Anchors No More # 37 : Almost ThereSep 29, 2014
The back of his skull struck the concrete floor, bursting stars and numbness slammed his senses for a moment before the pain swelled. Gary remembered toppling over, slipping on a stair as a bullet whizzed by and hit the wall above his head. He heard gunfire and screaming, Holly shouting as he fell. She wanted to help him but Brandon yelled, “No, first we get this downstairs.”
Holly knew he was right. They had to get the temporal device into the basement. If the ARLIS men made it past Restrepo and Queen, she knew they didn’t stand a chance trapped in the stairwell. She screamed in frustration as they took another stair down, then another, trying to balance the awkward weight of the machine.
Holly could only pray James got the power hooked up and the bolts in the floor. Once that was done, they could hook the hardware up fast. That was the semi-easy part. The software, however, that was their problem point. No matter how much they trimmed down the time, they were going to need four to six minutes to get everything uploaded into the control matrix. That was too long, she thought, taking another step: six minutes was too much time.
There were not as many gunshots now but Holly could still hear some. Random cracks as potshots struck the walls, she heard a yell, Restrepo she thought, but she wasn’t sure. She couldn’t worry about it now, too busy, concentrating, another step, another… Finally, they made it, solid ground under their feet.
Steven looked at Holly and Brandon, “I’m going up to help, do what you need to do and we’ll buy you time.”
Holly nodded, yes, “As much as you can,” she said. Steven turned and dashed back up the stairs. Holly looked over at James who was still working on the hardware set up in the corner. “James, how is it going?” she asked.
James glanced up from his work, “Almost,” he said, “getting the last bolt in.”
“Hurry,” she said, “We need help getting this in place.” As James grunted and turned the ratchet on the bolt, Holly chanced a look over to Daniel who was staring at her from where he laid on the floor. He tried to smile, but the pain, the stress: it was not a pleasant expression he gave her.
Everyone else was in place. Carla and Mike were guarding the four ARLIS guards, Vanderhoff, and Rutherford, while Gary had managed to climb to his feet and was shaking off his daze. He offered Holly a feeble grin as he gently touched the back of his skull, wincing and examining his blood-covered fingers.
At the top of the stairs, Steven joined Restrepo taking scattered shots at the three ARLIS men still hiding in the dim lab. “Queen’s dead,” Restrepo informed him, “He got the fire doors down though, that should buy us a couple minutes until they get the equipment down here to get through.”
Steven chanced a peek around the doorframe, a bullet sank into the wall four inches from his face and he jerked back inside. He looked at Restrepo, “What about the control room, they can just open it from there,” he said.
Restrepo took a deep breath, his chest tight from the bullet that had struck, his assault vest, “We sent Pierre there,” he said, “If he’s doing his job nobody is getting into that room.”
“Okay,” Steven said, giving a silent salute to Pierre doing his job, “Good.”
“Either way,” Restrepo concluded, “we don’t have much time.” Another bullet hit the wall close to his head, he winced and returned the favor, pulling off two quick shots and scanning the room quickly.
There was banging on the fire doors, a motion to his left: a guard moving into better position behind a cabinet. The guard ducked down and squeezed off a shot, grazing Restrepo’s neck. Restrepo pulled himself around and pressed his back against the wall, he looked at Steven before turning his head down to the bottom of the stairs, “Hurry up, you guys,” he yelled.
Holly knew hurry up, they were hurrying up. She, James, and Brandon were walking the bulky machine into its place as quickly as they could which was unfortunately slow. The dolly had been abandoned at the top of the stairs and Restrepo, busy as he was from dealing with the ARLIS men, could not hand it to them. It was baby steps with the smooth-edged, rounded, burly machine: a behemoth built to move, not to be moved.
They were almost there, grunting and sweating and cursing as they brought the machine through the basement. From where he sat against the far wall, Vanderhoff caught Holly’s eye, he started to say something but Carla shushed him and brought the barrel of her rifle close to his mouth.
Holly looked at James who was red faced and breathing hard. “Almost,” she whispered and he responded only with huffs and puffs.
Gary helped Daniel to his feet and the two injured men joined Holly’s side as James and Brandon began securing the machine on the bolts that had been fastened to the floor. “How are you doing?” Holly asked Gary.
He shook his head, “I’m alright,” he said dejectedly, “Seeing double right now, my head…” he touched the top of his skull and winced.
Holly looked at Daniel who was leaning against the wall looking pale and sweaty, “And you?” she asked him.
Daniel tried to smile but it came out a squint. He displayed his backside, “The bleeding stopped, James patched me up.” He gave Holly and Gary a serious look, “Kate’s dead,” he told them, “I saw her get hit in the head upstairs.” He glanced around the basement, at the tied up soldiers and the huddled scientists and the pressure cooker building inside each member of his crew. Daniel smiled gravely, “Let’s do it,” he said.
Across the room, Vanderhoff sat among the four captured ARLIS men. He was staring at Carla’s leg, the painful looking bandaged wound on her thigh. She was distracted by the injury, limping when she tried to shift her weight, her lips pursed in pain. Interesting, he thought, his fingers creeping to the back of his pants, fiddling with a flap on the waistband of his pants.
Looking briefly at Rutherford who was breathing shallow, still bleeding from a hole in his upper breast near the shoulder, Vanderhoff said, “I hope you know you’re fucked.” He looked back at Carla, “He’s gonna die, then you’re all gonna die, then you will go down in history as the terrorists you are.”
Neither Mike nor Carla responded, however Carla did look anxiously behind her to see what progress was being made. When she turned her head, Vanderhoff shimmied his fingers into the long hidden pocket running around his waist, under his belt. There it is, he thought, grasping the blade with his fingertips, there it is.
© David Edward Wagner 2014. All Rights Reserved.