Alpha, p.22
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       Alpha, p.22

           Daniel Schmidt

  Chapter 22

  We stopped almost half a mile from where we were supposed to meet up with Luke’s men, with Denise carrying the wounded man the entire way. As soon as we established a perimeter, I approached Dr. Thomas.

  “That thing, that Alpha we just fought, had a purple eye,” I said. “What can you tell me about that?”

  “It did?” he said shyly.

  I stepped closer to him. “Why would he have a purple eye? I don’t think that is a coincidence.”

  Dr. Thomas took a deep breath and looked at me only briefly. “I should have told you before. Most, probably eighty percent, of those who my daughter’s blood reacts with make the correct change. The other twenty percent or so have a slightly different gene that turns them into monsters. They are the complication we talked about before.”

  “They turn into Alphas?”

  “Yes, of the .01 % of the population that the blood reacts with, most will become Alvars, the other small percentage will become Alphas. And we don’t always know which ones will turn Alvar, and which ones Alphas. My daughter could pinpoint most of them, tell us whether a person would turn Alvar or Alpha, but some she was unsure of.”

  “That’s why you would send us in once they turned?”

  “Yes, if we could tell with absolute certainty whether someone would turn Alvar or Alpha we wouldn’t need you. We could just bring people into the Council. But we couldn’t risk someone turning Alpha around a bunch of Alvar.”

  I cursed. “So how many are there?”

  “We certainly didn’t make any on purpose. Your squad had to kill a few. This was probably before you joined them.”

  “That’s not what I asked.”

  “I know there are at least ten, possibly more,” Dr. Thomas said.

  “So why do they want the Alvar dead?”

  “I don’t really know. In many ways they are the opposite of the Alvar. The Alvar are passive, intellectual, and open-minded. The Alphas are violent, emotional and very conservative. They do not see the Alvar for what they are: the future leaders of the world. If I had to guess, they see them as competition.”

  “What does that mean?” I asked.

  “I think the Alphas want the power. They can’t stand the idea of the Alvar as rulers.”

  “So this is basically a power struggle?” I asked.

  “The Alphas are misguided. One day they too will see the Alvar for what they are. One day the two races will be united.”

  “Can you tell me anything useful about them?”

  Dr. Thomas let out a long breath. “I know nothing about them except they share the same blood as the Alvar.”

  I cursed. “I’ve got a lot more questions but we don’t have time,” I said turning away from him. I told the men I would go recon the link-up point alone, making sure we weren’t walking into a trap. But in my gut I knew I still had not accepted the fact that I had to hand everyone over to Luke. I couldn’t yet accept the fact that I was going to have to betray the very people who gave me their trust.

  There were no questions about who we were going to meet. The squad trusted me; they believed that I would take care of them, that I would never betray them. Nothing could be further from the truth.

  I went alone to recon the area, and when I came within sight of the highway I called Luke.

  “Where are your guys?” I said not seeing any sign of them.

  “They were a little delayed. They will be there in about half an hour.”

  “Okay, we’ll be waiting,” I said.

  “My guys will be wearing digital camouflage and they will wave an orange signal panel at you.”

  “Okay… Luke, are you sure you have a safe place for people?”

  “Yes, they will be safe.”

  “Just for the record, I still don’t think these people killed your agents,” I said.

  “I told you before, I’ll be the one to figure that out. Just do your job and get them to me. I’ll gather the facts and put the pieces together.”

  I sighed. “Alright. Call me when your men arrive.”

  “I will,” Luke said sternly and then hung up.

  I returned to the squad and told them we had a few minutes to rest. Many of the men fished out food from their pockets and slumped against trees to eat. I went to Carlos who was sitting by himself. He offered me some crackers and cheese. I took them and started eating. Carlos would not look at me, and I knew he was thinking about David.

  Nothing I said could ease his pain. I shared some more food with him, patted him on the back, and stood. As I did, Carlos reached into one of his pockets and pulled out the picture of his daughters. He stared at it, tears filling his eyes. After looking at the picture for a few moments he let it drop to the ground and made no effort to pick it up. He dropped his head into his hands. A slight wind brushed the picture against my leg and I picked it up. My chest began to burn.

  I stepped close to Carlos and held the picture out to him. He looked up at it but didn’t take it.

  “I’m never going to see them again,” he said, his face etched with pain and horror. “You still need this, Carlos. They are the reason you fight.”

  Carlos seemed reluctant, but after a few moments he took a few deep breaths, and then took the photograph back. I patted him on the back and turned to walk away.

  I saw Denise sitting with her back against a tree, tension straining her face. I walked to her and she forced a smiled.

  “How you doing?” I asked.

  She took a deep breath. “Paul, you told me once that you had failed the men you led, did what was easy and not what was right, and men died.”

  “Yes I said that,” I said.

  “What happened?”

  I took a deep breath and said, “I don’t like to talk about it.”

  “I have gotten men killed and I want to know how you dealt with it. The guilt, I mean.”

  “I didn’t deal with it. It’s still with me today, every minute of every day in fact. For a long time I let the guilt consume me and it nearly destroyed me. I nearly drank away everything in my life till I was left with nothing. Then one day I decided I wasn’t going to let it consume me. I decided it was going to drive me. And that’s how I get by each day, by letting the guilt propel me forward, not pull me down. It will never go away. You just have to channel it towards something productive.”

  Denise nodded. “Thank you.”

  I went to Walter, who was staring blankly off into the forest. I knelt next to him, and after a minute or so he finally spoke.

  “That was a hell of thing, what David did.”

  The memory of David fighting the Alpha came flooding back, as well as the knowledge of whom he had been.

  “A hell of a thing,” I said.

  “What was he thinking? Why would he charge an Alpha? Did he want to die?”

  My chest tightened and I put my hand on Walter’s shoulder. “He gave us the courage and the knowledge to fight that monster. We know now that he bleeds.”

  Walter looked at me with bloodshot eyes. “We need to kill the bastard.”

  I placed my hand on his shoulder. “We will, we know his weakness now and the next time he shows his ugly face, we’ll finish him off.”

  Walter reached up and squeezed my shoulder, tears forming in his eyes. I nodded my head and then went to check on the rest of the squad.

  After fifteen minutes I went forward alone again. Just before I got within sight of the highway my phone rang and Luke told me his men were there. I moved a little further and saw men in digital camouflage just off the highway. They had a bunch of SUVs they had pulled into the trees. I called Luke back and told him to have his men flash the signal, which they did.

  Dread poured over me and it forced me to sit. I leaned against a nearby tree as the feeling became more intense. I didn’t want to hand the squad over to Luke. I didn’t know him that well, but I knew enough cops to fear what he could do. I knew co
ps that could not help but throw everyone they came into contact with into jail. It was as if they assumed everyone was guilty. And even if the evidence was scant, they arrested them. It was just part of their nature it seemed, and I feared that Luke might be that way.

  Cops like him enjoyed putting people away. Even if the case was thrown out or there was no chance of conviction, they squeezed enjoyment out of having people languish inside a cell for years as the legal process worked the case out. I imagined Carlos, Walter, Christine, and the men behind bars for years, steaming over the fact that I had put them there, and after Sergeant Barnes had asked me to look after them. I knew it would be hard to live with, actually, nearly impossible to live with.

  But it was my job to bring the squad in. I was not supposed to be attached to these people; I should be able to cut ties without hesitation. Handing them over to Luke was the right thing to do; it was why I was here. I had done it before, granted it had been easy before because those people were the bad guys. But in the grand scheme of things this was no different.

  I cursed and thought maybe I should just tell the squad who I was and inform them about to whom I was handing them over. They would be angry and feel betrayed, but they would be able to walk away and they wouldn’t have to go to jail.

  I thought about telling the squad to overpower Luke’s men after we linked up, steal their vehicles, and disappear to the safe house in Page. I could claim the squad found me out and took me prisoner or forced me to come with them.

  I heard footsteps and I wasn’t surprised as Christine walked up. She stopped a few paces away from me without a hint of an expression. She stared at me for a few seconds before speaking. “What’s the matter Paul?”

  I shrugged my shoulders. “Why do these men fight for the Alvar?” I said motioning back towards the squad.

  “They believe in the Alvar,” she said softly.

  “What is so special about them?” I asked.

  “The Chaos that will consume this world is beyond anything you can imagine. We will be thrown back into the dark ages and the only thing that will save mankind from total destruction is the Alvar. They will safeguard our knowledge and then lead us back, beyond where we are even today.”

  “How can you know this?” I asked.

  “The Prophet can see it.”

  “If the Prophet can see the future, why can’t we just avoid all these problems, why do men have to die?” I asked harshly, wanting to know why I had to be involved in all this.

  Christine took a deep breath. “The Prophet only sees select pieces of the future.”

  “That’s sounds too convenient,” I said.

  We were silent for quite some time before I shook my head and said, “I don’t know if I can trust these men we are meeting,” I said, surprising myself that I would say such a thing.

  Christine nodded her head and then knelt down in front of me.

  “You said that in the past you failed the men you led because you did what was easy and not what was right.”

  My stomach spun uncontrollably and a painful burning formed in my chest. “I don’t know what is right.”

  “You do know what is right. It’s the hard choice, the one you don’t want to do.”

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