I heard several explosions from above, followed by what sounded like metal legs skittering.
"Starling," a voice said from inside my helmet. "You in the Vault?"
"I'm in the outer area," I said. "At the main door. I've never gone inside the primary--"
"Code is three four nine," Sumerset said. "Get inside. You take care of the lady with the metal hands?"
"Good, going that way."
"Did you get past Scourge and the others?" I said. Another explosion rattled from above.
I pressed the code into the keypad; the immense metal disk in front of me rumbled and clicked before slowly rolling aside with a series of heavy clanks. Through the opening I could make out the steady flicker of fluorescent lights.
The place was immense--probably as big as the rest of the bunker on its own. And every inch of it was crammed with jaw-dropping amazement.
A golden statue of what looked like a Greco-Roman God. The bleach white bones of something that resembled the xenomorph from Alien, suspended inside a block of amber. A suit of medieval steam-powered armor. A sword suspended in a case--its translucent blade fractured light into a thousand different geometric patterns. A twenty foot wide mechanical hand that looked like it'd been torn off a giant robot straight out of a 50s sci-fi novel. A metal tripod with delicate spider-like legs of bronze and withered tentacles dangling from each of its sides--at its top was a glass egg that contained the long-dessicated corpse of some near-unfathomable horror.
"Dear God," I whispered.
"Yeah," I heard Sumerset say over the communicator. "That's what I said when Donnie showed it to me a few years back."
"What--what is all this stuff?"
"It's the history of the Skull, kid. All the shit they've confiscated--they've kept under the table. Because it was too dangerous, because it was too weird, because somebody had to keep an eye on it. If it were to be found, half the stuff in here could rewrite the history books."
"We're--we're not seriously going to blow all this stuff up?" I asked as I walked down the stairs and into the Vault. "God, Sumerset--this stuff--it's amazing. There's a crystal here, a jewel--I can see myself coming down the stairs a few seconds ago in it. I can see--it's like it's dividing time--"
"That's an aleph. Stay away from that," Sumerset said. "Dangerous as fuck. Everything in here is."
"But it's all so--so--"
"Wonderful," Sumerset said, and now I could hear his voice behind me--he was stepping down into the room, following my footsteps. He had a pronounced limp, and I could see a bruise above his temple, but otherwise he looked alright. "Yeah, it is. But it's also down here for a reason, Sue."
I turned to Sumerset, then back to the stuff. Then back to him. "Can we... Can we take any of it?"
"It's your stuff. But I wouldn't recommend it," he told me. "All of it represents a danger to the world."
That's when Scourge's voice crackled across the intercom.
"Sumerset," he said, and behind him I could hear the sound of gunfire--of shouting--of more explosions. "Using the Dreadbots as suicide drones. Clever. I assume you and Daysdale are in the Vault, now."
"Don't answer him," Sumerset said, his voice low. "Let's just get this over with."
Scourge continued above us: "I also assume that you intend to destroy this base in a misguided attempt to stop me from acquiring what I want..."
Sumerset closed the door behind us. We moved to the back of the Vault, where an immense desk sat. Its outer shell was fashioned from lacquered oak with a marble trim around its upper edge and an inch-thick plate of glass on top. Beneath the glass was an incredibly intricate network of cogs and gears arranged into an impenetrable engine of well-polished brass. A set of delicate spring-loaded levers emerged from the far corner of the device, with a large iron crank placed nearby.
"What the hell is this?" I asked.
"It's a wind-up computer," Sumerset replied.
I stared at him. He shrugged and grinned. "Second Skull had it built," he said. "It controls the Vault." He stepped forward and reached for the metal levers, tapping something in. When he was finished, he reached for the iron crank--and then stopped and turned to me.
"You should probably do this," Sumerset said, and he pulled his hand back.
"But before you do, Sue Daysdale," Scourge said, "I just want you to remember: This is your fault."
I reached for the metal crank and slid it into the palm of my hand. I felt my chest tighten; I felt my grip tremble.
"Your family's legacy--your mother's legacy--is about to be destroyed. And why...? Because it fell into the hands of an incompetent teenage girl."
I felt something hard and heavy seize my chest. Sumerset opened his mouth to say something, but I cut him off.
"No," I said, my voice carrying up to the intercom. "You're wrong."
Scourge's voice fell silent; I didn't know if he could hear me or not. But just in case he could, I kept going:
"A bunch of toys in some basement isn't my mother's legacy, asshole. I'm my mother's legacy."
I turned the crank. The gears clicked into place; something rumbled far below us.
Sumerset nodded his head. "Let's get out of here," he said.