The hood was pulled off his head abruptly. Max couldn’t see anything at first, the white lights above him drowned out everything else. As his vision returned he could see he was in a doctor’s office. It was unlike any office he had visited before, for one thing it didn’t have the battle of chemicals versus sickness that Max associated with such places. It had the metallic tinge that he recognized as blood. His quick glance of the surroundings showed him the source of that odor, the floor was covered in streaks of dark red and black blood. It looked like someone had tried to mop the room up, but gave up in defeat and had left the floor a motley mess of streaked crimson streamers.
“I see you’ve noticed the mess. I am sorry about that. All I can say is this is the cleanest room I have left.”
Max’s head turned towards the voice. It belonged to a man that was very difficult to look at. He was of average height, had brown hair and wearing a white doctors coat with green scrubs pants. Black shoes and a stethoscope completed his ensemble, giving him a ‘doctor’ look, even if Max knew better. The man radiated energy. Max peeked at him with his zombie vision and quickly had to force his mind back to normal vision before his senses were overwhelmed by what he saw. ‘Well, we wanted to find the leader. Now where is that bomb?’ This thought was followed immediately by fear, ‘Fuck, am I screwed.’
“I am Doctor Thomas Sentry.” said the man, extending his hand towards Max, who automatically tried to raise his hand as well. “So, sorry.” Sentry continued, hastily lowering his hand, “I’ve forgotten you are bound, but, well better to be safe than sorry. You would not believe the problems I have been having with the living lately.”
Max was bound with his arms behind him and sitting on a solid chair, which pressed his arms uncomfortably into his back. “What do you want with me?”
“Oh, so direct! I can appreciate that, even if I was expecting a little less rudeness. What is your name?”
Max felt pressure in his mind, it was as if a massive headache was starting, his brain felt like it was going to explode. The pressure shifted from an overwhelming pressure to thin, spikes of pain that were seeking to lance through his head. He broke out in a sweat and shook his head, trying to repel the assault. “Stop it!” he said softly, “Just stop it.”
The doctor shrugged and the pressure eased, “It hardly ever works anyway. But it was worth a try. I can’t seem to get into living brains as easily. But I think I can overcome that. Which brings us to why you are here.”
“My name is Max.”
“Max, I am pleased to meet you. I am very pleased you didn’t perish in the trap I set, but I really didn’t know what else to do to slow you down. It is unfortunate that some of your friends chose to resist, but really I only needed two of you. For now.”
“What do you want with me?”
“First, I want to continue existing. So you soldiers are all going to have to be put in your place and your superiors are going to have to be defeated. The old world is gone. I would like to keep a few of you alive. It isn’t, technically, necessary, but I would hate to have you wiped out and then discover I needed you. I am fairly certain that none of us new types will be propagating and humans are so very good for that. But it comes down to that control issue again, doesn’t it?”
Max wasn’t sure if he was supposed to respond, so he shrugged his shoulders as best he could.
“Of course it does. I’ll give you a little history here, not enough to glaze your eyes over, but I think a little bit is in order. I created this next step in our evolutionary history when I invented a formula for continuing cellular senescence…have you studied biology, Max?”
“I have no idea what you are talking about.”
Sentry frowned, “Biology, the study of life. It should have been humanities number one priority. Extend life and we would have all the time in the world to look into other problems or create wealth or kill each other. Instead we wasted it on…”the doctor trailed off, his eyes, already almost a clear white color, brightened.
Max looked closer, bringing up his second sight, but trying to keep it dampened down. He saw a stream of so many orders being issued from the doctor to his minions that the ‘packets’ might as well have been unbroken lines of light. But he also saw something different; the doctor was also taking in information. Max risked taking a peek at one and what he saw was confusing. The data coming back was in English and looked like a poor resolution video stream.
The vision was in a smoking city that looked poorly built, Max was reminded of some soviet style structures he had seen on the internet, massive structures used as housing projects for the ‘citizens’. There were a dozen such buildings in sight and a mob of oriental undead running through the streets, pouring into one of the buildings. The voice coming through had a southern accent and sounded harried, “….Chen is in the building. I’m sending in forces now, but you can see he is holding them back. China is out of control and I need your help or I am going to lose it. Just give me five goddamned minutes of your focus!”
Max skipped around to several of the other incoming and outgoing data streams, they all seemed to be reports from various places around the world.
“Are you listening to me?” Sentry asked, “You aren’t hurt are you?” The doctor examined Max’s head and looked him in the eyes. Then he took a small light out of his pocket and shined it into Max’s eyes, one at a time. “No obvious sign of head injury.”
“I’m okay.” Max said. He kept his second sight dimmed, so he could focus on Sentry and on the data the zombie was receiving. The man was processing hundreds of thousands of packets a second. Max had never tried to use his power to see in the real world and to see zombies at the same time, it was a new experience and one he wished he had explored before. ‘The real news is, he doesn’t know I can do it. Can I change what he is seeing?´ Max was afraid that doing so might alert Sentry to his meddling, ‘I’ll hold off for a little, see what else I can learn before I try anything.’
“So, as I was trying to explain, I found a way to extend human life indefinitely. The first process didn’t work out so well. You’re looking at the result of an experiment that got out of hand. I am sorry to say that the test subject was, well, rather more clever than I gave him credit for and in my haste to..ah, rectify, the situation I became infected with the series one strain. I had worked up two more series, which were supposed to be tested later, but with all this going on, I hadn’t thought of trying them out. Until recently. Do you know how rare humanity is in this region? Trust me, there is nothing left alive for a hundred miles around here.” The doctor looked at Max, pausing for an overly long time.
Max intercepted another urgent message from halfway around the world. Chen, it seemed was winning.
“I was going to have some people brought up alive from Miami, there is a group of diehards, so to speak, holding out down there and I have a few camps set up in other states across the south too. Then I sensed your helicopters coming in. You’re the first to arrive and I think, for winning that race, you deserve a prize. Don’t you?”
Max nodded, “I don’t suppose you’d consider letting me complete my mission?”
Laughing the doctor said, “Well, at least you haven’t lost your sense of humor. It’s all the better that you arrived here first. The others are still a good distance away; you beat them by a huge margin. With any luck I will know if the other series works out before they get here. And you brought a woman with you. I was going to use my maid for the series two test, but your soldier will work just as well.”
“No.” Max said.
“No? Well, really you came here to kill me. I should just convert you and send you down to Miami to weed out the resistance. I am giving you a chance to live again. Trust me; this is a very merciful gesture on my part. But I am a merciful god. If it works as it is supposed to you will not die. But I suspect it will give me some, well, control, as it were. An access into your mind that will allow me to use you to infect others and bring the living under my command as well as the dead. You get to live and be the living equivalent of what I am to the dead. You’ll probably get the series three formula. Two should work properly; I think I’ll give that to the woman. I work better with men and you seem easy enough to get alone with. Not like your brawny friend, he wouldn’t even give me his name. So for working with me, you get the reward of, well, working with me forever. It is a glorious journey we have ahead of us Max. You, I, and the woman soldier.”
“You haven’t spoken to her yet?” Max asked.
“Not yet. You’re my second stop, she’ll be the last one.”
‘I didn’t see Ruben at the wreck. Did the old coot die in the crash?’ Max wondered.
Out loud he said, “Well, the ‘woman soldier’ is a little cantankerous, I doubt she will be as co-operative as I am.” To himself Max thought, ‘Stewart will do something, she’ll figure out a way to stop him.’
“So I saw at the crash site. Don’t worry, I can be very persuasive.”
“Why not just use me and see if this, uh, series three, works okay and skip her altogether?”
“I can learn from both series Max. I made incremental improvements in both.”
“But we still might die?” Max asked.
“That is, unfortunately, a possibility. Without a series two subject to study, I can’t know if the adjustments I made with three were in the right direction. Oh, don’t look so alarmed, at the very least you’ll come back like I am. Probably.”
“There is always risk Max. I will send in some helpers to prep you, please don’t give them any trouble, they are under orders to prep you at any cost, and I want this done today, regardless of any broken bones you might suffer at their hands.”
The doctor left the room to be replaced by two very capable looking zombies pushing in a heavy steel gurney. Still using his half sight, he felt these two were at least the equal of Aubrey. ‘Where the hell is she, anyway?’ Max thought as the two approached and began unstrapping his restraints. Of course he fought anyway.