Chapter Eighteen and a Half: Matt's Diary #2

Dear Diary,

Well, here I am again, writing in my diary... Why do I keep a diary again? I mean, you'd expect someone like Jason to keep one, since he's always off scribbling down his dreams and stuff. But me? The super amazing Matt, who possesses the strength of a bull, the charm of a peacock and the grace of a swan? Writing a DIARY? Whaaat?

Anyway, after a few days of constant traveling, I think I'm starting to get used to the fact that I'm not on Earth anymore, but maybe that's because we've been doing more walking than reflecting. We're constantly on the move, running away from "knife-wielding bandits" according to Jenny, "effeminate bums" according to Victoria, "big scary men" according to Daryl, or "walking sets of abs and biceps" according to Patrick. (I'm not yet sure which description is most accurate, but the bottom line is: people are chasing us). I have yet to see our pursuers firsthand, but I think I can take them on, especially now that I've been acquainted with the beautiful, sexy M40A5 bolt-action sniper rifle.

M40A5 bolt-action sniper rifle

Oh, how I love you so

Since our eyes met, I knew you'd be mine.

Your shiny barrel gleams brightly in the window of my heart

Together. Forever, the two of-

Chapter Nineteen: Captured

"Matt, what are you doing?"

Elise peered down at Matt, who was sitting next to a giant stone furnace, scribbling sentences into a small book of some kind. Matt quickly stuffed the book back into his back pocket and coughed.

"Waiting for Alvin to come back from his super-long piss," he replied dryly.

Elise stood back up and smiled triumphantly. "So I remembered correctly! Your name is Matt."

"What?" Matt answered. "You're still trying to remember our names?"

"I've known most of you for only a few days," Elise said. "And some of your names are quite difficult to remember. Like Dayle."

"It's DARYL," Daryl piped up. He was leaning against the same furnace on the opposite side, observing the factory workers as they worked.

Peter walked up next to Daryl and sighed, visibly frustrated.

"What's taking him so long?" he wondered aloud. "We've been waiting for five minutes, at least."

Victor fanned himself with a random stick of broccoli pulled out of nowhere.

"Maybe, before we left the cave, he had a really loooooong sip of water," he suggested enthusiastically.

"Doubt it," Patrick said. "I think he wandered off and got himself lost."

"Whatever the case, he'd better hurry it up," Peter said. "We don't want to miss that caravan."

"You should take this opportunity to rest, Sister," said Elise to Jenny, who was sitting on an elevated stone surface next to the furnace, holding a hand to her own forehead. "There won't be many opportunities for us to stop once we're in the Alps."

"Jenny, you sure you're okay?" Victoria asked Jenny for the umpteenth time. Her eyebrows were furrowed in concern.

Jenny nodded. Slightly. Daryl, Elise, Victoria and Patrick all stared at her with rather horrified expressions on their faces.

Victoria walked up and crouched down next to Jenny, placing two fingers on Jenny's wrist to measure her pulse. Moments passed before Victoria reached her verdict.

"Don't die, Jenny," concluded Victoria.

"I'm fine, see?" Jenny lifted up both her arms before dropping them to her sides again. Her voice was starting to sound a little hoarse. Daryl clenched his teeth and looked through his bag, searching for medical supplies. He had nothing but bandages in his bag.

"Damn it, all I have in this bag are bandages," he piped up. "So if one of us gets a fever, or if one of us gets injured in a fight or something, there's nothing I can do but turn you into a mummy."

"Then what do we do now?" Victoria asked. "We can't just leave Jenny untreated, right?"

"If there was a pharmacy around, we could buy supplies from there," Daryl frowned. "But in our current situation, we can only wait and hope that Jenny's just tired and not actually sick."

Elise gulped and threw a terrified glance at Jenny, who appeared unfazed by Daryl's words.

"Um, can we really go into the Alps like this?" Matt asked. "I mean, the impression I got from all your personal accounts is that we are about to trek into a range of snow-covered mountains..."

"Someone should really go check up on Alvin, make sure he's not having the runs or something," interrupted Peter bluntly. "We can figure out what to do next once everyone's together."

"I'll go!" Elise volunteered.

"Ehhhh," Matt stepped forward. His M40A5 sniper rifle hung loosely off the back of his shoulder. "It's a man's job to step in and check on his fellow man. I'll do it."

"Okay..." Elise sounded disappointed.

"Don't take too long, then," Victoria said. "We don't want to miss the caravan."

"Hey, don't worry!" Matt exclaimed, holding up two fists in confidence as he walked towards the area between the furnaces where Alvin disappeared into earlier. "Alvin's just emptying his bowels. What could possibly go wrong?"

"How did you get here, exactly?" the voice ordered. Alvin could still feel the cold gun barrel pressed against the back of his head. An unpleasant wave of impulses washed over the canals in his brain, threatening to take over his common sense. It took all of Alvin's will to keep himself in place.

"Well, uh, we walked across the floor of the Moon River Gorge, and uh..."

"Further back," the voice demanded.

Oh, I see. He wants to know how I ended up in that forest next to the Eretree Plains, right after that event at Lynbrook...wait, does he know what happened there? Does he know why the world came apart that day?

"I was in school when suddenly everything got sucked into the air," Alvin answered truthfully. "The buildings, the floor, everything. I blacked out, and the next thing I knew I woke up in this giant forest."

"How long ago was this?" the voice asked, softening up a bit.

"About four days back, I guess," Alvin replied, straining to remember. The forest, the plains, the much had happened since then. It all seemed like the distant past.

"Four days?" the voice whispered, followed by silence. Alvin's eyes darted around nervously.

"Yes," Alvin acknowledged.

"That can't be...shit..."

Hesitation was beginning to creep into his voice, his frame, his entire resolve. Alvin thought about consoling him, but decided against it, seeing as how a gun was still being pointed into his head.

The gradual echo of approaching footsteps caught Alvin's attention. The sound was coming from the stairwell, the same location Alvin had ascended up from just a while earlier. The figure behind him remained deeply absorbed in his own thoughts, oblivious to the sounds of the factory around him.

"Four days ago?" the figure murmured to himself. "Could that be...? That payload...did it return to Earth...? Command, what the hell is going on?"

Suddenly, the footsteps stopped.

Matt stood in the doorway, adjacent of Alvin and the mysterious captor. His eyes became wide as he stared first at Alvin, then at the figure standing behind him, then at the shiny handgun being held to the back of Alvin's skull.

"A-Alvin?!" Matt exclaimed ludicrously.

"What the-" the figure jolted out of his contemplative state and instinctively swiveled the pistol's aim from Alvin's head to Matt's surprised face.

"Shit!" Matt yelled and loosened the shoulder strap of his M40A5 sniper rifle.

Alvin wasn't going to take any chances. He quickly jammed an elbow behind him, catching the figure in the gut. The figure doubled over, and as he did so, his right index finger clamped itself over the trigger of the handgun, sending a single shot into the stone floor. A loud BANG sound ripped through the air. Everyone flinched.

Alvin swiveled around to get his first good look at the man behind him. He was a tall, well-built man wearing white snow-patterned combat fatigues with trimmed edges and a similarly patterned ski mask covering his face. An array of communication devices and weapons lined the figure's utility belt, and a white backpack jutted out from his back. This man was dressed for a long-term mission in the icy Alps, and it didn't take a genius to deduce that he wasn't a native around these lands like the factory workers below.

A soldier from Archer Eleven! They actually exist!

The soldier glanced up at Alvin, eyes brimming with killing intent.

Alvin quickly swiped the handgun out of soldier's hands. The instrument of death clattered as it skimmed across the floor and bounced off a nearby wall.

"Raagh!" The soldier lunged at Alvin, revealing a sleek combat knife in his gloved right fist. Alvin jumped back and brought himself closer to Matt, who was already aiming the barrel of his M40A5 sniper rifle at the oncoming soldier.

"Wait, stop fighting!" Alvin shouted, waving both hands out in front of him. "We can help each other!"

The white-clad soldier, who a few moments ago had been exhibiting brief signs of hesitation and meekness, ignored Alvin's pleas and continued to move. He sprinted towards Matt, tossing the knife out in front of him.

Matt quickly ducked. The spinning knife grazed the top of his head and jammed itself into the wall behind. Matt and Alvin stared back at the knife, now buried two inches deep into the wall, and then shot wide-eyed glances at each other.

"I don't think he'll listen to us!" Matt shouted. "Come on, Alvin! We have to get out of here!"

"Right! Let's run!" Alvin shouted back.

They scampered out of the dark room and into the stairwell, intent on making it back down to the factory floor. By now, though, the soldier was right behind them. He lunged forward, wrapping his thick arms around Alvin in a bear tackle. Both of them tumbled into Matt, and the three of them fell down the stairwell in a not-so-graceful fashion, grunting and yelling as they fell down the steps.

Back on the factory floor, nearby workers were turning their attention away from the furnaces towards the stairwell, wondering what all the commotion was about.

"What was that?" Victor took a bite out of the stick of broccoli he was holding.

"Sounds like someone's making a lot of noise up there," Peter observed with a sinking feeling slowly entering his gut.

"You mean like a grunting noise?" Patrick asked. "If so, that could probably be Alvin."

A sudden shout caught everyone's attention, and they all gazed up at the towering furnace in front of them.

"Hey, look! A fight's broken out!" a random worker shouted, dropping the handles of his cart and shielding his eyes as he strained for a better look.

Victoria stood up and stared in horror at the top of the furnace. "What the F*** ARE THEY DOING?!" she exclaimed incredulously.

Alvin and Matt were struggling two-for-one against a much more powerful foe, trading blows and kicks as they continued to fight for standing position atop the giant stone furnace. The opponent was tall (probably as tall as Victor if not taller) and wore a peculiar-looking white outfit that contrasted sharply with the red-orange glow of his industrial surroundings.

"Who are they fighting?!" Daryl gaped, staring up at the unfolding spectacle above with a confused expression on his face.

"WHY are they fighting?!" Peter exclaimed in frustration.

"How are they fighting?!" Patrick yelled in wonder, remembering how Alvin lacked fighting skills and experience.

"When are they fighting?!" Victor joined in, not wanting to be left out of the fun.

"Archer...Archer Eleven!" Jenny exclaimed raspily. She slowly stood up and pulled out her black knife.

"No! Sister, you mustn't!" Elise shouted, snatching the black knife away from Jenny with one hand. As far as the huntress knew, the black knife was the source of Jenny's current weakened state, and there was no way Elise was going to allow Jenny to weaken herself any further.

"THAT'S Archer Eleven?!" Victoria exclaimed, tightening her grip on the sabre Cassandra. She remembered the radio message in the cave, the message that referred to Archer Eleven. The message that led Matt to believe that there were modern military soldiers roaming around the Kingdom.

Seeing the man in the snow-white camouflage fatigues, she suddenly realized how correct Matt really was.

"No way!" Peter exclaimed. "That IS a soldier!"

"Hey, this is bad!" Daryl threw a nervous glance at Peter. "If that's really a soldier or operative or whatever up there, then shouldn't we be helping Alvin and Matt against him? I mean, that dude's probably got some hardcore military training under his belt."

"There's nothing we CAN do," Peter gritted his teeth. "Unless you're willing to help them out with your telekinesis."

Daryl stared down at his hands. Ever since that incident at the derelict windmill, where they were used to give Jenny back her knife, Daryl's telekinesis powers had gone dormant despite his constant attempts to get them to materialize again. It was like they had never even existed in the first place.

What am I supposed to do? Why don't they work?

Daryl clenched his fists and shot a determined look up at the top of the furnace, where Matt was wrestling the soldier away from Alvin, who was lying perilously near the edge of the furnace clutching his shoulder.

I can do it! Come on, powers! Work! Work for Daryl! Wooork!

Daryl thrust both of his palms out at the soldier above like he was performing a hadouken.

Nothing happened.

"Hmm?" Victor curiously remarked. "Is Daryl doing Tai-Chi?"

"Tai-Chi?" Elise asked. "What's that? And who's Daryl?'

"Damn, if there was only something we could do to help!" Peter exclaimed. Suddenly, a light bulb lit up in his head.

"Patrick, toss me something throwable!" he shouted to Patrick.

"Huh? Okay!" Patrick acknowledged. He picked up a block of ore off a nearby cart and tossed it to Peter. "Here!"

"This isn't going to do much, but if I can distract that soldier for just a few seconds..." Peter heaved the block of ore up at the soldier.

"No, WAIT-" one of the workers shouted, a little too late.

The block missed the soldier by a good three feet and connected with Matt's jaw.

"Urk!" Matt groaned as he recoiled backwards in slow motion.

The block proceeded to bounce off Matt's jaw and ricochet off into a series of rusty pipes that connected the furnace to the factory ceiling.

"Oh, crap," Peter muttered.

Jets of pressured steam began shooting out of the ruptured pipes. The steam caught the Archer Eleven soldier by surprise, and the resulting pressure knocked him off the edge of the furnace.

"AAAAAH!" the soldier yelled as he fell a good two stories into a pile of smelting equipment.

"Guys, look!" Patrick pointed up in horror.

The pressure from the steam jets expanded in all directions, taking out the pipes of other furnaces like no tomorrow. The loud HSSSSSSSSS sound grew louder and louder in volume as more and more ruptured pipes joined the ballooning chorus of destruction. Pretty soon, the entire factory was brimming with out-of-control steam jets and a symphony of hissing and creaking sounds that signaled the approaching end of the factory's functionality. Workers scrambled all over the place, overseers barked out panicked orders as they tried to salvage the increasingly unstable work environment around them.

The party of travelers stood in place, whipping their heads to their left and to their right as they witnessed the chaos before them.

"Did...did we cause all of this?" Elise whispered in terror.

"No," Peter muttered, shutting off the screams and shouts of the once-orderly factory workers around him. "I did."

Chapter Twenty: Shirtless

It took three full hours for everything to come back under control. The fires of the furnaces were stifled, the steam jets subsided, and the unbearable hissing noises were stopped. However, the damage to the factory was done. The entire area was no longer covered in the reddish-glow of furnace fire. Now, it was gray and dark and lonely.

With their work unceremoniously interrupted, the factory workers all retired to their barracks, left to wonder what they were going to do for the rest of the afternoon and beyond. The factory was effectively out of operation. Who was going to complete the massive order of weapons initiated by the Royal Army of the Kingdom itself?

Of course, after the chaos at the factory, an investigation was conducted by the foreman of the facility, and the investigation revealed Alvin's group to be the catalyst of everything. Hence, all of them were subsequently placed in crude jail cells located in the basement of the factory building, where the only sources of light came through small barred windows above and where the temperatures were beyond comfortably warm. They were to be held in the cells until an official Kingdom inspector arrived from the capital with further instructions of protocol.

Alvin looked around the cell he was sharing with Daryl and Matt. It was completely empty save for a single raised slab of stone that represented "bed" and a small wooden bucket that occupied one of the back corners of the cell, directly under the small "window" in the wall behind it. Victor, Peter and Patrick were in a separate cell to the left. Victoria, Jenny and Elise were somewhere in the cells to the right, near the only entrance and exit out of the prison block, a set of cobblestone stairs.

A rack on the wall opposite of their cells held all of their weapons and gear: Patrick's laptop, Jenny's cleaver, Victoria's sabre, Matt's M40A5 sniper rifle, Elise's crossbow, Victor's unfinished stick of broccoli, etc.

"Well, that was certainly a fortunate turn of events," Matt murmured, crossing his arms.

"I threw one block, ONE BLOCK OF METAL, and took out an entire factory," Peter's voice murmured, coming from Alvin's left. "I deserve some accolades for that."

"What is this place made out of, paper?" Victoria's voice continued ominously, coming from Alvin's right.

"I wish our cells were made out of paper," Daryl sulked, glancing at Alvin.

"And to think that all this began with a piss," Patrick's voice sighed from somewhere to Alvin's left, backed by a slight echo. "I'm kind of pissed off right now."

"Well, what are we going to do now?" Daryl asked. "We're not just going to sit here and wait for that inspector guy to drag us off to court, are we?"

"If we do, Elise is going to be in some big trouble," Alvin spoke up. "We did kind of attack a constable and some knights back at the cabin."

"I wasn't even there," Daryl protested. "From what I heard from you guys, it was all Jenny."

"But we've got a stake in this as well," reminded Peter's voice. "Harboring a fugitive all this way...the Kingdom's not going to shake our hands and pat us on the backs."

"I'm sorry for dragging you all into this," Elise's voice drifted softly over from the right. It seemed to be further away from Alvin than Victoria's voice. "Doing all of this for my sake. The cabin...the crest...if neither of those had existed..."

"Don't fret it," Alvin replied. "We were going to take this road anyway, regardless of whether or not your crest was stolen. There are some people we're out on the lookout for."

"You're right," Matt said. "I wonder how they're doing..."

Matt walked up to the thick jail bars and peered at the rack of weapons on the far wall. His eyes fell longingly upon his M40A5 sniper rifle.

"Looks like that Archer Eleven guy escaped," Peter's voice spoke up. "His gear's not on the rack."

"Yeah, I wonder what happened to him?" Patrick's voice wondered aloud. "There were so many questions I wanted to ask that guy."

"He probably escaped during all that chaos on the factory floor," Daryl said glumly.

"What was he doing in this factory anyway?" Victor's voice asked.

Everyone fell silent as they pondered this question. Then, Matt suddenly spoke.

"Say, isn't that Jason Catolico's hoodie?" he said, still staring at the weapons rack in front of him.

"Huh?" Alvin and Daryl walked up to the bars and peered out at the rack. On the far left side of the rack, partially hidden in the shadows, hung a dark gray hooded sweater with the words WASHINGTON emblazoned on the front in giant white letters.

"What the- that IS Jason's hoodie!" Alvin exclaimed. A wave of emotions rushed over Alvin as he remembered Jason Catolico. All those antics back at school...was Jason really here now? In these cells?

"Jason?! Are you here?" Alvin called out.

"Jason!" Matt called out.

"Jason!" Victoria called out.

"Jason!" Patrick called out.

"CAT-O-LI-COOOO!" Victor shouted.

Nobody answered the calls.

"Strange, doesn't look like Jason's here," Matt said. "But that's definitely his hoodie. I'd recognize that thing anywhere."

Daryl reached out through the bars and attempted to will the hoodie over with his telekinesis powers. No good.

"Darn! Still can't get it work!" Daryl cursed.

"Maybe you should put some more thought into it," Alvin said.

"I AM committing one hundred percent into it, but nothing's happening!" Daryl complained. "What am I doing wrong?"

A sudden noise from the stairs to the right interrupted Daryl's thoughts. Five figures descended down the stairs and into the cell block: The foreman and four other high-ranked factory officials. These five men stopped in front of the first cell and peered at the lone occupant within.

"Here," the foreman growled. "She's lookin' fresh, ain't she?"

Elise stared at the five men standing just outside her cell door.

"What's going on, Elise?" Two cells over, Victoria clutched the front bars and strained to see what was happening to her right. Behind her, Jenny sat against the stone wall, staring blankly up at the ceiling.

"Huh? What?" One cell to the left of Victoria, Alvin struggled to see what was going on too. His head couldn't fit through the bars.

"Yea, you wasn't lyin', foreman," one of the other men purred blissfully, responding to the foreman's words. He crouched down and examined Elise with impure eyes. "A traveler, says she?"

"Through the Alps," the foreman slurred amusingly, as if highlighting the ridiculousness nature of a young girl traveling through the Alps.

"Ohhh?" another one of the men grinned. "I like me some wenches with spirit."

Elise's eyes grew wide as she slowly began to understand what the five men were here for. She had thought it odd that she was to be placed in a cell by herself, but had dismissed that thought as a mere inconvenience. Now though, terror was beginning to creep into her veins.

"Elise, are you okay?!" Victoria's voice called out to her. The voice was so close to her, but so far away.

"What are they doing to her?!" Patrick's voice, worried.

"Hey, what are you guys doing?! Hey!" Matt's voice this time, also worried.

The four men behind the foremen shot annoyed glances at the cells further down the block.

"Annoying runts, that lot," one of the men said.

"The ol' inspector's going to have a field day when he arrives," another man growled. "What a glorious day it'll be when they are punished for what they did to our factory."

"Glorious day indeed," a third man agreed. "The good king'll behead 'em for sure, aye."

They all turned their attention back to Elise. Their deviant glances seemed to pierce through her fragile bubble of privacy, prompting her to feel immense discomfort.

The foreman took out a key and unlocked Elise's cell door. The door whined as it creaked open.

The five men stepped into Elise's cell.

Elise couldn't contain her terror anymore, and screamed.

A few cells down, Victoria clenched the door bars tightly. She could hear everything that was happening, and had a pretty good idea what those vulgar men were going to do to Elise, thanks to her wildly vivid imagination.

"No!" she shouted, trying to rattle the bars. No luck.

"Hold still, you," one of the men purred playfully at Elise. "We laborers don't often get such golden opportunities, workin' in this HELL."

"I haven't seen one in YEARS!" another one of the men yelled out, unable to contain his impulses. "An' she has such a pretty face!"

"Be a good girl and submit!" a third man grinned.

"Hey, you!" the foreman growled. "I found her first, so it's only natural that I go first!"

A couple of the other men groaned in disappointment.

"You a big spoiler, you know that, foreman?!" one of the men protested. "I don' wanna be playin' with used toys!"

"What the f***?!" Victoria could barely contain her rage. "WHAT THE F*** AM I HEARING?!"

Across the occupied cells, a sense of urgency suddenly grabbed everyone's attention.

"Damn it!" Alvin cried out, scrambling to his feet. He tried opening his cell door to help Elise, but it was a hopeless endeavor. "ELISE!"

"Come on!" Matt shouted. "There's gotta be SOMETHING we can do to help her!"

"I'M TRYING!" Daryl was desperately trying to move the bolts of the cell door with his dormant telekinesis powers.

"F***!" Patrick yelled. "I can't stand by and witness someone getting RAPED! F***ing s***! Victor! Peter! Help me ram this door!"

"GOTCHA!" Victor and Peter shouted.

"On two! ONE! TWO!"

The three of them rammed at the cell door with their shoulders. The cell door rattled, but stayed in place.

"OW! What is this door made of?!" Victor winced in pain.

"HEEELP!" Elise screamed. The five men were suddenly grabbing her with hungry looks in their eyes. Their actions were now more visceral than human-like, overwhelmed by a single desire.

Suddenly, two cells over, Jenny stabbed herself in the palm with the black knife.

The rainbow light was fierce, enveloping the entire cell block in brightness. Jenny's movements were swift, and her bright form darted through two sets of walls and into the cell where Elise was being kept.


Ten seconds later, the light subsided. It was all over. Five bodies lay in Elise's cell, their biological features mangled beyond repair. Elise sat on the floor in tears, staring up at Jenny who was standing before her. Jenny glanced down at Elise, then fell into Elise's arms. The cell door creaked open behind her.

"Elise! Jenny! Are you guys okay?!" everyone shouted at different times.

"I...I'm okay..." Elise's quivering voice replied.

"What about Jenny?" Daryl asked.

Elise stared down at Jenny, still gulping down tears. She felt her wrist pulse.

"Still alive," Elise said.

"Awesome," Matt said. "Now, about our cells..."

Realizing that she had to act fast to free her friends, Elise glanced over at the body of the foreman and picked up the key he had used earlier to open the cell door. The tip was melted off thanks to the awesome rainbow powers displayed by Jenny earlier. Elise checked all of the bodies. There were no other keys.

"None of them have keys!" Elise exclaimed.

"NO! Not the keeyyss!" lamented Patrick.

"Heheheh...HEHEHEHEHEH..." Matt began to laugh.

"Why are you laughing?!" Victoria exclaimed. "We're in a dire situation here!"

"Oh, of course we are!" gloated Matt. "But not for long!"

He clutched the bars of his cell door.


"Eh?" Elise looked up and wiped the tears out of her eyes before standing up and leaving the cell through her open cell door, setting Jenny down on the ground before doing so.

She walked over to the rack of weapons and stared at the peculiar looking staff that she had seen Matt carry on his back this entire journey.

"This?" she pointed at the strange staff and looked over at Matt.

"YEUP!" Matt nodded enthusiastically. He extended both of his arms through the bars. "Gimme gimme! Over here!"

Elise cautiously wrapped her hands around the staff and walked over to Matt, who gingerly lifted it out of her grasp and pulled it back through the bars, into the cell.

"All right! Thanks!" Matt exclaimed. "Now stand back! I'm going to blow these locks and free ourselves from this entrapment!"

"FROM HERE?!" Daryl shouted in terror.

"Yeah!" Matt nodded. "We've gotta get out of here, right?"

"But that thing is loud!" Daryl protested. "They'll come running down here as soon as you fire off the first shot!"

"'re right..." Matt bit his lip. Then, he had another great idea.

"Somebody lend me his shirt!" Matt announced. "Or...her shirt!"

"Here," Alvin nonchalantly took off his shirt, the only shirt he was wearing, and handed it to Matt. Without his shirt on, Alvin looked like a pure physical specimen, with well-defined abs and Alvin's mind, at least.

"Damn! Okay! Here we go!" Matt crumpled Alvin's shirt into a ball and jammed it against the cell door bolt lock with the barrel of his M40A5 sniper rifle.

"Wait, what are you going to do to my shirt?" Alvin asked, suddenly unsure if volunteering his shirt was a good idea.

Matt slowly turned back to face Alvin. He was grinning.

"Homemade silencer," Matt giddily replied. He placed one foot on the cell door and primed his trigger finger, adjusting his balance so as not to fall after the shot.

"WHAT?!" Alvin ran up to Matt. "Wait wait wait, you can't do that! That's the only shirt I have!"

"Your shirt can weather a couple holes and still fit fine, right?" Matt asked. "Besides, what else can we use as a silencer?"

"But I don't think a shirt can even BE a sile-"

Matt pulled the trigger before Alvin could finish his sentence. The sniper rifle kicked back against Matt's shoulder in ferocious recoil,sending him sprawling to the floor. A deafening crack echoed throughout the cell block. Elise instinctively flinched and covered her ears in terror.

The cell door slowly swung out into the hall, sporting a gaping hole where its lock was once located.

"S***!" Patrick shouted. "My ears are ringing!"

"OWWWwwwwwwwww..." said Victor as he patted his ears. "Sound check...sound check...sound check...1 2 3..."

Matt scrambled up to his feet and inspected what was left of Alvin's shirt, which was still attached to the barrel of the sniper rifle. Smoke rose up out of the blackened fabric.

"Well that worked out perfectly," he announced to Alvin and Daryl.

Alvin stared at the wad of fabric that used to be his shirt. Then, he shifted his stunned stare to Matt.

Daryl sprinted out of the cell with both of his hands in the air.

"FREEDOM!" he shouted.

He grabbed his pack, the bag full of bandages, and turned to Matt.

"Quick!" exclaimed Daryl. "Get the rest of the doors before guards arrive!"

"On my way!" Matt stepped out of the cell, sniper rifle at the ready.

Alvin just stared.

Two more booming shots later, everyone was out of their cells. Four guards came down the stairs to investigate not long after, but Victoria swiftly took care of them with her sabre Cassandra and parkourlorguardkido techniques.

"F*** you! You deserve it!" she jeered at the downed guards on the floor.

"Huó gāi!" Victor exclaimed in Chinese.

"Everyone retrieve their belongings from the rack?" Peter turned to ask everyone present.

"Yeah," Alvin hoisted up his backpack. He eyed Jason Catolico's sweater out of the corner of his eyes. His hooded buddy was nowhere to be found in this cell block. Then what was the sweater doing here? What had happened to Jason? Alvin shuddered as he thought over the potential possibilities.

"Here, take this," Matt retrieved Jason's hoodie from the rack and tossed it over to Alvin. "We can give it back to Jason when we find him. And besides, you need a shirt."

Alvin caught the sweater and put it on. It smelled burnt.

"Elise?" Victoria turned her attention to the huntress, who was still in a slight state of shock at everything that had transpired.

Elise wiped the dried tear stains off her face and nodded. She hadn't forgotten. Every single member of the party had spoken out against the horrible deed the foreman and his lackeys almost committed. Her friends had been genuinely concerned for her safety. For the first time since she was with her parents all those years back, she didn't feel alone.

"I'm..." Elise began to say. "I'm sorr-"

"This is yours," Patrick abruptly shoved Elise's crossbow into her arms.

Victor pulled Jenny off the floor, draping one of her arms across his shoulders. He had to crouch a bit to accommodate for the height difference.

"If we're leaving, we should leave real soon," Daryl alerted everyone. His eyes nervously darted towards the stairs, wary of any more approaching guards.

"To the Alps?" Peter asked.

"Yeah," Alvin nodded. "To the Alps."

"We have something planned for the cold weather, right?" Daryl asked meekly. "Um...r-right, guys?"

Everyone stared at each other, as if they were expecting someone else to have thought it through.

"We'll figure something out when we get there," Alvin shrugged.

"Huh?!" Daryl was mortified.

"Let's go!" Alvin slung his backpack over his shoulder and moved to the stairs.

They all sprinted up the steps, focused on getting out of the Kalzanis weapons forge. It was mid-afternoon, and night was slowly approaching, but there was no other alternative. They were not welcome in the forge anymore. They were on the run from the government.

The colossal snow-covered mountains loomed over them.