A SLA Industries story by max.rock

He was tired. Outside, the darkness would have been replaced by some lighter shades of grey by now. It had been a busy night for him. He took a deep breath and rose to get some new coffee. With the level of coffein he had by now, sleeping wasn´t an option - didn´t make sense to start fighting pillows while trying not to think.

Resisting the impulse to make his special mix, taking the cup of  warm coffe, he went back to the table. Parts of his MAL Assault Cannon and his new Punisher SMG were systematically laid out on the table. Technical drawings of both weapons littered the place, while his Oyster was still calculating the changes he had done to his design over the last hours.

Slowly he was getting it all together. The eaist part had been the design of the stock for the MAL and the increased length of the barrel. The silencer had been an off the shelve model. The mechanism had been the big problem. Upgrading the MAL from semi-automatic to full-auto wasn´t as easy as he had first thought, but it seemed as if he had managed it at last. The calculations of the oyster would show. He just would have to wait two or three hours for the final results.

Best if he would use the time to get some breakfast, or at least something similiar to dead meat. The Boiler Room wasn´t the best place for it. He wasn't in the mood to hunt his breakfast down before eating it. And rats don´t taste that well in the morning.

Charlie was just crawling over the punisher parts. The big cockroach with the urban camo pattern and the - 13- painted on his back just loved this place. Charlie and a few others of his kind had lived with him even before he moved to the Boiler Room. They were a few of the things he had taken with him.

Charlie was scurrying over the table looking for some food. Bad luck today old friend, he thought. He had to do some thing about the steady raising number of his little bug-friends. Time to challenge their survival again. He definitely would have to think about this.

He emptied his cup and slipped into his RainMan Duster, shuddering as he remembered that he nearly would have had it washed. Bad idea, would have destroyed the style. He thought of re-assembling one of the weapons, but let the idea go. By this time all the urben predators would either be sleeping or trying to get some reality into their drug abused brains. Reality ... truth ... no way they would see it, with or without drugs.

He left the Boiler Room, locking the high, rust-eaten and scratched doors. After all, Hellraiser had keys, wherever he was at the moment.

A typical Downtown morning, steady rain dissolving the thick fog on the streets while various shades of grey played hide and seek with the bums, who did their best to take shelter in the surrounding alleys, trying to flee from the rain. They would have no luck. There wasn´t anything as luck, not anymore.

He wandered aimlessly through the streets, avoiding the biggest heaps of trash lying on the street. Big and filthy, smelling like death himself. Wasn´t very unlikly. You could never know if the inhabitants, if you could call them like that, were dead or trying to be it. And you could bet that everything that had some life in it and lived in this trash was definitly very unfriendly. Especially on a morning like this.

He moved on with the towering walls of the corporates lowest classes housings, looming over him, giving the dark grey streets an additional threating impression. Concrete, steel, rain and shades of grey. And the people of Central asked themselves why the inhabitants of DownTown got that depressed and paranoid. What the fuck ... naturally you get paranoid if your main question to life is "Can I eat it, or will it eat me". Not to mention drugs, acohol, rain and murdering gangers who want to have some fun on cost of others.

Yeah, welcome to DownTown, where life is simple and pain lasts an eternity. Or until you got killed.

Looking around he suddenly snapped out of his thougts. With his mind astray he had somehow wandered much farther than he wanted to. He needed a few seconds to orientate himself. Good for him that morning was beginning to dawn. Without his weapons and lost in thoughts he would have been a prime target for some of the bastards around. This was one of the few times of the day where you were nearly secure in the streets of lower Downtown. But only barely.

He hadn´t seen an open shop to get some food, but perhaps he had passed some and overlooked it. He decided to give it another try, this time keeping his eyes open. More chances to get something to eat and stay alive. The streets were slowly filling with people trotting down the streets to wherever they were going. Slumped figures, blank eyes. Just the usual crowd who had abandoned hope, trying to salvage at least some dignity. He stopped and stepped back into one of the entrances around him, observing the street. He was in no hurry.

Watching the slumped figures, trying to dodge rain, trash and other DownTowners, they reminded him of his little friends at home. Moving from there to there, seeking food and shelter and trying to stay alive. In comparison he gave his Cockroaches more chances to surviving than this crowed around him. At least until he found an entertaining way to cut their numbers down, just as the company had their entertaining ways to cut down the number of bums and workers. Gore Zone was just one example. Recreational drugs, bloody games ... keep the masses happy.

They were nothing more than grey shapes, moving like the fog of the night through the streets. Grey as everything around here. It had a surreal feeling, just standing around and watching.

He remembered his experience at Orienta. Letting the things that he had seen come back to his mind gave him the creeps. They had played him again. Not only him, but also Isis and Yule. But this time they had made a mistake. Instead of pushing him over the edge they had done the contrary thing. They shouldn´t have told him the truth about his past while Isis was at his side. She was the anchor, the strength and peace of mind at the moment. Perhaps he would have shot Yule without her being at his side. But seeing Marian die, leaving Yule in pain, made him one thing clear: Someone had arranged her death, thereby destroying the career of a successful employee of SLA Industries while at the same time making himself a psychopathic killer with an attitude problem. But loosing Marian only made him strong and - even if it was hard to say - against all odds he had found something better, something more real.

As far as he could see it Isis was the one thing that really mattered in his life, the rest was just survival and business. She had made him see the truth and was there to help him cope with it. She was the one to introduce him into Stig - at last from his point of view.

He had lost something, but gained more; two lost souls clutching to each other. And at the moment he even thought that there even was a chance that it could work out.

The events at Orienta really had left her confused, all that they had seen, all that they had done. But all three had seen, that even if the events might have been predetermined by someone else, you definitetly had a choice about the end. He had been right - there was a way to break the rules. The Mantua's had proven it.

What confused him was the fact that the other side was interested in him. He didn´t know why. They should be interested in every member of Sti, but this thing had said that only he was real, not Isis, not Yule, confusing her to the most.

But also him. She was real for him, no matter what this being said or she thought. It was just another scheme of the other side, and everything that they had showed them had two things in common: how their lives had been manipulated and still were, and that they wanted them to doubt. Doubt the things they loved, the things they believed in, to get desperate, loosing the grip on reality.

It didn´t matter for him. He had experienced all of this before and by now he was firm in his view of reality and the glimpses of the truth he had. But it definitly had disturbed Isis. Doubting your own reality was a fucking bad thing and he had to make it clear to her. She of all should know this best.

Their games were slowly becoming very annoying to him. He had to find a way to kick their ass big time. Pay back time was approaching and he wanted to be the one doing the kicking.

But one of the problems was Stig itself, he tought while starting to move home. He could forget about breakfast now. There was no way to report all things he had seen and done to Stig without getting shot. They were a little single minded about this. They demanded fast and creative solutions of problems, but if the solution got a little too creative .... yeah they knew more than he did, but so what?

He had to think about this. He didn´t wanted to work outside Styg, he wanted to work with and for the departement. But there were a few rules that made it nearly impossible for him.

In Orienta they had seen and experienced important things, but should he report this back? It would get him a new and interesting session in Room 101. At least this had happened all the times before. No good - this had to change. But to whom he did have to talk about this? Would there be anyone letting him live if they knew the other side seemed to be interested in him? No fucking way.

He increased his pace and moved back home, ignoring the shapes around him. It was not as far as he had thought. He had almost moved a circle, wandering around. The lower levels of DownTown did this to one, making it easy to get lost while being only five minutes away from the starting point.

When he arrived the door was still locked. So Hellraiser was still lost in time and space, doing whatever it was that desperate and schizophrenic Necanthropes do. He didn´t even wanted to know.

He entered the Boiler Room. It was filthy and dark as usual, only the Oyster on the table illuminated the room. Perhaps he would try to clean the place up some time, at least the lower levels. He walked through the garbage and accidently took Sues little life. Oops, not your day, he thought regretfully. Perhaps he shouldn´t have spray painted her in matte black, but in neon colours.

He moved on, seeing that Charly stormed to the fresh corpse of his relative. No wonder that he had survived that long. He knew what to do to survive. Now at least one of them had something to eat.

The Oyster was still busy calculating; about one hour still to go, he guessed, while getting down to get the new Blocker Body Armour. He wanted to re-accustom himself to this damned thing as fast as possible, his Shiver training too long gone. He barely got used to the suit in Orienta. This shouldn´t happen again.

He took the armour to one of the storage rooms, far away from all things that could break.

Time to get some bruises.

At least he could pass the time until the Oyster was ready.

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