Founders Valley Pt 3

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A Backrooms Story
⤷ Massacre in the Founders Valley, pt. 3

"You're taking me with you, Tonton."

Karrins words echoed in Antonio's mind as he entered the ruins of Alpha Point, the once greatest city of the Halls. The Point — a feat of humanity in limspace — had at one time boasted well over two hundred souls, an incredible number for the Frontier. Once naught but carpet and empty rooms, the first founders created society here on scraps, ingenuity, and perseverance, and not without both triumph and bloodshed. For generations, it stood as a monument to the human condition.

Antonio knew the tales of the Point well, as most porters do. The founders had stumbled through their first years of survival. They merged with a nomadic family, resulting in the mass ex-communication of the first founders; the Exodus. There were the lost years of Rathin's brood, the butchering of the Laertes, and the discovery of the console. The Point's first introductions to the diplomats of the deep, and the creation of the first road as Alpha Point came into the fold of the UNCB. These most basic accounts of the Point gloss over centuries of history.

Now, he stood among its rubble. Blood, violence, and broken things. Just as he had feared.

"You're taking me with you."

Karrin's grip had been tight on Antonio's weathered hand, squeezing the scars of a lifetime of porting that crisscrossed his fingers. Tired hands, weary hands, but nonetheless ones that refused to give up. The hands of a survivor, of a father. He had squeezed back reassuringly. Hers were soft, so small, yet boasted a formidable grip that came as a surprise to Antonio. She was growing. He hoped in time her hands would be just as scarred and old and weathered as his own.

"Kalolo." Antonio had said in a sombre tone, "I need to go alone." He then knelt down and wrapped a hand around the back of her neck, looking into her fierce eyes. Her eyes had an intensity that made him proud. Karrin was a noble soul; naively brave, and so protective of her younger sister Naomi. He smiled, to make her soften. "You need to stay here. To look after Bunso and Mama while I'm gone. Here…" He motioned to Karrin's walking stick, the hardwood staff that she would practice sparring forms with that never left her side, "With this, as Mama shows you. You know how."

Karrin had looked downwards, averting his gaze, flushed in the face.

Now, at his own feet lay a corpse. A girl, not much older than Karrin.

Alpha Point was silent. Still. A tangle of broken furniture and bodies. The wallpapers used to be covered in decorations, spray paint and art. Now they were torn, in some places burned, and covered in splatters of blood. The ceiling, once detailed with hanging furnishings and cloth tapestries now was broken in places, with smashed lights and torn-up office roof tiles granting glimpses into the piping and ventilation above. In many rooms of the Point, the carpet had been replaced with hardwood deck flooring, hand-made by the citizens to keep carpet mites and insects off of people's feet. A terrible number of these floor beams were slick and red. Among the chaos were community gardens and bedrolls, briefcases, and other items imported from other levels. Common things were broken and strewn about everywhere, evidence of violent confrontation. A terrible odour permeated the air, thick and aggressive.

Antonio carefully made his way around the body of the girl, stepping with the balls of his feet onto clean patches of carpet. He was diligent to avoid stepping in blood lest he tracked a scent of death to his family when returning.

Death. There was nothing here now but another nightmare in the endless desert of the Halls, surely to be stumbled upon from time to time by lost souls and, surely, now to be avoided by the UNCB as a deadzone. Cursed land, should the superstitions of old porters carry any weight. The girl's body dredged the words of an old mentor to mind: "Human blood is a rare substance, eagerly sought after by shadows." A mark of blood this monumental would surely stain the air and breed more nightmares; birth new entities. These corpses would turn strange and horrific when left to fester out of sight for too long.

'I have to be quick.'

The Curtis family had travelled for months and expected a safe destination at the end of the journey. Now, without sanctuary awaiting them, their survival was called into stark question. The urge to return to Margaret and the girls burned like a fire in his mind, but, confirming that the Point was lost was not the only goal Antonio had on this scouting mission. This city supported hundreds of people and was rich with supplies and food that the dead did not need. If there was no active threat here, he was free to scavenge whatever was redeemable for the journey back.

The nearest outpost was… 'Where can we go?' Perhaps through the Breros Rift, and onwards through to Hartkirch?1 A bustling settlement but a risky road, prone to misnavigation. Turning right around, back to the GMG? That road would take far too long. Months more of travel. No, they had to stay within the Frontier. 'Athenaeum…' It was fairly close. They could make it. A dozen more cycles march, at maximum. Saffron would welcome them warmly, she hadn't seen the children for nearly a decade.

Yet Outpost Athenaeum was a restricted area containing a fragile ecosystem of food production and seed cultivation. The secrecy of its location was paramount to maintain. The pilgrims could not follow. They would have to take whatever the caravan had brought and survive off of it, here, whatever the risk. They would need to make a stand and restart the Point — there simply was no other hope for them. His family would seek Athenaeum alone.

He would need food and cleansing powders. Any dried materials. Anything canned. Any footwear, twine, rope. Lightweight textiles. No — only the essentials. They could reach Athenaeum sore, smelly, scabbed and travelled bloody — like crazed wasteland nomads — as long as they could make it. Lots to prioritize, and Antonio could only carry so much.

'The pilgrims are dead weight, as well.' Antonio was quickly slipping; sliding his psyche into that polished black reptilian mindset of cold logic and survivalism. The pilgrims he was contracted to deliver were soft. Urbanites. Scared of the Frontier or any vapid limspace for that matter. They were no survivors — may as well have been part of the slaughter. Few would be surviving the journey back. He could not let himself care — Karrin, his precious Kalolo — Naomi, the bright-eyed Bunso — and Margaret, his wonderful, strong, beautiful kindred soul. They were the only ones he need care about.

'And the console.' Antonio thought to himself. Alpha Point had not been alone in the desert of limspace, no. It held within its fragile urban confines a node, a console strung along the cross-dimensional web of the dataspace. That node was worth more than any possible shipment of seeds, water, or weapons. No amount of salt could measure its worth, for it allowed its citizens communication beyond the Frontier; a connection to humanity. Breaking the bonds of isolation is the only thing that keeps humanity alive in Limspace and that console was the hub of communication that connected the Point to, well, everything. It could not be lost to obscurity. If nothing else, Antonio would need to find that node.

He would give himself an hour. First, he would scout for active threats. The Halls were often devoid of any life — human or otherwise — but here, now, among all this death, there was a very real chance of entities to be nearby; rising from or feasting on the carrion. Underneath his Cheshire cloak2 he was nearly invisible. And with the care of a porter, few but the most sensitive ears would hear his presence. He counted instinctively as he stalked. Seven, nine, thirteen… Corpses were strewn about without a care. No sign of an antagonistic force. No human raiders, no hounds. And smilers… well it couldn't have been smilers. They never leave a corpse behind, they consume their prey whole on a successful kill. More and more evidence of the scene; the way bodies lay dead together, the subtleties of how they lie, the location of their injuries — this one was cowering as she died — suggested they killed each other. As if the whole Point went mad with bloodlust and fell upon one another.

Twenty-seven, thirty… men, women and children alike. Antonio only saw his daughters in the faces of every innocent child who lay glassy-eyed upon the ground, and despite the shiny black reptilian mindset his brain sought sanctuary within he winced at every waking vision of death before him. 'And so I stumble into the valley of Ge-Hinnom… the valley of Hell.'

Only one thing followed Antonio, looming out of sight, trailing his footsteps.

It smiled, knowing the second domino had begun to fall.

More Founders Valley, Parts:
OneTwo ⋅ Three ⋅ Four

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