Daniela felt weird. As if she was there but not there all at once. She felt as if she had been asleep for months although part of her felt less awake than she had. She had a dull ache permanently settled on her chest. It wasn’t overwhelming but yet she was always aware that it was there in the background; a constant threat of what was to come. She knew that this ache was her guilt trying to get free and overpower her as she knew it would, but she wasn’t ready for it yet, she needed to get through these last three women first.
She faced a problem with this however. The drug appeared to be working and not one of them seemed to be experiencing any pain, which at least seemed to ebb the ache a little, but she knew that eventually their symptoms would increase. Soon they would lose all control of their bodily functions and the toxins will completely take over, eradicating any dignity that they had left. This was where the problem fell. She knew the humane thing to do at this point was to let them go peacefully; give them a lethal dose of the drug and allow them to pass away in their sleep. The problem was that any time she entertained the thought of her administering this drug to help them, an almighty panic rose within her and threatened to overtake her completely. As much as she knew that giving them this dose was the right thing to do, she also knew that categorically she would not be able to take another life.
She tried to look at it logically, reasoning that she had already taken their lives by being the one to expose them to the toxins in the first place. She tried to allow her body to take the guilt of their deaths on already and store it with the rest of the blood she had on her hands. But her mind wouldn’t take it, it kept on hoping that there was a chance they would get out of this alive, that there might at least be someone who didn’t die in this room because of her. It was stupid. There was no way that she could find a cure from the information she had. She would need at least another 100 people before she came even close. This didn’t stop her mind from constantly working though, going through every test with it’s photographic memory and trying to find some form of loophole that she had somehow missed in her all-too-meticulous testing leading up to this point.
Daniela looked up to see Charlotte sitting on the edge of the bed. Daniela had pulled all three beds into the same cell space so as to not isolate them all. The other two were still sound asleep but Charlotte was now wide awake and looking at her expectantly.
“Are you okay?” Daniela asked. “Are you in any pain?”
“Nope,” Charlotte said. “That drug really is a miracle. You should be proud of yourself.”
Daniela dismissed the compliment. “I’m glad you’re okay.”
Charlotte looked around. “Where’s everyone else?” She asked.
“I cremated the bodies of the people who had died.”
“I mean, where are the rest of the staff?” Charlotte said. “We were told there would be a whole team of you working on this.”
Daniela dropped her gaze from Charlotte’s and stared once more at her fingers.
“There’s no one else, just me.” She said.
“That hardly seems fair.” Charlotte said. “Did the other members of the team not survive?”
“They’re fine as far as I know.” Daniela said. “It’s hard to be certain though, I’ve been in this room for a while.”
“10 months.” Daniela said, her eyes still downcast.
“What? 10 months straight?”
“Why?” Charlotte asked. “Surely someone else could have taken a couple of shifts at least.”
Daniela shrugged. “It’s a long story.” She said. “But the overall gist of it is that no one else can get into the room other than me.”
“Well, no wonder you look so shell-shocked.” Charlotte said, letting out a low whistle. “That is a lot of volunteers to get through.”
“A lot of volunteers to kill.” Daniela corrected.
“We all agreed to…”
“Save the speech, I’ve heard it 97 times before.”
“So you’re considering yourself responsible for our deaths?”
“It’s all in the small text of the long story, but just trust me when I say, all of this is completely my fault.”
Charlotte got up from her bed, wheeled her drip over to Daniela and sat down.
“Well then, I guess I stand as the representative of the volunteers in saying that we all knew what we were signing up for and none of us blame you.”
“Really?” Daniela asked. “Is that you even representing the 10 people who woke up and pleaded with me to spare their lives. Begging that I let them live?”
“That happened?” Charlotte asked. “Wow.” She thought about it for a moment. “I bet one of them was Colin.”
“Colin James Robertson?” Daniela asked. “He kept on telling me his name and every little detail about him. I know that he was 32 years old, a Gemini, married to a woman who had survived cancer and a father of three little girls, all blonde haired and blue eyed.”
“He told you that?” Charlotte said. “Please, he was a single man who hated everyone and everything unless he could use it to further his career. If he had had a wife with cancer, he would have abandoned her after finding out the diagnosis, claiming she was no good to him sick.”
“It doesn’t make a difference.” Daniela said. “He didn’t want to die and so I sedated him and exposed him anyway.”
“Not that I’m saying that you shouldn’t have, but why did you do that? You don’t strike me as heartless.”
“You can thank the faceless man who occasionally talks over the speaker for that one. He made me remember.”
“What it felt like to have a conscience.” Daniela said. “Five minutes prior to me waking you, I wasn’t exactly myself.”
Charlotte nodded in understanding. “We were warned of the Danel side effects. That makes a lot more sense.”
Daniela shrugged again. “Glad I could help.”
They both sat in silence for a moment. Daniela wondered where Duncan had got to, or Christiana for that matter. She hadn’t heard anything from either of them for about an hour now. The last she had heard was the sound of Gary, Christiana swearing and then the mic went dead. Since then, she had been alone with no one for company but the three dying women. As her mind fell back to them again, she stole a glance at Charlotte, who was now sitting propped up by the wall next to her, her head resting on the glass behind her and her eyes shut. A burning question crept up, one that she had either not thought important before or, as in more recent hours, she had been too scared to ask.
“Why did you volunteer?” Daniela asked.
Charlotte looked at her, surprised by her question.
“I don’t know. I wasn’t one of those who worked on this place prior to coming to here. I found out about what was going to happen by accident, spotted something with my telescope, made inquiries and then next thing I knew, a car had pulled up and taken me away.”
“Did they insist that you do this?” Daniela asked, shock evident in her voice.
“No.” Charlotte said. “As if they could. But I had the choice to volunteer. I knew I wouldn’t qualify for survival, and when the two options available to me was a worthless death or a useful one, it seemed pretty simple to me.” She stopped and smiled at Daniela. “I guess there was a part of me that also signed up for the same reasons Kirsty did, there was more hope of survival this way. At least it got us into the building.”
“Were there many of you who found out by accident?” Daniela asked.
“About a hundred in all. But that consisted of those who found out and those who were told by people who found out. I had a pretty heavy duty telescope though, otherwise the meteor was pretty hard to find.”
“What happened to the others?” Daniela asked.
“We all had a choice, some chose here, some didn’t.”
“I think part of me envies you.” The words were out of Daniela’s mouth before she really thought about it. They shocked her and she immediately felt embarrassed.
“Why?” Charlotte asked.
“You get to die with your only memories being of a world that made sense.” Daniela explained. “What’s more, you get to die knowing that you helped something. The world now is too scary and I don’t like what it has made most of us capable of.”
Charlotte thought about that for a moment. She smiled sadly at Daniela.
“You’ve been chosen to live, Daniela,” she said. “The best way you can honour our memories is to make sure you live the hell out of your life. Don’t dwell, make a difference. I mean, come on, you guys are going to be the ones to carry on the human race. I don’t care what anyone says, that is cool.”
Suddenly Charlotte doubled over and let out a cry of pain.
“Charlotte?” Daniela asked. “What’s wrong? Where’s the pain?”
“In my stomach,” Charlotte cried. “Holy crap, it hurts!”
Tears started to fall down Charlotte’s face, all previous calm forgotten. Daniela jumped up and ran to her station, setting up another bag of her pain relief medication.
“Hold on Charlotte,” she called out.
She rushed back over to Charlotte and set the new bag up, administering the drug into her drip. Charlottes cries started to dissipate and Daniela staggered back, emotions taking control of her. She cursed under her breath, trying to gain control once more. It was getting harder and harder to keep a hold of the emotions that were threatening to take over. Ever since Duncan had unleashed that terrifying memory, the Danel appeared to be wavering over to the other side of the spectrum, unable to control her emotions at all rather than eradicating them completely.
Another cry called out from one of the beds behind her, quickly followed by another. Daniela immediately pushed herself into fast forward and grabbed the remaining two bags she had set out ready for this occasion. She set up Leah first and then changed Kirsty’s bag over. As she did, Kirsty grabbed hold of Daniela’s arm and pulled her down so that she was looking her dead in the eye.
“Kill me.” She gasped. “Please. I don’t want to wait to die anymore.”
Daniela started shaking her head, breaking free of Kirsty’s hold and backing away. The panic that had threatened to overwhelm her started to increase.
“I can’t.” She said. “Please don’t ask me to.”
It was Duncan’s voice. She didn’t realise just how much she had missed him until he was there. She breathed a sigh of relief and looked to the camera, hope filling her completely. She needed him to have an answer for this.
“You can’t kill them.” He said.
“I know!” Daniela said, irritated that he had come online to scold her rather than give her a solution. “I wasn’t going to, but thanks for stating the obvious.”
“Will you just listen for a second! Jesus, Daniela, do you have to have an opinion for everything?”
“Maybe if you got to the point…” It was Gary’s voice.
“If she would give me chance, maybe I would!” Duncan yelled.
“Duncan! What is your point?!” Daniela yelled.
“Let me in.” Duncan said. “You can’t help them die, but I can.”
Daniela was immediately confused, it didn’t seem right. She had fought against people coming in with her for so long, it felt like she was going against what she believed just considering the option.
“Things are different now Daniela,” Duncan said, as if he had read her mind. “I won’t drag you out until they’ve gone, I promise. But I’ll be damned if I let you endure ending anyone else’s life.”
That was it. Duncan had said the magic words. The screaming had abated, and with it came a relief unlike anything Daniela had experienced before. She was being given a chance to opt out of this unsolvable dilemma that she had been obsessing over for the past several hours. Before she could change her mind she barked out her orders.
“Get in the pod.”
There was the briefest of pauses before Duncan’s response. “I’m on it.”
Daniela grabbed the hand held from her desk and started changing the settings to allow another Walker access. After a couple of minutes, she found Duncan’s signal.
“Is he ready?” She asked.
Gary’s voice came over the speakers. “Ready and waiting.”
Daniela activated the second Walker access and watched as the Danel in the cubicle next to her began to grow and form into the tall masculine structure of Duncan. For once, he immerged without a smile on his face. He spent the briefest of moments searching for her and when his eyes met Daniela’s he seemed to let out a sigh of relief. Suddenly she was overwhelmed with this almighty emotion of affection and concern, all alien to her, they had hit her as soon as Duncan eyes had met with hers and she realised that it came from him. She gazed at him in disbelief, taken over by how much his affection for her had grown.
“Woah,” came the breathless voice of Charlotte behind her, “now that is a good looking man.”
“Tell me about it,” Daniela said, under her breath.