Poor Bastard
rating: +17+x

"You should have brought a mortician instead."

The doctor looked over the Mass Containment Room floor of Site 34, coated in the blood and bodies of two hundred Foundation staff members. The stench of death and decay hung over the room. He sniffed, and could tell that the same was true for the whole facility. "If they're already dead, then why bother bringing me here?"

"Because," said the woman beside him, opening a door to their right, "we've still got a survivor in here. You deal with brain damage cases?" The doctor nodded. "Then you should be able to tell us if he's got a chance or not."

"A Site is completely isolated for a month, without any contact with the outside world," murmured the doctor, looking down the dusty corridor. "You'd expect them to have been able to stay alive that long. Aren't they stocked for an isolation period of up to a year?"

"Two," replied the woman, striding ahead of him. "Near as we can tell, they were stuck here for three."

"Three?" asked the doctor, stepping around another corpse in the middle of the hallway.

"We're still researching how it happened. Time anomaly, most likely. Anyways, it wasn't the isolation or lack of food that did this. Site 34 had a reputation of being specifically staffed by the doctors and researchers deemed most likely to survive a long period of isolation. It was also understaffed at the time."

The doctor shuddered at the mutilated faces of three guards in a room to his left. "What did this to them, then?"

"Outbreak. One of the senior staff was visiting. Checking on one of the objects, routine visit - you know the drill." The doctor nodded. "Well, there was an outbreak. Senior staff member was killed during it, started the infection in Researcher Akana. Akana spread it to Doctor Ferbar and Chief of Security Beumer. Ferbar and Beumer spread it further, and you can guess how that worked out.

"It wasn't lethal, but it took a huge toll on their mental faculties. At first, they were acting independent of each other, perfectly normal behavior, even though we'd never seen a spread like this before. But after a time, we still don't know how long, they began break away from the pattern. Began to meld. Like a hive mind. Moving together, gathering stragglers and effectively assimilating them."

"So the mind became too far spread and broke itself," said the doctor. "I've seen similar things happen out in Wales. They had to destroy that one, you know."

"Yes, I read your briefings and credentials," said the woman, stopping outside a blast shield door. She began to punch in a code, saying "Anyways, that's not what happened. One of the unaffected did it. Brian Gomez. Security guard. Couldn't stand being stranded here with the others. So the day before we broke through whatever was blocking the area, he took his weapon and massacred the lot of them."

The doctor scoffed at this. "One man killed an entire Foundation Site by himself?"

A grinding noise came from the blast shield door as it slid aside, granting the two admittance. "They were a hive mind, remember?" replied the woman, walking towards the small steel door inside the small chamber. "How would you fare if someone was smashing up pieces of your brain?"

His scoff turned into a shudder. "So the guard is our survivor?"

"No. He wound up dead after an intense interrogation."

"Goddammit!" shouted the doctor, stamping his foot. "I was willing to let the vague summons slide, but this is getting ridiculous. You brought me here without any in-depth knowledge of what I would be dealing with, and you expect me to help? Who or what is so important that you'd need to keep it a secret from me?"

The woman opened the door, revealing a small room with a bed in the corner. On the bed was a short, round, balding man in a blue pinstripe suit. His face was paling, an expression of great pain covering it. His glasses lay askew, and his tie hung limply off the edge of the bed-frame. Clutched tightly in his hands was a white gold amulet, with a ruby surrounded by diamonds in the center.

As the doctor recoiled at the recognition of the object, the woman said, "The fact that we've nearly lost this one. There'd be panic if the rest of the Foundation found out what transpired here, especially since we have no explanation how he formed the hive mind." The doctor moved forwards, and reached out to touch the amulet. The woman slapped his hand away. "You know better than to touch that. Just make sure he's alright."

Taking a deep breath, the doctor examined the head of the old man, though he did not bring out any tools to cut him open with. He prodded and poked, checked his responsiveness and vital signs, took blood samples, all the while avoiding the amulet in the body's cold hands.

At length, he heaved a heavy sigh and said, "There's nothing you can do."

"You've barely even touched him," snapped the woman.

"Look," said the doctor, leaning against the wall and wiping his brow. "based on what little information you've given me, I was brought here because of my extensive experience with amnesic overdose. Now, there are certain little signs that you learn to pick up after a while of dealing with those cases, little things that are off with the patient. A specific temperature, or a certain toxin in the blood. While there are certainly differences between the overdoses and our case here, the end result is the exact same.

"If the hive mind was destroyed so thoroughly that this one was the only survivor, than there's no hope for him. Normally, if there had been much less of the others, he would have stood a chance. But with less than one-seven hundredth of his mind still intact, it's a miracle he's still breathing."

The doctor stood and started to walk out. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I'd like to get out of here as fast as I can. Whole place smells of…" he sniffed. "Old flesh and burning fur."

The woman stood over the body of the senior staff member, reflecting. At length, she too sighed, and walked towards the exit. There was much to explain, and an awful lot of fallout to contain. Senior staff would want answers, and her team would no doubt be assigned to a round-the-clock investigation of the incident. Before she left, she turned back for one last look at the old man.

The faintest whisper of a breath steamed out his nostrils.

"Just like his brother," the woman said to herself. "Poor bastard."

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