The house was quiet but strangely warm as I moved through the hallway, while the air was damp with a fetid smell that unpleasantly reminded me of a blocked toilet.
Rooms leading from the hallway were dark and empty, and judging by the layers of dust and grime were seldom visited. One room held a rough table and some chairs and a filthy mattress. Around the room were burned pieces of paper, old magazines and the rotting remains of takeaway meals, in various levels of decay. The next room had a single chair, with some dark stains around it that looked ominously like blood.
I could see a faint glimmer of light coming through the boarded up window of the room, so I crept over to it and peered out. A lone guard wandered aimlessly at the end of the alley, his breath forming little clouds in the broken light of a street lamp. That solitary light also illuminated little flecks of rain, the first drops of the rainstorms that often fell on Candor City. I imagined high above me, Sylenia was also watching the guard for signs of trouble, and I hoped that she was bearing the change in the weather in good spirits.
The stairs creaked noisily as I moved to the next level; a sound accompanied by the crunch of breaking needles and smashed pottery under my boots. Sylenia was sure that nobody was inside the house, but it didn't stop me from holding my breath till I reached the top of the stairs. My hand gripped the cool pistol tightly, seeking reassurance from it as my aching lungs began to fill with air again. There were just two rooms, and both of them were filled with broken furniture. More mattresses and burned out candles covered the floor, and again, the dark stains of blood spattered the bare floorboards. The smell that had greeted me was fainter up here, but the heat remained. I touched a nearby radiator and drew my hand away in shock. The heating was running, and the temperature gauge was set very high.
I pressed the button of my earpiece and told Sylenia that I had found nothing of interest, and began to make my way back down stairs. The rank smell got stronger again, and risking the use of a small torch, found my way to small door under the main stairs. It was locked, but the wood around the lock was rotten, allowing me access to a narrow and steep staircase leading to the basement.
The stench was indescribable, and I had to retreat to one of the ground floor rooms to stop myself from emptying my stomach. In between gasps for air, I opened a channel to Sylenia and told her there was a basement area under the house. She assured me that the coast was clear, so I had to take some deep breaths and make my way to the bottom of the stairs alone. The door was much stronger than the last, and obviously a new fitting. I gave it a good shove with my shoulder, but was forced to retreat as the smell got the better of me.
I contacted Sylenia again, to explain that the door was too tough for me to breach, but my transmission was interrupted by me being sick, causing her to come through the roof with far more noise than was prudent. Her arrival was heralded by the soft glow of her personal shield, and I could see her concern for me clearly. I followed her to the top of the stairs, while she ventured down to the locked door. I could see her shield had become more opaque, which I hoped was her way of isolating the dreadful atmosphere around her. In a moment, her bladed force field weapons had cut through the door and she stepped through.
Her scream descended into sobbing cries. In a moment I had joined her, ignoring the churning of my stomach and my throats attempt to close up completely. Arranged around us in rows were the discoloured and stinking carcasses of people, hanging like meat in a butchers shop. Umbilical pipes were everywhere, feeding and retrieving fluids from these vile nightmares, to what end I could not guess.
"This is how they create Dust?" I blurted out.
Sylenia didn't answer and ran up the stairs in the blink of an eye; I followed as fast as I could.
-- Joshua Isuza, Shallows District, Candor City.
SP3 figure in Desolation Earth Nomads outfit, with customised textures. Lab equipment created in Hexagon 1.21
Scene assembly and final rendering in Vue 8 Complete. Post processed in Photoshop CS2