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Chapter Nineteen – Disclosure
Russ landed on the balcony to his penthouse and took a deep breath. He couldn’t help this a terrible idea. Can I use Jett to get through to Ray? Or am I setting myself up for a fall?
“What kind of person is he?” Kirin said. “Should I be worried?”
“Trust me. Jett will be more afraid of you than you’re afraid of him.”
“Oh, am I scary?”
Russ smirked. “Let’s just say Joyce has scarred him for life. Do me a favor and don’t mention anything about playing doctor.” He pushed the door open and stepped in. Jett was in the kitchen.
Jett hurried around the corner, brandishing a rolling pin. He stared, slack jawed.
“A rolling pin? Seriously?” Russ said.
“You’re… Micron? That is so awesome!”
“You’re not mad about breaking and entering? I guess it’s trespassing.”
“It’s not if it’s your house, Russ. Cut the crap.”
Russ glanced back to Kirin, smirking. “See? Told you he’d catch on quick.”
Jett peered past Russ and looked over Kirin. He twisted up his face in realization. “Is she… a fairy?”
“Yeah, long story,” Russ said. “Hey, I need to use the phone. Jett, meet Kirin. Kirin, Jett.”
Russ ducked around the corner and scooped up his phone and dialed out to Phinneas. He picked up on the third ring.
“Yeah, Phinny, we got a problem. The Macro Corp. is coming to town and they’re pissed. We need a public release, stat. Is John with you?”
“He is, why?”
“Have him come too. This should be his big break away from villainy. Champion’s Square. I can tip off the media. Be there.”
“Of course, I see them on the news now. Best to strike when the iron’s hot.”
Russ hung up and dug his back up phone from the drawer. He punched in a code, flash copied the phone and sent a fry signal to his old one and dialed up his other connection. Four excruciating rings later Julie Tattle picked up.
“Russ? Why are you calling me?”
“I have an exclusive for you. I have evidence the Macro Corp’s case was bogus.”
“What? You’re lying.”
“No joke, share your screen with me.”
He fiddled with his phone and played the unedited video, twelve seconds so she wouldn’t have time to record.
“Believe me now? The video they provided was fake.”
“Oh my god. This is amazing.”
“Champion’s square. Looking forward it, Julie.” Russ clicked off the phone. Neither Kirin nor Jett had moved a muscle. “You know you could talk or something? Maybe blink, I dunno.”
“Not Joyce. Trust me, Kirin is gentle as a kitten. Hell, she doesn’t even have claws. Joyce is like a lioness, she’s more of a stuffed animal.”
Jett’s eyes widened with realization. “Wait, if you’re Micron. Ray is Macro Man? She’s Medica?”
Russ nodded. “And this is Freda, our newest member.”
Jett’s eyes glazed over. “We’re all doomed. It’s a thousand times worse than I even imagined.”
Kirin hid behind Russ. “Um, am I missing something?”
“He’s just over-reacting. You see—”
“I am not overreacting. You weren’t exposed to her nefarious experiments.”
Russ rolled his eyes. “You know, most guys would be happy to play doctor with a cute girl like Joyce.”
Jett jabbed a finger on the center of Russ’ chest plate. “You know nothing, Russell Belken. Mark my words, tragedy will fall upon humanity at her hands.”
“Well right now I’m more worried about Ray,” Russ said.
“Ray?” Jett sobered. “What’s wrong with Ray?”
“Remember how I said he fired me? It’s because he’s being influenced by a super villain. I may need your help reaching to him.”
“Oh? Is that all?” Jett said. “Superhero or not, Raymond Teller would never turn his back on his nation. Use that against him.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Then you’re thinking too hard about it.” Jett took a deep breath. “Look, I’ll shelve the whole coming of the end to help. Thanks for coming clean with me.”
“I didn’t have much of a choice,” Russ said. “But I can’t help but think I made the right choice. Hey, did you order food perchance? I’m starving.”
“Did I ever.” Jett turned and walked into the kitchen.
Russ followed to find a stack of pizza boxes. He approached, opening the top box to find a triple everything pizza. “Oh man, Jett. You sure you don’t have psychic powers?”
Jett shrugged. “Not exactly, when I called the pizza place they were really excited and asked me if I wanted the ‘usual’. Took my chances.”
After devouring two pies and some extra vitamin supplements, Russ made his way to Champion’s Square carrying Kirin. She chanted quietly under her breath, distorting the air around them and made them hard to spot. Russ was impressed; he hadn’t seen her do anything like it.
Julie Tattle made it there first, still waiting in her television van. She was a five minutes early kind of gal. They stayed out of sight, if Julie caught sight of him it’d be trouble. Just like Jett, she’d make the connection quick.
Phinneas arrived soon after, stepping out of his car with John Seiser. The trap was set.
“I just need to know if it’s an illusion. If so, take it down.”
Kirin perked. “There is something odd about him, but I’ll need some time.”
“We have plenty of that. Negator probably has to activate his duplication powers, so if I have the element of surprise, we should be able to do this.”
Phinneas approached Julie, striking up conversation. Russ pulled out his phone, thumbing a text message. Sorry for the delay, slowed by traffic. Invited Julie Tattle, feel free to review the data with her.
He got the message, frowning down at his phone, but took the bait.
“Almost have it,” Kirin said. “I should be able to–”
John Seiser’s face exploded into a cloud of smoke.
“What?” Russ tightened his focus, catching the faint trail of an electric pulse. A rail gun shell. He followed the firing trajectory to a nearby building and narrowed his eyes. Mech.
He relaxed, trying his best to tune out Julie’s scream and patted Kirin on the shoulder. “Dispel his illusion, we can’t let him play dead. I’ll take care of Mech.”
Kirin nodded in a daze.
Russ tapped his comm. “Mech, stand down. We have this under control.”
“I’m working under orders, Micron. Stay out of the way or you’re next.” She cut the line and encrypted it.
He tore out of the cover of the tree and towards the building. True to her word, Mech fired again. Russ tightened his focus, heightening it like he had on the highway. This time the shell was different. A concussive round. He dodged, narrowly avoiding the shot, but it started to rupture in midflight. Damn it.
It expanded slowly spreading into a wave of sound. He braced and released his focus. the blast slammed him against a nearby building.
The comm sprung to life again. “Told you so.”
Russ slid down the side of the building, wincing. The impact absorbers of his suit soaked most of the damage, but it did nothing to help the throbbing pain in his head.
His instincts screamed at him, urging him to move. Massive vines surged from the ground, narrowly missing him. They lunged, but he took to the air. There he spotted Vuhdis, scowling up at him.
If she’s after me I should expect others. A chill crawled up his spine. He turned to spot Bayou Jack in mid leap– a valiant attempt at a sneak attack. Russ moved laterally, moving to the safety of the balcony on the other side of the street.
As expected, Rusty leapt from above, lunging. His claw narrowly missed contact with Russ’ cape. A crazed look off hatred fixed upon Russ. The infection took Rusty, Jeb and Sam too.
Russ knew better than to go airborne. Mech would pick him off in a heartbeat. He was blind without proper data from his equipment.
He landed on the balcony and hopped from one to the other. On the third jump a black tendril of shadow caught his foot. Russ focused, but could only resign to softening the landing on his palms. The balcony in question gave Bandit plenty to work with.
“Assistive light, active!” Russ said. The flashlight on his phone snapped on and poured light behind him. The shadows dissipated and he swung free. He couldn’t get his bearings though, and plunged to the street.
Russ caught his fall and tumbled, opting to sprint instead. He had no other choice, he had to get to Ray and talk some sense into him. He snapped on his comm and sent out a desperate hail. “Mac, listen to me. I lured Seiser into a trap. We don’t need to fight. We’re on the same side here.
Ray clicked onto the comm. “Negator’s been neutralized and Freda has exposed him as the fraud he is. I owe you some thanks.”
“Then why is the Corp. attacking me?”
“You tricked Freda into stealing equipment. You stuck your nose into matters I had under control. Your job was to be the enemy and you couldn’t even get that right.”
“I could have done all that from the inside, Mac. You left me in the dark. How do you expect me to play by the rules if you don’t tell them to me?”
“You had your chance and you blew it. I gave you a script and you went against the tide, now you’re paying the interest.”
“You think the city will trust you? Heroes don’t snipe people, Mac. That’s not how things are done. They got the shot on tape; it’ll be on the news.”
“Good. Once they see Negator isn’t dead, they’ll know why we did it.”
“No. It’s not good, Mac. The people already fear us. This is making it worse. The bad press with Mech? Knowing she could be up on some building painting a bull’s-eye on people, ready to shoot if they cross the line— that’s terrifying. You are holding the city hostage.”
“They’re better off scared then in danger.”
“This is insane. Mac, please, listen to reason.”
“How about this, I’ll give you a chance to convince me.”
A blip appeared in Russ’ field of vision. His HUD rendered a map of the city and the tracking marked Mac’s position.
“I’ll order Mech to stand down. No tricks, no surprises. Let’s end this like we started it, friend. Just you and me.”