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Chapter 21

Chapter 21: Dante

I stare through a small hole in the glass where a small shard of the spider-webbed cracks fell out. I work to control my breathing, settling myself from the indiscernible amount of time Ethan and I had been running.

Seeing that the coast is clear I turn back to look at him. He sits on the floor, his back against the wall. He groans and grits his teeth as he attempts to massage the pain from his shoulder that was previously injured.

He’s sweating much more than he should be.

I walk the room and crouch down in front of him. He gives me a troubled expression as he drops his hand. I reach a hand for the makeshift bandage he created.

“Don’t. I’m fine,” He says, causing me to hesitate.

“Then I guess me checking won’t hurt,” I respond as I continue my action.

Ethan rolls is eyes as he looks to the ceiling, pressing his head against the wall.

The wound’s appearance is something I’ve never encountered before. Veins of black worm in all directions away from it. It doesn’t look infected, but at the same time it seems like some unknown substance is slowly seeping its way through Ethan’s bloodstream.

“Well?” He asks without looking.

“You uh…you don’t think you can turn into one of those things by getting scratched, do you?” I ask nervously.

Ethan’s head snaps upright “What?” He looks at the wound “What the hell?”

I cover the scratches back up “I’m sure you’re going to be fine. I’m just letting my own paranoia get the best of me,” I say as I stand up, beginning to check my rifle for proper operation.

Ethan grunts as he forces himself into a standing position.

“I want you to shoot me,” He suddenly says.

I look at him stupefied.

“If I start turning into one of those things, I want you to put me down,” He elaborates with a serious tone.

I place a hand on Ethan’s shoulder “That’s not going to be necessary. You’re going to be fine,” I reassure, giving a somber smile.

“Positive to the last, aren’t you?” Ethan says with a chuckle.

“Well one of us has to be. And I know it sure as hell won’t be you,” I respond with a smile, as I turn towards the entrance of the room.

“Where’s your ammo at?” Ethan asks behind me, prompting me to check my magazine and various pouches on my vest.

“Bout’ half left in the rifle. One spare,” I answer.

Ethan steps to my side “Last mag for me,” He points out.

We both stare at the twisted shadows that move about outside. I sigh deeply.

“Do you think she’s okay?” I ask.

“Who, the Doctor?”

“Who else?”

“I don’t know if you want to hear my opinion on that,”

I look at Ethan curiously “Speak your mind,”

“Well…if you’re sure. I think that she’s way up high in her little penthouse. Watching all of this shit go down. I feel, no, I know she has something to do with all of this Dante. I just wish you could see through those rose-colored glasses and realize it yourself,”

I look at the floor, breathing another sigh “I know who she is, Ethan. I know she isn’t perfect. I know the kinds of things she does and has done. I’ve even participated in covering it up before,” I look Ethan in the eyes “But I also know who she is when we’re alone. When she doesn’t have some reputation to uphold. I see the way she looks at me when she doesn’t feel too vulnerable not to look in my eyes. The exterior that she portrays is something she feels she needs to for a reason I don’t know yet. That’s not an excuse for her actions. I’m just saying that I’ve seen what’s underneath. And I can’t, for the life of me, give it up. However it ends, I need to follow through with it,” I explain.

Ethan stares at me, thoughts racing behind his eyes.

“Okay,” He concedes.

“Okay?” I question.

“You love her. It’s obvious. And…you’re my friend. Can’t promise you I’ll be best friends with her. But you say there’s more to her than what I see. So, I trust you,” He says, expanding on his simple statement.

I can’t help but smile “Perhaps you aren’t so black and white, Blake,”

“I’m known to have some gray areas,” He shrugs.

“To get back to the matter at hand…how should we go about getting passed what’s roaming around out there?”

“I don’t really see a stealthy way to do it. There’s too many for that. I think we should go out full bore, kill or maim what we can, and run as fast as we can,” Ethan suggests.

A pang of nervousness strikes me as I consider his plan.

“Are you sure you’re going be moving at full speed with that shoulder of yours?” I ask, concerned.

“I’ll make it,” He answers vaguely.

“If you say so,” I say as I step to the window, aiming my rifle at it.

“I’ll draw their attention. On my go, you open that door and start running for it. Conserve your ammo as much as possible,” I instruct.

Ethan steps next to the door, hovering a finger over the button to open it. “What about you?” He asks.

“What about me?”

“I don’t need you making some kind of sacrifice play on me, Dante,”

“I’ll be fine. Just keep running and don’t look back. I’ll catch up,”

“Rog,” Ethan accepts.

I situate the rifle comfortably in my shoulder, aiming at one of the shadows. With a brief hold of my breathe, I open fire. The muzzle flash lights up the room. The rounds shatter the glass, revealing the grotesque figures that were casting shadows.

My first volley shreds into one of them, rendering them unable to react as they fall to the floor dead. I shift my focus to another as I hear the door glide open. I hesitate my fire for a moment as Ethan runs across my sight line.

I refocus on another one who has caught wind of him and decided to pursue. I end its life quickly, splashes of red and black painting the room.

I drop my magazine, knowing it’s empty as the bolt has locked back, shifting my vision as I remove my last one from my vest. I load it quickly and release the bolt, keeping my eyes down range. I fire on two more of the creatures that chase behind Ethan.

I notice him look back and give me a thumbs up, signaling me that he’s clear of danger.

I suddenly feel the heavy resistance of something taking hold of my weapon. I look up from my sight to see one of them gripping the rifle, jerking me through the window before I’m able to react. I fall to the floor hard as my grip releases from the rifle.

The abomination roars at me as it tosses the rifle away. I crawl backwards as it stomps towards me, its large, distended stomach swaying with each step.

My escape comes to a halt as I feel my back collide with some rubble. My heart pounds as the creature grows ever closer.

I feel around for anything I can get my hands on, finally clutching on to the familiar texture of a pipe. I pull out from the rubble as it grows close enough to strike me, thrusting the end of pipe outwards in to the belly of the monster.

It screeches in pain, flinching backwards. The damage doesn’t seem to be enough, however, as it continues to charge towards me, more determined than ever to tear me to pieces. I cover my face as I realize I’ve run out of options.

As its shadow casts over, signaling my end, I hear the sound of gunfire, a loud thud following soon afterwards. I slowly uncover my eyes, noticing its dead on the floor next to me. I look up to see Ethan, who is lowering his rifle.

He steps over to me, offering a hand.

“And you were worried about me,” He says as he pulls me up from the floor.

“I had it handled,” I lie.

“Of course, you did,”

“Something’s coming,” I say pointing behind Ethan, who whips around and shoulders his weapon.

“Always knew you wanted to shoot me,” A strange voice says in the dark.

Ethan lowers his weapon as he realizes who’s talking.

“Damien?” He questions as his brother steps out of the shadows; hands raised.

Behind him, follows Elena and Lauren. Lauren locks eyes with me. The both of us cross the distance of the room and embrace each other.

The words exchanged between Damien and Ethan turn muffled in my ears as I let the joy of her being alive overtake me. I place a hand on her cheek as the embrace ends, tears in both of our eyes.

“I thought I lost you,” I say.

“You and I both know I’m tougher than that,” She replies in an expected fashion.

“Well…that theory’s been confirmed now,” Damien says, causing Lauren and I to look in his direction.

“So what?” I reply defensively.

Damien puts his hands up “Hey, don’t let me judge. Not like you’re sleeping with a genocidal maniac or anything,”

I break away from Lauren and approach Damien “You got something to say, say it,”

He looks at me sarcastically confused “Pretty sure I just did. I did, right?” He says as he looks to Elena and Ethan.

“Alright, let’s just calm down guys. I think the mutants wandering the halls are a much bigger problem right now. We’ll sort this out later,” Ethan says, attempting to keep the peace, placing a hand lightly on Damien’s bicep.

Damien snaps his arm away “Don’t fucking touch me,” He glares at Ethan “This hell storm doesn’t make you and I good. I’d take note of that,”

“Would you dude bros stow it already?” Elena cuts in, prompting us to stare at her, dumbfounded by her word choice “I’m this close to leaving all of you behind and finding a way out of here myself. So, are you done?”

A smile forms at the corner of Damien’s mouth “I like this one,” Causing Ethan to roll his eyes.

“She’s right. I’d say we’re all each other’s best chance of getting out here. I suggest we work together,” Lauren agrees.

Ethan steps forward “To that effect, the thought just occurred to me. I told the pilot in the hangar bay to wait for us. Lockdown went into effect pretty fast. If I know lockdown procedures…and I do…hangar bay was isolated from the rest of the station. It’s possible he’s still waiting there, wondering what the hell is going on since he can’t leave,”

“I have the codes to disengage it as well,” Lauren adds.

“Then what are we waiting for?” Elena asks rhetorically.

In silent agreement the lot of us traverse down the dark hallways of the station. The route there proves to be rather empty, with the occasional bit of debris to traverse. We come upon one of the hallways leading to the hangar door.

“Is that…blood?” Elena notices as she directs our attention to the massive pooling of crimson in front of the door that lies on the left wall of the hallway.

As we grow closer to gain a proper visual of the door, we notice a massive hole has been torn straight through it. Massive chunks of flesh hang from sharp sections of the metal door.

“Jesus…” Damien says, not quite able to believe what he’s seeing.

Ethan steps forward, poking his head through, immediately pulling it back.

“It’s like they kept hitting this thing until they got through. There’s a ton of dead mutants on the other side of the door. Same as this side,”

“This isn’t good. We have to make sure the pilot is okay,” I say, stepping through the hole, aiming my rifle I managed to recover before coming here.

I hear the rest of the group follow behind me, allowing me to take point. As we approach the ship, I notice it’s been flipped on to its side and completely mangled. I stop in front of it and stare in disbelief at the complete wreckage before my eyes. My shoulders slump, defeat weighing on me.

“Well…we aren’t leaving this way,” Ethan says obviously.

“No shit,” I reply, frustration in my voice.

“Guys! Over here!” Elena calls, eliciting us to run to her position.

Upon reaching her, we see that she crouches next of the pilot, who lies just as mangled as his ship against the wall. He barely clings to life.

“What happened?” Elena asks.

The pilot starts with a series of coughs, forcing blood out of his mouth.

“Damn things…came out of nowhere. Mu--,” He coughs again “Must have…been dozens of em’. They hit my ship like an avalanche…just before the lock down. Lockdown spaced the ones left in here…managed to…to get my mag boots activated in…time…” The pilot says as his final breath leaves him with his last word.

“That’s great. They hunt in packs. And on top of being able to shear through a metal door, they can also turn a ship into scrap metal,” Damien summarizes, aggravation mounting in his voice.

I look around, noticing the missing piece to our puzzle.

“Where’s Lauren?” I say out loud.

I swivel myself around until I notice her standing in front of one of the auxiliary hangar doors. I jog to her position as I notice her lifting her keycard to the door, which still has emergency power running to it.

“Lauren, do—” I’m cut off as the door panel beeps, disengaging the lockdown on the door itself.

I come to a stop behind Lauren as we both witness the black hole in which we’re staring into.

“Lauren…” I say quietly.

She studies the dark for a moment before a pair of eyes stare back out at her.

My heart jumps into my throat.

Lauren steps backwards.

More eyes light up in the dark. A dozen, then two, all the way down the hallway, what seems like an endless stream of them glare at both us.

“Run…run now,” I say as Lauren finally turns and starts into a fast pace.

She passes me, as I shoulder my weapon and fire the remainder of my last magazine in the blackness. The muzzle flash of my gun reveals the hideousness that lies beneath the shroud as the monsters react to my aggression.

As I hear the ominous metallic clang of my bolt locking to the rear, I take my rifle and throw it at the nearest creature in a poor attempt to slow it down.

I turn to run myself, noticing that the rest of group is waiting near the hole we previously entered, yelling and pleading for me to run faster. I notice Ethan using what ammo he has left in order to give me an advantage.

I keep running, daring not to look back at the myriad of monsters pursuing me.

The exit within my reach, I feel something slick underneath my foot.

I slip, diving forwards, bouncing my head off the hard, metal floor, rolling a few feet.

Through my dazed vision I notice the creatures gaining on me.

My vision fades.

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