Speeding Bullets

on February 3, 2012 in Fantasy

The thing about moving at superspeed is that from your point of view everything else has slowed down and you’re moving at normal speed. So, yes, I can run back and forth across the country in way less time than it would take a commercial jet, but when it’s not an emergency I still fly.

Do you know why? Because relative to my point of view, I’m running at about twenty miles per hour. That’s fast for a human, but slow for a cross-country vehicle. It means that when I go from coast to coast, I’m spending two months doing nothing but running. I don’t get tired. I don’t get hungry. I’m not aging any faster than normally, relative to objective time… though the first few years of using my powers, that was always something I worried about.

But I do get bored.

Two months of seeing the country unfold a bit at a time, with nothing but your own thoughts. No sounds. Not even the wind in your hair. The interphase field that moves molecules around to keep me from destroying myself or everything else in my wake prevents that.

I’ve always been a solitary person. I don’t mind having some time to myself. I’ll take a hundred mile run sometimes just to get some hours to spend clearing my head or thinking through a project. Trying to make a living and be a superhero, it’s nice to be able to steal some moments out of thin air here and there to do the brain work. After all, I can push up the speed a little when I’m sitting in front of a computer, but only so much.

So short trips are fine. Longer ones are for emergencies only. If I were going to run across the country for fun, I’d have to stop every few hundred miles and spend some time moving around in real time just so I didn’t go crazy.

Still, you asked me what the worst thing about my powers are, and honestly, as bad as that can get, that’s not it. The absolute worst thing is when I get there too late. I can all but stop time, but I can’t make it go backwards.

Bullets travel thousands of feet in a second. That’s nothing compared to me, but it’s fast enough. They’re faster than the speed of sound. If I hear a gunshot, the bullet has already hit its target before the sound hits my ear.

Imagine arriving at the scene of a shooting that’s already in progress. Someone’s just been shot. Now imagine you’re seeing it slow motion. No sound. Just visuals, slower and sharper and realer than anything you’ve ever seen in the movies.

A moment not quite frozen in time, not quite suspended in front of you… and you could step out of that moment, you could speed it up, but there are still bullets flying and people in their paths and you can’t let go and step back into the normal flow of time until you’ve saved everybody else.

Do you have any idea how small a thing a bullet can be? How hard it is to spot in mid-air even when it’s barely moving? How big an area a burst of gunfire can cover by the time I know about it? Most of those bullets will probably bury themselves in walls or trees or the ground, but not all. Any one that I miss could end or change a life.

You see it like this: there’s a blur and suddenly I’m standing there with everyone’s weapons at my feet and a hand full of lead. What you don’t see is how many times I go back and forth, how meticulously I search the area, how wide a zone around the action I comb, how far I stretch time from my point of view in order to be sure… and when I come back down, it’s never because I am sure. It’s because I’ve given up. Because I’ve realized that I’m making myself crazy.

I can’t stop all the bullets. I can’t be everywhere at once. No one can, of course, but I have a power that lets me feel like I should be able to.

I wouldn’t give it up, of course. Not for anything.

But you asked me what the worst thing about my power is, so I told you. It’s not something I’ve ever told anyone before, but then, that’s not the sort of question most people ask.

It makes me wonder what the downside to yours is.

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6 Responses to “Speeding Bullets”

  1. zeel says:

    Interestingly, I am the sort of person to think about the down side to any super power. And a time slowing power is one I have always wanted.

    This was beautiful, +1

  2. Luke Licens says:

    Excellent work. I always enjoy your take on superhero subjects. Speaking of which, are we going to get the next installment of ‘Gift of the Bad Guy’ any time soon? It was the first of your stories I ever bought, and it was so good I bought it twice. 😛

  3. GCU Prosthetic Conscience says:

    I read this with the narrator being Wally West. Wally’s version of super-speed has some perks that iron-out some of the down sides in this story, but still…

    Actually, there’s a Wally West story that involves Wally trying to catch all of the bullets from an automatic weapon that has been fired in a crowded movie theater. But I’m fairly sure AE doesn’t read enough comics to have been inspired by that one.

    I second Luke in being ready to buy the next installment of Gift of the Bad Guy.

  4. AE says:

    Well, I’m not quite ready to write it. There’s still some emotional fallout connected to its creation. I’m not just obstinately holding out on everyone.

    If I were you I wouldn’t place a bet about how many comics I read, but I can tell you two things: one is that I didn’t read that Flash comic, and two is that if I had read it and was directly inspired by it I wouldn’t mind saying so.

  5. Zukira Phaera says:

    I really need to start reading some of your other seriels

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