Peaceful Genocide by J.A. Reynolds
Publication date: November 25th 2013
Genres: Science Fiction, Thriller, Young Adult
Seventeen-year-old Mitzi and Deuce can recall how many drops of water were on a leaf from a rainstorm five years ago and conversations from last week, month, or year. They have the ability to remember every second of everyday—since birth.
This gift has blessed Mitzi with a history of being sexually assaulted by researchers and abused by her own parents. She trusts no one. Likes no one. Deuce, however, is a high school standout. His gift has made him a superstar on the football field and his memory promises him endless opportunities.
When they both end up at an Alzheimer’s research facility under false proviso, they quickly realize this place isn’t what it seems to be. They endure crazy military-style tests, are forcefully drugged, and complete real-life simulations that haunt them.
Mitzi and Deuce have no idea what the researchers want to do with them or their memories. But one thing is clear: the researchers will go to any lengths to get what they want.
A flock of men, twenty or more, strode out of the abyss of night. Deuce could only see flashes of their movement and he hoped the men weren’t armed. He doubted it. Without even speaking, Mitzi and Deuce locked eyes and set out in a dead run into the blinding snow.
People rushed them and Deuce kept his arm out, clothes lining and bumping people out of the way. Mitzi ducked and bobbed, sending people over her back.
“There it is!” Mitzi shouted.
Their run broke into a sprint, faster than Deuce had ever run on any field. Ice formed around the condensation on his nose from his heavy breaths. The helicopter door was open and Paisley was frantically waving them forward. Crashing into the side door of the chopper, Deuce lifted Mitzi inside with one arm.
“Who’s supposed to fly this thing?” Paisley called out.
Deuce cast an eye back at the men closing in on them. “I don’t know.”
“Me.” The hard voice came from Mitzi. Deuce almost fell over in shock. She shook her entire body from head to toe and slid into the cockpit.
“Hurry,” Paisley called.
Deuce watched in amazement as Mitzi flipped on a set of switches, her face glowing red from the lights. She turned a key and the rotor blades whirled to life, whipping the snow up around him. He jumped in and went to slam the door shut. Arms like tentacles shot through the door, grasping and clawing at whatever it could. He couldn’t get it closed. The arms failed and tugged, pulling half a man’s body through the partially open door.
“Mitzi! We need to go up! Now!” Deuce batted away the arms. He opened the door a smidge and slammed it back shut on the man’s frame. He didn’t even make a sound, he just kept coming. His hands were joined by two more. Together their arms tried to pry the door open.
“What do I do?” Paisley squeaked. “How can I help?”
“Stop yelling at me! I’m doing this from memory, damn it. I need a freakin’ second.”
“We don’t have a second.” He kept as much pressure against the door as he could but it was starting to inch backward.
Deuce reached for his gun. “Paisley, can you shoot them?”
Her eyes went wide with fear. She backed away.
“Paisley, remember what I said. It’s not real.”
Her little head shook, her arms waving around her in shock. “I can’t.”
Deuce eyed Ralph sprawled out on the floor. He wasn’t moving.
“Mitzi, I need your help back here.”
Her voice was loud and harsh. “I’m trying to fly a God damn helicopter right now!”
“Paisley. Look at me. Good.” Deuce applied more pressure to the door and kicked at the appendages. The things were like robots. “Do you like to fly?”
She nodded quickly.
“Good. Go take Mitzi’s place. She’ll tell you how to fly. Tell her to come back here or we won’t make it out of here.”
Paisley darted to the front. Deuce heard Mitzi let out a long curse before joining him, Paisley’s gun clutched in her hand.
“Shoot them!” Deuce commanded when she only stared at him straining.
She didn’t. She cocked her hip. “If I don’t hit them, or maybe even if I do, the bullet will ricochet and come back inside here. Do you want a bullet in your stomach?”
“It’s not real, Mitzi. Shoot the damn thing.”
“I’m not taking any chances.” She put her weight against the door, helping Deuce keep it shut. “When we get in the air, we’ll open the door and let them fall.”
Deuce nodded, in no mood to argue.
“Paisley,” she called out. “Put your right hand on the control lever. That stick in front of you. Now put your left hand on the horizontal stick to your left.” She grunted as she put more weight on the door.
Damn, these monsters were strong. The door continued to inch open.
“Good. Lift the collective control stick—the thing in your left hand. It’ll make us go up. The Cyclic, the stick in your right hand will make us go forward when you press it forward. Make sure we’re up in the air a good ways before pressing the cyclic forward. And don’t press it too hard. You need to keep a balance.”
The roar of the rotors grew louder as the chopper lurched up.
“Hold on!” Mitzi shouted.
They were jostled about as Paisley tried to figure out how to steer the metal monster.
“Uh, how easy is it to crash this thing?” Deuce asked.
Mitzi blinked. “Very. Use the rudders, Paisley—those little pedals on the floor to keep us going straight.”
Deuce’s stomach heaved as the chopper dived to the left. The rotating blades crashed against the concrete outside, snapping the chopper back, wrenching the entire compartment in a jumble. Mitzi’s grip slipped off the door. Deuce snatched her hands and pulled her back. Jeez. They weren’t even that far off the ground yet.
“Get the balance of it, Paisley! Just like I explained. You can do it!”
After several long, bouncing moments, the chopper evened out. The arms still grabbed at the door.
“How high are we Paisley?” Mitzi yelled out. “Check the altimeter.”
“The altimeter. It’s a round gauge that says ALT. There’s a long, white marker on it and numbers one through ten. Where is the marker?
“Two little notches before the one.” Paisley sounded hoarse from all the screaming.
Mitzi nodded. “Good.” She locked eyes with Deuce. “We’re sixty feet up. Open the door.”
Deuce released his hold, allowing the door to whoosh open. The flailing sets of arms kept a firm grip. Deuce tried to pry the hands back, amazed at their strength. The two men were dangling almost six stories up, trying to pulling themselves into the chopper. And they were succeeding.
“Mitzi! Their hands. Help me.”
Mitzi pitched forward, arms out. One of the octopus hands shot out and grabbed her by the ankle. It jerked her off her feet.
Deuce didn’t have time to react before the hand ripped her right out of the chopper. “Mitzi!” He flattened himself on the floor and looked over the edge. A piece of the skid had snagged her jacket and she was dangling helplessly.
The two men were still trying to climb into the chopper. Deuce pulled his sidearm out of the holster and fired without thinking, hitting both men in the chest numerous times. Their hands slipped and they fell into the whiteness of the blizzard below.
“Mitzi! Hold on!” He flipped himself out the door, putting his feet on the skid bar. The wind was turbulent, making his balance shaky. He went down on his stomach and scooted toward the edge of the skid. Mitzi looked up at him. Her eyes were the size of softballs, the whites streaked with red.
“Take my hand!”
She shook her head.
“Take it!” He thrust it toward her again.
Her head fell back, breaking eye contact. He edged closer, but not close enough to snatch her up without her help. She had to trust him.
The chopper rocked right, nearly tossing Deuce off the skid. Even through the roar of the chopper blades, Deuce heard the rip of Mitzi’s coat. He threw his arm just in time. She latched one like it was a lifesaver.
He swung his right arm under the bar, gripping her shoulder with everything he had. The chopper blade whipped air down on him from the left. On his right side, there was a strange uplift.
“Do you trust me?” He asked her ghost-pale eyes.
Her fingers sank into his jacket. “Yes.”
“What?” Her shriek could no doubt be heard for miles.
“If you let go, I can swing you around on my right. I won’t be able to pull you up on the left, the downdraft is too strong.”
If possible, her face paled even more. Her lips quivered, her nails puncturing the thick fabric of his coat and biting into his skin. He twisted his legs around the skid, giving him more of an anchor.
His eyes caught hers. “Let go.”