Chapter 3: Natasha
Returning to places from your past is never pleasant. The changes make it immediately and painfully apparent that the world is transient and decaying, and then, of course, so are you. The effect is compounded when that places has been decimated. Driving up to the entrance of Project Antithesis, its smokestacks toppled, its walls crumbling, its windows broken, was not pleasant for me.
"What exactly are we looking for here?" I asked.
"According to Daphne, the weapons we obtained could be shut down by Midas at any given moment. He's installed a device designed to destroy the internal workings of the gun when it is activated. The armory of Project Antithesis hasn't been touched for years, so these killswitches shouldn't be installed in those guns. We're restocking. Ammo, guns... whatever else we can find," the Trapper-Spider answered.
"If the guns have been sitting alone, without any maintenance, for years, isn't there the chance that they are unusable?"
"It's not like they're being weathered or anything, you know what the armories are like in these places. Regulated temperature and airflow, and that will all still be functioning because Project Antithesis was run on solar and wind power. Both systems are still collecting, according to Daphne."
"That implies that the security system is still broadcasting back to Rousseau International HQ then, right?"
"Doesn't matter," the Trapper-Spider said, grabbing a satchel from the back seat. He unzipped it, revealing that it contained several plastic explosives. Professionally made by the looks of it, likely from Sal.
"We're blowing the place up?"
"Midas is going to find out we're still alive sooner or later, might as well be on our terms. And even though he has abandon this place, I think the gist of our message should be clear." the Trapper-Spider slung the satchel over his shoulder and about faced. "I'm going start looting the armory, but I want you to explore the rest of the facility. Just give it a once-over, see if there is anything else useful in here."
"the Trapper-Spider..." he stopped his stroll towards the facility, but did not turn around.
"Do you know what Project Antithesis actually... is?" I whispered.
"... I was never given clearance to the details. I know it was a super soldier project."
"They discovered what JRL discovered all those years ago. Oktoberism." the Trapper-Spider slowly turned around.
"I'm not. Of course, there were flaws... they could only preform the Oktoberism on a clone on the original subject, and even then the clone was... erratic. Additionally, Oktoberism couldn't be preformed on humans, even clones of humans," I explained.
"If Rousseau International can preform Oktoberism, it's all over. You realize that, right? We're done," the Trapper-Spider said, flustered.
"Calm down, they never figured out how to make it work, even on the clones. This was not Midas' first attempt at Oktoberism and it won't be his last. He will not succeed. After all, Oktoberism has only been artificially preformed twice. Joshua and Katie, and neither of them are threats anymore."
"What is that supposed to mean?" Katie spoke up. I had forgotten she was there. Apparently so had the Trapper-Spider. I turned around to see Katie striking a ridiculous pose, here hands on her hips.
"Oh, I just meant to say that you're our friend, aren't you Katie?" I tried to cover for myself.
"You meant I'm not a threat anymore..." her voice became like ice, "because you killed me?"
I've seen how this ends, Natasha. You're not going to like it.
I crept between the hallways of the facility. They were concrete on all sides, lacking any decoration beyond the variety of spiderweb cracks and fractures. Reminded me of the City of Demons. Katie had run off somewhere, weeping. The Trapper-Spider had gone to the armory, and I was making my way to the central chamber of the facility. To Project Antithesis. The entire facility looked as the it had been rotting for centuries, when it reality it was only a few years. Creeper vines and fallen leaves carpeted the floor. Moths swarmed to the few bulbs that were inexplicably still on and had not burned out.
Every one of Rousseau International's facilities is self-powered, generally through means of power without a large carbon footprint. It was a security measure to make sure they weren't detected. The amount of energy used by a single facility was roughly equal to that of a major city with a population of a couple hundred thousand people. After a facility was abandon, the automatic systems were left running to maintain the appearance of a functional building. After the building started to decay, rumors about murders and ghosts would be spread to the local townspeople withing a certain distance from the facility.
The concrete hallway ended in a menacing steel door covered in scratched and worn black paint. It was slightly ajar, the room beyond was not dark as I had expected, but actually quite well lit. I took a step toward the door, but immediately noticed something that I found quite disconcerting. The door, as mentioned, was ajar, which was not strange, many of the doors were open in the facility. As per standard procedure, the larger projects in the facility would have been sabotaged, meaning that whatever husk of a machine left inside the central chamber was useless. However, while dead leaves lined much of the hallway, and had quite obviously been collecting for quite a while, with a fairly recent layer on top from the recent Autumn, there were no leaves gathered on the floor where the door had traced a path when it was opened. This meant that someone had opened the door, within the last month or so.
I unholstered my pistol and pushed the door open with one hand. Beams of sunlight slanted into the chamber from the glass dome overhead. In the center of the room, on a raised platform, was a menacing machine. A container, large enough to fit a truck, stood on one end of the platform, eerily glowing blue. Next to the container was a monolithic machine, thousands of tubes, wires, and panels covering it, strangling it, and encasing it. However, the most menacing and disturbing part of the room was not the machine.
It was the Thunderbird that was imprisoned, broken and tragic, in the container.
I raised my gun. My brain shut down in its panic, barely able to process what this all meant. The first, most important thing was to acknowledge that this meant that someone knew we were coming, and that meant we were walking into a trap. I took a few steps towards the container. If someone knew we were coming, then it meant that it was someone close to us, within are group. There was a traitor. I stepped on to the platform and, heart pounding, stepped towards the Thunderbird. I knew who the traitor was.
Steel walls shot up around the platform, surrounding me. I dropped my gun, it clattered across the floor loudly. There was a period of a few seconds where I did not understand the severity of what had just happened. When I heard the electric buzz of Project Antithesis powering on though, I very lucidly comprehended the situation.
"MATTHIAS!" I called the unfamiliar name, fear rattling my voice.
I told myself to calm down. Project Antithesis didn't work on humans, they hadn't figured that out. My heart skipped a beat. They had. I had forgotten, but it came back to me at the worse possible time. The part I delivered to Midas, the first time I saw Project Antithesis. He said it was what he needed to complete the project.
The Thunderbird screeched violently. A blaze of blue light flooded the chamber. Lightning flooded out of the bird as it writhed with pain, as though it wasn't electricity being sucked out of it, but blood. It's essence. Above me, a large, evil looking spike lowered into place by a crane that had been hiding in the corner of the room. Blue bolts were sparking off of the three surrounding prongs, jumping to the central spike. A bolt zapped me, then another, I shrieked with pain. The barrage continued, bolts assaulting me, then rebounding the the spike. Meanwhile, the light in the container grew brighter, and the Thunderbird's cries of agony grew louder.
And then, when the sound deafened me, and the light blinded me, it ended. The screams of the Thunderbird ended in a single moment, leaving a ringing in my ears, and the light disappeared, leaving me unable to see. As I lie panting on the ground, heart throbbing and adrenaline searching, as my senses slowly returned, I heard a voice.
"Huh..." the voice said, bemused. The container had opened, steam flooded out of it. The Thunderbird had disappeared, leaving something else in its wake. A woman, pale-skinned and bare, emerged from the chamber. Her hair was platinum blond, almost white, except for a strip of blue that almost hung in front of her electric blue eyes. Her eyes, themselves, gleamed, emphasized by the dark, black, thick rings around them. She moved over to me, stood above me, then kneeled, intently analyzing me. I knew what she was, I could feel the panic beginning to grow again.
"That strange," the voice said, "you look exactly like me."