Avalanche – Snippet 09
There was, of course, another problem. We’d gotten Tesla and Marconi out in living “lifeboats,” in the form of Ramona and Rick. But now that they were out…what were we going to actually do with them?
Reply Hazy, Try Again
By Veronica Giguere and Mercedes Lackey
The Metisan craft rocked back and forth as it dove beneath the cloud cover that gave the Atlanta suburbs their perpetual pale gray skies. The airspace surrounding the metropolis had no sign of the gleaming battle spheres favored by the Thulians. Instead, the destruction corridors cut clear swaths of misery through the I-285 conduit that ringed the city. The circle broken, the population limped along between alien assaults that continued to cripple a city too stubborn to not rebuild.
Trina navigated the ever-busy skies surrounding the airport, her attention focused on the flight path rather than her remaining passengers. The three dozen citizens of Metis who had joined Ramona and Mercurye on the escape ship had listened to Vickie’s detailed instructions regarding the various Peruvian embassies. Given the proximity of the Earth-side site to the picturesque South American country, it had made perfect sense for the Metisians to claim Peruvian citizenship. Passports and a few well-placed calls to others able to manage the situation with the utmost discretion had placed the refugees in several countries, and now the only remaining Metisan brought the ship to land in a relatively deserted area marked by aging train tracks.
Trina sagged against the controls, her orchid hair limp against her forehead and cheeks. She wiped the back of her hand across her mouth and danced shaking fingers over the holographic display. The viewscreen blinked to show the rest of the landscape, a few broken trees and some woefully neglected shrubbery. A MARTA sign lay in the distance, the metal pocked and warped. Graffiti decorated some of the larger walls, and Ramona recognized a few crude representations of burning Kriegers and cracked spheres. A warning, or maybe an affirmation that meant the people here wouldn’t go down without a fight, and they knew that their attackers had not won the war.
“These are the coordinates that Victrix sent?” Ramona asked, careful to conceal concern or accusation from her voice. The little Metisian woman had done so much already, and she worried that Trina might not make it to the closest consulate for her own needs. She forced a smile to her face. “Seems pretty out of the way.”
Mercurye didn’t hide his emotions so easily. It couldn’t have been easy, managing two consciousnesses while running for one’s life from the destruction of the most advanced civilization that any of them had ever seen. Ramona knew that the only reason she had managed to keep hold of her own sanity was her brief yet memorable experience of mind-riding with Nicola Tesla when they invoked the ECHO charter. The fussy scientist had spent several hours wondering when he would be able to leave, whether or not he could trust Ramona to keep him safe without the technoshaman’s prowess, and if residing in the consciousness of a woman would have any ill effects on his own personality. Rather than argue any of those fits of irrationality, she had simply summoned the memory of Alex Tesla, a walk-in refrigerator, a strong right hook, and a bag of tater tots.
The resulting quiet had provided her time to think about what had happened at Metis, as well as go through the reports that she could access via Overwatch. It wasn’t pleasure reading, but Ramona needed to know where they stood and what would happen next, even if she couldn’t be there with the rest of the ECHO core.
The handsome speedster sat cross-legged in the center of the floor, his eyes wide as he stared out the viewport, his lips moving in silent speech. Long scratches covered his exposed skin, metahuman metabolism already having healed the smallest of cuts and scrapes. His upturned hands trembled atop his knees. Ramona guessed that Marconi had not found any measure of peace in sharing headspace, and that the soundless words came courtesy of an hours-long conversation between the host and the hastily-invited guest.
“Mercurye?” He didn’t respond to his callsign. She repeated his name, but he remained transfixed on the wide window that overlooked the forgotten MARTA station. Perhaps his civilian name would do it. “Rick? Hey, Rick. We landed, it’s time to head out. Want a hand up?”
She extended a metal-scarred hand to him, palm up. Rick Poitier looked at it, seeming to study the seams where metal met flesh. His gaze traveled up her wrist and arm, finally meeting her face. She smiled, and he swallowed hard. “We ran. Ran away. We ran away from the rest of them, Ramona.”
Guilt. Oh, this was something with which she was all too familiar. Ramona crouched down, one knee against the floor and her fingers lightly brushing the fabric over his calf. “We did what Victrix told us to do. We got Misters Marconi and Tesla out safely, and we made it back. We ran because those were the orders that we got.”
“But we ran,” he repeated. His body began to shake, and Ramona shifted to kneel behind him. She wrapped her arms around the speedster, knowing that her newfound mass and strength would be able to withstand the veritable buzz of his tremors. Given all that had happened, it would be ridiculous to think that they would avoid some kind of shock or trauma.
“They’re safe because we ran,” Ramona reassured him. She glanced up at Trina, who had slid to the floor and now sat with her knees drawn to her chest. “She’s safe because we ran. All of those people who got placed, they’re safe because we ran.”
“But not everyone got out. You never saw the whole city. The laboratories, the museums, the oratoriums…” The young woman’s eyes filled with tears and she dropped her forehead to rest against her knees. Her pristine white jumpsuit had rips streaked with blood and soot, and tears soon wet the stained fabric. Ramona waited for another outburst, but Trina didn’t have the energy to do more than weep. Stretching an arm out, she motioned for the much-smaller pilot to join them. Trina fell into a grateful heap against her shoulder and sobbed into the nanoweave.
I am not the voice of solace. Snark and sarcasm, sure, but I’m not the sensitive type. Ramona shifted to accommodate both of her charges and tried to think of what Bella would do in this kind of situation. As she struggled to find the right words, she felt the other consciousness steady itself in something she could best describe as resolve.
“There are times when escape is the wisest course of action.” Tesla’s crisp tone echoed in the space between her eyes, as if their conversation was a bit too close for comfort. She didn’t think that anyone else would be able to hear him and opened her mouth to say as much, but Marconi’s lilting tone answered her as if he sat next to Mercurye.
“True, true. When the resources no longer exist, staying for one’s pride becomes an exercise in foolishness. Signorina Ferrari is, again, correct in her assessment.” Although Ramona could no longer see the man’s blueframe countenance, she could imagine the genteel incline of his head toward her.
Curiosity got the better of her. “Victrix, I can hear them both. Can you?”
The mage’s voice croaked a reply. “I can. Anyone else on Overwatch can, but it will go through your frequency since we can’t put a subvocal device on them.” A pause, something that Ramona figured to be a yawn. “I could try to make something happen, perhaps –“