‘What are you talking about? Do you see this?’ raved Logan pointing at his I.D. card. ’It says clearance level four! That is the highest level! This is my research facility! And you with your shaved head and stupid green beret are going to tell me I’m not allowed to go where I want in my own building?’
The soldier stood stock still, calmly looking ahead. ’Orders from the top sir, no-one with less than level four clearance allowed past this point sir.’
‘Are you even listening to me you jumped up little prick! I have level four clearance!’
‘I suggest you check that with your superior sir,’ the soldier carried on, ‘your I.D. clearly shows you are at level three sir.’
‘I don’t have a superior, I am the superior! Check it again!’ yelled Logan, thrusting the card in the soldiers face. The sedate and stolid nature of this soldier was really getting on his nerves. The soldier swiped the card through the reader, and again the red light flashed.
‘I suggest you take this card to the command centre and have them check it for any clerical errors. Now,’ and the soldier rounded on Logan and looked him right in the eye, ‘do not let me keep you any further…sir.’
Logan snatched the card, and after a moment stormed off down the corridor, seething with rage. The soldier allowed himself a smirk. Jumped up little prick he thought, and chuckled.
Logan was almost running towards the command centre when he turned a corner and collided with Rogers, knocking his papers everywhere. A tape recorder fell out of Rogers’s pocket, and he was too slow to grab it. Logan held it, tossing it from hand to hand.
‘Can you believe this Rogers? Not allowed to go where I want in my own building.’ He had a far away look in his eyes. Rogers watched as Logan’s fingers tapped on the buttons. Had he recorded any of Kahl’s conversation before the tape jammed? Logan followed Rogers’s eyes to the recorder.
‘Sorry Jimmy, here,’ and to Rogers’s relief he was handed the recorder. Logan continued on his way down the corridor.
In his office, Rogers sat at his desk. His mind was swimming, or to put it more accurately, drowning. He didn’t know what to do. Run or stay. If he left, they might…they would come after him. How far could he get? Where would he go? If he stayed, how could he live with himself? He was trapped by loyalty, and divided by morality. No, he had to go. He brushed his long, greasy black hair from his brow and, looking around to make sure he was alone, took his cassette tapes and the memory stick and slipped them inside his lab coat along with his car keys. Taking a deep breath he looked at his office for the last time. Time to leave. He switched off the light and opened the door. And walked right into Dr. Kahl.
‘Ah, Dr. Rogers, so sorry to startle you. Could you follow me please?’ He took Rogers by the shoulder and led him down the corridor. Rogers’s heart sank as he was marched past the elevator to the surface.
In the watchtower above ground, darkening skies were casting lengthening shadows across the exercise yard. Private Mendes climbed up the ladder to his guard post.
‘Wahoo! Backup has arrived!’ yelled Private Gaines. ‘Goddamn it’s boring up here. Ain’t nothing to do but stare at the sky, or…’ he slipped a porno mag from under his shirt and winked at Mendes.
‘For Christ’s sake Gee, you better have cleaned the fucking seat!’
‘Hahahaaa! Just screwin’ with ya Davey boy!’ Gaines jumped to his feet. ‘You enjoy yourself now!’
’Hey! You see anything special or what?’
Gaines paused on his climb down the ladder, and Mendes could just see his head. ’Special? Whaddya mean? We’re watching a bunch of slowly dying people dying slowly! Shityeah I saw something special! Page thirty-two!’ and he tossed the mag to Mendes, and laughing, carried on down the ladder.
Mendes sat in the seat, and tossed the mag to one side. Looking out over the yard, he looked at the faces of the sick. Lot less stage one’s around now he thought. Even the newcomers were mostly at three, some even at four.
The chimney at the far end of St. Teresa had been continually pumping thick black smoke for days now. He adjusted his dust mask. This thing better keep me healthy, he thought.
Rogers passed by offices where the lab rats worked, punching away at their computers, and poring over papers. God, I wish I could trade places with any of them he thought. As they passed Logan’s office he saw two soldiers standing guard outside the door and through the window saw Logan having an angry conversation with the suited man he had seen with Kahl earlier.
They were now stood outside the entrance to the east wing. Kahl nodded to the soldier who stood aside.
‘Welcome to my humble abode,’ said Kahl waving Rogers through.
There was a very long corridor with no offices, just cold, bare steel walls lit with nauseating artificial neon lights. Kahl led the way down it.
’It seems we have a leak Dr. Rogers,’ said Kahl. Rogers’s heart quickened and the palms of his hands began to sweat. ’Someone has been trying to inform outside agencies of our work here.’
It felt like the tapes and the memory stick in his pocket were glowing.
’What do you mean sir?’ asked Rogers, fear slowly creeping up the hairs on his back. If he turned and ran now, he wouldn’t make it to the door before the alarm was raised. His portly figure was not one of an athlete.
’Some time ago, footage was sent to an internet website from this very facility.’ He stopped as they reached the end of the corridor, and put his hand on the door. ’Of course, we persuaded the receivers that it was nothing more than a hoax, although I hear some had to be persuaded a little more vigorously than others. Then, we discovered someone was making phone calls to an outside number from inside these premises.’ He turned to face Rogers. ’To be more precise, from somewhere in your working quarters.’
Rogers held up his hands defensively. ’I never called anyone sir, I swear-’
’Hush, Dr. Rogers. We know everything now.’ He opened the door. It led into a large open space, with a low ceiling. It was pitch black, save for a solitary light at the far end. ’Please walk to the lit area.’ It was not a request.
Rogers tried to swallow, but his throat was too dry. He shuffled towards the square of light, his mind racing for excuses. How could he know? He’d placed blockers on the phone, completely untraceable!
Kahl had disappeared somewhere behind him. Reaching the lit area, he stared ahead. He saw his reflection in the glass in front of him. Unwashed greasy hair was slicked back, apart from a strand that constantly dropped in front of his left eye. His white lab coat tried to hide the well fed belly that betrayed years of fast food and sitting at computers.
’Do not be alarmed,’ came Kahl’s voice from an intercom that echoed around the room. Rogers’s stomach was tied in a knot that could have moored a battleship. Then the light above him went out. There was complete silence, except for his heart thumping, and his short, nervous breaths. Then lights went on behind the glass. There were four…corpses, standing next to each other. Standing…next to each other. Their skin was green and yellow from decomposition, their lips pale red. Three of them had hospital clothes on, and the other wore a lab coat. Their eyes were open. Rogers looked closer.
’Don’t worry,’ said Kahl from next to Rogers, making him jump. He managed to strangle a scream in his throat. ’They cannot see us. It is a one way mirror. Please, take a closer look.’
As Rogers peered through the glass, he could see the little movements they were making; twitching fingers and elbows. There were thick metal belts strapped to their waists, and bolted into the wall.
‘Christ. They look like…well…zombies.’ said Rogers.
‘Ha! If you’re referring to Haitian Voodoo mythology, I can tell you you’re quite wrong. However they do bear a remarkable resemblance to those creatures filmed in some risible B-movies I have seen.’
Rogers stared at Kahl. He’d quite liked some of those movies, especially that one in black and white.
’These are some of the earliest victims of the superflu,’ continued Kahl. ’The gentleman in the lab coat was Dr. Campion, head of the Darwin Institute. It was he who discovered what he thought was a cure for influenza. What a sad fate became of him. This fate will also become of our mole, Dr. Rogers.’
Rogers froze. Kahl leaned over his shoulder and whispered into his ear, ‘I have some men with Dr. Logan right now. I guess the realisation he was no longer in control was too great for him, so he felt he had to sabotage our whole operation. How very sad.’
Rogers was still paralysed. ‘Logan?’ he whispered hoarsely.
‘Of course. Did you not suspect anything?’
‘He…he’s the mole?’
‘I’m afraid so Dr. Rogers,’ said Kahl. ’I know you worked closely with him, but I can assure you he is not part of our team anymore.’
’What…what will you do with him?’
’An interesting question. I believe he will still be able to help us move forward with our research...in one form or another. Which brings us to our next case.’ Kahl walked off into the dark again, and Rogers followed. The relief hadn’t quite sunk in yet; he still had some items in his pocket he shouldn’t have.
’The poor pathologist who was about to perform an autopsy on Dr. Campion had an awful fright when the doctor sat up and bit his shoulder. We quarantined him in the room I will show you now, and you will realise why we are burning all corpses without question.’
Kahl leaned away and mumbled into a walkie-talkie. Rogers thought he heard, ‘loosen the bindings…’
Rogers could hear a mechanical whirring noise from inside the darkened room they were stood in front of.
‘The bite was not very deep, nor did it puncture any major blood vessels. The pathologist, Dr. Allenby, was quite lucid for several days after the bite. He described to us the pain he was suffering from the infection, and also his mental health. Delirium set in on the morning of the third day. By the afternoon he was dead. But then…’
The lights in the room went on. At the far end stood a man, dressed only in trousers with a bandage wrapped around his shoulder.
‘I should also tell you that between us and it is glass, not a mirror,’ said Kahl.
The lights above Rogers and Kahl turned on. The thing screeched and charged them at full speed, slamming head first into the glass. Rogers screamed and fell backwards. Kahl didn’t flinch.
‘As you can see, he is somewhat quicker than our previous fellows,’ said Kahl, with an unnerving calm that annoyed Rogers.
‘Sweet Mary, if that thing gets out we’re all done for!’ panted Rogers, still lying on the cold floor.
‘Possibly, possibly. Unless we can harness it…’ said Kahl. He reached down and offered Rogers a hand. ‘If we can bring this under our control, and understand it’s…it’s needs, we could have a weapon more powerful than all the nuclear warheads in the world.’
There was a glint in Kahl’s eyes that worried Rogers intensely.
‘You, Dr. Rogers, will help me realise its potential.’