Abandonment Party 2: Chapter 27 (Second Draft)

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My web hosting service has been blocking my access! To my own site! Can you believe that? I paid five bucks for this; how dare they! Oh! And then–! I was trying to post this last night and I got an error. Guess what? They MOVED my site. Because of them I wasn’t able to post! I was forced to spend my time playing video games instead. But fear not! My genius friend Matt fixed the problem. The games he plays are boring; it was easier for him to find time for it. (Something about farming in space. Who knows.)

Now I’m back. I can’t stop now–not after I’ve come so far. This draft must end! Convoluted explanations must be simplified! Aftermaths must be realized! Romantic scenes must not sound as if they belong in Twilight! Onward!

DRAFT START

27 – The Special Night

 

The glossy strands held Mean and Tecker to the cavern’s smooth floor. Both of them let out a gasp of disbelief as Pinada fell from the rapier. The blade remained stuck through the back of the cube, thrumming as his body flopped into the case’s corner. His glasses were knocked crooked and his blank eyes stared past the rims. His body slipped a bit, settling to rest. The sword quieted. With a slow release of tension, the numerous strands holding Mean, Tecker, and Tome relaxed and faded out of sight.

“Dark,” Mean said, pulling herself up. She sat on her knees beside him, looking from his face to his wound where Cocoa was stuck. Tecker worked up a smile.

“You don’t have to call me that now–” he chuckled with a wheeze on his breath. Mean held her fingers to his lips, calling across the cavern to Tome.

“We need to get him to a hospital; Tome, I can’t fly–”

“We’ll have to carry him,” Tome replied. He picked himself up, hobbling over with a sideways glare at Pinada’s case. “You get one side; I’ll get the other.”

As the two knelt down beside Tecker a pop sounded from afar. All three flinched, staring across the wide cave toward the hole leading into the hall zone chamber. Darrow stood at the hex door near the square passage.

He squinted, seeing Pinada’s corpse lying still in his box. Blood stained the back of his rectangle-patterned shirt.

“Oh man,” Darrow said. He broke into a run, meeting up with the rest.

“You got the door working?” Tome sighed. “Thank goodness. Help us get him out of here.”

“Yeah,” Darrow said, taking Tecker’s legs. “Got an ambulance up there and everything. Man, those guys took one look at Vornis and about–” His voice cut off with a gasp. He shoved Tecker’s legs into Tome’s hands and rushed away.

“Dark!” he cried out, falling to his knees beside the shattered armor. He picked up the two pieces of the helmet, turning them over in his hands and trying to fit them back together. “What happened to him!? Dark!”

“Darrow,” Mean said. Darrow turned to her with a frown. “This is Dark. We need to save him.”

“Oh,” Darrow said, coming back over with the pieces. “Sorry man, I just thought you were some guy.”

Tecker smiled again, sweat thick on his brow. “I need that helmet anyway; I’ve having trouble breathing.”

Mean shifted, lowering him close to the floor. Darrow placed the helmet on his face and the two halves joined, the seam sealing itself.

“I promise I won’t keep it on,” Tecker said through the shattered chin. Mean hefted him up again.

“Let’s just hurry,” she said. “Darrow, can you help with this end? It’s too heavy for me.”

He nodded and a clatter came from the pile of armor: the breastplate pieces skimmed over the ground towards the group.

“Whoa, what?” Mean exclaimed as the pieces shot over, one part zipping beneath Tecker’s back while the other one locked into place over his chest and Cocoa. Tecker winced as the armor lifted him upright.

“It’s Cocoa,” Tome said. “He’s helping out. I guess he’s the only one with any magic.”

“Wonderful,” Tecker coughed, hovering over to the hex door with his feet dragging on the stone. “Mean, make sure he knows where to take me?”

“Right!” she called, catching up to him and taking him by the arm. She led him to the hex door.

“Take us to the Droldragia gazebo,” she stated. They both vanished with a ripple. Darrow began to follow, but hung back. Tome was staring at the glass cube: A high, long, hiss was escaping from it. As they watched, the four walls tipped outward; Pinada’s upper body dropped from the corner it was wedged in and plopped to the floor. The plates all fell: the top one bounced off Pinada; the others shattered, the pieces all sliding in different directions.

“I had to be sure,” Tome said, wiping at the blond stubble on his chin. “Had to be sure he was dead. There’s nothing left: no patterns. No way he escaped.”

“Sure doesn’t feel like we won though, does it?” Darrow sighed. He pointed at the sword. “You guys stab him with that?” Tome turned, and the two walked away to the hex door.

“Pinada did it,” he replied. “His back was the only one left to stab.”

 

—–

 

Tecker walked through the lobby of the empty hotel. He was dressed in jeans and a buttoned-up shirt; no trace of the armor remained on him. His short, fine hair was washed and combed, and it bobbed at the tops of his ears and neck as he went. Darrow trailed behind him wearing a shirt with a single flower design printed on the breast.

“Does she know you’re out?” he asked.

“She should,” Tecker said, leading the way to a row of numbered hex doors. “I said I’d meet her here after they let me go. Now which one was it? Ah, right, here it is.”

He stepped up into a door labeled ‘6.’ Darrow hung back.

“Well, good luck man,” he stated, giving a curt nod.

“Good luck?” Tecker repeated. “For what?”

“Oh, well, you know–” Darrow started, “you two are like a thing now right? I mean, she was always visiting when you were having your operations, but–I just figured–you know–”

Tecker put one hand on one of the six poles marking the door. “Darrow, you can come up with me; you don’t have to leave just because–”

“No, no!” Darrow assured. “I know you guys probably want to be alone now.” He cleared his throat. “You had that helmet on the entire time at the hospital, right? It must have been tough, not even being able to kiss her. Well, I guess you might have been able to if you went sideways through that crack by your chin. Like maybe half. It would be dangerous with those jagged edges, though.”

Tecker sighed. “Yes, I must ask Eon to punch my face harder next time. Have a good night, then, Darrow.”

Darrow waved, winked, and trotted away.

“Honestly,” Tecker said. The lobby vanished and a long hallway blinked in. He stepped out and started past the rows of ajar doors with their vacant rooms. Tecker strolled to the end, where a plaque labeled ‘Penthouse’ awaited him. He knocked on the closed door nearby.

“Sideways through the crack,” he muttered. He brushed his cheek, feeling the sides of his lips. Shaking his head, he continued to wait as a sharp clank sounded from beyond the door.

“Coming!” Mean said, and the door flew inward on its own, banging as it hit a wall. Tecker saw Mean seated at a table. She wiped at her mouth with a napkin, jumped up, and ran over.

“Hey!” she said, wrapping her arms around his torso. “They let you out!”

“Yeah,” Tecker said, squeezing her back. “You need to be careful with me now that I don’t have the armor!”

She laughed, pulling back to look at his face. “And you took the helmet off, too!”

Tecker smiled. “Yep. Never putting it back on. I left it all with Cocoa. He loves it.”

She touched him on the arm, dragging her fingers past his wrist and grasping his hand. “Come on, let’s sit down,” she said, leading him into an adjoining room.

A blank monitor was set up on a wooden stand, with a cushioned couch positioned across from it. Mean sat down and Tecker joined her.

“I like the way you look without it,” Mean told him.

“Really,” Tecker replied, smiling.

“Mm,hm! Back in the cave I was worried that you wouldn’t–” Mean paused and jerked away. She dipped her head down.

“The cave,” Tecker repeated, watching her. “I guess we need to talk about that.”

“No,” Mean assured him as she fidgeted with her fingers. “That isn’t it.”

“Are you sure?” Tecker asked. “You’re nervous about something. I know you heard everything I said to Pinada. I don’t want you to be scared of me.”

“Dark, I’m not–” She calmed herself, inhaling. “You just caught me in the middle of eating.” She tilted her head back to the kitchen. “Remember? When you got here?”

The side of Tecker’s mouth curled up in a grin. He patted her on the leg. “Wait–so that’s what this is!? The thing where you don’t like people smelling your breath after you eat?” He looked her in the eyes as she gave a meek smile. “So you aren’t really concerned about my darkest secrets? You just wanted to go brush your teeth?”

She smiled and bobbed her head yes; he dipped in and pecked her on the lips.

“Tastes fine,” Tecker said.

She tipped her head up to him as he tried it again, closing her eyes and kissing him back.

 

—–

 

A small boy pulled his pajama legs on, kicking his feet over the side of the large bed. After pulling them snug, he hopped down.

“Mom?” he called out, stepping from the bedroom into the lit hall. The living room beyond was dim, yet he padded over, sniffing. A monitor’s blank glow illuminated the couch and the two figures sleeping there: Tecker slumped over the end arm, with Mean snuggled against his stomach. The boy stepped closer, blocking the light from the screen. Mean mumbled, and her eyes slipped open. The shadowy boy smiled at her.

“Dark!” she yelped. Her fingers dug into Tecker’s leg and he groaned awake.

“Oh, is the movie over?” he asked. He rubbed his eyes, coughed, and stared at the figure in front of them.

“I lost my clothes and my mom,” the boy said.

“Dark, who is this!?” Mean asked. Tecker chuckled, squeezing her shoulder. He leaned over, flipping a nearby lamp on.

“Someone that Pinada thought he killed,” he told her. Far down the hall, a shriek sounded out. There was a thump and a muttering and a bang of a door opening.

“James!?” a woman’s voice called.

“I’m in here, Mom,” the boy hollered back. “With the girl from your show.”

A woman wearing only a bathrobe rushed into the room, taking the boy by the head and hugging him close. Her cheeks were wet with tears and her eyes were reddened. She faltered, spying Mean and Tecker on the couch.

“What are you doing in our room?” she demanded. “Wait–you are her! Me-anne, aren’t you?”

“It’s ‘Mean’ but yeah,” Mean replied. Her eyes were wide and she sat straight up. “Dark, it’s not just them is it? Is everyone–?”

He laughed, soaking up every reaction from her. “I think they are!” he told her. “Pinada didn’t do what he thought he did!”

The woman pointed at him. “That’s right: I was watching the final Two Lives to Play match.” She pointed to Mean. “You had just won. Then some mud woman shows up–one of King’s publicity stunts, I thought–and then Pinada tells everyone on live TV that he’s going to”–she looked down at James–”kay-eye-el-el us!” After spelling the word she checked her son, raising his arm and looking him over. “Are you all right? You disappeared and I–I didn’t know what to do.”

“We’ll leave you two alone,” Tecker said. He buttoned his shirt all the way up, then rose from the couch. “We should probably go to the pyramid to explain what happened.”

Mean tossed off the blanket that was draped over her legs. The two hurried out to the hall, and Mean broke into giggles; the rooms with open doors now bustled with noise: half-naked people questioned each other and poked their heads out.

“They’re really back!” she exclaimed, taking his arm and shaking it. “Dark, did you know about this?”

Tecker hummed, smiling. “I didn’t want to get your hopes up if I was wrong,” he admitted. “But I think that Pinada was too smart for his own good. The time patterns–the ones he said were incomplete–I think they ended up working just fine. The only problem with them was that they sent their subject way further into the future than he expected. But he didn’t know that. He thought the person infected would be destroyed. And he had no way of knowing the truth; he didn’t live long enough to see that everyone was just going to come back.”

Mean hopped up, threw her arms around his shoulders and kissed him. Some of the people through the open doors took brief notice. “Let’s go tell everyone,” Tecker said, taking a breath. He kissed her again before leading the way to the hex door at the end of the hall. “King’s Imperial Pyramid: rooftop.”

“THERE IS A QUEUE;” a monotone voice told them, “PLEASE WAIT.”

“A queue!” Mean repeated, grabbing his arm. “People! We’re waiting on people!”

 

—–

 

The roof was abuzz with a monstrous crowd. They all wore the same thing–a plush, blue robe embroidered with King’s triangular logo. King himself stood on one of the glass cases that Mean and the rest had been encased in. He waved his finger and another stack of the robes appeared; the people that were still naked rushed to them, covering themselves.

“Ha! King’s giving everyone clothes!” Mean said. “Hang on, I’ll fly us over.”

Tecker wrapped his arms around her neck and she lifted them both off the ground. His feet dangled past hers as they hovered over the top of everyone’s heads.

“Mean!” someone shouted, and many on the roof turned to look. Tenny, with Charlie, called out to them. They were sitting in the shadow of the helicopter, and Smatter was taking a look into the cockpit. Tecker tipped his head, seeing Jelk beneath them. His four mannequins were walking at his side, struggling to carry a large body. It was Eon, his upturned eyes blinking at the sunlight.

“Thank you,” he managed to cough out.

“No, thank you for letting me take you through the hex door,” Jelk told him. “I didn’t really want to take you down fifty flights of stairs.”

The crowd parted to allow Jelk and Eon through, closing in around King to bombard him with questions.

“No, get a robe on and get home to your families,” King boomed, holding his microphone to his mouth. Mean and Tecker alighted on one of the other cases nearby.

“King, we know what happened,” Mean shouted over. “Hand me the mic.”

King gestured at her. “Everyone, hold on–give Miss Mean your attention; she seems to have some idea about what’s going on.”

He tossed her the microphone and she snapped it into her palm.

“Thanks,” she said, and her voice resounded over the roof. The crowds quieted.

“Okay, don’t freak out, but you’ve all been warped forward in time,” she explained. Exclamations burst out from every direction, and she glared down at them.

“I said don’t freak out!” she told them. “Pinada tried to kill you, but he messed up! You weren’t supposed to come back at all! Be thankful!”

“Pinada!” someone cried from the gutted helicopter. “Where is he!?”

“Pinada,” Tecker started, leaning in to the mic, “is dead. You don’t have to be scared.”

“But I just saw him kill Donzel!” a woman called out.

“He could come back; we need to get out of here!” someone else cried.

King frowned as the bickering escalated, and he spoke to Mean.

“Things seem a bit more complex than I thought. Go to the hex door; think of a secluded place and I will follow.”

Mean nodded and tossed the microphone back. She and Tecker flew to the door and King addressed the rumbling masses.

“Don’t worry, don’t worry; I’m going to get this sorted out. And I don’t want to hear about any riots when I get back–stay calm and let your families know you’re okay.”

 

Tecker and Mean appeared beneath a canopy of translucent leaves. Blue light filtered through to the grass-covered floor: past branches, tree trunks that did not touch the ground, and the roof of a circular building. Darrow was asleep in his lounge chair.

“Hey Darrow!” Mean called out. As she spoke winged animals fluttered out of the branches, calling with shrill voices. Darrow jerked awake.

“What!?” he said, his voice cracking. “What is–Dark! What’s that sound!?”

He watched the creatures flap away and noticed a furry beast beneath one of the trees. It glanced at him sideways, licking at the sharpened, hanging end of the trunk with its tongue.

King burst out of the hex door next to Mean and Dark; Darrow choked and his chipped mug fell into the grass.

“Darrow!” King cried. “I’m so glad you’re safe!” He rushed past Mean, holding the hem of his robe tight. Darrow gawked up at him, swiping for his cup in the brush. “I’m glad to see you survived this terrible business with Pinada; I lost sight of you during the chaos; how are you?”

“Me!?” Darrow cried. “You were killed! How did–what–you’re back?”

“It’s not just him–everyone!” Mean cheered, sending more bizarre things squawking out of the branches. Darrow gasped up at them, and Tecker smiled.

“Remember? I told you that something exciting might happen tonight,” he said.

Darrow’s monobrow crinkled up. “That’s what you meant!? I thought–! Never mind. So Trisk’s back?” He swung his feet out and rose from the chair. “What happened?”

“Eh, did you see her?” Mean asked.

“The whole roof was full of people,” King said. “I’m sure Tenny will find her. We just came to a quiet place so that you could, ah, explain things?”

The six flaming torches that marked the hex door rippled, and Conneld stepped out.

“There you are,” he said. He held the hem of his robe up as he treaded over the grass. “You’re not getting an explanation without me.”

King groaned, dipping his head. “That’s right, I disabled all the hex door locks, didn’t I?” He jerked back up. “Wait, so they were all open all this time? How long has it been?”

“It’s been about five years since Mean won the tournament,” Tecker said.

“Five.” King shivered. “And are you Dark? You sound like him.”

Tecker nodded. “My real name is–ah, you know what? Just call me Dark.”

“Alright,” King said. “So were you unaffected? Have you been waiting here this whole time? Five years. I can’t believe it. That would explain all the mess on the roof.”

“No we weren’t really waiting for you,” Mean replied. “Us Jesians–we didn’t arrive until this past year. When you saw us at the fair, well, we had used one of Pinada’s time viruses to go into the past.”

“What!?” Conneld spat out. “You were working with him!”

“No way!” Darrow said. “King, we didn’t even know it was him that attacked everyone! We only saw what had happened and we wanted to fix it!”

“And you just forgot to mention it to us while you played fair games!?” Conneld seethed.

King placed a hand on his brother’s arm. “Would you have believed them? Would anyone? I’m having trouble grasping it even now.”

Conneld set his lips in a deep frown. On a tray near the lounge chair, Darrow’s laptop buzzed.

“Darrow,” Tome’s voice called, “are you there? Something miraculous has–I can’t–I can’t even speak. It’s just–”

“Yeah, I know,” Darrow shouted over. “Everyone’s back. King’s over here and we’re telling him what went down.”

“Tome has a computer?” Dark whispered to Mean.

“Darrow’s been teaching him while you were in the hospital,” she whispered back.

“So anyway,” Darrow went on as he turned back to the group, “Pinada was the one that told us to go back. He showed up about a month ago while we were at a café on our world. He told us about how he’d discovered a time machine and that he needed our help to save everyone. But he tricked us. It was just a way for him to test out his virus.”

“Unbelievable,” King uttered. He glanced back as Tome came walking through the grass to the group. He was smiling with tears in his stubble.

“Wait,” Conneld said. “Why would you all just believe Pinada? Why would you try something so dangerous? And why would you risk your lives for us, anyway?”

Tome pressed his hand to his chest, taking a deep breath. “Well, I suppose we should get it out of the way–”

Mean clapped her tiny hands together. “It’s because I’m from this world!” she interjected. “I’m from here, and I wanted to try saving my–my people!”

“I knew it!” Conneld shot back with a smug grin.

“Yeah, you got me,” Mean confessed. “A probe from the other world found me here when I was little. I grew up over there but, well, came back.”

“I, ah, yes, just what I thought,” Conneld said. King glared at him.

“Geez, Mean, stop hijacking my story,” Darrow groused. He sat up straight. “So this time machine wasn’t far from the city we’d made. It was in a place called Droldragia. We were supposed to meet Pinada down in some cave, but he didn’t show up.”

King coughed and his face turned red. “Drol–Droldragia you say? That’s–and you went down into the mine there?” He sputtered and sniffed. “Say, let’s all go back to the pyramid; I’m not sure if we should be around all these dangerous beasts.”

He bounced up and waved everyone toward the hex door; as he did so, Vornis appeared in the center.

“Guys!” he exclaimed. “Everyone’s–uh–oh, you know already I guess.”

 

The growing party made its way through one of the pyramid’s halls: the slanted windows displayed the ruined fairgrounds. Most of the tents were collapsed in dirty piles and the paths were all overgrown with thick weeds. Ivy was coiling up the tall wooden towers that housed the water slides.

“So Pinada tricked you into going back,” King said. He frowned at some dark splotches on the carpet, stepping over them. “How far did you go?”

“Not long before you saw us,” Mean said. “Right when your fair started.”

They reached wide-open double doors and King lead them into an office. Vornis jerked to a halt outside.

“Well this is upsetting,” King said. He put his hands on his hips, gazing at the empty water bottles scattered on the desk and bare floor. A closet was open, with a rack of clothing pulled out. On it hung slacks, silk shirts, and vests. “I gave Parlay this whole floor to stay in but someone’s trashed it! And these clothes”–he pulled on the sleeve of a garment–”they’re her style but they’re far too big.”

“King, there’s something else we need to explain,” Dark said. Mean turned her face back out to the hall. She covered her mouth and her eyes began to water. “Not everyone made it through this.”

DRAFT END

Choice Edits:

27 – The Special Night

Yeah!? Well what would YOU name it? Go on, I’m waiting!

Both of them let out a gasp of disbelief as Pinada fell from the rapier.

I rewind time a bit here to remind you about Pinada’s death again. Y’know, just in case you’re the type of person to take a two-month long break in between chapters. What!? I explained that the hosting guys were blocking my site! I was totally not being too lazy so that I could finish Disgaea 2 and Skyrim! I didn’t even FINISH Skyrim anyway.

“Pinada did it,” he replied. “His back was the only one left to stab.”

Alright, Matt, I’m keeping the line! Once you’ve betrayed everyone else, the only one left to betray is yourself. I’m not sure how that works but it sounds very wise!

She smiled and bobbed her head yes; he dipped in and pecked her on the lips.

“Tastes fine,” Tecker said.

She tipped her head up to him as he tried it again, closing her eyes and kissing him back.

Wow, this romantic kissing scene is so much better! It is sweet and silly and there is no way that anyone could make fun of it! “Tastes fine.” Girls love hearing that. Trust me.

::the entire world vomits::

“Dark, who is this!?” Mean asked.

I was worried that Mean didn’t sound excited enough when everyone in the world suddenly re-appeared. I didn’t want her to sound like a sourpuss did I? So I used my tact and skill to add dialog that reflects her surprise. Slapping exclamation points after everything she said didn’t hurt either.

“He thought the person infected would be destroyed. And he had no way of knowing the truth; he didn’t live long enough to see that everyone was just going to come back.”

I like how this explanation turned out. The only danger here is that this all sounds too convenient. Or sappy. Or both. I have to imagine that if I was reading this for the first time that’s probably what I’d think. “Hey Pinada killed everyone–oh wait it turns out he didn’t!”

So why DIDN’T I just leave everyone dead? Would that ending be too bleak? There’s still a bit left to go in the story, so I’ll save most of my reasoning for later. For now I’ll just say that if killing everyone would have been best for the story, I would have done it.

He watched the creatures flap away and noticed a furry beast at the base of one of the trees. It glanced at him sideways, licking at the hanging end of the trunk with its tongue.

I almost forgot that this forest Darrow sleeps in would be filled with animals now. It’s a good thing they found him before a sap-licking bumblegrump gobbled him up.

Tecker nodded. “My real name is–ah, you know what? Just call me Dark.”

Even though he was revealed to be Tecker, Mean was still calling him ‘Dark.’ But I, as the narrator, was using his real name. So I decided to add that line, letting him choose which name he wanted to go by. I’m serious! Respect your characters, yo.

He frowned at some dark splotches on the carpet, stepping over them.

This is the oil that Tyle leaked all over the carpet back in book one. Since this location appears in two books at different time periods I had to keep all the details straight. I had to think ahead about what the pyramid roof would look like when it appeared in the previous book too: Tome’s exploded mountain is there in chapter five along with the burn marks from Caldera’s suicide attack.

I was going to have Donzel’s and Caldera’s corpses up there too, but thought it would be too morbid. So let’s just say Pinada took the bodies home with him. Or maybe Parlay cleaned them up before he moved in. Yeah, that explanation is probably better.

NEXT TIME–!

The population at large has been saved, but Parlay is still dead. How will King take it? And how will the others even BEGIN to explain it to him? And what of Trisk? Will Tome admit his past? Will Eon tell his secret? Will Darrow find a girlfriend? Will Vornis look for Zenny? Will Cocoa find a shell? WILL TENNY EAT A TACO!? Find out. In the final chapter!

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