Racing the Clock

This story was originally written for Lunarium. Thank you to my friend Diana for editing this.

Rapid Gal raced through the city, darting past citizens so fast they couldn’t even see her before she was gone. She was amazed at how quickly the city had rebuilt since her fight with Dinosword. t It seemed that within what was, like, a week, the rubble had been all removed and the facades and windows rebuilt.

She had to hurry, a term that always made her laugh, or she was going to be late for her girlfriend’s art show. She’d promised she wasn’t going to miss it, not this time. In their years together, she hadn’t managed to make a single one. Something always came up on opening nights. Alien invasions. Time travel. Evil doubles. It wasn’t fair to Pari, her girlfriend.

Pari knew it was the ‘job’, that Rapid Gal couldn’t just let people be in danger, but it was clear it hurt. Each time she’d come home after a show and Pari had to tell her how it had been because Rapid Gal hadn’t been there to see for herself, to tell everyone how amazing Pari’s work was as the proud girlfriend.

So this time, this show, Rapid Gal had sworn on everything she could she’d make it there. Be the loving girlfriend on Pari’s arm. Let the world see how proud she was to know someone like Pari, let alone date her.

She was making great time. She’d get home, change out of her costume, and take the bus to the show. Planning her outfit, she still had the reflexes to leap over a car in her way. She grinned at the man entering the vehicle for not even seeing her clear his head with ease. Having the gift of speed was amazing.

Right on time. Pari was going to be amazed. She said she understood, but she always looked so sad when Rapid Gal always got there too late.

That was when she saw it, on 7th street, an intersection way too busy for the construction currently going on. One of the cranes was wobbling dangerously and starting to tilt. A quick (ha) glance told her that a sinkhole was opening up underneath the crane.

Rapid as anything, Rapid Girl raced around the scene, grabbing people out of the way of both the crane and the opening hole, and at the last minute pulling out the panicking driver. With the sound of a slow collapse, the crane sank into the sewers beneath it.

That’s when the molepeople poured out of the new hole.

So she had to deal with that, too.

She threw punches and kicks, taking out their weapons, and sending them flying back into the hole they came from. The molemen yelled in confusion, breaking ranks in panic. Rapid Gal let out a laugh, it wasn’t often she got to inspire fear in the hearts of criminals. It felt good. She was on a roll tonight, even if she was getting late. But she could make up the time.

But you can’t just stop there when the molepeople flee, that’s just a temporary retreat while they recoup. She ran through the tunnels until she found their drilling machines and took them apart, moving as fast as she could to unscrew and dismantle them, making the molemen helpless until the authorities could come and stop the invasion themselves.

It had been thirty minutes. She really was going to be pushing it. She kept Pari’s face in mind as she looked for her way out of the molepeople’s hidden city: her long black hair, her softly defined nose, her pink lipstick. And how much she loved seeing Pari smile.

She ran out of the molemen’s lost civilization, amazed at how it had seemed to grow since she last fought them – they build so fast! – and hopped from underground building roof to roof until she managed to get up to an escape hole to the surface.

She found herself in Greenbilt Park, right as a mugging was about to take place. A spinning kick sent the mugger flying away from the hapless victim, then she used the mugger’s belt to tie him to a tree until the police could come.

She calculated the route in her head. 35 minutes late now. If she ran on the monorail tracks she could get to the art gallery – she’d just have to attend in costume. That meant she couldn’t kiss Pari and show off how lucky she was that Pari was her girlfriend, just be a celebrity guest. But that might be good publicity for Pari! Rapid Gal focused on that.

But she’d be there. That was the important thing. More than anything, she had to be there.

As she ran up a hill– the trees seemed bigger than she remembered– to get a running start to jump to the nearby monorail tracks, she saw cultists dragging off a screaming victim towards the gazebo. Ugh,it was a full moon, wasn’t it? Weird, she thought it would have been a new moon this week.

Another fight later, a gazebo altar desecrated, victims freed, and cultists stripped to their underwear, robes cut up with their own sacrificial blades to bind them and cellphone (nice model, it wasn’t one she knew) in the victim’s hand to call for help, she was back on her way to the gallery.

And then of course there was the fire, the kidnapping of an entire school trip, and a deathray dismantling.

When Rapid Gal finally got to the art gallery, there was a big red closed sign on the window.

She sighed, resting her hands on her knees feeling as if she had been punched in the stomach. She’d missed another show. It felt like she’d been trying to get to this show forever.

She felt hollow. How was she going to face Pari?

But she wasn’t a hero because she was a coward. She went home to face her girlfriend.

The walk seemed to take forever and no time at all. Nothing distracted her this time.

The first thing she noticed when she went inside their shared condo was that it was almost silent. Pari couldn’t live without music on, she would tell Rapid Gal, so the radio or tv was always blaring. The next thing that Rapid Gal noticed was… her possessions were missing. Her backpack wasn’t on the hook by the door, she couldn’t see her shoes, and her tape collection was just gone.

Was Pari so mad she’d thrown out Rapid Gal’s stuff?

But wait, no, a few steps later there was a photograph of her in her civilian guise. It was on the mantelpiece beside Pari’s grandmother and aunt’s photos. There was a burnt down stick of incense in front of her photo.

What was this?

She went through the condo looking for Pari.

Pari was at the table with a woman Rapid Gal didn’t know. Pari had… wrinkles? Grey hair? Why had Rapid Gal never noticed those before?

Pari and the strange woman were eating together. The strange woman leaned in and kissed Pari’s cheek.

“Pari!” shouted Rapid Gal. Neither of them looked at her.

“What are you doing? Who is this? Why is she kissing you? Pari, answer me!” Rapid Gal grabbed at Pari’s arm. Then she stopped, just before touching Pari.

Oh.

Oh right.

A memory: Dinosword diving at her at the same time as the piece of masonry fell above her head. Not being fast enough for the first time.

Pari shivered from the breeze of an unseen hand and the strange woman squeezed Pari’s knee.

“Do you want me to turn on the radio, hon?” the woman asked gently. “It’s so weird without it playing.”

“No,” said Pari. “Nothing that can give me the news of what’s going on in the city, not until tomorrow. Never tonight.”

Rapid Gal stood there, looking at the home with all her things gone and artwork signed by Pari that Rapid Gal’d never seen before that looked years old.

Maybe next year, Rapid Gal said to herself. Next year she’d make it to the art show.

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