BOOK DETAILS

No-Name Girl (The NV-290 Zombie Series Book 1)

No-Name Girl (The NV-290 Zombie Series Book 1)

by T. J. Forrester

ASIN: B01MZZ85KE

Publisher T. J. Forrester

Published in Science Fiction & Fantasy/Fantasy, Literature & Fiction/Contemporary, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Literature & Fiction

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Book Description

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The swarm advances--infecting, trampling—a force that ends the world as Kara knows it. She's skinny now, starvation does that to a girl, and she flees north to the frozen land. Orphaned at 18, she's tasked with caring for her brother, and together they struggle for survival on this epic journey. When a video of Kara battling a coffee drone goes viral, a producer offers a contract for a cable show. Can she and Colby escape the people-eaters who prowl at night? Will she fall for the cowboy with the bad leg? To what lengths will Kara go to satisfy the producer's insatiable lust for ratings?

Sample Chapter

Prologue

In 2029, the year the First Wave began its migration around the earth, mankind attempted a mass exodus to the frozen lands. Most did not make it.

Chapter 1

The night breeze felt damp, the pant of a predator in the darkness, and Kara swiveled her head side to side, trying to see all directions at once. She and her brother were in a town once again—name unknown to her—and her danger-radar had banged away for the last few hours. They scuttled forward, the swish of his tennies and the rap of her flats on the sidewalk as loud as drumbeats in her ears.

"This way," she whispered.

They darted down a street on which houses towered behind bristling fences, took a right and passed a gutted store. They kept going, sometimes jogging, sometimes running, never slower than a fast walk, soon arrived at the outskirts and left the buildings and the sidewalks and the streets for a trampled cornfield.

Clouds drifted across the north star, hiding it, revealing it, hiding it again. North was the direction she and her brother traveled—to the north—always to the north. The pinprick of light disappeared once again, and she instinctively dipped into her pocket for her pink Q-phone. She felt the smooth plastic and withdrew her hand. Her GPS app was only a memory; her phone had died weeks ago. She'd tried charging it, once while breaking into a house in search of food, but the electricity was off, pole transformers exploding in the dust storms that swept across the land, and she knew deep in her soul that the power was gone forever.

In some weird way, she was relieved her phone had died. The stories of the ghoul invasion—hordes of infected people migrating west, drawing closer each day—had been too horrible to bear. She tasted dust in the air and knew it was from millions of feet stumbling their way.

"I'm hungry," her brother said, for the tenth time today.

She hissed her words. "Keep it zipped. You want to wind up on someone's spit?"

The day Colby turned four, their parents held a party in the backyard. He'd donned a cheesy hat and ate ice cream next to the kiddie pool. The day he turned five, in the year 2029, he and his sister had crouched in the cab of a wrecked truck and shared a rotten tomato. If they both hadn't been chubby in the Before World—fat, if she was truthful—they would have long since starved to death.

She patted him on the head, her way of saying she was sorry for her sharp response, a touch that reassured her as much as it did him. They had no one else now, something she reminded herself when he irked her a little too much.

They stopped at a crossroads and she drank from her water bottle. The clouds had coalesced into a storm—air growing colder—and lightning sizzled through the darkness. Thunder rattled the heavens, and she yanked the boy to the earth and lay beside him.

"People-eaters," she whispered.

She'd seen them in the yellow flash, men huddled over a body on the road, the twist of a knife as it sliced a thigh, and she wormed off the macadam into the weeds. Her brother crawled to her and she drew her arm around him. Anger stirred inside her. A five-year-old boy should not have to worry about winding up on a spit.

Lightning and thunder came again, accompanied by wind and the scent of rain, and three men walked up the road. Black ponchos whipped at their knees, and the man in the rear was dragging something. Lightning lit a rope attached to a severed leg and she ducked her head and held her brother tight.

The footsteps came closer, closer still, but did not pause as they drew abreast. She waited until the men were gone, tugged her brother upright, and retied his shoelaces. She licked her fingers and smoothed his cowlick, gave up when the hair sprang back to attention.

Rain fell, persistent drops. She fit his head and arms through the holes in a garbage bag, wriggled the bag down to his ankles. Kara grabbed his hand and walked in the opposite direction of the men, almost tripped over the torso in the middle of the road. She picked Colby up and set him down on the other side.

"My stomach hurts," he said.

"Want me to send you off with those men?"

"No!"

"Then hush up."

Guilty fingers gripped her heart; if she was a better provider, he wouldn't be hungry. Her guiltiness turned into frustration—she was an eighteen-year-old teenager—and taking care of Colby should have been left to their mother and father, but there was no mother and no father, not anymore. Soldiers had shot Harold Walsh when he refused to allow the military to confiscate the family's gasoline, and Peony Walsh died when someone stabbed her to steal the food she had in a knapsack on her back. Before she passed, she made Kara promise to take Colby to the frozen lands, which, according to the news channels, was the one location humanity could survive this apocalypse.

The far north.

What were they supposed to do if they got to Canada? Eat snow?

#

Kara grudgingly rolled out from under the blanket, swung her feet to the floor. She and the boy had found shelter in a two-story farmhouse set well off the road. The house was still, no sound except for the push of wind against the eves. A chill clawed the back of her neck, and she fought the urge to shake Colby awake. Old houses gave her the creeps—she'd seen one too many horror movies—but sleeping in a bed was better than sleeping on the ground; it didn't matter how many times she woke with scenes of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre swerving through her mind.

She tucked the blanket under her brother's chin. Colby had their mother's looks, blond hair and green eyes, a face that grew more angular each passing day. Kara had wound up with their grandmother's black hair and long lashes, along with a pert nose and eyes so blue her father had called her Miss Atlantic when she was a child. She patted her cheeks, felt the hollowness, and looked down at her stomach. When she was in school, she wore loose clothing and sucked in her belly while she walked the halls. There was no need for that now. She'd gone down five sizes and could fit into a skinny four. She knotted her tee-shirt at the waist and cinched her belt in the only hole she hadn't used.

Colby rolled over, eyes glazed from sleep.

"I dreamed I was in a hot air balloon," he said. "It was red and green and floated up in the clouds."

"I dreamed about cheeseburgers."

"Burgers," he murmured.

She had rarely talked about food, hoping the less they spoke about it the less their stomachs would hurt. It hadn't worked. Starvation was a brutal and persistent predator. It took from them every day, clawing at their bodies without conscience, without remorse.

"Go back to sleep," she said. "I'm going downstairs to check the kitchen."

She didn't need to say why.

#

Kara picked past broken furniture and sorted through a box on the sofa. Above the fireplace hung a photo of two smiling people, man in a sports jacket, woman in a black mini. She wondered if they had children and if any were girls. The couple looked happy, so probably not . . . if her own experience was any indication.

Her mother had called her daughter Miss Morose, and Kara deserved the nickname. She had been a difficult child, never satisfied with what she had. Her weight had been the source of her troubles, drowning her in a private hell, where her sole happiness was making her family share her misery.

When that didn't work, she receded into her secret stash of Ho Hos and gorged until her stomach threatened to explode. The year she turned fourteen she convinced herself she was bulimic and stuck her finger down her throat. During the next month, she threw up so many times she lost count, but she could not give herself the disease and gave up in a tantrum of tears.

What she wouldn't give for one of those Ho Hos.

Kara went to the kitchen and opened each drawer. Nothing . . . nothing . . . nothing . . . nothing . . . a lighter she stuck in her pocket . . . nothing . . . nothing . . . nothing. She sifted through the trash on the floor. Still nothing. . . .

She inched the fridge away from the wall.

"Yes!"

A package of orange crackers lay in the dust against the floorboard. She tore open the cellophane and nibbled a stale cracker. Hustling upstairs, she shouted that Colby needed to get up because they had food.

Her brother ate a cracker and studied her with his green eyes, and she knew what he was asking without him saying it. He did not reach for another one until she told him there had been two packages and she had eaten hers downstairs.

"All yours," she said.

He stuffed crackers in his mouth, grinning wolfishly, and Kara thought she might be the happiest she had ever been.

#

They searched the house from top to bottom, went to the garage and pried open the glove compartment to a Subaru hoping to find at least a stick of chewing gum, got a useless driver's manual for their efforts. Hazy sunlight shone through the window, illuminating a rack full of tools, and she picked up a long screwdriver and stabbed the air. She handed the screwdriver to Colby and told him to put it in their knapsack. He made his own stabbing motions, face screwed-up in concentration, opened a zipper and tucked the weapon into an outside pocket.

Wondering if the couple had raised a garden, Kara looked out the window and almost shouted her excitement. Colby begged to see, and she picked him up and held him close to the screen.

"What?" he said.

She pointed at the drone descending from the clouds, STARBUCKS COFFEE in big letters on the side, told the boy the drone was about to land on that concrete pad and deliver at least one cup of coffee, maybe two. At least that's what she hoped would happen.

She'd written a term paper about Starbucks' new delivery system her senior year of social studies and had discovered customers could buy weekly, monthly, or yearly plans. The man in the sports jacket and the woman in the mini must have had a yearly plan. According to the company the technology was 100% automated, each main plant off the grid, and the coffee would continue to flow in the worst of circumstances. She doubted Starbucks had the apocalypse in mind when they made that claim.

The drone flew lower, buzzing audible through the window—a thousand flies in delivery mode—and she had never seen anything so beautiful. The fleet had two sizes, and the largest drone carried enough coffee to pour 1,000 cups. This drone, sunlight bouncing off the cylindrical body, carried 200, enough to handle the needs of a small subdivision. The drone hovered—propeller churning—and for a moment she thought it would fly away.

A brown-headed boy appeared; he must have been crouching behind those rose bushes. He was eighteen or nineteen, she guessed, and had some of the broadest shoulders she'd seen on someone his age. The boy limped toward the concrete pad—good leg tugging his body forward, bad leg bringing up the rear—and Kara's visions of coffee swirled down the drain.

No, she wasn't giving up so easy.

She put Colby down and clutched a hammer, told him to stay inside. At the door, she pondered if she should rush out or walk nonchalantly, hoped once the boy saw the hammer he would back off and go away. He twirled a rope over his head, and she stepped outside and ran forward as the rope sailed through the air and encircled the drone's landing gear. The boy sat down and yanked hard. The drone hovered for a few seconds, as though it sorted out its predicament. The humming grew louder and the drone flew over the yard, ten feet above the grass, the boy hanging onto the rope and skidding on his butt. He grimaced as he bumped past.

"Give me a hand, why don't you?" he said.

She shook her head.

"Come on," he said. "I can't hold this thing by myself."

The drone dragged him back across the yard, and the boy thumped over a stone walkway. He tried to wrap the rope around a tree trunk and skidded back the way he'd come. She hollered after him.

"You'd have to be an idiot to go to that trouble for a cup of coffee."

"Who wants coffee? This thing's got chocolate in it."

She dove for the rope and held on, aware her body pressed against his. He was all bone, smelled of sweat and that peculiar musk she had started noticing when she turned thirteen. Colby ran up. Kara shoved him backward and he sat down and drilled a pinkie into a flared nostril, wailed his misery. The drone dipped down and slack formed in the rope. The boy yelled over his shoulder.

"Let go."

"You let go."

He yanked the rope out of her hands and lunged for another tree, got two wraps around the trunk and tied a knot. The drone buzzed above the yard, dipping over the azaleas and a vine-entwined arbor, movement more frantic by the minute. It had a camera on its belly, and the lens swiveled around, as though it searched for the enemy. The boy limped to the rose bushes and returned with another rope. He lassoed the drone again, looped the rope around a far tree.

"That's how you do a steer when you want to brand it," he said, chest heaving. "You get him caught between two ropes and he can't go anywhere."

"You've done this before?"

"Cattle . . . up in High River. It's a little town south of Calgary. I'm a bull rider, came down to St. Louis for a rodeo and hurt my leg in the fourth round. Would've won a gold buckle if I'd a stuck." He spoke in a teasing voice. "The way you went after that rope when I mentioned chocolate, I thought you were going to haul that thing in by yourself."

His blue eyes were sunk back in their sockets—skin stretched so tight over his face every bone, every ridgeline was in sharp relief.

"Do you have a plan," she said, "or are we just going to let it buzz around up there?"

He tapped his forehead. "Big brain up here, always thinking."

"So?"

"If those trees were horses, we'd just back them on up until the steer toppled over. Since they aren't we'll have to tighten the rope by hand."

"I brought a hammer, I mean, for when it comes into reach."

"A hammer?"

His look made her feel as though she was her brother's age, and she blushed her embarrassment. The boy—he said his name was Joshua Fletcher—reeled in the drone an inch at a time. She told Colby she had pushed him because she hadn't wanted him to get hurt, and he ignored her and stared at the buzzing creature. Joshua tightened the rope until both ropes were almost horizontal to the ground, drone within reach.

"Gimme that hammer," he said.

"Ten minutes ago you thought it was a ridiculous idea."

"I changed my mind."

"Joshua Fletcher, the deep thinker." She handed him the hammer.

The boy whacked the spinning blades and the drone nosedived to the ground. It stopped buzzing, roped and beaten into submission.

"Screwdrivers and wrenches in that garage?" he said.

Kara nodded and thirty minutes later the three of them sat cross-legged on the grass, draining chocolate syrup into cups from the kitchen. She ate a spoonful, a burst of sweet darkness in her mouth. Self-conscious under Joshua’s gaze, Kara was more than aware she was dressed in clothes large enough to house two people. The camera swiveled, herky-jerky movement, and she swatted it with the hammer.

"My brother's scavenging on the other side of town," Joshua said. "He came down to watch me rodeo and tore up a knee in a bar fight with this calf roper from Texas. Can't walk too good neither."

They ate until they were full, rested, ate again. Kara filled two plastic bowls and snapped on the lids, a bowl for Joshua and a bowl for her and her brother.

"You have a compass?" he said.

"We're walking mostly at night, using the north star."

"It's going to get too dusty to see anything at night."

"If that happens, we'll walk during the day."

Colby crouched behind her and tunneled a hand into a fold in her jeans. She and Joshua spoke at the same time, and she motioned for him to go ahead.

"You could travel with us for a while," he said. "You know, if you want to."

"Okay."

"Yeah?"

"Sure, yes, my brother and I will come with you."

Colby ran to the garage and returned with their knapsack. She put it on and handed him the bowl, told him to eat all the chocolate he wanted.

"There's one thing I should tell you up front." Joshua picked up a duffel bag from behind the rose bushes. "Isiah won't like having you along."

A boy who didn't want her company?

Imagine that.

Continues...

Excerpted from "No-Name Girl (The NV-290 Zombie Series Book 1)" by T. J. Forrester. Copyright © 2016 by T. J. Forrester. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Author Profile

T. J. Forrester

T. J. Forrester

T. J. Forrester is on a 15,000 mile, 2 year bicycle trip to raise awareness for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. He wrote the first three installments of the NV-290 series while living in a national forest. An avid adventurer and survivalist, he hopes you enjoy his series on zombies. He likes to read and drink good beer, enjoys a shrimp salad from time to time.

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