Chapter 08: Guts & Gear

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As Enzo crept through the corridors, it became obvious that Level Five, referred to in a blanket term on the terminal as 'Research', had suffered the most damage. Which made sense, considering this is where the outbreak must have begun. All the creatures were stored here, harvested from the ship and brought up to the cages and the labs for the men with syringes and scalpels to experiment upon. The walls, floor, and ceiling were all heavily dented, spattered with blood, and liberally riddled with bullet holes. No bodies, though.

These things were thorough and efficient.

Like the hunters always said, no part wasted.

Weaponless again, only this time he knew the threat. At least some of it. So far, he'd seen four different incarnations of these hideous things. The Slugs, Mutants, Guardians, and Harvesters. What else lurked in the shadows of the dying facility? What nightmares waited for him? Enzo looked down at his false arm. It was his primary weapon now. He'd liberated another scalpel from the infirmary, but knew it would do him little good.

He needed something heavier.

Currently, he was stalking down a side corridor that connected a pair of specimen storage bays. Not the most ideal place to be, but it was presently the quickest route to the weapons research area. Enzo had never exactly been a patient, or even cautious, man. But he was afraid. He could hardly admit it to himself. It had been a long time since he'd been really frightened, since he'd really tasted fear. In fact, the last time was when it had occurred to him that maybe the pain in his shoulder might not go away for the rest of his life.

After he'd come to accept it as a necessity, the fear had kind of faded. Objectively, he knew that was stupid. A mercenary needed fear to keep himself alive, anyone who grabbed a gun and went to work did. Too much would get you killed, but too little would be just as bad, if not worse. It was easy to believe you were invincible when you'd lived for so long, been through so much. He'd been shot a dozen times, stabbed six times, put in a coma for nine days at one point due to a particularly bad head injury, poisoned, shocked...

A lot had happened to him.

And he knew that at least half of it was unnecessary. How many times had he been wounded because of stupid risks he shouldn't have taken? Because he was tired of the agony in his shoulder and thought that maybe, just for a second, being dead might be easier, or better? But now, here, buried beneath a planet with a horde of mutated freaks, he was really feeling fear again for the first time in years...in decades.

It was like meeting a long lost friend.

Enzo came to the end of the corridor and hit the access button, dropping into a low crouch, staring through the door as it opened. The other specimen storage bay awaited him. These two were of a simpler design than the previous one he'd fought the Harvesters in with Ramirez. Just ranked rows of cages along the walls, a big, open floor in between them. Just one door on the far side of the room, closed, beckoning to him.

He studied the cages. Most of them were bloodied and empty. A few were still occupied by Mutants or Harvesters. They raged against the glass when they saw him enter the room, but were otherwise harmless. Enzo chuckled and walked over to the nearest occupied cage. It was ground level and held a Mutant, someone that might have been one of the prisoners he'd resided with aboard the transport vessel.

The thing howled and raged as he got closer, beating against the glass front with its fists, smearing blood. He grinned and flipped it off, pressing his finger right up against the other side of the glass. The creature continued to thrash around.

"Go fuck yourself," he muttered, then turned and hurried across the chamber.

Enzo realized he hated these things. Hated that they'd given him his fear back. It might have been a rush at first, an old chemical reaction he hadn't been acquainted with in a long time, but it was also one he'd gratefully cut out of his life. He hated being afraid. It made him feel helpless. Made him want to hide in a closet and wait for someone else to deal with the problem. He absolutely hated people like that, passive people who just waited.

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