|Max Castle ☾ Máni (manen) wrote in paxletalelogs,|
@ 2011-10-19 20:27:00
|Entry tags:||mani, tiamat|
with great power comes great responsibility
Who: Max & Karin.
What: Who IS that MASKED MAN?
Where: A grubby little alley.
When: 3 October, 12:47 a.m.
Warnings: Trigger warnings? idek.
Later, Karin would chastise herself for what was obviously a monumentally foolish idea. Later she would pore over maps of the city, and post to the forums of runners, hashers, Crossfitters, and marathoners, asking for the best routes, the safest and most well-lit spots. Later she would come up with a believable lie to tell her sister, something to explain away the bruises marking her pale arm.
But now was not later, and it was difficult to concentrate on such things with a Beretta 92 waving in her face. The man at the other end of it was quite obviously intoxicated, though what precisely had put him in that state was less easy to tell. Still harder was deciphering what might put him in the best possible mood, what course of words or action might allow Karin to leave this place with her health and life, if not her reasonably full wallet.
It was a mistake, she wanted to tell him. All a misunderstanding. Ordinarily she would never be found in this neighborhood; ordinarily she would have driven home immediately after work, had dinner with Fee, gone for a swim, maybe gone up to Sean’s for a relaxing session of yoga. But tonight she had been overcome with need, physically incapable of going home without first having seen the ocean, and gazed upon that damnable island. She had taken back roads and alleys to avoid being seen, knowing too many of her coworkers and fellow tenants often frequented the same sandy strip. She had wanted peace. She had wanted privacy. And now she had neither.
“Take what you want, okay?” she said, raising her hands, palms out, a bit higher. She did not reach into her purse; she remembered hearing that somewhere, that cops and junkies would always be too jumpy for that, and suspect a weapon where there was none. Instead she dropped her shoulder, letting the massive hobo bag slip down her arm, falling open. “My wallet’s on top, see?” Her voice broke. She thought she smelled sulphur. “Just... here.”
But far from appeasing him, this seemed to upset her fragile mugger all the more. He jerked at her arm, pulling her off balance, a step closer to him. She bit her tongue against a cry, but it slipped free all the same.
This was probably a really, really stupid idea.
But Max could not contain his excitement, and he adjusted the ski mask over his face again, the fabric making his skin itch. He was going to have to find a better costume idea, but, hey, even Spiderman had to start out small.
After all, every superhero had small beginnings. And after that night where he and Lily had discovered what they could do - well, he couldn’t get that Stan Lee line out of his head. With great power comes great responsibility. It was like his whole life was leading up to that moment, when he suddenly knew (like how he’d been dreaming all along) that he was meant for greater things. He had all of the knowledge - comic books and video games had more than aptly prepared him, or so Max was of the opinion - and now all he needed to do was find someone to save. It was that easy, right?
Wrong. He’d been wandering around for the better part of a half hour, finding no street thugs and no potential victims who would be crying out for a savior. For some reason, the muggers who had gotten him while walking home from class seemed absent, like they were all at some kind of criminal’s convention. It irked him, that suddenly, just when he’d discovered who he truly was, all of the bad guys decided to take a day off. And then he’d heard the woman trying to calmly (though anyone could have heard the threads of terror and desperation in her voice) beg her attacker to let her go.
Well, Max wasn’t going to stand for that.
“Step away from the lady, and maybe I’ll let you off nicely this time,” he called out, stepping around the lip of the alley into a shallow pool of light that showcased his all black costume. Briefly he wondered if they’d be able to see him, since he was in shadow and dressed all in black; and then he started wondering if his quip was appropriate, or if maybe he should have gone with something more Batman-esque. The strong and silent type. He’d worry about that later, once he realized that the bad guy had a gun. Oh shit.
Karin and her attacker looked up as one, two pairs of eyes saucer-wide, whites gleaming in the dim streetlights. The barrel of the gun swung away from her, the black hole of its barrel at last pointed away from her fear-stricken face. She said nothing, but could not hold back the gasping indrawn breath that passed her lips. Her green eyes darted from her mugger to this ski-masked newcomer. He sounded as if he was there to help, and Karin desperately wanted to believe it was so; it was difficult to know for certain, though, when he stood cloaked in darkness and hidden away behind a ski mask. His appearance frightened her in a wholly new way, but until he proved himself an enemy, she would treat him as a friend.
“Nicely?” the mugger snapped. But for all the authority he tried to inject into his tone, the fact that he was clearly, mercilessly tweaking made it markedly less so. The gun jumped in his hand. Karen prayed that meant his hand would be unsteady, were he to shoot; she had no desire to see anyone die tonight, least of all some errant knight come against all odds to her rescue. “Fuck you. She’s mine.” The gun jumped again, pointing back in Karin’s very general direction. She started, shifting backward, her spine jarring hard against the brick wall behind her. “I found her first.”
Please, Karin mouthed, her hands folding together as if in prayer to her unorthodox angel.
“Yeah, that’s not how this is going to play out. You’re going to put the gun down, and leave the nice lady alone.” Max did his best to keep the trepidation from his voice, instead suddenly finding enough courage to just maybe pull this stupid stunt off. For a moment, he tried to remember the sensation he’d felt back at his apartment - not necessarily of being hollow, but simply not there. The surprise Lily had shown, and he himself had discovered when he’d produced no reflection, would certainly be helpful in this situation with the criminal; he wouldn’t be able to shoot what he couldn’t see. But all of that rested on whether or not he’d be able to summon the power. Sometimes he was able to, if he thought about it hard enough - other times it just flicked on and off of its own accord, which would do him no good if it suddenly decided to do so now.
“I’ll give you to the count of three, all right? Give you a chance to make the right decision.” He sure as hell wasn’t going to wait until three. No, he could feel the icy cold sensation dripping down his back, and whether he was willing it or not, he could feel the invisibility already flowing over his limbs. In the darkness it wouldn’t be so noticeable, but once it reached his face, he’d be all but gone.
If nothing else, the newcomer’s bravado did much to keep her attacker’s attention trained solidly on him. Karin pressed herself firmly to the wall at her back, praying she would continue to go unnoticed. She searched for an opening of any kind, some fleeting opportunity to put her years of training to use: Perhaps, she thought, if her would-be savior were to act, they could try some last-ditch effort in relative concert, and throw off the mugger with an unexpected strike. Her eyes darted toward the younger man’s, holding their dim shine in the alley’s uneven light. He had clearly come prepared to act, a fact that solidly bolstered Karin’s hopes of his picking up on her small signals.
“Fuck you,” the mugger repeated. Karin thought she heard a note of concern bleeding into his quavering voice. She hoped it was not mere wishful thinking. Too soon her hopes were dashed, shattered to pieces by the unmistakable sound of the safety being violently, decisively flicked off. “Fuck you. Let’s just make this a fuckin’ two for one special, huh?” The mugger took a step toward the other man, but not before he cast a glance back toward Karin. “Deal with you later,” he muttered.
Max gave a light shrug, continuing to feel his form dissipate in the shadows.
“Can’t say I didn’t give you a fair shake,” he responded, and moved forward, effectively disappearing. His invisibility had taken full effect, covering his form and rendering him unnoticeable to anyone from any direction - Max had been practicing in the bathroom (much to Lily’s chagrin and many evenings spent yelling at him to “stop jerking off on the toilet, I need to use the shower”), trying to find a way to control the strange new power that had been granted to him. He’d also gone through his mind, trying to understand what had triggered the sudden change. Both his and Lily’s powers had activated, a better word notwithstanding, at the same time; but neither had been able to reproduce the results to the same effect. The nighttime hour would be a boon to Max in his ridiculous escapades and attempted vigilantism, giving a boost to his ability to obfuscate himself when the power had a mind of its own.
Darting forward, Max slid down on his knees, making sure he was out of the path of the gun, should the shooter decide to end these shenanigans permanently.
For a moment Karin felt completely consumed by a new wave of terror. It would have been better, she was certain, to have never had the prospect of salvation; without having had that moment of false hope, she would not now feel the unbelievably intense sensation of being left to her own devices, having been promised a door only to see it slammed in her face. Her heart sank, nestling somewhere deep within her gut, as best she could tell.
“I...” She raised her hands, not certain what one said to one’s mugger when things went so awry as this. As luck would have it, she did not have to say anything at all. Her attacker was far too preoccupied with trying to find where his second potential victim had gone, likely disturbed by the prospect of a witness who had seen his face and could quite easily be running to report him even now.
“Where are you, you fuckin’ pussy?” he yelled, taking one step forward; close enough, Karin noted, to still be able to grab her if he so chose.
Skidding by the man, an audible crunch of gravel could be heard as Max quickly moved around to behind the mugger, trying to jab the man in the back of the knees and coming up a few inches too high as his attempted karate-chop landed on his intended victim’s thigh. He quickly got to his feet and moved around to the other side, trying to stay mobile - just because he was invisible didn’t mean he was intangible. He’d found that out the hard way, in testing his newfound power. Walls were just as impregnable as they’d ever been, and he still owned a bruise on his cheek that proved that point.
Moving around to the opposite side from whence he’d come, Max put himself between the mugger and the woman, though he had to remind himself that she probably wouldn’t be reassured by the fact.
“Don’t worry!” He kept his voice low, trying to speak only to her, but he couldn’t let himself get distracted. Learning martial arts would obviously take much more than a few Bruce Lee movies, but he was going to give all of this his best go.
The initial strike had pitched the man forward, buckling his leg beneath him. It might have proved the perfect moment for Karin to act, but she found herself too thrown by the voice issuing from nowhere to do anything at all. All her classes seemed to have left her, all her training gone to dust and ash when it was most needed. Perhaps it was the sleeplessness, the visions, the stress; perhaps it was the unsettled mental state that came from being subjected to armed attack and invisible heroes. Whatever the cause, she felt herself frozen in place, her fingers grasping at the rough-edged brick at her back in place of any real and useful action.
Luckily for victim and defender alike, the gunman seemed utterly thrown by the attack. He spun wildly, the Beretta flailing with equal uncertainty; its barrel rarely pointed at any one target, instead focused largely at the sky or the wall above their heads. “What the fuck,” he muttered, tripping over the simple words. At last he spun on Karin, who immediately ducked, as if that might somehow help; given the man’s increasingly poor aim, it was possible it might. “Did you kick me, bitch?”
“His knees,” Karin whispered, her voice trembling. She prayed the man would still be there, that he would see the faint quavering in the mugger’s stance; if they could lash out at that fragile, strained joint together, they might truly make a clean break of it. Her eyes darted to the man’s leg, staring at it as if by sheer will she might snap it in half.
Max nodded at the woman’s comment - the idea that she wouldn’t see the motion completely passing his thought process - as he continued to try to keep himself limber, his own knees carefully loose.
“All right, I’m going behind him; just stay calm,” he replied, trying to keep his voice low and away from the mugger. Without waiting for a response, he quickly, and quietly, started to move around the mugger in a wide circumference, concentrating on keeping his steps from hitting anything that would make too loud of a noise that might draw the bad guy’s attention. That was all Max could think of the man as - the bad guy, the evil doer. Nevermind his reasoning for mugging this woman, if he had a family to feed and was so down on his luck that this was his last resort in making ends meet. Decent people didn’t do things like this, and Max was more than eager to show this man the error of his ways.
On the left side of the mugger, the opposing side from the hand holding the gun, Max was close enough to the man to give that eerie sensation that was received upon being the recipient of a stare. Acting quickly, Max struck out with his foot, kicking the man in the back of his left leg hard enough to bring him down to the gravelly floor of the alley.
He went down hard, striking the ground with a staccato thud hard enough to satisfy even the still shaken Karin. It seemed fitting and just, all things considered, and she was pleased with the course of events. She felt emboldened, taking a step closer, trying to see where she might gain some kind of opportunity to do her part. Luckily this fleeting, adrenaline-fueled insanity did not go so much to her head that she neglected to give the gun’s flailing barrel a very wide berth. She stayed neatly clear of it even as she aimed a hard, well-placed kick to his ribs, then darted back from whence she’d come. The grounded man gave a pained, barking sort of cry, but seemed far more interested in tracking down the source of the initial, unseen attack than on the skinny, flitting girl behind him. He crawled forward on his belly, his grip on the pistol growing more slack by the second as his free hand grasped, reaching to find the source of the worst of his pain.
Things were certainly looking good - for all accounts and purposes, this was Max’s first rescue, and everything was going well. Probably why his powers decided to flip a coin and choose to exhaust themselves, bringing him back into visibility right next to the downed attacker.
Quickly, he kicked at the man’s gun hand, relieving the ne’er-do-well of his weapon, but just as quickly the man grabbed onto Max’s ankle. The younger man flailed, losing his confidence for a moment as it looked like the evil doer was going to get a one up on the hero; trying to hop backward proved futile, as with another jerk, Max went down, hard, onto the gravelly floor of the alley way. Pain rocketed up through his backside, hands bitten by small rocks as they hit the ground trying to slow his progress.
“Fu-” He whispered behind his mask, at least managing to keep his head from hitting anything as he went down. A well-placed foot in the criminal’s face released his grip, and Max quickly scooted backward.
Karin’s stomach had given a violent and painful lurch the moment she had seen her protector fall. It was an unexpected mercy that he recovered so quickly, having apparently suffered no particularly severe damage. All the same she made a mental note to call an ambulance the moment they were free - or to take him, herself, to the emergency room - and at least give them both the chance to be sure of their relative health. Such thoughts coursed quickly through her racing mind, and moments later she again leapt forward, thin fingers circling hard and tight around the older man’s ankle. She dragged him sharply backward, catching once more the scent of something burning; it felt, for an instant, as if something stood behind her, clutching at the man and dragging him with her. Though it frightened her, it was effective: The man was dragged more than a foot from Max, allowing him time to come to his feet.
“Should we run?” she yelled, feeling foolish the moment it crossed her lips, but this was no time for charades and uncertainties. She gave another tug of the man’s leg, relieved to still feel that unknown force supplementing her motion.
“Uh, yeah, that would probably be a good idea,” Max admitted, somewhat surprised, the facade of hero forgotten the moment he’d come close to being assaulted himself. He was slightly amazed at the woman’s apparent strength that belied her small stature, but first thing was first - it would be a good idea to get out of there.
Climbing back to his feet, he walked around the still moaning criminal on the ground and carefully took the woman by the bicep. “Come on, I don’t think he’s going anywhere soon.” He tugged her toward the opposing end of the alley, to where the street lay open and bare. “Do you need me to escort you home?”
She nodded, whispering “please” before she consciously considered the question. She still felt that presence with her, looming over and around her, and more than anything she did not want to feel alone just yet. It was a boon she could not pass up that this stranger, who had risked his own well being to help her, would offer to take her straight to her sister; once she was with Fiona she would feel markedly better, she knew. Again she nodded, picking up the pace as she followed the man. Briefly a painfully logical - and perhaps paranoid - voice spoke up, asking her if she was moving out of the frying pan and into the fire. She had heard of two-man cons before, and knew she was not immune to such scams. But she trusted this man, for whatever reason, and thus far he had proven himself nothing but helpful. Thus resolved, she moved closer again.
“My car is just down here,” she said. “I don’t live far... Pax Letale, right on the beach. You can follow me home, or ride with me...” She trailed off, feeling more stupid than before. She glanced over to him, her eyes still wide, glimmering in the streetlights. “Thank you.”
Holy crap, she lives in my apartment building?! He almost said as much aloud, but thankfully closed his mouth before the words could be uttered. Such a thing would have been his undoing - the whole point of having a secret identity was to keep it secret. Suddenly he was rethinking taking her home, even though his conscience was demanding he do so. After all, if he was going to play the part of the savior, he needed to make sure she’d be all right, didn’t he? But then again, if he just got her to her car, wouldn’t that suffice?
Releasing her arm, he kept his pace and hoped that she’d keep up through the need to distance herself from the scene of the crime. One hand slipped to his pocket, feeling the change he had there with the intention of using a pay phone to call the police to arrest the man in the alley. Of course, they would probably take him to a hospital first, but at least it would get him off the street.
“Let me get you to your car. Do you feel good enough to drive?” Maybe she’d be fine with driving on her own. If she wasn’t, Max would deal with that; one thing at a time. For some reason, maybe because of the adrenaline pumping through his veins, he felt confident and in control, and he liked it.
His moment of silence, while brief, was enough to make her question herself. In that moment a thousand thoughts tore through her mind, descending into an ever worsening spiral of paranoia and fear. She was grateful beyond measure when he spoke again, reassuring her once more that he was here to help, and that her offer had not been seen as some ham-fisted attempt at picking him up. She nodded in answer to his question, the motion growing more vigorous as she drew up alongside him. Her little white sedan lay just ahead, the streetlight above it illuminating it like a lighthouse in the black sea of the alley. “That’s it,” she said, her thin hand reaching out, level with his cheek, as she pointed toward their goal. Again she felt that unsettling touch on her skin, a stranger’s hand caressing her own; but she bit down hard on her tongue, forcing at least this fear to wane. This man had done enough, and the least she could do was see this through til the end.
She reached down into her bag - wondering dimly how she had not dropped it, how she had kept so tight a grip on all its contents in spite of the tussle - and let her fingertips slide over what lay within until they came upon her keys. “This is it,” she said, stopping a pace away from her car. After a quick glance around she shook her head at her own foolishness; not another car in sight, not a window within view. She had been a sitting duck. “You... you don’t have to come along. I can go from here.”
He followed her up to the car, as though making sure that it was in fact her vehicle and that she was going to get in it in order to drive away. All of a sudden she was panicky again, and Max couldn’t quite put two and two together to figure out why; his mind was leaning toward the thought that she was going through shock after her predicament, and it was no fault of his own. He was, however, reassured when the woman released him from needing to follow her home entirely - finding some kind of creative excuse to leave her on her own was not something he had imagined having to do. In fact, after going through this entire evening, he realized that he hadn’t thought very much through at all; the only bullet points had been find a criminal and stop him. The who, what, where, when and other assumedly pointless questions were shoved to the back of his mind. A hand rose to scratch at his face, finding the ski mask itchy.
“If you’re sure, ma’am,” he tried on, puffing up a superhero persona as he was about to make his exit. “But maybe let’s try not wandering the streets alone at night, huh?” The second line was meant to be humorous, though in the wake of a near brush with death, most would probably find it in poor taste.
Her hand tightened around her keys, white knuckled as she felt a deep blush spread across her cheeks. “Right,” she mumbled, looking back to her own feet. “Of course.” She thumbed a button on her keyfob, a single push unlocking only the driver’s side door. “Thank you,” she said again, slipping into her seat. Such simple words hardly seemed enough, but for the moment they were all that she had. She hoped he understood. She gave him one last look, quirking a faint, off-kilter smile as she closed the door, locking it the moment it was shut. It was strange to consider, how even with this presence lingering with her she felt somehow safer knowing some brazen good Samaritan such as this was wandering around. Batman he was not, but he had helped more than his fair share when she had needed it. And that, for her, was more than enough.