The door was huge. The ‘pop’ she’d heard was just the first unsealing mechanism and steam or some sort of gas escaped along its edge. She wasn’t sure what it was so she kept her breath held. There was a gas mask in her pack, but she’d forgotten all about it. Making a mental note to add that to her normal suit-up sequence, she waited while the door opened.
As it separated from its seal, Lindsay saw a swirl of white gas. She hesitated on the edge of it, reluctant to step through. She turned to look at Holden but his face was masked from her, covered by the darkness. All she saw was the glow of his goggles.
“It’s all right, it’s just water vapor,” the mechanized voice called from within the white gas. “It won’t hurt you.”
Not sure she trusted the voice, but having little alternative, Lindsay took a step through the door.
A strong arm went around her throat and propelled her into the swirling gas. She let out a yelp of surprise and reached up with her hands, trying to pull the arm loose but the grip was hard as iron. It was a man, holding her from behind. More footfalls entered behind them as the door slammed shut again.
Red lights began to flash and an alarm went off around her. She struggled, elbowing the man who held her but to no avail. Something cold and hard pressed to her temple, a gun.
“Shut it off!” Holden yelled. “Collins, we know it’s you in here! Shut it the fuck off!”
“You and your men are infected!” the mechanized voice said. “Containment protocols must be followed! I told you, just the girl! You must leave, now!”
Behind them, Lindsay heard the big door begin to open again.
One of the soldiers passed by her on the right and disappeared into the steam. A moment later his voice called out.
“Sir, there’s a forward airlock. It’s sealed! Not metal, just plastic. Bet we could blow it open!”
“Collins! Open the fucking door or so help me I’ll bring this whole facility down!”
“I told you, just the girl. You didn’t listen. I can’t allow you to contaminate this facility. Leave, now, or you will be dealt with.”
“Blow it!” Holden said and two soldiers got to work ahead of her. The steam had begun to clear and Lindsay saw a clear plastic door ahead of them, framed by white. Beyond it, she saw human shapes in white and gray.
Something began to sting her cheek. Then it was her scalp, forehead and lips. She reached up and wiped at her face, the only action she could do in Holden’s grip. It looked like water but smelled like… oil? Kerosene? Gas?
Behind them, the big door sealed shut.
The two soldiers stuck something that looked like a Playdough to the door, pushed some wires into it, and retreated to the back of the small chamber. To Lindsay’s right, she saw something begin to glow. There was a small flame that shot out, like a pilot light.
“They’re going to incinerate us! The door, now!”
“Sir, we’re a little close—!”
“I told you to leave—“
The next thing Lindsay knew, she was laying on her back. Her head hurt and she couldn’t move her legs. Taking a breath, her mouth and lungs felt full of powder and she coughed violently. She opened her eyes and saw black smoke swirling around a small fire above her. A man was laying across her legs, face down. Blood ran out of his ears and he had a small fire licking along the length of his legs.
Lindsay realized she couldn’t hear. There was a loud, constant ringing in her ears that blocked out everything. Out of the smoke, Holden appeared, grabbing the man on her legs and shoving him off before pulling her to her feet. Shoving her forward and through the smoke, she saw that the plastic door was nearly gone. Plastic was shredded, shattered and melted.
Stumbling out with them were three of the four soldiers. She wasn’t sure if the fourth was dead or just unconscious. She wasn’t even sure what happened. An explosion? Something about burning? Reaching up and touching her cheek, pain nearly dropped her to her knees. Something was wrong with her face, was it shattered? Burned?
And then there were humans standing there before them. They had on white uniforms that reminded Lindsay of her mother’s nursing uniform. One of them was a woman with dark brown hair pulled into a ponytail. She had a pistol in her hand and was pointed at them. The other two were men. They also held pistols but didn’t seem too confident with them.
The woman said something, but Lindsay couldn’t hear it. Her lips moved and her stance widened slightly, the grip tightening on the pistol. Lindsay remembered the rifle on the sling at her chest and fumbled for it.
Cold steel pressed against her head and she let the weapon drop away. Holden had his own weapon to her head now. Why was he doing this? Wasn’t she important to the group? Didn’t they need her?
Strangely, she wasn’t afraid. It was as if the fear had gone out of her completely. She’d reached some sort of limit and more didn’t seem to bother her. Lindsay imagined that was a bad sign of… something.
The woman in white lowered her weapon but didn’t move. The men didn’t move, their weapons still trained on them. Lindsay felt the pistol slide away from her skull and for a moment, she was relieved. Then she felt, more than heard, the shots. She wasn’t sure how many went off but none of them came from those standing in front of her.
Holden shoved her forward again and Lindsay looked back over her shoulder. The three soldiers who had been with them were dead, laying on the floor with surprised expressions on their faces.
He killed them, she realized. Why? What are we doing here?
Ahead of her, the woman had her pistol trained on them again. Holden marched Lindsay forward, the pistol pressed against her neck. The barrel was so hot it burned, searing into her flesh. Lindsay cried out but she couldn’t hear if she made any sound. The weapon didn’t move.
More talking went on, but Lindsay didn’t know what was said. After a few moments, she was moved forward while the woman in white motioned to the men behind her. They turned and went further into the facility. She followed, looking over her shoulder at them.
It was a lab. Everything was clean and white and sterile, smelling of antiseptic and coffee, and filled with everything Lindsay imagined a lab should need, including microscopes and test dishes. There were things that looked like microwaves and cabinets full of liquids in small tubes. Most looked like blood.
There were beds too, separated by curtains, like a hospital room. In one of them, a man in his late fifties or sixties lay with bound wrists and ankles. He was hooked to some sort of life support system. And while there was a bandage on one arm, she saw no other signs of harm. He looked a little gray but otherwise healthy. Lindsay wondered who he was.
They passed through another door that required the lady in white to tap a few metal buttons on a pad to open. Inside was a small, square room filled with racks upon racks of tubes. Most were empty but there was a group of vials filled with clear liquid. It was very cold in the room too.
Slowly, sound returned to her. It still sounded far away, but it was getting louder every second. She thought she heard Holden speaking but couldn’t make it out. The woman in white shook her head and Holden removed the pistol from the back of Lindsay’s neck and pointed it at the woman.
Free of it, she looked over her shoulder to see the two white-uniformed men pull their guns too. Holden still had his arm wrapped around her throat but felt its weight slacken. She reached up and pulled it away quickly. When it gave, she ducked out and scrambled to a wall, drawing her rifle to her shoulder. She didn’t aim it anyone in particular, unsure what to do.
“Bitch!” Holden said. It was the first word she made out. She also saw how badly he was wounded. The bite to his neck was open and bleeding. He was wavering on his feet but still held the pistol and kept it aimed at the woman in white.
“Lindsay was it?” the woman in white said. “Honey, lower your weapon.”
“Aim it at her!” Holden said, nodding towards the woman in white. “Or so fucking help me I’ll shoot you too.”
“No one needs to shoot anyone!” the woman in white said. “Let’s all just… calm down.”
“Give… me… the serum!” Holden said. “Now.”
“I told you! It doesn’t work! I don’t know what mad science you think we do here but we didn’t develop any kind of soldier serum!”
“Bullshit. We did. But it doesn’t work right, see? We need yours. Now give it to me, goddamn it, before I fucking bleed out!”
“It never worked! We couldn’t make it work, that’s what I’m telling you. It was always unstable! Why do you think the virus broke out everywhere? We tried it and it failed, every time!”
Lindsay wasn’t sure what she was hearing. It didn’t make much sense to her. Why would they create a serum for soldiers? Did they mean whatever those soldiers had that had come with them? Zombie soldiers?
“So what the fuck are you doing here!”
“Working on a cure! Now our airlock is broken and contaminated! Half our samples may be useless now!”
“Well shit, doc, then you’re definitely handing that over.”
“It’s not done yet,” the woman said. “And I’m not giving it to you.”
“The fuck you’re not,” Holden said and pulled the hammer back on his pistol.
“Listen, you’re infected. You’re hurt and you need medical attention first. If I gave it to you now, it would just—“
“Now!” Holden said, taking a step forward and putting his finger on the trigger. Someone in the doorway gasped and a shot went off, striking Holden in the chest. His vest puffed and he grunted, stumbling against a wall. Despite his new injury, he turned and fired. One of the men in white sprawled with a bleeding hole in his chest. The second dropped his pistol and held up his hands, but Holden fired again, catching the man in the throat. Lindsay watched as he clutched at the wound, gagging and sputtering as blood poured from his neck and mouth.
“Stop!” she cried but Holden turned again and fired at the woman in the white. It caught her in the shoulder but not before she fired back. This one struck Holden in the arm, causing him to fire again. This one burst through several vials, exploding them and spilling their contents. The woman in white screamed something and fired again but missed. Holden pulled the trigger a third time and struck her in the stomach. She collapsed against a wall, crying out in pain.
He stumbled forward, bleeding and coughing, aiming his weapon at the woman in white’s head. The woman looked up, defiance in her eyes.
“You’re killing the human race,” she said.
“Whatever,” Holden said.
Lindsay flicked the safety off on her rifle and aimed it at Holden. She went to one knee like Katie had showed her, stabilizing her aim. Holden turned to look and smirked.
“Oh fuck y—“
Lindsay shot him in the head. There was a spray of red against the white walls, mixed with something gray and meaty. Holden’s eyes continued to stare at her as he fell to the ground. For a moment, the only movement was Holden’s legs, twitching in death.
I killed him, Lindsay thought. That’s three.
Again, she felt no remorse, no pain, no regret. There was only the numbness that swelled inside of her, filling her, holding her together. She wondered what would happen if the numbness went away.
The woman in white cried out again and Lindsay went to her, hitting the safety on her weapon and swinging it around to her back. Immediately she reached into a pouch on her vest and pulled out a pack of medical gauze. It was one of the things Katie said was most important to have on hand.
Pressing it to the woman’s stomach wound, she looked around behind her. The wound was on both sides and she quickly got a second wad to stem the flow there too. It was so much. The blood kept pouring out. It was red and black and Lindsay knew that was bad. The woman seemed to know it too.
“Damn it,” the woman said. “It’s no use… it’s no use…”
“There’s a helicopter,” Lindsay said. “It can take us to the Black Dawn base. They have a doctor?”
The woman shook her head. “No… no they can’t have me. Chris really sent you?”
Lindsay shook her head. “No… I mean, I was with his daughter. They have her captive and… she’s infected and… and…”
“Is she your friend?” the woman said.
“Yes, she… I…” Lindsay wavered, unsure what to say. Her eyes must have said enough, for the woman nodded and smiled before she coughed violently.
“Lindsay was your name?”
“I’m Leah,” the woman, Leah, said. “Did you come here thinking you could save her?”
Lindsay nodded, feeling tears spring to her eyes. The numbness cracked and she felt a despair unlike anything she’d never known creep up. Was it all for nothing?
Leah, strangely, smiled. “I don’t envy you. I was the last one… the last of us who knew about the virus, how it worked. My assistants,” she looked over Lindsay’s shoulder and Lindsay turned to look, she saw both of the men were still as death. Leah sighed.
“My assistants were just office workers I trained…” Leah pointed to the cart of vials. “Look… look in there. Look for vials marked with ‘Test B’.”
Lindsay did. She found six of them and five more that had been shattered. When she brought them down to Leah, the woman nodded. “It took us so long to make this… and it doesn’t even work well. A one in… fifty chance…”
Lindsay’s heart leapt.
“So you mean…?”
“If you give her this, she might live. But you’ll have to give her all of it. A shot every twelve hours. It takes at least eight injections to have worked in the past… but… she’s young?”
“Then… maybe you’ll do it. Maybe she’s strong enough.”
Lindsay felt her heart leap into her throat.
“She’s the strongest girl I know.”
“Good… good… Chris was… he was always strong too. If she’s his daughter then… then…” The woman closed her eyes and for a moment, Lindsay was afraid she’d died. But then she took a deep, shuddering breath and touched Lindsay’s arm.
“Help me… help me walk… I need to see him.”
Lindsay stored the vials carefully in her vest, packing them with as much gauze as she could to keep them safe. Then she helped Leah to the next room. She took her to the man in the bed and Leah sat with him.
“My father,” Leah said. “He was infected weeks ago, we couldn’t save him in time. The first cure was too slow… we saved his heart but not his mind.”
Lindsay was anxious to be off, wanting to run back to the helicopter as fast as she dared, but she couldn’t… not yet. Leah struggled to breath for a few moments and then reached up to the life support system and hit a switch. It turned off and she lowered herself to lay next to him.
“Lindsay, that serum might save your friend… but if you find a someone who can analyze it? They could make more,” Leah said, taking her father’s hand in her own.
“More?” Lindsay found herself saying.
“You could save the world, Lindsay. Or you can maybe save your friend,” she looked up at Lindsay with a small smile. “I told you, I don’t envy you now. And if you see Chris? Tell him I’m sorry. For leaving. For everything.”
“Goodbye, Lindsay. You have a decision to make.”