Walter felt physically sick. It was a feeling he was now familiar with and he could no longer imagine his life without it. He saw no future where happiness could exist, an unattainable mental state. He finally understood the sorrow of all the people he had tried to help. He finally saw how foolish he was to try and reconcile them.
“Walter!” the voices in the room sounded distant and stifled. It took him some time to realise he was being addressed by someone other than Sam Tank. “Walter! I don’t believe we ever actually met!” It was the crippled man who had just entered the room. “Boss Citadel!” he said cheerfully as Walter raised his head. “I would shake your hand but...” he shrugged his shoulders, indicating his hands were full – one with a crutch and the other with a gun. “I will say your magic potion is a thrilling little kick. I’ve been on morphine for weeks now and it does not even come close to what I’m feeling now!”
Ricky Talk, the large man beside Sam, growled with disapproval. He looked at Sam who shook his head before speaking to Boss. “Tell me, Simon, and I concede that you have slipped this one trick by me.”
“It’s a secret, Sammy.” Boss laughed. His speech was slightly drawled and he couldn’t quite pronunciate the words through his tightened jaw, but he was enjoying himself nonetheless. “You know I never have seen you like this. So open and honest, thinking you had it all figured out. You should see your face.”
“We saw you lying there when the bomb went off. You should be dead.” Sam was less confident and growing frustrated.
“C’mon, Sammy, almost there!”
“Unless you’re not Citadel.” Samm said softly. Boss was giggling with excitement. A dawn of recognition flushed over Sammy’s face. “The body double,” he sighed.
“Ha! Nott Citadel, the poor bugger! Your mammoth already put him in hospital months ago so it wasn’t hard to pass him off as me up in that bed. I will admit I thought you were smart enough to figure this one out.” Sammy did not dignify the jab. “The clincher must have been that I actually took the beating.” He looked over at Phil, “If it’s any consolation, kid, your buddy was the real hero behind this whole charade.”
Sam let off a snide laugh. “So what now? What’s the point? It’s all too late. What can you possibly achieve?”
“You know the last time we really spoke I still didn’t get it. I thought you wanted the power. Like any man, what else is there? But you’re not really a man; you’re a soulless little fuck and you just wanted to tear the world apart so that no one else could enjoy it. And you have done it. You took my fortune away; you took my brother away. You debased this woman who only wanted to help – even if she only wanted to help herself – you’ve traumatised this kid and the cop dying in the stairwell. You have kindled a fire that will potentially set the world alight. And you’ve broken the happiest man in the world; turned him into a depressive. What more could you ask for? You’ve won.
“But what did you lose?” Boss asked.
Sam laughed. “You were so close, Simon. But you still miss the point. I haven’t lost a thing. I haven’t gained a thing. I don’t have anything. I don’t want anything.”
Boss raised his gun and pointed it at Sammy, releasing the safety.
“Shoot me! I have done what I came to do. I am ready and you can only do a favour by ending this earlier for me.”
Boss snickered. “Gladly.”
“NO!” Lucy and Walter both screamed hopelessly. Lucy cried out for Sam. Walter knew Sam was in no danger. Boss shifted his aim and fired a bullet in the gut of the Ricky Talk. The gigantic man flinched at the impact and his face screwed up curiously as he looked down at his belly.
“NOOO!” Sam roared. “NO! Ricky, no!”
Ricky clutched at his stomach were the bullet entered. Blood spilled onto his giant hands and he stumbled back and fell on his backside like a child learning to walk. He face was almost level with Sam and he turned to his friend, terrified, “Sammy. Ricky, ouch. Ricky ouch, Sammy.”
“No, no ouch, Ricky, It will be OK. It’s just a little sting like from a bee. It will be OK.”
Ricky sobbed as Sam cradled his head, “Sshh,” Sam himself looked distraught with grief.
Boss was laughing with sadistic glee. “You better hurry out of here if any of you still care to live. Won’t be long until the final bomb goes off and this place comes down.”
Walter was still frozen. He no longer felt so sorry for himself. Instead he felt for yet another of the victims of his ways. He must have been in some level of shock because he began to watch the dying giant like it was a midday soap opera. Lucy had gone to Sam’s side to try and comfort him. Walter suddenly realised he felt no more love for the woman. In fact he suspected that he hated her. He wanted to imagine her suffering a horrid fate but then he realised she already was. She was in the midst of it. It did not give him the satisfaction he envisioned. How ridiculous was this seesaw of emotion.
“Walter!” Phil grabbed him by both shoulders and literally shook him back to the present. “We need to get the fuck out of here!” Walter shook his head softly. He was content to let this be it. “Don’t give me that shit! I came here to save you and I’m not going to leave without you. Don’t fuck me now Walter!”
Walter managed to get to his feet and Phil was already at the entrance. Boss, still drunk on his victory, turned and spoke to Phil, “Hey kid, your friend is still alive by the way. He helped me deal with that fucking robot. He’s bleeding pretty bad but give him this, it might help him make it out.” He handed Phil a vial of the pale blue liquid. Phil looked too stunned to reply.
Another thunderous explosion was heard, this time well below them. It rocked the floor and Boss fell from his crutch. “Agh! Fuck me!” He clutched at his leg which was bound by a thick cast. “Hey!” he called as Walter and Phil were set to leave. “You know we can rebuild him. Whisker, I mean. He can come back.”
Walter looked to Phil who shook his head lightly. “He’s a man. Men don;t come back from death.”
Boss shrugged but he began to feel the pinch of all his pain. “Well you can’t say it wasn’t worth it,” he joked. “I’ll see you in hell Sammy!” He put his gun to his mouth and blew a chunk of his head out the other side.
“Walter, let’s move!” Phil screamed. Walter backed away from the scene consciously detaching himself from the people and their tragic fate. He turned and ran out the door.
Halfway down the corridor Stevie was slumped against the wall, Phil was kneeling down beside him. “No don’t give me any more!” Stevie shook his head away from the vial in Phil’s hand.
“You have to! We need to get you out of here!” Phil forced Steve to drink and his faced softened and seemed to brighten almost immediately.
“Fuck!” Stevie growled and he lifted himself up with Phil’s support. He looked at Walter with a hint of a smile. “Let’s go you stupid bastard.”
The three hurried down the corridor to the stairs but it was already slow going with Stevie’s weight. He cursed and spluttered as they limped down the stairs. “We’re never going to make it down 50 floors. Just leave me and you two save yourself.”
“Fuck that.” Phil replied.
They stopped at 47. All three struggling for breath. “What if we all take a swig of the potion. Maybe it will give us the strength.” Phil suggested.
“No! You have no idea how it feels when it wears off. And it wears off quick when you are distressed.”
Walter couldn’t help but feel guilty. Everything Lucy had promised his product would deliver was a lie. He would have struggled to keep up output for her addiction alone the way she was going. He had almost died on that machine for her and now he wished he had. He wished he had died earlier just so nobody would have to suffer so much. But then there would just be another person in line to fill his boots as the happiest person alive. Another sucker to stick on that indestructable machine.
“The machine,” Walter mumbled. “That’s it!”
“Stevie you remember the door to the machine was heavy.” Stevie grunted in acknowledgement. “Sam said the machine would survive the building collapse. We need to get in that room!”
“What is it a fucking black box?” Phil asked cynically.
Stevie thought for a moment and said,. “He’s right. The room might be our only chance to survive. It’s only two floors down. Move.”
The building seemed to rock and quake under their feet. It could collapse at any moment. The trio made their way painfully slow down the final flight of stairs and pushed through the doors.
“That way.” Stevie gestured. He handed Walter a keycard. “Walter, go ahead and try get as many mattresses and pillows in the room as possible. We need to pad it up.”
Walter sprinted down the corridor and into the lab. He swiped the pass and pulled with all his strength to open the door. He wedged it open on the dead agent and ahospital bed and raced over to the first bed. It was occupied by a fellow lab rat whose finger had a red tag hanging from it. Walter shoved the body to the ground and pulled the mattress into the machine room.
He had two more in the room when Phil and Stevie entered the lab. Phil helped Stevie into the machine room and laid him down on a mattress and started to help Walter. “Shit man, this guy’s still breathing.”
Walter went over and looked at the man. “Most of them are on life support as it is. It will shut down once the building collapses. The ones with a red tag are already lost.” He shoved the body off and it hit the ground with a dull thud.
“Fuck.” Phil said thoughtfully. “Well do any not have a tag? Shouldn’t we save them?”
Walter nodded and they searched out the potential survivors. There were only three without a tag and one of them was already dead. As they dragged the second one into the room and rested him onto a mattress the building gave way slightly and they all fell to the far side of the room. The door slammed shut and the lights flickered.
“Everyone alright?!” Phil yelled out. Walter steadied himself and prepared to get some more padding from outside. “Walter, buckle down, buddy. This will have to be it.”