Chapter 12: From Scratch

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The world was a confusing patchwork of pain and darkness.

Enzo realized he was moving. No, not moving...being moved. He opened his eyes. Even that was a monumental effort. The view offered was a bleak one: old blood on metal, barely lit. The view shifted, but it was just more of the same: a stretch of metal, which he realized was the wall of some bland corridor, sprayed with blood. The lighting was bad, flickering occasionally. He couldn't move any other part of his body.

Totally paralyzed.

His shoulder hurt.

For a long moment, what might have been a minute or an hour, it was difficult to tell, he was utterly, completely lost. Then he finally had it: something was dragging him. He felt the grip it had on the scruff of his body armor, near the neck. He was being dragged. That thought sent an adrenaline-laced bolt of fear through him, but his body was still utterly unresponsive. The bolt of energy Dietz had hit him with was still in effect.

Enzo felt the pain in his shoulder, in his whole body, surge.

And then he was out again.

* * *

When he came to once more, he was no longer being dragged. His body still hurt, but not as bad. The lighting was still poor, though it was at least steady. Someone was standing over him. No, something, a Mutant. And there was something else in the room, something he could sense but couldn't see. Next to him was another body laid out on the floor. It took him a moment to realize that it was Staff Sergeant Stern.

The man was still alive.

Enzo tried to move. Still nothing. His body had given all it was going to for the moment. He was at least more conscious now, more aware. Stern still seemed to be out of it. They were in a bathroom. He could barely glimpse a row of stalls further down the way. The smell of rotted flesh was horrible. For a moment, there was no sound, save for an almost continuous drip. Then, the clacking of claws across hard tile.

That other thing he'd sensed earlier was coming closer now.

It wandered into view. A Harvester. This one was rail thin, ready for the harvest. It lowered its malformed dog head over Stern. Enzo felt his heart rate speed up. The mouth opened and the thin, straw-like tongue shot out, directly into Stern's midsection. He gasped, whether the noise was reflexive or the man was awake, Enzo wasn't sure. He hoped Stern was out, and would stay out. This wasn't the kind of death you wanted to be awake for.

Enzo tried to move. Nothing...except for his artificial limb. There was something there. It must be coming back online before the rest of him was. Would it be soon enough to save Stern? To save his own ass? He was suddenly stricken with a vision: the Harvester finishing him off, taking away everything that could be used and, as it walked away, a damaged artificial arm lying on the floor in a pool of his blood.

Stern began to scream.

His eyes shot open and his body twitched...but didn't move. He was still down for the count as well. Enzo struggled against the confines of his body as he watched Stern's insides being drained away, slowly filling the belly of the Harvester that was killing him. He felt his artificial limb twitch...but it wasn't enough, not yet.

He didn't know how long he laid there watching Stern die, listening to him scream. He could have closed his eyes to the sight of it, but that seemed like it might be somehow disrespectful. The screams went on and on and on. Before long, there was less of Stern on the inside than the outside. Finally, something vital was taken or damaged and he stopped screaming. Enzo watched the light, the spark of intelligence or consciousness, fade from the man's eyes.

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