"Move!" I shouted, grabbing both of their arms and propelling them out of the door.
It was silent as of yet in the hallway, but I only stopped for a glance before dragging them up the stairwell to the fourth floor. The rusted locks on the doors were more for decoration than for actual security, and I easily broke into one of the rooms with minimal sound and damage by forcibly applying my shoulder to it. The room, as I had deduced, was empty, and without stopping, I ran to the window and forced it open. The rooftop of the opposite building was within easy leaping distance and made of cement, while all along the horizon stretched a veritable highway of close constructed homes, often built into each other to conserve space.
"Marta, you first." I said quickly, motioning to the window which I held open. She paled, but drew back for a running start, before flying out the window and landing safely in a roll.
Nikki quickly removed her backpack and tossed it onto the rooftop beside Marta, before she also jumped and landed in a roll.
It was now my turn, and I looked around the room for something to prop the window open, while outside I could hear the distant echo of boots on the metal staircase. Snatching a spoon from the kitchen, I wedged it into the window frame, before taking a running leap onto the rooftop without losing a second.
Landing in a crouch, I picked up a crumbling chunk of cement and whirling around, I threw it hard, hitting the spoon perfectly and causing the window to fall shut.
"Lets go!" I cried, and pushed my girls on.
We took off at a run, myself now in the lead, now dropping behind to watch their backs, leaping from roof to roof and following a path that changed with our terrain, but was that which I knew to be consistently hiding us from view of the windows in the apartment complex.
I don't know how they found us, but now that they did, I could be sure that they would come in force and with a vengeance.
"Down here!" I suddenly called out, and directed Nikki and Marta towards a rusty fire escape that lead down off the roof into a dark alley.
They speedily climbed down, looking up at me when they reached the ground, but I didn't even bother with the ladder, lowering myself to cling to the ledge before silently dropping to the pavement.
"Stay close." I whispered, before speed-walking with them at my heels, out of the alley and into a thick crowd that was milling about in the streets.
I have always had mixed feelings about crowds. In one sense, they are an operative like me's worst nightmare: too many threats to asses, too many bodies bumping into you, and far too much going on at one time. But in a situation like the present, they are a form of safety, a way to hide in plain sight while still pursuing your directive and leaving little to no impression. After all, what's just one more face among the masses? Or three.
However, the problem in this situation was that all of our faces were obviously American, and amongst a sea of tan skin and predominantly black hair, our white skin and Marta's sunny yellow hair stood out like a beacon.
With hardly any movement at all to betray me, I snagged a dark blue scarf off of a venders stall as we passed and handed it to Marta.
"Cover your hair with this, and change out your cardigan." I ordered.
She did so without question, wrapping the scarf around her head and taking off her light blue cardigan to tie around her waist, while Nikki, without me even asking her to, concealed her face under her hood.
I suppose she was getting used to being on the run.
Again I snagged an item off of a stall as we passed, this time a black and green baseball cap to replace my red and white one, and I too hid my face under my hood.
First rule about looking for someone in a crowd, is that you scan for the colors of their hair, hat, or shirt, for that's pretty much all you can see amongst hundreds of people.
I wasn't about to let that be used against us.
I now needed to devise a plan. That we couldn't stay in Manila was obvious, but even the Philippines was a little too cramped for my comfort—it would be only a matter of time before we would be found.
So, a new country it was.
The Philippines being basically a collection of islands, our options of escape were limited to either a plane, or a boat.
Going to an airport after Marta and I's last stunt, would be like signing off on our own death. Byer would know that, and would be looking at our other options to shut down.
The fact that we were tracked to Manila in the first place showed me that they knew that we had exited the city initially by boat, which wasn't that hard of a guess considering their agent was found dead by a wharf. Chances were, that Byer also would have the nearby harbors watched in case we attempted to try that again.
I needed another way out, one that would be hard to track, but fast enough to get us safely into another country by the time they do—for they would eventually find us.
Especially now that we have the Chems and blood sample.
Suddenly it hit me: a private plane. And I knew just where to find one.
"Remember that large warehouse we passed in the taxi while on our way to the lab?" I asked Marta in a low voice, my lips barely moving. She thought for a while and then nodded. "Well it had an airfield in the back." I watched her face as the meaning of my words dawned on her.
"The warehouse was filled planes." she whispered, and Nikki looked interested.
I nodded. "Thats our ticket out of here."
Taking off my backpack, I passed it to Marta. Inside it was all of our provisions and a large bundle of hundreds—enough to bribe a pilot to fly us out of the country with no questions asked. She gave me a questioning glance, her hazel eyes peering into mine. I let her see my answer, and she slipped the straps of the backpack over her delicate shoulders.
Better to be prepared.
The sound of sirens was growing steadily closer, making me feel anxious, but I forced myself, and thereby Marta and Nikki who followed my example, to walk at a steady pace, carried along by the current of people and blending in among the crowd.
Suddenly a cold chill spread up my spine and my fingers began to tingle—to me, a warning that I was being watched as obvious as if someone had posted a sign boasting of the fact.
I swiveled my head in search of the aggressor, but saw nothing and no one out of place amongst the crowd.
Once more grabbing the arms of Marta and Nikki, I led them out of the main crowd and down a bystreet, hoping to possibly draw out into the open anyone who might be following us.
No one appeared, however, and the quiet street led to a dead end bordered by houses. One of them seemed to be empty, and into this I drew my girls, intending to exit out the other side onto the street.
The house was dark and still, while the sound of a child crying in the next house over could be distinguished over the hum of metropolitan life. Slowly and cautiously, we rounded the corners of the house, following a hallway that led up a flight of creaking stairs. The second story consisted of a series of sparsely furnished rooms that seemed to be meant for bedrooms, and had a third stairwell that led to a roof access.
I was on my way towards this, when the deafening sound of window shattering into a thousand shards split the silence like a knife.
I whirled around my gun out, just as a dark shape tackled me, slamming me to the ground forcefully and causing the gun in my hand to clatter across the floor.
Marta screamed, and I saw the glint of a knife blade as it flashed for my throat. My hand came up, arresting its movement just centimeters from my flesh and what ensued was a desperate contest of strength on both ends, the weight of my attacker pinning me to the floor and using gravity to his benefit.
I was losing. Whoever the man was, he was a lot stronger than me.
And that was saying something.
Feeling a miniscule shift in his weight as he slowly brought the knife lower, I wrapped my leg around his and rocked him off balance, whipping my elbow back into his face as I rolled away. We both scurried to our feet, and I got a brief glimpse of the situation.
Marta and Nikki were backed into a corner, both of them terrified into immobility for the moment, watching with wide eyes and open mouths.
My opponent was an enormous black man, his size nearly doubled by his massive muscles, and his eyes glinting with the same soullessness I had seen in the first agent Marta had killed.
That would explain the superhuman strength.
His coal black eyes darted from me to Marta and Nikki cowering in the corner, obviously deciding his target, and when he took a meaningful step towards them, I sprung into the offensive.
Not the best tactic, but there was no way in hell I was going to let him even near my girls.
Running towards him, I went into a baseball slide, bringing my boot into his kneecap, while at the same time twisting around to elbow him in the kidneys and take out his other leg with mine.
He fell hard, the knife sliding far out across the floor, but rose just as quickly into the offensive.
So he finally figured out that if he was going to kill anyone, it would have to be me first.
Good for him.
The blows came hard and fast, giving me barely enough time to parry them with my heavily bruised arms, steadily forcing me back. When I took a staggering blow to the ribcage, my back finally met the wall at the end of the room. This time when the man's fist whipped out for my face, I ducked and heard the satisfying thud as he punched the wall, fragments of the drywall falling onto my hair.
At least a few broken fingers there.
Without wasting an instant, I grabbed his wrist and spun with it behind his back, hearing the joint pop and kicking his back so that his face ground into the wall.
Now a broken nose.
His foot came back into my stomach and the air left me all in a gust.
As I was still gasping for air, he turned slowly, his nose gushing blood, and popped his arm back into place with a hiss between clenched teeth, his eyes boring into mine as if he were trying to set me on fire under his furious gaze.
If looks could kill.
"Nikki," I cried out. "Get Marta out here! Go to the warehouse!"
She hesitated, pain and indecision flashing over her face, but her feet moved uncertainly towards the door.
Again, the foot of my attacker whipped out, this time at head height and though I put up both arms to try and lessen the brunt of it, his boot connected with the side of my skull with such force that it made me stagger, my ears ringing and the room spinning. When my eyes finally focused again, it was to see a bruised fist slam into my gut.
Again and again the blows came, each one seemingly harder than the last.
Instinctively, I doubled over, only to feel rough hands whirl me around into a choke hold, one burly arm around my neck and a hand shifting into a position that I knew to spell out a snapped spinal cord.
My eyes landed on Marta's face in the doorway, panicked and desperate, her lips forming my name.
"Warehouse. Now." I gasped, before kicking the door shut.