Given that there originally appeared to be only two floors to the entire building, no one gave the elevator in the square central block a second glance.
Once inside, a new conundrum presented itself as the only two marked buttons only denoted the ground and basement floors. Underneath the buttons was a keyhole, so Shades tried the keys one by one, finally finding one that fit. At first, nothing happened, but when he turned it the other way, it clicked into place, and the car began to descend.
No one said a word as they rode down to the sub-basement.
After a disquietingly long descent that put Donaldson in mind of just how much dirt they dug out of the site during its construction, the door opened, depositing them in a short, dark corridor, auxiliary lights winking on at the elevator’s arrival.
Though the metal walls were lined with computer panels and displays, the first thing they all noticed, sprawled on his side out in the middle of the floor was a corpse.
Dressed in a light blue shirt and black tie, with a white lab coat. Lying on the floor next to his half-curled hand was an ID badge that pegged him as one Director Marcus Grady. Or at least he was; fired or not, all he was directing now was rigor mortis.
Shades looked down at Grady’s inert form. From his neatly cut hair and thin, metal-rimmed spectacles, to his short-trimmed moustache and goatee, the guy struck him as the type who tried to look more hip and less uptight than he really was. All he was missing was a ponytail. Reminding him of his old supervisors at work and teachers at school.
Donaldson turned white, then green. Granted, he never really liked Grady, but that hardly meant he ever wanted to see him dead, either. Whether or not he had ever seen a dead body before was unknown to his companions, but surely he was a stranger to murder.
The pool of blood congealing under his lifeless form originating from a puncture wound in his back. The cause of death was clear, but not the culprit. Given the current state of affairs in these islands, whoever had done this must surely be long-gone, still that made it no less unsettling.
Though the thing driving Shades buggy was the fact that the corpse couldn’t possibly be more than a day or two old. No matter how much of a prick he may have been in life, by all accounts, it just didn’t seem right for anyone to have to keep decomposing and rewinding over and over like this. And the more he thought about it, the more it began to dawn on him that they had no way of telling just how long this realm had been stuck in this repeat-loop, the worse it was.
Just what kind of scandals do they have in this dimension?
Though he would never be entirely sure if Grady necessarily deserved such a grim fate, he couldn’t help thinking this guy had still brought it on himself, somehow.
Max, on the other hand, was bothered by something much more immediate about their surroundings.
“Justin…” Max turned to his friend, already dreading the answer, “Is it just me, or does this place?…”
“Yeah…” For his part, Justin wasn’t sure whether or not he found his friend’s recognition of the resemblance at all reassuring. “It does look a lot like Tranz-D.”
That got Shades’ undivided attention as he turned to them. After all, he had gotten only a glimpse of that dread place, so he would have to rely on his friends’ memories and intuition here.
“Trans-what?” Donaldson asked.
“It’s another dimension,” Shades explained, opting for the compressed version. “Max had been there before, and Justin was stuck there for a couple weeks, being chased by killer robots.”
“Damn straight, and this place looks way too much like it for my taste,” Justin already disliked the basement lab above, but this area completed the look from floor to ceiling, dredging up memories he could really do without. “Let’s be done with this and get the hell out of here.”
“Yes,” Max agreed, “let’s.”
“I’m with you,” Shades replied, for in addition to the atmosphere, it was getting harder and harder to shake that the vibe of that creepy building from back in Lakeside. Wishing he could remember more about those dreams. Yet all that came to mind was that unhelpful— and hardly reassuring— image of being chased by something unseen, and the jarring knowledge that if it caught up with you, it was instant death…
But time was of the essence, he reminded himself as he unlocked the door at the other end of the passage, hoping that as long as they had the proper keys they would not invoke any further security measures.
Just like in the 3-D maps they viewed above, the next section was a massive chamber, at least as big as Shades’ school gym. Its true scope gradually illuminated by a scant scattering of light panels. Taking up the far end of the cavernous room was a machine as big as the boiler from his old elementary school, an image he didn’t particularly like in this setting, done in the same warped style as the machine sculptures above, only in dark grey. Up some steps in front of the machine was a catwalk, and in the center of the thing was the panel from the hologram, and set in it were two keys— one red, one green.
“Amazing…” Donaldson marveled with both awe and trepidation, “to think they built all this under here…”
His voice echoing deeply in the sepulchral silence of this hollow space, for indeed, whatever was down here, it was big.
Justin, wanting to be away from this spooky subterranean memory hole, rushed up the stairs.
“Wait!” Shades shouted, remembering that note from that secret room, “Don’t mess with those keys!”
Max took off after his friend.
But it was too late as Justin grabbed the green key and turned it, removing it from its slot.
“It said there was a specific order!” Shades warned him, wishing he knew what that order was.
“See! No big deal!” Justin called back, reaching for the red key, “Now, let’s get out of this—”
Justin was cut off mid-remark by an ominous rumble, and an alarm started blaring.
“You’ve done it now…” Shades muttered.
“Oh my god…” Donaldson, for his part, felt weak in the knees. Even before the place was complete, he never liked the Camcron Building. Only now, belatedly, did he realize the significance of the names Warder and Sleeper. “It’s awake!”