The tiny padlock was no match for the bolt cutter, it snapped clean without effort. The rusty door of the western building opposed no resistance to the crowbar, either, opening with a creaking sound when Kamuro and Helena pushed it open. Finally, the old factory was about to reveal its secrets.
The two tall slabs of concrete linked by a bridge in the middle of the city were closed for decades now, but the place only piqued Kamuro's attention when he became an urban explorer. He planned several expeditions inside the building in the past, but only decided to act when he learned that the buildings were scheduled for demolition. The time was perfect for exploring, but not alone. The young Japanese man had trouble convincing some of his fellow students that exploring a spooky old building was the experience of a lifetime... Until he mentioned the urban legend about how the money from a robbery was still hidden somewhere in there. It convinced at least one of them: Helena, a Swiss exchange student who came to Japan. Not the most romantic place for a date, but it was something.
The building turned out to be quite uneventful in terms of exploration. Save for the occasional scare due to a rat popping out of under a pile of moldy cardboard boxes, some graffiti and the rusting equipment, Kamuro and Helena didn't find anything special. After reaching the top of the building, the youths decided to go explore the eastern building, which belonged to a metalworking company. However, something caught their attention once the eastern rooftop was reached via the bridge. Unlike the other building, this one had a brand new door and padlock on it, as well as large metal bars pushing against the door.
"That's odd," said Helena. "Why would they barricade this door?"
"Well, this place is rumored to be where some criminals hid their money, remember? I guess they didn't want the hobos to run in the middle of their base. Come on, help me open it."
It took them a bit of work, but once again, the padlock was cut and the door opened. While Helena went in without a second thought, Kamuro stopped before entering as he heard the creaking noise of a door coming from the western rooftop. After a quick look which revealed nothing, he dismissed it as his imagination playing tricks on him. "Time to explore this place," he thought.
The place was not so different than the western building: rusting old machinery everywhere, the pungent smell of dust, mold and old chemicals and darkness everywhere, save for the dirty windows and Kamuro's flashlight. However, Helena was nowhere to be seen. Looking to the ground, he saw her footprints in the dust going in the direction of the stairs. Perhaps she saw something, but this made him uneasy: an inexperienced urban explorer like her was likely to get hurt or lost as she would act recklessly and forget to leave marks.
Following the footsteps, Kamuro reached the 7th floor looking for his friend. He was about to call her name when he noticed more footprints: Helena's boots and an oddly-shaped one. The footprints also became scattered and messy after a few meters. The young man understood that the odd-footed thing followed the girl, who began to run away… With the thing in tow. The prints went down two floors and stopped in front of the stairs' door leading to the 5th floor. Said door was locked despite Kamuro's efforts to open it, even with his crowbar. Out of ideas, he thought about calling the police, but the loud sound of metal scratching against concrete from the floor below stopped him. The sound, accompanied by slow and heavy footsteps on metal, began to close in on him. Running on the floor above, Kamuro darted inside a rusty furniture locker and curled up inside.
The creaking and footsteps followed a few seconds afterwards, coming from the stairs. The thing stopped for a moment before it began to walk around the floor. Kamuro was trapped: he didn't dare to get out of the locker or get up and look through the door since the creature could see him. He reconsidered calling for help when the creature suddenly moved around, knocking over some junk in the process, then stayed silent. The student then heard the soft footsteps coming from the stairs towards his level. Too soft to be his friend's fancy boots. After a few seconds, the creature hissed in a steam-like sound and ran towards the footsteps before falling down in a loud crash. Kamuro heard the soft footsteps again coming closer to the creature, then two loud bangs he recognized as gunfire. After a moment of silence, Kamuro heard the brief static of a radio turned on, then a monotonous and muffled male voice speaking.
"One Copper terminated. We have two intruders in the eastern building; a male and a female. Urban explorers. The girl must have been taken to the lair. The boy is nowhere to be seen. […] I can't go down, the stairs have been walled off in the western building. […] Yes. Consider it done."
The man walked to the other side of the floor, then after a creaking metallic sound, nothing was heard. Kamuro was as frightened as he was confused. All that he knew was that something took Helena to a "lair" below and that the armed man knew about them. Wild theories flew in his head: the urban legend was true and the armed man was a criminal who came for the money, or he was a sociopathic security guard, or… He didn't know. But he knew that Helena was in danger. It was dangerous, but he had to find this lair and get her out of here before the armed man or those Coppers (whatever they were) found her. Leaving his hideout, he bolted in the direction where the man left, not daring to look in the direction of the crash. He found an old elevator shaft with the doors pried open and a rope dangling down; the man went down to the lair that way. The young man grabbed the rope and slid down the shaft.
Reaching the basement after a long descent, the first thing that startled him was that there was light in the basement. The emergency lights were on, bathing the corridors in a dim orange light. Grabbing an old pipe as a makeshift weapon, Kamuro advanced cautiously towards the corridor… Only to drop his pipe when he heard the voice of Helena screaming and more gunfire far away. He carelessly began to run in the direction of the noise.
What he saw at the end of the corridor amazed and terrified him at the same time. In what looked like an underground warehouse, a massive idol made of scrap metal shaped like a cog, lit by old lamps, was in the center of the room. Lanky human bodies with gunshot wounds and various parts of their anatomy replaced by crude mechanic parts made of copper surrounded it. Below the idol was Helena, lying on her belly; and the armed man, clad in a gray military outfit and his face hidden by a helmet and a balaclava, pointing a pistol in the direction of Helena's head. Kamuro screamed and tried to run away, but tripped on one of the grotesque bodies. Before he could get up, he was grabbed by the ankle and dragged before the idol, no matter how much he kicked or yelled. The armed man held him down by pressing his foot on Kamuro's chest before pointing his pistol on his head.
"I'm sorry. Nobody must know what you just saw."
"No, please! I won't tell anyone! I-I promise! Don't kill me! D-DON'T KILL ME!"
"I'm sorry, young man."
"NO! I BEG-"
The armed man's finger squeezed the trigger.
Written by Kaarvani