The air had grown cold under the sunless sky. It bit into his skin as he rushed through the city until he could feel goose bumps rubbing against his suit. But he barely felt the cold; he was too excited. He hadn’t been able to run this fast since his sister started taking him on patrol with her. He didn’t want to stop.
More than that, he was excited to help. Tina had sent him out here to warn the others, because Eclipse was turning the monsters into something worse, but he had been dying on her couch. He had been trying to figure out the best way to leave since the sky had grown dark.
He was a hero; he wasn’t supposed to sit on a couch and watch other people save the city. His sister would never do that. His parents would never do that. None of his friends were doing that. It wasn’t fair that he was the only one who had to stay behind, just because he was younger.
He was Red Racer. A superhero. Being a superhero meant that it didn’t matter how old he was; he was supposed to help, no matter what happened.
The wound of gunfire echoed in his mind and he ran faster.
Superheroes didn’t let danger stop them. They ran towards danger, because that’s where they needed to be. That’s where Red Racer was going to be.
The battlefield opened in front of him. There were heroes on the outskirts. A lot of them were hurt. Some of them were helping the hurt ones. Red didn’t slow down, but he didn’t have to. His eyes danced along the bloody wounds and missing limbs and settled on their faces. His friends weren’t there.
Red Racer kept running. There were people ahead he could help.
He had an idea of where Allspades was, and where Unimportant would probably be. He could see Hawthorne and Burnout in the sky, slowly gathering a following of other flyers. There were a few silver heroes up there; one of them might be his sister.
Red Racer darted around the next building before running up the far side and stopping at the top. If Allspades wasn’t fighting, he’d be on a roof.
Allspades wasn’t hard to find. With the shadow-dome over the city, he stood out like a firefly. He and a few other heroes had gathered below the flyers on the street below. Red Racer moved straight for them, launching himself from building to building at top speed.
He gave a quick glance up to the flyers, but didn’t see any of them heading his way. When he looked back down, Allspades was staring straight at him.
Red stopped right in front of him. Before Allspades had a chance to react, Red already heard the whispers.
“What’s a kid doing here?”
“He’s going to get himself hurt.”
“He’s going to get someone else killed.”
“Isn’t that the kid who fought Jaeger?”
Red Racer ignored the voices, even though his fingernails were digging into hi palm. Even though his his teeth were clenched. Even though he could see the guns hiding behind his eyelids. Red Racer ignored the voices.
“Allspades we need to-“ He barely and a chance to start. Before the questions started.
“Red? What are you doing here? I thought you were going to stay with Mach.”
“Yes he was.”
Red flinched at his sister’s voice. He knew that tone, and he really didn’t want to turn around to see the face that went with it.
“And he has ten seconds to explain why he left or be in her living room.”
“She sent me. She said he’s trying to make them smarter.”
“What does that mean?” Allspades asked. “How are they getting smarter?”
“She didn’t say; she was looking at the screens-eens and then she was talking really fast-ast and not making any sense-ense and then she was practically shouting at me to get down here and warn you that he was gonna make them smarter and stronger and that we had to stop them before they wake up-up and-”
Red could feel himself running out of breath, which was odd because he hadn’t been out of breath since he’d gotten his powers. A hand rested on his shoulder. He slowly-for him at least-turned until he was looking in his sister’s eyes.
“Calm down, Red. It’s okay. You need to think. Did she say anything about what she meant by wake up?”
“When-en…” Red took a deep breath. And then another. “When she was looking at the screens, she said that they were fighting for control, I think she was afraid of one of them winning.”
Light flooded the sky. Red was facing the other way, and he still had to shut his eyes against the burning light. He heard a few heroes scream.
The light faded, but the screaming didn’t stop. When Red opened his eyes, the other heroes were already moving. His sister was the only one staying behind.
“Red, you have to go back to Mach’s.”
“But I’m already here!”
“You delivered the message. You did a good job, but you can’t fight these things. You need to leave.” Miss Mirror forced her brother to look her in the eyes. He tried not to see the way her entire body was shaking with every word. “Please, go. I can’t let you get hurt.”
“But-“ She didn’t’ let him finish before she flew away. “But that’s not fair.”
Red turned and watched his sister fly at the monster.
The heroes couldn’t even get close. There were no more randomly swatting tentacles or slow crawling movements. The blob of flesh wouldn’t stand still for more than a few moments before every one of its muscle’s would move at once, launching it over heroes and onto buildings. Its tentacles pierced into the towering sky scrapers and let it cling to them like a wasp nest.
Red couldn’t see clearly, but every time it jumped, there were a few heroes who couldn’t get out of the way in time, and the flesh monster was growing bigger.
His sister was only just arriving at the fight. He couldn’t help watching her. She was a flying tank, she could take hits that would flatten people twice her size and laugh them off without a scratch. The flesh monster could slam into her at full speed and it wouldn’t even make her flinch.
But he couldn’t shave the feeling that she was in danger. Something about the way it moved…about the way the heroes were disappearing. It jumped again, and Red watched closely. It was just coming up on another hero when a flash of light nearly blinded him. It happened quickly, almost too quickly for him to see, too quickly for someone who wasn’t as fast as him to have any chance of seeing.
Red launched himself forward. Even before he leapt off the firs roof, he could feel his wake stretching out behind him. He didn’t have long, but he couldn’t go straight here either.
Red jumped from building to building. Hours of fighting had damaged most of them, and the broken pieces started to follow Red.
He circled the fight twice but he still didn’t have the kind of wake he needed. But he also didn’t have any more time. He saw his sister staring down the flesh monster. She had absolute confidence in her powers to protect her.
Red dragged his wake behind him and charged at the monster clinging on the wall of the skyscraper. His sister shouted, but he didn’t stop. Red grabbed the gravity creating his wake and flung everything he had at the flesh monster, shooting all the rubble he had gathered forward, and shooting himself backwards, straight at the ground. He had the chance to hear the monster scream before he was launched too far. He smiled.
He felt the air forced out of his lungs at the change in speed. He couldn’t breathe with the air rushing past him. He didn’t have a purchase, there was no way for him to stop his fall, but he closed his eyes and trusted that he would be fine.
His sister grabbed his outstretched hand. WHne someone grabbed the other he had to open his eyes. Hawthorne. He heard them screaming as they fought to slow him down and they only barely stopped their fall before his feet touched the ground.
“What do you think you’re doing?!” Their voices rang out together.
Red Racer gasped for air. He took three greedy lungfulls before he answered, but he was still out of breath.
“It’s…not…eating people. It’s..teleporting them.”
“What?” His sister’s voice snapped through the air. He couldn’t see her eyebrows, but even under her mask he knew they’d jumped to hide behind her bangs.
“It’s happening fast; I can barely see it, but its opening portals before it actually hits them.”
“Are you saying that thing’s a slider?” She was calming down, but her voice still echoed around them.
“It’s made of heroes,” Hawthorne said. “Who knows what it can do?”
Red looked into his sister’s eyes. His eyes were filling with tears. “You can’t get close; you can’t. Your power won’t protect you”
“Okay.” She took a deep breath. “Okay Red. You managed to hurt it. No one else has made it scream. Do you know what that means?”
“It means…” Red paused, and he could tell his sister was waiting for him to finish. “We need to hit it with a lot of stuff all at once.
“Unless we can get enough sliders to shut its power down,” Hawthorne said. “Unimportant was going to gather them. I don’t know how long it’ll take them to get here.”
There was a moment of silence. Red wanted to say something, but he was afraid his sister was going to send him away again. Then she turned to face him.
“Red…” she began. “Can you do that again? Hit it like that?”
“Yeah!” Red bit back the shout. “I mean… of course I can.”
“Do it. The second its shields are down, hit it with everything you can get. We’ll warn the others.”
Red started running before she finished. He’d grabbed the best pieces of rubble from the closer buildings, so he had to widen his run.
He caught glimpses of the fight between the buildings. Heroes were trying to attack from all sides with as much as they could, but the flesh monster had curled up on itself and none of them hit. Red didn’t stop running though.
He ran for minutes on end in endless circles. He was going as fast as he’d ever ran, maybe even faster. He didn’t have to look behind him to know that his wake had grown beyond what he had hit it with the first time. It had grown beyond what he and his father had traded blows with. When he was the tail end of the wake coming up in front of him, he just tightened his circle.
Through the rushing wind, he heard his sister’s voice. “Its shield is down, clear a path!”
Red Racer charged for the monster.
A thousand yards of debris followed him.
The flesh monster was on the ground this time. They had managed to lure it onto a main road, giving Red a clear path. He charged faster and faster, adding more to his trail until the last moment. There was too much to let him flow around him like he had before. A block out from the blob, Red leaned back and started to slide.
He put his arms over his face and let his wake rush over him. An earthquake flowed over his head. Shards of glass and pebbles bit into his arms and bounced off his helmet.
The monster’s scream was quiet compared to the onslaught flowing past Red; and it died before the torrent ended.
When the last of the noise finally died, Red clumsily got to his feet. His right leg would support his weight and he nearly fell back to the ground. Where the monster had been, there was only a mountain of rubble built up along the wall of the building.
There were people cheering in the distance. Red could see them, but he couldn’t hear them.
His sister and friends were moving towards him. They were shouting and waving.
Red started limping towards them and raised his hand to wave back.
His world turned white.