Chapter 10: Jones
I became conscious a few moments before I truly woke up. Visions of memories faded past me, some familiar, some old, some new, and some which did not belong to me. Then, around the fraying edges of my mind, memories of where I had just been rushed back to me, of the school, of the rubble, of Michelle. Panic awoke me, and disorientation followed. I was drenched in sweat, and my heart was racing, for a moment I thought I was awaking from a bad nightmare. But as I noticed the dirt I lay on, and the immobile bodies of Matthias and Natasha, I realized this was not the case.
"Glad to see you're awake," Nick said, he was sitting with his back against Katie. In a futile attempt to be discreet he closed a leather-bound journal and tucked it into his back pocket.
"Mornin' Nick," I choked out groggily as I sat up, "Hey, uh... you don't happen to know where we are do you?"
"According to a road sign near the highway that's over there," he gestured off through the surrounding forest, "We're, 17 miles from Philadelphia. Though, if you want a more literal answer, we're in a clearing in what is presumably a forest in Pennsylvania. I had some time to wander around while you were asleep."
"Not necessarily, we could be in Jersey."
"I hope to God and whatever other deities are willing to listen that we aren't," Nick said.
"Amen," came the sleepy voice of Matthias, who had just begun to stir. "I hate Jersey."
"Oh good, you're up," Nick said cheerily.
"As am I," added Natasha as she lifted herself slowly from the ground and stood up.
"That's less good," Nick said.
"Well, now that the whole party is nice and conscious, does anyone mind telling me how we got here? And, more importantly, how we got out of Light?"
"Also of note, it's the 20th, so one wonders what happened to the past four days," Nick interjected.
"All good questions, none of which I know the answer to," Matthias said, I picked up a hint of frustration in his voice.
"For the first time in your life, right Matthias?" Natasha teased.
"Odd... so am I the only one who remembers then?" Nick mused, we all turned to him.
"Remembers what?" Matthias asked cautiously.
"Does the word Labyrinth mean anything to any of us?" Nick said smugly. There was a silence, and then we all slowly looked at each other.
"You don't mean to say that all was real, do you?" I asked.
"Come on, after the things we've seen, Smith, you're going to doubt this?" Nick asked.
"He's right," Matthias said, "I don't doubt it happened..."
"I was trapped at a party," Natasha said sullenly.
"... Are you for real?" I asked.
"Midas was there, and Matthias, and Scylla, and Daphne... It was awful. There was a man named Joshua..."
"Joshua?" I asked, "A guy in a silver tie?" Natasha and Matthias both turned towards me dangerously.
"I met him too..." muttered Matthias, "He trapped me in his office."
"We all met him," Nick said, "He's the one who designed the Labyrinth. Apparently, he's familiar with the Rousseau family."
"And why, dear Nicholas, are you so informed?" Matthias asked.
"Because I was the one he chose to be our escape. Apparently, my greatest fear is responsibility."
"How did you escape?" I asked.
"It's a Labyrinth, I just kept going. The last thing I remember was Joshua saying there was one last thing I needed to see... and then nothing."
"And now we're here," I said, "... Might I ask, why Pennsylvania?"
"Actually, Joshua did us a favor leaving us here," Matthias said, "We're midway between both of our potential destinations. New York is a few hours to the east, and we'll be able to find a ship to take us over to England there. Additionally, Gettysburg, which is where we need to go to help Daphne with her little project, is a few hours west."
"So where do we go?" Nick asked.
"Gettysburg, I'd say," Matthias suggested.
"We're still going to help Miss Rousseau then? I mean for all we know the whole meeting in Light was a set up. Mr. Granger was supposed to take care of us, and if he didn't we'd be stuck in the Labyrinth. Gettysburg could be her fail-safe, a chance to dispose of us herself if everything else fails."
"I trust her," Natasha cut in, "I saw her in the Labyrinth. She was trapped getting out of Light, she had no idea about the Labyrinth, and most likely didn't know about Mr. Granger. We need allies, I say we go to Gettysburg."
"Then it's settled," Matthias said.
"Wait, hey, I didn't cast my vote!" I protested.
"You don't count," he replied with finality, "Now, I believe we should get going. Our window to get out of this country is rapidly closing. It's more than likely Midas has already started placing operatives in New York."
"Nick, Jones, help me push Katie onto the highway," Natasha said, getting behind the blue car. A small path led from the clearing to the highway, and after 4 minutes of pushing and panting, we managed to roll Katie on to the pavement. Matthias turned the ignition, the 3 of us hopped in, and we were once again speeding down the highway.
Pennsylvania is quite a state. Trees whipped by, towns and suburbs interspersed at regular intervals. Mountains rose up on the horizon, though we never actually came close to them. We remained silent during the drive, not because of any unaddressed tension, but due to a sense of peace that we all mutually felt after our respective ordeals in the Labyrinth. Though eventually, the revelation that none of us had eaten for roughly four days dawned on each of us around the same time, and Matthias decided to make a stop at a highway rest stop. Katie pulled up to a seedy, brick building that seemed to be covered in various levels of grime. Natasha, Nick, and I entered the building while Matthias took Katie to get a full tank. A variety of fast-food restaurants populated the interior of the building; Natasha wandered off to a coffee shop, and I was about to follow, but Nick grabbed my arm and pulled me back.
"Do you remember precisely what happened in the Labyrinth?" he asked in a hushed tone. I paused for a moment.
"So you remember me?"
"Smith, I know about Michelle. I know about Sarah. Why didn't you tell us before?" he tried to make eye contact, but I avoided his gaze. "Hey, listen. We're going to England. You're the one who suggested it. You don't intend to see them again, do you?"
"I..." I turned away and shook my head. Nick grabbed my shoulders and shook me gently.
"Jones. Don't do it. Don't see them. Listen to me," he brought himself threateningly close, "If you go to them, you're putting them in the line of fire. You know who we're involved with now. You know what could happen."
"Nick, you don't know what it's like," I yelled, pulling myself away, "You know why I did this in the first place? It was for them. I thought I'd finally make enough money to get us one our feet. I miss them every day Nick, I can't stand being away from them. So don't you tell me I can't see them."
"Smith," Nick began, but I shoved him back. He had hit a nerve, I was fuming. "Jones... Don't tell Matthias or Natasha."
"Don't tell them. They can't know, they can't be trusted. They may have human and moral intentions now, but we can't forget, they're base and criminal. If they know you have a weakness, at some point they may try to exploit it." Nick finished his piece, and a tense silence followed.
"Alright," I said finally, "I won't tell them. For now. But eventually they're going to find out. I'm going to see them Nick." He just shook is head, but he never got a chance to try to dissuade me again, because at that moment Matthias walked through the door and Natasha returned with her coffee. Nick gave me one last, meaningful look, then turned away, and just like that our little heart to heart disappeared into nothing but memory.