your mom in less than a minute. What’s up?”
“Same old stuff.” Donna grabbed a bowl and dished herself out a portion. She faked her mom’s high-pitched voice. “The world’s coming to an end! Disaster! Destruction! Run for your lives!” She changed back to her own voice. “I swear, you’d think they’d listen to reason, but they won’t.
“I haven’t heard anything new lately. SSDD—same precautions they’ve been warning us about. The only things the people in our department are concerned with are trying to get three more salt trucks before winter hits.” Lisa was a bookkeeper working for the City of Atlanta in their maintenance department. “They’ve had me squeezing every last penny I can out of our budget all week. My head’s killing me.”
“See? I figured if anyone would know, it’d be you.”
“Parents worry. It’s their job, or so I’ve been told.” Lisa leaned against the counter and stared into her bowl. Her mom had died when she was four and her father, who’d been in the military, had died when she was ten. She’d been raised by an aunt who’d only cared about the cash benefits from the government, until Lisa turned eighteen and they ran out.
At least Lisa had been eligible by default for government grants for college, which was where Donna had met her and Ginny.
“Sorry,” Donna said. “I guess I shouldn’t bitch about them like that.”
Lisa snorted. “No, you should totally bitch about them like that. I agree, your family is a little off the deep end about the world’s sitch. I can’t blame you for not wanting to deal with them.”
They both looked up at the sound of the front door opening.
“Hey, yo. Oooh, what is that I smell?” Ginny didn’t even detour to the bedroom first. She dropped her stuff on the couch and headed straight for their small kitchen.
“Oh, nom!” She leaned in and kissed Donna and Lisa on the cheeks. “Maybe we can have a straight three-way marriage, huh?” She grabbed a bowl. “You both take such good care of me.”
Ginny was absolved from any cooking duties by default.
She could burn boiled water. And not for lack of trying on her part. She’d tried to learn how to cook and failed miserably at it. Her main chore was always cleaning up the kitchen after dinner to make up for her utter lack of culinary skills.
TYMBER DALTON SERIES:
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