Chapter Fourteen~ Pain
Testing is making me testy. I try really hard not to snap at Dr. Ford and Mason, but my arm is sore from giving blood and I have a headache. Energy is the only thing I’m not lacking. It seems the more samples I generate for doc, the more pumped I become.
We’re on day three now, and all this testing certainly hasn’t been in vain. Dr. Ford confirms our suspicions that the lightning has changed something, but assures me it’s for the better. Apparently, I don’t have the same recharging problem as before. I guess I’m the freaking energizer bunny now.
Mason had grows very worried when doc discloses this piece of information. He fears if I no longer need to recharge that something bad may happen if I don’t let the energy out. This leads to another round of tests, after which Dr. Ford was able to rule out that possibility—much to our relief.
Dr. Ford must notice my impatience today because he tells Mason and I to go out to the mess tent to get lunch, instead of eating in his lab/office like we have been.
“You sure, doc?” Mason asks.
“Yeah,” He looks at me. “You guys could use the break. This will keep me busy for an hour or so.”
“Thanks, doc,” The relief in my voice is more obvious than I mean for it to be.
When Mason and I turn the first corner of the hall, the lights go out and we’re left in darkness. It only takes a few seconds for the backup generator to kick in and bathe it in the eerie red of the security lights.
“This can’t be good.” Mason says, and we spring into action.
We tear hand in hand through the corridors, as an alarm starts to buzz. All I want is to find Brie, Jared and Baby bear. Once I confirm they’re alright, then I want to know what the hell is going on.
We make it outside to discover total pandemonium. I look over to the east wall and see the metallic fog beginning to rush over like a deranged waterfall. “Get everyone back!” I yell to Mason. There’s no time to be inconspicuous now.
Mason begins attempting to organize people. He isn’t having much luck but thankfully, people are instinctively getting as far away from the fog as they can. To my relief I see Brie, Jared and Baby bear by Mason’s side. At least that’s one less thing to worry about. Now that my path is clear, I turn to the fog and unleash my energy into it.
This fog is different. It doesn’t flinch or shy away like it did before, which is puzzling. I’ve gotten used to it doing that. The overall effect remains the same though, and it doesn’t take long before the fog is completely gone. The wall behind it singes in remembrance of its invasion.
“What the hell was that?” I demand, turning back to the others. My question answers itself as armed soldiers surround my friends.
“I had a feeling I’d find you here.” A rough female voice calls out. To find its owner I have to shield my eyes from the sun. It’s not long before the uniformed woman makes her way down the stairs of the main building and emerges behind the soldiers threatening my friends—no, my family. She’s older with hair gray, a pinched face and a body displaying some extra pounds over the years.
Captain Jennings and Dr. Ford appear behind her. They’re also being detained by armed soldiers. I know who she is before she introduces herself. “General Carch, I presume?” I can’t help the acidity in my voice.
“So you’re smart, too. Good to know.” Her pinched face contorts into what I guess is supposed to be a smile.
“What do you want?” I ask, slowly inching my way closer towards the soldiers surrounding Mason, Brie and Jared. Baby bear is obviously distressed and attaches himself to Brie’s leg. I wonder if I have enough control to hit the soldiers and miss them. It’s too risky to try; if I miss…I can’t even think of it.
“Shouldn’t you know that already, too?” She sneers. “I came for you. Technically, you’ve been a fugitive since you escaped the Columbus facility. I could charge everyone involved with treason for helping you. It was easy to find you, you know. All I had to do was find the area that the infection was being pushed back by.” The ugly sneer turns into an even uglier smile.
My glare hardens. I try the same calculations at hitting her, but she keeps Captain Jennings and Dr. Ford too close.
“Basically, it boils down to two choices here.” She says. I can tell that she’s enjoying this. “Either come with us willingly, or we start killing people until you change your mind. Beginning with these three.” She gestures to Mason, Brie and Jared.
It’s becoming hard to contain myself. The rage coursing through me is mixing with the energy. My body recognizes a great threat and wants to defend itself, and my loved ones. I take a deep breath and fight to keep it in check. With all the people in these walls, it would be a slaughter if we began to battle. “Fine,” I say. I see the pain in Mason’s eyes and know it matches mine. “Let’s go. There’s no reason for anyone here to get hurt. You have to give your word that you will leave them be, and no harm will come to anyone here.”
She seems to consider this. “That kind of wrecks my fun, but I suppose as long as I have you, it really doesn’t matter all that much. You come with me now: I’ll leave them alone.”
I look around at all the faces—not only my friends, but others we’ve met, worked beside and become close with over the past weeks. I see the rage in Mason, Brie and Jared’s eyes shared in the eyes of some of our own soldiers. I better go now before somebody snaps. Looking at Mason, I mouth to him ‘I love you.’ I think he does it back, though it’s hard to tell through the forming tears.
With a gun butted against my back, I hear him as the soldiers lead me past. “We will find you, Kat.” I just nod. I hear Brie weeping softly.
I feel bad for ever complaining about Dr. Ford’s tests. They are nothing: a cakewalk compared to what these scientists are doing to me. They’re all nameless, and even address me as ‘Subject 109.’ I feel awful for the first hundred and eight subjects.
Where am I? I just don’t know. As soon as we leave the gate of the compound, I feel a sharp prick in the back of my neck. I was here upon awakening. I guess they figured that it was the safest way to transport me. I can’t try to escape if I’m unconscious. I’d certainly be happy to zap all of them, should the opportunity present itself.
I’ve never seen anything like the cell they keep me in. That is, when they’re not running their tests. An impenetrable fiberglass like box, suspended a few dozen feet off the laboratory floor below. There’s no privacy, and of course, no metal to carry a current. I have to admit—this bitch has certainly planned ahead.
I haven’t seen General Carch since my arrival. As far as I’m concerned, she doesn’t want to press her luck. Or possibly she just doesn’t care, now that she has what she wants.
The lack of privacy goes both ways. I can always see what’s going on below me. At first, I thought this was an oversight on their part—that I can tell all their secrets after escaping. Then the realization hits. It doesn’t matter to them because they have no intention of ever letting me go.
Since being here, I’ve had plenty of time to think about things. I realize the fog within the wall must have been the weaponized version. This means General Carch’s venture is a success. At first, I feel outrage. Here I am trying to force the infection back, and she’s out there spraying the stuff all over. Once that passes, I realize that if I ever get free, there’s a lot more work on my hands.
It’s interesting that the cloned fog couldn’t communicate with the main infection. This information is surely a liability. There has to be a way to pass this news along! This makes me think of Dr. Ford. He would surely know what to do.
I try very hard not to go down this mental road. This is not a healthy place for me. It’s horribly broken. Whenever I begin, so do the tears. But I can’t stop; the journey is my reminder of why I must keep going.
Brie. I miss her so much. This is the longest we’ve gone without speaking ever. I know she’s probably worried sick about me. If she’s even okay…she has to be okay. I have to believe that the General kept her word and left them alive and well. A nasty little part of my subconscious can’t let it go. I have no way of knowing for sure.
I turn the pain up full blast. When thinking of Mason, it feels as though my chest may explode and that our being apart is going to kill me. All I can see is the look on his face after my agreeing to come here. I hear his promise to save me and pray that he doesn’t try or doesn’t get hurt trying to find me. If I survive this place, I will find him somehow.
I miss my mom. She could always make me feel better. It hurts not knowing if I will ever see her again, if she was infected. Will we ever find their location? Can we cure them? I never got the chance to try…
My thoughts are on Baby bear, and I wonder how big he’s now getting. I think I’ve been here a few weeks, maybe a couple of months? Time is so hard to tell. I’ll bet he’s bigger now: he’s been growing so fast.
Bring stuck with only my own thoughts for so long is very disarming. I’m not feeling physically or mentally well. It’s uncertain how long I’m going to make it in here.
I heal a bit faster than everyone else because of the energy inside me. Not superhero fast or anything crazy, but maybe twice the normal rate. The scientists here are excited to learn this. My healing twice as fast means they can increase the frequency of their tests and procedures.
I haven’t exactly been a model prisoner/test-subject. It takes quite some time before they are able to get a sample of energy from me. Unfortunately once they learn how, they have no problem utilizing the method.
See, at first they tie me down and take blood samples. It isn’t fun, but it isn’t heinous. It’s the tissue sample that does it. They plunge a three inch long, hollow tube into my thigh and I almost pass out from the pain. With all control lost, my energy flings out around me defensively.
So they get their sample, and they continue to do the same incredibly painful procedure anytime they need more. Every time I see a white-coated figure begin the trek down the hall to my cell, I know why they’re coming.
I have to come up with an escape plan. It’s the only way to make it out of here. They only take me out of this cell that one time—that was before the testing began, before I knew what was in store. If known, I would’ve run at the first opportunity and unleashed hell on all of them.
I suppose that’s the best plan I’ve got. Wait them out, fake compliancy, defeat. The next time they remove me from this prison, zap the hell out of them and run. I don’t like to think of what a monster this will make me. More uninfected casualties and blood on my hands. Can I handle more than what’s already there? It seems like I have to, or surrender and accept that this is my life now. My new life as Subject 109.
I hear the sliding doors and know before I look, what’s coming. My body can’t control the charge now. My fear is too great, and the memory of pain too clear. It’s purely defensive as the electricity thrums around me. In comes the first scientist in a protective suit. In front, they hold the thin machine that will drain some of my charge. Only then will they risk getting close enough for the tissue sample.
Should I fight? Can I? I know that I can. As the faces of the people I miss flicker through my mind, my anger grows. Who knows what’s happened beyond these torturous walls? By keeping me here, they’re not just hurting me; they’re hurting everyone.
Maybe it’s because I just can’t stand the pain again, or finally snap and lose the last shred of my humanity. I don’t want to be a monster, but they leave me no choice. The scientist approaches with his machine. Let’s see just how much that thing can handle. I blast it, sending the melted remnants and the scientist into the far wall. The entire room shudders in protest.
I start down the hallway—barefoot, in the same tattered medical gown that has been my uniform since arriving. As I approach, the scientist that was assigned to take the tissue sample fumbles with the main keypad—attempting escape. The soldiers begin to file in the lab below with weapons raised. Maybe I am becoming the monster I fear. A small smile crosses my lips. I’m looking forward to this fight.
I wait until the scientist gets the door open before hitting the soldiers and her with a sphere. It should just knock them out for a few hours. She’s unarmed, so it really will make me feel awful later if I kill her. I still battle with it for a moment. This woman and procedure put me in so much pain. Perhaps she’s just doing her job, but what kind of job is it? Do these people know that they are basically trying to destroy what’s left of the world?
I remember vaguely Dr. Ford told us the general is extorting scientists by using the lives of their families as collateral. My choice is made. I leave her be and walk through the doors, one step closer to freedom.
The stairwell is empty. I know as soon as the door to the lab opens that I will be crossing a line. This is different than the men at the gas station, or the metal heads in the field. This is premeditated. Even if they are technically bad guys (my enemies) there is no turning back once that door opens.
Even with this knowledge, a small part of me wants to bring them the same pain and suffering they’ve been inflicting on me, for however long now. I grab the handle. Through the small vertical window, I see the soldiers raising their weapons and steel themselves. The energy within me has its own sense of anger and wrath. After opening the door, my fury is unleashed. The room is devoid of life within a few seconds. I pick my way through the broken, smoldering and destroyed pieces that remain.
I eye the door, but a small crack in one of the walls catches my attention first. My hand is put to the warm glow, and a slightly hysterical laugh escapes from my lips. The sun. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever see it again. I create a bigger hole and step outside. I give a moment for my eyes to adjust.
It’s hard to tell what’s going on. Wherever this place is—it’s the middle of nowhere. I have to get out of here, quick. I take off in the direction of the nearest trees and hope they will provide some cover. It’s uncertain if the soldiers in the lab were all of them, or if reinforcements are hot on my trail. I run for a while until there’s no choice but to stop and rest. Then I climb up a tree and hope like hell not to fall.
It’s the rain that wakes me. The sun is gone. This tells me I must have slept for some time. My back is stiff from sleeping in the tree. While sleeping, I didn’t fall out and this conclusion makes me happy. I hop down from the tree. Although harder to see at night, it should be a little safer for me to cover some ground. I ignore the chill creeping into my bones from the thin, wet gown—the only thing between me and cold night air.
I walk for what seems like forever. My feet are scraped and bloody from the forest floor. As dawn breaks over the horizon, there’s a sign. A campground. Maybe people are around, or at least some clothes. I continue stumbling down the path.
The closer I get to the camp, the heavier my heart grows. I have no idea what occurred here, but it certainly doesn’t look good for the unlucky campers. Charred remains of tents litter the landscape. There’s only one tent still standing, and I pick my way over to it. The pack inside contains items. I find a pair of pants and a t-shirt. The jeans are loose, but I’m happy to swap them for the gown I now ball up and toss on the ground. After further poking around, an ill-fitting pair of running shoes and a bottle of water adds to my collection. I doubt there’s anything else left here that would be useful, and time is running out. I have no idea if soldiers are looking for me after my escape, nor will they get the chance to find out.
Leaving the campground behind, I start back off through the woods. Using the sun for guidance, I head west. This location is still unknown along with what remains of the world for me to return to. Mason and Brie’s faces stay in my thoughts. I use them to propel me forward. Although unsure of how to do it, I will find them—despite my lack of certainty with everything else. My head is up a little higher as I quicken my pace through the trees. The memory of scientists and tests fades away with each step.
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