So I’m sure you noticed this chapter is a little late. I had to do some serious surgery on the outline, coupled with some real life stuff.
Tomorrow I’ll outline what I did to patch the issues, it lead to some serious changes (that I feel were improvements)
Three Chapters to go!
Chapter Twenty Two — A Tale of Two Belkins
Russ waited outside the Channel Six building, watching the perimeter. He kept the audio feed for Negator open, just in case he tried anything funny.
Negator played the part well enough. He kept a bug on his person to let him receive orders or so he could report anything suspicious. John Seiser was a good actor, and knew Russ well enough to keep a frighteningly natural air.
He even cracked a few jokes Russ wished he thought of– that part annoyed him.
Kari snuck out a map layout of the building. The Macro Corp spread out, giving them ample opportunity to convince the others. Their first target, Vuhdis watched the side entrance. She was crucial to get on their side, as they could double their healing output with her in their corner.
Of course, Samantha hated his guts without the evil Negator influence, so he left it to the ladies to convince her. According to Joyce, Dave wasn’t under control at all. He’d cooperate once all the others came to. Russ had to appeal to Jeb and Rusty next, American Brown Bears were not known for being reasonable.
“Micron,” his comm came to life with his own voice. “We have a problem.”
“What is it Ne– err… Belken?”
“Duth is suspicious of me, and he’s doing something with the Macro Corp. I think he’s been double crossing me.”
“Well,” Russ said, chuckling. “Technically it’s triple crossing. Cause I’m in the Macro Corp and I was working with him.”
“You were an ignorant buffoon that fell for his tricks, while I was using him to sow seeds of chaos. For me it’s double crossing, you, moronic floundering.”
Russ flinched. “Ouch. Hey, I knew he was a bad guy. It’s obvious.”
“His name is Phinneas. I mean come on.”
Negator groaned. “Look, I can distract him for a time, but you need to do something quickly. Your bumbling is going to ruin everything.”
“Relax, We’ve already put the plan in action and–“
“Are you… talking yourself?” Samantha said over the comm.
“No, that’s Negator. He’s helping us. Wait… are you feeling less crazy now?”
“Yeah, Kirin set me straight, but have you gone crazy? He’s the reason we’re in this predicament.”
“I am helping to thwart your lunatic leader’s bid on world domination.”
“Vuhdis, please,” Joyce said, cutting in. “We have no choice, he’s buying us time to get everyone back to normal.”
“Fine, but his crazy ass better run when it’s clear.”
“I love you, too,” Negator said. “I am out of time. I’ll leave you to bicker without me.”
“Alright Vuhdis, if you have time between plotting my death, can you buy me some time with Rusty? Freda and I can work towards curing Jeb.”
“Fine, Vuhdis out.”
“So far so good,” Russ said. “That is until I wake up with pin pains all over my body.”
“I heard that. Thanks for the idea.”
“Hey FYI, ‘Out’ means you’re off the line.”
“I can meet you on the other side of the building with Jeb,” Kirin said.
Thanks to Kari, they knew the placement of every camera. To make things even easier, she hotwired the camera leds to blink in time with their recording frames. The low budget cams had a lousy ten frames per second. Russ could run past twice in that window of time. It became a simple game of red light, green light.
He stepped into the building to find Kirin talking with Jeb. From the look on his face, Kirin made some progress.
“I dunno,” Jeb said. “To be honest I don’t know what the heck’s goin’ on.”
“The whole thing is a scheme by Negator. If you let Freda do her thing, you’ll understand. You know she wouldn’t do anything to hurt anybody.”
“True enough,” he said. “Plus she set things right with them gators. All right, I’m in. What do I have to do?”
“Just sit and relax,” Kirin said.
“Fine, but the traitor stays on that side of the room.”
“Oh, come on. If I was gonna do something I would have the instant I laid eyes on you.” Russ flounced to the floor cross-legged. “Fastest man alive? Seriously.”
Jeb sat on the spot, keeping a tight hold on his pitchfork. Kirin stepped behind him, put her hands on his shoulders and chanted. The air around them displaced and a faint after-image of Jeb appeared in the glow.
“You must accept what you have lost.” Kirin said from her trance. “Take it back into yourself, and claim it. Should you cast it aside, it will be lost.”
Jeb pinched his eyes shut, wincing from some unseen pain. “Oh, I get it now.”
The light burst and Jeb stood. “I was a friggen idjut.”
Kirin backed away in surprise. “You, recovered so quickly.”
“Thank ye kindly,” Jeb said. “You go on and talk some sense into Bandit, I’ll handle Rusty.”
“I don’t understand. You have no gift of magic. How could you–”
“Simple.” He gestured to Russ. “You ain’t doing anythin’ but tellin’ me how to fix the problem for myself. Rusty’s a smart kid. I’ll jus’ set him straight the way I always do.”
Before she could argue he stormed away, full of piss and vinegar.
Russ grinned. He knew exactly what Jeb meant. “Trust him, he seems like an idiot, but he knows his stuff. One down and it’s on to the big dog.”
Kirin tilted her head to one side. “We have a dog?”
“Figure of speech Kirin. I’m talking about Mac.”
“But he’s not a dog. I don’t get it.”
Russ buried his face in his palm. “I don’t think you ever will.” Lucky for us, you know the important stuff.
He followed Kirin into the station, heading to a dark room right before the back door. Matt regarded him with cautious scrutiny while Jay didn’t look surprised at all.
“What’s the deal Micron,” Matt said. “You just don’t know when to quit?”
“Not in my vocabulary,” Russ gave him a two fingered salute. “The rest have seen reason, don’t make this harder than it needs to be.”
“Bull crap,” Matt said. “Mac’s finally got his shit together and we’re gonna make this happen.”
“Actually I’m good to help too,” Jay said. “Majority rules.”
“What? Really?” Matt looked back at Jay with a scowl.
“You’re really oblivious, man. I knew the instant he stepped into the building.” Jay shrugged. “Cameras were tampered with, no one was following check in protocols. Totally obvious.”
“Well crap, and you saved me for last? Screw you, Micron. You’ll have to fight–”
Micron charged him, slapped him in the throat and dashed back to the light switch and flipped it on. “Owned, shadow boy.”
Matt fell to one knee, rubbing his throat. “Gah. Jerk.”
“Look, just let Freda help you out. You’ll thank me later.” Russ glanced over to Jay. “He needs to do it willingly, so try not to turn his brain to pudding.”
“Willingly, huh?” Matt grinned over at Kirin. “Guess we should get cozy, huh?”
Kirin tilted her head to one side. “Uhm. Do you want me to get you a cushion to sit on?”
Russ halved his eyes at Matt. “It’s not that kind of ritual, Bandit.”
“Micron, I don’t know what Jack did, but Rusty is right as rain now,” Vuhdis said on the comm.
“So he figured out the ritual?”
“Ritual? He just smacked him upside the head.”
“Please tell me you got that on video.”
That’s everyone. Russ clicked on the comm. “Mech, here’s the part where I tell you I’m sorry and that you’re a beautiful person.”
“I don’t take idle flattery as payment,” Kari said, “but you’re welcome. We just have one little problem.”
“Phinneas and Negator.”
“Annnnd here we go.” Russ aimed a finger gun at the T.V. monitor.
On cue it popped on, showing a video feed of Julie Tattle, Pinneas Duth and Russel Belkin. Julie buzzed with excitement, and sat on the edge of her seat. “Next on Channel Six news, an exclusive interview with Russell Belken. With him we have–”
Joyce popped onto the comm. “Shouldn’t you stop him?”
“No. This will buy me the time I need to stop Mac. Kari can conjure some ‘technical difficulties if he says anything damning. Lets work towards a six second feed delay.”
“Oh boy,” Kari said. “I always wanted to be a network censor.”
Kirin got to work on purifying Bandit– if she could survive the filthy recesses of his mind anyway. Russ hurried to the control room, ready to rock. He opened up the door to find Phinneas Duth inside.
“Wait, what?” Russ gaped at the man before him. The same dusty brown coat, ugly scarf. He was the real deal.
“Micron, I presume.” he said, saluting.
“If you’re Phinneas… then who.”
Russ looked around the room, realizing Phinneas was not alone. The technicians on either side of him looked so familiar. “Carolyn? Yoseph?”
“Oh hello again, Micron,” Carolyn said. She was a pretty woman with long red hair and a distinctive red tattoo framing her eyes. He knew her better as Firebird.
“Miss us?” The man to her side said, turning from his panel. Yosef Papas, the olive skinned man with a blue tatoo on his face Russ knew as Cyclone.
The wall to Russ’ right did seem close, but in reality it was Frederick Filtcher the man made of stone holding a boom mic. “I’m helping.”
“So… the other Phinneas is…”
Frederick grinned. “That right. It Fanny.”
The four of them made up Cirrimus’ elemental goons.
Phinneas raised a calming hand. “Don’t get the wrong idea. We are on your side, Micron. Cirrimus offered his help to Macro Man, he refused of course, but who is to say we cannot help behind the scenes.”
“You’re full of crap.” Russ scooped him up by his scarf. “You tried to frame us with Belken.”
Phinnease smiled, undaunted. “Oh please, everyone loves a good scandal. Mr. Belken only wanted the truth, just like me. Sit back and enjoy the show. Of course, it would be a shame if someone were to interrupt their good intentions.”
“You don’t understand. Negator ruined the whole thing, John Seiser, he did something to Macro Man. He’ll misunderstand and…” Do something stupid.
A slimy smile came to Phinneas’ face. “You don’t say.”
Russ let him go and turned to leave. His comm blared in his ear– a communication form Joyce. “Russ, there are military vehicles inbound.”
“What? Now? How did they…?” Russ turned to Phinneas who shrugged. “I have no idea where they would get the impression they would need to come here. A lucky guess perhaps?”
“I’ll deal with you later, Mister.”
Russ hesitated. “Wait. Why aren’t you trying to stop me?”
“Oh, you didn’t get the memo?” Yosef said. “We’re the heroes. We just need to make sure the show goes on.”
“Like hell you will,” Russ tapped his comm. “Kill the feed Mech.”
“Mech. The Feed?”
“Sorry to be a bother.” A woman’s voice came on the line. “Mech can’t answer the phone right now, if you leave a message after the beep, she will call you back when she regains control of her body.”
“Who is this?”
“I go by many names, but you may call me, Nerissa.”
The line went dead.
The elemental lords broke into laughter. Fredrick leaned the boom mic closer to Micron. “Ha ha, boss right. Better to let Macro Corp. beat up each other.”
Russ didn’t have time to argue. He rushed out of the control room and down the stairs to the studio. The door was locked, and worse sealed by green light.
“Medica? What’s going on?”
Static muddled the signal. Probably Doctor Pluribus Bomb. Looks like I have to do this the old fashioned way.