I jumped out of the APC with Wierzbowski ahead of me. Red and blue emergency lights cut through the darkness as we ran toward the entrance of the hospital. I could see doctors trying to evacuate patients. As of now, I don’t know how many Marine units were called in with us. This is a sizable building and I can guarantee there were patients that are hard to move. We needed all the help and backup we could get.
Multiple sirens were sounding off everywhere. I could see Australian police and military armored vehicles coming up the streets, troops spilling out of them before they even stopped. Viano was back in the APC, directing us from the command center and coordinating with the other units, both military and civilian. This wasn’t an unheard-of type of mission; although countries a hundred years ago might have balked at the idea of allowing foreign troops to operate in their territory, never mind in a civilian zone, even as part of a joint effort, treaties and cooperative agreements have changed a lot since then. And if this really was a terrorist incident, we and the Australian military were in position to respond faster than a specialized counter-terrorism unit could be brought in.
We joined up with several of the Australian squads taking position outside the front door. Two of the Australians dashed up and pulled the doors open and we all hurried into the lobby. The lobby was dark, but there was enough light coming in through the windows from the vehicles and spotlights outside for me to see that straight ahead of us were the reception desk and a hallway leading further into the hospital. To our right were stairs and elevators leading to the labs.
“Cover!” one of the Aussie sergeants roared as gunshots rang out over us. The lobby was lit by muzzle flashes as the terrorists opened fire and we started shooting back. Some of them were hiding behind the reception desk and others were crouching in the doorways of the hall. The wooden reception desk offered no real protection for the men behind it and I turned to fire a sweeping burst at it from one end to the other. The explosive 10mm rounds shredded both the desk and the men behind it. The Australians had already engaged and killed the men in the hallway, and we began moving forward. Some of the Australians went down the hall, while the others joined us on the stairs up to the labs.
On the lab floor we split into pairs of two and began sweeping through the maze of corridors as quickly as we could. Wierzbowski was ahead of me, looking around every corner and moving slowly and cautiously. The only illumination was from the emergency lights and our helmet-mounted flashlights.
Gunfire erupted from the next hallway over, and Hicks called over the radio, “Ultra One Actual, this is Ultra One Three! We need backup!”
“Ultra One Three, confirmed,” Viano replied calmly into the radio. “Ultra One Two, you’re closest to their location. Take the next corridor on your left and you’ll swing up behind them. Ultra Two Four, move in and take Ultra One Two’s sweeping position.”
Ultra One Two is my callsign and Wierzbowski’s when we’re paired up together. Ultra Two Four was another combat pair from our sister RIFT. Wierzbowski and I ran down the hall Viano had indicated and saw Hicks and Hudson at an intersection up ahead, firing down the hall to our left.
“They’re falling back!” Hicks yelled over the gunfire as we reached them. “Push forward and advance in pairs!”
Wierzbowski and I took position to cover Hicks and Hudson as they dodged from doorway to doorway towards the end of the hall where the shots had been coming from. Whoever was inside seemed to have abandoned the door at the end and retreated inside. Hicks and Hudson stopped partway there, and Hicks waved us up. They covered Wierzbowski and me as we ran down the hallway past them and took up position to cover Hicks and Hudson again. They made a dash for the door, but just as they reached it, Hicks yelled out, “Hudson, stop!”
But it was too late. Hudson ran through the door and was suddenly tripped by something. A moment later, the door slid closed as we ran up to it and I saw what Hicks had seen: a biohazard warning sign next to the door. Hudson must not have seen it in the dim light. Hicks cursed angrily when he saw the keycard reader next to the door, which had been pulled apart as if someone had hacked it. There was a small glass viewport just a few inches in diameter set high in the door and I pressed my face to it, gasping in horror as my blood ran cold. The room was filled with rows and rows of silver flowers sitting on tables, which were emitting a cloud of shiny gas that hovered in the air.
Hicks was yelling into his radio, “Ultra One Actual, this is Ultra One Three! We’ve got a man locked in a lab in the central corridor, south wing!”
Hudson was fighting two figures in gas masks hand-to-hand. He dodged a punch from one, grabbed his attacker’s wrist, and shoved hard against the outside of his elbow, forcing the joint backwards. With a quick move, Hudson spun the man around, twisted his arm behind his back, and slammed him face-first into one of the tables. As the other man made a dive for a rifle lying on the floor, Hudson pulled out his sidearm and shot him.
“Hudson!” I yelled instinctively, even though I knew he couldn’t hear me through the door. He stumbled weakly, looking dazed as he tried to lean up against one of the tables and reach up to his radio, but he lost his balance and collapsed to the floor.
“Get this fucking thing open!” I yelled, knowing that Hudson didn’t have long.
“No time for them to get primary power back up to override the door controls! ‘Ski, can you blow the door without killing Hudson?” Hicks demanded.
Wierzbowski shoved me aside and looked through the viewport to get an idea where Hudson was. “I can put a hole in it big enough to crawl through but that’s about it!” Wierzbowski pulled a block of plastic explosive from his vest. He broke off a small piece of it, shoved in a detonator, and slapped it to the door. We ducked for cover as he detonated it, leaving a hole in the door just large enough to crawl through. When the smoke cleared, I could see Hudson lying on the floor inside, twitching and writhing in the middle of the cloud of silver gas. Trust me when I say I didn’t want to go in that room, but I had to. Hudson was going to die in there if no one did anything. We couldn’t afford to wait for anyone. As terrified as I was, I didn’t even give Hicks or Wierzbowski the chance to go in. I unslung my smartgun and dropped it to the side, taking a deep breath and ducking down to crawl in through the hole.
I can’t even begin to describe how scared I was. I was practically walking into one of my nightmares. I was shaking. Damn it, I was shaking bad. This isn’t somewhere I want to be.
The two men Hudson had been fighting were lying motionless, and a puddle of blood surrounded the one he had shot. As I passed through the door, I saw a small hand-held computer hooked up to the remains of the card reader on the inside wall next to the door. Whichever of the two men was working on it must have tripped Hudson as he ran through the door and then immediately closed it.
Trying not to breathe, I crawled over to Hudson. He grabbed my arms, gasping for breath. I could see in his eyes that he wasn’t in reality, but I couldn’t dwell on that for long. Pulling my arms from his grasp and taking him by his armpits, I dragged him to the door and pushed him through the hole, crawling out after him.
“What the fuck?!” Hicks was aghast when he saw Hudson’s face.
“He needs medical attention now!” I shouted. “Where’s Dietrich?”
“We need to get him out of here and back behind our own lines,” Wierzbowski said tensely. “I’ll carry him.”
Hicks and I guarded Wierzbowski as we made our way out of the building. Hicks was trying to explain what happened over his headset.
I glanced at Hudson and found myself wondering if that was what I looked like when I was poisoned. It was surreal. It was terrifying. I could feel my own chest tightening. I could hear the things from my own hallucinations.
For a moment, I wondered where I was, and I was struggling to force myself out of my own head. Hudson needed help.
Dietrich ran over to us as Wierzbowski set Hudson on a waiting stretcher. “Take off his armor,” she ordered, taking a portable EKG out of her bag. She looked just as shocked as Hicks when she saw Hudson’s face and heard the horrible gasping and choking sounds he was making. After Wierzbowski and I tore away Hudson’s armor and BDU top to reveal his chest, Dietrich began placing the trackers on him. She swore aloud at how irregular Hudson’s readings all were.
A long, loud beep was heard, and I felt weak. My legs felt like their bones had vanished. I could hear the doctors on Gateway.
Dietrich pulled a defibrillator from her bag. Her breath was fast and anxious as she set the paddles on Hudson’s chest. “Clear!”
I heard the jolt, and I could feel the jolt.
“Drake!” Wierzbowski raced over to me. “Dietrich!”
“I’m a bit busy here!” Dietrich snarled.
I was only partially aware of what was going on around me. My mind was trapped in the memories of being revived on Gateway, of choking and hallucinating. And I wanted to scream.
Hicks helped me stand when I was starting to come out of it. “Let’s get you outta here. Deep breaths, buddy.”
I was still dizzy as he brought me back to the APC, but I can remember Ferro coming over from where she and Spunkmeyer had landed the dropship, which we had flown over in with the APC. “Is he okay?” she asked.
“He’ll be fine. It’s Hudson who’s been poisoned. He’s gonna need some serious help. Watch over Drake.” Hicks jogged back towards where we had left Hudson.
Ferro glanced at Captain Viano, who was still fully occupied coordinating the rest of my unit and RIFT 2 with the Australians, before getting up and going over to me. She gave me a full canteen of water. “Drink something,” she said.
I was hesitant at first but eventually took a few sips of water. I think she could see in my eyes that something was wrong, that I was reliving my experience on Gateway, and that seeing Hudson in a similar spot terrified me. But I had saved him.
Wait, I saved Hudson? How?
The dizziness didn’t go away until an hour after we returned to base. I was propped up in sick bay with a tray of bland food and water that Dietrich said would give me some strength back while going easy on my stomach. I had no appetite, but I ate a little bit just to get Dietrich to leave me alone and not force-feed me like she threatened to do. I also wasn’t happy that she insisted I needed to be kept there overnight and for part of the next day, but eventually I fell asleep. I think I was too tired to have nightmares that night, and honestly, it was a relief.
To my surprise, Captain Viano was my first visitor in the morning, along with Vasquez. Vasquez stood next to the bed while Viano took the chair at the other side and asked, “How’re you doing, Drake?”
“Bit better, ma’am,” I said. “Can’t… fully remember what happened, but…” I shut my eyes. I knew I had gone through an embodiment of my nightmares.
“You saved Hudson’s life, Drake.”
I didn’t reply.
Viano’s smile faded. “Drake, please, don’t do this to yourself. You saved his life. You went in despite what happened on Gateway, and you got Hudson out of there. Somehow… you did it. That takes a lot of courage.”
Again, I didn’t reply. At least, not at first. “Is he gonna be okay?”
“He’s with Doctor Hornby. No updates yet. I’m sorry.” She took a breath. “I’m recommending you for a Bronze Star Medal for what you did.”
“Wait, ma’am, you put in a recommendation or are thinking about putting in a recommendation?”
“I already sent a message to Colonel Hardy.”
I sighed. “I don’t deserve it.”
Vasquez gave me a look, then glanced at Viano. “Captain, can I talk to him alone? For five minutes?”
Viano turned to look at her. “Just five minutes.”
“Just five minutes.” Vasquez nodded. “No longer.” Her expression didn’t change, like she was trying to convince the captain we weren’t up to any funny business.
“Alright. Five minutes it is.” Viano left the room, closing the door behind her.
As soon as the door was shut, Vasquez backhanded me across the face. “Just accept your medal, you stubborn ass!”
I glared at her. “Why?”
“’Why?!’ Because you earned it!”
“They pulled me from prison, and I don’t feel like I should be rewarded for anything! I don’t feel like I’ve righted my wrongs!”
“Viano wouldn’t have recommended you if you didn’t prove you’ve changed. You saved Hudson’s life, even though it meant going through something you never want to go through again. You don’t think that means anything?!”
“When I learn to cope with what I’ve done in the past, with the things I did and the things I should have done.”
Vasquez hung her head, looking like she wanted to slap me again. “You’re not a bad person, Drake. I know you’re not. Pretty sure it was you who said the only person’s opinion that matters to you is mine.”
We were quiet for a while, and I sighed as I glanced at Vasquez. “You know… last night, I was thinking about the day we first met.”
“Because, for me, it was falling in love that kinda showed me I’m capable of changing. Remember how we’d find a place to sit and talk, and I made a point in telling you everything going on in my head.”
“I do remember that. Wasn’t sure how to react at first, but I went along with it, and eventually started to trust you with what went on in my head as well.” Vasquez’s gaze softened a little and she squeezed my hand tightly. “I don’t think it’s too late for you to change. Just think a little harder before you open your mouth.”
I nodded. “I’ll try.”
The door opened, and Viano said, “Five minutes are up. Everything alright, Drake?”
“Yeah,” I replied. “When will we hear something from Hardy?”
“Not sure. Maybe a week or longer. Just worry about getting better, alright?”
As they left, Vasquez turned to look at me and flipped me off with a smile.
I was let out of sick bay just before evening chow, much to my dismay, because I could smell the atrocity that is the base meatloaf from all the way down the hall. I half-expected to hear Hudson’s bitching as well but I was met with silence. That was bizarre and I didn’t like it.
The rest of the unit was already seated. Apone handed me a tray, and I filled it with as little as possible before sitting next to Vasquez. We were both staring at where Hudson usually sits, and it was really fucking weird not seeing him there.
“Really hope Hudson’s gonna be okay,” Frost said.
“Well, if Drake is anything to go by, Hudson will live,” Dietrich replied, not looking up from her tray. She was more focused on picking out the bits of onion and celery from inside the meatloaf.
“You didn’t tell us what that was like, Drake.” Frost turned his attention to me.
No, and I don’t want to. I hesitated for a moment before making eye contact with Frost. “It’s… bad,” I said.
Vasquez glanced at me. She knew that wasn’t it. She’s the only person other than Delhoun who I’ve told about my experience with the silver flower. She knows why I don’t want to discuss it.
Apone took the pressure off me by saying, “Hudson will be back with us and running his mouth again before you know it. In the meantime, things are gonna continue as normal. We’ll get up tomorrow morning, eat our damn Cheerios, and get in the gym like we always do.”
The fact that dinner was so quiet was unsettling for all us, and the empty space at the table felt like a black hole sucking our happiness in. I think we all took comfort in the fact that Hudson wasn’t dead, but that didn’t change the fact that he wasn’t here.
After dinner, Viano took me aside when I dumped the remainder of the crap on my tray in a trash can. “Apone and I want to see you in my office,” she said, beckoning for me to follow. When we entered her office, she closed the door behind us and sat behind her desk. Apone was in another chair, holding a cigar.
I put my hands behind my back. “Am I in trouble?”
“No, but you need to know that the following conversation never happened. Not even if anyone else in the unit asks,” Apone said seriously. I’ve only heard him use that tone a few times before. It’s not the “settle down and listen up” serious, or the “this information could save your life so listen and pay close attention” serious, or even the “behave, Hudson” serious. It’s the one he reserves for the most important situations.
“We received a message from Doctor Hornby about an hour ago. He’s requesting to take Hudson to Washington because their hospitals have specialized equipment for this kind of work. More specifically, he’s working on finding an antidote,” Viano explained.
“What does that have to do with me, ma’am?” I asked.
“You’re going with him.”
“You’re the first known case of someone surviving such a serious encounter with the silver flower. Hornby wants to take a closer look at you as well.”
“With all due respect, Captain, he can go to hell. I’m not being used as a lab rat.”
“Drake, the terrorists from the other day made off with several silver flowers from the lab. If they start building a chemical weapon, we need an antidote. You’re not going to be harmed, and neither is Hudson. And there’s something else.”
As she was talking, Apone had stood up and quietly crept over to the door. He flung it open and leaned out quickly, looking around before nodding to Viano and closing it again. He returned to his chair as she continued, “Hardy had us in a video call earlier this afternoon. Apparently when he made his report on the incident last night, what happened with you and Hudson made its way up the chain and got someone’s attention. Hardy wasn’t able to tell us much at all, but from what he was told, the Corps is trying to investigate certain individuals who work for Weyland-Yutani for possible involvement with programs aimed at developing illegal bioweapons in violation of the Future Weapons Development Ban. Weyland-Yutani might be a private company, but they’re still bound by those laws the same as the government and the military. If these allegations are true, they would be in violation of both national and international laws. All governments are obligated to hold private companies operating within their borders to the same laws and restrictions they themselves are under, or the fallout could have much more serious consequences. We need to know if there’s something going on so we can shut it down.”
“Isn’t that the FBI’s job or something like that?” I asked, confused as to what this had to do with Hudson and me.
“Technically, it is,” Apone said from his chair. “Like the captain said, Hardy didn’t have much to tell us, but it’s not hard to tell this is a situation where the Corps has both hands cuffed behind its back and is groping around with its fingers. They’ve technically got no jurisdiction in a civilian matter. I think it’s safe to say there’s a lot more going on and a specific reason why this isn’t going through normal channels, but whatever the reason is, we’re here talking about this.”
“So why are you telling me?” I asked, wishing they would get to the point.
“Hornby is one of the individuals the Corps is suspicious of but they’ve got no legitimate way to get close to him,” Viano explained. “You and Hudson being put under his care provides us with a way to get someone into a position to take a closer look.”
“You want me to spy on him,” I concluded.
“No. Like Apone said, this is a complicated situation because of what the Corps as a whole can and can’t do legally. We need to be clear on this, Drake, we are not – and the Corps is not – ordering you to do anything. We can’t in this scenario. All we can technically do is place you under Hornby’s care. But if you should happen to be listening extra hard to someone else’s conversation or paying close attention to what goes on around you and you learn something that you think could be significant, you have every right to report that information to us.”
“So I’m a spy without actually being a spy. That doesn’t sound very effective. What are the odds Hornby’s going to let something slip around me?”
“Slim to none,” admitted Apone. “But at this point, it’s all we’ve got. If you do find something out, we send it up the chain and let whoever’s in charge of this decide how to handle it. Our hands stay clean in this. They have to. If there’s any question about whether or not we got any of our evidence illegally, any case against the company goes out the window.”
“I don’t know if this is a good idea, ma’am,” I said doubtfully to Viano. “If it really is so important… I don’t know if I’m the right person for this.”
“You’re the only person who can do this, Drake,” she insisted. “We don’t have someone else who was in contact with the silver flower other than Hudson, and he’s in no shape for this. Now again, we are not and cannot order you to do anything. But if you should unintentionally,” she emphasized the word, “overhear anything about any type of illegal activity, I trust you to know how to handle things.”
“I think I understand, Captain,” I said finally.
“Good.” She looked me straight in the eyes and I tried to meet her gaze, but it was hard not to look away. I was too anxious. “Tomorrow morning you’re going to go into Brisbane and meet up with Hornby and his team at the Weyland-Yutani lab. You’ll go with them and Hudson on a private flight to DC. Good luck, Drake. You’re dismissed.”
I didn’t know what to think as I left Viano’s office. How could I handle any of this? I was never trained for anything like it. I just knew I would screw something up and blow the whole thing. Why had Viano and Apone even asked me to do it? Couldn’t they see just by looking at me that I can’t be relied on for this?
Then I remembered what Viano had said near the end of the conversation. I trust you to know how to handle things.
Wait a minute. Viano trusts me?
I sat up in bed late that night, feeling like I was going to throw up. Every time I tried going to sleep, I was bombarded with thoughts and memories. I could still see Hudson’s face when I dragged him out of that lab. I could still hear the gasping and choking sounds he was making as he foamed at the mouth like a dying, rabid animal. Those images gradually turned into the doctors standing over me, trying to revive me.
I thrashed around in bed, trying to get away from them. It took a lot of effort to not scream. Shaking, I hugged my knees and rested my head on them. After a moment of trying not to cry, my thoughts turned to the one person I can count on when I feel like crap.
The hallways are lit only by those damn red lights at night. I know they’re supposed to be easier on your eyes, but they look like emergency lights and they don’t help my nerves. Looking around to make sure no one was coming, I crept over to Vasquez’s room and knocked on the door. It took a little while, but eventually I heard Spanish cursing and the door opened.
“Drake, you better have a good reason for getting me up,” Vasquez hissed.
“I do,” I said. “Well, I hope it is.”
Letting me in, Vasquez closed the door, then sat on the bed across from me. “You haven’t slept, have you?”
I shook my head. “Can’t. I still… see… everything I went through. Now I’m seeing Hudson’s face when I got him out of that lab. I can’t get it out of my head, and… it feels like it’s actually happening. I still feel the choking. I still… hear Hudson choking.”
Vasquez gave me a sympathetic look, even though I knew what she was going to say next. “Drake, I don’t know how to help you. We’ve had this conversation before, and-”
“Before Hudson was poisoned. I… I don’t think the nightmares are gonna pass. I don’t know what to do.”
“I’m going to leave it up to you to ask for help, because I don’t know what to do, either. I wish I did, I really do, but… right now I feel powerless.”
“I know I can’t ask for help. I’ll get…” I trailed off, not wanting to think about getting sent back to prison.
“You don’t know that. I don’t think it would hurt to ask.”
I bit my lip and looked down at my knees as I realized what I was going to have to do until the nightmares passed. Or until Vasquez and I get discharged and I can seek help as a civilian, if I last that long. “I don’t want to take the risk.”
Being stuck on a plane for twenty hours with Hornby, Garavich, and Adril wasn’t exactly my idea of a good time, especially since Adril didn’t seem to regard me or Hudson as anything more than objects of study. That was fine, because I don’t like her either.
I sat away from everyone, focusing on my journal and listening to everyone’s conversations, keeping in mind what Viano and Apone had told me. Hornby was keeping an eye on Hudson’s vital signs from a short-term cryosleep pod. I heard him say that putting Hudson into cryo was a bit of a risk, but a lot less risky than keeping him awake during the trip. In fact, he mentioned that Hudson likely would have died during the flight. He wouldn’t say why cryo was a risk, though.
When I wasn’t writing, I found myself daydreaming about Vasquez. We said our goodbyes last night because I know she doesn’t want to get emotional in front of everyone, but I could see in her eyes before I left that she didn’t want me to go. It’s not a look I want to see again.
When I wasn’t daydreaming, I was sleeping. Even that wasn’t an escape from the fact that this whole trip revolves around the damn silver flower. The fact that I couldn’t escape at all made it worse, and suddenly I found myself terrified that I was going to be poisoned again.
How would they do it? Lock me in a room with silver flowers and watch me scramble in panic before they pulled me out to test their antidote? Force my head over a flower? Come on. They wouldn’t do that against my will. But what would happen if I just wasn’t cooperating? Honestly, I don’t want to know.
When we landed in DC, Hudson was rolled out in a portable cryosleep pod, and I walked behind Hornby and his team. I wasn’t handcuffed or anything, but I still felt… diminished as a person. It was nice to see the sun after stepping off the plane, but as tempting as it was to run away, I knew that would have bad consequences.
We took an ambulance to a hospital that doubled as a research facility. Trapped in the ambulance with Hornby, Garavich, and Adril, I felt panic clawing viciously at my chest when I was hit with the thought that I would be held here for an indeterminable amount of time. That was about as scary as the flower.
I couldn’t express how I was feeling. Hell, I couldn’t even express how I feel in front of the rest of my unit. How’s this any different?
I spent the whole ride shoving down my emotions, like a lid on a boiling pot, trying not to let anything show on my face. I wanted to run, escape, get out, anything. That just wasn’t possible.
I found my mind digging up memories from years ago, when I decided to run away from home. I thought I would win then. I thought I could fix my life that way. I thought everything would be okay.
I thought wrong. I thought stealing a car was justified. I thought becoming a fugitive was justified. I was stupid enough to think I could make myself lost and the police wouldn’t find me after I killed three people.
Another thought surfaced, this one much different. Why are you so selfish? Would you really run away and leave Hudson to be tormented by these monsters? I looked over at Hudson’s cryotube. He was paler than fresh snow and completely expressionless. I didn’t envy what he was going through. If anything, cryosleep was worse than death. I didn’t want to imagine the nightmares he was having.
At the same time, I didn’t think someone like Hudson could have nightmares. He’s so obnoxiously cheerful and carefree that it just didn’t seem possible. Then again, how many people look at me and think I have no remorse?
Hudson and I are still teammates, and if I abandon him I’ll lose my shot at redemption.
Do I even deserve redemption? I know we’re teammates on paper, but I don’t feel like we’re teammates sometimes. We’re not exactly friends. Does that matter, though? I don’t know.
The hospital’s interior was sterile-white inside, and large, clunky machinery was being pushed around by doctors, nurses, and androids. Frost once joked about how there’s a reason most horror movies take place in hospitals. There’s always something unsettling about it, and I’ve always pinned it down to the fact that people die here.
It’s even more unsettling when you’re dealing with trauma. I see the white coats and suddenly I want to curl up into a ball and scream, because all I can see are the doctors on Gateway shouting for a defibrillator and Delhoun telling me that I was nearly lost. If there was a way to alter memories, I would gladly erase the ones from Gateway without a second thought.
We were taken up to a room on a restricted-access floor, where Hudson’s pod was hooked up to a miniature version of the machine that regulates cryosleep on our ships. I was taken to a different room, with only one occupant among the machines and test tubes. Honestly, the only reason I wasn’t immediately terrified was because the scientist wasn’t wearing his labcoat—it was draped over a chair. He was a little shorter than me, with dark hair that was beginning to thin at his temples and blue eyes set deep in his skull. He was wearing a blue workshirt and black necktie, which was tucked in his shirt while he leaned over a microscope.
Hornby knocked, while Adril barged right in to go to one of the other desks. The man at the microscope gave Hornby a look, but something about it told me that this wasn’t the first time.
“Doctor Farlas? Are you busy?” Hornby asked.
Farlas looked over at us. “No… No, I’m not busy. What do you need?”
“We brought the subjects. Whenever you’re ready, we’ll start our work with them.”
Farlas glanced at me. “You said you were bringing two. Where is the second?”
“We had to place him in cryosleep for the journey.”
“Even though you know the dangers of doing that?”
“He would have died on the journey. I don’t think it’s possible for someone to survive twenty hours without assistance.”
“Frankly, that hasn’t been tested yet, and I don’t think it’s worth the damage.”
“Agreed. I started the waking cycle for Hudson’s pod. He should be revived in an hour or so.”
“Good. Leave your other subject in here. I’ll take care of him.”
“You just got off a twenty-hour flight from Australia. You three should rest.”
Sighing, Hornby nodded. “Fair enough. Adril?”
“We’re not doing this to sit around, Doctor,” Adril replied, not looking up.
“Frankly, I’d like you out of my office and not poking around my work,” Farlas said firmly.
Without a word, Adril left the room. Shrugging, Hornby followed, closely by Garavich.
Farlas looked at me. “I’m sorry I didn’t get your name. You were repeatedly referred to as ‘the first subject’ in Adril’s transmissions to me.”
I had a hard time looking him in the eye. “It’s Drake. Private Mark Drake, USCM, serial number-”
“You’re not a prisoner, son, you don’t need to tell me that.”
“Well, I can’t exactly say I was willing to do this.”
“I can’t imagine anyone who went through what you did would be willing to come here. I don’t think this will reassure you, but I hope you understand that this is to create a surefire antidote so no one has to suffer the various experimental treatments we’re already using.”
“So, you’re actually trying to help?”
“As best I can.” I really wasn’t sure what to make of this guy. On one hand, I did think he was serious with me, but something deep inside me was telling me to stay cautious.