Only Ash ~ Chapter Four, pt. 3 of 3 (CC welcomed :] )
Posted February 7th, 2017 by Zelda
in a perpetual predicament
A/N: I missed posting chapters of Kuebiko, and World of Fear, and i'm way behind in school, but heyyy, at least there's this dark little tale to entertain you all.
While i'm here; i've got about three month deadline for this. Which is actually more of a 1 month deadline, because i've decided that this is the only book I have that really has a chance at meeting a certain goal and I'd really love some feedback on what can be improved? That helps a lot, so um, yeah, thanks a lot for reading this :)
Part three of three
Once again we set off following Maverick. I fall back to the very edge of Del’s protective bubble. The wind nips at my heels like a recalcitrant puppy. My eyes are glued to the side of the trunk closest to the ground. Upon closer inspection I can make out an eensy weensy space between the heavy tree and the unforgiving ground. The tree is resting on something somewhere down the line. I cringe internally, and hope for Dieter’s sake that he isn’t the one causing that gap. As I continue to skim the space for any signs of struggle, a glimmer catches my eye. I scan the patch again and spot the culprit; tangled with the stub of a long-gone twig, fluttering slightly, is a clump of fine blonde hair. The hair is way too long to belong to Pasty. Before I have a chance to look closer at the clump, Maverick shouts.
“Found--” He cuts off as Del’s bubble shrinks sharply, plunging us both into the maelstrom. She jerks her arm to force the dome back up. Maverick wipes the rain out of his face, but doesn’t comment. He gestures down at the base of the trunk and I crouch to get a better view of what he’s showing us. I find myself inches away from a pale, feminine face.
Not Dieter, not by a long shot. I pull back in surprise. Her wide green eyes flit over me, straining to see. There is a branch on either side of her, they must of taken the brunt of the weight when the tree fell. However, since then they have sagged, and now the trunk rests almost entirely on her chest.
“It’s not Dieter.” I say for Delilah’s benefit. The woman under the tree opens her mouth but no sound escapes. The tree must be crushing her lungs.
“Get ready to pull her out.” I rock forward on my heels and jam my hands as far under the trunk as I can get them.
“We’re going to get you out.” I assure her. She stares up at me, a mixture of terror and disbelief plain on her sharp features. I heave, the tree rocks, and a sharp cry bursts from the woman.
Damn. She’s lying too angled for me too simple roll the tree, it’ll crush her legs. I’ll have to lift straight up. I switch grips, inhale deeply, and haul up. This tree is nothing, I tell myself. My arms strain and I lift from my feet, just like they taught me in the compound. 2.9 tons, I can lift 2.9 tons, this tree is inconsequential. The wood groans as it is lifted from it’s resting place. The bark bites into my bare skin, and I lean back a tad to more evenly distribute the weight. Maverick moves in quickly. He hooks his hands under her armpits and drags her out from under the tree. During the process something snags on one of the branches, causing the tree to lurch. I jolt rapidly to keep the trunk from collapsing back onto the woman, crushing her for good. I over-correct, and the trunk ends up smushed into my face. Bark scrapes like sandpaper, the tree wobbles.
It reminds my of that day back at the compound, with the huge concrete weights,
and the heaving, and the trembling limbs.
And the knowing that I was pushing myself too far, and the worse knowledge of what they would do to Elle if I didn’t keep pushing.
And then the collapsing, the falling, and the pain, and my legs, my legs, and the fear,
The absolute, overwhelming, fear.
My breath catches in my chest and won’t release. Not nearly soon enough, Maverick gets the woman clear. I can’t set the trunk down fast enough, but before it’s reached the ground, Del’s bubble snaps like a rubber band.
Rain blinds me. An overpowering gale gusts the trunk clean out of my grasp and threatens to fling my body into the air as well. The tree flies up as if possessed, and the wind pushes it over top of me.
It’s falling. On me. It’s going to crush me. It’s going to kill me.
I’m already shaky from the burst of panic that came moments earlier, my muscles lock of their own accord at this new danger and I can’t force myself to jump out of the way.
The rain blinds me. Darkness overtakes me.
Shouldn’t this hurt more?
Sharp pain explodes across my face, but it’s not from the tree. I think somebody just slapped me. My vision rapidly snaps back into crisp focus, blessed air hits my lungs and loosens my panic-cramped limbs. Delilah’s bubble has made a reappearance. Maverick is in front of me, his hands are on either side of my shoulders. His eyes search mine for a sign that I’m back from wherever my mind went. Residual strands of the panic he must have heard screaming from my brain peeks from the corners of his eyes.
“You good?” He asks. I peer over his shoulder at the tree. It’s now several feet away and lying flat on the ground.
“Yeah, yeah I’m fine.” I reach up and wipe the lenses of my glasses. He claps my shoulders.
“Let’s get back.” He turns to address the other two. “We’ll have to look for Dieter tomorrow.” He says, thinly masking his resignation. He pauses a moment, considering the woman. I take the time to get a better look at her as well. She’s on her feet, she has one arm wrapped tight around her ribs and her lean, muscled shoulders curve forward. She’s clearly hurt. Her face is haggard, her nose is thin and sharp, her chin is pointed, and her eyes are hard like jagged shards of glass. Her hair is muddied and bracken from the dirty ground, but it’s possible to make out strands of platinum blonde and, near the tips, cherry red.
The woman driving the military jeep had the same coloring. Suspicion washes over me. I step around Maverick and grab the woman by the collar of her stiff jacket, her eyes widen. She’s sporting the unmistakable camouflage of army fatigues. Cool metal presses into my palm and I look down at the dog tags around her neck.
She helped steal Elle.
No sooner have I come to this conclusion than my free hand is around her neck and squeezing. She chokes, her mouth pops open.
“No-- please.” She gasps, “I-I have a--”
I narrow my eyes and lift her so her toes barely scrape the dirt. Her hands claw at mine.
“A little girl.” She rasps. “Eisabelle.”
“How ironic.” I drop her. Her knees buckle and crumples at my feet. I sneer and crouch. My forefinger finds her chin and forces her face up. “I had a little girl too, do you know what happened to her?” Even to my own ears I sound chilling.
“Yes.” She whispers at the same time Maverick intervenes.
“By the stars, Trick, calm down.” His hand clamps over my shoulder and he yanks me away from the woman, simultaneously stepped between to the two of us. I bat him away, incensed.
“Tell me.” I demand. The woman winces, her hand is at her throat. To her credit, she doesn’t shrink away. “What do you know? Where is she?”
“Trick, stop.” Maverick jerks me back once again, this time he drags me farther away.
“She took Elle.” I snarl, struggling to free myself. It should be easy, but my arms aren’t cooperating quite like they should. Another of Maverick’s handy-dandy telepath tricks. One he never uses except in worst-case scenarios. Mind control.
“Ice it.” He commands again, his words have taken on an ethereal tone. Sapped of the ability to move, my mind takes that moment to catch up, and suddenly I’m aware that, without realizing it, I’ve slipped into dueling mode. “She wants to help us get Elle back. She snuck away to come find us and take us to the camp because she thinks what the military is doing is wrong.”
I look to the woman for confirmation. She dips her chin and stares at the ground, refusing to meet my gaze. Her long fingers twist around the chain of her dog tags, her chest is rising and falling with rapid wheezes.
“My name is DeTrickna Taiyachnin.” She says, her accent is thick and her English is broken “I am a sergeant in the 36th regiment of Krovavogo Brigady.” Her breathing evens, “My…group, was sent to respond to a request for help that we received from a-- from the laboratory. My partner and I were scouting when we found your group. Lieutenant Morris said we bring you all in, but when he thought you were all from the laboratory he wanted to…take you, he wanted to,” She hesitates, grasping for the right word.
“Capture us?” Maverick supplies. She nods.
“Yes, capture you all, but you woke up and we only captured the little one.” Her fingers clench around her chain.
“I’m sorry. I want to return her to you, we should not have captured her, she is too sick.”
By the time she’s done apologizing, I’ve shrugged back into my own mental skin. A majority of me is unwilling to return to normal, but I quash the anger and stuff it down where it can’t be found. Maverick, sensing that I have control of myself, releases me. Free, I run a hand through my hair, spiking it up, and heave a sigh. Detrickna bites her bottom lip nervously.
“Can you walk?” Maverick asks her. She raises her head to look at him.
“We found shelter not far from here, if you agree to help us get our little girl back, then you can come back with us.” He offers. He would probably let her hide from the storm with us anyways. Then again, the ultimatum he gave Dieter comes to mind, and I note that Maverick isn’t entirely altruistic. He won’t hesitate to leave the army woman out in this storm if he suspects she’s lying.
“I want to help you.” DeTrickna says firmly. “But,” She holds up a hand to stop us. “You must also promise safety for my child-- for Eisabelle. What I am doing is traitorous, the Bloody Brigade will execute me if I am caught, and they will try to execute her.”
A sympathetic pang goes through my chest. I hadn’t noticed earlier, anger had clouded my observancy, but DeTrickna is young. She can’t be that much older than me, and already she has a baby to provide for and protect.
“We’ll keep her safe.” I promise before Maverick can answer. He shoots me a dubious look, but holds his tongue. DeTrickna’s relief is palpable.
“Thank you.” She breathes, “I will help you get your little one back.”
“Alright.” Maverick clasps his hands, “Let’s get back to the cave.”
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