Stahne slid into the missile compartment and pulled the titanium panel closed. Red numbers flashed by on a display directly in front of his face. There was the smell of gunpowder and Indian curry. He suspected Markil had been enjoying curry in the missile before being dragged out by the Teltas.
The timer appeared to speed up when it got to the single digits, and once it reached zero everything exploded, blowing the launcher to hell.
Why the missile never left the turret was anyone’s guess. The detonation was partial- Stahne was roasted, but alive. When the Telta creatures found him he lay face down on the burnt metal, plastic melted into his skin. The plastic had welded metal shards to his arms and legs and head, giving him the appearance of a spiked monster and as he lurched to his feet the creatures drew back.
He made it to the decontamination doors, pressed a few buttons before the burnt skin of his back was punctured by a thousand tiny arrows. The Telta creatures didn’t like anyone employed by the government and, even though he was just a Necturus worker, he qualified.
You poor dear, Maximussa cooed, gliding from the outer office in tight grey overalls as he staggered toward her, his mouth welded shut by plastic. She closed the decontamination doors with a tap of her nail before the next volley of tiny arrows tinked on the glass and clattering to the ground just outside. Lousy creatures, she hissed at them. Where are your manners?
Stahne fell, in slow motion, crashing and double-bouncing on the slick metal floor. When he landed bits and pieces of shrapnel shot off in all directions and Maximussa covered her eyes.
He was out cold for the next several hours and she carefully picked out the broken metal and plastic shards, cutting some away with an X-Acto knife. There was minimal bleeding and soon a naked slab of a government employee lay before her.
Why… he started, coming back to life.
Why did I help you? Well, darling, it’s the least I can do. After all, it was your father who developed the plans for the first manned Necturus missile launch and without him we’d all still be in the rainforest with the bamboo and the bad monkeys. Frankly, I couldn’t be more grateful to your father and your brothers, and, by extension, you.
She stood over him, watching as his eyes found hers. I’m a wreck, he said.
I know you are.
He got to his feet and she helped steady him down the hallway. I don’t know what went wrong, he said. The timer? The osphometeric?
It was me, Stahne. I stopped it, she whispered. You? he tried to pull away but she held him fast.
Yes, I didn’t want you to blow up with that bomb. I wanted you for myself. And for Russia. His bare feet slid on the metal, his skin a network of scars and gashes. He wrestled her back against the wall. I think I love you, he said. And they kissed, neither of them hearing the gunfire or the dull thumps of explosions in the distance.