Ryan drifted in and out of consciousness.
"Teeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Rehhhhhhhhhhcks..." he vaguely heard somebody calling his name. The syllables sounded like a church bell or perhaps a foghorn, played in slow motion. He tried to respond, but his body refused.
Ryan heard more conversation nearby, but it was garbled and he could only guess which mumbles went with which Fool. As he listened, it was fairly clear which belonged to Kamikaze, the only female of the group - the pitch was much different. T.Rex wondered how long he'd been out, and what might have happened since then. He realized he couldn't remember why he'd lost track of the world. It all reminded him of the time in high school he was in the hospital for surgery, and under heavy medication.
As time passed, T.Rex fought back a panic. What if I got bitten? What if this brain deterioration is part of the zedification process? What if I'm destined to eat - wait a second. If I was gonna end up a zombie, the Fools would've taken care of me by now, surely. Besides, he assured himself, a zed couldn't think of a word like "deterioration". His brain started to warm up and he took a few stabs at some mental math to convince himself no permanent damage was done.
Finally, after several tries, T.Rex's eyes fluttered open.
"Hey!" Peace said from Ryan's side. He yelled something else to the group, but T.Rex couldn't quite make it out.
As the world slowly came into focus, T.Rex blinked awkwardly. The room was mostly dark, except for a flashlight now aimed yet again at his face. The Fools all gathered around him, and T.Rex could see hope in their faces.
Angel Hair spoke to him, but all T.Rex heard was "Jabbajaabba head jabba dabba zed jabba jaabba?"
T.Rex moved his lips tenatively. "Talk...slow," he said with effort. He hoped the rest of his body would catch up to his brain, and fast.
"GLLLAAAD. YOUUU. ARRRR. BAAAACK," Angel Hair tried again.
T.Rex rolled his eyes. "Not loud-er. Head hurts. Think-ing slow."
They all nodded in acknowledgement. "Can you move?" Cowboy asked.
Gritting his teeth, T.Rex managed to move his hand slightly.
"You just wiggled your finger! That's wonderful!" Rubble said, excited.
"Quick heal-er," T.Rex grinned. "Tell me what ha-hap-pened." He was frustrated that he was thinking quite clearly, but the words weren't forming correctly. It was as if he'd just gotten back from the dentist, and his mouth was numb.
"The door hit you when you opened it," Beard explained. "A huge fat zed was leaning on the door and flew out at us. Kamikaze and Angel Hair immediately grabbed you and pulled you away to safety. Rubble dove out and grabbed the crowbar you dropped - he swung it around and caught the zed's ankle, causing it to trip right in front of the three of us." He pointed to Cowboy, Peace, and himself, the group previously stationed on the other side of the door.
Angel Hair chimed in: "You shoulda seen it! The zed face-planted, and Peace and Beard jumped onto it, kicked away the helmet and chopped its head off with their hatchets!" he punctuated his speech with hand motions, smacking his hands together to illustrate the zed falling and chopping motions for the combat.
T.Rex just smiled, and already felt a little better. "Sounds great- sorry I missed it. So where are we? How long was I out?"
"We took care of the zed and then dragged you back in here," Rubble said, spreading his arms out to indicate the room. "That is to say, the room we found with the zed in it. It's some sort of maintenance workroom, and we've found a few things you might like. You've been out for a few hours, and we didn't want to move you much because you were out. Plus it would've been a pain in the ass to carry and defend your lifeless body running around in dark tunnels."
With his strength returning, T.Rex nodded. "Thank you, guys. What did you find?"
Peace disappeared for a moment and returned with some crumpled papers, yawning. "The zed we found shut in here was a maintenance guy for Purdue, and he left a detailed journal. It's pretty disturbing. Here, lemme read you some highlights:"
Marshall Franklin, United States Army Corporal, 249th Battalion, Retired. June 6th, Third Shift.T.Rex shook his head slowly. "Aww, c'mon. He gets bitten and then stays-"
I was asked to work a double shift tonight because one of the new guys called off again. I cannot stand the work ethic of this new generation, and I can only hope I can set a good example to follow. At any rate, we are still dealing with power outages across campus, and complete blackout areas are noted below. I've managed to re-route what little power we have left to the critical locations, as ordered by my supervisor. I'll be surprised if it lasts through the weekend at this rate.
One other item of note: while checking the master fuse box in section eight, I heard a strange noise at approximately 2:30am. I went to investigate, and confronted a transient hiding behind one of the dormant steam pipes. I lost track of him, but there was a scuffle. I was bitten once on my right hand, and treated myself with the medical kit at the supervisor's station. I will continue to monitor the power situation from the West Control Center.
Peace held up a finger as he scanned over the pages. "Wait, it gets worse. Here's another entry:"
Peace squinted in the limited light provided by the flashlight. "It gets harder to read, but then:"
Marshall Franklin, US Army, retired. June 7th, 10:15am.
Nobody reported in for the morning shift, but I'm not feeling well. I feel dizzy and constantly hungry. I've decided to nap in the break room instead of trying to drive myself home. I will check on things after I rest a bit.
M. Franklin, Army. J 8, 9pm."It goes on and on like that," Peace said. "The guy got bitten one night and stayed here, trying to keep things going and his journal basically records his transformation into a zed. My guess is either somebody locked him in here after he came back to life, or possibly he just locked himself in to protect others."
Still sick. Haven't heard from the replacement shift, so I'll stay here overnight to keep an eye on things. Power outages all over.
"What's the last entry?" T.Rex asked.
Peace flipped to the final page. "It just says:"
"What the hell does that mean? Like, 4am?" Ryan asked.
Peace shrugged. "No clue. It just says four."
"And we're sure it's him?"
"Bite marks match the description, and we found a positive ID in his wallet," Kamikaze said.
A grim silence hung in the air as T.Rex pondered the meaning of the document they'd recovered. "Somebody take some notes of the important details, and then store them separately from the journal in somebody else's pack. If we make it out of here, this is firsthand evidence that we need to protect if we can."
Ryan gritted his teeth and stood, fighting back a wave of pain and nausea. As the Fools listed to him the various items they'd found in the maintenance room, he felt a renewed sense of purpose.
"Everybody suit up, and get ready to move," T.Rex commanded.
"Are you sure you're okay to go?" Kamikaze asked. The rest of the Fools paused to look at T.Rex.
Ryan narrowed his gaze. "I'll be fine. Let's go rescue Jenny." Together they exited the maintenance room, back into the shadowy tunnels beneath campus...
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