Abandonment Party 2: Chapter 25 (First Draft)

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 Matt, I almost don’t want you to read the first drafts for these final chapters. It isn’t because they’re more horrible than the others. It’s just that I hate to see the ending incomplete like this! It’s flawed. I don’t want you to get to these cool parts and think “Wow, this would be amazing if the writing didn’t suck.”

It would be like watching the end of Terminator 2, only to see Arnold get dropped into a bowl of pudding. Then Sarah Conner fist-bumps John while the T-1000 explodes from the power of robot tears.

Oh, sorry, that ending would still rock. I know I was going for a “worse ending” there to use as an example, but I just can’t seem to describe one that would be disappointing. I’ll try harder next time Matt–go ahead and read the chapter.

DRAFT START

25 – Gotcha

 

Vornis grit his white teeth and his clawed feet slid back; the case that he grasped with both arms slid forward, and inside, Pinada smiled at him.

“I feel I have to apologize for my friend Sing,” he said, nodding past Vornis’ shoulder. “Calling me a monster while you’re standing right there––well, you must feel quite hurt.”

“Shut up!” the beast growled. “And my name’s Vornis!”

“Oh?” Pinada asked offhand, watching Tome run off toward the mine’s direction. With a cough he focused on Vornis again. “No, wait, Parlay had a friend with that name didn’t she? Or I guess I should say ‘he,’ now––I saw you all crying around him when that city fell.”

He halted his advance, stopping to laugh. “I only wish I had known about that duel-gendered nonsense during the fair; I would have told King and everyone else watching!”

Vornis thumped the cage with his chest. “You did enough! I always wondered what sent her over the edge––it was you! Putting her through that––humilation!”

“Oh, everything’s my fault, huh?” Pinada said. “At least I didn’t kill her. You all did that just fine. And I saw how you treated her––him––during that last day. What she became disgusted you.”

A spot of fog pulsed on the case as Vornis’ breath seethed onto it.

“And what about your girlfriend?” Pinada asked, turning away from the sight of condensation on the glass. “Isn’t she the reason you and Parlay were banned from that quarantine area? Why isn’t she here?”

“You know why she isn’t!” Vornis bellowed. Pinada hummed, toying with his scarf.

“You’re not thinking,” he said. “It’s a dead zone, and she was already infected with slate. Maybe you know something I don’t, but how exactly could anything I’ve done have hurt her?”

The glass squeaked as Vornis’ arms slackened. The ferocity drained from his face and Pinada glanced over at him.

“Ooh, don’t tell me you never actually checked on her?” he groaned. With a click of his tongue, he shook his head. “Well, those people depend on the outside world for food and supplies: they’d all be dead by now. I can just imagine it: some starving to death after eating those horrid carriage animals for a month straight. Some panicking, venturing out––only to have the virus claim them.” He turned, pretending to cry as he snuck a hand to the sword under his coat. “I wonder how long your beloved what’s-her-name waited. Well, maybe you were busy. I shouldn’t judge.”

“Zen––” Vornis muttered, and his eyes drifted to the plains and the swaying grass there. Pinada twirled to face him again, holding a slim blade with no edge and a needle’s point. The tip passed through the glass with no effort or noise; it pierced Vornis’ leg and only stopped when the hilt clinked against the case.

“I stabbed you,” Pinada giggled, drawing the blade back. He pushed on the glass with his hand, and the surface sealed as the tip retreated past. Vornis wobbled as blood splattered to the road; he winced as his leg buckled.

“I’ve got you,” Mean said, dropping in and catching him by his shirt. With a grunt, she eased him to the ground.

“So you made your choice,” Pinada said, sheathing the sword. “I hope you can live with it.”

“I’m going,” Mean told Vornis, and he gave her a hasty nod. She darted away and soared off down the road. Pinada placed his hand on the back of his case, and it bounded over Vornis’ grasping arms. He followed her, as her yellow sundress flapped, past the end of the Nine-Mile Road and the scorched, barren lot at the end. Tome spun around as Mean closed in on him; she slowed just enough to say, “Hold him.”

With a kick she burst back to full speed: keeping her eyes narrow as wind whipped at her scalp. Sounds of tearing and bangs resounded behind her; she kept looking ahead: at the massive stone covering the mine’s entrance ahead. As Mean neared a glint of glass rose from a spot in the grass: the broken piece of the case with the two letters etched on it. It zipped ahead of her and smashed into the first two pillars of the hex door: warping the middles inward. Mean landed next to it two seconds later.

“Crap,” she muttered, flinging the glass out of the way. The hex door buzzed at her when she stood in the center; she grumbled, and another blunt noise sounded in the field behind. As she tipped her head back to check, a rusted lump caught her eye: it was the large length of chain attached to the rock. She left the pedestal and touched the metal: it responded with snaps and clanks, the links rising up and straight into the air. As it was pulled taut the side of the stone it was attached to lifted a crack. Mean went over, kneeling down at the darkened gap.

“Lights?” she whispered. The space beyond brightened: a dirty platform lay just under the stone. She slipped in, setting the boulder back by dropping the chain. She coughed from the drizzle of dust and peered over the railing. The floor of the cave was far below, and the lumpy floor was lit with an even haze. At her side, stairs wound along the sides of the cavern’s wide edges: fastened in place with bolts and leading in a wide arc down to the floor. Mean ignored them and leapt over the side. Cool air rushed over her skin as she dropped through the vast room and snapped her heels down at the bottom. As she scanned the walls for any possible way to continue, a dull thud from above diverted her attention again. She looked up and gasped: an large eye stared back down at her.

It was carved into the bottom of the rock that sealed the cave’s ceiling, stretching wide and tapered at the ends where the eyelids would be. It was framed in a painted, red circle.

“Geez, that’s right––she was down here,” Mean said. On the bottom of one of the stairs large words were also written: ‘I CAN’T SEE MUCH.”

Another thud echoed above and Mean’s feet scampered across the rough ground, over to a carved walkway leading to a door.

“BUT I CAN SEE YOU,” was painted over the metal, where locks and signs warned ‘SHAFTS CLOSED––NO LIFT.’

She shivered, holding her arms close to her body. Walking off to the side, she reached a smaller passage formed from natural rock. Further in, where the sides of the walls narrowed, the glossy earth was chipped away in rough, square edges. She darted that way as a long, scraping sound came from above with a shaft of sunlight.

A faint “You shouldn’t be down here,” faded at Mean’s back as she ran through the corridor––half flying, half sprinting––over carved steps and rubble. Every surface was lit by no visible source, and the slick walls displayed doodles and repeating words. ‘CIRCLE, CIRCLE,’ as Mean leapt a crevasse, ‘CIRCUS, SHIRK IT,’ as she reached a debris-filled fork in the hall.

“Crap––which way, which way?” she chattered, hopping on her heels. Large chunks of stone sat in one passage, with long streaks leading into the other. She peered past the rubble-filled hall, then down the empty one: a faint grinding from the tunnels behind her spurred her though the easiest choice.

She bounded through, passing a hex door set into one of the walls. Ahead, metallic, textured slabs were set along a zigzagging stone path. As Mean scrambled through them, she spotted a small sign hanging from twin chains at the low ceiling. “Hall Zone ahead” was written upon it, and she stumbled over something as she broke into a wider, oblong chamber. The footing was slanted and she rushed down through the haphazard lighting. Another Hall Zone sign dangled from a mangled chain; its lettering defaced with red marks: a horizontal slash bisected the “a,” while numerous, interlinked zeroes were scribbled after the “Z.” Mean jerked to a halt as she reached a long rail barring her path. With a gasp she shivered back: all light beyond that point ceased.

Her eyes followed the railing and it extended to her right: curving through intermittent flashes of light in the darkness, along a wall covered in scribbles of eyes, chain links, and faces.

“DID YOU FIND IT, MEAN?” Pinada’s hollow voice echoed through the previous chambers. “DO YOU THINK YOU’LL FIND YOUR FRIENDS DOWN THERE?”

Mean spotted a bright patch far along the twinkling curve: a breach in the wall where a strong light shone through. Her sandals scraped from the cold floor and her body lifted into a hover. She put a foot on the rail. The darkness above and below her was still. Her own breath startled her, rasping loud and setting her off across the black, empty space. She held her arms close to her body and her feet tight together; not risking anything to the void as she rushed toward the far-off square of light. The rushing of air over her ears eased the quiet as she flew, and a nervous hum built at her lips as she kept her eyes on the passage. Sweat trailed over her skin and tears blurred her vision; when the opposite railing drew up she flew past it: zooming over and into the radiant patch in the cracked wall.

The tall, iron supports from her first visit were still there, and she weaved around the few that stood between her and the far side of the bright chamber. Mean slowed at last near the joined stalactite and stalagmite formation, with the distinctive, sandy streak down their middles. The space where the console had been was scraped bare. A large, empty hexagon intention marred the floor.

“You got rid of everything,” Mean said, snapping her feet to the ground. “But the patterns––we saw patterns from next week. It should still be here!”

She turned into the vast cavern. Above, many strips of coaster track had been attached to the tall pillars: torn into segments and twisted around in decorative fashions. Pinada was gliding over from the hole in the wall.

“Oh, that?” he said. “The machine that samples time patterns is separate from the means to travel. Is that why you raced down here? Don’t be silly.”

Mean stared at the empty spots, mumbling. “Why would you do this? Why would you kill everyone?”

“It’s like how that pit out there frightened you,” Pinada explained, his hands in his coat pockets. “It isn’t even that deep; even in the dark, I know its dimensions.” He leaned on the back of his case. “Things are much less scary once I know where they are. And now I know where everyone is: they’re all dead. It’s such a relief.”

With a shriek of metal wrenching from its place, Mean brought down a spiral of twisted track onto him. He gave the glass an absent touch and the metal bounced upon impact, fragmenting into five large pieces and clanging to the chamber floor.

“And I know where you are,” Pinada continued. “I also know that you are from this world and not native to the other, as you lead everyone to believe.” He put a thoughtful finger on his cheek as another hunk of rail collided and shattered on his case. “Oh dear, Mean––you lied to all of your friends. Even Parlay, who trusted you.”

“Shut up! You don’t get to talk about them!” Mean cried, dragging another piece of the track from the pillars.

“What are you shouting at me for?” Pinada asked. “You were the one who chased Parlay up into the sky a month back. So confused. So tormented. Did she remember you at all, I wonder? You could have had a real friend from your home world––but you chose to beat her to death. Maybe she didn’t want to remember you. I sure wouldn’t.”

Mean took the rail in her tiny hands and swung hard. The metal impacted and wrapped over the corner of Pinada’s square case.

“I didn’t know,” Mean said, sniffing. She dropped her end of the rail, looking past the cube as the metal clanged from it. Dark was sweeping into the room with his cape held around him. Tome followed, brushing dust from his blond hair.

“Huh, you made it down here,” Pinada stated, turning sideways. “I was afraid I’d have to drag her corpse back up to you.”

“Mean, where is it? Is it still there?” Tome asked, shouting across the vast room.

“There’s nothing;” Mean said, dashing past pillars and joining with them, “you shouldn’t have come.”

“That’s right,” Pinada chimed in. “I’ve spent the last week dismantling equipment and destroying the last of the viruses. But let me tell you the funniest part”––he spun to face them in full––”only one virus can infect a person in their lifetime. The one you all took fulfilled its programming, but it will forever lay dormant in you. So even if I had left everything here, you would never be able to use the virus again.”

Mean stamped on the floor. Tome pushed his way in front of Dark.

Pinada laughed. “Sing, you picked such a terrible team to go with you! If you could even call it that. Just a random group of people who––oh, I don’t know––go running off with the slightest provocation. You couldn’t even step up as their leader; you just stood by as the one chance you had slipped right past.”

He chuckled and coughed into his scarf as Tome walked right up to his casing.

“You’re not leaving here alive,” he said. “I don’t care if it kills me––you’re not getting out of here.”

“Tome, stay back,” Dark said.

“Yes, stop posturing,” Pinada chided. “You can’t even die.”

“Dark, you and Mean leave,” Tome said. “I can bring it all down on him.”

Pinada jumped. “Oh dear, that’s drastic. Help, someone help.”

“You don’t need to do that, Tome,” Dark said, pulling back and whispering in his ear. “I got him already.”

Tome stood still and Pinada put his hands in his pockets. He made a slow revolution in his case, grinding against the cave’s floor.

“Ahhhh, yes, my air supply,” Pinada announced along with a slow clap. “Good job. Really. I’m ecstatic to see one of you make some effort to think.”

“His––you found it?” Tome asked. Dark gave a curt nod.

“I knew he wouldn’t risk using his own planet’s air––not with that disease floating around. So that only left one place––a place that I knew he’d been: Jesice.”

“So that’s where you went,” Mean said. “While I was with Mackaba you––”

“Yeah, I used your bracelet to find it,” Dark finished. “It was the only source of magic in the city besides the hex door.”

Pinada scoffed, pulling aside one fold of his heavy coat. “If only you had shut it off when it mattered. Allow me to bring your genius plan down with one move.”

He took the sword out of the scabbard at his side, drawing out the long, needle blade. Coughing again, he drove the point through the glass case; piercing in and out with a long glide. A small hiss and steam whined through the hole.

“Well, maybe I’ll need more than one,” Pinada said, working the sword through again. “But seriously: nice move. I almost feel light-headed.”

“Sing,” Dark muttered, “give me your blessing.”

Tome glanced over. “Hm?”

“Bring judgment upon this nonbeliever;” Dark continued to chant, “show me salvation; purge the evil from this place!”

A white glow burst from beneath Darklord’s cape, sweeping out in radiant strands. Mean and Tome found themselves engulfed as the wave rushed forward, crashing against Pinada’s square walls. A tiny, slimy head poked out from under Dark’s arm.

“That––!” Pinada choked, yanking the sword free. He tossed it down and slammed his palm to the case; tendrils of light squirmed past his fingers through the holes in the glass.

“No! No! No!” he stammered, squeezing his eyes shut as the bright lines wrapped around him. “That isn’t supposed to be––!”

The tendrils retracted: clinging to both sides of Pinada’s walls as they went. The side he was touching tipped outward and broke free from the cube; the four spires decorated with trophies wobbled off their corners, all clanging to the cave’s floor.

“How did it––” Pinada gasped, covering his head with his arm as the three other walls at his sides gave way. The top plate fell upon him, bringing him down as the other plates snapped into large fragments and skidded outward.

“Gotcha,” Dark chuckled as the glow converged on the rory at his chest, vanishing. He slumped as the lights overhead flickered. Mean’s shoes squeaked as she shot forward.

“That’s impossible––” Pinada coughed, shrugging off the large top plate. He stood with the broken glass at his feet, watching Mean run right over. He gave a reflexive toss of his hand to the empty space before him; Mean’s own fist drifted past and struck him in the neck. His eyes crossed and he sputtered; she took the neck of his coat and jerked the collar from his shoulders down to his elbows.

“You can’t touch me,” Pinada gasped as Mean kicked his own legs out from under him. She leapt on his chest as he crumpled to the floor, beating his face with her tiny hands.

 

—–

 

Vornis tightened the knot of shredded clothes, forming a slick band of cloth at his wounded thigh.

“I called an ambulance,” Darrow said, kneeling next to him. “I, uh, just said to follow the road all the way to the end.” Vornis grunted, staring off into the direction of the mine.

“All of their patterns just vanished,” he said. “Even Pinada’s stupid box.”

Darrow brightened, placing his hands on the asphalt and leaning back.

“Yeah, I saw that Dark still had the rory on him when we came back,” he said. “He must have figured out the command Eon taught it.”

“But how?” Vornis asked. “How come it didn’t catch the version of slate that killed everyone else?”

“I was in that armor,” Darrow said. “Remember? Eon would have hidden it before the fair started; it was sealed off from everything in there so that no one could find out he was cheating. It could only catch the virus once it had been freed.”

“And Dark was the one that did it––” Vornis finished, “and his own armor had just been cracked. His time-traveling version got out and infected the rory before any of the other ones could.” He chuckled. “Bet Pinada didn’t see that one coming.”

 

—–

 

Dark shuffled forward, dragging his heels. Pinada lay on the ground before him, his eyes blank and blood smearing his cheek; Mean stood over his body with her hands balled up into fists. With a curt sigh she scanned the glass at her feet. Reaching down, she pulled the needle-edged sword from the mess.

“Mean, no, I’ll do it,” Dark said. “Give me the sword.”

She turned, flicking her hair back with a toss of the head. A smile crossed her face as she set her free hand on his shoulder.

“Gotcha,” she giggled, drawing the blade back and running him through with one stroke.

DRAFT END

Summary:

Vornis blames Pinada for the deaths of Parlay and Zenny. Pinada explains to Vornis that Zenny, being in a dead zone, would be unaffected by his virus. He states that she would have died along with the other people living there anyway, since nobody on the outside could supply them anymore. As Vornis is caught off-guard by this heart-breaking news, Pinada stabs him through the glass with his rapier. I don’t actually call it a “rapier” in the first draft for some reason.

Mean arrives, flying directly toward the mine. Pinada pursues her. He uses a piece of the broken case to smash the hex door leading to the time chamber. Mean is forced to enter the mine through the sealed entrance. She lifts the rock covering the hole in the ground, closes it behind her, and races to find the correct path to the chamber. After flying through passages marked with scribbles from the Hellzoo incident and across a large abyss, she reaches the chamber–only to find that the machinery has been dismantled.

Pinada catches up, and Mean lashes out at him, unable to damage his case. Dark and Tome arrive as well: Tome wants to bring down the cavern on Pinada, but Dark claims to have a plan. Pinada already knows that his air supply has been shut off, and he pierces his glass cube to draw in more. Dark reveals that Cocoa, his rory, has made the trip to the present as well. The little guy unleashes his magic-erasing beams (I really should have come up with a name for this) and leaves Pinada powerless. His cube collapses.

Mean pummels him for a bit, and then she goes to pick up the rapier. Dark insists on performing the finishing blow himself. Mean does not oblige; she impales Dark with the sword instead.

Choice Edits:

Vornis grit his white teeth and his clawed feet slid back; the case that he grasped with both arms slid forward, and inside, Pinada smiled at him.

This beginning is so messed up. Tome would not leave Vornis here to battle Pinada alone. I need to continue the struggle between Tome and Pinada from two chapters ago. THEN Vornis can take over after Tome falls.

I also wouldn’t use “slid” twice in a row in the same sentence. Yuck.

“I stabbed you,” Pinada giggled, drawing the blade back.

Ha,ha,ha, what? Is Pinada two years old now? And where is Darrow during all this? I know he can’t fight but I need to show him cowering behind a tree or something. If only they could get Pinada’s sword; then they could call on the power of Greyskull to transform Darrow into Battle-Cat.

The floor of the cave was far below, and the lumpy floor was lit with an even haze.

Floor! Again I repeat the same word twice in one sentence. I need to get serious here! Missouri is the land of caves, and I will dishonor my glorious heritage if I don’t do this description justice!

The darkness above and below her was still. Her own breath startled her, rasping loud and setting her off across the black, empty space.

I really do want to get this right. I’ve been on cave tours before and witnessed the abyssal voids of horror myself. The silence and lack of light is unlike anything you can experience above ground. When the guide turns off the thousands of electric lights, that is.

“Oh, that?” he said. “The machine that samples time patterns is separate from the means to travel. Is that why you raced down here? Don’t be silly.”

Another thing I need to clarify. When Mean’s group came here the first time, the machine scanning the time patterns showed that it would scan for two more weeks. However, they assumed that just because time patterns were being scanned that meant that there would still be a means to travel. Since Pinada has destroyed the viruses the scanning machine is useless.

“I knew he wouldn’t risk using his own planet’s air––not with that disease floating around. So that only left one place––a place that I knew he’d been: Jesice.”

This is why I chose to explain this last chapter: I don’t think it would make sense for Dark to talk about it now. Or rather, why would he do it right in front of Pinada?

“Bring judgment upon this nonbeliever;” Dark continued to chant, “show me salvation; purge the evil from this place!”

What in the world? Oh, this is when the rory needed magic words to activate its magic drain. A “kill command.” I don’t know how Dark could possibly remember everything Eon said during the tournament, so I just think I’ll have him shout “NOW COCOA!” or something.

“I called an ambulance,” Darrow said, kneeling next to him. “I, uh, just said to follow the road all the way to the end.”

This is why I added the part where Mean requests an “ambulance or something” from Tecker. There are no Jesian hospitals on this planet; any help has to be sent through the hex door. And I’m pretty sure Darrow opted out of the “inter-planetary coverage plan” from his phone provider.

“I was in that armor,” Darrow said. “Remember? Eon would have hidden it before the fair started; it was sealed off from everything in there so that no one could find out he was cheating. It could only catch the virus once it had been freed.”

YOU were in the armor, Darrow!? Zounds, that is a twist!

I obviously meant “It was in that armor,” so don’t get too excited. I could have had Dark explain this, but again: it wouldn’t make sense for him to blurt out this explanation right in front of Pinada. That’s why I had Darrow and Vornis figure it out. They’ve got nothing else to do while they wait for paramedics to rush between worlds, after all.

“Gotcha,” she giggled, drawing the blade back and running him through with one stroke.

Kinda sucks that you can’t just turn the page to see what happens, Matt! 😉

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