image: 'Worlds Rising: Rebellion', Chapter 17 Part 1; (c) JoeySL 2020

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WR: Rebellion – Chapter 17 Part 1

Aaand… it’s the end of the month again. How have you been? I hope you’re well and so are your loved ones!

I’ve decided to take part in this year’s Camp NaNoWriMo–because why not? Might as well put the time I spend in my home office to good use. Camp NaNoWriMo in April is different to NaNoWriMo (which takes place in November) because it is not dedicated strictly to novel writing. Any type of writing is officially welcome.

You also get to set your own goal instead of the usually 50,000 words/30 days. Feeling reckless today, I set my goal to 50,000 words regardless because–again–why not? 😉

This means, by the end of April we should have the rest of ‘Rebellion’ cut and dried and be well on our way in book 2 of the series. So, yes, that’s something exciting to look forward to!

For now, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though. On to chapter 17 part 1!

If you are all new to my story, please consider starting with Chapter 1 🙂

Image: 'Rough Journey', header for 'Worlds Rising: Rebellion', chapter 17 part 1; (c) JoeySL 2020

Worlds Rising: Rebellion

Chapter 17 Part 1

“I can’t believe we’re doing this!” Abbida cried out in a useless attempt to vent her anxiety.

Next to her, on the pilot seat, Cole was swearing vehemently, gripping the control handle with both hands as if wringing someone’s neck. They were still shooting straight up.

Clawing her fingers into her armrest so that her knuckles stood out white, Abbida fought a new wave of nausea. “Please tell me you’ve got this, Cole! We die if you can’t get this monster under control!”

“No pressure, huh?”

He cursed even louder, but whatever he did, it worked: the nose of the aircraft tipped down–and then they dropped. So did Abbida’s stomach. Pressing her hand to her mouth she gave a dry heave before Cole managed to break the fall. They were still sinking, but not as rapidly.

“Do you even know where we’re going?” she asked, dreading the answer.

Behind them, she heard their hostage groan as he came to. Hanging from the harness of his seat, he looked sickly pale in the unnatural blue light of the cabin. He squinted through tousled strands of hair and seemed to have difficulties focusing. Muffled coughs were hindered by the cloth in his mouth.

Abbida struggled free from her harness. “I’ll take off his gag. It’s not like yelling for help would do him any good now.”

Cole threw a glance over his shoulder, too preoccupied to answer.

Tense, for even bound up and wounded the soldier might still be dangerous, she fiddled with the knot of the gag. As soon as she removed it, he spat at her. She jumped back, and the spittle hit the tip of her boot just as the aircraft lurched again. Bracing herself against the wall Abbida made a face. Not that it made much of a difference anymore. Lately, she was making a habit of getting filthy.

Trying to seem unfazed, she asked, “How’s your head?”

He wrinkled his nose and gave no answer. Secretly, she couldn’t blame him. The stench of the draining canal still clung to her clothes and hair. Only her skin was slightly better because of the tiny air bubbles her pores had given off earlier.

“What’s your name?” she tried again, but all she got from him was a defiant glare.

“Don’t bother!” Cole called from up front. “He probably won’t speak to us, now that we’ve got the upper hand.”

A slight lifting of an eyebrow was the only response to that.

“What?” Abbida said, tilting her head, “you don’t think we’re in control here?”

“He probably thinks he’s superior no matter the circumstances,” said Cole. “They all do.”

For the blink of an eye, a curious emotion hinted on the soldier’s battered face. Then he smoothed his features in what seemed like a conscious effort.

“How so?” Abbida said, tapping her chin.

“Well, for one, they’ve got the machines we lack.”

Abbida looked around. “True. That doesn’t make them better, though. Just more effective.”

She’d hardly said it, when the aircraft sagged as if to make a point. Abbida stumbled and grabbed hold of the soldier’s backrest to prevent herself from falling. For a couple of heartbeats her face was very close to his. His eyes widened in alarm.

“Steady, Cole!” she called, trying to mask her own discomfort.

Cole only grunted something under his breath, battling the machine’s controls.

The soldier puckered his eyebrows and glanced past her towards the pilot’s seat. For a moment Abbida thought he was about to say something, when Cole beat him to it.

“Look at him! Have you never wondered how they all look so much alike? Think of any invaders you’ve ever come across. Don’t you see it?”

Puzzled, Abbida tilted her head to the side. The soldier now scowled at her and suddenly she was reminded of how she used to feel when eyed up and down by his people. A twang of guilt made her take a step back and look away. “You mean the uniform?”

“Not the clothes. His face! What does it tell you?”

“He’s not telling me anything!”

What about his face? He had two eyes, a nose, two ears and a mouth like most people. A strand of hair was pasted to the side of his face by dried blood from the cut on his temple. The most prominent feature right now were his almond-shaped eyes: dead centered on hers now, burning with intensity as he defied her scrutiny.

Suddenly, she had enough of all of this. There was nothing superior about these people. They were hostile, violent and ruthless. Which was why they were all risking their lives here! Turning her back to the soldier, she clambered back to her seat and refastened her harness.

Cole threw her a knowing glance. “You know, they come from there.” He pointed upwards.

“Yeah, so I’ve been told. They live on the moon. So what? How does that make them special?!”

Cole’s eyes widened. “How come you know about any of this?”

“Who told you?” she shot his question right back.

“Ashok, who else?”

That made sense. Still, she felt disgruntled, that he hadn’t bothered letting her in on it earlier. How come a total stranger had put more trust in her than her own best friend? “Lian told me about the moon colony. I still don’t get what that has to do with anything, though.”

Cole shot her a sideways glance that she couldn’t quite read. Was it because of her connection with Lian? Whatever! Cole had left her behind there in the jungle, so who was he to judge her for affiliating with the only person she’d had left?

“Their ancestors, the Han, came from around here–way back when. They built the first moon colony. Those must have been grueling times, and it didn’t take long before they were compelled to take in refugees. Cooping the refugees up in their own separate habitats, the Han kept to themselves and still do. That’s why they all look the same with those narrow eyes and black hair.”

The aircraft jolted, and Abbida grabbed her armrests tight. “I don’t get it. My hair is also black. Yours is red. So what?”

Struggling with the controls, it took Cole a while before he could answer. “That’s how you and I and any sane person would see it. But they see things quite differently, so I am told. Although, ultimately, there is every indication that this kind of attitude is exactly what brought about their current predicament.”

He turned to face the prisoner and smirked. “Isn’t that so?”

The soldier scowled back, but refrained from answering.

“What kind of predicament?” Abbida asked Cole.

“Well, that…!” He clicked his tongue. “Infertility.”

Behind them the soldier gave off a disgusted sound, and Cole’s grin widened.

Suddenly, the aircraft dropped and Abbida’s heart jumped into her throat, along with her stomach. Cole swore, loud and colorful, and stemmed himself against the controls. “You take the other handle! We’re gonna need four hands for this!”

If that was even enough! The aircraft plunged violently now. With her boots against the cabin booth she braced herself and threw in all of her weight, but it was not enough to catch the fall. A howling and screeching noise invaded the cabin from outside, assaulting her eardrums.

“The side rotors! Swivel the side rotors!” the soldier hollered from the back.

“How?!” Cole yelled over his shoulder. Promptly they dropped like a rock.

Abbida’s heart lurched, and she couldn’t bite back a scream. She wasn’t strong enough to battle such elemental forces. She wasn’t even sure if she was pulling the damned handle in the right direction!

“Untie me! Now!” yelled the soldier.

Cole swore, completely unrestrained now. He wasn’t getting the machine under control and the escalating screeches of the turbines were drowning out his cursing. The soldier hollered something else that never made it to Abbida’s ears. In a heartbeat she came to a decision. She unbuckled herself and the immediate pull almost crashed her into the control panel. They were careening uncontrollably now, nose dipped at a steep angle. The noise of the turbines was deafening, the pressure unbearable.

“Are you nuts?! I can’t hold this thing up on my own!” Cole yelled at her.

Abbida ducked her head and against the murderous pressure she hauled herself out of her seat. Bracing herself against the sides of the aisle she fought the current and made her way back to the soldier.

He was struggling against his binds impatiently, almond eyes shooting her glances like daggers. “Unbind me! Let me fly before he kills us all!”

Secretly, she had to admit he was right. Stealing and flying an aircraft had been a reckless idea and might well become their last. She pulled out Lian’s knife, flicked it open and cut his ties.

Too late, the thought hit her, he might seize the opportunity and strike her down. But he wasn’t even paying her attention. Instead, he shoved her to the side and clambered to the front. Leaping into the empty seat he started pushing buttons and sliding levers. Slowly, but steadily the aircraft’s nose tilted up. The noise died down, and the soldier visibly relaxed.

Cole wiped the sweat off his brow. Surly, he watched their new pilot from the side and exchanged glances with Abbida. He lifted an eyebrow questioningly. She shrugged. His binds were off now, and they obviously depended on his expertise. She made a show of positioning herself behind him, Lian’s knife at the ready, “No turning back.”

“Fuel is low. You won’t go very far,” the soldier said, huffing.

Abbida didn’t rise to his provocation. “Our destination is close now. Over there, where the swamps turn into jungle. There is a clearing with a stream. That’s were we need to go.”

He threw a sideways glance at the glimmering blade, and his jaw muscles tightened as he clenched his teeth. Wordlessly, he adjusted the controls and headed for the indicated direction.

~ to be continued! ~

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