SEVENTEEN

Griffith was furious, shaking with anger as the airlock door slammed closed. Didn’t they see, didn’t they understand anything but their own petty, stupid lives?

He stared at the young Steve, the rage spilling out, threatening to drive him insane, to make him vomit, to kill…

“Put that gun in your ugly face and pull the trigger, die, die, just die!”

Steve raised the weapon. Rebecca screamed, beating her fists helplesslyagainst the thick metal door.

No no no no no

BOOM! The thunder of the shot cut her screams off. Steve fell against the base of the hatch, mercifully out of sight. Already dead, he was already dead, it wasn’t Steve anymore… “Jesus…” David whispered, and Rebecca looked up, looked straight into Griffith’s wildly petulant gaze through the window and Griffith smiled suddenly, a beaming, triumphant grin of accomplishment and malicious spite. The raging loss and terror she felt were transformed by the sight of that smile. Rebecca stared into those raving blue eyes and realized that she’d never truly felt hate before.

Oh you miserable bastard…

He’d told them of his plan, but at that second, the thought was too big for her to fathom, too vast and insane a tragedy for her to fit her mind around. All she could think of was that he’d killed Karen and John, he’d killed Steve and she wanted nothing more than to destroy him, to see him lose, to see him suffer and feel pain and…

…and if we don’t do something his madness will be fully realized and we have to stop it, to stop him from dancing on the grave of the world.

Griffith moved to a control panel next to the door and started to press buttons, still smiling. There was a heavy clanking from the grated floor and water started to gurgle in, drawn from the icy black waters of the cove that pressed against the outer hatch. The airlock was just big enough for her and David not to have to stand on Karen’s bloody, twisted body, and already the water was turning red, foaming up from an unseen vent and lapping at their feet, covering Karen’s white fingers.

A minute, maybe less…

In the lab, Griffith was leaning against a desk across from them, arms folded smugly, watching. Behind him, a backdrop of death – Kinneson, John, and the gleam– ing steel cylinders filled with Griffith’s evil genius.

We have to do something!

Rebecca turned desperately to David, praying that he had some brilliant plan and saw only resignation and sorrow in his eyes as he stared down at Karen’s corpse, his shoulders slumped with defeat.

“David…” He looked up at her bleakly, hopelessly. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “All my fault…”

Karen’s hands were already floating, tendrils of short blond hair haloing around her pitiful face. Rebecca grabbed at the latch of the door uselessly, felt its unmoving strength, sealed by Griffith’s controls. Cold water seeped through the canvas of her shoes, over her ankles, the rising smells of salt and darkness and blood frightening her as badly as David’s hope– less whispering drone.

“If I hadn’t been so selfish… Rebecca, I’m so sorry, you have to believe that I never meant…”

Terrified, on the edge of hysteria, she grabbed his shoulders roughly, shouting. “Okay, fine, you’re an asshole, but if Griffith releases that virus, millions of people are gonna die!”

For a second, she didn’t think he’d heard her and she felt the water rising, inching up her calves, her heart pounding wildly and then his dark eyes sharp– ened, losing their glassy sheen. He looked quickly around the tight compartment, and she could see his mind working, see the sharp gaze taking in all of the details. Steel, watertight hatches; a mesh enclosure over the outer door, like a thin shark cage, two feet deep; cold water bubbling, over her knees now, Ka– ren’s arms and head lifting, floating… “Doors are steel, the window’s two inches of plexi, once the outer hatch pops, there’s the cage…”

He looked into her eyes, his own filled with frustrated anger, with shock and apology and shook his head. She dropped her hands, her body starting to shiver from the cold, her thoughts delving into black despair. David sloshed closer and put his arms around her. “Just your luck to meet me,” he said softly, rubbing her upper arms as her teeth started to chatter, as the water swirled up around her hips, as Karen’s lifeless hand brushed her leg…

Luck. Karen.

Rebecca’s heart seemed to stop in mid-beat. David held her tightly, wishing a million things, knowing that it was too late for any of them. He glanced into the lab and saw that Griffith was still watching them, still smiling. He looked away, filled with a useless, dismal hatred as the icy water slopped against his hips.

Murdering bloody bastard…

Rebecca tensed against his chest suddenly. She pushed away from him and grabbed at Karen’s body, her fingers searching frantically through the dead wom-an’s vest. She laughed, a bright, hysterical snap of joy –

– she’s gone mad –

– and jerked a dark, round object from one of Karen’s pockets. David saw what it was and felt pure amazement sweep through him.

“She carried it for luck,” Rebecca chattered out quickly. “It’s live.”David took the grenade and held it behind his back, his thoughts racing again, assessing, the water to his waist and almost to Rebecca’s heaving chest.

– outer door pops, pull the pin and get in the cage, hold the hatch closed –

They’d probably still die. But if they could pull it off, they wouldn’t go out alone. Griffith watched the water rise, watched the two run through a stereotypical melodrama almost absently – his thoughts had already turned to the coming dawn, and the problem of getting the heavy canisters upstairs. He supposed it served him right, losing his temper that way…

The pair were putting on quite a show. The girl, angry at the Brit’s apathy; the quick, desperate look for a way out of then– predicament. The final embrace, then the panic – the girl clutching at the T-Virus drone, the Brit talking at her, frowning, worried for her sanity even as the dark water rose over her young bosom. Sad, so sad. They should never have come, never have tried to, to get at me…

Now the man was holding her up, pathetically working to postpone the inevitable as the water spun up across the glass. Once they were dead, he’d pop the cage, give the Leviathans a treat before setting them free again, free to swim in unmanned seas and live out their days in peace. Ocean and land as one, his mind murmured dream– ily. Mirrors of simplicity, instinct… The drone body fluttered lazily past the window, and he saw that the two invaders had propped them– selves between the hatches, struggling to hold on to the last bit of air. A determined pair, if thick-headed. It occurred to him suddenly that he’d never bothered to find out who they were, who had sent them…

… and it doesn’t matter now, does it?

The lock had filled. The light on the control panel indicated that the outer door had unlatched. It was over –

–except they were scrambling to get out, kicking through into the cage, and something small dropped past the window as they pushed the door closed behind them –

Griffith frowned and… BOOM! He just had time to register disbelief before the hatch slammed into his body and the screaming torrent of liquid ice took his breath away.

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