Zin shoved as much of the herbs in his mouth as he could manage, as he watched his MCP activity meter shoot up. He knew the herbs would have little effect. They’d be enough, however, as Zin wasn’t particularly weak against poison anyway.
The amount of MCP in the air seemed way too high for not yet being inside the interior walls. It’d be enough to suffocate and kill a normal man. Scavengers wouldn’t have been able to get much farther than the exterior walls, let alone discover anything inside the interior walls.
All the buildings on the ground level of Wargrave Fortress are fake. In case the fortress fell for any reason, Wargrave built some buildings on they wouldn’t use on the ground level as a decoy. They took the real weapons, food and supplies and hid them elsewhere. They figured the enemy would rush into those buildings, then end up going mad looking for something in vain.
All structures of importance in Wargrave were built far below the ground in a bunker. Wargrave soldiers spend their days underground. Even when they go inside the interior walls, they do so using elevators and tunnels under ground.
Almost every Wargrave fortress is built using the same design. That way, if a soldier gets deployed to another soldier, they’ll know the layout like the back of their hand. The fortresses may vary slightly depending on their importance, but the foundation is always the same.
The upshoot? If you know one fortress, you’ve got the lay of the land for all Wargrave fortresses across the world.
Zin found himself between the interior and exterior walls, directly east of armory number 4 and directly west of barracks number 3. There should be a door right here. The door has opens when a specific pattern is input. As long as you know the code, the door should open. Something felt off to Zin. He furrowed his brow.
“What the heck…”
The secret door was already busted open. It had been blown open and ripped off its hinges by a powerful blast. The bottom of the door was completely missing.
‘Judging from the level of rust this door was blown open fairly recently.’ Not just a few months ago - very recently. The steel ladder descending down into the bunker was relatively in tact. Zin grabbed the ladder and practically slid down to the levels below.
‘All of the doors have been destroyed. Somebody blew through all of them by force.’ Zin could see all the of the steel doors that lead down further into the bunker as he slid down the ladder. Zin couldn’t destroy one of these strengthened doors, even if he used all of his grenades. These doors were constructed so that nobody could get through them, even if they tried. The fact that they were all blown to bits was strange.
A total of five of these doors were blown open. Whoever did this - group or individual, must have access to significant firepower.
Zin continued to acrobatically travel down the ladder. Every time he passed through another busted door, he found himself on a new ladder down. Eventually he found himself on the lowermost level.
“There’s still power down here?” said Zin, surprised that the electricity was still working as he noticed a light turned on the the hallway leading into the bunker.
The fortress is completely shut down - the lights shouldn’t turn on. The fact that the electricity is still functioning is strange. Zin entered the bunker and proceeded forward, ensuring that his steps made as little noise as possible. There was another sealed door inside the bunker. Judging from the undisturbed dust before the door, it’d been quite a while since there was activity down there.
‘Footsteps…’ Zin saw two distinct footsteps carved out in the dust. The clarity in which they stood out implied they had been left quite recently.
‘One set barefoot, one military boots.’ The footprints from military boots led into the door; the barefoot footprints were coming out of it. Zin had an idea who made the military boot footprints.
‘Are all these busted doors your work, Charl?’ Enough firepower to take down five reinforced steel doors - Zin couldn’t help but laugh to himself. But why were the footprints different? Why were they barefoot on the way out?
Zin knew what was going on. He ran into the door as fast as he could. The sealed door separating the inside from the outside was also broken into. There are several sections of a bunker, each carrying out its own function. Zin quickly scanned the part of the bunker containing the armory. The wide bunker was completely different than what Zin had seen on the way in. Zin contorted his face in horror as he discovered the bunks for sleeping.
There were dozens of bodies scattered around the bunker - they had just been killed.
‘Must’ve been a monster…’ None of the bodies seemed to have died naturally. It was an utterly terrifying scene. The bodies were drenched in blood, crushed, ripped apart - completely mutilated.
The bunker was completely silent. All that was left was bodies and blood.
‘The fortress looked like it was abandoned on the outside. But were Wargrave soldiers still active on the inside?’ thought Zin. He entered the control room, where he could get a good idea of the status of the whole fortress. There were dozens of monitors in the control room, where CCTV relayed the current status of every inch of the fortress.
There was no sign of anything living inside the control room besides Zin. The CCTV monitors only served to prove to Zin that absolutely nothing remained alive inside the fortress. There was a bright, bold message spread across all the monitors.
[Detention Room Empty]
[Central Lab Destroyed]
[The Experiment ‘Prototype’ Has Disappeared]
‘Prototype? Whatever did this must’ve been an experiment gone wrong. What kind of experiment?’
Zin realized the minute he stepped foot in the fortress that something extremely serious had occurred. Some kind of slaughter had clearly taken place. The CCTV was functioning in this area, but destroyed in the laboratory. That was enough to prove to anyone that something happened in the lab.
Jin ran quickly towards the lab. There were ravaged corpses painted along the corridors linking the different areas of the bunker.
Oh my…” said Zin. He could barely contain his astonishment when he reached the lab. It was a complete disaster. To say anything less than ‘it was razed to the ground’ would be an understatement. Whatever happened - a fight, most likely - had caused all the equipment in the lab to shatter. The only thing illuminating the dark room were the sparks flying out of the ripped out sockets.
That’s when Zin discovered Charl’s dead body, mercilessly pinned against one of the walls. A large pipe protruding from the wall was running through her abdomen, holding her up against the wall. Her left arm had been ripped off at the elbow, her right leg at the knee. The skin over her entire body was stretch tight, revealing the outline of her bones. Her lower jaw had been ripped off along with her tongue. The entire scene was horrid and impossible to look at without getting flustered.
“This is goddamn gruesome,” said Zin as he approached Charl. The lieutenant offered no response. Several of lieutenant Charl’s joints poking out of her skin were sparkling silver in the flash of the electrical sparks. A person in this state is no longer a person - in fact, they’re closer to being a monster. Zin took a long look at Charl before grabbing the pipe sticking out of her stomach.
Zin bent the pipe with both hands, eventually snapping it. He let a solitary long breath, despite having accomplished what looked to be quite a feat of strength. Zin nonchalantly grabbed Charl and yanked her body off the pipe.
Her body reluctantly slid off the pipe, letting off a terrible screeching sound.
Her body fell to the floor with a thud, letting out a sound rarely heard from a human body.
“Damn, that took a lot out of me. I guess she’s not that small after all,” said Zin, shouldering Charl’s heavy body and making his way out of the lab. Zin was not shocked at all by the responseless body as he headed in what seemed like a clear direction.
“She’s fucking heavy…”
Zin had no choice but to move slowly under the lieutenant’s weight. Zin headed out of the lab and towards a regeneration room attached to the armory. Thankfully, whatever escaped from the lab wasn’t interested in tearing the entire bunker to shreds. Zin tossed Charl’s body into an emergency regeneration capsule like a bag of trash and closed it.
Zin took handle of the module, like he’d done it countless times in the past.
[This regeneration room supports regeneration up to Megaframe.]
[The individual the capsule is a Gigaframe.]
[Emergency regeneration will proceed using Megaframe parts.]
[Output and durability will be compromised.]
[For complete regeneration head to HQ.]
[Estimated regeneration time is 5 hours.]
The capsule moved to the main regeneration system, and Charl’s body was suspended in midair. Her body was soon surrounded by myriad machine parts. Zin looked on as her broken joints were replaced and her torn skin repaired. Zin had known from the minute he met Charl.
She was a cyborg - a hybrid between a human and a machine. Positions for executors at Wargrave were exclusively filled by cyborgs.
Boneframe - that’s the name for the procedure that Wargrave cyborg soldiers receive. The technology installed in Charl’s gigaframe would be top of the line. The mechanical parts of Charl’s body were replaced. Any mangled biological tissue was regrown using mysterious, unknown medical substances. It was not a pretty sight.
After 5 hours, Charl was spit back out of the capsule. All her body parts had been restored to their original appearance.
“You...how did you get…” stammered Charl. She was staring at Zin, unable to believe that he could also be in that bunker. Zin gave a completely unexpected response.
“I’m not sure if this is your size. Put it on.”
Charl tried to cover up her naked body in vain, realizing too late that her clothes had been removed in the regeneration process.
“This...this is…” started Charl, before bringing herself to take the underwear and clothes that Zin was extending her way. She realized that Zin couldn’t care less whether or not she was naked. Just as there were many things Zin couldn’t understand about this situation, Charl had no idea how or why Zin was in this room.
Lieutenant Charl put on each bit of clothing methodically. She couldn’t help but sigh multiple times, as her new parts creaked and moaned. Her expression betrayed her misery. Apart from her suspicion of Zin, she looked like someone who had committed a mortal sin.
“Hmmm, looks like I got the right size.”
“Are you fishing for compliments? That you’re a quick study?” asked Charl, her face turning red. Zin shook his head. Charl lowered her face seeing Zin and responded in a shaking voice:
“I’m not exactly sure how you know about boneframe, but thanks.” The lieutenant was unsure as to why an ordinary hunter knew Wargrave secrets. Add to that the fact that those secrets involved war technology and regeneration techniques, and Charl was utterly flabbergasted. She gave the most humanesque response she could think of in saying thank you.
“What happened here? I’m pretty sure the fortress was not merely shut down, like you said” asked Zin, getting right to the point.
“That’s...confidential. I can’t divulge that information. It’s not something I can trust a hunter with…” said Charl, biting her lip. Of course it was unheard of to hand over top secret information to a hunter.
“I’m not asking as a hunter,” said Zin, emphasizing the fact that this situation was certainly more complex than a normal hunter could deal with.
“I’m a devil hunter.”
“Wh...what?!?” stammered Charl, staring at Zin in disbelief. She had a very good idea what it meant to be a devil hunter. Hunters and devil hunters are completely different.
Hunters follow jobs and act accordingly. Devil hunters hunt devils. They don’t need directions or orders. Their only purpose on earth is to hunt devils. They collect information and track devils. They don’t work with others. They don’t converse with others. If they need someone to talk, they’ll rip open their mouth if they have to. Devil hunters hunt devils blindly, never driven by rewards or chips.
“This isn’t a problem you can avoid talking about just because you don’t want to talk about it. You must know that, after getting that gigaframe regeneration treatment” said Zin.
Seeing that Zin looked ready to use force at any moment, Charl remembered
what her superiors had told her before she went out into the wild.
‘It most likely won’t ever happen, but you may run into devil hunters out there. They’re mostly all fakes. But if you meet a real one, remove yourself from the situation immediately. They hunt everything that’s alive. We are included in that bunch. However, there may come a day when you end up on the same side of a fight.’
Zin, a devil hunter, a monster in his own right, was standing in front of her. It was something she never expected would happen. Charl didn’t think Zin was a fake. He had broken into Wargrave, and he knew about the gigaframe. There was almost no chance he was a fake.
Charl had to make a decision. Eliminate the hunter in front of her. Run away. Or tell him everything. It wasn’t a hard decision.
Right now, what Charl needed more than anything, was the help of a devil hunter. It was a random occurrence meeting Zin. But to Charl, that random occurrence may prove to be incredibly lucky.
“I’ll tell you everything.”
“Good.” Zin sat down in a chair. Charl had the expression of a loser in battle as she fumbled through her memories. She was breaching protocol and going outside her discretionary power in telling this to Zin.
This situation, however, called for that kind of breach of authority.
“I’m a Wargrave detective from a Special Task Force at Central Command.”
“You’re not an executor? And if you’re from Central Command, aren’t you a bit far from HQ right now?” asked Zin.
“I have two positions within Wargrave. The other is chief executor at Wargrave’s Central Asia Military HQ.”
“You have two positions? Then...no, it couldn’t be…” Zin looked to be deep in thought, trying to remember something that just wouldn’t come back to him. It’d been way too long for it to be recalled that easily.
“Yes, that’s right. The Wargrave top dogs sent me to Central Asia HQ as an undercover agent,” said Charl, nodding her head slowly.
“Huh...Wargrave has come a long way without me knowing. I’ve been slacking,” laughed Zin dryly in disbelief. Charl smirked. While it was completely against protocol, Charl was telling Zin everything now in a plea for help.
“I’ll get right to the point. The fuckers here were trying to create a man-made devil,” explained Charl.
“Crazy mother fuckers…” said Zin, unable to imagine what had happened here, able only to muster a few curse words. Charl wasn’t finished, however:
“Now let me start from the beginning.” This wasn’t merely a Wargrave problem.
“Wargrave has split,” explained Charl.
“Ha. Well, that’s a welcome dilemma.”
“To be more precise...the signs of a Wargrave split are becoming more and more clear.” Zin continued to stare at Charl, urging her to go on.
“Wargrave is split into two factions. HQ on one side, Central Asia soldiers on the other. The two sides are still ostensibly united. In reality the cooperation between the two sides has already collapsed. Soon the two sides will become completely different groups. If you look at it geographically, Europe vs Asia - HQ vs. Central Asia.”
“That’s certainly a pain in the ass.”
There was a revolution brewing within Wargrave.