Chapter 5: Smith

11/4/07

Waking up in a motel is an unpleasant sensation. It starts with a sense of disorientation, you aren't in your room, you aren't in the same place you woke up yesterday, none of the furniture looks familiar. Then you remember where you are, and a vague feeling of disappointment comes over you. You realize you ache everywhere, due to sleeping on a poorly-made spring mattress. Most of the time, the room and either too warm or too cold. If you are traveling with someone, finding them next to you in bed or already awake can add another level of awkwardness to the situation.

I wasn't given a chance to focus on any of that when I awoke this morning. Instead, I was dragged violently out of bed by Matthias, who insisted that it was urgent we move with haste. It's been three days since we left St. Augustine. We're in Colorado, though really it's the same as everywhere we've been before. The name changes, but the place remains the same. The middle of nowhere.

Nick and I ate a rushed breakfast of bruised bananas and generic-brand cereal while Matthias took Katie out to get gassed up. I found it bizarre that the morning was dominated by a total calm. I expected panic, or anxiety, or some emotion related to discomfort. Matthias arrived a few minutes after we finished out meal, and called us to meet him outside.

"Good morning kids, how was your continental breakfast?" he asked. He was standing right at the entrance, waiting for us. Katie had been parked several yards away.

"Let's put it this way, FedEx's daring foray into the food production industry was a failure," I pointed to a bag he was holding, "What do you have there?"

"Suits, for you two. The people we are going up against are professionals, we should at least pretend we are too. Also, cell phones," he took out two boxes and handed them to us. "They're just cheap flip-phones, but we're are going to need them. They're unlocked, so they can use any network, it will take a while for Midas to track us down on them. If we switch them every few weeks, we should remain invisible. What did you do with your old ones?"

"Blender."

"Toilet."

"Good, great. Alright kids, from this moment onward, Projekt Oktober is officially rogue. We are operating entirely independently, and we no longer have any ties to Rousseau International. We cannot trust anyone but each other, and we are going to be constantly under pursuit. Understood?" we both nodded, "Then let's move on to our first order of business: we need some boomsticks. And remember, we don't know if Midas' men ever got a chance to bug Katie, so mums the word until I can get it swept." As we were talking, we slowly gravitated over to Katie. Matthias jumped into the driver's seat, Nick took passenger's, and I was forced into the back.

It was a three minute drive from the motel to our destination, a gun store named "The Patriot", Matthias was apparently a friend of the owner. The shop stood dilapidated and alone, completely surrounded by desert, and in the distance, mountains. A chime greeted us as we entered, but that was all. The Patriot was deserted, save for racks and racks of cold, metal friends.

"There are enough guns in here to start a revolution," I whispered.

"You haven't seen anything yet," Matthias said, "Stay here you two, I'm gonna check the back."

I nodded and he walked out. Nick began weaving between the aisle, and I myself took an interest in a polished, chrome shotgun that was hanging on a rack behind a counter. I leaned it to get a better look at it.

"Son, you best not be planning to touch Betty if you plan on living past the next four seconds," I jumped nearly a foot in the air as a rough, grisly voice whispered these words into my ear. Behind me, a massive bear-of-a-man stood, laughing hysterically. Hair covered his arms ridiculously muscular arms, and a large mustache grew rampantly across his lips. Though he was laughing, his black eyes glared at with a rage I have never seen in any human being.

"This is my friend, Sally," Matthias said, appearing from behind the hulking figure.

"Listen, down-under, I told you not to call me that," Sally growled.

"His father wanted a daughter," Matthias explained.

"Just call me Sal."

"Well, nice to meet you, Mr. Sal," I extended my hand to him. His eyes narrowed.

"Say, boy, what accent is that you've got there?"

"Hmm? Oh, well, I grew up near Cambridge, but later I moved to-"

"Cambridge, eh? So you're a Russian then, comrade?"

"I, uh, no... wait, what?"

"Now you listen and you listen good, no-goodnik. I don't want you to spout any of your red crap while you are under my roof, you got that?"

"I'm British!"

"British?! So you're coming back, trying to reclaim your land, hmm?! Is that it?!"

"You have just totally lost me now."

"It's called the American Revolution, son! Pick up a history book!" he was so close I could smell his breath. He had had steak for lunch. I looked to Matthias.

"Is he for real?" I asked, Matthias laughed and shook his head.

"Yes," Matthias said, suddenly dead serious, "He is. But, I think we can all put aside our difference and unite against a common enemy. See, years ago, Midas took something very dear to Sal away from him."

"Skipper."

"No, no! Midas killed your son?" Nick asked, mortified.

"No, worse, my dog," a tear welled in Sal's eye.

"I mean no disrespect, but how is that worse?"

"Anyway, he has agreed to supply us with weapons and ammunition. Sal, if you'd lead the way..."

"Sure thing," Sal said, "after me." He led us to the backroom, it was dark and musty, like the rest of the store. A fluorescent light flickered for a moment before settling on a dim, yellow glow. Towards the opposite end of the room, there was a cellar door with a rusted padlock on the handles. Sal rummaged around his pockets for a key. When he finally found it, he unlocked the cellar doors, and bid us down into the dark.

"Hold on a second, I always forget where the light switch is down here," Sal said, "Matthias, close the door after you, thanks." For a moment we were surrounded by pitch blackness. Then Sal found the light switch and flicked it. A massive, electrical sound filled the air. Section by section, dozens of industrial lights came on, illuminating rows of iron shelves, and thousands of gleaming instruments of death.

"... Sal," I said, "you scare the living hell out of me." Sal merely laughed.

"This is one of Midas' armouries. He has hundreds of them in the US alone," Matthias said, "Our friend Sal faked a system crash late last night, so the security for this place is offline, at least for a few hours."

"Won't Midas be able to connect the dots and figure out Sal is helping us?" Nick asked.

"Don't worry about old Sal," Sal said, "I know how to take care of myself."

"It's true. I saw him take on two bears at the same time, once. In a vat of peanut butter," Matthias said.

"Please do not go into anymore depth with that story," I pleaded.

"You're right, we don't have the time," Matthias said, "Here, help be gather up some weapons and ammo."

"Sure thing, what type of guns should we be looking for?" Nick asked.

"We're going to want to go with mostly close range, small, easily concealable weapons. HK MP5Ks, Steyr TMPs, Mini-Uzis, etc. Grab silencers for them as well, and a sufficient number of magazines."

"... What?" Nick and I said in unison. Matthias shook his head and looked at us.

"Don't tell me neither of you has handled a gun before."

"I had a BB gun in elementary school," Nick said.

"Alright, alright. Sal, give them both MP5s and take them over to the firing range. Then come back, I'm gonna need some help getting all these weapons into the car. And speaking of Katie, I'll need you to sweep her for bugs while we're at it."

"Gotcha, this way kids," Sal said, grabbing two smallish guns and beckoning for us to follow.

"Wait, wait, hold on," I said, "Matthias. I kinda... I have an issue with the whole concept of using a gun to kill someone. I'm thinking this isn't such a great idea."

"I know what you mean, son," Sal said, "You lose a part of yourself when you watch a man die. Back in Nam, my unit was ambushed by the VC, it was bloody. Our squad leader died in my arms, I tore each and every one of those bastards apart with a combination of bullets and fists."

"I think you're so masculine that you've actually become gay," Nick said.

"What about all the Vietnamese you killed? Did you feel any remorse about that?" I asked.

"I though we were talking about taking human lives," Sal replied.

"IS THIS GUY FOR REAL?" Nick yelled.

"Enough. Smith, aim for the knees and you'll be fine. Nick, yes, Sal is politically incorrect. Sal, teach these two which end of a gun makes the loud noises. Now get to work!" Matthias ordered, in a commanding tone. And just like that, the conversation was over.




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