Chapter 10: One Last Time into the Breach
When Minerva came around, she found herself pinned by a large amount of structural concrete. Her legs were underneath the concrete, and they felt very broken. Minerva moved her neck to look around. The structure of the walls meant that Minerva was in a small airspace, large enough for a few people. However, the room was so full of smoke that Minerva couldn't see whether anyone else was in the room. Out of nowhere, there was a groan. Turning her head, Minerva made out the figure of one of the other hunters. When the other hunter moved, the figure became more recognisable as Bernard.
"Bernard." Minerva croaked, the smoke clogging her throat. This drew Bernard's attention.
"Minerva!" Bernard sounded worried but pained. "Are you alright?"
"No." Minerva's voice was still croaky but gained some strength as the pain she had felt when she woke up began to fade slightly. It was then that Bernard noticed the concrete crushing the lower half of Minerva's body. He was able to get to Minerva through the cramped conditions, and pulled the concrete off her body. This revealed a rather serious injury. A rod from within the reinforced concrete had impaled Minerva in the side. Her shirt was already matted red with blood. However, Minerva reasoned, it mustn't have punctured anything vital, or she would have died already.
"Minerva, you have to stay still." Bernard ordered. "If you move, it could worsen the wound."
Minerva was tempted to say she knew that, but decided against it. She had learnt throughout her life that pain made her cranky. A silence fell over the pair. This silence was quickly broken by an all too familiar sound: gunfire. Neither Bernard nor Minerva admitted it, but this unnerved them.
Whilst Bernard and Minerva had been blasted into the collapsed area of the facility, Tanith and Caleb were both blasted backwards, further into the facility. When Tanith came round, Caleb was shining a light at the roof, looking at cracks.
"The roof should hold." Caleb muttered under his breath, just loud enough for Tanith to hear.
"What happened?" Tanith asked as she sat up, her head stinging and ears ringing. Caleb jumped round.
"Thank god, you're conscious." Caleb sounded marginally relieved. "There was an explosion. We were thrown backwards from the looks of it."
It was then that Tanith noticed that the entire corridor had collapsed in front of them. The rubble blocked light, and the pair's escape. The rubble was also smoking
"No escape through there." Tanith stated. Caleb simply nodded away. His expression was distinctly worried.
"Our team is in there." Caleb's tone showed the same emotion as his expression. "Minnie's in there."
"So is Astor." Tanith's voice trembled at the thought of their lifelong friends potentially being dead. Her heart missed a beat. Even though they'd split up, Astor's actions over the last few encounters between them had just strengthened Tanith's feelings for him. Maybe if they both got out of this alive, she would suggest getting back together with him. Tanith quickly moved that thought aside and mentally scolded herself.
There are more important matters right now. Get your head in the game, Tanith. Tanith thought to herself.
"Do you think the hangar's reachable?" Tanith queried. At that moment, through the walls, Caleb heard something land in the hangar.
"My ears tell me it is. Something just landed." After Caleb said this, Tanith looked at him with confusion.
"Help, maybe?" Tanith guessed.
"Nicholson has multiple teams, so that could be one getting back." Caleb theorised. Both Caleb's and Tanith's tone indicated they were curious about the source of the noise. The pair looked at each other, and silently agreed to go to the hangar and investigate. They quickly made their way to the hangar. The door was still jammed open. However, as they turned the corner to the door, Caleb quickly turned and tackled Tanith. Bullets zipped above their heads. The two stood back up. In front of them, two Evolutionists were reloading their machine guns. However, before they had a chance to fire again, the two Hunters had run forward and grabbed their guns off them. Caleb proceeded to hit one of the now disarmed Evolutionists with the butt of the machine gun. Meanwhile, Tanith brought her foot up, kicking her target in the crotch. Both Evolutionists went down. However, Tanith's target was still conscious. Tanith proceeded to swing the machine gun and knock out her target. Grabbing the ammo from the unconscious Evolutionists hand, Caleb reloaded his machine gun.
"Are you sure about that, Caleb? That isn't a stun gun." Tanith sounded genuinely concerned.
"These people could have killed our friends." Caleb sounded like he couldn't be persuaded. "I'm willing to cause some damage."
This seemed to change Tanith's mind. She picked up the ammo from the Evolutionist she had knocked out, and loaded her own machine gun.
"That makes two of us." Tanith's tone had turned determined.
"We need to close the roof." Caleb gestured upwards to the gaping open door. Above the gap, a large helicopter hovered, almost silently. As Caleb and Tanith watched a group of figures jumped out of the helicopter and began to parachute into the hangar. Going back over her memories since their first mission, Tanith deduced where the control for the hangar door would be. She quickly ran to where she thought the control would be, and pushed it to the 'closed' position. The door began to slowly close. However, before it did, two figures were able to get through into the hangar. As the figures landed, Tanith and Caleb ran to them and aimed. The two figures were a similar height to Caleb and Tanith
"STOP!" One of the figures shouted.
The explosion in the corridor was enough to throw both Astor and Arielle nearly out of the facility. They landed, and skidded on the floor. When Astor came around, Arielle was clawing an opening to the outside world. Through his dizziness and probable concussion, Astor stood and walked next to Arielle, who then turned to him.
"It's good to see you conscious." Arielle sounded relieved. "Care to help?"
Astor let his actions speak for him, as he helped Arielle widen the gap to get out of the cramped crawlspace. When they finally widened the gap enough, the pair squeezed through the hole into the open air. They lay gasping and blinking in the sunlight for a few moments. However, this was cut short by the screeching of a jet overhead, as well as the distant sound of sirens that seemed to be approaching. In the brief time that the jet was overhead, Astor and Arielle were able to recognise the unmistakable logo of the Evolutionists. Arielle helped Astor to his feet and the pair looked at the facility. From the outside, it looked abandoned: a dilapidated warehouse, with boarded up windows and 'do not enter' signs. However, before the pair could get a good idea of what the building was like, Arielle was grabbed by her shoulder. Arielle turned to punch whoever had grabbed her, but dropped her fists when she saw that it was Nicholson.
"Nicholson, you gave me a fright!" Arielle sounded genuinely shocked "I thought you were an Evolutionist."
"I'm not that. Come on, you two. We need to help the others." Without explaining any further, Nicholson turned and walked off. Astor and Arielle hurried to follow him.
"Isn't the facility that way?" Astor asked whilst pointing in the direction they came from.
"With the potential damage, we can't get in through conventional means. However, with any luck, the hangar door is open." Nicholson explained.
"How are we - ?" Arielle started to ask a question, but it was answered for her before she could finish what she was saying. As the trio turned a corner from the facility, they were met by a remarkable sight: a large helicopter with dual blades, painted completely black. The side door of the helicopter was open and a team of Nicholson's soldiers could be seen inside. Astor and Arielle were bundled into the helicopter. Once they were in, they were handed parachutes and respirators.
"What are these for?" Astor's tone was slightly confused and slightly worried.
"It's just in case someone finds the door control before we can land." One of soldiers stated. This didn't quite satisfy Arielle's and Astor's confusion, but they didn't query it any further. The rotors started up and the helicopter took off. It flew around the slightly collapsed facility until it was above the, thankfully open, hangar door. However, as the helicopter began to descend, the door began to close. Without thinking, Arielle jumped out of the plane, and pulled Astor with her. The pair made their posture as streamlined as possible and pulled their parachutes just before they passed through the rapidly closing hangar door. When they landed and had fumbled their way out of their parachutes, they were met by Caleb and Tanith who aimed machine guns at them.
"STOP!" Astor declared. "It's us!"
Recognising the voice, Tanith lowered her weapon. After Arielle and Astor had removed their masks, Caleb also lowered his. After Astor had shrugged off all of the heavy equipment, Tanith pulled him into a tight hug.
"What's this for?" Astor was confused, and struggling to breathe due to Tanith's incredibly tight grip. Tanith promptly let go.
"I was worried you were dead! That was to say that I'm glad you're not." Tanith voice was tinged with embarrassment. Both Arielle and Caleb smiled at the scene. However, both young adults' smiles disappeared as their minds drifted back to other matters, namely the location of Bernard and Minerva.
"Is Minerva safe?" Caleb's tone was hopeful, but there was also clear worry in his voice. Arielle looked at him comfortingly and shook her head. The action made Caleb's expression harden, and become colder.
"We'll find them." Arielle assured the slightly younger Hunter.
"We better get on with it then." Tanith remarked. Arielle and Caleb turned to see that Tanith and Astor had been listening in.
After the four had reopened the hangar door and let Nicholson's squad of soldiers in, the group fanned out into the facility. Walking along one corridor, the four Hunters were stopped by something, or rather someone lying on the floor. Dr Orin was unconscious, and barely breathing. The blast had obviously caused her to be thrown against something as she was cut badly, and it even looked like she had a few broken bones. Caleb quickly gave some orders. Whilst he and Arielle ran to get Nicholson and some medical aid, Astor and Tanith would stay with the doctor, and see what they could do with what they had. Astor and Tanith dropped down by Dr Orin's side, as Arielle and Caleb disappeared around the corner. A check of Dr Orin's, rather weak, pulse proved that she was still alive, and a few shouts and nudges brought her back to the shores of consciousness.
"Tanith? Astor?" Dr Orin coughed, choking on something.
"We're here to rescue you, Dr Orin," Tanith tried to sound calm, though fear for the doctor and her fellow hunters was able to sneak its way into her tone of voice. Astor and Tanith helped Dr Orin to sit back up, and moved her against the remaining wall so that she would be more comfortable than slumped In the middle of a debris-filled corridor. At that moment, Arielle and Caleb came back into the corridor, Caleb's arms full of painkillers and bandages, whilst Arielle carried a stretcher. A few moments later, Nicholson also rounded the corner.
"Brie, oh god, are you alright?" Nicholson quickly ran up to his colleague. The four Hunters turned away from the private conversation. Trying to block out the elder adults' conversation, Caleb tried to focus on any other noise. It was then he noticed a faint shout from nearby, calling something that sounded like 'help'. Caleb instantly relayed this information to the other young adults before sprinting towards the source of the sound. A few twists and turns later, he found himself at the blocked corridor where the original explosion had hit the Hunters. The shout seemed to be coming from within the rubble, so Caleb began to dig into it with his hands.
Bernard desperately called out for help. The pain and blood loss from where she had been impaled, as well as the probable broken bones, had caused Minerva to lose consciousness. From what sounded like far away, Bernard heard a scrabbling sound and indistinct shouts. Bernard continued to call for help, with his voice growing hoarser and weaker every time. Bernard was sure that if help didn't come soon. Then he would also pass out from smoke inhalation and potentially die. His vision began to grow blurry, but he continued to shout for help. Just as he fell into the dark of unconsciousness, some of the rubble dropped away, giving a blinding ray of light.
"I've got them!" A voice shouted, as Bernard finally gave in and plummeted into the dark.
When Minerva came around, she was in a pristine white room, with monitors on the opposing wall to her head, which seemed to show her vitals. Light streamed in from a window to her left. A bit of the light was blocked by an unmistakable human shape slumped in a chair near the window. Minerva waking up must have set off some sort of alert, as there was a loud beep, which startled Caleb awake.
"Minerva!" Caleb sounded completely relieved. He shifted closer to his girlfriend. "How are you feeling?"
"I'm feeling sore, but better. Where are we? I can remember feeling like I was going to die. Wait, is this heaven?" The words tumbled out of Minerva's mouth before Caleb could even think of a response, and before Minerva had fully grasped what she was trying to say. Her flow of questions and near gibberish made Caleb smile.
"Not quite. You're alive, Minerva. This is an offsite medical facility for the Project." Caleb explained, gesturing to Minerva's right; looking right, Minerva saw a glass pane in front of a busy open room. Doctors bustled either way. It was then that Minerva realised what Caleb had said.
"What do you mean by Project?" Minerva was utterly confused.
Meanwhile, in another identical room, Bernard had just come back to consciousness and been checked by doctors. There were a few moments of isolation then someone knocked on the door. Bernard turned to see Arielle standing in the doorway.
"May I come in?" Arielle asked. Bernard wrote yes on a board he had been given. Due to the smoke inhalation, Bernard had been advised to not use his voice for a while so that he wouldn't damage his larynx. Minerva had seemingly escaped this, though this could have been due to her being physically lower down than Bernard was for most of their time stuck in the debris. Seeing his answer, Arielle entered and sat by Bernard who was sitting up in his bed.
"So, how are you?" Arielle asked. Bernard scribbled down 'as good as can be expected, you?' as his response. Arielle smiled.
"I got away with few cuts and bruises; nothing we haven't dealt with before." Arielle continued to sound happy.
'Why are you here?' Bernard wrote down.
"I wanted to check you're alright." Arielle's tone turned slightly bashful.
'Arielle, are you worrying about me?' Bernard scribbled onto the board.
"No… OK, yes. You're important to me, Bernard." Arielle confessed. "As much as I kept it hidden from the others, if something were to happen to you, I don't know what I would do."
'Are you saying what I think you're saying?' Bernard looked at Arielle suggestively.
"That depends on what you think. What I'm trying to say is: I love you, Bernard. It took me so long to realise, but I have fallen in love with you, Bernard."
After the full confession, Arielle blushed, her cheeks going red. Despite his grogginess from the painkillers, Bernard reached over and held Arielle in a tight embrace. In return, Arielle gripped onto Bernard. Unseen to Bernard, Arielle broke into a wide grin.
"I'm guessing that means you feel the same way." Arielle sounded very hopeful. Bernard nodded in response. Suddenly, the pair heard a shout from next door. They exchanged a worried look then Arielle stood and left the room. Bernard decided to stay put as the doctors would probably tell him to return to his bed. He sat there worrying about what had happened, and worrying about the other hunters.