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post #1 of 26 (permalink) Old 11-25-09, 01:24 AM Thread Starter
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Default Dead City

THREAD NEWS: Chapter 8 - The Hanger has been posted! Find out who the 'real' enemy is...! All comments welcome, and more coming soon.


Chapter 1 - Apocalypsed



Carson awoke with a start, his consciousness ripping back to reality, away from his dreams. He wished his nightmares away with a mental shrug and sat up from his bed. Faint light pushed its way through a shuttered window, casting faint shadows. He squinted his eyes, even in such faint light, mainly due to his pulsating hangover. Frak, why didn’t the God-Emperor just let me sleep longer, he thought. But that would not happen, he knew.

It just wasn’t safe to sleep too long. Not even the alcohol could help him sleep. Not since the fall of the city.

He moved away from the sweaty covers of the bed and walked groggily into the adjacent room towards the drinks cabinet, selecting a Glavian wine. There wasn’t many bottles felt he realised grudgingly. He pulled open the bottle cap and took a long swig of the liquid, savouring the bitter taste, and then he put the bottle down and checked his side-arm – dependably clipped to his waist – a rustic, yet reliable, stub-pistol.

He walked over to the shuttered window and pulled it open, warily looking over Tharius as the setting sun cast its final rays over the once sprawling hub of humanity and signed heavily. Nothing moved in the cityscape except a ghostly breeze that swept silently throughout the brittle-looking streets. Dust, detritus and rubbish moved in the wind, but nothing much else. The city stood eerily silent. Many types of vehicle choked the main roadways, from the crashed ruins of orbital launchers to large ore trucks which used to roar down the avenues each day to the manufactoriums. They all lay dormant and decaying across the roads amidst the bodies of rotten animals, be it dogs, rats or whatever, as they lay decomposing in the ceremite pavements. The tall, building sized vid-screens that used to voice the Imperial Creed daily to the populace stood blank, cracked and silent; almost a dark parody of the benevolent God-Emperor Himself.

Several buildings burned in the distance, the smoke obscuring large parts of the city. He wondered if the whole world was going the smoulder until all was ash. The raging fires had passed early on, during the first week of the outbreak, choking the stale air and killing thousands in its fiery tsunami across Tharius. This was a dead city, the apocalypse had came and left a cruel emptiness in its wake. What unsettled Carson the most, apart from the silence, was the absence of people. Amidst the carnage and hollowness of the city, no bodies lay within the ruins and broken streets. They were elsewhere.

The final rays of sunshine for the day vanished and night enveloped the grim scene. Moments later a dry moaning echoed throughout the streets, a coarse, haunting sound that sounded ceaselessly across Tharius. Carson ground his teeth with a weary fear in his heart - the denizens of the city have awoken once more, he mused bitterly.

He moved away from the window and thumbed the activation switch on his pistol on his hip, readying himself for another day or night rather, in the once great city of Tharius, his hangover forgotten.

Soon the suns rays vanished and total darkness blanketed everything. On que, Carson heard the barking again. He was sure it would have died by now, but each night as the sun dipped hauntingly over the city’s sky-reaching spires, the dog upstairs started up once more. There were times he wished to the damned Emperor for it to die, or escape out of its hab above him. But, the hound bayed continually, every night, drawing more of the beasts to it – and to him.

Carson had barricaded himself into a hab-unit, ten stories up, around a week ago. He wasn’t too sure of the actual length of time due the sleep deprivation and drunkenness. Luckily though, he had found a place with a decent supply of food and water – and alcohol, of course.

A brittle moaning sound, and then scraping and scratching on the hab door interrupted his thoughts. He took a light out from his pocket and aimed towards the exit. The freezer unit and plastek chairs blocking it shook ever-so-slightly as he cast his hand light over them. So, it begins again, he thought.

He turned away from the kitchen and groggily walked into the front room, amid more frantic barking from his upstairs neighbour. He had grown sick of the small room, with its old soft settee and single, plastek table. And, of course, the large, wide window that looked out into the city. Most of the furniture now blocked the front entrance and the table was covered with empty bottles of Glavian wine. The machine spirits powering the hab block had fled several days ago, and an eerie darkness stole the city sights all around, giving Carson mixed feelings – he was glad he could not see the bleak remains of Tharius, but his basic human fear of darkness smouldered in the back of his mind. In the distance, through the scores of buildings, fires continued to burn and he could see pinpricks of light – not all the power had gone. Each night, more of the fires burnt out and he could see less lights. A dark disease blanketed the world and was slowly consuming the final sparks of civilisation – and hope.

An undulating wail echoed through the hab, followed by frenzied barking. Carson heard wild thumping from above, and a final yelp of a dog.

Then silence.

So the poor beast had finally been found. For some reason, Carson was suddenly angry. He gripped his gun, his knuckles turning white and he moved back into the kitchen, and confronted the barricaded door, shining his weak light at it. The door suddenly stood still and the moaning sounds ceased. They knew there had been a kill and were joining the feast, he thought. The anger drilled deeper into him, and he was starting to realise why – the dog was another survivor, another being alive in a graveyard city, and its nightly barking had given him some form of companionship. Even that had been taken away from him.

For a moment, he thought of tearing open his makeshift barricade and avenging the poor dog, but the futility of the gesture hit him like a falling mountain – what was the point? He would achieve only death.

The anger faded as fast as it appeared, replaced with the all-consuming feeling of helplessness that sat heavily upon his shoulders. He loosened his grip on his weapon, deciding to find some food instead of killing himself.

A few moments later, he realised he had finished the final, mouldering scraps the night before. In frustration he strode back into the front room and to the drinks cabinet, deciding to drink this reality into another.


*


He awoke to roaring.

It was still night, and as he struggled awake an empty wine bottle bounced onto the floor. He vaguely remembered downing the potent wine before collapsing on the only seat in the hab. He must have drifted off to sleep. The roaring continued, and his befuddled mind vibrated with confusion – what the hell was going on?

His head throbbed from the wine while his sight was blurred and his mouth dry. Suddenly, an intensely bright light flashed briefly in through the hab window, and the deafening sound increased in volume, before slowly quietening. Carson jumped up and ran to the window, realising what he was hearing: thrusters.

He hastily rubbed the sleep from his eyes, and his heart thumped in his chest. Someone was outside in a flyer, someone else was alive! He saw the blurred outline of an orbital lander – he couldn’t see what make it was, but it didn’t matter, he was not alone!

Unfortunately, the lander was edging away on its hover-thrusters. It looked as if it was searching the street, its lights shining over the roadways and buildings, twin beams of light in eternal darkness. Every now and then, Carson could see figures being lit up by the lights, as they shambled throughout the city like small swarms of insects. The population of Tharius; Walking aimlessly throughout the streets, looking for their next grisly meal.

Carson turned from the scene, trying to find his own light in the soupy blackness of the hab. He swore as he tripped over a collection of bottles, then he dropped to his knees, his hands searching wildly for the light. Seconds later he found it, hastily switching it on as he ran over to the window. The thruster sounds were diminishing and he panicked; what if he had just missed his chance of being rescued?

He waved the light out toward the fading sight of lander and futilely banged on the window. ‘Come back!’ he cried, ‘I’m here!’

Slowly, the roaring died down to a whisper and the lights vanished into the night as the ship turned away into another part of the city, taking Carson’s hope with it.

Then there was another sound. Not a roaring of engines, but the dry sound that came from a ruined human throat. Suddenly, there was a thumping noise from the kitchen area and entrance to the hab. They must have heard him shout. Damn it, Carson thought, what have I done? They followed the sounds of the living, and he had just given away his hiding area once more to the things outside. Every blasted one of them in the tight corridors out-with the hab would be moving towards him. Maybe this time the door would not hold.

Just as the chance for survival was presented, it had been stripped away and replaced with the cold reality of impending death. Without thinking, he cried out and snatched up one of the bottles and threw it viciously at the window. It hit with a violent crash, breaking into pieces and leaving a precarious crack throughout the pane.

With a crunching snap, something gave way in the hab entrance and he heard his barricade scrape along the floor. He had run out of time and the plague ridden citizens that were dead, but not dead, had come for him.

He pulled out his stub pistol, activating it with practiced ease, and shone his small light at the door to the front room, preparing to meet his doom.

Last edited by two lls; 02-17-10 at 07:28 PM. Reason: updating news!!!
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post #2 of 26 (permalink) Old 11-25-09, 03:27 AM
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Brilliant!... But there were some typhos.. Nevertheless, it's an amazing piece... REP!...
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post #3 of 26 (permalink) Old 11-26-09, 04:40 PM
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Hey mate, this is one of the stories I have followed for several months however I lost track and could not be bothered to read on other sites, bloody awesome have some rep

Nyctophobia- Fear of the Dark Angel.

"No one ever spoke about of those two absent brothers. Their separate tragedies had seemed like aberrations. Had they, in fact, been warnings that no one had heeded?"

'Killing a man is like fucking, boy, only instead of giving life you take it. You experience the ecstasy of penetration as your warhead enters the enemy's belly and the shaft follows. You see the whites of his eyes roll inside the sockets of his helmet. You feel his knees give way beneath him and the weight of his faltering flesh draw down the point of your spear. Are you picturing this?'
'Yes, lord.'
'Is your dick hard yet?'
'No, lord.'
''What? You've got your spear in a man's guts and your dog isn't stiff? What are you, a woman?'
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post #4 of 26 (permalink) Old 11-27-09, 05:31 AM
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sweet stuff! glad to see you post it! keep it up!

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post #5 of 26 (permalink) Old 11-27-09, 07:34 PM Thread Starter
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Hey,

thanks for the comments and the rep people, a great welcome to the forum indeed!!!

Dark Angel - yeh, cheers. Some older starts to the story have been around - this is a complete update and i've restructured the story into chapters. Still have much work to do, but the story is coming along - been putting many hours work into the characters and the overall plot recently!

Chapter 2 should be posted tonight.

Cheers again,

two lls
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post #6 of 26 (permalink) Old 11-27-09, 09:12 PM Thread Starter
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Default Dead City - Chapter two - Nowhere To Go

Chapter two - Nowhere To Go


The dry, wretched screeching of the plague ridden reached Carson’s ears moments before their rank odour filled his nostrils as he edged towards the kitchen area. He heard the final splintering crash of the cabinets and chairs he had piled around the entrance and gripped his weapon tight while sending a prayer to the Emperor. In his other hand he held his puny light, its thin beam casting dim shadows in front of him, allowing him fleeting glimpses of what lay beyond the failing barricade.

His heart thumped in his chest as he aimed his weapon towards the entrance, his hands shaking as he waited for the inevitable attack. The stench of the enemy was suddenly everywhere – another putrid contamination of Tharius – and the foul fumes made him gag. Finally, he heard a scraping, dragging sound, and one of his would-be attackers pushed its way passed the doorway. He thought the initial fear and shock would have subsided by now, but the sight of the beastly being made him take a step backwards. The horrible reality of the situation became all-to-clear at that moment: there was nowhere to go. No corner to run around; no stairway to salvation; no vehicle to escape in. This time he had to face his foe; he had run out of hiding places. One way lay the shambling enemy, while the other was a ten-storey fall through a glass window. He didn’t know what was worse.

One of his tormentors came into the faint light. The thing before him had been human once, he knew, but now it was a disgusting, rotting parody of life. It had died of the fatal virus that had spread like a wild fire throughout the city two standard weeks previously - and then it had returned to life a strange, undead monster. Carson would have laughed at such a thing being real before he had seen his friends, his family and his city turn into a warp-tainted landscape of flesh-eating hell. Some had dubbed them ‘Plague Zombies’ and the name was perfect for them. All they craved was the flesh of the living, and they had been ever so hungry over the last fourteen nights, killing and turning most of the population into their brutal kin.

The zombie before Carson shambled forwards, its throat issuing a jagged gurgle as its movements hastened at the sight of him. As he shone his light at it he saw the decomposing features; yellowing skin hung loose over its angled jaw and dried blood caked its face. One eye had popped out of its socket – long lost in the throes of death, while the remaining one seemed to glare with unearthly menace as it rolled in its socket and looked right at him, a heinous intent shining within. One of its hands reached out for him, grasping with frightening desire.

Carson composed himself and aimed his weapon at the zombie, squeezing the trigger, the shot ripping through its head and pulverising its brain. The decaying body dropped to the floor, crashing through the wine bottles on the table in front of it. Before he could check it was staying down, another appeared, and another. They had evil, hungry looks in their grotesque faces. He fired off three more rounds, aiming for their heads. Both collapsed in mangled heaps and lay motionless on the fluid-stained carpet – a mix of torn flesh and congealed blood.

Yet more of the Plague Zombies filled the doorway and Carson’s heart sank, how could he stop all of them? He had discovered in the aftermath of the outbreak that destroying their brains was the only effective way of killing them for good, but there was just too many to kill them all. He battled a city full of them nightly. Early on, he promised himself that he would not become one of them. He would rather take his own life. And this time, he realised, one of his remaining bullets might have his name on it. In desperation he turned to the window, looking in vain for some miracle way of escape. It was lighter outside than it had been, the first rays of sunshine sparkling off the crack on the window, but other than that, nothing had changed. He turned back and fired off more shots at the zombies. They inched closer, some dying once more, while others tumbled over the fallen – but like a thick, deathly tide, they crawled and dragged themselves ever closer.

A thought punched into his frightened mind – the light! They hated sunlight. Of course! Ever since the plague hit the zombies had shied away from direct sunlight. If he could live long enough maybe the sun would rise and-

Maybe not enough rays would get into the hab? Maybe he would be dead, or un-living, by full sunrise? Frantically he ejected the spent ammo cartridge in his pistol and smoothly snapped another into place. He opened up on the living dead, pushing them back. He looked down at the table beside him, and had an idea. He dropped his light and grabbed hold of the table and with a strength driven by fear he threw it one-handed at the window. With a crash it rebounded off, making the crack in the window larger, but not smashing it as he had intended. He swore colourfully and without thinking fired his pistol at the window, a cry of frustration slipping out of him.


The window shattered. Small fragments of glass cut his face and hands, while most of the remains fell outwards, showering the streets below. His hand-light on the floor and cast off haunting shadows as it spun slowly to a stop, glinting off glass fragments on the floor. A lingering silence followed. He had emptied his clip into the window – the last of his ammo.

A cold burst of air swept inwards, the wind threatening to push Carson off his feet. As he steadied himself, something grabbed hold of him and he was pushed to the glass-littered floor. He cried out in shock and pain, the sharp glass biting deep into his arms and face. He felt a violent wind blow into his face, and to his horror, he realised he had been pushed to the windows’ precipice, overlooking a fall to certain death. A heavy weight fell upon him suddenly, and he panicked, kicking out. He felt a writhing form slip over the edge and as his eyes accustomed to the gloomy morning light, he saw the falling form of a Plague Zombie. He tried to move away from the edge of the hab window, but as he did so another zombie grappled at his legs, its jaws snapping almost rhythmically. As the sun inched higher in the sky, he saw his adversary with more clarity – this one was more human looking. It had not been dead long. Maybe another survivor who had finally succumbed to the never-ending assaults of plague victims. It was a man, his cheek torn, the ruined skin flapping in the wind, the ugly wound opened to the bone. The same malevolent glare could be seen in his eyes, as the others before, and he crawled over Carson, his teeth gnashing off one another in anticipation of raw meat.

Carson grabbed hold of its bloodied throat as it made for his face, its jaws moving like that of some wild animal gone mad with hunger. With all his might he held the zombie away from him, but the reanimated corpse fought with a supernatural force, and its teeth edged closer and closer towards Carson. It groaned and moaned as it did so, and the sounds were all he could hear – even the wind seemed to have vanished as the horrible fate of being eaten alive descended towards him.

Then the sun rose, its rays beaming brilliantly over the building and into the hab unit.

The Plague Zombie, mere breaths away from Carson’s flesh, howled suddenly, and relented, its arms trying to shade it from the morning sun. Carson kicked into the dead thing, pushing it further from reach.

He swiftly made sure his whole body was in the sunlight.

At least five other zombies lurched in the shadows, beyond the sun’s rays. Each of them had been moments away from attacking him. He breathed a deep sigh of relief. So close, oh so close!

The zombie that had almost eaten him had backed into the shadowy interior of the hab, out of reach of the light. It has stopped thrashing about now, and with an inhuman calm it stood looking directly at Carson. Every time the sun crept deeper into the hab, it moved inwards with it, along with the other zombies. The sudden quiet and intent stares of the dead unnerved him. But he still had nowhere to go, so had to endure. He sat nursing his cuts and bruises in the sun, the wind now a gentle breeze, while the Plague Zombies glared silently at him in the shade.

He laughed at the insanity of it all, his lonely snorting sniggers breaking the silent dawn. Minutes ago he had been literally staring death in the face, and now he had been saved by the sunrise. He briefly whispered a prayer of thanks to the God-Emperor, but stopped halfway through – what sort of God would save you, and then place you in this impossible situation?

As soon as night came, or the sun hid behind a tall building, or was covered with a cloud for too long, the zombies would attack. He had nowhere to run, stuck in-between flesh-eating mutants and a ten-story drop. It was times like this he really needed a drink, he thought incredulously.

And with a quiet relentlessness, the undead stood silently, waiting.
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post #7 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-01-09, 08:47 PM
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good stuff keep it up. whens the next chapter due?
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post #8 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-02-09, 06:44 AM
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really liked it! Keep up the awesome work!

CP

p.s. i changed the color of your "Thread News" from Red to Lime. Red text is reserved for staff and important mod remarks.

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post #9 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-03-09, 09:07 PM Thread Starter
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Forthelion - thanks for reading, the next chapter should be up tonight!

Commissar Ploss - ah, cheers for that, i'll remember for future! and thanks for reading.
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post #10 of 26 (permalink) Old 12-04-09, 12:00 AM Thread Starter
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Default Dead City - Chapter 3 - Daybreak

I


Dassion Way activated the glareshield to dim the cockpit canopy as the bright morning sun rose, threatening to blind him as he flew his lander. It was a small, clunky old Orbital he called Hermia; she barely had enough space in her hold for thirty men, but she was one of the last flyers around these days, something he was very glad of, and so were the others that had been saved by her since the Fall. He squinted as he looked at the auspex reader on the aged control panel and noticed that it continued to blink over multiple moving contacts – it was nothing though, merely the plague twists, who below him moved for cover from the suns rays. Just like every other morning.

It had been another quiet night for him, once more finding no survivors in the city. He switched off his now-redundant spotlights then eased the control stick backwards; immediately the orbital lander ascended away from the confines of the city towers into the light blue morning sky, her engines and machine spirit complaining faintly. As he flew above the remains of Tharius’ towering buildings he felt the tension in his body dissipate – he had been growing so used to the adrenaline pumping in his veins as he worked his way through the maze-like city spires night after night, he hadn’t realised how wound up he was. He aging body wasn’t what is used to be, he mused. Dassion supposed that’s what living here would be like for the foreseeable future: weary, hard and unforgiving. Yet, until he searched everywhere throughout the city, he would not stop. He couldn’t leave anyone else behind, no matter how he felt.

He took one last look at the auspex, which showed nothing but the itchy, slow movements of the dead, and thumbed it to off, sick of it. It was time to go home, he thought, realising how tired he was. With the buzz of danger gone, the heavy weight of fatigue gripped him. His clothes felt dirty with sweat and his limbs ached after hours of being strapped into the cockpit seat. Dassion gripped the control stick and hit the thrusters, feeling the engines of the lander growl as he pushed them onwards. Hermia bucked as he did so, and he could hear the usual groans of complaint from her rusting hull. Even though she had seen better days she still flew true, whatever quirks she had he knew and controlled. She was too much like him, he mused. Older, grumpier and a little cantankerous.

Under the glareshield, the morning sky looked tainted and dull. He felt comforted by the normality of flying through the morning sky until, through the corner of his eye, he saw a bright flash above him. It sparked brilliantly for a second, and then vanished. He turned his head, straining to see what it was. He turned the auspex back on, tuning it to search the sky around, and moments later he found another signal.

Someone had just appeared above the city from orbit. The signal he was getting was strong, and from the looks of it, it was from a large vehicle. Could someone have here his call for help? His old instincts kicked in, however, and he pushed the throttle downward, banking sharply. Hermia complained violently, her machine spirit crying out as she banked so deeply. Dassion hoped he had reacted quickly enough, aiming to drop out of their auspex sights and back into the crowded cityscape below, masking his whereabouts – he knew he was being overly cautious, as this could finally be the rescue force they had been hoping for. But old habits die hard, and he had not grown old in his line of work for nothing. It could be a saviour, but equally it could be something else.

He expertly weaved his bulky lander through the tops of the city, while keeping a keen eye on the new arrival. It descended rapidly toward the now abandoned and fire damaged spaceport, making a navy-like orbital landing. He increased the power to the auspex, the machine spirit hissing through the static, and he saw a grainy pict of the ship.

He knew immediately that it was no navy ship. Maybe it had been before, but not now. Strange looking symbols adorned its hull and weapons bristled out from it wherever seemed possible. There was something ugly about it – as if the usual symmetrical lines of the flyer’s hull were somehow distorted. A bad feeling slipped into his thoughts.

He turned away from the spaceport, and gunned the Hermia towards the distant mountains, and the rest of the survivors.


*


The hanger bay doors opened, grinding metal on metal as the two of them inched outward like weary, drab, sentinels. Dassion sluggishly walked into the dimly lit building and was immediately met with the barrel of a shotgun to his face.

‘It’s still me, Dar,’ Dassion said. ‘I’m not one of them yet.’

The large bulk of Dar, a down-city ganger, stood at the end of the barrel, his blue mohawk haircut and tattooed face staring impassively back. ‘Yet,’ he answered simply, before taking his weapon away.

Dassion liked Dar, even though the stimm-muscled giant spoke little and exuded a violent air most of the time. Dar understood their predicament; he knew that he would die without the survivors helping each other. A new type of gang for him, Dassion thought. ‘Anyone else up?’

‘Some.’

The veteran pilot nodded and moved passed the ganger, leaving him to his guard duty. Ever since the downfall of the city, of the world even, Dassion had hid within the tight confines of an old, disused airstrip – a quiet outpost of the Tharius city limits. His nightly searches for survivors had slowly populated the hanger bay and living quarters. Nine of them lived here now – nine living souls in a planet of terror and death.

Dassion walked past the wall where their reserves of food sat in varying boxes and crates – he had spend days looting the city for every scrap he could, piling Hermia’s hold with random foodstuffs, light-units, clothes, scanners, data-slates, and weapons. Lots of weapons. Amstrung had died helping. Young Amstrung…

The door to the kitchen area opened in front of him, breaking his chain of thought. ‘Dassion, you’re back.’

He found himself looking at Mira. She was already suited out in her battered Arbites armour. Every day she wore her uniform, as if she was holding on desperately to her past, or at least to some form of normality. It was funny, each of the survivors had uniqueness to them – the way they dressed, the way they handled the stress, the way they remembered. ‘Yep, I’m back,’ he said.

‘Nothing?’

‘Something,’ he replied. His voice sounded coarse, brittle even. The lack of sleep and water was really affecting him. ‘I need to speak to you. Who else is awake?’

‘Only Vern and Castus.’ Mira Yarni was only in her twenties, and Dassion always felt sorry for her, thinking of how much of life she would not see. He felt as if he had been lucky, living for sixty years, having a wife, a child, but what would she have? A life battling against hordes of undead mutants? At least he had known what a good life was like. He tried not to think such dark thoughts, without much success.

Mira had short, jet black hair that always had a ruffled, used look, and pale, yet smooth-looking skin. She had a slender physique that hid her strength and her considerable fighting talents. He would be dead several times over if it were not for her timely interventions. She had striking hazel eyes that he was sure used to shine with the bright, youthful expectation of life, but they were now haunted, dull - yet somehow still dutiful. He worried, also, that she was taking on the mantel of protector too much, but she wouldn’t let him bring it up in conversation. He made a mental note to talk to her later about it.

‘They’ll have to do.’ Dassion said. ‘Bring them to me in the hanger, and I want Dar in on this too.’

Mira looked quizzically at the rugged pilot. ‘What’s going on?’

Dassion felt the heavy weight of his long night push down on his shoulders suddenly; he felt so tired. But feeling sorry for himself now, during this… this apocalypse would do no good. ‘Honestly? I don’t know. But something is happening, and I want to find out. Just get the others and I’ll tell you all together.’

Mira looked concerned, but didn’t push further and turned to find the others that were awake.

‘I need something to drink,’ Dassion whispered subconsciously to himself, and continued into the kitchen area, looking for something strong to awaken him. What he was about to propose was not only dangerous, but desperate also.



II



Carson heard the fiery, booming sound of something thundering into the atmosphere above the city. He turned away from the zombies for the first time since daybreak, and looked to the sky. He saw a thin line of smoke of a flyer that had dropped into the atmosphere above Tharius, and from its bearing he guessed that it was heading for the spaceport.

It felt like years since he had last set foot in the Tharius spaceport. Once a place of work for him, now nothing but a distant memory. Yet, someone seemed to be flying into it. Maybe a relief force had finally reached the city? His previous disappointment at missing the lander during the night vanished momentarily, and a glimmer of hope shined within him. Then he remembered his precarious predicament. There was an ancient terran saying about being trapped between a rock and a hard place, and he laughed to himself as he considered how much it matched his situation.

The noise he made from laughing immediately aggravated the plague zombies deep within the shadows, and they emitted a gritty, hoarse growl, bringing Carson’s reality sharply into focus. His jailors waited tirelessly for his flesh, it seemed.

He stood in the sunlight and he considered what to do next. He was out of ammunition for his gun and had no discernable weapon to hand, and fighting his way out with his fists was suicide – as soon as one of them bit you, you became one of them; there was no way he could fend off those hungry, dead jaws with his hands alone. Jumping to safety was out of the question also, being so high up.

What would my father do? he thought with a sudden bitterness. The Imperial hero, Grigarian Leto, would have found a way out of any situation. Even if the dead had risen to claim the souls of the living.

Carson shook his head, trying to clear his mind. The hangover and adrenaline rush of the fighting earlier still affecting him. An idea struck him suddenly. He edged out over the opening the broken window created, and peered downwards. The wind was still strong, but he was able to steadily hold himself over the ledge. He saw the opposite building, many of its windows were smashed and jagged looking also, and the damage caused to it hid the gothic beauty it once held. All of the hab towers in this area where adorned with ancient architechure and stone gargoyles – portaying creative carvings of Imperial heroes and the mighty Adeptus Astartes.

If there were ledges on the other buildings, surely there would be some on this one?

There was. A few feet below the window a ceremite ledge lipped around the building. It was reachable. He could make it. But then what? What would he do once he stood on a ledge hundreds of metres off the hard ground, with no discernable handholds?

He heard a shambling sound behind him, and he reacted cat-quick, turning from the dizzying drop, amid the crackling of glass under him. Quickly, he realised that his attackers were only moving around the shadows and that he was still in sunlight. His blood was up though, and he forced himself to calm down, to breath easy. He was reacting badly to his predicament – he had been for weeks now – and it was starting to fray on his sanity’s edges. Hours ago he had almost died – again – and his situation had barely improved.

He needed to escape. He needed to live.

Carson sucked in a deep breath of air, and stood. He holstered his gun and looked around for anything useful, finding only the damaged bottles of wine scattered across the bloodstained floor. He ran a hand through his bushy hair absentmindedly, while looking into the shadows. Only death stared back, with a dark glare.

Carson bent over and picked up a bottle. ‘Frak you, and your dead, bloody stare,’ he said, before throwing the wine bottle at the nearest zombie. It broke over the undead being, and it grunted, before continuing its servitor-like vigil.

Carson shook his head, and turned his back from the dead, ready to take a perilous leap of faith to live.

If it worked, he could escape and travel to the spaceport, and be saved. But only if it worked - and his chances were slim at best, considering what he was considering to do – dangle over an almost certain-death drop; walk along a thin ledge; break into a zombie-free hab; find his way out of the plague ridden building, then find a way to the spaceport and, finally, be saved.

How hard could it be?


*


Carson gripped the frame of the window, his muscles straining as he tried to hold himself up at the same time, while missing the razor-like teeth of glass that edged the broken frame with his hands. Fear rippled through him as he hung over the long drop, a now constant companion. In his minds’ eye, he imagined missing the ledge below he intended to land upon, and falling heavily onto the solid ground below.

Away from the deathly stench of the zombies in the hab, Carson now caught a whiff of the air around him, the slight breeze of morning air making him think – his memory grasping at something new to him for an instant. The air that swept past was so fresh, so new…

All his life Carson had been used to the smells of a vibrant, busy city. He used to taste the chemicals and pollutants in the air. It was part him. But now, after weeks of silence, Tharius seemed to change – the fumes and smog had lessened. It was refreshing somehow. However, the deep smell of dead tainted the same air moments later. It was as if he could taste the God-Emperor’s dream of life momentarily, then it was stripped away with the smell of decomposition. Some, he remembered, embraced that smell in the early stages of outbreak, seeing it as a beneficiation of the Emperor – as if the smell of a corpse resembled His Unliving Soul. They were the first to die. The fanatics. The faithful…

His arms burned, and he was pulled out of his reverie. He had to let go. He forced himself to look downwards, hopefully finding a glimpse of the ledge below. He saw it and without thinking, dropped to the ledge metres below. The impact jarred his legs, his knees buckling in pain, and he gripped the sides of the building with his hands, looking to steady his landing…

It worked, and he held his balance on the ledge. The wind rippled across his body, his clothes billowing in the air as it became suddenly stronger while he held on to the side of the building. A determination took hold of him and he focussed on his balance and grip. Ever so slowly, he moved sideways, imagining the platform holding the gargoyle below. That was the plan – to move towards the gargoyles and climb down over their stone, lifeless effigies. Finally he made it to one, and with total relief, he cuddled a stone replica of an Adeptus Astartes, a Space Marine.

The sun dipped behind a cloud in the sky. Darkness snatched away the light, and dullness covered the city.

A shrill screeching vibrated across everything.

Carson panicked suddenly, thinking one of the zombies from above would nimbly jump from the ledge and attack him from mid-air. Seconds slipped away and nothing happened. He took hold of his senses, ignoring his fears and crept across the statue, looking downwards at the next one – some form of Tech-priest by the looks of it – and considered his next move. Realising that there was not much else to do other than climb down, he gripped hold of an arm and descended further.

He dangled over a cracked window and it exploded outward ferociously with a crash, making him cry out sharply with fright. He immediately caught a glimpse of what turned out to be one of the living dead. It tried desperately to claw at him, craving his flesh, as it crashed out of the hab along with hundreds of shards of glass. He felt it grab hold of his legs with its rotting hands, even as the needle-like pinpricks of glass caught him. One bite and he could turn into one of them, he knew, and so he kicked out violently, his thoughts whipped blind in pure terror at the idea of his life being literally eaten away from him. The heavy weight of the zombie vanished, but in his fearful state, he lost his grip and fell.

Instinct took over and Carson’s mind succumbed to panic and confusion as he watched the building blur before him. His hands fumbled for a handhold, and somehow he caught hold of the tech-priest gargoyles leg, momentum flinging his body roughly into the side of the hab building. Pain flared around him as he held on, trying desperately to steady himself. Moments later, he scrambled up to the thin platform that circumvented the building, and lay across it, catching his breath and sucking up the pain.

He opened his eyes and looked up at the sky, just as the clouds parted and sunlight broke out once more, and he remembered all-of-a-sudden the flyers he had seen a few hours before. Now was not the time to give up or become a frightened foul. He had to focus. He had to remain alive.

Carson controlled his breathing, steadying his nerves, and ignored the throbbing pain in his limbs. He turned his head downwards and looked at the not-too-distant ground, and saw his recent attacker splattered upon the hard ceremite.

That was not him. Not Carson. He had survived again. He hoped it would be something he would continue to be good at until he was able to escape this hellhole, this dead city. He signed deeply, and readied himself for the next step of his downward journey.

The sun cast haunting shadows across the desolate city, and the wind calmed to a whisper.
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