The elevator touched down gently on Floor 5 of the Manadhmeth Dungeon, and the door opened to the next area of Fourland’s synth processing facility.
This was where all the worst drugs in all of Sunwell were created. Amelia was singularly focused on synth because of its recent popularity, but she imagined all sorts of false medicines and addictive substances were generated here. Whatever sold well.
She planned on destroying all of it. But, with the mana dampeners not only still active, but even more so, she felt slightly less confident in her abilities. She had to fight to keep control of her soul gem, just to make sure her body did not suddenly shut down on her.
The facility, down here on Floor 5, had almost exactly the same sterilized, bland atmosphere as that small one-room area on Floor 4. Sleek, white walls. White tile floors. Bright white mana lights hanging above. Low ceilings that were just a few inches shy of clipping Amelia in the head—and she was nowhere near peak athlete height. It was claustrophobic, and clearly designed intentionally for that purpose.
The hallways were narrow, winding, and altogether confusing. The lack of any variation in scenery, any noticeable doors or landmarks of any kind, made it almost impossible to navigate.
She suspected the facility had several entrances throughout Floor 4, all of them hidden in plain sight for dealers and other Fourland employees to discover. The elevator was much more closely protected than the Floor 4 area, which suggested that access here was heavily restricted, and very few dealers were allowed down here. Perhaps the main action was up on Floor 4, while everything down here was little more than a warehouse? That would have explained the maze-like design; if automated golems were the primary inhabitants down here, chugging along while protected by the mana dampeners, they would be just fine, while any glossal trying to sabotage or steal would find themself in a very precarious position... Just like Amelia and Hummer.
“We’re never going to find anything,” Hummer whined. “I regret coming already.”
“We’ll be in luck soon,” Amelia said. “If not, we’ll make our own.”
Luck did not find them soon—instead, they were met by two clay-shelled patrol golems, here in the northern wing to greet them.
“Asking for. Identification,” said one of the golems in a choppy, garbled tone.
“Vocal capabilities,” Amelia said. “Very sophisticated. I’m impressed.”
“Identification,” it repeated. “Fourland employees.”
Hummer looked at her, and she nodded.
In unison, they loaded their flintlocks, raised them into the air, and aimed them at the golems’ heads.
Two blasts and both of them went down.
“That took way too long to load,” Hummer said.
“Let’s reload now, then,” Amelia said. “We need every shot we can get if more golems come around.”
And they certainly would. She was unsure of how well the alarm system worked here, so the elevator’s earlier blaring may not have done much, but two flintlock shots in a row and fallen clay shells were likely to attract much suspicion from any guard golems that passed by.
They hurried away from the scene and ventured deeper into the facility.
Eventually, as they went through hallways and sidestepped out of view of golem guards, something peculiar happened. Amelia began to sense mana. A gap in the mana dampeners, as if the installation had not been so thorough, or one single device had been malfunctioning. But the devices were so powerful in range that one single mana dampener could cover several rooms. To have one area completely open seemed like a glaring oversight.
Unless... It was not an oversight after all.
She went directly to that gap and found another tightly sealed door, and another tightly sealed door she pried open with her will and strength alone.
“I need to work out more,” Hummer said to herself.
Inside this door was exactly, precisely what Amelia had been looking for this entire time: A mana farming greenhouse.
Amelia’s power came surging back, like a massive weight had been lifted off of her soul. It was so refreshing she thought she had just woken up from the perfect nap.
Crystal ferns were everywhere, just like the harvesting plant she visited and wrecked over a week ago. This was Fourland’s main legal function as a corporation; they used advanced agricultural processes to grow various plants, mainly crystal ferns, to be harvested and processed into mana to be used throughout the city of Fleettwixt. They provided enough material to power a little under half of the city’s mana consumption, while the rest of it came from beyond the city walls.
However, this facility was not for growing them for energy. These were being grown with a method Amelia had never seen before in her life—each crystal fern hung, suspended in air with some sort of magical process, with the roots fully visible in mid-air. There were dozens of them like this, and it looked like a mess of tangles too difficult to decipher by sight alone.
But the roots were not the most interesting part. In fact, these roots were being fed by droplets of sparkling fluid from above that went rhythmically every ten or fifteen seconds, falling from the ceiling onto the stems and then on downwards. The fluid, according to Amelia’s Scan Module, was jam-packed with mana energy, but beyond that she could not uncover its composition.
What was clear was that it was designed specifically to imbue these crystal ferns with potent chemicals—which would, of course, help turn it into synth.
“This is it,” Amelia said to Hummer. “The synth farm. They grow it here, then process it somewhere else, then ship it out.”
“Why does it look so weird?” Hummer asked.
“A special process, I assume.” Amelia could not help but grimace. “This means the danger of synth isn’t shoddy quality. It’s all intentional.”
When Hummer realized what she had said, she gasped. “So all the overdoses, all the people going psychotic... My Gods, why?”
“My only guess,” she said, “is that heavy addicts buy more synth, which makes more money. Slow hook won’t make as much profit as quickly.”
She felt disgusted just saying it out loud.
The Fourland Growth Corporation was craven and evil. That, she already knew. But this, the confirmation that everything wrong with synth was planned from the onset, just fueled the rage simmering up to a boil in her fury-filled spirit.
Exploitation. So much endless exploitation, and to what end? Just to increase quarterly earnings?
Hummer took Amelia by the shoulders and stared at her with her dagger-sharp brown eyes. “We can’t let this place stand.”
“No, we can’t.” Amelia would have smiled if she were able. “This room has no mana dampeners.”
Hummer sprouted a devilish grin on her mouth. “Then you have your powers.”
“Let’s burn this greenhouse out.”
Combat Module activated.
Hand raised to the mass of crystal ferns.
There was so much here, Amelia realized. Hundreds of plants, packed as tightly as possible while still keeping them healthy. A giant mass of roots all over the room.
And from the moment she ignited [Mana Burst] it all came away.
The fire spread more quickly than she ever expected.
Soon, the entire room was covered in flames. Alarms blared, and a sprinkler system above activated, sending non-chemical water pouring down to douse the fire—but Amelia simply aimed upwards and used [Mana Burst] to destroy each and every one of them.
The greenhouse room was now a raging inferno, so hot it threatened to melt Amelia’s stones.
With that, she and Amelia knew their work was done, and they left the room. For good measure, Amelia broke off the door, so not even the most stringent of backup containment systems could be effective. The fire would spread outside of the room, and with any luck it would hit a mana reserve and the whole area would explode.
Hopefully, they would be long gone by then.
The alarms continued to blare all over the wing, and Hummer shrugged.
“That’s not good, but I guess it’s kinda expected, huh?”
“More golems to deal with is all,” Amelia said. Now that her body had reentered the radius of a mana dampener, though, her powers had once again fallen into near-uselessness. That was a problem that needed to be addressed. “Next, let’s find the central data server. The one linked to the terminal up on Floor 4.”
“I thought that’s what we were looking for all along.”
“It was, minus a distraction or two.”
The heavy footsteps of marching golems approached. Many more than before. Perhaps eight of them. Amelia readied her Boost Module’s [Heel Dig] skill balled up both hands into fists.
“If we die here,” Hummer said, “at least I don’t have to go back to Saxonia.”