Chapter 36: The First Strike
The guard paced across the grim hallway, his hands trembling. It was his duty to convey the unwelcome news to Banks, one Banks does not even wish to hear though he knows. Leila is in Bryan’s camp. He could not even imagine how the tyrannical psychopath would react to the news. Banks never had any regret in killing off his people. I would just be one among them, the guard told himself.
The guard waited a moment before opening the door, calculating the probability that he would make it alive out of this room. His face grew pale. Though he did not have much hope, he pushed the door open. Banks was not alone inside, Richard and Jacob were accompanying him, leaning over the table. They were concentrating on a map, planning their next evil deed.
Upon the unexpected entry, the three looked up at him. “What is it?” Banks was the one to ask.
“Sir, there is bad news.” The guard replied, his voice quivering.
“What is it?” Banks asked again, his voice more hoarse.
“We found Leila’s whereabouts. She is at Kirkland’s camp.” The guard got rid of the words out of his throat. Whatever his fate was, it was one to accept, there was nothing that could change it.
Banks stood still, his fists were clenched, his face was turning red and, the guard was turning pale. The guard closed his eyes, ready to accept his destiny. “I believed her.” A faint, but powerful, a voice emerged from Banks. Suddenly, he pulled the drawer open, with all his force, and grabbed a pistol. The guard closed his eyes even tighter, praying to God one last time.
But before Banks could pull the trigger, Richard pushed his hand away. “Leo, Don’t.” The old man shouted as loud as he could. Banks’ eyes were gushing red now. “You have killed enough people, your own people. You are not doing this anymore.” Richard was exhausted, his old age could not withstand a lot of pressure.
Banks stared at him intensely, but he stopped. It’s Richard. He told himself. Banks lowered his gun and asked the guard never to come before him again. He was unable to pull the trigger anymore. It’s Richard.
Banks had a lot of respect for him. Richard was the only person who stayed with him from the very beginning, even before Emery. However cruel Banks was, he could never defy Richard’s words, from the time he was just a child; He respected him, Richard was maybe the only one in the world, who had his respect.
“Richard, it’s over. The wait is over. I will not tolerate this any longer. We are taking it to that stupid, little Kirkland. We are.” Banks roared.
“If that’s what you think, I will no longer stop you,” Richard spoke, looking away. Banks sprinted off the room, leaving behind the other two. Felix. Jacob’s heart was pounding hard.
It was getting darker, the bright, full moon was their only guide through the woods. Suddenly, Miles fell down, exhausted from their long run. It has been two days since he tasted some water. He was beyond dehydrated, he couldn’t take another step. “Miles, get up. We are so close.” Sue whispered, not losing her sense of secrecy, even when they were already so far from Banks’ guards.
“I can’t, Sue. I am sorry.” He felt his chest getting compressed as he spoke each word. “Leave.” He told Sue faintly.
“Leave? I am not going anywhere without you.” Sue sat beside him. She raised his head from the ground and rested it on her thighs. Her hands slowly stroked his hair, their eyes locked with each other. “Nowhere.” Sue leaned down to Miles and, gave him a kiss.
Miles pulled away from her, his eyes wandering the woods. Suddenly, he noticed someone behind the tree. “Sue, there is someone there.” He said, pointing at the tree. Miles rolled over so Sue could take cover. She stood up, pulling her gun out and hid behind another tree. She held her pistol close to her chest. “We know you are there. Show yourself, and we will not hurt you.” Sue spoke out loud.
A small girl came out from behind the tree. It was Faith, it was the second time her own side was threatening her with firearms. But, she had never seen these two before. She feared if they were someone else. Suddenly, Miles shouted out as loud as he could, “It’s a child, Sue.” It was too much on him, he started coughing, his throat burning.
Sue ran towards him, while Faith ran in the other direction. Sue didn’t understand what the kid was up to, but it did not matter. She had to do something, Miles was nearly dying, and she could never let him go. “Miles, Miles, look at me.” She held his head upon her thighs. “You are alright. Just look at me.” Her voice was trembling.
Suddenly, she found the child running back to them, holding something in her hands. Faith ran fast and sat beside them. There was a kettle in her hands, she poured the water over to Miles. Miles gulped as much water as he could, he felt like heaven. He craved so much for this moment to come. Having had enough, he tilted his head to a side, washing his dirt-covered face.
Miles lied back in relief, his eyes again met with Sue. “You should have some water too,” Miles told her. Faith held the kettle up for Sue. She grabbed it and finished the kettle in a few gulps, she too had waited enough for this. Miles looked up at Faith now, “Do you know Bryan?” He asked her. Faith nodded.
“We need to get to him. Can you help?” Sue asked the child. Faith nodded again, in agreement. “Well then, let’s move,” Sue told them and lifted Miles from the ground. The three moved towards the camp, Faith walked ahead, and they followed, Miles still supported by Sue to walk.
Leila sat upon the bed, resting against a pillow. She has not yet recovered fully; Her wounds were too many. Rachel and Felix sat at the other end of the room; They were the ones dutied to protect the highly-capable, wounded soldier.
Leila tried to grab an orange from the basket, kept aside her bed. But, her efforts were in vain, her hands could not reach it. Felix noticed her failed attempt, so he walked across the room and picked one of the oranges. Rachel stayed on her chair, keeping an eye for even the slightest of movements. She simply smiled at them both.
“My sister grows them.” He smiled, his hands peeling the skin off the orange he picked up. Leila simply smiled at the comment, she has long forgotten the last time she had a normal conversation. Felix split the orange in half and gave Leila one of them. He then walked over to Rachel, dividing the half again. Rachel grabbed it and said, “Thank you, Fe.”
As Felix was walking back to Leila again, Rachel suddenly called out to him. “What is it?” Felix replied, his voice tensed. “Are those people?” She pointed to the far end of the ground. There indeed was some movement behind the trees, Felix quickly grabbed the walkie-talkie.
“And what about the power grid?” Bryan asked Philips. They were all taking a walk through the camp, Castor and Theodore, one of the electrical engineers, accompanying them. Their conversation changed to enquiries by the time Philips and Theodore were about to return to their station.
“Seems promising enough, Kirkland,” Philips replied, in his deep voice. He was getting tired of the conversation that was stretching out without a subject. “Well, see you guys tomorrow. Try and stay alive.”
“We will, Philips.” It was Castor who replied. They waved their hands at the returning pair. Bryan and Castor looked at each other for a moment. Then, they started walking back. “That guy, Philips, he is a bit strange, isn’t he?” Bryan asked, trying to start a conversation. “Yes, he is.” John’s answer was short and not at all helped in extending the conversation.
They walked together for some time when Bryan again asked a question, “So, what do you think, Castor?” John looked at him, confused, “About what?” Bryan bit his lips, “About everything, everything we are doing.” Castor was confused on how to reply, their situation was pathetic, but that was not the answer Bryan needed right now. “It’s not bad,” Castor replied in the end. “Why did you ask that?” He continued.
“Well, a lot of people look up at me, John. They believe I can lead them out of this mess. They believe in me. And I, I don’t even have the slightest idea what to do. All I have is a bunch of damaged people, the ones who have only faced one war in their lives, one they all failed miserably in. Most of them have never even handled a gun. And there are children. While they should be enjoying their life, I hand them guns to kill. I am afraid I am wrong. And there are not much people around here, who I can tell these too.”
Castor patted his shoulders, he felt helpless for this man. “You are doing what’s right,” Castor replied, he did not have a lot of consoling words to offer. Suddenly, Bryan pulled Castor out of the way. “Grenade.” He screamed. They took cover behind the ruins of an old building. “What the hell?” Castor asked himself. They could hear gunshots behind them. Bryan’s walkie-talkie screeched, it was Felix. “Sir, there are other people outside the camp.”
“They are inside now, Felix. Get Leila out of there, now.” He replied. Castor was already holding firearms on his hands. He handed one of the F-2000s to Bryan. “Are you ready?” He asked. “I always were.” Bryan’s reply was quick. Taking a deep breath, they both moved out. Bryan signed Castor to be careful. And then, they made one swift run.
Now, Bryan and Castor walked, side by side, directly into the lines of fire.
Haley laid on Matt’s shoulder, watching the small chamber, her eyes brimming with happiness. They held each other’s hands tightly. We are going to be parents, Haley thought. “She will be beautiful,” Matt spoke, breaking the long silence.
“She?” Haley looked up at him, her chin still resting on his shoulders. “I think it will be a boy.” Matt held the side of her neck and kissed her forehead.
“Well, boy or girl, I think you guys would make great parents.” Kalinda stood behind them. “Oh! I didn’t see you.” Matt replied.
“It’s alright. Enjoy the moment. I just came here to grab some things. I am going out now.” Matt looked at Haley, blushing. She smiled back at him. “Are you feeling better now, Haley?” Kalinda continued.
“A day at a time, Dr Matthews. But I’m feeling okay” Haley replied.
“Well, positive thoughts help a lot. Like Peter Pan.” Kalinda winked at her and went out of the room.
“Here you go, ma’am” Kalinda handed the syringe to Dr Perez. She was helping Rosa out a lot. Her expertise in almost everything had always surprised Kalinda. She grabbed it and filled it with some drug. “This will hurt a tad bit, Rosa.” She smiled at her own comment. “But it will help with the pain. You said it keeps on hurting, right? This might put an end to it. We may need a few more doses, but for now, this seems good enough.” Kalinda stood by Rosa and held her hands tight. But Rosa was way stronger than she thought. Her grasp nearly broke her bones.
Suddenly, they all heard a loud noise from outside. “What was that?” Eleanor asked. “Something’s happening,” Rosa replied, getting out of the bed. Matt and Haley also reached the room. “We have to go check,” Rosa continued.
Matt looked at Haley, “I have to go, honey.”
“No, honey, please don’t. Don’t leave me out here.”
“I have to. You are safe here. I am sorry.” Matt replied, trying to lose her hold. He hugged her tight and helped her rest on a chair. Then he began on his way out. Suddenly, a call stopped him. “I am coming too.” It was from Rosa. Kalinda jumped against her. “Rosa, you are in no condition. You can’t.”
“It’s him, it’s Banks. It can’t be anyone else. I know what to do to that imbecile.” She patted Kalinda’s shoulders and joined Matt on his way out.