Unwind / Page 36

Page 36



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When Connor arrives at the scene, his mind keeps trying to reject what his eyes are telling him. He stares, part of him hoping the vision will go away. It's like the aftermath of some natural disaster. Broken bits of metal, glass, and wood are everywhere. Pages torn from books flutter past smashed electronics. Bonfires burn, and kids hurl in more wreckage to feed the flames.

"My God!"

There's a group of jeering kids near the helicopter, gathered like a rugby scrum, kicking something in the center. Then Connor realizes it's not something, it's someone. He races in, pulling the kids apart. The kids who know Connor immediately back off, and the others follow suit. The man on the ground is battered and bloody. It's Cleaver. Connor kneels down and props up his head.

"It's okay. You're going to be okay." But even as he says it, Connor knows it's not true: He's been beaten to a pulp.

Cleaver grimaces, his mouth bloody. Then Connor realizes that this isn't a grimace at all. It's a smile. "Chaos, man," Cleaver says weakly. "Chaos. It's beautiful. Beautiful."

Connor doesn't know what to say to this. The man's delirious. He has to be.

"It's okay," Cleaver says. "This is an okay way to die. Better than suffocating, right?"

Connor can only stare at him. "What . . . what did you say?" No one but Connor and the Admiral knew about the suffocations. Connor, the Admiral, and the one who did it . . .

"You killed the Goldens! You and Roland!"

"Roland?" says Cleaver. In spite of his pain, he actually seems insulted. "Roland's not one of us. He doesn't even know." Cleaver catches the look on Connor's face and begins to laugh. Then the laugh becomes a rattle that resolves into a long, slow exhale. The grin never entirely leaves his face. His eyes stay open, but there's nothing in them. Just like his victim, Amp.

"Oh, crap, he's dead, isn't he," says Hayden. "They killed him! Holy crap, they killed him!"

Connor leaves the dead pilot in the dust and storms toward the Admiral's plane. He passes the infirmary along the way. Everything's been torn out of there as well. Risa! Where's Risa? There are still kids all over the Admiral's jet. The tires have been slashed; wing flaps lean at jagged angles, like broken feathers. The entire jet lists to one side.

"Stop it!" screams Connor. "Stop it now! What are you doing? What have you done?"

He reaches up to the wing, grabs a kid's ankle, and pulls him off onto the ground, but he can't do that to every single one of them. So he grabs a metal pole and smashes it against the wing over and over, the sound ringing out like a church bell, until their attention turns his way.

"Look at you!" he screams. "You've destroyed everything! How could you have done this? You should all be unwound, every single one of you! YOU SHOULD ALL BE UNWOUND!"

It stops everyone. The kids on the wings, the kids at the bonfires. The shock of hearing such words from one of their own snaps them back to sanity. The shock of hearing his own words—and knowing that he meant them—frightens Connor almost as much as the scene before him.

The rolling staircase leading to the Admiral's jet has fallen on its side. "Over here!" says Connor. "Help me with this!"

A dozen kids, their fury spent, come running obediently. Together, they right the stairs, and Connor climbs up to the hatch. He peers in the window. Connor can't see much. The Admiral's there on the floor, but he's not moving. If the Admiral can't get to the door, they'll never be able to get in. Wait—is that someone else in there with him?

Suddenly a lever is thrown on the inside, and the hatch begins to swing open. The heat hits him instantly—a blast furnace of heat—and the face at the door is so red and puffy, it takes a moment for him to realize who it is.

"Risa?"

She coughs and almost collapses into his arms, but manages to keep herself up. "I'm okay," she says. "I'm okay. But the Admiral ..."

Together they go in and kneel beside him. He's breathing, but it's shallow and strained. "It's the heat!" says Connor, and orders the kids lingering at the door to swing open every hatch.

"It's not just the heat," says Risa. "Look at his lips—they're cyanotic. And his pressure is down to nothing."

Connor just stares at her, not comprehending.

"He's having a heart attack! I've been giving him CPR, but

I'm not a doctor. There's only so much I can do!"

"M . . . m. . . my fault," says the Admiral. "My fault . . ."

"Shh," says Connor. "You're going to be okay." But Connor knows, just as he knew when he said it to Cleaver, the chances of that are slim.

They carry the Admiral down the stairs, and as they do, the kids waiting outside back away, making room for him, as if it's already a coffin they're earning. They set him down in the shade of the wing.

Then kids around them begin to murmur.

"He killed the Goldens," someone says. "The old man deserves what he gets."

Connor boils, but he's gotten much better at keeping his anger in check. "Cleaver did it," Connor says forcefully enough for everyone to hear. That starts a murmur through the crowd, until someone says, "Yeah? Well, what about Emby?"

The Admiral's hand flutters up. "My . . . my son . . ."

"Emby's his son?" says one kid, and the rumor begins to spread through the crowd.

Whatever the Admiral meant, it's lost now in incoherence as he slips in and out of consciousness.

"If we don't get him to a hospital, he'll die," says Risa, giving him chest compressions once more.

Connor looks around, but the closest thing to a car on the Graveyard is the golf cart.

"There's the helicopter," says Hayden, "but considering the fact that the pilot's dead, I think we're screwed."

Risa looks at Connor. He doesn't need to read Risa for Morons to know what she's thinking. The pilot is dead—but Cleaver was training another one. "I know what to do," says Connor. "I'll take care of it."

Connor stands up and looks around him—the smoke-stained faces, the smoldering bonfires. After today nothing will be the same. "Hayden," he says, "you're in charge. Get even-thing under control."

"You're kidding me, right?"

Connor leaves Hayden to grapple with authority and finds three of the largest kids in his field of vision. "You, you and you," Connor says. "I need you to come with me to the FedEx jet."

The three kids step forward and Connor leads the way to Crate 2399, and Roland. This, Connor knows, will not be an easy conversation.

47 First-Year Residents

In her six months working in the emergency room, the young doctor has seen enough strange things to fill her own medical school textbook, but this is the first time someone has crash-landed a helicopter in the hospital parking lot.

She races out with a team of nurses, orderlies, and other doctors. It's a small private craft—four-seater, maybe. It's in one piece, and its blades are still spinning. It missed hitting a parked car by half a yard. Someone's losing their flying license.

Two kids get out, carrying an older man in bad shape. There's already a gurney rolling out to meet them.

"We have a rooftop helipad, you know,"

"He didn't think he'd be able to land on it," says the girl.

When the doctor looks at the pilot, still sitting behind the controls, she realizes that losing his license is not an issue. The kid at the controls can't be any older than seventeen. She hurries to the old man. A stethoscope brings barely a sound from his chest cavity. Turning to the medical staff around her, she says, "Stabilize him, and prep him for transplant." Then she turns back to the kids. "You're lucky you landed at a hospital with a heart bank, or we'd end up having to medevac him across town."

Then the man's hand rises from the gurney. He grabs her sleeve, tugging with more strength than a man in his condition should have.

"No transplant," he says.

No, don't do this to me, thinks the doctor. The orderlies hesitate. "Sir, it's a routine operation."

"He doesn't want a transplant," says the boy.

"You brought him in from God-knows-where with an underage pilot to save his life, and he won't let us do it? We have an entire tissue locker full of healthy young hearts—"

"No transplant!" says the man.

"It's . . . uh . . . against his religion," says the girl.

"Tell you what," says the boy. "Why don't you do whatever they did before you had a tissue locker full of healthy young hearts."

The doctor sighs. At least she's still close enough to medical school to remember what that is. "It drastically lowers his chances of survival—you know that, don't you?"

"He knows."

She gives the man a moment more to change his mind, then gives up. The orderlies and other staff rush the man back toward the ER, and the two kids follow.

Once they're gone, she takes a moment to catch her breath. Someone grabs her arm, and she turns to see the young pilot, who had been silent through all of it. The look on his face is pleading, yet determined. She thinks she knows what it's about. She glances at the helicopter, then at the kid. "Take it up with the FAA," she says. "If he lives, I'm sure you'll be off the hook. They might even call you a hero."

"I need you to call the Juvey-cops," he says, his grip getting a little stronger.

"Excuse me?"

"Those two are runaway Unwinds. As soon as the old man is admitted, they'll try to sneak away. Don't let them. Call the Juvey-cops now!"

She pulls out of his grip. "All right. Fine. I'll see what I can do."

"And when they come," he says, "make sure they talk to me first."

She turns from him and heads back into the hospital, pulling out her cell phone on the way. If he wants the Juvey-cops, fine, he'll get them. The sooner they come, the sooner this whole thing can fall into the category of "not my problem."

48 Risa

Juvey-cops always look the same. They look tired, they look angry—they look a lot like the Unwinds they capture. The cop who now guards Risa and Connor is no exception. He sits blocking the door of the doctor's office they're being held in, with two more guards on the other side of the door just in case. He's content to stay silent, while another cop questions Roland in an adjacent room. Risa doesn't even want to guess at the topics of conversation in there.

"The man we brought in," Risa says. "How is he?"

"Don't know," says the cop. "You know hospitals—they only tell those things to next of kin, and I guess that's not you."

Risa won't dignify that with a response. She hates this Juvey-cop instinctively, just because of who he is, and what he represents.

"Nice socks," Connor says.

The cop does not glance down at his socks. No show of weakness here. "Nice ears," he says to Connor. "Mind if I try them on sometime?"

The way Risa sees it, there are two types of people who become Juvey-cops. Type one: bullies who want to spend their lives reliving their glory days of high school bullying. Type two: the former victims of type ones, who see every Unwind as the kid who tormented them all those years ago. Type twos are endlessly shoveling vengeance into a pit that will never be full. Amazing that the bullies and victims can now work together to bring misery to others.


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