The Powers That Be, Part 27: Fighting fire with fire

Last week….. we had setup for a devastating battle in which Wolfgang must fight, but not hurt, someone with a lot stronger superpowers than his own in order to save him and thwart the bad guy’s plan.

No pressure, right?

Catch up below if you have no idea what the heck I’m talking about.

Part 1: The Winged Woman

Part 2: Junk mail & junk reputations

Part 3: Searching for tuxedos and answers

Part 4: Babysitting

Part 5: Studies indicate

Part 6: Exclusive benefits

Part 7: With a little help from my friends

Part 8: A piping hot mess

Part 9: Calling in the expert

Part 10: Evil council

Part 11: Old buddies & owed favors

Part 12: Set up

Part 13: Bring the house down

Part 14: Keeping home base

Part 15: Messages & determinations

Part 16: The public eye

Part 17: Actually getting somewhere

Part 18: A victory & a visitor

Part 19: Super un-heroes

Part 20: Out of line & out of luck

Part 21: Misfit, underqualified rescue team… assemble!

Part 22: Burgling the boss

Part 23: Deep freeze

Part 24: Unrepresented evidence

Part 25: The wrath & healthcare of Baden News

Part 26: How the tables have turned

Part 27

Fighting fire with fire


[Wolfgang Dankworth]


Charles walked slowly around me in a half circle, like some animal waiting to pounce.


I kept my fists up, with a little bit of fire flickering around them. Even though . . . really, I didn’t plan on punching him or burning him so I didn’t know what I thought that would help.


I turned as he did, holding his piercing gaze and mentally begging him to snap out of this. The rain came down harder and I squinted as it trickled down into my eyes again.


Charles’s muscles tensed harder and he took a step towards me.


I took a step back. “Fernsby . . .”


“Get ‘im, Amazing Man!” cheered someone from the crowd.


“Yeah! Get the Wolf!”


Some tone-deaf genius started trying to sing “who’s afraid of the big, bad wolf?”.


Well excuse me for trying to save all of them and Amazing Man.


I gritted my teeth, the flames on my arms flaring higher. “Run you idiots! Get out of here!” I hissed back.


No one moved from their “safe” distance of a few yards away.


Fantastic. Now they were probably going to be in the line of fire for this, weren’t they?


I started edging away from the crowd, trying to move the fight somewhere we wouldn’t be in danger of killing a bunch of innocent shoppers. “Hey!” I whistled a little. “Over here! Come on, let’s . . .”


I trailed off as Fernsby focused in on a little Subaru parked along the side of the road, walking towards it.


“Oh . . . oh no, come on, Charles. I know what you’re thinking and . . . hey! Hey, over here!” I put more into my flames and waved my arms. “Fight me, you moron!”


He didn’t listen. He grabbed the car’s front, his hands sinking into the metal like the car was made out of clay.


The spectators’ cheers fizzled out into alarmed murmurs as Fernsby lifted the car up into the air. And he swung it back, turning towards them.




I dove back in front of the crowd just as Fernsby threw the car. My shoes skidded sideways on the wet pavement. I threw my hands up, shoving everything I could muster at the moment into a fireball and launching it right at the car. Just a split second before it would have come down on everyone still hanging around to video their own deaths.


The car was thrown sideways by the blast and changed the direction it was hurtling through the air. The people around still screamed bloody murder as the car crashed down into the middle of the road. At least that got them to start running.


I gulped in a few breaths, gathering my strength after exerting that much energy into the fireball. Fernsby had clenched his fists again and was glaring at me. I shrugged back, shaking my head.


Police lights flashed through the rain from away down another street, their sirens wailing closer.


I needed to take him out . . . incapacitate him somehow without seriously injuring him . . .


Well, knocking him out by force probably wouldn’t work very well if he had the whole invulnerability thing working. Choking him?


That actually might work. I just had to jump and hang on for a bit, right?


A police car squealed around the corner and Fernsby’s head whipped around to look. There was my opportunity.


I sprinted the short distance between us in a second and grabbed onto him. Got my arm wrapped tight around his windpipe and pulled back hard, gritting my teeth.


Fernsby made a coughing noise, his hands going up to grab my arm.


“No you don’t,” I ground out, securing my other arm and holding tighter. Come on, come on, this can’t take that long, can it?


The police lights and sirens filled the air, the strobe flashing cutting through the rain and shining right into my eyes.


Charles fumbled for a few seconds, but he got a hold on each of my arms, one with each hand. And I thought I’d cut off his air for long enough that he’d be at least a little weakened. Well, guess who was horribly wrong.


His fingers dug into my bare arms and he started pulling. Hard.


I bit back a yell of pain, trying to keep my slippery, shaky grip around his neck. But at the rate he was pulling . . . and getting stronger, by the way . . . I could almost feel the bone starting to flex.


He’s breaking your arms he’s gonna break them you idiot let go let go now . . .


I tried to hang on for as long as I could, but pure pain and survival instinct were too strong. My hold dropped from his neck.


Charles kept a hold on one of my arms and flung me out to the side with a roar. I almost flew backwards, stumbling and skidding the last bit on the wet street before falling over.


My arms, already throbbing from pain, scraped up against the asphalt. I instinctively curled over them for a few seconds, gritting my teeth.


“Holy smooooke . . . augh, my . . .” I rubbed hard against my arms, smearing the blood from my elbows and worsening the raw sting while I eased the throbbing from being yanked on that hard.


Well, scratch choking off the list of possibilities . . .


Another police line, complete with all the shields and guns from before, was coming towards us.


Fernsby watched them coming closer. He edged towards another nearby car.


Man, talk about favorite choice of weapon.


A megaphone-distorted voice rang through the air. “Charles Fernsby, please stand down and come with us peacefully.”


Charles didn’t even act like he’d heard. Were those nanites just totally blocking him from registering anything anyone said to him?


I bit down on my lip and used the car I’d skidded against to start shoving myself back upright. My hands were shaking worse than before and my stance wobbled from the rush of adrenaline.


Stupid, stupid scientific nano-robots and their stupid mind control . . . If I could just have a way to turn off the . . .


Realization hit in that split second. Two things. One that Dallas had talked about, and something Liza had said.


Dallas . . . last year when he thought he’d killed his nanites . . . it ended up that he’d just put too much energy into them. He’d blown it like a circuit breaker and turned them off manually by exerting himself too much.


And then what Liza had said when we’d brought up the nanites mind control.


That overriding their users’ brains would take some very serious energy output . . .


That was why Franklin had said the heroes weren’t supposed to be let loose on the city for more than half an hour. They’d overexert themselves. The nanites would blow out and lose control.


If I get him to work himself too hard, he’ll break them. Charles will be back to normal.


By now we must be close. But he still needs a little more.


He needs to use his powers as much as possible.


I stood there, frozen in place for a few seconds while I reformulated my plan in my mind.


The police were still advancing on Charles. And Charles was by now over to another car, starting to grip onto the front like he had the last one.


Quick way to wear himself out, but I wasn’t a fan of the police bodycount that involved.


I shoved off the car and lit my arms back on fire, sizzling the rain away with the heat. “Hey! Fernsby, over here!” I waved my lit-up arms.


Even if he was as dangerous as a seriously ticked-off bull, he also had the attention span of one. He turned from the police, looking back to scathe me with his gaze.


I kept walking towards him and kept up the impressive flames.


“So. You still wanna just . . . fight here? Where you got the police all backing you up? Where it’s safe and you got a lot of cars to throw? Is that it?” I asked, getting as much of a sneering, taunting tone up as I could to try and hide the shakiness in my voice. And the illogicalness of what I was saying.


Fernsby took his hand from the car and stepped towards me with menace and murder on his face. The red, white and blue police lights flashed and backlit him like some sort of horror movie.


The megaphone voice rang out again. “Mr. Dankworth, please stand down.”


I shrugged, putting my hands up and still not taking my focus off of Charles. “Well, coward, if you just wanna fight here, then whatever. I don’t want to blame you for taking the easy route to . . .”


And that did it.


He reached forward and grabbed me again, swooshing up into the sky. I gasped, the sudden shock of the rain and height dousing the flames along my arms. The police shouted at us from below, their voices getting further and further away. The city lights spun underneath me in a dizzy spin and I closed my eyes. I’d figure out where he was taking me in a second. Just focus on not throwing up right now.


There were another few seconds before another drop. My ears popped a little with the change in altitude. And then Fernsby’s grip dropped from my arms.


My eyes snapped open, just in time to hit the ground again. Pain shot up my legs and I dropped, rolling to the side with a groan. Rain came down harder, spiking against my skin as I struggled to get back to my feet.


There was a thump as Fernsby made his dramatic landing a few feet away.


“Level enough playing field for you now, Dankworth?” he asked. So he could still talk. Even if his voice rasped and halted in odd places.


I straightened myself up with a wince and looked around. A parking lot right along a back alley. Lots of cars and dumpsters. One semi truck. And no people around besides him and me.


I took a deep breath and tipped my chin back as I met his gaze again. “Perfect.” After a moment of concentration, I was able to pull the flames back up. Even though by now they were pretty much just an empty threat for him to not touch me. And they were fast draining me of my precious little energy.


Maybe I could get him to use his invulnerability though . . .


Charles smirked. He smacked one fist into his other palm and started striding towards me.


“Might not wanna get any closer,” I warned him, forcing a growl into my voice. The fire and energy around my hands grew and my breathing hitched with the outflow.


“Oh, I think I do.”


There was a slight shimmer around his body and I knew the shield was up.


Right. Now to give it a bit of a test.


I put my hands up and let loose, shooting out streams of flame that slammed into his body and shoved him backwards. And didn’t end up hurting him, thank God.


He staggered for a second, then regained his balance and kept up walking towards me, pushing through the flame.


Okay, with the shields and that, he should be dropping the whole evil act pretty soon, right? How much energy did those nanites have left?


It can’t be that much. Please don’t be that much.


He just kept walking, the same cold expression on his face.


I couldn’t keep this up. I could feel my knees starting to give out under me already and I’d probably end up hurting him if he actually did drop his powers. Black dots pushed in from the edges of my vision. I clenched my teeth and let off the flame.


The distance sirens were audible again. Getting closer.


Great. The endless caravan of possible causalities.


Come on, can’t they take a hint?


My vision was swimming and I dropped my hands to my knees for a few seconds, heaving in a couple of breaths. Okay, so round two should probably not involve as much intense flame as that did . . .


I realized Fernsby had gained a lot of ground on me much too late. He grabbed my shirt collar and forced me upright again before backhanding me across the face and shoving me away from him against an old car.


Right on the bruises Liza had made with her metal arm earlier. And seriously, his hand felt just as solid as metal just about then. I could almost feel one eye starting to swell shut.


Pain spidered out across my face and I moved my mouth in a silent curse as I put a hand up to hold it.


Fernsby came closer. My mind spun for what to do next. He still needed to use his powers, what else would wear him out?


“Oh yeah, sure,” I managed, shoving off the car again and dropping both my hands down with effort. “Hand to hand combat. That’s like rigged in your favor with the superstrength. Talk about an unfair competition. What are you going to do next, throw a car at me?”


At least evil Charles Fernsby was remarkably open to suggestions.


He growled out something at me and stopped to grab a green Toyota by its bumper. I barely had a second to prepare a fireball before it came hurtling towards me at top speed.


My blast of fire only jumped it further up into the air and I ducked, running to the side as it came crashing down with a deafening crunch. My energy was almost gone by now. I was shaking all over and it took effort just to keep my knees from buckling.


That had to have . . .


And noooope, it didn’t.


Fernsby was still coming on strong, marching right towards me with his lip curled and his teeth clenched.


I backed up into the alley street, swiping rain out of my eyes even as more water dripped from my hair right back. “Wh-what are you gonna do now, hotshot? Throw . . . throw that car at me?” I pointed over to a little red car.


He didn’t even seem to notice.


The sirens came closer and I saw a distant flash of lights.


I backed up further, sending up a frantic mental prayer. God please what can he do now . . . how can I stop him from . . .?


I whipped my head around, suddenly remembering the semi truck parked just a little ways away.


That. That was the key to getting him down.


Making use of the short rush of idea-energy, I sprinted over to the truck. I dropped down to my stomach and slid under the cab, onto a small patch of dry cement.


Almost instantly, the small space seemed to suck out the precious little air in my lungs. My mind filled with more unwelcome panic and images from the bomb and the freezer. I felt like slamming my head against the cement in frustration, but I got myself turned around underneath the cab.


Fernsby’s feet were coming closer.


Breathe. You need to just talk to him one last time. This’ll do it. I clenched my teeth hard.


Charles stopped walking right in front of the cab.


“Come out from under there,” he commanded in the same strange, scratchy voice.


I hauled in a breath and swallowed before choking out my response. “You’re gonna . . . gonna have to make me, big guy. What are you g-going to do, lift the truck?”


There was a clang of metal that made me jump, but then a slow, steady creaking. I could see Fernsby’s knees shaking from the effort.


The cab was lifting. The whole truck was lifting from the front end up. He was doing it. Lifting a semi truck.


I stayed where I was as I slowly got a higher and higher ceiling.


Almost there. Almost . . .


One last mighty heave, and the whole truck went over sideways. I involuntarily covered my head at the huge sound, my ears ringing.


Rain was coming down on my head again. I felt like just laughing from sheer relief.


He’d done it. He’d thrown the semi-truck sideways and . . .


My thought was cut off as an inhumanly strong hand grabbed onto the back of my shirt and hauled me upright. And in the dim, orange streetlight, I was looking right into the furious face of Charles Fernsby. Again. His pupils still dialated down to pinpricks and anger twisting his features.


It didn’t work.


I stared. “N-no, Charles . . . I . . .”


He threw me back down onto the cement, the back of my head smacking against the ground. I tried to start on another protest. Something that would get through to him. But he planted a foot on my chest and leaned down in close.


He hissed in my face. “Got you now.”


“How many stock supervillain lines did they even . . .?” my words broke off with a gasp as he pressed his foot hard against my chest and I heard a crack. Pain scorched through my chest as I tried to breathe.


“You’ve opposed me for the last time, Dankworth,” Charles muttered. He brought back a hand and smacked it across my face.


Another crack and blood started streaming out of my nose. The pain and the exhaustion and the lack of air all piled up on me and I felt like I was being dragged downwards. My vision changed to a funny tint, but I could still make out Charles’s blurry form above me.


Please God. Please . . . snap him out of it, come on . . .


I made a weak grab for his arm as he pulled back again. I surprisingly managed to grab on and he stopped for a second. I coughed around the blood that had gotten into my mouth.


“This . . . th-this is why you always made a b-better hero than me, right?” I croaked. My chest felt like it was going to explode, just getting out the words.


My first go at being a hero and here I was, getting my behind handed to me. Dying in a backalley. Punched out by my own friend.


He just stared, his face frozen. He pulled back his hand further and I dropped my hand, waiting for the final blow.




He kept watching me, then blinked. I couldn’t even see straight by now and I could almost swear that . . . that his eyes were back to normal . . . My eyes started to flutter closed.


Then a familiar voice broke through my mind.




You’re kidding me.


I pulled my eyes back open with momentous effort and blinked hard.


Charles was still on top of me, still staring at my face.


But the shocked horror on his face as he stared at me told me everything I needed to know.


He was normal again. I’d done it.


I grinned around my busted lip at him, still barely keeping myself conscious. “G-good to have you back, Fernsby.”

Yaaaaayyy I think

He succeeded and we’re done, right?


-evil laughter in the distance- -evil laughter turns slightly nervous-

Anyway. I’ll be back Thursday if I’m not too busy. -salute-


17 thoughts on “The Powers That Be, Part 27: Fighting fire with fire

  1. Yeah, except now WOLFGANG is beat and there are still more old SUPERHEROS who have probably gone PSYCHO.
    Not to mention MAXINE is on the loose, FRANKLIN could still be won back to her, and EVERYTHING is now a horrid MESS.
    So NO. We are NOT done.
    *cheers and screams and cries and wails all at once*

  2. *growls* I have just about HAD IT with stupid civilians that wouldn’t know a redemption arc if it smacked them in the face— literally. UGH. GUYS. THERE’S THIS THING CALLED CRITICAL THINKING…?

    And Charles… oh Charles… *cries* AND WOLFY. YOU DID IT. YOU DID. THAT’S MY BOY. *hugs him violently*

    1. the civilians aren’t exactly being very smart nope. too conditioned to go against wolfgang all these years.

      charles… ;-;
      but yeah, wolfgang is freaking going to do whatever he sets his mind to, huh? XD

  3. Don’t mind me, I’m just going to ramble about foils and parallels and things.

    You’ve got Wolf starting the story by looking for jobs and not getting them, and sort of drifting through life not really sticking to any one thing, you know? Not that he can do much with his life if no one will hire him, so it’s not entirely his fault. And then he gets the fire powers, which suit his character apparently, as he’s good at exploding or going up in flames, or making other things do likewise, but the thing about fire is it isn’t particularly *constant*.

    And here you’ve got Fernsby, or mind-controlled-not-really-Fernsby, who’s being stubborn in a bull-headed sort of way (not that he can help it) and sticking to his job for bad reasons, but again we don’t blame himself for it. And you’ve got the civilians being stubborn in their disbelief and not believing the proof when it stares them in your face. Neither of those is a good kind of “stick-to-it-iveness”. The policemen are being stubborn about trying to do their jobs and stop this mess even though they know they stand very little chance of succeeding, which is better, but ineffective in this case, and they’re getting in the way.

    And you’ve got Wolfgang sticking to his job even though it’s killing him, because it’s the right thing to do, and no one else is doing it (or can do right now). He’s not backing out or giving up or deciding to do it another time or being wishy-washy or undecided in the least.

    If he keeps this changing arc up, do his powers change because his current ones no longer fit him?

    Or am I reading way too much into this, like a Literature student just come back from break?

    1. O_O
      that was magnificent ok
      I had absolutely no time to think this sort of stuff through since it was written as a nanowrimo novel at breakneck speed.
      your final point is not true, sadly. buuut this thing is due for a major rewrite sometime and i may or may not snag that thank you

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