Outside, Gaar motioned to her that all was clear. She nodded and raced to the other building, slipping inside. Once again cold darkness surrounded her, but this time it was accompanied by the overwhelming stench of feces. She fought the urge to gag as she pressed back against the door, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the limited light from cracks in the building’s mortar. The shuffling of feet echoed in the stillness. She tensed, prepared to run if whatever was moving came closer, but it didn’t. After several moments, she stepped out of the doorway and into the main room.
Rows of cages sat in the center of the room, some empty but most encasing a lone Producer. A metal rail, suspended a few feet in front of each row, ran the length of the building. The Producers stood in their own feces, the cages too small for them to sit or turn around. Some shifted their feet, causing the shuffling noise that she’d heard, but most remained still and silent, their chained hands extended through the bars. A metal contraption encircled their heads and necks, inhibiting most movement.
Her heart thudded in her ears. Gaar was right. She could never allow herself to end up here. She had to go home and warn the others, but she was not staying. She’d known that the Almightys could be cruel, but this went beyond any punishment that she could have imagined. Her instincts told her to run, leave this place, but Travis was here. She had to find him. She forced herself to creep closer. As she passed each enclosure, the Producers remained immobile, either not hearing or not caring that someone approached. When she was about halfway through the first row a female raised her head.
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