The plan is set and there are two Russes now?
Four Chapters to go, and everything is right on course. Stay tuned for the beginning of the end and the inevitable rematch between Macro Man and Micron.
PS: I’m really happy to see the sharp increase in traffic. Looks like people are enjoying the story! On a side note: Any talented artists out there? If you want to donate artwork of Russ (or any of the Macro Corp) I’m interested to know what people see in their mind’s eye.
Chapter Twenty-One – Showdown
Russ and Joyce rendezvoused with Kirin back a few blocks away. She dove from her perch on a nearby tree and tackled Joyce with a hug. “I knew you’d help us.”
Joyce rubbed the top of her head. “Just returning the favor. I don’t have Mac’s business acumen, so that’s why it was easy for you to get through to me.”
“I don’t understand. What happened to you?”
“Well, if I had to put it in psychological terms, something was buried deeper inside of me.” Joyce pulled Kirin away from her. “Freda didn’t really heal or restore anything, she just helped me see how wrong I was. The scary thing about this, is how it’s something inside of us. Something real.”
“So you’re saying Mac is acting this way because he believes it.”
“Right,” Joyce said. “The disparity between who I am and what I ‘want to be’ isn’t too great. I just had to think of you and the other people affected. I overcame it by being reasonable.”
“That doesn’t make sense. Mac is good about weighing his options.”
“His urges for efficiency have ruled out any sense of empathy.”
“So in other words, he’s become a stereotypical corporate douchebag.”
“Pretty much.” Joyce handed Kirin a replacement neckband comm unit. “I need to check in. We can’t let him get suspicious.”
Kirin nodded and clicked it into place.
“Macro Man,” Joyce said into her comm. “Micron’s equipment has been secured and I’ve met up with Freda.”
A small fly icon blinked on Russ’ HUD—Kari made him invisible.
“Freda,” Ray’s voice came through the comm. “What’s the status with Negator?”
Kirin glanced to Russ, swallowing back a lump in her throat. “He dissipated shortly after I dispelled his illusion. It should take him over a week to be any sort of a threat.”
“Good, keep an eye on the spot where he vanished. Medica, stay with her until preparations are finished.”
“Of course, Medica out.”
“Preparations for what? Is Mac building a death ray in the Channel Six building?”
Joyce shook her head. “Mac is making an announcement to the city. Namely a zero tolerance policy for crime.”
“Zero tolerance? Oh my god, he’s actually going to enforce jay-walking? I still do that.”
Joyce chuckled. “I don’t think that’s what he’s going for, but considering how things have played out. I wouldn’t put it past him. I can’t be too hard on him; he has some deep rooted justice issues.”
“No, I get it,” Russ said. This isn’t him. We just need to fight fire with fire.”
They approached the park together. It swarmed with police and press alike. A few of the police officers did double takes when Kirin passed. They hadn’t given her any public exposure, this was the debut of a new heroine after all.
Medica pulled Kirin close at the shoulder, glancing over to Russ. “I’ll take care of it. We can’t have you show up on the cameras. Investigate what you can.”
Russ walked further into the park. He noted a patch of inky darkness shifting on the ground, some ways away from the taped off scene of the shooting. Kneeling next to it, he put a hand on the ground. Kirin lied to Mac, he’s right here. “Negator, I know you’re there.”
“Gloating are you?” Negator’s voice came as a whisper.
“Not at all. I need your help, and I’m willing to pay for it.”
Negator chuckled. “You’re asking me for help? You must be desperate.”
“Look, you can keep being a puddle for the next week, or I can have Kirin restore your corporeal form. If you’re interested, latch on to me and we can talk turkey.”
“Oh, that’s too bad.” Russ shrugged. “I guess you’re content to let Mac take over the city.”
“That is a terrible bluff.”
“Terrible but true. Look Negs, your plan is basic. You wanted to corrupt Mac so everything fell apart for him, instead you turned him into a tyrant poised to take over the city. We have a common interest here.”
“Regardless, I made his forsake his morals.”
“Yeah, good job on that. But now, he won’t hesitate to find a way to end you for good. Or perhaps he’ll do you one better, scatter you so much it takes you a million years to reform.”
A pair of scowling eyes formed on the ground. “I see your point. What’s your plan?”
“I need you to do what you do best. Discourage Mac, show him this is a terrible idea. After that, all bets are off and we can go back to being rivals, nemeses or if you want we can just go out go-karting. Up to you.”
Russ offered his hand. He trusted Kirin’s word that he was immune to Negator’s tricks. His greatest enemy was his own doubt and he didn’t have time for it.
After a moment of hesitation, black smoke curled up to Russ, wrapping around his arm like an intangible snake. Negator’s presence made his arm tingle, like the pins and needles of numbness, but he was no worse for wear.
“Micron was it?” A voiced called to him.
Russ turned, spotting Aaron Teller approaching with two officers. “Yep, that’s me.”
“Funny, cause we got word from Macro Man you’re on the run.”
Russ tensed. “Ah yeah, well I can explain.”
“Make it fast.”
My specialty. “Well you see, he and I aren’t seeing eye to eye at the moment, but I’m still trying to help him. He’s… about to do something stupid.
“Well lucky for you, I agree,” Aaron said. “Pisses me off that he thinks he can order the authorities around. The word of one man doesn’t make someone a convict, that’s why I wanted to talk to you myself. What’s really going on here? Why are you nosing around the crime scene?”
“You want the truth? Or something you’d like to hear?”
“What do you think?”
Russ sighed, weighed his options and held up his arm. “I’m protecting a super villain.”
Aaron raised a brow.
“You said it best, it’s not up to one man to pass judgment. Mac took it a bit too far because said supervillain took away a part of his common sense. Sort of like what happened in that trial with Mech. Negator, show him.”
Negator’s eyes appeared on his arm, narrowing to a scowl.
“He can’t materialize himself right now, he’s helpless. Once this is over he’ll be tried in a court of law like he should be.”
Captain Teller traded looks with his officers then fixed his gaze on Russ. “Fine. I’ll buy it, what do you need me to do?”
Well that’s handy. “Can you keep my actions a secret from the media? That’s all I need.”
“Fine by me. Never been a fan of those vultures.” He leaned in close, whispering. “Set my boy straight, Russ.”
Russ slouched, like a busted teenager. Of course he knew.
Aaron Teller barked orders to his men and they scattered to push back the media. Joyce and Kirin approached, finally free of the flashbulbs and microphones.
“So? How’d it go?” Joyce said.
“Negator’s going to help us. You just need to restore his corporeal form.”
Kirin nodded. “I can do that.”
Joyce sighed. “I’m not crazy about the idea, but we don’t have much choice.”
“Hey, how long has your dad known?”
“Day one. You should have heard the earful I got about the costume.”
“Well, in his defense, it doesn’t leave much to the imagination.”
Negator hissed. “Spare me the small talk.”
“You should be happy Micron is even giving you a chance.”
“Uhm,” Kirin said. “Shouldn’t you be more careful about talking about certain things around him?”
“He already knows who we are,” Russ said. “I don’t know why, but Cirrimus keeps his cronies on a short leash. All this roundabout crap with framing Mech made it really obvious—you’re not allowed to tell the world who we are.”
“How very like Cirrimus,” Joyce said.
“But don’t worry Negs, I’ll hold up my end of the bargain. Let’s get somewhere quiet so we can put you back to normal.”
They settled on a nearby parking garage, which gave Kirin the privacy and quiet she would need to work. Negator slithered away from Russ and settled into a smoky cloud. He sat cross-legged taking a humanoid form with an obliterated head. Russ never really understood the fine details, but John Seiser was effectively immortal. When he stepped into the real world, he was exposed and vulnerable.
The last time they ran into him, they obliterated every cell in his body. It took him over a year to reform, in the ‘other word’ Kirin mentioned. It seemed like he needed to be whole to step back to the real world, and for what Russ wanted to do he would need him to be.
Kirin stood over him, coaxing her power to pull together the spiritual wound, just as she had done in the forest. It only took a few minutes, and Negator regained his shadowy form. He solidified into the familiar monochrome figure Russ knew him to take.
He stood, flexing his hands and aimed a glare at Russ. “What would you have me do?”
“Honestly I’m surprised you’re not running. Don’t tell me you have an iota of honor in that black heart of yours?”
“Do not misunderstand,” Negator said. “It is as you said, I have no interest in seeing Macro Man rule over this city or this world. My goal was to break him, not make him stronger. I failed gloriously.”
“Can you imitate me?” Russ said.
Negator nodded, phasing to an exact duplicate of Micron.
“No. I mean me, under the suit.”
He shrugged. The suit melted away and a perfect doppelganger of Russ stood before them— sans clothes.
Kirin let out a squeal and covered her eyes, Joyce maintained her composure, but forward a hand to block her lower field of vision.
“I mean me in plain clothes, smart ass,” Russ said, scowling. “Use the outfit I was wearing when I saw you last.”
Negator chuckled in Russ’ voice and complied. “So you want me to pose as you.”
“Right. Try and convince Mac to back down.”
Negator shook his head. “It won’t work. The one you call Vuhdis will know immediately.”
“I’ll handle that,” Joyce said. “I’ll have Mech distract her. I’ll brief her on the situation.”
“You’re trusting her?
“I’m trusting you. I’m already scraping the bottom of the barrel here.”
“OK. I have rules though,” Russ said. “Go straight to the T.V. station, no revealing my identity, no breaking the law, and absolutely no puns.”
Negator raised a brow. “That’s all?”
“Don’t make me look stupid?”
“I’d have to change the face.”
“OK. I walked right into that one.” Both Russes grinned.
“Rest easy, anything less than a convincing depiction of you would lead to an undesirable outcome. However, I’m unclear on what you hope to accomplish.”
“Kirin, Joyce and I are going to convince the others to be cured. Once I have numbers on my side, I can take out Mac. I already have just the thing to stop him.”
Negator chuckled. “You’re going to defeat your own leader?”
“It’s the duty of the second in command to stop his crazy captain.”
Joyce cleared her throat.
“Oh come on, Medica. I know you’re level with me now, but I started as his sidekick.”
“I hope you know what you’re doing. If I’m discovered I will retreat. Also, there is no way I’m letting you turn me in to the authorities. No prison could hold me anyway.”
“I told you I’d hold up my end of the bargain. One, One, get out of jail free card. After that, we’re back to enemies. Capisce?”
Russ handed over his phone and watched Negator leave. “He’s totally gonna stab me in the back.”
“It’s just a matter of time,” Joyce said, shrugging. “Beggars can’t be choosers though.”