Written by Ghost
The debriefing for the mission had been short and to the point.
Contact had been lost with a government research lab and a team had been
assembled to enter the facility, establish what had happened to the staff, retrieve what
information they could, and blow the facility. The team--consisting of Michael,
Nikita, Birkhoff, Nathan, Chad, Lowell, and Lindsey--would split into two, Michael
taking Lindsey and Birkhoff to find the mainframe while Nikita led Nathan, Chad, and
Lowell through a search of the facility. It was taken as a given that the staff was dead,
for reasons unknown, and their sole responsibility was to get the information on one certain
project, codenamed Operation Gladiator, and then to destroy the facility and all traces of the
Entrance to the facility proved to be easy; an access code had been
provided and the doors slid open with a slight whisper, Michael and Lowell going first, easing
their way inside, weapons held at the ready, moving carefully down the long corridor, the rest of
the team trailing warily behind them. At the end of the corridor, Michael and Lowell took opposite
sides, slipping around the corner to check the hallway, returning to the group, all of them clustering
around Michael as he consulted a diagram of the facility.
"Corridor branches off east and west--to the east is the main labs, west the computer room. We
want to do a sweep of the facility, determine how many bodies we have here--team one goes to the computer room,
team two will check offices and the labs." Michael's eyes flicked over his fellow team members. "Stay alert and
keep your com units open--I want to be advised the moment you notice anything unusual."
"Unusual how?" asked Nikita with a small frown.
Michael shook his head. "Just keep your eyes open." Studying him Nikita disconcerted to see
that there was a faint unease in his eyes, there long enough to be register and then vanishing.
Michael paused long enough to lay a hand on her shoulder--the gesture saying "be careful" as much as actual
words--and nodded to Birkhoff and Lindsey as he took the western branch, the other two trailing behind him. Squaring
her shoulders, Nikita gestured to her team and headed the opposite direction.
They made their way slowly down the corridor and as they went it widened little and the blank
smoothness of wall was interrupted by intermittent doors. To the first one Nikita went, Chad and
Nathan standing behind her, Lowell fading back to watch the corridor, and as Nikita eased the door open both Chad and Nathan moved quickly into the room, guns up and sweeping office. Nikita went in behind them, glancing around the room, seeing a typical office--desk with computer, chair behind it, two file cabinets against the wall--but with more than the standard
disorder of an office.
The chair had fallen back onto the floor and papers were scattered across the room--presumably
from the desk--pictures that had been sitting the desk lying on the floor amidst glass, a coffee mug lying on its side on the desk, the dark liquid sinking into the papers across it. And on the floor by the desk was a dark smear of blood and strands of hair in it, a trail of it going to the back of the small office and ending abruptly. And no body in sight...
Stepping back, Nikita motioned to the other two and they went back out in the hallway, moving down to check the other rooms as they went. Two more offices, two more similar scenes of disorder, trails of blood, and in the last office a far more violent display, along with
the more copious amount of blood there were traces of tissue; around the bend and now there was blood on the floor and the walls as well as they came to the first lab.
The lab was utterly destroyed, glass crunching under foot as they walked, beakers and vials thrown to the floor, other equipment overturned, the glass door of the cabinet containing medical
supplies broken as well, computer equipment thrown to the floor as if by an angry child in the midst of some destructive tantrum. Stepping around the paper and glass, Nikita bent over to retrieve a notebook lying on the floor and heard from Chad an exclamation of disgust.
"What is it--" she started to say tersely as she went to him and swallowed as she saw what had
prompted such a reaction; an arm lay on the floor, strangely enough still covered by the white sleeve of a lab coat only faintly streaked with blood, the white of joint showing beyond the sleeve, and as she stared down at it, Nikita thought for a moment that she actually saw it
twitch but put that down to nerves.
"Out." she said, moving back into the hallway, the other two trailing behind her. Lowell had
already moved down the corridor and Nikita gestured for Chad and Nathan to take another lab
as she went to the nearest one, finding another scene of destruction, more blood but no other limbs scattered about, no bodies at all.
Moving back out of the office, she gave a violent start as she heard a yell and looked quickly
down the hallway, Chad and Nathan emerging from a door to regard her as well, Lowell turning
back, and it took her a moment to realize it had come from her com unit. Another yell, choked off, and then Michael's voice, shouting, "Leave her, she's dead! Fall back, Birkhoff--now, damn it!"
Birkhoff's voice, sounding shaky and terrified: "What--what is that?"
"Damn you, get back--" A scuffle through the com unit and then Michael's voice again, sounding just a little rattled and that was more than enough to scare the hell out of Nikita: "Nikita! Fall back to our original position. We have hostiles in the building--"
"I got movement!" called Lowell, turning back to look down the corridor, and Nikita held one
hand to the receiver in her ear, trying to distinguish the sounds coming from it as she walked slowly towards Lowell, seeing beyond him an approaching figure.
"Go, Birkhoff--" The scuffle of feet and a grunt of effort then three shots, fired one after the other, and Michael's voice shouting in her ear, making her wince. "Are you receiving
Nikita? I said fall back, do not engage! Confirm!"
"Stay where you are! Down on your knees!" ordered Lowell, gun trained on the man as he
walked slowly, an odd shuffling gait, arms hanging limply at his sides.
"Confirm--Lowell, we're falling back--" As odd as the order was coming from Michael and seeing that the "hostile" down the corridor was unarmed, Nikita relayed the order, seeing other figures starting to come down the hallway, all moving with that same disjointed manner as if they had forgotten how their limbs worked, three more in all.
The first one had reached Lowell, arms extending to touch him, and Lowell stepped back, firing into the man's chest. The man jerked with the impact, stumbling back a few steps, and then came on again, hands out and grasping, lunging at him. Rather than stepping back Lowel brought his gun up to club at the man and the man's hands caught his arm, head lowering to bite into his arm, Lowell giving a cry of disgust as he tried to shake the man off, kicking at him. A shove from the man and Lowell was down, even as Chad started to move to help him the other three
beyond had reached him, falling on him, undisturbed by the burst of gunfire he and Nathan sent into them.
Nathan ran forward to pull one of the men off Lowell and staggered back as the man rose, blood on his face, one eye socket an empty bloody hole, the clothing hanging from him in long flaps, the flesh underneath bloody and torn. Shots fired from Lowell and then a cry of
anguish, ending in a liquid gurgle, and Nikita belatedly moved, grabbing Chad and shoving him back behind her, firing indiscriminately at two of the men that rose from Lowell's body. One wore the long lab coat of a doctor, the shoulder of it torn, spotted with blood both dried and fresh, and the other a guard's uniform, cap still perched on top of his head. Grabbing Nathan's arm, Nikita dragged him back, glancing down at Lowell and seeing one of the two men lapping at the blood flowing from his throat like a kitten drinking from a bowl of milk, Lowell's eyes staring sightlessly at nothing.
"Nikita!" Michael's shout galvanized her to action and she hit Nathan to get his attention as he stood staring in shock, pushing his shoulder and pointing back the direction they came, casting a
wary glance over her shoulder and her heart beating rapidly as she saw more coming down the
"Go!" she shouted at Chad and caught Nathan's sleeve, dragging him with he as she beat a hasty retreat, looking over her shoulder to mark the progress of their attackers. They ran back down the corridor and all but collided with Michael and Birkhoff as they came to the intersection, Nikita reaching out to Birkhoff, who was shaking like a leaf, face white and eyes hug behind his round glasses.
"Lowell's dead." she reported tersely to Michael, giving Birkhoff an awkward pat. "Lindsey?"
"Dead." Michael said brusquely. "We'll set the charges and then evac--Birkhoff, check the door." No response from Birkhoff, who leaned against the wall, staring at the floor, and Michael gave him a shake. "The door, Birkhoff."
Birkhoff nodded jerkily, rubbing his mouth with the back of his hand, and went to the keypad set beside the door, typing in a series of numbers and reaching over for the door to pull on the handle but to no avail. A moment's hesitation and then he tried again, going slower this time, tugging again on the handle, a third try as Nikita came up behind him and shaking his head.
"Access is blocked somehow--" he said in a thin voice.
Michael started to grab the sleeves of those nearest to him, pushing them one by one back up the corridor, dragging Birkhoff with him. "Move it, we don't want to get bottled up here--we head back to the computer room, there's got to be a way to get the door open."
Birkhoff shook his head, setting his feet against Michael's pull. "Not going back in there--"
Michael gave him a hard shake, shooting Nikita a warning glare when she moved to intervene, and said directly into his face, "If we're going to get out of this alive, we need the door open, Birkhoff, and you know the only way to get to it is through the mainframe. I need you to be focused right now, clear?"
Slowly Birkhoff nodded and Michael released him, one hand going up to touch him on the head reassuringly. "We keep our heads, we can get out of this. We just need to work together. Nathan--" Nathan halted in mid-stride, turning to look at Michael. "Stick with Birkhoff. Nodding, Nathan waited for Birkhoff to catch up to him and Michael followed behind, Nikita
hurrying to catch up with him.
"Why don't we just blow the door and get out? Bring back another team?" she asked, quietly
enough that her voice wouldn't carry to the others.
"We need to keep this contained. Can't let it get out into the populace."
"Keep what contained?" She caught his arm as he started to move away from her and though he could of, he didn't shrug free, merely glanced back up at the others.
"Later, Nikita. We don't have time now." He used her grip on his arm to pull her along and she
allowed it, going with him back out into the main hallway, where the other three surviving members of the team were clustered, watching the corridor.
"Coming from both directions." said Chad quietly as they reached him. Nikita glanced in the
direction they had come and felt her stomach twist as she saw more of the figures, one in a nurses' uniform but with the front of it torn open, flesh ripped back to show ribs underneath, claw marks on throat and torso but her face undisturbed, blue eyes staring blankly as she stumbled along, one white duty shoe half off her foot.
"What are they?" she whispered.
"Zombies." Nathan crossed himself as he said it, dark skin glistening with sweat, eyes a little
"We have to go through them." said Michael flatly, ignoring Nathan's distress. "We go in pairs, Birkhoff stays between us. Place your shots, aim for the head--anywhere else and it's wasted. Go!" He shoved at Nathan, sending him stumbling ahead, and went to catch Birkhoff's
arm, pulling him along as they went into the corridor.
Chad and Nathan took the point, moving at a quick pace until they encountered the approaching zombies, Chad taking the time to shoot for the head and slipping past the slow
moving zombies, only firing when he had to, but at the first touch of one cold hand, Nathan stumble back and started firing at random, ignoring Michael's shout, one bullet striking Chad in the chest and sending him spinning to the ground. The zombies immediately pounced on him, his cries soon silenced, and Nathan swung around at the sound of a footfall behind him, gun up in trembling hand, no sense at all in his eyes, the muzzle pointed at Nikita. Not seeing her, just seeing the danger around him, and she froze, reluctant to shoot him even in her own defense.
A shot and Nathan fell back, a bullet plowing through his forehead, Michael lowering his gun
and shoving at Nikita. "Run for it!" She did as he told her, ducking and dodging through the mass
of zombies, feeling hands tug at her clothing as she passed, swinging around once to put a bullet
through the head of one--wearing only a hospital gown--even as she made it through the gauntlet.
Michael was slower to come, having to literally drag Birkhoff through beside him, holding onto him with his left arm and firing with his gun in his right hand.
Just a few feet from Nikita and a lunge from one zombie sent him stumbling back, the sleeve of Birkhoff's jacket slipping through his fingers, zombies surging on Birkhoff as he fell to his knees, one arm extended to Michael, eyes pleading. Michael caught his arm and tried drag him back but hands had latched onto him, pulling at him, more strength to them, Birkhoff crying for Michael to help him as he was pulled inexorably back, nearly dragging Michael with him. At the last moment, cursing, Michael let him go and Birkhoff was swallowed up, a high thin scream coming from him as hands tore into him, ending mercifully quick.
"Michael!" Nikita ran back to seize a handful of his vest and pull him with her, Michael taking a few stumbling steps, eyes still fixed on where Birkhoff had been then, and then he finally turned to run with her down the corridor.
Along the way they encountered only a handful of zombies, quickly put do and then they were
in the computer room, Michael running for the main computer, typing at the keyboard and studying the screen. "Access...there..."
"What is this? What's happened here?" From where they stood Nikita could see Lindsey's body, stretched out on her back, light colored hair darkened with blood and scalp torn back, limbs asprawl, horror and fear contorting her face.
"Experiment. Germ warfare, something like that--went out of control, people died. Bodies placed in canisters and lost until recently." Michael tapped at the keyboard as he spoke.
"Did you know about this?" demanded Nikita, grabbing his shoulder and forcing him to look at her.
He met her eyes steadily. "No--it's just something I heard once, a story, didn't think it was true.
I wouldn't of come here with a team if I'd known--I would of done a surgical strike from the air."
"But They knew. They wanted the data on this...experiment." said Nikita angrily.
"And they're not getting it." replied Michael grimly, typing one last string of letters on the key-
board and straightening, picking up the gun he had set on the counter. "We'll be able to get out the front door now--we set the charges and detonate once we get outside." He shrugged out of his back-pack and tore it open, removing the charges and placing them around the computer room, Nikita assisting him.
Once they were done, he gave her the activator. "Here--just in case I don't make it out. It's very
important that this place is destroyed so they don't get out."
Nikita nodded, thinking of what would happen once the zombies got out, how quickly it would
spread among the populace. And what the government had done here, no doubt trying to find a way to control their dead soldiers and use them for the vanguard of the Army, soldiers that would keep going no matter what, feeling no pain or discomfort, no weariness, stopped only by a bullet to the head. She put the activator in her pocket and drew in a deep breath to steady herself, giving Michael a wan smile, he returning the smile and asking, "Ready?"
"Ready." She proceeded him out the door, ducking her head quickly around the corner to see if it was clear, heart sinking a little as she saw the zombies moving towards them. Keep your head, move quick, you can get past them, she told herself and found that she almost believed it.
Out in the corridor and she took the point, weaving through the slow-moving zombies, flesh
crawling as hands groped for her, one catching momentarily at her belt and nearly sending her
tumbling to the ground but Michael was beside her instantly to steady her and push her on, lagging behind to cover her. He moved back, methodically aiming and shooting the approaching zombies in the head, turning left and right, an ease and grace in his movements as he shrugged off grasping hands, no sign of any emotion at all on his face. None of the horror and revulsion Nikita felt at the touch of those cold, rotting hands, none of the fear she felt at their shambling, remorseless approach, just his typical cool efficiency.
She was nearly to the exit and stopped to look for him, distracted momentarily by one zombie that came at her, shooting him in the head, glanced back at Michael to see him eject a spent clip and pull another from his pocket. The number of zombies around him had increased, slowing his progress, hands pulling at his arms as he tried to put the other clip in, and he stumble back, trying to pull free, the first hint of emotion in his eyes, a flash of panic as his gun arm was caught. A blood-matted head lowered to the wrist that held the clip and bit down, Michael's hand opening spasmodically and releasing the clip to fall with a clatter to the floor.
"Michael!" she called and started back for him.
"Go!" he shouted, pulling vainly to free his arms, hands catching at his vest and pulling at his
legs. Kicking to free one leg, he lunged back, managing to drag one arm free a well, and from behind him loomed a figure, horribly still recognizable as Birkhoff, round glasses streaked with
blood, a long strip of flesh hanging from one cheek and exposing the white of his cheekbone.
Michael, sensing the approach from behind him, started to turn his head as one of Birkhoff's
hands caught his shoulder, another hand gripping hair as Birkhoff's mouth move to his throat.
Feeling the hot breath on his throat he tried to duck his head but Birkhoff burrowed under his chin and teeth sank into his throat, Birkhoff giving a shake of his head to tear of a chunk of flesh, blood spraying from the wound. Michael's features spasmed in pain and the gun fell from suddenly nerve- less fingers, his knees buckling as he was dragged down by the weight of the zombies, Birkhoff still clinging to him.
"No!" Nikita screamed and ran for him, firing as she came, the zombies falling down as bullet
after bullet struck brain, ending their existence. Tears were streaming down her cheeks as she
reached Michael, struggling weakly under the three over him, booted feet pushing at the floor,
and the two knelt over him rose from to go for her. She snarled as she shot them, watching with grim satisfaction as they fell, and looked down at Birkhoff as he lifted his head from Michael's throat, mouth wet with Michael's blood, extended her gun.
"I'm sorry, Birkhoff." she said and shot him in the head, Birkhoff falling back with a jerk.
Dropping to her knees beside Michael, the still milling zombies forgotten, she swallowed hard
against the bile that surged up her throat, seeing where hands had torn into his flesh, the ruin of his throat, blood still flowing steadily. Incredibly he was still alive, still conscious, face gray but
managing a smile as she looked down at him, hands moving over him, trying to stop the bleeding
but knowing it was too late, he was as good as dead.
"You know...what to do." he whispered.
Nikita shook her head. "I can't!" Couldn't shoot him, no matter that she had threatened to or even felt like it a few times...
"Don't want to be...one. Please..."
Crying she took her gun and put it under his chin, Michael's eyes closing at the press of the
muzzle, and she shut her eyes tightly as she pulled the trigger. A jerk of his body and then he was
still, she pulled him into her lap and touched his face, unmindful of the zombies coming closer,
removing the detonator from her pocket as she leaned forward to press her lips against his cooling lips. "I love you." she said softly and pushed the button to detonate the explosives, a roar of thunder and flash of white light consuming her...
Nikita awoke with a gasp, long pale hair clinging in sweat-dampened strands to the side of her
face, heart racing frantically in her chest as she sat upright on the couch. Quick glance around her
showed the familiar confines of her apartment and then she looked to the now blank TV screen, got up on shaky legs to hit the eject button on the VCR and removed "Return of the Living Dead III" from the VCR to shove it in its plastic rental case. Status: O
That is the last time I ever borrow a movie from Carla, she thought grim