With Rotter World, Scott M. Baker pulls out all the stops in a zombie thriller that is brutal, violent and terrifying. Definitely not for the faint-hearted. -- New York Times bestseller Jonathan Maberry, author of Patient Zero and Dead of Night
Think there are no new or original zombie authors? Think again. Scott M. Baker provides an exciting voice and fresh outlook on the undead. Fun, compulsive reading. -- Brian Keene, author of The Rising and City of the Dead
Scott M. Baker writes in the tradition of J.L. Bourne and Joe McKinney. Fans of thriller writers like Brad Thor will also find powerful, welcome similarities in Rotter World. -- Scott Kenemore, author of Zen of Zombie
Right from the start, this book starts off at a frenetic pace and never slows down. Scott ratchets up the intensity page by page until the epic ending at the underground facility. Scott has managed to bring together the best of what I love about end of the world, vampire and zombie tales in one glorious story that I hope he will continue in another book. If you think zombie and vampire stories are overdone and there is not anything new you can do with them, Rotter World proves that theory wrong. If you love vampire and zombie stories, and love great characters you will undoubtedly love Rotter World and I highly recommend it. -- Pete Schwotzer of Famous Monsters of Filmland
THE ROTTER WORLD TRILOGY BOOK 3
Mike Robson lay beside Natalie on the beach. Her arm was nestled against his, their fingers intertwined in a tender embrace. He basked in the warmth generated by the sun as it dried the sea water that still moistened their bodies. A few yards away, the surf washed against the sand in a steady, lulling rhythm. The briny smell of low tide filled his nostrils. He savored every moment, every sensation. At least until sleep drifted away, making him painfully aware that he was dreaming.
Robson opened his eyes, hoping to find solace in his surroundings. Instead, reality rampaged through his fantasy. He was reclined in the passenger seat of the black Hummer H3 they had confiscated from Price, the leader of the rape gang that they had attacked last night. It sat on the road opposite the construction company garage that his team had been using as a makeshift camp. The seatbelt had become wrapped around his right hand. The air inside the enclosed vehicle had grown hot and stagnant, and sweat soaked his skin and clothes. Even rolled up, the windows could not keep out the stench of decay from the pile of corpses one hundred feet in front of him. Tom Caslow stood between the Hummer and the funeral mound, digging a mass grave along the shoulder. The fleeting glimmers of Robson’s happiness drained away, leaving behind the soul-crushing routine that had become his daily existence.
As his dream faded into a hazy memory, the events of the past twenty-four hours came back into focus. His team had raided the storage facility outside Barnston that Price’s gang used as their camp. The main reason for the attack was to rescue Windows, although he did want revenge on them for destroying their camp at Fort McClary and murdering everyone inside. Even though Robson’s team had defeated the gang and revenged the slaughter at their camp, the raid had been less successful than he had hoped for. They had failed to save Windows. Some of the other hostages had reported seeing her and a young girl escape during the melee. Despite sending out search parties, Robson’s team never found her. However, they had rescued thirty-eight survivors, most of them dehydrated and emaciated from weeks of being confined to the human defense perimeter set up around the storage facility. Five were young women who had been forced into being camp followers and had been repeatedly brutalized. Their psychological wounds would take much longer to heal. To compound the situation, Robson had lost three of his own people, casualties he could not afford given their small number.
Worst of all, he still had no idea what had happened to Natalie and the Angels.
Opening the door to the Hummer, Robson stepped out and stretched. He had come out to the Hummer to get away from the hustle going on inside the garage while the survivors settled in. When he had dozed off for a quick nap, it had been close to dawn, and the sky had a light blue tint. Now the sky was marginally brighter. Although he could not have been asleep long, he felt surprisingly well rested for such a short power nap.
Caslow glanced up at Robson and raised his hand to wave. Robson walked away. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Caslow slump over and resume digging. Moving around the front of the Hummer, Robson strolled across the street and entered the construction company’s parking lot. Roberta Giovanni and Charles DeWitt stood by the main door talking with Neal Simmons. Roberta was middle-aged and, at one time, probably quite attractive. However, one year of an apocalypse and several days on the road had sapped the beauty and vitality out of her. She stood between the two men, the worn and dirty clothes hanging loosely on her gaunt frame. Her brown eyes seemed sunken and listless. She had tied her brunette hair into an oily and frayed ponytail that hung down her back. DeWitt fared slightly better. He had worked out at camp and kept himself toned, if somewhat underweight. Yet his face betrayed the wear and tear of everything that had transpired. Dark circles had formed under his eyes, and a days-long growth of beard covered his face and neck. DeWitt and Roberta were the only ones to survive both the massacre at the camp and the raid on the storage facility, and were lucky to be alive.
Frakes and Allard had also gone into battle with them, and had been killed during a gunfight. And of course there was Jennifer, who had been murdered in cold blood by the gang’s leader. Jennifer’s death hit him hardest of all for personal reasons. Robson bore the guilt of getting all three of them killed because he knew they lacked tactical training and should not have participated in last night’s raid. He never would have exposed any of them to such danger had he not been desperate for manpower.
Simmons and his friend Isaac Wayans were newfound friends and a godsend. Former Boston cops who barely had escaped the collapse of the city, the two had moved north and set up a good life for themselves in the rectory of the town of Gilmanton. When Robson’s group happened upon them, they had been gracious enough to not only let Robson use the town as a staging area for the action against the storage facility, they also assisted in the raid, an act of kindness that left Wayans with a minor bullet wound in the chest and Simmons with thirty-eight starving mouths to feed.
Simmons glanced in Robson’s direction. “It’s about time you woke up.”
“What are you talking about? I’ve barely been asleep half an hour.”
Roberta shook her head. “You’ve been asleep all day.”
Well that explained why he felt so rested. “Why didn’t you wake me?”
“You needed to rest,” said Simmons. “Besides, we’re taking care of everything here.”
“At least what we have control over,” added DeWitt.
Robson knew what DeWitt referred to. “How many did we lose?”
“Seven,” answered Roberta. “All of them were those rescued from the defense perimeter. Most died right after eating.”
“What did you feed them?”
“Reconstituted scrambled eggs and bacon, plus water,” replied Simmons. “They’re all so badly malnourished I doubt half of them will make it through the next few days.”
Robson turned to where Caslow dug the mass grave. “I assume he didn’t want to help with the survivors?”
“We didn’t want him to help,” Roberta nearly spat.
Simmons glanced over at Caslow with contempt. “Earlier this afternoon he asked if he could help. I told him to dig graves so we can give the dead a proper burial. He prepared three graves for your people, plus a mass grave for those from the camp who don’t make it.”
“He agreed to that?”
“I didn’t give him much choice.”
Robson didn’t blame Simmons and the others for despising Caslow. Even he couldn’t stand him. Middle-aged and of average height and looks, his entire demeanor reeked of cowardice, from the constantly hunched shoulders, the inability to make eye contact, and his avoidance of confrontation. Caslow had allowed his wife and little girl to be kidnapped by the rape gang, hiding in a store while they were abducted and doing nothing to protect them. The only reason Robson had allowed Caslow to go on last night’s raid was to give him a chance to redeem himself. However, his wife already had committed suicide and his daughter had disappeared, presumably being the little girl the survivors reported seeing leaving the compound with Windows. After the raid, he found Caslow cowering in one of the abandoned storage units.
By now the sun had dropped below the tree line, leaving a reddish-orange glow along the western horizon. The office door to the garage opened, and Dravko and Tibor stepped out into the parking lot. Robson felt sorry for them because of the fate that had befallen their coven, which seemed ironic considering that one month ago he could have easily been convinced to feed them to the rotters. The Zombie Virus the vampires released against mankind to stop humans from hunting the undead nearly made their own kind extinct. The small group of vampires that had been allowed into their camp had been granted asylum out of necessity, the humans needing the strength and agility of the undead to bolster their ranks. An uneasy alliance existed between the two species that lasted for eight months until the trip to Site R when the vampires proved their loyalty. None of Robson’s team would have survived the ordeal at the underground military facility, or last night’s raid on the storage facility, had it not been for vampires. The past few weeks had solidified the friendship between the two species, although at a loss of three members of the coven, a casualty rate of sixty percent. Pockets of humans still existed across the country. As far as Robson knew, Dravko and Tibor were the last of their kind.
Robson suppressed a sigh. His team now consisted of the last two vampires on Earth, a pair of untrained guards, a useless coward, and thirty-one survivors, most of whom were knocking on death’s door.
As the vampires approached, Dravko nodded. Tibor remained his usual stoic self.
“How did the survivors make out?” asked Dravko.
“Not good,” answered Roberta. “We lost seven, and will probably lose several more before long.”
Tibor cast a disdainful look at Dravko that sent a shiver down Robson’s spine.
Dravko seemed genuinely sympathetic. “Let me know if there’s anything we can do to help.”
“Do you want us to take the Hummer and go looking for Windows?” asked Dravko.
Robson shook his head. “I doubt you’ll find her. She’s long gone by now.”
“We don’t mind.”
“I can’t risk losing any more people right now. Windows is on her own.”
Roberta nudged Robson in the shoulder and motioned toward the raised door of the garage. “We have company.”
One of the survivors stood by the opening and peered around the jamb. He recognized her as one of the camp followers from inside the compound, although he didn’t know her name. She ducked out of view when she saw him.
“It’s okay,” Robson called to her. “You’re safe now.”
The woman came out from behind the wall and cautiously walked across the parking lot. She reminded him of a frightened deer approaching a campsite. Her time in the rape camp had sucked the dignity out of her. Unkempt, dirty brunette hair hung past her shoulders and her face and body were gaunt from lack of food. She had the sunken eyes and vacant stare of someone who had witnessed or experienced an event too horrific for the mind to bear. He had seen that stare too frequently in those who had survived the first few weeks of the rotter outbreak, but never before from someone who had suffered at the hands of fellow humans. She stopped ten feet away and lowered her head.
“What can I do for you?” asked Robson.
“I’m sorry to bother you, sir.”
“What’s your name?”
The woman raised her head. “My name?”
“Linda Prowell, sir.” She averted her gaze again.
In all his years with the sheriff’s department he had never seen a woman beaten down this badly. He had no regrets about taking out Price’s gang.
“Linda, my name’s Mike. Please stop calling me sir. You’re not at that compound anymore. I promise you, no one here is going to hurt you.”
Linda made eye contact with each of the men, gauging whether she had anything to fear from them. When her gaze fell upon Roberta, Roberta smiled, assuring her that everything would be all right.
“Linda, do you trust me?” asked Robson.
“I… I want to.”
“That’s good. Now, what can I do for you?”
“I wanted to talk to you about the physical condition of those you rescued from the Line.”
“That’s what they called the defense perimeter around the compound. They’re all in pretty bad shape. And while I know your intentions are good, bacon and eggs aren’t going to help them recover. We lost seven people, and we’re going to lose a lot more unless you can get them a proper diet.”
“I take it you’re a nurse?”
“I was a….” Linda paused, and then proceeded with more confidence. “I am a doctor. A pediatrician, to be exact. I dealt with a lot of eating disorder cases in my practice, so I know what I’m talking about.”
“I’m not questioning you,” said Robson in his most reassuring tone. “What do we need to do?”
“To start with, they need a high calorie and high protein diet. Things like peanut butter, cheese, and beef jerky. Even though they’re dehydrated, don’t give them too much water. If they take in too much liquid too quickly it could seize up their stomachs. The best thing would be powdered milk or protein shakes. Multi-vitamins would help them get back on their feet, if you have any. Also, because they’ve been out on the Line for so long, their clothes are soiled with urine and feces and are infested with bugs. I know all this sounds unreasonable under the circumstances, but we need to get these people properly fed, cleaned up, and into new clothes as soon as possible if they have any chance of surviving.”
“Setting up showers shouldn’t be too difficult,” said Roberta. “DeWitt and I could have them running in a few hours.”
“That’s all well and good,” Robson said, running his hand through his hair. “But where the hell are we going to find the food they need, as well as a fresh change of clothes for everyone?”
Simmons cleared his throat to get everyone’s attention. “I actually know where we can get everything on Linda’s list.”
Robson fixed his gaze on Linda. “See? That was easy.”
Simmons smirked. “Who said anything about it being easy?”