Just like that, the entire world froze, every single person on Earth, all except for Matthew Harris, a brilliant, young software engineer student in enemy occupied Colorado. At first, it's all fun and games as he takes advantage of what appears to be an incredible opportunity to act without consequence, but as the weeks wear on, he begins to wonder if this is going to be his new reality. There's something off about all of this, though...He just has to figure out what it is.
I’m back at Valley View Regional, looking through the glass that separates us from Kim. Elle and James stand beside me as we watch the doctors work their way around her frail body. They say she’s going to make a full recovery, that it’ll only be a week or so before she’s good to go, but it’s hard to see from this perspective. Thankfully, she received crucial care for long enough before getting discharged that no reversible damage was done. Elle takes me by the arm and puts her head on my shoulder. I smile and look down at her.
“Thank you. Thank you so much,” she says softly. “I don’t know how it happened, but we’re truly lucky that you came into our lives.”
“It’s not luck,” I say with a grin, remembering Kim’s words. “Sometimes people just need people. And life has a way of making that work out.”
Elle releases her hold on me, though she keeps a hand on my arm and looks up with a curious grin. “I would always say that to her,” she says thoughtfully, the smile growing on her face. “She was born right after her father died. She was my little miracle, my ray of sun during a very dark time in my life.”
I chuckle and look back at Kim through the window. “I guess she has a pattern, then,” I say.
Elle laughs, and she grabs me tight again.
I find James in the lobby, waiting on a bench next to the exit. It’ll only be a few more hours before they let Kim go, and only Elle was allowed up to see her out. I take a seat next to James and look over at the receptionist, laughing internally at the memory of pushing her rigid form away like a puck across ice.
“You still mad I wrecked your intel source?” I ask. James laughs deeply, and I allow a small smile in return.
“I suppose you think I’m a monster?” he asks, his defenses lowered for the first time since meeting him. “Using my niece like I have?”
“No,” I admit half-truthfully. “I’m not sure what I would have done if I had your abilities.”
He nods and folds his arms. “Well, believe me. I’d take this moment over anything else. Ever. I can always find another way to, you know… but I’ve missed that smile on her face, Elle’s that is. You have no idea how bad she got when they had to send Kim home.”
“So, what will you do?” I ask quietly, not sure how much I should say in a public place like this.
“We’ll figure something out.”
I reflect on the past month, my mind still making the attempt to piece together all the things I’ve learned since being hit by that bus. It only took a matter of a second to flip my world upside down, to change it for good. It feels wrong not to do anything with the experience I was given. It’s almost like I was meant to go through it all…
I stand and look towards the elevators, recognizing the voice. Moments later, there’s a flurry of brown hair and I’m locked in a powerful embrace with Kim’s head nuzzled into my chest. I wrap my arms around her, and breathe a massive sigh of relief at the sight of her, alive and well, living in the real world. Then, she lifts her head up and presses her lips against mine, their soft contours meshing seamlessly as they brush across me.
After several beautifully eternal moments, Kim pulls away and looks bashfully over at her mother, who has just joined us at our side. “Sorry,” she says with an unapologetic smile.
Elle grins and throws her coat over her shoulder. “That’s alright. You’re lucky I didn’t kiss him first, after everything he’s done.”
Kim laughs and pulls me into another hug. “I’m sorry,” she says quietly so that only the two of us can hear. I look down at her, and she stares back up at me with her stormy-grey eyes.
“I’m sorry I ran away. I’m sorry that I left you.”
She seems to be on the verge of tears, so I pull her back and place my head on her own.
“It’s not your fault. I’m sorry, too.”
She lets out a sigh. We release each other, and then make our way out of the hospital, hand in hand.
“I won’t leave you again, I promise.”
“Kilo one, this is Archangel. We’re in position. Awaiting the green light.”
“Archangel, Kilo one. I have them approaching from the north one klick from your position, as predicted. Standby.”
I look down at my phone where I’ve pulled up a map showing all of southeast Seattle. There’s a blue marker indicating my position at the crossroads of two major avenues. Nearby are several dozen green markers indicating the locations of the other insurrectionists, and about a kilometer away is a line of red markers indicating the presence of the incoming E.A. resupply trucks. I mapped this scenario several weeks ago with the help of a new bit of software that I’ve developed. See, I went ahead and accepted the job to develop the predictive AI, though I decided to go with a different client after careful consideration…
“You see ‘em?” Kim asks with one hand holding a set of binoculars to her face, the other pointing out the window.
“Yeah. Almost there.”
I turn my head to stretch my neck and look around the dark room. We’ve been camped out on the seventh story of a large business tower for several days now, waiting for precisely this moment, though I have to say, it’s not exactly the place I’d choose to spend the night with Kim. The entire area is completely ravaged, with desks and chairs strewn about and piles of trash scattered from one corner to the next like the aftermath of a concert or a football game. There’s a giant hole gouged out of the corner of the building, allowing a brisk wind into the room, though Kim and I are huddled close enough together that it doesn’t matter.
“I don’t like heights,” she says after several moments, looking over the edge of the shattered window. I laugh and turn to her.
“Aren’t you the pilot?”
“Yeah, but physics works with me when I fly, not against me.”
I grin and shake my head. “We’ll be down soon enough. They’re almost in range.”
The transport trucks turn a corner and make their way down the road towards our position, guarded on either side by a company of soldiers and the occasional destroyer drone; they’re completely oblivious to the dozens of hidden explosives and armed rebels surrounding them.
“Kilo one, archangel. Falcons passing our position. Standing by.”
“Understood, archangel. Prepare to fire on my mark,” I say over the radio.
Kim pulls a magazine from her chest armor and inserts it into her rifle.
“Well, I promised we’d come to Seattle once we got out,” she says with a sideways grin. “You ready for this?”
I smile and lift up my own rifle.
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