Olivia ripped the radio off the officer’s vest.
“I’m not going to fight you anymore, Major, don’t worry. I’m going to the tomb myself. You can call off whatever… this is.”
Dellucci scanned the room, catching eyes with the General who held a stoic look on his face.
“All units stand down. Let her through.”
The troopers didn't move, so Olivia marched up the road with the flutter of butterflies in her stomach, the surge of adrenaline in her veins. She had only made it a few steps when a voice rang out over the radios again.
“And Sergeant? ...Good luck in there…”
Olivia didn't break stride, she didn’t flinch; she crossed Michigan Avenue and didn’t look back.
From the outside, the tomb appeared just as such; a pyramid made up of layers of steel and concrete with a sealed door that leads to a winding corridor. Back in the war room, Major Dellucci suggested to the General that he use his security clearance to have the door remotely unlocked.
“She can’t do anything from the outside.” He pointed out, sharply.
The General’s demeanor suggested he didn’t want to admit Major Dellucci was right as he commandeered a computer to input his passcode.
Olivia approached the door and noted the small frame with red numbers illuminating, hovering in the air like a hologram. As she considered what her next move should be, the red numbers flashed green and the door shuttered. Olivia pushed and felt a slight give and shifted her weight, eventually leaning her shoulder into the massive door to force it to turn on its hinges. As soon as she had given herself enough space, Olivia slipped into the corridor. Small lights had been installed along the outside wall; they weren’t very bright and were placed too far apart, so that large shadows dominated the space. Still, it was enough for Olivia to navigate her way around the arch and into the center room.
What she saw, although similar to the video clips and photographs she had seen many times before, gave her a surreal, almost numbing sensation. The sphere, hovering in mid-air, completely motionless and silent above a puddle of liquid. It was the same scene that was left all though years ago when this spot was encased, and closed off to the rest of the world.
This is an impossible situation, Olivia thought. This is all a leap of faith; no way to know what move is the right move, or what could be the wrong one.
She had to tell herself to pick up her feet, taking a few steps to the right and peeking behind the sphere. There was nothing, there wasn’t going to be anything. Olivia was stalling.
It’s a common belief that a person’s life flashes in front of their eyes in the moments before death. Olivia considered the uncertainty in what she was about to do, and thought about what images she would want to see. She grew frustrated, realizing most everything she thought of; old friends, big life events, etc. only made her sad. She didn’t want to feel down or mournful so instead steered toward the one thing that could make her smile… Ella. Everything else in her head made her feel like she had lost someone or something and had to move on, but every second with Ella was irreplaceable.
Olivia came back to reality. It was dead quiet in the tomb. There was nothing more to be said, so she walked toward the liquid, stepping heel to toe so as not to disturb it. As she got close, Olivia slowly lifted her hand up and knelt down, her fingers, quivering, outstretched. She took one final stride, down to one knee, and touched the liquid with her ring and middle fingers. She got back to her feet and turned her palm over. The tips of her fingers resembled clear liquid that was slowly spreading down to the rest of her hand. It was as if she was being replaced by water.
Olivia examined the sphere to spot any indication of movement. When she returned her gaze back to her hand, the water had advanced to her forearm. She clenched her hand, trying to understand the sensation. It was like she was holding cold sand that was swirling around and through her skin. It crept up her shoulder, moving faster as it spread down her torso.
The liquid proceeded down her left leg, then the right, while crossing her chest and onto her other arm. Olivia was watching herself disappear into another form. With nowhere left to go, it began climbing up her neck. Olivia lifted her chin.
“This is it.” She said aloud.
She could feel the cold up the nape of her neck and around her jaw. Her body shuddered, forcing the oxygen from her lungs, whatever form they were in. Olivia looked to the ceiling, stretching as tall as she could make herself with all but her eyes and nose overtaken. The liquid didn’t let up; Olivia closed her eyes just before it enveloped them.
I’m still here, she thought. Strangely, all she could see was the black behind her eyelids. Olivia cracked her eyes open and focused them to find liquid all around her. To her, it appeared to be a domed room made of water. Brilliant light with prisms of color shone in all around. She looked down at herself, seemingly back to normal and, in front of her, stood a man with a familiar face. It was the same face she had seen her whole life, not a day of age had weathered him. It was Captain Reid... Olivia’s father.
Her face welled up while she fought off the enormous waves of emotion twisting and turning her insides.
“It’s good to see you.”
The words immediately calmed Olivia and a tear that hung on her cheek finally rolled off.
“I never heard your voice before.”
A slight smirk showed on his face. “I’ve heard yours this whole time.”
“How?” Olivia searched the room for answers. “How is that possible?”
“This place can show you things.”
“I don’t understand. What happened to you after you got shot?”
“I fell. When I sat up after landing flat on my back, I was in this place, not a scratch on me.”
It didn’t make any sense. Olivia had more questions than she could keep track of.
“What is this place?”
“I believe we’re in the sphere. Something about the liquid is the entrance. It’s also their technology, probably everything about their building blocks of life come from this stuff.”
“Wait. Whose technology?”
“Aliens.” He said, matter of factly. “I mean, who knows how the craft got here, maybe it was unmanned, on some sort of…”
“It’s extremely powerful stuff.” He pointed to the floor made of clear liquid the two were standing on. “I didn’t understand it at first, but then I realized it could be manipulated.”
He waved his hand and Olivia looked deep into the water. A figure began to take shape. It was Ella, except Olivia couldn’t see her directly. It was a feeling that washed over her and suddenly came into sight in her mind’s eye.
“Incredible. I can feel her.”
“Yes. You’re with her.”
The notion suddenly struck Olivia. “You’ve been able to do this?”
“It took some time, but I learned it.”
“I’ve been there, Olivia. The whole time.”
“Mother?” There was a tremor in her voice.
“I saw her light go out.” His head sank.
Something bothered Olivia about learning that her father was able to see her grow up. She tried to shake it, thinking she should be happy or at least relieved, but she dwelled on the disappointment she thought he must have felt. She followed in his footsteps by joining the military, but couldn’t fill his shoes, no matter how hard she tried. And she always imagined he would have wanted a stepson with some grandchildren running around; something that would have never come to fruition in a traditional sense with Olivia being gay.
“What’s the matter, Olivia?”
“I… I just want you to know I tried.”
“What do you mean? With what?”
“I know I’m not the daughter you wanted, but I tried my best.”
Olivia clenched her fists and began to cry. She felt helpless and vulnerable. That was when she felt her father put his arms around her.
“You have become the strongest person I’ve ever known. You’ve accomplished more than your mother or me. I couldn’t be more proud of you, Olivia.”
They hugged and, for the first time, Olivia felt whole. She had spent her entire life searching for answers, trying to live up to unimaginable expectations. She was finally at peace, and now, Captain Reid could be as well.
Their embrace was short lived when something struck Olivia all at once.
“You said the liquid on the ground was the entrance… So then, what’s the exit?”
He hesitated. “I… can get you out.”
“Will you have to stay here?”
“Does that mean you’re coming with me!?”
“Olivia, when that shot was fired, the bullet didn’t just hit me, it hit the liquid. It damaged the craft and tied me to it. Since I was in the middle of the transition, I was locked here, suspended in time.”
“I’ll come back, then. I’ll bring Ella!”
“I’m afraid this is the only time we can see each other.”
“What’s going to happen to you?”
“When you leave here, the sphere’s energy will be depleted… along with my own.”
“No! There’s got to be more to it! I’m not leaving until we find another way.”
“There’s no other way.”
Olivia fell to one knee and screamed through her teeth. Her father reasoned with her.
“Look at me. I haven’t aged. I haven’t been hungry, thirsty, or felt tired. I’ve been a prisoner here with the ability to do just one thing. I watched you become a woman.”
She shook her head. “No. You called out to me. You could do that.”
“It was time.” He cupped her hand. “Now it’s time for me to go. You’re saving me, Olivia.”
She nodded and they hugged once again.
“I love you, Dad.”
“I love you too.”
He stepped back and the liquid began to rise around Olivia’s feet. As it continued on, the two looked at one another, father and daughter, for the first and last time.
Olivia’s gaze turned to bright white, blinding her momentarily. When her sight returned, she found herself in the center room of the tomb. She looked on, waiting to see what might happen to the sphere. Just as she was turning away, it moved. For the first time in over twenty years, the sphere hovered upward at a slow but steady speed. When it got near the top, it paused, only for a moment, and took off almost faster than the eye could follow. It vaulted through the ceiling and raced upward through the sky. Olivia ran outside and looked up, catching it for the last seconds the sphere could be seen flying through the atmosphere. It was just a speck, and then it was gone. Gone forever.