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[um_loggedin show_lock=no]Grace let out a shrill, high-pitched shout of surprise. She had been standing guard at the door of the mechanical room, leaning against it so that Richards couldn’t enter, when Derek accidentally electrocuted himself. Sparks flew everywhere.
“Are you all right?!” she worried, rushing over to see if he’d been burned.
“I’m fine,” he grimaced, shaking out his hand.
“Let me see that,” she insisted, taking his hand and examining it under the flashlight beam. It looked like he’d only been mildly burned, with some slightly reddened flesh. “You’re fine,” she agreed, returning the hand.
“ENIIC should be up and running now,” he commented, glancing back to the circuit breaker. “Now for the security offices.”
Grace was about to question whether or not they should trust Redcoat’s request for power, given the walkie conversation they had just overheard, but before she could voice her concerns an unwelcome sound drifted through the air; Grace caught her breath. Casting Derek a glance of concern, she strained her ears to hear the slow creak of hinges, followed by the click of a closing door.
Then came the footsteps. “He’s in!” she whispered, grabbing the flashlight from its place on a nearby counter. She glanced around the room.
Set in the center of the mechanical room, the flywheel battery thing was hindering her view of the door. Grace pressed her back against the outer wall of the room, and inched her way around its circumference until the door came into view. As she shone her flashlight around the area behind the battery, the footsteps stopped moving. Then Derek let out a cry.
“Derek!” she shouted, darting back around the battery to the place where he’d been working. What she saw made her question her sanity.
“He touched,” Derek managed to convey, before flashes of light mingled with darkness began to dart across his face and body. In less than a second, his features shifted and contorted into a new face, and somewhat shorter stature, a man which she immediately recognized from Allie’s newspaper clippings.
Grace let out another shrill, high-pitched shout of surprise.
“Aaron!” she shouted into the walkie. “Richards is here, in the mechanical room. Derek is gone, and Richards is here now, and I don’t think I can stop him from knocking out the power again!” Slim Richards turned from Grace to examine Derek’s hasty repair job.
“Get out of there!” Aaron ordered.
“But the power,” she hesitated.
“I’ll take care of it!” he returned. “Just go!”
Nevertheless, Grace lingered for a moment. “Hey you! Accountant guy!” she shouted, just as Richards was about to yank ENIIC’s power supply once more. He hesitated.
Grace shrugged. “I don’t know, I just wanted to distract you.”
At that moment, a wall constructed of wavy metal encompassed the battery and circuit breaker, shielding it from any attempt at tampering.
“Aarough!” Richards growled, pounding on the wall. When it wouldn’t yield, he then turned his attention to Grace, and lunged. With a dodge to the side, she ducked out the door, and started down the hallway.[/um_loggedin]
[um_loggedin show_lock=no]“Grace, are you all right?!” Allie shouted into the walkie. Her friend didn’t answer. “Grace!”
“Sorry. Running,” came the reply. “Talk later.”
Assured that Grace was at the very least alive, Allie turned her attention to finding the security offices Redcoat had spoken of. With Charles…gone, it was now up to her to find a way out of this place.
A quick thermal scan of the hallway revealed no sign of Darnight, a thought which both comforted and unsettled her at the same time. Slowly, with measured steps, she started down the hallway.
The first door she passed was on her left, and was labeled ‘A19 :: Noetics 2’; she moved forward. The next door stood on her right, labeled ‘A20 :: Noetics 3’ – also not the room she was looking for. She passed beyond it, noting as she did that something about the door didn’t feel quite right.
Something changed. She felt, more than she heard, the distinct grating of metal hinges behind her, and the disturbance of air which accompanies an opening door.
“Turn around Allie,” she whispered to herself, her body unwilling to heed the command. “Turn. Around!” Lifting the binoculars to her eyes, she spun one hundred and eighty degrees.
He wasn’t there. After checking the room for any cold spots, she closed the door, and continued down the hallway. As she walked, three distinct footsteps rang out behind her, each one closer than the last. Again she spun around, but Darnight was nowhere in sight. Even so she could still feel him, somewhere nearby, somewhere behind her, reaching out his hand to touch her.
She opened her compact, and the chill behind her stopped moving. “Hah!” she laughed in exultation, turning to view Darnight through the binoculars. Sure enough, she’d caught him in her gaze. Then she blinked.
“No!” she shouted, leaning her back against the wall and banging her head against it. After another thermal scan of the hallway, she moved up to the next door. It read ‘A21 :: Security’. With a sigh of relief, she crossed the hallway and opened the door, briefly scanning the room for any signs of Darnight. He wasn’t there.
“Looking for me?” a voice whispered from behind; Allie spun around, but missed him yet again. Still, wanting to be entirely sure that he couldn’t follow her into Security, she backed into the room, and closed the door behind her. It was a good strategy, Darnight noted, save for the fact that he’d already entered the room before her.[/um_loggedin]
[um_loggedin show_lock=no]As she ducked out of the mechanical room, Grace could hear the loud plodding of Richards’ feet behind her in close pursuit. She glanced back; he didn’t disappear. Unfortunately, as she turned her head back around, she realized too late that the turn in the hallway was fast approaching. The wall hit her body like a sack of bricks.
“Oof,” she grunted, her head pounding at the impact. Luckily, she still had enough wits to dodge out of the way while Slim Richards also slammed into the wall.
“Oof,” he grunted, cradling his head in his hands.
“It’s your fault for turning out the lights,” she retorted as they caught their breath.
“It’s your fault for running,” Richards returned.
“Why don’t you just let me go?” she requested, her mind turning to Derek. “You’ve already gotten what you want.”
“But Skippy hasn’t,” he explained. “He still needs to touch Miss Rhode — and he still wants to touch you. I try to be a good wingman.” Grace needed no more motivation to continue her sprint.
Nearer in his pursuit this time, Richards’ footfalls resounded only footsteps behind her. He drew closer still.
“Grace, are you all right?” Allie worried over the walkie. When she didn’t bother to answer, Allie’s voice grew more persistent. “Grace!” she shouted; Grace brought the walkie up to her mouth.
“Sorry, running,” she replied. “Talk later.”
At that moment Grace shot past the doorway to ENIIC, and out of the corner of her eye saw the door fly open. Light flooded the hallway, and she turned to find a man clothed in light flying out of the room. He rammed Richards into the wall.
“In here, quick!” he shouted as Richards crumpled to the ground. Needing no further encouragement, Grace retreated into the safety of Aaron’s room.[/um_loggedin]
[um_loggedin show_lock=no]In the security of another room, Allie began to examine the panel of buttons and screens before her. The first thing she noticed was that the power was still down.
“Grace, are you all right?” she asked, recalling her friend’s hasty exodus from the mechanical room.
“She’s fine,” came Aaron’s assurance. “Just a little winded.”
“And what was all that about Derek?” she asked. “Is he all right?”
Silence came over the receiver for a moment. “Derek is gone,” he simply replied. “Whatever you do, don’t let Darnight touch you.”
“Why?” she wondered, recalling Darnight’s previous attempts to touch her.
“If the two of you are allowed to occupy the same space, you will both return to your initial realities,” he explained. “Running theory anyway. Just don’t let it happen.”
My own reality, she mused on the words. Allie glanced back at the door to make sure it was still shut. “All right, listen,” she said, turning back to the security panel. “I’m at Security now, but the power’s still down.”
“’You’ are at security?” Grace interjected, picking up on her choice of words. “Just you? What happened to Redcoat?”
Allie hesitated before replying. “Charles is dead,” she stated flatly, “It was Darnight.”
“I’m sorry, Allie,” Aaron finally responded.
“How long until the power is up in Security?”
“It’s not coming up,” Grace answered. “Derek was only able to restore power to ENIIC before Aaron had to seal off the battery.”
That was bad news. “Then how are we getting out of here?” she asked. “I can’t undo the deadbolts without power.”
“I have a backup plan,” Aaron replied. “Just make your way back to the lobby; there should be an exit nearby, I think.”
“You think?!” she demanded, but Aaron didn’t respond. Sighing, she made her way to the door, removing the thermal binoculars from her purse. As she began to turn the doorknob, however, she felt a frigid blast of air descend upon her from above.[/um_loggedin]
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