Earl Wise was excited. He’d always been a fan of the comic book character Batman and the films that followed. Earl had the toys (some duplicates because of wear to the previous from hours of play), the video games, and even some of the role play pieces that let him dress as the Dark Knight for adventures fighting the villains of Gotham City. His Father had been accepting of his fascination with the Dark Knight Detective, but his mother always had looked down upon it as something beneath their family. They had some interesting fights around the dinner table, but there was always real love between them.
Living in Death Valley made it hard on him, but that was where their family’s work was. Earl’s father was a geologist working on an assignment in the Valley. His mother was a teacher who spent her days reciting to him the necessities of a good education. Earl rarely saw his father. They made the occasional nature walk up into the Valley to gather specimens for his father’s studies, and today had been one of those days. It had been over one hundred and fifteen degrees, but they had spent real time together which was rarer and rarer. Earl and his father talked about a lot of things. They talked about how the floor of the Valley would be filled with lovely flowers in the spring. The two watched a Kits Fox chase a rabbit only to have its quarry taken away by an errant police cruiser rushing toward home. It had been hard on Earl to see that, but somehow his father’s presence consoled him. When they returned home Earl’s father delivered to him a Christmas gift a day early: a copy of The Dark Knight he’d picked up while in down.
Despite their hard day and the remaining four hundred plus days left, the Wise family decided to sit down and watch the film together for what seemed like the first time since they arrived here. While they were a loving family if you knew them you could tell they were having trouble with this assignment. While Earl’s father (Arnold) had been enjoying their time here, his mother (Diane) had hated every moment of it. They kept it hidden from Earl, but he could sense it. That made the film all the more important. So they sat and watched. Popcorn was passed between them and smiles grew on their faces not because of the film rather because they were together.
As the Joker detonated Gotham General on the screen Earl began to feel sick to his stomach. Beads of sweat began to poor down his forehead and the taste of bile began to form in his throat. It wasn’t because of the movie or the appearance of Harvey Two-Face, it was something else. The screen began to distort due to the glow from a beam of white light flashing in the outside. The sound of a car approaching assaulted his eardrums, Earl’s eyes darting to the door. Something was wrong. He turned his head back toward the screen only to see the image begin to distort into glowing golden bubbles. From behind he heard his mother’s voice.
“What’s the matter baby?” The lyrical voice of Earl’s mother interrupted his feelings. He turned toward her as she finished. “You feel okay?”
What Earl saw was more haunting than anything he could have imagined. His mother sat next to him with her body covered in the red and orange glow of fire. It ate away at her, digging into her skin and muscles. His father was in the same state. Both sat perfectly still staring at him and watching, Earl doing the same back. When it was over they fell to the floor of the burning camper. Their bodies were exact replicas of what was Harvey Two-Face’s face. Then the fires stopped and where his parents lay became only a stack of bones flung on the ground.
Wise’s eyes looked to the door of the Camper and saw standing there the demonic endoskeleton of the T-900 that had captured him in the remnants of Los Angeles. With incredible speed it reached forward and clasped its vise like grip around Earl’s throat. It lifted him from where he stood and extended its metal arm outward and above. The beautifully nauseating smile that the skull wore by design resonating in his eyes as it stared him down.
A mechanized voice came, “You are terminated.” It squeezed against Earl’s neck and pain seared through the young man’s body. Blood began to shoot from what had once been his neck, bones snapped beneath his skin so loud that they could be heard for what seemed like miles. One point eight seconds and Earl’s head had been severed from his body. The Machine tossed it aside like a kid tossing his trash into a bin and walked away never looking back.
Earl shot up like a bullet from a gun and went into a defensive posture as he regained his bearings. Taking in the vista surrounding him it only took a few seconds for his brain to remind him that he was safely inside the secured exam room on the Aircraft Carrier Enterprise. In the back of his head though he kept telling himself that no one was ever safe. ‘Hang in their baby’ may have been the Resistance’s official motto, but ‘No one is ever safe’ were the words they lived by. In his head he kept reminding himself about that fact.
Even in the Eden of the Enterprise. From what the wall clock said he’d been aboard this salvation for only a few hours and still they hadn’t told him much of anything about anything important. Still Earl hadn’t been able to see the rest of his team since they woke him. Major Young, Captain Luna, Doctor Fields, even the Tinny had been kept from him. The Doctor, Fischer, had said that they were being held in quarantine just like he was, but that shouldn’t have prevented them from seeing one another now would it? If any of them had anything wouldn’t all of them? Well except the Tin Can, he had the advantage of being impervious to disease of all forms.
New Resistance soldier Earl Wise thought about calling for Doctor Fischer to see if he could give him something to help him sleep and hopefully not to dream. Looking at the clock again though, Earl knew that the Doctor would be along soon enough on his usual rounds. Ever two hours or so they came in to check on him regardless of if he was sleeping or not. Not that Earl wanted to sleep. Every time he did anymore he had dreams like that. All of his dreams this night had taken his proudest, happiest memories and somehow perverted them into something sickening. Wise didn’t want that anymore.
Getting a glass of water he downed it in one quick drink. Looking at the entertainment console on the desk, the quarantined man thought about getting into some of the more risqué programs that were inside the database. His eyes slid between the clock and the door reminding him of the coming Doctor. Almost as if he were psychic the doors changed to transparent and slid apart.
“How’s our patient?” Inquired the overly cheerful Charles Fischer as he stepped over the threshold into the room. “Our monitors said you had some increased adrenaline production a moment or two ago.”
“Big brother watching again?” Wise got another glass of water. “Do you always monitor your guests like that?”
Fischer nodded solemnly, “Only those in quarantine. Don’t worry, when its over you’ll be allowed into the general population and the monitoring will stop. I suppose I should have warned you about that earlier. It would have saved you some attention.”
A quick glance at the entertainment pack made him fill with embarrassment – something he hadn’t been in a long time. “I’m sorry. I didn’t think anyone was watching.”
“No doubt,” he dismissed it wave of his hand. “We all have urges at times. My medical team consists of Doctors and a Psychologist; we all understand basic human nature. It’s perfectly natural. Besides its nothing that my people haven’t seen before – remember we did do a full physical on you when you arrived.”
“Doc I would prefer not to discuss this,” he was still pretty uncomfortable by it all. “While it’s perfectly natural to you to me it isn’t something that we discuss or do in public.”
Charles nodded, “I understand. So no problems to report? Any trouble sleeping?”
“Just the standard nightmares, but I’m used to them.” The fact that cherished memories were being distorted into horrifying misrepresentations of past events wasn’t something to be discussed right now. Best to keep things somewhat hidden. “I don’t want anything to help me sleep though. I like to be at my best.”
“I know how you feel. Sedatives can be tricky things and can be a little too much sometimes. While the Machines haven’t come here in a long time I can understand your apprehension not to be at the ready. Though I’ll leave you a couple of pills incase you change your mind.” The Doctor set the pills down on the countertop. “If you decide you want to talk you know I’m here don’t you?”
“I would prefer not to,” Wise answered, “but there is something I’d like.”
Charles looked at him, “What’s that?”
The words formed slowly and his tongue felt like it was combating tar when speaking. What was wrong with him? “Can you… I mean… can you let me see my friends? Any of them? The Major, the Doctor, Captain Luna, even the damned Clanker that I wanted to see destroyed and in a smoking ruin when I first met it. I’m tired of being trapped inside these four walls with no one to talk to and nothing to do. I’m sure you know what I mean.”
The Doctor wrote something down on a clipboard he was carrying. “I’m sorry but not yet. They’re still in quarantine themselves. Only a day and a few more hours and I’ll let you go join them. If it makes you feel better they’re making similar requests. You been together long?”
“No I’m afraid I only just met them a few days ago. I was a new transplant into their team. They rescued me after the death of my former team in the sewers. A hydrobot got through our defenses and did some damage. I was the only survivor of a group like yours just lacking the warship to hide on. I joined the Resistance because it was my only option left.”
“Well you have other options now,” explained the Doctor as he tucked his clipboard under his shoulder. “Our Captain has said that you can remain here – you all can – when this is over. We have a security detachment that could use a few able bodied members. Our security chief could use a man of your abilities and we have a couple of young ladies aboard that you would like.”
Earl laughed, “You know how to tempt a man, don’t you?”
“I don’t have an apple or anything for a pretty lady to hand you asking you to stay. But consider it. You’ll like it here.” Charles slid the clipboard through the dispenser. “We have a lot of fun and the Enterprise is pretty safe.”
“No one is ever safe,” Private Wise mumbled below his breath.
Fischer crossed his arms over the pure white lab coat and leaned against the far wall next to the frost colored windows. “Why is that, Mister Wise? Resistance paradigm not withstanding why do you think that?”
“The world we live in is filled with tin cans that want us dead. I think I have reason to be fearful and believe that no one is ever safe.” His eyes looked at the pills in the small container, “How do I know you’re not a Skin Job?”
Charles was nonplussed, “Want to hit me? Shoot me with a gun and see if I fall over dead? Why are you still so unconvinced?”
“You mentioned an apple and I called this place Eden. You can’t ignore the similarities of the story. Salvation and rest are things that come in limited qualities in this reality of ours and you try to serve them up on a platter. It’s hard not to expect me to challenge your little Garden isn’t it?”
“Given what you’ve seen I’m not surprised by what you say and have mentioned. For all you know we’re torturing your friends, using you for some sort of experiment, and Trip Eights as the Resistance call them are watching through this privacy windows. Where’s the logic in that I ask? Why would anyone help the very things that are trying their damndest to kill us all? Who in their right mind would be so willing to help those damn beasts? Do I look like a collaborator to you? Some pencil pushing whack job who would sell his soul? You offend me, Mister Wise.”
Earl felt sick to his stomach. All that the Doctor, so far, had tried to do was help. He took a deep breath and looked at the man, approaching closer to him. Earl’s eyes met with the Doctors. Something his father had told him years ago was that if you were going to say something and you truly meant what you were going to say you had to look a man in the eye to say it. Earl meant what he was going to say.
“I am sorry, Doctor, I really am. I didn’t mean to imply anything about you or call you a Grey. Life’s been tough on me and I see everyone as a potential threat to me and my safety. Even the Resistance at times, including John Connor himself. Not that I’d act on trying to kill him, but I know people who are considering it inside his own upper echelons. One is Brutus to his Caesar if you get the Shakespearean analogy. Knowing this makes it hard for me to trust anyone.”
Fischer was somewhat surprised from the expression that played over his face. The Doctor became clinical again and regained the stone faced appearance he’d held only moments prior. “I accept your apology, Private. Get some rest and I’ll talk to the Security Chief of the base and see about adding you to our team. Maybe the best thing for you is to stay here. Get away from the Resistance; get away from the horrors that were your life on dry land. If you stay with them for much longer I fear that your safety, your health, may come into question.”
“Maybe that’s the best choice,” The Resistance Soldier looked around the alien looking room filled with technology that made him feel like a prisoner, yet somewhat freer than ever. “Thank you, Doctor. Thank you for everything.”
“It’s my job to help.” Charles pulled his keycard from his inner pocket and slid it through the card reader. “You have a good night, what’s left of it, and I’ll see you again in two hours or so.”
Earl nodded and watched the man leave the room. He took a deep breath as the wall reformed into the hazy appearance that obstructed the younger man’s view of what was outside those four walls of the medical isolation chamber. For a moment he considered the offer that was made, but knew that the Resistance would need his help. Especially if it was true that Brutus planned to kill Caesar on the ides of March yet again. My how Shakespeare came into play even in this world! Earth had become one of his tragedies.