We took the stairs up. Between Rod’s injuries, my need to keep the suit from running off, and our crowd of former kidnapping victims, it took longer than the way down.
And oh yeah, the darkness didn’t help either.
The Nine’s men had thought enough ahead that they’d locked the doors to the stairway so when we got to the parking garage, I readied myself to knock it down.
As I lowered my shoulder just before charging, Sam said, “No, wait!”
Simultaneously, the gun said, “THREAT. UNKNOWN AMPHIBIOUS HOMINIDS.”
The gun’s awareness showed at least ten of them in the garage. They were eating the Nine’s soldiers.
That didn’t do my stomach any good.
I’ve beaten people up. I’ve been stabbed, shot, and seen inside my own body in ways most people wouldn’t live through. It still didn’t harden me against seeing the frog-things rip chunks out of people.
I pulled my mind out of the connection, and backed away from the door. “We can’t go out here.”
“That’s what I said.” Sam sounded a little annoyed, but sound was all I had to go on. We didn’t have any light. She was saving her staff’s energy.
One of the guys said, “What’s out there?”
“Some kind of frog-monsters. They eat people.” I said it calmly. I think.
“Didn’t they come here before? Maybe ten years ago?” That was one of the girls.
Another said, “They did. They totally did. I was eight.”
“Hey suit,” I said. “You know the building. Any place we could get out without running into these guys?”
“Could you stop calling me ‘suit’? My name is John.”
“Sure John, where would you leave the building if you didn’t want to become fish food?”
He was quiet for a little while. “I go out the front for lunch or through the parking area after work. It’s not as if we used secret tunnels. I didn’t even know I was working for the Nine until a couple weeks ago when they started keeping kids in the storage room.”
One of the “kids” (a guy) said, “Why didn’t you say anything? I had to take dumps in bucket for a week. When I tried to escape they beat the fuck out of me, and you kept on collecting your paycheck.”
“It was the Nine. You think I’d survive turning on them? They know where I live. They know where my family lives. Am I supposed to put them in danger for you?”
“So you’d just let them have us? D.C.’s got supers and Feds all over. You’re a coward. That’s what you are—”
Rod said, “Everyone shut up. What do you want to bet those monsters can hear us?”
I brought up the gun, let the connection reform.
They’d heard something. Most of them were still picking at the bodies in the garage, but a few had turned toward the door.
None of them had seemed to be as strong as I was when we fought, but there were a lot of them. They could break down the door if they wanted.
“They’re waiting outside the door,” I whispered. “Stay quiet. I’ll tell you when they’re gone.”
No one talked. It felt like forever, but it couldn’t have been more than ten minutes.
BURN THEM DOWN, the gun suggested helpfully.
I’d thought about it, but what if the noise attracted more? The gun said it was near full charge, but that wouldn’t last forever.
When they stopped staring at the door, I let John lead us toward the front. We walked out of the back stairway and into the main halls. It was almost a mini mall with stores, restaurants, offices and even an embassy on the top floor.
When we got near the front, we stopped. The glass doors in the front exited into the street under the highway we’d been attacked on earlier that night.
Thanks to the gun, I could see the shark monster we’d fought on the ground in the park across the street.
Frog-things were everywhere. They must have come down here once the Liberators left. Or maybe more had come out of the Potomac. It was just past the park.
We weren’t going out the front door.
“The front’s crawling with them.”
“Crap,” Rod muttered.
John said, “That’s it. We’re all going to die.”
The voice that had argued with John earlier said, “Grow a pair, dumbass.”
“Shh,” Sam said, “everybody be quiet.”