“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.”
“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.
“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.
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.