While I wait like an anxious spider-monkey for the last few hours of my Kickstarter to end, why don’t I share with you another tidbit: chapter 2 from the last novel of The Push Chronicles, Incorruptible!
Chapter 2 Open
What hampered my plan more than anything was my lack of time sense. I would have to be ready to act at a moment’s notice. It’s not like I could unlock the manacles ahead of time; that would undoubtedly be noticed by my unseen guards. While I assumed Twister came in on a regular basis, I had no idea when exactly those times were. I drifted off to sleep on top of the key with the determination to pay close attention the next ‘day’, no matter how sick or hurt I felt.
I don’t know when I woke up. It could have been minutes, it could have been days. My head was clearer, but there was still the shudder of chills running through my body. Closing my eyes, I forced myself to think, to ignore the physical symptoms of the body, and reach that sublime state of focus that used to come so easily. It was the other gift the Whiteout made possible, the other sign that, while not Pushed, I and a few like me weren’t normal people anymore either.
What had been as simple as flipping a light-switch came only with all the willpower I could muster. Through the chills, I could feel sweat run down my trembling brow. However hard it was to summon and however fleeting it felt, the focus came all the same. Literally mind over matter, the pain, chills, and tension fell away, cataloged as the physiological symptoms they were, and all that was left was my own accelerated thoughts.
The very first question in my now-clear mind was if I could trust myself. Yes, time was urgent, but I couldn’t deny there was a strange thrill on overhearing the talk of medicine. Though my main area of expertise was physical therapy, I had studied the basics of drug rehabilitation. If Aziz was a real doctor, there was the promise of something to scratch that itch. I badly needed whatever he had to offer … part of me did, at any rate. Just the thought of the possibility of some relief brought on a terrible temptation to hold off a few days, even a week, just until I felt better.
Shoving that doubt aside, my next worry was if I could even get out of this cell. Assuming I could get the manacles off and subdue Twister (not a guarantee in my weakened state), could I get out before they simply closed off the chamber and used whatever safeguards were in place?
My mind wanted to ramble on to a host of other questions and problems, but I forced myself to stop. Nothing could be gained by open speculation. Though I would have loved to have a plan outside of ‘get out of here’, there just wasn’t any information to make that plan. At least seven days had passed during which the immediate outside world had been at the mercy of a small army of super-powered beings led by a virtual god (even if he was probably still recovering from the horrible beating I had given him). Anything … or nothing … could be different.
Letting my mind slip out of focus, I was almost overwhelmed as the illness and pain washed back in like a tidal wave. One hand clenched into the soft cot like a claw. The other, though, kept its grip on the key. All I could do now is wait.
“Alright, Indy, it’s meal time.” God, where had the time gone? It seemed like it was just moments ago when I had done my planning, little as it was. “Got your first round of meds too so chin up.” Twister’s voice was perked up a bit from yesterday. He didn’t even bother to remind me to take the prescribed position, though to be fair, I was mostly in it anyways.
As the pressurized door let out its familiar hiss, I licked my lips. A new flush of fever filled my head, trying to cloud out rational thought. I should just sit here, take the medicine, eat the food. Just one day more of recovery wouldn’t hurt, would it? It would take off enough of the edge to bust out of here feeling so much better tomorrow, right?
I wasn’t sure where the defiance came from. Maybe it never had left because that iron-willed core had saved me from the Whiteout and here it came again. Fever be damned and temptation be shunned, there wouldn’t be one more day of this. As my mind centered, I felt that familiar singing in my veins as endorphins and adrenaline rushed through me.
The door’s mechanical slide slowed to a crawl as my mind and body accelerated. It was just like old times except for all the alarms in my head. My body screamed, weakened by fever, inactivity, and detox. I ignored all of the protests. There wasn’t time to acknowledge them; it just added another layer of urgency to my mission as I pushed myself up and forward.
I was so slow compared to what I had been capable of, even accounting for the weight of the shackles on my ankles. There was no time to unlock them now, but I had enough speed to eat the distance from cot to door as it finished its slow slide. Twister had a look of shock on his face, even though he was certainly getting a radio feed into the earpiece I saw. At least my reflexes weren’t completely shot. Dr. Aziz looked even more surprised that the Crusader was; it was doubtful he had ever seen someone he thought was normal move so quickly, even if he was an agent sent by Brooks and Choi.
The temptation to use the chains on my wrists as a weapon against the people who had put me here was great but I avoided it. The thing about the Pushed is the physical empowerment everyone else saw, the outer shell of the superhuman, to me was just as unreal as anything else created by the Whiteout. Inside the rugged exterior that could have been pulled from a Western film, was the much older, but no less rugged, mortal man inside. A heavy chain might have hurt the superhuman shell, but it probably wouldn’t have taken him out.
My two fists, however, ducked past Twister’s guard and landed solidly into his chin, pushing through the phantasmal second skin like it was air. To my surprise, despite the crack I heard from his jaw and the busted lips, the lawman didn’t fall. God, how sick was I?
“Guards, she’s loose!” Leave it to the Pushed to give unnecessary exposition. Twister raised his hands as he staggered back, swirling winds instantly conjured up at his command around his body. To anyone else, they were an unbreachable barrier of tornado force gusts. Even at several feet away, the force was enough to hurl Aziz away. To me, it was just a mild breeze. I could have easily broken through and finished off the Crusader.
I didn’t, though. The doctor, blown back by Twister’s winds, was tumbling straight for the side of the airlock-style chamber right beyond my cell. More specifically, the hard, reinforced steel corner of the cell gate. He was a complete innocent in this and that impact, I knew, would be likely lethal. I had no choice as I abruptly stopped myself and shifted my weight, throwing myself to intercept the normal before his neck snapped.
Maybe I was only a shadow of my usual self, but that was fortunately more than enough to snatch the doctor before impact and turn us to cushion the fall. Aziz grunted in pain but seemed quite intact as I rolled though, clumsily coming up to my knees. As I tried to reorient and find Twister, my sluggishness bit me hard. I turned on a knee just in time to see that little white table that used to carry my food tray whipped at my head, a tremendous gust of wind behind it. In that brief moment of clarity before it hit me square in the chest, I had a strange surge of longing as the cup full of pills that had been sitting on the table flew wild around the airlock.
That longing passed as pain radiated out from my chest as the impact picked me up off my knees, throwing me against the hard steel wall. As quickly as it came, the pain was shut off by my supreme mental focus. It would make for a great bruise and maybe something was cracked, but I could still move and fight. I’d have to act fast though, before either more guards arrived or Twister found something far heavier to hurl at me.
At least the lawman wasn’t being stupid. Even as I pushed myself off the wall, grabbing the table in both hands, Twister gestured into the cell itself. The creak of wrenching metal filled the air from the room and I didn’t want to find out what he was pulling loose to throw at me next.
I threw the table at him as I sprinted. It was just meant as a distraction, buffeted away by the corona of wind around the Crusader, and it succeeded. Human instinct split his attention for just a moment. That moment was all I needed to throw myself at Twister, passing through the twisting shield and crashing straight into him. His head struck the floor violently but it was all of my weight dropping on his chest, his real chest, that made him cry out in pain.
With Twister’s concentration broken, the majority of the winds stopped, along with the tearing of steel. A quick scramble brought my knees up, pinning the Crusader’s shoulders to the ground. Raising up my fists, I looked down him. What did he see, I couldn’t help but wonder? A fellow hero straying from the proper path? A wild-eyed psycho who needed to be caged for the greater good? Or just a desperate woman with no choices left?
“Stand down,” I cried. “I don’t want to hurt you any more than I have to. Just let me go.”
“You know I can’t do that,” he said with a wheeze. “Anymore than you would if the -“
For the first time in these past months, I hated having to shut up a soliloquy, but I didn’t have time for it. I brought down my fists and Twister went limp under me. There was a moment of swelling panic when he seemed far too still, a moment drawn out by my own altered perception, but then, thankfully, came a shuddering breath. I hadn’t killed him.
The sound of movement behind me caught my attention. I turned to see Dr. Aziz picking himself up, looking dazed. Good, maybe he could help me out further than just the key he gave me. Speaking of the key, I went wide-eyed when I realized that it had been knocked out of my hands. I stood and spun to look around the room.
Aziz was rubbing what was probably now a sore back. The glint of metal at his feet was the key. I must have dropped it when I tackled him. Letting out a sigh of relief, expecting a pack of guards any moment, I called out to the doctor.
“Come on, Doctor,” I said, “we don’t have much time. Get the key and get me free quick!”
“Huh?” The man was still a bit dazed. “What key? What are you talking about?”
“The key you hid on me. Come on, Doc, it’s at your feet and -“
“I did no such thing!” His eyes settled on Twister’s unconscious form. “Dear God, did you kill him?”
“What?! No, of course not! I didn’t even want to -“
“I don’t care and I don’t want to know. I’m no party to this and I don’t want to be.” There was fear in his eyes. “I only want to do what I need to in order to go home to my family tonight.”
There was a moment as we stood there, looking at each other. He wasn’t sent here by anyone and he hadn’t slipped me the key, that was for sure. But …. no. There wasn’t time to think about it now. I could hear boots approaching.
“I’m sorry.” It was an empty apology. Oh, I meant it, but what good did it do him or anyone else really? I ran towards the doctor and he flinched away, no doubt expecting another assault. Instead I snatched up the key and ran on, out the exit of the airlock.
The hallway was plain cinder block with a fresh coat of white paint. It could have been in any windowless municipal building or correctional facility on the planet. There were two other similar heavy steel doors before the hallway turned on either end. Seeing no immediate guns or superpowers pointed at me, I fumbled with the key and the manacles, fingers shivering from the edges of the chill I was barely keeping at bay.
First the cuffs, then the shackles on my ankles, they hit the floor with a heavy clunk. It felt like it was forever since my limbs weren’t burdened by all of that metal. For the first time since this sudden escape attempt had started, there was a glimmer of a chance of success, at least if my body or my willpower didn’t fail me.
That moment of distraction, fighting my own stupid fingers, had been enough. I hadn’t heard those last heavy footfalls to either side of me and I certainly hadn’t seen the four guards, two on each side, make the last careful turn around the corner and aim their rifles.
“Indomitable,” came the shout that brought me back to the moment. Stupid Irene, I chided myself. “You will raise your hands above your head and surrender. Failure to do so will force us to use maximum force in taking you down.”
They certainly didn’t sound like your run-of-the-mill corrections officers. They weren’t Pushed either. Just what the hell had gone on in the past week? What the hell was I going to do? At my best, sure, I wouldn’t have been too worried. I could have fought my way out of this. In my current condition, though …
“You have three seconds to comply.” I couldn’t let them take me back in there. I would never get out.
“Three!” I made a show of slowly raising my hands, hoping to make them slow the count as I tried to think.
“Two!” So much for that. In desperation, I formed a crazy plan in my mind. I slid my right foot ever so slightly under the chain connecting the two open ankle cuffs.
“One!” The moment the spokesman said that, I pivoted and kicked, my foot catching the chain. As I snapped the kick off, the momentum sent the chain and cuffs flying. The crude missile smashed into the guardsman’s face mask, sending the man flying back with the sound of shattering plastic and pained screams.
The inhuman speed of the movement had startled the guards, giving me just a hair of a chance. I scooped up the other set of chains with one hand and swung them with an underhand toss, sending that pair arcing at the other guardsman on the leader’s side of the hall. I couldn’t spare the time to see if I even hit my target, instead turning to charge the other two gunmen.
“Shoot shoot shoot!” one of them ahead of me shouted. Without the burden of the shackles, I moved much quicker, though still not up to my best form. It was enough though. Before he could fully press his trigger, I was practically in his face. I wrenched the rifle aside and bullets fired wild down the hall. With a shove, I smashed the butt of his rifle, still gripped in both of his hands, down into his chest. The guard let out a pained wheeze and obligingly crumpled.
The other shooter though … I heard the loud report of his rifle. At so close a range, there was no chance I could possibly avoid a fatal hit. Just to add to the surprises this day was giving me, I had no such bullet wound sprout in my body.
The guardsman next to me hadn’t shot at me. He had shot down the hall, just as the man who I had missed with those cuffs had taken a bead on my head.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing, Dr. Roman?” the guardsman said. It wasn’t a voice I recognized, but the very fact he called me by my actual name spoke volumes. “This isn’t part of the plan!”