Chapter 04: Emergent

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Mark stood alone in an abandoned security center aboard a derelict ship of the damned and memorized a route to the engineering deck.

Under normal circumstances, it wouldn't take him more than five minutes to navigate the corridors and ride the elevator down. Unfortunately, these were anything but normal circumstances. Now that the living dead were roaming the corridors, he was going to have to take every precaution. To make matters worse, however, he couldn't get back into the vents. They were too high up off the floor and, for right now, there was nothing to step up onto to reach. And he couldn't jump up to them. Which meant he was going to have to do this the hard way.

Currently, he was staring at a holographic map of the medical deck. It was five levels above the engineering deck, which was at the bottom of the vessel, but that wasn't the worst of it. He could cut out most of that trip by using a stairwell or, God willing, an elevator. The problem was actually getting to the elevator and then getting to wherever the hell he needed to go to fix the damned engines. Luck was with him...at least at first.

He hoped.

The elevator that would take him down to the lowest deck was only about a sixty second walk from his current position. It was the big mystery of what he'd find down below that had him worried. With a sigh, Mark turned away from the workstation, pulled his pistol out and set off towards the exit. No way to do it but to do it, he figured.

He opened the door and cautiously poked his head out, taking a look around. Frozen, icy fear shot through his veins as he spied someone stumbling around down the hall, the way he needed to go. It was a technician, a woman in a ripped, bloodstained blue jumpsuit. She was facing away from him, lurching like a drunk.

Swallowing his fear to the best of his ability, he raised the pistol and took aim. Mark squeezed the trigger. The gun kicked slightly in his hand and clipped the zombie's neck, releasing a spray of black gore that speckled across the wall next to it. This only succeeded in garnering the thing's attention. It turned and stared at him with soulless eyes, issued a hissing shriek and began stumbling rapidly towards him.

"Fuck!" Mark whispered, adjusting his aim and firing once more.

The second shot went wide. So did the third. His hands were shaking. The zombie was getting closer. He swallowed, forced himself to relax and fired again. That did it. A black hole blossomed on the expanse of dead white skin stretched across the monster's forehead and it collapsed into a tumble of limbs on the deckplates, as if someone had cut invisible strings holding it up. Mark let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding.

"Shit," he whispered.

He knew he couldn't linger, and the awful, sour reek of the decaying thing only added even more to his desire to leave. Giving the corpse a wide berth, he hurried on down the corridor, keeping an ear open for any more of the ugly things. However, his luck continued to hold as he reached the end of the corridor, turned and jogged down the final stretch of hallway, bringing him neatly to the elevator he'd been looking for.

That's where his luck ran out, however.

The elevator was dead, stuck somewhere in the shaft, and it wasn't coming up for anything. Mark didn't let this bother him too much, however, as he opened the door to the emergency stairwell and stepped within. This would take him down to the bottom all the same. It just would take a bit longer and there might be zombies in there with him. But he could handle them. At least, he hoped he could. It was close quarters in there.

He took a moment to peer down the length of the shaft, trying to get a sense as to whether or not anything else was in there with him. It didn't seem like it...but that didn't make it true. Mark set off, wanting to get this over with as soon as possible. Part of him had wanted to wait for that other guy, Frost, to come to him, but they'd agreed to meet on the engineering deck and there were probably about a dozen or more different stairwells and ways down there. A minute passed. Two. They were pleasant minutes, considering.

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