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I'm James Maxey, author of fantasy and science fiction. My novels include the science fantasy Bitterwood Saga (4 books) the Dragon Apocalypse Saga (4 books), numerous superhero novels including Nobody Gets the Girl and the Lawless series, the steampunk Oz sequel Bad Wizard, and my short story collections, There is No Wheel and Jagged Gate. This website is focused exclusively on writing. At my second blog, Jawbone of an Ass, I ramble through any random topic that springs to mind, occasionally touching on religion and politics and other subjects polite people are sensible enough not to discuss in public. If you'd like to get monthly updates on new releases, as well as preview chapters and free short stories, join my newsletter!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Burn Baby Burn Chapter Eleven 3611 words

The first murders were by accident. But in Tijuana twenty years later, I wasn’t hurting nobody. I don’t remember how I’d got my power under control, but I only ate what I wanted to by then. I don’t even think I remembered those first guys I killed, but it’s difficult to remember when you forgot to remember a memory.
They threw me in a well in Tijuana. They’d point a spotlight down the hole. Faces I couldn’t make out would lean over the well and watch as my handlers shot AK47s down the hole. “Zombie!” they’d scream, and laugh as I flailed around, not dying. “Zombie!”
There was a man with no left ear who used to show up drunk in the middle of the night and pour gas on me then toss in a burning newspaper. He wasn’t charging people to watch. He just liked to hear me scream.
I was down there for years. One day a rope got tossed down. Don’t know who did it, or why. They didn’t stick around. I couldn’t have asked when I climbed out; I’d been shot in the head so many times I’d lost the capacity for speech. Took months to get it back.
Took hours to kill everyone in a five block radius. Men, women, children. I didn’t know who had paid to see the zombie. I didn’t care.
I wonder if the person who threw me the rope had any regrets.
I wonder if I killed them.

Chapter Eleven

When Pit had pressed his face to the elevator, it looked to Sunday like the whole box had warped and curved like a fun house mirror. There was a high pitched whistle that caused her molars to vibrate. Then the whole elevator had shattered into tiny fragments. Pit’s face sort of tore away, his lips splitting in half a dozen places, the wound’s racing up his face. When the blast of wind hit, the skin just peeled back like a banana, leaving his skull staring at the vanished door with a look of wide-eyed surprise.
Skyrider’s helmet slammed into Sunday’s coccyx half a second later. Sunday had apparently been standing directly over her, and when the floor tore apart, collision had been inevitable. Sunday’s wound up sitting on Skyrider’s shoulders, with the lowe rim of the faceplate of the woman’s helmet cutting into her pubic bone.
A huge, ugly naked man flashed past her, limbs flailing as he tumbled down, following Pit Geek’s path toward the ground at least a mile below. If they were a mile up, he had thirty seconds before he hit the ground. When she’d first learned to fly, she’d educated herself rather thoroughly on these things.
She tilted her head back, gazing at the sun, and released her self to it. Heat and light exploded from her. Before, Ap’s foam had prevented her from really blasting Skyrider. Now, Skyrider took a dose of energy that should have reduced her to atoms. Instead, the two women were thrown apart by the energy burst. Sunday quickly regained control of her flight. Skyrider spiraled downward, trailing smoke. Her outer garments had been burned away, revealing a skin tight mesh like pantyhose woven from silver covering the woman’s body. Her helmet crumbled as she fell, but by now she was too far away for Sundancer to focus on her face. The woman had spiky red hair and, judging from the limpness of her limbs, the blast had left her unconscious.
Sundancer arced downward, blasting the air behind her to accelerate. She assumed Pit could survive having his face torn off, but wasn’t as sure that he could shake off the damage that would be done if the hit pavement after falling for a mile. She’d studied this subject. She’d seen pictures. At this speed, the human body effectively turned into a water balloon.
Servant had now fallen past Pit Geek. He was once more dressed in white. He had his feet pointed downward, cutting his wind resistance. Why would he want to fall faster?
Sunday reached Pit a quarter mile above the ground and cooled her right hand so she could grab his collar. She felt like her arm would rip from her socket as she tried to slow his fall. She went into a dizzying spiral as the ground raced closer. As the landscape spun, she caught a glimpse of Servant hitting the pavement in the middle of the parking lot, feet first. Asphalt flew everywhere. Then, the hero bounced back into the sky as if he’d had springs on his heels. He flashed toward Sunday and Pit. She screamed as she tried to pull out of her dive.
Servant drove his shoulder into the small of her back. She was certain her spine had snapped as her legs went numb. The impact tore Pit from her grasp. He was limp as a corpse as he fell.
As she tumbled through the air, she saw Servant fall as well. Apparently, while he could jump, he really couldn’t fly. He landed on the pavement feet first, turned into a white blur that ran thirty feet to his right, held out his massive arms, and caught Skyrider like a football, hugging her to his chest, crouching to absorb the impact. The rescue flowed so smoothly couldn’t help but grudgingly admire Servant’s versatility.
Now only yards above the ground, pure instinct kicked in and Sunday flared to a higher brightness. The ground beneath her vaporized. Cars all around her suddenly exploded. The radiation pouring down from her skin acted like a giant pillow and her fall suddenly stopped. She shot back into the sky, once more in control of her flight. While her lower spine felt like it had been his with a sledgehammer, she could once more feel her legs. She looked down. Her survival action had filled the air below her with smoke and dust. She spun 360 degrees as she spun to find where Pit had landed.
Only, Pit hadn’t landed. Instead, he was dangling in a net like the world’s strangest fish. The net, in turn, was hanging from the strangest aircraft she’d ever seen. Dr. Cheetah turned his face toward her and gave her a salute. His wheel chair had been transformed. The wheels had folded down perpendicular to the body of the chair and now whined as they spun like rotors, providing the chair lift. The handles on the back of the chair had folded out to form a tail. Dr. Cheetah piloted the whole thing with a joystick held in his left hand.
He spun the heli-chair around and pressed a button. Two missiles shot out from beneath the vehicle. An instant later, Servant and Skyrider vanished in a small mushroom cloud.
Sunday flew closer to the Doctor. “Good shot!” she shouted.
Dr. Cheetah pointed a finger at his ear then made a few hand signals in sign language. Sunday didn’t know ASL, but she gathered he was saying he couldn’t hear her.
The mushroom cloud cleared. Servant was flat on the ground, face down. Skyrider was nowhere to be seen. Then, Servant rose on his hands and knees, revealing Skyrider underneath him, looking unharmed by the blast.
Directly underneath Dr. Cheetah’s chair, a flesh colored balloon was floating up. Sunday squinted, unsure she was seeing what she was seeing. It looked like Ap dangling from the bottom of the balloon. And the balloon was made from the top of his scalp? She was fairly jaded when it came to physical abnormalities, having spent years in the company of a giant baby doll with a revolver for a head, but this… this was just disturbing.
Dr. Cheetah scooted the heli-chair backward, away from Ap. He pressed another button and a second nylon net shot out from underneath the chair, trailing a steel cable. The well aimed net wrapped itself around Ap’s body, pinning his arms. Dr. Cheetah began to reel him in. Then, Ap’s head deflated with a farting noise and the net fell right through Ap’s body as if it wasn’t even there. Ap spread his limbs like a skydiver as he fell toward ground at a ten the speed a normal body would have fallen.
“Dr. Cheetah!” Sunday screamed, as Servant suddenly leapt for his chair. Fortunately, the chimp’s reflexes were as superhuman as his intellect. He nudged his joystick to the left and Servant’s grasping fingers closed on empty air as the heli-chair scooted away.
Dr. Cheetah pointed west. They weren’t far from the ocean. He tilted his joystick forward and raced toward the sea. Sunday followed. She saw Pit struggling in the nylon netting that hung from the bottom of the heli-chair. She hoped he’d regain his wits enough to fish out the regeneration ray. Only, what if his powers didn’t work if he no longer had lips? And just what had caused the explosion? Her father had said that Pit’s mouth seemed to warp space. Servant had been warping time to keep the elevator intact. Had the competing warps both catastrophically failed?
They reached the beach. Sunday looked back over her shoulder, wanting the satisfaction of seeing smoke and flames pouring up from the mall area. But instead of satisfaction, she felt a chill as the white blur left by Servant’s uniform dodged among cars on the crowded boulevard in hot pursuit of Sunday. He dove into the waves and proved to be just as fast of a swimmer as he was a runner. Sunday could definitely outrace him, but Dr. Cheetah’s heli-chair’s struck her as relatively pokey. If he was pushing it to top speed, that speed was a hundred miles an hour, top. They were almost a mile up. From what she’d seen, Servant couldn’t jump this high. But what did that matter if he simply hounded them until Dr. Cheetah was forced to land? The heli-chair didn’t look as if it were designed for long distance travel.
A direct attack was useless. Servant’s force fields had taken everything she’d thrown at him. But, she had to discourage pursuit somehow. Maybe she could blind him? Could he see through steam?
Even better, could he swim through it?
Sunday raced out a mile in front of Servant, then dropped so that her feet nearly touched the water. She waited ten seconds. Then she let loose with the same level of heat she’d used to melt the West Virginia mountain top. The water formed a bowl beneath her as she vaporized the ocean for a quarter mile in every direction. Servant shot out of the waves in front of her, his arms and legs flailing as he suddenly swam in empty air. He fell toward the muck below.
She shot toward the heavens as the ocean shuddered and uncountable gallons of water roared into the hole she’d left. Servant hit bottom. He raised up, shielding his eyes as he gazed at Sunday. Then, the water crushed in on him, tidal waves hundreds of feet tall dropping down from every direction.
She lowered her intensity as she gave chase to Dr, Cheetah. She gasped. It suddenly felt as if a thousand ice cold needles had been driven into every joint. She jerked erratically across the sky as her limbs began to tremble. It was the same weakness she’d felt back in West Virginia. What was wrong with her?
Clenching her fists, she drew on pure will power to bring her flight back into control before she hit the water. They were several miles off shore now. Geography wasn’t her strong suit, but the closest shore of Pangea had to be at least fifteen hundred miles away. Could she make it that far? Could the heli-chair?
Then, as if she didn’t have enough problems, a large pale shape began to rise through the water beneath her. It had the outline of a shark, but even great whites weren’t this big. It had to be at least two hundred feet long.
A gray fin knifed up from the water. The mega-shark kept rising, until its back was completely out of the water. Waves churned around it as it slowed.
Dr. Cheetah piloted the helichair down toward the broad flat area behind the creature’s head. He gingerly set Pit down, then deftly guided the heli-chair to a gentle landing a few yards away. A hatch suddenly lifted up from the shark’s back and three chimps scurried forward. One slung Pit over his shoulder while the other two assisted Dr. Cheetah.
Sunday dropped onto the back of the shark.
“What’s going on?” she asked as she let her flames flicker away.
Before anyone could answer, she fell, her body slamming onto the sharkskin. It felt like rubber stretched over steel. Her limbs shook uncontrollably as a million invisible dentists drills dug into her teeth and bones. She vomited, unable to lift her head. The front of her thighs grew hot as her bladder emptied.
Dark spots danced before her eyes. The last thing she saw was a chimp’s handlike feet running toward her.

She opened her eyes in a hospital room. She winced as the whiteness of the surrounding stabbed at her eyes. Turning her head, she saw an IV stand with a bag of red fluid and a bag of white fluid.
The acute pain she’d felt when she’d landed had faded, leaving her with a diffuse, hollow ache that ran from her toes to her scalp.
Pit was sitting next to her. He was slumped over in his chair, his face pressed into the sheet on the edge of her bed. His fingers were draped over her left arm. He was drooling.
“Pit,” she said.
His eyes cracked opened. He sat up, rubbing his face. Once more, he was clean shaven.
“You used the regeneration ray?” she asked. Her voice sounded very faint.
He took her hand, clasping it in his grasp. “I was gonna try it on you, but Dr. Cheetah said it weren’t a good idea.”
She nodded. “I’ve felt funny ever since I used that thing.” She sighed. “After it takes me apart, I’m not certain it’s putting me back together right.”
Pit shook his head. “The gun don’t hurt me none. I’m probably to blame for your problems.” There was a look of genuine remorse on his face.
“How are you to blame?”
“You’d been in hiding all those years,” he said. “Not using your powers. Then I talked you into robbing all them banks. I wore you out.”
“Maybe,” she said, though she was almost certain that something was going on beyond mere exhaustion.
“Where are we?” she asked.
The door opened. Dr. Cheetah poked his head inside. “Am I interrupting?”
“Come on in, Doc,” said Pit.
“I was just asking where we were,” said Sunday.
“We’re aboard the Megalodon,” said Dr. Cheetah. “It’s a prototype submarine that will form the foundation of our naval forces.” Then his eyes flickered around the room. “Your more immediate surroundings, of course, are the medical ward of said vessel.”
“I picked up on that, thanks,” said Sunday. “Any theories as to why I need to be in here?”
“Some, yes,” said Dr. Cheetah. He produced a large tablet computer from a drawer at the foot of the bed. He held it forward to reveal an ex-ray. Against the black and white bone, thousands of little white holes could be seen. Dr. Cheetah panned in and these proved to be computer generated circles highlighting tiny pits in Sunday’s bones. He handed the tablet to Sunday so she could look closer, but she really didn’t understand what she was looking at.
“We’ve spent many years reviewing your father’s data, and—”
“How?” Sunday asked.
“How?” Dr. Cheetah furrowed his brow. “We read them, mostly.”
“No, I mean, how did you get the data? My father used to have a shadow network hidden through computers all over the world. I could tap into it from anywhere, until he disappeared. Then the network just vanished.”
“Ah. Yes. That would be our fault.”
“How so?”
Dr. Cheetah waddled around to the side of her bed on his short monkey legs to check her IVs. “We Pangeans worked closely with Dr. Knowbokov for several years to establish our new homeland. However, our true loyalties remained with Rex Monday. He had, after all, given us the gift of mind. Our agents stationed at the Knowbokov compound reported the death of both Dr. Know and Rex Monday. The two men had acted as if they were the gods of this world, but in the end, neither could survive a bullet to the head.”
“So my father is dead,” she said, softly.
“Such are the reports,” said Dr. Cheetah. “Immediately following Monday’s death, we Pangeans back-up all the data on his shadow network, then wiped all traces of it from the various servers that had hosted it. We didn’t wish this information to fall into the hands of others. The advanced technological designs stored in his data bases provide the foundation of our current industries.”
Pit was staring at Dr. Cheetah with a focus that made even Sunday a little uncomfortable.
“Is something wrong, sir?” Dr. Cheetah asked.
“You can walk,” said Pit. “I thought you needed a wheel chair.”
“The chair was merely the foundation of a disguise that allowed me to move freely in human society without drawing attention. If I’d walked, human’s would have been instantly mindful of the differences in my gait.”
“Let’s get back to my problem,” said Sunday, staring at the tiny pits on her bones. “You said you have data on me?”
Dr. Cheetah nodded. “Since puberty, you’ve manifested the ability to generate tiny wormholes that channel solar material. It’s an amazing ability. If we could somehow duplicate it mechanically, it would provide all of earth with limitless, abundant power.”
“And you could make one hell of a bomb,” said Pit.
“Yes. That.” Dr. Cheetah looked satisfied with the state of the IVs and turned his gaze once more to the tablet that Sunday held. “The cells of your body that generate the wormholes originate within your bone marrow. From what I can glean from your father’s notes, when you shut off your powers when you were younger, the wormholes collapsed in under a pico second. While we need to run some tests to verify this, the pattern of damage to your bones suggests that, for the faintest fraction of a second, the spin of the wormholes are inverting before they vanish. Instead of material from the sun flowing out through you, material from you is flowing back into the sun. When you turn your powers off, you are, effectively, flushing blood, bone, and marrow down very very tiny toilets. This is the cause of your current pain.”
“The regeneration ray,” she said. “Did it—”
“Possibly,” said the Doctor. “Mr. Geek informs me that your problems began after you’d used the gun on yourself. It’s possible that your restored cellular structure has slight variances that are the source of your condition. But, we can’t rule out the possibility that this effect has always been present in your powers. It’s not reflected in your father’s data, but we have much more sensitive instruments than he had available ten years ago.”
“My powers didn’t hurt me ten years ago,” she said.
“You were younger and more resilient,” Dr, Cheetah pointed out. “And, please note that the effects we are talking about here take place on scales far smaller than can easily be imagined. It may simply have taken a long time to for the damage to accumulate to critical levels. You’ve only ever had the power to channel a very tiny percent of the suns total energy through your wormholes.”
“What?” asked Pit Geek. “Like, one percent?”
“Like one billionth of one percent,” said Dr. Cheetah. “If she could channel one percent, she would reduce the earth to cinders.”
“As long as I keep my powers burning, I don’t get hurt?” she asked. “In theory, I would never have any pain as long as I don’t shut the wormholes down?”
“In theory,” said Dr. Cheetah. “Though I suspect such a course would have a deleterious effect upon the quality of your life.”
“Can you fix her, Doc?” asked Pit. “Could we just use the regeneration ray?”
“That ray caused my problem,” Sunday said.
“The good news is, the body is capable of regenerating lost tissue,” said Dr. Cheetah. “With some rest and good nutritional practices, your pain should abate and your strength should come back. For most of the time you have left, you won’t always feel as bad as you do now.”
“Most of the…” Sunday’s voice trailed off.
“I’m sorry,” said Dr. Cheetah, shaking his head. “But you’ve exposed your body to massive doses of radiation for nearly a decade. Your cells are growing back. Unfortunately, some are growing unchecked. We have tried to mark the location of all the tumors in your bones. Some may be benign. Some are almost certainly malignant. I fear they are innumerable.”
“Cancer?” asked Pit.
Cheetah nodded. “Once we are in Pangea, we can discuss treatment options.”
Sunday turned her face away from Pit. The last thing she wanted to hear at this moment was some stupid speech about running toward the Grim Reaper.
“You can’t let her die, Doc,” said Pit, squeezing her hand. “I love her.”
And so he did. And she knew she loved him. And, oh, what cruelty it was, at the moment she learned she would die, that she finally felt as if she had something to live for.

3611 words

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