The last bastion of the.., p.26
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       The Last Bastion of the Living, p.26
 

           Rhiannon Frater
Page 26

 

  Though she didn’t particularly like Dr. Curran, Maria could see that the woman genuinely cared about the success of the mission. It softened her anger against the scientist. She supposed that some sort of resentment was normal considering that Dr. Curran had killed her. “I can tell you that I may have transitioned a bit better if I had someone like Chief Defender Omondi there for me when I came to. I’m glad I was there for him today. I would like to be there for the next person who comes over as well. ”

  Dr. Curran reluctantly nodded. “You have a point. ”

  “I am not interested in the squabbles of the brass as long as the people volunteering for this mission are treated with the dignity they deserve. ”

  “You’re still angry at me, aren’t you?”

  “Do you blame me?” Maria raised an eyebrow.

  “No, I don’t. ” Dr. Curran took a hold of Maria’s forearm and steered her into the scientist’s private office. “Take a seat and I’ll be right back. ”

  With a sigh, Maria sat at the edge of a chair and listened to the door whoosh shut. The media feed was running on the screen over the doctor’s immaculate desk. It was muted, but Maria read the feed at the bottom as the government propaganda filled the screen. So many promises were being made by the president that it created a sense of unease in Maria. Though hope had filled her the day before, now she felt a twinge of worry. If they weren’t successful, the city would face a dreadful death.

  Settling back in the chair, she waited for Dr. Curran.

  * * *

  Maria’s return to cognizance was disorienting. Mr. Petersen was leaning over her, smiling his shark smile, his eyes gleaming in the light from the vid screen over the desk. Dr. Curran sat at her desk with her chin resting on her hand, staring at her with a tiredness that appeared to be bone deep.

  “I. . . blacked out?” Maria glanced at her wristlet, confusion filling her.

  “Well, we didn’t need you up and about for a while, so we turned off the alarm to let you rest a bit. ” Mr. Petersen’s smile widened.

  His explanation was bullshit and they both knew it. The black outs didn’t bring actual rest to her body. They had needed her out of the way for a while and had basically shut her off like a pad or computer. Her gaze flicked to the screen and she registered the time. She had been out for over six hours.

  “While you were taking your catnap, we had a meeting, Dr. Curran and I, along with the oversight committee. It has been agreed that you and Chief Defender Omondi should be with the new Inferi Boon Special Ops as they awaken. It is believed that your presence will make the transition much easier. ” Mr. Petersen sat on the corner of Dr. Curran’s desk, drawing a look of annoyance from her.

  “You never thought you would get this far, did you? To actually creating Inferi Boon. ” Maria asked. “With this program. You’re making it up as you go along, aren’t you?”

  Mr. Petersen’s smile faded just a tad. “I wouldn’t necessarily say that. But we are very pleased with you and Chief Defender Omondi. He has already passed his tests with flying colors. A very good start, don’t you think?”

  The disquiet she felt whenever in the presence of Mr. Petersen was beginning to grow into something akin to hate. She found it difficult not to despise him when he spoke to her as if she was a simpleton. He met her gaze comfortably, not at least intimidated by her pointed glare.

  “I’m glad that he’s doing well,” she said at last.

  “Aren’t we all? Now, we—I mean, Dr. Curran— is about to perform the procedure on another of your comrades. We’d like it if you joined her once again. ”

  Maria stood, giving him a curt nod. Dr. Curran stood, her shoulders slightly drooping.

  Mr. Petersen hopped off the edge of the desk and slid his arm around Maria’s waist, guiding her to the door. “We decided it’s best if we don’t make your comrades wait too long. We’re bringing them all over in the next twelve hours. It will be a very long night. ”

  “Why so soon?” Maria dared to ask.

  “To hurry up your deployment, of course. There’s a shining new world awaiting all of us once you accomplish your task,” Mr. Petersen reminded her. “A brave new world. ”

  “Did you ever read the book?” Maria asked, arching her brows.

  “Of course,” Mr. Petersen said in his disquieting voice. “And many others as well. ”

  Dr. Curran gave Maria a warning look behind Mr. Petersen’s back. Feeling like a co-conspirator, Maria fell into obedient silence. Mr. Petersen was baiting her in some manner and it was probably best to avoid any sort of confrontation with him. Again she wondered at his persistent white uniform with its lack of rank designation or even military affiliation. Maria seriously doubted he was the secretary to the admiral of the SWD. Who exactly he was and how much power he wielded over the entire project was a mystery. One that made her very uneasy.

  * * *

  After the third resurrection, Maria and Omondi were comfortable in the process. They worked well together, catching on to each other’s cues and Dr. Curran’s. After reach revival, the new Inferi Boon was transferred to the testing facility to ensure their transition was smooth.

  The first three to be revived were veterans of the last push against the Scourge. All were Special Sergeants, the rank beneath Maria, and physically strong despite former wounds. Rom Mikado and Bob McKinney were both powerfully-built and took over ten minutes to return as an Inferi Boon. Leticia Cruz revived in five. She was the dark-skinned woman with the short-cropped hair that Maria had seen in the briefing room. Slightly shorter than Maria, she was lean and muscled. When she awakened so quickly, it startled all of them.

  “Am I back?” she asked, her voice hoarse as she struggled to speak.

  “Take a breath,” Maria urged her. “It helps you talk. ”

  “You’ve returned,” Dr. Curran assured the woman.

  “That was fast,” Omondi noted, his dark brows furrowing over his eyes.

  “The modified virus appears to affect humans in the same way the original virus did during the plague,” Dr. Curran answered.

  “Women and children changed quickly,” Maria said, remembering her history.

  “Or maybe I’m just more of a badass,” Cruz suggested, getting the hang of taking a breath before speaking.

  The next few soldiers were younger and more recently enlisted. Jameson was among the next group and revived in seven minutes.

  “Can I kill zombies now?” he asked.

  “Inferi Scourge,” Dr. Curran corrected.

  “Whatever,” James said, struggling to speak above a whisper.

  “You’ll be killing them soon enough,” Omondi promised.

  It was disconcerting to see their fellow soldiers die and be resuscitated by the modified virus. Maria was glad that they didn’t suffer through it alone as she had. All revived disoriented, but seemed relieved to have come back as Inferi Boon.

  Dr. Curran appeared increasingly tired as the procedures wore on, her staff looking a bit haggard as well. Maria noticed a few taking stim-shots more than once. She didn’t feel physically weary at all. Omondi didn’t show any signs of waning energy either.

  “I miss coffee,” he whispered to her at one point, his dark keen eyes watching a few techs sipping some of the hot liquid.

  “You’re thirsty?”

  “No, no. I was an addict. I always had to have coffee throughout the day. I think it’s the habit I’m missing. ” He hovered over her shoulder, leaning over to whisper to her. Already there was camaraderie between them, a sense of us and them as they watched the doctor and her techs. “Do you crave food or drink at all?”

  Maria shook her head. “No, no. ”

  “Do you miss anything?”

  She gave a short nod. “Dreaming. ”

  “Dreaming?”

  “Yeah. I miss sleep. Dreaming. Have you had the blackouts yet?”

 
Three times. ”

  “It’s not like sleep at all, is it?”

  Omondi frowned. “No, it’s more like being dead. ”

  “Exactly. ”

  “But then again. . . ” Omondi shrugged “. . . we are. ”

  The procedures continued for hours. The only breaks were when the newly-transformed Inferi Boon were transferred to the testing rooms. Maria glanced at the clock on Dr. Curran’s pad, discreetly noting the passage of time. When her designated time to speak with Dwayne passed, she sighed. She missed him so much.

  Gideon Lanning entered the room in a white tech jumpsuit. Shoving his dark hair out of his face, he glanced around the room at his colleagues. If he was hoping for some reassurance, they gave him none. They treated him just as they had all the other volunteers. With a detached air about them, they strapped Gideon down as they had all the others. Because he was a lot smaller and leaner than the soldiers, the cuffs adjusted several times to capture his thin wrists.

  “Gideon, you know what comes next,” Dr. Curran said, leaning over him.

  His eyes darted toward Maria, searching her face. She wasn’t sure what he was looking for, but he seemed not to find any comfort. He closed his eyes and took several deep breaths.
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