“And where, exactly, does that vent lead?” The speaker asked, his voice dangerously quiet. The guards in the chamber shifted on their feet uneasily, along with Dr. Cromwell, who had been invited to the debriefing along with the rest of the officers.
“It goes to the abandoned section of the complex.” Jim said, standing among the mass of other guards currently looking at their boots. He had been pushed to the front due to his friendship with Derek, the man who had both somewhat calmed the monster and then kidnapped by her. He swallowed. “We don’t know the full layout of that area; it’s always been off limits.”
The speaker steepled his fingers, resting his forehead against them. “Yes, it hasn’t been used since the government was here years ago.” He looked up. “You’re friends with-” He glanced at a personnel roster on his desk. “Private Derek Wagonner?”
“Yes sir, that is correct.”
The speaker nodded slowly, thinking. “Everybody except for you-” He pointed at Jim. “And you-” Pointed at an officer of the guard next to the door. “Are excused for a few minutes.”
The men dutifully shuffled out, muttering among themselves about the events of the past day, leaving the three alone after the door closed with a loud slam.
* * *
Dr. Cromwell thought to himself once he had been excused from the chamber, letting his thoughts wander without making himself too obvious. Using a smoke break as an excuse, he stepped to the side down an empty hallway, lit a cigarette, and worked out the events of the day.
He was a short man, slight of build with a straight face of hard angles perched atop his normal lab coat. Time in the army had made him reject the typical professional attire of shirt and tie for paratrooper style cargo trousers and boots, easily acquired from the supply office of the research complex. The large pockets were always full of bandages, salves, tweezers, and more than enough morphine syrettes in a paper carrying case. Ostensibly, the morphine was for wounded guards. Realistically, several of them went missing every few days. Nobody noticed, which worked fine for the doctor.
“Nice token inclusion effort they made there.” He muttered. “I can’t help with fixing anything if I don’t know what’s wrong. Bloody morons.”
He took a long drag, allowing the smoke to linger in his mouth for a long moment. What had happened? A prisoner broke free? But how? Cromwell continued to question the situation, but could not piece it together in his mind. They refused to tell him anything.
“Escaped through the ventilation system to the abandoned sections of the complex. Interesting.” He chewed the words around as he said them, mind working but finding no real purchase on the facts he had. It made no sense. He shook his head as a new thought arose, pondering the merits of finding out for himself. What madness! This prisoner had killed several people in unnaturally brutal ways in the past week, and the doctor had no intention of joining that number.
“Do no harm.” He quoted to himself, putting out his cigarette along the concrete wall before stepping back towards his operating theatre, looking down with arms folded across his white lab coat.
* * *
Derek slid past another open blast door and through a heavy grate hanging open, or at least as far as he could tell in the pitch darkness, feeling with his hands along the walls of the vent. Past the grate there was open space, evidently a hallway somewhere else in the facility.
He turned around in the dark, gripping the edge of the vent to slowly lower himself feet first over the open darkness in case the distance was farther than he expected. Dangling from his hands extended over his head, he felt his feet touch the floor. Okay, so only about a seven and a half feet from the floor to the bottom of the vent.
He landed easily, taking care to make as little sound as possible; he didn’t know where he was, after all. Remembering something, Derek fished around in his cargo pocket, pulling out his small utility flashlight. “That may have been useful as some point.” He said to himself, rolling his eyes in annoyance.
After turning on the flashlight, he pointed it to the vent where the broad frame of Infinity was squeezing through the opening. She landed on her feet, her large boots thudding loudly on the tiled floor. Derek winced, but said nothing. Infinity stood to her full height, looking down at Derek with her blank expression, her head almost coming up to the vent entrance.
“Are you alright?” Derek asked, Infinity giving no real response to the question. “Oh, right, you can’t understand me any more, can you?” Still no response. Derek shrugged and began turning away.
Before he could get far, Infinity’s hand reached out, cupping Derek’s cheek in her massive palm. He gasped, taking a moment to realize she was just touching, not attacking him. He relaxed as her fingers traced lightly along his jaw, moving up his face to his ear, massaging it gently for a moment, then sliding up for her fingers to get tangled in his hair. The touch calmed him immensely, his tense muscles loosening as she reached up her other hand, joining with the first to explore his face and head.
Derek pointed the light at the ceiling, allowing it to illuminate more of the hallway. Infinity’s expression had changed to one of almost comical focus, her eyes narrowed, brow furrowed, and her tongue poking out slightly from the side of her lips. If she wasn’t a huge woman with proven homicidal tendencies, Derek may have laughed out loud.
She soon stopped, however, keeping her gaze focused on Derek, waiting for him to do something. In return, he reached up to run his own hand along her face, lingering on the raised scar marks on her jaw and shoulders. Her eyes closed, her face taking on a sort of serene quality, making Derek somewhat disappointed when he pulled his hand away to get his bearings.
“Well, this is the abandoned section. Never found out how large it is, but I guess this is our chance.” He said, not expecting a response. Holding the flashlight out in front of him, Derek moved carefully along the dusty, cobwebbed hallway with the lumbering form of Infinity coming up behind him. It didn’t take long to find an open door leading into an old kitchen.
“Here, this might work.” He said to himself, shining the light all about the room. There were several shelves and broken pantries throughout the kitchen area. Infinity came in too, glancing around the room almost furtively. This must be so new to her, Derek thought to himself, realizing that she probably had never left the facility in her life. The idea made him a touch melancholy.
“Spam. How wonderful.” He deadpanned as the contents of the shelves became clearer to him. Dozens and dozens of cans lined the shelves, most of them containing Spam, but there were a few with packaged chicken, tuna, and even a can of soup. Who knew if anything but the Spam was still good, though. “You hungry?” He turned to Infinity. She looked at him and said nothing.
Derek picked up a can, popped the top with the included can opener, and shoveled out a mouthful with his knife. He held it out to Infinity, gesturing for her to eat it, which she dutifully did, chewing softly. They sat down, staying this way for a long time while eating in silence.