Switch Sides

“Get the lead out Shield Bearer. There isn’t much time.” Aegis slid down the line he anchored in place. His sidekick, Shield Bearer, followed.

Both executed identical, and perfect, landing rolls on the roof of Quentin Tech rising to their feet with running strides.

The double doors from the maintenance area exploded open. Aegis and Shield Bearer skidded to a halt, then shifted to ready stances and put one hand on their equipment belt. Aegis peered one way and Shield Bearer the other.

Boom! The roof under their feet shook. Boom! The roof shook again, this time with more force.

“Well, well, well. The information I received was accurate.” The metallic, electric, amplified voice rolled over the roof. “Perhaps the other information will be, too.” The metal form leaned into the silver moonlight. Aegis extended a hand with a jerk. The small sphere cleared the distance between the metal man and the two heroes.

A flat black fist encompassed the bullet causing it to pop. Brilliant light escaped between thick fingers, dulling the effect of the sudden light.

“Typical.” The electronic voice chuckled. “You are so predictable. Aegis does not kill and does not even carry a lethal weapon.” The electronic voice snorted. “This is why you have never taken over Quentin Tech, Richard Grant.”

Aegis shifted again from a defensive posture to that of surprise. “Once again, it seems that my information is accurate. I have you outclassed and outmatched, Richard. Just give it up. Make it easier on yourself for once.”

The armored man pointed a hand at the feet of Aegis and let the constraint foam cover the hero from floor to waist.

Both Aegises’ hands went to his belt. A sharp instrument sliced into the foam at the same instant a device connected to the chest of the metal man. The device emitted a single beep, and then the metal flashed with spider-webs of lightning.

Shield Bearer moved away from Aegis and closer to the sparkling armored man that was now prone. Like his partner, his hand went for his equipment belt pulling a device from it. The item expanded in his hand and he placed it over his mouth and nose.

The foam encasing Aegis spewed smoke, filling the area with a noxious, thick cloud. Aegis moved a well-practiced hand to his belt. However, the tremor set in as soon as he touched his device. It spread from his face, down his neck, and then to his arms. After his body twitched, he slumped forward at the waist and stopped all movement.

“What did he hit me with?” The voice was muffled, but audible. “You didn’t mention he made a way to disable my equipment.”

“I didn’t say a lot of things.” Shield Bearer leaned over the metal man while removing his breathing. “Besides, he didn’t make it. I did.”


“I made it. Why is that so hard to understand?”

Shield Bearer moved over to Aegis. A quick movement and a red light ignited on Aegis’ belt. “You see Quentin, I have been a sidekick for several years.” Shield Bearer moved back to the metal encased man. “I have learned many things directly from Rich, here. I learned a lot more by just watching and keeping my mouth shut. For example, you are powerless at the moment and can not open that tin can.”

Shield Bearer pulled at a metal plate, making a gap the width of a little finger. “I have also learned, like you have, that you have to make your destiny.” Shield Bearer pulled a device similar to what Aegis pulled to cut the foam. With a rapid thrust, the armored man jerked. “The last thing I learned is make sure your secret is a secret.”



Vim jumped down from the one story building, landing on the sidewalk, and darted across the dark street. He had followed the three thugs for several blocks and now they entered Joe’s Grocery. Since the toughs had robbed two vehicles that night, Vim figured they would hit up a convenient store. Joe’s was the closest one and here they were. Not tonight.

A quick check through the front window, then Vim pushed through the glad door. Two thugs restrained the struggling cashier while the third grabbed the cash from the till.

Stop evil doers. Vim is here to put an end to your dastardly ways. That won’t work.

Keeping it simple, Vim shouted, “Stop!” He stood with fists clenched at his side and a menacing glare on his face. “This store is under my protection. Now drop the cash and get out or you will have to deal with me.” Vim cracked his knuckles.

“Shit! It’s him!” The robber with the cash stood slacked jawed.

All the robbers, and the cashier, looked at the dark-red costume with bright yellow trim. All of their eyes zipped to the yellow and blue Yin-Yang emblem in the center of his chest.

“That’s right!” Vim took a step forward. “Now – -”

The three would-be robbers dropped and let go of the cashier in unison, then jammed for the door.

Vim slid his foot back and blinked several times as his head turned to follow each thug out the door. He turned back and stated at the cashier with his mouth open.

“Joe is not going to believe this.” The woman shook her head as she massaged her arms. “He says he pays you protection money, but that you never really protection anything.” She collected the loose bills and out them back in the register. “I don’t believe it and I watched it.”

Raising his eyebrows and shrugging, Vim said, “First time for everything.” Vim ran from the store.

Charlie didn’t know what to think. He had worked for two years to get in shape to look like a super hero, and with the help of his new costume, he was one. Tonight was his first time on patrols and he stopped a store robbery. The cashier was probably saved too. He would count it to be sure.

It took Charlie an hour to drive home and another ten minutes to sneak back into his house. His sister, Vanessa, waited for him in his room. She had a large emergency first-aid kit at her feet. Charlie turned on his light and Vanessa stood.

“You aren’t cut, bruised, or beat up! What gives?” She approached him with a pout on her lips and disappointment in her eyes.

“Thanks for the vote of confidence, sis.” He sighed and plopped on his bread. “I am better than anticipated. I scared them.” Charlie smiled. “Anyway, I can handle street punks. I take out the first one that steps up. The rest will pause enough for me to knock out the second one. After that, the rest will run.” The logic behind rid was simple and would work on kids or those without enough experience.

“Yeah, you said that before.” Vanessa hefted the backpack kit to a shoulder. “The guru at the gym told you that.” She slumped down the hall and into her room.

It took Charlie another hours to come off the high from the evening.

Two nights late, Vim traveled the rooftops of the same party of the city. It was a rough post, seedy, and had a high crime rate. This evening was productive as well. He stopped three muggings, a car jacking, and was following a purse-snatcher now.

Vaulting an alley, Vim shifted to the fire escape and descended to the asphalt. The thief turned down this alley and was hiding in the dark recesses. The sound of a garbage can banging pulled Vim further into the darkened areas. With the dim moonlight, he spotted the thief.

“Give me the bag and I will let you go.” Vim had given up on the snappy sayings and witty banter. Keeping it simple worked best for him.

“What the fuck are you supposed..to..be..Oh shit!” The thief flung the large purse at Vim then ran further into the alley.

Vim took the bag the five blocks where the woman was calling the police. She looked at the muscles man in his costume.

“You ain’t gonna believe this. I got the purse back. Yeah. It’s right here. I know. But it’s who brung it back.” The woman took the purse from Vim’s hands.

“Have a good night.” Vim ran from the scene as a police car came into view. If the cops caught him, it would not be good. He didn’t have any powers, just the gym-built muscles and some basic fighting he picked up from the self-teaching DVDs. A single cop could arrest him no problem.

Once again, Charlie drove home with a sense of accomplishment and that of bewilderment. Guys, the old guy at his gym, told him it would be hard work and take time to establish himself. So far, Guys had been correct. Charlie liked what he was doing. But it was going faster than expected.

At home he sneaked in again. After stashing his costume in his closet, Charlie tried to focus on his homework. He was falling behind in his second year of college, and that was not good.

A month went by as Charlie, in the guise of Vim, patrolled his new favorite part of the city. Eventually Vim had to fight. Not just once, a few different times. So he followed his plan. He wasn’t fast enough to verbally fight, do he just punched of kicked anyone that got rough. This brought in a second person, do Vim put that one down too. The rest, following his theory, ran.
On patrol, Vim spotted a young couple approaching an ATM. Judging by their style of dress, and their constant head turning, they didn’t belong in this part of the city. When the couple pulled away from the ATM, a dark figure peeled away from a wall and approached. The couple stopped and Vim went into action.

Sliding down a downspout, Vim dashed the two blocks where the mugging was happening.

“Stop! Get away from those two.” Vim shoved the mugger back several paces, knocking him to the pavement. He looked at the couple. “Get in your car and get out of here.” The couple took Vim’s advice.

The mugger scrambled to his feet and then shouted, “Hey! He’s here.”

Vim scanned the immediate area to see who the mugger was calling. He couldn’t make out the recipient of the call.

“I’m right here.” Vim stepped closer to the mugger. “I would leave if I were you. While you still can.” Vim tightened his fists and set his jaw.

“Whoa.” The mugger held up his hands. “Save it. Wreck will be here shortly. Then he will deal with you.”

“Who is Wreck?”

“You’ll see.”

The mugger looked up then pointed. “Yup. There he is. I want front row seats.” The mugger moved several steps away, with a wide grin.

Vim followed the where the mugger pointed. A darker shadow floated overhead, blocking out some stars. Then the shadow got bigger. It was a full twenty seconds when the shadow landed in front of Vim.

Both costumed individuals stared at each other. It was like looking into a mirror, or a duplicate. The costumes were the same color scheme and even the same emblem. The masks matched down to the stitching, even the small tuft of hair that stuck out. The men were the same height, build, and even the same eye color.

A scar on the newcomers chin was a visible difference. Then there was the power thing that separated them. The newcomer could fly. Finally, there was the fact that people knew Wreck by name. No one had bothered to get Vim’s name.
Vim’s Adam’s apple bobbed rapidly and he sucked in a sharp breath through his mouth.

“So, you want in on my territory.” Wreck folded his arms across his chest. “You’ll have to earn it.” Wreck’s grey eyes glowed a deep orange color and smoke issued from them.

Vim crossed his arms over his head, let out a blood-curdling scream, and feel to the road.

Shiny New Penny

They say we are identical, my sisters and I. How wrong they are. I speak in a correct manner while they use uneducated slang. They make elaborate plans to sneak out of the house while I do not even bother because I have homework to finish. My grade point average has me in the top three of our class, and they barely qualify for the top ten percent. We are not identical, triplets or not.

When the alarm on our computer chimes it is Kelly who answers it, like always, “Yes, sir.” The same cheeriness, even when she is hung-over. That is another thing underage drinking is unacceptable.

“Ladies, the gem repository is being robbed right now,” says the same voice we have heard a hundred times before this one. It betrays no emotion and only speaks the facts. There is no face, no real name, just the low, electro-distorted vocal sound over the speakers. “It is the Jacks. Their equipment has been upgraded, so be careful. Let me know when you are on scene.”

“Yes, sir,” Kelly answers, flinching an arm, then stops herself from saluting. The screen goes blank, and she turns around, standing.

“You heard Sovereign,” Kelly taps her bracelet activating her instant change. “The Jacks are stealing diamonds.” It never dawns on her that more than diamonds are being stolen. There are the guards that die from a robbery this violent, for example.

“I already started to change when the signal came in,” Leslie says. Her costume is in place as she heads for the secret door. The costume is identical to all of Kelly’s and mine except for the emblem, a shield, and the trim, violet.

“Right behind you two,” I say, then mutter, “like always.” I have altered my costume, not that anyone noticed. My boots have a higher heel by two centimeters, and my belt hangs lower on my hips. Since I began a more vigorous workout routine and diet, I have adjusted my costume to fit better over my physique. My emblem remains, a jagged lightning bolt, and my trim is still white.

Kelly’s emblem is a flame, because she uses her eyebeams more than Leslie and I. I do not care, but since she attacks more, people have assumed she is the leader. Most of the time, I make a suggestion and she repeats it claiming credit. She steals my ideas and my boyfriends. How is that possible? We are identical, right?

We step onto the hidden balcony and launch into the air. Instead of following in a single file, I move to one side and Leslie follows suit on the other side of Kelly. Kelly inches forward just a smidge, to make it look like she is leading. She does not know I know this, but her flying takes a lot out of her since she does not practice much anymore. She does no cardio, lifts no weights, and goes on a ton of dates eating restaurant food. I will just say this, muffin top.

When we land at the repository, we see a blur moving back and forth between the large hole in the destroyed wall and a pickup truck. This is Jackrabbit, the Jack’s speedster. He is fast, but I can take him solo, so I move over to the truck to wait for a return trip.

“I got the runner, Penny,” Leslie calls out as she hovers over Jackrabbit’s path when he comes out with another haul. When she arcs her hand back for the clothesline, Jackrabbit jumps and comes down with a metal pipe on her head. On most missions Leslie uses her force fields the most, hence the shield emblem, but for some dumb reason she did not activate it. Serves her right for horning in on my capture. Leslie crashes into the ground, and Jackrabbit zooms at me.

My emblem is lightning, so I know he assumes I am going to hit him with my molecular blasts. He is right, but I also use my eyebeams. The molecular blasts connect and he screams, but that could be from the hole I bored through his abdomen with my eyebeams. Jackrabbit drops his pipe along with a bag of gems, and falls facedown on the sidewalk. He is not screaming claptrap about revenge. He is not moving at all.

I look over at Leslie. Like Jackrabbit, she is not moving either. Her head is misshapen and I do not see her chest moving. The loss of my sister is added to the rest of the stuff I have to deal with. A few quick breathes and I stifle the sobs that want to come out. Dealing with Jackhammer is more pressing at the moment. I guess I am a twin now.

Kelly did not wait for us, typical. She already went inside to start a fight. Well, I lost one sister today; I should keep a close eye on the second.

Running over the rubble is harder in the taller heels. I should have thought of that.

I hear the loud bang that Jack Hammer makes when he uses his power punch. He can only use that so often, as it takes a few seconds to charge. This is how I deduced we could take him six months ago. In fact, I was the one who did, since Kelly and Leslie were knocked out.

The inside of this building is dark since the Jacks cut it when they destroyed the wall. The dim emergency lighting forces me to strain my eyes.

These two are stupid criminals, yet they always manage to stay out of jail, or are incarcerated for a short time before they make an escape. Perhaps I should find their agent, or contact, or boss, or whatever they have.

Jack Hammer makes the punching noise again. It was too soon for him to recharge.
“Crap,” I say. “Sovereign did say they had upgraded equipment.” Kelly’s overconfidence will be the death of her.

The scream gets louder when I see the shape fly towards me. The grey and orange trimmed outfit of Kelly slams into the floor and then slides to a stop ten feet in front of me. She moans as I kneel next to her.

“Penny, he is stronger and tougher,” she says with a soft voice. One of her eyes is swollen shut. Blood pools in her mouth, and I can see several teeth missing. Her left arm bends at an awkward angle. She has a broken finger lying on the back of her hand. She lets out a soft breath and her head turns to one side. She stops breathing and does not start again. Our healing ability is better than a normal human. We heal faster, but not instantly.

“The last one,” the bulking figure hollers as he approaches. His metal fist flashes up and down in the metal arm. “Looks like I get the hat trick.” I see his greasy grin from here.

“Nope,” I shake my head as I stand. “We used to be triplets, but we are not identical.” I run at him, fists ready and legs pumping. He bends his head down and charges forward.

Before we collide, he darts his fist at me. I duck and chop it with mazer blasts covering my hand. It cuts through the hydraulic pipe at the wrist of Jack Hammer, severing the fist. The balled up hunk of metal sails past me and lodges in a cluster of destroyed display cases.

“You girls aren’t supposed to do that.” The look on his face is worth the price of admission to a European Theme Park. His eyes go wide; his mouth hangs open showing several rotten teeth.

“Things are about to change.” I smile at the large man. “How is your life insurance?” My eyebeams bite into his neck and the heat burns the skin. I turn them off when I see the spurt of blood. Jack Hammer staggers back, clutching his wound with his free hand.
“You bitch. Heroes aren’t supposed to kill,” he says as blood pours over his shoulder.
“Jack, may I call you Jack?” I question, not waiting for a response, “You are correct on that mark.” I hit him on the other side of the neck with my eyebeams. Jack Hammer now has two fountains. One slowed by a hand, the other not.

I hear a moan, “Penny.” It is Kelly. Good. She did not die. Relief flows over me.

I hover over her, “Yes.”

“What are you doing?” Her question is faint and strained through the pain on her face.

Tightening my fists, I activate my mazer blasts, “I am disbanding the group.” Her head makes a satisfying crunch as I drive my fist through it. I will miss Kelly, though less than Leslie. I take a deep breath then let it out blinking away the tears.

Now all that remains is picking up the gems and getting out of here.