Chapter 9 – Hope
It was the smell of frying bacon that woke me up. That, and Shannon and Tommy's loud mouths.
“Hey, Sleeping Beauty,” Tommy said. “Get up. We got work to do.”
I felt worlds better, if a little disoriented. In fact, my first thoughts were that I had a terrible dream. That lasted oh, less than a minute.
“Come see,” Doug said.
Out back, flies buzzed on the rabbit corpses. What was left of them, anyway. The infected ones were bloated, sluggish, and swamped in gore.
To my dismay, Doug opened a cage and pulled out before I had a chance to react. He cradled it to his chest like a baby and stroked it's blood-matted fur. It was more than docile. It seemed downright affectionate.
“Are you crazy?” I asked.
“It's fine. Twelve hours or so is all it took, by my estimation. Then it wears off. In the meantime, it's infectious, of course.”
“What if it had bitten you anyway?”
He shrugged. “I'm not willing to find out. But I'm willing to be it's no longer contagious, either. Check this out. It's now immune to the gas.”
“I shit you not.”
I pondered the implications. “So what do we do now? Go public?”
“Are you serious? You naive little bastard. Do you really think any news outlet would touch this in a million years?”
“No one would believe us. Well, some people would. But no one would believe them. That's the beauty of the internet. Tons of truth is out there. Ignored, discredited. You know 'conspiracy' is synonymous with 'kook', by design. It's been that way since JFK. Plus we don't want to tip our own hand. If they know we know, It's game over. We have a slight strategic advantage right now. A small one, sure. But it's something.”
“What do you want to do?
“I want a reboot. Revenge. Total war.”
“A second American Revolution.”
“You're fuckin' a.”
“What's crazy is doing nothing. It will be used against us. The only way I see to stop them is to turn it against them.”
“Oh, I got some ideas. Hungry?”
I was. Famished.
Back inside, the four of us ate breakfast and had coffee.
“Shit, Jimmy,” Shannon said. “You go off alone, see some crazy shit, and don't even tell us.”
“I thought I was crazy. Hallucinating. Plus you guys would have just clowned me.”
“You got that shit right,” Tommy said. “A deer biting an alligator...”
“But you believe Doug?”
“We do, now. He showed us the body. We cut the tail off. Mama's dressing it now. Fried alligator and sauce piquant for days. Plus he showed us the killer rabbits. Scary shit.”
I had never known Tommy to be scared of anything.
“I think their teeth will grow back,” Doug said through a mouthful of eggs.
“We should test it on reptiles,” I said.
“That's a good idea. Maybe birds, too. But first we need to cover our tracks better. Shannon welded us up a tap.”
He pointed in the corner, and there was a sort of clamp with a valve on it.
“We're going to put that on over the hole, then recover it with insulation,” Doug said.
“Won't someone notice?”
“I doubt it,” Shannon said. “If they inspect the station, which ain't even likely, they won't be doing QC with an iso or somethin'. Just a simple visual inspection. It'll look like a normal piece of pipe.”
“We thought about doing a hot tap,” Doug said. “Drill into it underwater, and weld on a new o-let and valve.”
“Why aren't we?”
“Too much work. Risky. Shannon's never dove before, much less welded underwater. Besides, my buddy with the gear is locked up. So I consider this an acceptable risk. I think expediency is the key. Strike hard, strike fast. But first we're gonna test it out on me.”
“We can't assume it works on all mammals. Maybe it only works on animals. Creatures from 'Bambi'.”
“So we're going to turn you into a...”
“Go ahead and say it. A zombie.”
“What if it doesn't wear off?”
“Shoot me. Bury me in the swamp. Call the whole thing off.”
“I couldn't do that,” I said.
“I could,” Tommy said.
“Me, too,” Shannon added.