Casey walked to her workstation and plopped into the seat. The smell of the air-conditioned atmosphere in the room was a vast change from the fresh beach air she spent the last weeks breathing.
She paused a few seconds as her hands fumbled with her password to login to the computer. “After being gone, I’m lucky to remember how to get to work.” She smiled at her own joke and scanned the fourteen days worth of email.
In the process of deleting several emails, Anders walked over. “Welcome back,” he said. “I bet you could use a few days to recover from your vacation.” He chuckled. “I assume you’re going through a dumpster load of emails. Nothings changed, except the policy on upgrades.”
“Great,” Casey sighed and rolled her eyes. “What is it now, five a day? Wait, three a minute? Damn, it seems like all they care about is money.”
“They want at least two a year,” Anders smiled. “Someone dropped some major bucks on the company and now they have some money to play with.”
“Nice,” Casey nodded. “At least now I won’t feel so slimy when I upset to a wounded hero.” Casey adjusted her face and changed her voice. “You could upgrade to gold status for a mere $125 extra per month. Don’t answer now, I know you’re in pain. But think about it.”
“Yeah,” Anders said with a snort. “I never did like that. I would just say that we have a gold status and list it’s perks. It works, sometimes. Enough to keep Danforth and Charles off my back.”
Casey raised her eyebrows, “Thanks. That’s a good approach. Simple without being stupid.”
“Take it easy, you’re monitors lighting up.”
Looking at the secondary monitor, Casey saw the vitals for Kevlar, Shield, and Titanium. “Great. Kevlar. First day back and I get the king of the ass-hats.”
She continued with skimming her email, but threw an eye to the vitals of the heroes on duty.
Fifteen minutes went by and Kevlar’s stats disappeared with the message KEVLAR OFF DUTY. “Thank. You,” Casey said.
Soon after, a new name took Kevlar’s place. DAFFODIL ON MISSION flashed and vitals for the newly promoted hero showed on the screen. “I’ve only heard her name. What is there about her?”
Casey tapped on Daffodil’s icon and a basic sheet appeared. The photo had the young woman with face paint in the motif of hippies. Her costume gave the appearance of tie-dye rags held together by hemp cords. Even her shoes looked like cloth basketball shoes with paint on them.
“Hmm,” Casey read the sheet. “Enhanced speed and agility, along with strength. Not invulnerable. What is this? Enhancement and manipulation of plant life. Interesting. That explains the hippie theme.”
Casey closed the sheet down and watched the monitors. After Daffodil came on, Shield left. After thirty minutes, Daffodil signed off as well. Titanium was the only one left, and he had been on for an hour now.
“He must be doing a stakeout or something,” Casey whispered. “On for an hour and no change in vitals.”
Paladin came online. Rampart came online as well. Both stayed online with Casey monitoring their vitals for well into an hour. Paladin’s vitals fluctuated, but never put Casey on alert. Rampart’s vitals only fluttered a few times. “He must have been in a fight, but his opponent wasn’t much of a match.”
Eventually, both Rampart and Paladin logged out of the system.
“Wow,” Casey exclaimed. “Titanium’s been on for two hours without so much as a single spike. A stakeout is one thing, but I don’t think this is that. He’s not unconscious.”
The ten minute lunch warning came over Casey’s monitors. These warnings were to allow the EMT to log out or at least schedule their lunches better. Casey acknowledged the warning with a click.
As she pulled her hand back from the screen, Titanium’s vitals spiked for two beats, then flat lined.
Tapping the alarm, Casey called out, “EMT Casey LeClair. High Priority retrieval for Titanium.” Dashing from her workstation, Casey ran for the launching platform and took to the air.
“EMT LeClair, this is control,” Casey’s earbud sounded. “You are cleared for maximum speed. Good luck.”
“Thank you control,” Casey said. Fitting her goggles over her eyes, Casey grit her teeth, curled both hands into fists, and flew in the desired direction. Within the next second a sonic boom echoed through the skyscrapers and other tall buildings of downtown.
Approaching the destination, Casey slowed and scanned for landmarks. She maneuvered in the direction of the partially destroyed smoke stack. Her main target, the abandoned factory sat at the foot of the stack.
Casey hovered over the dirt covered parking lot towards the double doors, then checked her wrist panel. The map indicated Titanium’s last location to be behind the doors and below the floor.
“Hmmm,” she said. “Not sure how these heroes always managed to be in holes.” Casey pushed on the door, but it didn’t budge. She took several paces back and threw her shoulder into it. Titanium’s vitals were flat lined and the sooner she got in, the better chance he had. The door flew open, toss dust into the air and letting stale air out.
Covering her mouth with an arm, Casey activated her flash light and scanned the area. She found a hole ten yards in. Shining the light in it, she saw two eyes staring back at her.
“Ahh!” Casey jumped back, gasping.
She moved forward and peered down the hole. “Hold on Titanium. I’m EMT LeClair. I’ll try to get you out of there.”
“Don’t rush on my account.”
Casey dropped the flashlight and shouted, “What the fuck?”
“Yeah, I’m stuck, not dead,” Titanium said from the bottom of the hole. “Who ever makes your sensors does a damn good job.”
“I’m an EMT, not search and rescue,” Casey said as she retrieved her light. Shining the light in the hole again, she saw the eyes were part of a masked face. “Can’t you just fly or jump out?”
“Nope,” the man said. “Titanium, remember.”
“Wait, you’re made of titanium,” Casey asked as she knelt next to the hole.
“Not exactly,” the hero said. “I’m-“
“Strong as the metal, but not as bright,” a woman’s voice said, pulling Casey’s attention. The same voice let out a low, dark chuckle.
Standing, Casey shined the light in the direction of the voice. She didn’t see anything at first. It took a second for her to spot the translucent warping several feet away.
“The hole’s too deep for me to jump out,” Titanium said.
“Look,” Casey said, her head scanning for the odd warping visual she saw earlier. “I’m an EMT and I don’t carry any drugs. Just some basic first aid equipment.”
“Titanium’s not hurt,” the woman’s silky smooth voice said. “Not yet.” The voice whispered in Casey’s ear.
Casey jerked in another direction and spun around.
“You’re strong,” Casey said towards the hole. “Climb out. Bash some hand holds or something.” Casey kept her eyes scanning.
“Unstable ground,” Titanium said. “Digging will collapse the floor, then the building. Hostages on the second floor.”
“Press against the walls,” Casey’s voice went high and sweat formed on her upper lip.
“Too far apart,” Titanium responded. “Who would have figured Il’d be trapped like this. Simple.”
“The best ones are,” the smooth female voice said, then laughed again.
Casey shifted her head in different directions. “Look, you two have some weird date ideas. I’m just gonna go.”
“My dear,” the woman’s voice said. “What makes you think I’m going to let you go?”
“Perdu,” Titanium called from the hole. “This is between you and me. Leave the EMT out of it. Let her go.”
“And let her call the Society,” the woman said. A momentary image of a very attractive woman with flowing dark hair and a dark green motif costume appeared. As fast as she appeared, she disappeared. “I don’t think so.”
Casey hugged her shoulders and let out a shiver. “I won’t tell anyone. I promise.”
The dark chuckle sounded closer to Casey. “Of course you won’t. And I’m a trustworthy citizen.” The woman laughed again.
Casey slid her real hand down to the wrist of her prosthetic. Giving it a quick jerk with a twist, the fake arm disengaged from her shoulder. Using the sound of the woman, Casey spun. Her real arm wielding her prosthetic like a club. As she crested the halfway point of her circle, Casey’s improvised club connected.
The nearly invisible woman became visible. Perdu staggered back just maintaining her feet. She flailed her arms, fending off any follow up.
Casey saw the trickle of blood from the modelesque woman’s mouth and a puffy lip forming. With her mouth open and roar escaping her throat, Casey pressed her advantage. Swinging her prosthetic, she connected with Perdu several more times.
Perdu turned away from Casey. Shuffling at first, she poured on the speed and ran for the door.
“I don’t think so.” Casey took to the air and cranked up the speed. Zooming past the fleeing woman, Casey clipped the back of Perdu’s head. The force of the blow, combined with acceleration, picked Perdu off the ground and hurled her towards the closed door.
Perdu’s limp form missed the door by a small margin and collided with the frame and wall. She slid to the floor and lay still.
Breathing heavy, Casey reached down into the hole. She held her prosthetic in her good hand, clearing the distance between the surface and the end of Titanium’s extended fingers.
“I can’t lift you. Climb,” Casey huffed.
Titanium did as he was told and climbed. Standing on the surface, he picked Casey up.
“I’m reporting you for breaking your sensor,” Casey said staring daggers at Titanium.
“I understand,” he nodded his head.
“And you’re replacing my arm,” she growled.
“Yes ma’am,” he nodded again.
“Let’s get those hostages out of here,” Casey said fastening her arm in place.
Casey arrived at the office and went directly to her workstation. Several moments passed, and she felt the presence of the messenger as he approached.
“Are you EMT LeClair,” the young man asked.
“I am,” Casey stood with her answer.
“Sign here.” The messenger handed a clipboard to the EMT.
After a quick scribble, she handed the clipboard back, and he handed the long package he held.
With practiced precision, Casey swapped out her dented arm with the new one from the package.
Her email chimed. She double clicked it.
One arm as ordered.
Dinner. Tonight. 7:30?