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Zom-B Fugitive

Darren Shan


  1. ZOM-B














  Also by Darren Shan

  The Demonata

  Lord Loss

  Demon Thief



  Blood Beast

  Demon Apocalypse

  Death’s Shadow

  Wolf Island

  Dark Calling

  Hell’s Heroes

  The Saga of Darren Shan

  Cirque du Freak

  The Vampire’s Assistant

  Tunnels of Blood

  Vampire Mountain

  Trials of Death

  The Vampire Prince

  Hunters of the Dusk

  Allies of the Night

  Killers of the Dawn

  The Lake of Souls

  Lord of the Shadows

  Sons of Destiny

  The Saga of Larten Crepsley

  Birth of a Killer

  Ocean of Blood

  Palace of the Damned

  Brothers to the Death

  The Thin Executioner




  Lady of the Shades

  The City Trilogy

  Procession of the Dead

  Hell’s Horizon

  City of the Snakes

  First published in Great Britain in 2015 by Simon and Schuster UK Ltd


  Copyright © 2015 Darren Shan

  Illustrations © Warren Pleece

  This book is copyright under the Berne Convention.

  No reproduction without permission.

  All rights reserved.

  The right of Darren Shan to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.

  Simon & Schuster UK Ltd

  1st Floor

  222 Gray’s Inn Road

  London WC1X 8HB

  Simon & Schuster Australia, Sydney

  Simon & Schuster India, New Delhi

  A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

  HB ISBN: 978-0-85707-792-9

  TPB ISBN: 978-0-85707-793-6

  EBOOK ISBN: 978-0-85707-795-0

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

  Printed and bound by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CR0 4YY

  Simon & Schuster UK Ltd are committed to sourcing paper that is made from wood grown in sustainable forests and supports the Forest Stewardship Council, the leading international forest certification organisation. Our books displaying the FSC logo are printed on FSC certified paper.

  OBE (Order of the Bloody Entrails) to:

  Lorraine Keating – looking good in the hat!

  Editorial Fugitives:

  Elv Moody

  Emma Young

  Kate Sullivan

  Leslie Shumate

  Fellow Fugitives on the Chain Gang:

  the Christopher Little Agency


  THEN . . .

  NOW . . .

























  THEN . . .

  Becky Smith’s journey into darkness and pain began when a zombie ripped her heart from her chest and she became one of the walking, brain-eating undead.

  Months later she recovered consciousness. As a child, she had been injected with a vaccine by someone working for a century-old scientist called Dr Oystein, and that had bestowed her with the ability to regain her senses.

  After a spell of captivity in an underground complex, B was set free by the nightmarish Mr Dowling, a mad, vicious clown who was backed by an army of mutants. He killed gleefully wherever he went, but for some reason he let B walk away unharmed.

  B found her way to Dr Oystein’s base in County Hall, where she became one of his Angels, a team of revitalised, teenage zombies. The doctor had been forced by the Nazis to create the zombie virus, and he believed he was on a mission from God to make amends and help mankind overcome this most hideous of threats.

  The doctor told B that he had subsequently created another pair of viruses which were the key to the outcome of the war between the living and the undead. One was a dark red liquid called Clements-13, which would wipe out every zombie on the face of the planet within a couple of weeks if released. The other was Schlesinger-10, a milky-white substance which would have an equally fast, fatal impact on humans if it was uncorked.

  Dr Oystein couldn’t use Clements-13 to eliminate the undead forces because Mr Dowling had stolen a vial of Schlesinger-10 from his laboratory, with the help of his ally, the mysterious Owl Man. The clown could unleash the virus on humanity if the doctor forced his hand, just as Dr Oystein could crack open his vial of Clements-13 if Mr Dowling ever attacked him. The pair were locked in a stalemate and the world looked like it would suffer indefinitely because of it.

  The Angels did whatever they could to help the survivors of the zombie apocalypse, but their ultimate goal was to track down Mr Dowling’s supply of Schlesinger-10. If they retrieved the vial from the killer clown, Dr Oystein could bring his sample of Clements-13 into play and deliver the world from its undead menace in one fell swoop.

  When B was captured by a hunter called Barnes, an ex-soldier from America who was an expert when it came to killing or capturing zombies, destiny set her on course for a showdown with Mr Dowling. Barnes was working for the Board, a group of rich and powerful humans who had granted his son a place on an island where zombies couldn’t attack him. In return for this favour, Barnes was obliged to hand B over to the Board, whose members gleefully passed the time by watching her duel to the death with other zombies.

  A repentant Barnes later helped B escape, before setting off to rescue his son, whose safety was no longer guaranteed now that his father had betrayed his foul employers. But B wasn’t finished with the Board, and again ended up in their clutches months later. The most twisted of their party was the fiendish Dan-Dan, who strapped her down in his quarters in Battersea Power Station, and proceeded to pick her body apart as painfully as he could.

  It looked as if B’s time was up, but, to her shock, Mr Dowling charged to her rescue. Aided by his mutants and a team of lethal, genderless babies, he swarmed the Power Station and freed her.

  The clown’s babies carried B deep underground to Mr Dowling’s lair, where he patched her fragile carcass back together. She found out that the babies had been cloned from her DNA, making her their virtual mother. The clown wanted her to marry him and rule by his side, so that they could eventually replace humanity with their eerie offspring.

B wasn’t interested in playing happy families with Mr Dowling, but, as he shared his memories with her, she began to feel sorry for him. He had been a decent man once, until something dreadful happened and cast him into a state of insane chaos.

  When Mr Dowling promised to stop killing if B married him, she bowed to his wishes, hoping it might signal the start of his recovery. After a warped but oddly sweet ceremony, the pair retired to their wedding chamber, where the clown granted her access to his innermost thoughts.

  It should have been a peaceful, loving time, but B found herself instinctively smashing through Mr Dowling’s mental defences. Without having planned it, she pinpointed the location of his vial of Schlesinger-10. The betrayed clown tried to kill her and the pair fought fiercely. B got the better of her husband, but, before she could finish him off, the enraged babies stormed the room and ripped into her. They would have killed her, but one of their own – Holy Moly, a baby with a hole in its head – reminded them that B was their mummy. Confused, they let her go, and she set off through the underground lair, wounded and alone, in search of the vial which would ensure victory for mankind if she could deliver it safely into the hands of Dr Oystein, but all too aware that time was against her and that Mr Dowling and his mutants would surely execute her if they caught up.

  NOW . . .


  I left Mr Dowling unconscious. I zapped him with enough electricity to put a normal person out of action for a whole day. But the clown is far from normal and I can’t bank on him staying down for too long. I reckon I might have as little as an hour or two before he stirs and calls for help. Maybe less if Kinslow or one of his other mutants comes to check on him. Time, as they say, is of the essence.

  The trouble is, the shape I’m in at the moment, I’d struggle to win a race with a snail. Although Mr Dowling repaired the worst of the damage, I hadn’t fully recovered from Dan-Dan’s mauling by the time of my wedding. The babies reopened lots of old wounds when they attacked me, and inflicted plenty of new ones.

  Every step is agony. The recently restored flesh of my stomach has been clawed away. Most of my replacement ribs have been snapped off. Bones are broken. I’m bleeding all over, thick, gloopy blood slowly oozing from my injuries. I didn’t think there was that much of the crimson stuff left – Dan-Dan drained off lots of it while he was torturing me – but there must have been hidden reserves.

  I’ll have to do something about the blood. The loss won’t really harm me, but if I don’t stop it, I’ll leave a trail that even a blind mutant will be able to follow. Still, I can’t worry about that until I locate the vial of Schlesinger-10. If Mr Dowling recovers sooner than I anticipate, he’ll know exactly where I’m going and he’ll set the mutants on me. No point wasting time. My priority has to be to lay my hands on the vial. Only then can I start planning my next move.

  I stagger along, picking my way from room to room through the maze which Mr Dowling and his assistants have built over the years. If this wasn’t the day of my wedding, there’d be mutants relaxing, working and patrolling the corridors, even this far from the centre of the complex. But the celebrations must still be going strong, because I encounter no one. They’re all toasting my health in the wedding chamber, unaware that their master is lying on his honeymoon bed unconscious, while their newly crowned mistress is plotting their downfall.

  I’d love to return to Mr Dowling’s bedroom-cum-laboratory and immerse myself in the pool of restorative blood and brains. A long soak in that would cure many of my ills. With all the mutants still celebrating the wedding, there’s a chance I could steal in, rest up, then slip out again without anyone spotting me. But it’s too risky — if one of them spots me in my bloody, bedraggled state, they’ll know something is up and raise the alarm.

  I don’t even stop for a few minutes to rest, since the clock is ticking. Instead I push myself as hard as I can, ignoring the agonised protests of my body as I force it through the pain barrier once again.

  I come to a room that looks the same as the others. I would have passed through at any other time and thought nothing of it. But I know from Mr Dowling’s stolen memories that there’s a hidden door here, so I stop, treat myself to a short pause, then go looking for it.

  I shuffle to the wall on my right and lift down the upper half of a woman’s carcass from where it hangs on a hook. The wall behind her is caked with dried blood and dung. The babies bit off some of my artificial finger bones, but several remain intact. I use them to chip away at the mess. After a while, it starts to fall off in chunks and the outline of a door is revealed.

  There’s a small, old-fashioned combination lock in the centre, the type where you roll the tumblers one at a time until they click into place. I prised the numbers from Mr Dowling’s memory and they’re somehow still clear in my mind — it’s like I have perfect recall. I start entering the digits until they read 528614592. Then I push down on the slim handle and the door opens.

  I stare suspiciously into the gloom of the tunnel on the other side. I still don’t know how I wrung so much information out of Mr Dowling. I hadn’t planned to squeeze his secrets from him. I didn’t think that I could. Something happened in the bridal suite that I had no control over, and it unnerved me. I don’t like the fact that I operated on auto-pilot like a cold, calculating, experienced spy.

  But what are my options? I can’t go back. Mr Dowling will slaughter me on sight if I don’t get out of here. I might be his beloved, but he can’t let me live, knowing what I know. I’ve got to press ahead as fast as I can. It doesn’t matter how I came by this knowledge. I need to cash in on it, and quickly, before the mutants lock down the complex and come hunting for me.

  I enter the tunnel and push the door closed behind me — there’s no way of operating the lock from this side, so I just have to hope that Mr Dowling’s mutants don’t spot the disturbance and investigate. Then I press on through the gloom. This area isn’t brightly lit, just the occasional light. But that’s OK. I know the way. I could find it blindfolded if I had to.

  The tunnel forks and I take the left turn. Then a right, another right, a left. These tunnels are roughly carved. Mr Dowling only used a few of his mutants when creating them, in secret, away from the gaze of his other followers. All of the workers were killed once they’d finished, like the slaves who built the tombs for the pharaohs in ancient Egypt. He didn’t want anyone to know about this hidden network. It was created for his personal use only.

  More twists and turns. I take them without thinking, following the map which was clear as crystal inside Mr Dowling’s brain. He often comes here to check on his deadly prize, standing before it in ecstatic but horrified awe, like a worshipper at the shrine of some all-destructive god. There are several entrances and routes. He tests them all out on a regular basis, making sure the doors work, that the paths are clear of cave-ins, that no one has been sniffing around his toxic treasure.

  It’s not a long journey but I make poor time. I’m incapable of rushing. Still, as slow as I am, I’m dogged, and eventually I draw to a halt at another locked door. This one is protected by four combination locks, each requiring a twelve-digit code, and you’d need a serious stash of dynamite to make an impression on the door or wall. It would take a crack team a lot of time and hassle to break through. Even Ivor Bolton, an Angel who can open almost any lock, would have to admit defeat if confronted with these devilish beauties.

  But I have the inside scoop, the elaborate string of numbers flashing in my mind’s eye as if highlighted on a neon billboard. I start spinning the tumblers and soon I’ve set all forty-eight windows correctly. I grasp the round handle and twist. There’s a sighing sound and the door opens inwards, widening the more I turn the handle, like a giant opening its mouth.

  I step into a small, steel-lined room. There’s a single light hanging from the centre of the ceiling. It switched on automatically as the door opened.

  A safe sits in the middle of the room, bolted to the floor. The code for this loc
k is simpler than any of the others. Mr Dowling figured that if someone made it this far, the game was up. He set the code out of a sense of irony more than anything else, aware of the things that Dr Oystein has said about him over the years. I chuckle weakly as I spin the tumblers to the most diabolical of numbers — 666.

  The safe opens and I sink to my knees. I reach in and pull out a clear tube, no more than twenty centimetres long. It’s sealed with what looks like a plain rubber cork, but I know the cork is made from a special material and is absolutely airtight. It will never shrink or shake loose. And, although the tube appears to be just glass, again it’s been carefully manufactured from a far tougher substance. You could put it on the floor and whack it with a sledgehammer, over and over, without even cracking it.

  Just to be safe, there’s a second clear, corked tube nestled within the first, every bit as indestructible as the outer container. And then, snuggled within that, is a vial, maybe fifteen centimetres long, filled with a milky-white liquid. There’s no label on any of the containers, but I don’t need one.

  ‘Schlesinger-10,’ I croak, holding the tube up to the light, watching the liquid as it splashes around inside the vial.

  I never wondered what it would be like to hold the lives of every living human in your hands. Now that I’m in that position, I find it absolutely terrifying. I know I can’t do any damage to the tubes. I’d have to deliberately uncork the first, slide out the second, uncork that, then slip out and uncork the vial in order to unleash the hounds of havoc. But I still feel sick at the nightmarish thought of the tube slipping through my fingers and somehow smashing open. I guess it’s like doing a bungee jump — you know you’re safely attached, but try telling that to your natural instincts when you’re about to hurl yourself off the side of a cliff.

  Reverently, knowing I’m not worthy of such a grave responsibility, I lower the tube and look for a place to store it. But there are no pockets in my wedding dress. I could carry it but I want both hands free. So where . . . ?