Friday, November 28, 2008

Nuclear Thanksgiving Part I

Nuclear Thanksgiving Part I

I've been saying all along, and I'm repeating it now: I am not a terrorist. Yes, I am involved. I participated. It's because I've been trying to stop it, to prevent these kinds of things from happening. Yes, maybe there were times where I could have just run away, thrown up my hands and refused to be a part. Last year I had the excuse that I didn't really know what was going on. This time...I don't know. I never wanted to see anyone hurt, so I've been doing my best to prevent the ultimate disaster: the destruction of the entire planet. And yesterday, that almost happened.

So let's go back to yesterday morning, and I'll try to explain the day's horrific events as best I can.

Misty and Julia had crawled into a bed and huddled together, trying to warm up and get some rest. Rod found another bed to lay down in, after taking a quick shower. My mind raced a mile a minute. The only thing I really wanted to do at that point was to jump on a plane and return to San Francisco and try to return to some kind of a normal life. I finally lay down next to Misty, but no sooner had I closed my eyes when a hand began shaking me.

Ellie stood over me, now dressed in her black SWAT-type outfit, her hair pulled back in a tight pony tail. She motioned me to follow her, and leave the others to rest. I looked at my watch, and couldn't believe I had slept half a day. It was already after noon. She led me to a room where I met Cmdr. Jeffries, General Tam, and a few other military types. They all greeted me warmly.

Ellie started. "Alex, tell them what you think the condition of the ship is at the moment."

I cleared my throat. "Right now they're stuck. If you keep the river low, they can't move. However, they are able to maintain enough coolant aboard to power the zombie ray. I'm surprised they haven't used it yet."

"Bollix," said Jeffries. "This damn rain will cause the flood gates to fail and the river will rise again. How long does it take before they can re-fire?"

I shook my head. "It only takes a few minutes for the Matrix to cool down enough to fire again. But they'll need to reload the coolant tank. They were working on cutting an alternative intake system, but that may take a while. Remember, cooling this thing is like cooling down a nuclear explosion, it take an enormous amount of water. Not only that, they have to evacuate the entire ship into the Palace and stay there while the Matrix cools before they can resume work. They may be waiting for the river to rise before they act."

Ellie and Jeffries exchanged a look. "Alex," she asked, "did you find a way to destroy the singularity? What are our options?"

I sighed. "You might as well try to destroy the Sun. The only way I can think of is to shoot it off into outer space, out of the Solar System. You'd have to shoot the whole containment system, which weighs several tons. Remember though, if the containment system loses power, even for a moment, the Earth is doomed. The singularity could swallow the whole world."

Ellie asked, "so our best bet is to seize control of the ship, and keep the Matrix powered up at all times?"

I nodded. Something nagged at the back of my head though. "That's like living with gun to your head, never knowing when it will go off, because given enough time, it probably will. And talk about your tempting terrorist targets. After what Carrie's done with it, there's not a country in the world who wouldn't want to capture this power."

"Then it's set," said Jeffries. "We must take the boat at all costs."

"Well," I reminded them, "if you back them into a corner, they may panic. Fire it without coolant, blow the whole thing sky high, and then who knows what the Singularity will do after the meltdown."

"That's where you and your team comes in," said Ellie. "We need you to get in there and shut it down safely, and prevent them from scuttling the whole thing."

I sprang up and raised my hands. "No. No. No way. We are not going back there. We have been putting our lives on the line for far too long. I'll give you all the information you need, but I am not stepping foot on that goddamn boat ever again."

Ellie stood up. "Can you all excuse us for a minute?" She waited while the others filed out of the room. After the door shut she put a hand on my shoulder. "Please Alex, sit down and talk to me."

I grudgingly sat down and put my head in my hands. "I am so damn tired, Ellie. My life has been put on hold now for a year. And the last few weeks, my life could have ended at any moment. It's not fair. We've suffered so much, and I just can't do it any more. I just want Misty and Julie and I to go somewhere and be safe and happy."

Ellie sat quietly for a moment, then breathed heavily. "So you really like Misty. Do you love her?"

I nodded. Ellie lifted my chin and caught my gaze. "Then listen to me, Alex. If you want love, and if you want happiness, then you need to be willing to sacrifice everything for it. I know you're tired, I know you're scared, I know you've done everything asked of you and more. We need your help. You know Carrie better than anyone, you know the Matrix better than anyone. I'll be there with you, I'll make sure no one gets hurt. I know I've let you down in the past, and I truly regret that. I've had a lot of time to think in the last few days, stuck up in that machinery room. One thing I've realized is that I, too, have been stuck in a rut, not being the person I want to be, fooling myself into thinking I could escape myself. Ever since I first met you I've been running away from myself. I swear that if we get through this, I'm going to start making things right. We need to do this, you and me. We need to make our stand, do what's right, and blowing fucking Carrie Park away. Are you with me?"

I looked at her for a moment. I've been running, too. Ever since the day that I was involved in ruining Carrie's life, way back in High School. I ran from that responsibility, I ran away from dealing with the Infinitae incident, and I've been running away from dealing with the Singularity Matrix and preventing the destruction of the world.

"Okay," I said quietly. "Let's do this. I want this thing ended."

Ellie grabbed my hands, and then hugged me. "We'll get through this. We have to. And then we'll figure out a way to get our lives back."

After bringing back the brass and discussing a few things, we called Misty and Rod back to the planning room. They seemed a bit groggy but at least somewhat rested. I took Misty aside for a moment.

"You're okay with going back to the ship," I asked her.

"I don't love the idea, but I'll do whatever it takes to stop that monster," she stated.

"You're not afraid we could all die?"

"Terrified. But Alex, I didn't volunteer for this whole thing to back out at the end. I need to see this thing through. I owe it to my country. Don't you feel like we need to do this?"

"You know," I said, "I never volunteered for any of this. From the first moment, I've been manipulated, lied to, and forced into these situations. I've never had a choice. This has all been thrust onto me."

Misty looked at me for a moment, and took my hands. "Well, Alex, I'm sorry for that. I know you're not an agent, I know it's not your responsibility to deal with all this. I'm so grateful for everything you've done. You've carried yourself so well, even in your darkest moments. I think you simply are underestimating yourself. You've been there for me and Julia and Rod so many times, and we owe you our lives. We can never repay you for what you've done. You're a special person, you really are. We're counting on you now. I know you can do it, I know that deep inside you're brave and noble and ready to deal with whatever comes. I love you Alex, and if I'm going into the bowels of Hell there's no one else I'd want at my side."

I think that was the moment it finally struck me: this was a do-or-die time, for everyone. No more plotting and planning, no more watching and waiting. We had to strike, we had to conclude it. This might be the final moments of all mankind. Everything had to be put on the table, nothing held back.

"I love you too, Misty, and there's no one else I'd rather be with at the gates of Hell. Well, let's descend into Hell then. I'm ready." We hugged, and I kissed her for a moment.

The team discussed a few more things, and finally Ellie said, "we leave in 20 minutes, at 1530. I'll have your gear sent to your room."

We returned to the room and ate a quick meal. I wished it had been turkey and stuffing instead of chicken and rice but it was filling. Ellie arrived after a few minutes and sat with us.

"How is everyone feeling? Are we ready to go?"

We nodded.

"I want to go too," said Julia, eyeing our equipment.

"Julia," said Misty, "it's too dangerous. I want to keep you safe."

"No! I don't want to leave you. I want to go with you. I'm not afraid," insisted the girl.

"Julia, we've got to keep you safe. They can protect you here. I don't want you in danger any more."

"NO!" shrieked the girl, looking around. "Don't leave me here, please! I do whatever you say, just don't leave me. Please." Tears streamed down her face and she clutched Misty's shirt.

"Alex, can you talk to her," asked Misty, turning to me.

"Julie," I said, "we're doing this for you, so you can have a life, so everyone can have a life. We just want what's best for you."

"NO!" She screamed. "No, no, NOOOO!" She shrieked in such a high pitch I thought my ears would bleed.

"Hold it," shouted Ellie. "Everyone listen to me. Julia, dear, would you rather be dead than be without Alex and Misty?"

The girl nodded emphatically. "You want to be part of a family? You want to be with Alex and Misty forever? Do you love them like parents?"

Julia nodded. "Yes, yes, they are so good to me. They are the best people I know."

Ellie announced, "then I say she comes along."

Julia squealed and shook Misty's arm. "Please, please Miss Misty?"

"Are you daft," cried Misty, jumping to her feet.

Ellie rose slowly to face her. "She's about the same age I was when I started down this path. She's got as much at stake as anyone. If her choice is to stand and fight with us, I'd be hypocritical to not support that. And you two. What exactly is your plan for her? She has no home, no family. What are you going to do when this is all over? She needs a family. She needs support. Do you guys want to be together? Do you want to be a family? Let's get it all out on the table."

Misty turned to face me. I looked at her and at Julia. Misty seemed speechless.

"Yes," I said. "If Misty will have me, after all we've been through, then I want us to be a family. What do you say, Misty?"

Her mouth moved, searching for words, and then looked around the room. "Alex, are you saying what I think you're saying?"

I looked around as well. Rod and Ellie and Julia nodded at me. "Yes, yes. Misty, I want us to be together. Forever. I want us to be a family, and I want Julia to be our adopted daughter. I don't think I'd want to go on living without you two, you've made me become a much better person than I would have been otherwise. Misty, you're my whole world."

I took a deep breath, then got down on one knee. "Misty, will you be my wife? Will you marry me?"

Misty grabbed her face for a moment. "Oh, Alex. Yes. Yes, I'll be your wife. Yes, I'll marry you."

I got up and we embraced, as tears filled both our eyes. Even Ellie wiped away a tear.

"Okay," said Ellie, "we're running late. Let me grab some equipment for Julia. You guys are now officially a family, and you're going to live and die as a family."

"Hold on," said Misty. "One last thing. I want you and Rod to be Julia's Godparents, just in case anything happens."

They both agreed heartily.

Ellie grabbed some clothes and returned momentarily. She talked to Julia as she dressed her.

"Now Julia, I want you to stay close to Alex and Misty at all times. If you hear any guns, get as close to the ground as you can, and make yourself small. Hide under something solid. If Misty and Alex are dead, and you're afraid of being captured, there's a small gun in your back pocket they don't know about. Just put it to your head and pull the trigger. I promise you won't feel a thing. Here's a knife, some flashlights, a radio, energy bars, some flares, and a map. I don't think you'll need most of that stuff. Oh, and here is your bottle of liquor. If you hear an air-raid siren, it means that we think they're about to set off the zombie ray. Drink it as fast as you can. I put a bunch of sweetener in it so hopefully you can do it."

"Thank you Miss Ellie," she said, feeling all the little pockets in her bullet-proof vest. "What if I get scared? What if I freeze up like I did jumping into the river?"

Ellie smiled and hugged the girl. "It's okay to be scared. I'm scared all the time. I know you're a very brave girl, otherwise you couldn't have survived what you did. Look at everything you went through. Most kids would have fallen apart. I think you might be a little like me. A fighter. Are you ready?"

Julia nodded.

"Okay everyone," Ellie announced. "It's time to go save the world. Let's go."

I took Misty's hand and squeezed it, then Julia came over and hugged both of us. One way or another we were going to see this thing through.

Posted: Friday, November 28, 2008 @ 3:08 PM

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