The Crimson Fist streaks around the corner in a blur of aerodynamic fins and chrome, scattering a crowd of shoppers clustered around a street vendor.
Stomping the accelerator, the Fist grits his teeth and steals a glance toward the sky.
Less than thirty minutes til impact. The oncoming asteroid — a small planet, really — hangs in the sky like an anvil, eerily unmoving despite hurtling toward the earth at interstellar speed.
He’s been waiting for this. He hasn’t hit anything in months, and he’s itching to strike with the energy of a dozen neutron bombs.
The Fist swerves past the traffic bumbling through the intersection, clips a pickup and sends it spinning up onto the sidewalk. Frustration rises: he makes to smack the dash but stays his hand. Calm. Focus. Don’t waste it. He grunts and checks his rear view. The damage is minor, and he zooms ahead. Then: the flashing of lights from behind. The chirp of a siren. He bites his lip. Wouldn’t be the first time some newbie on the force tried to pull him over. Then it’s memos. Depositions. Fruit baskets delivered to the injured officer’s house. A two-week anger management course. A tractor trailer parked in the middle of the road ahead.
Crimson Fist stands up on the brakes. Pedestrians cluster on the sidewalk behind the semi, a three-car pileup sits in front. No way out. He yanks the emergency brake and whips the car around, but before he can gun it back up a side street, the police cruiser slides up in front of him and nudges his front bumper.
The PA boops and then booms: “Step out of the vehicle.”
Grinding his teeth, Fist hops out of the vehicle and flings a finger at the sky. “Do you see that? I have to go.”
But Officer Krups is in no hurry. He hooks his thumbs in his belt and saunters over. “Know how fast you were going, back there?”
“You can’t be serious. Hello? The world is about to end!”
Fist’s reflection wobbles in Krups’ aviator sunglasses as he shakes his head. “World’s always about to end, ain’t it? What with you superheroes and villains always feuding about this thing or that. Day always gets saved in the end though, don’t it?” He unclips his citation pad, deliberately licks the end of a pencil.
“By me!” Fist fumes. “I save the day. I have to –”
Krups holds up a finger. Writes. Slowly. “Running a red light.” He flips the page. “Fleeing the scene of an accident.”
Serenity. Breathe. “Come on. Look, write the ticket, but can you at least hurry up?”
Krups lowers his head, stares at him over the tops of his shades. “Speeding.”
A sudden shadow falls on the street. A hundred heads rotate skyward; the asteroid, taking up a lot more of the sky now, has drifted in front of the sun. The Crimson Fist mashes the knuckles of his right hand into the palm of his left, showering the pavement with sparks.
“Officer.” Fist speaks through grinding teeth. Consider the Other. “I’m sincerely sorry for the danger I’ve caused to these civilians. But if I don’t get to the rocket and get to that asteroid in the next –” he checks his watch “– seven minutes, you, and me, and everybody else on Earth is going to die.”
Weasel eyes narrow behind his aviators as Krups curls his mustached lip into a smirk. “There. Was a simple apology so hard?” He tears the tickets off his pad — rip, rip, rip — and presents them to the Fist, who snatches them away and stalks back toward his vehicle. “Hold on a minute, son.”
The Fist whirls, heat energy distorting the air around his hands, two tiny suns burning in his eyes.
“Wanna tell me about that expired tag?”
Krups explodes backwards and goes sailing through the front window of a coffee joint, scattering hipsters and overpriced coffee before cartwheeling over the counter and coming to rest on a couple of very startled baristas. The Fist is almost back in his car when he hears Krups calling weakly from the ruined shop, “Assaulting an officer!”
The door deforms as he slams it, and the Fist guns it across town. In minutes, he’s strapped into the space suit, and the one-man rocket blasts off into low orbit with thirty seconds to spare.
The asteroid looms like an inverted, rocky earth as he clears the stratosphere. He ejects from the ship and sails toward the rocky mass, like falling toward a mountaintop out of an airplane, except upside-down. His knuckles glow.
The craggy, pitted peaks drift closer. The Fist draws back his hand. The wispy atmosphere around his fingertips churns and ignites.
He lets fly.
His fist strikes the asteroid with the force of a dying star going supernova. An explosion of light and a deafening crack and he’s falling to earth again …
But something’s wrong. It wasn’t enough.
Only pulverized dust should remain, but the asteroid has sheared and fragmented and become many, hurtling toward Earth with deadly inevitability. As he falls, with the doom of the planet swirling all around him, the Fist can only think of one thing.
Down below, Krups has hauled himself out into the street. He regards his upended police cruiser and the oncoming shower of meteors with the same sour scowl.
“Knew he was a fraud,” Krups mumbles, as the first of the meteorites pepper the street.
This week’s Flash Fiction is brought to you by Chuck Wendig’s random title challenge.