Chapter 1 Implantation
“Human Trial, Phage Virus KZ 376, parasite implantation complete.”
“Good, proceed to stage two.”
Mercy’s eyelids fluttered; bright lights, white ceiling and walls, monitors and computers. Black rubber gloves reached out to her from beneath a mirrored window.
So heavy, feel weak, my head hurts. Flynn? Where are you? Flynn?
“Subject’s conscious level is fluctuating, heart rate 121, blood pressure 188 over 110—”
“Increase sedation and optimize intravenous fluids.”
An invisible hand reached up behind Mercy and pulled her back into unconsciousness.
Pain. Cold. Nausea.
Am I dead? No, I must be alive. The pain makes me want to scream, but there’s nothing left—
Mercy heard her heart, she listened to the monitor’s electronic pulse. Her eyelids were stuck together, her mouth was dry, her stomach ached. There was something else, something moving deep inside her. She tried to lift her arms and legs but felt restraints. The tape securing her right eyelid became unstuck, she blinked and stared at her surroundings.
White, stark walls, the room lay in semi-darkness except for the glowing monitors. She saw clear tubes carrying fluids into her veins, tubes supplying oxygen to her lungs, a white hospital smock covered her body. Her feet lay exposed at the end of the gurney, distant, they did not look part of her.
“Where am I? How long have I been here?” Questions flooded Mercy’s mind, followed by fragments of memory. A high fence, a minefield, a wall. Inwood Hill Park, the Henry Hudson Bridge. The men in yellow hazmat suits.
She remembered the last words spoken to her: You’re quite right Mercy Dawes— we’ve been waiting two years to extract you. It’s good to finally meet.
She remembered the cage containing Vince, Rose, Dakota, Stevie, Rites and Tawny. Where were her friends?
Mercy struggled against the restraints, straps pinned her arms and legs to the gurney. Her mind processed the information, her anger grew. With it came pain and the movement inside her. She looked at the hospital smock.
What have they done to me?
The pain reached a crescendo and darkness took her.
A soft hiss, footsteps, a metallic noise. Mercy’s eyelids fluttered, she opened her right eye, a blurred figure stood beside her. The person wore a yellow hazmat suit, they moved with care. A metal tray carrying vials and syringes lay near Mercy’s left arm, the person was filling a syringe from one of the vials.
Mercy tensed, they were giving her more drugs through the intravenous lines attached to her arms. The person was on her right, she watched as they moved towards the drip port. A monitor let out a loud beep and the person stopped to examine the display. Dull pressure grew in Mercy’s arm, the drip monitor continued its electronic alarm.
A woman’s voice came from within the hazmat suit. “Shit, blocked cannula—”
The woman returned the syringe to the metal tray and stooped to open a drawer in the trolley beside the drip stand. Mercy closed her right eye. The woman turned to face Mercy, a fresh cannula in her hand. She leaned over Mercy, staring at her face, listening to her breathing. The woman felt Mercy’s pulse. Seconds passed, Mercy dared not look, she waited.
The woman examined Mercy’s right arm, then put pressure on the drip site with a ball of cotton wool and removed the blocked cannula. She placed a tourniquet around Mercy’s arm and tapped the skin searching for a new vein for the replacement cannula. Minutes passed until the moment Mercy had been waiting for.
“As usual, no veins—” the woman said, sighing.
She loosened the restraining strap on Mercy’s right arm moving it to one side to have a better view of the skin. Mercy pulled her arm free and lashed out at the woman hitting the hazmat visor. The woman reeled, falling backwards, Mercy freed herself from the upper strap and sat up reaching for her leg restraints. The woman recovered her balance and lurched at Mercy, her arms outstretched.
“No, no, you mustn’t do that, it’s too soon for you to move,” the woman said, her voice frantic.
Mercy hit the quick release buckle on the lower strap freeing her legs and jumped from the gurney. She staggered, stumbling to the floor, knocking over a second drip stand ripping the cannula from her left arm. Her legs were weak, her head spinning. Nausea bubbled up through her stomach.
“No, leave me alone bitch, what have you done to me? Where are my friends?” Mercy replied.
The woman held her hand out in a pacifying gesture and edged around the gurney towards Mercy, her other hand pressed a silent alarm on her belt. She had to control the subject, the experiment was at a critical phase. If the genetically modified parasite accepted the host’s body then maybe, just maybe the biotech would work.
“Mercy, calm down, you’ll hurt yourself. Your body is weak, you need to rest and build up your strength. Please, let me help you,” the woman rounded the corner of the gurney and stepped towards Mercy.
Somewhere deep inside Mercy a survival instinct kicked in, a growl welled up in her throat. Her hand reached out to the drip stand, she grabbed it, brandishing it at the woman.
“Keep away, keep away from me. What the hell have you done?” Mercy shouted, a sickening pain gripped her stomach, her vision blurred. She dropped the drip stand and clutched her stomach in alarm. As the wave of pain receded she reached down to her gown and pulled it up. A six centimetre surgical wound held together by steel clips stretched across her upper abdomen, Mercy stared in shock.
“What’s this? What is it?” Mercy asked, her voice small and hollow.
“We’ve done what’s necessary Mercy, everything will be fine. Here, let me help you,” the woman stepped forwards, her arms outstretched.
A noise from behind barely registered on Mercy’s consciousness, the wound on her abdomen held her whole attention. The room swarmed with yellow and orange hazmat suits. Strong arms lifted her onto the gurney and strapped her down, she watched, numb, as fresh drips were inserted into the back of her hands. A dull ache trickled up her arms and she felt the familiar dark curtain descend.
The last thing she remembered was the surgical wound, staring at her, its cold steel clips glinting in the artificial light.
Chapter 2 Island End
“Increase her sedation for the transfer, we don’t want another incident like the last one,” a male voice said on the edge of Mercy’s consciousness.
Muffled sounds. A dog barking.
Pink light. A breeze. Fluttering eyelids. Dry mouth, heavy arms and legs. Mercy blinked and opened her eyes. She was in a room, a normal room on a normal bed. She looked down, she wore a tee shirt and leggings. She moved her finger, then made a fist, she curled her toes. A distant tapping on the window, rain. She looked around the room, wooden floorboards, a ceiling light, a chair, wardrobe and dresser. A jug, washbowl and white towel on the dresser.
Where am I? Was it all a dream, a nightmare? Am I back in the orphanage?
Mercy sat up, looked at her arms and saw the needle tracks. Her eyes widened, she pulled up the tee shirt. A six centimetre abdominal scar was there, faint, the steel clips gone. She had lost weight, her ribs protruded, her arms and legs were thinner. She felt the scar. She pressed her stomach, no pain, she pressed harder, no pain. No lumps, no movement. Nothing.
Outside the dog started barking again, she looked at the window. Sunlight filtered in through the net curtains filling the room with a hazy light. The floorboards felt cool to her bare feet as she walked to the window. A breeze ruffled the curtains, she caught a glimpse of a car. Seagulls screeched in the distance. She parted the net curtains and looked down onto a grassy area, an old flagpole stood to attention its red and black flag billowing in the wind. A US Army Humvee sat on the drive.
The rain was heavy, the sky grey, a high fence surrounded the area, topped by razor wire. A fortified gate lay some distance away at the front of the property. Mercy’s eyes went to the road beyond the gate. The land rolled away in a series of low hills, she could hear the sea. Her mind raced; they had brought her to the coast.
Who the hell were they?
Mercy turned back to the room, went to the dresser and looked in the mirror. She did not recognise the face that stared back at her. Where had her long hair gone? She was shorn to the scalp. Her eyes were sunken, haunted.
Christ, I’ve aged—
The floorboards creaked underfoot, she felt lightheaded and gripped the dresser. Footsteps outside the room, the dog barking again. Why was the dog barking? Mercy faced the door, the sound of a key in the lock, the handle turning. A man dressed in a black combat jacket and black trousers stepped into the room, three red flashes on his collar, a uniform of some sort. His hair grey and short, his eyes intense, she noticed the holstered gun at his side. She stiffened and held her breath, her eyes flicked to the corridor beyond, she calculated angles, distances.
I could take him—
He moved forwards, his eyes riveted to hers. “I see you’re up, welcome back to the land of the living. There’s fresh clothes in the wardrobe, I’d advise you to dress for the cold, we’ve got boots for you downstairs. We’re leaving in a few minutes, trope activity has increased around the headland. They’re fast— faster than before. I have orders to get you out of here. Helicopter evacuation is arranged, weather’s deteriorating so we’re going inland to Camp Hero for the extraction.”
Mercy blinked. “Camp Hero?” she repeated, her eyes blank.
I could reach his gun—
“Don’t worry Dawes, you’ll be debriefed once we get to safety,” he walked to the wardrobe and opened it. “Get dressed,” he ordered, his voice harsh. “I’ll wait in the corridor.”
“Hang on, where am I? Who are you? Where are my friends?” Mercy asked, her voice shaking.
The man ignored her and left the room, keeping the door ajar. Mercy heard the dog barking again. Barking dogs were never good, not since the Fall. She selected a pair of jeans, a fresh shirt and vest from the wardrobe. A thick woollen jumper and socks completed her look. She went to the door and opened it, the man gestured her to follow him, he led the way down the corridor to a staircase.
Mercy tried again. “Hey, where is this place?”
Without looking back the man replied. “Montauk Point Lighthouse, this is the keeper’s house, it was a museum before the Fall. Used to be far enough away from the tropes to give us some peace but not now. They’re on the move again. There’s your boots, in the hall, put them on.”
Montauk Point Lighthouse, the eastern tip of Long Island. I’m outside Manhattan, I’ve made it out— disbelief washed over Mercy. She put the leather boots on and laced them up, they were the right size. This has all been planned.
The man went to the front door and pulled out his SIG 9mm automatic pistol. He peered through the glass pane in the door. Outside, the barking dog was straining at his chain, frenzied.
“Shit, it’s here. We’ll need to break out,” he turned to Mercy looking her in the eye. “The virus is here, tropes are at the gates, just a few but once they see us there’ll be others. You want to live? You’ll do exactly as I say. When I open this door run straight for the Humvee, one of my men will drive you to Camp Hero to meet with the helicopter. Got it?”
Mercy nodded, thinking ahead. Perhaps with this trope diversion she could escape, she chewed her lip and looked at the door. This was real, this was happening, she would go along with the plan for the moment.
The man opened the door and looked out, his SIG raised. Mercy glanced over his shoulder as he moved down the steps. She ran to the Humvee and opened the passenger door.
The driver looked at her. “Get in. Those tropes’ll be over the fence pretty soon.”
Mercy climbed in, slammed the door and locked it. She looked out the window to see the uniformed man along with six other armed men heading towards the gate. The barking had stopped, the dog had vanished.
“Buckle up, it’s going to be interesting. More tropes are inbound,” the driver said. He let the handbrake off and engaged gear. The Humvee lurched forwards catching up with the men on foot. Mercy turned and saw the old lighthouse towering up behind the keeper’s house. Wind and rain battered the Humvee, its windscreen wipers were going full pelt. Mercy had not been in a moving vehicle since before the Fall two years earlier, a wave of nausea welled up inside her, she brought her hand to her mouth.
The men outside started shooting their automatic rifles at the group of tropes. Mercy watched as the trope bodies shook with the impact of the bullets. One trope looked straight at the Humvee and jumped onto the fence climbing it in a heartbeat. It threw itself over the top and landed on the grass. The men converged on the gate firing at the knot of tropes on the other side.
The trope on the grass screamed and ran towards the Humvee. Mercy’s eyes widened, she had never seen a trope move so fast, it jumped onto the Humvee’s bonnet and smashed its head against the windscreen.
“Fuck,” the driver said. He threw the Humvee into reverse throwing the trope from the bonnet. He floored the accelerator ramming the trope head on, a sickening crunch followed and it disappeared from view below the Humvee. The men at the gate had cut down most of the other tropes, they were finishing off a cluster further along the fence. Two of the men were unlocking the gate for the Humvee. The driver’s eyes darted left and right then focused on the distance, his face hardened.
“Shit, there’s more coming,” he said. He hit the accelerator not waiting for the gate to open fully. Mercy saw a line of tropes, fifty or sixty strong, emerging over the low bluffs on the right. They were running towards the lighthouse.
The Humvee sprang forwards crashing into the gate, bringing it down in a tangled heap. They struck one of the men as they drove over the gate. Mercy held on to her seat as the Humvee left the enclosure and raced down the road. She looked right and saw the new tropes reach the fence, the men were running back towards the keeper’s house firing as they went. Mercy turned to face the road ahead, her eye caught the wing mirror; the two men at the gate had disappeared under a cluster of tropes.
The virus has evolved— her mind was numb.
The single track road joined a main road, the driver swerved to avoid a large pothole.
“Keep it together, dammit,” he said aloud.
Mercy decided to engage. “Who are you people? What’s this all about? Where are my friends?”
The driver looked at her, “Don’t you know anything? We’re patriots, we’re fighting for our country. You’re going to help us.”
The Humvee’s radio burst into life. “Alpha one to alpha two, over. What’s your position?”
The driver flicked a switch. “Alpha one this is alpha two, over. We’ve left Montauk Point, the compound has been overrun by tropes. Some men still left in there, can you send help?”
“Negative alpha one, Category 1 storm closing in, helicopter extraction from Camp Hero aborted, repeat aborted. Suggest you head for Montauk town and hole up there. We will arrange extraction when storm cleared, over.”
The driver slowed the Humvee, concentration lining his face. “Alpha two, why don’t I just head to Camp Hero, over?”
A pause filled by static. “Alpha one, Camp Hero has been… compromised.”
Mercy looked out of the rain spattered window.
And it begins—
Chapter 3 Montauk
They drove in silence along New York State Route 27 the skies becoming darker and the rain heavier. Mercy took a sidelong glance at the driver.
Know your enemy—
He wore the same black uniform as the man in the lighthouse keeper’s house. He was well built, with short hair and keen eyes, a pistol was holstered on his right leg and a combat knife strapped to his chest webbing. She glanced into the rear of the Humvee and saw two back packs and an M4 automatic rifle.
“Listen, don’t get any ideas,” the driver said, his voice deadpan. “Believe me you do not want to be out there, the tropes have evolved. They’re fast now and active 24/7. Anyway, you’re GPS chipped so we can track you no problem. So just relax until we get to Montauk, we’ll hunker down and wait for the storm to push through. Then we’ll make the extraction. Got it?”
Mercy shrugged and stared at the road ahead. They passed a road sign: CAMP HERO STATE PARK. She had heard about the old World War II military base there, with its radar tower. She had seen pictures of the Hamptons and Montauk but the only beach she had ever been to was Coney Island Beach on a day trip from the orphanage. This place looked bleak and grey to her, it felt like the end of the world.
What are tropes doing way out here? Unless they’re everywhere now—
“Look mister I’ve been locked away in Manhattan for the last two years, bring me up to date. What’s happened since the Fall? Is the government still in control? Has the quarantine worked? Are other cities infected? What about the rest of the world?” Mercy stared straight ahead, not expecting an answer.
The driver reached into his top pocket and pulled out a cigarette packet. He put a cigarette in his mouth, lit it and inhaled deeply. He kept his eyes on the road, “Look kid, I just follow orders. The government is finished, the United States of America is gone. It had to go, we had to take our country back, so we did. Politics, religion, capitalism, democracy— they all failed. There were too many people on the planet, too many opinions, social media, too much choice, no order, only confusion and disorder. So, long story short, they found a way to bring order out of chaos, the phage virus was the solution. The cull was supposed to be 30% of the world’s population, enough to restore balance—” he took another pull on his cigarette.
Mercy looked at him. “The cull?”
His hands gripped the wheel, his knuckles white. “Yeah, the cull of the human race. The virus they released was military grade, bio engineered from one of the haemorrhagic fevers. It was supposed to burn itself out, self-destruct after a month or so.”
“But it didn’t—” Mercy said.
“Damn right it didn’t, it took off, like a forest fire and spread everywhere,” he blinked, frowning.
“But who would do such a thing? To murder all those people, to release this virus, it’s insane—” Mercy said.
The driver looked at her. “It’s the best thing that’s ever happened, the reset button’s been pressed. Humanity’s been given a second chance; overpopulation, disease, war, famine, religion, climate change— don’t you remember all that shit? We culled the population just in time. We brought order back to the world. They’ll soon have the solution to the virus now that we’ve found you. We can defeat the tropes and the dead, then we can start rebuilding and create a new world.”
Mercy could not believe what she was hearing. “You said they’ll soon have the solution. Who are they?”
“The Colonel, Colonel Randel and Cobalt Biotech, they’re the founders of our new nation. They have enough supplies and manpower to outlast this plague and they have the right people to find the kill switch for the virus.”
Mercy processed this information. “What have I got to do with all this?” she said, perplexed.
“I don’t know the details, but I heard you were bit by a freak in some New York subway station after the Fall. The freak’s visor cam relayed the footage back to the military, you were unconscious but didn’t turn. You remained uninfected, that caught their attention. So they looked into you, turns out you’ve got some genetic condition that makes you immune to the virus. Your immune system is the answer to all this, you’re going to help us defeat the virus.”
Mercy stared blankly out the window, her mind numb. They passed a sign for Shadmoor State Park.
“We’re a quarter mile from Montauk. The Colonel cleared it a few weeks back but more tropes have come from Long Island and back west, they know we’re here. We’ve got a secure bunker in town, we can stay there until the extraction tomorrow. We’ll need to leave the Humvee on the outskirts of town, it’ll be quieter on foot, you good with that?”
Mercy looked across at him. “Guess I’ll have to be. What’s your name anyway?”
“Roberts, corporal, NSA… New State Army.”
“I’m Mercy Dawes, but you knew that anyway.”
Roberts said nothing. He slowed the Humvee and parked beside a sign which read: WELCOME TO MONTAUK, SETTLED 1660. The rain fell in sheets hammering the Humvee’s roof.
“There’s two packs in the back with food and water, one’s yours, sorry, but I can’t give you a weapon. You’ll just have to stay close to me. I know the way to the bunker, you don’t. If we spot tropes do exactly as I say, understand?”
“Not got much choice have I?” Mercy answered.
“Guess not,” Roberts shrugged. “Ready?”
Mercy nodded and opened the door stepping into the rain. She was soaked in a matter of seconds. She opened the rear door, took one of the packs and put it on. Roberts did the same and took the M4 automatic rifle.
Mercy closed the door and waited for Roberts to join her. She scanned the road ahead and saw houses through the trees. The rain would help them avoid detection. The military had painted yellow quarantine markings on the road surface outside each house; the numbers of living and dead in each family, along with other symbols Mercy did not recognise. Roberts joined her and handed her a poncho. She put it on over the back pack and was grateful for its protection against the wind and rain.
Roberts locked the Humvee and turned to Mercy, he had to shout to be heard above the storm. “Eyes open, we want to avoid tropes, not take them on, OK?”
Mercy met his eyes and replied, “Got it. You sure you don’t want to give me a weapon? Even a blade?”
Roberts shook his head. He turned away and started walking along the road. The storm was worsening, Mercy looked at the late afternoon sky, it would be dark in a few hours. They needed to find shelter and soon, tropes were always hungrier at night.
She reflected on what Roberts had told her. He had not given her information on Flynn and the others. Maybe he didn’t know about them, and anyway was he telling her the truth? It was all bullshit, the whole thing. She had to stay with him for the moment; Roberts was her only link to Flynn and the others.
Roberts kept to the middle of the road, M4 at the ready. Mercy counted six magazines on his webbing, she calculated thirty rounds per magazine, he had about a hundred and eighty rounds in total.
OK, so another reason to stick with him—
Mercy looked at the houses set back on either side of the road. Their empty windows stared at her like eye sockets, dark and foreboding. She pulled the poncho close, she was cold and hungry.
They passed a cluster of abandoned cars long since looted and stripped of fuel. Up ahead concrete blocks and rusting razor wire lay across the road; an old army checkpoint from the Fall. Mercy looked around, in the cars, on the ground, searching for anything she could use to defend herself.
Roberts climbed over the concrete blocks and waited for her, peering into the rain ahead. The road and driveways were overgrown with weeds and long grass, everywhere lush and green.
Nature’s reclaiming what’s hers. Mercy reflected; in a way it was beautiful to see so much life bursting forth from the earth. She had witnessed so much death in the city, this was like a different planet. But she knew death lingered just below the surface, it was always waiting for her to make a mistake. She clenched her fists and looked back at the Humvee a hundred yards away.
Movement? Way back along the road. Shit—
She reached out and tapped Roberts on the shoulder. He turned to her. Mercy pointed at the Humvee. “We’re being followed.”
Roberts narrowed his eyes and looked into the distance. “Run.”
They ran along the highway passing buildings on either side, they were in a built up area, the street opened up, a green space in the middle and buildings to the left and right. Mercy spotted a street sign emblazoned: THE PLAZA. She glanced back but nothing moved. Roberts ran along the road bisecting the Plaza, he veered off to the right across the green area towards a low building with a portico. Mercy saw the word BANK peeking out from a tangle of ivy at the front of the building.
Roberts ran up the building’s steps to the portico. He bent down, picked up a plastic container and opened it. “Come here quick, to the door, I’ll cover the ground with wood turpentine. Masks our scent.”
Mercy went to the front door and watched as Roberts gave the portico floor a liberal coating of the turpentine, its smell filled the air. He threw the empty container away and went to the door punching a code into an electronic lock.
“You got electricity?” Mercy asked, amazement in her voice.
Roberts did not answer, he opened the door and pushed her through. As they crossed the threshold a scream tore through the air on the other side of The Plaza, more screams followed. Mercy instinctively reached for her sidearm then remembered she was unarmed. Her eyes scanned the gloomy interior of the bank’s entrance hall. She could see tellers’ desks and the open public area; a large group of people had been using the place until recently. Sleeping mats and sleeping bags were strewn on the floor, half-finished cups of coffee and litter lay everywhere.
Mercy spotted the gun rack behind the tellers’ section; M4 automatic rifles for the most part. A few holstered pistols hung from the rack, she licked her lips, she would bide her time. Her eyes flicked around the rest of the interior, the windows were barred and bolted, long shutters blocking out the day light. The floor was marble and the ceiling looked strong. As a bank it would have a vault, it certainly was a good base of operations for the New State Army. But it looked as if the bank had been left in a hurry.
The new tropes have driven out the NSA— Mercy concluded.
Then she saw blood stains on the walls and drag marks on the floor. The blood was recent, one wall was almost covered. Tropes had got in. They had breached the bank’s defences. Mercy turned to Roberts who was peering out a slit in the door.
“I can’t see them, but they’re out there. Bastards, these ones move too fast, you shoot and miss, they’re like ghosts. They communicate with each other—” Roberts said.
“Roberts, check out the wall and ceiling. When was the last time you were here? It looks as if they got in somehow, if they got in once they’ll get in again. I think we should leave, we’ve backed ourselves into a corner,” Mercy said, concern edging her voice.
Roberts looked away from the slit, his eyes widened when he saw the wall. “Shit. This place was supposed to be secure, we need to do a perimeter check right now, find out where they got in.”
Without warning something pounded on the door shaking it, scratching sounds came from the other side. Roberts pressed his eye to the slit, his face went pale. He jerked away. “I need to radio base, this location is compromised. We’ll need to leave, wing it, maybe head over to the docks. If we can get across Lake Montauk there’s a small airfield on the other side. It was clear before all this, we could meet the chopper there.”
Roberts headed to the back of the room behind the tellers’ kiosks. Mercy followed him, the banging at the door intensified and was joined by more banging on the window shutters. Roberts went to a radio in the corner and switched a lantern on. He flicked a switch on the radio, its green digital screen lit up. He grabbed the handset and keyed in a frequency code.
“Roberts to base, Roberts to base, come in base, over.”
Crackling static filled the air. He tried again.
“Roberts to base, Roberts to base, come in base, over. Anyone there?”
“Shit, the storm’s interfering with the signal, or something’s wrong with the radio,” Roberts said. He held the microphone to his mouth and spoke again, “Roberts to base, I’m sending you this message in case you can hear me. I have the subject. Repeat, I have the subject. We’re in the bank in Montauk, but this location has been compromised. We are moving to a new location, will try and reach Montauk docks and then airfield. Repeat will try and reach Montauk docks, then airfield. Will try and make contact from airfield tomorrow, have flares, repeat have flares, will use flares to signal our position to extraction team. This is Roberts, over and out.” He stopped, his head sunk forwards touching the cool wall.
The banging at the door and windows stopped, breaking the spell. Roberts looked up, unease written across his face. “What the fuck are they doing now?”
Mercy stepped towards the gun rack. “Roberts, you can shoot me if you want but I don’t think you will because I’m too valuable. If we’re about to be killed like your buddies back at the lighthouse I want to go down fighting. So do what you gotta do, the way I see it, at the moment, we’re on the same side.”
Mercy reached the gun rack and selected an M4 and four magazines which she put into her pack, she took a Colt Anaconda .44 magnum and holster. She heard a pistol cock behind her and turned to face Roberts. He was pointing his Smith and Wesson 629 magnum at a dark area in the ceiling in the corner of the room.
Mercy heard a scratching noise on the roof.
“Fuckers are coming in through the air conditioning, look over there, the ceiling grille’s been torn off.” Roberts shone his torch at the ceiling above the blood stained wall. His light revealed a dark hole where an air vent grille had once been, the ceiling was pockmarked with bullet holes.
“But that’s too small for a trope to get through,” Mercy heard herself say. The noises on the roof intensified and they heard scratching from the air conditioning shaft.
“I don’t care how they’re doing it, I’m getting the fuck outta here, let’s go,” Roberts went to the door behind the tellers’ section. He entered a code into the door’s keypad, it remained locked. “Shit, concentrate. Get it right.” He tried again, the lock’s LED turned green and a soft click came from the lock. “That’s what I’m talking about,” he said, opening the door. They went through, shutting the door behind them.
Mercy glanced through the door’s narrow window of reinforced glass back into the tellers’ area, the light from the lantern beside the radio threw some illumination at the ceiling. A dark shape was emerging from the shaft, Mercy struggled to understand what it was, it looked like pieces of a trope, misshapen, broken, being pushed through bit by bit, reassembling itself as it exited the opening.
Shit, damn tropes have upped their game—
Mercy pulled away from the door and went after Roberts. He moved down the corridor past a lift and a staircase leading down. Roberts hesitated, looking at the lift.
“We could take our chances and hide in the vault,” he said aloud, uncertainty in his voice.
“Not if you’ve just seen what I’ve seen,” Mercy said. “If you want to live we’ve got to keep moving.”
Roberts turned to look at her, he was about to speak when his eyes widened focusing on something behind Mercy. The sound of splintering glass filled the corridor. Mercy looked back at the locked door and froze. A trope’s disfigured body was squeezing itself through the door’s broken pane of glass.