Derrick was falling.
Once Derrick had shattered Nexus its sanctuary had also fallen apart and Derrick fell with it. He fell through a cavern of light, huge chunks of Nexus' sanctuary plummeted with him, and then he was falling through a crack in the floor.
Or was it the ceiling?
Derrick was falling face-up and saw the crack he had fallen through was steadily shrinking. The "sky" around it was dark but light shone through the crack.
I must have fallen out of the "sun". That's a long way down.
Derrick spun so that he was facing the ground and his mouth went dry. He was falling toward the bridge over the lake just before the Tower. He was at least three hundred meters high and still accelerating.
Light. Float. Like a feather, Derrick repeated over a hundred times on his way down.
Chunks of Nexus' sanctuary had broken through the bridge and rested in the lake. Strange updrafts of light came from the floating chunks. Derrick was heading straight for one at far too great a velocity to survive. He was so tired that he instinctively knew his shield would fail and he would get splattered.
Well, at least I did what I came to do.
Derrick watched the rock approach with calm eyes. Four meters from impact, Derrick was suddenly buffeted by a strong updraft of... air. It felt more like he had fallen into a bowl full of jelly but he wasn't complaining. Derrick's velocity slowed quickly and he settled to a gently landing on all fours. He stood and looked up at the ceiling. The crack still looked huge and let in enough light that Site Zero was bathed in deep twilight as opposed to absolute darkness.
Derrick turned and saw that half of the bridge had fallen into the lake. Three gargantuan leaps carried him to the bottom of the bridge/ramp. A lone figure appeared at the top.
The earth shook as Derrick and Alex raced to each other but neither cared. They embraced fiercely and, when they pulled back slightly, Alex lunged forward to kiss Derrick with bruising force. Derrick returned the favor but Alex broke the kiss far to early for Derrick's liking.
"I knew I'd see you again," she whispered, her arms around his neck.
"Promise made," Derrick kissed her dirty nose, "Promise kept."
"But it's not over yet," Alex said, her voice serious as she broke their embrace,
I've got a jeep! Hurry!"
Alex took off, passed a stand of boulders, and to a waiting jeep.
"You drive!" she shouted, hoping into the passenger side and buckling her restraints. Derrick jumped into the driver's seat. "Drive until we're clear of Site Zero!"
Derrick, buckled his restraints, started the car and gunned it up the rise.
"Yes'm, Miss Daisy!" he grumbled, to which Alex stuck her tongue out.
"Stop fucking around and let's get out of this alive!"
"If we do, are you going to lose more clothes!"
"Maybe! Now drive!"
They were going down the other side, towards the cliff side, when the ground shook and Derrick struggled to maintain control.
"Site Zero is falling apart!" Alex said and Derrick bit down on a retort as he power-slid around a corner.
"Calling all units! We've got evac choppers ready to go!" the voice sounded like one of Romeo's subordinates, "We're evacuating in four minutes! No exceptions!"
Derrick wove down the cliff side path, avoiding all the rock formations, at breakneck speed.
"We'll be saved if we can get to the chopper!" Alex cried, hanging on for dear life.
"If we make the chopper," Derrick mumbled as he headed for the gorge to the airlock barrier.
"We're saved! The T'lan have stopped moving, I repeat, the T'lan have been neutralized!"
Derrick slowed down just a bit as they passed through the airlock chamber. They emerged into the canyons where Alex had fallen but the right path was blocked. Then the walls to their left partially collapsed to make a convenient ramp.
Talk about lucky.
"This is Romeo One-One-Five to all units! Site Zero is collapsing!"
"No shit!" Derrick shouted as they caught air.
The jeep was back-heavy and they landed on all four tires. The bounce was minimal and Derrick drove down the canyon towards Gianni's temporary camp.
"Three minutes, Derrick!"
"Hang on!" Derrick shouted as they sailed off a three-meter drop.
They hit hard and something cracked loudly in the undercarriage.
"Hold together!" Derrick growled through clenched teeth as he gunned it down another gray walled canyon.
"Leave your equipment behind! Leave everything!" that was Romeo's panicking voice again.
Derrick hit the brakes hard as he swerved his way through Gianni's abandoned camp. The easy way down was still blocked.
So that leaves the hard way. What a fucking switch.
"Hold on!" Derrick roared as he drove over the four meter drop to the path around a deep gorge.
Derrick slammed on the brakes as the jeep bounced a dozen centimeters into the air on a straight line to the drop-off. He cut to the left and gave it all the gas he could. The jeeps wheels dug in and the vehicle lurched away from the disastrous drop. Derrick drifted around the gorge at over sixty kph.
"Maintain speed! Wait! Watch out!" the frantic shouts ended with a panicked scream.
Derrick drove between a pair of boulders and into another small canyon.
"This is Delta Six! Where the hell's the exit? Someone tell me!"
Derrick splashed through a small stream and raced down the bank. There were trees and boulders everywhere.
"The rest of my squad is dead! The cliff collapsed on top of us!"
Derrick spun the jeep in a tight, ninety-degree turn to enter the airlock in the rock wall to his left. They came out and into the wider canyons that led to the xit.
"Almost there!" Derrick shouted.
"Not yet!" Gianni sounded pissed off, "Wait for Cole and the woman!"
"We can't wait any longer, sir! Let's get outta here!"
"You'll wait as fucking long as I tell you!"
"Sounds like they've almost made it!" Alex said, her hand braced against the dashboard.
"Yeah, but let's hope they wait."
Derrick cut through a narrow section at full speed.
"So fucking step on it!" Derrick wanted to flip her off but he needed both his hands. "One minute! Oh shit!" Alex shouted as Derrick emerged into the base camp canyon. "The Tower! It's coming down!"
Derrick risked a glance and watched in horror as it fell toward their exit. He slammed the pedal down and his eyes stared forward as the Tower plummeted towards them. They passed beneath the Tower's shadow and a massive boom echoed around them as they crested the rise to the airlock. The jeep passed through the airlock in an instant and their momentum was so great that they caught air at the top of the long ramp. The ceiling was only a dozen centimeters from their heads. The rear tires hit first and the front half slammed into the ramp, but they didn't flip. Another tremor rocked the corridor and debris fell at the bottom of the ramp.
"We're going to have to ditch!" Derrick shouted, hitting the release on his seat restraints.
Alex did the same and Derrick hit the brakes as well as the emergency brake. The jeep screeched to a halt and they piled out. The two sprinted onto the bridge over the chasm and were brought up short by the fact that a ten meter section was missing.
There was no helicopter.
"The bridge..."Alex sounded so hopeless that Derrick grabbed her around the waist tightly, "Looks like we didn't make it in time."
"But we saved the human race," Derrick whispered into her hair.
Just then a titanic section of the wall literally sliced the bridge from its moorings. The bridge rocked forward and slowly began to lift.
"Oh shit. We've got problems? What do we do now?" Alex asked, looking at Derrick as though he knew what to do.
Before Derrick could say anything, a voice came over the radio.
"There they are!" Stefania shouted, "Right there!"
"Get in closer!" that was Gianni, "Jump in, both of you!"
Derrick turned and the transport chopper from the elevator rose into view. Stefania and Gianni framed the troop bay door.
"You go first," Alex said as it hovered closer.
Derrick gave her a look and hit transmit, "Catch."
Derrick grabbed Alex by her belt and shoulder and tossed her into the chopper. He jumped in after she flipped to land on her feet. The bridge tumbled down into the darkness.
"Hurry! This whole damn place is falling apart!" Gianni shouted into his throat mic as he slammed the door closed.
It was only the four of them in the chopper and Stefania had a headset on.
"Everyone hold on tight!" Gianni warned as the helicopter ascended at breathtaking speed.
"You'll pay for that," Alex whispered into his ear as they say in the seats across from Gianni and Stefania.
The helicopter rose through the access shaft in the ceiling of the cavern and half a minute later they were rising above the Science Center. The ride became a lot smoother and Derrick went over to the viewport to watch the rising sun. Stefania's cat meowed and scampered onto her lap from beneath her seat.
"Aww!" Stefania cooed as she patted her kitty, "Aren't you glad you made it, Casval?"
"Heh," Gianni chuckled, "Smart cat, hidin' in the helicopter like that." He reached over and scratched behind Casval's ears.
"Ogawa here. Derrick, you did well. You saved us all."
"Glad to see you made it, Glen," Derrick replied, "And I had help. Jameson make it?"
"Yeah, Derrick. My brother was right about you. You're the baddest motherfucker alive!"
"Of course he is!" Gianni chimed in, "He started out as a Marine. Semper Fi!"
"I hate to break this up," it was Romeo yet again, "But you're all going to spend the rest of your lives in a cozy military prison."
"I don't think so, Colonel. Look behind you." Gianni said with a wicked chuckle.
"Hey-! Who the -? Get your hands off me!"
"Sorry about that," this voice sounded... it was the voice he had been hearing for the last few days!
"No problem, General," Gianni said with easy familiarity.
"Michael?" Jameson sounded as though someone had just kicked him in the nuts.
"Hey, brother. We'll catch up when you get here for debrief. I've got too much ass to kick so I can't talk for long. I'm glad you made it, Derrick. You made me proud, son."
"Thank you, sir."
It was quiet for a moment before Stefania spoke, "Well, at least now we won't go to jail."
"Yes," Glen sounded tired, "Of course, our research is down the drain, but still... you're right."
Derrick watched as over a dozen helicopters came into view.
"Don't be so gloomy, Glen. I have a present for you when we get to HQ."
"I can't tell you. That would spoil it."
Derrick and Alex watched as explosions enveloped the Science Center. The massive facility slowly sank into the bay.
"There goes the Science Center. It's over..." Alex turned to him, "We did it. We saved it all, right?"
Derrick hugged Alex to him, "Yeah."
"The world... and the future."
"What about your timeline?"
Gianni and Stefania were listening with confused expressions but neither spoke.
"I don't know," Alex looked puzzled and took a step back. "I haven't disappeared or anything... so it must still exist. But if I'm still here, and I haven't changed, that must mean that history has taken two different paths. Our timeline is probably the same as it was before." Alex bowed her head for a moment. "But that's alright." She turned back to the viewport. "We saved this world at least."
"Excuse me," Gianni raised his hand, "But just- what the fuck?"
Sparkling motes of light began to circle Alex.
"It's the Pendulum Effect! It's pulling me back!"
"Pendulum?" Stefania asked, hugging Gianni's side as Casval darted into his open cage.
Alex backed towards the bay door.
"Get away from me, everyone! It'll pull you in!" Alex hit the door release and it slid open.
Alex was pulled into the air outside of the helicopter and the rings of light started to revolve around her.
"What is going on?" Stefania sounded frightened.
"I should be the only one to go back to the future!" Alex said to Derrick after she looked into his eyes.
"Thanks, Gianni, Stefania." Derrick gave Stefania a quick hug and slapped Gianni's shoulder, "Tell the Jacobsen brothers thanks for me. And tell Glen I don't hate him."
Derrick turned and leaped into the Pendulum field. Alex snagged his hand in utter disbelief from her wide-eyed expression.
"Derrick, what are you doing?"
"You didn't forget that promise you made, huh?"
Alex blushed but then her eyes narrowed, "You can't be serious... you plan on saving our world too, don't you? That's impossible!"
"Hey," Derrick couldn't believe what he was about to say, "For you... I'd do anything."
Alex grinned, "Maybe you can then, Derrick."
Derrick smiled, "Maybe we can. Together."
Alex grinned even wider, "Together, huh. And what other things can we do together, hotshot?"
Derricks lips found hers as the world turned to light.
Final Notes: I'd like to thank all the readers who continue reading the story through to the end. It was a long journey but one that was well worth it to me and I hope to you. Special thanks to Alice The Raven who is my most loyal of readers. Thanks, one more time.