19. Chapter Fifteen: Armageddon
If they were going to walk into the trap David Saeran had set for them, Bryan Miller was determined to return the favour with a surprise of his own.
After all the chaos created following the destruction of the laboratory in their bid to escape the Nine earlier, Bryan and Eve had ensured that the premises beneath Saeran's castle was more or less devoid of people except for the Uruk Hai who were hunting them. Despite Gandalf's desire to continue their journey to Saeran, Bryan had convinced the wizard to give him an hour while he took a detour to one of the unattended labs that had not been damaged by the explosion. Even Eve was a little confused by his request but Bryan's reasons for delaying their advance to Saeran was for a good reason.
It was more or less a foregone conclusion that Saeran was expecting them to rescue Aaron and the others. They were all realistic about that. However, Bryan was not averse to delivering a swift kick in Saeran's complacent hide if it meant that he could reach the others without endangering the lives of all his companions. Fortunately, the laboratory environment ensured that he would have all the supplies he needed and some of which he had discovered were an unexpected surprise. The nature of the research being undertaken on these premises saw the need for some rather unorthodox and volatile substances for testing that had ensured Bryan could still give David Saeran a surprise even if the man was expecting him.
During his time in the service one of his responsibilities had been in the area of munitions and demolition, which meant a working knowledge of explosives and their construction. Although he did not look it, Bryan had a strong background in chemistry during his academic years and one of the reasons he had been chosen for the duty was because of his natural aptitude for them. It had been a while since he had been called on to do what he was now undertaking within the abandoned laboratory with Eve’s assistance, but Bryan was surprised at how easily it had all come back to him. Meanwhile, Gandalf and Haldir watched with growing interest what he was doing, despite their eagerness to rescue the others.
They watched as Bryan and Eve worked diligently at the workbench, moving back and forth from the concoction they had been making for the last half hour. At first the elf had been contented to watch while the two humans put together the ingredients of their potion, which included water, salt and what appeared to some kind of washing soap. The care in which Bryan was taking as he handled the ingredients gave Haldir some idea that what the human was making was extremely dangerous and the beads of sweat running down Eve's brow as she helped him was similarly telling. What was more intriguing was that the entire thing had to be mixed in receptacle of water that contained ice as if keeping the temperature low was tantamount to the process.
Finally, Haldir could bear it no more and had to ask, "what are you making?"
"A whole lot of distraction," Eve remarked as she stepping back as she saw Bryan draining the acid water solution as gently as possible. After she took the step back she wondered why she bothered, the quantities that Bryan was handling would ensure that if it unexpectedly detonated, none of them would leave the room alive.
"That's it," Bryan said to Eve's utmost relief when he was finally done. "That should be enough to take out this entire floor."
The MI6 agent had stepped away from the contents of the large beaker, staring a moment at the solution as if sight alone could help him determine the stability of the substance he had created. In truth, he had intended to make some simple plastic explosives but the discovery of sulphuric acid for whatever reason a laboratory would need such dangerous chemicals, had set his mind hurtling towards a grander plan.
"What do you intend to do with it now?" Gandalf asked him. The wizard could sense the danger of the substance but was uncertain how it could be used to help them.
"Leave it the bloody hell alone and get out of here," Bryan replied, "I'm lucky I didn't kill us all playing with this but when it works, Saeran will definitely be caught off guard."
"Can we go now?" Eve asked, not wanting to be in the room with the stuff any longer than she had to be.
"Good idea," Bryan nodded and looked up at the others, "we should get a move on."
"We are just going to leave that here?" Haldir stared at him in confusion, unable to believe that was their course after the time spent producing the solution.
"We're certainly not taking it with us," Bryan said adding the finishing touch to the makeshift explosive. He had built the small device with a 9 volt battery from one of their torches, circuit board from a piece of equipment he had taken apart in the lab and his digital watch. Setting it quickly, he retreated from the bench a moment later and joined Eve, who was prompted the others out of the room, after he had retrieved his gun.
"I do not understand," Haldir shook his head in genuine confusion.
Bryan did not answer and continued the exodus out of the room. Haldir would have explanation enough when the time came and Bryan had no wish to begin an in depth explanation of modern explosive. Besides, he had a feeling it would only earn him another disapproving stare from the elf about the destructive nature of men. Considering that he had given them exactly twenty-five minutes to put suitable distance between themselves and this the contents of the beaker, he supposed Haldir was not far wrong.
Still, nitroglycerine was a great surprise.
In the wilderness of North Dakota, Walter Green ignored the flaring light on the panel that indicated that the telephone was ringing.
When he had first seized control of the LCC after the deaths of the two men left in charge of the underground bunker, the phone had rang constantly until Green's patience had worn away and he had activated the mute function to dull the noise. However, in place of the ringing he was now tormented by the constant pulsing of light as upper echelons of the military tried desperately to contact him. He knew what they wanted of course but he was unable to oblige him. They could not possibly understand what he was going through, the humiliation he had suffered at the hands of the Chinese bastards who turned his love for Elizabeth into a spy room joke. They would try and tell him that he needed to be reasonable but Green did not want to be reasonable. He wanted to make them pay with a lesson that would never be forgotten.
Besides, he had work to do and if he stopped to answer the phone, he would not be able to finish it in time. While it was necessary to kill the two man crew that had be in command of the LCC when he had first arrived, Walter was painfully aware that it required both of them to conduct a launch. The keys he had liberated from there useless unless he was able to use them simultaneously. Fortunately, he knew this installation intimately and he had the skills necessary to run an effective bypass that would delay the response of the first key for approximately five seconds and give him enough time to reach the second so that both activations would coincide simultaneously.
It was time for the Chinese to receive his vengeance and with the arsenal that was now in his power; it would be a lasting lesson indeed.
Dawn was fast approaching.
It had been distant earlier but now it was making it way over the mountains, fraying the blanket of twilight with more strands of light. He knew the coming of the new day meant very little in the scheme of things but if the world was doomed to descend into a new dark age then Aaron wanted to see the sun rise one last time before that terrible ending. He also knew that if the world were ignited by the cataclysm of nuclear fire, then it would also be the last sunrise for almost everyone else in the room. Considering the aftermath, Aaron was not entirely certain that was such a bad thing. He did not want to see the vision of Galadriel's mirror become a reality, no more than he wished to live knowing he had failed to prevent any of it.
David Saeran had retreated to his throne once more, taking up position like the dark entity he was. The woman Irina was watching them closely while Saeran's attention was elsewhere. The former Lord of Mordor appeared to be meditating and it took no clairvoyance on Aaron's part to know that he was communing with his agents in the real world, whispering words of malice that had turned them into his puppets, with no idea what they were doing. Aaron wondered if they were Saeran's permanently or would there be freedom once the terrible deed was done. He pitied them if that was the case because he could not imagine waking up from a nightmare where he was the monster.
"How are you doing?" Aaron asked, having crawled to Legolas since Saeran had forgotten him for the moment
"I am well," Legolas managed a weak reply but his pallor was turning grey and Aaron knew that his punctured lung was filling up with blood again. This time, a thoracentesis would not help him. Legolas needed a hospital.
"You are a terrible liar," Aaron pointed out with a smile before his expression sobered. "Try and hang on. The others are on their way, I know it."
"I hope so," Tory said in a low voice. When she had regained consciousness after Saeran's attack, she had been allowed to wait for the others since Saeran could not allow control over his pawns to waver for long periods. She was seated on the floor next to Legolas, hugging her knees beneath her chin as she kept watch over Fred, wishing she could do something to alleviate the terrible fear haunting the child's eyes.
"Poor kid is terrified out of her mind," Aaron remarked, following her gaze. He was not blind to the relationship the two had formed since Bryan had entrusted Fred to her care. Although Tory and Stuart had never spoken about children, Bryan knew she had wanted them. Fortunately, Tory was sensible enough to recognise that a child did not solve the problems of a troubled marriage and so motherhood was something that she had yet to experience. However, seeing her with Fred convinced Aaron that she would make a good parent when she was ready.
"If he hurts her…" Tory warned and the gleam of menace in her eyes was very reminiscent of the primeval she wolf protecting her cubs.
"It won't come to that," Aaron stated firmly because Tory needed to believe that.
Tory did not answer and Aaron supposed that there would be no assurance he could make that would rest her fears for the child, not until Fred was within reach again. He tried to focus on their present predicament and found that once again, his attention drifted to the sword that was leaning against Saeran's throne, catching the dawn in the smooth polish of its blade. There was something about it being at Saeran's side that disturbed him to no end, like a small thorn burrowing it way into the skin.
"It looks familiar does it not?" Legolas asked with a knowing smile.
"What?" Aaron replied not really listening.
"The sword," his old friend gestured towards the blade.
"I suppose," Aaron shrugged, feeling a little foolish that his mind lingered on a sword considering their dire situation at present.
"I can't imagine why he would need the thing," Tory remarked, "he was able to knock us both out without raising a hand and since his girlfriend is armed, it seems a little redundant."
"He does not wield it for protection," Legolas sighed. "He wields it as an insult to you Aaron."
Aaron did not speak for a moment because he was thinking deeply about the feelings engendered in him when he saw Saeran with the blade in his hands. Something inside him balked at the idea that so elegant a weapon should be in the possession of a dark lord and then there was the way Saeran had held it to his neck. Aaron had seen a flicker in the man’s eyes as if he was challenging more than just Aaron’s beliefs about himself and his life, as if there was something else that he had wanted Aaron to see. Now that Legolas had brought it up, Aaron understood what Saeran had been trying to do.
"It was once mine wasn’t it?" Aaron met his gaze.
"Yes," Legolas nodded, "he wields Anduril, the sword of Aragorn Elessar. It was forged from the shards of Narsil, the blade that cut the One Ring from his finger. That is the sword of Aragorn’s kingship. It is your sword."
"When he’s ready," Aaron met their eyes, "he’s going to kill us with it."
Unfortunately, Legolas could say nothing to disagree with that assertion because Aaron was right.
"Then what’s he waiting for?" Tory hissed, she was never one who could play the waiting game for too long.
The answer for her question coincided with a burst of gunfire that made everyone in the room jump, everyone that is Saeran. He was still deep in meditation when the familiar rat-tat-tat of a gunfight penetrated the room beyond the doors and returned him from whatever psychic limbo he was currently manipulating. At the sound, Saeran raised his head and opened his eyes.
"That," Aaron said grimly. "He was waiting for that."
Time was pressing heavily against Bryan as they made their way up the spiral staircase, leaving behind at last the network of tunnels that they had lingered too long already. Their journey to the main heart of Saeran’s castle after leaving behind the laboratory had seen encounters with Uruk Hai that ended in a blaze of gunfire and arrows. The Uruks as Bryan had suspected were largely undisciplined thugs with guns and despite the danger of being outgunned, Bryan, Eve and Haldir were able to push through the obstacles intent on making their advance to Saeran as difficult as possible.
Bryan knew that their lives depended on getting out of the corridors as quickly as possible. Even now, the countdown he had set on the timer attached to the nitroglycerine bomb he and Eve had built was ticking away their margin of safety. It would not be long before the entire floor went up in a fiery explosion and while he was certain that would effectively destroy Saeran’s genetic projects once and for all, he was uncertain of what effect the detonation would have on the rest of the structure.
Thus he was actually relieved when they reached the staircase that Tory had mentioned taking earlier when she had first emerged from her hiding place to seek out Fred. Thoughts of how she was inadvertently brought here led quickly to his worries about how she fared in Saeran’s hand. After what the man had done to Fred and how callously he had killed the child’s parents, Bryan prayed that he did not make Tory pay for rescuing Fred from her prison. Earlier, he had asked Gandalf whether or not the wizard could tell if the others was still alive to reassure Eve about Aaron’s safety but in truth, he had needed a little reassurance.
Bryan was not a man who could admit easily that he was in love. He knew he cared for Tory and that when she had kissed him, that veneer of cynicism, bravado and all the layers he used to keep his emotions under tight control had been stripped away and exposed. He was not a romantic and he never would be but when her lips met his, he could very well believe what Frank used to say about there being someone for everyone because Bryan believed Tory was meant for him. Perhaps it was all this talk about reincarnation, about his being Boromir of Gondor, which he no longer bothered to deny, to himself or anyone else. Tory had felt warm and familiar and the emptiness he never knew was there was filled with her scent, her smile and he could not begin to imagine losing her.
Christ, she was definitely going to get him killed.
"There’s another staircase," Eve pointed out when they reached the top of the spiral staircase and saw that the hallway they found themselves was part of the original construction of the castle.
"Tory spoke of two," Haldir reminded as his gaze swept across the less expansive corridor and saw a door at the end of it. "Shall we investigate?"
"No," Gandalf shook his head. "There is no time and I sense that there is nothing here of use to us."
"He’s right," Bryan said as he strode towards the next staircase and gazed upwards. There was light emanating from the end of it and knew immediately, that was their ultimate destination. "Tory said she came through here when she got out of the boot of the car. It’s probably what passes for their basement."
"Well that’s handy to know," Eve remarked. "Considering our own car is hours away, we might need to make a quick exit when this is over."
Bryan was not listening because he was more intent on completing the last part of their plan, which was in all truth the riskiest part of it. However, time was of the essence, not only because of Saeran’s plans for the world but also because they needed to reach minimum safe distance from the blast about to tear through the place from below ground. Taking the first few steps up the staircase that would lead them closer to Saeran, Bryan made a cursory of examination of the path overhead before meeting the gaze of his companions.
"He wants us to come to him so there won’t be much be much trouble once we get above. If we do see any signs of trouble, we should make a fight of it. Give him the impression that we haven’t guessed it’s a trap. The bastard’s arrogant enough to think that so we might as well used it as much as we can. It will help to make our own surprise all the more effective."
"We understand," Haldir replied, his bow already armed and ready. Having seen Haldir use it, Bryan was not about to question its effectiveness in a fight. "Let us proceed," he said impatiently.
"Alright then, let’s do this," Bryan nodded and took the lead and scaled the spiral staircase quickly.
The corkscrew path of the staircase did not rise as high as when they had ascended from the corridor network but what distance it did put between them and the lower levels, gave Bryan some comfort. It did not take long for him to reach the top of the steps and the staircase emptied into the hallway of what appeared to be the main foyer of the castle. He emerged into the same room that Tory had done earlier, sweeping his gaze over the luxurious surroundings and wondered where the others were in this place. As of yet, there was no sign of Saeran but Gandalf had a strong sense of where the dark lord was so it would not be difficult to find him. At the moment, Bryan was more concerned on whether or not they would soon have company.
Scouting the immediate area, he turned back to the others and saw that they were approaching stealthily. Eve had taken the rear flank with Gandalf and Haldir in between. He was about to give the signal that all was clear when suddenly, an eruption of gunfire drove him against the wall. A curved line of bullet holes appeared in the wall above him and Bryan fired instinctively in the direction the barrage had come. One of Saeran’s human agents, the ones had accosted him at his apartment back in London was standing at the top of the sweeping staircase, firing at him through the ornate banister.
The bullets from Bryan’s gun ripped through the wooden banister, spraying the floor with splinters before the path of gunfire ran into the brick walls. The enemy was driven backwards by the barrage and Bryan emboldened by this retreat emerged from his refuge and continued to drive him further back up the staircase. By the time, Bryan reached the carpeted steps; the enemy had disappeared all together and for the moment at least, the way seemed clear.
"Come on," he gestured to the others as he saw them reach the foot of the steps. "It looks safe for now."
"I doubt that he is alone," Haldir remarked as the elf stepped onto the staircase, his eyes surveying their new surrounding with caution. "Not that I wish to sound like Legolas but I sense there is danger afoot and it is more than just prevalent as it has been since we entered Sauron’s domain but rather looming."
"Can you sense where he is Gandalf?" Eve asked the wizard as her eyes scanned the area.
"Oh yes," Gandalf nodded walking past her along the steps, leading up the sweeping staircase. The old man joined Bryan as they continued up the stairs, "he is waiting for us up there."
"Well we knew that," Bryan said not about to be discouraged by hearing again what they all already aware. He looked at their immediate surroundings and realized it would have been difficult to believe that they were about to face some ancient dark lord when the placed looked like a proper manor house, with expensive draperies and chandeliers. The network of corridors containing twisted genetic experiments, a cavern of giant spiders and unimaginable monsters seemed almost a lifetime away in comparison to where they were now.
Haldir paused in mid step. He could feel danger closing in on them. It felt like cold tendrils creeping up his shoulder and he turned slowly around.
"What is it?" Eve asked when she saw the expression on his face and her question halted the others in their steps as well.
"We are not alone," Haldir met her gaze and as he spoke those words, a door creaked abruptly open.
Emerging from the room where Saeran had enjoyed his audience with Fred, a number of armed men hurried through the doorway and halted at the foot of the steps, their guns trained on the intruders. They were armed with laser sights and as Haldir moved to fire, Eve who saw how many of them they were and knew that if a fire fight ensued while they were in this vulnerable position, not even Gandalf would walk away unscathed.
"No," she said moving to stop him as he prepared to shoot, "don’t."
Bryan would have done the same thing himself were he in arm’s reach of the march warden but coinciding with the enemy’s emergence from the lower room, was another body of armed men who paused at the top of the stairs and quickly took aim with their weapons. Crimson beans of light from their laser gun sights rested on Bryan’s chest in multiple points. He looked at Gandalf and saw the same on the old man’s chest though a gunshot would not be as nearly as fatal for the old man as it would be for the rest of them. His eyes touched Gandalf’s own briefly and saw the old man nod in understanding that this was how it had to be. They were almost at the end now and from here on, they would have to relinquish the control that had kept them alive this far.
It was hardest for Bryan who did not know how to surrender easily but this time, he would have to be the first one to lower his weapon. The turn of events was not unexpected. Bryan knew it was only a matter of time before Saeran sprung his trap and now that he had, now that they were caught in the kill zone, he had to follow it through no matter how unpalatable it was to him personally. He had told Eve that he needed her to be strong, that despite her fears for Aaron, they still had to follow the doctor’s plan. Now he needed the same resolve. He needed it because it was the only way he would see Fred and Tory again.
Bryan swallowed down the lump in his throat that was his ingrained need to resist, to fight to the death no matter what the cost, he wondered if they truly knew how damn difficult it was for him to yield. However, if he wanted to win, he would have to lose first.
Bryan turned slightly and saw Haldir and Eve looking to him for guidance in what they should do. It was one thing to talk of surrender but it was another thing entirely to do it. Eve and Haldir were very much like him in that respect and Bryan knew instinctively that if they could fight to the death, they would because it was not in their nature to give up either.
"Alright you bastards," Bryan said lowering his gun, a bitter taste in his mouth as the Uzi fell against the carpet, "we surrender."
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.