Chapter 24: Statue
9.8.2002 Edited by , every Sunday.
Bjorn had never drawn a breath as sweet as the first one he drew after the stone had fallen away. He was crouched in the dark, an errant shaft of sunlight falling across him. He was holding Jesus in his arms, her torso pressed against his chest, his head bowed over hers. Water was falling on him from somewhere, but Bjorn hardly noticed. Jesus was alive. She was unconscious, but beginning to stir. Bjorn looked around. They were in one of the sub-levels, near what appeared to have once been a subway car. What luck, Bjorn thought, that the debris had shielded them from discovery for the five days, six hours, three minutes, and twelve seconds that had passed since the pill had taken effect and the World Trade Center had-
Bjorn didn't have a chance to really consider how he had known the exact duration of the pill's effects or the slight irony of mentally calling out the name that a diety and the woman in his arms shared, for memories, old and new, swept over him. He remembered working in his office on that Tuesday morning when Joelle in accounting walked in, tears streaming down her face, and turned on the small TV that sat next to the water cooler. No more work was done that day. He remembered young Tim, the intern, sitting in the break room, staring at his cell phone, waiting for a call that never came. And he remembered being a statue, watching all the people run sightlessly by him, the atmosphere of thickening smoke and rising panic shrouding even the spectacle of a statue holding a living woman in its cold embrace. Once again, all he could do was watch and bear witness to the horrors passing his eyes.
Bjorn finally stood, Jesus cradled in his arms, and finally realized that they were not alone. A fire fighter stood next to a mangled subway car.
“I - er - we - that is-” Bjorn offered by way of an explanation. He had never been all that good at thinking fast.
“My God.” said the fire fighter. “What is it going to take to kill you?” He drew a gun.
“Don't shoot just yet, Minion.” The voice cane from the fire fighter/minion's radio.
Bjorn recognized it immediately. “McNoHart.”
“Very good, Lincoln.” McNoHart jeered. “Maybe all that drug testing didn't completely fry your brain after all.”
“You did this?” Bjorn asked. “Just to get me?”
“Don't flatter yourself. Flying planes into buildings just isn't my style. I like to work in the background, mostly. And when I do decide to put on a show, I like it to be more...grandiose.” A glowing doorway opened behind Bjorn. “Now, if you don't mind...”
Faced with the fire fighter's gun, Bjorn obeyed.
He found himself in a large, windowed room. He turned to see the fire fighter walk through the door, which then vanished.
“It's your lucky day, Bjorn.” McNoHart's voice still came from the fireman's radio. “Today, I put on a show, and you get front row seats. Walk to the windows and have a good look.”
Bjorn looked out, and saw a large city far below. The peninsula with the large smoking crater near the tip allowed him to recognize it as-
“New York City. The Sixteenth of September, Two-Thousand and One.” A part of Bjorn still marveled at the juxtaposition of a young boy's voice and an evil madman's words. “Watch the fighter planes.” One of the window panes zoomed in on the tip of Manhattan.
Two fighters, F-16s, were on patrol near the Statue of Liberty. Bjorn noticed one fighter slowly falling back. Suddenly, it opened its air brakes, falling far behind its partner, and fired a missile. The other F-16 never had a chance, exploding into a ball of fire, the wreckage slamming into the Statue of Liberty's abdomen. Slowly at first, then with increasing speed, the Statue's upper half tipped over, and toppled into New York Harbor.
“Why?!” Bjorn demanded in a strangled voice. “Why are you doing this??”
“Because, my dear Mr. Lincoln, the easiest way to gather power is to collect it all in one place.”
“I don't understand.” Bjorn said.
“You will.” McNoNart laughed. “But now, time for our feature presentation. You see, that F-16 was built by me, and has a few extra features. Remote control, anti-gravity, and a special weapon of a tactical nuclear missile.”
“No!” Bjorn cried. “Look, you already have me! Just-”
A savage blow to the temple sent Bjorn reeling, ultimately sending him and Jesus tumbling across the floor.
Bjorn saw the blurry image of the fire fighter standing above him, gun held backwards, ready to deliver another blow.
“I'll tolerate no more interruptions.” McNoHart's voice was cold. “Watch.”
Reflexively, Bjorn's head turned just in time to see a bright flash. In an instant, New York City was gone. Bjorn's heart literally hurt, though he could not tell if it was from sorrow or an aftereffect of the petrification pill.
“Ah-hahaha! This is stupendous! What a great show!!” McNoHart's voice crackled with glee. ”Airbursts are the best!”
“WHY??” Bjorn choked out through clenched teeth.
“I'll tell you one more time, since I'm in such a good mood. The easiest way to gather power is to gather it all into one place. The Americans will be terrified beyond belief now. You remember that, even in our original timeline, Americans signed over an unprecedented amount of civil liberties in the name of security. How much do you think they'll give up now?”
Bjorn didn't answer. McNoHart resumed, after an uncomfortable pause.
“Also, in our original timeline, almost all the western nations fell in behind the United States for months. How long will they follow now?”
Bjorn remained silent, glaring at McNoHart.
“I can tell you are beginning to understand. Soon, all history will serve the single purpose of handing the world over to me. And I have you to thank for that, Lincoln. You tested my time travel pills and made it all possible. This is all your doing.”
Bjorn hung his head.
“How pitiful. Minion, kill him.”
Far below, New York burned.