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Shiver Star: Shiver Star: Part 2

by Mr.RMA

Mr.RMA Disclaimer: More violence and bad words and stuffs
The story of the factory workers in a terribly unfortunate situation is shifted over to the perspective of their most respected and rather intimidating worker in the ranks. She's always seen herself as a leader, but will she be able to lead her crew of survivors through a catastrophe of this magnitude? And for that matter, just who is making things all the more difficult for our small band of workers?
5:00 AM, right on the dot, Erica was, as per usual, up at the exact hour. Efficiency was her way of things, nothing was ever going to change that. She had worked hard to get to where she was, a supervisor on her way to that coveted managerial position in one of the most revered cities in the modern world. Many thought she was overworking herself, too strung up with these professional matters for her own good, but she usually just saw these statements as intimidated remarks from those below her. It wasn’t that she was intending to be arrogant over this sort of thing, she just felt she worked hard enough to finally see herself fairly high up the ladder.

After properly preparing herself for the day ahead, Erica made her way over to her kitchen, preparing a full, healthy breakfast. It was always important to her to properly sustain herself, and not just with whatever junk was available to sate her appetite. She needed to be awake, alert, ready for anything, if she slacked off, so would everyone she was supposed to supervise. That sort of thing ran down hill after all. If she didn’t care, why would they? It was all a matter of perspective, people below her could see her as a bit wound up, but, that sort of reputation would be a small sacrifice for the greater scheme of things. Not only was it for her own job security, it was for the future of their company. Every cog needed to be in place for the machine to work… metaphorically speaking, but, seeing how she was working in a factory, that statement could be taken literally as well.

As 5:30 rolled around, she quickly dusted off her work clothes, throwing on her lab coat as she got in her car and drove off in the direction of HR. It was usually a fairly long drive, about a forty five minutes to get to the factory, including the usual droll time it took to wade through traffic that never seemed to ever let up in the popular tourist spot. It could be a bit of an inconvenience, there was no escaping that fact, but, to her, it was more than worth it for the opportunity it provided… and it wasn’t like she ever wanted to go through the sickening process of job interviews and unemployment ever again if she could help it. No, she was well of at this point, no need to trouble the waters when they were just fine the way they were. The only changes she needed to make were the ones that brought her further up, the ones that proved her leadership was no joke, that she had what it took to man the helm and steer the ship, in a figurative sense.

As she drove off into the flat, quiet wasteland that led up to the futuristic city, the early dawn gradually brightening up with each passing minute, she had the radio on what was pretty much her permanent setting, the classical station. The sound of soft, serene strings, brass and woodwinds all helped her mind shift into the ideal condition that she desired every time she went to work, the business with the news, well, that was always just set to trouble her and get her mind occupied on the wrong things, the troubles with the world and all that sort of thing. There was no need for her to have the world’s troubles on her shoulders, she wasn’t a politician or a public speaker of any sort, those people could worry about that sort of thing, and while they kept the world from blowing up, she’d be doing her own part in changing the world, making a difference. It was no smaller a part to play as far as she was concerned, it didn’t have that major pressure and stress-inducing headache of deciding whether to go to war or pass a law or shift the economy, but, it had the benefit of taking their world and thrusting it forward, evolving their culture, truly changing the way people looked at how the world operated, and knowing that, with these changes, with these revolutions, they were showing everyone that they could do better, and that they shouldn’t have to settle for the status quo if it meant the alternative was such a vast improvement.

Of course… that still left the admittedly glaring question over what it was that her company actually made… Even she didn’t know, the parts were all seemingly random and arbitrary, the machines were just constantly plugging away, making what seemed to be a bunch of useless junk on its own, though, she knew that wasn’t the case, they were all headed down the assembly line to the same location, a private sector unreachable from her identification, or the IDs of any of the other workers that weren’t a part of that mysterious management. Yet another reason why she strove to achieve that lofty goal, whatever it was that they made, it had to have been pretty important if it was so confidential. Even with her professional mindset, she couldn’t help but have an almost child-like imagination over the sorts of things they were making… Was it the parts for more advanced robots? Maybe it was the pieces of some secret, high-tech machine that would sustain a new power source, or maybe it was the workings of a new building to be constructed in the city, there were so many options, so many potential answers, but no matter how much she pondered over such things, they weren’t going to be answered until she made her way up that chain, and when she found out, she was certain that she was going to feel more satisfied with herself than she had ever felt before in her entire life, there was not a single doubt in her mind. There was no room for doubt in there anyways, doubt was for those who lacked the confidence to stand by their thoughts and actions, for those who didn’t understand what they were talking about, who lacked a plan in life, who couldn’t figure out what it was they were working every day so hard for. She wasn’t going to lower herself to that mindset, and no one was going to push her down there either.

As she drove up to her designated parking space upon entering the city, having managed to fortunately beat out most of the early morning traffic on this particular day, she walked into the building that led into the fairly secretive entrance to her workplace, waving a light hello to the night shift workers just getting out, the usual battered and tired looks on their faces as they passed her by with slight waves of their own.

“Name?” the gate asked her as they went through the usual song and dance that was employee designation.

“Erica Watterson,” Erica replied in a clear, confident tone of voice. The expected “ding” sounded as the elevator door opened and she stepped inside.

“Employee designation confirmed, floor set to R&D 3,” the machine stated, sending the lift down into the deep catacombs of the factory, yet another day, another dollar in the eyes of most of her coworkers, but they weren’t keeping their eyes on the prize, a terrible mistake in Erica’s eyes. Still, if they didn’t want to take advantage of the situation they were placed in, then, well, she wasn’t going to stop that, so long as they did their job, that’s what she cared about, and if they didn’t want to join her at the top, that was their decision, and one they’d have to certainly live with.

Walking out of the elevator door, she quickly checked in and grabbed a clipboard with one hand and a portable radio with the other. There wasn’t going to be all too many people to talk to or order around for now, all of the graveyard shift workers and overnighters were making their way out as soon as she got in, and only a sparse group of cohorts were around for the early morning shift. She was primarily here to inspect the handiwork of her late-night counterparts, making sure everything was still in place, that nothing was tampered with or ransacked in any way, and if it ever was, which it never wasn’t, she’d have to get the paperwork done to conduct an investigation on the matter, and whatever idiot was foolish enough to do such a thing was as good as fired at that very moment. They ran a tight ship around these parts, not just Erica, the HR factory was very sincere about its privacy and upkeep. The one time anyone ever got anything out of line, namely the rumor that one of their earlier products, a system that produced a sort of cloud-like substance that could actually float in the sky like a normal cloud but be physically solid enough to actually walk on, that person was never heard from again. It was a lesson for the others, a very loud and clear message, you don’t fool around at Henceforth Residence.

That sort of quote might as well have been embroidered and sealed within Erica’s subconscious. She didn’t feel bad for the poor sap who lost his job after letting that word get out, he knew what he had signed up for, he knew not to let rumors go off, not to expose some apparent secrets just to cause a stir, that wasn’t what he had been assigned, that wasn’t what his contract allowed him to do, it was a foolish, guideless, and all around idiotic decision, and he had to pay the consequences in full, no mercy for those who make mistakes like that.

As time passed, more of the workers started piling in, and Erica’s work started really getting into full swing by that point, setting her fellow employees off to whatever section they were needed at if there was a change in schedule, making sure they were working diligently if they weren’t needed elsewhere, all that sort of thing. No one questioned her when she spoke, no one was gutsy enough to even fathom the thought of questioning her, she could be intimidating enough just from how she talked when she wasn’t pissed off. She was loud, she had to be, the churning, chugging sorts of sounds constantly going off from the machines and the acoustics of the large, echoic space required her to turn up the volume, otherwise there was no way anyone would be able to hear her over the rest of the environment in which they were operating. Still, at times she might have gone a bit overboard, shouting enough that her face seemed to turn beet red from the strain of it, but, she hardly seemed to notice it, and no one felt the desire to point it out to her either. At least, not directly in front of her to be sure.

Of course, that didn’t mean people didn’t mention her behind her back, and she knew they did, it was obvious. She could tell that two of the workers at that very moment were mentioning her, glancing over in their direction, though they seemed to immediately go back to their task at hand as she took notice of them. That was always a satisfying thing to do, have that ability to make a person shut up and get right back to what they were supposed to be doing at something as simple as a glance. Sure it didn’t last, but, the very notion of her being able to force their attention away from socializing at such a simple gesture was gratifying all the same. It didn’t matter too much to her at the moment whether they were talking about her anymore or not anyways, since she was more concerned with the person she was contacting with her radio at that point.

“Look, Darius, I don’t care how many sparks are coming out of the damn thing, you’ve been given all the information about how to rewire those machines when they malfunction like that, so, just suck it up and get it fixed! I shouldn’t even have to be telling you this, you’re not a kid anymore, don’t be such a damn coward!” she yelled. Darius was always a particularly sensitive sort… Never really seemed to have a knack for anything that had even the slightest risk factor to it… which made her question how he even got a job at the factory in the first place, or for that matter, why he’d even want to work there. Everyone knew that factories, much like any sort of industrial environment, had dangers to them, all sorts of hazards that had to be cautiously worked around and avoided, that was just how it was when it came to this sort of physical labor. How someone as soft as Darius, who couldn’t even do something as simple as a basic rewiring job because of a few sparks, managed to get into a profession like this without apparently second guessing himself, or having anyone else do the second guessing for him, well, that was a mystery that was likely less possible to ever get solved than the one about the factory’s very repertoire.

That was a matter that she didn’t need to dwindle on though, there was still much work to be done for today’s shift, and she wasn’t going to let anyone slack off today, or any other day, everyone just had to keep going, yet another sort of quote that Erica would’ve gladly had typed out and posted on every visible wall in the place, ‘Just keep going’. The human workers had to take note of the artificial ones, they never stopped working from fatigue or out of some casual distraction, they were always doing their job until something in them broke on the extremely rare occasion. That was how the others should have been doing their job, keep working, consistently, constantly, until something broke. That was the only time anyone should have given themselves a break, there was no other reasonable excuse in Erica’s eyes. Unless this entire factory just suddenly turned itself off for no discernable reason, everyone had to do their job…

Of course, the irony of that situation hit her pretty hard when everything in the building starting shaking violently, and within moments the entire factory did indeed turn off… Having managed to somehow, miraculously keep herself on her feet the entire time, Erica looked around the area in shock for a moment at the vast nothingness she could see from her lack of vision in the dark space. Never had she been able to even potentially humor the very thought of the entire factory going dark, shutting down, not even halfway through her shift no less. She seemed to just stand there in bewilderment for a while, the entire scenario very slowly incorporating itself in her head, and though it took a while for her to really believe what had just happened had indeed actually happened, reality would eventually sink in, and once she realized the situations had changed, she knew her assignment had changed with it. There were quite a few human workers in the building, they were all likely wandering about just as confused as she had been, she needed to find them and they needed to figure out where to go from there. They needed to figure out what happened for that matter, but, that would be dealt with once they were in a safer location.

Pulling her smartphone out of her pocket, she turned the flashlight app on, a small but bright flash of light emanating from the device, illuminating her path. Very cautiously she began to wander through the dark landscape, constantly making sure she didn’t accidently get herself cut or tripped over by the bits and pieces of debris that had fallen from the debacle. In time, a few of the other workers who had their various forms of flashlights available started to show up in her light of sight. She waved them over, and they quickly went over to where she was. Many of them looked pretty battered and beaten from the apparent rupture of the earth that they had to witness and experience. Some of them though, they looked even worse for wear… they looked like they had seen some dreadfully frightening things, and Erica was hesitant to ask what, but, she knew she would have to eventually. Until then, she’d have to keep looking, asking those that she found if they had come across anyone themselves in their searches. Unfortunately, that question proved to be the one that answered the previous one… Yes, some of the others had indeed seen their fellow workers… some crushed beneath the heavier debris, others with their heads split open from fallen beams, and further others that had fallen from higher platforms, snapping their necks upon impact with the ground. It was definitely quite clear to her now why many of her cohorts were not doing so well when it came to their mental instability, but, she soon came to realize that they were having it pretty well off compared to at least one worker who she found standing silently for a moment, blankly, his expression colder and more emotionless than it seemed humanly possible. As she got a good look at this man, she finally began to recognize his face.

“Darius? Darius can you hear me?” She asked, though he seemed to give no visible sort of reaction to her words, let alone any audible ones. “Darius! Snap out of it!” she shouted at him, shaking him a little to try and awaken whatever consciousness was left in there. Still nothing… nothing but the faint sound of his breathing to prove he was even still alive at that very moment. Gently she pushed him over to the others, and he seemed to at least have enough in him to walk as he was motioned along. They were going to need to find some sort of base of operations with this lineup… There had to be someplace available, some place that was safe enough for them to at least discuss what they were supposed to do. Seeing no other potential options, Erica started making her way back to where she had been during the incident, figuring she’d be able to at least retrace her steps and find a location from where she most visually recalled the layout of the factory interior. It was at the very least a start, and as such she guided her band of survivors over in that direction… though she came to a stop on the way back when she noticed something rather peculiar for a moment.

“Everyone… turn out your lights for a second… I think I see something nearby…” she said, and the group out of curiosity over just what it was made sure to obey. Back in darkness, one light stood out… and indeed, it was over in the distance as she had suspected. That was no light from a phone or flashlight… that was the faintest sliver of a light coming from… a door? Hastily the crew made their way over to the door, and upon pushing it open, Erica realized that their luck, at least, for the moment, seemed to be taking a turn for the better. Before them was a lit room, which was already a wonder considering the state of the rest of the factory, but, to further make things seem a little more hopeful, the room was completely stocked with non-perishable foods of all sorts, along with large bins of drinking water all along the shelves; there were restrooms in the back, various forms of blankets and sheets for warmth and to make the floors seem more comfortable… It was like an apocalypse survivor’s dream come true… Apparently someone had really taken the time to create a safe room like this, as if they were preparing for a bizarre situation of this caliber to come to pass at any moment without warning… Erica felt a terribly strange mixture of comfort and… unease, at the thought of this. On one hand, they were going to be able to survive for a much longer duration if this power outage didn’t end soon, but on the other… someone expected this to happen… The very notion made it difficult to take full comfort in their current safe haven.

As if to help brush off the concern, Erica decided to take a few of the workers with her, namely the ones who seemed to be in good enough mental and physical health to do so, to take one last look around for any further survivors. If there were any that she missed, she didn’t want to just completely abandon them after all, that would be a rather horrifying and helpless scenario for anyone victimized by such an event… as if they weren’t already all feeling quite victimized at that moment. Still, they had to at least look once more… just to make sure… and this proved to indeed be a reasonable decision to make, as the sight of someone standing in the darkness, alone and confused as they all were, came into view after venturing out a little further. Erica called over to the silhouetted individual, realizing it was one of the conveyor belt workers, John she believed he was called. Guiding him back to the safe room, she explained the situation to him, best as she could at least, and from that point on, the team had very little to do besides wait…

The hours passed by very slowly and it was clear that the others weren’t taking it very well, but Erica couldn’t do much to prevent that… which in turn was starting to take a toll on her mental stability as well. For so long she felt like she had a proper grasp on things, that nothing was truly ever out of her control if she just put the effort in… but there was no way for her to control any of what had happened… Yes, she had helped rescue many of the workers, but, it seemed like such a desperate endeavor… She should have been able to figure out a way to stop the incident entirely… That was crazy talk, she knew it, but, she desperately wanted to put the blame on something, claim it could have been prevented, that’s how it always worked before, why couldn’t it work like that now? She began to pace the room, sleepless, as the time kept going by, others attempted to get her to relax at least a little, but, she hardly paid them any mind, often rebuking them harshly if they were too insistent. She wanted to be left alone if she couldn’t solve their problems… and she couldn’t… because… they really were out of her control.

It was as she felt this start to overtake her that she noticed something… a sheet of paper underneath some of the cans stacked against the shelves… Pushing aside her feeling of helplessness for a moment, she curiously took the slip out from its confines to get a better look at what it was. Surprisingly enough… it was a note, handwritten…

If you are currently situated in this room for the purpose that I can only assume you’d be in this room for, and I am not currently accompanying you, then it most likely means that whatever incident led you to this has claimed my life in the process. It is an unfortunate fact that major catastrophes are often very difficult to pinpoint, especially when we do not face them on a regular basis, or even have historical record of their occurrence. Nonetheless, I must explain why I built this shelter within the factory. I can unfortunately not explain the factory’s origin in full, the others have kept such information away from me, as they have from many of the other lower ranks in management. It is likely that you have made the assumption that everyone on our side of things knows all about the little secrets kept hidden away from the workers who actually occupy the factory on a daily basis, that we have collaborated to form some sort of secret society concerning what we built it for… That is but a half truth. We have kept secrets, away from you, but not just you, we’ve kept them away from ourselves as well. What I know, and what I am willing to risk my neck over, because it is too major to keep hidden forever, especially if my life has already become forfeit by the time you’ve read this, is that this factory, no, not just the factory, the entire city, is completely government funded. It was presumed by many not in the know that the many buildings were merely privately owned factions all created by curious billionaires wishing to have a stake in this supposed future city. If only it were that simple. No, this whole thing was constructed and formed by the government, the basis of it being a tourist attraction of sorts was used as a cover-up for its real benefit. You have likely heard at least a shred of the news over the current state of affairs for our country internationally. It has never been officially stated, at least, to me, but it is more than likely that this city was constructed for such incidents like this… There has been much build-up leading to the conflicts that have started to brew up in recent times, enough for those in charge to start building up a means to defend against what many have heard are particularly devastating weapons in which the conflicting nations in question have constructed. Considering how there are more than a few of these nations, on both sides of things, prepped for someone to take the first shot, just to spiral us all into another global conflict, extra precautions had to be made, we needed to feel like we were one step, no, two steps ahead of every other country on Earth, otherwise we’d be under their command, under their threats. Paranoia to its fullest, but, it is ludicrous to just blame ourselves… this world was headed in this direction one way or another, we just thought we could keep that ultimate fate from happening a little bit longer with our means of intimidation… It probably would’ve worked too, if we hadn’t been so arrogant about it… But now all I’m doing is rambling about could’ves and would’ves and should’ves… Hindsight is 20/20, whatever I say now doesn’t matter. The fact of the matter is, whatever it is that happened up there, on the surface, it was likely very, very devastating, but this city, it was meant to take a beating, it was meant to withstand whatever came its way, and if you’re alive right now to read this note, then it succeeded, but, protecting a city and protecting people, those are matters that are quite different. Who knows if any of those buildings could even hope to keep those inside them alive… air still has to enter the vents, and nothing we could do could keep those massive towers from shaking up a lot… The exteriors may stand, but the interiors, they weren’t as secure, all a bunch of half-baked construction, intended to be fixed up eventually… always eventually. The only place that had much hope to keep people secure was here, in this factory, but, even then, so much crap is lining those walls, holding up the place, keeping those damned machines running, there was going to be some collateral damage one way or another. That’s where this room comes in, for those of you who last through this disaster to survive… I don’t know what you’ll survive to witness, don’t even know if it’ll be worth it to you in the end, but, there had to be something, I wasn’t willing to let everyone just succumb to this bullshit, at least a few of us could live on, or at least give it a shot. Since I’m most likely not there, I shall leave you with at least a little advice that I hope will do you some good… Wait it out a bit, even once the opportunity to leave presents itself, you might just be better off to wait a bit longer… All those stories about post-apocalyptic worlds, as things get crazier and crazier around here, those stories start getting a whole lot more believable… Things are probably not gonna look so good when you reach the surface again. And whatever it is you find up there… well… god have mercy on your souls. Good luck…

The writer left no name, simply trailing off there. Erica seemed to stare at the paper in disbelief… Government backed? Preparation for a war? Secrets in the company and a coming apocalypse? It sounded more like the ravings of a mad person than any coherent letter, but, it had been written so neatly, so legibly for a hand-written note, whoever had written it had put a lot of care into making sure their message got across… It was difficult to completely pass off as nothing. It wasn’t something to reveal to the others though, that was something Erica was sure about. Everyone had been nearing the breaking point after all… all this information would just lead them further down that trail, and in a claustrophobic place like this, that would only lead to some terrible, terrible outcomes. Quietly putting the note in her pocket, she merely leaned against a wall, taking deep breaths just to let what she had learned sink in enough for her to rationalize it, enough for her to accept it some way or another… This group still needed a leader, now more than ever for that matter.

That was when the unexpected happened… the lights outside turned on… everything in the factory seemed to be working again… John had been the first out to see, and Erica would have raised her voice to stop him from doing anything stupid, but he was already out the door, and the others were following him out excitedly, leaving her to guide the still near-vegetative out with her. Indeed, it had appeared the place was back in proper working order… but quite understandably, she wasn’t as thrilled by the ordeal as the others, having cautiously told John not to rush to conclusions that they were all safe when he asked why she wasn’t as happy as everyone else about it. She continued to neglect mentioning the note, she wasn’t sure she could admit it even now, not the way everyone had their hopes up… and she had to admit, she was rather hoping the note was all a bunch of conspiracy hogwash herself.

The matter of the note’s clarity however, soon of course proved to be the least of her troubles, as well as the least of the troubles of the rest of the crew about the sight of the barricaded entrance to the elevator that would lead them out of their confines, leaving them no other choice but to take the long way back to the other side of the factory… all the while with the notion that someone was intentionally impeding their progress with sinister intend, of course, yet another suspicion that prove rather unfortunately true, as their instance with the wall pushing robots more than a little tragically revealed. The sight of her co-workers getting offed in such a horrifying fashion was traumatizing, but now Erica knew this crew needed a leader more than ever, and now she felt she not only could provide that role again… she needed to. They’d have to press on, they’d have to face whatever traps came their way. There was no other option, they’d either continue onward or they’d just waste away on their own. Only one of those options had the potential for survival and she was going to take it.

Leading down the path that they were now forced to take, elevated at a great height from the usual floor that workers were supposed to walk on, forcibly taking the path of maintenance workers who would have a number of safety straps and protective gear, they were making their way over to one of the larger machines… a giant piston-like object of sorts, meant to help convert the power from the walls behind them into a source of energy that would spread across the factory at an equal and consistent rate. It was going to be terribly problematic for the crew however… as the top half of the large machine would push all the way down to the lower half, leaving no space in between, and leaving a very brief grace period whenever it rose back up to the level in which a normal human being could walk through it. There were safe spots in between the machine’s two colliding halves, but, even with that in mind, they’d have to be careful… and they’d have to be very quick as well. Erica kept everyone at bay, allowing herself to memorize the tempo of the potentially crushing mechanism. Counting the remainder of the crew left with her, ten in total including herself.

“Alright, we’ll go with two groups of four and a single group of two. I’ll go first with Darius, otherwise there’s no way he’s going to make it through. The rest of you split up and follow us once I signal you,” she said, awaiting the nods of agreement coming from the others before proceeding onward, grabbing Darius’ arm and forcing him along with her as soon as they could fit through the gap, hustling in a full-out sprint to the other side. Both of them managed to make it just as the top half started reaching their head height, Erica breathing a sigh of relief before turning back to the rest of the crew on the other side, waiting for just the right moment before motioning for the first group to go across. John and the three others managed to make it without trouble, though she could see a terrible sense of distress coming from one of the remaining four at the back end… But there was nothing she could do to convince the poor bastard it’d be alright, he was going to have to pull his own weight if he was going to make it. Biting at the side of her mouth a little anxiously, Erica motioned for the last group to follow suit, and the four quickly rushed ahead, but the nervous one was in the middle… and suddenly he froze in place… The worker behind him tried to push him onward but he couldn’t do anything, as their space became increasingly tighter by the second. The man in the back desperately tried to move around the man in front of him, but there wasn’t enough space, and, losing his footing, he plummeted to the floor far below, as the two of the group that made it were given the sickening opportunity to hear the sound of crushing bones and organs emanate from behind them… The worst part of the situation though… There was still quite the ways to go before they reached the end, that was just the first part of it. They had four more to go… Now with eight, once more Erica led the way with Darius while the next two groups of now three workers each followed, this time all of them managed to make it across. Three more… Erica and Darius pushed ahead, John’s group followed suit… but as the third group followed, one more worker stumbled… but managed to keep her balance and rush across just in time. Two more… All three groups were starting to get the hang of the tempo it seemed, even as they were terribly shaken by the most reason victims. They all managed to make their way across once again, leaving just one more in this unbearably lengthy obstacle course. Erica was starting to feel the strain of pulling someone along with her, nearly feeling herself stumble a little from it herself, but as she kept her footing her adrenaline kicked in and she pushed them forward to safety once more, grasping her pulling arm tightly, taking a few breaths for a moment to properly regain her stamina.

“Hey! You all right?” John called over to her concernedly.

“I’m fine! You shouldn’t be worrying about me though, you guys need to get your asses over here too!” she shouted back, motioning for the next group to follow, this time the group that was last in line went first, managing to get by, leaving just John’s group. The man in front seemed a bit too eager to get out of the situation as he dashed forward, completely oblivious to one of the indents on the narrow surface below him, tripping and screaming as he plummeted down to the awaiting hard ground below, as John from the shock of it fell forward as well… The third person behind him lept over and made it across, though the top half was coming down at an alarming rate… Erica looked away, waiting to hear that awful crushing sound come through one more time, but, it didn’t happen… Turning around, she saw John had managed to roll his way out just in the nick of time, and it certainly looked like he very easily realized just how barely he managed to escape the clutches of death this time around from the pale look on his face, eventually replaced with a bit more of a relieved expression once he was certain he hadn’t bitten it right then and there.

Erica was certainly happy he had miraculously made it across, but, they had still lost three more after that latest hindrance. Worse off there was plenty more to go down this restricted path that they were forced to take. Next up? Whatever it was, it was already making them sweat, and for good reason, as it appeared they were making their way over to the steel working room. Well, that was one way to put it at least… they had wandered their way basically into a giant vat of molten metal, and the heat was already unbearable enough just to stand at this high a distance. There was a platform between the two doors, hung up by chains keeping it from falling into the vat. Everyone started making their way on the central platform, but as they all started to get to the other side, the sound of the chains clanking about sounded, and in a panic, the remainder of the crew leapt across with as much effort as they could muster, though it wasn’t enough for several of them, falling into the hellish molten substance with agonizing screams cut off almost immediately upon contact. Erica quickly looked around for whoever could’ve caused the chains to loosen up, noticing the faint shadow of someone on the other side of the vat disappearing before they could get a good look at him. Erica quickly rushed onward at that, the others just as quick to follow her out of the intense heat, as she desperately ran to try and head off whoever it was. There was no doubt in her mind, it was plainly obvious that this was the person who had forced them along this trail of torture and death, on their increasingly less likely path to the only available exit. This person was toying with them like they were lab rats in some terribly inhumane, sadistic, experiment in human suffering and desperation. She couldn’t understand what person, what monster of a human being could put this much effort into seeing others die in such a way… What sick, demented, twisted… thing could be so misanthropic, so, absolutely devoid of emotions, so completely sociopathic to find something like this amusing in any way, in any single solitary way? She didn’t understand it, John couldn’t understand it, none of the others could understand it, and as they caught sight of the perpetrator, standing next to a large tank as they watched from the conveyor belts in which they were gradually being sent down, their comprehension over the matter didn’t come together at all… In fact, it was especially evident in John’s eyes that this was the most confusing part yet… Standing there, blood soaked uniform and all, with a bright, cheery and optimistic smile on his face, not in the least bit sinister, but in fact, warm, and bright, ignoring the cracked lens in his big, round glasses like they were nothing at all, stood Elias.

“Hey guys! How’re things?” he asked, as if they had merely been away for a short while and were just now catching up on events. John was speechless, Erica was too… but something seemed to spark in her eyes, almost like a flame was jettisoning from her pupils as she gripped her knuckles together tightly, rage boiling up inside of her.

“‘How’s things’? How’s fucking things?! You little shit… you put us through this torture, this goddamned human misery, you killed your coworkers, our coworkers, and all you have to fucking say is ‘How’s things’? I’ll let you know just how things are in a minute when I beat your miserable brains out you bald shitstain!” she yelled about to leap off the belt and charge him, but she was stopped rather quickly as he pulled out a revolver from his pocket and aimed it squarely at her face.

“Now now, Erica, now’s not the time to be bossy, I know that’s difficult for you to comprehend, since you’re always so anal about everything, but, I’m afraid you’re just going to have to deal with it for a bit. Whether you like it or not, I’m in control now,” he said, his smile starting to widen a little… starting to get a little… too wide for such an innocent looking grin. “Guess you all found yourself a safe room too… heh, actually I knew that part already, my trusty pal Darius led me right to where you were when you picked him up back there. I knew exactly where you were, I knew exactly how to play around with you guys, and boy howdy, did I put in the effort to make this work. I mean, I’m a hard worker and all, diligent to the end, but, I don’t think I’ve ever put so much umph into something this impressive. Guess I just felt really motivated to get this little pet project of mine all set up and in motion by the time you guys were ready to come out. Perfect timing really, guess things really do tend to go my way. Shame you all didn’t apparently have any weapons in your safe room, I’m sure that would’ve done you some good, though, maybe you just didn’t bother looking around… which, actually, that’s terribly inconsiderate and rather counterproductive, Erica, I expected better from someone like you. Well, guess no one’s perfect, though, I’m afraid a little discipline is in order,” he said, gleefully changing the aim of his gun and firing right between the eyes of the worker nearest to John, the other man crumpling lifelessly to the floor as he stood there in shock, blood spattering over his face. “Heh, red looks pretty good on you, Johnny boy! You ought’a start incorporating it into your casual wear!” Elias said with a hearty chuckle.

“…What the hell happened to you Elias… W-why… why would you do something like this? You? Of all people?” John said in disbelief to the point of tears actually starting to form in his eyes. To think this was the one co-worker he saw as a friend of all things, reduced to a homicidal maniac, and yet, he was acting like it was just another day at the office.

“Well, a couple’a things happened to me, John, a lot of stuff just kept buildin’ up. Came to a point where… heh… You know, we have a lot of time here, why don’t I just explain the whole funny shebang?”