The Crossroads of the Aether
The screams and moans continued outside the tiny room. It was a broom closet, a small utility room for storing cleaning supplies at the end of the hallway of medium-sized hospital in the emergency wing. She had chosen it because the door was made of metal, and outside, things that used to be human were running in the halls, and the streets outside, eating each other. Now, locked inside the room, with the heavy steel door between her and the mayhem outside, she shuddered and heaved, trying to catch her breath between sobs of terror.
Sarah didn't understand what was going on. It was like a horribly real zombie movie out there, and men in military uniforms were shooting everyone, not just the crazy things with blood dripping from hungry mouths. All she could think was this must be some terrifying dream, and soon she would wake up.
She began talking to herself, muttering about getting it together. All she had to do was wait until it got quiet, and then she could make a run for it. She had no idea where she would go, but one thing at a time. Stay hidden in here until the coast was clear.
Were her eyes adjusting to the darkness or was it getting lighter? She looked up, then fell back into the wall as she watched the door frame begin to crawl with electricity. The sparks writhed and danced outward from the door, crawling along the wall, and growing with intensity. With a flash of lighting, and a sound like a thunder-clap inside a metal drum, the door into the hall vanished, leaving the silhouettes of two tall figures. The lightning winked out as abruptly as turning off a light switch. One man immediately spun to face the hall, while the other took half a step forward, both with guns in hand. Sarah froze in the corner, holding her breath and tried to pretend she was invisible.
"I told you, trying to portal the same door was a really bad idea, Stock. Do we have any idea when or where we are?"
Stepping into the light coming in through the window, the speaker was a scruffy man, dressed very strangely, and bristling with guns and knives holstered and sheathed to harness and belts he wore over bits of armor, a leather coat, and old-fashioned, vaguely cowboy-like clothing. And was that a sword at his hip? Sarah was in too much shock to speak, staring at him and his companion, who was wearing a long duster over similar clothes, if less weapons. Quantity was made for by size, however, and the sawed off pump shotgun looked like a hand cannon as he swept it back and forth over the hallway.
"Earth, Syfer, about 600 years after where we were last, and I think somewhere on the west coast of the United States. But, absolutely no idea which parallel we might be on. And what choice did we have? This at least doesn't look as tight as the spot we left. No soldiers charging us with steamlances lowered, at least. But, sounds like trouble here, too, listen to the screams..."
The one called Syfer pulled something from an inside pocket of his jacket. It looked like a pocket watch.
"Trouble is right, Stock. This is the 5th Parallel. 2011. And by the screams, I think it's Los Angeles." Syfer's voice was grim. "Dammit, Stock."
Sarah couldn't hold her breath any longer. With an explosive little puff, she exhaled, shifted her weight and bumped into a broom. Syfer spun and pointed what looked like a shortened version of an Old West rifle from TV Westerns at her. He worked the action of the lever under the gun and an empty brass cartridge popped out of the side with a ringing click. As the brass bounced on the floor, he took another half step forward.
"Easy now, stand up and be seen, and no one needs get hurt," he said as he raised the weapon to sight down the length of the barrel. "What are you doing back in this hiding hole?"
Sarah rose shaking to her feet. "Trying not to be seen by those things outside," she whispered. "What are they? Who are you?"
The man lowered his gun and grimaced. "My name is Syfer Locke, Captain of the Banish Misfortune, and my friend here is Stockard McGuinley. Reckon you can see, we aren't from around here. That gets a little complicated. The things outside, if I'm right, are what you might call zombies, but they don't shamble and shuffle. They are fast as lightning and three times as mean. "
The most ominous sound around is the sound of working the pump on a big gauge shot gun, the hollow sound of a spent cartridge rattling on the floor. "Explanations might have to wait, Syfer. I think we brought attention on ourselves."
Stockard was peering down the hall from the door frame.
"Well, we have to do it the hard way. Risky enough opening a second tesseract to a different place through the same door, not chancing doing it a third time. No telling where we come out, assuming we do come out." Syfer turned and lowered a pair of goggles he wore on his hat down over his eyes. "Hall is clear, for now. But, youre right, we need to move."
Stockard lowered a pair of goggles over his own eyes, then jerked his chin over his shoulder. "What about her?"
"She comes with us, of course, leave her here and she's bait at best, and lunch regardless."
"Always the knight in shining armor," Stockard mocked, with a grin. "I don't think the Banish can track us through two jumps, Syfer. We are going to have to find them."
"Yep." Syfer cocked his head, listening. "Time to move, we are going to have company soon. Did you bring the grenades?"
"Take me for an amateur?" Stock grinned. "Following your lead, Captain."
"Wait for it....... NOW!" Syfer spun around the edge of the door, hugging the right wall and sweeping the dark hall with his rifle. Three rapid shots, and the muzzle flash illuminated three ravening once human creatures, heads splinter under the impact of heavy rifle rounds. The rolling thunder of the big shotgun boomed down the hallway as Stockard mirrored his move, taking the left wall, their fields of fire overlapping down the length of the dark corridor. They moved at not quite a run, in quick spurts, stopping and starting, and shooting at any moving obstacle in their path. Sarah realized the goggles must let them see in the dark as she watched more of the dead looking things lurch and rush down the hallway, only to fall in the hail of gunfire. She had to almost run to keep up with the two taller men as they rushed down the hall, trusting them to clear a path for her.
The trio reached the end of the hall, and Syfer gave Stockard a curt nod. Stockard pulled a thick stick from his belt, slammed the bulging end down onto the rod and threw it around the corner.
A flash of light erupted in a wave of heat and a crashing bang as the grenade exploded.
"We better hurry before the new exit gets blocked, too."