Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Know Circuit - Chapter 16.0

November 7, 2028
Time Unknown

Bridge dove for the cover of the car, losing sight of Wong for a second. Spots flashed on his vision, the afterimage of the lightning bolt still seared on his eyeballs. Lydia and Janicki had retreated with him, and they all peeked cautiously over the hood. A ball of lightning still sputtered in the air where Wong had stood, tossing off rivulets of electricity before dissipating completely.

Wong floated there unharmed. Anger was etched across his face, his teeth clenched and his fists balled. He looked every bit like a child throwing a tantrum in mid-air. “I’ve put up with just about enough of your shit, Rolfsberg!” he screamed. “I told you I was running a simulation, told you to leave me alone. But you can’t do that, can you? You have to feel like you’re in charge! Well, you’re not in charge of me!” He tossed off two fireballs directly at Rolfsberg.

The Norseman barely had time to raise a shield of his own, and the force of the blasts hitting his shield drove him back a few feet, buckling his knees. The area around Rolfsberg was charred, the grass singed, tiny embers glowing in the night like fireflies. Before Rolfsberg could prepare another attack, Wong sent his metal minions into action. Twenty-two players and even the ref charged at Rolfsberg with clanging ferocity, surrounding his bubble shield. Those who couldn’t reach it on foot climbed on the backs of the front ranks, creating a gigantic steel pile-on, until Rolfsberg was completely enveloped in metal. At first, they pounded on the shield, fists flying with awkward stop-motion violence, but with a few flicks of Wong’s fingers, they merged into a metallic cocoon that encased the Norseman completely. The metallic shell then began to contract with a sickening grinding sound.

Bridge felt the ground rumble underneath his feet. Small at first, it built until he could see the car shaking with the tremors. The ground imploded at the feet of the metal cocoon, a sinkhole about ten feet across forming, before exploding outward and upward in a shower of dirt. The cocoon flew a hundred feet into the air before crashing into the dorm behind Bridge. Rolfsberg knelt gasping at the bottom of the sinkhole. His lab coat was soaked in sweat and caked with dirt. His arms were outstretched at his side, and he brought them crashing together in front of him in an exaggerated clap. Lightning arced from two of the lighting fixtures on either side of Wong, trapping him in a circuit of boiling electricity.

Wong paid no notice to the lightning storm enveloping him, his fingers dancing. Bridge was unsure what was happening at first, but it quickly became obvious that the light from the electricity was dimming, draining into Wong’s hands, forming a ball of lightning that grew with every effort Rolfsberg thrust into the attack. Wong was stealing Rolfsberg’s power.

Sickening realization struck Rolfsberg and he redoubled his efforts, pouring more power into his attack. It did no good. Wong had the upper hand. Fear wrote an ending across Rolfsberg’s expression and he screamed, throwing his arms in front of his face to ward off the final attack. It was in vain.

Wong redirected all the power back at Rolfsberg, throwing back a mixture of Rolfsberg’s lightning and Wong’s fireballs. Caught full by the blast, Rolfsberg’s shield was too weak to save him. Bridge caught a glimpse of Rolfsberg’s body being disintegrated, a Hiroshima shadow being wiped clean by a fiery wind, and then he was gone. Where Rolfsberg had crouched, there was only a blackened circle of earth and the melted remnants of the dead man’s cybernetic left arm.

Wong panted, his body covered in sweat with tears streaming down his face. The full realization of what he’d done was writ large in his eyes.

Go to Chapter 16.5

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