The Man From God Only Knows Ch. 07byAdrian Leverkuhn©
The Man from God Only Knows/7
A Conclusion to The Blackwatch Saga
As the world around the airport exploded Stormgren wrestled the old jet into a steep turned for the mountains north of the city; warning lights and threat receivers howled. He concentrated on keeping the aircraft as low as possible. A surface to air missile roared by a few hundred feet overhead; the threat receiver remained silent as the missile disappeared into the deep haze over the city. He pushed the stick down a bit more; at fifty feet over the ground and two hundred knots the landscape rippled by in a blur. He pulled up sharply to clear a low range of hills; the threat receiver howled in earnest now. He jinked hard high and right, then slammed the nose over and to the left; this second missile roared into the hillside a half mile to their right. He leveled the wings as they topped the crest of the range then pushed the stick down again and eased off the throttle. They cross the ruins of old valley settlements as Stormgren scans the panel for the first time since take-off.
"Hull integrity, pressurization, secondary hydraulic reservoir," the co-pilot states. "And my fucking nerves!"
"Roger that!" he chuckles. "What do you make our fuel?"
"About four hours, but a lot less if we stay down here in the weeds."
The cockpit door opens, Stormgren turns and finds Thor Bergtorson, who until a few minutes ago was Tribonian to the Senatus, standing in the doorway; his arms are stained with blood, his shirt ripped.
"You guys alright back there?" Stormgren asks, his eyes wide.
"It's pretty breezy!"
"Breezy? What? Why?"
"Maybe you better come take a look!"
"Can't right now..."
"Right. Well, the entire right side looks like Swiss cheese..."
"How 'bout the wing?"
"Brown fluid coming out of the engine pylon, a big hole just shy of the wingtip."
"'Bout a foot 'round."
"Jenn, can you see it?" Stormgren asked the co-pilot.
"Leading edge looks okay; can't see much else."
A large mountain range loomed ahead and Stormgren increased power, settled on a ten degree climb at seventy eight percent EGT – low and slow.
"Where are we headed," Bergtorson asked. "Edwards?"
"Nope. Hole in the Wall."
"No kidding? Never been."
"What's the Hole in the Wall?" Jennie asked.
Stormgren looked at her, smiled.
"Once upon a time it was called Area 51."
He saw her mouth drop, her eyes grew disbelieving, then he flashed his best 'shit-eatin' grin:
"Wanna go see a Starship?"
The 737 taxied to a rough stop by an ancient tan hanger; two very well preserved F-22 Raptors circled overhead. Stormgren chopped power, set the brakes, began shutting down systems one by one. The cockpit grew warm, then hot.
"Well, that was fun!" the co-pilot said.
"Nothin' to it." Stormgren's shirt was soaked through; the sun was still high in the sky and the air conditioning had shut down when the engines idled down. The APU was fried.
The cabin door opened, a stairway rolled up and cadets and bureaucrat-cum-spies filed out and jogged toward the closest shade they could see – which was inside the open hanger door. Bergtorson stepped back into the cockpit, fresh bandages on his arms and neck.
"A hundred forty four out there," he said, stating the obvious. Hot air filled the aircraft now and it was stifling. "We'd better get inside."
"Did you see my brother?" James asked the senior man.
"Come on. Let's go. We need to talk."
The hanger, like all the other buildings at the old base, was an empty shell; all it provided was access to another major R&D facility located deep underground.
James Stormgren sat in a small auditorium with the commandos who'd been on the flight; there were about forty men in the room and a handful of women, including his co-pilot Jennie.
His father walked in a few minutes later with Thor Bergtorson. They both stood before the assembled commandos, both looked tense.
"ConIsmus forces have breeched the Mag-Lev platform," Bergtorson began. "In about twenty minutes we're going to detonate a large device about halfway down the line. That'll be the end of our access to the west coast, for good, I'm afraid."
He looked around the room.
"As you know, we left behind some men; its not clear but I'd say ten, fifteen or so went overland to recover Commander Weblenson and the remnants of his force, including, I'm told, the Justinian Sinn August-dottir."
Bergtorson crossed his arms over his chest.
"We're going in to go get them. I need volunteers."
Every hand in the room shot up.
She looked up at him, fire burning in her eyes.
"I'm not apologizing for who or what I am," Austin Stormgren said to the Justinian. "All I will concede is that I am who I am."
"And what is that, fool!"
"I am my father's son. And I have learned just what that means."
The Justinian shook her head in disgust. "No, you are a traitor. Simply that, nothing more than a traitorous fool."
She tried to sit up, winced at the pain that seared from her thigh to her chest.
"You need some morphine," he stated. "I'll go..."
"I don't need your drugs. Leave me be, let me go in peace."
"Right. Go. Yeah." He shook his head, moved further down the storm sewer where the remaining troops and commandos had set-up a makeshift comms shack. Another burst of encrypted code streamed-in as the assembled commandos watched; Weblenson took the SD card and fed the data into his computer, and the message came up on a little hand-held screen moments later. He read through the information then deleted it, looked up the men and women. His face was grim, tired.
"Before dawn, two transports. On the beach, about ten miles north of here."
There were groans, worried looks, more than a few heads dropped in despair.
"We can't carry the Justinian that far," one of the men said. "She's bleeding too bad."
"She needs surgery. Soon," one of Weblenson's medics said. "All I have left is a bag of plasma and some morphine, and not a lot of that, either."
"How long?" the Commander asked. "How long can we keep her stabilized?"
"As soon as possible. Blood expanders will only last so long. Four hours, maybe five. Twelve if the plasma works. If she can handle the pain."
"What do you recommend?"
"A simple overdose of morphine would be most the most humane thing," the medic stated.
"No, Goddamnit!" Austin growled. "We can't do that! You don't underst..." He caught himself, stopped before he said too much. Some of the older hands looked at him, saw something in his eyes: they knew something unspoken was lurking in the boys mind... probably something important. A few exchanged sidelong glances, some nodded, others shrugged their shoulders.
Weblenson watched it all, but even he didn't know what young Stormgren was keeping back.
"I'm open to suggestions, son," he finally said.
Austin shook his head. If the plan fell apart his best choice was to see that the girl lived. That had to be his first priority. "Then I'll take her up, call in for a medevac."
"And then what, Austin? Stay with her?"
A couple of the commandos interrupted: "Are you out of your fucking mind?" "You want to commit suicide?"
"Not particularly, no, but I..."
"But you what? You'll be imprisoned, tortured. You won't be with her."
"That's not important..." began, but he stopped himself again, turned away from the men and looked down the tunnel to where she lay. He thought of her as he'd first seen her in the classroom, thought of riding with her and her voice played with his feelings – as it always had – those feelings he'd had for her from that very first moment.
"I care for her, yes. And what happens to her. But..."
"That's because you don't know the bitch, son. She's a viper."
"So she may well be. It does not matter. I've made a promise."
Weblenson nodded. "Alright. So be it."
A commando came running from the far end of the tunnel: "We have secured an air-truck, Commander. We must hurry."
"Well, there you go kid. The course of true love and all that shit takes many a strange road. Stevens, you and Sir Galahad go get Her Highness, would you, and let's get her skinny ass out of here!"
When she was strapped down in the back of the truck, when they were safely airborne, the Justinian looked at Austin. He saw an expression in her eyes he'd never expected to find; they were soft, feverish, full of sorrow – but something else, too...
"How are you feeling?" he asked her.
She smiled wanly: "I heard you, all of you, back there in the tunnel."
He looked away: "Oh, sorry."
"Would you have stayed with me? Really?"
"Because of something I saw in someone's eyes."
She turned away. "Oh? Mine?"
"I don't understand."
"I think you wanted me," he began. "Back at the Institute. I could feel something – between us." But it was more complicated than that. Not yet... not yet...
"You could see that?"
"I think so, yes. But feel is a better word."
"You are right, Aurelius. I wanted you then. Badly."
"Why? Why me?"
"DNA at first, until I met you. I arranged to teach the class on search and seizure law, you know, just to meet you."
"And the ride-along?"
"Oh, yes. I wanted to that night. If you hadn't been..."
Her voice was weak now, and Austin looked up at the medic; he shook his head, pointed at the last bottle of plasma and shrugged. "She ready to try?" the medic whispered.
He took her hand. "Will you do me a favor?" Austin said to her.
She bit her lip, exhaled slowly, deeply: "If I can. Yes."
"I want you to fight now, not give up. We want to give you another bottle of plasma, and a pretty heavy shot of morphine."
"Ah, so you would spare me even my own death? Would you think that so kind, my friend?"
He squeezed her hand, looked into her eyes. "I'm not going to lose you."
He felt her hand in his, the warmth of it, the way it felt so right in his own. Perhaps she feels the same?
"Go ahead, then." She looked up at the medic, her eyes filled with tears, then at Aurelius. He leaned down to kiss the salt away as the medic slipped a needle into her thigh.
"I'll see you when you wake up, Samantha. I'll be waiting, okay. Don't worry."
Her breathing slowed, her eyes fluttered and closed.
'What?' she thought as she drifted away. 'Why did he call me that?'
The Justinian opened her eyes. Everything was a cold, white blur. She heard electrical machinery humming all around her; whatever this place was – it smelled funny, like copper and burning rubber and old rock. And it was cold... so cold! She shivered and someone moved to her side, put a warmed blanket over her body. The shadow moved, reached down and wiped her eyes; she looked up when her vision cleared, saw an older woman and her mind reeled. No! It couldn't be! The hair was different, but the eyes, her chin... even the very smell of her...
"Yes, Sam. It's me."
"Mom? How..." but it couldn't be... she'd been killed in the Secession War...
"It's alright, Sam. You're home now. Sh-h, sh-h. Just rest now, don't cry. Everything will become clear soon."
"Oh, God, where am I?" She tried to catch her breath through a veil of tears but failed. "No! No, I'm dreaming... this is a... I know I... dead..."
A pinch in her upper arm, flooding warmth, then she was floating again – floating away into dreams and nightmares and broken landscapes filling with molten cities...
"You will sleep now, Samantha. Sleep for a long, long time. But Sam, I have something for you. It will be waiting for you."
Her eyes opened; she was in, what, a different room? Yes, but everything felt very different. Now, aside from the glow of strange machinery she felt a strangeness about everything around her, even the air she breathed felt strange, almost alien. And she felt alone, a profound loneliness, inside this strange, glowing darkness – and what was this? Could she feel the room spinning, or was it medication? But, over there! Someone was sitting in a chair by her bed. It was a man. Was he a nurse? A doctor?
"Could I have some water?" she croaked. The man moved in the darkness, reached for a cup and stood uneasily. He came to her, an odd looking cup and spoon in one hand, and he fed her bits of crushed ice. Ice! Real ice! "Oh, God, I feel so stiff. Where am I?"
"Well, I'm sure not God!" the man said.
"Aurie – Aurelius?" She could feel his voice in the core of her being.
"God, yes please!"
She took more, chewed on it slowly. The entire sensation was so foreign... "Ice... it's been so long so I had ice..."
"Good stuff, frozen water," he said. "Nothing like it."
"Could you turn on a light?"
"Yeah? Why wouldn't I be?"
He ignored her question, the tone of her voice, flipped a switch by her side and the room lit gradually, as if arrangements had been made for her own personal sunrise. Blue light, deep and radiant, glowed from the ceiling; in a moment streaks of gold and orange appeared in this "sky". She looked around as the room grew lighter; everything was all wrong! The room was too narrow, the ceiling too low, and everything was rounded – there wasn't a sharp angle or corner anywhere – and one wall was all wrong... like she was inside a dome. A dome! Of course! These people must have been building domes for as long as we have, maybe longer!
The closest wall was sloped, curved! As the wall fell away from the ceiling she could tell that it was curved, part of the dome; even the window inside this wall was curved! And the window? The glass was black, the corners of the window radiused, and the glass itself was... what? Thick?
He watched her face, watched for signs of recognition, or fear. As the light grew stronger it also became less radiant, somehow white and soft at the same time... like a cloudy day. Her face was as soft now, but still radiant. He hated what the next few minutes would bring...
It was then she saw his face. He seemed older, or was it just maturity she saw in his eyes?
"Where are we? A Dome? The Northern Tier?"
"This place... is called The Emissary."
"But... you didn't... where are we?"
He nodded, looked down at her legs, willed her eyes to follow his own...
Her right leg was gone. A short stump was, she saw, perhaps all that remained.
She felt her throat closing, a scream building; he reached out and brushed away hair that seemed to be floating in front of her eyes, beyond her silently falling tears.
"It's not as bad as it looks," he said.
"Right, right, sure..." He wiped away more tears; only then did she notice her hands were secured to small railings on the bedside with thick padded straps. She pulled at the straps, panic filled her eyes.
"Oh God, I'm a prisoner?"
"No, you keep trying to pull out your IV! In your sleep!"
He was trying not to laugh; she suddenly filled with rage and hate.
"You fucking bastard! You think this is funny!"
"In a way, yes. Yes, it is."
"Get out of here, you fucking fool! Leave me alone!"
"In a minute." He grew stern, watched her now as a biologist might examine a specimen under a microscope. "We have a few things to discuss."
There WAS something different about him. She wasn't imagining it. She saw it in his eyes, in his hair, and she grew afraid – quiet and very afraid.
"You're older," she said, her voice trembling.
"Have I been in a coma?"
"Aurie – Austin, would you stop this! Why are speaking in riddles!"
"Alright." His movements were jerky, somehow forced, as he turned and stepped over to the window. "There's no easy way to tell you this, so just try to be calm, alright?" He reached out and turned a dial; the intensely polarized window began clearing, a white metal shutter of some sort slid up into the ceiling and out of view.
Rings hung before her, rings and vast blue swirling clouds. And stars! Everywhere! It was too strange, too unreal for her mind to take in: she was looking at a planet with rings around it. Saturn. Yet it was huge, the rings so close she felt she could reach out and touch them.
"What is this? A hologram?"
"No." He looked at her as he moved back to her side but he smiled even as her eyes grew wide, even as her lips began to tremble. She tried to speak but only fractured bits of parched words crawled from her sundered mind.
"About your leg, first. We've harvested cells; we're growing you a new one from your own DNA. The docs will talk to you soon about what they plan to do."
She blinked, looked up at him. His words made no sense. Nothing made sense in this place.
"Second. In case you're having trouble with the idea, you're not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy."
"Uh-huh. And this is Oz?"
"Not quite, at least not yet. The Emissary is, well, a kind of shuttle." He watched her eyes; they were trying to follow his lips as he spoke. "We're about to swing around Saturn, then there will be a burn. Like a rocket, except you won't hear anything. But the acceleration will be very powerful, and painful; you won't be able to move – at all. I didn't want to take a chance, well, that you'd wake up in the middle of it. It will be very disconcerting, disorienting."
"And I, uh... Like that isn't?" She pointed at the rings and all they implied.
"Don't say anything. Not yet." He held her hand now, squeezed it gently while he looked in her eyes. "After the burn we'll be coasting, we'll be leaving the solar system at about 70 percent of light-speed. If all goes according to plan in about two years we're going to rendezvous with, well, with something out there."
"Someone?" Her eyes blinked rapidly. "Who?"
"Well, it ain't a bunch of kids on Spring break, alright? I think they're, well, more like, uh, nerds. You know the term?"
She nodded slowly, a smile creased her face. "But..."
He brought a finger to her lips, shook his head.
"Sometime before the Secession War, the big one, I mean, NASA discovered a ship beyond the solar system, powered by a light sail, and it was huge. I mean really, really huge. The ship was headed, well, sort of, toward the solar system. Anyway, some people were scared, afraid the discovery would shatter belief systems and things started going to hell in a hurry. It's probably no coincidence the Secession War started a few months later. Society fractured, the religion and science thing, and everything began falling apart. People finally split along those lines and went their separate ways. But the scientists, well, they already had an organization in place. They called it the Blackwatch."
"...Never heard of it. I know. But it's even more interesting than that."
"They'd been talking with them, for a long time. Learning. They're like, I don't know, like teachers. One of them came, in a small ship. A... well, something like a man. A male, anyway. He brought evidence of a really huge space-faring civilization they had discovered, and, well, they were off to see the wizard. They're going off in search of this old civilization, and they invited some of us along for the trip."
"Why... am I here?"
"Your mother was one of the principal discoverers of the ship, she made first contact with The Watcher."
"Yes. He was old, expendable, as I understand it. He cloned himself."
"Well, you see, in a way he was my father."
"I know. I don't understand it all either. Anyway, this has been their plan, your mother's and The Watcher's, almost from the beginning."
"So are you..."
"Yes. His DNA was integrated into ours."
"Do you remember the night I was taken? During that ride-along?"