Of the dozen people in that dark room, none of them were wearing lab coats. While this may not have seemed so strange, it felt strange for each of them, who were used to pristine labs and controlled environments. There wasn’t very must control left in the world, though, and circumstances had required these men to abandon their lab coats and their pristine labs in favor of more controversial means and settings.
“What’s the news?” asked the man at the head of the table.
“The necroids have spread across eastern North America, and we have increasing reports in China, Japan, Australia, and the entirety of Europe.”
“Also,” said another. “There are reports of strange beasts attacking people. We’ve been tracking the reports, and they seem to correlate with the path Amocualli has been taking.”
“Thank you,” said the head. “Now, Dr. Steltson, what was the report you wished to discuss?”
The man named Steltson leaned forward, resting his arms on the table. “My team investigated the, er, awakening site. While we were there, we found a key. Upon touch, however, it split six ways, into six separate keys, all a different color: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet.
“Upon closer examination at our labs, we found that people seem to form a sort of affinity with either one or some of the keys. While these were generally weak with most people, we think finding someone with a powerful affinity could be a clue toward defeating Amocualli.”
“Very good. Have you found any sufficient persons?”
“Three, sir. Two, sisters, show an affinity toward the violet and blue, respectively. The other shows an affinity for all six. We have them in the school by one of our bases.”
“Wait, these are children?”
“Yes. All around four to six, sir.”
The man who was leading the meeting shook his head. “Where are the keys, then?”
“We’re keeping half of them at the base with the three children, and we moved the other half to our secondary base.”
“Very good. The rest of you, I want you to begin pooling your resources to locating the rest of these key people.
“They may be our only hope.”
* * * *
Giovani sat in the common room, fingering his key absently as he considered the situation. No one had left the building ever since Antonio had run in; they had put him in a spare bedroom in the boys’ wing. The rest of them were taking turns watching from the roof, so that they had extra warning if and when the devourers returned.
He looked up at a soft step on the carpet. It was Violet, who walked over toward him. Her bracelets jangled as she sat down next to him.
“You alright?” she asked.
“Yeah. Just hoping we’re prepared for attack,” he replied.
“Hm. If we could make more use of that tank, but it seems better used for long-range combat. Our weapon stores aren’t looking very good right now, especially after our trip.”
Giovani nodded in agreement. “Antonio said there were dozens and dozens of them. What’s the most we’ve fought? Maybe thirty necroids, like when some of us got trapped at the school? And these are supposed to be worse.”
“Yeah.” Violet eyed Giovani’s key, and took out her own. “It’s a pity we haven’t had time to examine these. I’d love to see what they can actually do.”
Silence. The moon shone through the window, illuminating the dark, empty common room. The doors of the wings were closed, each occupant asleep in their beds, save for one, Aurus, who stood the roof, watching the now barren landscape for any sign of the devourers.
He crouched. A noise. Or rather, a number of noises. Screams, shrieks – not of fear, but antagonism. Aurus’s eyes bulged as the sources became clear in the light of the moon. He turned around. They were coming from everywhere.
Aurus dashed to the ladder, climbing down swiftly and then racing into the common room, making as loud of a ruckus as he could.
“We’re under attack! Get up!” he shouted, opening every door he could find.
The others quickly responded, assembling in the common room with their weapons. Most of them hadn’t bothered to change into pajamas when they had gone to bed, and now they got up, ready for action.
“Red, Cheng, Violet, Albus, to the front door!” ordered Nero. “Aurus, back on the roof. Stay near the ladder, though. Adrina, watch the window. Giovani, Antonio, help me move some of the furniture for a barricade.”
They did as they were told. Red raced to the front door, which was already suffering under the assault of the devourers.
“Right. Albus, keep that shotgun steady, and fire when we tell you,” said Violet.
Albus nodded. Red stared down the door, his own rifle at the ready. He took a deep breath. He could take whatever came through there.
The door broke. Red nearly jumped in surprise as nearly half a dozen devourers poured into the room. Antonio had been right about them. Their most prominent feature was their gaping, razor-toothed mouths.
“Shoot!” Violet cried. Albus shot. Three down. But six more rushed into their places.
The others opened fire, cutting down the devourers. The four of them might just be able to hold the door, seeing as it was the best choke point in the facility, but that was until they ran out of bullets. Reloading was going to be a nightmare.
That was when he heard the scream. Adrina’s scream. He and Violet looked back and raced away, into the common room. There, the devourers had finally broken into the window. Adrina sat in her wheelchair, firing a pistol at the nearest one, but there were too many coming through. Behind them, Cheng was helping Albus back to the common room, closely pursued by the devourers from the front door. And that was when Red saw it.
It stood in the doorway, gliding inside, black and terrible. It’s bulging, lidless eyes stared at him, and its curled-back lips and yellow teeth seemed to smile. It had one black hand pointing toward the common room, egging the devourers onward.
“Fall back!” Red called. “We need a more defensive position!”
“Into here!” cried Nero, standing in the boys’ wing with Antonio and Giovani. “Do you all have your keys?”
They all nodded as they entered the wing, Nero closing the door behind them all. There was a crunch as a devourer hit the door.
“Right, all the way to the back!” Nero ran to the last door and took out his black key.
“Are you sure about this?” asked Violet. “We don’t know what to do with that room. What if they can get through?”
“They won’t get through,” Nero promised, putting the key into the lock and twisting. The familiar white chamber opened up before him. “Quickly!”
Behind, the door burst open, the devourers rushing into the wing after them. Nero ushered them inside, before stepping in himself, the devourers almost upon him. One reached out its hand to attack him, just as he closed the door. There was a snap, and its hand fell to the ground, severed from its body. The party sighed collectively, and turned to the cube in the center of the room.
And none of them noticed as the devourer’s hand changed, morphing into the hand of Amocualli.