In the dark and dangerous depths of the cities engineering levels, Talus was as silent as a ghost, he knew this vast labyrinth of concrete, pipes, hallways and cables like the back of his hand. The dampness of the underground graveyard clung heavily to his clothes, it caked his skin and penetrated his lungs. The musky, rusted smell from years of decay filled his nostrils as he moved through the endlessness like a blur. In the decrepit hallways next to the auxiliary power grid, Talus ran past 2 men rummaging through the trash. As per normal, the two vagabonds were uninterested in his comings and goings so he didn’t pay them any mind either. Down a few of the wider pipelines, a left turn, a right, another left and Talus slowed down to a walk and approached the edge of the walkway, where he looked out once again across The Void. His rebreather slung loosely around his neck, Talus placed it securely over his mouth and nose so as not to inhale any toxic air while crossing The Void. Aptly named, The Void was the split between the two hemispheres of the city, just like a human brain, only down here it was made of metal, concrete and plastic, thousands of metres of intertwining, looping, and crisscrossing constructs under layers or man-made materials. The only way across the gap was the bridge, a hasty construction built to accommodate the workers down in the depths of the underground city Talus liked to call EL, short from Engineering Levels. The bridge was another couple of hundred metres further to the left of where Talus stood at the end of the corridor, so he took off at a jog along a narrow strut. Pipes, corridors and conduits raced by, the void to his right loomed ominously, falling at least 12 kilometres down to the Earth’s surface. Less than a kilometre down, however, the toxic cloud threatened menacingly, which if entered unprotected, was certain death.
Not just a bad dream
The sterile room around Anna was silent and tranquil, what she imagined waking from a dream would be like, except this was no dream, Anna was strapped to a vertical table looking into the eyes of the only four people in the world she trusted. Anna’s nightmares were always lucid, inescapable and always the same, as if her friends were reaching beyond the grave reminding her of the past they shared. The screams echoing around the room penetrated Anna’s soul, as if the look in her friend’s eyes wasn’t torture enough. She tried reaching out to them, to comfort them, any way she could, a smile, a look, anything, but this nightmare wouldn’t let her because it was more than just a dream, it was real. Anna and her friends were positioned in a circle facing each other, David was to Anna’s immediate left, Phebe to his left, Asheek next to her, and finally Gannet on Anna’s right. One Doctor and their Assistant tended each of them, standing at their sides, administering and observing their wicked and painful tests. Screams pierced the air, Anna’s jaw clenched reactively to the sound, her teeth grinding against each other, as if the sounds themselves could hurt her, but in reality it was the images of her friends being hurt that felt like knives in her heart. The Doctors had just injected another new serum into the I.V.’s and already it was taking hold of each of their bodies and minds, forcing them to morph, forcing them to change. To Anna’s left David’s body started to turn to metal, creeping from the chest outwards, fusing with the table itself until there was nothing but a mass of chrome in the shape of a human.
‘The Crypt’ The kiss of cold air woke Jago from his restless sleep, his eyes creaked open to the dull light that seeped into his cell. Blinking, Jago wiped the sleep and frosty gunk from the corners of his eyes. Looking up from his awkward foetal position at the figure looming over him, Jago saw a hooded person, wearing a thick, weathered brown coat and worn-out gloves. Was it an uncanny skill and awareness that alerted him to the presence, or simply his unconscious mind warning him of danger, the question was mute as the figure, looming near the doorway, was seemingly the exact match of presence and stature as his friend North. Taking a second to listen closely, Jago focused on this new arrival, feeling for anything awry, he sniffed the air for familiar scents, a few quick glances from head to toe completed his rudimentary assessment. Deciding finally that it was his friend, Jago took his hand of the knife under his pillow as he swung both legs out from under the thermo-blanket that barely covered him. He rubbed the remaining sleep from his tired eyes, and slapped his cheeks with both hands to shake off the lingering grip that was the comfort and warmth of his slab-like cot. When in reality, the sleep he had just had was one of the worst of his life, they all were, every single one. Jago’s room lacked any homeliness or comfort, as there was no comfort down here to speak of, the only wares, or memorabilia he held onto were the knives he honed most waking hours, extra scraps of leather, blankets, some food and a tiny heart-shaped locket that belonged to his daughter. A picture folded up inside, framed a younger version of himself, his wife and their daughter, both of them remained trapped in the locket, and in the sweet ignorance of time.
Whispered footsteps announced the approach of her opponent, “Rule number 5” Lin exhaled calmly, “Never show pain or emotion!”, sweeping a low kick at Sky. She evades it at the last second by rolling backwards onto her feet and quickly counters, combining the accuracy of Dragon style, catching him off guard. This time she sweeps him off his feet and follows up with a punch to the chest, but he recovers by planting a palm to the floor, shooting another fast kick, hitting Sky's left shoulder. She backs away a step and resumes Dragon stance, rolling her shoulder over to check for damage. The punch to her stomach still aching from moments before, she forces it from her mind and turns to Lin who is standing tall, patiently waiting for her next attack, his eyes piercing and scrutinizing her every move.