Chapter 07: Escalation

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A bolt of pure, animal terror shot through Marshall as though he'd been struck by lightning. He was plunged into absolute darkness, the only light offered was the soft blue twilight of the moon somewhere overhead. He heard confused shouts and people stumbling around. The terror diminished slightly as, a few seconds later, as there was a sharp click and the lights, noticeably dimmer, kicked back in.

"What the fuck happened?!" Laura snapped.

"Is it them?" Alice whispered. "Oh, God, did they cut the power?" The panic seemed alien to her normally stoic demeanor.

"No, they can't cut the power, they're zombies," Marshall heard himself say. He tried to believe his own words and only managed moderate success.

Marshall heard movement behind him and spun, spying a bobbing beam of light in the corridor beyond the infirmary. A moment later Nate appeared in the doorway, trailing Andrea, who looked alone and afraid.

"What the fuck happened?" he asked, sounding a little breathless.

"No idea," Marshall replied. "But I think we need to go into the basement and see what the hell is up with the generator. Laura, you want to come with? I want everyone else to stay here. Keep a sharp eye out for...anything, I guess."

"Let's go," Laura said.

Marshall led Nate and Laura out of the infirmary and closed the door behind him. Part of him hated leaving the primal comfort of a lit place to march deeper into the dead corridors of his darkened outpost. But it was something he just had to do. There wasn't any other choice. They needed power to survive this far north.

Flicking the flashlight on his pistol back on, Marshall led the way down the corridor and into the rec room. He listened for sounds, vaguely paranoid that, for some reason, there might be more of the walking horrors in the base with them. It wouldn't make any sense. He didn't think they could survive a walk from any other outpost in the region, not unless they had on cold weather gear. Zombies might be zombies, but they'd still freeze like anything else. Or at least he thought so. That made sense, didn't it? Marshall decided to just be cautious.

"I'd just like to say that it's probably faulty gear," Nate said as they came into the cafeteria.

"Are you sure?" Marshall whispered, and hated the fear he heard in his own voice.

"Well, of course not, but I'm fairly positive. That thing is a piece of shit. Whatever it is, I can probably fix it without too much trouble."

"What if Alice was right?" Marshall asked. "What if it's them?"

"John, you're being paranoid," Laura whispered, but she didn't sound so sure herself.

They moved through the darkened cafeteria, past tables and chairs, maneuvering around the once familiar room that now seemed alien and hostile in the gloom. The door at the back of the room stood ominous and silent, a testament to fear. Nate reached it and seemed to hesitate, then he hit the access button and the door slow slid open.

"At least we still have that," he murmured.

"Why is the infirmary still lit?" Marshall asked.

"We do have a backup generator, but it isn't meant to run for very long, and even then it's only supposed to keep the doors running and the power on in the infirmary, as well as bare-minimum heat," Nate explained.

The trio descended the narrow, pitch-black stairwell and came to stand in the small, cramped landing at the base of it. Nate reached to open the next door and again hesitated. Marshall frowned, feeling his own apprehension ratchet up another notch.

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