Chapter 6: Matthias
"So where do we go from here?" Nick asked as we reseated ourselves in Katie.
"Out of the country. Overseas. We're going to need to transport Katie, too, which means we'll need to smuggle her on to a boat or a plane. Most likely a boat, it'll be easier, if slower," I replied.
"Okay, so we head to Newport or somewhere and-"
"No, no. Midas is going to have operatives in every major port city on the western seaboard. We're going to have to head East, hopefully he'll lose our scent and become sloppy in his panic. The problem is where to go after we make it out of the country."
"England," Smith said, "I've got relatives and fans in England, we can-"
"Fans?" Nick asked.
"Y'know, of my band? I told you, we're big back home. Like I was saying, we'll be in the public's eye. Midas wouldn't dare take us down."
"I don't know about the public's eye thing... but if you have people that can give us food and shelter for a few days then it's better than nothing," I said, "We can stay in England but we will have to move eventually. France will be dangerous, but we can get through it quickly and hide in Italy for a few weeks, maybe even a month. Natasha and I know our way around Venice. Then we can find a water route to Eastern Europe and from there sweep down into the Middle East and into Asia. Midas has a long reach, but his power in the East is relatively weak..."
"This road trip is going to be a bit longer than I expected..." Nick commented.
"We can't run forever though, Matthias," Natasha said, "And you know that."
"I do, I do. We have friends in Italy, and in China. We'll rally the troops along the way. Then we can construct a proper offensive," I responded.
"Or..." Natasha spoke softly.
"What about Switzerland, Matthias," she said. Very soft, almost inaudible. I paused, shocked by the mere proposition of the idea.
"We can't even risk setting foot in Switzerland, Natasha."
"Think about it, if we take it down, we take down everything Midas has been pouring his funds into for years. It's his only other chance, without it his plans are ruined, he'll have to start from ground zero. And we can exploit that confusion to bring down Rousseau International."
"What's in Switzerland?" Jones asked.
"Nothing," I said.
"Project H," Natasha said simultaneously.
"And what is Project H?" Nick asked.
"Project H doesn't exist. Project H is nothing. You don't need to know about Project H. Project H is one of those things we don't talk about, like fight club," I responded.
"Great, we finally figure out the whole mystery of the trunk, and then we get this Project H thing thrown in our faces. Why can't anything ever be just thoroughly explained in a simple, concise way from the outset?" Nick flopped back in his seat with a sense of frustration derived from futility.
"... Is it a nuke?" Smith asked.
"A what?" I said.
"A nuke. Does he keep his nukes in Switzerland?"
"No, no. He keeps his nukes in Siberia. Why would you keep a nuke in Switzerland?"
"Cause who would suspect Switzerland?"
"Fair point," I shrugged. A loud, rattling sound came from the glove compartment the moment I finished speaking.
"Uhm... that's bad, isn't it? Nick's voice had a dismissive quality to it, as though he knew the answer and didn't need us to voice it.
"Most likely," I said, "Natasha figure out what that is." She nodded, and using her spare key, popped open the compartment. A cheap, black cellphone dropped out. "Oh hell."
"Yeah, that's very bad isn't it?" Jones this time.
"How did this get here?" Natasha said, she picked up the cellphone and tossed it on the dash.
"I don't know, when I was checking through the car for bugs with Sal he said that it was... Oh," I said, feeling suddenly very stupid.
"I didn't like Sal to begin with," Nick muttered.
"So this means he told Rousseau International that we were breaking Natasha out... Which means they let us get away with us. Son of a bitch," I said the last bit under my breath.
"Why would they let us do that?" Smith asked.
"Easier than trying to cover up an assassination," Natasha stated. She was met with blank looks, "Midas has wanted to get rid of Schmidt for a while, he knew I would kill Schmidt. It's a lot easier to explain if I killed him, if Midas had Schmidt killed himself, then things would become... complicated. There would be panic and infighting among the higher-ups of Rousseau International if they knew Midas just killed off administrators when they displeased him." The phone started buzzing again. "We should pick that up."
"Hello?" I said, having picked up the phone before Natasha even finished her sentence.
"Put this call on speaker," a cool, feminine voice came through the speaker. I did, placing the phone back on the dash as I did. "You have sixty seconds. Stay alive for the next three minutes, and support will arrive." Her voice commanded authority, like her father's.
"Daphne?" I asked, incredulous.
"Do not interrupt. Once this call is complete, dispose of this phone. Do not attempt to contact me, should we meet in public assume a hostile stance. I will contact you again soon. You have thirty-nine seconds." Click.
"Until what?! Thirty-nine seconds until what?!" Smith yelled, uselessly, at the phone. I grabbed it and tossed it out of the car.
"Thirty-seven seconds now. Thirty-six. Thirty-five..." Nick said.
"We get the point," Natasha said, "All of you shut up and listen." We did. Off in the distance, we could here an undeniable, ominous, mechanical beating.
"Midas has helicopters?!" Jones asked, he was starting to panic.
"Lots of people do!" I replied, "Natasha, any ideas?"
"Besides flooring the accelerator and serpentining? No."
"Do we have any weapons? Any at all?"
"We do in the trunk, but it's not exactly like we can pull over and get them. We do, however, have time for you to pull over and let me take the wheel," Natasha said calmly. I slammed on the breaks, and got out in the middle of the empty road. Natasha climbed into my seat while I ran around the car and got in on the passenger's side. Before I even had time to close the door, Natasha floored the accelerator and we were speeding down the highway nearing eighty.
Over the treeline, a black behemoth of a machine appear, hurtling towards us. The gusts generated by the constantly beating rotors buffeted us, it became hard to get a breath. Another, more terrifying sound joined the maelstrom of noise, the clicking of a minigun slowly spooling up. Natasha heard it too, and right as our car was about to be sawed in half by an unrelenting stream of bullets, she slammed on the breaks. We stopped dead, while the copter continued to rocket forward, ammunition riddling the street ahead with holes. Once again, Natasha slammed on the acceleration. After a few seconds of confusion, the chopper pilot realized what had happened, and was bearing down on us within seconds. While the gunner spooled up again, Natasha, with one hand on the wheel, reached under the seat, and after a moment of frantic searching, produced a chrome revolver. She whipped the car around, doing a full one-eighty, and threw it into reverse. I could hear the engine screaming in pain. The gunner, seeing the shining, silver object in her hand and realizing what it was, tried to duck back into the copter. He was too slow, she had already sunk two bullets into his torso, and finished it with a shot through the skull. Upon realizing his gunner was dead, the pilot pulled the helicopter back and upwards, retreating from us slightly.
"Matthias," Natasha said, swinging the car back around, "Does it have missile pods?" I looked back.
"No actually, no it doesn't?"
"It doesn't? Wow, I didn't see that one coming. So as long as there isn't a second gunner we should be-," as she was about to finish her sentence, a sleek, white rocket whizzed passed us and ate a massive chunk of the road in front of us. Natasha just barely avoided the resulting crater.
"OF COURSE IT HAS MISSILES, NATASHA! THAT IS OUR KIND OF LUCK! WHY THE HELL WOULDN'T IT?!" I yelled.
"YOU. ARE. NOT. HELPFUL." Natasha replied. But I had stopped paying attention, for a ear-shattering roar was slowly growing in the distance. It took me a moment to realize what it was. I could see the look of horror on the pilot's face as his readouts informed him of what was about to happen, and the screaming "Missile-Lock" tone played. A second later, the helicopter exploded into a massive fireball, and shrapnel flew everywhere. Natasha, sweat forming on her brow, dodged every piece of the rain of scalding metal as a Predator Drone rushed over head with a deafening shriek and flew off into the distance. None of us said a thing, and after a few moments, Natasha let up on the gas and we slowly rolled to a halt.
"Can we expect more of that?" Smith asked.
"A lot more. Next time it is going to be much, much worse," I replied.
"Wow," Nick said solemnly, "... We're screwed aren't we?"