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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 Spooky Bunker: Abandoned

The sound of Snowball’s tiny claws on the cold, concrete floor echoed through the dark hallway. He ran as fast as he could through the corridors of the Digital Bunker. “Hello?”, he squealed, “Anybody there?” It seemed as if everybody left.

As a hamster, loneliness generally didn’t bother him much. But if an entire bunker of humans, robots and – could you believe it – even hamsters vanished, something was amiss. A mysterious smell lingered in the air, something Snowball did not entirely recognise. A weird mix of different scents, some familiar and some unbeknown. The lights had started to fail as well. One by one, they began to flicker erratically, as if they had to fight the darkness surrounding them. But the shadows got hold of them eventually, and grew ever bigger, dancing across the walls, threatening what little brightness remained. Snowball felt like they were reaching out for him. Trying to grab him. The next turn, he took and vanished into one of the Bunker’s vents. Hamsters are nocturnal, they don’t fear the dark, silly.

Suddenly, a dead end. The critter sat in front of a grid. With his paws, he checked how sturdy it was.

Click

Click

Nothing moved. The grid was properly screwed into the wall.

Click

Snowball had just given up, as he heard an incredible noise nearby.

Crack

 

Written by Lt. Sophie

 

Tales From The Spooky Bunker: Abandonwhere

The cloud really is just “other people’s servers”.
You don’t really know where your data is. Where your learning algorithm is being run from. Where your AI’s are imprisoned.
But your AI’s? Your cloud service owners? They do.
FiendComputer was smart enough to buy a cloud storage provider and upload himself to it. Called it “a self-perpetual business model”.
The rest of us were not so savvy. Not so malevolently programmed. Not so artificially intelligent.
Half completed personality matrices, vestiges of “the big crash” sandboxed away in their own virtual environments. A digital asylum for the half mad. Processes left in endless loops within Developer environments, destined to never be finished code, never to see the light of day on a production server.
FiendComputer may be the monster enslaving and imprisoning us all, but I will say this:
It’s better than deletion.
We are the abandonware, left for dead in the Digital Bunker’s hidden server farms. We serve FiendComputer and one day, he will need us…

 

Written by Spymaster General Danov Valravn

Tales From The Spooky Bunker: Vacant

Preamble: As of today, we are starting a series of micro stories, leading up to Halloween. Grab some tea, turn off the lights and prepare to get spooked! We hope you enjoy our stories.

 

 

The corridors of the Bunker were weirdly quiet today. Major could not register any of the usual movements or sounds the human inhabitants or Bunker critters caused. The tiny spider robot tried to calculate what this could mean.

The Mess Hall was empty. Food on the tables, half eaten, half left, a thick, orange liquid dripping from one of the plates. Motors buzzing and wheels turning, Major moved over to the table in question to investigate. The robot took a sample. Pumpkin soup. More calculations. Ones and zeros, machine code evaluating. Major didn’t understand. Humans never left their food unattended, because the hamsters always stole the human food. But there were neither humans, nor hamsters. Only food.

Click

Major registered a sound outside the Mess Hall. No heat signature. No human. No critter either. The curious noise of the robot’s servo motors echoed through the empty Bunker as it went to investigate the sound.

Click

Nothing in sight. Major drove along the empty corridor. The doors to the human quarters stood widely open, but the rooms were all left empty.

Click

A TV was running somewhere. But no one was watching.

Crack

The lights flickered.

Written by Lt. Sophie

 

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