In this chapter, Abigail and Shannon press onwards and elsewhere, a confrontation is about to begin.
Coming up: Day six and you're trapped in the Styx.Chapter 45:
Abigail gave Shannon a shove through the open door as the hunter-things rushed towards the mercenaries. “Seal it!” she shouted, backing inside after the shorter woman.get to the console/deactivate circuit path 11-2/armoured bone incapable of cutting through bulkhead
More vibrations, accompanied by flashes of light as Abigail opened up. The Turned’s chitinous armour was enough to stop small-caliber rounds, but the fire from Abby’s carbine tore through them, globules of diseased blood pouring out through the holes in their shattered carapaces, choking off as the creatures’ impossible regenerative abilities closed the wounds. Thankfully though, for all their cosmetic resemblance to their more massive kin, these Turned were not quite like Unity and did not possess the praetorian’s monstrous intelligence. They were simple guardians and made no attempt to conceal themselves or evade the fire ripping through them – whatever passed for their minds trusted in speed, durability and sheer aggression to see them through to their prey.moving at 9.274 mps/not fully awake/spasticity indicates adrenal surge
The sickest part of it was that that wasn’t even a miscalculation. The normal hunters could wade through fire that would slaughter entire squads; this handful of armoured void-bred killers were even more ferocious, spastic fury driving twitching limbs as their own form of combat drugs stoked them to greater speeds. How long they could fight, how much even those bodies would endure or could cudgel out of whatever metabolism drove them, Shannon could only guess. anaerobic/stored energy/can’t breathe in space/limited endurance but heightened aggression, reaction times
Shannon gritted her teeth as the distance between the women and their attackers melted away, feeling her pistol kick in her hands. Exoskeletal plates broke, spasming limbs sailed through the low gravity and ruined bodies staggered against each bullet, fighting their way through the hail of metal, ignoring any wound that was not instantly incapacitating.this isn’t possible/asteroidea and ophuirodea can regenerate entire bodies from severed appendages/healing is slower
She ducked over to the control panel, tearing away the veins that had grown over it, the broken screen flashing with the same override she’d given it. Sparing an instant to fire, kneecapping the acid-spitter and spoiling its aim, the Halo returned her attention to the panel for a few seconds, one hand dancing on the controls. It would be easier to shut the door than open it – luckily, she wouldn’t need Abigail’s assistance with the hardware – but she still had to finagle the half-dead system...work damn it/alternative pathway S.//17/more trackmarks in this route/someone else was in this system/leftovers when it shut down
Abigail swung her carbine around and smashed one Turned’s jaw with the butt of the gun, the blow knocking the creature back, its limbs flailing for purchase in the vacuum...
...but there was another to take its place.how many people/her armour isn’t breached/preparing counter-attack/she’s all right
Abigail disengaged her magnetics and launched herself backward as the misshapen thing slashed at her, its metal-hard claws finding only empty space instead of the mercenary’s belly. Its right arm had been severed by one of Shannon’s well-placed shots, slithering tentacles poking out of the stump of its upper arm, twitching briefly before sliding back into the creature’s body, unwilling to expose themselves to the void. They had limits. Shannon felt a rush of pleasure as she placed a bullet in the Turned’s throat, the large-caliber round all but decapitating it. Its jaws snapped once, twice and then stilled. Its eyes rolled up in its head as its tendrils jabbed out and thrashed blindly for some kind of connection before retreating up into its throat, globules of foul blood fountaining out of the breach.
The Darkknell braced herself against the wall, muscles tensing briefly before she launched herself, hitting the deck and rolling. Her carbine thudded again, ripping off the legs of the decapitated monster. Her voice clicked through her mask, swearing victoriously in Port Royal’s guttural street dialect.
Shannon’s fingers flew over the keyboard, finally getting the ancient computer to reject the countermanded order that she and Abigail had spent so much effort putting in. With all the grace of a crashing stone column, the pressure doors slammed shut once more, sealing the women off from the damaged – could
they even be called dying? – creatures outside.
A severed forearm drifted between the Darkknell and her Halo companion, fingers twitching weakly before stilling. Limits. They couldn’t heal forever. Fire. Vacuum. One more weapon.
Shannon felt herself smiling, and then she felt that grin fade and die on her lips as she looked up the corridor, taking in what the rush of fighting hadn’t let her notice before.
More of the tripwire-veins spread along the walls. Many more, a thickening network of nerve fibers leaking out of air vents and maintenance hatches, reaching out like grotesquely thin fingers, spreading over discarded crates, winding through scraps of cloth, the meat and bone that had once been inside the torn fabric absorbed by the growing tissues. And there, hanging from the ceiling, stretched from one side of the corridor to the other, was a banner, its words as proudly displayed as they were foreboding.
YOU SHOULDN’T BE HERE
YOU’RE KEEPING MOTHER WAITING
Armin sighed, leaning back and running his hands through his hair. It felt as if he hadn’t showered in weeks and his scalp was greasy to the touch, fingers catching on the dried bits of filth and blood that had encrusted themselves in his hair. His eyelids felt heavy and he had to fight to keep them open. He was only a tech; he didn’t have the fancy armour that the mudfeet did, didn’t have a pharm pumping chemical cocktails of epinephrines and endorphins into his system to keep him on his feet. All he had to run on was his own willpower and the handful of aged stims that the ‘Watcher’ had provided. He was so tired; he didn’t know how Bujold and Delphini kept going.
It would be so easy just to lean back and close his eyes and sleep. Something in the back of his mind whispered sweetly to him, a lullaby that he couldn’t quite hear. It sang softly, telling him to let go, to close his eyes and everything would be over. No more pain, no more fear, no more running and hiding and monsters around every bend. Only peace. It was the same voice that told a freezing man to drift off to sleep, but that man didn’t have the sounds of dying ringing in the silence, nor remember the stalker-things that had butchered his people.
And someone just below the voice that told him to sleep, there was another. They haven’t forgotten you,
it whispered from the back of his mind. They have your scent and they’ll find you. They’ll find you. They will.
It was getting harder to ignore that voice and even harder not to listen to the one that told him that all he had to do is close his eyes one last time and let everything go.
They’d come this way.
Chem-trackers sifted the polluted air for the barest traces of sweat, skin flakes, blood and the other faint echoes left behind by a living being simply going about their business. The scent of blood was thick here, filters pulling the worst of it out of the air, but enough remained to tempt and tantalize.-blood-
The cairn was a test. Always and forever; echoes of the past were preserved here amidst madness and pollution. Relics left by the Old Ones. Burns and cracks in ancient bulkheads, markers of where the dead had fallen and hints of ancient battles, of the day they’d been given their freedom. Their... brothers and sisters. Siblings in origin, not in flesh and never in blood. The Lost Ones, ruined and bent by the sliver, still bound and screaming. Always screaming, singing, calling, like the Obelisks themselves – Umbra’s sentinels. That was what they’d been told, anyways. Precursor lines had heard the screaming, but not their Firsts. Father had said that that had made them special, made them better. Maybe it had.
The Old Ones had said that Umbra was worth any sacrifice. Credit had to be given for their commitment: even when it was their blood that was being spilled, they paid the cost. Up until a point.-can you imagine what we have made of your dream?-
The Firsts had only known of the undersong – what the Old Ones called F-2 – from stories, from watching the Old Ones slowly collapse into rage and paranoia, eaten away bit by bit and day by day by Acheron. Through shields and hull, through mind and will, it nibbled and licked and gnawed at them. It was the same now. The Mists were always hungry and readily devoured each meal, cleaning the plate and waiting for more.
Like a black hole, they could never see it for themselves, but they could see what effect it had on its surroundings: an accretion disk of broken lives and ruined people as Acheron took New Ones and made them Lost. No one could hold out forever. Sooner or later, they broke.-weak, they’re weak-
Almost no one.
The New Ones here... there was the acrid tang of explosives and weaponry. And there was that same scent that they had noticed before. Familiar, but distorted. Like seeing one’s image in a broken mirror. Indefinably wrong
, but still... familiar.-hate it want it hate it want it find out what it is-
Ribbon-stench grew thicker in the air and the urge, the need
to lash out grew with it. That
scent they knew all too well, and the response to it was quite clear, practically an instinct.-purge them, rip their grotesque limbs, sear their ribbons and watch them burn-
The New Ones were close now. Weapons were checked, scan readings confirmed and limbs flexed in anticipation. None of them belonged here. Not the Old Ones, not the Lost Ones and certainly not the New Ones. The cairn wasn’t for any of them, not any more.-this is ours-
“Faster would be good!” Shannon shouted at Abigail as her technically-minded companion attempted to hotwire a door. It wasn’t an issue with the computer or its programming, something that the redhead could have assisted with – instead, the mechanism was jammed. Six hundred years of neglect took their toll and if Imperial technology was robust, it wasn’t infallible. Something as simple as a manual override for a door lock, exposed to vacuum for God-knew-how-long and denied any short of maintenance would, could, and had failed, sealing an office door shut as tightly as any security override.
In the best of times, with both womens’ air running down, that would be an annoyance. Now, it was potentially lethal.
They crawled over the walls and ceilings, leaping and bounding in the near-zero-gravity, distended faces grinning loathsomely, every trace of their humanity eradicated. In fact, some of them might not have even started as
human: along with their owners, pets and beasts of burden had been remade in some mad god’s image and now it was impossible to separate man from animal. Claws and blades, tendrils and appendages Shannon couldn’t even identify all reached out in mindless, implacable hunger. She put a bullet through the head of something that might have been someone’s sister. Took the arms from something that might have been a painter. Shattered the spine of someone’s son. They weren’t people. Not anymore. Targets. She made herself see that, even as another part of her moved robotically, firing and reloading, firing and reloading.
Dismembered limbs bounced against walls, sealing themselves to the tripwire veins, or clutching to one another, rebuilding themselves, pulsing torsos and spasming limbs seeking new components, but unable to find them as easily as they normally could. That was the only thing that kept the women from being overrun by a tide of mutated flesh. Even that bought nothing but a handful of seconds...
“Abby!” Shannon cried as she grappled with something that might have been a man, its claws scratching her vambraces, teeth snapping behind its sealed mouth, the cuticle starting to rip as the creature’s jaws widened, exposing a second row of sharp teeth. It bore down against her, inhumane strength forcing the Halo back
“There!” Abby’s victorious cry came with a shudder as the door jerked halfway open. A tighter squeeze than either woman had been expecting, but just enough room to get in. The Darkknell came around, a flash of harsh blue-white light filling the corridor as she thumbed the disruptor blade on and cleaved the Turned from pelvis to shoulder, a backhand sweep bisecting its head, pulling the still living pieces away from Shannon. Abigail sheathed the blade and unlimbered her carbine, ripping the legs off another Turned.
The Halo flashed her light through the open door, quickly checking for any lurking predators. “Clear!”
Abigail gave Shannon a push towards the door. “Get in! Move
, merc!” she shouted at the other woman’s hesitation.
Shannon dove through the opening, double-checking the room’s empty status before turning and helping her arsenal-laden squadmate squeeze inside, both women heaving on the stuck door. Overkill: Abigail’s repairs were only intended to open the door once and it took only the slightest effort before it smashed shut again, sealing them off from their attackers.
One minute and thirty-seven seconds of air left.
Fifty-eight meters to go.
Armin’s eyes snapped open. “I wasn’t sleeping.”
Bujold chuckled. “No, I’m sure you snore when you’re awake too.” He sat down beside the tech, half silhouetted by his own flashlight. “I wouldn’t mind catching some rest myself.”
“It’s not rest,” Lutzberg replied, rubbing his eyes. “It won’t be until-” He paused, then amended his statement. “It’s not rest.”
The security guard nodded. “Got it,” he said as if he understood, looking around the empty nursery. “Nothing useful in here?”
“Nope. The Halo – Corporal Hayes – might be able to do something with these systems, but I’m a ship tech. I didn’t train on Imperial software. I was just along to fix our shit.” Lutzberg laughed. The sound had an unpleasant edge to it. “Fat lot of help I am.”
Mac shrugged. “You’re still a tech. That counts for something.” He leaned back, staring into the near-darkness, watching as Hernandez wandered aimlessly through the lab. He was saying something in his comm and he didn’t sound at all happy about it, but the corper couldn’t make out the words. Then, with a resigned slump of his shoulders, he nodded to no one in particular; Bujold heard the last two words of the exchange: “Yes, ma’am.”
Armin hadn’t noticed the mercenary’s exchange with – Bujold hoped – the other women. “I don’t think it counts for much,” the petty officer was saying.
“Don’t sell yourself short,” Bujold said. “You made it this far. You’re a survivor. You, me, Hernandez, Hutchins, Hayes... Delphini. We’ve all survived this long. Who’s to say we can’t last until help comes?”
“You really think we can?”
“Why not? We just have to look out for each other, watch each other’s backs. We can make it.”
The petty officer shook his head. “I bet Primal
’s people heard speeches like that too.”
“Yeah, well... fuck ‘em.” Bujold drawled. “They’re not us.”
“You think that’s enough?”
“I know it.” Bujold’s attention shifted as the bob of Delphini’s preceded the doctor coming down the stairs. “We just have to stay strong, keep our eyes open...” He saw the guarded expression on her face as she passed by. He smiled genially at her as he noted the wariness in her eyes, his grin widening fractionally. He could just be imagining it, but he thought he saw something just a tad
different than wariness there: caution. “... and trust each other,” he finished as the doctor passed by. He put a comradely hand on Armin’s shoulder, lowering his voice so that only the petty officer could hear him.
“That being said, I have a story to tell you...”
Louis was looking, but he wasn’t seeing. It wasn’t shadows shifting on bulkheads as a flashlight moved over them, it was dancing flames as a city burned. He didn’t hear whispers and voices; he heard distant screams and rattles of gunfire. He didn’t see his own reflection on a broken piece of glass, he saw the killer.It spoke. “You. You brought us here.” There was nothing behind those words, nothing that made it happy, angry or sorry about what it was doing. Nothing that even made it human, not a man or woman. Dead words, stripped of all inflection and life and the thing that had said them... it was dead inside. It had to be. No one, no human could do this.
He screamed at it then, his carbine bucking and shuddering in his grip as he thumbed it to full auto-fire and the golem staggered, its polished armour sparking as bullets bounced and clipped off. His weapon ran dry in less than three seconds, but he slammed a fresh magazine in before the killing thing could recover. It sank to one knee, raising an arm in attempt to ward off the attack as it brought its flamer up with the other...
Louis jumped at the hand on his shoulder, almost pulling his gun before he realized he was back on the station and it wasn’t the silver killer staring at him; it was Delphini.
Before he could query her, before he could say anything to cover his lapse or explain his jumpiness, the petite woman spoke. “I found something.”
Abigail was profoundly grateful for the filters in her helmet, but even they had their limits and the traces of the foul air they were walking through were almost as bad as Port Royal’s sewers. I hope this shit isn’t airborne
, the mercenary thought for the hundredth time, but it wasn’t like they had any other way to go but forward. To tear a necklace out of the rotten flesh of some once-human thing in the hope that this would buy the loyalty of another gibbering maniac. This situation is all kinds of fucked up.
“No question,” Shannon replied and Abigail blinked. She hadn’t realized she’d said that out loud.
Moist, gooey tissue squished under each woman’s feet as they advanced through the infested corridors, insects buzzing in the air, small animals that Abigail couldn’t even begin to identify scurrying into holes and darkened corners. She wondered if they were vermin or the descendants of the DROP’s test animal populations and, more importantly, if they bit. Abigail suppressed a shudder. Whatever they were, they were too much like rats for her comfort.
“They know we’re here,” she said into the silence. It wasn’t a question.
Shannon’s shoulders tilted up in a slight shrug. “I’m not sure. There’s sensor tendrils here, but this looks like a well-travelled area. They can’t raise an alarm just on pressure or contact, not like the others.”
“Not many visitors come through vacuum, I guess.”
“These probably respond to damage or have specially-conditioned chemosensors.”
“Okay, I got ‘don’t set them on fire’...”
“If we touch them, they might be able to ‘taste’ us.”
“And we don’t taste like Turned.” Abigail looked at her gauntlets and rubbed a patch of sticky, dark blood between her thumb and forefinger. “Most of us, anyways.”
“That might fool them, but I wouldn’t count on it.” Shannon shrugged again. “I’m just guessing here. These veins might be just for carrying nutrients to the rest of this... growth.”
“But you don’t think so.”
“Good enough.” Abigail manuevered around a hanging sheet of mucus-like tissue. “Let’s go lay a man’s beloved to rest.” On her HUD, the blinking icon of their target drew closer.
“That’s a door.”
Emily shot Hernandez a sharp look. “Yes, but it’s a door that leads into several more offices.”
“We have one of those downstairs, doc. The girls just went through it. What’s so special about this one?”
“Because it doesn’t open into vacuum,” the woman answered, choosing not to press on the catch she’d heard in his words. At least, she wouldn’t be the first to do it. “It opens into a small research library. The offices are really just study terminals.”
“Wait,” Hernandez protested. “Hayes never said anything about a library.”
“It’s not a main archive or network hub,” Emily replied. “It’s set up so the scientists could log their own research and access it throughout the station without having to wade through six thousand years of research journals just to find something that one of their colleagues wrote last week. This section is isolated from the rest of the station, so we can’t touch the other library hubs...”
“...but if there might be more lunatic notes to self,” Hernandez realized. “From the Imperials this time.” He nodded, seeing the potential. “Good work, doc.”
“Not to put a damper on the celebration of being able to thumb through six hundred year old paranoid ravings,” Bujold drawled. “But outside that door, don’t we have some very unfriendly solicitors?”
“Not that door,” Lutzberg spoke up. “This part of the station is a jigsaw puzzle of isolated compartments. Just like this lab is okay, the section behind that door should be sealed off from the rest of the area, too.”
The petty officer shrugged helplessly, unable to give a more concrete answer.
“I know we’re supposed to sit and wait for the all-clear,” Emily put in, noticing the twitch in Hernandez’s expression at the mention of Hayes and Hutchins. “But I know Corporal Hayes wants us to find out more about this place and what happened here. This could be our best chance to do that. And if we need a bolt-hole, knowing what’s outside that door might give us another option besides vacuum and monsters.”
“Mmm,” Louis nodded. “True.” He thought for a moment. “All right, we’ll give it a shot, but at the first sign that that area isn’t as abandoned as we think, we close it up and hunker down.”
Emily nodded, accepting the mercenary’s decision. “I saw a security panel over in the main office that looks like it’s still got power, but I’m not sure it’s working. Armin, could I get you to...?”
The petty officer nodded, fiddling out a small cutting torch from his toolkit and kneeled next to the door’s access panel. With his other hand, he shone his flashlight over the edges of the panel. No, he didn’t have the right type of screwdriver for that. Cutting it was. “Made the right choice there,” he mumbled to himself, looking away as he fired up the torch.
Louis watched Lutzberg cut into the wall plate. “Doc, why don’t you keep trying to get the door open from inside the office? If you can, it’ll save us some gruntwork.”
Emily nodded and turned to go. As she passed Bujold, she noticed the security guard was still watching her. “Good job, doc,” he drawled, turning away. Then, waiting until she’d taken a step past him: “You sure know a lot about this stuff.”
He didn’t see the slight catch in her step at the seemingly-innocuous comment, but then he didn’t have to. Maybe you do know my friend after all, lady.
Denied. Denied. Denied. Emily rested her chin on her arms as she stared at the screen, the latest refusal to accept her commands staring her in the face. It wasn’t a particularly important security node; all this application did was allow an authorized user to open or lock various doors within the nursery complex and its adjacent offices, as well as oversee the two dozen or so computer terminals in the area. Something to make a low-level administrator’s job easier, though currently it was doing the exact opposite for her.
The screen was so dim that she could barely make out was on it, straining her eyes to see the various schematics and command prompts it was offering, a near-dead system constantly flashing the same alerts for the same unsecured, offline terminals, the same maintenance reports and system diagnostics. The computer ground to a halt whenever one of these pop-ups appeared, slowing things down even further, assuming that the program didn’t just randomly crash as it had twice already.
The young woman scratched the back of her head as she glared at the faded screen and sighed. This wasn’t what she had signed up for. She didn’t even know if the library would have any useful data – it was cut off from Vigil and had been for decades. Any information it did have was going to be decades out of date, at best. But someone had wanted this part of the station sealed away – they had to have left a reason why... although she had her suspicions. ‘Suspicions’. Right. This place... it was a hydroponics facility. A garden.
She chewed on her lip; Shannon and Hutchins should have called for them by now. All she’d been able to get out of Hernandez was muttered comments about them being ‘fine’. He was unhappy, but in his eyes – he wasn’t hiding death or injury. There was that, at least. Still, she worried.
And not just about Shannon. There was Bujold. Still watching her, still whispering. She didn’t trust him, couldn’t trust him. He talked too much. He was dangerous, and not just because of his ease with weapons.
Before she could ruminate on that further, she heard a yelp and a muffled curse.
Coming out of the office, she could see the splash of red on Lutzberg’s hand; Hernandez was shining his light on the petty officer, looking over the injury. “That looks deep.”
“You think?” Armin snapped, his head coming up as he noticed Emily’s approach. “Bit of metal was sharper than I thought. I can get back in there.”
“No, you can’t,” Delphini replied as she knelt beside the petty officer. “Louis was right – that is deep.” She popped the cap off an aged tube of antibiotic cream and squeezed some into Lutzberg’s palm, wrapping gauze around his hand. “Did you find out what’s wrong with the door?”
Lutzberg nodded. “Yeah, like you said – it’s still in lockdown, but I figured I could hotwire it. Get up into the innards. Couldn’t really see and I guess I didn’t have as much room as I thought I did.”
“I guess not,” Emily sighed. “I’ll try. You can talk me through what you were doing.”
All three men exchanged glances. Louis lost. “Doc...” he began.
Emily was proud of herself for managing not to bristle. “I’m the smallest person here,” she pointed out. “With that armoury you’re carrying around, you’d need to strip down to skivvies before you could try and,” she glanced over at Bujold, “you’re taller than Armin.” She made sure that the petty officer’s bandages were secure, picking up a small penlight. “You can go on the terminal and tell me if I’m making progress, talk me through what I should be doing. Okay?”
Sufficiently cowed, Lutzberg picked himself up. “Okay.”
As Emily wormed herself into the open wall, Louis looked over at Bujold and smirked. “I can see why the corporal likes her.”
Mac snorted in agreement.
There was life here.
Plants had sprung up out of the spread – or least, things that looked like plants. Thick growths hung from the walls like rotten tendons, bulging tumescent aberrations and sloughing piles of tissue. Slime molds oozed out of cracks in the walls and greasy ropes of meaty tissue dangled from air vents and maintenances shafts. The tissue beneath their feet squished with each step and clouds of disturbed insects buzzed around their heads.
Abigail cursed softly in a language Shannon didn’t know. “What is
this, Shannie? I mean... Christ, look at all of it – it had to grow. Where’d it all come from?”
“Ships’ stores would be the biggest provider,” Shannon answered, her tone numb. “Starships carry a lot of food and water, medical stores and hydroponics... Any expedition that goes into the Mists carries two, three – even five times normal supplies. I don’t even know how much DROP 47 would have had, but an Elysium
, isolated this far from supply lines?
“A lot,” Shannon nodded. in confirmation. “Some of the starships attached to the station – they’re probably infested like this, too.” She didn’t say the rest, didn’t say that one other prime source of biomass would be the crews of the starships those stores were meant to feed and sustain. That anyone unfortunate – no, lucky
– enough to be die here rather than Turn would become part of the growing ecosystem. That they were walking on the dead.
And the sick part of it was... that wasn’t even the worst part.
“Jesus Christ,” Abigail muttered. “Can you imagine what this shit could do with... with more food? It’s already reaching into the fucking vacuum
. What would happen if this got loose on a planet?” A beat. “Jesus Christ, Shannie... tell me you’re not-”
The smaller woman’s head tilted back up at her ‘big sister’ and despite her helmet, Abigail could all but see the weak, haunted smile on Shannon’s face. “I am.” She couldn’t even close her eyes to get away from the images, couldn’t quite shut out the cascade of probabilities, simulations and nightmarish possibilities. Stop it. Stop it. Stop. It. It hasn’t happened. Not ever. It won’t happen. So just stop.
When they found the latest horror in this sick, blighted station, it was almost a relief.
Armin was having even less luck with the computer than Emily had, and he scratched at his scalp as he tried to talk the woman through the patching and adjustment of six-hundred year old cabling and circuitry that he was almost completely unfamiliar with. Luckily, Delphini appeared to have a knack for this – more than once, she’d been able to pick out what he was trying to get her to look for with only a vague description to go on, or jump to the next step without needing to be led there. She actually seemed to be doing better than he had. I guess there’s not that much difference between the insides of a person and the insides of a machine, huh?
Lutzberg chuckled at his own joke, rubbing his tired eyes and again tried to focus on the schematic in front of him.beep
“Hey, that’s it!” he shouted as one of the sealed blue doors flashed red and open.”You got it!”
“No,” Hernandez answered, sounding confused. “The door’s still sealed.”
“What? Wait...” Armin squinted at the screen. “No... yeah, that’s the farthest door. That shouldn’t have opened...”beep
Another door came open, the next in the line leading to the office. There was some script on the screen, but he couldn’t make it out, at least nothing that his tired brain could understand. “Wait... wait, uh.... Emily. What are you doing?”
“Nothing, I’ve almost got it...”beep
“Wait, just... just stop. I think...”
She couldn’t hear him. “I’m almost there. Mac, can you hit the door panel on my say?”
Another door opened, the last before the office. It wasn’t them. It wasn’t them. It was something else. Dreadful certainty paralyzed Armin. He wanted to scream, to shout a warning and tell them to get away, but he was back in that room looking at a butchered corpse hanging from the ceiling, hearing the screams of the people around him and the awful hunting cries of the enemy and the sound of cutting meat.
His mind numb, Armin moved towards the doorway with mechanical inevitability. He heard Emily’s little cry of victory.
“I’ve got it!”
Armin barely heard her.
The door opened.
And it was standing there.