Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer
Walter was led through the facility flanked by four men in combat armor carrying guns. He’d walked these corridors for nearly a decade, but this was all very new to him.
At his lab, the soldiers stopped, ushered him inside and turned their backs as the doors slid shut between them.
“Doctor Koen,” the voice sounded foreign, Soviet maybe? “We need your assistance in handling this little mess that you’ve made.”
The voice belonged to a suit, so black as to be difficult to look at directly, in stark contrast to the almost albino complexion of the man himself.
Walter cut him off. “My wife.”
The suit paused, steepled spider-like fingers together and pursed his lips before continuing.
“Your wife, has become infected with the substance from the crash site. She’s been contained in the hangar bay, but we are unable to subdue her without risking damage to the facility.”
Walter’s attention was drawn to the displays scattered about the room, each now showing security footage from the hangar. He moved closer, searching the monitors for some sign of June, his wife. In one corner behind one of the columns supporting the mezzanine there was a barely perceptible glow of green.
If that was June, she must be all but exhausted.
“We have an injectable compound that will bind with the contagion and temporarily render the subject inert. She trusts you, you need to get close enough to administer the drug and then we’ll move her to safety.”
Walter knew what ‘safety’ meant. They’d been studying subjects infected since the facility had been re-tasked and taken off-book, and although the ‘crash’ was still officially an Air Force test of an advanced engine concept, the DNA of the contagion was clearly not of this world. New patients arrived conveniently each time an existing patient expired, and they remained isolated and sedated while they performed surgeries, took and tested samples, all via tele-metrics.
June must have broken protocol and made physical contact.
The suit poked one stiff finger into Walter’s collarbone, using the pressure to force him to turn slowly until they were face to face.
“If we lose containment, we are going to have to burn this facility, and everything,” he punctuated a pause with a sharp jab, “and everyone with it to the ground.”
He pushed a hypo-injector flat against Walter’s chest, and held it there until he took it. The payload a featureless cylinder decorated simply with a yellow ‘X’.
Walter felt an ache in the pit of his stomach.
“She’ll be sensitive to light, if I turn up the hangar lighting to full, she’ll be blind. I’ll wear goggles and talk to her, she won’t see what I’m going to do.”
The suit regarded him cooly for a moment, and then waved him off absently.
“Whatever it takes. We’ll monitor from here, and the team will be ready outside the doors.”
The soldiers flanked Walter silently back through the facility to the crew doors into the hangar. There they stopped and assumed defensive positions alongside the cluster of armoured troops already gathered outside.
Walter slowly eased open a door, looked inside, then slipped through and let it close behind him.
He walked along the back wall, under the mezzanine and towards the green glow he’d seen on the monitors. Sliding welding goggles down over his eyes, he palmed his control pad and turned the lights up as far as they would go. The hangar was bathed in blinding artificial sunlight, and as he watched, the green glow he’d lost in the darkness of the welding glass appeared again, growing steadily in intensity.
In the control room, the displays blinked out one by one, the brightness overdriving them beyond a safe gamma, leaving the suit blind.
“June?” Walter called, and the green glow coalesced into a figure moving towards him slowly.
“June, we don’t have much time.” Walter stepped forward, and June stopped, then stepped back.
Reaching out his hand, Walter slowly closed the distance between them, and gently took one of hers.
He felt the slow burn of the contagion crawl up his arm and into his chest. He peeled off the goggles with a free hand as his vision changed from blown out whiteness, to night-vision clarity. The fire in his body grew, and the details of June’s face clarified before him. She smiled, and he felt himself smiling back.
As they charged under the artificial sunlight, they knew they had all the time in the world.