Chapter 15 - Unlimited
Special Agent Andrew Quinn
Applewood Diner, Outside Scranton Pennsylvania
The first thing I saw was a bag of carry-out food in front of my face, the first thing I smelled was its pleasant scent. And the first thing heard was “I need you back on earth buddy.” And I thought. “Harry,” I asked groggily while my world came back into focus.
“No Quinn, it’s me, Arnold. Jesus, I thought you were dead.”
“Me too Arnold. Do you have a cigarette?”
Arnold snapped his fingers at the cops around us; I didn’t have time to think about it or anything. I needed a cigarette – I haven’t smoked in 20 years but I figured now was a good reason to start. One of the sheriffs bent down and handed me a smoke. I put it in my mouth, still slouched against the car, I didn’t want to move.
“You got a light?” The officer nodded and took out his Zippo and lit my cigarette. I took a deep breath and inhaled that smoke, in those few seconds I cleared my mind and exhaled. I quickly stood to my feet, and everyone surrounded me, thinking I was going to fall over.
“Relax, I’m all right,” I said taking another drag of my smoke, I turned behind me and looked into the side mirror of the car against which I was leaning. I knew I had been shot in the head; I needed to know how I survived that. Arnold leaned next to me and shared in my sad moment.
“Quinn. Your hair!” That bastard shot off my pink cowlick; it was smeared with gunpowder. My head only had a little bit of blood flowing from it, the force of the impact must’ve been enough to knock me out. That and the fact I had been awake for like 75 fucking hours.
“It’s a miracle Arnold.”
“Not many people get shot in the face and live to tell the tale, Quinn.”
“No, they do not. Hell of a thing to tell your next date.” Trevor interrupted.
I took a moment of silence for my hair. My comrade, at least it saved my life, then Arnold offered some rather insulting but enlightening opinion. “I think he hated your hair more than he hated you, Quinn.”
“Don’t we all though?”
“The hair blocked the shot!”
I shrugged off their comments and walked over to my friend and mentor Agent Harry Westin. Now lifeless lying on the ground. I kneeled down next to him, still hitting my cigarette and closed his eyelids. I would hold my grief over his loss, for now, he would want that. I secretly shed a tear for him while I took out the flask inside my ruined jacket.
“Here’s to your retirement, Harry.”
I took the last swig of what was left in my flask and threw it out into the parking lot. This was it; we hit a dead end. Why did they think I knew what to do next?
“Guys, we have to talk about what happened here.” The idiot sheriff tried to get a statement, but I brushed him off.
“Look around dipshit! It was a fucking massacre; there are more bodies back in the city too. We’re stranded, and we have no idea how far they are ahead of us. We’ve lost guys; I just want to bury my friends and go to sleep.”
“Quinn?” Arnold leaned down to me as I still kneeled next to my friend’s corpse.
“Arnold. I gotta tell you something.”
“You thought I ran?”
“I did. But you were the only hero here. We tried to overpower Gable and look what happened. We fucked up bad Arnold. Now my friends are dead.”
“They were my friends too Quinn. You can’t give up now. You’ve gotten us this far.”
Arnold was right. I inherited Harry’s position, I kept thinking we lost everything, but we did gain these two kids. I looked over at Trevor, and my thought process abruptly stopped.
“What the hell are you wearing?”
“What you’ve never seen a man in a dress before?” I forgot he was wearing a dress when we picked him up at the festival.
“You’re nowhere near a man yet Trevor.”
“Quinn, you aren’t allowed to judge anyone based on their looks. Think about what your hair used to look like.”
“Good point.” I threw my cigarette when I started to hear a faint but consistent sound. It was a sound that used to be so familiar, now the rarest thing in the world.
“Everybody! Shut up! Listen.”
It was very quiet we heard the vibration of the phone more than the tone itself.
“Spread out! Find it before the call ends!”
Hard to tell where it was coming from, the phone must’ve been facing down. I forgot how much I hated losing my cell phone. Trevor, Floyd, Arnold and I, and even the two moron sheriffs kept quiet as we searched, the ring silently echoing through our immediate area.
“I think I’m getting closer.”
“I got it!”
Trevor dove underneath a car and swiped open Floyd’s phone. I shielded my eyes as I saw his underwear underneath his dress. He answered the call, and we gathered around him anxiously waiting to see what would happen next.
“Trevor? Is that you?”
“Sasha? Thank the non-existent gods. Are you and Courtney okay?” Trevor got an answer and put it on speakerphone.
“We’re okay, Trevor. Is Floyd with you?”
Trevor smiled very bright and crawled back from underneath the chassis of the car. He nodded to Floyd as he wiped the dirt off his sundress. “Yeah, he’s fine. Arnold came back, and Quinn is still alive.”
“I was so worried. I’m glad you’re all safe. Trevor, I want you to turn off speakerphone and hand the phone to Agent Quinn.” Trevor nodded and gave Floyd’s cracked phone to me. I turned off the speakerphone setting and talked to my ever-elusive target.
“Quinn, didn’t you get shot in the head? You were the last person I expected to be alive.”
“I got shot in the hair. I’m still wrapping my head around it, Sasha. Quite literally. What do you have for me?”
I knew she couldn’t have been doing too well, the only way she could’ve called me is if they threw her in the trunk. She was whispering, and everything sounded muffled.
“I have to make this quick. Our destination is 50 feet under MIT, and inside VIRGIL’s host is waiting for us. VIRGIL is going to help you beat Gable into the chamber. You have to beat Gable there – this is a race now.
“Sasha, it’s always been a race.”
“But you never knew where the finish line was.”
“What are you going to do? It can’t be comfortable.”
“Knowing that you and my friends are still alive gives me all of the comfort I need. We’ll be okay. I have a plan of my own. Listen to VIRGIL it’ll guide you in the right direction.”
“Okay Sasha, we’ll see you soon. Good luck.” The call ended, and I looked to Floyd “sorry bud. I’m gonna have to confiscate your phone.”
“What’d she say, Quinn?”
“VIRGIL is going to help us.” I had desperately wanted to see what this thing was capable of, and I got my wish far sooner than expected. I heard a continuous hum approach, and the leaves, dust, and dirt spun in every direction.
“About fucking time,” I said waving to the helicopter pilot. He took his landing in very precisely and set the bird down at the entrance to the parking lot. Arnold and I ran up to him, the same pilot they dropped us off in Oklahoma City.
“Long time no see!” I shouted at him over the incessant blare of the whirring blades above.
“You too Quinn! It was the strangest thing! Suddenly all of my GPS and com gear booted back up, and I was ordered over the radio to meet you here. Happened about 15 minutes ago. You’re lucky I was close by. They got a strict no-fly policy going on right now. All aircraft is grounded.”
“Well, I’m glad you came. I need your help.”
“What happened to your hair? And are those bodies over there?”
“Long story.” I ran out from under the spinning blades and yelled to the kids. Floyd! Trevor! Get your stuff together and get over here! We got a nation to save.”
“Awesome!” Trevor dragged Floyd with him, and they both hurried to the chopper. They didn’t care about bringing anything, but I made damn sure to grab the take out food which was still lying in the parking lot. It was still warm and delicious I found as we strapped in and headed towards our final confrontation. That cigar Arnold was holding would have to wait. We wasted no time getting in that bird, we’re gonna beat him there, and when I find Gable, I’m going to kill him and then I can finally get some sleep.
The time I spent in that trunk with Courtney by my side altered me. We used the first hour to send out a message to all of the people who I had reconnected to the network. If they were grateful for what I had done, they would show up to lend their support. There was one single path leading to the institute that Gable couldn’t avoid, that would be the place they would gather.
I was putting all of my trust in a maybe; it was very nerve racking. My neck, my back, everything was aching from being in the trunk. Especially considering that for the last 10 minutes there was a lot of stop-and-go traffic, we had to be getting close – I couldn’t see anything through the bullet holes in our metal container. If we were in the city I couldn’t see the lights; the power outages had started. And I suppose my environment also significantly affected my motivation.
I was trying so hard to stay positive, especially after everything I had encountered on this journey, but still, I felt hope bleeding away from me. I thought about my uncle who Gable murdered, my mother, my brother who could’ve still been alive and I started to cry.
“Courtney, why do I kill everyone I love?”
“Don’t you say that Sasha. Remember you’re the one who’s given all of these people hope.”
I wiped the tears from my eyes and looked at my screen. It had to have been a response from the people to whom I sent the distress signal.
I then read the message, and it inspired me like the device never had before.
Sasha. Floyd is not the only family you have left. I love you, and I will see you soon.
“Could it be?” I wondered.
I then kicked Courtney. “Ow! Fuck Sasha! I’m glad you’re in a better mood, but god damn that hurt.”
“I’m sorry Courtney. I need your opinion.”
“I seriously never thought you would ask. What’s up?”
I handed Courtney the phone, and she read the message, a look of confusion formed on her face. “I don’t get it.”
“It might be my father.”
“Oh. But he’s dead isn’t he?”
“Yeah. He died two years ago, hold on I have to think.”
We saw the open casket. I saw my father, dead, and I saw them bury him in the ground. He died of cancer. So maybe it wasn’t him – but I didn’t have any other family – Ted was the last adult blood-related to me. I couldn’t wrap my head around it.
“What did your dad used to do for a living?”
“He was a college professor.”
“What did he teach?”
“Psychology. But I only saw him at work once, and he would leave for weeks at a time. We assumed he was cheating on my mom. Now that I think about it – I don’t think that’s what happened.”
“That’s weird. I don’t know Sasha. I mean, there’s 25 billion connected devices on this planet, you never thought deeply about why they chose you?”
Courtney was right; this was too good to be a coincidence. A dark thought then struck me; I thought I forgot it.
I felt around frantically in my pockets. “Oh no!”
“Oh god. I know I didn’t drop it.”
The relief then hit. I found it inside of my jacket pocket; I threw it off earlier knowing we were going to be in this scorching trunk for five hours. I couldn’t stop thinking about my dad, which led me to the box. The black velvet covered box. I finally felt ready to open it, but my anticipation was ruined when we slammed against the back of the trunk. The car came to a complete stop.
“What the fuck is this?” I could hear their muffled frustrations outside of the car.
The unveiling of my father’s gift would have to wait. I slipped it into my pocket just as Gable flung open the trunk; he and his sergeant tried to take us out before being ambushed by three brave souls. I shielded my eyes as we were brought out of the trunk gently by three men wielding hunting rifles.
I was brought out of my misery by the people that had secretly assisted me this entire way.
“Are you alright dear?”
I knew who these people were. And as my eyes adjusted from the darkness of the trunk to the vibrant night in downtown Boston I noticed there were thousands of them. They blocked the way to the institute, every one of the wielded a weapon. They stretched from the terrace of the building to the railing beside the river. They circled our car, and several of them were in the center – just enough to cover each of Gable’s men – who were all pushed down on the pavement.
“As soon as we saw your message we rallied here as quick as we could.”
“We would die to give you a chance to reconnect the world.”
“The question is. What do you want us to do with these guys?”
It was all so overwhelming I barely had any time to think, but Gable did. And as good as these people are, as pure as their intentions were they had no idea what they were up against. I could not convey that through my distress call to them.
I looked to Gable, I wanted to see him dead, but before I could speak to these people, I saw him sign to his men. Thumbs in their ears, fingers over their eyes – I heard Gable pull the pin on a grenade. He said he would do anything to accomplish his mission, and underestimating him would be the biggest mistake they ever made.
There was a blinding flash followed by a deafening ring – a flashbang. Courtney and I fell backward – and once again I felt helpless. As my hearing slowly started to come back, I heard several bullets ricochet off the road, and I also heard them rip the flesh of the very people who tried to save us.
People out in the crowd were shouting “don’t shoot! You might hit Sasha!”
It all happened so fast, within seconds. My eyes slowly began to open, and someone had lifted me back onto my feet, every inch of me was hoping they overcame Gable’s surprise. But I knew it was him after feeling a tight hold on my body, and round solid object hit my chest and the popping of another pin.
This time it wasn’t a flashbang, I looked down and saw the word fragmentation inscribed on the rim of the object. My hope would once again be suspended. I know Courtney felt the same as Sergeant Kline picked up her up in the same way, but a gun to her head and he struggled to do it with a bullet wound in his side.
Surrounded by blood and bullets once again.
“Enough! If you kill me, I drop this, and we all die!”
If everyone in the crowd would’ve stepped towards the car when they first stopped the car, Gable’s attempt would’ve been unsuccessful.
The thing about courage is that everyone wants it – but only a few people actually have it – it’s not something that you can go and buy at a store – it’s locked away deep inside. It needs to be created before it can be used. As badly as all of these people wanted to rescue me – only the ones who approached the car had the conviction to see it through. And now they were all dead except for the man who pulled me out of the trunk.
“What’s your name?” Gable asked the man who was pointing his gun at him.
“I’m not saying a word until you release Sasha. It’ll be alright honey.”
“I asked. WHAT’S YOUR NAME?” Gable shouted as he pushed the grenade deeper into my chest. I screamed hysterically, wanting some solace from all of this maddening noise, as Gable continued to prove his own conviction to my rescue party. “You think I’m fucking around here? You think I won’t drop it!”
“Okay relax. My name is Dave.”
“Do you have any kids Dave Tolson?”
“Yes, I have three. That’s why I’m here. To ensure their future isn’t ruined by an asshole like you.”
Gable sniffed the blood back into his nose and looked around at the damage from the brief firefight. Two of Gable’s men died, but almost all of the people who tried to break us free from his grip were dead on the ground. Dave was the only person left.
“How’s that bullet wound in your shoulder?”
“Hurts, but I’ll manage.”
“Good, I want you to shoot Dave Tolson here in the head.”
Gable knew that the moment he took the grenade away from my chest, it would mean his death. It was the only thing keeping him alive, what he didn’t expect was the reaction from his sergeant.
Gable slowly turned his head towards his second-in-command. “What did you say, soldier?”
“I said no sir! Enough people have died at our hands already. I will not kill an innocent civilian.”
“You will do this sergeant!”
“I respectfully refuse sir!”
“NO!” I broke their battle of morality. I was done seeing people die over me; I couldn’t bear it anymore. There was only one way this journey could continue.
Gable leaned into my ear and whispered. “You don’t call the shots here Sasha. I’m in charge.”
“I do call the shots! This journey has no ending without me, you fucking idiot! We’re doing things my way!”
“Just say the word Sasha, and I’ll blow this old bastard’s head off.”
I appreciated this random man’s enthusiasm, but deep down I knew that Quinn and my friends would be my savior. They were there in the beginning, and they will be there in the end, no matter how things turned out. So I cleared my throat and spoke to Dave.
“Thank you, all you of for showing up. But; he has the upper hand here, and I want to get to the end before his hand gets tired.”
“Good thinking Sasha,” Gable said as he headbutted Tolson and pushed him back. He turned towards the other three soldiers and signaled to him with his free hand.
“Alright! If any of you follow us into the chamber my hand might slip. Men? The end is near.”
Gable paraded Courtney and I as his hostages through the crowd of people surrounding the institute. We were his repellent.
All of the people gave me sincere glances, and many thoughtful words, as they saw me as this man’s puppet – his ticket to what he considered his salvation. I knew their words were kind, but I wasn’t listening to them. All that was running through my head were thoughts of that earlier message.
Could my father be waiting for me at the end, what was his connection to Nyström, to VIRGIL? I couldn’t escape it, even as we entered the building and took the elevator. Gable pressed the “R” button, and we descended far below the foundation of the Institute.
Special Agent Quinn
Ante-chamber to VIRGIL’s Lair
12:40 A.M. Sunday
“What do you want Trevor?”
“Can I have a gun?”
“No. Shut up and watch that door.”
Trevor moved behind the chemical barrel I assigned as my hiding spot. “Come on Quinn. How am I supposed to fight the military without a gun?”
“I said no! Get behind those crates with Floyd! You’re lucky I let two you come down here at all! VIRGIL tells me they’ll be arriving very soon.”
“Yes! Now shut up and stay hidden!”
“I’ll show you hidden you blonde-haired bitch,” Trevor muttered as he returned to Floyd. We made good time getting here. This time we would have the jump on the Colonel. I couldn’t wait for my chance of retribution.
“Hey, Quinn?” Arnold nudged me as he loaded his handgun.
“I’m sorry, I haven’t been living up to your standards during this mission. This is my first field job. I just don’t want to let you down, boss.”
I sighed and rested my hand on his shoulder. I don’t think I was ever upset with him over the beautiful girl I dated for two weeks or the fact he was a little clumsy. I was jealous of his youth, the kid was half my age, and seemed to have his life on a perfect track. No matter our different paths we choose to take in life now we were here ready to save the world.
“Arnold. If it weren’t for you, we wouldn’t have gotten this far. You’re the one who spotted Gable’s car. And you also got rid of one of the soldiers when you stole your car back. You’ve done a damn fine job. Now we’re gonna see this through. Are you with me?”
“Until my very last breath Quinn.”
I smiled as I saw the ambition emit from his eyes.
“You’ll make a fine agent Arnie.” And just as I gave him his first compliment the door on the far side of the hallway opened. Gable had finally arrived, and we were ready to steal back our savior.