The different amount of emotions I feel right now must be some kind of world record. I’m tired, thirsty, somehow both full and hungry at the same time, confused, angry and spiteful and many more but right now, only fear rules me as I see that little red dot on Alex’s forehead.
Before the bullet can leave the barrel of the gun, all the adrenaline in my body pumps at once and I bounce off the floor with incredible dexterity. Despite all the inconceivable pain in my jaw, I run toward Alexandria, who is frozen like a dear caught in a car’s headlights as she stares death right in the face.
Time appears to be moving in slow motion as I use all the remaining energy in my muscles to burst toward Alexandria who is just a few meters away from me. The last time I did something like this, I blew the world up; well, that’s not happening this time.
Just as the bullet leaves the barrel of the gun, I manage to push her out of the way in the nick of time by leaping and stretching my full length in her direction. The tiny metallic pellet misses her marginally and nestles in my right shoulder, leaving my right arm completely immobilised. I feel an instant burning rush of searing pain through my entire body as I crash to the ground while yelling loudly in agony. They all scream and rush to my side again. This pain may be awful but at least I saved her life.
I hear Whitford shout for them to kill us again and bullets start to rain down all around me. I am losing too much blood to react so I guess this might be it for me because we’re sitting ducks right now. I hear Martina barking out orders and remember how good she is at taking action.
“Move!” she barks and I hear the trampling of feet behind me. “Jason, Ricky, grab him and let’s move!” After she says this, I feel my body rise as I land on someone’s shoulders. I watch helplessly as we flee for our lives with the giant helicopter trailing us and firing at us. We have option right now but to just keep moving.
This situation would look bleak for anyone but it’s even bleaker for us since we have no real hope of escaping this. The harsh reality is that it seems we’ve been set up. We seem just to be pawns in a sick game in which we were supposed to die but somehow survived now they want to eliminate us themselves. It’s only a matter of time before the inevitable and supposedly sweet relief of death gets us.
I glimpse over the shoulder of my carrier and watch as another helicopter lands at the bottom of the hill. I’ve heard of overkill but come on, this is just ridiculous. Two helicopters just to eliminate five people? Seriously? Everyone pauses and there is silence as we, well they contemplate what to do; I’ve already given up. We are literally stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place. The easier option would be just to surrender and take our deaths with dignity.
Suddenly, Martina barks another order and our party begin moving downhill once more. I look over my shoulder and spot a man waving us inside the other helicopter frantically as more bullets fly past us. This must obviously be some sort of trap.
As my carrier keeps running down the hill, I wince in pain with every step as my blood stains his back. I use my other hand to cup the wound and battle through the pain. I also try hard to keep steady so that I don’t fall since that would be suicidal. The helicopter pursuing us upon realising that we may have a means of escape now tails us very closely with only our luck keeping their bullets away from us.
On the way, one bullet catches Dr. Alice in her foot and she collapses to the floor and knocks my Aunt Rachel over. Dr. Randy stops to help them. I want to scream for us to stop but I’m so dizzy from all the blood I’ve lost that I can only watch helplessly as they try to run and are recaptured by the men in the helicopter.
Are they going to kill my Aunt Rachel? No! No way! This has to be a dream. Wake up Ignatius, wake up!
Eventually, we reach the helicopter and I’m tossed inside. I’m not really sure how it is that we all made it to the helicopter intact, all of us completely unscathed, well barring me. The pain I am in right now is making it impossible for me to control my thoughts and actions properly so I enter auto-pilot mode and stop trying to think. The whooshing of the helicopter’s door and the sudden rising of the helicopter as we all take our seats provides some much needed relief to us in this time of unbelievable confusion.
After we fly for a while, I say, “Guys, we left them behind!”
“We had to Ignatius,” Martina says. “It was either them or us.”
“But the woman was my Aunt.” She gets a look of perplexion on her face, then she just gives me a ‘we did what we had to do look’.
I hope they’re alright.
Everyone reverts into a state of deep, silent reflection. I suddenly feel the pain my arm become more and more severe and groan loudly to garner attention. I begin to feel that faint feeling coming on as the pain spreads to my whole body and collapse to the floor. I’ve lost so much blood I think I’m about to pass-out and just before I actually do, I hear some voices talking around me, some familiar, some not so familiar.
“What’s wrong with him?” the new voice asks.
“He got shot!” Martina says. “He needs help!”
Martina’s voice is the last thing that resonates in my mind as I clutch my arm, groan in pain and drift off into blackness.
I try to move my arms to stretch them but my right hand is too heavily bandaged so I just sit there observing the faces all around me, especially the thick man in army uniform who also stares back at me.
“So, who are you?” I say very bluntly to the dark skinned soldier sitting across from me.
“Me?” he says as he points to himself.
“Yes,” I say then look at Martina, then to Alex then to the boys and back to him.
“I am Agent Brandon Ruddy,” he says. “Head eliminator of the Fifth...You know what? The General will want to explain everything himself.”
“Head eliminator? The General? Dr. Whitford still alive? We almost dying?” Alex suddenly bursts out. “What in heaven’s name is going on here?”
“I don’t have the necessary clearance to tell you that,” he says and I detect the genuineness in his voice. “I was sent by the General to liberate you from the Whitfordites’ clutches, that’s it.”
“Who are these ‘Whitfordites’?” I say this time.
“Honestly I would love to say but again the issue of clear-”
“Forget clearance!” Alexandria interject violently. “I want to speak to your boss, now!” I pull her down with my good arm as Agent Ruddy just stares at her and says nothing.
He seems to be hell-bent on not telling us anything but after seeing the sad confusion on our faces I think he is going to throw us a bone.
“Calm down Miss Blay,” he says. Miss Blay? I must let him know Martina is a Mrs before he thinks of putting the moves on her. “We are going to see the General right now.” He rises out of his seat.
Alexandria just stares blankly into space with a huge frown on her face. I deduce that it’s more from confusion and less from anger.
“Would you all please come to the front of the helicopter?” he says. “There’s something I want to show you all.”
We all get up off our seats, me with the help of Martina, and we walk to the front as he said. We watch as the helicopter tears through the typically depressing sky above the debilitated earth.
“Do you see this?” he asks us.
“Yes, it’s the sky, what about it?” Alex says a bit rudely but I’m sure she’s just so distraught with hopelessness and confusion that she cannot filter her words out properly.
“Look carefully,” he says. “And know that what you are about to see might make your confusion even worse.” We all almost simultaneously lean forward to get a better look.
Just when this seems to me to be a simply pointless exercise to while away time, the helicopter which was seemingly just flying suddenly crashes violently into something and breaks through it. The force of the impact leaves us all sprawled on the floor. The gloomy, depressing sky kind off shimmers away, as if we passed through or out of something and when we come out, it no longer looks like the depressing sky we have come to be used to but actual BLUE skies! Instead of flying over endless mountains of a sandy desert like terrain, we are now flying low over a bunch of military-style buildings.
“Whoa!” Alex exclaims in shock. “What happened to the sky?”
“I’m sorry,” he says to us. “What I did right now was even above my clearance so I can’t say anything more. The General will probably tell you everything you need to know when you meet him but in the meantime, please put these on.” He hands us some dark green army style bags which we put on and I put my other bag down.
“What’s in that Dr. Ignatius?” he says to me with alarm on his face.
“Oh just a few supplies and such,” I say.
“Any communication devices?” he says and Alex pulls out her communicator and I do same. We raise them up to show them to him and he almost has a heart attack when he sees them.
Without warning, he grabs them from our hands, stuffs them into our bags and walks with the bags in his hands towards the helicopter door. He presses a button and the door slides open as strong winds push us back. He suddenly tosses our bags out of the helicopter and incinerates them with his weapon; they burn to smithereens before touching the ground. Once he’s satisfied, he shuts the doors.
“Why did you do that?” I say when he retakes his seat.
“Those were Whitfordite communication devices,” he says. “They may have been bugged to track you to the base. I had to get rid of them.”
“So what are these bags for?” I say.
“You’ll see, soon enough,” he says with a slight smirk on his face.
“I don’t know what you are saying but I’m pretty sure we won’t like it,” Alex says and he winks at her.
We have been flying over the sad-looking military city for well over twenty minutes now and we are beginning to get a bit restless with anxiety.
“Okay people, look sharp,” Agent Ruddy says suddenly and we all instantly become alert. “You jump in five.”
“Wait, what?” I say as I feel myself getting a bit nauseated. “What do you mean by ‘you jump in five’?”
“We are compromised by having Whitfordite devices on board so we cannot take the risk and land the chopper,” he says. “You’re all going to jump and land on the ground where a vehicle will be waiting to take you all to the base. The General is expecting you.”
No one reacts visibly to this new development but I get a knot in my stomach the size of a fist. Martina must notice this because she walks over to me and grabs my hand hard as we keep flying, getting ever closer to the dreaded jump zone. After sometime, the helicopter stops and hovers over a spot on the ground which has a giant red ‘H’ painted on the ground when I look out of the window. I think I’m going to pass out.
“Okay, now this is what you do when you jump!” he says as we all get to our feet. The helicopter door slides open partially and strong winds fill the inside of it. “When you jump and you see the ground no longer getting close but starting to stretch out, it means that you have about 1000 feet left to impact and at this point you MUST pull the right cord, and I said the RIGHT cord first, then pull the LEFT one to deploy your parachutes; do I make myself clear?” We all nod tentatively. “Good! Jump safe fellow soldiers!” He salutes us then opens the door of the helicopter fully as a strong gust of wind smacks me in the face like a hot slap.
The boys waste no time in jumping first and do so, easily deploying their parachutes and floating to the ground below us as we watch from above. Martina gives me a re-assuring look, leaves my hand and jumps next. Until she managed to also deploy her parachute, my heart wouldn’t stop beating frantically. Now this leaves only me and Alex to jump.
“Good jumping soldiers!” he says salutes us again when we look at him.
“Wait, aren’t you coming with us?” I say. I feel a bit faint as I look down at the ground but manage to centre my faculties and prevent an even bigger disaster of me fainting and plummeting out of the copter.
“No sir,” he says. “I have to make sure that if the Whitfordites were indeed following us, they will be lead far, far away from our base and the only way to do that is to lead them away ourselves so, good luck soldier and hopefully see you soon!” He salutes us for the third time and we return the gesture.
I look into Alex’s face and she nods so I grab hold of her hand as I prepare to let myself fall out of the helicopter. I can’t believe I’m doing this! Me! If you had told me to do this four months ago, I would have vomited at the thought but considering all that has happened, this doesn’t seem so crazy anymore.
“Open your eyes Dr. Blay!” Alex calls out to me and I do.
I look to my right and see her smiling as the sky rises around her and then I decide to look down and almost panic as the ground gets closer and closer so she holds my hands to calms me down.
“Look into my eyes Dr. Blay!” she says. “Don’t look down!” I nod and do as she says as we freefall. “When I say open your parachute, you do that okay!” I nod and continue looking into her eyes.
I feel the cool air around me carry me like a cushion of cloud as we freefall. I don’t feel as ready to collapse as I did just a few minutes ago as I look into her soothing green eyes.
“Dr. Blay, I’m going to let go of your hand!” she says and I feel my panic feeling returning. “The moment I do I want you to deploy your parachute!”
“Alright!” I say as my heart leaps into my throat. “Which cord first again?”
“The left then the right!” she says. “No wait; it’s the right then the left!”
“Which is it?” I say.
“It’s the second one!”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, very sure!” she says and looks down. “Okay Dr. Blay, I’m counting back from five, when I reach one, you let go of my hand deploy your parachute!” she says and I nod. “Okay; five, four, three, two, one, now!”
She quickly lets go of my hand then she deploys hers and it works out as planned as she floats above me as I continue to freefall. I try to centre myself by breathing deeply but my heart refuses to cool down. I grab the right cord and yank it but I almost pass out when nothing happens. I begin to panic and look up at Alex.
“Pull the left one too!” she shouts down to me. I still can’t move my right arm so with much discomfort, I grab the left cord too and after saying a short prayer in my head, I pull that one too. To my relief, it deploys.
I breathe like a woman in labour as I float safely down to the ground.
“Whoo what a rush!” I say as I get to my feet and help Alex up as she also comes down beside me. I take a moment or two to get back my senses. “Where are the others?” I look around and they are nowhere to be found.
We are currently standing in the middle of what looks like a giant parking lot with no building or structure in sight for miles in every direction.
“Did we land at the wrong place?” she says and I just shrug and look around.
“We landed right on the big, red ‘H’ so I don’t think...”
All of a sudden, a vehicle appears out of nowhere and come to stop right in front of us. I ask Alex to get behind me just in case it’s the Whitfordites or whatever with another attack but when the door opens, I see Martina’s face and calm down as she beckons us to enter. We take our seats inside the sleek black 4x4 Jeep and watch to see what happens.
We ask the driver, a man dressed in army uniform where we are off to and he says that we are going to the main base to be interred then to see the General, whoever he, or she, is.
Finally, some progress.
The Jeep leaves the giant parking lot and enters a rocky and sandy desert terrain with no bumps and just a lot of sand and cactuses. We keep driving in what seems like the middle of nowhere until finally the car stops in a small clearing. The driver, who is wearing an old-school style, tucked in army green uniform signals for all of us to get down. I’m a bit scared to get down because considering all that has happened today, I wouldn’t be surprised if he left us stranded out here in the middle of nowhere to die. I put all my justifiable paranoia aside and decide to get down eventually after the rest of them all do so. The driver does the same too after he turns the car’s engine off and slips the keys in his pocket.
I look at the members of our entourage and they all, well except Martina, look visibly shaken, especially Alex who just had a bullet shot at her. That bullet would have nestled deep in her skull too had it not been for my quick intervention. Martina though, she always did have a strong personality. She is quite hard to faze and that’s shown clearly here due to the look of steely determination she has in her eyes. All I know is that whatever is going to happen to us from now onwards, I can definitely count on her to be my rock.
“State your name and business,” a voice out of nowhere says and we all remain on alert.
“Sergeant Jimmy, it’s me, Sergeant Otto,” our driver says to the disembodied voice.
“Otto?” the voice asks. “Otto who?”
“Come on Sergeant Jimmy, you do this every time I leave the base,” he says. “It’s me Sergeant Otto Davidson, the one the general sent out on a mission, you know all this!” This is getting very strange.
“I do, do I?” the voice asks again.
“Yes, you do!” Sergeant Jimmy says with visible frustration. “I cleared with you before I left the base thirty minutes ago!”
“Hmmm, okay,” the voice say. “If you claim to be Sergeant Otto, then why do my scanners detect six people?”
“Are you serious, like are you being serious right now?” he says in frustration. “The General sent me to pick up the Blay party, there are five of them; you know this!”
“Wait, let me check with the General to make sure,” the voice says. “Wait right there. Just know that if you’re lying, the security lasers will vaporise you in seconds.” The line goes dead as Sergeant Otto smacks the air in frustration and curses to no one in particular.
“He does this to me every time you know?” he says to me.
“What’s his problem?” I feign interest.
“He refuses to let go the fact that I got his spot as the General’s right-hand man,” he says. “But honestly, he got injured on a mission, he couldn’t possibly have fulfilled the role well.” He looks flummoxed as he runs his hand through his low-cut blonde hair.
“Okay,” the voice says after about two long minutes of silence. “The General has cleared you so stand back and let me let you in.”
“It’s about time,” he says sarcastically and under his breath.
We all take a few steps back just as the young Sergeant does and immediately the ground rumbles a bit and the previously solid ground cascades into a slope leading into what looks like an underground passage. Oh great, more underground passages; like we haven’t had enough of those.
We all pile back into the Jeep and it slowly descends the slope before us. The slope closes up right after we descend it and it leads into some room where many Jeeps are parked. Sergeant Otto finds a place to park then signals to us to get out again.
“This is our stop,” he says. “The General says I should show you to the waiting area so please follow me.” He presses a button on the keys to lock the jeep.
He then begins to walk through the dark underground car park and we tag along closely behind him. Down here smells like old engine oil and that’s all I can think of as we enter an elevator.
We all pile into the elevator as he presses the button G, maybe meaning ground floor and the thing starts to drop abruptly, bringing back so many memories, initially good, now messed up. There is a weird symbol plastered everywhere; it resembles the one on the flag Whitford destroyed before ordering us dead. It’s obvious that he and these people have some kind of beef, and I intend to find out. Hopefully this General will have the answers I seek.
When the elevator reaches our stop, its doors slowly slide open. We pile into a hallway full of many doors and Otto shows us into the first one on the right. It leads into a nice-looking waiting room with two couches, a water dispenser, some magazines and some very interesting paintings hanging on the walls.
“You can all have a seat,” he says to us. “The General will be with you shortly.” He then turns to leave.
“Thanks Sergeant Otto,” I call after him and he turns back to salute me. Soldiers.
I manage to steal a glance at Alex and she somehow looks very uncomfortable in these very comfortable chairs. She’s leant forward and her eyes keep wandering around the room. For a brief millisecond, our eyes meet. The awkwardness of that stare was so rife that I could literally feel it bonking me on the head. I honestly don’t know where we stand right now. In her eyes we might seem like more than just friends but in my eyes it’s much different because to me, we have always been JUST friends and I see her as more like a daughter. It’s quite obvious to me that she thought of us as more that that. The sudden reappearance of Martina and the boys has thrown everything into turmoil. I can only imagine the internal conflict she is going through right now.
She’s a smart girl, she’ll figure stuff out for herself; I know it, I think to myself.
We hear choruses of “Good afternoon General,” and the like outside the room and we all immediately stand up since we are about to meet the leader of this whole place; talk about pressure. I’m sure he or she will be one of those business types that will order us around so I prepare myself to act as army-like as I can.
As he enters the room, they all ring choruses of greetings but the moment I see his face, my throat dries up and no word can escape my body. My body literally freezes too, leaving me incapable of moving at all. My mind races at 250km/s speeds through the past. Immediately he lays eyes on me, he begins to smile and he rushes over from the door to engulf me in a huge hug. I completely fail to move or react due to my being frozen in near anaphylactic shock and utter disbelief. My body has gone completely numb from shock.
“Oh gosh, how are you?” he says to me as this strange hug continues. “It’s been so long!”“I’m...fine,” I manage to say after my mouth finally unfreezes... “Dad.”