“You’re infected, vampire,” Richardson stated in a flat voice, and looked past him at the rest of us. “That’s what Sarren changed. Requiem can be spread between undead creatures and living beings alike. If an infected rabid bites you, you get the virus. If you feed from an infected human, you get the virus. If an infected vampire feeds from a human, that human contracts Requiem, which can then be spread to other humans via airborne pathogens, just like the common cold.” The scientist gave a short, slightly crazy laugh. “Oh, and the most interesting fact? The virus spreads between rabids and humans in the same way. So, if one rabid contracts Requiem…”
“They all do,” I whispered.
I felt dazed, the ground unsteady beneath my feet. So, this was how Sarren was going to end the world. With a virus so devastating, nothing would be alive when it was done. If Requiem got off the island, if Sarren unleashed it on the outside world, it was over. For everyone, vampires, rabids, and humans alike. No one would survive that plague. Eventually, we would all be dead.
Jackal gave a vicious, almost desperate growl and shook the human in his grasp. “What about a cure?” he snarled. “There has to be a cure. You meatsacks worked on this virus right beside Sarren. You have to have made something to counter it.”
“There is no cure,” Dr. Richardson whispered, shaking his head. “No cure. We tried. When Sarren wasn’t looking, we tried to develop something to counter it. But we didn’t have enough time.”
“What about him?” Jackal demanded, jerking his head at Zeke. “He survived Sarren’s first plague. Whatever you gave the little bloodbag seemed to have worked.”
“It’s different now,” the human said. “The virus is different, much stronger. If we had more time…” He closed his eyes. “But it’s over. Sarren destroyed the experimental cure and all the research we had accumulated—everything we’d learned up until now is gone. We were so close,” he choked out. “So close to finding a cure. The vaccines we gave Mr.
Crosse were almost successful. If we only had vampire blood…that was the only thing we were missing. But it’s too late.”
“Are you blind, meatsack?” Jackal said, still baring his fangs.
“You have four vampires standing right here.”
“There’s no time!” Dr. Richardson burst out. “The research is gone! Everything we learned, wiped clean. Sarren left a few minutes before you showed up, with the virus! And once Requiem hits the world, it’ll be over. It’s done, vampire. This is the end.”
Jackal snarled and hurled the human away. He flew across the room, struck the computer desk on the far wall, and slumped to the floor, moaning.
The monitor on the desk suddenly flicked on. As Zeke hurried over to help the scientist, I stared at the computer and the image that appeared on the screen. For a second, I watched it move, puzzled at what it could mean. When I figured it out, my blood ran cold.
“Kanin,” I whispered as the Master vampire turned, his gaze narrowing. The screen was dark, except for a set of tiny red numbers in the very middle, counting down.
“Huh,” Jackal muttered as the whole room realized what was happening all at once. “That clever sonofabitch.”
Kanin spun on all of us. “Everyone, move!” he roared, and we scrambled to obey. Zeke paused to drag Dr. Richardson to his feet, looping an arm over his neck, but Kanin swept up, plucked the human from Zeke’s grasp, and tossed the semiconscious man over one shoulder as easily as a grain sack.
“Go,” he ordered, and Zeke went, joining me as I waited impatiently for them both at the door. Together, we fled, following Jackal out of the room and into the maze of hallways, before Zeke took the lead. I hoped we would not run into rabids while fleeing for our lives, but apparently that was too much to ask.
A rabid appeared at the end of the hall, its face a mess of blood and gaping wounds, one eye clawed from its socket.
Seeing us, it gave a shriek that echoed off the walls and sprang forward, jagged, infected teeth going for my throat.
I didn’t slow down. Drawing my katana, I met the rabid head-on, slashing through its bony chest even as we collided and it sank curved talons into my shoulder. It clung to me, ripping and clawing even though its lower half was gone. Snarling, I threw it off and kept running. More rabids blocked our passage, and we cut our way through, ignoring the claws that ripped at us, dodging the teeth snapping at our necks. A rabid sank its fangs into my sleeve, barely missing my skin, and I tore it free impatiently, pausing only to slice the thing’s legs out from under it. Infections and viruses be damned; if I was bitten I’d worry about that once I got out of here.
Bursting through the lower level doors, we fled up the stairs, the screams of rabids echoing behind us. We didn’t look back or slow down. The entrance loomed at the end of the foyer, thick metal doors that were probably locked or sealed shut. Jackal and Zeke hit them at the same time, driving their shoulders into them, and the doors flew open with a bang. We leaped the steps and tore across the empty lot……and a tremendous boom erupted from the lab behind us, the shock wave slamming into my back, knocking me off my feet. An intense wave of heat followed, and bits of glass, rubble and flaming wood showered me as I rolled, trying to keep my head covered. Finally, I pushed myself to my knees, avoiding the glass and bits of fiery debris scattered around me, and looked back at the building.
Not surprisingly, it was demolished. The roof was gone, the windows blown out, and the remaining walls were blackened to a crisp. Flames roared through the windows, sending black smoke into the sky, as the last hope for a cure burned with the laboratory.
Wincing, I looked around for the others. A few yards away, Zeke lay on his stomach, and Jackal was struggling upright.
Kanin, already on his feet, walked over to examine the body of Dr. Richardson, lying on his back on the pavement.
Wincing, I crawled over to Zeke, praying he wasn’t badly hurt, but he groaned and pushed himself to a sitting position, staring bleakly at the burning lab.
“Zeke.” I put a hand on his shoulder, peering at him carefully, searching for wounds. “Are you hurt? Were you bitten?”
“No.” He shook his head numbly. The firelight danced in his eyes, casting flickering shadows over his face as he gazed at the inferno. “That’s it, then,” he whispered. “The research is gone. There’s no hope for a cure. No hope for anything now.”