Shimmer #26 – “Starlight, Star Bright…” (Part 26)

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I woke hanging by my arms, contorted and aching. Trying to move was agony; there were clasps on my limbs that pulled in every direction. It was like waking up in a nightmare BDSM video, only worse.

Dr. Vortex looked up from his work station and wandered to my side. Either he was moving very slowly, or I was groggy; funny, I didn’t remember passing out. Maybe he’d drugged me; that seemed like the sort of thing he’d do.

He pried my eyes open, leaned close to examine them and pulled away before I could shake him off. A rough palm double tapped my cheek, and then pressed my forehead to make sure I was facing him.

“This next part requires you conscious,” he instructed. “It will be very painful, but if it brings you any comfort try and remember that it’s for a good cause.”

I wheezed more than I laughed. “So you can… change the world… right?”

The villain paused, and sighed. “More than that, in ways your pedestrian mind could never hope to comprehend; but for the purpose of our arrangement let’s say yes.”

As the haze lifted I tried to make sense of the area. There was a lot of the same junk that Fellows had laying around his lab at InfiniTech, but these surroundings were more rustic; it was a fixer-upper, even for a DIY mad scientist.

On the floor was a stream of cables and wires, some as thin as hair, others thicker than my arm. They crisscrossed between my confines and the work stations, and to the set of vertical rings feeding into each other. They sat at the base of something I couldn’t quite work out; was it supposed to be a death ray or something? Probably something cliché, even if Dr. Vortex denied it.

The way I was hanging made it hard to draw air; each breath was more exhausting than the last, but still I had to know. “People are going to die… aren’t they…?”

Stupid question with an obvious answer.

“Pain is only temporary,” Dr. Vortex explained. His eyes didn’t wander from his calculations. “The same goes for death. Soon they will be mere concepts, assuming the inhabitants of the new world will remember them at all.”

Laughing hurt even more, but it was all I had to keep sane. “So… you’re a god now?”

He stopped and huffed, as if amused. “Not a god,” he thought aloud; “merely his protégé. If there is such thing as a celestial watchmaker then I am the repair man. I have seen his creation, and surely even you agree that it is in need of adjusting.”

“Your… head… needs adjusting…”

I clenched my torso and contorted by shoulder blades until they plunged into my spine; where were my powers? The more I’d used them the easier they’d become to summon, but suddenly they weren’t there; or they were there, but just out of reach. If I pushed a little more-

“If you’re trying to use the primatter forces you possess you’ll find it’s of no use,” the villain hummed. “While your transformation has the capacity to short circuit most electronic devices the restraints I’ve placed on you have been specifically designed to syphon the type of energy you emit.”

His boots crunched in long-drawn rhythm as he circled the panels, and lifted his goggles to monitor this read out and that. You’d think a guy like that would be more eager, even salivating at his plan coming together, but Dr. Vortex was paying attention to every last detail, except for me; I was less than ten feet away and he hadn’t bothered to look at me again.

Suddenly the machine across the room came to life, and the interconnected rings started to grind against each other. A pale hue grew from the heart of the mechanism, right about the same time that I could feel something pulling at my fingers and toes, as if the machine was bleeding me. I could feel it, like an extension of my body, and though my instinct was to reach out the energy from within acted on its own accord.

Dr. Vortex returned to my side and tilted his head. He frowned as he considered me. “Does it hurt?”

“Do you… ngh …care?”

He turned back to his machine. Yeah, that’s what I thought.

The villain considered the litter around him until he settled on a pipe. He picked it up, measured its weight in his palm and gave a nod. As he turned to the machine he double-checked the heft of the object, and cast it into the incandescent beam of mauve that was growing within the rings. As soon as it touched the aura of the device the pipe evaporated into dust; less than dust, as the sand like particles didn’t even touch ground.

I stared at the empty space; to think he was using me to feed that machine. “Did… did I do that…?”

“Your power is capable of so much more than exists in your imagination, Mr. Cade.”

As hard as I fought the restraints fought back at double the strength, and as punishment pulled at my core until I was hollow; and then it found more to take. Gods, how was I going to get out of there? Maybe, I thought, saving those people wasn’t worth it if what Vortex had planned was so much worse.

“So you’re going to use me… to remake the world,” I rasped.

“Hardly,” the mad scientist hummed. “You’re merely the key to the primatter matrices, the theoretical place from where your power originated; to do that I must un-make a portion of reality itself, large enough to slip through. I assure you that it is no small feat.”

His hand hovered over a button on the console, flirting with Armageddon. As Dr. Vortex pressed down the energy of the machine erupted, shooting into the sky and disintegrating the ceiling. Clouds parted as it reached higher, and as it grew wide the stars began to blink.

As he was about to speak Dr. Vortex paused; there was the blaring of sirens from outside, and they were getting louder. His brow sharpened to a point, as though he weren’t expecting people to notice the pillar of energy he’d created to destroy everything.

“They arrived too quickly,” he muttered. “No matter. Pardon me, Mr. Cade, but I have business to attend to. If this is the last I see of you, remember-”

“It’s… for a good cause…? Yeah, yeah… screw you…”

He blinked out of sight and I was alone; thank the gods. Maybe then I stood a chance to break free… if I had any ideas about how to do that.

Or who knows? Maybe the cops would get past Dr. Vortex and free me. Yeah, fat chance of that happening.

Something in the darkness stirred; the sound of metal clanking. Were the police there already? No, the sirens were still approaching; it had to be something else.


A figure stepped from the shadows and kept her head low. “KC, I’m here to get you out!” she whispered.

No. Freaking. Way.


To be continued…

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