Fuller & The Factory Funtime Facility, Act II: Industrial Espionage
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It was just a little after midday, not that anyone would know it. The smoke from The Factory Funtime Facility was already so thick it obscured the sun. Though the jagged smokestacks were monstrously high, enough of the fumes still wafted low enough to make breathing uncomfortable. Both Fuller and Veronica held neckerchiefs to their mouths, though Manny refrained from doing so as to avoid drawing attention to the fact that his mouth was on the wrong end of his face.

“I can’t believe this used to be the Crossroads Nexus,” Veronica lamented as she gazed upon the sprawling grid of rusted iron before her.

“Yes, The Factory is extremely efficient at converting things we don’t need, like trees and open spaces, into things we do, like cubicles and phone books,” the ticket booth attendee said, her mouth frozen in a smile that she was too terrified to drop.

“Any discounts for senior citizens, even ones that don’t look it and can’t actually prove it because they burned all their legitimate ID when they went off the grid?” Fuller asked, only for Manny to elbow him in the ribs immediately after.

“Admission is one copper shilling per guest, no exceptions,” the woman replied.

“A shilling is one 66th of a troy pound, correct?” Manny asked as he set three copper coins on the counter. The attendant swept them behind the counter where they landed with a clink, suggesting there was already quite a pile of coins.

“Thank you. You may now enjoy The Factory Funtime Facility,” she said as she handed them three ‘admit one’ tickets printed on heavily yellowed cardstock. “Please be sure to follow the directions of The Factory Funtime Facility’s Funtime Facilitators to ensure your experience is optimally fun.” She gestured to the poster next to her, depicting a humanoid wearing a rusty happy face mask and a leather duster coat with a hood and mantle. The being had a belt which held a number of crude and oddly orthodontic looking metal tools and carried a stick with a winged hour-glass topper in its three-clawed hand. “Next please!”

“Copper’s not even worth a dollar fifty a pound,” Herman remarked as the trio moved towards the tarnished gate. “They’re barely charging two cents a head.”

“Well, they’re spread out across the multiverse. Maybe they sell it somewhere it’s really rare,” Veronica suggested.

“Or admission fees aren’t actually how this place plans on making a profit,” Manny said. “Don’t let your guards down.”

With the sun blocked out so completely, the only real sources of light were naked gas flames burning out of 10-foot tall street polls. Through the dim haze, only the largest of the Funtime Facility’s attractions were immediately apparent. There was, of course, a roller coaster; a rickety, rusted thing that sagged and groaned as the carts rolled along it. What Veronica had mistaken for a Ferris Wheel on the outside turned out to be an enormous penal treadwheel, with patrons hanging by their arms from bars as they endlessly pushed the steps downwards. It appeared to be the only attraction with electrical lights, and judging by how they flickered it seemed that they were powered by the patrons themselves.

Just next to the Sisyphean Wheel was Mount Tetanus, an enormous pile of sharp, rusty machine parts that patrons were invited to climb.

“Okay, that thing’s clearly just the garbage that was here before they turned this into a theme park,” Veronica remarked. She took out her camera and discreetly took a few photos of each of the dangerously dilapidated attractions. “The Factory trying to change their image from Dickens to Disney is more disquieting than anything we’ve got back home.”

“This place isn’t disquieting, it’s just downright dismal!” Fuller remarked confidently. “You can’t just outright torture your workers and swindle your customers and expect to get away with it; you’ve got a put a bit of spit shine on it first! Where are the brightly coloured stalls? The lulling music? The saccharine sweets, the dazzling lights, the honey-voiced barkers more tempting than a whore on the Sabbath?”

“Look at that, they’re even serving gruel,” Manny said with a nod to a nearby stall. The sign above it advertised ‘Sweet, Nourishing Gruel – Funtime Formula (one teaspoon of raw sugar per pot)! The rotten teeth are worth the ephemeral moment of pleasure!'

The being manning the stall was a slender, faceless thing dressed in a bowtie, apron and paper hat, stirring the large pot with one hand.

“Isn’t that one of those things Emcee D uses as lawyers?” Veronica asked.

Eidolonic Collectives, yeah,” Manny nodded. “The Factory uses one Collective for security, and another one for kitchen work.”

“Kitchen work?”

“You can’t trust humans around food, they’d sneak some,” Manny shrugged.

A costumed mascot, which appeared to be a cartoon hot dog painted black to more closely resemble a smokestack, wearily danced in front of them. It shuffled back and forth without any real enthusiasm, began to stumble, and then collapsed on the ground.

“Bleedin’ ’ell, not another one!” a Funtime Facilitator cursed as it ran to the mascot and undid the back zipper, pulling out a severely dehydrated man with a face covered in vomit. “These lazy sods think just because they’re off the assembly line it means they can slack off. If you can work sixteen hours in the boiler room, then you can work sixteen hours in a mascot costume! Number 416, you’re up!”

Another half-starved looking man ran up and crawled into the smokestack suit. As soon as he was zipped up, he started dancing for the crowds.

“Did you get a picture of that?” Manny whispered to Veronica, who nodded in the affirmative.

“I’m surprised at how many people there are here. Why would anyone stick around such a smog saturated death trap?” she asked.

“It’s a big Multiverse Veronica. Somewhere out there there’s a peaceful, pristine Arcadia of a world that consider pollution and industrial working hazards exotic and will pay to see them!” Fuller claimed. “Trust me, when you’re a Wanderer you can always find a demographic for whatever you’re selling.”

Squinting through the haze, Fuller spotted what looked like an administrative building on the far side of the park. Standing in an office window on the top floor was a silhouetted figure that Fuller couldn’t help but find eerily familiar.

“I think we should split up for a bit. You two keep looking around, I’m going to see if I can find someone I might be able to milk some info out of,” he said.

“Boss, are you sure that’s a good idea?” Manny asked. “Asking questions is likely to get us noticed by someone.”

“Don’t worry your pretty little upside-down head about it. If anything goes squirrely, I always got an ace up my sleeve,” Fuller replied as he marched confidently into the smog.

“Lead Balloons! Complimentary Lead Balloons! Air not included!” a Facilitator hollered as it threw limp bags of lead foil at Veronica and Manny. “Stop standing around! Standing isn’t fun! Go on a ride or something, I don’t know.”

“Um… which one would you recommend?” Veronica asked.

“Oh, bloody hell. How about you tag along with me as I do my rounds and I’ll point them out to you?” the Facilitator offered.

“That’s very kind of you,” Veronica curtseyed. “I’m Vanessa by the way, and this is Barnabus. What’s your name?”

“Dr. Hasselflax,” the Facilitator replied.

“You’re a doctor?”

“As long as you count the degrees The Factory gives out. This way.” It turned to walk down the midway, hurling balloons at passersby. “Lead Balloons! Sweet as sugar, so they’re great for kids! Use them in wine, cosmetics, plumbing, paint, gasoline; anything your kids are going to be licking!”

“You know, one of these days you just might accidentally guess my real name and unleash all kinds of hell,” the Man with the Upside-Down Face whispered to Veronica. “Also, Vanessa?”

“I’ve been mistakenly called Vanessa before, so I at least look like a Vanessa,” Veronica whispered back.

“Alright, here’s a ride for you; the Iron Labyrinth, the only three-dimensional maze in, ah, I don’t actually know, but they’re not common!” Hasselflax said. They stood before what looked to be a vaguely MC Escher array of industrial staircases welded together at odd angles, with panicked patrons running along them with little regard to gravity.

“Please, let us out! It’s been hours, we can’t find the exit!” a patron on the inside pleaded.

“I can’t let you out, it’s a maze you idiot!” Hasselflax retorted, banging the stairs with one of the surgical implements from its belt. “It’s no fun if you don’t solve it yourself, so have fun! Fun, fun, fun!

“Okay, looks like I can’t let you in here, otherwise these cheaters might get out. You could try climbing the Corporate Ladder. That’s similar.”

The ride it pointed at was just a series of ladders, but the rungs all appeared to be booby-trapped. Some were red hot, others frozen. Some were covered in rusty razor wire while others were electrified. A few rungs appeared normal, and it was those ones that the climbers trusted the least.

“It has a glass ceiling,” Veronica remarked.

“That’s right, even if you break through you’ll be impaled by countless shards. It’s highly realistic,” Hasseflax replied. “If that’s a little too intense for you there’s also the Chimney Sweep. We take you up to the top of the smokestack and let you bungee jump down inside it. We don’t pull you back up though until you got the whole thing sparkling. You can also jump from the top of the smokestack into the Suicide Nets, which are just the nets we use to catch jumpers at The Factory. Standard practice really.”

“Okay, now you’re just getting cartoonishly villainous,” Manny remarked. “What do you got that keeps our feet on the ground?”

“There are paddle boats, out on Lake Refuse,” Hasselflax said, pointing to a pond of rust-red water with copious amounts of garbage floating about. Several steel swan boats were drifting upon the pond, but all their passengers appeared to have passed out from the fumes. “Then of course HR is a madhouse all on its own, you know what I’m talking about?”

Before Veronica or Manny could respond, Hasselflax’s walkie-talkie crackled to life.

“This is a memo to all Factory Funtime Facility Funtime Facilitators: The Factory Farm exhibit is closed until further notice. Several guests, apparently considering the livestock’s living conditions to be inhumane, attempted to free them. The loss of potential return customers is regrettable, however, the accountants have calculated that this is, in fact, a net gain, as the pigs will not require a feeding this week. That is all.”

“Well did the accountants calculate the net cost of using these damn walkies instead of earpieces?” Hasselflax muttered with a shake of its head. “Look folks, I’ll level with you. The safest ride is the Assembly Line. You just sit on a conveyor belt and watch the show.”

“Thank you,” Veronica curtseyed again, grabbing Manny by the hand and leading him towards the indicated ride. “Manny, can you see Inside these Facilitator guys? What are they?”

“I’m not sure. I can tell they’re not a hivemind, so they’re not Eidolonics. They’re definitely not human, but they’re not fey either. Honestly, the closest I’ve ever felt to them are the natives of Alagadda, but that’s all I can say for sure.”

The two of them were quickly admitted into the Assembly Line. It seemed ordinary enough at first: just a series of carts moved around by a conveyor belt. Once their harnesses were in place, they were rolled inside the derelict building.

The interior looked like it had been a packaging warehouse of some kind in the past, and the mechatronic robots that once lined the conveyor belt had been crudely and cheaply modified into grotesque animatronics. They were elongated and mangled and randomly jolted to and fro, each movement causing a fiery display of sparks that cast monstrous shadows upon the walls. They flailed to the tune of a rhythmic beat that was almost music, while a pre-recorded monotone recited the same seven words over and over again:

“A Hard Worker Is A Happy Worker.”

“The happiest extradimensional place on all iterations of Earth,” Veronica smirked. “Hey, isn’t Disney on the Council of 108? How do you think they’re taking this?”

“It just, it doesn’t make any sense,” Manny said, half to Veronica and half to himself. “The Factory never lets anyone in to keep their trade secrets and working conditions under wraps. They’re like an evil version of Willy Wonka. Why would they open an amusement park to the public, especially one that’s so cheap it’s basically free? What are they getting out of this?”

“Yeah, it could be some evil eldritch plot, or it could just be a bad business venture on their part. They’re both equally common,” Veronica said nonchalantly, snapping a photo of one of the flailing robots. To her surprise, the flash was met by an inhuman but also very unrobotic screeching, and multiple pairs of shining amber eyes began pouring out of the shadows.

“Gremlins; they do the Factory’s mechatronics work,” Manny said.

"Okay, I'm really starting to wonder why you know so much about The Factory," Veronica replied. One of the impish creatures scuttled up to the cart and grabbed at her camera. “Let go of that you gross little Flibbertigibbet!” she shouted as she kicked it with her high heeled boot. The gremlin still wouldn’t let go, so Manny socked it in the face.

This did knock it off the cart, but had the unfortunate side effect of enraging all the other gremlins. Shrieking and howling, they stormed the cart all at once. Veronica pocketed her camera and pulled out her trick cards. The black-backed cards levitated in a purple aura, and she tossed them one at a time at each of their half-sized assailants, knocking them back with anomalous force. One of them quickly got around behind her and put her in a chokehold. Manny struggled to get close enough to help her, but several of them had swarmed him and were keeping him pinned down. He managed to get a fist free and began punching them mercilessly. In his fury, his hat was knocked off his head, and all the gremlins suddenly relented, gasping in shock.

“It’s him! It’s the Man with the Upside-Down Face! But that means…” the gremlin grabbed Veronica by her coat and pulled her towards him. “Where’s the Ringmaster? Where’s Fuller?”

The receptionist at the Funtime Facility’s administration offices looked up as a man in a red velvet frock coat, top hat, and diamond-topped mahogany cane sauntered into the waiting room.

“Can I help you, sir?”

“Yes, I’d like to have a word with the man in charge around here.”

“Do you have an appointment?”

“A man of my standing doesn’t require an appointment.”

“And you are?”

“Herman P. Fuller, of Herman Fuller’s Circus of the Disquieting, delighted to make your acquaintance!” Fuller said reflexively. “Shoot, I was supposed to be incognito.”

“Of course, Mr. Fuller, my apologies. You’re right, you don’t require an appointment. That elevator right there will take you straight to Management’s Office. Just press the top button.”

“Much obliged, mon cher,” Herman nodded. He waltzed into the waiting elevator and pushed the top button with his cane. As the elevator rose with an unexpected ease, Fuller’s eyes drifted towards the name beside the glowing button he had just pressed.


“Oh, crap on a corndog.”

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