Autumn and Cassandra
The elevator dropped rapidly, but smoothly so. It was sleek and sterile inside the tiny moving room, barely big enough for three adults to squeeze into - obviously a personal conveyance rather than one used for transporting cargo or large numbers of people. The control panel had two buttons arranged vertically - their arrows making their purpose plain - and a red button set further down and to one side, un-emblazoned. Mentally, both girls were ticking off seconds as the elevator travelled - how long for Cook to get into the room, perhaps banter some more with Courtney, and then call for the elevator himsel-
The doors hissed open almost before the two of them registered that they had come to a smooth stop. Beyond the doors was a short corridor, a double fire-door at one end and another, single door situated about halfway along. They stared for a moment, then Autumn firmly took hold of Cassie's arm and propelled both girls from the elevator as a soft chime sounded and the door began to close. They looked back at the door closing behind them, then at each other.
Someone above had pressed the call code. They had maybe thirty seconds, now. Nowhere to go but forward.
They moved along the corridor, Cassie trying the side door and finding it open as Autumn quickly paced up to the double doors and glanced through them in turn. Beyond the single door was another office, only this one had no regular computer monitors on a wood-finish desk as the one above had possessed. The desk here was smooth, glossy and black, the surface underscored with tiny scintillating lights that changed colour in lazy accordance with the holographic displays being projected into the air above. Across the office, on the opposite wall, was another door, currently closed.
Autumn, meanwhile, peered through the panels of the double doors at a large, brightly lit hallway beyond. She heard machinery, and voices., and ducked out of sight as two uniformed men walked past. They appeared to be wearing U.S. Air Force BDUs, and though were only carrying sidearms looked tough and competent. The two Airmen turned a corner and went out of sight, and Autumn looked back to catch Cassandra's eye, each girl silently asking the other "Which way now?"
Project Argo - Elsewhere
"We're ready to go again." a woman in Air Force fatigues reported in a crisp tone. "It took some doing, but the wave-form oscillation matrix has been stabilised. This time the Argo's interference shouldn't throw off the projector and cause a breach elsewhere." Though the woman, a Captain with a double PhD in Astrophysics and Quantum Mechanics, privately mused that she wasn't entirely sure how it had happened last time. It was as though something had reached out and redirected the focal point of the machine - how or why was still a mystery.
"Excellent." came the digitised voice of the Doctor from over the speakers. "Proceed with the startup sequencing."
"Yes, sir." The Captain said automatically, turning to give orders to the Airmen at the consoles. Beyond the control center's massive observation pane she could see the cavern beyond, containing the Key - the cyclotron-like device which she had helped design and build , currently swarming with techs in radiation suits and, beyond them...
A shimmering, white surface that made up one wall of the cavern. A material that defied drills, explosives, or any other means of entry that they had tried over the last decades since it's discovery, it curved slightly between floor and ceiling, continuing into the rock that embraced it. It was just a glimpse, she knew. The thing was larger than the cavern, easily as large as the lake over their heads. No, she corrected herself. Not a 'thing'. A vessel. Caught in some manner of phased-state between the atoms around it, preserved like a fly in amber, outside of normal space and time.
Cody Sikes / The Horned Man
They were trying again. He/they could feel the ripples in the cosmic foundations washing across his consciousness. Good. he/they thought, rising from the grisly remnants of his last meal and staring around in the dark cave-like place which sheltered him, hid him from those who would harm him. The air was redolent with filth and the reek of decomposing meat, buzzing with flies, but Cody paid it no head as he breathed in deeply. When he'd first come to this place, drawn by the Tree in his dreams, he'd been weak, and vomited at the scent of ancient death. But now he was strong, the Horned Man told him. Now he was the Horned Man, and he had to bring home the harvest, water the Tree. He had been chosen, and should be proud of that. The Horned Man had set his eyes on other candidates, but they were blinded by the light that emanated from their own souls and were worthless because of it. No he, Cody was perfect, and strong, and without Light.
The Light shone brightly in his minds-eye, a gathering of the brightest currently at the hospital. His pawns had failed, as the Horned Man had thought they might do, but the Horned Man was subtle. The Light that drew them together, the bond they shared, was a weakness. Injure one, and others would come running... And a cluster of stalks of grain were easily reaped and threshed. That was why he had let Cody try his scheme - all ways led to the End of the Path, after all.
He felt the ripples strengthen and the Horned Man joined with him - or was he already joined with him, or was he already the Horned Man? It was confusing, but what wasn't confusing was the power. The men in uniform were making a key to a door they ill-understood, but that key could be used... differently.
Marias Medical Center - Above AND Below
They all felt it at the same time. Cassandra and Devin the most severely, then Kat. But all of them felt it to one degree or another. There was a subtle wrenching in the Shine, the subquantum as Jason and Sean called it. Space from elsewhere was being folded over itself, like a shroud being pulled over a corpse - an apt description as the sensation was accompanied by a bone-deep cold that lasted forever and an instant. The air turned stale within the medical center, the radiance from various light sources seeming... wrong somehow. Muted, throwing odd shadows. The Fellowship looked at each other.
"Oh, hell to the fuck no." Devin vocalised what they were all thinking, feeling his stomach dip and roil as space became twisted. Marissa glanced out of the window, noting that the sky seemed to be entirely formed of black, billowing clouds, the leaves and bark on the trees outside taking on a withered look. Charlie glanced out into the hospital lobby, spotting Sophia coming to her feet, looking alarmed. People were milling around uncertainly, looking up at the sky, wondering if this was a storm or a sudden tornado. Dark patches began to appear on the walls, growing from the floor upwards, glistening like oil slicks as they stained the pristine hospital paintwork. Jason pulled off the monitor electrodes he was wearing and sat up, swinging his legs out of bed and grabbing his boots, pulling them on and heedless of his lack of shirt.
"We're the target of this." he said tersely. "The Dark wants to kill those with Shine, feed off them somehow."
"How do-?" Sean began, but Jase cut him off, his manner curt but calm.
"Mr Black told me. Let's move, hmm?"
Below ground, for Cassie and Autumn, the effect was much the same, and they quickly realised they were not the only one to notice it. An alarm began to sound in the complex in which they had found themselves. Cassandra clutched at her head for a moment, feeling cold hatred so intense that it made her gasp. Autumn felt a wrongness to the quality of the air, like the air itself was sick, and fought down a feeling of nausea. The sudden change had taken only moments, and the elevator carrying Courtney and probably Dr Cook was likely still on it's way down.
That was when the screams started. For Autumn and Cassandra, the first was a high-pitched yell of a man in pain and mortal terror, suddenly cut off, from beyond the double doors Autumn was standing at. For the Fellowship in the medical center's ICU, the screams were of fright, accompanied by a crash of glass from the front of the building and finally, as though punctuating the whole horrible cacophony with an exclamation point, a gargling, shrieking roar that all remembered from the previous Friday.