Buckle up, everyone. We’ve shifted into the two-parts a week mode. So here we go, buckle up everyone. And catch up here if you’re new/behind/forgetful.
and here we are with part 7!
-expect much pain and craziness and tension and cliffhangers but what else is new-
With a little help from my friends
The initial wave of pain nearly blacked out my vision. My breath caught as I sucked in a gasp. It felt like someone took a blowtorch to my insides.
Thank heaven the intensity only lasted a few seconds. It faded down and I could hear the people in the auditorium clapping, a few of them getting to their feet. The people around me in the test-superhero group were all exchanging surprised exclamations about the “little tingle” and “how funny that felt.”
They looked like they’d just had a cup of coffee. I felt like someone had just punched me in the gut.
I forced myself to take a couple of deep breaths around the lingering pain. My stance wobbled a little and I spread my feet farther apart to steady myself.
That’s not normal. No one else got that jolt I got.
What happened? Did they give me defective nanites? Did they know I was here as a spy and they gave me deadly nanites?
My heart beat even faster.
Dr. Übel bowed from the platform by the switches and stepped back. A steel sliding door came down over the panel as he got down.
“Thank you all for coming. Most of you have my number,” he looked over and nodded to our group. “Call if you have any concerns about the process. We’ll see you again soon.”
His words seemed further away than before through the faint ringing in my ears. I swallowed hard. Next time? Next meeting . . . what would they be doing then?
A hand clapped onto my shoulder and I jumped. Franklin. He leaned over, his eyebrows up a little in concern.
“Hey, are you okay? You look a little pale.”
There was another tingle as the pain intensified. I stiffened, hiding a wince. “Just . . . that was . . . surprising.”
He nodded. “Oh, wait ‘til tomorrow. Whenever the powers turn on . . . that . . .” he laughed. “That will be pretty surprising.”
“Yeah, I b-bet.” My gaze flicked over to where Übel had pulled the switch. There had been a panel of smaller switches next to it. They could probably turn it off. Turn just my powers off at least.
I couldn’t do that though. If I wanted to stick around here . . . that would be rejecting their “big move” that they’d given me.
It was too suspicious. I had to just . . .
I had to swallow back a gasp as the burning feeling flared again. My body jerked slightly and I stumbled a step back.
“You sure you’re okay?” Franklin gave me a surprised look at the sudden movement.
“Still tingling,” I answered through clenched teeth.
He rubbed at his own arms. “I’m not getting much more than goosebumps. Just . . .” he jumped slightly, cutting off his sentence. “Whoo, it’s tingling a bit for me too.” The fact that he looked more like someone had tickled him than anything else assured me that we weren’t feeling the same thing.
Feet shuffled and scuffed against carpet and a soft murmur of conversation rose as people filed out of their seats, heading towards the exit.
I started walking that way, resisting the urge to wrap my arms around my middle and try and hold in the pain. I wasn’t sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing I’d brought my own car by now.
I mean, I wasn’t gonna go straight to Dallas, but . . .
My muscles tensed again at another flare of pain radiating out from my chest and I stumbled a little.
This wasn’t what it was supposed to look like. Judging by literally everyone there. No one was hurting this much. They must have given me some sort of virus or parasite or something . . .
Franklin strode up and walked next to me. He tilted his head in a bit of a question, but I managed to straighten up enough that he didn’t ask if I was okay again.
He stuck one hand in one of his pockets and smoothed his hair back with the other one. “So, we were gonna have a bit of a party thing after this. Go out to a bar or something like that. There’s a nice place in town.” Franklin looked over at me. “You wanna come?”
Not like I really had the money anyway.
I bit my tongue and walked just a little faster, my hands still stuffed deep in my pockets. “I-I’m good, thanks.”
“Not feeling great,” I managed. “Just . . . been a little sick this week and . . . you know . . . got . . . um . . .” I hesitated before pulling my hands out of my pockets and holding them up briefly. I walked a few steps backwards as I pushed out the door. “Nervous problems, I guess?”
That didn’t sound convincing the way I said it, but the crazy shaking of my hands was convincing enough, I guessed. Franklin’s eyebrows went up. “Oh wow. Dang, that’s . . . I’m sorry.”
I just grunted in response and stuffed my hands back in my pockets, shouldering my way through the crowd. Playing on sympathy wasn’t my favorite route to take.
Franklin followed me, not having to do any of the pushing, just stepping around people who mostly made way for him anyway. “You sure you’re cool to drive? I could always call somebody to pick up the other car if you needed a ride.”
“Yeah, I’m fine.” I clenched my teeth against another jab through my body. Burrowing into my DNA nothing. These nanites had to be drilling into my bones. Eating at my nerves.
All the suit-coat clad backs I was pushing through blurred a little in my vision. Literally, I was the only one here not in a suit. The black-leather-jacketed black-sheep.
“If you say so,” Franklin nodded and patted me on the back. “See you around then, buddy.”
“See you around,” I replied tightly, moving my way over to the door that led back down into the garage. If I’m not dead by then.
I gripped the handrail tightly as I made my way back down the quiet stairway and back out into the parking area. It was starting to take effort to get a deep breath. The pain that had subsided right after Übel flipped the switch was starting to pick back up again.
I leaned against the wall for a bit and groaned through clenched teeth. No one was around to watch so I wrapped an arm around my middle, the pressure easing things a little bit.
My car was just right across the way.
How much time did I have? Before . . . the powers kicked in or I died or something.
But where . . . where am I even going? Back to my apartment? I sure didn’t have any medical knowledge to help what was going on here. Straight to Dallas? Because an ex-con in obvious pain showing up at the SPI building would be a real great addition to his day. Even if I had this much information, I knew this was bad timing.
I jolted again and sucked in my breath.
Where was nearby? Who could . . .?
The Den. Liza probably knows more about nanites than anybody. She can help me.
Gathering my breath and bracing against the gnawing at my insides, I pushed off the wall and walked quickly over to my car. I yanked my keys out and jabbed them towards the ignition. My hands were shaking too hard and it took me a couple of tries.
I swore shakily and turned them with effort. The car rumbled to life.
I could get to the Den from here.
I had to.
I forced a deep breath and raked my hands over my hair a couple of times before actually taking the wheel and shifting the car into gear. My bumper almost scraped against another car as I pulled out. My driving jerked sideways a couple of times and the effort it took not to just curl in on myself once I got outside was enormous.
But I got myself out on the road. And I had enough of an internal map to the Den that I could probably drive there in my sleep.
I pulled myself up straight in my seat and let out a breath, gritting my teeth. Focus on the road.
I can do this.
I can’t do this. I can’t, I can’t . . .
I barely corrected course from veering the car off the road for the fifth time along this road. It hurt to breathe, but I managed to haul in a small breath, pressing down on the gas again to get me further down the road. The beams of my headlights wobbled a little across the road. I blinked hard to clear my vision.
It was just this last stretch to the Den. I was so, so close . . .
Another flame of pain shot through my middle and I pulled my foot off the gas as I smacked my head against the steering wheel.
“Uugghhh . . .” I groaned, digging my nails into the steering wheel. Just a little bit further. Just don’t throw up or pass out for a few more minutes . . .
I could feel the car starting to veer again as it coasted and there was the crunch of gravel under the tires.
There was no way anything good for me could hurt this much. This was poison. I’d just gone up on stage and let this guy inject me with poison . . .
Liza would know what to do. Keep going, come on.
I hauled my head up and sucked in a breath, shakily steering the car back onto the road. I could barely keep it going in a straight line by now.
But there was the old grocery store. Right up there.
I pressed my foot down hard on the gas. I almost ran into a tree, but finally got myself steered into the parking lot. My foot didn’t want to come off the gas and I just pulled off and hit the brake before I ran into the side of the storefront.
Trying to make the most of my adrenaline, I yanked the keys out, popped open the door and stood as quickly as I could. My knees almost buckled under me. I barely caught myself on the car door, swallowing back the bile in my throat.
Every time my heart beat, it scorched pain out from my chest to the rest of my body. I could barely even see anything my vision was so bad and I could feel that my whole body was shaking by now.
“Th-this . . . this is ridiculous . . .” I muttered. I carefully got my balance back and moved towards the entrance to the store. “I can’t . . . d-die before . . . before I get the stuff back t-to Dallas. Come on.” My steps mixed up and I staggered against the door like I was drunk.
I pulled on it for a second before remembering that this was a push door.
I pushed inside a little bit too hard. My vision seemed to flip upside down and I went to my knees, gasping.
No other noises filled the space but my heartbeat in my eardrums and the sound of my ragged breathing.
She’d better be here. If she’s not here . . .
“L-L . . . Liza . . .” my voice barely cleared a whisper. I steadied my hands against the floor and mustered my strength before calling out again. “Liza!”
Putting out that volume felt like someone hammered a railroad spike into my chest. I doubled over on myself and felt my face hit the floor. I cursed the same word over and over under my breath. It took all my effort just to try not to throw up.
It felt like years, but the sound of shoes hitting the cement met my ears. Coming closer.
“Did someone . . .?” Liza’s voice trailed off and she gasped. Her steps smacked against the ground as she ran over and dropped down next to me. “Wolfy! What the . . .” she swore as she tried to pull me upright. “What happened?”
“I-I . . .” I had to stop and swallow again. “Do you . . . know anything . . . about . . . nanites?”
“Tell me what happened you idiot. You don’t need nanite trivia right now.” She looped one of my arms over her shoulders and pulled me upright. “You look like you just got hit by a train.”
Black spots clouded in on my vision and I nearly fell over again. The effort that talking took right now, I didn’t even want to think about trying to explain everything about the superpowers.
Liza hurried me towards the back, keeping her metal arm gripped around my side. “Wolfgang, seriously. What did you do?”
“I . . . n-nanites in . . . there’s . . . poison . . .” I stammered out. I didn’t even know what I was trying to say. It’s nanites, but it’s not because it feels like my insides are being ripped out? If these were nanites, they were seriously ticked off at me.
“Did you steal nanites and get beat up, what?” I wasn’t trying to keep up with where she was pushing me. Somewhere near the back.
I shook my head. Another jolt of pain and I nearly fell over again as I doubled over. I bit my tongue to hold back from yelling. It let up briefly. I sucked in a breath. It felt like I was floating for a few seconds. Just watching the guy in the leather jacket, curled up and shaking from pain.
“Whoa, whoa. Just . . . come on, right over here.” Liza guided me to a barstool against the counter. “Sit. Sit and tell me what . . .” she brushed her hand over my forehead as I sat down and quickly yanked it back. “Bloody . . .”
I let my head down on the counter and groaned again loudly. It felt like my head was going to explode. Like I was going to explode.
She felt my forehead again. “Wolfy, you’re burning up. You’re . . . bloody h***, I’ve never even felt that high of a fever, this is . . .”
She stopped and straightened up. “News! Baden News, get out here!”
Burning up . . . that was a pretty good description actually. Another flaming feeling scorched through my body and I jerked upright. I wondered again how long this would take to kill me. If I could even manage to pass on the information before I did.
All this was for nothing if I can’t at least tell somebody what I found out.
Bigger, louder footsteps clumped close to us and a familiar voice rumbled out. “I’m a-comin’. What’s all the hullaballoo . . .?” he trailed off and stopped in his tracks as he came out of the kitchen, a giant apron tied around his front. He stared at me, taking off his sunglasses. “Somebody get the black plague?”
His words sounded too loud at first, then too far away. Another shudder racked my body and I put a hand to my mouth, barely stopping myself from throwing up.
“I don’t even . . . I have no bloody idea what’s wrong with him,” Liza exploded, spreading her hands. “Just found him all in a heap by the door saying something about nanites . . .”
“Nan-ites?” News asked, striding over next to me an tilting his head down to get a good look at my face. “Baby robots or something like that, right?” He pulled me out of my hunched position on the counter, getting me to my feet. “What’s that got to do with anything? Did one zap you?”
Hauling in a deep breath, I forced out words as fast as I could. “I-I joined an organization. I didn’t remember, but I went to a meeting tonight and they s-said they were having a big move. It’s what Dallas has been studying and it’s called Silverwing and Maxine is involved and they gave us all superpowers and . . . and you gotta tell him and tell Leif I love him and t-tell Fernsby I’m sorry and . . .”
My vision was starting to fade out again and I could hear my words slurring together. Hopefully that was enough to tell Dallas and stop this thing . . .
News’s big hands gripped hard on my shoulders and he shook me a little. “Hey, hey come on. Stay with us, bucko.”
An icy cold, small hand gripped on my face and I could suddenly see enough to see that Liza was pretty much right off my nose.
“Wolfgang Dankworth. Talk to me. What. Happened? To you?”
“Th-they . . . have . . .” I blinked hard once, fighting through the pain to get my voice again. “Superpower n-nano-robots . . . they in-injected them and it gives you . . . personality superpowers.”
“Superpowers?” News echoed.
“Injected . . .” Liza muttered, still studying my face. “And what they did to you?”
I weakly shrugged. “They . . . gave me . . . gave me superpowers.”
“And what all . . .?”
I didn’t catch the rest of her sentence. Another zapping, flaming feeling ripped through my spine, exploding in my head. Everything hurt, worse than I’d ever felt. I think I screamed.
The world tipped upside down again and he white-hot pain plunged down into black.
I woke up with a gasp, and choked on a mouthful of water. My head was still spinning and my hands trembled. But the pain inside was gone. I didn’t hurt all over anymore.
Wait, I’m . . . I’m not dead? I thought for sure . . .
Bad News and Liza both stood over me. Just where we’d been before, only News held an empty bucket of water and Liza held a fire extinguisher.
Not exactly the most orthodox method of dealing with a fever.
I blinked up at them, squinting through the water dripping from my cowlick into my eyes.
Both of my friends were totally frozen in shock. Liza was breathing hard and . . . were those . . . smoke stains on News’s apron?
What the h*** . . .?
Finally, News broke the silence, setting his bucket down and letting out his breath. “Crikey,” he muttered. “That was exciting.”
“Exciting?” Liza shot over at him, her voice cracking. She smacked the fire extinguisher onto the ground and spun around. “He was . . . News . . . he was . . .”
I pushed myself up in the puddle of water I was lying in, rubbing a hand over my face and trying to clear my head. Then I noticed the smoke stains on the ground. All radiating out from the spot I was sitting.
I stared. “G-guys, what . . . happened?”
Unflappable Liza just put her hands on her head and took a shaky breath, looking like she wanted to scream.
Bad News looked between the two of us. He raised up the fire extinguisher and gave me a hesitant smile. “Well, on the upside, I’m pretty sure I know what your superpowers are now.” He looked down a little and his smile faltered. He aimed the red can again, towards me.
“What’s that supposed to . . .?” I looked down, realizing I felt a little warmer all of a sudden.
My hand was on fire. And it wasn’t burning me.
Bum, bum, BUM.
Come back Thursday for more, and have a great New Years, everyone!