“You can drop the disguises now,” called the man as he strolled through the doorway, similarly armed. A grunted response came from the man at the counter.
“Shit,” I heard from Devin as the faces and costumes melted away, revealing the two heroes to be Benton and Bluefang; the two we’d escaped the day before.
“Don’t move, stay still. Stay where you are. Do not move from your current position,” Benton droned. I could feel his power teasing at the edges of my consciousness. I could still move, I reasoned, but if I did Bluefang would shoot me. It was safest to stay still.
No, that didn’t make any sense, did it? If I stayed still I would just get more under Benton’s influence.
Out of the corner of my eye I could see Benton move, a glint if light shining off of a sleek, ultramodern handgun.
“Don’t. Move.” he said, and pulled the trigger.
I didn’t move, and neither did anything else. What Benton had said finally sank in. I didn’t even breathe.
My heart pounded once, disobeying my will. The muzzle of Benton’s gun flared and a metal slug burst out, only to freeze in the air.
Another heartbeat. The bullet jerked forward about a foot. I could trace its path through the air past my head. Straight towards Rey, motionless behind me.
The bullet was just in front of me now, and I could see it rotating gently as it cut its path through the air. If I don’t do something, that will kill Rey, I thought, my head clearing of Benton’s influence. I started to move, ever so slowly, causing the bullet to start forward once more.
The bullet jerked forward again, and I adjusted the trajectory of my hand to intercept, leading by about the distance the bullet had moved last heartbeat.
The bullet was just in front of my hand now, and I started to close my fingers into a fist. I felt the bullet contact my skin as it inched its way into the closing trap. It burned, like catching a flame.
The bullet slapped into the palm of my hand, jerking my arm back painfully.
I took a breath, and everyone else caught up, slamming back into full speed. The lump of metal burned in my hand and a spot of numbness was spreading in my palm where it had contacted. I quickly dropped it, landing gently on the carpet with a soft noise. Benton, still recovering from the recoil, started, eyes wide.
“Holy shit!” Cried Bluefang, starting to squeeze the trigger on her own gun reflexively. I let out my breath.
I managed to bring up my other arm in the time it took her to pull the trigger fully, backhanding the gun aside just before the bullet exited the barrel. Moving faster, it seemed, made everything else move faster too. The bullet flew off towards the ceiling, moving much more rapidly now than before.
The gun flew out of Bluefang’s hand, the force of the recoil causing it to spin as the handle caught on her fingers. I stretched out my hand and caught it, upside-down, my left ring finger on the trigger. It was no way to hold a gun, I knew, but at this range I didn’t think it mattered.
I took a breath.
Bluefang pulled her hand back, raising them above her head. My right palm was starting to sting as the numbness from the impact faded. I twirled the gun around, slowing my breathing for a moment so I didn’t fumble it.
“You speak, I shoot her,” I said to Benton. He opened his mouth, then shut it again, dropping the gun. He’d realized it would be ineffective at this range.
“Fucker,” spat Bluefang. “We had you all figured out- we thought you were a tinker. What’s your deal?”
“I just want to be left alone.”
“Then why the hell do you keep coming after us?”
“H-holy crap,” came Rey’s voice from behind me, along with the sound of movement. “Did you just catch a bullet?”
“Dude, I think he did,” responded Devin, his voice awed.
The stinging in my right hand had escalated to a burning pain, and I could feel warmth dripping down my fingers. Blood. I clenched my fist involuntarily.
“You want us to leave you alone? Fine! We can’t recover the formula, and you clearly aren’t interested in a job. Honestly, at this rate, it’ll cost us more to keep this up with you than we spent on the formula in the first place. We -what she’s trying to say is we’d like to offer you a deal- Dammit! I told you not to do that!” Said Bluefang, interrupted by Commandant. “Sorry darling, but I think the kid was about to shoot you out of boredom. Kid’s a killer. I’m still seeing stars from when I ran into him last night.- You ran into him last night? -Mm hm. Me and Shift. Almost gave me a concussion, and stunned Shift.”
“What? That was your fifth?”
“Yeah, you totally fell into my trap. Good one. Oh, and Benton, don’t shoot people. It’s not nice. I know paralysis isn’t fun but you have to think about others’ feelings.”
“It wouldn’t have killed him,” said Benton, and the pain in my hand suddenly doubled. It took me a moment to realize I’d punched Benton in the face, without moving the gun off Bluefang. The blood dripping between my fingers left a red smear across his cheek and he stumbled back, losing his balance and falling. He hadn’t expected that. For that matter, neither did I.
“Don’t talk,” I said. “Be glad I let you off with a warning.”
“Ooh, I like your fire! Anyway, I’d hoped to convince you to join my little ‘Redlake Heroes Association,’ a pet project of mine, but you you just weren’t interested. That would have made things sooo much easier.”
“Wait, the RHA doesn’t exist?” I said.
“No darling, I’m afraid not. Of course it exists, but it’s mine. Most of the members are actually us.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Well because it hardly matters anymore now does it? You’ve beaten us. We don’t have any offensive capabilities you can’t shut down completely now that our formula supplier has skipped town, and you are irritatingly obstinate. No, I’m afraid the game is up. Here’s my deal: you can have these three. Call the cops, get them arrested, I don’t care. They’ve served their purpose. Meanwhile, Opiate and me are already- What? You’re just abandoning us? -yes, I thought I’d made that clear.”
“You really don’t value your subordinates, do you?”
“Nope! Ta-ta!- Fucker!” Screamed Bluefang.
“Pitfall, Basilisk, deal with them,” I said, walking through the doorway past the two villains as they dropped through the floor.
“Nonono stop it, stop it STO-” came Benton’s voice, cutting off with a flash of light.
I approached the counter where Shift was still slumped. His fingers were twitching slightly, and he made soft grunting noises as he worked his stiff jaw. I pushed him out of the way and picked up the phone on the counter left-handed
“This guy’s going to need another dose,” I called back to Basilisk as I dialed 9-1-1 awkwardly with my left hand, still holding the phone.
“Nuh!” Grunted Shift.
“911, what’s your emergency?” Said a female voice from the telephone.
“Hey, I’m at the flower shop on Dyson street, we’ve got three subdued supervillains here, go by Shift, Benton, and Bluefang,” I said. “The effects wear off over time, so get a collection team here stat.”
“Mm-Hm. On it’s way. We’ve had reports of gunfire from the area, is anyone hurt?”
“I had to catch a bullet, but that’s it. Nothing serious.” While I spoke, I opened the fist my right hand had been clenched in and took a look at my palm, and started to doubt it what I’d said, that it was “nothing serious.” The skin on my palm had been torn away by the bullet, exposing raw flesh beneath. The exposed flesh of my hand was weirdly discolored, a grey-red color with black flecks embedded in the muscles. It wasn’t bleeding anymore, which sermed odd, but it still felt like I was holding a red-hot coal.
“There’s a medic with the collection team. He should be able to patch you up. Now, I’m legally obliged to ask you to identify yourself, but remember you have the right to not answer. Who are you?”
I thought for a moment, then hung up the phone. I had yet to think of a name for myself. Meanwhile, Pitfall and Basilisk had finished dealing with Bluefang and Benton. Basilisk took a moment to hit Shift with his power again.
“Okay, let’s try to get out of here before the collection team arrives.”