In the fifth basement, there is a room; the walls are damp where the salt water meets them on the other side, it leaves an odd mouldy smell and scattered stains throughout. Davis and his Uprising within a broken Uprising are thrown inside the room. There are four neatly arranged bunks with barely any walking space between them. The crew are immediately met with a claustrophobia none of them knew they had.
Blister, Korvo and Elix pace around the room hunting for a flaw they can exploit, while Davis sits on a bunk next to Jones and Mac.
“I know my words don’t really carry much weight right now, but thanks for standing by me in there”
“Davis…” Mac begins.
“…I’m sorry, I’ve known Lance for a long time, we’ve been kicking Assim ass together longer than I could hold a job in the old world, I just wish I could’ve stood up to him like you did, only sooner. Maybe none of this would have happened”
“Mac, you stood when it counted, I won’t forget that…” Davis replies.
“…And Jones, we don’t know each other except by name and a few rumours, but, I’m glad C Cluster named a bright woman like you to lead them, I suppose your actions have granted you a reward, I should probably tell you guys our real plan of attack”
Mac perks up before Davis can continue.
“Whatever your plan is Davis, I Know you’ve got a way out of here, and I know the Assimilated are coming with all they’ve got, and I know for sure you’ll need as much time as you can scrounge to pull this off”
“What are you getting at Mac?” Davis asks.
“Just trust me okay, don’t tell me your plan, when Nox comes through the door, I’ll tell the soldiers that you told me your plan and they’ll have me speak to Lance immediately, that should buy you enough time to do what you have to do, and if it doesn’t, well, I tried. At least I know I stood up when it counted” He smiles.
“Alright guys, the plan remains a mystery, Jones, I guess you’ll just have to wait and see. Mac, thank you”
Davis places his hand on Macs shoulder and they stare a grateful gaze at one another.
Only a few minutes pass before footsteps are heard in the hall outside the bunkroom’s door. Blister, Korvo and Elix stop their thorough examination of the room’s weaknesses to spin their heads to the door. The six Hûms huddle together in the centre of the room, as though they were going to rush the soldiers when they enter.
The door opens; four men trot in rifle barrels first, aiming at Davis and his crew. They form a line and hold, two more men come through holding Nox by his arms from behind. Davis sees red and tries to charge but is immediately held by his companions, albeit with great difficulty.
The two soldiers in the middle turn their weapons to the stumbling Nox, the other two remain still, aimed at the group. Davis calms, he and Blister help Nox onto the bed behind them. Mac steps up to one of the soldiers.
“Take me to Lance, I’ve gathered some Intel from this scum” He says, his face ridden with disgust.
Blister and Elix jerk to their feet, Blister yells:
“You slimy fuck, I’ll fucking kill you” As he stomps towards Mac.
Two of the soldiers stand in his way and Blister is met with a rifle barrel poking each of his eyes. He immediately raises his hands. Mac looks over the soldier’s shoulder at Blister.
“Oh, you didn’t think I was your friend, did you? Blister, they told me you were a little dull, but now, I can see you’re just fucking stupid… Have fun growing mould down here” He concludes, as he walks out of the room confidently.
“Nox, hey… it’s Davis” Jones pushes past Davis and the crew.
“Get out of the way, he needs space to breathe. Davis! Let me see him”
Davis backs off. Jones looks him over. Nox’s eyes flick open from their squinted state, Jones flinches backward, and then springs forward.
“Nox? Can you hear me?”
He frantically looks around and grabs at his eyes trying to signal that they don’t work. Jones turns to Davis.
“When you found him, what were they doing? Was he drugged or in a coma?”
“Ahh, umm…” Davis panics as he tries to remember.
“…He was hooked up to a machine, his eyes were covered, he ate through a tube”
“Makes sense, they had his brain in like, a low power mode so they could program it easier. He’s coming out of a coma, we have to be very careful with him”
Jones turns back to Nox.
“Nox, look at my hand…”
She holds it above his face and moves it in circles. His eyes track it but strain quickly. He blinks and swats it away with his own hand.
“Davis this is a good sign, he’s going to recover, I don’t know how well though”
“Will he be able to swim, or hold his breath?” Davis asks.
“You’re joking me, aren’t you?”
“No time for jokes, that’s how we’re getting out of here”
Jones looks at Nox and sighs.
“Fuck…” She turns back to Davis.
“…Come here, get him to follow your hand with his eyes and squeeze it on your command, one minute on, one minute off, get him to say a sentence, ask a question, whatever, and he should be able to swim”
“But he was talking before, when we found him. You heard him Elix, he said “Have to protect Davis”’
“Yeah that’s right, what does that mean Jones?” Elix asks.
“Look this wasn’t any normal coma, so side effects are going to be unpredictable, while he’s been able to say things; they’ve only been parrot sounds, echoes, and since they were fucking with his brain, that makes this incalculable at best”
Davis looks at Jones; he heard what she said but refused to accept any negative outcome.
“Blister, here, take my Morse responder, tell Trace to slow down, I need more time with Nox, he has to be ready when she gets here”
“You sure man, that’s real risky, having them take their time”
“I won’t leave here without him Blister, he’s been alone for too long already”
“Alright man, I’ll do it” Blister agrees, and empathises, if it had been his Charlotte or his boy Jacob, he would do the same.
“Mac I’m surprised, I didn’t peg you for a snitch, come in, come in, have a seat, do you want some coffee?”
Mac knows this offer of coffee and niceties is all part of Lance’s scheme. He’s setting a scene for Mac; he’s set himself up in the station’s workshop, and he’s using a work bench as his desk.
The long skinny room is radiating with warm light from above, Mac feels his Goosebumps disappear as he takes a seat in front of Lance.
“This is the cleanest workshop I have ever seen” Mac says.
“Amazing isn’t it, we can learn something from these Assims you know?”
“Enough bullshit…” Mac jabs “…It doesn’t have to happen this way. We should be listening to Davis; he and Artemis had a plan. We were going to work together Lance”
“Humph, Artemis. He’d have us all commit suicide to save the masses, and Davis would use our bloodied clothes as a rope to climb into the Encephalon and save the day” He ends, rolling his eyes.
“You’re wrong” Mac states.
“Look around you Mac we’re sitting on top of our greatest victory to date. We disabled and secured the biggest reprograming station in the country. We did. Not Davis, nor Artemis…” Lance shakes his head and squints at Mac.
“…We stopped some of the most Dangerous Assims from scouring the streets looking for our little rat holes we call homes”
“So you admit it then?” Mac interjects.
Lance leans back into his chair to contemplate his answer.
“You should know by now Mac, there will always be casualties of war, but if we can choose which ones we lose, maybe their deaths will prove more useful than their lives ever could”
“You’ve fucking lost it Lance. Do you know I used to look up to you? And now, now I wouldn’t even look down at you if you were begging me for help. You’re no better than the Encephalon. We’re not sitting on victory. We’re standing on our dead with our heads in the clouds and calling ourselves giants. That’s no victory”
Lance doesn’t even wince at his former comrade’s words. He then draws a confused look on his face.
“You came in here offering Intel, but now you’re berating me like I’m some kind of child…” Something clicks in Lance’s brain
“…Oh, OH! Mac, you almost did it, you almost had me fooled. You’re stalling me you rascal…”
Lance switches from sportive to serious as he leans over the desk.
“…Now, tell me their plan or I’ll use YOUR bones to lift my head OUT of the clouds”
Mac breaks immediately; he can’t keep his ruse up now that Lance has caught him out.
“No, don’t, you need me; you’ll need all of us if we’re going to survive”
“Tell me their plan Mac” Lance repeats.
“Ahh, fuck it. They’ve played you all for fools; they were never going to use our Clusters as a decoy…”
Mac points all around the room with both index fingers.
“…This, this station was their plan all along, they meant to lure all the Clusters here so the Assimilated could swarm in and take you all away”
Lance fails to conceal his laughter.
“Ahah ahhahaha” His cackle angers Mac.
“What the fuck is so funny?” Mac asks.
“There’s only one fool in here, and it isn’t me. That couldn’t possibly be his plan…”
Again, Lance’s silliness converts to a straight face.
“…Because it’s my plan. No, they plan to escape somehow. John, get in here” He calls out.
“Sir?” The boy asks, rushing through the door from the corridor.
“Bring me Davis and his crew immediately”
“Yes sir” The soldier complies, before dashing out of the room.
He’s gone no more than ten seconds before he comes sprinting back in the room. A variety of screams can be heard down the hall. A distant commotional buzz fills the room as the boy enters, his sweat stained clothes immediately sting Mac’s nostrils.
“Lance, err, Sir! It’s the Assims sir; they’re massing out the front, what do we do?”
Lance stands with a feint smirk, he adjusts his collar and looks at the boy calmly.
“Get the crack shots to the towers and everyone else on the walls, let the Assims get real close, and when I give the order, we EMP them until they’re no more than a seizing pile of skin, got it?”
Enthusiastically: “Yes Sir” The boy confirms.
Just as the soldier flinches to leave, Mac stands.
“He’s never going to give that order kid”
The boy looks at Mac confused. He doesn’t suspect Lance’s deceit at all. Lance steps closer to the young man.
“It’s just the ravings of a desperate criminal, don’t listen to him son” Lance attempts to quell the distrust Mac has seeded.
Mac raises his voice:
“You’ll be Assimilated if you stay, get out, get your friends ou…”
Mac’s sentence runs short as the violent, thunderous clap of Lance’s pistol rings out in the boy’s ears; he cringes, his hands fly to his ears as he squeezes his eyes shut in fear.
Mac falls back onto his chair; its legs slide out and he thuds to the ground. His body lies awkwardly on the white tiled floor turning red, like blood on the tundra it taints as it seeps from Mac’s nearly missing head.
The young man’s eyes open from their terror closed state and are fixed on the blood puddle trailing to the nearest drain in the floor.
“Man the wall. Man the towers. I won’t give a second order soldier” Says Lance.
Survival clicks in the boy’s brain, he shakes as he stutters:
“Y…Yes Sir” His minute old enthusiasm disperses into the air, along with pink mist of Lance’s actions.
The boy runs out the door shaking his head, and maybe if he shook it hard enough the image would fall away from the insides of his eye lids. Such a sight would not easily fade.
Lance holsters his pistol and sips his now lukewarm coffee.
“Hmm, the Assimilated are early, I guess I won’t have to dirty my hands a second time after all” He says quietly to himself.
He doesn’t even take a second look at his former compatriot before leaving the sullied workshop to see his motives through.