A Big Shiny Blue Marble Ch. 13byTaLtos6©
***~sigh~ Ok, I'm slapping my forehead here. I shoulda slipped this in a little sooner. This occurs at the same time that The Drow are teaching Sariel and before they move to Azrael's home. The reason that I mention it is because in the last chapter and this one - it's still summer. See? This is the reason that I end up with sticky notes stuck all around the periphery of my screen.0_o
It was a little after eight when they came to wake Monnie up. She smiled up at the pair of them, seeing that they were so excited. She could only imagine how it had been for them, preparing for this one day for years, and never saying a word to the Colonel in all of that time.
"We've got a busy day ahead," Billy said, "we would have had a lot of flights to make, but we started a while ago with Hank and me slinging containers over there from a little after dawn to set them down near where we'll live. We've already got containers of spare parts and enough material to make another one of our little refineries for the fuel."
Hank nodded, "All there is left is three trips," he said, "one to haul the last full fuel bladder, one to haul a bladder full of old kerosene that we can freshen up into fuel as the first batch when we get the refinery going and one trip with weapons to shoot up the Colonel's boat, since we know where it's moored."
"I don't understand any of that, "she laughed, "I just love to see how happy you are to tell it."
But her smile faded as she stared at what it was that she'd be riding in. "What is that?" she said, as she looked at a rather ungainly thing sitting outside in the sunshine. It was mostly white with some red here and there.
"It's called a Sea King, "Billy said as he opened a door for her, "You just sit here and don't touch anything. I'll be happy to show you what everything is and what it does after we get it all done. Oh, and be sure to keep your feet off those pedals there."
She climbed up and he strapped her in, explaining how to get out of it in a hurry if she needed to. Monnie looked around at all of the switches, knobs and gauges while Billy set to the engine start-up.
He placed a set of headphones on her head. "What is this for?" she asked.
"It gets loud in here when it's running," he said.
There was a crackling whine for a few seconds, followed by a strange roaring sound. The whine could be heard again and then a second roar. The dark bobbing things in her view outside began to move, and the whole thing shook a little unsettlingly. Monnie looked over at Billy often during all of this, but he was looking intently at things in front of him. He did turn at one point, and Monnie was amazed to hear his voice in her ears.
"It's supposed to do this," he smiled, and she didn't feel even a bit better. "We have to be in the air before Hank comes in another minute. That's why I'm not talking much."
She thought about it. He'd said that they had to be in the air. In all of this, Monnie had forgotten that she didn't really know what this entailed. She didn't know it could be done. Flying in all of the many forms developed over mankind's history was now a non-existent art. Nobody just flew unless they were birds or, ... demons.
It was impossible to fly.
But she decided that she had to trust them. They'd been doing this for a while, she told herself. They knew what they were doing, she said to her nervous stomach.
Monnie couldn't decide whether to undo the straps of the safety harness holding her in her seat and jump out, or if she ought to just throw up again.
In the end, it was Monnie's fear of the thought of actually flying which prevented her from going with them. No one knew what an aircraft was. Nobody had seen one fly in hundreds of years. Monnie wanted to go with them.
She just couldn't.
She told Billy as she yelled at him and he offered to blindfold her, something, anything, but they couldn't afford to waste the fuel of even one more start, because if they weren't on the island with everything, they'd be, at worst, in another place far from where their ability to make more was. He called Hank on the radio and they both tried to reason with her, but by then it had become a visceral thing in Monnie.
She unfastened her seat harness, opened the door and ran. Billy eased back to ground idle and reached over and grabbed the door that she'd left open. When he was back in his seat, he keyed his mike.
"What are we gonna do, Hank?"
He heard his brother's sigh, "We've been trying to get away from here for a few years now, Billy. I dunno. I'm in a shaky hover with the fuel bladder under me. I can't set down without you on the ground unless I hit the release and drop it and we can't afford that. All I can think of is to get these loads over and look for her when we get back. We'll know better then if we have the fuel to spare to look for her. I only hope that we can find her and get her to try again."
To Monnie as she looked back, the machine that Billy rode in looked more like a huge carnivorous insect which had captured him and was taking him away. The thought made more sense that seeing it as a tool to transport people. It sounded angry as it rose into the air.
On another level in her brain, she was seriously asking herself if she'd just lost her mind. She'd found two people who really cared about her and she was watching what had to be the only chance at happiness that she'd ever have leave her behind, the way that she felt.
She doubted that Billy could see her, but she stepped out from the corner of the hangar that she'd hidden herself behind and began to run after him, waving.
But then the noise of his machine was overshadowed by something louder and she saw a second one of the machines as it flew past the space between the hangars. It was much larger than the first one and it looked evil to her. She stopped, and the next thing that she knew, she was running for her life again.
They made five crossings back and forth that day, returning to the old base twice for more of their things. Both times that they returned, they spent precious minutes of their air time searching for Monnie. The second time, they both rode in the larger attack helicopter, since it was also made to carry a heavy load. Billy sat in the weapons officer's seat ahead of and a little under Hank.
They looked for twenty minutes - hundreds of pounds of fuel to them, but they didn't see her. They landed and loaded up for the last time. It was the position of the sun in the sky and the amount of fuel that they had left which forced them to leave. They didn't speak as they lifted off that time, and said nothing as they flew toward their new home.
Monnie was miles away by then, making her way south back to Lozenjellis, but she watched the heavy thing as it hunted for her while she hid from it in the ruin of a motel next to the road. When she couldn't hear it anymore and it was far out of her sight, Monnie Aldergrove sat with her face in her hands and cried.
A solitary figure stood on the sand of what had once been known as Manhattan Beach in the late afternoon sunlight. He was wiping blood from the blade of a large sword with a piece of cloth taken from the body of one of the unfortunate victims of this. She wasn't one of his victims; she was just one of many who had perished before he'd arrived. He was getting better at predicting where he thought these demons would appear, but he'd gotten here too late for many here.
When he'd begun as what he was, he usually arrived days afterward.
At least a few of the others had gotten away, he thought. The beach was a popular place to come to swim and bathe and it could be a little crowded, now that there were more people coming to live here.
He looked around. There were a few other torn human bodies, none living now. The rest of the carnage, most of the ripped-up flesh here had belonged to the ones that he'd come here to kill, demons, every one of them, both genders, all sizes. He knew that there were a couple more still here somewhere close by.
He heard the soft sounds of footfalls on the sand and turned, seeing the pair of males who came running at him. A third was in the air above them on the way down. He groaned. He was tired and had just cleaned his blade. With a wave of his flung-out hand, they shrieked and fell backwards in a red spray of their blood. The one in the air fell wetly just beyond him on the sand.
If only he knew how they got here, he thought as he turned back to walk into the city.
Demons in Lozenjellis, the report had said in his mind. He wanted to shrug. There were almost always demons here these days, more than anywhere else. It was a big place, after all, and he couldn't be everywhere at once. He looked down at himself. His leather clothing was wet with their gore.
He groaned again and turned back to pick up the cloth once more. If he dipped it in the Pacific Ocean, maybe he could use it to wash most of this filth off of himself.
He froze suddenly, hearing that odd sound again. He looked out to sea and stared trying to see into the glare of the sun which, while not nearing the horizon quite yet, was still making it hard to spot whatever this was. This was the fifth time today that he'd heard the sound, a strange beating roar out to sea.
He saw it then, not far off the horizon, a large black dot which flew in a horizontal path perpendicular to the direction that he was looking in. There was a brief flash as though the sunlight had reflected off a shiny surface for a second. He saw no wings. If it was a beast of some sort which could fly, wouldn't it have wings such as he himself had? That was how he flew, after all. He wondered briefly about taking off himself to give chase. He wanted to know more.
But he was tired at the moment, and he'd been here all day, mostly. His seeking had brought him no closer than somewhere called Elscondo, though he wasn't certain if that was the right way to say it. So many names had been tortured and lost. He hadn't landed that far away, it seemed, but he'd lost a lot of time trying to get his bearings in the jumble of a massive dead city made up of many of the smaller cities which had once grown around it.
He decided to leave it be -- for now. He had resources to learn about what this was, and anyway, it seemed to be going back and forth to that island out there, just visible as a smear along the horizon. He knew that he'd likely be back soon enough anyway.
There were almost always demons to be hunted down around Lozenjellis, and anyway, he wanted to get back to his daughter, Nahl'een. He was already late to be in another place as it was. Sheathing his sword over his shoulder and securing it, he turned eastward and spread his wings. There was another outbreak in a little town out in the desert to the southeast. He hoped to be done there quickly so that he could go back home.
Hank looked at the fuel state gauges as he made his approach, knowing that it would be tight. Searching for Monnie had used up their safety reserve. The needles on the ancient gauges were well into the portion of the arc of their travel which carried a warning that the manufacturer did not guarantee their accuracy for safe operation. And that was when the thing had been new and running on properly produced turbine fuel, not the hopeful stuff that they produced. Translated, it meant that they were on fumes.
He looked a little closer through the armored glass of the windshield and he could just see the back of his brother and he noticed the motions of his shoulders. He knew his brother well.
Billy was crying.
It might have seemed foolish to a human who had lived a normal life to this point, but to a pair of demons who had never known something like the light that Monnie had brought to them, it went well beyond upset. It wasn't just what they'd done together, it was something much more than that.
It was a reason to want to live.
Where they were going to be now seemed much more like a prison than the hope that it had once represented to them both. It had only been one night and she'd changed them, but without her, they were in the same place. It only looked different and there was no ancient old asshole here to laugh at them, that was all.
Hank shook the tears from his own eyes as he hovered in, needing both his hands on the controls, setting the beast down as close to the old hangar as he could. As he reached for the ignition switches to cut the engines, he almost felt worse than ever before.
They'd lost someone. It hadn't happened since they were torn from their lives and had lost their parents and friends, but it didn't feel much different. The engines had stopped and the main rotors had eased to a standstill for several minutes before either of them moved.
They looked for her the next day and the next, burning fuel that they knew they didn't have to spare, but they found nothing. They spent a few days setting up their rig and refining what fuel there was to be found in the underground tanks at the old airport there. It got them in the air again, and better, the process was set to continue, as long as there was sufficient sunlight available. They were in business again, still looking for Monnie, still hoping against hope.
It was Hank who spotted her the very next day.
They were flying along an imaginary line where they'd guessed that, if she was alive and well, she'd be travelling toward Lozenjellis and if she was, she'd have to cross that line at some point. They were in Billy's Sea King, and it had been Hank who had spotted what he thought might be her, a large and naked form, slowly crawling into the shadow of an overhang in front of a derelict gas station which still stood.
"Set down at the end of the street," Hank said in the intercom, "There are still some old posts and wires standing. I'll go get her."
"Hank," Billy objected, "we don't even know if it's Monnie."
"Trust me, Billy," his brother smiled over, "there's nobody's sweet ass I'd know better on sight from this far off. Just set down."
"There are those packs of dogs around here, "Billy said as he came around for the approach, "the ones that we see most times. They aren't here right now for some reason, but you ought to take that pistol in the emergency kit with you."
"Alright, worrywart," Hank said, as he grabbed the kit to pull out the webbed belt with the holster. As he knelt on the floor of the rear cabin, he put it on and cinched it. He really didn't think that he'd need it, but he knew that if he went without it, he'd never hear the end of it from his brother. He drew the old sidearm and, after inserting a clip, he cocked the weapon and set the safety before he slid it back into its holster, snapping the flap cover over it.
Billy's wheels had barely hit the dirt and Hank was out on the ground running, bent over in the dust raised by the main rotors. He ran for the place where they'd last seen her.
As he got there, he found that she wasn't there anymore. She was just at the edge of the building, crawling toward the open doorway.
"Monnie!" he called out hurrying over, "It's me, Hank. Come on, we'll get you home and safe."
As he reached her side, she didn't seem to have heard him, she just kept crawling slowly. He tried to tell himself that the odd tone of her skin was due to the shadow. He didn't remember her looking like this. In this light, she looked as though she was a little more gray than the slightly green tone that she'd worn days ago.
He couldn't figure out why she was ignoring him.
Everything changed when he laid his hand on her cool shoulder.
The red hair flew with the motion as she snapped her head around with a snarl. Hank's heart stopped in his throat when he saw her eyes.
Billy was out in the mid-morning sunlight, holding at a ground idle as he watched them struggle through the binoculars that he held in one hand. It didn't make sense to him until he figured that she must not want to go and was struggling to get away. By now they'd figured out how terrified she'd been of the helicopters.
But everything changed to horror when he saw the blood on his brother as he managed to get away to run. Hank's throat was open and there was blood everywhere as he got to his feet.
Monnie was struggling to run after him, but she stopped when she ran into the sunlight and ran back a little to stand screaming at him in rage from the shadow of the overhang.
Everything had gone into slow motion for Billy as he watched his stricken brother come, growing weaker by the second from the loss of the blood which sprayed from his throat. It took Billy a second to realize what was behind the crazy way that his brother was waving his arms to him.
He was trying to motion Billy to take off.
Well, Billy wouldn't do that. He'd never leave his brother for anything. He began to roll off the throttle and go to get Hank.
Hank stopped as it came to him. Billy would shut down and get him. He knew that he was done-for anyway, and he knew what would happen to Billy, the same as what was happening to him. He could already feel it as he weakened. He reached for the holster on his hip.
Things slowed down even more for Billy then. This was all slow and sticky wet terror to him now as he watched the person who was his anchor in the world that he had never wanted to be on pull out the 9 millimeter pistol and fumble with slippery, blood-soaked fingers to get the safety off.
Hank fell to his knees with tears in his eyes as he placed the muzzle against the middle of his chest and pulled the trigger.
Billy barely heard the shot from inside the noisy helicopter, but he saw a little of the red spray as it left his brother's back. Hank's eyes went wide and he jammed the muzzle into his own mouth and pulled again while he still had a second of life and the strength for it.
He landed on his back, missing some of his head and his legs twitched a few times as Billy watched.
Billy blinked a couple of times and then his gaze went to the shadows of the overhang where what had once been Monnie Alderson ran along the edge of the shadows screeching in frustration.
He rolled the throttles up to flight idle and adding a bit more, he fed in some collective pitch and the whole horrible scene fell away as he turned and flew off with tears in his eyes.
It was a fine sunny day as Billy flew over Lozenjellis at two thousand feet, seeing nothing as he went but the last few seconds of his brother's life, over and over. His tears streamed down his face, and they just continued as he went back to Catlina Island. He cried during his approach and he cried as he shut down. After a long period where he stood weeping in the sunlight, he cried some more as he rigged the setup which would allow him to snag the nearly full fuel bladder. It was the smaller one, but it had the better fuel and he knew that he'd have less trouble if it began to sway under him in flight.
It came to him then that with the smaller bladder, he would have quite a bit of weight margin. He stomped off to where they'd stored the tractor and in a few minutes, he was straining to load a message to whom it might concern.
Billy walked into the building which had once been a restaurant under the control tower and he grabbed some food, stuffing two backpacks with it as he went. He grabbed two of the heavy sleeping bags that they'd brought, and whatever came to mind in the next ten minutes. He wound up with three full packs. He threw them into the rear compartment of the Hind before he walked to pump out whatever fuel was left in the Sea King into the wheeled tank and hauled that to the Hind with the old tractor there as well.
All that he knew was that he had to get away.