Chapter 11:

True Bonds, Part 5


The following events were discovered afterwards, in logs recorded by surveyor Kyle.

What Kyle had found at the bottom of the chute was the remains of a nuclear development facility, one that specialized in engineering new ways to generate and utilize nuclear energy. Nuclear technology had come a long way since the birth of the atomic bomb, and use of it had become more widespread than ever.

Not that it was all good news. Even if governments and regimes shied away from building devastating nuclear bombs, they still used all manner of nuclear-powered technology to create destructive weapons that could only be countered with more destructive weaponry. The nuclear race war had a devastating impact on the planet, and while most of the aftereffects of those battles had long dissipated, it left a metaphorically bitter taste in Kyle's mouth.

For the time being, though, this facility seemed to have nothing to do with that. It was rather perfunctory nuclear research that could have been done at any suitable facility, which was arguably why the place was shut down to begin with. To Kyle's eyes, though, it must have been shuttered in a hurry; none of the equipment had been taken out, nor did the facility show any sign of being torn down. In fact, it seemed mostly intact if anything.

Kyle recalled the state in which he had found the facility. It would have been rather odd to have a nuclear facility simply be a hatch in the ground, with nothing to identify it. There had to have been a building standing above it, yet Caleb had found little that would confirm that.

That thought led Kyle to another theory. It was possible that the facility being torn down was a facade, and that nuclear experiments here continued even after it had supposedly stopped activities. It was a good theory for why the facility seemed so untouched, but a theory nevertheless. He'd need some proof if he wanted to confirm it.

Around this point Ella joined him, and the two began exploring the facility proper. As they walked through the dark hallways of the facility, Kyle took a deeper look at the labs and equipment that were available. They were rather run-of-the-mill, and nothing stood out to him as something some local government would have been eager to hide. Perhaps there was some other reason why they had to hurriedly shut this facility down?

The two descended to the second floor, and this was where they first found signs of trouble. It was Ella who had pointed it out as they were walking across the main hallway. As she shined her flashlight along the walls looking for anything of note, she suddenly tripped and stumbled over.

“Ouch! What the hell?”

Ella's voice echoed through the empty facility. Kyle turned around to see Ella on the floor, her foot in a small hole in the ground. The hole was rough and misshapen, as if it was crushed down by a powerful impact.

“What is this?” Kyle bent down and inspected the hole closely. “I can't imagine the floor being built like this on purpose.”

“The way it looks makes it seem like somebody struck the floor,” Ella observed as she picked herself up from the ground.

“Was it an accident that occurred while transporting something heavy?” Kyle theorized.

“I doubt it,” Ella replied, pointing her flashlight at the walls around her. “Look at all this.”

Kyle turned to see what Ella was talking about. To his surprise, the walls were covered in similar dents spread out erratically throughout the hall, as well as black burn marks.

“What the hell happened here?” He muttered in awe. “Some kind of fight?”

“I see some bullet holes here and there,” Ella noted as she continued to inspect the walls. “A fight must have broken out. There's not a lot of them, though.”

Kyle furrowed his brow as he thought about what to do next. His job as a surveyor sometimes necessitated that he enter dangerous areas, which is why he was paired with a sturdier and stronger scavenger type like Ella. Even so, there was no need for him to go further if there was an active danger lurking by.

Having said that, was there an active danger around? The hallway showed obvious signs of combat, but that didn't mean the combat was recent. After all, this entire facility was only recently unearthed, and it had been ignored entirely by Computer since humanity left the planet. Furthermore, he highly doubted that anyone could survive this long with only the food available in this facility.

Kyle ultimately sighed, and signaled to Ella to keep moving further in. There was still a chance of danger, but right now he couldn't say for sure whether they were actually about to get into a fight. Computer insisted on making sure the facility had no dangerous material, after all. He doubted he could just ignore the commands he was given.

The two of them descended to the third floor, this time with much more vigilance than caution than before. They continued to encounter strange burn marks and holes in the walls, but no likely source. The deeper they went, the darker the area got. Kyle was keeping a mental map drawn in his computerized brain, but he was happy that he insisted on not having Caleb come along. He had no idea how this would have gone otherwise.

The third floor turned out to be empty as well, but Kyle noticed much larger signs of violence than on the previous floor. Whatever had happened here, it was pretty clear that going deeper would likely reveal the cause. Kyle gave Ella a glance, and she returned with a resolute nod. She was willing to go as deep as he needed to find out the truth.

The two continued to descend deeper into the facility until they finally reached the bottom floor. By that point, they had found little of note, though the dents and scratches on the walls had not disappeared. Their tension had eased considerably, though at the back of their minds they were aware that the danger had not passed.

The structure of the bottom floor was quite different from the ones before it. Here too were scratches and dents on the wall, but unlike those on previous floors, they were much shallower and lighter. Kyle tapped lightly on the wall and found it to be made of a sturdier material that what the walls on previous floors were composed of.

“Guess whatever was going rampant wasn't strong enough to break through this,” he remarked. “They must be protecting something valuable down here.”

He was soon proven right, as they entered into a large storage area placed in the middle of the floor. Inside was a massive stacked array of rods that rose up to the wall. Kyle walked up to examine the rods and was astonished when he realized what he had found.

“Th-this is uranium!” he stammered out, shocked. “To think there would be so much of it here...”

“It's not dangerous, is it?” Ella asked worriedly. “Quick, check your Geiger counter.”

“There's no need to worry,” Kyle replied as he closely inspected the rods. “They've been stored properly, and it looks like whatever's been wreaking havoc around here hasn't done any damage to them.”

Ella breathed a sigh of relief. “Well, thank god. In any case, that should be good enough for Computer, right? There's no way it expects us to lug all this up to the surface.”

“No, we shouldn't have to worry about that,” Kyle said with a chuckle. “Computer will probably send some transporters, so we can just report and leave it at that.”

The two of them left the storage room, closing it securely behind them as they did. After that, Kyle tried to contact Computer, but could not establish communications.

“Looks like we're too far down after all,” Kyle sighed. “I suppose I can make contact after heading back up.”

“Sounds good to me,” Ella sighed as she started climbing up the steps to the previous floor. “I'm sure Caleb is starting to worry about us. Let's get back up before he does something reckless.”

“I hear you,” Kyle said as he took a step, then stopped. He turned back to the floor and eyed the other hallway suspiciously.

“Did you hear that?” He asked as he continued to stare into the darkness.

“Hear what?” Ella was confused. Kyle didn't answer and focused on his ears. From the end of the hallway he was staring down, he could hear the sound of machinery stomping on the ground. He immediately took out his flashlight and illuminated the area.

What was revealed stood on two legs like a human, but it clearly was anything but. It was a bipedal security robot, with its polygonal main body perched atop two long mechanical legs. A crack in its shell revealed damaged circuits, and its errant movements made it clear that it was far from being in good shape. Its red eye scanned the room and beeped aggressively when it noticed the two remainers.

“I-Intrudersss,” stammered the robot as it attempted to stabilize itself. “Initiating defensssive protocolsss.”

Then there was a massive flash of light, and then nothing.

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