Angel of Mars – Chapter 3 – Getting in Deep
Hunger, an attribute which had gone forgotten, was once again a concern. The Freezer Door was inches away, John had a sense of Deja Vu. Before he served his country, he served dishes for a local grocer. He was always in and out of them. The nostalgia left him with some memories long dismissed because of their mundane nature but now, had such a meaning.
Trying the handle, the Door was Jammed; pulling at the handle sheered it off. “Oh..” He wasn’t surprised, there were some advantages and disadvantages of his newfound strengths. There was no reason to let that stand in his way, John’s brief reflection was all the time it took to come up with a solution. Pulling the hinges was the second option but he wanted to preserve the freezer if it was possible. ‘Destroying it would have been shortsighted.’
The Ax was still in his hand, John tried leveraging he between the door to break the seal. Dust poured from the crack instantly, a dry foul smell crept out. ‘Oh, that’s bad.’ John would have said it aloud but he didn’t want the first thing he tasted to be whatever it was that had escaped. A long dried and rancid looking film covered everything inside, the door itself made an eerie noise when it swung.
There were shelf rods wedged between all the conduits in the room and the refrigeration units had been torn apart from the inside, it had become a tomb by their own actions. The Coolant lines had spread into the room, their bodies, long decayed, were huddled in fear.
“It looks like a family.” John felt sorry for those he had already passed but it took a greater toll on his mental state to see the children. He knelt in silent prayer and tears rolled down his cheek unrestrained. As they fell through his fingers, biting through the pain, he sought council. “God, why send us now? Why? We watched all of this happen, and though centuries have passed since these people, we .. we come only now?! WHY!?”
No answer came. Having been reborn as an Angel, John somewhat expected an answer for a moment, which passed very quickly. “WHY!” In a fit, he smashed his fist on the floor.. again and again.. through the concrete floor and into the next room he fell.
Coughing gently, the dust settled.. a dry taste covered his palate, “Why!?!” John was furious but it was his own fault. ‘Ugh’ Licking his robes got the residue of his tongue but he could taste it. Another Doorway was partially visible in front of him, there was emergency lighting flashing in the distance through the opening. “What’s this?”
A Hallway led to long tunnel deeper underground, the slight curvature of it drifted downward for some distance until there was a large door the full size of the tunnel. There was a terminal on the wall, the system readout was the same as the one in the Communications room. The panel was still back lit with blue light, however the readout was flickering.
John sighed, “this had better work..”
Pulling the key card from his pocket, he laid it on the panel and pressed his finger against the register. A series of beeps sounded and then code traveled down the screen, it’s previous message, thoroughly burned into the screen as an afterimage. Locks could be heard popping and pins retracted from the enormous door which began to rise but stopped halfway from some sort of mechanical failure.
“Great” Leaping through the opening midway and landed on a different type of flooring. It was sleek and had scorch marks across it in every direction. The Hallway which led even further into the mountain looked like it was made of fine black glass.
John’s stomach rumbled once again, his attempts to find food had left him strained due to the constant interruptions and reminders of his hunger. At the edge of the Hallway, the ceiling vanished into the darkness but what stood out more were the three ships. One was still partially unfinished but the others had been prepped, even the doors were left open. Equipment laid everywhere, abandoned like everything else in the facility.
Several workbenches along the wall were sealed with electronics that were unidentifiable but when approached, power began to come online. Looking from the outside-in, John was a bit amazed at the level technology had grown in his absence. Watching Earth from above was nothing like being present and in the moment. As the mechanism began to move around, the production line resumed it’s function. “I wonder what it’s making.” Puzzled, he could see that there was something being built but was entirely unable to discern what it was.
‘It doesn’t appear to be a weapon, what exactly is it?’ Having made it that far into the Mountain and then to find the ships, John was unwilling to give up his adventure into the facility. There were too many questions and he was no longer content with simply watching. ‘I wonder how the others feel about all of this.’ The others who had split away were long gone by the time he broke atmosphere, having found their own directions and freedoms.
The Machine kept moving and after some time, a fist sized device started to come together. It had several buttons built into the side but there was an optical crystal at it’s head. ‘Holographic?’ It was entirely too early to tell what it was but a Soldier has an eye for things, the manner in which things are put together can greatly affect the outcome of any sort of operation. There were no questions in his mind over it’s function but to what end, he still had no idea. John’s stomach made more argument and he could feel the cramping of his abdomen.
‘Center yourself’ John swallowed, the bitter taste of debris earlier still lingered; there was no avoiding it’s foulness, forcing him to relive his earlier exclamations. A deep breath later and his mind had calmed down, so did his appetite. Unaware of how long it would take for him to become hungry again, he moved around the shop and looked for things he could use. A supply closet at the far end of the bay next to what looked like an Armory had non-edible contents but there was a surprising amount of things laying about that hadn’t rotted.
John grabbed a bag and packed what he thought would be useful, when he saw the pallets of toilet paper, he sighed inside. Having picked up the key card earlier, the lanyard had disintegrated, he did not expect a different outcome for toiletries. ‘yeah, there’s no way toilet paper is lasting more than three hundred years.’ Convinced, he poked the pallet on the side gently, there was no desire of his to put his into the stack.
‘huh?’ John’s hand went through the first roll with no effort at all but was surprised, not by the deterioration of the toilet paper. No, he was confused about something else entirely. ‘What the??’ Brushing away a bit more on the side of the pallet, a crate became visible. It was sneakily hidden inside the pallet, cleverly disguised and placed in bulk storage. Circling it, he saw another pallet on the far edge of the room that had been torn apart. The Crate had been broken open from the inside.
“What is this? Oil?” A stain covered the floor and a trail of color was all that remained of the oil; the things that transpired were unclear but something was leaking oil and something had broken out of the crate. ‘better not speculate, something’s all wrong here’
As if God was testing John, eerie noises became a constant drone in another room nearby. The noises carried and turned into a clatter very quickly. Absolutely, without a doubt, John wasn’t fooled. Correcting his posture, he crouched and tucked his wings back as far as they would go.
‘Why am I hiding?’ John vigilantly listened, waiting for the something to come. He focused and as he concentrated, the roar of noises became voices. John threw his hands through his hair. The Assembly line had a green light come on, it had finished it’s operation and come to a stop. The Machine made a clapping noise that echoed through the bay and pressure valves released the a door that came down automatically. ‘Ugh, bad timing’
“Hey! I just heard something.” A young voice, sounded out from the darkness. More voices followed and soon, figures came out of the darkness. “There’s lights on. I thought you said this area was off limits.” The girl who was leading the way chided on.
“Frank said..” before the boy could say anything, the young girl leading the group covered his mouth.
‘Shit.’ John didn’t know if his cover was blown, he couldn’t see their faces but it was just a group of kids. After the shock of being discovered passed, he paused.. ‘People.. “PEOPLE!” the word slipped out of his mouth, giving away his position.
“Who’s there?” The children seemed nervous, the leader once again took charge. Muttering quietly enough to not give the details away, she urged the others to move back. “I said..”
“Hold your horses.” John didn’t want to make the wrong impression, he answered quickly.
“What’s a horse?” one of the children could be heard asking, it was clear as day and echoed in the spacious Bay.
John grabbed a blanket from the storage room and covered his shoulders, hiding his wings. It wasn’t a great disguise but it was enough to take stop unwanted attention. “I’m coming out, relax..” The faces of the kids became easier to see the closer he got, his voice carried just as easily as a pin-drop in dead silence.
Each footstep rang out and when the light caught the pieces of his armor, some of the children’s eyes flashed. They were paying very close attention to his every move, they meant business. “Do you guys have parents?” It was a reactionary question, one he said with a dry throat.
The Kids huddled closer together and the Girl at the lead stretched her arms out in a protective stance, yelling, “Hold it, don’t come any closer.”
“Relax.” John sat down on some rubble. He didn’t want to spook the children, they were the first people he was able to talk to.. even if they didn’t trust him, it was all he could do to keep himself from crying in joy. ‘They aren’t all gone… oh, dear God, Thank you.. Thank you..’
Feeling as if the tears would well up in his eyes, he forced a smile and said, “My name is John. It’s nice to meet you.” He rubbed his head and the Children calmed down just a bit.
“We..” Cutting off the youngest of them before he could speak any further, the others in the group all made shushing noises.
The leader of the group, the young girl, put down her arms and reached for what looked like a weapon. “You say your name is John?” Her facial expression changed rapidly as she asked a series of questions, John was happy to answer them but she was persistent and her tone was well beyond her age. “How did you get here? What sort of Factu are you? Why do you want to know where our families are? Who sent you? Why are you wearing that?”
John didn’t know where to start, he couldn’t just say he was an Angel. Even if he yanked the blanket off and spread them, would they believe it or just treat him like a monster. He did his best to collect his thoughts, closing his eyes for a moment in an effort to collect them. “Like I said, my name is John. I found this place while escaping from some creature outside. I asked where your family was because you’re children, it’s hard to imagine you taking care of yourselves this whole time… also, What is a Factu?”
The Children started to quietly gossip among themselves, their disbelief could be heard in their tones but that didn’t matter. John had no reason to lie to them, rather than burden them with all the details, he kept it rather simple in his explanation.
“How do you not know what a Factu is?” Another girl, not the leader came out of the group and asked. She seemed unafraid and confident.
Impressed by her attitude, John smiled and shrugged, “I really don’t.. could you explain?”
Shock took hold of the rest of the group but the girl was curious, she kept searching for answers, “Factu are the creatures. That’s what we call them.” Her eyes got sharper, “How c-could you not know this? She started to stutter a bit and her composure changed with her outrage at his answer.
“I just got here, I really don’t know everything.” He said it with feeling, held onto the blanket and stood up. His stomach rumbled, interrupting the entire situation.
“Hmmph.” The Girl in the lead scoffed at his reply and stepped in between them, turning back toward the group, “Rammu, bring me the rope.” She turned back to John and looked him in the eyes. “If you wanna meet the Elders, we’ll have to tie you up.”
‘She’s not kidding’ John tried not to laugh, it was admirable that she took such painstaking care of her peers. “Okay, that sounds reasonable.”
“And we’re taking your Ax.” Pointing to it, the Girl took it and passed it to another in the group. “My name is Ilani, please don’t struggle.” Her look turned seriously when she started tying the knots to restrain him.
‘Someone in her family had to have taught her how.’ Approving of her tactics and motivations, John played along and the group began to navigate into the darker tunnels that led out of the Bay and deeper into the facility.