Carpathia III: Episode 9 - Lost
The heat hit Jaze like a blast furnace the instant he ran out of the cool room, which opened up into another small, barren room with a door on his right. He bolted towards the door and ran through it. Once there, he found himself in a curved corridor lined with windows on one side. He looked around frantically for a way out. To his right was a dead end. To his left was Pestilence, his back facing him, speaking to a group of kids and teenagers, all with neko ears and tails. The teenagers gawked at Jaze, prompting Pestilence to turn around to see him standing there.
Jaze looked around for another way out. High on the wall behind him, he discovered a large vent loosely fitted with a slatted cover. Jaze yanked on the vent cover and it came off easily.
Before Pestilence could say another word, Jaze threw the vent cover at him and it hit him in the chest, knocking him backwards into the crowd of nekohumans behind him. Jaze leaped up into the shaft and as soon as he did, red lights began flashing all around him.
The vent was just big enough for him to wriggle through, and he did so with every bit of energy he had. Adrenalin was the only thing keeping him going and the only thing that was keeping him from feeling the dizziness from his earlier dehydration. He hoped that he would find a path in the shaft that would lead him outside or at least somewhere open so he could see where he was. The vent branched into two paths, one with light pouring through a vented cover and the other deep into darkness. Jaze chose the lighter path. This cover, however, was not as loose as the previous one and, after three hard kicks, he gave up and wriggled down the dark path.
The dark path quickly ended at a ladder descending into inky blackness. At this point, the tunnel widened just enough so that he could turn himself around and mount the ladder. Down he climbed, gratified that, at least, the lower he went, the less intense the heat was. It was a long climb down and the ladder ended in a cavernous, dark room. The floor was mostly soft, damp dirt and strewn with garbage. Rusty, broken girders, chunks of twisted sheet metal, and other metal chunks lay everywhere. Near the sides were large water tanks that were rusted and full of holes.
At the far end of the room was a faint light that was coming from a heavy, steel door with a rusted, metal wheel on the front. Jaze rushed towards it and opened it slowly. He looked around for anyone who could be nearby. He saw nobody and entered, taking a quick look at his surroundings. Ahead of him was a long, tube-shaped corridor and to his left were a set of circular stairs going up. Figuring that the stairs would lead him back into the situation he was in when he started running, he took off down the corridor.
As he ran, he caught glimpses out of the large windows lining the corridor. There was no clear sky or clouds outside as he expected, only a brown grit that swirled around the windowpanes like a sandscape suddenly turned upside-down.
Jaze kept running as fast as he could down the corridor until he came to another massive, trash-strewn room like the one he just left behind. He passed it and went down another corridor. This one was narrower and windowless and was lit by old, yellowing lightbulbs, giving him the sense that he was going deeper into the compound instead of towards the exit. Assuming that he was being followed, he pressed ahead regardless.
Finally, he emerged in a very large, circular room. It was dark, except for a few lights that flickered some distance from each other. Rickety, metal catwalks converged in a hub in the center of the room, zigzagging around massive steel pipes, all suspended over a vast chasm, the bottom of which he could not see. He could definitely hear something down there. From the depths of the chasm arose a gurgling sound, the rushing sound of water splashing from the deep. Cool air welled up through the hole and swirled around everywhere making the vast room quite chilly compared to any other place he'd been so far.
Each path lead to a door, eight of them in all, and each door looked identical. There was no time and no reason to debate which one was likely to be closest to the way out. Jaze ran down the catwalk towards the hub. It rattled and clanked with each footfall until he was in the middle of the giant room, directly over the chasm.
Mirage: Took ya long enough.
Jaze whipped around, shocked to find Mirage standing behind him, leaning against a railing.
Mirage pushed himself away from the railing and started walking slowly towards Jaze.
Mirage: Did you really think you could get out of here? This place is a maze and you're not even going in the right direction. The only thing you've accomplished is throwing this place into chaos.
Jaze: I will not stay here!
It was easy for Jaze to say something so defiant, but Mirage was right. He was lost and he could not see any hope of of a successful escape. Mirage kept walking towards him and raised his fists.
Mirage: You might as well accept it. This is your home now. Come quietly and I won't have to hurt you.
Just that morning, Jaze woke up in his own bed, pleased to have a day off from school. He was a normal 19-year-old getting ready for university with a home, loving parents, and a boyfriend. Now he found himself standing over the pit of god-knows-what being challenged to a fist fight by a kid.
With hope of escape next to nothing, he wondered if he could, perhaps, win some respect in this place by beating Mirage in a fight. If he had to stay, perhaps that would make his life easier. Then, as soon as that thought entered his mind, he wondered how it was possible for his life to change so dramatically and so quickly to even imagine such a thing. He put up his fists and ran at Mirage.
Jaze closed the short gap between them quickly and prepared to throw his first punch when Mirage stepped forward and delivered a lightning-swift, roundhouse kick to his face. Jaze stumbled and fell to his knees, surprised by Mirage's speed and dexterity. Jaze wasted no time and charged again at Mirage, crashing into his chest and pushing him into the railing above the chasm below. Every move they made caused the catwalk to creak and groan beneath them.
Mirage thrust his knee into Jaze's chest, causing him to break his grip, but before he had a chance to follow up with his attack, Jaze threw a punch that connected perfectly with the side of Mirage's face. Mirage staggered backwards, rubbing his jaw. Jaze, having a few seconds to think, considered ways to disable Mirage without killing him. He had briefly entertained the idea of trying to throw Mirage over the railing into the pit below, but he couldn't bring himself to do such a thing.
This time, Mirage was the one to mount a charge, but before he even took two steps, the metal grating upon which he was standing let forth a resounding crack and gave way beneath him. Jaze was safe, as the section that plummeted into the chasm below was small. Mirage was able to catch the catwalk and now dangled helplessly over the pit. The section of metal grating that he was holding onto creaked and twisted, threatening to dislodge and fall into the pit as well, taking him with it.
Mirage was surprised when he felt a hand grab his wrist and begin to pull.
Jaze: Give me your other hand!
Mirage hesitated for a few seconds. Finally, he reached up with his other hand and grabbed Jaze's arm. Jaze pulled and slowly dragged Mirage onto the catwalk and away from the damaged section. Soon after they came to a relatively safe place, the other section of grating collapsed and dangled precariously over the pit, now hanging on only by a single scrap of girder.
Mirage: Why... Why did you help me?
Jaze: Because that's what people do! What the hell kind of a place is this that you would even ask a question like that?
The fact that what Jaze said was at least half true made it easier for him to say. Jaze also thought that having Mirage indebted to him could be very beneficial.
Mirage's voice trailed off. Jaze wanted nothing more than to take advantage of his confusion and make a run for it again, but his chest throbbed in pain. He stood up as best he could and looked ahead for an exit. He didn't get to look much before he felt a sharp pain in the back of his head as though he were hit by something hard. Then he fell down onto the metal grating and remembered no more.
To be continued...
Commissioned art in this episode from:
All city pictures from SimCity 4