Chapter 12, Part 1
“Steady!” Sgt. Lattimer called.
Cassie wobbled and nearly spun 360 as her wings attempted to correct her tilt. They were inside the big training area. Huge fans had been brought in and set along the floor. When turned on, they gave her the appropriate air thrust that mimicked flying. She’d been at it for a week and couldn’t say she’d made much progress. Her whole body ached but she couldn’t bring herself to give up.
She tightened her stomach muscles and pulled herself back up to float parallel to the floor. She was about twenty feet off the ground, suspended by her wings and the air current.
“Come on, Cassie!”
She barely heard the shouts of encouragement coming from the second floor balcony where her “family” watched. They’d all been training in some capacity over the last week. Nothing sinister though. And Luke and Josh had been right there with them, a fact that allayed some of Cassie’s fears.
She flapped her wings, rising a few more feet.
“Ok, killing the fans,” Sgt. Lattimer shouted above the noise. Cassie managed to give a thumbs up signal. Lattimer returned the gesture and seconds later, the updraft vanished.
Her wings powered to keep her airborne. She hadn’t been able to figure out this part yet. She folded her wings back and dropped a few feet before flapping mightily again. She rose back to her previous height and tried again. Her descent was jerky even though she didn’t have far to go. Finally she let her legs swing perpendicular to the floor and dropped the last few feet. She landed with a bone jarring thud. Cheers rang out above her. All things considered, it was her best landing yet. She’d actually landed on her feet instead of her face.
She shakily rose and rested hands on knees.
“That looked better,” Lattimer said, a genuine smile on his face. Cassie straightened and her shoulders heaved as her wings retracted.
“Thanks,” she replied. “Won’t be winning any competitions though.”
“In the winged human contest, I think you’d get first.” Lattimer winked and Cassie had to smile. She’d win by default being the only winged human in existence. “Be back here in an hour. We’ve got more to work on.”
Cassie saluted and left the training room. Dr. Braxton had suggested the training when he saw how bored they were getting. There was only so much for teenagers to do on an army base. Cassie had been fascinated with the training room since the first day and suggested they all learn some form of self-defense. It wouldn’t hurt to know in case the Freak came calling.
Sam had been the one to suggest that she try flying again since it wasn’t like she was hiding who she was here. Luke had eagerly jumped on board, finally getting her to agree to a simulation. Sgt. Lattimer had consulted with several paratroopers and they rigged what was basically a sky diving simulation. She’d gained a little confidence, but she wouldn’t be jumping off rooftops any time soon.
Cassie met up with the others outside the training room. Abby and Luke were off to see Dr. Braxton. Abby, with her ability for predictions and probabilities, was a formidable opponent in any game. Luke and Braxton, ferocious competitors in Chinese Checkers, had invited her along to make their games more interesting. Cassie thought it might also be a way for Braxton to study Abigail’s power up close, but Abby still seemed to trust him, therefore Cassie did. Caleb went to meet Josh. He followed his older brother around like a lost puppy. Military was in his blood, with his father and then his brother serving in the Canadian army, so he’d taken an instant interest in the workings of the base. Josh, just happy to have found his little brother around, showed him everything. In one week, Caleb knew almost everything there was to know about Camp Lawton. Not a bad thing, in Cassie’s opinion.
With everyone accounted for, she went to go find Sam. He’d be at the mechanic shop. She grabbed her leather jacket out of habit, slinging it over her tank-top. Old fears died hard. She’d hidden her wings for so long that after one week she wasn’t ready to go walking out in the open. The jacket trapped the heat of the brutal summer sun as she headed to the shop, but she didn’t take it off.
Sam had set up in a corner of the shop. He’d started to repair her motorcycle, damaged in the accident with the Freak. But he wasn’t working on the bike. She found him instead bent over the inside of a specialized army vehicle.
“Hey,” she said, shoving her hands into her back pockets and staring down at the meaningless jumble of engine.
“How’d it go?” he asked, not taking his eyes from his task.
“Better than yesterday. They let you work on one of these?”
“Said he knew how to fix it,” a soldier joined their conversation, leaning against the car as he handed Sam a wrench. “None of us had a clue what was wrong with it, so we figured we might as well give him a shot.”
Sam almost smiled. “Almost done,” he told the mechanic. Cassie stepped back and watched Sam work. He’d told her once that he knew how a machine could work without knowing a thing about it. He wiped greasy hands on a rag as he circled around to the cab. He reached in, flipped a switch and the engine roared to life.
“You worked on one of these before?” the mechanic asked.
“Never seen one before,” Sam admitted.
“As far as superpowers go, I’d say that’s pretty useful.”
Sam scrubbed at a grease spot on the back of his hand. Cassie knew he was still uncomfortable with the word “superpower”. He didn’t regard his primary skill of combustion as anything good.
“I just like working in a shop,” Sam said.
Further conversation was interrupted by a commotion and a desperate yell of “Stop that rabbit!”
Cassie turned to see a jackrabbit making a desperate rush for the open bay doors. Tools and a workbench were upset in its wake. It escaped, leaving a crestfallen duo of soldiers behind.
“I told you it wouldn’t make a good pet!” the mechanic strode off. Sam picked up the radio, an unfortunate casualty. It refused to turn on, so he opened it up, and began fiddling. A high pitched static erupted. Both Sam and Cassie clapped hands over ears as the noise attacked their eardrums with savage intensity. Sam frantically undid whatever he had done and it ceased.
“You guys ok?” the mechanic was back.
“You didn’t hear that?” Cassie asked. Her ears were still ringing.
Sam and Cassie stared at him and then at each other.
“You serious?” Sam asked, performing the same combination that had produced the sound. They both winced as it returned. The mechanic however, was completely unfazed. Sam shut it off and shrugged helplessly as Cassie.
“Just when I thought I couldn’t get any weirder.” She sighed.
What think you of this new development? Any speculations on what it could be for? 🙂