“You did this?” I shouted, struggling to get myself to my feet as my hands slipped on the tears covering the wooden floor.
“No,” Toni shouted back as she tried to gather me up in her arms.
“You made the drug,” I said, slapping away her arms.
“It was an antidote,” she said as I scrabbled back, bumping against her desk. “But it wasn’t ready. Wasn’t for human testing. They didn’t give me enough time, I told them I wasn’t for use on humans yet. There were more tests to do, more protocols to follow. When they refused to let me finish the work, wanted me to jump straight to the trials, I threatened to go to the media.” Her arms had fallen to her side, but lifted to wrap around her stomach as her slowing words pleaded. “They knew about you. I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone, but I couldn’t sit back, I had to call. They found me when I was on the phone, beat me until I told them what I’d said. If you hadn’t come here, they were coming to get you, anyway. I’m so sorry.” Tears ran down the bruises on her face and she barely reacted to the echoing gunshots filling the air.
We stood, each of us unable to talk. Neither of listening to the litter of explosions and the chatter of the gunfire, until finally she sucked up the tears, letting her arms fall as she straightened up.
“We have to go or we’ll never leave this place alive,” she said, her eyes on mine, despite not able to look in her direction.
“You did this to me,” I said, the words not rising above the chaos.
“No,” she said. “I saved your life and I’ll do it again. I’ll do it every minute of the day if you need me.”
I turned away, ignoring her words then felt her grip around my upper arm. She tugged, pulling me to the window.
“Look,” she said and I turned to face the glass. The swarm was still there, but now the people formed lines of camouflaged soldiers streaming from trucks out in the yard, each looking left and right, their rifles levelled as they piled into every building. A door burst open and a creature leapt out, its hunched over form the only sign it was once human. The arc of its jump was a feat greater than an Olympian in his peak, only tattered rags of its gown circled around its neck, dark veins spidered out from its chest. Heads turned its way, followed by rifles. Soldiers dropped to their knees, their eyes peering through the scopes, but were none able to pull the trigger. The creature tangled in one of their colleagues, whose flesh flew from his face, ripped and discarded into the air.
My head shook as I took in the melee. I knew I’d seen this and worse already, but those images were like I’d seen them through someone else’s point to view, like on TV, my consciousness removed. I was taking this in for the first time, my body shaking, panic radiating in waves. Only Toni’s hand held tight in mine stopped me from curling into a ball and giving up.
Machine gun fire burst out from the side lines. A frantic chatter of bullets exploded in the crowd. I counted three soldiers down before the creature and its victim took the brunt of the fire, swiftly joined by a hundred other rounds, every soldier cutting them down.
I felt my breath heavy as I watched, Toni’s warm hand clutching at mine, but I couldn’t press back. My body so numb I thought I might collapse.
“You’d be dead if I hadn’t helped. You’ll be dead when they see you. We have to go. They can’t let you get out. You’re already their best chance. They’ll want to pull you apart and see why it worked.”
“But,” I said, turning away from the reforming line, soldier’s rushing in to check for survivors. “I’m not immune. It didn’t work,” I said in a low voice. “Before. Before,” I repeated. “I was like them, I wanted to do so much, the hunger was so overwhelming.” Her hand clamped tighter and she turned me around by the shoulder, peering into my eyes.
“No, you’re not like them, won’t be. You’re alive. They’re dead. You’re human and I’ve given your body a chance to fight back. We’ve got to go, they’re in the building already.”
I stayed where I was, unable to move as I watched her rush to the wardrobe, watched as she pulled out a rucksack, shouldering the rifle. Beckoning me forward with a pistol in her hand, I started towards the door as she pulled down the red dress and stuffed it into the bag. As she took hold of the handle I stopped, hearing a noise the other side. Toni heard it too and threw herself to floor just in time for an explosion to destroy the lock and fling the door wide.
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Reading out of sequence, here’s the rest of Season Two.
Not read Season One? Here it is.