Anchors No More # 41: Just Like ThisOct 27, 2014
Through the blurry haze of the smoke filled basement, Holly saw Daniel drop to his knees. She screamed and stepped towards him but behind her Gary shouted, “Holly.” She stopped, looking back to see him standing in front of the temporal device, the door open, his face twisted in exasperated fear.
She could see nothing else, the basement filled now with thick smoke pouring from the canister, but she could certainly hear enough. Screaming, gun shots, crying.
The lone ARLIS guard who made the suicidal dash into the basement had only gotten off one shot at Daniel before being mowed down by Restrepo and Mike. Steven stood at the corner of the stairs, shooting up into the continuous wave of ARLIS men stepping over dead bodies on the stairs, pushing down towards him.
Steven shouted, “Fuck,” backing up, “I can’t…” he shot once, twice, “… there’s too fucking many…”
He reached for the smoke grenade, picked it up and attempted to hurl it back up the stairs. As he did, a bullet caught the vest on his chest, another hit his arm, but with a scream he managed to throw the canister: it struck the wall, bounced off an ARLIS guard as he crept down the stairs and fell back into the basement.
Steven raised his gun but his arm hurt to move, he was slow and a pair of bullets entered his head, sending him stumbling, the rear of his skull slamming into the concrete wall which he slumped against as his legs, brain, and body ceased all operation.
Vanderhoff had gotten on top of James and was punching him in the face. James clasped his hands around Vanderhoff’s throat, trying to strangle him and push him off. Vanderhoff punched him again, then again, a primal rage visible in his eyes. James brought his knee up, catching the Lieutenant in the groin, a cheap shot but effective. Vanderhoff’s grip went slack, allowing James to thrust forward, straight-arming Vanderhoff’s throat and getting momentum to flip him over. James rolled on top, tightening his grip on Vanderhoff’s throat.
The gaggle of captive scientists didn’t know what to do, some hid, some stood like deer in headlights, two failed to move when they should have and were shot dead by stray bullets flying from the stairwell. In the midst of the scientists, Liam ducked down against the wall, like an ostrich in the sand.
Restrepo and Mike moved forward, shooting at legs as they became exposed in the stairwell. “Get in the god damned machine,” Restrepo yelled out over his shoulder, not bothering to look, simply knowing time was running out and nothing was being done.
Holly looked back at Gary, gave him a sad-eyed but certain look, “Go,” she said, “You go.”
Gary looked from her back to the stairs. The smoke had run out of the cartridge but still hung thick in the air. The shouts, the shots, the madness around them, “No,” he said, “Not like this.”
Holly spared one last look, “Only like this,” she said and turned away from him, dashing over to Daniel and taking the pistol from his limp grasp. He was still alive, injured badly and loosing blood, but still alive. Best she could tell was the bullet went into his stomach, no exit wound, it was still in there somewhere. She let him lean back against her, she raised the pistol towards the stairs, looking for any, movement, “You got to go,” Daniel whispered, “Leave me, just go.”
Holly looked down at him, cradled his chin in her hand, “No,” she said, “I can’t, I have to make sure…” she shot the pistol at a pair of legs she saw on the stairs, there were so many of them, moving down the stairs, further down… “I have to make sure its over.” She chanced a look back at Gary who had stepped out of the machine, his eyes on her, “Gary, go. Now. I’ll check the settings, you shut the door, count and press the button.” She saw his eyes harden in their resolve, she pleaded with her own eyes, “Please.”
Vanderhoff’s scream was animalistic and raw, piercing the cacophony of the room, drawing Holly’s attention. The Lieutenant was clawing and flailing as James’ squeezed and squeezed, choking the life from his lungs. Vanderhoff bucked and struggled, thrashing his body around trying to break free but James’ face contorted, turning red, sweat and spit dripping down on Vanderhoff, nothing but fury, pure vengeance: he would not be denied or unseated.
James pressed his thumbs into Vanderhoff’s trachea, squeezing as tight as he was able, digging into the throat, feeling the resistance under him giving, bit by bit lessening, the fingernails scratching at his face turning from wrath to panic and then to futile and feeble. A few more worthless scratches and Vanderhoff stopped, his arms dropping, grabbing at James’ wrists weakly. James continued strangling, no quarter, no mercy, just end it, just make it be over…
Vanderhoff’s bucking stopped, his face frozen in mute ferocity, eyes full of fear and hatred. James continued choking him, unable to stop, not caring that his fight was won, his adversary defeated. With a guttural shout, James released his hold on the neck and raised his hands, looking down in shock at what he had just done. He began to laugh and cry, snapping out of his psychotic break, unable to look away from Vanderhoff’s death stare.
James glanced over at Restrepo when he shouted, though he was not sure what his comrade had said. He assumed it was ‘Look out’ when he saw the five ARLIS men charging down the stairs and pointing rifles at him. Restrepo shot at them, Mike shot at them, they shot at James, hitting him three times, then four. Restrepo killed two of the soldiers, Mike killed one, one swung his rifle around and shot wildly, frightened and disoriented. He killed two scientists before falling over dead from Restrepo’s well-placed bullet in the back of his head.
Holly watched James fall over, his body limp on top of Vanderhoff’s corpse. She turned to Gary, praying he would listen to her for once, “Go,” she yelled. Gary knew it was time, he knew it was going to be just like this.
He quickly stepped into the chamber, pausing as he saw Holly kiss Daniel on the cheek and lay him down. She ran to the control panel, Mike and Restrepo behind her shooting as more soldiers entered the basement. Holly looked at Gary, “Ten,” she told him, “Just count to ten.” He nodded, wanted to reply but a bullet hit the machine, ricocheted off into the wall. He shut the door, turned the lock.
Taking a deep breath, Gary placed his finger on the button, “One…”
© David Edward Wagner 2014. All Rights Reserved.