Chapter 7: Matthias
"It seems a little surreal to me," Natasha whispered, her voice floating from the bunk across the room, "That's all I'm saying. I mean, this goes against everything we know, everything everyone knows. The very existence of this world throws the reality of both into question. And really, how do we know what is real? How do we define real?"
"Reality is what you sense. It's the things you can feel and see, that's reality," I replied, lazily.
"So what about like, dreams, right? What about them? They aren't real, but we sense them, we see them." I looked at her, slits of moonlight pouring in between the bars of the cell window barely illuminated the lower half of her body.
"Yeah but those are..." I paused, "You know, I never really had patience for this type of discussion. I know what is real and what isn't, no sense in arguing over it."
"You're right, you're right. But..." she raised her hands in the air and wiggled her fingers, "Look at that? How am I doing that? How am I moving my fingers? I mean sure, nerves and electrical impulses and stuff bull... Bull. I am moving my fingers with my mind. That is just plain weird." She let her hands fall to her side.
"When do you think they're going to give up this little facade and arrange to talk to us?" I asked after a moment's pause.
"Hopefully sometime soon. It's cold, and every second we spend rotting in this cell Midas gets even closer to finding us."
"So then, you are enemies of Midas?" a voice wafted in from the shadows outside out cell. I recognized it as belonging to the polite do-gooder who had accused us of terrorism and arrested us.
"We never denied that, you just got all trigger happy before we got a chance to say anything," I replied calmly.
"Yeah, yeah, that's what they all say," he smirked and stepped into a patch of moonlight just beyond the cell bars.
"If 'they' all say that, then maybe it's time you reevaluate your 'shoot first' method of crime control," Natasha said casually. The man opened his mouth as if he was about to reply, but realized he didn't really have any way to respond to such a statement, and instead reached for a keyring on his belt.
"The Headmaster has decided he wishes to speak to you, he has granted you an audience with him, and you are temporarily being realized to attend," the man said.
"Headmaster?" I asked as the lock clicked and he slide the door open.
"I believe the equivalent in your world is called a king? No, no, that's wrong. President, I believe is more accurate. Follow me please," he locked the cell behind us then led us onward down a dark hallway. Our first time through the complex, I had been unconscious, and considering how small our own cell and the surrounding area had been, I was quite surprised to find it was in fact an extremely large building. Hallway upon hallway of pitch blackness spilled into each other, tangled around each other like roots of a massive oak tree.
"What about our comraaaa-eeh, that is companions?" Natasha asked.
"They were realized hours ago," the man said.
"Pardon?" I asked.
"They were deemed harmless, and released into the city," he repeated.
"'Deemed harmless?'" I echoed.
"When they woke up we asked them their professions, as we did with you two. Routine personality profile of our prisoners, you understand. They replied 'journalist' and 'musician'. They were deemed harmless, in the sense that they would literally be incapable of causing harm if they tried."
"So I take it you guys don't have high regard for journalists and musicians," I muttered.
"No, it's just that there has never been a crime recorded that involved the persecuted wielding a pen or a guitar," he ushered us into an elevator, and pressed the button for the top floor.
"Wait, wait," I covered my eyes, "Let me guess, we're going to floor six-three-six?"
"Correct," the man said, "Though that is misleading, the building does not truly extend six hundred stories into the air, there are at least four hundred below-ground levels. How did you guess?"
"I guess six-three-six for everything nowadays. I really should try entering the lottery soon..." After a few seconds of nonexistent conversation and soothing elevator music, the doors slide open. The room beyond was cavernous, circular, and gilded. High arches reached high into the air, fountains gurgled, rows of bookshelves lined the walls, various gardens were scattered everywhere, and there was a clutter of scientific equipment. Across the chamber, behind a desk of mahogany, sat the Headmaster. He was an oldish man, but one who wore age well. White hair, white suit, white tie, black shirt, and cold gray eyes, his entire ensemble gave a sense of respect and warmth.
"Please, have a seat," the Headmaster said, standing as we approached. He enunciated every word very carefully, and very precisely, and he waited until we had sat down to seat himself. "Now then, as I am very sure you two are aware, you are in a precarious situation right now." He paused and looked both off us in the eye, then turned to the man who had escorted us. "Thank you, Officer Denton, you may go." The man nodded and turned to leave, his footsteps clacking heavily against the marble.
"Oh good, he has a name," I whispered to Natasha, "I was afraid the poor guy was just going to get killed in the name of drama. He was introduced in a helmet..."
"What?" Natasha asked.
"Sorry, sorry. I was channeling Nick for a second there," I replied. There was a chime from the elevator and Officer Denton stepped in. As soon as he was whisked away into the bowels of the skyscraper, the Headmaster resumed our dialogue.
"You two have been accused of terrorism, based on information that we previously believed was highly reliable," the Headmaster said, very slowly, very cautiously. "However, why would a group of terrorists come unarmed? Why would a group of terrorists announce there arrival? Terrorists are creatures of the shadows, and while this may be an elaborate ploy to gain my trust, I doubt it. You and your friends are either the most terrible terrorists on the planet, or you aren't terrorists."
"I don't buy it," I replied, "That's the reason you've decided to grant us an audience? Based on two or three inconsistencies? What do you have up your sleeve?" The Headmaster smiled darkly.
"Oh you are a sharp one," he said, "Alright then. In reality, I am a man of education, a man of science, a man of progress. And I have grown... so... tired... of what we offer here in this world. I am ravenous for knowledge, even if the quest to obtain it is dangerous, especially if it is dangerous. So, it is my own morbid curiosity that you can thank for your release from captivity."
"Well, I suppose I shouldn't squander this opportunity then," I said with a weak smile, "Sir, I have some highly important information that you absolutely must be informed of."
"Is that so? Well then, let us not waste time. What is it that you must urgently tell me?"
"You have been lied to. You have been scrutinized and analyzed by a man named Midas Rousseau. First contact between our worlds was made by two people belonging to a group known as Rousseau International, correct? Rousseau International is a global crime syndicate. They are building an army, they are planning a war. But it isn't against you, no, this world isn't going to be fought over, this world is ripe for the taking, and Rousseau International knows this. They will flatten this land, strip it, and use it as jumping off point for campaigns across our home world. And after that? Well I don't imagine they plan on stopping." I paused, hoping my words had left the desired impact.
"So you are telling me, you, are not terrorists, the people who told me you were terrorists, are terrorists?"
"And you are coming to warn me about plans for a massive, all-consuming war?"
"And you want to warn me that very soon, my land will be threatened by an invading force who will ruthlessly rip every centimeter of this nation from me?"
"More or less," I let my shoulders drop and sighed, it was obvious that he did not believe a word I said. And why should he? My credibility had been shot from the moment I took my first steps into the world. The Headmaster steepled his fingers.
"You're too late."