I had been on the base for 6 months, but it felt like an eternity. I spent all my time in the lab, trying to find a cure for the disease, but because it was so contagious I was resigned to studying it from afar, using robotic arms sealed in a pressure controlled room to move samples under microscopes that displayed on a screen in my lab. I studied every piece of the corpses I had. From what I could tell, how the virus was contracted decided the level of mutation.
Contact with the virus in liquid form, whether through bodily fluids or water, caused severe skin deformation, before making its way to the muscle and nervous system, then to the brain and bone, causing a slow and agonizing change. We tested on field mice first with water contact, and it was about a week before they started to deform.
Ingestion of infected tissue was more brutal. It still took time, but in the tests we did on starving dogs, they ate a piece of meat infected with the virus. Within 12 hours, they exhibited symptoms in line with food poisoning. Within 24 hours, their bellies were bloated out the size of beach balls, some even bursting open and dying. Within a week, mutation had fully taken hold, causing massive muscle degradation and bone deformity.
The gaseous form was the most lethal. Being inhaled gave the virus instant access to the blood stream as it piggybacked in the oxygen atoms. It caused the test subjects, in this case, chimpanzee hooked up to full body monitors and strapped to a tables I’m not proud of it- Their lungs opened up and they’re hearts began to race, pumping the virus through the body faster and to every major organ. Within an hour, mutation set in. Their arms elongated, their muscles bulged, and they broke free from their bindings. We had to flush the room with a lethal dose of a deadly nerve agent to keep them from breaking out. And yet after all the tests, I was no closer to finding a cure or a vaccine.
I was lost staring at the slides from all three experiments that I didn’t hear the door to my lab open.
“Dr. Wedford. Boss needs you in briefing in 5.”
I spun my chair slowly around without a word and stood, my back aching badly. I must have been sitting too long. Again. I stretched my aching muscles and headed out the door into the sterile white hallway.
I walked down the long hall, past all the glass windows of other scientists who were no closer to figuring this out than I was. I stepped through the sliding door into the cafeteria, wanting a hot cup of tea to help calm my frayed nerves. I stepped up to the counter and made a cup, took a sip, and reveled in the one comfort I had in this tomb. I turned to head to the conference room, and in my caffeine daze almost ran into someone.
I stumbled, startled to see another face so close to mine. And man, was it a pretty face.
“Jeez, Matt, I’m not invisible am I?” Her name was Emily Finn, and she was by far the most stunning thing that ever dawned a lab coat. She was kinda short, about 5’6″, with wavy red hair. Her eyes were Golden Brown. And she was pissed.
“I’m so sorry, its been a long day,” I managed to stutter.
“Just be more careful. We are working in a lab with a highly deadly virus you know?” she stepped around me and headed for the coffee pot. I hung my head and left.
General Weston was in the briefing room with several other military personnel. He was studying a folder placed in front of him, and looked up at me as I entered the room.
“Dr Wedford, just in time. We were about to begin without you. Sit,” he motioned at an empty chair. He then turned on a large projection screen behind him. The image on the screen was a satellite photograph of a small town.
“At 0800, we received word of creature attacks at Hallis Bay. Our units were ordered to go in, eliminate all threats, and torch the bodies of the infected where they fell. When our teams arrived, however, we were informed by the locals that a military unit of unknown origin had arrived shortly before us and had taken the bodies of the infected. We do not know their affiliations, nor do we know their intentions. As of right now, we are going with worst case scenario,” he paused as the men began to murmur and whisper.
“Excuse me, but, what is the worst case scenario?” I asked. All eyes looked at me.
“Biological terrorism,” Weston was blunt. ” Which means your job just became infinitely harder, Doctor. Now what do you intend to do about it?”
I swallowed the lump in my throat and stared at all the prying eyes that looked at me with fear and doubt. They needed answers. Unfortunately I didn’t have all of them just yet. I leaned forward in my chair. I stared back at everyone for a moment.
“A cocktail,” I said bluntly. Everyone looked at me like I had gone mad. Maybe I had.
“It’s going to take time, but I’m going to have to find what makes this thing tick, find a weakness, and develop a broad spectrum cocktail that covers the human body’s entire immune system. To tell you the truth, I don’t even know if it is even possible. This thing spreads like the cold virus on steroids, and has such a broad spectrum of anomalies to it,” I stopped. Everyone looked at me before Weston spoke again.
“Well what are you waiting for?” with that, I stood and power walked back to my lab.
Six months and countless experiments later, I was ready to give up hope. I sat at my desk, forehead resting on a pile of paperwork while the samples were run through the computer, analyzing every little thing about the virus and cross referencing it with every substance known to man, as well as chemical formulas I had been working on for a year, when all the sudden the computer started dinging. I jerked my head up and stared at the monitor.
One of my formulas got a hit on one of the samples. The probability of successful cure: 1%. I had never been so happy in my life. For the first time, I felt I had made some progress. Sure, the chances were basically nothing, but it was something! I leaped from my chair and rushed out the door into the hall, smashing into Finn on the way, but I didn’t stop. I could hear her yelling as I burst into Westons office.
“We got a hit!” I was practically yelling. Weston stare at me in shock.
“Probability of success?” he asked.
“1%,” I responded.
Weston stood from his desk and took a deep breath in. “You’re a damn genius, you know that?” he smiled. Then Finn burst through the door.
“What the hell is your problem, Wedford?” I spun on her.
“We got a hit,” I look her at her. Her eyes grew wide as it dawned on her. Before I could react she threw her arms around my neck, hugging me.
“Oh thank God,” her voice was weak. Weston cleared his throat to get our attention.
“We still have a long way to go, so don’t pop the cork just yet. Get back to work, Doctors.”
I nodded and Finn and I headed for the door. I had a new-found energy. I worked tirelessly for weeks, rarely eating or sleeping. I reworked the formula, working it against all known samples of the virus. Slowly but surely, the chances of finding a vaccine were rising. 5% to 10% to 20% before capping off at 30% chance of success. No matter what I did, I couldn’t bring it up any further. I was missing something. I just didn’t know what. Unfortunately, I would never get the chance to find out. Six short months later, I would be informed that we were out of time.
I was rushed into the briefing room, which was crowded with every nameless face from the bunker. Weston was at the front of the room, demanding silence over the dull roar of voices.
“Shut your damn mouths and listen up!” he shouted. The room went quiet.
“30 minutes ago, hundreds of nuclear missiles were detonated in every major country on earth, several of which were detonated over major cities. These bombs were carrying the virus. Sydney is gone, as well as London, paris, Beijing, Washington D.C., New york…” he paused, “every major city on earth has been contaminated. We don’t know how this is possible, but damn it, this is happening. But nothing here changes. We need to keep fighting to find a vaccine. There are a lot of healthy people out there, and without a vaccine, they all die. I don’t think I need to explain the significance of this. We are at the precipice of total mass extinction of every life on Earth. We cannot fail,” he went silent, scanning the room. Some people were sobbing, most likely at the realization that their families were gone. Some were hanging their heads, some praying, but everyone was silent. We all knew what would come next. None of us were near finding a cure, and felt powerless to save us.
“Take a moment to grieve. You all earned that much. You are the best this world has to offer. Save this planet,” Weston spoke again before walking out of the room. We all just stood there, unable to process what we were just told. I scanned the room once more, turned and left for my lab. I would never make it there, though.
Alarms started blaring through the halls as armed soldiers flooded the base. Weston appeared at my side out of nowhere.
“Damn it, I thought we had more time! Follow me, quickly!” he said loudly over the alarms. I followed as he spoke.
“Listen, Matt, I know this may come as a surprise, but that little speech I gave was b******t. We are out of time and the fat lady’s hitting the high notes. We are out of time. We have many incoming hostiles and we have to abandon ship. There’s a small village a ways out with a bunker located underground. It’s highly classified and disguised as a storage warehouse. It can house 5 people for 50 years. Only five. Those spots are reserved for myself, you, Dr. Finn, and two soldiers to monitor the bunker. Only we are to be evacuated.”
I was shocked. Through the hum of alarms and panicked voices I spoke, “If were the only ones being evacuated, what happens to the rest of the people here?”
“The soldiers are to stay behind and attempt to secure the location so we may be able to return to the labs when it is safe.”
“And the scientists?” I looked at him, already knowing the answer. He looked around at the soldiers flooding the hallways. Gunfire erupted deeper in the bunker, followed by screaming. I couldn’t believe it. They were killing us.
“It’s easier this way, Matt. They don’t suffer. They don’t turn. They just go.”
I was stunned. I couldn’t believe it. As we reached the elevator, a soldier and Finn arrived as well. We all loaded into the lift and headed for the surface. Finn’s eyes were red and puffy. She was crying. The soldier must have told her the truth.
“When we hit the surface, stay close and do exactly as you are told. Move to the transport and strap in,” Weston was monotone and all business.
When the doors opened up, it was like a war zone. Gunfire and explosions filled the air, as well as screaming and snarling. The gate surrounding the perimeter was surrounded by the monsters trying to get in. For every one the soldiers killed, 3 more would take its place. There was a helicopter running and waiting in the middle of the courtyard. We all ran in unison toward it. As we did, the perimeter fence gave.
The monsters flooded the court-yard charging us from every direction. The soldiers fired uselessly into the crowd of snarling mass. As we loaded onto the chopper, one of them grabbed Weston, dragging him into the crowd of teeth. It happened so fast, and we took off too soon for anyone to realize what just happened. Just like that, Weston was gone, and the rest of us were off to what we hoped was a safe place.
We sat in silence the whole ride there. I sat, staring out the window, watching the sun rise over the horizon. I was so lost in thought that feeling a hand on my arm made me jump. It was Finn. Her eyes were still red and puffy.
“What happens now?” her voice was weak, barely audible over the sound of the chopper.
“We stay alive long enough to fix this,” I tried sound confident and brave. She looked away and out the window, then pointed out.
“Is that the town?” she asked the soldier who sat across from us. He nodded.
“It’s a dummy town, abandoned years ago. We will land in the street next to the warehouse. From there, we enter a lift in the back. It’s disguised as an office in case of break ins. The computer acts as the control panel. Enter the password and lower the lift. When we reach the bottom, the lift returns to the surface. The computer should relock, requiring the pass code again.”
“Whats the pass code?” I asked.
As the helicopter hovered over the street and began its descent, the soldier opened the side door. He looked back at us.
“Get ready to move,” he said. Right before a set of jagged teeth sunk into his neck.
One of the monsters had grabbed onto the bottom step of the chopper and had been hanging on this whole time, and was now inside with us. The soldier was trying to fight it off, but the monster had severed his jugular and he was quickly losing blood and strength. The pilot panicked and spun the chopper, throwing all of us from the back. We fell about 10 feet to the ground below, the soldier was dead on impact. The monster was trying to stand up. Finn and I rose as fast as we could, limping and running for the warehouse. We ran through the door and closed it. We kept running through the warehouse as the monster smashed through the door, still after us. As we reached the door in the back, it reached us. God it was so fast. I swung open the door as it grabbed ahold of Finn.
She screamed. “Matt, please don’t let me die!” she screamed over and over as the monster tried dragging her away. I grabbed her hand and pulled, trying to free her. She kept screaming as it tore into the flesh of her leg, I pulled and I pulled, trying as hard as I could to save her. Her hand slipped from mine. And I watched as the monster drug her away and out the door, her screams echoing off the walls. I grabbed a crowbar off a shelf and chased. I peeked around the corner as the monster tore her throat. She was gone. I backed away slowly and returned to the office lift. Locking the door. I moved quickly to the computer on the desk and entered the password. I clicked on the control and the room jolted downward. I stood motionless as the lift moved. When it stopped, I walked weakly forward down a hallway, metal walls and piping lining the sides. I stepped into a monitoring station meant for the soldiers. I sealed the door behind me. And then I collapsed, sobbing. I couldn’t hold it in anymore. The world was over, everyone I knew was dead or worse, and I was alone.
And this is where I stayed for five years, only staying alive for the chance to get to my lab and finish the cure. And that’s where I’m going now. I’m going back to my lab to finish what I started all those years ago…
To be CONCLUDED…