Author : Josh Romond
The neurosurgical tech Andrew Asher clutched his overcoat tight over his scrubs and tried to concentrate on the National Guardsman eying him across the barricade. Overhead the cityâ€™s kilometer-long support pylons reverberated like infernal gongs, torqued by the psychic eruption. Columns of refugees spilled around the dirty plastic barrier propelled by its unnatural, cold wind.
From behind her silvered faceplate the Guardsman said, â€œBuddy, weâ€™re here to get people OUT, not let you IN.â€
Andrew shuffled his feet, impatient and cold. â€œThis has to be the last of them.â€
â€œDoesnâ€™t matter, youâ€™re not getting in.â€
Andrew bit back his retort as, â€˜TAKING TOO LONG,â€™ appeared inside his contact lens. He glanced back at the tractor trailer idling in the tide of refugees.
â€œGive me a minute,â€ he subvocalized.
Andrew turned back and through gritted teeth said, â€œWe wonâ€™t get in the way, weâ€™ll be gone in an hour.â€
The Guardsman drummed her fingers on her rifle. â€œTurn that thing around and get out of here.â€
â€˜ERUPTION WAVEFRONT DEGRADINGâ€¦â€™
Andrew sighed. â€œLimit?â€ he subvocalized.
There was a pause, Andrew imagined the Doctor querying their client, then, â€˜NONE.â€™
â€œHow about five thousand each?â€ Andrew shouted so the other Guardsmen could hear. Several heads turned.
After a pause the commanderâ€™s faceplate hissed up revealing bloodshot and sunken eyes. â€œTen.â€
Andrew shrugged and pulled blank bills from his pocket, thumbing ten thousand into each.
The commander verified them one by one then motioned over her shoulder. Two Guardsmen began beating back the crowd with their batons while the others dragged the barricade to the sidewalk. People screamed. One man caught a baton across the temple. He jerked like a cut marionette and toppled to the sidewalk.
Andrew turned and trudged to the rear of the trailer amid swirling litter. He heaved open the doors and slipped inside.
The Doctor stood before the pMRI holograph in the trailerâ€™s instrument bank clutching his keypad. Beaded sweat stood out on his forehead.
Seated in back beside the small, brain-dead boy in the bed was the Widow, staring off at nothing. She gripped the boyâ€™s hands so tight her knuckles stood out like little white marbles. The only sound was the slow, rhythmic cycling of the boyâ€™s ventilator.
Andrew said, â€œWeâ€™re good.â€
The Doctor nodded and tapped the go ahead on his keypad. The truck lurched forward. Andrew imagined the refugees parting in their flight from the psychic eruption, the warp in space-time, birthed by the cityâ€™s sheer crush of consciousness, into which they rushed headlong.
He dropped onto a stool beside the boy, examining the ring of cables extending from the boyâ€™s shaved and sutured head. They led to an antenna on the trailerâ€™s roof.
The Widowâ€™s gaze slid to the back of the Doctorâ€™s head. â€œThis WILL work,â€ she said.
The pylonsâ€™ groaning whalesong reverberated through the trailer. Andrew rubbed his throbbing temples, they were approaching the outer regions of the eruption.
â€œOh yes,â€ the Doctor said, nodding vigorously, â€œYes of course.â€