Chapter One: Not a Good day to Die Hard
It all started with a text message. From Taylor Michaelis, to Erin Hartnell, and Harper Hagan. At least, that was what they all thought. It asked, “Who wants a movie night at my house?” The replies were “Yes” and “When”? The problem was: Taylor never sent such a text message. She did not even have the conversation on her phone. So when Harper and Erin arrived at Taylor’s house the following weekend, she was completely confused.
There was a knock at the front door that day. Her grandparents had gone out to a baseball game, and her parents were on a movie date to see Venom. Not knowing who could possibly be at the front door, she pretended she was calling out to a parent to let them know she was going to open the front door. When she got there, she saw through the side window that two of her friends were standing there in wait of her.
“Huh?” she wondered, opening the front door.
“Taylor!” Harper grinned. “You said you wanted to watch a movie?”
“Er, I did?” Taylor tilted her head to the side. “Are you sure? I don’t recall…”
Erin already had a dubious expression written on her dark face, “You don’t remember? That’s quite odd.”
“I’d remember sending a text message like that,” Taylor told her friends. “Er, well…I don’t want you guys to have come over here for nothing. I suppose I can throw in a few movies and start the popcorn machine. I have the downstairs TV all to myself.”
When Taylor opened the screen door, Harper and Erin both walked inside and kicked off their shoes in the hallway. Then, they followed her into the living room and glanced around.
“Just make yourselves at home. Can I get you guys something to drink? Tea? Water? Juice? Soda? Fireball whiskey? Irish whiskey?”
Harper laughed, “Not without your grandparents here. Water please.”
“Water,” Erin agreed.
“Alright my dudes, I’ll go get water,” Taylor nodded and walked into the kitchen.
As she pulled out two glasses from the cabinet and filled them with water, she heard a strange sound. Looking around, she did not find where the sound came from. Must’ve been the dryer settling, or a box of cereal falling over. Shrugging, she went back into the living room and set down the glasses of water.
“I’ll be back down from my room,” she told them. “What movie do you want? I have Rickman, Rickman, Rickman, and more Rickman.”
“No, that’s my parents’,” Taylor slumped her shoulders.
“Die Hard?” Harper wondered. “Or Dogma. I dunno, doll, you choose!”
“I think it’s time for Die Hard,” Taylor mused. “It’s not Christmas until we drop the Hans!”
“I don’t get it,” Erin muttered.
“You will after you see the movie,” Taylor grinned. “Don’t worry, your mom will never know!”
Dashing up the stairs, Taylor rushed to her room and grabbed a few DVDs off of her desk. With the movies in hand, she rushed back down and back into the living room.
“Die Hard!” she squeaked.
“You really love that and Dogma,” Erin commented.
“Well…yeah!!” Taylor grinned. “Of course! Why wouldn’t I? Alan fricking Rickman!”
“So there’s something suspicious about this,” Erin told her, ignoring her last comment. “I mean. If you don’t have the texts, then…is this a trap?”
“A trap…” Taylor repeated as she crouched in front of the Blu-Ray player and put the movie in. Another sound echoed in her ears. Glancing around, she attempted to look for where it came from. It was like a gurgling sound.
“If it’s a trap, then the question becomes what is the trap?” Harper asked.
As Taylor pressed the button for the Blu-Ray player to close, there was a sudden ‘yank’ on all of them. Directly from beside her. Like it came from the TV. All three of the friends exclaimed in surprise and fear as they were taken from the world as they knew it.
To Taylor’s surprise, she woke up inside a moving vehicle. She was on the floor, with her arms behind her head. The movement of the vehicle was smooth, and only the rumbling of the engine clued her into where she was. Feeling a prod in her side, she jumped. Jolting up, she glanced around and realized she was surrounded by strange men.
The closest man to her was blond, wore glasses, and had a sunken and pallid complexion. This must have been the person who prodded her in the side. Wincing, she shot a glare up at the man but if he caught the glare he did not respond.
“Hans?” the man asked.
“Hans…” Taylor repeated in a voice that was not her own. She touched her throat and blinking in disbelief. That voice was Alan Rickman’s, not hers. “What the fuck…”
“Hans, bist du in ordnug?” the man asked her in German.
Taylor wanted to say no, but she could not tell him that. She was the amazing, evil master-mind in the movie Die Hard: Hans Gruber. No, showing weakness could give her away. After searching for a proper response, she nodded.
“Ja, mir gehtes gut,” she forced the growl at him. Wait! She did not know German! How did she say that?
“Gut. Wir sind da,” the man told her.
There? Where was ‘there’? Wait, she was Hans Gruber and she was speaking German. ‘There’ must mean Nakatomi Plaza. Holy crap! She wanted to exclaim. Oh no…Scratching at her face, her fingers touched the coarse facial hair Alan had kept neatly groomed. It felt strange. In fact, everything felt strange to her. After all, she was in a male body rather than a female body. Her favorite actor’s body, to make things even more embarrassing for her.
Shaking from anxiety, she forced herself to stand up. Forgetting that Alan had injured his leg sometime before the shoot, she put so much weight on the leg standing up that she fell back down with a screech.
“SWEET METATRON,” she cried.
“Hans! Bist du in ordnug? Dein bein? Has du dein bein verletzt?” the blond asked.
“Nein, nein…” Taylor inhaled sharply. Alan, I love you to death…but holy shit I’m going to cry if I do this again. Standing up much more carefully this time, she gazed up as the back door opened.
“Let’s go,” she hissed in frustration. Not even through the first twenty minutes of the movie and she was sweating bullets from the agony.
The driver and another man, the men who opened the back of the truck, spun around on their heels and stalked away. Instinctively, she followed him as he led them around the building to get inside. A queer feeling bubbled in her stomach: excitement? Anxiety? Fear?
Pushing the odd feelings away, she led her men through the building and into an elevator. When the doors closed, Taylor caught herself admiring herself in the reflection. Alan Rickman. Except…Hans Gruber. What the hell happened? Although, Taylor could not help but feel really handsome. Suddenly, the doors opened.
She scowled: she had a job to do. That was not fun. Sighing, she ran inside and joined her team. Although, she wondered if Erin and Harper were there too. If they were, who were they? Was Erin scared? Was she okay? Was Harper okay? Taylor wished she knew. She already missed her friends.
As she unconsciously limped in the lead, she was tossed an item. When she caught it, she examined it. The guard’s master keys. Remembering the scene, she limped to the front doors and used the keys to lock it. She glanced out at the evening: a cool evening in Los freaking Angeles, she mused. A silent night indeed. Oh did Taylor want to bust out laughing at the jokes running through her mind. Anything to make this feel more real, but she could not indulge on her jokes. Instead, she turned around and found her team all in place. Impressed with their timing, she stalked towards the service elevator and pressed the button for the 30th floor.
Taylor stared at her reflection, heart racing. As they drew closer, she could hear their guns cocking out of sync. They were ready to shoot. She was not even close to ready for anything. Not when she was still confused.
When the car stopped and the doors opened, she nervously stepped out and the men began shooting. A painful cacophony of screams and machine guns rang in her ears and she winced hard, trying to avoid covering her ears. Oh did she want to cover her ears and start crying, but she resisted for the sake of playing the role. Luckily no one noticed she was wincing heavily, which meant she could keep the role up longer.
Curiosity ebbed in her mind: was Alan just as sensitive to sound as she was? Or, did the sound sensitivity just stick to her? There was not enough time to figure that out. The employees were being herded like sheep into the middle of the room. As Taylor scanned the people, she hoped she would find Harper or Erin, preferably both. Instead, she caught sight of the protagonist’s wife and the man in charge of the building.
The woman, Holly Gennero, blinked at Taylor. There was something about her gaze that was familiar…
Internally, she felt a tug to begin speaking. Recalling the scene in the movie, she could see Hans/Alan reach down into his blazer and pull out a notebook. The notebook! Glancing down, she reached her right hand into her left pocket inside the blazer and grasped for the small notebook. Once her hand touched it, she grabbed onto it and pulled it out. Then, she opened it up and read the semi-neat handwriting. After registering the words, she glanced up and spoke with her smooth and rich voice.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” she began quietly. Someone elbowed her in the ribs and she looked up. It was the blond guy. He whispered in a harsh voice for her to speak. Annoyed at her problems with talking normally, she spoke up louder. “Ladies and gentlemen!” Taylor realized her words came out slightly angrier than she had meant.
Embarrassed, she tried to move on before anyone caught it. “Due to the Nakatomi Corporation’s legacy of greed around the world, it is about to be taught a lesson on real power.” Taylor paused to calm herself back down. Her heart was pounding against her chest again. “You…will be witness. If your demands are not met, however…” Taylor inhaled. “You may become participants instead.” She checked Han’s notes. “Now where is Mister Takagi? Where is the man who…used to be in charge?” The words felt dry in her mouth.
There was a long pause. She caught the eye of Ms. Gennero again as she slapped away a man’s hand. Familiarity between the two grew. Was someone she actually knew Ms. Gennero? Before she could process her thoughts, Mr. Takagi was shoved towards her. He looked pretty worried but Taylor extended her hand and offered an uneasy smile.
“Mr. Takagi, how are you?” she greeted in a soft voice. “My name is Hans Gruber.”
Not unexpected, Takagi appeared confused and Taylor lifted her hand to wave towards an elevator. An armed escort led them to the elevator. Taylor glanced behind her at Ms. Gennero. Before she got into the elevator, Taylor saw the woman mouth: “Erin A. Hartnell.” An audible gasp left her mouth. That was Erin!
Before Taylor could mouth back her name, the elevator doors closed and they were being taken to the 33rd floor. Dammit! Taylor mouthed, coming out as a whistle. To keep questions away from her, she whistled part of Ode to Joy. A relaxed façade hid Taylor’s inner turmoil. I have to be dreaming, she thought, although her leg told her otherwise. She internally winced at the pain as she shifted the weight off of her leg. She glanced at Takagi and tried to start small talk with him.
“Nice suit,” she forced out, grasping for the lines in her head. “John Phillips…? London?”
Takagi stared at Taylor and she nodded at him. Hey, she was just about as confused as he was.
“I have two myself,” she remembered. The car stopped and they exited. “Rumor has it, Arafat shops there too.”
Taylor, Karl, Tony, and Takagi all walked into the conference room and into the board room floor. Annoyance built up inside of her: she had to keep playing her part, but she did not know when she could stop. She needed to get back to Erin and find Harper. A pang of anxiety shot through her: what if the henchmen figure out that she was not really Hans Gruber? Would they kill her? Honestly, Taylor did not want to know.
“And when Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept,” Taylor started. “For there were no worlds to conquer. That’s the benefit of a classical education.” She could only dream of a classical education. America 2010s versus Germany 1960s. If only American education did not suck!
Taylor walked over to the scale model bridge and truly began admiring it. Her attention to detail was that of a brick wall’s. She would have been lucky to even have the attention span for this kind of project. She smiled: if only she could.
“It’s absolutely beautiful,” she complimented Takagi. “I always enjoyed models as a little girl.” After getting a confused expression from Takagi, she felt the blood rush to her cheeks in embarrassment. “Er, a blunder. My apologies, I did not sleep very well last night. A little boy. The exactness, the attention to every conceivable detail, the perfect scaling. It’s perfection.”
Taylor’s heart pounded hard again. She was perhaps the worst liar she ever knew. She never did models as a little girl, but she was amazed by the detail. At least she had something going for her. Karl eyed her dubiously, but shook his head. Takagi stared at her.
“Is that what this is about? Our building project in Indonesia? Contrary to what you people believe; we’re going to develop the region rather than exploit it.”
Taylor straightened and glanced at Takagi.
“Oh, I know exactly what you were going for,” she assured him. “Ehm…I read it…in Forbes.” She forced a smile to her face.
Suddenly, she heard Karl whispering to Tony and she felt her heart jump. Suspicion was spreading. Taylor put a friendly arm around Takagi’s shoulders and guided him towards the board room. She leaned a bit close to him, but tried to pretend it was to use Takagi to walk.
“Takagi-san, whatever happens I really do not want to hurt you,” she whispered. Takagi peered at her, surprised. “I’m not Hans Gruber. I’m Taylor Michaelis. Something strange happened, and I am now in his body in an alternate universe. I promise, I don’t want to hurt you, but I have a role to play. But I’ll do everything I possibly can to avoid hurting or killing you. That is my main goal. Though, on second thought…they may try to kill me if they figure me out.”
“I don’t understand,” Takagi whispered back.
“Honestly, same,” Taylor agreed. “Please believe me, sir. I could never lie about something this serious.” In a louder voice, she added, “Mister Takagi, we could discuss industrialization or men’s fashions all day long, and honestly I would rather do that, but I’m afraid my associate, Mr. Theo, has some questions for you. Sort of…fill-in-the blanks, if you will.”
Out of courtesy, she gestured for him to enter the room. Mr. Takagi and Taylor both sauntered into the room. Anxiety made her heart pound hard against her chest. If it went any faster, she swore it would beat right out of her chest. Be still, my heart, she willed.
When Takagi final stopped before the table, Taylor took a seat. Tony and Karl continued whispering at each other, furiously glaring at Hans. Taylor could hear Karl trying not to scream, “Nein! Nein! Nein!” Everyone looked at them. Abashed, both men fell silent. Silence lingered as Mr. Takagi’s eyes fell upon Theo’s computer screen.
“I-I don’t have the code!” Takagi explained, looking at Taylor. He obviously understood she had a role to continue, and he had to keep going. “They broke in here to access our computer? Any information you lot can get—they’ll wake up in Tokyo in the morning and change it! You can’t!”
“Sit down, please,” Taylor urged gently, the adrenaline coursing through her yet again. No, Takagi-san, please don’t make me hurt you. I refuse to. Mr. Takagi sat down after thinking for a few moments.
“We…we’re not interested in your computer,” Taylor forced out. “The money—the $640 million, was it? Yes. Yes, we know full well about that. We need the code to access the vault, sir.”
“Something wrong with Hans?” Theo wondered.
“I’m not sure he’s really Hans…” Karl muttered.
Taylor ignored them, “So…?”
“You want money?” Takagi asked Theo. “What kind of terrorists are you?”
Taylor shook her head, “Not really terrorists…” Musing in her head, she thought, none of y’all have seen terrorists…travel to 2018 and you will see those fuckers everywhere. They’re called white supremacists…Oh, and the terrorists are also in the White House. “The code, Mister Takagi?”
“It’s useless to them! There’s seven safeguards to our vault, and the code key is only one of them. You could never get it open,” Mr. Takagi told her.
Feeling the henchmen’s eyes on her, she realized perhaps this was when she had to pull out the gun. Nervous, she reached for Han’s gun and pulled it out. Absentmindedly, she weighted the gun in her hand, “Well, I suppose that just means there isn’t a reason you can’t tell us. Please don’t make me shoot you.”
She could hear Karl mutter, “Hans should just kill him, now!”
“I don’t know it, Miss Michaelis!” Mr. Takagi caught himself too late. Taylor blinked in disbelief. “Er, Mr. Gruber!”
Taylor understood though. She was not mad at him.
“What did you call our boss?” Karl snarled.
“Mr. Gruber!” Takagi exclaimed.
“Fuck,” Taylor whispered.
“Kill him already!” Tony growled.
“If you’re Hans,” Karl sneered.
Taylor stared at the gun, pointed it at Takagi, but shot away from him with a wince. She felt the recoil travel up her arm, and a pressure fell over her ears from the deafening sound of her glock. Moments passed before the pressure dissipated.
“I don’t take orders from you, Karl,” Taylor sneered with a glare at the man. “Next time you order me around, I will kill you.”
“You’re not Hans,” Karl took Takagi by his shoulder. “If you won’t kill him, then I will.” He pointed his machine gun in Takagi’s back and Taylor sprung to her feet, landing heavily on the injured foot. Unconsciously, she gasped in pain and nearly buckled at her knees from the agony.
“Don’t hurt him!” Taylor inhaled sharply against the pain. “Don’t. He has nothing to do with this.”
Takagi looked at her, watching her wincing as she stood back up. When she caught his eye, he mouthed to her, “Leave me.” Horrified, she glanced up at Karl as he got ready to pull the trigger.
“GO!” Takagi snapped at her.
Just as Karl pulled the trigger, Taylor had spun around on her feet and hobbled out of the room. The deafening sound of the gun almost physically hurt her ears as she hurried. Her heart raced with her legs as they carried her to the emergency staircase.
“SHIT!” Karl raged in the background. “Get him!”
Taylor turned and shot at them as she ran. She backed right into the door and pushed it open with her back. The sound of it opening echoed around her as she backed into the stairwell. Once she was far enough in, the door slipped from her and slammed back close. Even though she was in the stairwell now, she remained vigilant and kept her back turned towards the stairs. Without realizing it, she backed up too far and fell backwards.
A loud scream escaped from her as she landed hard on the stairs and slid down to the bottom flight.
“FUCK!” she roared, but realized she was still alive and nothing seemed broken. Fear caused her to curl up away from the stairs so she could writhe there on the floor alone. Although perhaps she had not broken anything, she sure as hell must have broken a few blood vessels and hit her head. Writhing still, she placed both hands on the back of her head and pulled herself into a tighter ball. There was a throbbing in the back of her skull, most likely from the fall.
The door to the stairwell opened up and she heard Tony and Karl yelling in German at her. Before they could start running down the stairs to start beating up Taylor, there was a sudden sound of a fist smashing into a person’s face, then what could have been an elbow to the face? Maybe. And then the sound of a man crying out in agony. Did someone just get kneed in the groin? Hard to tell when Taylor had her back to what was going on.
After the bodies fell, there were footsteps rushing down the stairs towards Taylor. Her heart raced faster than it had in the past hour.
“Please don’t hurt me, please don’t hurt me…” she rasped.
“Taylor, it’s me,” a voice assured. “Harper.”
Rolling over onto her back, she saw the face of Bruce Willis, or as he is in the movie, John McClane. Except…her vision was blurred. But she could faintly make out his face.
“McClane…” she whispered.
“Nope, Harper,” he corrected.
“Harp…” the last two letters of his name silently crossed her lips.
This time, Taylor sat up and looked at the man who was claiming to be Harper. She turned her head but kept her gaze on him. Suspicion crossed her mind: nearly getting her ass kicked by Karl and Tony, she felt dubious of everybody at the moment. The man claiming to be Harper sighed heavily.
“Looks like you hit your head pretty hard,” he commented softly.
“How do I know you’re Harper?” Taylor asked, hesitant.
“Doll, I know you know Bruce Willis wouldn’t call another man ‘doll’,” Harper told her. “But, if you insist. We first met in third grade and you couldn’t remember your student id number so Miss Harris told me to go with you to the lunch line and get the number.”
Only a select few knew that story. Taylor nodded, realizing that he was truly Harper.
“Yeah, now you’ve got it, doll,” Harper nodded in patient agreement. “Is anything broken?”
“My pride,” Taylor winced. “Maybe cracked my skull. I think.” The initial adrenaline rush was fading, and pain throbbed in her side and her leg. Her initial assessment of the damage was wrong. “Side hurts—shit—and probably re-damaged my leg.”
“Why is your leg hurt?” Harper wondered.
“Tell you later, we need to find Erin,” Taylor forced herself into a sitting position and groaned. “Gods I’m old!”
Harper laughed, “I’m not sure Alan would appreciate you calling him old!”
“Quoth the raven, ‘bite me’!” Taylor retorted.
“Promises, promises,” Harper got under Taylor’s arm and grinned in amusement.
Taylor stood up with her partner’s help, “I think Erin is Mrs. McClane. So we need to find Mrs. McClane.”
“What does she look like? I forgot,” Harper asked.
“Typical 80’s perm, white skin but not alabaster like my pasty ass,” Taylor grunted as she put weight on her injured foot. “I think brown hair, might be about what my natural hair color is back in the real world.”
“Dirty blonde,” Harper corrected.
“Dirty blonde, yeah whatever,” Taylor grumbled.
“Well, let’s go find her. I didn’t kill the blond arschlochs; I just knocked them the hell out, so we need to get going,” Harper grabbed his friend’s hand and drug her back down the stairs.