Anchors No More # 40: A Real PleasureOct 20, 2014
Upstairs, Restrepo winced as bullets struck the wall around him. He took another step down, firing his rifle at a multitude of moving targets. “Shit,” he yelled, “we need help.” Mike stepped forward and shot at whatever he could see.
Restrepo turned to Steven, “Tell Daniel we’re coming down and to get ready. We can’t hold it anymore.”
A bullet penetrated the wall beside Restrepo’s head. Steven muttered, “Shit,” and dashed down the stairs. Restrepo turned and raised his rifle.
He fired again and again and again…
Meanwhile in the basement below, Vanderhoff had pulled one of the bound ARLIS guards to his feet, standing behind him with Carla’s rifle resting on his human shield’s shoulder. He pointed the weapon back and forth, from Holly to Gary to Daniel and James. “I told you not to move,” he said to James, “That girl’s death is on you, not me.”
As they all glanced at Carla, laying dead on the floor. Vanderhoff turned his eyes to Holly kneeling over her friend’s corpse, “It’s on you,” he repeated.
Holly slowly climbed to her feet, grabbing the pistol from the holster on Carla’s hip, any lingering hesitations she may have harbored were gone now from her voice and eyes. “You’re crazy,” she said in utter disbelief.
Vanderhoff smirked, “ I know, and you’re a bitch. Can we get on with it?”
Before she could reply, Steven suddenly appeared, hurtling down the stairs and shouting, “They’re coming in, there’s too many. We have to defend the stairs from down…” he paused, stepping off the staircase and onto the basement floor, not sure what he was seeing. Steven looked over at James, at Daniel and Gary, needing to confirm that this was happening, that he was not in the midst of some strange panicked hallucination.
Holly ignored Steven, giving Vanderhoff a hard smile, her eyes sharp with adrenaline, “You’re scared,” she said, “You know you can’t get out of this alive.”
Vanderhoff moved himself and his hostage back, closer to the stairs, “I don’t have to,” he finally answered, “I just have to make sure you don’t either.”
Vanderhoff turned with his rifle and took two quick shots. One bullet lodged in the stairs but one found the side of Steven’s calf, ripping through layers of skin and muscle. By the time Steven shouted and fell to the floor, Vanderhoff had turned and was raising his rifle at Gary, standing unarmed beside Holly.
Holly fired her pistol, hitting Vanderhoff’s human shield in the shoulder. The guard grunted and dropped to his knees. Vanderhoff shot twice, both bullets whizzing past Gary’s head as the Lieutenant was thrown off balance by the guard dropping from his arms. On the floor, Daniel fired his pistol, his aim was true and the bullet sank into Vanderhoff’s thigh.
Vanderhoff stumbled back but kept his feet. He looked around with eyes full of fire, searching for the origin of the bullet in his leg. Daniel shot again, this time he missed and Vanderhoff raised his rifle at Daniel’s head but before he could shoot, James was upon him, leaping the last few feet and wrestling the gun from Vanderhoff’s grip. The Lieutenant would not be taken so easily however, pulling the gun back, pushing and pulling with James. Daniel couldn’t get a clear shot as the two kept moving and circling.
With James and Vanderhoff locked in mortal combat, Gary and Holly frozen in the center of the room, and Daniel still on the floor but climbing to his feet, Restrepo and Mike came running down the stairs, screaming as loud as they could, “They’re coming! They’re here!”
The captive scientists huddled in the corner stood up and looked around nervously, some of them moving to cower under the stairs, others panicking and getting between Restrepo and the others. Restrepo saw Carla’s bloody corpse, saw Brandon’s dead body, saw James wrestling on the floor with Vanderhoff.
He had no time to make sense of the situation as he heard the shouts from upstairs followed by shadows and footsteps crowding the doorway. A gunshot, a bullet striking the wall beside him, Restrepo turned to Mike, “We need to hold these stairs, they can only come down a few at a time, we keep ‘em choked up. They can throw smoke, but no concussions, no lethals, not with Vanderhoff and Rutherford down here, not with the time machine.”
Turning to Holly and Gary, Restrepo commanded, “Go,” and they did, quickly running to the temporal device, hesitating only a moment before Holly hit the door release and the door lock clicked open.
Daniel limped over to them, “Get in, I’ll make sure it’s sealed and double check the matrix. Lock the door, count to twenty and press your button.”
More gunshots behind them, Restrepo shot twice, a scream of pain from the top of the stairs, inside the stairwell.
Daniel touched Gary on the arm, “Make it ten.”
Gary smiled, patted Daniel’s arm, “Thanks.”
Daniel nodded and turned to Holly, “Thank you for everything, Doctor Marshall,” he wanted to hug her but there was no time, “It’s been a pleasure.”
There were no words, no path around the block in her throat and the crush welling her heart with grateful despair. “A pleasure,” she choked out blankly.
Before a step towards the machine could be taken, Steven screamed, “Smoke grenade,” and there was a series of gunshots, a metallic clanking as the smoke canister hit the concrete, a loud hissing as thick greyish smoke came pouring from it, filling the low-ceilinged basement.
Everyone began choking, coughing, gagging as vision became blurred then momentarily absent. The gunshots increased, too many sets of footsteps thunderously descending the stairs. Mike screamed and shot, Restrepo aimed at the shadows in the smoke, hoping he was hitting something as he fired his rifle.
Daniel raised his rifle and spun around, shocked to say the least when the bullet suddenly passed through his abdomen. The pain was surprising and Daniel fell to his knees wondering what had happened, hoping that through all the smoke and chaos, somehow Holly and Gary had made it into the machine and were on their way back to from when they had come.
© David Edward Wagner 2014. All Rights Reserved.