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[ChaWriMo] Shaky

Discussion in 'Creative Archive' started by Mr.RMA, Feb 1, 2013.

  1. Mr.RMA

    Mr.RMA Magearna before it was cool

    Alright, I'm cutting it kinda close here, I know, but, hey, I got it done! It's definitely a rushed work, but hopefully you'll still enjoy it :)

    Tape 1: Vernon
    I know this may sound weird, but, I’m not quite sure what you mean by “start from the beginning”. That could really mean a number of things by this point. Even then, no matter where I start, I don’t know how I’m supposed to begin…Everything’s just gotten so complicated these past few days. I guess if I’m gonna have to choose a place to start, it would have to be with the beginning of my second life. Now, when I say “second life”, I’m not referring to something like resurrection, or even something like moving away to another town and starting anew. Take the latter of those two, toss amnesia into the mix, and you’re a little closer, but, that’s still not the half of it. This wasn’t just a new life for me, it was a new life for hundreds of us; people of all kinds, all ages, all sorts of personalities, morals, preferences…and all with regrets…But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let me start at the…well, the closest thing to “the beginning” I can manage.
    Up ‘til recently, the earliest memory I ever had, was standing in an empty room, about the size of a closet. There wasn’t a lighting source I could make out, or an opening anywhere for light to come through, but the entire place was illuminated in a sort of teal glow. I wasn’t sure what to make of it, but then again, at that moment, I wasn’t even sure what to make of myself. Classic memory loss story, I had no idea who I was, let alone, what I was doing in such a claustrophobic enclosure. When nothing was happening for a while, I considered panicking, since, even with my memory erased, I still retained the common sense to know that small, impermeable spaces usually didn’t contain much oxygen, and the fear of suffocation was starting to set in when I heard a loud, yet strangely gentle voice call out from what seemed like all directions. It’s been a while since that day, but I still remember what it said, loud and clear: “You no longer know why, but you are starting anew. Do not question it, just live, and do NOT shift the balance.” After that, the wall I was facing fell forward, and I found myself in another, much larger room, dimly lit, with a bed on one side, a few drawers and shelves on the other, and a door between them. I didn’t hear anything more from the voice, and as I stepped out of my small containment, it vanished completely, leaving me to observe this dark shelter alone, as far as I knew at least. I started to feel queasy as I tried to take in everything that had just happened. I had so many questions; whose voice was that? What did they do to make me lose my memory? What was their motive? Did they even have one? Why was I chosen for this? And just where the hell was I? I figured I wouldn’t get any answers just dawdling around, so I started walking towards the door in front of me, every wobbly step I took feeling like something out of a bizarre fever dream as I slowly reached for the knob. I don’t know what I expected the outside world to look like, but, I honestly didn’t expect it to be as, well, normal-looking as it was. My surroundings were like that of a typical city, at least, from what I could recall, with the urban buildings, bustling streets, cars driving by, that sort of thing. Heck, from the outside, the room I had just exited looked like a small apartment building. Things looked so ordinary, in fact, that I started to believe that I had just hit my head on something really hard and all the business with the voice and the weird teal containment was just a hallucination, until a passerby took notice of my confusion and approached me. I don’t really remember too much about the guy, since I don’t think I ever saw him again after this little encounter, but I firmly recall what he said to me. Once he got closer, he asked me if I was alright, since I looked a little out of it…obviously. When I could only stare blankly at him in response, he started to get the picture.
    “Ah, I see now. You’re new, aren’t you? I’d recognize an expression like that a mile away. You must be pretty baffled about all this, huh?” He said with a slight chuckle. I could only nod to confirm this. “Well then, you’re gonna need a bit of showing around. Luckily, I don’t have anything better to do today, so I may as well show you the ropes. Come on, I’ll get you in the know in no time!” He turned away, walking towards the rest of the city up ahead, motioning for me to follow along. In my continual lightheadedness, I did so, dragging my feet along the pavement that led from the front of what I was starting to believe was my apparent home, or something of that variety. While I kept pace with this man, he began to explain everything in a tone that suggested he had gone over this sort of thing with countless others before. He told me that the voice I had started to doubt the actual existence of was, in fact, quite real, as he had heard it too, and for that matter, so did everyone else in this place. What was more, it had said the exact same thing to each of them, word for word. Alright, so that wasn’t just my own mind playing tricks on me then…That, unfortunately, only gave way for a swarm of other questions to follow, the first and foremost being, just where was I? Well, the man answered that one almost immediately. We were currently occupying the city of Placa, an isolated town in a completely unknown location, but more on that later. The city was very spacious, and would actually, believe it or not, expand on its own as the population steadily grew, as if it was a living organism itself. Everything for daily existence was within a person’s reach in Placa. The necessities like food, water and shelter were all complementary, the first two disposed in a variety of stores scattered all around the area, called “restockers”, and the third given to every new denizen upon his or her arrival. There were a whole lot of recreational options as well: theaters, hiking trails, clubs of many demographics, et cetera. All really just the sort of fare you’d expect in any urban venue. There was a currency system for the purchasing of any extra luxuries or non-necessities, and jobs at the restockers for people to earn the money. What set this place apart though, was, if you hadn’t already assumed by now, every one of its citizens had no memory of their past. No one was aware of just why, but since everyone feared that looking too far into it would, as the voice said, “shift the balance”, and the punishment for doing so was a mystery that was far less tempting to solve, no one dared to take any action to find out. Besides, with no past, there was nothing for us to miss, and everything we needed was now right in front of us! Who would want to go anywhere else? That was the mindset of my guide, and, while things were still looking really weird from where I was standing, I couldn’t find a good argument against this way. Even if I could, what was the point? I was a resident of Placa now, and I was going to remain as such if I didn’t want to upset any of those higher-ups running this town. All I could do was what I was told: Just live. And that’s what I did…until a few things eventually changed my mind.

    Tape 2: Waldrom
    Placa seems like a pretty swell place to live in, at least, from a newcomer’s perspective. Everything you could possibly need was there: food, entertainment, safety, the works. It was flawless in that regard. Of course, that didn’t mean the place was without its flaws entirely, and there were some damn big ones. Hell, I wouldn’t be here speaking about it if that weren’t the case. Biggest issue here is that you had everything you needed, but not everything you wanted. See, needs and wants are not one and the same, that’s something everyone eventually comes to know when they start to mature, and we’re always told that we can’t always get what we want, especially if what we want conflicts with what we need. As children, we had parents or guardians telling us this, keeping many tempting things out of our reach on the grounds that they knew what was best for us. This is necessary, of course, since, what the hell did we know back then? We were still kids. Once we got older though, we started to establish our priorities on our own, retaining the knowledge we gained throughout our youth and using it to make something of ourselves. That’s the way it should be, and it’s not the way Placa does things. In that city, we were forced to remain simple children under the so-called “care” of the entities running the place. Oh, it didn’t appear that way of course, but we all knew. We were all well aware that someone, or something, somewhere, was keeping a watchful eye over us, and we all feared just what that could be, every waking moment of every day. It was that shared experience that each of us had from the start of our new lives that did it. That voice was not one we could forget, even if we never heard it more than once. People could do nothing but carry on, and make the most of what they were given in this world presented to them, now the only one they knew. I was one of the drones myself for a time…a long time. Longer than many of my fellow citizens for certain, and just long enough to the point where, even with that lurking feeling of someone’s all-seeing-eye constantly having me in its sights, I was starting to get real bored of the place. It started with just a feeling of tediousness in my usual routine, which I tried to remedy by changing up an activity or two, running down a different path, or going to a club I never went to before, but these little changes only prolonged the problem, and my boredom merely escalated to a point where, no matter what I did differently on any given day, I started to see it all as just the same thing. Placa was Placa, and no matter what I did, I couldn’t escape the fact that I had seen everything it had to offer. Thus sparked a desire that I made myself suppress with all my might- the desire to get out, the desire to go places, see new things, meet different people, and do something beyond this daily grind I was subjecting myself to. I wanted more, but I knew just as well I couldn’t have it…That would shift the balance. And so, I continued doing the same old same old, but now, I had to do it all while trying to shut up the voice in my head that was screaming at me to just stop and walk away from it all. It was like torture, and it only got worse as time passed, until that day it became so unbearable, that I found myself starting to listen.
    I had just finished off another run, and was headed to the nearest restocker to grab a bite, as per usual. The place was pretty crowded at the time, though the lunch hour was still in full swing, so it was understandable, and once I had gotten my food, it was easy to see from the number of occupants littered all throughout the building that there weren’t any empty tables for me to sit at. Thankfully, many people in Placa weren’t the antisocial type, and I was fortunate enough to find a boy and a young woman willing to make some room for me. That was where I first met Vernon and Quinn…At the time those two were just a couple of strangers who were friendly enough to show me a little courtesy, but I had no idea just how important that fateful meeting of ours would become, and what it would eventually lead us all to do. At first, I had come across the notion that the two were related somehow, but I didn’t let that linger in my head for very long. Family units didn’t exist in that place…I was mildly surprised I still even knew what a family was, not like there was any use for that knowledge. They were simply sharing a table for the same reason I was joining them, but they seemed to be having a pretty intriguing conversation from the look of it. I wasn’t sure just what they were going on about, though I heard mention of something “out there” and an “escape method”, and eventually my curiosity had been piqued to a point where I had to ask them what they were talking about. They merely looked at me with an heir of suspicion, and I couldn’t help but feel I had been acting rudely barging into their talk like that, but instead of rebuking me, the woman asked me a question.
    “Do you like living here, sir?” She asked. I could only blink back, thrown off a little by the question in response to my own. My initial thought was that this was all a test of loyalty and that these two were working for the entities running the town, and I found myself stuttering out a not-so-convincing “Y-yes, of course. Why…why wouldn’t I?” The woman’s eyes lowered. She could tell I wasn’t telling her the truth.
    “Really now? Is this you talking, or are you just scared about what speaking your mind will bring you?” She said, her gaze locked on me, making me feel even more claustrophobic than I already felt in the crowded establishment. I opened my mouth to say “yes” once more…but nothing came out. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bring myself to hide it anymore. The voice in my head was screaming at me now, and I knew I couldn’t keep going with this ruse any longer.
    “Let me just ask you that question again. Do you really like living here?” She said, a smirk developing from her lips. She could see I was conflicted, and knew I wasn’t going to be able to fake my real feelings this time around. Taking a breath, I closed my eyes and muttered the truth: “No.”

    Tape 3: Quinn
    Something told me from the start that he wasn’t satisfied with that place. His tired eyes and pursed lips had hinted at it, and the shakiness in his voice only confirmed the fact. I couldn’t help but smile at how easy it was to get him to speak honestly. I looked over at Vernon and saw he was grinning much in the same way. We knew then that we had found another person who we felt was just as desperate to get out as we were, which meant we now had the confidence to bring him into our little conversation.
    “Listen, my friend here and I feel the same way. You don’t have to pretend around us.” I said to assure him. He still looked thrown off, but he started to ease up. Considering how he didn’t just up and walk away, I had a feeling we were reaching him, so, I decided to continue. I first introduced the two of us to him, let him introduce himself, and then I began to explain how the boy and I met. I told him about how I had found Vernon outside of the restocker no more than an hour or so before then, paler than snow, looking absolutely horrified. When I had asked the boy what had gotten him so spooked, he managed to sputter out something about having to leave, and that was pretty much it. I couldn’t get another word out of him, so I escorted him into the building and sat him down to try and help get his head straight. Once he settled down, he explained to me his conundrum. He had been minding his own business that morning, like any other, when he started hearing a buzzing noise ringing about in his head. He had tried to ignore the sound, but it only got louder and louder as the day went on, until he started to hear words beginning to form. The voice was now clearly saying to him “You know what you need to do, now do it.” Gradually, he realized this was an excess memory that he had somehow retained, and the realization that his past life was still clinging to his consciousness somewhere started to take a toll on the poor kid’s sanity. That was how I found him, and, now that he was functioning a little more properly, he found himself striking an epiphany. His memories had not been completely obliterated, so, perhaps then, he could find a way to piece the rest of it back together. In order to do that though, he was going to have to get out of Placa and find the answers out in the great unknown. Now, I myself didn’t have much incentive to put myself at risk just to see what was beyond the borders at first, but, listening to Vernon’s strange experience started to change that mindset. It occurred to me that, we truly didn’t belong here, and, whatever our opinion was on the matter, the fact was that we were being cooped up in one place, when we had lives to live outside of the boundaries of Placa. It was nothing short of an injustice throwing us all in there like a herd of sheep and justifying it by taking away our memories so we wouldn’t miss anything. Someone was playing God on us for their own sick amusement, and I wasn’t gonna stand for it. So, I began talking with Vernon about formulating a plan when Waldrom had stepped in.
    He had listened to the story with intent, and I suspected that there was a glimmer of excitement in his eyes as he put together just what we were going to do. As I finished speaking, his response was slow coming, but one that didn’t surprise me. “So, what do you two have in mind?” He asked. Vernon eagerly answered this one.
    “We’re thinking of heading towards the outskirts from different directions, so that whatever surveillance these guys have, if they have one at all, won’t be able to track us accurately. Once we’ve gone far enough to the point where we can safely assume we’re safe, we’re going to meet back up somewhere between our two paths and continue from there.” Waldrom didn’t seem quite as fascinated by this proposition. “Hmm…that’s all well and good, but how do you expect to regroup if you don’t have any idea what your surroundings are like? I feel like that’d put a hitch in your plan there.” He said, scratching the back of his head as if trying to figure out the answer himself, which, I could luckily provide on my own.
    “I’ve been working in the police force as an informant for a while now. I should be able to get my hands on a few radio transceivers, among other things, for our escape.” Yes, even in a place like that, law enforcement had been established. Just because people were afraid to leave, it didn’t mean they weren’t willing to cause trouble within the city. “I should be able to wire the three radios so that they can only send signals to each other, and, hopefully, not get picked up by any other devices. We should be able to keep each other informed the whole way through.
    “I’m sorry, but, did you say three?” Waldrom spoke up.
    “Well, yes. For the three of us: you, me, and Vernon.” I answered, though as I said this, it started to occur to me that, just because this man had expressed interest in our planned out escapade, he never said he was going to actually participate in it himself. Sure enough, he didn’t hesitate to bring this up to us.
    “I feel like you may be jumping to conclusions a little too quickly here, miss. I never told you I’d join the two of you. I may not be overall satisfied with my living conditions as of now, but I’m not going to go risk my life over a flawed escape plan.” He said to me, his arms crossed, glaring at me like I should’ve known this already…and I really should have.
    “Well, nothing’s perfect you know…” I started to say, but he cut me off midsentence.
    “You don’t know that. Not so long as you don’t know what the hell dumped us in this godforsaken place. They, or it, could be listening to every word we’re saying right now, and we wouldn’t have any idea. What if they’re just biding their time until we actually make our move?” He had a point. We really didn’t have any idea what we were dealing with, but, I for one didn’t want to let that impede on the possibility of life outside of these streets, beyond something no more than a prison covered in city lights.
    “You may be right. They may know all about what we’re gonna do, down to the letter, but what if they don’t? What if it’s actually just as easy as just walking away? We won’t know unless we give it a shot. Danger or not, do you really want to live a life like this? A meaningless one, without purpose, just because you’re afraid of what’ll happen if you refuse to conform? There’s a world out there we belong to, and we have the right to go back to it.” I didn’t have a clue if my words were making an impact on him then, though he appeared to have a look of ambivalence on his face. I hoped then, that he was pondering my words. Vernon on the other hand was merely watching the exchange attentively, seeing no need to impose. He looked like he was thinking over a few things himself at that moment, but you’d have to ask him about that. I never found out myself.
    “Look, why don’t we just sleep on this, okay? You can think it over, and tomorrow, if you’re willing to give this a go, you can meet us right back here, same time. Sound like a plan?” I said, hoping this guy was open to reason. After a particularly tense moment where the only sound we could hear was the garbled conversations of the masses of people all around us, Waldrom murmured a simple “Alright” and got up and left. I looked over at Vernon again, and he merely shrugged in reply. We weren’t too confident that we’d be seeing that fella again, but if he truly felt the same way we did about all this, he’d show up the next day.

    Tape 4: Vernon
    She wanted to know what I was thinking? Well, it wasn’t much to talk about, to be honest. That one sentence was still buzzing around in my head at that point, and even though I had recovered from that little, err, breakdown of mine, my mind was still reeling under the thought of what that sentence meant. The voice was unknown to me, but it now stood out just as much in my conscience as that other voice did to everyone else as well. I wanted to know who it was, and I wanted to know what they were trying to tell me, but I couldn’t…not the way I was. Something had to be done, and by god I was going to find out what that was. Kicking around the same city that only grows in size to include more of the same for the rest of my life was not going to work out when my past life was going to egg at me all the while. I wanted it all back.
    When Quinn offered our possibly-new companion a day to think things over before coming to a decision on whether he should join us or not, I was rather thrown off by how quickly the older guy got up and left. It raised a concern of mine that he was going to contact the cops or something and tell them about our upcoming stunt, since the police in Placa formed something of a first line border patrol as well, but seeing how the person with some actual police authority didn’t seem so worried herself, I decided to just let that go. Not too long after Waldrom left, I myself got up from my chair and started to leave, as to allow Quinn to set her plan of action, as well as prepare myself for the upcoming trip into the mysteries that surrounded us all.
    Once I reached my apartment, I took a good look around the place one last time. Safety, solitude, privacy, serenity…I had to admit, the place offered all these things. There was nothing there that implied undesirable living conditions on the outside, which is probably yet another factor as to why I hadn’t brought myself to consider leaving before. I grabbed some non-perishable food, as well as a change of clothes and wrapped it all in a pillow case, looking like one of those stereotypical bindles hobos are always depicted carrying around. That was pretty much what I was going to become for a while; a homeless wanderer, looking for a promised land that was anything but promised to exist out in that uncovered wilderness. Sitting on my bed, I took one last glance at everything I had become so accustomed to, and was now giving up, and gave a tired sigh before turning it in for the night, those words replaying just as intensely in my dreams as they had done when I was awake. Even though I didn’t know the motive behind them, I simply compensated by creating a makeshift one. I knew exactly what I needed to do at the time. I had to escape, and I was going to do it, and any time I should ever doubt myself, I’d just have to remind myself, you have to do this, you have no other choice. This is your life, and you aren’t going to let it fly away from you without at least making the attempt to catch it. The sacrifices that had to be made were just going to have to happen, if it meant getting answers.
    The morning arrived rather quickly, and I was eager to get myself up. I still had some time before our meeting was to take place, but I couldn’t bring myself to stay put and wait it out. I had to do something to pass the time, lest I end up losing control of all my eagerness. I decided then to take a walk through the winding streets to help keep me limber, since the coming journey would probably prove to be exhausting when all was said and done. I shuffled my way through the busy roads, watching the cars roll by, and the people on the street all walking to and fro, many of their faces blank, nearly emotionless, hiding their true feelings about everything going on around them. Many of these people were the ones I knew had been around Placa for far longer than I had, and I admit, I felt a horrible sense of pity for them. They had seen too many days pass, and were too late to even consider finding a way out. They were just too old, and with that age, that horrible sense of acceptance had to have its way with them. They had come to terms with their fates, and the only thing they were waiting for now was for the hand of death to take them away the only way they believed would work for them. It was kinda tragic in a way, seeing these people say they were okay with dying here; These people who had their own ambitions and futures one time, and were willing to throw them all away. They may have been waiting for death, but they might as well have been dead men walking, all marching slowly towards their electric chairs and getting zapped into nothingness.
    With my newly acquired escape agenda, it only made me feel all the worse having to avoid asking people I had befriended if they wanted to come along with me, knowing we couldn’t risk garnering any more attention that might reach the big bosses’ ears. What would happen to them all if I escaped? Perhaps I could save them all one day, if my escape proved successful. One could only dream I guess…
    Strolling along, I was surprised to find that the time to go back to that restocker was nigh, and it came far more quickly than I had originally expected. I was going to have to rush over there if I didn’t want Quinn to think that everyone had abandoned her to take this risky trip alone. I started running through the crowds of the same people I had watched pass me by, eventually breaking out of the clump and seeing the building that was my destination in sight. This was the beginning of it all, I thought to myself, taking a deep breath and opening the doors. As expected, Quinn was there waiting. Not quite as expectedly, so was Waldrom.

    Tape 5: Waldrom
    When she told me to think it over, I must have sounded pretty rude just up and leaving like that, but at that moment, politeness wasn’t the first thing on my mind. Her words were getting at me, and I was really hoping to get myself out of there so I could spend some time alone with my own thoughts, away from the pressure of giving her a definite answer right there. I went home immediately and kept all the lights off, lying down and staring at the ceiling as I started weighing my options: Go or don’t go. It was a pretty clear, black and white decision, but that didn’t make it any easier to choose one over the other. Each pro had its own con to go with it. I was bored, but I was safe; I didn’t want to die out there, but I didn’t want to live where I was forever; I was curious over just who I really was, but did I really want to find out? So many conflicts…and so little time to make a decision. I knew that if I decided to stay, and later, I ended up changing my mind, I’d have no chance getting out on my own without the necessary resources. It was do or die and it was killing me trying to make a choice.
    Hours passed, the night wore on, and I remained at a loss. I was staring at nothing in the pitch black room, my mind blank, completely exhausted. Allowing fatigue to set in, my head started to droop, and my eyelids started falling, and soon I was out like a light. Now, I usually don’t have very vivid dreams, but that night was an exception. I can recall, clear as day, how I had envisioned myself floating in a white void, feeling weightless as I hovered alone in a bright abyss, when something started coming into view. It revealed itself to be humanoid of some kind, but it had no features, looking like a three dimensional shadow. It was a small shadow too, about the size of a child, and though it didn’t have any eyes, it seemed to be “looking” directly at me. I observed the figure with confusion, unsure just what I was looking at, and yet, I thought I could feel something else as well. Before I could realize what that was, another shadow-like being suddenly appeared and stood beside the first, this one taller, shaped more like an adult, and, if I didn’t know any better, appeared somewhat feminine. That strange feeling was getting stronger now, and I could feel my heart starting to pound faster and faster as the two continued to stand silently in front of me. I still didn’t know what all this was about, but I really didn’t like it so far. It didn’t help, then, when the two suddenly stretched out an arm towards me, as if wanting me to take their dark, shadowy hands, and I started feeling a horrible pain in my chest. Impulse made me reach out towards these outstretched strangers’ hands, but as I did, a flurry of loud echoing cries rang through my ears, and I flinched, grasping my head in pain as the cries got louder and louder, yet remained indistinct, only serving to give me a hell of a bad headache. I had closed my eyes at the unbearable sensation, but as I started opening them again, I saw the shadows continue to reach for me.
    “What do you want!?” I tried to shout, though my call was drowned out by the surging voices still coming at me from all directions. When I tried to ignore the agonizing sounds and reached for them again, everything started to go dark, and they soon faded from view. I then felt my stomach churn as I began to fall into the blackness.
    I woke up from this nightmare in a cold sweat, the sound of those cries still ringing in my ears. What in the name of all that was holy was all that? It may have been a dream, but from how I could remember every detail, I felt it had to be something more than that. My subconscious must have been trying to access something that was no longer there, and so it constructed whatever it could find to build up some horribly fractured memory lying around in the back of my mind. It could’ve also just been some bizarre-as-shit fever dream, but either way, it was a cause for concern. I started to suspect that all that talk from earlier about escaping had something to do with it, considering how I had been thinking about it all night, and it left me to wonder…just who were those two strange, shadowy things? Could they have been people I knew once? People who were close to me? In retrospect, they looked very much like a mother and her son…Could they have been my family? I was starting to get desperate for some answers, and I began to get frustrated that I wasn’t coming to any revelations. It was then that it hit me- So long as I remained in Placa, I was never going to get an answer. That dream could come back to me again and again, until I was old and decrepit, and so long as I called this my place of residence, I’d never learn anything else. My eyes were beginning to open now, and as the first rays of sunlight started to creep in, I knew what I had to do.
    I left my designated living space for what would be the last time, out to spend my last day in that secluded city doing…well…hell if I knew. It was hard to do anything that day when I was constantly thinking ahead to what would be the most important, or at least the most stupid, thing I would ever do in my amnesiac life. Standing there for a few minutes, I eventually just gave a shrug and decided to go on with my usual morning run. No harm in doing the same old routine just one more time to occupy myself for a little while. Besides, I was going to have to condition myself for what lay ahead, which I theorized would involve a lot of running. That theory would be proven true, for better or for worse, but I’m digressing. Once the time came, I made my way over to the restocker to revisit my newest acquaintances. Upon seeing the girl sitting at the exact same table as before, I gave her a brief nod in greeting, saying nothing, and knowing I didn’t need to. My presence there was enough of a response. She simply grinned back, definitely looking triumphant over luring another stiff into her cause.

    Tape 6: Quinn
    As soon as we went our separate ways that afternoon, I started setting the plan in action. First off, I needed those radios. I headed over to the station towards the center of town, my informant badge in hand and on display to get in without delay. Once inside, I casually slunk my way towards the lockers in the room at the far back corner of the station, where everyone stowed away their uniforms. Due to a rather faulty “honor system” of theirs, every uniform was displayed and visible for all to see. What would a cop value from stealing from another cop anyways?” Perhaps not much, but how about a part-time informant in my position? A lot, just in case you didn’t already come to that conclusion. As I was certain I was, without a doubt, ignored by any other authorities as I slowly removed three transceivers from their respective uniforms, I thought I could get out of there without a word. Only in a perfect world though, and this was Placa…
    “Hey, Q! How you doin!” I suddenly hear coming from behind me. In a panic, I sloppily pocketed the radios and spun around to face the officer now approaching me hoping I was doing a good job hiding my initial shock. This cop was one I had worked with as an associate on a number of occasions, hence the nickname. He was a good guy for the most part, definitely showed his content for his job on a regular basis, but he was more often than not snooping around when he really didn’t have the motive, or the justification, to do so, which would prove even more irritating at that moment than usual, considering the illegal nature of my visit.
    “Hi, Taggard.” I said with a short wave, turning back to leave, trying to make it look like I was in a rush and didn’t have any time to chat, which, in a way, was actually true. Unfortunately, Taggard didn’t seem to get the picture.
    “What’re you doing here at this hour? Don’t you usually come around in the mornings?” He asked, seemingly paying no mind to the snagged electronics dangling from my pocket.
    “Well, uh, I left my badge in the lobby, so I had to stop by to pick it up,” I said, sheepishly holding up my means of identification. I really wasn’t feeling very comfortable having conversation with someone who could easily put me away at even the slightest realization of what I was doing, but I couldn’t afford to just run off and likely cause a scene. It was best I just deal with this smoothly, and naturally. Taggard nodded and grinned at my answer. He was buying it.
    “Ah, I see. Good thing you found it then, eh? Wouldn’t be able to do your job without credentials,” He said with a light chuckle. I feigned a laugh at this, while my eyes were constantly darting back towards the exit so tantalizingly close. “Well then, I’m sure you’ve got places to be, so I won’t be keeping you, you have a nice day, Quinn,” He said, tipping his hat and walking off. I let out a sigh of relief as he disappeared from sight, preparing to sprint out of that station while I still had the chance when…
    “Oh, wait, I forgot to tell you one last thing!” Taggard called, having back tracked right back to where I was standing. “Surveillance may be a little wonky for a few days downtown. The chief has been sending a whole lot of us over to the outskirts, at the borderlines. Guess he’s gotten worried about people crossing over or something…not sure why, but, I’m not gonna question him. Alright, be seein’ you!” He left once more, only now, I wasn’t feeling quite so relieved. More forces at the borders? Could it have been possible that, somehow the chief knew about my plan? And if that was the case, how could he have found out? It could’ve just been coincidental, but I had a feeling our little mystery leaders had something to do with it. Either way, getting out was going to prove more troublesome than I had originally intended. Before I left the station for good, I took one last detour to the resource room, keeping my eyes peeled for any sign of a police officer as I started collecting a number of supplies I figured we were going to need if we were going to pull this thing off. Once I felt I had grabbed enough, I wasted no time getting out of there, back into the streets. Seemed Taggard was right; on any other occasion, I wouldn’t have gotten in and out of there so inconspicuously, barring the run-in with him; the occupation along the borders must have been pretty thick. This was something I was going to have to think over, and definitely something to discuss with Vernon and Waldrom, provided the latter chose to take part.
    The bland site I called my abode was not too far from the outskirts of one side of Placa, though it admittedly used to be much closer, before more of those houses sprung up, like a bunch of fungi. It was still close enough for me to notice the wall of cops littered all over the place, keeping a watchful eye for anyone within eyeshot of their vicinity. I let out a growl of annoyance at the sight, knowing I had to somehow find a way to break through that wall by tomorrow. That evening was starting to have the makings of an all-nighter written all over it. There was no time to delay; I had to think harder than I ever did before. For the first time I could remember, I was dealing with a true issue of life or death, and not just on account of my own fate either. Aside from just those who were going along with me, what would happen to everyone else if we, by some miracle, escaped and found another civilization out there? Could we return for all the other poor souls who were trapped here with us, living out lies they were well aware of? What if they didn’t want to leave? Would they choose to fight to keep living out the remainder of their days in this place? How far would they go to keep their precious status quo? The questions got more and more intense, until I forced myself to stop thinking so far ahead. Nothing of that sort would matter in the slightest if we never even made it outside for starters.
    Time was at a standstill for me as I formulated a breakout strategy. I didn’t pay attention to how many hours had gone by, and I ignored the painful aching of my sleep depraved muscles as I pushed my mind to its limit. Nothing so petty was going to stop me like that. I wrote piles of notes, and then started drawing on the walls as my paper supply ran thin. Every detail had to be accounted for, no matter how small, and if there was even the slightest chance something could be done better than how I had it, I’d find out how. Eventually, my stamina finally wore thin, and I found myself collapsing onto a heap of notes. It didn’t matter though, because my plan was ready. Just in the nick of time.
    The afternoon came fast for me the next day, and I was sitting in the middle of that restocker just like that. To my surprise, the first familiar person I saw was Waldrom. I flashed a smirk towards him as he took a seat across from me.
    “Just couldn’t resist, could you?” I said, feeling pretty good about how I was able to actually influence that guy in such a way.
    “Shamefully, I could not…” He mumbled, arms crossed on the table as he looked down. He looked like he had had a pretty long night, much like me, and I couldn’t say I didn’t expect him not to have. A decision like that could leave anyone up all night.
    “So, what got you convinced? I’d love to say I was the sole cause, but I doubt that’s the full truth.” I asked him, curious as to how he made his choice.
    “It’s kinda complicated, to tell you honestly. I’m not sure I even know for certain, but whatever it was, it did a pretty damn good job of convincing me.” He answered as he scratched the side of his head.
    “So, where’s the boy? Wasn’t he with you?” He asked, after a brief moment of quietness between the two of us.
    “Don’t know. I only met the kid yesterday, so I don’t think I could make a very accurate prediction of what he’s doing right now. Still, from how he was acting yesterday, I don’t think he’ll be a no-show for much longer.”
    The proof I was right came almost immediately afterward as Vernon charged through the doorway, looking just as amazed as I did about you-know-who sitting across from me. His astonishment only lasted for a few seconds however, and he soon shrugged it off and took a seat between us.
    “Alright, we’re all here. It’s time I give you gentlemen the lowdown on our situation. Seems we’ve got some good news and bad news.” I said to start off. Both of my listeners were at the fullest of attention, obviously eager to hear what I had found, and devised.

    Tape 7: Vernon
    This was exciting business, clear and simple. Quinn seemed like she knew pretty well what she was doing, so I was banking on her good news being somewhat more impactful than her bad news.
    “Bad news, is that it appears we’ve either picked the absolute worst day ever to make our move, or someone’s on to us, because police occupation at the borderlines is at an all-time high. Nothing’s gonna get in or out so long as they can handle it.” This revelation caused me to cringe a little. That wasn’t very good at all. If the city authorities were one step ahead of us on this, what else could they know? I didn’t have time to think this for long though, as Quinn had some more info to go on.
    “Good news, is that I believe I’ve found a way to take that into account, and still get us out of here.” This caused me to lean forward on the table a little. The excitement was really starting to get at me here.
    “I’ve been analyzing the way the cops have been stationed, and what they’re looking out for specifically. They’re mostly clumped towards the major openings on the North, East and West sides, the places we’re gunning for, but they’re all equipped to repel people on foot. It appears that they haven’t taken motor vehicles into account. I can also tell from past experience that these fellas are always keeping their radios at the ready. At the quickest sign of trouble, they’ll be off and running like that.” She snapped at this to make her point. “I believe I have a way we can take advantage of this.” She pointed outside towards a car moving down the streets at the very moment. “If we can get hold of one of those cars, we could drive right through one of their barricades, causing them to scatter and call for backup, leaving the other two openings with far fewer men to get by.”
    “So, you’re suggesting we hijack someone?” I asked, a little uneasy by how that would pan out.
    “In a way, yes, I guess that’s what you could say we’re doing… but the matter of how we get the vehicle is second to what we’re trying to do with it. We just need to get our hands on one by any method.” A risky endeavor, but if it had to be done, then I felt it wouldn’t be too difficult to do.
    “Once the person on wheels has made their move, the scenes at the other two borders should be at least a little clearer of officers temporarily. For the ones who remain, we have these,” She said, pulling a large bag from under the table and emptying the contents in front of us: A pile of flare guns, stun guns, and pistols. “By some miracle, I managed to get these out from the station. The two who are going out on foot will take the flare guns, which hold flares bright enough to incapacitate anyone who looks at them head-on, and fire them towards the officers. The ensuing brightness should distract them just enough for you to get out of there before they can realize you’re gone. If one gets too close, however, then that’s where the stun gun comes in handy. Worst comes to worst, we’ll all have pistols on hand; though I hope neither of you need to use them. Moral fibers aside, we can’t waste ammo when we have no idea what we may face out in the unknown. Still, if your life is at risk, do what you gotta do.”
    Another “do it” quote was being brought up…That ringing voice from earlier was suddenly coming back, though I attempted to suppress it to keep myself at full concentration. Luckily, I was successful this time, though I think that was because even my subconscious knew now wasn’t the best time for mind tricks.
    “Who did you have in mind to drive the car?” Waldrom asked, his chin resting on top of his right hand, which was balled up into a fist.
    “Well, that depends on who thinks they can do the job the most competently. Either of you have your heart set on it?” That leaved me to think if I wanted to bet my money more on my own agility and stealth, or my hijacking skill, neither of which I felt were very relevant when concerning myself, but perhaps I could figure out the lesser of the two evils. After some brief thought, I raised my hand slightly.
    “I’ll go ahead and man the car,” I declared, though in that stomach churning sort of way where you found yourself volunteering or signing up for something, only to immediately have second guesses about it after the deal is made. Still, I wouldn’t hold back on my word.
    “Alright, Vernon, if you’re up to it. Once you’re at the wheel, take the Northern exit. Just be careful with how you handle obtaining the car. We don’t want you diverting everyone while you’re still on the inside.” She advised. I gave a nod to assure her I was ready for it, even if I more than likely wasn’t really. Better than risking a faulty aim with that flare gun, though.
    “So then, that leaves Waldrom and me to take the East and West sides. Any favorites?” She asked, though the older man merely shook his head. “Whatever you want,” He murmured indifferently.
    “Okay then…Guess I’ll go with the East. So, now that we know what we’re doing, let’s get out there and make it happen, alright?” She placed her right hand towards the center of the table, and Waldrom and I both did the same.
    “Be seein’ you both on the other side then?” I said to them.
    “You can bet on it.” Waldrom remarked, Quinn smiling brightly. We then all stood up, took a radio, grabbed the weapons off the table, doing our best to conceal them in whatever way was available to us, and walked outside. It was finally time.
    Now, cars in Placa were fairly rare. They were a luxury few could afford, without putting in a near-inhuman amount of work hours in whatever profession you took around there. As such, it was usually common to only see one pass by every fifteen minutes or so. Because of this, I figured it was best not to wait for one to come to me, but track down the first one I saw. After a few moments of waiting, a dark blue van eventually came into view. I didn’t hesitate to go after it, my stun gun in hand as I sprinted to keep up with the vehicle, weaving through the masses of people inconveniently in my way. I had been living in Placa long enough to know the ins and outs of the city though and I managed to keep the van in view as I took shortcuts down the alleyways cutting through the urban maze. Wherever the van was, I wasn’t too far behind.
    Once the vehicle came to a stop, I crouched behind a wall adjacent to the driver’s side of the car, my heart beating fast as I anxiously waited for the time to strike. The driver, a man appearing to be in his late thirties, stepped out and onto the pavement, and, just as I had hoped, started walking towards the shop I was currently hiding beside. My palms began to sweat as he got closer, unsure when the right time to act was. When he was within arm’s length, I nodded to myself, clutching my weapon tightly, and sprung, activating the electric arc and jamming it into the man’s back, causing him to crumple to the ground, immobilized.
    “Alright, don’t panic, don’t panic, just take the keys and go…take them and go…”I murmured to myself, trying to stow off the anxiety of having just assaulted a man. As I found the pocket that held the keys, however, I suddenly heard someone yelling, and noticed people looking right at me.
    “Shit…okay, panic…panic and get the hell out of here!” I said to myself, sprinting towards the van and jamming the keys into the ignition, stepping on the gas. The northern exit was near. I just had to make it through before someone could manage to stop me, which, unless I wanted this whole mission to die in a flash, wasn’t an option. I veered through the streets, swerving to avoid people, while trying to maintain enough velocity to keep any pursuers off my trail, all while trying to get to that borderline. Speeding around one corner, I saw my destination laid out right in front of me, along with a whole row of cops with guns drawn. Word spread fast in Placa… Some of them looked to be aiming to blow out the tires, while others looked more inclined to blow my head off instead. Squeezing my eyes shut and ducking my head below the windshield, I floored it, hearing the engine roaring, and the bullets flying as I careened forward.

    Tape 8: Waldrom
    The plan seemed pretty clear cut, definitely sounding better than what they had proposed the day before…Or maybe that was just me wanting that to be true, now that I had attached myself to the cause. Whatever the case, we were going through with it, and, as what would become the usual scenario, there was no turning back.
    “Sure you made the right choice lettin’ the kid take the wheel?” I asked Quinn, watching Vernon walk off in the opposite direction of where we were headed.
    “I don’t know. But I really don’t think the odds would be any better if one of us did so instead. It’s not like any of us have done something like this before…” She murmured.
    “Can’t argue with that…” I grumbled back, gripping the concealed flare gun in my shirt pocket. “So, I guess we’d better get ready for the boy’s signal then.” At that, I turned towards the West side and began walking.
    “Waldrom?” I then stopped at the sound of Quinn calling to me, turning to hear what she had to say.
    “It may be a little too early to say this, but, thank you for giving us a chance.” I lifted a hand to shake off the sign of gratitude.
    “I aught’a be the one thankin’ you two. I’m finally getting some excitement in my life, and for a justifiable cause, because of you fellas and this ridiculous scheme. Good luck to you, Quinn.” I turned away once more as I heard her say good luck right back before I proceeded shuffling through the streets at a brisk pace as to avoid not being in position when everything started going down. I slowly pulled my flare gun out and held it close to my chest as the West border started coming into view. Cops, cops and more cops…Our diversion had better work, or a simple bright light wasn’t gonna cut it.
    After a couple minutes, I thought I could hear the sound of tires screeching violently in the distance. I knew exactly who the cause of that was. Sure enough the sound of radios, including my own, all started blaring out the same command: “The Northern border’s being compromised! Immediate back up needed!” At once, a good portion of the policemen separated from the group and went northward. With the remaining security looking confused and disoriented by the sudden events, I decided to capitalize on their confusion by taking action right then and there. I fired a flare towards the ground right in front of them, blocking my eyes as the blinding light illuminated everything near it, sprinting forward, past the border with all the strength I had, hoping to be too far out by the time they regained their bearings. As I ran, I kept an ear open for any sound of my two “partners in crime”, so to speak. I wasn’t getting anything, but that still wasn’t taking priority over running like mad.
    When I felt myself unable to keep running, and couldn’t hear any gunshots coming from behind me, I allowed myself to stop, falling to my knees and breathing heavily, beads of sweat dripping from my face and landing onto the dry, orange-brown ground beneath me. Even after I started to regain my bearings, I found myself unable to move, at the realization of what I was looking at. I was looking at the land beyond…I was in the unknown territory…I was out of Placa. It was amazing, just seeing something so unfamiliar, even if it was nothing more than dried up dirt. If something like that was enough to exhilarate me, I could only wonder what everything would look like once I looked up.
    Mustering the courage, I picked my head up to look at my surroundings. What I saw was beyond perplexing. In front of me lied nothing but barren desert landscape, dry, hot, and seemingly endless, but merely turning a little to the right, I saw what appeared to be a massive forest, tropical by the looks of it, lush, and full of floral life, far mar widespread than something out of a typical oasis. If that didn’t already boggle the mind, further out to the far right of that region, I could see a heavily clouded patch of land that appeared to be…covered in snow? Alright, that just seemed like it could’ve been a mirage, but, on the off chance it wasn’t, then this was the most climatically screwed up place I had ever seen. It was all such a wonder to behold from afar, but I couldn’t forget what I was there for. I could’ve very well still been in danger of being caught, and I was going to have to keep moving, roughly in a Northwestern pattern to avoid elongating the distance between myself and my other two hopeful escapees, which would require me remaining in the dry, heat-stroke inducing desert throughout my trek. Not my idea of a scenic trail, but, at least I hadn’t gone this way before, and god-willing, I wouldn’t be going down this way ever again.
    Before subjecting myself to such a task, however, I decided to give the radio one last shot. I needed to know if Vernon and Quinn got out alright after all, since, well, this had been organized as a three man operation from the start, and going it alone would probably not bring me the best results in the end.
    “Vernon? Quinn? It’s Waldrom. I got out, do you read? I got out.”

    Tape 9: Quinn
    When Waldrom headed over to his destination, I stood there quietly for a brief moment, a single question swimming around in my head: What was next? We knew next to nothing about where we were, aside from the name of the city we were left to rot in. What if, for some geographic reason, I wouldn’t be able to reunite with those two guys? Would I be able to fare out there alone? Would they? What would we be looking for, and how long would we be able to last while we were looking for it? No matter where I looked, or what I did, these new questions were always popping up, and very few ever seemed to be getting answered.
    Unfortunately, I ended up spacing out like this for a little too long, and I was snapped out of it by the sound of a car screeching violently. I was gonna be late!
    “Oh no, oh dammit!” I shouted at myself, pulling out my flare gun and dashing towards the East end. I hastily fired my flare as soon as I saw the first uniformed man in front of me, only to forget to cover my own eyes and taking a massive blast of light right to my eyes. I gasped at the searing pain, a hand held over my now-closed eyes as I blindingly struggled forward, only to bump right into an officer, who, while just as thrown off by the light as I was, still managed to grab at my arm tightly, not letting me go no matter how much I struggled. That guy was resilient, I’d give him that, and he forced me to take my stun gun and jab it into his left side, causing him let me go, allowing me to stagger out as fast as I could. A near-agonizing headache started tormenting me, and it took every fiber in my being to keep pressing on, even as I passed the border. It didn’t help when I started feeling a horrible chill, and my legs started getting resistance from moving freely.
    As my vision began to return, I first thought I had suffered some permanent eye damage, since everything looked so white, but it didn’t take long for me to put two and two together, and I found myself wandering through some strange biome covered in snow. Snow never fell in Placa, and it was a wonder how I knew what it was at all. Perhaps the memory erasure process was more of a selective type, focusing more on personal, episodic recollections, instead of semantic ones. This just raised further questions over why they did it in the first place though and why to so many of us? It wasn’t the time for questions though. I would never manage to survive a trip through this cold, semi-visible landscape if I stayed out here for more than a single day. Besides, I didn’t want to keep the others waiting, provided they both made it out safely.
    As I trudged through the snow, I kept myself on high alert for signs of anyone potentially following after me. I didn’t expect any of the police officers to do so, but, I didn’t exactly believe that humans occupying Placa were the only life forms around here. The entities behind that voice were more than enough proof to doubt this, but even then, I just couldn’t shake off the feeling that there were other beings lurking around those parts somewhere, just waiting for something unsuspecting to come around that they could get their teeth on. My fears ended up not going without reason, as I would unfortunately find out soon enough, and as I pushed onward through the cold, white domain, I started hearing the incredibly faint sounds of what I thought was a growl coming from some direction that I couldn’t quite label by ear. The sound caused me to instinctively reach for the pistol situated in my pocket, brushing my fingers along the stinging cold metal as I started forcing myself to move faster, even as the snow started reached up to my knees. I wasn’t used to this cold, not at all, and it was really beginning to show. The flakes on my hair started to make each strand feel like ice, and the chilling climate started to bite at my exposed face and hands, which were becoming a ghostly pale color.
    I let out a labored sigh, watching my visible breath flow out of me like a steam engine. This was tough, but, I couldn’t let something as basic as the weather bring me down so easily. Of all the things to possibly be my undoing, that was not going to be the one. The sound of growling getting louder seemed only to prove this notion, more or less, though not in the way I would’ve preferred. I tried looking around for even the slightest trace of the source, but the snow was blowing even more violently now, and I couldn’t even bring myself to look too far up without getting a bunch of frozen water in my eyes. The only option was to go faster, as I started going into a clumsy sort of jog, lifting my legs as high as possible to get through the thick snow with haste.
    However, even with all my efforts, the growling just got more and more apparent, and I could feel my heart beating through my throat as I started hearing footsteps not in pace with my own, and in fact, moving rather quickly… I pulled out my gun and made sure it was loaded, realizing I wasn’t going to be able to run away from this, whatever it was, and prepared to stand and fight. Too bad for me, then, that I was standing in the wrong direction, as, without warning, I felt something pounce on me from behind, its claws sticking into me as I fell forward into the soft snow beneath me. Ignoring the light stinging sensation now spreading throughout my back, I jerked my elbow back to make contact with what I could only guess was this creature’s neck, causing it to tumble off of me with a yelp. I forcefully pushed myself back up onto my feet once I was free from its clutches, turning around and firing a quick shot at my aggressor…and missing. The creature, canine from the looks of it, not to mention the sound of it, though with a strange, white and teal fur combination that didn’t seem very natural for its kind, suddenly went in for the kill again, jumping at me, its jaws going right for my jugular, as I struggled to fire one more round. This time, thankfully, I got a hit, and just in time, as the wolf-like creature’s bloodied corpse landed at my feet. I backed away from the lifeless mammal’s dead form and ran a hand down my back, gasping a little at the small jolts of pain, before looking at the hand. Only a bit of blood…so the injury couldn’t have been that serious. In no position to fight off any more of these carnivorous beasts for quite a while, I went back to walking in…hopefully the same direction as before.
    Somewhat thrown off by that attack, I jumped at the sound of static coming from my radio, taking me a little while before I remembered just who would be contacting me. Once I did, I fumbled for the device and held it up in front of me.
    “H-hello?” I stuttered, hoping more than anything that the fight didn’t damage the means of communication.
    “Quinn? Quinn, that you? You alright?” I suddenly heard from the speaker. It was Waldrom. Good, he must have made it through as well.
    “Yeah, I’m okay. Had a run in with the wildlife around here, but, I managed to fight it off. So, you made it out too?”
    “Yup…Wait, did you say wildlife?” I expected he’d be just as surprised by this as me, since, when you stayed in seclusion with only your own kind for so long, the thought of a nonhuman species existing seemed more and more fictional with each passing day.
    “Uh huh, so, looks like the question of whether we’re alone or not has been answered. You’re gonna want to stay alert in case anything’s got its eyes set on you. What’s it like on your end anyways?” I asked, figuring that this place couldn’t have just been a complete frozen wasteland without having known about it in some form before.
    “Hot…dry, and very hot…It’s like a desert here. You?”
    “Completely opposite…I’m sure you wouldn’t agree from where you’re standing, but I have to say I envy you right now. I don’t know how long I can stay out here before my fingers start to freeze off.” I murmured in reply, said fingers clutched tightly on the radio, starting to feel numb.
    “Just hang in there. If this place really is as diverse as it looks, then you should find your way out of there sooner or later. Oh, by the way, before I forget, you hear anything from Vernon yet?” I suddenly found myself frozen for a completely different reason at the sound of this question. I had almost completely forgotten that Vernon hadn’t even attempted to make contact with us since our escape began.
    “Uh…no…can’t say that I have.” Oh, I was starting to get the feeling this was going to prove itself very problematic by that point, to be sure.

    Tape 10: Vernon
    When the van burst through that barricade, with my skin still intact to boot, I thought I had made it out via the best case scenario. Unfortunately, I didn’t take into account that the guys behind me still had their guns, and at the sound of one last shot, I heard a loud, subsequent pop, then found myself spin out of control for a few minutes, trying to straighten out the vehicle as I helplessly twirled around, coming to a stop only after ramming into a nearby tree. I think I lost consciousness for a short while after that, before I woke up and took notice of the…unsatisfactory, condition of the car, or at least what was left of it. There was a massive dent on the right side, with the entire thing almost completely crumpled up and destroyed. Had I crashed into that tree from my end, I’d have been history, no doubt about that. Shaking off my initial shock as I scrambled out of my wrecked mode of transportation, I checked myself for any possible injuries I may have sustained from the crash. Nothing seemed wrong, so I shifted towards my next priority of finding out where the heck I had stranded myself.
    Upon brief inspection of the place, I found I was in a peculiarly dense jungle, with many, many more trees than the one that forced me to continue on foot, obviously. It was also a particularly humid place, and I mean, it nearly felt like the air was so moist that I was swimming through it. For someone who has felt so much of the same for as long as I had, it was absolute brutality. Nonetheless, I had to keep moving onward. I made it this far, so, I might as well see this plan to the end.
    Speaking of which, I realized I hadn’t heard anything coming from my radio yet. Odd, since, from my end at least, we seemed pretty much in the clear by that point. That’s when I got a good look at the condition of my radio…
    “Oh, goddamn!” I exclaimed as I picked up the obliterated, short-circuiting, device. The thing was damaged beyond repair…Well, there went my one and only means of communication. I was not off to a good start at all…but it only managed to get worse when, even without the radio, I started hearing something speak to me; a familiar voice but not one belonging to my comrades…
    “You shouldn’t have,” it said, its booming voice more stern than that iconic first time I heard it.
    “Who are you to decide that?” I shouted, so incensed by what this thing had done to all of us, that I didn’t even care anymore just how much I had feared it before.
    “Keep walking.” Was all it answered with.
    “KEEP WALKING. You’ll get your answer up ahead.” It said. I did as I was told, uneasy, and definitely shaken by the sudden vocal presence now revealed to me. After a few steps, I came across exactly what I was supposed to find…in the form of a corpse lying in front of me. His face was deep red, frozen in a shocked expression. Not a trace of blood seemed to seep from any potential wounds, but when I looked closer, I could see a strange, veiny substance constricting his legs and moving up to where his torn shirt revealed these dark, purplish, string-like things clinging tightly to his back, still pulsing with whatever life giving mass it was sucking from the dead man’s flesh.
    “This man is familiar to you,” The voice informed me.
    “This is news to me…I’ve never seen him before,” I said back, unable to take my eyes off this disturbing sight.
    “But you have. You both used to work at the same restocker, at the same shift, until he was ‘selected’. After this, you forgot him completely, and simply resumed your work. Very similar to what happened the day you arrived to us.” I couldn’t respond, as I felt a cold chill run down my back.
    “You understand the extent of my power there, but my talents go a little further than that. I’m also, along with many others, the cause of this gentleman’s demise. I terminated him from where I’m currently positioned, within a matter of minutes. This, my foolish little pet, is why I tell you what to do, and you listen.”
    “Why? So you can kill me when you find it convenient for you?” I retorted, failing to understand this thing’s reasoning.
    “That’s really only a fraction of the reason. There’s far more at play here, but you won’t need to fret about all that. You have proven to me that you’re impossible to reason with, you and your disgusting little accomplices. As such, I believe now’s the time for you to be a participant, this fellow’s successor, if you will. Good hunting.” When it didn’t continue any further, I started to look around, but saw nothing.
    “I hate to ask, but, what am I supposed to kill?” I decided to question.
    “Oh, you thought that last part was for you? Now, isn’t that just the cutest thing!” it said back, smugly. That was more than enough incentive for me to start sprinting out of there. I was marked, and I didn’t know by who or what, and I certainly didn’t know where it was coming from, but none of that changed the fact that it was coming after me. I wasn’t gonna let it get me without posing a fighting chance, though.
    Running through the dense air and the overhanging leaves and branches, feeling the light sting of twigs cutting past my face, I started hearing a low rumbling noise, along with the sound of what sounded similar to wood crackling over a flame. The source of the sound revealed itself suddenly, right in front of me, as those veiny vines from before. There were at least seven of them, all moving together in unison, obstructing my path and rearing back to strike me like a bizarre team of purple snakes. I ducked down to dodge the attack, but one of the vines managed to get at my arm, digging into it and attempting to drain at me. I quickly pulled at it, cringing as I eventually yanked it off me, and bolted as fast as I could past the monstrosity. I was cranking it into high gear, but I could hear my pursuer getting closer and closer, looking back to see another vine launching right at my face. I threw up an arm to deflect it, but it merely attempted to bite at that instead, coiling around my arm and gradually pulling me towards its waiting companions.
    I was in for it now. I had to think quickly, quicker than my apparent old friend of mine had done. Breathing fast, I suddenly remembered the flare gun I still had at my disposal. If these things were really plant like, like I had assumed they were, then the fire should be able to burn them to a crisp. That was the theory at least, and the experiment was about to go underway. The results for failure were not at all desirable, so I prayed that everything would go according to plan as I aimed the gun at the once-more rearing creatures and fired, closing my eyes as I waited for either one thing, or the other, to happen.

    Tape 11: Waldrom
    I’d begun to walk down that dry path for what seemed like hours by that point. It was nice to have made contact with Quinn, but the lack of contact from Vernon started to make me worry a little about the boy. He shouldn’t have been waiting that long to contact us, and from what I knew of him, I didn’t expect him to keep very quiet when something of this magnitude was at stake. I couldn’t help but suspect the worst for a moment, but I forced myself to keep that out of my mind. I number of things could have happened to him, yes, but not all of them involved his death. There was a chance that it was simply an issue with his radio. That would be unfortunate, but, it didn’t mean he was dead in the water. It was helpful, at least, to know he was between the two of us, which meant then that it’d be easier to track him down once we reach the end of these outlandish regions…provided they had ends to them. I was hoping they did, since I wasn’t sure how long I’d be able to stand this heat without anything hydrating me, and poor Quinn was probably freezing herself where she was, not to mention all the things that could’ve been lurking around that jungle for Vernon. This whole place was like a madhouse, and it was really getting hard to believe that we had even slightly considered this very place to be our home at one time.
    It wasn’t like that anymore though, that we could all agree on. Perhaps, beyond this place, we’d find something far more desirable, and far more livable, but I wasn’t holding my breath until I saw such a place with my own two eyes. Placa had done a number on any self-confidence I ever managed to have, so, whether that was going to help me out in the long run, or harm me, I wasn’t sure. I’d just have to keep going and find out.
    As I did so, I had believed that I was going on this sort of walk alone, since everything seemed so, well, deserted in this desert. I soon found I was anything but alone. Dragging my feet along, I heard the small sound of skittering all around me. I stopped and looked down to try and point out just where, not exactly hoping to find anything, but knowing that I likely was going to have a run in with something, especially after the skittering got louder. Soon after, I started seeing something forming from the distance ahead of me, as well as to both my sides, and after looking back, behind me. Somehow, hundreds of these things had popped up from all directions, and I hadn’t even noticed them. Even before these mystery critters revealed themselves as threats, I had the suspicion they weren’t coming my way to help me out or anything. My suspicions proved more than true, to my chagrin, as I saw what appeared to be hundreds of thousands of small, scorpion looking bugs with hundreds of centipede-like legs, moving towards me, their stingers all posed to strike at any moment once they eventually would make contact with me. I was surrounded, and I feared that if I tried just to step on them all, I’d be leaving my legs vulnerable for a barrage of stings. I was going to have to find a way to separate them all, and I had to do so with haste, because the little buggers weren’t wasting any time approaching me. I took out my flare gun once more, seeing that I had a single flare left, and aimed it forward, towards the barrage primarily blocking my designated path. Shooting the bright light at them, the bugs separated, to my good fortune, and I took this ample opportunity to dash forward, past them all. As expected, I could hear them all chasing after me from behind, keeping up the pace, and I wasn’t able to lose them. To make things even more dire, I noticed more and more rising from the sides, and many of them were coming up just as I ran past them, one of them nearly succeeding in jabbing its likely venomous tail down into my foot, though I managed to step on this one before it could get the chance.
    As I continued to run for dear life, I felt my stamina steadily growing weaker and weaker as I did everything in my power to avoid slowing down in the slightest, knowing that as soon as I did, I was mincemeat. Still, it was getting difficult, not any easier, and if I didn’t find some way to get my ass out of this bug trap, that would be all that she wrote. Thinking while running was never a strongpoint for me, though, so, really, things were just looking like complete shit as I started to slow into a jog, watching those damn bugs getting even closer with every slower step I took. I stepped on a few that got dangerously close, jumped away from a few others, and barely evaded some more, but it all started to look like a lost cause. I couldn’t keep this up for much longer, and those little bastards evidently could. I prepared to succumb and allow myself to be poked into like a plate of Swiss Cheese, when, to my surprise, the bugs, within inches of my feet, all at once came to a stop before, surprise surprise, fleeing!
    Taking massive gulps of breath to keep myself up on my feet after that exhausting fun, I was starting to feel pretty good at my miraculous escape from a death that looked like it was about to stare me right in the face, but I didn’t have any time to relish in my good fortune, as I soon found it was about to be replaced with more of the bad kind. As the last of those scorpio-monster things disappeared, I started to feel the ground shake a little, as a loud rumbling starting to sound. I had little to no time to question what this could’ve been, as it had the generosity to do so itself. With a loud, almost explosive burst, something blasted its way out of the rocky ground in front of me, letting out a grotesque, guttural roar as it did so. It was something like a massive worm, with a giant mouth at the end…a mouth with very human shaped teeth to top it all off. And I had thought the swarms of pests were going to be a problem…

    Tape 12: Quinn
    The news concerning Vernon was troubling, but I had enough confidence in that kid that he’d somehow manage to get himself out of there. He seemed too spry to be taken down easily, and I’m sure he had enough motivation to carry him forward without needing either of us to help him out morally. Such motivation, however, wasn’t quite as endowed towards me at that moment. I was preparing to drop down into the snow, and not get up for, well, ever, if I didn’t find an end to this godforsaken blizzard. Tripping up in exhaustion, I found out the hard way that I was in front of a large hill, and I started to tumble down, down, into what I expected to be more snow, waiting to encase me into an icy tomb.
    What I didn’t expect, was the grass that awaited me instead… Feeling the significantly different texture of my current venue, I slowly picked myself up and brushed some of the snow and slush off me as I looked at what now lay ahead of me. I was now in something more like an arctic tundra instead of just some snowy hellhole. It was still cold, but nowhere near as cold as before, and the lakebed landscape, combined with the sunny sky, started to perk my spirits a little. My motivation to carry on was starting to get restored, and I felt I could take on the world if I could do so in this weather.
    What I felt like, and what I could actually do, however, proved to be two very different categories, and I was going to find this out very soon. As I walked with a quicker and freer pace onward, I thought I could hear the faintest sound of something crunching on the grass, much like the footsteps of that wolf thing I had encountered in that whiteout. I passed that off at first as simply a trick of my mind, still a little traumatized from that attack, and ignored it as I kept my pace up, but soon, it started to get a little too loud for even my denial-ridden self to ignore. My brighter spirits were starting to dim again, and took a heavy toll when a stunningly frightening howl echoed through the tundra, accompanied by a series of growling and gnarling all around. Turning around, I saw exactly what I didn’t want to see ever again in the form of a 5 strong back of those damn whitish-teal wolves again, all of them moving towards me with their teeth bared. I had to let loose a little growling of my own at this point. Why the hell was fate being such a bitch to me right now! I thought, gripping my pistol once more. Of course, I’d find out that it wasn’t just fate throwing me into these annoyingly life-threatening situations, but, that was something I’d only find out later. At that moment, I was just pissed at the predators ganging up on me. They thought they had a free meal at their doorstep, but I wasn’t going to come to them without a heavy price on their part. My pistol drawn and ready, I anticipated the first one to try and dare make a move on me. That canine from earlier had the advantage of facing me in the vision-impairing snow, but these little mutts weren’t going to have the pleasure of that handicap. I wasn’t going to miss this time.
    True to my own confidence, as one of the wolves leaped at me, I immediately brought it down with a single shot to its forehead, turning to down the next one leaping towards my right side as soon as the first shot made its mark. Two down, three to go… This time, two of them were trying to take me down at once, but I wasn’t going to have this. They were trying to pounce me from right and left, but I managed to scrape past them as they both leapt towards me, merely gaining a tear on my shirt as I fired a round into one and moved to fire at the other…but soon found this to be difficult…I had run out of bullets…I had another cartridge in my pocket, but I’d never reload in time before one of those freakish creatures took another swipe at me, and though I was doing a pretty bang-up job so far, I didn’t think I could dodge this things too many more times. Physically, they were going to have the advantage, and unless I had a range weapon, I was puppy chow. I started running forward, trying now to maintain enough of a distance to bide some time and get that cartridge in before my two still-standing adversaries could catch up to me, but I soon realized I wouldn’t be getting too much time to do this, as the wolves proved their agility by dashing closer and closer towards my far slower form as I fumbled with the cartridges, hastily getting them into the magazine and shoving it back into position as one of them made another nab at me. Not getting enough time, I batted the lupine creature aside, though it managed to grind its teeth past my arm, earning me another round of cuts. Still, it was worth it to now have my gun at the ready, and I managed to get rid of both the miserable little beasts before they could go for me again. Once all my opponents had all been dealt with, I fell to my knees, so tired I could barely pick myself up again. Still, I knew I had to. No breaks were being offered on this journey, and if I was going to rest before I was finished, it’d be when I was lying there dead like those two slumped before me.
    I let out a grunt as I shakily got back up onto my feet, cracked my neck slightly, and continued forward. There was what appeared to be a hill far off ahead, and it appeared to be housing a warmer climate within it. I must have finally been reaching the end of this horrible frozen trap! I had to keep going now. The opportunity of success was starting to look like an actual possibility again.

    Tape 13: Vernon
    The shriveled up remains of that vine monster were now the only thing accompanying me in that humid space. Clutching my attacked arm, I let out a small chuckle, which gradually grew into full out, triumphant, and probably somewhat maniacal, laughter.
    “Is that your best? Huh? Is that all you can throw at me?” I gasped, still beaming at the victory for a while, even as I found myself hunching over with my hands on my knees in fatigue, sweat rolling down my face. I sure as hell hoped that was his best, because I didn’t think I could take on anything much more powerful, or even something considered its equal. I had even fewer resources, I was wounded, and to top it all off, I still couldn’t see any of the forestation before me starting to lift in the slightest, though, perhaps it was merely because it was so difficult for me to keep my eyes wide open.
    Shrugging of this pain and fatigue as much as I could, I carried onward with my journey, stubbornly looking straight forward without the slightest turn of the head as I was determined to get through this and make it out in one piece. That phrase was ringing in my head again: “You know what you need to do, now do it”, and I was planning on doing just that.
    “Impressive innovation…You humans really are too weak to handle things on your own, so, of course, I can understand why you wish to cheat like that.” The voice suddenly commented after much delay.
    “So, you’re not human yourself, are you?” I responded.
    “Trying to play detective, hmm? I may be, and I may not be. You’ll just have to figure that one out for yourself, if you think you can.” It taunted.
    “Quinn and Waldrom…are they alright?” I brought myself to ask, not sure why I’d be trying to seek advice from the enemy here, but I guess I was simply so concerned with their wellbeing, that I couldn’t help but bring up the question.
    “Wouldn’t you love to know?” The voice sarcastically answered back, causing my inner rage to sprout up pretty quickly.
    “Yes, goddammit, I would! Just tell me, you cowardly bastard!” I yelled in frustration. I wasn’t sure, but I thought I could hear the omnipresent being laugh.
    “Did I strike a nerve? Oh dear, I seem to have forgotten how fragile you creatures are, both physically and emotionally. I’ll be certain to be more considerate in the future…perhaps I can have you get even angrier next time! Of course, that depends on whether there’ll be a next time or not.”
    “Trust me, pally, there will be. You’re not going to take me down. Not after I’ve gotten this far. Your little wormy friend over there couldn’t take me, so I doubt anything else in your arsenal will.”
    Silence for a moment again, then another reply.
    “That ‘wormy friend’ of mine, as you call it, is hardly the only trick up my sleeve. If I sent everything I had your way, you’d be dead in less than thirty seconds! No, that wouldn’t be entertaining enough, having to get torn to bits so quickly. I think I’ll stick with sending one thing after another and watch you slowly fall apart trying to win a fight you know will never end. Hope you’ve had enough time to rest up, because you’re gonna be seeing more action very soon. Don’t die too quickly!” At that, it ceased speaking again, and I was once more left to my own devices as I continued forward towards a destination I didn’t know of, awaiting an attack from an enemy I didn’t know of, all to at least reunite with friends who I didn’t know the current fates of. Really, this whole thing was just question mark after question mark, and though I didn’t want to admit this, it was starting to really rub me the wrong way. This sadistic vermin running this whole cruel trial was treating it all like a game! His continual taunts only proved to discourage me every time, more and more, and if he wasn’t just bluffing, he hadn’t even used the greatest powers at his disposal to try and rid us all! It was like picking a fight with a god…the odds of winning just seemed so slim. Still, so long as I was out here, I couldn’t give up. That’d just be allowing that black-hearted fiend to continue on with all his meddling with human lives, without anyone stopping him. I knew that by now, everyone I had acquainted myself with in Placa was likely completely unaware that I ever existed, but I didn’t care. I was never turning back, not even if faced with death as the only other option. It hadn’t stopped up to then, so who was to say it would stop me now?
    Deeper and deeper into the tropical land, the light started getting dimmer as the trees above starting to block out more and more sunlight. It was getting darker, but, as corny as this sounds, my spirit stayed shining as bright as possible. It was the only reason for me to press on, as I knew that I had answers waiting for me somewhere. I just needed to find my way to them, and out of here.
    As I pushed through the forestation, I started to question why I hadn’t had anything attack me, as the voice seemed to warn would happen. Perhaps it really was just bluffing and I had foiled it completely! Of course not…that’d be too positive of an outcome. Instead, all that happened was the sound of more rumbling, and the accompanying sound of a high pitched screech to go along with it. This time it was coming from behind me, and I started to run into the path further up ahead, everything getting darker and darker as I looked back to see a humanoid figure giving chase to me, though something about the figure’s shape seemed off about it. I didn’t bother to think about it, instead, resorting to running faster, though I could feel my heart starting to pound again as my vision gradually lessened as I proceeded. At one point, when I couldn’t see anything more than a foot or so away, I was going into near-panic mode as I did everything I could to avoid tripping over roots and logs as I continued running, every once in a while cringing as my pursuer gave out another shriek. I was starting to get worn out again, and at the worst possible time too, because, even as the light started to return, the only thing I found waiting for me up ahead was a bottomless pit, waiting to swallow me up into its eternal darkness. It looked just short enough of a distance to possibly jump over if I had enough strength, though I probably wouldn’t have considered such a risky action, had I not had a goddamn monster tailing me. Seeing no other viable option, I mustered up just enough energy to pick up my pace as I neared the pit, focusing all energy into my legs as I took a massive leap, reaching as far as I could to make it over to the ledge waiting on the other side.

    Tape 14: Waldrom
    My pistol was drawn, but I wasn’t entirely sure it would do me any good against a creature as twisted, demented, and freakin’ huge, as the one I was facing. I kept at my running as the disgusting monstrosity starting to turn towards me, preparing to lunge its disturbing, toothed face in my direction. I picked up the pace, but as I saw it coming towards me, I instinctively dove towards the hard ground beneath me with a thud, grunting at the pain, but well aware of the fact that this was likely far less painful than those pearly whites would be grinding through my organs. As it started to turn around to try again, thankfully a long endeavor due to its massive size, I picked myself back up and started running again, trying to analyze the creature in any way I could and think over just what its weak point could possibly be. It looked fairly durable all around, but, perhaps this was just a rouse? Maybe there was a way to combat it that I wasn’t looking at properly, and all I really had to do was just start taking more chances when I had the ample opportunity. It was a thought, and that was what I was needed by that point, so I decided to give it a shot. As the creature took another chance at biting my head off, I dove once more, only this time, I turned on my back and took a shot at the creature’s flesh. The bullet when inside the creature with ease, which could’ve been good or bad alone, but at the sound of the beast’s cries, I started to think this fight wasn’t quite as unbalanced as I originally perceived it to be.
    “Not so tough now, are ya!?” I found myself shouting with a new air of adrenaline pumping through my bloodstream. The creature probably didn’t hear me, but it was still enraged by the coursing pain moving through its system, and now, it was out for blood, and wasn’t going to let me refrain it from getting some. I prepared for a long routine of ducking and shooting, but the creature was proving itself smarter than that, as, when it came after me this time, it crashed towards the ground and started, I kid you not, eating through the dry dirt, chomp by chomp, as it got closer to me. There was no way to dodge it now, and I was going to have to take a chance shot in order to have a chance at defeating it before it had me for its dinner.
    Aiming my gun at its approaching form, I was about to take a wild shot when I noticed something that would keep me from having to: From inside the creature, beyond its grotesque mouth, I could see a small, round object sending electrical jolts throughout the sides of the inside of the worm. Was that its central nervous system? Maybe I could kill it by taking that thing down…It was worth a shot, and as the creature opened its mouth wide, waiting for me to be enveloped by its gaping hole, I fired one bullet at the object inside it. A perfect shot when I needed one. The bullet penetrated the object, causing the monster to stop in its tracks just as I felt the teeth brush up against me. Seeing a bunch of electrical jolts go everywhere inside the thing, I decided that now was definitely a good time to get the hell out of there, running as far away as I could from the creature before something of the inevitable happened. I got as far away as I could when, just as I suspected, the creature suddenly exploded in a spectacular mess of pinkish flesh, teeth, and whatever goop it had in that giant body of its. Another enemy down. I was starting to get pretty good at this, though now that I was safe again, I started to feel the heat beating down on me once more, combined with the extra agony of all the pain and exhaustion from the recently concluded battle. I was not in the best of shape, and I found myself collapsing onto the ground as I tripped over my own clumsy feet in an attempt to continue walking. So that was it, wasn’t it? I had thought to myself. I was going to get this far, but, I was going to the afterlife with my hands empty. Just brilliant… As I prepared to close my eyes and let my injuries overtake me, however, I started hearing static come from the radio again. My incentives returned, I grabbed the mic and placed it near my mouth.
    “W-what?” I mumbled.
    “Waldrom! You still plugging away?” Quinn asked.
    “Y-yeah…you could say that…” I responded, feeling nauseous as I forced myself to a sitting up position.
    “Listen, I think I’ve stumbled across something…I’ve reached the end of that jungle, and…you just have to see this. You can’t be too far away from where I am, and I’m sure Vernon isn’t either. We may just make it through all this!”
    I just couldn’t die in peace, could I? Seemed there was more for me to do. Subsequently, picked myself up, and limped my way forward. True to Quinn’s word, I thought I could see something…different, up ahead. If it was what I thought it was, then, well, maybe I really would be making it out of here. I conjured up all the energy I had left and picked up my feet as I pressed on, feeling the air around me getting gradually cooler in the process. The dry desert ground started to appear less cracked, and darker in color, more like moistened dirt, and the heat wave was starting to slowly disappear as well. To top it all off, I could see the end of the jungle on the right in sight. All I could think about at that point was, it sure was a goddamned good thing Quinn called me then.

    Tape 15: Quinn
    I kept walking, faster and faster, as I saw that hill get closer and closer to view. Something as simple as a raised bit of land was now getting me excited…Kind of pathetic come to think of it…but that aside, I was most definitely excited to find out what was over there. Hopefully something other than another trial of monsters, because I was reaching the point where I couldn’t stand even the thought of facing down any more of those by this point. Once I reached the hill, I started to climb, a tougher struggle than I had hoped for, seeing how I was pretty beat up by then, after all those encounters with the…erm…wildlife. As I continued pushing myself, however, something I didn’t expect suddenly came to be. That voice returned…
    “Well, you’ve certainly defied my expectations, Miss; you really don’t like to accept inevitable defeat, do you?” It said in its usual echoing voice, one that I didn’t forget from so long ago.
    “Um, excuse me? I wouldn’t say this looks like defeat, buddy. I think I’m on the winning side at this point.” I responded, slowly pushing onward.
    “It seems that way to you, but what do you expect to find once you go over the top? A celebration for your arrival? By who? No one else knows what you’re doing here, and no one cares about it either. This was a lost cause from the start, and all three of you know it. I will simply not ever understand the stubbornness and stupidity of your race sometimes. You were perfectly safe in Placa. Everything you ever needed to survive was there, and nothing dangerous ever befell upon any of you. You had no painful memories to drag you down, and you got to start over with a clean slate. This is something you should be thanking me for, yet you curse me for it instead?”
    I couldn’t believe what I was hearing…first this guy mocks us, then it tries to explain how good it was to us? Why was it even trying to manipulate me anymore in the first place?
    “That city of yours is nothing but a pen!” I shouted back. “You make us stay there like caged animals, and force us to stay! We have to live the same kind of day over and over again, because we can’t leave! How does that benefit any of us at all?” I asked, not sure at all that I’d like what I’d hear.
    “My dear, I must be honest with you. Placa isn’t just like a pen, it is a pen.” Nope, didn’t like this at all… “You see, you humans are quite the versatile species for beings like me. You’ve proven yourselves a great source of comedic entertainment, you’re often quite obedient when threatened, and, of course, the most notable thing, you are quite the delectable creatures as well.”
    Though I continued to climb, this last one caused me to shiver a little. “Uh, what do you mean by that last one…?” I asked, though, I didn’t believe I’d really need too much of an explanation.
    “I mean exactly what I imply! You know those creatures you were having a bit of difficulty with? Those are not only my creations under my command, but they’re a part of me as well! You see, normally, I merely keep you all in Placa for a while, then, once I hunger for one of your kind, I, as I say, ‘select’ on of you, place you in one of the three venues I have, then conjure up whatever beasts I can think of to tear you to shreds. I in turn, absorb all the nutrients that my avatars consume in the process! It’s quite the enjoyable way to eat, I assure you. Playing with one’s food has never been so entertaining!”
    This was sick, completely, and utterly, sick beyond all counts. He was treating us like nothing but livestock, and all this time, we were told just to live, when we were merely waiting out our inevitable deaths…
    “You mean we’re nothing but a source of wine and dine for you then? How can you see the morality in this?”
    “It’s just nature’s way, my darling. Everyone has to survive on what they’re bred to consume. I was simply bred to consume humans. My elders had taught me all about how to harvest your kind, where to find you and how to clear your fragile minds just enough to avoid having you question all our motives…or at least, keep most of you from doing so… Now, do you really wish to carry on like this? I grow weary of sending so much of my own life force after you just to have all these games come to delays.”
    I didn’t even dignify this question with a response as I continued up, the top of the hill now quite visibly near. As I got within arm’s reach, the voice spoke out just once more.
    “Guess it has come to all this then…You three idiots could’ve just died and made it easier for yourselves, but, now you will realize the error in your blind judgment.” I paid little to no mind of its threats, too focused on getting over the top.
    Once I had arrived over the hill, I was greeted by the warm air I had longed for since setting out, taking a deep breath and closing my eyes as I let it all wash over me, getting the feeling back in my fingers and my face as I walked down towards the horizon beneath me.
    Walking a little further, I had the chance to ponder over everything I had just heard. It was as I started to suspect from the beginning of all of this. We were nothing but playthings in Placa…Playthings and an all you can eat buffet. Though I managed to escape, and, hopefully, so did Waldrom and Vernon, what was to become of everyone still in Placa? We had to save them somehow…that was my notion, at least, but, considering how much hell I had to go through just saving myself, I wasn’t sure how that could ever happen…Those people were all going to be on the menu of a sick, alien bastard, and I could only worry about saving my own skin. It was a depressing feeling, to be honest, and one I knew I couldn’t delve in, because, as of that point, it was all out of my hands. I still had to keep myself going if I was ever going to have time later to worry about those poor souls. Someday, I might be able to stop this pure evil terrorizing all of us, but, that day wasn’t today.
    My thoughts were all interrupted, however, by the sight of a structure suddenly coming into view. It looked a lot like something similar to a…house! With an extra boost of vigor, I sprinted towards the structure and, upon reaching it, I opened the door with excitement. At the same time, I decided to give Waldrom a call…

    Tape 16: Vernon
    I was dangling from the side…it seemed I was just barely able to make it within arm’s reach of the edge, but not far enough to get my feet over as well… I was losing grip fast, and the shrieking freak was edging at me from the other side, constantly giving out his annoying, yet petrifying wailing sound as if to mock my efforts. Not letting this get to me, I once more let that single memory play through my head. With that motivation coursing through my body, I found the strength to pull myself up and roll away from the endless pit that I had nearly taken a very long trip down.
    Knowing I was unable to rest now, I got back up on my feet, took a shot at the monster to shut it up for good, and pressed on, forward again, and this time, I could swear I could see a clearing begin to form. Initially I brushed it off as me simply being too optimistic and desperate, but as things got literally brighter and brighter, I starting thinking otherwise, eventually, I started running with abandon towards what I now could plainly see was the end to this awful place, just one of a number of awful places I seemed to be spending a lot of time in now.
    Breaking through to see the sunny skies and fresh air awaiting me, I smiled as I looked back towards the obstacle course I had barely escaped from with my life. I had done it. Even though the odds were stacked against me, I had made it through, just another step closer to freedom.
    Just to make things all the better, who should I find waiting for me but ol’ Waldrom and Quinn! They had made it as well! As soon as they caught sight of me headed towards where they had situated themselves, near, strangely enough, a house-like cabin of some kind, both of them ran towards me and caught me up in a massive, bloodied up and tired group hug.
    “So I see you guys missed me then, huh?” I murmured as we eventually broke it off.
    “Damn right, kid! Why didn’t you contact us?” Waldrom asked, his arms crossed. I showed the two the remains of the device, and that was enough to convince them that my inactivity through the radio signals was justified.
    “So what did you guys have to go through?” At that question, we began to converse about all the chaos and hellish encounters each of us had, each story making the other two of us cringe and sigh in sympathy. When Quinn and I both explained how we had run-ins with that voice though, things almost automatically felt far darker. As Quinn told us both about what it told her about using humans as simply a food source, we couldn’t help but feel as enraged as she did about the immorality of the whole thing. We were nothing but playthings to that guy, and even now, after making through his little “hunting grounds”, we couldn’t help but worry that there was more lurking for us in the near future. For now, though, we decided to check out the contents of the cabin before us. Going inside, we discovered a number of things we didn’t expect to see in such a homey looking place…Graffiti lined the walls, saying “rise up”, “find more”, and “resist”, there was a tape recorder placed towards the window at the end of the structure, and beside it, there was another, very peculiar looking instrument that looking something like headgear of some kind. Above it, there was a graffiti message that said “Remember”.

    Tape 17: Waldrom
    “Remember”…to all of us, this could only mean one thing, and all of us, for a while, could do nothing but stare blankly at what might possibly have been the key to regaining all our memories, the one thing we each treasured and desired more than anything we had lost. Our very lives, a part of our very souls, were quite possibly held in that machine. There was only one way to find out for sure. Seeing the other two not making any moves, I decided to be the first guinea pig and see just what this machine could do. I sat down on the chair beside the thing, and carefully placed it on top of my head. There was a switch that was placed right next to my left temple. I instinctively flipped it on, and suddenly a huge cluster of memories suddenly burst into my head all at once, I was suddenly reliving my entire life right before my eyes…and towards the end…I really started to hate it.
    Considering how I never got around to explaining it to anybody, I guess I’ll see what I can say now: My life was a pretty good one for a while. I was born to a good family, my father held a high paying job that sustained us for a very long time, and my mother was very loving and caring, as any good mother of course should be. Once I reached my adolescence, things seemed to just continue looking good for the most part. I was constantly high ranked in my classes, had a lot of friends, an impressive number of girlfriends for that matter, and I was headed off to my dream college. Once I had reached the moments where I had enrolled in the university, things started to get a little somber at first: the usual college woes seemed to affect me for a lot of my undergraduate years, especially concerning how different everything was compared to the high school courses I had become so used to. Money troubles seemed to be a common problem too, and some of the partying I had experienced proved to be fun at first, but pretty regretful the days after. That aside though, there were many plus sides to college as well. I was starting to try a lot of new things, many things I would’ve never tried before becoming things I wouldn’t be able to live without, and many of my college friends I continued to keep in touch with long after graduation.
    What mattered most in those years, however, was Ada…I had met her my sophomore year, when we shared a calculus class together. We didn’t interact much at first, but when she started having trouble with her studies, I happened to, by chance, be the person she asked to help her out. It was merely random at first, but this chance meeting resulted in far more than a simple study meeting. We met at the library a number of times as I helped get her up to speed, yet, after I realized she had been keeping pace with some of the smarter kids in that class, I came to a conclusion that she didn’t really need my help any more. When I confronted her about this, she came clean almost immediately, unable to hide her true feelings for me any longer. The fact of the matter was, she liked me, and she had ever since that first time we met up, and she started treating each meeting more like a disguised date than anything else, and by now, she had grown to love me. This definitely threw me for a loop, but after rethinking it, I came to realize that the feeling was mutual. We became a couple over the course of those last two years, and, come graduation, she decided to stick with me and we ended up tying the knot soon afterwards. Our life together seemed to be turning out for the better as well, and I must say, the peak of my happiness came the day I found out she was expecting…I was going to be a father. I couldn’t believe it. This was more amazing than anything I could’ve ever imagined…me…a dad…having a kid…I remember all the good, unforgettable times I had shared with my father, and how we both loved each other up to the day he died, and I was so excited to have a relationship like that with my kid…Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out going very well from there…actually, they turned into something of the worst goddamn nightmare I had ever lived through in my entire life…and come to think of it, even with all the hell I’ve been through here, it’s been nothing compared to what happened on that day…
    It was just another normal day at our household. Ada was now 3 months pregnant, and things were looking pretty good at my new place of employment. I had left the house for a few minutes to go send a few letters to the relatives, it was my uncle’s, brother-in-law’s and cousin’s birthdays all on the same week, and I had intended to head right back home so I wouldn’t keep my wife unattended for long. When I got home, though, I realized something was up just from the driveway…Someone had left skid marks on the concrete…and they were tire tracks that didn’t fit my pattern…the garage was opened, and the door leading into the house was opened too…with the lock broken. This was beginning to look like the sight of a burglary…and I had left Ada in there to fend for herself… I ran in a panic inside to check on her, shouting her name, but she never responded. I soon came to realize why, when I saw her lying motionless near the bedroom, bloodied up. She had been stabbed numerous times, as the police reports claimed, and she had died mere seconds before I had arrived back home. For a few days, I was filled with rage, acting violent to everyone, and shouting at people for no reason…It was merely a stage of grief, but something strange happened during those stages…Once I eventually hit acceptance, I found myself feeling…well…bored. I couldn’t quite put my finger on just why, but I could only guess it was because my wife had provided all the excitement I ever needed in my life, and, without her, that excitement was gone, never to be replaced, never to come back. I tried, really, I tried, to do whatever I could to fill that void, but I never could. I just didn’t have the appetite for life that I used to when she was with me… Weeks passed, then, months, years, you know the whole song and dance. I started aging pretty badly, and became a little self-loathing as well. I starting to turn into that person that children always make urban legends about in their neighborhoods. You know, the ones where the guy went mad and killed his family, but the cops could never find the bodies? Yeah, that became me, but I brought it upon myself. I chose to shut myself away from everyone, and thus, this was what my life was going to be like as a result. It seemed, then, that things were going to be like that for the rest of my days, until I died alone, by myself, without a tear drop shed, until someone came knocking at my door. When I opened it, I was greeted by a person in a hoodie, his face concealed by said hood almost completely, and whatever wasn’t concealed by the hood was covered in what appeared to be a medical mask of some kind. The man asked me how life was for me, and, I merely told him life was shit and planned to close the door when he suddenly offered something I didn’t expect. In his exact words: “I can help you start anew, you know. You just sign this paper, and send it in, and I’ll do the rest.” I looked at him strangely, but, not bothering anymore about what most sane people would think, I took the paper and, after saying goodbye to the strange figure, went to go sign it almost immediately. There was nothing left for me in life, so, maybe starting anew would help liven things up? The day I sent in the paper, when I fell asleep that night, I woke up in…well…you probably can figure out just what happened.
    The machine stopped there. I sat there in a cold silence, even as I lifted the machine off from my head and placed it beside me. After a few minutes of somber nothingness, I looked up at my two companions, back to the machine, and murmured “it works…damn me it works…” At this, I got up and walked towards the other side of the cabin, needing to think things over. That was what I was fighting so hard for? That?...It was a scam, but not in the way the real scam had meant to go. No, that deal, that was a bargain, and I was too stupid to realize it at the time. That voice had it right, for me at least. Give a person a new life, just so they can die in some horribly grueling, yet quite the exciting, way. I couldn’t believe what I was thinking, but the only thing that continually buzzed around in my mind, hammering into my subconscious, was “I should have stayed in Placa…I should have just stayed and let things go…” I realized then, what that dream was all about…I was dreaming of my wife, and my kid…both taken away from me. That dream that should’ve kept me where I was, that dream that should have made me stay…it made me go instead. I stared at the hardwood floor of that cabin for a good long time after that, my two fellow occupants, unable to say anything to me, for they didn’t have any idea just what the hell to say. I know they probably won’t hear this, but, I hope that, somehow, they’ll realize why I acting the way I did…I never got the chance to tell them myself.

    Tape 18: Quinn
    I didn’t expect that reaction out of Waldrom…Neither of us did. We wanted to ask what had gotten him so down, but, something told us not to bother, that perhaps it was best we just left well enough alone. So, we did, though, now the promise of our memories returning seemed to have a caveat. That didn’t stop me from wanting to get them back though, and so, I went next. I grabbed the machine, and, like Waldrom, placed the device on my head and flipped the switch. The sensation afterwards was like one I had never experienced in my life, and I don’t expect I ever will feel it again. It was like a massive hammer just hit me on the head, and suddenly everything I had forgotten was flowing into me all at once.
    It started out with my childhood. I was part of a pretty crowded family. I had three brothers, and a sister, plus a hardworking mother. My biological father died around the time when I was born, but my mom was often dating, hoping to find a man who would be a good father to her children the way her original husband had been. Most of the dads I didn’t remember, but one in particular stood out more than all the rest. It was a man by the name of Howard…Howard had been a military veteran, and somewhat of a crusty one as well, personality wise, but he was still quite healthy, and, though he sometimes had dark memories haunting him about his service, he often talked about the more thrilling times and reenacted them with my brothers. For a while, I wasn’t very interested in them myself, but, one day, that changed. As I grew up, at around the time when my mom finally married Howard, I really started to appreciate the man. I began to grow really interested in his stories and tales, and often, I would start joining my brothers at the dinner table to listen to him reminisce. My sister thought I was being brainwashed for liking such boyish things, but I didn’t pay her any mind. I thought all the war stories were amazing, especially the ones concerning all the heroes Howard had met in his years at the military. He always glorified these men, and women as well, who showed him the meaning of bravery and true concern for one’s fellow men. He would always especially highlight when these guys would help others with no benefit going towards them for doing so, telling us that modesty and the desire to do good without expecting a reward in return were the true essences of a hero. I started to idolize these teachings of his, and I carried them around with me all the time. I started to really establish a true morality around them, and often, especially in my later school years, I would always try and do the right thing, or help those who needed my help.
    Things were pretty good for me and my family. I especially prospered in school and managed to not only get accepted into the college I really wanted to go to, but get me a nice scholarship as well. Things were looking up, until the day Howard and I went for a drive together to pick up his medication…During the drive, the engine stalled at what was probably the shadiest and most crime-filled part of the town I lived in. While he went to go check to see what was wrong, telling me to stay in the car, he was suddenly jumped by some punks who beat him up to the point where he could hardly get up. I was completely horrified by this, and though I managed to call the police, when the little assholes started to kick him when he was down, I couldn’t stand it any longer. I got out of the car and tried to fight them off myself, but one of them managed to bring me down and…he got on top of me and…I…he…He got…very close to…to…ugh, just forget it…the fact was, before he could do…anything…the cops managed to arrive, arresting those thugs and sending me and Howard to the hospital emergency room. I managed to recover fine, just having sustained a few bruises and cuts, but Howard…Howard didn’t look so hot. He ended up slipping into a coma due to the extent of his injuries on his aging body, and when I found out about this…I pretty much freaked. I couldn’t stand what I was seeing. This man, this war hero who I had admired for so long, who had gone through so much hell and high water throughout his life, was nearing death because of a bunch of street-going pricks! Even after I calmed down, I never got over it. Howard remained in his coma, and the question of whether to pull the plug or not began to surface. Even the thought of seeing the man who was the closest thing I had to a father die in such a horribly meaningless way, was too much for me to bear. I ended up getting really depressed and had to take a bunch of medication and counseling, but none of it did much good. Eventually, it got so bad that I actually started looking for mom’s sleeping pills…for the exact reason you’re probably assuming, when the door rang. Everyone else was out, so I answered it. The man there, covered completely in gloves, a hoodie and a medical mask, asked me how my life was. When I merely started to slam the door on him, he stopped me, telling me that he had an offer for me to begin life anew, with a clean slate, and that all I had to do was sign some paper of his. He then left, leaving the paper with me, and got me to thinking very hard…When I realized what I had just nearly done mere minutes before the bell rang, I decided it was just for the best that I give it a shot. What else was I going to do with my life besides take it away? That afternoon, I sent in the letter, and let me tell you, the postal delivery system has never been quicker, because it only took a single night before I woke up for the first time in that city…
    When the machine stopped, I started to realize exactly what Waldrom was probably thinking. Silently, I took the machine and placed it aside, my eyes beginning to water. I stood up and started simply pacing from one side of the cabin to the other. Things that voice had said were starting to not sound as cruel as they did earlier; back when I actually thought my first life amounted to something…It amounted to nothing! I was about to kill myself anyways, and now, all I did here, was fight so hard to keep living? What the hell was I thinking? I was starting to regret ever leaving that city, but, something else stopped me from thinking so…Yes, the life I left was starting to careen out of control when I left it, and yes, I was about to die anyways, but now…I was starting to remember what Howard told me, and how it managed to bring me where I was…It was because of Howard that I managed to press on the way I did…it was because of him that I had any reason to continue living at all. I couldn’t just let myself waste my life away when I owed so much to him for helping me keep on the right trail…It wouldn’t be the heroic thing to do, especially when I was needed to help these two get their lives back as well…Strange how, through my biggest mistake, I learned one of the greatest lessons in my life.
    Tape 19: Vernon
    Things started to get really weird from my point of view when both Waldrom and Quinn finished getting their memories back. Neither of them looked all too happy about what they had just witnessed, and I couldn’t help but wonder just why this was the case. How could anyone not be happy about getting their own lives back? Wasn’t that what made a person who they were? The experiences of their pasts? I couldn’t comprehend it, but, I didn’t spend much time doing so, to be honest, because my turn was up, and boy, was I eager to get my life back. I promptly sat down and placed the machine on my head, turning on the switch and expecting the greatest experience of my life…I got none of that…and when I say this, I don’t mean in the ways Quinn, and, I assume, Waldrom were disappointed. No, no, my issue was something completely different. See, they got their memories back, but they didn’t like what their memories consisted of, whereas I didn’t get nearly any of my memories back AT ALL… Yeah, that’s right, the machine didn’t work on me…or at least, no fully. I got a few things that managed to show themselves, none of them very pleasant. I saw some guy, and a girl, neither of which I could firmly recall, and then I saw that both of them were dead, in pools of blood, then the memory came to a close…That was it. Rage started to fill me, and I was about to take the damn machine and throw it out the freakin’ window, but held back somehow. What the crap went wrong? Why couldn’t I recall anything? What about that quote? Didn’t that quote mean anything? Why did I remember it? WHY DIDN’T I REMEMBER I ANYTHING ELSE!?...I’m sorry…I’m just still a little disappointed by that. It only happened recently, you know? And I guess…I just don’t know what to do…where to go…I don’t know anything anymore…I’m sorry…guess I still have more to say, don’t I? Maybe I can get over all that, unpleasantness if I tell you about the other unpleasant thing that happened soon afterwards…
    After my…failure…with the memory machine, I stood still and refused to say anything. Quinn, I guess after getting over what was bothering her, decided to approach me.
    “So…uh…what did you leave behind?” She asked, her voice shaky. I turned to her and muttered “Nothing…”
    “Huh?” She asked. I started to get frustrated by this, and I glared back to her, eyes, red and watered, shouting out “NOTHING, okay! It didn’t work! I can’t remember one goddamn thing in my entire goddamn mind! I’m a nobody! I can’t remember my life, my family, just a quote! A shitty quote from someone I don’t fucking remember!” I punched at the wall beside me so hard then, that a put a hold through it…And it hurt like hell…I started shouting out random profanities at that point, and I was getting so hysterical that Quinn had to grab me and hold onto me just to make me stop and calm down a little. When I did, I ended up breaking down into tears…I couldn’t hold it anymore…I just had to let it out. Now I was well aware of something. After all I had been through, after all those trials, after those brushes with death, I didn’t get what I came for, but, at least I was able to get disappointed with some of the greatest friends a guy could ask for…I looked at Quinn as I broke away from her embrace, about to thank her, but before I could, something started beeping. We all scrambled around to check what could’ve been making the sound, but we couldn’t find it…not until we noticed the stun guns in our pockets… suddenly, we realized where that voice had been coming from this whole time…
    “Congratulations, kiddies! You got your precious memories back! I’m sure they’re full of happy things like puppies, lollypops and gumdrops, huh? Oh, wait, no, they were probably full of death, tragedy and suicide attempts, weren’t they? Yeah, well, why do you think you got dumped over to Placa in the first place you shitheads? You’re all miserable, worthless people with no lives ahead of you! That’s why you’re here! That’s why you should’ve just let me kill you all long ago! Well, no matter, I’ve been tracking you guys like this and toying with you long enough. It’s time to put you wastes of breath away for good! Be seein’ ya soon, boys and girls!”
    At that, we all realized we’d been duped this whole time…Our enemy had been giving us the chance to escape his clutches himself…he wanted to see us suffer, not only physically, but mentally as well, and there was no worse suffering than what we had all just gone through that day…
    Now, we had to escape before our end came literally knocking at our door, but, was it really worth it to try? What did we have to look forward to, when two of us had horrible pasts, and the third couldn’t even get his memory back in the first place? It all seemed like we should just stand there and let death come to us, but, Waldrom decided otherwise…
    Tape 20: Waldrom
    Hearing Vernon’s screaming was painful to my ears…not so much because of the loudness…though admittedly that probably didn’t help…but also from the sheer pain of hearing all his hopes and dreams of getting his life back disappear in a flash. I know that he probably didn’t have a very good life to begin with, or else he wouldn’t have been here with me and Quinn in the first place, but, that still didn’t hide the fact that, disappointment or not, we got what we were looking for, what we worked so hard for, and what we nearly died for, but he didn’t. Suddenly, my life didn’t seem a little too bad…at least I had it…Then again, I started thinking, Vernon was a young kid…he still had a lot of life to live…and Quinn…I’m sure she can find a way to turn her life around, she has more than enough time herself. Me though? No...even if I had a chance to turn things around…It wouldn’t matter. I’m old, my life has been lived. Even if it didn’t end the way I’d have wanted it, it was still a pretty good run while the good times lasted. I had a good childhood, a good family, and I got to meet Ada, and though I didn’t have much time, I got to live that brief moment with her…the greatest moments of my life…and even when I lost her, and my life seemed meaningless, that didn’t mean I still couldn’t have one final fling, and do some good in the process. When we realized that we were still being pursued, and that this time, we wouldn’t be able to fight our enemy off with all the power that he had, I decided to take action one more time.
    “Vernon, Quinn, you two get out of here. That bastard only knows where we are because of those trackers…outside of Placa, he can’t detect us! If I stay put and hold him off for just a little while, it’ll give you two the chance to escape.”
    As I predicted, they didn’t seem too fond of the idea.
    “What?! No! We can’t just leave you to die! Not after…”
    “All we went through…and after all we went through, I’ve gotten what I came here for…I got my life back, and now I can leave it behind for good with confidence…My time was up long ago, but you two? You’re still young, you still have a lot ahead of you. Don’t let that dumbass take it away.”
    “Waldrom…” Quinn started to protest, but I simply grabbed my gun and pointed it towards them to help with the convincing.
    “GO! NOW!” I shouted. They hesitated, but they both eventually left, going out the door and walking out to continue to fight for their rightful lives. Before Vernon left though, he turned and faced me one more time:
    “Be seein’ you on the other side then?” He asked, just as he had when we started out on this crazy journey.
    “You can bet on it,” I replied with a smile. He smiled back before turning and leaving.
    As I waited for my fate to be sealed, I noticed the tape recorder lying here…so…I guess to pass the time, I decided to recount everything that’s happened up to this point…I don’t know why…it’s not like anyone I care about will get the chance to hear it…but…Vernon…Quinn…by some off-chance you do manage to get ahold of these tapes, I want to tell you that you two mean everything to me…This old man owes you both a lot for turning his life around…even if you did so right before his life came to an end…*crash*.
    “Here they come…Goodbye you fellas…Hey! Come on in assholes! Dinner’s served!”
    End of Waldrom’s tapes

    Tape 21: Quinn
    It was hard leaving Waldrom behind like that…damn hard. I felt sick to my stomach even thinking about how we just left him to die like that…but…that was what he wanted, apparently, and, we couldn’t object if I wanted to save our lives. It was only out of fairness that we honor his last request like that.
    Still, he was right, as I came to realize, and I think Vernon does too: We may have had troubled pasts, or maybe we can’t remember our pasts at all, but, that’s the thing…those moments…they’re in the past. The fact is we live in the present, and the past is gone. What we should care about are our futures, that’s all there is to it. I’m glad Waldrom could help me realize this, but, I still wish he didn’t have to give up so much in the process… Anyways…Guess I’ll wrap up here…You guys know pretty much what happened next: You found us wandering alone, and, when we asked you just who you were, you told us you were in the same boat as we were. Then you picked us up and took us here, and, that pretty much leads us to where we are right now, huh? That’s pretty much all I’ve got. Some of the fighting may have been a bit more complex, but, really, I was so focused with trying to survive, that I didn’t really care that I couldn’t remember every single thing that happened, you know? Heh…You know, you guys never really explained just who you were when you picked us up out there. I don’t suppose you don’t mind explaining a bit? It’s not like I’m gonna be going anywhere for a while…
    End of Quinn’s tapes

    Final Tape: Vernon
    I bet Quinn already told you everything, huh? Well, I don’t really have much to add…I’ve still got a lot of things to think about, so, that may be clouding up my memory a little. Not like that’s news or anything…I’m glad you guys found us, really, I’m very grateful, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that everything that’s happened…it just really takes a toll on a guy. I’m sure you know, but, you probably don’t know in the same way that I do, just like I don’t know the same way you do. Memories are funny like that, they only belong to those who create them, and, even if you try and explain them to others, they’re just not getting the same picture that you do. They weren’t there, they didn’t think the thoughts that you did…they didn’t feel the emotions you did…To them, they’re just events in the lives of someone else, and that’s all they really are…We just choose to cherish them, to relive them, to think back either fondly or not so fondly of them. That’s all the difference really is.
    Sorry if that attempt at philosophy makes no sense, I’m not very good at that sort of thing. I just thought it would sum up how I feel about all that’s gone down… I hope I helped you guys out in some way. I’m not sure what our recollections of the events will do to help your cause, but, if it does anything, just make sure you don’t forget to credit Waldrom as well. He fought so hard to get as far as he did, and we never would’ve made it here if he didn’t pull through for us in the end. So, uh…yeah…that’s it…
    End of tapes
    The last of the tapes had finally run out, and the two men who had been listening intently to each one got up from their chairs as one of them pulled the last recording out from the player. They were both silent for a few moments. They had listened to a lot in that course of time, and, even though they had heard many stories like this one, that still didn’t make listened to them any less difficult at times. After they remained quiet for a short while longer, one of them suddenly spoke up.
    “Did you tell the two about what happened to their companion yet?” He asked. The other man looked hesitant to answer, since that was quite the touchy question, but he willed himself to do so.
    “There isn’t much of a point…they won’t be seeing him any time soon. They don’t need to go through any more than they already have.” They both looked at the tapes labeled “Waldrom”, staring at them intently. It was amazing that they had found the tapes when they more than assumed at first that, after the attack, they would’ve been lost forever. Their durability meant they had even more valuable info to go on. After gazing at them long enough, one of them broke the silence once more.
    “You know this isn’t the end for them, though. It isn’t the end for any of us. We’re going to be found out sooner or later, and if they don’t just kill us all, they’ll probably just dump us in another one of those damn prisons of theirs and wipe our minds clean again… just to cook us up later like the sadistic pigs that they are… They almost had the chance, too. You took a big risk getting those tapes before they could. You could’ve been caught easily, had they been anywhere nearby when you scouted the place”
    The second man merely sighed as he put the tape in his shirt pocket, preparing to send it back to the pile with all the others. “I’m well aware of the consequences, just as much as you are, but we don’t have to tell them everything at this very moment. They deserve a break. Who knows when and if they’ll ever get another?”
    “I guess you’re right about that, but…”
    “But what?”
    “Well…Never mind.”
    They both then left the room, one of them turning out the light and closing the door as they walked down the hallway to the room containing their two latest finds.
    “You really think there’s any hope for all of us? You think we’ll ever get back?” The one who had been so hesitant to ask the question before finally managed to ask, getting a shrug from the other in reaction.
    “Can’t say…but I like to think so. I like to think that we all still have a place to go back to, and that there’s someone waiting for each and every one of us. I like to imagine we still matter to at least one individual in this universe, even if some of us still don’t know who that is.” He murmured, his aged eyes fixed on the door getting closer and closer.
    “Guess we can’t give up ‘til we know for sure then, huh?” The other man responded as he slowly opened the door.
    “No…I guess not.”
    They both walked inside, the door closing behind them. Another pair of victims saved, and more evidence about the enemy recovered…More progress had been made, but they still had a lot of work yet to do. They all did.
    The End

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