Chapter 10: Natasha

Remembrance

I raced down the highway, a crimson streak on my bike. Wind whipped past me, tossing my hair into my face. Ahead, dark storm clouds lay, bolts of lightning occasionally shooting out from them. Regardless, I sped on. The rain began to fall, growing in it's intensity like a crescendo. On the horizon, the silhouette of a factory slowly began to rise from the ground, its smoke stacks billowing black plumes into the air. I sped towards it, past its front gates which opened automatically for me. Finally I came to a slow in the courtyard of the main building, and dismounted my motorcycle. Two men stood in front of a grand doorway that lead into the slate-colored behemoth of a factory complex.

"You're late," said the smaller of the two men, who was wearing a black, leather trench coat. His long, dark hair lay matted over his face, drenched by the rain. Standing out from his pale, white skin and midnight coat was a dark red tie.

"This is why you can't trust women, Midas," said the much larger man behind him. He wore a formal suit, but it was slightly too small for him, just enough to be noticeable. He was visibly uncomfortable in it, constantly fumbling with the tie around his neck.

"Save it, Sal," I bit venomously, producing a small, cardboard box from the satchel I was wearing.

"I trust there were no issues obtaining this," Midas commented flatly.

"None."

"Excellent," he said, and took the box from me. "Well then, I see no sense in wasting time. Come, Natasha, let my show you my latest project," he smiled sinisterly and snapped his fingers. The grand doors swung open to their own accord revealing a long, dingy, gray hallway, down which Midas proceeded to walk.

"If you don't mind me asking," I whispered to Sal as we followed behind, "what exactly are you doing here?"

"I'm supposed to decide whether or not this project could realistically be used as a field weapon or if we should cancel it," Sal said gruffly.

"And what project is this, exactly?" I asked, Sal grinned at me.

"So Midas didn't tell his little pet?" he laughed, "Why, this here is Project Antithesis."

"And what exactly is Project Antithesis?"

"I'm about to show you," Midas said; he had apparently been eavesdropping. With great flourish, he opened the black door at the end of the hall, revealing an empty room with a large pit in the center. Sal and I approached cautiously as Midas urged us towards the edge. The door behind us closed loudly, accompanied by the unnerving click of the lock. I peered over the edge of the pit to see a large dog, a retriever, sat mournfully on the dirt floor of the hole.

"Project Antithesis began simply as a cloning project," Midas said, "However, cloning on its own is dull, quite frankly. We soon expanded to the field of genetic alteration and... well, we made a discovery. We figured out how to infuse certain... traits into organisms. Watch," Midas gestured to the pit. A hidden door on the far side of the pit slid up with a whooshing noise. A howl echoed from the dark chasm that was revealed, and slowly, another dog crept out. It was identical to the first retriever, except with dark, black fur that seemed to be charred at the ends, and vicious orange-red eyes.

The original dog whimpered and backed away from the demonesque figure that was advancing on it. The devil dog growled sickeningly, and crouched down, low to the ground. Then suddenly, it pounced, leaping like lightning towards the poor retriever. However, the original was fast, and managed to dodge out of the way of the hellhound. The hellhound slammed into the opposite edge of the pit, and stumbled before turning toward the original again. Apparently, managing to avoid this first strike gave the original courage, because it decided to growl and stand its ground when the hellhound approached it a second time. The hellhound circled the original, try to intimidate it, but its effort failed. Swiftly, the original took a swipe at the hellhound, then leapt towards it, biting its neck. Shocked, the hellhound was pushed to the ground while the original continued to choke it.

"The duplicate is rash, cruel, and aggressive. But its rage overwhelms its survival instinct. It makes stupid decisions, leading to situations like this. It's insane, and sadistic, relishing the pain of others," Midas narrated.

"But it is an awful fighter," Sal grunted, "I'm waiting to be impressed."

"It doesn't need to be a good fighter," Midas replied, "Watch." As he said this, the original began to whimper and released its grip on the demon dog.

The hellhound stood back up, its eyes blazing with hate. For a moment, I swore I could feel the anger radiating off of it, then I realized that the room had been overcome with heat. I began to sweat, and glanced at Sal, who was giving me presumably the same confused look I was giving him. Midas just kept his gaze fixated on the dogs.

And then, a horrible howl. One that echoed like an unearthly scream through the air. It was terrible and victorious, like a mocking laughter. And the hellhound combusted. It burst into a raging inferno. Flames filled the pit, the hellhound only vaguely visible as some shimmering, red beast of fire. It leapt towards the original, pinning the terrified dog. Ruthlessly, it bit into the retriever's neck, tearing out the gullet. It then proceeded to rip the poor dog apart. Sal looked away.

As the hellhound finished with the original, it turned to us. For all of a second, I panicked, thinking it was coming for me next. Then a variety of extinguishers filled the pit with crystalline powder, reducing the dog to a shivering heap.

"Beautiful, isn't it?" Midas smiled, "However, animals are unintelligent, they can't control the abilities. Ideally, we'd use humans. Unfortunately, we've been unable to replicate the effects in human subjects. But thanks to the part you delivered, Natasha..."

"What would it do to a person, though..." Sal said with a quiet seriousness.

"What's that?"

"They'd be insane, brutal. Like that dog. They wouldn't care what they killed, they would just care that they killed it. It would be impossible to control them."

"Technicalities," Midas dismissed the idea, "I'm sure we'd find a way to persuaded them to listen to us."

"Sal's right," I said, "It would be impossible to control them. They'd be ruthless, but they'd be loose cannons. And a liability."

"So we just set them loose, use them like living bombs, and kill them after..." Midas said.

"Cancel the project," I ordered.

"... Excuse me?" Midas said, his voice suddenly caustic.

"Cancel Project Antithesis, it has no realistic applications," I said.

"That's not your authority," Sal growled, I shot him a viciously look, then turned back to Midas.

"He is right," Midas said dangerously, "I think it is best you leave now, Natasha." The two men glared at me, and taking the hint, I backed down and turned to go. The black door unlocked as I approached it, and opened; apparently linked to the same automatic system as the front door.

"And Natasha," Midas said, "I hope for your sake you never try to give me an order again." I fumed.




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