Brick by brick. Raze it to the foundation and rebuild it as a place where such cruel twists of fate would be impossible. If there was no sense to be had in that universe, then he'd create his own. Was that not the entire purpose of his profession? If he couldn't solve the problems closest to his heart, then what had it all been for?
Perhaps it would all end as a joke. A tragic comedy played out in lightning and wire beneath the echoing emptiness of his home.
Perhaps, but it was an outcome that he would stave off for as long as humanly possible. No matter how many nights stretched on without sleep, how his reputation and finances might suffer for that abrupt withdrawal from the world.
He was close. In mind and heart, he knew it, and that simple knowing had staved off exhaustion for time that he'd forgotten to measure. The clock had been dropped from numb hands somewhere in that fog, cracked against the tile, no time to repair it or desire to read that which it would tell him. Their time in that underground haven would last for as long as was necessary.
Its words were echoing in his skull again, a fresh taunt behind each. Even when it would not insult him in the open, it despised him, looked down on the simplicity of his existence. Plain to see in the look it had worn during the speaking, the stare with which it most often fixed him.
“I waste no time by being here,” it had assured him, as if that was meant to be a comfort. Confirming that it lost nothing, not even the hours spent, by languishing under his power. “Truth be told, I don't understand how the linear view of time can still be so pervasive, when-”
He had shut it up, he had induced spasms in the small body that it occupied. Drugged beyond the point of pain, like most of those he had placed in such bindings. Shielded from the worst of what he did in hopes of saving her.
It had cut him to observe the spectacle, but in the end, all of those moments would be proven worthwhile. It had all come to that day, that apparatus of wire and metal, secured to a dozen different points on her body. A conglomeration of past experiments and new technology born out of desperation, power and intricacy that would earn him all the recognition he could ever desire. Assuming that he emerged victorious to sell it.
If he did, perhaps he'd have to thank the neutralized rider for its visit to his household. The need it had introduced, pushing him beyond anything that he would have thought to be capable of accomplishing. In part, it would be responsible for the best future secured for him and Andrea.
If all his calculations had been correct, it would be no more than a few torturous moments. A charge capable of occupying the rider's place in her body and forcing it into the open, where it could be dealt with as one of its kind deserved. One switch to be flipped, and he would know whether all of his efforts had produced anything worthwhile.
He would never look into the depths of those black eyes again, and the impassivity would be wiped from her face. When next he loosed those straps, it would be to take her in his arms, and to put that ugly chapter of life behind them both.
“If you have any final words to speak,” he informed the bested intruder, “Now would be the time.” Like the grim executioner, and never had it felt so right to hold such a position. A hand on the switch that would allow him to sear evil from the world forever.
It had to fear the fact, yet as always, it was so adept at concealing its emotions. Retreating from them and their expression, perhaps, the way it retreated from the pain of little Andrea's body. Staring at him as it always had, all confidence and frigidity.
“If you had taken my advice,” it dared to address him, “Perhaps we would have-”
He was aborting one of its sentences again, silencing it with the sudden flip of that switch. The room was beset by an electric scream, and that silver light retreated for the first time since its appearance, returning the shadows which had preceded it.
Darkness cut through with abrupt flashes of blue. He could feel its charge against his skin, lifting the hair, stinging the flesh like thousands of airborne needles. It was in the air he breathed, a torment to lungs and throat, yet the spasm that passed through his chest would not be expressed. He was standing transfixed, watching her small form arc against the pain.
She would forgive him one day. She would recognize the torment and long work that had allowed him to save her, and would be grateful for the mountains that he'd moved in her name. As long as she was his, she would never-
At first, he could only guess at what had interrupted his consciousness that way. A moment of noise without sight, like a thunderclap closing in on every centimetre of his body. The tile of the floor was pressed to his shoulders and palms, and the silver light was overhead, a surge and retreat to dazzle the eyes.
That electric scream had warbled and transmuted, a moan which rose and fell in time with the dancing light. Beneath its weight, the sputter and spark of broken machinery, flickers of orange falling to meet his face like stars ripped from the sky. That moan was on his lips as well, expressed without thought or meaning as he made his first clumsy attempt to sit.
Something was wrong, an acrid smell excavated from his lungs in a series of coughs. The apparatus that he'd assembled with such care was standing at an angle, warped away from aspects of itself as though struck by some great force. At its centre, the spine-like construction on which it had relied for power, dancing with the baleful orange of new light.
No, no, no, he could fix that. Had to fix it, and quickly, before it began searching for somewhere else to unleash that power. Dragging the parts of his body that remained unresponsive, hauling himself up by the edge of the chair to which he'd strapped her.
But the straps were loosened, one of them twisted and charred almost beyond recognition. The chair was empty, and supporting himself against it, he turned his head in a desperate search for her.
His precious girl, silhouetted against the stairs which would lead to the first floor. Eyes that still burned like the space between stars, regarding him in final judgement.
Her name should have been on his lips, uttered with tenderness. But his teeth were clenched to the point of pain, and the name which found its way past them was choked with impotent rage.
It- she...they were turning toward those stairs, ascending two at a time with all possible speed. Out of his sight, and raising a hand toward them was enough to cost him all remaining balance. Meeting the floor again, aware for the first time of the nauseating warmth which gathered below his stomach. His fingers came away from it slick, and feeble efforts would not dislodge the shrapnel that his fracturing machine had lodged in his gut.
It was whirling fire around him, a storm of heat and smoke to lance the walls and catch on his clothes. Its moan had built back to a scream, and what little he managed to speak was lost beneath it.
Then it reached its highest point, fever pitch, and the world that his wide eyes revealed was bathed in naked white flame.