I felt bad running out on my Mom mid-argument; you’d think that flying toward a disaster at the speed of sound I’d have more important things on my mind, but no. All I could imagine was the anger, bitterness and disappointment that would be waiting for me when I went home for round two.
Soaring down to street level I skirted the pavement and made a fast lasting behind a car at the police barricade. The officers on either side jumped at my sudden appearance and fell on their asses. They crawled back to their cover, wounded only in ego.
“Sorry,” I told them. Note to self: next time give people a little warning.
One of them grabbed the receiver on her shoulder. “Captain, we’ve got Glimmer Girl on scene,” she said. Her eyes danced between me and the literal train wreck with carriages folded over one another; there was crying and screaming coming from inside.
“What’s the situation?” I asked, but she didn’t appear to be listening.
The radio squawked back; “Glimmer Girl is a civilian. Get her the hell out of here!”
Before she could act our shield vanished with a heavy fwoom. We were sitting out in the open, and while the two cops dashed in opposite directions I was still crouched, wondering where in the hell our cover had gone. I stood, looked around, confused for a moment; and that was when I saw him.
“Kid! Get over here!” the cop rasped, but I wasn’t listening; my eyes were on the man standing on top of the rubble.
“I’m sorry it had to be this way,” he called out. “I didn’t appreciate the game of cat and mouse your friend had me endure. I would have shown up at your home, but you would have been as receptive there as you were in the parking lot. This, I believe, is a more appropriate demonstration as to why I am worthy of your time.”
My gods, as if he wasn’t menacing before; Ted Fellows marched down the wreck like he was king of the mountain. The casual business suit had been replaced with a long, purple coat buttoned to his neck. He was wearing something else beneath it, silver, like maybe chainmail? It was connected to the device he carried on his back, which in turn was connected to the pods sitting on his bulbous forehead, and his goggles. His sleeves, black unlike the rest of his get-up, seemed to dance like a rippling pond; and then there was the funky jewelry, like a metal skeleton he wore outside his hands. They swung heavily, like weapons being carried by a barbarian.
I stood hypnotized. His smile wasn’t the same as it was before; there was no presumption of what passed in his world for polite. Whoever this new guy was, he was a whole different level of psycho to the Teddy I’d known before.
Suddenly, there was a pair of arms around me and I was swept off my feet; the cop had dived to tackle me. The next thing I knew she was gone, from behind me was the sound of smashing glass, then a car alarm, and there was the mad scientist with his hand outstretched.
“What did you…?”
I looked back to see the cop bloodied in a hole that was once the windshield of a car. The EMTs to one side ran to her, though they seemed hesitant.
“Nobody interfere!” he bellowed. “My business here is with ‘Glimmer Girl!’ Leave us to our discussion and you’ll be free to move as you please! If you don’t, then you can expect far worse than what’s been dished out to that woman over there! I hope I’ve made myself clear!”
My heart sank; of course he was there for me, which meant that anybody he hurt would weigh on my conscience. Gods, what was I going to do? It might sound obvious in retrospect, but of all the heroic shenanigans I never expected to gain a real arch-nemesis!
I lifted myself back to my feet, slowly, and raised my hands. “Okay, I’m here now, Teddy” I said. “What do you want from me?”
The villain smiled. “Teddy… if we’re going to play this game, ‘Glimmer Girl’, you can use my nom de plume. Please, call me… Dr. Vortex.”
I kept my eyes on him and didn’t blink. “So that’s what you do, huh? You create vortexes?”
There was a lot of activity; none of it was centered on the train. In the reflection of a window I could make out the silhouette of what was probably a sniper getting into position. I prayed to the gods above that my talking would be distraction enough for us to end this.
“That’s a very pedestrian way of summing it up,” he mused, “but yes, essentially.”
Dr. Vortex furrowed his brow; even through the opaque goggles I could feel him stare at me, and see frustration welling. All the while my thoughts were with the man on the roof, thinking ‘take the shot, take the shot.’ Brains everywhere, I didn’t care; I just needed to be away.
“Perhaps,” he said, “I should give you a demonstration.”
He raised his hand and the world blinked, like everything folded on itself and when it opened again it had changed. Suddenly we were no longer standing at the crash under the Bonnie Franklin bridge, but were on the roof of a tall building; the tallest actually, the InfiniTech Tower in the middle of Milestone City.
“Vortices,” he explained and turned away, “but that’s not the focal point. I wanted to speak to you, Mr. Cade, so that I might appeal to your sense of ethos.”
My heart stopped. “Wait… Mr. who? I… I don’t know what you’re talking about…”
“You used my name, you failed to address the information you wouldn’t have known if you weren’t Justin Cade despite your manner of dress; do not talk to me like a fool again.”
Yeah, I wasn’t buying it either; I needed to sharpen myself, because up there I was on my own.
“Fine, you want to appeal to my sense of whatever,” I sighed. “Do you really think you’re going to do that by wrecking a train and hurting people?”
“If you only knew what I knew then you would understand how insignificant their lives are. I have a greater purpose now, and like it or not, you are a necessary part of my design.”
My fists clenched. Screw it, I was in a world of trouble; I may as well cut loose. “You’re a crazy person, for real. You know that, right? I mean that not like you’re someone who has a mental illness and needs help, but as someone who is fundamentally missing a part of themselves that makes you human.”
Dr. Vortex turned back; this time there was no smile. “Do you know what you are? What you come from? You have the potential…!”
“Yeah, I’ve got potential; and I’m using it to help people.”
“You could do so much more, Justin! Give me a chance. Listen…”
Somewhere in the back of my head I could hear Tanya’s voice; I could remember like yesterday when she told me what was her biggest secret, that the trick to winning any fight was to land the first punch. I thought about it between my arm and his jaw and wondered, was I fast enough? And even if I did connect, what if he didn’t go down? What tricks would he have to hold me back? Not that I really had much option; you couldn’t talk your way out with guys like this.
I laughed. “Why? You really think I’m going to help you take over the world?”
“Not take it over,” he hummed; “remake it. Remove suffering. Start again from the beginning, without all the mistakes…”
Dr. Vortex was too far gone, and I had to make my move as he was caught in a rant. I lunged closer, threw a swing, hurtled myself toward his body and burst with energy shooting from my fist. Maybe I’d get lucky and knock him out in one hit; either way, it was make or break time.
To be continued…