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Weird – Michael

Dee swooped into gracefully towards the balcony, flipping backwards and spreading her wings wide to catch the wind and landed with a gentle thump on the narrow balcony. I followed after her, flaring my wings far too early, feeling my stomach lurch and back flapped furiously, realising too late that I’d horrendously overcompensated and went smashing ignominiously into the wall.

“We still need to work on those landings don’t we?” Dee asked with a sigh, as I peeled myself off the side of the house.

“Just a little,” I admitted, wincing as I folded my wings. “Out of curiosity would telekinesis help with that?”

“Depends how good you are at it,” she said, shrugging. “With me it’s fairly useless unless I’m actually touching what I want to affect, or have been practicing loads. I’ve no idea what you might be able to do though,” she admitted.

“And they’ll be okay, ‘unlocking’ me?” I asked hesitantly, dropping my voice slightly with the unfamiliar word. I didn’t like that term, it felt just… creepy for some reason.

“You’ll be fine,” she assured me, leading the way around the building. “And with any luck Dat wont have specifically forbidden them to do this.”

“Err, what do you mean by spec…” I began, concernedly but Dee cut me off.

“Here we go,” she said brightly, swinging open the front door and pushing me inside. “Welcome to the weirdness.”

I staggered as I crossed the threshold and then looked around the building stunned. Despite being almost as big as the council chamber it was jammed with thousands of near incomprehensible pieces of technology, most seemingly placed to block as much light as possible and make the place feel like a cave, complete with an unnatural chill. Something I didn’t think possible in a building thirty feet off the ground

One segment was smothered with dozens of sheets of blast glass, some as big as me, hanging from the ceiling but curiously there was a thick block of lead nestled against the back wall, plus a huge pile of sand for no apparent reason. Another slice of the building seemed to be devoted to intricate pipe work, all stainless steel but apparently without a seam, and also without a purpose, as it didn’t seem to be attached to anything. Models of machinery lay everywhere, some hung from the ceiling, others rested on one of the hundred shelves and none of them I even recognised. Well, I thought I saw a steam engine but my experience with telekinesis told me it could just as easily be fusion powered.

The rest of the room was crammed with work desks, rolled scrolls; a small printing press and what looked like an electrolysis cell nestled in the back. Amidst all this chaos two identical girls sat on opposite ends of a table, concentrating intently on a bowl of dirt. Both looked round in the same instant as I stumbled over my own feet and winced sheepishly.

“Michael, I presume?” the one on the left asked, rising to her feet and fixing me with piercing eyes as Dee stepped up next to me.

“Um… I,” I stammered, her stare completely derailing my train of thought. If the faint indigo glow around her pupils wasn’t disconcerting enough she seemed to be looking through me, focusing on a point about three inches behind my eyes.

“Yeah it’s him,” Dee announced brightly, slapping me on the shoulder and almost sending me flying. Obviously she wasn’t put off by the icy stare. “Sorry, he’s usually more articulate than this. Michael this is Taimi,” she said pointing to the girl staring at me. “And Tima.” She pointed to the other girl who’d gone back to looking at the dirt.

“Taimi,” the girl concentrating on the dirt corrected.

“Tima,” said the other, who still hadn’t looked away from me.

“Whoops,” Dee whispered and I grinned softly.

“While visitors are always nice,” Tima began slowly. “I am curious as to why you are here.”

“Oh, no reason,” Dee said evasively, looking around the room, feigning interest. “Just popping in to say, ‘hi’. Swap stories… Maybe get Michael unlocked.”

“As we were specifically asked by Dat not to do?” she asked loftily, wandering over to a row of tools.

“Ah,” Dee said, visibly deflating. “So no chance of…?”

“No,” Taimi said resolutely, accepting a Geiger counter from Tima without looking up.  It was decidedly odd how Tima had gone and gotten that without being asked but I’ve learnt to stop asking about such things. ‘It just does’ is generally the best answer I can get from most people.

“How about you ‘accidentally’ tell me how to do it?” Dee suggested hopefully.

“You can’t anyway,” Taimi pointed out. “Not unless you’ve got deep object perception now.”

The frozen smile on Dee’s face told me that she didn’t even know what that was.

“What are you guys doing anyway?” I asked after a moment’s uneasy silence, as Tima waved the counter over the box of dirt.

“Trying to figure out why the count rate drops when you perceive the dirt,” Taimi explained. I think she used ‘perceive’ in different sense than I was used to, but just what she meant is another one of the mysteries of psychics.

“It’s something we noticed a few weeks ago,” she continued. “When anyone else takes the reading it’s about eight but when we do it’s about three.”

“Um,” I began hesitantly. “Isn’t eight a little high?”

“It’s about thirty in some of the cities,” Dee hissed. “It’s actually pretty low around here. And don’t even ask about the places that got really flattened.”

“That’s not really the point though,” Tima interjected. “The point is the sample doesn’t behave as normal when we’re around and this breaks several known laws of physics. Plus some basic laws of mathematics.”

“I thought that happened with most of the stuff you did,” I said. Foolishly as it turned out.

“We are not breaking physics,” Taimi said, steely voiced and setting the Geiger counter down angrily. “Logic maybe, but none of the fundamental laws are broken, there’s no extra mass, every action has its reaction and everything still behaves exactly as it should. We’re just affecting the world in a non human manner.”

I edged away slightly; self preservation was telling me these weren’t the people to annoy.

“Yet you say this invalidates physics?” Dee asked brightly and Taimi scowled at her.

“Well, probability,” Tima growled. “And only technically.”

“Any idea why?” I asked her, hopefully trying to steer the conversation to safer ground.

Tima rolled her eyes.

“Not a clue,” Taimi admitted. It was getting seriously disconcerting that they were answering seemingly at random but I reckoned it would be rude to ask if they were reading each others minds.

“It’s not even constant between people,” she continued. “Heck, nothing seems constant between people. Watch.” The Geiger counter lifted into the air slowly, clicking every so often.

“But if Dee tries it…” Tima began as the counter hurled itself towards Dee who caught it just above her hand. There was a second’s pause and then it started screaming.

“It goes haywire,” Taimi explained, raising her voice over the noise and Dee let the counter drop into her palm, looking just a little surprised. “And that’s really bad as it’s designed to detect ionising radiation,” she pointed out.

“Any ideas?” Tima asked, as Dee hurled the Geiger counter away. Not sounding too expectant.

“Err… Something to do with how you’re transmitting the energy?” I hazarded.

“Well, that’s what we thought,” Tima admitted, as the Giger counter froze an inch from the ground and rushed into her hand. “But we’re struggling to make heads or tails of the Feynman diagrams we found and we’re not even one hundred percent sure they’re even relevant.”

“Have you tried Zap,” Dee suggested. “He’s pretty up on his science.”

“No such luck,” Taimi sighed. “He’s an engineer rather than a nuclear physicist. Which is really what we need right now.”

“Apollo,” Tima said softly.

“You haven’t asked him?” Dee said in disbelief.

“No he’s…” Taimi began, as I heard the door bang open behind me and whirled to see Apollo standing in the doorway.

“Greetings and salutations,” he boomed, striding into the room and everyone rolled their eyes.

“Here,” Taimi completed, sighing.

It’s something I still haven’t really gotten used but everyone seems to, to a greater or lesser extent, reflect their names. Possibly because their names were assigned based on how they looked or acted and in the few cases where they picked their own names they chose the one that seemed most relevant. Apollo was one of former, and looked like he’d just marched out of a Greek myth, clearly from the Mediterranean and built like a mobile wall. It doesn’t help that he’s apparently capable of levelling everything within two miles.

“What. Not a chuckle?” he asked, walking in and sounding genuinely surprised. “Oh, hi Dee. Michael,” he said noticing us. “What are you guys doing here?”

“We can stop in for a friendly chat can’t we?” Dee asked sweetly, a voice that you only ever hear when she’s trying to manipulate you.

“Well, I had heard you were grounded after the first contact thing,” he pointed out, stopping next to us and looming almost accidentally. I glanced at Dee who completely failed to meet anyone’s eye.

“Okay, you caught me,” she admitted, sighing theatrically and shrugging. “We’re actually here to get Michael unlocked.”

“Is that all?” he asked grinning, and flicking his wrist. There was the faintest sensation of pins and needles which was gone almost before I could notice. “Done.”

Behind me I heard Tima’s head hit the desk.

“That’s it?” I asked in disbelief, it had felt almost inconsequential.

“They-sure-know-their-stuff-don’t-they?” Dee said in a rush, grabbing my wing and neatly sidestepping Apollo. “Well we don’t want to take up any more of their valuable time. I’m sure Jaz can do the tutoring.” She set off at a run towards the door, dragging me with her.

“Not the wing! Not the Wing!” I protested as we virtually sprinted out of the door and Dee launched me into the sky before leaping after.

Teaching – Dee

“Anything?” I exasperated as the coin stayed affixed to the table.

“No,” Michael snapped. “And for the last time are you sure that telekinesis doesn’t take some time to kick in.”

“No!” I yelled angrily. “It’s instant; and you’ve had an hour already.”

“Well it’s clearly not working,” he protested, snatching up the coin. Don’t ask me why we’ve got a coin, we found it in a draw. “Apparently my brain can not be wired to disobey the laws of physics.”

“It’s that kind of thinking that’s stopping you from doing it!” I shot back. “Say ‘I can’ for once.”

“Can’t you two find somewhere else to argue,” Jaz said with a sigh, sliding into a chair next to us. “Like, other than my kitchen?”

“Well we’re going to bother the least people here,” I pointed out with a shrug and perfect logic, Jaz dropped her head into her hands. “Now, let’s try again. Make. The coin. Hover!”

Michael groaned.

“Dee, you are the worst teacher in the history of our kind,” Jaz said bluntly, though considering how many of us there were she was probably right. “Yelling at someone until they do as you say has never been considered education.”

“Worked for me,” I said, with another shrug.

“Yes,” she admitted. “But you didn’t take much to schooling did you?”

“Technically,” I admitted, with a bit of hand waving.

“So do you want me to take over with this?” she asked pointedly, the coin appearing between her fingers. “Instead of just having the blind leading the blind?”

“Bit tense today are we?” I asked brightly.

“You try juggling a one year old, you guys and making sure no more Chinooks sneak up on us,” she growled. “Shall we get on with this?”

“I’m easy,” Michael said quietly. He’s still a little intimidated by Jaz. Then again, who isn’t?

“I’ll take that as a yes,” she muttered. “Right. Lesson one.” The coin leapt out of her hand a stood rock steady six inches above the table. “Can you feel this?”

“I’m not doing it,” he said, confused.

“That wasn’t the question,” she sighed.

Michael thought about that for a moment and screwed up his eyes at the coin. “Yes,” he hazarded after a moment. “Maybe.”

“Well that means you at least have been unlocked,” Jaz sighed. “Which of course, Dee will be receiving an earful for later, from me and Dat.”

I winced.

“I’ve been able to tell when people are using their powers for weeks though,” Michael pointed out, still with his face screwed up. I’m not entirely sure why he thinks that helps.

“Really?” Jaz asked, surprised. “Well that’s odd to say the least. Still, you were exposed to Hope and she is known to fiddle with peoples minds just because she can.”

I really suggest you don’t dig into that story. Will’s still got a twitch.

“So a six year old has been messing with my mind,” he said, rolling his eyes. “I should probably be more worried about that but as she recently rewrote my genes it’s not so much of a shock anymore.”

“I’ve got worse news,” Jaz continued. “This really should be instinctive.”

The coin suddenly hurled itself at Michael’s face and he threw himself out of the way, raising a hand almost as an afterthought the snatch the coin out of the air as it went screaming through the space where his head had been. It would have been much more impressive if the whole manoeuvre hadn’t sent him flying out of his seat and sprawling across the floor, but hey, what can you do?

“Nice reflexes,” Jaz said honestly and Michael picked himself up, muttering. “She’s been making you play flyball a lot, hasn’t she?”

“Just a little,” he said sullenly, flicking the coin back at Jaz who made it slow to a halt just before her. “Was there a lesson in that that I missed?”

“I was hoping for some telekinesis,” she admitted. “Reflex actions are usually a good way to get though a mental block.”

“Well it may help if I knew what I was trying to do?” he pointed out, still sounding a little sulky.

“It shouldn’t matter,” I cut in. “I haven’t got a clue as to how I can do these telekinesis things but it doesn’t stop me.”

“Well its stopping me,” he pointed out snidely. I stuck my tongue out at him.

“Children,” Jaz sighed. “Stop it.”

We both muttered something incomprehensible.

“Now lets see,” she continued after a moments pause. “How am I doing this?” The coin danced in front of her as she pondered, I resisted the urge to bat it out of the air. “Well right now I’m throwing the kinetic energy out of the coin and using it to push air outwards, if you put your ear close enough you can actually hear it buzz. But you could do some other methods like, throwing matter off it, bouncing the air onto it, or simply pumping energy into it and converting it in the coin.”

“I’m fairly sure Newton would argue with a few of those,” he interrupted.

“Ah, Newton never met us,” she countered, flashing her eyes amber. “And I’m fairly sure that this is more finding loopholes that breaking the law.”

“Okay throw it here,” he sighed and reluctantly snatched it out of the air as Jaz pinged it towards him. “You know,” he began, as he rested the coin on the back of his palm. “It seems rather complicated to keep transferring the kinetic energy. Why not just radiate it?”

“Well you could,” she admitted. “But I’d stick with lobbing energy at it; it’s the easiest to wrap your head around.”

Michael gently removed his hand leaving the coin sitting rock steady on the open air. He grinned softly to himself and I glanced at Jaz who was also smiling.

“Okay,” he said quietly, after the coin stayed in position. “I have got to meet the guys who designed this.”

“Luckily for us they’re long dead,” I said with a bitter laugh, cocking my head and trying to use my own meagre powers of psychic detection to figure out what method he eventually settled on.

“The coin’s getting rather hot,” Jaz said simply, leaning forwards and holding her palm above the silvered surface.

“Ah,” I said brightly, reaching a revelation. “The old bombardment technique.”

“No,” she continued, shutting her eyes to concentrate better. “Direct conversion of any gained kinetic energy into thermal energy, with a little bit of gamma radiation.”

There was a moment’s pause as I tried to decode what she’d just said.

“Damn it,” she muttered, standing up suddenly, her chair almost hitting the ground as she sent it flying in her haste but some invisible force caught it. “I need to tell Dat this,” she announced, heading for the door. “Don’t go anywhere.” She threw herself off the balcony and hit air without even pausing to put on shoes.

“Um,” Michael began hesitantly, letting the coin drop to the table. “What did that even mean? And why is she in such a rush?”

“Well,” I began, touching a finger to the coin and ripping it back as my skin seared. It wasn’t actually burning hot, but had the intensity of metal left too long in the sun. “You remember how the levels of power depend on how you can manipulate energy?”

“Yes,” he said, sounding distinctly anxious. He probably had some inkling already.

“Well, I think that makes you a level three,” I completed. “Congratulations, you’re now counted among the most powerful psychics in the village.”

He looked at me, searching for any hit of deception, his expression growing steadily more desperate but I just shook my head sadly. His eyes shifted to pleading for a moment and then he put his hand on his forehead, sighing deeply.

“Shit,” he said simply.

I couldn’t have agreed more.

Revelations – Michael

The cool pre dawn air rushed over my feathers as Dee and I skimmed over the treetops. There are no real words to describe just how mindless it was for us to be sneaking out, especially as Dat had more or less put me under house arrest, but after Dee had succumbed to my whining and told me that actually, the lab that they’d all come from was less than ten miles away, I had to check it out. Not just for curiosity’s sake, but because of my father. Unless there was another top secret biological research lab in the area he’d probably worked there. Heck, that was the whole reason that my Mom and I had moved into the area, why we even had a pass for The Bunker.

“Okay!” Dee half yelled, swooping closer. “The trees should be giving enough distortion so that anyone sensitive shouldn’t notice us. Still, if either of the twins is on lookout duty they’ll notice the moment we reach the building.”

“So we have to look around quickly and then scraper?” I hazarded, almost crashing into Dee as I threw myself out of the way of a particularly tall tree. I wasn’t kidding about skimming the treetops; my shoes felt like they were filled with leaves.

“Nope!” she said brightly and my self preservation instincts instantly started screaming. “We just have to get inside without landing. Follow me.”

I hated it when she said that, it usually involved me crashing into something. Dee darted in front of me and I dropped into her slipstream as the trees suddenly disappeared beneath us to reveal a monolithic three story white building nestled on the ridge of a low hill. I barely had time to gasp a breath of surprise before Dee shot straight upwards and I had to throw myself after her to just stay on her tail.

“Dee!” I roared, as we rocketed higher. “What are you doing?” I could already feel the stall building in my feathers.

“A little trick I’ve been working on,” she explained, as for a moment we hung at the apex and then began to plummet. “Just keep close.”

We fell, wings flared towards the roof of the lab which I suddenly realised had a gaping hole where part of the ceiling was simply gone. Like it had never been there at all in fact, and it was only over one, admittedly very large, room. That was interesting, though it would have been far more interesting if it wasn’t approaching quite so fast and Dee was actually showing signs of slowing down.

“Dee!” I yelled in panic as the walls flashed past us and she trimmed suddenly, throwing herself into a loop and I scrambled to follow. I could feel my wings straining as I desperately tried to pull up, and I bellowed something incoherent as my feet clipped the wooden boards and I went spiralling back into the sky.

Dee stalled herself at about roof level and began to drop gracefully towards the floor. I managed to mess up yet another reverse loop, lost almost all my control and ended up coming in way too fast, barely the right way up and landed hard, having to run to avoid breaking something and ended up sprinting past Dee, tripping and hitting the ground with a bang.

“Yep,” Dee said, as I slid to a stop and lay there groaning. “Landings definitely need more work.”

“Ow,” I said weakly, getting to my feet and brushing the grime off me. “And did I mention? Ow.”

“Oh, stop being a baby,” she chided. “You’re the one who wanted to see this place.”

“And I’m regretting it more by the second,” I muttered, glancing around the room. It looked a lot like the old gym we had at the bunker; soft wood floors, incomprehensible athletics equipment spread around the walls, and various sports pitches painted onto the boards. Of course it was about three times the size and actually had head room; not to mention ten years of disregard and an open ceiling had really done a number on the place. There was at least an inch of grime and the gym kit had long ago rusted into a solid mass, anything of any real value had long ago been scavenged by the bird people.

“So this is your infamous lab?” I asked, sighing. This so wasn’t worth the risk, I wasn’t even sure what I was supposed to be looking for.

“Yep,” Dee said brightly, “The bird cage as it happens, this is were we learnt to fly and they’d give us exercise.” She wandered over to a corroded platform at about head height and sighed. “I took my first flight off this thing. It felt much taller back then.”

“They were looking after you guys?” I asked, surprised. From what I’d heard the ‘White Coats’ were only one step up from homicidal maniacs.

“Yeah, I guess they weren’t so bad,” Dee admitted mournfully, shrugging. “I don’t know, I wasn’t really old enough to make any conclusions. Still, if they hadn’t done what they did we’d all be dead so maybe it was a necessary evil.” She glanced over her shoulder. “Still, don’t tell anyone I said that.”

“Neither of us are supposed to be here,” I pointed out. “Your secret’s safe.”

“Touché. Now where do you want to go first? I think we’ve more or less cleared the place out of anything useful but we’re bound to have missed something.”

“Well, what is there?” I asked, as we began to wander towards the main double doors, picking our way around patches of mould and moss.

“Lets see,” she said, beginning to count them off on her fingers. “We’ve got the labs, the cage rooms, the social areas, a bucket load of offices and rooms upon rooms of files. Most of which have been emptied. What are you looking for anyway?”

I thought about that for a moment “Family,” I sighed and ignored Dee’s curious look. “Does this place have a basement?” I asked suddenly.

“I don’t know,” she admitted at length, pausing. “I don’t think I’ve heard anyone mention one. Let me think.”

“Err, Dee?” I said hesitantly, as the floor began to creak.

“Give me a sec’,” she snapped and I took a few smart steps back as there was an almightily crack and Dee vanished in a puff of wood rot.

“Dee?” I called, stepping gingerly to the edge of the hole and looking down into the gloom.

“Okay!” she called back, sounding royally annoyed. “I can say with some certainly that this place had a basement!”

I suppressed a smirk and leapt down, landing lightly next to Dee who was trying to get the mould out of her feathers. The room looked no better than a glorified storage closet, crammed with buckets, shelves and half empty file cabinets. On the other hand, for a building supposedly stripped bare it was surprisingly full.

“I hate these kinds of places,” Dee muttered, shaking herself all over as I rummaged though the various draws.

“That’s probably why this place hasn’t been stripped to the bone,” I mussed. “I mean, there’s got to be some reason you guys build large houses high in the air with far too many windows.”

“Hey,” she said defensively. “You try living in a cage for a few years and see where you feel like living.”

“Somewhere not damp, dark and claustrophobic?” I asked, pulling out a pair of torches from deep within a drawer and switching one on. “There we go,” I said triumphantly as the bulb flickered to life. “Catch.”

Dee’s little ray of light joined mine a second later and we scanned around the gloom. There wasn’t much to say about the room, it really was just a cupboard with a few corroded tools and a couple of bottles of cleaning fluid that had reached a volatile old age. The door did turn out to be locked but the wood had long ago succumbed to dry rot and a swift kick sent it flying off its hinges.

“Did I mention that bird people are much stronger than humans?” Dee asked innocently, as I stared in shock at the damage I’d done to the door.

“Well I had kind of figured,” I murmured, then shook myself and stepped over the remains, out into the corridor, which was just as featureless as the cupboard. No one had apparently bothered to decorate the concrete walls or if they had it had long ago yielded to the march of time. The ceiling hadn’t done much better, with gaping holes producing pools of light at random intervals; they didn’t do much for the light, just succeeded making the darkness darker and judging from the cracks crisscrossing every surface the whole place could  come crashing down with a sneeze.

“Where to then?” Dee asked, shining the torch in my face.

“We’re looking for a big metal door,” I snapped, covering my eyes. “Probably a couple of inches of lead, we should know when we see it. Of course this place is probably a maze so we should leave a trail, I wonder if there’s any chalk in that room.”

I turned to go back into the supply cupboard when Dee suddenly piped up. “We take a right, a left another left and then the next two rights,” she reported.

“How on Earth do you know that?” I asked in shock, whirling.

“There’s a map on the wall,” she said smugly. “It’s marked with the little radiation symbol.”

“Don’t figure it out,” I silently begged.

“Michel,” she began slowly and my heart plummeted. “Why the hell are we looking for a bunker? And why do you even know that there’s one here at all?”

Damn.

“We’re too far away from the main one,” I explained quietly. “It’s at least ten miles away as the crow flies as it would be impossible to get there with only a few minutes warning at the best of times. Let alone during the turmoil. And if they believed strongly enough that the world was going to end that they’d build you guys then they’d make provisions for their own survival. A second bunker in the building would be the most logical choice.”

Dee sighed deeply. “That makes sense,” she admitted begrudgingly. “Shit, that makes real sense.” She began to stalk off down the corridor. “Come on!” she called over her shoulder and I rushed to catch up. Overall she was taking it better than I thought she would.

“You didn’t say why we were looking for it though?” she growled, as we picked our way through the rubble.

“Curiosity?” I suggested and she just looked at me. “Okay,” I admitted. “I mentioned that my dad was a scientist right?”

“Yeah.”

“Well… There are no other labs around here. He almost certainly was working in this building. As one of the White Coats.”

Dee froze, right in a crack of light and looked at me first in disbelief, then shock, and then sheer horror.

“Your father,” she said slowly. “Was a White Coat?”

“Yes,” I sighed.

“And we’re now going to look for where the rest of them may well be sheltering?”

“Most probably.”

“Give me one good reason that I shouldn’t leave now and tell Dat.”

“He’s the only family I have left,” I said simply.

There was a long pause.

“Damn it, damn it, damn it, damn it, damn it!” she muttered to herself and then smacked her forehead. “Fine. We’ll find him. But we tell no one. People didn’t like you being human, let alone being a White Coat. And I have no idea how people might react to an enclave of White Coats living so close for all this time.”

“Not well I’d guess,” I said, rather redundantly as we continued into the darkness.

“No,” she confirmed. “Not well at all.”

Lead Lined Coffin – Michael

“No,” I murmured as we rounded the corner and saw the door lying before us. Literally, lying. It had been discarded against one of the walls like a broken branch, and judging from the layer of rubble covering it; it had been there for some time.

I walked slowly towards the entrance; there was no doubt that this had been a bunker, the six inches of lead frame were a dead give away. But there was also no doubt that this corridor hadn’t been used for years, even Dee and I were leaving deep footprints in the dust, but there wasn’t a trace of any others. Not a particularly good sign all in all.

The worst was yet to come. I put a hand against the hinges; they’d been shorn clean though, probably by an angle grinder, and the hinges had been on the outside.

“Err, Michael,” Dee said suddenly and I turned to see her holding up a tuft of mortified fur and wincing.

“Now this is where the Erasers came from so it might…” she began but I was already running. I burst through the doorway, found myself in a deep stairwell and took the steps whole flights at a time, ignoring Dee’s yell.

A second flimsier door about three stories down had been torn off its hinges and if I’d actually been paying attention I’d have noticed the wall opposite was riddled with bullet holes. I wasn’t paying attention though, and went blundering into the pick black of a bunker, swinging my torch wildly picking up random details; dark stains on the walls, a snatch of dark fabric, discarded casings and flashes of white.

Something snapped beneath my feet. It felt rather like a dry stick, but given that the rational part of my brain was already screaming in horror I might have had a sneaking suspicion what it really was.

“Damn it, Michael,” Dee gasped, bursting in after me. “Please don’t run off like that, we have no…” He torch beam swung over me, casting a petrified shadow on the opposite wall.

“What’s the matter with you?” she asked, wandering up to me.

“Dee,” I began hesitantly. “Could you do me a favour and tell me honestly, whether I want to look down.”

There was a momentary pause while the light bobbed.

“No,” she said slowly and I could practically hear the wince.

“Okay then,” I said, trying to adopt some of that mock brightness. “Let’s keep exploring, shall we?” I swung my torch around and instantly revealed a skeleton, lying in a heap against the wall, still in a moth eaten lab coat and with the legs a good three feet away.

“Michael?” Dee began, as I stood frozen, feathers standing on end which I didn’t actually think was possible.

“These places always turn out to be tombs, don’t they?” I said in a very strained voice, with maybe just a hint of hysterics.

“I think we should step outside,” Dee suggested, giving a gentle tug on my shoulder.

“No,” I said, flicking off my torch, then snatching Dee’s and turning that off too. “Just give me a minute.”

We stood in the darkness for what felt like an eternity, while I tried to convince my brain that I was somewhere else. Not my own room because that was even worse than a crypt right now but somewhere safe. Maybe, sitting down for dinner with Dee’s family on a nice sunny evening, yeah, that would do.

“Okay,” I said at length, switching the torch back on. “I’m better now.”

“We don’t have to explore right now,” Dee suggested kindly.

“Got to find my father,” I muttered, casting the light around the room, ignoring the occasional pile of bones. “Maybe he wasn’t here. Maybe he escaped.”

“Michael…” Dee began again, but I brushed her off, heading for a door that looked like it had more or less been ignored in the mêlée.

As it turns out, I’m actually quite good at guessing these things and found a room filled with filing cabinets, good ones too, most had a padlock or two and only one looked as if it had been successfully opened. Deep gouges were scored in most of the others, but they weren’t actually open.

“Let’s see. C. C,” I muttered, running a hand along the rows. “Ah, here we go.”

“What are you looking for anyway,” Dee asked casually, wandering up behind me.

“My Dad’s files,” I explained, rattling the draw. “If they’re here and dated post-apocalypse then… well he’s probably dead. Can you help me with this?”

“Sure.” There was a subtle inrush of energy and Dee tore the drawer clean out, letting it hit the ground with a bang. “That good?”

“It’ll do,” I said, trying not to sound impressed. “Just give me a moment to look though these.”

“I’ll look around then,” she announced as I began to rifle frantically through the files. “See if the Erasers missed anything.”

“Okay,” I murmured, not really paying attention and pulling out a sheaf of papers marked ‘Conner’. This was it, an answer to a question I’d asked over a decade ago, I flipped to the final entry.

“Day 39.

Our imprisonment continues. So far there has been no success in contacting the outside world and it is suspected that either there has been a nearby strike and an EMP has affected our radio or there is simply no one left to reply…”

It continued on like that; a dutiful report of the day’s event, things of interest, a few experimental notes, all with the undertones of crushing despair and clinical detachment. A lot like back at my bunker in fact.

I slumped against the wall, letting myself slide to the floor. I suppose all in all it wasn’t much of a shock that my father was dead, and as I barely knew him it shouldn’t matter that much. Still, it hurt; a roaring ache in my heart. I was alone, truly alone.

I heard a muffled thud and what sounded like heavy footsteps.

“Dee?” I called hopefully, getting slowly to my feet. There was no response.

“Dee!” I yelled, skulking towards the door. I couldn’t see her torch beam and pointed mine firmly at the ground, plunging me into gloom, but at least I could see the room better.

I paused before the doorway, listening for a moment. I could definitely hear footfalls, and more than one pair, worse though they sounded like there was a lot of mass behind them and we don’t exactly weigh much. Besides if it was Dat catching up with us they wouldn’t be sneaking around and anyway, who ever they were, they already knew I was here.

“Nobody move!” I roared, leaping round the corner, holding the torch like a gun and shinning it right at the five dark shapes. I noticed three things in the next few seconds: one, they were all humans with jet black combat suits, night vision goggles and rather nasty looking assault rifles. Two, Dee was draped unconscious over the shoulder of one who was already half way up the first flight of stairs, and finally one already had a flash bang ready in hand. Also not a one had been convinced by my stellar acting.

I threw myself back into the room as the flash bang arced through the air, dropping the torch in my haste and hit the concrete hard, scrambling to my feet a moment later and desperately trying to get the wall between me and the grenade in the scant seconds I had available.

The explosion was deafening, even with my hands clutched over my ears, and it seemed to permeate my very bones, echoing and reverberating around the concrete box, shaking dust from the ceiling and forcing me into a tighter ball, desperately trying to block out the cacophony and blinding light. Even through a wall and my closed eyelids the light was blinding and it felt like I was caught in the very centre of an endless explosion.

Then, all of a sudden it was over, the echoes fading away to infinity. I got unsteadily to my feet, blinking stupidly in the pitch black, the torch was probably broken and my night vision had evaporated along with it. A moment later though I realised suddenly; they had taken Dee, and I had absolutely no idea where they might be going. I set off at a run and instantly ran into a wall, cracking my forehead on the concrete.

Okay that was really stupid.

“Light,” I snapped, holding out my hand in emulation of Jaz or Dee when they make a wraith light appear.

Not surprisingly, nothing happened.

“Light!” I demanded, more angrily this time, summoning up my will and trying to make even an ember to appear.

Still nothing.

“Aw, screw this!” I yelled to no one in particular. Groped for the wall and ran my hand along until I found the familiar box. “Light,” I announced, flicking the switch and the florescent bulbs came on with a bang, almost blinding me again.

I rushed out into the corridor which was now dusted with grey, snatched an aged pistol out a skeleton’s grip and sprinted towards the door, reaching the base of the stairs just in time to see a straggler making a run for the outside. There seemed to have been fewer flights when I was going down but I didn’t even pause at the top and went belting down the corridor, straining to hear over my own ragged breathing which way they’d went.

The corridor Dee and I had come through was too long for them to have gotten down in time, how fast can you go when carrying a twenty pound gun and forty pound Dee?  But the second passage had caved in long ago and there wasn’t a third at all. I skidded to a stop in front of a blank wall, swore and started running back, apparently there really had been more stairs than I thought and now they’d only gotten further ahead.

I was still running flat out as I skidded into the corridor and found the T-junction almost immediately. I don’t even recall making the decision, just dove right and prayed on probability; maybe I could say something about that corridor looking more familiar, or having more light. But that way I had a fifty/fifty chance and its not like I know how to track people anyway.

Two lucky guesses, a dead end and a scuff on the wall that might have been a chalk mark later, I burst out into a long corridor and saw two soldiers retreating up a flight off crumbling stairs.

“I mean it this time!” I bellowed and squeezed off a warning shot in their rough direction.

Nothing happened. Again.

I threw the gun away in disgust just as it roared, and I leapt out of my skin as a ricochet sparked off all four walls before sailing down the corridor and embedding itself into the banister next to one of the heavily armed men. There was a moments pause as I think they struggled to understand I was shooting at them, in which I was already following through with my momentum, bounced off a wall and hurled myself to the ground, just as an assault rifle thundered, filling the narrow space with yet another deafening cacophony.

I raised my head as the echoes died down and I realised that was in fact not dead, a quick glance over my shoulder confirmed I hadn’t been hit though had gained another coating of dust. A snarl escaped my lips as I scrambled to my feet and took the stairs three at a time, out of the labyrinth I could finally hear what I’d feared all along, the tell tail chop of a helicopter readying for launch.

A desperate glance around yielded no sign of an exit or of Dee and for all I knew I could be at the very start of yet another maze. On the other hand there was another set of emergency stairs right next to me. I rolled my eyes and started sprinting up them; there were too many stairs in this chase.

I burst out onto the flat part of the roof and dashed towards the edge, just in time to see the last of the soldiers leap into the helicopter three stories down and the rotors begin to kick up a storm as they gained speed.

“It’s just not fair” I thought half heartedly, panting desperately to try and regain my breath. The copper crawled its way up towards me and I jogged backwards, the downdraft produced by that thing would be incredible and I did not want to think what would happen if I was caught above it.

The growing roar I guessed meant they’d taken off and I began to run forwards, hurling myself over the lip just as the helicopter burst over the roofline. I flicked open the edges of my wings just as I realised that I was coming in much too high and that Chinooks don’t actually have a guide rail to grab onto like most considerate helicopters. My joints screamed as the wind picked me up and threw me like a doll, and I desperately tried to trim to avoid either whirling death or simply being dashed against something.

Through luck or good judgement I actually managed to be chucked in the general direction of the chopper and I threw out my arms to grab the lip. I’d completely misjudged the wind though and slammed my stomach into the frame, knocking the air clean out of me and I slid along the length of the hatch, grabbing on the open door at the very last second and clung on for dear life.

The noise was deafening, and I was beginning to wonder if my hearing was going to survive this, let alone me. I struggled to pull myself into the compartment, scrabbling with my legs wildly to try and gain purchase on the smooth sides and fighting the gale that was threatening to throw me into the air.

I’d just managed to pull my head over the lip to see a still unconscious Dee and about a dozen heavily armed soldiers. A pair of heavy boots appeared before my face and I looked up to see Lieutenant Parkinson in a flight helmet, holding on firmly to a loop hanging from the roof and cradling a large rifle in the crook of his arm.

He yelled something that was lost in the tempest but it probably translated to. “Let go or die!”

I glanced again at Dee who was still away with fairies and back at Lieutenant Parkinson, murder in my eyes, furiously trying to think of a way a way to kill someone by levitating stuff. He clicked the safety catch off, and I growled, looking back to Dee for a moment and then hurled myself from the helicopter, letting the wind carry me back towards the ground, flaring my wings hard above the canopy and landing roughly in the upper bows of a tree, suppressing the urge to yell every swear word I knew.

I saw the doors slide shut on the Chinook and it began to slide its way away, slowly but steadily increasing the distance between us. My mind reeled, I had no way of contacting anyone, and by the time I reached the village they would be long gone. There was nothing I could do against a helicopter… although; they couldn’t keep her in there indefinitely. At the very least they’d need fuel at some point.

I fixed their bearing in my mind, south east-ish, and took off quietly, ghosting above the tree tops, trying to match their speed.

“I’m coming Dee,” I promised, half to her, half to myself. “I’ll save you.”

The Lion’s Den – Michael

I hit the ground with a bang, tumbled head over heels a few times and finally came to rest about twenty yards away, covered in wood mulch. Not one of my better landings, but as my legs felt like rubber and I was blissfully beyond the point of exhaustion I should probably be glad I hadn’t broken my neck.

The aforementioned neck started screaming at me as I got slowly to my feet, but I fought down the pain and staggered towards the base where I’d seen the chopper land. I had literally been flying for hours, tailing the Chinook about ten miles back. I was hungry, tired, sore and had almost crashed somewhere over the Sierra Nevada mountains, and no, I’m not talking about sleeping.

I crested a low hill and leapt behind a tree as I spotted a series of low concrete buildings nestled in the crook of the valley, complete with barbed wire fence, sentry towers and extremely vigilant, extremely armed, sentries. That was just perfect, especially as I could see the chopper in the centre of the compound, gallingly, just being unloaded. I stalked back into the forest, found a tree and snuck into the canopy, finding a semi comfortable branch overlooking the base and settled in. As a general rule people, myself included, don’t bother looking for anything hiding in trees or generally above eye level as you rarely expect things where you yourself can’t go. But I’ve met military types, and most would be paranoid to be scanning everywhere, especially if they’ve just unloaded a girl with wings.

Speaking of which, I watch them unload Dee roughly from chopper, a burlap sack tied firmly over her head. It wasn’t really doing much to stop her kicking, and judging from the number of soldiers that were limping this might not have first time she fought back. A soldier foolishly grabbed her by the arm and got a wing to the face that sent him flying, I winced in sympathy; you do not get near the wings of someone who spends six hours a day in the air, or any other limb as it happens.

The soldiers withdrew from Dee, enclosing her in a rough circle and she continued flailing blindly, desperately trying to connect with something. For a moment I went to join her, shifting into a low crouch and debating whether I could out fly bullets, then Lieutenant Parkinson stepped smartly behind Dee and cracked her over the head with a pistol butt. I winced again, chalking up another reason to feed him his own spleen as Dee crumpled, and sat back down.

It was infuriating; Dee was literally a stone’s throw away but might as well have been on another planet, and as I still haven’t gotten used to my new vision I was half convinced that she was lying about six feet away. I almost just took off after her as she was dragged into a building but forced myself to stay still. There were fifty yards of clear cut forest between me and the fence and the armed guards; not something a lone kid, who can’t yet land properly, could deal with all on his own.

Actually, it was rather odd just how well defended the base was, after all, the world was supposed to be an uninhabited wasteland. Maybe they’d had the same brutal revelation I’d had.

I woke with a start as an engine roared to life and almost fell out of the tree.

Okay, so falling asleep while trying to keep watch was not very professional and judging from the fact the sun had set I’d been asleep for a few hours. In front of me the compound gates swung open, floodlights sweeping the ground along the broken road, probably searching for any ambushes, and a convoy raced out, bristling with guards and Lieutenant Parkinson driving a jeep at break neck speed at the head of the column. I really wished I had a gun.

The soft top trucks followed, one most likely contained Dee but there was no way to be sure and there was no way I would be getting any closer, these guys were acting like the enemy was already at the gates. There was a soft chink as the base sealed itself and I sighed, I was hungry, tired and desperately needed more information. Annoyingly the best place to solve all three was right in front of me and more hostile than Talon.

So let’s sum up. Attacking was suicidal, there was no way they’d react well to me, not after meeting Lieutenant Parkinson, and sneaking in wasn’t an option. Maybe if I were a better flyer, or fighter, or even knew some half decent telekinesis then I’d have a chance. But all I had was my wits…

And a good understanding of what they were thinking right now.

Now, if you are cut off from the rest of the world, what is the one thing that you’d greet with open arms?

A friendly outsider.

And that gave me an idea.

I clutched the jacket closer as I stumbled out of the forest and onto the road, the base in plain sight, almost tripping over a chunk of shattered asphalt. It was still disconcerting to be looting the dead but I hear supermarkets are fair game and I really needed a disguise. I hadn’t particularly wanted to get rid of my old clothes, they were after all, a gift, but needs must and so I was now decked out in moth eaten jeans, or at least I hoped they were moth eaten, a brutalised T-shirt and a massively oversized denim jacket. All and all I looked like I was some scrawny kid dressed up in his dad’s clothes, which coincidently, was exactly what I wanted look like.

A searchlight swung over me and I put up an arm to shield my eyes, visibly slumping and waved in a way that I hoped signalled exhaustion. I’m not sure how good my acting really was but when I suddenly found myself flat on my face with my ankle caught in a pothole and no memory of falling, it might not have been wholly acting.

“Its okay boy,” I heard a rough voice say somewhere above me, it put me in mind of Uncle Richard for some reason. “You’re safe now.”

“Yeah. Safe,” I thought bitterly as I felt myself gently lifted off the ground, before letting myself drift into blessed unconsciousness.

The next day was chaotic. Surprisingly the people on the base were friendly, fed me, let me sleep in a spare bunk, and even swallowed the line about the coat being my late father’s so I wouldn’t be taking it off. In it own strange way it was very welcoming. I’d grown up in the same atmosphere of military precision blended with the air of long friendship, and it was a far cry from the village’s barely palpable suspicion. Not to mention for once, in what seemed like a very long time, I was being seen as an equal rather than just a freak.

That’s not to say they weren’t curious about where I’d come from, but I’m not much of a liar so I just gave the sketchy details I’d learned from Dee and feigned distress. All in all in went down surprisingly well, especially when I dropped hints about monsters roving the wastes which got almost unilateral groans. They’d seen them too apparently, and almost all had lost a friend in scattered attacks. How true it was I do not know, but they certainly felt as if they were under siege by a shadowy and gruesome foe that went around picking off isolated bunkers of humanity. My family hadn’t been the only ones to fall victim to the Erasers’ hunger it seemed.

I did learn some important information about Dee though; admittedly it was hard to go more than ten yards without overhearing a conversation about the mysterious winged girl and “that ass” Lieutenant Parkinson. It was nice to see the human race still had taste, though more disturbing was just how many people were drawing a link between the winged people and the Erasers. I didn’t really get involved in those conversations, they made my wing joints ache.

Anyway, in summary, no one knew anything concrete about the world, and Dee had been taken to the main base where I would be taken for processing into the new society on the next supply convoy, which was a few days away. It was a painfully long time to wait but I forced myself, I had a plan and I was in too deep to change it now, though it didn’t salve my worry that I had just lifted it straight out of a book.

In the mean whilst I passed the time practicing my escape plan and learning interesting facts about the world of tomorrow. For example, Lieutenant Parkinson, the least diplomatic man alive, was given the job of scouting out other enclaves because no one actually expected him to find anything. This was actually rather disturbing as at the same time I learned that the total number of survivors for the entire state of California was about ten thousand and the rest of the continent hadn’t been much better. It is apparently extremely bad to mix heavy fallout and westerly winds.

Disturbingly soon I was being shipped off to the main base and going for ‘processing’ which sounded like a really scary thing but it was basically an interview that boiled down to:

“Who are you?”

“Where did you come from?”

“What can you do?”

“When can you start?”

I mentioned cooking somewhere along the line, and immediately got thrown into the kitchen to help the head chef, a tall athletic looking man called Donald or at least something like that. At best, he didn’t exactly look like he belonged in a kitchen, at worst I would say he wasn’t the kind of person I’d let hold knifes. All in all he looked like a drill sergeant and would be roaring orders at me any second, but then he turned ten year old tinned food into something that was beyond edible and actually tasted good and in my world that made him the greatest chef who had ever lived.

It wasn’t long until the meals started flying out and I spied a tray left on one side, a casual question confirmed it was Dee’s which I probably should have guessed as it held about twice as much as we were feeding the commandos. That’s another thing I still haven’t really gotten used to yet, our metabolism, fortunately if you’re pretending that you were near starvation no one bats an eye at you over eating.

My gracious offer to take it to the prisoner was gladly accepted by the squaddie who just wanted his lunch. After getting lost twice, the base being several orders of magnitude large than my bunker and apparently one of the nuclear command centres, I found myself riding an elevator into the bowels of the complex.

I gripped the tray tighter as I walked down a corridor; finally coming to unremarkable door simply marked ‘detention’ and knocked.

“Come in,” a bored sounding voice said simply and I slunk inside, casting my eyes around the room. It was unsurprisingly plain; concrete walls, a row of five metal doors and a single guard sitting slumped in a camp chair at the end of the short hall, drumming her fingers on her gun.

“Lunch for the prisoner,” I said quickly as an explanation, gesturing to the tray.

“No lunch for me then?” she asked jokingly, rolling her eyes. “Bloody Jonas.”

“Err, sorry,” I muttered weakly. I didn’t actually know how to respond to that, I hadn’t really considered the possibility of guards being friendly.

“Hey, I don’t recognise you,” she said conversationally, standing up and rattling a set of keys off of her belt. “You one of the new ones?”

“That’s me,” I said more brightly, with rather forced enthusiasm. “Fresh off the wastes.”

“And I suppose you’re trying to catch a glimpse of our most prestigious prisoner,” she continued with a grin, unlocking the door. “Well believe me; she’s dead boring once you get over the wings. Hasn’t said three consecutive words and we have to keep her locked down or else people get hurt, and not just because she hit them.”

Yep, that sounded like Dee.

“Well, here you go.” The door swung open and I hurried inside, stumbling slightly and almost dropping the tray. Dee’s head whipped round, and even though she still had a bag over her head, I hadn’t a shadow of a doubt over her knowing exactly where we were. She was looking in a sorry state though, bedraggled, chained to a bedpost, her hands cuffed together and legs shackled. I had this sudden urge to punch the guard in the face but I fought it down, and tried to replace it with pride over Dee getting a bunch of hardened military buffs to lock her down so tightly.

“Are you expecting her to eat bound up like that?” I asked disbelievingly, a little harshly but not suspiciously so, or at least the guard didn’t react too badly.

“Just spoon feed her,” she said dismissively, “I’ll take the hood off though.”

“Thanks,” I said with maybe a hint of sarcasm. The guard cocked her gun, edged forwards, grabbed the very tip of the bag and tore it off, practically leaping backwards and slamming the gun against her shoulder.

I knelt down in front of Dee, placing the tray gently on the floor. I looked up at her. She looked down at me with steely, unblinking eyes. For a brief moment a doubt flickered across my mind; here I was dressed in humanities’ finest, what if she didn’t see me as a saviour, but a turncoat? What if I was about to receive a telekinetic boot to the head?

“Well,” she began slowly. “You sure took your time.”

It’s Never Easy – Dee

“Sorry,” Michael muttered, ducking his eyes. “The kitchen was frantic.”

I glanced around at the guard, who tightened her grip on her rifle and then looked back at Michael, making the faintest click with my tongue, desperately trying to ask the ultimate question. Was this just a social visit or was there actually a plan in the works?

He winked slowly, which neatly failed to answer my question and lifted a spoonful of food. I just rolled my eyes and then watched in surprise as he fumbled the spoon and let it clatter to the ground next to my foot.

There was dead silence for a moment, broken by Michael saying. “Oops.” And bending over to retrieve the utensil.

“Watch her,” the guard warned anxiously as he got within kicking distance and I rolled my eyes again. I wasn’t actually talking to the guards on general principal, but this one was getting on my nerves, though the sheer paranoia of some of them was strangely gratifying.

Michael clumsily retrieved the spoon, brushing his hand against my manacles as he did so and there was the faintest of clicks. I froze instantly, praying that the guard hadn’t heard. There was no way she hadn’t noticed something was up, but maybe she would put me tensing down to my being touched. A second click came as he brushed against my cuffs and a third quickly after as the chain linking me to the bed loosened. I flicked my wrist slightly to keep the shackles from falling and waited for a signal, heart racing.

“Distraction!” Michael yelled suddenly, throwing himself backwards and I almost leapt out of my skin, changing it into a leap that sent me flying off the bed and smashing into the opposite wall, any moment expecting the ugly bark of the rifle. I hurled a telekinetic blast into the concrete which shattered like glass and spun me like a top, hurling me towards the guard who I hit like a tonne of bricks, slamming her against the opposite wall and making damn sure she hit her head.

The gun clattered to the floor next to me a moment later and I winced, but it thankfully failed to go off. I heaved a sigh of relief. The safety had still been on.

“Dee!” I Michael cried, rushing over. “You okay?”

“Distraction?” I asked in giddy disbelief, grinning like a lunatic as the adrenalin hit.

“I couldn’t think of anything else to say,” he explained sheepishly, pulling me to my feet and I just laughed weakly.

“Well, thanks for the rescue anyway,” I said, sticking my head out of the door and straining to hear any sounds of alarm, luckily we didn’t seem to have been noticed. “What’s the plan?”

“Run for it,” he said with a shrug as I stepped into the little anteroom of the prison and stretched.

“Yeah, but where’s our back up?” I continued, sighing in relief. You have no idea how stiff being cooped up like that for days on end makes you. “I mean, I was half expecting Jaz just to come bursting through the wall.”

“Um, actually,” he began, even uncomfortably than before, ducking under my outstretched wing. “It’s… just, me.”

“Sorry, what…” I began, but then stalled, the gears whirring in my head.

“You came here on your own!” I roared, rounding on him in fury and making him quail backwards. “Does anyone even know we’re here?”

He shook his head a tiny amount.

“Good grief Michael!” I snarled in fury. “I was taking comfort that at least you escaped and could get help! But you just came gallivanting after didn’t you? Did you even have a plan?”

“I was afraid of losing you,” he murmured, failing to meet my eyes. “And I do have a plan. I’ve been working on it for days.”

“I’ve been here for days,” I growled, totally exasperated, covering my eyes with my hand. “You could have gone back and told someone.”

“I didn’t think,” he admitted to his shoes.

“Obviously,” I growled. “If you’d been thinking…” I caught myself.

“Aw damn it, I’m turning into Jaz,” I realised suddenly and turned to actually look at Michael who busy looking morose.

I sighed. Then put my arm around his shoulder. Then went the whole way and embraced him.

“Sorry Michael,” I said, simply. “I am really, really glad that you saved me.”

“I’m glad I saved you too,” he admitted, beaming.

“Okay then,” I said, pulling away and clapping my hands. “Let’s get out of here.”

I waltzed over to the door, wrenched it open and saw an annoyingly smug face dressed in camouflage for the briefest moment before something smashed into my chin and sent me flying. The floor was a lot harder than I remembered and I hit with a bang, skidding along the ground and coming to rest against Michael’s feet.

“Ah,” Michael muttered to himself, as I lay there groaning. “That would be Jonas then.”

I sat up slowly, clasping my head and wondering how to tell if you’ve fractured your skull, I just took the fact I couldn’t feel my brain as a good thing. Though, as the man who’d hit me was standing in the doorway with his gun trained on us and Michael had his hands up, I had to assume that was not such a good thing.

“Now don’t either of you move,” he snarled, which wasn’t exactly going to be a problem, not unless someone really had installed a strobe light to make the lights dance.

“Plan?” Michael muttered, as Jonas growled into his radio.

“You’re not the one with concussion,” I muttered back.

He glanced around the room, a pained look on his face. “Wait,” he concluded, begrudgingly.

“Good plan.”

Within a few minutes half a dozen more guards had arrived, all with guns and Michael and I had our hands cuffed behind our backs before being lead out of the room.

“So, what is the plan?” Michael asked as we were frogmarched down the corridor.

“I thought it was your turn,” I whispered back as a guard jabbed me in the back. I shot a glower back over my shoulder at him; they hadn’t been best pleased about me knocking out the other guard apparently.

“No, my plan was waiting,” he pointed out. “Now it’s your go.”

“Fine,” I snapped, rolling my eyes as we marched into an elevator, our escort pilling in after us. I think we were being taken to their leader, I hadn’t really been listening though, my head was still ringing.

“Up. Over. Three,” I screeched under my breath.

Funny thing about being isolated from humanity for ten years and not technically being human; you start developing new words. I mentioned that we’re not strictly speaking English, so basically we’ve replaced some short words that may need to be yelled as instructions over a kilometre to stop someone hitting a tree to short, easily screamed syllables. Up for example is ‘Kee!’, down ‘Kaa!’ and the rest variations on the theme.

This probably doesn’t seem relevant but it’s nice to know, as it meant that the guards didn’t have the faintest idea what hit them.

“Three!” I roared as the doors began to slide shut and I kicked down with all my might, hurling myself up and forwards, throwing my weight backwards so I firstly wouldn’t hit the ceiling and secondly could get a firm footing on the wall. A telekinetic blast sent me hurtling backwards over the heads of the guards, out through the closing doors and landing heavily on the floor of the miraculously empty corridor. Then Michael landed on me.

I’d rolled him off me and leapt to my feet just in time to see the doors slide shut in front of the irate looking guards, one of which had almost, but not quite, gotten his arm in the door in time. The angry yell probably alerted someone though so I resisted the urge to yell, “so long suckers!”

“Come on, move!” I barked at Michael, who was struggling to get to his feet, and sprinted down the corridors looking for an exit sign.

“I’m cuffed!” he snapped back as I burst though a door and started taking the stairs four at a time.

“Well, so am I!” I panted, after we reached the top, which was about three stories, and I pressed myself against the wall next to the door, Michael following suit.

“What…?” he began but I hissed him quiet.

“Wait,” I whispered.

There was a yell of “Make sure they don’t take the stairs!” from beyond the door and hurried footsteps, then the door slammed open, pinning Michael and I behind it. I grabbed the tip of the door to stop it closing and waited for a tense moment, praying that the pair of soldiers going thundering down the stairs were unobservant enough not to notice Michael’s arm sticking out. The rumble of boots reached second flight and I slipped round the door, murmuring.

“Come on,” to Michael. The corridor was again empty and I resisted the urge to do a happy dance, for once my plan had actually worked. That never happens.

“Which way?” I asked hurriedly.

“Um…” he began. “Right.” And we set off at a run.

“It’s a maintenance passage,” he explained over his shoulder, after about a hundred yards. “I was scouting around and it popped up on an evacuation plan.”

“That’s great,” I cut in. “But look where you’re going.”

Just as the words left my mouth a soldier rounded the corner in front of us and Michael ran straight into his waiting arms.

“What the…?” he began, befuddled, grabbing Michael’s shoulders, noticing the cuffs, the breathlessness and far too late the ballistic Dee as I hurled myself forwards, rolling over in mid air and slamming my heels into his shoulders. He went over like a tonne of bricks and just like the last time I tried a trick like that, I went soaring over him, ricocheting off the ceiling, wall and finally landed in a heap on top of Michael.

There was yet another surprised yell from right beside me and I was on my feet and legging it back down the corridor, somehow managing to drag Michael with me only using my elbows. Only when we were safely away did I stop to look round to see two more soldiers following us and a third helping their downed comrade.

“We really needed to go that way,” Michael panted, as we hung a random right at an intersection.

“We just can’t get a break, can we?” I exclaimed angrily. “Okay. We need to lose these cuffs.”

“In here,” he gasped, skidding to a halt in front of a door marked ‘C-Store’ and we barged our way into the thankfully empty room. “We need to find something sharp,” he continued hurriedly as we rushed past rows of empty shelves. “And it has to be tougher than steel.”

“Can’t you just use your unlocking thingy?” I snapped.

“I can’t see the lock,” he countered, panicking just slightly. “I haven’t done any when I couldn’t see the lock.”

“Do mine then!” I exclaimed, rattling the chains in his direction. “I’ll get yours.”

“You can undo locks?” he asked in surprise, as I presented the cuffs to him and I finally felt them fall away. I had been chained far too much lately.

“Not as such,” I admitted, yanking his chain towards me and taking a short loop in my fist. “I’ll improvise though.” I concentrated for a moment, feeling a shiver run over me as I poured far too much energy into the links. Suddenly there was an ear-splitting bang and the links exploded, firing shrapnel into the darkness of the room and Michael hissed in pain as a line of red was traced across his wrist.

“Very subtle,” he growled.

“Subtle’s my middle name,” I said with a perfectly straight face, forcing myself not to wince as my headache returned with a vengeance. Tricks like that can really take it out of you. “Now let’s go, someone will have heard that.”

On queue the door burst open and a guard lunged in, brandishing a weapon, roaring. “Nobody move!” I however was already sprinting towards him and threw myself forwards yet again, arms wide and slamming into his stomach sending him flying, the gun firing randomly into the ceiling. He hit the ground hard and I skittered over him, into the corridor, only to find several nasty looking assault rifles pointed at me.

“Ah,” I began slowly, raising my hands and smiling at the soldiers, just as Michael stepped out into the corridor, captured gun in hand and a scowl on his face.

“I assure you,” he said levelly. “This time it is loaded.” He motioned me to get up and we began backing away, only pausing as I palmed a flash bang off the guard’s belt.

“You’re not getting away,” one of the soldiers said suddenly. “Surrender now, and no one has to get hurt.”

“Tell it to my concussion,” I shot back, as we reached an intersection and then gleefully pulled the pin. We sprinted away as the blast shook the walls, both grinning like loons.”

“What are you so happy about?” I asked as we took another random turn.

“Partly delayed adrenaline,” he admitted. “Mostly though, it’s because there really aren’t any bullets in this thing.” He rolled his eyes as he threw the gun away and I chuckled to myself.

“Which way then?” I asked after a moment and another blind bend.

“Don’t know,” he confessed brightly, skidding to a stop and I almost ran into the back of him. “The cargo dock is that way,” he said, gesturing at a sign on the next crossroads. “That’s probably a good bet.”

“They’ll be expecting that though,” I pointed out as we started running again.

“Can you find another way out?” he countered.

“Cargo dock it is.”

An alarm started wailing and suddenly the entire place seemed to come alive with people. We ducked round a man who came bursting out a side door, thundering footsteps could be heard behind us and I risked a look back to see a ruffled and irate looking guard hot on our heels, his own friends not far behind him, and everywhere there were yells and confused voices.

We rushed out into a main corridor which was already beginning to fill with random bystanders and we rammed our way through them, sending people flying as I tripped anyone who got within kicking range.

“Stop them!” a guard roared, as they found their way blocked by a confused and angry crowd and a man with arms the size of tree trunks lunged at me. A swift elbow to the nose sent him reeling but the mob was beginning to notice us and we were still a long way from the edge. It was time for something drastic.

I slammed my foot into the ground, putting every ounce of telekinetic force behind the blow and the concrete shattered with a terrifying blow. The recoil almost crushed my leg along with floor and I desperately tried to channel all that energy back into a blazing aura around myself which I think just looked like a crimson wash.

“Move!” I bellowed to the flabbergasted crowds and for a moment they did, parting just long enough for us to reach the cargo dock.

The shakes hit me as we vaulted over the safety rail onto the road between the raised piers. There is no way you can do a trick like that without some key laws of physics taking offence and my chest was burning as my body temperature dropped to dangerously low levels. I staggered as we landed, my legs almost giving way under me but Michael grabbed my arm and physically dragged me along, screaming.

“Dee! Move!” Which I seemed strangely detached from. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew that I was experiencing the rough equivalent of hypothermia, but much more pressing was the need to lie down and rest.

A gun shot shook me out of my reprieve, sparking off the ground in front of us and Michael yelled something incoherent, throwing off his jacket as he did so. My mussels were burning but I could literally feel the heat flowing back through me, coupled with exhaustion still clinging to my joints. We burst out into the sun and I spread my wings wide, catching the breeze beneath them for the first time in far too long.

Only to screech to a stop in front of a dozen heavily armed men, standing in a semi-circle, Lieutenant Parkinson standing front and centre with a grin on his face.

I closed my wings, scowling at him.

We had been so close too.

“Well,” he asked, with that stupid self righteous grin of his, which somehow he was still managing to do with a black eye. “Are we going to come quietly?”

Next to me Michael was growling in frustration, suddenly though the growl, shifted gear? I cocked my head slightly, that was definitely an engine, and it was closing fast.

“Ye…” Michael began begrudgingly, but I cut him off.

“What do you think?” I asked, emulating the smug grin and dropping into a defensive stance. Every gun came up. I’m really impressed with these peoples’ paranoia.

“You have until the count of three to surrender,” he snarled. “One.”

“One,” I echoed brightly.

“Dee,” Michael muttered, but I held up a hand to silence him.

“Two,” he continued, bringing his own pistol up.

“Two.” The roar was getting palpable but I was apparently doing a good distraction, not even Michael had noticed it. Though, it would be a real down if it turned out to be one of theirs.

“Three,” Lieutenant Parkinson finished grimly but suddenly his eyes widened at something behind us, just as the roar became momentarily overwhelming and abruptly changed to the high pitched whine of a vehicle suddenly not being attached to the ground.

“Down!” I screamed, grabbing Michael by the shoulder and throwing him into the dirt before diving after him just as a massive motorcycle landed with a crash in front of us, skidding across the shattered asphalt and the occupant threw him/herself clear and went flying, right towards Lieutenant Parkinson. It was kind of hard to tell just what they were as they were covered head to toe in cloth that could only be said to be sand coloured. At a guess I would have said that they were fricking huge, easily seven foot tall and as ‘it’ slammed into Lieutenant Parkinson and sent him soaring at least ten feet through the air, I would have also hazarded wickedly strong.

One soldier that was fast enough to bring his gun to bear on ‘it’ was suddenly floored as a winged woman landed hard on his shoulders, sending him crashing to the ground and she landed neatly next to him, flicking a tawny wing tip into the throat of a second. I do only mention the wing colour though, as no one in the village actually has tawny wings.

That of course added up to only one thing. More outsiders. Great, I was still dealing with the last one.

“Well?” I winged woman roared at us, stepping up to the next soldier and simply flooring him with a right hook. “What are you waiting for? A signed invitation?”

And with that Michael and I scrambled to our feet and were legging it along the road before anyone could blink, ignoring still more angry cries coming from behind us. I did risk a look over one shoulder to see even more soldiers rushing out of the loading dock, but I was particularly surprised by the fact that there was at least a forty foot drop from the lip of the hill above the bunker to the ground which I think safely put ‘it’ out of the human category.

“Kit, we’re going!” the winged woman yelled, sweeping another soldier off his feet, and we sprinted past Lieutenant Parkinson who was still away with the fairies. Michael had finally torn open the back of his shirt and was flexing his own wing and I looked back to see ‘Kit’, duck a swung rifle and send the guy flying with an open handed slap. Then she was back on the bike faster that I would have thought possible and already accelerating towards us. The winged woman was also off like a shot, leaping straight into the air, and not a moment to soon as the second wave of soldiers were lining up at the cargo bay, bringing their weapons to bear. Some old guy seemed to be yelling at them though, and they weren’t actually firing which was good. But still, that didn’t matter though because a moment later Michael and I were in the air and racing away.

Long gone.

(This shouldn’t be the end, but the story finishes here, mostly because I realised that I had another Freed in plot and wanted to get on with Vast Worlds *rolls eyes*)

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One Comment

  1. Regarding the authors note at the end. Yeah, I’ve been wondering about that, and wondering when you would get the time to finish this, but I guess I now see it as a false hope… Although if you changed some of the terms (eg. replaced Erasers for every last instance) you might be able to use it as a completely original story, and get it published as well. Because really, it deserves it.


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