Thankfully, Miranda was lucky.
None of the labs were burnt into a crisp from any unexpected chaos.
She clapped her hands together. Dr. Arlott had supposedly taken his leave, and thus the status of his labs was on her shoulders. Her thoughts wandered off about the microchips she had consulted with Marinette earlier.
A close colleague. A little crazy when she's into her job, but Miranda liked those with passion.
After all, this was a place for the insane. There are no limits.
She said that the microchips had been adjusted. I wonder if it can store enough data to copy our brains.
Dr. Arlott had discussed with Marinette to proceed with one of his passion projects. Before he left, he requested that both women should get their brains partially scanned for a mind-uploading process.
However, the possibility of death lingered in their minds. The entire project was risky, but Dr. Arlott insisted that their minds could be revived if the copies were successful.
The man's enthusiasm convinced them that they would be fine.
Miranda was not fond of the idea, but she too had the passion for understanding things she can't wrap her head around.
Besides, Dr. Arlott wants what's best for everyone. This was the advancement of science.
In a world where morals and those in power decided what was considered good for humanity, corruption reigned like a snake ready to deceive the naive.
Her memories thought of the conversation she had with Marinette.
"Oh yes," Marinette turned around, her lab coat stained with unknown chemicals and markings, "Don't tell the boss just yet! But I might have figured a way to get our brains scanned without us needing to die!"
Ah, that's right. Scanning our brains was a life-threatening experiment.
"These microchips. Runo had found them years prior," Marinette held one against the fluorescent lights, "but I guess the boss didn't find any use of them until I did some readjustments."
"What did you do?"
"Heh! I coded a few things and did my handy work. Resorted the components and found a strange substance inside. It seems..."
She paused and blinked. Then, a playful grin.
"Foreign. I think the boss might have found something that could guarantee our immortality."
Miranda's thoughts faded when her eyes caught sight of the forbidden chamber down the narrow hallway. The recessed lights flickered as she thought of what Dr. Arlott mentioned.
I'm rather relieved that Runo hasn't been acting up lately.
She saw Marinette exiting out of a room. The woman giggled to herself and headed for the chamber at the end of the corridor.
Ah! I should ask her if she's feeling dizzy.
Miranda sighed and picked up the pace. Her heels clanked against the carpet, a noise all too familiar with Marinette. She turned around, then smiled.
"Does your head hurt?" Miranda scratched her head and did a wave.
Marinette chuckled. She tapped her head and messed with her hair. Her ponytail swung in rhythm with her bubbly footsteps.
Her set of earrings on her left ear shimmered under the fluorescent lights.
"To think that we will become immortal," Marinette said, "or at least if all goes well, we should. Once Dr. Arlott transfers our microchips into those cybernetic bodies he planned on building, we shall be awakened."
"Yes, but nothing's guaranteed. We have a higher chance of dying. And what if we don't have our minds revived? Or if the data get corrupted? It's a scary thought."
"That's fine," Marinette let out a sigh of anxiousness, "for the sake of science, we shall prevail."
The women laughed. They felt the heaviness of their shoulders sinking as their bodies became sluggish.
No one was aware of the top-secret experiments Marinette had been working on asides from Dr. Arlott and Miranda.
"Say, when did you get hired by Dr. Arlott?" Miranda tapped her fingers together.
"Oooooh, maybe six years ago? I got hired around the same time as Runo!"
Miranda gasped at the thought of those two being recruited. Did they attend the same orientation?
"And yes, we did attend the same orientation hosted by Dr. Arlott himself!" It was as if Marinette could hear Miranda's thoughts. "Honestly, Runo was much more well-mannered and polite. Nowadays, he's..."
She trailed off, which got Miranda worried. "He what?"
"I just pity him."
"Were you two close?"
Marinette smiled. A brittle one. Miranda wasn't sure if she was reminiscing of something melancholic. "Yeah, we were. But I think he hates me now."
"Why do you think that? Is it because I'm here?"
Marinette bit her lower lip as she glanced off into the distance. "I think he was mad that I never stood up for him when he started his quarrels with the boss."
Miranda gazed at the lady. A smile so delicate, yet her eyes continued to shimmer with some sort of hope that someday, Runo might be able to calm down and reflect on his anger issues.
They reached the entrance of the chamber. Surprisingly, the door was unlocked, so Marinette pushed it. As the women walked in, they noticed the room was completely dark. The smell of foreign chemicals overwhelmed their senses.
Suddenly, their eyes were filled with light while Runo stood by the light switch.
"Hello ladies," he greeted them with a sly smile, "fancy meeting you both here."
"Oh, Miranda, don't be so naive to think that the guards actually do their jobs around here! They slack off as much as the scientists next door."
Marinette was feeling the pockets of her lab coat; she realized her keyholder with her ID card was gone.
Her eyes darted to Runo when she heard the chimes of jingling keys and cards Runo held by the lanyard.
"Looking for these?"
"Runo when did you-"
"Simple. I bumped into you yesterday. You can take a guess from there."
"Ah..." The imaginary light bulb on top of Marinette flickered for a second before it glowed permanently. "So it was during that time huh?"
Miranda turned to look at Marinette, who seemed to be more relaxed than concerned.
"Runo! What are you doing? You're not supposed to be here!" Miranda stepped forward, but the man simply tossed the keys back at Marinette, who caught them with fumbled fingers.
The man stood in silence as his eyes blankly stared at the two women. They were equally confused. The faint sounds of ticking from the clock on the wall were the only thing the trio heard for what seemed like several minutes. He glared like a hawk.
And then, he sighed.
Suddenly, the gradual growl turned into a chuckle, before erupting into a burst of complete maniacal laughter.
"Oh," the man smirked malevolently. His crazed eyes were filled with the desire to kill.
"Runo please, let's just talk-"
But Runo launched himself at Miranda and tackled her onto the floor. Marinette shrieked, but instead of running out the door to get help, she tried to pull Runo away.
"Runo, calm down, it's-"
'SHUT UP, NETTY!"
Runo shoved the poor woman away from him, which caused her to slip and fall. Her head struck the table behind her, knocking her unconscious.
"Runo, stop!" Miranda stood back up and shoved Runo against the wall. His body slammed onto a cart as unknown substances fell and splattered all over the floor.
However, that didn't stop the man from trying to start havoc. "Miranda do you not realize he's manipulating you?! You had the chance to leave and never come back during your time off, so why are you staying?!"
Miranda adjusted her posture and stood confidently over the fallen man with her stern eyes. "Because I am the scientist in charge now. I like my job. I have responsibilities."
She casually stepped in between Runo's legs, her high heels clattered against the tile floor. Her face inches away from the frustrated man. While Miranda was still a little flustered by everything, her gaze became intimidating.
As if she mimicked Dr. Arlott.
"And if you get in my way, Runo, I will be calling the guards. Get out."
Runo clenched his teeth before his eyes lowered and his head hung. He stood up and wiped his pants briskly as his eyes glared back at Miranda.
"I see. I suppose I will take my leave."
He softly hit his arm against Miranda's. His hands were in his pockets, and his eyes darted to the chemicals Marinette had left on top of a glass-protected shelf from previous experiments.
"Or perhaps," Runo casually slowed the pace of his walk while Miranda stared at him suspiciously, "I can accompany you, princess."
He pulled out a blade.
Miranda yelped. Without a thought, she instinctively shoved the man away from her. The sudden push threw Runo against a table, to which he howled in anger.
Miranda sensed his hunger. His desire for her blood. What did she do to deserve such hate? She despised that she was being blamed for something she had no control of.
The woman stomped onto his crotch, before sending a kick towards his hand. The blade slid away from the duo.
Runo yelled in pain. "YOU BITCH!"
He saw Miranda's eyes.
They glared at him with absolute brutality as her arm swung. A heavy blow against his face knocked him unconscious.
Miranda turned to look at her friend. "M-Marinette..."
She limped. Her hand extended to her friend's unconscious body which laid on the floor.
But she felt something grabbing her leg. Runo's nails dug into her leggings before she was pulled back onto the floor.
"You're not going anywhere." His voice demanded justice. He ran towards her and shoved Miranda away from Marinette. Her body slammed against the wall near the chemicals.
"And you need to move on- AH!"
Runo had taken his blade and slashed her face. Blood dripped onto the floor while Miranda stumbled. She coughed and wiped the blood away from her eyes.
The man glanced at the chemicals placed on a glass cabinet.
If there was one thing Dr. Arlott never raised funds on, it was the lack of proper management.
And Runo was going to take advantage of this.
He leaped at her. The woman turned to dodge his attack, but her arm, unfortunately, struck the glass. The blow shook the shelf for only a split second, but that was enough of a trigger for the reactive chemicals.
They turned and saw the chemicals shaking violently. To their surprise, instead of the usual reaction of a small explosion, fire, or smoke, the chemicals began to glow and jitter. It shook the shelf it was on. The ground rumbled.
"What's going on?" Miranda tried to stand up but her high heels gave away and she fell.
Marinette eventually opened her eyes. Her vision was blurry at first, but the rumbling definitely woke her up. She could see the foreign chemicals she placed earlier reacting violently, as the smell of...
...death lingered into everyone's noses.
Without a second thought, Marinette pulled her handheld transceiver she kept hidden in her coat. Her hand shook.
"Th-this is Marinette."
People heard her took several rounds of deep breaths. If anything, most were more concerned about the mysterious shaking.
"Everyone, g-get out. I repeat, get out!"
Marinette's warning set off a chaotic scene as countless workers from different rooms started running. A few of them remained confused, and others shoved those that were nosy enough to head towards the secret chamber.
Marinette had already begun to crawl away from the room, but Runo held her arm back and pulled her inside. He slammed the door shut, his face determined to get rid of the two individuals that licked the boots of Dr. Arlott.
Even if that meant he would fall with them. It was for the better anyway, he had nowhere else to go. His life was ruined, and his mind was only set on revenge.
"YOU ARE GOING DOWN WITH ME." He pushed his body against Marinette as he tripped Miranda. Marinette slammed her head against the corner of another cart.
A sledgehammer was carefully laid on it. Clattering noises erupted in everyone's ears while glass holders from the cart dropped and shattered. The sledgehammer fell.
It hit Marinette's head.
A loud thud was heard, and then, silence. Miranda briskly glanced at Marinette's stiff body on the floor.
"MARINETTE!" Miranda called out, but she was suddenly kicked in the stomach and shoved against a wall.
Runo grabbed onto Miranda's neck in an attempt to suffocate her, and it looked like it worked as Miranda's struggles were in vain. She coughed, the feeling of absolute dread became overwhelming, but her eyes noticed a crowbar within reach.
Desperate, she gripped onto it and struck Runo on the head. He gasped and let go of her, his head bleeding from the impact as he rapidly blinked furiously. The woman that stood in front of him was equally shocked, but she decided to blurt out the one phrase that would set Runo's anger over the roof.
"You're never going to be a good person after this, remember that!"
"Hah! That's a compelling statement!"
The image of Runo's raging eyes and bloodied face suddenly leaped forward. He grabbed onto the crowbar she was holding and pulled it away from her quivering hand.
And with one strike at the right angle, the lady with rosy cheeks fell onto the ground, groaning.
During all this time, the ground had shaken more violently. Runo saw that the chemicals swirled like a mini-tornado. The sound of a timer started clicking in his head, and he immediately ran for the door when he saw the chemicals glowing and shuddering.
Perhaps, it was about to explode.
He lifted his legs to run, but a weak grip on his ankle caught his attention. Miranda was barely conscious, but her hands were trying to grab ahold of Runo.
This bloody woman! I need to get out of here NOW!
Without much effort, he pulled his leg away and stepped onto Miranda's hand. Her fingers twitched, but nothing else came out of her mouth again.
Runo ran towards the door. But before he permanently stepped out, he pulled the cart he once slammed his body on right behind him to block the girls from leaving in case they miraculously found the energy to move.
A vile, yet meticulous tactic.
By now, the halls have been emptied, as he tried to drag his feet across the carpet of the main hallway. He can feel the left side of his body wanting to limp, but he must keep running. As the ground trembled harder, making it tough for Runo to keep his balance, he started to wonder if he should've just gone with them as he stated.
But alas, the survival instinct of a human being can truly make someone hypocritical.
He heard the noises of violent jittering behind him while dozens of rocks fell all around him from cracked ceilings. With only several seconds to spare, he lifted himself with all his might and started running. He dropped onto the entrance of the stairway and started crawling as fast as he could.
Luckily for him, the sounds of confused mumbling entered his ears, and then, the sight of one of his colleagues came into view.
"Runo!" the man yelled as he placed Runo's arm over his shoulder. "It's fine, I got you!"
The men eventually climbed out of the stairs and onto the dirt. Runo could see his colleagues standing at the edge of the beach from the cliff, while others have already gotten into helicopters and sending ropes down.
However, the sudden jolt and a crack that started to form on the sandy beach only sent everyone panicking.
Then, the sound of silence.
Runo shoved the man who was helping him away from his injured body. He limped quickly towards the cliff. The tremendous shake caused him to drop onto his knees.
With one last breath, he rolled to the edge of the cliff and fell, just as an enormous blast wave of all sorts of colors engulfed the entire island.
Runo was immediately hit with the blast. His body flew across the beach before he was mindlessly tossed into the deep waters below.
And he was cold.
His eyes closed. His mind wandered into nothingness, as a sound similar to a detonated bomb can be heard outside.
From a distance, a mushroom cloud can be seen. Several colorful blast waves emitted from the cloud while Runo's colleagues started warping into monsters.
Thus, the fabric of reality changed.
Several weeks ago had gone by since the explosion changed reality.
A man that neared his peak age, with noticeable wrinkles on his face and an expression of disappointment, sauntered near the desolated area covered with dust. His building had completely evaporated into thin air, while several shattered pieces of glass and equipment scattered on the grounds of what once laid his passionate projects.
The place that was once filled with brave reporters a few weeks ago was now yesterday's news, as more people are focused on commenting on the devastation after the explosion. If anything, a few courageous ones wandered too far into the hallways underground and found themselves trapped.
As he witnessed, a few unidentified bodies stuck out within its abandoned doors.
He continued to stroll down the hallways. Around the fallen boulders and dirt from above, and stepping over body parts that laid there melancholically. Eventually, he reached the lab where he believed the explosion was set, but it was blocked by an enormous boulder.
He sighed and stared around for a moment, before noticing two shiny objects on the ground. Picking it up, he realized he found what he was looking for and smirked.
"Dr. Arlott, do you think it's going to work? The first android never came back, what makes you think this will be the one?"
Dr. Arlott's newest assistant, Aaron Collymore, blinked his eyes when the scientist entered his lab.
The man recently got hired, along with a construction team, to re-build what Dr. Arlott had lost twenty years ago on a different island. Sounds of drilling and tapping echoed within the walls of every corridor, and the two could occasionally hear the construction men cursing at each other.
Dr. Arlott laid his back against Aaron's doorway. "Unlike the other one, this one has the memories of my previous assistant. If anyone could fix this mess, it's her."
"But," Aaron's confusion grew as he tried to solve the puzzle behind Dr. Arlott's intentions, "isn't the microchip in her gem? You told the previous one not to break hers either, why is that?"
The scientist took a deep breath before he pulled his back away from the doorway and stood menacingly. "Those microchips only contained the memories of important information. It does not mean, and I cannot predict, whether Marinette had secretly adjusted her experiments to trap human emotions."
"How is that even possible?"
"Why, Aaron, with the world as it is, anything's possible!" The scientist let out a laugh. "Besides, this is only a theory of mine. But if Marinette did filter the experiment, there's a possibility that breaking the gem would..."
Dr. Arlott walked to Aaron and whispered that fateful answer into his ears. The man simply gulped as his eyes shook from the revelation.
A revelation that could change things for humanity once more.
Dr. Arlott backed away from his assistant, the sight of sinister eyes fell upon the shocked man's face. He grinned mischievously, before turning his back and did a sly wave back at Aaron. Then, he disappeared into the hallway without another word.
I should head back. She will be waking up anytime soon.
The sounds of metal scrapping, the drastic noises of the drills around him, and the occasional screaming of men as punches were exchanged all loomed behind him. Dr. Arlott finally reached the small room at the end of the corridor and turned the doorknob.
The android that laid ever so still on the solid table was looking around. Dr. Arlott's desk light flickered as her eyes caught sight of his silhouette.
He smiled. The smell of death lingered within the air as the thought of a thousand, no, a million corpses hung behind him. The memories of his time with Miranda suddenly flashed before his eyes, and he could feel the burden of countless deaths and monsters.
"There are two rules to follow, my dear."
He casually approached her as she observed herself.
"First, don't ever let anyone find out you've been specialized for this mission."
The android turned her head slowly to take a glance at her builder. She blinked, her movements imitated the typical android new to its world.
"Second, don't destroy this gem of yours."