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Holder of the Negative

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In any city, in any country, go to any mental institution or halfway house you can get yourself to. Get the front receptionist's attention and ask to visit someone called "Holder of the Negative". If the receptionist adamantly refuses to help you, immediately turn, leave the institution behind and take the fastest possible route home. After a fortnight of hiding you will know whether their trackers have found you. However, if the receptionist merely nods at you with a stony expression and gestures for you to follow, do so. He will lead you to a seemingly innocent-looking hospital room and leave.

As soon as the door locks, push the bed aside to reveal a decrepit wooden trap door underneath. Use the bed to block the door - the clock is ticking and the sentinels are already on their way. Open the trap door to find a dusty and grimy gray metal coffin in a shallow pit dug into the floor. Open the locks on the side and lift the lid. If the coffin is empty, lay yourself inside and close both the trap door and the coffin lid. If there is somebody already in there, well - I would recommend trying to snap your own neck before the coffin's previous resident does.

You must lie inside the coffin for exactly four minutes and thirteen seconds. Until this time, do not open the lid. What would come to pass if you did is beyond the description of mortal men. When the required time has passed, you may knock twice on the metal lid. If there is no answer, knock thrice more. If the coffin trembles slightly in response, you may push the lid off. If the coffin remains silent, you know your life expectancy is now a minute at best.

Push the lid aside to emerge in what seems like the dark, blasted remains of a bizarre underground machine shop. The blotched, ocher metal walls and the gray dust of time over the disengaged, quiet computing devices speak in their own way about the hundreds of thousands battles which were planned, organized and miserably lost in the very same room you are now sitting in. As alien and intricate the machinery may be, don't dally. Rise to your feet and reach your right hand out to find a wall. Fumble around until you find a metal lever sticking out of it - it's roughly at your shoulder level. If the room starts to emit an increasingly loud whirring, do not panic. Instead, call out sternly into the blackness: "It's the last piece of knowledge we require." If the whirring dies down, continue your search. If it doesn't, the machinery will engage in their last integration routine with you as their target. When you find the switch, throw it.

The last operational generator will start up with a painful whine, powering little else but the few good light fixtures around the floor. In the core of the still dim room, you will see a huge, brass-colored and impossibly complex mechanical device which most closely resembles a crossover between an opulent metal throne and a Victorian-era life support system. Amidst the zigzagging tubes, pipes, valves, cogs and plates you can see a gaunt, inhumanly frail corpse barely clinging on to its life. As intimidating as the throne may be, enter the creature's presence and matter-of-factly utter the query: "Who scattered them for the first time?"

Your question sparks a new light in his milky gray eyes, and with the spite and frustration of countless generations in his raspy, mechanically amplified voice he will recite to you all of the stories, all tales of vain heroism, every broken union and all of the heart-wrenchingly disappointing failures of all of those who came before you. His contagious despair will punch through your skin, slither past your flesh and pierce through your bones, but take heed not to lose your focus - he is still their slave and his corrupted side will readily consume you if given the opportunity. He will tell you of those who first knew of their convergence, how they scattered the objects and broke their unholy union and what made those first fail and perish.

When he is done, he will slowly and painfully extend his hand out to you from within the metal shell. Do not take his hand. Instead, cross your arms across your chest and exclaim: "Your flawed routines are not mine to embrace!” Leaning against one of the mysterious devices is a thin, two-pronged metal staff. Grab it, and using all the power you can possibly muster, drive it through the only exposed vital part in his body - his head. His death will be swift.

When his rotten body and the infernal device lie silent, reach inside the metal shell protecting the body and fumble around the inner workings of the machine. As soon as your hand hits a part pulsing heat, yank it out. It should come off easily. Retreat as fast as you can back into the zinc coffin - you have killed the only entity which upheld the order of the place and it won't be long until the room is going to unmake itself and crumble into the void. Slam down the lid, close your eyes, and if you are lucky, you will near-instantly drift off into sleep.

When you wake up, you will wake up in your own home, in your own bed, tightly hugging a warm chunk of metal to your chest. You would be wise to get rid of the coffin around you at earliest opportunity. It evokes awkward questions.

This corrupted golden gear is the Object 68 of 538. You now know how your predecessors failed. Now it's your responsibility to make sure their errors are not repeated.

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