Sorry for the – pause – but another ambulance ride intervened and, for a while, the outcome appeared to be in some doubt. That’s the bad news. The good news? I’m home again and one of my youngest girls presented me with a litter of pups, so I’m busy making Momma-san my special concoction and doing my best to write a page or two.
And yes, of course, music always matters – so would you please tell me who I am?
Early morning, Christmas Eve, Henry’s group standing on the platform at the Paris St-Lazare railway station. Henry in a wheelchair, Rolf by his side, while Dina stood behind the chair – grasping the handles possessively – as if daring anyone to challenge her right to take charge of Henry here and now. Anton stands off to the side, away from all three super-charged alpha-females, wary of them as he watches as they angled for position. He almost wished Captain Lacy had decided to join them, but on second thought he knew Lacy might prove to be the one volatile element that would send Dina over the edge. Rotterdam had been terrible, he realized, but Dina cutting loose today might mean the end of everything.
It was cold out on the platform, and as Anton watched little tendrils of steam waft away from the three woman he couldn’t help but think they looked a little like angry bulls readying to face a matador, and the sight confused him. He had simply assumed Dina no longer cared for Taggart, so much so he’d been more than a little surprised when he first saw her and Rolf stepping onboard Time Bandits. Hadn’t she run away? Had she not acquiesced and asked for a divorce? He could understand her return in terms of a protective impulse – to protect her grandson, Rolf – but he simply couldn’t fathom the fierce protectiveness he saw inscribed on her face as she stood behind Henry just then.
Yet Edith looked most seriously bent out of shape, like she hadn’t quite expected this last fight for the possession of Henry’s soul to be be held on such bitterly contested ground. This was, after all, Claire’s ground – and therefore her’s, too. Hallowed ground, terrain that had defined her entire life, but now – suddenly – this…imposter…was here, staking claim to a soul she had no right to possess. As Anton watched, malice seemed to drip from her eyes like pus from oozing sores.
And even Tracy seemed caught up in the moment. Standing back from the two divas, watching them, understanding what each felt yet pitilessly ready to push them out of the way at the decisive moment. She knew what was coming, and she was fairly sure she even knew when Henry would pass, so it looked to Anton like the youngest of the three was laying back in the shadows, like a lioness waiting to pounce on unsuspecting jackals.
Only Rolf seemed vaguely detached from the vulturine machinations beating the air over the grouped tendrils; only the boy seemed to cling to Henry with a kind of innocent purity, held within feelings he simply had no right to understand. To Anton, the boy looked suspended between love and fear – and a great, yawning unknown. His mother was gone now, taken from him by a host of unknowns and yet for all intents and purposes doing just fine – somewhere. And while Henry was like the father he’d never had, Henry was also the author of his mother’s disappearance, so how could a boy possibly love the dying man?
“I thought you had arranged for Milos to take us to Honfleur?” Edith growled.
“I wanted to take the train,” Henry sighed. “He’ll pick us up in LeHavre and bring us back tonight.”
Dina drummed her fingers on the wheelchair’s bicycle grips, her eyes inexplicably drawn to a locomotive’s lights as it pulled into the station. She watched the train glide to a stop and stood back to let passengers disembark from the First Class carriage, then she pushed Henry onboard…
“Where do you want to sit?” she asked Henry, leaning close to his ear as she spoke.
“Up there on the wheelchair row, by the window, please.”
Everyone settled in seats close to Henry, but for some reason he seemed lost to them already. He was, apparently, adrift in memory, and Anton smiled as the wonder of it all washed over the moment.
He’d made six flights already, but so far not one of the NASA astronauts assigned to the program had been able to get the ARV off the ground, and if Pinky knew the reason why she simply wasn’t going to tell anyone anything. Rupert Collins was, apparently, allowed onboard when Henry flew the beast, but as soon as anyone from NASA or the Air Force stepped aboard, the craft went into sleep mode and resolutely failed to respond to any commands – even Henry’s.
And people were pissed off. Some very important people, as it happened.
At Henry Taggart most of all, but some of that institutional anger had spilled over onto Rupert Collins, too. Yet the powers-that-be saw a way out of the dilemma, a plan that might even rehabilitate Rupert’s mojo enough to act as a kind of life preserver. Literally.
By now, almost everyone in Maclean was certain Henry Taggart was behind this series of events, and they wanted him out of the picture. Not so much ‘out of sight, out of mind,’ but ‘dead and gone.’
An astronomer detected the asteroid on June 25th, 1908 while conducting a routine sweep of the southern sky. When she realized what she was looking at she called one of the Blues.
This was their project, after all. And a chunk of rock this big would seriously disrupt their work.
“What have you found?” the Blue asked as soon as it popped into her observatory.
The Red looked at her display and a magnified image of the impactor appeared.
“Do you have mass and velocity yet?”
The Red blinked once and graphs appeared on one screen, while the most likely point of impact appeared on a much larger, central display.
The Blue assimilated the information then closed his eyes; a moment later several Blues and one Green appeared beside the astronomer’s desk, their eyes first taking in the central display, then the smaller panel displaying all other known or relevant data. The Blues turned to the Green, who nodded before he closed his eyes.
Moments later a Pink appeared and, terrified, the Blues winked out and disappeared. The Green nodded to the central display and the Pink read his thought, then the astronomers.
“It will impact the polar ice cap in four days,” the Pink began. “Tsunamis and concomitant sea level rise will inundate all coastal cities within eighteen hours. Loss of life should be between sixty and seventy percent of the existing human population; sea life will be eradicated and ninety percent of the planet’s surface will be icebound within a year.”
Greens were decision makers, but when decisions like this one needed to be made all Greens were obligated to consult with at least one Pink before taking action. Pinks were primarily pilots and astrogators, but of most importance to the question at hand, they were empaths, and not surprisingly the teams’ Pinks had been in charge of all contact with the indigenous population for the last fifteen thousand years.
“Do you want to change the point of impact?” the Pink asked.
“Is it possible to deflect into deep space?”
“No. With the available energy, an impact in this forested land mass will result in the least loss of life. However, in order to achieve this, the lifter will need to maintain contact with the impactor almost all of the way to the surface.”
“During breakup, you mean to say?”
“Yes. Neither the craft nor the pilot are likely to survive.”
The Pink understood before she disappeared. Blues are such cowards, she thought.
© 2021 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next element will drop as soon as the muse cooperates.