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[um_loggedin show_lock=no]It wasn’t as painful as she expected; if anything she felt numb. Of course, that could’ve just been from the cold, which seemed to still be enveloping her body. Is the entire negative this cold? she wondered. It would explain why Darnight was so set on leaving it.
Cautiously, she opened one eye, then the other. She was standing in a bland laboratory hallway, not unlike the one she had just left. There’s a version of Ex Nihilo on the negative? she surmised, surprised. She hadn’t really given much thought to what she would find once she arrived here.
She glanced around. “Don’t move,” someone warned her from behind. It was strange; it sounded like…
“Grace!” she whirled around.
“Just…slowly,” Grace raised her free hand; the other one was occupied with Allie’s pair of thermal binoculars. “He hasn’t touched you yet, but he’s close. Just kneel, slowly, and you’ll slip through his arms.”
Allie did so, and moments later she crossed the threshold where a wall had been hindering her movement before; she joined Grace on the other side. “You know this doesn’t solve anything,” she apprised. “I should still go.”
“You’re gonna have to suck it up and deal,” Grace retorted, “I’m not about to trade my best friend for a serial rapist. Now come on!”
With that, the two girls fled into the entry hall, just as Aaron arrived on the opposite side. Grace paused to watch Darnight while Aaron and Allie drew near each other at the center of the hall. Their hands clasped like magnets.
“So where’s this backup exit?” Grace shouted, turning away from Darnight to flee with them. They ran toward the bank of dead-bolted, Plexiglas doors until Aaron guided them off to the right.
“In here!” he replied, opening the door to the melasynthetic forest.
Grace hurried inside. “Oh you have got to be kidding me,” she cried, half elated, and half terrified. “That’s just elegant.”
Aaron shrugged in the moonlight. “I’m a chess geek.”
“What are you two talking about?” Allie’s voice cut through the relative darkness as the door closed shut. Instead of responding, Grace just stood there and marveled, taking in the shaft of moonlight that now poured into the darkness through a giant, gaping hole in the roof.
“When I was in the mechanical room,” she finally explained, “Aaron used ENIIC to create a wall of wavy metal around the generator.”
“And in return,” Aaron completed the thought, “reality took a section of wavy metal from the roof up there. As I hoped it would.”
“Okay,” Allie allowed, “but why didn’t you just take a section of the outer wall? Somewhere lower. We’re gonna have to climb to get up to that hole.”
“I’ll remember that for next time,” he retorted.
“Hindsight is 20/20,” Grace grinned, then swallowed as she gazed at the height of the hole. “I guess we’ll have to climb the trees.” Feeling her way along the nearby wall, she eventually found the switch that Redcoat had previously used, and flipped it.
Immediately the moonlight dimmed, being forced to flicker through the shadowy canopy above. “I’m surprised that worked,” Grace mused, “since the power’s still down.”
“The power is still down in this area,” Aaron confirmed as the sound of a fist striking metal resounded through the night. “But since that switch uses oof, ENIIC’s hardware to lock the trees in for sight, it ergh, is on the same circuit as ENIIC.”
As he spoke, the door pulsed inward against him; Darnight was apparently trying to shove it open from the other side. Aaron, however, stood fast against him. “When I was chased by Darnight earlier, he could disappear and reappear instantaneously around me,” Allie observed. “If he can do that, why doesn’t he just, I don’t know, teleport himself in here?”
“Don’t give him any ideas,” Grace muttered.
“I think it’s a mental block,” Aaron suggested. “He’s dreaming, and perceiving the door to be an obstacle. Even though he physically could get through, his mind won’t let him progress until he overcomes it.”
The door pulsed inward again. “Well, we can’t get to the roof without leaving this door,” Allie pointed out, “and we can’t leave this door without letting Darnight in.”
“We need something to block it,” Grace agreed, scanning the surrounding underbrush with her flashlight. Unfortunately, the only things heavy enough to hinder the swinging of a door also had massive roots which anchored them to the ground. And they didn’t have a bulldozer.
“Hey, Grace?” Aaron called to her. “Could you come over here? I need you and Allie to hold the door for a minute.”
“You have an oof, idea?” Allie guessed, leaning against the pounding door. Grace joined her.
“Yeah,” he replied, unclasping his belt buckle. “Something I picked up on a spy show.”
“Well, as long as it’s a reputable source,” Allie replied, with sarcasm and a smile. Still, as he wrapped his belt around the two metal arms of the door closer mounted above her head, Grace had to admit that it was becoming easier and easier to repel Darnight’s assault. In the end, the door closer had become a door sealer.
“I can’t believe that worked,” Grace remarked as she stepped away from the door.
“Never doubt television,” Aaron replied with a grin. “Now let’s go; that won’t hold him forever.”[/um_loggedin]
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