A young man of around twenty was sprinting down a deserted hallway deep underground. Sweat coated his face and dripped down onto the collar of his t-shirt. He was still dressed in his civilian clothes – he was, after all, on an undercover mission. He didn’t, however, want to have to be the one to break the news to the General, but he was the only soldier who fully knew what was going on. It was probably for the best anyway. It would be more real coming straight from his mouth.
The floor beneath his feet was heavily carpeted in a deep blood red. The plush fabric masked what would otherwise have been thunderous foot falls. As he rounded the only corner in the hallway, his breath escaping his lips in huge gasps, he came to a thick mahogany door flanked by two of his soldier buddies. A plaque on the door read “General S.M. Hastings.” The two boys stepped forward as soon as he came into proximity of the door, quickly cutting him off.
“I need to see General Hastings,” he panted, holding out one hand to them. He was still struggling to get his breathing under control. “It’s kind of an emergency.”
“The General is in a meeting right now,” Ben, the one on the right said, his demeanor never changing. “But if you don’t mind waiting, I’m sure he would see you. He should be about done, but you know the’ General, he’s done whenever he pleases.”
“Come on, Ben,” the boy puffed out. “What is your deal? I thought we had discussed this already. You know me. You know why I’m here. I need to speak with him. Now.”
There were muffled voices from behind the door and the shuffling of papers. The boy looked from Ben to his other friend, Marcus, and back again several times before speaking. He was beginning to lose his temper with his friends, but he knew if he actually went berserk, they would tackle him to the ground. He needed to keep his cool.
“This –” the boy’s voice broke. He took a deep breath to gather his bearings before he spoke again. “This absolutely cannot wait. It is crucial that I see the General. It’s about the Fyre experiment.”
Eventually Marcus nodded and stepped up to the elaborately carved door with gilded handle and knocker and knocked three times upon the broad surface.
“WHAT?!?” a booming voice called out from the other side. It was the General. And he was clearly agitated.
“Sir,” Marcus said calmly. “He’s here to see you.”
“And why haven’t you let him in yet?” the General barked through the door.
“Sorry about that,” Marcus apologized.
The boy stepped up and turned the door knob. The barrier swung forward, revealing a long, narrow room. A large, burly man sat at an even bigger desk, a thin woman with dark hair sitting immediately across from him. The woman never turned around to face him, so he couldn’t be sure it was who he thought it was, but it wasn’t that hard to tell. An open decanter of brandy sat between the woman and the General, two large glasses half full, but untouched, on the desk.
If looks could kill, the boy would have dropped where he stood. The General was the type of person who didn’t like people showing up unannounced, especially if he was in the middle of entertaining someone else.
“What do you want, Peter?” The General barked. There were crumbs of food stuck in his beard, and Peter could bet that there were several chins under that beard that were jiggling around. Not that he had ever seen the General without here he was just making an assumption. But, the man did like to eat. And drink.
“Sir,” Peter said, raising his right hand to salute the General. “Masons gone.”
“Well, where the hell is he?”
“No one knows. There’s no sign of him within the control zone. He cut a hole in the fence.”
“Good riddance. The bastard better not ever show his face again. Nearly killed that poor girl, didn’t he?”
Peter found in his chest for that very girl who was lying not 20 miles away from him in the hospital, desperately clinging to a sliver of life. He didn’t let any emotion show at the mention of Lily he didn’t think the General knew that what they had was was real and not just for the cameras, as it had started out.
That was the best damn thing to ever happen to this country. Do you know how long it’s taken to get the virus to the point that it is now? How much money it cost? Anyway, what’s your point?”
“Didn’t you hear what I said?” Peter asked him. The general only heard what he wanted here, and often didn’t stop to think before he spoke. The woman was still sitting in the chair, but kept her eyes forward, towards the wall behind the desk. “The only way Mason could’ve gotten out is if he cut a hole in the fence and that’s not all: there are hordes of zombies leaking into the city as we speak.”
The general’s demeanor changed considerably. His face became drawn in very tired. His shoulders sagged forward, and his hand reached for the bottle of brandy.
“What do you suggest we do, sir?” Peter asked him, anxious to hear what his commanding officer would tell him. Surely he could come up with something. The General always knew what to do in times like these.
“There isn’t a damn thing we can do,” the General said, taking a swig of brandy. “We can’t spare the man power it would take to get the situation hushed up before anyone finds out. We have to let things unfold as they will. The only thing we can do is wait. May God have mercy on our souls.”
Peter nodded and turned away from the General. There was something in the back of his mind telling him that the General was only letting this happen because the General had always wanted it to happen. But, Peter knew there were a few things he could do, and he didn’t need the General’s help to do them. He was, however, going to have help from someone. And that someone would have to be Lily. He just hoped that she wouldn’t hate him for what he kept from her. Or better yet, that she would never find out.