Chapter 6: Nick
There are a few circumstances so deeply ingrained in our collective unconscious that I believe we all are under the assumption that we will have to deal with them at some point in our lives. For instance, we see therapy so much on television and in books, I think we all subconsciously believe we will at some point undergo psychological therapy. Jail is another example, how often do you see the protagonist of a story thrown into a cell and wonder what you would do in that situation? My point is, I think I knew all along that at some point in my life, I'd be fleeing a military in a high-speed car chase, attempting to drive the car through the open bay door of a military aircraft.
Though that knowledge did nothing to lessen the shock.
Allow me to explain. I recently received a note from Joshua. It was a simple message quickly scrawled on a scrap of paper: "We haven't talked in a while. I think we should meet again." Then some coordinates, then: "Are his lies art? Spare." The A, R, and E in 'Spare' were circled. It only took me a few minutes to decipher this. It appears to be a dual-message, I'm not sure what Joshua means by the first question, "Are his lies art?" Perhaps 'he' is you, I'm not sure. However, the message is an anagram. The 'Spare' with the circled letters is telling you to eliminate the first word of the first message, leaving you with: "his lies art?" or, after some rearranging, "Is this real?"
This is something he said to me just before I left the Labyrinth, I assume he repeated it here so I could confirm that the letter was indeed written by him. The coordinates specified an empty part of the northern Sahara Desert, only a few hours flight from where we were in Italy. It took a few hours of discussion to decide whether or not we should go, Matthias was concerned that we may be walking right into another trap. Of course, in the end, we all knew what choice we had to make.
So we stole an airplane. A random military transport plan, Boeing Globemaster or something like that, Natasha said. Now, the story of the theft of that craft is a harrowing tale of valor and bravery and such, but unfortunately I will not be relating it to you, because there are more pressing matters that I want to discuss. Perhaps one of my comrades decided to document those events, in which case I hope you have the full collection of our journals. The matter that I find so concerning is this, well... I'll start from just after we took flight. Natasha was piloting the Boeing.
"How does she know how to operate just about any vehicle we come across?" Smith asked Matthias, who was busy securing Katie to the floor of the plane with ratchet straps.
"At Rousseau International, it is required that one in every ten agents is trained in 'advanced vehicle operation' which essentially means they will be instructed in the operation of about two thousand different vehicles," Matthias explained.
"It takes years to learn how to operate complicated vehicles like an airplane though," Smith protested.
"When you're will Rousseau International, your entire life is dedicated to them. If they tell you to learn how to fly a plane, you spend every waking moment of your life pouring over instruction manuals and taking practice flights until you are the greatest pilot who ever lived."
While Smith and Matthias continued their conversation, I took a moment to look around the bay area. It was mostly empty, nothing special. A large cargo crate in the center, seats lining the walls, Katie was being strapped in towards the rear. However, something was slightly off about the room. I could sense it, there was something, some tiny, minute detail that was wrong and I was overlooking it.
There's a box in the center, I realized. A box. One. Singular. This was a military craft that was being prepped for take-off, if not full of troops it should have been full of supplies. But there was just one, matte, green cargo box in the center. Then, in the back of my mind, a thought took root. A terrible thought, a horrible one I did my best to ignore, but I couldn't. It reminded me of another cargo box, one much like this one.
"Matthias," I said, "There is a box here." Matthias stopped securing Katie and looked up at me, then at the box, then at me again.
"There is a box, Matthias. Just one," I said. I assume those words were all it took for the thought to plant itself in Matthias' mind.
"What are you saying Nick?"
"I'm saying we should open it." Matthias looked at me, then at the box again. It wasn't locked; there was no keypad, no padlock, no means of securing the contents at all.
"Go ahead then," Matthias said after a moment's thought.
You already know what's inside though, don't you reader. You know, like I knew. Without even having to open the crate, I knew. And as surely as I knew, I was also aware of the fact that it was impossible. I was understood the implications, and they scared the living hell out of me, because though I've known I am not in control of my destiny for a while, this confirmed it. I've know this world isn't real, just as Joshua showed me. I've known, but knowing does nothing to lessen the shock.
There are things we all know, horrible truths we are all aware of, but that knowledge doesn't ease the pain.
See, this thing. This object locked away in the crate, it's terrible on its own, but what is even more horrifying than it, than the things it is capable of, is the simple truth behind it. We chose this plane at random, in an unoccupied country. For this object to be here, on this plane, means that something powerful and malevolent knew, before even we did, that we would be on this plane. That we would be here. It means our fate, our actions, our free will are illusions, our lives are predetermined. It means we aren't in control.
And whatever is in control hates us.
I swung open the door, and though I knew what I would see, though I expect it, the knowledge did not dampen the blow. Sitting in the crate, it's glow pulsing gently as the red digits on its readout ticked away, stood a the Second Lure.