Shimmer #28 – “Starlight, Star Bright…” (Part 28)

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Dr. Vortex stood before me, though was also a million miles away. With every charge he slipped through my fingers, like an eel running down a pipe, leaving me grasping at air, or worse, setting my blasts to fly in stray directions.

He wasn’t doing much better. With only one arm of his suit still active he had his hands full trying to keep me, the light speed girl, at bay. Every time he closed his palm the world would blink with it, and the chasm dividing us was renewed; each time it grew smaller, inch by inch, and would until his jaw met my inevitable fist, or that was the plan.

I needed a way to take control, but how?

“Give up now,” he jeered between jumps. “How long can you keep this up? Twenty minutes, maybe an hour? In time your focus will wane and you’ll be exhausted; meanwhile I’ll be able to carry on. I could do this all day!”

I tried not to listen. He was trying to get under my skin; that, or he just loved the sound of his own voice, which seemed weird for a guy who sold himself as a pragmatist. Next he’d break out into his ‘new universe’ spiel to sell the gospel according to Ted. Gods, I needed to stop him, if only to be spared from that.

Screw it. Time to invent a Plan B; anything would do.

“Are you going to keep running forever?” I grunted.

“The strategy has saved me so far.”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought.”

I closed my eyes and stilled myself, continued flying at breakneck speed, and reached down. Suddenly, I felt something I’d never known before; a stretching, like my body spanned from one state to the next, like I was bigger than the whole world, and yet I was so very, very faint.

This had to work; please gods above, it had to work.

The scientist stopped somewhere around the Grand Canyon. He set foot on the precipice and looked around; I could see him for miles. Where did I go? Not even I can say; only that when I snapped back my hands gripped his collar, and Dr. Vortex was along for the ride.

We tumbled from one timezone to the next as he tried to shake me again. It wasn’t going to work.

“What did you-?”

My fist met his jaw. It may not have been the strongest punch, but it was everything I had, and under the supervillain getup Teddy was feeling it. I hit him, again and again and again, screaming with desperation.

“Gamma rays,” I roared. “When you stretch light out it becomes… unh… invisible to the naked eye! When you stretch me out, you can’t see me; but I could see you, Teddy! I could still see YOU!”

The crack of his neck was terrifying as it was delicious; what if I killed him? In the moment I wanted to think it didn’t matter, and yet…

He must have sensed my hesitation; he lunged and pushed me away, paws in my face, forcing me back. My powers snapped, and our bodies plummeted into freefall, gravity reaching inside our chests and whipping us against the cold. I tried to climb the villain’s arm so that I could bludgeon him again, but he had the longer reach.

Cold bit like a snake as a window opened into the void. The universe was open to us, and Dr. Vortex made a desperate move by offering me to space. Light years away the stars called, but we would never reach them; we would die first, just as he intended.

“You belong to me,” he hissed; no, I was anything but his.

Fire erupted from every pore of my body, through every strand of hair, through every thread of my costume, and lashed out at the psychopath. It burned, whipped and bashed at him, throwing him back, pushing him into the vacuum where stars sang. I watched as his eyes went wide and was pulled into nothingness; he was done for.

Time slowed to a crawl. Wasn’t I supposed to help him? I couldn’t just let him die.

I reached out, my hand clasping for his grip, but it was too late; the portal between us closed and I was left alone, high above the streets of Milestone City, free of his torment for… I hoped forever. To be honest I didn’t know how he could survive in space, or if I cared whether he did.

Drifting downward I soon planted my feet on asphalt. Dr. Vortex had done a lot of damage; upturned cars, shattered windows, cracks in the street.

Heads started peering from around corners, police and civilians, anyone who was around. Every one of them wanted to know, was he gone this time? There was a good chance they’d never seen that kind of power before, and hopefully they wouldn’t again.

“Is everyone okay?” I called.

Nobody said anything, they just stood like sheep; even the cops didn’t know what to do.

“He’s gone,” I told them. “We won. You’re safe.”

The fire died down, and the aching returned to my limbs. My body screamed for rest, but I couldn’t; at least not yet.

I shuffled to the middle of the street and bent down, picking up stray cans and litter from a dumpster that had been strewn in the fight. Someone had to clean up; I guess I would be the first.

Others joined in with brooms, shovels; even the cops were getting their hands dirty, directing traffic and ushering people to safe ground or wherever else they were needed. A couple stopped to give me a pat on the back, not that I felt I deserved it.

It’s kind of funny seeing a community come together like that. Suddenly, everything felt like it was going to be okay.

To be continued…

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