The Old Continent

Read Chapter 26 “We Are So Close”

– “They want me, right?” — Jenny asked Patrick. He nodded in agreement. “I’m going in then.”

– “You can’t give yourself up. Our doctors will be able to help” — Maggie’s voice turned ultrasonic. She felt ashamed of being trapped and unable to protect them all from the corporate vengeance machine. While Maggie could feel her vulnerability reaching new highs, Jenny turned to her, took her hands in hers and confessed.

– “I dreamt of killing you for so long; I thought you were the reason my family suffered such a terrible faith. But seeing the Old World’s devastation and senseless distraction I know you’re not the one to blame. Go make it right.” Once Jenny finished, she passed Maggie’s backpack back to her. “Everything you need to know about the time travel is in the book” — she whispered.

Jenny turned away from Maggie and faced the hovering drones.

– “If time travel is what you are after, I am the one you want” — she screamed at the drones. That caught the corporate attention right away.

– “What are your terms?” — screeched one of the drones.

– “The rest of them go free, and their crossing to the other side is safe.” Each second of delay was adding to Jenny’s agonizing pain. She fought the weakness in her body with all her might. But to play her cards right, she couldn’t show how much she was suffering. The Corporate Government couldn’t find out that she most likely only had hours left to live. She couldn’t show Maggie how physically devastating the time jumps were. Jenny feared Maggie could change her mind, leading to history repeating itself all over again.

– “You follow me. The other four can cross the bridge” — the drone finally screeched.

– “Go, leave the rest to me” — Jenny wasn’t looking at Maggie, just in case she could see how much Jenny suffered.

– “Thank you” — Maggie whispered, touching her shoulder. But what she really wanted to do was to scream at the world, her fate and the history. So many had to be sacrificed for so few.

– “Make it right” — those were Jenny’s parting words before the droids marched her back towards the marshes. Maggie’s heart, felt heavy and body immobilized.

– “Maggie. Maggie. We need to run.” Patrick didn’t wait for Maggie’s reply. He grabbed her hand and tried to pull her towards the bridge.

– “But…” — Maggie wanted to say that the Corporate Army promised safe crossing, so they still had time. In Ecotopia promise is a binding contract. But she quickly remembered that in the Old World a promise means very little. Patrick was understandably anxious, knowing what the army was capable of.

Jenny turned back just to catch the last glimpse of the four of them disappearing in the thick, cloudy fog that wrapped around the bridge. Once she could see them no more, she took a deep breath and followed the drones to her own dismay.

The crossing was everything but easy. Maggie was certain that the Corporate Government (the army officials never made any decisions without approval) allowed them to cross in hope that the sea would swallow them if the Corporate Aircraft couldn’t hunt them down. Patrick was leading the way, the kids walked right behind him and Maggie covered the back. Manoeuvring between bodies, bricks and bits of rusty equipment were challenging for them all. Josephine was exhausted but didn’t dare to say a word. The burden of responsibility was lying heavily on her.

Maggie’s guilt for handing Jenny over to the bunch of corporate savages (willing to perform senseless cruelty only because they could) was growing. In that moment of sadness, she realized that doing her best wasn’t going to be enough to change the past. She needed something much more bankable and global than building a spacecraft. Her mind began connecting facts and data, which led her to wonder if instead of abandoning Earth they could somehow save it.

Only a few minutes into the crossing the crumbling old bridge broke in front of their eyes leaving a huge gap between both ends.

– “What now?” — asked Maggie.

– “Don’t know”– Patrick feared the worst was yet to come.

– “We’re not even halfway through” — whispered Josephine, who wasn’t sure how much longer she would be able to fight her tiredness.

In that instant, the roars of the Corporate Aircraft thundered above their heads.

– “They will never let us leave” — despaired Patrick.

– “There must be something we can do, mum? Mum? ” — Marcus screamed in fear.

– “We will get out of here. Leave it to me” — Maggie tried to re-assure Marcus. But she didn’t think she had any cards she could use against the corporate animals. The only thing she could do for now was to put on a brave face for the kids. At the same time, she dreaded that the end of their journey was at hand. She looked at Patrick, but he seemed as lost as she was.

– “We could try to jump” — he finally suggested.

– “I do have a rope in my backpack, we …” — said Maggie before Josephine shouted.

– “Look! Mum! Look!” — the girl was pointing at the sky.

Maggie smiled, and relief came over her face. A ray of hope appeared on the horizon. A rescue cruiser was hovering alongside the corporate aircraft. The cruiser was compact but fast and able to carry up to 100 people. The cruiser’s primary mission was to patrol the bridge in hope of finding brave souls and help the refugees on their way to a better world. For security reasons, no one but the crew knew when the cruiser was in operation, not to encourage the Corporate Army to a challenge.

The rescue cruiser was Maggie’s pet project. But even in her wildest dreams, she never anticipated she would be the one needing their help. In the past, the Corporate Army always stood down, once the cruiser appeared. However, this time they didn’t budge. Nevertheless, the cruiser began a descent towards Maggie, Patrick and the kids. When they were close enough to the bridge, they lowered the rescue capsule. The moment the capsule reached Maggie, the Corporate Army opened fire. Unfortunately, the cruiser was too low to try to protect them from the vicious fire.

Patrick’s attempt to shield the three of them worked. To his greatest relief, he managed to get the kids and Maggie inside the capsule unscratched. He wasn’t so lucky. A wandering bullet hit him, and if it weren’t for Maggie’s quick reflexes, he would have ended up in the murky sea beneath the bridge. Maggie grabbed hold of Patrick’s hand and didn’t let go until they made over the gap to the other side of the bridge, where they were able to pull him inside the capsule. The door automatically closed behind him, allowing the capsule to gliding above the bridge. His wound was bleeding heavily and fast.

– “It’s ok.” — Patrick whispered.

– “No, it’s fucking not. We will be … soon we’re going to get to … the doctors will…” — Maggie was sobbing, not able to fight back her tears any longer, while hopelessly trying to stop the bleeding.

Josephine and Marcus were in tears too.

– “You’re not going anywhere! Do you hear me?!?” — Maggie shouted at Patrick. He smiled, closed his eyes and softly nodded in agreement.

Read Chapter 28 “On The Other Side of the Tunnel”