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"Man, where are we going?"

Max opened the control room door, "There's a door off to the side, it leads to the main lab, the tunnel is in there."

"Okay, then what?"

"The animal clinic, Hope should be around there."

Max opened the side door and peered inside carefully.

"Boss... You think we're going to get out of here alive?"

"Yeah, man."

Rob pointed at the bandages on Max's arm, "What's that from?"

"We got attacked earlier, a Nocturnal ran off and hit the door I just came through, scratched it on there."

"It's not from the Noc, is it?"

"No."

"You sure, man?"

"Yes."

"Take the bandage off, let me take a look at it."

"Sure...", Max unraveled the gauze, his eyes widening, "Shit!"

The skin around the wound had taken on a green cast, the veins around it were visible, pulsing with his blood flow.

"Holy crap! What the hell is that?"

"I don't know!"

"Dude, you got that from the Noc."

"Thanks. I couldn't have figured that out for myself!"

A flashback came to Rob, hearing the mayor's words: "After being infected, the ACA will trigger the Beta within ten hours."

"You got ten hours, Boss."

"Huh?"

"You're a lab rat, man. Don't you know?"

"What? No."

"You're what I heard your sister and the mayor call the "Beta"."

Max's face turned pale, he looked around the room frantically, "That bastard...", he shook his head.

"Who?"

"My father! He knew... He freaking knew! He would always ask me for a sample of blood every month, to make sure I wasn't infected with anything. That bastard, he was monitoring the gene."

"Huh? What are you talking about?"

"He'd always tell me about the Beta Gene, that one of his subjects was carrying it. It was me."

"Geez, I'm sorry, man."

Max turned and ran through the side door and toward the tunnel, shouting out to Rob, "Stay here! I'm going to get Hope! Look in the labs for a file that says "ACA-BG"!"

"ACA-BG?", He stood there with his arms by his side, turning his head toward a cabinet.

---

Hope stood up and leaned against the wall. The sound of footsteps climbing up the ladder below were caught by her ears. Quickly, she aimed the magnum at the trap door.

Slowly, the door lifted, Max's eyes instantly locked onto Hope. She layed the magnum on the table and ran over to him, grabbing his outstretched hand. Once standing, Max wrapped his arms around Hope, embracing her tightly.

"It's all gone to hell...", she whispered softly.

"What?", he pulled back.

She spoke slowly and shakily, "There is nothing left. Nothing out there, but dead people and animals."

Max looked down and embraced her once again, his eyes falling onto a blood streaked wall in front of him.

"Where's Rob?"

"He's back in the lab, looking for something."

"Looking for what?"

He rubbed the back of his neck, desperate to change the subject, "What's that over there? Blood?"

"I guess so. But, the door is locked. I'm guessing after or durring the attack someone locked themselves in here. But, no one was in here when I got here."

"Did you see anything coming up?"

"No. Nothing."

"Then that thing is somewhere in the labs..."

"And Rob is down there?", Hope grabbed the magnum and kneeled down beside the trap door.

"No. Stay here, it's safer. I'll go get him.", he grabbed her arm.

Her eyes fell upon his now open wound. The pale green tone had spread further along his forearm. Once he noticed where she was looking, he pulled his arm away.

"I'm already damned. I should go."

The two were silent for a long time. Finally, Hope spoke, "Is there a cure?"

"For ACA, possibly. But, if I have what I think I have, no."

"What "you have"? You mean there's more diseases?"

"No. They're aren't even diseases."

"Then what are they? What is all of this? What do you have?"

Max let out a frustrated grunt and walked past her and lowered himself into the opening in the floor.

"Max?"

"You ask too many questions."

"Because I want answers."

He stepped down the ladder slowly, "I'm going to find Rob. Stay here.", he pulled the door closed.




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