(If you want, buy their previous rampages for $2 by clicking on the covers below.)
The first thing Lloyd and Cassidy see upon waking up is Doctor Dragovic standing at the foot of their beds. Nerissa is sitting on a motorized wheelchair next to the man, who yawns and rubs his eyes. The girl glances up from a medical textbook to wave at her former roommates, who scowl at her bright smile. Fluorescent lights flicker even though it is daylight, the switch on the wall dangling from its wires. Gentle breezes come through the open window, which the pair can barely see through. They can tell that the room is on an upper floor since all they can see are treetops and clouds. Sparrows chirp from the ledge, one of them repeatedly flying inside and leaving in a strange circle. A large machine hums on the far side of the room, the MRI scanner still being prepared by three nurses. It is only when the console beeps and the sparks stop that Dragovic walks over to his handcuffed test subjects.
“Oh, I left my bags in the hallway. Can you get them for me?” the doctor asks Nerissa, who gleefully heads out the door. Hearing her grunt with the heavy luggage, he nods for one of the nurses to help. “I’m very happy to have both you back in my care. Shame about Trevor since he would have enjoyed this. Now, I’m going to-”
“I think I missed something,” Cassidy interrupts, taking out the I.V. with her teeth. She hears Lloyd shift in his bed and looks over to see him avoiding eye contact. “What the fuck did you do? This was supposed to be a quick stop until I got better. Now, we’re stuck with this psychopath again. Didn’t I shoot you with a minigun?”
“Yes, but none of my wounds were fatal,” Dragovic replies while he takes his things from Nerissa. The girl blushes when he pats her on the head, but she refuses to move out of his way. “I thank you for helping us capture them. Reporting that Lloyd left his room was appreciated even though we didn’t find him until he went back to bed. Would have been nice to stop him from killing Trevor and two of the nurses. If we had waited until someone arrived to check the video feeds then these two would have already escaped. I promise that you will get the utmost care for the rest of your stay.”
Nerissa holds up her textbook and flashes her biggest smile. “Thank you, but I want to be one of the nurses. As you can see, I’ve been studying and I really want to be a part of what you’re doing here. Finding cures and helping people is a great way to rebuild the country. My payment for fixing my leg will be a lifetime of loyalty as long as you take me on as your protégé and teach me everything you know. There shouldn’t be any concern about my age either. I look young, but I’m really nineteen. Not to sound cold, but it does sound like you have three job openings.”
“I could use an assistant in my travels,” the doctor admits while taking the textbook. He tries to read the first page, but stops when he nearly falls asleep. “Good for the basics, but one always needs to know those. If you are going to be my assistant then please take notes. Now, my current research is into the human brain and madness. As you saw, I took Barry last night. The young man was very normal and gave me a control brain to compare these two to. Lloyd Tenay is an infamous serial killer from before the collapse and Cassidy is a deranged murderer created by our broken society. I realized this after our first encounter, but it’s possible that his insanity has infected her. We are forged by our environment, so what would happen to the brain if that included a psychopath?”
“Typically, it would be stabbed,” Lloyd answers, hoping to get a laugh from Cassidy. He meets her angry gaze with a lopsided grin, his head starting to tilt. “I don’t understand why you’re mad. They got me too.”
Cassidy slips her hand out of its cuff and throws her pillow at her partner. “You murdered three people and went back to bed, dumbass! I’m not even surprised about that. Only that you didn’t try to get away.”
“I was sleepy.”
“You could have woken me up and slept in the jeep.”
“But you looked so angelic with your finger up your nose and tongue sticking out.”
“Why am I still friends with you?”
“Because you love me like a second cousin.”
“Yeah, I didn’t think that one through.”
Everyone turns when the door creaks open and Grymer walks in, his wrinkled clothes covered in dirt. A new Pinworm is behind him, this one female and forced to wear a suit that makes her look flat-chested. The tight clothing makes it difficult to breathe, so the grinning servant repeatedly leans against the wall and gasps for air. Her boss rolls his eyes at the annoying sound and waves for Pinworm to leave, the woman only making it as far as the door before passing out. Grymer sighs in embarrassment and wipes his sweaty brow with a handkerchief, but he makes no move to help her up. The three nurses are finally signaled to drag Pinworm into the hallway, the trio returning within seconds and taking positions behind the doctor. Both men stare at each other until Lloyd starts making kissing sounds.
“There’s been a change in our goals,” Grymer says, a pained expression on his face. He points at Cassidy, who is struggling to get out of her other handcuff. “You can keep the madman, but I need the slut. These two have destroyed a lot of what I helped to create, so I need to finish the job. That starts with getting rid of the Custers. I can’t use him because he’s unstable, but I can control a woman. If you want, I can get you that warlord in La Salle. She’s actually been sleeping with the monster, which might give you more information. As close as these two are, it isn’t an intimate relationship.”
“Oh, I already planned on getting my hands on the Duchess,” Dragovic states, stretching his arms. Touching a button on Cassidy’s chart holder, he electrifies the bed enough to stun her. “I have need of both of them. Quite frankly, I have no interest in your politics and am too close to my own goals to let you change our deal. Need I remind you that this is my hospital and all of the nurses are loyal to me. Mind your language and manners or I will try to discover what in the brain would make a powerful man dress like such a slob.”
“Don’t you dare turn on me!” Grymer shouts, reaching for his weapon. The man freezes when he feels a knife against his throat, the doctor having moved faster than he could follow. “I only mean that we have to work together. What if I promise to give her back to you? Not that I can guarantee that her brain will be in one piece. After all, she’s good with a gun, but Elaine is better. Maybe you can stick to scans today and we can negotiate over dinner. I recently came across some nice steaks and wine.”
The doctor takes out his glasses and chews on the end instead of putting them on. “That sounds like the best course of action. Now, I really must get to work here. Scanning is only part of the job. We need to prepare the subjects and go over the results. I may want to do multiple tests that involve various stimuli. For Lloyd, I was thinking of gauging different levels of rage and bloodlust. It would be amazing if I discovered all the nuances to the savagery that comes with his condition. You can stay and watch if you want.”
Grymer nods his head and goes to stand by the door, the man peeking into the hall to see if Pinworm has woken up. The nurses put on their gloves while Dragovic prepares a needle that will make Lloyd docile enough to get him into the MRI machine. Waving Nerissa back, the doctor stands at the foot of his subject’s bed and waits for his assistants to take their positions. A minute of silence passes as the surgeon mouths a short prayer, the act earning a snort of derision from Grymer. Ignoring the man, Dragovic moves to Lloyd’s right and grips his arm by the wrist in order to extend it. To everyone’s surprise, the rail that the serial killer is cuffed to moves when the limb is stretched and turned over. Sensing that something has gone wrong, Grymer bolts out of the room and slams a distant door behind him.
“I may have been playing with the screws,” Lloyd coyly says, bringing attention back to himself. Leaping out of bed, he swings the metal bars at one of the nurses and crushes the man’s skull. “In connected news, I really need to clip my nails or get a manicure. Might want to take care of the feet since I think those count as talons now. Now, who should I kill next? This is where you guys, and one girl, start pointing at each other.”
Dragovic tries to run, but a rail strikes him in the throat and he hits his head on the end of the bed before hitting the floor. Lloyd is about to deliver a kick the man for good measure when the nurses tackle him. The close quarters make it impossible for him to use his weapons for anything other than a weak defense. Spitting in one of his attacker’s eyes, he rolls away and jabs one of the rails into the man’s groin. Bored with the blunt objects, Lloyd keeps the groaning man between him and the other nurse while sliding the cuffs off the bars. Once his hands are free, he cracks his knuckles and grabs his human shield by the back of the shirt. Casually tossing him into the MRI machine, he is about to face the last nurse when Cassidy pounces and slams Dragovic’s needle into the man’s eye. Still angry at having been zapped, the mercenary continues to stab her victim even when he has fallen to the floor.
“Uh, I don’t think that’s sanitary,” Lloyd mentions before turning on the machine. He leaps back when the nurse inside begins to scream and clutch his groin. “This is why I never want to get a piercing there. More power to you if you want it, but I don’t worry about magnets ripping my flesh javelin off. Where did Dragovic go?”
“What the fuck is that guy made out of?” Cassidy growls, realizing that the doctor is no longer in the small pool of blood.
They rush into the hallway and see Dragovic stumble into a nearby elevator, which closes as they catch up. Not seeing any stairs, Lloyd forces the doors open and holds them while Cassidy sprints back into the room. As he waits for his partner, the serial killer takes off his gown and throws it in a feeble attempt to clog one of the mechanisms on top of the car. Wearing only socks and boxers with cartoon bombs on them, he considers jumping for one of the wires and sliding down like in the movies. Before he can give in to his curiosity, Cassidy returns pushing one of the heavy gurneys. Lloyd gets out of the way and helps her shove it into the shaft where it falls and crashes on top of the car. They cringe as the sound of screeching metal and an echoing thunk signals that the elevator is stuck. Smoke wafts out of the shaft and sets off the sprinkler system, the water cold and smelling of sulfur.
“We should make sure he’s dead,” Lloyd says as a fire breaks out on top of the elevator. He lets the doors close and rubs at his arms, the cold giving him goosebumps. “You know the rule that all bad guy deaths must be confirmed. We screwed up the first time with this nutter, so we’ll only have ourselves to blame if we fail again.”
“I think I see the stairs over there,” Cassidy replies, leading the way down the hallway. They stop at the turn and look out the windows, the view helping them locate the jeep in the parking lot below. “We still need to get our stuff, but everyone should be distracted. Just have to grab a nurse and get the info. Feels like we’re going to have loose ends here no matter what. I mean, I just know we’re missing something else.”
“You killed my mentor!” Nerissa screams as she barrels down the hallway. The wheelchair sparks and hisses from the strain of its propulsion system, which carries her directly into Cassidy’s waiting hand. “Put me down, you murderer! Doctor Dragovic was a great man and he will be avenged. I know enough to-”
“Shaddup!” the mercenary snaps, slamming the girl’s face against the window. With a frown, she repeatedly bangs Nerissa into the glass and makes sure every blow is harder than the last. “You dive into obsessed loyalty really quickly. Really bizarre for a woman who has no trouble betraying people. Sure, we only just met, but you were cute and I thought we were flirting a bit. For the love of all that is holy, what is this fucking window made out of? It isn’t even cracking!”
“Maybe we should pick up some medicine to help with your anger. After all, you’re trying to kill a girl here,” Lloyd interjects while wiping his nose on a sock. Yanking down one of the curtains, he tries in vain to dry off. “Not that I mind, but one of us needs to remain level-headed here. Kind of tired of it being me. Okay, I think one of her eyebrows is stuck to the window, so can you put the girl down?”
“Nineteen is woman territory.”
“I’m going to smile and nod here.”
“Fine, I’ll put her down and walk away.”
“You going to be okay?”
“Just feel like this stop was a waste of time.”
“True, but it could have been solved with water and food.”
“What about the cute underwear you get to walk away with?”
Cassidy looks at her reflection in the mirror, the smeared blood making it difficult to get a clear view of her rear. “They are comfortable and adorable. Seem pretty sturdy considering what I just put them through. Been a while since I bought anything pretty unless you count that assault rifle with grenade launcher attachment. Well . . . I guess a little looting won’t hurt.”pen the door and sprint d
With a happy clap, Lloyd takes a bag off the back of Nerissa’s wheelchair and dumps the books onto the floor. The pair talk about the supplies that they want, the conversation repeatedly coming back to the urgent need for pants. A distant ding causes them to pause, the sound reminding them of an elevator. Hurrying back to the windows, they down the hallway and only see Pinworm’s still body in the far corner. The elevator is still closed and smoke continues to seep out from between the crooked doors. A shiver runs up their spines, but they cannot tell if it is from fear or being in wet clothes. Backing toward the stairs, they remain silent until they can open the door and sprint down the stairs.