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Quake, p.1

Quake, page 1

 

Quake
 


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Quake


  Dedication

  For Katherine

  Mover of Mountains

  Contents

  Dedication

  Field Log

  1 Flight

  2 Gun Smoke

  3 Poison Flowers

  4 Prisoner One

  5 The Sound of Silence

  6 Airwalk at Stalefish

  7 Urban Cowboys

  8 If 6 Was 9

  9 When Elephants Fly

  10 Electrogram Madman

  11 Firewall

  12 Quake

  13 I’m Your Hitler. I’m Your Stalin

  14 Shackles and Bone

  15 Toward Home

  Acknowledgments

  Back Ads

  About the Author

  Books by Patrick Carman

  Credits

  Copyright

  About the Publisher

  Field Log

  Field log file —— Faith Daniels

  Date stamp —— Removed

  Location GPS —— Spectral

  I used to draw things and make little notes but I don’t do that anymore. I’m too tired. I’ve let so many details slip away these past months because living is a lot of work or because I grew out of writing things down or I just got lazy. I woke up one day and realized I wasn’t writing things down anymore. I guess it happens.

  I used to ask my mom what she remembered about being my age, and the answers were all broad strokes of runny paint. I got nothing out of those conversations. I’m worried I’ll forget everything that’s happened to me, too. I’ll get old and looking back I’ll find shades of color that run into each other, no sharp lines of detail.

  I’m lying next to my one and only, my Dylan. He’s asleep and the soft light of my Tablet is setting the cool sheets aglow. I’m writing down the crisp lines of how I arrived here, nothing more.

  For a while I lived in the shadow of the Western State. If for some unforeseen reason the States disappear, they are not hard to describe. They are utopias, or so I’m told. In my part of the world there are two: the Western State and the Eastern State. They grow larger every day, eating whatever space lies in front of them. They spread like an oil slick, hundreds of millions of people living inside. They are not inherently evil, I don’t think. But once entered, they are a thing I could never turn back from. I see the States in a very specific way: my time before going inside, and my time after. I have a strong feeling that if I ever do go inside I will change into something I don’t want to be. My resolve will crumble. My distinctiveness will fade into the many. I fear this outcome.

  Outside the States is an empty, abandoned space. I think only 1 percent of humanity lives out here with me, something like that. It can feel lonely outside, forgotten.

  Hotspur Chance, Wade Quinn, Clara Quinn: these are my enemies. These three are responsible for the death of my parents and my best friend. They also killed Dylan’s mother. They seek to destroy us, too. They fuel the fight inside me.

  There are only four second pulses in the world. The first pulse gives them the ability to move almost anything with the power of the mind, including themselves. The second pulse deflects all things. These four people are close to indestructible, but not quite. Each one has a weakness, a Kryptonite.

  I am one of these four; Dylan is another. Wade and Clara Quinn are the other two. We are at war with one another.

  My only weakness is titanium. If someone made a titanium bullet and shot me in the head with it, I’d be in real trouble. Any other bullet would bounce off my second pulse like a Ping-Pong ball. Dylan’s weakness is concrete and stone. The Quinns, being twins, have the same weakness: living stuff either in the ground or freshly pulled and still alive, like trees and weeds and roots. I think really fresh dirt might not agree with them, either, but that hasn’t been proven. I once tangled Clara and Wade Quinn inside a web of ivy and watched them struggle. That was a good day.

  There are single pulses, too. Single pulses can move things with their mind, but they can’t deflect something coming at them, like a car or the pavement. I was a single pulse once. Looking back now I realize what a dangerous time that was. I would use my mind to make myself fly, never thinking about how easily I could crash. It’s no small miracle I lived long enough to discover my second pulse.

  Hotspur Chance is a single pulse. This makes him vulnerable, which is why they hide him. He’s the smartest man on earth, the designer of the States, and also ruthless. I can’t decide if I hate him or not. I think I do. He has a singular vision about life on this planet, and he’ll do anything to see it through. I can appreciate that kind of resolve. The problem is that the people I love stand between him and this vision of his. Okay, yeah, I hate Hotspur Chance. He didn’t kill my best friend; that was Clara Quinn. He didn’t kill my parents; that was Wade Quinn. But he brought these two monsters into the world and let them do whatever it took to free him from a prison inside the Western State. He’s the head of the beast, the brains, the heartless center.

  Hotspur also created the Intels. There are even fewer of them left in the world. I think Clara and Hawk are the only ones. It’s a very good thing Hawk is on our side, because Intels are nearly as smart as Hotspur. They are brilliant thinkers with photographic memories. They learn new skills much faster than I do. They analyze, calculate, and hold information like supercomputers. Hawk has created a lot of high-tech gadgetry for us, like the sound ring. I have one. So do Dylan, Hawk, and Clooger. If I press the lobe on my ear and speak, they all hear me in their heads no matter where they are. If I don’t press, they don’t hear. Elegant and useful. We drive around in a modified Hummer that floats a few inches off the ground like a hovercraft. So yeah, Hawk makes really cool stuff. We’d all be dead without him.

  We made a serious run at killing the Quinns and we came close, but in the end we became misunderstood fugitives. The Quinns freed Hotspur and hid him away somewhere. Dylan’s mom, our leader, was killed.

  Clooger, our single-pulse leader, has a plan to hide us away, too. He’s old military, strong as a horse, and overprotective. I’m going along with his plan to run away and heal up for now, but no one—not Clooger or Dylan or Hawk—is going to stop me from what I have to do.

  My fight will never be over until the Quinns and Hotspur Chance are gone for good.

  Now I’m going to tuck inside the arms of the one person I trust completely and fall asleep. When I wake up the rest of my life will unfold and I probably won’t write any of it down. At least I got this far.

  Chapter 1

  Flight

  Hawk’s breath fogged the glass of his Tablet as dawn broke on the world outside. He turned to Clooger, whose wide nose had turned a pale shade of pink in the chill of morning, and said a single word.

  “Incoming.”

  Clooger’s black eyebrow went up and he dug a finger into his ear. The up and down of the mountain drive had left him feeling as if he was underwater.

  “Here or there?” Clooger asked.

  “There. And stay on your side of the rig. Whatever you’re finding on that ill-fated ear expedition is probably nuclear.”

  Clooger pulled his finger out and examined it. “Better make contact.”

  “You sure?” Hawk asked. “With this much activity so close, who knows? We might blow their cover.”

  Clooger leaned his huge shoulder closer to Hawk and looked at the Tablet.

  “Cover’s already blown. Call ’em.”

  Hawk nodded. At fifteen he was scrawny for his age, but next to Clooger’s colossal frame, he looked like a four-year-old.

  “Dylan? Faith? Can you hear me?”

  Hawk’s small voice traveled into the sound ring as he searched for Dylan and Faith. He pressed hard on the lobe of his ear and wondered if the communication system he’d invented ha
d been damaged.

  “They’re coming for you, Dylan. Tell me you’re hearing this. Get out of the house. Get out now.”

  Still no answer.

  “Why didn’t you see this sooner?” Clooger asked. He was tougher on Hawk than anyone, but he loved the kid like his own son.

  Hawk glanced at Clooger as if he was crazy.

  “We both woke up thirty seconds ago. How much faster were you thinking?” asked Hawk.

  “You should have an alarm on that Tablet for situations like this.”

  “At least Wade and Clara aren’t out there.” Hawk scanned his Tablet again. “I don’t see them anywhere.”

  Clooger was starting to worry, flexing his muscles nervously as he gripped the steering wheel. He blamed himself for their falling asleep, but they’d been up for thirty-six hours in a row. It wasn’t as if they could stay awake forever. “We should have slept in shifts instead of simultaneously passing out from exhaustion. I should have known better.”

  “They’ve got maybe three minutes, Cloog,” Hawk said. His fingers danced across the screen of the Tablet he held in his hand. “I don’t know how this group found the safe house, but they did.”

  “At least the town is zeroed,” Clooger said, stepping lightly on the accelerator. The HumGee hovered a few inches off the deserted mountain road, turning back and forth between fir trees. “How many?”

  “A full unit of Western State military army.” Hawk paused and looked at Clooger. He was glad to have the big guy at his side. “Air and ground. They’ve surrounded the house.”

  Clooger sniffed the air like a wolf and stared intently out the window. He pressed the sound ring embedded in his ear and yelled.

  “Dylan, if you can hear me, move! Now!”

  Hawk tweaked out in his seat at the booming sound of Clooger’s voice and banged his head on the ceiling of the HumGee. His Tablet went airborne and hit the dashboard, instantly shrinking to its handheld size as it tumbled to the floor.

  “Think you could warn me when you’re planning on going nuclear?”

  But that was Clooger—a bull in a china shop—and he was never going to change.

  “What is it?” Dylan asked. He was finally awake, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes in a room filled with darkness and narrow slits of light.

  Faith rolled over and looked at Dylan. She felt her side, hoping she’d find it healed from Gretchen’s titanium dart, a dart that had nearly ended her life a day earlier.

  “It’s too late,” Hawk pressed in. “They’ve surrounded the house. And I mean really surrounded it.”

  “Could they hide?” Clooger asked. He didn’t press his sound ring, so only Hawk could hear him ask the question.

  “Not a chance. Those troops have heat-seeking tech. Unless Dylan and Faith can seriously play dead, they’ll have to make a run for it.”

  “If you guys get caught now it’ll be a disaster,” Clooger said, pressing his sound ring. He veered the HumGee back onto the road and gunned it. “Head into Oregon. I’ll relay more instructions once you figure out how to evade everything the Western State can throw at you. Whatever you do, don’t get caught.”

  “Faith, how are you feeling?” Hawk asked, pressing into the sound ring. He used his Tablet to set the autopilot on the HumGee and nodded for Clooger to let the steering wheel go.

  “Ready to roll,” Faith said. She was standing next to the bed in a T-shirt and underwear, nothing else. When she lifted her shirt along the side of her body, Dylan saw in the faint light that the wound had healed into a jagged scar.

  “Nice birthmark,” Dylan said as he pulled a shirt over his head and stepped off onto the floor on her side. He pulled her in close and edged back toward the bed.

  Faith pressed her sound ring and pushed Dylan away with a smirk. “This is escape time, not make-out time,” she whispered.

  “I’m good as new, plus one badass scar,” Faith said. “And my abs on that side feel like I just did a thousand sit-ups. I can roll.”

  “Excellent,” Hawk said. “I had a feeling your body would regenerate very quickly. Glad I was right about that.”

  Faith pulled on her pants and a second, long-sleeve shirt. She picked her Tablet up off the nightstand, sliding it into the back pocket of her jeans.

  “Figure out how to get away from the army outside and back into hiding,” Clooger said. “We’ll guide you from here.”

  “Okay, first things to know,” Hawk said, scanning his Tablet for data. “You’ve got two dozen armed flyers with jet packs surrounding the house. They’ll be able to keep up, and they may know you can’t be stopped with bullets or bombs. It’s hard to say how much they know. Overhead you’ve got a half-dozen hovercraft. Those are fast and very nimble in the air. And they have space for a lot of weaponry.”

  “Like nets,” Clooger reminded Dylan and Faith. “If they know about your powers, they’ll know they need to trap you in order to stop you. Remember that.”

  “Okay, we got it,” Dylan said. He looked at Faith, pulled her close again, kissed her.

  “You sure about this?” Faith asked.

  “Does it matter?”

  Dylan kissed her, longer this time. When Faith pulled away and saw the longing in Dylan’s eyes, she thought of how much she wanted to stay in the safe house, just the two of them. But she knew their escape from reality was over. They both did.

  “No, it doesn’t matter if you’re sure, not really.”

  “Then let’s get this party started.”

  Before either of them could pull the curtains, the glass in the window exploded inward and a can of tear gas hit the floor, flooding the room with eye-stinging smoke. They both heard the sound of the front door downstairs being forced open with a ramrod as armed men entered and began shouting instructions.

  “My system doesn’t much like this tear gas. You?” Faith asked.

  “Can’t say that I love it,” Dylan agreed. They weren’t sure whether their second pulses would protect them from poisonous gas; they’d never dealt with it before. No sense taking chances. Dylan went first, then Faith, flying out the window and up into the sky. They stopped and hung in the air over the house long enough to see the trouble they were up against. Men wearing sleek jet packs were already taking off, heading toward them, and firing a barrage of bullets.

  “Pretty cool tech,” Dylan said, surveying the armed forces. “I’d love to get my hands on one of those jet packs and take it apart piece by piece. Imagine what Hawk could cook up with the parts?”

  “Too bad they don’t have any interest in capturing us. These guys are aiming to kill,” Faith said, trying to keep Dylan from geeking out, as he sometimes did at the most inappropriate times. Faith had long understood that things like jet packs and flying saucers set off even the least nerdy guys she’d ever met. Ogling this kind of modern technology was in their DNA. She glanced skyward as she and Dylan flew toward the Oregon border, bullets pinging harmlessly off their second-pulse shields. Overhead she saw the circle of hovercrafts, each of them thirty feet in diameter. They looked like oversized bumper boats, round and flat with one pilot sitting in the center.

  “Let’s see if we can outrun them,” Dylan said. “That would be the easiest way out. And I’m curious what kind of speed these things can do.”

  Faith nodded and they went into high gear, arching up toward the cloud line. But the bullets and rocket grenades kept coming and the men in jet suits stayed tight on their heels. The hovercraft were even faster, encircling them from every side, firing at will.

  “Open space isn’t working!” Faith said. “Try close to the ground?”

  Dylan nodded and they dove toward an abandoned street with houses on both sides.

  Several hundred miles away, Clooger and Hawk were keeping track of the action as they drove.

  “Spread out, you two,” Clooger said, pressing his sound ring. He was leaning toward Hawk, watching heat signatures on the Tablet as the autopilot swerved them back and forth down a dusty road. “Make the
m choose who to follow!”

  The HumGee went fast into a turn and pitched sharply to the right, throwing Hawk into the door. Clooger’s weight followed, smashing Hawk as if they were on a shoulder-crushing fair ride.

  “Buckle up, big guy! You’re killing me here.”

  “Don’t be such a wimp.”

  “I’m not a wimp. You’re huge, bro!”

  While Hawk and Clooger waited for the next hairpin turn, Faith picked up an abandoned car with her mind and threw it over her head. The men in jet packs swerved admirably, but when they looked back, Faith had picked up ten more cars. She turned on the troops and they all stopped in midair, watching.

  “Stop following me,” she said. Faith had a way of saying things like this that could turn the most hardened army veteran toward home. But these guys were either stupid or crazy or both. The troops all moved forward slightly, firing off a whole new round of bullets and blasters.

  “Don’t say I didn’t warn you, because I did. I warned you.”

  Faith moved the cars into a long horizontal line in front of her and then pushed them forward one at a time like pendants stuck together on a chain. By the time they started reaching their intended target, the cars were traveling at a hundred-plus miles an hour, spreading out and clobbering everything in their path. The troops bounced like bowling pins, spinning wildly out of control as the jet packs malfunctioned and pushed them all over the sky. The cars continued their journey, slamming into houses and streets on the ground as the flying Western State troops tried to right themselves in midair.

  Dylan was a quarter mile to Faith’s left, dealing with the hovercrafts, all of which had decided to follow him.

  “Clooger was right on the money—these things have net bombs,” Dylan said, dodging hard to one side as a bowling ball–sized projectile headed his way. When it was within twenty feet of where Dylan had been stationed, it burst open like a shotgun shell full of lead pellets, splaying out a wide net with golf ball–sized weights around its perimeter. A long wire connected the net to the hovercraft, and when the net missed its target, it curled back into a ball and returned to where it had come.

 
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