When Matthew returned to consciousness, the first thing he felt was pain. Massive, horrible pain all over his body. It was as if he was dipped in a cauldron of molten lava. To go with that was the heat that flowed and sunk into his skin. He wondered briefly if he really was in a cauldron of lava. Confirming it would have required opening his eyes and that was something he did not think he would have been able to do.
Keeping himself on the ground and near sleep felt really good. It would have felt better to actually fall asleep. His mind even started to fall deeper into the void. Despite that, he slowly forced his eyelids to part.
A part of him wished he had not.
Light pierced his eyes and his brain immediately hated him for it. The act of trying to adjust to the light was something right out of hell. But that was only one part of it.
When he finally got his eyes fully open, he saw that his surroundings were blazing in fires mixed with red and blue flames. Whatever was not in flames was pretty much demolished. Matthew slowly rose to his feet and had to fight against his body's will to just fall over. Standing up he had a clearer view of where he was.
Mainly, he was outside. Virginian winter air sank its fangs into his skin, but instead of being freezing it helped him get to a reasonable temperature. Not even being near the mountains could bring him below slightly chilled. In front of him was the Inquisition's base on the east coast.
Completely engulfed in flames.
From his vantage of the giant building, he could tell that his area was not the only one that exploded. Various, seemingly random, areas were entirely gone from the building and the supports were exposed and burning. Thankfully, there were no bodies around him. At least ones that he could see. All of the guards were headed for the West Wing though. Maybe he was just not seeing the true damage.
Making sure that he still had his weapon, he pushed himself toward the nearest breach. His body was stiff and refused to move properly. So instead of walking he maintained a strong limp. After a couple of steps, though, he felt his foot kick something on the ground.
He looked down to find that it was the woman who planted the artifice. The idea of just stepping over her, or even on her, and keep moving was strong. But he ignored it and knelt next to her.
Her chest fell up and down rhythmically and her pulse was strong. There were only minor injuries plus the bullet hole in her back. The bullet did not look like it hit anything fatal however the injuries were leaking blood. If it kept up and she did not wake up she would die.
And why is that an issue? A dark part of Matthew's brain asked, She is the enemy!
He gritted his teeth and started cutting strips from both of their clothes to cover up her injuries. Every cut was covered no matter how small and most of the work was placed on her back. When that was done, he patted her down and took anything that might be dangerous. She had a couple of artifices that looked similar to what she used and one that was probably a shield artifice but it was burnt out.
Matthew pocketed it all and pulled the unconscious woman up. With one of her arms around his neck and his arm around her back, careful to avoid the shot, he started getting them both to the nearest hole of the base.
Halfway, he felt the woman stir a bit. She then let out a groan. Matthew did not stop moving though, and he felt some resistance as she struggled to keep pace with him.
"What?" She muttered.
"Are you alright?" Matthew asked.
In the corner of his eye, he saw her turn to look at him, "What are you doing?" She was obviously still recovering from the explosion herself. The voice that came from her was tired and blurred, "Why are you helping me?"
"I'm placing you in my custody." He said, "Do no try to escape or you will be put down. Follow all of my orders and everything will be just fine."
She snorted, "Yeah. Sure."
He was not sure which part of the statement she was scoffing at. Or if she was scoffing at it all. But she did not try to fight him. She even kept using him as a support until they finally got back into the building. Once in the relative safety, she shoved herself away from Matthew. He was slightly upset at that, but did not say anything.
"Alright then, mister Inquisitor." The woman said in a sarcastic tone, "What do I do?"
He pulled out his pistol, made sure it was loaded, and held it out pointedly, "You stay in front. Any sign of using magic and you get shot." He hoped she did not notice the slight shaking in his voice and hands.
Either she did not, or she ignored it, "Fine."
She stepped in front of him and waited. It took him a couple of seconds to realize that she was waiting for his direction. If his mental image of the building was correct, they were a few intersections from the maintenance room.
"Take a right." He said.
She nodded and headed that way. Now that she was moving on her own, he could see that she was not exactly limping but she was taking the shot in her back into account. The cloth wrapping her injuries were already soaked and the motions were not helping anything at all.
A pang of guilt hit his chest. He knew that she was the enemy and he knew that she was one of the ones to ruin the base. But he had shot a woman. The fact that he shot anyone was hard enough, but shooting a woman made it even worse. What was wrong with him?
He shook his head and kept his gun aimed close to the woman.