Chapter 06: Darkening

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The view Mike had of the military outpost did nothing at all to inspire confidence.

Although it was raining, he could see obvious damage. The fence that surrounded its perimeter was collapsed or ripped up in several places, and he could see the smashed, wrecked remains of a vehicle in the lot. The group trudged silently up the access road, hardly pausing as they came up to the front gate, which had been smashed open by brute force. There were a lot of still lumps scattered across the blacktop around them, and among the dead, Mike even spotted the culprit who'd more than likely been the one to rip the gate open.

One of those huge ones had most of its skull blown away. It looked like someone had gotten a lucky shot in with a shotgun or something. He saw a good two dozen men and women in ripped, bloodied military uniforms, and twice that number of dead civilians. Dallas came to a halt about halfway between the perimeter fence and the front entrance of the base, his head slowly swiveling back and forth.

"Goddamnit," he whispered, "isn't there one fucking place on this miserable rock that isn't ripped to shit!?" His voice began rising in volume until he was screaming.

Mike joined the others in staring uncomfortably at him. Silence fell like a choking miasma across the area, broken only by the constant staccato white noise of rainfall. Dallas heaved a sigh. "Parkhurst, Bolton, secure the exterior perimeter. Everyone else with me, inside," he said, speaking as though nothing had happened.

They let out a quick string of affirmatives and he, Laura, and Amber followed him towards the entrance to the outpost. The doors leaned open, one of them ripped partway out of its frame. The control panel in the small security booth next to it bled sparks occasionally. Dallas stepped up to the opening and peered inside, then, after a few seconds' assessment, slipped inside. There were a few more seconds of silence, then three gunshots, one after the other, then a fourth one several seconds later, then he gave the all-clear.

Mike went in next, then Laura watched the rear while the civilian joined them. He looked around the ingress they'd come to, a security zone meant to check people in and out. It was a wreck, bullet holes tattooing the walls, blood stains on the carpet, bodies scattered here and there. Dallas wordlessly approached one of the security terminals and fired it up.

A few silent moments passed.

"It's a mess," he growled, studying the screen. In the light that illuminated his features, his face looked harsh and unforgiving and miserable. "Okay," he said, "the structure is pretty simple. Door to the left and door to the right here, each one leads to a long hallway. We split up, work our way down the hallways, check all the rooms, lock every door behind you once you've secured it. At the end of the hall is the hangar. We meet there. I'll go on my own."

Mike hesitated, wondering if one of them should go with him, but Dallas was already moving for the left doorway. He sighed softly. It was definitely getting to the Sergeant. On the one hand, he couldn't even blame him. This was beginning to wear them all down. He could feel it. In fact, some part of Mike knew that if there wasn't a way off this planet immediately available, and there was no immediate danger here, then he was going to have to take a break in this place. He simply needed it. And he thought the others did too.

On the other hand, an unstable man was a dangerous man.

"Let's go," he said, making for the other door. Laura and Amber followed after him. "Stay behind us," he said to Amber.

"Gladly," she replied.

Mike checked his rifle over once more. Just one mag in the gun, one in reserve. After a moments' hesitation, he ended up letting it hang by its shoulder sling and instead opted into his pistol. Never knew when he might need it for something worse.

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