Chapter 1: Matthias
Every day, I wake up with the same sense of dread creeping across me, like a swarm of spiders. Feeling the tingling sensation of their tiny legs skittering off my body. The impossibility of the task that lies ahead, the task that lies ahead is enough to make me freeze in my tracks. It is only by blinding myself, by shifting my gaze downward and watching only the steps I take that I can approach it. But that same method dooms me to failure. Catch-22. I don't even know why I do this, I don't even know what cause I'm fighting for. I don't know why I'm the one that has to fight it, there are so many others so much better suited, and yet, it all lies on me.
"Okay, so what about when we arrive in England?" Daphne asked me. I had been zoning out. The harsh lighting fell down on the table I was stooped over in a cone shape. Dust motes hovered above the map that was spread across the table, ashes of a burning world.
"What about it?"
"You think the authorities are just going to let you into their country, during a time of war? When countries are falling at the hands of an invisible enemy?"
"We're refugees, how could they not? It'll be fine, Jones has citizenship, that should help our case. Times are changing, those unnecessary laws are falling to the wayside..."
"Matthias, Natasha and you could be picked out from a lineup in a second flat, you know this."
"They'll find us quite innocent."
"You and your car, the trunk of which they aren't allowed to open?"
"Worst comes to worst we can blaze our way out of there."
"And what? Run out of the country? Smuggle yourselves into France? Leave a trail of flames all the way to Midas' doorstep?"
"We do what is necessary to reach the doorstep."
"While dragging around all that dead weight?" I looked up at Daphne, and met her gaze.
"Smith and Nick."
"Both have proved their worth to this. If it weren't for Nick, we'd still be trapped in Joshua's little hell, Smith delivered us Renard, and we need all the allies we can get our hands on."
"Regardless, do you think their going to follow you? Everyday, Nick looks as though the thought of jumping off this ship into the icy water below becomes a little bit more attractive. And once Jones is back with his family, he's not going to leave."
"Nick is sane. He'll stay with us. As for Smith, whether he stays or not is his choice."
"Alright, alright, so what is the plan once we are in England."
"Originally, it was to lie low, hide for a bit. However, as Midas stepped up his game, we're going to have to start arming ourselves, and recruiting. Do we have any friends there?"
"A few. A very small few. Though... there is Project Antithesis..."
"Out of the question. Besides, it doesn't even work on human subjects."
"No, no, that's not what I meant. As far as I know the actual project was shut down years ago, the machine is either destroyed or looted by now. However, there may be some weapons still left in the safe rooms of the facility."
"We still have plenty of weapons left from our visit with Sal."
"You wouldn't be talking about the same visit where you allowed yourselves to be bugged, and then used as Midas' unknowing assassins? In newer Rousseau International weapons, Midas installed a 'killswitch'. It lets him lock up any weapons that have been stolen, or disarm rouge agents such as yourself. Whatever you got from Sal, I'm willing to bet has a killswitch."
"Why hasn't it been activated yet, then?"
"Midas himself hasn't been in danger, just his agents, and low-level agents at that, with the exception of Sal, and Scylla. He just enjoys watching you struggle, knowing that, at any moment, he can press a button and leave you totally unarmed. Which is as good as dead."
"So whatever we can find in Project Antithesis has been locked up for years, it won't have these killswitches."
"Exactly. Plus, there may be a few other side experiments lying around, could be useful."
"Who was the administrator of Project Antithesis?"
"It was my father's personal project, he directed the entire process."
"I don't know if I like that."
"It's fine. I was there a few month ago, the place is abandon, not a soul in the entire facility. Not even insects."
"Will you be accompanying us on our raid?"
"I'm afraid that our ways are going to part in England. I'm going to take Renard with me, we're going recruiting."
"It's only temporary. We should meet again in Italy. In the mean time, Oktober's job is to gather supplies and intel. Natasha and you are the record-holders for the most successful joint-operations. You two need to come up with out battle plan, I don't to find myself beating on my father's door with nothing more than a Glock and ill intentions."
"This is a suicide mission, I hope you know, and when we lose, we don't even get the satisfaction of saying 'at least people will know there were those that resisted'. There will be nothing after us."
"Survival is the most basic instruction that our species has. It is at the center of everything we have. Midas is going against the most innate desire of, not only himself, but all of humanity. He can't win. The laws of evolution, of his own nature are against him."
"I really want to believe you're right. You aren't."
"Well... it seems relevant now. Midas intends to guarantee the apocalypse, he wants to seal his victory. I believe he is going to initiate Project Desolation."
"... Project Desolation was a dead end. We couldn't even confirm the existence of the integral pieces of the project."
"Midas did. Recently. They managed to find the first component, it's already begun its arousal process. On its own. Midas wants to speed it up."
"The first component is..." a shiver ran down my body, every hair stood on end. "Hold on..."
"What is it."
That sensation of dread returned. More powerful this time, more powerful than it ever has been. It was a darkness around me, almost tangible, egging me on. Go on, it mocked, you already understand don't you? It's clicked, hasn't it? And then it did click, almost audible. And it was horrific sound.
"We're on a cargo ship."
"Natasha was talking with me earlier. She mentioned that she found it suspicious that we escaped New York so easily. She believes that Midas is using this boat to transport something."
"I don't follow."
"Daphne," my eyes were wide, I knew it. I must have looked insane. "Think. What is the first component." There were a few seconds of confusion, then the horrible realization that had just hit me struck her as well. For exactly three seconds, her mind went totally blank. You could see it in her eyes, every mental process had stopped dead while her brain analyzed this new information. And then she came back.
"Oh God," she said, I hadn't waited for her. I had grabbed her wrist and bolted out of the room three seconds ago. "It can't be! It can't be! Under our noses like that? How could we miss it!"
"It's incredibly easy to hide if it's inactive, right?" Though I omit the exclamation points here, by this point we were both screaming frantically as we ran along the deck of the ship like madmen. My head was reeling, panic racing through my blood. And then, in front of me, the site of Natasha, standing with a slight slump outside of an opened cargo container.
"Matthias?" she said, as she saw me approach. I skidded to a halt next to her. "I found something bad."