Chapter 4: Natasha
"How far ahead are they?" the Trapper-Spider asked.
"Not far, have a few minutes on us. We can catch up," I revved the engine and gunned forward. The Trapper-Spider tightened his limbs around my waist. No other cars were on the road, the area had been locked down. Civilians were cowering behind the rows of parked vehicles as blue fireworks erupted from the stadium. The police were setting up a barricade, and when they saw us coming, they drew their firearms and ordered us to stop. The Trapper-Spider blew out the kneecaps of two, and we powered through the half-constructed barricade.
"We don't kill the Wordsmith or the Mute Musician. We shoot out their tires. we just want to delay them enough to overtake them," I said. The city streets were packed, and dark. Antithesis must have blown the power grid. There was no orange glow emanating from the street lamps, merely the pale light of the stars. I weaved between the gridlocked cars, and merged onto a highway.
"How do you know where he went?! I mean, how do you know where his daughter is?!" the Trapper-Spider asked.
Oh, I know a lot more about our posse than you think I do. Than anyone thinks I do.
The stars above winked out for a second, became black, then twinkled back into existence. I heard the unmistakable roar of an airplane engine. Something large, black, and loud was above us. Stealing the starlight. Spirits. B-2s. Stealth Bombers. Carpet bombing run. The words ran through my mind in a split second.
"ABOVE US!" the Trapper-Spider screamed, but I already knew. The doors of the bombers opened, and the menacing whistle of falling bombs sounded above us. There was a crash and a blinding flash behind us, and then there was a void behind us. Hundreds of bombers opened, all at once. The first strike. They would level the city, then the Agents would be sent in to clean up.
"What's your favorite color?" the Oktoberist asked.
"I prefer a richer shade. Bloody maroon. Blood red, I suppose. Like wine. Natasha, have you met Katie?" the Oktoberist pointed to the nervous girl in the chair across from us. Her bare feet didn't reach the floor, and she kept fidgeting with the end of her dress.
"I haven't had the pleasure."
"She's a god. Type-IV."
"Is that so? What's her talent?"
"I've seen how this ends, Natasha," Katie interrupted. I became aware of how empty the room was. There were three chairs, myself, the Oktoberist... Katie. And. Nothing else.
"I've seen how this ends, full stop. I've seen how this ends, Natasha. You won't like it. I was there during the last Oktober, when the skies turned red and the rivers ran with blood. I've seen how this ends. You lost. Your kingdom collapsed. The pillars of sand shifted in the breeze and you came tumbling down. I was there. I've seen how this ends. You die, Natasha." Katie smiled.
"You slut," I murmured, "I thought I killed you."
"You did," Katie whispred. Darker red overshadowed the hue of her dress. Blood red. Her skin was deathly white. She put her hand to her stomach, to the source of the blood. Katie let out a small giggle, then collapsed.
"There!" the Trapper-Spider yelled. I could barely hear him over the din of the explosions. Ahead of us, serpentining between detonations, was the streaking blue of the car they had stolen. We raced ahead. The Trapper-Spider ordered me to take bring him close, so I did. We were mere feet from them, and the Wordsmith and Mute Musician had noticed us. The Wordsmith sat terrified and unsure of himself in the passenger's seat. The Mute Musician, however, gazed purposefully ahead. Katie, tears streaking down her face, turned towards me and cried out. The Trapper-Spider fired twice at the tires, missing both times.
The Mute Musician shouted something at the Wordsmith, who took the wheel, allowing the Mute Musician to focus his attention on us. He opened fire. I swore loudly and swerved. The Mute Musician was a bad shot, but the determination of a father trying to protect his baby girl is one of the most powerful forces on the earth.
"So what is my name," he asked me.
"Really? How dull."
"I apologize. What would you have me call you?"
"I suppose the Serpent would be appropriate."
"I've told a woman how to make herself like god."
"I don't know if I like that analogy."
"Well, according to my sister, it ends the same way."
"Dust to dust."
The Mute Musician's tire blew out, and they screeched to a halt. The Wordsmith was badly whiplashed. The Trapper-Spider and I slowed ourselves, coming to a stop next to them. The Mute Musician had let his tears flow. His face glistened, and he held the gun to me.
"I'll kill you, and take the bike," he said, "Don't try to stop me." I turned to the Trapper-Spider.
"Take Katie. Take the Wordsmith. Head back into the city, find us a way out of her. Quickly, and when you do, meet us back at Project Antithesis," the Trapper-Spider nodded, then I turned to the Mute Musician. "You, get on the back. We're going after your daughter." It took a moment for him to understand, but when he did, he scrambled on to the back of the Motorcycle.
"You shoot," the Mute Musician nodded, "better than you just were."
Where am I? There is a school. No, wait, there was a school. Now it's rubbled. There is the Serpent, he's watching. There is the Oktoberist, the Mute Musician is next to me. Okay. There is Katie. She sees the Serpent, I don't think the others do. She knows what I'm doing, that could be a problem. Oh, wait, who is that? I don't know her. That could be bad. Alright.
There is a girl on the ground, next to the Oktoberist. She's covered in sweat, blood, and grime. Probably a fair amount of tears too. She looks young, Katie's age? Well, the age Katie looks anyway. She's naked, beaten, and bruised. No fingernails, they've been torn off. Her eyes are listless, hollow and empty, as though her soul has already departed her body. The Mute Musician has a handheld radio, so does the Oktoberist.
"Hello, Smith," the Oktoberist's voice crackles over the radio, "I'm glad you made it."
"You BASTARD," the Mute Musician shrieks, not even bothering to use the radio. The Oktoberist is about a football field away, but somehow I have the feeling that he heard. The Mute Musician raised his gun and took aim at the Oktoberist.
"You don't honestly think you can hit me from there do you? Put down the gun, Smith." The Mute Musician didn't, instead he took aim at Katie. Her tears had just dried and she was already crying again.
"You know you can't hurt her," the Oktoberist said, "You know there is nothing you can do. Pay close attention to this moment Smith, pay very close attention. You were the most bright-eyed of your little gang, I want to shatter those illusions you have. I want you to see how cruel this world is, and understand why it needs to end. So pay. Very. Close. Attention." The Oktoberist's voice cut away, and we saw him hand the radio to the Mute Musician's daughter.
"Daddy?" her voice was a whisper. Tears welled in the Mute Musician's eyes. "Daddy... please. Please, I... Mommy's gone, Daddy. Please." Her voice was becoming more and more frantic, you could tell she was barely able to speak. "Bring her back Daddy! DADDY I DON'T WANT TO DIE! PLEASE! PLEASE DON'T LET ME DIE!" Sobs, great heaving sobs, "PLEASE GOD! MOMMY! DADDY PLEASE DON'T LET ME DIE!" The Oktoberist delivered a swift kick to the girl's stomach, and she fell to the ground. The Mute Musician broke into a run, ignorant of the flames, ignorant of the chaos around him. "DADDY!"
"DADDY! PLEASE! I LOVE YOU! DAD! DAD, DAD! DADDY, DAD-" the world stopped.
The bullet shook the world as it exited the Oktoberist's barrel. For one second, a single second, everything was silently, everything was black, and everything hurt.
Then the Mute Musician's daughter slump, and toppled over. Dead.