Attack on Titan City

If you haven't read Departure, hit back now--the text below is a chapter 2/3 of the way into the book.

Below is the new chapter from the HarperVoyager edition of Departure (chapter thirty-eight).
This chapter takes place during the assault on Titan City by Nicholas, Oliver, and Nick. The attacking Titans and passengers have dropped into the Atlantic and made their way into the dam. They assumed the turbines would be off. They've just realized they were wrong.

C H A P T E R   T H I R T Y - E I G H T


For a moment, the light from above the turbine is blinding. It cuts through the murky darkness like a giant searchlight. The turbine gains speed, and the beam transforms into a strobe light, outlining our twenty-four-person force like an underwater rave. We’re spread out, dark, floating spots of ink in the water, flowing with the current, helpless.

I spread my arms, trying to swim back up the penstock, but it’s futile. The walls are concrete here, smooth. There are no ladders or grates to grab onto, just a featureless shaft leading to the flashing turbine. I gain speed, rushing downward. My heart pounds. Sweat breaks out across my face, and I give up, stop pumping my arms and legs. I reach for the control panel on my forearm, desperately trying to activate the underwater propulsion system. The autopilot route that brought me here is disengaged, and I have no idea how to work it manually—our crash course in Titan technology didn’t cover it.

Above me, I see the first inkblot disappear into the flashing light. The turbine didn’t stop, didn’t even slow down. The flashing grows faster. Who was the figure? Mike? Nicholas? Oliver? Grayson? Another. Then another member of our team disappears into flashing lights, the giant blades shredding them with no remorse, no hesitation.

I try to focus on my arm, try to ignore the pull. The propulsion pack sputters to life, pulling against the turbine’s vortex. My descent slows but doesn’t stop. I accelerate to maximum. An energy warning flashes, and I dismiss it. I glance up in time to see another figure disappear into the light.

I’ve slowed, but not enough; I’m still sinking, my fate only delayed.

Around me, I see other figures floating, their descent velocity matching mine. We’ll be the last to die.

A figure drifts down to the turbine, slower than the first people taken, the propulsion system clearly engaged. Two objects are pulled away from their hands. It’s not a rifle—

The explosion propels me back. My helmet display goes offline. I slam into the wall, roll, the air knocked out of me. I try to suck a breath, but it’s no use. It’s quiet now. I feel debris brushing past me.

A hand grabs my arm, and I feel someone turning me around. My helmet display is offline, but through the clear glass, I’m staring at myself—at Nicholas. His suit must be offline as well. He mouths the words stay here, then releases me and kicks into the now dark water.

A second later, I see a small light flick on from his wrist. It rakes across the darkness and I get my first glimpse of the carnage. Pieces of the turbine drift past, motionless, suited figures mixed in with the scraps of black metal.

One by one, members of our team swim toward me, and we link arms, pressing ourselves against the smooth concrete wall.

Nicholas returns and hands me a rifle (I dropped mine in my rush to activate the propulsion system). He moves down the row, passing out rifles and tapping at each person’s forearm. He’s looking for someone with a working suit. Why? What’s his plan? With the turbine off, we can swim into the power plant above it—we don’t need the packs to swim the rest of the way.

I peer down the row. We are sixteen strong now. Eight people—a full third of our force—perished here. And we haven’t even reached our enemy yet. Our long odds have just become impossible odds. I try not to think about that. I’m glad we’re in a line, glad we can’t see each other’s faces.

Nicholas is before me again, signaling, but I can’t make out anything. I think he wants me to stay back. He points to my rifle, then pulls his own rifle close to his body, holding it tight. I get it: hold on to your rifle. My stomach turns, and I feel my mouth go dry. I swallow hard but it doesn’t help.

Nicholas faces the group now. He points to the light on his wrist, turns it off then on, then draws a line across his throat. Keep your light off.

Nicholas motions to two others, and they kick away, descending fast, leaving us in the darkness.

A minute later, through the faint light, I see someone break from the line. A wrist light illuminates the face: Oliver. He motions for us to follow and kills his light. We huddle close, holding our rifles, kicking with our legs, a school of fish diving in the darkness.

We reach the turbine, what’s left of it, and have to pass single file through the web of jagged metal. On the other side, I can just make out Nicholas and the two others waiting above us. When the last of our group clears the turbine, the two Titans with Nicholas activate their propulsion units, apparently at maximum velocity, because they surge toward the surface, clearing the water.

Weapons fire crisscrosses the chamber above, but I only hear faint echoes, then a cascade of thunder—two explosions. The force sweeps gently through the water. The divers deployed the explosives above the water. They were clearing the opening.

Oliver motions for us, and we’re kicking again, rushing to the surface, rifles at the ready. Just before we reach the surface, gunfire rakes across the room, into the water. The two divers activate their packs again, rushing to the sources of the fire. Two more explosions, smaller than the first, and the room is quiet again.

When I clear the water, I feel an arm grip my forearm, pulling me out. Mike. I scramble out of the way, and he pulls the next person up. There are two entrances to the domed chamber, and I raise my rifle, ready to fire, scanning the room. Bodies are strewn across the metal floor, a dozen at least. A few moving, trying to push up. A shot from the darkness catches the Titan beside me full in the chest. I raise my rifle and fire without hesitation. My first shot ricochets off the wall, but my second brings the man down. I watch, but he doesn’t move. And neither do I. I stare at the man, my breath filling the helmet, fog blotting him out, as if trying to erase what just happened.

I tear the helmet off in time to see one of our Titans rushing to one of the openings. He tosses something, a ball that bounces off the walls, the sound of metal on metal. The dark mouth of the corridor breathes fire when it explodes. A second later the other corridor explodes, and I hear someone yell “Clear!” behind me. Then they race around the room, inspecting the fallen enemy combatants, kicking weapons into the water.

Titans cover the two entrances, their rifles at the ready, while Nick addresses us. “There are two ways up: the power plant and the maintenance tunnels. The tunnels will be harder to pass: they’re more narrow and easier to defend—or booby-trap. The power plant offers more open areas to fight, fewer choke points, and more opportunities to bypass resistance if you meet it. Oliver, you’ll take the bulk of the group. I’ll take two Titans”—he motions to the two divers who cleared this opening—“and try the maintenance tunnels.”

Oliver shakes his head. “Nicholas—”

“There’s a chance they’ve ignored the tunnels.”

“It’s suicide,” Oliver says.

“We have to take the chance. This is what we’re doing.” Nicholas’s voice is final, but not condescending. I see myself, hear myself by the lake a few days ago.

The group breaks, and Oliver begins giving us a quick rundown of the power plant, planning angles of attack and contingencies.

Nicholas takes the diver propulsion pack from one of the operational suits, replacing his damaged unit, then heads toward me, ushering me away from the group. “You have a much better shot at reaching the quantum device than I do.”

He waits, then glances at the unmoving soldier in the opening. “If the time comes, you can’t hesitate.”

“I won’t.”

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