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Scott Sigler






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

  Copyright © 2014 by Scott Sigler

  All rights reserved.

  Published in the United States by Crown Publishers, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York.

  Crown and the Crown colophon are registered trademarks of

  Random House LLC.

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Sigler, Scott.

  Pandemic : a novel / Scott Sigler.

  pages cm

  1. Biological warfare—Fiction. 2. Parasites—Fiction. 3. Death—Fiction.

  I. Title.

  PS3619.I4725P36 2014



  ISBN 978-0-307-40897-6

  eBook ISBN 978-0-7704-3677-3

  Jacket design and illustration by Will Staehle


  This novel is dedicated to my brothers of the Arm Chair Lodge: high school classmates, teammates and lifelong friends. The countless weekends of role-playing taught me how to tell a great story.



  Other Books by This Author

  Title Page



  How it Began …

  Book I: The Big Water

  Day One: The Blue Triangle

  Wicked Charlie Petrovsky

  Day Two: The End

  Girls, Girls, Girls


  Highway to Hell

  Influence of the Sonofabitch

  The Situation Room

  Day Three: Night Flight

  Mutually Assured Destruction

  Little Green Men

  Casa de Feely

  Fake Fur

  Killer Math for $200

  God’s Chosen


  Running Drugs

  The Bodies


  The Full Ride

  Photo Bombing

  Red Hot Momma


  It’s About Cantrell

  Breakfast of Champions

  Clear Your Mind

  Get Licked


  The Los Angeles

  The Barrier

  Human Experimentation


  140 Characters

  Scary Perry

  Positive Thoughts

  Diver Down

  Day Four: Foreign Powers

  Welcome Aboard




  A New Hope

  Square-Jawed Man




  Consumer Habits

  The Seal

  Heading for Port

  Battle Stations

  The Selection Process

  Day Five: A Little Prick

  Pay The Man

  Knockin’ at the Door


  The Ever-Pleasant Dr. Cheng


  Frequent Fliers

  That Toddlin’ Town

  Book II: Chicago

  Day Six: Men With Guns

  A Prayer for the Dying

  The Hangover

  The Hangover, Part II

  The Cool Kids

  A Husband’s Role

  Day Seven: Actualization

  Statistically Significant



  All Channels

  Guinea Pig

  Day Eight: #Takethemeds


  Big Pharma

  The West Coast

  Mister Blister

  Becoming More

  Day Nine: The Front Desk

  Follow Me

  The Boiler Room

  The Internet


  Reproductive Rights


  Day Ten: #Apocalypse

  The City of Lights

  The Cook

  Sermon on the Mount

  The Trump Tower

  A Game of Tag

  The Streets of Chicago

  Tipping Point

  Cooper’s Choice

  Book III: Defcon 1

  Day Eleven: It Gets Worse


  Bat Twelve

  The Responsible Party

  Waiting …

  The Emperor

  There’s Bad News, and Bad News

  Day Twelve: Youtube


  All the Marbles

  Cascading Failure

  A Good Day for a Swim

  Information Is a Weapon

  The Highways

  Urban Terrain

  Know Your Enemy

  The Park Tower

  Under the Bed

  The Package

  Dr. Feely’s Bedside Manner

  Flash Mob

  Game Change



  Shots Fired

  Game On

  Feel the Heat


  The Evidence

  Cocktail Party

  Streets of Fire

  Front Toward Enemy

  I Am the Law

  A Man’s Word …

  Everyone Loves a Parade



  Husband and Wife

  A Way Out

  Hit the Lights

  Reach Out and Touch Someone


  Into the Breach

  Day Thirteen: Stylish Outerwear

  The Democratic Process



  A Last Kiss

  Mission Objectives

  The Enemy of My Enemy

  Frozen Food

  Book IV: Road Trip

  Meet the Public

  Big and Dangerous

  The Motivational Speech

  Make Every Bullet Count

  The Calm Before the Storm

  Welcoming Committee

  Time to Fly

  Hell’s Angels

  On the Road

  Slow Ride


  Chicago Bulls

  The Equalizer

  End of the Line

  The Grim Reaper


  Game Over





  For a hundred thousand years, the machine traveled in a straight line.

  The Creators had launched it into space along with many others, countless others. The others also traveled in a straight line, but each one in a different direction. It wasn’t long, relatively speaking, before the machine could no longer detect the others, before it could no longer detect the place from which it had come, before it could no longer detect the Creators themselves.

  Alone, the machine traveled through the void.

  It would have flown in that same straight line for all eternity were it not for a faint trace of electromagnetic radiation known as a radio wave.

  Analysis was instant and definitive: the radio wave was not naturally occurring. It was artificial, proof of existence of a sentient race other than the Creators.

  For the first time, the machine changed direction.

  It moved toward the source of this signal so it could fulfill its sole purpose: find the species that generated the signal, then assist the Creators in wiping that species from the face of existence.

  As it traveled, the machine detected more and more transmissions. It studied the signals, learned the languages, assigned meaning to the images. In doing so, the machine defined its target: a race of small, hairless bipeds that lived on a blue planet orbiting a yellow star.

  Some twenty-five years ago, the machine reached Earth. Stored inside the machine were eighteen small probes. Each probe was about the size of a soda can, and each probe could cast over a billion tiny seeds adrift on the winds. If these seeds landed on a sentient individual, a host, they could analyze the individual’s composition and send that information back to the machine. The machine could also send information to these seeds: in particular, how to make the seeds hijack the host’s biological processes.

  At least, that was the theory.

  The first six attempts failed altogether. The seventh successfully produced minor changes in the hosts, but did not reach the level of modification necessary for the machine to complete its mission.

  With each successive attempt, the probe gained more and more knowledge about the hosts’ biology. By the twelfth attempt, the machine could reprogram the hosts’ bodies to produce new organisms. The goal of those organisms: build a massive structure — a gate — that would allow the Creators to bend the laws of physics, to instantly deliver an army directly to the blue planet.

  But the hosts fought back. They found the organisms and destroyed them.

  The machine kept trying. Each attempt, however, cost another irreplaceable probe. Fourteen … fifteen … sixteen. Every attempt involved a new strategy, and yet the hosts always found a way to win.

  On the seventeenth attempt, the hosts discovered the machine. They gave it a name: the Orbital. And once again, the hosts defeated the Orbital’s efforts.

  The Orbital had no backup. No help, no resupply. Seventeen attempts, seventeen failures. The eighteenth attempt was the machine’s final chance to stop the hosts. Failure meant the hosts would have hundreds of years, perhaps thousands, to improve their technology. They had already made feeble-yet-successful attempts at escaping their planet.

  If the hosts developed far enough, they might reach the stars. And if they did, someday, they might encounter the Creators, and — possibly — destroy the Creators. That was the very reason for which the Orbital had been built: to find burgeoning races and help the Creators eliminate them before they could become a threat.

  During the first seventeen tries, the Orbital had come very close to success. That meant some of the earlier strategies were worth replicating. And yet in the end, each of those strategies had failed, which meant the Orbital also had to try something new, had to feed all its collected data into this last-ditch attempt.

  No more gates.

  No more efforts to conquer.

  For the eighteenth and final probe, the Orbital’s goal became singular, simple and succinct:


  But before the Orbital could launch that probe, the hosts attacked. Over a hundred centuries of existence came to a brutal end as dozens of high-velocity depleted-uranium ball bearings tore the machine to pieces.

  Pieces that splashed into Lake Michigan.

  The eighteenth probe, however, remained intact. Nine hundred feet below Lake Michigan’s surface, this soda-can-sized object hit the lake bed and kicked up a puffing cloud of loose sediment. As the object sank into the muck, the sediment settled around and on top of it, making it invisible to the naked eye.

  The U.S. government searched for the Orbital’s wreckage. Many pieces were found. The soda-can-sized object, however — a tiny speck of alien material resting somewhere among 22,400 square miles of lake bottom — remained undiscovered, undetected.

  Until now.





  Candice Walker stared at the tiny cone of hissing blue flame.

  She couldn’t do it.

  She had to do it.

  Her chest trembled with the held-back sobs. No more … no more pain … please God no more …

  Pain couldn’t stop her, not now. She couldn’t let that happen. She had to get out, had to make it to the surface.

  She had to see Amy again.

  Candice looked at her right arm, still not quite able to believe what was there, or, rather, what wasn’t there. No hand, no forearm … just a khaki, nylon mesh belt knotted tight around the ragged stump that ended a few inches below her elbow.

  The knot’s pressure made the arm feel almost numb. Almost. The belt’s end stuck up like the rigor-stiff, stubby tongue of a dead animal, flopping each time she moved.

  She again looked at the acetylene torch’s steady flame, a translucent, blue triangle filled with a beautiful light that promised pure agony.

  I can’t let them get me again … do it, now, Candy … do it or die …

  When the pain came, she couldn’t let herself scream; if she did, they’d find her.

  Candice lowered the flame to her flesh.

  The blue jewel flared and splashed, blackening the dangling scraps of skin and arm-meat, shriveling them away to cindered crisps of nothing. Her head tilted back, her eyes squeezed shut — her world shrank to a searing supernova point of suffering.

  Before she knew what she was doing, she’d pulled the flame away.

  Candice blinked madly, trying to come back to the now, trying to clear the tears. The bubbling stump continued to scream.

  Do it so you can see your wife again …

  Her mouth filled with blood — she’d bitten through her cheek. Candice looked at her shredded arm, gathered the last grains of strength that remained in her soul. She had to keep her eyes open, had to watch her arm or she’d bleed out right here.

  See your job and do it, Lieutenant. DO IT!

  Candice lifted her severed arm, opened her mouth and bit down hard on the belt’s flopping end. She tasted nylon and blood. She pulled the belt tight, then brought the blue jewel forward. Flame skittered, seemed to bounce away at strange, hard angles. The sound of sizzling meat rang in her ears, partnering with a hideous scent of seared pork that made her gag, twisted her stomach like a wrung-out towel.

  This time, she didn’t look away. Blood boiled and popped. Skin bubbled and blackened. Bone charred. And the smell, oh Jesus that smell … she could taste the smoke.

  She heard grunts. She heard a steady, low growl, the sound of an animal fighting to chew its foot free of the iron-toothed trap.

  The torch slid from her hand, clattered against the metal deck. The blue jewel continued to breathe out its hateful hiss.

  She pulled the scorched stump close to her chest. Her head rolled back in a silent cry — How much more? How much more do I have to take?

  Candice forced herself to look at the charred mess that had once been connected to a hand. A hand that could draw and paint. A hand that had almost sent her to Arizona State to study art before she made the choice to serve her country. A hand that had touched her wife so many times.

  Blisters swelled. Her flesh steamed like a freshly served steak, but the bleeding had stopped. Drops of red oozed up through the blackened stump’s many cracks and crisp edges.

  Her right hand was gone … so why did her missing fingers still feel the fire?

  With her remaining hand, she reached inside her uniform’s shirt, felt her belly where she’d hidden her drawings — still there.

  Candice reached for the door that would take her out of the submarine’s tiny, steel-walled trash disposal unit. She couldn’t hide here forever. She held her breath, knowing that just lifting the TDU door’s lever would make noise, might bring her shipmates.

  She closed her eyes again, searching for the strength to go on. Amy, I will never quit. They won’t get me they’re all out to get me they’re all trying
to murder me …

  Candice slowly lifted the lever.

  The door opened to a dark passageway, empty save for the few wisps of smoke that filtered in from the fire she’d set in the engine room. The gray bulkheads, piping and electrical conduit looked no different than they had for all the months she’d served here.

  Everything was the same; everything was different.

  To her right, the wardroom where she had eaten countless meals.

  To her left, the crew’s mess: pitch-black, all the lights smashed and broken.