Title: Mercury Striking
Series: Book 1 of The Scorpius Syndrome series
Author: Rebecca Zanetti
Release Date: January 26, 2016
With nothing but rumors to lead her, Lynn Harmony has trekked across a nightmare landscape to find one man—a mysterious, damaged legend who protects the weak and leads the strong. He’s more than muscle and firepower—and in post-plague L.A., he’s her only hope. As the one woman who could cure the disease, Lynn is the single most volatile—and vulnerable—creature in this new and ruthless world. But face to face with Jax Mercury...
Danger has never looked quite so delicious…
Jax rubbed his gritty eyes and left Lynne in his room, already planning how to best use her. He strode down the worn concrete stairs to what had always been a crappy alcove that served as entrance to the upper two floors of the rentcontrolled brick building. The first floor had consisted of a free medical clinic, soup kitchen, and offices for attorneys down on their luck. When he’d created the Vanguard headquarters, he’d changed the clinic into a triage infirmary, the soup kitchen into a soldier cafeteria, and the offices into his war rooms. He’d tossed legal books out in favor of weapons.
Well, he’d actually burned them for fuel. The old laws no longer mattered. Then he’d promptly punched doorways between the three areas for better access.
He hit the alcove, turned to go through the new doorway to the soup kitchen, which was dead empty at the hour of dawn. The smell of burned tomatoes followed him as he skirted tables and rickety lawn chairs for another new doorway, this one to the former waiting room of the clinic.
Banging echoed from the back of the suite, so he crossed behind the dented reception desk. He found his man in a room that used to be the lunch room of the clinic. A blue halogen lantern gave off an otherworldly glow in the small space. “How much B do we have now?” he asked.
Tace Justice, dressed in full combat gear, glanced up from a microscope they’d found at a junior high several months ago. It rested on a surprisingly smooth wooden table in the center of the room, across from a counter lined with other medical supplies. “Finished the inoculations for this month, except for yours, and this is it. We’re out, kaput, done.” He stood and grabbed a syringe. “Since you’re here, let’s wrap this up.”
Jax grimaced and tilted his head to the side.
The needle slid in, and fire flamed through his neck. “You have the finesse of a fucking elephant,” he muttered.
Tace shrugged. “I was a field medic, not a doctor or a nurse. Take it and shut up, or go to the main infirmary for civilians in the center of Vanguard territory.”
Jax scrubbed both hands down his face and glanced at a child’s drawing of a distorted blond guy with his head open taped to the wall. “Is that supposed to be you?”
“Yep.” The Texas twang deepened. “Not sure what it means, and the open head is a little creepy, but it’s nice the kids found some crayons.”
“Lena?” Jax asked with a sigh.
The little girl often found a way to wander into military headquarters to give presents, and Jax had a drawer in his quarters of oddly shaped and painted rocks she’d showered on him. “They need to do a better job of keeping the kids inner territory.”
“Then you should go inner territory more so folks can see you,” Tace said.
Jax avoided going beyond his command unless absolutely necessary and stuck to the perimeter of the seven square blocks, making sure their defenses stayed shored up. Barbed wire fencing protected the entire territory, which was a trick he’d learned from serving at several military bases, and he didn’t want to discuss going inner territory. “We’ve been getting shot up with B for months. Is there any chance our own bodies will take over production of the vitamin so we don’t need the shots?”
“Hell if I know, and so far, the new data hasn’t helped. Nobody knows about Scorpius.” Tace winced. “I can just affirm from my own review of the public documents initially sent out by the CDC that vitamin B, in this concentrated form, provides a protection so that if somebody contracts Scorpius, they might live through it. The B seems to keep the bacteria from spreading in the body. By testing those who have confessed to being survivors, the CDC discovered the Scorpius bacteria localizes just in saliva and blood.” Tension rode his words. “Of course, most survivors don’t tell me the truth in our community, so I don’t know who has been infected.”
In his past life, Tace had been an army medic after having grown up on a Texas ranch with several siblings, all of whom had succumbed to Scorpius. Now he gave off a vibe of being one with the universe and at peace. But he was a damn good medic who at least somewhat understood Scorpius and vitamin B.
Jax grimaced as thunder rolled again. Shit, they needed rain but not bad wind. “It’s a vitamin,” he muttered. “Vitamin fuckin’ B.”
Tace blew out air. “The B vitamins deal with dopamine and serotonin in the brain, which has something to do with hormones and empathy. That’s all I know.”
Jax scratched his stinging neck. “Have you had much of a chance to go through the data we took from the CDC outpost and contracted labs in the area?”
“We went through it for medical data, but some of it was pretty confusing.” Tace stretched his shoulders. “Why?”
Jax rubbed his chin. “Lynne Harmony thinks she might be able to find a concoction that creates B in the blood so we won’t need constant injections. She’s not telling me everything, but I think she was truthful about that.”
Tace stilled. “Interesting. The research I read did talk about B quite a bit, but some of it might as well have been in Sanskrit.”
“You don’t know much.”
“Probably not nearly as much as Lynne Harmony does.” Tace turned and leaned back against the counter, scattering papers. “Is it true? Do you have her?”
“Yeah.” Jax looked at the collections of drugs, chemicals, and test tubes, which had already been in place in the building. They’d made good use of the facilities, mainly because the compound was situated perfectly to protect and defend. A row of warehouses lined the rear of his territory, backed by an old street and several worn railroad tracks. Then many apartment buildings congregated around an old elementary school that now served as the main hospital for his people. Several businesses took up space with a church in the center.
The seven square blocks also had held a food distribution center by the warehouses, which was now well guarded. He’d immediately run barbed wire around the entire territory inside the public roads while barricading it with semi trucks, vans, cars, and piles of tires on the roads outside.
Yet an attack was coming. He could feel it. “Do you have the facilities necessary to study her blood, if she gives it?”
“If?” Tace asked slowly, crossing his arms.
“Answer the question,” Jax ordered his chief medic. Now there were three doctors inner territory, but he trusted Tace most. They’d known each other for almost six months and had fought, killed, and nearly died next to each other during rounds of attacks. The six-foot blond had been on leave from the army when the shit had hit the fan. “Please answer.”
“No.” Tace rubbed his square jaw. “We don’t even remotely have the resources to study her blood, so there’s no reason to take any of it. Did you see her heart? Is it really neon blue like in the pictures?”
“Yes.” The CDC and newspapers had shown pictures of Lynne’s heart before the epidemic had spread. “If I can somehow find you the right equipment to take her blood, maybe you can create a cure?” Jax asked.
Tace snorted. “Sure. I mean, the CDC and some of the smartest doctors on the planet were unable to do so, but why the hell not?” He gestured around the makeshift lab. “Without electricity and millions of dollars of high-tech equipment, the most I can do here is look under an old microscope. There’s no way for us to find any sort of cure in her blood, even if there is somehow a cure that the real CDC missed.”
Jax exhaled slowly. “No need to be an asshole. Just think about it.” The second they lost hope of survival, they lost everything. “Hope is the dream of a waking man.”
Tace snorted. “I like that quote better than the we’re all gonna die quotes you spouted yesterday.”
Jax rubbed his aching temple. “I was moody, and now you seem concerned.” Tace was as good-natured as they got, and Jax relied on him to cheer up the troops when necessary, which was more often than not.
“Concerned?” Tace slowly nodded. “Based on the rumors we’ve heard, you’ve brought a woman rumored to be carrying something more dangerous than the Ebola, AIDS, and smallpox viruses combined with the plague, meningitis, and flesh-eating bacteria into our barely secured home base, and you’re keeping her at command headquarters.”
“Her knowledge is our hope. Our only hope.” Jax rolled his shoulders. “You know as well as I do that there a million unfounded rumors out there. Yeah, they say she’s carrying a new, even more deadly mutation of the contagion, but you know that’s probably not true. We know for sure she’s the one person still alive with the best chance of finding a cure.” Though he’d expected resistance from his men, he hadn’t thought Tace would be reluctant. “This could turn the tide.”
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About the Author:
USA Today Bestselling author Rebecca Zanetti has worked as an art curator, Senate aide, lawyer, college professor, and a hearing examiner - only to culminate it all in stories about Alpha males and the women who claim them. She writes contemporary romances, dark paranormal romances, and romantic suspense novels.
Growing up amid the glorious backdrops and winter wonderlands of the Pacific Northwest has given Rebecca fantastic scenery and adventures to weave into her stories. She resides in the wild north with her husband, children, and extended family who inspire her every day—or at the very least give her plenty of characters to write about..
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