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Protocol

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Gregory tries to not groan, as consciousness slowly starts coming back to him.

 

Instead of the familiar decayed brick walls of his alleway, Gregory blinks at the cloth walls surrounding him. He slowly gets into a sitting position, pushing away the trash covering him, ears straining to hear any clue as to where he is. The walls he can see from the top of the weird box he is in are dull, and peering from the box, he sees a long hallway extending from both sides.

 

He jumps out, after checking no one is near, squinting in the dark of the hallways. Where the hell is he? Gregory doesn’t remember anything, besides eating some food from the local open Kitchen and wandering into his favorite hallway, deciding to forgo the hideaway behind the trash to sleep simply besides it, as the weather had felt too hot and humid to want to sleep inside the small and crumbling hole in the wall. 

 

He wanders into an empty room, bumping into everything as he tries to evade whatever is laying around. He is starting to consider simply returning and going the other way, when a small flash of light and noise attracts his attention. There’s another hallway, filled with strange things he has never seen. And standing in one of the corners, slumped down in one of those rollers he always sees the people moving too many boxes use, is a bear robot.

 

He stares, pausing.

 

“Isn’t that…. The guy from the mall nearby?” He asked himself, whispering as he squinted trying to see better in the poor lighting. “Where the hell am I?”

 

Gregory crouches and starts to approach silently as he can, noticing the two humans now standing besides the powered off robot, which laid with its stomach wide open.

 

“I just have no idea what he saw,” One of them complained, holding his head as if trying to stave off a headache, “We checked all the security cameras and checked everyone who was there at the Atrium, but there was no one dangerous! I don’t get how his security protocol failed so badly, every employee should have gotten a ping, not get Freddy to literally pass out mid-stage! If this continues, we may have to get new endoes for all of the animatronics, the glitches in programming are becoming too much.”

 

“Dunno why you ask me, I’m only here to escort this metal back to his room,” She shrugged, adjusting the black cap on her blond hair, “I’m just security.”

 

“We all know you know enough about the robots to do your own repairs,” The mechanic shrugged the other off, closing the stomach with barely any care, “Come on, since we ended early we can try to take a look at your tablets before you get Freddy back to his room.”

 

“God, it’s like if I suddenly became anti technology!” She cried frustrated, “Everyone’s cameras don’t work, and today I have a solo shift, I don’t want to get stuck walking through all of the mall!”

 

They disappeared, not before the security guard threw a calculating look behind her, their voices slowly dying in volume until they were but a mere murmur easily hidden in the whirring of ventilators and electricity that surrounded the room. 

 

Gregory paused. 

 

That space in the stomach… Wouldn’t he fit there? A bit small, but he could fit there, he thought. And, he didn’t want to stay here for more than it was necessary. He didn’t know why, but he had a bad feeling about staying here. Maybe he could ask the security guard and the mechanic to get him out? He didn’t particularly want to get stuffed into a robot, he didn’t think it would be good. Opinion formed, Gregory decided to walk forward.

 

He had barely taken a few steps, when the other two had come back. He was about to step off towards them, when the mechanic started to talk.

 

“Okay, see you tomorrow then, I’ll leave through one of the employee stairs.” He waved, and quickly left, seemingly very hurried into getting back home.

 

Gregory was going to talk, because he was starting to get tired of standing in the dark like a creep, watching the guard as he started to think of what to say. Because, he doubted someone would believe him if he said that he didn’t remember getting here.

 

“Finally,” The guard bit out, her whole demeanor changing the second he saw the other leave, face blank if not for the vague annoyance in her face, “Gonna check the brat hasn’t moved and then I’ll take Freddy upstairs.”

 

Gregory froze, and before thinking, dove behind some crates laying around, covering his mouth and nose so his panicked breathing wasn’t heard. He saw a light approach and silently moved back so he wouldn’t be seen, and heavy steps of the guard passing by, as the light gradually diminished.

 

Did, did the guard know he was here? How? 

 

Gregory hadn’t seen her ever before! He is pretty sure he would have remembered, why the hell did that lady know he was here? Did she have something to do with him being here instead of his usual bed? He should wait out the guard and then try to leave. 

 

But, he paused, he didn’t exactly know how to leave. He was planning on going with them, so what now?

 

The steps that had practically disappeared, slowly started to come back. He looked at the animatronic, and barely pausing to think what he was doing, Gregory ran, tugging on the stomach of the animatronic and scrambling inside, closing as silently as he could, ignoring how the screws and wires poked painfully into his arms and back.

 

The inside was completely dark, and Gregory thanked whatever could be out there that he had long outgrown his fear of the dark before this. The steps grew louder, and Gregory held his breath again, as they stopped right besides him.

 

“Let’s get you back into your room,” The guard said, “I doubt the brat managed to get away.”

 

Gregory felt everything tilt backwards, and violently bit down on his lips, the picking of the machinery behind him passing from mildly prickling to ow shit that hurts . Each step jolted him slightly, but he managed to keep quiet all the time, afraid to even breathe fully in case the guard could hear him, somehow. At one point, it all stopped, and Gregory blinked, as he felt the whole robot jolted slightly, as if what they were standing on had moved.

 

It must have been seconds, but it had felt like a lifetime, as Gregory crouched inside of the robot, until the robot jolted once more. They moved, and Gregory tried his best to know what was going on outside. The sound of a phone ringing caught his attention, and as they slowed to a stop, Gregory strained his ears to try to hear everything going outside.

 

“Mari? Why are you- Oh, again?!” The guard’s voice completely changed, once again jarring Gregory from how she sounded alone and how she sounded with people, “Mari, I’m in the middle of moving Freddy to his room, couldn’t you pick a better time?”

 

A beat of silence.

 

“Okay! Geez, okay, I’ll go, but you better help me wheel this piece of metal back to his room, he isn’t lightweight! … Alright, yeah, yeah I’ll meet you there, see you Mari.”

 

A loud beep signaled the end of the call, and they started moving again, although Gregory grabbed whatever was nearby to not go to the side as he felt them suddenly change directions, giving what it felt like a circle before going the complete opposite way. The rest of the journey was silent, the occasional sound of the wheel changing sounds as whatever was beneath them changed, and the bang of doors opening wide.

 

“Mari?” The guard called, as they rolled to a stop.

 

“Here!”

 

“Why is it so dark?” The guard asked, moving the robot, and Gregory, inside, “I thought the lights were left on…?”

 

“That’s why I called you! You know how Sun doesn’t like close time protocols, and then the generators cut off out of nowhere, and… Well, you know how Moon has been lately! He only listens to you at this point, so that's why I called you! I’m sorry but I didn’t know what else to do…”

 

“No, I get it Mari, don’t worry. Did all the lights go out?”

 

“Yeah! The backup generators for the inside of the daycare have already been put in place before, and I can go for them! But I need someone for the whole generator.”

 

“Yeah, sure, but could we check Freddy before? It’s just, it has been rattling weirdly and I don’t wanna get in trouble later.”

 

Gregory froze.

 

“Uh, yeah, of course! We can do it right now, since it won’t take long.”

 

“...Shit, I forgot my flashlight in Parts and Service. And I can’t see in the dark.” 

 

“A-ah, uhm, I think there are a few spare flashlights in the security office, come on.”

 

“Wait but, shouldn’t someone stay here-?”

 

“Van, as much as me and the Attendants are what I like to consider somewhat friends, Moon would dropkick me from the ceiling if given the chance.”

 

“...Yeah, you are right Mari, let’s go.”

 

Footsteps slowly walked off, and Gregory breathed out shakily.

 

Did, did the guard know he was here? This was getting creepier and creepier now. Should he get out? But if he gets out, where will he hide? 

 

Deciding to risk it more than not, Gregory opens the latch, blinking around. Since the insides where he was hidden were dark, the lack of light around him does little to actually annoy him in any way. He jumps off, making sure to close it tightly, and looks around. He can see the vague outlines of a statue in the center, with sofas and a few tables scattered around. But there is no good place to hide.

 

He eyes the tube in the ground, but he can see movement downstairs with a very weak light, so he turns around towards the long hallways that extend down. He crawls under the fence and walks, keeping an eye on the figures below. A bunch of doors appear, but every one appears locked.

 

“What the hell?” He mutters, trying to open one when his eyes catch onto the reflection of light that appears on the floor in front of one of the doors. 

 

The paper is soft and shiny, looking from what he can distinguish like some sort of pass of some kind. On a whim, Gregory presses it against the door, and watches as it opens with a faint whoosh. Stuffing the paper on one of his pockets just in case, Gregory ends up hiding away in a corner that is covered by cut outs of, what he guesses, must be the other animatronics of this place. Otherwise, he has no idea why there is an alligator cartoon in the room.

 

He sees the lights above flicker on,and from the window he can see the place below also get filled by a bright white light. The lights in the room go out, and he sees the hallway’s dim until it is but a soft hint of a light, enough to guide but not to truly see. He sees two shadows pass by briefly through the window, and leave.

 

And Gregory stays there, huddles and crouched, waiting. He is not sure for what, but he is waiting, at least, for a signal that outside will be safe.