You decide the laboratories would be more productive. Following the map, you backtrack to the south staircase and walk down three flights of stairs. There’s a closed metal door at the bottom.
As you step onto the landing, some of the metal tabs on your belt flip outward toward the door. You hold up a closed fist, calling for a stop.
You check the symbols emblazoned on the active tabs. Before you can read them all, the tabs slip back in with the rest of the jumble and new tabs emerge. You’re able to read the first three before they change again. Death is the only recurring symbol, but one symbol isn’t enough to tell you what’s on the other side of the door.
You ready your weapon and grab the handle. The tracker stands near the opening and the sniper lines up behind her. Using your fingers, you count down from three.
On zero, you crack open the door. The tracker leans forward to step outside. Her eyes widen and her head snaps back. You release the door. It closes with a soft thud.
“It’s the sword!” she whispers.
You respond with an incredulous look. The sniper responds by raising his pistol with one hand and grabbing a grenade with the other.
In this situation, you’re more equipped to lead the charge. You switch positions with the tracker. This time, she counts.
3… 2… 1…
You rush into the hall. The sniper is right behind you. You’re standing at the end of a long, carpeted hallway. The red emergency bulbs continue to pulse their warning, flooding the space with sanguinary light. The sword is nowhere to be seen.
“I swear it was here,” the tracker whispers. She points at the blank wall in front of you. “Right there.”
The sniper glances down the hall.
He whispers, “There’s no way something could have grabbed it and gotten away so fast without us hearing.”
It’s not possible unless something was controlling the sword remotely. You decide it’s best to keep that thought to yourself.
There’s another emergency map on the wall. You take it and start down the hallway.
There’s an office ten feet from the stairs. Under the red bulbs, the splotches of blood on the walls and carpet appear as ominous black clots. The scent of decay is heavy.
You’re smelling corpses and they aren’t fresh.
You pass a few workrooms filled with cubicles and desks. There’s more blood. Black streaks and heavy splatter mar the walls and the scent of rotting flesh thickens in your nostrils.
You find the first two bodies in a large conference room. The first is chest down on the conference table, its head hacked off and mounted on a flip chart frame like a trophy. A small fire axe lies discarded under the table. A second body is slumped in a corner. You reach down and lift up the head. A ballpoint pen is jammed in her eye.
The sniper says, “Maybe they went crazy from the confinement and killed each other?”
It’s not unheard of. After the invasion, the remnants of humanity went underground fast. There wasn’t time to worry about aesthetics; survivors were crammed together in makeshift cities that felt like tin cans. Some people didn’t react well to their new dreary environment.
You look around the otherwise-plush conference room. You’re not convinced of the motive. This place is nicer than your dorm.
The main laboratory isn’t much farther and might give you answers. As you turn to leave, a tall, black column by the door brings you to a sudden stop. The sword is leaning against the wall, dangerously close to your only exit.
What do you do?
A: Swing the fire axe at the sword.
B: Quickly slip through the door without touching the sword.
Vote in the comments or on Twitter at #site27. Voting ends Tuesday night. The highest vote will be the next step in the story, posted on Fridays.
Image courtesy of A Gude.
UPDATE: Voting is now closed. Thanks to everyone who participated! See you on Friday for Part 5.