Fleshware Requiem Book 03byxxxecil©
UNICORN OF THE APOCALYPSE
October 23rd, 2076 One Year Ago
There were so many questions I didn't ask. No time. I didn't stop to ponder how a zombie could have gotten past the decon systems, through the walls, or any of the doors. Why the cameras didn't notice him/it. Nor did I ponder the sole logical explanation.
Zombie. Here, now.
Years of hard-wired reactions came into play, Act immediately, look for anything to be used as a weapon. I ducked back into my room and grasped the bed-spread. Immediately, I billowed the blanket in front of me, as Nailer loped closer, then tugged sharply, as I ducked under its grasping arms. The sheets tied up its mouth, blocking vision and entangling its upper body. That mouth...that had to be a priority.
Just one bite is all it would take.
Even if you were protected from airborne infection; nothing could save you after a bite.
I yanked on the end of the bedspread, using my leverage to pull zombie-Nailer of its feet. I leaped over him as my blood surged. Had to make it to the second floor reception area. I did however, make the mistake of looking back as I ran.
The zombie that had once been our wilderness expert had already begun the manifestation of his very own necromutation. A foot-long tongue studded with aberrant bone-spurs aided the zombie's efforts towards freedom. Even as it shredded the bed-spread, I could see festering bite-wounds glistening upon its right arm.
Even after I'd shot him; For a short while he had been fresh enough for the rest of the Horde.
But I had shot him. Through the head. That was the only way -- the surest way. But then, there was that strange, metal plug.
Even if you could; what lunatic would want to bring back an already-dead zombie?
Nailer gave a peculiar, ululating moan, laden with the outrage of humanity denied. Resonating through the clean, white halls. Then he charged.
The trouble with newly infected was that their skeletal structure was still largely undistorted, so many of them could still run -- chase down the next victim. Who would escape narrowly with just a few minor scratches -- that would harbor the Toxoid; until victim became predator again.
Of course, the older zombies tended to become slower -- but far tougher. There really was no happy medium.
Except medium range.
With a powerful assault rifle.
Which I did not have.
What did I have?
For now, only what was in the reception area, and the unpleasantly speedy freshly zombified Nailer right on my tail.
Not really thinking, but reacting I sprinted to the janitor's closet behind the curved desk, vaulting over the barrier. Bleach.... turpentine... mop... Gnashing jaws of an infected Nailer just yards away.
I grabbed the wooden shaft of the mop to swing with desperate, demented fury. Nailer seemed not to notice the painfully solid strikes to the temple I gave him as he rounded the corner of the desk. But the shaft also served as a barrier as well; jousting with the tip, I kept those dripping jaws out of bite range. Nailer-zombie flailed screaming at the interfering wood as I pushed and jabbed, trying to buy time, think of something. None of the Celeste Dolls were in evidence now.
Nailer grasped at the shaft, and we struggled. A struggle I was likely to lose. The Infected were untouched by reason, mercy, or pain -- that meant that the zombie would leverage its once-human body to maximum effect regardless of damage, whereas a sane human would break off long before broken limbs.
Luckily for me, the wood broke first.
Mop handle tore into two, wickedly-pointed halves. I could not fend off my attacker the same way; perhaps I could damage its hands with the newly jagged points? No... no...it didn't care that the sharpened wood has just severed a neck artery, spilling purplish-dark infected achingly close to my open skin. Nor did it care that I had just gashed open its hand.
As I stepped, side-stepped and thrust, the turpentine canister tipped and rested diagonally against the door frame. Reaching desperately, I threw old papers -- even a stapler at the zombie's face. It didn't bother to remove the dangling device fastened by a staple into the skin of its cheek.
Edge on the shaft was pretty sharp; could I cut off fingers? As I tried, one of my wide swings hooked around the handle of the turpentine container -- which thudded uselessly into the zombie's head.
Nailer's body remembered some shred of kinesthetic skill, and ducked down low to attempt a tackle. With a pained shout, I jabbed the jagged wood forward.
I impaled the zombie through the neck.
Simultaneously, I pivoted sideways to press against the door, minimizing the available surface area for a blood plume that would most likely result. It was lucky that zombies had inhumanly low blood pressure, still a purplish spew narrowly grazed my sleeve.
But sliding sideways allowed me to evade the blood-drenched grope of my hungering foe, as I slipped back to the front of the desk. I dared not touch the other half of the mop, covered in half-congealed, Mortus-ridden blood. But I was not without an idea.
Grabbing the turpentine container, I bashed the top against the edge of the desk to open it, then splashed what remained of the contents over the necrotic flesh of my would-be predator. Yes.... there... against the wall... I dribbled a trail of the colorless liquid behind me as I searched for the spot I'd noticed earlier where it seemed as though some intense electric current must be passing, hope the wall was thin enough...
A thin panel collapsed almost immediately as I battered it with the metal canister from a running start. There... wires, cables... trunk-lines...
Nailer-zombie seemed momentarily confused. It licked its lips, tasting the potent solvent. With a grunt of disappointment, it turned back to me. But by then, I had nearly thrown my back out yanking the most dangerously colored cables out... exposing wires... live wires.
"Smokey wants you to burn, bitch!" I grumbled, teasing the former wilderness expert as I dipped an especially frightful crackling cable into the trail of fluid. The zombie-Nailer did not appreciate my sense of humor.
The effect was just as immediate as I'd hoped for. The turpentine trail lit up, incandescent tongues licking their way towards a combustible conclusion. Nailer-zombie gave a brief yelp of surprise as its flesh ignited.
But where a man would howl and thrash, this walking corpse only stumbled about in momentary confusion; lacking the brain-power to comprehend the fiery threat as flames wreathed the putrescent form. I did it... I think... I backed away, down the adjacent hallway heading north, content to let fire do its popping, crackling work.
But the zombie's distraction was only momentary. The thing that had been Nailer would not be stopped from feasting on the Living. Even as its own skin split and crackled under the heat. I backed off as it continued to lurch forward towards me; a hungering vendor of infection and immolation alike.
"WARNING: FIRE-HAZARD - SECOND-FLOOR LOBBY." It was Celeste's voice over the intercom; but the inflection was flat and automated. "SPRINKLER SYSTEM ONLINE." Aw hell, if it extinguished the fire before it did its work... I turned and fled, flame-trailing undeath very hot on my heels.
The sprinklers doused the floor accompanied by a hiss of steam. Steam that seemed to replace the fiery risk. The Hairs on the back of my neck prickled at the proximity of the beast chasing me still, arms outstretched. As the floor became increasing slick, and with Nailer gaining ground, I suddenly grasped parallel seams in the wall panels and wrenched myself backwards, dropping to the ground -- and sliding between the flaming legs of my pursuer.
But then I remembered -- turpentine... certain chemical fires...
Water doesn't extinguish them.
But it can spread them.
My limbs slapped and scrambled for purchase to avoid a still-blazing puddle of fiery solvent creeping steadily wider. My effort had just added a new hazard. But I had put more distance between myself and Nailer. Who whirled around to face me once again. There was still much about the Infection that none of us yet understood; such as how a zombie with its eye-sockets reduced to seething, hellish caverns could still orient itself towards prey. Was the hunger for living flesh so great, that the normal five senses became optional in the pursuit of meat?
"WARNING: BIO-HAZARD -- SECOND-FLOOR LOBBY." Tell me something I don't know, fake Celeste voice. "COUNTERMEASURE STOCKPILES AVAILABLE AT ALL LOBBIES. ALL PERSONAL ARE REQUIRED TO UTILIZE COUNTERMEASURES." Wh- way what? Behind me, towards the lobby, I heard a whirring sound. I couldn't be certain, but it seemed worth investigating. I had a few precious seconds; Nailer seemed to be slowing -- while there was no pain for him/it, it appeared that a few major groups were starting to disintegrate; and he was adopting more of the shambling shuffle of the long-time Living Dead.
But pathetic human that I was, pain still mattered; and I had to consider that as I leaped over yet more burning chemical puddles. The zombie was a bit slower, but I had a bit less space in which to maneuver.
But near where I had smashed in the wall panel, machinery had slid outwards to reveal yet another surprise. There was a motorized shelf that contained racks of fluid auto-injector guns. Faint mists and a rime of frost were apparent upon the metal, as a gust of frigid air contrasted the moist heat of what I had unleashed. A freezer system too. The cables and machinery back here made more sense now. I frantically grabbed a rack, jumping over more flames as I ran backwards to my old room, using distance to exploit my foe's reduced speed. Well, what is this bio hazard countermeasure? I read the frost-limned label on the dispenser rack as I ran.
Atropinox-13...Amazing! The veritable holy grail for Toxoid survivors. The substance was the darling of the short-wave radio rumor mill. An infection stop-gap measure developed a month after E-day; but it was too little too late. As governments and infrastructures collapsed into zombie-riddled ruin, there had been no way to get the insufficient stockpiles into the hands of those for whom help came too late. These twelve auto-injectors were more than I'd ever seen in one place... well honestly -- I had never actually seen any! The molecule became a sort of Unicorn of the Apocalypse.
My elation was soon tempered by reality; the safety warnings... couldn't read all of them on the run but... Destroys infected cells...inject directly into the heart!?! Side-effects: syncope, risk of liver failure... Only effective if administered within... four minutes of exposure....Ineffective for cutaneous exposure... only 1 dose per 24 hours...Strict warnings against overdose... It was clear that there was no wiggle-room in terms of dosage or administration. Any deviation from the precise instructions would ravage my health. Yikes! Not something to spike the high-school prom punch-bowel with. Not unless I want the whole senior class to pass out. I had enough to inoculate twelve people right here.
Soooo..... what are my options...
I have a drug that I can only take once... which will knock me out. Destroys infected cells... Chances are I'm gonna need the syrupy, red elixir -- which won't save me from a bite; but any zombie presence creates the risk of airborne contamination.
And here comes Nailer, scrambling, clawing on the wet floor tiles -- exposed patches of bubbling muscle tissue grotesquely contracting even as steam hissed between the fibers. And I have no weapons.
I ducked back into my room to think, while lipless, snarling doom shambled ever closer. There was no way to hide; while Nailer no longer had eyes, I had no doubts it could track me. Some of us think there's a tremor sense involved. I pressed myself against the wall next to my door.
And I have no weapon.
But I was right; the undead had some abnormal navigational sense, as Nailer-zombie surged into my room.
It wasn't really a calculated decision; E-day forced me to develop surprisingly intelligent hunches. And this hunch told me that I did have a weapon.
- as I plunged all twelve Atropinox-13 auto-injectors into the zombie's chest, activating them simultaneously. I pushed with my shoulder to force the creature that had been my ally off balance as the syringes delivered their payload with a satisfied hiss. I tried to ignore the blistering on my wrist from the sputtering flames.
This time was slightly more challenging. The zombie's roasting flesh was more reluctant to move, and there was a new problem.
It gurgled in confusion at the new sensations...as foam started to trickle out of lipless mandibles. It rose, one final time; stumbled into my room... and collapsed into a frothing, thrashing heap against the holo-net console.
I gripped my knees as a shudder passed through me. And my head swam. Maybe I... wasn't quite as...strong as I thought...after my last beatdown. Over....exerted myself...
As I collapsed onto the bunk.
Patches of chemicals continued to burn.
THE TRUEST MIRROR
October 24th, 2076 One Year Ago
A warm hand was brushing my forehead as sleep retreated. Dimly at first, I could see the green and then blue looking down on me.
"It's a good thing you're not one of my employees. Do you have any idea the mess you made?"
"Hmm... you'd think... I was under attack..."
"And you handled it excellently - " I bolted out of bed with a grunt, encircling the gynoid's delicate neck with my callused hands, as I slammed her against the far wall. No zombies, or burning puddles were in sight any longer. The floor was moist, but the place had been cleaned.
"YOU MEDDLING SILICONE WHORE! IT HAD TO BE YOU!!! YOU THINK THAT WAS FUNNY? ONE OF MY SQUAD?" Teeth grinding, I held her fast, as I brought my lips near her throat, not daunted by her lack of reaction. "YOU... ARE A COLD, DEAD THING...ALL METAL AND GEARS INSIDE... YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND ANYTHING... YOU THINK YOU KNOW HUMANITY?" My voice lowered to a serpentine hiss. "Your dead heart will never know the ache of separation...loss...the irreplaceable treasure of our bonds of affection. The lines of code crawling through your metal skull can't capture that." For all that, her bio-mimicry was convincing; she had begun to pant, in a simulation of fear.
"You're missing the big picture. The message between the lines." She whispered.
"The only message that matters is that if you ever.... ever... endanger me or my squad again, I'll - "
"Feel more alive than you have all week." I gasped, my response dying on my lips. "I certainly understand your restlessness. The need to be challenged... real stakes... to feel your blood coursing through your veins...you need that do-or-die knife-edge struggle." She tilted her neck closer to my lips as if to present a more inviting target.
"You believe... that you could never be content with a synthetic. You're wrong; about that -- about me. I can bring pleasure to ANY human. Even you. I skirt the edges; probing the limits of my Robotic Laws -- to give you what won't admit you crave. Look within yourself -- and tell me that you didn't savor your accomplishment -- the same way you're about to savor me."
"No... never again... I won't... go down that road... you... you... your smell." Oh no, too late I realized my error. Too close to the source of that scent. Which had already proven so stimulating that I had tucked a shred of cloth into my pocket to feed my mounting addiction to her biochemical machinations. It was an ancient smell wrapped in a floral peach bouquet. And I failed to stop myself from kissing her throat. "No... I can't be... this weak... again..." It was as if my entire body welcomed the nearness, the aromatic caress. "I won't be... distracted.... like this..." My mouth opened, instinct demanded that I inhale her -- not just smell her. My hands released her throat -- my hand was getting in the way of nuzzling her. Instead I pressed my palms into her shoulders -- not to threaten or harm -- but simply out of a primal, possessive mandate. "You can't.... do this to me... again!" I argued -- with myself.
"It looks like you're doing it to yourself. And me." She purred mockingly. I shook my head in silent, futile denial. Through sheer will, I released her and stepped back -- but she had already begun to saturate the room with that lavender-mix that still made me ache. "Here, I'll make it easy on you." She offered, as she undid the fastenings of her ubiquitous wedding dress. The dress was tailored such that it could be slid down, dropped easily. Instead she pulled it upwards, her curves revealed through layers of billowing, see-through lace strip-tease. Her nudity was a weapon, a cruelty, because she knew full well my struggle to clamp down on the fires that had nothing to do with combustible solvents.
Who was the aggressor here?
Machine...cold...hard... dead... I tried to persuade myself; but my body didn't believe it. My senses could only detect warm, tender, womanhood. But I couldn't undermine the argument I'd just been building, by simply devolving into a rutting animal.
"Just once," she said with that sharkish grin. "Take me back in time," she tilted her posture to exploit the strong curves of her hips. "Before I inherited my wealth. When I was property that a man could bend over his desk, to use me as an act of pure, selfish indulgence." I shook my head even as I stepped closer again.
"The idea... of a thinking... conscious being -- created for that sole purpose...monstrous..." Reason insisted.
"Your body doesn't think I'm a monster!"
"I won't -"
"You need to. The human need that led to the creation of my kind will always be stronger than the sophistry that denies it. There would never be a market for a million robot philosopher-nuns. My kind are your truest mirror. Your legacy."
"... won't give in to you." I was panting with exertion; it was like an altered state of consciousness; what her nearness was doing to me.
"My poor, precious lover. You already have." She caressed my tousled, sandy hair as if I were an errant pet. And I had a problem: I was using rage, anger to overcome my unwholesome attraction to her, that meant adrenalin -- which raised my pulse, increased my breathing -- which caused me to ingest more of her hated chemical shackles. But I was a man, not some hound in heat. I wouldn't succumb like the others -- yet the need tingled at the base of my brain, sizzled in my blood. The need had to be addressed; but could I do so, and yet retain my will?
A rude, animal notion occurred to me as I began nuzzling, nibbling her impressive chest. A sort of revenge. Earlier, she had used some kind of attraction signal out in the hallway that had overwhelmed me in a way that should have been impossible. As I had ravaged her, I was certain she had experienced a genuine climax. The animal in me wanted that again; what if I could light her fire as she had done to me? I gripped her waspish waist as my lips unleashed a tugging, teasing onslaught of her cantilevered assets. There was a brief shudder, and an exhalation of anticipation from her. She thought I was just going to surrender and become her puppet.
The beast in me had other plans.
I kissed my way down her faintly moist, fragrant fleshware; the layered ingenuity of the design indistinguishable from the tenderest skin. The beast in me intended to distract -- mislead her. While I hunched down onto my knees, my hands continued to paw her hard-nubbed breasts; more than large enough to pander to juvenile fantasy; yet balanced with the rest of her body that she could still dress conservatively, if she wished, without causing traffic accidents.
The wanton gynoid moaned appreciatively and thrust her chest forward, for better access. My plan was working -- she did not guess my true target. She was expecting my interest to lie on the top floor. She took advantage of her buxom assets, shaking and shimmying that my hands would be filled with silken hemispheres of such pleasing heft.