Day three of NaNoWriMo. Just past 8,000 words now with another action scene in the books. I’m starting to see where this could be tightened and shaped up. This is the first spark of the main conflict.
Chapter Four — A New Threat
Russ never needed a reason to don the cowl of Micron, but having one filled him with untold satisfaction. He’d spent his whole life worshiping heroes, and now he had the chance to be one. He pushed deeper into the Bayou, skirting past closely packed trees across the surface of the water. The coordinates were close and he wouldn’t take unnecessary risks for simple impatience.
It was times like this he embraced the fact, he had all the time in the world. Being the fastest man alive didn’t rushing headlong into battle, it meant making every action efficient as possible.
He slowed, a few hundred feet from the coordinates. Russ levitated inches from the surface of the water. His heart beat faster. Flight always took a little more from him than running. Sound was of little use to him when her took everything at a slow pace. A single click of a cricket’s song could be misinterpreted so easily. A single splash was nothing more than a distraction. When the world slowed to a crawl, only his sight and tactile contact meant anything.
Light was one of the few things that outpaced him and his superior reflexes could be relied on as well.
He relaxed his focus and glanced down at the data Dave provided. Some sort of foreign signal came from this spot. Something or someone was responsible for it.
Russ settled atop a nearby rock, looking for any clues. The wildlife kept eerily silent. He tapped the side of his cowl, opening a line of communication.
“All clear at the site, BJ.”
“Be there in fifteen minutes.” Bayou Jack, their ‘animal expert’ chimed in on the other end. “Comin’ in by swamp boat.”
“Roger that. I’ll keep my eyes open.”
Russ clicked off the communication line and activated thermal scanners. It picked up a few animals among the murk, but no machinery or people.
“Soul of the forest, huh?” Russ rubbed his chin, weighing his options. The whole thing struck him as familiar. He clicked off the thermal read and tightened his focus. The world slowed to a crawl. He focused on the rippling surface of the swamp, noting the slow advance of insects and the gentle drift of flotsam sticking to the surface.
Looking closer brought attention to a disturbance that shouldn’t have been there, a ripple emanating from nothing. He hovered closer, moving in time with the natural flow of the world.
He narrowed his eyes and made out a faint outline of a person among the water. Once he saw it, he couldn’t unsee it. It may as well have been plain as day.
Russ relaxed, bringing his mind to the natural order of time. “No use hiding. Come out, whoever you are.”
They obliged. The outline filled to a shadow, a man with pitch black skin and hollow white eyes. Russ knew him. John Seiser, one of the collaborators with Cirrimus in his hair-brained scheme to take over the world.
“What’s wrong,” John said. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“Well you kind of are one. We ripped you to shreds last year, you should be dead.”
John laughed. “I cannot die. Not like this. Lord Chaos has seen to that.”
Chaos was what his followers called Cirrimus. The moniker fit. “Well you’ll wish you stayed dead if I find out you’re behind this crap in the city. Give up and we’ll find you a nice little shack to haunt.”
“Amusing, you think you can stop me? Do you remember how easily I turned you against your friends? I could do it again.”
“Funny. They only thing I want to do right now is kick your monochrome butt.”
“Confession time. I am responsible.” He pointed behind Russ. “As I am responsible for that as well.”
Russ tensed at the sound of a splash, and the world slowed around him. An aligator rse from the surface, jaw gaped and poised to bite down. He moved calmly and the Gator’s jaws snapped shut safely away from him. He levitated higher, looking down at John’s smiling face. The Gator showed no interest in John, because he wasn’t there.
Just got to keep an eye on him while we get Kari, Sam or Kirin out here.
Russ moved to dive, but spotted a Heron closing in on him, with its wings spread. It charged him like he was covered in worms. He moved to dodge, but spotted another on the opposite side.
He let them draw closer and slipped under its snapping beak. The first collided with the second, unbidden by each other. They only had a single-minded focus to attack. Since when was John Seiser Doctor-friggen-Doolittle?
Russ moved away, spotting the moving shapes in the water, more gators, circling around John in the center. Then something truely terrifying happened. John looked up, unbidden by the crawl of time and spoke coherently.
“Hatred is an amazing thing. It unifies the irrational to a single cause. Mark my words, Micron. Negator will have his day.” With that, he blinked away to nothingness.
Russ watched, gaping at the empty swamp. The two Herons crashed into the surface of the swamp water, struggling to free each other from their tangled impact. Russ shook away the haze of confusion and tapped his com unit. A blinking red light noted speed scaling for the communication. “Jack, we have an issue. The animals have gone crazy.”
It felt like an eternity for the comm to relay the message. The gators leapt and snapped, despite having no hope of reaching him. The Herons regrouped and took to the air, working together this time to attack.
Sorry birdies. Can’t play nice today. Russ let them come, dodging their snapping lunges with ease. He clenched his hands around their beaks, twisted and flung them at nearby trees. He may have only had average strength, but momentum was an amazing thing. His strength multiplied in proportion to how much faster he was than his foe. Being struck by something moving ten times faster than you didn’t feel good.
The birds writhed against the trees and the comm light blinked. Jeb’s voice came over sped up so he could hear it clearly. “What do you mean?”
Damn it. I really should have giving him details. “Two Herons and a crap ton of gators attacking. I saw one of Chaos’ goons, he’s up to it.”
“The red light popped on and he could only wait for the response.
A message came through, likely sent shortly after the last one. “I’m close.”
The distance sound of a swamp boat sounded ridiculous from his comprehension. There was no more reason to take it ‘slow’. The world exploded back to normal speed and the Herons slumped to the surface of the water.
The low rumble turned into the drone of a swamp boat. Bayou Jack roared closer with Rusty at his side. Jeb Jules, AKA Bayou Jack, sported a dulled down version of Micron’s uniform including the skill cover cowl but minus a cape. In place of striking black and red, Jeb had brown and Dark brown. His chest plate was blank, unlike the stylized “M” on Russ’ chest, but he made up for the lack of flair with a blood red scarf that flapped behind him as he sped closer. Rusty had a matching scarf and skull-cap cowl. He really didn’t need it, but the bear seemed really pleased to get a mask too.
The gators turned looked to the approaching boat and dove under the surface. Russ flew towards the boat at a controlled pace, moving to intercept but on the way the tell tale sinking in his stomach prompted him to focus. A gator leapt from the water to snatch Jack from his craft.
Russ rallied into action, pushing himself to speed forward, even in the world slowed as it was. On the approach, Jack twisted his pitchfork with practiced skill and intercepted the ambush. Russ slowed mid charge, spotting a second gator breaking the surface. Rusty lunged swatting the beast on the side of it’s jaw.
Never thought I’d be happy to see this fuzz ball. Russ relaxed and the two attacking gators splashed uselessly back into the water. Russ settled in front of them, raising a hand to his chest. Fatigue. It was catching up to him quickly. He landed on the front of the swamp boat and caught his breath.
“What the heck did you do?” Jeb said.
Russ shook his head. “No, Negator did it. He said he’s responsible for this and the stuff in the city. I don’t know how. Can’t you–”
A gator leapt from the surface, but Rusty pushed Russ aside and slammed a paw into its skull.
Jeb pat Russ on the shoulder. “No can do. They’re feral. Rest up and we’ll do this the old fashioned way. Wanted a new jacket anyway.”
Russ scowled, but didn’t argue. Flying took a lot out of him and he overused his deeper perception of time. Probably should have eaten more too.
Jeb took one side, Rusty the other and held off the assault. Outside of his ability to communicate from animals, Jack was just a normal guy. He knew the New Orleans swamps like the back of his hand, though. Rusty– well… he was a bear.
The gators didn’t relent. Wounds didn’t slow them.
Russ tapped his comm. “TF, I need enough tranqs to sedate half a dozen angry crocs. Maybe a pair of herons too. Can you phase us over something?”
“What you’re not up for a bite?”
“TF, weapons now, puns later.”
The panel on Russ’ wrist lit up. He tapped it and aimed it at the deck of the boat. A small pistol appeared with a pile of capsules next to it. Stooping over he retrieved and loaded the sidearm. “Say hello to my little friend.”
“Gra!” Rusty said. A moment later his collar flashed. “Hello, little friend.”
Russ raised the pistol and tagged the gator wrestling with Jeb. It slumped onto the deck of the boat. “Let’s git while the gettings good. I’ll cover ya.”
Jeb nodded and took to the driver’s seat.
The gators swam after them suriously, undaunted by the fact they’d never catch them. The Herons returned screaming bloody murder with bits of swampy vine still clinging to their feathers. Rusty stepped up, intercepting the first one with a fierce upwards swat. Russ lined up the shot and tagged it mid air. Aw yeah, just like Duck Hunt.
The Second Heron buzzed past, jabbing at Rusty’s neck. He growled and shook the bird with his technologically supplied opposable thumbs. I guess they come in handy after all.
“Hold it still,” Russ said. “We can keep that one to study.”
Rusty nodded, held it out and Russ shot it in the backside. It fell limp a second later.
They let out a collective sigh, watching the gators fall out of sight.
“Woo-wee, haven’t had that much fun for months,” Jeb said. “Reckon Dave’ll come up with something in his lab?”
“I hope so,” Russ said. He slumped down to sit. “I’m more worried about what Negator said. Seriously, you’d think we could ignore a guy with a stupid name like that. He was able to move as fast as me. That’s bad news.”
Jeb let out a low whistle. “I’ll say. Don’t sweat it though, nothing the Macro Corp. can’t handle right?”
“Right, if this isn’t a job for a superhero. Nothing is.”