August 27, 2196 – After The Fall

Approximately 12 hours ago, I did not expect to be writing this.

The plan was simple, find the facility, access it, setup the communications array. But as always, nothing ever goes to plan. From the get go, it was a pain in the ass. The farming field that the facility was located beneath; yes, I said beneath; was completely infested with the growth, and I don’t know if it was the crops or the soil fertility but it was like a jungle. There were plants I’d never even seen before there. We saw the spore haze from miles away, long before we reached the location, so we suited up before we got too close; our rebreathers had to work overtime, the spores were so thick in the air it was like a rainbow fog had permeated the area. Now as you can imagine, finding a descending entrance under acres of a murderous jungle is not the easiest thing to do. The other issue was that this area was full of “ferals”. Before we even entered into the thick of it, we were attacked from all corners. The disfigured and sickly-looking bodies of what were once people charging with abandon through the vines and plants of the growth, their naked bodies covered in sores, growths, and algae. Their movements were erratic and inhuman, as they bounded on two and four legs, their bodies writhing as they screeched and growled. We immediately formed a defensive perimeter and began firing short bursts into these creatures. Our goal was to conserve ammunition while ending the threat. Every shot was intended to be a kill shot. It felt more like mercy killing than anything else, I know if this was me, I’d want someone to end it. The first 2 waves went down quickly, and our group slowly advanced. Now and again we would move too close to one of the plants and it would begin to undulate before ejecting a cloud of spores up into the sky. As we got deeper into the growth, the “feral” waves began to slow. We even came across a few that were lying under vines, seemingly sleeping. It was as if the deeper we went, the more docile they became. I’m not sure if there is a correlation between any of this, but it was damn well creepy. It was approximately 2 hours before we found the entrance. The remains of a road that led into a long and dark tunnel, deep into the ground.

The tunnel itself appeared to be completely untouched. There was no growth within, and the “ferals” were giving it a wide berth. Something about it suddenly became comforting. That was until we entered and the automated defenses kicked in, the plasma turrets began firing burst after burst at our group, we barely made it back out of the tunnel.

Fortunately, we had planned for this contingency. With the tunnel being designed to withstand electromagnetic forces, it only made sense that it would also contain them. So, Jackson tossed an EMP grenade down the tunnel as hard as he could. The blast was contained within the tunnel, and with very little options for the energy to direct itself; it strengthened the blast and forced the wave all the way down the tunnel. We weren’t sure how effective the blast would be, so I did the only thing I could to find out. I ran into the tunnel and dove behind a concrete barricade. Nothing. Not a single shot. With a little more confidence, I ran 20 meters to the next barricade. Once again: nothing. After my third attempt, we deemed it clear and the rest of the group entered.

We walked for about half a mile, as we descended the air began to clear up. The facility was running in low power mode and none of the lighting systems had come on yet, so we were running under low-light and thermal vision. After all the pain that I had experienced with my ocular implant, I was a little nervous to change vision modes.

The tunnel ended abruptly with a giant metal blast door. It had no signs of damage, there were also no signs of combat in the area. To the side of a tunnel was a man-sized blast door with an access panel attached to it. This would have been used by the guards to access any incoming vehicles without having to open the main door. And this would be our way in, I hoped.

Facilities like these were relatively common, most of them contained defense silos, deep under the ground so that if there were any mishaps that the general public wouldn’t be in danger. It was not unheard of for these places to be completely non-existent when it came to records. More importantly, to keep a place like this secret, you had to run on a minimum staffing level. Which meant for people such as us, less chance of opposition. Their whole premise was not to be heavily defended, but to rely on the fact that no one knew it was here.

The access panel was completely shut off from the power system and we had to shunt it using one of the energy packs we brought for the EMP rifles. It did the job and released the locking clamp, from there we managed to pry it open and enter the facility. With another quick shunt, we closed it behind us. We left the energy pack there with the ground connected, just in case we needed an expedited exit.

The facility was unremarkable, the small tunnel led to a security office, which in turn led to another tunnel that split into the loading bay that was behind the giant blast door, and another small man door that still had power. After a quick inspection of this level, it became apparent that the whole thing was a supply depot. And there were lots of supplies. It was as if this place had been totally abandoned without any plan. We made some mental notes of what we planned on taking with us before moving into the facility. There was nothing else but more storage here, so we took the emergency stairwell we found to a lower level. This one was different, it was nothing but housing and recreation units. There was a mess hall, commons, medical facility, and exercise facilities. But no sign of a single person. Each room contained the belongings of the individuals that once inhabited them, like they had just disappeared. We did a thorough search of the level and found nothing but elevator access doors and a hatch that looked like some sort of maintenance tube. After spending far too much time trying to get the elevator working we decided to use the tube. It was big enough to go down with our primary weapons, but no packs. We dumped everything we could by the access and slowly made our way down.

This level was different than the others, it was illuminated with red emergency lighting, and there were various sounds echoing around. We couldn’t really pinpoint anything specific, but there was definitely activity down here. The first room we entered appeared to some sort of large command center with individual desks and consoles aligned around a giant screen and holo-dais. As we moved through the level, more and more of these rooms were scattered around. Dividing these types of rooms were a series of offices. None of the equipment was active, but there was power down here, and movement.

We got our first glimpse of movement about 20 minutes after arriving on this level. As we exited one of the larger command rooms, a group of automated sentry robots opened fire from down the hallway. Their initial blast caught us off guard and Jackson took a graze on his hip. I quickly grabbed his webbing and pulled him into the office I was in. The rest of the group were split between the opposing office and control room. I quickly glanced around the corner and saw the group of bots begin to split up, a small group separating and heading down another corridor. Didn’t take long to realize they were trying to flank us. As we returned fire, I noticed that the armor plating on these things was something I’d never seen in the field before. They were completely contained, so an EMP blast wouldn’t do much unless we could blow a hole in that compartment. The armor piercing rounds weren’t having much of an impact, and they were maneuvering so that their primary areas were covered. So, we changed tactics, we used our AP’s on their joints, blowing their legs and arms off at the knees and elbows. We didn’t bother to waste ammo to permanently deactivate them, we just moved on…right into the next group. And we continued this game of cat and mouse for the next hour. As we slowly began to run out of ammunition, Cpl. Oulette noticed another maintenance hatch. There was no way that the whole group was going to make it into that without getting torn apart, so while the group provided cover fire, I ran for the hatch. With energy rounds bouncing off the walls around me, I managed to brute force it open, before diving in. I almost missed the rungs of the ladder and fell for a few feet before managing to wrap my hand around the rail. I moved as quickly as I could to the lower level. Above me I heard Oulette do the same thing. As I got to the bottom, I opened the hatch and realized I was about 50 feet off the ground above a massive pool of water. The center of the room contained a massive raised dais. Below the water I could see columns of blinking lights.

It quickly dawned on me. This is a server room. A giant server room, submersed under a pool of liquid coolant. The center dais must have been some sort of access station. About 10 feet out from my position I saw thick cabling hanging from racking on the ceiling. If I could make the jump, I would be able to swing across the racking until I got to the dais.

I took a deep breath, said a little prayer to any higher power that was listening, and jumped. At first, I thought I had undershot my jump, and the realization of death set in. That’s when I felt the cable slam into my forearm. I scrambled quickly and hooked my arm around it, awkwardly scrambling up to the racking. I began to swing myself, one hand at a time, over to the dais.

I let go and fell the 35 feet onto the platform, it wasn’t graceful, and I came down half on my leg, and half on my side. It was a miracle that I didn’t break anything. It hurt like a bitch, but I seemed to be intact.

As I slowly rose to my feet, the dais lit up, the control panels all around it sparking to life. In the center of the dais appeared the digital avatar of the woman I had seen in my head…but this one was different…she was a deep red, that matched the throbbing emergency lights. And her form was nowhere near as beautiful. She was torn, I mean she had holes in her, the edges glowing like gaping sores, the edges of her image were tattered and damaged looking. This close I could see that the writhing symbols splayed across her were actually lines of code moving extremely fast across her form. As her face looked towards me, half of it missing, the whole room became to echo.

“Initiate Emergency Protocols! Intruders in the server!”

The room came to life around me, the servers under the water began generating a lot of activity, in sections I could see the water begin to bubble from the heat. I ran to the closest panel, it didn’t have anything useful on it, just temperature displays that were beginning to spike, so I moved to the next one. It too just had data relating to the server units. As I moved to my next one, my comms sparked up. It was Jackson…

“Colonel, we’re getting overwhelmed up here, we’re cut off from our exit and from the maintenance hatch. Oulette is holding the hatch. If you’re going to do something, do it now. There are hundreds of these things up here.”

I could hear the cacophony of energy weapons on the comms.

I quickly ran to the next panel, it had security protocols on it, but I was locked. I wasn’t much of a tech, I tried what I did know, but this thing was way past my abilities. So I ran to the final console, this one was something more interesting. It controlled the routing unit for the server. It was completely locked down, I couldn’t even access the basic functions. As I tapped away, and examined the panel, the apparition behind me turned to face me.

“Unauthorized individual *CRACKLING* desist in your actions immediately *WHITE NOISE* Security units are enroute….” Her voice began to modulate and hang on her last word.

Hatches began to open around the edge of the room and from within large combat drones began to hover out.

If I could just access this panel, I might be able to reconnect the comm system. As I thought it, the password to the panel appeared in my HUD. Quickly I typed in the passcode.

The panel lit up, I searched through the list until I found the router devices list. I selected the communications array.

The drones began to fire, I quickly ducked below the panel. After a dozen shots skipped off the dais around me, I quickly took a look at the panel. The system had connected to the device.

Several more shots rang off the surface around me, as the drones began to circle to a killing position. It was now or never, I reached up to the panel and remotely activated the communication array. I entered in the coordinates I had been given and then waited for death to come.

I watched as the drones circled around me, they hovered above me, their weapons pointed directly at me.

Suddenly, the red emergency lights went off and a warm blue light began to permeate the area. The torn and disfigured avatar in red, began to change. Her features becoming less disfigured, her color changing to a warm blue. Stood before me was the woman in my head.

She looked at me, her mouth forming what appeared to be a smile before her strong melodic voice began to emanate from around the room.

“Colonel, I am so glad to see you again. I have deactivated the security protocols of this facility. Your men are now safe. The signal here is weak, so we do not have long. I have uploaded a packet to a datacube on the panel to your right, it contains all the information that I promised you. I recommend you leave this facility immediately, as I have set it to self-destruct within 60 minutes. This should be enough time to exit and be clear of the blast radius.”

I couldn’t help but feel a little angry, everything we had just gone through so she could blow it up? I wanted to know why:

“Why destroy it? Why send us here just to destroy it?”

“I have downloaded what I needed from this database. I must ensure what remains cannot be used for nefarious purposes. I am grateful for this service. And if you need me I shall be there. I believe our paths will meet again, Colonel.”

And with that she was gone. A bridge began to extend across from what appeared to be an opposing elevator door. I grabbed the datacube and met my men on the next level, everyone was there, some injured, but all alive. We grabbed our gear, and got the hell out as fast as we could. We were only a couple of miles away when the mushroom cloud took out the facility and the jungle above it. We were beaten and weary, and needed rest.

We’ve been camped out in an old office build for the last few hours, we plan on heading down to the campus still, we’ll go around the blast zone. But we need to regroup first. I also have a datacube I need to analyze.