The plan had been put into rapid effect the world over: every city with a gate had at least four chosen volunteers and the explosives. They would all enter on the night of the 17th. All on the same night, so it would be a surprise attack. The times the gates opened would be staggered, as always, but without lines of communication the Eternals would have no way of knowing what was happening across the countries.
Get in, get over, detonate.
There were cities that they wouldn’t be able to get to, in Somalia, Nigeria, Columbia. The demon populations there were just too dense. That was to be taken care of the next night. Agents had already found the gate locations, flying over the areas in daylight while the demons were sluggish or hiding from the sun. Far more agents were needed for this plan; they would have to protect the group as a whole from waves of demons once the sun went down, at least until the gate opened and hopefully until the sun rose again. But nobody had much hope for the latter.
Had it been about to happen in Chicago, they’d all be screwed. There were ten Possesseds left, or would be after tomorrow night. But agents in other cities hadn’t seen and heard the Eternal spelling out their doom. They had hope, were perhaps even skeptical this whole situation was even happening, that the world was ending.
Anna was the only volunteer that decided to work the night before the plan. Bryan tried to talk her out of it but she insisted.
“It’s why I’m going through that gate anyway,” she said.
Missy, Robbie, and Cam were nowhere to be found that night, which was more like what Bryan had expected. He assumed and hoped were getting drunk off their asses in one last big blowout.
In the meantime, the city was dying. There weren’t enough Possesseds and too many demons left over from the previous nights, and more to come tonight. Bryan cursed the difficulty and red tape involved in getting enough explosives to flatten several city blocks four times over. It could have all been done tonight.
But it gave Cam and the others one more day.
To what? Change their minds?
He shook his head to drive the thought away, and Harper glanced up at him from her laptop. She would have said something but Bryan’s cell rang right at that moment, and for once he was glad of it.
It was Wei, wanting to run him through the announcement pegged for the next morning, and see if he wanted to add anything. He didn’t envy Wei’s job, even beyond the obvious “sit in front of a camera” part. The public was getting furious at what they saw as a lack of action on the part of the Office, especially with knowing where the gate was and how to contain it. But they couldn’t just say they couldn’t control the demons at the gate due to a shortage of agents, so they were trying to steer all conversations towards how more demons were passing through as the gates headed towards stabilization.
That was another problem. The public had caught wind of the plan, which had been expected with a plan spread over major cities all over the planet. But opinion was divided over whether the volunteers were heroes to be cheered on or sacrificial lambs to be saved from slaughter. Without a doubt, police would be needed on site tomorrow.
The night passed in a blur of disasters – apartment buildings and housing developments and stores turned to graveyards and nobody to take care of it. Bryan wanted to be out in it, capturing, but that was impossible now.
Or was it?
It was only a guess that possessing with any demon would allow it to take over him. After all, he had been possessed by Hussein’s demon when he died and nothing had happened. Suppose he could work as normal, could be saving lives, but was holed up in the Office due to a feeling.
But the Eternal was out there too. If he only hadn’t let it escape.
Sometime after the sun rose – though Bryan couldn’t tell in his windowless room – a commotion sounded in the hall, of several people shouting. Harper and Bryan both leapt up and Harper took out a walnut shell, running to the door just as it burst open. She nearly possessed before she realized it was just Missy, Robbie, and a couple of Possesseds.
“Ivers!” Robbie shouted. He was plastered. “You’re not getting out of this party!”
Bryan wanted to protest – this was hardly the place for a drunken party – but couldn’t, not to Robbie. Robbie, who had been so nervous about volunteering for the mission and had told Bryan he wasn’t sure if he would be wanted for it.
So Bryan tried to ignore the growing crowd and work, but the more that showed up, the more beers were shoved in his face, until even Harper told him he should take a break. He relented and went to find Cam. He found Missy, Anna, and again Robbie and shook all their hands and thanked them. They were drunk and likely wouldn’t remember him thanking them, but he did it anyway. No one knew where Cam was.
He stood against the wall and drank his beer, though it tasted like nothing. He wondered whether he would still be able to be drunk, or at least to feel drunk, all the while staring at the aeons of the bodies before him and thinking of how much better than beer they would taste. And then Andrade joined him.
“Hey,” she said, leaning against the wall with him.
“Sorry if they interrupted your work,” he said.
She shook her head, sending her brown curls bouncing over her shoulders. “They need this. You may have noticed there’s more than a few Spotters here too.”
“Yeah.” Had he noticed? Noticed individuals? They all looked like life luminescence to him.
He could feel her study him. She finally put a hand on his shoulder. He tried to not jerk away, but the warmth and weight of it was like a firebrand.
“Are you holding up okay?” she asked.
It was a variation on Are you okay but that wasn’t what bothered him. He knew he could grab that warm hand on his arm. He could pull it, bring her arm to his mouth. He could bite it, and tear it, and fill his mouth with blood and his muscles with life and finally taste something.
He did jerk away then, and left her without a word. He had to leave the crowd. It was all greens and pulses, stronger than ever. Too many of them, all together in a mass.