Children's Crusade
Chapter 22

Copyright© 2011 by carioca

Jeremy opened a new file so he'd have someplace to take notes, just in case anything useful came up on the TV. He wasn't surprised that he didn't recognize the guy behind the news desk, they didn't watch much TV at home, but he did look kind of young. He wasn't wearing a suit jacket or a tie either. The woman next to him was older, gray-haired and overweight. The sound was down too low to catch the first words, but Alex turned it up with the remote they'd found between the couch cushions.

" ... and I'm Marie Gallont, Good evening." Tears rolled down the cheeks of the woman on TV, and she wiped them away. "I've wanted to say that for forty years. I wish it were a good evening. Tonight we only have bad news I'm afraid."

"We have worse news too, Marie. Let's not forget that." The man interrupted.

She glared at him but went back to her script. "Here in Atlanta the power is out as far as we can see and we are running on our emergency generators. We'll be broadcasting every four hours for as long as we can, both via satellite and through the local channel twelve. The top story is what we were originally told to report as rioters, but we have proof that these people are dead. Normally we would give you a viewer advisory, but if you haven't seen something like this already, you need to see it now." She pointed off camera. "Roll Film."

The man did a voice over for the footage. "This is Hal, one of our cameramen. We too had seen the rumors on the Internet so we were worried about him when he was bitten by one of the rioters while he was filming an interview with the Atlanta Police Department. As the hospital was already overrun with casualties we brought him into the studio and treated him as best we could." The camera panned over the man's arm, showing three bloody bite marks clearly. "An hour later he told us that they didn't hurt anymore but they looked like this." Now the bites were rimmed with gray-green flesh and black lines traced up the veins underneath. "Two hours later he volunteered for an interview, and this is what happened."

The camera showed Hal in a chair, then a close up of his arm. He described what had happened, and how his arm hurt a lot at first, then went numb around the bites. By the time of the interview he had almost no feeling at all in it. "Look," he said, jabbing his arm with a pen. "I can't feel this at all" The whole arm was grey and his breathing was labored. "I can't go to a hospital, they're all full of rioters now and even if I could..." He broke off in a fit of coughing. "I don't think..." He coughed again, and slumped in his chair, unmoving.

The interviewer stood up "Hal?"

Someone else rushed in from off camera and felt for a pulse. "He's dead..."

"Can't you do CPR?"

"Not me, I saw that CDC report. I'm getting out of here before he comes back." The person moved off camera, but her voice was still audible. "I'm going home while I still can, I've got kids."

The voiceover came back. "Look at Hal's body, see the way it twitches?" The dead man grabbed the interviewer by his jacket and pulled him down, then ripped a chunk out of his neck. Screams were audible in the background. A man in a blue uniform stepped up and fired at Hal, but only managed to get his attention. He stood up, ignoring the bullets impacting on his chest and stomach. "We did a count afterwards, he was hit eight times and still kept coming."

The man in blue ran off camera, Hal followed. The camera panned to track him and caught a man in a suit aiming a semi-automatic pistol. He fired once and the camera caught the gout of blood as the bullet blew off the back of Hal's head. The body fell to the floor unmoving. "As you can see, even though he was dead, he still moved, but stopped when his brain was destroyed." The camera followed the man in the suit. He bent over and touched the interviewer, then backed away quickly. Blood no longer flowed from the man's neck and soon he started twitching. When he sat up the man in the suit put a bullet between his eyes. The camera panned to the man's face. He looked sick to his stomach. "You see here Special Agent Ricardo Alvarez. He died this afternoon sealing off the building. His sacrifice saved our lives."

The segment was followed by a screen with a web URL followed by email addresses and cell phone numbers open for text messaging. The woman spoke again. "Our phone lines went down this morning, but our email is working fine, we also have a website set up with a list of open evacuation centers." Jeremy had the web address in before she finished the sentence, but the site was slow. "According to the CDC, the evacuation centers might not be the best place to go."

"Thats right, I was on the radio this morning with the headquarters of the CDC here in Atlanta before they got overrun by refugees thinking it was a designated safe zone. They told us that the FEMA directive was a mistake and that bringing everyone into safe zones was the worst possible thing that could be done."

"What about the president's speech? This afternoon he asked everyone to evacuate according to the FEMA directives."

"Well Marie, I asked them that. They said the president was 'ill advised' and described the head of FEMA as a 'Clueless, self serving, sack of manure with delusions of grandeur'. CDC recommends that everyone stay in their homes for at least two weeks and that the virus can be transmitted by more than just a bite. They state unequivocally that the 'Ghouls' are indeed dead, there is no cure once they turn. All you can do is destroy the brain with intense heat, massive blunt trauma, or hydrostatic shock."

The words on the map behind them changed abruptly to 'The Dead Walk', and more red splotches appeared on the map. Someone handed the woman a paper. She scanned it, then started reading. "This just in. The governor of Alaska has expanded the statewide requirement for firearm carry to all residents who leave their homes. This is in direct violation of the FEMA directive to turn in all firearms for distribution to the evacuation center security contingents." She faltered and went on in a weaker voice. "The state of Alaska has declared FEMA to be a rogue agency and has suspended all FEMA operations until the FEMA directives are reviewed by the supreme court. The governors of Utah, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming all issued statements in support, but are allowing FEMA to continue operation while at the same time serving the federal agency with injunctions preventing them from attempting to enforce the directives. The lieutenant governor of Nevada has issued a similar statement." She looked off camera. "Can they do that?"

The response wasn't audible. She looked at the paper again, then back off camera. The man with her cut in. "And that's the bad news. Now for the even worse news right after this message from our sponsor." He pretended to listen to someone off camera. "Thats right, we have no sponsors tonight, so you'll just have to get your news straight up." The President is reported safe at Camp David as of six hours ago. At the same time we got a report that the vice president had been moved to a secure undisclosed location. As the vice president was scheduled to give a speech at the air force academy and the NORAD command center is only a few miles from there, I don't think it is that big a secret."

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