Anchors No More # 38 : Famous Last WordsOct 6, 2014
From the top of the stairs, Restrepo yelled, “Come on, guys, they’re getting noisier up here,” and Holly thought it was a indistinctive claim considering the banging, shooting, and shouting had not ceased for a moment since they began.
From her work, she spared a glance for Daniel sitting beside her on the floor wrestling with the wires they were splicing. “Noisier?” she said, finishing her installation of the control matrix and sliding it into place, “That’s like saying the typhoon is getting typhoonier.”
Daniel twisted his last wire into place, wrapped it in electric tape and looked up at her, pleased she could feel enough to crack sarcastic. Feeling eyes on her back, she turned to see James looking up from the power chords he was installing with Brandon. “What?” she asked.
James pretended disappointment, “Do you really want those to be your famous final words?” He smiled and behind her she heard Gary chuckle. She looked at him, then at Daniel who smiled and pushed himself back from the completed splices, propping himself on his elbows as he laid on the floor. Flustered and anxious, she shook the moment and got back to business, “Okay, party boys, breaks over,” she took a calming breath, “Power ready?” she asked and James affirmed.
She turned to Daniel, “Ventilator?”
Daniel nodded, “Done,” he said.
Holly looked at Gary, “Data ready?”
Gary nodded, “Ready.”
“Ok,” Holly said, pausing a moment and giving him an odd look, “We did it.”
Gary smiled sadly. That’s what she said last time when they were together here in the basement with their fingers on the power button. He nodded as she stepped forward, reached out and pressed the button. The machine whirred to life, green light: all was go.
From the corner, Vanderhoff spoke. “Doctor Marshall, I’m not sure your intentions,” he said, “but I can assure you of your chances of success.”
She scowled and turned back to Gary, “Enter the data,” she said, “James, can you help him?” James nodded yes and walked to Gary as Holly slowly approached Vanderhoff, sitting on the floor with the bound soldiers. Rutherford was lying on the floor shivering, blood seeping through the cloth on his chest, his breaths coming in rasps. Holly’s gaze turned from Rutherford back to Vanderhoff, “You can’t stop us,” she said righteously, “It’s over.”
Vanderhoff smiled as the spider to the fly, “He’ll be dead in a minute,” he said, drawing her attention back to Rutherford, “and my men will get in here and then you’re all going to die. If you stop this little ploy of yours and just let them in, I can promise you that you’ll live. You and your partner. Jail, not death.”
She saw him looking at Gary as he and James entered data into the matrix panel. Holly drew her pistol and pointed it at Vanderhoff. The soldiers beside him flinched with the sudden movement, Carla and Mike tightened their aims and readied themselves. “You know that’s not going to happen,” she said, fear tainting her threatening edge, “but we could just end it now.” She pointed the gun at his head, “We could start with you.”
He glared at her, challenging her to do it. Her eyes wavered, her hand began to shake, but she met his stare. She held his eyes and did not look away until he did, until he turned his head to Rutherford who had just given a long, slow rattling breath. Holly and Vanderhoff both watched him a moment, the motionlessness of his chest, the absolute stillness of his entire body.
Vanderhoff turned back to her, a smile moving across his face, “Looks like you’re mistaken. It seems you started with him.”
She was silent, staring at Vanderhoff as he gloated. Behind her, Gary proclaimed, “Data’s in, we’re just waiting for the boot up.”
Holly turned away from Vanderhoff, “Keep him quiet,” she told Carla, “Make a gag if you have too.”
Carla nodded and said, “My pleasure.” She raised her rifle to his head and Vanderhoff smiled at her. Behind his back, his fingers had slid the metal blade out of its waistband pocket. It was a slender blade, five inches long and curved with the contour of his waist, one side serrated, sharp and thin. He began slowly sawing it into the rope around his wrists. It’s just a matter of time, he thought, his eyes moving back and forth from Carla to Mike, it’s just a matter of when.
Holly walked back to Gary standing by the Marshall Device, “How long ‘til the download’s complete?” she asked.
Gary replied, “Four, five minutes.”
“Okay,” Holly said, “it’s time. Let’s do it.”
Behind them, Vanderhoff paused his sawing for a moment when without further comment, Holly and Gary began taking off their clothing.
Each wore a wetsuit underneath their clothing. No one spoke as they stripped, only the sounds of banging and gunfire up stairs, only of one captive scientist or another shuffling his position on the uncomfortable concrete floor. When they were done and stood only in their wetsuits, Holly and Gary gave each other half-smiles, pulling on their caps, tucking their hair up into them.
Holly opened her mouth to say something but was interrupted before she could speak by an explosion fierce enough to cause dust and crumbles to fall from the ceiling. Restrepo’s voice cut through the disorientation, “Fire door is down, they’re in,” he yelled, “We need back up.”
Mike gave Carla a quick glance, “You have them?” he asked, gesturing towards Vanderhoff and the others.
She nodded, “Go,” she said, “I’m good.”
Mike bolted to the stairs, taking three at a time as he scaled the tall staircase to join Restrepo and Steven who already shooting, ducking back and screaming as bullets hit the wall next to them.
From the basement floor, Daniel called out, “Get the machine door open.” He looked at Holly, “Get in there, we’ll hold them off until we can send you.”
“Yeah,” said Holly looking around nervously. She quickly walked to the device, heading for the door release. Again, her intentions were interrupted, this time by a squeal behind her.
She turned and saw Vanderhoff holding Carla in front of him, his hands around her throat, a long blade pressed to her jugular vein. He was backing up, putting himself against the wall. James followed him with his rifle stepping forward with each step the Lieutenant took back.
“Nobody enters that machine,” Vanderhoff said, “nobody moves.”
Upstairs the sounds of shouting and guns firing were growing more frequent, louder and closer, Steven screamed out, “There’s too many of them,” and squeezed off three shots. Below, Brandon had drawn his weapon, unsure where to focus: on the chaos above or on Vanderhoff.
Holly stepped away from the temporal device, moving towards Vanderhoff, holding her hands to the sides, “Okay, Lieutenant,” she said calmly, “Just… no one has to die.” She took another step, hands submissively rising higher.
Pressing the blade tighter into Cassie’s throat, Vanderhoff met her eyes. This time he didn’t smile, “No, no” he said coldly, “that’s not true.”
© David Edward Wagner 2014. All Rights Reserved.