Chapter Twenty-two

Washington, DC


Frank Strum wakes. Still in a fog, he can only process the readily available pains; His head, the cold, his neck. His eyes don’t open immediately. He has little control over that. His mind reboots, bringing up only essential functions, and understanding of his situation is not among them.


He has had some moments of consciousness over the last few days, but he remembers only short image bursts and a sense of movement from those; A swinging cadence from side to side, the sky weaving above, a human shadow falling on him, the smell of a woman.


He begins to remember. The earth shook. He had panicked. Darkness was falling, the ceiling falling too.


…And before; sitting at a table with people, the feeling of impending doom permeating his memory, but none of the faces there becoming clear.


He opens his eyes, the earth spins. He lifts his head, the earth spins faster. Nausea rises and cold sweat breaks out on his forehead. He feels his scalp. I am hurt, he thinks. He sits up, and feels better. His eyes begin to focus and he looks around, and is lost once again. Where am I, he wonders in his head. He realizes he is on a stretcher, his uniform dirty and rank, a set of short steps at his back. More images flash, the President speaking… before? No… after the quake, and other voices too. Was the President safe? That was his responsibility. He has to do something. What? The “what” lays detached, just beyond his mind’s grasp. A wave of nausea returns. He closes his eyes, and everything comes back in a rush. The aliens, the ship; arriving earlier than expected, and the resulting collapse of the Situation Room. He remembers pushing a table on the President to protect him and lying down against it. The ceiling collapsing, and then… darkness.


Where was he now? He opens his eyes again. He was outdoors, a mild wind blowing over his head, snow melting below him. But where? An empty expanse with collapsed buildings framing it. A park? Was he alone? Who had brought… no, carried him here? Voices in the distance, unrecognizable, mixed with the sound of the wind. He knew something. What was it? Something important. His head hurt. The voices, getting clearer, closer- A woman’s voice, and a man’s.  He gathers his strength and stands, his head, lagging below his shoulders, last to rise fully.  He leans onto the base of the huge block of granite behind him, the drop of the stairs to his left. It feels cold, but he is grateful for the support, the strength it lends him. His mouth feels dry and his head pounds rhythmic pain. His legs are weak, and he fights to remain standing. His eyes focus on two shapes entering the framed expanse. He wonders if he can reach his weapon. If he needs to, he is dead. He knows he can't reach it. The shapes get nearer and he hears his name called.


He remembers what he had to remember.


That he is able to smile surprises him.



Lieutenant Hunt nearly dropped Alan when she saw Frank Strum standing. She called out his name and saw him smile weakly.


“Alan, it’s Frank. He’s up. We’ll lay you down and I’ll take a look at your wounds,” She says, as she picks up the pace by carrying more of Alan’s weight.


Hunt helps Alan down onto the stretcher and places covers on him. She quickly inspects the wound above his knee but little blood is seeping out, there is no need for a tourniquet. The wound is shallow, but the bullet will need to be removed. His shoulder injury is even less critical, a graze and a bruise, but she still needed to keep him out of shock by keeping him warm and alert.


“You are going to be okay, Alan. There is no heavy bleeding. Can you hear me clearly? I need you to stay awake. You understand?” Her tone is a nurse’s practiced cadence of calm.


Alan looks at her and nods his head but says nothing, his soul already battling the consequences of his action; the death of a little child.


Hunt turns to Frank and helps him shift his weight onto her. “Agent Strum, are you alright?” She asks, her eyes inspecting his.


He mumbles something she cannot hear. “I’m sorry, what?” She leans in.


“Frank. Call me Frank,” He says. His voice is reedy and thin, but his eyes glisten with rebirth.


“Okay, Frank it is. Let’s sit you down, okay, Frank? You need to get your strength back.” Hunt said.


She looked up to see Bill Clarkson approaching.


“Director Clarkson, please give me a hand here.” She said. Frank Strum was your standard issue six-foot-two, two-hundred pound secret service agent, and despite Hunt’s addiction to work-outs and healthy living, the last few days with little nutrition had left her weak.


Director Clarkson took Frank’s weight on the opposite side, and together they helped him down the steps of the downed obelisk.


“The President?” Frank asked.


“He is alive. He’s walking ahead.” Director Clarkson responded.


“The First Family?” Frank asked, checking off some sort of list in his mind.


“The rest are dead, I’m afraid.” The director responded again, without elaboration.


Frank started to rise, “I have to… to go after the President. It’s my job to protect him at all times.”


“He’ll be fine for now. You can’t help him in your condition.” Hunt said.


“Yes, but there is something I have to tell him. Something important. I have to reach him now.”


His forehead was wet with perspiration once again. Hunt made a mental note to check his gash for infection. She pushed him down with care.


“You are not going anywhere. Director Clarkson will reach him and bring him back. We need to rest and make camp for the night. A fire, no matter how much attention it draws, is essential tonight. Tomorrow we’ll press on to the Pentagon.”


Bill nodded, although he knew he was unlikely to get the President back until he was ready to come back.


“I have to tell--” Frank was interrupted before he could finish his thought.


“The director can tell him whatever you need, but you stay here. I insist,” She covered him with one of the thermal blankets as she spoke. “What is it you need to say?”


Frank was nearly ashen in color, his strength waning quickly. “As everything was happening, in the Situation Room… when everything went flying and the floor bucked me off my feet, one of the Comm guys held onto my arm as I held onto the table protecting the President. He said… something, before the debris knocked him away.


The director and the Lieutenant were now listening intently, and even Alan rolled on to his un-injured side to get a better listen.


“He said,” Frank continued, “There was a response.”

Chapter 23