“Wait!” Eric jumped between the supervillains, his hands stretched toward the one with the pistol. “Just—wait.”
At the top of the steps, Neutrino sneered at the costumed hero ‘Waveform’ between him and his target. “Don’t you ever get tired of being the only one who cares?”
“Of course not.” Dr. Volkow clapped Eric on the shoulder and stepped around him. “That’s what makes him a hero.”
On reflex, Eric grabbed Volkow’s arm to prevent him from advancing recklessly. While Eric’s superpowers made him practically invulnerable to injury, the particularly unique pistol that Neutrino brandished was capable of searing a fatal hole through him with nearly zero resistance; not to mention Dr. Volkow didn’t have any actual powers, nor did his villain costume include body armor. Also, the reactor’s auxiliary control room in which they were cornered offered no advantages whatsoever. It was one of those irksome moments where Eric wished for super speed. Or dumber opponents.
He nodded discretely to the cooperative supervillain. “Got a plan?”
Volkow straightened his parka. “I always have a plan.”
“A good plan?”
“I’ll let you know after it works.”
Facing his former partner in crime, Volkow smiled the smile he generally reserved for the authorities which, as those who knew anything about him at all could attest, would be followed by an unthinkable exit strategy that leaves his opposition befuddled and, more often than not, disoriented and/or incapacitated. No one liked that smile.
“You’re a difficult man to draw out, Volkow.” Perspiration glittered on Neutrino’s angry brow; he nodded to Eric. “Waveform, this trap wasn’t for you. You can go.”
Eric hesitated. He orchestrated all this to use me as bait? For Volkow? He nearly dismissed the notion as ludicrous until, after a thought, he realized with a mixture of reluctance and astonishment that it made perfect sense. It was true; over the past couple of years, whenever Eric found himself truly in over his head in the never-ending battle for justice, Volkow always appeared. Always.
Eric scoffed with numb contempt. I may seriously dislike Volkow but there’s no way I’m hanging him out to dry. “I’m not going anywhere.”
The gravity of the ensuing hush and twin stares from the other men told him they both expected him to comply.
You’re kidding me…
He glanced incredulous from one villain to the other. “You’re joking! What kind of stupid plan is this?!”
Volkow clasped hands behind his back and arched dark brows, cheeky but queerly mute.
“I’m not—I can’t.” Eric appealed to Volkow, “The implosion device–.”
“Can be disarmed and safely disposed of by the authorities at their leisure — recall I did set the new timer for a week — in the event that I throttle our mutual adversary, or handled by our adversary in the event that he bests me because I’m the object of his loathing, not you and not your seaside of innocent people.”
Volkow’s statement was qualified by a begrudging half-shrug and nod from Neutrino.
“Besides,” Volkow went on, “while I always appreciate your presence, even when your intention is to tear me asunder, I too recommend you at least wait outside. Or, better still, go to your mother’s your birthday dinner… ah, but you won’t, will you? You’re much too gallant to do such a thing when evil is still mucking about unsupervised.”
But what about you? “Volkow–.”
The villain’s tone changed. “Trust me.”
It’s weird, but I do.
Eric exhaled with annoyance but, despite ambivalence, he conceded; he issued Neutrino one last leer before turning to Volkow. “Make it quick and stay alive. My mum… she, uh… she might be expecting you to drop by after dinner for cake.” He paused to indicate Volkow’s signature supervillian parka. “Don’t wear that.”