Aaand here we head into the climax-y chapters. Or… well… I mean, this is a big chapter for Franklin.
Actually, from this point on, I got a little overwhelmed and freaked out about all I had to do. So I don’t actually like quite a bit about these chapters coming up. But, without extensive replotting, there’s not a whole lot to do about it.
Sooo poor Wolfgang gets everything the hard way and Franklin gets me a chapter that was way out of my comfort zone.
I spent the morning staring at this part and trying to figure if I could do much to change it before putting up, but…. there actually wasn’t a whole lot to make things less weird and we’re just gonna live with it.
Anyway. I sorta blame my sister for this chapter idea and the continuing jerkiness of Franklin. Let’s go on this thing. Catch up if you’re behind right down below this here line.
and part 20!
Out of line and out of luck
Where’d Dankworth gone, anyway? He’d walked outside with a phone just a few minutes ago and . . . I craned my neck to peer out the window.
That slick black Mustang of his was gone.
I blew out my breath. Shoot, he’d be missing the best part.
Though he didn’t really seem into the whole superhero costume thing anyway. Whatever. His loss.
I pushed my hair back from my forehead and looked over across the room. Mrs. Smithens, the clothes designer lady with short, blonde hair, was talking with Maxine. She held a pad of paper and a case of pencils.
Time for costumes.
I smiled to myself, rubbing my hands together as I pushed up from the couch. I weaved in and out from the other people standing around, walking along easily until I’d managed to position myself nearby behind Mrs. Smithens.
I was more into this than any of the other people, obviously. Just a little nudge and I’d be first in line for this thing.
Maxine probably put herself first and I mean . . . come on. What would she even do with a costume, since she was constantly changing faces and clothes anyway? That was a stupid idea.
I shifted on my feet, snapping my fingers a little as I waited for them to stop talking.
Maxine finally gave a last nod and clapped her hands together for attention. The chatter quieted, everyone looking over towards her and Mrs. Smithens.
“Now, for some rough costume design sketches, I’ll be handing things over to Lorrie here. She’s designed a lot of red-carpet outfits and is more than capable I’m sure.” Maxine smiled, clasping her hands together against the front of her short skirt. “Of course, you won’t be getting costumes right away, but after tomorrow . . . after you all save the day . . . we’ll start the processing the orders and get them all to you. Sound good?”
General assent from everyone. Nods and “yes”s.
Maxine nodded and stepped back slightly as Mrs. Lorrie Smithens stepped forward.
Smithens adjusted her reading glasses and looked down at a paper Maxine had given her. A list of some sort. Probably for what order people would be taking turns in.
“Well,” she began. “So you’ll all be taking turns sitting down with me and figuring things out before you take off.” A pinched smile wrinkled the skin around her mouth a little.
I edged a little closer, putting up my hand so I could gently touch her arm without anyone else noticing.
“First up . . .” she started.
I touched my fingertips against her sleeve, sliding into her mind as I felt the warmth of her skin through the cloth. The blank wall pushing her thoughts down went up and I shoved in my own command.
First up is Franklin.
“First up is Franklin,” Smithens echoed obediently, keeping her tone even.
I smiled and pulled my hand away just as Maxine snapped her gaze over in my direction.
Mrs. Smithens looked mildly confused for a second, but continued to scan over the people there. “Franklin?”
Boom. I slicked my hair back and then stuck my hand up. “Right here, ma’am.”
She turned and nodded, looking me up and down. “Good. Well, if you’ll just come with me . . .” she smiled and started over to where two chairs were sat next to each other against the wall.
“Whatever you say.” I bowed slightly and strode after her with a slight swagger in my step.
Out of the corner of my eye caught a bit of movement as Maxine folded her arms over her chest, pursing her bright red lips.
Oh puh-leaze. Seriously. I couldn’t think of one upside to a costume for her. Basically her power involved changing her costume constantly.
I gave her a look that could be interpreted as either innocence or “come on, get over it”, then took my seat across from Smithens.
Mrs. Smithens got out her pencils and roughly sketched my outline on the paper while I watched. A good-looking drawing, if I said so myself. She finished adding the sketch of my hair atop the figure, then turned to me.
“So, what sort of costume are you thinking? What were your powers?”
“Well . . .” I leaned forwards, clasping my hands between my knees. “I’ve already got a few ideas, so let me fill you in.”
We talked for a few minutes, Smithens taking notes on the corner of the paper and nodding. She actually shot a few ideas back at me, which was pretty awesome. I mean, she really knew what she was talking about here.
Something with a cloak, definitely. And she sort of talked me into a mask. It would be pretty sweet to have myself as a bit of a hero alter-ego aside from my normal self. Heartthrob singer by day, vigilante by night? Sign me the heck up.
Mrs. Smithens looked over her notes and a few doodles she’d made, tucking her hair behind one ear. “Alright. I think I have enough to go off of here, so we can start with actually designing.” She pulled out some pencils. “Just the black and white color scheme, right?”
“Well, I wouldn’t cry if you added a few gold accents,” I winked.
The click of high heels on tile sounded behind me and I looked over my shoulder. Maxine stood there, her eyebrows up and her mouth curved slightly in a wisp of a smile.
“Franklin?” her voice went up a tad bit higher than normal. “Can we talk for a minute?”
I nodded my head slightly sideways and did a half spin as I stood out of the chair so I was facing her. “Absolutely, gorgeous.” I looked back to Smithens and saluted loosely with two fingers. “Keep up the great work, honey.”
Maxine didn’t react, simply jerking her head back to direct me over to an unpopulated spot by the edge of the wall. “Right over here.”
I followed her, resting my hands in the pockets of my dress pants as I walked.
She stopped and turned to face me again. I stopped and leaned one arm against the wall. I took in her expression for a second. Definitely ticked about something or other. But keeping up the serene, in-control expression she usually did. It was so cute.
I smiled down at her, raising my eyebrows with the question. “So, what’s up?”
Maxine propped her hands on her hips and let out a breath before speaking. “Frank, you . . . I know you got some pretty neat results from the nanites and everything, but there is a certain line to be crossed.” The way she formed her words sounded like she was scolding a naughty child who didn’t know any better. “I was a little apprehensive at first with the whole thing of you getting mind control. You’ve been pretty helpful with it as far as getting Dankworth under control and bringing Knight here.” She sighed and tucked her hair back. “But just remember to keep your place, okay? Remember who’s in charge here. You’re overusing this and I don’t want to have to . . .”
I laughed. “In charge, huh? What happened to business partners, Max?” I stuck my lower lip out in a slight pout. “Who helped you out to start this whole thing up back in sweet home Chicago? Who provided all the Mafia muscle?”
“Franklin . . .” Maxine held the bridge of her nose. “I know you helped, but we made an agreement. I run things around here. Me. And you’re using your superpowers to just benefit you, make people obey you, edge your way around the rules and . . .”
“But don’t I always, even without the superpowers?” I interrupted, spreading my hands.
Maxine pressed her lips together in a thin, pinkish-red line.
“Aw, come on, you know you love me.” I reached out and brushed a hand over her shoulder where I knew one of her tattoos was, effortlessly overriding her thoughts. The stern look vanished to a somewhat dazed smile as I poured back in the thoughts of affection that were supposed to be there.
That’s right, come on. I smiled back at her, coming in slightly closer and putting my arm around her.
She hovered for a second, hesitating before leaning in and giving me the kiss I was prompting her towards.
There we go, honey . . .
I chuckled slightly in the back of my throat, returning the kiss and enjoying the smooth feeling of her dark skin against mine.
No hard feelings. Always partners, remember, sweetheart?
“Always,” she murmured softly.
There were a few hushed whispers around us, some of the conversation dying away at the passionate display of kissing going on in the corner with the two heads of the organization.
Maxine stayed in my arms, still practically melting in my grip. Probably would have liked to stay there forever if I hadn’t given her a little nudge to back off on the kissing a little.
The little sweetie. Of course she couldn’t stay mad at me.
I pulled back and smiled at her, syncing my thoughts with what I said out loud as I kept my hands on her arms. “We’re in this together.”
Maxine nodded and smiled back.
I would have said more, but Smithens’ voice broke in.
“Franklin, I think I have the design of your suit ready. Would you like to come see?”
I dropped my hands down and turned my head eagerly. “Absolutely! Dude, that was fast. Here, just let me . . .” I lifted one foot to step towards her, but barely got myself turned at all before a slap stung my cheek. The long fingernails bit into my skin, stinging like crazy. I bit back a yelp as I clapped a hand to my cheek and turned back to Maxine.
The girl who just a few seconds ago had been swooning in my arms and her thin hands balled into fists as she glared at me. Eyes just as full of fire as Dankworth’s had been when he’d wanted to murder me at the opera.
She opened her mouth and closed it again, but seemed too indignant to even find the words she was trying to say.
I stared at her, shocked. “Sweetie . . .”
“Frank, that . . .” she sputtered out. “That . . .”
Wow, okay. Priority shift. I’d see the costume in a second. Maxine needed to calm down. I started to reach my hand that wasn’t holding my face out to her again.
She wacked it away, the studded rings on her fingers slicing against my skin. “Don’t. Touch. Me,” she hissed, her eyes narrowing further.
I put my hands up and took a step back, the side of my face stinging. I tried my best to pull up a remorseful face over my shock. “Maxine . . . I-I’m sorry, honey. I had no idea. You seemed just fine with . . .”
Maxine put up a hand and I stopped, not wanting to get hit with those rings again.
She took in a slow breath and let it out through clenched teeth. The whole rest of the room was deathly silent by now. Everyone frozen in their places like they’d been glued there.
After a second of quiet, Maxine smiled at me again. But it wasn’t her charming “I want to be friends with you” smile. This was the alligator smile. The one that more communicated that she wanted to eat you.
I’d seen it plenty of times before, but not directed at me.
She spun on her heel. “Mr. Tumbler, please come with me,” she commanded, her voice crisp and biting.
Through experience, what was the best to do when she was in this sort of mood was just to do what she said, so I followed her. I winced and rubbed at my cheek. There was the slight stinging tingle of blood on my hand as well.
Dude, can she ever slap . . .
Maxine turned down the main hall out of the room, her back rigid and her chin tipped back as she walked. The click of her heels hit the floor harder than normal. I noticed a flush of color in her cheeks.
I followed after her, my stride a little less confident, but I still didn’t have a hard time keeping up.
Well, man. I had no idea she was so testy today. Kiss, kiss, slap I guess. Girls like her always have a bite to ‘em.
We kept walking along at a fast clip down the hall, getting further and further in. Maxine turned to the left, her hair swooshing over one shoulder. She stopped in front of the door to the safe room.
I stopped next to her. I’d missed the meeting in this room. Maybe she’d . . . forgotten to tell me something important.
Maxine didn’t look over at me, her lips still clamped in a stony line. The door opened with a click and she stepped in. I followed after her, ducking my head a little at the short doorframe.
“Really, Max,” my signature sensitive-voice echoed louder than I thought it would in the little, enclosed space. “What’s going on? Why are you so upset?”
Maxine stayed focused on the wall she was next to. Her hand brushed along until she found what looked like a handle. She twisted it and pulled out a trap door, dropping the panel down.
The power switch panel.
I felt a legitimate shock of nervousness as I realized what it was. She couldn’t be . . .
I started over towards her, taking a slow step. “Maxine, what are you doing?”
She tossed her hair back as she finally turned to look at me. “As much of a history as we have, Franklin, that still doesn’t break down certain barriers.” Her brown eyes darkened further. “Thinking logically, this is too much of a risk. I can’t deal with it anymore for this organization to run smoothly. I need to have full command of my own mind, not being at constant risk of being puppeted by one of my men.”
Her nails clicked against the metal as she gripped one of the smaller switches. She tipped her chin back again.
Ho no. I did not like where this was heading.
“Max . . . if you’re thinking what I’m thinking . . .”
She started to move her hand downward.
I took a quick few steps forward, reaching out to grab Maxine’s arm. The switch clicked flat against the board a split second before my fingertips touched her.
It felt like something died inside me. Like a motor stopped running and the faint hum of energy that had been there for over a week now was gone.
My hand was pressed against her arm, but there was nothing. I couldn’t get into her head anymore. I pulled my hand off and clapped it back against her shoulder, pressing my thoughts against her.
Oh no, come on . . .
I whirled towards the switchboard, reaching towards the switch she’d just flipped to turn my powers off.
She’d already half-put it up and clicked it into place in the wall just as I reached. Her thumb pressed against the fingerprint lock and there was a beep.
I swore at her, snapping my gaze back onto her face. “You can’t do that, Max. I’m as much running this thing as you are. Turn it back on.”
Maxine stepped back and folded her arms, her expression indifferent. “You were becoming a hazard. And I run this.”
“You need me.” I spat. “Who recruited Dankworth in the first place? What if other people need to be captured or brought under control? Who’d gonna do it? Jay?”
“I can turn your powers back on temporarily if I need you that badly,” she stated, her voice back to a cold calm. “But for now, you’ve done your job and they’re staying off.”
I took a step towards her, clenching my fists with the sudden awareness that I couldn’t even change anything by touching her now. “You can’t throw me out. You can’t. I built this with you and if you think I can just be tossed out . . .” I cursed again.
Maxine shook her head. “I’m not throwing you out, Franklin. I’m just putting you in a safer position for the agency right now. Just lower down along the line. We’ll find another person to be the missing hero. You can handle the tracking.”
The tracking. Basic, minimum wage security procedures? For me?
I was gonna be a hero. I was gonna have a cool costume and superpowers and practically rule the country alongside Maxine.
The keyword to that now? Was.
I was going to do that.
Maxine raised her eyebrows. “You’re to valuable to throw away completely. I might reconsider your position after you show that you can actually follow some orders.” She nodded towards the door. “One of the guards out there should be able to show you your new position.”
I clenched my teeth and brought one of my now powerless hands up. I returned the favor, backhanding Maxine across the face before she could do anything.
She gasped, stumbling back a few steps.
I gritted my teeth as I responded. “You’re out of your mind.”
I turned on my heel and stalked out of the room without another word. My shoes clacked against the floor loudly as I strode down the hall. Back out into the main room, where Mrs. Smithens was sitting with another of the heroes and designing another costume.
My costume was on that sketchpad. My costume I’d never get now because of Maxine and her . . .
“Hey, Franklin,” Jay’s voice broke into my thoughts and I held up for a second, still keeping my fists clenched tightly. He frowned. “Are you okay? That was sort of a . . .”
“Just dandy,” I snapped back, speeding up my stride again and shoving through the door to the outside.
This was beyond humiliating. I wasn’t staying around if all I was going to be was some idiotic security guard, keeping track on all the members. All the glory I’d been promised from the very beginning . . . flushed down the toilet, just like that.
I yanked my car keys out of my pocket, stopping my marching to glare at the Silverwing keychain that dangled and shimmered in the sunlight. Stupid toy. Nothing but a dumb tracker to keep tabs on all the members’ locations.
Well, this was it. I wasn’t gonna be a member anymore.
My fingers nearly shaking from anger, I snapped the keychain off and hurled it off away from the house. The silver glinted with the sun’s light one last time before landing with a distant clank against a rock.
I spun back around and headed for the garage, my jaw set.
Maxine was going to be sorry for this. Very, very sorry.
Poor wittle Fwanklin throwing a tantrum mmhmm….
But this adds a new element. What will it all mean?
We shall find out in the coming weeks. -gasp- tune in next time, folks.
see ya later