There was a roar and a flash of light.
Matthew's defensive spells buckled as the bullet hit. It took him in the gut, a little off to the left and under the bottom rib. His vest was useless, rated for something a lot smaller than the .50 caliber round slicing through it. There was pain, but not as much as he'd expected.
Oh, he thought as his legs gave way. This is shock.
Matt collapsed forward onto his hands even as the man looked back over his shoulder at him. "It has been a good hunt, Mr. Engel. You should be proud of that."
He was bleeding. He was bleeding hard. A gut shot took roughly twenty minutes to be fatal, even if a major organ was ruptured. The pain could be crippling and the damage was usually inoperable, but death was far from quick. Even so, he planted his left hand on the tile and forced himself forward a half-foot.
"Head... or heart...", Matthew groaned through gritted teeth.
The gunman pushed down his dark glasses to regard Matt with surprise in his pale eyes. "What did you say, Mr. Engel?"
Matt stared up at him, eyes burning. "Head or... heart. You'd better put me down, because if you... Uhhhnnn.... if you try to hurt that girl, I'll.... ahhhh..... I'll bite your fucking foot off." It was bold talk for someone who was leaving a blood trail every six, slow inches of movement across the depressingly wide room, but he meant what he said. If it was the last thing he did, he'd stop this bastard from hurting her.
That provoked the oddest response from the Knight. He had been raising his gun, presumably to finish Matthew off, but now it slowly fell to his side. "You must understand, Mr. Engle. You are a threat, like a plague, and those you come into contact with have to be dealt with for the good of all. It, like this, is nothing personal."
Matt kept moving. It was agony; the shock was wearing off. In a way, he was grateful. Pain was helping him focus. "I have a hole in my side the size of a bratwurst. Trust... me. It's gotten really personal." Hand over hand he came... slowly.
The man raised his gun again, tugging on his shooter's gloves to tighten them and perfect his aim. "Of course. My apologies. I assure you your suffering will end quickly, as will hers."
Matt shook his head. "She didn't do anything to do, but I still can. I've still got enough magic to.... ehhhh.... owww... bring this whole place down on your head." He stopped crawling, looking up at the Knight while he tried to clear his mind of the pain in his body. "But I won't if you promise to spare the girl. Your people have already killed enough of these folks, even a poor nurse who never even saw me. Haven't you... uhhnnn.... done enough damage?"
The bald, almost elegant looking killer raised his gun again, the surprise in his eyes changing to slight disbelief. "Excuse me? Are you saying one of my agents killed someone who never encountered you directly?"
It was all Matt could do to nod without spitting blood. "Her body's in a cleaning closet downstairs. I thought she'd spoken with me, but I was wrong. She only knew... ahhh.... about me from the Duty Nurse." Matt's vision was going all blurry. That meant he had about ten minutes left. Dad and his "life lessons" again.
The gunman lowered the hammer of his postol and holstered it, stepping out of Matthew's reach as he walked around him to the door of the room. "I find this highly doubtful, Mr. Engle, but I will investigate your claim. Do try not to die while I am gone." The door went click.
And Matt went thud. He pressed his face to the cold tile and tried to control his breathing. His magic was so useless right now. While he was suffering the effects of one physical spell's downside, he couldn't work another. He had no gift or ability with healing magic, and while he might be able to affect time itself with his entropic gifts, he didn't dare risk it with the little girl in surgery just a few yards away.
This was checkmate, pure and simple, and he hated to lose.
Matt focused on that. The hate. The stubborn refusal to give up. He was never the fastest kid at school, or the strongest or the brightest, but he always finished a challenge. He rarely won, but he never quit. That didn't mean much in the Educational system, but it meant everything to him now.
It was literally the difference between life and death.
Seemingly as soon as he left, the tall man came back. Matt realized he'd passed out for a little while, but at least he'd woken up again. The Knight looked perturbed, not an expression Matt figured the man wore often. He had his gun out, but it wasn't pointed at him yet.
"You seem to have a bit of life left in you. Strong will, but of course that goes without saying." The man was talking more to himself about Matt than to Matt directly. Not knowing whether he should, or even could, answer, Matthew settled for the far easier option of lie still and bleed. It just seemed like the thing to do right now.
"Allow me to restate your proposal, just to see if I understand its terms." As he spoke, the Knight raised his gun again and pulled back its hammer. The weapon's huge barrel loomed like the tunnel of death into Matt's pained field of vision. A head shot. Well, at least it would be quick. "If I agree not to harm the girl, you'll accept execution without attempting to defend yourself in any way. You'll forgo your magic and agree to your end?"
It felt bitter in his mouth, like he was at some level surrendering to this zealous prick, but he couldn't take the thought of having come all this way with the poor child just to have her die because he wasn't strong enough to save her. Though it hurt to say on so many levels, Matt closed his eyes and accepted the coming storm. "Yes."
The next sound he heard was not thunder. It was silence. Silence punctuated with the CHACK of a hammer being released again. Then a burning light flared through his body, starting at his side and racing its way down his limbs and over his tortured skin. It hurt worse than being shot ever had, even though he understood at some level he was being healed. Brutally, forcibly healed. Somehow, it seemed appropriate for "holy"healing to hurt this much.
"Well then, Mr. Engel. I accept your bargain but I'm granting you a little time while I turn my attention to other matters." The man retrieved a hat from a nearby coat rack and placed it over his bald pate, pushing back up his glasses as he did so.
Matt doubled over in pain, though his body was perfectly functional and restored now. As he writhed, recovering, the Knight stepped over him and walked back towards the door. "I suggest you take very good care of your little stay of execution. If any harm comes to her, I'll consider our agreement broken on your end."
And with that, he was gone, leaving a very confused fallen Engel on the floor...