Interphase: Exodus – Chapter 5

A riot of colors swirled before Don’s eyes as he struggled to climb to his feet. The sound of shattering glass filled the lab, punctuated by shouts and screams from his team members. “Call security!” he heard someone yell, and squinted through the throbbing pain in his head.

Trey was on the floor next to him, clutching a hand over his nose and mouth with blood trickling between his fingers. The breaking glass had apparently come from a metal tray filled with various-sized beakers and flasks being hurled across the room. Don caught sight of Vic thrashing in the middle of the lab as both Christopher and Rick tried to wrestle him to the floor.

Still bearing a completely neutral expression, Vic slammed the side of his head into Christopher’s forehead, then broke loose from Rick’s grip and threw him into a heavy cabinet. With a deep breath, he leapt on top of one of the counters and began systematically kicking and stomping every piece of equipment as hard as he could. Various team members shouted with alarm and squeezed themselves into corners to avoid being struck by any debris.

“Stop!” Don shouted, stunned by what was happening.

Christopher didn’t bother with words. He caught one of Vic’s flailing feet and pulled hard. Vic toppled off the counter, but sprang quickly back to his feet. He lunged, grabbed the scientist by the shoulders and bounced him off the clear wall that divided the lab and the hallway. Don dodged to the side as the flying body nearly took his legs out from under him.

“Chris!” Iris screamed, then cried out in fear as Vic laid waste to more sections of the room, heading directly toward her. His gown and protective mask had been ripped away in the fight, and Don watched the blank-faced man tear the lab to shreds. It was almost surreal, the way the focused intensity of Vic’s onslaught clashed with his dull and featureless expression.

The door burst open and four security guards charged into the lab, followed closely by Agent Charles. Vic gave them only a token glance before resuming his mission of destruction. “Take him down!” Agent Charles commanded.

The two front-most guards fired their tasers at Vic. He staggered briefly when the electrodes struck him, but instead of subduing him, they seemed to only cause a twitch in his facial muscles. Don gaped in shock. He heard the electrical discharges from the weapons so he knew they were working, but Vic seized a computer monitor from another counter and threw it at the guards. They ducked, abandoning their tasers, and lunged at him. He writhed and nearly threw them aside. The other two charged in as soon as there was an opening, and after an intense struggle, they successfully pulled Vic to the floor and managed to restrain him.

Don felt a hand under his arm. “You all right, Dr. Harris?” Agent Charles asked him.

He nodded tentatively and braced himself against a counter. Agent Charles crouched next to Trey and inspected his injuries. Across the room, Iris had skirted around the struggling Vic and was helping Christopher to his feet amidst the field of broken glass. Rick had also gotten back up and was moving cautiously toward the far end of the lab where the rest of the technicians were shaking themselves from a fearful daze.

Don noticed movement near the entrance and turned to see Dr. Douglas, dressed in an evening gown, staring at the destruction of her former lab with a hand pressed over her mouth. Almost half of the pristine research space had been completely demolished.

Don looked at the man responsible. The blank stare finally shifted as Vic began to tremble. Thinking that he was trying to break free, the guards tightened their holds, but the shuddering grew in intensity. Don started forward when Vic’s eyes rolled back in his head.

“Give him some room, something’s wrong,” Don stressed.

“Back off, sir, he’s dangerous,” one of the guards snapped.

“Something’s happening to him.” He pointed sharply at Vic. “Look!”

The prisoner suddenly arched his back, the blood draining from his face and making the bruised stripe over his eyes stand out like face paint. A loud, horrid croak emerged from his throat, and he sagged underneath the guards’ grip, falling completely limp against the floor.

“Keep him still,” Agent Charles ordered. He hurried over and crouched in front of Vic, pressing his fingers to the side of the prisoner’s throat. After a few seconds, his eyes blinked in shock. “He’s dead.”

Slowly, the guards exchanged looks and got back to their feet. Don stared at the body, and a pit opened in his stomach as he shared a dismayed look with Trey and Christopher.

“What in God’s name happened in here?”

The enraged, bristling voice of Olivia Woods swept through the remains of the lab like a tsunami. The director’s fuming gaze rotated to fall on each person by turns, demanding answers and promising the wrath of hell if she didn’t get them.

Agent Charles offered the first explanation. “An apparent security breach, ma’am,” he replied. “This patient went berserk and began destroying the lab while the technicians were preparing him.”

“Who is he?” She cast a withering look toward the members of the security team. “And how did he manage to get inside the GSC?”

Roughly dispelling the last of the adrenaline-fueled torpor from his mind, Don faced her in full. “I brought him here, Director.”

Director Woods’ gaze seized on him. “I trust you have an explanation?” she seethed.

Don glared right back at her. “Yes, I do. Since the GSC failed to provide us with any form of research material, or organize any sort of examination for patients with this new disease, I sought out one myself so we could begin—”

“That man is carrying the disease?” she screeched in horror, pointing at the lifeless body of Vic.

“Yes, he is. I took precautions, based on the research that has already been provided. He was suffering and volunteered for the examination so that we could figure out how to help him. I don’t know why he became violent—”

“You pulled an uncleared, unvetted, potentially infectious civilian right off the street… and brought him here? Do you have any idea what you’ve exposed this campus to?” Her eyes blazed as she glared at Don. “The medical risks, the security hazards, not to mention the scandal if word of this broke out?”

Don tightened his jaw. “You wanted to unravel this illness as quickly as possible,” he growled. “You and the rest of the council made it abundantly clear that this is priority number one to you and the rest of the GSC, while riding roughshod over both me and my team, and yet you have provided us with nothing to work with! No patients, no samples—”

“So, you decided to take matters into your own hands, without checking with the security team, making any requests, or even stopping to consider the potential consequences to your team or my lab, much less the dangers that you could be exposing the rest of us to,” the director pronounced, sneering with disgust.

“And what exactly is this danger to which you’re referring?” Don roared with outrage. “Aside from facial discoloration and being highly infectious, we know absolutely nothing about this disease! If it was as dangerous as you insinuate, this city should have been quarantined already, along with many others. So, the GSC needs to make up its damn mind about whether this is the second coming of the plague or some distraction to keep us bottled up in this—”

“Enough!” Olivia shouted, and immediately drew a hard, deep breath. “Agent Charles.”

“Ma’am,” he responded.

“Since Dr. Harris has shown a profound lack of judgment,” she growled, her gaze still fixed on Don, “you are to be his minder for the duration of his stay here. Everything that he says, does, recommends or even thinks is to be run through me first, and under no circumstance is he permitted to improvise again. Do I make myself clear?”

Don thought he caught an imperceptible tightening around Agent Charles’s eyes as he replied crisply, “Yes, ma’am.”

“Good.” With a final glare, Director Woods turned and stalked from the shattered remains of the lab.