The Amy Dilemma – Chapter 2 – Pulling the Trigger
Written by circes_cup :: [Tuesday, 10 June 2014 21:30] Last updated by :: [Tuesday, 10 June 2014 21:48]
This story is a continuation of “The Amy Dilemma – Chapter 1” by Dru.
I strongly encourage you to read Dru’s Chapter 1 before you begin my Chapter 2 below. Dru’s piece is a fun read and will provide useful context for the chapters that follow. Subsequent chapters will be posted on a daily basis, ending in Chapter #7 on Sun Jun 15.
For those of you that follow Dru’s work closely, you’ll recall that his Chapter 1 was originally a stand-alone piece called “Joe’s Dilemma”. He agreed to re-title it to promote consistency with the rest of the series.
Disclaimer: This is a work of pure fiction. No semblance between the characters described here and real individuals – living or dead – is implied or intended.
The Amy Dilemma – Chapter 2 – Pulling the Trigger
As he drove away from the bar, Agent Dave Gordon had to peer through the windshield in order to make out the roadway. Snow was no longer falling gently, but instead was coming down in uneven gusts and whorls. A greater storm was coming.
Agent Gordon hated snow storms – not because they were a pain in the ass, but because they reminded him of the incident, so many years ago. His memory of it was always with him, always trying to capture his attention and return him to those horrible moments. He had constructed a fortress in his mind against it. But the memory would not be deterred. Where he had erected walls in his brain, the memory threw siege ladders up-- and dug tunnels underneath. Even now, though he was well aware of the importance of the current circumstances, the memories came crawling over his defenses: the memory of his quivering finger on the trigger, his gunsight squarely on the thug with the knife; the memory of the thug lunging forward with his knife; the memory of his partner trying to get out of the blade’s path, and then Gordon’s shot, too late.
Overly hesitant, unsure of himself, incapable of taking decisive actions – those were some of the conclusions rendered by the battery of psychological tests the Bureau had ordered for him after the incident.
It was a miracle he had kept his job at all. The demotion that resulted from that incident continued to bother Gordon. So did the mockery of his colleagues. But what really stung was the loss of his partner. Pull the trigger next time, you wimp, he told himself over and over. Pull the trigger.
As Gordon drove the darkening streets, voices on the police band radio filled the car. Agent Gordon listened intently. But for what, he didn’t know. Amy’s house was under twenty-four-hour surveillance by his agents. And he could care less what happened to Joe, once she transformed. And her transformation was not due for a few weeks yet – plenty of time to pull her aside and get her head in the right place. But something about the conversation at the bar had left him uneasy.
That was when he heard it, over the radio: shots fired, at 1506 Maple, an address he had already committed to memory days earlier – Amy and Joe’s address.
Gordon swore to himself as he spun the wheel over, hard. He did his best to keep the car in the center of the snowy roadway as he sped to the scene of the shooting. Outside, the white powder was whipping down to the ground in rapid spirals, just like it had done on the day of the incident. The weather was worsening on him.
By the time he arrived a 1506 Maple, it was a riot of blue and red light, with federal agents everywhere. Agent Gordon didn't need to flash his credentials on the way in. These were his people. And so far, they were the only people on the scene – no local police, no ambulance.
Gordon stamped the accursed snow off his boots as he entered the living room of the house. Joe was on the ground, handcuffed, a pool of drool forming below his drunken head. A handgun lay on the ground next to him, already sealed in a clear evidence bag.
Amy was on the ground as well, blood pooling behind her head. She had been shot in the temple.
“What the hell happened here?” Agent Gordon snapped. “I thought we had eyes on the house?”
“We did,” explained to one of his men. “He came up through the tornado shelter. It had a second entrance by the river we hadn’t seen.”
Gordon knelt to examine the wound on Amy, the first time he had seen her in person. She was a pretty girl, wisps of strawberry blond hair wandered across the hardwood floor. She had an attractive face too, if you ignored the two inch facial bruise that Joe had given her in a fit of parental discipline the other day. You also had to ignore the fountain of blood streaming from the hole in her temple. He swore to himself. The wound was bad.
“Why the hell did you do this?” Gordon snapped at Joe.
The accused lifted his face from the floor and responded through the drool. “No child of mine is going to fucking grow up to be a menace to society.”
“Makes sense. You’re more than enough menace all on your own,” Gordon replied. Turning to the other officers, he motioned at Joe. “Get him out of here. And get yourselves out of here too. No more foot traffic in this room until the ambulance arrives.”
Dave Gordon soon found himself alone.
He was alone, that is, except for the camera lens discreetly peering through a crack in the ceiling. When Gordon said they had eyes on the house, it was more than just human eyes. His boss, West, was doubtless in his office, peering at the footage from that camera as it was fed into his computer. Confined to a wheelchair, West treated video footage as more than just reconnaissance to be reviewed at the end of the week. For him, it was his way of being on the scene.
On the mantle, several cheap birthday cards had been propped up. It was Amy’s fifteenth, he knew. Hell of a way to celebrate – getting shot by your own father.
Also on the mantle was a picture from her childhood, skipping carefree through the orchard, her arms spread wide. Her family used to grow apple trees, he knew from his research. That was back when her mother had been in the picture. Those must have been happier days, Gordon mused. He also knew, from his research, that Amy had harbored an affection for apples ever since. In the picture, petals from the apple blossoms rained down over her, decorating her reddish blonde hair with splotches of white.
The door cracked open, and one of the junior agents peered through.
“The ambulance has been delayed, sir. Bad accident on the highway due to the storm.” Snow whipped into the room through the crack in the door.
“Thank you. Leave me alone with the girl until the ambulance arrives.”
Gordon picked up his phone and hit the speed dial for his boss. He set the device to “speakerphone” and placed it gingerly by his knees.
“Is it life-threatening?” came West’s voice over the phone.
“It appears so, Sir.”
“That thing in the plastic bag,” West began. “Is that the weapon?” He was clearly looking at the scene through the pinhole camera on the wall.
“And the ambulance is delayed?”
“Her transformation isn’t underway yet?”
“Not that I can tell, sir.”
“We have an opportunity, Agent Gordon, and you know it.”
He did know it, but he couldn’t bring himself to say it. West quickly took care of that for him, voicing words that made him wince.
“Take the gun and finish her.”
With his winter gloves still on, Dave Gordon opened the bag and withdrew the gun.
He looked down at the supine body on the ground. The bleeding from her bullet wound had slowed somewhat. Strange, he thought. Head wounds usually bleed like fountains. And the inch-wide bruise – where her father had smacked her – didn’t look as bad as it did earlier.
“Sir, I’m not sure it’s right to...”
“Gordon, She’ll be at least eight times the strength of any of the others. That means she will be able to lift 100,000 tons. That’s the weight of the world’s largest aircraft carrier. Do you realize the level of danger contained in that little body in front of you?”
Amy, still unconscious, stirred slightly.
“Sir,” Gordon replied steadily. “This is America. We can’t kill her for something she hasn’t done yet. We can’t assassinate a citizen just because she appears to be a threat.”
“I respect your adherence to righteous principle, Agent. I really do. But I suggest you think of this as an exceptional situation. If she wakes up from this coma, there might not be any America left to get righteous about.”
Indeed, Dave Gordon tried to imagine what would happen if she got loose in Washington, DC. She could bring the Washington Monument down on the Oval Office with no more effort than a lumberjack uses to swing an axe. She could take out half the chain of command before the Secret Service managed to draw its guns.
Outside, Dave could hear the soft patter of the snow piling up on the roof. He could almost feel the weight of it bearing down on its beams. The weight of his memories, too – the thug, the knife – bore down on his shoulders.
“She has a gunshot wound to the head, Gordon. She could already be mentally impaired by this. Her personality could be affected, unstable. We have a responsibility to act.”
Gordon could hear soft THUDs outside the house. He heard a SNAP as one of the branches broke. Clumps of snow were falling off the branches. It must be coming down fast, he thought as he looked at the girl. So much snow, he thought to himself. So many memories. The limbs could not bear the weight. He felt his resolve weakening.
“What about the other girls?” Gordon suggested. His voice was brittle. “We told the other five girls to trust us. What if they find out that we killed one of their own just because we had the opportunity? They would surely turn against us.”
The chill of the storm crept in through cheap windows and clawed at him-- too many memories. Pull the trigger, they said.
“Maybe we can wait and see what happens?” Dave Gordon’s tone was feeble. “Maybe we don’t have to decide right now?”
“No.” West’s voice was beginning to seethe with anger. “What little data we have suggests that these conversions are accelerated by stress to the body. This girl here just took a bullet to the skull. Her body is likely to react. Her cells have probably begun to rearrange themselves already. We have minutes, not hours. Place the gun back on her forehead; that’s an order.”
Gordon did so, pressing the end of the muzzle into her flesh.
Gordon took the opportunity to look down at her again. She was indeed a pretty girl, more so that he had noticed when he first laid eyes on her fifteen minutes ago. Her cheekbones were more prominent than he had noticed before, her nose more delicate, her lips full. He was usually a good observer, and a small part of him wondered how he had missed her pretty features the first time. In any event, they were evident now. Some teenage boy would be lucky to have her at his side for the prom.
“I’m not sure I can pull the trigger, boss.”
“You didn’t last time, did you? A perpetrator lunging at your partner...”
“Please don’t remind me,” Dave Gordon pleaded.
But West charged on. “... a perpetrator lunging at your partner. Your partner’s hands are tied up wrestling with another suspect. You have the gun drawn. And all you had to do was pull the trigger...”
“And I couldn’t,” Dave Gordon finished, defeated.
“And you couldn’t,” West affirmed. “You let your partner of ten years die because you couldn’t pull the trigger.”
The weight of the memory crushed down on him. He heard a rumble as a section of snow slid off the roof. So much weight...
West continued, “And here’s another opportunity to pull the trigger, and save many more lives.”
One voice in his mind objected to this, but the sound of that voice was consumed by his other emotions, a sound in the woods easily muffled by layer upon layer of suffocating snow-- layer upon layer of memories of that day, the knife, his partner on the floor. “You’re right, boss.”
“Gordon, this is an opportunity to make up for your partner’s death. To finally do the right thing.”
But then, Amy stirred again at the touch of Gordon’s gun, and Gordon looked down at her. Amy’s face was more than pretty, he admitted. It was beautiful. The nickel-sized bruise had a lighter color than he remembered, and the bleeding seemed to have ceased altogether.
“She’s probably a good kid, boss,” Gordon heard himself object.
“What do you know about kids?” West retorted. “By the time they become teenagers, they’re moody and unpredictable. And with her muscles, a teenage tantrum could be devastating.”
He’s right, Gordon thought to himself. With her strength, even an angelic personality was a national security threat. It was just one murder, and they could cover it up. Just get it over with, he urged himself, centering the gun on her forehead. And yet...
“If she gets the support and care that she needs,” Gordon asked, “don’t you think that …”
“Gordon, do not, for even a moment, forget who raised this girl. If she hadn’t been in the middle of this transformation, what do you think she’d be doing at school tomorrow – signing up for community service? No, she’d be picking a fight in the parking lot. She comes from a bad family, Gordon. She’s damaged goods.”
“Damaged goods?” Gordon felt the hair on the back of his neck rise. “West, she’s just a kid! She could just as easily have been your daughter, or mine!”
“What the hell do you know about raising children? You’ve never changed a diaper. You’ve never read a bedtime story. You’ve never attended a PTA meeting. Do NOT get righteous with me about how precious children are.”
Dave Gordon felt the anger – true anger – welling up inside. “Sir, you know what a sore subject that is with me---”
“She looks like a nice girl but she is nothing more than a pile of problems.” His voice was an icicle, dripping with cold. “Finish her.”
Dave Gordon felt himself go almost into a trance. He shifted his arm violently, made sure the aim was right, and pulled the trigger. BLAM went the gun.
The bullet did more damage than he could have hoped. Where once the lens of the camera poked insolently out of the crack in the wall, now there was only a gaping hole.
It took twenty minutes for the men to bang the door down. Dave Gordon had piled the furniture against it expertly, forcing the men outside to go back to the support truck for the battering ram.
When the door finally did snap off its hinges, the storm’s cold fingers reached into the room, each outlined by a constellation of bright snowflakes. The cold was followed by heavy footsteps and trench coats-- men coming in to do what Dave Gordon would not, surely on West’s orders.
He felt himself being tackled and restrained. He heard someone inform him that he was under arrest, and that he would be lucky to ever see the outside of a prison again. He watched as dark, bulky forms towered over the girl’s supine body. He shouted out – something inarticulate – but it made no difference. A gun was quickly drawn. The agent leveled it at her head, its muzzle only feet away from her forehead. Dave closed his eyes: he didn’t want to watch.
BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM the gun went. With his eyes still shut, Dave counted the shots. The agent had unloaded a full clip. But with every shot came not the THUD of a bullet hitting flesh, but instead a tinny PING, as if it had hit the side of a tank.
Dave opened a squinting eye. Her face was unscratched. In fact, her face had gone from one of adolescent cuteness to devastating adolescent beauty. Her transformation had progressed, he realized. She was no longer just a helpless girl. She was something … more.
Her eyes opened – a penetrating azure that had not been present in any of the reconnaissance photos.
“What are you doing?” Amy asked the assailant, not comprehending. Her arm lashed up in a quick, sideways sweep – more of an instinctive shove than deliberate fighting move.
But the lack of deliberate intent didn’t change the result. The man’s body flew through the wall like a cannonball, sounding a huge CRUNCH as it did so. Several additional CRUNCH’s followed. It wasn’t just one wall his body breached, Dave realized. It was three.
Amy examined her arm quizzically as she sat up. Then, briefly, her penetrating azure focused on him-- as if she somehow recognized him, as if they had spoken before.
Dave Gordon made sure to whisper in a tone that only the most attentive would hear. “Run,” his lips rasped.
The paddy wagon shook from the impact, knocking Dave against the opposite wall. He cursed the handcuffs on his wrists. He would have been able to stabilize himself better with his hands free.
She was causing this, he knew. Full-on hell was raining down on them, seemingly from every angle--- all from a single teenaged girl.
His division at the NSA-- soon to be his former division-- called this phase The Rage. Every supergirl experienced it after her transformation. And after it was over, every supergirl would report only vague memories of their actions, as if it was more of akin to sleepwalking than to wakefulness. When Dave Gordon had urged her, in a whisper, to run, it was more for the sake of the him and the other NSA agents than for her.
Gordon and West had originally planned to have her Rage in the eastern Colorado grasslands, far from civilization. But when those plans were hatched, the agents had several days of breathing room to educate her on the process. Not anymore: the bullet wound to her temple had caused her body to react early, the way an injury to a pregnant woman might trigger early labor.
The town had already been evacuated – a process that began the moment Amy ran out of her living room. Response to the Rages was always handled by the state National Guard unit, the leadership of which varied state by state. In past cases, the smarter incident commanders pulled their forces back, and allowed the girls to rampage until it was out of their system.
This incident commander, apparently, was not one of the smarter ones. The troops weren’t pulled back at all, but were instead right at the edge of the town. It was about as safe as being of the edge of an active volcano.
For Dave Gordon personally, this was made worse by the fact that he had not been remanded to County jail – as a normal suspect would have been-- but instead had been carted along with this suicidal Guard Division, in case they needed his advice. If the guy didn’t listen to the Agency’s original advice, Dave lamented, what was the point of dragging someone from the Agency along?
BLAM. Another deafening impact rocked the paddy wagon, and this time Dave was hurled across its interior. He felt the truck rock violently, and saw the interior side wall of the truck racing up to meet him. CRUNCH went his shoulder in the impact. The vehicle was on its side, he realized. Dave wondered how much longer he had to live.
They never should have shot at her, Dave lamented – not with the pistol in her home, not with the machine guns as she ran wildly for the mountains, not with the guided rockets. With every assault on her, they were just writing their own death certificates.
Sunlight suddenly spilled into the dark paddy wagon cell. The back door had been opened, and given the fact that the truck was on its side, the door simply flopped to the ground. Rough hands grabbed him and hauled him out. The idiotic incident commander was there, holding a megaphone.
“You’re the one who has such a soft spot for this girl,” the guy said. “You’re going to have to tell me how to stop her.”
The scene outside looked like something out of a foreign war, as if the United States Air Force had gotten its coordinates wrong and decided to carpet-bomb suburban Colorado. The National Guard convoy in the middle of this devastation was an extensive train of vehicles: enough firepower to bring down any domestic terrorist threat a hundred times over. But, clearly, not enough firepower even to inconvenience Amy. Almost everything – troop transports, armored mobile guns, the list went on-- now lay in crumpled ruins. He was reassured to see many of the troops running away from their vehicles: at least they were smarter than their commander.
Struggling to his feet despite the handcuffs, Dave Gordon was dismayed to discover that their situation was even worse than it first appeared. The were in a corridor-like valley, with imposing, snow-covered slopes on either side. Amy ran up one of the slopes, a blur of churning limbs and blond hair. She reached down and grasped a boulder the size of a small house. Her wispy teenage frame didn’t strain in the least as she righted herself, lifting thousands upon thousands of pounds above her head. The nation’s best biologists had been scrambling for weeks to deduce what powered these supergirl’s muscles, and they had gotten nowhere. Each of Amy’s muscles was a weapon of truly frightening power, and clearly she was only now becoming familiar with her new body. She hurled the rock, her lithe teenage muscles barely flexing, the task too easy. The massive boulder impacted the slope with a bone-jarring BOOM, as if it had been a meteorite hurtling out of the sky. Debris scattered for 30 yards in every direction. Then the hillside quivered momentarily before it lost its shape and began to slump – an avalanche. The slope collapsed with a huge RUMBLE as rock and snow raced down to the valley floor like a pack of galloping horses.
“She cut off our path forward!” came the shout of one of the troops. There were about a dozen white flags being waved throughout the armored column: they were trying to surrender.
That’s not how it works, Dave thought to himself. She doesn’t want our surrender-- at least, not right now, not during her Rage. She only wants something to destroy. And we were the ones stupid enough to be in her way.
“What will she do next?” shouted the incident commander.
Dave felt like he knew. The other girls had always been opaque to him. But Amy was somehow clearer: he “got” how she thought. She was systematic, methodical. Like the way she arranged cosmetics on the bathroom vanity: she went through each one in a precise order.
“She’s going to corral us before she annihilates us,” Dave Gordon explained. “It’s more orderly that way.”
He watched as Amy ran the ridge line at blistering speed to the rear of the column. He could imagine her face right now: wild-eyed, contorted not by exertion but by the mysterious demons inside. He saw her reach for another boulder and repeat the exercise – hurling it at the slope, causing a second avalanche to bury the valley floor below. The column’s retreat had been truncated: they were trapped.
She picked up two boulders the size of minivans, each girlish arm entirely relaxed, exuding inhuman strength. Wind whipped through her strawberry blond hair, and even from here, he could see the penetrating ocean blue of her eyes. She hurled the two rocks at the first two tanks in the column. The rocks moved in a blur, as if they were traveling the speed of bullets. WHUMP, WHUMP they went on impact, crushing the tanks to pancakes.
Two shoulder-launched missiles exploded in front of her. Her strawberry blond hair flapped carelessly in the wind. She ignored the shrapnel and the smoke, scanning the column for her next target.
“Amy,” the commander’s voice boomed through the megaphone, “this is the commander of the state National Guard. You are ordered to stand down and cease hostilities. Casualties have been kept to a minimum so far, but if your assault continues, people will die and you will be held accountable.”
Dave Gordon mulled the speech over in his mind. “You are ordered … held accountable.” What an idiotic way to talk to a teenager.
He had barely completed that thought when he saw her pick up a rock the size of a basketball. It would have been too heavy for three grown men, but she palmed it back and forth between her hands like it was full of air. The girl’s arm became a blur and Dave heard a screaming sound over his head as the rock flew by at bullet speed. BLAM it went against the remains of the paddy wagon – an artillery-like impact that turned his insides to jelly. The vehicle was launched into the air, and sailed perhaps a quarter mile before descending back to earth as a crumpled ball. He turned back to the girl. Another basketball rock was in her hand. The annihilation was beginning.
“Let me talk to her,” Dave begged.
The megaphone was held to his lips.
“Amy, this is Agent Dave Gordon …”
The boulder immediately dropped from her hands. “That voice,” she shouted. “I’ve heard your voice somewhere before.”
“I know a number of women that experienced same transition you are experiencing now. Part of you wants to destroy everything in sight. But part of you just wants to rest and recuperate. You can listen to either part. It’s your choice.”
Amy’s face, even from this distance, reflected a struggle with her emotions.
“Why don’t you head home. Take a nap, sleep this off.” Dave suggested.
“No, I’m never going back to that house!” she shouted, balling her fists. Tendons hardened into cables far stronger than steel.
“You don’t have to go to your house,” Dave assuaged. “You can go anywhere. Maybe we go back to my house.” He searched his knowledge of her for something that would have a calming effect. The apple orchard came to mind. “I can make you some hot apple cider.”
The commander whispered an objection. “Gordon, you’re still under arrest!”
“Is that a principle you want to die for?” Dave whispered in reply.
Dave returned his lips to the megaphone, but the girl on the hill was gone. Squinting his eyes in confusion, he suddenly saw a flash of strawberry blond hair in the corner of his eye. She was standing next to him.
“Apple cider sounds nice,” she said, sheepishly.