“Move some more from the pile over there,” Jeff motioned up to the huge machine as the woman below him desperately clamped on to his sleeve.
“Don’t leave,” she managed to whisper through cracked lips.
“Don’t worry, this ain’t our first rodeo. We know what we’re doing.” Jeff pulled her out another few inches as the forklift moved a large pile of broken debris and hastily dumped it on top of a different pile. Immediately, there was a groan as the new pile shifted and buckled in on itself. It collapsed into what must have been the basement of the former building.
The woman’s eyes went wide and her pupils became unfocused, taking rapid, panting breaths.
“No, that’s fine,” Jeff looked between the new crater and where Steve sat driving the forklift. He tried to give his head one fervent shake through clenched teeth, then looked back at the woman. “That’s a great sign, the next part of the plan.” Jeff paused and looked around the landscape for a quick explanation. “Ventilation holes.” He cringed at his own lame answer. “It’s fine,” he whispered again.
Finally, with a burst of inspiration, Steve used the side of the forklift, wedged up against what may have been a car door at some point, to scrape an entire layer of garbage from the pile trapping the woman into the newly created hole. The weight lifted from the pile finally gave enough room for Jeff to pull her free. They both fell back onto the ground, panting.
The moment might have been awkward, with the two of them laying twisted in a pile, if the woman didn’t immediately start clawing, pushing, and kneeing Jeff in an attempt to get away from him.
“Just leave me alone,” she screamed, backing away and holding a piece of rebar she must have picked up while climbing over Jeff to freedom. She alternately swung it between Jeff, who still groaned on the ground making a feeble attempt to get up, and Steve, now descended from the forklift.
“We’re here to help,” Steve said, hands up in a gesture of peace. “We’re just a few guys with a forklift. We’ve been helping rescue people around the area.” The woman lowered the rebar a few inches but continued to back away.
“The word ‘hero’ gets thrown around a lot. Mainly by me. But by the textbook definition, yes, I’d say we’re heroes.” Steve moved slowly forward and veered towards Jeff while still keeping his eyes on the woman.
“We have doctors,” Jeff said as he groaned and rolled to his knees. “If you’ve been trapped under there since the last explosions, you have to be in shock by now. Probably suffering from dehydration as well.”
“I’m fine,” she said and moved in half a circle to put herself between the men and the empty forklift.
“No, wait,” Steve said with a side step to block the path to the forklift. “You are welcome to come with us for help or you are free to go out on your own. We’re not here to tell you what to do. Really, the only thing we’re going to object to is if you try to take our forklift.”
“You idiots,” the woman raged, throwing the rebar at Steve side-armed. He stepped deftly to the side as it clanged and fell a few yards past him. “You’re the ones doing this. All this,” she motioned at the wasteland surrounding them.
“What?” Steve asked, confused, but still cutting off the woman’s path to the forklift. “We’re just here to help.”
“Where did you get the power source for that thing?” she asked with a motion to the idled machine.
“We found it not far from the first blast site.”
The woman just shook her head and rubbed her temples. “That’s why we couldn’t fix any of this.”
“What are you talking about,” Jeff asked, finally on his feet.
“Ground zero for this whole disaster was a quantum laboratory working on a new type of power supply called the Mobius Core. A perpetual energy source meant to cure the world energy crisis. But everything went wrong, and it tore our universe into two. Each half was a perfect twin of the other, except yours is now in rubble.”
“I think you’d better come with us,” Jeff said with an extended arm. “I really think you’re in shock.”
“I’m not in shock,” she said, still moving towards the forklift. “I’m from the other universe. We’re trying to fix everything, but we can’t as long as you keep the Mobius Core running to power a forklift!”