Chapter 16: No Escape
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Previously: Harrey hurried off to grab his flying bike invention, meanwhile Madnes and Alice spotted Ugly Duckling high in the sky and heading for the deadly Sacred Pond. Anything living that enters within the guarded compound of the Sacred Pond is killed on sight–vaporized into a pile of ashes. Madnes has to use his life-draining power to race up the vertical walls of the compound with inhuman strength and vault himself through the air to catch Ugly in his arms before the lasers can get to him. But just as Madnes grabs him, they fall, descending down inside the Sacred Pond’s enclosure…
Fingers caught feathers, and he pulled Ugly Duckling to himself. Together they fell through the air, down into the trees ringing the Sacred Pond like an oasis, Madnes using his body as a shield, and preparing to be vaporized by the Pond’s security system…
‘Honestly, human, do I have to do everything for you?’ spoke the fairy-like girl inside his head, with exasperation. ‘If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were annoyingly suicidal.’
Madnes’ eyes popped open, and before he could think up a reply his body moved on its own, rolling aside off the tangle of branches he’d landed in and tumbling down to a ground thick with undergrowth that made up the Sacred Pond’s enclosed space. Burning lasers struck the tree within a breath after him.
Thick ferns cushioned his fall, and he lie there on his back, steadily breathing, holding Ugly Duckling tight to his chest. Thankfully, the young bird had sense enough to keep quiet; maybe seeing the lasers had startled him. Or maybe it was the strange lump of ashes on the ground nearby, remnants of a laser’s work—and some poor creature’s or person’s remains.
Green ferns swayed over his vision and Madnes tried to get his bearings. They were inside the compound, and once they were detected lasers would find them. They had to lay low.
“S-something’s looking for us,” Ugly murmured, feathers trembling against him.
“Yes…” It did sound that way. “Keep your head down.” He set Ugly beside him and twisted his body around so that he lay on his stomach and could peer around the ferns. The noise was clunky and metallic, and with horror he realized there was more than one.
His hands and knees carefully crawled around, searching for a better view: the Pond’s surface shown pure azure a dozen feet from where they’d landed, more perfect than the most beautiful oasis. Loud cranks and movement in the greenery caught his attention: robotic sentries. They were positioned in a circle around the compound’s enclosure, and having detected an intruder lurking somewhere inside they moved as one, like a net closing in.
Gears and spokes stuck out like clockwork machines, and their mouths opened, gaping ready lasers; hair—if you could call it that—electric wires and cables that sizzled. Their metal heads turned this way and that as they clunked forward, searching. As far as Madnes could tell, there was no way out, unless a door had been blended in.
It wouldn’t make sense not to have a door for emergency purposes, to upgrade the sentries or put out a fire or whatever else could go wrong. But if it did exist, how was he going to move past those robots? One sight, and a laser would be the last thing he felt.
He realized his wrist was in burning pain and quick glanced down at it. The inked clock in his skin had moved its long handle a tick. He bit down a shout. ‘I should’ve been faster instead of letting the fairy take control of me!’ How much of his life had that fairy used up?
Pinions tapped the side of his head.
“Uh, mister, how’re we getting out of here?”
He turned to face a large, bead eye, his own reflection staring back at him. “Oh, so you’ve realized this place is dangerous, huh? A little late, don’t you think.” Ugly blinked back. He sighed and shifted his attention to the robotic sentries. ‘I’m going to have to use up more of my life, again, aren’t I?’ Even if there was a door, no doubt there’d be trouble waiting for him on the other side. Best to run back up the wall, same way he’d entered. ‘But can I outrun the sentries’ fire power?’ That was the life or death question.
“I don’t have a choice.”
“What?” Ugly cocked his long neck.
Madnes didn’t bother answering, instead he scooped up the gray bird in one arm like a football and rose up into a low crouch. Ugly honked in surprise, and robotic heads swiveled and creaked their way.
An array of red lights shot their way, and his legs filled with a burst of speed as the power took over him. His body zigzagged this way and that, swerving in impossible positions and barely avoiding the vaporizing, hot beams as they streaked past.
Alarms reverberated off the walls, rattling through his skull, and Ugly cried his lungs out. The robots’ clanking feet grew louder, trotting into a creaking run toward them.
‘Uh-oh,’ the fairy huffed. ‘Looks like you’ll need more power than this. But it’s going to cost you…’
He didn’t have time to think. He only knew the Madness Solver power was his only way of keeping alive, here, right now, and saving ugly. “Do what has to be done.”
At a strange cry, like something you’d hear from a jungle man, Madnes looked up. There in the sky, coming down into the compound, was a strange flying device—a bicycle with propellers, to be precise. Its driver grinned and gave a solute.
Some of the sentries’ attention shifted to the contraption descending over the pond, and searing lasers flared out to Madnes’ horror.
“Harrey! Don’t—Watch out!”
There was nothing he could do. He ran toward the bike as it lowered down, but he wasn’t fast enough to reach before the lasers made contact.
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© copyright 2015 E. Rawls and Rawls E. Fantasy, All Rights Reserved
This is my entry for this week’s #BlogBattle challenge by the wonderful author Rachael Ritchey, where the challenge is to write a short story based on that week’s chosen word. This week’s word was: “Oasis.” Check out the link, read other great stories there, and VOTE for your 3 favorite to win!
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