Chapter 2: Natasha
Hook, Line and Sinker
The Trapper-Spider grimaced, Zoë's expression said it all. They already knew. Wordlessly, I gestured for them to follow me. We moved urgently, like surgeons, and morosely, like undertakers. It was raining, again. My hair matted itself to my forehead, and the fog limited visibility to a few feet in front of us. The Wordsmith encountered us, and I sent him skittering away with the orders to find the Mute Musician and the Trickster. I halted suddenly in front of a large, black shipping container.
"Wait, wait," the Trapper-Spider said, blocking my reach for the door with one of his many limbs, "First, please tell me the thing I think is in there isn't actually in there." I frowned.
"It's a Lure," I uttered, almost inaudibly. The Trapper-Spider shrank, his face nothing but a twisted visage of horror. He stepped aside, and I threw open the doors of the shipping container. It was empty, save for one, bizarre object in the center of the room. It was a massive device, composed of a black, metallic pedestal, upon which a glowing orb of... something sat. It was impossible to determine the true nature of that orb, as soon as you attempted to focus on it, it was as though your eyes slid off. As for the pedestal, it was octagonal in shape, with the sides slanting upwards. Off of one of the eight sides, a small arm extends, a keypad and small display embedded in it.
"Son of a bitch," the Trapper-Spider cursed.
"Oh no, no no no, that isn't even the worst news," I said, "the worst news, is that there are numbers on the display. And they're counting down."
"Son of a bitch!" the Trapper-Spider screamed. He buried his head in his hands, spun around, marched out of the container, and finally returned a second later.
"Alright, alright, stay calm. This isn't as bad as it seems, we can deal with this..." Zoë said, breathing heavily.
"She's right, we can still disarm it. This wasn't meant to be found, especially not by us, shouldn't be too hard to deconstruct. It'll have low-level security measures, if any," the Trapper-Spider said optimistically.
"Disarm it?" Zoë asked, incredulous, "What the hell are you thinking? If it doesn't go off, every Rousseau International agent Midas can muster will descend on us like birds of prey, and eat us alive. We have no choice, it has to go off."
"I'd sure as hell rather go through every Rousseau International agent on the planet than deal with the monstrosity that thing will unleash!" the Trapper-Spider yelled, gesturing towards the Lure. "How much longer do we have?" the Trapper-Spider spat at me.
"The readout displays sixty minutes."
"Listen, right now, the biggest advantage we have is the fact my father thinks we died in New York. He's celebrating his victory, you can see it. If he thought we were still alive, he would be hunting us down with everything he has. His assumption of Oktober's death is an amateur mistake, to be sure, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't manipulate it. If the Lure goes off, we won't be in direct danger. The other two are presumably still under construction, as my father hasn't discerned the location of the other two components. The first component will ignore us, and head straight for them."
"It's been asleep for a while, Zoë, what if it decides it's hungry!"
Zoë didn't get a chance to respond. At that moment, the Wordsmith and the Mute Musician arrived, the Trickster and Katie in tow. All four looked highly confused, but there was also a varying element of fear in each of their expressions.
"What's that?" the Mute Musician signed.
"A Lure," I replied.
"Oh," the Mute Musician responded, it took him a moment to realize that didn't really explain anything.
"I'm scared..." Katie said. I drew her close to me, and held her, whispering sweet reassurances into her ear as the Trapper-Spider and Zoë resumed their argument.
"We're dead either way, Zoë," the Trapper-Spider said (these words brought tears to Katie's eyes), "I'd at least like to stall Project Desolation if possible."
"I'd appreciate it greatly if someone could please explain to us what is going on," the Wordsmith cut in, aggravated.
"See that thing, the Lure? See the display on it? That's a timer, and it's counting down. In about an hour, the Lure will go off, and bad things will happen, and we all die."
"However," Zoë continued, "if we disarm it, my father will no our exact location, and send everything he has in our direction simultaneously, stalling all other operations to make sure we're dead."
"How will it take him to realize that the... Lure, I think you called it, didn't go off?" the Trickster asked.
"A day. Two if we're lucky."
"How long until we reach England?"
"We're getting close," I said, "Five days, about."
"The Arcturus has lifeboats right? I saw them, a few days ago. How long to reach England on those?" the Trickster's plan was slowly beginning to form in my mind.
"Longer than our food supply will last. In perfect weather, it'd take a week and a half. If we were stupidly lucky," Zoë answered. The Trickster grinned.
"We are," he smiled, "So here's the obvious thing to do. Pack as much food as we can onto the lifeboats, and disarm the Lure. With my talents, your father will take as long as three days to realize what we've done. We can leave on the third morning, the count on flawless weather all the way to England. Sure it's a long shot, but my presences cuts the risk in half almost. We disappear off the radar, and the Lure doesn't go off." Zoë and the Trapper-Spider looked at each other, both clearly trying to analyze the Trickster's plan for flaws. They apparently found none.
"I like it," Zoë said, "Excellent. Then let's get to work."
"Wait, hold on, sorry, just one question before we disband here," the Wordsmith interrupted, "What unit of time is the timer using?"
"Minutes," I replied, "Hence the 'm' at the end of each number."
"Right, that's what I thought too," the Wordsmith said, "except in the last minute, it's gone down five." I spun and glanced at the timer, sure enough, it now read 51m. Before a minute had even passed, it lowered to 50m, and then shortly after that, 49m, and after that, 48m.
"... Oh..." the Trapper-Spider whispered quietly, his voice quivering.
"What?" I asked.
"It's not measuring time..." he answered, "It's measuring distance. The Lure's already active." Every eye turned to the readout.
And then the Arcturus buckled. Metal tore, the entire ship shrieked, and heaved violently. We were thrown against the wall of the cargo container, the door slammed shut. The Wordsmith, Mute Musician, and Katie, who were outside of the container, went flying down the deck. The last sight we saw before the container was blocked from the outside world was the Wordsmith's terrified face zipping out of sight. Then gravity shifted the other way, we were slammed against the opposite wall. The impact was bone-shattering, and the door flew open. The Mute Musician tumbled into it, and caught it, extending his other hand to claw at neck of Katie's dress, just barely closing his fingers on the fabric. I stumbled me way out of the container, the others close behind me. And then we ran. Initially, there was no goal on my mind except for one thing, escape. However I noticed my feet were taking me to the lifeboats. Swiftly, very swiftly. Faster than I had ever ran before. Behind me were the terrified screams of the other members of Oktober. I was too high on adrenaline to scream, or to do anything but run. High above the ship, a leviathan, black silhouette could be seen in the fog. It began to approach us, at incredible speeds. As it neared, it came into focus. A vile, purple appendage, slimy, fleshy, and covered in tentacles. An appendage the size of a small sky-scraper. It tore straight through the Arcturus as it slammed against the deck.
"What the hell is that!" I heard the Wordsmith scream behind me, the Trapper-Spider, not wanting to waste precious air, screamed a one-word response.