Authors: Kailin Gow
“Dr. Troy Florence. I’m a neurologist. My team was doing research that could have helped everyone, but now… they’re loose!”
Dr. Florence shakes his head. “Not what. Who. We thought we were advancing humanity, but things changed so rapidly. The solar… event must have done something to the experiments.”
“Do they look like they’re part lizard?” I ask.
“No. Nothing like that. They look human. But they aren’t. They can do things that no human could ever do. They can manipulate energy in ways that are unbelievable… I know how mad this must sound.”
“It doesn’t sound mad,” I assure him. C asan>Or at least no madder than the rest of my life. “Now tell me more.”
“Some of them must have been overwhelmed by the effects of the solar energy. They’re… insane. Aggressive. They’ve killed people, and others of their kind. I saw them
people. They burned people with the power of the sun, and I still don’t even know how they did it.”
“Can they be stopped?” I ask. “Will bullets stop them?”
Dr. Florence looks like he doesn’t know how to respond to that. “They’re still human. Tougher, stronger… but still human shaped. I
that a bullet would stop one, or maybe several bullets, but you aren’t seriously considering…”
I point to the stand of trees. “There’s a helicopter hidden behind those trees. On it, you’ll find food and supplies. If you know how to use a weapon, you should find those there too.” There’s more shouting from inside the main building. “Right now, I have to go help the man I love, and if you can’t help me, then you need to keep out of the way. Stay on the helicopter until I come, understood?”
Dr. Florence nods. “Who are you?” he asks. “You have helicopters, weapons… are you with the government?”
I think about Wilson Hammond being handed the presidency. Then I think about my own presidency, so far in the future now. “That’s pretty complicated. We don’t have the time.”
“At least tell me your name.”
“I’m called Celestra. Celestra Caine. Now go. Head for the helicopter.”
He turns to go. I un-holster one of the pistols I got from Jack. I’ve seen him shoot with one in either hand, but I guess that without practice, this is better. I just hope that it will be enough. No, I can’t think like that. I have to believe that this will work.
I sprint over to the main building, not knowing far too many things. I still don’t know how many people there are in there, or how dangerous they are. I just know that Jack is in trouble, and I have to help.
sprint towards the building, my gun coming up as a figure streaks towards me from inside, almost faster than the eye can follow. That figure twists away from my line of fire and a hand comes up to keep the pistol pointed in the other direction. As my reflexes let me think again, I see Jack standing there, looking like he’s been in a fight.
“Celes, I thought you were heading to the helicopter? Come on, we need to go. Run.”
I start to ask why, but then I see them. They look so ordinary, a man and a woman, with pale, almost grey hair, dressed in dark jumpsuits. They’re moving slowly at the moment, and they seem almost like they’re asleep, even though their eyes are wide open and staring at us with obvious hatred. There’s something about those eyes, too. Something blank and almost empty.
“Go get them,” the man says, in a flat monotone.
“I am. You get them.”
“How about if no one does anything to anyone?” I suggest. I don’t raise my gun again, but Jack levels his. “We don’t mean you any harm.”
The man laughs, taking another step forward. “You think we’re going to believe that. We know what you are. Both of you. You’re the
that burn people up.”
“You mean you aren’t?” I ask. We saw the flashes from above. Dr. Florence
us that people were being burned, yet these two are right. They don’t look anything like they might burn things.
“We’re not,” the woman puts in, “but you are. We can tell. And you have to be stopped.”
I raise my gun. “I don’t want to hurt you, but if you come any closer, I’ll shoot. Now, who are you? What are you?”
?” the man demands. He looks at the woman, like it’s some kind of joke I don’t get.
“Who are you?” I repeat.
“Celes,” Jack says, interrupting. “There’s no time to talk. Things are getting too dangerous here.”
e="+0" fac"justify"> Jack nods tightly. “We need to get out of here. We need to leave
I hear the urgency in his voice and start to back away, but it’s too late. I hear the whir of rotor blades, and a second later a large, black helicopter with multiple weapon systems hanging from it is hovering over the compound. A voice booms from it, amplified through speakers. It’s unmistakable. Wilson Hammond speaks down to us, his voice carrying easily over the whole space.
“Celes. Jack. There you are. I was starting to wonder where you might have gone after you escaped my shelter. It’s good to see that you got through the apocalypse okay. Of course, you might not like what happens next so much, but it isn’t like I care what you think. Good work in finding them, you two.”
That’s obviously directed at the man and the woman on the ground. They work for Hammond? The woman takes a step forward and I kick her back.
“Run!” Jack yells.
We do, but with the helicopter hanging over us, we don’t dare run for our own transport. Instead, we sprint with Jack firing seemingly blind behind us, heading for the nearest of the buildings, the one with the largely glass front. There’s a roar above us and the ground nearby is churned up by gunfire. The helicopter is attacking!
We sprint for the safety of the building, and I find myself wondering if it really will be safe. What if Wilson Hammond’s helicopter has rockets? What if we go in there and he brings the building down around us? I’m still thinking that when Jack shoves me through the door, turning to send a burst of gunfire back at the helicopter.
He jams the door shut and reaches forward to pluck a grenade from my belt. With him so close, it’s easy to think about him doing so many other things, and I find myself wondering how I can think that way about him even in the middle of being attacked?
Jack pulls the pin on the grenade, wedging it into the door handle, then he takes me by the arm, pulling me deeper into the building, down empty corridors.
“We need to get away from here before they decide to break in.”
We move into a room that looks the same as any of the others from the outside. Inside, this one has overturned tables and chairs, a selection of shattered glassware that was probably used in experiments, and a few noticeboards with information about safety procedures. I wonder if they have anything suitable for
? There’s also a small window in one corner, obviously there to let in more light.
There’s a boom somewhere b Km spluck aehind us. Jack’s grenade trap going off.
“Has it-” I begin, but Jack puts a finger to my lips, pulling me down behind the nearest of the upturned tables. He’s just in time. I can hear footsteps approaching, and angry voices. The man and the woman from before.
“We’ll get them,” the man says. “Now that we know who they are, they aren’t getting away. Even if they do, they’ll be public enemy number one.”
“We have to find them first,” the woman replies. “Find them and take them down without them burning us. Honestly, I don’t see why
like that get to live.”
“They don’t,” the man points out, and I hear him working the slide on a gun. “Not much longer at least.”
“Yes, yes. Very macho, but where exactly do you think they’re going to be?”
“We’d find them if you’d shut up.”
Maybe it’s the fact that I have to stay still through all of this, but I find myself concentrating more and more on just how uncomfortable it is, being stuck down behind a table. I know I can’t move, but crouching here, it’s hard to do anything else. I shift slightly, not much, just enough so that I can see them, because I can’t stay still
not see people who might be out to kill me.
I find myself staring straight into the dead eyes of the woman.
! What are you waiting for?”
Jack’s on his feet in an instant, sending a burst of automatic fire in their direction. Shots fly back at us, punching holes in the table, sending shards of wood flying.
“This isn’t good cover,” Jack says, pulling me deeper into the room, behind more tables and chairs. “Bullets go through wood. Even with it concealing us, eventually…”
More shots ring out, punctuating his point. Jack returns fire. I do the same, not able to see where I’m aiming, but anything that makes these people keep back from the doorway has to be a good thing.
“We’re boxed in,” Jack says.
I shake my head, pointing silently to the window in the corner. It’s a little off the ground, but if we grab one of the overturned desks to stand on, it should give us another way out. The only problem is that anyone climbing through it is going to be pretty exposed. Ketturned
Jack nods. “Okay,” he says. “I’ll cover your escape. Make it to the helicopter and don’t look back.”
I slap his arm. “Why is that
your answer to situations like this? Are you trying to get rid of me?”
“I’m serious, Jack. We both go or we don’t go at all.”
“How?” Jack shoots back, while simultaneously… well, shooting back.
I point to the door. “Do you think they’re going to want to walk into another grenade trap? Come on, we need to push them back to the door.”
“Celes.” Jack’s voice drops to a whisper. “We don’t have any more grenades with us. Unless you have one?”
“The point is that they don’t
that,” I whisper back. “If we can close the door, what do you think they’re going to think?”
Jack nods and grabs hold of the nearest table. I grab it with him and we shoot over the top, forcing our way forward. It isn’t much of a shield, but I guess it’s mostly a question of having
between us and the bullets heading our way, just so that we can bring ourselves to keep moving forward. I fire whenever I see a hand or a head sticking out around the cover of the door.
Jack reaches out, grabbing the door and slamming it shut. He wedges it with a chair while I grab another, clambering up onto a table to smash the window. I try to get as much of the glass as I can, but even so, I know it isn’t going to be comfortable climbing through it.
“Get through,” I tell Jack, on the basis that he’s bigger than me. If he won’t fit, then we’ll have to find another way. Maybe I can blow a hole in the wall with my power. It looks like I don’t have to though because Jack is up on the table in two running steps, leaping through smoothly. “Show off.”
I climb through more cautiously, turning and firing back as I hear the door give way. Jack pulls me through the window, then lifts his submachine gun high to spray the room with bullets.
“Run!” he yells. I don’t need him to tell me twice. The trees are just a little way away, and we run for them, putting them between us and the bullets that start to come fizzing past us.
“We need to get to the helicopter!” I yell, pausing to fire back Kto the windowthrough the trees. Hopefully, the two trying to kill us won’t be too quick to follow if they think that there are bullets headed their way.
We run from tree to tree, while ahead of us I can hear the sound of rotor blades spinning up to speed. I think of Dr. Florence in the helicopter. Does he know how to fly one? I hope not, because if he does, Jack and I are about to be stranded.
We run for the helicopter, making it there while the scientist is wrestling with the controls, trying to make something happen. I leap into the back, while Jack shoves Dr. Florence aside in the driver’s seat.
“Sorry, but we don’t have enough time for you to learn to fly. Strap in, because here we go. I just hope Hammond got bored with that helicopter of his.”
I strap myself in quickly, grabbing more ammunition while I do it and reloading my gun. I fire as figures start to appear on the edge of the trees. Then we’re airborne, and we don’t have to worry about them anymore. Just about attack choppers. Thankfully though, there doesn’t seem to be any sign of Hammond’s.
“I’m sorry,” Dr. Florence says, “I was just so frightened…”
“You were lucky,” I say. “Do you even know how to fly a helicopter?”
The scientist shakes his head.
“Look at what Jack has to do to work it. Three sets of controls. If you’d gotten off the ground, you would have crashed.”
“Yes,” Dr. Florence says, suddenly flustered. “I see. I… I’m sorry.”
“That doesn’t matter now,” Jack says. “What matters is that we continue on to Location Thirteen.”
I nod, and we start on our way. And if there’s a black speck on the very edge of the horizon, I don’t pay it much attention.