Work Header

From the Grave

Work Text:

Here I go again. Our shuttle has just docked in the ship's hangar bay, but there was nobody there to receive us. The only sound out there is a prerecorded welcome message from the company. Can't help but feel that the crew has bigger problems than broken main communication array. Our mission leader orders us to advance. We slowly walk towards the arrival bay. The power's out, have to manually override the door. Raz-drugoy, done.  Lots of luggage lying around on the ground, as if somebody was trying to leave in a hurry. This is weird. Our resident computer expert isn't picking up any chatter and we're on a biiig ship. The leader notices a security console and sends me to check it while the lady tries to get the exit door open. What is this mess on the ground? Just get done with it...

No I fucking can't. Screw this, I've seen it a million times, why am I even this is stupid God should have gone with them now can't end - Aaargh!!!

Like who chooses to take "PC Horror Classics" with them when the entire world is dead to the virus!? It's no longer abstract fun time. And I had played through the entire collection before I even enlisted!

But then, the only thing I would play on this laptop otherwise are checkers and solitaire.  

Maybe I'll switch to some adventure game? I don't have to sneak around monsters, it'd be an abstract enough experience. I am locked behind five ton doors sealing this sector, the monsters can't bypass them. We really did think ahead, we were more prepared than most, weren't we? Moscow was the last capital to fall. We built this shelter with every contingency in mind. Each section can be quarantined, "permanently if need be", as we were told in the briefing. Too bad it didn't help.

Maybe there is something new to do? No, I searched every place here more times than I can count. For how long? Alt+Tab, bottom right... that is exactly six months and three days since I locked that door. Hey, had the intended number of personnel survived here with me we would be running out of emergency rations by now. Should I kill myself? No, not yet. Let's go for a walk. Don't want to get up, I'll do it in my thoughts.

Sector B. B for Boris. Mostly residential, though we do... we did? I have other vitally important installations here. Obviously, one of the emergency food storages. I also have a beautiful battery bank running on minimal power output. Enough to keep air conditioning going and charging the laptop I looted from crew quarters. It will last me one more month. Then there are the unimportant things. Office spaces - why did we need office spaces? Aaanyway, I also have a gym, a canteen and a rest zone with fake windows. Oh, these windows, allowing me to see trees I will never see with my own eyes again! Good thing these don't work on tertiary power. This place really had... has a lot of redundancy. I'm like a tour guide, better introduce myself. Good day to you, me! My name is Igor and I'm a junior sergeant of aviation. Today I was showing you the magnificent B sector of I don't even know where this facility is! Not that it makes a difference, I can't go outside. I know they are still out there, at least the tentacle mold slowly overgrowing all the plumbing hints at it. Why are they not trying to break in? These are smart creatures, they took over the bodies of the best Russia had to offer. They don't have to. They don't care. How did I end up here?

I had bad notes in PTU. How is that even possible? I must have been one lazy fuck. Anyway, I noticed I was not doing the right thing, so I made sure the results of my final exams were acceptable. Worked a few years in a power plant. Everyone was saying a real war was comiing, next thing I know they were right. I said to myself: "why not?" and enlisted. My mom wanted to kill me, even after I had told her they'd stick me in a signal unit because I knew how to handle that stuff from school. I was wrong, they stuck me and two other boys into a cabin and we flew combat drones. I was the one responsible for sensor calibration and visual feed. Everyone looked down on us. We were not real pilots. People said we killed like cowards. Flying a tiny model plane high in the sky where we couldn't be seen or heard, without any risk to ourselves. The drones weren't even that effective against those who could fight back. Things got worse when autonomous units entered mass production. Most operators got reassigned, but there were still some missions the AI had trouble with. Our results were good, so we were chosen to keep flying. Missions in terrible weather. Low-profile recon. Assisting special forces. Anton was so happy, that brainwashed idiot, I'm convinced he expected to become a hero of the Soviet Union. Volodia didn't care, he never did. I said a promotion might be a promotion, but we should keep doing what was expected of us.

Keep doing what was expected of us. What would they expect of me now? Imagine the general standing right next to me. He's giving me that grizzled look. What should I do? Well, I kept shaving and I washed this silly blue uniform a few times (it looks more like a tracksuit covered in sponsor logos). I'm a soldier, right? Should look at least presentable. But I'm not a real soldier. I was never shot at. Even an artilleryman who never sees his targets can be threatened by airplanes or counter battery fire. I never really was in danger. None of my comrades ever got hurt or died. Until six months ago.

*        *        *

Well, I could be considered an actual soldier after all. I even have a pistol. Shouldn't have thrown my rifle at the mold down there near the septic tank at the bottom level. An actual soldier wouldn't have done that. Who cares, I'm going to die today, rifle in hand or not. There were 500 of us trying to survivie. What chances do I have?

Here I am. Upper entrance to sector B. Behind it,  Hub I. A crossroads between sectors. There, this underground tomb will be my oyster. I can choose to get eaten in sector A where the command center is, sector V where we had the secondary diesel generator and hydroponics or try going to the transit hall which leads to places I don't know. Ha ha! Maybe I'll go sighseeing and write an actual tour guide! This was always hopeless, even with all of our might. I'm here alone. If I shoot myself, they won't eat me. Actually, if the growth has already covered half the bottom level, it'll eat me here anyway in due time. Let's get this open. Have to manually override it. Raz-drugoy. The motors aren't broken, good. This sound of grinding metal...

It's open. I remember looking at these bullet casings before I locked myself in. Where were we going? I think we wanted to relieve the war room. Quiet as a mouse now, they, or what's left of them, must still be out there. I think you had to angle your steps inwards to make them softer. I'm not Spetznaz or VDV, just move slowly. Down that other big door.

I used to go through here almost every day. The checkpoint is surprisingly untouched, barring a few blood stains on the floor. Has to be blood, it melds in with the emergency lights. Why does the air smell like cheese? I swear it does. Oh... first casualty. Poor bastard, he's less dismembered than I'd expect at least. You're nothing but dry skin and bones now, friend. Your uniform, so plain... must be a civilian. I think you're Deshko, that engineer. Even less of a warrior than me. Oh, I didn't mean to be offensive, please forgive me. You're sitting against the wall, means they left you here. No, we split up later. You crawled back here, alone. Had I known... too late for that. I have to go.

I forgot how large this place is. Sector B is the size of a three-story building, how did I forget? I didn't move around much lately... alright, the guiding lines are here. War room is to the left, thirty me- oh damn... it's more like muscle than mold over here. That thing is huge! It goes... all the way... The hallway to the drone bay is completely overgrown... this is disgusting... pulsating...uuurgh...

Puking is noisy. Puking. Is. Noisy. Blyat, this is even worse up close. Let's just go. It's moving, it's fucking moving, I... Don't look at it! Have I even put the safety off? I did. Let's go. Focus...  haven't seen any of them. Maybe the growth is the only thing they left behind? I'm near the spot where I got cut off. Yes, entrance to the sector's main security chambers, I had to go back here. Less wall tentacles, how nice. Ha, these are my bullet casings, don't step on them... Too dark to see, but if something... it'd kill me in the dark then. Hurts my eyes. Point it at the, more blood. A limb. Carefully... I'm on the spot, can get a glimpse of the big screen. Another body..-wait, no, dammit, off! On again. Count to four... easy. Look at it. It... the chest is moving? Observe for a while. is alive. It has something flappy for arms. Do I kill it? No, it'll wake up more. They are like super ants, its friends see what it sees, hear what it hears, know what it knows. I should leave. What now? Security is the closest thing. Quick look back, then don't lose sight of it. Backwards...backwards... here. It's even darker there. Why am I doing this? I have nothing else to do. Okay, stand in the door and sweep from right to left. There's more of them asleep! That one is sleeping under the table! And there are none next to that exit. Do I? Why not. Go...go...gooo faster dammit! Wew, what's in here anyway? The staff room... that barricade got torn to shreds. Look around... maybe the samovar is working? All water here must be infected, anyway. Security had a direct connection, behind general's seat as far as I remember.  I think I'm going the right way. Through another door... turn left? Yes, left. Ladder, let's go. I've never been on this level. Red lights far away to the right and a lot closer on the left. Left it is. Bodies! Part of the guard unit. Their faces are dry. Clutching at their guns... is it safe to take that? The big screen is over there. Higher officers had their stations on this elevation, general was in the middle, so he could see the entire room. So can I right now. More growth, more bodies, more sleepers. I saw all of this before, but it was through a lens.

I will never forget the first time I saw the mist. They gave us purpose-made craft, some engineers had even asked us about some parameters we'd like it to have. We were flying all over the Indian Ocean, spying on how the locals were dealing with the menace. They weren't. The resistance they put up was pitiful. If the crawlers were outside of the mist, the fight was even. The mist came in and these soldiers, they had no chance, even in full NBC gear. It was really dense, so they couldn't see the enemy. And the creatures. Caught my first one on thermovision. I had seen many white shapes before, people, animals, vehicles, from low and high altitudes, on big or small zoom, but never something like it. It was the size of a car. Our superiors told us to get clear images in every possible spectrum. Anton flew the drone really close, we were stationary at forty meters. I was following the thing and couldn't believe it was real, it resembled something straight out of those damned PC Horror Classics.  I zoomed out, noticed someone moving in the distance, asked permission for investigating. He had pincers for arms, and his eyes, good God, he was looking at our drone, at us. I glanced at Anton, he was intensely staring at the flight instruments and pretending everything was normal. Even Volodia, he who never cared about anything, I saw something breaking inside of him. I saw other things. People walking into the sea at night. How cities fell apart because of the viral disease. How that growth came out of the water, eating hectares of space and toppling tall buildings. How the mutants wandered and rested amidst the ruins. Later, we got put back on combat missions. The mist came to our Pacific coast. We evacuated every endangered city well in advance, but we still fought for them.  Those on the ground did a good job delaying the enemy, but they couldn't stop him. Our bombers tried burning the mist with fire bombs, but they couldn't keep up. We were releasing some type of biological weapon over the overrun districts, which helped at first, but after the fourth time the creatures started to ignore it. Our military killed thousands of them, but they just kept coming. We couldn't beat them, but they also couldn't quite beat us. However, internal hot spots were getting too much to handle and with the mist appearing over the Arctic Ocean, we were stretched too thin. Had the war gone differently...

*        *        *

    What do I do now, then? The terminal doesn't look too broken, let's...yes! It's working, it's working, it's... password. I'm stupid. Maybe my workstation at drone bay is online, too? Drone bay is in tentacle land, though. Should I try going for the exit? Where was it? Dammit... hey, sector map on the wall. I'm here in the middle, there's the drone bay, comms maintenance, cryptography, satellite uplink... nothing on this floor. This sector is smaller than B, but it's still pretty big. Where should I begin? So many useless choices... oh, that is ARMOURY & SPECIAL EQUIPMENT STORAGE on the bottom level. Must be a lot of mold there. Worth a shot... how do I go down? Oh, security chambers are connected to every level, very logical. About that rifle... let me take a look at your AK, friend. Blyat, the thing is dirtier than my footwraps. Can the action mechanism move? It... I'll just take another one. How about you... same story. * gasp *, onwards.

Going down this ladder is a lot scarier than ascending. It's a gaping black hole, anything can be down there. Slowly, gently... onto the floor... Stop. What is that sound? Oh fuck, movement, lights out. It's not too close... but someone's walking. Fuck off to wherever you came from, would you kindly? Dammit, can't see a thing. What's behind me? Another door.  Should I stay? It's getting closer... but it can't know I'm here. Maybe it smells me? No no no, it's above me. Find a way down, think where it can be. That door behind me...? Quickly. Screw it, flashlight on. Lots of corpses, but mutant ones this time. Wait, what if some of them are asleep? Fuck... stairway up on the far right. Maybe... a stairway down on the left. Looks like a grenade went off here. Can't hear the footsteps anymore. Let's go down.

Wow... this is carnage. We held them in this corridor for a long time. Even the emergency lights are off, they must have been blown out. Agh dammit!, two, three, four... nothing. Don't kick things on the ground again. Look around so you know where to go, then light up the space beneath your feet. Uh, wall tentacles. Barricades... bodies... this is an intersection, should see guiding lines soon. Carefully... look up, there they are. Half of them is covered by the mold, can't see the signposts... Dammit, I think there's no power on this level at all. Here, a human corpse. Army lieutenant. Do you happen to have a bigger gun, sir? No... I'll flip you over... ugh, thank goodness this had the time to dry... you have 9mm mags, thank you very much. What is this bag you... leaked  on? Emergency supply kit, I have a few of these stored back in B. Speaking of the devil, I should have taken one of those. I am not behaving entirely rationally... anyway, there should be flares inside. It was at least closed, but the fluids still soaked through. Dammit, I hope you weren't infected... using that medkit is out of the question... breathing mask is also busted... flares, yes, I want those... that would be it. Let's pop one. So bright... the armoury was in the south-eastern corner. The sector map upstairs was on the, uh..., eastern, yes, the eastern wall. I went down facing south, then went right. The staircase was facing east, then. I should keep going this way.

I hope I won't get lost on the way, it's the opposite side of the sector. So much blood... wait, I'm an imbecile, this flare is making me a target. But so is the flashlight. Might as well see the thing that kills me... oh great, a mass of flesh has covered all surfaces here. I'd rather go around. There should be another corridor like twenty meters away to the left. This place is wrecked, the armoury might not even be accessible right now. How the hell did they find us? I don't know.

This bunker is built into solid granite. I don't know where, but I'm pretty sure somewhere remote, deep inland. The entrance is almost invisible, I was so confused after my transport landed. Somehow, the virus just waltzed right next to us. Took him only months. One day my team is flying over an outpost ran by those New Jericho yankees, a few hours after my shift I wake up to find the base on alert and all drone crews being called to their stations. At first I thought satellites or autonomous units noticed something very important happening, but no, it was the mutants nearing the facility. Not a few, a couple hundred, some really big ones among them. As if the sons of bitches just knew where we were, but not exactly, so they were searching. The great thing about underground bases is how hard they are to locate. The bad thing is once found, you can't get out. We were trapped. We hadn't been leaving the complex at all before, but still. The virus set up shop in the area, but didn't notice us. I don't know what was the situation of other government shelters, but we were fine for a time, somehow. Me, Anton and Volodia kept on spying from above. I think the command was biding its time to decide on the best course of action based on how effective the approaches others in the world took were. Well, I hope they are better than ours...

*    *    *

    Thank God power is not out everywhere. Dim light is better than none. The armoury should be just ahead. The boys heading there sure gave the crawlers a hell of a fighting retreat, mutant bodies highly outnumbered theirs on the way here. There, I see it. That entrance took a beating,  something widened it, punched through reinforced concrete... cyert pabieri! There's some veins of the growth coming out of there. It reeks. I won't like what I find inside... fuck... worse than in a slaughterhouse... what's- this blood layer is so thick... God. You didn't sell your lives cheaply, friends. Wish me luck finding a weapon that works. This section is larger than I thought. There's less of this mess over there, let's check... uh-huh, this isn't a regular armoury. These pallets are full of explosives. I wonder why you haven't blown yourself up. Look around... not a single gun on these racks, you had dedicated reloaders... hey, you have a rifle. In working condition! Just a single mag... well, you lot must have used up almost all ammunition stored here, you smashed all the crates with it open. There's still a few locked ones on the ground. Should I? I haven't seen or heard anything on the way, but that doesn't mean this level is empty. Better not risk it. I'll search other bodies... and body parts I guess... this torso has three grenades on its belt. If I get into a situation I'd need then in, I'm a goner anyway. Ah, whatever. Hey, a big steel door over there. Eye and palm scanner next to it... wait, it's slightly ajar. Light is flickering inside. What's written above the frame? Authorized... blablabla, means very dangerous things are in there.  I need dangerous things.

You just have to be this loud! Jesus, stupid door. Wow. Artillery shells? Why would we keep artillery shells here? Environment suits, standard issue. Barrels, I don't know what these designations on them mean. These are portable radars. That is used for  jamming. radio signals.. hmmmph, those suits in the corner are locked behind reinforced glass. Just a few of them. That poor guy on the ground tried to get one, but he died before he could. What are those? Like a cross between an NBC and a bomb suit. The PDA on the wrist is bulkier than in the normal version. Are those servos on the back? This is interesting. I'll unlock this... here's a panel. Nice, it's working. Please don't demand a password.... what? What is it doing?


Okay... I have something to do now. Lock that door... was that shadow near the ammo crates always there? Just lock it. Good, won't budge. How do I even get into that thing? It's one-piece. Guess I'll take my shoes off... oh goodness, I haven't taken them off in like three days. Ah, air exposure, why!? I hope nothing will sneak up on me, like that shadow. It probably has been there the whole time, I'd hear if something came. Need to detach all the stuff from my belt. There. Put this thing down on the floor... dammit it's heavy. Argh! I was right, this suit has an exoskeleton built in. Right leg, left leg... this is rigid as all hell...time for the hands. Oh, it turned itself on. A lot easier to put it on when servos hold the weight, there we go. How do I close it? Clamps. Hard to close them in these gloves... pull the hood on. It's more like a soft helmet... there's a visor inside? I need to tighten  the strap on the neck... I should be good. Now that vi- it closes itself. Mmmh, now I should get some instructions. What's on the PDA...

> Initializing... sealing process successful. Battery capacity at 67%.
> Are you trained in the usage of Muraviey or OVR-series equipment? Y/N (No.)
> Are you trained in the usage of electronic systems and/or specialised software? Y/N (Yes.)
> Please wait while system decides on your next operational objective...
> Objective updated: Connect to a console in the war room in sector A or the data vault in sector G. You will periodically receive tutorial messages when appropriate.

Well, that's good and all, but the war room is infested with hostiles and I've never been to G. I need to come up with some plan... hm? I have a HUD it seems.

> This suit offers full protection against nuclear, biological and chemical hazards when sealed. It will automatically engage in closed respiration mode when it detects such hazards.
> This suit features a supplementary exoskeleton, which is required for the suit's user to remain mobile.
> This suit is fully integrated into the Ratnik-2 system.
> SUNDAY. This suit features many specialised systems, most prominently both a wireless and wired connection system capable of interacting with all military-grade informatic systems in Russia and most civilian systems.
> The user can bypass all software barriers present in systems which are part of Project Sunday.

Neat... doesn't solve any of my immediate issues, though. Need to get my holster on somehow... I think this bit here serves for just that. My grenades can go here, too...good enough. Now what? The PDA says I can connect to... everything in here? What about those shells here?

> 9M23M 152mm artillery shells containing A-232B chemical agent. Binary munitions, safe to handle. Electronic fuse, active only after being fired.

Chemical agent? Maybe I can detonate one in the war room? How, though? I don't have a cannon. Maybe I'll just stick grenades on it and run away really fast? I don't think that'll work. I have no clue what binary munition is, either. Let's look at other things. What about the barrels?

> Yperite. Highly toxic. Exercise caution when handling.

Haven't we got rid of our entire stock? Mustard gas is not strong enough to put them down anyway. What about this?

> 9M23M 152mm artillery shells containing experimental A-318 chemical agent. Exercise extreme caution when handling. Electronic fuse, active only after being fired.

Sounds a lot more volatile than the first one. This is a stupid plan, but I don't have a better one. The dead guy has a bag, it could hold an artillery round or two. This is the daftest thing I came up with in my life. I can just sneak back in. But what if I'll have to go to a specific console? This can be my backup plan. I hope to God it won't have to be. I hope this exo is up to the task... uh, I almost don't feel this thing on my back. I must go back upstairs, just don't forget the rifle. Thanks for you bag, friend!

This door, I swear. This shadow that spooked me is gone, weird. Maybe I'm just stressed out. I have good reasons to, dammit.

> Proximity motion scanner engaged automatically.
> Motion signatures will be displayed on HUD as arrows on the visor's edges.

This isn't fucking foreboding at all, activating just when I notice something is off. Great. Can I get the lights on this thing working? How do I navigate this? I know these menus... I was trained to work in the same system, should find it no problem... on. Wew, quite a bit more luminous than my flashlight. I haven't missed anything in the first room, have I? I could scavenge for more rifle bullets. Actually, the dead guards near general's seat have it. I hope this suit is not very loud, can't tell when inside of it. All this blood again, all these things blown apart by the entrance. Wait! The explosives! What are those exactly?

> TM-100 Anti-tank mines. Handle with caution. Infra-red fuse. Can be detonated remotely.

Perfect. Any sapper seeing this would flinch, but I don't care. Does its electronic identifier come with a manual?

> No files attached.

Too bad. I'll improvise. I'm way too happy to be doing this. Doing something. Won't this bag break? Having this shell hit the floor hard... nah, it'll hold. I'll put that mine... on my belt? I'm pretty sure I'm pushing this suit's weight capacity. Alright, move. Back through these dark corridors. One hundred meters of them. I feel like a tank, but I'm not a one. Careful now, you know not all of them are resting...

Here's that overgrown hallway. The stairs are close, thank the heavens. Don't walk into casings again, do- arrows. Behind.

There's nothing there. The arrow is back, in that cor- saw you. It's stalking me. What do I do? I'll wake up every single last one of them if I shoot the son of a bitch. Pretend I didn't notice? How long was he following me? They are like super ants. There's an ambush waiting. Is there? All the choices are bad. Let's just move on for now. I think he knows I know. Who cares? How did it come to this?

I don't know how they broke in. Obviously not through the front door. We were observing dome habitats in Greece when the base was put on high alert. We let the AI take over and just waited. I couldn't believe when they said that the base was breached. Nobody could. When security was fighting somewhere in the northern part of the facility, we were told to stay stay with non-combatants and keep an eye on them. That's when I talked with Deshko for the first time. He told me of his apartment in Saint Petersburg. I have no idea why. Most of us had lost more than that, our families, our worlds. He was single and at home operating a radar. One part of me wanted to punch him, but another one listened. I imagined the tenement he lived in, old and beautiful. The bridge and canals he saw from his window. His piano. We held the sector for a few days, hearing that things in the other sectors were bad. We first lost contact with D, then G, then V, only B was untouched. Everyone remaining was given weapons. The general decided it was better to go down fighting than being starved out in B, most of us agreed. Fate had it that me, Anton and Volodia were in the last reserve. Then, our time came. Twelve of us, coming to the war room. When we were near the security chambers the enemy bursted out of them. I jumped back and shot at them, but there were too many. Separated from the rest, I retreated. I locked the door behind me. I betrayed my comrades. Anton died a hero he always wanted to be. I'm sure Volodia didn't care and died at peace. But me, I didn't do my duty like I always did.

*        *        *

I have to hurry. All sappers in heaven, make this work. Mine in the bag. Three grenades on my belt. Three grenades in my hand. What's that? They're waking up, the stalker tipped them off. Pulling the pin. Toss it down the middle. RUN!

Have I-

AAA! Fuck, that was loud! Did it work? There's certainly smoke, but I can't tell what kind. What if I blew up the console I had to reach? Where are the mutants? Should I stay here or go in? I have this suit, right? I hear them screaming. Better vantage point near officer stations. Go.

> WARNING! Nerve agent detected in air filters. Closed-cycle respiration mode engaged.

I can't believe this worked. It shouldn't have. Wow, this smoke really started to spread right now. I can't see a thing. Dammit... so dense. Have I gone deaf or is it this quiet? I swear I've heard them. Is this thing that lethal? This is closed space, the gas can't disperse. I think I'm clear. Alright, suit, I'll just plug into the first console I see. The general's? Why not.

> Overriding security... Successful
> Downloading detailed facility status... Complete.
> Establishing connection with other facilities... Failed.
> Downloading all priority data available... Complete
> Please wait while system decides on your next operational objective...
> Secure downloaded data by sharing it with any human survivors encountered.

What a joke, but then, what did I expect? I can't even leave this tomb, let alone go out on a hundred-kilometers long trek in an exosuit that will run out of power in hours if I'm lucky. What if... what if somebody would come to me? This suit should have a microphone...

> Message system selected
> Send message selected. Recipients: all. Open on system access.

"I am Igor Ivanovich Chernyshov. This facility is overrun, but it still contains valuable equipment and priceless information. You can gain access to our data bank in the command center in sector A or in the vault in sector G. However, you'd need a special technical exosuit located in sector A's armoury or hack it. There is an alternative. You will find my exosuit in sector B. It contains the most important data. Good luck and watch your back."

> Initiating remote access to main communications console... Successful.
> Transmissions selected
> Emit signal selected. Frequencies from 3 MHz to 300 MHz. Repeat: every 8 hours for 9999 days.

I don't know for how long the antenna will be powered. Maybe someone will find and track the signal. Our guys still out there. The New Jericho yankees. The Firebird people. Anyone who can still make use of our work. This might be our grave, but I've just made the epitaph worth reading.