Peter taps his fingers against the solid floor of the travel-duct.
Unable to stand up completely in the cramped space, he blows a hard, impatient breath through his nose as he waits for an attending lab tech to open the small metal door in front of him. With how hurried they seemed to get him showered and back in the room, he’s surprised that they’ve left him to shiver away in the cold duct for as long as they have.
Annoyed, he debates going back through where he came from, but when he peeks back over his shoulder, the small door to the washroom is equally, and firmly, shut.
In that moment he hears the familiar sound of the door sliding open, allowing the bright white of the room to spill into the travel-duct, and Peter hurries through before he could be trapped again. He quickly attaches himself to the wall and swings over to a ledge to properly dry off his mop of hair with one of the few blankets there.
“Don’t get all our stuff wet, Pete.”
Peter pokes his head over the ledge and chucks the wet blanket at the boy relaxing under the radiating warmth of the heat lamp below. It misses, landing next to his elbow with a muffled splat instead of onto its intended, smirking target.
“It’s not my fault they cut my shower short,” Peter whines, “They practically yanked me out of there!”
Peter crawls underneath the ledge to cling to its underside, mindful to avoid the hot bulbs that powered the large heat lamp, his standard black shirt falling to his chin. He lowers his voice to a whisper, “It was the same as breakfast, Kaine, they’re either rushing around or forgetting about us. The head nurse didn’t even take my dailies.”
Kaine props himself up on his hands, meeting his smaller brother’s worried stare. “I’m sure its nothing,” he dismisses, “...Maybe Dr. Connors lost his temper again, and they’re trying to help him before us.”
Dr. Connors. By far Peter’s favorite doctor in the facility, though that wasn’t saying much if your only competition was Dr. Warren. Connors never poked or prodded at them without warning, or eyed them like prized livestock, and his mere presence didn’t cause an involuntary chill to go up his spine. Connors was also the one person the Spiders had who could truly understand their situation, being a product of mutation himself, even if any conversation with the doctor devolved into droning sessions about how dangerous it was for them to leave the facility until properly prepared, trained, etcetera.
Peter also thought it was pretty cool that he could turn into a reptile.
Peter hums, satisfied with Kaine’s suggestion. “Well, I hope that whatever’s happening isn’t going to make dinner late too.”
Peter leapt away from the heat lamp, using a few ropes strewn about the room to reach one of the hideboxes in the middle of the space. Each are filled with plenty of blankets and pillows, and the entrances are high enough off the ground that it would take a ladder for any normal person to reach them. They feel protected, safe.
He settles on the flat top of their favorite one, swinging his legs over the edge while he scans the room for his other brother.
He spots Ben down on the floor, idly playing tug-of-war with an off-duty nurse behind the glass, the thick rope passing through a reinforced hole in the barrier. The nurse is struggling, the strain evident on his face as he fights for the rope against his much smaller opponent.
Dr. Warren had said that this sort of interaction was ‘enriching to both employee and Subject’, and despite the doctor’s phrasing, Peter couldn’t deny it. He often found himself enjoying watching the nurses and lab techs fall flat on their asses after he suddenly lets go of the rope, or playing tic-tac-toe on the glass with those who were just passing by their room.
Peter lets himself fall back on the roof of the hidebox, content to just rest his eyes until he hears the metallic, grating slide of the long dinner tray emerging from it’s own hidden door. He lets his mind drift, listening to the low hum of the walls, muffled conversations of nurses passing by the glass, to Ben and Kaine’s steady heartbeats.
“Ohh, c'mon...” Ben quietly whines from the floor, snapping Peter back from his near-slumber.
Peering over the side, Peter sees that the nurse has stopped playing and is being frantically ushered away by another group of employees. Ben huffs as he watches them leave, jostling the rope in irritation.
But it isn’t just the lost playmate. Almost immediately there are all sorts of employees rushing back and forth in front of the glass wall. Some carry stacks of papers, some lug computer towers or carry trashcans. A few were running, but most simply hustle from one side to the other, heading into unknown parts of the lab. Ben smooshes his face up against the glass in a vain attempt to see what all the commotion is about, even knocking a little at the thick glass to grab someone's attention, but abruptly straightens up and scoots away as something else makes their way among the employees scurrying past.
Peter felt it too, the hairs on his forearms standing on end in anticipation. Kaine, trained to hone in on when his brothers’ reacted this way, goes stock still as well, watching as the mechs start to file down the corridor.
Huh. These mechs look like actual people, a welcome change to the powerful, ruthless ones in colorful costumes that the Spiders are always pitted against, but they nonetheless make Peter's Sense buzz in the way that it did when he was too close to hot metal. Dangerous if you got too close.
All three Spiders continue to watch them march down the corridor, their blank, calm faces contrasting eerily with the stressed expressions on the frenzied employees. A passing lab tech smashes a button on the side-panel outside, and the mechs and rush of people alike gradually disappear behind their room’s security doors before they finally seal them into darkness.
For a while it is just the three of them breathing in the space, unsure of what to do. Is this a test? Is this something else? Dr. Connors sometimes told stories of how he was chased here, underground, for his mutations. That people outside liked to hunt mutants because they were afraid of their power, their abilities. Did those people finally find them?
Instinctively they start to group up, Peter and Ben huddling protectively on either side of Kaine on one of the ledges in the room. Kaine's lack of Sense left him vulnerable, so he depends on them to warn him of danger. The proximity to his brothers also calms Peter’s nerves a bit, and he leans into Kaine’s warm side as he focuses his hearing.
The silence carries on for what Peter thinks is close to an hour at most, with nothing but the persistent hum of machinery in the walls filtering through. The three Spiders have taken to crowding almost on top of one another in one of the higher, safer hideboxes, the space almost too small to comfortably house all three Spiders like it used to.
Suddenly, something shakes the walls of the building -- the loud, reverberating boom coming from somewhere outside the Spiders’ room. It’s followed by threatening footsteps, powerful enough to be heard past the soundproof security doors.
He goes rigid against Kaine as the security doors slowly rumble open and the red, flashing lights of the corridor start to filter into the darkened room.
A figure stands outside the glass -- a mech, Peter sees. But not just any mech, it's one they’re extremely familiar with. The memories of countless bruises and concussions race through Peter’s mind all in an instant. The flashing emergency lights reflect menacingly off the red-and-gold armor, and its hands cup its mechanical face as it presses up against the glass, glowing eyes piercing into the room's darkness.
He can hear his heartbeat pound in his ears as much as he can feel the ones of his brothers around him. The mech holds out its arm against the glass, the palm of its hand alighting with a blue, glowering eye.
This has to be a test, right? This has to be! But the funny-looking themed mechs never left the training rooms! What is this?
The whine reaches a fever-pitch.
And the glass wall of their home shatters.