Into the Dark
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The eerie lights from the cracks in the concrete walls were gone and he was alone in the darkness of a dusty vent.
Great. Now I have no idea where I'm going. Oh wait... the mask. How did I forget?
He turned on the mask and a fuzzy gray image of the vent was projected to his eyes. It wasn't excellent, but it was enough to give him an idea where he was going.
Crawling on his elbows as quickly as he could, he made his way through the vent. He could hear the clank and echo of each step. Now that he was out of the puzzle area, the thing inside kept him calm and led the way. In fact, it almost felt exhilarating to be crawling through vents again. He felt like he was doing something heroic and meaningful again.
When he came to a junction he was instructed to go right and he obeyed. It was another minute of crawling before he heard the loud humming of machinery coming from below. Quickly he broke off the nearest vent cover and jumped out. He fell down farther than he expected. It hurt his legs to land that hard, but not too badly. He had just become too confident. Now he turned off the mask.
The room he was in now was filled with several giant engines with turbines, gears, and pistons. They were giving a ton of power to something; probably to whatever it was that moved the tiles to rearrange the puzzle. He still had no idea what that was all about.
The area was poorly lit, dirty, and there were exposed pipes seen on the blank walls so he figured this was a maintenance area, one that was not supposed to be visited. Luckily for him, there were no cameras spotted, but he still knew to be extra careful and look out for anything that might see him.
On his left was what seemed to be the only door to exit the room. There was a small window in it so he could see that the hallway was clear for him to use. As he swung it open he cringed at how loud it squeaked, but still no one was around.
He jogged as quietly as he could, using his night vision to navigate the darker areas where there were no harsh white light tubes shining from above. He was also listening to the thing inside of him to know if anything was coming in his direction. This place seemed huge, and he was starting to get lost. There were so many tunnels leading to so many rooms all full of different kinds of large industrial machinery. He tried to use the arrows painted on the cement walls but most of them were pointing to some sectors with long titles that didn't mean anything to him. The further he went, the more curious he was becoming.
Then he arrived at a freight elevator, and he was just about to get on before he noticed a camera. Jumping out of the way he managed to avoid it seeing him.
That was close! How am I supposed to get past that thing?
He waited for a few minutes, paying close attention to the movement of the camera. Eventually he concluded that it followed a predictable path back and forth across the hall. It reminded him of the searchlights in the District Attorney's Office back in Lawbot HQ when the cogs were invading Toontown. But this was no time for nostalgia. Things were different now. His life was seriously in danger and things would be pretty awful if he got caught.
When the timing was right he silently leaped out of hiding and followed the path of the camera as it turned away. Then he flattened himself against the wall below it, hoping that this small spot would be out of its range. When that was over then he sprinted to the elevator and started it before the camera turned in his direction again.
The elevator rose up the shaft with increasing speed and noise. Evina was keenly aware of every sound now and afraid that one of them might give him away.
When it reached the top he stepped off in a small room and tried to open the door in front of him. It was locked, probably from the other side. So without any other choice he climbed into another air vent to find some way out of here.
All his instincts told him to go back, but the thing inside him was stronger and it forced him to move onward. He had no choice but to follow it although he continued to wonder if it was not just a figment of his wild imagination.
Only a short distance later he stopped at a vent cover looking down into a small, circular room. The only light in the room came from the dozens of monitors that surrounded the perimeter. Also there were countless buttons and other tools of so many colors, shapes, and sizes. The text and images shown on the screen made no sense to him, and neither did the room's inhabitants.
There were two robots or people seated motionlessly in front of the monitors, he didn't know which. They were in the shape of humans but covered entirely in shiny, dark gray, ominous-looking suits, and their heads were hidden inside simple blocky helmets. Their real form could not be seen. This sight scared him, but he was at least confident that they could not see him.
Then a voice spoke with a person's voice, sort of. It was strangely modified to sound muffled and machine generated. "918, have you seen this?"
"What?" the other inquired.
"It looks like there's been a slave breach in Sector C."
"I know a few of them complained before, and I thought I took care of it, but maybe it wasn't enough. Should I finish these troublemakers for good?"
Evina was suddenly feeling angry. He didn't care about who these slaves really were or what they were used for; now he knew these creatures were evil. The anger was greatly amplified by the thing inside him, just like it had been before. He now had a motivation to fight and defend himself, to save Kate, and to get what he needed.
"No, you fool!" One of them shouted and pointed to a screen. Evina was startled, and because they looked and sounded identical, he couldn't tell which one had spoken. "It wasn't from the slaves; it was a high security breach from the test chambers! Activate the red alert!"
This was the moment to do something and so he reacted instantly. Evina jumped down out of the vent and knocked out both the security men with ease. It didn't look like either of them had a chance to activate an alarm.
Then he turned his attention to the screens. It was hard to read through all the complex information, most of which still made no sense to him, but the notification of him escaping the test chambers was still there. He wanted to clear it somehow, but couldn't figure out the controls. Also, anything he touched might only made things worse.
Just as he was about to leave, a scary thing happened. He had a sudden compulsion to press a button, and when he did there was a detailed map that appeared on the largest monitor. It was the floor plan of this level of the sector and it was humongous. However, a certain spot caught his eye. Whatever he was looking for had to be there.
He went to the door and opened it a tiny bit to peek outside. It was a huge hall stretching left to right with bright lights lining the black walls in each direction. In fact, the hall was more cylindrical like a tunnel, and it was designed in a creepy futuristic way. It gave the impression of being clean yet dangerous. A few more of those strange men marched by in a very unnatural way. Evina suspected there would be more. This place was probably full of them.
I need some more power. He thought. Then his wish came true and he felt energy flowing to his right hand. It looked like a small laser device had popped up on the back of his glove. This was going to be useful.
He breathed deeply, trying to gain his focus and listen to the thing that was guiding him to his destination. The slightest mistake could be the end of him.
Then when he was ready he sprinted out into the hall. His footsteps were silent as he jogged down the corridor heading right. He listened for any sign of movement.
"Warning: High security breach in this sector!" A speaker announced. Evina knew there was no point trying to hide now; he had to run. Still, they didn't have to know which direction he was going. So when he found another security camera in his path, a light squeeze of his fist triggered the laser and disabled it.
Yet no matter how hard he tried to remain focused, he couldn't ignore the fact that an army of alien guards was now chasing him; he could hear them clearly.
At an intersection he darted around a corner and hoped desperately that Gyro had put some kind of wire in the suit. As it turned out, there was a grapple hook launcher under and behind his left elbow. He shot it across the hall from about a foot off the ground and it hooked onto a doorstop. The timing was well enough that all the men tripped over it and crashed on the ground. Rapidly he made it recoil and then darted through the door closest to him. It was a heavy one that was security protected. One laser burst shattered the controls and he rested knowing it would take them a while to get through it.
The thing urged him to keep moving but he had to stop and catch his breath. As exciting as it was to feel like a hero again, there was no shortage of anxiety either. Also, even though he had escaped death so often, it didn't mean he had unlimited strength.
When he heard the noise of them trying to break the door then he ran again, this time down a long ramp. An arrow on the wall told him that he was heading towards some kind of dock. The thing was leading him this way. He was getting close to where he was supposed to be.
That's kind of odd. I thought a dock would be closer to the surface instead of...
He stopped dead in his tracks only inches from an edge. It first looked like the whole interior of this planet was hollowed out and he almost fell into a pit that had no end. This place he appeared to be an area protruding from a ceiling that stretched on and on in every direction, yet no other walls were visible. There were some lights shining around the dock, but nothing could pierce the infinite gloom that lay below.
Confusion overwhelmed him for a brief moment but was soon replaced with a twinge of horror. He heard the footsteps of angry guards storming down the ramp towards him. There was no place he could flee to.
The thing inside him told him to jump.
"No." He answered aloud. He only saw empty darkness below which could hold nothing but certain death, but the army was charging towards him at full speed.
Evina was a duck who had experienced many miracles. Maybe it was because of the thing living inside him, or maybe it was because he was chosen for some greater purpose, but whatever the reality of the situation was, he expected a miracle to happen again. He leapt into the abyss and was swallowed by the darkness, plummeting deep into the belly of the beast.
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