LIVEWIRE CHAPTER 01-7: EXTRACTION (PART II)
An acute nausea began to impose itself on Brian. Starting in the pit of his stomach and reaching greedy, tickling tendrils outwards to the rest of his body. . . it threatened to paralyze him- to render him a useless, sweaty vegetable.
In a detached and otherwise calm part of his subconscious, he recognized the feeling as panic and that same rational piece of his consciousness also informed him that if he gave into the fear and doubts plaguing him, the lives of all the hostages in the building were forfeit.
How can I stop them? Brian almost screamed the thought out loud. How can I be sure they wont kill innocent people as a result of anything I do?
As he stood there, alone(or so it seemed to him) and held captive by his uncertainties, it seemed the answer was a long time coming. And when it did come to him, it wasnt the consoling, comforting platitude he expected. You cant be sure. They could all be dead with your next move. . .or they could all live.
In an effort to clear his head, Brian closed his eyes and began to take several deep, cleansing breaths the way he had been taught by his Jujitsu sensei when he had been in training two years before.
He pulled air in through his mouth and nose, held it, then slowly expelled it through his nostrils. On his second breath, a strange sensation washed over his body and something (he wasnt quite sure what) flashed in front of his closed eyes. He breathed deeply again, abandoning himself to this new sensation which made him feel as if his mind was somehow free of his body, only this was literal instead of the feeling of freedom one can get from deep meditation.
This time, the image stayed in view, but he couldnt understand it. It seemed to Brian to be glowing blue lines which twisted and turned whichever way he turned his head. He had a deep feeling that this should mean something important, but he wasnt sure what that might be.
An urgent voice in his head began to berate him and urged him to stop this foolishness. They were lives at stake here, and he didnt have time to sink into meditative trances. But this MEANS something, Brian thought, I know it does.
The sense of time slipping away, almost brought on another panic attack for Brian, but he managed to control himself enough to maintain the calm he felt, and the strange vision of the blue lines of light which turned and twisted in front of him.
And then, as if his annoying best friend was right there with him, he heard Ricks voice say something which surprisingly, made brilliant sense to him(obvious though it was): Hey, did you know that when you open your eyes you see? Rick seemed to ask.
Brians eyes snapped open and he almost laughed out loud. Suddenly it all came together.
The blue lines imposed on his vision perfectly matched the contours of the walls of the warehouse on the floor he was on he was looking at electrical wiring. Except that wasnt quite right. What he was seeing was the electrical potential of the current carried by the wiring.
Taking a few seconds to look around the room, Brian found that the wiring job done on the warehouse was very extensive. Electrical sockets were placed at regular intervals along each wall. If it was like this on each floor, it would be perfect.
Perfect for what? The annoyingly pessimistic part of his mind seemed to ask. So you can see power wiring with your eyes closed. Big, fat, sweaty, hairy deal Brian. They are some people on the floor under you that are gonna be butt-fucked in less than three minutes if you dont DO something.
With a Herculean effort, Brian ignored that voice and focussed his thoughts. Reaching for his belt, he began manipulating the control dials to focus the lenses in his mask. He switched to infrared imaging and then adjusted the zoom control slightly. The end result was that he could look through the floor at the heat signatures of the people below him, magnified just enough to let him distinguish between kidnapper and hostage.
The hostages were on the left side of the room(four of them in all) with their backs to the wall. They were pressed close together and two of the kidnappers had guns trained on them. A third was stationed near the stairs about twenty-five feet away. He zoomed in to take a quick look at the ground floor, but there were no human heat signatures that he could see Obviously, these guys had a lot of faith in the explosive charges and sensors that were set on that floor. Shifting his focus back to the second floor, Brian noted where all the electrical wiring and sockets were located. Then, he allowed his mind to relax again, forcing all the doubts and fears that he felt into a small corner and concentrating on the glowing images of the power lines on the floor beneath him.
Brian had no idea how he knew what had to be done, he didnt even have a clear idea of what would happen once the process that he set into motion began. Nevertheless, after a second or two, there was a sudden wrenching in his mind as his consciousness seemed to be forcibly pulled away from his body. And then the world exploded into the endless brilliance of pure agony.
The two battered and bloodied hostages that Brian had rescued just minutes before, sat staring dumbfounded at the man who had just saved their lives. Neither of them had known what to make of the fact that he hadnt really moved or spoken to either of them for a full two minutes, even though he had said something about rescuing their friends. He just stood there, with his back to them.
It had just entered into both their minds that maybe they should ask him if he was OK, even though neither of them was in great shape at the moment, when he was suddenly moving again. His hand went to his belt and seemed to be moving something there, making small adjustments, and then he bowed his head as if in prayer. At least it looked like prayer at first but his head was moving from side to side and the two former hostages could almost have sworn that he was looking through the floor. It was ridiculous of course, but thats what it seemed like.
The strange, dark-clad, man grew still again and then suddenly let out a gasp. His fists clenched at his sides and he collapsed a blue glow emanating from his fallen form
Pain. It was as if it was the only thing which existed in the universe. Relentless, it assaulted every inch of Brians being and consciousness as his mind broke the bonds of his body. Then, as suddenly as it began, the searing agony ceased and Brian was himself again sort of.
That is to say, he could think and reason and feel no he couldnt actually feel anything. He couldnt see either, not in the conventional sense that people associate with sight. It was more of an awareness than anything else a feeling of knowing where things were but not being able to visualize them in any way that he could describe. He was aware of his body on the ground nearby and of the two battered ex-hostages behind him. He could also sense the four hostages and the three kidnappers on the floor beneath him.
The sense of the electrical wiring which ran through the building was now so strong that it was overwhelming. The electrical potential of the wiring now seemed a part of him and there was the sure sense that if he wished, it would become a medium that he could control and manipulate something he could use to strike out.
Almost as soon as he had the thought, Brian felt what he could only later describe to Robert Mitchell as a pull. His consciousness was drawn toward one of the electrical sockets in the room and then he was transported at the speed of light to the floor below, emerging from a power outlet to the right of the two kidnappers who were covering the hostages.
With a thought that he wasnt entirely sure was his own, he summoned energy to himself and power suddenly leaped at him, coalescing in the area occupied by his displaced mind. It came from every empty power socket in the room, crackling and sizzling as it built up, becoming an incandescent ball which was instantly noticeable by the hostages and kidnappers alike.
The gunmen spun to face what they were sure was some sort of attack from the police. When they saw only a glowing ball of light, however, they stopped dead in their tracks to stare. A mistake which proved decidedly fatal.
The two men nearest the glowing electrical ball that was Brians consciousness opened up with their Heckler and Koch submachine pistols, but the bullets passed harmlessly through the energy. Then, without warning, the light from the glowing ball grew brighter and two ribbons of electrical energy lashed out to take each man in the chest, frying them with thousands of volts of electricity at a high current, and ending their lives before they could scream.
The third gunman, a wiry man with long, unkempt hair and a scar down the center of his forehead, saw the charred husks of his comrades fall to the ground and turned to run down the stairs, but Brian sensed the movement and sent another tendril of deadly energy off in the direction of the terrified man. The bolt caught him in the back, ending his life as high voltage electricity passed through his heart and stopping it from beating forever.
As the kidnappers body fell, the energy possessed by Brians displaced consciousness quickly drained away, leaving his mind floating free on the floor downstairs from his body. He remained in this state for a few seconds more before feeling the same pulling sensation. The world then promptly went dark and Brian Conway found himself coming to in his own body again.
At first, he figured it was all some strange dream, that he hadnt really had an out of body experience, but the events of the past few minutes remained too real in his mind. Then of course there was the fact that he was on the ground and he had a nasty bump on his forehead. Touching it, Brian was more than a little surprised to find that it wasnt healing nearly as quickly as it should have.
Brians thoughts then shifted to the hostages and especially the two that had been so badly beaten, he had to let the police know that the threat was neutralized and get them to the hospital. Putting his hands on the floor to brace himself, Brian jumped quickly to his feet, then sank to his knees as a wave of nausea assaulted him, along with the greatest sensation of fatigue he had ever felt before. It was as if he was completely drained, both physically and mentally, and he broke into a sweat as he fought to stop the room from spinning.
Whatever aspect of his power had allowed him to leave his body had also drained him of his energy. Brian felt the way he did when Robert pushed him too hard in his training, except that the feeling was magnified about tenfold.
The stronger of the two battered hostages limped over to where he was, obviously worried about his condition. An ironic thing considering his own.
You alright, man? he said to Brian, putting a hand on his shoulder.
Yeah Im Ok, just give me minute to catch my breath, Brian replied, feeling like he really needed a year.
Surprisingly though, the feelings of nausea and fatigue began to fade more quickly than Brian had figured they would and he was soon able to stand. His body began to feel strong again and he walked around a bit to shake off the lethargy he was feeling. On an impulse, he decided try his power. Just to be sure, he told himself.
Extending his right arm with his palm face up, he concentrated on creating a small ball of electrical energy. Instead, Brian was rewarded with a few sparks and then nothing. He couldnt get anything else out of himself.
Shit, whatever happened sucked me dry as hell. Ill probably have to walk home.
He turned to the man who had come over to help him. I need you to hold on for a couple more minutes while I check on your friends downstairs Ok?
What about the assholes with the guns? The ones up here had four friends.
Yeah, they hey where the hell are you goin ? But Brian was already running for the stairs, not even registering the fact that a minute ago he couldnt manage more than a walk.
Lieutenant Jason Sanders checked his watch and swore harshly under his breath. It was less than four minutes to the end of the kidnappers ultimatum and all he had to tell his chief about the progress he was making was that he had enlisted the aid of a superhero.
He should have never let the gray-clad upstart go into the building. It went against every rule and regulation(not to mention common sense) he could think of. What on the face of the Earth had he been thinking about? It could cost him his job if the innocents in that building got blown away. Worse than that, how could he live with himself? How could he face his wife and tell her that he was responsible for the deaths of innocent people?
Sanders turned to study the warehouse again. Except for the lights that could be seen through the windows on the two upper floors, there were no signs of life.
Oh God, what have I allowed to happen? What have I sentenced those innocent people to? Sanders muttered the words under his breath.
A few seconds later, Jason saw Chase running towards his position, a worried look on the uniformed officers face. The chiefs here Sir, he wants to talk to you right away. And I dont mind tellin you hes in a lousy mood.
Tell him I cant see him right now. Tell him Im very busy and I dont have the time tell him anything just stall him for a few more minutes Ok?
Chase looked at Sanders for a few seconds studying him. You think hes gonna come through Sir? Chase asked. Sanders didnt have to ask who he meant.
I dont know. I hope Im praying he does. Just stall for a few minutes more Ok? Chase turned and left, trying to think of a way to delay his chief without losing his badge in the process.
Damn!, Sanders said, turning to look at the warehouse.
Brian took the stairs two at a time, almost losing his balance in his haste to get to the hostages. He hoped beyond hope that the battered man upstairs had been wrong. Maybe he miscounted or got disoriented (Did he really miss a fourth gunman? Even with the infrared lenses?)
Or maybe hes right on the button, a gleefully malicious portion of his mind told him, maybe hes 100% correct. Wouldnt that be fun, hero?
He reached the bottom of the stairs and turned to look for the hostages. He saw them immediately, in almost exactly the same positions they had occupied before. It was then that the other gunman stepped from behind a stack of crates situated a couple of feet from where the hostages sat. His machine pistol pointed unerringly at the head of the nearest hostage, but his eyes were on Brian. The pistol was in his right hand and his left hand was casually thrust into his camouflaged jackets side pocket.
Well now isnt this just exciting? The mans relaxed demeanor unnerved Brian right from the start. So good of a local hero to join the party.
Dont be stupid, you saw what I did to your friends. And you know theres no way out of this, so just drop the gun and you get to keep all your limbs. It was a bluff, of course. Right at that moment, Brian wasnt even sure what he could do. It was true that he was feeling better, but the risk of trying an electrical blast from this distance of twenty feet was too great at the moment. Maybe if he could stall for a few more minutes
Ah the classical hero, offering a chance of peaceful surrender. A shame Im going to have to turn you down. Its a, dare I say it, villain thing. The mans mocking smile was wolfish. Now I know what youre thinking
You do? Brian was trying desperately to play for time. He could feel his energy returning to him. A lot faster than when he drained it by usual means.
Brian took the opportunity that the conversation created to study his opponent. The man was white, tall, with a strong build that spoke more of physical exertion in the outdoors and hard work than the kind of designer muscles you build at the gym. He looked to be in very early middle years and there was an obvious intelligence in his eyes that suggested an extensive education this man was no fool. His accent was also definitely American.
Youre thinking I can use my cool super powers to take him out from over here, right? Well Id spare a moment to think before I tried anything like that, friend. You see Ive made a study of you supposed super beings(although you seem a lot different from the usual cut), and the newspapers and magazines know that you can project energy beams etc. and thats why I thought some insurance was in order. The kidnapper removed his left hand from his pocket. In it, he held a small, white, egg-shaped object with a miniature keypad embedded in it.
Know what this is? The gunman asked. When Brian didnt answer he continued: Of course you dont. Thats because it isnt from this planet. He seemed particularly pleased with that revelation.
Nothing like it has been invented on Earth yet. Isnt that a shame? Its a bomb my friend. And dont be deceived by its size(we all know size doesnt count, dont we?). Its got enough explosive power to completely destroy everything within a six block radius of its point of detonation.
Youre lying! Brian almost shouted, but somewhere inside he knew that his enemy wasnt lying.
Oh, I believe you know differently. After all, what you can do isnt exactly considered normal is it?
Now then, my thumb on this little button is the only thing separating these innocent people here and all the police outside from becoming an unfortunate statistic on the ten oclock news. If I lift my finger weve all got about three seconds to make our peace with the big guy upstairs before we meet him face to face. Well maybe I wont be meeting him, but thats life huh? Oh, did I mention that its set to go off in four minutes anyway? That is, unless I disarm it and Im the only one who knows the combination.
Youre insane. What do you think youll get from all this? No shipment of drugs is worth this no matter how big it is.
You think this is about the cargo? He laughed at Brians statement. Little hero, I dont give a rats ass about the cargo. This is about honor about pride in my work. Its about being the best, pure and simple. My reputation, my ability to always get the job done. Thats what this is about.
Im not sure I understand Brian was feeling more like himself now, he knew he wasnt near full strength yet, but he had to act soon or everything he had done would be worthless in the face of this madmans anger. A plan had formed in his mind, but he needed a little more time to be sure of getting it right.
You just took out what was most probably the best combat unit in the world. It took me four years to get that team together and weve been working together for three years now.
During that time we have earned through blood, sweat and guts, the reputation of being the best goddamn merc unit money can buy. He stopped for a second to stare at Brian. There was hate in that gaze. I was proud to lead those men. They represented the pinnacle of what all soldiers aspire to be perfect combatants. Now theyre gone and Im going to make sure that they are remembered. By completing this job.
Now either I get to call the trucks in to get this cargo out, or you can kiss every living soul in the area goodbye. Maybe youll survive but youll probably wish youd died with everyone else isnt that right hero?
Maybe Brian willed his flying ability to work and was rewarded when he felt the familiar tingle and the seeming weightlessness of his body. Almost imperceptibly, he rose a couple inches off the ground. Or maybe youll find that you made a slight error in judgement.
And what error would that be? I hold every advantage in this game, hero.
You fucked with me! Brian shot forward with all the speed he could build, closing the twenty feet between himself and the mercenary in less than a second. His right hand streaked out to pin the mercs fingers in place around the explosive device, while his left hand closed around the wrist of the surprised kidnappers gun hand. The momentum of Brians charge knocked his opponent off balance and Brian took advantage of the fact to angle his flight up toward the ceiling, dragging the still-dazed mercenary by the hands.
Just before Brian would have hit the ceiling, his eyes glowed an incandescent blue and twin streams of intense electrical energy streaked from them. The lightning bolts shattered the lenses in his mask and streaked upward, blasting a large hole, not only through the ceiling directly above him, but through every level of the warehouse right up to the roof.
Brian soared up through the opening he had created, an intense exhilaration flooding through him as he realized his power was, in fact, almost restored. He dragged the bewildered mercenary by the hands, his grip on the hand which held the explosive device never letting up, even for a second.
The merc was so stunned by what was happening that he lost his grip on his gun along the way. He could feel the steel in the grip of the determined man who was, under his own power, flying straight into the sky and taking him along for the ride. They cleared the roof but kept going. Climbing into the night.
Brian purposely kept the speed of his ascent down to a couple hundred miles an hour or so, not wanting to expend too much energy. He would need it for what he was about to do next and he still wasnt too confident in his quick recovery.
After a while Brian stopped their ascent at what he figured would be a safe distance from the ground.
What the hell do you think youre doing? The mercenary finally found his voice and a measure of courage.
Playing my hand, Brian replied in a calm, cold voice. And guess what, friend? You lose. Brian quickly readjusted his grip on the mans hand which held the bomb, using his thumb to push the mercenarys aside and off the detonation button.
What the ! was all Brian heard as he simultaneously activated his protective field and released his grip on the mercenary. The whole thing took about two seconds from the instant that the button on the bomb was released, leaving(if what the merc had said was true) one second until detonation. In that second Brian arched away from the unfortunate mercenary and began rapid acceleration away from the bomb and the intense explosion he knew would follow.
The device glowed incandescently white for a fraction of a second before erupting into a swiftly expanding ball of unearthly heat and irresistible force. The roar was deafening as the blast wave from the impossibly tiny bomb raced angrily outward in all directions, and the merc leader was instantly consumed by the conflagration as the bomb performed its function with potent efficiency.
All the police surrounding the warehouse, and indeed, much of LA witnessed the massive explosion in the sky over Santa Monica. No one, however, watched it with as much anxiety as Lieutenant Jason Sanders.
What the HELL are you doing? He shouted in the general direction of the warehouse, drawing puzzled stares from several nearby officers.
Rubbing his temple with his right hand, Sanders went to his car in search of more aspirin.
Brian had poured on as much speed as he could in the short time between the bombs activation and its detonation. His electron field surrounded his body in an effort to provide as much protection from the blast as possible.
As fast as he was though, the blast wave managed to catch him, slamming into him from behind with more force than anything he had ever felt before. The heat was unbelievable, he could feel it even through his powerful protective field threatening to cook the skin from his body. Luck was with him though, as the force of the blast against his shielded form combined with his own momentum to push him clear of the main explosion.
Brian suddenly found himself far out over the ocean, just barely able to make out the docks where the warehouse was. Without his suits lenses, he only had normal human vision(albeit 20-20 human vision).
Momentarily, his thoughts shifted to the man he had just been forced to kill, indeed to all the lives he had taken this night and he felt doubt and remorse threaten to overwhelm him. It was necessary, a voice in his mind informed him in a matter-of-fact tone, there wasnt any other way. And he knew inside that this was true. And even though it didnt really make it any easier to accept, he knew that he could live with it he didnt have a choice.
With that resolved, he again set his sights toward land and began the return trip to the warehouse. He had to let the police know that the threat to the hostages had been neutralized if they hadnt figured it out already. And as he sped toward the shoreline at better than three hundred miles an hour, he felt his spirits lifting.
Not bad for a first time Bri, not bad at all
and I think it went Ok, all things considered, Brian was saying as he and Robert Mitchell sat in Roberts study drinking coffee.
It was the morning after the situation at the Santa Monica docks and Brian had just finished telling Robert what had happened.
Im betting a certain detective by the name of Sanders would disagree, Robert replied with a smile.
I still cant figure what hes so pissed off about. I told him Id get them out and I did. I even kept one of the damned mercenaries alive for him. Its gotta be a cop thing(maybe if I had big boobs and wore a short little red skirt ). Anyway, he wouldnt even tell me about the stuff they found in the warehouse. I didnt get a chance to check it out while I was there I was a bit occupied at the time. Im going to find out though this whole thing was more than a simple drug run Im sure of it.
What Im more interested in right now is this out of body experience you had, Robert said, suddenly growing serious. There wasnt any indication from the tests Ive run on you that you could do something like that. And you say you cant do it now?
Nope I tried three times this morning. Nothing. I dont get it.
Robert absently scratched at his chin. Maybe he began, but then Rick burst into the room waving a newspaper around, a wide grin on his finely chiseled features.
I have a new word for you Rick KNOCK! Robert threw a less-than-friendly look in Ricks direction.
Youre not gonna believe this, Rick began, ignoring Robert completely. Youre in the news, pal.
What!? They werent any reporters on the scene last night. Theres no way
My poor, naïve, hero friend, Rick shook his head in mock despair. Youre forgetting the six people you happened to rescue. Theyre perfectly free to talk to reporters constitutional rights or something.
Anyway, the problem of finding your alter-ego a name has been taken care of
Rick, Brian cut him off, Im only going to tell you this one more time. Im not going to call myself some punk, comic-book name just because you thought of it Ok? The symbol on the suit was bad enough.
Yeah well, its kind of out of our hands now.
What are you talking about?
Well it seems like a reporter that interviewed one of the hostages figured out that your abilities are electrical in nature(something about a ball of electricity coming out of an electric socket). Any-hew, the reporter had a brainstorm and well Rick held up the front page of the paper. On it was a drawing of a gray-suited, outrageously over-muscled
man. The figure was flying over a city and there was what appeared to be electricity shooting from his hands. The label under the picture read: LIVEWIRE a new hero in town.
Im almost ashamed to admit that I couldnt have thought of a better name myself, Rick said, smiling.
I think Im gonna vomit, Brian said and left the room with Ricks laughter trailing behind him.