Saturday, December 27, 2014

Episode 16b- Fortress Twig Continued ...

It had been a few weeks since Ember became trapped in Fortress Twig. In that time, she had gotten to know a few of her fellow workers and explored a little. They worked on the main floor which was actually the second floor. The floor below was where they took breaks, ate and slept. Their food was earned based on the work they performed or their rank, which caused a bit of jealousy among the few regular workers who did little work and instead spent their time gossiping and worried about what others received. Since only a select few were able to go outside, a schedule was set up that gave them a chance to eat and get a few hours of sleep at a time. At their desks everyone was supplied with a strange tasting drink called, Jiza. They were encouraged to drink this to give them extra energy and improve their health, however, like most of the others, Ember chose to drink water instead.

Ember was able to move around freely and could go between the main and lower floor using one of the stairways on either side of the building. In the center, there was an elevator. She was told this took you to the third floor but only the Tri-powers used that floor and those invited up. In the past couple of weeks she had seen small groups of people taken up by their supervisors. They were always excited or curious when invited up but when they returned they were silent, emaciated and their skin grayish. They would shuffle back to their pods like sleep walkers. Usually a few days later, Marla would come, get them and they wouldn’t be seen again. That is when new people would show up to take their empty seats.

The supervisors who escorted the groups up to the third floor seemed unaffected. They would come back smiling and laughing with each other. Whispering as they looked around for the next victims. That is how Ember thought of them. They were victims and she was determined she was not going to be one of them. She would figure out a way out of this place and help as many as she could escape with her.

She quickly learned that the only people on her team she could trust were Crystal and Jessica. Tasha, Anita and Carla spent a lot of time with Greta in her office socializing and conspiring against others. When they weren’t there, they were complaining to Jessica and Crystal or taking one of their many breaks. Bridgett was never included in their group but she seemed to be oblivious and remained a bouncing ray of sunshine. Shamra was the rain to her sun. Ember felt sorry for her. She was always crying and trying to fit in with the others. They would pretend to include her and then belittle her.  Crystal seemed to do more work than anyone else and she was always getting picked on by the others. Still she remained loyal and positive. Jessica also stayed busy, and although everyone seemed to adore her, people were constantly going in her office to complain about others and point fingers when they didn’t finish their work. You could tell the stress of being everyone’s sounding board was wearing her down. Out of all the supervisors, Crystal and Jessica never took groups upstairs. Crystal stayed too busy covering for her team members who didn’t do their own work. Ember got the impression that Jessica’s demeanor was too sweet to handle what happened upstairs, so she avoided that task and left it to those who seemed to relish their power over others.

Ember used every opportunity during the past few weeks to work on her new found gift of mind reading. It didn’t always work, but she discovered that if she looked directly at the person when they spoke she could hear bits of what they really thought or meant. There was a great deal of deception that went on, some with ill intent and some just for survival.

She learned that although Shamra went along with Tasha and cried way too much, that deep down she was just a lost soul with a good heart. She truly cared about others and in a different environment she could have flourished. Tasha of course wanted everyone to think she was perfect and always cheerful. In reality she was extremely insecure and hateful. Ember pitied her because Tasha’s thoughts betrayed that she felt she had to put others down in order to make herself feel better. She walked around talking about the Bible and how pious and religious she was, but her actions belied who she really was. It made Ember wonder what damaged her so much that she had turned into the viper she was. Then there was Carla. Carla wanted everyone to take care of her. She complained about everyone and everything. Her friendship with Greta seemed to be the only thing saving her, although Crystal and Jessica often went to bat for her and tried to make life easier for her. Often sacrificing their own rations for her. She was hard to be around because she never took responsibility for herself and always complained.

But Anita was the one that gave Ember chills. She was soulless, literally. She was very quiet and seemed to keep to herself, but it was obvious she had a hidden agenda and more control over the floor than anyone realized. There was an emptiness to her that sucked the life out of those around her. She was good at hiding it from the others. They others did not realize what evil really lurked behind her quiet demeanor. It was how she manipulated people into doing what she wanted. She always kept her cell phone with her and Ember suspected it was really more than just an ordinary phone. In the one conversation Ember had with her, Anita had given her a satanic bible and told her they should study together. When Ember told her she didn't believe in Satan but did believe in evil, Anita had been offended. She told Ember there was no such thing as right or wrong and that people worried too much about consequences.

Crystal was the one she worried about the most. She only heard kind and loyal thoughts from her. She would get frustrated with herself and her team’s lack of work ethic but she remained supportive of them no matter what was thrown at her. Her team however was not so supportive. While most pretended to be on her side, their thoughts betrayed their true intentions. Tasha, Carla and even Greta were all extremely jealous of her and were plotting against her. Shamra and Jessica were clueless to the plotting but were being pulled into her demise. While Greta thought she was the great mastermind behind all that went on, Tasha was her puppet master and played her like a well-oiled instrument. But what none of them realized was that Anita was the one pulling all the strings. She was crafty and sly. She had orchestrated everyone so that if things went south she would appear innocent and while the other three took the brunt of any fallout.

Ember was becoming frustrated with herself. Patience had never been her strong suit, but she had always been able to find the positives in life. This place brought her down; it drowned positive thoughts and energy. She hated getting caught up in all the drama and deception. So in her free moments she searched for ways to escape but had yet to find any. She thought about venturing to the third floor, thinking there might be a way out there. She knew that was a risk. She didn’t want to get selected for one of the groups. The life force was sucked out of those people and they came back as mindless drones. She also didn’t want to become a supervisor and then have to take others up there. She had to find a way to sneak up without being seen. It was a risk, but she felt she was out of options where she was.

As if someone read her mind, her computer screen flashed and a small black box appeared in the lower corner. Script began filling the box. Ember glanced around and realized no one else noticed. When the script stopped, she read it to herself.

Ember, I believe I can help you escape this place but you must not tell anyone else there

Ember moved her cursor to the box and typed, Who is this? How can you help?

I’m Seth. I don’t know how to explain it, but I am back in your real world. I’m a programmer and I have been able to watch you on your journey. I sent Illustria to you before. I think I can create a rift in that world that will give you an escape. Only… I don’t know where it will take you.

Ember stared at the screen and thought about what this Seth person was offering. It was so tempting before all of this started she would have jumped at the chance. But now she knew more was at stake. She was supposed to learn things from these experiences. Yes, she discovered if she focused she could read some thoughts, but her gut told her there was something more she was to learn from being here.
She began typing back, Hi Seth. I do want to escape this place and it’s okay that we don’t know where I will end up… But I can’t just leave. There are some people here that are good and they will be destroyed. I have to be able to take them with me. I think I am here to help them so I can’t just abandon them. Can you help me save them?

Ember stared at the screen waiting for his reply. She wondered what all he saw and how he was able to see her when there was no other connection to her former world. She wondered if he could contact her family for her. She wondered who was controlling all this.

After what seemed an eternity the script began to flow again in the box.
I don’t know how long I can create the rift for or how many could get through. You would be risking yourself and it may not turn out as we plan, but I can try. I have been able to catch glimpse of where you are and some of the people there. You must be very careful who you trust. There are those not connected to the evil there but many are scared and would betray you to save themselves. I will have to know how many you want to take with you, but don’t say anything to them yet. I will re-open this dialog box when I have some instructions. Be on the look out and be careful.
With that the box disappeared from the screen.
Ember took the time to figure out who she should try to take and if there were any that she could trust to tell. She may have to figure out a way to deceive them into following her. It was not a tactic she was comfortable with, but she was ready to do it if it meant saving them. She knew she must to get Crystal out. Too many were plotting her demise. She felt Jessica and Shamra needed to escape too. There were a handful of others who were recruiters or on different teams that she had sensed a pure heart in. She worked on her list, her thoughts wondering on what he meant by a rift and how it would work. In the meantime she continued entering the names and information of those the Fortress was targeting, hoping that they would be able to avoid what this place had planned for them. She said a protection chant for those she entered. She didn’t know if it would work but they said she was a witch and that’s what witches did in movies and TV, so maybe it would work.
Bridget must have overheard Ember’s chant, because she rolled her seat back to Ember’s desk and asked, “What’s that?”
Ember jumped. “What’s what?”
“That thing you say over and over. I notice you do that when you are entering data and I was just curious.”
Ember stared at Bridget for a moment before answering. She was trying to read her thoughts and see if there was a hidden agenda behind her asking. She heard absolutely nothing and realized that Bridget was guileless. She said and did exactly what she meant. “Do you like it here?” she asked.
Bridget shrugged her shoulders, “Not especially, but it’s not too bad, if you keep to yourself and do the work. I don’t really mind the work although I do wonder about all these people we type in. They all think I’m an airhead, because I just happily do my work. I know more than they realize. Besides, gingers have to stick together, right?”
Ember decided to take a chance and trust Bridget. Maybe the fact that her hair was fiery too, was a sign.
“It’s like a prayer…what you heard. I can’t help but feel bad about entering these people’s names so I say a little rhyme I made up in my head. It’s probably silly, but it’s my way of trying to protect them from this place.”

“It’s not silly at all. I like that. I’ve been watching you. You don’t belong here, but you are blending in pretty well. That’s a good thing. Those that don’t do what they are told get taken upstairs.”
“I’ve seen that. What happens to them? Have you been up there?” Ember asked.

“I have been up there a few times. Once a month they have a gathering and everyone goes up. They make some announcements and give everyone cake. Sometimes small groups are detained and taken into the offices up there. You’ve seen what happens to those. They come back like zombies. The Tri-powers are up there and they use the life force of the ones they drain. They take all their memories and hope, so that they have no will.  The Tri-powers have a small network of ‘managers’ that work among us and take people up who are not meeting expectations, who rebel or who they just don’t like. It is best to try to stay on their good side. Don’t make waves and meet your goals. That’s the only way they will leave you alone. Do what I do, always act happy and obedient and you can stay under the radar. At least, until they decide you work against you because they are bored.” She glanced over at Crystal with a look of sadness.
“Does anyone ever escape?” There, she threw it out there to see Bridget’s reaction. Bridget looked around and laughed as if Ember had said something funny. She then leaned a little closer and said, “Not since I have been here. Be careful, if they suspect you are going to try they will eliminate you.”

She looked deep into Ember’s eyes, “You are going to try, aren’t you?” She didn’t wait for a response, “take me with you and I’ll help. But we have to take Crystal. She won’t last much longer. They have it out for her”
Part of Ember worried, this could be a set-up and part of her was relieved that she may have found an ally.

“I haven’t figured it out yet but I’m working on it. I’m just not sure who to trust.”
“Trust no one. Well, you can trust me, but tell no one of your plans. Especially not Crystal or Jessica. I can get them to come with us. Crystal is too dedicated, and Jessica is too loyal to management. If you tell them, they would tell to try and save you. Their intentions are always honorable, but they are too na├»ve to the evil that surrounds them. Just tell me what you need me to do.” With that she shook Ember’s hand and then grabbed one of her pens. “Thanks, for the pen. Red ink is my fave.” she said loudly, waving the pen as she rolled back to her desk.

The hours passed slowly as Ember anxiously waited to hear back from Seth. Several groups had been taken to the third floor and she was worried that time was running out for those she needed to save.


  1. Oooh - Awesome! The suspense is killing me. Not to the critical part - you should always avoid any form of 'got'. 'had' too if at all possible. That's all I noticed this time around. Wonderful story.

  2. Thanks Anna. That's excellent advice. I didn't even realize how much I used those. I'm going to edit.