Wednesday, November 25, 2009

NaNoWriMo '09, Chapter Twenty-Five: Walter Passes On

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.

It's a game of telephone, passing the message on from freak to freak. When I was a kid the danger was that someone would deliberately mangle the message. In this case, the risk is the same one that would come with real phone lines - it might be tapped. There are too many new freaks in the city, and no way to tell if any are working for the government. In addition to that, there's the added danger that the military is tracking our movements, letting us lead them right to the doorsteps of everyone we know.

Oh, and I think the gunshot wound in my leg is infected. Just to make this a perfect day.

When White came over from next door and told us the bad news we stepped into her room to discuss. We weren't sure how long we had before more soldiers would show up, but we didn't want to just scatter. I nearly had a heart attack when I walked in, though - Dave had Darryl laying on a bed with the Extractor clamped to his chest. My pulse slowed down a little when I saw the metal spike had been removed, but I still had to fight an instinctive urge to throw Dave aside and smash the Extractor into pieces. Something told me that would be a bad idea, despite how satisfying it sounded.

"I know what I'm doing," Dave said. "This is almost exactly like the Inducer that doctor Toht had back when… well, the point is that other than the power source being different this is a pretty familiar device."
Ike and his pal Joe had come in behind me and were staring. Dave must have realized he hadn't answered anything at all, and he shrugged. "I didn't get my ability like you guys. I got it before Disney, in a lab. From something like this. I helped them do it to other people too, because I can… fix it. It's hard to explain."
He hunkered down over it again, and then started typing on the tiny screen set into the back. Almost immediately he started swearing and hammering the buttons again, then slid off of the bed and sat on the floor panting.
"Okay, so I have some more bad news."

The plan, as it was explained to me, was to give Darryl a dose of Franklin's powers. His big limitation was that once he stopped time he had to head out on foot, and not only was it physically demanding for him but he had decided that spending all that time alone was messing with his head. If he could stop time and teleport, though, it would solve that problem as well as another one - he was sick with guilt over killing soldiers. He figured he would be able to just teleport them, one by one, to somewhere harmless but inconvenient. Maybe the top of a mesa in Monument Valley or something. That way he wouldn't be killing anyone but it would be such a colossal pain in the ass that something would have to give. He could also organize protests in an instant, move all of us to another city whenever things got hot, or - if push comes to shove - kidnap the President. Of course, that plan started to look shaky when Dave turned on the Extractor and saw… something. He's always been able to see things the rest of us can't; it's part of his power. He would get a buzz on sometimes and just lean back in his chair, watching the air over our heads. What he saw this time was some sort of spike in the… energy… of the room.

He said he was pretty sure whatever the military was using to track us would see it like a flare, and the Extractor would take at least an hour to use. I figured Dave would come up with a plan - Dave and Eddie seemed to be the two creative ones - but of all people it was Crazy Ike. The plan, not surprisingly, was crazy.
"It's not crazy," he said. "It's… well, crazy, sure. Whatever. But it will work. And we only need it for an hour, right? Look, my boy GI Joe here came into town with the army. He knows how they've been setting this stuff up."
We all backed away from Joe as soon as Ike said that. White slipped over to Dave so she could shield him, and I got ready to spin a blade out of ectoplasm. Dave… squinted.
"He's… he's legit. I can't vouch for him as far as character but he's got an actual power. Not a ringer or something."
The four of us all let our breath out at once, as Ike insisted that he could vouch for the guy. Apparently the two of them had been tearing up checkpoints for days. That meant Dave had no choice but to approve, because we were already on borrowed time. Darryl packed up that hideous crab-thing and vanished, Big Dave and White headed down to steal a car, Crazy Ike and GI Joe ran down the street, and I hobbled towards downtown.

I've passed the message on to five other freaks so far, and now I can see the door of the sixth and final one. The lockdown is mostly being obeyed in this neighborhood so I feel exposed even hiding in these bushes. Out in front of the house - a dingy little ranch style with a car rotting in the yard - there's a van that I don't like the looks of. It's sitting way too low, and even though it's dirty with patches of primer grey the tires are new and nothing looks dented or damaged. I'm guessing this means there are at least four freaks inside the building. If I knew which ones, or had any way of contacting them, this would be a lot easier.

I could try to envelop the entire van and suffocate them, but that might not work very well. I could try to sneak around the back of the house to warn whoever is inside, but the people in the van would almost certainly get me before I reached the door. I could leave. I don't really like any of these plans. I need a way to be in control, to have the element of surprise. A frontal assault would probably meet those criteria. Then again, it would also get me killed. I would prefer not to be killed.

A helicopter, nearly silent, sweeps overhead - I duck further into the bush as it float over the house for a moment. The hairs on the back of my neck stand on end for a moment and my cast goes all mushy - just for a second. That damn ability-draining gun. Of course. The doors of the van fly open and five soldiers pile out with guns at the ready. They're heading right for the front door and don't see me coming at a full run - using one of my own legs and one made from ectoplasm.

I grab the closest soldier as a shield and run another through just as the helicopter starts firing. They have to stop almost as soon as they start to avoid hitting their own men, and the noise must have alerted the freaks in the house even if they didn't feel their powers fail. If that chopper can use that thing again to disable me it's all over, so I'm counting on it having a recharge delay. I'm also counting on the soldiers not just shooting me through their friend, which isn't always a safe bet like you would hope.

Still, standing around does nothing but give them a chance to turn this around and kill me. I swing a whip at the next-closest soldier who manages to step clear, but I wrap it around the barrel of his rifle. Excellent. That's mine now. I pull, and - shit! One of the other two shoots and splatters the tentacle that was holding the rifle, while the other circles around behind me. No problem, I can do this. I lash out and clip one - not a killing blow, but it sends him onto his back. The one I'm holding as hostage is squirming, but I can't dedicate much attention to him right now. The helicopter is overhead, which can't be a good sign at all.

A worse sign is when the other soldiers throw themselves to the ground. I've missed something, I've left myself open somehow.


Shards of ectoplasm tear through my midsection and fly out the far side as I bounce along the asphalt. There's smoke in the air, but I can see one of the soldiers helping the one I had hostage up - the guy's hand looks mangled, and the back of his outfit is black. The son of a bitch managed to weasel a grenade between us and set it off. Most of the explosion went outwards, some was deflected by his armored jacket. My shirt was just cotton. Damn.

I'm watching them, waiting for one to come over and finish me off, when the bouncer from the Drowned Spider comes running out of the house with an aluminum baseball bat. The soldier turns at exactly the right time to catch the tip of the bat with his face instead of his helmet, and actually lifts up off of the ground. The world crawls in slow motion as he arcs up and back, droplets of blood trailing behind. I snake out a tendril, barely keeping it steady, and drag a rifle over as the bouncer rushes another guy and actually jabs his fingers Three Stooges-style into his eyes. Someone else raises a gun to shoot the bouncer in the back but I'm on it - I hose him down and then aim up at the chopper for a second before passing out.

I'm in the back seat of a car, with two people I don't recognize. The bouncer and one other guy is in the front. I'm not going to make it, I can tell. I can barely feel my body, and my vision is dark around the edges. Just one thing to do.
"Listen… Listen. They can find us in groups. Split up, no more than three at a time. Two to be safe. Pass this along to anyone else you know. In two hours there's going to be a blackout, and the military security systems are going to get sabotaged. You'll have maybe an hour. We're meeting where they can't find us. The only place. Dave will tell you what to do once you get there. Just… just get to Disneyland and everything will be okay."

Shame I'll be missing the show.