|Subject: Chapter 307 - Part 1 (16 and above)
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Date Posted: Monday, October 22, 07:10:11am
Extra warning: There's some bad language, racial slurs, and violence in this part; I'm rating it 16 and above. You've been warned.
Dreams in the Dark (307/?)
by Katherine Gilbert
It was unbelievable, had all gone to Hell twenty minutes ago. For an hour or more, both he and Sikes had been suspicious, the pilot increasingly certain that they were flying in the wrong direction. Still, when they had started seeing signs of German troop movement, had had their first, important information to report back for days, they had temporarily stopped analyzing their situation. But that had been before the antiaircraft weapons had started up--and now they were all in for the fight of their lives.
Michael was doing his best at this, had found himself slipping into a sort of machine mode the second everything went bad. He had experienced a much smaller version of it many times at the studio--could only wish that he had felt it the night of Hillinger and Jamie's attack on his wife, his own defense of her pathetic. But now he was that machine, feelings having little to do with any of his surroundings, which was probably a good thing. Because, if he allowed himself to admit the pain of his severely broken leg, he might not be conscious to get through this at all.
He didn't think about this now, simply couldn't. There were only three of them left, Sikes--the best of them, by far--sacrificing himself to give them all time to get off the plane. While Michael had wanted to argue with him, there hadn't been time--and no room for logic. Sikes was good enough to keep the flaming plane under control just long enough to get them all out of it; without him, they would have been in a nosedive within seconds. There had only been time for one last look between the actor and his comrade, Henry's gaze firm. "Don't let Kane get away with this," he'd demanded. And then there had only been a second left for Michael to jump.
He felt a sort of sickness over this, over having watched his friend knowingly, nobly sacrificing himself. Still, there had been little he could do. He didn't know how to fly, couldn't take his place. And, if he did, what would happen to Nikita and his child without him? How far might Jones go in his permanent absence? It wasn't even a question. But the obvious course was far too brutal for him to take in now.
He repressed all thoughts of Sikes, therefore, needed to cultivate as much numbness as humanly possible. If he didn't, the pain in his leg was going to undo him--but the horror of what he had let happen would quickly follow to destroy him completely.
There would be another day to ponder such things; he would see to it. They wouldn't help him here. Now, there was another sort of crisis. And, if he could manage the pain of his injury long enough to stand up, he would do what he could to intervene.
He did his best, repressing the groan of agony that any pressure upon his leg quickly brought. He nearly wished that he had experienced something like it before; a childhood broken arm would have made the experience more familiar, easier to deal with--or so he told himself. But the most he had ever encountered before, physically, were a few bruises from bar fights. He teetered precariously on his one good leg. And that experience wasn't doing him any good just now.
He managed a sort of hobbling hop over to the two remaining crewmen, both of whom had--unlike himself--managed their parachute landings safely; he might have been ashamed of his failure, if there had been time for such selfish thoughts. As it was, Ackerman was about to beat the hell out of Kane. And, as much as the man deserved it, such a misuse of time was going to land them all in the Nazis' laps.
Bill had Willie held up by just his shirtfront, when Michael finally managed the painful hobble over to them, was screaming at him--a stupid damn thing to do, when the enemy was probably approaching on every side. "You sold us out!?" How he knew, the actor had no idea--Ackerman not a man typically prone to deep analysis of his surroundings--but he had probably picked up the hints from some of Sikes' words on the plane. "You son-of-a-bitch!"
Michael caught his arm, nearly staggering against it, just as Bill was about to start pummeling the navigator. "Stop it!" he growled in as loud a whisper as he dared. Bill glared at him, as the actor tried to remember to breathe through the pain of his wound; his eyes focused more deeply on his comrade, who still had Willie's shirt in one hand. "Where was the enemy?"
Ackerman's eyes narrowed, but he seemed to understand--remembering back to their recent air surveillance. "Three sides, twelve, three, and six o'clock." Or that, at least, was as close to a guess as he could hazard, given how turned around they had all been in their jump from the plane.
Michael nodded, prodding him on. "We don't have time for anything except to get out of here. If we waste time with him . . ."
Willie, before Ackerman's attack, had been protesting fervently that they needed to run as fast as they could--toward the enemy, though he hadn't said that. It had probably been the final straw for his attacker--certainly was the last piece of evidence either of the other men needed to convince them of his guilt. Willie understood this, was starting to worry. No matter what he did, this day wasn't going as he had planned. But now things were really ready to take another nosedive.
He had already been lucky to get out of one of these today, those Germans pretty good in their aim. They could have just blown the plane out of the sky--could have blown them all to kingdom come, leaving nothing as evidence--but, instead, they had carefully disabled it, giving everyone, except the pilot, time to escape. It had been done pretty handily, actually, had him nearly impressed--certainly had made him forget his part in these events. But he wasn't sure how long such denial would work.
He was seeing this truth more strongly by the second, was shivering from the look in Ackerman's eyes. So far today, he had gone pretty much along with his orders, had led them where his contact told him to, had even suggested that they run straight into the Germans' arms. They would protect him, after all; he was their informant. And they probably wouldn't do anything *too* bad to Samuelle; his gaze moved down. But, if they weren't captured soon, that wound he had might well do him in. It was amazing the guy was still moving; Willie wouldn't have been, if it had been him. Then again, maybe if he just delayed them until the Nazis got here . . .
He liked this plan, wanted to work on it--but the look the men were exchanging made him more than a little nervous; a second later, he realized belatedly how serious his situation was. Seeing where events were leading, he shook even more, not trying to argue over his guilt anymore, knowing--with a coward's instincts--that doing so would only make things worse for him. "Look, fellas." Both his hands were up in surrender, his eyes wide. "It wasn't serious what I told them. It wasn't much." He tried to shrug, as the two air observers exchanged another, intense gaze, one which made Samuelle glance away; that alone--the actor, surprisingly, not usually the squeamish type--made Willie's pleas all the more awkward. "You see, there was this woman . . . and just a little bit of money I liberated from some guys. You understand these things. You know how dames can be." The pair of them didn't seem at all convinced, his gabbling increasing desperately. "But, you see, those guys I took it from, if they find out I'm here . . ."
It wasn't working, wasn't going at all the way it should. Willie tried another tack quickly--hoping to convince. "It's not too bad a situation. We can all get out of here, you know. I know where we are. It's easy. We just . . ."
This was, as it turned out, the last thing the man ever said. Michael had closed his eyes for a moment, as Ackerman took out his pistol--before the actor forced himself to focus on their traitor's face. A second later, there was nothing left of those terrified, wide blue eyes; the actor closed his own once more, taking a very deep breath. But the image of what *was* left was going to haunt his nightmares for many years to come.
Neither of the remaining men spoke of what had just happened; neither had to. Even if they managed to drag Willie away toward the one direction they *might* find safety in, they could never trust him again. As a coward, he feared the men who were searching for him--the ones he had allied himself to--far less than he did the immediate companions he had betrayed. If they left him behind, he would tell their enemies exactly where they had gone. If they took him with them, he would run away to find the Nazis' supposed support the first second he could. Either way, the two of them would be dead--or worse. Besides, Michael had to get home to his wife. He had promised. There was only one outcome available: the elimination of this thoroughly unreliable element; it was inevitable. The logic of war.
The remaining two didn't think about it, then, refused to--Ackerman stepping back from the fresh corpse of their navigator, as Michael struggled to hold himself up on one leg. Then, Bill started to move away--and the ex-actor realized that the younger man had no intention of dragging him along.
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