The wind was biting; a howling wet pressure that pushed the two lone figures trekking down the road roughly up against the buildings beside it. Kaz and Benny made their way along Townhouse Row as quickly as they could manage, tree limbs accompanied by little bits of dislodged marquee banner and shattered fencing tumbling across the road ahead of them as they braced against the stoops and waist-high walls adjacent to the sidewalk.
Townsrow (which is what most people called their neighborhood out of laziness) was generally only half populated anyway, and the homes that weren't completely abandoned were now shut up tight to weather the storm. The empty units, on the other hand, had seen their remaining windows completely blown out by the impact of the storm, the angry wind and driving rain tearing through them and further soaking their dilapidated interiors as it carried on its wail with nigh endless fury.
Just up the road, beyond the strip park that lined the front of the row itself was the entrance to Rowside. That was their destination. It seemed, if Talon and Shen were going to go out on a jaunt, that would be a good first place to look.
Though the commercial district to the north was certainly the largest and most impressive of all the commercial areas in the city (what of it was still filled with business, anyway), it was known to the residents that for better mental and physical health, walking was the way to go.
Of course, unless you lived on the edge of the Upper Residences and could regularly just head over to the Commercial District, it was generally a bit of a trek. This was why most of the large neighborhoods liked to have some sort of small commercial area nearby so that the residents could walk over and grab snacks or what have you, and generally have a place to hang out. These little urban centers usually stood by or around the subtran stations, as well, to further facilitate travel on foot to other parts of Brightwater.
Rowside was one of these places, and the defacto hangout spot for Talon's pack.
A sort of circular hub of buildings with a little plaza in the middle, the stairwell leading down to the Rowside Subtran Station occupied pride of place in the very center. Around it were all sorts of thimble-shaped kiosks, large enough to be manned by a single person or perhaps two, each offering different refreshments, maps, tran schedules and the like. A the moment, they were all buttoned up tightly, their marquees off and all the floor locks engaged, bolting their bases tightly to the plaza surface and effectively rendering them immobile, should the driving winds attempt to say otherwise.
Still, getting past the archway entrance actually seemed to cut off the wind a bit. Sure, it was still blustery, with little devils whirling up bits of broken signboard and plastic here and there, but it wasn't the constant, horrible roar that it had been outside. The buildings were stout enough that the wind didn't seem to be able to damage them, for the moment, especially with all their shutters down along the outside. Hell, a few of them still had their fronts open and appeared to still be open for business!
The Seafood Knight (which was Talon and Shen's favorite food joint) wasn't among them, sadly, but the Allswell's next to it was still open, if unattended. Across the plaza, on the corner, were Kiwi's Playhouse and the little pocket Burger Dictator next door. The lights were on and Kiwi's signage flashed playfully across the way at them.
Seeing nobody in the Allswell's, the two of them quickly scurried past the station entrance towards Kiwi's.
``I'm surprised this place is still open!'' Benny shouted over the wind. He smiled under his hood at Kaz as they walked together, water running down and off the hydrophobic coating on his glasses as sheets of rain dumped down into the open air of the plaza, not quite as deterred by the architecture as the wind was.
``Maybe Tal and Shen are there! You know how how Tal likes to blow off steam after work, and Connie has been kind of a jerk lately.'' Kaz returned and Benny gave a nod to that. It seemed like a likely course of events after a shitty workday, and what better place to hole up?
Taking what little shelter there was under the Playhouse's flickering sign, the two of them stepped up to the front door and knocked. No sooner had they done so, the field in front of the door dropped and blew it in rather dramatically, smacking it against the interior wall with a loud crack. Stumbling their way in, the two pulled their hoods down to have a look around...
Kiwi's Playhouse was the local hangout, a three story building filled with retro-style arcade games. There were both pre-splice reconstructions and more modern affairs, along with your typical AR and holo-tabletops; HoloHockey, Slapjack, and Inconceivable Crisis were all present, of course, along with a few custom boards that Kiwi got brought in from time to time.
Chairs and tables had been set up near the side entrance to the Biggy-D's next door so that people could grab their food and come hang out in the playhouse. Given that the little mini-Dictator only had a couple long benches so that people could wait for their orders to be done and not much else in the way seating, it was pretty convenient.
Currently, however, they were all completely empty. A holo projected on the wall currently had the same little text box in red as the one at home, this one imposed over a collage of video game screenshots. No signal.
At the corner opposite the door was the main counter, displaying a bunch of shirts and posters and little toys and kitsch behind it to act as prizes, awarded for collecting virtual tokens with virtual feats of prowess. There was an RF reader and tablet on the counter, along with a suggestion box plastered with a bunch of moving holo stickers (and a few... understickers, placed by someone with a sense of humor that matched Kiwi's, apparently), a list of high scores projected above it that rotated through the different available games.
Set on a stool just behind the counter, of course, was Kiwi herself.
``Well, don't just stand there with the door open! You're getting the floor wet, you eggs!''
The two stopped and looked at her before Benny turned around to grab the door, shutting it and locking it again. The field went back up a moment later and he gave Kiwi an embarrassed smile.
The bird just rolled her eyes, brought up something on her tablet and after a second there was a loud rush of air from the curtain above the door, blowing warm air down over the both of them. This ensured that they were dry and evaporated the water off the floor around them with great efficiency.
Kiwi shut it off after a moment and the two of them gave her a sheepish smile. She gave a snort through her beak, resettling her... rather round frame atop her stool.
Kaz gave her beau a slight nudge on the arm with her knuckles before heading towards the stairway leading up to the second floor. There wasn't anyone downstairs, aside from Kiwi, so up she went, proceeding quickly upstairs and stepping out into next game room.
This one was much like the first. Lots of AR tables, puffing chairs and a couple old couches on opposite walls for people to crash on while their friends played games or relaxed. There were even a few old-fashioned card tables surrounded by real old-timey, upholstered chairs in the back by the windows. The rest of the gang and her would come up here and play a few rounds of Hold'em once in a while on the weekends. Nothing with any stakes, just silly crap to kill time and hang out. Shen usually won those, when he didn't let Tommy win. There were even tournaments sometimes, too. Mostly people from Townsrow and the surrounding neighborhoods, though there was that one out of town guy who worked for some old dude that would show up every now and again and play some weird old-timey game or another that he liked. Kaz was pretty sure he donated some of the furniture.
There wasn't anyone here now, though. Everything seemed... quiet and in place. It was deserted, as far as she could tell.
Beyond the tables, on the side wall near the windows was the stairway up to Kiwi's room. That was shut tight, of course, and Kaz quickly ruled it out as she wandered across the room towards the windows.
She sighed heavily, a little deflated. Reaching down to pick up a deck of cards off one of the tables, she regarded it in one hand, shuffling the backing on the cards with a tap of her thumb a time or two before looking around to make sure one of her friends wasn't asleep in a corner or something.
``Talon? Shen?'' she called out. No dice.
``Is there anyone here? Hello?'' She said, a little louder, stopping for a second to listen. She thought... that for a moment she heard something nearby and turned to face the windows, but there was no one there. Just the silence of an empty room, and beyond that just the angry, muffled roar of the storm outside.
Downstairs, Benny stood in the Burger Dictator, looking up at the menu and seriously considering a Double Red October with some Fascist Fries. After all, they were still open, right? It wouldn't be too much of an imposition, surely...
A rather tired looking cacomistle waited patiently to see if Benny would order anything, trying his best to look engaged while also trying not to absentmindedly lean back onto the griddle. Again.
After a moment of silence, a piece of dislodged billboard, whipped up by the wind, bounced off the shielded window immediately behind Benny with a loud thump, causing him to whirl around with a start. He paused tensely, balanced on his toes as he gazed out the window before swallowing the breath that had almost fled him and turning back towards the sole employee of the establishment.
``I... um... I think I'm good.'' Benny stuttered after a moment, thinking better of the order before another piece of debris smacked the window again, causing him to tense up once more.
To his credit, the employee behind the counter didn't even flinch.
``H-honestly, Chavez, I don't know why you just don't go home...'' Benny remarked to the somewhat familiar face. The cashier just shrugged in response.
``Eh, I get overtime.''
An awkward moment or two later, Kaz walked in looking sullen, her hands tucked into in her pockets as she approached Benny at the counter.
``They're not here; the place is totally empty.'' she muttered.
``Damn it.'' the gazelle responded through his teeth, sighing and rubbing the bridge of his nose before nodding slightly to the cashier and proceeding back out into the main room, Kaz following along beside him.
Kiwi was still there, of course, sitting on her stool and reading what was most likely one of those trashy romance novels she liked so much.
The two of them approached the counter, and Benny leaned against the it, unintentionally looming over the little matriarch.
``Kiwi, have Talon or Shen been here today?'' he asked, Kiwi looking up from her tablet before setting it down on the counter to regard him, knitting her fingers together against her chest.
``What? No, I haven't seen either of them,'' the gravid bird replied, taking a deep breath and shifting a bit as she balanced on her stool. She was a tiny thing; tough, but soft in the right ways and one of the few successful brood mothers in town. An amazing feat, really, considering how much strain it must put on her tiny frame.
Benny just shook his head.
``Are you sure? You haven't seen them at all? Not even out in the plaza?''
``Hasn't been anyone out today, really, aside from a couple of people in the morning. No one since the dome went down at all, `sides you two... not that I can blame anybody. Lika's stuck at her friend's house for the moment, but I figured I'd leave the lights on, just in case. Not much better to do, anyway, considering I sleep upstairs,'' she remarked, stretching one arm at a time so that she could still hold on to the counter.
''I'm honestly surprised you're out here, you bloody nuts. Hell of a time getting here in the first place, even from Townsrow.'' The little bird gave her rounded belly a pat, kicking her feet a ways off the floor as she leaned her elbow upon the counter, ``Why, something wrong?''
``Of course there's something wrong!'' Kaz interjected, stepping around Benny to loom over Kiwi a bit more intentionally, ``They went out before the storm, but they hadn't come back yet when the dome went down. That's bad enough, but then there were those tremors, and the PETNet's gone completely out. We have no idea where they went!''
Kaz had an obviously concerned look on her face. Normally she wouldn't even be worried about Talon and Shen being out together, even in the middle of the night, but this wasn't an ordinary situation and it's obvious that she was in a bit of a way about it. She didn't like to be like her mother, who was known to hover a tad. But one could forgive her in this particular situation! After all, they could be hurt or stuck somewhere or-
``Eh, I'm sure they're fine, gal.'' Kiwi said with some degree of nonchalance. Kaz's face screwed up, her ears flattening back against her head as she glowered at the bird, but the little woman just waved it off.
``Tallyboy and Shen are grownups now, yanno,'' Kiwi pointed out, ``They've been around the block a few times, same as you. I'm sure they're just huddled up somewhere trying to stay dry until the dome goes back up or the net comes back. Once that happens, I'm sure you'll hear from them first thing.''
``But what if they're hurt or something? What about those tremors? What if something exploded?'' Kaz protested, gesticulating in the air with both hands, as if trying to form images out of the space between them.
``And what if they're back home and the two of you are gone?'' Kiwi retorted, her hands resting on her hips, ``Shit explodes all the time down in the facility, and people go on about their day like it don't mean nothin' at all. If the wind knocked a few buildings down it wouldn't be the first time.''
This didn't seem to calm Kaz so Kiwi gave a deep sigh and came at it from another angle.
``Come on, did you leave a note at least?'' Kiwi inquired. This made Kaz cringe a bit in response and rub the back of her neck. They had been in a bit of a rush.
The little bird shook her head, giving a shrug and smiling up at the dingo.
``I'm sure they'll appreciate the effort, gal. But there's no point in putting yourself in danger if you don't know for sure what the situation is. For all you know, they could be back by now, feeling the same about you as you are about them right now.''
Kaz gave a gentle nod, shifting about under her raincoat.
Benny actually smiled a little, grasping onto the little bit of reassurance. He had wanted to say it himself, but it was always so difficult to stand up to his partner's impulsive nature. Once she was set about doing something, there wasn't a lot that could be done to stop her.
Not that she wasn't often right, but sometimes running off and being a man of action just wasn't prudent.
And sometimes it scared the crap out of him.
It was one of the things he loved about her, really, in spite of himself.
``See, I tell her these things, but she doesn't listen to me at-OW!'' Benny winced, rubbing his arm as Kaz shook her hand, her knuckles a little red from glancing off of Benny's raincoat. That was more than just a slight nudge. Kiwi gave a short laugh and waved the two off before hopping down from her stool and waddling around the counter towards them both.
``Listen, you two can stay here as long as you like, I'm not gonna kick you out. But, you should probably get back as soon as you're able. You're going to want to hold down the fort, after all,'' she said, walking with them towards the front door.
Kaz conceded after a moment, she and Benny flanking Kiwi on either side.
``Well, thank you for letting us look anyway, Kiwi,'' Benny remarked, considerably calmer now that they at least had an objective aside from `go search random places', ``I'm sure they'll be back soon enough.''
Heading back home and waiting things out did seem to be a better option, for now. Until the PETNet came back or the Consulate allowed normal PET traffic over the hardlines at the very least. Kaz still seemed unconvinced, however.
``In the meantime, just in case, let's stop by Allswell's and grab some supplies,'' Benny proposed, ``Maybe a pencil, some patches, a few extra filters if we get any salt in the taps. Don't want any briney tap water if we end up running out of Carbolate.''
The suggestion seemed to perk Kaz up a bit.
``Yeah, that first rush of wind kind of made a mess of the kitchen, so we'll probably need to clean that up, too.''
``Yes, we'll blame that on the wind,'' Benny said, sticking his tongue out. Kaz cracked a smile again after a moment, and Kiwi gave them both a pat on the back.
``You give me a call once the net's back up, ey? Just so I don't have to worry about you kids.''
``Kids? We're not kids,'' Benny replied, a little incredulously.
``You're kids to me.'' The bird replied with a wink. Kaz's smile just got bigger and Benny gave a little huff from his nose, though he couldn't hold the indignant look for too long.
Just as they were about to leave, there was another thump of something hitting the building, and a bit of a clatter upon the roof, clear, if distant, like someone rolling several Carbolate cans across it. The lights flickered a bit, and a moment later Chavez appeared in the doorway to the mini-Dictator's, still looking half-bored and half-asleep.
``Hey, boss, I thought I heard something banging around upstairs...'' He said, bleary.
Kiwi turned and waved her hand at him, looking unconcerned.
``Ey, was probably just some trash bouncing off the roof. Shit's been doing that since the storm started. I'll go check on it in a minute. Why don't you take a break or something? You look like shit.''
Chavez just shrugged a little in response and disappeared back into the Biggy-D's, Kiwi turning her attention back up at the two
``Well, we won't bother you any further, Kiwi. Thank you for your time. We'll most likely be back as soon as everything's up and running again.'' Benny said, turning around and unlocking the door. It, of course, immediately flew open, slamming against the wall again as the three of them found themselves immediately blasted in the face with rain.
Kiwi, now soaked, just sighed.
Across the way, the Allswell's sat quietly, its advertising boards and signage glowing softly under the darkness of the obscured sky. The familiar red and white glow was almost like a lighthouse, guiding lost travellers to shelter in trying times.
Upon approaching the threshold, a little, metallic tinged ``Hi!'' spoke from the dark, the pair turning towards it as a hologram of a small, white, robot rabbit appeared in midair. She was dressed in a stylized, tightly cut nurse's outfit and wielded a rather oversized pencil, giving Benny and Kaz a wave as they entered before following them inside.
Allswell's was the local chain of pharmaceuticals and health care products, owned by the Allswell Corporation, with stores scattered around Brightwater and reaching out to a few of the nearer-by domes.
The stores generally followed a rather particular format and construction: The space consisted of a single large room, along the walls of which were several large touchscreen vending machines that took care of the bulk of the business. From these, one could buy any number of medical supplies with either their stip or lux funds. These held several different brands, though Allswell's more general, store-branded ones were usually front and center (not to mention a good bit cheaper than their competitors'.)
Out on the floor were small holo kiosks strewn throughout the store, each one advertising the newest and greatest advancements made under the Allswell's label, complete with accompanying demonstrations by Allsy, the company's aforementioned bunny mascot.
Beyond those, in the middle of the store, lay a circular counter, usually attended by a pair of clerks that minded the store and answered customers' questions. This had been abandoned for the time being, the store empty of any sort of living presence aside from them. The space was a bit dim, too, the clerks having probably set it on half-lighting on leaving, probably in order to keep things running for as long as possible if the main power ceased.
Towards the entrance, where Benny and Kaz had come in, were the freebie bins.
Single dose pencils, packets of powdered pain killers, small patches for minor burns, bruises and cuts. In Brightwater, by law, medical equipment had to be made available to the public, regardless of financial situation, and though they didn't have to provide their best products, each Allswell's had to provide some sort of public access equipment.
That way, if someone couldn't get to the hospital in an emergency, then someone could at least get to the nearest Allswell's and get something to assist themselves or whoever was in need. You don't want someone dropping dead outside your store if you can help it, after all.
The two of them set about looking through the bins for anything they felt they could use before going to get what they'd come for. The little holographic bunny watched their choices with big, bright red eyes aglow with curiosity and calculations.
``If you like those, try our Deluxe StypStick Medicated Pencils!'' She remarked cheerfully when Benny picked up one of the single shot versions, ``They're fast acting and last twice as long!''
The little robot bunny bounded along the outside of the bins, hopping up onto them to smile brightly, her form occasionally flickering a little as she switched between engagement modes.
``Ah, no thank you, dear. Though I do appreciate the suggestion. Maybe later...'' Benny said with a smile, waving her off. The bunny just giggled before bounding over to another set of bins, watching them from a distance.
``It's so cute to see you still flirting with your old girlfriend. Should I be jealous?'' Kaz teased from a nearby kiosk, looking up from the info on the back of one of the packs of improved skin patches and giving her beau a wry, toothy grin.
``She wasn't my girlfriend,'' Benny returned firmly, `` I just had an interest in her when I was younger, that's all. She has a cute design. Very playful.''
There may or may not have been a soft ``Thank you!'' in reply.
``Oh, very playful from what I've heard. Soft, too, I imagine?'' Kaz continued teasing, setting the package down and moving over to the bin next to Benny.
``You're never going to let me live that down, are you?'' He hissed in return, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose.
``Your first OC was with a hologram...''
``She was not a hologram. She was a rather comprehensive VR simulation, and she was very accommodating and understanding, thank you.'' Benny remarked, looking somewhat offended as he leaned against her, bumping her hip gently with his own, ``Not judgmental like some people.''
``Hey, I have to keep an eye on the competition, don't I~?'' Kaz retorted, ``Maybe I should start dressing up like a nurse. Would that get your attention?''
``You have my attention constantly, if you hadn't noticed.'' Benny said and stuck his tongue out before giving her a little peck on the cheek, his voice dipping down just a bit. ``...though, I wouldn't mind the nurse's outfit.''
Kaz responded to that by leaning over and nipping at his neck, Benny tensing up with a loud ``ack!'' before laughing and putting an arm around her in a tight hug, the two of them leaning forward against the bin to dig a little deeper. The clerks cleaned these up every morning, but even on a day like today, the customers had left them in a complete disorganized mess.
Most everything available was pretty basic, but they were free, and though Benny probably wanted a better pencil than one of these, it never hurt to have some analgesic powder around. The two sifted through the packaged items, doing some cursory sorting of their own as they looked.
Outside, the wind carried on, its screeching given a degree of separation a few stories above their heads, as to not be a total assault on their ears. It was this that allowed the slight tinkling of broken glass to be caught by Kaz as she took a slight break from her rummaging.
She glanced over her shoulder towards the entrance, but there was nothing there of note, just the grey-cast view out into the deserted, rain-soaked plaza. Her attention turned idly back across the way for a moment.
``Hey, the lights at Kiwi's place are off...'' Kaz observed.
Benny was still stuffing supplies into his coat for the trip back.
``Maybe she finally decided to take a nap. Not going to be much else to do, though, I suppose she could play some of the games...''
``In her condition?'' Kaz said with a snort. They both knew that Kiwi could do more at full term than some could do with just themselves and perfectly healthy. Still, they liked to poke, especially if they didn't run the risk of Kiwi hearing them (which, itself, was to run the risk of some form of beak related injury.)
``Probably no Dance Uprising then.'' Benny responded with a smirk.
``Well she's already filled the high score board on that one anyway.'' Kaz followed and they both shared a little laugh. Standing up completely, Kaz stretched herself out a bit to work a little kink out of her back while Benny remained draped over the edge of the bin, considering his options intensely.
Kaz wasn't a stranger to physical activity, of course, but the sudden burst of emotional stress was making her a little stiff and it would definitely be good to get back and just have a seat for a bit. Maybe Kiwi was right. For all she knew, Talon and Shen could be back there right now, wondering where they'd gone.
``Hi!'' said the little metallic voice from near the entrance.
Kaz's ears perked up at that, and she turned back towards the entrance once more. Again, she greeted by nothing.
She frowned and scanned the front of the store. There were some debris around. Some broken glass and improperly disposed-of packages that hadn't been thrown away and were in the process of degrading out in the rain. Probably some trash in the wind; there'd been enough of it.
Still, for a second there she had hoped that maybe their friends had found them...
For some reason, however, she couldn't shake the feeling that she was being watched. Her ears twitched, irritated by a light... rapping noise. Like the tip of a knife on a metal pipe, a slow staccato rhythm that was hard to pin down the location of.
``Do you... hear that...'' she asked, Benny replying with a soft, noncommittal noise, still peering into the bin, trying to determine the difference between two dissimilarily packaged sets of skin patches.
``Hear what? I don't hear anything... Say, which do you prefer, burns and swelling or general purpose?''
Kaz snorted through her nose, ignoring the question. There was definitely something off...
Just then, she heard something different. The rapping stopped and there was a soft groan of... what sounded like bending metal. This didn't echo like the taps, and came most certainly from above, to which Kaz looked up, somewhat puzzled by the sound.
The answer was unpleasant.
Her eyes grew wide, and her ears flattened back against her head as she reached over and grabbed Benny's arm, shaking him a bit. He gave her a quick glance, still trying to puzzle out packaging and not paying complete attention. Kaz shook him again, squeezing his arm a little tighter.
``Hrm? What- ow!'' he yelped when her grip got too tight, ``Hey! Not so hard. What is it?''
Looking over at her, confused, it took a second before he realized that her attention was locked on something. His gaze tracked over to her, and then up towards the ceiling...
``What are you look... ing... at...''
Benny's face went pale and the two stood, staring up at the ceiling as something very long and very large peered back down at them from the dark with three pairs of intense, yellow eyes.
Out into the rain and then right into the nearest shelter, down into the long stairwell for the station. Clearing two and three steps at a time, they bounded down the escalator like it was sitting still, its motion giving them just a bit of extra speed as they descended towards the subtran.
Behind them it followed. They could hear its legs clicking along the stairwell ceiling, pursuing them at frightening speed down into the dark.
Benny had been the first to scream, but Kaz had been the first to run. Despite this and Kaz's general athleticism, Benny was still a few steps ahead of her as they bounded down the long switchback escalator into the station.
Perhaps this was due to natural ability, or being driven by pure unadulterated fear. Regardless, the gazelle slid out onto the dimly lit platform a good ways ahead of his SO, skidding to a stop and spinning around to look at her as she emerged. The horrible creature scuttled out of the stairwell entrance behind her only a scant few seconds later and once she was within an arm's reach of Benny, he was off again.
The two booked it down the platform, going as fast as their legs would carry them and trying to get any sort of distance on the thing that they could.
Unfortunately, the station itself wasn't very complex. Just a single long platform with tubes on either side, the emergency lights doing little to penetrate the darkness beyond the platform's edge.
Where could they go? Out into the tubes? What if the trans were still running? That would be suicide. No, the only way to go was forward and soon they found the end of the platform approaching with worrying rapidity.
As they neared the wall, a silver service door burst open. It was neatly concealed by the patterning on the wall so that it would take more than a quick look to discern its location, and out from it stepped a familiar seal.
Georgie, dressed in his bright white SecTech uniform, held in his hand what looked like a little black box. It was about the size of half a PET, cut vertically, and when he squeezed it and let his thumb off of its side, a small section of the object popped off with a spring-loaded plink and clattered to the ground. Taking a few deliberate steps forward, Georgie hurled it overhand between Benny and Kaz, the object clattering onto the ground behind them and bouncing towards the approaching creature. Surprised, Benny and Kaz stopped to look back.
``Ears and eyes!'' Georgie shouted at them, shielding his face with his hands. Realizing what it was, they did the same just in the nick of time and as the creature was about to reach them, there was a loud report and a bright white magnesium flash filled the immediate area.
The beast roared in surprise and coiled up on itself, its back end running into its front as it tried to stop itself and rolled over on the platform, covering its head in visible displeasure. With a ringing in their ears, the two opened their eyes, Georgie having already recovered and motioning them to hurry from his position at the door.
Leaving the horrible creature behind them, they dashed in past Georgie and with a pained grunt he slammed the door shut, its lock sealing audibly behind them.