Interlude: The Complex

A boy learns the hard way to listen to his elders as he finds his way through a decades-abandoned building.

The young man pulled himself up onto the sagging roof of the Nagatomi Complex with a grunt. His companion was waiting for him impatiently. “I don’t know if we should be up here, Kyle.”

“Come on, Aaron! We’re teenagers now. Besides, it’s not like help is miles away.”

“Yeah, but my dad said this place is…” Kyle had run out of patience. “Aw, come on, man!”

Kyle ran along the pitted roof, jumping over the old duct work and debris. “There’s nothing in here, Aaron! Come on!”

Aaron breathed in gasps. “Just… wait!”

Kyle slid to a stop in the rubble. Aaron stumbled to a halt and half-crashed into him. “Watch it, dork!” He pointed at a sizable hole in the roof. “Dare me to jump it?”

Aaron looked uncertain. “I don’t know, Kyle. What if you don’t make it?”

“Whatever, man.” Kyle flashed him a grin before breaking into a run. His feet touched down just on the far side of the hole. The rotted roof cracked and groaned, giving way underneath his weight.

Kyle cried out in surprise as he disappeared down into the complex. Aaron ran to the edge of the hole. He was nearly in tears. “Kyle! Kyle!”

The young man was sprawled across a pile of rubble several feet down. He sat up coughing, brushing at the dust covering him. “I’m alright.”

“Just sit tight! I’ll go get my dad!”

“I said I’m fine! I’ll just find my way out and meet you out front.”

“Oh, man! That’s not a good idea! My dad says there’s things in there. Just wait.”

“I got this, dude!” Kyle pulled a 9 millimeter handgun from the waist of his pants. “Ain’t nothing gonna take me out.”

“Whatever, man. I’m getting my dad!” Aaron ran off before Kyle could respond.

“Yeah, whatever…” Kyle stood with a groan, taking in his surroundings. To his surprise, he found he could see deeper into the complex. The emergency lights were still working, albeit weakly, at least a century after the building had been abandoned.

“Sweet. I’ll be out of here in no time.” He spared the sky above one final look before wandering deeper into the building.

The floors were littered with fallen cabinetry and various destroyed furnishings. Long-forgotten reports lay scattered across the rusting metal flooring. The dim, flickering emergency lights cast macabre, dancing shadows at odd angles.

“Just an old abandoned factory.” Kyle talked quietly to himself. He gripped the pistol tightly in his hands. “Just need to get to the stairs.”

He heard something rustle in the far corner. He stopped dead, listening. “Probably rats.” He continued on, moving a little faster.

He swore he heard something speak, very faintly. “I don’t…” It was distorted. “Probably an old computer or something.” Kyle spotted the door to the emergency stairwell and breathed a sigh of relief.”

“I don’t…” The voice was much clearer this time. “I don’t feel…” It was coming from just ahead of him.

Kyle came to a stop and held up the handgun with shaking hands. “I… I have a gun!”

The pile of rubble just ahead and to the left of him began to shift. “I don’t…” Something was pushing itself free of the debris. “I don’t feel…”

A heavily damaged robot slowly rose from the wreckage. Its cladding was missing, leaving the sharp, skeletal substructure visible. The rusting motors and servos whined in protest at being put through their motions after so many decades.

“I don’t feel…” A bright white mask, featureless save for a hint of a mouth and black eye holes stared back at the boy. “I don’t… feel…”

“Stay back! I’ll shoot!” Kyle’s whole body was quivering.

The towering machine stuttered forwards, metal feet squealing on the floor. It stretched skeletal fingers out towards the boy. “I don’t…”

Kyle screamed. He squeezed off two wild shots, then ran for the stairwell. The robot began clunking faster towards the boy. It continued it’s plaintive cries. “I don’t… I don’t feel…”

The boy pounded down the stairs and burst out of the door at the bottom. Faint daylight filtered through filthy windows. He could make out the main entrance through an open door from the room he was in.

“I told you… No problem…” Kyle huffed as he jogged to the other side of the room. He passed through the open door, eyes on the prize.

A loud bang followed by an avalanche of papers and filing cabinets erupted from beside him. He screamed, swinging the handgun wildly and wasting two more shots. He fell backwards against the wall as something emerged from the mess.

Another robot. This one was wheeled, with skeletal, human-like arms. In the middle of its frame was an old, flickering CRT monitor. An odd-shaped black dome sat atop it. The blurred image of a woman’s face appeared on the screen.

The face contorted and began to cry and blubber. The disembodied head shook violently and began to scream. The robot started toward Kyle, arms swinging.

The boy screamed back and started firing the gun. The last two shots struck the dome atop the screen. Sparks flew from the robot. The face of the woman continued to scream, contorting and stretching.

A final blast shot the black dome off of the robot. The screen went blank. Kyle pushed himself to his feet against the wall. He gasped as he peered into where the dome had been.

A shattered inner glass dome held what looked like a human brain. The brackish fluid that had supported it poured down over the rusted metal exterior of the robot-human hybrid. He leaned in, fascinated and repulsed at the same time.

“I don’t feel…” The white-masked robot reached out towards Kyle from around the open doorway. Kyle screamed and ran for the front door. He grabbed both handles and pulled. It was locked.

“I don’t feel…” The robot stared at its destroyed counterpart. “I don’t…” It continued its march towards Kyle, arms outstretched. “I don’t feel…”

Kyle screamed, pulling and yanking on the doors. He gave up, turning to run. He tripped over a fallen filing cabinet and hit his head on the cold floor.

“I don’t…” Kyle fought to open his eyes. The robot was looming over him. He screamed, scrambling backwards. Where was the gun?

The robot bent towards the ground before Kyle. It stumbled, nearly toppling over. “I don’t…” It stood back up, skeletal fingers wrapped around Kyle’s handgun. “I don’t feel…”

Kyle began bawling, holding his arms out in front of him. “Go away! Go away! Please…”

“I don’t…” The robot used its free hand to pull at the white mask on its head. The mask came free with a snap. Behind it was a glass container.

A human skull with eyes stared back at Kyle, flashing a permanent rictus. “I DON’T FEEL…” The robot pointed the handgun at its own head and pulled the trigger.

The glass shattered into a million pieces. The fluid supporting the skull poured out like blood. The robot’s voice box screamed distorted noise and then fell silent. The robot toppled to its knees, then fell backwards.

Something boomed against the entrance doors. Another boom. Another boom. The doors popped open, rusted hinges screaming. A man stumbled through, holding a sledgehammer. “Kyle!”

The man rushed over to the boy. Aaron followed closely behind him. “Dad! Dad! Is he okay?”

Aaron’s father edged around the fallen robot-human hybrid, a look of fear and revulsion on his face. He dropped to one knee beside Kyle. “Are you okay, son?”

Kyle looked back at him, eyes wide. He swallowed hard, trembling. “I…” Aaron’s father put a reassuring hand on his shoulder. Kyle flinched, shivering. “I don’t… I don’t feel…”