Like his namesake, the Shadow followed Liam closely. With unmentioned pride, Liam insisted on taking point. It was only natural and Sergei understood it. The captain's son did not trust his abilities and had no reason to do so. The opportunistic scowl that he could be, the Shadow saw this as an opportunity. It was a chance to watch, observe, and hold the upper-hand should he need it. Of course, he held no hostile intention toward Liam. This was merely a chance to collect information. The Shadow was good at that. Too good.
Liam jumped down the hatch below decks with Sergei following close behind. The lights were dim and sparse. What few bulbs there were glazed the darkness with an amber glow. The corridor was so silent that they could hear the lightbulbs faintly buzzing. Sergei suddenly uncomfortable with his UMP-45, so he tightened the strap and slung it on his back. He drew is Walther P99 and fixed the silencer to the internally-threaded barrel. He felt much better using both a weapon in which he was proficient in the use of and one that could deliver its rounds without causing a ruckus.
“You done?” Liam whispered.
Sergei nodded and then gestured for Liam to lead them on.
“Engine room's going to be at the back of the ship,” Liam said. “Probably a deck below us. Look for a ladder.”
“Right,” Sergei whispered.
Rick, tack, came a sound from below them.
“What was that?”
“Probably just the ocean, it happens,” Liam replied unemotively. “Let's just keep moving.”
They kept moving as silently as could be.
Sergei could not shake this feeling that there was something out there. It was not a feeling of being watched, but a feeling like that of watching a house of cards on an unsure table. The situation would inevitably fall to disaster, the only question being when. Sergei always had the ability to sense danger, even when its presence was not obvious. In this case, however, it showed itself, but only in the subtlest of ways: the smell. Sergei barely detected it, nevertheless, there it was.
It was a slight stench of decaying flesh mixed with the ever-present whispering scent of sea water. Normally, Sergei might have written it off as that ship smell he had yet accustomed himself to, but his instincts told him otherwise. The odor reminded him of the “games” he used to “play” as part of his training. He faced hundreds of the monsters and every bone of his instinct told him they were here. Liam would have to know that though. Right?
Sergei had spent a good deal of time simply watching Liam, who remained the biggest mystery to him. Emma was probably the easiest for him to figure out, though it was possible his read was off because she clearly was not in her right mind. Emma was emotional and too easily let her feelings control her. Although she was easily one of the toughest people Sergei had ever met, she was also the most vulnerable emotionally. Liam, however, was the complete opposite. None of his emotions rested neatly on the surface. Sergei saw Liam as a much greater threat than Emma. He was intelligent, difficult to read, and, worst of all, rational. Liam would make for a good enemy in that he would make for a challenge. The Shadow would prefer not to make an enemy of Liam.
“Bravo team, check in,” Hank's voice burst over the radio.
Liam paused and replied into the receiver, “We're below decks, captain. So far, nothing. Got anything?”
“There's blood and casings all over the floor here,” Hank told him. “No bodies. It's starting to look like-”
“Monsters,” Liam said it for him. “We'll keep an eye out. Seems quiet down here though.”
“It never stays that way,” Hank sighed. “We're moving on, stay in contact.”
“This has got to be it,” Liam said as they arrived at a door larger than the others. Its lock was broken, apparently destroyed by someone or something. Liam pushed it open and then stepped inside, rifle at the ready. Sergei quickly followed with his pistol firmly raised. Danger was close and both sensed it. The room inside was dark, but not pitch black. The lighting was still that same dim, lifeless glow. It was a large, two story room with pipes and boilers all around. As they surveyed the bottom floor, Sergei realized he could not make sense of any of it. Liam, however, seemed to be scanning the equipment, possibly looking to figure out why it was silent.
“Lights must be running on the emergency battery,” Liam said. “The engines are cold.”
“Is something wrong with the engines?” Sergei asked.
“Maybe, maybe not,” Liam shrugged. “They could just be shut down, I'd have to- oh, God!” He stopped his examination at the sight of two bloody corpses on the floor. Both corpse's heads were a bloody, crushed mess. The brains were somewhere between spaghetti and mashed potatoes with pieces of skull mixed in. “What in the-”
“Look,” Sergei pointed to a massive, blood-soaked wrench sitting on the ground. “It's a safe bet this is what killed them.”
“No doubt,” Liam replied. “But who did it?”
“These corpses,” Sergei started, “I don't think they were alive when they were hit. Look, their clothes are torn and they've got secondary wounds. Unless someone mashed in their skulls after they were dead, I-”
“Look out!” Liam suddenly exclaimed as he turned, raised his rifle, and fired two shots. Sergei looked just in time to see a hunchbacked zombie take both hits to the head and fall lifeless. Instinctively, the Shadow brought his own firearm to bear. For a long few seconds, they stood there ready for anything, but nothing materialized. “Can't be the only one,” Liam said.
“Oh, shi- sounds like a whole hoard!” Liam exclaimed over the sound of running footsteps.
Sergei dashed to the door and pushed it shut, but then remembered, “The lock is broken!”
“Quick! Find something to barricade us in!” Liam slung his rifle and grabbed his radio, “Captain! We've got a problem down here!”
“We've got monsters closing in on us! No telling how many! We need assistance ASAP!”
“We're on our way!”
“This won't hold!” Sergei exclaimed as he wedged the wrench onto the door as a makeshift lockbar.
“Then take a defensive position,” Liam ordered. “Stand somewhere where you can move, don't let yourself get cornered! If the door won't hold, we will.”
The Shadow knew his next move. Disappear. As the sounds of snarls, demented flesh, and dead bones piled outside the door, Sergei vanished. In the unseen, in the unheard, he thrived in the mystery. In the shadows he lurked, for he was one. That darkness was his very nature. Cloak and dagger was his very creed.
Liam stood at the ready, rifle raised and prepared to fire just as soon as the undead showed their decaying faces. “Don't shoot unless you get a clean shot!” Liam exclaimed.
Sergei did not respond. No one could know where he hid.
To himself, Liam whispered, “Guess I'm on my own.”