Factory 9: Part Five

Raphael reached into his backpack and grabbed a small, black slingshot, which was frayed along its nylon band. He crouched onto the floor and rummaged for a few rocks. Thanks to the apocalypse, he was constantly surrounded by random piles of rubble. Before Tin One could even attempt to help him, Raphael stood up and jiggled a few fragments around in his hands. They clicked together eagerly, as if they were aware of their mission.

Raphael smiled slightly.

A memory popped-up about skipping stones with his dad on a lake shore years ago. Seeing the old green world, even in a haze-edged memory, made Raphael want to cry. 

Without another thought, he fired both pieces into the dark cafeteria ahead of them. He aimed for the back wall, opposite of their hallway. The dots of debris crashed, clanged, and echoed against the gloom. Raphael sunk down into a crouch and pushed himself against the hallway wall. His shotgun was back in his right hand. Tin One hadn’t even noticed him switch it. 

“Hide you fool!” Raphael hissed at the robot, who quickly backed further into the corridor, away from the doorway. He grazed a ceiling tile in his haste, dropping clouds of black mold onto its frame. 

At first, nothing seemed to change in their environment. The thunder outside continued. The trickles of water through gaps in the roof thrummed against random surfaces and the floor. The wind shook the foundation in repetitive howls and aches.

Then, they heard them. 

It started as a light hammering sound, but the closer it got the more it intensified. Something was smashing its limbs into whatever mass it could find. Walls, ceilings, doors, pillars, anything with enough structural integrity to give the factory a good vibration was banged against. Tin One didn’t like the sound and drifted further into the hallway. It was programmed to experience fear and to be cautious. Both reactions were happening concurrently, which made it feel overwhelmed.

“They, the Phantoms, do this to intimidate people into moving before they appear. Just hold steady and I’ll tell you when to run,” Raphael whispered. Something clanged in the mess hall, a pair of shadows suddenly hung over the ground. They jolted with each step, as if they were actively resisting the natural and smooth movements in their bodies. They were tall, wide, and sharp. Their bodies were covered by some sort of camouflage, Kevlar fabric, which was ripped around their shoulders and elbows. Behind their dark cloaks were glowing lines of metal, but Raphael couldn’t make out any specific details.

Whenever the Phantoms moved there was a wrenching sound, like the material supporting their bodies was stiff and squealing. The old security robots were an eternally out-of-tune violin. 

After a few minutes, the Phantoms were against the opposite wall where Raphael had aimed his slingshot. 

“Okay, follow me,” Raphael said, pointing across the room to the stairs. He crawled on his knees, between cracked plaster and cement. Tin One followed noiselessly, bent over to minimize its shape. They reached the stairwell in just a few seconds. The door was ripped off its hinges. Raphael clicked a round dial on his wrist and a flashlight beamed across the steps from the top of his hand. Raphael scampered down them, followed by Tin One. The robot hadn’t walked on steps before. The sensation of going downwards was new and awkward. The first few tries were shaky and a little loud, but Raphael didn’t say anything as the steam from his gears was released.

The human must’ve finally understood how everything was original to the long sleeping machine. 

They traveled down four flights, until they came to a basement door that was closed. Raphael slowly opened it while keeping the white beam in front of him. The boy was a living searchlight. Cockroaches, centipedes, and other insects scattered in every direction as they entered the hallway.

Raphael shook his head and sighed.

“Wait until you see their big brothers and sisters,” he whispered in the dark.

Thank you for reading Part Five of Factory 9. Please visit the story’s main page here to read previous entries.

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