I found seventeen bullets. Nine left. Shooting a moving chicken ain’t as easy as you’d think.
Hounded by Heroes
Pit had taken a few steps back when Sunday burst into flames. Now he jumped forward, mouth wide open, intending to bite the big man’s arm off. However, before he’d closed the gap between them even an inch, he was kicked in the nose by a blue leather boot with thick rubber soles. The boot had come from above him and as he hit the ground on his back he found himself looking up at a woman in a sky-blue flight suit and matching helmet, with her face hidden by a mirrored visor that showed the blood gushing out of his nose. There was something dark behind him, and he turned his face to see he’d just missed bouncing his head off the front tire of a Chevy El Dorado.
Before he could rise, a short kid in red tights jumped on his left arm, pressing Pit’s hand to the ground. The kid shouted, “Glue mode!” Instantly the kid’s hands turned gooey, like his flesh had turned to paste as he ran his fingers all over Pit’s knuckles. Pit’s free hand reached for the kid’s neck and grabbed hold, and began dragging the boy’s throat toward his mouth. The kid pressed Pit’s gunked up hand against the truck tire and shouted, “Ghost mode.” Pit’s hand suddenly slipped right through the kid and he wound up slapping himself in his already broken nose.
The boy stood up. Pit tried to rise, but found his hand thoroughly stuck to the tire.
“Shame to mess up your plastic surgery,” the kid said. “As a fellow film buff, I appreciated the tribute.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Pit asked, still trying to yank his hand free.
“Hello?” said the boy. “Frank Macey? The Stick-Em-Up Kid?”
The woman in blue swooped down. “We’re here to arrest them, Ap, not talk film trivia. Switch to foam mode. Servant’s got his hands full.”
“Foam mode,” said Ap as the woman dropped behind him and wrapped her arms around his torso. “Sorry, Sar—Skyrider.”
Then, they shot into the air a hundred feet up, which happened to be where Sundancer hand flown to, with Servant in tow. Pit shielded his eyes with his free hand as he stared up. Sunday was spinning in violent gyrations; she’d never been able to keep her balance with someone else in tow. However, her dizzying spirals in this case turned out to be an effective strategy. Servant suddenly went flying off, leaving a trail of vomit.
Sundancer suddenly stabilized her flight, shaking her fist at him as he crashed into the forest below and started bouncing down the steep mountain slope. “I hope you break your damn neck!” she cried.
But, with her attention focused on Servant, she failed to notice that Skyrider and Ap were now hovering directly above her. Ap was now completely coated head to toe in what looked like shaving cream. He opened his mouth and buckets of the white foam shot out of him, catching Sunday in the torrent.
“Son of a bitch,” Sunday cursed as she began to tumble wildly through the sky. The foam boiled off seconds after it hit her, but the unevenness of the heat she was producing was messing with her ability to stay airborne. Skyrider did an impressive job of following the flaming woman’s dizzying path through the air, and more and more foam found it’s target on Sunday’s face. Sunday coughed and gasped and spit as she wiped her eyes, trying to rid herself of the goop.
“Keep foaming her!” Skyrider shouted. “She needs to breathe like anyone else!”
Pit was distracted by a loud whoosh to his right. He turned and saw a white blur flash up the road and enter the parking lot, skidding to a halt at the rear wheel of the truck Pit was glued to.
“This guy’s going to need new tire’s anyway,” Servant said as he put his right hand under the rear bumper and lifted the back of the truck. Servant ripped the wheel right off the hub, sending lug nuts shooting across the gravel lot.
“Naw, he won’t,” said Pit, thinking about the black shadows on the wall of the bar.
Servant wasted no time on further banter. He drew the tire back like it was a discus and let it fly. The tire caught Sunday right in the gut and she went flying, missing Skyrider and Ap by a whisker. Her body was limp, folded across the tire, as she cut a long glowing arc through the sky, her flames sputtering and dimming. They went dark completely as she crashed into the forest.
“Servant!” Skyrider shouted. “You nearly hit us!”
“But I didn’t,” he said.
“We almost had her!” she shouted back.
“And I definitely got her,” said Servant.
Ap spit out a few last cupfuls of foam, then wiped his mouth.“That tire couldn’t even have touched her if I hadn’t cooled her off!”
Servant shrugged and crossed his arms. “So it was teamwork.”
“Let’s just find her,” said Ap. “Infra-eye mode!” He looked in the direction she’d flown.
Pit Geek looked toward the bar. He said, “You got someway of calling an ambulance?”
“You’ll get all the medical attention you require,” said Servant, watching Skyrider and Ap disappear into the trees.
“I was thinking about that poor guy in the bar.”
Servant cocked his head toward the door. Smoke was still drifting from the building. Servant picked up a piece of what had once been the Harley’s frame and started bending it. He crouched in front of Pit and twisted the metal around his face, covering from just below his eyes to just above his throat, crimping the metal behind Pit’s neck. Pit noticed that Servant didn’t have a single scorch mark or even any dirt on his costume after bouncing down the mountain.
Servant stood up, looking at Pit’s immobilized hand, and probably thought he was being clever when he said, “Don’t go anywhere.”
Servant went into the bar. His white tights seemed to glow in the darkened doorway. Servant stopped moving. For some reason, his tights turned dark.
“Dear God,” he whispered.
He came out of the bar a moment later cradling Root in his arms. For reasons that Pit couldn’t even guess at he was buck naked. His muscular body was covered in thick black kinky hair. His uncircumcised genitals were monstrously large. Worse, his face had lost it’s square jawed comic book handsomeness, and been replaced by a misshapen skull covered with gray-blue leathery skin. He revealed a mouthful of jagged fangs as he snarled at Pit, “What kind of monsters are you?”
“The bad kind, I reckon,” said Pit, his voice muffled by his metal gag.
Servant pressed his lips tightly together. He took a deep breath through the gaping hole in his face where his nose should have been. Then, the air around him rippled and he was back in his costume, and his face was once more human. Servant turned into a blur as he darted down the road, leaving a cloud of dust in the parking lot. Pit had no idea how far they were from the nearest hospital or even which direction to head, but apparently Servant knew.
Pit twisted his neck, pushing the metal gag tighter against his lips. Servant had apparently been under the misconception that Pit had to get something between his teeth to bite it. Instead, he puckered his lips and sucked. The metal gag spiraled down his mouth like it was vanishing down a toilet.
He was about to start nibbling at the rubber around his hand to free himself when Skyrider burst back above the treeline. She was carrying something in her arms, but it was too dark to make out what. A few seconds later, a large round shape like a balloon twenty feet across drifted into the air behind her.
Skyrider flew back to the parking lot, landing in the gravel in front of Pit with a soft crunch. She carried Sunday in her arms. Sunday was completely limp, her face and body flecked with baked on foam that looked like dark brown meringue. She was covered with a hundred scratch marks from where she’d fallen through the trees. Her face was covered in red goop, as if she’d been lying on her back drinking a bottle of ketchup, then coughed it out. Her open eyes stared blankly toward the stars. The skin of her face was now the same pale shade as her restored leg.
Skyrider placed Sundancer in the bed of the pick up truck. There was a blue plastic tarp wadded up in one corner of the bed. She unfolded this, covering the body.
“She’s dead,” said Pit.
“Neither of you could really have expected you’d be getting out of this alive,” said Skyrider, her voice strangely hollow and mechanical.
“No one gets out alive,” said Pit, looking up at the dark sky.
He spotted Ap bouncing along the tree tops. The top of the boy’s head had swollen up into a balloon. It apparently left him buoyant enough to run along the very tips of the branches. Ap jumped out over the parking lot and drifted down behind the pickup that held Sunday’s corpse. “End Airhead Mode,” he said. With a sound like a whoopee cushion, his head deflated back to its normal dimensions in barely a second.
“Where’s Servant?” he asked.
“The big guy remembered an appointment elsewhere,” said Pit.
Ap’s face turned pale. “Did you… did you eat him?”
“Naw,” Pit chuckled. “He ran some guy we half killed off to a hospital.”
Skyrider sighed. “Damn it. He could be anywhere.”
“Just call him,” said Ap.
“He doesn’t carry a phone!”
“Right. What’s up with that?”
Skyrider shook her heads. “He doesn’t have any pockets.”
“Hello,” said Ap. “That can’t be that hard to fix.”
“He doesn’t wear pants,” said Skyrider.
“He just needs a utility belt,” said Ap.
“Anything that doesn’t slide off his forcefields gets chewed up by his time flux. A belt wouldn’t last half an hour on him.”
“He could just tuck it into his tights,” said Ap, sounding exasperated that Skyrider was making such lame excuses for why a teammate couldn’t carry a phone.
She looked toward Pit, as if making sure he was still secure, the back to Ap. “I guess it won’t hurt for you to know. Servant doesn’t wear tights. All clothes just fall off of him. But, he can make his force fields opaque and change their colors.”
Ap grinned. “You mean Mr. Holier-Than-Thou prances around in public buck naked?”
“And if something breaks his concentration and distracts him, his fields go transparent!” She laughed. “Oh god. You can’t know how much I was sweating through that press conference, praying that he wouldn’t get a question that rattled him.”
Ap burst into laughter, snorting as he wiped tears from his eyes. “Shit,” he sighed. “Is there something seriously wrong with me that I find this mildly arousing?”
Skyrider shook her head. “I’ve gotten a good look at his junk. The porn industry suffered a tragic loss the day that man picked up a Bible.”
Pit found it highly disrespectful that they were laughing so hard while Sunday’s body lay in front of them. On the other hand, they’d both completely forgotten about him. Biting the tire would pop it, and catch their attention.
So he bit his left hand off at the wrist. As usual, there was a half-hearted trickle of blood, then the wound dried up. He jammed his right hand into his mouth and felt around the pile of junk. He’d always been able to pull out the stuff he’d eaten, though the stuff he’d eaten last was always up front and he sometimes spent an hour or more pulling out crap before he found what he wanted. Luckily, one of the last things he’d swallowed in that vault in Columbus had been a gold brick. The thing weighed about thirty pounds but was still small enough that he could wrap his fist around it. He lunged to his feet as he pulled his hand from his mouth.
Skyrider had her back to him. Ap’s eyes went wide. The kid opened his mouth to scream a warning but Pete was already in full swing. She spun and Pit drove the gold bar just below the edge of her helmet into her throat. The Kevlar collar gave some padding, but it felt to Pete like he flattened her trachea against her vertebrae. She dropped to the gravel on one knee, clutching her throat.
Pete vaulted onto the bed of the pickup, then lunged for Ap.
“Ghost mode,” the kid shrieked, in a girly pitch.
Pit flew right through the boy, scratching is face up as the crashed into the gravel.
“Stonefist mode!” The kid screamed, as Pit rose to his knees. He fell back down as Ap punched him just above the ear. He rolled in the gravel, cursing, “Shit! Shit! Shit!” It felt like he’d been hit with a sledgehammer.
“Spike toe mode!” the boy shouted. The tips of his black boots tore apart as sharp shafts that reminded Pit of little rhino horns tore through the leather.
The boy leaned drew his leg back and kicked Pit in the nuts, the spike toes digging in all the way to Pit’s left kidney.
“Son of a bitch,” Pit wheezed as he curled into a fetal ball.
“Web mode!” Ap shouted. The stars in front of pits eyes were just starting to clear when the boy began to spit on him, in long sticky strips that draped across Pit and clung to the gravel around him.
Luckily for Pit, the kid couldn’t spit all that far, and gravel is a piss-poor base to try to stick someone to. Pit rose up on his left elbow, lifting up the gravel without effort, and whipped his right arm out to grab Ap by the ankle.
“Ghost—” Ap screamed, but it was too late. Pit jerked his leg toward his mouth and took it off at the ankle.
Ap shrieked in utter terror as he fell, blood spurting from his severed limb.
“Stop being such a crybaby,” Pit grumbled as he dragged himself forward, then shoved another six inches of the kid’s leg into his mouth. This time, he’d just keep sucking until he reached the kid’s lungs. After getting punched in the head, the last thing Pit needed was this piercing high pitched screaming.
“Ghost mode!” Ap cried. “Ghost mode!”
Pit’s fingers lost their grip on the boy’s leg. The boy was still sitting before him, his eyes staring in horror at his mangled limb, but Pit’s hands passed right through him. Pit groaned as he sat up.
The boy was sobbing, but he for some reason had stopped bleeding. Maybe he just didn’t have blood in ghost mode.
“Aw, don’t take it so hard,” said Pit, holding up the stump of his left forearm. “I’ve lost lots of limbs. You ain’t gonna die.” Then, he remembered that it wasn’t to his advantage to comfort the kid. “I mean, you are gonna die, if you turn solid again. Next time, I’ll bite off your head.”
“Exit,” the boy sobbed. “Exit!”
And then he wasn’t there. Pete furrowed his brow. He knew this command. The kid had just been snatched back to safety by Rex Monday’s space machine. What the hell? Were these three super-powered goons working for his old boss?
He limped around the truck, his legs wobbly as jello. He’d been kicked in the nuts lots of times, but, Christ, this kid had practically neutered him. Skyrider was gone, probably snatched away by the space machine. But, Servant might be back any second. Pit didn’t really have time to wait until he was feeling better. He reached his right hand back into his mouth and felt around until his fingers closed around the handle of a gun. He pulled it back out, carrying the regeneration ray. He tossed aside the blue tarp and leaned against the side of the truck to keep his arm steady as he aimed at her. He pressed his lips together and tried to ignore his various pains as the lights danced across Sunday’s body. The time dragged by with tortuous slowness as the machine announced each stage of her reconstruction.
At last, the gun was done. He stuffed the ray back into his mouth. Sunday’s body was whole. But she still wasn’t moving. Pit crawled into the truck bed, laying on her as he pressed his fingers to her throat. No pulse.
“Wake up,” he cried, crouching over her. He raised his fist and drove it into her chest, right under her left breast. He knelt down, placing his the stump of his arm under her neck to tilt her head up. He took a deep breath and placed his mouth on hers. Fortunately, he had to actively try to devour things, other wise his mouth was just a mouth. He sealed his lips to hers and pinched her nose shut, then filled her lungs with air. He did this three times, then straddled her, preparing to push on her chest.
Then she turned her head.
“Sunny?” he asked.
She opened her eyes. She looked around, her eyes glazed. She finally focused on him. She sat up.
“You’re alive!” he cried, and fell upon her, grabbing her head an planting a huge kiss on her mouth. Then, his body tensed up, as he anticipated impending vaporization.
He drew his face back from hers.
“Was I dead?” she whispered.
“Sure did look like it.”
She nodded slowly. Then she looked at his battered face. “Well, your new look didn’t last long.”
“We’ll use the ray on it later,” Pit said, lifting himself off of her. “Servant could be back any second.”
“Right,” she said, sounding dazed as she sat up. “Where’s the Harley?”
“Flattened, remember?” Pit said as he limped to the door of the truck. “You know how to hotwire a truck?”
“No,” she said, as she scooted toward the edge of the bed.
Pit laughed at he looked a the steering column. The keys were in the ignition!
“This must be a safe neighborhood,” he said. “Get in.”
Sunday supported herself on the edge of the truck as she walked gingerly to the passenger door. She got into the truck and looked down at Pit’s crotch as she fastened her seatbelt.
“Ick,” she said. “What happened down there?”
“You shoulda seen the other guy,” Pit said. He threw the truck into gear and lurched backward onto the road, then put the truck into drive and stomped the gas. Sunday grabbed the dashboard and shouted, “I’d rather not die in a car crash!” as the trucks tires squealed to hold onto the asphalt as they raced along the curvy road.
“Servant might come racing up this road any second,” Pit said as he jerked the truck around another curve.
His words proved prophetic. At that exact instant a white blur flashed into their headlights. On pure instinct, Pit gunned the motor, and half a second later they each had a face full of air bags as Servant slammed into the grill, shattered the windshield, then bounced over the roof. He slammed into the bed, grabbed the blue tarp, but then slipped out of the bed. Apparently, his forcefields really were kind of slick. Pit continued racing forward blindly until he sucked down the airbag that obstructed his view. The truck was still running, but white steam was poring from under the hood. The check engine light came on, as well as a little red thermometer next to it.
“Keep driving,” said Sunday, unbuckling her seat belt. “Try to get at least a mile away. Two or three if the truck can make it.”
“What are you…?” he never got to finish his question. She pushed her door open and jumped out.
Pete remembered to shut his eyes. When he opened them, it was as bright as mid day. The truck seemed to be losing power and pressing the petal to the floor only produced a top speed of sixty, then fifty, then forty. He kept driving without glancing into his rear view as flaming magma began to rain down around him. Trees each side of him suddenly exploded into flame. The temperature in the truck cab suddenly grew unbearable. He reached for the AC button. The second he pressed it, the engine seized up. He threw the truck into neutral and rolled another half mile down the mountain before he reached a slight uphill grade and drifted to stop. He got out and looked back at he mountain he’d just come down. Was it just his imagination that the mountain now looked significantly shorter? It was hard to tell with all the smoke. Every tree in the area was now on fire.
Light flickered behind the dark haze. Sunday suddenly dropped down from the smoke. Her arms went dark and she grabbed him beneath his armpits. They shot up into the smoke.
“You can’t fly and carry me!” he shouted.
“If Skyrider can fucking carry passengers, I can fucking carry passengers,” she growled. They punched out into clear sky. Pit noticed their path through the sky was still weaving back and forth, but it was certainly nothing like the vomit inducing spin she’d put Servant through earlier.
He shouted above the wind, “What happened to the big guy?”
She sounded like she was panting as she said, “I kept my distance. Since he couldn’t fly, I tried melting the asphalt to trap his feet but he kept jumping free. He threw a couple of big rocks at me, but I melted them. So, I decided to melt off the mountain top and just drown him in hot lava. He swam to the surface a couple of times, but I think I got him.”
“Did he ever turn naked?” Pit asked.
“That… is the oddest thing… I’ve ever… been asked,” she said. She was really straining to breathe now. They were dropping lower and lower over the treeline.
“You doing okay?”
“Not really,” she said, as they dropped even closer to the ground. “That a lake… up ahead?”
Pit Geek strained to see through the flickering radiance surrounding them. But, yes, he did see a dark patch on the ground ahead that might be water.
“Hold onto … your ass,” she said. “In case of… a water landing… your seat … flotation—”
They hit the water at a shallow angle, bouncing along it like a stone skipping across the water before they sank. Pit pushed his head back above water and gasped. Sunday bobbed up next to him barely ten feet away.
“I can’t believe… that worked,” she whispered.
As Pete kicked his feet around, he noticed that his toes kept hitting bottom. He stopped flailing and stood up. The water only came to his nipples. It was ice cold, which numbed the pain in his groin. He grabbed Sunday by the arm and said, “Shore’s this way.”
They climbed up onto a bank covered with pine needles. Behind them was a row of log cabins. No lights were on anywhere.
“This kind of looks like a boy scout camp,” he said. “Looks empty.”
She rose, and started stumbling toward the nearest one. “Empty or not, we’re sleeping here. I’m not feeling so hot.”
Pit glanced back toward the glow on the horizon. The mountain she’d set on fire had to be at least fifty mile away. They’d really been moving.
Sunday melted the lock off the cabin door. Inside looked like a meeting room, with the whole back wall being one enormous stone fireplace. A green cloth banner above the mantle read, “Christ is King.”
Sunday dropped to her knees on the big rug in front of the fireplace, then collapsed face down. Pit climbed up onto the fireplace and tore down the banner. He draped it over her like a blanket.
He saw a chalkboard next to the door they’d come in. He walked to it and saw a stick of white chalk in the tray.
“What are you doing?” Sunday whispered.
“Don’t trust my memory,” he said. “Wanna write something down.”
In rough block letters he wrote, “FRANK MACEY. STICK-M-UP KID.”
He moved to the window. “I’ll keep watch,” he said.
“If they find us, the find us,” she murmured. “Get some sleep.”
Pit moved back to the rug and sat down.
“Lay down,” she said.
He lay down.
She pressed herself up against him, laying her head on his good arm, draping an arm and a leg across his body.
“I can’t sleep without a pillow,” she said, her voice soft and distant.
Then she began to snore.
Welcome to my worlds!
I'm James Maxey, author of fantasy and science fiction. My novels include the science fantasy Bitterwood Saga (4 books) the Dragon Apocalypse Saga (4 books), the superhero novels Nobody Gets the Girl and Burn Baby Burn, the steampunk Oz sequel Bad Wizard, and my short story collection, There is No Wheel. In 2017, I'll be releasing a new superhero series, The Butterfly Cage. This website is focused exclusively on writing. At my second blog, Jawbone of an Ass, I ramble through any random topic that springs to mind, occasionally touching on religion and politics and other subjects polite people are sensible enough not to discuss in public.