A Fantasy-Western serial
Episode 12: "Tornado Tower"
Four men fell to Reed's first round of shots, but he was only one surrounded by many. He did not know if he had killed any of them. At the moment he wasn't even thinking consciously, only Troy's fifty rules were on his mind, playing one after another as their need arose. He scrambled up from behind the catapault, running back towards the windmill. He ran along its backside into what he quickly discovered was an alley, blocked on one side by a wire fence and the other by heavy machinery. The men followed behind him, shots firing.
Wheeling around he flung out his arms, whirling them, casting dust into the air. The bullets stung him like knife stabs but none hit his torso or head, and as the dust settled, the men stumbled back as they saw he was still standing, with his long vined arms snaking through the air. His hat had fallen and he scooped it up with another free vine as he shook the bullets free of his arms, forcing them to heal quickly as a few chunks separated and fell. As soon as he could snap his right arm back in close he fired again, taking down a couple of the ones too stunned at his appearance. The others fell back around the corner to regroup.
Reed bent and threw his arms high up and caught onto a pipe. He pulled himself up just as the men returned out of hiding to open fire. Nothing was there. They looked up but Reed settled himself behind one of the larger pipes, keeping into the shadow. The men scattered, but he could hear them calling out to each other.
Instead of staying hidden he climbed up the side onto the roof of the windmill. He had to find out where Reinheart was hiding and put an end to this. With this vantage point, he could now see the entire compound. His gaze was drawn to the central tower, dominating the mesa, rising another couple stories above the windmill. A number of lights indicated something was going on in there.
A piercing whine crippled his hearing, for a moment all he heard was a soft ring with white noise, as he covered his ears. He moved away from the siren behind a steaming vent. When his hearing returned he determined there were a number of these sirens going off. He looked down and saw the men panicking, pounding on doors, hiding and clinging to anything sturdy, some even taking a moment to lash themselves with rope to the closest thing to them. Reed barely had time to wonder at this strange behavior before the sirens cut off.
For a moment, silence reigned. Even the men had stopped shouting except for one who pleaded "Wait! I--" but his voice drowned in the Iron Windmills as they began to turn slowly the air whumping through them, chopping it like an ax to a leaf. They spun faster, gaining speed within moments, fierce winds blowing from them.
Clouds surged from the central tower in four blasts. A light bright as the sun flashed against it. Reed managed to look away. A second later, thunder exploded, shaking the tower beneath him. His nostrils flared with the smell of burned chemicals before the winds slid him across the roof and then clean off the platform as his fingers grazed the edge.
He spun through the air, caught up in the vortex of winds created by the seven windmills, realizing too late just how much danger he was in. He extended his arms in hopes of reaching the tower, but his fingers slipped on the cold stones, nothing to grab onto but grabbing anyway. Tumbling head over heels, he saw he was heading straight for the back of a windmill. If he blew too high the blades would dice him, but if he blew too low he'd slam into the side of a building, exploding like a ripe watermelon crashing into a brick wall.
Three seconds. He counted, and held his breath as he thrust his arms forward. They wrapped around one of the pipes. His arm strained, straightening in a fraction of a second, his eyes shut with intense focus. Don't let go!
He thought they would snap but he held high in the air through the thunderous winds and debris, which was mostly dust, grass and then one unfortunate soul who whizzed passed him, his fingers barely touching Reed's vine. Reed turned away but he still heard the crack as he hit the windmill's side. That was enough encouragement for him to pull himself back down towards the pipes. The winds only became more fierce, but soon he was hugging the pipe, the air now thick with dust. He couldn't see anything, could barely breathe. His arms still held. They burned and ached but he would not let go. The wind became a noise that verberated through him, like a thousand of the motor cars he had heard back in Anna's town. He thought the winds would shake apart until the winds moved past without warning.
As the dust cloud released him he gazed and saw the newly formed storm system moving east, spawning tornados as it went. He stared in wonder at the tower. Then his eyes narrowed, hatred rising in him. It controled the very weather itself. This magic had to be stopped. No wonder the local humans farms had failed! These tornadoes blew away their precious topsoil. It didn't explain the poisoning of the soil, but Reed had a feeling this tower was connected with that as well somehow. He could feel it deep in the tip of his roots.
The winds died down about him as a rapid bell rang, echoing across the compound. Reed had trouble letting go of the pipe. His arms were wrapped too tightly and it ached to peel them off. They hung limply at his side as he sat down, exhausted. He retracted them, rubbing them softly. They burned more than ever. He checked himself and for a moment his heart skipped a beat until his fingers brushed the familiar surface of his mother's heart, now the detailed handles of his guns. A calm settled around him from their touch. He still had his weapons. He still had his brains. He even still had his courage. The annoying screech of the bell finally stopped. Reed knew the danger had only paused for now. There was no telling when they would switch on next, so he lowered himself down to the ground and hurried towards the tower.
Slipping through the shadows, Reed moved with quick strides, his coat billowing behind him in a wave. As soon as he reached the fence bordering it, he sprang up, flipping over the top of the fence and landing into a roll. He waited a moment, his eyes darting about. Whoever had been guarding the outside had either gone inside or had fled before being blown away. He scaled the piping pausing halfway up as he looked for a window or other opening leading inside. He spotted one but it seemed out of even his reach.
Looking down briefly he clung tighter. He had never been so high up before. If he did miss, he would fall. Unlike the winds, he had a feeling it would not end so well.
Right now it was his only option. So he prepared himself, and then flung his arm, wincing as it reached its maximum stretch, his fingers grasping onto the open wooden shutter. He jumped, letting his weight hang onto it before realizing a second too late it would break until the pressure. He scrambled as it broke free, barely grabbing onto the sill before the shutter fell away. He let it slip through his fingers, watching as it tumbled and turned, loudly echoing against the pipes. When some men came to investigate he had already scurried into the open window, tumbling onto the floor.
"Well, well," a voice said. Reed looked up to see Reinheart sitting nearby in a leather-backed chair, smoking a pipe. He set it down, blowing smoke out his nostrils, "Look at what the tornado blew in."
They drew guns simultaneously, but two thugs surged from behind and grabbed his arms. He struggled to throw them down until one shoved a gun under his chin. He felt it cock and held still, trying to figure out how things had gone so badly so quickly.
Reinheart stood up, brushed off his jacket and approached, his own gun still drawn as he plucked Reed's from his fingers. He studied it, whistling, "Fine craftsmanship. You certainly didn't steal it off one of my men, that's for sure."
"It belongs to me."
"Correction, it belonged to you. Now it belongs to me," he said, tucking one into his jacket, "And so does this other one you're trying so poorly to conceal," his fingers dug into Reed's coat, brushing against his chest, snatching out the second gun, "I enjoy collecting the guns of my enemies. Some people accuse me of keeping trophies, but really I'm just a gun aficionado at heart."
"Frisk him," he ordered as he opened a long drawer on his desk and tucked the other gun in there, shutting it. The thug not holding the gun against his jaw, patted him down. He nodded to Reinheart.
"Alright, let him go boys." They released him, but did not step back. "Now why don't you make yourself comfortable Mr. -- Oh dear, how embarrassing, I don't believe I have the pleasure of knowing your name."
"My name is Reed."
"Do have a seat Mr. Reed," he gestured to a chair opposite his leather one as he sat back down. "We have much to discuss."
Reed stood still.
"I said, have a seat," Reinheart repeated as the thugs dragged him there, forcing him down onto it. Reed struggled, but stopped when Reinheart's gun pointed at him again. Reed stopped and they released again.
"Leave us," he said to them and they did, shutting the door softly behind them.
Reed took a quick moment to look around Reinheart's office. Guns of all types were displayed on the walls, each with its own wooden mount and golden identification plate. Many he recognized from Troy's descriptions, but the others looked alien to him. His desk was wide and neat, clear except for a large quilled pen sticking out of a glass inkwell and map spread out, pinned down at the corners. Gas lamps branching from the walls burned, illuminating the room as bright as any day.
"Do you like what you see?"
Reed did not answer, watching the gun in Reinheart's hand out of the corner of his eye while keeping eye contact with him. He started to move, but Reinheart clicked the hammer back.
"You were the one. At the saloon window, yes?"
"I thought I recognized your eyes. Yes. That was you. What I want to know is why a Xylem is spying on me. Who are you working for?"
The shot sank into Reed's shoulder. He bent over, wincing, tears burning at his eyes, his fingers gripping, digging into his palms.
"Who are you working for?"
Reed gritted his teeth and said, "No one! I'm here to rescue Anna and the other villagers."
"Ooh, fancy yourself a hero, eh?" He grinned, "You're in luck because I have some free advice for you, Mr. Reed." Reinheart fired again, hitting Reed in the knee, the pain blossoming there with dark fire. He cried out.
"Save yourself first."
Continue to Part 13?