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 2
Mike Robson stood behind the barricade of Jersey barriers. To his rear lay the southern ramp to Tukey Bridge. Ahead of him, Portland was silent and surprisingly deserted of rotters. That only increased his apprehension of having sent out Dravko and Tibor to scout the area. He reasoned that being vampires they had the best chance of surveying the city and making it back on their own. They had been gone for over three hours and should have returned long ago, unless something had happened to them. He stared into the night, wondering what lay in the darkness.
“Where are they?”
“Don’t worry. They’ll be back soon.” Natalie Bazargan reached out and slid her hand into his, giving it a reassuring squeeze.
Robson appreciated the gesture. He couldn’t help but notice that, as she spoke, Natalie scanned the area to check on her Angels, making sure the twelve girls were in place and prepared to defend against an attack.
Not that he could blame her. Everyone who had survived the expedition to Site R to retrieve the vaccine to the Zombie Virus was unusually jittery, which was to be expected after watching so many of their group get killed in the underground complex. And that didn’t include the three they had lost on the way to Pennsylvania. Because of this, he had chosen an alternate route home that went due north through the countryside before swinging east in central New Hampshire, bypassing the rotter-infested cities they had driven through on the first leg of their journey, not to mention the rape gang they had encountered outside of Barnston. The return trip added more than a hundred miles and two days to their travel time, although it did have the advantage of avoiding major population centers. At least it had until the group reached Portland, where they found that Route 95, the primary highway running parallel to the Maine coast, was impassible due to a multi-vehicle collision that blocked all the southbound lanes and created a “gawk factor” traffic jam heading north. Backtracking to the Maine Turnpike, the group cut across to coastal Route 1 and again headed south until they reached the city limits where a roadblock across the Tukey Bridge barred their path into the city. The presence of the abandoned barrier didn’t bother Robson as much as there being no signs of a struggle or of rotters. Because his gut feeling told him something wasn’t right, he had sent out Dravko and Tibor to investigate.
Right about now, Robson regretted being so damn overcautious.
“We should have tried to maneuver around that accident on 95,” he said, more to himself than anyone else.
“It wouldn’t have worked,” Natalie reassured him. “The Hummers would have been able to navigate the median, but the school bus and Ryder would never have made it.”
Robson glanced at his watch for the hundredth time. “I shouldn’t have sent them out on their own. We should have made a dash for it.”
“That worked so well for us in Glens Falls and Montoursville.” Natalie sighed and squeezed his hand tighter. “I didn’t mean that the way it sounded.”
“It’s true.” Robson had lost too many people retrieving this damn vaccine, and had compensated by becoming cautious. Maybe too cautious. Being overly hesitant could just as easily get them killed.
“There!” Natalie let go of Robson’s hand and pointed toward movement in the darkness. Robson raised his Atchisson AA-12 assault shotgun, an automatic version of a shotgun that held twenty rounds in a drum magazine. Off to the left and right, Ari and Emily raised their M-16A2 semi-automatic rifles into firing position. Farther out, several of the Angels had heard Natalie’s exclamation and moved closer to provide fire support.
Dravko and Tibor emerged from the shadows.
Emily lowered her weapon. “Honey, call out to us next time before you get your fool head shot off.”
“You would have missed, little girl,” replied Tibor in his East European accent. His grin took the edge off of the insult.
“What took you so long?” asked Robson, the relief evident in his voice.
Dravko sat on the top of the Jersey barrier and swung his legs over. “Whoever planned out the defense of this city knew what they were doing. They almost succeeded in keeping it rotter free.”
“So Portland is infected?” Robson’s shoulders drooped.
“Yes, but it won’t affect us.” Dravko reached under his jacket and pulled out a tourist map of downtown Portland. He stepped over and spread it out across the hood of the Humvee. The downtown area sat on a peninsula bordered to the north by Back Cove and to the south by an inlet. Route 1 ran west of the downtown area, cutting off the peninsula from the rest of the mainland. Dravko pointed to the interchange south of the bridge spanning the inlet. “There’s a huge roadblock set up here and nothing’s getting by. We saw at least thirty or forty cars parked in front of it, probably people trying to avoid the traffic jam on 95. Between the barricades and the vehicles, there’s no way we’re getting through that.”
“Then we’re screwed.”
“Far from it.” Dravko ran his finger along the eastern coast of the peninsula to where a smaller bridge, the Casco Bay Bridge, crossed over onto the mainland. “This is Route 77 into South Portland. There’s a small roadblock on the far end, a pair of police cars blocking the bridge, and a couple of dozen rotters beyond that. The police cars are parked nose-to-nose, so we should be able to shove them aside with the Ryder. Once we’re clear of the bridge, we can cut through the suburbs and pick up the main road a few miles to the south.”
“What about rotter activity in the downtown area?” Natalie asked.
“Minimal. Like I said, whoever mapped out the defenses for this city did a great job. Trucks and Jersey barriers are lined up all along Route 1, so nothing made it in from outside the city. Chain links fences have been erected along the main road downtown, trapping the living dead in the residential and dock areas. There’s a dozen rotters at most in the street between here and the bridge.”
Robson studied the map. It looked easy enough. Less than three miles stood between their current location and the bridge that crossed over into South Portland, with only a handful of rotters in between. It should be easy. However, many times before he had thought that and lost lives in the process.
He looked at the Angels, who formed a perimeter around the vehicles. They had lived through a nightmare at Site R, battling several hundred rotters in the confines of the facility’s access tunnel, and the experience had destroyed their confidence. Before that incident, they would have formed a tight perimeter circling the group, guns ready and aimed against any potential danger. Now the girls milled around, a few of them with their weapons slung over their shoulder. The best word to describe them was ragtag. All cohesion and discipline had been destroyed in that access tunnel. They hadn’t run into any of the living dead on the trip back, so no one knew how badly their fighting cohesion had suffered. He would find out soon enough, and he needed them at their best if they hoped to make it through this.
Robson glanced to the east. The first hint of sunlight tinted the horizon. “Do you think your girls are up to it?”
“They have to be.” Natalie kept her eyes focused on the map. “I’ll round them up.”
“Let me.” Robson stepped away from the Humvee and called out loud enough for the others to hear, and hopefully not loud enough to attract any rotters. “I know you’ve been through a lot the past few weeks, and we’re almost home. Portland isn’t overrun, so it’s a clear shot to the bridge south of us. Once we reach it, all we have to do is move two squad cars and push through a few rotters, then it’s clear until we get back to the fort. All I need is for you girls to stay sharp for a little while longer. Are you with me?”
Twelve faces stared blankly at him. Damn, thought Robson. Not the best pep talk I’ve ever given.
Natalie pushed past him. “You heard him. Pull your shit together and get your asses in gear. I’ll be goddamned if I’m going to lose anyone else.”
The Angels perked up, if only slightly. Breaking formation, they sauntered onto the school bus. Natalie turned to Robson and grinned. “Out here they’re not girls, they’re soldiers, and sometimes they need a kick in the panties to motivate them.”
“Let’s hope we keep them motivated for the next thirty minutes.” Robson leaned forward and kissed Natalie. “Be careful.”
She reached behind his neck and held him in place, her lips hovering close to his. “Please don’t do anything foolish.”
“I won’t.” This time they kissed longer and more passionately.
Ari cleared her throat. She stood by the passenger door to the second Humvee, smiling. “Are you two done?”
“Yes.” Natalie slid her hand across Robson’s face, cupping his cheek. She turned away and climbed into the driver’s seat of the Humvee.
Robson stepped over to the Ryder, which headed up the convoy. Dravko stuck his head through the driver’s window. “Are we ready?”
“You lead the way since you got the layout of Portland.”
Dravko gave a thumbs up. A second later, the Ryder’s engine kicked over. With a grinding of gears, the truck lurched forward and headed into downtown Portland.
Robson climbed into the passenger seat of the first Humvee. Jennifer sat beside him. He noticed she had drawn the Magnum she had confiscated in the bunker and clutched it between her hands. He chuckled. “Are you expecting trouble?”
“Always.” With her thumb, she drew back the hammer and sat with the revolver between her legs.
Shifting into drive, Robson set out after the Ryder. The second Humvee fell in behind, with Doreen bringing up the rear in the school bus.
The convoy drove for nearly a mile through a residential neighborhood. A chain link fence had been erected on either side of the road, segregating the homes. In the glow from the headlights, Robson could see movement in the shadows as they raced pass. Ahead of them, the living dead pressed against the fence, decomposed fingers reaching through the links and decayed teeth chewing at the metal in a desperate attempt to get at the commotion along the road. Thank God for that fence, otherwise the convoy would have been swarmed.
The road skirted a cemetery and made several dog legs before straightening out again. For a moment, Robson had no idea where they were until the convoy entered onto Thames Street, which bordered the waterfront. Off to his left, he could see dozens of boats and pleasure craft still moored to the docks, which surprised him. He figured that the owners would have sailed them to safety long ago. Then he noticed the hordes of rotters shambling around the vessels, and the realization struck him. The outbreak had overrun Portland before anyone could escape. The security fences, rather than keeping out the living dead, had instead trapped them inside the city like animals at the zoo.
Only a few rotters wandered the street, which made the dash through Portland easy. The sound of the approaching vehicles attracted them. Not enough bunched together to pose a threat, and the convoy maneuvered around them with ease. A rotter in National Guard cammies staggered out in front of the Humvee. Robson swerved around it. It swung out an arm as they passed, smearing the side windows with bits of decayed flesh and gore. Robson couldn’t bring himself to stare at the smudge.
Dravko steered right, exiting through a gap in the fence onto a road that branched off from Thames Street. The fence continued along both curbs until the road started to elevate. Robson realized they had entered the ramp leading to the Casco Bay Bridge into South Portland. They were almost home free. He pulled into the opposite lane for a better view and saw nothing ahead of them. As they crested the top of the bridge, their headlights reflected off the two police cars parked bumper-to-bumper blocking the exit. Robson counted twenty to thirty rotters milling about on the opposite side of the roadblock. At the sound of the approaching vehicles, they moved toward the noise, massing around the police cars.
The Ryder slowed. Robson eased his foot off of the gas pedal, still following closely behind.
“What are you doing?” asked Tibor.
“Trust me.” Dravko drained off the Ryder’s speed and inched up to the police cars. He didn’t want to crash through the roadblock and risk damaging the truck. Instead, he hoped to shove the cars out of the way. On the opposite side of the barricade, the living dead grew frantic, clawing at the vehicles. Dravko wrapped his hand around the gear shift. Once he pushed aside the two cars, the rotters would swarm them, and he wanted to get out of there fast.
Bumping up against the fenders of the police cars, Dravko eased forward. Instead of the two vehicles being shoved aside, the Ryder pushed them along in tandem in front of it. The rotters opposite stumbled back and toppled over, becoming stuck under the vehicles and making it more difficult to push them. Others flowed around the ends of the barricade and lumbered toward the truck. Dravko didn’t notice them, his attention focused on the cars.
“What?” asked Tibor.
“Someone chained them together by the bumpers. We’re not going to bust through.” Dravko stopped and shifted into reverse. The incessantly loud beep cut through the silence, and would attract every rotter for at least a mile. He checked the side mirror, and swore under his breath when he saw Robson’s Humvee only a few feet behind him.
“Damn it. Back up.”
Dravko jumped when a female rotter in a soiled nurse’s uniform slammed its hands against the door and tried to crawl up to the driver’s window.
* * *
“What the hell is going on up there?” Robson asked.
“It probably has something to do with them.” Jennifer pointed to the rotters approaching the Humvee along either side of the Ryder.
Robson tried to back up, but Natalie and Doreen had stopped right behind him, blocking his path. Opening the door, he started to climb out to warn the others when a rotter ten feet away in a State Police uniform quickened its pace toward him, its arms outstretched. Robson jumped back in and slammed the door shut. The decayed hands grasped the upper rim, preventing him from closing it all the way. A second rotter in the tattered remnants of a Portland Police uniform stumbled up alongside the first, and both tried to pry open the door. Robson wrapped his hands around the handle and leaned back. He knew he wouldn’t be able to hold it closed for long.
* * *
Natalie watched the rotters coalesce around Robson’s Humvee. She knew that if too many of them swarmed the vehicle, he would not be able to get away. Grabbing her M-16A2 in her right hand, she reached out with the left to open the driver’s door.
Ari leaned over the massive center console and clutched her wrist. “Where are you going?”
“To help Mike.”
“There’s nothing you can do for him.”
Ari yanked her back into the seat. “You need to be behind that steering wheel in case we have to move in a hurry.”
“You’re right.” Natalie sighed. Please don’t let me lose Mike so close to home.
* * *
Emily made her way to the front of the school bus when she heard Doreen mumble, “Dear God.”
“What’s the matter?”
Doreen pointed to the lead vehicles, her hand shaking.
“There’s only a dozen, honey. We can take them down easily enough.”
Josephine moved up behind her. “Not without risking hitting our own people. Those things are all over the lead Humvee.”
“Then we move in close so we’re sure not to miss.”
Josephine stepped back and shook her head. “I d-don’t know if I can.”
“Damn it! You just want to leave them there to be overrun?”
Emily’s heart sank when no one rose from their seats to help her.
A third, naked rotter joined the other two by the driver’s side of the lead Humvee. Two more shambled forward on the left, both in blood-stained State Police uniforms, and a naked female with its right arm torn off above the elbow on the right. Jennifer knew that if she didn’t act now, they ran the risk of being trapped.
Pushing open her door, she stepped out onto the bridge and raised the Magnum. The rotter closest to her, the naked female, moaned and stretched out its arm. Jennifer aimed and fired. The .357 round tore off half its head, leaving only the lower jaw dangling from a fragment of skull. It dropped to its knees, swaying a few seconds before falling forward. Swinging to the left, Jennifer fired off three more rounds, each shot taking down the living dead crowding around Robson’s door. She used the last shots on the two State Police rotters near the front fender.
Jennifer swung open the chamber and let the empty shell casings fall to the pavement. Reaching into her jacket pocket, she withdrew six more bullets and began reloading, alternating her gaze between the Magnum and the Ryder to see if any more rotters approached.
* * *
Dravko heard the sound of gunfire behind him, snapping his attention away from the living dead nurse banging against his door. In his rearview mirror, he saw six rotters around the Humvee go down one by one. Only then did he realize how untenable their situation had become.
“Screw this.” Dravko shifted back into second gear. “If those assholes won’t back up, then we’ll have to go forward.”
Dravko pushed his foot down on the accelerator. The Ryder lurched into gear, shoving the chained police cars in front of it. Metal ground against metal. The tires on the police cars popped and their windows exploded. The rotters behind the vehicles were either shoved along or knocked to the ground where they got caught up in the undercarriages. Dravko cringed when he felt the truck’s tires bounce over the mangled bodies, afraid of getting a flat. After moving clear of the bridge, he spun the wheel right, maneuvering the police cars to the side of the road. Dravko shifted into reverse, but when he backed up the Ryder dragged the two police cars along with it.
“Fuck! They’re hooked on the front bumper.”
Tibor leaned out his window. They had pushed past the rotters, most of which converged on the vehicles still on the bridge. A few followed the Ryder, but they were still a dozen yards away. Opening his door, Tibor slid out and rushed around to the front of the truck.
* * *
“Get in here!” Robson yelled to Jennifer.
Flipping shut the reloaded chamber, she surveyed the situation. The Ryder had driven off, shoving the cars in front of it and leaving behind a trail of metallic and human debris. Most of the living dead that had been trying to get into the truck now turned their attention to the lead Humvee, eight in total. There was no way she would win this one with a Magnum. Sliding back into the passenger seat, she closed the door behind her.
Robson followed the Ryder.
* * *
Thank you, thought Natalie as she fell in behind Robson’s Humvee.
* * *
Once Doreen saw the other vehicles moving, she pushed her foot down on the gas pedal. The bus lurched forward, knocking Emily and Josephine off balance. The women reached out and found something to hold on to.
* * *
Tibor stood by the Ryder’s fender and immediately saw the problem. The truck’s right bumper had shattered one of the car windows and the end had become hooked around the frame. Grabbing the rear end of the police car, the vampire lifted and twisted, hoping to break it free.
Robson drove past and slowed. “What’s the matter?”
Tibor didn’t look up. “We’re lodged on one of the police cars.”
“Leave it. You and Dravko get on the bus.”
“We need the truck to survive during the daytime. Besides, this will only take a minute.”
As much as Robson hated to admit it, the truck was worth the risk, especially with the sun about to rise. He noticed ten rotters stumbling across the bridge. They could handle this.
“I’ll be back.” Robson drove one hundred feet beyond the Ryder and stopped, leaving the engine running. He grabbed his AA-12 and climbed out of the vehicle. Jennifer slid out the passenger side.
“Where are you going?” he asked.
“To help you.”
“Stay here and guard the Hummer. I’ll have a couple of the Angels back you up. Fire a warning shot if any of them get close.”
Natalie and Ari stood by the open doors of their Humvee as Robson approached. Natalie started to ask a question, but he cut her off. “We need to cover Tibor.”
Both women nodded. Ari fell in behind him. Natalie circled around to the front door of the school bus, where Emily and Josephine waited. “You two are with me. The rest of you, set up a perimeter.”
Robson approached the Ryder on its passenger side. The first rotter lumbered around its rear, heading for Tibor. It wore an orange road construction crew safety vest, with the yellow stripes covered over with dried blood and gore. It snarled at Robson. He raised his AA-12 and fired, and its head disintegrated into a mist of blood and gore. Ari, Josephine, Emily, and Natalie moved up on his left, taking out the next four rotters that approached. Slowly and methodically, the five humans moved forward, bringing down any of the living dead that came near them.
The sounds of scraping metal came from the Ryder’s driver’s side. Circling around the rear of the truck, Robson saw three rotters trying to claw their way into the cab. He raised the AA-12 and aimed.
“Hey!” he yelled.
As one, the three turned toward him and shambled toward their prey. When they closed to within five feet, Robson squeezed the trigger and swept the barrel from left to right, decapitating all three rotters.
At that moment, Tibor broke the two police cars free from the Ryder and shouldered them across the road onto the sidewalk. He raced back to the truck, waving. “Let’s go!”
Robson barely heard the vampire, his attention focused instead on the convoy. None of the other Angels had gotten off the bus. Jennifer defended the entire perimeter by herself. If any rotters had attacked from the surrounding neighborhoods, Robson and the others would have been outflanked before any of them knew they were in danger. Hell, if this had been Glens Falls or Montoursville, they would be among the living dead by now.
Tibor stood on the Ryder’s running board, staring at the humans. “What are you waiting for?”
Natalie sighed. “I’ll round up my team so we can get moving.”
“You don’t have a team anymore.” Robson shook his head and walked back to his Humvee.
Two minutes later, the convoy raced through South Portland on its way back to camp.