Sunday, May 10, 2015
First 5 Pages May Workshop - Pacelli Rev 1
Name: Atesa Pacelli
Genre: Young Adult
Title: The Minesweeper
In the next one thousand years, somewhere in the universe, a Bender will be born. A human mind that can control the organized atoms of our existence: machines, objects, animals.
- The Writings of Dar Zacariah, The Father of the Golden Way
ONE: ON TENEBRIS
The hand hit Aden so hard it knocked him to the ground.
Limbs became dangerous projectiles in the minefields, and this one was no exception. Aden swerved and flailed wildly but it was no use. It slammed into him, his mac almost flying out of his hands. Just as his fingers closed again on the weapon’s grip, he went down, hard, hitting the rain-soaked mud with a wet thud.
He froze. He didn’t notice the pain, but slowly, slowly, he did notice that he was still alive. He had narrowly avoided falling directly on top of a Sunn mine. Deep breath. Yes. He was still alive. He wiggled his fingers and toes. All still there, or so it seemed. He gripped his mac harder. Paused to catch his breath. He was out in the open and he would have to get out of here – fast.
His eyes were alert, analyzing the ramshackle mud and brick huts that made up this village high up on the Sunn-Karal border: the blown-open doors, the mounds of dirt and debris, the rusted-down machines, the flies buzzing around the dead people and animals. The ground underneath this village was riddled with mines in every direction: microscopic bits of coiled death that lay just inches under the innocent-looking soil, their vibrations visible to no one but him. To Aden’s eyes, the air was different directly above each mine. It moved: darkened and swirled like an angry eddy. The gift meant that he was alive four years after being sold by his father to the Karali rebels as a minesweeper. It meant that he could graduate from minefield meat to an actual soldier in the cause of the Karali Liberation Movement.
All around him, the ground darkened and swirled, darkened and swirled. Target-locked bullets whizzed by and high-powered lasers crisped the earth as the KLM rebels advanced, filling the air with the deafening roars of blasts, one on top of another.
He had to get to cover. A hopscotch skirting the dark swirls would get him to safety behind a mud hut, if he could trigger a mine nearby and run under the cover of its explosion. Aden rubbed the acrid black smoke out of his eyes. Slowly, slowly, he reached out for the arm that had knocked him over. The fact that it was the small arm of a minesweeper boy did not register; he examined it merely for its usefulness. The hand was frozen in a death grip, still clutching the paradise key. Cheap metal that the rebels passed out to boys as the keys to the paradise ruled by the God of Spirits. Entry to this afterlife was naturally promised to each boy sweeping a minefield.
“What will you do for the God of Spirits to let you into paradise?”
He had to hope the metal detectors in the mines would be triggered by the key. He took a deep breath, then heaved the hand as hard as he could at a nearby mine. The arm landed with a moist thwack. Seconds later, a huge explosion blew it to bits.
“The Soldier is the most beloved hand of God.”
Then he ran. He made it to a hut. He slid along the wet, crumbling wall, eyes on the fighting. For a second, a split second, he wanted to give up. Surrender to the dark swirls. Each time he went out, they became more and more irresistible. He hesitated. Ok, not this time. He shrugged the impulse away as he rounded the corner of the hut, where he found a surprise: a minesweeper boy, crying and shivering, curled up in a tiny turtle-like ball on the ground. The chain that once bound him to the other boys was spread out like a long tail behind him. The boys went into the battlefield in threes and fours, chained to each other. This was to ensure both compliance and coverage of the entire field. But it also meant almost certain death.
A pang of something pricked Aden, at the spot where his conscience once was. The Karali Liberation Movement mostly wanted to liberate the lucrative Carabalt mines along the disputed Sunn border. They wanted those mines, if they had to kill every boy in Karal to get them. He was supposed send this one back out to the dark swirls. But he couldn’t.
He took a deep breath and shook the kid, who looked up at him with a tear-streaked, dirty face. He had to come up with a plan. Aden peered around the edge of the hut. They were not more than thirty steps away from a tree line. Behind the trees was a thick forest.
“When I give you the signal, run!” Aden screamed over the noise. The boy nodded, clinging to Aden.
Aden scanned the ground. The most direct line to the trees was seeded with mines, the neat circuits of death patiently lying in wait, their cold explosive power rattling just a few feet beneath the dirt.
Dark swirls, everywhere.
He closed his eyes and breathed in and out, in and out, summoning up the energy for what he was about to do. He would have to bend a couple of mines. That’s what he called it, in his head. Bending. Bending something that wasn’t alive was easy. He had done it his whole life. He could control objects. He could control machines. Turning off lights, retrieving items from across a room, closing doors.
Deep breath, eyes closed, and bend.
Aden swore under his breath as he counted the mines in his head. Five mines on the path between them and safety. He had just enough in him for five. But these were five Hephaestus-class mines. The gold standard of planetary battlefield technology. Sunn was taking no chances with this village. They wanted to preserve their assets: the excellent quality Teneb in the ground, the precursor of the precious Carabalt.
No way could he bend five Hephaestus-class mines and activate their kill switches. Or explode them all, for that matter.
Aden closed his eyes for a second, running a finger along the raised tattoo of an exploding sphere on his inner elbow. No inspiration was forthcoming. He scanned the tree line. Flitting in and out of visibility behind the trees was an enormous bracken deer, bolting away from the fighting. Here, near the Sunn border with Karal, the bracken deer were moose-like: several tons of massive and lumbering animal. Totally different from the swift, sure-footed creatures that Aden and his brother Will would hunt in the small remaining woods near Serab, the dusty mining town in northern Karal where Aden was born.
He thought and scratched, thought and scratched, his breath short and shallow, his eyes alert.
And then the solution came, with all its terrifying logic.
The bracken deer. He would have to bend it.
He was an expert at bending things now. But bending anything alive had serious repercussions the few times he had tried. It meant a countdown to a catatonic state that could last for hours. Five minutes, ten max and then he would be out, almost dead. Very soon after he bent something alive, he would have to get somewhere safe, fast.