TG Universes & Series:
A Whateley Academy Fanfiction
Welcome to Teslaville!: Out of Harm
by Matt Zenn
Lights danced before Harm's eyes. Blue, yellow, white they jumped about at random and made him feel sick. He tried to close his eyes as the lights drew closer but realized he had no eyes to close. He wanted to be sick but had no stomach to vomit from. He wanted to scream but had no lips, no lungs, no tongue, no teeth. He was a non-thing and all he could do was watch helplessly as the light grew brighter. He couldn't feel anything but the pain and fear that the light burned into him. He knew without question that it wasn't a dream and as the light finally reached him he saw past the light and fell unfeeling through the dark.
As he fell, a sense of acceleration slammed into his numbness and destroyed all sense of equilibrium. He was spinning out of control through the darkness and there was nothing he could do to stop it. He tried to cry out for his mother but had no more luck than he had screaming. He was alone. Memories of nightmares past assaulted him. People with out faces. Monsters who looked like friends and family but something about them made him want to scream and run away. He willed himself to wake but he could not. As he watched the flesh of his family melted like wax revealing nothing behind the face but a void that he knew in the end would consume him.
The spinning sensation amplified and it was as if he saw all directions at once and everywhere he looked there were people he remembered with twisted faces looming and lifeless. Everyone he had ever known stood on a hoary field, dead and their vacant eyes blamed Harm for it. His vision wheeled and he felt weak and used up. He just wanted to close his eyes and let the nightmares have him. In the distance which at once moved to him he saw Alice floating, a sleeping beauty, at peace. Focusing all the will he had left Harm tried to change nightmare into dream and he cleaved to Alice with all of the nothing he had.
The world stopped spinning. The nightmares slipped away into the darkness. He and Alice were together and he kissed her without lips and begged her to forgive him for not saving her without words. As he held her she too melted away but inside there was light and he clung to it and it to him and it no longer hurt him to see it.
Harm woke slowly and as he did the dream that had felt so much like reality began to fade as most dreams do. His mind was sluggish and he felt a warmth that started in his chest and began moving outward. As it did he realized that other than the warmth he could not feel anything. The world began spinning slowly and a dull panic he could not explain rippled through him. He tried to open his eyes but they were stuck fast. Harm strained to lift a hand but could not feel the limb. Something struck him in the chest and he started but could not run. He did not move. He did not even breath as he waited for whatever had hit him but after an eternity nothing returned. The warmth continued to spread and he realized that his bottom was cold which led to the understanding that he was sitting. Connection to the seat slowed the worlds spin. The farther out the warmth spread the stranger he felt. His chest felt odd and his butt was wrong somehow. His entire body felt strange, unconnected, as if he was sitting just to the left of himself, "It must be the concussion," he tried to say but found his mouth similarly fixed shut. Panic gripped his heart and his lungs started to burn. Something was covering his face! The heat had reached part way down his arms and though he kept bumping into things in the dark he managed to grasp clumsily at the covering, eventually gaining purchase on it. With a tug he pulled at the material which stretched and pulled at his skin. After what seemed an eternity the material finally gave up and ripped away from his face. Gasping for breath he opened his eyes only to realize the room in which he sat was just as dark without the mask. Sitting in the dark he sneezed at the stale air and concentrated on getting his body working again. As he flexed his hands and worked to move his toes, something tickled his nose and he absently tried to brush it away. The slap that hit him was a surprise but at least he had been able to feel it's source. "I have to be careful," he tried to say but the words were jumbled and slurred. "What's happened to me?" he wondered as he tried to remember how to move his mouth and tongue. With painstaking effort Harm forced himself to relearn how to move and finally tried to stand only to discover that the ceiling was unusually short.
"Hello!" he called as loud as he could. It wasn't exactly clear but at least approximated the word he was attempting. His ears seemed as affected as the rest of his body but even though everything still seemed muted and strange there was no way he could mistake the incongruity of his shout. It had not sounded like his voice. It was too high. It had sounded too much like Alice. With growing fear Harm reached up to his throat and his arms brushed roughly against his chest in a way that his mind could not seem to reconcile. His body was not shaped like that, even though the sensations he had been receiving indicated otherwise. Slowly and with great trepidation he lowered his hands to where the foreign sensations had originated. "Oh god no!" he whispered in Alice's voice and this time there could be no mistake. "No. This can't be happening. This is all a nightmare," He clenched his eyes and willed himself to wake up. "Everyone is fine. I'm at home in bed and this is just the worst dream ever," he chanted but the more time that passed the less dream like it felt. As he stood in the dark the full sensation of his body slowly crept into his consciousness.
Breathing harder than was warranted Harm tried his best to suppress the oncoming panic attack. The lucid dreaming techniques his father had taught him always worked. He should have been able to wake at will; yet here he stood trapped in the nightmare darkness and what he increasingly feared was his girlfriends skin. "The darkness is a trap. Find the light and you can wake," he told himself. Feeling ahead of himself in the blackness Harm quickly determined he did not have far to go. Feeling all around he estimated he was in a less than two meter square room. Out in the darkness, beyond where he knew the walls to be he saw something move though he could not see anything. A sense of being stalked pressed against him and wore at his already frayed self-control. For a moment he stood shivering in the darkness as the thing he could not see moved closer and closer. He was trapped and a mindless fear he had never experienced prior bubbled up and overwhelmed his reason.
He had to get out. He had to get out now!
Lashing out at the walls in a fit, the panicked animal part of his mind noticed that the sound from the wall facing the chair was different than the others. Different meant a possibility of change and that propelled him to focus his efforts on that which was different. Had he been in his right mind he might have wondered how it was that his hands did not hurt after repeatedly smashing into steel walls or why he felt that same steel buckle with each blow. Time and again he hammered away at the offending surface and was finally rewarded by a dim light passing through a buckled seam. Gripping the seam with his finger tips he lifted as hard as he could. For long seconds nothing happened. Then, just before he was about to go back to punching, a groan from the wall bolstered his resolve. Putting everything he had left into one massive pull he heard a loud pinging sound from higher up in the wall and the panel shot upward and jammed halfway open. Without a thought to the danger Harm dove through with out even a moment to consider what might be on the other side.
The unknown proved to be foreign but at least there was light. Scrabbling on all fours until he finally found his feet Harm retreated from the dark cell on rubber legs. A pathetically short distance from where he started Harm collapsed and found he once again could not move. His face pressed against the cold steel floor Harm began to cry in frustration and fear. Slowly his body began to come back under his control and his terror began to abate. When he could move his body enough, he pulled his legs to his chest and tried to ignore the squishing sensation it caused. His father's advice to keep his head cycled through his had like a mantra.
For many minutes Harm lay in a ball on the hard steel floor trying to force himself to wake. "Five, four, three, two, one. Wake!" he repeated countless times. Sensations from his childhood nightmares tore at his mind rending old wounds open anew. He was alone. Always alone though he stand in a crowd of thousands. He was the only living thing, just like in the dreams. It had to be a nightmare but every attempt met with failure. No matter how hard he tried he couldn't wake and fear that this impossible thing might actually be happening finally started to set in. "You have to keep it together!" he cried to himself, flinching at the strange and frightening echoes that resulted.
Pushing himself to a sitting position Harm focused his mind on the task at hand. "This is the big game Dong!" he said to himself in imitation of Coach Whitney, "Get it done! You'll have plenty of time for nerves after we win!" Opening his eyes he nodded, "Ok. I can do this."
The sickly yellow green lights in the dank hallway allowed his eyes to see what his hands had already determined. Red hair spilled from the tears in the strange suit where he had torn it loose from his face. He was covered in a shiny black bodysuit which left absolutely no way for him to deny the truth. He was in a girl's body and though he wanted desperately for it not to be, he knew deep down that the body he was wore was his girlfriend's. The same blind panic began to bubble beneath the surface and though it had served him well the last time he feared that if he succumbed again he would never recover.
As he tried to calm himself one of the many strange conversations he'd had with his father came to mind unbidden. "Hand me that spanner." his father had said pointing to one of the many wrenches which littered the workbench. Unsure which he wanted, Harm grabbed one at random and held it out to him. "No. Not that one. The one with the red stripe."
Glancing quickly across the surface it became obvious there was no such spanner present, "Did you put it on the panel above you?" Harm asked with a smirk. Groping around he had found the wrench and then used it to hammer at something inside the automaton he was building. "Need anything else Dad?"
Ducky leaned back and closed the access panel, "You know. There is something." The way he said it made Harm's insides twist uncomfortably.
"Uh. What is it?"
"Nothing bad," his father assured him, "well not exactly bad anyway." he immediately back pedaled. "Harm I know you have been seeing a lot of the Alan Powers' daughter. There are things you need to..."
Harm cut him off as quickly as he could, "If this is about," he made a unpleasant face, "sex then you don't have to worry. Mom told me all about it. I couldn't look Alice or any of the girls I know in the eye for a week!"
"Wha? Oh! No. No I'm sure your mother did a fine job with that," Ducky laughed, "This is far more important than that. You are old enough to be a man now. You have to be ready to take responsibility when something unspeakably horrible happens."
Harm was confused, "Horrible how?"
"Impossible to say, but Alien invasion, Ninjas, Demon worshiping cultists, Paramilitary Assault on the city or maybe just a Zombie plague all come to mind." Harm gaped in disbelief. "I'm serious! This world is far stranger than little Teslaville might lead you to believe. You need to start cultivating your sense of wariness." He nodded sagely, "That's how you keep yourself and those you care about alive."
It had been so random and seemed so unlikely Harm had mentally filed it away with all the other onions of wisdom his father had dropped from time to time. "Did he know this was going to happen?" Harm huffed into the barren twilight. He hadn't been wary enough before. It was time that changed. "First figure out where you are," he mumbled trying to ignore his own voice, "Then find a way out of here and back to Teslaville," Flashes of the zombies marauding through his home town intermingled with memories of his friends dying and the likelihood that his parent were dead as well. Stumbling at the onslaught Harm caught himself against the wall. "Find your way out now!" he chided himself, "Panic later."
His mind tenuously focused on the task at hand, he began to finally take stock of his surroundings. A dimly lit corridor of stainless steel ran off in both directions at a slight curve. Along the walls were more doors like the one he had just exited. The hall was taller than the room had been but still forced him to duck when he stood. Standing in a crouch only amplified the strangeness of the body and forced him to look at it more than he would have liked. "Just keep it together and everything will be fine," he said firmly and for once found hearing Alice's voice was a comfort. It was almost like she was there telling him it was going to be ok. Like he wasn't completely alone.
An inset track ran along the center with sidings leading to each of the rooms. Fighting off a pang of claustrophobia Harm took the opportunity to examine the room he had just exited. Sure enough the track continued on the inside of the room and his best guess was that the chair could move along that track if properly motivated. How exactly one might do that however was beyond Harm's ken. Moving on, Harm examined the lights and found they were chemical in nature. "Emergency lights," he mused, "Kind of like what dad always uses," Looking around he had to admit the place had the feel of something his dad might build. "What in the heck is going on?" he breathed and then started off down the hall to his right.
The corridor proved surprisingly maddening, the arc prevented any idea of how far it traveled and every door save the one he had ruined was identical. Time became difficult to gauge and it felt as if he had been walking forever without making any progress. Finally off in the distance he saw a form sitting in the middle of the corridor which at least indicated he was getting somewhere. Breaking into a run without thinking Harm covered the distance in moments and was disappointed to find it was only a small and inert automaton locked into the rail. Undiscouraged Harm checked over the machine hoping to ascertain it's purpose. After a few minutes of this he gave up. It's arms terminated in small probes of some kind but without power determining their purpose was beyond him. Standing up Harm cracked his head on the ceiling once again. Sitting down against the wall he rubbed the point of impact and stared back the way he had come. "I should have been counting doors." he mused aloud, "At least then I'd have some idea how far I've come. Congratulations," he patted the automaton on the top it's dome, "I now dub you Milestone one. Hmmm..." he reached down and examined the probe once more. With a little bit of effort he pulled the probe down to the floor and scraped it. Sure enough the probe was capable of lightly scoring the stainless steel. With a small pang of guilt Harm tore loose the arm. "Sorry Milestone, I'll try and get this back to you if I can," It was time to start doing this scientifically, he knew his feet were roughly twenty-two centimeters long. Carefully he began stepping off the distance between the right side of one door and the right side of the next.
"A little over fifteen paces. That's around three point three meters," He grinned at his ingenuity, "so all I Have to do is count the doors as I pass them and when I get to the end I can figure out how far to this point give or take." for a moment he waited to make sure he wasn't missing anything. Again a lock of red hair fell into his eyes and he brushed it away. All at once his crest fell, "Dang it, these aren't my feet," he let out a heavy sigh, "I thought it looked a little short for three point three meters." For a moment Harm considered what part of Alice he might use as a frame of reference for determining the distance but in the end the only thing he knew for certain was that her breasts seemed much larger from this angle. Tossing up his hands he laughed, "It doesn't matter as long as they stay the same. Once you get to the end you can find something to measure with and then just multiply. Now quit wasting time and get moving. Yes, ma'am," he responded to himself without thinking.
Counting the doors proved frightfully dull. The only consolation was that at least he was not hungry or thirsty or sleepy or tired from all the walking. At all. Quickly Harm scratched CCXXIX into the last door counted and then began an overdue accounting of himself. He was definitely in Alice's body, he chose not to look any further at that for the moment. He had overpowered a hydrolic lift mechanism on the door and dented steel plating with his bare hands. Looking at the dainty, tapered fingers he felt a wave of grief begin to rise but he managed to break it before it could drown him. He didn't know when last he had eaten but he knew he had been before...
Images of Angie shooting him in the back flooded his mind almost as if he had watched it as an observer. "Just find a way out," he said aloud and nodded in agreement. "You've been conserving energy but you don't seem to be running low. Maybe a run would speed things up? Yeah, and that will also tell me what it takes to wind me. Exactly," he responded.
At first he attempted to jog but found the bouncing distracting and painful when he banged his head on the ceiling, "Why does it hurt to hit my head but not to punch things?" he grumbled but soon found that if he ran full out his problems were alleviated. Sprinting down the corridor he continued counting the doors as they flew by. Three-hundred. Four-hundred. Five-hundred. The doors whizzed by and Harm soon realize he was traveling much faster than he should have been. As he cruised past door five-hundred twelve his mind was so absorbed counting the doors and trying to figure out how he was running so quickly that he nearly missed a change in the monotony. At door five-twenty he fully realized that one of the doors was open and attempted to stop.
The Rubber coating on the bottom of his feet caught solidly against the steel and then ripped away violently causing him to lose control in spectacular form.
When he finally stopped rolling and bouncing off of walls from his wipeout he climbed to his feet with only his suit the worse for wear. Hustling back to the open door he looked inside to find another small automaton, identical to Milestone One. Seated rigidly in the chair was a body swaddled in black just as he had been. For a moment he feared it would also prove to be Alice Powers but the figure was all wrong. Alice was much prettier. "Oh god. I'm much prettier!" He realized. Stepping inside he carefully grabbed at the material covering the woman's face and pulled it away with a disturbing sucking sound.
It took him a moment but he recognized her as one of the women from his block. "You're friends with Mrs. Powers aren't you?" he mumbled as he searched for any signs of life. Her skin wasn't burned so it stood to reason she had not been infected with the electro-zombie contagion. Slowly he reached out and touched fingers to her throat, checking for a pulse. A tiny spark jumped between them and the body convulsed violently. Harm took a step back. "Mrs. Reynolds?" He said nervously. "Are you ok?" In response arcs of electricity began running over her skin.
At the first sign of electricity Harm clamped his hands around the door and tried to pull it shut. Predictably all he managed was a pull up. If he could trap it inside he could get away, but without leverage... Without further consideration Harm once again pulled himself up by the door but then braced against the ceiling. The ceiling panel deformed slightly under the pressure but after a moment he heard the glorious sound of metal failing and the door dropped suddenly.
Laying in a heap on the floor Harm began to laugh. He had done it. He had stopped at least one of them.
Then the door came loose entirely and fell on top of him. "Sweet Peppers! Come ON!" he shrieked in frustration, pushing aside the heavy metal door with ease. The former Mrs. Reynolds had found her feet in the mean time and was shuffling the short distance between them. Looking at her Harm could almost feel a build up of energy centered in her hands. Before she could fry him with a torrent of electricity Harm grabbed the door and held it as a shield. The lightning crashed into the metal he held and a current passed through the ruined suit at his hands and feet.
It felt good.
Like the kind of good you don't like to talk to your parents about because it's way too embarrassing, good.
He wanted more but the thought of his mother and father doused that fire almost before it could start. Harm turned to run but in one of the characteristic if irregular bursts of speed Mrs. Reynolds covered the ground in a blink and dragged Harm to the ground. Regardless how strong Harm thought he was the zombie proved stronger, pinning him to the floor with ease.
"No!" he screamed as he struggled to free himself from the monsters steely grasp. With agonizing slowness his former neighbor leaned down. If not for the lightning flowing from her eyes it might almost have seemed like she intended kissing him. The image of the matronly Mrs. Reynolds trying to kiss him did not in any way alleviate his panic. When she was two inches from his trembling, screaming lips Harm felt a tugging which he could not explain. A trickle of energy began to flow from him into the zombie. It was the longest second of Harm's young life and as it passed he felt the pull getting stronger. As the pull increased Harm felt it tugging at his very essence. In another moment he would tear loose from Alice's body and he feared that would be the end of him. The pull hit again and again and finally Harm did the only thing he could think of.
He pulled back.
The torrent reversed and increased to a furious pace. He absorbed the electricity like a sponge and it felt good. A warm sensation built deep inside his abdomen. Just as Mrs. Reynolds stopped moving the sensation peaked and then released in an orgasmic burst of electricity and pleasure. Panting beneath the once again immobile woman Harm was only vaguely aware of the doors which began opening and closing at random up and down the hall from his position. "That was...uhhhhhh!." he shuddered trying not to smile, he genuinely felt bad for what had happened to her, but the wonderful tingling sensation running through his body made it impossibly difficult. Rolling her carefully to the side he closed her eyes and then hopped to his feet still feeling the aftershocks of the release.
Everywhere he looked he saw the beginnings of Zombie sign. For one agonizing moment Harm considered letting them all just fill him up till he erupted over and over again. Instead he picked up the discarded door and heaved it ahead of him as he took off at a sprint. While the door did little to the zombies it slowed those nearest to him down just long enough to get up to speed. Winding his way through the monsters Harm tried to ignore the faces he saw. Eventually he actually became glad when the burns rendered them anonymous.
After what he guessed was roughly one-hundred meters he had left the zombies behind him. There had been fewer than he had expected but he knew they were after him now and he had no time to waste. Chancing a look over his shoulder Harm smiled that only a faint flickering light could be seen behind him. He knew now that he could outpace them and that bolstered his spirits just in time for him to smash straight through an inconveniently placed wall.
For a moment Harm just lay in a heap on the floor of a large room. His butt stuck up in the air, wedged as he was upside down against a wall. He hurt all over but after a quick inspection found only a few scratches to show for it. Rolling to his feet Harm realized that the black suit he was wearing would not survive much longer. In a flash reasoning returned, "The electro-zombies!" he gasped and then rushed to the hole he had made to check their progress.
Far down the hall he saw zombie sign but it was still a long way off. Quickly looking over the hole he had created Harm realized that it had once been a door and he had managed to knock it completely out of it's frame. Hunting around he found the door bent in half and lodged in a wall near where he had rolled to a stop. "This is reinforced half inch steel." Harm boggled. "I should have crushed myself like a grape against this!" Harm looked down at Alice's body with confusion, "Were you always this strong? This tough?" he mumbled as the curious feats of strength Alice had occasionally demonstrated ran through his head. "Was it just you?" Suddenly remembering his mission, Harm wrenched the panel loose and tried to straiten it back out. The attempt was less than stellar but it was at least mostly rectangular again.
With a grunt of effort Harm jammed the ruined door back in place. It seemed solid but he knew it would not stop the zombies for long. "There has to be something else I can do." First he grabbed the jam and attempted to crimp it to further block the way but was unsatisfied with the result. Flexing his new hands he felt like they should be strong enough to do the job but it couldn't seem to get everything they were capable of out of them. "Focus," he told himself as he tried one more time to seal the door. Grasping the steel tightly Harm twisted so hard that he actually unbalanced himself. Reaching over with his left hand to steady himself he felt a discharge of electricity arc just as he came in contact and then a lesser current run in through his right where it gripped the metal.
Seeing the flash caused Harm to recoil, fearing the zombies had arrived but when no further sparks appeared he began considering the situation anew. "Either I'm infected but it doesn't work right on me or I'm immune do to some kind of electrical abilities of my own. That's ridiculous. Maybe so but it's the best explanation I have. Fine so what do we do with it?" Harm twisted his lips into the same look of concentration Alice had often sported. "Hold on. It's only useful if it's replicable. True. Ok. Let's see if we can do it on purpose," Once again Harm grabbed the metal and focused. Feeling a strange tingle run through his limbs Harm reached out and almost touched the wall. An electrical arc formed and a plan started to come together.
Dropping to the floor, Harm checked to see where the zombies had gotten. "Sweet Peppers!" he breathed still trying not to draw attention. The zombies were close and there were a lot of them. Flashes of his previous encounters with them attempted to delay him but Harm fought his way through. "Get out. Find out where you are. Get back to Teslaville. Save the day," he chanted as he began tossing the room for something he could use. "Flux. Flux. Flux." he mumbled absently. "Oh come on! Who doesn't have any Flux in a place like..." he eye settled on a lab coat hanging in a partially destroyed wardrobe. "Hanger!" he shouted and rushed to grab the coat. Keenly aware of how exposed his body had become he tugged on the coat even as he untwisted the wire. "Hope this works," he breathed as he grasped hold of the jam once more. Running a quarter-inch of the wire past his hand Harm tried to focus on creating the arc.
The doors shifted as the first of the zombies arrived with a crash.
The pounding continued and panic began to grow in his chest.
"Do it!" he shouted at himself. He resolve steeled, Harm stepped up and forced the power down the wire. With a practiced hand he welded the door to the frame. As he worked, electricity began spilling through the metal. He could feel them out there. All working in serial to melt their way though. The power they wielded should have slagged the door in seconds but everything they put out he took into himself. The glorious tingling sensation was building once more. It was so hard to concentrate. He finished the weld and then just let go and took all the power he could.
Gates he had never known existed were blown open inside his mind. He collapsed to the ground shrieking in pleasure so intense it hurt. It was too much. The flow would not stop and in waves he felt himself die over and over again. The pressure built one final time and with a titanic release the world went dark.
"Oh my poor sweet baby," a gentle and familiar voice cooed as a hand stroked his face. "Were you having a nightmare?"
"Mommy?" Harm asked, opening bleary eyes to the wonderful sight of his mother. "I was so scared you were dead," everything felt right with the world. A quick glance confirmed his body was his own. It really had been a dream, he began to cry. It had been so real.
"Shhh. Shhh. It's alright my little one. Mommy's here. Mommy will always be here," Harm grasped her about the midsection to pull himself closer still uncertain she would not simply vanish into the ether. "It's alright Harm," she lifted his head from her lap so as to look him in the eyes. "We can just stay here. Together. Forever."
Harm screamed as the electricity poured out of his mother's eyes and with inhuman strength she forced her lips to his. Thrashing against the obscene kiss Harm was helpless as he felt his mother slowly suck him dry.
Amidst the pain, confusion and terror came epiphany.
"No," he said calmly, easily breaking her grasp. "This is a nightmare. You are not my mother. My mother would never hurt me. Begone figment," the image of his bedroom and mother faded into smoke. With purpose he closed his eyes and said firmly, "Awake!" and when he opened them he was laying on the floor with his breasts creating a most peculiar and uncomfortable sensation.
With a calmer mind Harm listened carefully for any sound but all he could hear was the sound of his own breathing. The door was dented but it had held. Looking out through the small gap at the bottom he saw bodies collapsed to the floor. Some had been torn apart, some had burned to death and a few looked as if they had simply laid down for a nap.
Harm felt sick. He wanted to vomit but as much as he dry heaved nothing would happen. Regretting his decision to look, he stood up to examine the room he had so desperately claimed.
The room was large, if not for the arcane equipment littering it he might have been able to play a game of baseball with-in its boundaries, and of the same basic design as the halls and rooms he had already seen. Tables and benches were covered with half finished projects and tools. In almost every way it reminded him of his father's lab, except the creations here seemed to lack the innocence of his father's work. The automaton's he found seemed intended with the sole purpose of doing harm. Even the spider like device he eventually decided was medical equipment seemed angry.
At the right center of the room a throne like steel chair sat facing a curved wall covered in regularly sized rectangles of black glass. Harm wasn't clear why it had been designed in this fashion but it was obviously a control center of some kind. Threading his way through the aisles Harm looked for any sign of where he was. The room was lit with larger versions of the chemical lights in the hallways. "This place is dead," he said aloud and started at the sound of his own voice. For once the shock had less to do with it being Alice's voice and more with the sudden invasion of sound into so heavy a silence. Looking at one of the benches Harm burst out laughing, "Flux!" a spool of welding wire sat less than five feet from where he had grabbed the coat hanger to serve in its place. "Of course," he rolled his eyes and stuck the heavy spool of wire in one of his coat's pockets. Swinging around he walked past the black glass wall and in the eerie green yellow light finally saw himself. "Oh god," he said reaching out to touch the glass, "Alice. How did this happen?"
As his fingers brushed the panel he felt a strange connection and then the panel lit up showing static. Harm recoiled and when he did the light faded with a ripple of activity through the monitors surrounding it. "What was that?", he breathed. When nothing else happened he ventured to try it again and a similar effect resulted. With a bit of effort he discovered he could light the screens at will. "So cool," he grinned as he caused the monitors to dance up and down the wall. "Must be an entertainment device of some kind." he scanned over the wall critically, "I don't get it."
Turning from the wall he noticed the tracks which he had followed through the halls wove erratically through the room as well. Following the tracks he twisted back through the room and finally discovered another door identical to the one he had entered though on the opposite side. "It's a ring." he theorized. "I'll bet I would have ended up here regardless the way I picked in the beginning." pulling out the probe he scratched 'Rome' into the door and then returned to his investigation.
Hours passed and he still had no idea how to get out of the facility. "Surely you don't exit through one of the unmarked doors in the hallway?" a sinking feeling hit his stomach at the thought of prying open all the doors he had passed in the vain hope that one would lead outside. After another hour he was resigned to doing just that, "I'm going to need better light," he mused and began searching though the rooms contents for something to serve.
"Hold on," he said looking at one of the unlit directional light fixtures which depended from the ceiling. "Hold on just one second," reaching out he carefully touched the fixture and it sprang to life. A grin almost as bright as the bulb spread across his face. "Now we have something," Wasting no more time Harm pulled down one of the lights and carried it to one of the work benches. Nearly oblivious to his own actions Harm began to solder and rewire the light to make it more portable. "Huh," he grunted as he fabricated a rudimentary handle for it. For all the years he had helped his father in the lab he had never really understood why Ducky had been so obsessed with it. Now he knew. It was strangely euphoric to create something with your own hands and then watch it do what you intended. It was just...fun.
Shining the self powered light about the room Harm was very pleased. By moderating the amount of energy he discharged into it he could vary the intensity. As the light passed over a dark corner he was struck by the fact that the beam had not illuminated it as it had the rest of the room. He was certain he had looked in that corner and found nothing. Shining the light back on the corner he confirmed what he had thought. The corner was unnaturally dark and the light had no effect. His curiosity piqued Harm made his way to the corner and with hand outstretched pushed his way into the darkness.
Passing though the initial wall of shadow Harm realized the area had been designed to conceal this passageway from easy detection. The walls were matte black but more than that the light did not seem to reflect at all off the surface. "Curiouser and curiouser," he said without consideration of the body he now wore. After what he estimated to be around 100 meters Harm's bumped the end of his flashlight into a wall smashing the bulbs. "Stupid black walls," he grumbled tossing the lamp to the side. "Oh well. It's not like it was doing me much good in here anyway."
Feeling his way forward, Harm found the section of wall here was different from what he had seen previously. The wall felt convex and had been riveted together. A thick piece of raised metal sat in the center of the wall forming an oval. Inset into the oval was more metal crossed regularly with more raised sections and rivets. At the center he found a wheel he quickly recognized as the latch for a pressure door. "Forward," he breathed and began spinning the stiff mechanism till it set home. Taking a deep breath Harm opened the door only to find yet more darkness. "This is ludicrous!" he said as he fumbled his way through the hatch. "At least it wasn't filled with water or something."
Tracing his hands about the circular room he soon came upon a ladder of steel rungs leading up into the unknown. For just a moment he considered returning to the lab to make a new light but his instinct told him it was unlikely to make a difference. That decided he began his long ascent into the dark.
As he passed the seven-hundredth rung, for the first time since the incident Harm started to feel tired. He felt hungry and sleepy but he forced his way onward. At two-thousand rungs he had to stop. He was weak and shaky. His hands would barely grip the cold metal. "Just a little nap," he gasped as his eyes nodded shut of their own accord. His entire body began going limp and he started to fall.
Panic snapped him awake and Harm lashed out a hand into the darkness for purchase. Grasping desperately to one of the rungs Harm hugged the steel like a loved one. His mind wild with fear he tried to come up with a solution. "I can't go back down. I can't keep going up without a break. I can't sleep here without falling to my death," he rested his head against a rung. "What am I going to..." reaching into a pocket in his coat Harm pulled out the spool of flux. "Yeah. That should work."
Carefully Harm let out a long length of wire and looped it loosely beneath his arms and though the ladder. After repeating this several times he folded up the coat to form a pad and leaned into the sling he had created. Once sure it would hold he locked his knees and closed his eyes.
How much time passed Harm did not know but when he came to he felt refreshed. Taking the time to rewind the spool he donned his coat once more and resumed the climb. "The end is probably ten meters above me." he tried to chuckle but found his face once again fixed in place by a membrane. He had become so used to the dark nothing had seemed amiss. Again Harm tore away the material from his face and hair. "Where is this stuff coming from?" he gasped taking huge lungs full of increasingly stale air. "Figure it out later," he chastised himself, "Just worry about getting to the top for now."
Somewhere over a thousand rungs later Harm was beginning to weaken once more. "It can't be much farther," he tried to assure himself without much luck. "Just a little..." his hand bumped into a surface different from what he expected and he heart soared. Feeling around at the top of the shaft he soon found the wheel for another hatch. Cranking it with frantic speed he felt the seal break and was assaulted hot dry air and light.
Happy to finally be out of the dark Harm scrambled outside and breathed in the air. Squinting against the light out of instinct more than need Harm stood in the unusually hot sun and basked in the heat. He hadn't really noticed how chill it had been below but now the warmth felt glorious. His reverie over Harm looked all about himself trying to get his bearings.
He stood atop a large metal box which had conduits running in from every side. The conduits ran to smaller nodes which ran to large black domes baking in the sun. Turning this way and that he saw the pattern repeated but not a living thing in sight. "Hello?" he called tentatively, "Is there anyone out there?"
~To be continued
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