Everything is on track for the final showdowns.
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Chapter Eighteen — Darkness
Russ took a cab to the outskirts of the Plantation, and rendezvoused with Kirin on foot. She waited for him carrying his Micron uniform in a tidy pile. Thank you for small favors.
He took it, smiling down at her. “I’m gonna need this if I plan to stop Negator.”
“So you know where he is?”
Russ nodded. “Hiding in plain sight. I never thought he could go back to looking like his old self. Worse, he’s working with Phinneas.”
“We should tell the others then. Maybe–”
“They already know and they don’t care.” Russ unbuttoned his shirt as he talked. “I think it’s just you and me on this one. We need a way to beat him, destroy him and expose him as the phony he is all at once.”
Kirin looked away shyly. “I don’t know if I can do that. I mean I can undo the damage he’s caused, with time… but–”
“We don’t have time. Thankfully, I have all the time in the world. I know for a fact, Negator can’t imitate anyone without being close to them. I know my powers better than he does, so I just need to set up a trap.”
Content that Kirin wasn’t looking he stripped and changed into his uniform. “Being with you is safe, he probably can’t copy your abilities since it’s magic. I also have a hunch he’ll aim for Samantha and you first. You are the two that can take him out after all.”
“I can’t take anyone out,” Kirin said.
“Well you can piss him off, that’s enough. We need a way to mitigate the damage he’s already done.”
“Yes, well… about that…” Kirin squirmed uneasily.
“What’s wrong, something I should know?”
“I think I know why Ray fired you. He’s hurt.”
“Hurt like sick, or hurt like forest soul is broken?” He stepped into her field of vision. He only had his chest plate left anyway.
“Negator got to Ray, he’s just like the people in the city now.”
That’s not good. Russ contained his panic. If anyone could stop Ray, he was it. “No problem. I can beat him easy.”
“Really? But he’s so strong.”
“Speed beats strength, Freda.”
“I-it’s weird to hear you call me that.” Kirin said, pushing away a loose strand of hair.
“Better get used to it. No names in uniform, you’re a full-fledged member of the .”
“Of course, Micron.”
“So what do we need to do to heal Ray?”
“It’s a ritual, it takes a long time. He also needs to be conscious.”
“Oh sure, can’t be a potion or something. Do we need to dress him in a grass skirt too? If the ritual fails we can make something on the side when it goes viral.”
Kirin shook her head. “No grass skirt.”
“It’s a joke, you’re supposed to laugh.”
“But it wasn’t funny.”
“Everyone’s a critic. Anyone one else infected?”
“Not that I know of.” She closed her eyes and focused. “You have traces of the sickness on you. Did you run into Negator today?”
“Yeah. John Seiser is in full effect. I should probably get that checked.”
Kirin relaxed. “It’s fine. You’re immune.”
“Your spirit is strong. After an appropriate trial of the heart such things have no chance to harm you.”
“Appropriate trial, huh? Guess all those boring board meetings finally paid off.”
Kirin stepped closer, putting her hands on his arms. A gentle glow surrounded them. “You know what I’m talking about. Last year, Cirrimus tried to shatter our hearts and resolve. You almost submitted, but Ray helped pull you from the brink. It’s time you returned the favor.”
Russ did know exactly what she meant. After being pulled to the abyss of despair, it was hard to see anything as half as bleak. In reality fighting Ray scared him, but not because of his formidability. Part of Russ told him he deserved to be fired.
“Thanks,” Russ said, smiling. “I needed that.”
“I’m just telling you the truth.”
“You’re good at that. Right down to telling me my jokes aren’t funny. Let’s get to the city and end this.”
Kirin folded back her wings and Russ picked her up. Leaving caution to the winds, he launched into the air. Russ distracted himself on the way, working through the possible scenarios. As long as he beat Ray to the city, he and Kirin could bring Negator to heel. The hard part would be pinning the whole ordeal on him.
It makes me miss Cirrimus’ approach. See baddies, punch baddies.
“Look.” Kirin pointed in the distance. Russ recognized the chopper immediately, flying low alongside three familiar cars.
The Macro Corp. was already on the move.
I can’t let them see me. He glanced over to Kirin. He could go full speed and blink past them, but there was no way she would get through it unharmed. The long way around would be too slow and shrinking would make the distance too far.
“Ru—err… I mean Micron. Go ahead. I can catch up.”
“But… I need your help,” Russ said.
“I have my own methods. Trust me.”
“All right.” He let her go, she unfurled her wings and fluttered behind him. He wasted no time, charging full tilt towards the others. He poured his strength focus into the single intent of speed, but a twitch of hesitation tugged at him and his focus tightened.
The world slowed around him and the caravan crept by below him. This had never happened before, he achieved a heightened level of awareness. He was sure of it. Time crept by a fraction of the time it usually did. Ray sat in the passenger seat of the T-bird staring at the Big Easy skyline. Something seemed off about him, a coldness Russ didn’t recognize.
Russ turned his gaze forward and spotted the reason for him impulse focus. A bird lingered inches from his face in midflight, a near inevitable impact. He twisted his body, wincing at the tug of momentum. He lessened his focus, just a touch and pulled up and over the bird. The world accelerated a bit, the bird flung aside by pure air displacement, struggling to right itself.
The adjustment in trajectory launched Russ skyward, careening towards the sky. In the blink of an eye he tore through the cloud layer. By the time he regained control, the clouds lingered hundreds of feet below him.
He slowed to an idle hover and pushed back crushing vertigo. The air was too thin. His power waned and gravity took hold of him. He was falling.
Russ struggled to remain conscious, the clouds brushed past and the cityscape below spiraled closer. He had nothing left, and he had already reached terminal velocity. Only one chance, sorry Kirin. He relaxed, straightening himself to a dive and welcomed the fall. Doing so let him focus on his breathing, recovering from the shock of the sonic boom.
He found his center and the world expanded around him. The shift in his body weight slowed him and the lessened air resistance gave him the illusion of increased speed, but he knew the truth of it. He twisted, easily carving a sloping path through the air and regained control inches from the ground—at least for him it was more like several feet.
Flittering to a nearby light post, he settled to the ground and struggled to catch his breath. He couldn’t stay small for long. He had a lot to accomplish and Kirin wouldn’t be able to cover much ground in a small state.
Russ sat on the spot, taking a moment to meditate. He had to find his center. He had only a precious few minute lead on the rest of the Macro Corp.
Odd light gathered around him, flitting about like tiny fireflies. He reached out to one, worried he had been hallucinating, but it only passed through his fingers. It gathered and formed together shaping a figure bathed in light. The light faded, revealing Kirin— and she was completely naked.
Russ turned away, scowling. Oh, right. Forgot about that.
Kirin snapped out of her trance and calmly covered herself.
“You can teleport?”
“Well, sort of,” she said, blushing. “I can transport to you because of our bond.”
“Sorry about shrinking without warning,” Russ said.
“It’s fine. I can’t take my clothes with me anyway.”
“That’s… inconvenient. You need your costume.”
“I can make new ones. I just need natural material. I don’t have my communicator though.”
“No problem. The park is close.” Russ reached for her and hesitated. “Uh, is it all right?”
“It’s fine. I trust you.”
Russ took her and pushed onto the park. He left her in the branches of a tree and confirmed the area as clear. He traded nods with her, and returned to normal size. He stood guard at the base of the tree, vaguely aware of the gentle glow of her Druidic magic. She floated to the ground, clad in a fresh garb made of woven leaves and wood.
She raised a hand to her chest, offering a shallow bow to the tree. “Thank you, I’ll return as soon as I can.”
Russ scratched his cheek. “Yeah, thanks tree-bro. So, here’s the plan. Negator is disguised as his old self. I’m pretty sure it’s just an illusion. We need to lure him into a public place and disrupt his disguise. I doubt anyone will believe an evil shadowy jerk.”
“I can do that,” Kirin said. “But how do we lure him out.”
“No problem. I—” Russ reached for his phone, and found nothing. He left it in his clothes. “Wow. I never thought that excuse would ever be real. No problem, I can call him from home—”
Crap. Jett. Can’t be helped. I guess Jett is getting a surprise visit from Micron.
“So, we’re gonna visit a friend.”
“Jett’s a friend of Ray’s. Old roommate actually.” He waved her to follow. They flew through the skyline, keeping out of sight of traffic.
“I thought we weren’t supposed to use our names.”
“Well, he’s gonna know the instant he lays eyes on me. The Clark Kent thing only goes so far.”
“Who’s Clark Kent?”
Russ chuckled. On the way to the apartment, Kirin got her first real lesson on superheroes.