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ValenCrimes Day

Picture of an eerie concrete bunker tunnel with yellow and black hazard bars at the bottom. Text reads "Tales from the Bunker: Valencrimes Day"Tales from the Bunker: Valencrimes Day

Written by Spymaster General Danov Valravn

Holidays in the Bunker are not always a time of unbridled joy. Just like anywhere else we have our issues. There are fallings out, some soldiers get gifts that are boring, useless or just plain dangerous and there is always the threat of another feast prepared by The HotDogMan. We still haven’t quite got the smell of steamed meat and brine out of the mess hall….
One year in particular sticks in memory. The year some bright spark let Fiend Computer watch some of those seasonal horror movies. What would follow will forever be known as: “The Holiday of Ironic Death Traps” or “Valencrimes Day”.

It all started subtly. It was early February and the Soldiers and assorted rodents that celebrated Valentines Day were making their preparations. Everybody seemed pretty chill and the anti valentine soldiers had their exclusion zone set up well ahead of time. Then the instant messages started arriving.
A few messages sent with subject lines like “we need to talk” or “I have always wanted to tell you this”. These would then lead the recipients to abandoned and dangerous areas of the bunker. While it was troublesome, nobody got hurt. A detail we would only notice later was that all the locations for these clandestine meetings had working security cameras, a rarity on the abandoned floors.

While the “get stood up, get lost” messages were happening we started getting reports of explosions in engineering. Glitterbombs had began exploding over soldiers crossing high gantries, little foil hearts blinding them and making it slippery underfoot. Witness reports indicate that they exploded while playing the trumpet sting from the Beatles’ “All you need is Love”.
Response bots and teams were beginning to get deicidedly overworked dealing with all these incidents, still with no idea from where they originated. The Incident Response Team were brought in to investigate.

Hours, then days went by with no more incidents. Everybody began to calm down slowly. Work on finding the source of the messages continued slowly, layers of encryption peeled away as areas of the network once thought dark were rediscovered.
The day before Valentines Day, everything went insane. The threats went from significantly dangerous to actively life threatening.

All of the confirmed single engineers were invited to a special party on floor 54127 in what they thought was a secret dance hall. A glitter ball had been set up and soft music was playing. Luckily, one of them cottoned on to 54127 being mainly industrial crushers. After a paniced evacuation to the strains of “Love is an Open Door” everybody escaped, though several lost their goggles, hard hats and gizmos.

We then found that ornamental cherubs had been placed throughout the Bunker, camoflaged within the normal decorations, and were now firing actual arrows at anybody who came within range. The entire nurse division were pinned down in the medical bay and the response teams were rapidly running out of uninjured soldiers.

In the end it was the brave soldiers of the catering teams who saved the day. If it hadn’t been for the experimental hot toffee cannons clogging the damned cherubs up, we’d have all been doomed to a short life as pincushions.

With the disabling of the cherubs, the investigation team managed to activate countermeasures to stop it happening again. Apparently one of the mad AI of the Robot Repair Hospital had become particularly evil. Fiend Computer insisted he was not to blame, but after a digital tribunal by a committee of his peers, he was into isolation in a Virtual Environment under the care of one Spymaster Danov Valravn. He has been assigned to him ever since.

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.

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 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

Tales From The Digital Bunker: The Salesman Part 1

The SalesmanThe Salesman

The greatest book about selling customers an alternative to their current electricity provider is “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu. Coincidentally enough it was also the greatest book about selling automobiles, mortgages, personal lines of credit, life insurance, and cupcakes. At least that’s what the Salesman’s mentor had told him. The Salesman kept a copy of the book in his briefcase along with copies of Jocko Willink’s “Extreme Ownership”, Gary Vaynerchuk’s “Crushing It!” and “Inky” by Inky Johnson. These were all sacred tomes for any would-be salesman and entrepreneur. At least that’s what the Salesman’s mentor told him through tobacco heavy breath.

“Listen, kid, these books here? These pages are bleeding magic! Anytime you’re feeling down or that you’re a failure, I want you to crack one of these books open.”

So far, the Salesman had made it halfway through each of them before deciding that he needed a break from all the uplifting positivity and motivation. One book extolled the virtue of not being afraid to fail, another told him to plan corrective action like a Navy SEAL, and another told him to rebound from his tragedies with optimism… and it was just beginning to be too much. He had found that each, while well-intentioned, weren’t really helping him with his current predicament. The Salesman had been walking door to door for weeks and so far no one wanted to talk to him about their current energy plan.

The Salesman’s feet hurt as he continued walking in his leather Monk Strap shoes and his tan suit was clinging to his body from sweat. The sun was hanging high above his head and the humidity this time of year was reminiscent of being inside an indoor swimming pool. So far that morning he had four doors slammed in his face, two threats of physical violence, and one lonely old woman who thought he was her son finally coming to visit her. While he still wasn’t able to convince the woman from changing her electric provider, at least his belly was now full of lemon tea and digestive biscuits.

A hot wind blew across the Salesman’s face which forced him to close his eyes as he felt sand get kicked up into it. When he opened his eyes, however, everything looked different from what it did a few moments ago. Where once the circular end of a cul-de-sac stood was now a vast, empty desert. The Salesman removed his brown fedora and wiped the sweat from his forehead with his jacket sleeve. He turned around to make sure he hadn’t taken some Bugs Bunny-esque wrong turn but the street he had been walking on had been replaced by the same desert.

“Where the heck am I?”

The whipping wind of the desert didn’t answer him. With little in the way of choice, the Salesman trudged on into the unknown with his motivational/inspirational literature filled briefcase. The Salesman stumbled and staggered through loose tan desert sand with a body that threatened to collapse under fatigue with each step. If he had thought the heat was oppressive before then the desert sun was an entirely different beast. He was sweating out all the moisture in his body and, if he didn’t find relief soon, the sun would cook him alive. He held his briefcase over his head to create at least a little shade to shield his face.

“Ah an offering to the Briefcase Gods… I can dig it.”

The Salesman turned his head to see a young man wearing a black and yellow military uniform in circular glasses looking back at him. What was even more alarming was the large hangar that was sitting behind the man. Where had that come from? Was that a mirage?

“So… what’cha doing?”

His arms fell to his sides as he stared in disbelief at the hangar and the man standing in front of it. The structure was massive from the outside… how on Earth had he not seen it? He recognized none of the markings on the man’s uniform. He also didn’t appear bothered by the heat in the heavy material of his uniform or the knit cap that sat on the back of his shaved head.

“I’m… uh… are you interested in switching your electricity provider?”

The Salesman wasn’t sure why he had jumped right into the sales pitch instead of asking something a little more sensible like “where the heck am I” or at least “do you have any water?” The young man in the military uniform cocked an eyebrow at the question as he robbed his chin.

“You know what… I am.”

“You do?”

“Yeah… the hamsters and I have not been seeing eye to eye lately. Follow me inside and I’ll see if any of the others are available to speak with you.”

“Others?”

The military man spun on his heels and walked through the sand dunes towards the base without answering. Ecstatic about his first interested customer, the Salesman practically tripped over himself as he rushed to follow behind. That hangar must use a lot of electricity. The Salesman felt his luck changing for the better.. But did he say something about hamsters? No matter. It would be nice to get out of the sun and maybe figure out how he ended up out here.

The closer they moved to the hangar the more impressive the structure became. A small rectangular outcrop stood out from the wall of the hangar. The young man pulled a yellow identification card from his wallet and tapped it against the rectangle which beeped in response. The Salesman saw a photo of the man accompanied by the words “Toy Soldier.” There was a hiss of pistons as the large hangar doors spread open.

“I’m Private Six, by the way. It’s very rude that you didn’t introduce yourself.”

“I’m sorry. I’ve been wandering out here in the desert for hours. My name is -”

“This looks like a desert to you? That’s fascinating.”

The Salesman’s brow furrowed. What did he mean by that? He followed Pvt Six into the structure with his briefcase in hand. The sight of an automaton looking right back at him immediately overwhelmed him. The metal being’s glowing red eyes locked with his which made his permanent toothy smile that much more creepy. Slowly, the robot turned and walked away leaving the Salesman terrified.

“What is this place?”

All around him, men and women were hard at work with various soldering irons and wrenches as they repaired robots similar to the one that just approached him. A giant piece of technology that looked like a server of some variety sat in the far wall of the large empty hangar next to a door that read “Admin.” The Salesman felt Pvt Six step beside him and put an arm on his shoulder.

“Welcome to the Digital Bunker. So… what were you selling again?”

 

Written by Private Six

Tales From The Digital Bunker: Fires in the Deep Part 1

Fires In The Deep 1Fires In The Deep 1

Re: The Unknown Basement; what everybody knows (or should know)

Deep below the bunker, beyond the known basements where laundries and storerooms bustled with activity, the trash collectors collected and the custodial services had their closets, beyond even the production facility of the hotdog man, lie the unknown basements, a forgotten network of tunnels, labs and workshops, long ago abandoned when the first of the Virtual Reality Generators melted down.

There are three VRG’s down in the depths of the bunker, all malfunctioning and spewing out virtual reality warping the space around them into hypothetical and often toxic terrains. Anything could happen down here. Direction, gravity, time and logic did not naturally behave according to the more commonly agreed upon rules for these physical forces.

When the first Virtual Reality Generator had come online, it had melted down almost immediately. They had bricked it up, jettisoned it into cyberspace and had started again, building a second, better one. When the second one malfunctioned they abandoned the project all together. The third one is commonly believed to be the first one, but 3.14 minutes in the future. As far as the space-time distortions were concerned, the last one is by far the most troublesome of the three.

The project had led to the Virtual Reality Stabilizer, the device which held the bunker together as it was at present. But this story isn’t about that device, but it is about those long lost tunnels, places where the laws of reality shrug their shoulders and just give up making sense until they could unload on their therapist’s couch.

The Toysoldier manual to the bunker (2016 ed. 2nd printing)

 

Chapter 1

The luminescent fungi bathed the hallway, barely recognizable as sub level eight, in an eerie maroon glow. Spores danced slow lazily pirouettes in the still and stagnant air.

Green-Glow-on-Moisture was tending to the spores, looking up from the arid soil that had been pushed through the tiles of the hallway during the great flood which had flooded the hall with a layer of 3 inches of water, nearly as high as the top of Green-Glow-on-Moisture’s cap.

He vaguely remembered the event himself, being only a sporeling himself at the time, but the songs of the elders recounted it often. Many of the colony had been lost to the flooding waters, but the sediment it had left been left behind had been fertile and the tribe had exploded.

Over the generations the moisture had evaporated leaving the soil desiccated. The spores overhead would soon descend onto the soil and drain it of the last of its waters as they sprouted into the newest members of the colony. When they were able it would be time to move, to seek more fertile pastures.

There was a disturbance in the air. That was how it started. Green-Glow-on-Moisture was instantly aware something was wrong. He was a seasoned sporeherder, 5 generations now had seeded under his care, and nothing like this had ever happened. The unexpected usually meant trouble. He quickly called the spores to him with the song of returning. Then the wind came, sudden and strong, it nearly blew him over.

On the wall some of the elders stirred in their immobility and one even awakened from the elder sleep for long enough to throw Green-Glow-on-Moisture a questioning look. He never saw it as he stared down the corridor from where the sudden wind had originated. He then saw the glow at the end of the tunnel, the glow that clawed closer and closer, raging like an angry beast in the throws of rabies.

Fire!

Quick as lightning Green-Glow-on-Moisture gathered up as many of the spores he could find and fled to the safety of the old disused rat hole the colony had grown around. It had gathered the survivors of the flood, he hoped it would provide equal safety against the raging fire streaking towards the colony. He waited as long as he could for others of the colony but as the fire stampeded closer, he was forced to lower the ceramic tile that functioned as an emergency door, closing off the entrance.

It had barely slipped into place as the fire roared past, ravenous and unstoppable. Green-Glow-on-Moisture heard the songs of death, the sonorous song of the smoking and igniting elders, stationary in the eldersleep, the wailing song of his fellow herders as they were consumed and the sad simple melodies of sporelings caught outside. When the song finally died he wept, singing the song of loss, his sobs overpowered by the roar of flame and the crisp snapping of burned ground cooling when it had past.

A few members of the colony had been able to get to the shelter and he saved several of the spores under his charge. There was enough to rebuild the colony. Soon the great trek would start, there was no time now to wait till the sporelings had germinated. There was most likely nothing left to germinate in but the ashes of the elders.

There was a rumbling at the other end of the tunnel. For a moment Green-Glow-on-Moisture feared it may have been the rat, or the descendents there off, that had returned to the lair as two black beady eyes towered over the few bedraggled survivors. Then the small stubby nose of a hamster became visible.

 

Great Big Turkey Leg was a great explorer, or so he called himself at least, of the Unknown Basements. A member of standing, or at least sitting up in a cute and vaguely anthropomorphic way, of the proud clans of the free hamsters, he had seen the fire and taken shelter himself in another part of the basements. He had tried to follow it and then stumbled, quite accidentally and, lucky for the survivors, only metaphorically, across the group of survivors.

A tiny mushroom-man (although they prefer Mushroom-person of Fungoid, but hamsters are unfortunately not know for their strict observance to political correctness) stepped forward and Great Big Turkey Leg sniffed it once or twice. The fungoid began it’s song (a curious way of communicating that consisted of certain scents that conjured images and their meaning directly to the brain and was called “the song” because it had a musical feel to it. In no shape, way or form had it anything to do with sound) and Great Big Turkey Leg immediately understood its meaning, it’s sorrow and it’s urgency.

The exchange only lasted a moment and Great big Turkey Leg knew what he had to do. This was not something the small inhabitants of the Unknown Basements could handle alone, they needed help and they needed him to go and get it. They needed the large one from above, the one in black and yellow head to foot, the one that called himself Dermut.

Great Big turkey leg ran like the wind, faster even, though the passages that only the wild hamsters know. He had to outrun a raging fire. He knew it could be done. If he moved smart and trusted his instinkt he could skirt the areas where time didn’t quite worked like it did upstairs, where sometimes it ran slower, sometimes faster and sometimes even backwards. He could make it. His little hamster muscles burned by with the strain of the run. Burned like the fire deep below that still raged onward.

Then he saw it, the end of the tunnel he was running through. The end shone with a cold white light, the light originating from the light tubes that were in the corridors above. He was so close. Whit a final boost of speed he ran out of the tunnel and barreled headlong into corridor 32b.

He had made it into the bunker.

 

To be continued.

 

Written by Capt’n Dermut

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