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The chief wanted more infected. No one in the prison was on the verge of turning or even showed any signs, so hunters had to go out and catch some. They had even been given orders not to find any supplies; the sole purpose of their trip was to catch as many infected as they could as fast as possible. Once they got back, they were quarantined as per procedure. But somehow, for some reason, I was given the task of leading ten infected from the prison to the chief’s building. Luckily, the infected had already been tied and gagged beforehand by the hunters. It’s not that hard to get them to follow me either, considering they want to eat me.

While Jen did the easy job of checking the four hunters into the prison, I did the messy job of leading ten infected through a camp with a rope. I couldn’t run either since a few of the infected seemed to be injured or something. They were moving slowly compared to the others which were practically breathing down my neck. In the end, I used the butt of a spear to stop them from drooling on me while I walked backwards all the way to the chief’s building. The guard at the door didn’t even bother to help me bring them inside; all he did was tell me the chief was downstairs. Bastard.

Bringing the infected through the camp was easy, trying to get them through the basement to the chief’s room less so, but I managed—after knocking over a shelf. Oops. “Chief, I brought the infected. What the heck do you need so many for?”

It’s been a couple of days since the last time I saw him. The hunters that he sent to raid the nearby pharmacies and hospitals came back in that time. If I’m not wrong, the chief probably got a lot of new medicines that he’d like to try. As for the infected I brought in last time, it was nowhere to be found. There wasn’t even a speck of blood on the table either, nothing to indicate it had ever existed. I must’ve missed the painters bringing it back to their workshop.

“Great!” The chief spun his swivel chair around. He was wearing his hazmat suit. “Is that you, Chris?”

He remembered me? I’m a bit surprised. I’m wearing my helmet and generic camouflage clothes. Did he tell me apart by my voice alone? “Yeah, it’s me.” I turned back around to push the infected away from me with the butt of my spear, keeping them out of the room.

“Where’s Richard?”

“Richard?”

“My guard.”

Oh, that bastard. “He’s upstairs, keeping watch.”

“That’s…, never mind.” The chief shook his head. “Help me tie these infected down, would you? You can tie them to that pipe over there first.”

The pipe isn’t going to break, right? I hope not. I handed my spear to the chief, and he kept them away from me while I tied my end of the rope to the vertical pipe in the corner of the room. “You didn’t answer me earlier. Why do you need so many?” If I’m not remembering wrongly, the chief told me last time that he tried all the anti-fungal medications out there with no results.

The chief didn’t say anything while keeping the infected back. When I finished tying the rope, he handed me the spear, and we both walked back, just out of reach of the infected. “Don’t tell anyone what I’m about to tell you next, not even your girlfriend, alright?”

I swallowed. A sense of unease spread through my chest. Was it bad? “Got it.”

The chief stared at me for a bit before nodding. “I … think I found a cure, or at least made major steps in the right direction.”

What? “Really? Why don’t you want me to tell anyone? Isn’t that a cause for celebration?”

“I haven’t tested yet,” the chief said. “What do you think would happen if I announced that and then didn’t actually succeed? That’d be the worst possible outcome for the morale of everyone here.” He shook his head before pointing at the infected closest to us. “Help me untie this and secure it to the table.”

The hunters had tied all the infected together in a line. At least they had the foresight to tie the infected’s hands with a separate rope. I helped the chief strap the infected down to the table; it was easy after having already done it once before. I couldn’t resist asking, “What kind of breakthrough do you think you’ve made? Was the freshly turning infected really that helpful?”

“It was about as helpful as a normal infected.” The chief pressed the infected’s head down to the table and tied a rope around its forehead, keeping it in place. Then he slipped his hand behind its head, undoing the ball gag. He threw it into a black bag before bringing his sliding tray table over. On top of it, there was a container of brown liquid. He opened it, and the smell of coffee wafted out. “You see, I was making smears of the last infected’s blood to isolate the fungi. Since I took the blood at different timed intervals, I was hoping to catch the fungal spores in different stages of infection. But that technical stuff doesn’t really matter. While testing different anti-fungal medications on the smears, I accidentally spilled my coffee into one of them.” He raised the container and shook his hand, causing the liquid inside to slosh around. “There was a surprising effect. The coffee didn’t do anything to the smears that I hadn’t treated with medication, but for the ones that were treated, the fungi died. I had already thrown out the infected that I had drained of blood by then, so this’ll be the first time I’m testing this coffee and anti-fungal medication mixture on a live infected. As for why I need so many infected, I’m testing different ratios of coffee to medication.”

“You think you accidentally discovered a cure?”

The chief shrugged. “Penicillin was discovered by accident. But I’m keeping my expectations low. Who knows if this’ll work?”

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Virlyce

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