“Did you scan him?” Maria asked Denman.

The medic was still staring at Jameson as he nodded.

“I want a full report as soon as possible.” Maria turned to Cormier. “I want the carrier up and operational within the hour, and I want to run scans on the area.”

Cormier saluted, stooped through the doorway and was gone.

Maria and Denman stood in silence over Jameson. Maria wondered how long it would take for torpor to come.

“The Anomaly bit him,” Denman said after a minute or so.

Maria looked at him sharply. “What are you saying?”

“That out of all of us only the one bitten by an Anomaly is—”

The soldier at their feet screamed. “Hungry!”

Chapter 23

The door to the flat slid open and Lindsey stepped aside to let Dwayne in. Within an hour the city would be plunged into darkness as the mandatory nightly blackouts took effect. Only emergency services would retain power. That meant a curfew in all areas of the city. They didn’t have much time to speak. Dwayne had come as soon as Lindsey had contacted him.

Dwayne was surprised to see another person in Lindsey’s home. It was a lanky young man with wild dark hair falling over his brow. Slightly tilted eyes and strong cheekbones gave him a Slavic look. Dressed in jeans, a faded t-shirt, and flip-flops, the man regarded Dwayne with suspicion.

“Dwayne, this is my boyfriend, Vaja. Vaja, play nice.” Lindsey slid into her chair and focused on her screens.

“I don’t like you getting Linds involved with all this,” Vaja said in a slightly accented voice. His pale blue eyes were accusatory. “It’s not safe.”

“I can’t make Lindsey do anything she doesn’t want to. At least not when we’re off duty,” Dwayne answered, flashing his more charming and disarming smile. He extended his hand to Vaja. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

Vaja reluctantly shook his hand and slumped against the ladder to Lindsey’s elevated bed.

“Vaja is a very suspicious person. But helpful. He assisted with some of the inscription problems I was having. He has a brain like a computer.”

“Which is why she likes me,” Vaja said with a shrug.

“I don’t have a lot of time before curfew.” Dwayne rested his hand on the rail of Lindsey’s bed and leaned over to peer at her screen.

“I love how no one is complaining about the mandatory blackout,” Lindsey groused, her fingers flying over the screens.

“They’re willing to sacrifice for the greater good now that they know the gate is closed and that they will soon be free of the Inferi Scourge,” Vaja said sarcastically. “Exchanging liberties for security. Wasn’t that what everyone did when the Inferi Scourge started to take over the world?”

“Didn’t do us much good, did it?” Lindsey grumbled.

Dwayne frowned as he started to understand what Lindsey was loading onto her screens. “Security feed from the subway?”

“And sewers.” Lindsey pointed at several vids as they played. “Remember that little incident you wanted me to look into?”

“When the SWD blocked off my neighborhood? Yeah, I remember.”

“It just took me awhile to find these. They were deleted as soon as they were reviewed by the SWD.”

“But nothing is really deleted if you know what you’re doing,” Vaja said with a grin.

“The night you saw that commotion outside the subway station in your neighborhood, there was a breach in the subway system. Not within the city, but outside.”

The furrows in Dwayne’s brow deepened. “Outside? The wall?”

“Yep. There was a breach in one of the old stations out in the valley. The one next to the hydroelectric plant.” Lindsey expanded one of the vid feeds. It revealed two shadowy figures huddled near the sealed door. It took Dwayne a second to realize they were trying to activate the panel and unlock the door.

“What’s that they have between them?”

“Not sure yet, but whatever it was it had enough juice in it to activate the panel and watch...” Lindsey pointed to a section of the vid. On screen the door yawned open. Both figures slipped in before the security programs overrode the breach and shut the door.

“Who the hell are they? How were they outside the wall and not attacked by Scrags?” Dwayne couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

“Just watch the vids. This is where it gets interesting,” Vaja said, his smile cold and a little cruel.

Dwayne watched as the two figures rushed through the subway station, running to each locked exit, desperate to get out into the city. “Constabulary armor,” Dwayne said, his fear growing.

“No insignias. No markings of any kind,” Lindsey agreed.

Since the cameras were recording with night vision it was impossible to truly make out the faces of the two people running unheeded through the subway system. Reaching another exit, one started to try to open the door using a manual override.

“Which station is that?” Dwayne asked, though he already knew.

“The one in your neighborhood.”

“They got that far into the city?” Dwayne checked the timestamp on all the vids. The two intruders were in the subway for close to two hours by the time they reached the station.

The figure on the screen worked feverishly on the manual override as the other person stalked back and forth. Their movements were somehow disconcerting, though Dwayne couldn’t quite determine why.

“So at this point, the one trying to unlock the door manages to actually do it. But the door doesn’t open. They’ve all been disabled so they don’t open automatically when unlocked.” Lindsey narrated as the rapidly-pacing one flung itself at the doors. Together, the intruders tried to pry it open. “They actually got the door to open six inches.”

“And then...” Vaja pointed at the screen just as a search and destroy squad arrived. The screen was illuminated with gunfire, the flares blinding the cameras.

“Recovering the vids was the easiest part. Getting the SWD report on the incident was far more difficult, but I managed. Then it was encrypted. Which is when I asked Vaja to help.” Lindsey pulled up the report.

Dwayne squinted as he read. “There are still words blacked out.”

“That’s how it was written. Those blank spots are deliberate. As if the person reading it would already know how to fill it in,” Lindsey explained.

“So these unknowns that the SWD know about infiltrated the subway system and tried to break into the city,” Vaja summarized. “They killed the two in the station, but were afraid there would be more. So as they reviewed the security vids, they also dispatched a cleanup crew to make sure the neighborhood was secure.”

Overwhelmed by the information, Dwayne shook his head in disbelief. “It can’t be.”

“That there are people outside the walls?” Vaja asked.

Lindsey was watching Dwayne thoughtfully. He suspected she had come to the same conclusion he had.

“No, that there are Scrags smart enough to infiltrate the city,” Dwayne answered.

Incredulous, Vaja laughed. “C’mon. There has to be another answer. A human settlement has to be in the old facility. Maybe outcasts or criminals.”

“If only it were that simple.” Dwayne said nothing more, uncertain of how much Lindsey had divulged to her boyfriend. He hoped it wasn’t much more than Vaja appeared to know. From the confused expression on the younger man’s face it was clear he was having difficulty accepting what was obvious to Dwayne and Lindsey.

“How can Inferi Scourge be thinking?” Vaja asked at last. “All they want to do is infect. I don’t get it.”

Pressing her lips together, Lindsey began closing down the vids, saving all the information to a removable drive. She shot Dwayne a quick, furtive look. It was not difficult to ascertain she was beginning to worry about having drawn Vaja into the matter.

“Someone answer me,” Vaja said sharply. “I helped you. I deserve to know.”

“We don’t know yet,” Dwayne answered honestly.

Maria would have told him if any of her people had abandoned the mission. After her reports about the attacks by the speaking Inferi Scourge, it was clear to Dwayne that there was much more going on than the SWD had revealed to the public.

“Maybe they evolved,” Lindsey said softly.

“The government, the SWD, whoever, knows that they’re evolving then? Trying to get to us? Why haven’t they said anything?” Vaja’s voice was terse.

Dwayne remained silent, averting his gaze by staring at the tips of his boots. The young man was smart. Maybe too smart. Again, Dwayne wondered if it had been wise to involve Lindsey in this whole situation. It was becoming increasingly clear that the SWD and perhaps the governing powers of the city had gone to great lengths to suppress the information Lindsey had uncovered.

“Shit,” Vaja exclaimed, throwing up his hands. “Shit! They made them, didn’t they? The fuckin’ SWD somehow made them and now they’re trying to get into the city.”

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