The elevator delivered them to an office. The carpet was made of red velvet. A mini stairway led to a grand desk made of oak wood. The walls were covered in priceless artwork, although Derek didn't recognize any of it. It was all rotted and chipped anyway. In front of one of the artworks there was a skeleton, clutching a dusty pistol in it's right hand. A small drinks table was off to one side. The air that the same stillness as before, but Derek got a strange feeling of a violent thing that happened here in the past. It was a violent stillness.
Behind the desk there was a long, sweeping window that gave an overview of the world outside. Zoey looked down and let out a gasp. The Leviathan was right below them, nestled between the buildings like a turtle among reeds. Around it swarmed thousands of soldiers, and dozens of tanks. Cornwell had brought an army to find them, and he hadn't even bothered to make it small.
“Derek?” she said, “You delay that elevator any way you can. We've got to hold out until The Other gets here with that army Fate said they had.”
Derek went over to the elevator panel and started pulling out every single wire he could get his hands on. “When in doubt, cut everything,” he said to himself, a proverb of the Great Foundry.
Zoey held the rifle toward the doctor. “You cover the elevator with this. You know how to use one right?”
“Of course,” the doctor said, taking the rifle. “I went through the same program that you did when I was brought on the Bright Side.”
“Doctor?” she said as he started to go. “I'm glad you're here with us. If we die I'm glad to die in the company of another person from the Fleet. I can trust you not to sell us out like Joshua. Most people out here will do anything for money but not you.”
The doctor wrapped his arm tightly around her, an unusually close thing for him to do. “Yes. I won't lie. It's been good to have someone I can trust near. Because I can trust you to do what's logical, and not let any of your emotions get in the way.”
“What do you mean?” Zoey said, a bit unnerved by his tone.
“I mean I'm a traitor,” the doctor said, and slammed his fist into the back of her neck, rendering her unconscious.
Derek yanked out the main control wire and figured that was all he could do. “I think I've stopped them for-” he was interrupted as a rifle barrel was jabbed into his back. “Oh crap,” he muttered.
“Put your hands up,” the doctor said, jabbing the rifle harder. “Now stand up and turn around, slowly though, no sudden moves!”
“That's how they found us before. That's how they've kept finding us.You're a traitor,” Derek said, quivering anger in his voice.
“Well that's rich coming from you,” the doctor sneered. “When you were escaping the Leviathan, weren't all those men you killed people? Men loyal to the Defender, like you used to be? Men with families and children, who will now never see their fathers again? You are a traitor Derek. You have killed and lied and outright murdered. For what? So you can get dragged around by forces you can neither comprehend nor possibly match? Do you know what the Fortune Teller is after? Have you been fighting for anything but survival?”
It was not a legitimate question, just one that had been added to the end of a rant. But it struck Derek deep. His whole time outside the Sphere he had just been dragged from one thing to another. The only real reason he'd tried to help the Fortune Teller was that she'd been a constant, not because of her ideals. “You're right,” he said, “I've murdered people who have more reason for living then me. I stood by as a man died at my feet. I did it just because I wanted to survive, and that was it. I'm so selfish, such a traitor. I'm a cold blooded murderer.” The elevator activated behind Derek. Cornwell was on his way. His work on the panel had been useless.
“That's all you can even be out here Derek,” the doctor said, “A killer trying to survive, justifying himself by saying the men he kills are evil. The Sphere may be evil, but at least they can create something lasting. All you can do is fight to survive, maybe get a few misguided ideals with which to launch a revolution, maybe even help the Fortune Teller get whatever it is she wants before you die. My orders are to take you alive. Will that be a problem?”
“What have I got that's worth fighting for?” Derek said. He had fallen into a deep well of self-loathing and doubt. It was probably better like this. “I won't fight. What will happen to Zoey?”
“She's got a nasty non-conformist streak going,” the doctor said. “Manifested itself quite handily hasn't it?”
They both glanced over at Zoey's fallen form. The strange colored clothes she had bought and her crazy purple hair. He thought about their time talking with one another in their room on the Bright Side. About their game of twenty questions in the market. Her powerful ability to lead. She was the only reason he hadn't jumped off to drown in the sea. She'd been the only person to make him smile in so long. Since even before he'd left the Sphere. And suddenly he knew why he fought. And he felt a new strength flow through him.
“Oh my god...” he exclaimed, widening his eyes and opening his mouth, “What the hell are they doing?” He looked past the doctor out the window.
“What are y-” the doctor asked, half turning to see what Derek was looking at. He realized his mistake a fraction to late, and Derek was on him. He overpowered the smaller man and grabbed the gun from his hands. The doctor was thrown to the floor, and Derek stood over him with a rifle aimed strait down his throat.
“I thought you said you were going to come willingly!” the doctor screamed in anger. “That you don't have anything worth killing for!”
“You're wrong doctor,” Derek said, a pale certainty in his eyes, “I fight for something that nobody in the Sphere or the White Fleet has. Something you won't ever have, because you can't think that way.”
“What?” the doctor said, fear driving his question.
The doctor's life was ended.
Derek faced the elevator door. They were coming. He had only moments to prepare. In less then ten seconds, the enemy would come through that door. And he would stop them. He didn't exactly know how, but he could do it. And then he would find the Ark and save the human race. Somehow. Derek Wheeler, criminal, murderer, and humanity's best chance. “Humanity is so screwed,” he said to himself the moment before the doors opened.
Derek drained his gun's clip in four seconds and killed three troopers. But there were five, and the surviving two rushed him and tackled him to the ground, knocking the gun from his hand. And there was another man in the elevator. Him.
“Derek, Derek, Derek,” the colonel said in mock sympathy. “What was your plan exactly?” He laughed. “It's such a pity the Defender wants you alive. It would have been such a joy to kill you. No doubt the Defender wants to save the pleasure for himself. Let this be a lesson for you Derek. Everybody's got to die eventually. Well almost everyone.” He laughed again.
“I-” Derek was interrupted as Cornwell struck him in the face. He felt blood rush from his nose.
“Speak when you're spoken to Third Class!” Cornwell shouted. “You think you're something because you're mother was first class? That doesn't mean anything! You're Third Class because you're stupid and ignorant and weak! Ah, but what do we have here?” Derek twisted and saw Cornwell walk towards Zoey's unconscious form. “She's a pretty one isn't she? Once you get past the hair and clothes of course, but other then that...”
“Don't touch her!” Derek screamed in protest, before a rifle butt slammed into his mouth, silencing him and breaking several of his teeth. Darkness crawled at the edge of his vision.
“You know I was planing on killing her,” Cornwell said, brushing the hair from Zoey's face, “But I think she'd make a very good pet. Once she is housebroken.”
“No!” Derek screamed. He took another hit to his face. He had to act, to do something! Suddenly he felt cool metal against his thigh. He still had the tracking knife. He started to roll around and get at it, but the two soldier's immobilized him. Just an inch more and he could get it!
Stop struggling Derek. At first he thought it was Cornwell, but this voice was the voice of someone outside the room. It was muffled, and faint. And it was not spoken.
I'm going crazy, Derek thought.
No you're not! The voice said, sounding like a scolding grandmother. I am the Fortune Teller!
You're hurt, in cryogenic freezing. How can you talk?
I said that controllers could talk to one another couldn't they? How do you think I contacted you before?
Why didn't the miracle maker heal you?
There is a power blocking me. I am fighting it with all my strength, but it has weakened me.
No. Something far more powerful. But that is not important. What you must do is defeat Cornwell and destroy the Leviathan! The Other and his soldiers have assembled, but they will be slaughtered if you do not act quickly!
It's a little late for that. Cornwell has won. I've got no strength.
Don't ever say that you silly boy! Could you move a pin?
Yes, I suppose, but how-
Sometimes, when a structure is rotten enough, all you need do is pull out a single pin and it collapses. Search with your mind. Find the nail.
Suddenly Derek was flying through the water, under the Leviathan, at least in his mind's eye. He saw the outline of The Ardenburg Center, and he saw it touch the flooded streets below. He flew through it's walls and into a deep sub level. He saw the pin he had to pull. He reached out with an arm that wasn't really there willed the pin to move. And it did.
Derek was suddenly back in his own body. “What the hell was that!” Cornwell cried, but Derek barely heard him. With a war scream he brought the knife from his jacket and stabbed into the neck of the soldier over him. Before the other had a chance to react Derek slashed his throat.
As Derek stood he say Cornwell staring at him, one hand hovering over Zoey.
“I said don't touch her!” Derek screamed, and charged at Cornwell before he could bring up his gun. He sliced with his knife, but missed by inches. By this time the floor was beginning to slant and Derek's momentum was enough to carry him into the colonel and slam both of them into the window.
And then Cornwell saw. The building was falling. Falling on the Leviathan, to crush it, to kill everything on it and around it. “No!” he screamed, “I cannot die!”
“Yes you can,” Derek retorted, plucking the arrogant sneer off Cornwell's face and putting it on himself.
They grappled, struggling on the glass, each trying to tear the gun or the knife off the other. But Cornwell was a stronger man. He got on top of Derek and beat him with his fists. Derek fought back, punched and kicked with all his might, but nothing seemed to affect the colonel.
“If I die, you die,” Cornwell said, staring down at Derek with demented eyes. He had forgotten all about his orders, he had gone half-mad from terror and hatred. But he would kill Derek Wheeler. That he knew with certainty. He got full hold of his shotgun and pressed it up against Derek's throat. The air stopped arriving at Derek's lungs, and they beat against his ribcage, crying for more.
Derek's eyes became unfocused. He couldn't concentrate on Cornwell anymore. The building was falling very fast, so horizontal that the walls were the floor now. It would all be over in a few seconds.
His unfocused eyes glanced around the room and saw Zoey lying on the glass next to the struggling men. Her eyes fluttered. And then they opened.
“Get him!” Derek screamed with every breath left in his body. The darkness came to the edges of his eyes again. He started to drift out of reality. He heard, although he wouldn't remember it later, a voice calling out to him. Calling him to warmth and safety.
“Ahhhhhhhhh!” Cornwell screamed and lifted his hold on Derek to claw at the dagger in his back. “No! I can't die! I can't die! Not like this! Not to them!” He flailed about and fell off Derek, screaming about the unfairness of it all.
Zoey's warm hands met Derek's. Her foot smashed into the glass and broke it. “Jump,” she whispered, and Derek urged every exhausted muscle in his body to work. For a moment he was falling, and then for one more, but then he hit the water.