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Misha's Promise-Chapter 1

1st Chapter:

Prologue

 

East, Over Perry

 

From the plane I can just make out small structures and what must be people moving around off in the distance. They will hear us; they will be readying for us.

 

She reaches to me and squeezes my knee. “Are you ready for this, Misha?”

 

I lift the small gun out of my lap and stare at it for several beats before saying, “Yes, I am ready.”

 

She gives me a nod and moves her right hand from my knee to the steering apparatus.

 

Within minutes, she fires upon the scurrying people. We are nearing the only plane I can make out on the ground. We get closer and closer, bringing the faces of the people into focus.

 

“Oh,” she says with a hitch in her breathing.

 

I see recognition flash across her face. I wait for her response. Am I relieved or disturbed when she stays the course and annihilates everyone in our strike zone? I wonder if I will ever ask her about the person who elicited that bewildered “oh” from her lips.

 

The plane I saw upon our approach has taken off now and is joined by another.

 

She reaches down to her left side, not taking her eyes off the direction she flies, and I know what she’s done when I hear the staccato sounds of the large gun firing round after round.

 

She banks the plane hard to the right to outmaneuver one of the enemy planes and her arm shoots out across my chest as she tries to anchor me in place.

 

“I will hold on,” I tell her. “You concentrate on flying this thing.”

 

Ammunition from the long gun hits the wing of the closest plane, causing it to tilt awkwardly to its side. When it falls from the sky it clips the back of the other plane and sends it, too, somersaulting out of the sky.

 

I gasp, surprise overwhelming me.

 

“Hold this,” she yells, her nod indicating the steering apparatus.

 

“I cannot—”

 

“Yes, you can. Please.”

 

I grab where she indicates, and she reaches out, leaning so far to her left that I fear she will topple out. She grunts as she yanks upward, then she straightens up for a moment to fly the plane toward what I assume to be the bunker.

 

The plane lurches when she reaches down again, and I am startled by the loud explosion beneath us. We ascend higher, then she drops another bomb, then yet another.

 

People on the ground are firing large guns at us, so I take aim with the small gun. I know that once I pull the trigger, I will not be able to undo what I will have done.

 

I concentrate, and return the fire. I hit two people, miss a few others.

 

Then the gun jams. “Oh, no.”

 

She looks at me, then at the gun. “I guess now I’m not allowed to crash in Perry,” she says, a teasing lilt to her voice.

 

“I guess not,” I agree.

 

When I look down now all I see are a few immobile people and a lot of destruction. She banks hard to the right and aims the plane away from Perry.

 

My heart jumps around in my chest as a series of other explosions rock the ground below us. I glance at her and her face is awash in orange light, a reflection from the massive fire growing below us.

 

“There must have been a chain reaction, probably their arsenal exploded when it caught fire,” she says.

 

I look behind us and see nothing but flames. I am about to whisper a prayer to the Goddess to bless the dead, when I feel her hand on my leg. I turn to face her.

 

“Are you okay?” she asks.

 

“Not a scratch on me,” I say, half teasing.

 

She taps a finger against my temple. “In here. Are you okay with what we just did?”

 

I do not know if I am truly all right, beyond the relief that we don’t need to use the jammed gun to keep from being taken alive. I take several deep breaths, center myself, and realize that yes, I am all right with ensuring the survival of myself, my lover, and my fellow New Americans.

 

“Yes, I am fine.” I give her a smile. “Now, what is next?”

 

“We should have enough power to make it to the top of that ridge,” she says as she points to the mountain to the west of us. “Then we will need to make use of every bit of wind we can to help us glide over the next, smaller range and eventually to the easternmost part of New America. From there we should be able to hike to Karst—or to Kai’s village?”

 

“Kai lives much farther west, if she has gone home yet by the time we get there. Naomi’s village, Liberté, is much closer. Or we could go to Las Estrellas. I know the leaders and healer there, who might be willing to help us.” My words come out in a rush.

 

She nods. “I adore you.”

 

“I love you,” I counter. I place my hand on her leg and give a gentle squeeze. She takes my hand in hers and kisses the palm.

 

“Hang on, my love.”

 

I settle back into the seat and take a deep breath.

 

“Here we go,” she says.

 

She forces the plane up, at an angle that feels totally unnatural, even more so than the actual act of flying has felt. I am forced back against the seat and feel my head growing heavy, the pressure in my ears building again.

 

Up, up, up we climb!

 

The plane jerks, sputters.

 

“No, no, no,” she chants in a low voice.

 

“Are we—” I don’t finish asking, just watch as the mountain we were originally paralleling ourselves with comes closer and closer.

 

“I know this sounds counterintuitive, but try to relax.”

 

Counterintuitive?” I laugh. “Really?”

 

“That was a Suzanna word, wasn’t it?” she asks as she struggles to hold the plane steady.

 

I smile, bittersweet. “Suzanna, if you are listening, we could use some wisdom right now.”

 

“Hold on with every—ounce—of––your—strength,” she says through gritted teeth.

 

She jerks the steering apparatus sharply to her left, away from me, and the plane lurches violently away from the side of the mountain.

 

The sputtering of the engine ceases and all I hear is the wind rushing past us in our rapid descent, and the sounds of our breathing.

 

She struggles with the steering, her knuckles turning white in her grip of it.

 

“Hold on tight,” she tells me. “We can’t have you falling out of this beast, can we?”

 

I increase the strength of my grip on the edges of the box I sit upon.

 

“No,” I agree, “no we cannot.”

 

The ground is coming at us faster and faster. She grunts and sits back hard against the seat just as the front end pulls up slightly.

 

I am gasping for air around my constricted throat. I do not want to die in this strange land. I do not want to lose my love now that I have finally found her.

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