The group walked through the stark white halls of the Intigrelt Facility with intense trepidation. The halls seemed eerily quiet, too empty. Lucia watched for any movement, any slight hint at an ambush. She expected it at any moment. Niarith, still carrying the unconscious Lolanene, turned to Darlinna. “So uh, how’d you end up here, uh.. Officer?”
“I’m not speaking to you. The thing inside you killed my friends. And that thing in front of us” she gestured to Lucia “killed two more.”
Arnitch turned around “None of us should be speaking! Do you want to alert a Unit? Because if you do, it’ll alert them all, and we’re fucked. So shut it!” he turned back around and continued walking. He turned around and found himself face to face with a Unit. He stepped back with a high pitched shriek. Lucia sprung into action, she reached out and grabbed Unit 037 from Dr. Antontak and shoved him to the side, ducking a swing from the Unit’s arm. She spun around behind it and ripped it’s electronic components from its neck, inserting Unit 037 in their place. The Unit collapsed to the floor, unmoving. They simply left it there, no time to help. She made sure to retrieve 037.
Lucia put an arm around Arnitch’s waist and heaved him up off his feet. “One less! Which way?!”
”Down this hall, first left, then right! Can’t miss it!”
The group ran down the hall at varying speeds, but more or less together. They made it to a large double door, with metallic footsteps and mechanical motor noises not far behind. Darlinna kicked the doors open. No small feat without shoes Lucia thought, as she entered the room beyond.
The room was massive. They were standing on a catwalk, up near the ceiling. Stairs went down to lower levels of catwalk on either side. Beyond the catwalk, far below, was a maze of conveyors, fabricators, and in a few places, more primitive manufacturing equipment. The room was a rusty sort of color, dirty, dimly lit, and uncomfortably hot. Entirely unlike the rest of the facility.
“Put me down! I need to seal the door!” Lucia gently set Doctor Antontak back on his feet. He immediately limped over to the large double doors and opened a panel on the wall next to them. He began tinkering with various wires, sighed in irritation, and just slammed the doors shut and ripped several wires out of the wall. “Okay. That won’t hold them for long, but it’ll have to be long enough! Follow me!” He hobbled down the stairs to the left. Lucia waited until the others had gotten onto the stairs to go herself, in an effort to cover the group’s rear.
“Where exactly are we going, Doctor?” Niarith asked, her voice strained from the effort of carrying Lolanene for so long.
“We’re going to the main communication hub. This,” he pulled out the storage device he’d taken from the closet computer “contains the uh.. updates… I did to the Unit code. If I upload this, packaged as a firmware upgrade, they’ll download it, and be reversed. We’re gonna brick the bitch’s hardware.”
“Hey! Lucia! Get up front here, if there’s any Units in there, I’m gonna need your help.” Darlinna called out from the front of the group “Can’t say I want it, but I’m gonna need it. Just try not to fucking kill anybody else.”
Lucia made her way to the front of the group as they made their way to the area directly below the entrance catwalk. On the wall was a set of double doors, like the last double doors they were industrial, not like the other doors in the facility. Lucia motioned for the others aside from Darlinna to stay back. She took Unit 037 from Dr. Antontak. The two women approached the doors carefully. There was no sign of movement in the massive foundry aside from the machines themselves. They reached the doors, taking up positions on either side.
Darlinna counted down from three silently with her fingers, and they each slammed one of the two doors open, revealing the room beyond. It was a dimly lit, freezing cold space. Frosty mist billowed out into the much warmer foundry. It was circular, with large rectangular racks of computer equipment and servers lining the walls. In the center of the room was a large column. It had interfaces all around it near the bottom. Chairs sat in front of each interface. Wires and computer equipment covered the entire length of the column. The room was empty of any signs of life. Lucia stepped carefully into the room, and for the first time realized she hadn’t been wearing shoes since being converted. She resisted the urge to recoil and gasp, instead focusing on making sure the room was as clear as it looked.
She fully entered the cold room, her bare feet screaming in protest. She saw no movement, nothing seemed to be inside. She turned to go motion for the others to enter, shivering as she did. She reached the doorway and waved them forward. She was surprised to see Lolanene standing, somewhat shakily, next to Niarith. She was even more surprised to see Niarith pick her up again, in her arms this time, not over her shoulder, and carry her to the door. Lucia smiled at the sight.
As everyone got into the room, Darlinna shut the doors, and Lucia grabbed some chairs to block them with. A loud BANG sounded from upstairs. They were running out of time. “Okay people!” Dr. Antontak shouted, standing near the central column. “We’re short on time, short on manpower, and short on… damn near everything. Here’s what’s gonna happen. I’m gonna plug in this device” he held up the small storage device. “And I’m gonna save the fucking day!”
“Just do it then, ya pompous dick.” Lolanene was standing again, leaning against one of the server racks.
“I was getting to it. Why don’t you go get lost again, you fucki-” BANG, the door upstairs had been opened. “Okay fuck it.” He slammed the device into a slot in the column, and began typing furiously. As he did, the sound of many mechanical limbs could be heard approaching the door to the room.
“Uhh, what do we do now?” Niarith was visibly nervous. She stepped closer to Lucia.
“You wait. If I get this done in time, everything is fine. If not... well… at least we won’t be consciously aware of it.” The doors burst open, sending chairs flying across the room. Lucia barely managed to dodge one of them, and Darlinna was knocked to the floor by another. Lolanene moved to help her up while Niarith crossed the remaining space to Lucia and held her.
Dr. Antontak did not react. He just kept typing. In the doorway, visible through the cloud of mist the sudden temperature change had created, stood at least ten Units, with Dr. Formolius standing in front of them.
“My my my, whatever are you all doing in here?” She asked, her grin clearly forced, her cheer far too cheery.
“Oh nothing much, Fringaline, just uh.. This.” He pressed the enter key on the keyboard, and a second later, every Unit behind her spasmed and fell to the floor.
Dr. Formolius looked behind her, at the Units which were now dazedly squirming on the floor. She turned back to the room, her smile faded. “Oh.” her voice regained the tone that conveyed only hatred and malice “I see.” She stood still for another two seconds, everyone just staring at her. Then she moved incredibly quickly, pulling out a pistol from her lab coat and firing a single, silent laser shot into each of the newly reversed Unit’s heads, before turning it on the group. “A single one of you moves so much as a fucking millimeter and I’m killing every last one of you!”
She stepped further into the room. Her cheer returned “Now, Dr. Antontak, what did you just do to my lovelies?”
Lolanene coughed out a barely suppressed laugh. “Your lovelies? Thought this was serious scientific research.”
A line of bright blue light pierced the air between Formolius and Lolanene, it impacted the server rack next to her, causing a loud popping noise and sparks as the casing and components melted. Lolanene flinched involuntarily, but managed to stop short of crying out. “Speak. Only. When. Spoken to. Bitch. Unless you want the next shot in your fucking head.” Her smile returned, the change was more unsettling every time. “Now, as I was saying, Dr. Antontak? Be a dear and tell me what you just did.”
He didn’t turn away from the interface, perhaps not wanting to move and potentially be shot. “I reversed the rewrites your toys did to the staff’s brains. They’re free now. The ones that are alive at least.” He spoke matter of factly, with little emotion, though his tone had a hint of spite.
“Oh! Well that’s alright! I can easily just undo that last update, rebuild my stock and-”
Antontak turned to face her “No, Fringaline. It’s over. Stop. You’ve lost. You tried to have your fucking army of machines and you lost. Stop. Trying.” He took a tentative step toward her, and she raised the pistol. “Please.” His voice gained a tone Lucia hadn’t heard from him before. He sounded… desperate. “Fringaline.. I don’t know what happened, I don’t know why you became obsessed like this, but.. I remember the way you used to be.” Another step. “I remember those mornings we’d wake up together, the way you’d kiss my cheek. We'd talk about the future. Our work. Us.” Another step. “Fringe… I love you. You know I do. Please.” Tears were streaming down his cheeks now, as he took yet another step. “I’m sorry I didn’t stop this before it got this bad. I’m sorry, Fringe. You deserve better than what you’ve become. I’m sorry.”
Dr. Formolius stared at the man, her pistol aimed squarely at his chest. Her body betrayed no emotion, nothing but calm, collected intent. But her face… said otherwise. Her lips quivered slightly, tears welled in her eyes, as she said “I’m sorry too.” And fired.