Anchors No More # 44: As the Smoke ClearsNov 17, 2014
Holly looked into Gary’s eyes as the pandemonium grew around them. “Ten,” she simply said, “Count to ten.” A bullet tore the air between them and hit the machine. Gary flinched, looked into her eyes one last time, turned and entered the chamber. The door shut behind him and Holly knew he was gone.
She would not be seeing him again.
She turned back to the control panel and checked the readings. If there were no anomalies in the next ten seconds, Gary would be good to go. She knew there would not be any, their work was accurate and they had done it well. Footsteps. She glanced up, an ARLIS man was a few feet from her, rifle raised to his shoulder, eye peering in the scope, finger pulling at the trigger.
Had it been ten seconds? That was her only thought: could she die knowing they had succeeded? In the split second it took the ghost of this thought to cross her mind, Restrepo was there, leaping through the air as the trigger released the hammer and the bullet flew. Holly screamed and dropped to her knees, expecting the pain and blood but there was none. The bullet had missed her centimeters to the right, its angle deflected by Restrepo bulling into the shooter.
She looked up and saw Restrepo beating the man, she screamed out when she saw the other ARLIS men coming up behind Restrepo, but it didn’t matter, it was all happening too fast, so violently. The gang of soldiers yanked Restrepo off of their partner and threw him to the ground, kicking him as rifles raised and a maelstrom of lead pounded into his chest and head.
The soldiers turned back to Holly and she saw Restrepo’s bloody remains, once again he had sacrificed everything to help her. From behind, a familiar voice shouted with rage, “You mother fuckers.” She turned to see Brandon leaning against the back wall, cornered and bleeding, his face twisted with fear and anger. He shot his rifle, hit a soldier, he shot again and again until they concentrated their fire on him and he fell silently, tears trickling from his open eyes. And then there was a strange silence, the gunshots slowing, the shouts ebbing, only the sounds of rifles clicking off of body armor as ARLIS men scanned the room, only muted whispers and a scientist crying in the corner, holding his stomach trying to stop the blood.
Holly looked around, the smoke in the room was clearing, there was no sign of any familiar face, at least none that were able to look back at her, and she knew it was over. It was finally over. An ARLIS soldier stepped forward and raised his rifle, aiming it at Holly’s forehead, “Put your hands in the air, Doctor Marshall,” he said, placing the crosshairs between her blue eyes, “You are under arrest.”
Holly stood slowly, looking back at the temporal device, tears trickling from her eyes as she saw wisps of smoke coming from the Alcubierre Drive and the dead lights upon the control panel. She raised her hands, letting the tears run warmly down her cheeks. Dead control matrix, fried Alcubierre: the signs they were expecting to see when they successfully placed two spatial objects in the same place, the laws of non-double occupancy rejecting and destroying the foreign substance. She followed the ARLIS guard’s instructions, clasping her hands behind her head, as she pushed it from her mind, burying that name, that idea… It was a foreign substance, only rejecting a foreign substance…
The guard approached her, lowering his rifle as his comrades raised theirs. Across the room, a soldier called out, “This one’s still alive.” Holly looked over and saw Daniel lying on the floor, his legs moving back and forth from the pain of his wounded gut. She stepped towards him but the guard stopped her with a firm hand on her shoulder.
“Please,” she said weakly, “Where am I going? What am I going to do?” The ARLIS man would not be swayed by her sentiments; he grabbed her wrists and looped a zip tie around them, pulled it tight. She winced as the tie dug into her flesh.
He pushed her down, forcing her to her knees, “Don’t move,” he commanded and she couldn’t help but comply. The guard took out his radio, “Command Four, Away Party,” he said into it, waiting a few moments for confirmation, “Area secure,” he continued, “We need a medical team…” he paused, made sure he met Holly’s mournful eyes, “and body bags.”
She stared at him, anger replacing the sadness, “You know you’re wrong, don’t you,” she said, “What your people were planning to do, it was wrong. It was dangerous. Suicidal. Genocidal.” The guard didn’t answer, he turned away and commanded one of his men to stand over Holly while he began assessing the extent of the situation.
From her knees, Holly surveyed the basement, watching the ARLIS men checking the corpses of their fellow soldiers, herding together the remaining scientists. She saw Liam answering a question, he glanced over at her, his expression impossible to read, something like fear, something like sympathy, something like… Liam turned away from her, back to the guard, shaking his head ‘yes’ and letting out a long shuddering breath.
On the floor she saw Daniel looking at her, pain in his eyes, his lips quivering. Holly managed a weary smile, wishing she could wipe away the tears as they tickled her cheeks. Daniel mouthed the words, “We did it.”
She silently agreed. Moments later, his body relaxed, his eyes closed and he laid motionless, hands still crossed over his bleeding abdomen. Holly watched the ARLIS team continue their sweep of the basement, a numbness coming over her while her eyes moved from man to man to corpse to floor. Her eyes gently closed as she began to weep. It was true, she thought, grateful for the darkness, it was done.
© David Edward Wagner 2014. All Rights Reserved.