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Old Fanfiction - War of the Worlds -The Phoenix
sophie_deangirl

THE PHOENIX


Written on November 9, 1989

"It was good working with you."

"Colonel?!"

The sound of a pistol boom cracked the air.

Suddenly Harrison sat rigidly upright in his bed, breathless, sweating, trembling. He looked around him and saw the metallic walls of the chamber that was his bedroom now. The paper thin mattress was uncomfortable, but he had slept on more uncomfortable surfaces .... like a forest floor with Suzanne, waiting for alien activity in a glen ....

It had seemed eons ago since that day. Harrison got out of bed stiffly and wearily. He went into another room as small as a toilet stall and turned the light on. Though the bulb was long dimmed from months of use, the glare seemed blinding to Harrison's sleepless eyes. He splashed cold water from the sink and then wiped off the slimy mix of perspiration and water from his face with a dingy towel hanging on the door. He leaned on the sink, feeling a sudden rush of nausea hit him and he vomited into it. The stench of it only gave him a blinding headache. He rinsed the sink and walked back to the bed. Though he felt the fatigue drape over him like the darkness draped the room, he couldn't lay back down. He was awake and was going to stay that way for who knew how long. It had been 48 hours since the world he had known for two years crumbled in a fiery explosion, talking with it two friends.

His thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door.

"Come in," Harrison said hoarsely.

John Kincaid walked in and had a genuine look of concern on his face. Harrison looked at him, feeling ambivalent about his presence. He had met Kincaid in the same span that he had lost Norton and Ironhorse and it didn't seem like an equitable exchange. He knew he wasn't being fair, but he couldn't help those feelings. He also didn't completely trust Kincaid though he had more than proven himself and in the end, lronhorse had trusted him to go and save the others. That should've been a vote of confidence, but it only left sorrow.

"You, okay, Harrison? I heard you yelling out the Colonel's name."

"I'm fine."

"You look like hell."

"Thanks," Harrison said sarcastically.

"Nightmares?"

Harrison didn't acknowledge one way or another, but Kincaid had a look of understanding on his face.

"I know the feeling," Kincaid said matter-of-factly, but in his eyes there betrayed a depth of that feeling.

"With Max?"

“Yeh, and others ...” Kincaid evaded, "Including lronhorse. Despite what he said that day, l owe everything to him."

"What's your history with him?" Harrison inquired.

"It's a long story," Kincaid evaded again.

"I've got time."

"You need sleep."

"You'll soon learn that my sleeping patterns aren't as structured as yours," Harrison joked, "Besides, I want to know ...Almost need to know, you know what I mean?"

"Yeh, I think I do," Kincaid pondered for a second, "I was in his Delta Squad. Max and I both were. He saved my life in more than one way."

"How'd you meet?"

"Max and I joined the army to escape an abusive father and an absent mother, but once we got in, we constantly fought the rules and regs. It's a wonder that we didn't get dishonorably discharged. I got thrown into the brig a couple of times. I met the Colonel on the shooting range one day. He watched me shoot and was impressed. He said he saw a potential in my skills and asked me if I wanted to join up in the elite team he was forming. For me, it was a way to get out of boot camp life so I said yes on the condition that he took Max too, which he agreed to. We got to talking and became friends, at least as much friends as a commanding officer could get with an enlisted man and he understood my past and my father. He helped me get through the hate. Anyway, that worked for a little while, but he knew that Max and I were never going to conform, not even for him and discharged us. I was angry at first, but he was right. I was born a mercenary. That day was the first time I had seen him since then. It was bittersweet. I have always respected him and I felt that I let him down ... again."

Kincaid became quiet. Recalling what had happened the last 48 hours and what it took away from him, gave him a stab of pain in his chest.

"You didn't let him down. There was nothing you could've done ... Nothing any of us could've done," Harrison said, though meekly without much conviction.

"Yeh, I wish I could believe that."

“Me too," Harrison said, "Kincaid?"

“Yeh?"

"I've got to go back."

"What? Where?" Kincaid said, wondering if he would ever get used to Harrison's quick shift of subjects.

"The cottage."

"No way, man. Those things know who we are. They could be there sifting through the wreckage for a clue to get to us."

"I know, but I have to go back."

"You're crazy! Why? It's not going to bring the dead back. I know, I've tried."

"It feels unfinished ... Call it a feeling ...or a way I can start accepting it, but I feel I have to go back in order to go forward again."

"Damn it, Harrison!" Kincaid cursed.

Harrison smiled.

"What's so funny?"

"Just remembering."

"What?"

"The Colonel seemed destined to take on the rebels of the world. You'll find me an equal match to your stubbornness."

"I'm beginning to understand how the Colonel felt with me."

"The revenge of living, Kincaid."

Kincaid paused and let out a breath of frustration.

"Okay, but I'm coming along to bring you back."

Harrison stiffened.

"What is it?"

"Nothing .... " Harrison said as he rubbed his forehead as if still nursing his headache, "Just a little deja-vu."

* * * *

"I don't believe I'm doing this. You people are going to drive me crazy," Kincaid cursed as he drove his custom built van.

"Suzanne, maybe you and Debi should've stayed. This is my problem."

"You're not the only one with some ghosts to exorcise. I think that we all need to face up to this."

"That the psychologist talking?" Harrison teasingly queried.

"That and the person too. I've been feeling .... "

"What?"

"Like something's not right....like I need to see the place again .... to say goodbye .... like there's something there .... "

"Something there to find?"

"Yes, something like that."

"I feel it too," Debi agreed.

"You're all a bunch of loons. How did I get myself into this?" Kincaid exclaimed.

"Just lucky, I guess," Harrison joked as they all shared a smile, even Kincaid. It was the first smile they allowed themselves since leaving the cottage.

The cottage was still smoldering in pockets even after two days, the embers dying out slowly. The sound of crackling wood still could be heard among the rubble. All the remnants that were their fond memories, were still a heap of broken glass, crumbled foundation, and ashes. It hadn't been a dream as they had hoped. It wasn't some awful nightmare that would soon end. The stark reality of it hit them all hard.

Harrison went towards the ruins. It was hard to distinguish what room had been the living room; what room had been lronhorse's office, his office, and the kitchen. It looked apocalyptic. He walked among the ruins, his heart tightening in his chest and his eyes stinging with the tears on the verge of flowing.

Suzanne felt the same eerie compulsion to walk within the skeletal remains of the house that she and Debi had called home for two years. Debi looked around her and spotted something in the distance that she recognized immediately despite its deformities caused by the explosion.

"Debi? What is it?" Suzanne asked, concerned.

Debi went over and picked up the doll that she had been clutching that night. An arm and a leg were gone and the body was charred in a lot of places, but the flaming red mohawk haircut was

still perched on the head and one of the bright eyes still remained.

"It's the doll that I gave him,' Debi said excitedly, "I was holding it when the other Colonel knocked on the door. I left it on his desk. Remember when I gave this to him, mom?"

Suzanne smiled as Debi smiled from a happy recollection of lronhorse. She didn't want Debi to ever think about the last time she had seen Ironhorse, even though it wasn't really him.

“Yes, I remember, honey."

"It was on his birthday. He really liked it. He laughed and he kissed me on the cheek," Debi's smile grew and broadened across her face.

"He loved it. He often picked it up to take his mind off of a tough day." Suzanne recalled.

"Can I keep it, mom?"

"Oh, I don't know, it's pretty beat up," Suzanne said, hesitant to let Debi have anything reminding her of that day.

"Please, mom. I want to remember that and the Colonel," Debi pleaded.

Suzanne looked into her pleading eyes and just nodded resignedly. She watched Debi hug the

doll and felt tears welling in her eyes.

Kincaid kept his distance. His own memories were of staring into the dead eyes of lronhorse, before leaving him behind, running out of the time-bombed house. It reminded him of another corpse; that of his brother's. For him, running away seemed to be what he did best. He turned his back on the rest of them and scanned the area for intruders; not just of the alien variety, but of anyone who might interrupt the almost ceremonial way Harrison and the others were dealing with their grief. Despite his reservations about it, he admired their strength to want to face those memories again and the memories of their friends. Someday he hoped that he would possess such a strength in dealing with Max's death. He lived with it, but he hadn't reconciled it yet and he knew that the explosion to come couldn't be avoided, but he still tried.

Harrison spotted something glittering in the hazy sunlight underneath some pilings and he bent down to look at what it was. The object was covered in ashes and he cleared it off carefully, brushing it like an archaeologist unearthing an ancient find. When he had cleaned it off enough to lift it out of the dirt, he read the inscription that was pressed into its aluminum face. It read, LT. COL. PAUL IRONHORSE. It was lronhorse's dogtag. Though it was scratched and bent, it still shimmered with a metallic sheen. Harrison held the tag in his hand and was suddenly overcome with emotions and the tears that he fought to hold back, wouldn't stay back. He squeezed it in his hand and let the tears flow freely.

"Why didn't I do something?!" Harrison questioned angrily, "I should've stopped you! Why didn't I say something? Why didn't I tell you so many things ..... Damn it, Paul, why?"

"Because there was nothing you could have done," said a frighteningly familiar voice from behind him as he felt a hand squeeze his shoulder in comfort.

Harrison froze and his tears stopped abruptly as well. He knew the voice and he was afraid to turn around. He was afraid he would find nothing and realize that he had taken that one step too far into the abyss of insanity ...or that he would see lronhorse there and …

"Paul? My God!" Suzanne gasped in horror and Debi dropped the doll she had been clutching.

Harrison then whipped around to stare into the tired, but comfortingly familiar face of Paul Ironhorse.

"My God, I've finally gone crazy. I'm hallucinating ... "

"Not unless Suzanne, Debi and Kincaid are sharing the same delusion," lronhorse said.

Though he was dressed in a uniform, it wasn't a human military uniform so it must've been an alien one. His eyes glowed of life, but Harrison was afraid it was of alien life.

"It can't be you, we all saw you ... The cottage ....You couldn't've survived that blast," Suzanne blurted incoherently.

"I know it's hard to believe, but --"

"You bet it is," Kincaid said, his gun trained on lronhorse, his denial strongest of the others.

"I'm the original lronhorse. The two you saw die in the cottage were both clones."

"How do we know you aren't a clone?" Kincaid countered.

"What do you mean they were both clones? I saw you in the chamber. Kincaid and I both did and we got you out of there. I can't believe you're the real lronhorse," Harrison insisted.

"I don't believe you are. The real Iron horse is dead. He died saving our lives which makes you an alien," Kincaid spat out angrily as he cocked the gun and aimed it at him.

"Kincaid, wait, don't," Harrison warned.

"You're not going to trust him, are you? He's gonna finish all of us off, Harrison," Kincaid said, trying to convince him. "Even if he were the real Ironhorse, he's been with the aliens too long. Even he can't be trusted. He's too much of a risk to us."

"Well, I see that all my training wasn't a complete waste of time after all," lronhorse said, smiling.

"He's right, you know. How can we trust you either way anymore even if what you've said is true? We'll never be able to know the truth. As much as we want to believe you and God knows, all of us want to believe that you are the real Ironhorse, there's just too much that we don't know. The cloning process creates human replicas and it has the ability to brainwash the clone. Humanity replaced by alien psychology."

Ironhorse tiredly nodded his head in agreement.

"I know that, Doctor, you forget, I wrote the book on security."

"There's never going to be enough proof to get us to trust you, at least not enough for me," Kincaid said.

"You always did have a hard time with trust, Kincaid," Ironhorse observed. "Would it be proof enough to tell you that I'm unarmed and don't intend to come back into your lives?"

Everyone was speechless.

"What do you mean?" Kincaid asked, "Why are you here then?"

"It's a total coincidence that we met here. I wanted to come back to say my own good byes to a life that ended that night as sure as dying would've ended it.. … I also wanted to say good bye to Norton ... I'm so sorry about Norton ... I'd give my life to bring him back," lronhorse said, as his throat choked with emotion.

“What happened?" Harrison asked.

Ironhorse walked through the carnage that was his past life and he, too, was shocked by the chaos around him and was filled with revulsion at the thought that he had been a part of it in any way.

"They made two clones of me. One to infiltrate the cottage and one to be found at the warehouse, as you did, to finish the job if the other one failed. I was kept in a cell for future use, if needed," Ironhorse said with distaste. "But, I realized with the second clone two very important flaws in their cloning process."

Ironhorse paused as he looked around him. Dizziness was overtaking him and he felt himself waver. Harrison quickly grabbed him before he could fall.

"Kincaid, help me get him into the van,” Harrison said.

Carrying lronhorse on their shoulders gave Harrison a second wave of deja-vu. They eased him down to sit on the edge of the floor of the van. The dizziness was fading slowly. lronhorse acknowledged that he was better with a wave of his hand. He took a deep breath to try and clear his mind.

"What were the flaws, Paul?" Suzanne asked, her apprehension replaced by curiosity.

"One of them was what the second clone said about being 'linked' --"

"How do you know what he said?" Kincaid asked in shocked disbelief.

"Because I was there."

"Hold it, wait a minute, because you were what?" Kincaid said incredulously.

"The clone is 'linked' to the original and vice versa so by killing the original or one of the clones, you kill all the other clones."

"But killing the clone doesn't harm the original?" Harrison asked in that fascinated tone of a scientist.

"No, in fact, killing the clones gives back the strength to the original."

"That still doesn't explain what you meant about being there." Kincaid insisted.

"The way I realized all this was through a .... I guess a psychic connection. It's the only way I can describe it. I saw myself moving as if I was there, seeing through the eyes of the second clone .... That's the other flaw. The original can control the clone."

"If that's true, why couldn't you stop the one who killed Norton?"

lronhorse grimaced at the accusation. It hurt him to think about being the instrument of Norton's death.

"The best explanation I can make is that the more clones they make, the more the original becomes a part of them. The first clone was furthest from me and the least controllable. Through the second clone, I was able to control its brainwashing and think through it with my own thoughts."

"And you knew to save Debi was to --" Suzanne uttered.

"Was to kill myself, metaphorically speaking," lronhorse said with a hint of a smile.

"Do the aliens know about the flaws?" Harrison asked.

"No, I don't think so. The cloning process is still experimental."

"How did you escape?" Kincaid inquired, his hold on the gun relaxed.

Though Kincaid still felt distrust for lronhorse, the more he talked to him, the more he wanted to believe and listen. He was secretly hoping that it was the real Iron horse.

"After the two clones were dead, I started regaining my strength. The cell wasn't locked because they felt I was too weak to escape. They hadn't realized what had happened. I knocked one of them out, put on the uniform, and walked out. I stole a car and then allowed myself to recover before coming here. I had to come back to the cottage. I had to say goodbye to the past."

Ironhorse stood up, unsteadily at first.

"I think it's time you left. The aliens might return."

"We're not leaving without you. I'm convinced that you're the real Ironhorse, at least I'm willing to take my chances trusting you," Harrison said. "We can be a team again."

"I appreciate what you're saying, but like I said, I wrote the book on security. I'm a security risk and I won't jeopardize your lives."

"How? If you're not an alien, the only way you could do that would be to betray us and I know that you won't do that," Harrison insisted.

''You don't know that and I can't be sure that the cloning process doesn't have any other long-term side effects that might endanger you. Norton's death was enough."

"But---"

"It's settled, Blackwood, end of discussion."

"Don't evade the issue by acting like a soldier, making decisions for us. We're not leaving without you," Harrison said forcefully, but choked on the last words.

lronhorse turned and looked into Harrison's steely blue eyes, his own eyes emblazoned with a conviction that had Harrison wavering in his.

"I think it's you who's evading, Doctor, because you are going to leave without me. You know I'm right only, as usual, you're too damn stubborn to face it. That life is over for all of us. You have to go on fighting the aliens with Kincaid ...and without me."

Harrison saw a clarity in Ironhorse's eyes that he couldn't deny and wouldn't deny. lronhorse knew that.

"Where will you go?" Suzanne asked.

"I hope to set-up another tactical base elsewhere. Maybe we'll meet again. I hope so. I haven't given up the fight. I'm just setting up a secondary line of defense. We can't win alone; one group of people against an army of aliens. I'm going to always be there. I'm a warrior. I know no other life, but for now it has to be independent of yours."

Debi had been listening to the conversation silently and patiently, but she went up to him and looked up at him.

"Will you forget me?" She asked.

lronhorse looked down at her. He bent down to look into her eyes. She was growing up, but inside her eyes lay a mirror that when you looked into them during times like these, there was a reflection of a little girl aching to have something she desperately wanted, which now, was a little reassurance.

"I'm never gonna forget you, Debi. I'm not going to forget any of you."

Ironhorse kissed her on the cheek and then hugged her hard against him as if her life alone could change everything. After they separated, lronhorse rose to walk to a dark car. It was black with blackened windows. He confronted each face and smiled.

"This isn't defeat. We've only lost a skirmish. You've got a war to fight and win and so do I. It was good working with you."

lronhorse turned and walked to the car. He climbed in and the others watched as he drove off, causing clouds of dust behind him, looking like a modern day Lone Ranger.

"Like the phoenix,” uttered Harrison.

“What?" Kincaid asked.

"From the flames, reborn to live again," Harrison said and turned to walk into the van "We've got work to do. people."

The others followed suit and they too drove off, leaving the past in its own dying flames. Never to be reborn again.



FIN - Thanks for reading!




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This was great! Poor Paul, and the other characters! That would be such a hard situation! I loved how you portrayed their grief, first over his "death" and then over his decision to stay out of their lives. Once again, amazing work!:)

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