Chapter 18: Family United Again
It was dark. Carolina couldn't feel anything. She was a detached consciousness, a hollow existence like a ghost. What am I doing here? She looked around with a calm mind. She saw a spotlight in the distance and with a slight push from an unexpected gust she was blown towards it. Where am I? She asked of herself as she neared the spotlight. Within the yellow circle was a woman on the ground. Who is that?
From underneath the woman came out a small boy, Carolina let out a surprised gasp. This boy! She tried to cross over to inside of the spotlight, but her efforts were hindered by an invisible barrier. Don't do anything, you will only regret it! She tried to shout, but her consciousness could only act as an observer condemned to this torment. The boy shook the woman and with a worried voice he leaned in closer. "Mommy?"
Stop it, don't talk anymore! Carolina once again felt the heartache she experienced at the scene of the bombing. The boy under a deluded pretense continued to shake her. "Wake up! Please wake up!"
"Don't go anywhere mom!"
Carolina remained still with the memory synapses of her mind now knocking so fondly on her front door. Don't go anywhere mom…mom…, and Carolina willingly opened the door for the flood to enter. Within the mystic blue water that carried her away with the current she saw her younger self, only of age twelve. It was early morning. She was awakened by the noises of moving feet in the hallway. She sat up with drowsy eyes. Her blurred vision slowly cleared upon growing curiosity. She opened the door a crack and saw both her parents in the living room. Her mother was in her basic gear, and her military bag rested on the table.
Both Leonard and Allison sat across from one another hand in hand. Worry was painted over her father's face. Allison took notice off the light footsteps coming their way and smiled at their cute daughter. "Did we wake you? I'm sorry."
"What's going on mom?" Carolina asked with a yawn. Leonard did his best to keep composure but could not face his daughter like this. He instead went into his workshop to retrieve a video camera. Allison looked at him with great concern.
"I'm sorry honey," she bent down and patted her head. "Mom was just worried about dad."
"Did something happen?" she pointed to the heavy bag on the table. "Where are you going?"
Allison smiled at Carolina's smart perceptiveness and rubbed her hair playfully. "Mom has to go for now."
"Is it to fight in the war?"
"Yes," she answered with a gentle tone. "They called for me, and so I have to go."
"But will you be okay?"
"What are you talking about? This is your mom we are talking about!" she answered trying to show off her muscles. "I won't let a war like this keep me from coming back to my family."
"I will be lonely," the young Carolina pouted with her head low. Allison took her into a hug and kissed her hair. "I know, but make sure to get along with your father. I know he will be lonely to. So together you can help keep one another keep busy until I come back."
"But dad spends most of his time in his workshop," Carolina replied with her arms crossed and yet another pout. Allison let out a hearty laughter and agreed with her daughter. "But that's only because your father wants to make great discoveries to help others. He wants to do his part in this war to help lessen the casualties."
"I know," Carolina conceded as she gripped Allison's jacket. "But it would be nice if he spent a little more time out of the workshop with me."
"I will be sure to tell him that then," Allison said with the wink. But they both knew what the mother meant by telling it to him. They both let out a giggle and Allison rested her forehead against Carolina's. "Mom will miss you while she is gone."
She stood up and walked at her daughter's pace to the front door where Leonard was all ready. Allison bent down to hand a small handmade bracelet to her precious daughter. "Think of this as a charm."
Carolina happily took it and tried it on. She graced her parents with a most thankful smile bringing joy to them both. Allison then hugged the young one with slight anxiety in her voice. But she remained calm for her family's sake. "Remember, I am not saying goodbye. If I don't say goodbye, then I am just not here right now. We will see one another again sweetheart."
As they parted, the young Carolina could feel uncertainty grow in her mind. As she watched her mother and father get into the car, she chased after them. The car drove off leaving her to only echo her distress. "Don't go anywhere mom!"
The car was long gone. That was the last she ever saw of her mother, ever since then she became a memory to so fondly remember in her times of need. Don't go anywhere…, the disembodied Carolina again pondered.
She could feel her heart weigh heavy. Her eyes shot wide open only to stare in frenzy up at the ceiling. She breathed inwards heavily with cold sweat breaking out on her face. Her chest felt crushingly heavy and weighed her whole body down. She gripped it tightly until it finally calmed down. The commotion was enough to bring Epsilon out of his slumber and worriedly study Carolina's condition.
Elevated heart beat, and brain waves that indicate emotions of panic, did she have a nightmare? He inquired of himself. Based on the numbers in the data, that was the only explanation. He made his presence clear towards her as he increased energy output from the display device. "Are you alright?"
"I…I am fine," Carolina threw her bed sheets to the side and sat up straight. I think. But why did I have to remember that memory of all things? I…I need to get a handle on things. I think I am slowly beginning to slip. Epsilon was not blind to this internal struggle. He shook his head and clapped his hands getting her attention once again. "You know, the things that have happened in the past where you had little to no control are not your fault."
"You looked inside my mind again, didn't you?" she asked clearly aggravated by this behavior. Epsilon held up his hands in defense. "I only did it because you are so hard to get answers from. I only want to help you sis!"
"That still doesn't give you the right to go ahead and invade my memories like that Church," she gritted her teeth and tightly gripped the edge of her bed. Her cold sweat was beginning to clear and her panic disappeared into the wide ocean of disapproval. He again apologized only to be ignored. She stood up to stretch her back and do some morning exercises. Epsilon however did not want to give up just yet on getting through to her. "You were just there to get answers. You know that explosion wasn't your fault. If anything, those terrorist scumbags are to blame for this!"
For the rest of the morning ritual, she had ignored his words as she was lost deep within thought. Losing family as well as gaining family, I know the feeling of both. Everytime I think about everyone at Blood Gulch, I worry about losing them at times like these. Just why did I remember that dreadful, but at the same time blissful moment from the past? Is my guilt for being weak that strong? No matter how strong I believe I have become, it never seems to be enough to protect others. There is always a stronger threat out there in the universe. Carolina bit into her morning toast and took a sip of her coffee. She finished the rest of her breakfast in deep contemplation and got ready for work.
Carolina exited the apartment and noticed the bare trees. Snow might finally fall. She began her walk towards the workplace only to have her thoughts interrupted at the worried questions Epsilon had for her. Are you sure you are alright, should you really be going?
"I'm fine Church," she smiled and thanked him for his concern. "I just have a few thoughts I need to work out is all."
Just remember, you don't have to do this on your own. Epsilon spoke with increased determination. He was willing to always help her in any way he could, after all she was his precious sister and family. We are a team, we do this together. Carolina nodded her head. "Yes, you are right. Sorry for my earlier behavior by the way. It was uncalled for and it was wrong of me to raise my voice at you like that."
I am sorry to. Church went quiet for a moment to consider his next few words. Even though his lack of understanding in human emotions was still evident, he wanted to try harder and reverse this. He wanted to connect with Carolina on a deeper level. Try to make the most out of the time you have in your life sis. I know I will be trying my damn hardest to better understand people. Would have been nice if the previous me left me with some useful data. Can't believe he pulled such a dick move.
Carolina giggled bringing some relief to Church. A lot has recently happened. I can sort of understand how you may feel. But like I said before, you are not the one responsible. So just do your best to relax and tackle things with a cool mind. Plus it's not so bad to just go with the flow once in a while and take it easy.
Carolina finally reached her worksite, but before taking a step further she took notice of several stray wires on the ground. Epsilon found this to be most suspicious and instructed her to follow the direction of the wires. Carolina eyed one specifically and looked in the direction it led her to. There were several barrels set up in the construction site. What's going on here? Church wondered as he asked for her to get near the barrels. But she stopped upon noticing Madison below the building's structure.
Something is amiss. She looked around and found more barrels. She inched closer to Madison who noticed her presence. "Don't come any closer!"
In his left hand was a trigger like device. Is that a detonator of some sort? Carolina remained still maintaining a fair bit of distance between them. "What is going on here Madison?"
"Deserving punishment Carolina," he sighed. "That is what is going on here."
"I don't un-"
"Understand?" Madison looked her way with a familiar smile. But this time behind that smile were the eyes of a dangerous man. "The government cowers in their little holes. I figured I should give them something else to cower about as well."
Be careful Carolina, Epsilon warned as he saw that the fatherly personality was nowhere to be seen. I don't know what's happening to him, but the Madison we see right now is not in his right state of mind. Something seems off about him.
Madison pressed one button on the device in his hand. Several of the barrels began to beep. They are explosives! Carolina suddenly started to look for flanking routes to disarm Madison from. They were in an open area. There was nothing she could use to her advantage. There were no tools for make shift weapons either. Dammit, think, what can I do?! She racked her brain against an empty wall. Madison looked from the detonator to Carolina and waved it in the air. "If you are thinking about getting this, forget it. I will detonate it before you can get it from me and kill us both if I have to."
"Calm down Madison," she asked holding out a hand from afar. "Just put down the detonator so we can talk this out."
"There is no more time left for talk," he rebutted looking back up the structure they all worked so hard to build over the past few months. "It's a shame I will have to destroy it. But the government needs to hear this message loud and clear."
"What message? What are you talking about Madison, this isn't you!"
"We all have a role to play in this cruel world Carolina," he looked back with longing eyes. But those same eyes were filled with hate as well. "My role is something I figured out two years ago. My role is to be the messenger to the government. I will help set humanity on the correct path and go meet my family."
"But how can you meet your family if you are dead?!" she argued taking a small step forward. Madison held up his thumb against the trigger prompting Carolina to back off. "Death will let me see my family again."
"My family," he bit his lower lip as he felt his body quiver from the memories. "They are dead. Death will be the final release to let me go see them. I will finally meet them after two long years."
"No, please," Carolina took a firm stance and begged. "Please reconsider what you are doing!"
"There is nothing to reconsider," Madison looked at the detonator in his hand with a smile. "There is nothing left but death. If that death can also serve a greater purpose, then I will gladly offer it."
"Why are you so determined to do this?!"
"What a meaningless question in a situation such as this," he smirked but something inside of him prompted to answer. "Seeing as how no one else knows this, I may as well pass this knowledge onto you in the hopes that someday you see why I did what I did. Maybe you may even begin to understand how ugly reality is and take steps to better it. Humans are a plague that need to be contained and brought back to Earth. As for the why, I do this for release from my torment and the pain of losing my loving wife and daughter. They died in a space shuttle accident. Their shuttle had come under a mini-asteroid shower and one had managed to break through the shuttle window. It depressurized the whole shuttle killing everyone inside."
Madison stopped to grip his hand against his thigh. "The fucking government, they did nothing to mount a rescue mission. They just let the space shuttle float away like it was some piece of junk. They didn't even have the decency to retrieve the victims for a proper burial. All the officials did was offer payments in damage and half-hearted apologies through their crooked corrupt teeth. They only apologized because it was their duty. They never did so out of personal obligation, those bastards."
Madison looked up towards Carolina with a broken and pathetic smile. His eyes were on the verge of tearing up. "Those assholes can still smile about things, but my wife and daughter will never have that chance again. The corrupt get away but the innocent aren't even remembered. They will offer up all the apologies they can to this day, but they will never come back to me again. The dead don't come back to life. My life is an empty shell that is begging for release."
"I'm sorry that such tragic things have happened to you. I can understand the loss of family," she sympathized but at the same time maintained a cool head to reason with. "But think about how what you are doing here will affect others. What about Jacob? How will he feel once he gets out of the hospital? What about our other co-workers?"
"I do feel sorry that they will be out of a job probably," he smirked upon remembering the good memories he created with them all. "But there are greater things at stake. Humanity has strayed far too much into outer space and become a rampant parasite. They will suck any planet they inhibit dry and then move onto the next one. They need to be brought back to the cradle and re-educated through being caged. This is a mission greater than my life and your lives. It is a mission that no one can stop me from completing."
He raised the detonator up in the air making a clear declaration of his intentions to follow. "What I do here will make me seem nothing more than a terrorist. It's a shame you had to get involved in this. I'm sorry. But the things I said about my daughter and wife were all true. I think that if you met my daughter, then you two would have been the best of friends."
He placed his thumb on the detonator and once again smiled genuinely for her. He thought it be best to leave her with the image she most likely upheld in her mind. "By the way, sorry Greenhorn, but I wasn't able to sneak out any cake."
"No!" Carolina was blasted backwards from the sudden explosive force. The barrels and various charges on the site all exploded synchronously. The structure's beams began to break apart and the whole building crumbled in on itself crushing Madison underneath it. Around the city, many other construction sites met the same fate. Panic grew in the streets. Shouts of terrorism were thrown around wildly. Law and order no longer seemed existent. Now these were the streets only for the brave and the bold. No person with a faint heart could hope to survive out in this chaos.
Madison…, Carolina pondered with sadness. Her consciousness began to slip and the darkness around her eyes closed in till there was nothing. Her mind went blank and her body went limp. Church's cries to remain awake went unheard and her world went silent.
A/N: Writing about Carolina's last moments with her mother was rather interesting. While not necessarily anything mind blowing, I hope it did leave with some emotional impact considering the things Allison's legacy went through after her death. I also wanted to paint a more positive picture for Leonard Church to give a contrasting picture to what he became after his wife's death.
But onto the more major event in this chapter, Madison turned out to be a terrorist. Who would have thought it right? Just another thing in Carolina's life to question and with time overcome I suppose considering how strong of a friendship she had formed with him. I hope that was a rather unexpected twist, although I did drop some very minor hints here and there in the "Gift Hunting" chapter :).
Next chapter will be the final chapter for this fanfic. After that it will continue onto a more action oriented entry in the final two fanfics in this trilogy.
Catch you all next time!