So. For everyone’s knowledge, today is canonically the date in Blank Mastermind on which the Twin Bombing took place.
Killing Wolfgang’s family and all that good stuff.
So, have a story for today that shows how that looked from Charles Fernsby’s and Dallas’s points of view.
-jazz hands as I slowly slink away-
Usually flying is considered a fast way of travelling. And usually someone would tend to feel pretty good about themselves after just disarming a huge bomb that would have killed a bunch of people.
This wasn’t usually for Amazing Man.
He streaked through the air, hands out in front of him and cape fluttering behind, skimming far over the highways. Down towards Moab. A town that was way too far from where he’d begun.
I have to make it I have to make it I have to . . .
Charles clenched his teeth, his heart pounding fast and his eyes watering from all the wind blowing in his face.
There were more people in the other city that he’d saved from the bomb, sure. But people were people. He couldn’t just let Moab get leveled. And if this second bomb was anywhere close to as big as the first . . .
Dear God please help me make it there in time.
Charles Fernsby pushed harder, exerting all the power he could into flying fast. He’d topped out on his speed and just kept zipping through the air at the same pace as before.
He glanced down at a road sign. He’d just started. And it would be at least another hour and a half until he reached Moab. Less than half of how long it would take in a regular car.
But still too slow.
Charles looked back up to face into the wind again just as a distant cloud of sick, black smoke formed in the distance, mushrooming up at the top.
His stomach dropped. Please Lord no . . .
But he could see it all too clearly now. The rumbling sound made it to his ears, tolling the death of God knows how many people . . .
Because I didn’t make it in time.
His speed faltered, his concentration on flying broken by the guilt and grief that hit him like a wave. The tears stinging his eyes that weren’t from the wind.
Charles bit down hard on his lip and focused again. He still needed to get there. Even if it was late, maybe he could still help save a few more lives.
It took much too long getting there. Even if the bomb had already gone off. Even if so many people were beyond saving. Showing up over an hour after the fact seemed just so . . . so careless. So disrespectful of all those who’d died. Like he didn’t even try.
Charles had to fly lower as he approached what used to be Moab. The smoke clouded the air even higher up and he had a hard time breathing. Like he wasn’t having enough of that already.
He flew past the ocean of cars all crammed together and packed back from the police barrier. And there were the police cars. The officers gesturing for him to come over.
Charles slowed his flight, shifting his position so he could land on his feet among the officers. His boots crunched on broken glass on the pavement. He winced.
“Amazing Man! Thank goodness you’re here!” one of the younger officers came running over to his side while the other policemen moved over.
They took turns seriously filling him in on the situation.
The whole town was destroyed. They were doing what they could to pull out survivors but they’d found more bodies than anything, so far. Twenty, so far . . .
Charles tried to stay listening, but the numb shock in his mind made it hard to register anything else after that.
Twenty people. And that was just so far. This was a whole town. Who knew how many others . . .?
He found he was having trouble breathing against the crushing weight he felt against his chest. The weight of all those lives.
He could smell the death in the air. The sick, bitter, burnt smell . . .
It was hard to keep his gaze on the officers talking to him with the scene directly in back of them. The gutted remains of the buildings. All the clouded smoke and the searchlights sweeping over the rubble.
God, I’m so sorry. I should have been here. I should have been here. I should have been here . . .
Charles barely registered when they started heading further into the destroyed remains of the town. He followed along mutely, just taking in the surroundings as they walked. The sounds
“ . . . already combed through up to here . . .” one officer was saying, pointing out a few crumpled remains of the buildings. “Got one survivor out of that one. A few more fatalities. We have some guys with dogs on that one, digging down a bit deeper . . .”
Charles nodded, pressing his lips together. “G-good.”
Another, older policeman pointed out a few other things as they kept walking. Statistics. Charles tried to listen, trying to shift his mind into putting this into some logical format. Not just this huge bloody mess in front of him.
They trudged along a little further before a sound cut through the air. Through the sounds of the sirens and helicopters whirring and the dogs yipping in the distance.
Charles froze, feeling blood leave his face. Chills went up his arms and made his scalp tingle.
It went on. Long, desperate and broken for a few more long seconds before trailing off and getting carried away with the smoke.
A few other officers stopped, looking between each other.
One woman pointed up towards the direction it had come from. “Up there. I don’t think we’ve searched up there yet.”
“And obviously someone needs help,” added another policeman. He unclipped the radio from his belt, calling over some backup. An ambulance . . . police car . . . Charles didn’t catch exactly what.
He just couldn’t get that scream out of his mind. Like it had been caught in some endless echo chamber. All that pain and desperation and . . . He swallowed back bile.
The group started moving over that way. Even with how destroyed everything else was, Charles could see the destruction getting more intense as they moved closer to this area.
The sirens came wailing closer, lighting up the world in flashes from behind them.
“This area got some of the heaviest damage,” informed one of the officers. “We haven’t searched yet but . . . there’s not a lot of chance of survivors.”
We came to the end of a street. One that used to be lined with family houses. Charles could still see some of the cheery colors showing through all the burns and smokestains.
Families. Families like his own.
And this street was burnt out and dead. Lifeless.
He felt sick.
“I should have been here.” The words that had been repeating in his head finally came out. Just a blunt, obvious statement. Without any emotion.
The policewoman bit her lip and looked over at him. “Amazing Man, you . . . you did stop the other bomb at least. There wasn’t much you could do . . .”
He just kept staring at the houses. Numb.
And then there was the sound of footsteps. A figure outlined in the smoke, walking down the debris-strewn street. His face wasn’t distinguishable yet, but they could at least see that he could stand on his own two feet.
“A survivor!” The older officer gasped and moved forward quickly, raising a hand in greeting. “Did you . . .?”
He never finished his sentence. A gunshot cracked through the air and he crumpled to the ground almost instantly.
The young man was holding a gun. That much was obvious now that he was in the light of the police cars. His hair stuck up wildly in the front, blood stained the knees of his jeans and trickled from a cut on the side of his head. His expression was twisted in rage as he spat out curse after curse through gritted teeth.
All were aimed towards Charles Fernsby. As was the gun.
Charles couldn’t find it in him to move out of the way.
The police cried out in surprise and alarm, shoving forward to protect him. Another shot rang out and Charles flinched.
The man froze for a split second, more curses dying on his lips. He tottered, the gun falling from his hand, and he went down.
A few more officers rushed over to him, shouting out more things that Charles didn’t register.
He dropped down next to the officer that had first gotten shot from walking in front of him. His hands trembled as felt for a pulse.
Nothing. Another casualty of this whole mess.
He sat there, struggling to swallow again. A few of the words being spoken cleared in his mind.
“ . . . losing a lot of blood but still alive. Someone check if he has ID on him?”
“What was he doing?”
“Trying to shoot Amazing Man, apparently. I’m really just impressed he survived the bombing.”
“Got the ID. Name’s ‘Wolfgang Dankworth’.”
“Hard to forget a name like that. That was on the list of possible casualties we’d be looking for around here.”
“Alright, we’ve got this. Can everyone else spread out and look for other survivors?”
Charles looked up in time to see them loading him onto a stretcher, one of the medics staying right next to him and pressing hard on the wound in the man’s side.
He couldn’t see his face from here. It was turned away. Charles couldn’t help but wonder if he had been the source of that scream he’d heard.
Dallas Knight had done a lot of exhausting things in his life.
But he decided after the first half-hour that nothing was quite so exhausting as endlessly teleporting, over and over again in an attempt to keep up with . . . someone who was flying.
The Hero Project had given all the participants a small pack of ten syringes to carry with them when they were out. It was supposed to be a perfectly safe formula that simply gave an extra charge to your power nanites when you were running low on energy.
“Only for emergencies” they’d said.
Dallas had been in a couple instances where he might have used them before now. But they sounded suspiciously like drugs so he’d determined he’d never resort to using the little injections.
And here he was, almost to Moab, and he’d used five of them.
Guess I never really had a true emergency before now.
He hated the stab of the needle in the crook of his elbow . . . the unnatural jolt of energy. But he didn’t have any other hope of fulfilling his duty without using them. There were possibly people dying right as he travelled along. Every second he stalled. And he couldn’t afford that.
Dallas was nearly to his knees with exhaustion again by the time he’d reached that horrible, smoke-stained outline on the horizon.
Just a few more. Two, maybe three . . .
Three quick, successive flashes of blue with his surroundings changing, and there he was in the middle of the town’s dark main street. He’d made it.
Dallas pulled in a shuddery gulp of air, closing his eyes for just a second. His knees went to jello for a moment and he sat down hard on the ground.
Despite the horrible time and place for it, one side of his mind was pulling and pleading for just a few minutes to lie down and sleep. And in spite of himself and in spite of the common sense that said it was a horrible idea, Dallas did consider it for a moment.
It was just like all the energy in his body had been forcefully drained out. He felt like a wrung-out rag.
He caught his breath for another few seconds, resting his head forward against one knee, before forcing his eyes back open.
He fumbled the little pack off his belt again, unzipping it. The five small, remaining syringes in the pouch. Dallas grabbed one of them out, hesitated for a second, then grabbed another.
There were still people to be rescued here. And if he couldn’t keep his mind fully alert for more than a few minutes, he couldn’t be any help to anyone.
Dallas bit his lip, holding out his arm again as he worked the cap off the first syringe. He’d done it enough times in the past hour and a half that he could do it quickly by now. Both in a row.
He took a deep breath and jabbed the first one in, pushing it down. Barely waiting to feel any effects before sticking the second one in the same way.
And there was the adrenaline jolt that hitched the breath in his chest. The crackle of electricity that sparked blue around the edges of his vision.
Dallas took a few more breaths, waiting for his heart rate to even out a little, then stumbled to his feet. He needed to find Mr. Fernsby.
Charles followed along with the search team to help almost mechanically. He didn’t say anything. Tried not to think. Just did what they asked of him and what he could do to help.
Lifted pieces of the rubble and flew up to get an overhead view occasionally.
It would have made him feel a lot better if they’d found anything other than dead bodies so far.
It made it even harder finding the smallest things. A torn, burnt poster. A broken clock. A snapped motivational plaque. All the broken pieces of peoples’ lives that had been ruined.
He’d just put a few more big chunks of charred wood off to the side of what remained of another of the houses on the street when he heard something. A familiar voice, cutting through all the flame crackling and the sirens and helicopter sounds.
“Sir! Mr. Fernsby, sir!”
Charles turned to see Dallas running towards him. He straightened up and waited, giving Dallas a small nod of greeting in return.
There was a flash of blue and Dallas was standing right next to him, looking more than a little out of breath.
He gulped in a couple more breaths and bent forward a little for a second in what looked half like doubling over for more air and half like a formal bow. Then he straightened up again, clasped his hands behind his back and nodded back to Charles.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t here sooner, sir. It was a long ways and I had a hard time keeping up.”
Charles waved a hand, turning back to the rubble and pulling a few more giant pieces of debris back out of the way like they were made from paper. “It’s fine, Dallas. Nothing . . . nothing you could have done anyway.”
Dallas pressed his lips together, his brow furrowing up as he looked around the street. He swallowed hard, shooting a glance back at Mr. Fernsby.
Charles closed his eyes and blew out a shaky breath, rubbing one hand over his face. Nothing we could have done. And here I’m supposed to be a hero? How can I live through this and still keep that title?
Dallas’s voice broke into his thoughts again. “Mr. Fernsby, it’s . . . it’s not your fault, sir. None of this is.”
Charles just gave a halfhearted hum of acknowledgement, bending back over to pick up more things.
“Really, sir, it’s not.” Dallas’s voice got more determined, holding a surprising amount of energy. “We’ll find the one who actually did this . . . I will. I promise, it’s not . . .”
They both turned at the call from one of the officers. There was another search party being assembled down at the end of the street. The man who’d called Dallas waved his hand.
“Down here, Knight! We could really use you on this search team! We’re just going down a block over. Got a few reports of signs of life down that way.”
Dallas bit his lip and looked back at Charles for a second.
Charles just nodded, tiredly gesturing towards the team. “Go. They need you much more than I do right now.”
Dallas nodded, still hesitating for a second. “If you say so, sir.”
Another small, blue flash and he was down with the group at the end of the street. There were a few more shouted orders and a little more bustling around, then the team headed off down the road.
Charles kept shoving more chunks of debris and shrapnel off the foundation of the house, not even registering whether there was actually a good chance of finding survivors in what was left. It was just something to do and he needed to help somehow.
A few more men had moved further down and called for him.
“Hey, Amazing Man! Help us out with this one, will you?”
He nodded, shoved aside one last piece of wood . . . a piece of what used to be someone’s home . . . and trudged his way over to the next “house” over, feeling too heavy to fly.
One of the men forced a smile as he made brief eye contact. “Well. Good thing we got Amazing Man on our team, right?” He elbowed the other man.
Charles winced and held up a hand. “Please, just . . . call me Charles.”
Dallas started to see more in detail what had caused the look of numb, horrified shock on Mr. Fernsby’s face. Especially after helping clear a couple of houses on the next street.
Even the rescue dogs were having a hard time knowing what to do. There was just so much death around.
Dallas kept up a steady stream of prayer under his breath while they worked. That they’d save as many people as they could. That the souls who hadn’t been saved would find peace. That they’d find whoever it was who had planted these bombs and bring them to justice . . .
Thankfully, they found a few survivors in the basement of one house. Unconscious, but alive. Dallas felt a little bit better, being able to actually help a few people live. Teleporting them to the ambulance a little ways off and reassuring them it would be alright, even if they couldn’t hear.
Even from the few teleportations he’d done . . . and even after taking the two recharging shots instead of one . . . he still felt the strong pull on his energy this was taking. He was starting to get shaky again. He needed to work fast.
Their group had split a little for two houses and joined back up near the end of the street after what felt like months of digging through wreckage.
“What’s our next target, officer?” Dallas asked, standing up straighter.
The officer in charge pointed up towards a house on the left, just in back of them. “One of our guys heard sounds of life coming from in there, so I believe that would be our . . .” he trailed off, staring at the house for a few seconds.
A few other people turned and stared.
Dallas heard the sound of heavy, partially choked breathing and the heavy clomp of footsteps on broken glass and slowly turned as well.
A man. Middle aged, bearded, and wearing a battered cowboy hat and clothes stained with blood and smoke. A lot of blood Dallas realized that didn’t seem to be coming from him.
And he was holding a shotgun in his shaking hands.
“Well would you . . . l-look who decided to finally show up.” The man’s voice was cracked and gravelly. And angry.
His gaze darted around their group and rested on Dallas as he haphazardly brought the gun to bear. It was a split second before he fired, giving no one the time to react.
Yells exploded from the group at the same time pain exploded through the side of Dallas’s head.
He cried out and stumbled back, one hand automatically clutching over the spot that hurt. Pressing down hard, his fingernails digging into his scalp.
The police had their guns out. Shouting for the man to stand down. Which he did, with a fair amount of cursing.
Dallas barely noticed, still partly doubled over, holding his head and gritting his teeth. Thoughts flashing through his mind.
A shotgun. A lot of little pellets. If he fully hit me, I’d be dead. Maybe it was just a powder burn . . . a graze . . . it should be okay . . . Just keep pressure on it . . .
One of the men ran up next to Dallas, holstering his gun again. “They got the guy under control now, it’s all good. You okay, kid? You get hit somewhere?”
Dallas felt a bit of warmth on his palm. He nodded, managing to grind out an “I’ll be fine” in response. That warm stickiness meant blood though. And blood . . .
How bad is it?
Reflexively, he pulled his hand down from his head to look at how much there was.
His hand was covered in blood. A lot more than he’d expected.
For once, the logical fact – that head wounds bleed a lot and look worse than they actually are – wasn’t at the top of his mind. After seeing all the blood and the death tonight . . . in spite of the energy shots, his knees were feeling like jello again.
Oh God please no I’m going to die . . .
The world went out of focus and started tipping.
“Hey, hey, hey whoa there . . .” the other man jumped forward and caught him before he could pitch over. He got him over to the curb, doing a quick examination of the wound. “Looks like you might have got one bit of shot that clipped you. Head wounds bleed bad, y’know. You’ll be fine. It’s okay. Feeling any better now?”
It took Dallas a second, but he nodded. He swallowed hard and clamped his hand back onto his head.
The officer dug in his pockets a little, looking up as everyone else split up, dealing with the man and going to search the rest of the house. He pulled a kerchief out of his pocket. “Here, want me to bandage that up really quick for you?”
“I-If . . . if it’s not too much trouble . . .” Dallas managed weakly, taking in a shaky breath. “I have . . . I think I have some bandages with me if you want to ch-check in my belt pouches, mister . . .?”
“The name’s Friday,” the man replied, folding his bandana up. “I think this should work okay, though. Take your hand down?”
Slowly, Dallas did. He winced as the man named Friday pressed the cloth against his head and wrapped it around, trying it with a quick knot at the other side. “Thank you, Mr. Friday.”
“Not a problem.” Friday nodded, brushing his hands against his pants and looking back out towards everyone else for a second. “You want to maybe teleport yourself back down to that ambulance and get looked at officially . . .?”
Dallas slowly started pushing back to his feet. “Oh, no. It’s alright, I’m . . . I’m fine now.” He couldn’t just leave everyone else to do this by themselves without at least some of his help. A minor wound was no reason to drop out of the rescue mission completely.
Friday raised his eyebrows, but shrugged and stood along with Dallas. “If you say so . . .”
They walked back over to the smaller group surrounding the now-handcuffed man who’d tried to shoot Dallas.
“Well, what’s going on?” Friday asked as they came back into the group.
The man shot a death glare in Dallas’s direction and Dallas looked away.
“Name’s Christopher Brown,” informed one woman. “We’re still looking in the house for any other survivors.”
Mr. Brown growled out a response. “Told you idiots there’s . . . no other survivors in there. Only my Sarah and she’s . . .” his voice choked up and he gritted his teeth so hard Dallas could hear it, ducking his head down.
“We’re recovering the body, at least,” the woman continued, hiding a flinch. She swallowed.
Charles really thought he would throw up when they got around to the house near the end of the street and started recovering bodies that matched the descriptions of one particular family.
There was the body of a little boy in the yard, crushed by a giant beam fallen from the house. He could see the way the hair played into the family resemblance at least. He could also make a guess at the source of the scream he’d heard.
It probably came from one of the two Dankworths he’d seen.
They started going through the rest of the rubble that was the house.
Charles couldn’t find it in him to look at any more bodies. If they thought one was in a particular place, he’d pull the wreckage aside for them, not look, and move on. It just . . . it hurt too much.
He pushed aside a few pieces of the garage and quickly moved on to where he guessed was the kitchen. Back to shoving aside more big pieces of ceiling and wall and furniture.
More and more unpiling.
Then he saw a body. And he saw a bit of movement. Heard a noise.
Right next to the kitchen counter. The crumpled, bloody form of a woman with dark hair, but she was curled over something. Something that was moving.
Charles could make out the noises by now. The crying of a child.
Suddenly spurred on with much more energy than before, Charles dug faster. Filled with the feeling that somehow . . . somehow God had just opened up some small doorway to redeeming himself in the tiniest way. Some way he could help this family he’d let die . . .
“I’m coming,” he called to the child. “Keep talking. What’s your name?”
“Who a-are you?” came back the trembling, small voice.
“I’m Charles Fernsby . . .” he began, then bit his lip before continuing, on the chance that the child had heard of him. “Amazing Man.”
“Amazing Man?” the terrified voice held a small note of awe.
Charles reached the body of the woman who’d died shielding her child, quietly saying a word of prayer and thanking her as he gently set her aside, uncovering the small boy underneath.
He looked up with wide eyes, tears streaking down his face. “You . . . you’re Amazing Man?” he asked quaveringly.
Charles nodded, gently picking him up. “And you . . .” his voice choked a little. “You’re a little Dankworth, aren’t you?”
The boy nodded. “Leif.”
Charles swallowed hard. “Well, I’m going to take care of you, Leif. Don’t worry.”
Hope you all…
Well, be thankful your family didn’t get blown up and have a good weekend everyone! Comment below with thoughts/to yell at me.