As fast as he could, Ángel raced back with the book. All during the calibration, he felt that something was wrong. It shouldn’t be this hard, he thought. He scanned through he pages, to see if there had been something they missed.
“Shit!” he yelled. “Cut the power! Cut it!”
Gabriel frantically slammed down all the switches. “It’s off!” he said.
Hesitantly, Ángel went to the main junction box. He tapped it cautiously with his screw driver, then began undoing it once he saw that it was safe.
“What are you doing, hijo?” Gabriel asked.
“Reversing the polarity!”
“Because we had it backwards. The colors should self calibrate if the first one is set just right.”
“Ángel listen, they’re coming! We don’t have time!”
But he didn’t listen and fiddled with a dozen different wires.
His mother looked on from the sidelines, crying. All their work, and it came to this. The rumbling grew louder. Everyone heard it. Thea kept on a brave face, but knew that they’d run out of ammo in no time with that thundering herd coming for them.
Ángel thought about all the times he wished he could play on the beach or in a park. And all the times he wished he could hang out at a mall or visit a museum. He thought about how his mother slaved for a family that treated her like she didn’t exist. He thought about the man trying his damnedest to kill him. Behind those sweat-drenched thoughts he walled off the world’s menace, just as he always had growing up, and concentrated on the wires in front of him. They became his only world. In time borrowed from some secret source, he figured out in what order they needed to be.
He startled Gabriel when he slammed the main panel shut again.
“Switch on!” Ángel cried.
Gabriel turned on the main power and the machine began to hum. First just a mild hum, but then it grew until it rivaled the sound of the oncoming apocalypse. Then it grew even louder. The ground began to tremble. Frantically, Gabriel tried to gain control. All the needles bent well into the red. Slowly he made the machine settled down, though it still produced a seismic rumble that caused loose pebbles to vibrate.
Thea walked up with her hands over her ears.
“Is it working, Ángel?”
“We’re about to find out, Grandmamma.”
She took hold of him, and looked as Gabriel turned a knob and flicked a lever. Dissonance farted from the flared tubes, but it soon settled into a musical pattern of low notes.
“My god, that’s it! That’s how the book described it!” Gabriel said.
“Fire!” Ángel cried.
Gabriel hit the red button, the first time it had ever been pressed. A thick stream of colored lights emanated from the tubes. Their convergence high in the sky above created a vortex from which emerged a soft wisp of white effervescence that got bigger and bigger. And bigger and bigger. And bigger and bigger still. The mother of all thunderheads loomed, just as the first of the armada of Harknesses breeched the horizon over Factory Block 5. Thea and Ángel moved away from Gabriel and the machine to be next to Lillian as she sat against the side of the building. The great show in the sky mesmerized them.
The cloud turned sharply from white to yellow. It grew a body. Its arms began to unfurl into a familiar shape.
“Mother! That’s it! That’s it, Mother, that’s it!” Lillian cried.
“I’ll be damned.”
For so long Thea had dismissed her Aunt Matilda as a kook with her story of the Harkness in the sky. Now she was seeing it with her own eyes. Its wings spread high above its head. Lightening bristled around its towering countenance. And its head appeared to glare down upon the Earth with vengeance in its glowing green eyes.
The lead helicopter hovered over the entrance to Factory Block 5. It started the familiar, demonic laugh before a strike.
“HA HA HA. . .”
But before it could finish the fourth HAA, a green bolt streaked across the sky and zapped it into flames. Pieces of it rained down upon the entry way. Before folks had a chance to cheer, more lightening bristled and loud claps of thunder sounded. Then all at once scores of thin, bright fingers wriggled in the sky, each touching a helicopter. All suffered the same fate as the first.
While folks took cover from the falling debris, Gabriel sat firmly in his seat and manipulated controls. As he did, rainbow rays of light rubbed the wings of the Harkness cloud. Each rub produced more sparks. The lightening stayed up high, 200 feet at least. The helicopters didn’t have a prayer. Those that escaped the wriggling fingers sped away. The attack failed.
“What the hell is that?” Flint said.
“What, indeed . . .” A-Five said, half dazed.
The cloud continued to grow under Gabriel’s stimulation. It now loomed miles into the air while still maintaining the likeness of a plastic Harkness Avenging Angel.
The music stopped at the rooftop party. A-Five swaggered around in time to see the guests who had been cheering his name moments earlier flee shrieking.
“Go on you pussies, run!” A-Five called at them angrily. “Fucking losers! I’m not afraid! I’m still the man, you hear me! I’m still the man!”
Flint fled, too, leaving A-Five alone as the menace grew closer to him, a swirling maelstrom of ball lightening made of a million threads. It hissed like a dynamo and glowered over the roof of the mansion, and the little man left standing on it.
A-Five turned to face it and smirked. His legs remained stationary in their wide stance, his jackbooted feet firmly planted. He raised his right hand into the air and gave the cloud a middle finger salute. Bad call. He looked so like a weathercock that the lightening could not resist responding in kind. A direct hit fried A-Five and took out half the Wallet mansion beneath his feet. His charred, lifeless body flopped next to the PR statue, which stood slanted among the ruins of the colonnade.
It began to rain. Torrents scoured the streets of Factory Block 5. Folks ceased running for cover. They danced, sang, and played in the water. Gabriel switched the machine off and hopped off his perch to join the celebration. He and Thea helped Lillian to her feet, while a sea of hands rose Ángel aloft and body surfed him through the crowd as they called out his name.
For the first time since the crisis began, Thea desperately wanted to watch a television. She was dying to know what the news would make of last night’s events. Too many people had to have seen the Harkness Angel cloud looming over the city and striking mansions in the hills for the news to ignore it and pretend like it didn’t happen. But the tried anyway.
“A disturbance?” Thea said. “Is that the best they can come up with?”
“It’s a start, Mother,” Lillian said, “it’s a start.”
In Europe, Douglas came excitedly into his Aileen’s room.
“Albertson is dead, Aileen! He’s dead.”
“Father or brother?”
“Brother. No one knows where Father is.”
Aileen smiled while sipping her tea. She didn’t have to worry about mother. She was just downstairs.
The European press was all over it. Press corps in Africa, Asian, Australia, and South America followed suit. Many declared that the event signaled the end of the strangle hold The Betters placed on American society. Though rationalists opined that the incident merely signaled change, to what degree they would not venture.
Folks began visiting Factory Block 5 like tourists. The machine was kept closely guarded, for fear of saboteurs, but folks were allowed brief glimpses of it. The plans for it buzzed throughout the scientific community. Dr. Hoost came back to life, years after her death in penal isolation. Old Dr. Spanner, who had faithfully republished her works many decades earlier, lived in a rest home in Dublin. The sudden attention he received gave him a good laugh. “We knew it worked!” he told the team of reporters who visited him.
Ángel got offers for full scholarships to go to whatever school he wanted. Harvard. MIT. NYU. Berkeley. Oxford. He didn’t know what to make of it.
“Momma,” he said, “I just want to go to the beach without worrying about getting shot at.”
She looked at her son and put her arms around him.
“We’ll see, Ángelito, we’ll see.”
© 2012, gar. All rights reserved.