By R.G. Summers
Art by Dawn Vogel
On the day that I was to break my father out of prison, I woke up to the sound of sirens in the streets below. I stumbled out of bed, rubbing my eyes and walking to the window to see what all the commotion was about. I snapped out of my groggy state when I saw what was happening in the street below.
There was no traffic in the road–the street had been completely taken over by a swarm of marching people.
I ran and got my laptop, but pulled a chair up close to the massive windows so that I could watch what was happening outside. The Trongodian news sources were streaming footage of the protest, and even the American news sites were reporting on it. A Trongodian flag had been set on fire and was being paraded down the street, its purple and red colors blazing. I could hear the people in a unified chant, but I couldn’t tell what they were yelling.
The government authorities had arrived though, ready to break up this demonstration. Armed with dark batons and riot shields, the national police surged into the sea of protesters. It was like watching little black ants invade another colony from thirty-one stories up.
At first the crowd of enraged civilians fought back, pushing the police and fighting to keep marching forward. Their chanting drowned out the sound of law enforcement agents on megaphones, and the march became confrontational.
I rubbed my eyes and moved away from the window. Of all the weeks to fly into Trongodia, I had to pick the week that civil unrest hit its breaking point. It didn’t matter. I’d be gone by this time tomorrow … hopefully.
Mr. Charlie had crafted an intricate plan for how we would break in to Conterragoa Prison. Like so many government institutions in this country, it was far removed from any populated area and embedded in the hardly habitable jungle. We would wait until evening to infiltrate it, when the guard shifts were changing. Until then, though, I had nothing to do but worry and watch the protests from the comfort of my hotel suite.
The streets were cleared and the protesters arrested by the time I had to leave. The national police handcuffed and carted people off en masse. Ambulances had arrived to transport civilians who had been seriously injured during the march. Large numbers of police officers were stationed outside though, and no one ventured down the streets. When it was time for me to meet with Jojing and Rykye, I had the hotel call me a car. There was no doubt in my mind that I would be harassed by the police if I attempted to simply walk down the street after this morning.
Dressed in sleek, black, athletic wear, I admired myself before I left the room. I wondered if my mother would be proud of me, or as vaguely horrified as I was. What little petty thievery and vandalism I had committed in America had never been caught, and I had no criminal record. I felt as though I should have warmed up to this better. Maybe I should have perpetrated a few felonies just to adapt to the feeling of committing high-stakes crime.
I made sure I had everything I needed–primarily my cell phones and the briefcase Mr. Charlie had given me at our last meeting. Everything else I left in the hotel room, knowing I would never see it again. From the prison, my father and I would be escorted directly to a private airfield and flown back to Seattle. Once I had my father, I would need to get out of this country as fast as physically possible.
I finished backing up my laptop’s contents to a USB drive–I had some unfinished schoolwork on it–and then dumped a glass of water onto it. There was a weird sort of gratification to destroying technology. I watched as it quickly short-circuited and shut down, and then I smashed it to pieces. I didn’t think the Trongodians would track me to this hotel when they began looking for my escaped father, but I couldn’t afford to leave anything behind that identified me. I didn’t mind leaving the government with the impression that my mother was responsible for all of this; she was in enough trouble with them already.
My short hair bobbed with my head as I marched down thirty-one flights of stairs where a car and driver were waiting for me in the parking garage. I had him take me to our rendezvous point on the outskirts of the city, where I would meet my partners for the first time.
Rykye and Jojing were already there by the time my car pulled up to the gravel parking lot of an abandoned chemical manufactory. I stepped out of the car with the distinguished, sly grace that I thought my mother would have done everything with. I recognized the men from their pictures. Rykye was leaned up against the side of the jeep, and Jojing was sitting, hunched over, on its hood. While Jojing twitchily shuffled a deck of battered playing cards in his hands, Rykye remained stoically still. They watched me with an unemotional curiosity as I approached.
They looked somewhat different in person than they had in the photos Mr. Charlie had showed me. Rykye was a good fifteen years older than me, and his face was uniformly and thinly wrinkled. I couldn’t tell if he had gone bald or just shaved his head. He was a big man and built like a truck. I had the feeling he could have carried both me and Jojing if he had a mind too.
Jojing was a skeletal man, and his crewcut hair stood on end. When he was not hunched over, he slouched. His posture was always poor and defensive, even as he approached me to shake my hand. “Derosa,” he called. “Good to meet you. I’m Liam Jojing.” His thin hand gave mine a firm shake. Up close, I noticed the wide array of scars he had on his neck and face. The ancient burn wounds hinted at years of reckless experimentation with fire and explosives. He could not have been more than a few years older than me.
“A pleasure,” I responded. “And Jon Rykye, yes?”
I held out my hand, but Rykye did not bother to uncross his arms to take my hand. “Yep,” he responded stolidly. “If you’re ready to go, hop in.” He pushed off of the jeep and pounded its side before opening the door and climbing into the driver’s seat. “It’s a long way to Conterragoa.”
I chucked my briefcase into the back of the jeep and got in. Jojing had already slunk into the passenger’s seat. The noisy engine of the military-grade vehicle thundered as Rykye turned the key in the ignition. Gravel flew underneath the tires as we pulled out of the gritty parking lot and headed down the rural highway to the Conterragoa province and federal prison.
“I was expecting you to be older,” Rykye announced aggressively. “Charlezu tells us you’ve got a colorful history in this business.”
If Mr. Charlie had told them anything about my mother’s exploits, they probably already knew more about her qualifications than I did.
“I’m older than I look,” I told him slyly.
He glanced at me in the rearview mirror as he drove. “Charlezu told us that you would be.”
Jojing remained focused on his ratty deck of cards while Rykye and I talked.
“I’ll have you know,” Rykye added, “that Jojing and I have been at this game for a while too. We’re professionals.”
He sounded angry with me, but I didn’t know what I could have said to upset him. I didn’t want to get off on the wrong foot with these men. “Oh, I know that. I’ve never known Mr. Charlezu to work with anyone but the best.”
“Which is exactly why Jojing and I wondering what you’re doing here.” Rykye’s combative voice matched his aggressive driving as we barreled down the country highway. “I don’t know who you are, Derosa, but I don’t like you. I’ve been working as a hired gun for almost twenty years, and I’ve never once heard your name. I don’t like that. Charlezu didn’t tell us jack about what you’ve actually done, or where you’ve been. What’s more, I don’t like the idea of breaking a guy out with his wife in tow. We’ve got a real nice plan for how we’re going to do this, and I don’t want you to screw it up. You’re just going to follow our lead and let us do the heavy work, you got that?”
I had to suppress a smile. They were treating me like a juvenile child, someone who had no experience breaking into high security federal buildings. It was perfect. I had been deathly afraid they would have the same confidence as had Mr. Charlie–or Charlezu, as he was obviously called these days.
“Understandable,” I answered. “It’s been a long time since I pulled a stunt like this, and I defer to your judgment.”
He gave me an angry, skeptical look through the rearview mirror again, but mellowed out after that. I don’t think he had been expecting such a submissive response. “Good,” he replied, uneasily. Rykye’s full attention went back to the road. Jojing finally gave me the briefest of glances once it was obvious the conversation was over, but that was the last time either of them looked at me for the duration of the drive.
It was a long way to the jungle, and longer still to Conterragoa Prison. The road was bumpy and poorly maintained, and we drove through small creeks that crossed the highway on multiple occasions. Dead animals rotted on the side of the road, and one deceased water buffalo was being picked at by a cluster of large, black birds. The trees grew thicker and taller as we descended deeper into the heart of the jungle. The leafy canopy above closed us in and gave me a feeling of claustrophobia. Vines dangled languidly and ferns shot up out of the ground far taller than any I’d ever seen in Washington. There was a definite chill to the weather, but though the air was not muggy, it did seem strangely heavy and thick.
As we approached the prison, Rykye slowed the jeep and navigated down a service road that led around the perimeter of the prison. He took the jeep off-road, and buried us in the thick of the brush. The three of us got out of the jeep and began prepping. It was only a quarter to six, so the graveyard staff would be arriving shortly, bussed in from the nearest town. Jojing assembled his explosives in a metal mechanics box, Rykye changed into the prison guard’s uniform that Mr. Charlie had procured, and I got the trick handcuffs out of my briefcase. I had practiced with them for days, ever since Mr. Charlie had given them to me and finalized our plans. The past few days had been a blur of anxiety and anxiousness, and I was almost relieved that today had finally arrived. I now knew how to unlock my trick handcuffs in two seconds with the hidden trigger, and felt as ready as I would ever be. Rykye was going to escort me into the jailing facility, right to the doorstep of my father’s cell on the west wing’s third floor, all under the guise of needing to lock me up in that vicinity.
The three of us crept closer to the front gate, but remained obscured in the brush. We watched as the rusty old industrial bus barreled up to the front gate, carrying the night shift workers. When Rykye whispered, “Go!” the three of us ran like devils to catch up to it. As expected, it paused at the front gate while it checked in with the on duty guard staff. We stayed on its right side in order to avoid being spotted by those in the guard booth on the left.
The razor wire gate shut behind us, and we kept close to the concrete-brick walls. In the dim twilight, we made our way slowly and cautiously to a grounds-keeping shed. We had all memorized the map Mr. Charlie had given us, and knew exactly the route we had to take in order to get from the shed to the prison’s west wing. We waited in peaceful apprehension, waiting for six-twenty. Jojing checked his watch, every minute almost on the minute. I took my pack of Marlboros out of my pocket and pulled out a cigarette. I had it in my mouth, but before I could fish my lighter out of my pants, Jojing had one in my face.
“Need a light?” he asked, a flame in his eyes and in his fingers.
The minutes passed slowly and the cigarettes quickly. By the time six-twenty arrived, I was itching to go, and no longer dreading the moment of action. I wanted to start the break-in because I wanted to be done with it. I had developed an odd sort of emotional detachment from the situation. I barely thought about my father and his freedom; my concern was only with doing what was before me and not getting myself apprehended.
At six-twenty by our synchronized watches, I flicked away the last of my cigarette and put myself in the trick handcuffs. Rykye grabbed hold of my arm and began marching me toward the front door of the prison building. Jojing hung back and stalked after us like a shadow, all according to plan.
Conterragoa Prison itself was a dismal place. Stony and dark, it was an old building that had not seen any remodeling in decades. The concrete blocks were cracked and weather-worn, but the prison remained just as solid and strong, just as effective of a cage. Rykye flung the metal door open and marched in with authority. I did my best to look like a disgruntled arrested person.
The guard at the front desk got to his feet immediately and looked as though he was about to reach for his gun. Rykye gave him a friendly wave, but the deskman looked leery of him. “James Borchock,” Rykye introduced himself with the same fake name that was printed on his uniform. “I work dayshift. I was called to pick up this little lady. She resisted arrest during the protest in Xaqarii this morning. I’m going to hand her off to the assistant warden and get out of here before it gets any later.”
The front deskman nodded. “Ah. Alright.” He turned his key in an electric console on the desk, automatically unlocking the metal gate door that would lead us to the prison corridors.
Rykye opened the door with his free hand, but before he dragged me through, paused to ask, “Hey, could you check the computer system and see if I’m still on duty? Vorchock. I’m not sure if they’ve got me working a double shift over this or not.”
“Oh, sure,” the front deskman replied. He turned around and bent down over the outdated computer console. Rykye and I both turned our attention to the grimy window that Jojing was watching us from. Rykye nodded, giving him the signal to sneak in. Jojing quickly and silently entered, dropping himself in front of the desk where the guard would not see him.
Suddenly suspicious of us, the front deskman replied, “You’re not in the database. I can’t find a shift schedule for Vorchock.
“Borchock,” Rykye responded. He then gave the deskman the correct spelling.
“Oh, let me check again.”
While the guard was distracted at the computer console a second time, Jojing darted through the door Rykye was still holding open. Carrying his tool box of explosives, our partner slipped out of sight and hurried ahead of us.
“Nope,” the front deskman replied, “Your shift ended half an hour ago, Borchock.”
“Thanks,” Rykye replied, finally slipping through the door and bringing us into the prison proper. The metal gate door slammed shut behind us and we moved quickly, but calmly, through the prison. We passed by three different guards on our way to the west wing, but all without incident. They hardly noticed us, they were in such a rush. The entire staff was panicked, and it was obvious why.
Once we were within the corridors of cells, we could hear the horrible and monstrous shouting of the inmates. The whole prison was a roaring mess of death-threats and profanities. We kept our distance from the cells; prisoners with tattered clothing and unshaved faces reached out, violently shaking their iron cell doors and spitting at us.
“Oh my God,” I whispered to Rykye. “Is it always like this?”
“No,” he answered, “but prison riots have become much more common in the past year. The government’s been overcrowding them, filling them with political prisoners they don’t have the resources to deal with.”
The whole complex smelled like death and filth. I breathed through my mouth to avoid the stench, but it was as omnipresent as the hateful cries of the prisoners. Three stories of imprisoned individuals–everyone from murderers to protesters–were howling at the institution that had locked them within this awful pit.
I suppressed the urge to cry as I suddenly realize that this was where my father had been for the past six years. Wrapped up in an urban and American world of wealth and opportunity, I had forgotten the horrors of Trongodian society I had been too young to comprehend. A deep and impassioned rage against my native country came to fruition inside of me. We passed by tiny cells full of broken cots and unwashed human beings, but I could think of no crime that deserved such a punishment, least of all my father’s white-collar offense.
Rykye and I climbed up a dimly lit stairwell to the third story of the west wing, and found that the enraged screaming was more unified here. Many of them looked like ordinary civilians who had been locked up only recently. I recognized the cadence of the chants from the protest earlier this morning, but now I could hear the words of their Trongodian rhyme:
Freedom does not stop, liberty marches on, progress will not freeze for you.
The walkie-talkie on Rykye’s belt suddenly buzzed, and he answered it in a flash. Over the chanting, I could hardly hear Jojing.
“I found the doctor, cell 503. I’m working on getting him out, where are you guys?”
“On our way. We’re in the west wing, passing cell 560.”
Rykye clipped the walkie-talkie back onto his uniform’s belt, right as we came into earshot of another uniformed official. This was not another harried guard though, as we quickly gathered. “You! What are you doing?” The short man approached us swiftly and I realized from his uniform that he must have been an authority among authorities. “We’ve got a crisis on our hands! What are you doing away from your station? Who is this?”
The official came to a flustered and irritable stop in front of us, and looked at Rykye’s uniform. With outraged confusion he declared, “Are you new here?”
“I usually work the day shift,” Rykye answered, towering over the short man.
“I work the dayshift too, you twit. I’m the department head of this wing, and I don’t recognize you, Borchock.” Sizing him up further, the department head then asked, “I need to see your identification card.” I winced. Mr. Charlie had only provided us with the uniform.
“Of course.” Rykye calmly answered, presenting the official with a strong right hook that promptly knocked him out. The department head was unconscious before he hit the floor.
I sprung open my handcuffs and quickly yanked the key ring off of his belt. I ran to catch up with Rykye, knowing that we both wanted to be far away from the west wing department head before anybody found him lying there. We fled from a wave of cheers that had erupted from the imprisoned individuals. They seemed to derive both solace and satisfaction from watching Rykye punch him out.
As soon as we rounded the bend in the prison corridor, we saw Jojing hunched over a cell door’s lock. My heart lifted and wedged itself into my throat as I realized how physically close I was to my father. I began sprinting to put my high school track records to shame. I passed Rykye and was almost to Jojing when he quickly backed away from the cell door. Jojing caught sight of me as he did so, and yelled, “STAY BACK!”
I came to a dead stop, and threw my hands up in front of my face as I heard the boom and saw the blast. Startled, but fine, I dashed to the smoking cell door as soon as the explosion was over. Forcing the broken cell door open, I stepped over disintegrated metal. I coughed from the fumes of the powerful, but controlled, blast and waited for them to clear so that I could see.
Without thinking, I called out, “Dad?”
The figure in the far corner remained recoiled against the wall, defensively waiting for the explosion and smoke to clear. He was huddled in on his starved and slender self, but looked up when he heard me. His face had become gaunt and his hair had grown out, unkempt and wild. Underneath his beard though, I saw his lips form a smile of hopeful disbelief, and I saw that the sunken eyes of this strange man were still the eyes of my father.
Confused and overwhelmed by the trauma of imprisonment and the shock of sudden freedom, he stared at me as though I was an angel. “Melinda?” he breathlessly croaked. I made my way to him in stilted, hurried motions. He scrambled to his feet and again exclaimed, “Melinda!” He flung himself onto me, wrapping his arms around me and planting a kiss on my lips.
With reflexive disgust, I shoved him off of me. He stumbled backwards and fell against the wall. I gasped as I watched him slump down. “Oh my God! I’m sorry Dad. It’s me! Lindy! Little Lindy!” I spoke quietly, to keep Jojing from overhearing just outside of the cell. I reached my hand out and out and pulled my father to his feet.
“Lindy?” he asked, even more baffled by the reality of being confronted by his twelve-year-old daughter, six years on.
“Come on, Dad, we’ve got to go.”
As incoherent as he was, my father very quickly processed that detail. I held onto him as he hobbled out of the cell. Jojing was not watching us. He was staring up at the ceiling. “Jojing!” I called.
“Did you hear that?” he asked. “They’re trying to put the prison on lockdown.”
“He’s still in uniform, so he’s going to head out through the main gate. He left this for you.” Jojing passed me one of the handguns, and I took it as if I had any idea how to use it. “I don’t want to alarm you, Derosa, but we’ve got to get out of here in the next eight minutes. He gestured to the mechanics box, and I saw that larger bomb within it was nine minutes and counting.
“You started the countdown!?” I cried.
“I didn’t have a choice,” he replied. “There wasn’t going to be time to rig it once we were in the prison yard.”
“We’ve got to go!” I exclaimed. Jojing needed no further encouragement. He swept the mechanics box into his arms and took off running. My father followed after him, but something called my attention away from the pressing urgency of my own situation.
“Let us out!”
“Come on, over here!”
I had arrived with the sole intention of saving my father, but I was surrounded by entrapped citizens who were far less guilty. Not that anyone deserved to be confined within this trap of inhumanity.
I made eye contact with one young man in a bright yellow t-shirt, and imagined that he had been one of the protesters I’d seen carted away from the security of my hotel room this morning.
I threw him the department head’s key ring and screamed with revolutionary joy, “Tell ’em Lindy sent you!”
The prisoners cheered as I started sprinting to catch up with Jojing and my father. As I ran, I wondered what the ramifications of that gesture would be. Their cheers fell out of earshot right as they were turning into yet another united chant, “Lindy sent us! Lindy sent us! Lindy sent us!”
Given Dad’s condition and the unwieldy mechanics box Jojing was carrying, I managed to catch up to them quickly. In all the hysteria, I found my mind too cluttered and frenzied to remember the layout of the prison. My memory of the building’s map vanished now under this intense pressure. Every corridor looked the same to me. I was surrounded by belligerent, threatening prisoners. Their passion was overflowing their cells, and I doubted that any force would be able to contain these people any longer. They were howling, and I could not process my own thoughts over the violently stimulating environment.
Jojing continued to race forward like a limber greyhound. He clutched his tool box protectively and held it fast against his body. I followed him, trusting that his confident strides were leading us in the right direction. As skittish has he had seemed with his constant card shuffling in the jeep, Jojing was proving remarkably level-headed in the moment of action. I did not like having to depend on someone else to lead me out of this insanity, but I did need someone to follow, and I hoped that Jojing would get us safely out. The seriousness of the situation seemed to clear Jojing’s head, and he led us to the far west exit of Conterragoa. We barreled down the stairwell, through the ground-level door, and out into the black prison yard.
Our feet slammed against the asphalt of the prison yard. It was paved over to prevent tunneling attempts, and also to allow delivery trucks to park outside of the Conterragoa kitchen. At this hour, there were no trucks or workers present, only stacks of wooden pallets and industrial dolly carts beside the building.
Emergency sirens were clearer and louder once we had escaped the riotous noise within the prison. They blared threateningly, and summoned the entire prison faculty to deal with our breakout and the uprising within. While we had not planned for a prison riot when we designed our breakout, we had known that there would be no way for us to walk right back out the main entrance after exploding Dad out of his cell. There was no way other way out of the prison yard though. The concrete bricks were piled exactly thirty feet high and surrounded the entire perimeter of the prison. While I had seen no solution to this problem when we were initially designing our plan, the answer had been obvious to the explosive mind of Liam Jojing.
I supported my father as he fell against the wall, out of breath and in danger of passing out. Jojing opened up his mechanics box and looked at the bomb. Its red digital display was counting down the minutes and seconds, frighteningly steadily. We had less than two minutes.
Jojing looked to the distant, impenetrable wall at the end of the prison yard and back at the display before he affirmed what I was realizing. “We don’t have time to plant the bomb and retreat safely.”
“We can leave it here and head for the main entrance,” my father suggested, his mental facilities coming back to him in this moment of necessity. “It’ll serve as a distraction and give us a chance to get out of the main entrance.”
“They’ll still have a guard there, and we won’t be able to open the gate,” Jojing replied, his whole wiry body shaking with his head.
“Can we disable it in that time?” my father asked. “It’s a circuit timer, yes?”
“We can’t get the circuit out in time,” Jojing replied. “We’ll have to leave it and–”
In the time it had taken them to have that conversation, the solution had already occurred to me. Knowing I didn’t have time to explain it, I simply grabbed the bomb from out of the mechanics box at Jojing’s feet and raced it over to one of the four-wheeled dollies next to the building. Setting it down with due cautiousness, I began pushing the cart with all my running force towards the wall.
I had the bomb tipped up so that I could keep an eye on the timer. Seconds would make a difference. I wished that I had inquired about the bomb’s blast radius, but the time for that was past. I would have to depend on my best estimation and good luck. I ran faster than I knew I could, all while pushing the massive cart and building up its inertia.
I wondered–as people are inclined to wonder when they have a live time bomb on their hands–what would happen if I died. What would it be like for Dad to find out that the twelve-year-old daughter he’d last seen six years ago was not only not a part of his life, but not part of the world? How would Uncle Bruce deal with knowing that six years of boarding school and a few weekends here and there had been blown to smithereens? I figured it would be easiest for Mom. Her tiny not-even-toddling baby would only be a small part of what she had lost in the past seventeen years. I would leave her life the same way she had left mine–as a loving stranger her life was owed to.
The red seconds slipped away, one shifting digit at a time. My eyes flicked back and forth, trying to gauge the distance to 0:00 and the time until that brick wall. If I erred on the side of caution, the bomb might not reach the wall, and it would be all for naught. All of it. The three of us would be trapped behind the walls of Conterragoa now, and for years to come. If I did not let go of the cart in time, all that I had to fear was my own sudden and explosive death for the sake of my father’s freedom and my mother’s reanimation.
When my caution and cowardice and determination and best estimations all converged, I thrust the cart out of my hands. It continued on, wheels squeaking in horror as it plunged toward the massive prison wall. I turned around and sprinted with every last ounce of energy I had left in me. I mentally counted down those last twenty seconds, unwilling and unable to glance back and gauge the distance between myself and the bomb.
My mental countdown was off, and my heart stopped with the shocking boom that resonated as Jojing’s device detonated. I screamed impulsively, hoping that–if nothing else–a fraction of my fear would escape me in the noise. I fell to my knees and ducked down, covering my neck and head as school earthquake drills had long ago taught me to do.
The first thing I noticed was that I was not engulfed in a blazing fireball. The next thing I noticed was that there were no shards of superheated shrapnel propelled into my flesh. There was a searing, uniform pain, and I realized I was being burned. I hunkered down against the asphalt and buried my face against my chest. It was painful, but not intense, and over quickly. I got to my feet slowly afterwards, feeling as though I had just received a six-hour sunburn in the course of ten seconds.
As I rose, I saw Dad and Jojing racing towards me. It hurt to turn my head, but I willed myself to look behind me and see the gorgeous, gaping hole that I had blown in the concrete wall. My feet, well insulated from the blast by my shoes, felt fine as I started running again. The prison sirens were still blaring, and guards would certainly come running any minute. The three of us stumbled over the decimated asphalt and crumbly rubble of the wall, emerging on the other side with a rush of relief that was amplified when we saw Rykye.
He had already made it back to the jeep, and was heading right for us along the service road. We piled into the vehicle, all three of us scrambling into the back. Holding onto each other and the sides of the jeep, we braced ourselves and caught our breath as Rykye put it into gear and sped away.
Hurtling back onto the main road in front of the prison, we were gone before the facility could form a coherent response to our escape. Even if they had the resources to pursue us, they certainly were not prepared to. With every roll of our all-terrain tires, my turbulent mind jostled in my head. The adrenaline was still thick in my veins, but it had stagnated and mellowed. All that was left was to indulge the fear and panic that had been building in me since the start of this daring misadventure. Apprehension and relief waded their way out of me in one weepy, conglomerated mess.
For the first time in six years, I clung to my daddy.
Rykye drove us to our last rendezvous point, where Mr. Charlie was waiting for us with the helicopter. We pulled off of the road at the jungle’s edge and buried the jeep in the brush where it would not be seen from the road for the time being. As the four of us walked toward the helicopter, broken and burned, Mr. Charlie stepped out of the co-pilot’s seat to greet us.
“Success!” he declared, seeing that we were all accounted for and on our feet. “Dr. Derosa, how good to see you.”
My father squinted at him for a moment before his sunken eyes lit up in recognition. “Mr. Charlie!”
Smiling guiltily, prideful Mr. Charlie asked, “Who else?”
“I should have known.” My father approached Mr. Charlie and shook his hand gratefully. “Thank you.”
“You’ve been dead to the world for six years … how does it feel to be resurrected from that, Dr. Derosa?”
“It feels like freedom.”
We piled wearily into the helicopter, and answered Mr. Charlie’s superficial questions about the operation as he and our pilot started the machine up. “It will only be half an hour before we’re at the airfield, and then we’ll put you two on a private flight out of the country,” he told us. “A doctor and three-course inflight meal will be ready for you at takeoff.”
The noise of the helicopter blades slicing through the air made conversation nearly impossible. I was happy though, sandwiched between my father and Jojing, holding onto my dad’s arm and feeling him ruffle my hair affectionately. Midway through our flight, Dad quietly asked me, “How on Earth did this happen, Lindy?”
I wormed out of his hold so that I could speak back into his ear. “I’ll explain everything once we’re on the plane.”
“Where are we going?”
With tremendous, subdued joy, I informed him, “Back to Seattle. We’ve still got to get Mom.”
“Lindy, you … you know about your mother? How?”
He spoke the words shamefully, and I saw that he was sorry to have ever kept the secret from me, to have ever lied about my mother’s death. I understood the decision though, and I appreciated the many hard choices he had faced while he attempted to raise me and revive her. “It’s okay, Dad. Uncle Bruce told me.”
A strange, perplexed look took hold of my father, and my smile slipped away as he uttered a single word.
The gripping conclusion is included in Mad Scientist Journal: Summer 2013.
R.G. Summers writes primarily science-fiction, but has published stories and poetry of all natures. Summers lives in Seattle, more or less, and has great hopes for the future, including being able to pay the rent by writing, and someday owning a crock-pot. She’s also training to be a circus performer, just in case this whole “writing” thing doesn’t work out. You can find her little corner of the internet at https://sites.google.com/site/herpuckishness/
Dawn Vogel has been published as a short fiction author and an editor of both fiction and non-fiction. Although art is not her strongest suit, she’s happy to contribute occasional art to Mad Scientist Journal. By day, she edits reports for and manages an office of historians and archaeologists. In her alleged spare time, she runs a craft business and tries to find time for writing. She lives in Seattle with her awesome husband (and fellow author), Jeremy Zimmerman, and their herd of cats. For more of Dawn’s work visit http://historythatneverwas.com/Follow us online: