The Mountain Curse
The Mountain Curse
The Morning General Hospital has been locked down in secrecy for the last two weeks. Workers at the hospital are not allowed access to the twelfth floor unless they have the highest clearance. The people who are handing out the ‘highest clearance’ have the run of the hospital, but they are not employees. They also do not seem to answer to anyone at the hospital.
Of those granting the ‘highest clearance,’ the one who seems to have seniority is Mister Steele. Mister Steele has a flat top haircut. His hair is a bright orange. Mister Steele smokes constantly (even in the hospital.) At the moment, Mister Steele is on his way to see Doctor Zenddacker. Doctor Zenddacker is one of the only doctors to have consistent ‘highest clearance’ to the twelfth floor.
Mister Steele is walking at a brisk pace to Doctor Zenddacker’s office. Mister Steele is being led to the office by Nurse Starr. Nurse Starr has dirty blonde hair and works out regularly. Nurse Starr mainly entered the medical profession to meet young doctors who might be looking for a wife. Of all the men Nurse Starr has met, Mister Steele makes her skin crawl the most. Mister Steele is even scarier than her father ever was. They way Mister Steele walks and moves makes Nurse Starr want to go back to school for a degree in elementary education. Now matter how fast she walks, Mister Steele always manages to keep pace. This is impressive considering Mister Steele is at least thirty years older than Nurse Starr.
Finally, the two reach Doctor Zenddacker’s office. Nurse Starr lets Mister Steele in. Mister Steele is wearing a black suit with a thin black tie. Steele also has thin sunglasses which he is wearing inside as well lips so thin that they almost look reptilian. With the government these days, they might very well be some sort of reptilian hybrid. That would be a lot easier to check out if there was any official record of ‘Mister Steele’ existing anywhere.
When you get to the point where you start to meet people that do not exist, then things have gone too horribly real. Doctor Zenddacker does not stand. Nurse Starr leaves without even asking if she could be of further assistance. Everyone in the room knows that she cannot.
Doctor Zenddacker is normally a very bright happy man. Zenddacker has bushy gray hair and wears horn-rimmed glasses. At the moment, the good doctor’s brow is rather unnaturally furrowed.
Doctor Zenddacker does not bother too look up. The Doctor knows who is in the room. The Doctor knows why they have come. The Doctor knows exactly what they want means.
Doctor Zenddacker looks up at Mister Steele and says barely above a whisper “I suppose if I asked you nicely to not smoke it my office, it would be considered merely a suggestion?”
The disgust was dripping from Zenddacker’s lips as he talked to this man. The fact that Zenddacker considered Steele to be the worst sort of human being was not inb question. For his part, as long as Zenddacker answered his questions, Steele could care less how far Zenddacker wanted to see him buried. Steele dismissed with the formalities assuming Steele even knew what such things were. Steele said coldly “I understand that the last of the campers is dead. Do I understand that to be correct?”
Zenddacker responded “Your concerned is touching. Yes, her name was Mary. She was the oldest of three daughters. I informed the family this morning. As with the others, I informed them that the cause was ‘unknown.’”
One of Steele’s pencil thin auburn eyelashes raised slightly. “And?”
Zenddacker continued after a short sigh “The mother threatened to sue the hospital and the government. The father tried to take a swing at me.”
Steele paused briefly. “Did he connect?”
Zenddacker paused and spoke again. “No, he had not even really made a fist.”
Steele looked genuinely displeased “Pity. We could have locked him up for a long time. I had hoped the girl would live.”
Zenddacker smirked. “Well Mister Steele, that is almost touching.”
Steele continued “At least a day. The culture on the biopsy would have been better if the body was still alive. Now, we will have to rush before things start to get cold.”
Zenddacker continued. “Well, I guess you read the report.”
Steele responded “Yes, that report has been marked as the highest level of national security. You would be advised to never discussed.”
Zenddacker chuckled slightly. “I just wrote that ‘national security document’ this morning.”
Steele grew grave. “You may be happy to know that our scientists concur with your findings right down to the use of that… ancient word.”
Zenddacker grew even more indignant. “That ancient word Mister Steele is cancer. It is not actually illegal to say.”
Steele turned towards the door. “Its not? I will have to make a few calls. I will have the bodies removed within the week. Then you can open up the floor and never mention any of this again.”
Zenddacker was now legitimately furious. “Or else? That is the implication, isn’t it? Tell me Mister Steele, will you delegate out the responsibility or would you kill me personally if I mention it again?”
Steele leaned into Zenddacker , quite uncomfortably so “Are you requesting that I do it personally Doctor Zenddacker?”
Doctor Zenndacker tried to pretend he was not afraid. It was not a very good job. The boldest thing that Zenndacker could say in response was “Mister Steele, there has not been a reported case of cancer in the last thousand years. This is a fact that I am sure you are well aware of. Now, how exactly did we have four hikers die of cancerous cells in under a week? How does that happen, Mister Steele?”
Steele was unusually cold in his response even for Steele “You part in this affair is over Doctor Zenddacker. I appreciate your work even if I am unable to personally acknowledge it. We will be out of your hospital within a week.”
With that, Steele turned to leave. Steel let the door shut behind him. Steele knew it would shut. Steele probably also knew that Zenddacker had collapsed into his chair. Zenddacker was scared and white as a sheet. Steele knew that too. Steele thought it would be of little comfort to Zenddacker that Zenddacker had actually acted about as bravely in front of him as anyone ever had. Deep down, Steele admired that Zenddacker had never once relinquished a sense of disgust or superiority when talking to him.
Steele talked with out breaking stride. “Open comm. Yes, I want Silver in office 1215 in four minutes. I will already be at the desk.”
Silver was a big burly man easily twice the size of Steele. Silver wore the same outfit. Silver knew Steele better than Zenddacker. This gave Silver reason to be twice as nervous when talking to Steele.
Steele felt the need to show even less tact with Silver. “All four of the hikers. Three males and one female are now deceased. They all died of the same thing. Now, as to that….thing. Where do we stand on information as well as containment?”
Silver almost stammered “Containment is almost complete. We will send the materials out on a ‘satellite launch’ in the next 48 hours….”
Steele interrupted as was his custom “24 hours. I want that rocket set up and launched before sunrise.”
Silver continued “Director Stevens approved a 48 hour time frame.”
Steele retorted “I am quite sure that the order stated 48 hours or earlier. If it launches two days from now, I will personally issue you a ticket on that rocket. Understood?”
Silver had no reason to believe that Silver was anything but serious. Silver nodded. “I apologize. The containment and launch will be scheduled for tomorrow morning. This Doctor Zenddacker?”
Steele was more curt in his response than normal. “I have decided against liquidating him.”
Silver continued “But standard procedure?”
Steele responded angrily “I am standard operating procedure. Back to the hikers. How exactly did they know to go to that tunnel?”
Silver reported. “There was a local legend. Apparently, there was some truth to it. They said that the mountain was cursed. They said that there was a tunnel in there from which the curse would kill you. People would come in but would not come out. That’s what made this hiking party special. They were strong enough at the end to leave the mountain.”
Steele looked down and then back up again. “So, are you saying that the tunnel in the mountain had more bodies.”
Silver straightened up against talking to his superior “there was an undetermined amount of casualties found near the barrels, yes. The remains were disposed of when the barrels were contained.”
For the first time since no one could remember, Steele was actually a bit reflective. “It is incredible isn’t it Silver? I mean in the 31st century that we would even find it or that it would still be lethal. Who would have known? And the markings on the barrels, can we confirm the suspected symbols?”
Silver continued. “Yes, they were faded but we are able to confirm the symbols. Apparently, it was once a common way to label the substance inside.”
Steele slid back in his chair. “Nuclear waste from a nuclear power plant. The greatest archaeological finding in centuries and now we get to blast it into space under a cloak of secrecy. Its absolutely amazing, Silver. Naturally, follow protocols.”
Silver tried his best to maintain an official air. “Yes, sir.”
Steele continued “Silver, you are dismissed.”
`Silver nodded calmly and walked out the door. Silently, he thought to himself that legends of deadly curses on ancient tombs would now go on forever.