"The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown."

-H.P. Lovecraft

Michael Beckett's flashlight lit up whatever was left of the schoolroom he was in. Despite it being well past noon and not a cloud in the sky the sun wasn't shinning too brightly, giving even the elementary school an ominously dark atmosphere. Most of the lights had either been destroyed or were refusing to light up. Fuses broken more likely.

Either way, it's really tough trying to see with just a flashlight—Beckett thought as he gave his flashlight another love-tap to try and make it work again. The little trinket had been acting up ever since he had arrived at the school. Not once did he think it worked properly since he's been here, but then again, why would it? All he had run into were ghosts and things that were sure to give the Delta soldier nightmares, and the flashlight usually flickered whenever something was about to pop up into his face. That was also handy for when a certain something shows up too…

Of course, he was talking about Alma Wade. The ghost of a girl who died years ago, and was now nothing but a homicidal spectre. A spectre that was seemingly following Becket ever since the nightmares had started a few days ago.

She often appeared to him as a little girl in a red dress, long raven hair that covered most of her face, and creepy golden eyes. That was how he first saw her, disappearing and reappearing at seemingly random times everywhere he went. But recently, ever since he had woken up in the hospital, Alma had been in a more adult form, looking like a walking corpse.

Remembering what he was supposed to be doing, Becket had kept on going through the darkened hallways, unexplainable breezes coming and the locker doors shut or open quietly. That was a subtle experience, however it made his nerves go off again.

Then Becket remembered unlike the time he had to walk through an area of the school that was drenched in blood and those…ghosts, or spirits of light and red eyes chased him. Those things scared him shitless, and he was grateful to have not run into them since that time. And as luck would have had it, Alma showed up again, and she could've killed him, but instead she appeared to play with him. As if she had a very deep interest in the soldier she toyed with—

Becket shook his head, "Now's not the time to think about it. I'm alive now and that is all that matters. What I should be thinking about is finding Stokes and Keegan. Who knows what could happen if I don't find them?"

Armed only with an assault rifle and a small pistol, Becket pressed on through the hallway. He had run into three Armacham soldiers in the courtyard a few minutes before, but he had been able to evade them by going through the underground tunnels of the school. He barely survived that ordeal before making it back up to the ground floor and near the janitor's main office. And that was where he found himself.

The janitor's office was empty save for a bunch of cleaning utensils and mops. Nothing of any use against foes who were armed to the teeth, unless they were easily susceptible to air-freshener to the eyes, Becket thought with a light laugh. His own dry humor kept him feeling alive in a place surrounded by the dead and dying, even if he had been the quietest member of his team.

Becket took a deep breath, savoring being able to breathe in some fresh air, and then quietly walked onwards. He was about to peek around a corner in the T-shaped hallway when he heard the voice.

"Status? Have you found the Nurse's Office?"

Becket knew it was an ATC soldier, who else would be looking for the Nurse's Office? That was where Stokes and Keegan were going to meet him, but they hadn't checked in with him in awhile. He hoped they were alright.

"Alright, keep looking for the office, we'll be joining you soon. Samson had to take some rest after that fight below. We'll keep you posted."

Well, now that makes it better, that means there's more than one of them. Not wanting to see if there was more, Becket took out a grenade from his combat vest, and silently counted.

"One-one-thousand…two-one-thousand…three-one-thousand—" He tossed the grenade, and it bounced once across the concrete floor.

"What's that—"

BOOM!

"ARGHHH!"

Becket smiled as the smoke from the explosion dissipated at his feet, and he made a rush for the nearest cover. He saw one body slumped up against the wall covered in blood, and saw a soldier slouched over with his hands over his ears. No doubt the blast had nearly blown his eardrums to kingdom come.

Without hesitation, Becket lifted his assault rifle and shot the soldier in the back of the head three times. He slumped to his knees before he fell to the floor, soon in a puddle of blood.

Becket gathered himself and took a big breath of relief just as a balled fist connected with the left side of his jaw. A soldier he had missed completely had apparently been waiting in the wings, for the right time to strike, and was now hoping to kill the man who had killed his comrades.

Two more punches to Becket's abdomen had nearly taken the breath out of his lungs as well as made him drop his rifle. An attempt at a third punch was blocked, and Becket was able to forcefully drive his right knee into the soldier's gut. Even with the armor on the blow really hurt and the man fell to the floor clutching his sore stomach. In quick succession Becket pulled out his pistol and took a shot at the fallen man's head. While he had aimed on his forehead, it got his the center of his neck instead. The soldier couldn't scream as blood started to gush out of the new wound, and as he tried to stop the bleeding the blood went down his throat. Within a minute his body convulsed and contorted before he started to move less and less. Before Keegan knew it, the man was dead, drowned in his own blood.

Beckett stood over the man's body, his face one of pure agony and horror, and even if he wanted to Beckett couldn't help but feel sorry about this. These men that were trying to kill him had been following orders, and so was Beckett.

Still, better to die by a bullet from me than anything else in this place, Beckett thought. Especially from that…woman named Alma… The dreadful memories of Sgt. Griffin, Beckett's superior officer being turned to nothing but bloodied bones after he had encountered Alma was still fresh in the soldier's mind. His flesh had been torn away from the bone, and Lt. Stokes had lost her composure after witnessing such a thing. Of course, it wasn't the first time Beckett had seen it happen, as he had seen it happen to another of his comrades earlier at the Armacham Hospital. Certainly no way for a human being to die, no matter who they were or what they had done.

Taking a deep breath, Beckett got himself back in the game and started to walk again when he heard a bit of static going on through his comm-link. The voice of Lt. Stokes came in.

"Beckett, I'm taking Keegan back to the APC, get to the Nurse's Office and meet up with Snake Fist."

That bit of news put a small frown on Beckett's hardened face. Great, no back up. "Roger that Stokes, I'm heading towards the—OH SHIT!"

Beckett fell downwards, and landed hard on top of a wooden bench, the force of his impact breaking it in half.

"Beckett? Beckett you alright!?"

Grabbing his weapon, and trying to gather himself as well, Beckett had to lean against a couple lockers to regain his balance, "Yeah…floor gave way on me…" He stepped in something slippery and looked down to see what it was. Red paint from the looks of it, and by looking around he could barely make out a workshop of some sort. The light from the ceiling flickered uncontrollably due to the fall, and Beckett turned on his headlamp to help him see.

Strangely that too started to flicker erratically.

"Must've been from the all the fighting that's been going on, think you can still make it?"

"Yeah, Lt., I just need to find a way out."

"Be quick though, who knows what you'll into next."

Checking the magazine in his rifle, Beckett's glance went to the door in front of him, and he saw a large imprint of a hand on the wood, smeared with blood. Something told him, from what he had seen so far today, that who ever caused that was on the other side of the door, waiting for its next victim.

And that made the soldier shiver in fear as he took the few steps to the door, and opened it very slowly. And when he moved it fell right off the hinges. Not a good start to this adventure…

Beckett kept his gun raised, in case anything popped up at him, which is what happened all too often today. He had entered a long hallway that went in a T-shape, straight ahead of him was a piece of chain-link wall connected to a really large steam pipe that went down to the far end of the hall. It kept on going, and the few lights that were there made it hard to tell what was all down there. Still, if I want to make it to Snake Fist, I have to go down there…

With that thought, Beckett started to walk, and it didn't take long for something to happen. He had only gone about ten feet before gunfire was being heard from down the hall, but he wasn't the one being shot at. Beckett heard a couple bullet's whiz by his head, but it wasn't concentrated fire. He heard bullet's ricocheting off the walls, pipes, everything. Like whoever was shooting didn't know where his target was, he sprayed and prayed that he would hit it.

But he never did, as Beckett heard a blood-curdling scream, followed by another before it got eerily quiet again.

Becket stood completely still, not making a sound except for his low ragged breathing and hearing the light creaking of the lights down the hall swinging erratically. Taking light steps Becket went on, the hissing of the pipes occasionally blowing steam that broke his normally iron hard concentration, and even made him jump a bit. The hallway was pretty dark after the lights suddenly went out, and so the only light Becket had available to him was the flashlight attached to his shoulder.

Taking his time, not wanting to disturb whatever else was down there with him, and with the help of the light Becket was able to make out the faint outline of a person—

-An Armacham soldier stuck to a shelf, stuck there by unknown means, bloodied but somehow still alive. On the floor in front of him was another Armacham soldier, similarly bloodied and attempting to crawl in Becket's direction. Scratching, clawing his way and dragging himself, the unfortunate soldier reached out a hand for Becket, hoping to have some help—

-Until he was dragged back the way he came by something inhumanly strong, screaming with what strength he had before a loud splat from hitting a wall confirmed his demise.

Becket raised his rifle and quickly turned the corner, then jumped two steps back as the outline of a person came out of nowhere and ran straight at him! Becket fired off more than ten rounds, but it seemed only the first one was necessary before whatever the hell it was disappeared with an odd sounding shriek.

Now his nerves were officially shot, Becket took off running through the corridor, the encounter with that yellow 'ghost' or whatever it was had scared the shit out of him, and he ran like the wind. May not have been the smartest thing to do in the situation he was in but it was better than fighting ghosts. Running past shelves covered in blood, dismembered bodies, steam pipes bursting as he past them, and the ghosts trying to cut him off all the while their piercing yellow eyes found Becket's. He kept running nonetheless. Running for what his life was worth, Becket eventually had to stop but not to catch his breath, but to remove a desk that had somehow caught fire. Using his legs, he kicked the desk over, and to his surprise and total gratification it fell back and down off a ledge.

Without hesitation or care to the fact that the desk of fire was down there, Beckett jumped on down and rolled to the side to avoid the flames.

The soldier got on his knees and took a few large breaths to try and regain his composure, he even smiled a bit after feeling like he had just scratched the fangs of certain death and got away with it.

"Well…I do hope that's the last time I have to go through something like that—" Beckett stood up, and once his feet were flat on the ground, a large headache came from nowhere and overcame his whole being. He groaned in pain and he turned to his left where a fire exploded from a vent, the cover sent flying towards him—

-With Alma running up to him!

Beckett raised his arm as Alma reached for him, and her touch felt like a hot iron bar was touching his arm. Despite the headache, despite Alma, and despite the immeasurable amount of pain he was suffering, "Get away from me you bitch!"

Alma's grip lessened enough to where Becket was able to shove her away.

"WHY!?"

Alma's single word surprised Becket a little, but he wasn't able to follow it up when he was sent flying back from a burst of psychic energy, and was smacked against the wall. Luckily he was able to stay conscious and get away from the pile of wood still burning from the little marathon he did.

He looked up to see Alma, her full hips swaying seductively as she walked, Becket was once again forced to see her full body, one of a young woman compared to an old corpse he had been seeing before he got to the school.

Alma bent over far enough to where she looked into Becket's eyes.

"No…"

And with that she vanished, and Becket stood back up, holding his gun in one hand, "Dammit, what a day…"