The glow from the watch faded from its active state to standby making the room get awfully dark. The fact that the watch never reactivated said a lot about its wearer. Justice tried to find some sort of guilt or remorse, but the anger that was fueled by his powers kept all of that at bay.
“Now do you see?” he asked.
“I see a little boy who got mad that his favorite toy is broken.” The new voice came from a patch of darkness that was somehow darker. “So he decided to have a temper tantrum.”
“Tread careful old man,” Justice said.
“Or what?” the shadow said. Justice felt his head explode in pain as something large, hard, and moving faster than it should smashed into his left ear. The transfer of momentum carried him off his feet, tossing the body that was attached to that head into the chair and onto the floor. “Remember I made you, boy.”
Justice shook his head and immediately regretted the decision. Still he managed to push himself to a sitting position. “You made me? I’m here because you screwed around once too many times and got lucky. It doesn’t matter now. I’m better than you. The amount of Juice I can take would kill you.”
The shadow got darker, but this time Justice was waiting for it. He lit himself up with a kick from his reserves burning through a lot of the Juice he had remaining. The light chased away all the shadows revealing a hunched over bald man leaning on his four-footed cane. The old man flinched away from that light and fell backward hard. Justice maintained the light but focused it more on the shriveled-up figure in front of him leaving the rest of the room in shadow except for the weak light from the watch behind him.
Justice slowly stood, never shifting his eyes or that spotlight. “See, your little boy is now the man.” He launched a kick into the man’s midsection. The crack of bone snapping could be heard. The old man howled and tried to curl himself up in a ball.
“Any last words before I end our relationship?”
Justice felt his back explode in pain. Soon his front joined in the chorus as he slammed face first into the far wall. The room plunged into darkness except for the watch’s bright glow highlighting the old man in odd relief.
“I’ll take him,” the owner of the watch said. “Puck ass kids like him deserve to have his timeclock punched.” The watch face flared green, engulfing the old man, and slowly the wrinkles melted and the no longer old man stretched, seemingly popping his broken ribs back in place in the process. “That’s your payment. Now get out of my sight before I decide your time is up as well.”
“I feel amazing,” the formerly old man said.
“Don’t get too used to it. Time waits for no one, well except for me.” The watch faded back to standby.
“Time runs out for everybody,” the old man said.
“What did you say?”
Before the formerly old man could respond, Justice lit up brighter than the noon day sun. He sent a piercing beam of light into the body attached to the watch. The watch flared to life, but its light was soon overwhelmed. The watch once again faded to standby as the body attached to it sunk to their knees.
The formerly old man reached a hand out and engulfed the watch in darkness. “Time’s up, Buttercup.”
The owner of the watch screamed as the watch and the body attached to it faded into nothingness.
“Time’s up, Buttercup?” Justice said before he sagged to one knee. He pulled out a small can, opened it, and poured the contents down his throat. He crushed the can and flicked it onto the floor.
The formerly old man stared at the can. “What?” Justice asked. Nothing broke the silence until Justice sighed and picked it up, placing it in the trash.
The formerly old man smiled. “I thought it was appropriate.”
“Appropriate? You are one corny old bastard.”
“Who are you calling old?” The formerly old man stood up straight, and now he towered over Justice.
Justice didn’t rise to the bait. “So you happy how it turned out?”
The formerly old man ran his hands through his thick red curly hair. The smile on his face said it all. “Yeah, but that whole kicking in my lungs could have been avoided.”
“You said make it convincing.”
“You still broke my ribcage. In multiple spots. I was spitting up blood.”
Justice laughed. “You said he would turn back your clock. That was the deal for you delivering me, so I figured that also meant any damage I did to you would be rolled back as well.”
The formerly old man crossed his arms in front of him. “You went off script.”
Justice waived that comment off. “Besides, I had to have a reason to keep up my sheath to help mitigate some of that last attack. Damn that thing could hit.”
“That’s what you get when you can manipulate time. Slow things down, reverse them, “
Justice finished it for him. “Or speed them up. Damn physics. I hate momentum!”
The formerly old man patted Justice on the back. “You’re learning. There is hope for you yet, but for now let’s go home.”
“Sounds good. What’s for dinner?”
“Your mom is making fried chicken.”
“She is going to freak out when she sees you,” Justice said.
“I know. You might want to go out for a while after dinner. I’ve got some things I need to do that I haven’t been able to for a looooooong time.”
Being a superhero wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. Sure you get fame and name recognition. Hell, she made a mint being a spokesperson for products from toothpaste (“Knock the plaque right out of your mouth”) to sports cars (“Have a blast while moving fast, even without the spandex”).
Krystal hated the physical beatings she took on a regular basis, and the insurance rates for liability and destruction were astronomical. The worst though was the impact on your personal life. Running two different lives, with one of them top secret, made dating a living hell. The last guy she had been with basically broke up with her and left with the pizza delivery girl one night after a particularly long and painful supervillain fight.
All of that didn’t really matter at the moment as Krystal sent pulses of kinetic energy into the perp that had just ripped the vault out of First Federal Bank. The pulses hit the robber in the torso, causing the vault to fall down into the rubble of the bank’s back wall. Krystal floated to the right to get a better angle.
The perp looked up at Krystal and shook a fist. “Damn you Pulsed!” His voice filled with as much gravel as the rubble around him.
Krystal stopped midair. Something about the thief struck her as familiar. Without all the grittiness in his voice, he would almost sound like…
He reached down and with a flick of his wrist flung a huge hunk of concrete her direction. Krystal barely dodged out of the way before sending another three blasts of kinetic energy into him, two right on the chin and the last to his right shoulder.
The perp teetered but didn’t fall. He instead leapt into the air and managed to grab onto Krystal’s foot. She kicked out, enhancing the action with a large burst of her kinetic power, but before he let go he managed to throw her into a nearby building. She bounced off the second floor before falling the rest of the way to the ground. She softened the two-story fall with a quick kinetic burst, but still, the landing rattled her teeth and would leave some bruises on her knees.
The perp wiped away some blood that was trickling out of his busted lower lip through his torn mask. “Stay down and I won’t hurt you anymore,” he said.
Krystal pulled herself to her feet. She glanced at her communicator on her arm. The rest of the crew should be on its way. She just had to stall a bit more she hoped. She decided to turn up the sarcasm.
“You have a funny way of not hurting me,” she said. “Why don’t we dance a bit more?”
The perp this time did a double take. “What did you say?”
“I asked if you wanted to dance some more?”
Hearing her real name coming from his mouth stunned her more than the smashing into the building. How did he know?
“Is that really you?” he asked. The gravel was gone from his voice.
Krystal’s eyes went wide as she finally recognized who she was facing. “Peter, is that you?”
“Well I’ll be damned if this isn’t awkward,” Peter said. He then laughed. “So this is what you were doing when you got called into work?”
“When did you get powers?”
“I had them all the time. I was just trying to play it straight, but then, well you know. I had to figure out something after I didn’t have a place to live.”
“Shelia dumped you?”
“The pizza delivery girl.”
“Was that her name?”
Krystal saw red. She flung everything she had left and landed it on his chin. Peter’s eyes rolled back and he crumbled to the ground very ungracefully.
“Break up with me and don’t even remember her name?” With that, Krystal slumped to the ground as well.
Her com came to life with Dr. Valliant’s voice. “Hold on Pulsed. The cavalry is on the way.”
Krystal muttered under her breath. “Make sure you don’t drop your coconuts, Sir Robin.” She punched on her mic. “The perp is down, so call in the paddy wagon. I’m going home and ordering a pizza.”
Cari looked at her left hand where smoke was rising from her fist. The wall of the bank in front of her laid in pieces, and the alarm was sounding at a level just under supersonic jetfighter. She slowly opened her hand and examined it. Nothing looked different at all. It looked exactly the same as it did just thirty seconds ago, but nothing was the same. She looked up just in time to see a man poke his heavily balding head out to see what had happened. “Sir, please help me,” she pleaded. All that seemed to do is frighten him back behind the wall.
Cari looked back and forth, trying to figure out what to do. She felt drained, almost like normal. It was hard to believe that pill had changed her that much. Matt had told her to point her hand at the wall and think about knocking it down. Just keep calm and she would be done. That’s all she needed to do to get her daughter back. That’s all she could think of.
The man came back to the hole, but this time with a gun in his hand. Cari threw her left hand behind her back. “Don’t shoot,” she screeched. “I’m not armed.”
“Both hands in the air!” screamed the man. “Do it now!”
“I’m not armed,” Cari cried. She was in a panic, not wanting to move. The panic fed the power. It began to intensify.
“Do it now!” screamed the man. He took aim at her. “Do it!”
Cari began to cry. She slowly lifted her right hand, and then her left. The power was beginning to hurt as she tried to keep it in check. “Help me,” she said. “Please.”
The man climbed over the rubble and out of the hole. He kept his gun trained on Cari the whole time. “Down on your knees!” he commanded.
Cari heard the sound of sirens coming closer. She felt like she was burning up. Time seemed to stretch almost to a breaking point. All she wanted was to have one more chance to hold her daughter. The power fed on her anxiety and fear, growing stronger and stronger, screaming to be let free. Her world shrunk to a haze of pain and overwhelming sadness.
The man stopped and yelled at her again, but she didn’t understand a word he said. She looked at him and mouthed goodbye to him, her daughter, the world.
The explosion set off alarms three miles away. Matt smiled waved his team into action.