Alexus didn’t know why. Everyone else’s faces were filled with dedication and resolve just as much as him. He had to make it downstairs; it was that weird pull that he couldn’t get out of from the back of his head, telling him no, forcing him to move towards a specific location like an annoying fly, flying in front of his face.
“You guys ready?” Marcus asked. Out of the whole group, he had less of a glazed look. His body tensed while he gazed at the door. Slowly, his hand crept up to turn the doorknob, while in his other hand, he gripped the golfing stick tightly.
“Ready when you are,” Jones replied. He had his metal bat up in the air, ready to swing any minute now like Babe Ruth. He took a couple of swings, letting the whooshing of air thump out loudly in front of him before he was satisfied.
The others nodded their heads in unison, unable to say anything. The majority of them had a resolve to get out of this alive that they didn’t show as much as a while ago. Even Brian, who was scared initially, was a lot more confident than before. In every single one of them, there was a force of will that they would get out of this place alive. They had to, no they would.
Marcus opened the door; Timothy, the closest one to the door, swung.
“Heave… Ho!” Timothy cried out, his body doing a perfect swing, whacking a good number of rats’ backs.
A loud squeak and thunk could be heard while squishing them against the wall like pancakes. Quite a few rats still spilled in, even one the size of a dog. The dog-sized rat squealed loudly and ran straight to Crystal. Jones stepped in and swung, causing a loud sound of metal hitting his body as bone, blood, and hair flew around midair.
Twang! Squeak! Splat!
The rat flew towards the opposite wall; Crystal pulled up her rifle, aimed, and fired. The gunshots rang out loudly as she killed the rats that were a good distance away from them. A puff of evil green that seems to mushroom out slowly but surely fills up the room.
“We need to get out now!” Alexus shouted in a hurry. “The room is being filled up with toxins!”
“Shit.” Timothy cursed. “Glad to know, our lives are going to go down the drain here and now in this room.”
“Just shut your mouth and keep swinging!” Jones growled. “We don’t have time for your sarcasm.”
“Yes, we do, especially in a time like this.” Timothy cleared a path for at least three people to filter out into the hallway. Marcus was already out of the door, clearing out a path. More sounds of squeaking, splatting, and even angry grunts came from Marcus’s mouth, followed by Jones and Timothy, who was just as annoyed at the swarms of rats that scurried beneath their feet.
Alexus stepped out with Crystal, covering her back. Both hands were gripped tightly on the sheath, swinging it and whacking away at the rats before him away from them. It wasn’t a great weapon to use to whack away at the rats, compared to the golfing sticks, on the other hand, so he mostly used his feet to give them a good punt towards the opposite side of the hallway from the direction where they were going. Every time one of them got a giant rat kicked or hit a good distance away, Crystal would shoot them down mercilessly.
The small ones weren’t as much trouble, but the big ones gave them more of a scare. Their feral teeth snapped at their heels. They were their priority targets, and they knew that they didn’t want to get bitten by their ugly teeth.
Brian, the girls, and a couple of the guys followed after them. Unfortunately, they were too focused on what was around them that they didn’t get to say much about anything. Instead, they looked more like zombies with their glazed eyes than any of the five of us. Alexus could tell they were hit the strongest from the dense light blue energy that still lingered in the air. Compared to Jones, Crystal, Timothy, and Marcus, who seemed a lot better, the others were strange. Even though he still had the urge, he didn’t feel as zoned out as others.
“Keep moving,” grunted Marcus. He stormed forward, past the five doors down, and took a sharp left. They all followed with hurried steps, right behind him. Not wanting to get left behind. The door to the emergency exit was flung open, and the descent downwards began.
“Move. Move. Move!” Crystal held the door, her hands on the trigger as she fired at the dog-sized rats that scampered towards them. The others bolted through the door, while Jones and Alexus stayed behind to help her if necessary.
Jones did a splendid job of keeping the medium-sized one back, while Alexus kicked away as many small ones as possible. The others filtered past them; Jones nodded at him, telling him to go. Alexus quickly went down the stairs as Crystal fired off a couple more rounds and let the door close with a shut. All eleven of them made it safely through. The long spiral downwards from the thirty-third floor was a long way down; they heard doors opening and the sound of Marcus shouting.
“Sam?” Marcus called out. His voice trailed upwards for us to hear.
“Marcus? What the hell, man? What are you doing here?”
Leaning over the side, Alexus saw Marcus shaking hands with a person he didn’t know, but he could tell that whoever it was wasn’t our enemy.
“Same thing as you are.”
“Are you going downstairs?” A young man with a bandana over his head asked.
“Yea,” Marcus replied.
“Good to see that you’re here with us, though what’s with the weapons?”
“You serious? I thought it was the normal drills that we were having.”
“Not this time. I’ll tell you as we get going.”
“That would be fine. I got Cherry, Sylvia, Jacob, and Terry here with me as well.”
“Let’s get going.”
Alexus heard the sound of movement below; the others held up for a moment, creating a line, started to move again.
“So, what’s exactly going on?” Sam asked. “I got this strange urge to go downstairs, and I’m not sure why.”
“Me too!” A girl’s voice called out. “I thought I went crazy.”
Marcus was silent. He didn’t say anything for a while. “I got the same pull, I’m not a hundred percent sure either, but we need to get downstairs to the basement. The answer to your question lies there.” He said cryptically.
Alexus had to wonder how much Marcus really knew about this whole situation; he was just a bit strange the whole time. He had a nagging feeling that Marcus knew more about what was going on than Crystal herself.
He couldn’t help but glance over his shoulder and look up at Crystal. She gave him back a questioning look and turned away like she didn’t want to answer. All he could do was sigh in defeat. There was no point in asking if she wasn’t even going to explain.
“You okay?” Jones asked from behind him.
“I get the feeling you got the same thought as I do. But, no, the better answer would be all of us.”
“That would be?”
“Just like the others, why are we going downstairs?”
“Apparently, Crystal here doesn’t want to talk.” Alexus put on her the spotlight, hoping that she would at least give them something about this whole ordeal. Unfortunately, Marcus wasn’t the type to give out answers from how closed lips he seemed about the whole thing.
“I have my reasons.”
“I think this would be a good time to explain to us why we all have the urge to go downstairs. It’s weird, I tell you. The air is thick with light blue energy, and my guess is that half of what’s causing this strange phenomenon.”
“Light blue energy?” Crystal asked, her interest piqued.
“Yea, the moment when Timothy started up Animus, the whole thing started. You all seem to partially have the unnatural pull and the glazed zombie eye look. It’s not bad with the five of you guys, but the others.” Alexus turned his gaze towards them as they were going down the stairs a lot more quickly than he had imagined. “It hit them pretty hard. Brian, who was afraid of the demon rats, completely changed 180 and was smacking away at the demons as if it wasn’t a big deal.”
“Isn’t that a good thing?” Crystal asked.
“I’m not so sure,” I replied. “Possibly.”
“Don’t worry too much about it. We’re almost downstairs to the first floor.”
Alexus was not pleased with Crystal’s answer. She was right; they were passing the third floor. They eventually made it down to the first floor. His legs were slightly tired from going down several stairs, but he felt fine. They passed the large number one sign, indicating that they had made it to the first floor, but they continued downwards.
Another five minutes went by until Alexus heard the door opening downstairs, telling them that the descent was finally over. He was getting tired of continually going down the stairs, although strangely, he didn’t hear a single complaint from the others.
When he made it to the bottom steps, he walked out through the door and came out into a long, dimly lit hallway. They continued forward, and what welcomed them wasn’t a normal underground passage. A couple of the guys stopped, blocking the path until they eventually moved, allowing him to see what the hold-up was about.
He came out into a very large open space when he took that step through the end of the passageway. He walked over towards the rail and looked down.
“Woah,” Jones spoke in complete disbelief.
“Woah is right,” Alexus replied. What was before he was extraordinary.
A giant mechanical dome-shaped contraption was present below them. Alexus had never seen futuristic machines were moving and cranking to life like clockwork. Actual light blue lights were present inside the machine, illuminating the interior through the thick black walls. He thought he saw some kind of bed-like pods inside the room, but he couldn’t quite tell.
In the very center of the dome was a strange spiral-like contraption, where the majority of the blue lights were present. It flickered from light blue to dark blue, and the energy followed along with the machine. They were people already present on the bottom floor, where they congregated in one spot, just standing there confused.
“Is that the Animus Progression?” Alexus couldn’t help but ask Crystal.
“That is the Garden. We need to go.” Crystal walked past him; she started to descend down more stairs. He was getting tired of going down more stairs. He thought the one they came down was enough, but it didn’t seem like it either.
“What kind of messed-up place did you bring us to?” Alexus gaped in complete disbelief.
“It’s not messed up. On the contrary, it’s our salvation.”
“You heard the lady.” Jones pushed away from the rail and followed after her.
Alexus followed. The closer they got to the dome-shaped machine, the more powerful the energy felt around it. The urge to get closer was a lot stronger, making the pull a bit mind-numbing.
Marcus and Crystal pushed through the large dense crowds. His guess was that there were at least over fifty people here in this large room, possibly even more. They were all waiting for something; Alexus just didn’t know what. Even he stood in the back, searching around for any possible solutions, but so far, nothing came to him. Finally, he gave up and went back towards the group.
Crystal made her way towards the computer with large monitors in front of the dome; she sat on the chair and went straight to work. Marcus went over towards the dome; his hand reached up and pulled down a lever to the side, causing the dome to spin into life.
An electric sound of power surged through, while white electricity sparked around, the floor under our feet started to hum and light up with white. People jumped backward in surprise, completely confused about what was going on.
The black dome started to have a strange humming sound; Alexus thought he could hear words. He tilted my head, trying to see if he was right, and the sound actually started to form into foreign words he didn’t understand.
“Is that Latin?” A girl’s voice called out in the group of people.
“Are you sure?” One of her friends asked.
“I think so.”
“What do you hear?”
“I’m not quite sure….it’s garbled up, but….it sounds close to a scripture?”
People started to mumble with each other, their voices filled with confusion and worry.
What happened next made most of them stare at the dome with even more interest. Strange symbols and words started to appear in white, all around the dome. Then, a door cracked open, gusts of wind pushed outwards with smoke following close behind.
Suddenly, the dome formed a number in bold letters on its wall. The number one, followed by a full name, Terran Carte, and his picture. An older man in his forties reminded me of a gentleman. His curly mustache and clean face stared out into the crowds.
People stepped away from Terran, his eyes glazed over; he then started to walk towards the door without stopping. The moment he entered through the door, the second number and picture appeared.
Numbers went upwards in numerical order, but they were times when a few numbers were jumped over and went towards the next. Alexus felt that the numbers were only counting the people present here at the moment. He wasn’t sure how it was doing that. His best guess was possibly they were chipped or something. That was the only answer that came to his mind.
Marcus, Jones, and Timothy surrounded Crystal. Their voices became loud as they talked among themselves in a serious conversation.
“I kept you guys near the end of the countdown.” Crystal replied. “We’re all going in last.”
“Wait, why?” Jones replied, not liking the thought of going last. “What do you mean going in last?” He wasn’t too thrilled about what he heard.
“We’ll be protecting them,” Marcus replied. “We’re the only ones with weapons as of this moment, and until all ninety-nine of the others is here, we’re back up.”
“Are you serious?” Timothy frowned. From his voice, he could tell that the thought of being last didn’t sit too well with him, just like with Jones.
Even though Alexus didn’t like the thought of going last, but the way things were, they were the rare few that were still sane of mind. The closer people got towards the Garden, the stronger the pull was, and Sam, who was talking with Marcus, was already zoned out like the rest.
“How many of us are even down here?” Timothy asked.
“Seventy-five,” said Crystal.
“We’re twenty-four short. Where are the rest of them?”
“Four is coming through the door now. Three are on the fifty-fifth floor, a large group of fifteen is on the eighteenth floor, one is on the fifteenth floor, three are on the seventh floor, and another three are on the third floor.”
“They’re all alive? I’m surprised half of them didn’t get tangled up with that crazy demon.”
“Yea. All vital signs are green, though….”
“You’re worried about the three on the fifty-fifth floor, aren’t you,” Marcus replied.
Alexus saw her pull up the screen with the three on the fifty-fifth floor and the screens to the other floor. The numbers 24, 77, and 35 were present with their profile pictures. They were two young girls and a young man. The number 77 was the young man who looked in his teens.
“We got the crazy girl and the boy Myth type demons in between them.” Crystal bit her lips, not liking where this was going.
“Yes, but it seems Simon is with a group of fifteen people. I’ll meet up with him and grab the three.” Marcus rummaged through the drawers of the desk. He pulled out a walkie-talkie and handed it to her. “Do you think you can patch me up with Simon?”
“Move, woman. That’s my area of expertise.” Timothy said with a snort.
Crystal glared, but she didn’t say anything. Timothy hopped over onto her seat, cracked his knuckles, and went straight to work. His fingers blazed through the computer like one of the master musicians.
“Don’t mess with the Animus project, or I’m going to drive my fist into your face.”
Timothy stopped for a moment; he glared at her, not liking how she just threatened him. “Pft, like hell I would.”
“Lies.” Jones curtly replied right behind Crystal’s words. Timothy rolled his eyes, annoyed at Jones’ interjection. He dived back into what he was doing. Again, a blaze of blue energy condensed around him; this time, it was a lot stronger than I had ever seen before. I’m not sure if it was the machine that was powering him up, or they were just too much-circulating energy, but he looked like he was literally on fire.
“Done,” Timothy replied not even twenty seconds later. All of us had different expressions as they stared at him. One was in amazement, the other in disbelief or another in another in a knowing nod at how easily he just infiltrated into the system. “I got the coms working on the twenty floors where Simon is. Do you have something you want to say?”
“Yea, tell him it’s me. I want him to stay there and wait for me.”
“Got it.” Timothy typed up command, and a mechanical voice spoke through the com, causing Simon to stop.
Simon was a man that looked to be around in his twenties. He had long silver hair, was relatively lean, and had a model-like face. I could tell from the cameras that the people that followed him did it out of respect, even though he looked quite young.
“Tell him to let the others go; I only need him to stay.”
“Marcus, take these with you,” Crystal called out. She came over and handed him a couple of guns and more ammunition.
“Thanks.” He pockets them away. Marcus pushed away; he then started to go back to the same way we came from.
“Are you going to climb up the stairs?”
“No, are you kidding me? I’m taking the elevator; so far, the crazy little demon girl isn’t on it, so we’re fine.” Marcus waved his hand behind him. “Just give me the location of other demons through the radio.”
Marcus disappeared quickly, leaving them behind. The number of people that went into the dome-shaped room was already past twenty. There were still quite a few left, making him feel a bit antsy about how slow this was going.
“Is this a good idea to let him go alone?” Alexus asked, a bit worried that he might not handle it by himself.
“Don’t worry about him,” replied Timothy. He waved his hand in front of him with an indifferent tone. “He likes terminators; he doesn’t go down easy.”
“You got that right.” Jones nodded his head. These were rare times that Marcus ever agreed with Timothy, meaning that what Timothy said had some merit behind it. “I’ve seen Marcus fight, and it’s not pretty.” He whistled.
“I see,” Alexus said, thinking about what he had said. For one thing, he knew he wasn’t going to be much of a help with anything if he went with Marcus; he was a pro, while he wasn’t.
Another group of four came through just like Crystal had said; the group of fifteen, now down to fourteen, were making their way downwards. Time went by slowly, with all of them watching the monitors, occasionally checking to see what floors were infested with monsters and where Marcus, Simon, and the ones they were going to help were.
Alexus specifically watched for the boy and girl demon. They were each walking through each door, killing anyone in sight. She somehow got her toys to unlock the doors and come in without much trouble. The majority of them were scientists that were hidden away behind locked doors.
“Oh, shit.” Jones cried out while he was looking at the same thing Alexus was. They both gasped from shock at the sheer power the little boy and girl had. Their attacks were merciless, killing their opponents as if they were nothing. Bullet holes, large gaping wounds, flesh blew up, or even shredded by dogs were happening quite often. On one of the screens was the boy. He had one of the scientists up in the air, dangling with nothing supporting him and gasping for a breath.
The boy raised his hand and slowly made it into a fist, causing the energy that only Alexus could see to tighten around the neck. A silent scream came out of the scientist’s mouth, and he went completely limp. What he saw next terrified him. They all saw it, the energy around the scientist actually seemed to come into physical form, and his soul was ripped out of his body and flew towards the boy’s face, disappearing through the rucksack, leaving nothing behind. It was like watching a horror film live in front of their eyes.
Alexus’s heart was nervously palpitating in horror at what was happening through the screen. It just felt surreal, almost fake, but he knew that wasn’t the case.
“Oh, shit is right,” Alexus replied. The screen flickered and went black. “Tim, you think you got another camera where that kid is?”
“Looking into it now.” Timothy flipped through the channels and found another.
The boy was walking out in the hallway on the forty-fourth floor. Every time they got a visual on him, the cameras would temporarily flicker and go into static. Then, not even a minute later, the camera would go black, making it unable to function anymore.
“This is not good,” Timothy replied, his fingers typing fast.
“I’m not sure, but the cameras on the forty-fourth floor are going out one-by-one. So we won’t have any visuals at this rate.”
“He made contact with Simon.”
“And the three that they are looking for?”
“They made their way towards the Forty-sixth floor.”
“You need to warn them to stop moving and wait for Marcus on the fourth-fifth floor.”
“I’m already ahead of you.”
Crystal quickly raised up her walkie-talkie and radio in.“Come in, Marcus; we got trouble.”
“On the Forty-fourth floor, we have one of the Mythical type demons roaming around on the floor, taking out the cameras. They won’t be able to track him for too long. So you need to get to the Forty-fifth floor fast.”
“I’m on it.”
Everyone watched as Marcus and Simon made their way towards the elevator. They disappeared into it and clicked the button to the forty-fifth floor. The three Ouroboros made their way down to the fifty-fourth floor on the elevator, stepped out, and waited for Marcus and Simon. Eventually, they met up without much problem, and the breath that Alexus was unconsciously holding in was let out in relief.
“Cueball made contact.” Timothy smiled and snapped his finger. He leaned back onto the chair.
“It seems three more people arrived safely,” Jones replied, giving them a heads up of the Ouroboros who had made it here. “The other three will be here shortly, while the large group might take some time. A good half of them are coming down from the elevators, and the others are taking the stairs.”
“Good. How many went inside the Garden.”
“It’s forty-seven now, becoming forty-eight,” said Jones, “though why is it only allowing one at a time?”
“That’s because it’s getting the pod ready. Each one of you guys has your own pods that need to be pulled out and get ready.”
“Get ready for what?”
“To protect you guys.”
“Protect us? I think getting out of this place should be our number one priority, but I don’t know why I have the urge to stay here?” Jones answered, completely confused.
“That’s because we need to stay here. This place is special.”
“You’re not making any sense.”
“You don’t need to understand completely, but the Garden is our temporary haven from the demon’s attack. Right now, leaving this building would kill all of us. So the Garden is our last line of defense of our sanctuary against the demons, and right now, it’s our last ray of hope.”
“I don’t know about this….”
“Trust me. This project was way ahead of its time.”
Jones was suddenly cut off by Timothy’s voice. “Guys. We got into trouble.”
Everyone turned in the direction towards where Timothy was pointing. Unfortunately, the girl demon they had a short tango was looking directly at them through one of the cameras on the fifteenth floor. He didn’t know when she got there, but her head tilted back and forth, giving him a very creepy vibe.
“Which floor is Marcus and the rest?” Crystal quickly asked.
“They’re on the thirty floors, making their way down.”
“And the boy?”
“Following closely behind.”
“What do you mean?”
“He’s taking the other elevator, and it’s pressed to number one. So everywhere he goes, the camera goes out.”
They all tensed, knowing full well that was a bad sign.
“Shit,” Jones spoke in a half-whisper. Shit was right, something bad was happening, and it was gunning after them quickly.