String Theory

Moving on to the Big Leagues

Scarlet interrupts Dr. Gerhardt’s excited speech as dozens of rats begin to pour into the room from holes in the walls and floor. On the wall, a monitor shows a half dozen thugs rushing towards the safe house door.

“Where’s the roof exit?” Nasir asks Hank, the safe house’s owner.

Hank leads the way to the hatch. The team scrambles to roof. John lingers at the back, batting away the rats as they leap up on him. He reaches the top of the safe house with a few scratches and a disturbing image of a massing pile of rodents in his mind.

On the roof, the agents race across a few short gaps to a rope ladder leading to their car. Most of the rodents fails to bridge the space between buildings. A molotov cocktail tossed by John disperses the rest.

A minute later John curses Guy for taking so long to get dinner as he starts the car. The rest of the team buckles their seat belts as he rapidly accelerates out of there.

Then there is a crash on the roof.

John slams on the breaks and woman in threadbare clothing crashes on the hood. Long dirty hair obscures her face but she hisses and sinks her claw-like fingers into the hood of the car.

From his position in the front passenger seat, Nasir grabs John’s shotgun and unloads into the vampire. The buckshot rips the creature’s face to shreds but does little to slow it down. As she begins to climb forward, Scarlet sinks a tranq dart full of antibiotics into it while Hank fires meaninglessly with his 9mm.

The woman grabs the jagged edges of the windshield and rips it open. A cool mist of antibiotic solution strikes her face, raising a ghostly smoke from the tar-like goo oozing from her wounds. The vampire recoils, sliding half off the front of the car.

As Hank continues to fire uselessly, Nasir pulls his tranq gun and injects another dose into the monster. She screams, releasing a cool smoke from her mouth.

John hurtles down a street lined with parked cars. He swerves and crashes, crushing the woman between the car and another vehicle.

As the team recovered from the sudden stop, the vampire pulls her head up from the hood of the car. With one last grunt of effort, she peels the car off of her and tosses it and the agents across the street.

They tumble upside down, dizzy but unharmed. She stumbles into the street, screams, and decays into a pile of dead rats.

Thirty minutes later and a few miles away, Scarlet finishes patching up John’s scratches. Nasir makes a call to their recent friend, Feinberg. The favor he asks is a large one but she agrees.

Several hours later a jet not officially belonging to the CIA lands in Vancouver. Aboard are the agents including Hank and the doctor. Skirting customs or indeed any official record, they find a safe location and catch some much needed rest.

The next day, Scarlet goes to work on surveilling the Panacea Pharmaceuticals R&D facility. Security is tight with twenty ex-military guards on staff, many former members of Overwatch. They protect a compound nestled in the woods north of the city. The head of security is a Mr. Glass.

One building in particular looks suspiciously isolated. Forty staff work there and she picks out three scientists who work at the suspicious building: Victor Nichols, Jeffrey Benson, and Hazel Soriano. All specialize in the study of antibiotic resistant organisms.

Entry is controlled by key card and retinal scan, difficult but not impossible to break. Scarlet hacks the corporate headquarters and arranges entry identification for the team.

Scarlet and Nasir arrive separately as visiting scientists while John poses as a new guard. Guy waits in reserve. They gather by the isolated building and bypass the security measures before passing through a decontamination chamber. Once inside, they don hazmat suits and head for one of the lab terminals. Only one scientist, Victor, is in at the moment and he is hard at work.

Scarlet breaks the firm’s password protection and accesses the main server. She copies all the research data, noting the presence of many antibiotic resistant diseases in this lab as well as samples of many strains of bacterial plagues.

John however spots something more interesting. The floor in this building is raised, suggesting something lies beneath it. With a little search he and Nasir uncover a trapdoor leading down. They recover Scarlet and head down but not before Nasir notices Victor watching them carefully.

Down below they find a dimly lit space filled with drums incubating some dark liquid. Peering closely it almost seems to move on its own. Scarlet flags hidden security cameras. She hacks into them and brings up footage from the facility’s records. The lines bypass the guards and go direct to the head of security.

The last entry of interest shows Mr. Cook, the CEO, being dragged by Glass and another man to a large tub two weeks ago. Inside a black tar-like substance flows like it was alive. They tossed him in and it forces itself inside him! Cook is now a vampire!

John injects antibiotics into a tub to kill the vampire plague but it has no effect. He grits his teeth, pulls out his bag of thermite powder and gets to work.

As they prepare to exfiltrate, guards move into the upper level. Mr. Glass consults with Dr. Nichols and then directs his men to train their guns on the exit.

John hastily constructs an IED and plants it directly beneath Glass’s feet.

A loud moment later, the team emerges from the rapidly burning basement into a blood splattered hall. John squints through the smoke, spying the panicked scientist still safely in his lab. Then he notices a bloody hand pulling a charred, shattered, but very much active Mr. Glass. The vampire hisses a threat as it pulls itself upright on the bony splinters of its legs.

John scoops up an assault rifle and unloads into the monster while Nasir and Scarlet fire a shotgun blast and antibiotic dart respectively.

As the antibiotics begin to dissolve him, Glass lunges forward and clamps his fangs on John’s throat. Gasping for air, the former soldier lifts the broken vampire up and tosses it into the burning subbasement. Glass howls a final time as his withered flesh is consumed.

The agents manhandle Victor into following them outside. He stammers that Glass and the others had threatened his life.

As guards and staff mill in confusion about the fire, a helicopter flies out from the forest, touching down briefly to pick up the ex-spies. In the cockpit, Guy whisks them away to safety.

A few hours later, the team arrives at the remote doorstep of John’s friend, Arthur Miller. They find John’s old army buddy a little paranoid but helpful. They catch their breath, patch up their wounds, and reload their weapons. Arthur agrees to look after Hank and the two scientists while John and the others finish this mission.

As Scarlet reviews the data they stole, she gets a call from an asset of Rosa’s. They arrange a dead drop. Before heading out, she briefs the team on the vampire’s weaknesses, detailed in Panacea’s files: internal doses of salt, antibiotic aerosol and injections, fire, and direct exposure of the black ooze within them to ultraviolet light. All these can all kill the vampires. And Cook is immune to at least the antibiotics.

The message Scarlet gets from Rosa describes how the intel tying the agents to the Riyadh attack traces back to Uzbekistan, in a semi autonomous region near Aral Sea. The agents recall the Soviets based a biowarfare program on an island out there. Clinching the connection are records on Panacea’s servers showing that Mr. Cook has arranged a private jet to Uzbekistan tonight!

The agents put a plan into motion. Infiltrating the airport ladened with supplies (including their new countermeasures), they surprise the pilots of Cook’s jet and replace them. They stow the unconscious men where they won’t be found for a day and wait.

Cook boards on time and they take off with Guy following the flight plan to the letter. Once over Siberia, he announces that magnetic interference from exceptionally strong aurora’s is causing a momentary communication blackout. He also indicates that if Cook looks out the right side of the aircraft he can see the northern lights.

They cut off the wifi and phone.

A moment later, the team bursts into the cabin. John opens fire on Cook with a blast of rock salt. As the monster rocks back in his chair in pain, Scarlet and Nasir hit him with darts full of Gerhardt’s serum. Instantly red glowing lines trace along Cook’s veins near the wound sites, quickly turning white hot.

Twin explosions rock the aircraft as Cook’s gut and left shoulder explode. As the agents take cover, the window next to the vampire blows open. Everyone’s ears pop as air pressure rapidly drops. At the controls, Guy steers them to a safer altitude.

As they regain their footing, John fires again. Scarlet shoots a dart into the twitching arm on the ground. Nasir kicks it into the monster where it explodes in a much smaller blast, scorching Cook.

Cook struggles to his feet under the blasts. He shakes it off and lurches forward, grabbing John and hurling him at the shattered window. The former soldier grabs the edge of the window as he flies out. Buffeted by winds and thousands of feet above the ground, he slowly begins to pull himself back inside.

Cook turns to the others. Rock salt protrudes from his face and torso. Black goo oozes from craters where his left shoulder and stomach once was.

As he snarls at them, the agents unleash the harsh glow of their UV lamps, focusing on his wounds. He topples back into his seat, the blackness within him turning to ash. In mere moments his body crumples into a charred corpse.

John crawls back into the plane and the agents lock themselves in the cockpit. Guy resumes the flight plan as best he can. The plane rocks with the added wind resistance.

A couple hours later and it is too much. Cracks trace along the inside and outside of the plane as it vibrates like a coin operated bed. The team don their parachutes and dive out over the Aral Desert.

They land safely amid the dusty salt flats. Donning their masks against the carcinogenic dust and retrieving their supplies, Guy leads them towards Aralsk-7 on the former island of Vozrozhdeniya. On the days long hike, they spot vast clouds of birds and flies but Nasir safely leads them past the spies of the Conspiracy.

They find the former bioweapons facility abandoned and eerily quiet. Rusted vehicles and decaying structures seem to be all that remains. Then Guy notices that the subsidence of the buildings is far in excess of what might be expected. There is a void beneath them.

“Hold on,” he says.

That’s when John hears it, the sound of movement from the buildings around them. He signals the others and they scatter for cover as a half dozen withered corpses emerge and encircle them.

With the monsters still distant, the team shoots doses of the serum in each, ducking as each explodes violently. In mere moments they are alone again.

Then the wall of a surviving lab crashes open as Serge Milic barrels straight into John. He unleashes a brutal attack at his former friend, pounding him into a rusted pickup. The spy tries to defend himself as best he can then bolts well out of range of his attacker.

Guy fires a dart of serum into Serge.

The vampire explodes in a huge explosion, consuming most of the nearby buildings in a ball of fire and concussive force.

Everyone scrambles for cover. Scarlet dives past a broken pickup as it is upended. Nasir buries himself beneath a pile of debris as the flames lap around him. Guy plunges through one of the structures as it is ripped apart around him.

As the smoke clears Guy finds himself alone. The ground quakes and then collapses beneath him, spilling him into a tunnel. He slides thirty feet before catching himself above a vast abyss.

A lake of black slime stirs beneath him. Tendrils rise from its surface and sniff the air. One twists in his direction.

Then a knotted rope cascades down to him. John and the others haul him up.

Faced with the enormity of the creature beneath them, only one plan makes sense. Guy pulls out a final mist machine and modifies it to use Gerhardt’s serum. He adds a timer, slides it down the tunnel and they begin running.

A half hour later the world’s attention is drawn to Uzbekistan as a nearly nuclear explosion destroys the last refuge of the Conspiracy.

The agents disappear in the smoke. Most launder their haul from the bank heist and live in relative luxury though Nasir continues to harbor hopes of coming in from the cold.

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