Chapter 5: Matthias

12/28/07

"I love this city..." Daphne mused absently. My hand tightened its grip around the pistol that I had in my lap. We were sitting outside at a cafe in Florence, one just outside of the Basilica. Nick was with me, Smith was with Katie, outside of the city, and Natasha had found a very nice apartment across from our location. She broke into it earlier and set up her sniping roost. Daphne took a sip of her tea as she gazed up at facade of the Basilica, then turned to me. "So, I'm curious, what exactly happened in England nine days ago?"

"So you haven't met our charming new friend yet?" I said, taking pains to make sure the bitterness didn't seep into my voice.

"Pardon?"

"Project Antithesis activated, that's what happened. The stadium, and the invasion, which I'm sure you heard about, that was the aftermath," I said this all calmly, gauging Daphne's reaction. The first thing Rousseau International trains even the lowest agents in is deceit, but for what it's worth, Daphne seemed genuinely surprised. She set down her tea cup.

"Do you know how or why?"

"We were there. It was an ambush, set up for us. While we were looting the facility, Natasha got caught in the start-up sequence."

"That's impossible, no one had any idea you were heading there, the only people who knew were you, Natasha, and myself," realization dawned in Daphne's eyes as soon as the words left her mouth, "Ah, well then, that would make me the primary suspect, wouldn't it?" She gave me a faint smile.

"I really don't want to believe you betrayed us, Daphne," I said slowly.

"Which is good, because I don't want you to believe that. I assure you, I did not set you up. Though, of course, I have no way of proving this to you."

"Daphne you realize I can't trust you, right?"

"Where's Renard?" Nick cut in suddenly. I had forgotten he was there, and judging by the look on Daphne's face, I expect she had as well.

"Preforming the same duty I imagine Natasha is. He's across the street, in the loft above that cafe with a Steyr Scout," Daphne said. My body tensed.

"Would you like to explain why that is?" I whispered harshly.

"Well, since we discussing the issue of trust..." Daphne produced a laptop from the briefcase that had been at her side during our conversation. She flipped it open, spent a few seconds fiddling with it, then turned it around. A video filled the screen, it took me a few moments to realize what I was seeing. It was footage from the Stadium on the night of the attack.

A tell-tale blue glow radiated from the direction that Antithesis would have been, the center of the stadium, but she was not being shown. Rather, the focus was on a huddle of people standing at the far end of the field. They were nervous, and quite obviously terrified, but they did not run. They were surrounded by a group of four people, each armed with automatic weaponry. My eyes widened.

The captors, the four people surrounding the crowd... Well, you may have already figured it out. It was us. We were the captors. Unmistakably, most sincerely, those people were us. Down to every detail. They wore the same clothes we had that night, their faces were exact copies, as though cast from a mold. They even walked as we did, the minute details, their gestures, their body language. It was exact; they were perfect copies. A man attempted to run from the crowd, and coldly, swiftly, my double shot him dead. The Natasha mimic gave an order, and the four of them opened fire on the remaining crowd. Blood sprayed through the air, and as the bodies fell, it began to soak into the ground.

"There are at least a dozen videos like this, depicting you four slaughtering innocent people while Rousseau International floods into the country. Not just at the stadium, but all over the city. There is a video of Smith taking a little girl, forcing her to kill her classmates, tearing off her fingernails, then chopping her to pieces with a billhook," Daphne stated plainly, but the disgust was obvious in her voice.

"That was not us!" I protested.

"Matthias, I truly want to believe that," Daphne replied. My mind went blank.

"Daphne, listen to me, that footage is faked. That is not what happened that night," I said cautiously, "We are being framed. Midas is trying to simultaneously, ward off any of our potential allies and send Europe on a witch hunt for us."

"As far as we know, you're still collaborating with Midas," Nick intruded, "we have no reason to trust you."

"As far as I know, you four viciously murdered hundreds of innocent people while under Midas' command," Daphne retorted venomously. She took a moment to compose herself, "As things stand now, you four cannot trust me, and Renard and I cannot trust you. It seems to me that someone is attempting to drive a wedge between us, so as things currently stand, it would be wise for us to continue to collaborate but to also be cautious around each other." I heaved a great sigh.

"You're right. This is psychological warfare one-oh-one. Of course, knowing that doesn't really make the situation any better... Doubt always finds a way to creep in," I said.

"So what now then?" Nick asked, "Keep calm and carry on?"

"Not quite, it appears that we may have to diverge briefly from our plan," Daphne produced an orange envelope. Nick's name was written very plainly on the front, "I took the liberty of opening it. I hope you don't mind."

Nick took the envelope and examined its contents. His expression grew more and more concerned as he read on, until the end, at which point his eyes nearly evacuated his skull in shock.

"I've not been able to figure out that last bit," Daphne said as Nick handed me the letter. It was short and to the point. A series of numbers that seemed the be coordinates, then this messages: "We haven't talked in a while. I think we should meet again." The letter was signed by Joshua. I could sense my own eyes widening as I read that. At the very bottom of the page, in the left corner, was another message so small it was barely legible, it read: "Are his lies art? Spare." The A, R and E in 'spare' were circled.

"Nick, what does that mean, at the bottom?" I asked, Nick shuttered visibly.

"Just something he said to me in the Labyrinth," Nick replied, snatching the paper from me. He took a pen and started scribbling on the note, crossing out letters of the message below.

"In any event, Matthias, he could be a potential ally," Daphne said, "I think we should pay him a visit."




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