Part 5: The Infirmary

“What the hell was that?” Lin’s head spun toward the door.

“Lock it!” I said. “Lock it now!”

Lin froze. I leaned forward and swung my feet to the side of the bed, as she took off toward the control panel.

Crack, shook the door, and the wall beside it.

Punching strokes into the panel, Lin breathed heavily.

Crack, the room echoed with a deafening shock.

The door’s controls signaled a long low Beep and a high chirp. Throwing up her hands, Lin stepped back. “Done- as much as I can do anyway. These weren’t meant to be security doors.”

Crack, the door rattled in its frame.

“Oh, God.” Lin jumped back.

Against the portal, thumps grew in a pulsating rhythm, louder and louder, shaking the room. A high pitched squeal found its way through the metal structure and filled their ears with agonizing layers of frequencies in wild modulation.

Thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump.

“Argh!” Lin stared at me in distress. She held her hands over her ears, as red leaks sprang, peaking through her fingers and streaming down her forearms.

I felt my ears swelling. Grabbing a blanket from the end of my bed, I ran to Lin. I gathered folds of the fabric in my palm and held it over Lin’s left hand and ear. Focusing on me, she got it, and took the blanket, squishing it against the sides of her head. I grabbed another blanket from the next bed, and pushed it to my head, as I squatted on the floor. Tucking it between my left ear and left shoulder, I wrapped the rest around my head and held it tight with my right hand.

Thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump. The ceiling rattled like the planet was quaking. The floor vibrated underneath us.

My eye’s searched around the room. No visible exits. We’re stuck.

Crack, door jumped inward and bounded back in place. Crack, the door jumped inward again but rested an inch inside the frame.

And nothing. The squeal ceased. The thumping stopped. What sounded like a dozen tiny footsteps patted quietly, and shrunk in volume until gone.

I didn’t move, didn’t speak. Lin held her blanket firmly, and stood in place, staring at the off-center door.

Standing, I took a step toward Lin. Her eyes bulged and fixed on me. She dropped the blanket from her right hand and waved frantically at me, motioning me to sit back down. I held my empty palm up. It’s OK now, I mouthed to her. “I think it’s gone,” I whispered.

I backed away and sat on the edge of the bed where Lin had been treating me. her eyes bounced between me and the door for almost a minute. She stepped in a slow and measured pace toward me, stopping next to the bed.

“It’s inside,” she whispered. “I thought they were all outside.”

“It had to have come in before I shut the shield. It couldn’t have broken through that.”

“What- it almost broke through this door. We have to find a way to defend ourselves.”

“They Armory?” I wondered. “Maybe we can get inside?” I shuffled back and laid on the bed.

“What are you doing?”

“I think I might be in shock. My body’s tired and aching. I, I need to rest for a few minutes.”

“What if it comes back?”

“I just need to lay here a minute. And we should wait a few minutes before moving anyway. To let it wander somewhere else before we go out there.”

Lin’s face strained at my words. She inched herself onto the edge of the bed and stared at the entrance.

#

Opening my eyes, I saw Lin sitting on the bed across the room.

“What happened?” I spoke through a grumbling tone.

Lin held her finger to her lips and stood from the bed. She glanced at the door and back at me, as she strafed to the side of my bed.

“You’ve been asleep for four hours,” Lin whispered.

“Four hours?” I whispered back. Sitting up, I didn’t notice at first I was leaning on my stump. Lifting it in front of my face, the cleansing towel was gone, as was my cauterized flesh. My skin was smooth and slick, like a baby’s. There was no pain. My mouth was stretched wide as I spun my arm and admired my healed wound.

Lin smiled. “Looks a lot better, right?”

“Yes. Did you do this?”

“I was able to seal the wound and regrow the soft tissue. The best I could do without a stem cell orchard. We have one in-route, but it may be two years before it gets here.”

“No, thank you for this. It really feels so much better.”

A clank of distant metal-on-metal reverberated through the door. We both swung our eyes at the front of the room.

“It’s been doing that. Every few minutes I hear it bang on something. I don’t know what it’s doing, but it hasn’t come back here yet. So, I’ve just been being very quiet and waiting.”

I sat up and looked around the room. Maybe this time I can find an exit.

Lin watched me. “There’s nowhere to go. We have to go out the front door get to the armory.”

“Man. Almost every other section has ducting or ceiling panels, floor panels, something that opens.”

“Not here. Everything’s sealed in case of medical emergencies. The room was airtight until that thing knocked the door off its track.”

“So we have to go out the front.”

“Yes.”

Part 6: Just a Short Sprint