Sunday, November 15, 2009

NaNoWriMo '09, Chapter Fifteen: Welcome to the Winning Team

The below is a section of the novel that I wrote for National Novel Writing Month. It isn't a stand-alone story, and it's probably not worth your time to read. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000 word novel in a month so wordcount is valued above quality. This is a good thing, as it encourages people to actually finish a project. Nobody expects that the result will be ready for public consumption without heavy editing. If you want to read it for some reason you can view the whole thing in one place HERE although that's still totally unedited and terrible. You have been warned.

"Get down on your stomach and place your hands behind your head. Any attempt to resist will be met with lethal force!"
The freak is just standing there as if daring me to try something. He slips a cigarette into his mouth and a tiny spark leaps from one finger to light it. There are two of us and one of him, and he doesn't look concerned in the slightest. Oh, son of a bitch. I bet I know why. Stepping back so that Jesse will cover me, I pop my rifle open and… sure enough, where the firing pin should be there's just a blob of hardened epoxy. How the hell do they keep doing that? I haven't put my gun down since I cleaned it this morning.
I sling the rifle over my shoulder and signal for the Jesse to do the same. "Stand down."

What the hell are we even supposed to do in situations like this? My commander is going to rip me a new one, but it seems like five minutes after we hit the streets each day our weapons are sabotaged, and there's no way in hell I'm going to get into a fist fight with someone who can tazer me with his bare hands. I really don't know how those agents did it. I've talked to someone who helped organize their records, the agents neutralized about fifty freaks each year. We've killed ten and captured twenty in two months, and the ones we capture are always busted out within a day. We're losing. Worse, every time we kill one of them they kill exactly five of us - that's not counting any that died in combat. We can't go on like this anymore.
"I said stand down. Let him go." He's just looking at me like I'm insane. "They disabled our weapons. That's why he's just standing there, he's laughing at us. He wins this round, okay? Forget about it."

I can see Jessie is pissed. He's a hot head to begin with, and one of his friends was killed in an earlier skirmish with some freak that couldn't have been a day over fifteen - he grabbed Jesse's friend and froze him solid, then the guy fell over and shattered. Jesse found a slowly thawing ear clinging to his boot later. I'm not saying something like that shouldn't piss you off, and I'm not saying the freaks don't need to contained or controlled - clearly they're dangerous - but Jesse wants them to die slowly. I was deployed in Turkey a few years ago when they were making trouble, and once the cease fire was signed I ended up working alongside the freedom fighters. We all knew that a few days earlier we had been trying to murder each other, that we could be standing shoulder to shoulder with someone who had shot a friend, but… that's war. That's what happens. We just didn't talk about it.

Of course, there hasn't been any cease fire here and there won't be one any time soon. Still, Jesse needs to learn to blame some of this on the circumstances instead of taking revenge on each and every freak out there, or he's going to get himself killed. We're fighting them for the United Stares, not for personal satisfaction. Finally he nods and lowers his rifle. Good. Now if the freak will just take his victory and go without rubbing it in our faces I can work on getting the epoxy out of my rifle - though it will be back tomorrow anyway. The freak shrugs and turns to leave, and the second his back is turned Jesse lunges forward and swings with the butt of his rifle. He connects but it's not as solid a hit as he probably wanted and the freak is only knocked down, not knocked out.

There's a retina-searing flicker of electric blue as the freak lands and rolls over onto his back, pointing a hand at Jesse. At the last second I knock the lightning aside, grounding it in a fire hydrant - the freak can tell it was me, and he tries a direct shot next. I catch the bolt in both hands, where it pools and writhes around - it's like I'm holding a wild animal. I fling it back at him and score a direct hit - not surprisingly the electricity doesn't seem to hurt him, but his shirt is smoldering. He crab-crawls backwards before standing and running down the street, leaving his lit cigarette smoldering on the ground. I can feel the electricity everywhere else around me, in the power lines and running beneath the asphalt… in the stores and car batteries… even in the people.

"Get down on your stomach and place your hands behind your head. Any attempt to resist will be met with lethal force!"
It's Jessie, of course, and he's not joking. This is just starting to sink in… what the hell did I do? How can I feel the electricity flowing around me? It just feels so natural.
"Listen. I… I'm not one of them. That was something he did, something to make us fight. Okay? It was that freak, not me." He nods, but he's not buying it.
"Fine. Sure. So why don't you come with me and we'll test you back at the base. It says you're fine, then you're fine."
Shit. We both know what a test will say about me. I won't let them lock me up or kill me. I won't. I didn't ask for this, and I'm not a terrorist. Hell, I was here fighting these freaks.
"Jesse… I was trying to protect you."
"Get down on the ground."
"I'm not like them."
"On your stomach."

He swings with his rifle but I block, and lash out with… something. For just a second the electrical activity in his brain is scrambled, and he drops to the ground. For the first time I'm aware of everyone watching me, eyes peeking from behind closed curtains or cracked doors. They're all watching, and they all saw me take Jesse out. I don't even know what I did to him, not really. I can't promise I didn't just turn him into a vegetable. I drop my useless gun and my radio, and start walking. I don't know where to. I won't be able to go back to base, and I won't be able to go home. Ever. How long before the military walls off the whole city and starts hunting the freaks down for real? How long before they realize that's not working either and just bomb the place?

I thought this was hopeless before, with the freaks killing us off and escaping. Now I can see the real problem… they're going to keep coming, appearing out of the woodwork. What if one of the generals gains abilities? Will they sabotage everything to protect themselves? Would they be wrong to? I've been loyal to the military for five years, risking my life for my country. It's hard to give that thought up. Then again… I remember working alongside the Turks that I had been shooting at just hours before… sides change all the time. My commander gave a speech once, explaining why we were going into battle against a dictator that the United States had been funding up to a month prior. A man who had received training, supplies, and weapons from our military. I don't remember the whole speech, but the basic gist of it was clear: sometimes the situation changes, and it's not our responsibility to ask why. It is our responsibility to do what needs to be done for whatever side we are on.

So maybe that goes both ways?

I see one of them, watching me. I know it's a freak, because he broke through a roadblock I was at last week. He's big, muscular, with shaggy black hair and bugged-out eyes that make him look like he's having a staring contest with everything.
"Hey. Will you take a message to the other freaks?"
He smiles, still just watching me. It seems like he's not blinking. Finally his head tilts, just the barest shadow of a nod. That's probably the best I'm going to get. I pull out the pad of paper I keep in my pocket and start writing. I describe where the hidden sensors are, where the weak points of our base are, everything I can think of. I walk over and hand the paper over.

He looks at it, then at me. "Why should I trust you?" he says. In response, I point to the traffic light and short it out. He shrugs. Fine. How about this… I reach out, all around me, feeling again that steady pulse of electricity. I pull, one sharp swift yank, and hear bulbs and outlets in the nearby stores popping as a ball of liquid light swirls into existence in my hands. I palm it, like a basketball. Now the freak looks thoughtful.

I hear tires squealing, and a military jeep turns the corner. Jesse is in the back, and part of me is relieved that he's okay. The other part is actually a bit disappointed. The freak isn't running.
"G.I. Joe," he says, "Toss me that ball. Now."
As the people I joked with at mess last night train weapons at me, I throw the ball of electricity to the freak. He catches it in midair as he leaps out into the street, but instead of electrocuting him it just vanishes - at the same time some sort of massive black tentacle swings out of him and smashes down on the hood of the car, crumpling it in and making the soldiers lose their footing. I pull again, funneling the energy straight into the freak. More and more black lines are sprouting off of him, tearing the jeep to shreds and flinging guns aside.

The soldiers run, stumbling, and the freak laughs. He turns to face me, inky black appendages already fading into shadows, and nods once. Then he turns and walks away, leaving me by the ruined jeep. Just an hour ago I thought I was losing. Now I'm not so sure.