Contamination | Invasion Survivor Book One | Chapter Eighteen
Dave stayed by the door in case the wounded man decided he wasn’t done with them while she looked for the keys.
Turning, she almost had a heart attack. Staff members in the room.
A few of the museum’s staff sat at the lunch table as if they were on their break, but the virus had clearly got to them before they had a chance to start their meal.
The untouched food lay on the table in front of them and Paige almost gagged on seeing it mixed with the blood that dripped so freely from their noses.
They all wore white coats apart from one, so she suspected they were the restoration team and the lady in a very nice suit that was still spotless, despite her face being smeared, was the curator. The woman’s name tag confirmed this.
“What’s the holdup, Paige?” Dave shouted, and she shushed him, jerking toward him as if to physically stop him from making additional noise if necessary.
Turning, he saw they were not alone and gasped.
“Please hurry,” he urged in a much more situation-appropriate voice.
Paige walked around the table as if on eggshells, but the TV hanging on the wall nearby caught her attention.
The news channel showed what was going on the streets, and just as she suspected and had already seen for herself, the infected people were everywhere. It was a global problem, and it was on the rise.
She neared the TV so she could hear the anchorman speaking without turning the volume up. That crazy man was outside and she didn’t want to alert him to where to find them.
The news ticker spoke about the various stages of the infection and the journalist read reports that were arriving as he spoke.
“At first, the health organizations around the words claimed it was a chemical attack by a terrorist group, but after closer inspection of the virus, it was ruled out. It apparently contains an unfamiliar element never before seen. The scientists are baffled...”
“As we learned previously, there are stages to this strange infection. Nosebleeds and general confusion or stupor-like behavior is now characterized as stage one. By now, some people have moved to the next stage—stage two—where they try to bite the non-infected people. They are erratic and extremely violent. Be cautioned that the virus lives in infected saliva and if bitten, you will be infected. Stay away from those who have the disease. Lock your doors.”
“Great, just great,” Dave commented next to her and Paige jumped, startled because she hadn’t even heard him approach. “Come on, we don’t have a lot of time.”
“Did you hear all that?” she asked because his behavior confused her.
“And?” Paige prompted, looking at all the potential threats around them. That number of infected people made her nervous.
“And what?” he countered. “We already knew we were screwed, so this breaking news isn’t so breaking.”
When he said it like that, she had to agree.
“Hurry,” he repeated like she needed a reminder that they were in danger.
Keys. She had to find the keys. She looked around for people’s bags—there had to be one with a set of keys in it.
Bingo. She found a motorbike helmet next to a backpack. She’d already decided a motorbike would be way better than a car if they could find one. Thankfully, Bree had been right. She searched inside the backpack and found a set of keys.
“Found them,” Paige announced, waving them in triumph.
“Cool, let’s bounce. This place gives me the creeps,” he said in one breath and she was more than happy to comply.
“Do you think there’s another way out of here?” she asked hopefully. She still gripped the Samurai sword, even though the blood made it sticky. And she had a sudden urge to wash her hands, but there was simply no time for that.
“You know there isn’t,” Dave replied simply, and she sighed.
“Do you think he is still out there?”
“Yeah,” he replied, sounding none too happy about it. “Let’s just make a run for it.”
“I thought you didn’t run.” She only half-joked but regretted the impulse immediately.
He looked at her before answering. “I’ll make an exception this time.”
Paige nodded, silently giving him the sign, and he opened the door slowly, trying not to make extra noise.
They crept along the empty hallways, and Paige’s feelings about that place and how much she didn’t like it resurfaced. All the dead things surrounding them simply gave her the creeps.
Why would someone want to collect these things in the first place? she wondered as they passed an Under the Sea exhibition.
“This is so cool,” Dave commented beside her, pointing at a great sea monster and all its teeth, clearly not sharing her views about that particular exhibit.
“True.” Paige had almost started to relax and think they were nearly out of the woods when an all too familiar sound resurfaced again.
“Oh, no.” Dave groaned beside her and muttered in a hoarse whisper-shout, “Can we just ignore it so it can go away?”
The infected man was back and by the look on his face, he was done playing with his food.
“Run!” she screamed and, not waiting to see if Dave did as was told, raced away. Their attacker followed, always a couple of steps behind them.
Dave picked random objects that were not hidden under the glass boxes and tried to throw them at their pursuer but accomplished nothing.
“This guy means business,” he commented, already winded, and Paige began to worry. They couldn’t keep this up much longer.
After a while, even she realized something was wrong—apart from the obvious. They managed to hide for a few moments behind a big Neanderthal settlement and catch their breaths.
“We are going in the wrong direction.” Dave voiced her concerns. “We need to split up.”
“What?” she panicked. “I’ll get lost.”
“Just backtrack our steps and when you see the samurais, go right, and you’ll find the exit.”
“What about you?”
“I will let him chase me for a while, then come to find you. I promise.”
Paige didn’t like that plan one bit and was about to argue when the choice was taken out of her hands. The infected man jumped in front of them, and Dave pushed her out of the way while he tackled their stalker. “Go—now!”
Paige started running with everything she had but the feeling in the pit of her stomach didn’t have anything to do with over-exertion.
She couldn’t abandon Dave like that, so turning around once more in hopes of finding him, she ran even faster.
At the settlement, there were no traces of Dave or the affected man. In a cave-like structure, Neanderthal people were on display, captured while working. Even though it gave her the creeps how lifelike they actually looked, she hid among them, praying Dave was there as well.
He wasn’t, but before she could really start to panic, a very distinctive voice helped her find him.
In his usual manner, Dave was taunting the crazed man from a Mammoth he’d climbed on. “What’s the matter—the virus ate your brain and now you want mine? Well, come and get it.”
Suffice it to say, Dave was not happy when he spotted Paige. He didn’t acknowledge her in any other way, though, so the man never saw her coming.
“Are you actually salivating, my man? Damn, I didn’t realize I was such a sweet piece of ass.” Dave continued to make jokes and Paige wanted to groan because he was so cheesy.
She couldn’t believe he was joking at such a moment. But that was okay. She was terrified enough for them both.
Gripping her sword with both hands, she sneaked up on the murderous lunatic. Unfortunately, he heard her approaching and turned to hit her. The blade sliced into his arm but didn’t seem to slow him at all. That was when Dave jumped down to help.
Which was a big mistake. Dave tried to hit him, but the man grabbed him by the neck and started to squeeze. Paige jumped into the fight once more, but it was hard to do anything while the man still held onto Dave, yanking him around like he was a ragdoll.
Paige swung again but missed him entirely. She held back a moment, afraid to attack because he used Dave as his shield.
“Kill him, Paige,” Dave shouted, clearly pissed at being used in that way.
“I am trying to,” she replied through clenched teeth, but it wasn’t easy. The crazed man clearly had some superhuman strength because, despite everything she and Dave had done to him so far, he still attacked with vicious intent.
Moving backward, Paige tripped against the freaking rock from the exhibit. She couldn’t even raise her sword in time to defend herself against the lunatic.
Dave managed to wiggle away when the man was so focused on Paige and managed to jump on his back, trying to choke him.
The victory was short-lived. In the next moment, the infected man yanked him down, grabbed him by the neck, and threw him across the room. He was airborne and only stopped when he hit the wall.
“Dave!” Paige screamed, but he wasn’t moving.
Temporarily distracted, Paige completely missed the fact that the man never broke his stride and was upon her. He grabbed her by the hair and began to drag her out of the room.
“No!” The pain made her lose her grip on her sword. In pain and rage and concern for Dave, Paige started struggling.
She managed to flip around, cursing like a sailor, and felt like she lost a chunk of hair in the process.
From that position, she wrapped her arms around his legs. Willing all her strength to the fore, she managed, to her complete surprise, to prevent him from taking another step.
Clinging around the man, she acted more securely than a rope, and even though he couldn’t see it, she was grinning.
He struggled to peel her off, unable to move, and Paige chose that moment to use her legs. Resisting against the floor, she pushed him hard, and he stumbled and fell.
She scrambled hastily to her feet and tried to run to snatch up her sword. Using her own technique against her, her attacker grabbed her by the foot.
Paige jumped and turned, and with speed and precision she couldn’t even believe was possible, kicked him in the head. The force smacked it down against the marble floor.
The area around it reddened, and he finally stopped moving.
She didn’t stick around to see how long that would last. Breathing heavily, she lurched across the room to pick up her sword, still freaked out about what she’d done, and rushed to Dave’s side.
He was still out cold, so she did the only thing she could think of. She slapped him. “Dave, wake up!”
He jolted to full awareness but still looked kind of disoriented. “What happened?” he mumbled, looking around with a frown that spoke confusion. “Did we win?”
“Yes, now come on. Let’s get you back on your feet.”
Nodding, he started to rise but winced and rubbed the back of his head. Paige moved his hand to look and was relieved there was no blood. But he would have a nice little bump instead.
“It’s just a little boo-boo, you big baby,” she teased and he narrowed his eyes at her.
“You are lucky you are cute and just saved my life or we would have a different kind of conversation,” he said, winking to take the sting out of the words, and she couldn’t help but smile.
He hugged her, using her for balance as they started walking. “Didn’t I tell you to leave?” he accused but without actual heat.
“I don’t follow orders well,” she countered.
“Clearly. I had everything under control.”
“So I saw. Were you planning on boring him to death with your bad jokes, or was it the coma routine that should have knocked him out?”
“The thought did cross my mind,” he replied easily. “Thanks,” he added.
“Don’t mention it.”
Without discussing it, they started running again. It was obvious they both wanted to leave that place as soon as possible so words weren’t necessary.
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