Chapter 31: Ethan
“Please tell me you aren’t going to stick another giant needle into my back,”
Thomas chuckles “Not this time sadly, you child,”
“So why am I lying on this table then?”
“So far, we’ve learned that the infection can target, mutate, and repurpose cells in the body. However, I still don’t know what’s causing the extreme aggression. So, I’m going to take a scan of your brain in order to see what I can find,”
I look at the instruments surrounding my head half-nervously “And you’re sure this…whatever it is you have rigged together won’t melt my brain instead?”
“Not at all,” Thomas says at he clicks a few buttons on a keyboard.
I sigh as my anxiety grows “Good to know,”
“I’m going to need you lay very still. This machine is going to provide a real-time scan of your brain. Any movement will disrupt it completely,”
“Whatever you say, Blaze,”
He taps a few more keys “You may feel a strange sensation, don’t worry, it’s completely normal,”
“Then why is it a strange sensation?”
I notice Thomas look over his monitor at me with an expression that lacks amusement.
“Just shut the hell up and lay there. How bout that?” He barks.
I shrug nonchalantly.
“Alright…here…we…go,” He says, simultaneously pressing a button, turning on the machine.
There’s a silence for a time. As I begin to grow impatient, Thomas makes a frustrated grunt as he stares at the image on his screen.
“What?” I ask.
“There’s nothing. This doesn’t make any god damn sense. Something has to be floating around in your head to trigger the aggression…unless…hold on. I’ll be right back,” Thomas says standing up, walking across the room.
“Whoa hey, doc, I’m still strapped to this thing here. Hey!”
He ignores me as he steps into Lauren’s office who is working on another area of the vaccination process.
“What?! No?! That is way too dangerous!” I hear Lauren’s voice exclaim.
Thomas’s voice speaks too low for me to hear. I focus harder, still unable to make out their conversation. They both go silent. I hear the sound of both of their feet step over to me.
“So, I have an idea,” Thomas says simply.
“I’m not going to like this, am I?”
“It’s possible that your aggression only comes out under extreme duress. Case in point, being shot three times in the chest. That was about as extreme as you can get,”
“And you want to recreate it, don’t you?”
“It’ll be a controlled test. We’ll do enough to induce the beginning stages, then stop. All goes according to plan, you’ll feel about as much of it as when we drew your spinal fluid,” Lauren explains.
I take a deep breathe, looking at the both of them seriously “What are the odds this goes wrong?” I ask.
Thomas shrugs “We don’t know. It’s either going to go as planned or you’re going to rage out and kill the both of us. I say that just to hammer home that we’re taking as big a risk as you are. If it goes as planned, this is going to help. I’m not doing this for shits and giggles, guy,” Thomas asserts bluntly.
I glare at him a moment before turning my eyes to Lauren “What do you think?”
Lauren shrugs “I…believe Thomas is correct in his hypothesis. If we’re successful here, it may just unlock a big door to this whole thing,” She says hesitantly, her own reservations showing in her expression.
I think a moment “Okay…do it,” I say, giving permission.
“Good man,” Thomas says as he steps over to one of the shelves, removing another piece of equipment, placing it on the instrument tray next to the table I’m laying on.
He opens a small panel on the side of it and begins moving around some wires, closing it back up after he’s done.
“So, this machine is typically meant to deliver electrotherapy to patients. However, I just disconnected the built-in limiter on it. I’m going to attach these leads to your arm and deliver a localized shock,” Thomas begins as he performs the action he’s explaining at the same time.
He places his hand on a small dial on the machine “When I turn it on, I’m going to slowly increase the amount of voltage going into your body,”
I sigh nervously “How bad is this going to be?”
“It’s going to hurt. A lot. Your muscle is going to seize and feel like it’s permanently cramped and your arm is going to feel like it’s in an inferno. The activation of the aggression however, should induce the healing factor that this infection is providing. In the end you’ll come out with minor injuries,”
I anxiously laugh “Alright. Well what are we waiting for?”
“Do you want me to get Elena?” Lauren suddenly asks.
I look at her, thinking. “No…no I don’t need her here,” I answer.
Without another word, Thomas turns on the machine, using his other hand to slowly charge the leads with more and more voltage. I feel my arm start to uncontrollably spasm as the electricity continues to flow, bouncing between the leads placed on my forearm and bicep. The voltage reaches a specific threshold and my arm all at once seizes up, inducing the exact feeling Thomas explained. The burning sensation begins to become more intense and soon enough it feels as if my arm is radiating heat, burning an invisible fire on the surface of my flesh that cuts to the bone.
My entire mind is screaming to make it stop. I close my eyes tightly, as the pain pushes me passed my own tolerance.
That’s when I feel it.
The pain begins to subtly subside. My arm feels as if it’s going numb. I can feel the aggression start to build up in my mind. Already choosing Thomas as the source of my anger.
My eyes lock on to him “You need…to hurry…up,” I say through clenched teeth.
Thomas raises an eyebrow as he looks into my eyes “Lauren…check the monitor,” He orders.
Lauren hastily steps behind the desks, her face shocked at what she’s witnessing.
“My god…Thomas you have to see this…” She says through her own shock.
“Save the scan, we need to shut it down,”
Lauren acts without speaking, typing and clicking away “Done,” She confirms.
Thomas immediately shut off the machine, releasing my arm to its normal movements.
Something is still wrong; I can still feel the rage building in me. That familiar urge to kill pulsating through me. I sit up, holding my head in my hands, closing my eyes tight, trying to shake off the feeling.
“Push it down, Ethan. It’s your body, you control what it does. You’re sick, not crazy. Don’t let it win,” Thomas encourages as I tap my foot hard on the table, trying with everything I have to push back what I’m feeling.
My whole body starts to tremble as I push back against myself. It’s then that the wave ceases, giving me relief as the aggression subsides. I keep my eyes closed, breathing heavily as exhaustion starts to hit me.
I hear Lauren and Thomas murmuring in the background. I open my eyes and look at them, causing them to turn their attention to me.
Thomas gives me a satisfied smile “We’ve cracked it,” he says as he steps over to me, one of the brain scans in hand.
He shows it to me, pointing to an area “This is a horizontal scan of the entirety of your brain. These things here? That look almost like spiderwebs? Those are your neurons firing,” He describes.
“So, what does that mean?”
“Well if you look,” Thomas traces a finger to the back end of my brain “Something is transmitting a signal through your brain, using your neurons. And the source,” He taps on the print out for emphasis “Is coming directly from here. Something is attached to your brain stem, Ethan. It all makes sense now. This is why your spinal fluid is different. This thing is a parasite that turned your central nervous system into an ecosystem that sustains it. Now all this weird ass resurrection, supernatural crap aside…this, this I can fix. I can cure you now, Ethan,”
“In the time you’ve known me…have you heard me kid about this?”
“Well…when can we do this?” I ask, excitedly.
“Soon. I have to develop something to neutralize the cells in your spine as well as give you a kicker of fresh fluid in order to jump the process of your body developing its own after I remove the parasite. But it will be soon,” Thomas explains.
“That’s the best news you’ve given me in all of this,” I stand up, shaking his hand “Thank you, Thomas. I won’t forget this,”
“Don’t thank me. I literally had no choice in this. Now get the hell out of my lab,” He responds, attempting to seem nonchalant about the situation, a smile poking at the corner of his mouth.
I wipe the fog from the large mirror of the shower facilities, staring into my own eyes. The fact that I’m going to be cured is incredible news. But there still this…gaping whole.
I feel like I don’t have the right to even be angry because of her actions after the fact. But something inside…just can’t let it go. I shake the feeling off and get dressed. As I gather my things and turn for the door, I see Elena standing there, head hanging low.
I stare at her, not saying a word. She looks up at me, her eyes red from recent tears.
“Can we talk?” She asks quietly.
I want so bad to just be angry. To respond angrily. To storm off feeling like I’m right. But…I can’t. I set my things down on the countertop. Her countenance alone makes me feel all the same emotions she is currently feeling.
“Talk about what?” I ask just as simply as she did.
She steps closer, a touch of hesitation in her movements.
My anxiety tells me to escape “Elena I…”
“Ask me anything,” She interjects.
“I said…ask me anything. I’ll answer it honestly,” She repeats.
“Elena…ju—I’m not gon—”
“Please, Ethan,” She says, staring intensely into my eyes.
“Okay, Elena…fine. When?”
“The moment I saw that you had an interest in me,”
“You were the monkey wrench in the system,”
I scoff “Yeah, I’m a real bull in china shop, aren’t I?”
I notice her almost flinch at my scathing tone. I close my eyes, taking a deep breathe, regaining my composure.
“How long?” I continue my line of questioning.
“That’s…complicated,” She responds.
“Uncomplicate it, then,”
“I think…the first time I felt anything…really…felt anything…was when we were planet side. When we were around that fire. When you kissed me for the first time. And the talk we had about Jake…I couldn’t help but feel a magnetism to you after that. After that…it was like a war in me. I would fight against everything I was trained to be, what felt like, every time we were together. Ethan…listen…” She lifts a hand to my face. I lightly flinch away, but still allow her to place her hand on my cheek “The only question I can’t answer is when exactly I fell in love with you. It’s like…one day…I woke up and it was just a part of me. And I knew that I never wanted to be apart from you,” She explains as a tear falls from either cheek.
I feel my own eyes ache with tears as I take a step away from her. I realize I’m already at the point where the wall has been made. And to climb over it is a task I’ve done all too many times before. Only to build another one in front of it.
I shake my head “I’m sorry, Elena…I…can’t,” I say as I back away further, receding into myself.
I watch Elena’s face turn to visible confusion, then to anger.
She steps closer to me “You don’t get to do that…”
“What do you mean I don’t get to do that?”
“You don’t just get to shut down and walk away because it’s inconvenient for you now,”
“After what you did, what makes you think you have the right to even remotely say that?”
Elena stares at the ground, shaking her head “You’re so selfish,” She looks at me “To think that…you could possibly understand. You have no idea what I did. What I’ve done…”
“Did for what, Elena? I’m obviously missing something here,”
“For you! You idiot!” She yells, now in my face.
I throw my hands up “Then please. Enlighten me!”
“I threw away everything I’ve known. The only people I could call family since running away. Not only that. I killed them! For you!”
“Do you even feel bad for what you did? Or is this about you now?”
“Of course, I do. I had hoped you would’ve noticed that,”
“How was I supposed to know? Far as I’m concerned it could’ve been another face you put on this morning,”
She glares at me “I hate you. I hate you so much sometimes,”
“Go manipulate someone else then. Dante seems to like women who have a power complex,” I say harshly, prompting something in Elena to snap as she raises a hand to, not slap me, but closed fist punch me in the face.
I manage to snatch her wrist before she strikes me. She pulls away, only pulling herself closer to me due to the differences in our strength.
It brings her face inches from mine.
We stare into each other’s anger filled eyes. A carnal electricity forms between us.
Elena grabs the back of my neck and pulls me closer, kissing me deeply. The whole event is a whirlwind of actions.
Letting go of her wrist, taking her face in my hands and kissing her just as furiously back.
Removing her shirt. Removing mine.
Taking off her bra.
Taking off our pants and underwear. Somehow not tripping while doing so.
Lifting her on to the countertop. The feeling of ecstasy as we come together for the first time.
The grinding. The moaning.
Coming to the edge. Going over the edge.
I wake up after the event which felt to be all of thirty seconds that was clearly longer. I find myself and Elena to laying on and covered by a number of large towels.
I sit up, propping myself on both hands. I look around the room, then down to Elena who begins to stir herself
. I watch as she props herself up on an arm as well, using the other to keep herself covered with the towel. We look at each other a moment before simultaneously laughing at each other.
“Well…that happened,” I say, deciding to have the conversation.
“Yeah…I guess it did,” Elena responds.
I can already see the contemplation on her face, wondering where things go from here.
“Hey…” She looks up at me “We’re okay,”
I sit up fully and wrap my arms around her, pulling her into me.
“That part about feeling magnetized to me,” I start.
“What about it?” She asks.
“I’ve felt the same for you. Since the day I met you. I wanted to be angry at you. I wanted to stay angry at you but…I don’t think that’s possible for me. I’m not saying everything is forgotten. Or better. But…I’d rather have sore spots to heal than lose you completely,” I finish, attempting to convey my feelings.
The realization finally hits me as I look at Elena with fearful eyes “Wait…you don’t think you’re…after…”
I see the anxiety hit her as she starts to understand what I’m asking “I…I don’t know…I mean…I don’t feel any different,”
“Should we have Thomas test you or something?” I ask, concerned.
Elena shrugs awkwardly “Maybe…”
“Hey, Ethan! You in he—whoa!” Damien Exclaims as he lays eyes on both of our naked bodies “Um…we got a situation. You’re obviously feeling better, so it’d be good for you to check it out,” He says through a raised hand to block his vision.
“Uh yeah…thanks man. Be out in a minute,”
“Right…” He says as he quickly turns around, making his exit.
Elena and I share another chuckle at the awkward nature of the situation before getting dressed. We exit the room to a group of eyes staring at of us.
I nervously adjust my clothing, clearing my throat.
Thomas sits in a chair, arms folded, staring at both of us unamused.
“You’re both stupid,” He says bluntly.
I sigh, rolling my eyes, feeling like a scolded child.
“Lucky for you, you’re not infectious,” Lauren adds.
Elena steps around me “Well good. Now can we all grow up? It’s not like you couldn’t expect something like that to happen. Tell us what’s going on,” She asserts.
Dante chuckles and steps forward “Well all joking aside. We’ve got a problem. Check this out,” He says as he hands Elena a tablet, prompting me to step behind her and look over her shoulder.
Elena plays the footage. It shows a large group of creatures gathering and traveling in a pack.
“Where did this come from?” I ask as I continue to look on.
“Well…turns out our resident hothead here has been tinkering with some things here and there. He managed to get some cameras up and running around the station. This is what he found,” Dante explains.
“Hm…good job, Damien,” I praise.
He shrugs “I’m useful when I want to be,”
“So what do we think they’re doing?” Elena asks to the room.
“Looks to me like they’re organizing. My guess is those things are attempting to find a way up here. The way they’re interacting with each other highly suggests they act off of a hive mind,” Lauren details.
“So that means something is telling them what to do now?” I ask.
“Seems something always was. The important question, is what we’re going to do about it,” Thomas answers.
“What can we do? Going against one of these god damn things is almost a death sentence in itself,” Elena presents.
“I think that’s where I come in,” Damien says as he stands up from his seat and steps to the center of the room “We already had the right idea when we created chokepoints at crossways from here to Thomas’s lab. If we can manage to do that again, we can possibly lead them to an area of our choosing where we can finish them off. Now obviously we don’t have the ammo for that. But if there’s anything I know how to do, it’s blow shit up,”
Dante rests a hand under his chin, propping it on his other arm, thinking “That could very well work. And we have enough labs that I’m sure we could scrounge together some supplies that once mixed will go boom,”
I walk next to Damien “Bottlenecking them and using explosives is one thing. But we all know these things are tough to put down. Takes more than one round. If we take these things on at the mouth of the bottleneck, they’ll eventually push through and overwhelm us. What we need is an area that’s more open and provides an opportunity to set up a crossfire. Somewhere than can also support the continued use of explosives if need be. And also, one that allows for retreat if needed,”
Damien puts his hands on his hips, thinking about the information I presented.
“I think I have a solution to that,” Lauren begins, stepping forward as she rubs her injured shoulder trying to relieve the discomfort “There’s an operation room. One that’s meant for observation. It’s large and round and has a viewing area set above the operating area,”
“Exits?” I ask basically.
“There’s only three. The primary one in which a patient is brought through. That’s a set of double doors so it’ll be wide enough for them to funnel into. The other leads into the sanitation area where a surgeon would wash up and prep themselves for an operation. And of course, the one leading to the observation canopy. The sanitation room has a wall and windows that separate it from the operating table as well. I believe this would be a good set up for your idea, Ethan,”
I nod my head as the location sounds better the more I think about it “I think that’ll work. How are we looking for ammunition?”
“Not great. I’m pretty sure it’s not going to be enough for this,” Dante says, giving the bad news.
“I can fix that,” Thomas says, adding his own assistance.
“What do you got, Blaze?” Dante asks.
“It’s going to require a jaunt back to my ship but…there’s ammunition stockpiled inside. Pretty sure it’s the same caliber you guys use,”
“Hang on a minute…why haven’t we just used your ship to leave yet? Am I missing something here?” Dante asks, pointing out the obvious.
“Not possible. Aiden flew the ship. And he had the bright idea to biometrically lock the ignition to himself. Little failsafe in case somebody, ya know, rips him in half,” Thomas clarifies, giving me a half serious glare.
“Fantastic. Looking at this footage though…I don’t know if we’re going to win this one. There’s so damn many of them,” I say pragmatically.
“I was just thinking on that. What if we divide and conquer them?” Elena adds to the plan.
“Well if you have an idea…” I trail off.
Elena swipes through the tablet, using two fingers to zoom on a location, then holds it up for the rest of the group to see.
“This is one of the quarantine doors. If we can funnel them through here…and I can get the mechanism working, we could cut the group in half. I could rig some traps of my own as well to take care of that secondary grouping. That way it’d take one, maybe two of us max to finish them off,” Elena finishes, eliciting nods from all of us.
“The most important part of this though…someone is going to need to be bait,” Lauren states factually.
“That’s covered,” Dante states confidently.
Lauren raises a pondering eyebrow at him “O…kay,”
“Well…we have a lot to do and not so much time to do it. I suggest we get started,” I say, prompting agreement from everyone as they silently get started on their tasking.
“Who’s going to grab ammo with me?” Damien asks generally as he racks a round in to the chamber of his rifle.
I think a moment as I watch Damien start for the door, seeing an opportunity. I step forward, feeling the tug of Elena’s hand on mine.
“Hey,” She says, getting my attention.
I look at her “What’s up?”
“Be careful,” She says nodding her head in Damien’s direction.
I give her a smirk “Always,” I say before giving her a peck on the lips and walking towards the door.