Doctor Sentry popped into the doorway to his room less than ten minutes after leaving and gestured for the two handlers to push Max out into the hallway on the gurney he was now strapped to.
“I am sorry Max, but things are very fluid right now.”
Max thought he heard the sound of gunfire from outside the building.
Sentry had his assistants push Max into a longer room with four beds in it. One bed was empty, the two others were occupied by Bill and Stewart. Bill’s bed was lying flat, but Max could see the rise and fall of his friend’s chest as he struggled to get free of his bonds. Stewart had one arm strapped to the rail on the side of the bed, much as Max did. Her arm was bruised and bloody, also just like Max’s. Though she was gagged with an orange colored ball strapped into her mouth, Max saw the short nod of approval as she looked him over.
Max was not gagged; apparently he had not been fiery enough with his speech to warrant one. Keeping his vision on what Sentry was doing Max waited to seize his chance, for once the doctor appeared to be focused wholly on what he was doing. The doctor was busy preparing a syringe he had taken from a small glass refrigerator built into the counter. Sweat mingled with the blood from one of the bruises on Max’s forehead and trickled down into his eye.
Doctor Sentry turned with the needle and walked towards Stewart, “Series two for you dear. It should work just fine, but isn’t as advanced.” He checked her arm as she struggled, “I thought we’ve been through this already? Hold still.”
Stewart continued to struggle, making it difficult for the Doctor to line up a vein. Sighing in frustration he mentally sent for the two goons by the door to hold Stewart down. Max intercepted the orders and changed them. Sentry seemed surprised when his two assistants tackled him to the ground, sending the syringe flying.
“What?” he cried out in alarm as he fell. “Stop this now.” Max saw him emphasize his words with a strong mental push, which he changed to indicate they should continue to hold the man down.
Sentry’s brow furrowed in anger and his whole body lit up like a halogen lamp. The two assistants dissolved where they were touching him, their bodies seemed to be absorbed into Sentry’s own and he called out with his mind for more assistance as he got up. The remnants of the bodies of the two men who had jumped him fell off in pieces to lie in a disorganized pile at his feet. Sentry’s clothing was as blood free and spotless as before.
“So, we have a comedian here then. Who is playing games with my men?” His eyes roamed the room and locked onto Max. “I choose you, Max. Your other friend here has incredible strength, the woman is both stronger and faster than normal, but you! You, my friend haven’t shown your cards until now have you?”
The four men Sentry had summoned appeared in the doorway and charged the doctor, having had their orders changed by Max when they were called. These men were dressed for war, carrying pistols on their belts, along with knives and wearing military style fatigues. Sentry watched them for a moment as they charged and then sent out a burst of orders that blanketed the area. Not hundreds of orders, not even thousands, it looked to Max like millions. Max grabbed onto as many as he could, but when the burst was over the four zombies were approaching Stewart and holding her arm steady, not attacking the doctor like Max wanted. Somewhere in the world there were thousands of zombies who were on their way here to rend the doctor limb from limb. Max hoped they arrived soon.
“I knew I was right.” Sentry said smugly. He bent over and picked up the syringe and approached Stewart’s arm. “You can’t order them yourself. Clever, but I am not your run of the mill second stage human anymore. I am a God.” Sentry stabbed the needle into Stewart’s vein and depressed the plunger. The zombies woodenly let go of her arm and approached Max.
“Stewart? Stewart, are you all right?” Max called.
“She’s fine, or she will be, soon. Things will go quickly now, and soon I will have double agents to infect the few I choose to leave alive.”
Max laughed, “We don’t have medical training; we’ll probably mess up the injections, even if you tell us what to do.”
Sentry stopped and stared for a moment at Max, a slight grin on his face, “Max, I don’t have any more of this.” He raised the syringe, “And I don’t think I could make more. You’ll pass on the subjugation just like we do, via saliva, blood or other bodily fluids.”
“What? You mean, we’ll eat people?”
“I don’t think you’ll do it by choice, but I will be able to force the issue. And anyone you infect as well.” Sentry plunged the needle into Max’s arm.
The doctor pulled the needle out and casually tossed it into the sink over by the counter. “There, that wasn’t so bad, was it? Tell me Max, can you affect verbal orders? Let’s see shall we? Kenneth, go see what is going on in the warehouse.” Max didn’t see any mental emphasis on Sentry’s words and Kenneth hastened out the door quickly.
Sentry nodded and said, “I see. Very interesting. I wonder why this is? Well, I won’t have to wonder long will I? Soon I will be able to crawl around inside your head to my heart’s content.”
Bill was struggling on the gurney, trying to sit up against the massive webbed restraints holding him down. Sentry glanced at him, “There is one who won’t give up. A shame, really. Aaron, if that one breaks free, shoot him.”
The assistant he addressed pulled a pistol from his belt and stepped towards Bill.
Max felt the liquid spreading through his body, it felt like fire, like it was killing him, it hurt like the Hell his wife always warned him about. More gunshots sounded from outside and Sentry cocked his head and took in many data packets, but Max, distracted as he was, didn’t intercept any of them. He could barely focus his eyes on Sentry.
The doctor nodded and probed against Max’s mental defenses gently, “I think you are weakening. Very good.” He moved over to Stewart, who was lying almost motionless on her gurney. Taking out a scalpel Sentry ran it across Stewart’s arm, blood pooled on her skin, which Sentry brushed aside with one hand to reveal unblemished skin. “Amazing. Even faster than series one.”
Sentry moved to Max’s side and plunged the small blade into the flesh above the injection site. He pulled the knife down Max’s arm and watched with interest as the precise cut healed over with a minuscule amount of blood loss. Looking Max in the eyes, he asked, “And you don’t want to give this gift to your fellow humans? To not do so would be…criminal.” Again Sentries thoughts pressed into Max’s head, getting further in than they did before and causing Max to cringe backward.
“What? You want me to stay out of your mind? That’s what you want isn’t it?” Sentry asked.
More gunfire came from nearby. The man named Kenneth came rushing back into the room.
“Doctor?” the man began.
“Yes, yes, I am still getting your information. I know the warehouse is experiencing some troubles. Maybe I shouldn’t have knocked a hole in the wall between here and there after all. Well, Max, I am afraid there is another situation that I simply must go and clean up. We’ll talk later. You’re going to live forever now you know, so we’ll have plenty of time to discuss things. I am on top of this new world order and you…you, are my chosen son to carry the word of my greatness to the people.” Sentry cocked a thumb at Stewart, “She’ll be my backup, my covert agent, as it were. After she knocks out a kid or two for me to study. Congratulations, Max, you’re going to be a father, if you aren’t already. I’m afraid it will all be invitro though, things are going too fast to do it the old fashioned way. I’ll get what I need before you leave.”
Sentry’s voiced faded off as Max fell into a dazed state of semi-consciousness. It felt like the series three formula was eating away at his insides. Sentry gave Max’s mind one last probe and was pleased to find it had almost fully collapsed and that he was able to rifle through it with no trouble at all. Pulling away from the memories, Sentry nodded at the men in the room with him, “Okay, Kenneth, Chad and Chris, you come with me and cover my back. Do not let anything happen to me. Aaron you stay here and watch the subjects.”
Sentry left the room with his thugs in tow and turned right down the hall.
Several minutes went by and all the gunfire in the distance ceased, but the sounds of fighting and yelling did not. Bill continued to struggle against his bonds. One of the many loops of rope around his chest snapped, sounding like a fire cracker as it broke. Aaron raised his pistol. “I will shoot you if you break free.” This caused Bill to slow down, but not entirely cease his struggling.
Max threw his head back against the gurney and screamed in agony. The guard looked his way and Bill flexed again, tearing off another of the many strands holding him down. The screams were not acting on Max’s part, ‘It is tearing me up inside.’ The pain became a white rod of hurt coursing through his system. Stewart wasn’t doing much better, but the gag in her mouth prevented her from screaming like Max.
The two of them thrashed around uncontrollably to the distant sounds of combat, then, almost at the same time, they both stopped moving. Stewart looked across at Max, she had a sheen of bloody perspiration coating her brow. Her look seemed to ask if he was okay. Max was not okay, his head was roaring. His senses were alive and questing outwards like millions of psychic worms tunneling through his surroundings. Max was able to sense everything on a much more intimate level than before. It was like going from a silent film to a three dimensional interactive entertainment extravaganza compared to his abilities before.
The process to gather the information was slower than gathering similar detail with his eyes, but so much more thorough. He knew the contents of the room as if he had brought everything inside himself. He even knew that the burly assistant had a key ring in his pocket and what the keys opened; the door on a Kia Sedona and the door of his house. He knew that the man had photos of both his wife, now dead, and his lover, also dead in his wallet. Also, Aaron had a son, a young kid who had touched both the photos. ‘The kid’s prints are all over his wallet. I wonder if he got in trouble for that?’
Slowly, Stewart bit down into the gag holding her mouth open. The thick red ball crumbled under her assault and she spit pieces out as she made progress. Eventually she was able to speak and said, “Max? You still with me?”
Max didn’t respond, his eyes were wide open assimilating the information he had gathered. ‘There is so much here. I could get lost.’ He was examining the blood on the floor. It came from two hundred and thirty seven different individuals. ‘I don’t know how I can tell, but I know I am right.’
Stewart’s voice brought him out of a detailed examination of the contents of Aaron’s pockets, “Max!”
Aaron was looking at Stewart, and Bill took that opportunity to rend the handcuffs off of his arms and burst free form his gurney. He fell over as the gurney collapsed beneath him and Aaron swiveled back towards the man, raising the pistol up.
Bill launched himself at Aaron and the pistol barked three times in less than a second. Aaron crumpled as Bill hit him. They went down in a tangle of limbs, but only Aaron rose to his feet, kicking Bill off of him to stand. Bill rolled over onto his back, feebly clutching his stomach with both hands, trying to hold in his life blood.
Max thought, ‘I should be doing something. What’s wrong with me?’ He struggled with his bonds, but it was hopeless, ‘Apparently the injection didn’t give me any sort of physical strength.’ Max screamed in frustration, “Bill! Damn it don’t die!”
Across from him Stewart’s arm came from where it was bound on the gurney. She calmly reached over and started tugging on the straps holding her down. Aaron shifted the gun to her, “Stop. I will kill you.”
“Sentry wouldn’t like that buddy, boy. I got you in a tough spot. You can’t kill me, I’m one of his experiments. Kill me and you’re just as dead and we both know it.”
Aaron hesitated. Stewart released her other arm and with blazing speed started tugging on her chest straps, tearing them free, instead of carefully undoing them one by one.
Something in Aaron snapped, he stepped towards Stewart and raised his gun to pistol whip her, then a noise at the doorway distracted him. An old man stepped into the room, his eyes were closed and he seemed to be counting his steps, his lips were moving as he did so. When he reached ‘three’ he turned and counted two more steps. Aaron turned and fired at him, but the old man stepped sideways at the last possible second and the bullet hit the wall beside him.
Another shot and another miss and that was all the time Stewart was going to give the zombie. She tore off the arm rest and smashed it into the back of Aaron’s head. Snarling he turned and unloaded the rest of the clip on her. Stewart calmly tore the straps off of her legs and turned sideways to let them hang over the edge of the gurney.
“I didn’t miss.” Aaron stammered, pulling the trigger of the pistol again and again on an empty chamber.
Stewart shook her head. Aaron reloaded and Ruben knelt down next to Bill and opened his eyes. “Aw, Bill.” He said softly, “What a mess you got yourself in this time.”
“Untie Max, Ruben!” Stewart yelled, rushing Aaron.
“I didn’t miss!” Aaron yelled, he brought his gun up to block Stewart’s first punch.
“I know.” Stewart said, remaining calm as she brought a fist up into the zombie’s rib cage.
The two traded blows and Ruben stayed by Bill’s side. “I don’t have any bandages. Why don’t I have any bandages? They didn’t tell me to get any. Why wouldn’t they tell me I would need bandages? I’m sorry Bill.” Ruben pulled the gag off of his friends head.
Bill tried to respond, but only blood poured out of his mouth.
“Shh, it’s okay. You’ll be okay. You were okay before, remember? You broke your leg and it healed up in only a few days.” Reuben said.
Max continued to struggle with his bonds, then switched tactics and focused on Bill instead. He sent the worms into his friend and saw the horrifying damage wrought by the three bullets. Bill’s body was fighting back, but the damage was severe, he wasn’t going to make it.
Aaron brought his combat boot up into Stewart’s groin; she turned and took the blow on the outside of her leg. She kept spinning and hooked his leg with her arm, tugging him off balance onto one leg. Continuing her effort she pulled him up by his thigh and shook off his attempt to grab her around the neck by swinging the man outward. She spun him once and took a large step toward the wall, smashing his head into it. Stewart had thought the wall was just made of gypsum, but the zombie’s head rebounded off of it without doing the slightest bit of damage. Aaron’s head didn’t fare so well, it looked like a water balloon attached to his neck now, his shattered skull leaking fluids as Stewart turned and slammed it into the wall again. She let go of his legs and watched his body crumple into an unmoving pile at the base of the wall.
Stewart was at Max’s side in an instance, tearing aside his bonds and helping him over to Bill. She brushed the blood off of his face, to see unblemished skin where his bruises had already healed. She smiled briefly and knelt with him over their fallen comrade.
Bill tried to sit up, but Max put his hand on his chest and pushed him back down. The physical touch sparked a connection between the two and for a moment Max was inundated with Bill, the two of them mingling in a way that made them one. There was no communication between them, they didn’t need words; Bill was dying and Max couldn’t save him. Tears came to both men’s eyes and Max knew he was going to have to go back to Iowa alone, to face Trisha and the kids. Bill lay back on the floor and pulled in a deep breath, understanding and seeming to accept his fate.
“Do something, Max!” Ruben said.
“You have to. I…I got nothing, but I’m supposed to be here, I’m supposed…to get Bill out.” Ruben’s voice trailed off and he bowed his head.
Outside the room the sounds of fighting had lessened, it sounded like Sentry was talking down to someone, monologueing the error of their ways or something. A quick glance in that direction showed Max that he had a woman on the ground and was hovering over her. It was Aubrey, she was still herself, but her mind was struggling not to let Sentry inside of it. Nearby several other zombies stood frozen, watching the unfolding drama.
“We gotta go.” Ruben said.
“Yeah?” asked Stewart, she looked Ruben over and asked, “Where’s the bomb Ruben?”
“Gone. I only came here for Bill, you have to go…to him.”
“Stewart,” Max said, “He’s winning, if we are going to hit him, we need to do it now, she’s almost spent.”
Max got stiffly to his feet, looking at his friend beneath him. Stewart grabbed his arm and tugged him towards the door. He noticed there were holes in the front of her fatigues, but no blood. Pulling to a stop at the doorway he paused to look back over Ruben and Bill.
“Wait, Stewart, one second.” Max rushed back over to Bill and got down over his body again, he licked his lips and bent down over the wounds in his stomach. With both hands he pulled Bill’s shirt apart, eliciting a wearied grunt from his friend. Max put his face to Bill’s wound, hovering just over the worst of them, he spit into it. He sent another probe into the wound to see the effect and when he rose there was a slight smile on his face, “Get him out of here, Ruben!”
“What’d you do? What did you do, Max?”
“I think I fixed him, just get him out of here! Get him back to his family.”
Ruben nodded, “I intend to.” With that he grabbed Bill by the hands and swung him up onto his shoulder in a fireman’s carry. By the time Ruben reached the hall he just caught the last of Max and Stewart running through the hole Sentry had made in the wall to get to the warehouse.