The underground floor probably stretched at least a hundred yards farther than the walls of the building on all sides. The elevators were in the very middle, I circled them to make sure nothing surprised us from behind.
Large, clear boxes stood in perfectly straight lines. I couldn’t tell what they were. Glass? Plastic? All I knew was that each had a hospital-style bed inside and a small door that locked on the outside.
Mouse landed lightly on her feet behind me and gasped as she took in the scene before us. As above, everything was white: the walls, the floors, even the desks scattered among the transparent cubes.
The huge underground hall had not escaped the earth’s rage. A ragged crack ran from floor to ceiling beneath the wall on the first floor that had crumbled in its entirety. Most of the desks had been upended and blood smeared everything.
Side by side we moved deeper into the darkness. I could make out the far wall, but only just. As we neared the closest cube I could see it for what it truly was; a cell. The frame was some sort of metal, the walls reinforced plastic. Inside, wires criss-crossed the wall and sank into the concrete with the heavy-duty plastic. Removing one hand from my gun, I nudged the wall. It was solid and strong.
The bed inside had been white at some point. Now, gray and brown stains stretched across the fabric. At each corner of the bed was a thick leather strap to hold whatever had been unlucky enough to inhabit this cell in place.
On the outside of the plastic was a clipboard with a photo of a young man on the front sheet of paper. There was no name listed, just physical details and a number: 0410298001. I flicked to the next page. Another photo, the man looked a little haggard though. Each sheet had another picture of his quick, if Guy was any example, decline into, well, whatever he was now.
Moving from cell to cell, we came across more of the same. Every one had a different picture on the front. Every one had a different number. The photos all followed the same downward spiral.
Horror swelled in my chest. Where had they found these people?
In the back corner of the floor the quake had dislodged the bottom of about thirty cells, creating more than enough room for the creatures to crawl underneath. Quick math told me there were over two hundred cells. Every one we passed was messed, with a different photo on the outside.
My mouth parted in horror. There was no surprise they’d spread so far so fast. Two hundred creatures with a highly contagious virus, infection to saturation took less than twenty-four hours, and there was no known antidote.
How long would it take to infect the entire country? We had no way to tell how many people had already been infected. Nothing we found could shed any further light on the history of the infection or what caused it. If they had a cure it wasn't here. There were dozens of computer screens scattered around the lab, but no hard drives or anything that could store what we were looking for.
Giving it up as a lost cause, I snatched the sheets from every clipboard we passed on our way back to the elevators and shoved them into the depths of my protective vest. As I laid my hand on the cable, the static ceased. For an instant, all was silent, and then the hammering of at least a dozen human hearts burst into life directly above us.