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“And yeah man, I was talking to that one girl, Jessica? The cute blond with the big you-know-whats, and--”
“Salazar!” Connors came into the lounging area breathlessly and all our eyes turned to him. “Turn it to Channel 5 there’s a huge traffic jam downtown, I heard that--”
“Okay. We got it Connors,” Salazar turned up the news blocking out Connors’ rant.
We listened as the news lady with the stiff hair spoke. “Hi, I’m Barbara Winters and news is just in that there has been a serious car accident on the US 95 at the spaghetti bowl. So far, police have stated that up to thirty cars were involved in a pile-up. The cause of the accident is still unknown and...”
Everyone was standing around the television listening in on the news report, including Chief Stevens who had somehow made his way up to the front. His arms crossed tightly around his chest.
Salazar turned off the T.V. and turned to face the Chief. We all waited for some kind of signal.
“Well, you heard Barbara. People need us out there, so let’s go! Go! Go!” Everyone began moving.
“Hey, Sal?” I called as I jogged up to him, dodging other fighters on the way. “What engine you headed to?”
I nodded and waited until he slid down the golden pole, I after him.
“Overalls,” I caught them.
I tossed him a flashlight.
“Let's get this show on the road!” someone shouted.
“Yo, Cantous? Look!”
I stopped midway through zipping up my jumpsuit and looked up, meeting eyes with her. The exact person I’d been trying to avoid today—all week, really.
She walked up to me already dressed in her full attire with her helmet resting on her left hipbone.
I looked up at her, “Rose?” She gazed at me with those lime green eyes; those dangerous lime green eyes, “What engine are you catching?” I asked.
“They’re engines. When has me catching a certain engine ever mattered?” she replied. I pulled on my last boot and grabbed my helmet. “You know, it’s not the time and place right now,” she added.
She walked right past me, leaving me in the dust, again. “When is it ever the time and place?” I mumbled to myself.
I climbed aboard the fire truck, and sat next to Salazar.
“What was that all about?” he questioned; staring me down.
I put on my seat belt and sat back resting my head against the steel interior behind me, “Nothing, Sal. It’s just Rose stuff...”
We’d arrived to the scene a few minutes later, and as usual, we found the same situation we always do whenever there is an emergency. People stood around in clusters pointing and discussing about the accident up ahead. I evacuated the engine and looked across the way for a split second, holy s***! There was a huge car pileup just right in the center of the spaghetti bowl, with a ton of injured people scattered around. My gut clenched as my strong sense of hospitality kicked in.
“Cantous?” I turned my attention to Chief Stevens. “I want you and your team to get a move on, on that traffic jam down there, got it?”
“Got it Stevens!”
The hot sun beat down on me as I began to assemble my team of eager firefighters.
“Be careful around this area here,” a directed police officer pointed out. “Something happened right here, from underground. I don’t think a bunch of cars could cause something this disastrous?”
I had noticed that too. As we got closer to the huge pile of cars, the road felt less sturdy, and you could see that it was cracked.
“What do you think it is?” Sal whispered as he walked next to me.
I shrugged. I had no idea. “Maybe the impact of the cars caused the ground to crack like this?” I tried. “I mean, it can happen. This is Vegas. Crazy things do happen…”
Suddenly, the earth began to rumble and shake beneath our feet. People began falling to the sizzling ground. Some tried to get back into their cars while others clung to one another for support.
In the center, where Sal, the police officer and I were standing, it seemed as if the fault line began to cave in .
“Back up. Back up. Back up!” a policeman shouted. I felt Sal’s hand grasp my shoulder. I looked back at him, and for the very first time I saw fear in his eyes.
A scream penetrated our ears! I snapped my head in the direction it came from, and my gaze met with a woman who was being wheeled out on a stretcher.
“What is that?” Everyone’s eyes followed.
What emerged from the ground, causing the earth to split right in half was something unethical—inhumane. It was metal and the sun gleamed off its interior as it slowly rose up from the earth. My heart jerked. How was this happening? What the he** was that thing?
People started running from it. I looked across the way and noticed that the ground was split, a huge hole gaping into the grounds. On the other side of the highway I could see the other firefighters. One in particular, who stood still like a statue as her eyes following the immortal object as it peaked to the skies.
A piercing noise slaughtered our ears. I reached up and cupped my own. Da** it, how did I forget to bring my helmet?
“What the he** is that?” Sal’s voice came out in a huff and I realized he was right behind me, inches away.
It all happened in a haze. “Run!” I shouted. Bullets from the robotic beast began flying from mechanical guns that appeared out of nowhere. Limbs on innocent bystanders bodies were shot off, and the putrid smell of burned flesh and blood filled the air. Salazar was right by my side as we ran, dodging bullets and lasers. Police officers stood behind their car doors and attempted to protect themselves while shooting up at the huge robotic beast.
My mind immediately lept to a subject that I didn’t want to think at that moment: Rose…
“Cantous, get everyone you can to the nearest building right now!” Stevens ordered. I was still under order, so I had to do what I was told.
I stopped for a moment and looked around at the other firefighters who were standing around, some crying, others asking and wandering the same exact thing. What the he** is that thing?
“Try to get as many people out of here as you can,” I ordered other fighters. “Get as many people on those waiting buses!” Almost a hundred feet away, I knew Rose was stuck on the other side with the robotic beast, and no one there to comfort her. I had to make a choice, a life threatening choice. I disobeyed the chief’s orders, and started moving toward the guns and flying bullets.
“Paxton, where are you going man?” Sal stood in front of me and placed his hand on my chest.
“Rose is over there, I have to save her.” I pushed past him but he wouldn’t budge.
“You can’t, Pax. I’m sorry man, but you can’t.” He looked back. “Not with that giant metal thing lurking around. Besides, we’ve been directed to take these people to a safe institute.”
I looked past him at the scene going on behind us. An explosion went off, and we both ducked down to the ground. “Come on, Pax.” He gestured toward the buses behind us.
I couldn’t though. I couldn’t do it. No matter what I told myself, what I tried to make myself believe,I wasn’t over Rose. I had to be there for her. If I made it out alive, but I didn’t save her, I knew that I would be in a solid predicament. I could lose my job for disobeying, but I didn’t care. The love of my life was out there, and she needed my help.
“I’m sorry Sal.” I broke away from him and began for the mayhem.
“Paxton!” he shouted as I ran away from him. Salazar was my best friend, and I knew he cared about me too much. I knew that what I was doing was breaking his heart. I didn’t let that stop me, afterall, it seemed like all I was doing lately was breaking people’s hearts.
I ran at full speed, knowing that what lay ahead of me was something unbelievably real; something I was sure as he** not ready for. At any moment, this giant thing from he**, or wherever it came from, could do something I wasn’t ready for.
“Hey, what’s he doing?” I heard a police officer shout.
“You! Young man! What are you doing?” another officer shouted at me. I dodged his questions as I dodged the bullets and lasers that were still shooting out of the machine.
There it stood. At least two hundred feet long, with long silver legs that had missiles attached to them and-- s***! I had to duck down and closed my eyes as a missile came my way. It flew over me, and then made contact with a car behind me, blowing it up. I reopened my eyes and gazed at the world around me. Heaps of metal and burning ash filled the air.
The thing from he** started moving forward. I stood myself up, and tried gazing over to where I hoped Rose would still be.
I was only a few feet away from the beast when helicopters began circling and shooting at it. It shot right back at them.
“Rose!” I shouted. I looked around frantically for the girl with the red hair and in the firefighter suit.
“Paxton?” I looked across the way and saw her running through the crowd and the accumulation of shrapnel on the ground.
I stood at the edge of the hole that the mechanical beast had emerged from. I looked down at the rocky chasm between us as she approached the other side. We gazed at each other. In that moment, I could see the only thing I’d ever wanted. The one thing that was out of my reach. She gazed down at the ground separating us, too, then looked back at me and gave me a half shrug.
“Paxton, there’s nothing we can do--”
“Don’t say that!” I demanded. “Don’t... say that. There’s always a way.” I looked around helplessly and although I knew that she was right, I said, “We can’t give up!”
“Paxton, why are you always trying to fight it? Accept this for once.” I continued to pace the rocky ground searching for something. I had to think of something.
“Rose, I need you to stand back,” I shouted.
“Rose, just trust me right now. Of all the times we’ve fought, trust me just this once. All the times that you rejected me… just give me a chance.”
I eyed her, and I think I saw her give me a faint nod.
I had come up a plan, but I wasn’t sure if it was going to work. I was going to jump it.
The gap seemed about a good eight feet wide, maybe even more. I backed up to gain velocity, and that’s when Rose saw what I was about to do.
“Paxton... please don’t.”
I shrugged out of my fire-suit: down to my pants and sweaty t-shirt.
“Paxton...” she begged. “Don’t do this. You can find another way around”
I began to run towards the giant hole in the ground.
“Paxton, listen to me...”
What happened next, was something I had not been expected.
“Rose, honey, I’m doing this for us.”