Word Count: 1695
Layla looked through the window at the man that had called himself ‘Cancer’. He looked like he was already a member of the undead, he was so tired. They had found an impressive stock of ammo and weapons amongst the gas cans and food. At least one of their little trio knew what they were doing when it came to surviving in this new, frightening world.
Somehow, she got the feeling that it was Cancer. Aside from the fact he was passed out in a chair, he had that sort of hardened look about him, like he'd already seen too much crap to let an apocalypse get to him. It was almost a shame, she found herself thinking, that it had worn him down so much already. Perhaps after some proper rest he would look better and be more capable, though the obvious drug use made her a little unsure.
Her makeshift lab bleeped at her to tell her that the first blood sample was done being analyzed by the computer. She put the second one in to be tested - the one from the ginger boy. The first had been from the one in the middle room that was still shouting at the door to be let out.
She scanned the results quickly, finding nothing more special than a high amount of opiates in his blood. He was clean. She considered the person that blood sample had come from. She hadn't been able to get a name out of him - the time she spent taking a vial of his blood from him was filled with him insisting on being allowed out of that room. He kept saying he wanted to go to Cancer, which she hadn't understood at first.
It seemed like he was entirely dependant on the other man, at least emotionally. He was small, probably underweight even for his size, and something about him just reminded her of a child. She wasn't sure if it was his build or the way he had looked at her when she said he couldn't leave the room that made her think that.
The machine bleeped again and she switched the vials, turning her attention to the ginger boy's results. Joe, he had said his name was. His blood was clean, too. The worst he had in there was the remnants of THC. He didn't look like the sort of person that would usually hang around with those sorts of people. They seemed to have a few years on him, as well. She wondered why they had ended up driving around together. Shaking her head, she told herself off. They'd been thrown together and left with no choice but to look after each other. Though she did wonder - Joe didn't look much like he would be able to look after himself, let alone two people who were clearly very close and used to a certain amount of violence and living day by day.
Cancer's blood sample triggered an alarm on the computer.
"Shit." Biting her lip, she looked over at the screen.What Layla saw there certainly was not what she was expecting. Cancer's blood was riddled with the virus, but there was something there that she'd never seen before, latched onto the pathogen. Moments later she had the blood on a glass slide under a microscope, practically shaking with anticipation. Did one of the vaccine trials have more success than was reported? Did this man just have a unique immune system? Suddenly she had so many questions, and he would be unable to answer them until he was awake. She wasn't sure she could wait that long, or get back to sleep.
When the captain had come in and ordered her to get up and report to the lab, she had been reluctant to leave her bed - she'd been having a good dream about her home before the world went to hell. Now she was wide awake, making lists of the chemicals in his blood. Was it the opiates? Were they some kind of catalyst for whatever was in his blood? Was it unrelated entirely? Possibilities and scenarios flooded her imagination as she tried to work out if this was a cure or just another pipe dream.
If it was a cure, or a vaccine, she could synthesize the chemicals and their reactions in her lab and somehow mass produce, maybe distribute to all the survivor camps. They had no communication with any other camps - for all she knew they were the only people left. But she was something of an optimist. Where there was a will, there was a way, after all. That's what her mother had always taught her, and she was determined to find her way.
She even caught herself imagining the fame finding a cure would bring her, laughing to herself.
"What's the verdict?" her captain's voice made her jump.
"Two of them are clean," she gestured to the results on the screen, switching from one to the other for him to read for himself.
"And the other?"
"The one with those scratches on his arms... I think he might have been part of one of the vaccine trials somewhere. He's infected, but he's not dying. I know he looks like he's in a bad way at the moment, but I think he's just tired. I reckon when he's slept, he'll look just fine."
"Are you telling me we've found someone that's been wandering around with a cure inside of him all this time?"
"I'm not sure yet, sir. He's not dead, but the virus is still alive inside of him. It might not last. The virus could still mutate and kill him."
The captain considered what he should do.
"Secure his cell, we can't run any risks. The other two can be released into the camp."
"Yes sir. What should I do with, um, Cancer, sir?"
"Cancer? Is that his name?" he laughed, "what a ridiculous name. Like I said, leave him in his cell, wait until he wakes up and he can answer some of our questions. You find me as soon as he comes around, I want to speak with him myself."
"May I sit in and ask, too?"
"I suppose I can allow it, he might be able to shed more light on the situation for you than he can for me," he nodded to himself, glancing around at the laboratory equipment. The pharmacy college had already had a lab, but with Layla's equipment in there it felt more sterile and business like than it had when they arrived. The feel of the place made him uncomfortable, but Layla seemed happy enough in there. They had certainly landed on their feet being dropped off by the Armed Forces in a place that was big enough to have such a college.
Joe and his vocal companion were released from their cells with yet more shouting from the small one.
"Why aren't you letting Cancer go? He's fine! How can he be infected, what's wrong with him? Let me see him!" he yelled, kicking at the soldier restraining him.
"He is infected, but we think he can help us because he seems to have some kind of immunity to it," Layla tried to explain as calmly as she could, "so he has to stay here, just in case, okay?" She felt like she was explaining to a small child why he couldn't have any sweets.
"He's not infected!" he argued relentlessly.
"Look, just try and get some sleep in the camp. These guys will look after you, you'll be comfortable enough. I'm sure you could all do with sleeping in a bed for once, right?"
"Rayn," Joe said wearily, attracting the attention of the one shouting. "Just go along with it, I'm sure everything will be fine."
"Rayn?" Layla asked, "is that your name?"
Rayn ignored her, his eyes narrowed at Joe. He could see that Joe didn't believe his own words, and kicked viciously at the soldier again, his efforts to get away and see Cancer were redoubled.
Joe sighed, not sure what to do to help, which only confirmed Layla's assumption that Joe was new to their small group.
"I. Want. To. See. Cancer. Now." Rayn shouted, emphasising each word with a kick to the soldier's shin. The soldier holding onto him was gritting his teeth against the pain, doing his best not to get irritated.
"Why are you so determined to see him?" Layla couldn't help but be curious. She didn't think she had ever seen someone fight so hard.
"Because when I'm away from him bad things happen to him," he said, his eyes turning to her, wide and innocent. The conviction and dogged dedication in his voice surprising. She chewed on her lower lip, trying to decide what to do.
"Wait here," she disappeared, walking off out of sight. Her captain was as unimpressed with the idea of letting Rayn stay with Cancer as she has expected. He asked if there was any point in him having a word with the strange person. She shook her head. Begrudgingly, he told her she could make an exception, but if this man, Cancer, turned and infected Rayn, it would be her responsibility. With that weighing on her mind, she made her way back to where she had left Joe and Rayn.
Once Rayn had been told he was allowed to stay in Cancer's room, he trotted along behind her obediently, following her back to where Cancer was. Joe was taken off to the camp, a look of uncertainty on his face about the whole thing.
She let him in, not sure that she was doing the right thing. He thanked her and walked over to Cancer, inspecting him for any damage. She watched with a frown. She couldn't tell what sort of relationship they had. Her first thought, as she watched Rayn brushing a stray lock of overgrown hair out of Cancer's face was that they might be lovers. As he climbed into the chair with Cancer and settled down on top of him with his head on the man's chest, it seemed like the most likely answer.