Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Fifty-Third Entry: You're a Foul One, Mr. Grimm

July 31st

We had a close call today, but thankfully Oliver is going to be okay, according to the doctors. It was far too close, but it did show me that at least some of the old Tara is still in there; the Tara that used to scare me a little.

For the most part things have been going pretty well here. Barbara and Beth have become inseparable, and a I feel a bit bad about that for Gerry since he was friends with Barbara first. I expect any day for Beth to suggest Barbara move in with us.

We need to get another laptop; when Tara found out that Lovelock had a Seventh City Online server she practically threatened me with bodily harm if I did not let her play. I let her, of course, but Pippa was hardly impressed,

Tara tried to create as Sith-like a hero as possible, naturally. Night_Tara ended up dressed in a black hooded cloak, and wielding a very lightsaber-ish electric sword. She had glowing red eyes and sharp teeth.

“So that's your idea of what a hero looks like, eh?” I asked her as her character flipped and fought her way through the tutorial section.

“Hey, I saw Captain Noir,” Tara replied, “and he was hardly wearing red and blue tights and a cape.”

Pippa must have seen that my account was online, because Super_Pippa quickly met up with Night_Tara. “What is this,” Super_Pippa asked, “You rolled new character?”

“Hello, Pippa.” Tara said into the mic.

“You?” Pippa asked, surprised, “What are you doing on here?”

“I let her use my computer,” I said into the mic.

“Pfft! Whatever, Super_Pippa said, “Have fun soloing,” and with that, she leaped from the street to the top of a building, and ran away.

“I told you she doesn't like me,” Tara said, a little coldly.

I kissed the top of Tara's head, “I'll go talk to her.”

I found Pippa in her room, and knocked, “Can I come in?”

“No.”

I let myself in anyway, “So what is your problem with Tara? Why are you being mean to her?”

“I don't like her,” Pippa said from where she sat on the bed with the computer in her lap. She didn't even look up from the screen as she spoke to me.

“You haven't given her a real chance yet.”

“She's a bitch.”

“If you would be nicer to her she wouldn't be. She just has a kind of severe defense mechanism.”

“Sharon was never a bitch to me,” Pippa protested, pulling her gaming headset off, “I miss Sharon.”

I sighed, “I miss Sharon too, ever moment of every day.”

“Then why are you with this?” Pippa turned her laptop to show me the picture of Tara naked from Bishop's DSi.

“How did you get that?” I asked.

“Bishop let me copy them off of his memory card,” Pippa smirked, “I think he likes me.”

I just shook my head in response.

“So why do you want to be with this?” Pippa pointed at the screen, “look at her! She's ugly. You can see her ribs.”

It's true that that is not the most flattering picure of Tara, but to call her ugly... “I happen to find Tara very attractive,” I said calmly.

“I didn't know you were into corpses. You should have just let Sharon-”

“Phillipa Webster, don't you finish that fucking sentence!” I hissed.

Pippa looked at me as if I had slapped her across the face, “But she's cheating on you!” Pippa clicked a couple of times with the mouse she had plugged into one of the laptop's USB slots and brought up the picture of Tara and Oliver with their arms around each other, smiling for Bishop's camera.

“I've already seen these pictures, and she's not cheating on me anymore than I was cheating on her with Sharon. She didn't have any reason to believe she would see me again, “ I was trying really hard to not lose my temper.

“But why her?”

“Because we go well together, or we did; we have to see if we really still do or not,” I explained, “Do you not want me to be happy?”

Another shocked look on her face, and then it turned to tears. I sometimes forget how young Pippa is. I don't think of her as only being a teenager, I think of her as a peer, and I need to remind myself sometimes that she is barely out of childhood (and that statement proves that I am getting old before my time).

“I don't want you to leave us!” Pippa sobbed.

“Who said I was leaving you?”

“You're gonna leave us to live with her. I don't want to lose you too!”

“Pippa, I'm not going to leave you. If, and this is just an if right now, if Tara and I decide to live together again, we'll work something out. Even if I were to move out I would still be around; I wouldn't leave town.”

Pippa slid the laptop off of her legs and onto the bed, and then jumped up and ran to me, “You won't need us anymore if you have her,” she said as she looked up at me through watery eyes.

“I need you all. I know you've read my journal; did I stop being a part of Sharon's life when I moved in with Tara?”

“Yes.”

“No!” I corrected her, “Even when we were fighting, we were still a part of each other's life. I love you, and Beth, and Gerry. You guys are my family, and I will always be in your lives.”

Pippa sniffled, “You promise?”

“Yes, Pippa, but I need you to be nice to her, okay? Even if you don't like her, please do it for me.”

“Oh-okay, but what if she is still sleeping with that Ollie guy?”

I swallowed, “Then it is something that we will deal with when we have to. “

“I don't trust her.”

“You don't have to. You just need to trust me.”

“She'll hurt you.”

“Women always do eventually,” I said in a tone meant to sound humorous

Pippa looked down at the clothing covered floor, “I'm sorry.”

“I wasn't referring to you, but it's natural for people to hurt each other, even if they don't mean to. I'm sorry for anything I've done that's hurt you.”

Pippa hugged me after that, and we talked for a while longer until she felt better. She told me that Bishop has been over a few times in the days since they arrived in Lovelock. It sounds like he's getting a crush on her.

With that fire put out, things settled down in our household again. Pippa stopped acting like an ass around Tara, and Tara started warming up, albeit cautiously, to Pippa. I don't know if Pippa will ever look at Tara the same way she looked at Sharon, but she is making an effort, and I can't really ask for anything more than that.

Of course the real excitement, and near tragedy, was yesterday. I didn't have to work at all yesterday, and was planning on spending the day with Tara, maybe walk around town, or just spend time at the park. Even though she walks with a bit of a limp still, she says that it doesn't hurt her. You know what they say about the plans or mice and men though, right?

I was again home alone; Gerry is still out on a run to the west of town, and Pippa, Beth, and Barbara had gone to the movie theater where they are playing the third (and as it turned out, last) of the Twilight movies. When the doorbell rang at around eleven, I opened the door without looking first expecting it to be Tara. It wasn't Tara.

I opened the door to find Oliver Gusteneaux towering over me. Before I could speak he lunged forward and grabbed me by the front of the shirt and shoved me back inside. He neglected to close the door behind him, not that that would have stopped what happened anyway.

Where Toni, Bishop, and Tara may all look a little on the emaciated side, Oliver looks like he hasn't missed a meal. The man is not exactly a bodybuilder, but compared to him I still look fat and feeble, and I look better than I ever have (that's not ego, it just doesn't take much to look better than I used to).

“You and I need to talk,” Oliver said, menace dominating his tone.

“I have better conversations when I'm not being throttled,” I said. If it seems like more bravado than you would expect from me, you have to realize one thing; I already knew what this talk was going to be about, and he did not know that I knew.

Oliver released me with a shove. I slid back a couple of steps on the tile floor on my sock feet, but managed to keep my balance.

“So you're the guy Tara's been pining over? Seriously?” Oliver said incredulously.

I decided to bluff, “Listen, I don't know you, and you don't know me, but I think it's only fair to warn you that I've been stomping zeds for a year now. Keep that in mind if you're looking for a fight.”

I do believe I failed my charisma check.

“Oh, I know who you are,” Oliver said with a humorless laugh, “You hung out with that Sigler psycho! You're part of why I've been watching people die for the last eight months because you had to start a fucking revolution.”

“You should know that while Tara was with me, it was that psycho Sigler she was pining for, so you might not want to talk shit about him in front of her.”

“I know that too. She talks in her sleep, did you know that? She says your name, and his name a lot. She cries in her sleep thinking of you, but it's me she wakes up to.”

“Woke up to,” I corrected him, still pressing my luck.

“What?”

“Past tense; woke up to. She hasn't said a thing about you to me, so I take that to means that you and her are over,” I snarked. I really don't know what got in to me there. Oliver is the kind of guy I would go out of my way to avoid back in school, but here I was antagonizing him.

It worked too.

“You little fuck!” Oliver growled, and punched me.

I may be able to talk crap with the best of them, but I cannot back that up with the ability to fight a living person unarmed. I went down on the floor hard; the taste of blood filling my mouth. I did a quick inventory of teeth with my tongue while I was down there, and found they all seemed like they were still in place.

“You don't deserve her. You left her to die in that hellhole you helped to create. I was the one that was there for her all this time. I'm the one that helped keep her alive, not you, but we come to this place because Toni thinks that there might still be some place to come to, and low and behold; you're already here, safe and sound!”

Still sitting on the floor, I rubbed my jaw as I spoke, “We didn't exactly teleport here, you know? I spent my fair share of time out on the road too.”

“She's mine!”

“I think that's her decision,” I said,

“Not if I kick the shit out of you until you agree to leave her alone,” he threatened.

“Yeah, 'cause she's so stupid that's she'll never piece together why I'm in traction, and telling her to go back to you.”

“That's it, shithead, I'm going to beat you until your ancestors feel it!”

Before I could say anything witty, someone beat me to it, “You'll do no such thing,” a dark voice oozed. A metallic click served as a period on the sentence.

Oliver turned to face the voice, and as he did, he cleared the path so that I could see as well. Standing behind Oliver, just inside the open door was a man in a Genetitech Security uniform, but he was no security officer. I recognized his bearded face from the news; it was Doctor Xavier Grimm.

Oliver moved like he was going to charge Grimm, “Uh uh uh, slicky boy. Take a step back there,” he motioned with the rifle in his hands, an FN F2000.

Doing as he was told, Oliver asked, “Who the fuck are you?”

Grimm looked back and forth between me and Oliver, “Why don't you ask your friend there; I'm pretty sure he knows who I am.”

Oliver looked at me where I still sat on the floor questioningly, “That's Doctor Xavier Grimm. The scientist Doctor Byron warned us about; the one who used to run Lovelock, wanted to experiment on survivors like us-”

“Oh good, my reputation does precede me,” Grimm said darkly.

“-and the man who most recently caused the deaths of five people escaping from the labs.”

“I wasn't going to stay trapped in that underground prison, not with what's coming. I'll be damned if I'm going to spend the rest of my life never seeing the sky again, but this is not the best place for that conversation.”

“So you're not going to shoot us?” I asked.

“I might, if it becomes necessary, but for now I need your assistance in an experiment. You can take a man out of the lab, but you can't take the lab out of the man, do you know what I mean?”

“Not really,” I said, still making no move to stand up, “You know, the whole town is looking for you?”

“Right, they are looking for me, not a security officer,” Grimm looked up thoughtfully, “I thought of shaving off the beard, but you know, I really like my beard.”

“He doesn't live alone, you know? Neither do I, people will come here looking for us,” Oliver said, sounding braver than he looked.

“And it's not like you can just march us through town at gunpoint without someone noticing,” I added.

“I can if there's something else for people to be paying attention to,” with that, Doctor Grimm reached into his pants pocket with his left hand, and pulled out a cellphone. The phone looked like a normal phone, but it was a little chunkier and had a fat antenna. He pressed some buttons on the screen and there was a loud noise from nearby; something exploded loud and large.

“There,” said Grimm, “that should keep everyone entertained for awhile. Get up, and lets go.” He motioned to the door with the end of his rifle.

I got to my feet, and started out the door, Oliver followed me.

“Don't think of trying to run either,” Grimm warned, “Even a brainbox like me know how to us this, and I have nothing to lose. Make a right at the street.”

Once outside I could see the large column of smoke rising up from a couple of streets away. Sirens were already filling the air as the fire department and Genetitech Security responded to the blast.

I glanced back and saw that Doctor Grimm has lowered his gun, but was also trailing far enough behind us that if either of us tried to take him, we'd be shot for our troubles.

I spat some blood from where my teeth shredded the inside of my mouth when Oliver punched me onto the sidewalk. Grimm said nothing about it, I'm pretty sure he saw Oliver punch me. When I did it a second time, he took notice though.

“Stop that; it's disgusting,” Grimm said.

“It tastes gross,” I complained.

“I don't care. I will not have you spitting all over my town.”

So it was okay for him to blow things up and kill people, but spitting is too much?

Grimm was leading us to a house a couple of lots over. So this last two weeks that means I've been living closer to a mad scientist than to my own girlfriend. I must be cursed, absolutely cursed. What are the chances that, of all of the empty houses in Lovelock, how is it that we are assigned the one next to his evil secret hideout?

I found the door of the nondescript gray house to be unlocked.

“What are you waiting for? Go inside,” Grimm ordered.

I obeyed, and Oliver followed me. Once he was inside, Doctor Grimm closed the front door and locked it.

The inside of this house looked pretty much exact;y like ours did when we first arrived; it had a very sparse IKEA-y sort of feel to its furnishings. There was certainly nothing visible that looked like a science experiment, but I thought at the time that maybe that was in one of the bedrooms. It wasn't.

“Move into the kitchen please,“ Grimm asked, almost pleasantly, “And please try to stay away from the windows; this house is meant to be unoccupied, so if anyone saw you it could lead to a great deal of unpleasantness for us all.”

Yeah, because this hadn't been unpleasant yet.

Oliver and I went into the kitchen, and stood next to the stove while Grimm passed us, and went into the small laundry room. This room was different that the one in our house. Instead of a separate washer and dryer on each side of the small room there was a stacked washer/dryer combo to the right, and a door on the left.

Behind the door was what appeared to be a small closet, on the back wall of which were a row clips intended to hold mops, brooms, and other cleaning implements. One of these was actually a sort of door knob which, when twisted, allowed the back of the closet to swing inward and reveal a staircase leading down.

“After you, gentlemen,” Grimm waved with his rifle.

“You want us to go in the closet?” I asked, having not seen the secret door yet.

\ “You should feel right at home there,” Oliver said.

“Children, if you can't play nice I will have to discipline you,” there was an edge to Grimm's voice that had not been there moments before, “Now please, through the door.”

I was quite surprised to see the brightly lit staircase leading down into a secret basement which had clearly been built to be a laboratory. Oliver followed behind me, and as I reached the bottom of the stairs I heard Doctor Grimm securing the doors at the top of the stairs.

“Now I know what you are both thinking,“ Doctor Grimm said, “'Is there one of these in my house?' No, there isn't. When I was administrator I had this house built especially for myself; it's one of the many things that dear Evelyn does not know about.”

Looking around the basement I saw that it was one large brightly lit room with while floors and walls. The walls of the room were lined with black topped work counters. There were two similar worktable islands in the center of the room. These work table were dotted with a pair of laptops, microscopes, test tubes, petri dishes, and a whole lot of glassware and electronics that I could not identify.

The most eye catching thing in Grimm's secret lab was in one corner though. It was a box about the size of a prison cell made out of thick plastic. There was another worktable inside the box, as well as a number small items that I could not see, and an unmade hospital bed. All of those things took a backseat to the main occupant of the cell though. Pressing against the transparent walls of its cell was a thin blond female zombie. She was wearing denim shorts and a white tank top and looked to be about sixteen; in her hand was what appeared to be a nine millimeter Beretta.

Oliver beat me to the first verbal response, “What the fuck is that?”

“That is my last test subject. Her name was Harriet if you must know, which is a horrible name to give to such a pretty young lady.”

I was shocked, almost speechless, “You did this to her? On purpose?”

“Did I infect her? Yes; I needed to test my latest batch. You see, I am getting very close to creating a cure for the infection; the 'Zed Virus' as you probably know it.”

“But she's a child,” Oliver said in shock.

“Which is part of what made her a good subject. Normally a straight injection of infected blood turns a person in twenty to thirty hours, as opposed to incidental infection which can take over a week depending of the severity of the initial infection, but with my latest vaccine I was able to keep her from turning for almost a full week. I know that I'm probably talking over your heads, but trust me, it is amazing.”

“You're a monster!” Oliver gasped.

“People said the same thing about German scientists in the forties, but it was their 'unethical' research that has led us to a lot of the technology we have today.”

“The Nazis were monsters,” I blurted out, “If you think comparing yourself to them is some sort of defense-”

“I am not defending myself!” Grimm roared, pointing the rifle at me, “I do not need to defend myself to people who simply are too selfish to sacrifice for the greater good of all. Don't you understand what coming up with a cure for this would mean? I will be humanity's savior, and if that means a few people have to die in the name of saving the world, then so be it. Those brave souls will be remembered for the sacrifice they made for humankind.”

“You're mad,” Oliver commented.

“Genius and insanity are very closely related. Did you know that Albert Einstein has Asperger's Syndrome? “

“So you admit that you're mentally ill?” Oliver said in a voice that said he felt he had just won some sort of argument.

Doctor Grimm shifted the barrel away from me and towards Oliver, “Keep pushing me, slicky boy, and see what happens! That boy you have would make an interesting test subject,“ and then to me, “or maybe the girl at your house? She's about young Henrietta's age, isn't she?”

Rage boiled up inside me in a way that threatening my own life had totally failed to do, ”Beth would have your head if you tried it.”

“The raven haired woman? Yes, she is a fiery one. I've met her; she doesn't care for me,” Grim took a deep breath and sighed, “Not that it's going to matter soon anyway, the albino bitch is going to let this whole place be overrun; I'm just trying to make as much progress as I can until it is safe for me to leave.”

“What's that supposed to mean?” Oliver asked.

“That's right, your dear sweet Evelyn Byron has been trying to keep this a secret. In probably about a month this town is going to be destroyed by the undead,” Grimm nodded his head towards where Harriet was banging the handgun against the wall of her cell, we couldn't hear anything from where we were.

“Do you mean the group to the east?” I asked.

Grimm brightened, “Yes, I do . I am surprised you know about it, but did you also know that they are coming this way? Did you know that if they stay on the course they are on they will end up right on our doorstep?”

I didn't know that, but I said nothing.

“So what are we to do? Try and fit everyone into the labs? Decide who stays on the surface to die? Try and fight them with all those asinine weapons Byron has been having people build? Run away and abandon everything we have?”

“What would you do?” I asked, working on the principal that if he was talking then he wasn't feeding us to Harriet or shooting us.

“We need weapons, but not this energy ray fighting robot bullshit people are building. We have the materials to build a nuclear weapon. We could easily build a single weapon that would take out the vast majority of the monsters.”

“But the radiation, couldn't the fallout endanger us?”

“Not if we were to do it now, while they are still far enough away. In any case, isn't that risk better than the certainty of being overrun? “

“Sounds like we're fucked either way,” answered Oliver.

“I wouldn't expect you to understand it. The only contribution people like you can make to science is as test subjects,” Grimm motioned to a pair of heavy wooden chairs sitting to the side of Harriet's cell, “Tie the slicky boy up!” he ordered me.

The chairs made me think of the electric chair from The Green Mile, right down to the padded leather straps on the armrests and the front legs. Oliver and I reluctantly went over to the chairs.

“Sit down!” Doctor Grimm ordered Oliver, and raised the barrel of the rifle to Oliver's face when he didn't move quick enough.

I assume that Grimm felt I was less of a threat than Oliver (and who could blame him), and so he had me tie him up. I made a show of trying to secure Oliver tightly, but stuck my thumb under the strap when I pulled it tight. My hope was that Oliver would have enough room to slip his hands out. For his part, Oliver was clenching his fists as I tied him up, making his arm as thick as possible.

I tried to secure Oliver's legs as loosely as possible too, but short of leaving it undone entirely, there's not much I could do there. We had to hope that Grimm would leave us alone at some point before infecting us with anything.

Grimm had me strap down my own left arm, and then felt safe enough to put down the rifle to secure my right. I don't think I've ever felt more helpless than right then. Even facing off against bikers or zeds I had never actually been tied down before.

“Okay, let's start,” Grimm said, rubbing his hands together. He walked over to one of the island work tables, and picked up a small digital recorder with a pair of round spheres at the top of it.

Turning the recorder on, Grimm placed it back on the table, “It is July thirty-first, and I am Doctor Xavier Grimm. After the promising, but disappointing results with subject fourteen, I have acquired two new subjects. I am going to try batch sixteen-f on subject fifteen, and batch nineteen-g on subject sixteen.”

Grimm went on for quite awhile, describing us to his recorder, and guessing what the results would be. His hypotheses were not promising for us. I am guessing that he was picked on by the jocks in school, as his description of Oliver's physical condition was done in the disgusted tone a person might use when making a detailed description of a piece of shit.

Crossing the room, Grimm went to a large stainless steel refrigerator, and opened it. I couldn't see into the fridge, but I could hear glass and metal clanking around. Presumably he was getting our doses of death ready.

“You know, I think I am really close to finding a treatment for this. If that stupid bitch had let me continue my research the way I wanted to, I would have a cure by now,” Grimm ranted, “I've pinpointed it, you see? The Zed Virus isn't a virus at all, but a bacteria. The reason it was so hard to spot is that it is almost identical in appearance to Eosinophil, or white blood cells, and who would be surprised to see an increase of those in a person with a viral infection?”

I don't think I'm getting all of this right. Not only was he talking well over my education level, but I was actually tied to a chair at the time waiting for a mad scientist to inject me with a death sentence.

“It's immune to most antibiotics though. The only thing I've found that kills it is Phlebotinum, but for some reason it only kills it dead outside of the body,” Grimm was filling a hypodermic syringe as he spoke, “You might find this interesting. Did you know that an undead body continues to produce both blood and saliva, the two primary transfer vectors?”

Grimm waited for an answer, but didn't get one.“Of course you didn't,” he said, “And what's really amazing is that the body does seem to digest food, but it doesn't seem to do it for any reason. A damaged undead does not regenerate wounded tissue. Eating doesn't even seem to slow their decomposition rate, but they also do not starve to death, so it doesn't seem to matter one way or the other. Hell, you can seal them in an airtight box, like Harriet there, and they won't suffocate. I could leave her in there when I leave and she'd be just fine until her body decays too much to stay active.”

Oliver broke his silence, “So if we left the zeds alone long enough they would simply fall apart on their own?”

“In theory, yes, however each person that dies becomes a new one, so the only way to truly eliminate them would be to eliminate all humans. That is rather problematic,” Grimm explained, his back still to us, “It's a bit like killing cockroaches. They're pretty easy to kill, electricity, blunt force, dismemberment, pretty much anything that will destroy the brain or its connection to the body, but there are just so damn many of them, and no matter how many you kill it seems like there are more coming.”

Doctor Grimm closed the door to the refrigerator, and turned to face us, two syringes, one a dark crimson and the other full of something clear. “But if I can stop people from turning in the first place, that should at least turn things a bit more in our favor,” he started towards us, “You guys should wish me luck; if this works, not only do you survive, but you will be a part of history.”

“Wait!” I said, trying to stall him again, “What about people who haven't been bitten? People who haven't been infected? Why do they turn?” It seemed like a reasonable question.

Grimm stopped, “Oh, maybe you are smarter than you look. That's the next piece of the puzzle, isn't it? My theory is that there's some airborne component to this bacteria that we are all infected with, but it remains dormant while our normal biological processes remain active. “

Grimm stopped himself, “But enough of this, we have work to do here. This should only hurt for a m-”

One of the laptop computers on the work tables chimed, and Grimm turned back to look at it. He grinned at what he saw, put the syringes down on the table, and turned the laptop to face us. In a window on the screen I could see a woman standing at the front door; he had installed a surveillance camera above the door. It was Tara, and she was looking around her, and I could see her mouth moving, but there was no sound.

“It's your little gray haired friend!” Grimm announced with amusement, “I'd better go make sure she doesn't come in; I don't know where I would put a third test subject.

Grimm picked up his rifle, and walked over the the stairs, and then turned back to us, ”If I hear you make a sound, I will kill her, do you understand?”

We both nodded our understanding, and Grimm ascended the stairs.

Once we heard the door close at the top of the stairs I turned to Oliver, “Please tell me you can get your hands free,” I practically begged.

Oliver's face became a mask of effort and determination as he started jerking his right arm backwards, straining against the cuff. At first it looked like I had still fastened the strap too tightly, but then his hand started to slide through as he practically tried to dislocate his thumb by folding it into the palm of his hand. In a couple more seconds his hand was red and raw looking, but it was also free.

As Oliver quickly unfastened his other restraints, I spoke, “Thank God, lets get out of here.”

“No,” said Oliver as he rose from the chair, “He's got that gun, and if we just go running up there, he'll shoot us, and probably Tara too. I haven't spent the last 8 months keeping her alive just to have you get her killed.”

“You're going to leave me here?” I asked.

“Don't be a 'tard,” Oliver spat, “If I let you die, she'll never come back to me. She needs to just be reminded of what a loser you are. I'm going to undo your straps, but don't pull free from them. We're going to wait for him to come back down, and then I'll take care of that sick motherfucker.”

True to his word, Oliver undid my straps, but did his best to make them look like they were still fastened. By the time we heard the door at the top of the stairs open again, we both looked like we were still tethered to our chairs, although Oliver was having to pin the end of the restraint to the left arm of his chair with his wrist since he did not have a second hand to set it properly with.

Doctor Grimm's shoes clomped down the stairs, and we could see him lean the rifle against the wall next to the bottom of the stairs, “It's okay, she moved on. If it makes you feel any better, she was looking for you,” he said to me, “Kind of sad really, but one cannot let emotions get in the way of progress.”

“No, that's something only humans would do,” Oliver commented.

“That's enough of that,” Grimm spoke as if talking to a petulant child, “I don't expect you to understand, but what I am doing is for the good of all mankind.”

Doctor Grimm walked back over to the laptop, which now showed an empty front porch, he seemed puzzled at what he found, “Where is the other syringe?” he asked, and started looking down at the floor to see if it had rolled there.

“Did either of you see what I did with the other hypo? I thought I put it ri-” Grimm turned to face us, and found Oliver standing right in front of him, his right hand raised, ready to attack

“Fucker!” Oliver yelled, and stabbed down with the hypodermic needle of infected blood obscured in his large hand. The needle buried itself in the side of Doctor Grimm's throat.

Shock, surprise, terror, and understanding all battled for control of Xavier Grimm's face as he realized where the missing syringe was. His left hand lifted halfway to his neck as if he meant to pull the needle out, but froze there in midair, “You... you...” he gasped as the infection flowed through his blood.

Before Grimm could say anything else, Oliver spoke again, “I wouldn't expect you to understand it, but the only way people like you can help the world is by not being a part of it anymore,” and with that, he punched the doctor in the face.

Grimm fell over backwards onto the work table, sending the laptop, the other three syringes, and a nearby microscope crashing to the floor. With his stomach exposed, Oliver hit him again, causing him to double over and fall to the floor. Either Oliver hadn't hit me that hard, or Doctor Grimm was a wimp.

“Go!” Oliver yelled to me, and I didn't need to be told twice; I was already on my feet. I bolted for the stairs, grabbing Grimm's rifle as I went to keep him from coming after us with it.

Oliver was right behind me, our feet making a thunderous noise in the narrow passage up to the kitchen. I burst through the false back of the closet, and nearly ran into the washer/dryer opposite the closet in my rush to get out of there. I could hear Grimm cursing behind us; for someone who goes down so easy, he sure did recover fast.

My sock clad feet slid on the flooring of the kitchen, and I almost lost my balance before getting onto the carpet of the living room. Oliver and I crossed the living room quickly, but had to stop at the front door as I had apparently forgotten how to work a deadbolt. After a couple of seconds of struggling I did manage to get the door open, and we were outside, crossing the front yard.

Oliver started in the direction of his house while I started in mine, wanting to get to Tara before Grimm did if she was there.

There were three popping sounds, and Oliver yelled out. I turned in time to see him fall to the ground, clutching his lower right leg. My feet slid out from under me as I tried to change direction, and run to help Oliver, and I hit the sidewalk hard, knocking the rifle out of my hands. I looked and saw Grimm was standing on the house's front porch, and pointing a handgun at me.

Grimm stalked across the lawn towards me, the personification of rage, “Do you understand what you've done?” he yelled, “You've just destroyed humankind's only hope at finding a cure!”

“Maybe your vaccine will work, and you'll be saved,” Oliver grunted through gritted teeth. His blood was already spreading under him on the sidewalk.

“Shut the fuck up!” Grimm yelled, and fired a shot in Oliver's direction. The bullet missed Oliver, and made a small gouge in the sidewalk instead.

Grimm pointed his handgun, I could see now that it was a Glock, at me again, “You could have gone down in the history books as one of the saviors of mankind, but no! You're too selfish to give of yourself to help others! You're blind, just like Byron; you can't see what needs to be done beyond what you deem as humane and proper! You-”

There was a loud bang. I squeezed my eyes shut, waiting for the pain. Instead of feeling bullets tear through my body, I heard someone working the pump on a shotgun or rifle, and something thud to the ground in front of me. I opened my eyes to find Grimm laying half on the sidewalk, half on his house's lawn. The front of his black Genetitech Security uniform had the shimmer of wetness spreading across his stomach. The gun had fallen out of his hand, and was lying near him on the grass.

Grimm put his right hand to the center of the wetspot on his chest. It came away covered in his won blood; he looked at it in disbelief, “Wha-... what?” He looked over at me, and then up, over and behind me.

I turned my head and upper body, I was still sitting on the ground after all, to look behind me and see Tara starting there holding a black Remington 7600, she was still aiming it at Doctor Grimm.

Grimm seemed to gather his wits, and gasped weakly, “Do you know what you've just done? I... I was so close to solving it, and now you've damned us all. No one else has the... the guts to do what needed to be done. Who will finish my res-”

Bang!

Tara fired the rifle again, this time hitting Grimm above the left eye, and spraying his twisted, but apparently brilliant, mind all over the lawn. She pumped the rifle again to eject the spent cartridge, and came over to me. Her blue eyes were as cold as ice, and seemed to almost be glowing.

“Are you okay?” Tara asked me, her face like a cold stone mask.

“Yeah, but I think Oliver's shot.” I said.

A look of panic broke the emotionless shell of Tara face, and she looked over at where he was laying a few yards away, “Oh my God, Oliver!” she exclaimed, and rant to him.

This left me to pick myself up off of the ground, and then I joined Tara. Oliver was bleeding a lot, and he needed help soon or he would probably lose his leg, or die, or something.

I went over to Grimm's body, and started checking his pockets for the cell phone I had seen him use, thinking maybe it would still work for making phone calls as well as detonating bombs. It wasn't there, he must have taken it out in the house somewhere when I wasn't looking.

I left Tara with Oliver, telling her I'd be right back, and went into the house. I went down into the laboratory where just minutes before I had looked death in the face., and started looking for the phone.

I was distracted by movement, it was Harriet inside her cell. Her mouth was working like she was talking, but I couldn't hear anything. I wonder now if perhaps Grimm's concoction had made her into something other than a normal zed, but even if I had thought of that then I wouldn't have let her out of that box for two reasons. First of all, I had no idea how to open the door. Secondly, she then pointed the Beretta she was still holding in my general direction, and started pulling the trigger.

I found the phone on the floor by the refrigerator after a couple of minutes. I don't know how it could have gotten over there, but it did. Luckily the phone is as sturdy as it looked, and seemed to be in full working condition. I dialed 911, and hit send.

“Hello?” said a puzzled sounding voice from the other end after one ring.

“I have an emergency, do you still handle that?' I asked, probably sounding as uncertain as she had sounded puzzled.

“Umm, yes. Who are you, and how did you get that phone?”

I guess the phone must have showed as being Doctor Grimm's. I can only assume that he somehow made it so that the location of the phone could not be tracked since his just having it on should have made him easy for Genetitech Security to find. I explained who I was, and what had happened. They woman on the other end, who seemed to get over her initial confusion rather quickly, said that help would be sent.

Two security cars arrived first. They had probably come from the fire a couple of blocks away, which, judging by the dispersing smoke cloud, was probably out, or almost out by now. Beth and Justin Lassit were in the second of the cars, an officer Beth referred to as Kyle and man with a shaved head got out of the first car.

While Justin and Kyle used my belt to make a tourniquet for Oliver's leg (why hadn't we thought of that?), Beth made sure that Tara and I were okay. I explained to her briefly what had happened, leaving out the part about Oliver hitting me, and basically telling me that he had been sleeping with Tara. It wasn't the last time I would tell the story tonight, but no one I had to tell it to ever questioned Oliver's presence.

An ambulance arrived minutes later, and shortly after that a small black car pulled up, and Doctor Byron got out. I had to explain to her what had happened, and she got on a phone identical to the one that Grimm had used to request what she had called a “recovery team”. We were gone before that arrived though.

Tara and I rode to the hospital with Beth and Justin; we followed the ambulance there. We were there for most of the evening while Oliver was treated by a doctor named Camilla Swirsky, who said that Oliver should survive, but that he may need a cane to walk. He probably has a good amount of physical therapy in his future.

While Oliver was being treated, Tara and I were being interviewed about the events of the afternoon. It wasn't exactly an interrogation, but it was not exactly friendly either. I'm not taking it personally, I mean this guy was someone the whole town was looking for and he just happened to show up on my block.

Doctor Byron showed up during our interview, and wanted to know why Tara had killed Grimm. I wouldn't describe her as angry so much as sad. Maybe she didn't know what he thought of her, or maybe she just really is that good of a person, but she really seemed like she was upset about his death. Maybe she just really respected him as a scientist?

Tara, in her most businesslike tone, a tone she used off and on all night long, explained once again that Grimm was armed, and she killed him in my defense. No one questioned that as he had shot Oliver, and there was a gun found near his body (suspiciously nearer to his hand than it had been when I went looking for the phone, but I wasn't gong to say anything about that)

Doctor Byron answered her share of questions too. She admitted that she knew what Grimm was working on, and had impeded his progress because she found his methods unethical, “However with him gone, it will be harder to even get back to the point he was at. We have all of his data, but his note-taking methods were, lets say unique. We've been waiting to have someone infected for him to work with, but we've been lucky in that we have not had many cases of infection.”

“He mentioned something about white blood cells, Eosiniphils? Can you test for that?' I asked.

“Oh yes. Xavier will go down in the history books for that, and I cannot begin to tell you how important that would be to him. Without his figuring out that the reanimation virus is actually a bacteria, and that Phlebotinum is the only antibiotic it is vulnerable to we may never have found any treatment,” Doctor Byron explained.

“But the man was a murderer,” I protested.

“His methodology was wrong, but he was still a genius, and losing him is a tremendous setback,” Doctor Byron thought for a moment, “I'm sorry, you probably think I wish he had infected you and Oliver in order to find a treatment. I am truly glad you are okay, and what he did to that young woman... he would have had to pay for that somehow. It is a bad situation all around, and there was no way it could have ended well. You did the right thing, Tara.”

“Thank you, Evelyn.”

“What about the zombies?” I asked, “Doctor Grimm said that there were a large number of them coming for us? Is it true? Is this the same group that Acquisitions ran into?”

“Your friend Gerry is in Acquisitions, isn't he?”

“Yes, ma'am.”

Doctor Byron nodded, ”It is true, but we are working on ways of dealing with them. I have not made a formal announcement because I do not want people to panic unduly. I would appreciate it if you both would keep this to yourselves, and trust me that I am working on it.”

“Can we be kept informed?” Tara asked.

“If you would like. I know that you both have had a lot of experience dealing with the animated dead, so perhaps involving you both could be of benefit to us all. I will think on it, and let you know what I decide,” Doctor Byron said thoughtfully, “In any case I am going to have to address it publicly before too much longer.”

Doctor Byron eventually arranged for us to get a ride home. A security officer I did not recognize dropped us off in front of Tara's house. I walked her up to the door.

“We're even now,” Tara said, her voice soft.

“What do you mean?” I asked,

“We're even. You saved my life from Merritt, and now I've saved you from Grimm.”

I was puzzled, “Is that why you're with me then? You feel you owe me?”

“No,” she answered quickly, “I'm with you because I love you.”

We stood in silence for a few moments. I wanted to ask her about what was going on between her and Oliver. I wanted to ask her if loved him more. I wanted to ask her to make a choice. I wanted to know the truth, but I decided that I need to give her the time to feel comfortable discussing all of that with me. She will talk to me when she is ready, so I just asked, “Did you want to come stay with me tonight?”

Tara thought about it for a second, “No, I don't think so. I want to let Toni and Bishop know that Ollie's going to be okay, and I don't want to leave them alone tonight, Maybe tomorrow night though, okay?”

“Sure,” I said, trying not to let the hurt I was feeling creep into my voice or onto my face, “You get some rest then.”

“You too,” Tara stroked my cheek, and gave me a gentle kiss, “I'm glad you're okay; I couldn't bear losing you again. I love you.”

“I love you too,” I replied, and started the walk home (thankfully in shoes now).

Tara stayed on the porch watching me as I walked. She waved to me as I got to the door of my house. I was glad that I thought ton grab my keys when I came back for my shoes before going to the hospital, or else I would have had to knock.

I waved back to Tara, and slowly let myself in. I wish she had come home with me. It's not that I wanted to have sex or anything, it's just I feel a little uneasy being alone now. Beth and Pippa are both asleep, and I could use the company of something other than my own words on paper.

At the rate I am going, I'm probably going to finish filling up this book before too much longer. I'd have filled it long ago if it weren't for the fact that I write so small. I'll need to find a new journal soon... maybe one of those nice moleskin ones.

I'm going to try sleeping again now, but every time I close my eyes I see Grimm holding those needles. I see myself tied to that chair, and I think of how close to dying I was, and I am afraid.

2 comments:

VoltRabbit said...

Very interested to find out whats up with the captive zed girl. Was she actually forming words?

Great entry btw.

Nicole Howard said...

Ha! Phlebotinum- another BTVS nod! I too spemd much time in the Whedonverse!