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August 15, 2022

Anachronocity v6p2

By Josh Brown

Ends and Means - Part Two

"Wake up, old timer."

Alex opened his eyes to find Bethany's face mere inches from his. His eyes snapped shut again. "Go away," he mumbled. "Sleeping."

"No, no, no you don't. We're launching the assault in a couple of hours. You can't miss this!"

Alex's fingers clamped around the blanket covering him, barely in time to stop the embarrassing situation that would have arose had Bethany been able to rip the blanket away; she gave it a good go, though. Sleeping proved impossible for Alex unless he slept in the nude.

Opening his eyes once more, Alex glared. "I'm getting up. Happy? Now get out of here."

Bethany folded her arms over her chest and returned the glare; the menacing look attempted failed given the smile curving her lips. "I'll wait," she said. "Come on."

"You will not wait--" Alex sniffed at the air, his face grimacing. "Do you smell something?" Some cloud of noxious fumes hung over him like a mixture of decaying animals and cow shit lightly sprinkled with a badly reproduced rose smell.

"I don't smell anything," Bethany said. Her cheeks, Alex noted, were pinker than they'd been a second ago.

He leaned over the cot, blanket bunching in his lap, bare chest exposed, and sniffed toward Bethany. "Is that you? Did you take a dip in the waste disposal unit before coming in here to disturb my sleep?"

Blinking, smile fading quicker than a man discovering he'd picked up Rosie O'Donnell in his drunken stupor last night, Bethany blurted, "I'll give you some privacy," and bolted out the door.

"Why me?" Alex said to the suffocating fumes.

***

Sela walked toward the cargo bay with Yerik. She scanned over the list of potential disasters resulting from the impending attack. Top of that list was capture, followed closely by death--none of the results gave much worry. The crew was good. The plan was solid.

A second Pure League ship rendezvoused with them late last night. The captain of that vessel, Donny Morimer, had the pleasure of providing a distraction. His ship would be destroying several key satellites right about now, and then waiting around for the space forces protecting this planet to give chase. Once that succeeded, the rockets would launch on a course that would take them straight through the hole created in the sensor web.

"Is all okay?" Yerik asked.

Sela quirked an eyebrow. "What?"

He looked at her, waiting.

"Yes," she said. "I'm fine. This is necessary."

The death count for this mission alone far outweighed any other previous attack by the Pure League. When Yerik first brought up the idea, Sela put it on hold for that very reason. Killing all these people wouldn't accomplish much besides more outrage at the League and its leaders. The base, however, needed destroying. Something so shrouded in secrecy could only be a threat to humanity and even if it wasn't the cleanup and investigation would distract lot of Interpol's resources. Ultimately, this gave the League a huge opportunity to deal with the election while the forces were occupied.

As they approached the stairwell leading into the cargo bay, Bethany blasted through them like a tornado appearing out of nowhere. So fast and so determined was the young girl, Yerik nearly lost his footing and fell. Sela grabbed his arm, steadying him, and glanced over her shoulder as Bethany disappeared around the corner.

"What is smell?" Yerik asked, nostrils flaring.

***

"Well, Danny? What am I supposed to do?" Alex gazed around the room in search of the ghost of his dead brother that seemed intent on haunting him ten years plus however far he jumped into the future. Maybe not so much a ghost as a brotherly conscience--that had happened a lot in the beginning but not so much lately. After Daniel's death, often times Alex would hear his brother's voice giving him sage advice or just shooting the shit.

"Use the Force, Alex," said Alex, chuckling.

How do you convince a group of rebels that they are about to make a huge mistake without any proof? Not easily, that's for sure. Sabotage seemed the likeliest of choices. All he had to do was arrange to be at the controls when the rockets fired. One little misdirection and those rockets could end up exploding harmlessly in a lake or an ocean. In a perfect world, perhaps, that plan might work. However, Sela and her gang of thugs found this whole adventure beyond arousing. There's no way they'd let him near the controls and even if they did, all eyes would be following everything he did.

Killing everyone--now there's a plan that would work fine if Alex could bring himself to lift a weapon, much less kill another human being. No, killing was just a dream that would never be a reality for this misplaced time traveler.

A knock on the door pulled Alex out of his thoughts. Katlyn stood outside, a light smile on her face. "Feeling better?" she asked after Alex opened the door.

Her beauty, now marred by the image of Jared leaving Katlyn's quarters last night, still overwhelmed and pulled. Alex struggled to refrain from blurting out something inappropriate. Instead, he said, "We're about to take part in the mass killing of nearly fifty thousand people. How do you think I feel?"

Inviting herself in and closing the door, Katlyn turned her sensual gaze on Alex unmercifully. "I don't like the deaths that will result from this any more than you. Believe me, I don't. But there's a bigger picture here. One we can't ignore. The Pure League has a noble cause and in the end, that cause will be the only thing that can save humanity. Would you rather see fifty thousand people die, or twenty billion? The Elders must be stopped. People will die--innocent people. Their lives will not be lost for nothing, though."

"I don't accept that." Daniel and his damn ethics--if he wasn't already dead, Alex could kill him. "There has to be another way, one that doesn't have such a direct approach to killing people. I can accept innocent people will die in the course of this war. What I can't accept, though, is intentionally killing said innocent people."

"Have I done something to offend you?"

"I--" Alex lost his words. From where did that come? "Huh," he said lamely.

Katlyn shook her head. "Something is different about you, that's all. And I feel like, I don't know, like it's something I've done. Is it because I'm trying to take an active stance in the Pure League's cause and not sitting around pining for home, hoping you'll find a way for us to get back?"

Well, yes. "Huh," Alex said again.

"That's not who I am, Alex. I can't sit around and wait. If I'm here, I'm here for a reason. That's my belief. I'll gladly go home if I can, but until then, I have to live as if this is my new home. I believe you when you say you'll get us home, but I also believe in reality and reality says there's a chance you won't be able to get us home. Reality also says, 'Even if you can get us home, it could take you a while.' A year, a decade? How long? You don't know, so I have to live until such a time as you say, 'Let's go home.'"

The whole idea of living was foreign. For ten years, Alex holed himself up in that basement. Trying to discover and continue his brother's work consumed him to the point where that was his entire life. Understanding Katlyn's words, coupled with the dialogue he had with his brother last night, put Alex in a skewed frame of mind.

"If that has offended your pride in some way," Katlyn said, "I'm sorry. Just understand I can't sit around twiddling my thumbs and waiting."

Katlyn's words gave Alex an idea on how to stop the assault.

***

Everyone had gathered in the cargo bay. After a quick mental roll call, Alex noticed two missing--the noisy neighbors. No doubt they were boinking their brains out while the epic mission was underway. Even the old man had ventured out of his plant oasis to witness the event.

Sela stood near the cargo doors, looming over Bethany who sat on her haunches, making last minute adjusts to the rockets that would deliver the bombs to their location.

"Got a moment?" Alex asked Sela.

Both Bethany and Sela looked toward him. Whatever that god-awful perfume Bethany had had on was washed away, thankfully.

Sela said, "What is it?"

"I want to officially join the Pure League. Full time employment here. My work on getting Katlyn and myself back home will be a side project, a hobby if you will, whenever I'm not busy helping the League and humanity."

"Won't it take you a lot longer to finish your project?"

"It will, but Katlyn had a good point. We might very well have ended up here, not by some freak accident, but by fate. I can't ignore that. I also can't let you launch those rockets. They're flawed."

"What?" Sela and Bethany said in unison.

Bethany stood, glaring. "There is nothing wrong with these rockets."

"It didn't dawn on me until this morning but we failed to test one critical aspect of the rockets. We were so concerned with finding a way to get them to stay on course, we completely forget about deploying the bombs once the rockets made it to their destination. If they go off mid-deployment, the building won't be destroyed."

"Ha! There was nothing wrong with the deployment mechanisms, just the atmosphere guidance system."

"Agreed." Alex kept his gaze steady on Sela. "But, when we adjusted the rockets to compensate for the atmosphere guidance malfunctions, we had to alter several key systems. Including the deployment system. I'm only telling you this because if this mission fails, we won't get a second chance. Security here will be heightened ten-fold. It's better to call it off and try again later when they're none the wiser."

"Too late," Sela said. Next to her, Bethany considered Alex's reasoning and seemed to believe it. Her belief would go a long way toward convincing Sela to scrap the attack. Of course, "too late" didn't bode well. "We've already launched a pre-strike to distract them. The ship that did that is moments from capture or destruction. We have to finish this. If it fails, it fails."

"At least give me ten minutes to check a few things."

"Fine. You and Bethany check the systems. But we go in ten minutes."

***

"Shit!" Heather shouted, shoving Nicolas off her back where he'd been massaging her shoulders. "Shit, shit, shit! Eetee alive!" In her hand she held a SoftPAD with a message intercepted from several high-ranking Interpol officials. The encryption on this particular message was so hard to break, she was sure it would be the key Sela had set her to find.

Was it ever.

Nicolas grabbed his pants, yanking them on. "What? What'd you find?"

As Heather read the report between jarring yanks as she tried to put her own pants on, she mumbled to herself. Sela was about to make a grave mistake. The launch had to be stopped.

Before getting her shirt fully buttoned, she shoved Nicolas toward the door. "Go! Find Sela and stop her."

Frantically pressing at the SoftPAD buttons in an attempt to copy and transmit her findings, Heather didn't see, but rather heard the door open. A sickening hollow thug that tore her away from the message, leaving it forgotten in her hand, followed. Nicolas lay on the floor, blood pooling under his body.

In the doorway a figure stumbled through, metal pipe in hand. Whoever he'd once been was interminable for his face had been smashed into pulp. One of his eyes even drooped from the socket, still attached. Blood, his own blood, painted his chest and legs in several thick coats, dried and reapplied.

When he spoke, his voice cracked with strain. "Stop?" He laughed aloud, a bitter, harsh laugh that drove a wedge of fear through Heather. "No, dear. Nobody is going to stop this. Once it happens, the Pure League will be hunted down and killed with a vengeance the universe has never seen."

In the last moments of her life, Heather's attempt at transmitting her findings failed. The metal pipe in the stranger's hand wrapped against her skull with the sheer force of the blow; half her head caved in, killing her instantly.

To be continued...
Article © Josh Brown. All rights reserved.
Published on 2004-06-26
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