Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Fame and Escapism

Nevada waited for the right moment and then yanked the handles sideways, sending the plane swerving off to the right. A bullet flew past the window, missing the plane by inches.

“Far out,” Nevada growled. “We almost got hit then.”

Houdini was silent, his finger deftly checking through his parachuting equipment while his eyes were trained on the gunner squatting on top of a skyscraper.

A round of bullets sounded and Nevada sent the plane into a dive, straight for the murky waters of the Thames. The bullets splashed into the water around them as the plane levelled out and began to slope back up towards Tower Bridge.

“Watch out London,” Nevada muttered, pulling the handles as far as she could from the dashboard, causing the plane to put on a burst of speed.

The plane shot through the gap in Tower Bridge, heading straight for the Olympic Stadium.

“Is your parachute ready Ms Tyrelli?” Houdini asked, finally satisfied with his equipment.

“Yes,” Nevada said, lying through her teeth.

“Get moving Ms Tyrelli.”

Nevada ignored him and put a bit of pressure on the brake as they got closer to the stadium. She had a quick look in the rear vision mirror and saw several planes in pursuit. She pressed the autopilot button and began checking through her parachute straps.

“One,” Houdini said, unclipping his seatbelt. “Two,” he threw open the door and the plane began to beep like crazy. “Three!”

Houdini leapt out of the cabin, Nevada not far behind him. There were a few moments of terrifying free fall before Nevada pulled her cord, the parachute flew open and she was wafting slowly towards the ground.

The plane exploded in a flash of white light as a bullet smashed into the fuel tank, igniting the avgas. Smoking hot shards of metal fell from the wreck, burning her skin and hair before she shook them loose.

Nevada looked up. The parachute was now littered with holes, but seemed to be holding her weight. Below her Houdini was floating just above the entrance to the stalls and as she got closer she could see a hundred hands reaching out to grab him.

Nevada grabbed a second cord dangling from the parachute bag.

“If this crazy invention doesn’t work,” she whispered. “I will kill Houdini myself.”

Nevada waited a moment longer until Houdini’s feet just brushed the waiting hands, and pulled.

A cloud of white powder rained down on the spectators and they began coughing and spluttering, bumbling about blindly as their eyes watered. Two parachutes descended onto their heads, adding to the confusion, and by the time security had sorted the mess the offenders had simply disappeared.

Nevada hurried to keep up with the boy as he manoeuvred through the crowds.

“You’re lucky that worked,” she panted. “Now wait up!”

Houdini ignored her and kept ducking, sliding and slithering through the throng. Being an escape artist certainly had its perks.

“Houdini!” Nevada exclaimed. When he didn’t turn around she muttered, “Imbecile.”

The boy soon stole off into a maintenance room and Nevada slipped in after him. Houdini had left the air vent cover lying on the ground and she swore as she crawled in after him, wondering why he had to take such a way. It was dark inside the tunnel, but she was able to follow him from the faint rustle of clothing ahead. Houdini could be so annoyingly smart; he’d usually be silent on a job but he’d realised she would need a guide. Nevada sighed. She’d have to put up with him for a long while yet.

Nevada saw the sunlight before she found the air vent with missing cover. She climbed out noiselessly and looked about.

Houdini was standing beside the Olympic torch, carefully attaching some kind of device to the side of the dish that held the dancing flames. Around them the crowd went wild as a man pole vaulted his way into the history books.

“How long do you think we have before someone notices?” Nevada asked, hand on hips, looking out at the arena.

“Not long Ms Tyrelli,” Houdini replied. “So I suggest you let me get on with the job.”

Houdini soon had everything set to his satisfaction, and stood up from his crouch, stretching his legs. He held a small black box in his hand with a red button in the centre and Nevada wondered what is for. Houdini never told her his entire plan, only the part that she needed to carry out. Sometimes it annoyed her, but other times she realised that he was only being sensible.

A security guard hurried over, noticing the pair.

“Stand back,” Houdini called, waving the box threateningly.

The man stopped, a worried look crossing his face as a million ideas ran through his head as to what the box could do. Finally he decided exactly what Houdini had wanted him to think. That the big red button could trigger an explosion and destroy the whole stadium.

“You could kill everyone, including yourself,” the guard said, holding his hands in the air, his sun glasses glinting in the sun. “Is that really what you want?”

Another guard came running over, speaking urgently into his walkie-talkie. A few seconds later Nevada heard the unmistakeable buzzing of helicopter. The security guards had managed to convince Houdini to come away from the supposed bomb and have a little chat, but Nevada stood where she was, waiting to carry out her part in the plan.

There was a hiss as four men descended from the helicopter on ropes, their gloves taking the damage. They jumped to the ground and secured cables dangling from the helicopter to the sides of the torch. They stood clear as the helicopter pulled the ropes taught and the torch began to rise off the ground. Nevada took a running leap onto the dish and landed with a metallic crash before she scrambled up the cables. By the time she had forced the door open the helicopter already had the torch a metre off the ground.

The men inside were startled by her appearance and she made quick work of them, elbowing one in the neck and punching the other in the jaw, both immediately out cold. She undid the pilot’s seatbelt and shoved him out of the seat before securing herself in his place. She took the controls and leaned as far forward as she could to get a good look of what was going on below. There was a frenzy of security guards and reporters, the latter recording every word that came out of Houdini’s mouth. Soon she was as close as she could get to the boy, the torch almost scraping along the ground and the down draft from the helicopter whipping at his hair. He jumped aboard the torch, holding one of the cables for balance and the helicopter began to rise up out of the stadium.

Houdini waved at the shocked security guards and feverish reporters, knowing that his plan had succeeded. He had made London look like a fool in front of the world. The name Houdini would be remembered for generations to come, and he could now rest in peace while his fame lived forever.

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