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Anchors No More # 45: A Little Warmer

Nov 24, 2014

The long months melted together, only mist in her mind as Holly made it through each day. She painted a little, on the days she was allowed into the activity room, often creating lazy abstracts in bright colors, some unconscious rejection of her reality so concrete and drab.

It was hard for her. For months at a time she would not see the sun, they didn’t care, she had no rights, no precedents safeguarding her former civil liberties and no grounds on which to ask for even the slightest of human considerations. She had been physically examined and psychologically profiled, samples were taken, probes inserted, electrodes connected, and she had been questioned and re-questioned again and again. Sometimes they asked her nicely, sometimes not, ‘enhanced interrogation’ they called it, ‘torture’ sounding too archaic for the liberal minority patrolling the political sidelines.

Holly had only talked to Daniel once, though she had seen him on three occasions: once at their arraignment, once at the preliminary hearing, and once at their actual criminal trial. With the many charges against them, Holly was almost grateful one of them was conspiracy, a charge that allowed them to be, if nothing else, in the same room at the same time as the trial progressed. She could speak with him only briefly as they sat in the courtroom waiting for the proceedings to begin.

He looked rough, dark bags under his eyes, skin pale, head and beard shaved clean. He took his seat next to her and said, “Hey.”

“Hey,” she replied, unable to stop the inappropriate smile crossing her face.

He chuckled and said, “You look like shit,” and she would have playfully hit him were her arms not bound. Daniel looked away after a moment, unwanted emotions dredging up. Holly continued her stare, happy to have this sudden pain her heart, pleased that she was still able to feel.

Facing the majority of the same charges alongside them were Pierre and Elizabeth, both captured alive and held under assumedly equally inhospitable conditions. The day that the verdicts concerning their conspiracy and treason were read was the first time she had seen either of them and they did not have the chance to speak. Elizabeth had lost a lot of weight, she looked thin and sickly. Pierre seemed strong and moderately healthy, though the look in his eyes was empty, the light in them gone. That broke her heart as much as anything else had.

Holly and Daniel grew silent as their lawyers joined them, as the Federal attorneys sat down at the table next to them. Then she leaned slightly towards him, “How are they treating you?” she asked, hoping he would not ask her in return.

“I’m the belle of the ball,” Daniel told her, the wooden grin frozen on his face telling her more than his words, “They let me eat. I can usually go to the bathroom when and how I want. They’ve let me read a book,” he continued, “one book… over and over. I’m on some end of easy street I guess.” This time he did not look away, both trying desperately to break through the shells encasing their hearts, needing to have a chance to be real with one another, to say something true.

But they couldn’t. It was impossible.

They were staring at one another when the jury was seated, when the judge took his seat, “Daniel, I…” she began but was immediately shushed by her lawyer. He whispered harshly for her to sit up straight and face forward so she did.

Over the long, lonely months, she had heard a few things, rumors and reports. A new CO took over Vanderhoff’s position at the ARCC and it began again, trying to build back their corpus of knowledge and reconstruct Holly’s fried temporal device. They got stuck on the engineering of the modified Alcubierre Drive for over two months and during that time someone broke into the ARLIS labs and burned everything, erased every hard drive and destroyed each little scrap that they could find. She found out later that it had been Liam, that he had been planning it for weeks. In his condo they found papers, readouts, a pile of articles about Holly, Gary, Daniel, and James’ work, various editorial arguments for and against their actions.

A squad of ARLIS men had gone to his apartment, shooting him dead as he raised his empty hands in the air. With Liam’s final sacrifice, all of the death, all of the pain, suffering and destruction they had caused and endured became worth it. At the advisement of ARLIS Corporate Headquarters, the US Military agreed to shut down the temporal division indefinitely. There would be no more work on the Marshall Device and all research on it abandoned for the time being.

They had finally, truly, done it.

The trial went as expected. Guilty on all counts: terrorism, sedition, conspiracy, and multiple counts of homicide involving federal officers. All of the standing charges were wrapped up neatly in an umbrella charge of high treason that also included the operation of the illegal terrorist lab outside of Pratt. The comfort of resignation blanketed her heart as they read the sentences: “Doctor Holly Marshall, for your numerous crimes this court sentences you to death… Doctor Daniel Hobbes, for your numerous crimes this court sentences you to death… Doctor Pierre Gordon, for your numerous crimes…” and so on.

And she thought, ‘my what a lovely day it must be’ on the day she was put to death. She knew it was June, they had told her that much. June fourteenth was the day, but she thought it would be warmer. The dim execution theater was chilly, her footsteps loud as she was led across the empty tiled chamber. They had gone old-school for her punishment, wanting to emphasize the perceived severity of her crimes with the dramatic intent of the noose and gallows.

Holly said goodbye to no one when they asked if she had any last words. She prayed to no God, she apologized for nothing. “I’m glad I did it,” she said, “and I would do it again.”

That’s better, she thought, feeling a little warmer as the noose went around her throat.

© David Edward Wagner 2014. All Rights Reserved.


Anchors No More

by David Edward Wagner {bio}
Rating: Adult

Cast of Characters

Anchors No More: Installments