Categories > Original > Fantasy > Tradewinds 07 - "Away From Home"


by shadesmaclean 0 reviews

the sleep of eternity

Category: Fantasy - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Fantasy,Horror,Sci-fi - Published: 2008-12-15 - Updated: 2008-12-15 - 1068 words - Complete

Justin stuffed several water bottles and ration bars into his clothes as quickly as he could. He had found some rags in an old storage closet; whatever they were made of, they were brittle but still intact, so he was able to wrap some around his knees and elbows. With the added bonus of shoring up the loose points in his coveralls where he was losing items.

What he had seen of this level, with its more brightly-lit corridors, was a little less creepy than the levels above. Still, this place kept its overall creepiness no matter where he went. That something as ominous as NK-525 roamed these halls was a fact he could not take his mind off of. During his time here, he had discovered whole new levels of Survival Mode; even the slightest noise set him off.

And it was taking its toll.

The customary rings under his eyes, which he had picked up over the course of his long years in the Triangle State— and which had actually begun to fade during his stress-free days in Paradise— had deepened a couple shades. Strung out, sore and stiff from head to foot, feeling more and more of this place’s weight on his shoulders, he wasn’t sure how much longer he could keep this up. No matter how far he ran, he could never completely lose the Enforcer Unit. It was tough enough telling directions aboveground; down in the shafts it was all but impossible, and he feared he was going in circles. During his long crawls, he had heard patrols of robo-guards marching by.

They were few and far between, but they were still there.

It was all he could stand to be out in the open like this. Only grim necessity drew him out. He tried not to press his luck when he poked his head out, taking only as long was necessary to get what he needed, and no longer. To linger was to invite death; his only hope of escape was to survive long enough to find a way out.

He strained his ears every step of the way, from the moment he dropped into the room, to the very second he climbed back into the vent. All the way down the shaft, and well around the corner, where none of this place’s mechanized monsters could get at him. Only then did he slump down on the cold metal surface.

Anymore, he found that he almost longed for the days when all he had to deal with was the good ol’ Triangle State Authority.

No sooner than he thought this than he faintly heard the sound of tracks beyond the room, and he sat there in silence until that unnerving sound moved on, listening until it became silent again.

Or at least as silent as it got here.

When there was nothing going on, when his ears stopped ringing, there was still, always, a low bass humming that reverberated through the place itself. And it was starting to get to him, minute by minute, hour by hour. Perhaps it would have been unnoticeable when drowned out by the sounds of day to day life, but as it was, it was pure hell.

There was something about this place that was, he thought, what being in a tomb must be like. Only worse. If Justin had ever set foot in a hospital, he might have been able to put his finger on what it was. This place was like the Bone Yard, but with one disturbing difference.

This place was still alive.

Auxiliary power still flowed through conduits like an I-V drip. Some machines still beeped to a slow pulse. Dim though they were in most places, lights still hummed. Controls still responded, but often took a moment to “wake up” before doing so, and as the lights gradually came on, he got this hair-raising sense of something slowly opening its eyes. After his adventures with the robo-guards, he kept expecting alarms to go off for no reason.

For the whole place to just up and awaken from its deathlike slumber.

Long had it hibernated, slept right through the rise and fall of entire civilizations, and only a fool needlessly disturbed the sleep of eternity. Even Justin knew it was better to let sleeping dogs lie. This whole place, in its mind-bogglingly vast entirety, pulsed with some terrible power source.

The sheer amounts of energy this place consumed, even while “asleep”— even on life support it burned more power, he reflected bitterly, than the TSA would ever know what to do with— was nothing short of staggering, flowing through endless miles of cables, permeating everything in sight.

Even as he stretched out as much as his cramped hiding place would allow, his fingers just happened to brush against something different. Whatever it was, it didn’t feel like the smooth yet gritty metal of the shafts, but almost glossy. When he ran his hand across it again, he confirmed it for himself.

After a moment, he wriggled out his flashlight and shone it on that area. Built into the shaft itself was a black, glassy strip, much like ones he had seen in the hallways and a few other places. He shut off his flashlight and smashed the strip with the blunt end. It took several swings to break it, but when he turned the light back on, he saw that the space behind it was filled with an assortment of electronic gizmos. His heart dropped several floors as he figured it out.

A scanner.

There were weapon-sensing scanners in all of the Secure Areas of the Triangle State, and that was exactly what this reminded him of. The more he thought about it, he had found it strange that, no matter how far he traveled down here, that bastard NK was always waiting for him above. Always knew what level he was on, even what general area to be roaming… Heavier than this knowledge was the weight of understanding that there were more of the damn things in these seemingly infinite depths than he had pistol charges for. The weight of despair.

“Shit…” Justin knew it was time for some serious tactical changes.

Every time he encountered some new obstacle, it made him wonder if Max was at all prepared to battle an army of machines down here.
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