Micro Dot

“What is your power?” Greg’s plate-like eyes reflected the florescent lights of the hall. His wide grin showed plenty of teeth. Greg’s extended hand touched Chase’s shoulder.

Chase dropped his face and his shoulders hunched. With a heavy sigh, he answered, “I don’t wanna talk about it.”

“Come on!” Greg forced eye contact. “You’ve worked hard. That cleansing of your system made you a blank slate. There is no way it didn’t work.”

“Oh, it worked.” Chase pressed his lips tight. His hands fidgeted as he sat in a chair.

“Then what are they?” Greg sat next to his best friend.

“I,” Chase looked at Greg and mumbled the last part.

“What? I didn’t hear that.” Greg cocked an eyebrow. “I’m your bro. I won’t laugh.” Greg sat back on the chair. “Unless you got the ability to change colors. I mean, you can use that, but it is useless without something else.”

“No, I don’t change colors,” Chase said. “I shrink.”

“What?” Greg shook his head. “Did you say shrink?”

“Yeah,” Chase hung his head again. “I shrink.”

“OK.” Greg said and put his chin in his hand. “You’ll be hard to see.”

“Yeah.” Chase looked at his brother. “So then I can hide and call for help.”

Greg grimaced then nodded.

“Great!” Chase tossed his hands as he stood. “What team is gonna want that?”

Greg stood next to him. “I don’t know, but you’ll work something out.” He patted Chase on the back, then walked a few steps away. “Hey. So you know.” Greg turned around to face Chase. “I’m on reserve status with Unity. You can still call me.” He grinned as he left.

“Great.” Chase looked at the ceiling and put his hands on his hips.

“You that kid that just finished up?”

Chase turned and saw a woman wearing black and gray costume. The number eight emblazoned in the middle of her chest.

“Yeah,” Chase answered. “But you should probably know that my-”

“You shrink.” The woman took a step forward. Extending a hand towards Chase, she said, “I’m Calamitous.”

Chase extended his hand out of reaction and then paused when she told her name. “Calamitous? You’re the leader of Baleful. You cause bad luck and other things to happen.”

The woman kept her hand extended. “I am the leader of Baleful. As for the other thing that’s a matter of viewpoint.”

“What do you mean?” Chase shifted stance and looked his eyes on her masked face. “You destroyed Gillian Square and caused the Hamilton Building to collapse.”

“Those things happened,” Calamitous said. “However, there were no casualties and no fatalities.”

Chase’s mouth opened, and he blinked twice.

“Do your research.” Calamitous put her hands on the hips and tilted her head. “You’ll see we’ve never killed anyone. Nor have any innocents ever been hurt when we were involved.”

Chase shook the proffered hand. “What can I do for you?”

“We want you.” Calamitous answered as she steered Chase down the hall. “We need a specialist like you. You fill a need on our team.”

“So like, I hang out and wait for a phone call?” Chase looked at Calamitous as he walked. “Reserve status.”

“We don’t have reserves or second strings.” Calamitous continued walking as she explained. “You are either on the team or you are not.”

“I see.” Chase nodded as they approached the elevator.

“There’s one more thing,” Calamitous said holding out a plastic access card. “We’ve never been defeated. We win. All the time.”

Chase took the card and stepped into the elevator. He looked at it and saw an address with a phone number. Then the doors closed.

The next day, Chase went to the address on the card. Swiping the card allowed him access to the run-down building on the wrong-side of town. Inside the door, he spotted a group of people walking towards him.

“You made it,” Calamitous said, leading the group. “We have a situation and you’re coming.”

“What?” Chase shifted his feet. “I just got here. I’m not ready for it yet.”

“Trial by fire, kid,” an elderly man with a full cowl mask said. “You gotta get yer feet wet sometime.” He poked the ground with two canes as he tottered past Chase.

“Hurrrr.” A middle aged man staggered into view. He held his arms at odd angles with his fingers curled at the end of bent hands. Drool dangled from his chin and it looked like orthopedic shoes on his feet.

“That’s Speeder and Aim.” Calamitous pulled Chase’s arm. “We gotta go. Sponge! Get moving.”

Chase turned to see who she yelled at. A large man covered in pockmarks waddled closer. His costume consisted of spandex short, an ill-fitting mask, and mismatched boots. In a heavy wheezing breath he said, “I’m coming. Sheesh.”

“Hey, kid,” Calamitous said to Chase. “You gotta driver’s license?”

“Uh, yeah.” Chase looked at Calamitous, then at the group exiting the door.

“Good,” Calamitous tossed him a set of keys. “You’re driving. Mine’s been revoked for a year now.”

Chase made his way to the van and buckled in. “Where are we going?”

“Downtown,” Calamitous. “We want Pike and High Street.”

Chase turned the key, and the engine made the starting noise but didn’t turn over.

“Dammit.” Calamitous yanked her door open and got out. She walked several feet and turned around.

“Start it now, kid.” The old man, Speeder said. “That happens.”

Chase started the van, and it roared to life. Calamitous dashed back in and they took off.

The wheezing voice of Sponge came from the back. “What do we call you, kid?”

Calamitous, Speeder, and Aim turned and looked at him.

“Uh, Chase,” Chase said.

“Hurrr hurr.” Aim tapped Chase on the shoulder with an oddly held hand.

“Code name, son,” Speeder said. “Not yer real one. Amateurs.”

“Oh,” Chase turned at the traffic light and merged with traffic on the highway. “I haven’t picked one.”

“Micro-dot.” Calamitous looked at the group. “He shrinks. Can get into tight spaces and what not.”

Chase blushed.

“Your exit’s here,” Calamitous said, pointing to the large green sign. “Stay left, but turn right.”

Chase nodded. He followed the directions and zoomed through the yellow, almost red traffic light.

“Good timing,” Sponge said in a moist voice. “Not tickets on your first day.”

“Hurt,” Aim added.

“Yeah,” Speeder said. “That’s how Calamitous lost her license.”

Chase glanced at the woman in the co-pilot’s chair. A scowl darkened her face, and she fidgeted with her seatbelt. She turned her head and looked out the window.

“I see a spot,” Chase pulled the van into an empty area. It was a two hour zone.

The wall of glass exploded on the building across the street. Rubble spilled into the empty road and three bodies came after it.

“That looks like Fuego, Steadfast, and Racket.” Chase darted out the door.

“It is,” Calamitous called. “Wait for your orders.” She turned to the group in the van. “This is the Dark Knights. Heavily armored and armed to the teeth. Speeder leads, followed by Sponge. I’ll run interference. Aim, you take Micro-dot and work your way to Leader.”

“Who’s the leader?” Chase looked at the destroyed wall. The three previous heroes were prone and unmoving.

“Big armor and a pansy feather sticking out of his helmet,” Speeder said. He poked the ground with his canes as he moved. “You can’t miss him.”

Chase watched the old man limp-walk. Speeder picked up his pace, then Chase noticed it. Speeders feet and canes turned into a blur. The silver-white blur moved over the rubble. One by one, the heroes disappeared form the ruble. They reappeared on the safety of the sidewalk.

“Whoa!”

“Hurrrr,” Aim stood next to Chase and waited.

The van shifted, and Sponge shambled across the street.

Four dark leather clad men bounded out of the building. Two moved for Sponge. They threw punches and kicks. Sponge didn’t even bother to block. He just stepped in the way of each attack. The loud smacks carried over the empty street and Chase winced from several loud blows. One of the men pulled a baton from somewhere. Holding it like a baseball bat, he swung. Sponge’s body rippled, and the waves rolled over his body. Chase saw them flow over shoulders, and across Sponge’s back.

Sponge didn’t fall.

The baton wielder and his partner, dropped to knees, then to their faces.

“What?” Chase stared dumbfounded at what happened.

“Hurrrrr.” Aim nodded and waved crooked arm in the direction of the other two.

Calamitous moved and intercepted them.

“Gentlemen,” she held her arms out, palms facing the sky. “Where do you think you are going?”

“Move it, bitch!” One of the men cocked back a fist. As his hips pivoted, he screamed. Falling forward, he clutched his abdomen and one leg. Calamitous hadn’t laid a hand on him. The man rolled on the road and screamed louder.

The other man looked from his fallen comrade to Calamitous. He glanced over her shoulder at the Chase and Aim.

“You’re not going to make it.” Calamitous shook her head. “I wouldn’t even bother if I were you.”

“You are going to let a female deter you?”

The loud hollow voice came from an armored clad person stepping from the destroyed wall. “Knight, you will carry out your duty.”

The guy looked exactly like Speeder described. The armor enlarged shoulders and arms. Around the torso, the articulated metal slid as the Leader spoke or moved. A large, red, puffy feather extended from the top of the helmet. A black visor with slits covered the face of the Leader.

The sound of metal on metal sounded and the Leader held a long silver sword in his hand.

“Baleful. How interesting.” The Leader moved over the road in long strides. “It seems all the other teams just couldn’t deal with me and my knights.” An amplified laugh sounded from the metal clad person. “You’re not even third rate. How do you expect to defeat me?”

The downed minions moved and struggled to their feet. Each too a cane to the head from Speeder. The one screaming, got to his feet. Tears were streaming down his face.

“Go!” Calamity screamed, moving to engage the unhurt minion.

Chase felt two gentle taps on his arm. He turned, seeing Aim looking at him.

“Hurrrrrr.”

Looking around, Chase scrambled to figure out what Aim meant. Then a flapping hand showed him what.

“Go it!” Chase took a breath and jumped. At the same time, his body reduced in size. He hit the size of a tennis ball and landed in Aim’s hand.

Aim staggered forward. His arms swung in jerks, forcing Chase to dig his fingers into Aim’s gloves. Chase looked between oddly crooked fingers. Taking another breath, Chase closed his eyes. He shrank even further, stopping at the size of a marble.

The Leader saw Aim approaching and moved closer, raising his sword overhead.

Aim flung his arm forward, splaying his fingers. Chase zoomed into the air and rotated to a feet first position.

Gritting his teeth, Chase closed his eyes and focused again. The tingle told him it was happening. He shrunk to the size of BB. Opening his eyes, Chase saw the large metal sword swing. He maintained his position.

A loud clank sounded, and then everything went dark. Chase felt connection with something soft and it gave, then he felt everything move.

“Crap!” He focused again, but instead of getting smaller, he grew in size. He went past marble, past pool ball, past softball. His arms pressed against something metal and he still kept growing. The metal gave way and Chase saw daylight. Looking at his feet, he saw he was standing on the Leader’s face and chest.

The four minions of the Leader saw their fallen commander and immediately gave up. Police cars peeled around the corner and the cops arrested the villains.

Steadfast came over and approached Chase. “That was a nice bit of work. You might want to change teams.” Steadfast nodded towards Calamitous. “This team isn’t all that good.”

Chase looked at Baleful as they assembled. “What are you talking about?”

“They destroy things and cause people to get hurt.”

A microphone appeared and Chase turned, seeing a news crew capturing sound bites.

“Well, from our dashboard cam,” Chase tossed the reporter the memory card. “It looks like the Black Knights used you to take out the wall.” Chase faced the camera. “Plus, if you do your research, no one ever dies when Baleful is involved. And they always win.”

“Hey,” the reporter said. “Did you and Team Supreme take a beating two months ago from the Ministry of Mayhem?” The reporter put the microphone into the face of Steadfast. “Also, didn’t three civilians end up in a coma?”

“Well,” Steadfast held up his hands and backed a step.

“I’m good where I am.” Chase walked over to his new team.

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Special Delivery – The Race

Karl Roberts and Malcolm Forsyth exited the elevator together. Malcolm rolled to his desk while Karl walked to his. They both logged into their stations and read emails. Their fingers blurred as they responded or deleted items accordingly.

Their client lists populated on their secondary monitors.

Karl spotted the plus sign on the label for Stonewall. Tapping on the sign, the second label appeared for Barb. He noted the EMT assigned to Barb.

“Malcolm,” Karl called across the cubes that separated them. “Do you have Barb on your list?”

“Ummm,” Malcolm said, scanning his monitor. “Yup. He appears to be on mission with Stonewall. You got Stonewall?”

“Sure do,” Karl said. “Those two are notorious for causing problems and getting hurt.”

“Yeah,” Malcolm said with a heavy breath. “Let’s hope they both don’t need-”

BEEP BEEP BEEP!

The deafening sound emitted from both Malcolm and Karl’s monitors.

“You jinxed us,” Karl said exiting his workstation.

“Whatever,” Malcolm rolled his eyes as his arms circled around the wheels of his wheelchair.

Both EMTs called out their names and indicated their patients.

The doors to the rapid deployment elevator banged open, and both EMTs entered.

“Traffic conditions are building as the early morning commute picks up,” the voice said over the speakers. “Officials have been notified, and you have been given clearance for maximum capable speed.”

“Thank you, control,” Malcolm said as he tightened his gloves and spun his wheelchair around.

Karl pulled his goggles from his forehead to his eyes and shook his arms and legs.

At the ground floor, the doors flung open, and both speedsters exited. Rotating lights flashed yellow and starting blocks appeared in the flat surface.

Karl stepped into the blocks and leaned forward on his fists. Malcolm’s wheelchair folded over and the wheels widened. He crouched forward and gripped the back of his wheels.

Both gave a stiff nod. The yellow light turned to green, and both bolted from the street level pad.

“Your destinations are approximately twenty-five miles away,” the voice said over their earbuds. “Traffic patterns have not changed, but there is an accident on the secondary route involving a semi-truck.”

“Understood,” Malcolm said. His hands alternately gripped each of his wheels. The dark blur zipped through vehicles, people, and random objects in his way. Wisps of smoke blew away as he zoomed on.

Karl responded with, “Good to know.” He vaulted smaller objects, ran over vehicles, and dodged the ones that kept moving.

Both EMT’s wrist panels vibrated and chirped. A quick glance showed they were approaching the location of their patients. They slowed their pace and entered the abandoned airstrip.

Their wrist panels indicated Barb and Stonewall were three hundred yards away.

“They’re just lying there,” Malcolm said as he moved to adjust his equipment for transport. When he touched his wheels, a hand darted out and gripped his shoulder.

“Wait!”

Karl’s head inched from left to right. His eyes picked over the landscape. “Something’s not right.”

“What da ya mean,” Malcolm asked as he scanned the scene.

“There’s no foot prints,” Karl said. “None here, except mine. How did they get out there? Neither one can fly.”

Malcolm and Karl looked at the two bodies.

Karl walked forward, then turned his head towards Malcolm. “Let me check it out.” Karl zipped in the direction of the prone forms.

When his left foot contacted the ground several yards in, his brain registered a noise. The world around Karl slowed, and he looked at his foot. He saw the flames and debris flying out from the ground. The extension on his shoe dented and peeled away. Instincts kicked in and he backpedaled. The force crashed into Karl. With arms splayed and legs kicking, Karl flipped twice in the air.

Malcolm winced from the thump Karl made in the dirt next to him. Malcolm rolled over to his prone co-worker and extended a hand.

“Told you something was wrong,” Karl huffed as he jerked to a standing position. “I got hit by a trap before and they ain’t fun.”

“Depends on your point of view.”

Karl and Malcolm stared at each other. They each turned and looked in the direction the raspy voice sounded.

“From where I’m standing, that was funny.” The smile split the dark, mask covered face. Large white teeth showed in contrast of the scarred skin peeking beneath the cowl.

“Shit,” Malcolm spat. “Back-Fire!”

“Who’s he,” Karl asked.

“He makes explosives,” Malcolm answered.

“So, my reputation precedes me,” Back-Fire chuckled and took a step forward. “If you want to save Stonewall and Barb, you have to go through the maze.”

“Control,” Karl shouted. “Priority alert!” Karl’s arm blurred as he touched his ear. “Control?” He moved his finger around and in his ear. The goggles didn’t hide his wide eyes. “Where’s my earbud?” Malcolm was the only one to hear him. Malcolm checked his ear and found the earbud there missing.

Gritting his teeth, Malcolm reached for the back of his wheels. “He can’t hurt what he can’t hit!” Malcolm rolled his shoulders and thrust his hands forward. The enhanced wheelchair darted forward with a rooster tail of dust trailing behind. He cleared the distance to the gate and then touched the road.

In the next instant, he found himself at his starting place. Malcolm kept rolling his wheels. Each time he hit the road he reappeared sitting next to Karl. After six attempts he stopped.

“Roll, roll, fast as you can,” a thin man appeared next to Back-Fire. A blue t-shirt tucked into faded jeans was all he wore for a costume. That and wrap around sunglasses. “I can catch you, little gingerbread man.” The new guy let out a high pitched giggle that carried little mirth.

Back-Fire shifted in place. “The rules are simple. All you have to do is get to your patient.” With a hip cocked, he put both hands on his hips. “Like any race, only one can win. The other,” Back-Fire tilted his head to one side and a corner of his mouth tightened as he shoulder shrugged. “You can’t go directly to them. Piggy Back will reset ya.” Piggy Back, the new guy, flashed a rictus smile and let out another giggle.

Karl looked at Malcolm then back to Back-Fire. “Look, we’re-”

Back-Fire held up a finger, “On your mark.”

Malcolm locked his eyes with Karl. Next he reached back and adjusted one of the straps on his wheelchair. With his fingers he flicked the loose end so it dangled. Then looked back at Karl.

“Get set,” Back-Fire said, raising a second finger.

Piggy Back shouted, “Whoa!”

Back-Fire opened his hand and splayed his fingers. A small yellow-gold glow appeared. It exploded with a sharp crack.

Both speedsters took off and then separated in opposite directions. Their paths carried them in a large circle around the area seeded with explosives.

Karl’s legs and arm pumped. With his staggered step, he worked at not tripping or falling.

Malcolm hunched over and swung his arms in a steady pattern. Up, forward, spread fingers, rake the dirt, and start over. Several times he spotted small glowing spheres. They were tossed into the backdraft he created with his wheelchair.

Karl passed Malcolm at the top of their circle and saw what Malcolm was doing. Letting his body lurch in the natural gate, Karl also scooped chunks of dirt and the occasional glowing sphere.

After two passes, both speedsters had a dust cloud following their wakes.

“Hmmm,” Back-Fire said. “Didn’t count on that. It’ll choke em.”

Piggy Back giggled. “Choke on their own dust. Because breathing is a must.”

Back-Fire nodded.

Karl and Malcolm brought the circle tighter and tighter. Several glowing spheres followed both EMTs. Karl pointed to the figures on the ground at the center.

“We’re close enough to get them,” Karl shouted.

On the next pass, Malcolm nodded. “Zoom in on Back-Fire. I’ll come up behind you.” Karl nodded.

At the top of the circle, Karl turned for the direction of Back-Fire. The dust cyclone, along with their blurs, hid their actions.

Karl broke through the flying debris. He leaned forward and poured on the speed with his stutter step. The distance was cleared in an instant.

“Shit!” Back-Fire stepped backwards.

Piggy Back threw both of his hands forward and Karl disappeared.

The dark figure behind Karl cleared the same distance. Malcolm tucked his chin to his chest and clenched his jaws.

Piggy Back screamed like a girl and repeated his actions. Malcolm disappeared.

The rippling sound of small explosions rolled in waves across the flat expanse of the airfield.

Karl scooped up Barb. Malcolm did the same with Stonewall. They redirected for the closest exit, which was how they came in.

The last of the spheres exploded as Karl, followed by Malcolm approached. Both Piggy Back and Back-Fire fall in exaggerated slow motion as the speedy EMTs crested the gate. The two villains hit the ground as Karl and Malcolm turned down the road and disappeared.

Karl and Malcolm turned from the desk at the hospital.

“Hey, speedy,” a man said, walking towards the EMTs.

“Fisticuffs,” Karl said, shaking the hero’s gloved hand. “This is Malcolm. We just brought in Stonewall and Barb.”

“Yeah,” Fisticuffs said. “I just heard. You also took out Piggy Back and Back-Fire. How’d you do that?”

“Well,” Malcolm rubbed his chin. “Karl lost his shoe extension when he stepped into a trap.”

“Again,” Fisticuff turned and smiled at Karl. “You’ve gotta stop that.”

“Yeah,” Karl blushed.

“I guessed where the bombs were,” Malcolm continued talking. “Giving Karl a signal, we took off running. Going in opposite directions we circled around the trap area. We tossed up the bombs along with dirt and small rocks. This gave us cover, and the bombs fell into our wake.”

“Wait!” Fisticuffs held out a hand. “You two ran in circles dragging explosives?”

Karl nodded. “When we had most of them in the air, we ran at Piggy Back and Back-Fire.”

“Let me guess,” Fisticuffs switched his stance and tilted his head. “They didn’t expect that. Piggy Back panicked and teleported each of you away.”

“Just on the other side of the dust we kicked up,” Malcolm said.

“They missed the bombs,” Karl added. “We grabbed out patients and booked before they even hit the ground.”

“Yeah, we did,” Malcolm held a hand up and Karl completed a hi-five.

“Good,” Fisticuffs said. “I have something for both of you.” He reached into a pouch on his belt. Extending a hand, Fisticuffs held two gold colored plastic cards. “We’re recruiting. Be there Friday. New Employee briefing at 8:30. Breakfast buffet opens at 7:45. You two look like you could use a meal to three.” Fisticuffs turned and walked away.

Karl and Malcolm looked at the card in their hands, then each other. Their faces flushed, eyes went wide, and mouths hung open. “No way!”

Rogue Telekinetic – The Phone

Jack Davis walked down the wide sidewalk. It wasn’t unusual to see people bent over their smart phones as they walked. It was unusual to see more people than average doing it.

The ages ranged from kids to adults. Two kids nearby shouted and had smiles on their faces. A group clustered together, facing in different direction. A young man jumped and his eyes lit up as he did a fist pump.

“I don’t get it,” Jack shook his head. “I have one of those things and never found anything close to interesting on it.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Jack saw a kid walk across the grass, then the sidewalk. The kid’s feet touched the curb. Jack’s eyes darted towards the mini-van rolling through the intersection.

“Dammit,” Jack spat. Screwing up his eyes, Jack pictured a wall in front of the kid. The kid stopped moving, his arms folded to his chest, and a hollow thump sounded.

The mini-van zoomed inches in front of the kid, grabbing his attention. In his surprise, the kid jumped back. He looked at his phone, then the mini-van. The kid’s eyes went wide, and his mouth went small. Reaching a hand towards the street, the kid felt the resistance that stopped him.

“Whoops,” Jack muttered and turned his power off.

The kid stumbled and looked around. After checking that traffic eased, he crossed the street. Once across the street, the kid assumed his previous posture of hunched shoulders and thumbs on phone. He brushed against a vending machine and kept going.

“Hmmm,” Jack said. “You would think that would have sparked change.”

Jack walked a few more paces, then heard screeching tires. Turning, Jack saw two kids, a compact car, and two phones smashed on the asphalt.

“Well, there you have it,” Jack said with a head shake.

Seeing a bench, Jack moved for it and sat down. With a few sideway glances, Jack erected a wall on the same path he did before. Next, he pictured another wall extending from the first. Jack repeated this in his head until a complete square formed around the open park. Once the walls were up, he focused on making the walls thicker and taller. When he had this pictured in his head, five minutes had passed.

The test came within seconds of Jack finishing it. Three people approached one wall while five approached another. All eight people had the same posture and the same actions.

First one bumped into the wall, then another. The sudden stop pulled heads up from their phones. It wasn’t long before a few more people approached the walls and were stopped. With ten people stymied, more people looked up from their phones to see what happened.

Several minutes later more people put their phones to their ears and talked. They waved their arms at the street and looked at street signs. Some approached the walls though they could not see them. Their hands showed them where it was.

The whoop of a police siren caused traffic to stop and pedestrians to cluster. Two police officers stepped from their cruiser and approached.

“What do we have here,” questioned the older officer.

Several people waved arms and others shouted to be let out of the prison. One or two even pounded on the invisible wall.

Jack Davis removed the wall in his mind and the invisible wall vanished.

“Look here,” the cop said. “I sat here and watched several of ya nearly kill yourself by walking out into traffic. You got your heads buried so far into your phones you don’t know what the hell you’re doing.”

The people in the open park quieted and looked around. People backed away from the curbs and most put their phone in their pocket.

The cop spoke up, “Now, it looks like whatever that was saved a lot of lives, if not injuries. Be thankful. More important, be mindful of what you’re doing.”

The cop then turned and sat in his cruiser. As the other cop drove past Jack, the older cop nodded at him. Jack smiled and waved back.

Special Delivery – Karl

Karl Roberts tossed his head back, then sucked in a large mouthful of his beverage. The three pills went down. “Blah!” Karl flicked his tongue across his teeth. He then took several swallows of his beverage, stopping when the last bit went through the nozzle of his large sports water bottle.

At his workstation, he signed into the computer, opened his mini-fridge, and pulled out an apple. The largest of his three monitors filled with blank squares and a message in the center.

In queue. Waiting.

His eyes darted over to the laptop screen. The email on Karl’s screen updated him on various things over night. After reading each message, he deleted or kept it. Several emails disappeared from his inbox. He leaned back and waited.

The first shift is always the quietest. I see why Vivian, Anders, and Lloyd take it. Well, I know why they put Lloyd on it.

Karl munched on his apple while his eyes picked up scanning all of his monitors. It wasn’t long before he stood and paced in the small confines of his workstation. The thigh tapping soon followed. Several seconds later, mindless humming and other mouth noises began.

“Yup. The first shift is the quietest,” Karl said.

“It used to be, until you started working it.” Anders looked over his monitors and shook his head. “You should do something about that A.D.D. of yours, Momentum.”

Karl stopped all movement. With pinched lips and narrowed eyes, he stared at Anders. “Roly-poly, I’m sure you remember reading the memo on made up code names. If I am not mistaken, you have a few strikes against you in that area.”

“Fine, Karl.” Anders turned his head back to his monitors. “Just please try to keep the noise to a minimum.”

“Fair enough, Anders.”

Volt & Daedalus is on mission.

This flashed on Karl’s larger monitor. Finally, some action. Or at least something to monitor.

Karl turned and watched as two of the four squares populated with a headshot of both heroes and their initial vitals. He noted their names in a bolded font and gold in color.

Karl took a box of cookies out of a drawer. He munched on a handful. Reaching into the mini-fridge, Karl pulled out another large sports water bottle. He took a long pull from the liquid.

Fisticuffs is on mission.

Karl acknowledged the message and a third box filled on his monitor. Unlike the others, the third was in a normal sized font and white.

Three hours passed. All three clients’ vitals had spiked, but they didn’t stay there long. As the fourth hour crested, Volt & Daedalus’ boxes cleared from the screen.

Karl called up the GPS coordinates for Fisticuffs. According to the map, the coordinates weren’t too far away.

BEEP! BEEP!

Karl’s head jerked to the monitor. Fisticuffs’ vitals spiked and remained for a minute.

Karl checked his uniform and put his utility belt on. Last, he checked his shoes. Being a runner, he needed specialized foot gear. Everything was set and secured.

Fisticuffs vitals jumped higher, then an unconscious indicator showed across the box. Pulling the last of his drink into his mouth, Karl darted out the launch bay and down the stairs.

A quick glance at his wrist panel showed Karl he was only seven miles from Fisticuffs last location. Karl put his head down and leaned into his sprint.

A left, three blocks, right, five blocks, a diagonal to the left, then one block. He is in an alley.

A mere ten-seconds passed and Karl turned into the alley. There was an odd sound, and Karl felt a tug on his left foot. He looked down and saw smoke wisps rising from his foot. Losing his running rhythm he fell, rolling to a stop against a prone form.

Scrambling to a seated position, Karl scanned the body. “Fisticuffs? My name is EMT Second Class Roberts. I am your transport. Are you conscious?”

There was no response. Karl probed for a pulse and found one. He confirmed his location with his wrist panel. A blue dot appeared three blocks from where his red dot blinked on the display.

Karl stood and felt off balance. He looked at his feet. The left foot, the one that was shorter than the right by two inches, didn’t have the extended sole anymore. Being born this way, he was used to the shoes, but since his powers kicked in, no one noticed it when he hauled ass.

Karl leaned down to pick up the unconscious super hero.

“No. No. Don’t do that.”

Karl jerked upright.

“You see, we did that to the indomitable Fisticuffs. And, we are going to take your belt. The one with the drugs in it.”

The two figures came into view from the shadows. Both were solid and well-built and both had on masks. The familiar voice spoke again. “My name is Vapor, and this is my companion, Two-Step.” Vapor extended a hand, but Karl flinched back. The hand kept coming though. The arm, hand, and body it was attached to turned to smoke, and a tendril darted behind Karl.

“You see. I can move like that and it will be hard for you to stop me.”

Karl felt Vapor touch his belt. A snap-hiss sounded and the grey forcefield popped into place around Karl.

“Ahhhh!!” Vapor pulled his hand back, shaking it. “I see you are well equipped. Let’s see how you deal with physical confrontation.”

Karl knew the regulations on dealing with robbers. He was to defend himself, the client if possible, and get the hell out of there. “I don’t want trouble. I just want to take Fisticuffs and be on my way. Let me do that and I won’t report you.”

The robber named Two-Step shuffled forward with fists up. He led with a simple one-two combination. Karl pivoted one direction, then another, letting the punches go by him.

Karl spoke out loud, placing a hand on his ear. “Control,thisisEMTRobertsontheFisticuffs’call.IambeingrobbedbytwoindividualsthatcallthemselvesTwo-StepandVapor.”

“Say again, EMT. You are speaking too fast.” The voice sounded in his ear.

Karl stopped moving. “I said. This is EMT Roberts. I am on the Fisticuffs’ call.” BSSSRRKKK!

Karl felt his body move in the air for a second, then the motion stopped. Looking up from his seated position, he noticed Two-Step shaking a hand. Karl’s forcefield held and kept him from feeling the punch and the collision with the wall.

Getting to his feet, Karl spat, “Fuck this shit.” He clenched his fists, then set his feet to run.

“Forget it kid. Two-Step has your rhythm.” Vapor pointed to his partner. “Aside from enhanced strength, that is what he does. He sees your rhythm and predicts what you are going to do, then he punches you.”

“I just want to get my client.” Karl pointed to the slumped form as it moaned. “He’s still alive and I have a reputation of keeping them that way.”

“Well, that may be. But for now, give us the drugs and we will be on our marry way.”

“No deal.”

Karl darted forward with a limping stride. Two-Step focused in on the speedster. His head flinched back, and his eyebrows squished together. Two-Step brought up loose fists and stepped back a pace.

The narrow alley didn’t allow for Karl to get to full speed, but it was enough to clear the distance to his target in a second. With his limited velocity adding to his force, Karl landed three punches in a row.

The blood showed on Two-Step’s lips, followed by the red mark on his cheek. Two-Step’s hands opened. He took several steps back from both Karl and the prone form of Fisticuff.

Vapor transformed into mist and floated toward the melee.

Karl turned on a dime, and bent to pick up his client. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the misted form descend over him.

Raising up, Karl extended both of his arms. From there, he spun both arms in tight circles. This sent a wind blast, though not a large one, at the villain. Mist tendrils peeled off and dissipated. In a few seconds enough of the mist had thinned that, Karl stopped and picked up Fisticuffs.

In a fluid motion, Karl bolted towards the medical facility. Inside he deposited his client, then filled out the forms.

“Fisticuffs would like to speak to you.” The doctor took the clipboard from Karl.

“Sure.” Karl limped back to the triage area. On the table, he saw the hero sitting up. Both of Fisticuff’s eyes had black and blue rings under them. His nose didn’t look straight, and there were contusions on his body.

“Are you the kid that brought me in?”

“Yes, sir.” Karl stood inside the door.

“How the hell did you get me out of there?” Fisticuff tilted his head as he lifted an arm letting someone stitch a wound.

“Well, I ran into a trip trap and it took the bottom of my shoe off.”

“What?” Fisticuff looked at the runner’s feet.

“One of my legs is shorter than the other by two inches.” Karl stood with both feet side by side. His right knee flexed to show the difference.

“What does that have to do with anything?” Fisticuffs rubbed his head.

“Well, Two-Step reads rhythm and can predict your next action.”

“Yeah, I know that.” Fisticuff sucked a sharp breath over his teeth. “I take him out fast, but for some reason he was faster than I was.”

“I don’t know about that.” Karl limped forward. “When I ran at him, limping like this, he looked confused. Like he couldn’t read me. So, while his mind was processing it, I tagged him.”

“No shit!” Fisticuffs smiled. “That right there is some good info. Thanks.”

“Sure thing.” Karl turned and left. He took off at full speed, clearing the distance to his workstation in under three minutes.

#

“How’s that A.D.D. working for you?” Anders walked into his workstation as Karl got back.

“Not too bad. How about you? Eat any small children?” Karl smirked back at Anders.

An email indicator flashed on Karl’s screen. He tapped the email and read it.

Karl,

Thanks for the assist and added information. I need to work that into my training.

That leg issue has to be some form of problem for a runner like yourself. I hope you don’t have to pay for that out of your pay. Just in case, you have a present coming.

Fisticuffs (Karl Jenkins).

Mr. Danforth walked across the room towards Karl. “Roberts. The next time you use the radio, you need to slow down. You and that A.D.D. speak makes it hard for control to understand you.”

Anders made a rude noise, then turned back to his monitors.

“We had to slow down your recording to get that you were attacked.” Mr. Danforth stared at Anders. “You could’ve been killed. You know my three rules. If you need a refresher, talk to Anders there. Don’t do that shit again.”

Anders turned red at this, locked his station, then hurriedly walked off.

Mr. Danforth placed a box on Karl’s desk. “This came, special delivery.”

Karl took the box and opened it. He pulled a metallic alloy shoe extension out of it. A small note was attached.

This thing is lite and durable. Should keep that limp at bay. – F