Mark Reads ‘Deadline’: Chapter 5

In the fifth chapter of Deadline, you have got to be kidding me. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Deadline.

Chapter Five


At least half the storefronts I’d seen during my brief survey of the street had been standing open, with their emergency gates fully retracted. Some of the blast shutters had managed to descend, but not nearly enough of them to make a difference, especially when the doors weren’t locked. Sealed blast shutters on a building whose doors were standing open wouldn’t save anyone. They’d just make sure no one could get out once the infected got in.

Fucked up. This is so fucked up. I’m just realizing that this is the first time I am experiencing an outbreak like this in the series. This is bigger and more heinous than anything, aside from the initial outbreak in 2014. WHY? WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?

There had been blood splashed all around the sidewalk, and there wasn’t much screaming coming from our immediate vicinity. For most of the locals, it was long past too late.

This means that whoever ordered this outbreak was willing to sacrifice an untold number of Oakland residents in order to kill the After the End Times team. I mean, I know I shouldn’t be surprised. They’re ruthless and desperate, and they’ve demonstrated that in the past. But fuck.

I know I spent time in the last Deadline review talking about Georgia’s voice in Shaun’s head, but there’s another interesting moment in this chapter involving it: Georgia tells Shaun to stop thinking. And it’s such a blunt and jarring instance because we’re in the midst of Shaun’s narration. Like any bit of first-person narration, we’re getting Shaun’s thoughts in all this chaos, and Georgia tells him to GET MOVING. It’s so neat to me because it’s almost this acknowledgment that sometimes, first-person narration can get too weighty when the plot has quickened up.

Anyway, all that exposition in chapter two regarding Shaun’s return to the office proves necessary to understand just what these people are up against during their escape. As they plan their route to the outside world, preparing for blasts of bleach and the oncoming horde that will surely nab them all if they aren’t clear of the office as soon as possible, Mira Grant makes a terrible situation even worse: Dr. Kelly let her weapons certification expire. So she legally can’t use a gun or defend herself as the others can. Now, Alaric is assigned to protect Kelly, and I’m guessing that Alaric isn’t too happy about that.

“Shaun, you’re not driving a motorcycle out through an active outbreak.”

Becks, honey, the second that sentence escaped your lips, you should have realized that that was the exact thing Shaun would do. Come on, you think he’d leave Georgia’s bike behind? Actually, given the choice, this chapter makes it clear that there is really only one thing that Shaun would never leave behind: the black box that belonged to Georgia. It makes sense that these would be re-appropriated in a post-Rising world, and I’m guessing it explains where some of Georgia’s unpublished files came from. But it also represents the physicality of Georgia, and it’s all Shaun has left of her, aside from the voice that nags him from within his own head. I worried that Grant would have Shaun get trapped and separated from the main group, but you know what? That would have been an easy way out of this given what she had in store for me.

“There’s a mob up there. Kelly says twenty, Alaric says eleven, I’d say the real number is somewhere in the middle.” Dave paused. “He got a positive ID on Mrs. Hagar before he slammed and barred the door. The rest didn’t come from this building.”

“Meaning what?” I asked, picking myself up and resuming the trek toward the third floor.

Meaning this “outbreak” is somebody’s idea of cleaning house. 

“Somebody had to put them there,” said Dave, unknowingly supporting George’s statement. “There’s no way our building is generating spontaneous zombies.”

Oh, so I was right! The outbreak was planned as an offensive movement against the After the End Times team! LOOK, I WAS PREPARED FOR ONCE. I wasn’t shocked by this development initially because there’s no way I’d be able to understand the implications of what the conspirators had done here in Oakland. Becks gives the all-clear, they’re all heading to the garage, and I figure it’ll be a close call while they –

We were halfway down the last flight of stairs when the sirens changed, going from a continuous shriek to a rising series of piercing air-horn blasts, like a car alarm with rabies.


“We should be praying,” said Dave, glancing up. “This block has been declared a loss.”


“Meaning they salt the ashes,” said Becks, before starting to swear again.

but. BUT. Wait, oh my god, is that how the governments respond to a full outbreak? OH MY GOD, I KNEW THIS. Of course this is what they do to prevent an outbreak on a mass scale. You pull the trigger, wipe out every life form, and sift through the ashes later. Why didn’t I consider this a possibility?

Dave swallowed, squaring his shoulders as he looked at me. “Boss…”



“There’s got to be another option.”

There isn’t, said George, quietly. You know that. You have to let him.

Oh. Oh, no. No, what does Shaun have to let Dave do? Is Dave going to ask to stay behind???

“I didn’t become an Irwin because I wanted to live a long and happy life, boss. I sure as shit didn’t stay with this site because I thought it was going to be a cushy job. The math’s pretty simple. It’s me or it’s everybody. Pick one.”

Shit, will you look at that characterization in FIVE SENTENCES? Grant’s able to convey the fact that Dave grew up in a world where he’d get to a point of futility, where he expected to die young. And in that moment, he is choosing to save his friends instead of himself. I LOVE SIDE CHARACTERS WHO ARE WRITTEN WELL.

And at the same time, I can’t believe it. Dave is going to die, and I’m just barely getting to know him. Goddamn it, is this really happening? Is this book opening with all of this? Like, let’s recap:

  • Clones are real.
  • The CDC have been cloning humans for research and other purposes.
  • Some group of people, including members of the federal government and any number of other groups, are preventing the CDC from researching the real purpose of reservoir cases.
  • Oh, and people with reservoir conditions are being murdered.
  • Dr. Wynne cloned Dr. Kelly and sent her to Shaun to help them uncover the troop.
  • Ostensibly, the “group” found out, and started a massive outbreak in Oakland in order to wipe out After the End Times.

And then we get this:

Dave was wrong about one thing. We didn’t have ten minutes. The building went up in a pillar of flame six minutes later, along with every other structure in its immediate vicinity. Slag and ash rained down on the entire neighborhood. Collateral damage for a major urban outbreak; the only way to be sure the infection wouldn’t spread.

Dave’s dead. The After the End Times office is gone forever. The team has to somehow outrun a group of terrorists who have orchestrated some of the most horrific acts of violence in the country, and they’ve got to do it with a CDC doctor who doesn’t have license to use a firearm, and they have to fend off any number of variables I can’t even begin to predict.

This is so fucked up.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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