If This Wall Could Talk, V.

Linka took a breath. What she was about to say, she wanted to say right. He deserved that. Six years later, since the day they'd first met, and they were finally saying all they ever meant to say …


Dr. Blight landed her aircraft.

"We're here!" Dr. Blight announced, as if they'd landed outside the entrance of Disney Land. "And not a moment too soon. MAL darling, would you make sure Duke knows we're here?"

"I'm one step ahead of you, doctor dearest!" said MAL, already in the process of contacting 'Duke' – aka Duke Nukem. All the while Wheeler struggled and mumbled fervently in his seat, still strapped down and gagged against his will. Dr. Blight looked him over and rolled her eyes.

"Well, if you're going to go on like that … "

She pressed a button on the control panel behind her. Instantly, the strap that had been covering Wheeler's mouth was removed.

"WHERE'S LINKA, YOU CRAZY BITCH!" Wheeler exploded, as soon as he was free to do so.

"Ah ah ah, language young man!" MAL reprimanded him, maneuvering his computer monitor in front of Wheeler's enraged face. "There is quite a lot of spunk in this one, isn't there doctor?" Dr. Blight nodded in agreement.

"I must say, I'm pleasantly surprised! And here I thought Gaia had sucked all the spunk out of these planet-nerds."

"You said 'Duke' before," Wheeler went on, cooling down a touch. "As in Duke Nukem? What does he have to do with anything?"

"I'm calling in a favour," said Dr. Blight offhandedly. "The big lug owes me, I've been his main supplier of radioactive waste for the past month. And besides! He's very good at taking out the trash."

On cue, Duke Nukem boarded Dr. Blight's aircraft.

"Did someone say take out the trash?" came Duke Nukem's gruff, monstrous voice. Everyone except Wheeler began cackling with laughter.

"Guess who the trash is, hot stuff?" Dr Blight teased Wheeler, with a wink of her good eye.


"AGH!"

Wheeler landed hard on the concrete floor. Duke Nukem had thrown him into a jail cell, located deep underground.

After they'd left Dr. Blight's aircraft, Nukem forced Wheeler outside into the snow. They went into what looked like an old abandoned factory, and then down a long series of stairs. Down and down … until they reached the place where Wheeler was now. It was cold and dark. Next thing Wheeler knew, he was behind bars.

"The Honeymoon suite wasn't available," Duke Nukem joked, laughing as he walked back up the stairs, until Wheeler heard him open the door at the top and leave. Wheeler was alone … or so he thought.

"Wheeler?"

"Linka!"

Linka was locked in the opposing cell, separated from Wheeler by a stone wall. He quickly shuffled closer the bars, so he could hear her better.

"Linka! Are you okay, babe? I was so worried!"

"Da, I am okay! Are you okay?"

"I am now! What happened to you?"

"I was knocked out! By Duke Nukem I am suspecting. He … how you say? 'Shocked' me?"

Linka's voice quivered as she spoke. She was cold.

"Wheeler, how did you find me?"

"I got a free flight. Courtesy of 'Super Bitch Airways'!"

"What?"

"Dr. Blight."

"Oh … I see. "

Wheeler went on to tell Linka how Dr. Blight was behind the whole 'werewolf' mystery. To say Linka was outraged was an understatement.

"How can Dr. Blight keep doing this? It is so senseless! It serves no purpose, only to satisfy her need for amoral and destructive experiments! You were right, Wheeler. Somebody had been drugging the wolves all this time … "

"Ah, did you just say 'I was right'? Can I get that in writing?"

"Please Wheeler, no jokes! Not at a time like this. We need to think of a way to get out of here!"

"Don't worry, Ma-Ti and the others are on it. He contacted me earlier with his heart power. He sensed you'd been kidnapped."

"Thank goodness for Ma-Ti … "

Linka's shivering instensified.

"Bozhe moy, it's so cold down here!"

"I know," said Wheeler in agreement. "I sure wish you were on this side of the wall with me. I'd keep you warm."

To this, Wheeler heard Linka snort and mutter something under her breath. He wasn't sure what it was, but he was sure whatever it was it was vindictive.

"What? What'd I say?"

"You don't know how to stop flirting, do you? It is a sickness!" Linka snapped, her tone frosty. Wheeler figured it had little to do with the icy weather.

"I wasn't flirting, I was trying to offer some comfort seeing as where both trapped in freezing cold jail cells!" he argued, offended. "So this is the thanks I get for trying to rescue you?"

Again, Linka snorted.

"What rescue, Wheeler? I am still behind bars, and now you are as well!"

"You know, if my sickness is flirting, yours is being contemptuous and patronising all the time! Don't you get tired of holding that guard up twenty-four-seven? You're like a walking military fort!"

"Maybe if all your flirting meant something, I would not have to be this way!"

"It does mean something!"

"Oh really? If it means something, why do you flirt with other girls!"

"What other girls?"

" Anneli, for example!"

He couldn't help it. Wheeler had to laugh.

"Linka, I'm not interested in Anneli! Have you lost it? In case it slipped your mind, Anneli is gay! Remember? Not much hope there."

There was a pause, Wheeler attempted to get his bearings, before speaking again. He felt like he'd passed through one of Linka's wind storms and wasn't quite sure where he'd landed.

"Linka, what's going on? I really did come here to rescue you. To try and rescue you, anyway. "

He heard her sniffle.

"Are you … are you crying?"

"NO!"

She was crying, Wheeler could tell. Now he was worried.

"Linka, what's wrong? Is this really about Anneli? I know I'm a flirt, I can't help it sometimes! It doesn't mean anything, honest!"

"So I am right then," Linka eventually spoke, in a deadpan voice. "When you flirt with me, it means nothing. It is what, like sport? Fun and games?"

"No!" Wheeler practically shouted. "It's not like that you with! I – "

"You what?"

Another pause. Linka cut in on the silence.

"Six years," she said heavily. To even say it made her feel exhausted. "Six years Wheeler, you and I have been playing this stupid cat and mouse game! I'm tired. I'm so tired … "

Tears ran down her face. On the otherside, Wheeler placed his hand on the cold wall. Reaching out for her, but not quite able to get there.

"It's always meant something," he said after a moment, in a serious voice. "The flirting, I mean. No matter how lame you thought it was. I want to be close to you, but you won't let me."

"That is not true!" said Linka, becoming argumentative again.

"Oh come on, Linka," said Wheeler cynically. "One of the first things you ever said to me was 'go avay'!"

"That was a long time ago. We were teenagers!" Linka protested. "And you were coming on too strong, I did not approve."

"You still don't approve!"

"What about last year, during your birthday at Coney Island?" Linka interceded. "We were in that boat and I tried to get close to you then, but you fell asleep and went all cloy!"

"That's 'coy', Linka," Wheeler corrected her. "And I was only coy because I just had some crazy dream about us really old with a million kids!"

"Was that the only reason?"

Wheeler went silent. He went silent for a long time, which was very uncharacteristic of him.

"Wheeler?" Linka prompted him.

"You broke my heart," he said in a low, pained voice. "Twice, I might add."

"What are you saying?"

"It's nothing. Forget it," he said gruffly.

"No, it is something! Tell me!" Linka demanded. "Please tell me, Wheeler."

"You broke my heart when you went back home and left the Planeteers."

"That was because my grandmother was ill!" Linka retaliated. "I had no choice!"

"Don't forget your beloved 'Mischka'!"

"Who is my brother!"

"You left!" said Wheeler, his voice louder now. "You just up and left, like it was all so easy!"

"It wasn't easy!" cried Linka, her voice breaking. "In fact, if you must know, it was one of the hardest things I ever had to do! And besides, none of this matters now. I decided to return to the Planeteers, remember?"

"Yeah I remember. How could I forget that kiss?"

Linka caught her breath as she remembered. Linka and Wheeler's first and only kiss on the lips. It felt like decades ago.

"Even after everything I did to get you back," Wheeler continued. "Even after we finally kissed, you still went and dated that Greg guy."

Linka knew this was coming. In truth, Linka never had deep feelings for Greg. He was just another 'wall'. Neither Linka nor Wheeler had been ready to be together back then. After that kiss, Wheeler behaved as he usually did around her. Linka concluded he wasn't serious about taking their relationship to the next level and, as a result, she latched onto Greg. Somebody older. Somebody 'serious'. Instead of explaining all of this to him, Linka simply said, "I'm sorry, Wheeler. Greg was a mistake."

She was sobbing now. Even though he was mad at her, Wheeler couldn't stand the sound of Linka crying.

"Please Linka, don't cry! It's not like I ever believed you'd be interested in me anyway. I'm a street kid from the slums of New York, and you're … you're this sophisticated, smart, beautiful girl. When I first met you, it was like you walked straight out of a dream. I'd be out of my mind to think I could ever get someone like you! I could've done so much more than flirt and act like an immature ass these past six years. I just didn't think there was any point."

Linka took a breath. What she was about to say, she wanted to say right. He deserved that. Six years later, since the day they'd first met, and they were finally saying all they ever meant to say …

Wiping her tears and composing herself, she said, "You know … I'm not so far out of your reach, Wheeler. And I've been scared too. Scared to vulnerable, I know this. I am sorry. But all this time, while you have been dreaming about me, I have been dreaming about you. I … I'm in love with you, Wheeler."

She said that last part in a very small, quiet voice; but not so quiet that Wheeler didn't hear. From the otherside of the wall she heard him sigh. He'd been holding his breath the entire time she'd been talking, and now, he could finally let go.

"Give me your hand!" he demanded suddenly. Linka was confused.

"My hand?"

"I need your hand!"

Linka did as Wheeler asked, reaching her hand through the bars towards his cell. She felt his cold hand grab hold of hers in the darkness, bringing it closer to him. She felt his warm breath and his lips press against her knuckles in a kiss. She smiled, as more tears ran down her face.

"Wheeler ... "

"Now I'm crying. Thanks!" Wheeler sniffed, kissing her hand again passionately. "I'm so happy I can barely think straight!"

Linka laughed. "That is nothing new!"

Wheeler laughed along with her, proceeding to kiss every inch of her hand. As he did, he kept murmuring her name. "Linka … Linka. Linka, I … "

A loud noise came from above. The sound of a door opening and closing. It was Duke Nukem. He was lumbering down the stairs with a torch, towards Wheeler and Linka.

"Crap!" hissed Wheeler, not letting go of Linka's hand. "Talk about your all time bad interruptions."

"Maybe he is just checking up on us?" said Linka, sounding doubtful.

"Linka, listen to me," Wheeler began, speaking urgently. They didn't have much time. "He's coming for me. Dr. Blight and MAL said they wanted me to be one of their test dummies."

"Test dummy for what?"

"They want to experiment on me. The same way they did with Jake."

"No!" said Linka in alarm, gripping Wheeler's hand tightly.

"It'll be okay, Linka. Ma-Ti and the others know we're missing. They'll find us!"

"But Wheeler, what if they don't find us in time?"

"Well well well," said Duke Nukem, reaching the bottom of the stairs. He was shining his torch on Wheeler and Linka, who were still holding hands. An evil grin crossed his face. "Isn't that the sweetest thing you ever did see. Hope you finished saying goodbye to your girlfriend, planet puny!"

"AGH!"

"WHEELER!"

Duke Nukem unlocked the door to Wheeler's cell. He'd stomped over, snatched Wheeler by the hair and yanked his head back.

"NO!" screeched Linka, pulling on Wheeler's hand.

"LINKA!" Wheeler cried back, hanging onto her.

But it was no use. Duke Nukem tore them apart; dragging Wheeler out of his cell by the hair, as he writhed and swore numerous obscenities.

"LET ME HIM GO!" Linka cried, shaking the bars of her cell. "WHEELER!"

"SHUT UP!" Duke Nukem bellowed. Keeping a tight grip on Wheeler's hair, he aimed his free hand at Linka. Wheeler knew what was about to come.

"NOOO!" Wheeler wailed desperately, struggling to break free. A second later, the green electromagnetic field streamed out of Duke Nukem's hand, shooting towards Linka like lightening. Wheeler watched, horrified, as she was struck in the chest. Her body went limp and crumpled to the floor.

"Think I used too much power that time," said Duke Nukem offhandedly, observing Linka. Then he started to chuckle. "Oops! Think might have accidentally killed your girlfriend. Oh well! That's one less eco idiot in the world."

Even though his scalp was in danger of being ripped off, Wheeler shouted and fought against Duke Nukem with all the energy he had. He kept calling for Linka, wanting nothing more than for her to call back. Duke Nukem was getting really annoyed now.

"Right, that's it! You asked for it."

Duke Nukem punched Wheeler in the gut – hard, knocking the wind out of him. Wheeler heaved over in pain, gasping and spluttering.

Swinging Wheeler over his shoulder, Duke Nukem retreated up the stairs. Wheeler, his face red and his eyes bloodshot, was powerless to stop him. Hanging upside down, he tried to keep his eyes on Linka. She was still lying on the floor of her cell, lifeless.

"Linka!" he half cried, half coughed; for the final time, before Duke Nukem carried him out through the door at the top of the stairs.

To be continued ...