Sunday, 24 April 2011

Atmosphere Chapter Twelve

Chapter Twelve

Where you're going, you're not coming back from

After quick introductions and last-minute purchasing of supplies like food and water from the stores before they closed for the evening, the group of eight walked downstairs. Every person stopping and watching the eight mercenaries march past carrying enough guns and supplies to take on any army in Manhattan. The three justice soldiers had purchased thick body armour -now under their dusters, and black helmets similar to the one Daniel brought – but still wore their cowboy hats over the top. Emanuel had managed to buy himself an assault-vest and a much more modern gas mask without getting too distracted by all the new wonders to him inside the Termini building. Isaac still wore his coat and pants but bought himself a new backpack similar to before and filled it with every kind of supply imaginable – and yet none of it for, all for the others if they needed it. Finley and his friend hadn't bought anything but a bottle of water, not a weapon or piece of armour between them.

They passed down, through the five floors below Grand Central that were once massive train platforms and now converted into the homes for the thousands that lived in the building, even these low-quality houses for the poor were made from salvaged brick and plaster, no giant metal walls to divide homes like in the Kingdom towers. They reached the lowest floor where the poorest lived, most without homes and just littering the 'streets' between the make-shift homes. Finley led them to an old metal door and pushed it open, leading into a darkened room lined with rusted lockers and benches, at the end a pair of ancient elevator doors. Walking up to the doors Finley pulled a crowbar from his backpack and wedged it between the doors and pried them nosily open, a wide elevator shaft stretching down into the darkness below. The others leant over, shining their flash-lights down the shaft and seeing the bottom not too far away, but obviously far enough to kill them if they jumped. Finley raised a hand knowing they were just about to ask how they get down, laying down beside the opened doors and leaning out over the hole, Caliban holding his legs so he didn't fall, the old man pulling at something unseen on the shaft wall, a moment later a ladder coming out the wall.

Caliban went down the ladder first at a remarkably quick speed but Finley warned the others to go slow, the old rungs creaking and groaning with each foot placed on them. The strange mute friend of Finley stood at the bottom, shining a flash-light up so the others could see better and made their way to the bottom of the elevator shaft. Finley pried open the next elevator door and a huge cavernous area filled with strange machinery laid before them.

“What is.. or was M42, Finley?” one of the Justice soldiers asked

“A place that converted and controlled all the power for the railroad lines above. It was a highly guarded secret”

“And... what's the railroad?” Harper asked, not knowing the purpose of the cars and trucks that littered the streets of Manhattan, never mind what a train was.

“Its a powered metal box that took people where they wanted to go, very quickly”

“Truly, the Ancient Ones were a great people. What could it have been that possibly have wiped out such a great and prosperous race”

“Because of the Fire-Merchant.” Finley started, half the group groaning, hearing this story before, one of the oldest legends amongst them “An all powerful being, some say the most powerful, that the Ancient Ones looked to him to help resolve their conflicts, to give them the tools they needed to smite their foes and defend themselves. But the people of the planet had displeased the Fire-Merchant somehow, and he sought his wrath across the whole world. Setting all the land alight and cleansing it of all those he deemed unworthy. But he was not an unjust being, if it were not for him, the world we know would not be here.”

They continued onwards down the long wide corridor filled with generators and capacitors shining their flash-lights ahead and the tunnel seeming to go on forever. The old man's story sounding all to familiar to Daniel, deep in thought and not saying anything for a while as he followed the others. They reached another door at the end of the corridor, a large piece of machinery beside it with marks along the wall where it had been pushed from, once hiding the exit. Passing through to the other side they came out into a large curved tunnel with water up to their ankles that ran off into both directions, the sound of something scurrying way could be heard in the distance but none of their flash-lights were quick enough to find it. Finley looked both the ways down the tunnel and then stuck to one and began walking that direction, carrying his small flash-light and not fearing the overbearing darkness that hung all around them.

“Why did you look both ways Finley? Surely you know the way by now” One of the group asked

“Ah, sometimes the way changes!”

“How can that be? Isaac asked, still having his coat hood done up tight despite being with people he trusted -somewhat-, the darkness in the tunnel getting even to him.

“Tunnels and passages that weren't there the first time, sometimes whole tunnels like this blocked up by shear walls. Sometimes certain routes are just unsafe even if no danger is present -you can just feel it”

Walkways and platforms criss-crossed over the top of the tunnel each time the ceiling gave way, revealing huge facilities and works above them filled with a thousand pipes and openings off to other areas. Passage openings appeared beside them in the tunnel they were walking through but Finley advised against even walking to the opening to look inside, instead just to stick to the tunnel they were on and keeping going forward. Tapping and light thuds followed by splashes in the far off unseen water in the darkness occasionally came from behind or from down one of the passages, which could have been made by anything, half the group swinging round with their flash-lights and looking for the source of the sound but finding nothing. Finley and his friend continued forward at the same casual pace, not bothered by the sounds or darkness around them. Eventually the tunnel opened out into a huge space, but a massive metal flood-gate blocked the way after just a few metres, two walls either side of them blocking them off, open pipes visible just beyond the gate. water spilling out into an unseen pool the other side.

“Hm. We opened this last time we came though.” Finley said, turning to Caliban who nodded. He shone his flash-light to the wall beside, seeing the ladder leading up the wall just beside it. “Well ,we'll have to just open it again”

Finley looked to others then walked to the ladder, letting his friend climb it first before following him up, the others just standing there a little unsure of what they were meant to be doing.

“Comrade Daniel?..”

“We wait. If they're opening the gate we'll all only have to come back down anyway.”

They nodded and took up positions around the gate and the entrance back into the tunnel they just exited from. A distant series of splashes passed by from side of the tunnel to the other somewhere off in the distance, Powell and Emanuel went by the tunnel entrance keeping their rifles sights trained into the darkness, their flash-lights only going a few metres before stopping. A loud clang rang out from one of the pipes and echoed into the space behind them, the water spilling out of the pipes speeding up as the gate groaned into life and slowly began raising. A loud bone-chilling howl came from deep within the tunnel they just passed through, everyone turning their heads and quickly raising their rifles.

“Something is definitely coming compaƱeros! Emanuel shouted, holding his carbine rifle tighter and crouching down so he could aim steadier, the other two Justice soldiers quickly crouching down in the mouth of the tunnel and raising their weapons. A powerful of gust of air pushing against them, the sound of splashes drawing closer and louder.

“Why didn't anyone bring night-vision goggles?” Someone exclaimed, suddenly cut off as a rifle erupted into life, lighting the whole tunnel for a split second as it's muzzle flashed. Followed immediately by a torrent of fire from everyone else. Six guns all firing in unison, the tunnel a constant barrage of quick flashes and thunderous bangs and cracks from each rifle. All the rifles fell silent as their magazines were spent, the tunnel too was now quiet save for the echo of the guns slowly disappearing into the distance. A single body floated down towards them face down in the water. Some twisted and horrific monstrosity with hard black skin and wide pupil-less white eyes. It's skin chipped away where the bullets had hit him as if it were wood, strange flesh beneath that couldn't have belong to any old world animal. Daniel crept slightly closer to it, wanting a better look, unable to figure out just how it looked before their weapons had torn it asunder. He jumped back and quickly looked up as a hundred loud howls sliced their way down the tunnel and made him weak at the knees.

Hastily getting back in line with the others he pulled the empty magazine from his rifle and replaced it with one from the pouches and put the empty magazine inside, the others all reloading along with him. The tunnel filled with the sound of hundred stampeding feet, splashing through the water or crawling along the walls. Grant took a hand from his rifle and rummaged about inside his duster, pulling something from his vest and chucking it to Powell before getting another for himself. They took a step forward and pulled the pin from them, lobbing them down into the dark tunnel and quickly crouching down again as the whole tunnel suddenly shook with two explosions. Bricks and tiles from the walls fell to the floor in front of the bright orange ball of fire, lighting almost the whole tunnel at the same time and giving the group a brief glimpse of the seething mass of horrific creatures crawling and sprinting towards them, the grenades maybe only killing a dozen of them.

The gunfire began again immediately, not waiting for them to get into the best range for their rifles, a panic over coming the group as they fired round after round down into the abyss. One of the creatures got close before falling short, crumpling to the floor and letting out a defeated roar. More and more of them appearing in the beams of the flash-light as they drew nearer and nearer, no matter how many the group killed more taking their place. Emanuel's rifle clicked loudly -out of ammo- and he in one swift motion grabbed the sword from his sheath and lunged at the nearest creature, everyone else staring in disbelief as he ran the creature through before kicking it off the end of his blade and turning to swipe at another. Daniel fell back to his cascade pistol, not wanting to use up any more rifle ammo as the Justice soldiers got out their combat knifes and attached them to the end of their guns and began fighting the creatures in close combat, trying their best to avoid the claws of teeth of the creatures, Isaac meanwhile was killing them with his bare hands, twisting their necks or just cracking their heads open with ease. Emanuel lunged at the last of the creatures, bringing it to the floor and stabbing it over and over again with his sword and screaming as the creature flailed and squirmed beneath him trying to escape. He only stopped when Powell dragged him off and placed him against a wall, the Kingdom dragoon shaking his head and slowly coming back to his senses, wiping his sword on his pants leg and putting it back in the sheath, Powell turning to Daniel.

“Why did you bring such an unstable person along with us?” He exclaimed, throwing his arms up in annoyance, Emanuel looking between the two of them

“He gets the job done doesn't he? He's just a little enthusiastic” Daniel replied dismissively, turning round and only now realising the gate was open and Finley and Caliban stood the other side, unsure of how long they were watching them fight the beasts.

“You see, that is why we don't carry weapons..” Finley said, turning and motioning for them to continue following, the group all looked to each other before walking off behind him.

“So you can be killed by hideous mutants?” Grant remarked and smirked.

“No, so the sound of such a horrible tool doesn’t attract the attention of more of them. They won't respect those that disrespect them. Let them pass and they let you pass”

Chush' sobach'ya!” Grant and Powell both exclaimed in unison, reloading their main weapon as everyone else did.

“I wouldn't expect people like you to understand...” Here said sombrely, Grant and Powell both rolling their eyes and exchanging mocking glances. The wide open tunnel of before had slowly turned into narrow cramped tunnels that wound around corners and up and down in a confusing manner and making some begin to suspect they were lost.

“So... Finley. How come you go to The North regularly?” Grant spoke up.

“To feed” He said coldly, the group immediately stopping, Finley turning to face them with a smirk on his face.

“Ah come on, the old man can't make a joke?” He chuckled and waved his hand at them as they all just stared at him in annoyance, turning round and continuing on through the tunnels “Well to gather valuable items.. some to sell, some to keep. To find more about the past.. to just visit the places where no man has visited for millennia.”

“And uh, why don't your amigo here.. Caliban wasn't here? Why don't he talk. Its creeping me out a little” Emanuel added, the balaclava'd man glancing over his shoulder at him.

“He has no mouth” The old man said bluntly, not turning back this time and the others unsure if he was joking again or not. They continued onwards through the tunnel until opened out again into another huge area, this time below them and not above, the solid ground beneath them disappearing and a metal walkway taking its place. There was only enough room for them to walk down it in single file. Their flash-lights swinging along and illuminating the ceiling then the floor below then the ceiling again with each step. Flashes of black shapes zipped past beneath them each time the lights shone downwards, the creatures of the tunnel diving out of the burning light.

The walkway led them to some sort of maintenance hut built into the side of the glistening moss covered brick wall. A skeleton sat in plastic chair still adorned in his tattered sanitation worker overalls, his head tilted back and his jaw open in an eternal scream, a rusted pistol held limply in his bony white fingers by his side, the top of his skull cracked open. Though a door on the other side of the hut they found themselves in some under-ground office complex which had been used by the sanitation department of Manhattan. Monitors and pages of reports covering the desks and various metres and gauges lined the walls in each room they passed through. Before the stairwell up to the next floor two dead bodies laid slumped against the door, which wouldn't have been unusual if weren't the fact they were US Army soldiers. The group almost mistook them for dead Militari at first before remembering they just used the scraps left over from the Ancient One's army. Daniel crouched beside them, rummaging through their various pouches and pockets on the soldier's armour, wanting to find out just why they'd be down in the sewers. He came across small flash drive in one of their pants pockets, looking to Isaac and burrowing his PDA, plugging it in and finding it was another audio file on it.

“This is lieutenant Anders of the 101st Airborne Division, 1st battalion, 506th Infantry regiment. Recording from the eight basement level of the one of the New York City Department of Sanitation buildings. This is day thirty two of Operation Bastion, Manhattan has been cordoned for over a month now and the regions of New Jersey and Pennsylvania have been bombard to ruin. Our squad has been tasked with guarding this entrance to Manhattan through the sewers. Since the start of the operation we have encountered maybe a thousand people trying to enter through the sewers and had to eliminate them all. There are many more thousands hiding down there, we order the sanitation workers to flood the tunnels out every day, but by the evening they are filled with the sick and dying again. We could not allow them to progress further, Manhattan was the last uninfected place. The last refuge of mankind. If it fell, it would mean the end.

Any day now United Arms will initiate one of the five protocols and all this will be over for good. But I do not want to live in whatever world United Arms leaves for us. I have seen so much death... so much suffering. I have watched helplessly from the back of a helicopter the streets of Atlanta and Savannah filled with fire from the bombs and artillery. Watched as a million people burned and screamed for help. Ordered to fire on them, and I did so. I have stood at the shores of the Hudson, inside a machine-gun post for 46 hours straight, gunning down the innocent that only wanted help. And now, have crawled and skulked about these tunnels, hunting down my fellow man is if he were vermin. Shooting, burning, tearing them apart, what ever is needed to stop this disease. But I cannot fight on. I am spent. Everyone I ever knew or cared about is dead. This world is dead. I just want to see my family again. But I fear, when I find them in heaven, they will look upon me and not even recognize their own husband and father.. they will look into my eyes, and they will only see the horrors I have seen, the people I have killed. The world I helped destroy. I'm so sorry” The soldier could be heard reaching for his side arm and loading it before another person entered the room and shouted at him, a struggle taking place before a loud gunshot and a body slumping to the floor, a brief pause and then another gun shot which immediately ended the audio.

The group was silent, looking back to the two dead bodies. Grant pulled the flash drive slowly from out of Isaac's PDA and dropped it to the floor and stamped on it with his boot.

“No one needs to hear of such horror again.” He said sombrely, walking over to the dead soldier with the right name-tag and crouching next to it.

Da-svi-da-niya Comrade Anders. May the next life be kinder to you then this one was”. Grant stood back up and motioned for the others to follow him, now pretty sure he could lead them to the surface. They went up the staircases which led them all the way back to the surface, the air thinning out the higher they got and eventually they put their gas masks on. They were just a few streets east of Central Park in the Upper East side of Manhattan. The street outside was pitch-black and devoid of all life. Sand and rock covered the street like in the Scorching Shore, but the buildings stood intact, a huge high school stood across the street from them and an elevated railway line just down the street, a long line of subway carriages hanging off over the side and spilling into an apartment beneath.

“Well Daniel. Now its down to you to lead us” Finley said, patting him on the shoulder “110th street you wanted wasn't it?” Daniel nodded and looked around the street they stood at, deciding it best not to go round the outside of Central Park as the UAVs the Militari left there would probably start firing on them. They'd go straight north until they reached 110th and then head west. They could only get a short distance up the current street before coming to another stop, the roadway suddenly stopping and a wide ravine stretching on for ten or eleven metres, cars and buses filling littering the bottom. He looked to the buildings to his left and right, the left one also stopped as the street did, but the one on the right side continued over the ravine, its bottom two floors having collapsed into it, but the third still going across to a building the other side Walking up to the apartment front he shone his flash-light through the windows and saw nothing suspicious inside and motioned to the others to follow him inside.

They got to the third floor and reached where the building stretched over the ravine, visible holes in the old wooden floor. The group looked at the floor cautiously and back to Daniel.

“Are you sure comrade Daniel?”

He grabbed a wooden chair from the corner of the room and chucked it out onto the floor above the ravine, the floor creaking but not giving way.

“Slowly, one at a time?” He asked, looking back to the others, all of whom were hesitant to crossing. Finley's friend walked forward and jumped up, grabbing the support beams that ran along the ceiling and shimmied along to the secure floor the other side and dropped back down. The others looked on a little bemused, none of them able to jump high enough to grab the support beam, never mind get across it with the weight of their gear and weapons.

“Or... there's the ladder” Grant said, his two comrades immediately opening their packs and assembling their make-shift ladder/bridge like clock-work, all put together 30 seconds later. They extended it out as far as it would go and pushed it out across the floor towards Caliban who crouched down and grabbed the end, keeping hold of it. Daniel took the first step on the rung then the next, pausing as the wooden floor below creaked, but continuing on a second later. Half way across and the floor creaked again, a wooden panel giving way and falling down to the ravine below, then another and another, the ladder shifting and sliding backwards as it was only just short enough to cover the unsafe wood. Another panel gave way and the back end of the ladder nearest to the rest of the group gave way and swung down as they tried to desperately grab it. Daniel dropped to the his knees and clung onto the rung above him as tightly as he could, the ladder swinging down as Caliban continued holding the other end as hard as he could, straining under the weight and beginning to slide towards the edge as well. The ladder eventually slipping through his fingers and falling completely with Daniel atop it into the ravine below.

Opening his eyes slowly and groaning, Daniel let out an exasperated gasp -seeing the walls of the ravine stretch on upwards and only darkness residing above him. He cried out but got no answer, only his own voice echoing around him. He was laying atop the ladder, now bent out of shape and wrangled over the top of the van he was laying on. A school bus to his left and a pile of cars to his right. Sitting up he looked around desperately ,the ravine stretching either way as long as the eye could see, filled with more cars and debris and only to darkness above. He stood and clambered along the cars heading in one direction for one seemed like minutes, his body aching and getting more number the further he went on. A loud clang came from behind and he stopped dead, quickly glancing over his shoulder and sensing someone behind, turning around to face them and bring his rifle up. A white robotic figure stood in front of him, cautiously taking a step back and tilting its head looking to Daniel.

“Isaac? Is that you?” Daniel called out, the robot quickly turning round and running off back in the opposite direction where Daniel had just come from. Daniel ran after the robot as quickly as he could, tripping and clumsily making his way back across the car rooftops. The robot stopped at the end of a truck, looking down and then jumping off and disappearing down into something. Getting to the end of the truck as well Daniel looked down and saw a wide manhole cover between two of the vehicles that he had somehow missed before. The hole was pitch black except for some mist hovering above, shining his light down it the hole remained just as dark. He looked back along either way of the ravine and took a deep breath and closed his eyes, stepping off the edge of the truck and plummeting into the manhole cover. Almost a minute could have passed before he realised he wasn't moving, maybe the depth of the hole deceived him. He opened his eyes again only darkness al around, he tried to turn his head up to see how far the hole had gone but he couldn't move. Frozen in the spot his eyes darted around nervously, trying to open his mouth to call for help but unable. The white robot flashed before his eyes again and disappeared again, followed by another different one then another. Finally a completely black robot that looked familiar from one of his memories stopped right in front of him. It looked straight to him and he got a chill down his spine. The robot slowly walked towards him, a long blade appearing in his hand. No matter how much he tried to struggle or move he couldn't, only staring forward as the robot got nearer until the blade touched his stomach and sliced into him. The most acute most painful sensation he had ever felt coarsed through his body which made his earlier incident with the broken glass seem nothing. The robot put his other hand on Daniel's shoulder and learnt in closer, his mouth beside Daniel's ear.

“I hate you more than you could ever know Blackwell”

“Daniel? Are you okay?”

“Comrade Daniel. Answer us!”

Opening his eyes slowly and groaning a bright flash-light suddenly filled his eyes and Daniel quickly turned his head away.

Gracious a dios! He's still moving”

He shielded his eyes and looked up, the others a little distance above him, the ravine no where near as tall or long as he has previously just experienced. He quickly sat up and looked down at himself- no wounds on him- and letting out a sigh.

“Try to find a way out we'll find another way round and meet you at the other side of the ravine.” Another voice came from above before there was silence again. Daniel stood up fully and looked in either side of the ravine again, he could now see both ends of it, but there was no way he could climb out up the steep walls. The cars he stood on were different now but the visions of what he just experienced still flashing before his eyes. He stopped dead again, staring down over the edge of the bus he was atop, a man-hole cover below identical to the other one. He shone his light down it and could see the floor two metres below. He clambered down off the bus onto the ravine floor and walked to the hole, crouching down and sticking his head through and looking around, some empty room below filled with metal drawers and desks and covered in dust and dirt. He dropped down through the hole and immediately brought his rifle up to his shoulder, swinging round and facing every direction with his eye down the red-dot scope but not seeing anything move after a minute.

Making his way out the door to the room he kept his finger poised over the trigger ready to fire, the rifle at his hip and eager to kill. Vines and ivy crept up the walls and hung from the ceiling, blocking the beam of Daniel's flash-light and making it hard to see. Something flashed before his eyes, something white appearing one side of the hallway and disappearing the other, followed by a quick burst of gunfire from his rifle. Running into the next hallway Daniel raised his rifle again, the person already around another corner.

“Come out now!” Daniel ordered loudly, fear in his voice and his hands shaking slightly. He stepped closely towards the next corner and swung round with his rifle ready to fire, but no target in sight. The plant-life got denser the further he went on until the hallways were just green with plant-life along all the walls and floor, small gaps in the ceiling where lights stuck out, still somehow working and shining dimly down. Up ahead the corridor ended with a door completely shrouded in light, blocking off view of whatever was on the other side. Daniel approached cautiously, his rifle held tightly in his hands and ready to fire, squinting as he got nearer and the light intensified until he passed through completely.

Seventeen robots sat the other side, around a long conference table that filled the room which was completely covered in plant-life like the corridors. Eight sat either side of the table and another at the far end, all in suits and sitting silently. Their heads slowly turned in unison and they all looked to Daniel with their featureless faces, all different makes and in different condition. The one at the end, which he immediately recognized from his previous vision and earlier memories stood up quickly, looking to Daniel. He brought his hands up and clapped slowly, letting out a little electronic laugh.

“I've been waiting for this day to come for so long. Loathing the time that you would arrive before us” He said. Daniel stood motionless the sights of his gun trained on the robot as he glanced around the room, never more confused in his whole life. The robot tilted his head slowly and walked round the table getting closer, no hesitation that a gun was aiming at his head.

“You... don't remember?” He let out another chuckle and placed his hands together “Then you haven't been there yet... I remember you Blackwell. It is all that fills my memory. Every day the images of you what did playing over and over again.”

“...Napoleon?” Daniel asked, remembering back again to his vision of the robot and the man looking over New York.

“Oh! So you do remember...” He was now right in front of Daniel, the NR-2049 barrel inches from his reflective black head. “Or.. only some things? Then I guess what I left for you in 110th street wouldn't have been all for naught”

“What are talking about. What is this place?”

“This? You've stumbled upon The Collective. The refuge and sanctuary for those wanting to escape the tyranny, the endless aggression and boundless destruction that man delivers upon this earth and all that inhabit it. In the days after Protocol-U5, when the nuclear fires died out and the Earth finally went quiet. I wondered to myself... why? Why should I be the one that picks up the pieces after the last remains of mankind hide away in the cryo-chambers United Arms built beneath the city, or the lucky few to survive the disease and the missiles who scurried beneath the ground as the skies turned dark. This was the mess you created, so you can be the ones to clear it up. You can all live with the consequences of your actions at last. I wandered the surface of the Earth for more years that I can recall, watching as it changed and became a world anew in man's absence. Your beloved country, of which so many communities you destroyed and lives you took to keep it safe is no more. Split right down the middle by the sea, you wouldn't even recognize Europe now if you looked at it on a map. And even when the ones that had lived beneath the ground re-emerged, they did not bother me so much as 'the ancient ones' did, they were ignorant.. harmless. I eventually returned to New York, or what it had became. Went below the ground where the cryo-chambers were. Where you all were.

See you ordered me to stand there when they were meant to open one hundred years after you all entered. I'd tell you if the surface were safe again to live on, if not. Back in for another hundred years, if it was. We'd begin planning for the new world. A United Arms world. But those machines would have broken down from being over-used by the time we reached now. Because do you know how long its been Daniel? How many centuries and millennium since you entered that place and the world burned?” He waited for an answer and Daniel slowly shook his head, still trying to grasp what was going on. “Twenty-two thousand, eight hundred years.”

“That's impossible. There's no way it could have been that long...”

“I tampered with the cryo-chambers. Made it so they would all open randomly. I can't kill you. Its hard-coded into me that I can't raise a finger against you. And you have no idea how INFURIATING it is. Because there is nothing more I want to do right now then kill you. Kill you as slowly and painfully as is physically possible. To make you feel just one one-millionth of the suffering you have caused. But of course... that would make me just as bad as you. So if I couldn't kill you I could at least keep you locked up. The other cryo-chambers – the ones in your room. They only opened 1,500 years ago. Just one opened rather, a United Arms executive. He opened the others and they got to yours... and they stared at you and they also knew. They knew they couldn't let you loose again. For this world would suffer once more. They took to the surface once again, finding what man had become, had degenerated into. They integrated into them, they taught them the old ways, the ways that brought mankind to ruin so many times before. And like.. well. Like a disease, the knowledge of the old-world spread, and the cycle began again... And now we have things like The Kingdom and The Republic. But really, the real disease, never left mankind did it? No. Not that one, not the one that had caused you all to hide and set the world alight. The disease that has been festering inside man since the day he first walked upright and used tools and made fires to ward off the dark. The disease that causes him to murder and destroy his fellow man. The disease of violence, of greed and war and pettiness. Of pride and false glories and appeasement. The one that made you hate each other for you slight differences, that caused racism, sexism, bigotry, class diversions caused crusades and genocides, that made Hitler and Stalin and so many crackpot dictators murder so many, that made extremists fly planes into buildings and children to blow themselves up in busy marketplaces. The one that made you murder eight billion people.”

He stopped talking to let Daniel take that in, looking to him and seeing he was obviously becoming distressed. He turned on his heel and slowly walked back to this chair at the end of the table, all the other robots were still motionless and staring up at Daniel.

“And just.. what do you want from me?” Daniel asked hesitatingly

“And there you go again. Assuming that we automatically want something from you. That you must have something in need of protecting from us or any others. All I want. Is for you to know exactly what you did to this world and to its people. To feel even the slightest bit of compassion or sympathy or REGRET. Something you certainly never expressed while destroying this world.”

The robot leant his hands through the thick vines and gripped something, a door hidden somewhere behind it all. He pulled it open and all the plant-life over the top breaking and falling away, then looked over to Daniel who was still standing in the exact same position and staring back.

Don't worry Blackwell, I left all the things you'd need to remember everything from your past in 110th street. We wouldn't want you forgetting it now. I know I never will.”

Daniel slowly moved towards the door, his rifle still trained on the black robot as he passed behind the conference table, all the other robots sitting around it still following him across the room with their gaze. He side stepped past Napoleon and out the door, not taking his eye off him for a moment.

“Good bye Daniel.” He and all the other robots said in unison sending a chill down Daniel's spine and with that the door shut again. Daniel let go of the rifle again, his hands cramped up from holding it so tightly the past minutes. He turned back and looked behind him, just a corridor wall behind with no visible creases or lines where a door could be and began to wonder if he had just imagined that whole thing.

The corridor led to a stairwell which went up only one floor and then he was back on the surface in the ruins of some nondescript store. Walking out onto the street he came out behind the others who were all further down the street and staring down into the ravine and calling his name.

“Over here” He called out and waved his hand, flicking his flash-light back on with the other hand and pointing it in their direction. They regroup again with him at the intersection just outside the building he appeared from, eager to find out just why he took so long, but he wouldn't say anything. They continued north another street and found themselves at an intersection with 110th street, now heading west. Central Park appeared on their left, completely unrecognisable to its old world self. The grass and trees replaced with sand dunes and empty pits where the ponds and lakes once were, a thousand spiky black tree poking out the ground. The faint shapes of the Militari's drones were visible sticking out of the ground, making the group crouch low and walk beside the broken walls and abandoned cars. The drones couldn't seem to detect them this far, but the group couldn't be too safe. They almost missed the building completely, a nondescript white box of a building, two floors high and without a single window, just a small door at the front. The walls were bleached white and a small sign with United Arms recruitment office stood outside. Daniel went first, slowly walking towards the front door and pushing it open, peering inside and seeing a small reception area and a few chairs laid out, UA propaganda posters lining the walls. The others followed in behind and they passed behind the receptionist desk through another door, a stairwell behind that went up one floor to two small offices and down. Down an uncountably amount of storeys. Before without the aid of flash-lights when Daniel looked down the stairs at the past two buildings he could still see for maybe twenty or thirty floors before the darkness became too thick. But now, with eight flash-lights all shining down at once there was maybe a hundred or more floors visible below them.

“Which one are we going to Comrade Daniel?”

“Bottom floor”

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