The mels were beaten, and the smugglers’ bodies buried under piles of rock, according to Hummer’s wishes.
Amelia did not usually honor such rituals, certainly not when she typically stole the souls out of the bodies in the first place, but she did not want to upset the woman on the very first day she murdered someone.
They took one flintlock each, along with a handful of bullets and as much blastpowder as Hummer’s empty sandwich bags could carry. After most of it had spread out into the air and on the floor, there was little left of any actual use. But, if they could at least fire a few shots off, it might save their lives, they thought.
As Amelia and Hummer set off to the northeast corner of Floor 4, the mushrooms had begun to glow in different hues. The blues became cyans, while the yellow shifted towards orange. Reds became violet, and whites became gray. The time of day must have caused the change, Amelia thought. It was intensely difficult to tell the time in the Manadhmeth Dungeon, and the watch on her wrist was the only thing she could trust.
Halfway to dinner time. If they did not regroup with the others on Floor 3 in an hour or two, there was a high chance of dire consequences. Search parties could be sent out, Fleettwixt police might be notified, and Amelia’s identity could become public knowledge much quicker than she wanted. She could not allow it, not before she discovered Ed and reunited with her.
“You know, I’m not as excited about the dungeon dive anymore,” Hummer said, pretending to make a joke. “Maybe we should go back up.” Before Amelia could respond, she added, “Except I really want to see Floor 5. Hell, I’d go all the way to Floor 8 if I could. But I don’t think either of us would survive.” And, after a pause, said, “Not that that’s such a bad thing, necessarily.”
“Don’t ever say that again.” Amelia looked her in the eyes, then looked away.
“Just a joke about my whole becoming-a-corrupt-corporate-type, you know? Not that I actually...” She trailed off.
“I promise I’ll take you as far as I’m able to go,” Amelia said. “But I don’t think this journey will last much longer.”
“Because we’re going to destroy the drug place?”
They reached the northeast portion of Floor 4, a giant forest full of bracken indeed surrounding the whole area. White doors, though, were absolutely nowhere to be found. Amelia turned on her mana signature filter, and looked for anywhere with an unusual concentration of soul energy. Signs of glossals. Anything.
“Nothing,” Amelia grumbled. “I can’t find it.”
“We could just search with our eyes. There can’t be too many places to hide a giant white door.
“It would take hours. We don’t have that time. We have to...”
Then it hit Amelia that she had been a moron all this time, completely missing the easiest solution to her search. This drug facility was likely highly specialized, in the North Sunwell Company fashion. It probably had heavy amounts of automation, to keep the production smooth and error-free. And it definitely had security measures in place to hide its existence.
So, rather than searching for the areas with the highest mana concentrations, she instead decided to look for the LEAST amount of mana. In an area covered in plants and animals and fungi all with powerful energy sucking souls, the facility would surely stick out.
And, sure enough, she was right. She knew exactly where her real destination was, now. The smugglers helped, but she would have figured out eventually, because that was just the kind of person she was.
Covered in overgrowth, right beside a spider’s web, there was a single button panel. She pressed it, and then, to her right, the cavern wall opened up, lifted by a lever of some sort. Behind it was a clean white door, thick and well-shielded. A skilled mage’s flamethrower probably could not have melted it down. However, being Fourland, Amelia knew not to expect too much. So when she pulled on the handle to slide it open—
Just as she expected, it slid, smooth as cream spread.
No one had locked it.
Amelia and Hummer entered through the door and found themselves in another small, cramped room. Rather than a cave, though, it was an empty, sterilized, extremely white room. Every wall, every piece of furniture, every panel was so white it was nearly painful to look at. There were a few doors to what appeared to be closets—when they opened them, there was nothing there. An elevator door stood at the furthest back position, but it was sealed completely shut, with a passcode panel blocking it from use.
Suddenly, Amelia realized something else was present in this room. Her soul felt weighed down, as if the gravity in here had been turned up by two times, and all that cleansing sensation she felt back at the mushroom tree vanished.
“Mana dampeners,” she muttered.
Her core was being partially nullified, her powers rendered significantly weaker just by being in here. The human half of her body prevented her from completely collapsing, but she still felt truly awful.
Hummer noticed the pain suddenly flaring up in Amelia’s soul, and put a hand of comfort on her upper arm, but she shook it off in a second. “Don’t worry. I’ll be fine.”
Mana dampeners were a security measure put in place often to protect against magical attacks. They prevented powerful beings from using the full extent of their abilities, and ground any non-protected golem to a halt. It was easy to circumvent with special equipment, which Fourland (and North Sunwell) likely possessed in large amounts. But it was just enough to slow down the damage that any one being could deliver.
It seemed they preferred the automated, easy solutions to curbing sabotage, rather than actually staffing this place with any glossal security. Amelia was frankly shocked that not a single guard watched over this room. There were no hidden radios—those were too obvious for her not to notice them—and no active monitoring to speak of.
However, just as there was no security here, there was not much interesting to be found, here, either.
Perhaps this black screen over on the wall, presumably for an input terminal, there would be something, Amelia thought.
There was a row of input keys below the black screen, with all the symbols and numbers one could dream of, both in the Saxonian and Orcish scripts, along with one very large key that said “ENTER.” When she pressed it, a prompt came up on the screen, surprising her and Hummer both.
“PLEASE INPUT FOURLAND ID,” the screen read.
“’Fourland ID?’ What’s that?” Hummer asked.
“A company ID to verify what employee is using the screen,” Amelia said. “I received one just before I first came to Fleettwixt. I don’t remember it, but it was six digits long. Extremely rudimentary.”
I remember it.
It was 641989.
Thank you, Access Core.
“So all you have to do is...”
She typed in “641989,” and waited to see what would happen.
A few seconds passed. “ERROR. ID NOT FOUND.”
So she had not been activated before going rogue. Damn.
Then she typed in six random digits, “612413.”
Another failure. “ERROR. ID NOT FOUND.”
“Well, maybe third time’ll do it.” She typed in “102569.” The screen went dark for longer this time. Then an affirmative beep.
“WELCOME, YANNO OF UPLANDS. SELECT AN OPTION:
“REPORT AN ISSUE.
“OTHER (OPTION NOT LISTED).”
Extremely rudimentary, indeed. Without even a password system in place, random chance alone was enough to break the code. Everything about this was classically Fourland in nature. High-tech yet inept in every way.
She tapped the arrow keys and selected “PICK UP,” on a hunch.
That hunch was proven correct when behind one of the stark white walls there was a rattling sound, like a series of cogs moving around. The wall moved away automatically to reveal a compartment with a large bag, wrapped in brown paper, with a handwritten label reading, “yanno monthly shipment.”
Amelia tore the bag open to reveal that signature white powder.
“Synth,” Hummer said with a gasp.
“They send it out here,” Amelia said. “Fully automated.”
“I have a bad feeling about this.”
“Me too.” She looked at the input terminal and knew it had to be connected to something else. Something beyond this single room. Through that elevator, perhaps. Even with her Scan Module on, she could not sense any glossal presence above or below. But the mana dampeners limited her powers enough that she was unwilling to trust that. If there were hundreds of soldiers in some other part of the facility, she would not know for sure until she reached it. An extreme risk. “Do you want to quit?”
“Kind of, yeah,” Hummer said. “But I assume there’s some big data server this terminal is connected to, right? We’ve gotta find it. It’s too important not to.”
“I’m finding it whether you go or not.”
“Well then, I’m staying.”
“Your absolute last chance to get out. Very final offer.”
“What did I just say?”
Amelia shrugged. “I can’t protect you from here. I don’t know what we’re facing.”
“That’s the exciting part,” Hummer said. “Do you know how to open the elevator with the terminal?”
“No,” Amelia said. She walked up to the elevator, gazed at the passcode panel for a second, and then punched it straight through to the wall. “But I’ll get us down there.”
The panel did nothing to open the elevator. She probably should not have destroyed it before attempting to guess a passcode.
“I’ll still get us down there.”
She stepped up to the tightly sealed elevator door, well-shielded but definitely not invincible.
With an activation of her Boost Module, she kicked her physical strength into overclock mode and began to tear at the thin gap between the door’s two sides.
The mana dampeners may have weakened her, but they did nothing to stop her from simply ripping the elevator door open with her bare hands. Because when a woman was out for revenge, small barriers like this meant absolutely nothing.
The door broke—
And now there the elevator was, waiting for them to enter.
An alarm tripped. A security alarm in the elevator blared loudly—
But Amelia reached up and smashed it. If the threats past here knew about her, then so be it. She would tear them to pieces just like she did that door.
She and Hummer stepped into the elevator. This was the top floor, and there was one below: Floor 5.
Hummer clasped her hands together in giddiness. “Finally!”
“I don’t know if we’ll see the actual Floor 5,” Amelia said. “We’ll still be in the Fourland facility, I assume.”
“Well, we’ll have to make time for it. I don’t know anything about Floor 5, honestly. It’s got lots of warm water and... Something. I just know about the water.”
“Not a fan of water.”
“Well... Maybe you’ll come around on it.”
The elevator descended. No going back from here. Just progress towards ultimate power.