“Are you sure that’s the right place?”
Red put his hands on his hips as he and the rest of the group surveyed the desert hill upon which stood the facility they had been traveling a week to find. Giovani frowned. In his dream, it had looked much nicer. Now, there were scorch marks and cracks all over the walls. The front door was busted down, and the hill was littered with debris.
“I’m pretty sure,” said Giovani. “At least it’s recognizable.”
They trudged up the hill, glancing around at the debris as they did. Something had happened here, and they had the feeling they were being watched. Red was the first to the door. He pushed it open and, tiptoeing, stepped into the building.
Crash! Red looked up, just in time to see a basket of debris tip down, spilling metal all over the ground at his feet. Everyone was silent for a moment, until the last bit of metal stopped clanging against the ground.
“What in the world was that?” asked Cheng.
“Looks like some kind of trap,” said Albus. “Good thing we avoided it.”
Nero frowned. “Indeed.”
They stepped carefully into the facility, Red clearing away some of the debris from the trap so that Adrina could come in, as well as their cart of supplies. The interior was just as wrecked as the outside. Glass littered the floor, which was covered in long-dried pools of blood and chunks of concrete displaced from the walls.
“Everyone spread out and look for a large, steel vault,” Giovani said quietly.
They split up; Red, Cheng, and Nero continued forward, while Aurus and Albus bore right and Giovani bore left with Adrina and Violet. The girls had abandoned Adrina’s wheelchair, owing to the rough terrain, and Violet had opted to carry her sister instead. Now, the wheelchair rested beside their cart of supplies.
“What happened here?” Adrina wondered aloud as they walked.
“It looks like there was a fight,” Violet replied, watching the ground so as to keep from stepping on sharp objects. She stepped over a bit of the wall that had certainly not been painted red on the inside.
“It seems like the fight didn’t happen too long ago,” said Giovani. “I mean, as opposed to happening right around the Outbreak. If it had happened ten years ago, I would have expected this place to be much more of a ruin.”
They rounded a corner, coming into a large room at the very heart of the facility. There, at the far end, was the vault. Between them and it, however, was one of the most destroyed areas of the building, where obviously the most intense fighting had taken place. But the vault itself was clean, pristine even.
It was also set up a little differently than Giovani remembered. The combination was gone, and instead there was what looked like a thumbprint scanner. The three approached the vault carefully. Giovani placed his thumb on the scanner, just to see what it would do. A beat.
“Welcome, Giovani Lucas,” said a disembodied, robotic female voice. “Please enter the combination to open the vault.”
A small compartment in the vault door opened, revealing the combination lock that Giovani remembered. He stared at it for a long moment, though. How did it know who he was?
Screams. Not like those of bystanders when a building explodes, but rather the roars of triumph from the perpetrators. And these the eight of them heard now were even more terrifying, more alien, than even that.
“Monsters!” said Albus, exchanging a fearful glance with Aurus. “We need to get to the others.”
They raced back through the facility the way they had come, returning all the way to the atrium. Red, Cheng, and Nero had already arrived there; Cheng was pulling the cart over the rough ground, while Red folded up Adrina’s wheelchair and Nero looked out the door.
“What is it?” asked Albus, running up to Nero while Aurus helped Cheng with the cart.
“Everything. We’re surrounded.”
They were indeed. And it did seem as though every sort of monster they had ever encountered was clambering up the hill toward them, including several Albus didn’t recognize. There were necroids, razor-clawed ursics, hairy tarantellids, scaled sauropods, four-headed serpenids, and a whole host of even more unspeakable creatures.
“We have a plan, right?” asked Aurus.
Nero turned to him, and for once Albus felt pure fear – he could tell Nero had nothing.
“We could fight them off,” suggested Red.
“There’s too many.”
“Then let’s find a place to hide. Do you think the vault would stop them?”
“We could try that elevator we found,” said Cheng.
“That’s better than nothing,” replied Aurus. “Let’s go.”
Click. As Giovani rolled the combination to the final number, the vault opened, just enough for him to pull it the rest of the way. They could hear the sound of fighting and fleeing behind them – the monsters must have entered the building.
The three of them hurried into the vault, Giovani closing the door behind the other two. He sighed. Hopefully, nothing could get through that door. He turned around.
There, on three felt pads, were three keys, each one a different color: blue, purple, and green. The three stood there, mesmerized, until each reached forward and took a key; Giovani took green, Adrina took blue, and Violet had purple.
“I guess this gives us a key for every color of the rainbow,” Giovani said.
“Plus one for black. I wonder if there’s a white key,” added Violet.
Boom! The vault door shuddered with the impact of one of the monsters from outside.
“We’ll have to get out of here first to find out,” said Adrina.
Another boom reverberated around the vault, shaking the three inside.
“If they don’t get in…”
The elevator didn’t actually work. Instead, the party resorted to shooting down any of the monsters that made it to that area while Red and Cheng slowly forced the door open. Then they climbed down, using any rope they had brought to keep themselves secure in what appeared to be a near-bottomless drop, all while staying the continued advance of the monsters, which steadily destroyed more and more of the area around them, keeping the party from getting a good bottleneck in which to concentrate their fire.
The cable in the center of the shaft was the first part of it to go, severed by the claws of an ursic. Then, as a squad of tarantellids advanced on them, their spidery legs knocking on the shaft walls, the party fell, one by one, into the darkness…