Shimmer #24 – “Starlight, Star Bright…” (Part 24)

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The dock was silent under the twilight. Concrete stretched between a labyrinth of crates, each stacked a dozen high. As evening waned the floodlights came on and cast shadows of heavy machines across the yard. At the end of it all by the water’s edge was a row of ships, each of them the size of an upturned building. Finding one person, or even a hundred, would be impossible; assuming Dr. Vortex deemed to hold them there.

They could have been anywhere! The last time I fought Dr. Vortex I’d only gotten a taste of his space-bending power; who knew how far he could reach? Moving trucks one minute, plucking hostages the next, all with a wave of his hand; it’s like playing chess with a god.

I perched on the arm of a crane and scanned the area. The wind ran chills through my costume and threw hair in my face. Gods, not even the elements were on my side.

Dr. Vortex didn’t make a sound when he appeared; he just stepped out of the thin air that ran off his body like quicksilver. He stood with legs apart, positioning himself on the bars of the crane, and folded his hands in front of him. He appeared neither pleased nor displeased, and lifted his head.


The wind knocked me as I found balance. My eyes were locked on him, searching for whatever weakness had evaded me, or something else. Did he have some kind of secret weapon; something up his sleeves?

I raised my hands, hopefully to bide my time. “Well what?”

“You either came here to fight me or to surrender,” he mused. “The former would put a number of lives at risk, but I don’t imagine you’d consider the latter to be an option, either.”

My voice trembled. “Maybe because I don’t believe you’ll let them go.”

“You think that because I killed your teacher, my friend, that I’m some manner of blood thirsty maniac.” It was like he was reading my mind. “Believe me, Mr. Cade, I have no desire for murder. Truth told I’ve become indifferent to it, and will only kill when necessary.”

“Killing Mr. Drew was necessary?” I spat.

Dr. Vortex shook his head and cradled his brow. “My friend, Randall, had knowledge that could compromise my mission; he had to go. Allowing his romantic partner to live would have also been a gamble. You might have suffered the same fate if you weren’t so vital. Now I have your parents and a random sample of the population. Killing them will bring me no pleasure, but it may become necessary if you do not submit.”

I couldn’t stop shaking; the cold, the hate and the fear were getting to me. My eyes were frozen on his goggles, and pierced through his inhuman glare.

“Show them to me,” I barked, “then we’ll talk.”

He turned to the dock and waved his hand. Along the concrete bank a crowd appeared, then stumbled, and screamed; I could smell their terror from where I stood. Then two crates appeared on either side of them, striking the Earth with a mighty boom and sealing them like pigs in a pen. I tried to spot my parents, but they were too far.

“Are you satisfied now?”

Across the way Dr. Vortex huffed. Did he know what I was going to do next? Gods, did I know what I was doing next? Could he feel my heart climbing up and strangling me? Was my next move going to be one that I regretted for the rest of my life?

“Mr. Cade…”

I put my hands behind my head and lowered to my knees. “I’m all yours, doc,” I said. “Do with me what you will.”

He stepped across the bars, and held out his hand to do whatever wicked science he had prepared for me; like hell I was going to take it. In a sudden burst I transformed into hologram mode, sharpened my gaze and shot two solid beams from my eyes to his hands. Vortex’s right gauntlet shattered; because I’d just discovered heat vision!

“Ha! I didn’t even know I could do that,” I cackled and threw myself forward. My gloves snatched the collar of his coat; it was the closest I’d ever gotten to him, and I wasn’t letting go.

I grabbed for his other gauntlet, but his arm was just out of reach; all while the world blinked around us, from city to country, from night to day to night again, from deserts to frost and back to the city again, with gravity pulling from random directions. Every ounce of strength went into holding on, and while a lot of concentration went into keeping my powers up not enough remained to get a lock on his device.

My body slammed against a hard surface, and the two of us rolled down the slope of a skyscraper. Somewhere around the edge I lost my grip, the villain fell free, and just as I reached him again he snapped out of reality; back into the game of cat and mouse he was so good at.

“Defiant to the end,” he roared. “Perhaps my previous demonstrations weren’t enough!”

In moments I was back to floating above the pavement and darting around corners. Gods, how could I have let him go? There was never going to be another chance like that; now I had to find some other way to put him down.

His taunts echoed from a place unknown. “Murdering your teacher and his companion was more than just covering my tracks; it was a statement of what I am capable of!”

I looked to the sky as clouds dissipated; a blanket of stars appeared in their place, more than I’d ever seen in my life. Then when I looked I saw the ground had vanished, as had the buildings and everyone in them; and that’s when I saw the Earth, suddenly so very small, around the size of a beach ball.

“Where-?” At least that’s what I’d tried to say. In space I had no voice, yet still I could hear Dr. Vortex hum.

To be continued…

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