Here's the conclusion, which is pretty much something I was looking for a place to fit. It could also help flesh out my Saga's story arc a little more. Of course, the approaching holiday has also been a consideration.
in the woman is a picture
in the picture is a girl
in the girl there's a room...
"...Let me get this straight," Wichita said to Tallahassee. "You showed my little sister Evil Dead?"
"Evil Dead 2," Tal said.
"Oh. Okay, that's all right." Wichita leaned back against the rear of the cab, and after a moment of silence said to Bruce, "So... how do you manage being a legend?"
"Well, I think it helps that the first movie was an `indie' project," Bruce said. "We knew we would be lucky if the movie got seen, let alone made money, an' never mind getting remembered. We were all in it for love and fun, and if the guy on the screen hadn't been anything like me, I wouldn't have played 'im... or anyway, if I had, I wouldn't have done it well enough for anybody to remember. But he's not all that I am, and I'm not everything he is. And I think the people who really love the movies are the ones who understand that. So, they can have him, and I can be me, and they can decide themselves which they like best."
Wichita leaned back, nodding, but then raised her head again. "But- what if the legend isn't just who you played, but who people think you are? And what if one of them's the person you s- live with?"
Bruce gave her an odd look, and smiled. "Then look in the mirror sometime, together, and see if you can see what he does."
Columbus looked interested, but not surprised. Nogales looked furious. "All those nights, looking up at this window, wondering who was up here... and the whole time, this was pointing down at us!"
Strangelove was well aware of the irony as she photographed the equipment. "This is military, no question," she said. "I had a friend who did defense work. He showed me a few pictures of something like this. This isn't just remote control cameras. It's a robotic intelligence asset, with a whole suite of sensors. And the lights... It's on an automated timer, just like you said." She carefully reached out and adjusted a view finder screen, then took a surprised step back when picture and sound came on.
"You know me. I'm Ahnold," said the voice from the machine, "da acting president of da United States. Dis is a recorded message from a classified location, going out to da citizens of Las Vegas. We have been watching you wid special interest, and we set up dis automated outpost to continue observation. I hope you don't feel we've been underhanded. As I said before, da US military has been ordered to widdraw from direct contact wid surviving civilians. We trusted you to take care of yourselves, while we preserved enough food, water and power to give you a fighting chance. We also made sure to leave you some goals to aim for, tests dat would measure your progress and maybe get you moving faster. And if you have come far enough to see dis, you've done your country proud.
"By the time you find this, we expect that the casinos where civilians are taking refuge will have become functional communities able to work togedder, and already reclaimed a substantial area of the city. We also expect dat da first thing you will want to do is trace da signal from dis outpost to a receiving installation. We'll try and save you the trouble: It doesn't work dat way. Dis outpost's communications gear is designed for non-directional transmissions only. You are not going to be able to use it to locate functioning military facilities, and even if you could, da people dere would not be able to help you. Not yet.
"Be advised, dat dere are some very dangerous people near you. Some may already be in your city. Be careful, especially when sending transmissions or actual expeditions beyond da upper Vegas Strip, if you send dem at all. If da wrong people get da right information, you could all be in far more danger. Odderwise, keep doing what you have been doing. We're all betting on you." The Governator gave a thumbs up, and the screen went blue.
Nogales scowled. "Is there a chance any of that was true?"
"Hey! Arnold's a good guy!" Little Rock protested. "He wouldn't lie to people."
"How do you know?" Nogales countered. "Because he plays good guys in the movies?"
Columbus cut in, calmly but firmly: "He's telling the truth." Looking outward and down at the Circus, he continued, "Everything he said makes sense. Especially about them wanting the outpost to be found, and not wanting their signals traced. If they wanted it to stay secret, they wouldn't have rigged the automatic light, and if they didn't want us to follow a trail to a base, they would have taken precautions. The question is, did he tell the whole truth?"
Strangelove's eyes widened, and she said, "Luxor!" For a moment, Columbus looked confused, then he nodded. Strangelove explained, "Every night, we see the column of light from Luxor, just like always. But why would Luxor be working? That whole area was trashed by fires and crashes from the airport."
"It's worse than that," Columbus said. "I read once they have trouble with bugs: They fly into it till it looks like snow, and if they aren't cleared away, they can blot out the lamp. There's no way it could have worked this long without someone maintaining it."
"But why?" Little Rock asked.
"Navigation, probably. Aircraft could use it as a landmark… maybe even land by it. The airport is right across the boulevard. There might be enough of it left to service a few planes." Austin frowned. "But no one's been watching, because we had this mystery on our doorstep."
Nogales swore. Little Rock only asked, "Then what do we do?"
"It's too far south, through too many zombies," he said. "There's nothing we can do... not yet."
As Bruce wandered through the festive throng, he jostled against a surprisingly subdued man, who only mumbled an apology before heading in a different direction. He turned almost fearfully when the hook tapped his shoulder. "Hey... Do I know you somewhere?" said Bruce, eying the features behind a long, scraggly beard.
"I'll tell you what," said the other man. "If you are just Bruce, I will be just Donald."
As dusk gave way to night, Columbus stood on the very top of the Trump Tower. The roof had not gone wholly unscathed: Chunks of airplane debris were spread thinly about, and the protruding antennae and beacons had been ravaged. He was seated at the base of a crumbled latticework of an aviation beacon, its red lamps still glittering dimly from the lights of the surrounding city. "Columbus?" came the voice of Little Rock. Stepping up beside him, an orange-tinted flashlight in hand, she looked out, then looked back at him. "I thought you were afraid of heights."
"It's not so bad at night," he said, "and as long as I'm back from the edge."
A wind rose, whipping hair and clothes, but Columbus stood serene. "Are you mad at Krista?" Little Rock asked.
"No," he said, then hesitated under her gaze. "Okay, maybe I'm mad... but I don't blame her. She is who she is, and I shouldn't have expected her to change overnight... I know this wouldn't have happened without both of us."
"Uh, yeah, I thought you took biology."
"It's what happened in the mall that bothers me most," he said. "First she tells me she's- expecting... Then she puts herself in harm's way... Then I get left thinking..." Tears streamed from his eyes. "I just wish I could understand why. She risked both our futures, and whatever we made together, and you, too... And for what? I want to understand that- OW!"
He tried to dodge more kicks at his shins. "Do you still not get it? She's in love with you! I don't just mean Bambi `twitterpated' love, or even `Romeo an' Juliet' love, I mean creepy stalker love! She falls apart without you!"
"No," he said, stooping, then raised a hand. "No... no more." He stared at her. "Why? Somebody like her... falling like that... for me? Aah!" He retreated from more furious kicking.
"Because, you stupid... inconsiderate... spaced-out... dork," she fumed, "you're- actually- a cute- sweet- guy!" She charged him, then he sidestepped and threw an arm around her waist. She shrieked, dropping her flashlight to pound on his shoulder. "Put me down!" He obliged by setting her on a ledge almost five feet above the rest of the roof. As he turned in smug triumph, she leaped onto his back, and they both went down laughing.
"We should go back," Columbus said as he got up.
"Yes, let's," Little Rock said, bending to pick up her flashlight. As the beam lifted, two red discs in the beacon tower flared so bright they seemed lit from within- and then they moved. Little Rock screamed, less in fear than in surprise and disgust, as an eight-foot hunchback seemed to unfold from within the twisted metal, covered in an unwholesome pelt that gave the impression of insectoid cilia. Then the great wings spread, and a great gust stung at their eyes as Mystery rocketed straight upward into the night.