Rats in a Maze




“Hello Chuck”

GD-ARCH, The Forge himself, walked into the security office as Chuck spun in his chair to face him.

“Hello sir,” Chuck said. “You’re in later than usual. It’s you’re usually in by seven. Something happen?”

“No, I came in at 7 like usual” Forge said as he moved straight to the coffee machine.

“Really? I thought the first thing you did in the morning was coffee, why so late?”

Forge started up the coffee machine. “Personal choice. I’ve been meaning to do something for the past few months, but I’ve been putting it off. I said to myself: ‘Forge, you need to get this done.’ And I promised myself that today, I’d have no coffee until I did what I wanted to do.”

The machine pinged as it finished the coffee. Almost immediately, Forge grabbed the cup with his metal hand and took a long, silent drink. How he was able to handle the scalding heat of the Authority’s coffee from the shitty coffee machine was something Chuck would never understand.

“I finally did it. Though, as you can imagine,” Forge said as he let out a satisfied sigh. “It’s been a rough morning.”

“Well, good for you sir.” Chuck said, trying his hardest to, at the very least, appear interested in what Forge was saying. “If you don’t mind me asking, what was it you set out to do?”

“Oh. Turn off all the CSD door locks.”

Suddenly Chuck found it a lot easier to pay attention to the Forge.

“You did what!?!” He said, nearly dropping his own coffee.

“I must admit, I’m very impressed by our security.” Forge continued, seemingly without a care in the world. “It took me several attempts to override our protocols. Had to pull rank to get the system to cooperate.”

Chuck sat in shock. Was this a test? Had Forge finally completely lost his mind? Whatever the reason, it’d have to be dealt with later. Right now, he had a crisis to deal with.

He turned back to the monitors, each displaying the vision of the various cameras throughout the facility. Sure enough, in the containment area, all the doors to the CSDs cells were wide open and the common area was slowly but surely filling with CSDs.

“I’m deploying the sleep gas.” He said.

“And if that doesn’t work?” Forge asked.

Chuck shook ever so slightly. “Are you telling me you disabled that too?”

“No no no. It still works. What do you think I am? Crazy? Oh, don’t give me that look. There’s a very good reason why I am doing this. See, we have two lines of defense: the door locks and the sleep gas. All well and good, but what if both systems fail? Or are sabotaged? We need defense in depth! You know what caused ‘the incident?’ at Site-013?”

“I’m more concerned with the incident here, caused by you, I might add.”

“It was a lack of this defense in depth! I’ve come up with a plan, and some renovations, to make sure something like Site-013 never happens again."

“And your plan to do that is to release all of our site’s CSDs without telling anyone?”

“Oh, I told people. Got the clearance from the other GDs and made sure the ASF won’t get in the way unless absolutely necessary. Which, I can assure, won’t happen.”

“So then why wasn’t containment informed of this?”

Forge shrugged. “It wasn’t necessary.”

Chuck put his coffee down and rubbed his temples. Great, even the head of containment doesn’t tell containment anything.

“Have your headache later, Chuck. The experiment is starting.”

Forge pulled up a chair as the monitors showed waves upon waves of inmates rushing for the exit. It takes a few of them to pull off open the heavy metal door, but they eventually succeed, opening the way to a long, metal hallway.

“This is the first set of defenses laid out.” Forge commented. “I wanted to start out with something simple.”

The two watched as CSDs rushed down the hall, completely unharmed.

“So much for that defense.” Chuck said.

“Just wait. If it was activated too soon, it wouldn't be effective. It should turn on right about….now.”

As if on que, one of the panels under the rushing CSDs sunk into the ground, and a wave of electricity filled the hall.

“Now let’s see here. Everything looks good. Plates are functioning properly. Not enough power’s being diverted to cause any real issues. Voltage is enough to stop them but not kill them. Hmm, might be too low though. Look, see? Some are fighting through it. Great for the experiment, not for practical use.”

Chuck watched the crowd of CSDs scream silently through the cameras as one after another fell into convulsions. He couldn’t tell which disturbed him more, the scene right out of Brave New World unveiling before him or Forge's cold stare as he watched on without a shred of remorse.

“Quite a few made it through.” Chuck said, snapping back to the nightmare before him. “That’s around-“ he thought for a moment. “60% success rate?”

“67.3% actually, but yes. Could you seal off section 32-B? I’m going to release the gas.”

“Giving up already? I thought you had more planned. Any only -B? Why not the entire section?”

Forge laughed. “Who said anything about this being done? No, I’m releasing of different gas. And I want only -B closed because we’d never get to see the other parts if we completely sealed it off. I want to make sure the other sections can handle this many CSDs if they were to somehow break the seal in a real situation.”

Chuck shrugged. “Very well then. What kind of gas is it? Something that makes you bleed from your eyeballs?”

Forge paused for a moment, then pulled out his notepad and started writing. Chuck kicked himself internally for forgetting one of the more important rules of the site: “Don’t give Forge ideas.”

“I’ll look into that, but no. It’s a paralyzer.” Forge said.

“You’ve found a way to make it airborne?”

“Yes, actually. It was relatively simple. Research was very helpful. If this test is successful I’ll start finding a way to streamline it.”

“Of course you will.”

Chuck watched the CSDs turn around suddenly as the shudder doors slammed down. Even through the grainy footage, he could see the terror in their eyes.

“There, Section 32-B is sealed off. You may fire when ready.”

“Thank you. They must be tired after their electric ordeal, lets give them a break.”

Forge typed a few lines of code in and pressed enter. Immediately a reddish mist filled the hallway, and the inmates began to slow.

“It still takes a while for it to really take affect. One of the downsides of making it airborne.” Forge said.
“Which is why I’ve made this particular section quite the labyrinth. I’m particularly excited about this part. The last part was just a straight hallway with some panels connected to an electric grid. This, however.” He laughed. “This is truly some of my finer work.”

What happened next was nightmarish. The CSDs, scurried like rats in a maze, desperately seeking a way out of the labyrinth. Walls shifted and turned; entire sections swapped places. Even Chuck, looking at the puzzle from an almost omniscient perspective, struggled to keep track of the maze. Traps were everywhere. Walls and floors became black gaping maws in an instant, sending the poor fools to whatever hell Forge had planned for the unlucky ones. He couldn’t imagine what the CSDs thought of it, though the undiluted terror on their faces gave him some idea.

All the while, the nerve gas seeped into the maze. It was subtle at first, the CSDs became sluggish, their movements seemed more taxing. The effects ramped up rapidly however, and soon many of the CSDs stopped moving altogether.

“Looking good” Forge said. "Even with how big the area is, the gas has only lost about 5% effectiveness. It takes about 10-20 seconds longer for the gas to fully take effect. It might need some work, a lot can happen in 20 seconds, but these results are promising, wouldn't you say?"

“I would say horrific, but that’s just my opinion.” Chuck said. “More importantly, I would say expensive. You expect to roll this out across the entire Authority? We’re facing budget cuts as it is!”

“Oh no no no. Nothing as elaborate as this. I have a far cheaper model that’ll still do the job, but at a tenth of the cost. Besides, this facility has been cleared for renovations, I made sure it was given a generous amount. I just wanted to… let loose with this one. Look now, one of them made it through.”

“One and only one it seems.” Chuck said. “Hold on, I’ll pull up the file. CSD-75329, eh? Well, she’s certainly resilient, I’ll give her that.”

“Well naturally.” Forge said. “Look here, it says she’s Russian. Hardy bunch those ones.”

“It also says she’s a war criminal.”

“Well, she’s a CSD for a reason.”

“Speaking of, how do you plan to deal with her now that’s she’s beaten your maze? I’m certain she won’t break the door down but I’d prefer not to have to send a team down there to fix any damage she does.”

Forge laughed. “Well, I’m sorry to say you’re probably going to have to send one down after I’m done.”

Forge pushed a series of buttons on the computer. Chuck could see the two mounted items drop from the ceiling. One looked to be some sort of gun and the other a small stick.

Chuck couldn’t help but stare mouth open and what he was seeing.

“You’re not seriously saying you want to use anomalous items for this!” He protested. “We’re supposed to keep these things in containment! Not use them whenever we want!”

“Oh relax. We’re not using anything lethal. We’re certainly not using anything that could cause a containment breach. Now, if you’ll excuse me.”

Forge turned away and pushed a button. The mounted gun activated. Chuck turned away from the monitor in preparation.

"What's this you've turned on?" Chuck asked.

"A newer anomaly we've discovered. We're still trying to find its origin, but its effects are promising for our uses. It increases pessimism and negative thoughts in the brain."

"So, a depression ray?"

"No no no. Think of it more as a… apathy ray. It saps the targets desire to resist. To what extent is the aim of this test you see. Look here, she's slowed down her attempts to break down the door by 43%, see?"

“How charming.”

“Oh, the charming part is about to come. Observe.”

Forge held down another button and cleared his throat.

“Whiskers, come on out!”

With the words, the small stick sparked, and the lone CSD began to jump around wildly.

“Great, what hellish creature have you spawned?” Asked Chuck.

Forge shrugged. “Just a rat. The wand’s is from Amazing Co. It’s called ‘Rat-do-com.’ It creates a nice little distraction by summoning a rat wherever you want. Including inside that CSD’s jumpsuit.”

“This is too far, even for you." Chuck said. Look at this! It’s needlessly cruel.”

“I would tend to disagree, but nevertheless, it is effective. As you can see, the CSD is now quite demoralized. I highly doubt she’ll put up any fight if we were to send a clean up crew down there.”

“We’ll need to call in several clean up crews for the mess you made.”

“True, but you have to admit, this little experiment has been rather successful.”

Forge turned away from the monitors and returned to the coffee machine.

“You want another cup?” He asked.

“No, I believe I have lost my appetite.” Chuck said, as he called in the ASF to clean up. Along with a several janitorial teams.

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