Suddenly there was nothing to see. Night had fallen over Wayward Pines.
And they were in the dark with monsters.
Ethan rode the elevator out of Pilcher’s suite to the Level 1 corridor. As the elevator opened, he could still hear gunshots, but they were distant now.
He headed for the glass doors at the end of the hallway, pulling the pistol Alan had given him as he crossed through the threshold into the ark.
It looked as if most of Pilcher’s inner circle had come down to see the source of all the commotion; at least a hundred people were milling about, confused and scared.
The gunshots were louder here, the reports issuing from somewhere deep in the tunnel that led down through the mountain into Wayward Pines.
There were dead abbies everywhere.
Piles of them in the tunnel.
Forty or fifty in the cavern.
Blood running in channels over the stone.
Five bodies, covered by sheets, lay in a row next to the entrance to suspension.
The smell of spent munitions was overpowering.
Alan came running out of the tunnel.
Ethan pushed toward him through the crowd, saw Alan’s face speckled with blood, his right arm torn open by what Ethan surmised was the slash of a talon.
The racket of an AR-15 fired up in the tunnel.
Followed by a scream.
“We’re pushing them back,” Alan said, “but there must’ve been two hundred abbies. I’ve lost men. The M230 is out of ammo. If we hadn’t had the chain gun, this would have gone a whole lot worse. Where’s Pilcher?”
“He’s unconscious, tied up in his office.”
“I’ll send someone down for him.” Alan’s radio squeaked. He answered, “Alan. Over.”
Mustin’s voice crackled through the speaker, shouting above gunfire, “We just drove the last band out of the tunnel, but the door’s compromised! Over.”
Alan said, “I’ve already got a truck heading down to you with sheets of reinforced steel and a three-man team of metalworkers. They’re going to weld the door shut. Over.”
“Copy that, we’ll hold the line! Out!”
Ethan said, “You can’t seal that exit. We have to get to the people in the valley. My wife and son are down there.”
“We will, but we need to regroup, reload. I lost eight men that I know of. If we’re going to roll out in force into Wayward Pines, we better take every last weapon in our arsenal. We have to find more ammo for that chain gun.” His eyes became grave as he said, “And we can’t go out there at night.”
“What are you saying?”
“It’s already evening. It’ll be dark long before we’re ready to go. We’ll head into town at first light.”
“We aren’t equipped to do battle at night.”
“You think the unarmed people in that valley are? You think my wife and son—”
“We’d be slaughtered in the dark, and you know it. All that would happen is we’d lose the only chance we have of saving those people.”
“You think I don’t want to scream into town right now, guns blazing?”
Ethan moved toward the tunnel.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Alan called after him.
“To find my family.”
“You go out there at night, the only thing that’s going to happen is you’ll get eaten. There’s hundreds of those things out there.”
Two steps into the tunnel, Ethan stopped.
“I can only imagine how you feel,” Alan said. “If it were my family out there, you wouldn’t be able to hold me back. But you’re smarter than I am, Ethan. And certainly you understand that your death tonight on some suicide mission isn’t going to save your family or anyone else’s.”
He was right.
Ethan turned, blew out a hard, frustrated sigh.
He said, “So the residents of Wayward Pines get to spend another night in the dark, in the cold, with no food, no water, sharing that valley with a swarm of abbies.”
Alan came toward him.
Ethan could hear, far down the tunnel, more gunshots.
Alan said, “Hopefully, those who survived the initial invasion have found safe places to hole up. Where’s your family?”
“I left them in a cave, behind a locked door, halfway up a mountain.”
“So they’re safe then.”
“I have no way of knowing that. There’s a group in the school,” Ethan said. “Down in the basement. Eighty, ninety people. What if we just—”
“Too. Risky. And you know it.”
Ethan nodded. “What about the gate in the fence? Is it still wide open? Another thousand or thirty thousand abbies could just stroll right into our valley if they wanted?”
“I had the lead technician look into that. He says we can’t turn on the fence from inside the superstructure.”
“Apparently, Pilcher sabotaged the internal system. Only way to power the fence back up and close the gate is through the manual override.”
“And let me guess . . .”
“It’s at the fence. Wouldn’t be fun if it were easy, right?”
“I say we send someone,” Ethan said. “Right now.”
“There’s a secret exit on the south side of the mountain. It’s only a quarter mile from there to the fence.”
“Send that technician and a couple of guards.”
“Okay. But while I do that . . .” Alan glanced over his shoulder at the crowd of people who had wandered into the ark. “They don’t know anything. They just heard gunshots and came down here to see what’s going on.”
“I’ll talk to them,” Ethan said.
He started toward the crowd.
Alan called after him, “Be gentle!”
“Why should I?”
“Because this is the only life they know, and you’re getting ready to blow it all to pieces.”
She jerked awake, her eyes opening to total darkness.
Ben was stirring, mumbling, “No, no, no,” in his sleep.
She shook him awake and whispered, “You’re okay, buddy. Mama’s got you.”
It had been years since she’d uttered words like those to her son. Not since she’d been a young mother, rocking her baby boy to sleep, the window cracked in his nursery and the two of them lulled by the whisper of soft Seattle rain.
“What’s happening?” Ben asked.