Hell. It is just a word. But what does it mean, really? People use it to describe really hard living conditions. “I’ve been through HELL!”, yea right. It is not hell. Even the real hell isn’t hell. Not that you’ve been to the real hell, if it exists anyway, but you know one thing for certain; both human body and mind are extremely flexible when it comes to survival. A person can block out any pain, physical or mental, and survive through anything. What is torture when you don’t feel pain? What is fear when you are not afraid of death? No, it is not hell. However, when a person decides to escape, when enduring or surviving isn’t enough, when a guy has a mission but cannot do it, then he is in hell. The unbearable, unblockable, unstoppable pain of not being able to do anything. Hell, is just a word. And you exactly know what it means.
It is about night time. The operators of the prison doesn’t have enough courtesy to give lighting this deep into the prison but the light leaking from the top level gives you enough sense of time to guess if it is night time or day time. You cannot sleep though, you got a plan. A good night sleep was out of question anyway but especially after deciding to escape, you know you cannot sleep. You simply cannot stop. And after maybe months or even maybe years of searching, interrogating, torturing and planning, you finally got a lead. A genius who makes weapons and tools out of dirt. It might just be some kind of myth but you know you don’t have the luxury of ignoring any leads. You are gonna need something, anything to reach that opening.
There is no way of searching at night time with even the top level being dark, but you know these parts enough to reach where you need to go. It would be simply easier to rest a little and continue at day time. You just can’t stop. You have to find this “Shepard” guy and see what he got. So, it is finally morning, with light starting to illuminate shapes around you just barely, and you are about to reach the point. The cr.pbags you interrogated didn’t say squat about any traps or such (well why would they, you have killed and eaten them after you were done and they knew that you would) but you are smart enough to guess that this guy would be a hard target to capture. Especially if he really have weapons and tools. His nest being in one of the darkest corners, supports your worries. With these worrying thoughts wiggling in your mind you came to the entrance of the area you were looking for. The reason for this place being so dark is that it is mainly a long corridor with only one entrance. So as you walk inside, the visibility goes down sharply from barely visible to impossible to see. But it wouldn’t matter for you anyway, you have to go in. With mental preparation, for anything, you put your right foot into the darkness.
It seemed like a good idea to just stick to the left wall of the corridor and find your way in by touching. Something feels different though. The rancid smell changed to more of a metallic smell, somewhat feeling cleaner. There is something different, that’s for sure. And the noises. You would always hear little scratches, metallic grinding sounds or anyone coming close, and you expected to stop hearing most noises since you expected no one to be in here other than Shepard. That is not the case. It looks like the entrance is at a focal point of sounds of the prison and everything echoes through the walls. Unfortunately, this will make it a lot harder to find this guy and protect yourself against the traps. Fortunately for you, being in the dark for so long tends to increase the effectiveness of your ears. You still can differentiate most sounds and that is good, right?
You move slowly, really slowly. You feel empty spaces on the wall now and then. Your best guess is they are rooms. So it is a good idea to just stop and listen inside, making sure nothing is moving. The most important thing is to be patient. You learned enough of that in your training. You cannot rush through such a delicate operation, or you will blow it. You cannot tell the time for sure but you already passed 3 rooms, so he (or maybe she, who knows) must be close. And it also means that if there are traps, they are close too… You have to be careful, and again, you have to be patient.
Suddenly, you hear something. Brushing of metals, you definitely heard it. Was that from outside? But what if it wasn’t? What should you do, wait and listen? If you cannot see him, he cannot see you either. He shouldn’t be able to. But what if he has a tool for that? Maybe he made it. Maybe found it here or brought it with him down here? There were many varieties of that kind of gear in the army. What if you stopping to listen gives him a chance to jump on you? But again if he can see, you wouldn’t have much of a chance anyway. Here it is again! What is that? It’s like a tiny clinging noise. Damn this darkness, you can’t see anything at all! Next time you hear something, you’re gonna throw that hand-made axe of yours. You should get down immediately after throwing that. Making noise might give away your position too. Now your hand tightly holding the axe, your every muscle flexing, you listen… Nothing, nothing, and more nothing… And then you hear the metallic scratch again and you throw your axe with all the power in your muscles! Even before it hits something, you are already on the ground, waiting for a scream or something, anything. The axe hits metal and falls down again with a metallic sound. And you still wait… And then, the most awful sound you can hear in your life, the click of a gun or a rifle most probably, getting ready to fire. You cannot move now, it’s over. You are on the floor, on your chest, and a weapon is on top of you, ready for discharge. It is all over for you.
“Get up”. You hear the words even though it was a whisper, but it takes some time to sink in. Why are you alive? That is a damn good question. You get up slowly with your hands up instinctively. Not like you have a choice anyway. “I wonder, what were you doing in somewhere so dark?”, it is a male voice, that much is clear. Although it is hard to guess the age. Middle aged maybe? Might be older. “I’ve never seen anyone coming this much inside before. Well, except me of course. You are the first one and I can’t actually understand why…”, you feel a kind of cockiness in his voice. He seems too surprised in himself not knowing your reason to be here. It is also like he missed hearing his voice so much that he doesn’t even care if you answer or not. Your interpretation is that he feels like remembering something beautiful that he thought he forgot. You know the feeling, but it shouldn’t be your focus while you have a gun directed at you! “Shepard?” you make out, your voice husky and guttural from rarely speaking. He answers immediately, “Turn around.”. When you turn, you see two shiny balls looking at you. His eyes are not normal. Now it makes sense why he would be here, in the dark. It might be some type of glasses or it might be his actual eyes. “Why are you here?”, he asks with a demanding, authoritarian voice. You don’t know what to tell, but you don’t seem to have any other choice than the truth. “Escape…”, your voice seems to be coming back little by little, “I will escape this place”. How much you would want to see the expression on his face right now. Surprise? Joy maybe? Probably he feels sorry for you for even considering escaping this place. But again, if you are at the bottom, there is no way other than up. He looks at you without blinking (again, if those things are his eyes) for a long while. It doesn’t matter. You will get what you need from him. There is no other way. You will have what you need for this prison break.
Did he just say OK? Did you hear it right? You said you want to escape… and he said OK? “I understand. You’re gonna need my help. Not just my tools, you’re gonna need MY help”. What does he mean? And why would he help you if that is the case? Something is fishy here. He doesn’t wait for a response from you and continues, “You don’t know anything about upper levels boy. You were brought here in a completely enclosed prison ‘Cage’, as they call it. Me? I know a lot of things. Just like I know how to find cables and metal plates and other things you need to make gadgets. Even weapons like the one I’m holding right now. All you need is an energy source, and the innards of inmates work fine enough for that. Again, only if you know how to make it work.”. He stopped talking for a couple of seconds, never taking his eyes of you. It is like he gave you some time to think through what he said. And it was exactly the right thing to do. The more you think, the more it made sense. He is going to help you escape because he wants to escape ‘with’ you. And yes, you will escape this place, nothing can stand in your way, but you will need some help.
There is something still doesn’t fit though. The way he talks, there is a kind of trust in his voice. He probably understood how determined you are from you being here, and he seems smart enough to sense it even more from your posture and from the way you talk, but it sure looks like there is something more. And his next words bring more questions than they bring answers. “I also know who you are, colonel. Colonel Aiden Berg, infiltration specialist, hero of the battles of Griswald. If there is one single person who can escape this place, that is you my boy. That is why I’m gonna help you, and you will help me escape with you in return.”. His angle is out in the open now. “This is a one-time offer. If I’m not coming with you, you are leaving my palace only with your life, nothing more. And if I see you around once again, you will be a piece of meat for those animals out there to eat. You’re gonna need my help, dear boy, and you will have to take me with you.”.
This is it. The bottom line. You don’t know anything about this guy. You even have your doubts about him being ‘completely’ human. And how does he know you? Who the hell is he really? He is dangerous, that is obvious, but he is dangerous to whom? He is also right, you don’t know anything about upper levels, let alone the top level. It might be crawling with guards. There must be guards, damn it. This guy might be your only chance for a clean run-away, assuming he won’t betray you before you are out. But he doesn’t necessarily your ‘only’ chance. You can always find some other way. Maybe it takes longer but you can make it up as you go and you wouldn’t have to deal with someone who might just shoot you from behind. It is time to choose ‘my boy’. Are you going to trust Shepard, or you gonna say no and find another way?