Chapter 9: Matthias
It was not long until we found the Ebony Tower Midas housed himself in. It was a relatively short drive, the last stretch of our Journey. Daphne, Smith, Nick, and I drove in Katie while Renard and Natasha followed on one motorbike and Scylla on another. CERN had been the location of a lot of Rousseau International research and development during the past few years, it made sense for a few reasons. Primarily, CERN could never be directly linked to Rousseau International. Rousseau International does own CERN, though there are so many proxies it's almost impossible to trace. Nonetheless, CERN was completely under Midas' control. Additionally, CERN's secrecy and power usage wouldn't be as scrutinized as Rousseau International's own. People are innately distrustful of megacorporations.
So a few years ago, Midas ordered that a few new buildings be constructed at CERN, and he dedicated them purely to weapons research. Project Antithesis' inception was in one of these new buildings. One of the buildings constructed was the Ebony Tower. That wasn't its true name, its true name was something along the lines of "the Department of Neo-Theoretical Physics" or something equally as obfuscating and mundane. The Ebony Tower was merely what Rousseau Agents called it at the time. In any event, this expansion got almost no attention from the press, likely due to vast sums of money being spent on silencing any that would report on it, and so Midas had, without drawing the attention of the public eye, set up a weapons development facility in the midst of potentially the greatest minds of our generation.
When we made our way towards the Ebony Tower a few hours ago, it's name was very much a literal one. A black spire rose above the ground, and above it swirling clouds crackled with electricity and whirled around the top of the tower, as though its apex was the center of a maelstrom. From the base of the tower machinery sprawled outward, creeping over and covering the landscape as though it was some sort of mechanical weed. Massive quantities of thick, black smoke were being pumped out of the machines, and the setting sun caught the debris in the air, turning the sky into a brilliant, screaming orange-red.
"What is this?" Nick asked.
"This is Project H," Daphne replied, "My father's magnum opus. This is why his war is being waged. Ground broke on this machine the day that he attacked New York. His cancer spread quickly, I see..."
"What is it that Project H does, exactly?" Nick asked, "I know what it's meant to do. I know it's meant to..." he paused, "It's meant to end us. End life. But how does it do it?"
"No one knows," Matthias replied. "He never told anyone precisely how it did what it did. Not even the scientists working on it. He had different labs work on different parts, and he seperated the labs by thousands of miles, and oceans."
"There are many things we don't understand about it, for example, we know that the great beasts must be awakened and killed for it to work, but we don't know why," Daphne interjected.
There was a guard booth ahead of us, and a chainlink fence that stretched around the entire complex. It must've been miles long, it stretched beyond the horizon before they turned. As we approached, I noticed a guard in the booth, and for half a second I panicked, reaching for my gun. However, before I even raised my weapon, I realized he wasn't a threat. The glass of the booth was covered in handprints, scratches, and blood. The guard was standing utterly still, looking towards the sea. His nails had been ripped off, and his hands and shirt were covered in blood.
"Is he locked in?" Jones asked.
"He must be," I replied.
"Why... why isn't he still trying to get out?"
"He knows he can't escape. That glass is bullet proof. God that's terrifying..." I paused for a second, "The last human instinct he has is telling him to give up."
We rolled passed the booth and into the complex, and soon we were surrounded be smoke, smog, and machinery. There wasn't another living soul around. They had all left. The workers, the guards, the scientists. They had been gone for hours, all marching towards the sea. It felt like a trap, and in a way it was. However, this trap had been abandon by the hunters, and though it is still primed, there would be no one there to capture and skin us if it were to be sprung. Or would there? I thought this as we naviagted the winding road towards the base of the Ebony Tower. True enough, the guard had been entranced, and there was no doubt that most of the facility was abandon, however, our group was resisting the call of the feast thus far, certainly Midas had a few agents with the will to overcome it aswell.
Thunder cracked above us, it was close. Less than half a second after the lightning struck, the thunder shattered the sky with a deafening roar. It occured to me that we had at least one enemy: our stalker, Natasha's antithesis. She was likely watching us right that moment, but she did not attack. The trap hadn't been sprung yet, it was too early, and so the wild dog bided its time.
We found ourselves soon at the base of the Ebony Tower. The large industrial form of the building stood looming over us, like a steel obelisk, pipes and smokestacks branching off of the construct. It was otherworldly, alien, not a structure of this earth. And that was fitting, when one thinks about it. It is not meant to be something of this world, infact it is meant to be the thing that ends this world. A sinister, blighted machine that brings only an obscure, ambigious, but nonetheless utterly complete death to the our species. Perhaps to all species. Nestled under an arch of outcropping pipes were two, tall, black, featureless doors, one just ever so slightly ajar.
"We're here," Natasha commented, her voice lacking any inflection, as she pulled up beside Katie. "Easier than I was expecting, honestly."
"Too easy, you know that," I replied.
"Where do we go from here?"
"I'm not entirely sure..." I muttered, "We're being watched by Antithesis at least, she's circling us like a vulture." I point to the sky, and as if on cue another bolt of lightning lashed out from the sky. "She's not attacking yet though, which means..."
"Which means they want us to go further in," Nick chimed in.
"Exactly. We need to take a moment, I need to gather my thoughts. Natasha, you stay here and watch Antithesis, everyone else take a moment. Arm up," I ordered. Everyone immediately disperesed. Retrospectively, this strategizing should've happened earlier, however, we were not prepared for this. This was the opposite of what I had been expecting, of what we had all been expecting. I thought we were going to have to storm the castle, not waltz into the fortress. As we dispersed, I caught Nick by the arm and took him aside.
"I need you to make me a promise, Nick," I whispered to him as soon as we were out of the earshot of the others.
"I didn't think we were so close, Matthias."
"This is serious, Nick." I produced my journal, this journal, from the inside pocket of my coat and handed it to him. "I've been documenting our journey in this, since we started back in Los Angelos. I'm going to write my last entry in this, and then I'm going to give it to you, alright?"
"I... what am I supposed to... why?"
"Because I don't know what is going to happen once we pass through those obsidian doors, Nick. I don't know what's waiting for us. What I do know is I am going to do everything I can to stop Midas, and to destroy Project H. Even if that means I need to die, Nick."
"Matthias!" Nick protested. Not perhaps, out of a feeling a passion towards me, but rather as a reaction to what he prehaps viewed as melodrama.
"Nick, stay quiet. What I need you to do, what I want you to promise me, is that you will be a coward. If at least one of us isn't left alive, then this is pointless. With us, we can free those who are heading to the feast. We can stitch the Earth back together. The crippled Rousseau International facilities have the means, but even if they don't we could... we could leave. Build an ark. But only if at least one of us survives. It needs to be you, Nick. You're the only one I trust. If things go south, I'm going to die making sure we kill Midas and we stop his plan, but the last thing I want to see, before I die, Nick, is you. I want to see you running away."