The Last Town #2:Preparing for the Dead(2)

By: Stephen Knight



“Well, yeah. Initially, I wanted an ILS dropped in for safety reasons—there’s a lot of high terrain around here, and even though my pilots are the best and they have the best gear available to them, I want to be able to access the airport when some weather closes in. But that was a few months ago. Now, things are a little bit different.”

“In what way?”

“Max, have you been watching the news?” Norton asked.

“You’re talking about the plague? The one that came from Saudi Arabia, or Russia, or wherever the talking heads on TV decide it came from next?”

“I am,” Norton said.

“We are,” Corbett added.

Booker looked from Norton to Corbett. “Okay, I’m going to presume we’re no longer concerned with the ILS installation at the airport. Now we’re about to move on to the plague, and you’re both going to explain to me why that is. Is that right?”

“Correct,” Corbett said. He looked at Norton. “You mind if I carry this on a bit longer?”

“Not at all.”

Corbett looked back at Booker. “Max, listen. This is going to be tough for you to deal with. Just keep in mind that my concern is the town. Nothing else. If things are heading the way I think they are, only the town and the people matter. I’ve been here for my entire life, off and on, even though I have the ability to go anywhere and do anything. It’s always been about the town. The community. The people.”

“Running for office, Mister Corbett? I don’t think you can buy off this electorate. You might have been born here, but you’re not from here any longer,” Booker said, and he couldn’t control his acidic tone. Even though he had no personal unpleasant experiences with Barry Corbett, he was ideologically uninclined to trust men of great wealth. In Booker’s mind, men like Corbett presumed the preservation of that wealth eclipsed all else. While Booker didn’t feel money was the root of all evil, the old man had just told him he’d used it to corrupt the political process, and that pissed Booker off something fierce.

Corbett only smiled at the jibe. “Thanks for the feedback. Anyway, yes, this is about the plague. Whatever’s happening out in the world is something we’re not going to be able to control. Moscow is about to be overrun by millions of walking dead. The Middle East is going under. There’s some sort of massive firefight going on inside western China. Israel is in complete lockdown. Europe is about to pull the pin and follow their example, though getting the Europeans to do anything unanimously other than awarding more paid time off is going to make that kind of tough. Rio is on fire, and not just because the women are so gorgeous, but because a lot of them have turned into carnivorous corpses. There are breakouts in LA, New York, Miami, and several other cities—everywhere there’s a major airport. And tomorrow, the US economy officially tanks. Per barrel prices of oil will hit two hundred twenty-three dollars, and that’s just at the market open.”

Booker took it all in stride. He’d certainly been aware of what was going on in the world, and he didn’t doubt that things were dire. Just the same, he didn’t—he refused—to buy what Corbett was telling him.

“Nice story,” he said. “Is that what you tell the Republican and Tea Party Super PACs?”

Corbett smiled again, but this time there wasn’t a ray of friendliness in it. “Just to get this out of the way, Democrat and far-left organizations love my money probably more than those on the right. Just in case you were wondering, since I’m pretty sure you haven’t made much in the way of donations to alternate parties.”

“Say it isn’t so,” Booker said.

“So listen, this is what’s going to happen. You’re going to call an emergency meeting of the town council, one that’s closed to the public. We’re going to tell them what’s happening, and that the town is going to be protected—but we’re going to be a little light on the details. With your permission, I’ll get with the police and fire department and square them away later today. They’ll have to be our partners in this. The rest of the town doesn’t need to be pulled into the fold just yet, but eventually, they’ll start asking questions. Those questions might lead to some unwanted investigations, so”—Corbett continued speaking even as Booker held up a hand, trying to get a word in—“we need to get things moving fast, and get the big ticket items developed quickly so they can be finished before things really hit the fan.”

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