Disclaimer: Ergh...Glorfindel isn't mine. Elrond isn't mine. Motorcycles and New York City aren't mine. I have no idea who cement is patented to. But pretty much everything else is mine! Including this really crazy, wacked, confusing plot ;)
A/N: First off, I would just like to say thank you to everyone who reviewed, favorited, and alerted! The response to the first chapter was positively overwhelming! I was blown away. So thank you AGAIN to everyone who reviewed, etc. All of your input was extremely encouraging, and it's thanks to you that this second chapter was ever written. My sincerest apologies to everyone who I did not have the chance to reply to in person. I've tried valiantly, however Real Life thought it had better plans for me and my life (namely Finals). All of your encouragement and input was extremely welcome, and I positively loved hearing from you. So special thanks goes to quaff, Silverstorm13, Song in the Woods, DecoraRae, CelticRemedy, Crookneck, and my anonymous Guest (and again, my apologies for not responding in person).
So, I hope that this comes to at least a few of you still on 12/21/12! I tried valiantly to get it uploaded earlier, but we had company over, so my day was filled with cleaning, and then company. Whether it's still the 21st, or the 22nd by now, though, I'd just like to dedicate this chapter to the "End of the World."
I hope that you enjoy Chapter 2! And I would love you if you would leave a review on your way out. I'm still actually quite insecure about this story (I think because it's just so...different, and far out there), and so any and all feedback would be loved and cherished. I hope that you enjoy!
Glorfindel killed the motorcycle engine and sat up straight, allowing his gaze to wander over the scorched landscape sweeping around him. Everything was blackened or singed, and a thin cloud of eddying smoke and ash swirled through the air a dozen feet above the ground. The sky itself was black, thick clouds obscuring the sun and blue sky and casting a dark shadow across the world below. The soil itself looked blasted, and the straggly grass that had survived incineration or smothering was yellow and sickly, withered. The few trees that were yet standing were bare skeletons, their naked, blackened fingertips stretching uselessly toward the sky, as if searching for the warmth and light that they knew should be coming from above.
The land had been beautiful and green only six days before. And now it was dead and burned. Glorfindel's gaze fell, and for just a moment, he allowed himself to mourn for the beauty and the life that had been destroyed. It would be many, many long years until grass once again grew in this dead land.
The moment passed, and Glorfindel pushed aside his thoughts of remorse. He did not have time to dwell on what was lost. That which could still be saved did not have time for him to squander it needlessly on things that could not be changed.
Again, Glorfindel's gaze raked the landscape, however this time he was looking for something in particular. He almost missed it, so obscured was the distant object by the haze; but see it he did. Glorfindel's lips twisted up into an unhappy grimace.
Glorfindel kicked the engine back to life and swerved back out onto the road, although he kept his speed down. He had been told that the military camp holding the perimeter did not take kindly to anything untoward happening near or around the checkpoint, and that included unwanted visitors making an abrupt and showy appearance.
If it came down to it, Glorfindel was sure that he could make it over the blockade set up around the city – no blockade was perfect, and especially when it was quarantining such a large area as New York City. However, such a feat would both be risky, as well as provide complications in the future, such as if he was forced to seek medical help immediately upon finding those who he sought. He prayed that such would not be the case, however the likelihood of such a possibility was depressingly high. Other complications would most likely arise as well, complications that he had no inkling of as of yet – such was always the case, was it not? And besides, Elrond had always been adamant that they, even as elves, go through the proper channels and processes, the more likely they would not be discovered for who they were. No human thus far had made it over the blockade, and so it would draw far too much attention if he himself managed it.
No, it would be best if he could obtain official permission from the authorities to enter what had been declared the Scorched Zone. He knew that, and because of that had decided that he would make a valiant attempt. He just really didn't want to.
The road curved around and began to rise slightly, rising to meet the bridge that spanned the wide river that cut a wide track through the blasted landscape.
Glorfindel finally gave into the overwhelming temptation and, switching gears, hit the throttle. The machine responded instantaneously, shooting forward like an arrow from a bowstring. The acrid wind spun around him, pulling a few locks of hair free from the horsetail tied at the base of Glorfindel's neck, and sending them flying about his face. The air bit at his eyes and nose, causing them to sting and water, but he relentlessly pushed the discomfort away, blinking the tears out of his eyes the best that he could.
The large bridge sprawled before him, straight and miraculously unbroken despite the debris – small chunks of cement, the odd abandoned car, and twisted metal – that lay scattered about. Glorfindel did not slow, but swept onto the bridge, easily swerving around a twisted car that lay in his path.
For just an instant, as he swung close to the guard rail at the edge, Glorfindel glanced down into the water below. It was dark, nearly black, and it frothed and foamed as waves beat at each other mercilessly. The water looked sickly, as if it had been poisoned. Glorfindel looked away, disturbed.
Glorfindel slowed as he emerged on the other side of the bridge. The military camp was just ahead, rising dark and forbidding through the drifting smog, the artificial lights set up around the perimeter shining mutedly, as if through a veil. He approached slowly, eyeing the encampment warily. He did not know why, but he had a strange sense of foreboding that grew more intense as he crept closer.
Long ago he had learned that when such feelings were made so readily clear it was wise to heed them. Glorfindel came to an abrupt halt, quickly putting his foot down to steady himself. There was something wrong; this was a bad idea.
Glorfindel put the motorcycle in reverse and leaned down, preparing to make a fast and hopefully unnoticed escape. The idling engine sprang to life, and the tires span, taking a second to gain traction on the gravel strewn pavement.
"Stop!" The command cut through the air, even breaking through the noise of the motorcycle engine. Glorfindel looked up and could just make out half a dozen blurred shapes coming toward him through the haze, guns against their shoulders and muzzles pointed directly at him.
His eyes narrowed, and for a second Glorfindel considered taking his chances of escape in any case. Before he could make his decision, however, the haze parted, and the soldiers neared, the targeting lasers mounted on their weapons playing neatly across his chest.
Glorfindel shut off the engine and sat up slowly, lifting his hands in a show of peace.
"Who are you?" the squad leader asked harshly, and Glorfindel realized that it had been him who had ordered him to stop as well. "What is your name?"
"My name is Gabriel Williams," Glorfindel replied coolly.
"Let me see some identification," the leader snapped.
"Very well. I'm just going to get my wallet," Glorfindel promised, and slowly reached into his jacket, taking out his leather wallet. He opened it and pulled out his driver's license, then held it out for the leader to inspect. The plastic card was taken quickly, and then cursorily inspected.
"So, Gabriel," the leader said, handing Glorfindel's driver's license back, "What is your purpose in coming here?" He sounded only minimally friendlier.
"I've come to look for a friend," Glorfindel replied. "He was in New York when the attack happened."
The leader eyed Glorfindel suspiciously. "No one is allowed into the Scorched Zone," he reminded Glorfindel. "No one," he reiterated.
Glorfindel shrugged, feigning embarrassment. "I had hoped…" he trailed off. "No, you're right, I know. It was only a fool's hope. I'm sorry for wasting your time," he added, and made as if to restart his engine. He hoped that the leader was convinced.
"Not so fast," the leader warned.
"What? Why?" Glorfindel asked, and he felt his stomach drop slightly. This wasn't looking good.
"I'm bringing you in," the leader answered. He motioned for his men to circle around the motorcycle, then nodded to Glorfindel. "Get off," he ordered.
Glorfindel slowly climbed off of his motorcycle, pulling the keys from the ignition as he did so.
"What about my motorcycle?" he asked. The leader shrugged.
"It will be brought in later," he said calmly. "Now let's go."
Glorfindel reluctantly followed the leader toward the encampment, his boots crunching on the pavement with each step. For a flash, he thought that it sounded like he was treading on bone. It took an effort of will for him to shove such morbid thoughts from his mind. That had been happening a lot lately, he realized, and he grimaced to himself. He was not usually so grey of spirit – in fact, quite the opposite. Yet the world as it was now – covered in ash and smoke –reminded him strongly of the end of his first life – of Gondolin and its burning downfall.
Usually when such memories would threaten to overwhelm him, Glorfindel would always find that Elrond was mysteriously close at hand, ready and willing to draw him forth from the darkness that clung to his heart. But now he was not, and Glorfindel found that he had yet another reason to find his friend. As if the others had not been enough.
Within moments the squad was nearing the camp, the gates sliding open as they approached. The wall itself was a solid ten feet high with barbed wire looped through brackets just beneath the walkways. Heavy machine guns were mounted on the wall top every twenty paces or so, and spotlights had been fixed to the wall halfway between each piece of weaponry. Sentries in full uniform patrolled the wall, rifles cradled in their arms. Despite himself, Glorfindel was rather impressed with the entire setup, although overall it looked much more like a camp preparing for war rather than a simple military checkpoint.
They passed through the gate, and instantly it began to slide shut behind them, the sound of compressed air being released accompanying the sound of metal sliding along metal. Glorfindel glanced back, just in time to watch the automatic locking mechanism engage. He suddenly felt trapped, and the feeling of foreboding mounted.
The inside of the camp was no less surprising than the fortifications. Glorfindel had been expecting tents, or perhaps small, portable living quarters. Instead he found himself walking into a bustling base. The buildings, although small and rather hastily constructed, were made of plywood and cement blocks, sandbags shoring up the bases. The roads were sludgy ash mixed with the mud, and there were deep furrows cut into the mess.
Glorfindel was escorted down the main thoroughfare toward the building located at the center of the compound. It was taller than the other buildings, standing at two stories tall, and it looked much sturdier than its counterparts as well. There were no windows, however, and just looking at it made Glorfindel feel uneasy, as if he were looking at a prison.
There were no steps leading to the front door, only a mashed down courtyard of sorts, and two armed sentries standing to either side of the door. They both saluted as the squad leader entered the building, the rest of his squad compressed until they were in a single file line, three behind Glorfindel and two ahead.
To his surprise, there were no artificial lights inside the building. Instead, lanterns had been hung from the ceiling at frequent intervals, filling the narrow corridor with weak yellow light. Every so often, another hallway branched off of the main corridor, and Glorfindel saw that they, too, were lantern lit.
The squad leader stopped in front of the last door at the end of the corridor, just before the stairs. He rapped his knuckles sharply against the wood, and then stood silently. He didn't have to wait long.
"Enter," a clear voice bade from within. The squad leader opened the door and motioned for Glorfindel to enter, then followed him in. The door swung shut behind them, leaving the rest of the squad standing in the hallway.
A tall, willowy man looked up from behind a desk crammed against the far wall. His pale blue eyes were nearly white in the light of the battery-powered desk lamp, and as he put down the pen he had been holding, Glorfindel caught sight of scarred knuckles.
"Matthewson," the man sitting behind the desk greeted the squad leader, "Report."
"Sir," Matthewson retorted, and saluted crisply, "This man was intercepted as he was nearing the gates. He requested permission to enter the Scorched Zone, Sir."
The commander's gaze slid to Glorfindel, and he carefully inspected the newcomer. Glorfindel met his gaze calmly. For an instant, the commander looked a little surprised, and Glorfindel mused that he must not be accustomed to people being able to meet his eyes unwaveringly. He couldn't quite stop the small grin that quirked his lips at the thought, a grin which grew just a little wider when the commander himself dropped his gaze, unable to maintain eye contact himself.
"What is your name?" the commander asked.
"Gabriel," Glorfindel replied automatically, "Gabriel Williams."
"Well, Gabriel," the commander said stiffly, "No one is permitted to enter the Scorched Zone. Do you understand?" he asked.
"Yes sir," Glorfindel replied, although the words tasted bitter in his mouth. "Now am I free to go?" he asked after a moment's silence, his voice deceptively calm and emotionless.
The commander shook his head. "No," he replied. "You will stay in this camp until you have been thoroughly questioned, and it has been ascertained that you are no threat."
Glorfindel's eyes narrowed. "You cannot keep me here against my will," he warned, his voice low.
"You will be free to go once you have been cleared," the commander replied.
"What do you mean?" Glorfindel asked, his brow deepening into a frown. The commander did not reply. Glorfindel took a step forward, and found that Matthewson was suddenly blocking his path, a glare on the human's face.
"Please, Gabriel," the commander said, and he stood, "Do not make any trouble. It will not turn out well – for anyone." Glorfindel stiffened, but he made no more move toward the commander.
"Matthewson," the commander finally intoned, turning to look at the squad leader.
"Please escort Mr. Williams to a room," the commander ordered.
"Yes Sir," Matthewson replied, and stepped out of Glorfindel's way. "If you'll come with me," he added, and motioned for Glorfindel to follow. He did so, albeit stiffly, and only after fixing the commander with one final, hard stare.
The commander refused to meet his eyes.