The grill was small and soon I realised I would have to leave the safety of my drone and head out on my own to be able to fit through it. The thought of being exposed and helpless in those corridors made me shudder but again, what choice did I have? To turn back now would be suicide.
With a hiss the drone opened and I shimmied into the pipe and began dismantling it. First I stripped it of the tools I'd added, I was sure I'd need my screwdrivers and blow torch again, for weapons if nothing else. The rest I discarded except for the small computer terminal inside which I removed and tucked into a satchel with the rest of the tools. The traveller had mentioned server rooms so there was a chance it might be required.
Satisfied with my haul, I pushed the discarded remains of the drone aside, out of view of the grill and began unscrewing it from the inside. The last screw I loosened enough so I could rotate the grill, it hanging downwards against the wall instead of falling and drawing attention. Peering out, it was a long drop from the top of the wall to the floor, at least ten feet, just over three times my height. I cursed myself for not bringing rope. Resigned to my fate, I lowered myself from the hatch, hanging down by my fingers until I could go no lower. I took a deep breath and then let go, bracing myself for the fall. I landed badly and there was a sharp crack as the terminal in my bag hit the ground and slid out, skittering across the floor until it hit the far wall. It was ruined, useless now, but I couldn't just leave it here. I'd still need to take it with me.
Luckily, I was mostly unscathed. My ankles and spine hurt, but I'd avoided any major injuries and for that I was thankful, a feeling I had rare opportunity to experience. I picked up the bag and the broken computer and headed in the direction I thought was right. Without my computer I had no access to the blueprints so I had to work from memory.
The corridors were featureless, grey and possessed of an unnatural luminescence that lit up the halls in sickly, pale light. Along the walls were periodically placed doors, huge, at least 6 foot high and I wondered what manner of creature they were designed for, perhaps the same ones that used the products of the factories, for we could not help but notice that everything from clothes to books were far too large for our own frames. As I passed each door they slid silently open, triggered by some unseen mechanism or sensor, to reveal rooms beyond lined with computers in chilled cases. As I approached one room, I began to hear noises, a monotonous, electronic voice repeating the same two words over and over with no obvious pattern.
"Naughty. Nice. Nice. Nice. Naughty. Nice. Naughty. Naughty. Nice. Naughty..."
Possessed suddenly by curiosity and emboldened by the absense of any guards or drones, I peered inside the room from which the sounds were emanating. The walls were lined with monitors and faces flickered across them rapidly, some flashing red, some green to coincide with a "Naughty" or "Nice". There must have been at least a thousand in this room alone and countless other rooms like it in this complex. It was clear they were part of some surveillance system and at first I thought I'd found a monitoring station for the workshop, but the pictures, they made no sense.
The people in the pictures looked odd, like me, but not like me. They were tall, impossibly so and their ears smooth and round. I watched them smiling and laughing and doing things I had no way of recognising and then I saw one of them flash red as one took something from another in secret, a theft of some electronic gadget and I realised I recognised it. These were the people we worked so hard for! These were the consumers of the goods the tyrant brutally enslaved us for, and he was watching them, all of them. If this room was any indication of their number, they must be many in number indeed, thousands, perhaps millions of them, all being judged by the tyrant.
I stood transfixed by the screens, watching their strange lives playing out in brief moments flickering across screens for what seemed like hours. Presently, I managed to tear myself away from the screens, unaware of just how long I'd been there and cursed myself for my foolishness. Answers didn't matter, I had no time for them. The mystery of this place and those people would have to remain as such if I were to survive.