[Elton John, 1978]
The fuse is set and checked once more
Then left beside a back street door
And in the cold grey light
Someone sees a shadow run through the night and out of sight
He sucked air through his teeth as the medics moved the heavy piece of ceiling that had trapped his legs under it. He'd sent the boy on to protect Negata... and had lied about his condition. He'd been wounded before. He knew that something in his knee had given way. The other bruises that he'd suffered weren't important.
One of the medics cut open the cloth of his trousers above the boot to get a direct skin contact for his scanner. "Sir, please keep still. I'll get the needed data to treat you quickly..." Heavily armored MPs passed them. Their leader ordered two of his soldiers to stay with the colonel and the medics, who seemed relieved at their presence.
He wasn't, knowing far better than they the abilities of their possible opponents. And... Damnation! What was happening with the boy? "Soldier. What are your unit's orders?"
"Sir." The MP remained on guard as he answered. "To secure the base, sir."
"You brought CHUs for the escaped troopers?"
"Sir, our unit is ordered to freeze all troopers found alive, sir."
He was on his feet long before the medics even realized his intention to do so. "Follow me."
"Sir, we are–"
"I am still the commander of this base. Follow me!"
"Colonel, your knee–" one of the medics began.
"Has to wait!" he snapped, grinding his teeth at the searing pain.
It's a kind of madness that turns good men bad
And we're helpless
Caught up in the madness of a world gone mad
The trooper in question sat on the floor next to Negata's desk, leaning his back against it as he awaited the incoming troops with elbows lying on his knees, hands motionless and relaxed. Walsh ground his teeth at the heavily armored soldiers securing the small room. He ignored them. "Gooseman, get up."
The boy didn't react. He heard the orders outside, Joseph sighed inwardly.
Too many had died today. Too many had not.
He just hoped there wasn't one more casualty than there seemed to be.
"Nobody's going to freeze you, Gooseman. I promise." Walsh leaned his weight against the desk, relieving his injured leg, and looked down at the blond shock not far away from his thigh. Gooseman didn't look up. "There are already too many broken things at Wolf Den Base," Walsh told Shane sadly, "I won't allow any more smashing."
Joseph sighed. "Get up and come with me. And don't argue about it."
The roar of fire rings out on high
And flames light up the black night sky
A child screams out in fear
A hopeless cry for help but no one is near enough to hear
A CHU lid clicked shut with the characteristic hiss of thermal sealing as they crossed the main lab room. And for a moment he saw the eyes of the boy flicker, revealing for a second something normally hidden deep inside him.
He's afraid. – Damn. He's got a right to be.
Joseph had no illusions. This command was dead. The order was little more than a formality, likely no more than an hour away, and then Eric would place his order again and–
"Why did you stay?" he asked after the second pair of doors had closed behind them. He didn't expect an answer, let alone an honest answer, but maybe the boy was too far beyond his boundaries already.
"A long time ago someone told me that running away is no solution. I don't know why, but I believe him."
"Do you know who that was?"
"No, sir." After a moment, the boy added faintly, "The memory is very strange. I'm not even sure it's real."
Walsh stopped in his tracks at that. Gods, he didn't know that a simple sentence could hurt that much. The boy turned round for him. "Sir?"
"This way, Gooseman." He turned on his heels with a grim determination. "Someone has something to learn about me!"
As walls collapse and timbers flare
The smell of death hangs in the air
When help at last arrives
They try to fight the flames but nothing survives of all those lives
"Sir, I shouldn't be here." The boy raised his head as they approached the only external ventilation grille in the barracks system. "There's a surveillance camera."
Walsh frowned. The external surveillance system was camouflaged by holographic shields. "You can see it?"
"No, sir. I hear it." Goose nodded towards the wall opposite the ventilation grille. "Electronics hum."
Joseph's thoughts raced. Humming electronics... The external systems were independent from the labs. Damnation! They were still working! He straightened suddenly – and ground his teeth at the sudden pain rushing through his knee. Ignoring it, he aimed his control stick at the wall and pressed the deactivation key. The camouflage field hiding it collapsed, and the camera behind it stopped recording. "Gooseman. Forget about the restricted access. Get me that recording crystal."
Something splintered beneath Walsh's boots. Looking down at the gravel, he saw the shards of a test tube there. Could it be–? He crouched down and white-hot pain shot through his injured knee. Shit! He wouldn't get up again without help. But that wasn't important now.
Walsh searched his pockets, finally found one of the little plastic bags used for samples, and collected the shards carefully without touching them. Then he sealed it.
"Gooseman, help me up. Time for me to visit a medic."
And it's madness – every time a victim dies
There is madness – burning in a blind man's eyes
And it's madness – hidden in the hate and pain
There is madness – burning in a wild man's brain
And it's madness – every time the bullets start
There is madness – burning in a poor man's heart
And it's madness – something that we can't control
There is madness – burning in a madman's soul
"I couldn't skip the opportunity to bring this personally, Walsh." Wheiner waved something carrying the official BWL emblem as he got out of the government glider. "Even if it meant coming out here for a second time today. Now this project is finally closed!" He gave a sign to the waiting MPs. "Freeze that–"
Walsh, awaiting Wheiner at the landing field, cut in in a threateningly calm voice.
"Senator, we have something to talk about first."
Joseph watched the furious, red-faced senator climb back into his glider and take off. His leg throbbed slightly. The strong local anaesthetics had left his knee almost numb. He ground his teeth thinking of it. Even with modern medical replacement possibilities, tendon matters involving the articular capsule were problematic. The medics had urged him to see a doctor soon. They'd told him he'd been damn reckless – and that his knee would likely remain sensitive because of it.
Anyway. In his pocket he turned the keycard to the armored military glider between his fingers.
He'd been in more than one battle. And like this one, he'd been scratched afterwards.
But he hadn't lost!
"Take your spacesac, Gooseman." He ordered the waiting ST. "We're leaving, too."
CHU: Cryocrypt Hibernation Unit