I run across the large terraforming room and climb the stairs as quickly as I can. As I near the top, I see Mayze’s men enter below. I quicken my pace so Mayze can give the order for them to stand down and leave my team alone. As soon as I reach the top, I spin the locking wheel and push the door up with my shoulder.
The door flies open, and two arms reach down and grab me, yanking me up and out. Mayze swings a two by four board into my chest. I hear a crack, and am not sure if it’s the board or my rib cage.
Falling to my knees in pain, I beg Mayze to call his men off. “I’m here. You promised to let them go.”
Over the comm Darwin tells me his men are taking up positions, pinning them inside the control room.
“Walter,” I plead, “Please! Call them off.”
“Sorry, LT. Consider that offer expired.” Then to his own men he commands, “Kill them all.”
“Darwin, they are coming to kill you,” I warn, as I hear gunfire erupt over the comm.
Mayze’s two goons pull me up onto my feet and search me. They remove my utility belt and empty my pockets, dropping everything onto the nearby coffee table, including the underwater flare that Brooklyn shoved in my pocket before I left.
Mayze hands the two by four he’s holding to one of his men, followed by his rifle and sidearm. “You wanna know a secret, Camden?” He punches me in the gut, dropping me back to my knees. “I never really liked you. You were always too whiney for my taste. ‘I deserve this. My daddy left me. My mommy wasn’t there for me emotionally.’ My God! You’re nothing but a child.”
Behind Mayze, I can see the foggy gas blasting out of the air shaft. It has enough velocity that it pushes up and out of the building, dissipating into the air above us. Very little of it makes its way back down, leaving us mostly unaffected by its corrosive properties.
Mayze continues, “You were handed everything, and you still couldn’t manage to take the bull by the horns and own it; to make it on your own. Oh, I tried to man you up, but you always stayed stuck in the past, talking about how unfair life has been to you. Well, today, you’re finally gonna get the ass-kicking you deserve.”
“Hardly fair,” I say, looking up at him, still regaining my strength. “It’s three against one.”
Mayze laughs and then orders his men down to join the others. “There!” He says as they climb down through the door in the floor. “It’s just you and me, now.”
Through the comm, I hear the gunfight being waged below. Mom and Mackenzie have pulled back into the transporter cage while Darwin, GoPro, and Brooklyn have barricaded the door into the control room and taken positions to fire on anyone who tries to breach through.
Brooklyn notices out loud that with the door shut the air pouring out of the terraforming machine isn’t reaching them. The corrosion of their lifesuits has slowed considerably. If they can hold them off long enough—
Mayze’s foot connects into the side of my head in a wheelhouse kick. My helmet absorbed most of the blow, but I’m dazed as I am knocked onto my side on the ground.
I push myself up exaggerating the pain. When Mayze is not suspecting it, I jump to my feet and rush him. Ramming my shoulder into his stomach, I lift him up and slam his back down into the arm of the couch.
He rolls off like it’s nothing, then rushes at me, but I step to the side and shove him as he barrels past. I grab the coffee table and lift it up over my head. The items sitting on top of it fall onto to the floor. By the time he stops and turns around, I’m in full swing, shattering the table against his body. This time it’s him that falls to his knees.
As I catch my breath, I hear that some of his men have breached the barricade below. At least one of the men have been shot and killed, but there’s more. Too many more.
Mayze grabs a floor lamp, rips the power cord from the outlet and swings. I duck backward as he just misses me. I stumble into a chair falling back into it. A sharp pain shoots through my ribs. Mayze swings again, this time bringing the lamp down from above. I barely have time to roll off the chair onto the floor as the lamp crashed down where I just was.
I position myself to keep the couch between us so I can catch my breath.
Down below Darwin says he is almost out of ammo. They have all fallen back to the teleportation cage as Mayze’s men take over the control room. Mackenzie is patching up a hole in GoPro suit, having been shot in the arm.
Mayze drops the lamp and shoves the couch into me, pushing me back several steps before pinning me against the wall. Stepping to the side, he comes at me. I manage to lift up the end of the couch and throw it at him. He easily brushes it aside as I scramble away from him.
Down below Mayze’s men unleash a barrage of gunfire against the team hiding behind walls of the terraforming cage. They seem helpless against it.
Mayze picks up the lamp again and swings it, this time making contact with the side of my head. A hundred cracks spread across the glass faceplate on my helmet. It’s still holding air, but my view is significantly distorted. Another hit will likely be my last.
I spot the flare on the ground and run toward it. Mayze chases after me, but I reach it first. I dive on top of it and roll out of the way before Mayze hits the same spot behind me. Standing up I hold the flare in one hand and the igniting cap in the other, like a grenade with a pin about to be pulled. Mayze stands up slowly.
“What’s the flare going to do, LT?” Mayze asks, cautiously.
I don’t answer him. As he walks toward me, I take several steps backward.
I hear Darwin yell, “GoPro, what are you doing? Fall back, now!”
“You’re bluffing,” Mayze decides, taking several more cautious steps toward me.
I hear GoPro scream into the comm, like some kind of battle yell. A barrage of gunfire erupts.
I keep stepping backward, as Mayze steps closer. When I have him positioned where I want him. I light the flare.
Mayze stops, but when nothing happens he just laughs. “That’s all you got?”
GoPro continues to unload the rest of his magazine, screaming like a madman into my ear.
“They’re falling back,” Mackenzie says.
“GoPro, get back in here,” Darwin orders.
I stare Mayze in the eye. “I’ve made thousands of mistakes throughout my life, and I regret every single one of them. And you’re right. I was too whiny. But that’s the nature of free will. Every decision we make, good or bad, leads us to the next decision before us. It may have taken me a while, but I’ve learned something from my past. I’ve learned that every choice I have ever made has made me who I am today. But that those choices still can’t dictate who I will be tomorrow. I can still choose what kind of man I want to be. I can choose to let my past rule my life or choose to become the person I always should have been.”
Over the comm, I hear Brooklyn scream, “He’s hit, he’s hit!”
Mayze is still unsure what I’m doing with the flare, so he lets me talk, and I am utilizing the distraction to get him positioned where I want him.
“It’s funny, Walter. My reason for being… it has nothing to do with my past, or what I wanted out of life. I never wanted any of this,” I laugh, gesturing to everything around me. “But here I am. And you know what? I know with certainty that I’m here because there is no one better prepared for this than me. It’s almost as if someone took all the crap in my life, all things that I have ever done, all the bad decisions, all the things that have happened to me, and used them to prepare me for this very moment.”
“That’s a shame,” Mayze answers calmly, “Because this is the moment you’re going to die.”
“Maybe,” I say. “Or maybe this is the moment I save the world.” I raise the flair over my head and throw over Mayze’s head. He turns to see where it is going and I size the opportunity to charge him. With his back to me, I slam the full force of my body into him, driving him toward the exhaust vent in the floor several feet away.
Just as I’m about to push him over the edge, he plants his foot and attempts to jump over it. Not getting the distance needed, his body slams into the side of the shaft. He manages to grab on to the edge, keeping himself from falling into it. The gas pouring out of the vent begins to eat away at his suit at a rapid pace. I see panic in his eyes.
“As you can see, we weren’t able to stop the machine like we hoped,” I say walking past him, over to where the burning flare landed on the ground. “Everything we tried was counteracted by the machine itself. In order to protect itself from us, it began dispensing the corrosive gas that is eating away your lifesuit as we speak. You’ll be dead in a matter of minutes.
“But there is another interesting thing about the corrosive gas: It’s highly flammable.”
I kick the flare toward the shaft, but Mayze reaches out his arm and stops it, then flings it across the room, away from the airstream.
“I may be dead soon,” he says calmer than I would expect from the situation he is in, “but so will you. And so is your team below. You’re so pathetic, Camden. You haven’t saved anything. Such a grand speech but you can’t even do this right.”
I stand over him, looking down as he holds on with both hands. “It’s good enough,” I tell him. I put my boot up on his helmet and push. He tries to hold onto the side, but he can’t maintain his grip against the pressure of my foot. I watch as he falls into the shaft.
“Everybody take cover,” I yell through the comm to the team below. I rush over to the flare and kick it back to the vent, quickly jumping over the couch, taking cover behind it. I watch the airstream ignite as the flare makes contact with it. The sky above me turns into a giant fireball and seconds later a series of massive explosions rock the ground below me.