When Mulgrew regained consciousness, he found himself in a very precarious position. Very precarious, indeed. He had been laid out on an operating table of some kind. He was in a lab, that much was clear, but beyond that he had no clue what had transpired in the time between being ambushed and waking up. Mulgrew did a quick body check to ensure that everything was still intact. Finding himself whole, he swung his legs over the side of the table and stood.
To his left were row upon row of empty cages built into the wall. To his right was the only door out of the lab. He threw himself at it. The handle turned, the latch clicked, but the door didn’t budge, not a centimeter.
“I’m afraid that won’t work.” The buzzing voice filled the room. It was in looking for its source that Mulgrew saw a young woman in a biohazard suit standing opposite him from behind a thick glass window. She had her finger pressed down on the room’s intercom button. “Unless you find a way to break this explosion-proof glass or crush the oxygen tank I used to wedge the door closed, which I wouldn’t recommend, you’re trapped in there. Trapped with the very same viruses you tried to steal.”
The woman held up a handful of empty vials and turned them over to show that their contents were most certainly empty. Mulgrew’s face flushed red with anger before dawning realization drained it of color. The woman smiled.
“Ebola, Lassa, Marburg, Ooo even weaponized smallpox; all your friends have come to play. It’s just a matter of which one will get you first.”
Mulgrew whipped his head back and forth as if trying to spot the aerosolized viruses, as if he could do anything to prevent them from attacking him. He threw himself at the door again and found it to be just as solid. His breathing became panicked.
“Oh yes, by all means, breathe deeply. Breathe those viruses right in. I’m sure you know what happens when you get infected. You’ll probably feel fine for the first couple of days, but then the flu-like symptoms will start. The problem is, you don’t know which disease you have; it could be all of them! Maybe you’ll get a rash, maybe you won’t. You won’t even know for sure once you start bleeding from every orifice you have since that’s one thing some of these nasties have in common. That’s a shame. It’ll probably be too late to get you help.”
Mulgrew’s panic seemed to grow and grow until it stopped. It clicked over to something else entirely. He actually smiled in spite of the obvious danger he was in. He said just two words, “You’re bluffing.”
He wasn’t sure if she could hear him or not, but she could probably read his lips and could damn well tell from his expression that he wasn’t buying her story. She got the point, alright.
“You think I’m bluffing? Take a look at those cages.”
Mulgrew couldn’t help himself. He took a closer look at the cages he’d only glanced at upon waking. They weren’t empty after all. Instead, they held dead rats, guinea pigs, and hamsters, each with a bit of bloody froth about the mouth and eyes. This cold bitch had really done it. If he wasn’t trapped on the wrong side of the glass, he might actually have considered making her his new disciple. She smiled at him and offered one last colorful farewell before taking her finger off the intercom.
“Enjoy your apocalypse, asshole.”
Kacie felt a little guilty about the psychological torture she was putting the deranged eco-terrorist through, but only a bit. There was nothing that could harm him in the room after all. The vials were still safely tucked away in her backpack, which bulged the back of her biohazard suit out like a blue plastic turtle. The dead rats had been euthanized earlier from a different experiment. The psycho was as safe as he could be, safer than he deserved to be after planning to unleash epidemiological Hell upon the city and beyond. No, Kacie felt just fine about giving him a taste of his own medicine and letting him sit and stew in it until the authorities arrived to haul him away and run him through all manner of painful, invasive tests. It was the least he deserved.
And just in case his buddies came by to rescue him, Kacie hoped their caution would win out. They may be the madman’s disciples, but they had signed on to be on the un-infected side of the end of the world; she doubted their loyalties ran as deep as death. Still, she didn’t want anyone messing around in the other labs because who knew what trouble they could get up to. She had initiated a decontamination protocol in all labs except for the one the group’s leader was currently occupying; anyone who ventured into them would get a nasty nose-full of formaldehyde, vaporized hydrogen peroxide, and chlorine dioxide gas.
But she wasn’t expecting to have to hide out in one of the labs herself. Two men appeared around the corner pushing one of the linen carts. Before they could react, Kacie ducked into the nearest lab and pulled the door closed behind her. She was thankful she’d taken the time to outfit herself in the biohazard suit since otherwise she’d have a lungful of sterilization chemicals at the moment. Kacie hooked herself into the lab’s air supply and felt the rush and roar of the breathable air flow over her. The only problem now was that she had no way of locking the door from the inside. She did the next best thing.
As the men and their cart came into view, Kacie pressed the lab’s intercom button from the inside this time and held up the empty vials again. She hoped the trick would work twice.
“Don’t even think about setting foot in here unless you want to be vomiting your lungs up in a day or two.” She shook the empty vials for emphasis. “Sure, you might get me, but are you willing to die a slow, painful death for it?” Kacie hoped not. It was a slim hope. If it came to fighting, she could fight. She’d probably lose, but she was ready just the same. She thought for a second that maybe she should have taken one of the guns after all, but then the thought of her trying to hold one in her over-sized gloves, let alone fire it, almost made her laugh. Almost.
Instead of barging into the lab and risking their lives on an almost certain bluff, the two men exchanged a glance, and then actually laughed together. They barely spared Kacie a glance as they continued pushing the cart up the hall.
If Kacie hadn’t been so relieved by the outcome she might have been ticked off at their behavior; they hadn’t taken her seriously for one second.
No, maybe that wasn’t it, she thought. Maybe those two never cared about the viruses. Maybe they’re not with the other guy, not part of his plan at all. So then what are they up to?
Kacie waited a few minutes until she was sure that the cart had moved out of the BSL-4 and off to wherever the men’s destination was. She shed her bulky suit back in the locker room, running the night’s bizarre events over and over in her mind. These guys had a plan; if she was going to have any chance of figuring it out, she would need one, too.