Gabriel adjusted his goggles over his eyes and went next to the door.
“You hear anything out there?” He said to Tin One.
“Just the bystander. They must be nearby,” the robot replied.
“Just go find them. The sooner you go, the sooner you get back in here. I’m positive Tin One can protect you from the Phantoms at least for a few seconds,” Raphael said. He grabbed Gabriel’s shoulders and shifted him over to the handle of the door.
In one quick shove, both robot and boy were outside the freezer and standing in the darkness of the kitchen.
“Geez. I guess we’ll get going,” Gabriel said at the door.
“Hurry up.” Raphael mumbled through the metal.
“We just spent the last 15 minutes being terrified of the Phantoms, now you want me run around like it’s no big deal?” Gabriel hissed back.
“They’ll be on the other side of the factory right now, in the warehouse. They always go there after they patrol down here. You got nothing to worry about as long as you hurry,” Raphael said.
Gabriel sighed and looked around the kitchen. He touched the flashlight around his wrist. A beam of yellow broke the gloom. Everything looked so deserted and obsolete. Gabriel felt like an outsider. It reminded him of those old movies his father used to make them watch of submarines exploring the deepest oceans. Gabriel started walking between the tables and counters in small steps. He had a different bounce to his walk than Raphael. It was healthy and energetic.
Tin One wondered how sick Raphael actually was.
“Come on. Come on. Follow me, Tin One.” Gabriel said walking to the swinging doors. He was through them and into the hallway without looking back. The robot followed closely behind. They carefully walked down the hallway of darkness from before, where the stairwell was that Raphael had used. As they approached it, a large shape scuttled by. They stopped and Gabriel placed his hand on the robot’s chest .
“Got any lights on you to use?” He said.
“I have 42 different lights available to use,” Tin One said.
There was a hiss in the shadows. It seemed to rattle up the walls and surrounded them.
“Any one will do!” Gabriel shouted, hiding behind Tin One’s round body. A rectangular light bloomed out of his chest in a metallic thud, throwing a glowing red slab onto the corridor. For a blinding instant, they watched the lower portion of a centipede drag itself upwards into the ceiling tiles. It was massive, as tall as a large dog, with length to spare.
“That, that is one of the mutated insects you’ve been referring to?” Tin One asked. It was the first time it had repeated a word in disbelief since being awakened. It had a Turing Matrix, which made it adapt to human behavior. This was the first time it happened so naturally.
“Yeah, ha, and that isn’t even one of the big ones. There is one hanging out by the sewers we call Captain, because its head is so massive it looks like its wearing an army helmet.” Gabriel said.
“This happened when the Earthbound were killed?” Tin One said.
“Yeah, they were deadly simply by themselves, but once they died they made things even worse, which almost doesn’t seem possible.”
Gabriel started to gingerly walk down the hall.
“Keep that light on and that thing will stay away. Bugs might be bigger and scarier, but they still hate the light,” he said.
Dust fell out of the panels above them, like the insect had heard them and needed to let them know it was listening.
“Are you worried that the Phantoms might’ve already gotten the survivor?” Tin One said. He was following Gabriel towards the stairwell.
“No. I hope not. I mean, I don’t think so. We would’ve heard their screams. The Phantoms are exactly gentle when they grab you.”
They reached the stairway door. Even basic walking was difficult due to the sheer volume of wreckage hanging on every surface. It was constantly above, below, around, behind, and in front of them. Tin One was programmed to grab debris and bring it to the proper reciprocals, but he knew that currently this was an unimportant task. It would take beyond his lifetime to fulfill it in this wasteland, and he could survive for 300 years with replacement cores. The door opened slowly to the stairwell. It ached against the silent world like a bad dream. Gabriel grated his teeth when it moaned and pawed at his ears.
“I hate sound,” he said.
Thank you for reading Factory 9. If you need to get caught up on previous entries you can click here. See you next week!