In the three days since being trapped at Steelewood headquarters, Isadora found herself mostly lounging at the executive bar on the fiftieth floor. Since she was officially unemployed by the company, they rescinded her rights to free drinks. Sergei, however, waived that technicality. In fact, Sergei proved quite generous to his mother. She was given full access to one of the suites they kept for VIP visitors and one of the office assistants even went down to Isadora's apartment to retrieve some of her things.
But Isadora was bored. Getting buzzed by the alcohol helped, but she also needed to keep her mind clear. Or mostly clear. She sat on a sofa at the window while the sun fell. On the table at her side was a bottle of black label whiskey, which she sipped every now and again. In her hands was a copy of Crime and Punishment in its original Russian, which she read with only passing attention. She had read Crime many times before, so nothing was new to her, but it was her favorite novel. She often compared herself to Raskolnikov, a killer. It had been twenty-one years since she last killed, and six since she gave a direct assassination order, but the themes of murder were very close to her.
Her reading was interrupted suddenly by the arrival of Ben Duckett, the company Chief Operating Officer, and a fellow Englishman. Since being appointed to the board nine years ago, Duckett remained loyal to Isadora. He was a valued friend among countless enemies. Duckett helped Isadora shift Steelewood into the more passive, less violent company it had become over the years. Duckett said, “Ms. Fleming? What are you doing here?”
“Ben!” Isadora took off her reading glasses. She set down her book and stood. “It's good to see you. Very good.”
“Good to see you too, Ms. Fleming, but- I'm a bit shocked, what are you doing here?”
“What do you mean?” She sat back down.
Duckett sat beside her, saying, “Sergei told us that you murdered Goodwin and fled. I don't understand why you're here now.”
She sighed, “Ben, that isn't true. I haven't murdered anyone.” Recently, she almost added.
“I believe you,” Duckett said. “Even with the coup, I just don't think you would murder him, but Sergei has the system wrapped around his little finger. Everyone just took him at his word. The only reason I had to doubt him was because I know you. Even still, the evidence fit. There was no real investigation. And why would there be? Sergei is your son and our best agent.”
“But why was he given my spot?”
“By vote,” Duckett said. “Even those of us on your side voted for him. We thought we were basically voting for you.”
“Sergei was working with Goodwin for a time, so of course Goodwin's people gave him the vote.”
“Right,” Duckett said. “It was near bloody unanimous.”
“Now he wants to do exactly what Goodwin wanted to do all along.”
“Yes, he does. A few of us considered moving to vote him out, but we couldn't get enough votes to do it. He's got his spot for now.”
“But what if we launched an investigation into Goodwin's death? What if we could somehow prove that I didn't do it?”
“Then we'd have to charge Sergei with murdering a member of the board. They'd vote him out without a second thought. With your name cleared, logically, I see no reason why the board couldn't vote you back to your spot at the top.” Duckett scratched his head. “But I don't know how possible an investigation would be. I could get some people on it, but I can't guarantee they'd find anything. Goodwin's body is gone along with just about any evidence.”
“What about the records? Maybe something exists in the camera feeds that implicates Sergei?”
Duckett thought about it and then said, “He's your son. Of course he's thought of all this.”
“You're right,” Isadora sighed. “Of course he has. Surely there are backups somewhere- wait a minute! The Fujikawa Network!”
“Sergei admitted to killing Goodwin in a video conference back when I was in Lisbon. What if they have records?”
“It's a stretch, but-”
“We have to try,” Isadora stood up. But stopped herself. “Bloody hell! I can't get down to the network hub, they've got me locked down here. Duckett can you get down there?”
“Yes, just drive down the network hub and ask them if they keep copies of their logs. If they don't have them in Boston, they may have logs in Lisbon. Ask about both.”
“Ms. Fleming, I'm not sure how-”
“Ben! Please, I need your help here!”
“Alright, fine, I'll go down there and-”
They heard a distant boom and then klaxons blared. Isadora smirked.
Duckett gasped, “Blood hell! That's the perimeter alarm! That means-”
“That means my friends are here,” Isadora said. “You need to now, Ben.”
“Wait, what does that mean? Your friends?”
When the klaxons blared, Sergei had to tell himself he was not surprised. He knew something was bound to happen in the few days since his mother arrived. Of course the Holdsworth and her crew would try something. Then again, he assumed they would practice a little bit more subtlety. For hours, he had been sitting at his mother's desk drawing up plans for his European invasion and handling business matters. The blaring was almost a welcome distraction. He pushed himself out his seat, straightened his tie, and calmly walked from his mother's office into the communications center on the same floor.
The communications center was one of the most advanced left in the world. It connected with the two remaining active satellites, the Fujikawa Network, and was where all of Steelewood's operations could be managed from a single location. Inside were thirty-two high-performance PCs connected to Steelewood's impressive server system. The room was kept at a chilly sixty degrees to prevent the machines from coming close to overheating. At least twenty-five people were in the room manning the hardware at all times, but in emergencies it crowded to about forty. The entrance was at the back of the room. At the front were four projector screens which displayed all sorts of data feeds and information.
As soon as Sergei walked in, he called, “Someone tell me what the hell is going on!”
Tony Sullivan, Steelewood's communications director and Goodwin's closest lackey, replied from the front of the room, “Mr. Fleming! It's the perimeter defense gate. Someone's blowin' holes in it!”
“I know that, I can hear the alarms,” Sergei answered. He looked at the largest of the four screens, which showed a diagram of the fence around Boston. He saw four red makers on the white outline and asked, “How bad is the damage?”
“Catastrophic,” Sullivan said. “Look, they've blown four big-ass holes in the fence system and we've got freaks pourin' like we're throwin' a barbecue.”
“By freaks, you mean the monsters?”
“Exactly. Freaks, monsters, zombies, walkers, mutants, uglies, pissfaces, whatever you wanna call 'em. They're chargin' like there's no tomorrow.”
“Lock down the building and put all available forces on securing the fence.”
“We're doin' what we can already. A bunch have slipped through the perimeter already though.”
“Do whatever it takes,” Sergei said. He turned around heading for the door.
“Where you goin'?”
“To find my mother.”
“That's it! Point Delta is blown!”
Once Liam heard Bobby Ramirez say those words over the radio, he floored the gas pedal. He, Emma, and Lena all sat in a green Range Rover waiting outside of Boston. Their plan was simple. Using decoy cars and diversion tactics, they lured in as many zombies as possible to the fence and then blew it open in four places. The fourth hole, hole delta, was the furthest way from the thick of action and that was their insertion point.
Emma sat in the passenger's seat beside Liam while Lena sat in the back. Liam did not want his mother to come along. Her ability in combat was questionable and she would not be able to keep up with Emma and Liam, who were both at near peak physical condition. Lena was almost sixty. Nevertheless, she was armed just as Liam and Emma. Lena asked, and later demanded, that she see this whole thing through to the end.
Liam maneuvered the SUV through the thin Massachusetts wilderness until he reached the clearing before the fence. Just about a hundred zombies roamed the clearing and they perked up instantly at the sight of the speeding vehicle. They gave chase, but could not run at seventy miles an hour. Liam jerked the wheel in frenzied attempts to avoid hitting them. The Rover could take punishment, but any collision at that speed would cause damage and it was far too soon to lose their car.
As soon as they reached the fence, they found about a dozen Steelewood soldiers peppering fire into the gaping hole in their once-formidable defense. The zombies ran through and outnumbered the soldiers by the hundreds. Liam knew that if backup did not come soon, then those soldiers were doomed. Steelewood had the resources to secure Boston and save the city, but doing so would take time and effort. And people were going to die. Liam hated that fact, but he told himself that many more would die if Sergei's plans were to go through.
One of the soldiers spotted their oncoming vehicle and opened fire. Liam shouted, “Get down!” He lowered his head as much as he could without losing sight of the road. Bullets ricocheted off the hood and pounded through the windshield, sending glass fragments and furious bullets at the Mitchells. Liam did his best to zig-zag the Range Rover, but he couldn't dodge every shot. Finally, the windshield gave out and shattered. Splinters of glass flew into Liam's face. He felt his skin tear, but forced his resolve.
The tires made contact with the road when they zoomed past the Steelewood forces. Liam had to compensate for the sudden change in traction. Suddenly, the Range Rover accelerated faster and the wheels moved looser. The rear windshield cracked and broke just like the front. But it was not long before the gunfire coming at them stopped. Liam sighed in relief...
...until a Steelewood armored personnel carrier turned the corner right in front of him. Liam yanked the e-brake and jerked the wheel hard to the right, but such a turn was dangerous for any vehicle. Liam shifted his weight as for the left as he possibly could to compensate, but the left-side tires lifted off the ground. “Hold on!” Liam cried as he fought to keep the car from tipping over.
But it was no use. The Rover lost balance and its right side slammed onto the street. The airbags deployed and Liam blacked out....