Jen’s note: Gang, I’m so sorry for interrupting the schedule and posting this a week late. The truth is, there’s a lot of things happening in my professional life right now and I just couldn’t get this wrapped up last week. Work has calmed down a bit so we should be back to the regular schedule. I apologize for the delay. Voting will end on Saturday night and I’ll be sure to get pinups done this weekend for your nerdy pleasure.
You know there’s no way you can drag Tankwald back into the emergency shaft without one of you falling to your death. The only way for you to escape is to run for it.
You step behind Tankwald and hook your arm around his throat. Surprised, he tries to shout, but it comes out in a gargled moan. You step back, dragging him with you, pressing him against your chest so that his body protects your vitals.
“Help!” Tankwald gasps. His hands grasp at your arm, pulling and slapping at you to get free. “I’m over here!” With your forearm pushing on his throat, his voice is barely above conversation level.
“Yeah,” you say. “They know.”
A head pokes around the corner. The face is obscured by a mask and goggles. The helmet is swathed in gray and orange camouflage matching the hellfire slowly sweeping over the surface of the planet. The soldier sees you retreating and dragging the unwilling scientist with you and steps out from behind the corner. His rifle snaps up, pointing directly at you, trying to get a clean shot. More soldiers file into the hall at the far end. At quick glance, you count six, but you aren’t sure. You’re too busy retreating to count. The soldiers’ shouts fill the air.
“I can’t get a clean shot!”
“Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!”
“You’ll hit the doctor!”
You drag Tankwald to the end of the hall. Just as your shoulders smack into the door, sending it flying open, movement to your right draws your attention. As you back into the black, unlit room, you look—reinforcements. Six more soldiers. What’s worrisome isn’t their armaments, it’s the enormous metal box covered in occult symbols they’re rolling down the hall. Before you can speculate as to whether they’ve brought in a demon hybrid or a full demon, a voice rumbles from the box in a pitch so low it wavers in and out of the human hearing spectrum. The words are unintelligible to you but laden with an ancient evil that makes every hair on your body stand on end.
Sol zulo’tha innso zolo beleet…
Yep. Full demon.
You back into the room and kick the door shut, encasing yourself in darkness.
You release Tankwald, spinning him away. He yelps as he spills out on the hard floor in a heap. But you barely notice. At the moment, you’re too busy groping for a light switch. The voice outside gets a little louder and you feel a heavy thump on the other side of the door.
Did they just back that box up against the door?
You hear shouts outside. Metal grinding against metal. You can only guess the soldiers are opening the box.
The longest three seconds of your life pass as you search along the wall with one hand and fumble for the door lock with the other. Your fingers brush over a small plastic knob on the wall and the room fills with an intense, sterile light. Above, the light boxes begin to hum. Heart pounding, fingers shaking, you twist the deadbolt into the locked position.
“W– w– why would they release a demon with me in here?” Tankwald stammers.
“Maybe because they think you know how to handle them.”
Something slams hard against the door, bending the metal slab inward. Tiny white particles rain down from the ceiling tiles.
You whirl around. There’s a door on the left, slightly ajar, but the room is dark so you can’t see inside. Black ichor stains the floor around the entry. The sign on the door says “Training Room.” Opposite the door, a tall bench sits against the wall and odd metal instruments hang from brown pegboard. You don’t see a single gun. The gadgets in the room are for occult specialists, the soldiers trained in archaic symbols and demonic languages. The specialist on your team died in the lab explosion and your knowledge of these instruments is vague at best. A few of the gadgets on the bench and pegboard look familiar: a metal ring with little tabs that slide around it, a small black device with a gauge and moving needle, and a stack of small, black books.
Tankwald gapes at the door, apparently unable to rip his gaze from it. He shakes his head. “Demons are hard to control. Th– th– that’s why I make the human-demon hybrids. Easier to control.” The demon slams against the door again, causing Tankwald to jump a foot in the air. “Demons think,” he adds. “They’re intelligent. They’ve had millions of years to think. And they crave destruction before…” His voice trails off and he shakes his head, unable to finish his sentence.
You don’t want to hear it anyway, so you don’t ask.
Another slam. The door bows inward. This time, the top hinge snaps and splinters, spraying metal fragments. You run to Tankwald, grab him by the collar, and haul him to his feet.
You take a step toward the bench when another violent slam fills the room, followed by the gut-wrenching sound of the deadbolt snapping and the bottom hinge ripping away. The door topples to the floor with a deafening sound.
A massive figure fills the doorway. Black robe. Black wings. Frighteningly lean. So tall, the figure has to stoop to see you. Like all demons, it isn’t male, nor is it female. But its appearance is beautiful, blending feminine and masculine together. Obsidian eyes peer out at you from its lovely face, like bottomless pits pulling you in. The demon’s mouth isn’t moving, but you still hear the evil language, dipping in and out of the range of perceptible sound. The demon’s head tilts a little to the side. Its elongated fingers gesture in your direction.
Fear seizes you. You’ve never felt anything like it before. Tankwald goes completely rigid; he must be feeling it too. You can’t think. You can’t move. All you can do is try to remember your training—to break demonic emotional manipulation, scream out the name of your deity.
You panic and scream out six gods—but it works. You find yourself back in control and quickly looking around for a weapon or an exit. You spy the door to your left and the loaded pegboard to your right.
In physical form, the demon moves as fast as you do, so you’ll only be able to choose one.
What do you do?
A. Go for the bench and the occult instruments.
B. Run for the door.
Vote in the comments or on Twitter. Voting ends Saturday night, August 31st. The highest vote will be the next step in the story, posted in two weeks.
Metal Box photo courtesy of KelcyLyn