This is the start of the end.
It’s fallen apart, and I won’t give into you.
You break and bend.
This is who you are, and I won’t give into you.
– Atrium, “The End”
Chris Fox held his hands up, palms out and fingers splayed as he stepped back from the counter and away from his SCAR 17 rifle. Beside him, Bill did the same while they both eyed the bearded man as he held a gun to the head of Allan Kirchner. The man’s hand shook and he constantly looked from Chris and Bill to somewhere out of sight. He held Allan hostage behind an open security door that led to the bank’s vault.
Chris needed to get in that vault.
Pressed against the wall on either side of the security door, Williams and Turner waited, unseen by the bearded man and his group. The two KSF agents were like statues of flesh and blood, barely moving, barely even breathing. Only their eyes shifted from the door to Chris and back again, slowly, over and over as they waited for a signal. Chris calculated they could take down the bearded man easily, probably before he shot Kirchner, but there was another two men inside. One of them was out of sight, but sick. Chris had gathered that much. A skinny little man, he was the bearded man’s brother. The other was a tall, blond man with a ponytail. He was the real danger, carrying a rifle that Chris couldn’t quite make out. It was an unknown and Chris did not like unknowns.
Allan was white with fear, his hands shaking as he held them up in front of him. His thin, wire-framed glasses sat askew on his wide nose and his thick, white hair was matted with sweat. He swallowed several times and opened his mouth but couldn’t seem to find any words.
“What the fuck do you mean, ‘not them’?” Bearded Guy said, nudging Allan with his pistol. The cold steel shoved his head forward, making Allan wince and whimper, the only sound he’d made since his initial outburst.
“Th-th-they’re KSF! They’re gonna fuckin’ kill me!”
“Don’t be stupid, Allan,” Chris said, staying as still as possible with his hands still held up. “We came to get you out of here.”
“Like Ashley Gilly? You’re going to get me ‘out of here’ like you did her? I know! I heard the rumors!”
“What’s he talking about?” Bearded Guy said, eying Chris now. “Who the fuck is KSF?”
“Kurama’s private military! I told you!” Allan said, turning to look at Bearded Guy. “They’re here to kill me!”
Chris continued to keep his hands up but he took a small step to his left. The movement made Bearded Guy switch his aim from Allan to Chris.
“Don’t move!” Bearded Guy said.
Chris nodded and stood rock still but from his new vantage point he could make out where Ponytail was standing. Turner could take him without completely clearing the door. He was carrying a modified AP4 which was both good news and bad news. The bad news is that it could shred Chris’s body armor at this range, but the good news was that it was heavy, kicked hard and was fairly large to maneuver in that tight spot.
Briefly catching Turner’s eye he blinked rapidly twice. Turner squinted his eyes, not understanding the message. Chris inwardly cursed. He’d likely been infantry then, or Navy. Damn it. Didn’t those SEAL guys have SOPs when dealing with No-Talk-Hands-Bound situations? Unfortunately, if they did, Chris didn’t know them and Kurama didn’t teach any. Shit.
“Allan, no one is here to hurt you,” Chris said just as the Infected outside began to wail and bang on the doors. They tried to swing inward but were held shut by the locks. Chris glanced over his shoulder, looked at both metal chords and estimated how long they’d hold. Not long enough, of course. He’d made countless plans that took many years to set up. Katie should be safe on the damn Supercarrier, not holed up in his bunker! He’d miscalculated the animosity between his daughter and his ex-wife. What had sparked it? What prompted her to leave in the middle of the night? But those were questions for later.
“Oh my God… they’re… they’re going to get through!” Allan said.
“You fucking led them to us!” Bearded Guy said and Chris saw the man’s finger wrap around the trigger. This was getting stupid. Fast.
“No, you did that yourselves,” Chris said. “You know it. You had to escape through the trunk. How were you planning on getting out? I can get a chopper here to get us all out safely.”
That appeared to give them all pause. Bearded Guy’s finger came away from the trigger and Chris let out a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding. His aim slipped and for a brief moment, Chris considered signaling Turner. The man turned his gaze to his right and the gun pointed slightly down and away from Chris’s center mass. He could signal and roll out right. The fight would last moments, but he had no way to organize Williams and Turner together, which could create confusion and a bad crossfire. That would likely kill someone he didn’t want killed. He let the moment slide as Bearded Guy turned his attention back to Chris.
“My brother’s sick. He needs a hospital.”
“I can provide that,” Chris said. “What’s he have?”
“He was bit! It’s infected. Gave him a fever, ya know? He’s sick.”
Chris cursed inwardly. It was infected all right but not like this guy thought. Was he really that naive about the situation? True, not many people knew the facts like he did but everything seemed pretty obvious. Still, he had to play along.
“How long ago?”
“How long ago was he bitten?”
“Uh…” Bearded Guy looked down again, thinking. Once more Chris felt the urge to move, but the Infected slammed themselves against the glass doors again and the gun came up. It pointed past him, at the doors. Chris took a slight step forward and to the right. He was closer to his weapon now. One good lunge and he’d have it.
“Your brother’s a dead man, son,” Bill said in a voice that was almost kind. Bill was a little older than Chris, but always acted like he was a decade or more his senior. The man had no children, not even a wife, but somehow he acted like a father to everyone he met.
“Don’t you fucking say that!” Bearded Guy said and turned his aim on Bill. “The doctor here says he has a cure!”
“No, not a cure, not really. It’s an antibiotic of sorts, like for the flu!” Allan said, but another bang at the doors silenced him. Chris risked a glance backward. A thin, young woman was reaching a hand through the slight opening. As he watched, her forearm followed, the skin tearing and slicing off from the pressure as she pushed it through. The barrier would hold but not for much longer. He had to act and act quickly. The woman screamed through the doors and Bearded Guy shifted his aim again, his arm shaking.
It was now or never and he had to take the chance.
Chris locked eyes with Williams and made a motion towards him. Bearded Guy saw it, just as Chris intended and began to move to inspect what he was waving at. Luckily, Turner saw it too and stepped back from the wall. It all happened at once.
Turner found Bearded Guy and brought his rifle to bear, then fired. Chris lunged for his own gun, caught it and went to his knees behind the counter. Bill rolled away, moving towards where his own weapon lay. Then Williams stepped back from the wall just as Turner’s bullet ripped through Bearded Guy’s chest. He found and took aim on Ponytail, who was caught utterly by surprise to see two new men step into view. He only had time to raise his weapon to his shoulder before Williams put two rounds in him. Chris brought his rifle to bear but found both Bearded Guy and Ponytail sprawled on the ground, Williams and Turner securing the entrance to the door.
Allan was whimpering and crawled out of sight. There was another sound too, a moaning from the infected man. He was calling out feebly, asking for Rick over and over. Chris supposed that was Bearded Guy’s name. He received no answer.
Stepping into the room, Chris saw that both Rick and Ponytail were unmoving. Blood was beginning to saturate their clothes and pool on the tile floor. The Infected outside must have sensed something since they went wild, banging harder and screeching at an alarming rate. He swung his rifle around to check on them. One of the doors had a spiderweb crack appearing at its center where an Infected was ramming his head into it over and over. Blood smeared the location. Soon, others got the same idea. It was time to go.
“Allan!” he said, turning to where the man sat, cradling his son. The young man was conscious but dazed. His eyes were open but not looking at anything. He was white as a sheet. Infected? No, the eyes were normal. Shell shock then. Great.
“Turner, Williams, get the door and secure the samples. Allan? You’re going to assist them.”
“You’re just going to kill us!” he said, not looking back at Chris.
“No we won’t, doctor. We need you.”
Allan turned his head, small, beady eyes meeting Chris’s. “What are you talking about?”
“Get up,” he said and helped him do that with more force than he probably needed to. This civilian sack of shit was becoming more than a little annoying. Where was his courage? His fight to survive? He had a goddamn son to look after! Shoving him towards the vault, he turned to inspect the infected brother.
His eyes were open but glassy. They were bloodshot and pale. Veins stuck out clearly on his pale skin and his breathing was shallow and rapid. There were dried flakes of black blood on his lips. Stage 3.
Chris let his rifle hang by its tactical strap and drew his pistol. Arming it, he stared once more at the dying man’s cloudy eyes. They looked left and right, up and down.
“Rick?” the man coughed. “Rick, I wanna go home. I feel… I feel like… shit… can’t see man… it’s all red…”
Bringing the pistol up, Chris shot him in the forehead. The noise made Allan jump and squeal but garnered no reaction from Turner or Williams. Bill laid a hand on his shoulder, turning him around again. He pointed towards the door, then raised his rifle. Chris followed his line of sight as glass broke.
They were coming through.