The Last Bastion of the Living
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Dwayne shook his head. “Maria believes in what she is doing. It gives me pause to usurp a mission that will free the city from the Scrags. But I am beginning to have grave reservations.”
“So we won’t do anything.”
Dwayne nodded. “Not yet.”
“I’ll keep an eye out for more information.”
“Thank you. You’re a good soldier and a good friend, Lindsey.”
She gave him a slight smile, then stood up. “I lost Ryan and a lot of other good people to the Scrags. I don’t want to lose Maria. I have to believe she’s okay...even if she’s...”
“She’ll come back to us,” Dwayne said firmly. He had to believe it and he wouldn’t stop believing it. He wanted Maria in his arms and far away from the dangers of the Inferi Scourge.
“I know you feel that what she’s doing is the right thing, but does any of this make you nervous at all?”
Dwayne stared at the cooling mug of coffee sitting on this desk, then gave her a short nod. “Absolutely. But I believe in Maria and she is adamant that she is doing the right thing for all of us.” His eyes strayed to the reports on the corner of his desk.
Standing, Lindsey leaned heavily on her cane as she turned to leave. Dwayne noticed her limp was always worse after a long day at work. He walked her to the door, hoping she didn’t take it as an insult. With a grateful look, she clung to his arm until she found her balance again.
“I always used to believe that the more you know, the more peace of mind you will have. That is why I started hacking when I was a kid,” Lindsey said, pausing in her steps so the door wouldn’t open.
“Do you believe that now?”
“Fuck no. I think the more I know the more terrified I am,” Lindsey admitted. “I’m still not thrilled about what the SWD has done to Maria, but I have to say I really hope they succeed.”
Dwayne motioned to the door and it slid open. “Good night, Lindsey.”
Once she was gone, Dwayne sank into his chair and held the small drive in his hand. Every day he felt like he had to fit the puzzle pieces together. The trouble was finding all of them. Like Lindsey he knew enough to frighten him, but ignorance was not bliss at times like these. His gut kept telling him something was wrong with everything happening around him. His only hope was that Maria would do her job and come home to him. In the end, he supposed that was all that truly mattered.
* * *
Again consciousness hit her like a fist. Her revived senses swiftly took in her surroundings. Her mind adapted to the new scenario, but not without anger building inside her.
Omondi sat across from her at a conference table. From the expression on his face, he had also just awakened. They had both retired to their rooms after the incident with Gideon. Obviously, their wristlets had not kept them stimulated and they had fallen into another black out.
Both of them checked their wristlets for the time and date. The function was disabled. Together, they glanced at the clock on the wall. It only told them the time, not the date.
“How long were we out?” Maria wondered aloud.
The doors on the far side of the room opened and Mr. Petersen, immaculate in his white uniform as always, and Dr. Curran, looking more haggard than before, filed into the room and were seated in the chairs at the end of the table.
“Good to see you again,” Mr. Petersen said to the two soldiers.
Omondi’s brow was heavily furrowed as he glowered at the man. “What’s Gideon’s condition?”
“I see we’re straight to the point on that issue,” Mr. Petersen said with a smile. “Would you like to tell them, please, Dr. Curran?”
Dr. Curran’s blond hair obscured her face as she leaned over her pad. Maria had the impression she was trying to hide from the two soldiers glaring at her. Finally, she let out an exhausted sigh and sank back in her chair. “Gideon had an adverse reaction to the Inferi Boon Virus. We couldn’t stabilize him. One moment he was lucid, the next he was mindless and tried to attack.”
“And?” Mr. Petersen prompted her.
“We gave him the cure and revived him. He’s in observation right now recovering. Understandably, he was shaken by the ordeal. He will be transferred to another facility to wait out the rest of the mission. He’s earned his vacation,” Dr. Curran said. She kept her eyes firmly directed at her pad, not looking up until she was done speaking.
“I would like to see him,” Omondi said.
“That wouldn’t be best at this time. Psychologically, he’s a bit traumatized. We’ll let his psychiatrist decide when it’s best for him to interact with others,” Dr. Curran answered.
“So another tech will be taking his place?” Maria asked.
“Actually, a medic from the Constabulary has transferred to the SWD and has already undergone the procedure. In fact, all of your people have successfully been revived.”
“We were supposed to be there,” Omondi said angrily. “This was agreed upon.”
Mr. Petersen gave the big man a kind and understanding look that Maria didn’t believe. “After the incident with Gideon, it was decided that having you in the room would be detrimental if something else occurred. You’re not trained to deal with this sort of situation.”
Omondi’s huge hands flexed, then he sat back heavily in his chair, defeated. “When will we see our team and begin training?”
“Tomorrow,” Mr. Petersen answered. “We just wanted to make sure you’re both up to date on the latest situation now that we’re moving forward. We thank you for your time,” Mr. Petersen said.
The man in white and the scientist exited the room, leaving Maria and Omondi alone. Maria had no doubt that she’d be awakening in another room sometime tomorrow. She hated how they were using her blackouts to control her.
“It’s bullshit,” Omondi muttered.
“You don’t think they cured him?” Maria asked, shocked.
“It’s bullshit that we can’t see him. I know you didn’t have much interaction with him, but I did spend time with Gideon discussing his role in the mission. He’s a good man and I do consider him a friend. That they won’t allow me to see him is bullshit.” Omondi’s words were almost a growl.
“It’s bullshit that they use the blackouts to shuffle us around.” They were probably listening to her, but she didn’t really give a damn at this point. Dwayne was probably worried sick about her.
“I am certainly not pleased about that either,” Omondi agreed. “I realize this is not the Constabulary, but you would think the SWD would treat us with a bit more dignity.”
Maria looked around the bland, white conference room, then back at Omondi. “Tomorrow will come a lot faster than you think, you know. We’ll black out and tomorrow we’ll wake up when we’re supposed to head into training.”
Omondi tersely nodded, then tapped his wristlet. “This better not act up when we’re out there. I expect to have full control over our waking times. I understand that they feel we should regularly go into blackout to alleviate the emotional toll of our duty, but I want to control it. And I will make a fuss until I’m given it.”
“Have you studied the new weapons?” Maria asked.
A large smile pushed away his glum expression. “Oh, yes. We shall have plenty of fun with those.”
“Tomorrow,” Maria said with a sigh.
“Which is just a blackout away.”
“I wonder if we keep talking if it will prevent the black out from happening?”
“Want to talk all night like schoolgirls?” Omondi teased.
“And do each other’s hair?”
Omondi swept his big hand over his nearly bald head. “Sounds like a fun time.”
“Fuck it,” Maria said, folding her arms on the table and cradling her head on them. “I’d rather get to tomorrow and start getting this fucking show on the goddamn road.”
“That’s how I like my soldiers thinking.” Omondi teased. He folded his arms, too, and lowered his head. He gazed across the table at her. “Ready to save the world?”
“Ready and willing.” Maria wanted desperately to talk to Dwayne. She couldn’t reveal the program to Omondi, and there was no chance she would be revived in her room. With a sigh, she closed her eyes.
“See you tomorrow,” Omondi’s voice said.
“Tomorrow,” Maria answered.
She never even noticed when she slid into torpor.
Omondi chuckled as the squad of forty people practiced with their bolt weapons. Arms crossed over his chest, he stood next to Maria watching the squad dispatching targets erected across an indoor practice field. The Inferi Boon Special Ops were isolated from the rest of the SWD facility. They were never allowed outdoors and never left their dorms in the heavily-protected building they were assigned to.
Maria checked her pad, watching the stats scroll next to the names on her list. Each time a dummy was dispatched by a bolt weapon, it recorded every aspect of the attack.