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PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2017 3:17 pm 
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Great installment!

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PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2017 4:27 pm 
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Thanks TB!!!!!!! Glad to see you back with another update.


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PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2017 4:56 pm 
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Thanks for the great addition TB!

What about the two flat tires and smashed passenger side window on the Toyota Tacoma??

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PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2017 6:06 pm 
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Oh Yessss!!!! Thanks for update TB!



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PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2017 6:43 pm 
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And I thought today couldn't get any better.... I needed this.

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PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2017 8:28 pm 
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Awe.

Some!


What a great update! Almost...almost...worth the wait! I've been re-reading Adrian's Undead Diary (finally bought the entire series for my kindle) while waiting for updates here, and that's the first thing I thought of when I read the passage where the house was on fire.

Thank you TB...another great update for what is truly one of the best stories I've ever read.

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PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2017 9:18 pm 
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I hope years from now that this story is studied by schools and is listed on mandatory reading lists for universities. Sit down, Shakespeare... Go away, Thoreau... Back off, Charles Dickens... There's a new king in town...

...he goes by.... Tinderbox...

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PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2017 11:15 pm 
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Thank you!!!!


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PostPosted: Thu May 18, 2017 12:54 am 
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JeeperCreeper wrote:
I hope years from now that this story is studied by schools and is listed on mandatory reading lists for universities. Sit down, Shakespeare... Go away, Thoreau... Back off, Charles Dickens... There's a new king in town...

...he goes by.... Tinderbox...



Shakespeare, Thoreau, Dickens: Bums.

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PostPosted: Thu May 18, 2017 1:18 am 
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Thanks for the new update TB. Awesome as always!!!!!!


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PostPosted: Thu May 18, 2017 9:24 am 
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Quote:
... “Got it,” she said, inspecting the carbine. “Lux will never know.”

Oh she'll know , they always find out .

TB you're an institution . Thank you !

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PostPosted: Fri May 19, 2017 9:05 pm 
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This was a very long week. Kind of discouraging. So discovering this update was a treat. Thanks, TB. I needed a little escapism.


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PostPosted: Fri May 19, 2017 9:48 pm 
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The first place I saw "Only thing worse then a zombie, is a zombie that is on fire." was in a old online zombie fiction story about a guy trying to survive the zombie apocalypse at some kind of private prep school. It was very detailed and eventually the story was concluded not just left off when the author abandoned it.

Wish I could remember the name or the author. That story either brought me to ZS or I found it shortly after I joined this site.

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PostPosted: Fri May 19, 2017 11:30 pm 
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Aikibiker wrote:
The first place I saw "Only thing worse then a zombie, is a zombie that is on fire." was in a old online zombie fiction story about a guy trying to survive the zombie apocalypse at some kind of private prep school. It was very detailed and eventually the story was concluded not just left off when the author abandoned it.

Wish I could remember the name or the author. That story either brought me to ZS or I found it shortly after I joined this site.


"Adrians Undead Diary"
I am not sure its available online anymore but I know you can buy them on Amazon.


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PostPosted: Sat May 20, 2017 10:14 am 
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Thank you TB!!!

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PostPosted: Sat May 20, 2017 2:36 pm 
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akraven wrote:
Aikibiker wrote:
The first place I saw "Only thing worse then a zombie, is a zombie that is on fire." was in a old online zombie fiction story about a guy trying to survive the zombie apocalypse at some kind of private prep school. It was very detailed and eventually the story was concluded not just left off when the author abandoned it.

Wish I could remember the name or the author. That story either brought me to ZS or I found it shortly after I joined this site.


"Adrians Undead Diary"
I am not sure its available online anymore but I know you can buy them on Amazon.



Great series one of the first online Zombie fictions I read.

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Yes a Spartan hoplite trained for battle since he could walk, backed by 299 other Spartans, and lead by a military genius can hold off any number of zombies armed with spear, shield, and sword. However your couch-potato, asthmatic, gets in a car to drive to the corner store lazy ass can't. Deal with it.


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PostPosted: Mon May 22, 2017 8:59 am 
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Last week I started reading he entire story from the beginnig in my desperation for MOAAR...

So you can imagine my Euforia when I came to the end and found a big chunk of jucy MOAAR!!!

THANK YOU VERY MUCH TB!!!!

As usual it was very well written, and You really have to get it published!!!

Even without any editing it is Way Better than most books i have read...

(And don't go thinking I am entierly altruistic.. I am counting on you to dedicate more time to writing once you start earning some money from it ;)

And finally: MOAAR!!!!!

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PostPosted: Thu May 25, 2017 9:28 pm 
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thank you for the update TB !!!!


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PostPosted: Sat May 27, 2017 3:20 pm 
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Moar Corps house call averted...for now. But don't be thinking we're going to be dispersing anytime soon, TB....


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 05, 2017 1:52 pm 
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Thanks for the update Tinderbox.

Glad to know I wasn't the only one reminded of Adrian's Undead Diary.

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 07, 2017 10:15 am 
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Aikibiker wrote:
The first place I saw "Only thing worse then a zombie, is a zombie that is on fire." was in a old online zombie fiction story about a guy trying to survive the zombie apocalypse at some kind of private prep school. It was very detailed and eventually the story was concluded not just left off when the author abandoned it.

Wish I could remember the name or the author. That story either brought me to ZS or I found it shortly after I joined this site.


Chris Philbrook is the author.

FB page - https://www.facebook.com/PhilbrookAuthor/


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 09, 2017 1:35 am 
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“Hey,” Lux said, surprised to see that she didn’t have the rec room all to herself. She stopped in the doorway and stared at the stranger, unable to think of anything else to say.

Three times per day – once after breakfast, after lunch and after dinner – the lock on the door of her private room would give a sharp click and an intercom voice would announce “Lux Cordis, rec room time.” The voice always sounded the same, but Lux was still unsure whether or not it was a recording. There seemed to be so few people staffing the facility. It could, she thought, always be the same person. Just like there were only two nurses that ever entered her room. It was always either Lance Berland or Eleanor Aquino. She absolutely hated Lance. Eleanor she hated a little less. If she deviated at all in going straight from her room to the rec room, the intercom voice would correct her, saying “Please proceed directly to the rec room, Lux.” Once she ignored the voice and just kept walking in the direction opposite the rec room. She’d gotten as far as the big automatic door at the end of the corridor before Lance appeared from the nurse’s station looking, as usual, like a big badass soldier who’d swallowed another ever bigger, badass soldier. They took away her rec room privileges for a day because of it, but she’d glimpsed a pair of elevators through the little windows set in the big automatic door. The problem was, except for the bathroom in her room, none of the facility’s doors opened unless you had a badge. Or unless it was rec room time and the nameless voice on the other end of the intercom unlocked it for you.

At those times she was allowed access to the large recreation room which held twelve plastic chairs, a ping pong table, a few pieces of exercise equipment, a water cooler and a big flat screen TV fixed to the wall. There was also a big upright video game, like the kind they had in arcades, that played several old 1980s-era games. There was a large window which was fake, like all of the windows in the place. That was one of the first things she’d noticed about the facility; all of the windows were fake. They were there, she supposed, to lessen the risk of people feeling claustrophobic. The light that glowed behind the gauzy curtains changed hues, shifting from dawn to noon to dusk over the course of twelve hours. She guessed it was to help regulate their circadian rhythms. It was a good bet, she’d decided early on, that they were underground.

The rec room TV offered a menu of thirty-eight movies and two hundred recorded episodes of basic cable television shows. The shows, Lux estimated, were all from about two years ago. The movies ranged from relatively recent to ones that were decades old. She’d watched them all, some of them three times. She’d held off watching the TV shows for a while. She’d never watched them before the world ended; too inane, too formulaic, too contrived. But she’d watched a lot of them now. She’d begun watching them in a sad way, the way an old man or woman might watch ancient home movies with faded images of long dead relatives – summertime family reunions, Christmas and Easter mornings, family vacations to national parks – records of the way things used to be, things now lost. Eventually, however, she’d become invested in the characters and the storylines and now looked forward to watching her self-rationed two episodes per day. But on that day she’d entered the rec room and froze, startled to discover she wasn’t alone. She’d been so taken by surprise that “Hey,” had been the only thing she could think of to say to the figure slumped in one of the plastic chairs.

“Go – “ he said without looking up from the cell phone in his hand, managing to sound both emphatic and bored at the same time “ – away.” He wore jeans and a t-shirt with a faded soft drink logo on it and looked about nineteen or twenty years old. He was slim with long limbs and his hair was fashionably tousled.

“Excuse me?” she said with instant indignation. She squared her shoulders and was about to go on to explain that if she could go away, she would, but he continued.

“Tell your bosses to fuck off. I’m not playing their little games.” His fingers poked at the phone screen, something which aroused her curiosity as much as the question of who he was and what he was doing there.

“First of all, I have no bosses,” she replied, “and second – ”

“Right,” he interrupted, giving her the briefest of glances before returning again to the phone in his hand, “because the end of the world is just crawling with hot girls who just happen to come into my rec room.”

“Oh, it’s your rec room?” she said. The word ‘hot’ spent a second or two ricocheting around in her head, but she tried not to show it. “I’ve only been forced in here three times a day for the last…” She’d kept a record of the number of days since she’d been brought to the facility, but she’d spent some periods under sedation and it had been impossible to get a straight answer from anyone as to how long those periods had been. Had it been a month? she wondered. Could it have only been a month? “Seems like forever,” she mumbled.

“I’m not falling for it,” he muttered with a slight shake of his head.

“Motherfucker,” she said to him, “if you want to keep swimming around in a big ol’ pool of crazy, it’s nothing to me. I just wanted to know – ”

“I said go away,” he told her flatly.

“Fucking fine,” she fumed. She did, however, pause before leaving the doorway to shout a question over her shoulder. “What the fuck are you doing on your fucking phone?” She felt instantly foolish for asking; there was no internet anymore, no cell phone networks, no nothing.

“I’m playing Factory Freak,” he replied sullenly. “It’s the only game left on this thing that’s not all glitchy. But your bosses behind all the cameras already know that, don’t they?”

Lux rolled her eyes and exited the room. “Whatever,” she huffed. Though unaccountably upset at the unexpected incursion into her rec room, she was seized with the sudden urge to offer the guy advice on the best way to beat the game’s level four challenge. “Bye-bye, shit head,” she said over her shoulder as the door closed behind her.

The intercom voice remained silent during her rapid walk back to her room. Maybe, she thought obliquely, they weren’t watching through the camera because they weren’t expecting her to be walking back so soon. She filed the thought away for future consideration and entered her room through the still open door, stomping to the side of her bed. There she stopped. “Great,” she said, silently adding, Now what do I do for the next two hours? She was still standing there, staring at her bed covers when Eleanor Aquino came out of the bathroom crumpling up a toilet paper roll wrapper. She raised her eyebrows at the sight of Lux standing there.

“What are you doing back here?” she asked. “Isn’t this your rec room time?”

“Yeah,” Lux replied, “but there’s…someone in there.”

“Someone?” said Eleanor. The woman was in her mid forties and the lines around her eyes and mouth were just starting to become pronounced. She was an Operating Room Specialist, but due to a shortage of personnel, she performed nursing duties for most of the day. Of the two nurses who frequented her room, she was the one Lux hated the least.

“Yeah,” Lux went on, “a guy: dark hair, skinny, bad attitude.”

“Dark hair, skinny and bad attitude sounds like you,” Eleanor smirked. She busied herself about the room. “If you’ve got company in there today it’s probably because there have been some new arrivals and a few schedules had to be reshuffled.”

“New arrivals?”

“Well, you’re not the only one who’s helping us come up with a fix for this mess we’re in.” She gave Lux a wry look. “Did you think you were the only one lucky enough to be immune to the Gwailo?”

“No, I didn’t think that,” she countered, though she hadn’t given it any thought at all. “I just haven’t seen anyone else until now. Pardon me for being surprised. You, Lance,” she continued, pronouncing the male nurse’s name with disgust, “three doctors and three technicians; that’s all I’ve ever seen here.”

“Right,” Eleanor chuckled as she worked, “this whole place is here just for you.”

She recalled what Sam Harker had said right before kidnapping her outside Goodnight House. “Out of the fifty-one pick-ups we’ve conducted…” Of course she wasn’t the only patient there, she thought.

“You people have never mentioned anyone else,” she muttered, feeling foolish.

“Medical discretion,” Eleanor said. “Other people’s business isn’t necessarily yours.”

“I’ve been telling you people for a month or more that my business is none of your business, but none of you listen to me.”

“And I’ve been telling you for a month or more that whatever it is that keeps you from catching the Gwailo is the key to getting humanity back on its feet, but you don’t listen to me, either. You don’t cooperate, you do whatever you can to mess up our work – ”

“Because you’re forcing me to – ”

“Poor Doctor Cheema won’t even come in here anymore after what you did to her – ”

“Then kick me the fuck out!” Lux exploded. “You have all of my fucking blood. You have a sample of everything on me and in me. You’ve got a gallon of piss and a pound of shit – ”

“Oh,” the woman said with exasperation, “would you tone down the language a bit?”

“You’ve drugged me and put me through every machine there is,” Lux finished with a slight hint of despair creeping into her voice. “What more do you need? Just let me out of here.”

“You really want to go back out there?” Eleanor asked for what seemed like the hundredth time. “Lux there is nothing but death out there, disgusting, rotting walking death. RCTs everywhere. Here there’s hot food you don’t have to kill someone for and water that won’t make you sick.”

“I’ve got people out there,” she replied through clenched teeth.

“People who are most likely dead at this point,” the nurse said sympathetically. “I’m sorry, Lux, but anyone you knew out there – ”

“They’re not dead,” she said with a sense of certainty.

“Fine,” she conceded. “But even if they aren’t, they’ll still never find this place. It’s a secret base,” she continued in a whisper and with a humorous gleam in her eye. “You know, like the one where the government keeps the space alien bodies.” The woman chuckled. “Is all this because you’re upset you have to share the rec room now? I would have thought you’d enjoy having someone to talk to.”

“I have people to talk to,” she grumbled, “back at Goodnight House.” She thought about them all – Lucas, Michael, Mundy, even the cheerleader chick. The last thing she remembered before Harker’s drug knocked her out had been Mundy shooting three of the goons who were kidnapping her. Someone had shot Henry Dhawan with a rifle, too; that had to have been Katrina. She vaguely remembered more rifle shots and a spatter of someone’s blood against Harker’s clean khaki pants. And she recalled hearing Lucas shouting “Let her go! Let her go!” But they weren’t dead. She was sure of it.

Lucas wouldn’t be at Goodnight House. He’d be out looking for her; he was hers, she was his. Michael would be looking for her, too, because bringing in little lost lambs was what Michael did. Katrina the cheerleader might even be by his side. And Mundy… Mundy, she thought, would be on the warpath. Lucas had told her something about Mundy blowing up a whole group of people just because they pissed him off.

“You’d better hope Mundy doesn’t find this place,” she muttered with a shake of her head.

“I thought your friend’s name was Lucas,” Eleanor said with only mild interest. “Lucas Locke, wasn’t it?”

“Lucas’ll only kill as many of you as it takes to get me out of here,” Lux answered. “But Mundy’ll kill every last one of you and burn the place to the ground.”

Eleanor Aquino gasped in mock horror and then let the wide-eyed expression slip cleanly from her face. “Good thing, then,” she said in an unimpressed tone, “that none of your friends – if they are still alive – will ever find out where we are.”



******



It had become a daily routine: waking up, reminding herself why she should bother to wake up, why she should bother to get dressed, washing, eating, reminding herself again why she should bother with it all… It was easy to forget why in a place where every day was like the last, where all the windows were fake, a place so cut off from the outside world. She was a specimen in a jar. But the appearance of a new face – the guy in the rec room – had sparked her curiosity. After weeks of nothing but the same, she found herself looking forward to her recreation hours.

That day the lock on her door clicked precisely at the usual time and the intercom voice announced “Lux Cordis, rec room time.” This time she entered the recreation room expecting to see the skinny guy with the black tousled hair. She was not disappointed. He was standing at the big, upright arcade video game working the joy stick and slapping at the big red buttons. He swayed a bit as he jerked the joystick left and right, blasting incoming alien ships. This time it was his turn to say “Hey.” He did it with only the briefest of glances, giving most of his attention to the game, though still appearing bored with it. “Sorry for yesterday,” he said, his eyes still glued to the video monitor. “They play a lot of games with you here. I just figured you were one of them.”

“How am I supposed to be a game?” she demanded.

“Not saying you are,” he replied, swaying left and right. “I was just being paranoid. You know, send in a pretty face, get the patient to open up about all his feelings, get him to cooperate with all this bullshit.” He shrugged, still without looking at her. “I thought about it and figured you look a little young to be on the psychiatric team here.”

“I’m not on any team here,” she said defensively, hiding her satisfaction at being called a pretty face.

“I know,” he said as his video game spaceship was overwhelmed by alien attackers. “I said I was sorry.”

“I don’t want to be here at all.”

Giving up on the arcade game, he sauntered to the nearest chair and took out his phone. “Me, I don’t care much. It’s not like I got anyplace else to be, not with everyone dead. I just don’t like not having any control over my own life.”

“Tell me about it.” She was surprised as the words left her mouth, realizing that they weren’t rhetorical at all. She really did want to hear about it. After being without anyone anywhere near her own age for so long and without the distraction of having to survive the post-apocalyptic world, she discovered she was hungry for companionship. As dead set as she was on finding nothing positive about her confinement at the facility, the realization scared her a bit.

“I mean,” the guy went on, his fingertip swiping at the screen on his phone, “I don’t mind the food and I don’t mind not having to look over my shoulder every second for RCTs, but – ”

“But I didn’t ask to be here,” Lux cut in, venting her frustrations. “I actually asked the complete opposite. I’ve got people out there. I want to get back to them.”

“You’ve got people still alive out there?” the guy asked skeptically. “You’re sure?”

“Well,” she replied, thinking about it, “the place was pretty shot up – ”

“The place was pretty shot up,” the guy repeated, as if to confirm his suspicions.

“ – but they were all alive when I was kidnapped by the shitheads here. Michael wasn’t there, he was away, but the rest… I mean…”

“I get it,” the guy said. “You gotta get back and find out for sure. Same thing happened to me. I was out foraging and one of the guys came riding his bike down the road wearing nothing but boxer shorts. Said the warehouse we’d been living in had been overrun. Didn’t even stop, just kept pedaling on down the road wearing those idiotic boxers with the yellow emojis on them. But I had to go back and see for myself.” He nodded to himself, his eyes on his phone screen. “The guy didn’t lie. They were all dead. Nothing but RCTs munching away.”

“What’s RCT stand for again?” she asked. “I’ve heard them say it.”

Reanimated Casualty Threats,” he replied airily. “It’s military speak for Dead Ones.”

Lux waited a second before sitting down opposite him. “Well, my friends aren’t dead.”

The guy tilted his head slightly, eyes still on his phone. “Well, I bet you’ve got an ingenious plan to get out of here and get back to them.”

Lux clamped down on the answer she wanted to give and instead answered cautiously. “No way out of here that I know of.”

The guy looked up from his phone and met her eyes for a moment. Then he returned to his game with a shrug. “If you find one, be sure to let me know. I’m Tanner, by the way.”

“Lux,” she said in reply.

“Lux means light, doesn’t it?” he asked distractedly.

“In Latin, yeah.”

“Think you can beat my high score on Factory Freak, Lux?” he asked as if he didn’t really care.

“Wouldn’t be surprised,” she answered, matching his indifferent tone with an apathetic one of her own.



******



Lux did have a plan to escape. She would have been the first to admit that it wasn’t much of one, but it was all she had. Restricted as she was to the stretch of corridor between her room and the rec room, she didn’t have much to work with, just five doorways that were always closed and a sixth that she’d only seen open once. Behind that door she’d glimpsed a short hallway with hooks on the wall leading to a small break room outfitted with a sink, a refrigerator, a microwave oven, a table and a few chairs. And the thermostat inside that particular break room was broken, at least according to a technician named Alex whose duties brought him to Lux’s room every so often.

“I don’t care,” she’d overheard him saying to Eleanor Aquino as he switched out equipment across the room. He was a rather short man, barely six inches taller than Lux. As always, he wore white hooded coveralls and a disposable respirator mask. “Do they want me to pass out in there? Then who would take care of this place, hmm? Them? Stevens? Jimenez? Gimmie a break.”

“I know it’s on the warm side – I’ve told Maintenance about it – but you can’t prop the door open and you can’t undress in there,” Eleanor had admonished mildly. “If you go from one floor to another, you can only undress in the prep room. Them’s the rules. And propping open the door, that’s just – ”

“I’m not totally undressing,” Alex had interrupted, “but if they think I’m gonna spend my lunch sweating through my coveralls… At least you get to wear scrubs.”

“That’s because I’m not constantly going from one floor to another like you,” she’d answered wearily.

“I know, but until they fix it, I’m spending my lunch hour in the break room without the coveralls. I can’t eat my lunch if I feel sick from the heat.”

“It’s not SOP,” Eleanor had said, sounding like she was saying it to him for the tenth time.

“Oh, what are they gonna do, fire me?” Alex had scoffed as he’d finished his task. “Bring in someone else? Someone who’s not dead? You know as well as I do, there’s no one else. I’m irreplaceable, lady,” he’d finished smugly.

Lux, pretending not to overhear their conversation, had noticed that the technician’s badge was fixed to the sleeve of his coveralls. And she was willing to bet that the man would not only prop open the break room door, but also leave his coveralls on the wall hook just inside.



*****



Half a page secretly torn from one of the year-old magazines they’d given her folded over until it formed a square roughly three inches by three inches; Lux thought it might be enough to fit in between the door and the strike plate, keeping the latch bolt from clicking into the lock jamb. It was a low tech stab at a high tech problem and Lux had no idea if it would work. Would the people on the other side of the cameras notice her doing it? Would they get an alarm if the door didn’t latch properly? She didn’t know, but she was willing to try.

After a week of sharing the rec room, her visits with Tanner became part of the daily routine. When she realized how much she had begun to look forward to her time with him she felt a moment of concern. Before he’d shown up her hatred for the facility had been one hundred percent pure. She still hated her confinement, but now her hatred had been diluted by his companionship. It also complicated her dream of escaping the place. Whatever form her final plan might take, it now had to include him. Lux entered the rec room that afternoon with that thought in mind. As nonchalantly as she could, she held the square of folded up paper in place as the door shut behind her, preventing the lock from engaging. Then, unsure if what she had done would be noticed, she walked briskly over to where he sat and plucked the phone from his hand.

“Hey! My phone,” he said loudly. “You wanna borrow it, you ask. I was almost done with level five.”

Ignoring him, she switched from the game he’d been playing to the phone’s texting screen. Holding it close to her chest so that none of the room’s cameras could see it, she hurriedly typed “U/ME OUT OF HERE?” and handed it back to him.

When he read it his face split into a grin. “YR PLACE OR MINE?” he typed in response.

She shot him a dark glare as she erased his words from the phone screen. “FU,” she typed. “U/ME XCAPE?”

He took back the phone and his expression collapsed. “NO WY OUT,” he replied.

“MAYB. TRY,” she responded.

“You’re crazy,” he said out loud, erasing her message and bringing his game back on the screen. “There is no way. You said it yourself. They’ve got eyes on us all the time.” She shushed him, but he continued talking at a normal volume. “The fucking doors don’t even open for us. If you want to do something you can help me get through level fucking five.” He focused his attention back on the phone. “There is no way past the swinging spiked balls.”

“Fuck!” she spat twisting out of the chair. She picked up the TV remote and threw it at him. “Speaking of balls,” she said, stalking toward the door, “you might wanna grow some.”

Opening the door and catching the folded piece of paper as it fell from the lock jamb, Lux turned down the corridor toward her room. Her thoughts were a boiling mess. Tanner’s passivity filled her with two kinds of anger. One was straightforward; she thought she’d had a partner, someone to help her escape and his brush-off left her feeling betrayed. The other anger was more muddled; what if he was right about it being hopeless? The only good thing, she realized, was that once again no one had come onto the intercom to ask her why she was heading back to her doorway. Once more, it was like no one had noticed her early departure from the rec room.

Several steps down the corridor, she glanced to her right and saw the break room door propped open. On one of the wall hooks hung white hooded coveralls and a disposable respirator mask. Alex the technician, she realized, was having lunch.

If she hadn’t been so angry, she might have taken a moment to think about it. But with her thoughts narrowed into a sort of tunnel before her, she suddenly sidestepped into the break room doorway. The guy had been right about the broken thermostat; she could feel the change in temperature as she reached out and took the coveralls and mask. Risking a glance into the room, she saw Alex sitting at the table with his back to the doorway, eating his lunch in a t-shirt and blue scrubs pants that had been cut off at the knee. Earbud cords dangled on either side of his head as he nodded to the rhythm of the music playing on his MP3 player. His hair was cut so short she could plainly see a long white meandering scar on the back of his head. She watched him as she slipped into his coveralls, but he did not turn around. Lux caught a whiff of Alex’s morning coffee breath as she placed the respirator mask over her face. The last thing she did before heading out into the corridor was to remove the wedge of paper and masking tape from the bottom of the break room door, letting it close behind her. She looked at the plastic ID badge on the sleeve of the coveralls bearing the name Alex Higgins below the man’s photo. Without it, she wondered, would the man find himself locked inside the break room? And how long would it be before he raised the alarm?

The coveralls were too big for her, but Alex Higgins wasn’t a large man and Lux managed to shuffle her way down the corridor and past the doorway to her room without being too conspicuous. She knew that anyone looking closely through the overhead cameras would recognize her even with the hood of the coveralls pulled up over her head, but she was supposed to be in the rec room now. Maybe, she thought, no one in the understaffed facility was watching the monitors. As she passed the nurse’s station at the end of the corridor, she dared to glance through the large windows and saw Lance Berland seated within. He was in profile, sitting with his elbows resting on the desktop, staring at a photograph he held delicately between his fingers. The photo was of a woman, a man and a child. As she shuffled on, she saw Lance hang his head as his shoulders shook.

The pad on the wall read Alex Higgins’ ID badge and the big doors opened smoothly before her revealing the two elevator doors. The hallway beyond was cluttered with equipment – hospital beds, monitors, carts of linens and specimen vials, tanks of pressurized oxygen – but it was empty of people. She swiped Alex’s ID badge before the elevator controls and waited, shoulders tensed, expecting to be discovered at any moment. The door opened with an electronic ping. As she shuffled inside, she thought she heard the phone ringing in the nurses’ station.

The facility had four floors and she was on the third. Levels two and one were above her. That made immediate sense; all of the windows were fake. Though no one had ever spilled any details about the place, she had always sort of assumed that she’d been underground for the past month. She stabbed a finger at the button for level one and put her back against the side wall of the elevator car, wondering what she would see when the door slid open.

There’s no way, she told herself, that I’m just walking out of here. There’s no way. But the hope that she would make it, small as it was, crouched at the back of her mind like an animal waiting to pounce. Her heart pounded rapidly against her ribs, turning her blood to rocket fuel.

The door opened on a wide-open area with a white tile floor and a ceiling hung with electrical and air conduits. Two people, one in desert camo BDU’s and one in civilian clothes crossed paths in front of her, going about their business and paying no attention to her. The far wall, she saw, was roughly finished rock, proving to her once and for all that she was underground. The space, she thought, must have been impressively cavernous at one time, but it was now crowded with military shelters – the kind with inflatable supports – and other haphazardly arranged equipment. Overhead LED light panels cast a harsh glow on desks and office cubicles set against a row of black rectangular monoliths that Lux guessed were data servers. She was in one of those underground corporate data centers, she figured. Probably not the only one taken over by what remained of the government after the world ended. Just to the right of the open elevator door was a desk and at the desk, a crisp-looking man sat with a phone to his ear. He wasn’t in uniform, but something about him screamed military. Maybe ex-military, she thought.

“Yes,” he said, his eyes flicking at Lux. “Understood. She’s right here.” He took the phone from his head and stood, his hand going to his belt which sported a holstered pistol and a rectangular black stun gun. “Miss,” he said, addressing her as his fingertips brushed the stun gun, “please remain where you are.” But Lux’s hand had already found the elevator buttons. She backed away from the opening as the door began to close. “Miss,” he repeated. A vexed look crossed his face and he spoke again into the phone. “Yeah, she’s heading back down.”

Lux knew that the elevator would stop if she tried to pass level three and that they’d be there waiting for her. When the door slid open on level two she expected a scene similar to the one she’d just witnessed above. But the second floor of the facility was dimly lit and had an unfinished feel to it. Unpainted drywall and bare cement floors gave the level a depressing feel. Translucent plastic sheets hung from the overhead electrical and air conduits in right angles to one another, creating a kind of milky white maze. But the only thing Lux cared about at the moment was that there were no people in sight. Maybe, she thought as she stepped from the elevator, she could reach an exit from this level. She shuffled over the bare floor, wishing she could get rid of Alex Higgins’ coveralls, but knowing she couldn’t spare the time to take them off. She rounded a corner and skidded to a halt as the ceiling LED light panels sensed her and popped to life.

There were areas sectioned off with hanging translucent plastic sheets – three of them, she saw – each containing a portable field operating table with metal trays and adjustable lights attached to the frame. It was weird, she thought as she rushed past, that they would have operating rooms on this level – this dimly lit, unfinished, kind of dirty-looking level that smelled like…like something bad. She rounded another corner and the bad smell grew stronger. It was a sour, musky, roadkill odor with just the hint of a tangy chemical smell. The overhead lights sensed her and activated with a barely audible click, illuminating the space ahead.

“Fuck,” she whispered, staring wide-eyed at the scene before her. Two rows of dead people stood at attention, their legs bound together with clear plastic wrap, their arms at their sides, looking like so many ancient mummies stored in some subterranean tomb. She counted two dozen of them, each one tied tightly to an aluminum hand dolly, ready for transport, she realized, to the plastic-walled operating rooms she’d just passed. Their faces, more to the point, their mouths, were wrapped tightly in plastic; no need for food, water or air. But beneath the clear plastic wrap their eyes still moved. One by one, they made short stifled noises at the sight of her standing there. A few managed to move their heads an inch or two.

“Lux?” came a voice from behind her – Eleanor Aquino’s voice. “Lux, this is not a nice place to be in.”

She heard noises coming from the area ahead that she hadn’t yet reached; multiple pairs of boots jogging in her direction over the bare cement floor. She realized they had cut her off. She stood staring at the rows of reanimated corpses awaiting dissection and slowly let go of the breath she’d been holding.

“Okay,” Eleanor called as she came nearer, “you had your fun. Now it’s time to go back to your room.” The woman rounded the last corner and stopped. “Yuck,” she said. “I hate this floor. I’d never come in here if I didn’t have to.” Across the room, three security guards emerged from a doorway and halted, blocking her way forward.

“What…” Lux began, unsure of what she wanted to say. “What – ”

“What are they here for?” said Eleanor. She gave the undead bodies the briefest of glances. “Oh, please. You’re smarter than that. They’re here so we can figure out what we’re dealing with. Actually,” she went on, “I think we learned as much as we could from them a while back. But we might need these ones for something in the future. You never know. Now let’s get out of here. There’s pork chops and mashed potatoes for dinner. And I know how you like to smear the camera lenses in your room with mashed potatoes.”

Lux stood for a few seconds longer looking at the captive corpses, each one bound tight and immobile, each one nothing more than a specimen in a jar.

A specimen in a jar, she said to herself. Just like me.

_________________
"...the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire..."


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 09, 2017 6:57 am 
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Tb ,,, we're not worthy .

Your dedication to this story is over and above and your followers do appreciate it ! :clap:

Tanner one of the staff planted to settle her down ?

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"Yeah, they're dead. They're all messed up. "


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 09, 2017 8:56 am 
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Awesome TB!!! Thanks for this!!!


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