Moving on with the story of Jeff and Harriet, this’ll be it for them for a while. (My fantasy itch is riding up on me) but I’ve offered some fun revelations to tide you over.
Conspicious red lights flashed on a large number of the pods lining the walls. The people inside stirred in fits of restless sleep. It would only be a matter of time before they went the way of the bloody mess in pod 328.
“What’s the call?” Jeff said.
Harriet stared at the blank panel, eyes unfocused. “What else can we do? We need to kill them. Find a place to funnel them. We just pick them off one by one, and live with ourselves later.”
They split up and searched for anything they could use, a few pipes came free with some coaxing, leaving them with some options outside of their bayonets.
Jeff settled in front of a sturdy windowed “How about the maintenance control room? These people aren’t biters so we may be able to just hide. If they’re feral, like rabies, we can let them take themselves out. If not we have our choke point.”
Harriet walked over, took a quick glance inside and frowned. “We’d be boxed in. I’d feel better about it if we had a way out.”
“We don’t have a way out of the room. Does it really matter if we’re boxed in? It’d be a good [place to make a stand even when they send in armed men.”
“True. And if the hiding part works, we’d have privacy.” Harriet punched his arm. “Hey Jeff, I love you.”
“Where’d that come from? I mean, I love you too, but you’re almost talking like…” The smile fell off his face. “Don’t tell me you think this is it? We’re not dying here. No way.”
“How do we know that?” Harriet said. “And we’re locked in a room full of crazy people, with armed men outside of it. It’s not a far-fetched possibility.”
“You weren’t being gloomy about being surrounded by biters. You didn’t bat an eye the numbers of times we’ve carved paths through hordes of damn zombies for ice cream. Why are you—“
“Because I’m scared,” Harriet said. “We shouldn’t have come in here. We should have just run like people with half a fucking brain. And now—look. Jeff. Give me the damned ring.”
Jeff thrust a hand into his pocket and pulled it free. He looked at it, paused to consider and shouldered his rifle. He fell to one knee and thrust it towards her. “Harriet, when we get out of here. When, not if, marry me.”
She nodded, took it from him and slipped it on her finger. “I’m all yours.”
A deafening alarm filled the room and rolling smoke poured onto the floor from nearby pods. Jeff stood and shooed Harriet into the dark control room. They piled their weapons within arms-reach of the door and pushed it shut. The thick door did little to hush the alarm and the window in its center pulsed red.
The inhabitants of the pods lurched out, muttering in a dissonance of confusion until a calm chime came over the Public Announcement system. “Please remain calm,” a female AI voice said, “Intruders have tampered with the containment units, further use of the system is unadvisable at this time. Please wait until a supervisor can make needed repairs.”
The mutters of dissent deepened.
“Be advised, interruption of the treatment process may promote increased urges for violence. Please refrain from engaging in violent behavior– unless said individual has it coming.”
Jeff and Harriet exchanged a worried look and grabbed pipes.
A voice caught their ears, small and filled with genuine curiosity. “Mommy? What does that mean?”
“There are bad people who want to hurt the ones you love, dear.”
Harriet flinched. “K—kids? They have kids in there?”
“Hey,” Jeff said, hushed. They’ll hear us.”
The AI voice spoke again, the voice cracked and twisted. “As a side note, anyone aiding in the capture and termination of individuals responsible for sabotage will additional rations, particularly the young couple hiding in the control room. Kill. Them. Dead.”
The muttering stopped. The room fell silent.
“I didn’t just hear that right? Did I?” Jeff said, swallowing.
“I heard it too,” Harriet said, pinching her eyes shut. “We’re going to have to kill them all, or die trying.”
“No. We’re going to kill them all,” Jeff said. “Simple as that.”
He stood, just in front of the door with his pipe ready. Harriet took the side of the door, clenching her jaw.
The handle twisted and the door slid open to reveal a little girl, leading a group of people. Normal, living people. The little girl, looked up at Jeff and cocked her head to one side. “Do you have it coming?”
Jeff glanced over to Harriet, beads of sweat rolled down his cheeks, with a few tears mixed in. “Yeah. I do.”
The little girl roared in feral rage, pounced, and crumpled against his swinging pipe. Blood splattered across the door and Harriet’s face. She dropped her pipe, crumpled to her knees and sobbed.
Jeff slammed the door shut and screams of terror filled the room. Terror turned into Rage, all aimed at him. “Harriet. Please. Listen. I can’t do this alone—”
“I—I can’t.” Harriet said, pinching her eyes shut. “I can’t do this.”
“You need to,” Jeff said, bracing against the door. “Any second now, there are going to be waves of angry monsters out to beat us to death.”
“We should let them. We– We’re no better.”
“Harriet. Snap the fuck out—” Jeff flinched at the heavy impact on the door. Inhuman screams of rage mixed with people screaming in terror. Only some of them changed. “We need to pick off the ones that are monsters. Maybe—Maybe some of them won’t change. We need to try.”
Harriet shook her head and shut down completely.
“If we let this bastard win. He’ll do it to more people. What’s killing a few, already dead, if it means saving those who have a chance. Come on. I need you Harriet. I’m nothing without you.”
The door buckled, and blood splashed underneath the door.
“Harriet. I’m scared too,” Jeff said. “But looking forward, the ring on your finger, it’s all I need to survive. Think forward, not back.”
Harriet pulled her hands from her face, flushed enough to hide her freckles. She picked up her pipe, stood and nodded. “Kill them and live with ourselves later. Open the door.”
Jeff studied her expression and found what he saw terrifying. He also found it equally inspiring. Jeff flung the door open to find five dead against the door. The rabid people slammed themselves against the door with enough force to rupture their heads. Some had taken to tearing at pods some fighting each other. Four more turned from a melee in the room’s center and charged the open control room door. Harriet flattened the first with a hard sidearm swing, splitting their head like fruit. She shifted her grip and swung the other way to intercept the second with a hit to the ribs. Jeff hurried behind and cut off the third and fourth; hitting the first with his pipe and the second with a halting shoulder.
Their rage redirected to him instantly, landing a hard punch to his cheek, time slowed to a crawl from his adrenaline. These weren’t biters. They were people out to kick his ass. He watched the second punch helplessly in slow motion, enduring exploding pain of a cracked rib. Harriet’s rage erupted, showing no distinction between their assailants, she grabbed the man’s head and drove it downward to crunch against the cement.
Two more ferals ran towards them, in time for Jeff to regain some composure. A flimsy hit to the cheek set one off balance, while Harriet thrust a palm towards the other, shoving its nose bone into its brain. She let out a roar and slammed her pipe onto the skull of the other charging feral and silenced it.
“Come get some, motherfuckers.” Harriet turned and sprinted towards another pack of ferals, fighting in front of a group of people huddling in fear. At least half of the released people retained their humanity.
Jeff followed, limping and twirled his pipe, testing the damage to his body. He eyed the people along the wall, watching them with suspicion and paused. While Harriet dove into the fray he considered what they could do. Fear? “Hold onto that fear, it’ll keep you human.”
The people looked at him, offering small nods.
Jeff set his jaw and charged after Harriet. I’m not fighting cause I’m angry. I’m fighting cause I’m afraid of losing Harriet.
He crushed the skull of a feral poised to ambush her. They settled back to back fighting off the dwindling numbers of ferals: killing to protect. On the other side of the room, they came across another young couple. They fought the ferals bare fisted and blood poured down the cheek of the young woman, but she remain undaunted. She toppled her opponent and curb stomped the feral until it stopped moving.
Among the bedlam, Jeff and Harriet stared them down. The fair-skinned blonde woman wiped away blood from a cut over her eye. She wore a leather jacket too big for her over a simple blouse and pants. Her partner, a tanned burly guy with chocolate colored hair stepped in front of her. He wore a white muscle shirt and blue jeans. “You the intruders?”
“Yeah. Wanna make something of it?” Harriet said.
“Fuck no. We want in on it. Anyone here to piss of the doctor is cool by me, bro.”
The woman nodded in silent agreement.
Harriet relaxed and offered a hand, “Harriet. You?”
He accepted the shake. “Justin, this is Karen.”
Jeff eyed the mobs of fighting ferals. “There’s weapons in the control room.”
“You got guns, Karen said. “Why aren’t you using them?”
“The bullets are reserved for a certain asshole doctor,” Jeff said.
She shrugged. “Cool. But I think he deserves a good beating. You two military?”
“No–” Jeff turned to a leaping feral, too close to clobber. Karen twisted her hip and drove a jumping side kick in the center of its nose.
Harriet let out a low whistle. “Kung-fu is strong in this one.”
“Karate, actually.” Karen dusted herself off. “State champ, two years in a row.”
“Then how’d you get the cut?”
“Stress. I’m a hemophiliac, bitch.”
Jeff shared a sympathetic glance with Justin. “And you? Are you in the military?”
Justin smiled. “No, actually, pre-med. I just bike on my off time.”
“Nerds unite.” Jeff said, laughing. “I flunked out of EMS training. That count for something? But wait… you were in one of these pods right?”
“Not by choice,” Justin said. He hooked a thumb in his belt and pulled Karen close. “Karen and I are immune. We’re just keeping it on the down low. I’m guessing you two are. You have the look about you.”
“So you know anything about these people?”
“They ain’t bit. They gave us shots, supposed to be a vaccine but I thought it was a placebo. Turns out to be a low strain of rabies.” Justin rolled a shoulder. “Good news is, it prevents turning. Bad news? It makes you a lunatic if your adrenaline pumps too much.”
“So that explains why some people aren’t turning.” Jeff said. But the feral people don’t attack normal people?”
“Nope. Just like biters, they leave their own alone. Karen and I get attacked cause we didn’t get affected by the rabies strain. In your case, Doctor Douchebag called you out as enemy number one. They attack each other if they have latent rage. To think these motherfuckers are beating each other up over pudding cups.”
“But—“ Harriet glanced away. “A little girl attacked us.”
“Kids are easiest to fool.” Justin rubbed his chin. “Just like biters, they turn fast.”
“The first kid I see in months and we–” Harriet balled her hands into fists.
“Don’t sweat it.” Karen said. “They go feral, there’s no going back. Just like rabies. If you lived this long, you know. You can’t feel sorry for these things. They’re not human anymore. Save your tears for your pillow at night. I figured a widow like you to be made of sterner stuff.”
“Widow?” Harriet narrowed her eyes.
Karen held up a hand. “Your ring. I didn’t see one on him so—“
“Oh. We hadn’t found one for him yet. Jeff is— my fiancé.”
Jeff smiled at that. “So we should be picking off the ferals, not chatting right?”
“Depends. You know your way around a computer?” Karen said.
“Yeah, but the system is shut—”
“I got a way out.” Karen waved them over to a supply room. Karen dug through a small pile of boxes, producing a blowtorch. “Yep. It’s still here. One key for manual overrides.”
Harriet snatched it away from her, shook it, and smiled. “Oh Karen, you shouldn’t have. Thins I can work with.”
“I have one condition.”
“If it involves who gets to kill the Doc, no deal.”
“Nothing like that. Doc has a data disk he keeps on his person. I want it. No questions.”
Jeff and Harriet exchanged a look.
“It’s for a good cause,” Justin said. “Other than that, we’re here to back you up.”
“Deal,” Jeff and Harriet said in unison.