Yeah, I missed the mark on my deadline. I said I was gonna have this chapter up within 6 to 8 days after the first chapter was up, but it looks like that turned into 20 days. I would say that I'm sorry (believe me, I am) but I'm honestly more impressed that I actually managed to write this entire chapter almost from scratch over a total of about 3 weeks. I was barely even slacking, either. Over the past week, I've been using almost every SHRED of free time I had at my disposal to write. Juggling that with homework, and studying for tests coming up, I had to pull almost TWO all-nighters (I couldn't get through the second one :p) But fortunately, the chapter's finally done now and I'm happy with it, so no real harm done...
Anyway, this chapter ended up being a lot longer than I imagined. I pictured it being not much longer than the last chapter if it was any longer at all, but I guess I proved myself wrong. I have to say, there's A LOT of important stuff that goes on in this chapter, and it forced me to take my time while writing it so I could make sure I did it right. Yeah, it's long, but it covers a lot of different things, so hopefully it won't drag too much. That said, I still think its a really good chapter. You'll get to see what Ace's first day on the set is like and the complete origin of his powers! Also, you'll get to read my first attempts at FIGHT SCENES! :D
But I have to admit, I WAS in a hurry to get this out, so if it starts feeling rushed at the end, that's probably why...
Also, for my own personal reference, I have drawn out a map of what Acmetropolis looks like in the context of my story. I didn't really need to, but knowing where everything is will really help me with visualization and keep me from making continuity issues. If you're curious to see it for yourself, here's the link: art/Map-of-Acmetropolis-TCC-R-360169022?q=gallery%3Aiwolf208&qo=0. I just set up a deviantart account, and I plan to be putting a lot of stuff up there in the future. ;)
Finally, before we start, I want to thank Candlestic and BALTO1 for their reviews on my last chapter! I had honestly expected more reviews considering how much time I had spent writing that chapter, but your kind words did help motivate me to write this as good as I possibly could! So thanks :) Also, I wanna thank JunjouRomanticafortheWinxoxo for favoriting and following my story and also leaving some awesome reviews for my older chapters. I'm glad you like my story, and I hope I don't disappoint you!
Why are my author's notes always so long? :( Let's just get started already. Without further ado, let's dive even further into the rich history that is Ace's story... ...
THE DISCLAIMER FROM THE LAST CHAPTER STILL APPLIES!
"Falling, in a confusion
For their illusion
Nothing but circles now
Crawling, feel like they own you
Do what they told you
Feel yourself get up, get out
Out of the circles now..."
- "Circles" by Cavo
Ch. 7 – The Stuntman (pt. 2)
• Time – 5:32 a.m.
• Date – March 19, 2772
The metamorphosis of the city on the other side of the train window somehow seemed even less real than it had yesterday.
The darkness that still lingered during such an early hour made it difficult for him to see everything clearly, but that soft glow that always seems to fill the air in the hours before a sunrise did give him some visibility. As the train car advanced further and further away from the East districts and closer to the downtown metropolitan area, he watched as buildings morphed from simple structures of rustic steel into tall metallic skyscrapers. Trees and brushes seemed to disappear as the increasing number of lights on streets and business displays illuminated the city in a technological glow. It was truly another way of life here in Central Acmetropolis, wasn't it?
It was about a thirty minute train ride from his home station to Central, and it had forced Ace to get up even earlier than he was used to. Yet, despite his persistent yawning from a restless and short night of sleep, he found it hard to use his time on the train to rest any further. Instead, he spent the entire time staring reflectively at the world outside his window with growing anticipation, one that he wouldn't be pulled from until the train reached its final stop.
"Now approaching… Central Acmetropolis… Grand Railway Plaza! Next stop… East Central Station!"
Making his way out of the train cart, Ace couldn't shake the feeling that the automated train voice seemed… different somehow. Of course, he knew it was the same exact voice the rail system had used for years, but it still seemed a bit peculiar to him. It almost felt like its tone had become more… cheerful when announcing this particular stop compared to the others, as if the train itself was somehow happier in the inner city as opposed to the outlying areas.
It was probably just his imagination…
Despite the fact that the sun hadn't even come up yet, the Grand Railway Plaza was surprisingly busy. It wasn't quite as bustling and crowded as it was destined to be in just a few hours, but there was still plenty of activity to be seen. Every train, bus, or monorail cart that transported people throughout the Central Acmetropolis area had it originating stop at this station complex. Even the railways that carried people into the outer West, South, and East Acmetropolis regions made a stop here. Consequentially, to say that the Plaza was immense would actually be an understatement. In a lot of ways, it better resembled a small airport than it did a train station.
For Ace, the journey to Acme Films Inc. was fairly time-consuming. Of all the areas surrounding Central Acmetropolis – North, South, East, and West – East Acmetropolis was the most expansive (unless you counted all the countryside and desert areas in the South.) Four rail lines connected the East's fifteen total districts which all converged at the Eastern Train Station in the First District. Ace's train route started at the Thirteenth District before moving into the Eleventh, the Ninth, and finally the First, a trip that would cost him fifteen minutes from his stop. From the East Station, the four lines collectively crossed the East-Central border and arrived at the East Central Station in just five more minutes. Another ten minute ride and the lines would arrive at their final stop in the Grand Railway Plaza in Downtown Central before they would eventually turn back around to the districts.
After a bit of searching, Ace managed to catch a bus route that would take him right through the production studios where Acme Films was located. The ride itself added another fifteen minutes to his trip before it finally dropped him off right at the studio's main entrance.
He walked up to the main security gate where a security guard waited inside a booth, allowing only people with the right credentials to pass through. After a quick explanation of what his business was, he was instructed to wait for a few minutes outside while he paged for someone to come and get him.
Feeling a cool breeze come his way, he breathed into his hands before placing them into his pockets, hunching into his jacket and backpack in a small effort to keep warm. It may have been the middle of March, but the mornings could still be quite brisk, especially if you were outside before the sun was even up. Fortunately, he didn't have to wait too long before he saw a woman emerge from one of the buildings inside and walk up to the gate where he stood.
"Hi Ace, how are you this morning?" she greeted with a smile. The red highlight in her hair made her instantly recognizable.
"Hi… err… Amy, was it?"
"That's me. I'm the personal assistant to the director and my first job today is to show you around. How do you feel about your first day?"
Ace rubbed the back of his neck. "It all still seems so crazy to me… I'm kinda nervous ta be honest…"
"Don't worry, it's perfectly natural to have some anxiety. Just so you know, if you ever have any questions or concerns or anything like that today, feel free to come to me. I'll be more than happy to help you out in any way that I can."
"No problem! Now if you'll just follow me… we'll start by taking you by the set."
With the push of a button, the gate that separated them slid open and Ace proceeded to follow the woman into the grounds. The two of them walked down a series of roads and walkways that ran between and connected all sorts of buildings that ranged from warehouses to trailers and office buildings to towers. Amy was practically taking him on a tour, pointing out what most of the buildings were used for, but Ace was only half-listening. He had never stepped foot inside the grounds of a major productions studio like this one before. The size and complexity of it all was almost surreal.
After a few minutes, they reached a large warehouse-type building where Amy claimed the set was located. She led him through a small door that fed into a small hallway before arriving at an immense indoor filming set. Taking a look around, it had pretty much everything he ever imagined a set would have. People were walking around with headsets and clipboards and various crew members were working with cameras, lights, and boom microphones, trying to get them set up properly. To the side, there was a long white snack table that displayed all sorts of simple, yet delicious-looking breakfast items. Props were being stored at all sorts of random locations and a number of different "environments" had been constructed where certain scenes could be filmed. He could even make out what looked like a large green screen propped onto a wall at the other end of the warehouse.
After giving the new guy a second to absorb the sights around him, Amy started walking again, leading him to a more specific location. As the two of them walked, it seemed like almost every pair of eyes in the room fell upon the new recruit, looking him over curiously and likely trying to decide how they felt about him. Some of the looks were definitely more disparaging than others, but that honestly didn't surprise him much. Even he was still a bit unsure of how wise a business decision it was to hire an anthro stuntman to double for a human role, the lead role no less.
Thankfully though, the reaction from the cast and crew wasn't completely discouraging. Aside from a majority of curious stares, there were many who instead offered a smile or a casual nod in acknowledgement of his arrival. A fair number of others approached him directly to offer a hand shake or a formal introduction. A couple of those even gave him praises for work they had apparently seen him do in another film. Ace made sure to remember who these people were in particular, as they'd likely be the more reliable people to count on if he ever found himself in some kind of bind.
"Well... I suppose the first thing I should do is take you to meet the director..." Amy said after a moment in explanation of where they were going, though her voice seemed rather unenthusiastic. Ace would soon find out why. The two of them walked back to the area of the studio where the green screen had been set up and a man was looking over some papers, sitting in the iconic director's chair. He must have heard them coming, as he stood up to greet them once they had arrived. Ace's stomach fell as he recognized him right away with that all-too-familiar scowl on his face.
It was the judge he had gotten into an argument with the day before, the man in the red beret.
"Ace..." she began, a bit awkwardly, "I'm sure you remember him from yesterday. This is Steven, our film director..."
"I keep telling you people, it's pronounced Stephan! It's European if you must know..." he answered her impatiently with an annoyed groan. He was clearly not in the brightest of moods.
Ace couldn't bring himself to extend any sort of verbal introduction, though he did hold out his hand limply to initiate a handshake. The director simply stared at the appendage strangely for a second before turning his scrutinizing gaze onto the bunny himself. Never before had Ace felt such a strange mix of resentment and worry. Just as he had begun to get over his nerves, seeing his face again had melted his spirit into a pool of anxiety. If he had known how important this guy was from the beginning, he would've made more of an effort to restrain himself at the audition. But this was the die that fate had cast, and neither of them looked to be too happy about it.
"I trust that we won't be having another... incident today, will we?" he questioned condescendingly, knowing that he was in a clearer position of power this time around. Ace alleviated some of his nerves by entertaining the idea of punching him in the face.
"Not at all, sir. It's strictly professional from here on out," he answered confidently. He still had his hand extended in hopes that the director would eventually accept it, but all he could get from him was an icy stare. "And may I say..." he continued, this time attempting a more apologetic approach, "I think we might've gotten off on tha wrong foot yesterday. I kinda lost my temper and let my emotions get tha best o' me, and I'm sorry. So whaddya say we start over, eh doc?"
Ace straightened up his arm a little more, but none of his actions seemed to be helping the situation much. The director still refused to acknowledge him any further and instead turned to his assistant. "Amy, we start our first round of green screen shooting in thirty minutes, so I expect my coffee by then. You know how I like it..."
With that, the man turned away from them and walked towards some cameramen to apparently discuss other, more important matters. The two of them exchanged looks before Amy decided to lead him somewhere else.
"He seems nice..." Ace commented.
After taking the new cast member on a very brief tour through all the various sets and the more important office buildings, they had finally come to a large building about four stories tall that was supposedly reserved for the men and women in stunt roles along with their many stunt coordinators. Aside from the dressing rooms, it also held a number of gymnasiums and training rooms where the actors could work on techniques or rehearse scenes. Amy had immediately taken him up to the top floor where they stopped in front of a door at the end of the hall.
"...And this last room here is your official dressing room!"
It was a pristine white door adorned with the words "DRESSING ROOM" painted in black letters across the front. Underneath those letters, rested a shiny golden name plate that had his name engraved on it, indicating that this did indeed belong to him. Amy had stepped aside to let him enter the room first, but Ace didn't open the door right away, instead spending a few seconds looking over the name plate with wonder. He couldn't help but touch it too, as if he were making sure it was actually real.
When he eventually managed to open the door, he found himself equally as captivated by what awaited him inside. It was just the way he had always pictured it. A large countertop extended the full length of one of the walls with a comfortable looking arm chair sitting in front. The mirror above the counter was large enough to take up the rest of the wall space. Behind that whole setup, sat more typical things like a television screen, a couple of sofas around a coffee table, and a number of potted trees for decoration. A large window was positioned on the same wall the television was propped against, offering him a fair view of the studio grounds outside. In one of the corners, there even stood a large wardrobe that would soon hold all the costumes and clothes he needed for the film.
"Wow..." Ace reacted softly.
"You think you'll be comfortable enough in here?" she asked him.
"Oh yeah... definitely..."
She laughed in response, "Glad to hear it! Now, let me give you a quick rundown of your schedule before I get going..."
Ace set his backpack down on the sofa and immediately walked over to the window, gazing out dreamily at the daybreak scenery while Amy continued. "At about 7:00, you'll have your first meeting with your stylist/makeup artist who's going to get some measurements from you for your wardrobe. At 7:30, you need to be downstairs at Gymnasium C to meet with your stunt coordinator so you can go over some of the scenes you'll be filming today. If you have time, you'll also get a chance to rehearse a few of them fully with some of the other stuntmen. At around 9:30, you'll be sent back here where you'll meet again with your stylist who'll hopefully have everything ready to start getting you into your Man-Babe costume. I've left your script on the countertop over here, and I suggest you start looking it over now. You don't have to read all of it, but I highlighted all of the parts you're involved in, so at least get familiar with those. We'll start filming our first scenes with you at around 10:15, so make sure you're back down at the set at least ten or fifteen minutes before that. You have any questions?"
"It sounds like I've got a pretty busy day ahead of me, huh?" he replied casually.
She smiled. "Believe me, it's only going to get busier from now on..."
"Well, I appreciate you helping me out so far, Amy," he said, finally turning away from the window.
"No problem, Ace. Anyway, I better get back to the set... Stephan will be pretty upset if I'm not there on time with his coffee. I'll see you later, okay?"
With their parting words, she closed the door behind her, leaving Ace alone in his room. Leaning against the windowsill, he looked over everything again in awe before remembering her words of instruction. Ace walked over to the counter and picked up the thick booklet of papers that was his script before sitting down in his armchair.
The cover of it read "The Adventures of Man-Babe 8: Menace from the Shadows - Stunt Version." Flipping through the pages, he found a good number of scenes that were covered with pink highlights. Choosing a few of them at random and giving them a closer read, he found that they detailed every main action scene in the movie in full detail, with every hit, dodge, and gymnastic stunt choreographed out with precise description.
He looked up from his script for a moment and looked at himself in the mirror. With the reflective silence in the background, the reality seemed to hit him all at once. This was his script. This was his dressing room. This was his part... his movie.
This was really his chance...
The moment he had always been chasing after was finally here, right in front of him, and Heaven knew how much he had riding on it.
Once he had looked into his own eyes long enough to find that determination he knew he was going to have to rely on, he gave himself a small reassuring smirk and opened his script up to the first page.
• • •
The front door opened with a click to reveal an unfurnished but well kept apartment.
"Go on in, you'll be safe here, Natasha..." a muscular man with a clean-shaven head assured.
"Thank you so much, Man-Babe..." the shapely blonde woman beside him answered shyly, clutching her arms nervously. She made her way straight to the couch and sat down as Man-Babe quickly closed the door behind her. He then decided to peek through the blinds of his window, taking a good look around. "Do you see anything?" she questioned.
"I don't think so," he answered confidently. "I'm sure we lost them."
"How can you be so sure? They've been following me all day... no matter where I go they always seem to find me..."
"I told you... you've got nothing to worry about as long as I'm around. Besides, they'll never find us here..."
Not even a second later, a man dressed in an all-black ninja suit appeared at the other side of the apartment. Natasha screamed, causing Man-Babe to turn around quickly and identify the intruder.
He grunted under his breath. "How did those bastards know where I live?"
Seemingly out of nowhere, two more ninjas appeared behind the first one, and the three of them together started to slowly creep forward.
"Natasha, stay back! It looks like things are gonna get messy around here..!"
The girl sprang from her seat and fled to another corner of the room where she waited helplessly as the ninja continued closing in. After a few seconds of intense eye confrontation, the lead ninja sprang forward to attack Man-Babe.
"Aaand... CUT!" the director yelled out, making the actors freeze in mid-action. "Brilliant, brilliant!" he gushed. "It looks like we won't need a second take after all! You can go back on break now, Man-Babe. We'll call you back when we need you."
All the actors on set took the opportunity to relax themselves for a second. With a small exhale, the star stretched out his arms some and walked off the set.
"Let's get our stuntman out here!" he directed loudly, practically tossing aside whatever enthusiasm that last take had left him with.
Ace was standing a few feet away from the set, just out of the director's sight. In his hands, he was clutching a large, rubber mask that was supposed to fit snugly around his whole head and complete his Man-Babe transformation. He was already wearing the appropriate clothes: dark blue jeans and a denim jacket-vest over a long-sleeve maroon shirt.
The moment had finally come. It was time for him to give it everything he had and to prove to both himself and everyone else that he belonged here. He took a deep breath to clear away whatever nerves he might have had left before walking onto the set.
"I'm right here, sir," he revealed.
The director looked him over oddly before addressing him. "I'm sure you've had plenty of time to go over this scene already..." Ace nodded. "Good, because we don't have time to explain anything. Now, hurry and get to your spot... and put that mask on!"
"Yes sir," he responded dutifully. He hadn't counted on Stephan to be in a good mood while they were filming, considering how their introductions had gone, but he hoped it wouldn't stay that way. Perhaps if he performed well enough in front of the cameras, he would lighten up a bit.
He gave the mask a good stretch before pulling it over his head. Make-up artists and costume designers had really come a long way over the years. Not only did the texture of the mask look like it might have actually been made from real human skin, but it was constructed from a material that could form almost seamlessly to the shape of his face. It had taken some extra time for them to measure out a size that could conceal his ears entirely without being uncomfortable, and they needed to adjust the material somewhat so it wouldn't mess with his fur, but the final product was truly a testament to modern movie technology.
Cautiously, he walked up to the same spot that Man-Babe had been standing in earlier and assumed his starting stance as the "ninjas" did the same. While the crew was still resetting, he went over the action sequence in his mind for about the hundredth time. As he would usually do before his own sparring matches, he took a few meditative breaths to clear his head and relax his emotions. Not counting the audition, this was his first shot at making a good impression. As long as he did things exactly the way they had gone in rehearsal, everything would be just fine...
"Scene 37... Take 1... and... ACTION!"
Continuing right where he had left off before, the lead ninja lunged forward with a striking punch aimed high for his face. Quickly, Ace grabbed the oncoming fist with his left hand, placed his right hand on the man's chest and positioned himself to flip the guy over his head and onto the ground behind him. The two other ninjas rushed in after him to initiate the full-on fight sequence.
Ace gave himself a mental prompt of everything as it happened so he would know exactly what to do. Hit the left ninja in the gut. He reels backward. Block the next three punches from the ninja on the right. Give him an uppercut. Grab his arm and throw him over your shoulder. Side-step out of the way of the first ninja when he charges at you. Give him a spinning kick to his side. He lands on top of the left ninja from before who was just about to get up. Land flat on your back when the right ninja (still on the ground) sweeps his legs at your feet. He gets up and pulls out a short sword. Roll to the side when he tries to stab you with it. Spring backwards with a flip to get back on your feet with style. Face the ninja who attacked you as he readies his weapon. Look over to the corner of the room. There's an umbrella and a metal curtain rod leaning against the wall. Grab the curtain rod. Jab the rod at him a few times and then swipe it horizontally. He dodges them all. He grabs the rod and tries to wrestle it out...
"Cut, cut, CUT!"
The outburst had honestly taken him by surprise. From what he could tell, things were going pretty well so far. Nonetheless, he and the other actors on set turned their full attention to the director who appeared visibly frustrated.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" he asked simply.
Ace didn't know how to answer. "Err... whaddya mean?"
He sighed. "There's a reason that umbrella is over there, you know. It says specifically in the script that Man-Babe fights off the three ninjas with an umbrella..."
"Oh dat..." Ace began, while rubbing one of his arms. "Well, ya see... while we were rehearsing this scene earlier... me an' Jeremy here..."
"Hey," the opposing ninja broke in with a small wave to identify himself.
"...were thinkin' dat... it didn't really make a whole lotta sense..."
"You didn't think it made a lot of sense?" the director repeated in a condescending tone.
"Yeah..." he continued in an effort to explain himself. "I mean, I know he's Man-Babe an' all, but tha guy pulled out a sword! If anybody else were in dat same circumstance and had ta choose between a curtain rod and an umbrella... they would at least try ta use that rod foist..."
"Yeah," Jeremy added in support, "we figured we could just use the rod for a second before I would take it from him and break it anyway. Then he would have to use the umbrella."
"We're not really changing anything," Ace concluded, "we just kinda... added somethin'. If anything, it just makes the fight look a little more dramatic..."
The director didn't look at all swayed. "And you thought you could just add whatever you wanted into the scene, just like that?"
The two stuntmen looked at each other. "Tha stunt coordinator said it was okay," Ace proposed. "We thought he told ya about it..."
The director sighed. "I know it's your first day on the set, Ace... but we're shooting a Man-Babe movie here. When people come to see these movies, they don't expect things like logic or reason. They want to see explosions, snappy one-liners, and crazy action sequences! So if the script says that Man-Babe beats up the three ninjas with only an umbrella, then that's exactly what he's going to do!"
Ace attempted to justify his reasoning a bit further, "I know. He's still gonna do that, but-"
"No exceptions! Now start the scene over... from the top!"
As much as Ace resented the director's superior sounding tone, he decided it best to drop his suggestion. He was the director after all, so he gets the final say on how he wants the film to be. Resigning, he put the curtain rod back against the wall and went back to his original spot along with the other actors.
Jeremy shrugged his shoulders, "I thought it was a good idea..."
"Scene 37... Take 2... and... ACTION!"
• • •
Man-Babe walked into the center of the old, shady warehouse. A single flickering light illuminated a small spot on the center of the floor, but the rest of the area was completely concealed by darkness.
"Alright guys, I know you're in here," he announced. "Come on out!"
Answering his call, as many as ten to twenty men in black bandanas and biker jackets emerged from the shadows, encircling him.
"So..." one of them spoke up while tapping a crowbar into his palm, "you found out about our secret hideout, did ya?"
"I don't know what you're talking about..."
"You know exactly what I'm talking about!" he yelled back. "The senator's son, the one you kidnapped after robbing that mall. Where is he?!"
The gang leader laughed, "Oh that Timmy... don't worry, he's safe. But we're not handin' him over until we get that ransom money..."
"Not if I have anything to say about it..." Man-Babe readied his fists.
"Oh, you're gonna regret that, tough guy. Let's get him, fellas!"
Off his cue, each of them pulled out a different weapon ranging from knives, to metal pipes, to nunchucks. Three of the men in particular lunged forward into the center of the circle to attack Man-Babe all at once.
"And... CUT!" the director timely yelled just as the fighting was about to begin. "Great, great job once again, Man-Babe," he praised as he got up from his chair. "I could just feel the tension in the room. Tell you what, why don't you go ahead and take your lunch break early today? We'll see you back on the set in a little while..."
Once his star actor had left the vicinity, his mood once again darkened. "Alright people, we're running short on time here, so we need to get this fight scene going! Let's get our stuntman out-"
Before he could technically finish his order, he turned around to see Ace already on the set, fully costumed and ready to go. "All set, doc!" he informed contentedly with a casual thumbs up. For the past few takes - after their first altercation - he had really been trying to stay on the director's good side by doing everything that was asked of him with as little delay as possible. He may not have liked him very much on a personal level, but he figured it would be better for everyone if he kept him from getting any angrier.
The director just looked at him for a second, as if he was trying to think of something he could critique. "Well, at least you're paying attention..."
"Absolutely, doc. I'm ready ta go when you are!"
"For the record... don't call me 'doc.' You can call me 'sir' or 'boss' like everyone else..."
"What about Stephan?"
His stare remained rigid and cold. "'Sir' is fine."
Accepting that his attempt to lighten the mood had misfired (not surprisingly), he walked over to his starting spot as the director walked back to his chair. "Okay everyone," he yelled out, "let's get these cameras rolling! Scene 136... Take 1... and... ACTION!"
Just moments after Ace had assumed his starting stance, the three gang members from before resumed their attack and the stuntman's mind snapped itself back into action mode, once again listing out every action methodically as it was supposed to happen. The gangster in front of you approaches first. Block his first punch with your right hand. Punch him in the face with your left. Snap your left arm up and back quickly to punch the gangster behind you without turning around. The gangster beside you is swinging a lead pipe wildly. Grab onto the weapon and use it as leverage to give him a kick in the stomach. Take the pipe away as he falls. Twirl it around a few times for show.
Four more gangsters rush in. One gangster swings an axe at you. Dodge his swing with a spin that places you behind him. Karate chop him in the back of the neck. Engage a second gangster in a short sword fight using the pipe. Wait until there's an opening. Swing the pipe at his knee, crippling his leg. Kick him in the gut and knock him into the path of the third gangster. Throw the pipe at the fourth gangster's head, knocking him out cold. A fifth gangster runs up. Block his first two punches. He blocks two of yours. Endure a punch at your chest. Swipe your legs at his feet to trip him. Grab his arm as he falls. Swing him into two gangsters standing on the side. Four more gangsters form a circle around you. There's no way out. See an opening in front of you...
Ace hesitated as he realized that he had run into a problem. The script called for him to run up and slide underneath the gangster in front of him, between his legs. But he knew right away that a stunt like that wasn't going to work this time around. They hadn't rehearsed the scene as a group before this, and the man who happened to be standing in front of him was an unfortunate combination of short, round, and stubby. Consequentially, the hole that he was expected to slide through was neither high nor wide enough for him to clear cleanly.
So then what was he supposed to do? No doubt the director was expecting him to follow the script, which called for a cool-looking slide that led into an attack from behind. The last time he had made an attempt at creative liberty, he had been swiftly shot down. But surely this time had to be different, right? It wasn't like he wanted to change things up, the circumstances left him no other option...
Still, he figured that if he had to go against what was written, he could at least replace it with something that could look equally as cool.
He looked around him and ran through a number of possibilities before eventually noticing a low-hanging metal bar that was part of the genuine warehouse set design. He jumped upwards as high as he could and latched onto the bar with both hands. In the same swift motion, he swung forward and launched himself over the man's head. Once he was successfully behind him, still in mid-air, he spun his body around, placed his foot on the gangster's back, and shoved him with enough force to knock him forward a few feet.
Feeling successful about his attempt, he allowed himself a prideful smirk as he landed on all fours back on the ground. To be honest, he probably couldn't have pulled that off so well again if he tried and picking up on a few impressed noises from some of the crew members, he knew that it likely looked as good as he had hoped. Surely, that was a good enough substitute for the sliding maneuver...
Of course, he had been wrong before...
"What was that all about?" the director cried out, as if he had done something offensive.
"You didn't think dat was cool?"
"Cool or not, it wasn't in the script! We've been over this before..."
"Hold on a second," the bunny began in an attempt to calm him down. "I know ya don't like it when I try ta mix things up, but I didn't have a choice this time. Dat guy's legs didn't leave me a lot o' room ta squeeze through."
He turned to the guy he was talking about. "No offense."
"None taken," he answered simply.
"I woulda nevah made it, so I just tried somethin' else," he continued. "Besides, I still pushed him back inta tha circle like tha script says. I can continue on with tha scene just fine..."
"You still don't understand, do ya rabbit? The script is there for a reason... to tell people like you exactly what they need to be doing! Either way, I am the director, so I get the final say on what goes into the movie... and I say this scene can't be done without that slide! Places, people!"
"Well, could you at least put someone else-?"
"I said, places people!" he interrupted forcefully. Ace was almost amazed by how bull-headed he was. As much as the idea concerned him, it didn't look like he was left with any other viable option. With a frustrated sigh, he went back to the spot he was standing in before he had tried improvising and waited until everyone was ready.
"Scene 136... Take 2... ACTION!"
Ace looked again at the opening he was expected to fit through. It looked like the other stuntman was aware of the problem and tried to widen the opening a little, but it didn't seem like it gave him much more than a few inches. Perhaps... if he lied almost completely flat... or if he angled just slightly... it could work, right? Whether it could or not, he was required to at least make an attempt.
He gulped as his legs started moving into a slow run. Once he was a few feet away, he threw his weight backwards as far as he could and led into the slide with his left leg. Just as his toes started passing through the makeshift archway, he found himself closing his eyes out of anxiety.
But that was probably a mistake.
Mere instants after he voluntarily obscured his vision, some kind of hidden, defensive instinct must have kicked in and the bunny pulled his leg inward, causing his knee to rise up. The timing couldn't have been worse as his knee became fully raised just before it was about to pass through... and sure enough, it kept him from completing the slide. Instead, he ended up kneeing the poor stuntman right in his crotch.
His reaction was immediate as his mouth opened in a wail, but barely any sound escaped him. His body hunched forward as he placed his hands over the wounded area. Once Ace had jumped back onto his own feet and out of the way, the man fell to his knees.
"Oh my God, are you okay?" the bunny quickly apologized as he dropped down to his level. "I'm so sorry..."
"...why would you do that...?!" he barely managed to say in spite of the high-pitched straining in his voice.
"CUUUTT!" the loud voice erupted from the director's chair. All eyes on the set immediately turned towards him to see the most annoyed and frustrated look he had given all day.
"Ugh... we don't have time for this..." he mumbled as he put his fingers over the bridge of his nose and rubbed his eyes tiredly. "Okay everyone, listen up! We're going to go ahead and break for lunch a few minutes early! Now, in case you haven't been told, we're moving to a new location for the next few rounds of filming. The good people of the Second District in East Acmetropolis were kind enough to let us rent out a few streets to film most of the 'city scenes.' If you're coming with us, you have an hour to eat before I expect you at the filming set by noon sharp! Yes, you're expected to find a way to get there on your own, and no, I won't tolerate anyone showing up late. We can't afford to run any further behind schedule. Alright, that's a wrap everyone, I'll see you all in an hour.
At his instruction, all the crew members and actors started packing their things and scurrying away from the set. Before he left, the director walked up to Ace with a very demeaning look. "We'll finish this up later..." he informed bitingly. "Just make sure you make it to the set on time...
It looked like today was going to be a long one...
• • •
"I just don't understand how I'm supposed ta work with dat guy..!"
Ace vented his frustration as he sat inside the trailer that would serve as his temporary dressing room while he was away from the studio. Coincidentally enough, it looked almost exactly like his original one except for the fact that this one didn't have a window.
It was only about ten minutes shy of noon, but he had been waiting there for about twenty minutes already. Considering everything that had happened that morning, he wasn't about to take any chances by showing up late. He left the studio the instant he could clean himself up and gather his things, jumping onto the earliest train he could catch. For lunch, he bought a sandwich at one of the Railway Plaza Bistros and ate it on the ride over.
Fortunately, it didn't seem like he would have to spend all that time on his own. His stylist showed up shortly after he arrived and was busy slaving away at his costume and mask with his personal set of cosmetic tools, tweaking them until he was satisfied. Amy was also there with them. She had knocked on his door just a few minutes ago, asking him how he had felt about his first day thus far. Before long, all three of them had become engrossed in Ace's affairs.
"Yeah, he can be a bit difficult sometimes..." Amy answered, trying her best to say things that weren't too negative.
"Well, he might be difficult fer most people," Ace went on, "but fer me, he's downright impossible. I'm pretty sure he just hates me. Nothin' I do evah seems ta be good enough fer him."
"It does seem pretty strange," Amy acknowledged. "He's usually pretty hot-headed and rude, but I've never seen him act so strongly towards any one person before..."
"I've worked with other directors in tha past, an' even the worst of 'em were at least willin' ta hear me out from time to time. I don't see why Steven... or... Stephan... has to be so difficult..."
"I don't want it to sound like I'm defending him or anything," the stylist spoke up, "but he has been under a lot of stress lately, what with the filming deadline coming up so soon. Maybe it's all just finally starting to get to him..."
"Dat's why he should be willin' ta listen ta me more often," Ace argued. "I'm just tryin' ta help him out. The script's not exactly top quality..."
A knock at the trailer door attracted all of their attention before a man in a headset peeked through the doorway. "Five more minutes," he informed. They all nodded in acknowledgement and the man went on his way.
"Oh, by the way Amy," the stylist asked eagerly, "is it true what they're saying? Are the stunt robots we're using really voice activated?"
Amy smiled. "Yeah, it's true. The guys over in the tech department put them together. They're supposed to have all their movements for each scene programmed into them and they'll start and stop when the director yells 'action' and 'cut.' I've seen them in action, and it's pretty cool to watch."
"Oooohhh, how fun!" he answered gleefully.
"Well I'm sure they're fun ta watch, but if they're really programmed to do what's in the script, then workin' with 'em is gonna be pretty hard. I was readin' tha script some more on tha way up here and there's some pretty stupid stuff they want me to pull off."
"You don't think you can do it?" Amy asked.
"No, I'm pretty sure I can," Ace answered, "but it all just seems so boring and cliché. I have so many different ideas for things I could do instead that would look so much cooler! I just wish he was willin' ta give me a chance..."
"If I might make a suggestion..." the stylist began, putting down his work for a moment and speaking directly to the stuntman. "In my opinion, it seems like he's not as upset about you wanting to change things, as he is about you just changing them in the middle of the scene without telling him. Maybe you could try talking to him before you even go on the set and see if you can get something reasonable worked out..."
"You really think that'll work?" Ace asked. It sounded like a logical answer, but he wasn't fully convinced. It seemed a little too simple...
"Oh absolutely!" he ensured. "Trust me, I know plenty of guys like him. They're just like chihuahuas, yapping their heads off until they get some attention. Give him some attention, and I'm sure he'll at least give you something to work with."
Ace turned his head over at Amy to see what she thought of the whole idea. "It wouldn't hurt to try..." she said while shrugging her shoulders.
"But what if it does?" Ace couldn't help but think to himself.
• • •
The blonde woman watched helplessly in horror as the menacing humanoid robot closed in on her, having trapped her at the dead end of an alleyway. She looked around frantically, trying to see if there was still a way to escape, but there was clearly no way out.
"No..." she muttered, terrified.
"Destroy humanity... destroy humanity... destroy..." the robot kept repeating ceaselessly as it continued to close in on her. It finally stopped once it was within striking distance and raised one of its giant metal claws in preparation to attack. The woman clutched the stone wall behind her and released a terrified scream in a last-ditch effort to attract some attention.
Fortunately, her efforts weren't in vain.
Before the robot could strike, someone from behind gave the machine a firm tap on its shoulder. With its attention temporarily diverted, it turned around to see who the culprit was. Standing there, cracking his knuckles was none other than Man-Babe, come to rescue another innocent citizen from a terrifying monster.
"Sorry, bucket-boy," he said in his typical low, tough-guy voice, "not today!"
He gave a taunting motion with his fingers and assumed a fighting stance. Having assessed the newcomer as a threat, the robot turned his full attention away from the girl and instead threw its claws at the hero.
"Destroy humanity..." it continued to drone, "destroy..."
"Aaaaand... CUT!" the booming voice of the director yelled shortly after. Recognizing the voice command, the robot instantly halted its attack with its claw just inches away from the action hero's face.
"Oh Man-Babe, that was fantastic!" he praised enthusiastically as he walked onto the set and approached the actor. "I can always count on you to put on a top-notch performance, can't I?" The director laughed as he continued to shower his star with compliments while escorting him to the side. "Now, why don't you take a break while we shoot the fight scene, hmm? You deserve it..!"
Mere seconds after Man-Babe had walked away, his smile once again warped back into its usual scowl. "Where's that stunt rabbit?!" he barked.
Ace wondered why he always acted like it was some kind of ordeal to locate their stunt double every take. He was never far away. He wasn't off slacking in his trailer, or stuffing himself at the snack table. He was waiting just off-set, behind the cameras for his cue to come in, just as he had been doing all morning.
Of course, he probably shouldn't have expected him to notice.
"Eh... dat would be stunt bunny," he corrected after walking into view.
The director just stared at him humorlessly. "Whatever..." he mumbled. "Now remember, bunny... we're going to do the take right this time... just as it's written in the script and exactly how you rehearsed it. No surprises, okay?"
Ace swallowed a bit. Trying to convince a guy like him to change his mind about anything would probably just be an exercise in futility. But, he knew he had to try something. If he was going to work with him, the least he could do was try to establish some common creative ground. He remembered what he had been told earlier in his trailer. It wouldn't hurt to try...
"A-actually, sir, I was hopin' ta talk to ya about dat..."
"You mean, about the script..?"
"Yeah... I mean, it's fine an' all, but I was thinkin' dat maybe I could... run some changes by ya foist and see what ya think before we start filmin'. Ya see, I've got some ideas I know yer gonna love..!"
The director didn't actually answer him, but instead raised his eyebrow in a curious, yet still warning gesture. Interpreting the fact that he wasn't immediately shot down as a small victory, he continued on.
"Foist off, I gotta say dat most o' tha script is okay, but most o' Man-Babe's moves are a little... predictable fer my tastes. I mean, yer nevah gonna 'wow' tha audience with stuff they've already seen before. So... I was thinkin' dat when tha robot comes at me... I could start off with one o' these..."
Ace then proceeded to physically act out his ideas in front of him, assuming they would probably seem more marketable if he could demonstrate them himself. He narrated his reasons for every punch, kick, or jump all as reasonably as he could, seemingly while the director waited patiently for him to finish.
"So whaddya think?" he asked in conclusion.
The director petted the point of his goatee for a moment as he thought about his answer. "Oh, you want to know what I think?" he asked suspiciously.
He chuckled somewhat sarcastically, "I think... that a certain rabbit... should stop acting like he knows what's best and just do as he's told..."
"B-but..." Ace stammered.
"Oh, there's no 'buts' about this..." he continued darkly. "You see... I am the director... which makes me the boss... and that means you have to do things exactly the way I tell you to. Being on the set of a big-shot movie like this doesn't change the fact that you're still just some run-of-the-mill rookie stuntman. I don't care if you could take out all these robots with your eyes closed, you don't have the right to mess with my vision for this film! And if I so much as hear about you wanting to change anything else again, I'll have you replaced faster than you can say you're sorry! Do I make myself clear?"
His words stung like venom. "Uh..."
"Do I make myself clear?" he spat out even more forcefully.
Ace turned his now conflicted gaze to the ground. So much for trying...
"Yes sir..." he said softly with a sigh.
"Good," he finished simply before turning back around to his chair. It looked like their little argument was over, but it turned out that the director had one last thing to say...
What? Were they starting the take already? Ace had barely even started putting his mask on. Surely the cameras weren't...
Ace's thoughts halted immediately after picking up the hum of machinery. He only had time to turn his head and catch sight of the huge metal claw lunging towards him, but by then it was too late. Ace yelped in pain as the ten-foot tall robot grabbed the bunny by his ears and lifted him well off the ground. His ears were arguably the most sensitive part of his body, so any attempts he made to try and wrestle himself out of its grasp were only met with more pain. It became even harder once the robot started to shake him around violently, denying him any clear concentration.
Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed that many members of the crew were scrambling around urgently, trying to find anyone with access to some kind of safety switch to deactivate the robot before he was actually injured. After a few more terrifying seconds of being thrown around like a ragdoll, the robot gave off a flash of light and a beeping noise before freezing in place. Moments later, its claw snapped open and Ace was freed.
He stumbled around for a second, both dizzy from the tossing and sore from the iron grip of the machine before he allowed himself to fall to the floor, clutching the base of his ears to help alleviate some of the pain. Trying his best to recompose himself, he refused to look up at the director - or anyone else for that matter - as he lied there on the ground. Though he did allow himself to listen in on what sounded like some kind of argument starting up.
"Steven?! What was that all about?" That was definitely Amy's voice and she sounded unusually upset.
"I don't know what you're talking about..." he responded, feigning ignorance.
"You know exactly what I'm talking about," she argued. "You were the one who gave the robot his start command."
"I was simply starting up the scene," he defended pompously. "If Ace didn't take it upon himself to be ready in time, then I cannot be held accountable for what happens as a result."
"But he clearly wasn't ready, no one was! He didn't even have time to put on his mask... the cameras weren't even rolling! Ace could've been seriously hurt... you can't just treat your actors that way..."
It sounded like the director wasn't going to tolerate this either. "Now listen, Amy... I hope I don't have to remind you that you are just a lowly intern here. You are in no position to be talking back to me in such a way..!"
As the two of them continued to argue, Ace rolled onto his back and found himself gazing into the clouds that flew overhead. As grateful as he was that at least someone was willing to stand up for him, he couldn't help but feel concerned over what she might be getting herself into. A part of his brain seemed to urge him into getting back on his feet to join Amy in her justified outrage over what had just transpired. But, an even larger part of his brain seemed to convince him that simply lying there would be the best option. It puzzled him as to why he felt that way, but...
Never in his life had Ace felt so... helpless.
It was a strange feeling for him. He had always thought he was the kind of person who could keep control of things, always finding a way to overcome anything that stood in his way. But this time it was different. He just felt so powerless... about everything. As much as he felt like going up to the director himself and just slapping - or beating - some sense into him, he knew that was just something he couldn't do. He had already dug himself into a deep enough hole, and he knew full well that he could never get away with doing something like that. Hell, it seemed like he would lose his job if he so much as said another word. All personal pride aside, he couldn't afford to let something like that happen. His financial situation was far too fragile to endure that kind of hit.
Besides he wasn't about to throw away something he had spent years working towards. This was everything he had ever wanted... his dream... wasn't it? It was hard for him to picture today being anything like he had imagined when he was younger. It seemed like the only thing he had learned from this experience so far was that sometimes it actually did hurt to try. If this was really his opportunity of a lifetime... why was he starting to regret it? Would it always be this way? Had his dreams simply been caught up in idealism all these years, blinding him from reality? Did he really want something like this?
This was the first time thoughts like these had ever actually occurred to Ace, and he found them troubling. He had always felt so sure of himself when it came to who he was and what he wanted. But all of a sudden, he was beginning to doubt... well, everything. Despite the uproar that seemed to be taking place off-set, all he could bring himself to do was stare at the clouds... reflecting over every circumstance in his life that had led him to that particular moment...
And that's when it happened.
For a brief second, it had looked like the sky had gotten a bit... brighter than normal. From where he was lying, it also felt like the ground beneath him was trembling. Was it some kind of earthquake? As the sky seemed to glow brighter and brighter and the shaking beneath him became more noticeable with each passing second, he finally found the motivation to sit himself upright. Looking around, he found that most of the crew appeared to be distracted by something in the sky. Curiously, Ace turned his attention in the direction of their gazes, and his eyes opened wide when he saw what it was.
Flying above the city, just underneath the clouds, was a magnificent fireball of orange and gold light. Even in the full brightness of mid-day, the tongues and streams of fire that sprouted from its core were very much visible and stunning in their brilliance. Ace could only watch in awe as the spectacle streaked across the sky with the sound and intensity of a jet engine that made the Earth tremble beneath it.
By that point, all sorts of people had poured out of nearby buildings and spilled into nearby streets to get a good look at the astronomical wonder that had come to visit them. Judging from their expressions, this was a sight that none of them had expected to see today. Ace certainly hadn't heard anything about an incoming meteor or a comet recently, and considering how closely it was treading in their atmosphere, he assumed this would've been a very news-worthy event.
But as he watched the flying rock leave its line of fire in the sky, he noticed something very unsettling. He wasn't sure if it was just his imagination... but it looked like the rock was getting closer.
In fact... it looked like it was headed straight for Acmetropolis Harbor.
This realization must have occurred to some of the citizens as well, as he noticed a few of them calling out to the people around them, trying to warn them of what was about to happen. If only the roar of the comet wasn't so deafening...
There was little time for reaction anyway. The ball of light disappeared behind the distant skyscrapers for only a moment before it made impact. The instant it did, the ground beneath them shook violently before the entire world that sat before their eyes seemed to light up in an explosion of white light, followed seconds later by a thunderous roar. A mushroom cloud of smoke and water shot upwards in the distance and he noticed what looked like a massive wall of wind rushing outward in all directions, headed straight for them.
The wall reached them in a matter of seconds, only giving the citizens enough time to brace themselves before it hit with the force of a hurricane wind. Ace was knocked backwards, but he managed to regain his composure quickly and repositioned himself with a more proper foot placement on the ground that kept him from being swept up any further by the winds.
That initial wall of wind was the worst, but it thankfully only lasted a few seconds before it passed over, leaving only a strong and steady gust that followed behind it. With the gusts being less blinding, Ace once again opened his eyes only to spy something else coming their way. Instead of wind, this second shockwave looked more like a massive wall of light, no doubt being the true shockwave accompanying the impact. It moved more slowly than the wall of wind, its light enveloping everything it touched in that same unearthly glow, but it also looked much more powerful, shaking the very ground it swallowed. The closer it got, the more... electrical it looked in nature and Ace braced himself for the worst before the shockwave finally fell upon them.
For the first few seconds, Ace was surprised to feel that the shockwave actually felt rather mild. Other than the ground shaking, it seemed like it consisted of nothing more than just... light. But that didn't last for long. Not even an instant later, he started to feel a tingling, almost numbing sensation in his body, starting at the ends of his limbs and migrating towards his center. It was weak at first... like some sort of odd neurological sensation... before it quickly progressed into something more painful. The tingling intensified all over his body and each prick felt like it sent waves of pressure throughout his skin and muscles. It soon intensified further into a burning sensation that made him feel like his entire body was heating up slowly from the inside. He noticed though, that this feeling was most heavily concentrated in his eyes, which practically felt like they were on fire.
After that, he felt what he could only describe as waves of energy pulsating throughout the length of his entire body as if it were alive with some kind of possessive electrical discharge. All of the sensations collectively shook his body in a cacophony of supernatural forces unleashed for several more seconds, taxing his mind and body repeatedly before it showed any signs of letting up. The cooling down that followed was gradual, but the phenomenon eventually left him, leaving an exhausted feeling in each of his muscles as his body trembled from the experience. A loud ringing lingered in his ears, and the burning only seemed to persist in his eyes.
Though he was temporarily rendered both blind and deaf, he did manage to notice that the ground had finally stopped shaking and he was beginning to pick up the muted sounds of people once again. The shockwave must've passed. Even though it felt like he was about ready to fall over, he forced himself to use whatever energy he had left to pry his eyes open, even a little, to see for himself what the aftermath looked like.
But oddly enough... all he could see was yellow...
Well... until everything slowly faded to black and he collapsed into a heap on the ground.
• • •
"… Ace… … … up…"
The voice sounded muffled and foreign at first… almost slurry and barely recognizable.
"… Ace! … …okay? Ace…"
The odd voice kept calling him back to consciousness, getting clearer with each passing second. His eyelids opened just a crack, letting in a small ray of blurred light.
"He's waking up…! Ace… can you hear me?" It was a man's voice.
"Ace… are you okay?" That time it was a female voice.
Pulling himself out of whatever daze he was in, the bunny finally managed to open his eyes. They still pained him somewhat, feeling a large pressure somewhere in the back of his eye sockets, and his vision was still cloudy, making it hard for him to see. There was an odd yellow tint in his view as well, as if he was looking through a thin sheet of pale yellow plastic. He squeezed his eyes shut for a second in reaction to the pressure, before most of it seemed to suddenly disappear. He opened his eyes and was surprised to see his vision had returned to normal, clear and focused.
"Are you alright, Ace? How do you feel?" the male voice asked.
Looking up, he saw two people kneeling on the ground beside him. Amy was waiting on his left side and a cameraman he couldn't recall the name of waited at his right. It also looked like there were a number of other crew members standing behind them both, interested in what was happening, but choosing to keep their distance.
"Ugh... my head hurts..." Ace replied weakly.
"Can you sit up?" Amy asked.
He was feeling a little weak and dizzy, and his eyes still ached somewhat... but other than that he didn't seem to be in any serious pain. "Yeah... I think so..." he muttered.
The cameraman assisted the bunny up into a seating position. Amy was handed a water bottle from someone behind her and she in turn offered it to him. "Here, have some of this..."
As he held the water bottle in his hand, he suddenly became aware of how dry his mouth was, and gladly took a few gulps. As the cool, refreshing liquid quenched his mouth and slid down his throat, he felt his pains start to alleviate. He took another moment or two to recover as Amy and the cameraman continued to wait beside him patiently.
"What happened?" he eventually asked.
"You've been out cold for the past fifteen minutes," she answered. "We were starting to wonder if you were ever going to wake up..."
"I can barely remembah anything..."
"You don't remember what happened?" the cameraman asked.
"It's hard ta say. My memory's a little fuzzy right now..."
"What's the last thing you remember?" Amy asked with concern.
Ace closed his eyes and put his fingers over his brow as tried to recollect his experience. "Well... I remembah lookin' up at tha sky an' seein' dat light fly ovah. Then I remembah it looked like it was comin' down and..." His eyes grew wide with realization as he remembered the impact, and the incredible display of force that came with it. "... it landed right in Acmetropolis Harbor! What happened to tha city, are tha people okay...?"
Ace would end up answering his own question after he started taking a look at the city that surrounded him. He was surprised to see that most of the buildings looked to be well-intact. There was a bit of debris scattered in odd places, and a few structures seemed to have taken some minor damage, but other than that, it looked like the city around him had held itself up pretty well. He did notice a large amount of people dispersed in the street though. They all seemed to be concerned over what had happened, but it was far from any sort of panic. A lot of them looked like they were gathering to form search parties or volunteer clean-up crews to help out anyone who might have needed assistance.
But as he continued to look around, he did notice something odd. His vision was... surprisingly clear. He had never considered himself to have bad vision in any way... but he never remembered his eyes having this much clarity before. Things in far-off distances that should have been naturally blurry, he could see with almost perfect resolution. He surprised himself whenever he focused in on a woman standing at the other end of the street, at least a full block away from where he sat, and could easily make out the color of her eyes. Hazel. Not only could he see things with much more clarity, it also looked like his overall field of vision had increased significantly. He was just looking in one particular spot, but it felt like he could pick out almost every minute detail in that frame, clearly and distinctly, as if his brain had taken some sort of high-definition panoramic photo. There was no way his vision could've been like this before... right?
"It looks like we were one of the lucky ones," Amy informed him, redirecting the bunny's attention. "From what they're saying, there wasn't a whole lot of damage to the city as a whole, which is surprising considering that we just got struck by an asteroid. Still, it looks like a number of other places got hit pretty badly."
"I've heard that the worst hit spots were the ones closest to the harbor, like North Acmetropolis and some parts of Central…" the man included. "Other than those, they just seem to be random areas that couldn't stand up to the blast. We're not all that far from the shore ourselves, so I'm surprised we made it out so well."
That's when a terrifying thought occurred to Ace. "What about East Eleventh?" he asked with a bit of urgency. "How is it over there?"
The man looked puzzled by his inquiry, but Amy instantly understood. "Hang on, I'll check…" she replied while getting up. Ace watched as she walked over to another spot on the set where a number of people had gathered around a television screen. It was broadcasting a local news program that was reporting on the circumstances of the impact. He couldn't hear anything from where he sat, but he could make out every word he saw on-screen. The banner on bottom was informing the viewers of a building that had collapsed downtown, but nothing else.
"You have family there…?" the cameraman asked, putting the pieces together.
They sat in silence for a second before Amy came back with some fresh information. "Well, it doesn't seem like anything's happened there. Some of those guys have been watching the news for a while now and none of them have heard anything about East Eleventh. I'm sure it's holding up fine…"
"Besides, isn't East Eleventh even further away from the shore than we are?" the man pointed out. "I don't think they could be any worse off than us."
Ace breathed a small sigh of relief. Of course, his fears wouldn't be completely quelled until he got home and saw for himself, but their words did ease his mind some. He just hoped that his mother was doing okay…
"Do you remember anything after the blast?" Amy asked, continuing the questions they had started earlier.
"Well," he recollected, "I remembah seein' tha shockwave come after us. All dat wind… an' dat wall of light…"
The cameraman smirked, "yeah that was pretty intense…" Amy nodded in agreement.
"I'll say," Ace acknowledged, remembering what he had experienced, "my skin still feels sorta numb from all tha tinglin'…"
"Tingling?" Amy repeated curiously.
"Yeah… ya know, from tha shockwave." Both of them just stared at the bunny blankly and exchanged confused looks with each other. "You guys didn't feel anything?" he asked.
"Well... the shockwave felt a little… warm," the cameraman answered. "But, I didn't feel any tingling."
"Me neither…" Amy concurred.
Just when he thought his condition couldn't get any stranger...
So many questions were buzzing around in Ace's mind. What was the reason for those sensations he felt? Why had he felt while they hadn't? What had happened to his vision? Were they somehow connected? What kind of shockwave – from a meteor impact no less – does such little damage to city infrastructure? Ace forced himself the push the thoughts away. It all just seemed so crazy to him and it wasn't helping his headache.
"Do you think maybe that's the reason you-?" Amy started to ask, but couldn't finish. A loud and familiar voice erupted out of nowhere and interrupted everyone.
"What do you mean we have to call it a day?!"
The voice belonged to none other than the director, conversing with a man in a headset some distance away from them. Judging by the look on his face, he clearly wasn't happy.
"With all due respect, sir," the man explained, "you can't honestly expect us to keep filming. The city is in a state of emergency..."
"Well that may be true for the rest of the city, but everything looks to be just fine around here if you ask me. You know full well how behind our deadlines we are, and we can't afford to-"
"Oh, will you just shut up about the stupid movie already..?" Amy said loudly, breaking herself into their conversation. Like many others, she had just about heard enough out of him for one day. "In case you haven't noticed, your lead stunt double just regained consciousness..."
The director gave her a sneer before responding. "Well, that's all the more reason why we should continue! All of our actors are fine, and the set is still standing. There's nothing stopping us..!"
"Actually sir," another man spoke up, "it looks like we're having a problem with the robot..."
"What?!" he bellowed as he turned to the technician standing by the android, fiddling with the buttons on a remote control.
"The communication system must be down. It's not responding to any of my controls..."
"Our backup robots aren't working either..." added another technician who was standing further away, next to an additional two robots that were intended to be used in scenes later that day.
"Nonsense," the director insisted, "I'm sure they're working just fine. It must just be your remotes." He walked up closer to where the main robot stood and cupped his hands around his mouth to imitate a megaphone. "ACTION!"
Surprisingly enough, the robot did respond to its starting prompt, but it was far from functional. The few display lights it had flickered randomly between off and on and the only movements in its limbs were sluggish and glitchy. Ace even noticed a few sparks sputtering out of a spot in its neck. The backup robots also seemed to respond the same way.
"It must have been from the blast," the technician hypothesized. "Something from the shockwave must've messed with their circuits... I can't say for sure, but whatever is wrong with them, they're clearly not in working condition. Without them, there's no way we can keep filming..."
The director looked like he was about to start tearing his hear out. "Are you kidding me?! Oh, how can this day get any worse?"
Unfortunately for them, statements like that usually don't go unanswered.
As if in response to his outburst, the robot beside them started behaving more aggressively. It became loud with the buzzing of electricity and the whirring of dysfunctional gears. The machine's movements still looked glitchy and erratic, but they were a good deal quicker now while also being larger and more forceful. Everyone on set eyed the robot with a good deal of concern as it started hobbling around, its limbs seeming to jolt about in odd timing. Their worst fear was confirmed once a rapid swing of its arm sent its claw flying straight at the wall of a nearby building, dislodging a large chunk of stone.
A few screams and terrified yelps sounded from the people on set as everyone of them took a step back in unison, those closest to the out-of-control robot running away in a hurry. The force of the swing apparently knocked the robot off its balance for a second as it teetered to the side, beginning to fall over. It ran right into the wall of a building on the other side of the alley, shedding another cloud of debris onto the ground. Standing back up straight, it started staggering gradually away from them, exiting the alley.
"Somebody stop it!" a person behind them yelled. "It's headed into the street!"
Ace watched as a number of technicians started reaching for whatever controls they could find, hoping to input an effective "stop" command. A number of other people yelled out "CUT" to see if its vocal command system was now operational. None of these methods seemed to have any effect though as the robot continued its slow progression to the crowded nearby street. A crew member that had gotten too close to the rogue machine had been knocked violently out of the way by a flailing arm, causing a number of people to rush towards the spot where he landed. Everyone else on the set started scrambling in one direction or the other, either trying to find a way they could help, or just looking for a place to hide. Some of the people in the street were just beginning to notice the incoming threat and began leading people out of the area.
"How are we supposed to stop something like that?" Amy wondered aloud, clearly worried. Ace shared her sense of urgency and found himself looking over the robot as well as he could, trying to formulate a plan. It only took him a moment before he was hit with a realization.
"I have an idea. I'll be back!" he declared as he sprinted away from the scene.
"Ace? What are you-" Amy began to question, but by then the bunny had already gotten too far away. As he ran across the set, he also noticed that the other two robots were beginning to act just as erratically as the first one while a group of crew members were trying their best to contain them. He had no time to waste.
In just seconds, he had made it back to his trailer. Bolting through the door, he immediately ran to his wardrobe closet to find what he was looking for. Propped against the back wall, was the sheath carrying his training blade. It was the same one he had used for the auditions the day before, given to him by his stunt coordinator earlier that morning for personal practice. It may not have been made from a strong metal like an actual sword, but it was still a durable piece of handiwork and he was sure that he could find a way to make it useful. It was technically a blade after all. He pulled the sword out of its sheath and sprinted back out of his trailer.
Not even a moment later, he was running back through the alleyway, towards the robot, before the sound of Amy's voice stopped him.
"Ace, what are you doing?" she asked with concern.
"I'm goin' ta stop dat thing," he answered simply.
"But you're in no condition to fight," she argued. "You just regained consciousness ten minutes ago. Besides, what do you expect to do with a sword like that? This robot isn't made of "dummy metal", it's actual steel..."
"Just trust me on this, I have a plan," he replied confidently. "Besides, ya saw me at my audition yesterday. Ya should know full well what I can do with a fake sword..."
Ace smirked at her in an attempt to convey his self-confidence. She still looked conflicted, but it appeared that she couldn't bring herself to argue any further. Refusing to wait around any longer, the young bunny sprang into action.
By the time he had gotten close to the machine, it had already made it halfway through the street. Its drunken-like staggering made its advancements slow, but it was still proving itself to be a serious threat, having smashed into a couple of cars already and remaining undeterred. Ace looked over the robot once again as he ran towards it. There was no denying how strong and sturdy it looked, but it was built with a crucial design flaw, one that he was expected to take advantage of in the movie. Despite the fact that its limbs were rather bulky and strong, the "joint-like" areas that connected them together weren't nearly as formidable. There was little to no actual metal in these areas which instead consisted of bundled masses of wires and tubing. These were his targets.
Lunging his body ahead, he readied his weapon for a swift strike at what was technically his knee joint before he noticed the incoming arm out of the corner of his eye. As quickly as he could, he ducked low and rolled to the side, the arm barely grazing the tips of his ears. He was prepared to try striking again, but the robot surprised him by stumbling backwards. Springing back to his feet, he jumped back as far as he could, enough to keep himself out of harm's way as the robot switched direction and resumed staggering forward.
It looked like this was going to be even trickier than he had expected. The robot's movements were so random and eccentric that they were hard to predict, turning both his defense and offense strategies into exercises of keen observation and reflex. Fortunately, it seemed like his reaction time was at peak performance. Most of it probably had to do with adrenaline, but he was also getting the impression that his unusual vision was helping him out as well, making him more perceptive to anything that came his way.
He danced around the robot for a few moments, dodging its unusual movements while waiting for an opportunity to strike, before an opening finally presented itself. The robot once again swung its arm widely, but it looked like that swing would clear Ace's head by at least a foot. Seizing the moment, he raised his sword up and swung it over his head quickly to slice through the wires and chop off the forearm as it passed over.
For whatever reason, maybe due to the fact that its circuits had been disrupted, the robot seemed to freeze up from a whole new wave of malfunctions and glitches. Now was his chance. Without hesitation, he ran up closer to the robot and swung his sword forcefully through its left knee joint. The robot immediately collapsed under its own weight and Ace jumped backwards to avoid being crushed as it fell. While the robot lied crippled on the ground, still flailing its limbs, Ace circled around its body, slicing through each of its other joints until it left only a head and torso.
But even then, it looked like his work wasn't quite finished. Losing its limbs seemed to glitch out the robot's systems even further as the broken body that remained started shaking and convulsing violently.
"Ace!" one of the technicians cried out to him, "the only way to stop the robot completely is to disable its central processor! It's a large microchip in its neck... destroy that and its powerless!"
The robot's uncontrollable seizing made it difficult for him to scan through the thick mass of wires and tubes that connected the head to the torso, but it looked like this was another area where his eyesight would come in handy. Focusing in on a small neon-blue light buried deep within the wiring, he found what appeared to be a small, square disk. He couldn't be sure if that was the microchip or not, but he didn't have time to check any further.
Raising his sword high, he plunged the blade deep into the robot's neck and directly into the light. The multiple wires he severed gave off bursting showers of sparks and electrical discharge, but since the weapon Ace was using wasn't actually made of conductive metal, he was fortunately spared a potentially nasty electrocution. This was probably the only advantage his fake sword had given him.
The robot's movements fell to a rapid trembling as its power slowly started to fade. Within seconds, the machine stopped moving entirely, lying in a lifeless heap on the ground. Letting go of the blade and taking a couple of steps back, Ace felt his exertion suddenly catch up to him, forcing him to take a second to try and catch his breath. Unfortunately, it looked like he wasn't going to get much of a chance to recuperate.
The sound of screaming turned his attention elsewhere and he was shocked to see that the other two robots had found their way into the street as well. Ace cursed under his breath. He hadn't noticed them at all until now, and all it did was leave him with more work to do. While one of the robots didn't seem to be making it very far, the other proved itself as the more urgent threat by having already reached the other side of teh street. In fact, he was only an arm's length away from a building that looked it had a large amount of people trapped inside. Ironically, he majority of them had probably gone inside the building for safety...
Ace tried desperately to pull his sword out of the first robot, but it wouldn't budge. Something inside must have trapped it somehow. Ace's panic only rose as he realized that the other robot was only getting closer and closer to the building and he was suddenly left without a usable weapon. He wondered for a moment if he could find something else he could use nearby, but time was against him. Another round of screams accompanied the robot as it raised one of its arms high in the air, preparing to strike the building with a dangerous amount of force. He heard everyone around take a collective, terrified gasp. He saw the many people inside visibly brace themselves for the impact.
He'd never get there in time.
The robot's arm started to come down...
"Noooo...!" Ace shouted almost impulsively.
Then something unbelievable happened.
It all happened on its own, spanning no longer than a single second. Ace felt the pressure build up in the back of his eyes which slowly grew into a kind of warming sensation. He watched as almost everything he saw in front of him turned yellow, starting off as more of a weak yellow filter and progressing into a kind of vision where it looked like everything around him was painted in different shades of yellow and black. He felt what he could only describe as a billowing of energy and light in his eyes that made his vision brighter and brighter. For an instant, he shut his eyelids in an attempt to contain whatever this was, but it proved too strong. As his eyes flung themselves back open, his view went almost completely white as felt all that built-up energy suddenly escape him at once with a high-frequency noise.
Once his eyesight had cleared up and everything had returned to its original color, he was thrown into stunned silence by what he saw. The robot had temporarily stopped moving... and it was missing a claw... replaced instead, by a shortened and singed stick of metal.
The forsaken claw landed on the ground a second later.
Ace stared at the scene for a second, his eyes wide with confusion and awe, his thoughts practically frozen in time. Once he was sure he had regained control of his motor skills, he looked around slowly to find that everyone was staring at him, mirroring the same mix of both amazement and puzzled horror that he must have had on his own face.
"What just happened...?" he thought to himself.
He felt his body start trembling as he thought more and more about it. He stared down at his unsteady hands for a second before they each found their way one at a time to his face, cautiously and thoroughly touching the areas around his eyes, as if he needed to make sure they were still his own. Ace wasn't quite sure what had happened, but the one thing he knew for sure was that the robot was missing a claw because of something he had done.
And something was definitely up with his eyes...
Of course, even though it seemed like every person in the area had frozen themselves in place, the robot proved that it was not bound by their perception of time as it took another step forward, reaffirming itself as a threat. As attention began refocusing itself to the machine, Ace noticed something strikingly familiar. Right in its neck was the same small, blue light he had seen in the first robot. The way it was positioned, he had a clear shot at it.
The thought of experiencing it all again was almost frightening to him, but he didn't have time to brainstorm other possibilities. It was now or never, and he had to act fast...
Surely, if he had done it once, he could do it again, right?
But... how did he do it the first time...?
What did he do the first time...?
It was all so confusing to him, but he didn't have time to think anything through. He closed his eyes in concentration as he tried putting his head back into the same space that it had been in just moments ago, attempting to repeat his last action...
Much to his relief, he found that it came surprisingly easy to him. He felt that same buildup of light and heat come back to him once again as everything went yellow. He opened his eyes, locked onto his target, and released the energy all in one giant burst. His vision flashed instantaneously into vivid brightness once again, but this time he could clearly make out what had happened...
It was a wild, almost electrical-looking beam of yellow and orange light that had been shot straight from his eyes...
The beam hit its intended target dead on, causing a small explosion of smoke and electricity in the robot's neck. It swiftly knocked the machine over on its side where it struggled for a moment before falling still.
Ace's body was still shaking, and he could see that all eyes were once again on him, resending those strange looks of confused awe. But this time, he wasn't about to freeze up. There was still one more robot that needed to be taken down, and Ace had finally found himself a usable weapon.
He wasn't about to let it go to waste...
He sprinted off at full speed towards the final robot, stopping when he was in a reasonable striking distance. Like the others, its movements were random and erratic, but Ace managed to keep himself focused long enough to keep from being hit. His initial strategy was to try and see if he could find a way to knock the machine off balance and disable its processor while it was on the ground, but when one of his arm swipes slammed directly into the ground beside him, he took advantage of a different opportunity.
While the arm was still low towards the ground, Ace jumped on top of it and took a few running steps up to the top of its body. As quickly as possible, he spread the head and torso farther apart to widen the opening in the back of the neck and locate the processor. Once he saw the light, Ace closed his eyes once again and shot out another quick laser blast directly at the microchip. Just as the circuits released their typical cloud of smoke and electricity, Ace swiftly jumped backwards off the robot and landed in a crouch on the ground behind it. The robot shook and staggered for only a few seconds more before all life escaped it, leaving a hollow metal shell that fell to the ground. Coming down from whatever adrenaline rush he had been running off of, Ace found that he couldn't pick himself back up right away or hold himself in his crouch. Instead, he flopped down into a sitting position in the middle of the street and started breathing deeply.
Looking around, all eyes were once again on him, still looking like they didn't quite understand. Ace didn't really mind at first, considering he didn't quite understand it all either, but the longer he waited, the more unnerving their silence became. He saw some of the looks turn scrupulous, even fearful, and a number of them seemed to murmur things quietly to one another. "Why isn't anyone saying anything?" he thought to himself. "They don't see me as some kind of freak, do they?"
He started at each pair of eyes that stared back at him for what felt like the longest moment before someone from the back of the crowd finally broke the silence.
"He took down the robots! He saved us!"
"He's a hero!" shouted another person in agreement.
The collective applause that followed these outbursts started out fairly small and hesitant, but it seemed that as the people began to think more on the fact that the young bunny sitting before them had technically saved them all, and less on the fact that he possessed some kind of strange, unnatural ability, the applause steadily grew into something more respectable.
In fact, it eventually turned into a large cheering section, with the citizens around him cheering loudly and happily. As the stuntman sat there absorbing all of the praise he was being given, he found himself feeling quite dumbstruck. He had honestly expected them to act more suspiciously towards him after a display like that (he had shot lasers out of his eyes for crying out loud!) Still, he had to admit that the amount of thanks he was being given did leave him with a newfound sense of validation. His lips curled into a small smile which he turned up towards the sky.
"So this is what it feels like... to be the hero..."
Though he kept his gaze upward, he took note of what felt like a gentle, feminine hand placed on his shoulder.
"That was truly a fine display of heroism," the female voice said with both sincerity and formality. "I can most certainly see great things in your future..."
He felt the delicate hand leave him as he chuckled politely. "Thanks a lot ma'am, but I'm not sure if-" Ace cut his response short when he turned his head to the woman who was supposedly standing behind him but saw nothing but an empty street. Puzzled, he got up to his feet and looked around in all directions, failing to notice anyone else nearby.
His attention was quickly diverted from the mystery exchange when the crowd around him suddenly converged closer, surrounding him from all sides and still celebrating. Someone must have tipped them off as to what his name was, as he could hear chanting of the word "Ace" sprinkled among them. Ace himself could only smile sheepishly, all of the attention finally starting to embarrass him. Amy had managed to stay at the front of the crowd and was the first one to approach him directly.
"Ace, that was incredible!" she praised. "You saved all of those people!"
Ace rubbed the back of his neck. "Yeah... I guess I kinda did, huh?"
"So how did you... err..." she began to question, but couldn't finish. She touched her eyes lightly in an attempt to still get the inquiry across.
"I.. I-I don't know... it just sorta happened. I've nevah been able ta-"
"Alright, alright people, out of the way," the director said as he pushed his way in from the back of the crowd to the front, immediately walking up to the bunny. Seeing his face again quickly put a damper on his mood, but judging from the look on his face, it didn't seem like it would be any typical scolding.
In fact, it looked like he was smiling.
"Ace... Ace, my boy, I must tell you... that was an incredible performance you just gave..."
The director placed a fatherly hand on his shoulder that left Ace feeling very uncomfortable. "Uh... thanks..?" he responded cautiously.
"Come on, let's talk over here, a little more privately..." The director placed his arm around his back protectively and ushered him through one side of the crowd and into a small vacant area outside the circle of people. Ace was already dreading whatever all of this was...
Once they were out of general hearing distance, he turned the stuntman towards him and began talking in a somewhat secretive tone. "Now, I know you and I haven't exactly seen eye to eye today... but I think that we can work out something that'll help make the both of us... very happy..."
Ace only looked at him, confused.
"And by happy... I mean rich..." he elaborated.
Ace folded his arms and shot him a rather suspicious look. Of course this had to be something about money... "What do ya mean?" he asked.
"I mean that I see some real potential in you, Ace. I've seen it this whole time... ever since I saw you in that audition yesterday, I knew that I was looking at something special. I mean, I had always known that you were going to make it somewhere, what with all those incredible combat moves you have... but just now... when I saw you do that crazy thing with your eyes... I knew that-"
"It's funny how ya nevah said any of this ta me until now," Ace pointed out humorlessly. "What're ya gettin' at, doc?"
The director cleared his throat, "I'll just cut right to the chase. What if I told you... that I can make you into a movie star!"
All traces of speech and conscious thought seemed to leave the bunny entirely. "What...?" he muttered strangely.
"I... want to make a movie... starring you! Need I say more?"
Ace only continued to stare at something in the distance, still trying to make sense of what he was being told.
"Think about it..." he continued, "any second-rate action movie can put some guy off the street in front of a camera, add some special effects and call him a superhero. But what if the movie starred someone who actually had superpowers?! Think about how many people would be willing to see a movie that starred a real-life superhero! A superhero like you... Ace...!"
"Superhero...?" Ace heard himself mumble after a moment. That was the first time he heard someone actually use that word for him. Admittedly, it was probably something he was aware of somewhere in the back of his mind, but it looked like he needed to hear it from someone else before it made any significant impact on him. It was true, wasn't it? He had just saved a bunch of people... using an ability that was beyond natural human potential. That's what superheroes do, right? He repeated the word over and over in his head, understanding what it meant, but still not quite accepting it.
The director seemed to sense what was likely going on in the young stuntman's mind and gladly continued his persuasion. "Now I don't know where or how you figured out how to do that thing with your eyes... but I don't really think that's important. What's important now is what you do with those powers, and I can make you a star! With talent like that, you could easily become the next big thing... and in my opinion, a movie is the perfect way to reveal you to the world! Ace Bunny... just as amazing off-screen as he is on-screen! This movie could be one of the biggest things the world has ever seen! I'm talking about a movie that sells out for weeks at the box office! Think about it... you'll be famous... adored... and most of all, you and I will be rich...!"
The more he talked, the stronger the reaction inside Ace became. Wasn't this what he always wanted... to be an icon... a role model... a hero in his own right? He had to admit that he found his argument somewhat appealing. Sure, he may have painted it in a light that seemed a bit... superficial, but he even found himself buying into his claim of wealth...
After all, money was the one thing his family needed right now...
After a second, Ace opened his mouth again to say something, but was surprised when the director stopped him from speaking. "No, no... you don't have to answer right now..." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a business card, handing it to him. "I'll let you think it over for a bit. I'll get back to you soon for an answer. I really think you should consider it though, Ace. This could really be the opportunity of a lifetime... for both of us..."
The director gave him a few final pats on the back before walking away, though Ace didn't seem to make any effort to look in his direction or pay him any extra attention as he left. He didn't return his attention back to the crowd right away either...
Instead, he spent the next few seconds enveloped in his own thoughts... staring at the slip of paper in his hand...
• • •
Shortly after they had talked, and after speaking with a few of his advisors, Steven had made the official announcement to his cast and crew that they were done with filming for the day. In fact, it looked like they were putting the film on an indefinite hiatus for a while, if only for the next few days while the city was still dealing with the after-effects of the comet.
Though the actors had been dismissed immediately, Ace had chosen to stay behind for a moment or two longer, seeing if he could help out the crew members in any way he could as they packed up their things. Unfortunately, it seemed that Ace's newly acquired fans - both civilians and crew members - were making his attempts at assistance a bit difficult. It seemed like every few minutes or so, he was stopped by someone who was eager to talk with him, take a picture with him, or simply thank him for what he had done. In fact, it had become so persistent that Ace started spreading around the excuse of being needed at home so he could escape all the attention.
It was a legitimate excuse though... he really did need to get home and see how his mother was doing...
Ace took a moment to gather up all his things and say goodbye to his friends on the set - whether they had been friends all day or for just the past few minutes - and got himself onto a train headed home.
As his rail cart raced through the Eastern districts, Ace's mind was as reflective as ever. So much had happened today, that he didn't even know what to be the most anxious about. He found himself pulling the business card the director had given him out of his pocket often and looking it over intently. He still found it hard to believe that he was pratcically just one phone call away from being a real movie star. He thought about how much his life would change if he accepted such an offer. Could he really be famous? Could he really be rich... rich enough to pull him and his mom out of the financial situation they were in? It all seemed so appealing, but he couldn't help but feel a bit suspicious about how suddenly the director seemed to flip-flop on his feelings toward him. Was there some kind of ulterior motive at work, here?
Well... whether there was one or not, he found it comforting to at least have the option in front of him... that in itself meant a lot.
But even compared to that, his newfound abilities seemed to be the thing weighing most heavily on his mind, a fact he was being constantly reminded of as he stared out the train window. What were these powers he had suddenly been given? How did he get them? Why did he get them? As much the implications of such questions concerned him, they also intrigued him... excited him, even. He couldn't practice his laser vision while he was on the train, but he frequently found himself testing the limits of his vision capabilities while observing the city outside his train cart.
Technically, his childhood dream had come true. He had abandoned it a long time ago, for obvious reasons, but being in such a situation now left him with an almost child-like sense of wonder. He really had superpowers, didn't he? He eventually found himself thinking less about how and why he had been given these abilities and more on all the things he could do with him. How would explain such a thing to his mother? Would he explain such a thing to his mother? He was sure he could figure out a good way to do it...
Ace smiled to himself. It looked like things were finally beginning to look up...
Watching the city intently as he passed it by, he had made it about halfway through his trip home when he first noticed it.
It was a small electronics store with a busted front window. Shards of shattered glass were strewn across the sidewalk in front of it, and it looked like a few television sets that had been sitting in the display were missing. The whole building had been lined with police tape and a few officers were talking with some people outside, likely gathering information about the incident.
It didn't take a detective to know what had happened there. It only seemed natural that looters would take advantage of an opportunity where the majority of people were seized by a moment of fear or uncertainty (like a meteor strike) to stir some panic, break into a store, and make off with whatever they could grab. It didn't seem all that surprising to be honest, and the sight really didn't bother him much.
That was, until he started seeing it more often. It started off as a fairly rare occurrence, but it seemed like the closer he got to home, the more and more he saw the end results of those petty crimes. Broken windows, busted doors, cars sitting on the side of the road that had clearly been broken into... all of these things became an increasingly more common occurrence in the streets he passed by, so much so that it started to affect his mood.
His eyes went wide when he even passed a looting as it was taking place. They were only his view for a second, but he picked up what looked like two masked individuals walking out of a jewelry store with boxes in their hands. One of them looked like he was holding a gun.
As he continued to see more and more of it, a terrifying thought occurred to him... and for the rest of the ride home, he prayed it wasn't true.
Minutes later, when he had gotten off at the station in East Eleventh, he found that things were in even worse condition here. Signs of panic and violence were everywhere inside the station, and it looked like things weren't any better out in the street. There were still people walking around, but most of them looked scared and confused. It wasn't anything like the concerned, yet unified feeling he had seen in the people in the Second District.
Without a second's hesitation, his feet broke into a run.
"Faster... faster... you've gotta get home... faster...!"
Everything else in his life seemed to lose all importance. The business card in his pocket was just a meaningless slip of paper... the powers in his eyes weren't anything worth focusing on... the comet that had hit the city not even an hour ago was nothing more than an afterthought.
As his legs struggled to cover as much ground as possible, getting home was the only thing in his life that seemed to hold any importance.
He breathed a small sigh of relief as he passed Molly's Market and didn't see any sign of forced entry. However, once he had travelled a few blocks further, his heart sank at what he arrived at. Not only did it look like a brick had been thrown through one of the windows, but the door to his apartment complex had also been pulled off its hinges and was strewn crookedly to the side.
He immediately ran through the entrance and took a good look around. The main lobby looked like it was missing a lot of things, and most of whatever furniture or furnishings that had been left behind were strewn about carelessly. Even now, there were a good number of people gathered together, offering comfort or security to the many people who appeared visibly shaken. But his mother was nowhere to be found.
"Ace, thank God you're here...!" a voice sounded, diverting Ace's attention elsewhere.
It was the landlady, Mrs. Valdez who had tried to get his attention. The baby she carried in her hands wouldn't stop crying as his mother rushed around frantically, trying her best to keep things under control. She looked even worse than the guests did.
"Stephanie..." Ace began, "what happened...?"
"I don't have time to explain Ace," she replied. "But don't worry... I've called the police and they'll be bringing some ambulances over any minute now..."
Just as quickly as she had come, Mrs. Valdez whisked herself away, not having the time to stick around and chat. "What about my mother... is she okay?" he called out after her. But by then, she had already been stopped by someone else in the lobby, desperate for answers of his own. The more he thought about her answer, the more his stomach turned, and Ace immediately ran for the stairs.
He was practically skipping three or four steps at a time in his race up the stairwell. Reaching the third floor, he sprinted down to the end of the hallway and found the one thing he was hoping he wouldn't see.
The lock on his door was broken, as if someone had forcibly tried to make their way in.
Ace swung the door open and saw the mess his apartment had been left in. Furniture was overturned, his television was missing, and countless items lay scattered all over the floor.
But that wasn't the worst of it.
There... leaned up against the side of their living room couch... sat his mother...
She was hunched over, and clutching what looked like a stab wound in the side of her stomach.
Since my opening note is so long, I'm gonna try my best to keep this one fairly short.
Alright, so now you finally got to see how Ace discovered his powers! What do you think is gonna happen now? What's going to happen to his mother? What other crazy things does the world have in store for our Loonatic leader? Well, he's just got one more chapter left, and all answers will become clear! Yay :D
Now about the last chapter, I can't say for sure when it will come out, but I'm hoping that I can get it up around the first week of April. I'm making the assumption that I can probably write the next chapter in about the same amount of time as this one took, but I can't say for sure. I'm also going to try and make it significantly shorter... at most around the length of the first one. That being said, don't hold me to anything at this point.
Anyway, PLEASE leave me a review. I always want to see what people think about my writing, and the more reviews I get, the easier it is for me to motivate myself into writing. So please, feel free to let me know what you thought. :)
Until next time, guys...