You decide to go after the goggles. As soon as the guards disappear through the door, you pull yourself out of the duct and race to the ladder. You climb to the third level. Through a small window on the door, you can see a narrow hallway. The guards are walking away from you. Thirty feet away, they stop, nod at each other, and enter doors on either side of the hall. The guard with the goggles takes the door on the right.
All of your senses come alive, fueled by adrenaline. Your heart is pounding. Luckily, you’ve been trained to ignore it.
You slide your knife from its sheath and step into the hallway. It’s quiet. Muffled sounds of city life float in the air. You sneak quickly to the door on the right. Every squeak of your damp boots echoes off of the concrete floor and walls and sets you on edge. You stop at the door and press your ear against it. You hear shuffling sounds on the other side… and a strange growl.
You tell yourself it’s just nerves getting the best of you and crack open the door. You peek inside. Red light and hot air wash over you. The room is narrow and long with a high vaulted ceiling. Massive heat lamps are chained overhead. Large cages are built into the stone walls and stacked, two high, to the ceiling. They’re all empty. More cages are stacked in the center of the room, creating a maze. There’s no sign of the guard. You slip inside and quietly shut the door.
At first glance, you aren’t sure what the room is for. The cages are large enough to hold demons but the room doesn’t look like a containment center.
You hear heavy boots on the other side of the crates. You take a deep breath and walk to the corner. Very slowly, you inch your head out until you can see the guard. His back is to you. He’s checking his weapon, oblivious to your presence. The goggles are sitting off to the side atop a crate.
You raise the knife and step behind him. You reach around and clap your hand over his mouth. He rears suddenly, startled at the attack, and throws his weight into you. This reaction is nothing new to you. You step back with him and jerk his chin upward. You reach around with the knife and slice through his left internal jugular and carotid artery.
His lower body goes limp almost instantly. You keep your hand on his mouth and wait a few seconds for the blood to drain from the brain. Then you release the body, allowing it to drop to the floor.
As you bend and wipe your knife blade clean, you hear the door. The other guard is coming through.
“Hackley? You still in here?”
You duck out of sight between two cages and watch the guard round the corner. When he sees his companion on the floor, he screams out a curse and rushes to the body. He bends over the fallen form, turning his back to you. You step out from your hiding place. Within seconds, the guard has met the same fate as his companion.
It’s like taking candy from a baby.
You clean your knife again and stand. You grab the goggles. You slip them on, fasten them securely, and turn them on. The room comes alive in shades of purple. The stone wall at the back of the cages seems to pulse. The glasses define features in the stone that make it seem almost alive — you make out feet, claws, wings…
Hundreds of unblinking eyes stare at you from the cages. Fear seizes you, nearly rooting you to the floor. You realize the walls aren’t just stone; there are gargoyles, two or three to a cage, settled into the stone. The room is an incubator for demonic hybrids.
You take off running for the door. You hear the metallic squeal of cage doors pushing open and the rush of many, many wings.
Luckily, your prized goggles let you watch the gargoyles rip you limb from limb.
Undermanned and leaderless, your team is easily captured and turned into mindless demon-human hybrids. The Mark, Evangeline Ryder, begins to recruit other surviving cities into creating more hybrids. She plans to mount an offensive against the very people you failed.