The first thing his roots told him was that there were several people crying in tiny cells along the back of the facility. There was a large front area that he couldn’t really get into, but beyond that, there were several smaller rooms. Two of them appeared to be laboratories. One was a gym, of all things.
In one of the laboratories, a woman was standing over a senseless young woman, seeming to stop and admire the scalpel. Randidly’s lip curled upwards.
‘Don’t you fucking dare.’
All across the facility, Randidly poured his Mana into the plant matter that was squirming along on reconnaissance missions. With that infusion, the tiny individual plants swelled to ten times their size, reaching out to grasp the half-dozen or so workers that were in the facility. Instantly, alarms began to ring.
Randidly cursed quietly. If he had time, he could have disabled that. But saving the girl was more important. And within 10 seconds, his plants had ripped deeply enough into the electrical lines that ran through the facility that the alarm sputtered and failed. There wasn’t even a backup power to the bunker, so everything was plunged into darkness. Those crying individuals in the back continued to wail.
For now, Randidly had to ignore them. Instantly, he sprung into motion and leaped over to land on top of the small mound. He had a problem. Although he had quickly overwhelmed the other workers, that fucking scalpel woman was fighting off most of his vines. Although Randidly thought he had her dead to rights from the get-go, she was able to overpower his vines and click something on her belt. It activated an energysuit which sprung up around her.
The suit burned through the plants, but it also quickly ripped through the energy cell that kept the suit going. Randidly’s mouth quirked into a vicious smile. That was the real problem with the exosuits that Randidly had seen; they simply didn’t embrace the System. They were powerful sure, but they relied on batteries. Who had time for batteries in a fight?
After making a mental note to see if exosuits used different runes to operate, Randidly redoubled his efforts against the scalpel woman. Luckily she had moved away from the unconscious woman when Randidly moved in with the plants, but it also meant she had been able to reach other cutting medical tools, which she used very skillfully to fight his plants off.
Then Randidly was able to cut the power. Within 5 seconds, the woman was bound and restrained, albeit with some difficulties. Randidly grimaced. The woman probably had almost 200 Strength, or a Skill Leveled to a ridiculous degree.
Upon the surface, Randidly pointed at the ground and sent a command to his plants. There was likely an easier way down into the facility, but he couldn’t be bothered with it. Besides, the woman had spoken rapidly while fighting off his plants, and Randidly somehow doubted that she was asking for mercy from a plant.
So his plants swelled and simply ripped apart the ground, exposing the facility below. Randidly hopped down, Dinesh close behind him.
“There are 8 people at the back in cells. I’ll go handle the girl they already brought to the operating room,” Randidly said grimly, and Dinesh nodded and dashed off into the darkness. Randidly took a different path and soon arrived at one of the laboratories. Although he didn’t want to dwell too long, he took the time to peer in.
The plants had senses that Randidly could use, but mostly they were pressure and air currents. Therefore sounds and objects were possible to discern with a little work, but color was difficult. Not that Randidly thought he would find a big red button, but still…
What he did see in his brief glance was that there were bloodstains on the table. Randidly’s eyes narrowed. Although it was almost perfect darkness, Randidly seemed to see the room in perfect clarity. It was due to one of Neveah’s Skills seeping over, but it was extremely useful.
Below the operating table, there was actually an apparatus that collected blood. The wall was lined with shelves that could house jars. There were 6 tables in the lab, but only one of them ever seemed to be used. Underutilized? It was audacious, that it seemed that whatever organization that created these locations had plans to scale up the usage.
What was their timeline?
After checking the scalpel woman was still safely bound and the unconscious woman was breathing, Randidly walked forward a bit and peered into the gym area. The large area up front he had now infiltrated and was just a loading bay for their trucks. There were small housing quarters for the employees along the east wall, but the gym still struck Randidly as extremely strange.
And upon seeing it, Randidly realized why.
“This equipment isn’t for the employees…” Randidly whispered as he looked at the intricate and intimidating pieces of machinery. Every exercise piece contained restraints. “...these are for the people they captured?”
To test their strength?
Randidly looked sharply up. “Dinesh?”
At the same time, he sent a message. There was a series of abrupt movements at the other side of the facility, in one of the holding cells. Very quickly, so quickly Randidly didn't get a plant over in time, it ceased.
Yes, I am fine, came the reply. I believe… I believe one of the prisoners was a plant. They were placed here to prevent escape. When I liberated him, he attacked me. He was likely Level 30, as well. I was… forced to kill him.
Swearing quietly, Randidly moved away from the gym. It was a curiosity, but it wasn’t worth the risk. Very quickly, he arrived at the scalpel woman. The fact there was a plant was… worrisome.
It might be a coincidence that the first didn’t have a plant, and the second did, but on the other hand…
What if the opponent was altering its behavior now that it had been alerted to the threat of some outside group knowing what they were doing? Or even worse, what if there was a plant in the first group of rescued people?
Randidly needed to move.
Roughly, he yanked the scalpel woman to her feet. His plants curled around the unconscious woman and carried her away. Although interspatial equipment did a lot for transportation, they couldn’t hold people. Therefore, they would need to make due with physically moving them in order to make it out of here.
Even with the help of Randidly’s plants, it was a slow process. Well, it felt extremely slow to Randidly. But in truth, they were clear of the facility in a little over four minutes. Pausing outside, Randidly looked down at the scalpel woman. She was completely bound and blinded, but it was a strange thing to be taking a prisoner.
Would he… torture her?
The question would have to wait because at the moment, Randidly’s ears twitched; drones were coming, along with helicopters. The reinforcements were coming more quickly, and more heavily.
Randidly clicked his tongue unhappily. There was nothing definitive, but Randidly didn’t doubt that he would be able to trace these people to the Unity Church. It was almost a let down that he hadn’t been able to find more than a trace of the Creature’s energy. That similar trace was still here of course, but it was frustratingly vague.
How did the Creature control its influence so well? What were its goals in making these strange facilities?
“Dinesh,” Randidly said abruptly. “Keep going to the agreed meet-up point. Tykes and Karlito will meet you there.”
“Buying time?” Dinesh asked skeptically. “Is that really necessary? Besides, the public Randidly Ghosthound that is staying with the senator is known to control plants. If you-”
“Relax, this is just stress relief,” Randidly said, flexing his fingers. Some combat drones were on the way, and he wanted a look at their insides. He would try his best to capture a couple, so he wouldn’t need to buy their blueprints.
“Besides… I have many types of spells.” Randidly pointed at the ground, which began to bubble and hiss. After a few seconds, the dirt had become a bubbling pool of molten rock. A hand pierced the surface and grabbed at solid ground. Then it hoisted its red and orange body out of its hole.
“Let’s see if they have an answer for a Lava Golem.”