Chapter 11: Smith

11/22/07

The bombs fell like a hellish rain. Whistling, black shapes descending like angels of death. The street behind us was pulverized, and the path in front of us was a firestorm. And yet, we ran, we ran until our blood boiled, and our lungs collapsed. A bomb detonated within a few yards of me. The shock wave knocked me to the ground, and the shrapnel swept through the air. Renard grabbed my hand and pulled me back up. He shouted something, but I couldn't hear him, my ears were deafened by a ceaseless ringing.

"Here! Take shelter here!" Renard yelled, pointing to a large, ancient looking church. Saint Thomas Episcopal church, gray and steepled. We ran up the stone stairs of the building and we slammed open the massive wooden doors of the building. Bombs continued to shake the city, clouds of dust descended on the rows of wooden pews inside. Every inch of the building shook with each detonation.

"Do you think this place will stand?" I asked Renard.

"It had better," Renard said, reloading his revolver, "Now, mind telling me what Matthias' escape plan is, because I've suddenly decided New York isn't really my style."

"There is a ship, the Arcturus, in Manhattan Harbor. The plan is to smuggle Katie and ourselves aboard, and hijack the ship once it is at sea, then retreat to Europe and hide," I explained.

"Europe?" Renard said incredulously, raising his voice over the sound of explosions in the distance, "Rousseau International's primary Headquaters is in France."

"Hold on, did you just say Rousseau International?" I asked, "How the hell do you know about them?"

"The bastards have been after me since I left Vegas. They haven't caught me, 'course. And from what I hear, they're after your foursome too. What did Oktober do to piss them off so bad?"

"We stole their car," I replied, the bombs were starting to die off. "What about you?"

"Apparently, they are fond of my little ability. Of course, it's the very thing they want me for that prevents them from getting me," Renard snickered. Overhead, the screams of jet engines and the beating of helicopter blades replaced the din of the air raid.

"Don't be so sure, Renard..." a mocking voice uttered. It echoed around the church, eerily repeating itself. It was the voice of Scylla, the voice of the beast. "I'll be honest, I think I've met my match with you, Renard. You see, typically, I don't miss. In fact, I never miss, not until today, at least. You on the other hand, are never hit. It creates an interesting paradox doesn't it." The sound of footsteps bounced around the building, rendering Scylla untraceable. Renard and I took cover in one of the rows of pews.

"Do you have a weapon?" Renard asked, I shook my head.

"We keep our supplies in Katie," I answered.

"Hell, Jones, you should at least know enough to keep a pistol on you," Renard criticized, "Stay down then, I'll take care of this."

"Will you?" Scylla called, his voice now definitively coming from somewhere on the balcony, "Because, as lucky as you are, I'm just as good of a shot. I can shoot your bullets clean out of the air. Let's put this to the test, let's see if your luck can beat my skill."

Scylla emerged from behind a pillar on the balcony and took aim, but Renard was quick, and fired off two shots before Scylla could properly line up his. Scylla's cackling laughter echoed around the sanctuary. Renard grabbed me and dragged me behind one of the ornate pillars on the lower floor. There was a loud cracking, and the sound of metal twisting and concrete crumbling, a far off building collapsed and hit the ground. Hard. The impact rocked the building, causing a large chunk of the ceiling to fall. Scylla, seeing that Renard was distracted and taking the opportunity, fired off a shot. The concrete and plaster block hit the floor directly in between Renard and Scylla, and the bullet collided with it rather than Renard's head. Scylla cursed loudly and disappeared out of sight.

"We need to get the hell out of here!" I yelled to Renard.

"You don't need to tell me!" Renard called back, already bolting for the door. Scylla's voice was all around us now, along with the sound of rockets and gunfire, and the smell of smoke.

"To be honest, sometimes I wonder if I'm on the right side in all of this," Scylla mused, "I mean, do I really agree with Midas' end goal, or am I in it just for the money and the thrill? Do I truly want the extermination of my own species? I'm beginning to think that I'm just not that dedicated to the cause."

Another gunshot, this time it did connect with Renard, but merely took a chunk off of his left pinky finger. Renard shrieked with pain and grabbed his hand. Another shot, this one directed at me. The bullet tore through my leg, and pain like a searing, white-hot liquid gushed through me. I howled, tears streamed down my face. Scylla emerged from the stairwell and lowered his gun.

"Ah, that's much better. I quite enjoy hitting what I intend to," he said gleefully. Renard fumbled for his gun, but Scylla shot it, and sent the chrome piece of metal flying.

"It seems that your talents don't extend beyond your body very well in panicked situations, Renard. Interesting," Scylla smirked. Renard threw himself at the predator, tackling him with full force. With one finger one the trigger, Renard managed to fire off a shot while struggling with the Rousseau Agent. The bullet shattered a large, elaborate, stained-glass window, which then cascaded down up Scylla, viciously cleaving his back and right arm. Scylla threw Renard off him, and fired one more shot. Renard didn't have time to react, the bullet shredded straight through him, his wail was unearthly. But the bullet didn't hit a single organ, or bone, or muscle, or major artery. It was a clean shot, no lasting damage at all. Now, with both of us incapacitated, Scylla was free to stand over us and deliver his monologue uninterrupted.

"You see, Midas is the Nietzschean, nihilistic type. Man is evil, man must die, etc. He's a genius, but as is so often the case with geniuses, he has a very narrow, uncreative view of his goals," Scylla stated uselessly, "He has a grand scheme, one to wipe out not only human life in our reality, but in every possible reality there is. He created Helios for that purpose, an all-consuming, perpetually living machine of death. And it's wonderful, really it is but...

"I just wonder if this is all really what I want, you know? I'm sure you don't want to be burdened with my feelings and worries, but I find it's best to talk things through. Do you want to know something? I admire what you four did, Smith. Really took Midas down a peg, which frankly, I think did him some good. He can't always be sitting up there on his pedestal. But it got me thinking, maybe I should take this opportunity to realign myself, you know? Double-check my motivations.

"If you've been counting, you will have noticed, I'm out of bullets. I fired all six shots. So, while we have some alone time before the Rousseau International Agents storm this place, I'd like to see if we could make a deal," Scylla finished with a grin of smug satisfaction painted across his face. I sat totally silent for a few moments.

"... You just shot us!" Renard cried.

"Yeah, yeah, I did. My apologies. Though I expect it may happen multiple times in the future."

"What sort of deal do you want," I asked catiously.

"Ah, that's much more like it! You were always my favorite, Jones. As of right now, I don't have anything specific in mind. I'm still not sure if leaving my position at Rousseau International is quite the best idea, but... call this hedging my bets. You already know that I've got quite a useful skill set. And additionally, I'm a goldmine of knowledge, I know stuff I don't even have clearance to know withing Rousseau International. It pays to have friends in high places. In return, I would want Oktober to help be find and destroy every record of my existence, provided you manage to bring down Midas and his jolly friends."

"You can't be serious," Renard said to him, and then he repeated it to me.

"Oh but I am," Scylla answered, "My main priority has always been self-preservation. And in the direction Midas is heading, well, it just seems as though that may be thrown in jeopardy." I pulled myself up, and uneasily managed to stand unsupported. Scylla watched me with a vague sense of bemusement.

"I think we may be able to strike a deal," I said, extending my hand, Scylla's grin nearly tore his face in half.

"I'm incredibly glad to hear that."




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