“How the hell are we going to do that?”
“Leave that to us, kid.” Frank pulled out a gun and a small dagger, placing the blade securely in his belt.
Chloe’s father pulled her up through the opening to the outside world before pulling out his gun, handing Chloe a small dagger and following Frank into the eerie shadows cast by the trees. Above them, the sky had faded to a swirl of pink and gray with the moon a large disk that loomed on the horizon. Dim beams of moonlight pierced the canopy and barely illuminated a path for the three to follow. Minutes passed with only their shallow breaths to break the eerie silence. Just when Chloe allowed herself to relax, Frank and her father dropped to the ground.
“Chloe, get down.” Her father’s eyes were wide and a sheen of sweat covered his brow.
Two figures moved in the darkness. Frank swore heavily under his breath. “It can’t be them. It’s too close to sunrise.”
Chloe heard a soft click from her father’s gun. “Maybe we’ve underestimated their tolerance. Either way, we’re gonna need…”
The ground shook violently as something exploded at the other end of the clearing. Screams filled the air as three creatures emerged from the other side partially engulfed in flames. One of the creatures held a small bundle close to its chest. They both looked almost as frightened as she was.
“Run,” her father whispered.
Chloe tore her eyes away from the creatures and took off into the woods behind her. Behind her she could hear frantic yelps and snapping branches, both of which paled in comparison to a second explosion that rumbled somewhere off to the right. Above it all someone was yelling out orders. The harsh, broken voice sounded vaguely familiar but Chloe shoved the thought aside when suddenly the trail gave way under her feet. Chloe’s hands scrambled but everything within reach slipped through her fingers. The last thing she remembered was a loud snap and someone crying.
When her eyes fluttered open, the fires were still raging off in the distance. There was a large bump on her right temple, but thankfully, no blood. She wiped away the foul smelling mud from her chest and arms, freezing as something moaned behind her. Reaching for the dagger at her belt, she turned and saw one of the creatures was caught in a cage. Gray, wrinkly skin covered most of its body except for small strands of blonde hair that poked randomly from its scalp. Large, green eyes blinked slowly from behind the bars of the cage. It licked at the burnt skin at its wrist, crying softly.
“You’re just a child.” The thing met her gaze and tried to back away as far as it could without being burned by the shimmering beams of light that surrounded the cage. “No, no it’s okay. I’m not going to hurt you.”
Chloe examined the cage and found some sort of control panel on top. If she could just find the override, then maybe she could bypass the…
A stronger, feral growl emanated from behind her. Chloe turned, knife grasped tightly in her hand and came face to face with the two creatures she’d seen before in the clearing. The bulkier one pounded the ground with its fists, baring razor sharp teeth.
“I’m trying to save him. I just need to…”
The smaller one, most likely the child’s mother, advanced on Chloe, hissing at the knife in Chloe’s hand. Chloe took a deep breath in, knowing the weapon wouldn’t save her against the two creatures, and tossed it behind her. She opened her hands to show they were empty, pointed to herself and then to the control panel. The mother came within an inch of Chloe’s face, sniffed once and took a step back, watching Chloe’s every move.
“Got it, one wrong move and you rip my head off. No pressure at all.” She wiped the sweat collecting along her brow with the back of her hand and turned her attention back to the control panel. The wiring almost reminded her of the ancient drills the colony had when she was a girl. She’d bet this had the same override. Sure enough, behind the starter she found the red wire linked to the locking mechanism. All she needed to do was cut it.
“Well, crap.” She turned back to mom and dad, who didn’t look pleased. She pointed to the wire and motioned cutting it. “I need my dagger,” she pointed to the blade lying a few feet away. The dad wasn’t having any of it. Luckily, the mom nodded and retrieved it, handing it to Chloe while showing her own set of pearly white razor teeth. After Chloe cut the wire, the lasers fizzled out and disappeared altogether. The mom kept her eye on Chloe as she collected her child and ran off into the woods with the dad.
“Dad?” Her father emerged from the woods.
“What were you thinking, Chloe? They could have killed you.”
“I had to do something, Dad. It looked scared. Hell, I would be too.” She peered around her father. “Where’s Frank?”
“Getting the plane ready for takeoff. It’s not too far from here.” Chloe followed her dad through a series of twists and turns illuminated by the softly burning embers. They soon came upon another clearing where Frank was busily readying the plane for takeoff. Nearly identical to her grandfather’s in design, Frank’s plane also had two spots in the cockpit. It was going to be a tight squeeze.
“We ready Frank?”
He stood and offered a hand. “Sure are. Just waitin’ on…”
A gunshot rang out. Frank looked at the small pool of blood spreading across his chest before his eyes rolled into the back of his head and he fell face-first out of the plane.
“We know you’re out there. Come back and we won’t kill you.”
“Get in the plane and activate the autopilot. I’ll give you cover.”
She grabbed her dad’s arm. “That’s suicide,” she hissed.
“Trust me. Your old man knows a few tricks.” He pulled out a small ball of metal, ripped out a smaller piece of metal and threw the ball clear across the plane. Plumes of smoke rose and covered most of the clearing. Gunshots rang out randomly in all directions. Chloe kept her head low as she pulled herself into the secondary cockpit. She frantically searched the control panel and found the button labeled autopilot. “Convenient,” she muttered. “Dad, I’ve got it.”
“Good job. Now let’s get out of here.” The cockpit window lowered and locked. Chloe felt the engines roar to life beneath her. Slowly, the huge machine pushed from the ground, bullets grazing off its shielding. Once it reached a place far above the tree line, the engines roared to life and propelled them far away.
“Chloe. Take this. It’ll help you sleep. You’re going to need it.” Her father handed her two pills, which she gladly took. Twisted dream or not, she didn’t feel like trying to make sense of any of this.
“Alara? Are you ok?”
“She’s almost here, Telloc.” Chloe stood looking out over the beach. Tears fell from her eyes, carving trails over her cheeks and down her jaw. “It’s time.”
“You don’t have to go. There are others who would take your place.”
Chloe felt herself smile. “You know why it must be me to go.” She brought a hand to Telloc’s reddened cheeks. “Do not worry, my love. I have known Chloe for a long time. I trust her and so must you. Be strong and we will see each other again, I promise.”
She kissed him tenderly. Chloe felt like she was saying goodbye rather than farewell. Telloc stepped back and punched in a code on a strange device on his wrist. A moment later, he vanished, leaving Chloe standing alone on the beach. “Chloe, if you can hear me, promise me you’ll make him understand.”
Three figures burst from the forest with weapons aimed at her head.
Alarms were blaring all around her, wrenching Chloe from her half-awake stupor. Her father swore violently, pounding the stalling controls. “We’re going down, Chloe.”
Chloe snuck a glance out the window only to see nothing but clouds billowing outside the cockpit windows. “What’s down there?”
“According to sensors, there’s no solid ground below us.”
Chloe clutched her stomach as a wave of nausea swept over her. “Then what is?”
“Water. An ocean, it looks like,” her father said, smiling. Chloe rolled her eyes. In the midst of the chaos, of course her father would be giddy. “Prepare to break through cloud cover.”
The plane jerked from side to side, smashing Chloe’s shoulders against the sides of the cockpit. Outside the windows, Chloe watched as the plane broke through the last of the clouds. A burst of light and color assaulted her eyes. She squinted through the pain and saw a huge expanse of blue stretching as far as she could see in every direction. Like her father said, there was no sign of solid ground anywhere.
“Can this thing land in an ocean?”
“We don’t exactly have a choice. Better hold onto something.”
Chloe grasped what she could, clenched her jaw and waited, but nothing came. Sound in the cockpit slowed until it stopped altogether. Even the clouds above had stopped moving. Below the waves stood still, reflecting a perfect mirror image of the plane.
“What the hell?”
“Chloe.” She knew that voice. Only one man had that voice, but it couldn’t be unless she was dead or in a coma or delusional. “No Chloe, I assure you, I am quite real.”
“Where are you?”
Chloe gasped as she saw a man floating above the cockpit window. She rubbed her eyes and looked again but the man was still there. His smile, though short-lived, eased Chloe’s nerves.
“Who are you?”
“There isn’t much time, Chloe. I need you to take my hand.” His ghostly hand reached through the cockpit window. Chloe noticed a strange device glowing on his wrist.
She reached her hand out but stopped short, glancing towards the primary cockpit. “What about my father?”
Telloc shook his head. “Not enough power. Only one.”
She pressed herself back. “Then take him.”
“We need you, Chloe.” His hazel eyes softened. “I’m sorry, but his fate is sealed. Come on, we must hurry if you are going to live.”
Chloe looked back at her father. His jaw was clenched, and his brow furrowed in concentration. In his eyes, Chloe saw fear. He knew he wasn’t going to live. Just as she was going to say no again, Chloe felt something slapped over her wrist. Another device, identical to the one on Telloc’s wrist, was now attached to her. It began to glow as Telloc punched in a command on his device.
Chloe struggled to rip off the device as the plane disappeared around her. “No!” she cried, but it was too late. She reappeared on a small beach next to Telloc just as time reclaimed its place. Chloe stared in horror as the plane resumed its free fall into the ocean, exploding into a tower of water, flames, and debris.
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