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"Alright, let's go see how far along Sarah is.", Max nodded at the tan door.

"Sarah?"

Rob took out a ring of keys and walked toward the door. "She's the last scientist we have left, one of the best... The rest are dead."

"Oh."

"She's been studying the test subjects ever since my father started his research."

Rob opened the door and let Max go ahead of him, then motioned for Hope to follow. The hall was dark, the only light was coming from a ceiling lamp near another door. The blue cast of the hallway gave Hope an eerie and tense feeling.

"Bam!"

Hope gasped and jumped, turning around quickly to see Rob's hand on the doorknob at the other end of the hallway.

He shot a nervous smile, "Heh heh, sorry."

Max shook his head then nodded toward the door in front of them. He opened the door and stepped in. "Rob, stay out here just in case, got it?"

Rob nodded and clutched his magnum against his stomach, then leaned against the wall.

Hope and Max walked in. A fair, dark haired woman sat on a stool. Looking into a microscope, she softly whispered to herself while writing something in a book.

"Sarah!"

"Ahh!", she dropped her glasses, "Max! Don't do that, damn it!"

Max chuckled, "Hope, this is my sister, Sarah. Sarah, this is Hope, she helped me while I was outside.", he put a hand on Hope's shoulder.

Sarah smiled kindly and walked over, offering her hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you.", they shook hands, "You too.", Hope smiled faintly, wondering how this woman could be so calm and happy.

Sarah tilted her head and looked at a patch on Hope's jacket, reading slowly. "T... I... X... C? What's that?"

"It's an old camp I used to train at."

"Ah. What's that stand for?"

"Tactics In Extreme Combat. I never finished though. I had to drop out to take care of my sister when our mother got sick."

"I see. That's a shame...", she looked down, as if thinking carefully about what to say next, "Say, how far along did you get?"

"I was there for five years. Out of a seven year program."

"Well, you have a fair share of experience then?"

"I guess. Why do you ask?"

Sarah nodded, "Oh... Just wondering.", her gaze shifting to Max's hand, still resting on Hope's shoulder. He quickly moved it when he noticed her looking. She smiled, but a more of a sinister expression took over her face.

"Well, now. I assume you've heard what happened?"

"Yeah. Pretty much."

"Yes. We've got ourselves an outbreak.", Sarah quickly walked over to her desk and picked up a booklet, "There are forty-five left. Some security guards managed to destroy some before they got out."

"Forty-four, actually."

"Oh?"

"Yeah, I shot one at my home."

"You must have gotten its heart, then."

"Apparently so."

"That's good. We have to get the rest now."

"What? How? There's so many."

"Well, you know how to fire a gun, so does Max, and Rob."

"There's no way. Call the authorities."

"Can't do that."

"And why not?"

"We have to continue research in this city, it's our only means of economy. It's my mission to get this place cleared up by evening tomorrow."

"More than half the population is dead! Your father is dead! You don't think anyone will notice that?"

"So far, it's only contained here, in this city. We have until tomorrow night until they reach Madison City."

"Call the authorities."

"No.", Sarah's voice turned stern.

"Then I will.", Hope turned, and found herself face to face with the barrel of a gun, with Max's finger on the trigger. Her eyes widened.

"You have no idea how convienent your experience is for me. You've been trained.", Sarah clapped her hands together, You help us get this mess under control. You'll be rewarded.", she walked up and stood next to her.

"With what?", Hope's voice shook slightly.

"Your life. We'll let you go."

"Hey! Is everything alright in there?", Rob shouted from outside the room.

Max shifted his eyes to the laboratory door, "Yeah, Rob!", he called out, his eyes went back to Hope.

"He doesn't know, does he?", Hope looked at Max.

"No, he doesn't."

"And he won't.", Sarah said softly.

Sarah nodded slowly. Max lowered his gun, and looked away, guilt laced on his face.

"What if I don't get all these things killed?"

"Hmm. You'll have Max and Rob with you. They'll be in a truck, it's strong, bullet proof. You, you'll be on the streets."

"What!", Max bursted out.

"The streets. After all, you've had T.I.X.C. training. You'll be fine."

"That training was in groups. Not one against dozens."

"Look, I could have Max shoot you right now. And there's goes your chance of making it out of here. Or, you can live, and have a chance, by eliminating our problem."

"So, I have to pay for your mistakes, and try to fix them for you? And if I don't, you kill me?"

"Well... Yes!", Sarah chuckled.

Hope's eyes darkened and she sighed heavily. Sarah nodded to Max, then walked out the lab door.

"Hope...", Max said softly.

She shook her head and closed her eyes.

"Hope, I'm sorry. I didn't think Sarah was going to do this. She told me to bring in anyone I found."

Eyes still closed, she lowered her head.

"Please. All we have to do is shoot them in the chest, bang, they're dead. I won't let you stay on the street, stay in the truck with me and Rob. We can do--"

"Stop it."

"I--"

"Stop with the apologies. You knew what you were getting me into when you took me down here."

"It's better than being outside with those things."

"But I'm going to end up out there, aren't I?"

"Well..."

"Damn it, she's crazy. What she's planning is impossible."




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