Monday, November 2, 2009

NaNoWriMo '09, Chapter Two: Fast Charlie Catches a Bus

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 need to remember the name Daryl Holst - assuming I survive my imminent collision with a city bus. The names of the other prisoners are ones we already know; Tamara Allen, Walter Schwarz… and probably that's all. All that are alive, anyway. I owe Daryl everything for getting me out of that hell-hole… I just hope he understands why I couldn't take him with me. I might be the fastest man alive, but I cut it pretty damn close on the way out.

They brought Daryl and I together because they had some theory that our powers are similar somehow and they wanted to use the Extractor on both of us at once. I had been holding out hope for so long that it almost seemed like a weight was lifted when they said that. A painful, horrifying death and then it would all be over. It's hard to believe that was less than fifteen minutes ago and now I'm praying to live. God damn bus.

When that scientist reached towards Daryl and then fell back screaming I wasn't sure what had happened - it seemed like the kid's head had blurred for just a second. There was a spray of blood as the guy fell and he flailed his arms trying to grab something - and the idiot caught hold of my IV. The second that tube ripped out of the port they had installed in me I started straining, trying to speed up. I knew it was the only chance I would get.

My metabolism is a mystery - there's no good reason for it to be any faster than anyone else's since my power appears to be magic anyway, but when I try I can crank it into overdrive. The drugs they keep in my system have a hard time countering that, they just hamper it some. That means that I had only cleared out one percent of my system when the scientist stood up, but by the time he lifted the IV pole it was two and when he slipped on the spilled liquid it was four. Eight as he stood again. Sixteen as he grabbed the hose and pulled my hospital gown aside. Thirty-two, his hands shaking as he tried to insert the tube again while I wiggled fast enough for the port to be just a blur and keep him from getting lined up. Sixty-four as he called for help that seemed to move like cold molasses. My system was suddenly clear - sadly that didn't do much for the restraints.

The bus is filling the entire front field of my vision now, and I can see the eyes of the bus driver stretching wide as he sees me coming. If this bus crash kills me I'm going to be pissed; it's a seriously stupid way to go. I look down at my wrists, like raw hamburger from my struggle with the restraints, and think that's probably what the rest of me will look like in a few minutes. I left the outer few layers of skin back in the lab with Darryl… and Tamara… and Walter. Now I'm starting to doubt myself, starting to wonder if I could have saved them.

When my hand pulled free help had nearly arrived, and as I undid the other straps I had to squirm around the thugs. I wanted to beat them to a pulp and burn the place to the ground, but the red emergency lights had already kicked on and I knew it would be less than a minute before it was too late. Could I have stayed? I would have been a bull in a china shop, if they had locked me in they still would have had trouble stopping me from destroying everything. Or would they? I still don't know how they caught me the first time, and you hear rumors about some sort of… stun ray, or something.

There were already thick metal blast doors sliding down from the ceiling, and I had to duck under them and run to make it to the next set, and the next, barely squeezing beneath the last ones before they sealed me in. I could feel myself speeding up, more every second, until I reached a pace I had never moved at before. Something about fighting against those drugs for the past month must have done something to me. I found myself on the freeway, running past cars like they were standing still, trying like mad to make it to the Drowned Spider.

I'm still not entirely sure what it was that got me. I looked up at a photo radar camera to flip it off as I triggered it, and right then something horrible happened - I think I hit a pothole. I must have been going ninety miles an hour, and as soon as my foot caught I was airborne. I launched into oncoming traffic right for this bus - this stupid, stupid bus - and something in my ability strained and fought and my brain started to go even faster than the rest of me.

And that's where I've been for the last five minutes, watching the front of a bus creep closer and closer. It's moving at a snail's pace, but I know that's just a trick of my perception. In the real world, to an outside observer, I'm moving ninety miles and hour and the bus is probably going sixty-five. Total impact speed? One hundred and fifty-five miles an hour - and I'm not wearing a helmet. I flapped and kicked at the air some, but it turns out all the super-speed in the world doesn't help when you're not touching the ground - it's like being a great gymnast in freefall from an airplane. Not a good chance you'll stick the landing.

In retrospect, I wonder if I maybe should have just picked up a phone and called, told them that I heard someone say Agent Black had ordered them to move in on the Spider. Phones are always tapped these days, all of them being monitored by super-smart voice recognition software and a massive team of humans to verify, but what would it matter? I wouldn't even have to try to talk in code, I'd just have to tell them to get the hell out. The bar was clearly compromised anyway. We'll have to meet at the Laughing Squid from now on I guess, or some other generic adjective-animal hole in the wall.

The bus is nearly close enough to touch, and I know what I have to do. Once I hit a patch of ice and slid, helpless, towards a building. I've lived in Los Angeles all my life, ice wasn't something I had a lot of experience with… that was the worst vacation ever. I thought I would be able to run up the wall I was headed towards but the angle was wrong and my leg punched through, nearly letting my crotch hit the jagged edge of the hole. This is similar, in a way, because if I try to grab the front of the bus and move myself it's likely to just put me in an awkward position as we connect. Instead, I extend my arms and lock my elbows so the impact will shatter them and absorb a little of it - hopefully without ripping my arms off entirely. I tilt my head at the best angle possible and hope that someone will hear about this, that Nurse Mary will find me and heal me.

Even my arms look like they're moving slow with my brain cranked up this high, but they're in position. With any luck I'll angle though the window and land on the seats, though I know that's not likely. One last step… I can't let myself screw this up, can't move my arms and make my head the first thing that hits. I say a quick apology to Darryl - and to the patrons of the Drowned Spider - and let the world catch up.