“Your hand!” Lin said, scowling and stepping back.
The black crust along my stump was shining as puss bubbled along its edges.
“What the hell happened?” she insisted.
I shook my head. “The rain, it- everyone outside’s dead. The rain did something, some kind of monstrous mutation.” I rubbed my arm, staying clear away from its end. “There was a drop. Just a drop, landed on my hand, and- I’m just thankful I cut it off when I did.”
“You cut off your hand?” Lin took another step back from me. I could see her eyes questioning my words and my sanity.
“You haven’t seen, have you?”
“Seen outside. Seen what’s happened.”
“I was on my way- I heard everyone was going out to see the first rainfall, but I had to man the comm systems.” She glanced to the sealed outer exit next to the mess. “And now the emergency shields are down?”
“Yeah.” I leaned against the wall. My energy was drained. “Take a look at the monitor by the door over there. You’ll be glad I sealed them when you see what’s out there.”
My eyes rolled across the tables and chairs in front of the mess, and I pushed off the wall in that direction.
Lin pulled away, watching my direction.
“Go on.” I kept walking. “I’m just going to rest in a chair over here. You go look through the monitor. Make sure you cycle to the views outside the vehicle depot. There’s some fun stuff out there.”
Lin backed away toward the door, until she was convinced I was really headed for the mess’ tables. As I lowered myself into a seat, I glanced at its table’s left-behind lunch and was tempted. I watched Lin tap on the control panel next to the outer door, and launch the closed circuit video system.
My eyes swirled around the Junction’s commons. I don’t think I had ever seen it so empty, so still and lifeless. No one was in line at the mess. No one buying supplies in the commissary. I could see every piece of equipment in the gym, and not a sole occupied one of them.
I gazed above, through the skylights that made up the majority of the ceiling, at the drift of orange and red clouds. The skylight was wet with reddish water, in droplets and streams that ran down to the outside walls.
“Oh, God,” Lin said. I could only imagine her face as I stared at the back of her head. I watched the light from the monitor flicker on the wall in front of her, and I expected her eyes were strained and glued to the disgusting madness outside. She turned to me. “What the fuck are those things? Where is everyone?”
“Those things are everyone.”
“That doesn’t make sense.” She turned to the monitor and reversed the video stream.
She rolled back to when in it all started. I could faintly hear familiar voices, and words like rain and celebration. I heard clapping and cheering, followed by confusion and screaming. I closed my eyes and turned away as my mind reminded me of the plasma torch and Mr. Walters.
“Oh my God!” Lin shrieked. She turned away and back again. “Oh my God!” She pivoted toward me, pointing at the screen.
“That- that’s real. That really happened.”
I stood from the thin gray chair and began pushing myself across the junction toward the Medical Wing. “Yeah. It happened. And, I need to get to the infirmary and see what they can do for this.”
“There’s no one there,” Lin said. “They all went outside. They’re all- those things.”
I stopped and breathed a heavy exhale. “I guess I better learn a new trick then.” I shook my head and continued forward.
“I’ll come.” I heard her steps running up behind me. “I have a little training in the infirmary, assistant nurse is my back up role.”
“Thank God,” I said.
The infirmary was deserted, just as Lin had said. It’s deep shiny walls splashed bright light across the room, and boosted the echoes of my and Lin’s steps. Each of the twelve patient beds sat empty, though two showed wrinkles and wore accompanying angrily beeping monitors at their sides.
“Just sit,” Lin said.
I hopped onto the closest bed and watched Lin rummage through the cabinets and drawers for whatever she was searching. In that moment, the pain floated away as I concentrated on her movement. I watched her clothes swing around her curves, and tuck as she turned. I sucked in a burst of air, and caught myself an instant before nodding off, and realized, Lin is a sexy woman.
“Lay back,” Lin said. She approached with a cleansing towel in one hand and a long gray tool in the other. As I let my body fall onto the bed, she said, “This is going to hurt.”
“What?” I watched while Lin wrapped the cleansing towel around my stump. As she brought both ends together from opposite sides of my arm, they latched onto one another and started to hiss. “That’s weird”
The towel’s noise grew louder, as it hardened and stiffened. It warmed, and turned hot, as it tightened and shrunk.
“What the hell!” I shouted. “Ow!” The towel got hotter and tighter.
Lin pressed buttons on her tool. Two metal pins slid from the end of the long gray device. She leaned over me, grabbing my stumped arm, and stabbed the meaty chunk of my forearm, beside my elbow.
“What the hell,” I yelled before relief flowed over my body. The towel continued to hiss and shrink, but it had become without pain. My entire arm was without pain. “That, that’s much better.”
Lin smiled. She tapped the gray tool, shrinking its pins, and extending three new ones. Pulsing waves of blue and purple flowed from the tool along its three pins, sparking and dripping at its end.
“Just try to hold still,” Lin said. She leaned in, bringing the device over my arm when an ear piercing crack slammed into the infirmary door.