The Crypto bathrooms had no windows, and the darkness surrounding Susan Fletcher was absolute. She stood dead still for a moment trying to get her bearings, acutely aware of the growing sense of panic gripping her body. The horrible cry from the ventilation shaft seemed to hang all around her. Despite her effort to fight off a rising sense of dread, fear swept across her flesh and took control.
In a flurry of involuntary motion, Susan found herself groping wildly across stall doors and sinks. Disoriented, she spun through the blackness with her hands out in front of her and tried to picture the room. She knocked over a garbage can and found herself against a tiled wall. Following the wall with her hand, she scrambled toward the exit and fumbled for the door handle. She pulled it open and stumbled out onto the Crypto floor.
There she froze for a second time.
The Crypto floor looked nothing like it had just moments ago. TRANSLTR was a gray silhouette against the faint twilight coming in through the dome. All of the overhead lighting was dead. Not even the electronic keypads on the doors were glowing.
As Susan’s eyes became accustomed to the dark, she saw that the only light in Crypto was coming through the open trapdoor‑a faint red glow from the utility lighting below. She moved toward it. There was the faint smell of ozone in the air.
When she made it to the trapdoor, she peered into the hole. The freon vents were still belching swirling mist through the redness, and from the higher‑pitched drone of the generators, Susan knew Crypto was running on backup power. Through the mist she could make out Strathmore standing on the platform below. He was leaning over the railing and staring into the depths of TRANSLTR’s rumbling shaft.
There was no response.
Susan eased onto the ladder. The hot air from below rushed in under her skirt. The rungs were slippery with condensation. She set herself down on the grated landing.
Strathmore did not turn. He continued staring down with a blank look of shock, as if in a trance. Susan followed his gaze over the banister. For a moment she could see nothing except wisps of steam. Then suddenly she saw it. A figure. Six stories below. It appeared briefly in the billows of steam. There it was again. A tangled mass of twisted limbs. Lying ninety feet below them, Phil Chartrukian was sprawled across the sharp iron fins of the main generator. His body was darkened and burned. His fall had shorted out Crypto’s main power supply.
But the most chilling image of all was not of Chartrukian but of someone else, another body, halfway down the long staircase, crouched, hiding in the shadows. The muscular frame was unmistakable. It was Greg Hale.