A mob attacks a military base that has an experimental facility.
Dr. Joan Palmer, her lips tight in grim determination, strode down the corridor of the abandoned facility within the west quarter of the Air Force base. She should have been with her staff on the plane taking them to safety. The facility, a former prison, had been hurriedly converted into a clinic for the testing of experimental drugs. Hope for a cure or vaccine to fight the scourge that had brought civilization to the brink of oblivion had led to desperate measures. To her, a physician for nearly twenty years, saving a life was sacrament; using the drug on humans, even though they were from death row at the state penitentiary, could not be justified. But, as she told herself countless times, risking the lives of a few ruthless killers in order to save billions of innocents altered everything.
She still had time to get on the last transport. She stopped in front of a locked door and tapped the security code. Stepping inside, she was met with howls of rage and hunger: rage from a life of abuse and denial, hunger for her blood and flesh. Shackled to their beds in three rows of three beds each, five men and three women in blue and pink gowns shook their beds as they jerked from side to side straining to reach her. There was one who was silent, wide eyed, and desperate to comprehend. He was Leon Kowalsky, a thirty-five year old killer. A murderer bereft of remorse. He was the one she was about to set free.
The howls forced Joan to shout, “Leon, my name is Joan. I was the doctor in charge of this...place. I’m going to take off the shackles. I want you to come with me on the plane that will take us out of here. Do you understand?”
Joan cringed as the boom of an explosion rocked the building followed by the roar of a helicopter gunship. “They must have broken into the base. We don’t have much time. Will you come with me?”
Leon grinned. “Guess so. Don’t particularly like the company here.”
Unchained, Leon staggered to his feet. “Woozy from being on my back all the time.” Joan stepped forward to help. Leon grasped her shoulder, spun her around, and grabbed her hair. He yanked her head back and spoke into her ear. “What’s going on here? Why are all my mates acting like crazy animals?”
“Stop. You’re hurting me.”
Leon tightened his grip. “Talk or snap goes your skinny neck.”
Joan struggled to speak. “We were trying to find a cure for the virus that leads to all this.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s a disease. It appeared among insects and spread like wildfire throughout the world. It isn’t lethal to the host, but it has a nasty side effect. It makes those infected into something like a mixture of vampires and zombies. It’s called the Bug.”
“And why are we here?”
“We needed to find a cure. We injected the virus into all of you here.”
“You bastards! You used us like guinea pigs.”
“I’m sorry. We did it to save the world.”
“Fuck the world! It’s treated me like garbage. So, why aren’t I crazy like them?”
“You were like them at first, but the drug we gave you must have started working.”
“That’s why you risked your life and came here. You need me for the cure, don’t you?” Leon jerked her neck higher and snickered. “How brave of you.”
Joan tried to look into his face. “Leon, listen to me. We don’t have much time. The last plane to take us out of here is leaving. Come with me. The cure is within you. You can save the world.”
A boom, then another one shook the building. Machine gun fire rent the air. There was the crash of a door slamming onto the floor.
Leon released his grip. “Sounds like your guys are losing the battle.”
“Your clothes are in the tray under your bed. Put them on.”
Leon bent down, pulled out the tray, and got dressed. “Where are my shoes?”
“Thrown away. Take that bat. They might already be in the building.”
Leon took a stance and swung it. “Assume this wasn’t for leisure time activities.”
“Stop joking and start running.”
She rushed out the open door with Leon close behind.
An explosion, this one the closest yet, rocked the building as the pair raced down the corridor. Leon shouted, “Don’t remember being like them. Why not?”
“I don’t know. It’s like losing your mind. You become a monster. Consider it a blessing you don’t remember.”
They came to a junction. Joan turned left then stopped, for up ahead two men stood talking. Suddenly, they turned, glared, and charged. Leon lifted the bat. “Run!”
Expecting the two to approach warily, he was stunned when they sprinted forward. Having time for only one quick swing, he downed one with a crushing blow to the chest, pivoted, and threw the bat. Spinning through the air, it fell the other one with a blow to the head.
Leon picked up the bat and caught up with Joan. He shouted, “Why did they do that?”
“They totally ignored me.”
“That’s because you’re infected. Why do you think they can be normal when they’re with each other? It’s something about me being uninfected that set them off. We don’t know what it is. It’s not smell, for it doesn’t depend on wind direction. It’s not appearance, since they can detect us through walls if we’re near. It’s something new or something ancient, take your pick.”
They entered the departure lobby. Abandoned baggage and trash made it look like something a modern artist created.
Joan pointed. “That steel door up ahead leads to the runway. We’ll be safe soon.”
She raced to the door and grabbed the knob, but it wouldn’t turn. She yanked it. “Crap, it’s jammed!”
“Get out of the way.” Leon swung the bat down on the doorknob. It trembled. Again, he swung the bat down. The bat fractured.
Howls alerted them.
Joan pulled Leon away from the door. “I know another way out.” She pointed to a staircase. “That leads to the basement garage. From there we can get to the tarmac.”
As they pounded down the stairs, a rabid mob surged into the lobby from the opposite end.
Joan was exhausted, out of breath, and slowing down.
“What’s the matter? Giving up on saving the world already?”
“Promise me you’ll get on that plane if I don’t make it.”
“You’re going to make me cry. Hey, see a bicycle. Going to get it. Keep going.”
Joan had barely climbed the exit to street level, when Leon braked the bike beside her. “Want a ride?”
Howls echoed out from the garage. Then, an explosion from the airstrip.
“Yes, but only because it’s such an exceptional case.”
The airbase was being overrun from every direction. Captain Appleton spun his helicopter gunship around and fired the last missile at the rabble rushing toward the transport plane and airbase personnel boarding it. He assumed they had the Bug, for he’d been told the town was totally infected. It nauseated him, yet he couldn’t stop himself from wondering how many of them he had known from shopping in the town as the explosion blew them apart. He spun his ship around again. Smoke was everywhere. He strained to see any last stragglers from the base. He flipped a switch, “That was the last boomer. We can’t hold them back. Don’t see anyone seeking transport. Advise to take off.” Hearing the roger, Captain Appleton climbed and watched as the plane took off.
“Captain, we just heard a Doctor Joan Palmer didn’t make it.”
“Roger. If I find her, I’ll lift her out.” Banking his craft, he headed for the medical facility. He saw what appeared to be a man on a bicycle with a woman sitting behind. A dozen or so Bugs were chasing them and shortening the distance. He switched on the machine gun and angled his craft to strafe them from the side. Figuring he had time for only one pass, he felt he was Luke attacking the Death Star and made the tightest turn he’d ever done.
Joan pointed up. “Oh, my God! The plane’s going away.”
“Guess they didn’t think I was so important. Typical.”
“Look! A helicopter is coming.”
Captain Appleton fired his machine guns. Bullets ripped through the mob as they danced in final agony.
Just outside the breached perimeter of the base, four men in military gear took out two Stingers from the back of a truck. Former soldiers, they’d deserted and been infected days after the outbreak. They were proficient at using the surface to air missile. Briskly, the weapons were armed, aimed, and fired.
As Appleton hovered over the pair after his successful attack, an alarm went off. “What the.” With disbelief, Captain Appleton saw one missile streaking toward him the other toward the transport. Instinctively, he began evasive action. This was the first time he had encountered organized resistance from the Bugs, and the last, as his helicopter exploded.
To Leon, everything seemed to happen in slow motion. The fireball from white to yellow to red spreading like a blooming flower. The plexiglass of the cockpit spew out in every direction. The rotor blade, detaching from the fuselage, spun like a petal in flowing water, and came toward them. Leon tilted the bicycle down to the ground just before the rotor blade sliced into the ground behind them. Shaken and pale, they slowly stood up, and drew back from the flaming wreck.
“Now what, Joan?”
“There’s a Cessna in the hangar. I’m a pilot, too.”
“When will wonders cease? Hop back on. There’s more of them coming.”
Leon pedaled as fast as he’d ever done. The tires squealed as he braked hard beside the Cessna. Joan hopped off, opened the door, and stepped into the cockpit. The propellers roared to life, yet Leon stood outside.
“Come on. Get inside.”
“Go with you to be chained again and treated like an animal? No, I’m staying here.”
“Are you insane?”
“Maybe, I just couldn't fit into your world. I might do better in the new one. At least, it’s worth a try. Goodbye, Joan.”
Joan opened the cockpit door and leaned out. “Leon! For the love of God, get in the plane.”
“They see us, Joan.” Leon turned and stepped away. He heard the engine rev and felt the backwash as he went to join them.