Authors: Cavan Scott
Tags: #Science Fiction
THE AFTERBLIGHT CHRONICLES
CHILDREN OF THE CULL
An Abaddon Books™ Publication
First published 2016 by Abaddon Books™, Rebellion Intellectual Property Limited, Riverside House, Osney Mead, Oxford, OX2 0ES, UK.
Editor-in Chief: Jonathan Oliver
Commissioning Editor: David Moore
Cover Art: Sam Gretton
Design: Sam Gretton & Oz Osborne
Marketing and PR: Rob Power
Head of Books and Comics Publishing: Ben Smith
Creative Director and CEO: Jason Kingsley
Chief Technical Officer: Chris Kingsley
The Afterblight Chronicles™ created by Simon Spurrier & Andy Boot
Copyright © 2016 Rebellion.
All rights reserved.
The Afterblight Chronicles™, Abaddon Books and Abaddon Books logo are trademarks owned or used exclusively by Rebellion Intellectual Property Limited. The trademarks have been registered or protection sought in all member states of the European Union and other countries around the world. All right reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publishers.
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.
The Afterblight Chronicles Series
Kill Or Cure
Dawn Over Doomsday
Death Got No Mercy
Scott K. Andrews
Journal of the Plague Year
Malcolm Cross, CB Harvey and Adrian Tchaikovsky
The End of the End
Simon Guerrier, Paul Kane and Cavan Scott
School’s Out Forever
dream. Every night, without fail.
The specifics would fade almost as soon as I opened my eyes, the details lost to daylight; but the colours would remain, a lingering afterimage of my nocturnal adventures.
I liked that. Part of my life that I knew was there, but just out of reach. A comforting echo. A mystery.
Not anymore. I assume I still dream. Everyone dreams, don’t they, even if they can’t remember it? I haven’t remembered; not once, since the Cull. No more colours. No more echoes.
Just an empty void from the moment I slipped away to the alarm rudely jolting me back to consciousness the next morning.
The sleep of the dead, that’s what Mum used to call it.
HE DAY STARTED
like any other. I threw my hand out, trying to find the snooze button on the alarm, anything to cut off that electronic squawk. I lay in the darkness and sighed. Why prolong the inevitable? She would be waiting for me, out in the corridor, like every morning.
Pulling back the sheets, I swung my legs over the side of the bed, reaching for the light switch. The room came into view with the buzz of ancient bulbs, the nylon carpet cold beneath my feet. I sat there for a minute, staring at the pile of clothes I dropped on the floor the night before. She’d notice the creases, passing judgement if not comment.
And what do you care?
came a voice from the past, my mother standing in our old kitchenette, hands on impressive hips.
She hated whingers.
If you have time to complain about something you have time to do something about it, my girl
Yeah, yeah, Mum, very good. Now get out of my head. There are enough voices in there as it is.
Stretching, I pushed myself up from the bed and padded over to the shower. The alarm kicked back in as soon as I’d closed the door behind me.
I jumped as soon as I opened the door. Stupid. As if I didn’t know she’d be there—but standing right in front of the door? What a freak.
I leant on the doorframe, willing my heart to stop hammering so hard in my chest. “Olive, what the hell are you trying to do to me?”
My assistant removed her ever-present clipboard from beneath her arm to check something off the top sheet.
“Sorry doctor, but we have a busy day ahead. You told me to—”
“I know what I told you.” Sighing, I shut the door behind me, slipping the ID-card from around my neck into the pocket of my medical scrubs so it didn’t swing back and forth as I walked.
You’re not going out in that!
my mother twittered in the back of my mind.
Why can you dress like a lady for once in your life?
Why can’t you stay dead?
Would mother approve of Olive, in her smart navy dress?
Of course she bloody would. She’d probably wish that Olive was her daughter, rather than me.
I watched her sashaying ahead, hearing Mum’s verdict of Olive’s little black dress.
an outfit, sweetheart—tasteful. Cut just below the knee, with a high neckline; close-fitting but not slutty, just tight enough to accentuate the curves God gave you. Why can’t you dress like that anymore?
Yeah, Mum would have loved Olive.
I started down the corridor after her, trying not to be annoyed by the sound of my assistant’s heels clicking along the floor. Who wore heels these days?
“So, what have we got on today?”
“There’s the morning briefing, naturally...”
“Followed by your ten o’clock with Dr Atkins.”
A little bit of me died inside.
“Do we have to do that today?”
“You put him off yesterday. And the day before.”
“Then he won’t mind if we bump him to tomorrow. If I don’t check the resistance reports today, they’ll never get done. Oh, and I want to schedule a series of allergy tests for Samuel. If we’re going to take him out—”
The wail of a klaxon cut me off, and my heart sank. Not again. Not now.
Breaking into a run, I snatched the walkie-talkie from my belt, opening a channel.
“Control, this is Tomas. Come in.”
There was a burst of static and an American accent replied. Des Moore, chief of security and almost as much as a pain in the arse as Olive. “
It’s another attack, ma’am
“I gathered. How many this time?”
The cameras have picked up three. No, wait—there’s four. They jumped the fence to N-4
“At four? I thought you’d secured that?”
So did I! A team is on its way to intercept. They won’t get far.
“That’s what you said on Monday.”
them on Monday. Ma’am, I need to oversee this
“Yes, yes. Oversee. And then make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
I killed the channel. Arguing with Moore wouldn’t do any good. The bastard would just dig his heels in. He knew his job, no matter what I thought of him. My first priority had to be the children. Always the children.
I flicked the toggle on the side of the handset, switching channels.
Jasmine? Can you believe this?
The neurologist sounded as frustrated as me, and with good reason.
“Don’t even go there. How are they?”
How do you think? We don’t need another day like Monday.
” Her Dundee accent was somehow more pronounced over the radio.
“Tell that to Chief Moore. Don’t worry. They’re targeting Neighbourhood Four. Obviously after supplies. It should be over soon enough.”
Until next time. This is the third attack in a week. Sooner or later they’re going to get lucky.
I turned the corridor, decided to take the stairs rather than the lifts. The last thing I wanted was a power outage trapping me in a metal box with Olive.
“I’m on my way,” I replied, starting down the stairwell. “Monitor the subjects’ reactions to the alarm. We might as well make use of all this.”
Every cloud has a silver lining. Will do. See you in a minute.
The handset fell quiet and I clipped it back onto my belt, reaching the ground floor. As Olive clattered after me, I yanked open the door to the main corridor and made for the exit.
“Dr Tomas,” Olive called after me. “If the alarm sounds...”
I sighed, stopping in my tracks. I hated when Olive was right.
“All personnel should use the tunnels, yes, yes.”
I turned on my heels and stalked back to the stairs, Olive standing beside the door, clipboard clutched to her chest. For once, would it hurt her to open a door for me? Isn’t that what assistants were for?
Still huffing, I stomped down to the basement, pressing my ID card against the card reader. The scanner beeped twice, its lights flashing red.
I looked up at the camera above the door, waiting for one of Moore’s numpties to check their screens at the hub. What’s the betting it was Lam, playing games in the middle of an emergency?
“This is ridiculous,” I moaned.
The lights flashed green, and with an angry buzz the lock clicked open.
“One more word from you,” I said, yanking open the door to step out into the tunnel, “and I’ll shut you down, permanently.”
Olive smiled as if I was joking. I didn’t hold the door open for her.
“I get why they lock the doors,” I continued, more to myself than to the girl tottering after me. “But why include me in the deadlock? What’s the point of being the project leader if you can’t even open a door by yourself?”
For once, Olive read my mood and kept her smart-alec remarks to herself. I knew she was still thinking them, though, which managed to annoy me even more.
Out feet echoed down the low-ceilinged corridor as we walked in the direction of Neighbourhood Two, a route I knew on auto-pilot, even down here.
“Dr Tomas?” Olive asked quietly.
I couldn’t repress the sigh. “Yes?”
“Have you taken your medication this morning?”
Every day the same question, and always the same answer. You’d think I would remember.