Chapter 30

“Another alarm?” Neil thought to himself as he thought about the last month. There had been a regular occurrence of armed robberies and hostage situations and something wasn’t sitting right.

“Hey Tom, you still there?”

“Yeah, what’s up? You having problems finding the place?”

“No, I’m there already – sitting on the roof. I just have a bad feeling about this. The last few weeks have been weird. How many times have I showed up to take down a group of armed robbers that weren’t really robbing anything or rescue a group of hostages held by people who weren’t making demands. Something fishy.”

“You’ve been saying this a lot lately.”

“I’ve been feeling this way a lot lately. Something isn’t adding up.”

“On the other hand, you’ve been getting stronger and learning to control your powers. Wasn’t that the goal?”

“Well, yeah, it was. But, I expected a variety of stuff, maybe some organized crime, muggings. This last month has pretty much consisted of formulaic attacks.”

“Maybe people keep hearing about this Sinewave character and want to come test their mettle against him.”

“That’s depressing. Both because I’m still not hot on that name, and because Mondale was pretty much crime free when we showed up. If my presence is making it a target for thugs, we might need to rethink the plan.”

“That’s true. On the other hand, maybe it’s Conrad.”

“Well, yeah, but to what end? It’s only making me better and stronger. The last two times I didn’t even need to use the cannons.”

“Oh, speaking of the equipment, how is the new costume working out?”

Neil looked down at the cloak. Even he had to admit that his new costume was pretty awesome. It was a hooded cloak with sleeves large enough to hide the cannons. Tom even managed to get a better version of the hover suit inside of it.

“The costume is pretty badass, Tom. I have to admit, I thought it’d be a pain in the ass compared to the coat, but I can move way better in it, it hides the blue glow of the glide suit and looks pretty awesome when it’s flapping in the wind.”

“I’m glad it’s working out for you.”

“Better than the name.”

“Oh Neil, stop taking this so seriously. It’s a cool name. It’s better than Electric Man. I told you from the get-go that you’d need to pick a name before you’re stuck with one. And for what it’s worth, it’s still trending on social media.”

“That’s not funny.”

“I’m not kidding. It has been blowing up for a month now. People everywhere love you. Well, except for the people who hate you. Ah well, social media is such a mixed bag.”

“As fascinating as this is, I think we need to get back to the point here. This feels like a trap and I think I’m going to bail on this.”

“If it were a trap, it wouldn’t feel like one, that’s the point of a trap, Neil. Besides, there’s no indication whether or not there are hostages this time. The scanner tells me that the police say it’s inconclusive, but they’re treating it as if there’s people inside.”

Neil sighed. “Yeah, alright. I’ll go take care of it, but tonight is the last patrol I’m doing. I can’t possibly get any more ready at this point. It’s time to face Conrad and let the people of Mondale go back to their crime-free life.”

“Yeah, I can get behind that.”

Neil paused for a second.

“Hey Tom?”

“Yeah Neil?”

“I just wanted to say that I appreciate what you’ve done for me.”

“Neil, that sounds final.”

“Trap or not, either way tonight’s the last patrol. May as well be a little sappy about it.”

“Neil, I have something to tell you…”

“What’s that, Tom?”

“I picked the name Sinewave and leaked it to the media.”

Neil smiled. “Of course you did. Only you, Tom, only you. I take back my gratitude, you jerk.”

Neil was unable to decipher Tom’s response over the hysterical laughing on his end. Neil took a second to appreciate the situation and found some humor in it. Even just knowing that the name didn’t come from a group of strangers made him feel a little better about it.

Neil took a second to compose himself before announcing his plan to Tom.

“Alright, Tom, I’m going in.”

Neil looked around the rooftop. The roof had one of those walk-in doors that jutted out. He walked up and grabbed the handle. It was unlocked. He opened the door and looked down the staircase.

“Already too easy,” Neil thought to himself. He could not get his heart to stop pounding. “Something isn’t right.”

Neil tentatively walked down the staircase to the first door. He opened it carefully and looked around. Typical office building. Cubicles and meeting rooms. Quietly, he checked the entire floor of the building. One by one he checked cubicles and opened office doors. This floor was clear.

He moved back to the staircase and repeated the process for the next two floors.

After clearing this floor, Neil ran back to the staircase and slammed the door open thoughtlessly. The resulting noise echoed throughout the staircase. He winced.

“I’m getting rattled and I’m anxious for this to be done with and I’m not being careful,” Neil thought. “I didn’t even take cover or check as I opened the door, I’m making a ruckus, I need to slow this down and take a breath.”

Neil sat down on the staircase and attempted to soothe his nerves. He just couldn’t seem to quiet his thinking or focus. This would make it hard to corral his electrical powers. He started to focus on his breathing just as a scream echoed through the stairwell.

Neil felt a pang of guilt. The noise probably alerted them to his presence. He stood up and sprinted down the stairs, trying to figure out the source of the scream. As he approached the next doorway, he could hear people milling about. Without hesitation, he kicked the door open and pounced through the stairwell.

As he exited the stairwell, a thug attacked him. Neil fought to fend off the attacker. It was far more difficult than usual. Every attack he made was blocked. Every block he made was ineffective.

After only a few seconds of hand to hand with this thug, Neil felt sore all over. His legs felt like lead, his fighting style became loose and even more ineffective. He was seriously outmatched. Frustrated, Neil decided to just let the electricity loose on this thug.

He grabbed the thug by the shoulder. Small lightning bolts arced across the thug, but nothing happened. Surprised, Neil was distracted enough that the thug landed a solid punch to his gut, winding him. As Neil fell to the ground he turned on the cannons and let the villain have it. The cannons did their job. The thug was out cold.

“Tom,” Neil whispered, “you still there?”

“Yeah, what’s up?”

“I was right. It is a trap.”

Neil stooped over the thug and looked at his body armor. It was jet black, and seemed to have multiple layers of fabric for some padding. Neil peeled some of the padding back by the neck. Between the layers, there was a metal mesh sewn into it.

“Why do you say that, Neil?”

“Because they have countermeasures designed specifically for me. Some kind of shielding built into the body armor that dissipates electrical attacks.”

“Well, shit. Get out of there now, Neil.”

Neil nodded. He ran back to the stairwell. He pulled at the door, but it wouldn’t budge. As he pulled at the reinforced metal door, panic set in.

“They must have tampered with the door,” Neil thought to himself, “I’m going to have to look for another way out.”

Gunfire rang out, punctuated by frantic screaming. Neil felt a cold chill run down his neck. He felt guilty for wanting to retreat, but he debated how dangerous it would be for the hostages if his powers didn’t work. Neil didn’t enjoy this impossible choice. The guilt made him uneasy.

Frantically searching the building, Neil finally came across another reinforced door marked as a fire exit. He checked the handle and it opened. An immediate sense of relief set in as he opened the door.

The stairwell was pitch black. As the door closed behind him, Neil realized this wasn’t a stairwell. He cursed himself for letting a one-way door foil him a second time. The lights came on and whatever was left of Neil’s sense of relief vanished as quickly as the darkness.

Neil found himself in a large, empty boardroom. Immediately, he noticed that the walls and ceiling were lined with the same kind of metal mesh as the armor. There were a dozen more men in the room wearing the same armor as the first thug.

Before he could react, one of the thugs was already running toward Neil.

“He’s too close for the cannons to work,” thought Neil. Just then, Neil felt his adrenaline surge. His heart started to pound. His brain quieted down and everything seemed to move slowly around him. Instinctively, Neil dodged the villain at the last second, spun around, and landed an elbow to the villain’s throat as hard as he could. While his attacker leaned forward to cough and gasp for air, Neil hooked his arm for a shoulder throw. He threw the villain toward two other goons, temporarily distracting them as they caught their ally.

Before the next thug could react, Neil dove towards the ground in front of him, landing a decent handstand kick to the chest, which sent the thug sprawling. Using the momentum, he threw his body forward into something between a front flip and a summersault, rolling onto his back. As he did that, he pushed his legs forward and kicked another thug in the knees, resulting in an audible crunch and a stifled yelp as another assailant hit the ground.

“Two confirmed down. Ten to go,” Neil thought to himself.

Neil got to his feet quickly and put his arms up in a fighting stance. The other attackers seemed hesitant to engage. Neil took advantage of the space, activating the cannons. Moving his arms back and forth wildly, Neil fired at the remaining villains.

Neil noticed that his cannons didn’t seem to have the ordinary stopping force. All the villains seemed to be down, but some weren’t unconscious. Still, he was satisfied at his performance.

“If I can handle this kind of trap, I think I might actually be ready for Conrad,” Neil mused to himself.

The door behind Neil started to open. Neil turned around and heard a pneumatic noise, like an air compressor. A sharp fiery pain radiated through his shoulder. He looked down at what looked like a harpoon through his torso, just under his collarbone.

Panicking, he reached up with one hand and tried to pull the projectile out so he could heal, but it would not come. He took a deep breath, wrapped both hands around the harpoon and pulled as hard as he could. It would not budge. A sharp pain in his back forced Neil to stop pulling.

He looked over his shoulder. Designed similar to an umbrella, the harpoon had gone straight through and released foot-long razor-sharp inset blades. It was not going to come out. The more he pulled the more he was cutting into his back.

Neil fell to his knees. He examined the harpoon. A steel cable attached to it led out of the room. As he traced the cable with his eyes towards the door, he noticed another thug entering the room.

Like the other thugs, the man wore the same jet black padded armor. He was carrying a samurai sword. He pulled off his mask. It was the man from the silo. The man who tried to kill Tom.

“I don’t believe we’ve had the opportunity to meet in person, Neil. I’m Scott. Chuck was my father.”

“We’ve met. You were the one cowering behind the desk while I rescued Tom,” replied Neil brusquely as he raised his arm cannons toward Scott. Quizzically, Neil stared at his hands. The cannons wouldn’t activate.

“Not so smug now, are you, Neil? Everyone underestimates me.”

“You brought a sword, made of metal, to fight someone with electrical powers. That might be the reason why people think you’re a moron.”

Neil attempted to fire the cannons again. They still wouldn’t activate.

“Confused?” asked Scott, as he sneered at Neil, “I suppose you are. For weeks we sent thug after thug after thug and we learned so much about you while you thought you were learning how to fight. Though, I do have to admit, you impressed me. I didn’t think you’d be able to take down these guys in hand to hand combat. You got four of them. I expected you to go straight for the cannons, but a bit of melee? That was exciting. I was almost worried you wouldn’t use the cannons. I wasn’t sure if this harpoon would work if you didn’t drain your stored energy.”

“Stored energy,” thought Neil to himself, “Drained? I’ve never run out of electricity before.”

“Oh?” replied Scott, “Did you think you had access to unlimited electrical power? I thought you were a brilliant physicist. I get that your powers kind of stretch the fabric of possibility, but you can’t create energy, Neil. Basic stuff, even for a moron like me. That’s just one of the weaknesses we learned while we fought you over and over.”

Scott pulled a handgun out of a holster and walked up to Neil.

“Yeah, Neil. Weaknesses. With an s. That’s right, plural. Though,” Scott continued with a frown, “I was really hoping that your cannons would have been ineffective against the armor too. I really wanted the guys here to lay down a beating you’d never forget. My plan was that you’d walk in here, drain your energy, get a beat down, and then I’d come in and finish you off.”

Scott shrugged and replaced the frown with a sadistic smile on his face before continuing.

“Instead, I had to go with plan b here, the harpoon. Did you know that your powers don’t work when you’re electrically grounded? I bet you didn’t. That steel cable connects to the ground in the electrical room, which pretty much makes you a normal human. A normal, weak human with a pretty major wound. Oh! Did you notice the mesh? Of course you did. It’s shielding you from the lights and wires in this place. It prevents you from being able to absorb more ambient electricity.”

Scott walked up to Neil. His gun was pointed at Neil’s face, point blank. Neil could feel his heart pounding. His collar bone felt like it was on fire, and every breath hurt. He had enough of Scott’s smug diatribe.

“Tom, if you can hear me, trash everything and run. RUN! Don’t look back.”

Gritting his teeth and pushing the pain aside, Neil jumped to his feet and lunged towards Scott. Scott sidestepped Neil and in a fluid motion brought down the sword with a flick, swiping Neil’s calf. The pain was so severe, Neil fell back. As Neil fell, Scott yanked the harpoon cable, embedding the blades deeper into his shoulder blade and neck. Neil saw stars as he felt the warm blood run down his back and down his calf. He fell to the floor sweating and hyperventilating.

“I didn’t say you could get up,” muttered Scott bitterly, “I was in the middle of saying something important. I was trying to mock your lack of self-awareness. I was trying to point out that you didn’t even – not once - bother to explore your powers scientifically or test your limitations before you decided you were battle ready. We know more about you than you do, and all from a handful of encounters. I felt it was important to share, but no, you just had to go and interrupt my gloating to try mount your pathetic defense and do the whole ‘Tom, save yourself’ thing and now I just feel sorry for you. I expected more from you. I was expecting way more resistance. I was expecting a fight.”

Scott motioned to his hand.

“I even brought a goddamn sword, not because I’m a moron but because I wanted to see if you’d regenerate an arm. I thought this would be an epic battle. Useless!”

Scott threw the sword to the ground.

“But no, you had to be stupid. Mr. smart guy over here got caught in an obvious trap. How does it feel to know that your powers are now going to be used to save the very man you hate with all your being?”

Scott walked up and kicked Neil in the ribs. Neil was already struggling with his breathing, but as he heard and felt his ribs crack, his breathing got further away from him. As Neil gasped for air, he started to taste something metallic in his mouth. Everything felt so hopeless. Neil attempted to say a few words, but only managed to make a gurgling noise followed by a cough.

“What’s that, Neil?” asked Scott, making a show of leaning forward to listen. As he leaned in, he kneeled and pushed his knee down onto Neil’s shoulder. As he came closer, he transferred more weight onto his knee, slowly forcing the blades from the harpoon further into Neil’s back. A combination of wet ripping noises and bones grinding filled Neil’s ears and echoed in his head. His vision started to fade around the edges. He knew he was about to pass out. He resigned himself to the fact that this was over. He had lost.

“I’m so goddamn disappointed in you, Neil,” said Scott as Neil’s vision faded out completely.

As Neil passed out, he was inclined to agree.

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Richard Belzile said...

No notes, just progress.

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I am Sinewave: Spark

Written by Richard Belzile

Updated semi-infrequently

I am not a professional author, this is my novice attempt at creating a novel in an episodic fashion. Comments, critiques and compliments accepted.

Richard Belzile and, 2015-2018.

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