The Cain Paradox
Photo by Nandor Muzsik on Unsplash
The blast doors trundled open with an earth rumbling clamour, revealing the dark antechamber within. Half a dozen weapon mounted lights swept the gloom, finding the corridor that led to the rest of the facility.
“I’ve got blood, sir,” Point-man said as he sped into the room, followed by the rest of the team. “Someone was dragged . . . a lot of people were dragged from the door controls and back down the corridor.”
“I thought there would be only one survivor?” the rearguard said as she shuffled backwards through the doors, scanning the howling dark outside for threats.
“If the Cain Particle was leaked, a single man would do strange things in the time it took us to get here,” the captain said. “Now don’t lose sight of our objectives, neutralise the compromised survivor, seal the containment breach, and keep those bloody masks on. The Cain Particle is an aerosol compound that bonds with neurotransmitters in order to spike jealousy and mistrust to the point of butchery. I don’t want to have to kill any of my own team.”
“Yes sir,” Point-man responded, “Moving down the corridor.”
The team filtered into the narrow corridor as they delved deeper into the facility, boots crunching on dried viscera.
“We’ve got bodies nailed to the walls lining the whole corridor . . .” Point-man sounded like he was going to be sick.
“It looks like a warning,” another operative replied.
“Easy soldiers,” the captain said, keeping the dread from his voice as he passed the first displayed corpse. The bloodied expression that gazed down at him from its perch was stricken with . . . annoyance? As if the whole ordeal of being slaughtered was simply an inconvenience. Perhaps the particle affected their minds more than the Intel anticipated? The captain thought.
“Some of them . . .” the rearguard said, her voice trailing off, “. . . It’s almost like . . .”
“Motion sensors show movement through the next door,” Point-man said.
The team quieted as they filtered out of the gory corridor and into a second, smaller antechamber with a key card security door. It had a view port in the top, which was smeared with harshly applied black paint, and a warning scrawled in the same substance across the middle of the door.
YOU MAY ENTER FOR A PRICE
“What does that mean?” Point-man wondered.
“Motion sensors are picking up more than one entity,” another operative said, “I thought they would have killed each other to the last man?”
“Weapons up team, the situation may be . . . dynamic. This next room is a security checkpoint of sorts, be careful.” The captain looked at Point-man and nodded.
Point-man nodded back and swiped the key card slot, the door slid open and the team rushed in with their weapons up.
They froze, two guards and one scientist with crazed, gaunt expressions blinked at them. They were interrupted from tasks of stacking crates and taking inventory in the fortified space.
The guards were armed with automatic weapons, but instead of reaching for them they gripped large wrenches.
“Hold on, hold on!” the scientist buzzed frantically, scurrying forward.
The response team aimed their weapons at him and the two guards snarled savage warnings. “Don’t you dare! He’s our designated spokesperson!”
“What?” the captain mouthed to himself, “Hold fire team, something isn’t right.”
“Hi,” the scientist smiled, but his expression was hollow, fake. Point-man shivered. “I am Doctor Fredricks. I believe you were expecting one survivor once the Cain Particle breach was detected?”
“Yes?” the captain responded.
“Well, something . . . fascinating happened.” His head cocked, rigid, like a poorly controlled puppet. “It was a blood bath—initially. Three quarters of the staff died in the initial slaughter. The particle did its job, heightening mistrust and jealousy to the point we all turned to our baser instincts. We turned to violence to get what we wanted, food, weapons . . . but in the churning madness we hit a critical point of tranquillity . . .”
There was a noise, a wet squelch, the rearguard turned back down the gloomy entrance corridor but found nothing save for the pinned corpses. She shook her head and turned back to Doctor Fredricks.
“We quickly realised,” Fredricks continued, “that in order to survive we had to work together. In the depths of carnal rage, we found altruism. We knew we would all die otherwise, so the best way to live was to enforce strict societal order. Everyone got a share of rations, of weapons, of shelter, any who took more than they were owed, well,” he gestured back down the bloodied corridor.
The rearguard turned again to follow his gesture . . . she never turned back.
“And now, a rescue party is here.” Fredricks finished.
“We aren’t a rescue party,” the captain slowly raised his weapon. “We’re here to contain the breach.”
“Oh but that’s a matter of perspective, captain.” Fredricks leered, “You brought equipment, rations . . .” his lips pulled back from his teeth, the false smile becoming a horrible snarl “. . . meat. And you only expected one combatant, ignoring all else on your path to get to me here.”
“We can take the lot of you.” Point-man said, “It’s six v. three.”
The captain felt a tingle of dread dance down his spine, “Rearguard, report.” He ordered.
She didn’t answer.
The captain ignored his training, and turned his back on the Doctor and his guards, looking back down the bloodied corridor. Several of the apparent corpses had torn themselves from their perch, and had slit the throats of all of his team, save for Point-man.
He pressed back up against Point-man, bringing his weapon up. “Weapons free!”
But the order came too late, Point-man squeezed off a round and dropped one of the guards before the second was upon him, swinging his wrench like a club.
The Captain was just as misfortunate; his spray of bullets hit the first madman to rush him. His assailant kept charging however, combining body armour with an insane disregard for rib breaking force. He tackled the captain to the ground and they pinned him in place as Doctor Fredricks leaned over the brawl, his sinister snarl a mockery of human glee.
“Team work,” he cackled, “Is the only real way to satisfy our carnal desires!” He raised his wrench and struck.
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