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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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.

Special Delivery – The Newbie

Kurt Jeffries leaned over his keyboard. He entered in the username and password form the paper HR gave him. Next, he followed several prompts. Finally, the left screen filled with the email program and the right showed the client-monitoring tool. A face with name tag showed. Lancer’s vitals showed next to the picture.

“Cool.” A smile splashed across Kurt’s face.

“Are you Kurt?” A middle-aged woman pushed a cart into the opening of the cube.

“Yeah,” Kurt stood, looking at the cart.

“Here’s your wrist panel and forcefield belt,” the woman tapped the items. “You need to sync the panel up first.”

Kurt put the panel on his arm and tapped the screen. Text flew across the surface then flashed the same vitals on his monitor.

“Good.” The woman picked up the belt. Her nasal tone picked up in volume. “The tech guys said they couldn’t get it to stretch, so be careful using it.”

Kurt nodded once, placing the belt around his waist.

“Good luck.” The woman waved and pushed her cart through the maze of cubes.

“So far, so good.” Kurt lowered himself to the chair and stared at the monitors. Email chimed and he read the message.

BE-DEEP!

The vitals monitor showed another client.

BATTALION ON MISSION

An ugly face with dark glasses appeared next to the name Battalion. Vitals beeped and scrolled across.

“Oh, man!” Kurt shifted closer to the big screen. “How cool is that? Battalion! I need to get a pic.” Kurt pulled his cellphone out and aimed the camera at the screen.

“I would not do that,” a voice said over the cube wall.

Kurt turned his head. A dark face with pointed ears and lavender eyes looking at him over his cube wall.

“Oh my God!” Kurt’s eyes went wide and his mouth opened. “You’re-”

“Raphael Collins.” A spiky toothed smile showed on the dark face. The dark face disappeared. It reappeared attached to a body a second later in the opening of Kurt’s cube. “I am a teleporter.” He extended a hand towards the slack jawed Kurt.

One of Kurt’s hands drifted up and connected with Raphael’s. Their clasped hands bobbed a few times.

“What is your name?” Raphael let Kurt’s hand go.

“Umm.” Kurt tilted his head. A thin black line flipped back and forth behind Raphael. “Kurt. My name is Kurt Jeffries. Is that a tail?”

“Yes,” Raphael turned his head, looking where Kurt pointed. “I am human. My ability altered my appearance, but I am human.”

“Oh,” Kurt blurted. Color creeped across his cheeks and he swallowed hard. Standing Kurt smiled and looked Raphael in the eyes. “I’m sorry. I’ve never seen anyone that looked like you.”

“I figured,” Raphael smiled. “Maybe we can do lunch and get to know each other better.”

“Yeah,” Kurt nodded. “I would like that.”

BEEP BEEP BEEP!

“Transfer patient procedure.” The sound came from Kurt’s computer. “Priority alert. EMT Jeffries respond.”

“Whoa!” Raphael backed out of the cube. “You should respond to that. Click the button and talk.”

“Right!” Kurt leaned over the mouse and clicked the big red button. “This is EMT Jeffereies. I acknowledge the alert.” He clicked the next button to transfer the display to his wrist panel. “Raphael, where is the launch pad?”

Raphael stepped out of the way and pointed towards a set of double doors with his tail. Kurt paused in the cube door. He nodded then dashed away.

Stepping through the double doors, Kurt let the wind wash over him. Closing his eyes, he centered his thoughts.

Kurt’s torso flattened, then his arms and legs and finally his head. Leaning forward he fell over the edge, riding the wind currents.

“EMT Jeffries enroute.” He flexed his arms and torso to drift in the desired direction. More than once, he dived to gain speed. Kurt aimed for the ground when his wrist panel sounded indicating he was closer.

Shifting to normal, Kurt landed and checked the map on this panel. According to the numbers he was a hundred yards away. Looking around the storage area, he spotted several cement barriers. On the other side, a collection of orange barrels. In one corner were three rows of large green dumpsters. The fence containing everything had circles of razors on top.

Kurt Glanced at his wrist panel. A quick double tap, and it zoomed in. The red indicators appeared next to the dumpsters. He moved towards them and his blue indicator followed. Decrementing number appeared on one corner.

“Almost,” Kurt moved his head as he walked behind a dumpster. The first prone form showed as he stepped into the gap between the dumpsters. “Bronze. I’m EMT Jeffries.” Kurt glanced at the panel on his arm. Bronze’s vitals displayed. “Oh, man. You’re unconscious. It says you’re breathing, but you might have internal damage.”

A heavy, raspy whisper said, “Shit.”

Kurt jumped, then turned to the sound. Another prone form lay around the corner.

“They sent a newbie,” the face of the body turned to the side.

A new red dot appeared on Kurt’s display. It read EMT Davis. His vitals also appeared on the screen.

“You’re wounded, too.” Kurt moved closer to Davis. “What happened?”

“They were caught off guard.”

Kurt turned towards the new voice. A man clad in dark with a motorcycle helmet stood there. The costume looked like police style armor, only scarier. Knee high boots with spikes on the toes added to the menacing sight. The two pistols with muzzles like twin pit bulls pointed at Kurt, and completed the vision.

“Ambush. My specialty,” the dark man said.

A scream exited Kurt’s trembling mouth at the sight. One hand smacked into the belt at his waist and the other extended in the direction of the scary man. A snap hiss sounded and the translucent grey haze of the forcefield covered Kurt. It stopped at the elbow of his extended arm. The warning from earlier rang in his ears.

At the end of the extended arm, Kurt’s hand expanded to the size of refrigerator door. His skin pressed against the dumpster on either side, sealing the bad man on the other side.

“The forcefield doesn’t cover my-”

The rapid staccato sound of gun fire sounded. Kurt’s over-sized hand relayed the sensation of a million needle pricks. It also told him the bullets bounced.

“What the fuck,” the rough, filtered voice of Ambush followed on the tail of last gun shot.

“I’m bullet proof!” Kurt pulled in his hand and arm. The forcefield encased the appendage with a buzz. Balling his other fist, he sent a punch in the direction of the confused villain. When his arm reached full extension, the forcefield halted further progression of his attack.

Ambush leaned back, then straightened. “Forcefields contain, too.” His metallic chuckle sent a shiver over Kurt. Pushing off hard, Ambush lurched through narrow gap.

Kurt flinched back. One hand tapped at his belt while the other flung forward. His softball sized fist connected with the hard helmet and rocked Ambush’s head back. Kurt’s second hand followed suit and Ambush’s advance was halted.

EMT Davis raised his head. “Damn.”

Bronze moaned and moved his head. “Whasshapning..eng?”

“Newb’s winning,” EMT Davis chuckled.

Kurt flailed his arms, sending his fists at different angles that Ambush struggled to block.

It started with one, then two. The next five landed on his torso, helmet, shoulder, and hips. One of Ambush’s arms feebly intercepted the next attack. The one after that, however, nailed him in the chest. Ambush staggered back a step. The next eight fists forced the dark clad man several more paces. He found himself a step past the dumpsters after three blows landed in quick succession. He fell where he stood.

Kurt pulled both his arms back. He draped them over the ends of the dumpsters on either side. His shoulders heaved and he hung his head, gulping air.

Ambush staggered to his feet. In a wide stance, he aimed one of the pistols down the alley of dumpsters. The armor he wore moved as the breathed. “Nothing personal kid. Just a job.” His head tilted to one side and he lined the pistol with his target.

Kurt’s fingers clamped onto the corners of the dumpsters. He extended a leg behind him. It zipped the distance of the dumpsters and past the gap and connected with the fence.

“Whoa!” EMT Davis said, eyeing the leg.

“Isatafoot?” Bronze muttered.

“FORE!” Kurt shifted his hip, sending his extended leg forward. His leg darted over the distance. It looped-de-looped. On the completion of the first loop, Ambush shifted his head up. Kurt’s leg complete four more loops before connecting with the apex of Ambush’s legs.

Both pistols fell to the ground. Ambush’s knees slammed together with a clattering of armor plate and his gloved hands darted to his groin. His head hung and a high-pitched coughing howl escaped the helmeted head.

The form of Ambush jerked into the air, sailing in a perfect arc. It landed with a thump on the other side of the fence and slid several yards before stopping.

“This is EMT Jeffries,” Kurt huffed as he touched his earbud. “I have Bronze and EMT Davis. Ready for transport.”

“Understood, EMT,” the voice said over the earbud. “Your path is cleared for Ladies of Mercy.”

“Acknowledged.” Kurt turned and looked at the two prone bodies. “Gentlemen, here we go.”

Kurt fished two items out of his belt. Placing one on the chest of each person, he then pressed the single button. “I’m not all that strong. This is an anti-gravity field generator.” He extended his arms and flattened his enlarged hands. Scoopping both patients at the same time, Kurt lengthened his legs. His firs step cleared the fence and onto the road. After several steps he sped up his pace and extended each leg a few more yards.

Kurt reached Ladies of Mercy hospital. In the emergency entrance, he laid both on a gurney and processed the paperwork.

“Jeffries,” EMT Davis called. Kurt looked at his co-worker. “Thanks.” Davis lifted a thumb as medical staff wheeled him away.

Kurt Jeffries walked into Special Delivery the next day. He moved to his desk and typed his username and password. Different supers appeared on his screen, but none required him to transport them to a medical facility.

The lunch warning alarm displayed on his monitor. Kurt tapped with the mouse, then stood.

“Excuse me,” a woman’s voice said as he left his cube. “Are you Kurt Jeffries?” The woman held an envelope in one hand.

“Uh, yes.” Kurt shifted to face the woman. “What can I do for you?”

“Take this,” the woman’s pearly white smile flashed. Her emerald eyes sparkled as she handed the envelope to Kurt.

Kurt opened the proffered envelope. Inside he saw a check for $200,000. In the memo field was typed, FOR THE CAPTURE OF AMBUSH.

Kurt’s eyes went to the size of dinner plates and he leaned forward as his mouth fell open.

“Oh, call me,” the woman gave a finger wave as she turned to leave.

Turning the envelope over, Kurt saw a phone number with Melanie under it.

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!”

Special Delivery – Anders

Anders Brady switched from his large gorilla form to his human appearance. Once in the locker room, he stripped his uniform off and covered himself with a towel. After grabbing his shower kit, he picked up his bottle of body wash. The feel and heft of the bottle was off, and he looked at it. A very different label read Homer’s flea & tick shampoo.

“Hilarious. Just so funny,” Anders said while rolling his eyes. Shaking his head, he tossed the bottle into the nearby garbage can, then reached for the real body wash.

Twenty-five minutes later, Anders walked out of the locker room.

Amanda Charles waved him over. With a heavy sigh, Anders detoured in her direction. “Good job on the Fisticuffs call, earlier. He said you were fast and thorough.”

A corner of Anders mouth twitched. “Yeah, well, I am a professional.”

Amanda cocked a hip, lowered her clipboard, and tilted her head. “Look. You know-”

“Drop it,” Anders held up a hand. “I get it. My report needs to be filed and my shift isn’t complete.” Without waiting for a response, he turned on his heels and headed to his workstation.

Anders took several deep breaths before sitting down.

Logging in, his monitor flashed three names. Boulder, Xanx, and Damsel. Each name associated with a series of vitals, all within normal range. Following his normal routine he checked their locations and plotted potential paths to them.

While munching on his lunch, Anders read his email then filed his report for the Fisticuffs call. Checking on the vitals, he saw Boulder’s change, but not enough to warrant him paying a visit. Xanx’s vitals changed and stayed at the new level for over ten minutes, then lowered to normal.

Damsel’s vitals spiked. At the first beep, Anders had the map up and plotted the route. On the second beep, he switched over to his wrist panel and headed for the flyer’s launch area. At the long steady tone Anders called out, “EMT First Class Anders Brady responding to Damsel call.”

The tingle started in his gut then spread out. Hair sprouted over his body and his uniform stretched to fit his adjusted form. Anders’ arms became the size of tree trunks, his legs doubled that of his arms, and his face morphed to that of a large gorilla. He planted his two shovel sized hands on the pavement and pushed off.

With two loping strides, Anders leaped the distance to the next building. With this motion he cleared the four lane road fifteen stories below. His hands gripped the bar placed there for him and spun around it once before launching over to another building. Bounding off the side of the third building, Anders cleared a block and kept going.

Through his ape-like movements, Anders cleared the distance to Damsel’s last known location in a few minutes. A glance at his wrist panel showed the next building over to be his target. The next vault put him two floors below the roof of the building. His toes gripped the window ledge and his legs pushed him higher. Thick-fingered hands curled around the edge of the roof, then pulled him up to stand on it.

Anders’ head swiveled until he found the set of double doors leading to the maintenance area. A sudden yank, and the doors went wide. Lunging in, he bounded to the next landing. His wrist panel showed he needed to travel seven floors down to Damsel’s location.

Anders also noted that her vitals were declining. “This isn’t good,” his voice rumbled low in his throat. He gripped the hand rail and vaulted to the next landing. Next, he repeated this process until he was level with the blue dot that represented Damsel.

The door opened with an easy push and Anders went into the hallway. His wrist panel didn’t show a map of the building, but it showed how far away Damsel was. Dashing down the hallway, Anders approached an intersection. He turned to the right while checking his wrist panel. The blue dot moved closer as he strode the length of the hallway.

Several people darted for open doors or side halls as Anders stormed through. More than one called out “EMT coming through, clear the way!” Anders picked up the pace after hearing this.

Eventually, Anders stood next to the dot on his wrist panel. He found himself in a dead-end of a hall. He turned around,  didn’t see a door.

His wrist panel beeped, and he saw that Damsel’s vitals indicated she was asleep. “Or passed out,” he muttered. Anders placed a hand on a wall. Moving his fingers over the surface, he squinted as he slid his thick fingers over the dull grey paint.

An audible click sounded and a black line formed on the wall. A panel receded, then slid into the wall.

A man wearing a dark costume with various colored lines stood in the secret doorway. Six palm-sized flying devices wreathed his head. “What the..?”

“Out of the way,” Anders’ simian features growled. “I’m an EMT sent to get Damsel and take her to a hospital.” One of Anders tree trunk arms pushed the costumed man aside. He squeezed his bulk into the tiny walk way and advanced into a room the size of two closets.

Damsel slumped forward. The only thing keeping her in the seat were her hands tied behind it.

“Damsel,” Anders said with a loud stern voice. “I’m  your EMT. I need to transport you.”

A groan exited her rosebud shaped lips and her eyes fluttered open, then closed again.

“You aren’t going anywhere,” the nasal sounding voice said. Anders looked at the costumed man from before. “Damsel, and now you are my prisoner.”

The man flicked a hand. The small flying devices converged on Anders’ location. One sent an orange beam at Anders’ head.

“Owww!” Anders clutched his cheek. “I’m an EMT doing my job. She’s in critical condition and needs medical attention.” The sausage like finger extended at the blond haired hero.

“Possibly,” the costumed man said. “But I’m not letting her or you go. You’ll tell the Society. Then I’ll have to shut down my entire operation.” The man spread his hands wide. “I’ve worked too hard to get here, and no one is going to stop me.” The costumed man’s teeth clench and his nostrils flared as he pointed at Anders. “Put that monkey down!”

The machines encircling Anders zoomed in, each one letting out a beam.

Anders moved as best as the constricting room allowed. Several beams hit him, causing pain and making him flinch.

“Control. This is EMT Anders-”

“We’re aware EMT. Help is on the way,” the panicked voice over the earbud cut Anders’ words off.

Anders swatted at the small machines. His large flat hand batted two, making a hole for him to step through. In a single motion, he scooped Damsel, chair and all, and shouldered towards the door.

The devices targeted Anders expansive back as he squeezed into the three-step corridor. Their random bursts sent a steady stream of pain into his body, making him wince.

Anders pushed through the hall, then out the concealed door. The jam, plaster, and two potted plants crumbled as he muscled into the hallway.

The whir of the devices increased. The nasally sounding voice screamed behind Anders, “No! You’re not getting away. Theta-Epsilon!”

Several devices detached from wall, out of offices, and various other places. They converged behind and over Anders, making a dark machine-cloud. The machines morphed and merged into four basketball-sized devices.

Anders made a turn by bouncing off a corner and planting a hand on the floor. Two green beams pelted the walls, leaving softball-sized holes in their wake.

The machines made the turn, keeping close on Anders backside. Another shot a beam. Anders shifted, and the beam went over his shoulder. The window in front of him exploded.

“Control, this is Anders,” Anders shouted. “I’m transporting hero Damsel. My location will be the outside of the building I am presently located.”

The voice in the earbud responded. “Understood, EMT. Be safe.”

Anders paused at the open window and turned to face the machines. He reached an arm out the window and pulled himself out and up.

“NO!” The costumed man chasing Anders screamed. “Don’t let them get away!”

The devices zoomed after Anders.

Climbing the outside of the building was difficult. Anders managed to keep Damsel in the crook of his arm and rested her head in his palm. Using his free hand and both feet, he worked his way to the top of the building.

The devices zoomed around Anders. He couldn’t swat them away, instead he moved to the sides as best as he could. On more than one occasion, his handhold was shot out before he could take it. When this happened, he leaped to the side and repositioned.

Clearing the last floor, Anders reached the roof ledge. A blast rocketed through him and he bellowed at the top of his lungs. Damsel squirmed in his hand and her eyes flew open.

“Where am I,” she screamed. “Who are you? What are you doing?”

“I’m EMT Anders from Special Delivery,” Anders puffed out. “I’m trying to take you to a hospital.”

“What happened to Technix,” Damsel asked her head looking around. “Oh my God!” She pointed to one of the basketball-sized devices careening towards them.

Anders turned in a smooth fashion, jumped into the air, and volleyball spiked the device into the roof. It broke into several parts, each one sparking and two igniting on fire.

The maintenance doors burst open and Technix ran through. He extended a hand and the three remaining flying items merged into one larger item.

Anders’ eyes went wide, and he sucked in air. His uniform was torn and there were scorch marks. He spun his head around, looking for an escape route.

“We need to go,” Damsel shouted. “He’s going to kill us.”

“No shit, lady,” Anders growled.

Anders’ eyes went wide, and he grunted. Using both legs and his free hand, he bolted across the open space of the roof in a simian trot. “Hang on. I found one.”

Damsel rolled her head over and saw the tiny gap between the two buildings across the way. “You can’t be serious.”

“Unless you know something I don’t,” Anders retorted.

The large flying device shot out several electronic blasts in rapid succession. Each blast bit into the roof, scattering debris. More than once, a few blasts were close enough to singe Anders’ fur.

Damsel sat up as best as she could, grunting with pain. She pulled a device from her belt and tossed it over Anders’ shoulder. The arc the handheld device traveled carried it in front of Technix. Biting into the roof, the device erupted and spewed gelatinous fluid. Technix stepped back, but it wasn’t enough to keep him from getting covered. In the next second the fluid hardened, encasing Technix’s arms, one leg, and the front of his torso.

Anders planted both feet on the ledge, feeling his toes curl over the corner of the building. Compressing both legs, he leaned into the open air. He caught a glimpse of the traffic below. Six lanes of morning commute traffic. Gravity pulled on his heavy frame and he went past the point of no return. Extending his free hand, he pushed his legs straight.

Anders and his patient took to the air. Bestial roars coming from both mouths. The power of the jump carried them past one lane, then the next. Damsel’s hair fluttered behind her as the wind blew by. Spit flew from Anders’ open mouth.

With the third lane cleared, the duo also descended four floors of the building.

Anders’ body extended to it’s fullest when they cleared lanes four and five.

Halfway over six, Damsel saw what Anders aimed for. A cross bar set between the buildings. At the moment they were several stories above it, but they were falling faster.

The cement of the sidewalk and faces of the pedestrians blinked into focus. Damsel felt her ears pop.

Several people screamed and pointed up.

The sudden jerk forced Damsel flat on the furry arm of Anders.

Anders released the bar at the apex of his swing and pushed off a building. “Made it!”

Damsel stared at Anders. Her lips moved, but nothing came out. The fingers of one hand twined into his fur.

Bouncing off several more buildings and a few acrobatic turns, and Anders landed at the emergency room entrance. He placed Damsel on the gurney and smiled. “One Damsel in distress, rescued. I can check that one off the bucket list.”

Damsel blushed as she waved. The people in white coats wheeled her off.

Anders turned to leave. Two black boots and a fluttering cape caught his eye, and he waited.

“Are you Anders Brady?” The voice came from the well muscled form wearing the cape and midnight blue costume. Paladin landed.

“Uh..Yeah,” Anders said, his face flashing fear, happiness, confusion, and several more emotions.

“I’m here to give you this,” Paladin held out a gold plastic card. The laser hologram emblem of the Society on one side sparkled.

“Whoa!” Anders wide eyes turned back towards Paladin. “What is this for?”

“It’s an access key,” Paladin answered. “I’m pretty sure you know to what building.”

“Yeah,” Anders answered, running a large hand over his monkey head.

“Be there tomorrow at eight. Orientation for new highers begin at 8:30.” Paladin hovered then flew away.

Special Delivery – Casey

Casey walked to her workstation and plopped into the seat. The smell of the air-conditioned atmosphere in the room was a vast change from the fresh beach air she spent the last weeks breathing.

She paused a few seconds as her hands fumbled with her password to login to the computer. “After being gone, I’m lucky to remember how to get to work.” She smiled at her own joke and scanned the fourteen days worth of email.

In the process of deleting several emails, Anders walked over. “Welcome back,” he said. “I bet you could use a few days to recover from your vacation.” He chuckled. “I assume  you’re going through a dumpster load of emails. Nothings changed, except the policy on upgrades.”

“Great,” Casey sighed and rolled her eyes. “What is it now, five a day? Wait, three a minute? Damn, it seems like all they care about is money.”

“They want at least two a year,” Anders smiled. “Someone dropped some major bucks on the company and now they have some money to play with.”

“Nice,” Casey nodded. “At least now I won’t feel so slimy when I upset to a wounded hero.” Casey adjusted her face and changed her voice. “You could upgrade to gold status for a mere $125 extra per month. Don’t answer now, I know you’re in pain. But think about it.”

“Yeah,” Anders said with a snort. “I never did like that. I would just say that we have a gold status and list it’s perks. It works, sometimes. Enough to keep Danforth and Charles off my back.”

Casey raised her eyebrows, “Thanks. That’s a good approach. Simple without being stupid.”

“Take it easy, you’re monitors lighting up.”

Looking at the secondary monitor, Casey saw the vitals for Kevlar, Shield, and Titanium. “Great. Kevlar. First day back and I get the king of the ass-hats.”

She continued with skimming her email, but threw an eye to the vitals of the heroes on duty.

Fifteen minutes went by and Kevlar’s stats disappeared with the message KEVLAR OFF DUTY. “Thank. You,” Casey said.

Soon after, a new name took Kevlar’s place. DAFFODIL ON MISSION flashed and vitals for the newly promoted hero showed on the screen. “I’ve only heard her name. What is there about her?”

Casey tapped on Daffodil’s icon and a basic sheet appeared. The photo had the young woman with face paint in the motif of hippies. Her costume gave the appearance of tie-dye rags held together by hemp cords. Even her shoes looked like cloth basketball shoes with paint on them.

“Hmm,” Casey read the sheet. “Enhanced speed and agility, along with strength. Not invulnerable. What is this? Enhancement and manipulation of plant life. Interesting. That explains the hippie theme.”

Casey closed the sheet down and watched the monitors. After Daffodil came on, Shield left. After thirty minutes, Daffodil signed off as well. Titanium was the only one left, and he had been on for an hour now.

“He must be doing a stakeout or something,” Casey whispered. “On for an hour and no change in vitals.”

Paladin came online. Rampart came online as well. Both stayed online with Casey monitoring their vitals for well into an hour. Paladin’s vitals fluctuated, but never put Casey on alert. Rampart’s vitals only fluttered a few times. “He must have been in a fight, but his opponent wasn’t much of a match.”

Eventually, both Rampart and Paladin logged out of the system.

“Wow,” Casey exclaimed. “Titanium’s been on for two hours without so much as a single spike. A stakeout is one thing, but I don’t think this is that. He’s not unconscious.”

The ten minute lunch warning came over Casey’s monitors. These warnings were to allow the EMT to log out or at least schedule their lunches better. Casey acknowledged the warning with a click.

As she pulled her hand back from the screen, Titanium’s vitals spiked for two beats, then flat lined.

“Shit!”

Tapping the alarm, Casey called out, “EMT Casey LeClair. High Priority retrieval for Titanium.” Dashing from her workstation, Casey ran for the launching platform and took to the air.

“EMT LeClair, this is control,” Casey’s earbud sounded. “You are cleared for maximum speed. Good luck.”

“Thank you control,” Casey said. Fitting her goggles over her eyes, Casey grit her teeth, curled both hands into fists, and flew in the desired direction. Within the next second a sonic boom echoed through the skyscrapers and other tall buildings of downtown.

Approaching the destination, Casey slowed and scanned for landmarks. She maneuvered in the direction of the partially destroyed smoke stack. Her main target, the abandoned factory sat at the foot of the stack.

Casey hovered over the dirt covered parking lot towards the double doors, then checked her wrist panel. The map indicated Titanium’s last location to be behind the doors and below the floor.

“Hmmm,” she said. “Not sure how these heroes always managed to be in holes.” Casey pushed on the door, but it didn’t budge. She took several paces back and threw her shoulder into it. Titanium’s vitals were flat lined and the sooner she got in, the better chance he had. The door flew open, toss dust into the air and letting stale air out.

Covering her mouth with an arm, Casey activated her flash light and scanned the area. She found a hole ten yards in. Shining the light in it, she saw two eyes staring back at her.

“Ahh!” Casey jumped back, gasping.

She moved forward and peered down the hole. “Hold on Titanium. I’m EMT LeClair. I’ll try to get you out of there.”

“Don’t rush on my account.”

Casey dropped the flashlight and shouted, “What the fuck?”

“Yeah, I’m stuck, not dead,” Titanium said from the bottom of the hole. “Who ever makes your sensors does a damn good job.”

“I’m an EMT, not search and rescue,” Casey said as she retrieved her light. Shining the light in the hole again, she saw the eyes were part of a masked face. “Can’t you just fly or jump out?”

“Nope,” the man said. “Titanium, remember.”

“Wait, you’re made of titanium,” Casey asked as she knelt next to the hole.

“Not exactly,” the hero said. “I’m-“

“Strong as the metal, but not as bright,” a woman’s voice said, pulling Casey’s attention. The same voice let out a low, dark chuckle.

Standing, Casey shined the light in the direction of the voice. She didn’t see anything at first. It took a second for her to spot the translucent warping several feet away.

“The hole’s too deep for me to jump out,” Titanium said.

“Look,” Casey said, her head scanning for the odd warping visual she saw earlier. “I’m an EMT and I don’t carry any drugs. Just some basic first aid equipment.”

“Titanium’s not hurt,” the woman’s silky smooth voice said. “Not yet.” The voice whispered in Casey’s ear.

Casey jerked in another direction and spun around.

“You’re strong,” Casey said towards the hole. “Climb out. Bash some hand holds or something.” Casey kept her eyes scanning.

“Unstable ground,” Titanium said. “Digging will collapse the floor, then the building. Hostages on the second floor.”

“Press against the walls,” Casey’s voice went high and sweat formed on her upper lip.

“Too far apart,” Titanium responded. “Who would have figured Il’d be trapped like this. Simple.”

“The best ones are,” the smooth female voice said, then laughed again.

Casey shifted her head in different directions. “Look, you two have some weird date ideas. I’m just gonna go.”

“My dear,” the woman’s voice said. “What makes you think I’m going to let you go?”

“Perdu,” Titanium called from the hole. “This is between you and me. Leave the EMT out of it. Let her go.”

“And let her call the Society,” the woman said. A momentary image of a very attractive woman with flowing dark hair and a dark green motif costume appeared. As fast as she appeared, she disappeared. “I don’t think so.”

Casey hugged her shoulders and let out a shiver. “I won’t tell anyone. I promise.”

The dark chuckle sounded closer to Casey. “Of course you won’t. And I’m a trustworthy citizen.” The woman laughed again.

Casey slid her real hand down to the wrist of her prosthetic. Giving it a quick jerk with a twist, the fake arm disengaged from her shoulder. Using the sound of the woman, Casey spun. Her real arm wielding her prosthetic like a club. As she crested the halfway point of her circle, Casey’s improvised club connected.

The nearly invisible woman became visible. Perdu staggered back just maintaining her feet. She flailed her arms, fending off any follow up.

Casey saw the trickle of blood from the modelesque woman’s mouth and a puffy lip forming. With her mouth open and roar escaping her throat, Casey pressed her advantage. Swinging her prosthetic, she connected with Perdu several more times.

Perdu turned away from Casey. Shuffling at first, she poured on the speed and ran for the door.

“I don’t think so.” Casey took to the air and cranked up the speed. Zooming past the fleeing woman, Casey clipped the back of Perdu’s head. The force of the blow, combined with acceleration, picked Perdu off the ground and hurled her towards the closed door.

Perdu’s limp form missed the door by a small margin and collided with the frame and wall. She slid to the floor and lay still.

Breathing heavy, Casey reached down into the hole. She held her prosthetic in her good hand, clearing the distance between the surface and the end of Titanium’s extended fingers.

“I can’t lift you. Climb,” Casey huffed.

Titanium did as he was told and climbed. Standing on the surface, he picked Casey up.

“I’m reporting you for breaking your sensor,” Casey said staring daggers at Titanium.

“I understand,” he nodded his head.

“And you’re replacing my arm,” she growled.

“Yes ma’am,” he nodded again.

“Let’s get those hostages out of here,” Casey said fastening her arm in place.

Casey arrived at the office and went directly to her workstation. Several moments passed, and she felt the presence of the messenger as he approached.

“Are you EMT LeClair,” the young man asked.

“I am,” Casey stood with her answer.

“Sign here.” The messenger handed a clipboard to the EMT.

After a quick scribble, she handed the clipboard back, and he handed the long package he held.

With practiced precision, Casey swapped out her dented arm with the new one from the package.

Her email chimed. She double clicked it.

One arm as ordered.

Dinner. Tonight. 7:30?

Special Delivery – Jason

Jason Cromwell arrived on the scene. He stepped from the red and white colored emergency vehicle. Approaching the group of officers, Jason said, “EMT from Special Delivery.” The officers held the tape up for him to pass under. He looked around. There was no sign of a fight or even a simple struggle. Taking a quick glance at his wrist panel, he saw his client’s marker five feet away.

“What is Special Delivery doing here?” Detective Collins said as he turned towards Jason. “There’s no supers here. Not even an indication of one.” Collins spread his hands as he turned.

“Collins, how nice,” Jason flashed a plastic smile at the detective. “You know how we work. One of our alarms went off and a tracker led me here.”

Collins turned back to the body and pointed. “This must be your guy.” He squatted and lifted the orange blanket covering the body. “I don’t suppose you have a name?”

“Ummm…”, Jason read his wrist panel. “No.” Narrowing his eyes, Jason re-read the information. Client 15.

“What do you mean no?” Collins shifted next to Jason and looked at the wrist panel. “Client 15. What kind of name, super or otherwise, is that?”

“A wealthy one,” Jason locked eyes with the detective and smiled. “And a dead one.”

“Not to mention naked,” Collins held the blanket back so that Jason could see the entirety of the corpse.

“Interesting,” Jason said standing up. “Just a minute.”

Walking a few paces away, Jason tapped his earpiece. “Control, this is Jason Cromwell. I’m at the location of Client 15. He’s deceased and not wearing any clothes. Do you still want me to bring him in?”

“Correct EMT Cromwell,” the voice in Jason’s ear said. “He paid for the privilege until the end. He gets the privilege.”

“Understood,” Jason let his hand fall and turned back to Collins.

“I guess you have him,” Detective Collins said extending a clipboard. “Just sign here.”

Jason sign his name on the form.

Next, Jason focused on the body and envisioned it floating. Just as he pictured a gurney under the corpse carrying it, the body lifted with no visible support. Jason then walked, pushing the body, back to his customized emergency vehicle. The rear double-doors opened of their own accord and Jason slid the body in, feet first.

With a quick wave, Jason entered his vehicle and drove off.

Jason stopped at the building his wrist panel indicated. If he didn’t know better, he would have said it was vacant. The outside was clean and there weren’t any broken windows, but there was one only one other car in the lot.

He pulled around the back and found a set of double-doors propped open. Jason backed the vehicle up to the doors. Next, he transported the body to a waiting gurney.

Walking through the double doors, Jason pushed the body. “Hello?” Jason to called. “EMT Cromwell from Special Delivery.” Jason hung his head and smiled to himself. Now he caught the joke.

“This way,” a voice called, and a light flashed on in a room down the small hallway.

Jason kept walking towards the room. “Why do we need to bring a corpse here? What’s wrong with the morgue.”

A figure stepped out of the room. “Because Client 15 paid for the privilege.”

Jason now recognized the voice. It was the one he talked to before.

Letting out a sigh, Jason turned the gurney into the room.

The man pulled the doors closed behind him as Jason settled the corpse under the light. “Doc, would it be OK if I watched? I’ve never seen an autopsy.”

“By all means, EMT Cromwell,” the doctor smiled flatly. “My name is Doctor Emit Reymark. This is the autopsy of Client 15. Present is EMT Jason Cromwell. Let’s begin.”

Jason looked around to see what the Doctor was doing, but he saw nothing.

“The body has several contusions and abrasions,” Reymark said as he ran his gloved hands over the body. “There are old scars, some required stitches.”

Jason looked at the body where Reymark was examining. He saw scars covering the body and arms. Checking the legs, he saw the same type of scarring. There were fresh bruises and other residue covering it as well.

“Client 15 appears to have been a recipient of a severe beating. And possibly engaged in activities such as fighting, martial arts, and even bondage.” Reymark listed off the various wounds and scars. He added in possible causes as well.

Jason’s mind raced with what might have happened to this client.

“EMT, please hand me that finger print card and ink,” Reymark said, tapping Jason on the shoulder.

Jason moved and handed the card and ink pad. He watched as Reymark put the ink on the corpse’s fingers. Next Reymark rolled each finger onto the card.

Reymark pulled the card up to the light. “Ahh…This will never do.” Reymark handed the card to Jason. “Do you see that?”

Jason looked at the card. He knew what fingerprints were, he had to get his taken when he landed this job. Jason expected to see the swirls of fingerprints. Instead he saw smears. Not a single ridge appeared. Jason turned his head to look at Reymark.

“That is the mark of a pro,” Reymark said. “The fingerprints of the corpse are unreadable. They have been removed by acid.”

Jason stared at the corpse slack-jawed.

Reymark moved onto the face and head of the corpse. Running a gloved hand over the hair, Reymark pulled back dark stains. “The corpse has some type of dye in his hair.” Thumbing back an eyelid, Reymark poked a finger into the eye. A small, colored disk came with his finger. “And some colored contact lenses.”

Next, Reymark put a finger into the mouth of the body. He pulled a partial denture plate. “This should help in the identificat…Nope. Custom made and not by a lab. Well made though.” Reymark, put the recent items into a dish set to the side.

Rolling the head to the side, Reymark leaned into check the hairline and jaw. “Hmmm. Magnifier.” He held out a hand to Jason.

Jason looked around the tool tray and put the magnifying glass in Reymark’s hand. “Nice. You might work well at this.” Reymark examined the back of the corpse’s head.

“Jason, what do you suspect these are?” Reymark pointed to a series of small white scars buried in the hair of the corpse.

“Well, that is an unusual area to be wounded in,” Jason narrowed his eyes as he leaned in. “They are hidden in the hair, so I am going to say he had them done. Making this plastic surgery or reconstruction.”

“Excellent!” Reymark smiled. “Yes, I will have to suggest you as my assistant.”

Jason raised an eyebrow.

“Moving on.”

“Slight tan around the mouth area. Darker than the cheeks and top of the head,” Reymark ran a finger vigorously cross the forehead. A smudge of the same color of the mouth area came back.

“Tanning spray?” Jason looked at the finger.

“Excellent, my boy. You are a good choice.” Reymark giggled a little.

Reymark changed his attention to the arms of the body. He pulled the skin tight around the muscular forearms. “What do you notice here?”

Jason looked at the odd shape of the right arm. Instead of a straight line there was a slight angle to it. “It looks like it isn’t straight. Possibly a fracture that wasn’t set correctly or healed poorly.”

“Yes, precisely,” Reymark said tapping Jason on the shoulder. “You are going to be my assistant from now on. Lot of work. You will like it.”

Jason blinked several times. “Sure.”

The rest of the autopsy proceeded as normal. Reymark cut into the body and weighted various organs. He noted that the appendix was missing. Reymark also commented on the sewing of the intestines.

Several hours passed since Jason brought the body in, but it seemed like only a few minutes to him.

As they were finishing up, Jason asked, “Doctor? Who is this?”

Closing the zipper onto body-bag, Reymark looked at his new assistant. “Isn’t it obvious? The body is heavily scarred, meaning no healing ability beyond normal capability. He has an account with Special Delivery that conceals his name and identity, meaning large quantities of money or high contacts. He was found cleaned of all incriminating evidence of where he was. This means he thought this through to the end. Add all that together and throw in what you know of the super community that you deal with, and you can only come to one conclusion. This is…?”

Jason’s mouth closed and opened saying a single work. “B-”

“Shush!” Reymark clamped a hand over Jason’s mouth. “Not so it could be recorded. Let’s show him a little respect.”