Anchors No More # 39: Darwin was One Smart BastardOct 13, 2014
Steven, Mike, and Restrepo were near the top of the stairs but they had been pushed back a step or two. Inside the stairwell, the angle of the wall helped to create a slight funnel, giving the three men enough cover to temporarily stave off the attacking horde of ARLIS men. They were holding their ground but it was tenuous.
Below in the basement, Gary glanced at the control panel, checking the software download: halfway. The gunshots were increasing, the screams getting nearer the doorway. They needed a few more minutes before the temporal device was ready to use but he doubted they would get it.
Gary cast a glance first to Daniel lying on the floor silently protesting as Holly approached Vanderhoff with her hands raised, Brandon and James beside her with rifles raised tracking Vanderhoff’s every movement. Lieutenant Vanderhoff was standing behind Carla, his slender blade pressed to her throat. Liam and the other captive scientists were getting nervous, growing restless as the tension in the room escalated towards chaos.
“Please, Lieutenant, let her go,” Holly calmly said as she came to a stop, “We can do this with no one else getting hurt.”
Vanderhoff tightened his grip on Carla’s neck, “There’s gonna be hurt,” he said, “It’s all just degrees of how bad.” He looked at James and Brandon, angled Carla’s chest towards their rifles, “Put ‘em down,” he said, nodding towards the rifles, “They aren’t doing you any good, you’re just going to get your friend hurt.”
Brandon tightened the crosshairs on Vanderhoff’s forehead, “I’m afraid we can’t do that, Sir,” he said, “Let her go and get on your knees.”
Vanderhoff laughed, more of a grunt, “Funny and stupid, they’re gonna love you in hell.” With his back tight to the wall, Vanderhoff yelled to Gary, “Turn the power off,” he made sure Gary saw the blade pressed to Carla’s neck, “Power it down, unhook the control panel and join your partner here.”
Gary glanced at the panel, less than a minute until the upload was complete. He needed time, he had to think. Think of something, just think… “What are you doing?” he asked Vanderhoff, knowing he had to stall, “Why are you doing this? What are you trying to prove?”
Vanderhoff was not amused but still he smiled. He said nothing, happy to let this linger, waiting for his men to push their way through the door and kill Restrepo and the rest. Gary didn’t raise his hands but he did begin slowly walking towards Holly, giving James a half-glance as he passed him, moving his eyes back towards the control panel. Continuing forward, he said, “All of this, what’s it really for? Money? Control? Just plain power, my dick’s bigger than yours?
Vanderhoff’s grin widened, “You don’t know what it’s about,” he said, leaning his cheek close to Carla’s, “You’re in your lab, tucked in like soft little babies while the world is just moving on around you.”
Vanderhoff looked from Gary to Holly to Daniel, saving James for last, making sure he knew that they both knew he was moving slyly back towards the control panel, “Do you really know what’s going on out there,” Vanderhoff continued, “What it’s really like at the level I’m talking about? Not in your ‘Fuck the man,’ ‘Hang the lawyers,’ liberal ‘feed the world’ bullshit, I’m talking about the fact this planet has run out, the projections have become reality. We don’t have the resources left to support the population, we don’t have the money or time to keep the ball in the air, and I’m not talking about ‘We” as in America, I’m talking about the ‘Royal We,’ ‘Mankind,’ ‘the good Planet Earth.’” Vanderhoff paused, looked at the eyes staring at him, “It’s not a dick contest anymore, it’s about insuring survival of the species.”
“What?” challenged Gary, “Survival for who? Survival for our country not theirs? Or more likely for our rich and their rich and who gives a shit about the others? Where’s your cut-off limit? Who’s expendable?”
“The same ones as always,” Vanderhoff replied, “Who can get to the water hole first.” He spit on the ground, “Darwin was right.”
Gary couldn’t answer, stunned by Vanderhoff’s smug candor.
Vanderhoff looked back to James who was standing beside the control panel reaching slowly towards the pad. Vanderhoff cleared his throat, “What are you doing Doctor Brammer? I thought it was explicitly implied that no one move.”
James glanced sideways at the control pad: the software download was complete: press ‘ok’ to continue. He hit the button, “Doing my job, Sir,” he answered sarcastically, “Insuring the survival of my species.”
“You think stopping this tonight will do that? You really think doing whatever it is that you have planned will help anything? Will stop anything? Come now, Doctor Brammer, I always thought you were a smart man,” Vanderhoff paused, looking at Daniel a moment, “Your present company excluded.” He turned back to James, “You were always the cynic, I thought if anyone would understand the larger picture it would be you.”
“I’m a cynic,” James answered walking slowly to Vanderhoff, “not an asshole.”
Vanderhoff watched James nearing him, suddenly realizing that the space between he and the gathering fugitives was narrowing: they were slowly creping up on him from every side. “That’s debatable,” he said.
Suddenly he straightened himself, drew Carla’s chin up and said, “Now.” His unexpected movement and shouted imperative caught them all off guard. With surprising quickness, the burly Lieutenant slashed Carla’s throat, blood spurting as she gave a gargled gasp of disbelief and grasped at her neck.
Vanderhoff swept the rifle off of Carla’s shoulder, kicking her forward. Brandon fired a shot but the bullet missed to the left as Carla came crashing into him, knocking him back as she fell to the floor. Brandon was a second too late in recovering and raising his gun. Vanderhoff fired, the bullet tore through the flesh and bone of Brandon’s hip. Screaming, Brandon shot his gun harmlessly at the wall and tumbled back before falling to the ground in agony, his hip shattered.
Holly crawled over to Carla, uselessly trying to stop the blood seeping from her throat. Beside them, Brandon writhed on the concrete floor. In that moment, blood pulsing through her fingers, Vanderhoff reaching for another human shield, her friends and comrades screaming and rushing forward, only two things came to Holly’s mind. One was ‘oh Jesus’ and the other was ‘oh shit.’
© David Edward Wagner 2014. All Rights Reserved.