“Cyrus. Wake up, Cyrus. Cyrus. Come on, Cyrus. Get up, get up, GET UP!”
I slowly open my eyes and look to the horizon. The lights in the distance are blinding in the dark of night. Before I register what is going, Eve says, “They’ve found us.”
“Or we found them, huh?” I laugh.
“Why are you laughing?” Eve asks sternly. “This is it. We’re dead.”
“Well, it’s not like we didn’t know this was coming, right?”
“Right, but we were going to come up with a plan. We don’t have a plan. Geek, do you have a plan?”
“No one wants to be anywhere near this action. You’re on your own.”
“Just the way I like it,” I say confidently. I climb into the front seat next to Eve. She looks at me, her eyes wide with fear. “Don’t worry about it. I’ve got a plan.”
I reach into my bag and pull out the manila envelope. I break the seal and remove a stack of papers, not even caring to look to see what they might contain and place them under the back seat of the Jeep.
“What are you doing?”
“Make sure those papers get to Boston, okay?”
“Cyrus?” she asks, her eyes growing wider. I pull the Flash action figure out of my bag and give it a parting glance. “What is that?”
“My good luck charm. Just hope it has some luck left.” I place the action figure into the envelope and close the seal.
“I don’t get it.”
“Don’t worry about it,” I say, confidence pouring out of my voice. “Stay in the Jeep. No matter what happens, I don’t want you stepping foot outside of this thing.”
“And then what?”
“When the time comes, you’ll know what to do.” I reach into my bag again and pull out the Taser.
“You’re going to take on the entire SP army with that?”
“Ha,” I laugh. “I wish. Who knows? It might be useful.” I use the belt clip on the device to hang the Taser from the back of my jeans.
“Cyrus, this won’t work.”
“You don’t even know what it is.”
“You’re going to try to give yourself up to save me. It won’t work.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’ve got it all under control.” She’s right, it won’t work and I’m lying, I am nowhere near in control. All I can hope for is to buy Eve enough time to get out of here. As long as I can do that, I’ll die happy.
Eve slows as we near the lights.
“Don’t slow down.” I say quietly. “We can’t show any fear, no regrets. We need them to believe we’ve still got some pride. That’s what your rebellion is all about, right?”
“This isn’t worth it, Cyrus. Nothing is worth this. I never should have gotten you involved.”
“No time for regrets now, Eve. All we’ve got left is action.”
“All we’ve got left is death,” she says softly.
“These guys brought out an entire army to take out a couple of kids. You know why? Because they’re scared. I may not understand why I’m on this run, or what this run means to your stupid rebellion, but I know one thing. We’re not going down without a fight.”
“Seems to me that’s exactly what you’re doing.”
“Don’t worry about what I’m doing. When you see the chance to run, you take it.”
“Cy,” The Geek says softly through my headphones. “Don’t do this.” It sounds like he’s crying.
“It’s the only way, Billy. It’ll all work out. Just gotta have faith, right?”
The noise is deafening now, making conversation difficult. Helicopters fly over our heads, flashing us with lights as we make our approach. Tanks rumble nearby as they sit idling, preparing for who knows what. They’re prepped for war and all we’ve got is a Taser and an action figure.
Eve stops thirty feet from the nearest tank. I can barely make out a line of people wearing military gear standing in formation in front of the enormous vehicles before us.
“Cyrus Rhodes!” A voice echoes through the air. “You are hereby ordered to surrender yourself to the United States of America.”
I look to Eve one last time. She gives me a weak smile and hastily leans over and kisses me on the cheek.
“What was that for?” I ask.
“In case the doll’s not enough.”
I stare into her eyes, trying to come up with something to say to reassure her that everything will be okay. It won’t and I can’t. I take one long deep breath, put the envelope back into my pack, sling it across my shoulder, and exit the Jeep, holding both hands above my head.
Tunnels be damned. This moment right here is officially the top of my list. I’ve never been so frightened in my life. And here, right now, in front of the Army of the United States, I’m trembling to the core. My body wants to freeze, my legs keep trying to lock up on me to keep me from moving forward, but I fight the urge. Step by step.
At the halfway point between them and Eve, I stop. My hands still in the air, I stare into the blinding lights, putting forth my best effort at looking like everything is still under control.
“I sure hope you have a real plan here, Cyrus.”
“Sorry, pal.” I say shortly. “Make sure Eve gets out. Get her to Boston.”
“Please, Cyrus. Whatever you’re planning on doing, don’t do it. You could still—“
“You know there’s nothing left. And when you’re up against the wall, there’s only one thing left to do.”
A man in full military uniform steps forward out of the formation in front of me. He walks toward me slowly with a solid march.
“Just save Eve,” I say under my breath. “That’s all that matters now.”
“They’re going to kill you, Cyrus.”
With one final stomp, the man arrives at my location. His broad chest filled with medals is now clearly within view. He stares at me under his wide-brimmed hat, a look of intensity in his eyes. My body melts under his gaze as he stands above me. He must be at least six feet tall, maybe six and a half. And from the looks of how his uniform is straining at the creases, I’d say all six and a half feet of him is built for destruction.
Finally, after what feels like an eternity, the man speaks. His voice booms loudly.
“Who’s asking?” I ask, stalling for time.
“Answer the question,” he yells.
“I’m Cyrus Rhodes,” I yell back. I don’t know why, but I feel I should make sure everyone knows it, everyone sitting there with their guns trained on me. I feel this need to let them know I am a person. I have a name.
“I hereby have the authority of The United States of America to offer you the opportunity to surrender. Do you surrender?”
“Surrender to what?”
“To me! Do you surrender?”
“Sure, fine, whatever. Under one condition.”
“Unconditional surrender is the only option. The United States does not negotiate with terrorists.”
“Hey, fine, I understand. I just want you to let the girl go. She has nothing to do with this.” I want to run, I want to scream. But mostly, I just want him to say yes and see her drive away.
“Is the girl you are referring to the rebel scum known as Eve Gardner?”
“I don’t know her name,” I lie. “I found her on the side of the road and forced her to drive me. She doesn’t have anything to do with this.”
“Why do you care whether she goes free then?”
“Because I do, okay. I didn’t mean for this to get so out of control. I just wanted to–”
“Where is the package?”
“Right here,” I say as I pull my bag off my shoulder. I hear the sound of clicking fill the air, guns being readied. “Relax, I’m just getting it out of my bag.” I reach my hand into the bag slowly and pull out the envelope and drop it to the ground. He looks at me sternly.
“Pick it up.”
“I said, pick it up,” he growls.
I bend over slowly, careful not to let him see my backside, grab the envelope clumsily, and stand.
“Now, hand it over.”
I extend my hand slowly. He rips the package from my hand and tears it open. His hand goes in as my hand goes to my back. He pulls out the action figure and glares at me.
“What the hell is this?” He screams as his spit splatters across my face. Before I’m able to respond, his hand is on my neck, his biceps bulging as my feet are lifted from the ground.
Instinctively my hands go to my neck, attempting to free it from the fingers currently cutting off my oxygen. My legs flail wildly beneath me as I gasp for air, wanting to scream out for help, for anything, but nothing comes out. My eyes begin rolling into the back of my head. I struggle to keep conscious. I will my mind into action, using every ounce of willpower I have left before giving in to the call of unconsciousness. I swing my right leg behind me and bring it forward with as much force as I can muster.
Contact! I feel my foot crack as it hits the man square between his legs and just as quickly, his monstrous hand releases its grip on me and I fall to the ground. His eyes focus on me and with more speed than I thought possible, I pull the Taser from behind my back and shove it into his chest, pressing the trigger as I do. His face tightens, eyes bulge, and he falls to the ground, convulsing.
Guns begin firing before he even hits the ground. I do the only thing left to do. Run.
I run parallel to the guns firing at me, careful not to direct myself toward Eve. From what I can tell, they’re completely focused on me now.
“Geek,” I scream as I duck my head while running. “Tell Eve to go. Now!”
I can’t hear his response. The air is filled with the noise of explosions. I want to look back, see she is going, make sure she is keeping to the plan, but I’m too busy ensuring my life can last just a little bit longer.
I sprint as fast as I can, not able to see more than three feet in front of me due to the lights being pointed in my direction. I simply run, surprised I’ve made it as far as I have. With all the trained professionals firing at me, you’d think someone would have hit me by now.
Just as I’m congratulating myself for another second of life, I fall to the ground, being tripped by the uneven ground below me. With all the lights and bullet fire, each additional second that passes without me turning to Swiss cheese feels like a miracle. The loud roar of a vehicle approaches quickly. I’m not even sure how I hear it over the rest of the action.
I cover my head with my hands, praying this position will somehow allow me to go unseen and these approaching gun-wielding people will drive on by.
“Get in the Jeep!” Eve yells. She has placed herself between me and the firing squad. I want to be mad she isn’t already on her way as far away from this madness as possible, but don’t argue as I get to my feet and jump into the Jeep. The vehicle lurches forward before I land in the seat.
“What are you doing?” I scream at her.
“Saving you. What does it look like?”
“You were supposed to run!”
“I told you, I don’t leave anyone behind.”
An explosion of noise and fire happens to our left, drowning out the sound of all other gunfire. I don’t have the time to look for the source before the Jeep is lifted into the air. Whatever it was just missed a direct hit, but managed to get close enough to send us soaring in a blaze of smoke and flames. We flip through the air, holding on to whatever we can, and pray we’ll somehow land cat-like on our feet.
We land hard and the Jeep pins me to the ground. I look over at Eve, she’s not moving. More tank fire rumbles around us. This is it. The end. I look to the sky. I’ve never been a very religious man, but at this point, I don’t see what other option I have left.
And I receive my answer.
Gliding through the sky just within sight are a fleet of bomber jets. Tiny packages fall from them, heading for the line of fire. They explode in a series of dramatic blasts, sending men and shrapnel high into the air. I hear The Geek on my headphones and pull them over my ears. I can barely hear anything over all the noise, but I make out four words.
“The rebels are coming!”
The jets come around again and drop another round of bombs on the opposing forces. The attention has turned from me and Eve to the danger in the sky. How did a peaceful organization like the rebellion manage to get their hands on such amazing machines of destruction?
Over the hill we drove in on, the rest of the cavalry arrives. Tanks moving at speeds I never thought possible come in with turrets blazing. I can also just make out what would appear to be more enemy fire coming from the other side of the government forces.
The rebels are surrounding the army! They brought out their biggest guns to face off in an epic battle.
To save a couple kids who are doing something which could have easily been done by a postal worker or through email?
Unfortunately the distraction had come just a minute too late. Now that we’re stuck under this thousand pound vehicle, we have no way to use this to our advantage. In fact, if we don’t move soon, I have a hard time believing we won’t end up being another piece of collateral damage.
“Cyrus?” I hear come from above me.
“Eh?” is all I can manage to get out. I’m not sure I want to identify myself so quickly after salvation has appeared.
“Don’t worry, you’re safe now. We’ve got a helicopter to airlift you out of here.”
“What?” My brain is mushy from the smoke and flames around me. What he’s saying doesn’t seem to make any sense.
“We’re here to rescue you,” the man says sternly.
“Eve,” I mumble.
“Lieutenant Gardner is coming too.” I look over and see two men pulling her from the vehicle. “Get her on the ‘copter and come back here. I’m going to need some help getting this Jeep off him,” the solder barks. I hear a shot whistle past, followed by a sickening thud as the man who was just talking falls to the ground in a limp pile.
Before I register what that means to the soldier who announced my salvation, three other men appear and lift the wreckage high enough to release my pinned leg. I struggle to pull myself out and a man grabs my arms and removes me with very little effort. I’m slung over his shoulder and carried to the helicopter. He throws me on a bench and gives me a salute.
“The package!” I remember and jump to my feet, a pain coursing through my right leg. The Jeep explodes, the force of which pushes me backward onto the floor of the chopper.
“Hey, kid. Bet you never thought you’d see me again.” From the cockpit I see a vaguely familiar face as I return myself to my seat.
“The second I heard there was going to be a rescue mission, I told them I was the man who was going to pull you out of the fire,” Charlie says with a big smile on his face. “Alright now, son, you better buckle up. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.”
As we lift into the air, I look out as the battle rages on. Bullets and tank fire explode like fireworks, seeming almost beautiful as it gets farther away. I can barely make out anyone below through the smoke and fire. I hope that means they can’t see us either.
“Isn’t it dangerous to be flying out of here like this? What if they shoot us down?”
“Don’t worry kid; we’re flying with government stripes. They ain’t gonna bother us.”
I don’t know what that means, but Charlie seems to be confident enough, so I allow myself to fall back into my seat. Exhaustion kicks in quickly and although it sounds like the world is ending below me, I find sleep taking over quickly.
Go to Chapter Twenty