rating: +13+x


The Broken City: Chapter Three

Author's note: This is a continuation of a long dormant tale series from 2 years ago, which is a part of a long dormant canon that I'm doing for my enjoyment. It's unlikely you've read the first 2 parts, so please go ahead and check those out first! This is part 3, so it won’t make any sense if you haven’t read parts 1 and 2. I'm really just doing this for me, so I don't care if this gets a ton of traction or not, but if you're super interested I would appreciate you read the series. Scroll down to the bottom if you wanna find it or get refreshed on what happened, as I have a directory of all the parts down there. I hold this story dear to my heart and miss writing it, so enjoy it if you're interested, if not, it's whatever. Enjoy!

Max stared at her, unable to comprehend what was happening. His felt his throat close up, a sharp pain rushing through his neck as the cogs spun wildly in his brain.


The woman had lowered her hood, the gilded blue facade falling to reveal short-shaven hair and dark eyes that widened at him in surprise.

“Max…” she whispered. The pair stood silently, eyeing one another in utter disbelief for what seemed like an eternity. Max could feel his eyes begin to water. A tear trickled down his cheek as he recognized the familiar voice of the friend he thought he had lost forever.

Then, all at once, Max found himself sprinting forward, enveloping Macy in a tight hug. He buried his face into her left shoulder, earning a disapproving squawk from the blue macaw perched on the other.

"I thought you were dead!" Macy stammered through tears.

"I thought you were dead!" Max choked out a laugh, still locked in his old partner’s warm embrace.


Alex charged forward, shoving Max violently away from the woman in blue. He stumbled backward, colliding into the wall with a loud thud.

"What are you doing?!" Max roared. He watched as the other operatives around him drew their clubs, crossbows, and tasers, pointing them all directly at Macy. Behind her, the Followers too poised themselves, their glinting blades pulled from their sheaths and held at the ready.

Grabbing Max’s shirt, Alex pinned him against the wall, and unslung her backpack.

"Hold still!" Alex ordered. Unzipping her bag, she whipped out a small thermos flask. Twisting off the cap in a single, swift motion, she forced his mouth open, sloshing half its contents haphazardly over his face and down his throat. Lifting back her head, she proceeded to down several gulps of liquid herself. Max spluttered as the Almond Water soaked his face and shirt, revolted by the wretched taste of the foul fluid.

"What are you doing?! I haven't seen her in months!” He yelled through coughs, still choking. “Why did you-"

"Max, are you blind?! Do you have any idea what the monster is that’s sitting on her shoulder?!" Alex interrupted, her voice raised in fury.

Max turned back to Macy. The parrot on her shoulder cocked its head and lifted its beak, almost like it was smiling. It winked at them, as if in reply.

"It's just a stupid bird!" The Followers gasped at the bold statement, raising their blades in outrage. Reflexively, the M.E.G. operatives too pointed their weapons forward.

Alex sighed in exasperation at her partner's ignorance. She turned to the captive held among her compatriots, who was grinning gleefully at the mayhem, dark ink dripping from her lips onto the carpet.

"Sinclair! You didn't tell me Jerry was going to be here!" Alex screamed venomously.

Max's eyes widened as he realized that this was the Jerry he had heard about. Innocuous as the bird appeared, the nefarious avian held within his talons the power to put any living mind under his full and total control. The megalomaniac, so he’d heard, would corral all of his victims into the cage of a violently unhinged and despotic cult — with Macy, apparently, as its most recent victim. The bird on her shoulder fixed its gaze upon him, its yellow eyes glinting with haughty mischief.

As his mind connected the dots, Max felt his chest tighten. His breathing sped up in a panicked manner.

"I apologize for interrupting, but it seems that the rumors you Meggies like to spread have tainted my reputation. Why don't we all just calm down for a moment?" Jerry flew off of Macy's shoulder, settling onto one of the room's many perches, right next to Alex.

He regretted this almost instantly.

Instinctively, Alex let our a shrill cry, flinging what remained of the Almond Water in the thermos onto the bird without hesitation.

Jerry screeched in immense pain as the liquid soaked into his feathers. Falling off his perch, he landed on the floor next to Max, and began to seize with excruciating spasms.

"WHAT DID YOU DO?!" Sinclair howled. She rushed forward, soothing her master in her shaking hands as he writhed in agony. Behind her, the cultists erupted into a cacophonous outcry and rushed forward, blades waving wildly in the air. Hurriedly, Macy turned to halt them, her arms raised in a vain attempt to pacify their anguished clamor.

Alex was taken aback. She’d had no idea that “taming” Jerry would cause him this much pain.

"Alex-" Max muttered urgently.

Out of the seething mob, Father Bluebird lunged at Alex with with an inhuman ferocity, sword raised in his hand.

As if on cue, the room then exploded into chaos.

The operatives and the Followers charged, colliding at the center of the room in a flurry of sticks and blades. With lighting speed, Alex drew her trusty taser stick from her side and just barely parried the cruel slash of Father Bluebird’s blade. She sprung into action, retaliating with a powerful backhand swing that forced the cultist backward. As they traded blows, two or three other agents drew their own weapons, sprinting over to defend her.

Under ordinary circumstances, defeating an expert swordsman like this alone in combat would have been near impossible, even with backup. This time, however, Alex had an advantage. Between her thrusts and strikes, she noticed the weakness of Father Bluebird’s blows — how easily they gave, and how with each strike and parry he had been slowly backed toward the center of the room.

The old man swung his blade forward again, aiming straight for her jugular, and she parried. Their weapons connected in a deadlock, electric bolts arcing dangerously from her stick onto her opponent’s lustrous blade. He panted hard, eyes blazing with murderous intent beneath his mask. Despite his size and strength, he was struggling, his weapon shaking and nearly buckling as Alex pushed back against it with her club. She glanced at his hilt, desperately looking for a way to escape the bind, and found — oddly enough — that he was holding his weapon one-handed, his stance similar to a traditional fencer. Her keen eyes darted over to his other arm, and quickly found the reason why.

His other hand had been amputated.

With a surge of confidence, Alex sprung forward and got out of the bind, clocking a few more vicious strikes against the Father’s blade before finally disarming the man, the sword flying from his grip like a throwing star and lodging itself in a nearby wall. She held her stick near his neck, the loose bolts of electricity singing his skin. Turning toward her fellow agents, she blew off a stray hair that had fallen across her face and glared at them with a cocky, triumphant visage, relishing in her solo victory against the notorious criminal.

"ENOUGH!" Macy screamed. At the word of their anointed one, the cultists froze, ceasing abruptly in their assault. The conflict dissipated as quickly as it had begun.

Sidestepping the bruised and battered combatants, Macy strode over to Sinclair, still cradling the unconscious Jerry. All around the room, eyes hung on her in anticipation.

She stared down at the defeated bird, considering if she should just grab Max and run away from all this.

The macaw’s feathers twitched weakly, its wicked claws grasping faintly at the air.

She thought about it long and hard, glancing at Max, who seemed flustered from the recent quarrel.

On one hand, this might be the perfect opportunity for an escape. On the other… where would she even go? Would the ‘Meggies' even take her in after her involvement with the cult? And was it really worth the risk of Jerry waking up and sending a witch hunt after her?

She let the idea slide, fear lingering unpleasantly in her mind. Ar the very least, Jerry hadn’t been keen on the conflict. Perhaps rousing him and getting two feuding parties to cooperate would be the best option for now. Bending down, she stroked the bird’s small head, attempting to wake him up. The bird stirred, vacant eyes staring up at Mach.

"Almighty Jerry?" Sinclair muttered softly. Jerry said nothing. Like an ordinary parrot, he cooed quietly.

"Jerry, you're ugly," Max taunted put of nowhere. The Followers gasped, but their shock quickly turned to Jerry as he continued to stare blankly, making no response to his remark.

"Woah… nothing! Alex, whatever you did, I think you turned its brain off."

Reaching for his sword, Father Bluebird recovered from his place on the ground and loomed over to Alex.

If a mere look could kill, Alex would have died on the spot.

"Under normal circumstances, I would've either impaled or beheaded you, maybe even both; but you can see that I'm currently missing something," he said waving his hand-less arm. "So all I'm going to ask you to do is to get out."

"Way ahead of you. You freaks can deal with your own issues." Alex opened the front door into Level 0, beckoning Max and the other operatives to follow.

"Wait!" Macy cried desperately. She stretched her hand out toward the agents, who had already begun to file out the door. Alex glanced backward at them, raising an eyebrow.

"I know this has been rough, but I’ve seen what that void can do. It's growing bigger by the day, and we can't just ignore it until it consumes our whole room. Please, help us."

Alex stared back at her coldly, eyeing her blue robes with disdain. She opened her mouth to deny her request and continue out the door. Before she did so, however, she turned to Max, who nudged her with pathetic pleading eyes. Alex had no clue how they knew each other, but it was clear that he didn’t want to leave his friend behind again. She sighed, still infuriated by Sinclair’s treacherous deceit. Yet, as much as she hated to admit it, her sympathy for her friend outmatched the hate she had for the FOJ.

"Where is it?" she muttered reluctantly, motioning her fellow operatives back through the door.

Macy heaved a sigh of relief.

"Sinclair, Father Bluebird, watch Jerry in case he wakes up,” Macy ordered. “I'll show them the void." She beckoned Max, Alex, and the other agents forward, and they followed her into the hallways of the lounge. As they rounded the corner, the sight that greeted them left them all in shock. The void had, by now, extended halfway into the room, couches sticking bizarrely out of the inky black wall.

"Oh goodness. This doesn't look good," Max said in awe.

"Yep, and it's growing. A few weeks ago it had pretty much just replaced the back wall. Now, half the room is gone. Sinclair was the first to notice the movement, but we all just thought she was having another episode. Now, we’re kinda starting to realize this is actually a problem."

"I've never seen anything like this. When did it start?" Alex asked.

"When I first got here, Sinclair was bringing Jerry, Father Bluebird, and a couple more of our guys to take a look at it. I'm assuming it must've started right around then. As for how it started, Sinclair still thinks you M.E.G. agents did this. Do you know anything about that?" Macy shot Alex a worried look, secretly hoping she had an answer.

"Well, I don't have all-access credentials, so there's always the possibility that the higher-ups accidentally did something and tried to cover it up. But personally, I've heard nothing about a growing, black void."

"Did you try touching it, or throwing something into it?" Max asked curiously.

"How do you think Father Bluebird lost his hand? Whatever goes in, doesn't come back out," Macy replied. She grabbed one of Jerry's golden perches, and poked the end of it into the void. As she pulled it back out, the portion which had made contact with the void was gone. The agents gasped to see that the metal had been sliced like butter in only a second.

"This is bad." Max rubbed the newly flattened end of the perch in surprise. He half-expected it to be warm like it had melted off, or cold after being in pure void, but it was simply… nothing. It was a clean, sharp break, smooth to the point of being wholly unnatural.

"We should report this. This is really bad," one of the other agents chimed in.

"Do you think we could find Base Gamma on Level 3? We might be able to portal there through the front door. I've seen Sinclair do that a few times," Macy suggested.

"No no no. We can't file an official report yet. If they are trying to cover something up, and we flag this off as a third-party, we could get involved in something… and trust me, it will not be pretty. And even if it turns out there they are actually clueless about it, the underseers are gonna stick their noses all into this and declare your room a deadzone or something. Verne and his prying research staff will be crawling all over this in a matter of minutes, putting all of you guys out of a home. For now, we need to see if we can figure this out ourselves." Max replied.

“Lovely. Now we’re gonna have to hunker down in this madhouse.” Alex groaned.

“I’ll go prepare a room for each of you,” Macy replied. Sinclair and Father Bluebird would hardly be pleased with the offer, but with Jerry floored, they’d be forced to respect her as their superior. Being the “anointed one” came with privileges.

The operatives strode back into the main room where most of the Followers remained, huddling over their dumbed-down master. Sinclair walked up to the two, a tad more calm than usual. Her long, greasy hair waved behind her as she approached them.

“Hey guys, so uh… no hard feelings about the whole Snackrooms rampage.” She rubbed her arm sheepishly. “You guys are either really clueless or really good actors. I’ve been studying this void thing for weeks and I don’t get it. There’s nothing on your database about it, no books, no people who know about it, nothing. It just appeared. My bad…” Sinclair gave them a concerned look, seeming genuine for once.

“Don’t worry about it. As much as I hate having a knife inches away from being plunged into my neck, I’ve pretty much gotten used to it. Cop training is brutal.”

“Ah, so you’re a cop too? Just like Macy?”

“At this point ‘was’ is probably the better word. I’ve kinda come to terms with the fact that I’m not getting out of here.” Max shrugged. “So, if I may ask, how did Macy become, like…” Max shifted uncomfortably, struggling to find the right words, “…your, uh… leader?”

“She just showed up out of the blue. Father Bluebird found her hiding behind the couch. She would’ve died if Jerry didn’t stop him from slicing her neck open.”

Max’s heart dropped. A chill went up his spine as he imagined the thought of Macy dying. If things had transpired differently, he probably wouldn’t have ever even known.

“Geez.” He rubbed his temples. The exhaustion from the whole ordeal was just beginning to set in. Sinclair motioned for Max to follow strolling onto a nearby couch. The two of them flopped down, watching the agents and cultists alike streaming busily by. Alex had wandered off somewhere, probably bossing the operatives with some trivial detail or another.

“And so when Macy showed up… that was around the time you guys found the… void?” Max continued.

“Yeah. After she was anointed the Chosen One, I started performing extensive performing tests on the void with what few resources we had for this kind of thing. Hopefully you guys will have better luck with all your fancy, newfangled junk.”

“That was the plan. Macy’s preparing a few rooms for us right now so we can stay for a few days. You interested in helping?”

Sinclair folded her arms, and leaned back against the sofa placidly.

“As much as I’d love to say no, it’s for the best.”

“Alright then. I’d say we take 5 for today, and then take a crack at it tomorrow.” Max sighed. “It was a long way down here, and I'm beat.”

Void Experiment #1: Firesalt

Okay, this is Max Blackfield writing. Our first experiment — throwing a whole pound of Firesalt into the void — was a failure. Half of the explosion went right through the void, while the other half heavily damaged the room. We waited for a day to see if the rate of the void’s growth would slow down or speed up, but we didn’t notice any differences. Sinclair was able to figure out that the void moves between 10-50cm per day. The rate didn’t seem to change at all after we measured using the length of what was left of the room. For the next experiment, we’re going to go a little more heavy duty and attempt to throw a deuclidator at it.

Void Experiment #2: Deuclidator

Our next experiment was putting a deuclidator right in front of the void. This experiment yielded more interesting results than the prior. Upon activation, the void actually receded slightly. It revealed parts of what it had consumed, except for the fact that they were turned into black and crispy husks of what they used to be. We left it on for the entire day, which seemed to work initially, but after it ran out of battery, the void to move again as normal. This may be important to stopping this. Tomorrow, we’re going to try liquid pain.

Void Experiment #3: Liquid Pain

For this experiment, we attempted to splash the void with a whole bottle of liquid pain. Our intention was to see if this would cause a reaction, possibly proving if the void is alive. I know that doesn’t sound likely, but… you can never be too sure with The Backrooms, I suppose. The liquid pain didn’t seem to have any effect on the void, just swallowing it up like any other old object. We’re going to perform another sentience test in a second with a Scaraback. I’ll put it on the next page.

Void Experiment #4: Scaraback

This is by far the most interesting result we’ve had so far. Alex was holding the Scaraback just in front of the void. Upon activation, she began to hear a loud, piercing scream in her ear. The screaming didn’t stop until I intervened and deactivated the Scaraback. We tried this again, this time with Sinclair as the holder, but this time it had no noticeable effects whatsoever.

Tomorrow’s experiment is likely going to be the most dangerous.

Void Experiment #5: Black Bottled Lightning

This experiment took a few days due to the major safety precautions we had to take. This stuff is incredibly dangerous. Once we made sure everyone was out of the way, I went in with a full hazmat suit and opened a bottle of Black Lightning in front of the void. The lightning shot out quickly and spread all over the wall of black void, zapping and crackling as it did went. This lasted for a few minutes before it eventually burnt out. For three whole days, the void didn’t seem to move at all, remaining dormant. Electrical charges in the air were also unnaturally high in close proximity to the void. It’s the fourth day now, the void has just begun moving again at its normal rate.

“Hey Max, are you done documenting the lightning experiment?” Alex asked. Max sat next to her on a couch in the main room scribbling furiously into his notebook.

“Yep, just finished. So, it looks like the Deuclidators and Bottled lightning can stop the void from moving, Firesalt and Liquid Pain had no effect, and the Scaraback has only made us question even more if the thing is alive. Overall, it’s a net gain I’d say.”

“That’s great. Though, I did wanna discuss something with you in private,” Alex replied. Max looked up from his notebook quizzically.

“What’s up?”

“I’m starting to have second thoughts about this whole ‘not telling the rest of the M.E.G.’ thing I was saying the other day.” Alex leaned in, speaking in a hushed tone.

“What do you mean?”

“In the two weeks it took us to perform those experiments, the void has almost consumed the entire room now. At this rate, the entirety of Jerry’s room will probably be consumed in a few months months. This may sound a little drastic, but I’m beginning to think we may need to evacuate these guys to Level 11.” Alex glanced furtively behind her, hoping that nobody was eavesdropping.

“Are you sure? I mean, loads of folks in the FOJ are considered armed and dangerous by the higher-ups, there’s a chance some of them could even get killed just for stepping foot into M.E.G. dominant territory, especially if we pass through 6.1 first.”

“Yes, yes, I’m aware. As much as I hate them, though, they’re still just Jerry’s victims, and we can’t leave them here to die. At least they’ve got a shot if they come with us. One way or another, letting them stay is cruel. For all we know, this thing might just be waiting to pounce. Any day now, it might just speed through the room and kill us all before we can even blink.”

The pair turned to peek at the inky black wall just down the corridor. It was visible from where they were sitting now, though it hadn’t been just a few days ago. The thing continued to creep forward, encroaching upon the room at an imperceptibly slow pace, its unbroken darkness consuming the walls and floor ever so slowly.

They both shuddered.

“We can’t stay here much longer.” Alex’s voice carried a rightful note of urgency. “The best thing to do may just be to relay this information to one of the higher-ups and possibly work on building a machine to stop it. If we can talk to the Backrooms Robotics… maybe they could design a cannon that shoots bottled lightning every few days… or some kind of massive Deuclidation-field generator or something. We may actually be able to contain this within Jerry’s room.”

Max chewed on the end of his pen, contemplating her words. A chill ran down his spine as he imagined the void appearing out of nowhere in front of him, swallowing him whole in milliseconds.

“You’re right. We need to evacuate. We’ll have to talk to Macy about this — she’s the most reasonable one here.

“No need, I heard all of it.” Macy stepped in through the front door, revealing her presence.

“Where were you?” Alex asked.

“On a quick run to The Electrical Station to grab some supplies. As you pointed out, Followers are less welcome in places like The City, so we tend to stick to The Empty Office or The Electrical Station for our groceries and supplies. So, you’re thinking we need to evacuate this place?” Macy asked.

“Well, you heard us, didn’t you? The void is unpredictable. For all we know, it could randomly decide to show up on this side of the wall and corner us until we get consumed by it,” Max reached behind him to tap on the wall behind him with his knuckle.

“Well, I-I just…” Macy stammered.

“Look, I understand your little bird cult is important to you, but your lives are far more valuable than… this.” Alex waved her arms around the room. “If you all want to stay here and die, be my guest, but I can guarantee you that we won’t be sticking around much longer.”

Macy pondered for a moment before replying, soaking in Alex’s words. “Give me some time to think. I’ll let you know within a few hours. I’m going to go see if Jerry well enough to talk, as much as I don’t like being alone with him.” Macy sighed, and walked past them and into the a hallway.

Macy opened the door to her room to see a tired-looking Jerry. He was sat on a small little blue pillow on Macy’s desk, his feathers ruffled and his eyes glazed over. “Hey, are you up for a chat? We gotta talk about something.”

“I will… try. My speech… no perfect… yet,” Jerry mumbled slowly. He had been recovering for the 2 weeks since the splash, and though he was mostly back to normal, his speech was still somewhat garbled.

“The, uh… Meggies… have been performing the experiments on the void, and they’re talking about a possible evacuation of the Followers to The City.”

“Evacuation? Are them crazy?” Jerry exclaimed.

“They,” Macy corrected.

“They,” Jerry repeated. “Going to city is suicide for us.”

Mach explained what Alex had said, but the bird stayed obstinate.

“Why should we trust Meggies? Sinclair are convinced they caused this. They is leading us to trap maybe,” Jerry slowly squawked, his speech slurred.

“Sinclair is, yeah. Normally, I would be more inclined to agree with her, but I’ve known Max since we were children. I thought he was dead for weeks, and I… I can’t leave him again.” Mach crouched down to look her feathered friend in the eye.

I also can’t, in good conscience, leave you all here to die. Please Jerry, we have to let them handle it,” Macy pleaded. Jerry sighed.

“No,” said Jerry.

Macy didn’t give up. The bird was stubborn, but she was more stubborn still. It took an embarrassingly inordinate amount of begging, but he gave in at last. Staring up at his Anointed One and her gilded blue float, he relented.

“So be it. I will… try my hardest to defend us, but my strength no fully come back. If I get splashed again, defend others with your life,” Jerry ordered. Macy nodded, helping Jerry up onto her shoulder as she exited the room. As she marched down the hallway, she for all of the Followers to meet in the main room, sitting on the couch or floor as Macy and Jerry took their place in the center.

“As you know, the Meggies who have been staying with us have been looking into the void in the back room as much as possible. Despite the extensive studying, with Sinclair’s help, there is still a lot that we don’t know about it. We’ve all discussed this, and have decided evacuation is the safest thing to do right now.” A ripple of gasps and murmurs emanated from The Followers.

“Where will we go, then?!” one of them exclaimed.

Macy paused for a minute, bracing herself for the reaction she would receive. “The Endless City.”

As she expected, the Followers erupted in an indignant outcry.

“Your job is to do what’s best for us. Going to a level where the majority of people there hate us is not that, ‘Chosen One’.” Father Bluebird retorted mockingly above the din “You’re preventing our deaths by leading us straight to another one!”

“You don’t understand! At this point, we have two options: stay here and be guaranteed a slow, painful death, or take our chances in The City. This void is not a matter to take lightly,” Macy’s tone carried a grave earnestness. “I’m not forcing any of you to come. If you want to stay here, be my guest. Just know, that we will not come back for you when you die. As much as some of us hate the Meggies, they’re the only ones who have any chance at possibly stopping this.”

Mach glanced over at Max, who had been watching the proceedings silently next to Alex on the couch. He nodded encouragingly in tacit approval.

“We are just not big or powerful enough. Jerry, Sinclair, the Meggie agents here, and I too will be leaving tomorrow morning. Anyone who values Jerry and their life is welcome to follow. For now, I suggest you start packing.”

As the crowd dispersed, Macy walked back into the hallway into her room, shutting the door. She sank into the floor, hugging her knees to her chest and exhaled tiredly.

She wasn’t used to being so authoritative.

The next morning, Macy was surprised at the number of Followers she found waiting for her in the main room. A few, according to Sinclair, had fled on their own or refused to leave the place, but a good three quarters of them had taken Macy’s speech to heart. They milled about the hall, bags packed and ready to leave as soon as she said the word.

One individual, however, had yet to be accounted for.

“Where’s Father Bluebird?” Jerry asked.

“Right here.” Father Bluebird walked out from the hallway in his usual garb, shooting a grim glare at the M.E.G. operatives. Max beamed, returning a cheerful wave.

“I thought you were adamant about staying here, old man,” Sinclair snarked.

Father Bluebird snorted in reply.

“Instead of packing, I spent all night finishing a project I’ve been working on, and it turned out very nicely. It seems to have helped me change my mind.” Father Bluebird slowly lifted his right sleeve to reveal the return of previously cut-off hand. He lifted the feathered glove off of it to reveal a fully robotic, metal prosthetic. He wiggled the fingers around, relishing in his handiwork, and glanced over at Alex who was manifestly unimpressed.

“Cool,” she snapped sarcastically.

“Don’t be so flippant, girl. Soon we will have a fair rematch, which will have a much different outcome.” Father Bluebird leered at her evilly under his ridiculous bird-beak mask. Replacing his glove, he leaned against the wall, his blade sticking out from beneath his back.

In spite of his intimidating demeanor, Alex could barely take him seriously in his comical getup.

“Well then! Where to first?” Max asked, clutching the straps of his backpack giddily.

“I’ve mapped out the route. We’ll go back to Level 0, noclip into Level 1, find a hallway with pipes and get to Level 2, find a door that leads to Level 4, and then go through a vending machine to get to-” Alex began to spout, but was rudely interrupted.

“That is completely unnecessary, and nobody understands your weird numbers. Follow me, I know a shortcut.” Sinclair walked to the front door and proceeded to repeatedly open and slam the door shut again and again in quick succession. The M.E.G. agents stared at her in bewilderment as she persisted in the manic, repetitive motion, groaning in frustration as it failed to yield her desired result.

“What are you doing?” Max asked. He looked out the door as it opened, glimpsing into the familiar, mono-yellow rooms of Level 0 each time. After a few more tries, the scene suddenly changed to reveal a long industrial tunnel covered in pipes.

The operatives around ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ while Sinclair rolled her eyes at how many attempts it took to open into Pipe Dreams.

“That’s new. Since when could you do that?” Alex asked.

“Every time you open the door, it opens into a random point of what you know as ‘Level 0’, but one of the doors on Pipe Dreams always opens into here as well. Once in a while, it can be opened from the inside as well. Open and close the door enough times, and you get a nice little shortcut. Even more convenient, a door to The Empty Office is only a few feet down.” Alex nodded idiotically at the new information as Sinclair stepped onto the grey concrete floor of Level 2 and turned back to face the group. “Now come on all, let’s get moving.”

The group: 85 people in all — carefully shuffled down the thin tunnels, with Sinclair leading the way. Together with Macy, Jerry perched silently on her shoulder, Max and Alex followed directly behind. The group moved quickly and quietly, bathed in the stark, white fluorescent lighting and the faint echoes of liquid sloshing in the pipes lining the walls.

Approaching a specific door, Sinclair rammed it open with her shoulder, a cloud of dust flying through the air as it burst open.

“In there,” she commanded, holding the door open for the group. “That should be your ‘Level 4’.”

Alex peered in tentatively, squinting at the hallway beyond, which was obscured by the billowing dust. Next to her, an M.E.G. operative stepped forward to go through. As he passed through the wooden doorframe, he stopped abruptly, halting the rest of the group.

“Gavin, are you okay?” Alex asked, confused. The operative began to tip backward.

Then, all at once, the back half of his body peeled away from the doorframe, falling with a visceral squelch onto the open floor.

Alex screamed in shock as she saw the man’s front side had been sliced clean off, exposing all of his bones and entrails. Blood gushed from the exposed bone and organs.

“What happened?!” Max yelled.

“Get back!” Alex shoved all the other operatives away from the door, now splattered with blood and human viscera. She grabbed a piece of brick off of the floor and tossed through the doorway, watching it suddenly disappear as it passed the threshold.

“The void… it’s expanded beyond Jerry’s room…” Macy muttered in horror.

“You’ve gotta be screwing me right now. That was our only way to The Empty Office! We’ll be here for hours trying to find another exit!” Sinclair screeched in frustration, punching a hole through another one of the old doors in anger.

“Are there any other exits nearby? Anywhere that leads to a safe level?” Alex asked. Sinclair thought for a moment.

“The only one that wouldn’t result in an instant bloodbath is the Terror Hotel, but that’s far from safe or ideal.” Sinclair sighed.

“It’s the only way. Show us where it is,” Alex replied.

As they trudged on, Max remembered reading about Level 5 in the database. The thought of encountering The Beast or his deadly casino rushed through his mind. He never thought he would end up in such a horrible place, but Sinclair was right. It was the best move for the time being.

Sinclair turned the corner and jiggled another doorknob violently until it opened. Carefully, Alex tested the hallway with a brick this time to be certain, and it appeared safe. She stepped in, and led the way with her taser stick erected in front of her as a safety measure. If she ever lost sight of the front of it, she would know before she met the same fate as Gavin. Thankfully, however, a light suddenly emerged from the other side of the doorway. Suddenly, Alex looked around to find herself in an old-fashioned hotel. The rest of the group trickled in through the hallway, passing through a wall consecutively.

Alex looked around the area to assess their new environment, realizing they had entered the hotel’s glorious ballroom of immense grandeur: The Beverly Room. She couldn’t help but admire the beauty.

Max suddenly tapped her shoulder and muttered a quiet “Alex…” in her ear. She looked behind her, and her eyes widened. An array of flashing lights caught her eye as sounds of slot machines echoed throughout the enormous ballroom, which made cathedrals look like an apartment block.

“Of all freaking places in this blasted hotel, it had to be here, didn’t it?” Alex grumbled.

“Well, well. It’s been a while since we’ve spoken to each other, hasn’t it, Jerry?” A deep, British voice spoke behind them softly. Max and Alex turned around to see a humanoid creature with a squid-like head staring at them. Max gasped and stumbled backwards. The beast chuckled as it sipped on a cup of tea. “Come now, my friends. Why don’t we catch up a little bit over some tea in my new casino? I can assure you that whatever you wish can be arranged.”

“Why would we ever listen to you, beast?!” Sinclair snarked.

“Because I’m sure you’re smarter than that, no? That is, unless you’d prefer traversing through The Decay,” The Beast replied.

“The what?” Max asked, concerned.

“Come with me.”

The Broken City will continue in Chapter 4

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