So. It has all come to this.
(and three more chapters of wrap up but shh)
Here is the final part of my very long climax of this story. If you don’t know what this is, well…
You have a lot to read. XD
Part 28: Round two
I didn’t regret having got Fernsby back to normal by myself. And I was still going strong on my decision to go rescue Leif and give Maxine a kick in the pants.
But I still reserved the right to my opinion on the situation.
Because seriously, this sucked. I felt like I’d been run over by a train. Couldn’t evil-Fernsby have at least have left off on the whole rib-breaking thing? I could deal with getting punched in the face – even though my nose being probably broken wasn’t preferable – but pain whenever I breathed was seriously hard to deal with.
I gripped tight onto the door handle next to me, trying to stay as still as possible while News wove the truck around traffic, speeding us out of the city.
“Just back to Jay’s place, right?” News asked, taking another sharp turn.
I nodded back, gritting my teeth against another stabbing feeling in my chest. It would be fine. Seriously, with the two of us, we could take Maxine down, blow that switchboard, get Leif and be out of there in no time.
Even in my current state, I could still fire a gun. And News was . . . well, News was News. And even unarmed, that was more than enough weapon for anyone.
Just need to keep concentrated on what I’m doing. Get Leif. Get my little brother out.
She’s not killing my brother. Never. Never, never . . .
I dug my fingernails into the door handle and focused on watching the windshield wipers swipe back and forth. My eyes had a bit of trouble tracking the motion, but at least it was something to focus on besides feeling like crud.
News sped the truck up as we got further down the road. The engine rumbled and rain still spattered against the windows.
The majority of the ride wasn’t very bumpy, thankfully. I kept myself focused on sitting still and breathing properly.
Then there was the incredibly bumpy gravel road, driving up to Jay’s house, which was a study in the art of torture.
I curled in on myself and gritted my teeth, waiting for it to stop. And after one final big jolt through the car and my chest, it did.
The engine choked to a stop and News’s big hand patted on the top of my head. “We’re here, bucko.”
With effort, I straightened myself out and looked out the windshield. He’d parked right back through the smashed front door of Jay’s house. Well, at least we didn’t have to walk that far.
News pulled out the keys and stuck them in his coat pocket. “And I spotted a little car out front too. Probably Maxine, right? Dall and I saw it leaving after we lost radio contact with you and Liz.” He reached down under his seat and handed me a pistol as he spoke.
I took a second to process his words as I groped to get the gun stuck in my waistband. Little car out front . . . I looked through the back window to see and gave a slow nod. “Yeah, that’s . . . probably her.”
“Other than getting Leif, you have a plan for . . . y’know, the other evil superheroes? Getting them back to normal?”
I nodded, blowing out my breath. “There’s a switchboard. Something that c-controls all the . . . superpowers. After we get Leif, we . . . can go destroy that.”
“Great. Let’s go then.” Bad News clapped me on the shoulder and gave a grin as he popped his door open.
I fumbled with my door handle for a second before getting it open. Then I almost fell out onto the rubble-covered floor as I tried to step out of the truck.
News came around to my side faster than I expected and helped get me steady and on my feet again. He had a giant paddle bat over one shoulder
“You good?” he asked, putting his sunglasses up for a second to give me a look-over.
I shrugged, wrapping an arm around my middle and swallowing hard. “I’ll be fine.”
“Powers still work?”
I gave a shaky thumbs-up, flickering a flame over my thumb.
News nodded, dropped his sunglasses back into place and flashed a thumbs-up back. “Cool.”
Though with how recently I’d just drained my energy on my fire powers, I didn’t know if it was a good idea to be using them if I wanted to stay on my feet.
And staying on my feet was somewhat necessary for getting Leif out of here. I was walking a thin line as it was.
So. Getting to Leif . . .
News straightened up, looked around and spoke just as my battered train of thought managed to chug into motion.
“Which way are we going?”
I turned, straightening myself out a little. There were the halls I’d seen before. One going around each side and a larger, wide one going down the middle. This was the same front room as before. Just . . . all the slick lines and cleanliness had kinda been ruined by News driving a truck through the front. I’d been here for that celebration party . . . just this morning. Man, that feels like weeks ago.
Okay, not important right now. Focus.
I shook my head slightly to clear it and then nodded towards the middle hallway. “D-down that way, I think. Prisoners kept at the end. The switchboard is on the way there.”
I hadn’t even finished getting my words out before pounding footsteps came from the hall to the right.
News and I turned to see a group of black-coated men come running out of the hallway and into the front room.
Guards. Fantastic, just what we needed right now.
Their shoes crunched against all the broken glass and plaster as they stormed out. And they froze as soon as they saw Bad News.
News grinned and pulled the giant bat off his shoulder. “Heyyy, long time no see, guys.”
I noticed the bruises on their faces and the terror that showed as they recognized my giant friend. He probably had to go through some guards earlier to get to Liza and me, come to think of it . . .
Bad News gave me a shove on the arm. “Go on ahead, man. I’ll catch up after I’m done with these bozos.”
I worked my jaw for a second. “News, are you sure you . . .”
“Dude, this’ll take like five minutes maybe. Go get Leif.” He nudged me again and tilted his head.
The thought of Leif being with Maxine slammed back into my mind, propelling my steps off down the hall. I knew the way. I’d been down this hall a couple times now. I could find it just fine, even if I wasn’t thinking very clearly, right?
Sounds of News’s bat smacking and the yells of the guards echoed after me down the dimly lit passageway.
Just needed to go all the way back . . . probably she’d shoved him back where they were keeping Dallas . . .
A muffled yell broke off my thoughts and I stopped in my tracks. That wasn’t from the guards. That came from ahead of me. Nearby. And it was . . . a little boy yelling.
The pain in my chest almost forgotten, I broke into a half-staggering run towards the nearest door. Faint sounds came through the wall and I didn’t stop to figure out what they were. I yanked out my keys and pressed the silver wing against the lock. I didn’t notice that the door was already open. It swung in, making me stumble a couple steps into the inside.
Faint voices all chattered over each other. Lights flickered in the dark room off a panel and onto the floor. At first I wasn’t sure if my vision was being weird about the lights before I fully focused.
Something like a security camera monitor was on one side of the room. A huge panel of screens glowing in the dark. All from news channels of major cities.
All reports of the former heroes. Destroying their hometowns. Smashing cars and buildings and hurting people.
I stared dumbly for a few seconds, my gaze going from one destruction-filled scene to the next.
The heroes. Just like Charles . . . but no one where they are knows what’s going on . . .
On a couple of the screens, the new Silverwing “heroes” were just starting to make their appearance. The guy with telekinesis snagged one of the cars that was thrown and hurled it right back at the original hero, nearly slamming him into a building.
My breathing hitched painfully as my heart thumped faster.
This wasn’t the room I’d been going for but . . . I need to get those guys back to normal and get the switchboard . . . That’s just a little ways down the hall, right . . .?
Another small, squeaky yell from what sounded like right through the wall from me made me jump. I spun around. Nothing I could see . . .
Out in the hall, then. I stumbled back out and scanned down the hallway, searching for the source of Leif’s voice.
Another door, a little further down. The outline pressed against the wall so neatly that it barely showed up.
That was it. The door to get to the switchboard.
And it was close enough that it could be where Leif had yelled from too.
I lunged for it, slamming against the door with one shoulder and twisting the knob with one hand. For future reference, dramatic shoulder slamming should not be performed while in that physical state. Pain spiked through my midsection and I just about fell on the floor as the door swung open. I’d forgotten for a second just how easily I’d been passing out lately.
I quite un-heroically ended up just clinging to the doorknob and leaning against the wall until my vision stopped spinning. I gasped for air, getting in about half a breath before focusing on my surroundings again.
Ah, the little domed-ceiling room. I’d forgotten about that too.
Okay, again, no time for that. Just stay on your feet and . . .
“Wolfgang?” Leif’s small voice pulled my mind back into focus. I reflexively got myself shoved back up into a standing position and turned towards his voice.
The circular floor Silverwing had met on before was all cleared of the folding chairs that had been there. The switchboard was still clicked back into the wall.
Leif sat there rigidly, tied to a chair, a weird, too-big helmet on his head and his eyes wide. His cowlick curled up around the edge of the helmet. Maxine stood right behind him, a screwdriver in one hand and a red push-button in the other. She held one hand against the panel that the control board came out of. The lights from the ceiling shone through the sheer sleeves of her shirt and reflected off the silvery tattoos on her shoulders.
Maxine raised her eyebrows, tilting her head. “I didn’t realize how horribly you lost that fight before now.”
I snapped out of my daze, reaching to yank News’s gun out of my belt. I leveled it at her as much as was possible with my shaking hands. “G-give me back my brother or I’ll sh-show you a much worse way you could lose a fight.”
For some reason, Leif looked more scared by my pulling a gun than Maxine did.
Maxine just held up her button higher. “Wait a second and let me explain to you what I have here.”
I kept my concentration on aiming the gun at her, adrenaline making my hands shake even worse as I tried to keep it steady. Still, the look on Leif’s face gave me pause.
Maxine put her hand down so she was holding the button in back of Leif’s head. “See, this helmet your brother is wearing was something Jay invented. Something that was supposed to send out enough of a shock to activate the nanites in its wearer. A failed invention, actually.” She smiled serenely at me. “The helmet had too much power wired into it. It killed the test subject.”
Leif flinched, balling his little hands into fists and clenching his teeth. An attempt at anger to mask how scared he was.
My insides went icy and I had to grip back onto the doorknob to steady myself.
Maxine held up the button again for a second, her thumb hovering over it. “Just letting you know that there’s very little keeping me from pressing this button right now. Really, it would take only the slightest prompting. Of course, if you would . . . put down the gun and let me finish my job, you’d have little Leif back all safe and sound . . .”
She moved slightly so that the panel her hand was on started to come back down. It came down a different way. Like it wasn’t even fastened in anymore.
I noticed for the first time that she had a bag near her feet. A bag big enough to fit the switchboard wall panel. Maxine wanted to get the switchboard for herself. To still have control of the superpowers and run away to . . .
But she couldn’t do that. If we tell the SPI about her . . .
She can still shift faces. She could disappear and we’d never find her again if she had the switchboard. The heroes would stay evil.
I started to reflexively move my gun to aim towards the panel.
Maxine’s expression hardened. “Not the smart move, dude. It’s either your brother, or a bunch of losers you don’t even know. Your choice.”
There was a slight ripple in Maxine’s appearance and suddenly she was shorter. Her skin was pale and her hair was the color of honey. She wore a familiar yellow dress.
I almost dropped my gun in shock.
My sister. She’s standing right there and she’s . . . she’s . . .
Not real, idiot. She isn’t real.
But it looked so much like Eloisa’s big, hazel eyes as she blinked at me. A small smile pulled at the corners of her mouth. It grew wider and she shook her head, making her hair catch the white light from the ceiling. “You would never abandon your family. For a bunch of people you don’t even know, much less.”
A bunch of people you don’t know. Don’t care about.
Those were almost the exact words I’d accused Amazing Man with. He’d left the people he didn’t know to die. A choice of the more people or the less people.
My family had died being the losing side of that choice.
The uncared-for general public.
What sort of hero would abandon that many people to die?
I’d applied that question to Fernsby so much, I’d never thought of . . . of what it would actually feel like in the moment of choosing.
All the cities being destroyed. All the heroes’ families being ripped apart.
But . . . Leif was my last bit of family left. My only brother.
God, I can’t let him die, I can’t . . .
I clenched my teeth and swallowed, ignoring the way the walls of the room seemed to be pulling in on me again.
Am I just being selfish? What am I even supposed to do?
“Wolf . . .” Leif whimpered. His face was crumpled and his eyes squeezed shut like he expected the death at any second.
Maxine’s hands that looked so exactly like Eloisa’s small, ink-stained ones fiddled with the button. She raised her eyebrows at me. “Last warning. Put the gun down, Wolfgang.”
Her voice was soft and sweet, like she was on my side and trying to help me.
My grip shook even more and I almost choked trying to pull in another painful breath. My stance wobbled. I closed my eyes for a few seconds, pushing back the panic shoving itself up inside of me again.
I wanted to scream. To just keel over dead instead of making this sort of decision.
If I shot out the panel then I’d save all the superheroes, but I’d lose Leif. If I dropped the gun, I’d have Leif, but the heroes would be evil. Doomed to a life in prison. And who knew how many other people were getting hurt or killed right at that moment? If I dropped the gun, I’d have no other weapon. No means to . . .
Wait a second.
I stared at the panel, my mind finally coming to a solution.
Sure, the gun was the only weapon I had. But who says I can’t make another one?
“Wolfgang . . .” Maxine’s sweet Eloisa voice was wearing thin.
Footsteps pounded down the hall behind me.
Attempting to pull up some semblance of a calm, decision-making face, I looked over at Maxine and dropped my gun. It clattered as it hit the floor. Leif jumped in his seat, sucking in his breath with a small squeaking noise. His eyes snapped open and he looked down. He burst into tears as soon as he saw my gun on the floor.
Maxine smiled, her face still showing the illusion of Eloisa’s, but the smile looking nothing like my sister’s.
“Good choice.” She slowly lowered the panel down, letting it drop into her arms. One hand still gripped around the button box as she started slipping the switchboard into the thin messenger bag sitting by her feet.
The footsteps finally reached behind me and News’s giant shoes squeaked on the slick floor as he skidded to a stop.
“Wolfgang, there you . . . holy cow is that your sister?”
I had the sudden urge to burst into tears along with Leif, but took a slow breath and just shook my head. “No. Long story.”
News just stared, looking between Maxine and Leif. “What’s with the fancy hat on Leif?”
Maxine looked up and raised her eyebrows. “Drop the bat, big guy.” She held up the button again menacingly.
“Drop it, News,” I echoed in a lower hiss.
Bad News did as he was told, his eyebrows edging up towards the brim of his fedora. He frowned at me. “Are you . . . okay?”
An odd whimper of a laugh came in response. That was about all I could manage.
Maxine finished sliding the switchboard into the bag, closed it, and stood up. Still looking everything like Eloisa, but for that unnatural smile and glint in her eyes.
“Now. I’ll be off, if you all don’t mind.” She gestured towards Leif and started to walk behind him, running her hand along the outside wall. I hadn’t noticed before the faint outline of an escape-hatch sort of door on the other side of the room. She wouldn’t even be going past us to get out.
She had the bag on her other side, so it wouldn’t be easy, but . . . I could manage.
I stuck one hand in my jeans pocket and took a hesitant step towards Leif.
Maxine stopped, the illusion of her light brown hair swishing over her shoulders as she turned to raise her eyebrows at me. She held up the button with one hand. “Dankworth, no funny business . . .”
I put both hands in the air, pulling the one out of my pocket with what I needed. “I’m not. Just . . . I got my keys to get the ropes off Leif.” I forced the words to come out evenly.
She glanced at my keys in my hand. I thought I almost detected a flinch as she saw the silver wing charm still hanging there.
Maxine didn’t say anything else, but kept walking towards the door, giving some unspoken permission. I took a few more steps, trying to hurry my way over to Leif. The painful pressure in my chest was now doubled over, coming from both my injuries and the claustrophobia. I could barely get a breath and my body felt oddly light somehow.
Keep it together, keeeep it together, come on . . .
I gripped the keys tight in my shaking hand as I bent over next to Leif, reaching over like I was going to saw his ropes off. But the one occupant of the keyring I gripped tighter than the others wasn’t a key.
The tiny grooves on the silver wing charm dug into my fingers as I focused all the energy I could muster, flowing it into the tiny keychain.
Leif stared at me, his eyes wide.
Maxine reached the door and pressed her fingers against one side until it slid open. She turned just enough, the side of the switchboard bag facing me.
In the same split-second burst of adrenaline, I managed two things. The first was to reach up and rip the helmet off of Leif’s head, throwing it back over my shoulder. And the second was to hurl my keychain – now a miniature bomb- at Maxine’s bag.
There was an appropriate last bumping of the Dalek keychain right as it left my hand. A tiny, chirping voice as the explosive hurtled through the air.
The keys exploded the second they hit the bag, scorching a hole through the fabric and blowing bits of wire and cloth outwards.
Maxine yelped out a curse and stumbled backwards. Her illusion of Eloisa’s appearance blinked away, going back to her darker skin and hair. I felt the last remnants fiery energy inside me disappear inside me in the same moment.
The popping, fizzling and smoking coming from what remained of the switchboard told me exactly what I wanted to know.
It was dead. The powers were off now. All of them.
I would have jumped up and whooped if I had enough energy.
Maxine threw the bag off her shoulder like it was some creature that had attacked her, and gaped at me.
I straightened my back, managing something like a smirk in response.
Leif and News did the whooping for me.
Maxine’s face flushed and her eyes narrowed. She brought up her hand that was still holding the button, giving me a menacing look.
I laughed for the half second that it didn’t hurt. “That can’t . . . d-do anything anymore, genius.”
She brought her thin eyebrows up, jerking her head sideways slightly and glancing behind me. “Oh can’t it?”
Her red fingernails clacked against the button in the same sickening moment I realized that I’d never heard the helmet hit the ground.
I whirled around to see.
And sure enough, Bad News was holding the electric helmet. All his muscles went rigid, his mouth dropping open for a second before he teetered and fell over, hitting the ground like some felled tree.
Some giant, stupid, fedora-wearing . . . dead tree.
I could have sworn my heart stopped.
“News!” I couldn’t tell if the word came out in a scream or a whisper.
He couldn’t be . . . We’d won. We’d done it. Got Leif. Blown up the switchboard and turned off the powers. All for him to catch some stupid helmet and . . . and . . .
So I saved my brother. And then my best friend got it instead.
God, please . . .
My breathing was too fast. My chest ached. I couldn’t get enough air. The room was sucking in smaller and spinning around me and . . .
A jolt went through my body and I realized I’d gone to my knees.
“Wolfgang?” Leif’s voice sounded farther away than before. It came again, more urgently and more scared. “Wolfgang?”
“H-he’s . . . Leif, he’s just . . . just . . .” I stammered, trying to pull in enough air to form words. My heartbeat hammered in my skull. I felt numb.
But we won, this can’t . . .
“No, Wolfgang!” he yelled. “Maxi- . . .” his words cut off in a frightened yelp and I heard Maxine’s high heels clicking closer.
I don’t even know how I managed to get back on my feet besides the pure motivation and fear that Leif was going to be hurt too. I staggered up, almost falling down on Leif as I moved between his chair and Maxine’s advance. I had to shield him. I wasn’t losing him now.
She’d thrown the button down and gone and grabbed a gun. From who knew where. Only it did look something like mine.
Maxine’s expression was murderous. She clenched her hand tight around the pistol and leaned over to hiss in my face. “I told Franklin we never should have hired you.”
She backed up, pulling the gun up to level at me.
A gunshot cracked through the air and Leif, Maxine and I all flinched at the same time. Then a second of complete and absolute silence.
I wondered if I’d actually managed to go so numb that I didn’t even feel being shot.
Then bright red started to show, seeping through Maxine’s shirt right near her chest. She made a choked noise, dropping the gun as her eyes went wide.
Franklin’s voice came from the open door. “But yeah, you know? I’m pretty glad we hired him, actually.” He stepped in, grinning and holding a pistol of his own. He nodded to me, then blew a kiss to Maxine.
Maxine stared at Franklin, then back to me. And she crumpled to the ground.
Franklin let out a cheer. Dallas came in the door just a second later, followed by a squad of SPI agents.
They’d come after all.
What do you know.
I pushed back upright, turning to check and make sure that Leif was alright. He was. And he was trying to say something else to me, but I couldn’t focus on it well enough.
The few seconds of relief I’d felt froze right back into dread.
I locked my gaze back on the still form lying by the other doorway. Electrocuted. Shocked dead.
I absently tried to give Leif a reassuring pat on the shoulder, probably patting his face instead. I stumbled around his chair, going back over towards Bad News. Or his body.
Don’t be. Don’t you dare, News . . .
Dallas was calling orders to the other agents and they were rushing around the room. He might have called my name a couple of times too, but I didn’t pay attention. Didn’t have time for that . . .
I dropped down next to News after almost tripping over him. The new jolt through my body tunneled my vision down further. I took a couple of small breaths, raking my hands up into my hair. It didn’t help much. The room was spinning and shrinking again. My mind felt like a balloon that was slowly drifting away from me.
Don’t have much time, come on . . .
I blinked hard and whacked the helmet out of News’s hand before I reached up, fumbling to get my hand to his neck. Right up by his jaw. I had to . . . had to check . . .
My hands were shaking like crazy, but I still managed to find the artery on the second try. I pressed my hand against it, feeling desperately and trying to determine past my own shaking.
Please God please God . . .
And there it was.
A little uneven, but there.
Baden News was still alive.
The rest of the spinning, shrinking room seemed to fold in over me and I slumped against Bad News’s chest.
Well well, that took long enough, right?
All together now…
-huge collective sigh of relief- right?
Anyway. Hope you all enjoyed and I’ll be back Thursday! ❤