Anchors No More #21: I’ve Gathered You Here TodayJun 9, 2014
The day of the raid on the ARLIS compound they had a large breakfast, eating quietly for the most part, only random jokes and stoic requests to pass salt or salsa breaking the still atmosphere. When they finished their meal, Daniel stood from his seat and gave the group a long loving look, saying simply, “Let’s work.”
They broke into three groups and began the last of their preparations. Holly, Gary, Elizabeth, and Brandon formed the Science group and spent the next several hours going over the sequences and calculations they would enter into the temporal matrix once the machine was hooked up and ready to go. They copied the equations and functions onto pieces of paper to stash in their pockets, the notebooks themselves were doused in gasoline to be burned before they left for the raid.
The second group, Logistics, consisted of Daniel, James, Carla, and Mike. Together they mapped out the details of their every move, from getting over the fence to getting inside the laundry room, from moving the team through the building to splitting into two divisions, one division going up to the labs to commandeer the time device while the other division made their way to the basement of Holly and Gary’s former lab to prepare for the machine’s arrival.
The final group, Security, left the lab and spent the rest of the morning in the garage training, working on how to appear casual while simultaneously being prepared to draw and fire their weapons in the blink of an eye. Steven, Pierre, and Kate were put through their paces by Restrepo who drilled them again and again while working out every last position, move, and detail of the night’s mission.
Ankura’s final scientist, Amber, had agreed to stay at the lab during the mission, manning the phone, destroying computers, burning files, keeping the facilities ready for any emergency that may come their way.
After a light lunch of soup and sandwiches, Daniel pulled James, Holly, Gary, and Restrepo aside for a brief meeting in the garage. Standing in the dim room, he met each of their eyes. With so much to say he drew a blank, so there in the musty room, the scent of old grease and oil permeating the air, the five of them stared at one another silently before James mercifully muttered, “So, I’ve gathered you here today…” causing them all to tentatively chuckle. James turned to Daniel, “So what’s the scoop, boss?”
Daniel could have either broken into tears or hugged James, grateful for his partner’s off-kilter attitude even here as they prepared to stare down what each of them felt, at least deep in their hearts, to be certain death. “The scoop?” Daniel repeated, trying to figure that question out for himself. He gave them all another long look, “I’ve got no scoop right now, I just… any last questions or concerns? Anyone?”
There were not. They were as ready as they were apt to ever be and anxiously waiting for sunset when they would climb into their vehicles and begin their trek towards the ARLIS compound. James made a bad joke about Daniel scaring away any potential enemy combatants with his scraggly unkempt beard and the five of them managed to fall into a brief period of meaningless small talk. They chatted for a few minutes, but their nerves were starting to fray, their prattling quickly digressed into platitudes punctuated by long periods of silence. Finally, Restrepo excused himself, wanting to check on his team as they cleaned their guns, to help them out so they could finish quicker and get some rest.
James followed shortly after, wanting to catch a nap, “See you folks in a few hours,” he said as he walked away, “and please try to keep it down, this old man needs his beauty sleep.” Satisfied with the meager chuckles his statement roused from his comrades, he left Daniel, Holly, and Gary without another word.
The three of them were silent a moment before Daniel asked, “So, how are you doing?”
Gary wasn’t sure of that question at the moment and told him as much, adding, “It’s all been so fast, I don’t know if I’m ready for this. I’m not… I’m just… I just want to be in some quiet lab someplace as far from action as possible, but now,” he shook his head wearily, “now I’m Rambo, I really don’t have a choice.”
“No, you don’t,” Daniel said, knowing they were too far gone to pull any punches, “None of us do. We’re in this mess and this is the way out of it.”
“I know,” Gary said defensively. He caught himself, scratched his head, “I’m sorry, I’m tired. I just know people are going to get hurt because of us, because of what we did.”
“Well, it’s too late for that,” Daniel quickly said, “and if anyone gets hurt, it’s because of their own convictions, not because of you.”
“I know,” said Gary, defeat in his voice. He looked away, focusing his attention on the dusty concrete floor.
Daniel turned to Holly, “You?”
She smiled through her daze, “I think I’m too overwhelmed to feel much of anything anymore. I just want to start doing it and stop thinking about it. You know?”
He knew. His smile remained as his eyes wandered from hers. He looked at his hand and noticed it was held up to his mouth, the side of his thumb between teeth nibbling on the skin beside his fingernail. He hadn’t realized he had been chewing his nails, a nervous habit he broke himself of years ago. Examining his fingernails he saw they were raggedly whittled down, a little blood under the nail of his middle finger. His lips pursed in a tight, humble smile, “Waiting sucks,” he said.
The three of them looked at each other. The same humorless smile on all their lips, the same grim determination behind each of their eyes bridged the distances between them with mutual respect and optimistic hopelessness. Without another word, they moved towards the door, each lost in their thoughts as they entered the lab and saw everyone working look up at them with the same expression the three of them had just shared: a collective state of wishful resignation.
Daniel told his crew, “Seven hours ‘til we leave, grab some rest soon if you want it, we start packing the truck at eight-thirty.” He didn’t wait to see their reactions, he just went to his room and shut the door, laid on the bed and feigned sleep, hoping his body could fool his mind into believing that it was okay, that it was completely possible, to relax.
© David Edward Wagner 2014. All Rights Reserved.