So the resolution of the conflict is pretty seat of my pants right now. I don’t think I’ll have any issues finishing from a NaNoWriMo standpoint, but I forsee fleshing this out quite a bit once I get to the revision phase.
I have two chapters left in my original 25 chapter plan, but it looks like I’ll need 27 to meet the word count requirement. I could probably also fix the word count by revisions, but because I’m posting it on here to show to you wonderful people, it will likely come across as two epilogue chapters.
Looking over this at a glance, I can EASILY see the word count swelling between 4000-8000 words. Most of it would be New Orleans setting stuff and better descriptions in parts. For now, it’s ‘git er’ done’ mode. Wish me luck! The chapters from here on out will be probably rolling a bit late (Real life stuff) but thanks for keeping with me on this rocky journey.
Chapter 23 — Friends and Foes
Russ didn’t need the tracker to find Ray. Sirens and shouts filled the air. Russ made it out the building first– naturally– but the rest of the Macro Corp. followed close behind.
Ray stared down a row of police cars, spearheaded by Captain Teller. Of course the police was the least of their worries.
“Micron, I did a satellite scan,” Dave said over the comm. “The national guard is incoming. They’re only a few miles out. Whatever you plan to do, make it count, cause I can’t help you until Mac is back to normal.”
Russ didn’t answer him, instead he approach Ray. A sneak attack wouldn’t help, he needed to convince his friend, properly. “Mac, it’s over. Just let Freda help you.”
Ray shook his head and turned. “No, it’s just beginning. What can they do? Even if they found a way to hurt me, I’m the only person standing between Cirrimus and dominating the world. Tell them that.”
“It doesn’t do much good if you’re just as bad.” Russ took another step closer. “This will all make sense if you just let us help you.”
“You’re making quite the assumption, little man.” A voice pierced the space between them. A shadowy specter formed into a monochrome apparition of woman. She looked very familiar. It only took a moment for him to make the connection; she was a perfect facsimile of Kari. “Why don’t you run along? It doesn’t matter if you’ve undone Negator’s meddling, you missed the most important part.”
“Nerissa I presume, so what did we miss?”
Nerissa gestured to Ray. “My connection with this handsome guy right here.”
“Mac, seriously? You’re doing this over a woman?”
“You have it wrong.” Ray said stepping even with her. “I know all too well she’s bad news. This woman is the same as Cirrimus.”
“Then why are you playing right into her trap?”
Ray lashed out at Nerissa. His fist passed through her ethereal presence. “Are you dense? This is exactly why. We don’t just have Cirrimus to worry about, we have her as well. We don’t have time to pull punches; we need everyone to know we’re ready to take them down.”
Nerissa moved away, unruffled by his attack. He face reformed revealing a smile. “So you see? I’m just his muse, nothing more.”
“Mac, the military is on their way. You really don’t want to be public enemy number one.”
“That’ll only be the case if I fight back.” Ray sharpened his eyes. “I’ll say it again. It’s futile to try and take me down.”
Coy bastard. “What if I proved you wrong?”
Ray relaxed. “You’re bluffing.”
“Not at all. Me alone, if I stop you– that should be proof enough that there’s nothing wrong with the Macro Corp. as we made it. You’re not the only one in charge anymore Mac, this is exactly the reason we agreed on joint responsibility.”
“It looks good on paper, but the situation has changed.” Ray cracked his knuckles. “Nerissa is just like Cirrimus, just as powerful. She can’t affect us directly, but she can create people like the elemental lords and Negator. We need to be willing to cull their numbers. We need to be ready to kill.”
“Mac… you can’t be serious.”
“Long term plans aren’t always pretty, Micron. You better be telling the truth about having a way to stop me, or you might die trying to figure it out.” Ray gestured and a wave of green energy erupted around him. “Tick Tock. I won’t wait forever.”
The field around him was smaller and more compact. He also didn’t pause to establish the sonar. Ray had no hesitation. He was ready to fight.
Don’t have time to figure it out, huh? That’s where you’re wrong. “Not my style, Mac. I’m the one that does the waiting.”
Russ tightened his focus and the world slowed to a crawl. He charged forward, noting the pulse of power as he moved and let the world expand around him. At an inch tall, each wave of energy buzzed by like huge saw blades, but they were too slow to take him out.
He pushed himself further and something strange happened. He could see himself. One of the blades took an awkward turn and cleaved him in two. He was seeing the future.
Russ bolstered his resolve and embraced the vision, adjusting to narrowly avoid the predetermined fate. He focused harder and saw two images of himself, one barreling through at full speed and the other wracked by the energy around him. Russ took the third option a more efficient and direct route with considerably more risk.
It came to him second nature and before long dozens of doppelgangers of himself played out before him. He saw through chance and embraced probability.
Russ had mastered time itself.
Beyond the near endless nest of green energy, Ray loomed like a titanic fortress. Even if he made it to him, he couldn’t hurt him. Good thing that’s not what I’m out to do. I just need to make him see what I can, but how?
“It’s hopeless,” Narissa’s voice echoed through his ears. It shouldn’t have been possible. She lounged next to him in mid air, scaled perfectly to his size. “Even if you convince him, it doesn’t change anything. Cirrimus and I will be victorious. You’re still mortal.”
Russ’ focus slipped and a wave of power drew dangerously close. He retreated, realising one step away carried the consequences of four opportunities to advance.
He lingered on the outside edge of the barrier, right back to where he began.
“It’s hopeless. Just give up.” Nerissa appeared in front of him, pressing a finger on the bridge of his nose. “Act like the man you are– small and insignificant.”
Russ ignored her and punched through her image. He had enough to worry about without doubting himself. Look at the answer, not the problem.
He charged through the gauntlet undaunted by Nerissa’s taunts. Deeper in, the images unfolded into a grim array of failure. He deepened his focus further until the images of him overlapped so tightly, they were hard to discern.
None of them. None of them are safe?
Russ pushed himself harder but the wear started to take its toll.
Fine then. Russ banished the images anddid it the old fashioned way. He let his instincts take over. Time accelrated to normal speed and he charged through the final gap.
Everything went black.
“What? You’re hiding?”
Russ struggled to stand up, but the ground didn’t cooperate. It swam about like the deck of a ship. He opened his eyes, running his hand over the familiar surface of the ground. This isn’t ground, it’s… Mac’s chest plate.
He found strength in his accomplishment, he had made it.
“You said you’d face me. So face me.” Ray’s voice boomed around him.
Russ grinned. Looks like it’s time to play conscious.
He carefully flew along-side Ray’s neck and landed on the edge of his inner ear. Just call me Jiminy Cricket. Russ adjusted his amplifiers with a little bit of reverb, just for effect.
“I’m dead, Ray. You killed me,” Russ said. “You were right, you’re just too strong.”
Ray relaxed and the footing became easier. “Dead?”
“Yeah, the whole sonic barrier was pretty mean. It was not a nice way to go. Here’s the thing though, I came all the way from the other side to tell you something pretty interesting. Nerissa and Cirrimus can’t tell the future, but I can. You’re gonna be just fine.”
“Get out of my head.”
The barrier outside faded and a glow came from deep inside Ray’s ear. Russ focused in time, but misstepped. His footing turned to slick steel, which meant no traction. The wave of green light enveloped him and launched him from Ray’s ear. No matter how slow he dampened time, he couldn’t counter the momentum.
All he could do was ride it.
Russ peeled upwards and struggled to stop. He spun around to find Ray glaring at him. Oh right, the HUD. It doesn’t matter how small I am. He returned to normal size and settled the the ground.
Ray took a deep breath. “Were you telling the truth?”
“Well, I’m not dead–”
“I mean, what you said about her?”
Russ nodded. “They’re just fucking with your head, Mac.”
“Then prove it.”
Russ grinned. “Why don’t we let her do that?”
Nerissa appeared next to Mac.
“If I don’t miss my guess. She can’t do jack to you. You’re too strong. Why are you so afraid of a ghost?”
“I’m not afraid,” Ray said. “Not right now anyway. It’s the future I’m worried about.”
“Well then. I got you covered. Cause bad guys are really predictable.”
Nerissa scowled. “You’re just bluffing. Just like always.”
“Yeah well, it’s my thing. Cept, my bluffs are desperate attempts to set my friend straight. Also, Mac already has a girlfriend. You didn’t stand a chance.”
“I guess you’re right, Micron. I’m giving up on an invisible foe.” Ray tapped his comm. “TF, open a line to the military. We’re surrendering.”
Russ let out a sigh of relief and approached, but something felt wrong. A bad feeling sat in the pit of his stomach. “Hey Mac, have you talked with Mech recently?”
“Before or after she was working with you behind my back?” Ray said, smiling.
“Strange,” Ray said. “The Form’s not responding.”
Russ winced. “Oh. Right. I don’t suppose you know that the Elemental Lords are in the control room, filming a segment? With Mr. Duth and Mr. Belken?”
Ray narrowed his eyes. “No. I didn’t.”
“We should probably do something about that. The comm. is scrambled, too so Dr. Bomb is probably here too.”
“Pluribus Bombast is in prison. I confirmed that two days ago.”
“Then who’s helping them with the tech stuff?”
Both of them looked at Nerissa, who grinned.
Russ swallowed back a lump in his throat. “It’s not a coincidence that you look like Mech. Is it?”
Ray clapped a hand on Russ’ shoulder. “Try to get word to the military, maybe Captain Teller can help. We’ll take care of the station.
Russ approached the police line, waving down the raised guns. “Hold on guys. Crisis is over. We just–”
“No. You have a real problem.” Officer Teller said, scowling.
“Why can’t it ever be good news?”
“The military isn’t coming here for milk and cookies. They’re not going to settle for anything less than full surrender, and even then it may be too late.”
“It’s cool. I’ll cut them off an explain– assuming they don’t open fire on sight. Think you could tell them not to shoot me? That would be great.”
Officer Teller smirked. “I’ll try my best. Oh and Micron?”
“Thanks. For everything.”