Chapter 24: Damien
I stare out the large glass panels at the back of the Security Watch Center. If it were possible, I’d smash these panes and take us all to freedom. The view feels almost like a tease reminding us that if we could only find a way, there’s so much liberty to be had outside of all of this claustrophobia.
This place is massive yet never felt so small. This center is the only home we can hope to have at this point in time.
Everything else…is no man’s land.
“You good, bro?” Ethan’s voice squawks behind me.
“What’s it to you?” I respond without turning from my view.
“Just wanted to make sure you were alright. Never mind then I guess,”
“I think you should be worrying about yourself right now. You seem the worse for wear,” I say, turning to face him.
He looks at me, raising an eyebrow “What does that mean?” He asks, and offended tone in his voice.
“You think we all didn’t take note of your little outburst a couple days ago?”
“I told you what that was,”
“And I’m telling you, you’re lying,”
“I don’t have to answer to you, Damien,”
“If you don’t answer to me, you’ll answer to someone sooner or later if you keep having little fits like that,” I tell him bluntly.
Ethan balls a fist at me. I notice he’s clenching it so hard it’s shaking. His jaw is tightened as I notice him start to gnash his teeth beneath his lips. It confirms my thoughts.
“Did you get scratched or bit by one of those things?” I ask plainly.
He remains quiet as he glares at me.
“I guess that gives me my answer,”
a silence falls over the room as Ethan and I stare at each other. I lean against the glass, crossing my arms, awaiting a reply.
I notice a sudden change in Ethan’s eyes. They turn an unnatural shade of ultraviolet, tendrils of yellow splinter through them.
I have no time to react as he snatches me by the throat, lifting me into the air as my back slides up the windowpane.
“Let…me…go, Ethan,” I demand through choked out breathes.
My legs start to flail as my mind begins to panic at the lack of oxygen, thumping against the window erratically.
“You want a reason to hate me, Damien? Then I’ll give you one,” He says through clenched teeth as his grip tightens.
I pound hammer-fists into his forearm, attempting to break his grip to no avail. It’s like beating against a steel beam.
I feel my eyes grow heavy, knowing that unconsciousness is coming. My strikes grow weaker and weaker until soon enough my arm is limp.
“Ethan! Stop!” Elena’s voice shouts.
Like the snap of a finger Ethan’s rage subsides and he stares at me as if he hadn’t been participating in the event in the first place. I take hold of his arm the instant his grip weakens, folding it into his chest and using my other hand to take hold of his shirt. I lift him off the floor as I very nearly toss him across the room and slam him on top of one of the multiple tables.
As he lands, I unsheathe a knife and place it at his throat. Finally taking the time to focus, I notice Ethan looking at me with guilt and fear in his eyes. I hesitate and subside the instinct to remove the threat on my life.
The way he looks, almost pathetic, reminds of when we were children. My mind flashes back to times when he would look to me for protection. The pity pokes at me until I finally release him and step away, breathing heavy, placing my hands in my hips.
I hear the clack of Elena’s shoes as she rushes to his side, causing me to face them.
“I…I..I don’t know what happened,” He says as his body begins to shake.
I rub a hand where Ethan’s gripped my neck, clearing my throat to relieve the irritation.
“He’s infected,” I say factually.
“Shut up,” Elena retorts, not wanting to believe the truth.
“What if he starts mutating. Like they did,”
“If that were going to happen, it already would have by now. You saw how fast people turned when it started,”
“If that’s the case, then we’re dealing with something a lot more dangerous than a mindless drone,”
“why are you being like this, Damien? Shouldn’t you be trying to help him? He’s your brother,” Elena says as tears start to well in her eyes.
“Because in this situation, it’s either he’s infected and we need to deal with him before we all get killed, or he’s just not. It’s simple,”
“Not everything is black and white. How the hell could he stand to be around you for any amount of time? You’re just a heartless jackass who cares more about his own skin than anyone else!” Her words cut deep, opening the wounds that have only recently scabbed over.
I clench a fist, then lift a cup from the table and toss it into a wall, shattering it.
“You don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about! Or what I went through before I got here!”
“Guys, stop! What is going on here?” Dante says as he steps between us, both arms outstretched.
“Let her fuckin’ tell you,” I say, throwing a hand in the air, then crossing my arms and staring at the floor, boiling in my anger.
“Elena?” Dante asks, awaiting an explanation.
I look towards Elena as she lets out a defeated sigh.
“It’s Ethan…he’s…infected…” She says as a tear falls on to Ethan’s cheek, who now lies unconscious after his shaking fit.
Dante places his hands on his hips, looking at the floor “Well…shit,”
“That’s it? That’s all you have to say?” Elena speaks, her voice shaking.
Dante shrugs “Well what do you want me to say, Elena? I don’t know what to do,”
“Only one thing we can do,” I add my two sense.
Everyone stops and stares.
Dante’s face twists into disbelief “You really are a heartless son of a bitch,” He says.
“What else can we do? We know nothing about what this infection is. No knowledge, means no cure. No cure, means he suffers until he succumbs. Much as you people think I don’t give a damn about him didn’t stop to think that you might be forcing the worse option upon him,”
“We are not killing him,” Elena says in resolution.
“I…might be able to find that cure…” Lauren says from behind Dante.
The sheer suggestion of her putting her hands on my brother immediately agitates me.
“I’m not going to let you put your damn mitts on my brother. He’s not going to be your guinea pig for one of your sick little experiments,”
“You better watch your God damn mouth when you speak to her,” Dante says, shifting his body so that he’s between Lauren and I.
“I don’t have to watch shit, flyboy. You might be blind to her tendencies, but I’m not. I’ll give her one thing though, that thing between her legs has to be something special to make you so oblivious to something like her psychopathy,”
Dante squares off and begins to charge me “That’s it you motherfu—”
“Enough!” Ethan’s weak voice calls out, eliciting everyone to cease their actions.
Ethan forces himself into a sitting position. He takes a moment to catch his breath before turning his head towards Lauren.
“Can you cure this?” He asks with heavy breathes.
Lauren looks left and right, taken aback by his question.
“Well, uh, with enough research and—”
“Can…you cure this?” He reiterates.
Lauren inhales, and composes herself “If you allow me to do what I require then…yes. I am confident in my ability to cure you,”
“Then I’ll do it,”
“Jesus. I can’t believe this. All of you are drinking the damn juice,” I say, shaking my head, running a hand through my hair in frustration.
“I wasn’t finished, Damien,” He looks towards Lauren again “But if you take advantage of this situation, for any reason at all…I’ll let Damien decide what happens,” Ethan finishes.
“You can’t be serious, Ethan,” Dante says, his tone clearly upset.
“I know you trust her Dante. But the fact of the matter is, I don’t. I only know what I’ve seen of her scientific work. And what I’ve seen isn’t pretty,”
“Deal…I’ll take that deal,” Lauren says, cutting Dante off.
Dante stares at Lauren for a moment resigning himself to a deep sigh.
“Fine,” He says flatly.
“What do you need?” Elena asks, helping Ethan off the floor and into a chair.
Lauren thinks a moment “Well…a lab for one. I’ll need access to the instruments in there. It must be one that has an examination chair and table in it. So, a medical wing lab would be best to search for. The drawback to that is that it will need to be retrofitted to act as a scientific lab as well. So various test equipment from one of those labs will have to be transported there. Which, given the situation, is a major obstacle that needs to be overcome,”
“We’ll get it done,” Ethan says with confidence, through a fatigued voice.
“You…aren’t doing anything. You’re staying right here and resting,” Dante says, putting his foot down.
Ethan rolls his eyes.
Dante turns his gaze to me, a smirk on his face “Besides. I’m sure jolly green giant and I can handle it just fine,”
It’s me that does the eye rolling now.
Dante chuckles “You guys do that in the exact same way. Funny,”
“Anyway,” I say with emphasis “Where do we start?”
“There should be a smaller medical center on this level. It’ll have everything we need. It’s on the west side. It also should be rather easy to locate on account of the red lines we were painting to allow for just that. Experimentation labs are on the north side,” Lauren explains.
“What all do you need from there?” Dante questions.
“If you see it on a countertop, or in a labeled drawer, then I need it,”
“This is going to be fun,” I point out.
I finish loading the last of Lauren’s equipment into a large sea-bag, hoisting it over my shoulder and on to my back. Dante secures a bag of the same variety on his own, shifting his shoulders to feel more comfortable. I lift my recently acquired rifle from a counter top, and ready it in my hands.
Dante and look at each other “Ready?” He asks simply.
I nod in confirmation. Not much has been said of the several trips we made between this lab and the other bringing supplies. My assumption is that he doesn’t care much to talk to me on account of my insulting of his girlfriend.
I couldn’t care less in all honesty.
We stack up on the lab’s entrance, as we had numerous times before now, readying ourselves. Another set of approving nods later and we exit in a tactical fashion, keeping our barrels trained down range in case any of those things decide to turn up.
Surprisingly, we haven’t seen any on this level. Which, in my eyes, is extremely suspicious.
“Hey,” I speak through a loud whisper.
“What?” Dante responds with an aggravated tone.
“Don’t you think this is a little odd?”
“That your magazine is still full,”
Dante stops a moment, taking a quick look back at me.
“That is strange. Where do you think all of them are?”
“Beats me? Just know I have a bad feeling,”
“Mine isn’t much better. We better keep moving before they do decide to turn up,” He says as he continues to walk at an even pace.
A few corner turns later and we find ourselves entering the medical lab once more. Lauren is placing a piece of equipment on a countertop, finishing the previous batch of items we brought before. Dante and I place our stuffed bags carefully on an empty table.
“This should be everything. We can get started as soon as I have everything set up and Ethan is capable of walking himself here. You two can head back while I finish up,” Lauren says
“Are you sure you don’t want me to stay?” Dante asks with concern.
“I can take care of myself Dante. I know how to use a gun too. And I’ve been avoiding these creatures as much as you have. Besides, I’ll most likely be here through sleeping hours. I have a lot of work to get done just to even start sorting a way to help him,”
“I’ll be fine, Dante. These doors are plenty secured enough to keep them out. And the room is sound dampened. Go rest,”
“But…who’ll warm my bed tonight if you aren’t there?” Dante asks slyly, prompting me to gag in my mouth.
Lauren leans in close to Dante’s ear, whispering sweet nothings. They giggle for a few moments before Dante looks towards me.
“Alright, let’s go,”
“Thank God,” I say mutter to myself as I start to follow Dante to the door.
I stop in front of Lauren and lean in close so that only she can hear me “I’m gonna say this once. Don’t treat my brother like an experiment. If you make him suffer anymore than he is…and he still turns, I’ll make sure you’re his first victim,” I threaten.
Lauren straightens her posture “Then it seems we’re in agreement on one thing, Blake. Because I will have earned it,” Her response takes me aback as I reach a loss for words.
“Hey, you coming?” Dante calls out.
I quickly look to him as he gains my attention, then back to Lauren as she stares at me with the same expression she was before.
“Yeah…right behind you,” I say as I start to walk, not looking away from Lauren until I’m near the door.
As I look back to Dante, I see that he’s already exiting. I follow quickly behind him, catching up so that I can walk beside him rather can behind.
The rest of our journey back to the security center takes place in silence. Upon reaching our new home and entering, I see that Ethan and Elena are having a meal together.
Ethan seems to be bit more himself at the moment as I notice that he’s maintaining a conversation and even laughing at the subject matter they’re conversing about. I approach the table as Dante walks straight to his room, likely to shower and sleep.
“How’d it go?” Elena asks.
“A little too well if you ask me,” I reply.
“How so,” Ethan inquires.
“There weren’t of those mutants out there this time. Halls were just…empty,” I explain.
“A blessing in disguise maybe?” Elena says optimistically.
I shrug as I take a seat nearest to Ethan, setting my rifle down on the table after first removing the magazine and setting it into a safe position.
“Where’s Lauren?” Elena asks, looking around the room.
“She plans on burning the midnight oil to get everything in its proper place. Guess she’s really trying to turn a new leaf with all of this,”
“Maybe,” Ethan says flatly.
“Yeah…maybe,” I say as I turn my head towards the windows at the back of the room.
My eyes immediately catch something, causing me to stand up and walk a few steps closer.
“Is that…a ship?” I ask as I point towards it.
Ethan and Elena join me at my position and share in the same surprise that I’m experiencing. A bit of hope mixed in.
“Is it…coming closer to us?” Elena asks.
A moment later a beeping is heard as the communications terminal indicates a hailing signal.