Tunnel. Water. Petrol.
In the crumbling ruins of Sydney, death lingered around every corner. In the darkness, lurking… prowling. Sam had avoided it for five long years, growing up in the aftermath of the Fall – and until today, he had avoided the tunnels like the deathtrap they are.
“Are we really doing this?”
At the entrance of the Harbour Tunnel, fences, wire, cinder-blocks had been piled up in front of the opening. It was impossible to get into apart from a heavily locked maintenance door a few metres down the street. The entire suburb surrounding this entrance was a green zone – almost no outbreaks in two years – and was heavily fortified because of it. One day the tunnel would need to be cleared, but today there was something more necessary.
“We’ve got to.”
Petrol. The lifeblood of human civilisation, the only thing keeping the power running where it was needed most – the Randwick Hospital, Star City Processing, Darlinghurst Manufactory.
“The wind turbines aren’t cutting it, we can’t put ‘em far enough off shore and the storms are fucking with our panels. It’s petrol or nothing.”
“Isn’t there some other way?”
His companion wasn’t nearly so brave. Perhaps because Sam was reckless, even for a pathfinder. Even for someone whose only job was to go out into the still infested ruins of Humanity to scavenge shit no-one really needed any more.
“Sitting underneath us is a treasure trove of petrol, all we gotta do is check it out and see what the situation is down there.”
Sam ignored their complaint, whatever it was, he made his way down the road to the nearest maintenance door. No-one guarded them, they were thick metal, locked up and boarded over with steel reinforcements. Even then, it only took a bit of thermite to carve off the locking mechanism.
“Shouldn’t we tell someone?”
“I did,” Sam applied the messy gluesque concoction to the door’s lock, “They okayed it, but look around us.”
All around them, the barricades of a half-decade’s work keeping the tunnels contained. Concrete roadblocks ringed the street, blocking off anything that might escape. Each end had air-lock style doors, so even if something did happen, it was no big deal to escape.
“You’re overthinking it.”
Even so, Max, his anxious guard friend, only had to keep the flashlight up.
“You just follow me with that light, alright? I won’t let you get eaten.”
“A-alright. You’re still a crazy bitch, for doing this.”
Sam scoffed, then pushed them back away from the door and removed his gloves. A single spark from a match was all it took for the thermite to melt through the steel and let them through with a stiff kick.
Sam raised his rifle, an old M4 with a duct-taped together barrel guard. It was a poor choice for a confined space like this, but it was all they had.
“Quiet, after me.”
Max held up their pistol, crossing their arms for support. Max followed him in so closely he could feel their breath on his neck. The stairs down were concrete but they had started to crack and crumble. Every step was careful, but everything was still solid.
He reached the landing where another door was shut on them, this one was rusted, all it took was a gentle bit of wiggling to get the lock mechanism to snap open and he opened the door quietly inward. Max shone the light around, first at the floor and then over the rusted remains of cars.
“Shit,” the entire tunnel was flooded.
They pulled up their face-masks, the air inside was rancid, a toxic soup of fetid water and decaying flesh. The walls were covered with molds, mosses, fungi.
“We’re clear… nothing would stick around in this shit.”
He stepped in towards the water, Max shone the light at the water. It was muddy, rusty, there was a fine sheen on it – a rainbowish tinge across the surface.
“Don’t light a match… or I guess you could, we’re not gonna be getting that petrol.”
“Fuck,” Max moved in along the ledge, the water was up to the edge of the platform.
“HQ is gonna be pissed, but just to be sure we should head down the tunnel and see if the water hasn’t hit some cars.”
They ventured down the tunnel together, following the natural incline up away from the water. Neither of them particularly wanted to fall in, and the ledge had started to wear away but Sam could see down the inky dark tunnel somewhere relatively dry. He pulled out his own flashlight from his belt.
Sam inched along the edge, carefully avoiding touching the walls, but also attempting not to fall into the water just one wrong step from ending him. It wasn’t particularly deep, maybe waist-level, but falling into that stuff would get you sicker than the guys that died down here.
He finally made it, touching down on dry ground and pulling on his combat gloves again.
He nearly cursed himself for forgetting them, but shit happens and he had bigger fish to fry. Down along the rusted rows of cars, he kept his rifle by his side and aimed his flashlight through every nook and cranny of every car he passed. Drier ground might keep something alive, but the thick air was nearly drowning him, so he doubted it.
A few hundred meters along the dry-zone, something big caught his eye, a truck. No, a tanker.
He raced towards it, crunching mushrooms beneath his boots, then he saw the faded letters on the side. Caltex. A petrol company, a petrol tanker.
“Holy shit, Max!”
Max was too far away to hear, or too scared to call back. Sam nearly fell to his knees and kissed the ground, then remembered what he was standing in. So instead he climbed over rusty cars, risking tetanus to examine the tanker. Not a single dent in the smooth, mossy metal. It rang full when he tapped against it.
Luck had saved Sydney again. Pure, fucking dumb luck.