A high pitched whine sounded from behind Jack Davis as he drove to the beach on a Saturday afternoon. The whine increased in volume as he progressed further down the highway. With the low traffic, Jack was making good time, and so was the sound. Glancing in his rearview mirrors, Jack saw only a few cars behind him.
The whine reached the highest volume and a motorcycle darted by his window. Jack made out the dark form Another passed him on the passenger side. Three more appeared and zipped by him and the other drivers on the road. Four more spiderwebbed over the lanes, narrowly missing cars and each other. The last rider darted past another driver and disappeared from view, taking their high pitched whine with them.
“Out for a Saturday joy ride,” Jack said. He looked at the driver next to him, who was shaking his head. The car in front of Jack slowed, and he noticed the driver was looking around. “Yeah, that was full of joy.”
Jack continued driving for the next three miles, and took the exit for the beach. As he pulled to the intersection, the light turned red and he stopped. The familiar whine sounded again, and Jack looked for the source. He didn’t see it in his rearview mirror this time. Instead it was off to his right. The group of seven motorcycles zoomed to a screeching stop at the same traffic light holding him up. “Well now, what are the chances of that?” He took a deep breath and stilled his mind, lowering the urge to do something rash inside him.
Jack’s signal turned green and he turned left. Maneuvering to the outside lane, he continued on his journey to the beach. Several blocks away, another traffic light halted his progress. The whine, though not as high pitched, came up on him from behind. All seven motorcycles occupied three car lengths of the left hand lane. In random turns, the each revved their engines, making it hard to think, let alone hear.
A check of the cross walk signal showed a count down from five. Jack focused on the left lane across the intersection. In his mind, he put a fluffy ball of clay exactly where the lane across the way began. On his next exhale, the power released and put the invisible device across the intersection and in the path of the motorcyclists.
The the light turned green.
Jack didn’t bother with taking his foot off the brake.
Every motorcyclist revved their engine. The leader’s front wheel zipped into the air as his motorcycle darted into the intersection. Six motorcycles followed in his wake. As the last two entered the intersection, Jack applied pressure to his accelerator. When Jack’s car crossed the white line, the leader of the motorcycle gang passed the intersection.
First the leader’s bike collided with the fluffy ball. It hovered, then rotated as if it were rolled forward. The next two stuck at an available empty spot side by side. Again the invisible ball of clay rolled, this time to the side. With the leader upside down and facing the other way, the next two stuck into the unseen force. With five of there compatriots floating in the air, the remaining two motorcyclists slid and dumped their bikes. Their momentum carried them into the flailing mass to be stuck as well.
Jack continued to focus on the clay contraption he made as he dove by. With a flick of his fingers, the ball rolled further down the road, bringing the bikers with it. The traffic behind the floating motorcyclists, as well as Jack, slowed to a crawl. When the invisible ball approached a side street, Jack darted his eyes towards it. The ball followed his gaze, dragging the screaming motorcyclists.
As Jack passed the road, he envisioned the ball of clay disappearing. With a blink of his eye, it did.
The motorcyclists landed in a heap of bodies and machines. There were several pieces of plastic laying to the side. Two of the motorcycle gang members had arms bent at awkward angles.
“The group that causes chaos together,” Jack muttered to himself as he drove on to his appointment.
Janice stood by the food vendor’s open door. “One deep-fried candy bar for the lovely lady.” The vendor leaned out with a smile on her face. With a deft hand, he swapped the food for the five dollar bill in Janice’s hand.
“That stuff is gonna be the death of you,” a man said approaching Janice. “Not to mention destroy all those workouts you do.”
Janice turned with a scowl on her face to face the voice. The grimace turned to a smile as she connected eyes with the man. “Harold! You made it.”
“I wouldn’t miss it for anything,” Harold said. “One of four times we get together without fighting.”
“Yeah,” Janice said around a mouth full of melted candy bar. “Plus it’s public, so plenty of witnesses.”
“You’re my sister,” Harold affected a stunned look. “I would never dream of hurting you.”
“Putting me in the ICU is another matter.” Janice rolled her eyes as she tilted her head, still munching on the candy bar.
“I’ve apologized for that.” Harold leaned in close. “And I made sure Shox paid for it.”
“It’s good to see my big brother still looks after me.” Janice pulled in the last of the candy bar and tossed the stick in a garbage can. “Does he still not like midway rides?” She glanced in the direction of a large sign pointing to the rides.
“You know they make me sick.” Harold moved for the sign, following Janice’s lead. “But you are welcome to ride them all you want.”
“Let me get this straight,” Janice said walking towards the midway. “You fly at high rates of speed. Perform complex maneuvers in fights. Free fall from great heights and pull off fantastic feats at the drop of a hat without practice. But a little hurky jerk on a rollercoaster and up comes lunch.”
“What can I say,” Harold said with a smile. “I’m just born this way.” He continued to walk with his sister.
“Speaking of being born this way,” Janice said, moving closer to her brother. “Have you heard about the bill that Senator Carlton is pushing?”
“Yup,” Harold answered. “My team is working on a rebuttal as we speak.”
“The last time you rebutted something like this, six people died.” Janice by ring toss booth.
Harold handed the attendant a five dollar bill and took three rings. He tossed the first ring and it landed on the neck of a bottle. “Correction. Six bigots died.”
“They were still people.” Janice looked around. No one was really paying their conversation any attention.
“They even whined when you and your team saved the rest.” Harold tossed the next two rings in rapid succession. Both sunk onto a bottleneck. The barker handed him a large stuffed dog. Janice gave a mock golf clap.
“You didn’t have to fill their lungs with gas.” Janice reached for the dog. “They didn’t even have filters or masks.” She continued on her previous path.
“It was self defense.” Harold walked next to Janice. “They shot and killed Lariat. Even the news had that one on video.”
“OK,” Janice said. “I’ll give you that. But being violent doesn’t help.”
“Passive is too slow and the results are flakey at best.” Harold pointed to another game of chance. This one the milk bottles.
Janice put down a ten and demanded six balls. The attendant handed over seven. “Good luck lady.”
“You’ve barely managed to stop legislature and deter riots over civil liberties off Meta-Humans.” Harold, holding the large dog, watched Janice’s technique.
“Well,” Janice said, flinging a side armed pitch that knocked over all three metal milk bottles. “At least no one get hurt.”
“Are you kidding?” Harold laughed. “You’ve put people in the hospital. Even dished out a few permanent limps.”
The attendant stepped back from setting up the bottles. Janice flung her next ball. “OK, so people get hurt. On both sides.” All three bottles crashed again. “It seems that both of us are gaining ground, but just very slowly.” The attendant moved to set the bottles up again.
“True.” Harold nodded. “But I don’t have to keep reminding people. I say something once, and they get it.”
In a quick fire motion, Janice sent the next three balls at three other pyramids of milk bottles. The attendant looked at the mess of bottles, then back to Janice. She waved the last ball. Letting out a heavy sigh, the attendant set one set of bottles. No sooner had he stepped back, then Janice let the last ball fly, once again knocking them over. The attendant looked at Janice and she pointed to an extra large stuffed panda bear. The attendant handed the bear to Janice, who handed it to Harold.
“How’s the intimidation thing working for you?” Janice held the prize Harold had won for her. “You are a wanted felon and murderer.”
“I’m not a wanted felon, Smoke is.” Shifting the large panda under an arm, Harold added, “And I never killed anyone without provocation. All of them are pure selfdefense, provable in any court of law.”
“Harold,” Janice said, walking down the midway. “We both want the same thing, I get it.” She moved to allow a young couple to walk by. “It is our approach that separates us.”
“Which makes you the hero and me the villain.” Harold stepped next to his sister. “I love these outings. Peaceful and they remind me what an endearing sap you are.” He smiled and kissed her cheek.
“You’re not a villain,” Janice said. “You’re my brother.” She smiled as Harold walked through the exit and into the dark of the field beyond.
“Well, you got another one Clint,” Harold said to the younger man. “You got your work cut out for you. What is this, five?”
“Yeah.” Clint nodded. “Five. Uh, dad?”
“I’ll watch them as I can. You keep the money and food coming in.” Harold smiled at Clint. “It’s what Grandpas do.”
“Thanks,” Clint said, smiling at his father. “Besides, you live across the street.”
Harold chuckled as he left his son in the hospital room. He wondered out to the parking lot and into his car. With a smile on his face and a happy thought in his head, Harold didn’t see the tanker truck in front of him swerve a few times.
What Harold did saw the truck jack-knife and tip over. He watched as the large metal container rolled over in slow motion. The contents sloshing over the road.
Harold’s knuckles turned white as he grit his teeth and yanked the steering wheel to avoid a direct collision. The liquid on the asphalt had other plans for Harold’s truck and sent him careening into he underbelly of the tank. A miracle happened when the two vehicles didn’t explode.
Several motorists pulled both the truck driver and an unconscious Harold to safety.
Several hours later, Harold regained consciousness. He found himself in a metal tube with a loud clicking noise. A strap held his head on the narrow pad. His body felt cold, but he could see a white cloth over him.
“Where..where..where am I?” Harold mumbled his question, but the container he lay in muffled it to nothing.
One loud thunk sounded and blinding white light covered Harold’s eyes. His body stiffened, making his back arch.
Then everything went black.
Harold Kline opened his eyes. He moved his mouth to speak, but something blocked the movement.
“Nurse!” Harold recognized that voice. “Nurse! He’s awake.”
The sound of movement and then the item in his mouth was removed.
“Mr. Kline, you’re in a hospital.” The disconnected voice floated above him. Soon a stern face came in to focus. “You’re going to feel some discomfort for a while, but it will pass.”
“Where am I?” Harold tilted his head to a side. Another figure came into view. “Clint. What happened to me, son?”
“Uh, dad?” Clint looked at the nurse, who nodded. “You were in a coma.”
“What?” Harold moved to sit up, but hands on his chest pushed him back down. “That accident wasn’t that bad.”
“Dad.” Clint stepped closer. “That was nine months ago.”
“What!” Harold stopped all moving and stared wide eyed at his son.
“See?” Clint brought a small child into view. “You met Molly the day she was born. She’s almost a year.” Clint pulled a blanket back exposing a angelic face with a pug nose.
“That..that..that’s not possible.” Harold slumped back to his bed. “What happened?”
Clint took nearly a hour to explain what happened to his father. The accident broke both of his legs. The chemical didn’t do anything they could find. The MRI machine malfunctioned and that is what threw Harold into a coma. Over the past few months, the MRI manufacturer and shipping companies have been dealing with Clint on how to compensate Harold.
“So now, you are wealthy,” Clint said. “You were already retired with a great pension.”
“Dammit, Clint!” Harold slowly worked himself to a sitting position. “It ain’t about the money. What about my house? Or my truck? Am I crippled?”
“Well,” Clint said, stepping back a little. “The house is fine. Viv and I have been looking after it. No we didn’t move in. The truck was replaced fully by the shipping company. Newest model.” When he finished this part, Clint’s jaws clicked shut.
“And?” Clint swung his feet over the edge of the bed. He spied two aluminum canes with metal wrist wraps.
“Uhhh,” Clint muttered and licked his lips. “They said your legs are healed, but you will have trouble walking. So they got you those.”
Harold narrowed his eyes at his son. His chest moved up and down in a heavy motion. Harold’s jaw flexed several times. “Get me my clothes, boy.”
“Yessir.” Clint lowered his child to a carrier and strapped her in. He moved to a dresser and pulled out the clothes he brought last week. Carrying them over to Harold, he said, “You’ve lost some weight, so I got you some new ones. Viv washed them twice, like you like.”
Grumbling, and using the bed as leverage, Harold dressed. He felt is in his legs when he put on his pants. Standing on one leg was never a problem before, but when he shifted he felt a knee flex.
Dr. Robinson stepped in as Harold finished. “Well, it seems you are ready to be discharged. We have to run some tests before, and have you schedule some follow ups-”
“I ain’t doin’ that.” Harold shifted to both his feet. “I’m walking out that door and out this damn hospital.”
“Mr. Kline,” Dr. Robinson said. “If you can walk to the door unaided, I’ll discharge you myself.”
“Humph.” Harold looked at the door.
“Dad, don’t be stupid.” Clint stepped forward extending an arm. “He’s a doctor.”
“And I’m just 67 and barely retired.” Harold shoed Clint back “I’m walking and that’s that.”
Harold took one step, and both knees faltered. Clint lunged forward and grabbed his father, keeping him from falling.
“Dad,” Clint helped him back to the bed. “Use the canes.”
“I still ain’t coming back.” Harold fit the canes on his wrists and gripped the handles. With a slow methodical walk, he cleared the door. Turning down the hall, he poked at the floor with each cane and made for the elevator. He jabbed the lobby button then tottered out the sliding glass doors.
The wind hit him in the face and he sighed.
“Dad!” Clint carried the heavy plastic seat with his child strapped in. “I just signed you out. You need to be careful.”
“Where’s my new truck?” Harold scanned the parking lot. “Keys!”
“Umm, they’re at home with the truck.”
“Fine. I’ll walk.” Harold stepped off the curb.
“Dammit, Dad.” Clint moved to grab his father. “It’s twelve miles.”
“If I can’t walk twelve miles, you might as well shoot me.”
“Dad!” Clint moved and locked eyes with his father. “What is wrong? Why are you being so stubborn?”
Harold turned his head. He coughed, hiding the croak in his voice. “I’ve worked everyday my adult life. Aside from an occasional sickness, I’ve never been laid up. Ever.” Harold turned to face Clint. Tilting his head so that he looked at the pavement, he followed with, “Now I’m I cripple. Useless. Worthless.”
“What?” Clint narrowed his eyes and leaned forward. “That is such bullshit coming out of your mouth, I don’t believe you are my own father.”
“Boy, don’t you talk to me with that language.” Harold lifted his head.
“Shut up, old man. You, of all people, are not not worthless, let alone useless.” Clint put his hands on Harold’s shoulders. “You’ve not only taught me my work ethic, you showed it to me. I got to where I am in my company because of that ethic. My wife loves the income I make and the life I have provided.”
Harold stared back not saying a word.
“Dad,” Clint said. “You are not crippled. You can still move and do things. You’ll just need some help now and then. That is where I come in. You got this. Trust me.” Clint smiled at his father. “My car’s over here. Let me drive you home.”
“Thank you son,” Harold said through a catch in his throat. “I was serious about walking. It’ll give me time to adjust to these and clear my head.”
“I’m not gonna push you,” Clint said. “Call me if you need me. I’ll come get you.” He hugged his father and went to his car.
Harold navigated to the sidewalk. He looked the length of it and sighed. Shifting his grip he started his slow, methodical walk.
Random thoughts floated in Harold’s head. The death of his wife. The accident and what happened. How he would keep his house up. What shape was his finances in. Did Clint mess something up on the paperwork for the settlement?
He turned at the end of the parking lot and headed in the direction of home. After a few minutes he noted the breeze. It felt good on his face and he smiled. The wind blew through his hair and it reminded him of his wife running her fingers over it. The breeze turned into a gust that carried an odd sound. A rapid staccato sound. The beat matching the movement of his arms.
Glancing around to find where the noise came from, Harold noticed the scenery blurred past him. His eyes widened as his mouth fell open. Snapping it shut, a bug collided with his lips. He spit, and looked down. His legs moved faster than when he ran as a child.
“What happened to me?” He didn’t answer, only picked his pace up faster. Pulling the canes up he took several steps. His knees and hips yelped, so he poked the supports back down. “Guess I still need these handles.” Chuckling he tilted his torso forward, swung his legs in a longer stride, and imitated it with his arms. He was running. “WEEEEEE!!!!”
Harold covered the zig-zag route to his house in under five minutes. As he stood on his front porch turning the key to his front door, a car pulled into the driveway across the street. Throwing his eyes over his shoulder he saw Clint get out of the car with the baby carrier.
“You were right, boy.” Harold went inside. “Now, what do I do with this?”
See Speeder in action HERE
Lincoln walked to the bank and opened the door. His newly finished costume still had the new leather smell, and it carried to the guys he hired as muscle. Stepping inside Lincoln raised a hand and made it glow dark red.
In a loud voice, but not at the shouting level, Lincoln said, “Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention.” All heads and eyes turned towards him. “My associates and I are here to make a withdrawal. I assure you, the bank is covered by insurance you will recover the funds. That is why you pay the high fees and interest rates.” The smile below his mask widened and showed plenty of white teeth.
Lincoln walked over to the counter, depositing a bag at each teller. “Please fill these and don’t be that person. You know, the one that puts the exploding dye pack in the bag.” Looking at the last teller he pointed. “Yes. That one. Don’t put that in my bag. It really doesn’t work. I will just wash the money and most of it will come out. No one will really notice it.”
Lincoln nodded to his two companions, and they vaulted the low wall. They grabbed a man and punched a guard that moved for his gun. With quick precision, they opened the door to the vault area.
“Thug One,” Lincoln called to a partner. “Keep the violence down. Just the barest of necessities, please.”
Thug One stared at Lincoln for a beat, then shrugged his shoulders. He turned back to the short hallway and disappeared.
“Good, good.” Lincoln walked the teller line again. He pulled a bag from the counter and weighed it in his hand. “Did you put one of them dye packs in here when I wasn’t looking?” He tilted his head at the man behind the counter and made one of his hands glow dark red. The man nodded, sending the sweat running down his face off the end of his nose. “Excellent! See? Cooperation is its own reward.” Lincoln smiled like a kindergarten teacher.
In turn, Lincoln pulled the bags from the counter and held them in his fist. As he walked towards the door, he checked the clock on the wall. “So far, so good. Right on time.” He stopped and rocked back and forth on his heels, a mild tune whistled from his lips.
When the clock on the wall ticked two minutes later, Lincoln touched his ear. “Thugs, you need to be wrapping up.”
“Almost done,” the voice said over the communication device. A moment later and the two thugs, along with the man they took, exited the vault area. Both men carried bags that looked heavy.
“Excellent!” Lincoln moved to the door and held it open for his companions. “It has been a pleasure robbing you and I appreciate your cooperation. Don’t forget to file that insurance claim right away. The sooner the better.” He pointed to the man in a tailored suit. Next he waved and smiled to the customers then left.
In the van, Lincoln jumped into the driver’s seat. “Please divide the loot up according to the agreement. I am swinging by Quinn’s Place to get the items in the boxes fenced.”
The two thugs did as requested.
Thug One looked at Thug Two. “We actually pulled it off. No cops, no heroes, nothing.”
“Yeah,” said Thug Two. “This is the best so far. We have money and are going to get more.”
“Gentlemen,” Lincoln said. “If you just follow the rules, and don’t hurt anyone, they let you rob them.”
“Who woulda thought,” Thug Two said.
“That and don’t get greedy.” Lincoln smiled at his assistants. “We can’t get greedy.”
Jason stepped from the dark van with his bag slung over his shoulder and walked to the scene. Doctor Reymark signaled the two officers to let Jason through.
“Excellent! Jason, you know the drill. First blush.” Doctor Reymark stood back, letting Jason view the area immediately around the prone form.
“Hmmm…Discolored skin,” Jason said kneeling on the road. With a snap, he put on a rubber glove and pushed at the corpse’s cheek with a tongue depressor. “Rigor hasn’t set in,” Jason called out. “These look like scars.” He ran the wooden probe over the face. Flicking the device through the hair, Jason added, “He dies his hair this putrid color.”
Doctor Reymark inhaled a whisper when Jason reached for the arm of the corpse. Jason fumbled in his bag for something and pulled out a hemostat. With a scissor motion, Jason gripped the cuff of the sleeve and pulled the fabric back.
“That would have been an experience.” Jason looked at the device strapped on the corpse’s arm. “This seems to be multipurpose.” He ran the wooden probe over different levers and under some straps. “Is that a tube?” Jason tugged on the flexible pipe and saw the lapel flower move. “A squirting flower. Really?”
Doctor Reymark laughed. “It is one of his trademarks. So, any guesses as to cause of death?”
“There’s bruising on the face, neck and arms.” Jason moved the collar back. “This one here,” he traced the mark from the jaw, over the neck. “Broke the collar bone. It also looks like his nose is broken.”
“You’re better than this, Jason.” Doctor Reymark rocked back on his heels.
With a heavy sigh, Jason moved to the waist of the corpse and spread the shirttails out. “This is a puncture wound.” Jason pulled out a penlight and shined it on the pale skin. “It looks like a bite, possibly an insect or something. But this right here is too uniform.” Using the tip of the hemostat, Jason touched the two small holes. A black circle on the outer edges was evident once he pointed it out. “This was caused by a device. The punctures have been cauterized by heat, and thusly it burned the skin. It was done pre-mortem, so he was alive.”
Detective Morris stepped over to Doctor Remark. “You mean to tell me that those two iddy-bitty holes are what killed him? Really? You know who this is?”
“Yes.” Doctor Reymark looked at the detective. “To all three of your questions.”
Detective Morris tilted his head. “So that means that-”
“Nope,” Jason answered, standing from the corpse. “He’s accounted for.”
Detective Morris turned to the younger man. “Then it would be-”
Doctor Reymark interrupted, “That is for you to prove.”
Detective Morris pulled out a notebook and flipped several pages. “He lives in-”
“Another town several hours away.” Jason pulled a body bag from the satchel at his hip.
Morris ran a hand through his thin hair. “What about the girl?”
“She’s in prison.” Doctor Reymark waggled his eyebrows.
“Not her,” Detective Morris said waving a hand at the corpse. “The other one.”
“Oh.” Doctor Reymark put a finger to his chin.
“It’s possible.” Jason signaled for two EMTs to help him lift the corpse into the body bag. “However, who is she?”
“That we don’t know.” Detective Morris closed his notebook. “But we do know that to date, none of them have ever killed.”
Doctor Reymark moved out of the way of the gurney. “Do we know that, Detective?”
Jason moved for the dark van he arrived in and opened the back door. The two EMTs put the gurney into the back and locked the wheels in place.
As the dark van drove off, Detective Morris muttered, “Not sure if I would call killing that guy a crime. Funny, sure. A crime?”
The small red sports car darted from one lane to the next. With the top down the driver and passenger were visible. Their heads tossed back and laughter on their face. With the heavy traffic, the car did the impossible, it sped up. The small red sports car drove over the line splitting two lanes.
Two kids dove back to the sidewalk, ditching their soda cups. The small red sports car dashed through the intersection and under the red traffic light. It swerved into the oncoming traffic lane, even though no traffic was on the original side.
“This will not end well,” Jack Davis said stepping out of the restaurant. He was in time to see the small red sports car careen through a turn and slow to a stop behind the semi-truck tuning onto the Interstate.
The small red sports car let out several exasperated high-pitched beeps. The driver shouted and waved his fist. Twice the driver looked behind him to see another car coming alongside him, blocking a lane change.
Jack walked passed his car, out of the parking lot, and down the sidewalk towards the small red sports car. In his mind he pictured the car a mere inch off the ground. He felt the power build, then released it.
Approaching the passenger side of the car, Jack said in a loud voice, “Nice car.” The passenger and driver turned to look at him. “It seems fast.”
“It is,” said the big shouldered driver. “At least when I can get on the Interstate.”
“Aren’t you worried about tickets?” Jack looked at the driver. “I mean the insurance on this thing has to be high to begin with.”
“Never been caught,” the large man said with a nod and a grin. “Never will.” He knocked the car out of gear and revved the car.
“I see,” Jack said. “What about you, young lady? Someone as beautiful as you must be worried about an accident. The damage it would cause?”
Worry flashed across the pretty young woman’s face. A hand waved it away, but her eyes never changed. She did a double take towards the driver.
The large truck cleared the corner and proceeded up the entrance ramp.
“About damn time.” The driver shifted the lever and stomped on the gas pedal. The car revved as before only at a higher pitch. And it didn’t go anywhere.
“Hmmm,” Jack said looking at the car. “Seems something is wrong.”
“I just got this hunk a junk,” the man shouted over the roar of his engine. “What the-“ The driver looked at his feet. “The gas is stuck.”
Shouting, Jack said, “Fortunate for you. Imagine if it stuck while you nearly killed those kids back there.” Jack tossed a hand in the direction. The woman and man turned to see the kids crossing the street.
“They look fine to me,” the man said.
“Except for the scrapes and cuts,” Jack added. “And they ditched their drinks.”
“So what.” The driver pounded on the steering wheel. “Go, you piece of sh-“
“Do you kiss your Mother with that potty mouth?” Jack turned to the woman. “Does he kiss you with that potty mouth?” The woman turned a deep red and turned to the driver.
“Shut up!” The man swore. “I’ll get it fixed.” He pulled on a lever and pop sounded from the hood and it lifted an inch. Next he pulled on the door, but it didn’t budge. “No! The door’s stuck.”
The engine revved louder, and the hood slammed shut.
“Personally, I would recommend you use manners and class over false bravado and insecurity.” Jack pulled on the passenger side door, holding it open for the woman. “As for you, make better choices.” A shout exited the driver, and he squirmed in his seat. He pulled his hands, but they were stuck to the steering wheel.
The woman stood from the car and walked away from the small red sports car.
“You know how you said you’ve never been caught?” Jack said, closing the door.
“Yeah.” The driver clenched his hands on the steering wheel.
“First time for everything.” The sounds of sirens sounded. Jack let the car drop to the pavement.
The tires on the small sports car squealed as the driver was thrown back into his seat. A loud scream and the car turned onto the entrance ramp. Two police cars blocked his escape.
Jack shook his head and walked back to his car.
Vic dashed into his living room and scooped up his crying son. “Bart, it’s ok. You’re not hurt. Daddy’s here.” The words flowed soft and easy. Vic cradled his child and showed affection.
Marsha entered the room watching the scene in front of her. “You’re an excellent father, Victor Gaines. And I love you for it.” Marsha joined in the hug-fest of their son.
A bright sunshiny Saturday on the playground, Vic sat on a bench watching Bart play with other children.
“Is that your kid there,” another man asks. “The one with the Champion cape?”
“Yup,” Vic smiled. “He likes to pretend he’s the hero. Swoops in and saves the day.”
“That’s cool,” the other man nodded. “Mine likes Badger or Chance. He says they’re awesome.”
“They give me the impression of media hounds and pretty violent.” Vic said as he looked at the man.
“Yeah, but I don’t want to push them too hard,” the man said. “Then they automatically go the opposite direction.”
“Good point,” Vic responded. Checking his watch, Vic said, “Ohh. Lunch time. Nice talking with you.” He stood and called Bart over.
“Dad! I want to be like Champion. A hero!” Bart bounced as he walked next to Vic.
“Son,” Vic said rubbing Bart’s head. “You can be anything you want.”
Vic turned into the parking lot and found a spot at the back. Getting out of the car, he dashed to the auditorium of Brownstone Middle School. Vic yanked his work ID off his shirt and shoved it into his pocket.
“Dad! You made it,” Bart ran up to Vic on the sidewalk.
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Vic smiled at his son.
“You are a great father, Victor.” Marsha smiled at her husband. “Let’s get in and find a good seat.”
“Right up front,” Vic said. “Do your best.” He grinned at Bart.
“I will,” Bart said and waved as he moved with the other students into the auditorium.
Vic and Marsha took seats up front and watched as the Brownstone Middle School Orchestra walked on the stage. Using his phone, Vic took videos and pictures of his son.
After the hour long performance, Vic drove his son and met his wife at the local ice-cream shop to celebrate.
“You were fantastic, Bart,” Vic said. “Musics a great way to relax. Plus you learn timing and re-inforce your math.”
“Thanks, Dad,” Bart beamed up at his father.
“Dad,” Bart walked over to his father. “I need this permission slip signed.” Bart held out a piece of paper.
“What’s this for,” Vic read the paper while he sipped his morning coffee. “Football, huh? You want to play?”
“Yeah,” Bart answered. “You know to help with controlling the powers I inherited from you.”
“I think that’s a wonderful idea,” Vic said. “But be ready and be careful. You have some of my abilities, but you also have some of your mom’s. Her’s will be better for you.”
“I know,” Bart said, rolling his eyes with a big sigh. “Mom’s healing is good. Just don’t use it unless absolutely necessary.”
“Good.” Vic pulled a pen from his jacket pocket. He leaned over the table, pulled his tie out of the way, and signed the permission slip. “Keep up on practice and keep your grades up. No slacking.”
“Got it, dad,” Bart smiled as he bounced on his toes.
“I love you, Vic,” Marsha said as she encircled her arms around her husband. “We did right with Bart.”
“Yup.” Vic moved to grab his wife. “We did.” He kissed her.
Bart came into the living room. His mother sat on the couch watching the late news.
“We won!” Bart jumped up and put his palm on the ceiling.
“Excellent honey,” Marsha said as she patted a spot on the couch next to her. “Sit down and keep me company.”
“Where’s Dad,” Bart asked. “I know he said something about working late, but I never saw him at the game.”
“I don’t know,” Marsha said as she slipped an arm over Bart’s shoulders. “But you know your Dad. He can be a work-a-holic sometimes.”
“Yeah,” Bart smiled. “Still, it would have been nice to see him.”
The television flashed a large graphic across the screen. The words Happening Right Now in large fonts with a red background took the entire screen.
“This is Paula Anderson. It seems that Champion has taken down the archvillain Strong Arm.” A clip showed a dark clad man dragged behind the brightly clad Champion.
“Alright! Champion!” Bart shouted. “He’s the bes-”
The camera zoomed in on the man being dragged.
“Isn’t that dad’s super suit,” Bart asked, pointing at the television. “Why is he being dragged?”
“Yes, Bart,” Marsha answered. “That is your father.”
“But dad isn’t evil,” Bart shot to his feet. “Why is Champion doing this? He’s got the wrong man!”
On the screen, Champion hefted Strong Arm to his feet. A microphone appeared in Strong Arms face.
“Strong Arm. Do you have any comment,” the reporter off camera asked.
Strong Arm lifted his head. A spot of blood showed on his lip, and an eye was swollen shut. “Bart. Never forget. I love you.”
Champion jerked on Strong Arm’s arms and moved him to the van with open doors.
The camera panned back to the reporter. “There you have it, people. Strong Arm’s terror campaign is now at an end. We can all sleep peaceful tonight, thanks to Champion.”
The screen went blank.
“Champion!” Bart shouted through gritted teeth. “I’m gonna kill you.” He ran from the room and cleared the stairs to his room. Loud bashing and crashing noises followed seconds later.
“Vic, I love you,” Marsha whispered. “We did it. Bart is ready.”
“Anderson,” Jack Abernathy’s rough voice called. “How’s the Stein project coming?”
“I can finish my part by the end of the week,” David Anderson said looking up from his laptop. “The numbers are entered and the scripts are in place. Waiting on the graphics to finish loading.”
“What’s left after that?” Jack moved into David’s cube.
Touching the button on his cellphone to silent the buzzing, David pointed to his screen. “The check-list says link checking, then stress testing on the server. We’re a little behind on the configuration, but it should only be a day or two.”
“We’re gonna meet that deadline.” Jack’s hand clamped down on David’s shoulder, making the youn man flinch. “You have my permission for over-time. Get to here by tomorrow evening.” Jack tapped a sausage finger on the checklist on the screen, leaving a smear over updating all machines remotely. The task’s original planned date was the day after tomorrow.
“Uh…” David turned his head to look at Jack.
“No excuses.” Jack pivoted on his heels and left David’s cube. It didn’t take him long to be around the corner and out of David’s sight.
“Crap,” David muttered under his breath. He flipped his phone over and entered his passcode. The number 8 appeared next to his text icon. David touched the icon. Scrolling to the last message he touched reply. A few finger taps and he sent the response stating he would be late. His eyes darted to the time in the top corner of his phone. It blinked to 7:18pm.
11:30 rolled around and David dashed from his car into the building. He touched the secret spot, sliding the door open and walked in. David’s uniform fit perfectly. The bright yellow crescent moon contrasted with the midnight blue of the rest of his outfit.
“You’re late!” Graves voice growled across the small room. “Again!”
“Yeah, I know,” David sighed. “It’s just that-”
“You know.” Graves pounded on the table top. “You realize I had to call for help from Wave Rider. Wave Rider. He’s barely a hero. So what he can talk to fish and breathe underwater.”
“Wow.” David stopped walking and looked at the grey clad superhero in front of him. “Wave Rider. Doesn’t he also have super strength?”
“That’s besides the point.” Graves spun and faced David. “I expect my sidekick to be here on time and not full of excuses.” A stiff finger poked David in the chest on his emblem. “You’re fired.”
“What?” David stepped back. “You can’t fire me. You don’t even pay me. This isn’t a job.” David held his hands, palms up and spread. “What about keeping my secret identity? You always stress that. I was doing that.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Graves said. “I can’t rely on you. You should have worked something out.”
“I have to pay my rent some how.” David’s voice picked up in pitch and speed. “I also need to buy food, repair my uniform, and the gym. Plus, there’s the martial art lessons you insisted I take. You don’t even reimburse me for that, but it’s required.”
“This again?” Graves made a rude noise. “By the time I was your age I had earning a million dollars.”
David clenched his jaws and fist. “Yeah. But you inherited five billion just by being born. What a cheapskate.”
“And this one, too.” Graves put both hands on his hips and cocked his head to the side.
“If you paid me forty-five grand a year,” David said pointing a finger at Graves. “I could quit my day job and be the perfect sidekick.”
“They only pay you forty-five?” Graves’ eyebrows shot up. “That’s a pittance.”
“Yeah,” David answered. “Ironically, I work for a subsidiary of Sampson Industries. In other words, you pay me that pittance.”
Graves looked at David and shook his head. “I have to stand by my word or it means nothing. Clean out your desk and leave your keys.”
“I don’t have a desk,” David said, walking to the door he came in. “I never had keys.” As he passed the hidden door, he banged his fist on the jamb.
“I’ll give you a great reference,” Graves shouted as the door slid shut.
“Fuck this,” David said as he slammed his car door closed. “I’ll at least get some sleep and be ready for tomorrow.” He drove off.
When the weekend hit, David was ready for it. Having spent well over fifty hours a week he wanted to relax. He slept in on Saturday. During the afternoon, he wandered the mall and other places. Normally, he would be training or some other activity that Graves would have him do. Since he was fired, he made the best of it.
When the evening kicked off, David went to a movie. It had been awhile since he had seen a first run, so he treated himself. After a few hours, he left and walked through the dark parking lot to his car. A sound pulled his attention, and he watched as two people descended from the sky. One with a rope, the other flying.
“I’ve beaten you Graves,” the flying man said.
“Not…,” Graves groaned out. “Yet.” The form of Graves clutched his midsection and spit a glob of something from his mouth. “You hit like a girl.”
“Your funeral.” the flying man darted straight for Graves, a clenched fist leading the way.
“Holy shit,” muttered David. “I better do something.” He looked for his car and found it two spots away. “Wait. I don’t have my uniform in there.” Standing there he watched the fist connect with Graves. “Plus I was fired.” Graves trajectory carried him over several cars and crashing into a light pole. “Plus, that guys a dick.”
“That wasn’t so hard.” The flying man hovered over to where Graves lay on the cement. “Let’s see who you really are.” He reached down and pulled the mask off, ripping the cowl off the cape. Staring at the prone figure, the flying man pocket his trophy. “Huh. I don’t recognize you. But someone will.” The flying man jumped into the sky and disappeared.
Standing over Graves, David looked at the unconscious body. “Yeah. He’s a dick.” David got in his car and dove off.
“I’m proud of you son,” Mr. Walls said as he hugged Ronald. “Graduating MIT with a Masters in Engineering.” Mr. Walls glowed as he broke the hug.
“Thanks, dad.” Ronald stepped back. “You too, mom.” Ronald leaned in and wrapped his arms around his mother. “You’re the best parents I could ever want.”
“Well, now,” Mrs. Walls sobbed. “There were times you didn’t always say that.”
“Water under the bridge.” Ronald broke the hug from his mother. “Trust me. I couldn’t have done it without your support. That and Danielle’s.” He turned and extended an arm to a blond woman standing nearby. “The best girlfriend a man could ever want, and I’m glad she’s with me.”
Several months later…
“Welcome to Baxter Technology.” Mr. Stewart extended his hand to Ronald. “We hope you’ll like it here.”
“Thank you Mr. Stewart,” Ronald said, his voice breaking from the vigorous shaking of his arm. “I’m sure I will. The work you’ve done with deep sea exploration and even the space program will be plenty challenging. I want to get my feet wet as soon as I can.”
“Good,” Mr. Stewart said. “You start Monday. Take this weekend and do something selfish.” He walked Ronald through the glass doors and down the steps. “See you Monday.”
Ronald drove to his one-bedroom apartment. His legs took the stair three at a time. He jingled his keys in front of the knob, but the door was yanked open.
“Well,” said the blue-eyed blond standing in the door. “How’d it go?” She left her mouth opened and held her breath.
“I start Monday!” Ronald threw his hands up in the air, then dashed forward. He embraced Danielle and locked his lips onto hers. “But first, there is something I have to do. Get changed, we’re going out.”
“R-R-Ronny!” Danielle stepped back then moved for the bedroom.
When the door closed, Ronald went to kitchen and grabbed the cookie jar on the top of the refrigerator. Sticking his hand in, he pulled out the small box he stashed in there when they moved in. He shoved the box into his jacket pocket and waited.
A few minute later and Danielle stepped out of the bedroom. She wore her nice dress, a strand of pearls, and fresh make-up. “I’m ready.”
Ronald smiled as he held her hand towards the car. He opened her door and then drove to a nice restaurant. They ordered steak and wine. It would be some time before they could afford this again.
At the lull in the conversation, Ronald pulled the box out of his pocket. He opened it towards Danielle and proposed marriage to her. In standard fair, she said yes. Danielle trembled through the desert, and out to the car. She was to be married.
On the drive home, Ronald said he was the luckiest man in the world.
Three years later…
“Ronald,” Mr. Stewart said as approached the desk. “This is a standard form. We give it to all our employees that help us get a patent.”
“Really?” Ronald turned away from his keyboard and monitor. “A patent?”
“Yes,” Mr. Stewart answered with a smile. “You did most of the work and your names goes on it. Plus,” he pulled out another form. “Because it a high seller, you get profit sharing. It isn’t much, but few people get that right away.”
“Profit sharing?” Ronald gaped at Mr. Stewart. “It was just a simple valve for better flow of oxygen.”
“We have used it for more than just oxygen,” Mr. Stewart said. “So far, it has worked for all our other gaseous delivery systems as well.” Mr. Stewart leaned forward. “It exceeded safety standards across the board. Great job! Keep it up.”
“I will.” Ronald signed the forms where indicated then gave them back to Mr. Stewart.
When Ronald got home, his good news was overshadowed by more good news. “I’m pregnant,” Danielle shared her news.
Five years after that…
“It is an honor to promote you, Ronald.” Mr. Stewart finished signing the paperwork. “I remember your first day here. You’ve done nothing but excel.”
“I like my job and the people I work with.” Ronald shrugged and smiled. “It’s fun to invent crazy gadgets and other things. Especially when people have a use for them.”
“Yes, that is rewarding.” Mr. Stewart looked up from the last piece of paper. “We also like it when you save lives and enhance the world around us.”
“Yeah,” Ronald smiled. “I like saving lives, too.” His face flushed and his eyes watered.
Seven years beyond…
“Hello?” Danielle held her cellphone up to her ear.
“Dani! Excellent.” Ronald’s voice was muffled by the background noise around him. “I need you to go into the emergency fund and empty it.”
“What?” Danielle walked to the bedroom, then the closet. “That’s supposed to be for emergencies. Life or death.”
“I know,” Ronald said, his voice sounding breathy. “This is that. Or will be.”
“What happened?” Danielle put the plastic card into her wallet and grabbed her car keys. “Are you hurt?”
“No. Just don’t believe what you see on TV.” There was some other noises that muffled Ronald’s voice. “At least not all of it is true.”
“TV. Ronny-” The line went dead.
Danielle grabbed the remote from the nightstand and tapped the power button. The large flat screen television glowed, then displayed the news.
The reporter read from the prompter off camera. “Mechanaton’s terror spree for the last three years has come to an end.” He paused as he touched his ear piece. “Oh, ladies and gentlemen, it seems that we have exclusive footage of the police taking him in. Stockade and Umber of the Valiant Squad were able to bring him down. There. Right there.”
The video paused on an image of a man in a dark green costume. His wild hair sticking out at different angles. The eyes were wide, and the mouth clenched shut.
“We have a name. The police have finished booking him and have run his finger prints. It came back with-”