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Contamination | Invasion Survivor Book One | Chapter Eleven

Chapter Eleven

Paige was yanked from the darkness and her growing awareness discerned a feeling of moving.

Did someone fix the train? Her first question brought a surge of hope, but then she remembered what had happened and dismissed the stupid thought.

At the same time, she realized she was the one moving. She tried to focus and forced her eyes open to discover Dave was shaking her vigorously. Her head throbbed like crazy, but she willed herself to look around and get her bearings.

They were still on the train—or what was left of it would be more accurate.

He looked worried for a second but once he saw she was awake, he stopped and coughed.

“Come on. We need to get going, so move your sweet ass.” His voice was teasing and he chuckled. Paige complied, but motion proved more difficult than she expected.

I would kill for a couple of Advil’s, she whined to herself, rubbing her head.

“If you continue to sleep on the job, then so will I,” he warned but still in a light tone. “And to think I could be in a Ritz-Carlton hotel right now, getting hammered,” he continued wistfully.

Very slowly, she tried to sit, and once she succeeded, wiggled her fingers and toes. Every part of her body was still fully functional, she decided, and started to rise.

“What else would you do?” she asked to distract herself from the pain.

He helped her gently, a mischievous smile on his face. “Dive-bombing into the pool, shouting from the rooftops, dancing Jerry Maguire style in the lobby.” The zany list stirred an involuntary smile from Paige.

“You’re an idiot,” she countered good-naturedly, and he pretended to be offended.

“And to think I was about to ask you to join me…” He trailed off, shaking his head.

“You would?”

“Never mind now, the moment is ruined.”

Though she was grateful for the small respite provided by their banter, it was time to face the music.

Glancing around from her vantage point, she could see that not everybody had been as lucky as her. Bodies lay tangled, their faces forever afraid, and Paige sent a silent prayer out for all of them before she focused on the living. She couldn’t do anything about the dead, but maybe she could for the rest.

Some people started to come to, stirring and groaning from the pain of their injuries.

Noises assaulted her, a cacophony of incoherent anguish, but one stood out—loud and urgent, it cut through the sound of suffering that surrounded them.

It’s a baby crying. Paige registered the fact with rising panic and immediately, her gaze searched the scene, trying to determine where it came from.

Smoke and dust filled the car, limiting what she could see and filling her lungs with it until she felt like she would cough some of her organs out. She grimaced and willed herself to focus. She couldn’t let that distract her from what she somehow knew she needed to do.

Keeping her body low, Paige crawled through all the rubbish toward the sound.

Finally, she found the little one still in the arms of the infected mother. She was relieved to see that the baby looked unscathed. They were both wedged between seats, which was probably what had protected them.

“You saved our lives.” The mother coughed over the baby, and Paige had the urge to form some kind of barrier between the two.

She didn’t know how much longer the mother would live or how long until the baby’s immune system gave in to the infection, but either way, she knew she couldn’t simply let them die.

“Can you move?”

“I think I’m stuck,” the mother replied, looking more coherent than ever.

Maybe the crash somehow rebooted her system, or the adrenaline helped, Paige mused, springing into action.

“Let’s get you out of there.” She lifted the baby from her mother’s arms and the little one instantly stopped crying.

“She likes you,” the mom said, and when Paige looked down, her little face smiled. With the cuff of her sleeve, she wiped the child’s face clean, removing her mother’s blood and all the dirt along with it. She was adorable, her bright little face teasing a smile from her rescuer in response.

Looking back at the mother, she saw she was trying to stand by herself but, just as she’d feared, she was stuck.

Paige shifted to hold the baby with one hand and moved closer to the woman to try to find out what the problem could be.

“Here, let me help,” Dave said suddenly, standing next to her. He lifted the seat, grunting a little at the effort it took.

She offered the mother her free hand and with a little wiggling and tugging, they managed to pull her free.

“Thank you,” she said with real gratitude and a whole lot of relief.

“You need to get to a doctor. Is there anyone who can watch your baby while you get help?” Paige asked.

She couldn’t help but start imagining that crazy woman on the road and what she’d been capable of.

What if this woman goes the same way? Paige started to panic. What will she do to her own baby?

Not wanting to face those horrible thoughts, she shook them away from her mind.

A mother can’t really hurt her own child, can she?

Still, she wasn’t an idiot. She knew there truly were crazy or evil people out there, even before the virus struck. And some of those people were terrible parents…but no, she was adamant. This woman couldn’t hurt her child.

She snapped out of her stupor, determined to keep her baby safe. She will make it.

“My mother,” the woman said, obviously a little more coherent now as the shock seemed to have eased a little. “She can stay with my Mom, who lives a couple of blocks away from Grand Central. Mom’s not sick, at least …” This time, when she paused, it wasn’t because she was succumbing to the virus all over again but because she was scared. “At least she wasn’t when I last spoke to her. We have to go,” she announced suddenly, and taking her baby from Paige’s arms, disappeared from the carriage.

She could still hear the baby’s cries as they echoed down the tracks for a while before they faded away.

“We should follow her example,” Dave reminded her, but Paige shook her head.

“We have to stay and help these people.” Other cries filled the void once the baby left, and Paige had to stay and help them, whether they were infected or not.

A man bumped into her, struggling to exit the car.

“Get out while you still can. It’s only a matter of time before they infect you. Don’t go near them.” He sprinted away, not once looking back.

Dave gave her a look that told her he agreed but didn’t comment.

To her surprise, he stayed and helped, even though it was obvious that wasn’t his first choice.

Getting people out was slow and tedious work. The damage was extensive, and even the most benign things in those circumstances were potential hazards.

“Please help me,” a young man with neon-blue hair around their age pleaded.

“Are you hurt, my man?” Dave inquired, a bit winded from all the work they had done so far. The blue-haired kid nodded vigorously. “I think I broke my arm, but I can’t move.”

Paige moved closer as well, trying to see where the problem was. A metal rod had pierced his backpack, holding him in place.

“Your backpack is jammed. Can you wiggle out of it?” she asked.

The kid shook his head. “My arm is killing me. I can’t move it.”

“We need something to cut you out, then.” Dave spoke the thought out loud at the same moment it occurred to Paige. Then it hit her.

“I have a knife,” she exclaimed, shrugging her own backpack off. Opening it in haste, she started to rummage through it.

“Come on, come on,” she urged as if that would speed the process up somehow.

“Here it is,” she shouted in triumph in the next instance, holding the pocket knife she’d got from River in the palm of her hand.

Not wasting any additional time, she started cutting. When she was done, Dave helped the kid up carefully.

His hand looked messed up, but neither one of them knew what to do about it.

“Here,” Dave said, pulling his T-shirt off, leaving him in only a wife-beater, and ripped it slightly to make a sling.

Who would have known Dave had a Thor six pack? Paige caught a glimpse of his chest as he removed his shirt and liked what she saw.

“Thank you both,” the kid replied after they managed to immobilize his hand, at least temporarily.

“You need to go to the emergency room, now,” she warned.

“I will, thank you,” he repeated, scurrying away and avoiding all the other injured people going the same way.

Dave earned a small cut on his left arm for his efforts, but other than that, they were in pretty good shape considering what they had all gone through.

Paige had been in contact with so many sick people so far, starting with Chen. River, the woman from the road, that mother, and all the people on the train…she lived with a constant nagging anxiety that she would become infected.

On the other hand, she didn’t feel any different.

It was weird to think that, but she started to hope that maybe she couldn’t get infected in the first place. As if she was immune or something.

That could mean that she could use that to her advantage and help so many people. The only downside to that theory was that there was no way to test it.

“Paige, come…help me,” Dave shouted, snapping her from her daydreaming.

“How can I help?” she asked, rushing to his side.

“I need that knife of yours,” he said, extending his hand. He didn’t have to explain why because it was immediately obvious.

The elderly woman she recognized from before was completely tangled in some wiring and insulation. Luckily, the train was now entirely without power or she would have been electrocuted on the spot.

Paige handed him the knife. Dave started cutting meticulously, while Paige removed the excess wires. Working together, they managed to release the woman in no time at all.

“What are your names, dearies?” she asked them.

“Paige and Dave.”

“Or Night Girl and School Boy.” Dave smiled.

The elderly woman hugged them. “I will keep you in my prayers.” Paige was genuinely touched, and by the look on Dave’s face, so was he.

“That is quite an accessory,” he commented, returning the blade to her.

She shrugged. “It was a gift,” she explained, and he whistled. “Someone must really hate you to put all those jewels on such a fine knife.”

She grinned, even though thinking about River made her stomach hurt. I hope you are still alive River. Once again, she sent her prayer into the ether, hoping it would get the results she wished for.

“Yes, she does…I mean, she doesn’t hate me,” Paige replied simply, looking at the knife one more time before returning it to her backpack.

Each time they stepped off the train with another injured person, they looked for some kind of security or medical teams coming to help them, but no one arrived.

She felt broken inside because of it. Somehow, more than anything, it showed her clearly how much trouble they were really in since the strange virus had erupted.

They had just crashed in one of the busiest train stations in the world, and no one came to see if they needed help or even tried to reach them.

After helping a middle-aged man who had hurt his left leg get down from the train, Paige paused by the wreckage to catch her breath. The air was somewhat better than inside, and she enjoyed a few scant moments of leisure.

A couple of wires sparked a couple of feet away from her and caught her attention. The train itself was without power, but it seemed some wires along the track were now exposed by the carnage. The spark flickered again, drawing her attention to a man lying across the tracks with a terrible head wound.

It was obvious that he was one of the infected, but even in his condition, he was reaching out for her.

Paige wanted to go to him but something held her back.

“Seedling…” He called out for her. “My seedling…need to bring her to the ship.”

Paige remained rooted to the spot, utterly petrified. A really large part of her wanted to escape, to start running and never look back, but the other wanted to hear what he would say next.

Nothing else passed his bloody lips.

“Paige?” Dave called out, making her jump.

“Did you hear that?” she asked, gesturing at the man.

“What?”

“That man just spoke,” she pointed him out clearly now.

He frowned, his expression laced with suspicion as if debating whether she’d hit her head or something. The man looked completely lifeless, now, even though his arms were still extended toward her.

“You know what? Never mind.” She spoke hastily before he had the chance to say anything else. “Let’s continue.” She turned back toward the train, but Dave stopped her.

“There’s nobody else inside. We should really go now,” he pleaded. While her heart echoed the sentiment, something deep inside her compelled her to stay and see with her own eyes that they had done all they could.

After looking through the empty cars, Paige finally accepted that she wouldn’t find anyone else alive.

Exhausted, they stepped out of the train and began the journey into the Grand Central Station building.

***

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