A Fistful of Destiny - Part Nine
It was time.
Brand stood at the edge of the tree-covered divide and gazed at the base that loomed directly in front of him. There was no more time for diddling around; this base had to be taken down and it had to be now. By now Haley had more than enough time and she still hadn't returned. So, the only other choice left was to go in and get it without her help.
Overhead, as the golden eagle swooped down over the base, a terrifying screech escaped it and filled the area like a trumpet announcing the arrival of an invading army. Both guards patrolling the base looked up, as hoped, as did the two guards at the front door. Four enormous wildcats jetted away from their tree cover and charged the guards.
Almost immediately, the guards saw them. But their fate was already sealed. Before any of the guards could get their weapons up, the cougars tackled them to the ground. Brand watched, slightly horrified, as the cougars latched their fierce teeth onto the necks of their victims and jerked their heads back and forth, the flesh of the guards tearing away from their necks without much of a struggle at all.
With his hair whipping around his neck, Brand strode toward the base with Miranda and Borodan on either side of him. The night was upon him now just like he wanted it, but the weather had started to take a turn for the worse. The wind was blowing against him roughly as if the gods were telling him to stay away. Not that he cared one way or the other what the gods had to say. He felt alive, more at this particular moment than he ever had. Of course, why not? He was about to storm into a building he knew nothing about and try to find a sword that could be anywhere. Nothing to fear here except death. He briefly wondered if everyone felt most alive right before they died.
Inside they found the corridors as empty and quiet as when they left. No resistance was definitely not a good thing.
When they reached a fork in the corridors, Brand told Miranda to head to the right, Borodan to head left and he went straight on.
The first person Brand actually ran into was standing at a corner in the corridor. He was wearing a long robe with a hood that hung over his face. A faint humming escaped his hidden lips when Brand stopped in front of him. Brand studied the man with curiosity. What, exactly, was he? There was doubt that he was some kind of guard mainly because he didn't appear to be armed but Brand was puzzled. He'd never heard of anything like this in the military and the dude was just standing there as if Brand was invisible or something.
What the hell? "Hello," said Brand.
After a moment of silence, Brand said, "What are you doing?"
Strange, still nothing. Brand grabbed the man by the shoulder and shook him lightly, at first, then rougher. Still the man just stood there with that strange hum and did nothing.
"Don't move, scumbag!"
Brand jerked around and froze. Two soldiers stood in the middle of the corridor with their assault rifles pointed directly at his chest. Stupid, stupid, stupid, Brand. Why did he stand around messing with the robot? No problems here, boys, just move along.
One of the soldiers, a squat man with a thick mustache, moved toward Brand. "Don't you even think about it," the man said with a high, womanly voice. It took everything Brand had to keep from laughing out loud right there. But that didn't seem like a good idea, so he suppressed it with a swallow.
"Listen, guys," Brand said. "I know you're just doing your job. I'm all for being the best you can be and everything, but I really don't have time for this. So, if you'll just let me go... I won't have to hurt you."
"Shut it!" shouted the other soldier. "Alert the colonel we've found one of the escaped specimens."
Brand glanced around. Who...?
The man impersonating a statue nodded his head. "The colonel is on his way down here now. Do not, I repeat, do not do anything but wait for him."
Now Brand was completely confused. Time, however, was not on his side and waiting was no longer an option. He drew in a deep breath, then grabbed the statue man and hurled him at the squat soldier. A second later the other soldier fired several shots directly at Brand. Without thinking, Brand's arm jerked into action. The bullets reflected off the metallic surface in such a way that they returned to the sender and his companion. One bullet struck the squat soldier's hand, which caused him to drop his gun. The other soldier, however, was not so lucky. The second bullet struck him directly between the eyes.
Brand turned and ran down the corridor, away from scene. He didn't get far, though. Two feet later, his legs were pulled out from underneath him and he slammed face first into the ground. Brand spun around to try and grab whoever tripped him but to his surprise, nobody was there. Blood trickled out of his nose as he sat up and scanned the corridor. Coming toward him was the hooded man. He was mumbling something incoherently underneath the hood. Brand didn't wait to find out, he scrambled to his feet, only to be shoved back against the wall by some invisible force. The air was being pressed out of his lungs as he struggled to move anywhere. He was pinned and had no idea how.
Eventually Brand gave up his struggled and waited. The hooded man stood across from him in the corridor, silence once more, also waiting. Then the Calvary arrived.
The colonel, recognized by his picture perfect uniform, strode into the corridor and didn't stop until he reached Brand. He spun on his heels and turned to face his captured prey with a malicious smile that did nothing for his downright ugly face. Yet, he said nothing. He stood there, staring at Brand, with his hands crossed behind his back and that stupid smug expression that said, "Caught you, you little bastard. Now you're going to regret you ever crossed me!" It was your typical evil colonel cliche. Brand chuckled.
"Do you find this humorous?" the colonel said.
"Not at all. Just your face."
The colonel didn't even bat an eye. "The scientists are told not to think of you all as people. But I teach my soldiers the opposite. They can't afford to consider your kind less intelligent, a sub-species. As five of my soldiers have already discovered. For that, you will die. The question remains, though, when and how."
"That's two questions."
The colonel rolled his eyes and looked as if he was about to say more, but more soldiers started to march into the corridor. That was when Brand realized what was going on. Amid the marching soldiers, he spotted Miranda and Borodan. Both had their hands handcuffed behind their backs and had been roughed up more than a little. Miranda had a nasty gash in her forehead; her shirt was nearly drenched in blood. Borodan arm was twisted in a sickly fashion, the pain on his face betraying any attempt at doing the manly thing and hiding his weakness.
Then came Haley. The poor girl was barely recognizable. Her clothes were ripped in several places. Dried blood caked her face and hair, while heavy swelling had forced both her eyes closed without a chance in hell of getting open. She was thrown to the ground directly in front of Brand, while Miranda and Borodan were stopped on either side of the colonel and turned to face Brand. This was Brand's fault; he knew it right away and there was nothing he could do about it now, pinned to the wall with some invisible barrier like a butterfly on exhibit. Fine leadership, he thought to himself. Follow me into battle and we will rule the world! Or we'll die, which is more likely, but let's go anyway.
"Well?" The colonel eyed Brand. His smug expression was absolutely gleeful now. "Anything to say for yourself? You not only got yourself killed, you got three other people killed, too."
"You don't have to kill them. At least not her." Brands eye darted toward Haley, but he couldn't stand to look at her. So he glared into the eyes of the colonel once more. "She's clearly too young to even be in this line of work. What is she, twelve?"
"Doesn't matter how old she is. She committed treason and for that, she will die. As a matter of fact, she'll die right now."
Brand closed his eyes, unable to witness what was about to happen. But as soon as he did, he heard Sword in his head, ordering him to watch. Demanding that he give that girl the respect that she deserves. Brand opened his eyes again, glanced toward his companions and saw that they, too, watched, then sighed inwardly and watched as the colonel removed his pistol and shot Haley in the head three times. The mess it made was unbearable. Brand's pant legs were covered with her blood and fragments of skull and brain. He felt weak in his knees, his stomach somersaulted, and he was sure he was going to throw up. But he didn't. He just directed his gaze back at the colonel, silently daring the colonel to release him from this invisible cage.
The colonel waved the tip of his gun slightly to the left and Borodan was shoved down in front of Brand, right on top of Haley's body.
"Stop it," Brand said through clenched teeth. "Just stop it. What do you want from me, huh? Whatever it is, you can have it. Just leave them alone."
A hearty laugh that did not belong in this corridor at this time bellowed from deep within the colonel. "Prove it."
"Release him. Just remember, you might be able to kill me, but you won't get us all before you're back against the wall and watching the rest of your friends die."
The force that was holding Brand against the wall was gone almost immediately. He stood there a moment, eyes locked on the colonel, mind racing. Yes, he could kill this bastard in a split second, but the colonel was right. Way too many soldiers here to even hope to get away. It sure would feel good to kill the colonel, though. Was it worth it? Not yet. But...
Brand stepped right up in front of the colonel, their noses mashed against each other, and glared at him. Not exactly a death threat, but he was trying to keep his new companions alive, right? He stepped away and held his hands up in surrender.
The colonel charged down the corridor without a word. Soldiers wrapped around Brand and started to move forward, forcing him to move ahead to keep from getting trampled. Somehow he ended up next to Miranda and she was trying to say something but it was too damn soft. So, he got a little closer and then closer still, until he was brushed up against her as they moved down the corridor. Her message was simple: "Break my chip."
Brand balled his hand into a fist and swung it at the side of Miranda's head. With a fistful of destiny, the chip implanted in Miranda's temple was destroyed. As soon as it was broken, the soldiers shoved them away from each other. Brand lost his footing and dropped his knees, just in time to see Miranda look toward him with an expression of regret.
She closed her eyes and for one brief moment in time, as Brand sat there on his knees and stared at Miranda, he was almost sure that he was about to die. And for some unknown reason he yelled out, "Not the colonel!" It was instinctive, primal, and uncontrollable. As if he knew what was about to happen and had to protect an investment only he could control.
Suddenly, the soldiers went berserk. Dozens of hands flew to dozens of heads. Screams of anguish shattered the otherwise calm interior of the corridor before dozens of soldiers collapsed to the ground with blood oozing out of all the openings in their faces: eyes, noses, ears, and mouths. And just like that is was over.
Brand looked around for the colonel and found him among the fallen soldiers, on his knees, holding his head, but not dead. He looked back at Borodan, then locked his gaze on Miranda with amazement.
No wonder she wasn't sure she wanted that chip broken.To be continued...