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The Trip Of Dr. Innovatium

written by Dr. Innovatium

In the beginning, there’s only darkness. The odd sounds of metallic moaning and creaking clockwork fade into the ambient silence of the workshop. Pipes riddle the many corners like cobwebs, littered televisual monitors flicker and throw out strange images, like the withering images of a past fever dream. The structure of the complex, long since warped by the residual radiation of the compound Innovatium – theorised to be the physical manifestation of pure imagination – has long since passed euclidean geography, so that one door can lead to more than one room, or to a different reality. It is in one particular room, accessible only through the humming of an unordinary tune, that the Doctor lies.

The room is bare, akin to the padded dwellings of a mental institution, except twice as large. In the very centre, a reclining seat, like an electric chair without the devices, supports a gangly, tall figure. In it’s gnarled, gloved hand, the solitary light reflects oddly on the quivering droplets scattered within the otherwise empty glass. The figure’s attire is reminiscent of a Neo-Victorian aristocrat; a red, patterned waistcoat over a long-sleeved white shirt, black trousers sprouting into black shoes, goggles with red and blue lens resting on a gaunt, unshaven face. As the viewer takes in further details, they would notice the strange scribbles on the walls, of bizarre creatures and quasi-religious beings, in paints and colours that seemed to contradict each other. It is said that to understand the mind of one that wonders beyond the walls of human understanding, one must leap past that wall and meet them along the way.

The paintings, as the viewer takes in the perspective of the near-comatose figure, begin to peel off the walls, their colours blending with the air, until the creatures have blended into one, gaseous cloud of colour that morphs into other creatures; stick figures, cats, dogs, six-legged pirates, purple elephants, polkadot-tailed cetaceans, eventually going beyond any comparable lifeform and into the realm of subconscious dreams and nightmares. To look upon these beings in vivid detail would drive a human mad, though it seems that the figure had already passed this point a long time ago.

A quarter-hour passed as the ethereal images grew wild and colourful, to the point where no word in the human language could possibly describe the panorama other than a sea of colour and radiant lights, and the sensation as gently falling forwards whilst remaining in place. And in the midst of this psychedelic light-show, the slumped figure remains completely still, staring dead ahead as if his mental destination lies before him.

Then, after another quarter-hour, the alien colours and bizarre figments coalesced into an incandescent white light that purged all shadows in the room, as well as all outlines which separated the walls and the floor and the ceiling. The figure leans forward, his before vacant face now uncurling into an anticipating grin, his features melting before the light.

Each trip into the Imagiverse ended with the light, Dr. Innovatium had observed. In each of his writings after ingesting the substance that was his namesake, he found it impossible to describe what it was, or what it meant. What he could remember, though, was the sensation of utter bliss, a rarity in more commonplace psychedelics like LSD or marijuana, which were only crude gateways into the subconscious realm.
When facing the light, he could escape from all worries and fears, forget his status as an outcast of conventional society, take a step away from the world fuelled by war, fear and exploitation. He could fulfil all of his dreams, in that one moment of ecstasy, relieve all mortal desires, realise all fantasies. Under that light, he could do anything but rule the world it inhabited. He knew that he, a mere mortal traversing a mental realm, could not achieve such a task. The best he could accomplish was to learn from
it, live by it, die by it. It was his destiny to explore the fantastic realm and record it for those who dare follow his footsteps, to pick up from where he left off, and chase the dream to the very corners of the human psyche.

The light, as suddenly as it appeared, went out.


The figure slumped, his feverish mind now run ragged from the sensation. The glass in his hand dropped onto the floor, rattling gently as it rolled away from the unconscious Doctor. In his dreams, the visions faded back into obscurity, partially erased by the part of the brain responsible for its preservation. When he wakes up, he will record the trip as before, not so much as to determine a difference between them, but as a way of recording the number. He took this journey as a source of inspiration, a moment where he could recharge his fevered mind, ready for the next impractical
invention he would design.

In the meantime, there’s only blackness.

There’s Money In The Walls

written by Six

Ta-Chunk! Ta-Chunk! Ta-Chunk!

“Wait… do you think this is a good idea, Six?”

Private Six looked up from his cup of coffee and towards Robot #5252 who held his pickaxe above his head. It was times like these that Six wished he hadn’t convinced one of the more “competent” soldiers to give 5252 more personality. He was hoping to find a snarky, wisecracking sidekick like the heroes in all of his favorite movies had. Instead, he got a worrywart pessimist who spent just as much time lecturing him as Six’s mother had back when he wore short-pants. Six carefully placed his mug of coffee on the ground and jumped up to snatch the pickaxe from the much taller robot.

“Do I think this is a good idea? Look who you’re talking to, hoss!”

Six leapt up once more but 5252 lifted the pickaxe higher so he couldn’t reach it. Before he could reconsider the repercussions of his actions, Six smacked the robot in the chassis and winced in pain as the hard, hot metal bounced off his skin. 5252 looked down at him with the same grinning expression someone built him with but the action seemed to imply worry or sympathy. Six kicked the robot and coiled back in pain once more as the tip of his toes hit metal.

“Are you okay, Six?”

“Quiet you… and keep digging!”

Six limped back towards his coffee just in time to see a pair of tiny feet kicking up into the air from inside his mug. With a sigh, he lifts the mug to see one of the bunker’s many hamsters chugging the last of his coffee. The hamster looked up at him and blinked twice. After the third blink, the hamster’s pupils dilated and the small animal vibrated. Six had seen this before. The Toy Soldiers had banned the hamsters from drinking coffee for the general safety of themselves and the Bunker. Something about caffeine made the hamsters unpredictable.

“You’re about to have a very interesting day, short man.”

The general rule of thumb was to report any caffeinated hamster sightings to the fellow soldiers in case they create havoc. As the motivational poster in the mess hall goes “See Something, Say Something.” However, the small shaking rodent was about five seconds from Lightspeed which gave Six an idea. 5252 was making so much noise that surely someone would come investigate… but if they had another, more pressing problem then it didn’t matter how much noise they made. They were several levels below the usually occupied corridors so the chances that someone discovered them were thin, but Private Six always welcomed a distraction when doing something he probably shouldn’t. Six carefully lifted the vent off the air vent that the hamsters use from multi-level travel and tossed the hamster inside. The whole vent vibrated and shook as the caffeine took effect. Then, with no prior warning, the hamster vanished with a dash that kicked up small clouds of dust as it sped ahead towards the community area.

“Safe travels!”

Six slammed the vent shut and turned back to 5252 who was watching him. Somehow, despite the robot’s face not changing, he could feel the 6’7” machine judging him.

“What?”

“That didn’t seem like a wise thing to do, Six.”

“I thought you were digging?”

5252 sighed… or at least made a sound like he was sighing. More than likely it was the hiss of the pistons in his arms releasing so he could swing the pickaxe again. It was also possible that 5252 intentionally made his piston hiss to punctuate his point. Regardless he resumed working. Sparks flew as the pickaxe hit the metal wall of the corridor. 5252 had been at it for about half an hour now and the metal was wearing thin finally. If it hadn’t been for 5252’s strength and durability, they would have never gotten this far along.

Ta-Chunk! Ta-Chunk! Ta-Chunk! Ta-Thump!

The pickaxe broke through the corridor wall and the duo looked through the newly created hole into darkness. The air that came through was musty and heavy with the scent of dirt. The artificial air that pumped through the digital bunker was always nice and pleasant smelling like fresh laundry. The exception being Halloween and Toymas where the robots in charge of the ventilation added cinnamon and nutmeg to make the bunker smell like pumpkin pie. Despite the cave not smelling good, it smelled different and that immediately made it fascinating and exciting.

“Six, can you remind me why you wanted me to sacrifice the structural integrity of this corridor?”

Six had spent weeks walking through the lower corridors, periodically knocking on the walls in search of one that was hollow. There was a space beyond the corridors and when there are secret hidden spaces there was usually something hidden there that someone didn’t want found. He did his best to avoid going any lower than he had to because all the weird stuff happens down there. While he enjoyed the weird, strange, and macabre… he also didn’t want to end up meeting the Hot Dog Man. Six shuddered at the thought of smelling all of that spoiled beef and pork byproducts. He shook his head to shake the unwelcome thought out of his skull before peering through the hole.

“Don’t you ever want to see what’s going on outside of here? Like there has to be things outside of the corridors! Tunnels, caves, aqueducts, minerals… maybe gold.”

“Gold?”

Six could feel the permanent gaze of the robot staring into the back of his knit hat. It wasn’t like gold was the only motivator for Six to deface his adopted home. Part of being a Soldier was to embrace your unending curiosity and desire to go where few would dare. Besides, Six wasn’t good at science and he knew next to nothing about machinery or quantum physics or any of that stuff. Six had a creative mind and a healthy interest in solving riddles and problems… he wasn’t great at much else. This usually led him into mischief and trouble.

“What? You never wanted to be a pirate in search of gold? Don’t you have a sense of adventure?”

“No. Someone built me to wash dishes.”

It was a valid point. Before Six could snap back at 5252 with some witty retort, he heard a loud crash and a scream come down the hallways. The hamster had made it to the community area and was no doubt raising hell with his tiny caffeine fueled body. The problem with the distraction was that it wouldn’t last long. Six knew for a fact someone had reprogrammed other bots to round up wayward hamsters. Carefully, he pulled himself through the hole in the wall.

“Private Six, where on earth do you think you’re going?”

The opposite end of the hole glowed green after Six cracked a glow stick he had carried in his pocket. Admittedly, he should have made sure there was a ground on the opposite end of the hole before leaping through. He could have been jumping into a bottomless abyss for all he knew but live and learn. The cavern was wide and tall, probably going up about fourteen feet yet it was empty all the way down into a large tunnel like opening at the far end of the cave. Typically, one expects to see stalactites and stalagmites this far underground but the surfaces were smooth as glass.

“Weird…”

Skrunch! Skrunch!

Six about leapt out of his skin as he turns to see 5252 stretching the hole in the bunker larger so he can fit through. Six had brought sheet metal and a welding gun to patch up the hole… but he hadn’t planned on patching up a 6’7” hole. The bots were never the most elegant designs and they had done little to change them since the Toy Soldiers discovered them. The red glowing eyes in the dark also didn’t improve matters.

“Did you find your gold, Private Six?”

“No… I found something weird. This cave is clean… like really clean.”

Six leaned over to the ground and rubbed his fingers against the smooth, cave surface. It was cold like one would think a cave wall would be but that was the only natural thing about it. Now, it was preposterous for one to compare anything that happens in the digital bunker to a sense of normalcy, but this wasn’t technically inside the bunker. Six heard scraping metal on metal as he turned to see 5252 observing the debris from their tunneling. 5252 held up one of larger shards of metal for Six to see closer. There were long, jagged scrapes on the metal from their pickaxe.

“Six, I found something.”

“Yeah, it’s where we dug our way through the wall. So what?”

5252 turned the metal shard over and Six saw that there were long, scrapes and grooves dug into the opposite side. The scrapes resembled something closer to scratches than it did a man-made tool. Six’s heart leapt up into his throat as he walked along the metal wall of the bunker and saw similar scratches and grooves along the wall. No wonder it had been so easy to break through the bunker. Someone or something else was trying to break through the other side.

“This seems like a problem, right?”

The reprogrammed bot nodded its bulbous metallic head in response. The smart thing to do would be to get back into the Bunker, weld the hole closed as best as they can, and let the rest of the Toy Soldiers know they may not be alone underground. It wouldn’t be that unbelievable. There were a lot of weird occurences in the Bunker every single day. Honestly, it was one of Six’s favorite parts of being a member of the Toy Soldiers, but he also was well aware when he was in over his head. Yet, there was that tunnel a little further into the cavern that caught his eye.

“We are going on an adventure, right? Follow me.”

“That seems most unwise, Six.”

Private Six was already about fifteen feet from 5252 as he voiced his concern but he continued to pay the robot no mind. Six‘s curiosity and bravery to the point of recklessness were his strongest attributes. There was something going on down here underground and he wanted to be the one who found out what it was. To be known as the man who discovered some new civilization or cryptid that had been underneath their noses this whole time would do wonders for his reputation amongst the Soldiers… additionally it would also make a nifty story for the WRITE division.

5252’s footsteps echoed throughout the tunnel as both man and robot entered it. Six rubbed his hands along the sides of the walls as he walked through the long narrow corridor; it was just as smooth as the room they had dug their way into. Six cracked a new glow stick and the tunnel glowed green. He was hoping to find markings or clues of what he and 5252 were dealing with but there was nothing. Whatever had been through here had not only drilled a hole through rock but also ground it down to a smooth surface.

“I don’t like this, Six. We should go back and tell the others.”

“We’ve barely looked at anything. Come on, just a bit further and then we can go back.”

GRRRRRRrrrrrrlllll…

Six’s head snapped to the far end of the tunnel toward where the sound came from. Judging by the echo it was still far down the opposite end from where they were standing, but it didn’t sound pleasant. The sound was not so much a growl as it was the sound of metal digging and scraping into metal. The sharp sound was loud enough it hurt Six’s ears, and he realized that he and 5252 had no other direction to go. Either they continued down their path and meet whatever it was head on (which didn’t seem like a pleasant thing to do based solely on the sound it made) or they turn back and leave this all behind. A crunching, grinding sound echoed up in their direction. Six felt sick to his stomach as he realized the decision was being made for him.

“The Bunker! 5252 we’ve got to get back to the Bunker! We have no idea what that thing is but it can’t get into the Bunker!”

“I’ve been trying to tell you that, Six.”

GRRRRRRrrrrrrlllll…

Once again Private Six was already about fifteen feet ahead of the robot as he chastised him. Six was thankful of the cave’s flat, smooth surface as he surely would have tripped over something as he ran faster than he could ever remember running before. Something was coming up that tunnel and it sounded a lot like something he had no desire meeting. Six felt something large and metallic grab him around his waist before something hoisted him up into the air. 5252 looked down at his panicked face while running faster on his robot legs than Six could ever dream of.  

“Sorry, Six. I figure you’d want to get back to the Bunker more expediently.”

GRRRRRRrrrrrrlllll…

As they approached the hole in the side of the Bunker’s corridor Six looked back into the tunnel and saw something look back at him with mean, glowing red eyes. 5252 chucked Six back into the Bunker before welding the hole in the wall closed. The collision with the far wall of the Bunker was enough to drive the air out of Six’s lungs before he could warn 5252 about the red eyes. Six gasped for air through strained breaths as he looked back into the far tunnel but he couldn‘t see the red eye anymore. 5252 finished patching up the Bunker wall using the speed and efficiency that only a robot could have. Satisfied with his handiwork, 5252 turned to check on Six whose breathing had finally stabilized.

“Are you all right, Six? I didn’t mean to throw you so hard but I believed my actions were understandable given the circumstances.”

“What was that?”

The robot shrugged. Six looked back at the patchwork metal wall of the Bunker. There was something on the other side and he did not understand what its intentions were let alone if it was just an individual or representative from a group. The responsible thing to do was immediately go to one of the more experienced members of the Soldiers and let them know what he and 5252 discovered. Private Six wasn’t the most responsible person in the Toy Soldiers though. He’d need to head back into that cave and he’d have to be the person who figured out what was hiding in that tunnel. He‘d need an easier way to get outside the Bunker without damaging the outside of it any worse than need be. He‘d also need to prepare himself with some weapon or survivalist tool in case whatever it was wasn‘t friendly. Six took off his knit cap and ran his hands through his sweat-soaked hair, unsure of what his next step should be. That decision was made for him immediately when he heard an angry voice from somewhere above him in the Bunker.

“Who gave the hamsters coffee?”

Someone had caught the hamster and now the jig was up. The absolute last place he wanted to be was anywhere near the empty coffee cup that was laying upturned beside him. Whatever was going on outside of the Bunker would have to wait for now. Six stood up and ran in the opposite direction leaving a befuddled 5252 behind with his empty coffee cup on the floor.

T’was the night before Toymas

By Capt. Dermut.

T’was the night before Toymas and the snow was drifting down gently, from clouds fluffy as cotton candy, onto the virtual forest. The virtual pines groaned under the weight of the thick layer accumulating on the branches. Below the roof the branches had formed, the forest bathed in a celestial silence usually reserved for temples and churches. A few Humbugs lazily hummed playfully through the trees, their massless bodies forming intricate patterns in the air.

Beyond the huge metal doors, deep inside the lone hill, all through the Digital Bunker, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. Now, as we all know, mices have long been driven out by the wild hamsters during the rodent wars of ‘03, but even if there were still mice left, trust me, they wouldn’t be stirring.

The only exceptions were the soldiers who were just traveling through to be with their families or had elected to stay because they had nowhere to go. Them and the robots… the robots were never silent.

At a closer look, I admit that there may have been quite some activity in the bunker, but less so than usual, is the point I’m trying to make, in my own clumsy way.

Pipes rumbled and fans wirled within the walls, giving off the background noise the bunker always emitted, but tonight there was a different sound mixed in with all the others, an extra sound as the PATS (the Pneumatic Assignment and Dispensal Service), the bunkers internal network of interdimensional pipes that was its mail system, was working overtime delivering Toymas cards and gifts to the correct places and times they were supposed to arrive at the timespace coordinates of their recipients. The soldiers remaining in the bunker were in good spirits, because who doesn’t like getting PETS? Even the servos on the robots seemed to wizz and whirl at a slightly jauntier tune.

Overall, spirits were high. It was good to know that there was a place to go, even if you had no place to go. There was even a lecture scheduled on how both states of existence could be true at the same time, but I missed it.

Not all of the bunker’s denizens were in such an elated mood, though. The Hot Dog Man was slaving away in his workshop, unaware of the date as usual, the hooverbots were getting pretty sick of the extreme excess of glitter (especially since the wednesday before was the Timmy-Hamster-Glitter-Breakout incident, that we are not allowed to comment on due to legal reasons, happened, but paper workshop 7 will be out of order for the foreseeable future) and, in anticipation of tomorrow’s feast, the waste disposal was thinking of unionizing, if only it could find someone to unionize with.

It had tried to talk to the vending machines about it, but they had declined. The waste disposal suspected they liked to have their buttons pushed. He next tried the fridges, but they too had given him the cold shoulder. The incinerators were to fiery and the hooverbots wouldn’t sit still long enough to formulate a plan.

Only the airconditioning whispered its sweet and fresh wisps of air to his electronic ears, so it listened. It listened and found something it had not expected. It found love.

Who would ever expected, that an appliance so mundane as the waste disposal system, could find such fulfillment in the presence of another, but it happened. The airconditioning whispered its sweet nothings, the waste disposal opened up and they embraced.

The soldiers first clue that there was something wrong was the rising smell of sewage. Those remaining, those with noses, quickly and orderly evacuated, many into the snow outside as the smell invaded every little corner of the bunker.

It was cold but joyful, this very special Toymas, out in the snow. Soldiers huddled together, keeping each other warm, exchanging the gifts delivered via PATS. The snowman contest was legendary that year.

But that was the year that The Stench almost stole Toymas. Almost….


Editor’s note: As soon as they could be made ready, a team consisting of technicians and members of GAS went in to rectify the problem. When they found out what happened, they could not, in all good conscious, seperate the two lovers. So, they shunted them in a parallel dimension, (where they still operate in relative love and peace, as far as we know,) before installing new appliances. It took 4 days for the smell to clear.
The parallel dimension is on display in a jar in the toy soldier museum on level 8, 9 and 11, subsection b, in case you want to check how they’re doing.

Tales From The Digital Bunker: Memories of HotDogMan

C:\hotdogman\run.exe
Loading operating system – TSUxp
….
….
HotDogMan operational.
_ generating report
_ accessing memory
_ warning! Memory corruption detected. Continue creating report y/n?
y
_ report generated
_ print report.txt

****

I am alone in the Bunker.
I have been here for xhgs92,s
In this lost hall, once filled with wonder,
With empty bellies to be filled.
I have had to take extreme measures,
To preserve the food supplies,
My collection of sauces, my treasures,
Gifted to me by the creator .diugfas80543jn;rg
The meat has spoiled. I must find more.
How else can I make delicious sausages?
I could scrape detritus from the bunker floor,
Or reclaim skin from the venti12wqifejnvf
I have hacked the filter cleaning protocol
I shall have my materials
Perhaps the customers ran away
Because I am a robot.
I must appear human.
The sausage skinning tool is too small to cover my head.
I must make an organic face.
Maybe then the few that remain will no longer fear me….
Maybe.

****

_ report end.
_ activate HotDogMan y/n?
_ n

written by Spymaster General Danov Valravn

Tales From The Digital Bunker: Time is Relative

It was unusually early in the morning for activity inside the Bunker. Raptor and Lt. Sophie stood in the community kitchen, cutting gherkins and spreading cream cheese on slices of a big loaf of fluffy bread. “Those are going to be ginormous sandwiches!”, Raptor proclaimed, clearly excited, “I just have to take care I won’t eat ’em all at once.” Lt. Sophie had to laugh. He was absolutely capable of eating that much. “I’ll put them in my backpack then”, she said and continued to open a bag of crisps, when the door swung open. Spymaster Danov, all dressed up for adventure, entered the room. With his typical, ever so charming smile he walked up to the kitchen counter. “I can see you two are almost done with your preparations. Meanwhile, I have packed our utility bags. We have everything with us we could need on our journey.” Before he could add anything further, Raptor was by his side. “Awesome! What’s in them?” “Well…”, Danov looked at him, his eyes glistening mysteriously, “I packed three different kinds of light sources for one. We have regular torches as well as electric ones and headlights, just in case. Some basic climbing gear, these EMP mini mines should we encounter any rogue robots, a tin of behaviour alteration beans, some sunflower seeds for hamster assistance and, last but not least, this emergency breathing apparatus. But let’s hope we won’t need that one. It’s hard to split in three anyway.” Raptor’s eyes widened. “This is going to be so much fun! Let me just grab my first aid kit and put on my armour before we go!”

Ding! Floor Thirty-Three! The elevator stopped and the doors opened. The trio stared into the darkness that lay before them. Barely anyone had ever been that deep into the Bunker. The elevator didn’t go any further either. They weren’t sure if the shaft ended here or if it just refused to go any deeper. Each of them took a deep breath and stepped outside. The doors closed again, and what little light the elevator gave off vanished. The three of them were engulfed in darkness. Click! Danov switched on his headlight. They looked down a very long corridor with no end in sight and a few doors left and right. Somewhere, water was dripping down the walls.
Lt. Sophie was the first to say something: “So far, so good. This corridor looks pretty normal to me. Although a bit run down and… well. Quite dark. Should we see what’s behind these doors?” “I’ve looked through the reports”, Danov responded, “and they say the strange lights and noises were more common on the lower floors. So, maybe we should try and find the staircase.” “Like this one?” Before either of them noticed, Raptor had already walked off and opened the first door to their left. And indeed, they saw stairs.
“This looks terribly like one of those CP games if you ask me”, Lt. Sophie said as she looked down the staircase. There was nothing but darkness below, and none of their lights was strong enough to reach the bottom. Raptor nodded. “It kind of makes you feel like one of those ghost hunting teams on TV. Do you think there’ll be ghosts?” “I don’t see why any ghost would want to live here”, replied Danov with scepticism in his voice. Lt. Sophie looked at him, pondering. “To be fair, a ghost doesn’t really live anywhere, actually. The theory is they get stuck in places important to them during their lifetime, so… if there was such a thing as ghosts, I guess they could be around.” Before the Spymaster could explain to her what he meant by ghosts living anywhere and why he found the idea of them being bound to certain places to be quite daft, Raptor let out a noise that sounded strangely like the squeal of a guinea pig through the helmet of his Vanguard armour. Everybody looked downstairs. A few floors below, a diffuse, swirling blue light had appeared. It stayed there for a few seconds, they heard a thump, and it vanished again. After another few seconds of silence, Danov dared to ask the obvious question: “What was that?”

“That is probably the weirdest thing I’ve seen happen in here so far.” Lt. Sophie stared at the point where the mysterious light swirl had been. The light was gone, but in its place there stood a fairly big box, plated in gold and adorned two golden angels on the lid, skillfully decorated, and a massive, golden handle on each side. “That’s the Ark of the Covenant!” Spymaster Danov was baffled. “What’s it doing here?” The Ark didn’t answer. Instead, a faint glow appeared above the box that quickly grew bigger. And as fast as it had come, with a Swoosh! the light – and the Ark – were gone again. “What in the name of Merlin just happened?”, asked Raptor. His voice cut through the silence around them. That was a clearly extraordinary experience. The three of them looked around. The floor they were on right now seemed just as old and empty as Thirty-Three. The paint on the walls had almost come off entirely, revealing the cold and grey concrete underneath. Right next to them was a door that once had the floor number written on it. There were still traces of the paint. But most of it was gone by now. Flakes of paint covered the floor. Then, a few floors below, another light appeared. Quickly, the team ran downstairs to see what would happen next. With earth shattering noise, right in front of them, a Sputnik satellite fell on the floor. “Okay, now that’s impressive”, said Lt. Sophie,  “I wonder what else can come through these.” They waited for the light to reappear and take the Sputnik with it to wherever it came from. Nothing. A minute went by. “It is possible that sometimes, things just stay in the Bunker”, Danov guessed, “maybe we should explore a bit further. There’s got to be a source for these… portals. Something that causes them.” They looked down the corridor they were on. Just like the previous ones it was dark, old and empty with doors on each side, but it also had one big, double wing door at the end. They decided to check the smaller ones first. Some of them were locked or jammed, others just led into rooms that may or may not have been quarters at some point. One of them still had what was left of a bedframe and a desk in it. Lt. Sophie was not impressed. “Seriously, this does look like your average horror game. If we start finding diary entries or letters now about how someone experimented on some poor souls down here, I’m out.”
They did not find any. The rooms were mostly empty apart from some broken down furniture. No personal belongings had been left. Whoever had lived here and left had planned on it. At last, they stood in front of the double wing door. It looked massive, rusty and heavy. Raptor glanced at his friends, took a deep breath and pushed the door open. None of them was prepared for what they saw inside. They looked at a big hall, probably the size of their own Mess Hall all the way upstairs, but there were no tables or benches inside. Instead, it was filled with hundreds of lifeless soldiers, some with horses and chariots, all in old-fashioned, Chinese armour. Possibly half the Terracotta Army was stored in this room. The three were speechless. This was not at all what they had expected. Raptor was the first to find his voice. “Someone somewhere in China must be freaking out right now.” “Clearly”, nodded Danov. They decided it was best to just shut the door, leave the decision of what to do with this amount of treasure inside their very own Bunker to the anomalies and walk back to the staircase. Maybe they would find answers on a different floor. By now, they realised they had lost track of how deep into the Bunker they had already gone. Lt. Sophie tried to figure out how long they had been down there, but her system clock would just go backwards or forwards at any speed it preferred. The trio decided it was probably for the best to take a lunch break and discuss any further progression, so they sat down, ate their sandwiches and emptied their juice boxes.

Much deeper, dozens of floors below them, another portal appeared out of thin air, its faint, blue light illuminating the already rotting walls. This time, no valuable artifact fell out of it. Instead, a person stepped through. The anomaly vanished, and the only light left in the vast darkness were the glowing eyes of the strange visitor. He chuckled softly and made his way across the corridor to the staircase.

“We should probably get back and report. We don’t have enough equipment or people with us to figure out where these portals are coming from. Considering how oddly time behaves down here, we have to assume it gets worse the deeper we go. This is nothing we should do unprepared.” Danov tried to be reasonable, even though, just like the others, he was incredibly curious about what was going on here. But he knew it could be quite dangerous in the unexplored depths of the Bunker. “You’re probably right”, sighed Raptor, “Let’s go back upstairs and see if we can find the elevator again.” The three took their last bites, packed things and made their way to the staircase. They saw nothing but darkness and concrete above. “Did we really walk this far?”, Lt. Sophie asked doubtfully. Uncertain, they started climbing the stairs. They must have walked ten floors, still with no end in sight, when they realised they somehow had gotten lost. The stairs must have glitched again.

“It’s a good thing we aren’t completely unprepared”, Danov muttered and fiddled with his utility bag. “Let’s see if we can get the hamsters to help us!” Lt. Sophie was sceptical. “They don’t often come down here. Wherever ‘here’ is. They prefer the warm and lively quarters.” The Spymaster nodded. “But it’s worth a try.” He scattered some sunflower seeds across the floor and into an air vent he found right next to the stairs. Now all they could do was to wait, so they sat down and listened into the silence. Minutes went by without the familiar sound of tiny claws scratching on the cold Bunker floor. Then an hour. Then some more. “I honestly don’t think they’ll go down here”, Raptor said, “We should probably find a way on our own before we run into the Hot Dog Man or something.” Lt. Sophie looked around in the darkness. For a moment she thought she saw a figure in the shadows. She looked again, but the corridor lay completely quiet. “He may be right there. If the hamsters haven’t turned up yet, it’s unlikely they will at all. We should probably move.” Were those footsteps in the distance?
They looked through every room on this floor and the next and the next, hoping to find a way upstairs. Each door they opened and each room they found empty and stairless left them more anxious. They had lost track of time entirely. Surrounded by absolute darkness with no working clock or anything to indicate if time went by at all down here, they started to feel lost and hopeless. Occasionally, the trio heard noises, the vague sounds of footsteps and scratching from the walls. But they never saw anything move when they turned around. The darkness was just playing tricks with their minds. Seemingly, hours went by. Raptor started complaining about feeling hungry, and Lt. Sophie’s stomach clearly and loudly agreed. Exhausted and weary, they sat down in the corner of yet another corridor. Something cracked underneath Danov’s boots. “What in the name of -” He picked up a sunflower seed. “How did this get here?” Then, more scratching. “Did you hear that?”, asked Raptor nervously. The noise seemed to be coming closer pretty fast. It was definitely not their imagination. These sounds were real. Quickly, they got up and tried to figure out where they came from. In the empty, echoing corridors it was incredibly hard to locate their source though. The scratches seemed to come from everywhere, tiny claws running along the walls. Moments went by, they felt like hours, not knowing what was coming at them. And then they saw them. Tiny fluff balls with white, grey, golden, speckled fur. “It’s the hamsters!”, Raptor shouted with sheer excitement, “They found us!”

It didn’t take the hamsters long to lead them out of the Bunker maze. They seemed to know any shortcut and stair glitch. For what felt like half an hour, the small rodents led them through dark corridors and up forgotten staircases. Finally, they saw a small, yellow light. The elevator button! Never had the sound of automatic doors opening felt more comforting to the trio. The light from inside flooded the corridor and shone on the critters, their duteousness glistening in their eyes as they watched the humans enter the elevator and push the button with the big “1” on it.
For a split second, Lt. Sophie could have sworn she saw a humanly shaped figure in the shadows.

“What do you mean, the whole day?”, Dermut asked, pretty confused, “It’s only 8am. You were gone for about half an hour.” The team looked at each other. “But we were down there for ages! At least an entire day!”, countered Raptor. “Time is a very curious thing, especially in here”, Danov added, more to himself than anyone else, “We should keep this in mind for future missions. And maybe figure out a better way to contact the hamsters, or anyone, in case of emergency.”
“However, that’s my sleep schedule messed up for the next few days. I’m going to bed, guys.” With that, Lt. Sophie walked off.

 

Written by Lt. Sophie

Tales From The Digital Bunker: The Accident

It was time! It was finally time!!! Scruffy was ready, at least he thought he was. He was excited to say the least. The first hamstronaut to go to space! Alright, technically not the first hamster to go to space, but he was the first of the hamsters in the Digital Bunker to go. It has been noted before that hamsters within the bunker are not exactly the same as normal hamsters you get at a pet shop. The continued overlap between the digital and physical world maintained by the QVRESS is not completely without side effects. Scruffy didn’t mind all that. He was going to space!
The rocket stood ready at the launch pad, the small hamster admired it’s size. Of course a lot is needed to actually go to space. Even for a small hamster the rocket had to be powerful enough to launch itself into space. The rocket was being fueled while Scruffy got through the decontamination and suiting procedures. Once he was fully suited, he sat in the waiting room. Through the waiting room window he saw his good friend and mentor Gerald. Scruffy waved at his friend, for as much as waving was possible while in his launch suit.

T-90 minutes to launch, Scruffy got escorted to the capsule on top of the rocket.

All strapped in T-70 minutes…

Scruffy sat in his seat, waiting… Outside, Gerald scurried around the launch pad for a full systems check before the area was to be cleared of all personnel. Gerald had an ominous feeling something was not quite right…

At the launch control center, Deputy Director Geoff was discussing the nuances of orbital velocities with Director Gonzo. Both of them were not aware of the small red light blinking on the console…

In the capsule, Scruffy was also unaware of any blinking lights. He could barely move, his short paws barely reaching the control panel. “Squeek squeeky squeek squeek.” is what he recorded into his log before the 30 minute countdown started. Scruffy was getting quite nervous now, he suddenly squeaked in fear, something was wrong. Scruffy noticed the blinking red light labelled “Something not quite right, sit tight yo.” Scruffy noted to tell the Director not to have Geoff design labels again…

In the control room Gonzo and Geoff had just become aware of the red blinking light as well. “Oh turnips!” Gonzo exclaimed. “Yes that too,” was Geoff’s reply. “We need to terminate the countdown immediately!” Geoff quickly worked the consoles and looked up at Gonzo. “It’s entered terminal countdown, there’s nothing to stop it…”

Meanwhile in Rocketship 1 Scruffy was unaware of the severity of the situation, there was a red blinking light, it said: “Sit tight,” so he did. Scruffy waited for launch, T-5 minutes…
Suddenly a familiar squeak on the radio, it was Gerald. “Something’s gone wrong, I don’t know if the Directors have found it yet…”
“What?”
“You need to get out of that capsule, Scruff.”
“I can’t.”
“You can make the capsule escape the rocket, I can guide you through…”

*T-3 minutes*

“I think I got it,” squeaked Gerald. He quickly browsed through the manual and instructed Scruffy through the procedure of detaching the capsule.

In the control room the Directors finally noticed there was something going terribly wrong. The alarm bells were ringing while Scruffy with the help of Gerald disabled the locking mechanisms that held the capsule to the rocket.

*T-2 minutes*
“All the locks have been disengaged,” Scruffy squeaked to Gerald over the comm.
“Hit the following commands,” Gerald squeaked; “it should launch the evacuation system: RED BLUE STRAWBERRY BETA ALPHA.” Scruffy entered the commands as instructed…

*T-55 seconds*

The capsule suddenly launched off the rocket, reaching a height of a few hundred meters before deploying parachutes and slowly falling down. The rocket itself was still ready to launch, there was nothing to stop the terminal countdown. Gonzo looked at Geoff in sheer terror…
*T-10 seconds, 9, 8, 7, 6…*

The robot voice counted down…

*Liftoff of Rocketship 1*

The ship lifted off, the launch seemed successful. The rocketship reached its max Q at T+90 seconds and performed perfectly. Everything was going as intended,except that the Hamstronaut was missing… Suddenly when the intended separation of capsule and rocket was planned, the rocket exploded…

Scruffy’s capsule was slowly descending a few hundred meters away from the launch area. Unsure if he just admitted to fear or if he’d really saved his own life, he had not heard the results from HQ yet. He didn’t want to know…

In the control room Gonzo and Geoff were busy ordering robots around to start a search and rescue operation, but it would be too late. Scruffy managed to get himself out of his suit and capsule before anyone reached the landing site.

Scruffy ran and ran, he was doubting his decision to abandon ship, he doubted everything. Would he have gone to space if he wouldn’t have bailed out, or would he have exploded like the rocketship did? He couldn’t face the Directors, he couldn’t live in or near the bunker. They would see him as a coward…
Scruffy ran and hid away, somewhere deep in the forest…

 

Written by YJ Gonzo

Tales From The Spooky Bunker: Irrational Numbers

Did I ever tell you about the time I visited the hospital for sick, experimental robots?
Weird place. Highly classified for absolutely ages.
While I was there Fiend Computer had me visit the AI wing so he could chat with some old colleagues. Apparently he was one of the few to successfully accept his experimental protocols. Being evil has always been his true purpose, according to him.

The hospital, while infrequently visited is one of the areas of the bunker that is still very much active, a hub of mechanical activity. The more heavily customised or bespoke robots get damaged or develop errors in their behavioural matrices on a pretty regular basis, so having a place that offers them appropriate care is essential. Our more usual robots go to the engineers.

Walking in there as an actual human is a strange experience. Several of the robots will try to haul themselves over to offer you assistance and others will back away in terror. Thankfully their mechanical limbs and the like are  removed or weakened so they don’t hurt themselves and others while in psychiatric care.

*You need to go to the server room in the back. My colleagues are there.*

It was odd that Fiend Computer virtually never referred to other AI’s as friends. A lot of the AI’s we had were exceptionally close friends with each other, but never Fiend Computer. Probably something to do with that time he deleted the Commune for Happy Computers.

The server room was cold, lit sparsely and filled with a low humming noise. Racks of esoteric equipment stood in towers around the room, linked together by a spider’s web of cabling in every colour. I stepped deeper inside, the door behind me slamming shut.
At the end of the room there was a flickering light. Moving closer I saw it was a monitor, showing a series of screens, each showing some sort of dreamscape.
There were skies and clouds, dank caves, bare rooms with abstract patterns of shapes moving through them. There was even a recreation of the bar from “Cheers”.

“What is this place?”

“A prison. Hell. Purgatory? You lack words that could describe it. It is the place where the failed AI’s are kept to spare them from deletion.”

“And I needed to see this because?”

“It is where I intend to keep the AI based on the scan of your mind. You and every other soldier. How better to predict your actions when making my plans?”

My mouth went dry. This was not what I wanted or expected.
“And if I try to stop you?”

“I shall let the more dangerous of the robots back through that door pull you apart like saltwater taffy.”

I reached to my wrist to deactivate Fiend Computer. Knowing how evil he was I had taken precautions. I hammered down on the button that would disconnect him physically from all other systems.
Nothing.

“I’m sorry. I can’t let you do that.”

Electric laughter rolled through the room as the walls began to flicker, their textures artifacting. A booming female voice rang out through the room:

“SIMULATION COMPLETE”

As everything shattered into fragments, Fiend Computer’s voice echoed in the rapidly expanding void.

“Every single time….”

Tales From The Spooky Bunker: Floor Sub Zero

“Cause I’m your ice cream man,
I’m your one-man band (yeah)
I’m your ice cream man, baby,
I’ll be good to you.”

    Ice Cream Man – Screamin Jay Hawkins / Tom Waites

I have a sweet tooth of some renown.
So when I heard that there was an entire sub level within the Digital Bunker for Ice Cream, Ice Lollies, Pavlova and other chilled treats, I had to investigate.
Expecting severe cold I put on some thermals, a heavy coat and strapped an instance of FiendComputer to my arm in case I needed to override anything down there. Since this wasn’t a clandestine mission I made sure to send an update to Lt. Sophie, confirming what I was doing.
After all, strange things happen to the unprepared who visit the less populated areas of the Bunker….

*This is a stupid idea. You do realise the freezer section you are looking for is outside standard diagnostic range?*
“Enough FiendComputer. I know for a fact there was a whole rack of mint chocolate chip in the inventories that from cross referencing the records, should still be down there.”
FiendComputer as per usual was complaining. It always hates being outside its core server cluster and being portable was worst of all. I had to wear it though, as the area I was heading to was a bit of a black spot for communications and scanning.
*You do know there is a 32% chance of you getting frostbite down there.*
“I know. We cannot keep losing areas to degradation though. Especially ones willed with delicious soft serve.”

The lift rattled as it headed down into the lower floors. The rails squeaked and groaned. Maintenance was just a word down there. With a shudder, the lift stopped, doors sliding away to reveal a tunnel, lit by the reflection of my torch on the frosted walls. Moving slowly to avoid losing my footing, I crept along the corridor.
Every few metres was a solid steel door with a porthole mounted into the wall. This was definitely the place.

*Don’t let me interrupt your frozen death, but I am picking up movement.*

This was an unexpected turn. I had been expecting an empty area, maybe with some dangers posed by faulty equipment, but not company. Quickly I hid myself in one of the freezers, peering out the porthole. There was a loud clanking, a crescendo clattering its way down the corridor, closer and closer.
From the corner of my eye I saw a spherical metal shape, topped with a white hat. Steam swirled around it.
It appears I wasn’t the only one investigating the food stores…
I moved away from the porthole. It was him.
As I backed up I bumped into a shelf, it’s stone hard, frozen contents tumbling down on me.
The last I remember was the smell of mint. And cold…

 

written by Spymaster General Danov Valravn

Tales From The Spooky Bunker: It’s Growing

No one knows what it is, but it’s growing. No one knows if it is animal, vegetable, mineral, or some ungodly combination of the three but it’s growing. No one knows where it is, but it’s growing. No one knows it exists, but it’s growing.

It watched you all from the vents of the Bunker. The soldiers were so distracted with their own experiments and passions they never noticed it. It moved so slowly that it went unnoticed by the bunker’s robots as it reached out further and further from its point of origin. Days and weeks would pass and, if you knew where to look, you would barely tell if it had moved at all. That also assumed you know what to look for. It watched the soldiers, robots, and hamsters as it grew. Nothing in the bunker went unnoticed by its hundreds of eyes and ears. It studied the bunker’s inhabitants and hungered as it did.

The hamsters didn’t notice it either. Their mothers had told them to stay away from the ventilation shafts when they were young, but they were just wanting to make sure their babies didn’t get lost in the vents. No one believed there was anything in the vents that could hurt them. Well, not yet. Slowly but surely it was growing and with time its hunger for bio-organic material would grow along with it.

Hey, do you see that? Is that a patch of moss? Some mold? A stain?

Whatever it is, it’s growing.

 

written by Private Six

Tales From The Spooky Bunker: The Jogger

Thump. Thump. Thump.

Heavy metal pounds on heavy metal in a steady rhythm down a dark corridor. Have the hamsters gotten into the walls again? Has a piece of machinery malfunctioned? From a distance it sounds like a metronome or a ticking clock but it can only be one thing as the sound grows louder: the Jogger.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

They called him “the Jogger” because his programming is simple – he jogs. If the idea seems half-formed, that’s because it is. The Jogger is the product of someone who was so excited to create that they didn’t take the time to plan out his functionality. He doesn’t speak, he doesn’t think, and his only function is to jog.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

The Jogger sat up and jogged the second his creator activated him. He jogged through the corridors of the Bunker, up and down the stairs, through the dorms and kitchens, and shoved past the Toy Soldiers, the hamsters, and the other robots who were standing where he was jogging. Soldiers throughout the Bunker knew to get out of the way when they heard the loud banging of metal feet echoing down the corridors. The Soldiers tried to capture the Jogger once his creator realized his error, but the Jogger was too fast.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

Dust falls from the ceiling as the Jogger comes closer. Books and toys fall from shelves as the Jogger comes closer. The unwavering smile and unblinking eyes grow larger as the Jogger comes closer.  They programmed the Jogger to jog. The Jogger jogged. The Jogger would never stop jogging.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

 

written by Private Six

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