Chapter 5: Nick
We sped down the road in total silence. The desert landscape slowly faded away as we breezed through Oklahoma. Fields and pastures of Kansas rose up, dotted occasionally with perfect American suburbs. I glared enviously at the dusty baseball diamonds, and the brick schools as we tore past them. They say youth is wasted on the young. I used to laugh, then I realized they were right. Soon these towns died away, and we were left with nothing but the road cutting straight through a grassy void from horizon to horizon. I could only gaze listlessly out the window, watching the painted white lines flee.
"I can't take this any more," Smith said, hours into the trip. His voice was mixed from distaste and exasperation. "Someone, tell me what happened. Right now." Neither Matthias nor myself made a noise. Jones sunk back and spat out the window. He doesn't deal with tension very well.
We hadn't told Smith what had happened back in St. Augustine. I myself was in a deeply traumatized state, my conscious shut itself off back in that cave, and it hadn't bothered to turn itself on again. I was on a autopilot. Matthias on the other hand had fallen into some pit of silent rage. He had said maybe ten words in the last twelve hours. I wasn't quite sure what had triggered his rapid personality shift, and at the time I just couldn't muster the energy required to care. Poor Jones was totally alienated, both of us coldly ignored his every word, choosing to fester with our individual demons. He had no idea how to react, and like a disease our gloom rapidly consumed him as well.
"I'm hungry. We are going to stop at the restaurant up ahead and eat," Matthias said out of the blue, then flicked on the radio. A sound like metal being torn in half then scraped across a chalkboard came forth from the speakers. Smith's only reaction was a chilling scowl, I myself was annoyed by this onset of audio torment, however my attention quickly shifted when I notice Matthias was slowing and pulling over. "Give me your cell-phones, quickly. I don't have time to explain, we can talk over our meal," he whispered, I could barely hear him over the metal racket. We complied, suspiciously. He locked them in the glove compartment, and order us out of the car.
"So, Matthias, I think you owe us some answers," Smith said cooly when we were seated.
"I apologize, I couldn't risk talking to you in the car."
"Oh, so you are going to tell me the car is magic and can hear what we are saying?" Jones said sarcastically.
"No. I'm going to tell you that the car is bugged, as are our cellphones."
"If that is the case, than wasn't your masking our conversation with hardcore metal a pretty transparent ruse. I mean it would be pretty obvious that you were trying to hide something from the microphone," I interjected.
"If this weren't fiction you'd be right," Matthias replied.
"Can I take your orders?" a waitress asked. She had snuck up on us while we weren't paying attention. Once we and placed our orders, and she had walked away, our conversation resumed.
"Already, order of business number one, I want to know what happened back in St. Augustine," Jones said.
"Natasha was kidnapped by an enemy of our employer Midas," Matthias responded, "Beyond that, you wouldn't believe me."
"Natasha was kidnapped by a being capable of replacing its own genetic code with that of another human. It needed Natasha, because its old mimicry was breaking down."
"Alright, I'll by it for now."
"Really?" I asked, incredulously, "I was there and I don't fully buy it."
"Well, I was raised on TV," Smith said.
"After our conflict with this being, Natasha was picked up by some of Midas' men, and flown directly to a hospital," Matthias' tone was calm, but serious, "She is currently under the care of a man named Gregory Schmidt. Dr. Schmidt is not a good person. Midas went directly against my wishes when he placed Natasha in his hospital. The does not sit well for me."
"So we're getting her back, am I right?" Smith said.
"I am not entirely sure of our next course of action at this time."
"Alright then," Jones fell quiet. There was a brief pause in the conversation while he absorbed all this.
"Okay, well, Matthias, I think it's time you answer some questions about our employer," I said.
"Who is he? And I don't want to hear any crap about pencil manufacturing."
"We don't care!" Smith yelled. Matthias sighed, then leaned forward.
"Have you ever heard of something called Rousseau International?" Matthias asked.
"Doesn't ring a bell," Jones replied.
"Wait, but it does for me," I said, "I've heard the name before, they are a weapons manufacturer, right?"
"To the public yes, they are," Matthias said, "However, in reality, they are much more. Rousseau International is the largest crime ring on the planet. Human trafficking, smuggling, assassination, theft, drugs. They do everything, for the right price. And that price is incredibly high. They only serve the wealthiest clients. Our good friend Midas Rousseau is the president of Rousseau International."
"This is becoming hard to swallow, Matthias," Smith said.
"No but it makes sense," I cut in, "It explains why Matthias can call in a fleet of SUVs at a moments notice, no matter where we are. If Rousseau International is what he says it is, they would have the resources to do that."
"Alright, so then why are we taking Katie to Midas? Why does he really want it?"
"I... Look I'm sorry but it is too early to explain that," we glared at Matthias, "I know, I know. Just trust me on this. It will all be revealed in due time."
"Fine, then I have a question," I said, "I want to know what the deal with Renard was. And that bodysnatcher back in St. Augustine."
"And while we're at it, what the hell is 636?" Smith added.
"Those are... complicated questions. Bare with me for a moment," Matthias was visibly struggling for a way to explain himself, "It's like this. There are certain laws that our reality follows, right? Laws of physics and such? Well, as Rousseau International's motto states, all laws are made to be broken. Sometimes, there are... flukes. Like Renard, he's special, he is what we refer to as a Type-II being. The woman back in St. Augustine, she was a Type-III."
"And what do those classifications mean?"
"There are four types of beings. Type-Is, which would be people like us. Normal people, totally unremarkable. Type-IIs are different, they break the rules. But only slightly, and most of the time they don't know it. Type-IIIs break the rules knowingly, and intentionally, they are very hard to come by."
"And Type-IVs?" Jones asked.
"Type-IVs... well. They would be gods, to put it simply. There are no known Type-IVs."
"... Well then. Time for that last question. What does 636 mean?" I asked.
"It... well to be honest no one knows. It's like a marker. All these people, Type-IIs and such, everything done by Rousseau International, everything that deviates from the norm even slightly is marked by 636. We do know why, who the marker is for, or how it is even put there. Most of the time it's sheer coincidence, however Rousseau International intentionally marks everything related to them with 636," Matthias finished his explanation and took a sip from his drink.
"Matthias. I want to make this very clear, I think you are totally and completely off your rocker," Smith said, "However, if I have learned anything from the media, it's that the crazies are always right. So, for now, I'm going to follow your lead. Where do we go from here?"
"We need to get Natasha back. And to do that we are going to need help, and supplies. I know a guy, he's about a day or two away from here. When we get to his place, we can plan our course of action from there," Matthias got up, "Boys, right now, I'm going to give you a chance to walk away. Make no mistake, if you stay with me, you will regret it. So right now, this is your one chance to walk out the door and never look back."
"Oh quit being so dramatic," Jones said, standing up as well, "We are sticking with you. Now let's get on the road."