The Truth Behind the Flames. - *Movella of the Year 2016*

Before you judge me and tell me that it was all worth it in the end, ask yourself one question, one question only before you read on: what was it all for?

They say that we are judged by the choices we make. They are what define us and on June the 25th, 2414, I chose wrong.

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8. Part Two - Twelve months later.

PART 2:

Chapter Eight.

Twelve Months Later.

I could feel my heart, racing in my chest as I held the pile of papers tighter in my grasp. Anticipation flooded though my veins as I stared at the clock – counting the seconds that slipped by beneath the steady rhythm of time. Swallowing down my fear, I stood, leaning against the wall outside of the chambers that would dictate the future of the country and the future of the war. The sound of footsteps drew closer and closer as my eyes darted over to the source of the sound.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m nervous.”

Evan nodded in understanding before lacing my fingers through his own. Orbs of blue gazed down at me as the fear and worry that had been welling up inside seemed to dispel for a precious few moments. I took a large breath as Evan opened his mouth to speak.

“My dad will make sure it’s okay…Helena, you’ve been distant recently. Get this out of the way and then we can go back to normal.”

Normal. Nothing about my life was normal.

I lived in a warzone, I built toys for the military and I refused to be a soldier even as the walls closed in around me. I had to stick to my guns and the irony of that never ceased to amuse me.  My life was a mess of work and war and Evan Daniels was the only thing that kept me sane. Our gazes met as time seemed to dull around us, slowing down and preserving the moment in a glass bubble – simply waiting to shatter. The boy before me had saved my life in so many ways and had taken me from the ashes and into the embrace of a new beginning. It had been twelve months but the memory of that fateful night never seemed to leave me. I had been forced to move on but nothing would ever make me forget. Evan was my last tie from that night and I refused to sever the connection to the day that made me who I was.

“Miss Coleman?”

A figure stepped through the double doors as I let my hand slip out of Evan’s grasp. I took a stride forwards with the files suddenly feeling heavy in my grasp as I spared a glance back at Evan. He nodded at me with steel in his eyes as I followed the woman into the chambers and into the future.

This was my chance. This was my day to make a difference and set a chain of events into motion that would change the tide of war in our favour.  This was the time to fulfil my promise to my father and to fight for the morals that he no longer could.

At first, I had built radios and trinkets to help the True Military. And then, after four months, I began to plan for the final endgame. With Evan standing behind me, I began to distance myself from the others – spending more and more time working alone in my lab until the ideas finally came. They spilled from my fingertips until it was finally time to present my ideas to the council of the True Military.

Now was my time.

Silence rose through the hall as I stepped out of the cascading darkness and into the blinding spotlight of the chamber. My eyes skimmed over the nine men and women that made up the council as my feet carried me towards the centre of the room. The only face that I recognised was General Gareth Daniels, Evan’s father who had a soft smile plastered on his lips. Nerves fluttered in my chest as I noticed the looks of distaste that passed across the lips of the council members. I drew to a halt with all eyes fixed on me.

Their leader cleared his throat as he stood.

“Miss Coleman. You requested a meeting with us. What matters do you wish to discuss?” I could almost hear the formality dripping from his tone. Simon Harper gazed down at me with fire dancing in his eyes as he paused and waited for my hollow words to fill the air. His air of leadership was unquestionable as he asserted himself – dominating the room with his carefully formed speech. He was a man of remarkably few words but what he said was enough. He had the power to destroy lives and in this case, to save them.

He was the leader of the True Military.

And now the end was in his grasp.

His gaze tore through me as I stood, waiting for the words that refused to form on my lips.  The acrid taste of fear lingered on my tongue as I swallowed back my emotions – a tumble of nerves and anxiety – and pulled myself together. For over six months, this moment had been building up in the darkness of my mind and now, as it played out in reality – I was frozen as the seconds slipped by.

“Miss Coleman?”

I could feel their gazes – questioning and mocking me – as I stood, paralysed beneath the burning spotlight.  All of those hopeless days would mean nothing if I lost this moment to my fears.

General Daniels smiled down at me and nodded as a wave of calm washed over me. I could do this. I had a chance to make a difference.

I took a deep breath before pulling myself together.

“For the past few months, I’ve been working on a project – I’ve been working on an idea that will end this war for good.”

My voice echoed through the chamber as my words caught the attention of the men and women before me. They exchanged glances, filled with question and hope as I let out a breath. At the end of the day, we all had the same goal – we wanted to end the war and we wanted to win.

“I submitted my papers two weeks ago so I assume you’ve had the chance to read over the.”

“Please, remind us.”

I nodded.

“I’ve designed a system – a non-lethal system – that will allow us to win this war with minimal casualties.” I could almost feel their eyes, cutting into me as I stopped for a moment, choosing the words to say next. No amount of rehearsal could have ever prepared me for this moment as I froze beneath the weight on my shoulders.

“I’ve worked closely with Becca Jones to develop a virus that can be dispersed by my machines and spread across the country. We created a vaccine that can be administered to our side that will make us immune to the effects of the virus.”

The lights around me seemed to sharpen a silence rang through the hum of sound. This was my moment. This was my time.

“Whilst the Rebellion is struggling with this illness, we have to make our move and take back the land that they stole. When the surrender, we can distribute the cure in our time of peace. We can win the war, once and for all.”

I let my weight shift from side to the other as General Daniel’s prompted for me to continue.

“Symptoms of the infection include sickness, visual disturbances and strong headaches; these documents described everything. The war will be over within a month if the virus was released; only those who resist will cause problems.”

No casualties were acceptable but some were necessary – for the future. We had to look at bigger picture and acknowledge that some battles could not be won. We had to make sacrifices for the future and for the endgame. 

“And what do you need from us?” the leader asked, raising an eyebrow and waiting for me to continue. I drew in a breath as my eyes met with General Daniels. His head dipped as he prompted for me to speak and not let my moment slip away without fighting for my project and for the endgame.

“I need approval. I need funding. I need time and I need you to authorise the rest of my work.”

“And how much will this machine cost?”

“A bit. But what’s the cost of peace? How much are we willing to pay for the future? This will be an investment of faith. My parents died in this war. I lost so much. I would give anything for an end to the suffering. I don’t need to throw facts and statistics at you – I’m sure you understand the situation better than most. The next generation deserves to be free.”

I watched a flood of emotion tumble across the faces of the council members. Against the pull of my instincts, I held my ground and stood in the embrace of silence. The council’s leader scanned through his notes as I bit my lip and simply watched the moments trickle by.

In the blazing eye of the spotlight, I waited and hoped.

Finally, he spoke.

“Non-lethal?”

I nodded firmly.

“May I ask why?”

“I want peace but not at the cost of genocide. There has been enough bloodshed.” The honesty in my voice was raw as I let the mask crumble, leaving myself open and vulnerable beneath the piercing gaze of my superiors.

The council members exchanged glances as I clung onto my morals and held onto my ideals. So many of us had been dragged into this war, kicking and screaming – I didn’t want us to go out the same way. Not all of us had a choice and not all of us were willing to kill to further our own goals. I refused to believe that violence was the answer to all of our problems.

“Can we convince you to change your mind?”

I took a moment to consider.

“No.”

“Miss Coleman, I must insist-”

“Insist all you like. It’s non-lethal or nothing. Your choice.”

Silence filled the chamber as my defiance ricochet through the hall.

“How long will this take you?”

“Six months to build the units and five to test the virus and the vaccine.”

I could almost hear their minds ticking away as the council members considered their options and drew a conclusion from the evidence before them. General Daniels smiled at Simon who nodded after a moment of silent contemplation.

Please. Please. Please.

“Miss Coleman.”

I swallowed back my nerves as the moment seemed to drag on.

“Get to work.”

I grinned.

“Thank you, sir.”

With a smile still tugging at my lips, I let the light envelop me in the warmth of its embrace. Simon raised a hand as silence cut through the chatter of the room – like a knife, slicing through the air.

“Do not disappoint us, Miss Coleman.”

“I won’t. I promise.”

“Then you are dismissed.”

I nodded one last time before turning around and fleeing from the eyes that bore into me. Sparing a glance behind me as the doors loomed closer and closer, I watched as General Daniels leaned over and whispered a string of words into Simon’s ear. The two shared a knowing look as for a moment, dread pooled in my stomach. I couldn’t shake the feeling of worry that washed over me as their eyes glinted in the harsh light.

Then, as the doors swung closed behind me, General Daniels snapped his head sideways – a smile igniting his lips as our eyes met across the distance of the chamber. My worries seemed to dissipate within an instant as the doors snapped closed with a triumphant bang.

I’d done it.

I’d really done it.

I let a smile grace my lips as I caught my breath and let the whirlwind of success swirl around me. After all this time, after everything I had lost – the future was becoming brighter by the second.

“I take it you did well?”

I spun around, following the voice until Evan crept into the corners of my vision. He sat on a plastic chair with his arms folded and his feet resting on the tiled floor. Within a moment, he was on his feet, pulling me into a hug as the distance between us disappeared. Resting my head against his chest, I let the warm feelings flutter in my stomach as time seemed to slow down around us.

The moment was perfect.

I only wished that it would have lasted longer.

“Come on,” he muttered as we broke apart. “Let’s go celebrate.”

As we walked down the corridor, hand in hand with the lights streaking down from above us, I took a moment to appreciate the life that I had built from the ashes. Fighting back my doubts and fears, I walked with Evan with one though racing through my mind.

When would it all come tumbling down?

Taking a deep breath, I let the smile return to my lips as my worries faded away.

Now was not the time for doubts.

Now was the time for action.

And I intended to act.

 

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