Chapter 05: The Gathering Storm

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The weather was starting to turn bad.

Mike could feel it. His right knee had been aching in that specific way that promised rain, though he didn't really need the pain to tell him the forecast. It was obvious from the gray skies overhead and the occasional spark of lightning, followed quickly by a boom of thunder. Yes, it was definitely going to start raining, and pretty hard, soon. Perhaps the only good news coming out of all of this was that they were at least going to make it to Prescott Island before the storm hit. The bad news on the other hand...

Well, there seemed to be a lot of it.

Although they'd raided what they could from the depleted armory in the temporary Marine staging area, he didn't feel good about their ammo situation. Three spare mags for his rifle, four for his pistol. Nothing beyond that.

There had been no radio contact of any kind.

And now they numbered six, and one of them was a civilian. Amber was her name. She was holding her own, at least. He'd been concerned there for a little while that she might end up going catatonic or something, he'd definitely seen it happen before, but no, she was hardening up. Shitty thing to have to do, but it was that or die out here, unfortunately. He only hoped that when she made it off this planet, if she made it off Dis, she could put it behind her and get on with her life. That wasn't always a possibility.

In reality, he was hoping that for all of them.

Himself and Laura most of all.

Dallas and Parkhurst were at the front of the boat, Parkhurst driving, since she seemed to be best with vehicles, Dallas doing his best to raise someone on the radio. Amber was off by herself, near the back, staring bleakly at the ocean. Laura was sitting beside him just then, dozing. He'd been doing the same for the first half hour or so of their trip, but a particularly hard jump in the waves had woken him and he'd been unable to go back to sleep since then, or even the gray, uncertain half-sleep that he had slipped into.

Bolton was sitting across from them, staring down at his pistol, frowning.

"How you doing?" Mike asked.

Bolton looked up, startled. Water had collected on his bald head. He sighed and ran a hand across his dark scalp. "Tired," he replied, then laughed. "But who isn't?" He sighed and rubbed at one eye. "I'm hoping this is the end. We get to the island, there's ships there waiting for us. We leave. But...I just can't believe it."

"I know exactly what you mean," Mike murmured.

"You know I was bored before all this? I feel like shit thinking about it now, but I was bored. Hard to believe in a city like Jackson. Millions of people, distant mining planet out on the far reach. They make movies and write books about all the stuff that supposedly happens out here." He shook his head. "I hardly ever saw anything beyond dealing with traffic tickets, breaking up the occasional domestic disturbance, grabbing the occasional public intoxication that was causing problems. I'd come out here look for more."

"What initially brought you here?" Mike asked.

"I come from a pretty safe place, pretty stable family. We're not wealthy, but we sure never wanted for anything. Both my parents were accountants. Prim, proper, about what you'd expected. From a young age, I was always causing problems, running off on my own, exploring, convincing all the other kids to do the same. Life was just never...enough, you know? I signed up with SI on my planet right out of high school, but it was boring on my planet. I finally took the jump, got a transfer out here last year, figuring there'd be more excitement."

"There's been plenty of that," Mike said, looking back at Jackson. It was a smoky skyline now, distant and hazy.

Bolton followed his gaze. "Yeah. I saved as many as I could, must've put down a thousand of those damned zombies one way or the other. I fought my ass off. And in the end, this was the best I could manage. I thought I was ready..."

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