Chapter 08: The Slow Burn

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Paranoia was creeping in.

Allan had left the bridge five minutes ago, and already he was feeling worse, obsessed over his symptoms. His throat was dry and his head was pounding. Terror was welling within him, filling him up, making him jump at every sound. All he had was the damned combat knife. What was he going to do if he ran into more than a single enemy? Allan had faith in himself, at least in his combat abilities, but even that was waning. This sick, this scared...the odds were looking worse all the time. He wanted to talk to Hunter over the radio to make himself feel better, but somehow he was keeping his mouth shut. He didn't want to seem weak to her.

So, he stalked on, clutching at a combat knife, making his way through blood-soaked, flickering corridors on a plague ship floating in the middle of nowhere. How far was he from the nearest planet? Space station? From the nearest ship? He and Hunter might be the only living, sane individuals for a billion miles. The thought was terrifying. Allan made himself think about other things. For a moment, he wondered what he could possibly think about to make himself happy. What did other people think about to make themselves happy?

The future, he decided. The belief that tomorrow might not suck as much as today. Was it true? Rarely. In Allan's experience, tomorrow was about the same as today, which was usually only marginally better or worse than yesterday. Rarely were there particularly shitty or awesome days. Though lately they had just been shitty. Did he have any reason to believe they'd be any good? Allan wanted to tell himself that after this it'd all change, to promise that tomorrow will be different if he could just only somehow live through today...

But he knew it was lie.

Everyone lied to themselves, everyone made false promises. People never changed, not really. Allan would either die here or make it off this ship, go back to the Atonement and stay miserable and guilt-ridden. Either because that's what he deserved or that's what would happen. At that thought, Allan stopped, coming to a halt in a T-junction of corridors. A pair of corpses, one leaned against a wall with its head bashed in, the other lying on the floor with a crushed arm and a broken jaw, were his only company.

Should he even bother escaping?

His previous assessment was that he should live as long as possible to lessen the suffering of others. That was enough. It had to be. How much had he taken away? How many lives snuffed out? How many of them didn't deserve it? At least some of them were probably murderers or rapists...though technically he and everyone he worked with was a murderer. Had Greg ever murdered anyone who didn't deserve it? Or Trent? Drake? Enzo probably had. Murder was ambiguous. Rape on the other hand...there was no ambiguity to that.

Rapists should die.

Allan heard a distant scream. He blinked, realizing that he'd entirely gone off on a tangent and that he was standing in the open in an enemy-rich environment. He turned and began walking in the correct direction, but that distant scream was suddenly repeated...then it grew, became two voices, then four, then a whole chorus of them.

And they were getting closer.

Allan turned around and looked back, suddenly frozen with fear, needing to see what was coming for him. The corridor behind him stretched away, going about a dozen meters before terminating in another T-junction. The screams were getting louder, closer. How many were there? One appeared around the corner, running right at him, screaming, yammering, and mindless. Then there was another. Then four. Then six.

Then twelve.

Allan's nerve broke. He turned and started pounding down the corridor at a dead sprint. More screaming, the sound of boots and feet slapping the metal, echoing down the corridor to him. Allan came to a corner, slammed into the wall because he was running so fast, shoved himself off of it, turned and kept running. He'd made maybe a quarter of the way down this corridor when they entered the same corridor. They were faster than him, they were catching up on him. If they got him, they'd likely rip him apart.

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