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ABERRANT WEIDER STUFF: SEASON 2 EPISODE 03 - "Look What They've Done"

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Abel had simply gone along in line.  he knew he wasn't going to be able to carry much, physical strength had always been a weakness of his.   Still he took what he could, and suffered through the acrid smoke and odor from the torches in silence, until they came to the door.

"You know If We end up being at that secondary base we set up after Devin's attack, We are gonna be way under dressed on the surface."   His voice actually contained a hint of levity, as he studied the door,  and wondered how they'd get it open if someone else didn't answer.  They had some tools, but this didn't look like a door they could pry open with what they had on hand.    One more time he lamented what he no longer had, as the door would have been nothing before his telekinetic might.

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Lilly could hear a bunch of static and then she said Hello and the phone receiver started making a loud screeching sound wich after a second settle into what sounded like music

Spoiler

 

As she listend she reached out and placed her hand on the door itself and gave it a little push and with a groan the door swung open.

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Jeane was forward and through the new door almost as soon as Lilly pushed the open, torch swinging to illuminate the space beyond. Her eyes narrowed as she swept the room for anything useful, cataloging what she saw through her very particular focus, breath fogging from the chill here.

More retro controls for the tram and maybe some other stuff? Ugh, hopefully Lilly wouldn't get a bug up her butt over these. Lost too much time already.

A gun rack built for 4 rifles, but hosting only a single M-16? Better if it had ammo.

A door, unarmored and begging to be bashed down? Thank you very much, universe.

"Hey, guys! There's a door and a hell of a draft in here! Bet it leads outside. Help me get this thing open," she called over her shoulder, already squaring up where best to apply force and if her improvised axe would be needed to expedite the deed. One step closer to sky with any luck.  

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Spoiler

RP IN THIS ROOM A BIT IF Y'ALL WANT BUT DON'T POST ANYTHEING BEYOND OPENING THE DOOR ONCE YOU GET TO THE DOOR OPENING i WILL POST IF THERE ARE NO POSTS TO DAY i WILL POST TONIGHT WITH Y'ALL OPENING THE DOOR THANKS

 

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Kia stepped into the new room and looked around, then went over to help Jeane with the next door.

"I hope it's nice outside," she confesses. "We haven't seen anything down here to tell us where we really are. I hope it's not a desert or Antarctica or something."

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"Hmm, there was that Arctic base we hid out in for a bit," Sean commented dryly as she looked around. "But with the limited power out-put, it doesn't feel nearly cold enough for that." She snorted a cute, bitterly amused laugh. "I'll vote for Groom Lake or Cheyenne Mountain."

Sean had been largely silent and subdued as they trekked through the tunnel. She'd always had good recall and will the onslaught of memories swirling up in her mind, memories of other times, other selves were growing into sharper and more extensive focus. In the Key Frame, with her unlocking, she had known how to do many things, had simply known things, without having the context of when and how she had learned all those many skills.

The capsules and plethora of scenes and memories she now experience suggested where those skills and talents had come from. She'd been an Olympic gymnast, scoring straight 10s, winning gold to Nadia Comaneci's silver. He'd been a soldier and UFC champion. She'd been a sensual lounge singer and an acclaimed actress. The pilot and captain of an independent freighter starship, and a survey specialist investigating new worlds for potential colonization. A doctor, a Nobel winning scientist, and the undisputed leader in the video game industry, revolutionizing it. An architect, and a thief.

So many lives she had lived, and she was remembering more and more of them. Some felt more real than the others, though none had the tactile immediacy of where she was now, underground in some complex, as they tried to find their way out and see the sky. Perhaps for the first time with their actual eyes.

"Guys, not sure if is an invasion of privacy - but I feel like we've been friends - and sometimes rivals - through many... iterations. But what do you remember, are remembering?"

 

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"Uh guys. The phone actually has 'on hold' music playing." Lilly said before hanging it back up.

She walked into the room and looked around, shifting the pack on her back slightly.

"So the phone is still connected to some sort of operational system." she added as she collected the M-16 from the rack and inspected it, checking to see if it was serviceable and/or loaded.

At Kia's comment she walked over to her and put a hand on her shoulder.

"Uhh.. don't get your hopes up. It is cold in here and colder by that door. So it is gonna cold out there, maybe freezing. So everybody make sure you keep your head warm too. Hopefully we won't have to deal with snow."

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Abel heard what Lilly said.  "Well that's good to know, there's obviously some sort of network it's connected to, though it could just be an internal line.  if someone answers, that would really be something."

Looking to Kia he nodded.  "I agree.  I'd hope we're somewhere temperate, and not at one extreme or another, and not the depths of winter."   Sean's comment about where they could be made him chuckle.   "As good a guess as any, either of those, until we get outside.   Now to answer the other question, I remember alot of things, in addition to my life as a Key and everything I knew and did there.  Just at a glance, because I Really don't want to go to far into it, I recall being a Media mogul, I lead a hostile takeover of MGM and ran it the next forty years.   I recall us working together to invent the first home computers, I remember being James Bond after Sean Connery.   I remember being in charge of an asylum in Missouri, and a patient in another.   Several instances where I was a criminal who was never caught.    I recall being the First Man on the Moon,  and so much more.."  He trailed off, as his eyes seemed to glaze over, then he quite literally slapped himself.  "Enough of that."  He sighed.  "As you can tell, I think we all lived so many iterations, altering the histories we know, and for me at least the further I delve, the harder it is to come back, and that makes me very uncomfortable, as i find more and more that counters other things I know.  I want answers, but i know the truth is that they'll likely lead to even more questions."

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Kia shivered and pointed at a tall metal stand with a rotten signin book sitting on it. “There's another phone.” she pointed to an Identical phone on the wall above the stand. Lilly approached it and lifted the receiver she heard static, “Hello” more static then the same music. “More music.”

Jeane stood in the middle of the room and listens as Abel and Sean swapped dream tales and while Lilly played with the phone. Clenching her Jaw and hefting the axe she had made she strode right up to the door lifter her foot and gave it a monumental kick.

SMASH!

The door flew from the corroded hinges and bent nearly in two landed a few feet from the doorway and cold wet wind blew in from the door. Jeane recovered her balance and with no hesitation trotted through the opening into the outside.

Bleak is the first word that comes to mind the cloudy covered sky is gray, the grass less ground gray, the sea stretching off behind the earthen mount the the room is built in is bray the small shoreline gray. To the east the gray skyline a a once great city rises still recognizable as Chicago now a dead and crumbling ruin...

derek-parcell-matte.jpg

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It wasn't the worst horizon Jeane had ever seen in her life. 

Unlike the times she had been in the Underverse though, she didn't have ability to regrow a limb or leap miles in a single bound or any of the half-dozen gifts she had let herself think of as 'normal' in the two months since meeting the team. This time around anyway. Or however many times they'd been forced to replay the course of their lives for the amusement of whatever conspiracy stuffed them down there. If stopped to let herself think about it, the tall amazon would break through the brittle surface of her conflicting memories and lose herself for God knew how long.

Having achieved her first goal and been proven partially right, she didn't quite know what to do next, and that uncertainty made her mental footing wobble. Just a little.

She dropped to one knee, planting the butt of her axe with one hand, and reaching down to squeeze a handful of the mud in the other, biting her lower lip. If she could see even a patch a green, a bit of flowing water, a single light in the gathering dark, Jeane would have taken off running towards it. But there wasn't. So she didn't. 'South where it would be warmer' was too much of a leap for her to take, not right now. She needed a short term goal, and the city was too risky if it had monsters anything like the Underverse. They'd be chopped to bits.

"You said this computing center had to close, right?" she hoarsely intoned, forcing herself to stay calm, focused, together in the now, "Is there a chance in hell it's on the other side of those blast doors back there, and that we could force a breach with what we have? Damn bastards blew it all up out here while we were asleep. Probably got themselves blown up, too. Damn it." 

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Abel frowned.  "Chicago.  only DC was a greater hive of scum and Villainy, or perhaps Detroit."   he sighed softly.  He waled out and looked at the lake,  "That makes this Lake Michigan, So that means where we were is under the lake, going from how we got here.  Good way to make the compound more secure at any rate."

He  looked to the others and he smiled.  "We need to head to the university.  That's where the Fermi Reactor is, and if anything could still be powering the facility we just came out of it's that, and likely they've got a computer  command and control system for the project there."

The way the world looked reminded him somewhat of the Underverse Jeane had discovered.  "What the hell did they do to cause this in only a hundred and fifty years?" he asked softly.  

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Lilly stared out at the bleak landscape in since, taking it all in. She looked around, but she just could not believe it right now. The visual was the straw that broke the camel's back.

"No. Just... no. This is bullshit." she said as she shook her head.

"This is some simulation or test or something. I mean, who keeps cases full of shrink-wrapped survival gear in a closet of what it essentially a server room? With guns and ammo and these jumpsuit that just so happen to fit our wetsuit thingies perfectly? Not the military. And if they did, there would be gear enough for everybody. There were dozens of pods back there, but there is just enough gear for us? It's all too convenient."

"So if this is some sort of test, then fine. We'll play their game. And if not, then so be it. Either way, the decisions we have to make are the same."

Lilly then turned to Abel after his suggestion of going to the university. 

"Sorry dude, but there is pretty much no way that a facility like this, built under the lake and housing a human brain-run supercomputer with ultra advanced tech and stuff was not built with it's own power source and would instead has to rely on a reactor at a university. If it is something that's been runing for 150 years, then it is well protected and likely in this facility someplace, just like it has its own phone network." Lilly countered.

"Okay. So Jeane is on the right track, I think. The big door.... The hydraulics on the big door are shot, so no help from them, and I really doubt we can fix them. And even if we could, we would need a way of operating them..."

Lilly turned to Sean and asked,

"Any way of figuring out what all these controls do?" she asked, pointing to the controls in the room.

"If we cannot, at the very least, 'unlock' the door from these controls, then we need to consider ways of going under, over or around that big door. We could try banging on it, and see if we can get the attention of anybody possibly inside. Hmm.. Abel. See if you can use the phone network. Maybe extensions or some phone phreak shit or something you might know. Hell, dial O for operator if need be."

She then went back to thinking for a moment.

"Okay, water, food, shelter. We need to get a condenser working and start filling the canteens. We can see about boiling the water before storing it, if need be. I'm not sure how 'clean' the water it makes is. Sean? Do you know?" she said and ended with a question to Sean for clarification.

"We can prop the door back up and retreat back out to the platform and close that door too to keep the cold out for the time being. That should keep us warm enough."

"We need better light sources. So we need to check the immediate area outside the door for any wood or anything flammable that does not make a friggn' bio-hazard cloud when ignited like our current torches. We will keep them as backup, or maybe useful to keep animals away.

"Okay, so if your two," she said, looking to Sean and Abel, "can get on those things, then Jeane, Kia and I will see about gathering some firewood or something. We'll check in every 10 minutes or so. Sound good?"

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The world was in shades of grey where her swirling memories were saturated with colour. The soft wind was cold on her scalp and cheeks. Sean dug out one of the extra jumpsuits from her pack. Testing its stretch, she cut off one of the legs of a jumpsuit, then cut off a wide band. She pulled it over her head, and it fit well enough, covering part of her ears like a too wide headband, the extra material on top flopping over. She took it off, made a a few cuts and slits with the k-bar, and after some pulling and tying, she put her 'hat' back on. It looked stupid, like a mangled beanie, but it worked well enough.

Sean took a deep breath as she watched the grey waves of lake Michigan lap against the shore with a strange flatness. The air smelled flat too, no sense of life too it, nor even the smell of exhaust or garbage, city smells. She turned back and studied the ruins of Chicago, looking for movement, lights, something to indicate life, as Lilly made her assertions and suggestions.

"I don't disagree with things being... inconsistent," Sean said, even her melodious voice sounding somewhat flat out in the desolation. "The tech back in there..." She nodded back towards the doorway in the hill they had come from. "With it, with that... I wouldn't discount the Fermi reactor - or a version of it - running whatever we were part of. Lilly, the reactor wasn't just built at the University, the reactors and the University of Chicago were one of the sites for Government Research on the Manhattan Project. A government slash military run project, not mere college phd projects."

The slender girl shrugged a shoulder. "If I was running things, sure, I'd give this place it's own power supply. But maybe they didn't have the funding for another reactor, or the space down there, or thought it unnecessary, or maybe even dangerous. I do know thinking of this as just another 'simulation' is a dangerous way of going about it. It would be better to just think of it as real. If we can't distinguish the difference, then for all intents and purposes, it is real. As for your big door..."

Sean raised an arm and pointed at the hill to the left of the small door they had exited from, glancing from Lilly to Jeane. "It's right there, buried from the hill slumping or on purpose at some point. Unless you think those tracks that lead to the big doors drop down at a seriously steep angle right on the other side. I bet..."

Without waiting to say what she bet, Sean began walking briskly away from the hill. Just a few dozen yards away, she found what she suspected, breaking though the dirt, dark with grit and disuse, but unmistakable. "Train tracks," she called out. "Leading towards the city."

Sean walked back to the group at a more sedate pace. "Train tracks back to the city, to the campus even, for all we know. Could be reasons to build off site. More remote, so less eyes, curious university eyes. Or they didn't have a place secret enough situate the project, or couldn't built a place like this there without raising more questions on site. Regardless, I think we'll find more answers there than we will here playing with the phones. We certainly won't find less."

Her jaw set with stubbornness. "So I'm going instead sitting here and building base camp. We apparently have waited for over a hundred and fifty years. I'm done with fucking waiting." She nodded at Lilly's pack which held one of the water condensers. "If the condensers are anything like the ones I designed, it should make perfectly clean, potable water. If something gets through the condensing process, I don't think boiling the water will deal with it any better. Everything you want to look for, we can look for on the way, Lilly."

Sean got ready to set out, with or without anyone else, taking stock of what she had with her in her own pack, and glanced over at Abel. "Without continual maintenance, you'd be surprised how quickly infrastructure can decay." She gave the bleak sky a dismal look, one part slightly brighter than the rest that might have indicated the sun. "I have a few guesses on how this could have happened, but they are only guesses at this point."

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Jeane couldn't quite stifle her grin at how thoroughly Lilly got told off. She had missed those train tracks, and it wouldn't be the first time a reduced budget wrecked something super important.

"*I'll* play scout once we hit the city. That's parkour country, and long as you guys don't have powers, I'm better at something for the first time since I met you this time around. Besides, if there's anything in there waiting to eat us, I want the first and last thing it meets to be one of my weapons," she chuckled, breath misting with the cold and eager to get some exercise on to get her body temperature up. She got up and swiped her handful of ashy mud across her face to refresh her camouflage, forming a grid with the mud from inside the complex.

"My Dad and I used to watch a show about what'd happen if we all died when I was a kid. Between this and the Underverse? It's pretty on point," she mused as she waited to move, happiness at a goal bringing up a fond memory that fit for once.  

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"What? I can't hear you." Lilly called out from the 'doorway of the 'control' room where she had been standing the entire time waiting for any sort of conformation from the others about her suggested plan of action, when Sean decided to march outside and then began talking as she walked dozens of yards from the door, making her difficult, if not impossible to hear, virtually ensuring that Lilly and anybody else inside, could not hear her.

"Well, I guess we are just ignoring each other now. That'll certainly increase our chances of success." Lilly said sarcastically about Sean who had exited without any sort of acknowledgement, positive or negative, to Lilly's suggestions.

She checked her pack's straps and stepped out the door for the first time, looking around at the bleak landscape more fully now, instead of just what she could see from the doorway. Sean was already dozens of yards away near some tracks that seemed to be in line with the tracks in the tunnel, and looked like she was preparing to follow them towards the city, with our without anybody else.

Lilly sighed and shook her head. Teamwork would be essential in a situation like that, and yet most of the others seemed dead set on doing their own thing, without any regard for the others while Lilly tried to keep them together and seek some sort of consensus. It almost seemed like herding cats at times.

"Looks like Sean found some tracks. I guess we're following them now." she called back toward the Kia and the others before turning towards Sean.

Lilly sighed and jogged to catch up to Sean.

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They walked in silence each of them alert but lost in their own thoughts, they also, except for Kia and Abel, walked alone. They past through the rusted remains of a galvanized chain link fence the way was dusty and cold. The suits surprisingly kept them warm. As the marched on toward the city it was Lilly and Jeane who first felt the odd sensation of being watched, it was shortly after that that Lilly came across fresh horse droppings and hoof prints crossing the tracks. She motioned for them to pause and get down. The droppings were fresh. She looked around they were in what would have been a residential area of wood and mortar houses complete with green grass lawns and swing sets in the backyards. Today it was a wasteland the rail tracks ran behind a row of once houses that were now nothing more than concrete slabs cracked and broken lined by the collapsed remains of walls and roofs. The street beyond a dust covered and empty thoroughfare. There were a few cars now just metal skeletons lining curbs or parked in the drives ways of ruined homes.

Lilly counted at least three sets of prints in the dust, unshod, she could tell from the tracks. The tracks led off through the ruins away from the direction they were going as they followed the tracks. The fallen houses would give no real cover and wouldn't hide a horse The thought that they could be wild horses crossed her mind but she just as quickly discarded that idea. She motioned everyone to join her and explained what she had found.

Spoiler

the dropping are maybe 30 minutes old. there is no foliage the only way to really hide in what cover there is is to crouch behind stuff Horses would have to be made to lay down.

 

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Lilly crouched by the horse droppings, inspecting them for a moment before lifting her gaze to look around for a few moments as she thought her dad, or at least who she remembered as her dad, and the hunting trips they would take where he thought her how to hunt, track, navigate and generally survive. She could also remember serving as a Park Ranger in Glacier National Park and other places, and even being an Army Ranger. Time and again she learned these skills and always enjoyed her time outdoors. She cut her reverie short though and sighed, focusing on the hear and now.

She motioned to the others to get close around her as she rose up, glancing around casually.

"These horse droppings are really fresh, probably more like under half an hour old." she said just loud enough for the others to hear.

"There are also at least three sets of horse tracks I can pick out. They cross the train tracks and head into the ruins, away from the tracks. Now they are unshod too, but I am pretty damned sure that they are not wild horses though." she pointed out, continuing to speak low and soft.

"Why do you think that?" Kia whispered curiously.

"Look around. There's no big foliage, or high cover here. Just broken cement slabs, tiny bits of crumbling walls and skeletons of cars, no where near enough to conceal a person without crouching, so there's sure as hell not enough to conceal a standing horse, much less three. So that means they are laying down." she pointed out, noting the terrain as she softly spoke.

"Yeah, there a few reasons why they might lay down, but given the situation, terrain and relative time of day, none of them fit. So if we are not seeing them it means they are being made to lay down. And that means they are trained and have riders, stealthy ones at that." Lilly explained.

"Also, have any of you had the feeling we're being watched for a bit now? I sure have." she mentioned, glancing around casually.

"Now, with our strength and athleticism we can pull off a cheerleader pyramid to get a higher vantage point to look around. It'll mean we'll be the tallest thing around here and easily spotted, but we might spot them horses and riders, even laying down." she said with a shrug.

"Or we can follow the horse tracks and hope it does not lead into an ambush, which I think it probably better than 50% chance. Either way, if there are people and horses, that means they have food and water, and maybe some answers." she suggested as she looked from one friend to the other.

"Or we ignore them, keep our guard up, and keep going as we were. No matter what we do, keep weapons ready and stay alert." she cautioned.

"So what do you want to do?" she asked.

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"I say screw 'em. They can come out and make friends like sane people after the brain trust confirms whether or not there's anything to find at the reactor. Besides, if we were the thing's last cpus like you said, there's a chance it could be breaking down for good now that we're out and about," Jeane replied with a shake of her head, "The people'll keep a few more hours. Heck, once night falls, we can make a nice fire to invite 'em to see us."

She scanned their surroundings, smiling that predator's false smile on her face, one hand thumbing her improvised axe. 

 

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"My vote is that we keep going.  If there is something or someone watching us, so be it.  Stay on guard.  We're armed and there's damn little else we can do but continue on."

Abel was in no mood to stop, he wanted to get answers, because the future depended on them.   Still he made a quick check of the revolver he carried.  "They're pretty good if they're able to keep horses down, and quiet like this though."   

He frowned as he looked around.  Before there'd been damn little that could hide from him, or Sean, and yet that was then and this was now.   Going forward was the only real option he saw, because it might help him deal with all the memories,  and the voices in his head.

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Trudging along the train tracks, a melancholy smile on her lips as she mused on one of her lives more than her surroundings, Sean gave a start when Lilly mentioned the horse tracks and being watched. She frowned in annoyance. Once, she had always known when she was being watched, knew exactly what they were looking at and where they were.

Now, if she felt someone or someones watching them, Sean couldn't tell if it was gut instinct or perceiving subconscious cues, or if it was because Lilly had mentioned it. She pursed her lips as she scanned more distant ridge lines, rises, and heights, looking for watchers limned by the sky behind them, but all the dust in the air made it hard to make out.

Sean walked over to Lilly, giving the tracks a cursory glance. While she knew how to survive in the wild, her skill at following others were focused in other directions. She worried at an underlip for a moment.

"How much ground do you think a horse could cover in half an hour?" Sean asked Lilly.

"Well, by the size of the tracks I am assuming they are average size horses. So then by the spacing of the tracks I would say it was a pretty easy walk. At that rate, in 30 minutes they could have covered maybe two miles. Which could explain the fact that we do not see them, except for the unshakable feeling that I, at least, have had that we're being watched." she suggested.

Something about the tracks seemed to catch Lilly's eye though and she crouched down once again, examining the tracks close, putting a finger vertically in several tracks of each set.

"Hmm... I would say that they are all bearing loads too. The trailing horse is carrying the heaviest load. I'd say 200 pounds, give or take 20 or 25 or so. The other two though..." she said, her voice trailing off as she checked the tracks again.

"They are a little odd. They have a load of a 100, maybe 120 pounds. That's a light rider. Kids, maybe, or a young woman. Hmm..." she explained.

"So, about the size of me and Kia, if they are traveling lights," Sean commented.

Lilly considered for a moment, then nodded her agreement. The thought of them carrying loads made her curious about the droppings again. She examined them once more, using a large rock to break some open and examine the insides, looking for tell tale signs of parasites and other conditions as well as their diet.

"By the looks of this, I'd say that these are healthy, domesticated horses that have been feed hay and oats. So somebody is taking good care of them and probably growing them food..." she said as she lifted her head and looked around the a desolate, gray terrain, "...somewhere."

"At a guess, I'd say the heavier horse might be a pack horse, carrying most of their supplies and whatever the riders might have scavenged," Sean hypothesized. "Whatever apocalypse hit this world, it could have made the cities dangerous places and people scattered back to the rural areas. But they might return to scavenge when they can."

She gave a cute, wry snort. "Very Fallout. I agree with Jeane and Abel. Let's stay on the main quest to find the computer rather than get distracted by side quests. But yeah, definitely keep our hands near our weapons. And keep our eyes out for more tracks. We might need to follow them back to what passes for civilization here."

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Lilly nodded “Then we keep on but first let me mark this position” She took off her pack and pulled one of the small shovels out. Then she found a good spot and dug out a small hole about the size of a basketball. Once done she refilled the hole.

Kia looked puzzled “What was that for?”

“The ground will look disturbed for a long time,” Lilly brushed the shovel clean and put it up while explaining.”This place is pretty drab one spot looks like another. If you know what to look for that will stand out like a stop sign. Shall we,” she gestures pointing the way they had been going,” I'd like to get wherever this goes before dark.”

Hefting their packs the intrepid youngsters continued their journey.

On and on they walked through the depressing signs of decayed ruin, the tracks continued east then south away from the bulk of the city so the ruins they traversed were mostly residential then there was an area of of more substantial buildings that were once shops and other businesses probably the litter of rusted out cars and trucks multiplied as well then the tracks led to a large clear area which had been a park or something the trees that still stood were dead husks and then they came to the campus.

It had once been a part of the University of Chicago at least that's what they remembered but not like this. The campus was surrounded by an twenty foot wall there were towers which looked like they heal machine gun nests it was a place that had been militarized to the nth degree. They passed through te crumple gates and entered the Fermilabs campus and stopped.

“That is impossible!” exclaimed Abel

“You designed that didn't you?” Asked Sean

“Yeah in 2018 how could thy have built it back in 1973? This just doesn't make any sense.” Abel said shaking his head,

Before them was a campus of very modern building that must have been remarkable and beautiful and not at all like the surrounding architecture they had seen. This was Modern at least modern as they remembered. It was also in ruins. The glass in the windows long since broken and gone parts of the structure was collapsing from age and weather. It was a sad and terrifying sight.

 

What it would have looked like in it's glory days.  SUB-111418-fermilab-300x210.jpg

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Abel's eyes narrowed, and he frowned.   "This was the school I wanted to make for Keys, This is the final design."  At least outwardly.    "A place of learning, bettering oneself, and yes, training to become  Heroes, like we are."  Of course he had gone Full Nerd with his design, with underground training areas, advanced robotics, a hangar for a VTOL aircraft he'd been tinkering with with vehicles as well.   It was a goal of his, and here it was, in ruins, at least as it looked to him now.   He'd been proud that he'd be able to make it.   "There were no defense towers in my version though.  If they followed the floor plan that I'd laid out, then I think I know where we should head to get to the reactor.  Keep in mind I don't know what changes may have been made."

Seeing this filled Abel with more emotion than any save Kia could remember seeing in a long time.   He began by stalking off towards the main building.  "We have 2 sets of possible stairs, and 2 elevators down to where I'd have put the power supply for this Facility, which wasn't a nuclear reactor, but something that was needed to power the tech I planned to have available here."

They could hear the anger and sadness in his voice, and it was easy to see him looking around.  With them having put up the towers, he wasn't taking chances of other defenses being there, and if the reactor was still online, they certainly could be too.

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Jeane saw red. This. This was the last straw. Enslave them in pods, use them to fuel to a living computer, let who-knew-how many generations of Keys, children, human beings, die in a dusty room? Forget about them when they let the world burn in their incompetence? Leave no safeguards if they woke up against a sea of conflicting memories that'd drive them crazy given enough time? All that meant nothing in the face of this theft of their hopes and dreams gone to ruin. A hundred, two hundred, three hundred, memories rose up like a black fog in her vision, making the towering girl squeeze her knuckles to bloodlessness and jaw work in silent rage.

God, please let some of them still be alive so she could kill them for this desecration.

"I'll take point," she managed to force from between her lips without growling, flat, cold, long strides taking her past Abel towards the building he indicated, "We need you and Sean in good shape to crack this nightmare." 

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"Do you think there's any survivors?" Kia asks, unconsciously echoing Jeane's thoughts, if with very different motivation. "Someone we could ask about what happened?"

She went over to take gentle hold of Abel's arm. "This reminds me a little of something that happened to me back when we beat the aliens."

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From the corner of her eye, Sean noticed Kia clasping hands with Abel and she moved up swiftly almost in line with Jeane, though of to the side. She wasn't alone, true, but Kia and Abel had each other. Who did she have? She had memories of parents, sisters, brothers, lovers. Some showed some familiarity through multiple... iterations, but the only constant had been Sara, in all her incarnations.

And that constant had been torn from her.

She sighed with melancholy as she studied the ruined campus. A school for Keys had been Abel's focus, not hers, though she had aided him in it. Her goals had tended towards uplifting everyone, Key and Deadbolt alike, so that Keys alone wouldn't dictate the fate of Humanity. Still, Abel's had been a noble goal and she could understand the hurt in seeing a dream turned to a different purpose.

In truth, it seemed that their dreams - if in fact of the lives they remembered were but dreams - had been taken from them, used for the purposes of others. It wouldn't be Chicago Pile-1 they would find in there, especially if it was still providing power. Sean felt it would a SLAM-K or SLAM-Q reactor that she had designed, of a variation there of.

What other things would they find in this broken world taken from the mirror lives they could remember?

"If there's power still running, seems likely there'd be at least some people around, taking advantage of it," Sean answered Kia without looking back, her clear voice distant. "Whether they were involved in the project - or descended from those who were - or they are people who've come around since this world went to shit, who knows?" She gave Lilly a nod. "There's definitely survivors somewhere." She hitched up her pack. "Let's go see if there are any here, along with any answers."

Oddly - she thought it was odd - but she didn't hate the ones that had presumably entombed them in those capsules and turned their thoughts and dreams into processing power. She didn't feel any particular animosity, though she hardly felt any affection for them either. She just wanted to know the purpose, the why, and how all those in the capsules had been selected.

Sean arched a brow at the girl standing nearly a foot and half taller than her as they started forward. "Don't worry about me, Jeane. I'm a lot more dangerous than I look."

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The group moved into the towering edifice of broken windows and crumbling concrete the doorway which had once held state of the art self opening glass doors was open with no sign of the old plate glass sliding doors left. The interior was actually in better shape than could be expected having only suffered the effects of over a century of weather but not the encroachment of plant life or animals. The furnishings even in their dilapidated state looked like something out of a nineteen sixties or seventies science fiction television show. even the Computer screens of which there was one on each desk looked futuristic in the same mod way. "This is just weird." muttered Abel

"Over there" said Sean. Everyone looked in the direction she was pointing and all of them saw it a lit light on the panel of what looked like an elevator. "That's the elevator I was talking about. I can't believe it still has power."

The Irregulars cautiously moved across the lobby to the elevator door. It wasn't a main elevator those were located in the center and clearly were no longer operational but his one was nestled of the the side and nearby was a steel door marked Emergency. "If this is my building both of these lead to the same floor." Abel said shaking his head  at the implications. "What do we do?"

Spoiler

You can post if you have somehting to post here if not let me know in OOC if you intend to try the elevator or the stairs

 

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Jeane laughed darkly, stabbing a finger in the direction of the elevator door, hanging her axe from a beltloop.

"Well, that's a trap. *I'm* not getting in a metal box that announces we're coming with those bastards possibly waiting at the bottom. I say we go the other way. If one of you guys can shine a light from above, I'll pathfind us a way down these stairs. Not my first time tracing a run through a run down building. Figuratively anyway assuming you're right, Sean. Maybe. I don't give a shit right now."

She dropped her oversized pack on grimy tile with a thud and stretched out the minor kinks of their hike, blue eyes devouring the stairway door with a measuring consideration thoughts of applying her boot to the door with all required force. As a warm up for burying a blade in her first Conspiracy grunt in the facility below, it would tide over her anger. For now. 

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"Unless it's the only way there, we should take the stairs, " Kia says, eying the elevator warily. "If something bad happens on the stairs, we can run away or take cover or whatever. In an elevator, we're pretty much just stuck."

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Abel nodded.  "Yeah, I saw this movie once, we'll take the stairs, though if it's got the number of sublevels I planned, we may regret it by the end."  He was ready to proceed.   There were many scenarios running through his head,  where the elevator might be the right call, but his instincts told him it was a bad idea.  

"I think we should just got down together, much as we've been tackling everything else.  Lilly, do you mind bringing up the rear on this?  Jeane will go first, then Me, Kia, and Sean.   Brains and Brawn at both ends, to deal with whatever may happen."  He smiled at Kia.  "You'll be in the middle so you can support whichever of us needs it."   It was also an even division of their weaponry too, allowing them to reply to any threat.

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Looking like she was about to kick the door in Jeane stepped up only to have Sean slip infront of her and push the handle of the door which swung open with a bit of a creak. Jean just gave Sean an exasperated look before stepping Through the dark entryway into the stairwell beyond. A light flickered from the corner as an emergency light tried to come on, it flickered for about 10 seconds before steading. The light revealed a standard stairwell which only led down to a landing about ten feet away another starir went down from this landing. While there was an emergency light at that landing there was no door.

Back topside Sean, and Abel followed Jean into the stairs, Jean had already started down to the second landing. Kia looked at Lilly who was standing at the open elevator, "I'll be the Guinea pig. See you down below." she said as she stepped back through the door and pressed the button.
"Fortes Fortuna Juvat." she said in Latin as the doors closed.

Kia stared open mouthed shook her head then followed on behind Abel and the rest.

Abel had waited for Kia at the top of the stair as Sean and Jeane descended he smiled at the small asian girl who he knew so well but not at all. “Hi you ready?” he asked taking her hand. Kia didn't say anything just wrapped her fingers around his and nodded. Abel glanced back at the door into the lobby “Where's Lilly?”

“She took the elevator”

 

The car hummed and the lights flickered after she pressed the button. Lilly couldn't tell how fast it was moving if it were slower than elevators she remembered or faster, only that it was moving. The humming grew louder while the flickering steadied then stopped all together. Lilly backed against the wall and gripped her weapon tighter and waited.

After what seemed an incredibly long time but may have only been a minute or two the humming stopped as did the motion of the car. Lilly waited and the door didn't open.

 

The Irregulars descended stair after stair passing a total of ten landings none with an exit then they came to the bottom landing and there was a door. Not even pausing Jean darted forward and kicked the door open before the rest of the group was even off the stairs. “Jeane!” Sean cried in an attempt to halt the angry youth to no avail.

Jeane crashed into the room weapon at the ready prepared...hoping to smash some heads. The room was dark but as soon as she had passed the threshold lights which had been dormant for over a century began flickering to life reveal a huge control room like something from a nineteen seventies scifi show. It was also empty and devoid of life.

Spoiler

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Lilly stepped up to the door and tried to open it, first with her hands then trying to pry it open with the rifle she carried. The door didn't budge. She pushed the button, nothing happened. She pushed it again and again as sudden claustrophobia set in with the fear that she was trapped in the elevator car. She turned her attention back tot he door and tried again to pull the doors open failing that she started beating the doors with the rifle butt.

Then the phone rang

Lilly stopped the panic and claustrophobia gone as rapidly and mysteriously as it had appeared. The phone rang again

Lilly reached out and lifted the reciever and put it to her ear. “Hello?”

“Standby for the Colonel”

Lilly recognized the womans voice but before she could say anything that godawful music that meant she had been put on hold came on but only for an instant then the line went live again and she heard a voice that brought tears to her eyes

“Hey Honey, how are you is everything alright? Did something happen at school?”

It was her dad.

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Control Room

The world's most dejected "Room's Clear!" wafted out of the apparently-abandoned control room, ten floors worth of anticipation draining out of the towering blonde in a huff as she moved to a central point in the room where she could keep an eye on as many doorways as possible while waiting for the others to filter in after her. She really could have used something, anything, to vent this black fog of worry and fear and stress and madness on. But instead, here was more nothing she could help with.

"Do your thing, guys. Lots of buttons for you to push and no guilty scientists or their soldiers to worry about," she added loudly, blue gaze shifting from door to door just in case she was wrong. 

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Kia follows Jeane in once the other girl calls it's clear, and looks around the revealed room. She has no idea what anything in the room is...though she can tell it's still lower tech than the world she remembers. Well, one of them. The real one...?

But it's the elevator door that gets her attention. Kia beelines for it and pushes the button alongside it. Then knocks on it and puts her ear to it, trying to tell if Lilly's car stopped here, or if it's still moving.

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Lilly stood in silence at the sounds of her father's voice, her eyes wide in surprise, tears welling up in them as the receiver shook in her trembling hand.

Several times she tried to speak, but nothing came out until finally she managed a lone.

"D-dad?" as tears cascaded down her cheeks.

Then in a well of emotion everything just came flooding out, almost babbling as she spoke fast, almost as if she was anticipating her father being taken from her at any moment.

"Dad? Where are you? There's... there's no school. We were in pods.. or something. Some 'Matrix' thing... Everything's destroyed. It's a wasteland. What's going on? Where are you? Where am I? What happened?" she babbled in rapid fire questions, finally feeling like she might get some answers as she clung on to a small piece of home in her father's voice.

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Abel didn't waste any time, recognizing some things, he quickly head for a terminal, and began going through the archives.  It was over twenty years of digitized dreaming, and the more he read the deeper his scowl became.  

Still, before that, the digitized dreaming, the final entry was there dated for 1973.   

Even as he went along something didn't match up to him.  If there was twenty years of data, what happened to the rest?  Sure that was alot of data, but hadn't they been down for longer than that?

"Hey Sean, come look at this, I've found some of the data, but there's two decade's worth.  I think we're gonna need to work together here to get through it all."

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Sean stepped out of the stairwell as eagerly as Jeane had, but finding a lack of victims didn't leave her dejected like it had the blonde near-giant. She frowned seeing Kia move to the elevator doors. Unless she had delayed for some reason or if it was the slowest elevator in existence, Lilly should have gotten down here at least as quickly as they had, and almost certainly earlier.

"Kia, if it sounds like Lilly needs help, give a shout out and we'll see what we can do," Sean said. "One of these terminals might handle elevator control. We'll give her a few, and if nothing, a pair of us will go back up, while a pair stays down here, in case the elevator opens."

While Abel went to a terminal immediately, Sean walked around the underground control room, perusing various meters and gauges. She eyed the huge doors to the reactor, curious to see what design it was. She sniffed the air - it was slightly cool, but there was no musty scent or scent of rot. It didn't smell much of anything really, maybe the slightest trace of ozone.

She found shelves full of binders. Pulling one out at random, she found them full of schematics as well as engineering and scientific hypotheses, reports, and articles. She grabbed several more, tucking them under her arm.

Sean circled around back to Abel just as he called out to her. She unslung the pack from her back and plopped it onto the circular table. She pulled off her impromptu hat and tossed it on top of the backpack then walked up behind Abel. She could remember being hardly an inch shorter than he was, she could remember being taller, but she unconsciously rose up on the balls of her feet to look at the terminal over Abel's shoulder.

"We can look at it all if we end up having the time and need," she countered. "For now, we'll need to skim to find the pertinent information we want." She pursed her lips as she noted the date of the final entry. "System might have been put on stand by or something. How 'bout you start from '73 and work backwards and maybe find out what happened to the people and the project? Also, let's see if we can query the system for these numbers." She rattled off the numbers stenciled onto their respective pods. "See if that brings up anything."

Sean pulled out the chair for the terminal next to Abel's, spun it around and straddled it - without the considerable assets she could remember having in other incarnations, it was as comfortable as when she had been a boy or man. She planted the binders she'd taken off to the side. "I'll look for the first entries and work up, looking for the original purpose of the project, and possibly where this inconsistent tech came from."

If we're still now in some manner of simulation...

Jeane had been circling the place with restless energy, not finding any enemies or someone to blame, nor weapons or items that could directly aid them in immediate survival, but lots of printouts of things she didn't understand. Until she came across something she did understand, though she hadn't really expected to find them here. Then she reflected on the supposed time the apocalypse had struck and admitted she didn't know what else she'd expect.

"Here," the big blonde growled, dropping a stack of professional quality video tape reels on one of her passes. "Maybe these can tell you what happened here or what the fuckers went."

It was clear Jeaned was more interest in the latter than the former.

Sean arched a brow at the tapes, ran a hand over her head - seeming disgruntled as is slid over smooth scalp rather than hair - then looked around at the area. "Maybe it will at that." She smirked wryly. "It would certainly be convenient. Abel, start going through entries. I'm gonna look for something to play these tapes and get them set up."

She nodded up at Jeane. "If nothing else, the rest of you can watch them while I help Abel go through the entries on the computer." Her turquoise eyes went to Kia. "How's Lilly, Kia? Anything?"

 

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LILLY

 

The phone crackled and her fathers voice came through sounding concerned “Honey there isn't any apocalypse everything is fine. Where are you if your not at school, is something wrong with the truck?”

 

Lilly shook her head and turned back to the elevator door, “No dad it's...” her words froze in her throat the doors were gone, the elevator was gone. She looked around and at the phone, no longer a receiver but rather her cell phone, in her hand. Lilly was standing beside her truck in the parking lot of the combined school of Shelly Montana. The slamming of her trucks passenger side door caused her to jump.

“Hey better get a move on or we're going to be late.” said Kia as she came around the front of the truck, slipping her book pack across her shoulder. She was dressed in her cheerleading outfit, Lilly looked down and saw that she was wearing her football jersey.

“Lilly, are you there?” her dads voice asked from the phone.

 

FERMI LABS, CHICAGO

2123AD

 

Kia pushed the elevator button but nothing happened as far as she could tell there wasn't even any power going to these controls. She looked back at Abel and Sean, they were already engrossed in whatever was on the computer and Jeane was sorting through big video cassettes,Lilly should have been here already Kia was worried. “Hey Jeane can you come help me open these doors. I'm worried about Lilly.”

Jeane glanced up from the videos and saw the concerned look on Kia's face. “Okay.” She wasn't thrilled with it but maybe beating up the doors would take some of the edge off.

Jeane and Kia worked quickly and pried open the doors which revealed an empty elevator shaft. With out a flashlight it was too far and dark to see if the car was above them an the was no sound. Kia called out for Lilly but there was no response.

“Hey guys, I don't think the elevator is working Lilly may be stuck I thin Jeane and I should go back up and see if we can help her.” Kia said across the room.

Abel and Sean looked up from the computer screen. “Maybe we should all go.” he said

“Nah, you two see what secrets you can dig up out this hell hole. Me and Kia got this.”Said jean as she headed for the stairs. Kia gave Sean and Abel a shrug then followed after the other girl.

 

The climb was long but Jeane was moving fast and Kia was keeping up the worry for her friend driving her. Eventually they arrived at the top landing and Jeane approached the door but she paused before opening and just rushing through, she couldn't say why she paused, but she did. Slowly so as not to make any noise she pushed the heavy door open a crack and peered out. She stiffened and her eyes went wide.

Standing at the open doors of the elevator were three apes, two Chimpanzees and an Orangutan, each was wearing a web belt which held tools and the chimps were armed with rifles and pistols. And they were speaking to one another!

“I'm positive this was not opened last time, positive.” said one chimp.

“And who would have opened it?” said the other

“It had to be the humans we saw.” Said the Orangutan.

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Wasn't this a movie plot at sometime in the last few years? A particularly bad one? Even Jeane knew that there were so few apes compared to humans that the odds of the apes winning any sort of war was stupid small. Honestly, if this turned out to be a cruel simulation, she'd have a word or two with the simulator over this twist. Assuming she wasn't going more crazy from the lack of relief from all this shit. She wanted to break down and laugh again, but the caution and fear in the apes' voices gave her the focus needed to power through it. Simmer down, Hebert. Accept reality as it was right now.

The tall blonde looked over her shoulder at Kia, considering for a second sending the smaller girl out for diplomancy and see what they wanted, but... Kia was more important to the Irregulars, and she wasn't going to sacrifice anyone, not if she could manage at least half as good a job at a cost to her own skin. Well, a hundred plus dead kids were pushing her to avenge them, weren't they? Time to put her money where her mouth was.

'Get down there and tell them we have company if it comes to a fight' she mouthed at her teammate before rapping on the door with her knuckles.

"Don't shoot! My name is Jeane Hebert, and I'm coming out to talk!" she yelled through the door when a hail of bullets didn't immediately reply to her knock. She cautiously opened the door and slid out into the lobby, hands well away from her sides, blue eyes taking in the two chimps in cover she could see, marveling at how small they seemed even compared to most humans, light on her feet in case it did turn to violence.

"Hello. Nice to meet something living today. What's your name? How's it going?" she offered with her best disarming grin, the kind she practiced in the mirror to seem less intimidating in at least a few of the half-remembered shadow lives clouding her mind.

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Kia hesitated, torn between doing as she was told and following her gut. In the end, her gut won. Jeane might need help, and she didn't know where Lilly was, but she knew Lilly wasn't down there...so she had to be around up here somewhere.

She emerged behind Jeane a few steps behind and gave a shy little wave.

"Hi. I'm Kia, and we just woke up and we're super confused about...um...everything?"

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The computer was slow at least slower than the ones they shared in their dreams but still it only took a few minutes to find the files that contained the numbers Sean had provided, the serial numbers of the capsules. Each one was there and each one was attached to numerous other files files which when open revealed plans and schematics for all sorts of things, from, simple household devices to trains planes and automobiles. Medicines, food items, buildings, medical procedures. Thousands of different things.

But that was all nothing about who they were, why they were here or what had happened..

In frustration Sean turned to the videos that Jeane had found and slipped one into the machine she had also located and set up before heading upstairs to look for Lilly with Kia. The lable on the cassete had simply held a date nothing more all of them did it seemed. She had found the earliest one date April 9, 1949.

The picture was black and white, Sean had expected to see the usual government style disclaimers and security panels but the film simply started and showed what looked like an empty office the center of the frame held a desk and a chair. The frame went in and out of focus then settled and some one moved into the frame and sat at the desk. It was Dr. Rashoud.

“It is April 9th 1949,” said the image of the woman Sean knew as Rashoud, “I have decided to make a moving picture record of this project a sort of personal diary using this new video technology. For historical purposes I am Doctor Anhira Rashoud I was brought into the project in 1947 about two months after the wreckage was located in New Mexico. My specialties are Physics, Biology, and Neuroscience. It was I who made the connection between the controls of the craft and the unusual organs found in the brains of the specimens...”

Sean pushed the pause button on the machine and stared at the picture of the woman frozen on the screen.

“Abel, you need to come see this.”

 

 

“Don't shoot them Cornelius! They are only children.” yelled the orangutan from where he peered out of the elevator.

“I'm not going to shoot them Vello, unless they shoot me first.” said the larger of the two chimps. He look over the big plastic planter with the skeleton of some ancient plant he lowered his rifle which had been pointed at Jeane. “We don't want to hurt you, human so why don't you put down your weapon and we can talk.”

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"Couldn't shoot you if I wanted to," Jeane replied easily as one facing down at least two rifles could, pulling the axe out of her belt loop, crouching to place it on the ground, and sliding the crude weapon away with a smile. Cornelius, Cornelius... There was something bothering her about that name... But she couldn't quite place it in the heat of the moment...

"So you're Cornelius," she replied nodding at the bigger chimp before looking at the Orangutan, "Which makes you Vello. Believe it or not, we woke up literally today inside a bunch of pods. Some bastards thought it would be funny to use a bunch of kids as parts for their science project. Left us for dead when whatever happened to the world happened. There's a room full of dead kids in pods a few hours north from here, and we're looking for answers why. *I'm* looking to have a word with the people responsible, although seeing you makes me extremely curious what the heck happened to break everything around here, and make talking apes of all things."

She was nearly growling at that last bit, ghost hunger pangs and confusion clouding her focus for a moment before she looked up again, running a hand over her bald skull, "Was it you on the horses earlier?"

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