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#11 Dream Storm
"I look ridiculous," Jobs complained. "Worse, I feel ridiculous."
"Strap it up, Duck," Mo'Steel said. "You're styling."
Jobs looked down at himself doubtfully. His legs were shoved into the rear leg holes of one of the Meanies' suits. The front leg holes hung empty because his fingers were crammed into the part of the suit designed to hold the Meanies' tentacles. This was extremely uncomfortable, but it was the only way to work the controls.
His head was also covered by the suit -- which made it difficult to talk. That was fine with Jobs. He'd already said good-bye to Edward. Now he wanted to go before Violet came over. Looking out of the oversized eye holes, Jobs could see that she was standing, naturally, with D-Caf. Everyone was there -- everyone but Anamull -- huddled at the top of a broken stair, waiting for Jobs and Mo'Steel to fly off on their desperate mission.
"Let me help you," Noyze said, leaving Mo'Steel's side and approaching Jobs. She started fiddling with the seam that held Jobs's suit closed, sealing it up. "Maybe this will help keep you warm in the Dark Zone."
"Maybe it will keep this stupid thing from falling off," Jobs muttered nervously. He hadn't known the seam was open. Oh god -- what other detail had he overlooked? Was he about to die because he had forgotten something stupid and obvious?
He noted with some surprise that he felt like throwing up. He was sweating. His hands were shaking. Being this disturbed disturbed him. He tried to take deep breaths, tried to calm himself. Flying this crazy thing with his nerves so raw would be impossible. Deep breaths in, deep breaths out.
"Let's ride," Mo'Steel said.
Jobs felt his stomach do a slow roll. "Ready." A pause. "Your first."
Mo'Steel didn't hesitate. His suit suddenly shot into the air like an overgrown bottle rocket. Thirty feet -- straight up. And it kept climbing.
"Woolly!" Mo'Steel's excited voice sounded very, very far away.
Jobs heaved, choked down the bile rising from his gut and reached for a tiny button near his sweaty right ring finger.
Jobs was just slow enough for Mo'Steel to get impatient.
Time to see what this baby can do, he thought giddily. He pressed the tiny button that sent him soaring straight up into the air, and kept pressing. The Meanie rockets responded with a gigantic burst of accleration.
Mo'Steel shot up so fast his stomach dropped to his feet. He could almost feel the adrenaline rushing into his veins and he laughed out loud. He hadn't been this happy since -- well, for a long time.
He held his fingers steady. Quickly, surprisingly quickly, the faces looking up at him from the ground dissolved into blurry specks.
"Mo!" Jobs yelled angrily. "Mo, you idiot, come back!"
Mo'Steel left his finger where it was and Jobs's voice was instantly blotted out by distance.
He was high now. Very high. He thought he could almost see the edge of the Dark Zone. Could he go high enough to get out of the dust? Could he go right into space? Mo'Steel considered trying it just to see what would happen. He was sure the suit would be fine. One small problem: he didn't have any oxygen.
No oxygen in space would not be pretty. Mo'Steel knew how it would go: First he'd start to feel dizzy. Then he'd black out and his cold finger would slide off the button. Old man g would snag him --
Without warning, Mo'Steel flipped from imagining himself fall to seeing himself fall -- it was the difference between watching a horror movie and being one of the characters.
In perfect, horrifying detail, he saw the ground rushing up, felt dusty air prickling at his eyes and making them water, heard wind roaring in his ears. He was picking up speed, picking up speed, picking up speed, peeing in his pants, letting his bowels go, kicking in panic as the distance vanished, arms windmilling, screaming, and --
Thud. Hitting the ground and knowing the pain for an excruciating second before everything went misty red and then black...