I am strapped to Anna’s back, plummeting at 120 miles per hour. Straight down. Down. Down.
We were dropped low and fast, it’s our only chance. Fast, undetected. Then Anna pulls the cord and …
Freefalling is a rush, but it’s not scary. Scary is when you release the parachute and are then dangle in mid-air, hundreds of feet in the sky. And, I would not have been able to do it.
That’s why I was strapped to Anna.
A minute later we land with a thud, and fall and twist and drag and scrape and Anna says, “Dammit, Sean. I told you to lift your legs!”
I don’t answer. I didn’t do it on purpose, the leg thing, but it feels good to exact a little revenge against this, this… person. Anna’s aggravating. It’s been torture to be strapped to her back for the last thirty minutes, this nemesis of mine. We stood ready to jump from the plane at any time, we weren’t sure how far we’d get.
Strapped in. Feeling the curves of her body, being massively turned on against my will. And have her feel that I was turned on and work her body this way and that way and… Well, the free-fall was a free-for-all and I enjoyed it immensely.
Against my will.
We work, Anna and I, to untangle ourselves. She says, “Hurry!” Which: duh. We cut away the chute. I tell Anna, “It would have been a lot easier to concentrate, you know. If you’d left me alone.” She smiles, tilts her head back, and laughs.
It was the only real laugh I had ever heard from her, and it would be her last.
The Computronium doesn’t help with a lot of important things. Like, fear of heights. Nope. Still weak-kneed. Butterflies in my stomach. Speaking of Computronium, I check my stomach, where a chunk of the rock is duct-taped three times over. Should what I’m about to do come down to a struggle, I can not lose contact with the Computronium. I just can’t.
Anna points to a hill. She says, “The LZ is on the other side of that peak. You got three hours. We’ll detonate the thing as soon as we lift off. I’ll see you on the inside. Good luck, and remember the satellites.”
Anna looks at me for a minute. I imagine I look ridiculous in diving goggles and a too-tight jump-suit. She says, “If Aaron Jefferson is going to be stopped, you are the man who is going to stop him.” I nod and try to swallow, but start coughing instead.
Anna looks at me, as though to say, great, you’re supposed to stop a madman, but you can’t even handle involuntary bodily functions.
For encouragement, or maybe to cop one last feel, Anna slaps me on the ass. She then spins and struts away like a runway model showing the latest in skin-tight jump-suits. I’m unable to peel my eyes away. When she disappears over a small hill, I jog into a group of bushes just tall enough to conceal me.
This next scene is Anna’s. She’s going to sacrifice herself to get me in the building, then, the stage is mine. If all goes well, I’m a hero.
If not, no one is.
I can see the main road in the distance. I look at my watch. The Undersecretary has tapped into several surveillance satellites and watches this plot of land from the sky. But, there are gaps. We need to hit those gaps. Or else. The gap started while we were airborne. Strapped to her back, we looked like one sky-diver. They spotted that much. Now, I hide until they confront Anna.
The group called The Arcana are aware of the threat from the air, but they are not concerned by sky-divers. In fact, Anna and Rufus have paid sky-divers to jump and land here sporadically off and on for the last few years. Security will run the thrill-seeking trespassers, of course, and threaten them for-sure. But eventually the Arcana began to view them as a nuisance, not a threat. Anna and Rufus’ foresight secured our entrance to our only chance against The Undersecretary.
I put in my bluetooth earpiece and dial my phone. While it connects, I notice the battery life: 83%. That could be a problem. What if the phone dies right when I need it most?
I connect to the conference call. 79 says, “Sean, is that you?” I whisper, “Affirmative.”
I hear Anna connect as well. She speaks in a regular voice. She sounds confident, unlike me. Unlike me, Anna has done shit like this before.
I get to the bushes where I will hide while the Arcana security team confront and pick up Anna. While she distracts them, I will circle around, get behind them, and stow away on the vehicle. They’ll take her back to their headquarters, the Museum, and I’ll be on the inside. When Anna and Rufus described their plan, they said this was the easy part. Once I’m inside, it’s going to be my Computronium and fresh body vs The Undersecretary, his massive stash of Computronium, but aged body.
But not yet. First, the Arcana security team. Anna and Rufus had worked this job when they first started with the Arcana over forty years ago. They know how it works. Anna could be recognized, but the Arcana’s onsite Nevada security team are usually the youngest of the young, so she’s not concerned.
I hear it before I see it. A diesel engine. Then, a military Humvee. It skids up to Anna, in the wide open, just as she predicted. She says into her earpiece, “They are here. Sean, go.”
I am supposed to circle around behind the vehicle, but honestly, I am in perfect position. Maybe fifty meters from the Humvee, already behind it. I jog bent over, and am at the back of the vehicle. When they put Anna in the back and climb in the front, I will run out and stow away in the small pickup bed in the back.
I hear Anna start to explain the rehearsed excuse. It’s the “I got blown off-course while sky-diving” story. She’s putting on a show of acting grateful they found her so quickly. As long as these soldiers don’t recognize her, we will be okay.
They will take her to the Museum, debrief her, threaten her, then drive her back to the jump school where she left from, and that would be it. Except.
Except, none of that happened. What happened was: The soldiers drove up to Anna, and they shot her, point blank. Two soldiers, two machine guns, bam, bam. Bam.
Four quick ones. Then, a single, final shot, and I’m single, alone about to be caught.
I stopped myself from screaming, but I can’t stop myself from looking. And I see. Anna, on the ground. Shadows growing around her despite the high sun.
Not shadows. A flood of blood. Not good.
I whisper, hopefully not too loud, “They shot Anna!” And, I hear 79 say, “Fuck!” and 208 says, “No!!” and Rufus says, “Sean, focus! You have to get in the Museum. This is our only chance!”
Then, I hear 79 say, “Are you sure they shot her?” but Rufus saves me an answer. He says, “Security is ordered to shoot on sight.” I can’t stop myself, I say, this time, way too loud, “What??”
I hear 79 say, “You said they’d just pick her up!”
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I hear Rufus’ voice waver as he says, “Anna knew how important this is. Don’t waste this moment, Sean. Go!”
But I cannot move. For a long moment I am terror-stricken.
Then, my courage returns. I move to leave the bushline to run for the Humvee, and as I do, I see the two secure guards carrying Anna’s lifeless body to the back of the Humvee. They dump her in the back, face down, right where I was supposed to stow away! They get in, I hear it shift into gear, and I know this is my last chance.
I chase after it, racing, running bent over. The wheels spin, spitting gravel back and me. It hits me in the knees and thighs, I take a rock in the chest and another in the stomach, and I … just … catch the tailgate and hop in the back and lay down flat.
And right on top of Anna.
Written, Produced and Narrated by Hans Anderson