Chapter 09: Into Hell

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They had their answer.

Greg felt cold all over. He tried to remember the last time he felt this bad, this terrified, this helpless. Standing there in a ransacked communications center, he thought that perhaps he'd felt this way when he had learned that the local star was going to go supernova back when he was dealing with his first undead outbreak. Or maybe when he'd heard Williams's voice over the radio, cheerfully informing him that he was fucked.

But no, at least then he felt like he could possibly get out of the situation.

Escaping from Williams's cell looked like cake compared to this.

"Greg...Greg!"

He jerked, snapping back to reality. Jennifer was trying to get his attention.

"What?" he asked.

"We have to figure a way out of here."

He nodded slowly, still trying to process all that Drake had reported over the radio. Enemies that could not die, that could not be deterred, threatened, reasoned with, or bribed. Painkillers had no effect. That realization alone sparked a million truly awful thoughts. Greg found himself imaging all the wretched, godforsaken situations in which someone could be injured and being forced to endure the pain with no hope of relief...

"That's why they're attacking us," Greg heard himself saying.

"What?" Jennifer asked.

"The people who attacked us," he repeated. "They've been driven insane by pain. They can't stop hurting."

When they had left the security center behind, they'd made it most of the way to the communications center before a group of ragged, bloodied, insane people had arrived, seeming to come out of nowhere. Without warning, they'd charged for the three of them, clearly meaning to do them harm. Greg had tried to deter them, at first with verbal warnings and then with warning shots, but nothing would make them stop.

Even when he put a few rounds through their skulls.

Now he knew why.

They'd locked themselves in the comms tower and had then received the call from Drake. Now they were trapped and they could hear the demented shouts and the banging as the now insane populace of Ash tried to break their way into the building. Greg felt confident that they couldn't get in. No matter how hard they tried, they weren't getting in through reinforced, bulletproof glass and steel walls, at least not for awhile, not with their bare hands. But they couldn't stay here. They had to get out, get to the research site and...

And what?

Find a miracle cure for this situation they found themselves in.

"Ideas?" he asked finally, looking at Jennifer and then Keron. The big man was over at a workstation, studying it. He had been for the past several minutes.

"I've got one," he said, finally. "You won't like it."

"I rarely do," Greg replied. "What is it?"

"This place has an armory. There are explosives in that armory. We blast our way out. In the ensuing chaos, we can make it back to our vehicle and escape the colony."

Greg considered it for a long moment. Blasting their way out...he imagined limbs and torsos and heads flying through the air...would that kill them? No, but it would at least incapacitate them. But could Greg really live with putting someone through that kind of torture? He tried to imagine being in fifty different pieces...and somehow still being alive, feeling it all. The thought was too big, too alien, impossible to actually conceive of in the same way that it was impossible to truly, honestly, fully understand how big the universe was.

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