Special Delivery – The Corpse

Jason stepped from the dark van with his bag slung over his shoulder and walked to the scene. Doctor Reymark signaled the two officers to let Jason through.

“Excellent! Jason, you know the drill. First blush.” Doctor Reymark stood back, letting Jason view the area immediately around the prone form.

“Hmmm…Discolored skin,” Jason said kneeling on the road. With a snap, he put on a rubber glove and pushed at the corpse’s cheek with a tongue depressor. “Rigor hasn’t set in,” Jason called out. “These look like scars.” He ran the wooden probe over the face. Flicking the device through the hair, Jason added, “He dies his hair this putrid color.”

Doctor Reymark inhaled a whisper when Jason reached for the arm of the corpse. Jason fumbled in his bag for something and pulled out a hemostat. With a scissor motion, Jason gripped the cuff of the sleeve and pulled the fabric back.

“That would have been an experience.” Jason looked at the device strapped on the corpse’s arm. “This seems to be multipurpose.” He ran the wooden probe over different levers and under some straps. “Is that a tube?” Jason tugged on the flexible pipe and saw the lapel flower move. “A squirting flower. Really?”

Doctor Reymark laughed. “It is one of his trademarks. So, any guesses as to cause of death?”

“There’s bruising on the face, neck and arms.” Jason moved the collar back. “This one here,” he traced the mark from the jaw, over the neck. “Broke the collar bone. It also looks like his nose is broken.”

“You’re better than this, Jason.” Doctor Reymark rocked back on his heels.

With a heavy sigh, Jason moved to the waist of the corpse and spread the shirttails out. “This is a puncture wound.” Jason pulled out a penlight and shined it on the pale skin. “It looks like a bite, possibly an insect or something. But this right here is too uniform.” Using the tip of the hemostat, Jason touched the two small holes. A black circle on the outer edges was evident once he pointed it out. “This was caused by a device. The punctures have been cauterized by heat, and thusly it burned the skin. It was done pre-mortem, so he was alive.”

Detective Morris stepped over to Doctor Remark. “You mean to tell me that those two iddy-bitty holes are what killed him? Really? You know who this is?”

“Yes.” Doctor Reymark looked at the detective. “To all three of your questions.”

Detective Morris tilted his head. “So that means that-”

“Nope,” Jason answered, standing from the corpse. “He’s accounted for.”

Detective Morris turned to the younger man. “Then it would be-”

Doctor Reymark interrupted, “That is for you to prove.”

Detective Morris pulled out a notebook and flipped several pages. “He lives in-”

“Another town several hours away.” Jason pulled a body bag from the satchel at his hip.

Morris ran a hand through his thin hair. “What about the girl?”

“She’s in prison.” Doctor Reymark waggled his eyebrows.

“Not her,” Detective Morris said waving a hand at the corpse. “The other one.”

“Oh.” Doctor Reymark put a finger to his chin.

“It’s possible.” Jason signaled for two EMTs to help him lift the corpse into the body bag. “However, who is she?”

“That we don’t know.” Detective Morris closed his notebook. “But we do know that to date, none of them have ever killed.”

Doctor Reymark moved out of the way of the gurney. “Do we know that, Detective?”

Jason moved for the dark van he arrived in and opened the back door. The two EMTs put the gurney into the back and locked the wheels in place.

As the dark van drove off, Detective Morris muttered, “Not sure if I would call killing that guy a crime. Funny, sure. A crime?”

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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.

Part-Time Job

“Anderson,” Jack Abernathy’s rough voice called. “How’s the Stein project coming?”
“I can finish my part by the end of the week,” David Anderson said looking up from his laptop. “The numbers are entered and the scripts are in place. Waiting on the graphics to finish loading.”

“What’s left after that?” Jack moved into David’s cube.

Touching the button on his cellphone to silent the buzzing, David pointed to his screen. “The check-list says link checking, then stress testing on the server. We’re a little behind on the configuration, but it should only be a day or two.”

“We’re gonna meet that deadline.” Jack’s hand clamped down on David’s shoulder, making the youn man flinch. “You have my permission for over-time. Get to here by tomorrow evening.” Jack tapped a sausage finger on the checklist on the screen, leaving a smear over updating all machines remotely. The task’s original planned date was the day after tomorrow.

“Uh…” David turned his head to look at Jack.

“No excuses.” Jack pivoted on his heels and left David’s cube. It didn’t take him long to be around the corner and out of David’s sight.

“Crap,” David muttered under his breath. He flipped his phone over and entered his passcode. The number 8 appeared next to his text icon. David touched the icon. Scrolling to the last message he touched reply. A few finger taps and he sent the response stating he would be late. His eyes darted to the time in the top corner of his phone. It blinked to 7:18pm.

11:30 rolled around and David dashed from his car into the building. He touched the secret spot, sliding the door open and walked in. David’s uniform fit perfectly. The bright yellow crescent moon contrasted with the midnight blue of the rest of his outfit.

“You’re late!” Graves voice growled across the small room. “Again!”

“Yeah, I know,” David sighed. “It’s just that-”

“You know.” Graves pounded on the table top. “You realize I had to call for help from Wave Rider. Wave Rider. He’s barely a hero. So what he can talk to fish and breathe underwater.”

“Wow.” David stopped walking and looked at the grey clad superhero in front of him. “Wave Rider. Doesn’t he also have super strength?”

“That’s besides the point.” Graves spun and faced David. “I expect my sidekick to be here on time and not full of excuses.” A stiff finger poked David in the chest on his emblem. “You’re fired.”

“What?” David stepped back. “You can’t fire me. You don’t even pay me. This isn’t a job.” David held his hands, palms up and spread. “What about keeping my secret identity? You always stress that. I was doing that.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Graves said. “I can’t rely on you. You should have worked something out.”

“I have to pay my rent some how.” David’s voice picked up in pitch and speed. “I also need to buy food, repair my uniform, and the gym. Plus, there’s the martial art lessons you insisted I take. You don’t even reimburse me for that, but it’s required.”

“This again?” Graves made a rude noise. “By the time I was your age I had earning a million dollars.”

David clenched his jaws and fist. “Yeah. But you inherited five billion just by being born. What a cheapskate.”

“And this one, too.” Graves put both hands on his hips and cocked his head to the side.
“If you paid me forty-five grand a year,” David said pointing a finger at Graves. “I could quit my day job and be the perfect sidekick.”

“They only pay you forty-five?” Graves’ eyebrows shot up. “That’s a pittance.”
“Yeah,” David answered. “Ironically, I work for a subsidiary of Sampson Industries. In other words, you pay me that pittance.”

Graves looked at David and shook his head. “I have to stand by my word or it means nothing. Clean out your desk and leave your keys.”

“I don’t have a desk,” David said, walking to the door he came in. “I never had keys.” As he passed the hidden door, he banged his fist on the jamb.

“I’ll give you a great reference,” Graves shouted as the door slid shut.

“Fuck this,” David said as he slammed his car door closed. “I’ll at least get some sleep and be ready for tomorrow.” He drove off.

When the weekend hit, David was ready for it. Having spent well over fifty hours a week he wanted to relax. He slept in on Saturday. During the afternoon, he wandered the mall and other places. Normally, he would be training or some other activity that Graves would have him do. Since he was fired, he made the best of it.

When the evening kicked off, David went to a movie. It had been awhile since he had seen a first run, so he treated himself. After a few hours, he left and walked through the dark parking lot to his car. A sound pulled his attention, and he watched as two people descended from the sky. One with a rope, the other flying.

“I’ve beaten you Graves,” the flying man said.

“Not…,” Graves groaned out. “Yet.” The form of Graves clutched his midsection and spit a glob of something from his mouth. “You hit like a girl.”

“Your funeral.” the flying man darted straight for Graves, a clenched fist leading the way.

“Holy shit,” muttered David. “I better do something.” He looked for his car and found it two spots away. “Wait. I don’t have my uniform in there.” Standing there he watched the fist connect with Graves. “Plus I was fired.” Graves trajectory carried him over several cars and crashing into a light pole. “Plus, that guys a dick.”

“That wasn’t so hard.” The flying man hovered over to where Graves lay on the cement. “Let’s see who you really are.” He reached down and pulled the mask off, ripping the cowl off the cape. Staring at the prone figure, the flying man pocket his trophy. “Huh. I don’t recognize you. But someone will.” The flying man jumped into the sky and disappeared.

Standing over Graves, David looked at the unconscious body. “Yeah. He’s a dick.” David got in his car and dove off.

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 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.

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!”