Orleans by Sherri L. Smith Read Free Book Online

Book: Orleans by Sherri L. Smith Read Free Book Online
Authors: Sherri L. Smith
one of the few civilians of his generation to see it. With the exception of a handful of scientists at the Institute of Post-Separation Studies, no one did research over the Wall anymore. The Institute’s people had made the ultimate sacrifice for their research—they remained in the city after the quarantine, and could never leave. As far as Daniel knew, there had been no communication with the Institute in his lifetime. But it might still exist. If he could find the Institute, or remnants of their work, he might also find answers. The kind that could lead to a real cure.
    A few hours before dawn, he reloaded his truck and drove east down a dirt road and onto matted grass. He angled south until he was screened by a cluster of twisted old crape myrtle trees. He cut the engine, grabbed the jetskip and a large duffel, and headed for the fence.
    It took some doing, climbing the fence with a towline tied to his waist. Once over the other side, he used the rope to pull his gear over the top. First his waterproof duffel bag, with the encounter suit and his payload inside. Then the jetskip, dangling from the end of the rope like a fish strung through its gills. Shrugging the duffel bag onto his shoulder, he hoisted the skip in his other hand and dashed into the dark. In a matter of minutes, the Wall was before him.
    It was huge, at least twice as tall as he was, and gleamed pale in the moonlight. He crouched down against the rough cement blocks, filled with steel rebars and concrete. He scanned the top of the Wall for the telltale blinking lights of the little remote-controlled sniffer drone hovercrafts—named sniffers for the biofilters that helped them detect Delta Fever carriers—but he saw nothing. It was time to suit up.
    The encounter suit was essentially a hazmat membrane, a thick wet suit–style coverall that encased the wearer like a second skin, albeit a thick one. The suit was the translucent yellowish color of an umbilical cord and acted like a placenta, protecting the wearer. Like an umbilical cord, it also processed bodily waste, sweat, and other secretions into pouches, breaking solids into fluids, and distilled fluids into drinking water. Putting it on was like trying to climb inside an uninflated party balloon. It took close to half an hour of struggling to peel the last of it securely around his fingers, where the skin was thinnest to allow for dexterity, and then up and around his face.
    Even though he had practiced wearing the suit, the moment the seal tightened around his throat, Daniel panicked. He started hyperventilating in sharp, quick breaths, too rapid for the suit to process soon after activation. Unable to draw in enough oxygen to support himself, Daniel blacked out.
    • • • 
    Daniel came to with a jolt. He tried to sit up too quickly, and the rubbery tightness of the suit snapped him back. His heart was racing again, but his breathing was regular. As it warmed, the suit would become more malleable. Stiffness would not be a problem by the time he got over the Wall. In the meantime, it felt like his skin was numb, as if his entire body had fallen asleep from lack of circulation. That, he knew, meant it was working. The suit regulated body temperature, compensating for the air outside, making him feel as though he were floating in a bath the exact same temperature as his skin. A necessity, Daniel knew, for the humid days and frigid nights of Orleans in late autumn. After a moment of adjustment, Daniel rose to his knees and began to don the rest of his gear.
    “Dress as a leper.” That had been the old smuggler’s advice. It would disguise his hazmat skin and have the added effect of keeping away what locals there were. Fever carriers were particularly susceptible to blood and skin diseases. “Lepers are anathema in Orleans,” the old man had said. Daniel pulled on a pair of brown canvas cargo pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and sturdy black boots to protect from the dangerous debris known to

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