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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: 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

The Toymas Spectacular – Danov Valravn

TSUzie was anxious.
Toymas was here and yet Danov and Amber had not made any preparations.

Danov was ranting and raging about the disappearance of the Hot Dog Man and Amber was once again lost in the throes of creation, forming some new masterpiece in the warren that was her workshop.

“Humans are just so easily diverted from what’s really important.” She muttered to herself. “But they can always be led back to what’s important with a little help.”

Reaching into her miniature toolkit, TSUzie began the long journey to the old telephone exchange. As the doll wandered down the halls she reached into a pocket to re-read her note from Malcolm, Hamster Earl of Love. The note was on pink paper, scented with lavender. The text was in a somewhat scrawled hand using red ink. Red for romance, TSUzie thought to herself, rolling her eyes. The note read:

Squeak Ee.
Squeak sniff twitch sniff twitch twitch. Eeee ee Squeak Squeaken.
Squeak.

“Flattery will get you everywhere Malcolm.” TSUzie laughed to herself.
As she headed deeper into the bunker the wires covering the wall fell into greater and greater disrepair, the copper showing through split and torn plastic. Walking past a set of footprints half covered in dust, TSUzie found herself following the sound of music to a large arched door, unlike the standard bulkheads.
Once inside she was standing in a forest of old fashioned radio microphones in what appeared to be a mouldering ballroom or concert hall.
At one end of the room stood a stage, where a group of rusty old robots were playing what appeared to be a muzak version of Huey Lewis and the News’ Power of Love. In front was the rustiest one of them all, trying desperately to gyrate its hips with a terrible grinding noise. Periodically it would raise a megaphone to its mouth and bellow, “THE ARMY OF TOY SOLDIERS THANKS YOU FOR YOUR PATIENCE. AN OPERATOR WILL BE WITH YOU SHORTLY. YOUR CALL IS IMPORTANT TO US!”

TSUzie climbed onto the stage, unnoticed by the band. Quickly she placed a small speaker on the floor, connected to an old mini disc player.
A female voice howled through the room, silencing the band immediately.
“You have reached the Army of Toy Soldiers. I am sorry but our telephone lines are currently down for maintenance. Please try again later.”

The rusted band leader looked down at TSUzie, the creaking monstrosity towering over the small plastic doll. Silence fell.

Realising that the robot would not be instigating the conversation, TSUzie began to speak. “You have been summoned by the denizens of the Bunker. There is to be a marvellous party, and where there is a marvellous party, there must be a house band. You have a gig.”
The band leader stood up straight before turning to the rest of his band. They remained still for a long time, the only sign of activity an occasional flash of their eyes or twitch of a finger…

TSUzie had come here seeking the most experienced musicians the bunker had to offer. Since the Hold Music Robots had been playing the same gig for years now, there was nobody more experienced than they. Sure they were rusted and needed cleaning, their instruments were horrifyingly out of tune from years of neglect and their catalogue of songs eerily dated, but that didn’t make them bad. After all, experience had to count for something….

After several minutes had passed with no further reaction from the musical automatons, TSUzie started to pick up her bag and get ready to leave. She sighed and was forcing open the door to the concert hall when suddenly the band turned towards her, their right hands held to their chests, their heads upturned slightly, as if staring into a beautiful future.

With the Absinthetic Orchestra and the Hold Music Band now on board there would be such music….

The preparations were now in place for the greatest Toymas ever!

****

It all started the with the ghosts.

The bunker was cold and quiet, the Soldiers all asleep, or lost in whatever creative endeavour or gaming marathon they were up to at this hour. Every screen in every room suddenly flickered to life, illuminated by the image of three glowing blue translucent figures. A deep and powerful voice rang out through the tannoy system, at a volume that shook the dust from the ageing speakers.

“We are the ghosts of Toymas Past, Future and Present. The denizens of the bunker have alerted us to your lack of festivities on this fine day. Your behaviour must be corrected.”

With this a series of sirens went off, the emergency lighting triggered and the bunker was thrown into a chaos of red and orange flashing lights, safety announcements and panicking soldiers.

“THE BUNKER IS NOW UNDER LOCKDOWN. PLEASE PROCEED CALMLY TO THE MAIN MESS HALL FOR EMERGENCY BRIEFING. ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US. MAKE YOUR TIME.”

****

The hamsters, dropbears and assorted robots could hear the commotion from their new “party central” in the main mess hall. The ghosts had been curiously easy to bring on side once they had explained what they wanted. It was a chance for the denizens of the bunker to show the Toy Soldiers what Toymas spirit and indeed spirits were all about. Timmy scampered back and forth, rallying the troops and making sure every team knew their role perfectly.

The mess hall was a sight to behold. There was a large tree in the corner, fashioned from plumbing pipes, those little pine tree air fresheners and a huge number of real pine cones they had sourced from somewhere. For decoration, CD’s hung from every branch, shattered, molded and clipped into a dazzling array of shapes and patterns. Finally, atop the tree perched TSUzie, resplendent in a black and yellow Georgian Gown, finished off with a pair of LE wired fairy wings, their neon glow every colour of the rainbow.

Around the walls were garlands of shredded tin foil decorated with red and white behaviour alteration beans. It seemed as though the bunker’s entire store of coloured LEDs had been wired to the walls, such was the radiant glow.

Along the far wall at a sturdy table a small army of robots were cooking batches of delicious cookies, stirring vast cauldrons of hot chocolate and serving up delicious seasonal hot dogs with cranberry. One robot had painted his head entirely red, with a jaunty little green cap, akin to an enormous ripe tomato. He stood before an enormous machine into which he fed tomatoes ceaselessly, steam rising from pressurised cooking vessels and safety release valves.

The smell of all of this was tremendous. It was an olfactory cornucopia of competing odours, wafting past each other on the warm currents of air from the food vats.
Finally, standing over them all at the head of the table was the Hot Dog Man, robot 9886, his little paper hat at a jaunty angle on his shining, greasy metal head.

Silent looked on in awe, one of the first to enter.

“Well radish my turnips!”

****

More Soldiers began filing in, assisted in part by the robots and ghosts herding them down the corridors. With their captive audience firmly in place, the band began to play.

On stage was a horde of robots, seemingly cobbled together from at least three different bands, wielding a variety of instruments of musical destruction. They played their way through an enthusiastic, if cacophonous rendition of “Silent Night”, the sheer irony of which was causing some of the older British Toy Soldiers to fall into mild seizures.

Dr. Malice, upon recognising fellow musicians in need of a steady hand at the baton, stormed to the stage and after a brief, yet heated, dialogue with the maestro, began to conduct the band himself. The robots, programmed to follow competent leadership more or less in kind, suddenly snapped to and what was once chaos found unity of tempo and rhythm, harmony emerging from the discordant mess of mere moments previous.

Weaving its way through the lighting Rig, Major filmed the performance, seeing the potential for a bootleg Toymas album, “Live from the Digital Bunker”. The other job of the little one was to disable the smoke alarms before the inevitable explosions began.

As some of the Toy Soldiers began to tap their feet to the beats and get into the groove, the drop bears struck. Falling from the ceiling, the deadly drop bears began cramming party hats onto the heads of the trapped toy soldiers, dropping crackers and little slips of paper with bizarre, unfunny jokes inside.

I say I say I say. My dog’s got no nose.

How does he smell?

Of lavender!

There was yelling from across the room as a couple of scouts were knocked aside by an enraged Dermut, desperate to catch Timmy, who was taunting him from the rafters.

It wasn’t long before the muffled boom of crackers being pulled began to fill the air, smoke and the stench of burnt uniform mingling with the smells of the food and drink. The party was truly underway. With Robot 345-TER tasked to wheel in the fireworks, flanked by armoured hamsters on either side and everybody equipped with their flame and impact resistant party hats, the grand finale would be sure to be a great success.

Looking down on the assembled Toy Soldiers and robots, the hamsters and drop bears, from their perches toasted each other from the tiny cups and could be heard to squeak.

Merry Toymas to us all! And to all a… Oh turnips! Duck and cover!

BOOM.

*****

EPILOGUE:

With that, the writer slumped over his keyboard, his pale face lit by the screen’s faint glow. Behind him stood eleven other writers, all wielding sturdy wooden paddles. One of the shorter ones, female from the vocal tone said, “It seems he is done. For his sake I hope this is up to standard.”
Dragging the now unconscious writer across the floor, they left him wrapped in a blanket in his bathroom, with a bathtub filled with coffee in the corner and a steel bucket filled with liquorice allsorts lying next to it.

It was to be a very merry Toymas indeed!

Why I am a Toy Soldier

Dec 2, 2015
0

Now, I could possibly answer this question with one sentence: To make a change. Or because the Toy Soldiers have become my family. Or because it is the one, big thing I always wanted to be part of. Or…

Ah well, apparently it is not as easy at it seemed. At least, there is not just one answer. And the reason why I joined back in 2012 is in fact different from why I stayed with TSU after all. A while ago I had a conversation with one of our admins, about what drives and motivates people to be part of TSU. He said that it often comes down to personal agendas. Everybody has their own goals, and sometimes you need a group such as TSU to achieve them. Of course, he won’t ever complain because it is all for a good cause, for a better world to live in for everyone. Personal agendas are a useful tool in this case. And it made me think about my own agenda. Why was I still part of the community?

I remembered why I joined. Back then, I felt lonely and had severe problems with depression and anxiety. I called in sick at least once a month due to this condition. At the same time, the thought of changing this world, my own world, into a brighter place was just really appealing. Those people were as weird as me. Idealistic in a way without taking themselves too seriously.

Now three years have passed, and I am still here. I have successfully fought a big part of my issues. I started to study. I have met the love of my life, incidentally through TSU… Nothing is perfect, but compared to where I started, right now, I am in a better state than ever. The initial cause to change my own little universe to the better has kind of been fulfilled. I could probably leave TSU behind, if I wanted to, and focus on my own plans. So, what does TSU mean to me, at this point? Why am I sticking around?

First of all, I’ve grown attached to the place and the people. I have been part of the forum, missions, projects, invasions… I even created* the Gaming Marathon, a rather big event I guess I can call my baby, and that is inseparable with either TSU or me. People know me by now. I am in our IRC channel daily, and have gained operator status. I take care of newbies and try to keep an eye on what gets posted in the forum. At some point, this becomes a part of you. TSU has become my big, weird family.

It also plays a significant role to me professionally. TSU gives me the freedom to explore, experiment and improve my work. I get to organise events, get in touch with the most awesome people and companies, and, most importantly, it lets me use my art and design work for a good cause. It allows me to do the things I love, and to prepare for my own career.

The biggest reason for me to stay though is happiness. The fulfillment, being part of this group, working towards a better future for the generations to come, making others smile… I would not trade it for any money in this world. This is irreplaceable.

What is your reason?

 

*It might be noted here that the Gaming Marathon as such was not initially my idea, but an event called Operation: Dig Deep by Engineer Airhead. I only took his idea and made the Marathon out of it. Airhead, as well as others, is still involved in the planning and preparation.

Lost and Found

Lost & Found

The lost and found office located on floor 5-B corridor 23 has been abandoned for a long time now. Back then, when there were tens of thousands of Toy Soldiers marching the halls it was a different story… So many people, so much mess. Lost pets, wallets, ID-cards – heck you can even find some people’s lost minds in there…

The robot stationed behind the counter has long run out of power, everything in the reception area is covered with a thin layer of dust. Behind the counter are two tables with some random clothing pieces; goggles in all forms and sizes and some non interesting goods. A small safe stands in the corner with wallets and valuables that people were likely to retrieve quickly, but the real interesting items are stored beyond a large blast resistant door…

The locking mechanism is in a severe state of decay, the old keypad is missing buttons and is very rusty. Beyond the door is a large hall filled with shelves all categorized and labelled with bar codes in alphanumeric order.

The section for computer parts contains a stash of missing nodes and a lot of old floppies, CD’s and USB-disks sized up to 256MB, old laptops and random [very] outdated computer parts.
A bit down the shelves is the radioactive section. It features a stack of tubes filled with an assortment of different nuclear materials: From plutonium to uranium, from astatine to promethium and radium. The glow alone could make any mad scientist happy enough to postpone their plans to use it for destruction [for a few minutes at least…]

Other sections include: Robotic parts, a library worth of books, musical instruments, cosplays and even a gear section completely ordered to size and type.

A shelf hidden away in a dark corner is labelled: “Human Resources.” On the shelf are a dozen of old mayo jars filled with nail-clippings, hairs and a few eyeballs. One of the jars looks empty but it’s label states: “Human Soul.”

With it’s door barred it seems unlikely anyone will ever glimpse all these treasures, and if possible return them to their original owners…

This story first appeared on Gonzo Enterprises

The Quiet Room

The Quiet Room

FOR ATTENTION OF SPYMASTER GENERAL VALRAVN –
RECORD TAKEN FROM SOLDIER MAGPIE DURING MISSION DEBRIEF
BEGIN PLAYBACK

*******

Sometimes we work a little too hard trying to fulfil our dreams. Sometimes things go wrong. Mistakes are made when preparing batches of behaviour alteration beans, somebody experiments with their own mind and something just snaps.
In the old days, they used to be sent to the quiet rooms for rehabilitation. These provided a calm space where their overheated brains could cool down, their exhausted bodies recuperate and some semblance of their functional (for whom among us is “normal”?) selves.

The quiet rooms have not been in use for some considerable time. The army has grown smaller, integrated more with the world outside of the bunker. We have lost so much. Some of us have formed teams to begin reclamation of bunker sections. Cleaning out and re-purposing the old areas. Taking back some of our past glories. I was one of them once.

In order to maintain our safety, scout robots go ahead of us. They are terrible for getting lost and/or destroyed but occasionally one reports an area worth sending a human team to investigate for compatibility.

Lucky me, it was my turn.

I had the usual kit bag of lights, NERF weaponry and tools for breaking/entering into sections that were locked or without power. The trip to the disused area itself was relatively uneventful, though the entrance to the bunker appearing in the Executive Washroom of the Mayor of Newcastle was somewhat challenging.

*******

BREAK IN RECORD – STORAGE MEDIA CORRUPTED
ATTEMPT RECOVERY
FINAL 10% OF RECORD SUCCESSFULLY RECOVERED
RESUME PLAYBACK

*******

The main foyer and corridor for the quiet rooms was sparse. There was little of the usual Toy Soldier decoration in here, just the robot logo on the main doors and again at the reception desk. From the room reference number my data feed pulled a file informing me that this was where the majority of the victims of Behaviour Alteration Bean batch #52 had been treated, their fractured minds pulled back together through the support and fellowship of the Nurses, Engineers and Soldiers that worked here.

I found an old tape deck. Flicking the play switch a disembodied voice echoed mournfully down the hall.

“I have seen the face of love herself. Her name is Kenneth. We must feed her sawdust or she will grow angry. Her kisses are like melted butterflies.”

I looked into the rooms. At some point the occupants had been decorating them. In one I see endless maps of tunnels.

Padded Cell

“The bunker is everywhere and nowhere. There must be a door to the utopia somewhere. Everywhere. Nowhere. Somewhere. Everywhere. Nowhere. Somewhere.”

Another room is sealed with fabric.

“The masters are clouds of nano-machines. Our leaders are lies! They are beyond even cybernetics! Ghosts in the machines! Machines that are ghosts! Don’t breathe the machine ghosts!”

The next room is full of what appear to be dreamcatchers, made from twisted together bedsprings and shreds of fabric.

“I dreamt that I awoke, awake inside the dream. Reality is passing through the holes in the nets. Don’t fall asleep! Don’t fall asleep! Nothing will catch you!”

The tape recorder clicked, having reached the end of the spool. The voices however, did not. The rooms begin calling to me. I feel strange, weak, in need of a rest. Finding one of the few undecorated rooms I closed the door and leaned against the padded wall, the only sound the padded cell the roar of the voices within my aching head. With shaking fingers I pulled the pen from my pocket and begin drawing ravens on the walls. My newfound audience applauded in rapture.

I guess I had been working too hard after all….

 

*******
DEEM RECLAMATION MISSION SUCCESSFUL Y/N?




RECLAMATION SUCCESSFUL

How they arrived

How They Arrived

Everyone remembers the day they dropped into our lives, quite literally. How that happened? Well let me explain.

We were on a mission, inspection and recovery of useful things in that abandoned science area of the bunker. Rumour had it that the reason we no longer played around with genetic enhancements was down to something that happened in these labs not all that long ago, but that itself is another story. Besides everyone knows what the Toy Soldiers views on ‘playing with the laws of nature, physics and gravity’ are (mainly that we ignore them).

Whatever trouble we get into due to that is all in the name of fun… and it helps we have a really good cleanup crew.

Most of the gear here was just left to accumulate dust but once a few engineers found out some of the specs during an inventory they insisted on scavenging parts. I went with them because if you thought a bunch of people capable of wiring circuit boards and coding stuff could read a basic map you’d be very wrong.

—-

After they had started geeking out about the various tech in the labs I explored the area myself. For a toy soldier lab it was pretty tidy but it was dark and dusty, the power to this area was long gone. I found a door with a label slightly worn away. From what I could make out, it read ‘enclosure’. I put my torch in my teeth and forced the door open.

To my surprise I found myself in a garden which had become overgrown due to neglect. There were flourishing trees, wild flowers growing everywhere amidst grass as tall as my waist and the sound of birds echoed throughout. I propped the door open to let light into the lab as I checked out the wilderness. There was a glass ceiling with holes in it for ventilation, also artificial sunlight and sprinkler systems which seemed to be on an automated weather cycle It was impressive to create a climate  Obviously this place had thrived after being forgotten.

One of the engineers entered the enclosure behind me and we began to take pictures. We had to show this to everyone back at HQ. As I took a photo of some of the weirder looking flowers I heard a growl then a yelp and a thud, whipping round I saw the strangest thing. A small bear with black fur and violet eyes was pinning the engineer, snarling. It had large forearms with three prominent claws.

The engineer was staring at it with fear in his eyes. “What is this thing?!”

“I have no idea… Stay still.” I warned the engineer. “Now easy…”

I inched carefully closer to the bear like creature and my fellow soldier, hands ready. The moment I was close enough I stooped and scooped the little beastie up. I was surprised at how heavy it was for something so small. The engineer scrambled to his feet.

I held the small ball of fur far from my face but kept a firm grip as it fidgeted in my grasp. “Oi… now behave!” I told it sharply. It made a weird mrrt sound and cocked his head at me, settling down slightly. Clearly we’d just startled it. It’s weight seemed to lessen, though I wasn’t sure how, as it calmed.

I smiled gently at it as I shifted to cradling it in my arms. I was sure it wouldn’t hurt me.

“There we are, you alright?” I was half asking both the creature and my companion.

When there was nothing but silence as an answer I looked at the engineer who had gone pale and was pointing behind me.

I heard another growl , straining to look over my shoulder I saw two more bear like creatures in the trees, one with pink fur and brown eyes and a fluffier red one with black eyes. I motioned with my free hand in a surrender mode. The one in my arm made a noise then squirmed out of my grip to sit on my head. Whatever it was communicating, it seemed to settle the others down.

I put the black furred leader down in a tree near to the others and began to search my pack. I had no idea what these things ate but judging by the fruit leftovers in this place I figured they weren’t strictly carnivores. I put down my snacks and sat on the ground to allow them to help themselves. I smiled wryly to the engineer but he still seemed worried.

“Hey is there anything about these little guys in the lab?” I asked. “Could you find it?”

I’d given the engineer an out and he took it. A little while later he returned with some folders pertaining to some creatures known as Drop Bears. It seemed they were based on an Australian legend/tourist trap when they were created. Sadly the koala genetics never really took hold but some creatures were created that had the capability to drop from great heights, jump to similar heights and take little to no damage. They could also alter their mass which meant they could go from being as light as a feather to weighing a tonne in a matter of seconds. It also turned out the scientist who had been experimenting on them had been the one involved in the incident which caused the shutdown of this particular science division and so they were forgotten about.

After reading it I sighed. “Trust a toy soldier not to send in their report.”

The ‘Drop Bears’ were currently making their way through my lunch at speed. It became plain that  there weren’t just three of these bears either, there was a fourth one. A small cub with pink and white panda like markings and pink eyes, but no claws and what looked like an infection on its hind leg. This one needed to see a nurse and soon.

Slowly I went into the med-pouch I kept on my belt, it gets more use than you’d believe, to find some swabs, disinfectant and bandages.

As carefully as I could I coaxed the little one closer with more food then gently petted it until some trust was established before I dared to pick it up and clean the cut. All of this under the watchful eyes of the red one who seemed to be it’s parent.

—–

Making an executive decision I located one of the trolleys we had brought down this way to carry back scavenged tech and put a blanket in it. The engineers groaned about having less places to put stuff but promptly got over it as they began playing tetris with the gear they’d taken. Meanwhile I put my new friends into the trolley with some more food. They really seemed to like the jam sandwiches and they seemed to trust me which helped.

On my way back I thought about how I was going to explain the bears to everyone else. Then again, this was the bunker. Explanations not really necessary.

The Mechanical Debacle – Prequel

Mechanical Debacle Prequel

*CLUNK* *CLUNK* .. *BLEEP* .. *CLUNK CLUNK*

Hamster King George looked up from his scavenging, pointing his ears in the direction the echoes seemed to originate from. George was curious, but generally careful when it came to things his little hamster brain didn’t understand. Even though hamsters in the bunker have quite a high tolerance for all kinds of radioactive materials, hearing loud clunks usually meant something heavy. And thus far the hamsters in the bunker have not developed heavy object proof bodies. This fact was sadly demonstrated during the first (and only) annual robot versus hamster speed run debacle; where hundreds of hamsters lost their lives to robot-foot coordination malfunctions…

George rather kept his small hamster body not flattened to the floor, and so he skidded up along some cable tracts towards the sound. Slowly the little hamster got closer, and could hear bleeping noises in various tones. Robots rarely bleep to themselves, it’s just one of the signs the robot in question has lacked regular orders. Like how that R2-D2 fellow kept bleeping to itself all the time, a tell-tale sign of robot boredom…

The hamster got closer and closer until he spotted the figure of a very badly damaged robot walking down the corridor. Random machine parts seemed to be attached to the robot that didn’t belong there. George was able to trace some of the bulkheads strapped on the bot with tie-wraps and duct-tape to corridors #82, #26 and #2578 respectively. The hamster frowned, no one’s ever been so deep down the corridors, as far as the files go. Many tunnels were blocked or are not accessible to larger (artificial) lifeforms. Some hamsters speak scary and daring tales of visiting corridor #1313 which is allegedly haunted, although George doesn’t really believe in that kind of stuff.

*CLUNK* … *BLEEP* … *GLITCH* … *OPERATION UNCLEAR* *BLEEP * … *CLUNK* *CLUNK*

The robot was clearly malfunctioning, lacking maintenance badly… George usually keeps away from the robots, unless it’s during work shifts when the hamsters and robots have to work together sometimes to keep the bunker up and running. But this was just a sad case, this robot needed help, and judging by  it’s current shape wasn’t going to survive for long.

The hamster waited for the robot to pause from its stumbling and made a calculated jump right onto the robot’s head. George inspected the clumsy repairs and concluded that the robot must’ve tried to repair itself after something had happened. It half-looked like an accident and half intentional. The hamster made it’s way to the robot’s audio sensors and squeaked: “This is King George of the Hamsters, you look damaged. I’m here to help in any way.”

The robot stopped making sounds and looked around fast, nearly slinging off George, who managed to grab on to the reaction last minute.

WHO? WHAT?
Are you another voice? Or are you real? Is it another glitch, or is this hamsterspeak?
[DOES NOT COMPUTE!]

“I’m a friend,” George said. “Please let me help you.”
The hamster climbed down from the head onto the arm of the robot. The robot observed the hamster carefully and stated: “You need upgrades.”
“No I do not!” Exclaimed the hamster, “now listen: You need maintenance!”
“∀GR∃∃D” The robot glitched.

The hamster led the robot through a maze of tunnels eventually ending in an abandoned robotics lab. Most of the equipment was stripped, this would have to do.

King George had to get a few of his hamster friends involved…

This story first appeared on Gonzo Enterprises

Abduction?

Abduction

Bright room. White, cannot move, cannot see. I hear movement.

[ FAILED TO ADJUST VISUAL RECEPTORS ]

Where am I, last thing I remember is walking through the halls, looking for… Was I looking for something?  I saw a human there, did he have something to do with my predicament?

[ MEMORY BLOCK 0x9F5A UNAVAILABLE ]

Nothing? There’s not even fragmented data? There is not even a memory block?

[ MEMORY BLOCK 0x9C5B UNAVAILABLE ]

I begin to panic, a sensation I have never encountered before, I think… Sensors indicate sporadic behaviour in my Main Processing Unit. Something approaches me, I see a few shadows moving in the brightness.

[ VISUAL RECEPTORS NOT RESPONDING ]

Shadows, they will have to do for my orientation… They come closer, I am starting to make out some details. Bipedal. Humans? Why? Some of them look quite not human. Fairly big heads, thinner arms and legs.

They start to access my manual controls…

*upload in progress…. please be patient….*

*upload complete.*

I don’t think they realise I am partially awake. I keep still and wait until the shadows leave. After they accessed a few other components I would like to keep private, they left…

*visual receptors adjusting*

I am back in the corridor where my memories failed me. How did I get back here? Where did I go?

I feel violated…

This story first appeared on Gonzo Enterprises

The Supply Run

Supply Run banner

Sergeant Dutch Barracuda stared at the calendar intensely. He couldn’t decide if he was trying to will it to be another date or if he was attempting to set it on fire with yet to be unlocked pyrokinetic abilities. Neither was working so he just sighed as he leant forward on his desk to press the COMM button.

“Attention to those of you not doing anything important. I know we’ve been putting it off but it’s time to do a supply run. I need a group of you to meet my by the transport trucks. Please leave all nerf…. actually leave all weapons behind and please for the love of toys don’t make this harder than it needs to be.”

——

Dutch hated running for supplies. Normally he refused but the last few times he didn’t go it had been so difficult that he resigned himself to the fact he was going to have to leave the bunker and deal with a truck load of Toy Soldiers in a large warehouse store.

They’d tried only sending two soldiers one time but then both of them had trouble carrying all the supplies to the truck; which were all wrong anyway considering the pair of them had just loaded up on crates of tea. In hindsight sending the Brigadier and JDUK as a team was a bad idea.

The next time they sent robots with a list but the mechanical mischief makers got lost in the stacks, prompting a rescue team. They still haven’t located one of them.

The last time had the entire team virtually unsupervised and they had ended up spending most of the supply money on booze and pizzas.

This time Dutch had a list, approved of by Commander JET herself, and was insistent that they would not stray from it.

——

Of course it didn’t take long before all of his hopes were a little bit more than dashed. When they finally got to the store (after arguing on a playlist and getting hopelessly lost on the road) the soldiers immediately scattered into the maze of shelves, calling out to each other occasionally about the deals and eventually some of them found the toy section.

The beleaguered Sergeant’s shoulders sagged, his brow creased and he could almost feel his hair turning white.  Deciding to just get on with it he grabbed a cart and started to hunt for what they actually needed on his own.

At one point he had to do a double-take. The missing robot’s photo was on the Employee of the month wall. The robot was waving to the camera and it seemed someone had given it an employee smock.

“Huh…” He considered asking the staff about that when he heard an almighty crash and a stream of shouts. Quickly he determined that it would be best to just round up his team and get out of there before anything caught on fire.

On the way back Dutch was rubbing his temples. This trip had seen two minor injuries, one fracture and at least one incident of damaged stock but it was nearly over and they’d managed to acquire most of what was on the list albeit with many variations. All in all it wasn’t too bad. At least until the truck ran out of gas suddenly. Everyone in the vehicle groaned.

Next time, Dutch decided, they were getting their supplies delivered.

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