So, last time on Blank Mastermind, our villain decided to change his villainous ways once and for all and go stop his ultimate revenge scheme on the hero by disarming the giant bomb.
Only… clock mixup… and it looks like he has twelve hours less than he thought.
But we all believe he can do it.
And with that kind of title, you just can’t help but be optimistic, am I right?
Now, most of you probably already know all that stuff. But, quick test, if you did not know what I was talking about in the slightest, then you are a species of human we know as a “new person”.
And we love new persons.
So, if you are one of these rare specimens, then just wipe everything you just read up there from your mind and start from the beginning, back when our villain first got amnesia.
Or you could just be what we know as a “forgetful person”. We love you too.
Read on, whoever you are.
And now -Dumbo ringmaster voice- the CLIMAX!
Part twenty-five, ladies and gents!
Out with a bang
Technically, we made it on time.
But fifteen minutes wasn’t the breathing room I was hoping for. No time for explaining of any sort. We needed to disarm the bomb or get everyone the heck out of there.
And hope to high heaven that they’d listen to me.
I’m pretty sure we looked like a giant sandstorm with how fast I was driving up the dirt road. My sunglasses were the only reason I could even partially see. Any conversation was given up in favor of hacking and choking on the dust in the air.
The tires screeched on the asphalt as I pulled up into the tiny parking lot. I put the car into park, pulled out the keys and waved the cloud out from in front of me to the best of my ability.
There was the bomb. A rock, to most appearances.
The housing was my main concern at this point. I mean, security was one thing. Solid steel was another.
I unbuckled and got out, slamming my door shut behind me. “Liza, show them where the bomb is. News, see if that laser you’ve got will get through the metal. Roy and Cardboard . . . just . . . help. I don’t know.”
I tossed my sunglasses back in the car and started off on a run towards the building. Through the glass siding, I could see the table filled up with people, all bent over and talking. And studiously not looking out the window.
I slammed through the swinging door into the warm interior of the building. There was an empty desk in front of me and a wide hall to the right. Sounds of soft talking drifted on the air. It stopped as I burst in and a familiar voice spoke.
“Did you hear something?”
I took off sprinting down the hall. My shoes slid on the floor as I came around the corner, but I quickly righted myself, reflexively straightening my jacket as I did so.
Ten people were staring at me.
Seven superheroes and three sidekicks, Dallas and Amazing Man at the far end of the table. Dallas shot up out of his seat, his eyes open wide.
I took a couple of gasping breaths and shook my head, “There’s a . . . a bomb outside. Set to go off in fifteen minutes.”
Everyone shot out of their seats at that one.
“If you guys could . . .” My sentence was cut off as the man nearest to me flew out of his seat and pinned me up against the wall. One hand came up to hold my throat and one he held back in a fist.
“What are you getting at, Dankworth?” he hissed.
This was one of my many concerns in this endeavor.
I would have answered, but that required air that I didn’t have at the moment. Instead, I clawed at his fingers and coughed for him to let me down.
“A bomb outside, huh?” His dark eyes narrowed and he tightened his grip. “I wonder who could have planted that?”
He made an excellent point. I could hardly congratulate him on his deduction, though. I grabbed onto his hand with both of mine and pulled it off my windpipe as well as I could.
“We’ve all . . . done things . . . we regret,” I rasped at him.
“Mr. Hales, sir, if you’d just let him talk . . .” Dallas’s voice broke in.
The man named Hales muttered something and dropped one hand to pat down my pockets. He unclipped the knife from my pocket and tossed it to the floor, then released his grip on me.
I took a few minutes to choke and cough on the floor, rubbing at my throat. Not quite the reception I was hoping for . . . but what could I expect?
“What do you want?” A different guy this time. None of them really had a good image of me. I could hardly blame them.
I got back on my feet, feeling slightly lightheaded. “I . . . the bomb . . .” I closed my eyes for a second and swallowed. “We need to disarm it. It’s the same type as the ones from the Twin Bombing. We’ve got less than fifteen minutes and I can’t get through the housing. Just . . . if one of you guys could punch through it, I could get through the security and finish disarming it.”
Mostly distrusting stares in response.
I looked at the clock on the wall. Seven forty-seven.
“Or if you want to, we can just get the heck out of here, but whatever it is, it needs to happen like . . . now.”
Fernsby strode over next to me, followed by Dallas. “Where is it?”
A weight lifted off my chest with the feeling of being trusted. I pointed out the window to the giant rock and saw the outlines of my gang by its base. “That rock. It’s got a holographic camouflage on it.”
Fernsby nodded and looked back over his shoulder at all the doubtful faces around the table. “Come on, men.” Then to me, “Lead the way.”
I silently thanked him and started off towards the door.
I didn’t quite expect the others to follow, but Amazing Man must have been a bit more of a leader among the group than I thought because we got a regular parade going.
We made it to the bomb in fairly short order. I jogged up next to Bad News, “Any luck with the laser?”
He shook his head, turning to face me. “It deflected. Nearly took my head off.” News pulled his hat off and showed me a little burn mark on the side. My stomach sunk.
Dallas puffed up next to me and leaned over with his hands on his knees. “I kind of . . . thought you’d tell me a bit sooner than this, Wolf.” He kept his voice low so no one else could hear.
I ran my tongue over my teeth. “There were some complications. I’ll explain later.”
Liza looked up from where she was picking at the edge of the bomb housing in the dirt. “No chance of digging this bugger up. It’s down deep.”
“It’s fine,” Charles began rolling up his sleeves. He rapped his knuckles against the surface. “What’s this made out of again?”
I shrugged. “Steel, I think? It’s got some stuff in it that makes the camo work, though.”
“Gotcha.” He walked up and reared back to punch through. The rest of us stepped back.
“CLANG” The hologram pulled back to show the metal.
Nothing. Not even a dent.
Fernsby’s face twisted in pain and he dropped his hand, shaking it out. He sucked in his breath through his teeth and rubbed his knuckles. “Ooowwwww . . .”
So much for super strength.
Another one of the heroes, a darker skinned man, stepped up with a frown. “Here, let me try.” He didn’t even bother rolling up his sleeves. Just a quick pull back and his fist lashed forwards at the metal with incredible speed.
Slight dent this time.
He let a swear word slip out as he hopped around, holding his hand.
I looked at my watch. “Guys, seriously. Cardboard could do better. What happened to super strength?”
“Hold on . . .” Dallas held up a hand. “There’s something wrong.” He walked over to Amazing Man and looked over his shoulder. “Check the monitor.”
“Why would . . .?” Fernsby glanced at what looked like a second watch strapped to his arm and trailed off. “Oh my.”
Something sunk in my stomach, “What?”
Charles walked over and checked the other guy’s monitor thing. “Same over here.” He looked over at me, his eyes worried. “Is the cloaking mechanism the only thing built into the metal?”
“I . . . I’m not sure . . .”
“The nano robots . . . the things that give the superpowers . . .” his voice shook slightly, “they’ve turned off.” Fernsby tapped his monitor. “None of us can get through. Our ability to disappears the minute we touch its surface.”
I stared. News pushed his hat back on his head. Liza sat back on her heels and cursed.
Of course Mansley could work that out. He ran the superhero program. He knew what would turn off the bots. This almost seemed like a security measure taken against me backing out . . . so it would still go through even if I did tell Amazing Man.
I could’ve sat everyone down and told them a ton of interesting things just then. But again, we didn’t exactly have time to kill.
I shook myself out of my thoughts. “We need to get out of here. Now. If we can get to the town nearby, that’s out of range . . .”
The man Dallas had called Mr. Hales snorted, “Are you kidding? That town might be out of range if the bomb was half this size. But this . . .” he gestured over the towering fake-rock and shook his head. “Out of the initial blast zone, sure. But all the rocks and shrapnel . . . the town is far from safe.”
Apparently there was quite a bit Mansley didn’t tell me. Or straight-up lied to me about.
I swore under my breath. My impatience about our deadline was quickly shifting into panic. I felt my hands starting to shake and rubbed them down my jeans.
If we left now and totally floored it down the road, we could probably make it past the town. But then my stupid bomb would hurt the people who had absolutely nothing to do with this. We could evacuate the town, maybe . . . if the general public would listen to anyone, Amazing Man would be the best chance. Still not the ideal situation. Who knew how many houses . . . homes . . . would be destroyed?
News tapped my shoulder, sounding worried. “What do we do?”
Because I’m such a wise, benevolent leader.
I ran a hand up my face and over my hair. My gaze went over to the small parking lot below us. The superheroes had brought their cars. We had enough rides for everyone.
Not many other options at this point.
I let out my breath and checked my watch. That got me an instant burst of adrenaline. Eight minutes to eight. I swallowed and looked up.
Roy was digging around the edge of the bomb housing with Cardboard, despite Liza’s protests that it wouldn’t do any good. He stood, dusting off his hands. “Hmm?”
“Ready to lead a race?”
His head snapped up, “Heck, yeah.” Cardboard clasped her hands and bounced next to him.
I tossed Roy my car keys. “Let’s go.”
He grinned, grabbed Cardboard’s hand and dashed off towards the cars.
Everyone looked at me. I met Fernsby’s gaze. “If you guys can’t get through, we can’t disarm it in time. We’ve only got a few minutes and if we want any chance of getting the people in town and ourselves to safety we’ve got to floor it out of here.”
The other heroes looked at me like I’d grown horns. Or, more accurately, morals. Fernsby looked surprised too, but he took it quicker than the others and nodded. “Let’s hurry, then.”
The guys who could still fly made it to their cars even before Roy. The rest of us were left to make the run on foot.
Roy had the car pulled right up next to the edge of the road and was revving the engine. A grin split his face. Because who cares about imminent, life-threatening explosions when you’ve got a Mustang?
I stopped next to the car as Liza and Bad News got in and looked back at Dallas, who’d been bringing up the rear in our little parade. “Coming, Dall?”
He nodded and swallowed, his brow furrowed in worry. He rubbed his hands together nervously. They flickered blue, just like I’d seen at the café.
Forcefields and teleportation.
I froze. “Hold the phone . . .”
Roy shifted in his seat, “You getting in or what?”
I ignored him and ran up to Dallas. “If you’re touching someone and you teleport, do they come with you?”
“Um . . . yeah . . .” Dallas looked confused for a second, then his eyebrows went up and the wrinkles on his forehead disappeared. His mouth opened. “Oh!”
I clapped his shoulder. “Get back to the bomb.” I went running back to my car, “Liza, get out. I need you.”
She obeyed with a frown, “What happened to getting out of here?”
“They’re getting out of here, but I’ve got something. We’re disarming the bomb.”
Charles walked up with a frown, “What’s going on?”
I turned to him. “We’ve got a way through the housing. Dallas can teleport Liza and me through. I can get through the security and Liz can disable the bomb the fastest. She designed it.” I was talking so fast it was a miracle he even was able to make out what I was saying.
“But . . . the housing would disable . . .”
“Teleportation doesn’t require touching anything. You’re just one place and then you’re somewhere else. We can make this.” I stopped and took a breath. As soon as I said that we could, a wave of doubts came crashing in. All the ways we could fail . . . what would happen if we did . . .
I swallowed, “You guys still go. Evacuate the town if you can. Just . . . in case, okay?” My stomach flipped at the thought, but I pushed away the doubts. We could do this.
Fernsby looked at me for a second with that same soul-searching look that Dallas seemed to enjoy using so much, then he tightened his lips and nodded. “I’ll be praying.”
I nodded back, “Do it with your eyes open, man. You’ve got some serious driving to do.” I spun on my heel and Liza and followed Dallas up to the bomb.
We all skidded our way around the rocks and up the hill. I stopped for a minute to catch my breath once we were back in the giant shadow.
Liza pushed her hair out of her face. “Time?” she panted.
I checked my watch. “We’ve got three minutes.”
Dallas stood next to the towering bomb, looking up at its peak and balling his hands into fists. I saw him shivering a little bit, but doubted it was from the cold. His hands flickered again. He closed his eyes and dropped his chin to his chest for a few seconds.
I came up next to him. “Ready?”
Dallas opened his eyes. “I . . . just a minute.” He bit his lip and clenched his fists harder. There was a blue flash and a zap noise and he appeared a few feet away next to Liza. He opened his eyes and looked back up at me. “So that’s . . . generally how far I can go. With accuracy, at least.”
I nodded, “It’s enough.”
We all stood in a line next to the bomb, staring at its surface. Liza reached forward and touched the metal, pushing the illusion aside. I saw scratchy letters carved on the metal surface.
“For Eli, Rachel, William, Peter, Eloisa.”
She stepped back, turned and met my eyes. “This is for them too.”
I kept my eyes on those names as I took Dallas’s hand. His hand was cold. Mine shook. His grip tightened until his knuckles went white. He bowed his head and clenched his teeth in concentration.
It felt kind of tingly for a second, there was a blue flash, and the sunlight disappeared. I felt sick to my stomach and my head spun. I swallowed and stumbled a couple steps backwards. My back hit cold steel. We were inside the housing.
“Wolf?” Dallas’s whisper echoed metallically in the darkness.
“Dallas, stay where you are.” I closed my eyes for a couple seconds and leaned my head back, waiting for the nausea to pass. No light. No shades of grey. Just dark.
I patted my jacket pockets for my flashlight. My fingertips touched the rubber button on the end and I pulled it out. I aimed it up and clicked it on. It took a few seconds for my eyes for adjust to the sudden light. Everything in the housing was now visible in the dim whiteness.
There, in the middle of the circle of space, was the same bomb I’d seen in the basement. The security panel reflected off the front of the small, bullet-shaped container. Bingo.
Liza sat on the ground, holding her head. The weird feeling after teleportation obviously wasn’t just affecting me. Dallas turned, blinking in the light.
A tiny, unintentional smile was on his face. “I got us in.”
I nodded, “My part now.” I looked up at the solid metal walls around us and shuddered. The housing seemed so much bigger from the outside. I felt shoved in someone’s pocket now that we were in.
My hands were shaking and the flashlight beam trembled. I forced myself to take a few deep breaths and checked my watch. A minute and a half. No time for claustrophobia.
I walked over to the panel and ran my hand over the surface. It blinked on.
A keyboard popped up. I tapped over the letters. My shaking fingers hit a few wrong keys and the screen flashed red. I swore under my breath and tried again.
This bomb was almost her birthday present. I swallowed.
The screen blinked green and slid to the next part. Liza came up next to me, “Is it working?” I nodded and checked my watch, swearing again.
FINGERPRINT said the screen. A circle came to the surface, looking like a bubble. I put my thumb on it.
Loading . . .
I clenched my teeth and watched it scan back and forth, agonizingly slow.
Match! flashed green letters. It slid to the next screen. The last screen. My heart felt like it would pound right out of my chest.
Dallas’s footsteps sounded behind me.
“Dallas, don’t touch anything,” my voice wavered. “We still need you to get us out of here.” I looked up briefly. The walls seemed to lean inwards, getting smaller. I forced my eyes back down to the screen, checking my watch again.
A microphone icon popped up and I tapped it frantically. “Diebythesword!” it came out as one panicked word.
The screen flashed red. Incorrect. Try again.
I took a deep breath and tapped the icon again. “Die by the sword.”
Incorrect. Try again.
I swore and smacked my hand on the side of the panel. Thirty seconds now.
“What’s wrong with it?” Liza’s voice was far from her usual calm drawl.
I bit my tongue, shook my head and pressed the button again. “Die. By. The. Sword.”
It seemed to consider this offering slightly longer. But once again, it dinged at me as “incorrect”.
I slammed the button yet again. “Die. By. The. Sword.” I practically yelled it, my voice trembling. I was going to die by something a lot worse than the sword if this thing didn’t work.
Incorrect. Try again.
I dropped my head against the panel and struggled to breathe. “Oh God, we’re going to die in here.” It was what I’d always wanted, wasn’t it? To die and rejoin my family?
But I still have family . . . there’s Leif . . . I need to live for Leif. I needed to be something other than an idiot who changed his mind and blew himself up at the last minute.
“Are you sure it wasn’t something else?” Dallas shifted behind me, twisting his hands nervously.
“I’m sure. It was . . .” My thoughts flashed back to the basement room where I set the bomb. This wasn’t the first time I’d had problems with this thing . . . I sucked in my breath. “Dobby the sword.”
I hit the button again, my hands shaking more than they ever had. “Dobby the sword.”
It loaded and I swore quietly as I watched it. Come on . . . come on . . .
The screen blinked green.
Access granted! There was a pop and the bomb casing opened.
“Liza!” I pulled the casing aside and looked helplessly over the mess of wires and metal. Two seconds now. “Where’s the . . .”
Liza shoved me aside, “Here!” Stretching over the bomb, she closed her hand around a thick loop of yellow wire.
She gritted her teeth and yanked it loose, stumbling backwards a step.
There was a blinding flash of blue, then white enveloped everything with a hideous roar.
If nothing else, at least we went out with a bang.
The roaring whiteness swallowed me and everything was gone.
I just… don’t know what to say after that.
Just don’t scream.
If worst comes to worst, I can find another point-of-view character.
We shall see all… in the next installment.
Or will there be one?
-disappears in an explosion-