“Hurry, they might’ve heard that,” he said, ushering Tin One up the stairs after him.
They hobbled up one flight and passed through a shattered doorway. There were dozens of deep scratches along the metal frame, as if someone had clawed at them. Tin One noticed them and stopped.
“Don’t ask,” Gabriel said, nodding his head into the darkness.
They were in some sort of lobby. In front of them was a large open room with a pair of square fountains sitting in the middle of the floor. They used to have water bubbling over them when the factory was working. They had plants and goldfish too, but now they were abandoned cesspools. Drifting atop them were bits of paper, plaster, and a variety of pinkish slimes.
Beyond these long-dead decorations were a set of elegant, winding glass stairs up to the next floor, like the grand entrance to a ballroom from a forgotten mansion. A few exit lights attached to doors against the walls on either side gleamed in red. Other than their glows, there were no real illumination besides the electric thrashing of the storms outside. Tin One still had his chest light turned on from the encounter with the centipede.
“You can turn that off, in this open of a space, we don’t want to be spotted.” Gabriel said. He wiggled the shotgun out from the backpack and snuck across the ground to the grand staircase. Tin One ambled over and crouched down beside him. Gabriel was shaking. The air was cold, damp, and if Tin One could smell it, rank with unending decay.
“What do you hear out there?” Gabriel asked.
Tin One increased the output to his internal microphones and sensors. Inside his round, yet somewhat flat head, a verdant radar line was thrown sideways throughout the room. A few beeps from the upstairs talked back, along with some below.
“The human being is up the stairs. The Phantoms are beneath us outside the facility. I believe they’re investigating the sound of the insect.” The machine said.
“Okay, let’s go,” Gabriel said. He scampered up the translucent steps in one quick spin. Tin One followed but stopped at the base of them. They were mostly crumbled. Whatever architect had built them hadn’t anticipated an Armageddon throwing this much extra weight on their bolts.
“Common, common, move,” Gabriel said. He waved at Tin One from the top of the stairs. He was nimble enough to jump piece to piece, avoiding the broken bits and holes.
“These will not support me. I will use my arms to grapple up.”
Tin One aimed both arms at the railing attached to the stairs twenty feet above him. There was a friendly beep, a hiss, and sudden pop of blue light around the machine’s brown wrists. His hands flew upwards in a whistling flare, and grabbed onto the railing. They were still attached to his body in long, blue strings of plastic energy. In a snap they retracted, launching Tin One in an effortless heave and flip. His body slightly thudded onto the floor as he landed. Gabriel wanted to panic over the noise, but it didn’t sound any louder than the random thunder from the outside.
“Well, that was pretty awesome.” Gabriel said, grinning ear to ear.
An orangish light flashed outside the building through a broken window just below the door to the lobby. The Phantoms patrolled the grounds around the factory. Gabriel actually didn’t mind that as much. There were plenty of nightmares trying to get inside their home on a daily basis. They were high-up enough to almost look down on the mechanical shadows as they inspected the empty parking lot.
“We don’t have long, can you pinpoint the sound?” Gabriel said. He rubbed his hands on the stock of the shotgun. It was right in from of him, but he wanted to make sure it was still there.
“My microphone indicates it is down this hall in the showroom,” Tin One said. He pointed further down the corridor they were standing outside. There was red carpet on the floor. It gleamed out from the debris like an open wound. When the factory still worked this area was considered the hall of fame. Along the wall were dozens of pictures of scientists, corporate professionals, and company executives.
Gabriel had no idea who any of them were, but he was certain the majority of them were dead.