The stalker growled in a low voice, "Not long, not now until they fall into the trap, so they will" Like a spider waiting to catch a fly, he maintained a distance and made sure the others didn't know he was there. Cadrig's foot got stuck on a mudokon skull, "Jeez, you think they'd so some spring cleaning round here" Rolf didn't like being here, the mudokon skulls didn't help one jolt. But they were moving closer to their goal, at least, Dignam could feel it.
Dignam crossed the corner and felt his body tremble. The thing they saw was a mixture of four things. It was alive, it was skeletal, it was glowing white and had a mysterious feeling about it. They waited for what seemed like an age before it turned away and disappeared into a corridor. Scazz had never seen anything like it, he trembled for the first time in his life and shook himself, trying to regain composure. They kept on walking, avoiding the bones and other debris that lay scattered around the uneven ground.
They approached a well-lit large room and entered. Dignam couldn't believe his eyes. Inside was a giant monstrosity of a machine. It had hundreds of cogs, thousands of screws and rivets... counting the number of welded pieces of metal would have taken the best part of ten years if that. It truly was a maze of pipes and noisy metal parts. It took them a few minutes to fully appreciate how large this machine was. The noise kept reverberating in their heads, making a large metal thudding noise like a jackhammer, but slower and more penetrating. There has to be a way to turn it off.
= Chapter 7: To Each Their Own =
Dignam walked around the device a few times. The others waited with baited breath. Then Dignam spoke, "I need to switch this off. But there must be more machines ahead. Go on without me and see what you can find" Rolf nodded, "Okay, we'll get going. We'll come back soon" Scazz pondered whether they would make it back, he kept this to himself. Scazz, Cadrig and Rolf walked through the doorway on the opposite wall to where they entered. It was dark but there were dim lights placed at each corner of the corridor.
Then the party reached a fork in the corridor, the grey bricks parting at either side with a flat wall directly in front of them. Cadrig looked up and down the corridors. "Me and Rolf'll go this way", he pointed to the left corridor. Scazz reluctantly nodded and headed down the right passage. It wasn't much further along that Rolf saw a large stone slab nearby. As Rolf slowly approached the slab, he proceeded to step onto it. This caused a significant grinding noise, which was a door that was opening at the next corner of the corridor. Rolf guessed that this pressure plate was directly linked and would close as soon as he took his bare feet away from it. Cadrig coughed, "This dust gets everywhere, ugh. Anyway, you stick around here. If I want you to open the door again I'll hit it, okay?" Rolf nodded, "Good luck in there" Rolf watched as Cadrig disappeared into the darkness, the only thing visible of the slig being the green glow of the activated night vision goggles.
Scazz continued walking a while, until he reached a room with five doors, each with a purple coloured frame. The doors themselves were coloured in shades of grey. Going from lightest grey on the left to almost pitch blackness on the far right. Scazz opened the first door, it led to a dark corridor. He closed it and opened the second, which had what initially looked like an identical room, but then he noticed it was upside down. He then opened the third, his heart skipped a beat. Looking back at him was what should have been a reflection of himself, as normal mirrors are... but instead he saw a skeletal form of himself. Every minute movement was copied. Weird couldn't even begin to describe it. He closed the door before any more of his remaining sanity could slip away. He opened the fourth. Again like the first door it lead nowhere, but there was something wrong about this door. He didn't know why. He then opened the fifth and final door. Scazz's mouth fell open at what he saw. "It's..."
= Chapter 8: Left Behind =
Scazz could never describe what he saw to anyone. He doubt he would ever find the words to describe the terror. He saw a neverending wall of fire, extending and extending as far as the eye can see. He saw... things, travelling across and through the fire faster than blinking. There weren't hundreds but billions of these dark creatures, moving like a gigantic swarm... but with the chaos of something that did not have long to live. Scazz took a minute to steady himself and then took another look through the doorway. This time he saw it.
A large glass sphere, miles away, perhaps even hundreds of miles away. It was glowing and growing at a steady rate. 'This was it', he thought, 'this is what's causing all the problems' Without time to decide what to do, he knew exactly what he had to do. But it would take time.
Meanwhile, the infernal machine was whirring and clanking at an ever increasing volume. Dignam searched and searched until he found what he was looking for, it was a large lever. He tried to pull it but it was very rusty and barely moved. He put all his weight into it and heaved more until it moved, slightly but steadily. A large clunk told him that the lever was in the right place. The machine started slowing down, but there was more to be done.
= Chapter 9: The Only Way =
Cadrig stopped and read the sign which was in front of him, "Shutdown protocol" He continued onwards, seeing a glass cabinet and a dead end further ahead. As he got closer, he noticed there was a switch inside. It was one of those safety switches you had to pull out and twist to activate. He smashed the glass the only way he could, he raised one of his mechanical legs and kicked the glass in. He put his hand through the metallic frame of the cabinet, pulled the mechanism up and twisted. Now he had to get back to the concealed wall.
Scazz was hurriedly putting together the weapon. Weapon sight, stock, stabilizer, missile... As he worked, the creatures moved faster and faster. He aimed squarely in the middle of the glass sphere, his aim was unstable and he swayed from side to side. He held his breath, focused and pulled the trigger, releasing the missile. It travelled in a steady arc before colliding with the glass sphere. Thousands of glass shards flew in every direction, Scazz closed the door quickly. An audible locking noise told him that the door was now locked, possibly forever.
Dignam pulled more levers, each one was rustier than the rest and took more time and effort to pull. He was nearly done, the machine was barely whirring now. Soon it would stop whirring completely.
Rolf heard a tapping noise on the rock, the metal noise of Cadrig's metal foot hitting the stone made a noise which was not easy to miss. Rolf stepped on the pressure plate and Cadrig came into view again. Rolf asked, "Did it go alright?" Cadrig nodded, "All sorted. Now we have to get back to the others. I have a feeling we don't have much time left"
= Chapter 10: The Resolution =
With a great deal of effort, Dignam pulled the last lever, the machine gave a final whirr of desperation and then stopped working completely. But someone else could pull these levers the other way and the whole mess would start again. This had to be destroyed. Dignam took off his backpack and then took out something wrapped in protective foam. The object was FTT, the most explosive substance known to exist. A single teaspoon worth of FTT powder is enough to level a small city block. He took out the casing, readied the timer and then waited for the others.
Scazz was the first back, he told Dignam about the glass sphere and the doors. Rolf and Cadrig came not long after and they told Dignam what they found too. Dignam nodded, "Well done everyone, now I have to blow this machine up", he gestured towards the device, "It's FTT, enough to turn this area into rubble. But we need to get out of here" Rolf looked around, "What do we have to do?" Dignam took out a remote button device. "I press this, and we have a few minutes to evacuate. The AI must also be deactivated. Scazz, I leave that to you" Scazz nodded and headed to the computer terminal nearby, frantically tapping.
Scazz yelled, "Done" and Dignam pressed the button to start the FTT reaction. They had a few seconds to start running before the room flashed red on and off. An alarm could be heard and an electronic voice said "two minutes to AI permanent shutdown" Dignam ran faster, "Let's go!" he yelled. Once they got back into the corridors, some of the doors began closing. Cadrig slipped just as he crossed the threshold where the door closed, it closed on his mechanical pants, completely trapping him. Dignam raced back and grabbed him by the elbow, "No time, we have to go" Cadrig didn't waste a second. He grabbed hold of Dignam and they ran out of the facility. The quartet made one final dash for freedom out in the open air and the structure underground trembled. The vibrations could no doubt be heard in the neighbouring town, the crew panted for breath and thanked their lucky stars. Dignam looked at Cadrig, "Sorry for your pants, we'll get more" Cadrig chuckled, "Preferred copter blades anyhow. So that's it then?" Dignam sighed, "Well... there might be another one. But if not, then we're done" Rolf smiled, "Here we go again..."
To Be Continued...
Mysterious voice on a communication device: "Yes, it has been destroyed. Yes, just as you wanted sir. No, I don't think they realise what they've done. Ah, so you want them to see... 'that?' Hahaha. Well, maybe tomorrow. Goodbye... mister director"