Fuller & The Factory Funtime Facility, Act III: Industrial Sabotage
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The elevator came to a gentle stop, its doors sliding open with a pleasant chime. The room it opened to wasn’t so much an office as a control center. Banks of bronze, mechatronic computers lined each wall, with several Funtime Facilitators manning the controls. At the end of the room, in front of the gothic bay window, was a regal looking desk, and at that desk sat a regal looking man.

He was pale, in late middle-age, and had slicked back red hair under a crimson top hat that matched his eyes. He was dressed in an ornate, Victorian-era suit as timeless as The Factory itself. He sat back in his leather chair expectantly, a smugly satisfied smile creeping across his face.

“Squirmin’ Herman,” he chuckled as Fuller stepped into the office.

“Vicious Aloysius,” he replied as stoically as he could manage, idly looking around the room as one might at any other business meeting. “I was expecting one of The Factory’s Foremen to be in charge. Did they roll out some kind of human affirmative action programme to go with this whole Disneyfication process?”

“Still as irreverent as ever, I see,” Aloysius smiled. He reached for a decanter on the far side of his desk and began unscrewing the lid. “Care for some concentrated miasma? Darke sent it as a gift to one of the Foremen, which got him a bit out of sorts since his kind consider gifts a form of socialism. Fortunately, me buying it off him set everything right.”

“That sounds like Percy alright; you never know for sure if he likes you or if he’s just messing with you,” Fuller said as picked up and examined the crystal glass. “Kind of you to offer, but I can’t stomach that stuff.”

“Oh, of course not. No mere mortal can. What was I thinking?” Aloysius sneered as he sipped and sniffed the nebulous fluid. Fuller's eye twitched a bit at the insult, but he maintained his composure. “Oh, I’m being too hard on you again, aren’t I? You are still alive after all this time. How did a bastard, half-breed like yourself manage that?”

“Oh, this and that,” Herman said, dusting some lint off his shoulder. “I’d ask the same of you, but that’s hardly a wonder. You being a proper Sarkic and all.”

Aloysius slammed his glass onto his desk, shattering it.

“You dare, you dare utter that filthy clockwork slur? You’re a Black Blood Fuller!”

“No, I’m not. You always made that very clear to me.”

Aloysius sighed and swept the shattered glass onto the floor with a swift swipe of his arm.

“Regardless of your impure pedigree, Adytite blood does flow in your veins. Had you not been so easily distracted by the petty sorcery of heathens and dedicated yourself to our faith, you could have been a decent Flesh Carver.”

“You were going to turn me into a Kiraak. Even if I never did truly master the Flesh Carving, I’ve always understood the core tenants of Nälkä: the individual is to acquire power until they are a god, and must not allow any mortal notions of morality hold them back. I tossed my own kin into a wood chipper to save my own skin, and you would have done the same.”

“I would have betrayed my family, yes, but not by allying myself with clockwork fanatics. You see, the reason I’m not mad at you is that you didn’t actually kill us. You’re a weakling who found someone stronger that happened to have a reason to do your own dirty work. You got lucky."

Aloysius winced suddenly, as if an old wound had spontaneously acted up.

“You know, it takes a lot to kill a Black Blood. The Broken bastards used some kind of Greek fire that we just could not put out. It’s the same stuff they used to cull the Red Death, I think. The more we healed, the more fuel we gave it and the more it burned. I was burning to death for so long I thought I might actually be in Hell. When my strength was finally drained and my body reduced to a blackened corpse, the tickers sliced the White Worm out of me with those accursed blades of theirs, and let the fire finish the job.”

“Yet here you are.”

“Yet here I am. Like I said, hard to kill. Or at least kill and stay dead.”

“And Ma? Lucretia? Did they ‘stay dead’?”

“And why do you care? You wouldn’t be feeling guilty for what you did, now would you?”

“Of course not. I just need to know who else I need to add to my enemies list.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. We’re family, and family stays together,” Aloysius said, smiling widely to reveal the pair of wriggling syphons he had grown on the inside of his mouth. “I even tried to find you, after I recovered, but you had already left our native Plane through the Library, and I wasn’t about to track you down across all the worlds. I just assumed you were dead, long since devoured by one of the many horrors that abide across the cosmos. I can’t tell you how delighted I was when I first heard the words ‘Herman Fuller’s Circus of the Disquieting’. If you were a full Black Blood such a vulgar enterprise would be a disgrace, but considering your disadvantages I dare say you’ve done quite well for yourself.”

“And working as a facility manager isn’t a disgrace for a Black Blood? You’re a salaryman Aloysius, working the nine-to-five grind for a pension and dental. I’m just kidding, we both know The Factory doesn’t do benefits.”

“Don’t play dumb Squirmin’, no matter how well the part suits you. You know I’m not doing this for a paycheck.”

“What then?”

“Have you ever heard of an anomalous ailment called Iron Lung? It’s especially prevalent among mortals who work in The Factory. The iron in their blood is transmuted into alchemical rust, as all metal The Factory touches must corrode. In addition to causing anemia, the rust tends to accumulate in places and obstruct organ function, most prominently in the lungs. The infected then coughs up the rust, and if enough of that is inhaled by someone else then it can work as a seed metal for transmutation in their blood, infecting them and spreading the disease even further until the lungs are so heavily rusted the victim can’t breathe at all. It’s a truly pernicious disease too. Since it’s not a traditional pathogen, normal immune responses and medical treatments have little effect.

“I found all this quite fascinating when I was contracted by The Factory to find a way to mitigate the effects of the disease and improve the productivity of the workforce. But as a practitioner of Nälkä, I could not condone the idea of mitigating any disease. Disease is sacred, culling the weak from the herd and ensuring only the strongest survive. But the Iron Lung was even more remarkable, and that it spread the very essence of The Factory as plague, and the worlds had only been spared its miraculous powers due to The Factory's incidental quarantine of its own workforce.

“It was then that I proposed to them the idea of an attraction, where people would come from all over the worlds and unknowingly become infected with the Iron Lung from the smog-filled air. It would incubate for months, years even as thousands or even millions of Wanderers unknowingly spread the Iron Lung across all reality, growing exponentially until not a single Plane is untainted by the rust, with The Factory’s profits growing right along with it. They’re paying me handsomely, sure, but the real reason I’m doing this is for the chance to shepherd such an extraordinary disease and disseminate it across such a vast distance. To have such an iconoclastic impact over so many worlds, it’s truly godlike. I may be the most godlike Adytite since Ion himself.”

“I’m afraid there’s a small flaw in your evil scheme there Al; your park stinks.”

“Yes, well, The Factory refused to give me as much creative control over the project as I would have liked. They insisted on their own rather peculiar ideas of entertainment. Still, it’s a minor setback, and one I may now have the chance to mend. Herman, how would you like to come on board as a Funtime Consultant?”

“Surely you jest.”

“I’m completely serious. You’ve kept that Circus of yours afloat for a hundred years now. That’s the kind of experience The Factory will listen too. With your help, we can turn this park into a place that will consistently draw in the crowds and churn out the Typhoid Marys. Imagine what you can do with the resources of The Factory at your disposal.”

Fuller only laughed, shaking his head in disdain.

“Aloysius, neither The Factory - nor its resources - are at anyone’s disposal. The Factory exploits everyone and everything it comes into contact with. Did you bother to read the contract they made you sign when you joined this little enterprise?”

“Why would I? The laws of men have no -”

“We’re not talking about the laws of men, we’re talking about The Factory! When you signed your contract you gave them your name! Your name Aloysius! Do you know what The Factory can do to someone once they have their name! You’re a slave no matter how much they pay you because you can never leave. No one ever lives to the end of their contract, and you’re a damnable fool if you think your Sarkic blood magic is going to protect you.”

Aloysius sighed, and pressed a button on his desk.

“I gave you the chance to join willingly. You should have taken it. It would have been a lot easier on everyone. The Factory wants a Funtime Consultant, and they don’t take no for an answer.” The side door to the office opened, and half a dozen faceless Eidolons dressed in tactical garb filed into the room. “Take him to processing, put him through Executive Reorientation. Tell the rest of your team that The Man With The Upside-Down Face is likely on the premises, mind he doesn’t get inside your heads. Oh, and I’ve heard that there’s a girl who's been tagging along with them lately as well. If you find her, bring her directly to me.”

The six Eidolons circled around Fuller, one of them holding a pair of rusted manacles while the others held their cattle prods at the ready. Fuller twirled his cane indifferently at their approach.

“Isn’t it just like The Factory to hire an Eidolonic Collective?” he mused. “They seem like every industrialist’s dream workforce; they never talk, they never sleep, they never eat or go to the bathroom and are utterly devoid of any hint of individuality. They do, however, have one less than obvious flaw: they’re under an industrial amount of pressure!”

Fuller hurled his cane so quickly they were helpless to react, the sharpened end piercing through the nearest one’s cheap armour and puncturing its body. Immediately, the pressurized content of its moulded form exploded violently, showering the office with malodorous, bubbling, yellow pus.

“Oh god, it’s warm too. I, I didn’t know it would be warm. God, that’s almost the worst of it, I mean -”

“Grab him!” Aloysius ordered. The remaining Eidolons attempted to close in on Fuller but ended up slipping on the splattered viscera of their slain fellow.

“No non-slip shoes I see? The Factory’s lack of commitment to worker safety shall be their downfall!” Fuller shouted as he snatched up his cane and then stabbed it into another one of the humanoid abominations. It too rapidly exploded, covering the room in a second coating of the living, pulsing goo. A third charged at Fuller, electricity arcing between the prongs of its cattle prod, but it slipped and went crashing into the others, knocking them down like a trio of bowling pins. Fuller seized this opportunity immediately, picking up the cattle prod of one of the exploded Eidolons and thrusting it into the pile of flailing, pus-covered limbs. They convulsed in unison, and one after the other they exploded until the immediate area was ankle deep in their remains.

Aloysius sat behind his desk still, and shook his head shamefully.

“Look at the mess you’ve made,” he lamented. “Not to mention their poor Overmind losing six of its nodes like that.”

Fuller wiped the jaundice-coloured filth from his eyes and spat it out upon the floor.

“How am I supposed to explain this to my dry cleaner?” he mused aloud. He made a few playful parries with his cane and held it out defensively. “Well, any more goons for me to paint your office with?”

“No sense in wasting them, now is there? I’ll bring you in myself.”

Aloysius rose from his desk at last, and Fuller could see that he had no legs. Instead, he was supported by a skirt of thousands of segmented tendrils hanging out from his abdomen. They stretched so that he towered over the desk, and his lower jaw unhinged to allow the full extension of his feeding syphons. A second pair of seven-fingered, seven-jointed and seven-foot-long arms unfolded themselves from beneath his coat. His pupils shifted to an inverted Y shape, his corneas went black, and he removed his top hat to unveil a decorative set of antlers made from red coral.

“Wow. Talk about overkill. Honestly, who do you think you’re impressing with such conspicuous body modification?”

“Ah, Herman. I do hope you manage to retain your sass through your Reorientation,” Aloysius said as he reached for him, his voice enunciating perfectly from his larynx despite the fact that his lower jaw was immobilized. Fuller reached into his coat and pulled out a bulky, shiny ray-gun covered in pointless blinking lights and a spinning ‘W’ on the top. “What is that?”

“Doctor Wondertainment’s Hyper Fun Sun Gun, Tee Emm!” Fuller boasted. “One of only seven prototypes handmade by Reginald Philbert Lionel Archibald Westinghouse Wondertainment the third himself! Never entered production due do -”

“Playtime’s over, little brother!” Aloysius said as he grabbed for the gun. He knocked it out of his hand, but not before Fuller pulled the trigger. A pulsating beam of intense white light scorched Aloysius across the stomach. Aloysius recoiled in pain, but initially seemed to be unscathed. “You haven’t changed one bit, have you Squirmin’? Still turning to heathen magic to save your own skin. But you can’t cheat the natural order. Sooner or later, the Strong will cull the Weak and -”

He stopped abruptly when he saw that his shirt was still being soaked with blood.

“I… I can’t stop bleeding. This isn’t possible. Why can’t I heal a simple gunshot wound? I’m a Karcist!”

“No, you’re not,” Fuller said as he picked up the ray-gun. “You’ve been here too long. You’re as much as part of The Factory as anyone else here. That’s why I brought this with me. You see, the reason The Factory has never been able to destroy Wondertainment is that their very essences are mutually antagonistic. Think of it this way: The Factory is capitalism as defined by communists, whereas Wondertainment is capitalism as defined by capitalists. The Factory is all smog and rust and work, and Wondertainment is all sunshine and chrome and fun. Even when he was working here, you couldn’t stop him. He took your rusted metal and made a rustproof robot! If you were still a regular Sarkic abomination and this some common sci-fi laser weapon, you’d be perfectly fine right now. But you’re just a Factory tool, which is no match for a Wondertainment toy.”

Aloysius collapsed to the ground, coughing up blood.

“You, you really do love the sound of your own voice, don’t you?” he laughed.

“Yes, and you’re interrupting. It didn’t have to be this way, you know? If you weren’t so dogmatically committed to your ridiculous old religion, you might have realized that a lot of heathen magic is pretty useful, especially the Wonder-Maker’s. Easier to manage than a White Worm, at least. Hey, while I have you here, is it true you can’t swallow an Akuloth? Because a few years ago this hick from Sloth’s Pit -”

“Just kill me already!”

Fuller smirked softly and pointed the gun at his head.

“Only if you promise to stay dead this time, brother.”

He pulled the trigger, and that was that.

He turned to face the Funtime Facilitators at the control center, all of whom were watching with rapt interest. Fuller pointed the gun straight at them.

“Any of you want to make this fun time even better?”

They immediately abandoned their posts and ran for the elevator, slamming the door shut behind them.

“Taking the elevator, in a life and death situation? The Factory really doesn’t bother with basic safety procedures, does it?”

Herman holstered his gun and pranced over to the controls, rubbing his hands together in delight.

“All right then. Time for a few Industrial Accidents.”

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