Chapter 3: Jones

12/13/07

Michelle is the most beautiful girl in the world. She looks exactly like her mother. Her brown locks that tumble off her shoulders, her hazel eyes, devilishly disarming. They way she ran to me, the way she held me, it was as though I had died and come to life again. I felt myself resurrected in that moment. And for that wonderful moment, I forgot everything. Everything except Sarah and Michelle. Everything exact the girl in my arms, and her mother across the room, tears welling in her eyes.

"I... I'm back..." I said. I wanted to punch myself immediately after I did. That was all I could come up with? Thirteen months and that was all I could come up with?

"Smith... I... I thought... when I heard..." she couldn't even finish the sentence, she collapsed into tears, I ran to her, dragging Michelle behind me, not willing to let her go for even a moment.

"Shhhh, shhhh, it's okay, it's okay," I said to her, cooing, "I missed you so much Sarah. I missed you so much."

"Where..." a heaving sob, "where have you been? What happened to you? How-"

"Shhh, it's complicate, it's very complicated. I'll explain everything when I can, darling. I promise," I could feel the tears rolling down my cheeks, "I missed you so, so much."

"Daddy?" Michelle said in a sing-song, beautiful voice, "Who's that?" She pointed to Nick.

Nick.

Standing awkwardly in the doorway, heavy bags under his eyes, wearing one of Natasha's leather jackets that she had lent him during our aerial trip through hell. Nick, fumbling with the lighter in his pocket, quivering. Nick.

"That's Nick," I responded. And it all comes back. Everything. The last three months, the horrors, the massacres, the insanity, the shattered reality. My perfect world dissolved in a second.

"Hello," Nick said weakly, "I've been traveling with Jones for the past few months."

"Jones?" Sarah asked.

"Smith."

"He's a friend, a good one. We escaped New York together," I explained.

"You don't mean..." Sarah looked at me with pleading eyes.

"We were there during the first strike, yes," Nick answered. Sarah broke into a renewed torrent of sobbing, and wrapped her arms around me like a vice.

"Please, Smith, please..." she begged, "Don't leave again, please..."

I looked Nick dead in the eyes.

"I won't," I replied.

***

We final made it to England about five hours before. Chilled to the bone. Natasha found a clearing near the coast and lowered us down there. I kissed the ground and held it while Matthias and Nick removed the rig from Katie. Natasha set down nearby shortly after, and Renard and Daphne came flying out of the chopper, running towards it.

"Are you alright?" Renard demanded of me, grabbing me by the shoulders.

"With the possible exception of nearly freezing to death, I think I'm pretty good," I answered.

"And you Matthias?" Daphne asked, "And Nick?"

"Can't complain," Matthias responded.

"I can," Nick muttered.

"There was a rest stop of some sort a short walk from here," Natasha said as she came striding up, "We'll drive Katie there, then we'll split into our individual groups. I can hotwire two other cars, Matthias and I will be taking Katie. We'll be stocking up on munitions, food, and weapons where we are going."

"What about the weapons we already have?" I asked.

"Nothing compared to the stuff we're going to get. This place is going to house some of Rousseau International's aborted experiments. Prototype weapons."

"Renard and I will be parting with you here," Daphne said, as she hopped into the backseat of Katie, Nick and I climbed in after her, and after staring at the full backseat for a few seconds, Renard squeezed himself in next to me. Natasha took the wheel, and Matthias the passengers seat.

"As I mentioned, they'll be our missionaries, searching for allies in our fight," Matthias said. Natasha started the car, and Katie's engine roared. She took off over the grass, flying across it effortlessly. Something a car like Katie shouldn't be able to do.

"We'll be separate from you two for a few days," Natasha said to me and Nick, "You two are going to have to take care of yourselves. Are you armed?"

"No, and where I'm going, I'm not going to accept any guns," I replied firmly.

"Then please accept these," Daphne cut in. She produced two, sleek, black objects from inside her suit jacket, handed one to Nick, and handed the other to me.

"Knives?" Nick asked, eyebrow raised.

"Elegant weapons," Daphne replied, "If you are clever and stealthy, they will save your life." I examined mine, it was solid black, and folded into what appeared to be a carbon fiber handle. Nick's was a scary, large, solid hunk of metal with a partially serrated blade, and a handle wrapped in a nylon cord. After a few moments debate, I pocketed the knife.

"I suppose we can't be totally unarmed," I muttered. We had arrived at the rest stop, and Natasha had parked and hopped out. She was already picking the lock on the giant, blue SUV next to us.

"How long is this gonna-" I began.

"Done," Natasha proclaimed, and she swung the door open, "Just a few more minutes, and we'll be ready to go. Renard, make sure no one comes out of the rest stop for me." Renard nodded.

"Hey, Smith," Matthias turned to me, and looked straight into my eyes, "Listen. You need to know we can't stay here forever. And you need to know, whoever you talk to, whoever you contact, Midas will find them. It's safe to assume that within they next two hours, he's going to know we made it out of New York. Don't get anyone involved in this that you don't want to put in harm's way." He met my gaze for a few more seconds, then Natasha announced the SUV was ready.

"Well, then I guess this is it for now," Nick said as we got out of the car.

"How will we contact you?" I asked.

"Don't worry, we'll track you down. Katie is a very hard car to lose track of, one she gets attached," Matthias replied vaguely. Nick hopped in the passenger's seat of the SUV, guess I was driving then.

"Consider this a vacation," Natasha said, "The only one you two will be getting in a long time."

"See you in two days, then," I said, "Take care of yourselves."




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