Chapter 07: Shutdown

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The only real mercy of the situation was that no one was still alive.

Callie wasn't entirely sure she would be able to handle it if these were living people and not a roomful of corpses. She led the squad through the slaughterhouse, trying not to focus too hard on the details of the horror surrounding her but finding herself unable to completely succeed. There were just too many mutilated corpses. They surrounded her on all sides, an ocean of suffering. She had to pass between rows of simple metal platforms, mockeries of examination tables, most of them spattered with red and black fluid.

Each was occupied, none were empty.

They had already taken shots of opportunity and put down every single techno hard at work in the area, headshots all around. They'd also capped a couple of the corpses that showed signs of life. Now it was still and silent.

The reek had been beyond tolerance.

Callie had closed her vents, using her suit's oxygen supply for the time being, because the heavy, thick aroma of exposed internal organs, of blood and raw meat and slow decay, was simply too much. Especially when it was mixed with the oily scent of machinery and hardware, and the crispy stench of burned flesh.

And, of course, she kept catching glimpses of the bodies around her. Exposed intestines. Lidless eyes. Great, bloody wounds. Severed limbs.

Other, worse things.

It seemed to take ages, but she finally made it across the warehouse-sized room. She could hear the squelching noises of blood on her boots. She opened a door at the far end and stepped through it, grateful that the small room beyond looked like a simple transitional chamber. But who knew how many more chambers of horror they would have to endure? Callie steeled herself, trying to draw on her own inner strength and willpower she'd had to grow and harness and harden for years. If there was ever a time for it, it was now.

She saw an old terminal hooked into the wall in front of her and, after clearing the area, moved quickly over to it and booted it up. The others covered her as she spent a little while trying to navigate the menus and figure out what meant what. Eventually, she managed to get a working map of the underground system they currently found themselves within. She shuddered briefly when she saw how many huge rooms there were similar to the one they'd just passed through. There had to be a couple of dozen of them.

"There," she said suddenly, latching onto it when she saw it. "There's a central power nexus deeper in, not all that far from here. We get there, we kill it." Part of her knew that that wouldn't really put a definitive end to the atrocities committed here, a real end would happen when they killed the leader and probably blew this fucking place to hell. Although the more rational part of her hesitated at that thought. How many dead bodies were here to be identified? How many corpses could be shipped back to give families some peace?

Well, either way, she felt on fire right now, like her blood was boiling and she needed to fucking do something or she'd flip out.

"Study the map," she said after she had memorized not only the path to the power core but from there to a way up and into the castle overhead.

Callie waited until they had all studied up, then led them out of the room and back into the horror of the meat machines.

* * *

Callie felt like they were making progress.

They'd cleared through more warehouse-sized rooms, blasting away about forty of the monstrous med-technos, the silent, dead men and women driven by power and mechanisms with surgical instruments attached to the stumps of their wrists, with cold, dead eyes fill of awful light and inhuman precision.

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