Chapter 17: The drums of war
Agent Wilcox stood just outside of the cafeteria at the high school. He pulled out his cigarette case, lit up another cigarette, and assessed the situation before him. He was fighting a three-front battle and was losing a lot of men in the process. It was time to cut some losses. It was time to narrow the playing field.
He watched as two soldiers carried another into the cafeteria, he was screaming in pain. His right leg had been torn off by the alien and he was losing a lot of blood quickly. He was a loss to cut. Wilcox was only interested in abled men moving forward. He looked through the window into the cafeteria and could see the scientists and doctors were rushing to make room for his men, but it was a waste of time. They couldn’t sit in Tipton all night nursing wounds, they had to act. They had to go on the offensive. No more reactionary decisions. It was time to play his hand.
He took a deep puff of his cigarette.
He entered the cafeteria and found Dr. Ulysses Spurgeon. It was Spurgeon who was overseeing the scientific side of their operation. Finding the crash site, salvaging a pod, and returning it to Nellis Airforce Base in Nevada. Beneath Nellis was where he and Dr. Spurgeon were used to working. Just outside of the notorious Area 51, a tourist distraction for the American citizens. Nellis was where the United States had been conducting their alien research since 1938. It was after an unreported and unprecedented event occurred just outside of Reno, Nevada. An alien craft had crashed, the military had swooped in, and collected it up. They took it back, along with their first pod and the corpse of the alien. They weren’t sure how to preserve Agent One-Nine-Four-Seven at the time. Many of the men and women involved in the handling of the crash turned and were put down by those who weren’t. What was left of the agent was destroyed by lengthened exposure to the atmosphere, namely oxygen. The two did not mix well.
He and Dr. Spurgeon had been brought into the then veteran research facility in 1981. They had come up the ranks together. He started out as a private, and Spurgeon was a simple lab technician. But after many retirements and untimely deaths, Wilcox ran the show, and Spurgeon was in charge of the science division. But everyone, including Spurgeon, answered to Wilcox. He was the final authority between humanity and an alien species with the potential to wipe the entire population of Earth out.
He didn’t take his job lightly.
It wasn’t often they had access to one of the pods, but they knew the power in it could change the way wars were fought forever. That was the aim. Learn to harness, use, and reproduce it. But the aliens were always very productive of their chemical warfare toxin. Guarding it like a mother would its only baby. It was always a mess when they had to snatch a pod from a living alien. It was always better if they could shoot the craft down and the alien die on impact. They had not been so lucky this time. Not only had they not killed the alien, she was hunting them. And to make matters worse, a German named Richter had crept in out of nowhere and attacked their convoy. He wasn’t sure how the Germans knew about their operation, but he suspected there was a leak or mole. He didn’t trust anyone in the best of times.
He just wanted to kill his entire crew and start over from scratch. No more leaks or moles that way. The investigation that he would have to launch upon returning to Nellis would be a tremendous pain in his side.
Too many fronts. He needed to cut losses.
“Dr. Spurgeon,” he said with his cigarette bouncing between his lips, “A word.” He pulled Spurgeon from one of his soldiers and stood near a cash register. “I need you to take as many blood samples as you want in the next 30 minutes. After that we’re closing up shop.”
“Excuse me?” Dr. Spurgeon started. “What are we to do with all the inflicted? They need our help.”
Wilcox removed the cigarette from his lips and let out a cloud of smoke, “We have to cut ties. My men will know what to do.”
“You’re going to kill my patients.” Dr. Spurgeon said. He was visibly upset. “These are still human beings and they need medical assistance not a bullet.”
“Keep arguing and I’ll drop the time to 15 minutes, Doctor.”
Spurgeon thought before he spoke, and then made one last plea, “It’s murder what you’re doing. This isn’t quarantine or for some greater good. It’s murder.”
Wilcox dropped his cigarette on the tile and stepped it out. “And it’s 15 minutes.”
Spurgeon turned away and began to call his colleagues together into a corner away from the soldiers and other patients.
“We all, like sheep, have gone astray”
Spurgeon had a lot of thoughts racing through his mind as he tried to determine the best route to take. His doctor’s oath told him everything he and his colleagues were being asked to do was undeniably unethical. But to deny a direct order from Wilcox, a trusted colleague, would surely mean death. He knew full well the job had been a tittering balancing act between complete disregard for human life and saving it. He had always tried to lean to the latter. He had never been faced with such a task, prioritizing a mission over human life. He wasn’t sure he could make the call.
“Dr. Spurgeon?” A doctor, Dr. Susan Mills, recognized he was shaken and tried to get his attention.
“Sorry,” Spurgeon spoke, “It’s just that I’ve been presented with an impossible task. Wilcox has given us only 15 minutes to collect the samples we’d like, and then he’s going to terminate the patients.”
“All of them?” Mills asked. “Stage 2 patients I can kinda see, they seem gone to the virus. But Stage 1 patients still have cognitive functions.”
“I am there with you, Dr. Mills,” Spurgeon said. He rubbed his hand through his silver hair and thought for a moment. “A slight show of hands who agree that what Wilcox is doing is murder?”
All hands rose.
“I see,” Spurgeon continued, but at a much quieter volume, “A show of hands of those who think we should spare as many Stage 1 patients as possible?”
Again, all hands rose.
“What we are considering a serious offense,” Spurgeon added in a hushed tone.
“We know, Dr. Spurgeon.” Mills said.
They quickly mapped out a plan that involved them pretending to get their last samples of a few Stage 1 patients. They would inform the patient they were working with that they were going to loosen their restraints and help them make an escape through the cafeteria kitchen. Wilcox and the other soldiers had stepped outside the cafeteria to discuss what was about to go down. They were given a small window to retreat to the opposite end of the cafeteria from Wilcox and his men. There would be no time to waste.
Spurgeon came up on a patient he’d been working with for the past hour. His name was Richard, and he kept asking about his daughter. He had been with them for an hour and his Stage 1 condition had not progressed to Stage 2. He was the only one who had lasted beyond twenty minutes in Stage 1. He was certain Richard might hold some clues as to a vaccine or cure.
“Hello again, Richard,” Spurgeon spoke to him in a warm voice, “How are you feeling?”
“Pissed.” Richard said. “You can’t keep us here like animals. We’re not animals. And where’s my daughter? Have you heard anything about my daughter? Is she still alive?”
“I agree, Richard,” Spurgeon leaned in and continued, “My colleagues and I are going to get you and some of the other patients out of here. But we have to be quick. The military wants to kill you. But I’m going to save you, if you follow what I say to the letter. Do you understand, Richard?”
Richard simply nodded.
“I’m going to pretend to use this needle to extract some blood, but I will loosen your restraints instead, and we will run to the kitchen and out through the back.” Spurgeon whispered to him. “Do you understand?”
There was a slight commotion as two soldiers reentered the cafeteria. Spurgeon saw that Wilcox had left and wasn’t even going to stick around for the dirty deed.
Spurgeon loosened Richard’s arms first. Richard stayed still; his eyes were set on one of the soldiers coming their way. The restraint on the legs was going to be a dead giveaway, so Spurgeon turned quickly and loosened it as fast as he could.
“Doctor! Wait!” The soldier yelled at him and raised his rifle.
Before Spurgeon could finish loosening the restraint, Richard sat up and stole away the needle. Richard held Spurgeon in his arms, the needle against his neck threatening to use it on him. The soldier backed up.
“Finish your work, Doc,” Richard said.
Spurgeon began to sweat, not sure if Richard was serious about the hostage situation or if he was just trying to help with the escape plans. He finished loosening the restraint.
Richard stood up, jerking the good doctor about in his grips. He moved over to the soldier. “Don’t move, boy, don’t move,” he said, “I want you to hold that rifle over your head or I’ll break this off in a very important vein of the doctor’s neck.”
“Doctor?” The soldier looked to Spurgeon for guidance.
“Better do as he says, soldier,” Spurgeon had a good feeling that Richard was trying to take control of the situation for their escape. Disarming the soldiers was the right route. No bloodshed would be necessary.
The soldier held the rifle over his head with two hands.
“You too!” Richard yelled at the other soldier. “Over your head, both hands!”
The other soldier complied from across the aisle of tables.
The other Stage 1 patients sat up, loosened by the other doctors. Everyone watched Richard, unsure of his next move. The pause seemed like an eternity.
Richard grabbed the pistol from the soldier’s holster and shot him point blank to the face. His helmet flew off his head with a spray of blood and brains. Richard turned and shot the other soldier who hadn’t quite gotten the rifle down from over his head. The bullet hit him in the left shoulder and knocked him back. Richard shoved Spurgeon to the ground and charged the soldier. He took two more shots; one to the chest, another to the head. He surveyed the cafeteria for anymore threats. He dropped the needle on the ground. He picked up the rifle from the soldier near him and slung it over his shoulder with the strap. He walked back to Spurgeon.
“You didn’t have to do that,” Spurgeon pleaded as he helped himself up with the table close to him, “We could have gotten away without any bloodshed.”
“Unleash all my brothers and sisters, Dr. Spurgeon,” Richard said when he reached Spurgeon.
“But the Stage 2 patients are unstable,” Spurgeon tried to explain. “They won’t know up from down, right form wrong. They’ll kill us all.”
“We’re. Not. Animals!” Richard yelled in Spurgeon’s face and spit all over it with each word. He stepped back and shot Spurgeon in the chest.
Spurgeon fell to the ground and watched in horror from the ground as Richard and the other Stage 1 patients forced his colleagues to prepare to loosen the restraints from the Stage 2 patients. He knew they would die a miserable, lonely death. He thought he could control Stage 1 patients, but he now knew the Stage 1 patients were the Alphas and Stage 2 were Betas. Before the first Stage 2 patient could be set free, his eyes slowly closed, and he died.
Alphas and Betas
Richard stood atop a table and looked down on all the Alphas and Betas before him. The Betas could scarcely contain themselves, they wanted to eat the doctors badly. But Richard had forbidden it. The doctors were horrified, surrounded by the Betas.
“They came to OUR town,” Richard started, “And they tied us down, like dogs. Like bitches. We are not their bitch. We are not their dogs! This is OUR TOWN. We will take back what is ours.” The Betas growled in agreement. The other Alphas looked up to him and nodded. “Now. Now you may eat.”
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