The time came for them to make their move. Lennon led the three of them back up to the tunnel. As before, Lennon checked the area. “Same men as last night,” he reported. “But there are many more civilians.”
“Then why are we just sitting down here?” Juliana said haughtily. She wanted to end this now. Lennon held up his eyebrows. “Easy, Ms. Russo. There is one thing I haven't said.”
He pointed upward. “Gerard Black is patrolling.” As if that image wasn't enough to strike fear in her heart, he added, “On an Anichanical rhinoceros.”
Ellis let out a laugh. “Nothing terrifying about that,” he said facetiously. Juliana pressed her face into the neck of the puppy's warm hair. They should have done this last night. Gerard Black knew they planned to enter the laboratory. Of course he'd come personally. He knew the lab's location. He didn't want anyone to get in, but at least he could keep anyone from leaving it.
Lennon risked another peek and quickly pulled his head back in. “There's no way we will get out of here unseen.”
Juliana inhaled slowly. “Good thing we want to be seen.” She ran forward and pulled herself out of the hole, puppy tucked under one arm. Her burst of strength surprised her. She rolled to her back and stood, holding the animal over her head. Gerard Black and his men spotted her immediately. A man and a woman walking nearest her stopped dead when she appeared like an apparition. Their eyes moved up her arms to the barking puppy. The woman covered her mouth in shock.
Juliana glared into Gerard Black's eyes. “The animals are returning!” she shouted. “Look! This creature is alive!”
People stopped and stared. An old woman walking with her great-grandson squinted to take in the sight. Her winkled jaw dropped and she pointed a shaky finger at it. She said something so quietly not even her great-grandson could hear. He moved his ear closer to her lips and she said something to make him give the puppy a double take.
Gerard Black directed his giant Anichanical Juliana's way. The machine crunched across the street straight for her. She lowered the puppy and ran down the street. Lennon and Ellis climbed from the hole. Lennon shouted to her, told her to stop, but she couldn't get her feet to do so. Gerard Black's men started to chase, some on the back's of Anichanical horses. Lennon threw some of his smoke bombs into their path. Smoke obstructed their vision. It gave Juliana more time to gain distance.
Gerard Black's Anichanical thundered after her. Juliana shouted at everyone she passed. “A puppy! Look here! Puppy! The animals are returning! It's a living animal!”
Civilians stopped to see what this crazy woman was going on about. Some saw the puppy as she ran. Others stared in confusion. Most dodged the raging Anichanical stampeding down the street. Juliana saw the Eiffel Tower crystallized in ice. People were all around. If she could make it to the tower then there would be far too many witnesses for Gerard Black to stop her.
She picked up the pace, protecting the small animal as best she could. Men with guns and some with swords came at her from the street ahead. No doubt they worked for Black Industries. She looked back once and saw the Anichanical rhinoceros right on her tail. Only twenty yards between them. She continued to run, ignoring the uncomfortable closeness.
Gerard Black's deep voice came at her. “Juliana Russo! You're making a terrible mistake!”
She blocked out his voice. Nothing he had to say would make her stop from reaching her objective. She slid on some ice as she changed direction, moving gracefully and swiftly. Her body now faced the Eiffel Tower. Not much further. It was right in front of her. Push, Juliana, she ordered of herself.
A gun shot fired. The bullet zipped by her head. A tremor went through her legs and she almost collapsed in anxiety. She pinched her arm. “Still alive, Juliana.” She blinked hot tears from her eyes and pushed on. Civilians were starting to verbally question the scene before them. Once that shot was fired all discretion went out the window. “What's going on?” a man shouted. “You people are insane!”
“That man tried to shoot her!” a woman declared.
“That woman has an animal!” said another woman. “I saw it with my own eyes!”
Gerard Black's men tried to convince them they were police, but not many bought it. That pleased Juliana. She only needed a few more witnesses. She reached the tower, held up the puppy, and then the Anichanical rhinoceros rammed her. The wind blew out of her lungs as she flew backwards. The puppy fell from her grasp as her back slammed into the frosty concrete. The terrified animal darted off through the scattering crowd of humans.
Juliana tried to suck in a breath. As she did something inside her burned. She tried to scream but nothing came out. She touched her side with her silent screeching. Broken ribs. That much she could deduce on her own. She touched her face as a warm sensation fell down to her lips and across her chin. Blood.
She got in a shallow intake of breath and a groan came free. A shadow fell around her. The Anichanical rhinoceros circled her. Gerard Black stared down at her broken body. “Ludicrous woman,” he jeered. He dismounted and crouched beside her. His pocket watches dangled over her face. If she had the strength she would have torn them from his vest.
He pressed his thumb between her eyebrows. “One tiny, hairy, foul-smelling mutt won't be enough to save Carlo's treasured laboratory,” he said. “I've been seeking a way to destroy that blasted place since I discovered its existence and no librarian from New San Gimignano of all places will get in my way.”
She clenched her teeth and spoke through her pain in a wispy voice. “Animals are more important to this planet than machines.” She took in three quick breaths, each feeling like fiery daggers twisting in her lungs. “You're vain... and self-indulgent.” She squeezed her eyes shut. “And Carlo... he wanted to help the world.”
Gerard Black removed his thumb from her head. He rolled his eyes. “I run a business, Juliana Russo. It is true that I have my greenhouses and other such inventions, but the Anichanicals bring in high revenue. They are what I'm affiliated with. If a scientist can bring animals back from the dead who's to say they won't find a way to end this God forsaken Freeze?” He pushed his spectacles high up on his nose. “I won't be put out of business just so people like you can have a furry plaything.”
The sound of a bullet clicking into its chamber came from Gerard Black's left. Lennon said, “Back away from the girl. Hands up!”
Gerard Black deliberately turned his head slowly. He grabbed his own gun but merely held it loosely. His casual demeanor was far more threatening than him aiming the weapon would have been. Snow started to fall gently. It made the whole scene dream-like and Juliana wished it were. That way when she awoke all this would go away.
Lennon held his gun still and spoke with authority. “I won't tell you again, Gerard Black! Drop your weapon and move away from the girl!”
A crowd started to form around the perimeter of the Eiffel Tower. Juliana tried to find the puppy within the mass of people but her throbbing head fogged her mind. Someone needed to find the puppy. They needed the puppy.
Gerard Black stood nonchalantly. He moved his gun from one hand to the other, over and over. “I am the future of the new world. Animals are dead. It was natures way. Bringing them back is the real crime. Scientist's believe they are Gods. Who gave them permission to meddle with the extinct?” He put a hand on his Anichanical rhinoceros. “This... this is the direction our world is going. I didn't set the path. I simply followed where it led.”
“And why would you want to leave it,” Lennon said with a mocking tone, “when it is covered with money?”
Gerard Black's face broke into a wide grin. “Exactly,” he concurred. His eyes turned down to Juliana. His gun finally found a target. He fixed it on her. Lennon chocked his gun's trigger. “Don't! Don't do it!”
Gerard Black paid no attention to Lennon's demand. He stared at Juliana, the smile gone from his cold face. His burning eyes hurt almost as much as her black-and-blue body. She gasped for air and tried to sit up. It was no use. She couldn't move anything but her fingers and head. Punctured lung, she speculated.
Gerard Black clicked his own bullet into his weapon. Lennon started forward but the Anichanical rhinoceros gave a warning charge. If Lennon came any closer the powerful device would do to him what it did to Juliana. Perhaps worse.
From behind her where she couldn't see, startled gasps and screams rang out as something thundered through the scene, charging under the tower. It stopped to her right and rose up on powerful back legs. Gerard Black gasped and cowered back from the Anichanical grizzly bear. Alec roared artificially and then Benjamin entered Juliana's vision, aiming his gun at their opponent.
A hand fell on Juliana's arm. “My daughter, oh my G-God,” Pietro stammered. Juliana's hurt feelings and anger toward him vanished at the sound of his voice. She reached out and took his hand. “Dad,” she squeaked. He did his best not to cry in front of her. He smoothed her hair back. “I'm here,” he promised.
The two Anichanicals squared off. They circled the group, gears grinding and noses steaming. Benjamin and Lennon spoke over each other, demanding that Gerard Black stand down. No one would yield.
“The animals are returning!” shouted Ellis's voice. The witnesses gasped and some even fainted. Juliana asked her father what was happening. He needed to take a moment to process it. Finally he described the sight in one word. “Giraffe.”
Ellis and some of the scientist's had brought out some of the animals. The beagle puppy, a parakeet, two mice, a small tank holding a coy fish, a pony, and the giraffe. Ellis held out his arms widely at his sides. “The animals are returning!”
Somewhere in the crowd the old woman from before stepped forward. She held up the puppy that Juliana had lost hold of. She walked her back to Ellis. He took the puppy and the woman beamed.
Gerard Black shook his head in disbelief. He eyed Juliana. “If you want your precious animals so badly, then what need do you have for an Anichanical?” With a wave of his hand the Anichanical rhinoceros charged at Alec. Metal crunched metal, steam screamed, and the Anichanical grizzly bear collapsed as a heap of scrap.
Juliana was hallucinating. That would explain the pile of metal she saw. That would explain the stench of hot water creeping over to her. She would awaken to find Alec at the foot of her bed ready for an evening ride. She refused to believe he was totaled.
Pietro pulled a sword from the scabbard at his side. Juliana hadn't noticed it before. He pointed the blade's tip at Gerard Black. “You will pay for that,” he swore.
Gerard Black pointed his gun at Pietro. “You swing, I fire. We'll see who dies first."
“You'd fire with all these witnesses?” Benjamin challenged. “Surrender now, Gerard Black.”
Their adversary erupted in laughter. He lowered his weapon and turned to face the crowd. “Who said the people want the animals to return?” He raised his voice for them all to hear. “Do you all want these foul beasts to freely roam our planet? To eat what few resources we possess? To muck up our cities with faeces and fur? I ask you!” He gestured to the animals. “What use are these things you see before you?”
The old woman stepped forward. Her great-grandson stood at her side. She spoke softly and the great-grandson repeated her words so everyone could hear. “My great-grandmother says she remembers the animals from before the Freeze!” The old woman spoke some more and he said, “The animals were a joy! They brought comfort to the ill! Companionship to the widowed! Eyes to the blind! She votes they stay!”
Juliana felt power in the old woman's words. She gritted her teeth and forced herself to a sitting position. Pietro tried to stop her but she shooed his hands away. From sitting she moved to standing. Each movement shot searing pain through her body. A fractured pelvis, she added to her list of injuries. She gripped her side and kept her eyes off of Alec's mangled parts. She creased her forehead and waited for Gerard Black to take notice of her. When he did she said, “The animals... will return. You cannot stop the inevitable. Destroy my Anichanical... destroy my body... but the animals are returning.”
Staggered witnesses started to cheer. Clapping and whooping rang out around the Eiffel Tower. Soon everyone was at it. Gerard Black's men had given up long ago and now lay their weapons down. Real police came onto the scene and arrested them. The last to be handcuffed was Gerard Black. As the police took him away he gave Juliana one last look. Momentary but clear. He knew she'd fought better than he. He knew he was beaten.
Juliana closed her eyes and let every sound fade. She let her mind wander. She saw her last memory of her mother. She saw the moment she found her father. She saw Nathaniel standing in the smoke. She saw Carlo... laughing with her under the sky-train rails.
She opened her eyes and tried to release the sob stuck in her chest. Nothing would come out. She couldn't breathe. Her knees gave out and she fell in the snow.
End of Part 10