We Have Each Other
Jack stared up at the white rings and debris, and felt his knees buckle. He collapsed before the full breadth of what had happened could truly set in.
Aimless. Confused. Terrified. The entire purpose that had driven him for the past three years was gone. Humanity was gone. HUMANITY was GONE. Mission Control had gone, and the drones were dead – defective beyond repair – their fuel cells free for the taking. Earth belonged to the Scavs.
Vikka lost hope the sixth day after the TET had been destroyed. He'd tried to help her – to keep her spirits up. But the promise of Titan had been the only thing keeping her together for the last few weeks. Now that it was gone – now that everything was gone – she couldn't hold on.
She kissed him goodbye, watched him get into the ship and head off to scout for... something. Anything to explain what happened, find a drone that would work, anything. He'd gone out about six thousand feet, when her tearful voice came through the earpiece. "I love you, Jack. I'm sorry."
He knew. He turned the plane and sped back, but he wouldn't make it. He knew that. He made it within view of the tower in time to see her step off the side of the platform and fall straight down through the cloud line, beautiful and white like a falling snowflake.
An agonized cry wrenched through his chest. Vikka. Oh, God. His vision blurred, his hands began to shake, and he felt his chest heave in and out – deep, heavy, rasping breaths. He was alone.
Ten minutes later, Jack pulled out of his hover, turned the craft around, and headed straight for the radiation zone.
He flew aimlessly at first. He didn't expect to live long enough to choose a direction. But after twenty minutes, he began to feel confused. He was still alive. Why? How? Maybe he should just shut the plane down and free-fall like Vikka had. Maybe.
He flew on, unable to move his hand to the shut-off switch. He continued, no clear direction in mind – what direction could there be in the radiation zone? He flew low, looking for a Scav to kill, just to make himself feel a little better. Instead, he found a large, shallow valley, covered in green, lush grass, surrounded by trees. In the center was a lake – broad, sparkling in the sun, tiny waves shuddering across the surface.
It was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.
He lay back in the grass, breathed deeply and allowed his body to relax. His eyes drifted closed, and he listened to the gentle laps of the waves, the chirruping of the birds, the light rustle of wind in the nearby trees. In spite of all that had happened, Jack felt a deep, calming sense of absolute peace.
The novelty binoculars. The tiny piece of metal clasped in his hand – insignificant in size, but the key to all his happiness. Her warm smile. Butterflies in his stomach. But then, too soon, she was gone. Jack.
Jack started awake, disoriented and confused when he found himself staring at blue sky and branches, rather than the ceiling of Tower 16. Memories flooded back – the TET gone, Vikka gone – but Jack couldn't lose himself in sorrow just then. An aircraft was circling his little valley – an aircraft exactly like his own.
Jack's first reaction was one of hope. Maybe some of the humans had survived. Maybe they were searching for other survivors. But before he ran out and called up to the pilot, he remembered the enemy. The Scavs. Who's to say that they couldn't have gotten hold of one of their planes and decided to use it now that the skies were free of drones? There was voiceprint identification built in, but the Scavs could have forced one of their pilots to give the authorization.
Jack knew there was no point hiding. His aircraft would have been seen the moment the new pilot entered the valley. He sped to his craft and retrieved his weapon. When he'd first come here, he'd assumed that he wouldn't live very long, so there had been no need to hide the ship or keep a weapon with him. He was confused about the radiation (or lack thereof), but now, he no longer felt the despondency that had led him to the radiation zone. He was determined to stay alive.
He grabbed his laser rifle and waited beside his craft while the other ship touched down. It was marked with an orange "67" on the tail. He tensed as the craft's door opened, wishing he hadn't broken the last tele-sight in the house. Before Mission control could send replacements, the TET had been destroyed.
The pilot stepped out of the other craft, and Jack felt a brief moment of relief. Human. Male, dark hair, light skin, wearing a uniform like Jack's own, but that was all Jack could make out at that distance. The other man had his rifle at the ready, and Jack kept his up as well. Tech 67 slowly advanced, and Jack edged forward, too. He decided to make the first move – of sorts – inhibited as he was by the lack of a rifle scope. "Are you all right?" he called out. "Have you seen any Scavs?"
The other pilot froze – stopped dead in his tracks. Then suddenly, he raised his rifle higher, put the sight to his eye, apparently wanting a closer look at Jack. Jack tensed and raised his own weapon, edging around, moving slowly toward cover. The other pilot's scope dropped down and he froze again. Then he began to run toward Jack, weapon still up and at the ready.
Jack braced himself, and kept his rifle up as well, certain that the other technician would stand down soon. A moment later, the man got close enough for Jack to see him clearly without his scope. He gasped, and his stomach clenched.
"Drop your weapon!" The other pilot's voice came to him, sharp, angry, frightened. It was his voice. His face. The man was an exact replica of Jack, but Jack had no twins. No siblings at all. "Drop your weapon!" he screamed, now so close that he couldn't possibly have missed a shot. "NOW! Do it NOW!"
Jack slowly lowered his rifle, breathing fast and shallow. He pulled it off his shoulders and let it fall to the lush grass. He kept one hand up and pulled the handgun out of his leg holster, and dropped it on the ground as well. He put his hands up again, and looked hard at the double, trying to find some difference. They were absolutely identical, right down to the fear in their wide, hazel eyes. The only differences were superficial – Tech 67's hair was slightly lighter in places, as if it had been lightened by spending more time in the sun than Jack had. There were also three scratches on the other man's face, running down red and vivid, from his temple almost to his jaw.
"Who are you?" the technician snapped.
"I... I'm Jack Harper."
The other pilot gasped. Then he glared and gripped his weapon more tightly, moving another step toward Jack. "Who are you? Tell me the truth!"
Jack cringed, and kept his hands up, extending them forward a fraction. "I am." The other pilot powered his weapon, and Jack backed away, feeling a tightness in his gut like the feeling he got when one of the drones didn't recognize him right away. "Don't shoot. I'm Jack Harper, Tech One Six," he said quickly. He saw the other man's chest start to heave. Jack lowered his hands slightly – outstretched toward the other pilot. "It's okay," he said softly. "Who... who are you?"
The other technician swallowed, lowering his weapon a fraction of an inch. Jack's voice echoed back to him out of the double's mouth. "I'm Tech Six Seven. Jack Harper."