I wasn’t aware of how much time had past between Makabe’s departure and Telder’s arrival, but it could have been days. After so much time in the dark, the sudden blast of overhead lights drilled into my eyes.
Telders was alone.
“Hey, hey, hey,” Michael said, ducking his head under the door frame as he entered. He was bright-eyed and cheery, and wore a fine, tailored black suit with a solid yellow tie. “What do you think, huh, Robertson?” he asked, turning around with his arms out to show off the suit. “Not a bad look for the post-apocalypse, huh?”
I sat on one of the top bunks with my back against the corner, squinting against the brightness. I said nothing.
Telders peered into my cell and tilted his head back and forth, pretending to get a read on me. “What’s up, Wayne?” he said. He frowned and waved his hand. “Earth to Wayne Robertson….”
“There he is!” Telders grinned. “Hah, I thought for a second you were ignoring me. How’s it going, buddy?”
“Doing just fine,” I said, unmoving. “Have you come to let me out of my cage, Michael?”
“Hah! Always the comedian. Hilarious, Robertson. Really.” Suddenly his eyes lit up. “Oh, hey! Come on down here and check this out. You’re gonna love this.” He lifted a clear plastic bag to eye level and nodded sideways at it. Inside was what looked like a scrap of metal.
“You bring me a present?”
“Kinda sorta. Come on down from there and you can check it out.”
“I’m fine where I am,” I said.
Telders nodded and mocked a look of defeat. “You’re still upset about the thumb. I can tell. No sense in hiding it.”
I regarded the bandage that covered my missing digit. “Hadn’t thought about it.”
“Oh? Then you won’t mind if I get Ivan in here to take a finger or two? Or… would you like to show some manners and come see what I’ve brought you?”
I gave Michael a hard stare, then slid off the edge of the bunk.
“Great! Now, what I’ve got in my little bag…” he said, pointing at the metal, “…is no ordinary chunk of aluminum. Care to guess why?”
I sighed and looked away. “Dazzle me.”
Telders chuckled. “I like that. ‘Dazzle me.’ You’re a funny guy, Robertson. Well, prepare to be dazzled, then, because this bit of aluminum is part of the housing from a freaking cruise missile. And we’re not talking your every day, run of the mill Tom Cruise missile. Oh, no no no. This baby is advanced. The science team ran it through all their best equipment and they don’t know what to make of it. It’s smaller and faster than anything they’ve ever seen. They even think it might have had some kind of anti-grav propulsion. Pretty far out, huh?”
“I’m glad you agree, Wayne. And that’s not even the best part. Do you know what they found on this little scrap of metal?”
I stared at him and slowly shook my head.
Michael widened his eyes and said with a spooky voice, “A viiiiirus.”
I bit my lip. Telders took note of it and smirked. “I know, right? And there was a ton of it on here. Like, really a lot.” He laughed. “I bet you can guess which virus it was, huh?”
“I have an idea.”
“You bet you do. You were on a first name basis with this sucker. Only, it didn’t seem to kill you, like everyone else—did it?”
“And you have no idea why.”
“But you’ve got a pretty good idea who does, though, don’t you? Advanced weaponry, killer-alien-zombie virus… sounds like that Spegg thing has been pretty busy.”
“That Spegg thing may or may not be responsible, but I had nothing to do with it.”
I eyed him suspiciously. “But…”
“But… it doesn’t fucking matter! It only matters what they think,” he said, pointing upward, presumably toward everyone on the ship.
I shook my head. “What did you tell them, Michael?”
Telders grinned sheepishly.
“Let me guess. You painted me as some kind of super-genius with a grudge against society. I grew up in a broken home, then quietly did my time at Yale, where people who knew me would describe me as “strange”, or “a loner type”. Then, after I graduated, I went to Antarctica, to a remote station where I slowly lost my mind. Mad from the cold and the isolation, and hell-bent on punishing those I deemed responsible, I created a hideous bio-weapon and an advanced delivery system to distribute it to the masses. Something like that?”
“The details are a little off, but you’ve got the gist of it.”
“Nothing unites the people like a common enemy.”
“You said it. And you wouldn’t believe how desperate they are for your blood. Most people lost everyone they knew. Families, wives, husbands, babies. They are seriously pissed. And I’ve been holding little rallies up on deck to encourage it. Last night we burned you in effigy.”
“Sounds like a blast.”
“Oh, we have fun. How about you drop by tonight and meet everyone?” He checked his watch. “Say… eight o’clock?”
“Something tells me I don’t have a choice.”
“Yeah. I guess it’s kind of mandatory,” he shrugged. “We’ve got the whole thing planned out. Torches, pitchforks… the whole shebang. You’re the guest of honor, Wayne.”
I calmly regarded my old friend. “Telders, when I get off this boat—”
“You’ll die on this boat,” he sneered. “And probably sooner than you think.” Michael turned and called out: “Guards!”
The outer door swung open. Ivan, the savage who ripped off my thumb, the African guard in dark-green fatigues, and two Korean soliders stepped into the room with heavy weapons and hard expressions carved on their faces.
“Uh oh,” Telders said, turning around. “Somebody’s ready to party.”
He fished a key out of his pocket slid it into the lock.