Monday, September 19, 2011

Chapter 35 - Micah

The SUV came to a stop just outside the East entrance. I pulled out the radio Isoli’s guards left in the vehicle and pressed the “talk” button.
“We’re here.” Just the second thing I’d said since leaving the extraction point and heading for Phoenix. The only other words were to inform the rebels that we were on our way in a government issue black SUV. Olivia still sat quietly, staring at her blood stained hands.
“Leave the vehicle and come to the door just north of the entrance.” The unfamiliar voice penetrated the silence.
I stepped outside and waited for the indicated door to swing open. The rebels had taken the city already. I had told whoever was on the radio to have Tanner meet me at the entrance. I assumed Darion would be there too.
The door opened. I walked slowly toward the entrance. Dust swirled every time my black leather shoes hit the hard ground. Hot wind blew through my torn up white shirt with red blotches dotting the surface. Olivia came up behind me and took my hand.
“You know it’s not your fault ...” She paused. I turned and looked into her eyes. Somehow through all the blood and the fighting and the death, they still radiated light. “Only the people who did this.” She motioned towards the city with her gaze, her eyes held back tears.  “Don’t take away her sacrifice.”
I tried to be angry because I didn’t know what Olivia meant. I couldn’t though. I just stared. I saw the concern on her face. And the hurt. She knew what I felt. She felt it too. I squeezed her hand and continued to the city.
“Micah?” Tanner trotted out the entrance and stopped in front of us. He wore a huge grin. “Thought you were gone. Good to have you back.” He stopped and turned awkwardly towards Olivia. “You too, we’re glad you’re safe too.” Olivia smiled softly, but I couldn’t. A worried looked crossed Tanner’s face. “Um ... our ride is just this way. We’re setting up shop at the Capitol building. Darion is working on some recovery strategies with Aloisio Braga.”
We all got inside the vehicle. Tanner drove. I got in the passenger side and Olivia got in the back. Tanner put the car in drive and started down the empty road. The street had an eerie feeling. No one was outside. No cars, no people, no one.
Tanner spoke as he turned a corner. “What’s wrong Micah?” The grin vanished, replaced with a more empty look. “Where’s Eve? What happened?”
I ignored his question. I didn’t want to discuss it yet. I didn’t want to retell it. “We need to get her to a medical center.” I motioned towards Olivia. “She has some cuts that need taken care of.”
“Micah!” Olivia scowled, but she still hugged her bleeding right shoulder. “You have a huge cut on your head that is still ble-”
“I’ll be right behind you.” I tried to give her a reassuring smile.
Tanner tried to fill the awkward silence. “We did it, buddy, can you believe it? Back in the days when we were meeting in old warehouses, spouting off an how we were going to bring down Isoli? Well, we did it.”
He waited for my response. I wanted to give him something. He was right. We worked for this for so long. Instead, I just sat there and watched the pride slip off his face.
He turned back to the road. “Don’t start thinking it’s all over, though. We got the Eastern Cities to worry about now. The West probably looks prime to them. We got a lot of work to do … but this sure feels good, doesn’t it?” He glanced at me again, then quickly turned away. “Doesn’t it …” he repeated quietly to himself.
The car finally stopped in an underground garage below the capitol. A medical team waited for us to arrive.
“Micah, you look awful, are you sure you don’t--”
“I’m fine. Where’s Darion?”
“Right,” Tanner seemed to remember Eve wasn’t there. “Third floor. He’s working on some recovery strategies. Follow me.” We got out of the car and the medical team took Olivia in a little golf cart to the neighboring medical facilities. I followed Tanner to the elevator a few feet from where we parked.
The ride to the third floor passed in silence. We should’ve talked about what to do next. We needed to unite the west. The city-states of the east were more united. They were power hungry. The west’s disunity could be our undoing. The east would have no problem subduing the west. But all those things had to wait.
The elevator dinged. We exited and walked to the conference room. I tried to think of what I’d say to Darion. How could I break the news? I knew how he felt about Eve. The news would crush him.
Tanner opened the door. Voices talked animatedly inside. I stepped through the opened door. Everyone fell silent. I stared at the carpet, afraid to look up. Everything I thought I’d say suddenly felt inadequate. Of course they were. I looked up and locked eyes with Darion who eyed me knowingly. His face mirrored mine from a few days ago. By now his heart had sunk to his stomach, his mouth dry. I hadn’t told him yet but he knew.
“I’m sorry man. She’s gone. She came to save me. She was stabbed trying to save Olivia.” Now my mouth went dry again. I realized how the story sounded. Of course I knew what she’d done. I’d never forget how she saved Olivia. But how could Darion understand?
“Can I see her ...?” Darion swallowed hard. Six other sets of eyes stared at their own shirts. “Can I see her body before ...” He couldn’t finish his sentence.
“We don’t have it.” I told him everything that happened, how Olivia tried to save her, how our father came, how he took her, how he said he was the only one who could save her. I told him everything about who my father was now. Almost everything. The weight of the note I hadn’t read yet burned in my pocket.
He stared at the floor while I spoke. Finally, when silence lay heavily in the room, he looked up and met my eyes. “He could save her, right?”
I clenched my teeth. “She’s dead. We watched her die.”
The lines around Darion’s eyes tightened. “Everyone says your father was brilliant. If anyone could, he could save her, right?”
I wasn’t about to admit that the man who carried Eve off was really my father, let alone give a traitor like him credit for something I couldn’t believe in. I stared at Darion.
He slammed his hand onto the table. “IF ANYONE COULD, HE COULD SAVE HER, RIGHT?” he shouted.
“She’s dead.” I barely whispered it. If I said it louder, it might be true.
Darion wrapped his fingers around the collar of my shirt, yanking me toward him. He spoke in an undertone, a total contrast to the shouts. “If there’s any chance she might be alive, I’m going to find her.” He released me and stalked out the door.
I knew where he was going. I knew exactly what he thought he was going to do. I knew he’d never find my sister -- not in the condition he wanted to find her. I watched her die. I saw the blood stop pouring from her stomach. I could still see Olivia hunched over Eve’s limp body, holding her own shirt, soaked in deep red blood. Eve was gone. But just the thought of Olivia, alive, waiting for me, seemed to buoy my spirit. I couldn’t take that thought, that hope from Darion.
So I didn’t stop him.
I pulled out the yellow slip of paper started to read. The intense voices of rebel commanders all around me faded.
I’ve got a lot to ask forgiveness for, but I guess I’d rather do that in person, if you ever let me someday. But it might help if you understood what happened.
You probably know by now that Isoli always intended to claw his way to the top. He saw my work as his key. I refused him for several years. If you agree with nothing else I’ve done over the years, you can at least be proud of that. Isoli took matters into his own hands, as you know, and took your mother and I. They threatened our lives but Liz refused to break. She wouldn’t let me either. They separated us but her memory kept me strong. The technology I held, in the wrong hands would have been devastating. Then they brought me her body, bruised, covered in blood and barely breathing. I finally broke. I thought I could save her. But it was too late.
After some time I started to fear that Isoli would go after you and Eve. He needed more insurance to make sure I cooperated. I led him to believe that your genes were perfect, that you were crucial to my technology. That’s not entirely true, but I hoped it would keep you safe. I guess it worked.
Now you know why I worked for Isoli. I don’t work for him willingly and so I still hold the most vital technology a secret. I have many powerful friends in Philadelphia. They want to take control of all the western cities. They have been making sure the rebels succeed. Once Isoli is dead and Phoenix is taken, we’ll move forward with our plan. I can’t tell you very much in this letter. I hope you’ll come to Philadelphia so I can tell you myself.  In the end I just want to make the world a safer place. People make too many mistakes. My new technology could be the cure to the human race.

“Micah?” The eager voices suddenly fell back into clarity. “What do you think?”
“Umm, I’m sorry, I’m not entirely...” I tried to bring my mind into the conversation but I just couldn’t. “I didn’t catch that last part could you--”
“Right,” Dr. Braga’s voice now betrayed concern, “I should have given you time.” He turned to the other five rebel commanders and dismissed them. “We’ll pick up in a few hours.”
Dr. Braga left the room. Tanner stayed behind and put his hand on my shoulder. I stared aimlessly at the oak table sitting in front of me, still trying to make sense of the note. How could he believe that what he was doing was right? What did he mean the “cure to the human race?"  Was my father crazy? A mad scientist? Regardless, well-meaning scientists mixed with power hungry politicians meant trouble. Someone had to help him.
Tanner sat in the chair next to me, “They want you to lead Phoenix. They think the Eastern Cities will attack within the year. We have to unify the other rebel cities to have any hope of stopping them.”
“It’s too late. They’re ready now. They’ve been waiting for this.” I got up and walked to the door. “I can’t lead Phoenix, Tanner. You have to.”
“What do you mean they’ve been waiting? What are you talking about? What do you mean you can’t lead Phoenix?” Tanner jumped and followed me to the door.
“I mean they’ve been helping the rebels. They wanted this to happen so they would have an excuse to attack.” I handed Tanner the yellow note. “I can’t stay here. You have to take my spot.”
“But--” Tanner was staring at the note, trying to follow me down the hall.
I stopped, turned around and hugged him all in one motion. He didn’t even have time to get his arms out. “I’ve always worked better by myself. You’re the leader Tanner. I’ll stay in contact.”
I left and Tanner stayed still, reading the letter.
I had made my decision. I had to go to Philadelphia.
My nerves bit at my insides, making them tense. I walked slowly outside towards the medical building. During the five minute walk I tried to think of how I would tell Olivia, how I would assure her that I would be safe, that I would be back in no time. I had my speech memorized by the time I opened the door to the building. Olivia waited just inside. She already wore a sling on her shoulder. Her green eyes lit up when she saw me. I smiled as she ran towards me. Her one good arm flung itself around my shoulders; her head buried in my neck. I put my arms around her back and pulled her in close. For a long time I didn’t let go, I didn’t move. Just like every other time, I knew I would have to let go. I suddenly felt guilty.
I moved her hair away from her ear and whispered my fate, “I have to go to Philadelphia.”
Her answer didn’t surprise me, in fact I’d hoped for it all along. Her voice was soft like when she first helped me. It made me smile, “I can’t leave you again. I’m coming with.”

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Chapter 34 - Micah

I waited a moment longer. The hand on my shoulder relaxed. Isoli’s feet shuffled. His head darted around the edge of the chopper. I squeezed the trigger. The former president’s body sprawled backwards. His faced glued to the sky. Thunder clapped through the suddenly ominous dark clouds that filled the sky.
A single drop of rain splashed on my forehead. One drop turned into a downpour. Endless water fell from the sky to the desert floor like tears.
My gun clattered on the hard ground. Rain washed down my face as I stood to face the voice behind me. Olivia slumped, pressing her stained red shirt to Eve’s stomach. The rain beat down, washing away the puddle of blood. I wanted to rush to help her, but something told me it was useless.
His brown eyes stared at me. His slender frame stood confident. He spoke to someone at the SUV without moving his gaze.
“Juarez, get the helicopter ready. Don’t waste any time.”
“Yes sir, what about the president?”
“He’s not worth much now is he? We don’t need him anymore. Leave him.”
“Yes, sir.”
A sad smile etched out on his face. He turned to Eve.
“How is she doing?”
“Her heart rate is dangerously high. She’s already lost consciousness and she’s bleeding out too fast. I estimate at least 40% blood loss.” Olivia’s voice cracked. She looked away.
“Who are you?” I tried to sound tough. I couldn’t decide how I knew him. His voice, I knew that voice. But why?
The man glanced back at me. Like he wanted to tell me something but didn’t have time.
“Juarez, change of plans, take Eve to the helicopter.” He opened his mouth to explain something.
“Don’t touch her!” I kicked up the rifle to my hands. The barrel glued on the man’s forehead. His hands shot up in the air. But he remained relaxed. Sympathy and sorrow spread across his face.
“I wasn’t asking if I could take her.” His tone stayed calm, betraying no fear. I glanced at Olivia.
“Can you save her? Can we get her to a hospital in time?”
For the first time since the prison, the first time we met, tears ran down her cheeks, mixing with the falling rain. Her blood stained shirt rested at her side. She didn’t need it anymore, no blood came out of the wound. She didn’t answer.
“OLIVIA!” I pleaded.
“She’s gone Micah. I can’t do anything.” Her eyes were riveted to the shirt.
“JUAREZ! Take her now!” The man’s eyes stayed locked on mine as if he knew I couldn’t shoot him. Not right now. I shoved the gun into his head harder, trying to threaten. Juarez inched forward, unsure of whether to obey.
“What do you want with her?” I shouted, “Just let me bury her! She’s all I have left!” My voice lost it’s edge. I had a gun to his head. But I was begging. A sad, pained look shot visibly through the man’s eyes. He turned his head and looked away. I lowered my gun. Juarez gingerly picked up the body and carried it to the helicopter. I made no move to stop him.
“Who are you?” I thought I knew who he was. I just didn’t want to believe it.
“I wish there was a better time to tell you everything.” He stared at Juarez carrying Eve’s dead body. “I hoped you would recognize me first. It’s been a long time though, you’ve gotten so big.” He looked back at me with a distressed smile. “Micah, I think you know who I am.” His voice choked up. He looked at the ground. “I’m your dad.”
It made sense. Why I’d known his voice so well. His grey hair and slender frame had disguised him well. A million questions flooded my mind at once.
“You left us.... Why...?” I struggled to finish the question, afraid of the answer. “Why didn’t you come back?”
He grimaced. “I didn’t have a choice. Coming back meant getting killed. It meant getting you and Eve killed.” A single tear rolled down his hardened face.
“Yeah, a lot of good staying away did!” My eyes shot to my dead sister. I fought to hold back a deluge of emotions.
“I don’t have time to explain it all. I think someday you’ll understand it was survival. Maybe it was selfish, maybe I could have done more, but I don’t have the luxury of going back in time.” He paused. A guilty look spread over his face.  I looked at Olivia, still kneeling over the puddle of blood, the rain turning it a pinkish hue. He spoke again, “Come with me. Fight with us. You have talents. We can make things better.”
“Don’t lie to me, I know why you need me. I know they wanted my DNA. I just didn’t know it was you behind it. You’re sick.”
The man started to lose his patience. “Listen, I didn’t think you’d understand.” He bit the inside of his cheek, “I wrote you this just in case.” He handed me an envelope and turned toward the waiting helicopter. I stared at the note for a long time. He jumped in the helicopter and turned to look at me one last time. He had tried to manipulate me. I realized I couldn’t even trust him with Eve’s dead body. I shouted my final instructions.
“If I find out you tried to use her DNA, I’ll hunt you down. I'll find you. You’re not my father.” I hesitated, the helicopter lifted off the ground, the hatch still opened. “He died 5 years ago.”

Monday, September 5, 2011

Chapter 33 - Micah

Dust filled the air. I searched for my target. Eve wrestled with Isoli. Still no shot. My vision remained hampered by the paralyzer bullet. The whole scene taken in through foggy plastic goggles. My focus shifted to the black SUV rumbling down the washboard road, kicking up more dust.
My eyes zoomed back to Isoli. I had to take a shot. Five seconds passed. Still nothing. I peered down the sights and found the larger figure. Isoli loomed over Eve. His knife poised to attack. I breathed easy. My finger eased onto the trigger.
The bullet rang down the barrel of my rifle a split second after Isoli crashed to the ground.  Dust flew where Isoli had been.  A hard cry split the air. Through the dust, red blood ran down Eve’s side and stained the ground under her back. I missed. How could I miss? I tried to focus. Eve still fought to stay alive. I leveled my gun again and found my target. Isoli’s arm swung down before I could react. Eve didn’t scream this time.
Instinctively I lowered my gun and sprinted towards Eve. Olivia already stood above her trying to stem the wound.  Isoli ran for the black Apache helicopter. Self-preservation his only goal. I needed revenge. I knelt a few feet from Eve,  looking for a shot. Isoli stayed on the back side of the chopper. The SUV skidded to a halt at least 20 feet behind me. The door opened and closed. I ignored the footsteps closing in behind me. An adrenaline rush heightened my focus. I just needed one chance. I wouldn’t miss this time. I watched Isoli’s feet step behind the chopper. Just a few more feet. The footsteps behind me neared. I held my gun tight, prepared for an attack. The new assailant approached then moved right passed me, standing directly over Eve. I didn’t turn, not wanting to miss my chance to shoot Isoli. I stared at the space below the Apache. Isoli crept slower as he neared the edge of the helicopter. Sweat dripped off the edge of my nose. The air unusually humid. My finger tightened on the trigger, ready to fire.
Eve’s hoarse whisper carried over the sound of the spinning propellers. “Take me home.”
“Stay with us Eve!” I shouted, needing to keep her just a moment longer.
A strong hand grabbed my shoulder. Seizing my collar-bone. Still I didn’t move my gun. I silently willed Isoli to step out from his cover. He didn’t move.
The attacker spoke in a calm voice. It sounded so familiar.
“Put the gun down, Micah”.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Chapter 32 - Eve

We both sat crouched, waiting. Listening for footsteps. I only heard my heart pounding in my chest. Micah talked like we had a chance of besting the remaining guards and Isoli. I knew he was being optimistic for me. I tried to do the same for him. Especially since deep down I figured this was it. Our last few minutes together.
Still no sounds from outside. I looked questioningly at Micah. What are they waiting for?
Micah shrugged in response to my unasked question. Finally he raised a finger to his lips and crept toward the door. He ran his hands along the door, probably looking for a handle. I swallowed the urge to tell him there wasn’t one, to spare him the momentary embarrassment that his blindness might cause.
The click of the latch echoed in the back of the truck. We both froze, neither of us in the positions we planned. The door swung open. Light flooded the back of the truck. Even I wanted to throw my arm up to shield my eyes from the near blinding sunlight reflecting off the silver of the truck door. Micah dove out the door, tumbling out of my sight. I jumped up, watching the dust rise up around him and the struggling guard. Before I reached them, Micah ended up on top facing me. With a lopsided, apologetic smile he smashed the guard’s head down into a rock. I cringed and turned away, moving around the edge of the truck, trying to stay invisible to whoever waited at the helicopter. Olivia’s voice rang over the blades of the already running helicopter, calling for Micah.