Scarlet is determined to find Jasmine and get out together. Sterling’s not in control. Scarlet confronts a fascist nightmare. A student reveals what she’s learned to her teacher.
(CWs: voice modulation, death mentions, body horror, guns, food, strong language)
Check out our website for more info!
Join our Patreon for early access!
See our Carrd for social media links and more!
Hell Gate City is streaming now at http://hellgatecity.com
In this award-winning comedy fiction podcast, a radio jockey in the future uses a newfangled device to live-stream his nightmares for ratings. All hell breaks loose.
Cast, in order of appearance: Jesse Syratt, Em Carlson, Emily Kellogg, Shaun Pellington, Justin Hatch, William A. Wellman, Tatiana Gefter, Saph the Something, Taylor Michaels, and special guest Shannon Strucci.
Art by NerdVolKurisu
Written, scored, edited, and narrated by Rat Grimes.
Transcripts available in episode notes at somewhereohio.com
SCARLET: Shit, I’m losing you. Control, come in. Jasmine, can you hear me? Jaz?
SCARLET: Of course it all goes wrong the moment I open up. You make yourself vulnerable and you get hurt. You lose, game over.
SCARLET: This is Scarlet Jaunt, emergency channel 1, code red. I’ve lost contact with Control. There have been some abnormalities during this test and no one will answer my pings. There were variables–Gabe West, two Larks, the mimic–that no one told me about. I’m real sick of being left out here. Can anyone read me? Over.
SCARLET: It was supposed to be quick, a few hours of testing and then the new hire would be part of the team. I’d be there to make sure she followed the rules. That nothing broke. She’d meet some Department folks and then Sterling would debrief us all together. A little intense, but perfectly within reason for the work we do. Now that’s all out the window, and Jasmine’s climbing through the layers of hell solo.
NARRATOR: Best laid plans, they say.
SCARLET: Is this whole fucking building going under? What is going on?
NARRATOR: Scarlet rose from the plush green chair she’d been sitting in these however many hours. No word from Red, Yellow, or Blue. Nothing of use from Sterling, from Violet, or Grey. This whole thing had blown up, and she was only now realizing it. Had it been real from the very beginning? The Larks weren’t part of the plan, but she’d figured–hoped, really–that Sterling was improvising. She assumed that Gabe was just a minor hiccup in the plot, an understudy stepping in.
SCARLET: Was that alarm the start of Jasmine’s training, or a legit warning? Either way, I gotta get out of here ASAP. Only a dozen or so floors left. But Jasmine…she’s in serious danger. I can’t just leave her, not after all the lies…I’m not leaving yet. No, I’m going up. I’m gonna fight through the abyss. I’ll find Jasmine and we’ll get out together, the rest of this place be damned. This experiment is canceled, and I’m gonna make sure the lab mice are cared for.
SCARLET: This is Scarlet Jaunt, invigilator from floor 18, Department of Variance, Bureau of Transnatural Resources, clearance 4. If anyone’s listening to this, I may already be dead. But I want to leave a record. I want everyone to know what went wrong here, and who’s responsible. I’m heading up to 18 now, where I’ll snag my jaunt, then I’m finding Control and we’re getting the hell out of here.
STERLING: ******* it again?
SCARLET: Wait, is this Sterling? What are you doing on the emergency channel?
STERLING: I had the strangest feeling that the experiment had gone off track. So I wanted to check.
SCARLET: No shit it’s off track. Two Larks? Are you insane?
STERLING: That was…not my doing.
SCARLET: So it’s really going down.
STERLING: It would appear so, yes.
SCARLET: Do you know what’s going down, exactly?
STERLING: All I know right now is that we’re in full Asymmetry, an unknown number of Larks and others are loose, and my subject is missing.
SCARLET: Right, I can’t get her on the line either.
STERLING: I was ready to pull the plug, but, well, it would seem there’s no plug to pull. This is the real deal. Worst case scenario. Fictobiological contamination. And it’s just the beginning.
SCARLET: Okay, I’m on my way up to help Jaz–err...
SCARLET: Control, I’m going to find her and get out of here.
STERLING: Good, good. On your way back down, stop by my lab.
SCARLET: Why the hell would I do that?
STERLING: Because if I try to leave, I’m going to die.
SCARLET: You’re lucky I care about Violet, and she cares about you.
STERLING: I count myself lucky every day to know the two of you.
SCARLET: Gross. Fine. I’ll swing by after I find Control.
STERLING: Speaking of Violet, have you heard from her? I left her all alone in the DLO…
SCARLET: Last I heard, Jasmine was there. So either I find them both alive, or we’ve got two bodies to send down.
SCARLET: Okay, I’m moving up now. Can you stay on with me in case I run into any of your…projects.
STERLING: I’ve nowhere else to go, I might as well be of some assistance.
NARRATOR: Scarlet searched the observation room she had been stationed in for any tools that might come in handy. She tucked a box cutter into her jacket pocket, then tossed a crystal ball in her hands a few times to test the weight. She tore a metal bar off one of the nearby desks and swung up, then down.
SCARLET: This’ll have to do until I get to my cube. I’m gonna claw my way up–spit in god’s face if I have to–for Jasmine.
NARRATOR: All around her, the office was rebelling: lights dimmed, walls bent and shook, doors electronically locked and unlocked at random. But she was prepared. This is what she had trained for.
SCARLET: Who were the Primaries kidding? I’m not here to proctor exams or watch over test subjects–I’m here to kick monster ass.
The elevator bay came into view, and in front of the doors stood two Operators, weapons at the ready. But they didn’t have jaunts, they had…those were pistols. Nine millimeter. She could see the beginnings of the birdsong infection in them: muttering, colors appearing on the skin, nostalgia unbound. She knew it was going to be them or her.
Scarlet rolled the crystal ball down one end of the corridor. The two Operators turned to the noise, and moved in formation toward the orb. Scarlet snuck around the other side of the bay, entering the hallway behind them. She charged at the first Operator, slamming into his back with the metal bar. She quickly dropped and spun low, leg extended and jacket flowing. She knocked the feet out from under the second Operator. He was out, but now the first had risen again, and swung the gun in her direction. She deflected his hand with an open palm. Stepping toward the operator, she grabbed his extended arm, swept his planted leg with her own, and threw him tumbling forward.
Scarlet scanned her surroundings for any more movement, or any sinister song, but the coast was clear. Two corrupted Operators incapacitated, god knows how many more to go. She picked up the pistols, released the magazines, and removed the chambered bullets. She slipped off the slides and tossed the disassembled glocks down the elevator shaft. They would do more harm than good in this building.
STERLING: How are you holding up, Scarlet? Did I hear more Larks?
SCARLET, out of breath: Operators, birdsong was starting to work on them. They’re neutralized. I’m opening the elevator doors now.
NARRATOR: With some effort, Scarlet managed to wedge the metal bar in between the doors. With the whole weight of her body acting on the bar, she pried the doors apart, but only about eight inches. She shuffled into the gap as much as she could, then pushed hard with her feet. She widened it just enough to fit through, though on the other side of the doors was an empty corridor. She would have to climb.
Scarlet pilfered the utility belt from one of the downed Operators and wrapped it between her hands. She looked down the elevator shaft again. At least six floors’ fall if she slips. Hardly survivable. But what choice did she have? Jasmine, Violet, and everyone else here was in danger.
Scarlet jumped across the gap and clung to the suspension cables. She wrapped the belt around the metal ropes, clasped her feet together, and started the three-story climb.
STERLING: None of this was supposed to happen, you know. I had it all planned, all expensed out. I was careful.
SCARLET, with effort: I know, dude. I don’t blame you. Not fully. Of course it’s your fault this started, but you didn’t fuck it up. Something or someone else did. You’re in as much danger as the rest of us, right?
STERLING: If I leave the lab, yes. The only thing keeping me alive is the level-five security door.
SCARLET: Better hope that thing holds on for a little longer.
STERLING: Yes. And Scarlet?
SCARLET: What, Sterling?
STERLING: Thank you. For helping Violet, helping me.
SCARLET: Forget about it.
STERLING: O-of course…
NARRATOR: Scarlet pulled herself up, taut muscles straining and slick with sweat and oil, until she reached the 18th floor. The elevator doors were open, but she’d have to get herself from the suspension into the foyer. The cables were still attached, no way to swing. She was going to have to jump.
SCARLET: *controlled exhale* Okay. No momentum, this is all gonna be core strength. *hooo, hooo* I’m coming for you, Jasmine.
Scarlet launched from the ropes, glided over the empty shaft, and slammed into the edge of the elevator lobby. The corner of the floor struck her in the stomach, and she scrambled to grab onto the ledge before sliding into the pit. Her hand caught something in the foyer, something large and cold. It wrapped itself around her wrist and pulled her onto the 18th floor with little effort. She was so full of adrenaline and pain that she didn’t hear the music at first.
GREY AUTHORITY: I sing to you and you can’t even see me. I am the boss and the base in the vial. I pull your strings, little marionette. Puppet payroll drone. Yellow jacket spinning in a pond, a leaf points north. I’m lost in the woods but she knows how to find the way.
The Lark held her by the arm up to its face. The creature had grown significantly since their last run-in. What had it been feeding on? Black tendrils snaked crude oil along its neck and chest. Two wrapped around the red tie that still hung from its neck. With her free hand, Scarlet plugged the ear closest to the beast. She kicked out toward it, but hit only air as she dangled from its large hand.
GREY AUTHORITY: The best way to succeed is to submit. Submit to the will of your pinstripe gods. Take leaded communion in the corporate cathedral, of gasoline fumes and heavy carbon. I am your only friend. Friendly blue with eyes pouring out the sky. Deadly red rescinded. I am a child, I am the house you grew up in. Burn, burn, for the railyard, deep and unending market.
SCARLET: Get the fuck off me you fascist. I never liked you then, and I sure as shit don’t like you any more now.
GREY: Socialist destroying and decaying my love of oh you wide america. Packed workplace is the only flag. Mad little social clone, you, your comrades all dead at the register. Better a fascist with eyes plucked out than a communist.
SCARLET: Say that to my face, coward, I dare you.
Scarlet flexed her suspended arm, trying to pull her body closer to the hand of the Lark. She was shaking, desperate, hissing curses heretofore unknown to humankind.
GREY AUTHORITY: You are lost. Now I am authorized. Author function of the witless bee. I am the blame you take. I am lost. I am lost. I sing but you can’t even see me. I see the end, the beginning, but never now.
SCARLET: Lift me up and say it to my fucking face.
The Lark Authority lifted her to meet his eyes. Scarlet kicked and tightened her core. She swung herself forward, and she bit down on what used to be her boss’ face. What was left of Grey Authority screeched like a bird of prey in descent and dropped her to the floor. Scarlet spit the inky black onto the floor. She clambered to her feet and dashed toward her cubicle.
She could hear the brute lumbering through the halls behind her, smashing through desks, tearing up the carpet, ripping out cubicle walls. A glass picture frame flew over her head and shattered against a door ahead of her. She could turn right and nearly be there, but then the Lark would be right on her tail. So Scarlet juked left, taking the long way to her desk which afforded more alternate paths and fakeouts. She came to a fork between rows of empty cubicles and threw the desk bar down the opposite corridor from her own. She heard the Grey Lark barrel down the row after the bar’s clanging sound. Scarlet hurdled down the hallway, vaulting over decade-old office chairs toppled in rows. She swung into her workspace, threw open the chest below her computer, and retrieved her prize: the jaunt, all black, curved edges, shining.
Scarlet dropped to one knee, leveled the weapon in her line of sight, and braced her arm on her leg. She pulled the trigger, and the jaunt whirred to life. It buzzed with energy as the weapon charged. When the Lark came for her, she’d be ready. And it came, sooner than she’d thought, bursting through carts of old laptops to tower over her. She let go the trigger, and the jaunt released its incredible force. A shockwave reverberated through the air in front of her, a bubble in space, and impacted the Lark square in the chest. Its body rippled with the force of it, and the room fell completely silent. In a sudden explosion of colorful ink, the creature was no more.
Scarlet rose, and wiped thick paint from her eyes with the back of her hand. She sloughed off her jacket, which was soaked in multicolored ink and black goo.
SCARLET: Ugh, I’m covered in psychedelic slug puke. That’s one Lark down at least.
STERLING: Oh, good news! Do you know…who…well–
SCARLET: It was Grey. Grey Authority.
STERLING: Oh my. Even the managers…
SCARLET: It’s worse than we thought. This could be…
STERLING: The end.
SCARLET: No, I can’t think that way. There’s still time. I’m going to find Jaz and Vi, and we’re all gonna be fine.
STERLING: Right. I wish you all the best.
SCARLET: I’ll see you soon, Sterling. Scarlet Jaunt, over and out.
NARRATOR: Scarlet knew she would have to pass through the Library on the way to Jasmine. The place was full of books, but unlike a regular library, its collection was not here for sharing, but for containment. None of the knowledge in the maze was to leave the building, and few in the building were to know it at all.
SCARLET: Lapis should be able to help…If Lapis has any idea what’s going on.
NARRATOR: Lapis Lore, head librarian, one of the first volunteers in the Psychedelic Labs.
SCARLET: Even before all this, she was always a little…spaced out.
NARRATOR: But now she sees things no one else can, even other people who’ve been through the same tests. Some think she isn’t seeing those things, she’s making them.
SCARLET: I don’t know if she can really…conjure shit, but she’s the sweetest person in the Department. She’ll totally do whatever she can to help.
Scarlet took the stairs and climbed her way up to the Library.
GREEN: Hello, Ms. Lore.
LAPIS: Evening, Green. How are you feeling? Any nausea? Headaches? Visions of coming disasters?
GREEN: No, Ms. Lore, I’m doing just fine. Thank you. How is your study coming along?
LAPIS: Well, I started with some grains of rice. Then I moved on to a dime. Now, I can almost lift a whole quarter! I have been hallucinating frequently.
GREEN: Oh, I see. Lapis, those may not be hallucinations. You may be seeing what was always there, but hidden from our minds.
LAPIS: Truly? Yesterday, I saw a turtle swim through rainbow paint on the library floor. Out of the paint jumped a feisty dolphin, who winked at me and told me the date of my death.
GREEN: That…that may have been a hallucination. But in the infinite combinations of possibility in our universe, it’s hard to know.
LAPIS: Can you hallucinate smells?
LAPIS: I thought I caught the scent of a fried dough circle this morning. But when I went out to the desk, there were no such donuts.
GREEN: Hmm, yes, interesting. Ms. Lore, can you show me what you’ve learned so far?
LAPIS: Yes, yes, i will show you. But is this not how you ended up alone here?
GREEN: Yes, which is why I want to keep an eye on your development. If they begin pushing you too far too fast, I’ll have to make sure you’re put in one just like me.
LAPIS: Should I cease my studies?
GREEN: Ms. Lore, that is an excellent question. One to which I don’t have an answer. Now, do you have a quarter on your person?
LAPIS: I have a coin with the face of the rascal Washington on it.
GREEN: Place it on the table here. Let’s see what you're capable of.