Closing Time by Yessian

Category:Maximum Ride
Genre:Horror, Suspense
Characters:Gazzy/The Gasman
Published:2011-11-05 20:40:38
Updated:2011-11-11 22:29:10
Packaged:2021-05-07 02:37:43
Summary:Volunteering to do a final check of the deserted School facility for demolition in the morning, the Gasman encounters old memories, not as dead as he'd thought when he'd decided to bury them. Critique requested.

Table of Contents

1. Start
2. Inventory
3. Welcome Home
4. Hollow
5. Access

1. Start

Title: Closing Time

Summary: Volunteering to do a final check of the deserted School facility for demolition in the morning, the Gasman encounters old memories, not as dead as he'd thought when he'd decided to bury them.

Genres: Horror/ General / Suspense

Rating: T

A/N: This story was originally supposed to be a one-shot, the very one to start off the Gas-centric story spree for 2011 (again, from the "Uprising" verse, where he's much older) ; and then, after a lot of thought on the topic, I finally decided to cut it into multiple, if very short chapters. Consider it a late Halloween piece...!

Warnings: some harsh language and disturbing imagery/moments. Remember what I said about "Uprising" being the most serious piece?

I might have told a lie.

Chapter 1: Start

The School.

The wind blew hard on the night of my final visit to this place, moaning through the ugly, blacked-out, gaping ruins of the condemned facility I'd been raised in. Approximately 262.4 square feet, a tiny town of decaying warehouses, laboratories, offices, and rusting radio towers. The same sense of foreboding I've had since the day we were brought back, churned in my stomach, even though I knew that there was nothing more in there to hurt us further. It was dead now.

Just an empty, ugly shell.

I stood before the front gate to the Warehouse Ring, one of at least two more sections I had to inspect before demolition in the morning, hands turning cold, and not from the off-kilter climate. The storm clouds were moving into a white dusk, the kind you know aren't full of rain, but rather, full of lead; nasty and heavy and disgusting as they take over the sky, and the one last blotch of dying sun. The shadows tilted.

No sounds from the gaping emptiness before me from the living, and yet the can of spray paint in my frozen hand felt more like a gun than anything. A beeping entered my ear from the updated Bluetooth. "Captain? Are you there?"

I cleared my throat. "Yeah, this is the Gasman. Looking at it now."

It was looking at me.

Twenty years of pain and terror. Maybe fifty more after by consequence. But you'll be one less smudge of dirt to wash off my skin.

The discarded, tattered tarps flapped in the wind, eerily warm for an autumn nightfall.

"It's 8 PM. You have 'til 8 AM. Go in - "

" - Cast my marks, account for anything missed by the previous crews," I recited, stepping forward, the gravel crunching beneath my boots. "Skip it, Chief."

Looking at me. Expecting me. Welcoming me back.

You don't scare me anymore.

The voice on the other end sighed. "Please account also for any additional evidence. I know that this is hard for you - "

" - I volunteered."

" - All the same, please keep in mind your time limit, your efficiency, and safety protocols. You will have little to no reception the further inside you go. If you are in trouble, activate your beacon, and leave it running; we will send back-up to you. CSM is behind you."

"I'm sure."

Couldn't take my eyes off the damned thing. The only living being for several miles, on my own, about to enter the nightmare of my childhood for the last time. No communications, no room to fly, nothing at my aid but a can of paint, a flashlight, and a gasmask.

I don't think I've felt more vulnerable.

The doorless entrance loomed closer.

"...Anything else?"

"...Good luck, Gas."

I ended the transmission, and took a breath...


...And let the mouth of the monster swallow me whole.

2. Inventory

Title: Closing Time

Summary: Volunteering to do a final check of the deserted School facility for demolition in the morning, the Gasman encounters old memories, not as dead as he'd thought when he'd decided to bury them.

Characters: Gasman

Genres: Horror/ General / Suspense

Rating: T

Chapter 2: Inventory

Stepping into the gloom was like entering a mauseleum. Though equipped with pretty good nightvision, I stopped and did my standard check of gear:

1) Utility belt, containing super-small containers of compressed, luminescent paint (an Itex invention) and dispell gases (my own patent) ;

2) Two flashlights: one, a large pistol-grip with big and medium LED settings, plus blacklight and UV; the other, a smaller, more subtle pen-light with a thermal scope (again, Itex inventions) ;

3) A collapsible gas-mask (my own invention);

4) Earpiece and standard throat mic, for just in case, equipped with a powerful homing beacon;

5) a compressed software drive with USB connections, in case I find any internal data;

6) backpack with med-supplies;

7) a package of fresh gummy bears from the vending machine in the much nicer, well-lit, annexed Resources Office on the other side of the entire compound.

None of these counting my updated version of the IOTV body armor (AOTV - Avian Outer Tactical Vest), form-fitting, black and green and installed with ballistic insert plates within the padding. Flexible and capable. Max's mom used to say that I looked like a futuristic space-soldier in it.

Well, ain't no comic-book hero.

End Inventory check.

It's quiet.

Bare and dangling wires swung from the busted foam of the ceiling in this hallway. Dust covered every abandoned bit of furniture; mold caked and ccrusted between the busted tiling and whitewash. I flipped on the pen-light, afraid to disturb the shadows, and it cut through like a bright knife, forty feet ahead, on some shiny surface that glanced back like an eye from the haunting corridor.

This place was a death-trap, no doubt about it. As though it could sense its own demise, in twelve hours time, and every fiber of my genetically-mixed being tried to tug me back to the entrance.

So quiet.

No. It's empty. There's nothing here. I fought off the whispering instincts and crouched, shook up a palm-fitting can, and sprayed a large arrow onto a more-intact set of tiles.

It took a moment...and then began to glow green, huge in the lack of light, pointing down this hall. If ever I needed backup - whatever good they would be - at least they wouldn't be able to miss a sign like this one.


I followed it.

3. Welcome Home

Title: Closing Time

Summary: The Gasman does a final check around the deserted School facility before its demolition, and encounters old memories, not as dead as he'd thought when he'd decided to bury them.

Characters: Gasman

Genres: Horror/ General / Suspense

Rating: T

Chapter 3: Welcome Home

Clack, clack. Crunch. Ca-runch. Slowly picked my way through fallen plastic wraps and broken flooring. This was Warehouse 9 of 53, Level A. Hey, might as well start from the top. The purpose of this mission was to simply do a quick check of anything the hazmat, cleanup and demolition crews hadn't counted on. Similarly, it would be good to check those areas for the explosives they've set, and make sure that when they went off, calculations would point them into itself, and not outward.

It being 8:00 PM when I started again, these few buildings on my list were all that remained for me to check - the Warehouses on two levels, the labs. Any place not marked off by the guy in charge of it all on the map.

Warehouses A-E were reserved for or dead.

So Warehouse 9 was no stranger to me.

Each level of the School's facility had its own specific warehouses and accomanying labs, grounds, and offices. Oh yes, I knew it well.

This was where we began.

Deeper into the abyss.


Keep breathing.

The "shiny thing" glancing at the end of the hall under the light turned out to be a sign. My spine tingled. You're exposed. Go home. Get into the light.

I blew on it, scattering dust: WA9. Restricted Access. Personnel Only.

What, I thought, in a moment of cynicism, there were people OTHER than 'personnel' trying to come through here? Like who? The Humane Society? Child Services? The CIA?

Beside the sign hovered an old card-reader. Deactivated now, of course, since all power had been diverted from the building. All magnetic locks and seals, all electric passways, were as open to me as the abandoned, towering Gothic cathedrals a world away. I pushed past the plastic curtains and on the door, which gave into an infitely large space.


The moment I did, a sudden force sucked on the door, sucked the air out of the hallway - the hanging wires reached my way, boneless fingers, shredded tentacles - and I jumped, before realizing that there must be an open window or aperture on the inside. Just a wind-tunnel. Breathe.


I ducked through, and the door slammed shut behind me, echoing off of the ancient rafters.


There were many openings in here, presumably to let the place air-out from the fumes since the last time anyone was here - a lot of toxic stuff, gone to waste, in this place. Great fans dangled with the dusty lights above; empty shelves stood like forgotten steel skeletons.

Time for the bigger light.

Wind stirred the uppermost reaches, blowing more wraps across the floor like ethereal tumbleweeds. The pistol-grip clutched in my left hand, I used the right to spray another arrow on the floor. Like before, it did not at first appear, before slowly emerging a bright, blazing green.

Check. Changed the torch to the other hand and beamed the brights along the furthest wall in front.

My jaw clenched.

Dog crates.

All empty dog crates, stacked and piled along it. Hundreds of disused polymers and plastics tossed alongside rusted oxygen tanks, a small mountain reaching far above my head.

My legs refused to move. My eyes refused to look away. How many children had you "collected" by that time, huh, guys? How many, Jeb? How many, ter Borcht? How many Anne, Dr. Janssen, the rest of you?

How many doubled over in the dark and cried in pain for help that would never come?

How many lay in their own sick and stench with no one to attend to them?

How many died in these cages for your cause?

Avian vision zoomed in on the tags clipped to the crate doors. R-Type B. R-Type D.

R-Type G.

Recombinant Type G. Avian-humans. That could be my cage there, sticking out from the bottom like that. That could be Max's.

It could have been any of ours, once upon a time.

Welcome home.

I closed my eyes to block out the images, but they were coming regardless, about to transport me twenty years back into time. I could already here the long-dead whispers of my suffering neighbors, nameless and forgotten, mumbling and growling and sobbing and whimpering the same.


Radioactive dye, forced down my throat. Blood samples, plasma samples, tissue samples. Sick, always so sick, unable to move for hours -


"Open your mouth."


"Swallow this, and it'll all be over. Promise. Just one more."


"The subject won't comply, sir."

"Hold his jaws."

Crying. Choking. Unable to resist them, holding your head so you can't fight back. No energy left in your limbs. Stomach about to kill you, pain rolling your eyeballs into your own head, 'cause it's all you can do to try and cope.

An eight-year-old, dying so slowly, so confused, so alone.

I switched off the light, purging the memories forecefully from my head. No time for this. I was on a mission here. The place was again plunged into darkness, before another arrow appeared upon the floor.




4. Hollow

Title: Closing Time

Summary: The Gasman does a final check around the deserted School facility before its demolition, and encounters old memories, not as dead as he'd thought when he'd decided to bury them.

Characters: Gasman

Genres: Horror/ General / Suspense

Rating: T

Chapter 4: Hollow

My watch read 20:45 by the time Warehouse 9 was cleared. I'd missed nothing - checked containers to make sure they were empty and mostly harmless, the vacant body-drawers where Itex kept their "expired" subjects. A large green circle with an 'X' in the center, marked the floor: date at the top - October 17; nothing salvageable found on the left, G-zero; no living persons on the right, zero; no dead at the bottom, zero.

10-17-16. G0-0-0.

'G' for Gasman.



I snooped and felt along the walls to start planting marks on where each and every charge had to be set tomorrow, now that the main part was done. So far, so good - little yellow x's everywhere, so they'd know where to set 'em. Normally, I'd do this part myself, but policy was policy; protocol was protocol. Backup would do it at 700 hours, not me this time.

Sigh. At least I'd get to watch.


Presently, I looked up from my spot to the window. A square cut of dim, dirty lavender sky, the only light to see - and yet, a light that did nothing to dispell the gloom, did not reach the corners of the storage unit, of my troubled mind.


Beyond the broken window curled the rusted razor-wire mesh around three rings of barbed and electric fencing, surrounding the compound. Around it, other warehouses, and on the other side, the silhouettes of smaller, squat buildings. The labs. My next target.

An uncomfortable prickling creeped between my feathered shoulderblades.

"Wanna play, piggy, huh, do ya? You're it!"


Leading the Erasers after terrified chimps and farm animals on those grounds. I remember watching from the upper floor of those labs, trying to block out the terrified screams of the animals down there, amplified by hawk-hearing.

Remembered being stuck in a cage in the middle of that very same compound, too scared to move as the Super-Eraser literally chewed his way through the bars to get at us. To help us, ironically enough. But it was hard to get the mauled face out of my thoughts.

I took a step back from the window, a step back from the past. It's funny how when you're alone and not surrounded by people or things to do, how free and rebellious those thoughts like to run around.


An echo so faint, I almost thought I'd imagined it.

The floor behind me was hollow.

Startled, I shuffled backwards, aimed the light at the spot. Below my sign was a section of floor marked with the black-and-yellow 'hazard' stripes you'd see on a loading dock, not uncommon here - I'd come across at least two others exactly like it during the search. But no, there - so small I'd missed it - a thin, vertical line running straight down the middle and between my boots. So thin, perfectly concealable to anyone's first glance. My eyebrows shot up. A-ha.

Curiosity momentarily overcoming nerves, I placed one boot onto it, and cautiously applied pressure.

The whole thing bounced, like a massive scale. I stood back again and stared at it.

WELL. Look at that.

I activated the Bluetooth. "This is Gasman. I think I found something."

Momentary silence, followed by crackling static. "Roger that, Captain. What is the nature of your discovery?"

I almost rolled my eyes. That would be Jackson, talking so formally on the other end like that. CSM, and the government, had thought it necessary to have me in command of a special unit during the war when I wasn't volunteering for stupid, dangerous projects like this one.

And "what war", you may ask?

I'll get to that later. Trust me, you'll cherish every moment I don't mention it while you wait for the explanation.

So, priorities. I switched from the pistol-grip to the smaller pen-light, and crawled around the edges, looking for any clues. At each corner, looked like a circle cut into the concrete. How could I have missed this? "Hold on." Need a cro-bar...ah, well. Stuffing the light into my cheek so I could have my hands free, I scratched and clawed at the cricles until their latches, looking like rigid 'T's, stood upright - and began to twist.

"Come in, Captain. I repeat: what is the nature of your discovery?"

"Mmmlph." Spat it out and stopped twisting long enough to talk. "It's an elevator. And I bet you eighty bucks that your crews didn't even notice them."

An Itex-style freight elevator.

"...Say again, Captain? An elevator?"

Sat back on my haunches, until my black-and-white wingtips brushed the dirty floor. Was that fear or excitement, pushing my pulse, throbbing in my veins, or some sick mix of the two? "Yeah..."

I swallowed, unable to suppress an ironic smirk. It was clever.

"There's a whole other level below this one."

5. Access

Title: Closing Time

Summary: The Gasman does a final check around the deserted School facility before its demolition, and encounters old memories, not as dead as he'd thought when he'd decided to bury them.

Characters: The Gasman

Genre: Horror/General/Suspense

Rating: T

Chapter 5: Access

How the Itexicon Freight Elevator works:

With their infinite supply of sadistic imagination and questionably massive amount of funds, Itex put their heads together and came up with the simplest way they could think of to move large quantities of supplies, be they tools, parts, or multiple, mutant-occupied crates at one time.

The normal way this worked was, a worker would push a full trolley onto a marked section of seemingly-normal floor. The pressure pads would detect it before it got there, and the trolley would then sit on the lift itself. The clamps, one for each corner, acted as ten-foot bolts into the ground, and would have to be unlocked to move the lift at all. This was typically done at the start of the day, so everyone could use it without having to unlock it each time.

Still following? Great. From there, the pressure-pad would raise the guard rails, lower you down electronically, and spin something like a windlass in the middle of the lift. Equipped with air-brakes.

Voila. Simplicity. Push item onto floor, floor sinks down, instant access-tunnel to wherever you needed to go or be. The floor would simply sink from sight.

Of course, since there was no more power to the building, the only way to get down to the sub-level was manually.

The labs would have to wait.

The two bolts I'd been turning had finally reached their limit, a foot and a half out of the floor.

Jackson protested as I searched around the deserted unit for a bar. "Captain, it is highly-recommended that you let me send in backup," he said firmly. I tugged back on a bit of fallen shelving, listening to the metal groan as it was wrenched away from the contraption as easily as pulling the lid off a tuna can. The surge of effortless strength felt good, reassuring - I've shredded, popped, and folded tougher SUV's. "They have the supplies necessary, and we don't know what's down there. Plus, you'll likely have no reception - "

Wrrrrrrrnnnnnk. "Where's Donahue? The guy I talked to last time?" I grumbled, and straightened out the steel pole between my hand, boot, and floor. There. The windlass had holes, possibly for spokes in the event of an emergency. Maybe this could work.

"Sir," Jackson kept on, getting a little testy himself at my attitude, "There is no guarantee either, of your beacon being able to broadcast from that depth. And Agent Donahue will return from break shortly."

I fed the bar through the holes, and stepped over the now freely-bouncing lift to let up the other two clamps. It took a little coaxing, they not being in use for some time, but they eventually turned free from the concrete, one by one. "...Tell him...I won't...go too far. I got this. They're only access-tunnels."

"Wha - no - negative, Captain. You will have NO RECEPTION. AT ALL. You will be ALONE. I'm sending you a team."

Alone, un-armed, in the dark, with no idea what to expect.

Didn't THAT sound familiar.

I tested my foot on the lift. Not enough weight to make it sink. The flashlight roved around the storage unit, looking for a sizeable bit of cargo to activate the lock on the windlass.


You have no idea what's down there.

Or worse, I might be trapped down there with no way to call for help: every bird, and every human's, worst nightmare.

Funny how reality will ruin any smidgeon of euphoria about something dangerous. I sat back on my haunches, my graying white wingtips sweeping the floor. Something below.

"A crowd is not appreciated. This is what I do, Agent." Since I was eight-years-old.

Further silence, followed by an exasperated sigh into my earpiece that made it crackle. "...Since you will be virtually on your own down there, AT LEAST audio-record everything you see. Any evidence or interesting items, pack them and log 'em. Your beacon and your uplink here to us will be useless," he conceded flatly. "I trust you have extra batteries?"

Snort. Like ammunition. "Lighten up, Jackson. You're making me nervous." I cast my eyes in the direction of the assorted, molding pile of empty crates. "Gasman out."

I severed the connection. And though I didn't like Jackson, (and he knew it,) I did feel a bit of guilt grappling with the excitement creeping at my scapulars...uh, wing odd combination. He didn't deserve my frustration. I really should be nicer to him, to people in general.

'Cause It might be the last time I ever hear from him, or anyone, again.


I spent the next five minutes shoving and pulling and pushing around debris into the discarded containers, trying to get them to about forty pounds each. The scale needed to be at 200+ for the lift to go down, and though yours truly, at six-foot-nothing, a sixteen-foot wingspan, and wearing the AOTV plus backpack, barely amounted to the weight of the average human male (about 150 - 160 pounds). Yeah, I'm surprisingly very light, for a twenty-year-old.

A twenty-year-old human, anyway. Other programs outside of Itexicon keep telling me that I'm still growing, still trying to balance mass with proportions. Out of all of us in our happy Flock, I'd placed the shortest, just above eye-level to Max's sister, and dwarfed by everyone else's six-foot-plus frames.

I hauled on the last crate, fighting my disgust; looped a coil of old extension-cord around my arm, and jumped up on the lift, thinking of the advantages of being smaller. Eh. It wasn't like I had competition anymore, anyways.

The lift sagged, and the meter at the center creeped toward the ideal-mark. Then came an internal clank, and I began to turn both ends of the pole upon the windlass. The elevator itself finally began to sink.

Here we go.

This was an older model. I remember seeing more updated versions of these, like the ones built under Lendenheim upon my second visit - when automated, they not only sank down, but followed a high-powered track that would take you anywhere you needed to be within moments. This one, just sat thirty feet from ground-level and made you push whatever cargo you had down a set of mostly-straight-forward access tunnels.

The walls of the six-by-ten elevator shaft rose above me as I kept cranking, passing twelve feet. Just the tunnels. Probably nothing down there. It wasn't helping my nerves that I had to lay down the flashlight to keep both hands free.

Twelve feet.



Lower and lower, deeper and deeper beneath the crust of the earth. Not that deep. Almost at thirty.

And shake that uncomfortable feeling that's trying to compare this with a coffin-wench, lowering down the casket into the ground. Ignore the nagging at the back of the skull telling you that those things are one-way trips only, just as enclosed, just as dark, just as terminally silent as this sub-level voyage.

Don't think about not being able to come back up, for whatever reason.

Don't think "buried alive".

Don't think "grave".

The bulging crates and their similarities to said coffins were not helping.


Crrrrnnnnnnnnnnkkkk...wunk. CRUNCH.

The lift stopped at thirty-feet down. I tilted my head back and squinted, for whatever good it would do. I could fly out. No biggie. That's an open space up there, not a closed one.

It's open.

It is.

The chilly breath of the opening beside me captured the rest of my frayed attention. Avian-audio, tuning in to what the eyes could not accurately judge in the pitch: the scrape of the air against sharp walls, concrete and unforgiving. Wind gusting lightly up something smooth, probably the floor of the tunnel itself, squeezed into it by some other open aperture, uneven and clear.

The floor slopes. It only made sense. Quietly (but unsure of why), I untied the extension cord, and wrapped it firmly around the windlass to its external locks on the floor, to be sure some unnatural act of God didn't make it return to the surface without me - then shook up the spray can, and drew a big orange circle onto the lift. With an artistic flick of the wrist, a capital 'G' formed itself in the center.

And then, as an after-thought, the time: 20:54.

The marking burned to life.

And, armed with my flashlights and paint, I stepped off into the throat of the unknown.

"Ding," I muttered.