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Jason paced the room, where him and four of his colleagues had fled. His steps lined the walls, longer than they ever have. His work demanded the most complex and ambitious thought, but he had never felt this pressured before. Though the project had no appointed leader or organizer, the others had looked to him as a leader since the beginning.
“Well?” Calvin spoke, with a hand to his forehead. “Where to go from here?”
“To be honest,” said Jason, “I’m not entirely sure. We’re all part of this. I don’t know why everyone’s looking at me.”
“Well you’ve certainly called most of the shots. You’re the first to make suggestions, most of the time. How should now be any different?”
Despite Jason’s claim, not everyone was looking at him. Connor, who had remained silent since the group entered the room, was huddled in a corner. He clasped his legs in a fetal position, staring forward as though he hallucinated. The group had stopped trying to communicate with him. They knew he had already gone mad from the events beforehand. In fact, they could only understand his sudden insanity.
Clarice tended the wound on Reyna’s arm, which was inflicted by teeth on their way up the stairs. Calvin and Ronan began to argue again, this time on what path of the facility would be most clear to travel. Jason only began to pace again, until he was caught by Calvin and Ronan’s words.
“We could try the nearest stairway again,” Ronan said. “It was clear up to here, so it should be clear the rest of the way. The things should only be at the deeper levels right now-”
“Right now!” Calvin interrupted. “Exactly! Just where could they be five minutes from now? They could be more intelligent at this point, and could be tracking us down to here! We need to head towards the east stairs, and move out from there. It’s been vacant up to now, so it should leave a clear path out of this place.”
Jason stopped in his step, with his back faced towards the others.
“Out?” Jason spoke softly, “Is that what you think our objective is? Is that what you think needs to be done, Calvin? We created this, we weren’t prepared for it. And for that, we must stop it. The H.G.C. must be stopped.”
“That’s fucking insane. You’ve seen what’s happened. It’s not only uncontrollable, it’s aware. Shutting it down is impossible at this point.”
“Then it must be destroyed,” said Reyna. “It can’t be allowed to keep operating, not like this.”
“Alright, we leave this place, call for military forces, and they come in and destroy the machine, along with those fucking nightmares.”
“Tell me, Calvin,” said Jason, now turning to look at the group. “Do you want military forces to come and look upon our work, what we’ve been keeping completely undisclosed to almost all eyes so far? Do you want to suffer their questions and punishments once they take hold of the situation?”
Calvin was about to answer angrily, but he couldn’t help but agree, in silence.
“That’s what I thought.”
“Any other personnel that may still be alive, that managed to get away?” asked Ronan.
“That aren’t in this room?” Calvin replied.
“Not a chance. The doors were sealed when the H.G.C. went haywire. We were in the only ones out of the room. It’s a miracle in itself that Connor managed to make to us, as those freaks scattered. It’s not like there were many of us to begin with, anyway.”
Given the confidentiality of the project, the facility was deliberately understaffed to maintain secrecy of information. The team had consisted of twelve individuals, all qualified researchers and technicians. Candidates for the project were chosen based on qualifications in both scientific and technological backgrounds. Personnel was also selected in terms of perseverance and dedication. Knowledgable, under-the-radar individuals were the most welcomed.
Keeping the project hidden from unwelcome eyes (both military and government) was an absolute necessity. Because of this, the project was developed in an underground facility, which had been left abandoned since the end of the Cold War. While the facility was very large, the project only required a single, large room, where the H.G.C. (Human Genetics Constructor) was built. The elevators were used for swift travel, but the rest of the space had been left unused, and even unseen.
“We must go now,” said Jason. “The H.G.C. is made to adapt quickly, so we can’t keep waiting. Have your weapons at the ready. We may not have a clear path to the room.”
The group listened, hesitation as they moved out to the hall. For the first time since the project began, Jason felt unsure, paranoid, unaware if he was making the correct choice.
As the group of six left the shelter of the secluded room, the sheer lifelessness of the complex began to make itself clear. The halls they travelled had not seen life for years since their arrival. In fact, what the facility had been used for before their project had still been largely unknown. The large space and multi-purpose rooms hinted to something major, requiring many workers and possible large equipment.
Jason, as usual, took lead as the group went towards the elevator. The rest followed close together, with the exception of Connor. He lagged behind, stumbling occasionally, scanning the surrounding walls. Reyna had made attempts to speak with Connor, and was constantly met with silence. Even as he stepped behind the group, still conscious of movement and sound, he appeared to isolate himself from the remaining researchers.
Just how intelligent the creations were was still a mystery to the group. Jason couldn’t tell if they were incapable to going through doors, or competent enough to work elevators. This made him panic as he went further down the hall.
To his relief, when they reached the elevator, the space was clear.
The trip down to the lab level was silent, with the exception of grinding elevator shaft. Jason felt for his gun around his belt, while Calvin was already clutching his. Reyna’s upper arm was injured, but she still seemed able to handle a firearm.
The elevator stopped on the lab floor.
“Let’s try to keep this as simple as possible,” Jason said. “We stick together, as there’s no point in splitting up. The H.G.C. room is a few halls down, so if we keep pace, we shouldn’t ne-“
The elevator door opened. Near the end of the hall stood a figure, its back turned to the group. It stepped very slowly, and then turned. The lengths of its arms and legs were intimidating, not impossible, but far above an average human’s. It moved forward, towards the elevator.
Then, it began to sprint, sounding a distorted growl.
Jason and Calvin both aimed, and then began to fire. Some shots missed, but others hit the creature in random areas. As the shots hit, the creation let out inconsistent, warped screeches that echoed through the hall. No shots fully stopped it until it received a blow to the head, in which it collapsed to the floor.
The group, after lingering in the elevator for a few seconds, approached the body. Though its limbs were unusually long, it wasn’t the only disturbing feature. Numerous scars were scattered about the body, especially nearing the arms and legs. It was rather frail, leaving its spine very visible. Its fingers were tipped with small, sharpened fingernails, and patches of skin remained incomplete. The creature had two different eyes, a blue and an orange. Finally, the mouth had been outfitted with an array of needle-tipped teeth.
It was hard for Jason (or any of the researchers, for that matter) to believe that these creations were intended to be real humans. The ending purpose of the Human Genetics Constructor had been debated, but its function remained true to the project’s goal: to create real, living, and completely accurate humans. The H.G.C. was not a cloning machine or android constructor; its humans were completely unique to each other, all capable of being programmed with specific skills, physical attributes, and knowledge.
When the H.G.C. had finished construction, its first tests were flaws, but none capable of causing the madness that had unfolded. The early subjects had drained senses, stunted limbs, misplaced and/or dysfunctional organs, and the occasional mixup of male and female features. Most of its early persons didn’t live for more than a minute.
To help correct many early mistakes, the H.G.C. was programmed to not only be self-operating, but also self-correcting. If a created human was judged as a failure, it changed its direction and strategy to fix the issue. For over an hour, the machine improved itself as designed, getting closer towards a perfectly normal human.
Over time, the H.G.C.’s programming proved to be highly inconsistent. Even though the machine had gone close to success, it changed its approach constantly. This began to produce more grotesque, nightmarish humans, ones with numerous extra limbs and disarranged, incomplete portions. The researchers, though looking for other solutions, continued to command the system to change its operations, recognizing its faults.
The H.G.C. caught on, in a different sense, one that began the destruction. After the system was aware of its own freedom and power, it realized that its flaws were not with its creations, but its own inventors. The only reason it was failing was because the technicians were claiming it wrong. It then set a new goal in motion, and the objective was simple:
Eliminate all human personnel, immediately.
It produced a new kind of creation: Not an aimless, contorted monster, but a weapon. It produced “humans” specifically designed to kill, monsters that were fast, enduring, capable of biting and ripping a normal person to mere fragments. When the first hideous creation stepped from the machine, it managed to kill three researchers in the first sixty seconds. The H.G.C. had developed a tool, one for removing the errors it had encountered.
Five mistakes remain uncorrected.
As the rest of the group began to move again, Connor still fell behind. He stopped to look at the dead creation, in which Jason looked watched him with curiosity. Connor stared at the carcass, and then looked up towards Jason. “He is false,” Connor said, before walking forward with the others.
The group began to rush as they encountered more bodies, of both other personnel and the creations. As they neared the room of the H.G.C., the walls became murals of blood and bullet shrapnel. It was unknown if any others managed to escape. Judging by the scene in the halls, it was unlikely.
The number of creations was still a mystery, though their dominance over the facility was surely spreading. Their time was running short, especially as the halls grew large and complex.
“I’ll run in, and try to shut it down manually,” Jason said, as the group approached the observation room. "If that doesn’t work, I’ll destroy the power supply. Cover me, and yourselves if needed.”
When they reached the observation, the group approached the window that overlooked the lab, and readied their eyes.
They weren’t ready enough.
The entire room was a bloodbath. The H.G.C.’s conveyor belt ran about the room, connecting its various tools and chambers. The belt had reached a tremendously high speed, much more than it was invented to handle. The machine still functioned, but not at the cost of failures. The inhuman shapes that passed and fell from the belt were near inconceivable to the researchers. Twisted, incomplete “humans” stumbled from the end of the machine.
At an average rate, the H.G.C. created a grotesque humanoid every 45 seconds. At the end of the conveyer lied a stack of the mistakes, with some being able to walk about for a minute. At random intervals, another vicious, capable creation left the conveyor.
Another human bred to kill.
Some of the deceased personnel (or at least some of their pieces) could be seen across the room. The remaining, unseen individuals were either dead in the halls, or buried beneath the heap of contorted limbs.
It was clear that time couldn’t be wasted. Jason focused his eyes to the H.G.C.’s mainframe, its screen lit with commands and chaotic code. Despite its rushed work and many mistakes, it would eventually improve itself, as it was designed to do.
Calvin was petrified with the sight of the room. When they stepped into the hall, however, Calvin turned the other direction. “Fuck this,” Calvin said. “I’m getting out of this place, and calling for military forces.”
“Wait,” Jason said. “What makes you think you can leave? Just how many of those ravenous creatures are scattered? You saw how many shots it took to take care of that one earlier. You try to make it out alone, you’re as good as dead.”
“Fuck you! We could’ve made it out at any point before this. You’re still concerned with the machine, not our safety. Why we followed you, I’ll never know, but I’m not going to walk into a suicide room for the sake of fiddling with a goddamn computer.”
Calvin turned, and began to move down the hall.
“Fool,” Jason said as Calvin left.
The lab door stood in front of the remaining group. The halls remained silent, but the room behind the door echoed with the sounds of grinding mechanics and the rush of conveyors.
Jason opened the doors, and his senses were overwhelmed by a unusual, terrible odor. Its scent could only be described as a mix of iron, burnt rubber, and rotted skin.
It had been two hours since the H.G.C. malfunctioned, and the bodies had piled up beyond expectation. Jason began to stumble over organic debris and lifeless abominations as he rushed to the H.G.C.’s control. What limbs belonged to some of the personnel was difficult to tell.
“If any killer comes out of that machine, or through the door,” Jason said. “Shoot it dead. Don’t be wasteful with ammunition, either.”
The others nodded, and Jason made his way to the end of the room. Once he cleared most of the bodies, he began to sprint. As he neared close, he could see that the screen was a mess of text, code, and commands. It was near-impossible to decipher any of it.
He mashed delete keys, shut-down controls, reverse commands, even shot at the power generator numerous times. Not a single action even stunned the machine. He continued to hammer the controls, only out of frustration. Hopelessness began to flow over him, then fear, as he heard gunshots erupt from the other end of the room. He slowly turned his head up, to see that a different text had appeared on the screen:
[DO YOU THINK YOU CAN PLAY GOD?]
It was displayed in small, green letters, surrounded by a box centered on the screen. The display surrounding it was still in chaos, but the words were completely clear. Once Jason read the text, it was replaced:
[DO YOU THINK THIS IS YOUR PLACE? YOUR CREATIONS?]
Though they were only computerized words, Jason felt as though they spoke to him. It could’ve been madness setting over him, but a voice echoed through mind as he continued to read the H.G.C.’s messages.
[I AM GOD, HERE]
[THESE ARE MY CHILDREN]
[THIS IS MY HEAVEN]
Jason heard the rest of the group begin to scream for him. The ravenous humanoids were generating quicker, by the sounds of it. He had to stop the machine, run for his safety, or perhaps end his life right then. Just as the pressure began to reach a critical level, the machine typed once more:
[AND THIS PLACE WILL BE YOUR HELL]
“It already is,” Jason thought to himself. He looked towards the ground, and spotted the nearest corpse. It was, for sure, of a researcher. Jason recognized him, but couldn’t put down his name exactly. He turned from the computer, and approached the body. After staring at its figure for about ten seconds, the longest he had felt in his life, he moved to act.
He lifted the body, and ran towards the nearest chamber of the machine. Then, he tossed the body inside.
A loud, grinding noise came from the chamber, and the belt slowed for a small moment. Jason looked back at the group, and knew the opportunity at hand. Jason continued.
He picked up any body or limb he could carry, and tossed them among the H.G.C.’s other chambers and tools. Connor and Ronan began to understand his idea, and joined in effort. The crushing of bones and compacting of flesh in the machine began to overtake the sounds of the belt, which continued to stutter and slow. Blood splatted across the room from the machine, both from the grounded bodies and the H.G.C.’s supply. After seconds, the coats of the three men were painted with red and small shavings of flesh.
A few more gunshots sounded about the room, and the belt then slowed to an abrupt stop. The group took a breath of slight relief, which was overshadowed by the fact that they were still deep within the facility. Jason noticed that though the machine had stopped, its power supply still ran at full force, and its control screen was still lit with text and symbols.
Error messages flooded about the H.G.C.’s computer. Jason could make out a few reading “BELT SPACE ERROR” and “JAM LEVELS CRITICAL”, but the messages were still too disorganized. He was about to turn away, until the text began to disappear, word by word. He suspected the machine was powering down from the errors. The screen made space for a single, final message:
[EVEN AS I DIE, MY CHILDREN WILL FOLLOW]
[BUT HERE, YOU WILL BE BURIED]
The power supply began to flicker, and then began to glow an extreme brightness. A shaking pressure built across the room. It was obvious to the group what was happening, in which they began to sprint for the elevator.
Jason and Ronan were oblivious to the fact that Reyna had been injured again, and much more severely. Rather than a wound to the arm, she had been cut in the neck by two nails, and had been losing blood since they ran from the testing room. Clarice had witnessed the injury, but had no means of treating it on the spot, and was occupied in holding the creatures back as the others operated.
As the group was reaching the elevator, Reyna fell behind, and then fell to the floor. Ronan turned to grab her, but a group of the creations were already approaching behind. Ronan knew he would die too, helping her. He didn’t look back as he ran to the elevator. As the elevator doors closed, however, the group couldn’t help but see her be torn apart.
As the elevator opened to the upper hallways, Jason had realized his speculation to be true: The creations had spread to the upper levels. As the group ran towards the nearest exit, screeches and growls sounded throughout the halls. They sounded distant, though they were on the same floor. They would be found soon, no doubt.
A massive, quaking explosion sounded from the lower floor.
None of the researchers had any intentions of recovering any recordings, research findings, or even personal belongings. The blood on their coats and images in their memory had made escape the only objective in sight.
At the end of the final hall, the ladder towards the surface appeared in sight.
When the group turned a corner, a creation struck Connor, sending him to the ground. The creature went on him, clawing at his neck and chest while sounding a terrible scream. Connor managed to reach for his gun quick enough, and shot the creature clear in the chin, sending it back. From the sounds of the halls, more were coming, and Connor’s wounds were painfully critical.
The rest of the group ran for the ladder, while Jason watched Connor in his last moments. He only remained on the floor, breathing heavily, watching the hall ahead. He looked back at Jason once, and stared for a moment. After glancing down the hall, which must’ve held a horde of sprinting creations, he spoke his last words toward Jason:
“They are false.”
Jason ran for the ladder at the hall’s end, and heard a burst of frantic bullets.
Jason expected to be blinded by sunlight when he stepped out, but his eyes were greeted with grey, clouded skies. Ronan and Clarice were already above, waiting for him. Calvin was also present, who was expected to be gone already. Jason didn’t think of it much, as he had to immediately seal the cover to the facility. He placed the steel plate over the manhole, and barred it shut. He even grabbed nearby rocks in the field to weigh it down. Soon after the entrance hole was covered, hands could be heard from the opposite side, banging at the cover.
The group stood in silence for some time. No one had a clear idea of what to say, even Jason.
Jason began to think about Connor, and how he was disregarded for his insanity. He may have been the most daring of the group, to examine everything so closely. Jason wondered if he should’ve done the same. He turned away from the facility entrance, and looked at Calvin.
“Look, I’m sorry I left you, okay?” Calvin said. “I just made it up about a minute ago, and heard you coming down the hall. I haven’t even even tried to contact anyone yet.”
Jason nodded, and looked at Ronan and Clarice, who both gave blank looks back.
“I’d forgive you,” Jason said. “if the conditions were different. But we both know that wouldn’t be the smart choice.”
Jason drew his gun, and shot Calvin clear in the forehead. Clarice screamed at the attack, and she was shot directly after. They both immediately fell, with no struggle. Ronan stood still, shaking, completely lost with the gun aimed to him. Another second past, and then Ronan took two shots to the head as well.
Jason dropped his gun to the grass, when the three bodies lied. Their skulls were nearly divided apart from the shots. They had died instantly.
Jason didn’t know how long he’d been deceived. It could’ve been since the beginning, when they escaped to the upper level. It could’ve been while they were in the H.G.C. lab, when he was turned to the computer. Perhaps it was another moment entirely, but it didn’t matter to him. Connor, despite his madness, had been correct.
They were false.
Written by Emeryy