Saturday, November 21, 2009

NaNoWriMo '09, Chapter Twenty-One: Plan 'H'

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.

I should have had more of a plan, but there was just no way to anticipate them shooting Michael. Nothing has ever hurt him. I acted on impulse, flew up and threw the soldiers out of the helicopter and then tried to take the controls. I thought I might be able to aim the crash; I knew I wouldn't be able to do much, but it seemed reasonable to think that I could at least point it away from my friends and then fly out the open door.

It turns out that helicopters can crash faster than they can fall. It's very sudden, and very disorienting. I flew for the opening as everything spun around me, and then just as I reached it the door frame seemed to lurch out at me and hit me on the head. Then there was the explosion, and people screaming, and a hood was pulled over my head. I pulled free and tried to fly away but went straight into the ground, and then they had me. At the base, when I heard the alarms, I knew that the others were coming to rescue me and I tried to stay calm but between the concussion and the memories of last time they had me locked up I could barely breathe.

They dragged us outside, Mary and I, and we watched in complete helplessness as Big Dave charged forward and was mowed down. It seemed so pointless. Eddie lunged out next and I had the briefest flash of everyone I knew running forward, one by one, to be killed. Eddie swung an arm, and Dave's body skidded along the concrete leaving a red smear behind him. That was when the guards started to howl. It wasn't screaming, it was this unnatural mournful noise that froze my spine. I looked down and Dave, barely breathing, was hanging onto Mary's outstretched foot. He had her by the big toe.

Her other bare foot had swung up to lay alongside the head of the one with the gun, the one that had been preparing to execute her. All three of the soldiers touching her were writhing, and the guards let go of her - she dropped to the ground, keeping her hands on them and balancing on the one foot Dave was clutching. The soldier's skin seemed to shimmer with sweat that ran red and then black as skin sloughed off in sheets. The howl turned into a gurgle and finally they collapsed on the ground, still twitching. The two that had me seemed to be frozen in terror, and as they snapped out of it Mary caught one by the hand. The other let go of me to draw his weapon, and I swung the edge of my hand as hard as I could at his throat.

I was rewarded with the horrible feeling of something giving way, and he fell too. I kicked the gun away from him just as two soldiers who had been shooting at a shell Walter had thrown up turned to fire on us. The very second they turned, Walter leapt through the shell like it was air and impaled both men on jagged amber spikes. It all happened in the space of a few seconds, with Mary's guards still dying noisily as Walter threw the others aside. Mary, meanwhile, was running to Eddie. I reached down to Dave and tried to help him up, but instead found myself on the ground with him. My head was absolutely killing me, and my legs were so tired - I can't really remember the last time I used them for this long. Dave stood and hauled me to my feet, and for a second I stood mesmerized by the bloody holes in his shirt. Talk about your close calls.

I looked around and saw that Mary was standing up, and Eddie… wasn't. Even from thirty feet away I can see that there was too much damage. So now I'm alive and Eddie is dead. I guess I need to focus on the present, get out of this place.

Walter runs off, vanishes down an alley between buildings. I start to fly after him but stumble - on air, on nothing - and bounce off of the concrete. Mary clucks her tongue and I feel a foot on my head, warm peaceful waves rippling through my body. It's like a lead veil has been pulled off. I drift up and look at Dave and Mary.
"Where the hell is Walter going?"
They clearly don't know. Even if I was willing to abandon Walter - which I'm not - I can't carry Dave and Mary at the same time. Or… maybe I can, but not high and not fast.

Dave tenses a second before I hear it - people are moving all around us. I can see them, crouching in doorways and lining up behind obstacles. There have to be thirty of them, all armed. They're taking it slow, making sure we're surrounded. As soon as we move we're going to be dead. Eddie just got himself killed so I could be free for about thirty seconds. Dave looks lost in thought, he's trying to come up with a plan I'm sure. Mary just looks tired. The soldiers, what I can see of them, look scared. Scared but determined. What are they waiting for?

A jeep rumbles forward, with… of course. They've brought that weapon that knocked out Michael's powers. They aren't taking any chances, they want us as weak as possible when they start shooting. Maybe I should try to fly while I still can; it's a suicide move for sure but so is staying, and if I'm carrying Mary there's a chance she can heal me as I get shot so that only a headshot will be a problem. Maybe. It's better odds than nothing.
The voice rings out from the edge of sight, and as people move to make way I see one of the most incredible things in the world. Walter and Rodriguez, carrying Lieutenant General Herman, mouthpiece of the actions in Los Angeles. Walter is doing all the carrying, and Rodriguez is following behind. They march right up to us, putting themselves and the Lieutenant General in the line of fire.

Rodriguez, that magnificent bastard, is holding a four way lug wrench through Lieutenant General Herman's head the same way he might pass his hand through a wall.
"Ladies and gentlemen of the United States Armed Forces," he says with a smirk, "I would like you to notice that I am holding something inside your fearless leader's head. If that device of yours works like I believe it does, firing it will guarantee that I am no longer able to pass through any solid objects. I assure you, the lug wrench will still be in his head. Do we understand each other?"

Guns are drooping slightly. Nobody wants to kill a high ranking officer. Or, more accurately if I know anything about how the world works, they very much want to kill a high ranking officer but don't want to be responsible for it. How long can we do this? Do we just walk out, with all these people following us, waiting for us to mess up or fall asleep? Something whispers, right in front of us.
"I'm so sorry, you guys." It's… Slim? "I'm usually passive, making people explain me away… forcing them all to see something so specific was just too much. Are you guys ready to get out of here?" The voice is coming from a reflection, form some dust, from an angle formed by cracks in the concrete that might look like a person if I squinted just right. Dave taps me on the shoulder.
"Tamara… can you provide some lift? Just as much as you can, I know you can't fly us all out."
The soldiers look confused, they're moving back and forth and tilting their heads. Slim must be shielding us all. We close in for a group hug, ectoplasm wrapping around us, and I try to lift. Nothing is happening, of course. Dave whispers again, calm and soothing.
"Walter… like we discussed. Go."

Tendrils of flattened ectoplasm, like streamers, reach out and start fluttering in the air. They begin to spin in a circle around us, around and down, twirling and vanishing and reappearing. I can feel something reach into my mind, and suddenly those translucent golden fronds are a part of me, extensions of my body. They lift, and flap, and spin, and my flight pushes from each and every one of them. And we're airborne. As the wind joins us the surface area shifts and turns like flaps and wings on a plane, and even with only a little thrust I find I can move us in and out of air currents and speed us along. The city races along below us and I start to steer towards the Squid.

I'm lowering down, planning to land us a few blocks away in case we're being tracked, when I feel a brick wall slam into me, pass through me and leave me hollow and cold as if my soul has been pulled out. The ectoplasm is gone, instantly, and we're falling. I don't have time to react before I hit a tree and a branch slaps hard into my solar plexus, knocking the breath out of me. I tip backwards and clip another branch on the way down, landing on my back in grass. I can already hear people yelling something - "They landed over there!"

Oh, lord, this just isn't going to end. I lift my head and look around, and can see the others sprawled nearby. We're in the park near the Squid. I can't fly, can barely move, but I crawl over to the others. Mary is up and helping Slim to his feet, when the stuttering bark of assault rifles shatter the relative silence and both of them jerk around for a moment before tumbling down in a bloody heap. Not Mary. Anyone but her. The soldiers are charging closer and I drop prone. I can see Dave rolling behind the trunk of a tree. Walter runs in a crouch for a few feet before a spray of red erupts from his arm and he falls. I can feel a strange tingle somewhere deep inside me that might be my ability returning, but it's not fast enough. I won't make it.

The soldiers are here, bursting through the trees, and as they pull the triggers bullets ricochet off of thin air. Emily White steps out of the trees with a look of absolute fury on her face, and something happens that I've never seen her do before - that she probably never knew she was capable of. The barely visible wall of force curves away from her, sending the bouncing bullets back towards their source. The soldiers yell and stop firing, but Emily keeps going. The field becomes easier to see as it flickers blue, encasing a soldier for an instant before vanishing and appearing around another. Each one falls to the ground, crushed. She's screaming at them, cursing, and as the last soldier tries to run he bounces off of the air in front of him and turns just in time to see Emily pick up a rifle and hold down the trigger.

Now I can see she's crying. She turns towards me and, swallowing to keep back sobs, asks me, "Where is his body?"
I don't know who she's talking about. Slim's body is here, but Emily barely knows him. She wouldn't even know about the Lieutenant General - still laying at an awkward angle with his head propped up by the lug wrench. Suddenly she stops, staring, as Dave stands up and starts walking towards her. They meet in the middle at a full run, and nearly crush each other in a hug that doesn't seem to be ending any time soon.