Collective Minds

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Chapter 23

Dr. Hawking monitored the alien power supply in the lab as the battle raged on outside. Kat tuned into the screen, watching Jack and the brigades in the hangar scrambling to recharge the Franklin cannon one last time. Einstein stood near his wheeled friend, noting concern in his absent stare.

“The field around the wormhole fluctuated a great deal when the alien ship fired on us,” Dr. Hawking stated. “A second shot may have disabled it. With only one ship remaining they may become desperate and open fire in succession. We need to destroy the last craft, now.”

“The cannon isn’t charged yet,” answered Kat. “It’ll take another ten minutes or so for Jack to channel enough energy for another shot.”

“We may not have ten minutes,” answered Hawking. “You need to channel the power from the reflector, and fire.” Kat couldn’t believe here ears. “What!,” she protested, “And cut off our escape route? Are you serious?”

“Stephen is right,” reassured Einstein. “Another shot from orbit may be catastrophic.”

Kat considered and looked at the monitor again. Jack and his exhausted men were moving slower yet, trying to get the job done. She switched cameras on the monitor and saw that Khan and his troops were holding their own, but some had fallen. They too were slowing down against what seemed like an endless supply of enemies. She cut to another camera and watched General Irons locked in a brutal fire fight towards the end of the runway, spinning and firing short controlled bursts at the crafts circling above. They bombarded him with fire, and she knew sooner or later his armor would go critical if he couldn’t discharge it fast enough.

Dave, Maggie, and Xiang looked to her, waiting for a decision.

“Do it,” Kat ordered.

Back on the tarmac Khan and his men continued to slaughter the aliens efficiently, slaying them by the dozen. They fired surprisingly few shots, relying more on their blades and their skill. Khan himself was covered head to toe with black slime, and continued to prove why he was one of the most feared men in history.

The Mongol General bobbed and weaved, ankle deep in alien corpses. Suddenly one of the bodies grasped his ankle and pulled his leg from underneath him. Caught by surprise and off balance, Khan toppled and fumbled his weapon, landing flat on his back.

A crippled alien stood and stomped on the middle of the barbarian’s chest, pinning him tightly to the deck. The enemy quickly used its other foot to kick open his face shield, as Khan tried desperately to raise his cannon. His attacker stomped on his arm, crushing the field generator, which sparked and short circuited immediately.

The alien lifted its arm, and aimed at Khan’s exposed head. Blood soaked and exhausted, Khan showed no fear in the face of death, spitting at the creature as a last act of defiance before his demise. The cannon energized, then deflected and shot straight into the air as the screaming alien fell face first on top of the helpless Mongol.

The barbarian General rolled the dead body off himself and jumped to his feet. His attacker laid dead, with a tomahawk sticking out the back of its skull. Khan turned to see Geronimo racing toward him. The Apache hastily made it over and plucked his axe from the cadaver, then ripped off the helmet and claimed another scalp. The fierce Indian warrior had cut so many during the battle that he’d tied them together like a bandolier around his topside.

“Are you hurt?,” Geronimo asked his fellow General..

Khan looked at the legendary Apache warrior and knew exactly why he’d been chosen. Never before had another man saved his life, let alone one that was his equal on an entirely different level. In what was to be the only time in history Genghis Khan was ever humbled, the Mongol legend put his hands at his side, bowed to Geronimo, and spoke words that would never again be repeated.

“Thank you,” he said, acknowledging the Apache’s legacy and tenacity. “You honor me with your bravery.”

Geronimo smiled, hoisted the scalp to his troops and whooped, then disappeared back into the melee. Khan put his mask back down, stomped on the end of his weapon, and flipped it back into his hands.

Back in the lab Xiang was still working to divert the power from the reflector to the Franklin Cannon. He worked frantically as the rest of the people in the room watched the fight outside on the monitor.

The door to the lab shattered open, kicked from the hinges by an alien that had found its way inside. It looked around the room momentarily, then raised its weapon and aimed at Kat. Terrified, she froze. Her life flashed before her eyes as she thought of Jack, her dad, her friends, and her career. It was all about to end in one paralyzing moment.

The green bolt fired, as Dave dove in front of her clumsily with his shield, absorbing the blast. He face planted squarely on the ground in front of her, smashing his glasses and bloodying his nose. Showing remarkable toughness however, he rolled to his side and punched the field generator button on the back of the implement. The shield shot a round green shock wave back that somersaulted the alien through the annex window.

Dave stood, trying to focus without his glasses, his eyes both watering from a horribly crooked broken nose. The attacker stood up again, stunned, and poised to fire another blast. The chubby nerd hoisted his shield, and gritted his teeth. He could feel Kat behind him and knew at the very least he could save her.

The shot never came. Instead, there was a high pitched scream, then a resounding ‘thump’ of an armored body hitting the floor. Dave peeked out from behind his shield and saw Wallace in the annex hacking furiously on the creature. The bleeding nerd turned to Kat, who was still frozen in time, as the entire exchange had only taken about ten seconds.

Dave dropped the shield, which clanged on the floor, and looked at his boss. She finally started to come out of it and looked at the bleeding, balding nerd that had just saved her life. The two locked eyes, as Dave planted a long kiss on her lips, then hugged her tightly. He was dazed, and went somewhat limp as he leaned on her, prompting her to catch him and hold him up. Tears streamed down her face at the reality of it all as she stroked his hair and bawled.

Wallace stood breathless over the dead alien, as the others gathered around to look at it. None of them had seen one up close yet, and were curious. The entire entourage gathered around it, less Dr. Hawking and Einstein, who kept their distance. The helmet had come off, as they all stared in amazement at the hideous being.

Their inspection was short lived, however, as the alien and its helmet suddenly disappeared in a flash of white light. No one was sure at first what had happened, as everyone ran back to the monitor to see what was transpiring outside.

The soldiers continued to do their duty, fighting, slashing, and shooting relentlessly. The humans had gained the edge in numbers just slightly and the odds were beginning to improve.

To the troops surprise, the living aliens began to disappear in similar fashion to the one in the lab. Bright white flashes, clearly some sort of teleportation technology, consumed all the enemies still on their feet. Shortly thereafter all the dead ones and their severed limbs began to do the same, disappearing and leaving no trace or evidence of their invasion force.

Jack ran out of the hangar to see what was happening, then looked to the sky. The fighter crafts began pulling up and heading for orbit, clearly having been called to retreat. He looked around to the soldiers that were left, and couldn’t believe what was happening.

They’d won. It was over, and they’d saved the world. The sheer gravity of what that meant was hard to grasp and impossible to comprehend. Geronimo was the first to realize, ripping his helmet off and tossing it aside. He hoisted his tomahawks into the air and whooped, as the celebration began. The entire garrison cheered uncontrollably, hugging and embracing one another while hoisting their weapons.

Inside the lab, Kat and the others saw the celebration and knew what it meant. The room erupted, as the team knew that the aliens were beaten. Xiang cut the monitor back to the orbital cam, which showed the fighters docking with the mother ship as it began to back away. The Chinese prodigy typed a few more keystrokes, then picked up the phone at his work station.

Down in the underground bunker, Ben Franklin, DaVinci, and madame Curie could hear the celebration in the distance. Unsure, they all huddled around the monitor. The solo mother ship was making a run for it as the last few attack ships scrambled inside. “My god,” shrieked Curie. “They’re retreating. We did it!”

Before the three could embrace the phone rang. Ben Franklin jumped up to answer it, and spoke only two words before hanging up. “I understand,” he said quietly, as he put down the receiver and headed back to his station. Xiang had successfully diverted the energy from the reflector, and the cannon was at full power. Without any hesitation Franklin zeroed in on the last ship and fired.

Jack and the troops continued to celebrate as the huge blast rocketed from the ground. The sky lit up with crimson victory, as the last ship in the fleet was destroyed in spectacular fashion. The celebration got even louder, as the men knew that it was truly over for good at that point.

DaVinci, Franklin, and Curie finally celebrated, with hugs, tears, and disbelief. Ben Franklin sat back in his chair and pulled an antique ivory pipe from his pocket and lit it, enjoying a long overdue smoke. Curie and DaVinci hugged, then looked at each other. It was clear that he loved her, and she him, as they kissed softly. Their personalities were as different as honey and vinegar, but their hearts looked beyond that. It was a love that could never be, yet there it was, living, breathing, and burning.

A short while later in the main hangar all the soldiers continued to rejoice. The troops cheered and hollered, as the elevator rose from the base underneath. Kat, Maggie, Dave, and Xiang emerged, as the warriors roared their approval. The team couldn’t help but smile as they walked out, greeted with hugs, pats on the back, and high fives. Dave’s eyes were both black, his nose was crooked and swollen, and he’d put on an old pair of glasses with tape on the nose.

The elevator opened again a moment later, and Einstein and Dr. Hawking emerged. The hangar erupted again, louder, as the two smartest men in the world stepped out to a heroes welcome. Einstein smiled and soaked it all in, while Dr. Hawking was smiling ear to ear as he rolled through the cheering crowd.

The hangar doors slid open narrowly, and there stood Curie, DaVinci, and Ben Franklin. Ben had a stein of beer in his hand with suds foaming over the top, which he toasted to a glorious eruption of gratitude. The soldiers all ran and mobbed him, rubbing his bald head and throwing high fives.

Close behind them staggered Marty, who was clearly drunk, waving the bottle of bourbon above his head and fist pumping. The troops again roared, and several, including Wallace, ran to help him stay upright. The intoxicated soldier handed the bottle to the mighty Scot, who took a healthy pull himself and passed it on to his deserving comrades.

The doors opened wide one last time, and in rolled Jack and General Irons on their anti-aircraft platforms. The roars echoed inside the walls as the two mighty leaders descended to a swarming mass of troops that ran to greet them. General Irons looked exhausted, but joined in with the soldiers like any good leader would.

Jack stood on his toes and scanned the area for Kat, finally seeing her running through the mass of armored figures. He plowed his way toward her, finally breaking through, as she jumped in his arms and straddled him with her legs around his waist. Tears poured down her face as he squeezed her to the point of passing out. Jack didn’t cry, instead having a look of sincere gratitude.

Maggie, Dave, and Xiang were close behind her, who all stood and watched the two brave souls locked each others arms. The three researchers were thankful for the extraordinary courage they’d both shown against impossible odds. Jack and Kat had not only saved the world, but had opened doors in science, technology, and defense that would move it light years forward for generations to come.

Briggs put Kat on the ground and approached Dave. It was clear the Colonel had heard about the daring maneuver in the lab that saved his girlfriend, as Jack didn’t offer a handshake. Instead, he stood and saluted the battered nerd respectfully, then broke form and hugged him like a brother. Jack rubbed his balding head and laughed, as Dave did the same in return. The two rivals shed their years of squabbling and found common ground in salvation.

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