Friday, November 13, 2009

NaNoWriMo '09, Chapter Thirteen: Answers and Questions

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.

"Quite the mess, agent Ferris." Agent Black pauses the video and advances the frame until that horrifying purple-white bar of lightning, easily five feet across, is frozen on the screen. You can't even see Eddie inside of it. Further down, twisted black spikes are tearing out of the walls, all the way to the ground. They're as dark as the lightning is bright, matte black in a way that plays havoc with your depth perception.
"That," agent Black says, "Is Crazy Ike."
There's no way Ike made it into the compound without us knowing, and I tell Black that. In response he throws one of the few photographs of Ike down in front of me - there's no resemblance to Eddie, but his hand is over a candle and directly opposite the spot where the flame is touching his palm a crooked black line is snaking up from the back of his hand.

"I thought of that trick with Ike and the lightning, you know." Black says it almost to himself, then looks at me and smiles. "Not this time. Years ago, I was working on a threat assessment." He seems to be in a good mood, even with headquarters a pile of rubble. I haven't dealt with him much, but at least when he was briefing me for the hit on the Drowned Spider he didn’t seem to be so cheerful. He was serious, professional… he messed with agent Barker and Director Doyt, played dumb or egged them on, but in every other way he was just what you would expect from a high-level government agent.

Now… something is wrong. He's very nearly giddy. As if on cue, the smile drops from his face. "Of course, you know this means David is alive."
He must mean Big Dave. I shake my head. "No, I saw him killed. I told you, there was a shootout in Mexico."
"Oh? You saw it? You mean that you actually saw him get shot, checked his pulse, something like that?"
This doesn't look good for me. How did I word it in my report? Did I make it clear that I didn't see him actually dead? Black can tell I'm trying to think, and he laughs.
"Don't worry too much, Ferris. Eddie is a con man, you aren't the first he's tricked."
"Dave wasn't there." I know it's true. It was nobody but Eddie.

Without a word, Black flips to one of the other tapes, the one of Doyt interviewing Eddie. Doyt asks if Eddie knows that he's surrounded, and Eddie replies… I take the remote from Black, rewind the video and turn the volume up. I can just make out what Eddie says. White. Things are starting to fall into place.
"Who… is Rodriguez?"
Black pulls a file out. Very thin, it clearly doesn't have any verified data in it. "Regular at the Drowned Spider. He can phase through walls. As far as I can tell, Eddie must have linked with Dave in a way that allowed them to stay connected even when they split up. Dave gathered up a bunch of the other patrons of the Spider, and gave Eddie access to whatever power he needed at the moment. A mix of his telekinesis and White's force fields to slice Barker in half and knock down the walls. Rodriguez to drop through the floor and stay ahead of the guards. Ike to channel the lightning… he had to have been
nervous, I'm sure Ike never tried to handle anything that powerful before. But it worked."

He sounds almost proud . I can see why Doyt wanted me to look into him. He's been with the program since before Disneyland, but nobody seems to know anything about him. This soft spot for the freaks is disturbing to see - I had heard that he once let White slip through his fingers, but it was hard to believe when he was talking about taking Franklin down at all costs. Now it's all too easy. Of course, without Doyt around I won't have the authority to research him anymore. Not that I would even know where to start. He's looking at the footage of the rooftop again, squinting and using the zoom until the whole screen is just a pixilated mess.
"That's Tamara Allen, isn't it?"
"Yes. She was seen carrying Eddie away… there were two other prisoners with her, Walter Schwarz and a John Doe. Both unaccounted for."

Black tells me to sort through the footage and find where the John Doe and Schwarz went, but my code won't work to bring up the lab footage and before I can try the surrounding hallways the door slams open and the entire United States military swarms in. It's a storm of frantic motion, orbiting around one stationary man. He's got three stars on his shoulder, a Lieutenant General. Black doesn't look surprised or concerned.
"Well Ferris," he says, "Looks like this is out of my hands."
He steps forward and shakes the Lieutenant General's hand, and someone is called over to look at some sort of list. I can only hear bits and pieces, it sounds like Black isn't on the official agent list and that's causing some sort of confusion. Black takes a few steps back so that he's closer to me, and start to fish around in his pockets.
"Don't worry, sir. I don't want to complicate an already difficult situation. I'll just give my security credentials to agent Ferris here and be on my way."

He presses his badge into my hand and walks right out the door, whistling. The new arrivals are ignoring me, pushing past and boxing up files. I know I'm going to be sent away - I'm not cleared for field work until the director finishes reviewing the reports of the strike on the Drowned Spider, and since there doesn't seem to be a director anymore I'm probably not going to be seeing field work for a very long time. Likewise, from the way the army is gathering all of our files up I don't think that they want me behind a desk. In fact, I guess there aren't very many desks left anyway. I duck out into the hall and nobody tries to stop me or question me.

I find a terminal and sit down - maybe there's something I can do to help even if they won't ask me for it. All of the hard copy files that weren't in the main building are in the room behind me, being boxed up, but the file servers were always offsite and so I might e able to access something there. I log in, but they've cut me off entirely. I can get to the research database, but any search query comes back with no results. I'm about to give up when I remember the access code Doyt gave me to dig up dirt on agent Black. If they were smart they would have found it and disabled it with the others, but…

Full access. For now.

I bring up Big Dave's file and it's got more in it than I've seen before. I must not have had clearance for some of this. There are notes from scientists, from some agent named Mackey, and from agent Black. There's full notes on the use of the Inducer on him - one of only two tests that gave a full strength ability rather than some fitful parlor trick. I follow onwards to the data about the incident at Disney… Doyt never should have given me clearance for this. There are still areas where the data is withheld, of course. All I have for the origin of the Disney Freak is rumor. Everyone agreed that he wasn't made by our lab, but freaks didn't occur in nature back then so he was created somewhere.

Wait… this says that Black was on location at Disney when the incident happened. Maybe he was outside the park itself? No… the first responders found him inside, the only survivor. But how? I follow back to Black's file and start looking. It starts at around the same time as the Inducer project, with nothing on his background. From the communications on file he seems to have had a strong understanding of the freaks before they really existed. He also seemed particularly interested in Dave, even before his abilities manifested in any useful way. Could it be a coincidence that the one test subject he seemed attached to was the first to develop real powers?

There's too much to sort through, and most of it is worthless. Page after page of dry paperwork. A photograph catches my eye, and I feel a rushing in my ears as I look at it. This can't be happening. How could nobody have seen this? Black's agenda still seems like a mystery, but one thing is clear: he knew how to make abilities take hold. Dave was no coincidence. If he knew that, where did he learn it? That seems to lead right into the question of how he survived the holocaust at Disney… did the attacker recognize him? And maybe most disturbing… If they knew each other and Black survived, what about the Disney Freak? Is he still out there somewhere?

Even with this photograph I have more questions than answers, and I can't move on Black while he's still being protected by someone political. For now… I'll take advantage of having no job and I'll dig deep into Black's life. I will find out who he is and what he knows about Disney. I can't stop looking at the picture - it's agent Black, sixteen years ago. He must be about thirty-five - a few years older than David is now, skinnier, different hair… but the resemblance is uncanny, and I can't help but notice Dave's file doesn't have any information on his father.