The Forgotten Complex
Short Story | Helix Rising Series | Duration: 10 Minutes 38 Seconds
Throwback Fiction: This was written after The Evolution of Seventeen in 2013-2014 timeframe, and intended to be within the same world. I was trying to build out the setting and the backstory. It was originally much shorter, only the action scene portion, and called ‘Sorry for the Delay’. In 2015, I added to it when I posted it on Wattpad and included the second part, renaming the story to ‘The Cearyllex Complex’. Revisiting it once more in 2021, I realized that the title needed to be changed and the characters needed more development. So here is the 3rd (dare I say final) draft of ‘The Forgotten Complex’. I hope you enjoy! ~ WM
The Storyletter Presents:
The Forgotten Complex by Winston Malone
Nox Hyron checks her shock pistol’s safety. Shaking her head, she flicks it off with her thumb. This isn’t the time for mistakes. The lights flicker as she sidesteps a pile of debris, hugging the concrete wall. The corridor is nearly pitch black, the sporadic flashes from the overhead bulbs mostly making things worse. Nox squints her eyes to see clearly, searching for any hint of the target she now hunts.
A robot had been reported up here in this abandoned mountain district. Robots had been outlawed after the Devil Defect nearly two decades ago. The war between AI and mankind had been brutal, some districts having been destroyed entirely, reduced to nothing but rubble like this one that had been called Park City. Of course, Helix Inc. had been shielded from all liability somehow, still able to operate on Earth and Moonbase as if no wrongdoing had been committed on their part. Millions died because of them, yet they continue to get grants from the government because, well, they are larger than any government that has ever existed. Nox hates Helix with a passion, and investigates remnants of the Expansion era to prove corporate fraud and corruption. She feels like one of those ghost chasers she reads about. Except this ghost is known to fight back, its programming consisting of two things: surviving and killing humans.
A scrape comes from behind and Nox jerks, aiming her pistol down the corridor. Nothing moves for several agonizing seconds, then a rat scurries from underneath a cardboard panel before burrowing into a crack in the wall. Nox sighs, trying to slow her heart rate. She is by no means an amateur, but if the reports are true, she’s no longer on the top of the food chain so to speak. She’s reduced to the level of the rat in this scenario. She’s hunting the hunter, a job in which very few return alive. However, the prestige alone is worth the risk, not to mention the money she’d get from selling her haul to a museum or wealthy buyer.
A sharp static cuts into her ear. “Hey, Nox, you read me?”
“Kevo, I thought we agreed to stay radio silent?” she whispers.
“Oh yeah. Forgot. Just wanted to see if you were still alive, I guess,” Kevo says.
“Well, I am, so please—” a thud in the ceiling cuts her off. She looks up, blinking through the falling dust.
“Nox? Hello? What’s happening?”
Another thud, then a scrape. It isn’t directly above her, but a little ahead. She moves closer, ignoring Kevo’s distressed hails. There’s a missing ceiling tile where the noise originated and she peers up into the dark abyss. There’s nothing but wires, tubes, eyes, and insulation. Wait, eyes?
Before Nox has time to react, it crashes through the ceiling, raining clumps of debris down on top of her. She steps back and coughs. She recovers to find herself standing in front of a seven-foot monstrosity. One of the older models, the aged metal rusting at the edges. They had created this thing in hopes of a better world, a world of peace. Instead, looking into the red, oscillating lenses, she realizes the world was never meant to be at peace.
She brings her shock pistol up to fire but the robot deflects her aim with unexpected speed. It snatches her up by her overcoat and tosses her through the decayed plaster of the nearest wall where the rat had scurried. She slides several feet before crunching against something soft. The musk of the room overwhelms her nose. The air is thick with a decrepit humidity. Nox turns to find the hand of a skeleton draping across shoulder. Repulsed, she rolls away from the dead bodies lining the room. The clothing indicates that they had worked here; former employees who had been barricaded inside, unable to escape.
She covers her mouth, trying not to breathe in the air of death, however, it’s the least of her worries. The robot pounds its way through the rest of the wall with ease, stalking up to her with the strobed effect of the hallway lights behind it. Her pistol is gone, lost in the scuffle. She isn’t much for running, but ‘live to fight another day’ sounds pretty good right about now. Nox crawls for safety, her hands sifting through the muck and grime of aged abandonment. A mechanical hand grabs her ankle and pulls her back, but she’s prepared for this. The robot is caught off guard as she twists and yanks her captured leg inward toward her stomach which pulls the robot off balance; a move she learned on the streets growing up in downtown New Salt Lake. It falls forward and releases her ankle in order to catch itself. As it does so, she plunges a six inch blade deep into the wires of its neck.
Normally, at a moment such as this, a human attacker would be screaming in pain or frozen in shock. But this isn’t a human attacker. The robot stutters for half a second, then returns to normal. A deep, red light radiates outward from the cracks in its metallic armor. As if she needed any more evidence these things were forged in Hell.
It stands once again and latches both hands on Nox’s jacket. She’s suddenly airborne, crashing into the ceiling, then back down onto a desk, collapsing it into two halves. Coughing, she feels blood dripping from her nose. Her head spins and the robot hovers over her with its red aura. It raises an arm, which begins to fold in on itself with sharp clicks and chirps as it modifies the arm into what can only be described as a cannon.
“So this is how it ends,” she says, laying her head back on the shattered wood. A low hum of the cannon precedes the red glow of charging blast.
Nox, in a daze, rolls her head to the side and sees the gleaming of silver among the shadows. Her pistol. With a last ditch effort she lunges and swipes it up, firing the electrified bullets repeatedly into the robot’s metal frame. It staggers back several feet as each bullet strikes home. It stutters, the electricity likely shocking its internal systems. But as she runs out of ammo and her pistol clicks empty, it seems her attempt has only delayed the inevitable. The machine raises its arm once again and the cannon’s light blinds her. A loud boom echoes through the forgotten sepulcher.
She opens her eyes to find that she is impossibly alive. The machine, however, not so much. The imitation of life falls to its knees, then flat on the grimy floor, a large hole missing from the back of its head. Nox looks up from the smoldering robot skull to see her partner, Kevo, wielding his amp shotgun on the other side of the broken wall. It brings a smile to her bloody lips.
“What took you so long?” she asks.
“Got caught up in the drive-thru,” Kevo says, stepping over the robot. “You wanted the autumn spice, right?”
“You know me too well.” Nox takes Kevo’s hand and is lifted up. Her spine aches and she’s forced to lean on her knees as the blood rushes from head. After her head stops pounding, she holsters her pistol and uses the bottom of her undershirt to wipe the blood from her face. “Come on, help me get it out of here.”
They pick up the robotic corpse and lift it, with much difficulty, and get it out into the corridor. Nox looks back into the tomb where the workers had perished long ago and sees something she hadn’t noticed before. It’s a symbol on the back wall.
“Wait, is that a Helix logo?” she says, stepping back into the room.
“Helix didn’t have a factory out here.” Kevo says. “I know they operated out of Denver and San Jose for a time, but Salt Lake? I mean, I guess we are in the mountains. Not much public attention up here.”
Nox swipes a hand across the dust-laden wall to reveal the iconic H of two helixes crossing to resemble strands of DNA. Another look at the tattered clothing of the skeletons corroborates that they are now in an abandoned Helix factory of some kind. Yet, with an operating robot still lurking about, how abandoned could it be?
“I think we need to look around a bit more,” Nox says, locking eyes with Kevo.
“Whatever you say, boss. We just scored operating costs for another five years, at least. So anything extra would be icing on the cake.”
They transfer the robot out to the van to secure their spoils. The sun has fallen since their arrival several hours ago. It now hides behind the snow-capped mountain range, the orange glow turning into gradients of pink and purple. The moon, however, is already out in full, the flickering lights of Moonbase visible on its surface. A streak of light descends from the white orb.
“Hey Kev, what is that? You think royalty is coming down for a visit?”
“I don’t know why they would,” Kevo says, looking up at the sky, standing next to Nox.
Kevo does have a good point: the flights between Earth and Moonbase have been reduced to the quarterly shipments of materials to help advance Helix’s production and expansion on the moon’s surface, which further helps the colonies in the outer belt. But even that is done on the east coast and from the Gulf of Mexico.
The ground begins to shake as if the mountain itself is waking up. A siren is unleashed to whine irritatingly throughout the valley below. The two of them rush over to a lookout point along the road and see that two bay doors are opening like a giant maw in the mountainside.
“What is happening, Kev? What are those things?” Nox asks.
“I think we need to run,” Kevo says, looking up at the sky again.
Nox doesn’t understand what he means. She can’t peel her eyes away from the dozens of robots spilling from the bay doors like ants emerging from their disturbed hill. The robots don’t seem to know they are there, and descend the landscape in the general direction of the megacity of New Salt Lake. She’s grabbed by her shoulder and pulled toward the van.
“What are you doing?” she asks, yanking out of Kevo’s grasp.
“We gotta go, Nox. Look!” he says, pointing as he rushes to get into the van.
The trajectory of the streaking light had curved, leaving a long trail through the evening sky. Nox realizes that it’s heading directly for them. Definitely not royalty. More like a messenger, and the message was going to be crystal clear.
Nox curses and jumps into the passenger seat as Kevo revs up the engine. They take off, careening down the snow-covered road, their van outfitted to handle this type of terrain. Nox looks back at the forgotten complex, now known to be a robot production facility deep inside the mountain. The robot in the back of the van had been its alarm system and they had unwittingly tripped it.
The missile hits the complex like a bullet tearing through a tin can. There’s a moment of silence and then the explosion erupts, bulging out the cliffside with fiery rock and debris. The shockwave barrels over the snow and kicks up a wall of white that is impossible to see through. Nox turns back and braces herself. The van rocks and Kevo curses as he tries to keep the van from tipping, jerking the steering wheel to either side. In the chaos, the van slams into the road’s railguard and they spin and crash up against a rocky boulder on the side of the road, still upright and in one piece.
“Wow,” Nox says, tenderly touching a bloody knot on the side of her head. “Some way to treat guests.”
Kevo laughs. “Looks like Helix doesn’t want people knowing they are still producing warbots.”
Nox glances back at the robot in the back of the van. “Something tells me we have all the evidence we need to prove it. Helix won’t get away with this.”
“Only if we can make it back to NSL before they do,” Kevo states.
Nox furrows her brow, looking in the direction he’s staring down in the valley between the ridges. The squads of robots sprint through the waist deep snow with little-to-no effort. They are not hindered by the elements in any way. Machines of death, nothing more.
“We’ll make it back in time.”
“I’m driving,” Nox says, unbuckling her seatbelt.
Kevo gives her a faint smirk. “Now there’s that autumn spice I ordered.”