Hope you’re enjoying the read so far. WC 13,200ish
Chapter Seven — Redemption
No one got much sleep going into the fundraiser, and the three musketeers had to cancel their concert plans. No one caught any sign of Negator, and four more incidents happened through the night.
The organizers were undaunted. With the Macro Corp. on security detail they kept the shindig on schedule. They broke into three groups to keep watch on the Superdome, with Russ hanging out with Matt and Jay near the home-side gate entrance. Ray, Kari and Dave kept to the interior overlooking the field. Sam, Jeb and Rusty covered the away gate entrance. Kirin had to stay behind. She would have loved to see this.
“You think he’ll show?” Matt said, leaning against the wall. If he rshows up here? He gets stomped. “
Russ shook his head. “I think that’s the idea. We want this to go smooth, so were putting our eggs in one basket. I wouldn’t want to be Negaturd after pissing off Sam and Kari. Both of them have a score to settle with him.”
“Ha. Too true.” Matt paced away from the wall, hooding a hand to watch the entering crowds. Bandit, his alter ego, wore black with orange sleeves and trim. His costume was fashioned to resemble long shorts just covering light boots and he sported a thin eye mask. His partner in crime, Jay, had the same costume but inverted in color. White and blue, Indifferent Boy stuck out like a sore thumb. The only other difference was a simple badge with the first letter of their hero name.
Among the crowds, Russ spotted a familiar car– namely his champagne mini-cooper. There’s no sensation stranger than seeing yourself at a distance. Thanks to The Form’s unique ability to not only take the shape of anyone– but also the ability to be in two places at once– he could give Russ the perfect alibi. The trick worked for anyone on the Corp. but today was crucial. It would be the first olive branch offered to the Macro Corp.
The other Russ glared up at him, making a convincing show of the rehearsed disdain he worked on a daily basis. Russ saluted him with equal parts respect and good ol’ snark.
It was a relief to see him, it meant everything went according to plan and the key component of the event would play out. The Macro Corp, would keep the peace and people realize there are dangers best suited for them. Win-win.
“All clear on the back,” Joyce said into the comm.
“Mr. Belken is coming in now,” Russ said. “How’s things looking in the party Mac?”
“All clear,” Ray said.
A few people approached Russ’ doppelganger to shake his hand. One stood out among them, a tall man with tidy brown hair, speckled with grey. He wore and unseasonaly warm coat, with a accessory scarf placed for style. He greeted the other Russ with a calm smile and slipped him a card.
“The guy talking to Belkin,” Dave said over the comm. “His name is Phinneas.”
The marketing guy who joined the site.
“What a douchebag,” Matt said, “you can just look at the guy and tell.”
Russ smiled at that. Matt had a point, there were people that just had it in their nature, but then again people said that about him all the time.
Jay tapped Russ on the shoulder pointed to the distance.
Russ didn’t see anything, but he knew better than ignore Jay. He had a knack for picking up on weirdness. The confimation came from a ping in his comm.
“Micron, something strange is close to you, in the north east lot.”
“Yeah, IB just spotted it too. You think it’s Negator?”
“Possibly. Whatever it is, it’s sending out a nasty vibe.”
“On it. Mech, can you get–”
“Sniping position?” She chimed in. “You bet I can.”
“I’ll hold down the fort here,” Matt said. “Take it slow, Micron.”
“Always do. It’s just a matter of perspective.” He focused within and the world expanded around him. He didn’t want to cause panic, and the best way to do that was to remain unseen. Being small had its benefits. It allowed him to move full speed with little effort and risk. He flitted through the arriving guests, keeping low.
The surrounding area had police officers keeping close watch and there were next to no pedestrians. Those brave enough to come to the charity gathering were quick to get inside to safety, the rest stayed clear of the streets.
The parking garage was still thick with the fumes of cars and an uneasy silence filled its corridors. Russ kept a low profile, staying the size of a housefly made him a small target after all. He hovered through, using the impromptu signal scanner Dave whipped up. Thankfully all his equipment still worked, save from some limitations to range. The best scanner Russ had was his own two eyes, but now that he knew Negator could match him in speed he wondered it that even helped.
“You are all so predictable.” The voice pierced Russ’ thoughts, too clear and lacking echo to be spoken word.
Russ flinched; he couldn’t exactly shout ‘show yourself,’ after all he was hiding too. Somehow, Negator knew where he was. He returned to normal size, landing gently on the concrete. Russ tapped the side of his mask, letting the others see his visual feed.
“What are you planning?” Russ said. “We have you outnumbered and outgunned. Run if you know what’s good for you.”
Negator laughed, it came from everywhere and nowhere. “You don’t get it do you. You’ve fallen right into my trap and you’re the only one that could have diffused it.”
He appeared, arms spread. Pearly white teeth peered out behind his black lips curled into a smile. “You underestimate me. Did you learn nothing from yesterday? I control anyone I want to, even you.”
“Wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise.”
Screams filled the air. Russ didn’t need his equipment to hear them. He turned to run, but Negator appeared in front of him– a second copy of him. Undaunted, he turned the other way, but a third image of Negator materialized in front of him.
“I need no weapons. Mt greatest tool lies in your heart– doubt.”
The three images of Negator vanished into acrid smoke.
Russ shook away his confusion and bolted from the parking lot, people poured from the stadium, in panicked bedlam. “–Micron!” Ray’s voice disrupted his thoughts. “We need you, we have a vstand off in the center of the stadium.”
“Enroute,” Russ said. The world slowed around him and he weaved through the fleeing people. The low ceiling of the entry worked against him, flight wasn’t an option. Instead he weaved past the bottleneck by shrinking to half his size. Anymore and he’d lose too much momentum. He broke into the main stadium in time to see his other self, held at gunpoint.
The assailant waved the gun in a frantic frenzy, pulling back the hammer of the pistol. Not enough time. Russ pushed himself to the limit, but it was fifty yards too far.
The man’s eyes glazed over and in the time of a blink, he turned the gun on himself and fired. Even as slow as the world crawled, Russ watched the bullet pierce the center of his forehead– and he could do nothing to stop it. He snatched away the gun too late, as the spray of blood sprinkled into the air.
The screams magnified in a low rumble and accelerated into full-fledged bedlam. The assailant hit the ground, stone dead. His doppelganger watched with his alarmed blue eyes, stuck speechless by the gore. Russ held the gun, hands shaking. He turned to see Kari, hand extended with purpose, the thrum of her power still buzzed in the air from the mental suggestion she fed into the assailant.
Turn your weapon on the one you truly hate– yourself.
Russ fell to his knees, clutching the still warm gun to his chest. How could everything go this wrong?
Kari unbelted her pistol from her hip, tossed it to the ground and raised her hands to the back of her head. She had no choice. No less than ten police officers had her at gunpoint. She had crossed a very dangerous line.
Ray watched with stone cold silence as Kari was escorted to a police car. Samantha didn’t take it as well. Joyce had to hold her back, assuring her they would set it right. The other Russ pulled out his cell phone and poured venomous broadcasts to the internet.
Phinneas Duth watched in silence, rubbing a hand across his chin. He pulled out a small notebook and scribbled a simple note.
Russ forced himself to stand, handing over the gun to a patrol officer and staggered over to Ray in a daze. His friend clasped his shoulder and gave him a solemn nod. He knew he needed to start figuring out ways to turn this around, prove Kari’s best intentions, but no ideas came.
All he could do was play out the scene over and over, looking for a way he could have done it better. Somewhere in that mess he could have moved a little faster, but a corner somewhere and no one would have had to die.
The failure was bile on his tongue and left him — for once in his life– completely speechless.
What good is an answer man that knows nothing?