50,000 words! Well 50,049 technically. Thanks for sticking around for the whole ride. While I’m “Done” there will be a epilogue tomorrow.
Final Chapter — Judgement (Part Two)
Tightening his focus, Russ streaked towards the final shooting position. He wasted no time analyzing radio chatter. Every fraction of a section that passed was an opportunity to execute one of his friends. The building came into view. He’d have to tackle the sniper at full speed. It likely meant broken bones for both parties. He slipped deeper into focus, slowing the world even further.
There was no sniper on the roof.
Was the data wrong? Did they move? Where are they?
A throbbing humm filled Russ’ ears. It was the unmistakable first step of a rail gun’s firing sequence. Russ realized all at once, the shooter was in a window.
It was too late.
The shell surged forward, moving the speed of a car on the highway. Russ focused harder, and it only slowed a little. He turned, resisting the pull of G-forces and pursued. The bullet stayed just out of reach and only accelerated while Russ approached his limit.
He pushed himself harder, gaining on it in a surge of desperate speed, he reached for it, and realized it was futile.
I’m just fast. I can’t stop it.
He pulled back his hand clenching it into a fist. There was nothing he could do now to stop it. The raw speed took its toll and his vision blurred. Raw heat covered his body, he reached the limit of his armor’s capacity for high friction.
Think of the resolution, not the problem.
Shadowy images of himself splayed out before him. Catching the bullet, or rather trying to, would only destroy his hand. He couldn’t nudge it out of the way, it would take someone a hundred times his weight.
Then it hit him, all at once. He really was powerless to stop the bullet, but he knew one person who could stop it.
Russ pushed himself, faster and harder than he ever had. Pressure built around his body, the Straang armor struggled to contain the tremendous pressure. The bullet slowed to a crawl and he poured himself into raw speed.
Russ transcended the speed of a rail gun shell, then transcended that. He lined up the trajectory, crunched the numbers faster than he ever had. There was no doubt in his mind who the target was. Macro Man would be hit by this bullet and his powers would not save him.
The TV station screamed closer and Russ knew he couldn’t possibly slow down. He didn’t plan to slow down, anyway.
The bullet cruised towards his forehead, but so did Russ. He flew head on, fist forward. Timing was everything. Ray was trying his best, protecting his friends. He laid no focus on assaulting the military, and as such put no focus in protecting himself.
Russ made his move with his fist inches from Ray’s face. He poured what little he had left into shrinking. Ray expanded before him until Russ could see nothing but his forehead.
Then he let the focus slip away from his mind and did what he often did. He waited.
His fist crashed into Ray’s skin, buckling at first, but turned to a sheet of steel. The material in his glove tried and failed to absorb the shock. The bones in Russ’ hand shattered before it slowed the rest of his body enough to make the hard impact only marginally painful.
He fluttered backwards, helplessly plummeting to the ground and into a helpless haze.
Russ was only vaguely aware of the impact of the bullet above. It slammed against him, burrowing into the surface, flecks of sparks and steel flew around Russ. He smiled, realizing it grinded to a halt before any blood was shed.
Warm light enveloped him, lulling him to relax and drift to sleep. Something caught him. Someone caught him.
Russ stopped falling, the warmth crept along his back and under his legs. The light coalesced and took shape. Kirin smiled down at him, holding him close.
“It’s Freda in costume.”
“Well, you’re kinda naked. So I think it counts.”
Kirin smiled at that. She flew them up to Ray’s shoulder. He noticed them for the first time. He brought two fingers to his forehead, plucked the embedded bullet away and turned it in his fingers.
“Thanks, Micron. Looks like I owe you another one.”
Russ cradled his broken hand and smiled. “You owe me more than one, buddy.”
The military stopped firing and a transmission came in over the HUD. It was a general hail from Kringle.
“We reviewed the data sent over to us. It seems we owe you an apology.”
Russ let out a sigh of relief. It was over. They had won.
The clean up took days. Negator, as promised, ran to fight another day and took the Elemental Lords and Phinneas with him. In terms of collateral damage Russ had a date with Julie Tattle which went horribly. She spent as much time fishing for stories as she did make small talk. Both counts irritated the crap out of Russ.
He had to get used to driving one-handed for a while. Even with Medica’s accelerated healing, he had to let it mend for weeks to discourage permanent damage.
Russ waited outside of Ben Franklin High School, snacking on one of those oh-so-delicious energy bars and drummed on the steering wheel. A couple of the students shot dirty looks at him, all of which he got used to by now. One smiled and approached the car– a cute senior by the name of Kirin Teller.
“Why hello Mr. Belken, what are you doing her?” she said smiling.
Russ matched her smile with a smirk. “Picking up my favorite ward so we can eat some real damn food.”
“Well I was going to hang out with some of my friends, but I guess I can fit you into my busy schedule.”
“I got a present for you.” Russ pulled a box from his glove compartment. “First run, I wouldn’t open it. It’ll be worth money some day.”
She took it, gave it a gentle shake and held it to her ear. “It’s not my birthday.”
“Just open it.”
She peeled away the wrapping paper to reveal an action figure.
“Freda?” She said smiling. “I didn’t know they made these.”
“They don’t. Not yet anyway, it’s even signed by Scott McFarlane.”
“I’ll just pretend you didn’t hear that,” Russ said. “There’s a new place I wanna try out, they have a three page Vegan menu.”
“As long as you don’t eat animals in front of me too.”
“Oh come on, their Gyros are amazing. Plus, I’m pretty sure Gyro meat is like, veggie animals or something.”
She hit him on the arm. “Russ, it won’t kill you to back off for one day.”
“Fine. Just once. Only cause it’s you. We’re official even now remember. So, no more favors out of obligation. From here on, we’re just friends.”
“Or maybe more than friends.” She said, grinning.
“Slow down there, Kirin. Only time will tell.”