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Chapter 14

Back in Moscow, the soldiers are still facing the brutal cold of the snow. Still shivering even inside their blankets and snowsuits and shelter. Captain Matthews hasn’t heard from anything from Edward for quite some time now. He’s even starting to question if the good general’s still alive. NO! He mustn’t think that. He must have faith in his leader. He stands at the window looking outside, contemplating, seemingly unaffected by the sheer cold. The men also begin to doubt Edward and even Samuel. Sergeant Hale continues to work on the radio, successful in repairing it, but unable to get anything except static. Frankly, it suits the predicament that they’re in, the atmosphere. Was it all worth it? It’s a question they all have to ask themselves as they slowly freeze in this unforgiving weather. This is it. As they think back to happier and warmer times, they begin to accept the truth: their death, here, in this foreign country. It’s strange not being able to die in your own country, your own home, with your own family. Will they even be able to find their bodies among this deserted and decaying place? Death fills every street corner. The shivering doesn’t go away nor the fear. And yet, among all this bleakness, they also find a sense of peace. They can’t really explain it. You would think that a soldier would rather die fighting in the heat of battle rather than freezing and starving to death, motionless for eternity. But no, they quite enjoy this calmness and silence. The static from the radio continues to permeate the air. Arthur has his thumb and index finger holding the knob that controls the power, contemplating whether he should just turn it off. He turns to look at Samuel, still standing by the window, again, the cold seemingly not affecting him. What should I do? he thinks to himself. As he turns the knob slightly, he stops. Again he thinks, What should I do?

Back at their underground base, Edward sits in front of the radio waiting for a signal, for anything, to come through. Julian stands behind him. The rest of the men are close by, not knowing what to do either. Fortunately for them, the walls are thick enough to shield them from the overwhelming temperature, though they can still feel its sting on their skin. Hopelessness fills the room; everything seems lost. The subjects have escaped, most of the men are dead, and those who aren’t dead are unable to communicate and will probably die off in the blizzard. The rock is useless, its energy siphoned off, now inside the 2 subjects giving them their extraordinary abilities. “Sir?” Julian speaks, “what do you wanna do now?” He laughs for a moment and says, “I don’t know, doctor. For the first time in a long time, I don’t know.” Julian recedes back into his silence. There’s nothing else to do.

“Sir?” Arthur approaches Samuel. He gets nervous for a moment, but gets over it. “Sir, I don’t think we’ll accomplish anything standing around here.” “And what do you propose we do, sergeant?” Samuel asks him, “we’ve nothing to traverse this weather and it is too cold to do it on foot. All we can do is wait.” With no other ideas to pitch and nothing left to say, he nods his head and returns back to the radio.

Julian steps away for a moment to check on something; he goes to his office to get some files and starts reading them; he also checks and goes through his notes, filled with scribbles of most of his research and experiments. He brushes them aside in anger, the papers floating gently beside. “Nothing works!” he shouts. One of the papers lands back down on the table, and on it, he sees his notes on a device that he once thought up: a device that could theoretically absorb most forms of energy. His face lights up. “Of course,” he says, “yes! This could work. I just need to modify it a little. Haha!” He quickly runs back outside to inform Edward. Still in a state of despair, he refuses to listen to the doctor’s plan. He assures Edward that it’s okay, that he will do it, and take care of everything. “Don’t worry, sir. I can do this,” he tells him. He then runs back to his office to begin the plan as Edward continues to sit there, hands covering his face.

The burning cars and smoke on the nearby cliffs can be seen from the city. A man, wearing a dark green jacket on a windy day and long, baggy pants, looks through his binoculars and realizes a crash had happened on the cliffs on the outskirts of the city. His hair is of white color with a streak of silver. He quickly puts away his binoculars and starts running across the low rooftops of the desolate city; he jumps the gaps with agility and speed. Then he jumps into a narrow one and slides down between the walls onto the streets below. He looks around and pulls up his jacket collar to conceal his face somewhat before continuing, walking towards the streets and out of the alleyway. It’s completely quiet; not one person or even a body in sight. The creatures took care of that. But most of the houses are still intact. In fact, everything seems pretty much normal other than the lack of people. No debris or rubble in sight and the streets are clear, except the stone road, which is riddled with cracks from where the creatures step. They came swiftly. He looks both ways making sure it’s clear before turning left and stops in front of a metallic door. He knocks on it. A slide opens and a man’s eyes appear. He starts speaking in Russian to which the man replies. Password anyone? The man behind the door closes back the slide and unlocks a series of locks that can be heard as they clicked. The door opens and the man outside takes one last look around before entering. Inside, it’s an average house with standard furniture such as a couch, seats, dining table, glass table, and the like. A staircase in the corner leads upstairs to the bedroom. There is one exception: inside the small storage closet lays a hidden entrance on the floor, carefully concealed. When opened, it reveals a ladder. And at the end of it is the secret operation of Sergey’s friend, Andrei. It’s quite extraordinary for something that was put together in a hurry. They’ve got a monitor on the wall. It’s impressive. The man quickly rushes past everyone to reach Andrei and report his find. Speaking in Russian, “Sir, something has happened near the cliffs. There’s smoke and fire, sir.” “What? When did this happen??” he asks. “I’m not sure, sir. But based on the smoke, it happened not long ago. Do you think it could be Sergey, sir? Do you think he’s…?” ‘No, Sergey doesn’t know how to die. If it’s him, then we will see him soon,” he explains. “Come on, Sergey. I know I will see you soon,” he then talks quietly to himself

“Alright, time to go,” Sergey says. He gets up and wipes the dirt off himself. Takashi and Olivia are still lying together, resting. They don’t wanna go just yet, a few more minutes. They look up to the clear, sunny blue sky and forget about everything for a moment. All the stress and worry released. “You think we could just lie here forever, and look at the endless sky?” Takashi asks. “Maybe… Hopefully, haha,” Olivia answers. They hold their hands together and release all their worry and stress and fear; they enjoy the wind brushing through, rubbing their faces and hair. Just enjoying the cool breeze. They take a deep breath and exhale. “We have to go, don’t we?” she asks. He sighs and says, “Yep”. “Alright, let’s go then,” she says. They sit up, but they don’t leave just yet. Like when you first wake up, which is technically the case here, you need a few moments sitting up first. “Guys, we do not have time,” Sergey explains. “Yeah, yeah. Give us a minute,” Takashi replies. “Are you ready?” She turns to him and chuckles, “To continue facing this insanity of a ‘vacation’? To face aliens, certain death, and God knows what else? Yeah, sure. Why not?” He takes one more deep breath before getting up.

After, he then asks Sergey where they need to go next. He explains that they’re not far from the city, about 10-15 minutes far. With that, Sergey and Viktor start making their way up the cliff. Not wanting to climb, Takashi and Olivia look at each other and nod. They quickly fly off, grab both Sergey and Viktor, and carry them both up the steep and high cliff. “Whoa!” they both scream in surprise. Reaching the top, they stop and land back on the train tracks. On their right beholds the city of Nizhny Novgorod, the last bastion of resistance against the alien invaders. “Please be alive, Andrei,” Sergey hopes. “Let’s go”. Takashi and Olivia pick them up once again and they fly off towards the city. From above, they can see the destruction left behind by the battles waged: streets broken, windows shattered, and buildings and shops destroyed. “Holy crap,” Olivia says, “Sergey, are you sure your friend’s still here? Or if he’s even still alive?” “I know him. He does not die so easily. Trust me, he is here,” he explains. “Well, do you know where he is?” Takashi asks. “Uhhh, sort of. He said he would be in the upper part of the city.” “What does that mean??” “There, that is the area. We go there.” “Fine. This guy better be there.”

They land on the undamaged streets to confusion; there isn’t really anything broken in this area. It seems so peaceful and untouched. It has so many houses and unfortunately for them, Andrei didn’t get a chance to tell his friend where exactly he would be since they were cut-off. Suddenly they hear rattling coming from the nearby piles of garbage bags. Olivia stretches her hand and separates them, violently flinging them away. A cat suddenly meows and bursts out running. They breathe a sigh of relief and laugh at the surprise. “Please tell me we don’t have to search all these houses,” she says. “We have no choice,” Sergey replies, “we must find Andrei and his team. Let’s go.” With that, they begin their search. House after house they search and there’s still no sign of them. As the others continue searching, Takashi takes it all in…the peacefulness, the quietness, the view of the lake below, and the beautiful stone houses. He’s happy that, for once, everything is just normal again. No aliens and no fighting. It’s nice. He rips the front door of a house off its hinges and enters. Once again, there’s nothing. He exits disappointed. He decides to fly up to get a good view of the area again. But instead of looking around, he freezes there, hovering. A thought crossed his mind like always, or maybe a memory. As he stares at the scenery, his mind crossed back to the old days. When he was young and foolish and alone. He doesn’t know what to think. Maybe forgetting can be a good thing, a second chance to be a better person. Then he notices a small, spinning satellite dish on the roof of one of the houses; all the others don’t have one. “That’s gotta be him,” he says to himself. He quickly flies back down to tell them what he saw.

They go and reach the house to investigate. The door to this house is metallic and seems reinforced, unlike all the others, which are wooden. The windows are also barred with plexiglas. “This is definitely it,” Sergey remarks with a smile. He proceeds to knock on the door, but no one answers. He knocks again, harder and louder this time, and still no answer. “Are we too late?” Takashi asks. Sergey shakes his head in disagreement. It can’t be too late. He tries to open the door, but it’s definitely locked. Takashi gently pushes him aside and raises both his hand towards the door and begins pulling it. The sounds of the creaking metal are a bit uncomfortable to the ears. He continues to exert force on it until it finally comes off its hinges—the hinges fly off in all directions—slowly putting it on the floor. “After you,” he says, a little tired. Sergey looks at him with a look that says, “That was completely unnecessary”, and then proceeds to step inside; Viktor follows. “What?” he asks. “I don’t know. Come on,” Olivia says. She goes in after them while he raises the door back up as he enters. “Well, this is cozy,” he says, looking around the room. “So where is everyone?” Olivia asks. “Hiding. They would not be out in the open,” Sergey explains. “There is a hidden entrance somewhere, I am sure.” He would know his friend pretty well after all. As the rest begin searching the house for the supposed hidden entrance, Takashi is still wandering around in his mind, thinking about what he has done and who he is; thinking about the experiences he’s been through. The memories just keep flooding back. It won’t stop…the moments, the emotions, and the pain. It’s all coming back to him now. He person that he was… A monster: someone who couldn’t accept things, who can’t. Always finding hidden or different meanings to situations and looking for unnecessary answers. “Takashi!” she shouts at him. He snaps out of his trance. “Are you okay??” He stares a bit blankly at her before noticing that everyone is looking at him, concerned. He shakes it off and says, “I--I’m fine.” She looks at him, unconvinced of his answer. “Liv, I’m fine,” he reassures her with a smile. “O-kay,” she accepts, for the moment, and hugs him. He hugs back, trying to get rid of the bad feelings and the pain. “Just be sure, okay,” she tells him, “I care about you very much, you know.” He smiles and nods to reassure. With that outta their way, they continue searching the house. Olivia goes upstairs to look for any signs of the hidden entrance or door. Viktor follows to help leaving Takashi and Sergey downstairs. They look everywhere, searching under the sofas, rugs, behind the stairs, inside the closet and rooms, seemingly nothing. “Did you guys find anything down there??” she shouts. “No!” Sergey replies. “You guys have luck??” “Nah!” With the thoughts still going through his mind, he starts to get frustrated and throws things around in a panicked effort to find it. Sergey stands there with his fingers on his chin, thinking about where it could be. “Hey, are you guys alright down there??” she asks. “Uhh, yeah,” Takashi answers, obviously distraught. He can’t think clearly or focus. The thoughts just won’t go away!

As he thinks and contemplates, Sergey goes to a small door in the far back. He opens it to find it being an ordinary closet filled with cleaning utensils. “We already checked there, remember?” Takashi says, rubbing his forehead, still unable to think clearly. Is it better to remember or just forget? Sergey “cleans” out the room and starts throwing stuff out. He wipes and rubs the walls and shelf to try to find a hidden button or switch or something. And then he looks at the floor; he bends down to check it. Takashi looks at him and asks, “What the hell are you doing?” Obviously still in a distressed state, he doesn’t really care nor is he focused. “Guys! I think I have found it!” he yells. Olivia and Viktor both quickly run back down and he heads directly to help his leader. Olivia stops and is happy to have finally found it. She turns around to look at Takashi sitting on one of the chairs with his hand on his forehead and his head looking down, looking quite distraught. Her smile quickly turns to sadness. Knowing what’s wrong, she walks to him, grabs his hand, and pulls it away slowly; he looks up to see her. She smiles to him before hugging him. As he feels the warmth of her body and her hug tight against his back, he lets out a tear, and another follows. He proceeds to hug her too, his tears turned to crying as it flows from his eyes. “Hey,” she says to him with a smile, “everything’s gonna be okay, you know?” A half-smile forms from his tear-ridden face, “I know… I love you.” “I love you too.” They share a kiss for a brief moment.
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