Author's note: Apologies for the short chapter, I couldn't really see the next part fitting with this one, so it got chopped into two.
By the end of the day, a full 48 hours after their initial exposure, they were so exhausted they could barely function. In the end, they had finally given in to their bodies desire to sleep and dragged two cots down to the lab to avoid being with the mainstream group, shut the lights off and crashed. In retrospect, Sam realized it probably hadn't been the smartest thing to do, sleep in the room where their exposure had started. But then, there was no real increased danger in it either, supposedly.
Sam wasn't sure how long they slept, but he was awoken by a loud shout from somewhere above them, jolted up in his cot and sat perfectly still, listening. Off to the side, he saw motion as Sara sat up, doing the same thing, listening intently to what was happening in the above floors. It sounded like angry shouts mixed with crashes and bangs.
Sara was on her feet in an instant. "They're here."
"Who?" Sam whispered sharply.
"Backup." She hissed, grabbing his arm and pulling. "Apparently the military decided not to wait for the General's report. They're storming the base."
"What? But why?" Sam whispered following her down the catwalk into the engine room where the generators were humming loudly. "We're not a threat! It was an accident, and we're working on a cure!"
"Are you going to try and tell that to them?" She snapped, whirling around. In the darkness, Sam was more than a little disturbed to see a strange crimson glow emanating from her eyes in the generator's presence. A shiver ran down his back as she whipped back around, pulling the door at the end of the room open, revealing a narrow ladder leading up. "I'd rather not stay and find out what they're up to. Me, I'm getting the hell out of here while we still can."
"I'm not so sure that's a good idea!" Sam protested, glancing over his shoulder. "Shouldn't we stay close with everyone else? I mean, all the research and equipment is here, we can't do anything without it!"
"I have a lab in my apartment." Sara said firmly, climbing swiftly up the ladder. "We can do our research there."
Sam blinked. "I should have seen that one coming."
"Yes you should have."
They climbed up the ladder swiftly, saying nothing until Sara reached the latch, opened it with much struggling against the heavy door, and scrambled out into the desert, lowering a hand to help him up. Sam grabbed it, and she hauled him to his feet. The exit was a small hatch on the lee side of the building, sheltered from the front gate, and giving them a clear shot run to their cars if they chose to make a dash for it. "Ok." Sam whispered, eyes warily studying the soldiers at the front gate. "Now what? Rush them in a car?"
"Not with MY car!" She hissed back defensively. "Use yours, we can bust out the back gate."
"You realize if we run the blockade, they'll know we've escaped?"
"Crap." She hissed. "Then we'll just have to break through in an unguarded area. There's the south entrance, that hasn't been used in ages. The gate is all rusted. They wouldn't expect anyone to use that one, let's go there."
"Isn't that the one....?"
"Yes, but I don't see any other way out!"
"Damn it... fine, let's take my jeep." He groaned. they peered out watching the soldiers until their backs were turned, and dashed for the jeep. Fortunately it was out of direct line of sight and they made it there, slipping inside without drawing attention. Then, Sam put it into neutral, and using their feet to push it away out of view, they slipped the jeep around the building before starting it and tearing off across the open desert. The reason that Sam was reluctant to use the south entrance became obvious as they tore towards the barred gate. It hadn't been used in some time, and was barricaded with locked and barred chains, several rows of crates used for storage, and exited onto the salt plains that was NOT fun to drive across with a convertible jeep. Still, Sam grit his teeth and gunned it. "My insurance company is SO not covering this." He muttered, flooring it as they both braced themselves. With a mighty crash, they slammed into the gates, the front of his jeep lurching and caving in, but it was enough to bust their way through amid flying splinters and sand. Unperturbed, the jeep rocketed off across the salt plains, heading south towards Vegas.
"We can't go back to your place." Sara said voice shaking a bit from their rather exciting ordeal. "They'll know you've busted out. They may think I'm still on base for a short period of time before figuring out I'm with you. So we should get as much work done while we can."
"And after that?" Sam glanced over at her, blinking in alarm seeing how far the metal had spread up her cheek, starting to fawn over her temple and upper cheekbone. "We don't have much time to work on this before we're going to be totally screwed you realize. I hate to point it out, but you're going to need to..." He gestured to her face, and she grimaced, lightly touching the affected area.
"I know." She said faintly. "But what choice do we have?"
Their journey back to town was otherwise uneventful. They parked the jeep in an abandoned lot several blocks away and walked the rest of the way on foot. By now it was dark, so all Sara had to do to hide her obvious deformity was to let her hair dangle low over her face on the left side. they arrived at her apartment building, a high-end ritzy state of the art facility with bellman and everything, who greeted them politely as they hurried inside. Sam didn't have time to be impressed with the polished marble floors, the clear glass elevator that rose up amidst foliage to rocket to the penthouse suite, nor the incredibly astounding view overlooking the city on one side, a fancy golf course and lake on the other. Instead they both hurried inside and once the elevator doors opened into her penthouse suite, she rushed forward turning lights on, pulling the drapes quickly. Only then did she collapse on the sofa with a sigh, looking up at him with a distant expression.
Sam smiled tightly and sat down next to her, as she moved to let him. "Hey... hang in there. It could be worse."
"Worse?" she asked, lifting an arched eyebrow at him, touching the metal spreading over her face. "How can THIS be worse?"
"Um..." He scratched his arm, glancing down at it. "Well I guess not. But still...we can't give up. We only have so much time to work on this before..."
"Before we turn into freaks." She said bitterly. "Just say it. That's what's happening here."
"Not freaks." He said quietly. "Just... something else. We don't even know what it will fully do."
she sighed and sat up, scooting so she could lean against the arm of the sofa, pulling her heeled feet up so she could wrap her arms around them. "This is just... unbelievable, Sam. I mean, what's everyone going to think about us? What are we going to do? By tomorrow I doubt I'll be able to even walk around outside!" She bit her lip, no tears falling, but a pinched expression on her face. Sam sighed, pulling her closer, wrapping his arm around her shoulders, gently rubbing her back as she leaned her head against his shoulder with a soft sigh. "I'm scared."
"I know." he said quietly. "So am I. I'm just better at hiding it I suppose. I blame my upbringing. Brits tend to shrug off the weird and unexplained and just get down to adjusting, moving over the panic stage entirely."
He smiled tightly, gently rubbing the metal on her neck, watching as she shivered slightly. The plates around her neck strangely tightened as he moved his fingers over them, and he had to smile. It seemed that their new 'skin' was just as responsive as ever, and the slight tensing was the equivalent of goose bumps. He lightly squeezed her shoulder, a bit disappointed when it was completely unyielding. "Are you hungry? Maybe some wine?"
"Shouldn't we be working?"
"Probably. But after the day we've had, I can't say I'm thinking clear enough to make much progress." He admitted quietly. "We haven't slept much, or even eaten anything, Sara. We need to take a break and try to get a hold on this situation with clear minds."
"And you think wine will help?"
He smiled. "Well it will help us relax. Take our minds off everything."
She snorted. "I can't say I disagree there." Sighing, she rose and walked smartly over to the open kitchen area, wood-floors and granite countertops with fancy modern lights dangling from the ceiling. She bent over, opening a wine cooler and pulling out a bottle. "Red ok?"
"Yes, that's fine."
She pulled two large goblets from the wine rack and proceeded to open the bottle, pouring it quickly and walking back to him, handing a glass over to which he accepted with a polite nod, sipping it slowly. "Nice." He commented. "French?"
"Italian." She smirked slightly. "My father brought it back from one of his business trips over there. Apparently it's a private vintage, only one hundred bottles made."
Sam's eyebrow lifted. "You're giving me what, thousand dollar wine?"
"If we don't enjoy it now, who knows when we might get to." She pointed out somberly. "For all we know, when this transformation reaches our organs, it may take away simple pleasures as this."
"You have a point." He said quietly, glancing down at his hand, flexing it and turning it over. "I can't help but wonder just how far this is going to go. We already know it's not just on the surface. But what do you think will happen when it reaches our internal organs?"
"So far, evidence points towards slow painless transformation." She muttered, taking a deep draught of the spiced red wine. "I haven't felt any pain, have you?" At the shake of his head she nodded. "So perhaps that means that as you surmised earlier, we may not find ourselves faced with a terminal situation. Our minds remain intact for now, we should take another snapshot of our bodies to see how far it's progressed when we start working again." She paused. "What happens if we can't reverse it?" She asked quietly, not looking at him.
"Well... I think we'll just have to worry about that when we rule it out." He said quietly, catching her hand in his. "We can't give in to panic. If we think that there's no way out, then there won't be one. We need to study everything we have at our disposal and find out everything we can. If we understand how this is happening, we might be able to more easily find a way to reverse it."
She sighed and leaned into him, resting her head against his chest, curling up there on the couch. "Can we just... sit here for a while? I don't really want to think about it."
He smiled tightly. He understood. It was overwhelming, and they had been rushing around full-tilt trying to find answers. But so far they hadn't come up with any. It was discouraging, and frightening. And there seemed to be no way to slow the halt of the change, or reverse it. He didn't want to speak his thoughts out loud to her, since he knew how disturbed she was, but he had the sneaking suspicion from studying the results that there was no way out of this. Some things just could not be reversed. It was like mixing together vinegar and water, you could not separate them once mixed, not without drastic situations. He turned his hand over, doing his best not to jostle her, staring at the shiny metal that now composed his 'skin'. It was fascinating, he thought, his scientific mind working over the impossibilities of what was happening. He supposed he wasn't as frightened about the situation as she was, he had little to lose. His mother was more like him in mind-set, and she was nowhere nearby. He made enough money to get by, but unlike Sara whose family was rich, he did not mind if he had to give up his current life in favor of studying this miraculous change. But he also knew better than to voice it aloud to her, for he knew she would be upset by it. Sara was highly emotional, perhaps because she was a woman, but also high-strung. She loved her lifestyle, rich and high-society was her life. To give all that up, for someone as adjusted to it as she was, spoiled if you prefer, it was no easy task to ask of her. Add to that the fact she desired fame and fortune highly, a rather greedy desire perhaps, but she was smart, and she could easily achieve it with her powerful desire to succeed.
But at the same time, as he glanced down at her pained face, her eyes closed as she drifted into a light sleep, wine glass empty and drooping in her hand, he knew that the bold brash scientist facade hid an insecure person hidden within. He hadn't wanted to pry into her personal life, but he had the feeling that there was a story behind her life. Usually the rich and famous had such hidden stories. One didn't become rich and famous by being nice, normally.
He brushed the dark hair from her face, staring down at the metal extending itself over her left side. It was curious how it was progressing. Tiny metal plates, so delicate and nearly invisible made up the metal around her jaw and chin, allowing for full range of motion as she had currently. The metal had curled up her ear, half-transforming it. It seemed delicate, smaller, closer pressed to her head, her earrings dangling loosely from her lobes, in danger of becoming merged with the transformation. He carefully pulled them out, placing them on the table, doing his best not to jostle her, but as he leaned back, he felt a sharp pain in his shoulder that made him wince. It felt like something had popped. But there was no more pain as he leaned back and moved it carefully. Sighing, he glanced down at Sara, removing the wine glass from her hand and placing it aside, gently positioning her so she rested comfortably against him as he shut his eyes and took a slow deep breath, listening to the gentle trickle of water from a fountain somewhere in the room. It didn't take long for him to drift into slumber.