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Lucem Tenebris

Nine Thousand Club
With the hazardous fog no longer obscuring his vision, Alex was free to look at the absolute darkness that surrounded him. Blue eyes searched all over, trying to see through the shadows that protected the corners and crevices from the wandering gaze of anyone hoping to spot signs of potential danger. He never once let his guard down, trying to spot anything suspicious within the eerie black void. For the moment, there was nothing. No Entities, Civil Protection members, or guardians to watch over him. He was alone as he hurried down the hallway, accompanied only by the sound of his footsteps.

Even with the slight discomfort of the hazmat suit, he was still able to move quickly. If not for the possibility of being surprised by a murderous mass of gray, he would have been running as fast as he could. He had always been quick on his feet, something that made him a useful helper for the sports clubs at school. While he wasn't going full speed, his legs had already carried him quite far. At the very least, he was certain that he was moving faster than a woman carrying an injured man.

Alex tried his best to not think about Modestine and his father. He was concerned for their wellbeing, but allowing himself to be distracted was dangerous for everyone. Instead, he tightened his grip on the gun that he had been trusted with. It was natural to be worried about the two adults that were moving in the opposite direction. It was also natural to be worried for his own life. He wasn't around to help them, but that went both ways.

Unlike before, there wasn't someone to look out for him if he ran into trouble. If it happened again, he could end up with more than an injured arm. He acknowledged that death lurked in the shadows with monsters. He couldn't even be certain that CP would do what his father said they would and leave him unharmed. Even so, he could only put those thoughts to the side. It was just one more thing for him to ignore for his own benefit. Worrying wouldn't do any good. He just had to look for the light at the end of the tunnel and keep running.

With everywhere else being devoid of light, it was easy to spot the crimson glow. Rays of red peeked out from a nearby laboratory, lighting a path for him to follow. The new color worked its way up the suit as he cautiously entered, eyes darting from one end of the lab to the other while his finger caressed the side of the weapon in his hand. When the initial search revealed nothing, he approached the illuminated system as a wave of cerise flashed across his face.

For the second time that day, he acted as a key, placing his hand on the panel until a beep signaled that he had been properly identified. Just like his father said, the nearby lever flipped from inside its glass casing. Knowing that things were about to get a little loud, he did a final check of the area before smashing the glass with the sturdy bottom of the gun, taking care to make sure that no shards shredded his clothing.

Having to pull the lever made him feel even more anxious than smashing the shell around it. Alex knew that he could move faster than the other two, so it would make sense if they still hadn't made it to their destination. However, he also knew what he'd have to do when the light changed colors. It meant more than whether they had made it or not. It would let him know if he'd be waiting for them at the next intersection, or if he'd be forced to leave them behind.

In one quick motion, he pulled down the lever, trying to divide his attention between the red light and anything else that could have been watching him. Now, he just had to wait. Blue or green?

@_Line 213
 
The red light disappeared, and for a brief second, the space surrounding the switch was plunged into darkness. Then, the switch responded with a bright blue, nearly blinding at first.

The other pair were still on their way to the switch; of course, this wasn't a surprise. No run lights appeared, and no sounds of distant locks unlatching echoed through the metallic chambers. Alex would have to continue on with the prior offered instructions and his own sense of direction, for now.

Yet, there were sounds out there, deep in the darkness. The silence of the hallway was interrupted by the light clinking of broken glass underfoot, heavy, even steps sounding off of the facility walls as they grew nearer to the one of many shattered laboratories. Trailing beams of light reflected around the corner at the end of the hall, denoting the presence of civil protection not too far away. They were covering ground more quickly than Alex had, but if the promise of more entities deep within the facility was indeed to hold true, then their pace might not only place the boy between a rock and a hard place, but endanger the officers' own lives.

Another lone gunshot rang out through the facility, followed by the muffled sound of something collapsing through the floor. The light just beyond the corner spun wildly, as if searching for the source, only to hesitate before drawing closer to the bend. This second, closer sound also seemed to catch the attention of something far less natural within the complex, with indications of scrambled, uncertain motion now coming from the direction of Alex's intended destination.

"Is anyone there?" One of the officers called, further spurring the monsters down the hall, "you can come out! We're looking for survivors!"

---​

As the rest of the home-bound children exited the car, the light clicking of hard-soled shoes against the bright pavement echoed throughout the library plaza. A younger man, his glinting badge denoting the status of a city official, strode toward the vehicle with a pace both nervous and dignified. Anyone who knew what was coming probably wished to be anywhere but outside; with the emptied streets on complete and utter lockdown, it was clear that everyone else in Column had the very same idea.

He swallowed lightly as he came to a stop, eyes fixated on Cain with momentary glances to Jeremy. "Miss Cainewright?" he asked, already knowing the answer, "I would appreciate it if you and Mister Kerr were to follow me. It's very important." His attention briefly turned to the other children, to whom he gave a brisk gesture toward the library. "Everyone is gathering in the library's lower levels as per the protection protocol. Please head inside and follow the lights."

The others nodded, some offering murmured acknowledgements and thank-yous as they quickly made their way toward the glass double-doors. The official turned as soon as the children had started on their way, moving with equal briskness and the expectation that Jeremy and Cain would not hesitate to follow. Though he offered no explanation, his badge nonetheless made it clear that he would not be attending to the two children if the inner workings of Column had no hand in recent affairs. Perhaps, in the end, he had no explanation to truly give; in a place now certainly built atop many layers of secrets, such likely would not be the first time.

A low, vibrating scream rumbled over the mountains, and the aide doubled his pace as the car sped away.

--​

Thought. Feeling.

The violence and confusion of prior awakenings seemed a thing of yesterday, as if the great machines had internalized their drive renewed. Their rest, though needed, was not as deep, and though whatever seemed to trouble the great machines remained within reach, such thoughts nonetheless occupied the back of their expansive minds for the time being. Internal views of the world above the trees sprung to life in each cockpit, the folds of each Husk's mind enveloping in that strange way around the pilots themselves.

This time, the machines seemed to recognize each other, forming linkages of communication between each activated machine without thought. For a moment, pangs of confusion appeared to arise when links with the dormant red machine went without response, yet even this ebbed away when it became clear that additional attempts would be fruitless. Those that now stood and moved as they surveyed the shattered valley awoke with the same purpose they had cultivated the day before.

The target was clear, and it had drawn dangerously near to Column over the course of the pilots' assembly. A trail of dust and nothingness stretched away from the valley and through the mountain pass, the mass of microscopic machines needing to surmount only one more mountain before the colony was in its sights. It trudged forward with a single-minded mission, yet rather than the repair outpost that had been mentioned the night before, the beast's target was unmistakably Column itself.

Why their home? What had changed?

The light screech of a megaphone came from far below, one of the drivers preparing to relay instructions up to the gleaming protectors. "Once the threat is neutralized, proceed northeast of column to the docking area. We'll be heading there now; the complex should be visible from your altitude." The message ended there, the curt formality completely failing to end in a thank-you. In mere moments, the cars peeled away, zipping along the road in a single-file line like a string of white pills.

Another day. Another lack of answers.
 
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simj22

Absolutely Disgusting
CainAs the cutting cry of a far-off beast, no doubt the one that the others had taken the noble act of fighting, pierced through the air, it might as well have pierced through her head, and she halted in her steps immediately. Her headache returned, in full force and then some, like an ice pick being driven through her temple. She uttered a gasp of pain, but quickly retracted it and suppressed the need to clutch at her head to dull the sensation. This was even more severe than the last one she had. Moreover, it had been unprecedented- she was caught unawares. It took her every ounce of will to not simply just fall to the ground right there and then. Not here. Not now. He had enough on his plate to worry about. She couldn't let herself be another factor. What puzzled her more, however, was, as the pain seared through her senses, a glimpse back into that dream, if one could even call it that, she had the night before. The one with the other person. Should she even call it a person at all? She couldn't be sure. She couldn't even see them. Their presence was familiar, yet distant, like a close friend whom she hadn't seen since sixth grade. They asked many things, and she remembered she answered casually, like she was truly meeting with an old friend again. There was something else. She could just barely remember that she asked a question. What was the question again? It was a simple one, but she couldn't recall what it was. It was at the tip of her tongue and yet…

She straightened up and ran her fingers through her hair, smoothing them onto her scalp, took a deep breath, then let her hair down again. There was no doubt that Jeremy and the other man had heard her exclamation. She had to cover it up somehow. “Right. Right. Just surprised by the scream, that’s all. Let’s keep going.” She made her way over behind Jeremy and gave him a light push towards the library’s entrance. “C’mon, Jerry, let’s go.” As she quickened her own pace to match the man in front of them, pushing Jeremy along as she did, she finally remembered just what the question was, since it was the self-same question she meant to ask the man.

Who are you again?
 
Screams on the horizon, being ushered on by sombre officials, seeing these sides of Vic that he'd never seen before; Jeremy couldn't help but feel like this was a different world than than one he'd woken up in yesterday morning.

"Yeah. We'd better." Looked like that chat he wanted to have would need to wait. Following after the man at Vic's behest, not much ran through Jeremy's mind. He wondered, for a moment, if their families had made it to the library already, but other than that he was spent. He'd already done far too much thinking on the trip here, and all he wanted to do was wash his hands of all this, but it seemed he'd be denied even that simple desire.

"Er. Sir? What exactly do you need us for?" Usually, he wouldn't be the type to question authority, but between his concern for Vic and the tension in the air, he felt the need to say... Anything, really. It was really all he could think to do. "I don't mean to be rude, but um, I was hoping tell my parents that I'm okay, and..." Shuffling forward to stand at the man's side, Jeremy lowered his voice, for hope the Vic wouldn't overhear what came next.

"I think Vic might be sick or something... She's been halfway looking like a corpse all day."

@_Line 213 @simj22
 

Soviet Panda

Red Panda Commanda.
Connor entered the cockpit like he was walking into a wolf's den. The primal hatred and hunger that Mitfuhlen had still felt from the day before. Not to mention the dream he had, that certainly failed to put him at ease with the thought of once more allowing that thing into his head. Even with someone else there to help, apparently, he did not really want to do this. But, again, if he didn't then someone else would have to. Someone else would have to let the beast into their head, and he just couldn't let himself do that.

"We just do what we did last time." Last time, when the beast had run rampant and nearly consumed him. But it had worked, the thing was dead and they weren't. If anything, things will go better, considering he did have control this time.

Sitting down in the seat he had sat in the last time, he prepared himself to once more fight the creature that was called Mitfuhlen. "Ready whenever you are." he said, not wanting to take the dive alone, remembering what had happened when he had.
 
Martin Baumer

It should have all been a bad dream.

The scene was something conjured up from the accounts of veterans from the last conflict. Citizens, young and old, towing loved ones and strangers alike with them as they frantically scurry towards the library. A few carried some scant belongings- tools of their trade, or else artifacts of emotional value- but most had little more than the clothes on their back or a rucksack in their possession. The day had begun mild and pleasant, but now all that could be sensed was the persistent wailing of sirens and an unearthly pressure weighing down on them all. How desirable it would be to have the faint, soothing jingle of his phone alarm go off now, and to be pulled out from the arms of Morpheus and away from this nightmare. To wake up, startled but otherwise fine, tangled in the sheets of his bed, bleary-eyed as the remnants of the dream faded from memory and one begrudgingly considered having to face the day.

Reality, however, was not that kind. And so Martin found himself standing at one of the community’s intersections, calling out and directing those rushing towards the nearest bunker. His tone was clear and loud enough to be heard from a small distance but the perceptive observer could catch the faint tremor going through him. His expression was neutral, perhaps a little stern looking, but to the more anxious looking passers-by the young man sought to put on a calm, reassuring display. Hazel eyes frequently scanned their surroundings in search of a possible straggler, gaze always shifting back up to the horizon where the mechanical monstrosity was approaching from. Clutched in his hand was a phone, battery seeping away as it was repeatedly stirred from its slumber. Both his parents and other social contacts had confirmed that they’d made it to the bunkers, the former desperately imploring him to do the same, but there were still a few friends whom he hadn’t heard back from yet. Perhaps they’d simply lost their phones in the chaos, the battery had died, or else simply hadn’t thought to check their messages with everything going on. But those grim thoughts gnawed at him all the same, and it was all he could do to force himself to steady his breath and mask his concerns to the public.

Internally though, the student’s nerves were just as frayed as those around him, and at the deep, guttural roar which washed over the colony he concluded that he had fulfilled his assigned task well enough. Frantically offering a final glance at the forlorn streets, the young man turned and sprinted towards the library in an ungainly fashion. He had never been the athletic type, but a hearty cocktail of cortisol and adrenaline did wonders in the face of imminent danger, and within a few minutes Martin was panting heavily before the building entrance, cringing as his lungs ached in protest. Slowing down to catch his breath, he noted that more people still were trickling through the plaza doors. Most of them were strangers at first glance, but amongst the myriad of faces a pair caught his eye, and the boy had to stop and squint to ensure his mind wasn’t playing tricks. Yet his sight was true- escorted by a sombre looking official were Jeremy and Victoire, shaken up and a bit pale, but otherwise alright. This was the first time he’d seen his fellow classmates since they, along with their other peers who’d wandered into the valley that fateful day, were shipped off with barely a word from the Council. The mayor offered the citizens platitudes ensuring that they were being well taken care of, but otherwise the affair had been largely shrouded in secrecy. So to see them here, now, when they were on the verge of another attack, was both assuring and worrisome.

It wasn’t his business what they were doing there, or where they had been. And the brown-haired lad generally respected the privacy of others, especially those whom he wasn’t particularly close with. But in these extraordinary circumstances, such personal principles could be bent in the name of people’s safety and well being. So it was with this in mind that Martin briskly approached the trio, attempting to regain his composure as much as possible. “Jeremy, Cain!” Martin called out as he drew near, pausing a short distance from the pair and their companion. “I’m glad to see you two, though I wish it were under better circumstances… are you alright? Are the others who were with you before here as well?” Now he could get a better look at the duo, it became apparent that while both were looking worse for wear, the girl’s condition was more severe, both physically and mentally- was she ill, or else injured in the previous conflict?

@_Line 213 @simj22 @The One Eyed Bandit
 

GasMaskie

"Wait and Hope"
Morgan clicked his tongue, as he suddenly began to regret clearing off the foliage after their debut.

***

As expected, the climb to Utsāha's cockpit was arduous and nothing worth remembering. And, after a few minutes of the genius sprawled out on the floor struggling to breath, he had recovered enough to make his way to his spot. He adjusted his gloves as he settled in his seat with crossed legs - a posture that would probably make for good promotional material. Even as he prepared for another battle with lives on the line, the young boy felt a swell of excitement within him. One that would no doubt be tempered by the Husk's sorrow, but the rush would also bring confidence.

Slipping off his gloves before his partner could observe his actions, Morgan slid each arm into the sleeves that led to the control columns. His hands hovered around each of the grips, just a cusp away from contact. Naturally, he had no intentions of bearing the burden of a connection with the green machine while the girl took her time getting ready. Instead he merely closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

"Ida Sommers. We should be more careful this time around - the battlefield will likely encroach upon Column. I'm certain that we still have enough ammunition, but in order to maximize Utsāha's efficiency, we should allow others to wear down the ABE and take out the core with a well-placed shot. Well, I'll offer up a kiss as an incentive - how does that sound?"

((Re: @Coin @_Line 213))
 
"That isn't something I can discuss openly," the man stated curtly as he strode in through the library doors, not even bothering to turn and address Jeremy properly at first. It was as if he were putting all of his effort toward walking as briskly as he could. He even failed completely to say who he was, as was requested by Cain, yet upon Jeremy's mention that she wasn't feeling well, he did indeed pay proper attention.

Indeed, he completely stopped, spinning as he eyed Cain closely, his eyes seemingly searching for something specific, yet unknown to him in practice all the same. "What exactly is wrong with her? Can you describe your symptoms to me, Miss Cainewri--"

Before he could go any further, the call of another echoed through the library foyer. Another child, seemingly chosen as the prime escort for his age group, if the small, temporary badge pinned to the front of his clothing was any indication. The official did not know the boy by name, but he knew enough to be sure that he was of the same class as Jeremy and Cain, as well as the others that had found themselves in Husk Valley at the wrong time.

Or, perhaps it was an opportune one, depending on what you thought, and what you knew.

He glanced back and forth between the new arrival and the two he wished to speak with, uncertain as to whether he should allow any time for socialization in the first place. The mayor was waiting, and although it didn't seem right to cut the boy off in front of his friends, some things unfortunately possessed a far greater importance than others.

"My apologies to you all," the official interjected, "Miss Cainewright is reportedly unwell, which simply makes it all the more imperative that we continue on our way. He extended his arm, palm-up, as he gestured down the hallway. The need-to-know basis for the Colony's workings that had governed the past few generations seemed to have crumbled to nothingness in the space of a single night, yet that did not stop the official from keeping the children as far out of the loop as he possibly could.

After all, was it not the children themselves that had caused such troubles in the first place?


(@The One Eyed Bandit @simj22 @clarinetti)
 

Coin

Velut Luna
Ida had to stop herself from instinctively grabbing onto her controls in the cockpit the moment she sat in her pilot's seat. She remembered the pain and stress that Morgan had went through the first time they had climbed into the cockpit together, where he had grabbed the controls first. They'd have to do it together this time. Ida took a few precious moments to scan every blank screen before her, recreating each one from memory to her best attempt. In the heat of the moment, and perhaps with a bit of help from Utsāha itself, Ida just knew what each control, blip, gauge, and meter meant -- but staring at dim monitors would not help her now.

"Yeah, message received, Morgan," Ida let his strategic pow-wow roll off her shoulders without much of a thought. It only took one tussle with with the "Entities" for Ida to understand. They were tough sons of bitches, and the only way to kill them was to expose the core, and blow it up. There was no way Ida would let herself miss this time, especially with their home on the line.

"I'd sooner die than kiss you," Ida rolled her eyes, hands poised to grasp the controls before her at a moment's notice. "Now, grab the controls. People are counting on us. Ready?"

As confident as Ida sounded, she was terrified again. Every new Entity meant that they would have to learn its pattern and attacks, and every blind run-in would lead to an even higher chance of injury or death. Even though Morgan wanted to pilot wisely, observing and stalking from a distance, that also meant the others would be in that much danger. Plus, as much as Ida hated to admit it, they would sorely need those cowards, Jeremy and Cain in their Husk too.
 

Lucem Tenebris

Nine Thousand Club
It was the expected result, but Alex still felt worry and disappointment when the cerulean light illuminated his own blue eyes. As much as he would've preferred to wait for his father and Ms. Kent to make it to their destination, that wasn't a luxury he could afford. The adults were more than clear when giving their instructions. He had to keep moving. Even if he didn't like it, he knew that was the right thing to do. Civil Protection was moving fast and they would quickly catch up if he wasted what little time was left. Taking a silent breath, the boy readied himself to start down the hallway, taking his first step toward the exit.

The second step never came. As soon as his foot hit the floor, he froze. His blood ran cold at the sound of glass being crushed underneath heavy footsteps, cracking and crunching now echoing throughout the empty hallway. It would've been bad enough if the sounds came from beneath his own feet, but the increasingly loud clicks and clinks came from the opposite direction, accompanied by bright beams of light. Ordinarily, seeing light in the eerie darkness would've been a comfort, but now it was no better than being confronted by a monster lurking in the shadows. He was out of time.

For the second time that day, the sound of a gunshot urged him to move quickly. Ducking down, Alex took refuge inside the abandoned laboratory, hiding behind the nonfunctional consoles and their shadows. From his new position, he could peek to see what was happening outside, but it wouldn't do him much good.

Trying to keep his breathing as quiet as possible, Alex tried his best to think his way through the situation. It was safe to assume that it was Civil Protection around the corner. While he couldn't tell how many of them there were, there was definitely more than two or three, judging by the footsteps and the person's use of "we". Although, even if it was just one officer, he'd still be in a pinch. Despite what his father said about CP not being allowed to harm him, he couldn't just trust them and go to them for safety. There was a contradiction between what the officers said they were doing and what his father said they would do. The chance that they were actually trying to help the workers did little to ease his worries about what they'd do to keep information about what happened a secret. He couldn't put his father and Ms. Kent in danger. Even so, it wasn't like he could just run in the opposite direction.

After the officers started causing a commotion, something else began to stir from the other end of the hallway. Gunshots and footsteps caused unsettling scrambling to echo from the other side. After his first encounter, he'd never be able to forget that sound, just as he'd never be able to forget the pain felt when it caught up to you. There was an Entity. No, maybe more than one.

Pulling his knees closer to his chest, Alex lowered his head, trying to think about what he was supposed to do in this situation. He was caught between something far worse than a rock and a hard place. If he went out now, he'd be caught by Civil Protection and put the others in danger. If he made a run for the exit, he'd have to face an unknown number of Entities. He was almost killed by just one of them. To make matters worse, there was an invisible timer quickly counting down inside his head. He didn't have much time to deliberate, and the two options available to him were equally terrible. There was nothing he could do. Unless...

Alex raised his head a bit when the thought crossed his mind, but it wasn't an action motivated by joy upon discovering a way out. It was just the opposite. He wished the idea hadn't come to him. It may have given him a possible solution, but it also brought worry, guilt, and a handful of other unpleasant emotions along with it. Unfortunately, there weren't any other options left for him. If he didn't choose to do this, then the two adults waiting for him would suffer for it. Even if this choice was eating away at him, that thought was enough to make him grit his teeth and do it. He would do it. He would do nothing.

With the way that the Entities were moving around, their movements sounding closer with each passing second, they would probably make it to the other end of the hallway soon. After CP had made so much noise, it was unavoidable. There was going to be a collision. The two forces would make contact. That would be his opening.

He had only seen one of them so far, but if they were similar enough, he could say for certain that Entities moved faster than humans. Even if both groups were moving at the same time, CP was travelling at a slower rate, so they'd likely meet closer to the side he came from. Even if that wasn't the case, it didn't change what he had to do, but it would make things a lot easier.

The numbers on both sides were unknown, but CP had weapons. Hopefully, that meant they'd be able to defend themselves, but it would probably still take time to deal with all the Entities. While both sides were distracted by each other, he'd try to make a run for it. The officers would be too busy dealing with the creatures, and if he was lucky, the latter group would also be too preoccupied with the people shooting at them. If the lights suddenly came on while that was happening, he could use that as an additional distraction.

It wasn't a perfect plan, and it had a lot of risks. There was plenty of danger, and a lot of assumptions had to be made, especially when it came to how the Entities would react when he ran. In addition to those worries, there was also hesitation and guilt. This outcome was still possible if he had made a different decision, but the chance that things didn't have to come to this made his chest ache. However, he couldn't allow himself to be concerned with that. At least not at the moment.

Placing a hand on his chest, Alex gripped a fistful of the suit material before taking another silent breath. Moving as quietly as possible, he settled into a crouching position, arching his leg like a runner preparing for a big race. He kept a close eye on the hallway, maintaining a firm grip on his gun, hoping that he wouldn't have to use it again.

@_Line 213
 

simj22

Absolutely Disgusting
CainThe official didn't answer her question, but she was far too concerned with her headache to bother. The less he talked, the better, honestly. Jeremy looked concerned about her, and, sweet as that may be, she couldn't make him worry like that. She shook her head, as if that would dispel the migraine, and gave a wry smile. Before she could speak, however, she was interrupted by another arrival to the scene. Brown hair, hazel eyes, she had been in the same class as him. Martin Braugher. Or something like that. She knew she got the Martin part right at least. She hadn't seen him when they rode off to the valley, and certainly didn't see him roaming about with everyone. She wished she had done the same now, and dragged Jeremy along with her too. Should have just gone home together, talk about the boring futures. None of this would have happened. None of this would be her fault. Her knuckles wouldn't still throb with the feeling of the impact on Morgan’s face. “Martin, we--” she started, but was quickly interrupted by the official, who gave them a good flat zero amount of answers, and just more questions. She could just hear that ‘need-to-know-basis’ tone in his voice. It was the same one that her parents had when they discussed ‘adult things’. The same tone those people had in that facility. She wondered if she had one more punch in her.

I’m fine!” She finally exclaimed. She took a second to inhale and exhale, and repeated herself again, this time in a calmer tone. “I’m fine. Don’t worry about me. Just-- can we just get going?” She addressed this to not just the official, but to both of the boys as well. “He isn't going to give us the answers that we want if we’re not going to follow him.” She straightened up and pressed her fingers on her temples. The pain did not subside, but she did her best to put on the confident visage she always had. Turning to Martin, she spoke, “The rest, they’re--” she paused to think of the words she was about to say, “they’re not here. They’re somewhere else. They’re safe.I think, she neglected to say. There was no point having him worry and fret about the others. She was terrible at lying, but right now, that was all she had. “Now, c’mon, we have to get going.” She grabbed both Jeremy’s and Martin’s hands and dragged them towards the library. What else could she do? She couldn't just leave Martin out here. Even if he was out of the loop, it would be safer if he followed them to…wherever they were going. She doubted the official was going to bring them straight into danger. Or she hoped so anyway.

Those idiots called her and Jeremy cowards. She’ll prove them wrong. She could do just as much here as they could in their shells of steel.
 

CerpinTaxt

Ultimate Hope Robot



Luka took a deep breath as he looked up at the imposing machine in front of him. It had only been a day since he'd entered the large robot but it felt much longer. He stood at the foot of the Husk, his body hesitating to begin to long journey upwards and back inside. Part of him regretted the choice to go with the others and retrieve the old relics though it wasn't like he could just change his mind and go back home. He had to commit now, as much as he didn't want to. Shaky hands grasped the various climbing equipment the adults had laid out on the husk to make climbing up its body easier, one final sigh leaving him as he began his ascent.

He'd been told that climbing was easier when you didn't look down, when you didn't think about the possibility of falling. So far Luka had been doing his best to do exactly that, putting his focus on just putting one hand and foot in front of the other. He was quite fortunate that the sun was at just the right angle that it wasn't blinding him; his husk shielding him from the bright rays. Soon the whole act of climbing became second nature and his mind wandered off to other thoughts and worries.

What was he going to do without a partner? There didn't seem to be any way to use these machines with just one person, let alone activate one. Maybe the adults would find someone who just so happened to be able to use these husks. The chances of finding someone else had to be one in a million though. Then again..there had been several people who had been able to use the husks in Column alone including himself.

It was probably just better not to think about it.

After what felt like an eternity of climbing, Luka finally reached the top. He dusted off his clothes to get any sort of debris from them before moving towards the entrance of the cockpit; minding his head as he slid inside. Maybe the adults would make this thing Luka-accommodating. Nothing had changed since his last visit inside the robot; able to find just where he'd sat yesterday and taking a seat. He wasn't going to touch anything..not until someone else made their way up. He was still partly worried about getting another migraine, but it was probably just a one time thing.

His eyes caught something he'd missed on his way in.

His book. He had something to kill time with.

@_Line 213
 
"Hello? You can come with us; we can take you back to your colony," the voice called again, prompting a fresh round of chittering and shivering from the other end of the hallway. The sickening sounds of another Thing's movements began to echo through the hallway, growing nearer to the broken laboratory that formed Alex's haven. The officer rounded the corner, their flashlight casting a long pall down the hallway as they continued their advance, only to stop as the sounds of the incoming creature became more evident.

"Hello?" they called again. The sounds grew louder and more frenzied, the entity now more than aware that there was prey to be had.

"Shit, shit!"

Gunshots rang out in rapid suggestion in the hallway, the acoustics of the laboratory making each sound like a small explosion. Cries for help were extinguished quickly by sounds of unseen biological horror, sounds that no one would ever want flesh to make, whether birthed or synthesized. Even without sight of the massacre, it was stomach-turning, the sounds of a twisted sort of brutal efficiency beyond the methods of any natural being.

Through sacrifice, there came a window.

---​

The man glanced down at the boy, watching his exchange with the other children for a moment. Cain, perhaps to his surprise, had attempted to pacify the boy with an untruth, grabbing him as she continued toward the elevator. He clenched his fist, now forced between a rock and a hard place; on one hand, the girl's mental state, so he had been told, was something to be kept as stable as possible. Yet, on the other hand, were that boy to make it all the way to the basement meeting, the dangers of another mouth, another mind, would quickly become apparent. Jeremy was the only other attendee that could be remotely persmissable, unless there was no choice; were he and Cain to separate, there was no telling what could go wrong.

The official reached out, catching Martin quickly by the shoulder to halt the trio's advance. "Martin," he said, his stern professionalism failing to waver for even a second. He had read the reports, and if the boy's blood files were any indication, chances are he would be a safe enough bet. They were one down in the valley, and he had been authorized to do whatever was necessary to ensure the safety of the Colony and the secrecy of the meeting, as per the mayor's orders. If the girl were willing to let go of her friend here, then there would be no further need for him, at least at the library. "If you want to know the truth, go outside. A car will be waiting there. Tell them to take you to Husk Valley. If you can handle what you see there, then tell the orange-striped doctor that you're within the safe percentile." He did not move to detach Cain's grip; whether or not she'd do so on her own was the tell he was after.

A deep, multi-toned roar shook the building. The official did not waver.

---​

"Pilots! You have to move! Now!" called one of the officials from below as the creature began to clear the mountains, a trail of dust and nothingness similar to that left by yesterday's creature marking the massive entity's path. Its lizard-like form continued to shift and change, vague, yet possessing the necessary silhouette. It was not too dissimilar to pictures of dinosaurs glimpsed in history classes in some ways, yet abstracted, as if twisted by a haze of dreams and faulty recollections. A mimicry, yet one with an odd amount of imagination, a level of design beyond that which would have been expected of a mindless collection of self-organizing parts.

Glass and belongings shook within the confines of houses and businesses as each thundering step took the creature closer to the colony, a thundering roar shattering windows as shards of glass scattered onto colony streets; not a pane remained intact in the settlement's half facing the threat. A wall of dust rippled toward the farthest walls and markers, engulfing the village edge in rich brown clouds as the shockwave rustled carefully planned trees and disturbed the ground beneath plastic streets. There was not a soul present in the roads or upon the battlements, each and every beating heart huddled deep within the library in a single mass of life.

A single leg up, then down, pulverizing a section of the concrete wall as houses were once again shrouded by dust and debris, those nearest flying apart into pieces as if on the outskirts of an atomic blast. The interior of the library rumbled deeply, the large building at the center of town still some distance away from the great creature, yet not for much longer.

"It's reached Column!" called one of the adults from below, prompting a frenzy of activity from several organizers. "Radio in," called another, prompting several affirmations as multiple drivers rushed for the intercoms in their cars.
 
Martin Baumer

As the suited man interjected before Cain could speak, Martin internally felt himself shrink. In the panicked atmosphere they found themselves in, he’d made the assumption that he could simply waltz up and start pestering his peers with questions. Perhaps it had been in hoping that they had some knowledge or insight that would help explain everything that was happening, or better yet, would prove a source of comfort to him. But in his haste the young man neglected the fact that they likely had more pressing matters to attend to than answer his questions, let alone whether they’d wish or be permitted to confide in him. As the official gestured for the pair to move along, he prepared to offer a generic pleasantry and leave them to their duties whilst he’d proceed down and find his parents.

That train of thought was derailed however at Cain’s outburst, and in spite of himself the boy was glad to see her fiery spirit remained intact. Listening to her words about their fellow peers, Martin’s brow furrowed slightly, but he simply nodded in understanding. It clearly was all she was willing, or maybe able, to say on the sensitive matter, and he could only hope that they’d divulge more concrete information if there were allowed a moment’s privacy. Seeming to catch a second wind, Cain proceeded to grab both Jeremy and himself in order to drag the pair along to the bunkers. “Um, Cain, I don’t believe that I’ll be permitted…” he began to say before feeling a firm hand grasp his shoulder. Glancing back, the agent was holding him back from the duo, dangling before him the promise of information.

It seemed foolhardy, if one were to rationally look at it. Go to the Valley now, when the threat was just on their doorstep? Out there he was a potential liability, an extra body to keep tabs on whilst the authorities should be prioritizing the community’s safety. No, it was far more likely that this was a tactic by the official to separate him from Cain and Jeremy, keep whatever information they had hidden.

And yet, as Martin’s mind ran through the possibilities, it came to the bizarre conclusion that it would be prudent to take the man up on his offer. His concern for the well being of his fellow students remained, and Cain’s health in particular was still of great concern. Yet the agent’s words tempted him in ways he wasn’t proud to admit. Spending the past few weeks left wondering what was truly going on gnawed at his being, and this could be a chance to have those questions answered. And from where he was seeing things, there would be more potential repercussions arising from him staying than adhering to the man’s words. If the official was lying to get Martin out of the way, then at least he wouldn’t have a ‘Failure to Comply’ stamped on his record. If there was some truth to it, then perhaps he’d learn something of value, something which would better help them understand this threat and how they as a community could counter it. Why they would be willing to offer him access to this knowledge was another matter entirely though... the only rationale he could consider was his scores from the occupation test, but even that answer didn't fully convince him.

The boy could feel his heart pound heavily as another weighty roar rumbled through the building. His thoughts shifted to his parents, friends, acquaintances, encased below in concrete and steel. What would it mean to them if he did this and for one reason or another never came back?

Finally, after a long moment, he turned his face to the agent and gave an affirmative nod.

Heavily sighing, Martin placed his free hand on Cain’s arm, holding it gently so she wouldn’t resist as he worked his ensnared limb free from her grip. “Don’t worry- it’s probably just protocol that they want to keep you both safe. They’ll likely send me right back once I get out there.” He stated nonchalantly, stepping back once his wrist was released. Glancing at the pair of them, the brown-haired boy still had a fretful air about him, but offered a neutral smile all the same. “Once this is over, maybe we’ll get a chance to get together and chat properly? We’ll figure it out, I’m sure. Take care of yourselves, and see you soon.” Martin concluded, and before he could stop to question himself further turned back and walked towards the foyer, chest tightening as he did so. A small part of him hoped he had been truthful, that he’d reach the entrance only to have someone with greater authority scold him for his foolishness and order him back to the bunkers. He swore the shaking was growing worse, though he wasn’t sure whether it was coming from outside or his own body.

Reaching the door, the surrounding streets looked no different than they had a few minutes ago, save that the handful of people appeared to be more on edge, many of them huddled listening to their radios. There was, surprisingly enough, a few vehicles idling outside, with an equally austere individual standing by the hood of the nearest one. Now would be the reveal, whether the agent had pulled the wool over his eyes or not. Taking a moment to recompose himself, Martin approached the official as confidently as possible. “I was sent here by one of your colleagues inside- they instructed that I am to go to the Husk Valley.”

@_Line 213 @simj22
 
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The two nearest adults looked to the arriving fifteen year old with two very different variants of surprise.

"Who the hell would have told you to come out here?" questioned the first, only to have his concern shoved aside by another, seemingly of the same rank, if the unwillingness of the first to relent was any indication.

"Because they needed a second for one of those things," the other said, grabbing his companion's shoulder. The former seemed far more disgusted by it all than the latter, his face contorting as it worked its way through a variety of pained emotions, unable to properly rationalize the role of the children in it all.

"Why can't we be in those damned things?" the first questioned, nearly grabbing the shirt of his fellow, "huh? Isn't that the way things are supposed to be?"

"Listen, nothing is the way that things are right now, right? We're supposed to be following orders, that's how we could have kept ourselves out of this mess, and that's how we're going to get ourselves out of it, alright?"

"No, it's not alright! It's NOT alright!" For a moment, it nearly seemed as if things would come to blows between the two men, only for another adult, her uniform emblazoned with orange designs, to step forward, her presence alone instantly diffusing the situation as the men separated to stand at a loose semblance of attention.

"Mister Baumer," she recited, briefly checking a pad in her hands as she strode forward. Her acknowledgement of the two men was practically nonexistent. "Very good. We were told you'd be coming," she continued, despite her words seeming to be in contradiction to the implication by the city's official. Word traveled with great speed in times of crisis, it would appear. "We've checked over your medical records already as well." With that, the woman kneeled slightly, seemingly to address the boy a little more personally.

"I'm sure you've been through your history courses already. I'm sure that what you're seeing has already struck you as an echo of certain prior times. And I'm sure that you already have at least some passing idea of...what we adults are going to ask you to do." She glanced upward, eyes lingering on one of the machines that had not yet moved, a white and purple Husk with a thick, towering shield. "You're of course free to say no. And I'm sure, either way, that you have questions. This isn't particularly the time for them, but if you agree to help us, I'll answer what I can, assuming--"

She cut herself off, glancing down for a moment as she let out a sigh. Looking back to Martin, she smiled, abandoning her prior chain of thought. "Okay?"


@clarinetti
 

Lucem Tenebris

Nine Thousand Club
With carnage only a few steps away from him, Alex looked the other way, running out of his safe space as fast as he could. He distanced himself from the chaos, but he couldn't escape the sounds, forced to listen to pained screams and the rain of bullet casings. They grew quieter as he kept running, but still impacted him. The noises should've been faint, but it sounded like they were being sent directly into his brain, trying to draw him back to the source.

Above the cries and clinks, he could hear the familiar sound of those horrific creatures. There was no way those sounds should have been able to come from human bodies, but the agony-filled moans proved otherwise. If he hadn't been fortunate during his own encounter with them, he could've suffered the same fate as the men down the hall. An unimaginable fate much more painful than what he went through.

The sounds haunted Alex, as if they were speaking to him and trying to amplify his guilt. This was a situation that couldn't have been avoided. Regardless of his decision, those Entities had already been alerted by CP. Their demise was decided from the start, and nothing could have been to stop it. Inaction was the best action. However, he continued to torment himself by thinking that there could have been another way. There had to have been a situation where everyone made it out all right, including the two adults waiting for him. Instead of finding a way to create that sort of miracle, he was forced to accept the inevitable. Even if he couldn't have stopped it, he took advantage of a horrible situation. He could've just looked at it as not letting their unavoidable sacrifice mean nothing, but he couldn't. He could only believe that he used them.

As much as he wanted to confront these feelings, he couldn't. Even if it only made him feel worse by making it seem as if he denied responsibility, he had to accept that. Just like everything else, he had to shove those emotions into the little bottle that was starting to crack. Thinking about it wouldn't help anyone. Distractions would only hurt. Dwelling on it would make things worse for his father and Modestine. He had to ignore it once again. He forced everything out of his mind, focusing on his footsteps to erase the sounds of his heartbeat and the anguish he had run away from. Eventually, that was all he could hear.

@_Line 213
 
As if it was a knife forged just to cut through the gloom that hung over him, a familiar voice shook Jeremy from his mounting glumness. With it too, came a familiar face, the ever responsible and ever gracious Martin. In truth, on any other day, his presence would've elicited little more than a smile and a wave, but seeing someone both familiar and unrelated to the various going-ons of the Husks was nothing short of a blessing.

"Martin!" He called, almost in sync with Vic, his face lighting up in a manner that'd been alien to it for the past twenty four hours. His mouth turned into a smile, his eyes opened wide, and just as he was about to give a proper greeting, he was cut off just as rudely as Vic was. But that was fine. He was still there. That meant his parents were still there, his sister was still there, his classmates were still there, and regardless of where exactly 'there' was, he'd be able to talk with them soon enough. Or, that was what he thought, but as if fate had only put Martin in front of them so it could laugh in his face, things quickly begun to slide out of his grasp.

Back and forth, he, Vic, and the official spoke. They were all business, with only a word of reassurance here and there to cut through the vivid coldness that their brevity carried with it. Now and again, he'd open his mouth, try to slip into an opening here and there, but each time he'd fall silent. It wasn't that they were speaking at a particularly fast pace, or a particularly loud volume, but as each word they spoke drifted closer and closer to the topic he'd been so happy to find Martin untainted by, he was disheartened further and further. Those monsters were still looming over the horizon, Vic was still plagued by this sickness that she stubbornly refused to acknowledge, and now another one of their friends was being sent off to fill their shoes.

In the end, all he could bring himself to muster was a meekly mumbled "See you later".

But even that wasn't the end of it. Not even the town itself, it seemed, was a safe haven. Not even moments after the sound of Martin's hurried footsteps down the library entrance left his ears, a new, much more deafening footfall rose to replace it. It was here. One of those monsters was here. In Column. Not 'over the horizon, but where everyone he knew and loved called home. And he, with Morgan's words and Martin's footsteps still fresh in his ears, did nothing other than turn on his heel and head inside. Just as the official instructed, just as Vic was forcing herself to do too. He was already feeling regret, like everyone else was right and that he'd made a mistake in forcing Vic back here like this; But he was in too deep now. He couldn't turn back, he'd made his decision and he'd no choice but to stick with it.

He simply didn't have the courage to do otherwise.

 

Soviet Panda

Red Panda Commanda.
He had survived the storm that linking was. Mitfuhlen once more clawed at him, but he had found the oasis that was another living person much faster. He did not have anytime to recover from the ordeal, however, for one of those monsters had reached Column. He needed to get moving, he needed to stop it from reaching the library. That was his job, that was why he was in this nightmarish thing. And so, without any prior experience or knowledge, he got the Husk moving. It started with a slow walk, making sure one foot was indeed in front of the other, but soon he was running as fast as he could at the thing that was leaving a trail of nothingness behind it. He seemed to remember that Mitfuhlen had a weapon, but he had no clue how to even reach for it.

"Hey, we fighting this thing with just our hands?" He asked his co-pilot, hoping he'd know how to access the axe that was hidden away on the massive robot.
@dwif
 
The sounds that faded into the distance as Alex ran down the hall were beyond description, parsable only in the form of the sensation of a churning stomach. The pounding of feet against the laboratory floor eventually overcame them--or perhaps they stopped, the officer no longer capable of expressing pain and life. There was no doubt the echo of the run would reach the entity; the only questions worth pondering were whether or not it would decide to follow, and how much time the boy would have.

A reminder that Alex was not alone in his pursuits cut through the darkness, green run lights snapping to life at his feet with little warning, along with a loud, piercing buzzer. The voice of his father followed, though in far greater health, and perhaps youth, than the voice he now knew.

"This is facility overseer Adam Kain," said the recording, stern and professional, yet still possessing a sense of anima now entirely absent from the man himself, "the prior buzzer marks my genetic authorization of the activation of the facility's emergency exit."

The sounds of shouting further on down the hallway mingled with the voice's unhesitant continuation. "In your laboratories, please toggle all yellow incendiary switches to purge your samples, and proceed in an orderly fashion along the lab routes illuminated in green." Several more gunshots sounded, followed by what sounded like some sort of heated, muffled argument, all overshadowed by Adam's facility-wide brief. "Should the run lights prove inoperable, please consult the information binders in your laboratories for a detailed facility map. No samples are to be removed from the facility without the express permission of myself or an Integration Initiative official possessing Blue level authority or above. Always ask for an official's badge for confirmation of their rank."

The sharp sound came a second time, and the message repeated as Alex continued to run, the sounds of unsteady footfalls echoing down a nearby hallway as Alex reached a three-hall crossing.

"Alex!" Modestine called upon hearing the boy's own escape, emerging around a turn with Adam's good arm around her shoulders. Adam seemed tired, not near death, yet ready to collapse all the same either way. "Your father's getting worse, we need to hurry, he may be malnourished thanks to that...that thing." The man barely acknowledged his son, gazing at him in a daze from the other side of his hazmat visor. "Take his other arm and put it around his shoulder; we have to let him drag his feet if he needs to." She looked up the opposite hallway, then back to Alex himself. "Did you run into anything? Are you okay?"



@Lucem Tenebris
 

simj22

Absolutely Disgusting
CainDamn it! She wanted to curse, but her last outburst had already stolen all energy from her. It was all she could do to look on as Martin slipped out from her grasp. Anxiety assaulted her heart as he vanished into the car, and she could only but act as a prisoner to her own exhausted body, watching him leave. She struggled against herself to lift her hand-- just her hand, to tell him not to go, but her body refused to listen. Why did the official let him go? Why did he ORDER him to go? It wasn't safe! How could they just risk the other children like that? She wanted to scream, shout, protest, anything to bring Martin back to safety, but she couldn't. She hadn't noticed- she couldn't have, but her complexion was beginning to get paler by the second, and cold sweat started to form on the pores of her skin. What could she do? Why did it have to be this way? Damn it! Damn it damn it damn it! It was all her body could do to keep up with the official and Jeremy as they entered the library.

Then she fell.

The headache wasn't getting any better, and try as she might to stand against wave after wave of pain, it was about time her body gave way. She had barely made it through the threshold of the library’s entrance before her foot caught on the other, and, without the energy to even keep standing, she fell. It wasn't like her to be so exhausted. Ever since the whole Husk incident, she had been feeling strange. Was it because of that? Was it because of the Husks? That crimson metal giant that she and Jeremy had piloted together? Jeremy? Jeremy. She pushed herself off the floor, looking far more dishevelled than she ever had in her entire life, and through the bright lights blinding her eyes, she struggled to find her closest friend. It took her a second to find him, but to her, that second lasted for almost an eternity, and she lurched uncertainly forwards like a zombie, draping her arms around him in an attempt to stand up straight. “Jerry, I’m…” she breathed out, her words nearly a mumble, “Jeremy, I’m sorry,” she finally managed, then dropped her head against his shoulders, relying on him for support. I’m sorry for having to rely on you. I’m sorry for dragging you into this mess. I’m sorry for having been such a weight to you. “I’m sorry, but just…let me burden you just a little bit more.” She gazed downwards to the floor, trying to muster all the strength she had to stand up on her own, in order to not weigh Jeremy down.

@The One Eyed Bandit
@_Line 213
 
Martin Baumer

At the heated response from the suited man, the brown-haired boy was taken aback at the intensity of the outburst. Feeling it was not his place to interrupt, Martin observed as the pair of adults expressed their grievances. These were from his understanding individuals who were trained to handle emergency situations such as these- that their sense of composure had seemingly evaporated implied that the circumstances were indeed more serious than the general community had been led to believe. And it was in this moment that the pit which had been materializing in his chest made its presence known, the last hope that this had been merely a ruse dissipated.

For all they had been taught of preserving the Column and ensuring the community’s safety… how was it that their leaders were so woefully unprepared for this moment that they relied on the aid of minors? From what he could glean from the pair’s conversation, they had some deeper knowledge on the state of the situation. Enough that there was in fact supposed to be a protocol to deal with an event such as this, one which was broken and thus becoming the catalyst for all that had happened. That the figures of authority they trusted in failed to hold to the commitments made in undertaking these roles... it wasn’t surprising to the teenager as it was confirming his pre-existing beliefs, yet it left a bitter taste in his mouth all the same.

Martin was pulled from this contemplation as another voice cut through the quarrelling, one who held a greater air of authority than her colleagues. As the woman spoke, her gaze shifting towards the valley, it didn’t take long to deduce what they were asking of him. They meant for him to assume control over one of the steel sentries. To have him and the other students fight the behemoth which threatened their community, though these officials seemed to have far more knowledge about the situation and thus would in theory be better equipped. But for some unforeseen reason, this critical task which some might deem a fool’s gambit was being passed onto them.

Surely there had to be someone more qualified than himself to take on this role- this was his immediate response to their indirect request. What skills or criteria could he possess which made him a viable candidate for such a responsibility? He certainly prided himself on his intellect, but that knowledge hardly extended to any technical proficiency beyond the average person. The woman had mentioned medical records- he suffered no physical ailments, that was true, but that seemed a very low bar to set. Yet this was hardly the time to ponder such things- destruction was at their very doorstep, which endangered the existence of his home and everyone in it. If there was a chance that he could play some small part to ensure that they endured this disaster, as much as he doubted his capabilities, well, he wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he didn’t at least try.

“If that’s the case, then we best be on our way. No time to waste.” Martin stated, trying to maintain a professional demeanour as he met the woman’s gaze. “I expect that you will keep to your word, Ma’am, but for now just tell me what you need me to do.”

@_Line 213
 
The woman sighed in nothing that was not relief, a great weight seeming to have been lifted off of the nearest adults--though only partially. The deed that they hoped for, after all, was far from completed.

The woman raised a hand, pointing to the large white and purple colossus, her face still tight with worry as she spoke. "There's another boy in the chest of that machine; we'll need you to go up there and greet him." It seemed like something of a normal request, though there was clearly more behind it; if the woman's voice did not make such clear, then the words that followed her initial instructions certainly did. "Each of them requires two pilots...We...adults, don't know much about the piloting process, but the boy up there has been through it all before. He can help you with anything that you don't know."

She came to a natural stop, yet clenched her jaw all the same, as if wishing she had more to offer. Her expression offered few hints, yet twinges of true worry perhaps betrayed a lack indeed. "...Many of your other classmates are in those machines. We're putting our faith in them--and we're hoping that we can put our faith in you, too."

Momentarily, she looked up at the white and red Husk, a machine destined not to move.

In that brief moment, true fear spread ever so subtly across her face.

---​

"This way, Miss Cainewright."

The official pursed his lips as he gestured to a freshly-called elevator; though he may have wanted to, there was simply no time for him to stop and address the girl's issues. The fact that she was rearing to continue despite her pain was something he had hoped would bring some amount of solace to his mind, offsetting his admittedly cold treatment, but no such comfort was to be found. He could only hope that the Mayor's words would justify whatever he might have thought of her. It was hell, what these children suddenly had to be put through; some had faulted the children directly, but most could not bring themselves to do such a thing.

Children were the future of any colony. Now, it seemed, they were carrying that burden in more ways than one.

As soon as the two children entered the lift, the official entered a series of presses into an accompanying keypad. He did not move to press a floor button; as soon as the sequence came to a close, the elevator began to descend of its own volition, their destination secret enough to warrant no inclusion upon the elevator's buttons and listings. It was a long descent, quiet, and without any word from the official, even if prompted. It was difficult to tell how quickly the elevator was moving, how deep beneath the colony the shaft was bound to take them. It was clear, however, that such a space could not have been created without heavy industry, and careful planning. A well-kept secret, directly beneath their feet.

Even the rumbling of the Entity above seemed to fade away thanks to untold layers of compact stone. The doors opened, no friendly ding heralding their arrival, and nothing other than hanging lights adorning the heavy concrete hallway that stretched before them. A few sliding doors lined each side of the long stretch, their shade of grey barely any different from their surroundings. Each bared a white, faded number, utilitarian, and quickly done, small drips of long-dried paint and fringes of an ancient aim that had long swept past the edge of select stencils offering insight into the method of their creation.

"The Mayor's door is at the end of the hall," said the agent robotically, gesturing to the walk's very end. "Please. Time is of the essence."




@clarinetti @simj22 @The One Eyed Bandit
 
Martin Baumer

As he got out of the vehicle, the young man only partially heard the women's words, eyes locked onto the hulking steel entity before him. It was truthfully a far more daunting task now that he was here, standing in the presence of this towering figure. It was, after all, his first time having ever been so close to the once lifeless husks which had so long occupied the valley. Perhaps in different circumstances, he may have felt a great sense of awe swell within him... but at this point his mind and body were in conflict, fluctuating between firm resolve and gut-churning apprehension. The only solace which could be found was that he wouldn't be trying to wield that iron behemoth alone- hopefully whomever was in there would be able to quickly bring him up to speed on how exactly they were expected to control a giant robot and use it in combat with next to no experience.

Trying to muster that firm, steadfast demeanour he'd managed to rouse earlier, Martin could only offer a grim smile to the agent's words. He sensed the concern beneath her austere expression... or maybe it was all in his imagination, a perception conjured from his fears. Either way, it did little to alleviate the dread welling in his chest as the monumental task was finally right in front of him. "I'll try to see that I prove worthy of that faith, ma'am. See you soon." The teenager managed to reply, and without further ado he began approaching the husk, fearing his joints would lock up the moment he stopped. The open hatch was easily spotted, the door jutting out of the otherwise flat metallic exterior, and upon further inspection the brown-haired lad could make out small handlebars on one of the machine's legs leading up to the entrance. Wiping his palms on his pants, there was a deep breath before he promptly began climbing up the mech. Limbs shook and the boy could feel his grip weakening as his hands grew slippery against the steel beams, but the rush of adrenaline managed to propel him onwards up the leg and to the abdomen. Never did his gaze waver towards the ground, or away towards Column and the impending doom, but rather those hazel orbs remained locked on the small dark hole growing ever closer.

What felt like a great deal of time passed in little more than a few minutes, and now the young man had reached the hatch door, seeing little more than a few blinking lights glowing from within the colossus. The fear still had its spidery fingers wrapped around his chest, but there was a sense that he had already passed the point of no return, from the moment he'd left the safety of the town library. It would be what it would be, one way or another. And so Martin slipped in headfirst into the cockpit of the Husk.

The shortest instance of gravity pulling his body, and then a pained grunt as the boy landed abruptly onto the floor. After taking a few moments for his eyes to adjust to the lighting, Martin could spy a boy within the inner cavity. His face was turned away from his own, but judging by the height, the hair, and his attire, it didn't take long to piece together the individual's identity- there were only so many students in their year after all, and one tended to pick up names quickly, particularly once a certain subset of students became the talk of the town. "Are you Luka, by chance? My name's Martin- I think I am to be your co-pilot, so to speak... I wish we had time to better acquaint ourselves, but I think we'd best save that for later." He began, pausing to clear his throat and hopefully eliminate the tremor that kept creeping in. "So, how exactly do we go about, well, getting this thing operational?"

@_Line 213 @CerpinTaxt
 

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