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Z-Boat (Z-Boat Book 1)

Z-Boat (Z-Boat Book 1)

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Z-Boat (Z-Boat Book 1)

4/5 (5 valutazioni)
334 pagine
5 ore
Mar 13, 2014


Ally Lane is the pilot and navigator of the The Betty Loo, a search and rescue submarine. She took refuge from her demons on the sub a decade ago.

Brian Kingston, a captain with good intentions but a heavy drinking problem, jumps at the opportunity to make more money than he can imagine on a deep-sea dive aboard the search and rescue submarine, The Betty Loo. He quickly discovers just what he’s gotten himself, and his crew, into. The Betty Loo will be going to suicidal depths on a mission to rescue The Peacemaker, a sub once thought to be unsinkable. After receiving an anonymous threat on the day of departure, Brian is left with no choice but to continue on the mission.

But the depths of the sea aren’t the only problems ahead. New crewmembers arrive, and seeds of distrust are sown within hours. And, upon arrival to The Peacemaker, he realizes that though not all the bodies are dead, there is no one to rescue.

The crewmembers, both old and new, have to trust one another and fight for their lives against the adapting undead or join them in the floating graveyard that is The Peacemaker.

Mar 13, 2014

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Z-Boat (Z-Boat Book 1) - Suzanne Robb


Published at Smashwords

ISBN (Trade Paperback): 978-1-61868-2-345

ISBN (eBook): 978-1-61868-2-352

Z-Boat copyright © 2013

by Suzanne Robb

All Rights Reserved.

Cover art by Dean Samed, Conzpiracy Digital Arts

This book is a work of fiction. People, places, events, and situations are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or historical events, is purely coincidental.

No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the author and publisher.


Chapter One

Six Months Later

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter One

Igor Vanovich made his way to the control room, the disorientation from the loss of blood making the normally easy trek difficult. He kept getting turned around and confused.

The screams, fires, and leaks didn’t help. A submarine taking on water was never good. He considered fire a bad thing too, and laughed at the irony of dying in a fire while several thousand feet below the ocean’s surface.

Finally, he saw the door he’d been searching for. Igor pulled out his Makarov and slowly pushed the door open. He trusted no one and would shoot anything that moved, friend or not. Red flashing emergency lights made it difficult to see, the strobe-like effect playing tricks on him.

He moved slowly and methodically to the communications panel. He tripped over what looked like a leg, but he couldn’t be sure. He stopped being bothered at sights like that long ago when everything went to hell.

A simple rescue mission for one of the most impressive submarines in any arsenal. They'd loaded up on supplies, and to Igor an unusual number of scientists also joined. When they'd arrived, what they found was a floating graveyard.

Igor was a simple mechanic, but he'd heard the stories. He'd even seen some of the abominations when they sent his team over to work on the engines of the other sub. One look and he knew there was nothing to be done; it had been disabled on purpose.

Something had set out the bait for them to come.

The first time Igor heard one of them, he cried out for others to come help. Finally, a survivor after the trail of eviscerated bodies, but he’d been wrong. An emaciated corpse lay behind one of the engines, half-eaten and trying to snap its mouth at them. One of the men who answered his call beat the thing’s head in with a wrench. When nothing but a pulpy dark mess remained, he moved on. Igor followed the man as he moved forward, crushing anything he came across.

Igor told them to say nothing, that it would be their secret. Hopefully, their captain would call them back aboard when he learned there was only danger, and no one and nothing to salvage.

When the captain ordered him to oversee a small group of people to transport the things to their sub, Igor almost disobeyed orders—until he remembered they would kill his family for his indiscretion.

Igor remained quiet and did as told. More and more of the corpses were found, and unknown to the rest of the crew, their lives likely to end horribly as well.

No longer a safe place The Peacemaker was now a floating lab, studying decayed things that still moved for reasons unknown.

Several days later a number of crew members went missing only to be discovered in partial bits or attacking others. An every-man-for-himself mentality kicked in and within hours most of the crew succumbed to whatever it was these things had brought with them. Igor lasted as long as he could, but hunger and injury had taken their toll. He forced his mind back to the present.

Dmitri Kruger sat at guidance control, his face half-eaten, and a bloody socket with strands of rotten flesh where his arm used to be. On reflex, Igor fired a shot directly into Dmitri’s head. The body jerked forward, and then fell to the floor. They had been best friends since elementary school.

Igor moved on without a second thought. He needed to reach the communications panel. The others needed to be warned. Nothing could be done to save his shipmates, but at least he could spare others from this fate. He could tell them to stop the research; the substance they'd discovered wasn’t what they thought it was.

A scream pierced the eerie quiet of the control room. Igor halted. The pounding of his heart throbbed in his head, the rapid flow of blood making him woozy. The scream stopped, and the only sounds remaining were the moans of the things on board.

Shaking off the momentary lapse, he began to move on. He felt something watching him and glanced around the room to find the source of his unease. Dmitri’s eyes remained open, staring at him.

He knew it couldn’t be possible, but for a moment, he thought Dmitri winked at him. Igor moved as fast as he could toward the panel; it was within his reach. He had to stop the SOS they had sent out. He knew others would come, and they would die. All he had to do was send one message, one warning, one simple plea not to come. As he reached the panel, he sensed the presence again.

He glanced at Dmitri, who still lay there, unmoving. He turned to the panel and saw the face of death. The mouth dripped blood; the flesh of others could be seen caught within its teeth. The murky eyes glowed red with the lighting, though he knew their real color, a milky white.

Igor lifted his Makarov to fire. Before he had it halfway, the creature tore into the side of his neck. He could hear the sick squishing sound of skin breaking. He could feel his blood being sucked into the mouth of the creature. Tearing flesh and snapping bones were the last things he felt.

Igor did not have time to scream. His last thoughts were not of pain or fear. His mind filled only with his failure to warn the rescue team. How many others were going to die because of him? One final crack of bone, then Igor thought no more.

* * *

Thrown aside like a piece of trash, Igor’s body fell to the floor as the creature moved back into the shadows. A smile dripping blood adorned its face. The creature watched the others come into the room and feast on Igor.

He watched with giddy excitement. The smell of blood and the building frenzy of bloodlust among those around him aroused his hunger once more. Knowing more would come kept the smile on his face. He sent the SOS himself. It might take a few weeks, perhaps a few months, but they would come. Curiosity would get the better of those in charge back home. In the meantime, they had plenty of meat left onboard.

Patience is a virtue, his mother had always told him.

* * *

Stana Katsuri waited for Igor in the submersible, a small machine used to explore areas too deep or small for submarines. He’d told her he needed to send a message and then they would meet and get the hell out. For days they’d hid in the tiny ship attached to the side of the giant submarine before Igor summoned the nerve to go send the message. She’d told him he was crazy, begged him not to, but knew he was right. She didn’t, wouldn’t admit to herself fear prevented her from going with him.

A quick glance at the timer let her know Igor was over an hour late, and she was smart enough to figure out what his poor timing meant. No tears were shed, she barely knew him. They’d met under dire circumstances. The first time she learned his name was when he pried a bloody pipe out of her hands. He spoke in soothing tones and assured her there would be no court-martial for her beating in the head of her commanding officer.

She’d explained how one moment she and a few other crew mates were trying to fix the power outages popping up everywhere, and then a group of monsters attacked them. Her small group was outnumbered, but fought like hell. While friends fell around her, screaming as they were gorged upon, Igor appeared out of nowhere and pulled her out of the chaos. They’d stuck together ever since.

Shaking the memories from her mind, she disengaged the locks. Unfortunately, Igor was supposed to initiate the launch sequence from the control room before he returned, allowing them to rid themselves of the umbilical attaching them to the submarine. Two choices faced Stana, stay in here and die, or go out there and die. She sighed, neither one appealing to her.

A quick glance out the window told her none of the things were around. She unscrewed the hatch and climbed down the ladder. When her feet hit the floor she ran down the hallway to the control room. She pushed open the door and sprinted to the control panel. Buttons flashed, some flickered, while others sparked. She hoped to God the damn thing was still functioning and pressed everything in sight. She didn’t dare use a light lest they notice her.

When she stepped out of the room a breeze caressed her face and with it came the smell of death…hers if she didn’t smarten up. She felt the impact before she saw it. A poorly aimed mouth wrapped itself around her lower leg. Her boots took the brunt of the impact. She reached for whatever was within arm’s length and ended up with a digi-chip. She bit her tongue when the pain in her leg lit up her leg like a bolt of lightning. A deep breath later she leaned over and shoved the data storage device into the thing’s eye. As it writhed beneath her, she twisted her hand and pulled her leg free when the green ooze flowed from the poor bastard’s ear.

A second later, rapidly approaching footsteps echoed down the metal corridor. She knew going for the submersible would be a death sentence. She backed into the small room as quietly as possible and closed the door with slow painful movements. The damn things heard every creak and headed straight for the source.

They pawed at the entrance, jiggling the handle. They moved on as black dots appeared in her vision and light-headedness kicked in.

She glanced around her new surroundings and wondered how long she would last. Three dead bodies were stacked in the corner, their heads nothing but concave messes of flesh and bone. Lifting up the thick material of her suit she checked her leg where the thing attacked her. A bruise was forming, but the skin hadn’t been broken. Her first lucky break since this debacle started.

With a resigned sigh she lowered herself into a corner and fell into an uneasy sleep.

Six Months Later

Captain Brian Kingston slammed a small device on the desk.

God damn bureaucrats, they have no idea how things really work. They sit in their offices and collect regular pay checks for telling other people what to do, he complained to the empty room.

A half-empty bottle of whiskey took residence in his hand, and he took a healthy swig. He grabbed a data stick off his desk and smiled; his luck had turned. He’d landed a huge contract for a search and rescue. The timing was perfect, as he didn’t have the cash to pay for the repairs the sub underwent.

Of course, there had to be a problem. He wondered if countries had always clashed the way they did today. Two of the territories in conflict wanted members on board, which gave Brian a major headache. He was no diplomat and told them he would take the crew member with the most experience.

Russia won. The other country’s corporate representative – who refused to identify himself – told Brian there would be consequences for his decision. He told the guy to shove it, and closed the communications channel.

A beep on his personal panel alerted him to a new message. Confirmation from a bank he’d never heard of that half of the funds had been transferred into his account and the rest of the payment would be sent when he returned with the item. Brian asked about survivors, since he’d been told it was rescue mission. They changed the last line to read survivors, if any. This should have grabbed his attention, but the haze of booze and lure of money pushed his questions aside.

Obtain the item – which they did not identify for him – and collect any survivors. Those were the extent of his orders. They would be sending someone for the mysterious object and a doctor to deal with the bodies. The term bodies should have raised another flag, but Brian wasn’t known for being a deep thinker. The other third-party crew he had to take were meant to help with the operation, otherwise known as getting in his way and causing problems.

God, I hate this crap, he said as he looked at an old digital image on what passed for a private work area.

Brian forced his eyes away from the picture and called up his file screen. A blue three-dimensional menu appeared in front of him.

Personnel files. A computerized representation of his command appeared within the space in front of him.

He poured himself a glass of whiskey as he read the list of names. Once again he had to take on people he didn’t know to lead a search and rescue mission to some creepy part of the ocean to save a bunch of morons who didn’t know what they were doing. He glanced at the smiling faces in the picture on his desk once more to remind himself why he put up with it.

His kids, Daniel, Mark, and Theresa, that was why. They were also all he had to show for his fifty-two years on this Earth. Well, there was Betty Loo, but a rundown late-twentieth-century submarine didn’t really count for much to most people. Might seem like a stupid name for a submarine, but Brian didn’t get to choose it and over the years he’d grown fond of the moniker. To him and his crew, it was home. A refuge from a society that didn’t want them.

Brian was a two-time loser at marriage, with a sickly pallor from spending most of his time under water, or hiding out when they were in dry dock. His eyes so sensitive to light, he needed to wear sunglasses when he bothered to venture outside during the day, most of the time to replenish his alcohol supply.

No matter how screwed up things were, alcohol was there for him. People died of hunger every second, others poisoned by the toxins in the water they drank, but none of it mattered because he could get numb. Reality took a backseat.

He sighed. At least this time he got to keep his usual crew. Brian hated taking on strangers; especially corporate strangers. He found it difficult to trust people who were part of regimes that had helped destroy what was once a great country, regimes which continued to oppress people in the harshest of ways. Then again, most of the people he employed had shady backgrounds, but he knew each one of them had some bit of good.

He hummed while looking over the personnel files of the people he would be forced to welcome aboard for this particular journey.

Access file, Ivan Sutter. The stack of digital papers dispersed and one slid out opening to reveal text along with an image of the man in question. Well, he’s one scary-looking bastard. A miniature version of the man stood in front of him.

Skin pale, eyes a piercing blue, body full of muscles, and a liberal amount of visible scars on his face and arms. A little over six feet tall with cropped blond hair. Listed as single with no kids or immediate family. How this guy made it up the ranks to diplomatic liaison by the age of twenty-eight was suspicious at best. One look at him and you knew he’d cracked more than his fair share of heads during his tenure with the Russians.

He was a trained deep-sea diver, search and rescue licensed, knew how to operate every type of submersible in existence and had been educated in America. Only people who had no other options got an education in North America. Brian rubbed his face as he swallowed half the whiskey from the glass, not off to a great start with the stats of the new crew.

Access file, Dr. Maxine Williams. The current image in front of him disappeared into bits of color then rearranged themselves into the picture of a young-looking Asian woman, tall with a round face and brown eyes.

Her status also listed as single with no kids or immediate family. Brian shook his head, why did corporations feel the need to send people on risky missions if they had nothing to come back to? Many times he’d witnessed his crew pull through when the odds were stacked against them. Each one of them had something in their life that made it worth living.

With a shake of his head he returned to the task at hand. Maxine worked as a triage doctor in downtown Beijing with a degree from some Russian town he couldn’t pronounce.

Thank God we got an educated doc this time around, Brian thought with relief.

Dr. Williams’s file was full of recommendations, citations for good works, and several papers she’d written on various cures she developed as further progress was made into deep-sea research and the discoveries made.

Well, the good doctor has no life whatsoever, which means she’s on someone’s payroll, never a good thing. Brian sighed again as he poured himself more of the amber liquid.

Access file, Tom Simon. The aged image of Tom Simon appeared once the bits of data about Maxine dispersed.

Forty-four with sandy brown hair and grey eyes, married with two kids. Deep-ocean navigation as well as limited piloting ability of some submersibles. The only education he received was from the Global Search and Rescue Institute.

Looks like you’re a lifer with GSR, Tommy boy. Bet you never get to see your family. On the plus side, I know you’re not on anyone’s payroll and have something to go back to, access file, Philip Kramer. The image of Tom dissolved, replaced by one of Philip Kramer.

Thirty-six, single with no kids. He had a rugged build, but the pale tinge of his skin was a dead giveaway to the amount of time he'd spent working in labs. He held degrees from universities in New York and Los Angeles.

Credited as dive-certified, a specialist in seaborne illnesses, as well as an oceanic botanist. Now why the hell do I need one of you on this little trip, Dr. Simon? Alarm bells rang in the back of Brian’s head, which he drowned with more alcohol.

Something didn’t make sense with the crew they were sending him. This job wasn’t shaping up to be an ordinary search and rescue; it felt more like a think tank.

Access file, Johnny Ventura. The image of a cocky, smiling, and tan young man materialized.

Brian disliked him at first sight. Perhaps because he listed himself as single with a question mark next to kids, or he flexed while he posed for the picture, it might be the fact that he looked like a jerk.

Johnny, adept at diving in extreme conditions, had nothing else to offer them. From the shiny veneers, fake tan, and overconfident look, Brian knew this guy made a lot of money going to scary places. He also knew he lacked common sense; no one in their right mind spent that much time in hazardous areas unless they had a death wish. He made a mental note to steer clear of him.

At least the people who hired Brian allowed him to keep his pilot, Ally Lane. They had been working together for almost ten years, and if there was one person he trusted, it would be her, although he’d never admit it.

Her exact age remained a mystery, but he estimated her to be in her early thirties. She had an athletic body from exercising during her free time and light brown hair accentuated by hazel eyes. Ally was every guy’s wet dream, at least Brian thought so. However, people were thrown off after their initial impressions of the diminutive woman were shattered. She spoke as little as possible, and when a new male crew member made the mistake of trying to hit on her they ended up with some part of them broken or sprained.

Since Ally remained as the main pilot for the mission, he made sure Marcus Hauser, the apprentice mechanic on the submarine for the past two years, stayed too. A mild guy who people avoided because of his appearance. Layers of thick muscle on a tall frame rounded out with dark hair and black eyes made more prominent due to his pale skin. Once you got to know him though, his naivety shone through, but was reliable and damn good at his job. The fact he and Ally were seeing one another also made Brian push to keep him. No Marcus meant no Ally, and he needed her.

Nina Rose needed to be kept on; not only was she his main diver, but she designed the rescue submersible attached to the Betty Loo. She claimed to be in her thirties and was some sort of engineering prodigy, looking at her you would never believe it.

Nina was as unattractive as a woman could get, manly as she could be without actually having a set of balls…Brian wasn’t sure she didn’t. She swore like a sailor, gambled, and drank. God love her, she was his type of woman.

Last of his main crew was Dutch Mitchell. No one knew how old he was, only that he was one of the original members of the team assigned to Betty Loo.

Dutch was the go-to guy for any electrical, mechanical, or other problems they ran into. Brian admitted, at least to himself, they relied on him more often than he liked. Dutch knew every nook and cranny, and Brian usually trusted his judgment when it came to what Betty Loo could do. As of late, Brian questioned Dutch. He seemed to think the old girl could do anything and had almost gotten them killed on a few outings. If not for Ally’s piloting skills and Marcus’s ability to think fast on his feet, they would most likely be at the bottom of the ocean right now.

Brian stole one last glance at the image of Johnny Ventura. A sinking feeling developed in his stomach. Close file.

He went to fill up his whiskey glass, but the bottle mocked him with its emptiness.

I hate it when that happens.

Standing up, he threw the bottle into the trash and opened his desk drawer. He pulled a new one from his reserve, unscrewed the top, and filled the glass. Walking over to his bed, he tried to figure out what he’d gotten himself into.

Chapter Two

Ally Lane sparred in her usual spot, the far corner of Mike’s Gym, beating the hell out of a punching bag. Covered in sweat and focused on what she did, not caring about the eyes in the room following her every move.

She was not oblivious. She chose to ignore those around her, it made life easier. The less involved she was, the better. Having lots of friends tended to make things too complicated, and she liked simple. Most people thought she was stuck up, or assumed she felt as if she was too good to associate with them. Ally really didn’t care what rolled around in their heads as long as it kept them away from her.

Wouldn’t they be surprised if they knew the truth? On a good day, Ally possessed the social skills of a bar of soap. She never knew her parents or what happened to them. Her entire childhood contained memories with her grandfather who raised her until he died of a heart attack when she was thirteen. They couldn’t afford school so she learned how to read and write, and a few basic math skills, from him. When she was ten years old she asked why she didn’t have a mommy, and even at such a tender age she identified the look in his eyes as pain. He smiled at her and walked into his room. She never asked again, and he never spoke of her parents or offered up information about them. Whatever secrets he knew, he took to his grave.

After his death, she was taken away by a

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  • (4/5)
    Zombies on a submarine, a small, confined space, thousands of feet below the ocean’s surface – can it be any scarier than this? Z-Boat opens with a quick recap on the state of the world, overpopulation has taken its toll, resulting in undrinkable water, overly-genetically modified food that has lost its nutritional value, and of course, the fuel is running out. The superpowers have been taken over by military regimes and dictators – education in Russia is far to superior to that of the American educational system, and spies are rife. The action on the Betty Lou begins with a recap of all the characters – which I really appreciated as the list of characters is quite long, and all of them are introduced into the story right from the beginning. Z-Boat reads like a movie – the first movie that it brought to my mind was Deep Blue Sea – which fits perfectly with the story. The characters are a mish-mash of different personalities, skills and motives, and part of the mystery is trying to work out who is working with whom, who they are working for, and who they are working against. I know nothing about submarines, but the explanation of the workings of the sub and the equipment are well written and add to the story – with just enough content to keep it interesting without being bogged down by an overload of information. There are a few negatives for me in this book – the story takes place over several days, but reads like it is happening all at once, for example there are no references I can remember that refer to the characters sleeping or eating a regular meal. At times the action is a little slow, and other times too fast which made it hard to keep up with what was happening. This is a good, solid Zombie book – the setting is unique, the characters (although there are many) are easily distinguishable from each other, there is a strong mystery element and the writing is good. Zombies don’t appear in force until the second-half of the book which normally would disappoint me, but in Z-Boat the build-up was worthwhile. With a few touch-ups this could be an excellent book.