The flap of Alex’s tent pulled back and Hayden stuck his head through. “Am I late?” he asked. Liam rolled his eyes.
“And just how are you supposed to be late to a secret meeting?” he snarked.
“Uh, good point,” Hayden said. “What have I missed?”
Liam handed a stack of papers over to the younger man. “Nothing yet. We’ve just been going through the information. Haven’t really made much headway yet.”
“What’s in it?” Hayden asked, taking the proffered papers.
“More troop movements from before the outbreak, political assignments…just seems a bunch of stiff that doesn’t seem to fit together.” Liam shook his head. “Alex, I think this guy has us chasing our tails. None of this makes any sense.”
Alex sat behind his desk, squeezing the bridge of his nose. Various papers from different packages were strewn on the desk in front of him. “I’m starting to agree with you Liam.”
Everyone continued looking over their various papers in silence, switching with one another as necessary.
“This is useless,” Martin called out. “None of this makes any sense.”
Grumblings of approval spread around the room. Liam leaned closer to Alex, still hunched over his desk.
“I think I’m starting to agree,” Liam said. Alex nodded slowly.
“I think I do to. I can’t see a pattern, or even a point to all this.”
A few more moments passed in silence before Hayden spoke up. “You got a map?” he asked casually. Alex looked at him, surprised. He indicated his desk and began clearing things from the buried and forgotten map.
“What are you thinking?” Liam asked, helping to unearth the map.
Hayden shook his head. “Nothing in particular. Just wanted to see these things plotted out on a map.” He shrugged. “Having some trouble visualizing it.”
The men finished clearing the map as everyone in the tent gathered round. “Okay,” Alex said. “What next?”
Hayden scanned through the documents in his hands. Selecting one, he handed the paper over to Alex. “Where are these?”
Alex glanced at the document. “Troop movements? We’ve already looked at this.”
Hayden nodded his head. “I know. But we’ve all looked at this information in pieces. I’m curious to see if anything makes sense together.”
Alex shrugged and started plotting points on the map. “Okay,” Alex said, placing the last mark on the map. “What else?”
Once more, Hayden flipped through the stack of papers in his hand. “How about this one?”
Alex took the paper and chuckled when he saw what it was. “Congressmen? Why do you want that?”
Hayden shrugged. “Not sure. It’s one more set of data points. Plug in enough, maybe we’ll see a pattern.” He shrugged again. “Couldn’t hurt.”
It was Alex’s turn to shrug. “Alright,” and Alex quickly plugged in the data points. “There,” he said and stepped back from the desk. Everyone else leaned in.
“All of these points,” Luke Berryman said, pointing to the dots, “the Congressmen are all conveniently located in or near troop concentrations.”
“Standard procedure,” Donovan spoke up. “Each of those are safe areas. Places where government leaders can be taken in case of an emergency. Those troops are there to protect them?
“A lot of good that did,” Luke said. Everyone turned to face him.
“What do you mean by that?” Liam asked.
“Well, look,” he offered the report he was holding. “This is the report detaining all fo the secure ares. Looks like quite a few of them didn’t make it.”
Luke handed the paper over to Alex. “Plot the fallen safe zones,” Theresa said. “Which ones didn’t make it?”
Alex carefully studied the paper before reaching for the map. He laid markers on their sides as he came across ones that fell. “And what does that tell us?” he asked.
Theresa shook her head, eyes moving over the map. “Nothing. Just where some big wigs got popped.”
“There’s got to be more to it,” Hayden said. “Something is missing, we just haven’t figured out what it is.”
“Okay,” Alex said. “Go through everything. Every piece of data, every mention of any of these places. Let’s plug in the data points and see what we come up with.”
Heads nodded around the gathered men and everyone split up into groups to pour over the stacks of data available. It wasn’t long before names began to crop up.
“Here’s one,” called Luke.
“More here,” Martin offered.
“Good,” Alex said. “Let’s get everything collected and we’ll plot it out.”
Everyone continued shuffling through papers, scanning for any mention of troop movements or secure government facilities. Nearly half an hour passed before all of the data had been sifted through.
“Okay,” Alex said, calling his team back around the map. “What have we got?”
Everyone looked to each other, waiting for the first to speak. Donovan spoke up.
“More on the troops,” he said. “Supply lists. Not very consistent among the groups, but that could be due to difference in troop allotments.” Donovan handed the documents over to Alex. He shrugged his shoulders. “Would be interesting to see.”
“Okay,” Alex said with a sigh. Grabbing a Sharpie he began quickly writing numbers next to the various troop locations. Finishing the last, Alex stood back from the map. “Huh,” he said, still looking at the map.
“What?” Hayden said. “What do you see?”
Alex looked up from the map startled, almost as if he forgot anyone was there. “Well, the numbers don’t match.”
“What do you mean they don’t match?” Donovan said, leaning over the map to look closer.
“Christ, none of us can see anything,” Theresa said and snatched the Sharpie from Alex’s hand. Pushing Alex out of the way, Theresa bent over the map and hurredly drew visual representations of the numbers. Squares of varying sizes indicating food and supplies, circles showing ammunition and weapons shipments. “There,” she said, tossing the capped Sharpie on the map and stepping away.
Everyone leaned in towards the map to see the new information. “This doesn’t make sense,” Hayden said. “Why do some of these smaller places have more supplies than the other?”
“I believe that’s what I said,” Alex sniped, eyeing Theresa.
“Yes, but now we ALL can see it,” Theresa said.
“Okay, back to the data at hand.” Liam tried to get everyone back on track. “Look at the map. Those area that received the most supplies survived the initial outbreak.”
“And the amount of troops does not correlate to survival or supplies.” Theresa shook her head. “I don’t think there’s anything here.”
“Now just wait,” Dr. Cahn spoke up. He had been silent the entire evening until now. “These are only three data points and we have a lot more information here. Before we just give up the ship, lets see where the rest takes us.”
Heads nodded and everyone agreed. Each man in thrun handed over their information. The data, if possible, was carefully added to the map and sorted into their appropriate stack along with the others. An hour passed without any significant revelations.
“Yup, pretty sure this is pointless,” Luke spouted, breaking the silence in the room.
“I’m starting to agree with you,” Dr. Cahn agreed. “None of this makes any sense.”
“Now wait,” Hayden spoke up. “There’s still a lot more information to go through…”
“And it’s all the same,” Luke interrupted. “We’re just going around in circles.”
“What if we look through everything we’ve got left. Filter out anything that’s not the same thing we have already seen?” Theresa offered. Everyone in the room pondered the solution. Liam finally agreed.
“Okay,” he said. “But only for another half hour. We could waste all night and the next day going through this stuff.”
“Agreed,” Theresa nodded, and once more veryone shuffled through their seemingly unending stacks of data.
“Here’s something,” Liam offered, looking carefully at the papers in front of him. “But for the life of me I can’t tell what it’s talking about.”
Alex crossed over and took the proffered document from Liam. He studied it for a moment before speaking. “Looks like some kind of medical document. Lots of government speak, but I think there’s something about a vaccine, or a shot, or…something.”
Now Dr. Cahn took the papers. He scanned them quickly, flipping back and forth between the pages. “These are orders for some kind -of vaccine,” Dr. Cahn said. “But,” he started flipping through the pages of the report again. “This doesn’t make sense.”
Alex looked over the doctor’s shoulder, trying to figure out what had the man stumped. “What’s the problem, doc?” The aging man shook his head.
“These orders seem to be for the same vaccine, but they don’t match.” Dr. Cahn held the papers out to Alex, pointing first at one set of orders, then flipping the page to show the second. “Do you see them? Here and here?” Alex once again took the documents and studied the orders for a long time.
“So just what is Etamox?” Ales asked. Dr. Cahn shrugged his shoulders.
“Don’t know. I’ve never heard of it before. And I’m not sure why there are two different variations of the order, either.”
Alelx continued looking between the papers. “Etamox-a and Etamox-c,” he said quietly.
“How are the vaccines distributed?” Theresa asked. Alex looked up from the papers, then over to Dr. Cahn. Handing the papers to the doctor, Alex picked up the Sharpie and hunched over the map.
Dr. Cahn began reading off the various locations and doses of the Etamox vaccines. As they continued, everyone gathered close to see if this newest information resulted in anything new. The more data sets that were plotted, the more everyone realized something was not right.
“I don’t like what I’m seeing,” Theresa said stunned. The data laid out before them showed a disturbing picture, one in which the secure areas and troop strongholds receiving Etamox-c were completely destroyed. The remaining strongholds, those which received the Etamox-a vaccine, survived.
“I don’t think this necessarily proves anything,” Dr. Cahn said. “Coinsidence?”
“That’s a pretty big coincidence,” Alex offered. “Considering everything else that’s gone on…”
“What?” Luke interrupted. “What are you suggesting? Conspiracy? That someone did this on purpose?”
“I’m just hypothesizing,” Alex said defensively. “You have to admit that there are some pretty big coincidences.”
“But conspiracy?” Luke argued. “That’s big. Are we really saying that someone actually planned this?”
“Why not?” theresa said. She stood over the map, arms crossed and defiant. “Why couldn’t someone have planned the demise of those places?” Theresa’s posture dared anyone to cross her. Luke took the challenge.
“That’s bullshit and you know it! For what reason would anyone want to do what you’re suggesting? For that matter, just what are you suggesting?”
Theresa’s face was hard, anger flaring in her eyes. “I’m saying someone planned for those strongholds to fall. That they set it up, put things in motion. I’m saying that maybe the destruction of those places was not an accident. Maybe not even this outbreak.”
Murmers erupted around the group, each voicing concerns or agreements to the accusations Theresa offered. Luke was the loudest and most adamant. “Bullshit!” he said once he found his voice. “Total bullshit! Do you hear what you are saying?! You are accussing people of mass murder…”
“And why not?” Theresa interrupted. “People have done a lot worse.” The silence in the room was palpable. Luke looked around the room at each person standing around the desk.
“Does anyone else think that all this was planned?” Luke challenged. “Does anyone else believe this all was intentional? Do you?!” Luke’s voice raised in pitch and ferocity as he challenged anyone to go against him.
“Things are starting to look a little fishy,” Alex said calmly. “You have to admit that things are…”
“I don’t have to admit anything,” Luke spat. “We are jumping to a rediculous conclusion, and based on what? A few dots on a map? Information given to us from someone we don’t even know, and information we can’t even trust to be true?” Luke waved at the map, dismissing the information it displayed.
“We all agreed to trust the information,” Alex reminded him. “If we start nitpicking every piece of paper…”
“You mean being smart?” Luke interrupted him. “I will not blindly follow, Alex. And I for one think that this,” again Luke waved a dismissive hand at the map, “is a load of bullshit. We are forcing conclusions. We’re not using our heads.”
“And you’re refusing to look at all the options,” Theresa snapped.
“What?! I’m not refusing to look at anything, but his makes no sense.”
“Then what’s your theory?” Theresa said, cutting the man off. He simply shook his head, barely able to control his rage.
“I don’t know!” Luke shouted. “But this isn’t it. It can’t be!”
“Who were the Congressmen in the failed safety zones?” Hayden stood looking at the map, barely listening to the argument that raged around him. He rubbed his chin and appeared to have heard none of the heated exchange. Hayden looked up from the map and starred at Alex as if nothing else were going on in the room. “No, seriously. Who was where?”
“What does it matter?” Luke snipped. “They’re all dead.”
“Exactly. And if there is a conspiracy… Listen, I’m just curious who was where.” Hayden looked from Luke to Theresa to Alex. Alex just shrugged his shoulders.
“Okay. I’ll humor you.” Alex dug through the papers until he found the one he was looking for. He handed the paper to Liam and uncapped the Sharpie.
Liam read each name on the list, giving Alex enough time to locate their position on the map and notate it. After every name had been recorded, everyone studied the map in detail. “Great,” Luke snarked, “and just what did we learn from that?”
Everyone remained silent for a time, still focusing on the map before them. “I’m not sure I see much of anything there,” Alex commented. Still everyone remained silent, lost in thought. Just as Luke seemed ready to lose his temper, Hayden spoke up.
“Does anyone remember back to the last election?” he asked, looking up from the map. “Anyone remember all the controvercies that went down? Weren’t some of these dead Congressmen involved?” Everyone leaned closer to the map to look closer over the names written there.
“I remember some of it,” Dr. Cahn offered. “Some pretty low points in this country’s history, even considering it was politics. But were all of the dead Congressmen involved?”
“Senator Hutchinson,” Donovan offered. “He lead the rally call against the current administration, didn’t he?”
“Former administration,” Alex corrected. “There is no government left to speak of.”
Donovan rolled his eyes. “Okay, fine. Former government. Wasn’t Hutchinson very outspoken about the quote-unquote, evil practices of the Dalmer Administration? I seem to remember President Dalmer getting pretty pissed over some of the things that were being said about him.”
“I remember that too,” Cahn said, now looking at the map with more interest. “And here,” he pointed to a spot on the map. “Representative Page…he stood with Hutchinson on the House side, organizing those in the House of Representatives against the administration. Is there a connection?”
Another moment of silence engulfed them as each considered their own thoughts. The silence was broken by a curse from Alex. “Shit. Take a look at this,” he said, handing the paper he had been reviewing to Dr. Cahn. The man examined the paper for a moment before giving Alex a quizzical look.
“The President?” Cahn asked quietly. Alex nodded his head and leaned forward to X-out a spot on the map.
“Apparently the President’s compound was one of those that was lost in the outbreak. The President is dead.” The revelation of that news was a weight that pressed down on the room. The leader of the free world, the President, had been killed in the outbreak of the zombie war.
“There goes your theory,” Luke said, breaking the silence. Glaring eyes turned on the man. “What? You were all leading up to the conclusion that the President had conspired to release the virus. I don’t think that is viable now since he is dead.”
“No one said that President Dalmer did anything, Luke,” Cahn countered. “We are just looking at all the angles.”
“So it wasn’t Dalmer. Who did release the virus?” Eyes now shifted to a very beligerant looking Theresa Hill. She stood next to the desk, arms crossed, looking defiant. “Who else, that is still alive, would have benefited from killing over half the human population of the United States?”
“Seriously Theresa?! You still want us to believe that someone planned this…” Theresa cut Luke off, mid sentence.
“Yes. We haven’t finished going through everything yet. There is still a connection that we haven’t made. We just need…”
“Shut up! Jesus Christ, woman! You just won’t leave things well enough alone! No one planned this! No one is to blame! No one is guilty! The world has gone to shit and you have to blame someone for it, don’t you?!”
Theresa came flying across the desk at Luke, grabbing at the man’s clothes and swinging wildly at him. Everyone jumped back in surprise before collecting themselves and reaching in to separate the two.
“Knock it off!” Alex yelled, struggling with Liam to keep a hold of the fighting woman. “Knock it off!” Theresa relaxed some, stopping her struggle with the two men who were holding her back. Tears streamed down her face.
“I think we’ve done enough for tonight,” Dr. Cahn said quietly. “I suggest we all get some sleep. We are heading out to a new site tomorrow. Alpha team, correct?” Alex nodded, not taking his eyes off Theresa in case she chose to go after Luke again.
“The doc’s right. We leave tomorrow at noon, Beta teams heading out at 9 AM. Everyone needs to get some rest and check their gear. It’ll be a long couple of days to a week before we are back, so that will give everyone some time to collect their thoughts and calm themselves down before we discuss this again. Okay?” Heads around the tent nodded in agreement and everyone slowly started to make their way out. “The same goes for you,” Alex said to Theresa. Her eyes never left the back of Luke as he left the tent.
“Fine,” she growled, and pushed her way past the two men. Both Liam and Alex watched her exited before looking back to one another.
“Keep an eye on her, Liam. I don’t really trust her tonight.”
“I had the same thought,” Liam agreed. “I’ll talk with Donovan and we’ll get things arranged to keep an eye on her.” Liam shook his head and smiled. “Damn, that was exciting. You think that someone really did all this on purpose, Alex?”
Alex shrugged his shoulder and shook his head. “Not sure. But there are some big coincidences that I don’t think can be easily written off. We definitely need to keep an eye on all this.” Alex clapped his friend on the shoulder. “Try and get some sleep tonight, and let me know if I can help with the watch.”
“Will do,” Liam said and hurried out to find Donovan.