Furnace Penitentiary is a prison for young offenders (under eighteen) that is buried a mile under the earth's surface. Furnace was opened as a response to the Summer of Slaughter, an event in which youth gangs had gone on a killing spree.
It was created by a man named Alfred Furnace whose dream is to turn the world into a prison by transforming kids into superhuman mutant freaks by using a dark fluid called Nectar. He had chosen a prison and designed it specifically to conduct these experiments in order to recreate the fear and ruthlessness of a battlefield with plenty of subjects to work with. For the longest time he, and Warden Cross, were unable to sustain their numbers until the British government approved the creation of the prison.
His servants are strange freaks in gas masks called Wheezers, who conduct experiments on kids to turn them into Blacksuits, the official guards of the prison. Inmates who failed the experiments became rats who were either burned away in the incinerator, or had managed to sneak into the caves and tunnels of Furnace.
Prison Layout Edit
Black Fort Edit
The outer entrance into Furnace, a large gated windowless building with a crooked spire and a hidden chimney. On the sides of the walls are carved 5 meter sculptures and inscriptions that depict prisoners in various means of execution. The fort is surrounded by electric fences, and has been stated that several inmates have died trying to climb them.
Inmates are first taken inside to shower, then change into uniforms before making their descent down the elevator into the actual prison.
The interior of Furnace underground carved from red stone, roughly twice the size of a soccer field where inmates hang around in their free time. Cells surround the yard in rings with staircases going up each level. There is a large yellow circle in the yard where inmates must stand when a siren blows (exception being the lockdown siren), otherwise the automatic machine guns on the wall will activate and shoot on sight.
Chipping Halls Edit
Halls that the inmates chip out during hard labor to make new rooms. There are three chipping halls, Room 1, Room 2 and Room 3. Rooms 1 and 3 are assigned by floor, Room 2 is forbidden to enter due to a cave in months ago that had killed 30 inmates. Edit
Official Furnace gym for private inmate use, guarded by the Skulls and Fifty-niners. Generally used for organized skirmishes and private card games. Only certain inmates, including Donovan, could use the gym. This changed when Gary Owens became Skull leader and then only made the gym available for skirmishes. The gym is roughly about half the size of the trough room with various pieces of exercise equipment arranged to form a makeshift arena in the room. The rock floor inside the circle is notably redder and darker.
There are two central elevators in the prison. The first one being the main elevator that connects from genpop to the Black Fort up above. This elevator has its controls operated up in Black Fort, though the machine gun inside of the cabin runs on its own automatic control if the doors are forcibly opened.
The second elevator goes from genpop to the lower levels of the prison, including the infirmary and solitary tunnels. This elevator is behind a tunnel in genpop and connects to the prison's secondary control room and electricity generator. The tunnel is guarded by two doors that open on a fail safe lock mechanism. One door must be remained closed at a time as part of security measures.
Solitary/"The Hole" Edit
Tiny rooms underneath gen-pop used for solitary confinement. They are quite literal holes in the ground that are sealed with hatches on top. There is nothing in the room either than a toilet grille and pipe. Donovan claims he was able to survive three days by licking the condensation off the walls to quench thirst, and that the longest anyone had been able to manage being in solitary was four days. However, in Solitary, Alex and Zee are sentenced to stay for a month and managed to survive about eight days or so. They communicated through numerical-alphabetical code by popping out the toilet grille and tapping out their responses.
Used for two instances, one for genuine injuries inmates sustained that need to be treated. The other where inmates are taken during a bloodwatch to be a part of the blacksuit transformation process. The place is mostly kept under watch and control by the wheezers. The infimary connects to an incinerator where bodies of failed experiments are burned.
Blacksuits and Wheezers Quarters Edit
The blacksuits all live in a long, narrow dormitory lined with about fity-sixty beds similar to the infirmary, but without the operation screens. Beside each bed are IV bags filled with nectar for each blacksuit to inject into themselves before going to sleep.
The wheezers quarters are in a different dormitory located in the north wing, but in the place of beds are open metal cages similar to cattle stalls. In the middle of the room is an old-fashioned gramophone rested on the rock floor, it plays music of a woman singing in a foreign language (German most likely). Most of the wheezers are in this room at a time.
Experimentation Labs Edit
This ward is similar in size to that of the blacksuits and wheezers quarters, but without any of the same organisation. To the right of the room are about a dozen cages filled with the warden's hell hounds. Some have not had undergone the more invasive surgery, but most already have. Opposite of the cages are several large canvas screen that hides cages of cadavers and other operating tables. On the same side of the room as the dogs is another cage, this one three meters high and half as wide. In Death Sentence, this cage holds a berserker, the inmate formerly known as Gary Owens.
Upon first entering, Cross' office consists of an extremely dark wooden desk with a polished black rotary dial telephone, and a large red flag taking up the entirety of a wall. The flag looks like the symbolic red flag of the Nazi Party, but with the Furnace logo in place of a swastika. The desk has engravings of prisoners undergoing horrific means of execution. There are two phrases engraved into the desk, "THEY ARE ALL GUILTY," and "THEY ARE ALL SAVED". There is a button underside of the desk, when pushed, opens up a wall in the office. On the other side of the wall are a wide display off CCTV monitors and an arsenal of weaponry, along with an emergency dose of nectar and blueprints to the prison.
Hard Labor: Edit
The various jobs inmates are assigned to work in the mornings, approximately 5-6 hours from breakfast to lunch.
- Slopwork: Working in the kitchen or out in the canteen in the trough room, cooking batches of slop to feed the inmates
- Greaseup: General cleaning duties of cells, and unfortunately, the toilets as well.
- Bleaching: Laundry duties.
- Chipping: Hardest of the labors, carving out new rooms in the Furnace using pick axes. From this, the inmates were able to chip out a shower room after three years. In Room 2, there was a cave in that killed over 30 inmates and is considered one of the worst incidents to have ever happened in Furnace.
Unofficially, there are some inmates who refer to themselves as Slicers; an actually innocuous job equivalent to a prison barber. While inmates are not permitted to carry knives or any sort of sharp objects on hand, the blacksuits and Warden seem to turn a blind eye to the prison barbers as it is necessary for the inmates to deal with themselves.
While introducing Alex to the workings of genpop, Donovan explains there are several gangs that have formed in Furnace. Only three specific gangs have been mentioned by name in the series.
One of the largest gangs that had been largely responsible for the numerous murders and skyrocketing crimes during the Summer of Slaughter. They mark themselves by wearing black bandannas with white skulls crudely drawn onto them and are considered the most ruthless in Furnace. Nearly all of their members carry homemade shanks. They share control over the Furnace gym in line with the Fifty Niners, and often use it for organised fights.
Fifty Niners Edit
A gang that had been active during the Summer of Slaughter, active in the capital east of the river. According to Donovan, the gang claims that while they were active they killed fifty-nine people during the Slaughter. There are currently only fifteen members inside of Furnace, and they share control with the Skulls over the Gym. They mark themselves with a stripe of black greasepaint under their eye.
A gang that so far has never been seen on page, but mentioned offhandedly by Donovan. They used to be more prominent during the early years of Furnace's opening, and apparently caused a three day shutdown of the canteen by starting a gang war/riot with the Skulls. Donovan himself was sent to solitary confinement due to a fight between himself and three of their members.
Escape Attempts: Edit
Scott White's attempted escape two years ago in which he had studied the mechanics of the prison and the prison elevator. Somehow during a lockdown Scott sneaked into the air vents and spent five days in them before managing to hop into the elevator when more blacksuits were taken in to look for him. Scott was then caught trying to get into the air vents in Black Fort. As a punishment, the warden made an example of Scott by tying up the boy in the courtyard and letting three of the dogs tear him apart before eating him. Because of his escape attempt, the air vents have been replaced with thin metal pipes.
In Lockdown, Alex, Zee and Donovan create an escape plan to blow up Room 2 to get into the rift that had an underwater river in it. It had supposed to have been just the three of them, however circumstance had brought along Toby Merchant and Gary Owens, along with Donovan being dragged off in a bloodwatch. While Alex, Zee, Toby and Gary managed to blow up the room and travel through the river, they only traveled further into Furnace. Toby was severely injured and is presumed dead, Alex and Zee then get thrown into Solitary, but it seems the warden immediately took Gary into to make him a blacksuit. Despite the fact that the warden told the rest of genpop that the escapees had all died in the river, hope was ignited among the inmates and a group of 50 inmates caued a riot trying to break into Room 2.
In Solitary, Alex, Zee and a boy named Simon try to escape a couple different times. Alex and Simon stole supplies from the infirmary to climb an expanse of rock that Simon referred to as "the Steeple". They were unsuccessful as at a certain point the Steeple connected into a rats nest. The other attempt was when Alex, Simon and Zee tried climbing up the incinerator. They were ultimately caught by blacksuits, who then turned on the incinerator causing the boys to fall back down into the flames.
The final prison break occurs in Death Sentence in which Alex, Zee and Simon backed by Bodie and the gangs of the Skulls and Fifty-Niners open the elevator doors. The way out was ironically thanks to Alfred Furnace, whose beserkers managed to bust the doors open and destroy the automatic machine gun in the elevator. Alex, Zee and Simon climb the elevator cable up to Black Fort, but send the elevator up in the control room up above. Bodie stays behind to ensure that the elevator makes the rounds to get every prisoner out.
- In part of the research for the story, Alexander Gordon Smith wanted to visit actual prisons for inspirations but was denied. However, part of the design of the cell and the fear driven by llights-out was inspired by a medieval dungeon Gordon had visited and had been locked in one of the chambers as a prank by his brother.
- In the original draft of the story, Gordon Smith accidentally typoed the title as "Funrace" when he sent it out to his editor.
- Alexander Gordon Smith named the series Escape From Furnace in the US, and Furnace in the UK. This is because his publisher thought that Americans might think it was about a stove.