Chapter 5: Matthias

11/9/07

Gravel crunched under Katie's tires as we wound our way down the dark road. Pines towered over us on either side, and the clear night sky, untainted by pollution, was rich with glowing, white stars. Nick and Jones sat silently in the backseat, the tension was palpable. It took us five days to get there, and with each passing day the anxiety increased twofold, now we were at the breaking point. I turned onto a dirt path that branched off from the main road, drove far enough down it that Katie wouldn't be seen by anyone on the main path, and turned off the engine.

"We're here, kids," I whispered. I grabbed a duffel bag from the backseat and got out, followed by Smith and Nick. "The facility Natasha is being held in is about a half a mile north of here, we'll head through the woods. Move quickly and keep your head low," I said, both of them nodded. The forest was pitch black, the canopy had blocked out the moonlight. Nick stepped on a twig, I whipped around and glared at him, then continued on. At every rustle, we paused, at every crack, my heart stopped.

"Stop," I hissed, and raised my hand. Off in the distance, a yellowish beam of light darted between branches and illuminated the forest floor. "It's a guard patrol, alright just stay calm. We're going around, step with the edge of your foot then round it down slowly, your footsteps are quieter that way." As the patrol came closer, we slowly moved left of it, and let it pass. Their flashlight skirted around us, but luckily we were not revealed. Once the guards were out of earshot, we began to move again.

"Matthias," Nick whispered.

"I told you not to talk!" I growled.

"But what about traps? Like, mines?"

"They can't risk explosives out here, they have the potential to start a forest fire, which would draw a lot of unwanted attention to Rousseau International. Additionally, any tripwires or pressure pads that trigger an alarm would be ineffective. There would be too many false alarms, the animals would trigger them almost daily," I explained.

We only ran into one other patrol in the forest. Soon we found ourselves faced with a large, chain link fence that extended seemingly without end in either direction. I unzipped the duffel bag and procured a large mat, which I tossed over the barbed wire. Then I zipped up the bag, slung it over my shoulder, and began climbing the fence. As soon as I was over, I beckoned for Jones and Nick to follow.

Dr. Schmidt's Facility was a very elegantly designed building. It was part hospital, part university, constructed mainly from brick and glass. The lawn and hedges were meticulously mowed and clipped, and various gardens, fountains, and ponds were scattered over the grounds. The building itself was in a rectangular shape, with four towers at each corner. A top each tower were spotlights, which at that moment, were sweeping over the lawn.

"Don't panic, those spotlights are always on, standard protocol. No one knows we're here yet," I said as I took the mat off the fence and stuffed it back into the duffel bag, "Just don't get seen and we'll be good. We are going to have to make a run from here to the building, wait until the light passes then follow me." We waited a few seconds as the light passed, then made a mad dash towards the facility. The spotlight never saw us.

"Alright, so, how do we get in?" Smith asked. I dropped the duffel bag on the ground and took out two silenced MP5Ks for Nick and Jones, and a silenced HK416 for myself.

"Like so," I said, and slammed the butt of my gun through the glass of a window, shattering it.

"... Well that was stealthy."

"Yeah, there is a ninety-nine percent chance that triggered an alarm. Let's do this."

The window was large, and low enough to the ground, so I could just step through, stooping a little. We left the duffel bag behind, after all they would find us long before they found it. Cubicles dominated the room we had broken into, each all of them were empty. I moved slowly up the aisle towards the opposite end of the room, while ordering Smith and Nick to stay behind. Silently, I pressed myself against a stairwell door, and cautiously turned the handle. Ever so slowly, I eased it open, and stuck the barrel of my MP7 through it, then my head.

"We're clear!" I called back, and my two companions moved forward.

"Where are we headed, do you know?" Jones asked.

"Hey, hurry up!" I yelled as I ran rapidly up the flights, "I'm not entirely sure where Natasha is being held, but I have a pretty good hunch."

"I'm not sure I like the idea of a hunch!"

"Well, we could go try to find the records of her admission, and then track down her room. That would take twice as long, and I really don't feel like going to the effort!"

"It will take three times as long if your hunch is wrong! What information do you have to base your guess on anyway?!"

"Oh, you know, I have a good feeling about it!"

"A good feeling?!" Nick cut in, "Matthias, we aren't in a bo- oh wait."

We had reached the fifth floor and burst into a sterile hallway. Both Smith and Nick were panting like mad.

"No staff. That means we've definitely been discovered, be on your guard," I whispered. Silence dominated the hospital, save for insect-like buzz of the lighting. Footsteps echoed from around the corner of the end of the hall. Two guards rounded it, their weapons raised. Both of them hit the ground, cold dead, before the even saw us.

"Sonuva!" Smith jumped back, I had fired right next to him.

"You're lucky that was silenced, or else you'd be deaf right now," I whispered to him.

"I'm lucky it doesn't spray, or I'd be dead right now!" Jones yelled.

"We don't have time to hide those bodies. Doesn't matter, we're close to Natasha anyway," I pressed my back to the wall, then slowly edged to the corner and peered around.

"Are you going to say all clear again?" Jones whispered to me. I shot him a look, then gestured for them to follow me down the corridor.

"Natasha should be at the end of this hall."

"Or well, so your hunch tells you," Smith mocked.

"No, no, I just saw a sign that said 'Psych Ward'," Nick said, "This is the place."

I kicked in the door to the ward, and upon seeing it was empty, ran down the deserted hall, my constant companions not far behind. In my peripheral, I could see terrified, pale, shade-like silhouettes gazing out of their rooms as we zipped by. Dim, silvery light reflected off the steel door at the end of the hallway; it stood ajar.

"Lemme guess, that one is Natasha's, right?" Nick said.

"Yes."

"Yeah, big surprise there. You can go in first."

"Thaaanks," my sarcasm was so thick you could cut it with a knife. I eased the door open, the light sliced through the darkness, coming to a point at the base of someone's shoe at the opposite end of the room.

"Natasha?" I asked tentatively.

"Natasha isn't here right now," Natasha's voice echoed back. Through the layers of shade, I could see her hunched figure sitting in the fetal position, back pressed against the wall.

"What do you mean she isn't here?" Jones said, annoyed.

"I mean that Natasha's consciousness has been deemed inadequate, and she is no longer allowed to govern this body," Natasha replied, "It is currently running entirely off instinct."

"A very eloquent instinct," Nick commented.

"So I guess we can all agree Natasha has gone off the deep end," I said, "Listen Natasha, we need to get out out of this facility, okay? We need to escape, do you understand? And we are going to need your help." She said nothing for a few seconds.

"I understand," she said, and stood up. Stepping into the light, she revealed herself to be covered in blood. It was splattered across her chest, painted on her cheek, and plastered all over her hands, which were holding two pistols.

"That's highly unsettling," Smith said, "Natasha, what happened to you." As soon as he finished his sentence, she reached the doorway, and flicked on the lights. Strewn across the floor of the room, bathed in the new, white light, were the bodies of at least a dozen guards.

"Oh, I see," Jones said, swallowing loudly.

"If I have information that is necessary to our continued survival, should I share it?" Natasha asked monotonously.

"Yes, absolutely," I responded.

"Three guards are pointing the barrels of their guns at the bases of your skulls," she said, her voice didn't even fluctuate. A ring of cold metal pressed itself against my neck.

"If I have the opportunity to take action that would allow our continued survival, should I take it?" Natasha asked.

"Yes! Yes!" I yelled. Before anyone could act, she raised her guns, and painted the white walls of the hospital hall with the brains of the guards.

"I think it might be useful for everyone to know that I'm scared as hell right now," Nick said.

"Duly noted," I said, "Now, Natasha,do you happen to know the quickest way out of here?"

"Yes. Follow," she responded, quietly. And began to quickly, confidently stride down the hall. We followed her reckless route out of the building, I did my best to cover her, for she seemed to have no sense of stealth or self-preservation. I advised her against taking the elevator, she did not respond but merely adjusted her course for the stairwell.

"Hey, wait, I'm pretty sure the exit is on ground floor!" Nick yelled at Natasha, who had begun to climb the stairs rather than descend them.

"You are correct," Natasha said. She had broken into a full run and we were trying our best to keep up.

"Then why are we going up?!" Nick asked.

"I have the opportunity to take action that would allow our continued survival," she responded. We arrived on the twelfth floor, but Natasha did not stop. She was so far ahead of us that she existed merely as the white flicker of a patient's gown disappearing around corners. We finally caught up with her outside of a door marked 'GS-636'.

"Natasha," I said in a very hushed, very serious manner, "Let's not do anything rash."

"This isn't rash," she said, "This is calculated." With that, she rammed her shoulder into the door, stepped through and raised her gun. A shocked Dr. Schmidt spun around in his chair and leapt into the air, only to come crashing back down a second later. Natasha lowered her smoking gun, and staggered backwards. She slammed against the wall, and clutched it for support. After a few seconds of hyperventilating, she looked up, and glanced around her surroundings.

"Matthias?" she asked.

"Oh, welcome back, Natasha. How nice of you to join us," I said sarcastically.

"What happened?" she said, dazed.

"Well, we came to rescue you, but you sort of snapped, and murdered our good doctor here," I explained.

"Oh," she had a slightly pleased sound in her voice.

"And about fifteen totally innocent guards," I added, "And from the look of the bodies in your room, it wasn't self-defense."

"Oh," the pleased sound was gone.

"Now that everyone is up to date, I suggest we leave," I said urgently.

"Yeah, I can't really bring myself to run down twelve flights of stairs, thanks," Jones was panting.

"Anyone else feel bad that we basically killed a doctor in cold-blood?" Nick asked.

"No, he pretty much sucked," I responded, "And we can take the elevator." Natasha traded her pistols to Smith and Nick for their MP5Ks, and we dashed down the hall towards the elevators. Five guards behind us opened fire, luckily Rousseau International Rent-A-Cops have terrible aim. We didn't even bother taking cover, instead I slammed the elevator down button and Natasha returned fire. They were dead before the elevator arrived.

"You two stand in the front corners and keep your arms tucked in, Natasha and I are going to stand in the back. They're going to be waiting for us, so we need to open fire as soon as the doors open," I said as we slipped into the elevator. The doors slide shut, and what would've been a paranoid silence was broken up by soothing, easy-listening music.

"... This place is actually kinda nice," Nick mused.

"It really is. Did you see the view from that guy's office?" Smith said.

"That office was swank, just in general."

"I bet they have great meals for the patients too, three-course, French dinners. And cable in the rooms."

"Hey Matthias, how much does it cost to stay here?" The elevator doors opened again, revealing ten-plus guards, each aiming directly at us. Natasha and I opened fire, none of them even got off a shot.

"It's pretty reasonable, actually," I said.

"Really? Well that's surprising," Nick commented.

"You missed a guy," Jones pointed at a guard who was dragging himself along the ground. I pumped a few rounds into his back.

"Thanks," I said. The lobby was empty, but as we made for the door, guards started pouring out from every crevice of the building. Bullets ricocheted off the door handle only seconds after I removed my hand.

"Where is Katie?!" Natasha yelled.

"She's just a bit away from the main building!" I screamed back, "We're going to have to go through the forest!" A dozen or so guards were covering the security checkpoint that guarded the entrance to the building. Natasha and I disposed of them easily, and hopped over the blockades. Smith and Nick awkwardly walked around them instead, wasting precious seconds.

"Both of you, move it!" Natasha snarled. We disappeared into the gaping maw of the darkened forest. Twigs and thorns slapped my face and grabbed at my ankles. I could hear the panting of the others around me, but I couldn't see them. My mind was just telling me that it was imperative I get to Katie and get as far away from the facility as possible, everything else was irrelevant. Flashlights burned away the night, I could see their beams flickering everywhere, desperately trying to catch us. After what seemed like hours of running, Katie finally came into sight. Natasha had beaten all of us, and was dumping can-after-can of spare gasoline into the forest and all around Katie.

"What are you doing?!" I screamed.

"Just get into the car!" she replied. A bullet whizzed by, informing me I had no time to argue. Nick and Jones, who had come out of the forest shortly after I did, obediently took their places in the rear of the car. I got in the drivers side and turned the ignition. Natasha lit a single match and dropped it into a small trickle of gasoline before she ran to the car and jumped in the passenger's side.

"DRIVE!" she barked, and I obeyed. Like a fuse, the small stream of oil lead to the larger puddles, which went up in seconds, igniting dozens of trees and incinerating the undergrowth. The fire spread rapidly, and within minutes it looked as though the mountain itself was burning. As we, a tiny green speck among a crimson inferno, raced away, Natasha said, "Shame really. They can't afford a forest fire. It will bring some unwanted attention."


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