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Posted By: Mainevent
Date: 27 January 2008, 5:59 am

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1,366 Days After Outbreak- Lazarus Spaceport Highway

      Lazarus was a peculiar name for a spaceport. Completed in 2489, a tragic and mysterious fuel line rupture led to the incineration of the facility and the twenty-four commercial and private ships berthed to her. Seven hundred and twelve souls perished in an aqueous-blue fireball that scorched the earth for nearly a half-mile in every direction. For the few visitors to this relatively back world planet in the years before the Covenant and Flood this was only a distraction, a curious bit of trivia to pass along before sight-seeing, To those who lived here, however, it was a monument to the hardiness of these people and their determination to succeed. To Robert Neville, it was just another sign that this planet was hell in general, and not his personally. It took what it wanted, and though the people thought that the fact that the planet hadn't taken the spaceport a second time meant they'd somehow conquered a mystical beast; the truth was that she'd only gotten more vengeful. To him, it certainly seemed like it.
      Today though, it was the embodiment of its namesake. A place that, like this world, had been for too long dead. Now it was the site of life for him; and a way off this God-forsaken planet. The highway here was empty. The spaceport had been the first place closed when the Flood attacked, and every vehicle in the city that could move had headed for the military's Portable Aid Deployment Spaceports (PADS), naively believing they'd be saved. Neville was sure this was the only stretch of asphalt for a hundred miles that hadn't been choked with the shells of a half-million cars and trucks. Maybe this was his lucky day, it had stopped raining and every couple of miles a narrow beam of sun broke through the heavy gray clouds.
      As he approached the broad gates of the primary complex he engaged full traction control and pushed into the warthog's overdrive gear. She revved furiously, straining the RPM gauge and fluctuating the speedometer at one thirty-five. His fists clinched white and the dogs huddled as low to the backseats as possible. The quarter-inch thick steel bars buckled and warped, wrapping around the front of the warthog with a loud snap as concrete was shorn away from its foundation. The jumble of metal on metal and moving synthetic rubber spun to a sparking halt twenty meters from where the gate had originally stood.
      "Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit." Neville repeated to himself, his hands still clutching the wheel and his eyes wide. He sat there for an entire minute, repeating the words over and over until the salty sting of sweat bit into his vision. The vehicle's engine had died when he let go of the clutch at a dead standstill. He popped the transmission back into first and reignited the hydrogen engines. Fortunately, the steel shell of fencing that had conformed to the front of his chassis disengaged as he moved into reverse.
      Tango stuck his head between the front and back seats with a whimper. "Don't you damn criticize me now, I don't need this. We're about to leave, so sit back and hush." The dog reluctantly slid back to the floorboards, his ears folding over his eyes as he pulled his head through the narrow seats. He rode around the facility for half an hour before he finally spotted the sleek black corvette. She was long and cylindrical and tapered near the front to a fine point, two too-tiny wing projections made her look like a penguin trying to fly. Robert put the vehicle into neutral and turned off the engine for a slow coast the final hundred yards to her.
      "Let's go, get your game faces on." The two dogs' ears bristled with anticipation at the words. He parked the warthog with the passenger side facing the underbelly access ramp and jumped out as quickly as he could, getting into a firing position as the dogs jumped out and began crawling towards the ship's landing gear.
      With one hand he honked the horn several times and waited. A minute passed, and then another; Neville was about to approach closer when he heard the sound of hydraulics and the heavy black ramp disengaged with a hiss. Two teenagers, about eighteen or nineteen, crouched down the ramp, two rifles pointed towards the warthog.
      "Put down your weapon's now or I'll open fire!" Neville shouted to them.
      "We don't want no trouble mister." The boy in front replied. His voice was soft, and young. Had Neville not been staring at him he would have thought it a girl's, but that was foolish. Three years with only his own deep baritone had left him unused to the sound of others. He was tempted to just shoot them here and take the bird; they were close and easy shots to his practiced and steady hands. They were young and scared shitless; he could see them quivering slightly, their rifle barrels unsteady as they inched closer to the pavement.
      "You're not with the military, are you?"
      "No sir. Listen we just want to find some place to sleep here without a fuss or anything. I've got enough money."
      "If you're not with the military where'd you get that spacecraft?"
      "My, my dad's a general. I...we.."
      The boy's accomplice nudged him and whispered something Neville could only figure to be stop what he was saying.
      "We stole it. We had to get away from them."
      "How many of you are there?" Robert queried, hoping he had enough room to house all of them in the area he could lock off from the outside.
      "Four of us."
      "Safety your weapons and put them on the ground. Get the others and put your stuff on the car. It'll be dark soon so we have to hurry."
      "No, we can find a room somewhere else. I've got enough money. We just need a ride, that's all."
      There was a placid silence for a moment as Robert came to the realization that these people had no idea what had happened here. They were expecting a concierge and waitresses, stop lights and pedestrians. They were expecting normality. Or their version of it. Normalcy had a completely different meaning to Robert now. His normalcy was that of a hermit, secluded and relatively peaceful- except for the, you know, parasitic hostile organisms that hunted him daily and killed an entire world.
      "Somewhere else? Son, you're in for a big surprise. Like I said, hurry up and load. We've got to get back soon."

      The ride back was tense. The two boys had each brought a love interest with them, and the entire group was silent. Tango and Rambo could barely fit in the rear seat with them, and everything behind the driver's seat was a mixture of dog fur and ruffled clothes.
      "Do you know exactly where you are?"
      "I'm not entirely sure. I picked a colony at random. Anywhere was better than where we're coming from."
      Neville just grunted and shook his head. He tapped the dashboard computer's history and brought up the classification from earlier. UNSC Lancet, Chiroptera Class Stealth Prowler- Decommissioned January 21st, 2513- Crew 4. It made sense.
      "Son, you stole the wrong ship."
      "Listen man, I'm sorry about that. I am. We didn't mean anything, and we didn't hurt anyone to do it. We just had to get out of there. Don't report us man, we can't have that."
      "I don't give a rat's ass about you stealing that ship. As a matter of fact I'm glad you did. Those Chiroptera class ships had problems with their stealth suite ever since they were rushed into service. So unfortunately for you, stealing a ship that was decommissioned before we even fought the Covenant meant that it still had this little paradise in its navigation computers."
      The boy shook his head from the passenger seat. "So? So what? Why wouldn't this colony be in the computers? It's still here. I don't understand what's going on here."
      "At least you got one thing right today. You sure as hell don't. But I can't blame ya. I've been here for three years and I haven't quite figured it out either. So why are you here anyway?"
      The boy looked a bit confused and somewhat nervous. He glanced back to the rear passengers before looking ahead out the window. There were no cars and the grass along the roads was tall and unkempt. There hadn't been cars for several miles now. That was odd, especially coming from such a large spaceport. Then he realized that no one had checked his registration or cleared him to land; he'd just done it.
      "Where is everyone?" The boy asked.
      "Waiting for the sun to go down." Robert laughed and sped up.

Bunker 124 A- Home

      The vehicle storage gate lifted with a rattle, it's heavy doors shaking as the motor strained to clear them. He pulled in with a sharp swerve and parked quickly. It had taken longer to get home than he'd hoped. The doors hadn't even recessed completely when he pushed the button again. They paused for a second before rattling back to life and closing.
      "Wait a second." He put his hand on the boy's arm before he could open the latch. The inside of the vehicle bay was washed in a dim, irritating purple glow for a minute. The purple turned off and then regular white light kicked in. Decontamination Complete read the monitor. "Okay."
      Neville stretched his back as he got out; it popped audibly and he grunted in appreciation. The four teens got out slowly and looked around. The other boy, who had until now been mute, spoke up suddenly.
      "Listen man, I wanna know just what the fuck is going on here."
      "Patrick, shut up."
      "Fuck you Ryan. I'm tired of all this secrecy bullshit. I'm tired of running. I want to know why there was nobody at the goddamned spaceport, or on the road, or who this guy is, and why the hell he brought us to a bunker that decontaminated us in purple shit."
      Neville turned to face the door, paused, and turned back around. "You've flown to hell. You don't know it yet, but whatever it is you're running from is infinitely better than what you've found. There was nobody at the spaceport for the same reason there was nobody on the road. They're all dead. Well, most of them. Those that aren't dead are Flood, and they come out at night to hunt. My name is Robert Neville, and I was a UNSC virologist working to stop the outbreak here, but I failed. I brought you to a bunker that decontaminated you in purple shit because one day that might save my life, which is to my thinking infinitely more important than yours, and that's why I do it. Personally, I drink too much and have all but given up on stopping them. The only reason I didn't shoot you where you stood today was because I feel somewhere inside of me a bit of humanity that begs me not to; that, and the dogs like you. Now I've been as kind to you as I can be and all I've gotten is guarded responses and something about running from something. So if you won't tell me any more than that I'll tell you two things. Through this door is a dining hall, where in fifteen minutes I will serve dinner. After that I'm putting you into your quarters and we can straighten all of this out tomorrow. If you so much as think another machoistic, irritated thought like the high and mighty persona you've been putting on since you arrived I will show you first hand the horrors I have lived with on a daily basis for three years. Any questions?"
      The quartet stood silently; one of the girls was crying and Patrick stood with mouth agape. Neville walked through the door and took out several frozen dishes. He stood at the counter for a moment, shaking his head and staring at the ceiling. Way to go Robert. Always the thoughtful host. You've really lost your way with people old chap, really lost it. Whatever, fuck 'em. I should've shot 'em anyway. Maybe I will. No, I'm still human. That may be all I've got left, but I still have it. God I need a drink.