Rachel in Infinity City: Part 16

I gave them a few moments, and that was a mistake.

Remember how I’d protected myself by phasing out enough not to hear? It’s great for avoiding control by super-powered slavers, but not so good for hearing what’s going on.

My fear was that they’d take Julie’s gag out, and she’d start telling me what to do. What I didn’t think of was that they’d take her gag off, and she’d immediately tell them how to turn off the bombs and open the door.

I don’t know if that’s what happened, but as I was about start my final countdown, the door opened, and the Blues walked in with Julie.

She stood with them, trying to order everyone inside the circle to do something.

Not that I had any idea what.

I faded out of visibility and flew over toward the circle, becoming visible, but not tangible in a spot directly inbetween the circle, and the door.

“This is your last chance,” I said. “I’m going to blow this place up whether you leave or not. One…”

The Blues looked at each other. Julie said something.

“Two…”

Julie shouted a command, her face reddening as she screamed.

“Three.”

I started floating toward the wall. I didn’t move my body at all. I held myself as if standing, and willed myself forward, looking unnatural as I flew. Or so I hoped.

You’ve got to pay attention to these things. That’s one of the things Nick doesn’t notice. He thinks a fight is just a fight. He misses that any time you’ve got an audience, it’s a performance.

If it had been a play, my part would have been named “Your Inevitable Death,” and if I played it well enough nobody would have to die.

I kept my expression calm and focused on the wall, Julie’s gun ready in my hand, and it worked. They bought it.

Julie started running for the stairway as one of the Blues tried to attack me. He  struck at me, his hands a blur of blows that would have killed me if I’d been solid.

A year ago, I might have freaked out. After a nearly a year of working with Lee, I stayed calm, and stayed intangible.

Well, mostly calm. I held on by taking deep breaths, but not obvious breaths, okay?

In a moment, the flurry of strikes ended. The man stepped back, and all at once, the Blues ran for the stairway too.

I continued on through the wall into the domain of jury-rigged computers, gas cans, and concrete. I was alone, giving me time to think. Did I really want to blow up the building and risk killing people?

I took a breath, reminded myself that they were slavers, and that the Blues would kill Tara and her father the first chance they got.

That was enough. I could go through with it.

Once through I had a new question to ask myself. What can should I shoot first? The basement had an embarrassment of riches in that department—provided you redefined riches to mean gas cans.

I chose the nearest, pulled the gun out, and fired, steeling myself for the blast.

Which didn’t come. The gunshot ripped a hole in the side of the can, and knocked it over. Gas spilled on the floor.

I tried to think of a good way to light the gasoline. I didn’t have matches or a lighter. I’d quit smoking years ago—after Grandma was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Could the flash from the gun’s muzzle do it? I doubted it. I didn’t see anything metal that I felt comfortable wacking against the concrete in the hope I might get sparks. Besides, to create sparks that way, enough of me would have to be phased in to hold the metal.

Annoyingly, my grenades were on my utility belt, and my belt was back at the Stapledon program’s underground base. Mentally I cursed the stupid requirement that caused me to leave it, my costume, and my own weapons at home.

Avoiding trouble because you didn’t look like you were looking for trouble made some sense, but if you found it anyway, you were so screwed.

I flew back through the wall. No one, but our people were in the basement. Good, but we probably didn’t have long before they came back down.

Then I looked at the bluish-white glow around the circle, and wondered how the hell I was going to explain all this since Samita had obviously blocked sound.

As I landed next to the circle, Sam stepped forward, breaking the circle.

“I shot one of the cans, but it didn’t explode.”

Sam wrinkled her nose. “That’s why it smells like gas.”

“Yeah. We’d better get out of here—like now,” I said. “They won’t be running right back in here, but if it doesn’t blow up soon, they’ll be back.”

Tara stepped out with Travis and Rod. “We’ve got fifty-three seconds before they come back in.”

I looked at her. “What? How do you know?”

Tara shook her head. “Forty-nine seconds.” Pointing to one of the corners, she said, “Travis, if you take out the beams right there, we’ll be able to exit out the side door of the back room. They won’t see us because they’ve moved to get away from the blast.”

When Travis didn’t instantly move, she said, “Thirty-eight seconds. Go!”

He went, changing from a big guy who was muscled like a football player to an even bigger guy with fangs, and clawed hands and feet.

Stepping next to Samita I asked, “Who gave Tara the brain transplant?”

13 thoughts on “Rachel in Infinity City: Part 16”

  1. Hey, has anybody seen Hitler’s brain come through here? I was just doing the bi-monthly maintenance and cleaning on his jar and the sucker just slipped away. Must have had something on his mind but it’s not like it’s got anybody to go home with.

    Oh well, I’m sure it’ll all work itself out.

    1. Policeman: I just got a call that some Jewish teenagers had been attacked by a brain… Though I doubt it’s related…

  2. I don’t know why but Rachel’s narration is brilliantly similar AND different from Nick’s. I find her almost as analytical and sparse in her details (whereas Haley and Cassie were both more exuberant than Nick) but she also has an edgier sarcasm and humour than the rest.

    So it’s like you can tell by her thoughts that she’s related to Nick but not the same.

  3. “I don’t know that that’s what happened, but as I was about start my final countdown, the door opened, and the Blues walked in with Julie.” –> Maybe change the first “that” to an “if”.

    I echo G.S. analysis. In these side stories, you do a great job of giving each character a different persona and voice. Given the sheer number of individuals that pop in and out, this is impressive.

    “You’ve got to pay attention to these things. That’s one of the things Nick doesn’t notice. He thinks a fight is just a fight. He misses that any time you’ve got an audience, it’s a performance.

    If it had been a play, my part would have been named “Your Inevitable Death,” and if I played it well enough nobody would have to die.”

    Love the contrast between her and Nick. Rachel has ethereal almost ghostly like powers whereas Nick uses powered armor. Considering their skill sets, this analysis just makes sense.

  4. PG: You know what this serial’s been missing? Not nearly enough Hitler. For a superhero serial that’s been set during WW2 at times, you’d think I’d have had at least one character punch him in the jaw. It’s traditional.

    Gavin/Evil Twin: That’s a relief. I always worry about showing differences between characters when I’m writing first person narration for each of them. As much as anything else, I like the challenge.

    That said, I’m still writing each one of them, so as much as I want it to sound different, it’s still going to sound like me. My goal is always to make the character’s voice sound enough like them that my underlying limitations aren’t the most prominent part of the character’s style.

    Plus, there are a lot of ways to do it wrong–giving the character a catchphrase or accent is one of them. For characters that will only appear briefly, that’s okay, but not in a character that you’ll spend serious time with.

    The cool thing is that if your characters are different enough, things suggest themselves. For example, Nick would never make the “brain transplant” comment out loud. Neither would Haley. Cassie might easily make it directly to Tara. Rachel would say it, but not to the person whose feelings it might hurt.

    Evil Twin: Thanks for noting the “that that’s.” “If” works better.

  5. Yeah, Rocket doesn’t do too good a job scaring people out. I doubt he’d have even tried shooting a gas can just because he knew it wouldn’t work. And yet that still gained them some time because Julie and the Peacekeepers didn’t know that either.

    Not sure if Mythbusters tested that, though they did take a look at various firearm myths like shooting through a lock or shooting around you in the floor so that you fall down through it.

    Don’t worry, found Hitler’s brain. Not in Tara at all. See, I switched the signs for the blender room and the giant telepathic robot mecha room. What a mix up, eh?

  6. For the record, Rachal should have dressed Julie, a.k.a. “Evil Slaver”, up as the gimp from Pulp Fiction–(heck the name even fits with the outfit!) If Julie been properly attired, she would probably still be tied up.

    I like how Tara becomes smarter and more analytical when threatened. It explains her earlier comment at the beginning of the story and her fascination with Nick. Someone who only becomes a tactical genius when threatened would be fascinated with someone who is perceived as highly intelligent and very tactical in their every day life.

    1. Group think would not explain her knowing which beam/beams Travis needed to take out to allow for their unnoticed escape

  7. Little type for you;

    ‘Blues would kill Tara and her father the first chance the got.’

    Needs a y on the second to last word there.

    Otherwise a great read to start my weekend 🙂 Thanks! Needed that! 🙂

  8. It’s possible that Tara has the ability to see a short distance into alternate futures and so has “seen” Travis taking out those beams and them all escaping. This ability could easily be one only triggered by extreme stress. I played a character in Champions rpg who had to miss his Ego roll in order to become hyper-aware. This increased his Danger Sense and SPD for a short period of time as well as allowing him to assign skill levels to increase his chance of using a skill. Another player once popped a balloon behind him while trying to defuse a bomb to boost his success chance 😀

  9. “Julie started running for the stairway as one of the Blues tried to attack me. {His} struck at me, his hands a blur of blows that would have killed me if I’d been solid.”

    Probably meant ‘he’ there, Jimmy-boy.

    And yes, I am back. No, I don’t want a party to celebrate. I also don’t accept gifts, because they can be misinterpreted as bribes by the folk watching me. (They are always there. Watching. Sounds crazy so it must be true.) I do accept cash, though. Thanks.

    You’ll get to see me around a bit more again. After all, I get jealous when Psycho Gecko gets all of the attention. There ARE more than one of us crazies around. Don’t let him tell you otherwise.

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