Brand-New BASILISK Excerpt! [Chapter 11]29 Jul 2011, Posted by Blog, Books, Excerpts, Rob Thurman's Twitter, The Chimera Novels in
Damn, I was certain the dosage would be high enough to knock the Chimera out. I started after him, weaving between cots, and then skidded to a stop. Stefan heard it at the same time I did. Half a step behind me, he grabbed my arm and ran, yanking me along with him. He didn’t need to. I was as fast and running over the top of bodies and their various crushed organs didn’t faze me. Stefan, despite his Mob background, flinched slightly but didn’t let it slow him down either. We hit the right wall of the room simultaneous to the semi-tractor trailer crashing through the front of the building. Stefan was knocked to the floor by a falling piece of ceiling. I was thrown forward by the slam of an upended cot against my back.
I’d known the building was structurally unsound by looking at it when we arrived, but I’d underestimated the instability of it. Perfect for an explosion, I’d thought and it was a meth lab. I’d been on the alert for trip wires, any evidence that the lab upstairs would be blown. But that would’ve been a repetitive of the last attempt on our lives…the establishing of a pattern. Patterns were to be avoided; they ignited suspicion in the authorities. Bought and paid for indentured assassins were taught to avoid that. But I knew to listen and watch for other traps as well. I was facing down my own who’d received the same training as I had. The instant I heard the full throttle roar of an engine, I knew. That Stefan knew too didn’t surprise me. The longer we were together, the more I saw how similar our lives had been in the things we’d been taught to do and the things we’d actually done.
It sucked for us both.
It sucked more when the building collapsed on top of us.
* * *
“Get away from him, you son of a bitch. Touch him again, and it’ll be the last thing you ever do.”
Only Stefan could put that much grim promise in the word ever.
Hazy…everything was hazy, lazy, dazy, wavy. No…no z’s in wavy. It was dark and bright and red and dark again. The rapid switch didn’t improve the hazy, lazy, dazy any.
“Sir, we’re trying to help him. He could have a crush injury to his chest. That can be fatal, do you understand? He has a pneumothorax—one of his lungs is deflated. He probably has blood building up around his heart. We have to stabilize him now or he’ll die. You got that? He’ll die. Now get the hell back. Lenny, where the hell are the cops? We need them on this guy.”
Cops. That would be bad. That had the haze fading faster as I felt my adrenaline increasing on its own, doing what a chimera’s body was built to do. I helped it with what I’d learned in the past years. I increased the adrenaline ten-fold. That much would be detrimental and lethal to a human, to me it was fuel accelerating the healing.
“Jesus, he’s going into some serious sinus-tach. What the fuck? Four hundred and fifty beats? Jackie, the cardiac monitor is screwed. Get the back up monitor!”
EMTs, paramedics-any medical personnel, chimeras would not be good for their mental health as we made all their medical knowledge useless. I knitted the hole that had been torn in my lung back together, massive amounts of cells rushing to meet, the three broken ribs would have to wait. I flooded my system with endorphins to dull the pain. There was some small amount of blood around my heart. I had my blood vessels reabsorb it. Opening my eyes, I lifted a hand and pulled the irritating endotracheal tube used to intubate me out of my throat and whacked the EMT on the head with it. It wasn’t very polite of me, as he was trying, in his mind, to save my life, but the only thing he could do was slow the process down, do more harm than good. Stefan knew that, which was why he was threatening to beat the shit out of my would-be angel of mercy.
“No.” He had his arm around my shoulders and was helping, if helping was half-carrying, me to the SUV. Two buildings down. It hadn’t seemed far when we’d parked. It seemed a half a hemisphere walk now. I vaguely noticed his other arm was pointed behind us as he crabbed us along sideways. He was holding his gun on the EMTs. None of them were inclined to die to take me to the hospital for a Snoopy band-aid. “You were hit by a semi and then a building fell on you. You are incapable of doing things the easy way, aren’t you?”
“Hit by a semi and lived.” My grin stretched wider.
“Clipped,” Stefan elaborated. He had no grin or smile.
I ignored him. “I’m indestructible.” The s in indestructible was slurred, but I didn’t mind. I was the king. I told Stefan so. “I’m the king. All hail the king.” I decided I felt too good to walk and gave up. Forget the cops, napping on the sidewalk sounded like a great idea. We were about ten feet from the SUV when I decided that. Stefan half lifted me with one arm and carried me like a sack of potatoes, which was no way to treat the king, the rest of the way while Saul opened the door to the backseat from inside. He put his hands under my shoulders and eased me in while Stefan slammed the door behind me. Saul jumped behind the wheel and Stefan reappeared at the other side of the SUV, climbed in, and lifted my head to rest in his lap.
“Get us the hell out of here, Saul.”
“Yeah, like you had to tell me that, oh great master criminal. Jesus.” I could feel the SUV already moving and moving fast from the screech of tires. “What is it with these damn little psychotics and destroying buildings? I nailed one in the chest as he was coming out the back. He had black hair, about eighteen. I think it was that Peter kid. He came out the second floor window, flipped up over to the roof and then jumped to the next building. Like goddamned Spiderman. He was weaving though. I was going to go after him but then Rome fell. I think you need to juice up your tranq-cure, kid.”
“You’ve no…idea.” The sun through the window sparkled in a thousand colors. I didn’t know there were a thousand colors. “He grew up, same as me. Stronger now. He’s not a rhino anymore. He’s four or five rhinos. Up the dose. Definitely. Up. Up up and away.”
Stefan’s thumb gently peeled back my eyelid. “Been practicing, huh?” I had said that, hadn’t I? Before we’d gone into the pawn shop. “On the healing I’m guessing. Not even chimeras can fix a deflated lung and blood pooling around your heart in minutes. And somehow you’re doped to the gills though I didn’t let that guy give you anything. Your pupils are huge.”
“That’s the adrenaline for healing and the endorphins for…I’m hungry.” I tried to sit up. Stefan held me down easily with a hand on my forehead and one on my chest. I wasn’t simply hungry. I was starving. I’d pushed my body to extremes I’d hoped I had in me but hadn’t been completely sure until now. It took massive amounts of energy to do what I’d done, and I needed to replenish it. But when I tried to explain, replenish sounded more like plenrish. I said it several more times until it was less of a word and more a mouthful of oatmeal. Which only made me hungrier. Oatmeal…Ariel liked oatmeal with brown sugar, cinnamon, and maple syrup. Ariel was hot. Not just hot…what’d they say…yeah…smoking hot.
Did Ariel think I was hot?
“Am I hot?” I asked Stefan. “Smoking hot? Think Ariel thinks I’m smoking hot?”
“Yeah, you’re the sexiest motherfucker on the planet, Misha.” There were so many emotions behind the blood on his face, but right now I couldn’t read two of them. Exasperation. Worry. Too much worry. “Now enough with the endorphins. You must have more in you than you’d find swimming around in fifty marathon runners combined. Cut back on them enough to be lucid, would you?”
The sirens behind us were louder and closer and who needed to be lucid to know that wasn’t good? “Shit.” Stefan twisted his head. “I made it through the mob years without having to shoot at a cop once. Doesn’t it goddamn figure? Think I can hit the tires of three police cars?”
“Gun.” My tongue felt thick, but I could do the little words. Cake of piece. Or something like that. “Micro. Wave. Gun.”
“Okay, that I approve of. Beats pipe bombs by a mile. Where the hell is it?” He leaned over me, careful not to rest any weight on my chest and dug around in my duffle bag. “Damn it!” I saved my sympathy. He’d packed the bags when they’d come after Raynor, Ariel and me.
“Forget? Old. Senile. We need a drugstore…adult diapers.”
“Misha, seriously. Dial down the damn endorphins. Jesus, finally.” He yanked the microwave gun out of my backpack, rolled down the window, and holding me against him with one hand as we rose up off the seat, he leaned out and fired. “Christ, it worked.” As if anything I built wouldn’t work. He fired two more times and there were no more sirens. Easing back inside, he dropped the gun in the floorboards.
Way to save our ass, kid,” Saul said from the front. “You done good.”
“Always do good. I’m brilliant. The most brilliant genius to….” I lost my train of thought and then caught a more important one. “Still hungry.”
Saul, emergency kit.” Stefan lifted his hand from my chest and caught the bag that sailed back. Stefan didn’t go anywhere with me, on the run or living our once peacefully mundane lives in Cascade, without food. I didn’t know if chimeras in general required more calories than humans or it was merely me, but I out-ate Stefan three times over.
Which reminded me again.
Stefan had a ham sandwich half unwrapped. I snatched it clumsily from his hand and took huge bites, swallowing without chewing. While I ate, I did what Stefan suggested and eased back on the endorphins, although I hated to see the rainbows in the streamers of sun disappear. They were nice. Reminded me of home. There they arched over the river and the dam almost every week. It was the reason the bridge that topped the dam was called The Bridge of Heavens. It made more sense than a golden ladder.
But I wasn’t dead yet, so no paradise for me.
As I finished the sandwich and eased back on the production of the endorphins, I began to notice things. The pain that stabbed my ribs was one. A point against lucidity. Stefan was the other thing I noticed. When I’d woken up, I’d seen him covered in dirt, dust, and blood. He hadn’t been hit or clipped by a semi, but a building had fallen on him as it had me. “Are you….” I grimaced and braced my ribs with my hand. “Are you all right?” My body wasn’t close to full capacity yet. I couldn’t feel if he was hurt or not. My lingering damage took precedent and I couldn’t change that. The body’s self-preservation overrode what my mind ordered it to do. I raised my other hand and swiped at the blood-dust paste on his face to see the damage. There were several cuts and scrapes but they weren’t bad. The blood was from them and his nose. It didn’t look broken though. All superficial, but that was nothing compared to what could be going on inside him.
“I’m all right,” he assured. “Sore and getting less and less male model material all the time, but I’ll live.”
I wouldn’t be satisfied until I knew for myself. Lucid and determined, both made me inescapable. “More food,” I demanded grimly, opening my eyes. I went through three more sandwiches and two Gatorades in five minutes. It helped. My ribs were healing, but not instantly. Bone was slower to repair than anything else. After eating I laid quiet, Stefan’s legs remaining my pillow. With my eyes shut, I concentrated on stretching my limits further. Damn stubborn bone. “Does your back or neck hurt? Your abdomen, chest, head?”
Stefan had explained while I was eating how part of the ceiling had dropped, one end resting on top of the semi and the other landing on top of him where he’d been flung to the floor. It had been what had shielded us from chunks of the second floor and saved our lives. There’d been barely enough room for him to grab and drag me with him as he tunneled through tangled cots and debris to crawl under the semi and out the hole it had knocked in the front wall. He also was filling in Saul on what had happened with Peter when I’d interrupted with my woefully inadequate attempt at a diagnostic.
“I’m fine, Misha,” he reiterated. “I’m a muscle-bound human. You’re a skinny chimera who lies like a dog.” He gave me a napkin to wipe his blood from my hand. Some of it along with dirt and dust had ended up on the sandwiches, but I was too ravenous and too set on feeding the healing process to care. “Of the two of us who do you think is going to walk away?”
I wanted to snort, but I knew what my ribs would think of that. “I’m athletic, like a runner.”
I had the self-esteem to know that was true. The six and a half times I’d had sex no one had any complaints about my body. In fact they’d enjoyed the look of it and definitely enjoyed what I could do with it. I read up on the subject before-hand. I wanted to do it right and from the reactions, I thought I had…excepting the half time, which had been my first. The books said that was normal too. “So what if I’m not a walking triangle of steroids,” I added. That, however, was completely untrue, but if I couldn’t have endorphins, I could sting my brother…and distract him. He was joking with me, but there was no humor in it. In less than twenty-four hours I’d been kidnapped, in a car wreck, hit by a truck, and had a building fall on me. As brothers went, I was high-maintenance.
As an apology, when I asked for a candy bar, I broke off half and gave it to him. With my obsession with food, there was no higher gesture. He accepted it with all the gravity it deserved. Or he was mocking me. Either way, the graveyard shadows in his eyes receded and that was enough for me.
As I was giving Godzilla who’d been curled, chirping nervously, on my stomach a peanut from the Payday bar, Saul put down the visor against the searing Tucson light sunglasses couldn’t handle and said, “I don’t get it. You said they killed all those gang bangers in there. That punk ass teenage Jim Jones said this wasn’t about Michael being good enough to join up with their Sesame Street serial killer family after all. Why weren’t the rest of them there? Besides the one driving the truck?” Who had gotten away so quickly Saul hadn’t seen if it was a girl or a boy. Hadn’t seen anyone period. “Why didn’t they stay put and try to kill us or, for God’s sake, give us a chance to do the same to them?”
“Because they’re not done playing yet.” My muscles tightened. The moment was coming. I’d put it off as long as I could, too long. A combination of Institute ingrained secrecy and something else. Once I was free I’d picked up quickly the practice of denial. Inside Institute walls, it was impossible. Outside them, it was a drug. Mental heroin. The more you did, the more you’d do. I was headed straight into cold-turkey rehab now.
“Peter didn’t say play. He said punish,” Stefan said quietly, but unyielding. He’d been patient with my evasions these past few days, giving me the chance to prove I was the man I said I was. That patience was over. “Why do they want to punish you? What did all Peter’s bullshit mean?”
The moment was closer, its consequence-laden breath on the back of my neck.
I sat up slowly, Stefan’s hand bracing me. Godzilla slithered to the floorboards in search of more peanuts. I settled against the seat, giving my ribs a chance to get used to the change of position and increased pain. It was all done slowly, but not as slowly as I answered Stefan. “It means Peter knows more than he’s saying.”
“He’s not the only one, is he?”
The moment was here.
“No,” I said, “he’s not.”
It was time for the truth and I told it. The majority of it. There was one thing I held back. Among other things I told them Peter knew about the cure. What I didn’t tell was the truth of the cure itself. I had to. If I had, the only cure for the chimeras would be a bullet to their brains. Killing thirteen teenagers and children, murderous or not, that would be on Stefan and Saul’s consciences for the rest of their lives. I wasn’t going to let them carry that with them, especially when I couldn’t take part of that weight myself.
I wasn’t a killer, a vow to myself—not one that I wouldn’t break, but one that I couldn’t.
Not a killer, never again.
I was a liar though.
And a manipulator.
What good is a conscience if it lets you commit every evil under the sun save one?
No damn good at all.