That voice, that came from everywhere and nowhere, that was the way forward, but he needed something more. Something much more.
N'buli found it in the echoes of the pain he still felt, for all that he had lost over those long years. He was living his whole life at once, but he knew he could focus on some moments over the others, and he chose the worst.
He re-lived the day in the War he went over the top of that trench and lost all his friends. He grabbed on to that moment when he learned his real parents had been killed in a storm. He felt the pain of losing Stevie, and Chang, and all the other Agents that had been lost over the years.
And he grabbed on to the moments of physical pain as well – the thick, ugly aching that he felt in his bones after his 16-hour fistfight with Hitler’s massive and dim-witted clone in Argentina in 1977; all the times he had been shot or stabbed; the day in his late sixties when he stubbed his toe really badly on the corner of his bed; the pain he felt when he did a headbutt wrong, a move he could never get it entirely right.
N'buli grabbed on to each and every moment of physical, emotional and spiritual agony and used them to pull himself together.
He was standing in a room, he remembered that now, and he remembered that they were trying to stop him. His mind and soul were spread out across his life like thick butter, but he was pulling it all together.
Gritting his teeth, closing his eyes and getting his shit together, N'buli took another step forward towards Mr Goodson.
Agent Smith staggered back from his headbutt, but N'buli was in no position to press the attack. He could never quite get the headbutt right, and he was lucky he had not knocked himself out again.
As it was, the world was spinning a bit, so he used the closest rock to steady himself. He saw Agent Smith shake her head and wipe the tears from his eyes and then she was coming at him again.
He slapped aside her attack and kept moving backwards. She came at him again, but pulled up short, smirked and pointed at his side with her knife. 'You should probably do something about that.'
The adrenaline had been pumping so hard that N'buli had forgotten about the stab wound. It was still bleeding heavily, soaking his shirt in his own blood. He took another step back as he ripped off part of his ruined shirt and started to tie it into a bandage around the wound.
'Hardly fair, was it?' he asked her as she kept her distance, pacing around one of the large flat rocks. 'But why didn’t you stab me in the heart, or in the throat? This hurts like hell, but it doesn’t feel like you’ve done any major damage.'
Agent Smith’s smirk faded, just a little bit. 'I want to take you out of this world fairly, without cheating. That’s the way it works. And while I’m better at this than the last time we met, I’m still not that good. I needed an advantage, and bleeding you out a bit seemed like the best way of gaining that.'
She stopped pacing, tossed him a small spray can and sat down on the edge of her rock. 'Go on then. Sort yourself out, and then we’ll finish this.'
N'buli looked at the can and saw it was standard LOVE issue – a coagulant that would stop everything but the worst wound from bleeding. He still didn’t trust her and kept an eye on her as he cleaned the blood away from his wound, used the coagulant and tied his makeshift bandage around it.
When he was done, she tossed him a bottle of water. He caught it easily, but looked at it suspiciously.
'Oh please,' said Agent Smith. 'Poison is for pussies.'
He was too thirsty to argue and took the risk, chugging down most of the large bottle in seconds. She made her move just as he finished swallowing and he sprayed the last of the water in the bottle into her face and kicked her feet out from under her before she got two steps.
But she rolled as she fell, got back to her feet and braced back up against the edge of a large stone, holding her knife steadily in front of her. 'Not that easy. Not this time.'
She pushed off her stone and he needed to use his own knife to block the blow from her blade. But it was another feint, and she got inside his reach and put her elbow hard into the side of his throat.
Choking, N'buli fell back, but she gave him no relief and came in even closer, bending over to try and cut his hamstrings. N'buli couldn’t get a breath, but he wasn’t helpless and rammed his knee into her chin with a satisfying clunk.
Agent Smith fell back clumsily, but N'buli couldn’t take advantage of it. Her shot to his throat had been more rattling than he was willing to let on, and he was grateful to get a couple of seconds to catch his breath.
He only got a couple, because she was coming at him again, and he had to fight her off.
They were still at it eight hours later.
N'buli was tethered to the world again and acutely away of his own body and all that it had been through, but he couldn’t see anything. There was just the blinding light, filling the vast room.
Shielding his eyes, he took another step.
They fought through the whole day, until the sky started to bruise with the last light of another lost day and there was still no breakthrough.
His exhausting journey and new wounds brought N'buli’s skills and stamina down a level and Agent Smith had picked up her game since they last meet. They fought for hours and hours, but neither managed to seriously hurt the other.
At one point, the full moon had clouded over and they had fought in the pitch darkness. Even then, neither of them could gain the upper hand, although N'buli did take a nasty knee to the head at some point and almost lost his footing on a particularly jagged piece of rock.
But she blocked everything he had and he pushed away any of her attempts. They were both at their most exhausted in the hour before dawn and had given up taunting each other, the silent Mongolian night broken only by their grunts and gasps.
Then the sun rose on a new day. And something happened.
Kicks quickly became caresses and punches soon turned into gentle stroking. Neither of them spoke, or gave any sign that they knew what they were doing, but they had stopped fighting and started fucking.
All of their second wind went into their passionate lovemaking. They found an incongruously grassy patch between the stones and tore each other’s clothes off.
This part of their encounter didn’t last all day, but was just as exhausting as their night fighting. While they still went at it for hours, they were totally spent by midday and lay back on the grass, naked beneath the noon sun. They had no more urge to fight, or do anything.
'Wow,' said Agent Smith, finally. 'I didn’t see that coming.'
'I don't know,' said N'buli. 'Happens to me all the time.'