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Playing With Fire, Part 2

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The Interrogation Chamber

I sat down in my bed and looked at Luke sadly. Luke looked like he was about to throw up. There were scars all over his arms now.

“What the h*** did those b****rds do to you?”

We both whipped around. Justine was standing there, looking furious and wearing her usual black uniform. “You look worse than I do.”

“Yeah. We're new favorites.”

Justine cursed, before handing us two sheets of paper. “There will be more soon.”

I read the sheets over, and let them fall, shocked. “No. It can't be me.” Luke picked up the sheets and read them over. He too expressed shock. “Noah? Noah's the one they're looking for?”

“Apparently. That slimy “doctor” can't find him or who knows what will happen to him. Get some sleep kids. If the formula's being faxed in anytime soon, I'd best be ready to grab it, or they'll know something was stolen.” She had just slipped into bed when lights out was called.

In the dark, Luke whispered to me. “Noah. Is it you?”

“I guess it is. I don't want it to be me...but I guess I am the one they're searching for.”

“What can you do?”

“I don't know. Or, if I did, I've forgotten.” I went to sleep, and The Smartly Dressed Man from months ago was in my dreams.

The following morning, prisoners were lined up outside. The very angry doctor “Frankenstein” and the new general, General Collins, had identical looks of fury.

“Prisoners!” Bellowed the general. “You are here because last night, 'round suppertime, something was stolen from the communications room. A letter to doctor Frank, here, and he wants it back. We know this because at twelve midnight a fax came in with notes that only could have been connected to a letter! Who did this?” A silence. “Well? Who did this?” The silence continued. Suddenly, the general grabbed his gun out of its holster, strode toward the tent fifty occupants and picked someone out of the crowd. Justine began to shake.

The general had a gun to Barry's head.

“Do you want the man to die? Speak up! Who did this?”

“I did! I did!” Cried Justine, leaping forward. The general targeted her with his gun, but Frankenstein leaned over and whispered something to the general, who nodded and smiled. “Ah, yes. Yes, yes, yes. I see.”

His gun flew backwards with his arm as it was ripped brutally off his body by an unseen force. Blood gushed down his side as he screamed curses at anything and everything. Suddenly, I remembered. I was the person who killed the Smartly Dressed Man through a combination of telekinesis and willpower.

People screamed at first—a few, just out of shock. Then, it grew into a massive torrent of screaming wildly, cheering, and happy people.

Dr. Frankenstein had no problem controlling the crowd. He grabbed a gun and began to fire wildly into the crowd. The screams turned to horror, and people stopped.

“Soldiers!” Frankenstein snapped. “Take the mess to the incinerator.” He raised his voice. “Rats! Listen to me! Your daily tests have just grown by another doctor! They will grow exponentially unless you behave! Soldiers! After you're finished cleaning up the mess, take the others to the interrogation chamber!”

The interrogation chamber was a steel-reinforced room with an icy-cold look located across the street in a building that was responsible for turning American citizens into tubs. McDonalds. Or, more accurately, the meat storage room in McDonalds.

When my name was called, I walked into the room with a calm that I knew Frankenstein hated. “Noah. Again.”

“You could say again, Frankenstein.”

“Dr. to you!” He bellowed, then grabbed a syringe and stormed over to me. “Let's get started, shall we?” He sneered, injecting me with a substance that flared in my veins. “First question: who broke into the communications room?”

The Constant

Over the long days of painful testing, horrible tissue extraction, and endless torture all in search of what—a bio weapon or bio terrorist?—I have come to realize that I need something to tether me to this world. A constant. Something that is always there for you...something that never goes away. A stain. I know that doctor Frank was a torturer in a few wars, and my guess is that someone misbehaved, and now there is a stain at the point where the walls meet. It is red, and only a few inches in diameter, but it is a constant.

But why this? Why not the window overseeing the beautiful blue lake I want so desperately to swim in but that “lowlings” like us can never swim in, or why not the door that, when I look at it from this side, means me walking out of it? Does my subconscious choosing a bloodstain on the floor mean I am of a more dark personality than before this ever began? If that is so and I am truly becoming more dark, than I am left with a question: Who am I?

Bad News

The soldier came after our last day of double testing. “Noah James?”

“Yeah?”

“Brother to Luke James?

“What?

“Your brother's dying.”

He took me to the dying ward. I rushed over to him. “Luke!” I cried. “What's wrong?” His skin was pale and clammy, but covered with sweat. There was a trickle of blood oozing from his mouth. I looked at him terrified, searching.

“They said...something about an infection from these drugs.” Luke said weakly I cried miserably. Luke. My brother. He was dying as a result of the drugs.

I walked, escorted, back to my bed. I couldn't think of anything else, except that Luke was dying in some hospital bed in some dark room far far away, and that I wasn't there for him. I was never there for him.

I got on my bed, and put my head in my head in my hands, sobbing. Luke dead. Luke's body being lowered into a grave along with a hundred others and decomposing material being sprayed across it and the hundred others. And then I saw them there, too. Mom, dad, aunt, uncle, Barry and Justine beneath the body of a ten-year-old boy standing over them as their bodies melted away were The Smartly Dressed Man, the general, and Frankenstein. All the people who were responsible for this. There was one more who walked up. The figure was shorter and blurry. Features developed, and I saw the person. Myself. Smiling a horrible sneering smile. Watching the bodies decomposing. And their skeletons crumbling.

“Noah! Noah! Wake up!” Justine's voice brought me out of the nightmare. It was still night. “What's wrong?” Barry appeared on Justine's right side.

“L-Luke's dying.”

Barry gasped, Justine swore, and I began to sob again. “Frankenstein. That b****rd.” Justine began a torrent of insults twined with foul language that was quelled by Barry. “Justine, stop. Insulting the man does not stop him.”

“Not like we can. Not with those thugs stand at guard all the time.”

“We can't.” I said. “We can't defeat him. But we can save Luke.”

“How?”

“By escaping.”

The Escape

It was midnight, about twenty-four hours after we had planned the escape. I woke, having been telling myself to “wake up at midnight” all day. I smiled in satisfaction. It worked. I got up, as did Barry and Justine. The three of us walked toward the guards. There was the sound of four safety switches clicking as the guards became defensive at our imposing demeanor.

“That's far enough.”

We crossed the red line.

“I said—”

“That's far enough. We heard.” Barry completed, grabbing two soldiers' heads and breaking their necks. Justine did the same. “Oops.” I grabbed the machine guns and tossed them to Barry. Justine snagged everyone's hand guns. They were different than the FBI-issued guns. These would hold a ton of ammunition, or at least, that's what Justine said. I don't know. I don't watch those stupid “Get some!” war-blow-'em-up-bang!-bang! movies that reek of no humanity. And let's be honest. Only budding psychopathic lunatics need that kind of garbage. I grabbed tranquilizer guns.

The moon poked shyly from behind the clouds as we crept across the yard like cats, illuminating the medical ward for the first time, showing the truth—that this place is a Nazi concentration camp. Any guard in the way of hindering us was put in a deep sleep for one full hour.

We made it to the door of the medical ward without incident, and Justine ordered safeties on. She nodded—and mouthed—a countdown. Three, two, one, zero. The door was opened, and we burst into the room. Every guard was treated to gunshot wounds to the chest. Justine threw a handgun at me. I caught it, and trained it on the nearest medical animal in a white coat, who put up his hands. A syringe was in one hand.

“Give me the syringe.” I had the syringe in three seconds. Nice to be in charge. I grabbed the man's hand and pulled him in a headlock. I dropped the gun and put the syringe to his throat. “Luke James. Where is he? Tell me or this goes in your throat.” The syringe had attained a new, threatening demeanor. “Ward 6. You won't find him. He's been moved.”

“Moved where?”

“To the airport. Boston. They think he might be acquiring abilities.”

“Fantastic. When did the transport leave?”

“At midnight.”

“Thanks.” The syringe went in his throat and the contents were injected into his mouth. “You two. They're moving him to Boston. They think they might have it. Transport left...” I checked my watch. “Three minutes ago.”

“Oh, h***.”

Barry was more optimistic. “That's enough time to catch up.”

“Let's go.”

In three more minutes, drivers were dead, trucks were rumbling, and the three of us were blazing down the road to the airport. We had smashed the windows so we could catch our first ninety-mile an hour breeze. The airport was ten minutes away going at our speed, but at theirs, it was more around twenty. That gave us four minutes to catch up, retrieve Luke, and disappear forever.
— ? —
Far away, Sam dismounted the steps to the helicopter. He pulled out a gun and looked around. Where were they? They could only keep this boy—Luke—under for thirty minutes with those drugs, and the results of their failure to arrive on time and transfer the boy could be hazardous.

— ? —


We pulled up alongside the ambulance and announced ourselves by firing bullets into the shotgun passenger's head.

“Careful, careful!” I cried.

“What in the bloody h***l?” The driver was shocked.

“Get in there, Noah!” Justine screamed, loading a machine gun. I ran to the back of the truck and kicked the door on the left (really the right) end of the truck open. I carefully stepped onto the back and reached for the ladder. I slipped, and fell, but one hand grabbed onto the ladder. My heart was beating so fast it felt painful. I held onto the ladder for a few seconds until my breathing returned to a slightly more realistic version of normal. Come on, Noah. He needs you.
— ? —
Now, Sam was angry. There weren't any flashing lights. He was on the top of the airport. He was not a man to be trifled with. Finally, he saw lights. An ambulance. It was well past the scheduled time. Then he saw another vehicle. A truck. As he watched, it pushed the ambulance off of the road. The ambulance exploded.
— ? —
Three Minutes Earlier
I jumped from the roof of the truck to the roof of the ambulance. I was at the back of the vehicle,and if I ran, I would be falling off the back, so I slid to the front, and pulled out the gun. I blasted the window away, an action that was met with a foul mouth that began to define our social status. I jumped onto the hood.

And Justine took out the driver.

I kicked his body out the door. “Segregator.” It wasn't a word, but it should be. In the back, I heard someone get on his microphone. “Hostage sit—” I pointed my gun at the in the back and fired. I heard a microphone being shot and a man gasping in pain as his hand was hit. “Don't even think about it.”

I heard Barry land on the roof. He entered the same way as I did. “Hey.” he said, and waved in gun around in the back. “No one touches anything. The next person I see disobeying my orders gets a bullet in the brain! We're withdrawing Luke here! Noah, signal Justine!”

I waved rapidly, and the truck disappeared from sight. A few seconds later, it returned, and Justine was busy driving with her knees as she blasted the door hinges away, exposing everybody to the truck's rather rambunctious nose that had pressed against the ambulance's rear.

“Noah!” Barry bellowed. “I can't figure it out! Do we keep the medicine in?”

“No! They want him sedated! That's not what we want!” I could hear the IV ripping out.

Justine kept the truck's nose slammed into ambulance's rear as Barry crossed over with Luke. I kept driving. We turned a corner...and were faced with a straight shot down the freeway to the airport. They can see us.

“Noah! Ready when you are!” I took a deep breath and left the drivers seat. I ran as I felt the wheels slipping and sliding on the icy road. I kept on running, and jumped as the ambulance hit a bump on the road, sending it flying into the ditch. Now on the hood of the truck, I was able to watch as the ambulance exploded behind us.

“Get in!”

I clamored inside as the truck pushed its top speed and the chains on the tires grated ice at a furious rate.
— ? —
Sam watched in horror as the truck continued to head straight for the airport. Suddenly, his figure was illuminated by the angry beam of a helicopter. He signaled for it to turn off, and they did. But those three seconds cost Sam his life. A silent crack, and Sam fell backwards. Dead.
— ? —

“Got him!” Justine boasted.

“That's wonderful. Now, please...” my sentence was interrupted by massive amounts of gunshots. They had found us.

“Luke!” I cried. Luke was beginning to wake up now. I ran back to greet him and pulled him into a hug. Weakly, he hugged me back. “Hey...what happened?”

“They're following us. Don't worry. Justine and Barry can get us out of here.”

“That's right, we can.” Barry beamed. He was holding two heavily loaded machine guns. He kicked the door open. “Look out, kids.” He said. “This ride's about to get interesting.” He began shooting violently at our pursuers. I grabbed Luke and the two of us tumbled across the floor. Barry ducked back as gunfire destroyed the seat Luke and I had been sitting on only seconds before.

Justine took a sharp turn right, over a small bridge,and set us all flying into a wall we passed by another McDonald's—headed straight for headquarters, but Justine had other plans in mind. The van U-turned, and Barry ran up to the front to defend Justine. The walking bridge about twenty feet above us was brought down, forcing Justine to take a right turn—to West Valley High School.

“Late for school, kids?” Screeched Justine.

We crashed through the front doors, ripping up the roof and destroying the next hall we took—down into the English department. The lockers were ripped into pieces, the wall became dust, and we chose not to test the theory that the metal bar at the end of the hallway was dangerous, instead choosing a path that cut through rooms 121 and 123.

The window shattered as the truck drove through the walls. Everyone held on. The truck swerved to the left, then to the right, and we were taking an abandoned bridge route to the highway. Justine had Barry shoot out the bridge as we left.

The rest of the ride passed without incident. We eventually arrived at a secluded driveway and chose a house. From there, we set up a fortress: Barry armed the windows, Justine destroyed the truck, and I rationed the supplies.

Three hours later, we sat down to a dinner. Suddenly, flashing lights seeped through the windows. Barry's soup spoon hit the floor as he ran to the guns. Justine whipped out her own, but it was too late.

They were upon us.

The Coin

It was fast—you could give them credit for that. Men were screaming “Hands up! Drop the weapons!” and “Don't move!” I was able to reach Luke in time before I was noticed. I held onto him protectively—this was my brother. They've taken him away from me enough. Then the man of the night entered the room—Dr. Frankenstein. Both struggling, Justine and Barry were terrified, an emotion they desperately tried not to show for our sake, but seeing Frankenstein leering in on Luke and myself was probably too much for them to handle, and the fear showed on their faces, as brilliant as the morning sun.

Frankenstein had an expression pulled over his features that mocked melancholy. “Tsk, tsk, Noah, my young man. I thought we talked about this.”

“In your dreams.”

Luke half-raised his head. “They're here.”

Dr. Frankenstein pulled out a large black gun. “I'll make this comprehensible. You are going to agree to my terms or else I'll shoot Luke here. Today, you get to answer some questions for me. If you answer honestly...” he pulled out a coin. “I'll give someone a fair chance.”

My heart beat horribly fast.

“If you answer dishonestly, then you get to watch your friends...and brother...die over the period of forty-five minutes.”

I couldn't believe what I was seeing or hearing. Justine and Barry both had multiple guns trained on their brains, and Luke could die.

“Okay, fine.”

“Who intercepted the message? Originally? At dinnertime?”

I hesitated. “We had a friend in the soldiers. She was tall, had brown hair, and wore eyeshadow. I don't know her name.”

“Fair enough. Second question: What did the letter say?”

“It said that the one you're looking for...the person....I 'm that person.”

“Good, good. Third: What can you do?”

“That's a surprise for both of us. They just know it's me.”

Frankenstein's mouth twisted in a half-grimace, half smile. “Fine. Fourth: Have you ever lied to someone you love? Ever told them it's all going to be okay when in fact you know it's not at all going to be okay?

“No.”

“You should try it.” He put his gun away, then nodded at a man—the general—who aimed his gun at Luke. Everyone in the room jumped. “How about now?” I tried to shield Luke when in fact I could not. I knew I could not.

“Thank you, Noah. You were very truthful.”

“You said—”

“I said I'd give you a fair chance. I didn't specify physically or emotionally.”

“You're evil.”

“Look into his eyes.”

“No.”

“Look into his eyes...and tell him nothing is going to happen. Nothing can go wrong.”

I looked into Luke's eyes. Light-blue eyes, like chips of ice, but with a comforting calm to them. “It's all right, Noah. Just say it. Just say it.”

“Tick, tock, Noah. Heads are up, and it's bang, bang!”

“Noah, it's okay. You can say it.”

“Why?”

“Because...because if you...you say it, then nothing bad will happen.”

I shook as I felt the force of Luke's words. My ten-year old brother was putting all of his trust in me. He believed in me to keep him alive. “It's going to be all right, Luke. It's going to be all right.” The ping of the coin flying through the air. “It's going to be all right, Luke.” The slap of the coin turning over. “It's going to be all—“

Bang.

“...right.”

Luke's eyes were frozen on me. Forever. His blood stained my shirt and his body went limp in my hands. My ten-year-old brother was dead. I slowly lowered his body, then stared at Frankenstein, my breathing shallow and my eyes red.

“Murderer.” The word slipped through my lips like silk. “You bloody murderer!” I stood up, and let loose a full demonstration of my ability.

“I only promised a fair chance—“ it was as far as a gleeful Frankenstein could get before his side was split open by a knife. The house began to tremble. Dust fell from the ceiling. Beams twisted and snapped. The stove exploded and the taps burst. Windows shattered and doors flew in. The phones were torn to shreds and—

My world swarmed, swam before my eyes. Everything fell where it was, and I felt it then. A needle had gone through my neck. Dr. Frankenstein weakly raised his head. “Well, well. This has been interesting.” My world was fading, and he tossed me something that I caught.

“Just thought you should know you were right. It's my special quarter.” He sneered.

The last moments are hazy, but I remember turning over the quarter and seeing another face. It was a rare quarter—one with two heads. Heads up and it's bang, bang! The other thing I remember is Frankenstein's evil look.

“Why don't you keep it awhile?”

Regarding the Television IV

The announcer still had a snappy suit, still had a smug expression his face. Today, his message was brief. “Good evening, America. This May 1st, we bring you live coverage from four different locations in the United States of America: Los Angeles, California, Times Square, New York, Jacksonville—“ He was overlapped by the cameraman in New York. “Look at this!” He bellowed, as a building was blown up. The Jacksonville image was filled with cars exploding. People were rioting with signs that were frightening. The announcer frowned at the footage. “Now, the...specific nature of the signs is unknown, but...” he put a hand to his earpiece.

The announcer looked grim. “Millions of people nationwide have announced themselves in protest of the President, who now is being painted as “The Devil”. The mere criticisms of his handling of The Fairbanks Incident/Quarantine have erupted in full-scale riots that have taken down much of America's capitol system. The rioters are protesting the death of new information that has somehow been mysteriously leaked. It appears as though a ten-year old boy, Luke James, was murdered. Though the more...fine details of his death remain a mystery, he did receive a gunshot wound to the chest at a semi-normal point-blank range and the body was dumped in a river. He was identified by friends in Anchorage. What...?” The hand made more ear contact. “Thank you. We have just received information that thousands of Washington D.C. residents are marching to The White House. The situation is considered hazardous.”

Reprise

Luke.

No. Luke. Luke's dead. Luke was killed. Killed by Frankenstein and the general.

A face leered over me. Frankenstein's. “Top of the day, to you Noah.” He sneered. “Enjoy what you can, because we are going to have a very busy day ahead of us.”

He wasn't lying—it was a reprise of the previous few months, including painful testing, tissue extraction noxious fumes, and disgusting chemicals, only this time it was worse. The pain should have been overwhelming. Blinding. Eliminating. It wasn't. And that was because of Luke.

Luke was dead. What else in this world was there left to live for? The one thing...a person...I cared about him most..and he was gone forever, and I couldn't see him again. It meant he was gone. It meant he was gone and never coming back
— ? —
Dr. Frank sat at his desk, writing reports on a laptop plugged into a power switch that had just been installed. He busily wrote away, finishing up this report and that report, until he came to Noah James, and he sat there, thinking about Luke James. Oh, that was fun. He wanted to do that again, all the time, to see the look of horror on Noah's face when the trigger was pulled....
— ? —

One Hundred-Zero

Justine and Barry were beyond kind. They offered their condolences repeatedly, and continued to verbally insult Frankenstein. They begged my forgiveness, apologizing again and again, saying that they were sorry, there was nothing they could do. Which is also why there's nothing to forgive.

Deep down inside me, something stirred. A new feeling. It wasn't grief, fear, or hope. It was rage. Blinding, uncontrollable rage.

I knew what I had to do.

That night, while everybody was sleeping, I made my way out of my bed with the coin. I crossed to the guards, standing at the edge of the tent. I walked across the red line, and, before they could so much as utter “halt!”, I snapped someone's neck, then flipped the silent switch on on his gun, and fired at the others. Without abilities worked just as well—they all fell dead.

I crossed the campground to the lake. I wanted so badly to go swimming in it. The moonlight shone beautifully on the lake. I took off my shirt, and, for a moment, looked down at my stomach. It had sunk in so far now that I looked like a victim of Auschwitz or some other horrid Nazi concentration camp.

Then, I heard the dogs barking. There, on the other side off the lake, were dozens of dogs and five guards. I jumped up, pulling on my shirt, and ran. If they found me, then nothing would work the way I needed it to.
— ? —
The general—Gordon—relaxed in his chair, loading, unloading, and reloading his gun. Interesting day. He wasn't sure about killing that kid, though. He had only been 10, and Gordon was only following orders.
— ?? —
Frankenstein finished up his letter to the president—a detailed, point-by-point explanation of the situation in Fairbanks, and ending the letter with a desperate plea to exterminate everyone there through gas chambers.
— ?? —
Come to think about it, he should said no, and handed the gun over to the doctor. Told him to do it. But no, he did it. Why? He thought the question over, and could only arrive at one answer: Because he wanted the young boy to die. Because he looked so pathetic laying there in his older brother's arms. Because he wanted the ten-year-old to die.
— ? —

I walked down the hall, to the door marked, “General Gordon”. I kicked the door open and put the gun in the general's face. “Tick, tock, General. Time's running out. Heads up, and yours is blown off!” I slammed the door, put the coin down on the desk, and dragged a chair across to the door, jamming it.

The general went straight for his gun. I fired mine over my shoulder. The general screamed in pain. I had shot his right arm. Good.

I crossed the room and shoved him into his chair. I grabbed the coin, and began to walk around him.

“I'd love to talk about furry bunnies, green meadows, and happy places, as I'm sure you general folk talk about, but we're on a bit of a tight schedule!” I showed him one side of the coin. “There can only be room for one head.” I readied the coin, and trained my gun in the general's face.

“Wait! You didn't show me the other side!”

“Oh, general...” I sneered as I flipped the coin. “...there is no other side.” I caught it. Heads up. I smiled at him. “Don't worry, general. It's going to be all right.” I fired the gun. The general's last “No!” was permanently frozen on his features.

The dogs were at the door, biting, scratching, clawing, and howling. I grabbed the coin and faced the door.

When the dogs burst in, they hit the table with such force the table fell over. The coin went flying in the air, and gunfire broke out. Both men in the doorway were killed, and my right cheek was badly splintered. The coin fell to the floor, crazed on one side. Good. This should make for a fun last target.

I walked out of the room, leaving the chaos and death behind me.
— ? —

The following morning, a furious Dr. Frankenstein instituted a full Lockdown. He vowed to never stop searching...not until this criminal was found. Each person would submit to questioning in the McDonald's meat locker, and any unattended prisoners (or lab rats) seen out of their tents, from Level 1 Security (minimal), to Level 5 security, (maximum) would be shot on sight.

Regarding the Television V

The night of May 4th, news was able to get to and from the White House. The smartly dressed, smug-expressioned announcer who everyone hated made a few announcements. “The White House has been taken over. The President is dead. We now take you live to The Statue of Liberty, where a group of people have formed to protest the statue of the president that stands at the base of the statue.” The image cut to the the statue of Bob Donovan, 45th President of the United States. Angrily, and in a furious swirl of colors, the statue exploded, and people began to cheer. Back to the announcer. “Furthermore, the anger at the treatment of Fairbanks, Alaska has resulted in citizens literally flying a rescue team to save those trapped in Fairbanks.”

Sunrise

I woke up. No more tears, no more crying. I got up and walked to the four soldiers at the end of the tent, stopping at the respectful ten foot distance red line. “Excuse me.” They incline their heads in acknowledgment. “I have to use the bathroom.” One of the soldiers speaks into his microphone. “Jimmy, I got a prisoner wanting to use the bathroom. Could you get four to tent fifty?” We waited while Jimmy verified information with a higher commander. The soldier studied me. “Hey,” he said. “You're the brother. The one who lost the ten-year old. You're Noah.” I nodded.

He turned to the other soldiers. “Give us a moment here, boys.”

“But sir—“

“No buts, soldier.” The other three filed out of the tent, and the soldier turned to me. “When I was fifteen, like you, a man broke into my house and killed my eight year old brother because of something my father—who turned up dead in England a week later—did. I committed my life to finding him, and destroying him, only to learn that the man worked for the military as a doctor. A specialist, and he did this only because he hated my father.”

“Who was it?”

“Frankenstein.”

The same man. Probably the same coin. “Oh, God.”

“I want to kill him as much as you do.”

“I understand.” I was escorted out to the restroom, where they waited. Once inside, I spun half of the toilet paper roll off and disposed of the rest. I counted backwards from sixty, then looked around, and made a few “Hmms.”.

“What's wrong?”

“There's no toilet paper.”

The door opened. The soldier whose father was killed by Frankenstein looked in. I looked back at him straight in the eyes, and mouthed, Let me out of here. He nodded, and ordered someone to go and get some toilet paper, and held the door open. I ran, briefly thanking him as in heard him play the part of surprised soldier along with the other two.

A soldier arrived around a turn. I looped the paper around his neck. Out of surprise, he stopped, giving me the time to twist his neck. He gagged and I ran. I could see his house. At the end of the block. I ran as fast as I could. I jumped onto his porch silently and opened the door.
— ? —
“Where is he?” Frank demanded of Barry. “Tell me where he is! Now !” Barry was gagging, on the floor, and writhing in pain from the multiple lacerations on his body. Several had cut into veins, and the bleeding was barely stopped. The doctor picked up table salt. “Let's go again, shall we?”
— ? —

I could hear screaming—Barry's. Something was happening. I crept up the carpeted stairs, trying to keep silent. There were bloodstains across the carpet. The trail led to the end of the hall. I ran down the hall, kicked the door open, and found my gun pointing at Frankenstein's. I shot instantly. Frankenstein collapsed, groaning, his hand shot out.

I untied Barry. “Get out of here.” I told him. “You don't want to see this.”

“I think I do.”

“Very well, then.” I stomped down on his hand, breaking bones. He screamed. I stomped down again, and again, each time drawing more blood, until his had was literally a sack of torn skin with blood still flowing from it and chips of broken bone weakly moving around inside. Then, I bent down and ripped it off. If you think you've seen a person scream before...you don't knoe anything. But this was just for the prisoners. There was still for me. The same thing happened to his other hand until he was left with two bleeding stumps that he could only stare at stupidly and whimper.

“There's still more.” I said, pacing around him. “So, did you know...I have this really rare quarter that I want to show to you?” He whimpered. I smiled, and pulled out the quarter. “They're the same. Each side. Except for one thing.” I showed him the nick left by the bullet. “That there is your chance of walking out of this, because it means that someone out there cares about the same things as you.”

He continued to whine. “Tick, tock Frankenstein. Time's running out. Heads up and yours is blown off.” I flipped the coin. It landed. I turned it over onto my hand. There, running across the face, was the graze. “Nice to someone still shares your beliefs, isn't it?” He nodded. “But I think this suits me more than you, because of Barry, here.” Let's flip it again. Ping. I turned it over.

“Sorry, Frankenstein, but there's only room for one head.”

Bang.
— ? —

I silently walked down the dark streets. Barry was thinking out loud. “They're going to need our help when we get rescued. They can't do it alone. They need people to stand together, or else there might be no rescue, only a war.”

“I agree.”

Suddenly, Barry put out a hand. “What's that?” He listened. I could hear it. It wasn't soldiers running, or cars. Airplanes, helicopters. They had come to rescue us.

“It's them!” I cried, but Barry looked at me solemnly. “You know, Noah...I think you're that person. The one they need.”

“What?” I was stunned, but Barry just nodded. “Yes.” He said. “It's you.”
— ? —
The rescue planes flew over Fairbanks. They were lead by a woman who had visited Fairbanks twice before. “Come on.” Said The Woman Who Had Visited Fairbanks Twice Before. “We're almost there. If you see any guards, take them out. Now.”
— ?? —
Far away, a guard on the wall checked the song he was listening to—that rumbling...it wasn't supposed to be in there. He stopped the song. It was the last thing he'd ever do. A silenced shot, and one more guard fell.
— ?? —

I had ordered Barry to go wake everyone else up. Justine walked out of the tent, dragging the guards' bodies with her. She rubbed her eyes sleepily. “Noah? What's wrong?”

“It's time.”

“Time? Time for what?”

“For a new beginning.” I held up the coin. One last time. I flipped it, caught it, and turned it onto my palm. I nodded at the result.

There was a high spot on the hills surrounding the pool. I walked over to that spot and stood there, watching them flood out of their tents. We were going to be free.
— ? —
Far away, on the opposite side of the lake, the soldier saw someone. Someone was standing up, putting out his arms. Then the light of day struck, and he was illuminated like an angel....No. Who was that? He wondered. Something was wrong.
— ?? —
Barry and Justine broke the necks of the two men and proceeded upstairs to where the generals were having a fine breakfast. Halfway up the stars, they ran into the serving team.
— ??? —
Fine breakfast dishes and good alcohol were in order, but the serving team was taking an awfully long time. Suddenly, the door was violently thrust open. Standing in the doorway were Barry and Justine. Justine threw the knife and impaled a general's head. She ran across the room and grabbed the man's gun. She shot the remaining men.
— ??? —
Justine and Barry walked down the steps slowly, congratulating each other on a job well done as the fire flared behind them. It was when they reached the ground floor that they heard the gunshots. Two of them.
— ?? —
The soldier on the opposite side of the lake took aim at the figure, but it was then that The Woman Who Had Visited Fairbanks Twice Before saw him, and fired with a dead straight aim. With the last amount of strength left in his body, he squeezed the trigger, sure that his target hadn't left sight. The outcome was something that he would never know.
— ? —

My arms were spread out. The people were there. I was waiting. They gathered around, looking up at me in wonder. I didn't speak, but I inclined my head in acknowledgment. I could see the rescue planes heading right for us. The sunrise was beginning to poke shyly over the horizon. Only one more thing left to happen.

“Happy birthday, me.” I whispered. Then, the sunlight glared over the horizon, lengthening shadows and gleaming over us all. Suddenly, a crack, and a shot rang out clear in the air. A pause, then another. I smiled at the people, in a way of saying, it's okay as I fell backwards, into the pool, a gunshot wound to the chest. I had done it. I had saved them. United them. Brought them together.

The rescue planes were almost upon us. I was dying. I knew it, but I felt comfortable. The water lapped over my face, over my body, and I thought about how lucky the people were.

The most important moments in your life aren't the things you accomplish, or the places you go. It's the people you meet along the way. The people who do good for you, because ultimately, these people will be there to guide you when you need help, comfort you when you feel sad, or set you on your right path. Every moment you spend with them is precious, and you should treasure it. I know for a fact that without these people, I would be lost.

I closed my eyes.

Happy birthday.





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