Thursday, November 26, 2009

NaNoWriMo '09, Chapter Twenty-Six: You've Just Knocked Out Power to Most of Southern California. What Are You Going to Do Now?

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.

The government never needed to wall off Disneyland; nobody would have dared to set foot in it anyway. I can see parts of it reaching up towards the clouds that blanket Anaheim even with Pudge gone, crooked black fingers like I would expect from a mix of Walter and Ike's powers. Actually, I should try that some time. For years I was embarrassed of my ability, embarrassed by the fact that I had used it to help the government. I almost never used it, and only a few times did I dare to try mixing powers. Now that they're looking to me as a leader I've done it more times than I can count - mostly just as a scientific interest, not even in combat. I told them I wanted to know my options, but in reality I was playing.

It's not a game anymore, not even a little. There's no time for me to relax, not a single second I can afford to be doing anything that's not focused on surviving. I need this plan to work. I need Darryl to be the one we've been waiting for, the one that can just… fix everything. Instantaneous teleportation - no violence, and no way to stop it. We'll even use it to solve some of the world's problems, make people see us as more than weapons. Sooner or later they'll come around. Emily and I will get married, and we'll raise kids in a world that… well, that maybe still fears us a little - I'm not expecting a miracle - but hopefully respects us, too.

Emily checks her watch. "Any time now, hon. Are you sure this is the place?"
I nod and continue pacing. This is the place, all right. Between Manchester Avenue and the I-5. I noticed the damaged area of wall six months ago but they haven't fixed it, just set up a camera nearby. Unless I'm confused we should end up on the tracks used by the little cars - just at the edge of Tomorrow Land. Over the center of the park I can just make out something like the aurora borealis, visible to only me. It's hypnotic. The light doesn't reflect off of anything, so the crumbling peak of the Matterhorn is black even when those waving ribbons of energy overlap it.

Suddenly the orange glow of the city lights winks out. There's a crash from across the way as the camera guarding our entrance drops to the ground in pieces. That would be Darryl. All through Los Angeles and the surrounding cities Ike's friends and a mob of normal humans are disabling scanning devices - and to make things more interesting GI Joe just crashed the closest power plant. Others hooked to the grid will try to compensate, but there were already rolling blackouts with everything working properly so I'm not expecting to see the street lights come back on today. They'll have to pick and choose where to investigate. If they pick Disney first we're screwed, but Joe and Ike seem to think they won't. It's not a "strategically important location". After all, what are we going to do? Trash the place?

I kiss Emily, and then think that was maybe the wrong thing to do. It feels like I was kissing her for luck, or in case we don't make it across the street. I need to be confident right now. This will work. It has to. We run across the street and the crack in the wall is right where I remembered. It's not a hole, but it makes an excellent hand-hold for us to climb up. I try to offer Emily a hand but she's up and over without any apparent effort. I start hauling myself up and immediately I'm sweating and cursing my fingers that pinch together in the crack. I really need to get in better shape if I'm going to make a habit of this. I come over the other side completely gracelessly, landing hard on my side and twisting my ankle. Smooth. Emily helps me up and we make our way down the hill onto the concrete tracks.

My ankle starts to feel better after a few steps, so it's not sprained. For the first time I really look around, and something is wrong. Everything is too perfect. The trees and bushes should be either dead or overgrown, but they're neither. I reach up to touch a branch and my hand sinks in - it's like jelly. I recoil but there's no residue left on me; even so, I feel like I need to wash my hand. We make it to the other side and climb out into Tomorrow Land, and the illusion of perfection vanishes. Here, everything looks burnt. Black, like the towers of the castle visible from outside. There are drifts of bodies in the corners, mounds of black with a few horrifyingly recognizable parts sticking out. I try not to look as we press on.

We reach the center and pass into the shadow of the castle. It's smaller than I remember. The space underneath it is cluttered with fallen beams and debris. We press through and past the carousel, to what looks like a blackened mouth gaping in a low hill. I'm not sure what it was before the incident, it really does look like it's rimmed with pointy teeth the size of my head. Well, maybe Emily's head. Curving past that in search of the place we agreed to meet something catches my eye and I point it out to Emily. "Hey. The happiest payphones on earth." She looks at me quizzically. Yeah, it sounded funnier in my head.

There's a shallow depression that looks like it might have been a lake at some point. A fish on a wheel sticks out of the ground - I guess it was meant to turn and look like the fish was jumping. I don't remember this part of the park at all. There's a circular hole in the hill on the other side of the dry pond, and as we scramble into it I see Darryl on the other side. He's staring at a stand of trees that are... preserved... like the ones we saw when we entered.
"Dave. Emily. Are you... ready to get started?" That's the million dollar question, for sure. I'm not, of course, but it doesn't seem likely that I ever will be. It's already been fifteen minutes since we hopped the wall, so hopefully everyone else that's coming is already inside. It might have been safer to keep everyone scattered, but if this doesn't work we'll need a new plan and we may not get another chance to coordinate.

"Darryl, the rumor is that most people don't live through this. They lose their minds, or have some sort of physical reaction to it. You understand? I can't promise that this won't kill you."
He smiles at me. "I trust you, David. Your plans always work out in the end."
"This... this was your plan. Not mine."
He looks confused for a second, and then waves at me dismissively. "Right, of course it was. But it's fine, it will all work out just fine."
I'm worried about him. He's aged noticeably since I met him, and he's been acting strangely. I don't know that he'll be able to handle having this kind of power. Then again, I don't think anyone could. I have to believe it's mostly just stress, and he'll be better once things are going our way again. Once this war is over.

I hear someone coming, and see a few friendly faces. None of them exactly heavy firepower, but every little bit helps. This spot sounded like a good idea, and it was for the three of us, but I'm realizing that with these others we'll be visible from the air - just what we wanted to avoid. Emily can see what I'm thinking.
"I've never been to Disney. Is there somewhere... underground?"
Oh, yes. As a matter of fact there is. "Everyone? To Pirates!"
We climb out of the hole and start walking again, and... wait. I turn and point out someone at random.
"You. What can you do?" She looks startled, and glances around to make sure it's her I'm talking to.
"Oh. I can turn water into acid. Just water though, it needs to be mostly pure. Can that help?"
It can't, which is perfect. "I need you to stay there in that hole and point any others that get here to Pirates of the Caribbean. Can you do that?"
She nods so fast it looks like her head is going to fall off.

The archway in front of Pirates is collapsed, as is the front of the building. I know there's another way in, though... I circle around the side to the Blue Bayou restaurant and find it largely intact. We head in and the scrawny bearded man behind me lifts up his hand. Cool blue light fills the room and we see that the water is all gone, leaving the track exposed. The track curves around and slopes down, and we follow it down some steps and past a boat filled with desiccated corpses. I'm tempted to stop the others from pilfering the fake gold coins as we pass them - it seems disrespectful somehow - but I let it go. Hell, I wanted those as a kid too. I climb up onto the platform and shove a pirate skeleton aside to clear a space on a bed that looks more than a little out of place in the fake cave. "Okay, Darryl. Lie down."

I busy myself with getting the Extractor ready as the others start setting up lookouts. I take a deep breath and start it up, seeing a swirl of energy blossom around it. Just a matter of time now, and… coaxing. I can see what's happening, inside Darryl and yet somewhere else entirely. It's like thread weaving itself into a pattern, and every so often it misses a stitch and I have to push it back into alignment. Emily is watching me closely, though there's not really anything for her to see.
"You've really done this before?"
I nod.
"What happened? How did you get away from them?"

Oh, the memories. "The one that destroyed this place… he hit the lab I was in first. He tore the place to pieces, killed almost everyone. At first, I was excited. I thought I would be able to escape in the confusion and be free, be just a normal kid again and forget the experiments they had done on me. I stood there staring at the ragged hole in the wall and I… I was too afraid. I was scared to be out on my own, and scared that I wouldn't be able to use my ability anymore. That I wouldn't get to feel that rush. And then agent Black got back, and… he told me to go for it. He told me to be brave, to run out of the lab and never look back. And that's what I did."