There was barely any light in MED-1’s laboratory. The rigged power system provided just enough juice to keep individual machines and some of the lights running. These were hardly adequate conditions for any normal researcher, but MED-1 was far from normal.
In his metallic claws he held a crystal chunk, something he has been trying to analyse ever since obtaining it from his first unique patient, and despite his extensive knowledge he could not begin to guess at its origin or exact properties. To him these crystals were a symptom.
“Final log.” came an electronic voice from the speakers mounted in MED-1’s head. As his hand slowly rotated in its mechanical joint he once again tried to observe the crystal through numerous filters and sensors, and this time, just as the many times before, the results were exactly the same.
“One hundred subjects. One hundred percent fatality rate.”
The lights above MED-1 flickered, revealing for a moment his metallic frame, and white coat of paint. For a brief moment a red cross could be visible upon his chest, with “Watoga Emergency Services” written beneath it. The lights then died, but the robot could still see clearly in the now dark room.
“Plague, unknown. All subjects exhibited similar symptoms. Post Mortem reveals identical mutations externally and internally.”
The lights flared back on, illuminating the room brightly. Revealing now that on the table in the centre of the laboratory was present the latest “subject”.
“Male, age unknown. Residence, unknown. Name, John Doe. Recovered from Watoga city limits. Stern opposition, impossible to placate, communicate or reason with. Was dressed in old civilian clothing. No documents. Used pipe for a weapon. Like previous subjects, despite heavy injuries continued to offer resistance.”
The Scorched’s clothing was removed, its body lying lifelessly upon the table. At a glance one could had thought it was a severe burn victim, if not for the strange green crystals that seemed to be growing from within its body, present in numerous places. Its skin looked completely dry, and cracked, as if made of rock. While it had eyes they did not appear human any longer.
Its chest was cut wide open and one might had recognised the many organs any man would had normally had, yet they still appeared to be mutated by whatever affliction turned ordinary humans into these beasts.
“Like in previous cases, mutation was too extensive for any effective cure. Disease, or virus, progressed beyond the point of recovery. Further proof of communication between the infected found, when a group attempted to stop subject recovery, despite the subject being unable to speak or shout they knew exactly where to find us. Further evidence of…”
The robots words stopped briefly as it looked over the body. It seemed as if it was thinking.
“Hivemind.” it finished its statement.
The small crystal was set down on the table, next to the body, and MED-1 continued.
“Despite gathered information, impossible to state what is original source of disease. While all subjects were clearly infected, none acted as agents to spread it further, instead they were simply hosts. In different locations flora is inconsistently infected. Infected creatures and plants halt all growth and fail to reproduce. They do, however, eventually expire, when mutations become too extensive.”
After a brief pause, gathering more information from more distant parts of its memory, MED-1 continued.
“Sole exception, mutated bats. Unlike other infected species they lack the same degradation other subjects suffer. Either immune to disease, or adapted to it. Despite best efforts, impossible to obtain even small sample for study. Much too dangerous. Size mutation could be result of disease or other factors.”
The lights flickered once more, and the building shook briefly. Something large seemed to be passing nearby, making the old hospital tremble in its wake. There was a reason MED-1 chose to perform his tests deep inside the facility, away from the prying eyes of any unwanted individuals.
And yet, this time, something was different. As MED-1 was continuing his report his sensors picked up the sound of metal being rent, of walls and doors giving way to something large. It seems this time his patients would come to him.
“Conclusion,” MED-1 began as the sound drew closer. It was angry, very angry, and despite all of the noise it was causing MED-1 could tell that it wasn’t alone, “due to lack of any observed uninfected individuals it is likely nobody in the immediate area is still alive or safe from the disease. If they are in hiding it is unlikely they will survive for much longer.”
The building shook once more, the lights flickered and this time shut down for good. The generator, and its cables severed. MED-1 stood in complete darkness. He could still see, at least to a degree, in these unfriendly surroundings. And thanks to his extensive research he knew that his patients could not, at least not any better than ordinary humans.
“Containment, impossible.” MED-1 stated solemnly. Its metallic grip reached for something nearby, a crude blade it fashioned itself. It was both a weapon and a highly effective dissection tool. His patients were not one to complain.
“Only solution, extermination.” the robot stated. It slowly turned its head to look in the direction of the ever louder noise. With its other hand it reached for an old, tattered lab coat that it draped over its metallic body. It seemed completely redundant, yet somewhere in its fractured code it was mentioned that people reacted better to robots that looked more human than machine. Some part of MED-1’s logic knew that there might no longer be anybody left to appreciate the gesture.
At that very moment claws rent their way through the metal wall. The plating was peeled off with surprising ease and cast aside. MED-1 registered heavy grunts, breathing. Its sensors picked out the features of the creature. One of the inhabitants of this new land. A giant lizard. Very aggressive. Infected. A threat. Solution, extermination.
Before the Deathclaw could enter the room proper MED-1 leapt forward with his blade. Clean incision, the sharp edge cut through the monster’s scales and sunk in deep. Spine severed. It only lets out a brief pained growl before its body collapsed. The Scorched that accompanied it begin to shout, growl, hiss, flailing their weapons madly, preparing to claw at the robot.
“K-kill! Kill!” some of them mumble out, almost in unison, but for most of them it was the last thing they would do. MED-1 had studied them, he knew how they think, how they operate and he knew, to an impressive extent, every weakness humans tended to have. Sometimes MED-1 tried to analyse the cause for his memory banks to be split between two very distinct personalities. Why on one hand he was a healer, a doctor, a researcher, while on the other an efficient killer. Why were these two modules installed in his electronic brain? As far as he could tell he did not even have any directives, yet at the same time he never felt the urge to shut himself down, to cease to be.
Something kept driving him on.
The Scorched were many, and seemingly cooperating through whatever unseen ways they used, but how can mere flesh compare to a machine that was designed to kill? His sensors catch the slightest movement of his opponents. Many of them fall before they can so much as lift their weapons. The hospital floor is soon slick with blood and littered by corpses.
As the horde thinned, and eventually became no more, MED-1 stood alone in the ruined corridor, analysing again what has just happened. It felt something akin to excitement. There was more to learn, outside of Watoga. Perhaps if he looked out further West he would find the solution to this problem, perhaps he would even find a cure.
He could not stay here, not only because his thirst for information grew, but also because this location was now compromised. More of them would come, more would try to destroy him. They saw him as a threat for a long time, but it seems they were always too occupied to come for MED-1. What might had changed in the world beyond that lead to this?
It was time to find out.
With a heavy metal step, stomping over the corpses of his fallen patients and test subjects MED-1 left the dead city of Watoga and headed West, to continue his research.