Caleb was led back to the Ward by a group of jittery Stewards with lasso poles. He was very keenly aware that these guys were just civilians in high-vis vests. They had little or no training and were now thrown into even deeper shit than before. He shuffled down corridors in a tight group composed of Stewards, METMA suits, panicky lab techs and Ep Rex Victims like himself. The platoon was led by a single real-life soldier.
When they got there, it felt like they had arrived in a secure bunker. But that wasn’t the case at all. This place wasn’t much safer than a minefield. The METMA crew knew it and huddled together in a desperate effort to come up with a plan. Caleb was not put anywhere so he stood waiting for instructions. He caught highlights of what Rand’s group were saying.
“Call a halt to all testing. That means exposure in here as well as in the Special Testing room. We don’t have the labour to monitor all that shit.”
“While you’re at it, what about biopsies? Those guys should be here on the floor, they can’t be up and down to labs doing blood tests all the time.”
“But we need those results to gauge the progress of Infections.”
“To be honest, the questionnaire is as good a guide under pressure.”
“Right. Biopsies and blood tests are off. Testing is gone. Lock it up. We need Holding cleared and this place has got to be kept secure. It’s going to flip soon, I can feel it.”
“I have an idea.” A shy doctor who looked like a children’s TV presenter told the rest of them that any Infected with red tags should be taken to another room and essentially left to die. To Caleb’s amazement, everyone agreed to this very quickly and the order was put into effect. About twenty of the Infected, including the homeless guy he’d been beside a few hours ago, were shepherded away to some auxiliary factory floor that could be locked. They were half-blind and delerious and went like kittens going into a bag.
The whole thing reeked of hysteria. But maybe they were right. Caleb wanted to speak up but his teacher’s brain told him it wouldn’t help. They were the ones making the decisions here, for better or worse. No point in a lunatic trying to take over the asylum.
There were a handful of Stewards and scientists left. They started talking about how to manage the Wrecks in Holding. They all needed to be put down and burned. These were the ones that had been kept as test subjects. Now, they were just a howling mob of hyenas. The newly-promoted Stewards were reluctant to take the lead in dealing with them. The soldiers had claimed they were leaving ‘weapons’ when they left. In fact, they had only left lassos and improvised flame throwers, aswell as a few medieval-looking pikes. The Stewards wanted guns. Caleb knew that wouldn’t help. But nobody wanted to get within reach of zombie who could infect them on contact.
If running away can be counted as a plan, then that was the plan. The Wrecks were behind a locked door. The Stewards refused to confront them. So Rand and Rand Two told the scientists and Stewards that they would leave them in there for now. They couldn’t do much harm.
Caleb sat on a spare mattress. Doctors went back to their questionnaires. Stewards patrolled the room and consulted with the only soldier. The room went quiet for a while. Maybe the lack of stabbing biopsy needles and borderline Wrecks took the edge off the insanity.
Rand and his accomplices had given orders to everyone and they had all disappeared. But someone was always coming back. There were always problems. An army corporal whose face was black with soot came in at one point, and shouted something about “deliveries” before hurrying out again.
Rand came over to Caleb. “I need to check something out. I want you to come with me.”
“What for?” said Caleb.
“Honestly,” said Rand, “for protection. If a Wreck appears, it won’t attack you. I’d feel safer. You’re a big guy.”
“Get me something I can fight with,” said Caleb. He stood up and followed Rand from the Ward. He thought he wouldn’t miss it.
They went a different way this time. There weren’t many people around but anyone who did pass by interrogated Rand on the way. Caleb understood from what he heard they they were going to the new ‘ward’ for borderline Wrecks. It wasn’t long before they met a group of four Stewards standing at a heavy door.
“How is it going in there?” said Rand.
“Are you fucking kidding?” said the Steward. “Two of them have turned already.”