Chapter 05: Environmental Instability

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They ran into their first real roadblock after another half-mile or so of uninterrupted walking. Viktor was the first one to notice it. Laura had been too distracted checking the treeline for zombies or Panthers or anything else that might be hunting them. They'd had to put down a handful of drooling, stumbling former humans, but otherwise they had remained undisturbed. Now, as Viktor called out that they had a problem, Laura raised her shotgun and snapped her gaze forward. Expecting to see zombies, she instead saw something a lot harder to dispatch.

Up ahead was a break in the valley, what appeared to be a deep trench, another valley that bisected this one. Normally, this problem was fixed by the bridge that had been built across the opening. Unfortunately for the survivors, that bridge was out. The four of them walked right up to the edge and stared in mute frustration at it. There was absolutely no way they could get across. Jumping was right out of the question. And, looking first left and then right, Laura saw no alternate methods of crossing the gap.

"What the fuck happened?" Turner whispered, sounding frustrated and scared.

"Looks like a bomb or something," Mike replied. "Maybe the military was trying to cut the enemy off. Or, hell, it could have been an accident. A ship crashing or a vehicle malfunctioning. I guess it doesn't really matter."

"Now what?" Laura asked.

Mike looked around. He pointed, off to the right. "There. That's the ranger's station. Or, at least, that's what they call it. It's where the security personnel that keep the peace and make sure the place is kept safe operate from. We might be able to find some spare guns and bullets in there, and maybe an answer as to how to cross the trench."

"Seems to be our only option anyway," Viktor murmured.

They turned and began making their way off the path and towards the ranger's station. Laura readied her shotgun, finger inside the trigger guard, preparing to take on anything that might be in the dark structure. As they approached, it finally began to rain, though it was only a light mist that started saturating the landscape.

Up ahead, the ranger's station waited. It was beset on two sides by the forest and on another side by a cliff sheer. They'd built it right up next to the edge of the trench. Laura took point, making her way cautiously in through the front door, which had been bashed open by something with brute force, though she couldn't imagine what. It looked less like zombies eventually forcing it open and more like a battering ram had hit it. Not explosives damage, either. No burn marks. So what then? She put the thought out of her mind.

There were enough horrors to deal with in the here and now without having to worry about what the future might hold.

Right now, for example, she found herself staring at a group of zombies in the main entrance to the lobby. There were six of them, a few wearing the tattered remains of the red jumpsuits that the security personnel apparently wore. The rest looked like civilians. She tucked the gun into her shoulder, took aim and squeezed the trigger. In a brilliant white flash, the nearest zombie's head exploded in a plume of dark gore that sprayed the others and the ceiling above it. She shifted aim and fired again, blowing another head clean off its shoulders. As she adjusted her aim again, two things happened. The first was that the others opened fire.

The second was that more zombies began pouring into the room.

They came from three doors along the back wall. They also came from outside, crawling in through the broken windows, being birthed from the dark foliage of the forest, moaning and groaning, relentless and unfeeling.

Laura kicked it up a notch. Now they were inside, no chance of retreating because there were zombies approaching from the front door, too. Trapped. The only way out was to kill them all. She quickly blew the heads off of the nearest zombies, putting down four of them in quick succession, then began working on the ones coming in through the back doors. She had to trust the others to cover her back and deal with their own portion of the room. She emptied her shotgun, managing the clear a space around her, and quickly shoved another ten shells into the breach. Cocking it, she tucked the stock into her shoulder and went back to work.

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