Elizabeth beamed and flashed her dazzling smile. “Be careful, Kurt.”
Kurt smiled back. “Careful is my middle name. How do you think I’ve survived this long? Don’t worry. They’ll never catch me.”
“Jim?” said Cordelia.
“Something’s wrong,” she said. “I’ve just found out someone has been tampering with one of my external cameras’ feed.”
“Which camera?” I asked.
“The one covering the front door.”
With a deafening blast, my house’s door exploded inwards. Dust and smoke filled half of the living room.
A cold chill grabbed my heart, and I was rooted to the spot for a second.
Kurt didn’t miss a beat. He pushed Liz behind a sofa, shouted, “Jim! Get down,” and drew both his weapons. Two black-clad SCTU soldiers rushed in. Kurt shot them both. The sound of gunshots was ear-splitting.
We’re so screwed.
I jumped behind the sofa where Liz was hiding. She grabbed my hand and despite the fear in her eyes calmly asked, “What’re we going to do?
My ears still ringing because of the explosion, I scanned the room, keeping my head down. Kurt hit another soldier. His ammunition couldn’t last forever. He took cover behind another sofa, the one that had his blood on it. Several bullets ripped through the sofa. It wasn’t having a very good day.
All the stories I’d heard about the torture and abuse people suffered in Zheng’s prisons rushed back to me, sending a chill down my spine. The image of Liz in a prison jumpsuit hit me like an eighty-ton tank. A woman as free-spirited and full of life as Liz wouldn’t survive long in prison, and that was if the SCTU soldiers didn’t shoot us first. The last thought made me shudder. I shielded Liz with my body, thinking feverishly, trying to find a way out of this mess or at least a way to save Liz.
Someone threw a gas grenade into the room.
I had an air force-issued M-25 handgun with two extra magazines in the closet in my bedroom. There were more soldiers surrounding us than the number of bullets I had, but anything was better than lying here in my living room waiting to die. Plus, if Kurt and I were both armed, there was a small chance we could create an opportunity for Liz to save herself. That way, at least there was hope.
A thought popped up in the back of my head. “Hope’s a dangerous thing.”
Oh, shut up!
I looked in Kurt’s direction to see if he could cover me while I ran to the bedroom to get my gun. He was looking at me. In his gray eyes, through the smoke, dust, and gas, I saw remorse, guilt, and the decision not to be captured alive by his enemies.
My blood running cold, I shouted,” Kurt! No!”
Kurt stood up, sorrow clouding his futures. He gave me a sad half-smile, dusted his trench coat off, sent me a small salute with one of his machine pistols, and with fire bursting out of both his guns’ barrels, started walking towards the door.
I hesitated for a second, then I ground my teeth and ran out of my hiding spot, planning to tackle Kurt and stop him from committing suicide-by-cop. A hail of bullets hit the floor inches from me. I had no choice but to jump back behind the sofa. Helpless, I watched as Kurt, still shooting, disappeared in thick fog-like gas.
Liz called out, “Jim!”
I turned my head to find her on the floor, eyes wide with horror, clutching her chest and throat. Only then did I realize I had a hard time breathing.
The bastards had gassed us.
Watching Liz slowly suffocate made my whole body start shaking. My breath ragged and harsh, I crawled to her, held her in my trembling arms, looked into her dark eyes and said, “Everything’s gonna be all right. I promise I’ll get you out of this; you hear me?” I was desperate for her to believe me, though I knew she was too smart for that.
Her face pinched with fear, Liz clutched my arm, holding on tight, and managed to whisper between coughs, “Save yourself. Go now. Leave me here.”
Go where, exactly?
She closed her eyes. Her body shuddered then went limp.
I pulled her closer, face buried in her thick, sweet-smelling hair, and said, “I didn’t give you your ring.”
It was at that moment when I realized I was about to lose everything. My best friend was probably dead. My love was dying. I wouldn’t last much longer myself. Despair swallowed me up whole. Every single muscle in my body tightened, and I started hyperventilating, partly due to the gas and partly because of the terror. I felt like I was being pulled into a black vortex, and resistance was indeed futile.
I gently lay Liz’s motionless body on the floor, feeling blank inside. I covered my nose and mouth with my shirt, held my breath, and used the increasingly thick gas as cover to run to the bedroom. I got my M-25, loaded it, hid behind the bedroom door frame, controlled my shaking hands with sheer willpower, aimed and shot at the silhouettes I could barely make out in the living room. The gunshots echoed deafeningly in the confines of my bedroom.
I hit a soldier who went down screaming in pain. Another soldier shouted, “Man down! We’ve got a man down!” and ran to the side of his fallen comrade. I drew my lips back in a snarl and shot him too. The bullet punched its way through his neck, causing a gaping hole. He fell to the ground, a pool of blood forming around him.
I shot the sheriff, and I shot the deputy.
Another soldier, wearing a black gas mask, stepped out of gas and smoke less than ten feet to my left. He was pointing a deadly looking assault rifle at my head. I reacted a fraction of a second faster than he did and shot him in the forehead, right where the Mark of Cain would’ve been. The sight of his brain splattering all over my living room bookshelves filled me with a primal, savage satisfaction.
A bullet grazed my right thigh. A sharp pain lanced through my body. It was like being stabbed with something white hot. My knee buckled, and I fell to the floor, grabbing my injured leg. I hid behind the door frame for a few moments and took several deep breaths.
“Major Harrison!” someone shouted. “Put your weapon down and walk out with your hands above your head. This is your last chance.”
“We know you’re injured,” said a woman. “We’re ready to offer medical assistance.”
These guys were trying to good-cop-bad-cop me.
“I would rather suffer the end of Romulus a thousand times. I would rather die in agony, than accept assistance from you,” I yelled back.
“What?” said the woman. She sounded confused.
“What’s Romulus?” asked the man. “Is it a code-name for the Resistance’s headquarters?”
I burst into hiccupping laughter, which somehow made my bullet wound’s pain more excruciating. I didn’t expect STCU goons to understand Star Trek references. “Yes, it is, and you’ll never find it.” I wished I could see the look on their faces when they ran Romulus through STCU’s databases.
“That’s it!” yelled the man. “I’ll count to ten, then we’ll come in, guns blazing. One, two . . . ”
“Dramatic much?” I asked.
Resting the back of my head against the wall, I looked at my blood-drenched pants and thought about bandaging the bullet wound, but it sounded like a waste of time. I’d be dead in a few seconds anyway. I’d always imagined I’d draw my last breath in a jet fighter’s cockpit during an aerial battle, not in my own bedroom in a Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid style shoot-out. I looked around my bedroom one last time, thought about Liz, bit my lip, and inserted another magazine into my gun.
I shouted, “Say ‘auf Wiedersehen’ to your Nazi balls!” rolled on the floor and pulled the trigger several times at a fast pace. The M-25 thundered. Enemy bullets whizzed past my head.
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