Sibling Rivalry

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.

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Secret Origins – Speeder

“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.

“AHHHHHHHHH!!!!”

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

Rogue Telekinetic – Red Sports Car

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.

Special Delivery – Edie

Edwina Gibson walked through the cube farm. Her blond hair floating just above the five foot walls that separated desks. She diverted her eyes whenever she passed someone and would only lift a hand to wave if anyone said “hi Edie” to her. A sigh escaped her lips as she stepped into her cube.

“I keep leaving a sticky for him.” Edie pulled the chair out, spinning it so she could sit. Flexing her knees, she hopped onto the chair. Her feet didn’t touch the floor. Next, she pulled the lever to adjust the height. The chair didn’t move. Keeping the lever up, she bounced in place until her feet were flat. “Karl, please just lower the seat.”

Pulling herself to the desk, she pressed the button to lower the entire surface. The process took all of ten-seconds. Edie unlocked her set of drawers and pulled out a canister of wipes. Plucking one, she started with the keyboard. Once she finished, she tapped the keyboard and logged in.

During the few minutes it took for her email to load, Edie pulled another wipe and ran it over the desk surface. She moved to the drawers, the shelf, and finally the monitors. As she tossed the wipe into the trash, her email finished and three clients appeared on her monitor. “Garbage, Predestinate, and Valor. Not a shabby group.”

She took a few moments to put each client in their own quadrant of her monitor, leaving one blank. Turning her attention to her email, she read yesterday’s messages and ended with today’s. Clicking on a few different folders, she did the same thing.

Valor fell off her monitor first. Edie acknowledged the message when Valor left his mission. Predestinate exited her mission a few moments later. Again, Edie acknowledged the message.

Folding her hands on the desk, she stared at the health monitor. Garbage’s vitals took up the entire screen. Edie moved her mouse pointer and clicked on the picture.

The unmasked face needed a shave and buck-teeth stuck out over his bottom lip. Edie stared at the scar that ran over an eye on the screen. Stifling a shutter, she pulled up the basic sheet of Garbage.

“Strength, high rated toughness, and decent speed.” Edie looked at the face again. Her face wrinkled. “He should be able to get through whatever he’s into.”

BEEP BEEP BEEP!

Edie locked eyes on the picture on her screen. A message blinked below it. GARBAGE BELOW THRESHOLD.

“Oh, man!” Edie stood and tapped her mouse. “EMT first class Edwina Gibson retrieving Garbage.” She tapped her wrist panel and the vital screen transferred. Taking rapid steps she exited her cube, the row, and turned on the main walkway.

“Uh, EMT Gibson,” the voice in her earbud said. “You are cleared to transfer client.”

“That’s a negative, Control.” Edie moved to the open double doors and stepped on the flight deck. “I got this.” Under her breath, she said, “Even if his name is Garbage.”

Edie jogged the last few steps then strode over the ledge. Instead of falling she stepped onto an orange ball the size of an oven. Hovering in place for a split second, Edie faced the direction she needed.  The ball moved then picked up speed. It moved out of the way of taller buildings and other objects.

As the fifth minute ticked by, the ball shrank carrying Edie to the concrete surface. She stepped from the ball and it disappeared. A glance at her wrist panel gave her the next direction. Following it, she found a large dumpster. “He better not be in there.”

BEEP!

Edie looked at her panel again. Garbage’s vitals dropped. Edie pulled her leather gloves from her pouch and put them on. She used the makeshift ladder welded into the dumpster’s frame. Reaching for the edge, she worked her way to the top of the dumpster, dangling her feet inside.

“Garbage?” Her head poked over the ledge. “Oh, God it’s disgusting.” She felt her stomach churn and her throat tighten. “No.” Edie hoisted herself over the ledge and into the refuse below. “They don’t pay me enough for this.”

A moan sounded. She turned her head in the direction. “Garbage?”

“You’re in a dumpster,” a voice outside said. “Where else does garbage belong.” The voice sounded metallic, and muffled. “This appears to be a two-for-one special.” A high-pitched giggle followed.

“Wait!” Edie jumped, but the refuse below her feet didn’t allow for much height. “I’m an EMT.”

“What?” The voice went louder. “I can’t hear you. The lid is closed.” The high-pitched giggle sounded again, then the lid crashed down.

“NO!” Edie pounded on the sides.

A loud metallic clang echoed inside the dumpster.

“Ta-ta,” the strange voice said. Fading running footsteps came next, then quiet.

“Great!” Edie turned on the flashlight at her belt. Reaching one foot forward, she moved aside various boxes and other gunk. She repeated this process and made her way across the width of the dumpster.

Taking a finger, she poked at her earbud. “Control,” she said, her voice bouncing in the metal box. “Control, this is EMT Gibson. Please respond.” Static answered. “Now, I am trapped.”

“Flix likes to do that.” A mound of trash moved. “Ugh.”

Edie spun in place and pointed her light at the moving junk. “Garbage?”

“Yeah,” the costumed man said, wincing at the light in his face. “You must be one of them EMT people that I pay for.”

“EMT First Class Gibson.” Edie straightened her posture and smoothed her uniform. “You’re conscious, so this shouldn’t be too difficult. How hurt are you?”

“Near a long, slow, and agonizing death,” Garbage said, pushing off the rubbish to his knees.

Edie’s eyes went wide. Scanning the man in front of her, she said, “I don’t see any wounds.”

“Carbon fiber.” Garbage pivoted to face her. He pointed to a large clump of black on his chest. “It’s like an allergic reaction, with the side effect of making me weaker than a baby.”

Edie moved closer to Garbage. She reached her hands for the clump and worked her fingers behind it.

“Unless you’re stronger than you look, that ain’t gonna cut it.” Garbage stuck an arm out and braced himself against the side of the dumpster. “Do you have a cutting device? Laser or something?”

“Yes,” Edie said. Her hand flew to her belt and found the pen shaped device. “It should cut through most things. The charge is limited to twenty-seconds.”

“Twenty-seconds?” Garbage took the offered device. “I guess to keep it from being used a weapon.”

“That’s what they said during orientation.” Edie moved closer to Garbage and watched.

“This is gonna hurt.” Pointing the device at his chest, Garbage touched the button. A bright blue beam shot out and cut into the black hunk. Smoke floated up and the smell of burning chemicals mixed with meat followed.

“AHHHHHHH!”

“It’s grafted to you.” Edie examined the area. There wasn’t any blood, but she saw the burn marks on both the item and Garbage. “If we could get the lid off, we could get you out of here.”

“Well, I’m useless in that area.” The big man stood and his shoulders touched the lid. Flexing his knees, he put his hands on the lid and pushed. Nothing. Sweat poured down his face and his breathing rasped. “I haven’t been this week since before I was exposed.”

“You weren’t born this way?” Edie looked at the hulking figure. “What happened?”

“I worked for sanitation,” Garbage said. “A company dumped some type of stuff in the landfill. I was sent to clear it up and call in the correct team to clear it out. An hour after I arrived on the scene, I was knocked out. A month later and I woke up in the hospital, looking like this.”

“So that’s why you call yourself Garbage.” Edie looked at the man before him. “I thought it was because-”

“My face and attire?” Garbage let out a coughing laugh. “No sweetheart. The teeth and scar are mine. My abilities are enhanced when I run through sewers, landfills, and other junk. That’s why I smell this way. Plus, my body burns up waste and turns it into power that I use to beat bad guys.”

“Well, use this stuff.” Edie kicked at the junk around her legs and knees.

Garbage poked at the chunk on his chest. “Can’t.”

Edie sighed. “I can do something, but it might not work.”

“Anything is better than nothing,” Garbage plopped down on his rump, and leaned on the wall. “What’s the worst that could happen?”

“We get crushed.” Edie said into her chest.

“Faster than suffocating.”

Edie’s eyes cut to Garbage. His eyes were closed and his breathing slowed.

“Here goes everything.” Edie shuffled to the center of the box. She extended both arms to the unoccupied side. After a deep breath, she straightened her fingers.

Colorful, softball-sized spheres appeared. They filled the wall and cascaded down like an avalanche. More spheres came into existence, these bigger by half. Again, they flowed down the mountain of color they made. More and more spheres appeared. A minute flew by and the sphere pile reached the lid.

“What can they do?” Garbage lifted his head and watched the balls take up space.

“I can fly and carry with them.” Edie stepped back.

“They don’t explode or anything?”

“Nope.” Screwing up her eyes, the balls appeared at a faster rate. Edie stepped further and further back. Then her back touched the wall. “Oh, man. I’m going smell like garbage for a month.”

“Huh.” Garbage looked at the petite woman.

“Sorry.”

Garbage waved it off.

The balls passed the halfway mark and would soon be on top of them. Edie grunted when the balls forced her hands back.

“Keep going,” Garbage sat with his back to the wall and the spheres piled on his lap.

Edie produced more spheres. Soon she stood with her hands by her side and the balls pressing in on her.

A muffled, “more” came from Garbage. “More. Something’ll break.”

“Yeah, us.” Edie kept bringing the spheres.

A loud metallic creak echoed in the dumpster.

Edie screamed as more balls appeared.

Another creak followed by a loud pop.

Then a boom.

Light poured in through the translucent spheres, bathing the dark in different colored lights.

“You did it!” Garbage pushed some of the balls off him. “We’re gonna make it.”

“Better than that.” Edie waved a hand, and the spheres dispersed, faster than they appeared. “We’re out of here.” She pointed at Garbage and a dark blue light encased him. Edie pointed at the ground and an orange ball appeared. Next, it enlarged under her feet. Both spheres lifted out of the dumpster and carried them to the cement outside.

“NO!” The strange voice from before said. “You’re supposed to be dead and take this EMT with you.” Flix slinked forward. He moved to grab Edie.

“Get away from me, you creep!” Without conscious though, Edie extended a hand. A black sphere exited her palm. No light flowed through the ball as it cleared the short distance between the two people. It connected with the chin of Flix and knocked him on his back.

Scrambling to get to his feet, Flix fidgeted with something on his belt.

“Watch out!” Garbage reached a hand out.

Edie brought both hands together and a grey sphere encased the projectile Flix threw. A loud, high-pitched, beep sounded. Then the it accelerated. Edie directed the sphere up.

BOOM!

Several feet up it exploded. The people below safe.

“Damn!” Flix lunged for Edie.

With a flick of her wrist, Edie sent a large sphere at Flix. His body fit inside and held him in place. Banging came from inside, but Edie turned the skin of the sphere opaque.

Touching her earbud, Edie said, “EMT First Class Gibson requesting emergency transport for Garbage and some trash.”

Garbage’s face broke into a loud laugh.

“Come again, EMT,” the voice in her ear said. “You need emergency transport for trash?”

“Send the cops. They need to restrain Flix. I have him detained.” Edie moved to Garbage. She touched the sphere that carried him out of the dumpster. It disappeared. “An ambulance should be here shortly.”

“Yeah, I’m not going anywhere.” Garbage looked up at her. “For a small chick, you pack a punch.”

“You’re not so bad for Garbage,” she smiled at him.

Edie walked from the elevator and towards her workstation. “Karl, you could have at least wiped the keyboard down when you spill on it.” She shook the plastic keyboard over the trash can. Bits and pieces of discarded something or other fell to the receptacale. Next, she pulled a moistened wipe and cleaned it. The rest of her routine was abandoned as she logged in. The desk lowered as she held the button and she bounced to put the chair at her height.

Edie watched her monitor and scanned emails. Occasionally a client’s vitals appeared, and she tracked them, but mostly it was a quiet shift. The dinner break message appeared on her screen. With a flick of the mouse she dismissed it and logged out of her station. Retracing her steps from the beginning of her shift, she made her way to the elevator. Inside, she pressed the L button.

When the doors opened before her stood a tall man with a broad chest and big shoulders. “Perfect timing.” She stepped from the metal box with a wide smile on her face.

“Yup,” the man said. “Never keep a lady waiting.” The man extended a large hand.

Edie put her small hand in it and both walked to the door.

The Breakthrough

Brad moved through the series of maneuvers. Concentration and focus plain on his face. With a loud yell and tensing every muscle he completed the last move.

“Excellent!” Howard Franks clapped his hand on Brad’s shoulder. “You have it down. Your test should be a breeze.”

“I hope so, Mr. Franks,” Brad said as he relaxed his posture. He walked to his bag, untying the long black belt around his waist. It showed small signs of wear and a few white threads poked out at an edge. Taking a few seconds to fold it up, Brad placed the belt in his bag. He pulled a towel out and wiped the sweat from his face, neck and arms.

“So,” Howard said, approaching Brad. “As your instructor, I have to ask. What is your biggest dream? If you could change one thing about you, what would it be?” Howard grinned at the last question. It always got a few standard answers.

Brad paused, put his hands on his hips, then locked eyes with his teacher. “Superpowers.”

“What?” This was not what Howard had expected. Especially from someone as well put together as Brad Michaels.

“I know,” Brad smiled and grabbed his bag. “I would like to have, or gain superpowers.”

“You have those.” Howard followed Brad to the large double doors. “You are a martial artist in every sense of the word.”

“I know,” Brad said. “With superpowers, I could be more. Do more. I don’t fear knives or clubs. Guns I respect and know that the wielder is the most vulnerable point. Being outnumbered would only slow me down.” Brad pushed through the doors. “Being strong enough to lift a car would let me chop through burning buildings that had people trapped. If I could fly, I could be in places fast. With superpowers, I would change the world.”

Howard paused a beat. “Heroes and villains have that same goal. It’s not the goal that is the problem, it is the means.”

Brad chuckled. “I know that, Mr. Franks. I wouldn’t be a villain.” Brad bowed to his teacher, shook his hand and walked to the parking lot.

“Villains don’t seem themselves as bad guys,” Howard muttered to the departing figure.

As he drove home, Brad reflected over his teachings and training. Mr. Franks, along with others, taught him not just martial arts, but life. He learned to persevere, be honest, and help others. Brad worked hard at the beginning to incorporate these things, along with other things, into his life. The last few years his life improved. He landed a great job, found a fantastic apartment, and had a date in three nights time.

The loud boom snatched his focus back to driving. A tanker jackknifed a few yards ahead. The two cars in front of him had glowing tail lights. He turned, avoiding a crash with the second car. His choice kept him from the collision. The other two cars weren’t so lucky.

Slamming his car into park, Brad scrambled from his car. He opened the driver’s door and helped the woman there out. She had a cut on her forehead, so he walked her to the curb. Once she was settled, Brad turned back to the accident.

The remaining car had a woman behind the wheel, a kid in the back seat, and an infant in a carrier. Brad pulled on the doors, but they didn’t give. He saw the collision had damaged the car enough that the doors were sealed. Looking in, he saw the kid was screaming, and the woman was groggy, but looking around.

“Cover your head!” He stepped back and clenched both fists at his waist. Inhaling, Brad flushed his mind of everything. With a fluid motion, he lunged forward and shoved both bullet-fists to the windows. His knuckles connected and penetrated the safety glass of the windows.

Both panes of glass spiderwebbed, then fell out of their frames. He reached in, unbuckled the kid. “Get over there. By that lady.” The screaming kid ran to the woman who held out a hand.

Next, Brad repeated that for the driver.

“My baby!”

“I got him.” Brad didn’t hesitate and climbed into the back seat. He had never dealt with a child seat before. The big red button stood out to him, and he pushed it. A loud thunk sounded and he pulled on the handle. The heavy plastic carrier separated. He looked in and saw the sleeping infant, peace covering his face. Brad move to the window and handed the cradle to the woman. “Over there.” He pointed to where the people were gathering.

Brad shimmied out of the window and dashed over to the big rig. A dark green liquid spewed from a gash in the tank. The cab and surrounding road were covered in the thick film. Without thinking, Brad flexed his knees and moved over the near slick surface.

Reaching the door, he yanked on the handle. The door flew open and the driver, a heavyset man, fell on him. Brad collapsed with the excessive weight to the goo covered road.

“Mister!” Brad jostled the dazed man laying on top of him. “Mister. I need you to get out of here and off me.”

“Uhhh..” The heavy man blinked a few times. “Oh shit. Sorry.” The driver pushed off Brad and stood. In a lazy staggering step, he moved to where the others were standing.

Brad got to his feet and moved to the huddling people. They all expressed their thanks, and the women went in for hugs. He held them at bay as he was covered in the thick green goo.

Ambulances and a firetruck arrived several moments later, followed by three police cars. In a hours time the scene was cleared. EMTs checked everyone out and informed them to check in with a doctor within twenty-four hours. They all agreed they would.

At home, Brad ravaged his refrigerator and pantry. After eating three dinners, he felt satiated. Soon after, he felt drowsy. Taking the hint, he showered, then went to sleep.

“The light is coming,” a voice whispered.

“Yes, the light is coming,” another voice whispered.

“Shelter is here. Come.” This was a third voice.

“Who’s there?” Brad sat up, throwing the blankets and pillows off him. His head turned different directions looking for the source of the voices. Sliding from the bed, he landed cat-like and even distributing his weight. Both hands floated in front of him, fingers light and ready for anything.

“The human is moving,” a deeper voice from a different direction said. “It will come in here and turn on the brightness. Find shelter.”

“I will defend myself and my home.” Brad curled his fingers into fists and moved for the deeper voice. Approaching the bathroom door, he nudged it open with a foot. When it spread to an arm’s width, Brad darted a hand inside, flicked on the light, and shouldered into the small room.

“Run! Scatter!” The deeper voice screamed in panic.

Spinning in place, Brad looked around. He only saw his reflection in the mirror. The shower curtain hung open, and there wasn’t anybody there.

“Hurry! Go faster!” The panic in the voice reached a newer height.

From the corner of his eye, Brad picked up movement. He jerked his head and arms in the direction, then stomped into a favored stance.

Two cockroaches scampered for the toilet.

“Here it comes,” the deeper voice said. It came from the direction of the roaches.

Brad gritted his teeth and raised a foot. With deadly accuracy and a loud thump, he stepped on the trailing roach.

“Hruthergha!” The lead roach stopped moving and turned. The antennae twitched, then lifted. “Human, you killed my mate. I will avenge you with my family.” The antennae twitched again, then the roach darted for the cover the toilet.

Brad moved to follow the roach, but it squeezed through the smallest of gaps between the floor and wall.

“Did I hear that right,” Brad said rubbing his ears. “Did that roach just threaten to avenge it’s mate? Against me?” Brad shook his head.

Reaching into the shower, Brad turned on the cold water, then the hot. He dropped his sleeping shorts and t-shirt, then climbed into the cool water. Letting it run over him, he woke to the briskness. The water slowly heated, and he showered. Once he cleaned his body, he dried himself, then continued on his normal routine.

An hour later, Brad headed outside towards his car.

“No! The winged demon dives.” This high-pitched voice came from the trees next to his apartment building.

Brad moved to check the area. He only saw a bird land and peck at the ground. Squinting into the shade, he didn’t see anything.

“Bigger jump, Lughrty,” a bright voice said.

“Like this papa,” a similar bright voice said, only a different pitch.

“Yes.” The first voice sounded proud and happier. “Excellent. Longer instead of higher now.”

Brad watched two grasshoppers bound over the sidewalk in front of him. One smaller than the other.

“No,” Brad said. “No, no, no, no, no.” He remembered the accident. Then he remembered how Crush, a highly respected superhero, developed his powers. Exposure to radioactive chemicals had turned a simple bike messenger into the powerhouse known as Crush. Crush worked as the strong man of the Vindicators.

“This isn’t what I meant,” Brad screamed at the sky.

The Bounty Hunter

The man walked over the path to the front door. His short sleeve button down held the creases he put on them with an iron. The dark belt hid the line where his shirt was  tucked into his kakis. On his feet, he wore loafers with white socks. The full pocket protector and horn-rimmed glasses completed his uniform. It was the same uniform he wore everyday for the past three years.

Raising his hand, the man rapped on the door of the poorly maintained house. A high-pitched bark and shuffling noise came from the other side. The man knocked again.

The door flew inward. A shirtless man with grimy jeans and greasy hair stood barefoot in the door. “Yeah!” He drank beer from a can in his hand.

The outside man raised his head. “Are you-”

“I don’t want any!” The shirtless man swung an arm, and the door moved.

“Good. I’m not selling anything,” the shorter man said. “Are you Fernando Gomes?”

The shirtless man stopped the door. “What of it?”

“My name is Skip,” the well-dressed man said. “And I am here to inform you that you missed your court date from three days ago.”

“Really?” Fernando turned to the inside of the house. “Mateo, come here. Check this out.”

A large man with a beachball sized gut and thick arms stepped into the door. “What’s this?”

“This is Skip,” Fernando said with a laugh dancing on his lips. “He reminded me that I missed my court date.”

“I’m also here to take you in to reschedule,” Skip said, pushing his glasses up on his nose.

Fernando busted out a laughing and Mateo snorted.

“Man, get out of here,” Fernando said. “You might get hurt if you keep talking like that. Go back to your computer job or something.” He snaked an arm out and slammed the door.

Skip stepped forward and put a hand on the door before it closed. “By law, I can come in there and drag you out of your abode.”

Again both men laughed.

Fernando nodded towards Mateo. Mateo stepped forward and slapped Skip’s arm.

Skip’s arm didn’t move and Mateo pulled his hand back shaking it.

“Damn man,” Mateo looked at Skip. “What the hell?”

Fernando glanced at Mateo then moved his eyes to Skip. “You ain’t coming here, vato.”

“As I said,” Skip locked eyes with Fernando. “The law is on my side on this.” He lifted a foot to step over the threshold.

Fernando stepped back as Mateo squared up with Skip. A large watermelon sized fist careened for Skip’s head.

Impact happened.

Skip didn’t budge. His head wasn’t rocked back and no bruises or blood appeared on his face. The only thing damaged were his glasses.

“I hate it when people do that,” Skip said around the fist in his face.

Mateo bellowed and pulled his fist back. He clutched it to his chest with his free hand and flexed his knees. Mateo’s ashen face dripped sweet and his lips flopped. Both eyes lost their water.

Skip blinked. “Now I get to defend myself.” With an easy stride, he kicked the big shin of Mateo. A loud crack sounded.

Mateo’s eyes rolled, and he fell, blocking the door way.

“Shit!” Fernando backpedaled into a wall.

“So, are you willing to come with me?” Skip stepped over Mateo’s body and stood within arms reach of Fernando.

“Fuck you!” Fernando darted into the living room. He bent over a small end table and rummaged in a drawer for something.

“I understand your predicament.” Skip walked into the living room. He stayed at the archway and waited. “If you go to jail, you won’t be free. But if you are free, you’ll just do more of the same. You could do your time and turn your life around. Many have done it and succeed. I feel you can, too.” Skip smiled and nodded his head.

Fernando pulled out pistol and aimed it at Skip. “I ain’t going anywhere.” Fernando sneered as the gun steadied.

The revolver barked.

Fernando’s sneer evaporated as he watched the bullet fall from Skip’s forehead. There wasn’t so much as a smudge on the skin.

Skip walked forward while Fernando screamed in place.

“It would have been easier if you had just complied.” Skip reached out and gripped Fernando by the arm. In a smooth motion he pulled. “It’s people like you that keep me employed. And very well I might add.” Fernando flew from his feet and plowed into the shag carpeting of the living room. His shoulder knocked the nightstand over.

Skip stepped over Mateo, who had passed out. He dragged Fernando over the lump and out the front door. Fernando dropped the revolver and flailed his open hand to grab the door jamb.

Skip felt the resistance and jerk Fernando’s arm. The sucking pop sounded and Fernando screamed louder. He let go of the door jamb and clutched his shoulder.

“Honestly,” Skip said. “You should have learned at this point. Just comply and it will be easier.” Skip continued dragging Fernando over the front lawn, the sidewalk, then the road.

Eventually, Skip stopped at a large white van. He opened the back and hoisted Fernando through an open door.

“You guys be quiet now.” Skip closed the door and moved for the driver’s door.

Fernando looked around and floundered for a seat.

“New meat rides on the floor,” a low voice growled. “Besides, if there’s a problem he’ll stop the van. One of us is gonna get hurt.”

“Yeah,” a nasally voice added. “Only worse than we are now.”

Fernando’s eyes slowly adjusted to the dark. He made out seven burly bodies, five of which sat on the benches. The other two didn’t move and laid on the floor next to him.

Fernando’s voice cracked. “Where are we going?”

“To jail,” another voice answered.

“But that guy,” Fernando countered. “He’s…he’s-”

“A bounty hunter,” a higher pitched voice answered. “This is what he does.”

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.