Although the senator was obviously crazy he was at least right about the helicopter. He was running circles in the yard shouting about toast when they first heard the blades of the chopper coming over the trees of the massive front yard. The tall oaks danced in the wash of the aircraft as it descended quickly from a grey dusty sky. Senator Yates was jumping up and down like a wild kangaroo on the grass.
“What’s wrong with him, Mommy?” Riker asked.
“I’m not sure, Honey, but let’s keep our distance, okay.” By the time the helicopter was on the ground Yates was already at the side hatch. Amber, Lawrence, and Riker stood watching as he slapped at the side panel of the chopper. She wasn’t sure what was going on exactly, but to get a military helicopter to pick up a senator, something serious would have to have happened. The large blades of the helicopter slowed, but did not shut off. Amber turned to Lawrence.
“Do you think I should try to talk to them?”
“They couldn’t be as crazy as Senator Toast.” Lawrence said. In other circumstances it probably would be funny, but the whole thing had freaked her out so much that she wasn’t able to laugh. She looked to Riker, trying to reassure him.
“I’ll be right back, Honey.” She turned toward the chopper and strutted forward.
“You’re all toast!” Yates was screaming to one of the passengers on the helicopter. The bay door was open and he was climbing in as Amber approached. It was impressive that she could hear him over the noise of the rotors still churning. A man in military fatigues, machine gun hanging from his shoulder, stood in the door of the chopper. She glanced to the name on his uniform. Tanner York, is what it read.
He put out a hand to Yates and helped him in. Amber signaled to the soldier. He hopped down out of the chopper and came toward her. He put out his arms and used an intimidating and authoritative voice.
“Do not approach the helicopter, this is official business!” He shouted. His sternness gave her pause. Had she a full bladder, her pants probably would be wet. He was scary.
“I’m sorry,” she shouted. “We’ve been trying to get in touch with someone in Washington. I have a message for someone in charge.”
“I’m sure you do, Ma’am, but this transport is full.”
“What is going on?” She asked, realizing that if she couldn’t fulfill her objective, she might as well get some information.
“This region is in the blast radius for an imminent nuclear attack. I suggest you and your family get in your car and drive west immediately.” The soldier said. It was clear from his tone that he considered this the end of the conversation. He began to turn and walk back toward the helicopter. She glanced toward her son and husband realizing that the game had just changed. She jogged around and planted herself in the path of the military man. Hoping he would listen, she begged.
“Please take us with you, Mr. York! Please.” She hoped using the name on his uniform would make her plea more personal.
“This transport is full.” York said as he shoved her aside.
“The girlfriend!” She shouted with realization. “The senator secured a seat on the helicopter for his girlfriend, he lied, and said she was his fiancé to get her in, but she isn’t here. At least take my son. Please” The soldier glanced at the chopper apparently considering what she had said. He looked into the passenger bay verifying that there was in fact an extra seat. He looked back to her.
“Ok, but there’s no time for good byes.” He said.
Amber turned to Riker and Lawrence standing near the car. She motioned them to come. She let enough emotion and urgency into her body language that Lawrence understood. Her husband picked up Riker and ran toward them. His eyes were wide with concern. Amber moved toward the aircraft transport door with them and shouted over the blades.
“There’s only enough room for one.” She said. Lawrence understood immediately and set Riker down in the bay of the helicopter. Amber spoke to him trying to keep the emotion out of her voice.
“Riker, you are going to go with these nice people. Mommy and Daddy will come get you. Take your seat over there.” She pointed to the open seat and watched him find his way past the scared stares of the other passengers. The man in the seat next to the open spot directed Riker to sit. This grey headed stranger helped Riker get buckled in. Once he was secure in the seat, Amber began to beg the soldier.
“Please, let his father go with him!” She yelled.
“There’s no room!” The soldier said as he grabbed at the handle of the door. He was about to shut them out. Lawrence reached with his powerful construction worker hands and grasped the door preventing it from closing. He shouted to the soldier.
“There is enough room on the floor for his mother to sit.” Lawrence bellowed. His voice was frightening, but the soldier was not dissuaded. The young servicemen reached for his machine gun and lifted it to Lawrence’s face. Lawrence let go of the door.
“Step away from the helicopter.” The soldier commanded. Lawrence complied and stepped back as did Amber. The soldier added, “I’m sorry. We have a long flight and we are already over loaded by about a five hundred pounds. We just can’t spare the weight.”
Lawrence and Amber watched the door slam shut on the chopper. Tears streamed down Amber’s face as the blades began to speed up. Lawrence put his arm around her. She could barely hear his voice over the growing noise of the blades, but he wasn’t talking to her.
“Lord, please—” Before he finished the statement the door of the chopper opened once more. They watched with rapture as the grey haired man who had helped Riker, dressed in full business style suit jumped down from the helicopter bay. The middle aged altruist, buffeted by the helicopter’s rotors, gestured to Amber to come. It took her a moment to realize what was going on.
“He gave up his seat,” Lawrence said. “Go,” as he kissed her head and shoved her toward the helicopter. She ran and nearly dove into the transport. She took the seat that the business man had vacated. She was buckled in within a few seconds. She reached for Riker’s hand and held it tight. She glanced quickly at the faces of the 11 other passengers. Certainly someone would give up their seat for Lawrence. No one made eye contact with her, apparently knowing what she expected.
As she scanned the faces her eyes fell on Senator Yates. He was bouncing in his seat, and red in the face. His cheeks were bubbled out as if he were holding his breath. He was having an absolute meltdown. He jumped repeatedly against the restraint of the seatbelt. Before the soldier could get the sliding door closed again, Yates was tugging at the belts of his flight harness. He let out a scream that turned every head in the helicopter.
“Toast!” With the word, his hands were in motion. He unlatched the belt that had kept him from bouncing out of his seat. With violent jerky motions he stepped out of the passenger bay and reached for his waistline. He was obscured by the bulkhead as he stepped into the pilot compartment. She couldn’t see him, but could hear his wild voice.
“Let me fly, Toast!” She could see about half of his body. His arms were outstretched as if he were holding a gun. As he turned, Amber could see that it was not a gun. He was pointing his index finger as if it were a pistol. He was nuts for sure. She had seen him pack his pockets with ammunition, but apparently in his psychotic state he couldn’t tell the difference between his finger and a real gun.
The action that followed happened so quickly that she didn’t even have time to shield Riker’s eyes. York, the solider who had been guarding the door turned, leaned into the pilot compartment, and squeezed the trigger of his machine gun. With the loud crack of his firearm, red spit out and splattered on the glass of the chopper’s cockpit. Amber, along with about a dozen other people gasped. She covered her mouth with her hand.
Senator Yates was loony, but there was no reason he needed to be shot. They could have tied him to his seat, or removed him from the helicopter. Instead he was executed without a trial. What was happening to the world? She stared at York, as if he were a wild bear ready to turn on everyone else in the cabin.
York grabbed violently at the body of the late senator and began dragging it toward the sliding door. The body left a river of crimson in the wake. The soldier kicked at dead mass that had been Yates as it flopped lifelessly to the ground. After the soldier had dispatched the body he looked to Lawrence. He was standing next to the the grey haired man who had given up his seat. The soldier laid out clear instructions.
“A seat just opened up. You have 5 seconds to decide who gets it.” York shouted over the sound of the rotors. Lawrence looked to the man. Amber knew that Lawrence would give up his seat, he was honorable like that. Just this once do the selfish thing, Amber thought. She didn’t care how, she wanted Lawrence on that helicopter. Yet again the grey haired man proved his character. Leaning in close he spoke in Lawrence’s ear.
“The boy needs his father.” The man said. “I insist.”
Lawrence did not debate. He wrapped his arms around the man for a brief second, thanked him, handed him is car keys.
“Take our car, get out of town as quick as you can.” Lawrence said and then added, “thank you.” He climbed on the chopper leaving the man to his fate. The pilot didn’t wait for Lawrence to be seated. Finally the helicopter left the ground. As Lawrence buckled himself into the seat he directed a question at the soldier.
“Where are we going?”
“To Deep Stone.”