Collective Minds

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Chapter 10

The conference room was filled to capacity. Marty and General Irons sat near the head of the table, conversing quietly among the loud chatter. Maggie, Dave, and Xiang all huddled around Dr. Hawking, talking openly and gesturing with their hands to the astounded astrophysicist. Troops sat on both sides of the table in conversation with one another, all curious and wild-eyed about what was to come.

Kat and Jack entered, causing the ruckus to die down. Everyone took a seat as the two made their way to the front of the room. Jack stopped briefly, patting the General on the shoulder. “Welcome aboard, Jim,” he commended. “Glad you’re here.”

Kat did the same, issuing a polite greeting to Dr. Hawking. “Welcome to Roswell, professor,” she said warmly. “I trust you got a chance to review all the information I gave you?”

“I had to look at it all more than once, as it was a lot to take in,” he replied. “Sort of like reading a Carl Sagan novel. I have some questions about the power supply for your temporal reflector. Your team filled in some of the gaps, but I need to know...”

Kat interrupted him abruptly, as the briefing was about to begin. “Later, professor. The answers are coming. I promise. Be patient just a little longer.” Dr. Hawking smiled crookedly, like a football fan listening to the national anthem on Super Bowl Sunday.

Jack took his place as the leader of the pack, and cut straight to the chase. “Okay gang, time to separate the men from the boys. I trust Marty and the research team have briefed everyone on what we’re about to attempt. So I’ll be blunt: there’s very little margin for error. I want everything done by the book. If we’re able to pull off the initial jumps without any major issues, we’ll brief everyone on the remainder of the plan after all of our distinguished guests arrive. I want teams in place in the lab for each return jump. I’ll be using tranquilizers, so odds are they’ll either be foggy or out completely.”

Marty raised his hand, prompting Jack to call on him. “What do we tell them if...when...they wake up? What if they resist, or struggle?” Jack, rehearsed in his replies, answered. “Initially a lot of them won’t understand what’s happening, or even understand you,” he instructed. “Some of them won’t even speak English. Which is why I want a medic on each team to implant one of these in their eardrums.” Colonel Briggs pulled a small test tube from his pocket, with a tiny microchip inside. General Irons recognized it.

“This,” Jack instructed, “Is a translator chip. Special Forces developed these about three years ago for foreign recon missions. Each of you will have one implanted immediately following the briefing. It’s painless, and extremely beneficial. I’ve had one for over a year now myself. It’s programmed to translate every dialect on earth, and sounds off in the same voice, volume, and tone as the person speaking.”

“What do we do once they get here?,” voiced General Irons.

“We’ll have a briefing with all of them, General,” Jack answered. “I’ve been working on it for quite a while. Selling the urgency of this project is key in getting them to cooperate. They’ll all be disoriented, and a bit overwhelmed. I hope we can use that to our advantage. And something I think everyone needs to remember, is that these are people, just like us. Important people, albeit, but people none the less. I expect them to be treated like royalty, and watched like hawks. If one of them takes a shower, I want to know how much shampoo they used. Understand?”

The troops all acknowledged Jack’s request, chattering compliantly.

“One more thing,” Jack added. “Our library and databases are stacked, but we’ve taken out or blocked a lot of historical information regarding the people we’re bringing forward. Even though we’re still in the learning phase of temporal displacement, we want to disrupt the time line as little as possible. Keep that in mind around them.”

Jack looked around, confirming that everyone was clear on what was cooking. All the faces in the room were solemn, and each and every person knew the gravity of the situation. There was no going back or changing things up. It was time to act.

Briggs, feeling everyone’s sincerity, got lost in the moment trying to wrap things up. General Irons, the seasoned vet, caught on and bailed him out. “Retrieval begins in one hour,” ordered the four star first mate. “We’ll meet in the lab then. Regardless of what happens, Jack and myself are proud of each and every man and woman in this room for what they’ve accomplished. All of you deserve more than your country can ever give you in thanks. Lets keep that momentum rolling and make this work.” The meeting adjourned on the General’s uplifting conclusion, as Jack shot his old friend a nod in appreciation as the troops funneled out the door.

Sixty minutes passed in an instant, as General Irons and professor Hawking sat in the annex behind the glass. The wheelchair-bound genius was transfixed on the preparations in the other room, as the hardened General chomped on a smoldering cigar. The lifelong soldier was dressed in fatigues, with a pistol in an old leather holster on his hip.

Jack entered behind them, followed by Marty and three troops. The outbound Colonel was dressed all in black, with a black skull cap, and his face painted camouflage with dark accents. Around his waist was a lumbar bag, held up by black tactical suspenders slung over his shoulders. On the belt of the waist pack was a nylon holster with a tranquilizer gun.

General Irons looked him over, took a long drag from his cigar, then exhaled hard as he spoke to his friend. “You sure this is the best plan we got, Jack?”

Jack was ready to roll, and wasn’t about to dwindle on second thoughts. “Positive,” he replied. “Trust me on this, Jim. I’ll be back in no time. Have one of those stogies waiting for me.” The General smiled, then embraced his friend, finishing with a few hard pats on the back. Jack took it all in stride as the two came apart, then saluted his superior, who did the same in return.

“Good luck, soldier,” offered the General. “You make it back here safe and sound. That’s an order.”

Jack nodded, and made his way into the lab. Xiang, Maggie, and Dave were all at their respective posts, as the reflector was humming with energy mere meters away. Wasting no time, the soldier made his way down the stairs, then up the steps to the reflector pad. Kat followed, stopping short, as Jack stood poised to go. She looked at him, obviously nervous, and made one last plea. “We can wait a few days, Jack. You don’t have to rush.”

The combat-ready Colonel looked at her sympathetically, but knew there was no turning back. “If I ever needed your support,” he assured her, “It’s right now, Kat. Don’t fall apart on me.” She stared for a second, nodded ‘yes’, then rushed forward for a last second kiss. It was hard, and aggressive, like it might be the last one.

Kat stepped back, as Jack looked to Dave. He had to speak up over the resonance noise. “Re-align the reflector to bring me back at five minute intervals. I don’t want to fuse with myself again. Understand?” Dave turned to his keyboard and began typing frantically, getting the mathematics absolutely perfect.

Kat produced a small electronic tablet from her back pocket, and handed it to her boyfriend. “This shows the primary objective for each jump,” she said loudly. “They’re in order based on the sequence we programmed them in. It also shows your location. There’s a power supply inside for the temporal beacon. Just plug it into the port on the side and you should shift back here almost instantaneously.”

Jack took the device, stowed it in his fanny pack, then zipped it shut. Kat stepped down the stairs, as Xiang activated the reflector. It lowered over Jack, followed closely by the deafening boom and flash of energy in the lab. General Irons watched closely through the window, as did Dr. Hawking, whose glasses gleamed in the shimmering light.

It was a strange sensation, materializing at a different point in time. Even though Jack had only done it once prior, the feeling in the pit of his stomach was like the moment after coming over the crest on the first drop of a roller coaster. It took him a second to acclimate to being in physical form again, and to get his bearings. He was in a small outcropping of trees, sometime near dusk, as the sun was falling toward the horizon in an amber sky.

Jack peered through the trees, and there, roughly a hundred meters in front of him, was the renowned leaning tower of Pisa. People dressed in fifteenth century Italian garb walked around the base, conducting day-to-day dealings and conversing with each other, oblivious to the time traveler in their midst.

Kneeling to stay out of sight, the focused soldier pulled the tablet from his pack and double-tapped the screen. The display lit up, as the screen denoted his location, and the year: ’Pisa, Italy. 1501.’

Stowing the device, Jack pulled a pair of binoculars from his bag and looked at the tower. At the very top, he saw a figure standing alone, taking readings with a sextant. Focusing, he could see that the individual was an older man, with long gray hair and a gray beard. Dave had done his homework well.

Stowing his gear, Jack looked around to check that the coast was clear, then sprinted out of his cover toward the entrance. As he blazed through the doorway to the tower, he didn’t even slow down on his ascent toward the top. Finally reaching it, in record time, he stopped. His chest was heaving, and he was sweating. Exhaustion from the run had hold of him, but he was also at the mercy of his nerves and adrenaline.

Peering around the corner after a moment of catching his breath, he again saw the man he’d seen moments earlier. Jack pulled the tablet one last time to confirm he had the right person. There, on his screen, was a spitting image of the individual that stood before him, with the identification sequence that seemed surreal: ’DaVinci, Leonardo.’

There he stood, arguably the greatest inventor in history. Jack was overcome with emotion, curiosity, and nervousness all at the same time. His sense of duty finally took over, as he pulled his pistol from the holster. DaVinci bent over, and picked up a scaled-down version of his infamous flying machine, then tossed it out the window. He smiled as it glided away, watching with analytic diligence.

The quiet zip of a tranquilizer dart broke the moment, as DaVinci reached for the back of his neck like he’d been stung by a bee. The aging genius pulled the small barb out, and looked at inquisitively, then turned to see Jack walking toward him apprehensively. The inventor’s eyes got heavy, as he began to sway. Jack caught him as he fell.

Back in the lab, the science and security teams waited patiently, gearing up for what was coming. Kat paced impatiently and looked at her watch. Dr. Hawking and General Irons peered through the window, waiting an eternity in just minutes. Just when it seemed the tension was going to tear things apart, the reflector hummed to life again, creating commotion and action in the lab.

“Slipstream rebound underway,” exclaimed Xiang, as he counted down. “Five, four, three, two, one.” The explosion ripped through the silence, as the reflector flashed. Everyone held their breath as it raised, then gasped as they saw their cohort with the great Leonardo DaVinci slumped in his arms.

Marty and his squad wasted no time, unraveling a field stretcher and double timing the steps to the reflector platform. The sleeping genius was carefully laid on the cot, then hoisted and hauled out of the lab. As they passed by Kat, she stared in awe. “It’s him,” she muttered. “It’s really him. I don’t believe it.”

As soon as Marty was clear, Jack barked to Dave. “Reset the reflector for the next objective,” he hollered. Dave obliged, and typed quickly, then turned to Xiang and gave the ‘thumbs up’. Xiang activated the reflector, which dropped over Jack again. The explosion roared, the energy flashed, and the soldier was on his way.

Jack materialized, and gathered himself. This time he was in what appeared to be the Scottish Highlands. There were rolling hills just beyond the tree line, and far in the distance there were bagpipes echoing hollowly. The heavy mist and cool air signified that it was early morning, as the sunrise illuminated a trail just in front of the shrubs the soldier was crouched in.

A few minutes passed, during which Jack studied his objective on the tablet again. The picture was of a young man with thick, flowing hair, who was battle hardened and ruggedly handsome.

The digital readout again superimposed the name: ’Wallace, William.’ No sooner had he ID’d his target, than the loud clopping of hooves approached. Jack stashed his tablet, and readied his pistol, as the rider came into view.

He was just as history had drawn him. Garbed in a knee length kilt, with a plaid tartan over a buckskin poncho. On his back was a huge broadsword, which bobbed as the horse trotted. As Wallace came forward, his steed caught wind of Jack’s scent and reared back some. The beast neighed, as the muscular Scot pulled gently on the bridle. “What’s a’matter, girl,” he asked his horse in a thick Scottish accent, patting her reassuringly. “Somethin’ spook ya?” The quiet zip of the tranquilizer gun sang out again, causing the distracted warrior to clutch his thigh, then dismount.

Jack stepped from the bushes, making eye contact with the fabled fighter. Wallace began to get dreamy-eyed, as he clumsily reached for his sword. The shift in momentum was too much, as he toppled backwards, landing on his side. Struggling to get up, he looked to his assailant, managing one last insult before dreamland. “You,” muttered Wallace breathlessly, “Are the ugliest Englishman I’ve ever seen.”

The reflector energized again, raising to reveal Jack with the tranquilized Wallace in his arms. Marty and his team were at the ready, standing by to do their job. Quickly and meticulously they scooped the limp warrior from Jack’s threshold, hauling him away.

Jack gave a nod to Xiang, who reset the slipstream coordinates. Dave and Maggie followed up, and the plan began to take shape more fluidly. The reflector dropped over the soldier once more, and the explosion of splitting time echoed in the lab.

The night carried on, some missions taking only minutes, others taking longer. One by one Jack emerged from history, handing off people of all ethnicity, dress, and specialty. The first was a woman in her late 40’s, with fair white skin in a bouffant dress. Next came a man of roughly the same age, garbed in a helmet and armor reminiscent of the Trojan war. Shortly thereafter Jack emerged again, carrying an older man over his shoulder with cotton white hair. Dr. Hawking, watching through the glass from the annex, stared in disbelief as Colonel Briggs laid the man on Marty’s stretcher. There, sleeping soundly with a puzzled look on his face, was the one and only Albert Einstein.

Marty and his crew kept the pace on the double step, knowing there were quite a few more to come. Dr. Hawking’s chair turned toward the door as the men marched by him. He could only stare in bewilderment, never having imagined in his wildest dreams who was merely five feet from him in the same room.

Jack stepped back into the reflector, and exploded back through time again. He’d gotten into a rhythm, knowing he had a tactical and technological advantage. This jump had him materializing in a grassy field on the edge of an oncoming storm. Thick, gray clouds drifted overhead, as thunder rumbled ominously.

Toward the edge of the field stood a man in clothing of the time period, clearly the mid-1700’s. He wore knickers, a reasonably heavy decorative coat for warmth against the elements, and tiny spectacles that rested on the bridge of his nose. He peered through the glasses at the spool of thread in his hands, which was tethered to kite flying far above.

Jack didn’t even need to look at his readout. Benjamin Franklin was the man on the hundred dollar bill, and anyone who passed the fourth grade could identify him with a single glance. The focused soldier felt a little guilty about what he had to do to such a happy-go-lucky, helpless target.

Franklin, focused on his kite, finally noticed Jack approaching in his peripheral vision. He turned his head inquisitively, and addressed the onlooker politely. “Hello kind sir,” he offered. Jack pulled up his pistol, fired one shot, and waited. The portly inventor, startled, dropped his spool to the ground and staggered backwards. Not long after, he fell to his hands and knees, struggling to stay awake. Just before losing consciousness, he raised his head to Jack and muttered a single word. “Why?”

The reflector raised again, and Jack handed off Ben Franklin to Marty and the troops. Off went the famed inventor, as Jack finally rested a moment and slugged some water from his canteen. General Irons tromped down to the reflector platform and stopped short at the foot of the stairs.

“How ya’ holdin’ up, Jack?,” he asked.

Jack gave the ‘thumbs up’ as he tilted his jug and drank. Irons could see that he was getting tired, but knew the retrievals were almost complete. “Listen,” plead the General, “Take someone else with you on these last two. They’re good. Really good.”

Colonel Briggs wouldn’t have it. As much truth as there was in his friend’s words, Jack knew the reflector tech was still experimental, and had no idea what it was doing to him. There was too much risk to put anyone else in danger, and Briggs knew they’d just be in the way.

Without a word, he threw his canteen aside, which hit the deck with a metal-to-metal ‘clang’. Two steps back, a ‘thumbs up’ to Xiang, and the reflector began to drop. Jack locked eyes with Irons as the chamber touched down, then disappeared into history again.

The night was still and dry, and Jack crawled commando style on the rocky desert floor. He was positioned in a small outcropping of good sized boulders, and took refuge behind one while trying to ascertain his objective. The clopping of hooves could be heard in the distance, getting closer by the minute, until a garrison of US cavalry soldiers galloped through. There were ten in all, riding two by two, all of whom were dusty and battle-hardened. The path through the hills fanned a rooster tail of dust as they came and went, as Jack watched quietly from his position.

The dust was heavy and choking, which caused the exhausted Colonel to cough quietly as he pulled the readout device from his pack. The screen illuminated, briefly lighting his face, as Jack studied it a moment. The display showed a picture of a native American man wearing a red bandanna, with text superimposing the singular designation of ’Geronimo’. Stowing his tech, and readying himself, Jack went from prone to kneeling and peered his head out over the rock in front of him to scan the area.

As his head cleared the crest of the boulder, a shot rang out. The bullet struck roughly six inches from Jack’s face, deflecting off the flat granite. Fragments of rock and bullet sprayed the side of the unsuspecting Briggs, who instinctively ducked back to safety again. Jack resisted the temptation to scream the ‘F’ word, as he knew it would further compromise his position. Was there a single attacker, or were there more? Military training took over, and his combat conditioning kicked in.

Jack reached in his breast pocket and pulled out a small mirror on the end of a telescoping rod. Carefully, and slowly, he peered around the corner of the rock in the direction the shot came from. No sooner, another shot rang out from the same shooter, again striking dangerously close. This time, however, Jack kept his cool and studied closely the flash from the muzzle of the rifle. The sniper was only about fifty yards away, himself concealed by a large boulder.

Retracting his mirror and stowing it, Jack pulled a flash grenade from his bag. He plucked the pin and sidearm tossed it, straight in the direction of the sniper. It blew right on target, about ten feet over the head of the assailant. The blinding white flash lit up the entire area, briefly illuminating the face of the dusty Geronimo, who shielded his eyes from the blaze.

Jack timed it perfectly, and made a mad dash towards the stunned Indian, who was still rubbing his eyes trying to see straight. Coming off his feet like a pro wrestler from the top rope, the sprinting Colonel lunged and tackled his adversary. Both hit the ground in a heap, and the fight was on.

The two began struggling in the dirt, as Jack immediately reached for his pistol. Geronimo saw the sidearm, grabbed Jack’s hand to thwart the attempt, then reared back his left leg and kicked the unsuspecting soldier squarely in the testicles. The blow landed clean and hard, causing Jack to howl in pain. His breaths became heavier, and his eyes bugged out, but he knew if he lost his composure he wasn’t going to survive.

Jack let go, and rolled to the side, as Geronimo did the same. Both got to their feet, as Briggs fumbled clumsily to get his pistol out of the holster. The panting Apache plucked a tomahawk from under his buckskin poncho and charged, swinging a throat slash that missed by mere inches. The powerful attack left Geronimo off balance briefly, causing him to stagger sideways.

Jack capitalized on the over exertion, and fired.

The fierce Apache clutched his chest, thinking he’d been shot. Disoriented, and fading fast, he dropped his axe and began to sway. Not going down without his hands at Jack’s throat, Geronimo staggered forward with a sleepy look in his eyes, falling limp onto his pummeled opponent. Colonel Briggs caught him, then carefully lowered him to the ground. It took Jack a moment to realize it was over, as adrenaline had clouded his rationale. He leaned over with his hands on his knees and caught his breath.

The reflector raised again, and there stood Jack with Geronimo in his arms. Both were dirty, bloody, an looked like they’d been in a nasty fight. The sleeping Indian hit the stretcher with a loud ‘thump’, as Jack didn’t feel too bad about dropping him. “Watch out for this one, Marty,” warned Briggs. “He’s piss hopping mad, and doesn’t seem to like soldiers too much.”

“You think?,” said General Irons, who was still standing at the base of the steps right where Jack left him. The General had a plastic bottle of water, which he quickly approached and offered his beat-up friend.

“Christ, I told you,” touted Irons, as Jack slugged the water like an alcoholic. “Take someone else on this last one, Jack. Please. He’s dangerous. As mean as they come.”

Jack finished the water without stopping, knowing the end was in sight. Still not a word to his friend, the exhausted Colonel stepped back onto the reflector pad one last time. There were no signals, or motions to Xiang. Just a glance, and eyes that spoke exactly what needed to be said. The young scientist glared at Jack, and for the first time felt genuine concern for him. Not because of his faith in the soldier to do his job, or the sheer exhaustion from jumping through time all night, but because of what...more specifically, who...was coming next.

Jack materialized out of the slipstream for the last time. The region around him was mountainous, and it was cold outside. The wind blowing intensified the miserable weather, as did the fact that is was just before dawn, the coldest part of the night. Jack’s clothing insulated him some, but he knew hypothermia wasn’t far off if he didn’t get moving.

He walked for roughly fifteen minutes, and came to a small knoll of dried brush. Crouching for some cover, Jack pulled his tablet from his pack. The screen lit up, and on it was a picture of an Asian-looking man with long, black, flowing hair. The Fumanchu mustache and Mongol appearance were dead giveaways to the identity, which superimposed as ’Genghis Khan.’

Swapping his tablet for binoculars, Jack peered beyond the draw and saw a small tent set up in the distance. It was made primarily of animal skins, which insulated it against the bitter cold and biting wind. A figure emerged from the flap at the front, causing Jack to crack a small smile. It wasn’t the fabled barbarian conqueror he was looking for, but a naked woman. She was beautiful, well endowed, and looked like she had just woken up from a long night of drinking and feasting.

The chilled girl cupped her arms around herself to keep warm, and disappeared behind the back of the tent briefly. Colonel Briggs felt a little like a peeping Tom as he watched the whole ordeal, but knew someone so fragile couldn’t be alone in such unforgiving terrain. The girl emerged again, and quickly headed back inside, but stopped about halfway to the door. She glanced straight in Jack’s direction, with her hands over her eyes, looking right at him hiding in the brush. It was dark, and Briggs was camouflaged, so he wasn’t sure if or how she could make him out. Jack stayed perfectly still, and tried to blend in, as the girl scampered back through the flaps.

Briggs exhaled, and looked around himself, then his stomach sank. His tablet was sticking out the top of his pack, flashing the ’low battery’ warning as it slowly ran out of juice. It had been working non-stop, and had just given away his position begging for a recharge. ’How could I have been so careless?,’ he thought to himself as he turned it off and stowed it properly. Exhaustion and fatigue were clearly setting in.

Jack secured his pack, then heard crunching in the brush behind him. He turned to check it out, and caught sight of the greatest warlord in history closing fast on him. Genghis Khan was a brooding man; tall, muscular, hardened, and vicious. The type of person that not only looked dangerous, but personified it. His very stature demanded respect, as did the staff in his hands with a long, slender blade on the end of it. Jack scarcely had time to roll out of the way of the first strike, which narrowly missed him as it crashed into the rocky earth where he’d crouched. Sparks flew from the sharp edge cleaving into the ground, as the barbarian turned to see Jack scrambling to his feet.

The tired Colonel pulled his pistol, and fired a shot as Khan charged. The attack happened so quickly that the dart missed the mark, causing Jack to cuss out loud. Khan was again on top of him, swinging and whirling the staff like a martial arts movie choreographer. His attacks were precise and balanced, as was his sense of awareness. There were no mistakes or vulnerability that Jack could exploit. All he could do was bob, weave, duck, and pray.

The fight carried on for a minute or two, as Jack began to tire. Khan kept his distance, closing the gap with the reach advantage of his weapon all along, and keeping his adversary busy enough that a counter attack was impossible. Briggs could see that he was hopelessly outmatched for fighting ability and tenacity, and knew he was going to have to improvise if there was any chance of survival. Jack considered his options momentarily, and decided that distraction was his only play.

The soldier reached in his pocket and felt around, then pulled out a Zippo lighter. In true sixties fashion, he opened it against his leg in one motion, and lit it on the back stroke. The flame ignited and fluttered in the wind. Khan had never seen such sorcery before, and stepped back for the first time, startled. The plan was working, but was quickly foiled as the flame blew out.

The barbarian took a hard step forward, then, unbelievably, somersaulted over the top of Jack’s head. The seasoned soldier knew that giving up his back was a fatal mistake, but it happened too fast to avoid. As he turned to defend himself, he felt the butt of the staff at the back of his heels, causing him to go ass-over-tea-kettle onto the ground to his back. Then he felt the sharp edge of the blade in the top of his shoulder. It was honed enough that the clean cut wasn’t overly agonizing. The abrupt stop when it hit the top of his collarbone, however, was a different story. Jack wailed in pain as he felt hot blood under his clothes.

Taking a page from Geronimo’s book, the injured Colonel reared back and buried his left heel in Khan’s testicles as hard as he could. The barbarian back peddled, clutching his groin, as Jack pulled up and fired three shots, two of which hit Khan in the abdomen. The staggered Mongol studied the two darts, again confused by what had to be sorcery, then chuckled and spoke for the first time.

“Fool,” he grumbled. Khan moved in for the kill, then got a glassy look in his eyes. Jack knew the drugs were kicking in, but was going into shock himself from the deep wound he’d sustained. The doped-up Mongol stumbled, shaking his head trying to understand, then face planted. He’d gotten twice the dose of happy juice, but somehow Jack still didn’t feel like that was enough.

The reflector exploded again, and raised. This time, instead of Jack holding up a victim, both men were piled in a heap on the floor. Jack’s blood stained Khan’s skin, and had all but glued his shirt to his body. Marty and the troops stood helplessly for a moment, ascertaining what they were seeing, then jumped to action. They quickly pried Khan out and loaded him onto the stretcher, then tried to attend to Jack. He was fading in and out of consciousness.

General Irons ran down the stairs to help. “Marty, get that lunatic outta here! NOW!,” ordered the General. “Restrain him wherever you lock him down!” Marty followed orders, as he and his men carted the snoring barbarian away. Irons leaned over Jack, who was awake and taking shallow breaths, as Kat ran to help. “Kat, get the medics down here!,” screamed Irons. “They’re coming,” she promised, as tears streamed down her face. She leaned over Jack and begged for him to hold on. He cupped her cheek with his last ounce of energy, then collapsed into blackness.

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