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Shiver Star: Shiver Star: Part 1

by Mr.RMA

Mr.RMA Disclaimer: There's some grimdark stuff in this here tale, swears and stuff too.
To all those who already understand where this story is going just from the title alone, you deserve many a cookie, but, if you don't well, you will eventually >:D
In a city of the future, a factory worker's rather banal job takes a turn for the wrong sort of exciting after an unexpected blackout. #summercamp15
“… and from how things have been going so far, it is more than likely that these tensions are not going to waver any time soon. Back to you, Todd…”

The television had been set up with an alarm system to awaken John at exactly 6 AM every morning; though it appeared he had taken a little longer regaining consciousness on this particular day, as the news was in the midst of its usual broadcast, already a bad sign… Drearily, he opened his eyes and grabbed at the watch on his nightstand. 6:30… yep, bad sign indeed, he was a whole half-hour behind schedule. This wasn’t going to be a very calm and organized morning to be sure.

Hastily, John pushed himself out of bed and scrambled to put on his work clothes, a uniform bearing the colors of the company he worked for, a white lab coat over a cyan dress shirt and white slacks, not the most original color scheme perhaps, but, easy on the eyes and quick to notice in the midst of a factory with lots of sharp and heavy objects just waiting to be a safety hazard at any given occasion. Truth be told, sometimes John had to question just what the factory he worked at even specialized in; it wasn’t the easiest question to answer. In any case, he had no time to question it this morning, rushing down the stairs of his two-floor apartment down to his kitchen, quickly grabbing the first edible-looking substance within his fridge and sprinting out the door to his car.

With haste, he sped off through the small town in which he lived, off into a long stretch of highway that seemed quite barren and dry, until the sight of a large metropolis gradually started coming into view, standing alone, within an empty abyss. Its very nature, of being excluded from any and all signs of life from a distance, could make one shudder just looking at it from the grim, bleak setting. Still, whatever bleakness anyone may have felt, it was apparently nowhere near enough for the place to not garner quite the lot of visitors, as the sudden line of traffic John found himself in the very back of unfortunately proved.

John let out a sigh and rested his head against the back of his seat, preparing himself for the agonizingly long push into town, and the inevitable late excuse he’d have to conjure up. The sound of his radio droned on and on, continuing with the usual news routine:

“…Sources indicate that this apparent superweapon is strong enough to not only decimate on an unseen scale, some claiming potentially thousands of miles, but its reaction could set off a severe climate…”

He quickly shut the radio off before the broadcaster could further clarify. He was never one for that dreary news anyways, constantly spouting grim stories of death, war, and this constant fearmongering for the end of the world, as if it were to happen on that very day without warning. If he had a dollar for every apocalypse he’d heard was nigh, he would’ve been stuck in this traffic jam in a much nicer car.

This was something of a common occurrence, and for good reason. Henceforth Residence, or as most simply called it, “HR”, was the self-proclaimed city of the future, a fantastical realm of revolutionary technology and discovery, a haven for the scientifically adventurous, cunning and intelligent, and somehow the very place where John had landed his most recent career. He was no scientific mastermind by any means, but, apparently he was just smart enough and likely more importantly, he was living just close enough to conveniently arrive to his place of work on a daily basis. HR had no residential living spaces available at the moment; hotels for tourists passing by from great distances, but nothing permanent. Considering in particular the main source of security for the town, a massive, towering robot with a glowing yellow light for a face, expressionlessly watching over the entire place, that might have scared off a few potential homeowners from the start…

John paid no mind to any of the wonder and whimsy that seemed to encompass this entire town though, he had seen it all too many times to have any sort of surprise left. Such was the curse of working in the same place again and again; when the luxuries were no longer available, when one wasn’t being served, but was now the servant, even the unbelievable could eventually get dull. He no longer saw a bright, shining example of what the future had in store, he saw a place to clock in, do time, and clock out. Is that how it’s just going to be for all of us in the future? Just, same old same old? He would constantly think to himself. What was the point then, in being so excited over something they’d eventually take for granted?

Eventually, upon breaking out of the traffic nightmare, he drove past one of the more notable landmarks within the city, a gigantic megamall of a store, built with all sorts of clashing colors and patterns that didn’t match each other at all, as if that sort of contrast was supposed to be the style of the future. It was like those decades old cartoons’ depiction of the future, perhaps even a tribute to such things. Beyond the mall, there was a cluster of buildings that looked like most of the others, a grayish blue, with black lines running horizontally across in a pattern running all the way upward. One of these buildings led straight to the factory, or at least, the entrance the employees were supposed to take. The majority of the factory was actually a slight distance off, standing on its own. It consisted of a series of giant domes with candy-cane colored cooling towers standing guard at the front gate with its puzzle-piece textile design, puffing out small clouds of indiscriminate smoke, with small little stars placed beside them and a bunch of oversized gears clanking together at the top of the largest dome. All of its cartoonish flashiness was likely some feeble attempt to make the huge eyesore seem at least a little more appealing.

None of that mattered of course to John. He wasn’t working on the surface; he was working underground, where all the actual business was going on, the stuff that actually mattered to the higher-ups who created it in the first place. Said higher-ups were terribly hush-hush about the reason for the factory’s existence, it was just as confidential as the genesis of the entire future city for that matter. As far as anyone could tell outside of that group, it was just another way to profit off of the latest scientific breakthroughs, and no one really had any reason to doubt that was the motivation in the first place, except for maybe the engineers and maintenance workers…. They were the ones overseeing the materials, a bunch of junk it seemed, small parts, larger parts, what often would look like the scraps of a construction project long since finished. John in particular was an inspector for the conveyor belts that ran all through the spacious, or at least, mostly spacious confines. Most of his coworkers were something similar; none of them physically manufactured anything, that entire process was automated.

If there was one thing apart from the often dim lighting that made the place unnerving to many, it was the plentiful assortment of AIs emotionlessly plugging away at their programmed assignments, hammering things, transferring energy from one room to another, creating said energy by pushing giant electrical walls back and forth, or merely emitting a bunch of multicolored lights on a screen for no apparent purpose, they all had some sort of role in the place, all of which satisfying at least one not-so-ulterior goal of decreasing labor costs. Still they needed some humans to make sure things didn’t start falling apart beyond repair, and they weren’t going to do it themselves, not just for the laziness excuse either, this sort of thing really did require some legitimate experience, whether that was in computers or heavy machinery or something in between. Business and economic knowledge wasn’t going to cut it alone.

“Name?” The automated voice of the metal detector-like gate that John passed through asked, to which he calmly replied “John Kendrick,” waiting a few seconds before the expected sound of an affirmative ‘ding’ came from the machine, the door in front of him opening up into an elevator. “Employee designation confirmed, floor set to R&D 3,” the voice said, shutting the door behind John as he walked in, the elevator swiftly dropping him deep down into the underground chasm that was the infamous HR factory. As the churning feeling in his stomach from the quick descent eased off, John quickly ran through his daily agenda in his head: First off, he’d have to clock in at the lounge, then he’d make his way over to the assembly line with the bright red and green conveyor belts… further creating a rather strange, santa’s workship wannabe of a workspace. Still, unsettling as that was, it was a better place to work than some of the other locations. He’d heard a story or two from a few co-workers stationed from one sector to another, always something about the unbelievably dangerous hazards they had to deal with, surprised that no one ever even bothered to mention the idea of a lawsuit… or maybe they had and it just never got out… It was difficult to say for certain, for one thing, hardly anyone knew who they were supposed to sue. The city? The construction company that had designed the factory? There was no sign of a singular owner to be accountable, and management couldn’t exactly just fix any of the dangers involved with their lacking skills in much of anything beyond bossing others around.

That was all a matter to think about another time though, there was work to be done, and John’s position wasn’t going to get any better if he complained over what was still an amazing opportunity of a career. This was the city of the future, a landmark, the pinnacle of tens of hundreds of years of human development… and that was still seen by many as underplaying the real impact the city had. After walking through a few dimly lit, cold, barren hallways, the comforting sight of fellow human workers finally came into view as John made it over to his workstation. Waving hello to him was one of his more talkative and jubilant co-workers, a short, stocky man with a receding hairline and round eyeglasses, like some kind of comedic foil in a sitcom. Though unlike those sorts of people, everything always seemed to go Elias’ way, always finding something to smile about, always counterbalancing the bitter or salty moods of his fellow workers, even if they really, really didn’t want him to put the effort in. John might not have been the sort to admit it openly, but, Elias was one of the few people around here that he could really consider to be a friend, not just an acquaintance. Sure, they never actually interacted outside of the factory, never went to the bar, or hung out in any real shape or form, but… they talked a lot during work, and that was comparatively something that wasn’t very common in the case of the others, not just with John, but with each other.

“Mornin’ John, you’re looking a little more jittery than usual,” Elias said, taking note of the anxiety still wearing off from the other man’s face after his unexpected morning rush.

“Yeah… slept in a little, kinda panicked… Never really wanna do something stupid enough to actually get disciplined from the higher ups. Considering where they make us work, I’d hate to know what their forms of punishment are,” John replied, half-jokingly, though, half-seriously as well.

“Hah, relax, bein’ late just once can’t be enough to get their collective panties in a bunch, sure as hell ain’t an end-of-the-world situation, I’m sure you would’a been just fine,” Elias replied with a chuckle and a grin.

“Always looking for that bright side, huh?” John remarked, a slight grin showing on his face despite himself.

“You ought’a give it a shot sometime, Johnny, bet you’d feel a whole lot better comin’ in to work with that kinda optimism.” Elias said as his smile widened a little more, seemingly in victory.

“I’m sure, that would explain Ms. Workaholic over there, huh?” John said as he motioned over to another employee, a woman with short red hair and a seemingly permanent scowl on her face as she shouted a stream of profanity-laden comments through a hand-held radio, the only means of communication whilst this far underground. Apparently someone was slacking a little when it came to maintaining one of the more faulty machines in R&D. Word got out to the worst possible person in this scenario as far as anyone was likely concerned.

Erica was, in most respects, one of the best workers in the factory, and her presence was felt within so many sectors of the place at one time that she might has well have been ubiquitous, or in extreme cases fully omnipresent. She was management’s dream, someone who could shout at slackers and also know what she was doing at the same time, and there was no denying that she knew what she was doing, far more than either John or Elias likely ever did. They could both probably count the number of days where she didn’t assist them in some form on one hand, so, much as her saltiness could be a little bothersome, it was a sacrifice to make if it meant their jobs weren’t at risk of being flushed away. She could do it after all, without hesitation they felt she could send them both packing if she put in the right calls. She had the ear of those higher-ups… they were fortunate that she rarely found reason to rat out anyone, just give them her own lectures, and even if they were loud, sometimes biting even, they were willing to take it over the alternative.

“Don’t think she’s the best role-model when it comes to loosening up a little, but… Give her credit, she’s damn good at what she does, I’m sure at the end of the day, she’s more than satisfied with what she’s done, which, well, it sure doesn’t seem like you’re that way at all, John,” Elias remarked, quickly turning his attention to the conveyor belts with a little more visible focus as Erica turned her attention over to them for a moment, John following suit, neither wishing for her special brand of chewing out this morning. Thankfully, at the sound of her shouting at the radio again, it seemed she bought it, they weren’t getting yelled at… for now.

“So, what’ve they got scheduled for you today, Elias?” John asked, his skills in the art of small talk pretty much null and void.

“Oh, just the usual sort of thing, checking the power transistors, and those big old hammer machines… Don’t even know why we have to have so many flatteners, but then again, none of us really know what the hell we really make down here, do we?” he said with a chuckle, though there clearly seemed to be something troubling him, as said chuckle seemed to trail off a little at the end. John wanted to say something about it, but, he stopped himself. It was probably just his internal desire that something would finally thrust Elias into a negative mindset, throw him out of that eternal positivity for once, just for a few seconds. He felt bad for even thinking about it, especially since his friend was probably going about this whole thing in a much smarter way than he did with that sort of optimism.

“Heh… nah, and I doubt they’ll ever tell us lowly workers,” he eventually replied with a light chuckle of his own, at least a start to lighten up. Elias smirked and nodded at this before making his way further down the belt, pulling out a PDA-shaped device and typing in a few things as he kept watch over the large machines generating power all throughout the building. John always felt a little uncomfortable looking at those things for too long… The way the round observation windows were plastered onto them… and the way the lower region was indented, each machine in the line-up looked disturbingly like a face, with a flat, emotionless expression, not unlike the robots pushing the walls creating the electrical power in the first place, but, at least they had semi-humanoid bodies… these things, they were more like, giant, disembodied heads, always staring, always watching as they kept churning that electricity every second of the day.

He tried to take his mind off that, however, thankfully not having to stare at any of the machines from his position, merely keeping an eye on how each conveyor belt was operating, making sure they were all going in the same direction. Sometimes the green ones would go in reverse, a minor glitch most of the time, or so it was assumed. One of the more bored employees around the area could’ve just as easily been screwing around with it, knowing it would cause a slight hassle. That’s all the excitement some of them really needed to keep from going insane down there, slight hassles. No real emergencies ever came to pass, at least, none that required the immediate attention of some kind of authority like the police or the fire department, and that was certainly for the better… There was no guarantee that they were even allowed to get either one of those two departments to come down to this level in the first place, confidentiality and all that… Of course, that shouldn’t have been a practical concern considering the legality of the whole thing, but… Management was a sneaky bunch from the little anyone beneath them knew about them, they probably knew a number of methods that kept their schemes and such away from the watchful eyes of the law…

It wasn’t too hard after all, to keep things hidden down there… the surface seemed like a wholly different sort of world when enough time passed… and time for that matter, it seemed to go terribly slowly as well. Shifts that went for eight hours, often they felt more like twelve, on a good day. Still, it was not too different from the usual jobs John had partaken in throughout his life, and at least this one had that nice benefit of being in a highly significant location, he could at least feel like he was a part of some major history, even if he was just a small cog in the machine, so to speak. If he kept at it, maybe he would indeed reach a more prominent position in the future… He was still pretty young, he had all the time in the world to make things better for himself… at least, as far as he knew…

His thoughts of this matter were interrupted without warning as he felt himself staggering backwards, crumbling to the metallic floor as he felt the entire factory beginning to rock and shake violently, uncontrollably. Wild buzzing, beeping, and all sorts of whirring noises emanated from the machines and the alarms against the walls, other workers began shouting in confusion and fear, scrambling about as best they could, before they also eventually lost their footing, the bodies tumbling everywhere, the occasional sound of screaming agony coming from the unfortunate souls close enough to large pieces of falling debris… And with just as little warning as the sudden rocking of the factory, the power went out… For the first time since the place activated, everything went completely dark…

Dark… quiet… not a sight, not a sound… It was surreal, to put it very, very lightly… John didn’t know what to do, with so many potential hazards surrounding the place on a normal occasion, without the sudden unexpected tremors, he was certainly not going to just wildly stumble about in a blind frenzy. For a while he merely laid there, waiting for something to happen, anything… there had to be something to bring this whole thing back to working order… But as the hours seemed to pass, it didn’t seem like anything was happening at all… He was trapped here, completely trapped… Or so he thought. As it happened, a bright light began to shine off from the distance, and with it, came a familiar, demanding sort of feminine voice.

“John! That you!?” Erica shouted over to him, waving the flashlight gleaming from her smartphone a little in case he didn’t notice the direction she was coming from.

“Yeah! I’m over here!” he called out in reply. “What the hell just happened?”

“Hell if I know… The place just started shaking like crazy, no one could figure out why before the lights went out… Come on, there’s a safe room nearby, fully stocked and everything, I guess the guys who built this place planned ahead…” she said as she led them down the darkened path, apparently having taken a number of other workers along with her, as a small group of them were walking beside him, a few of them turning on various forms of flashlights of their own. Certainly was a reminder to John that his own phone was terribly out of date when it came to the fact that he didn’t have a flashlight app of any sort… or a flashlight at all for that matter. He never assumed he’d need one after all, this sort of thing just didn’t happen. The factory was a consistent sort of workplace. Sure, there was the occasional short circuit or glitch in the machines, but even those were terribly rare. To have an entire power outage like this? That was unthinkable, inconceivable, without a doubt the least likely thing he could ever imagine. Certainly wasn’t anything that he’d bet would happen to him that day. There had to be some explanation for it, something had to have gone pretty massively awry, but, the answer to that question likely had to be put on hold for a bit. For the moment, they just needed to get the hell over to that safe room and plan out wat to do from there.

As they all stepped in, John realized Erica wasn’t bluffing in the slightest when it came to the safe room being fully stocked. All sorts of non-perishable foods were lining the shelves of the place, the lights were running just fine, apparently under the work of a small, private generator, separate from the rest of the factory… though it still had that unsettling face-like design, much to John’s dismay. There appeared to be a separate room for the restroom facilities as well, clearly completely thought out when it came to a survivor’s perspective. The room didn’t seem to be completely sealed from the rest of the factory, and yet, John couldn’t ever recall coming across it. Apparently wherever it was situated here, it was just subtle enough to go unnoticed until it was actually needed… Almost as if there was some very specific designer plans for it to be built as such…

“Alright, John, let me give you the rundown on what we can perceive is going on here… to the best of our knowledge at the very least… Something went on, something big, up on the surface we can only assume. Whatever it was, it was enough that we can’t make contact with anyone up there, or in any section of the factory for that matter… All sources of power outside of this room have apparently shut down, and the one we have here…” she motioned to a radio at the corner of the room at that before continuing… “…That hasn’t gotten us anywhere… Either there’s a wire loose, or the entire top floor has been abandoned… and if that’s the case, then, well, I don’t have to let you know how much shit we’re in…”

Indeed she didn’t have to inform him of such a thing. The elevator sending them back to the entrance of the building was specifically operated by the machines, and the only manual controls were on the surface as well. There was always meant to be someone keeping watch over the area, as to not trap anyone down below, but apparently whoever that was, they weren’t at their post now.

“Well… okay…” John managed to stammer out, clearly bewildered by the terribly unfortunate predicament, attempting to brush the grim thoughts aside by counting up the others in the room with them. It all allotted to about thirteen people… a rather short supply compared to the usual working population. “…What happened to the other twenty guys?” he asked, though he started to question if he even wanted to know as soon as the words escaped his lips. Erica’s expression further proved this…

“About fourteen of them have gone missing… the remaining six? Well, we’ve got some of their witnesses here… What they saw wasn’t pretty…” she muttered, and indeed, several of the workers had some very, very cold expressions on their face… their complexions pale as sheets as droplets of sweat incessantly fell down their faces. One of them was crouched in the fetal position under a desk, a thousand-yard stare very clear in his eyes… John knew that one, Darius from the flattening section… Wait… the flattening section… John’s eyes went wide for a moment as he looked around anxiously at the others… Nope… Elias wasn’t there… His throat tightening a little, John cautiously walked over to Darius and knelt in front of him, ignoring the rather unsettling look in the clearly distressed man’s eyes.

“Darius… did you see Elias there with you? He was heading over to where you were working last I saw him… Did you… ever see him arrive?” he asked, though Darius didn’t seem to answer, his eyes barely even resting on the man in front of him.

“Don’t bother trying to get anything out of him… He hasn’t spoken a word since we picked him up…Poor bastard’s got the worst of it out of all of us it seems…” Erica said, walking over to them, John turning to see a rare expression of sympathy on her face. “I’m sorry… we couldn’t find Elias anywhere when we looked in that sector. Lord knows we could use a little optimism right now, he’s the only one who’d likely have any at this point,” she said, stressfully running a hand through her hair, clearing still pondering over just what to do now.

“So… what… we’re just going to stay here until something happens?” John asked, his voice strained from the great efforts it took for him not to just start shouting incessantly.

“Unless you have a better idea, that’s all we can do, John. You know as well as I that something big just happened, something big enough for a place as seemingly indestructible as this to just completely shut down. Pardon the obviousness, but, that doesn’t simply happen… And unless you wanna go out there and quite likely get yourself lost and proceed to starve yourself to death, you’re going to have to stay here with us until we can formulate a better plan.”

John looked like he wanted to protest. Desperately he wanted to have an idea, one that would save them all, make him the unlikely hero that he so desperately wanted to be… or… no, he didn’t need to be the hero, he just wanted there to be one, surely at least one of these co-workers of his had to have that in them somewhere… But apparently they didn’t, because as he stood there in silence, a finger held up, as if the plan were at the edge of his lips, no one came to his rescue, took over, or gave a rousing speech of any kind. This was it, they were adrift at sea without a paddle to their name… He walked over to the corner of the room, leaning back against a wall, staring blankly at the ceiling for a moment, taking a deep breath, calming himself, resigning to his fate. “And I still had that goddamned sick day too… should’a just called in…” he muttered under his breath.

No one could really tell how long they had spent down there, everyone who had a phone still working after the incident had kept it turned off to save energy. Erica had ordered that no one would turn on their phones until either something happened outside, or they ran out of food and were forced to seek another shelter. As such, it was difficult to conceive just how many hours had passed, when the next day had some around, or even if a week had gone by. The shelter of a room that they found was becoming rather unsettlingly like a home to them, familiar, something they expected to wake up to whenever they had the desire to rest, not that it was easy, no one could tell when night had fallen, and their feelings of fatigue were all completely out of sync rather quickly after some time passed. Erica seemed to keep most of them in line, all the ones that were sane enough to still speak at least. They created little games to pass the time as best they could, discussed what little news they had that they hadn’t already informed the others of… and even then, sometimes to spite the repetitiveness, they’d tell the story again anyways, and often the listeners would do their best to forget the story beforehand so it could be news to them once more.

They were all starting to go slightly insane, being cooped up in this small room for so long, it was clear as day, but at least most of them were right enough in the head to know this still. John in particular though, was getting more and more nervous that he’d start getting delusional as the time kept passing by. Erica had already informed him that he was asking her if she had any new plans just a few too many times in one sitting… that was disturbing enough a thought… The food was holding strong at least, they weren’t even close to half-way through the supplies… though once again, whether that could really be considered a good thing or not was difficult to inquire, as they didn’t know how much time had truly passed, or how much longer they’d have to stay there, and by now, everyone was starting to get too nervous to check their phones for the clarification. Their anxieties were growing at a vicious rate… No one knew who was going to break first, or at least, who was going to join Darius… and yet that was actually a sort of best-case scenario… At least Darius was under the sort of mental breakdown that didn’t involve violence and… particularly damaging results to everyone else.

That was when it happened… right when it seemed that path was not likely going to be reachable, when it seemed like they were completely stuck, beyond the door… the sound of machinery whirring up came to life. John was the first one out at this, hastily opening the door without any sort of caution, and the sight of the factory running like it apparently always had filled him with a sort of joy he hadn’t experienced since he first arrived at the place. Falling to his knees with a bright smile, he muttered “oh, thank god…” over to himself again and again. The others gradually began to follow suit, all of them having their own sort of happy reaction to the revelation, and many of them seemed to gradually return to full lucidity. Erica was the last one out, having gradually guided Darius out of the room with her, and as John got back to his feet and looked back over to her, he noticed something of a contrast to her expression with all the others. She didn’t seem quite as… relieved by the situation as her co-workers were. John initially thought it was just her innate cautiousness, her mindset that things couldn’t just get like this after what happened, that they were hallucinating or something, but, whatever the reason, he was certainly curious enough to ask.

“Hey, you don’t seem as happy about this as the rest of us… Something going on?” he asked her, at which she gave a light shrug.

“Not sure… Just… I don’t think it’s cause for celebration until we’re actually out of here… We can’t just ignore where we’ve been through.”

She had a good point there… and no matter how happy he was to see everything back up and running, he couldn’t just ignore that a terrible catastrophe took place… So hastily, they all made their way over to the entrance, awaiting that fresh air, that natural sunlight… that… barricade over the elevator door… That obviously wasn’t there before… “Goddammit… goddammit to hell…” he muttered as he tried to pull at the large metal beams that seemed to be… melded to the door. There was no way to just remove them; the thing was pretty much permanently sealed. Letting out a loud, distressed scream, John collapsed to the floor, taking a moment to breathe, trying to regain his cool somehow as the others helped pull him back up to his feet.

“Alright, who did this? Someone own up to this little trick, it’s not funny!” Erica shouted, quite flushed in the face out of very justified anger and frustration. Everyone looked around, clearly just as befuddled and upset with the setback, but that was most definitely not what Erica wanted out of a response. “Well, someone had to do it! Giant girders don’t just fucking meld themselves to a door on their own! And it had to have been one of us! Who else could’ve done this!?” she asked, and most of the workers seemed very hesitant to respond, though at least one had something in mind.

“…One of the others?” a nervous voice sounded at that, and the color seemed to drain from Erica’s face at the suggestion.

“The… others? But… How is that possible? The others were all missing! We were in the one safe room…” she tried to reason, but John shook his head at that.

“We don’t know that… We have no idea how many safe rooms are actually out there, Erica… This is a big factory, a damn big one, you could’ve been searching for hours and there was no guarantee you would’ve been able to detect a dim light coming from any potential crevice here… Especially if someone already closed the door…” He reasoned, a grim expression returning to his face, similar to the one they all seemed to share back when this mess began. “Let’s face it, we’re not the only survivors, someone else is out there, and… Well, I guess we fared better than they did,” he said, rubbing at his forehead. A terrible migraine was forming up there… the product of the realization that their troubles were not only far from over, they might have gotten worse. “In any case, there’s only one way out now, and that’s at the far end of the factory. We’re going to have to make our way over there if we’re gonna want to ever see the surface again, and find out just what the hell turned out all the lights before it starts to happen a second time.”

Erica seemed hesitant at this, clearly just as unsettled by the thought of a raving psychopath lurking the underground building as anyone else, but, eventually she seemed to nod at that. “Right… can’t think of any other way about this… outside of trying to melt these damn beams, but… if the bastard took enough time to seal ‘em together like this, then it’s probably for the best we don’t figure out what he did on the inside… Everyone try and stay together at least… This isn’t going to be a very fun trip…” she said, motioning for the others to follow her as she led the way, John bringing up the rear, cautiously looking around at every waking moment, though paying particular attention towards the closed off elevator while it was still in sight. Being so close yet so far from freedom, it was more torturous in many ways than being forcibly closed off in that room. Was this just the karma he was facing, taking his job for granted? He should have respected the position more, should have appreciated the opportunity, but no, all he ever did was complain about it, and now he was most certainly paying a hefty price… No matter that it was happening to all these other people as well, his common sense by that point was too torn up for him to really think that clearly, especially since he had more worries to keep his consciousness occupied… and they were spiked to the nth degree once he saw the generators… Someone had apparently taken the time to carve zigzagged patterns across the ‘mouth’ region of the machines, giving the impression of sharp teeth clenched together, making them look all the more twisted and demented. Someone was taunting them, they had to be… Whoever it was, they must’ve been enjoying the hunt…

Their first stop led them to the power generating walls, and it appeared that the usual path onward was obstructed by the debris… They would have to make their way past the androids pushing the walls… but thankfully they seemed to be stopped for now, leaving a clear path. The crew made their way carefully down to the floor below them… but as soon as they did, the robots seemed to come to life, having the electrically charged walls closing in on them. John, Erica and a handful of the others managed to get to the other side of the platform before the walls could reach them, but a few weren’t so lucky, having their bodies completely fried upon contact, whatever shred of life remaining in them getting literally squashed out as the robot trampled their mutilated forms. That was merely the first one… there were several more. Though, now that they were wise to their movements, the rest managed to make it to the bottom without further casualties… but now it was pretty much a given that someone was toying with them… The robots weren’t meant to be motion sensitive, someone had to have programmed them to operate like that. It was all a matter of who though… John thought to himself, trying to now push aside the traumatizing image of his coworker’s sizzled and flattened corpses along with everything else pressing at his mentality.

“…We don’t have time to mourn at the moment. We need to keep moving, We’re sitting ducks out here if we stay put,” Erica said as flatly as she could, noticeably fending off the horrifying images as well as she pressed onward, the others seeing no choice but to follow onward, further into a death-trap of a factory that they had all once so calmly, so easily, so, without a second thought, called their workplace once upon a seemingly long, long time…