Sibling Rivalry

Janice stood by the food vendor’s open door. “One deep-fried candy bar for the lovely lady.” The vendor leaned out with a smile on her face. With a deft hand, he swapped the food for the five dollar bill in Janice’s hand.

“That stuff is gonna be the death of you,” a man said approaching Janice. “Not to mention destroy all those workouts you do.”

Janice turned with a scowl on her face to face the voice. The grimace turned to a smile as she connected eyes with the man. “Harold! You made it.”

“I wouldn’t miss it for anything,” Harold said. “One of four times we get together without fighting.”

“Yeah,” Janice said around a mouth full of melted candy bar. “Plus it’s public, so plenty of witnesses.”

“You’re my sister,” Harold affected a stunned look. “I would never dream of hurting you.”

“Putting me in the ICU is another matter.” Janice rolled her eyes as she tilted her head, still munching on the candy bar.

“I’ve apologized for that.” Harold leaned in close. “And I made sure Shox paid for it.”

“It’s good to see my big brother still looks after me.” Janice pulled in the last of the candy bar and tossed the stick in a garbage can. “Does he still not like midway rides?” She glanced in the direction of a large sign pointing to the rides.

“You know they make me sick.” Harold moved for the sign, following Janice’s lead. “But you are welcome to ride them all you want.”

“Let me get this straight,” Janice said walking towards the midway. “You fly at high rates of speed. Perform complex maneuvers in fights. Free fall from great heights and pull off fantastic feats at the drop of a hat without practice. But a little hurky jerk on a rollercoaster and up comes lunch.”

“What can I say,” Harold said with a smile. “I’m just born this way.” He continued to walk with his sister.

“Speaking of being born this way,” Janice said, moving closer to her brother. “Have you heard about the bill that Senator Carlton is pushing?”

“Yup,” Harold answered. “My team is working on a rebuttal as we speak.”

“The last time you rebutted something like this, six people died.” Janice by ring toss booth.

Harold handed the attendant a five dollar bill and took three rings. He tossed the first ring and it landed on the neck of a bottle. “Correction. Six bigots died.”

“They were still people.” Janice looked around. No one was really paying their conversation any attention.

“They even whined when you and your team saved the rest.” Harold tossed the next two rings in rapid succession. Both sunk onto a bottleneck. The barker handed him a large stuffed dog. Janice gave a mock golf clap.

“You didn’t have to fill their lungs with gas.” Janice reached for the dog. “They didn’t even have filters or masks.” She continued on her previous path.

“It was self defense.” Harold walked next to Janice. “They shot and killed Lariat. Even the news had that one on video.”

“OK,” Janice said. “I’ll give you that. But being violent doesn’t help.”

“Passive is too slow and the results are flakey at best.” Harold pointed to another game of chance. This one the milk bottles.

Janice put down a ten and demanded six balls. The attendant handed over seven. “Good luck lady.”

“You’ve barely managed to stop legislature and deter riots over civil liberties off Meta-Humans.” Harold, holding the large dog, watched Janice’s technique.

“Well,” Janice said, flinging a side armed pitch that knocked over all three metal milk bottles. “At least no one get hurt.”

“Are you kidding?” Harold laughed. “You’ve put people in the hospital. Even dished out a few permanent limps.”

The attendant stepped back from setting up the bottles. Janice flung her next ball. “OK, so people get hurt. On both sides.” All three bottles crashed again. “It seems that both of us are gaining ground, but just very slowly.” The attendant moved to set the bottles up again.

“True.” Harold nodded. “But I don’t have to keep reminding people. I say something once, and they get it.”

In a quick fire motion, Janice sent the next three balls at three other pyramids of milk bottles. The attendant looked at the mess of bottles, then back to Janice. She waved the last ball. Letting out a heavy sigh, the attendant set one set of bottles. No sooner had he stepped back, then Janice let the last ball fly, once again knocking them over. The attendant looked at Janice and she pointed to an extra large stuffed panda bear. The attendant handed the bear to Janice, who handed it to Harold.

“How’s the intimidation thing working for you?” Janice held the prize Harold had won for her. “You are a wanted felon and murderer.”

“I’m not a wanted felon, Smoke is.” Shifting the large panda under an arm, Harold added, “And I never killed anyone without provocation. All of them are pure selfdefense, provable in any court of law.”

“Harold,” Janice said, walking down the midway. “We both want the same thing, I get it.” She moved to allow a young couple to walk by. “It is our approach that separates us.”

“Which makes you the hero and me the villain.” Harold stepped next to his sister. “I love these outings. Peaceful and they remind me what an endearing sap you are.” He smiled and kissed her cheek.

“You’re not a villain,” Janice said. “You’re my brother.” She smiled as Harold walked through the exit and into the dark of the field beyond.

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.

Lavender

Lavender walked up the steps. She held the three bottles of water, two hotdogs, and her game program. She stopped at row 304. Checking her ticket, she saw seat 14. “Excuse me,” she said, raising her voice and showing a beaming smile.

Two large men looked up at her, smiled, and then stood. She now had enough room to inch past the two men. Stepping into the row, she worked passed four other people, and a drink vendor.

Lavender sat on the bench with the faded 14 painted on it. She put two bottles under her seat and began munching on one of the hotdogs.

Six minutes of match play expired since she purchased her food. Lavender watched as her favorite soccer team, the Smashers, ran over the field. To her, they seemed to be better equipped than the Titans.

The fan clubs started with their chants, each one taunting the other team. A few single fans dished out friendly ribbing as they passed each other on the steps and even in the seats.

A few more minutes ticked by and the Smashers scored a goal. With it being a home game, the bleachers erupted with cheers and thunderous noise.

A few minutes after the tumult died down, the Titans landed on the scoreboard. The cheering, though not as prevalent, was just as loud.

“That was an excellent play,” Lavender said to herself around the last half of her second hotdog.

The game resumed. “Oh, that was a bad call by the ref,” Lavender said with a grimace. Titan fans agreed and let others know with cat calls and name calling.

Williams, a player on the Smahsers acquired a yellow card a few minutes before the half. Again the Smashers fans in the stands erupted. A few individual fans scuffled and were escorted from their seat by security.

The fan clubs kicked their chants into high gear. Each club worked at outdoing the other club and then pushed it up a notch.

Lavender moved for the stairs before half time started. Her nose twitched as she landed on the walkway. A shiver danced over her spine, and her arms turned to goose-flesh.

“This can’t be good,” she whispered. Her head turned and her eyes scanned the crowd. Frustration, anger, and even resentment flashed across several spectator’s faces. “Oh, dear,” Lavender said and moved into the tunnel under the seats.

She hustled across the open space, past a concession stand, and dashed into the women’s restroom. Slamming a stall door closed, she focused on calm feelings and simple happiness. Lavender’s clothes shifted and morphed into something entirely different. Her shorts extended past her knees and hugged her legs. The peasant top shrunk and covered her arms to the wrists. An emblem of a dove appeared just below her collar bones. A swath of purple appeared over her eyes and around her head, holding her hair in place.

Lavender entered the restroom but her alter ego, Solace, exited.

A loud noise came from the seating area. Solace dashed through the same tunnel and found chaos ruling. Several people wearing Titans colors were beating a single individual wearing a Smashers jersey. Security guards were being pummeled by other people that didn’t wear any affiliation clothing.

Taking a large breath and exhaling, Solace took flight. Once in the air she reassessed the crowd. The two fan clubs had cleared the distance separating them and were in an all-out brawl with each other. Adults everywhere were fighting. A few teenagers were even involved.

The sight of two young children pulled Solace’s attention. They were in the way of two large men and about to be trampled. Solace hurried over to the younglings and stood in the path. “Peace and gentleness,” she said, letting the smile spread across her lips and lighting her eyes.

The two burly men paused, looked at Solace, blinked twice, and then looked around. Both men looked at each other then back to Solace.

“What’s done is done,” the petite hero said. “Let it go. Please see these children to safety.” Solace turned to show the two kids behind her.

“Oh, crap!” One man leaned forward and scooped up a kid, the other man ushered the second child in front of him. “We got this lady. Thanks.”

“You are welcome, good sir,” Solace smiled and scanned the crowd again.

“Ahhhh,” the high pitched voice said from over the soccer pitch. “My lovely sister has graced us with her presence.”

Solace turned to see her identical twin hovering out of reach. Aside from their costumes, they matched in every visible way. Their powers were even identical. The difference was how they chose to use them.

“Conflict,” Solace called out. “You’re the cause of this?”

“Sort of,” the slender black clad woman said. “I just enhanced what was already there. You already know this.”

Solace stepped from the steps and into the air. “Connie, stop this. People are going to kill each other.” In answer to her statement, two people were thrown over the railing to land in the grass of the pitch.

“That doesn’t matter,” Conflict laughed. “They want to do this any way. Otherwise, they would just stop.”

Solace turned, looking at the crowd. In just the few moments of conversation, it seemed as if the violence increased.

“If you won’t stop this, then I will,” Solace grimaced at her sister.

“Right.” Conflict let out a belly laugh. “You go into that and stop it. That’s hilarious, Ms. Pacifist.”

A loud banging noise sounded overhead. Solace looked up and saw the speaker. Her head darted to the wall of glass indicating the announcer’s booth.

Solace turned back and humphed at her sister.

Throwing her arms back and leaning into her path, Solace zoomed to the announcer’s booth. The door was already broken and four people were knocked out, laying strewn over the floor. Going inside, she saw two more people struggle with each other.

Solace reached up and touched both of their shoulders. “Calm down. I need help. Make it so I can talk over this.” Holding a microphone, Solace’s eyes bored into the two women.

Without even bothering to straighten themselves up, both women reached over and flipped switches.

A quick squeal of feedback sounded, but people kept fighting. Conflict looked at the booth.

“Excuse me,” Solace’s clam, quiet voice came over the sound system.

The people didn’t even acknowledge that someone even spoke. Conflict laughed louder.

Solace’s voice warbled, “Imagine there’s no heaven. It’s easy if you try. No hell below us, above us only sky.” Her voice picked up in volume and tone. A handful of people stopped and looked at the nearest speaker.

“Imagine all the people, living for today – aha-ah.” Solace’s words flowed and fit the familiar melody. More people stopped fighting. Three began mouthing the words.

Conflict looked at the crowd. “Come on! Get to it!” Conflict flew into the crowd. “You two,” she pointed at two men. “Fight!”

Both men looked at Conflict, then shook their heads. One made a dismissive gesture.

Conflict’s eyes turned into saucers. She clinched and unclenched her fists. “Stop it!”

“Imagine there’s no countries, it isn’t hard to do,” Solace’s voice filled the stadium. “Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion, too.”

Everyone stopped fighting. Several picked up the song and added their voices.

“NO!” Conflict smacked someone. She grabbed another person and locked eyes with them. “Kill Solace!”

The young man broke from Conflict and shook his head. “Get lost, creep!”

“Imagine all the people, living life in peace…You…”

The entire stadium picked up the song. Bodies swayed and smiles were passed along. People slowly straightened themselves up and cleaned up messes. They continued singing.

With a growl, Conflict flew from the stadium.

Half time was extended so the players and spectators could finish cleaning up. Lavender found her seat in time for the second half. “This is the life.” Lavender reached under her seat and pulled out a bottle of water. She took the first sip as the whistle blew starting the half.


“Imagine” Words and Music by John Lennon

©1971

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?

Gargantua

“You big meany,” the little girl with pigtails said as she stuck her tongue out. “You should stop right now.” Her rosy cheeks matched the pink in her jumper. “If Gargantua shows up, you’ll be sorry.” She leaned forward waggling a finger with her other fist on her hip.

“Hahaha. Little one, you should worry about yourself.” The hulking figure of Brute approached the little girl, a feral smile on his lips. “Gargantua isn’t here to protect anyone.” Taking in the crowd of cowering people, Brute bellowed, “You know the drill. Cash. On the table. Now.”

Several people moved to comply.

Brute stormed into the Golden Stork Casino ten minutes earlier. After he had knocked out the three armed security guards, Brute smashed open their money cart and dumped it over. With a thundering bellow, he collapsed a pillar after he saw the cart was empty.

Now, he was going to rob the patrons to make up for his loss. He knew better than to tangle with the vaults. They were triple protected and beyond his ability to break open.

“Gargantua!” The little girl screamed.

Brute jerked back to face her. “Stop that.”

“Why,” the little girl asked. “Are you afraid she will hear it? If she does she might show up.”

“She’s tall and strong,” Brute snorted. “She won’t hear you. Besides, she would never be in a place like this.”

“Gargantua!”

Brute looked around. Several people stopped moving to place their money on the table. Looking left, then right, Brute added to the shout. “GARGANTUA!”

He waited again.

“See. Nothing.” Brute let out a belly laugh that rattled the nearby glass.

Seeing that he was right, the patrons began to pile their money on the table again.

The little girl let out a humph and stomped over to Brute.

“Ohhh…You are so cute when you’re mad.” He reached down and patted the three foot tall girl on her head.

She kicked him in the shin. Brute didn’t even flinch.

“Look, kid. I don’t really want to hurt you. You’re feisty, and I like that.” Brute kneeled down and placed a card-table sized hand on her shoulder. Her knees flexed, but she remained upright. “But if you don’t stop bothering me, I’m gonna have to spank you.”

A collective gasp escaped several people, and some moved to grab the child. A glare from Brute froze them all in their tracks.

“You wouldn’t.” The little girl screwed up her face and narrowed her eyes.

“Yes, I would.” Brute’s shoulder jumped, and the girl flew several yards. Her limp body collided with the wooden teller booth. Her small form cratered the wall, bringing the marble counter on top of her.

Brute’s face flattened and his eyes narrowed. Standing up in a smooth motion, he shouted. “Anyone else?” Several people visibly shook, and a few had wet spots on their pants. “I didn’t think so.”

Brute moved to the table where all the cash laid in a flat pile. He raked it into a large bag he carried.

The rubble of the teller bank shifted and a grumble came through the dust and splintered wood.

“You forgot about me.”

The voice was loud and low, but no mistaking the feminine edge it carried.

As the debris shifted and fell to the side, a statuesque woman, replete with mask stood in the wake of the destruction. Her head brushed the cathedral ceiling as she extended to her full height.

“Brute. I gave you a chance. Now it’s my turn.” With strides the length of banquet tables, she cleared the distance to the muscle bound thug. Her oven sized hands encased Brute, pinning his arms to his sides.

“But…but…but…The little girl.” Brute’s mouth moved and his eyes opened to the size of dinner plates.

Gargantua smirked and shook her head. The swaying pig tails caught his attention.

“Mother fuc-”

Gargantua twitched her wrist, making Brute’s teeth click. “You kiss your mother with that potty mouth?”

The Toddler

The toddler let go of the stroller. His short legs, hampered by the thick diaper, carried him several steps from the reach of his mother. A mother with her head bowed over a phone. “Boy, you better get back here,” the mother growled. She moved her blood-shot eyes to look at the kid.

The toddler giggled. He let out a gurgle making several other passengers smile as he stumbled about. The train jostled, tossing the already unstable child towards the closed doors. The toddler’s feet danced several steps, keeping the tyke up right. The distracted mother kept her head and shoulders hunched over her phone. She didn’t flinch when her son lost his balance. Her fingers tapped on the phone when the child lunged for the doors.

Tiny fingers gripped the seal between the sliding doors. His small weight shifted with the rolling floor. The doors slammed open, taking the small body into the air.

Five adult passengers clambered for just a finger hold on the child. None made it.

The sixth arm wriggled through legs, the tangle of arms, and encircled the child’s torso. A swift tug and the toddler was back in the train.

All heads turned; following the arm back to the body it was attached. A tall woman blew out a breath and placed the toddler in front of his mother.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” The mother dashed to her feet with a disgusted look on her face. “You’re a Meta-Human! Don’t you dare touch me!” With her phone put away, she looked at the crying child. The mother kept a distance from the child, while the child extended arms and tiny, grasping hands.

Several faces turned to look at a man wearing a dark suit with a gold MWG pin on his lapel. The man had a hand-sized detector out and scanned the area. When he put it away, he looked over his dark shades and cocked an eyebrow. “You know it’s against the law to display your abilities in public?”

“Except in self-defense or other dire situations.” The woman glanced at the toddler and his mother. “I think this counts.” A smile creased her face as she stepped towards the door.

A consenting murmur came from the surrounding people. Several backed away from the surrounding group.

“I’m that child’s mother and I wouldn’t have consented!” The mother leaned forward, but pointed a hand at the wailing child.

Heads turned to stare at the mother with wide eyes, and mouths open. Someone gasped.

The train pulled into the station and the intercom blared the garbled stop name.

“Call it in if you are so inclined.” The tall woman moved for the opened door, hitching her bag on her shoulder as she stepped on the busy platform.

“Don’t you walk away,” the mother stomped towards the leaving woman. The crying child grabbing at the legs of his mother.

The MWG member shook his head and walked away. “There is no accounting for class.”

The Dancer

“Tasha this isn’t a good idea.” Marie looked through the gym door. “The stands are packed!”

“Good.” Tasha let out a heavy sigh. “If I’m coming out, it might as well be big.” She shook her hands and paced in a tight circle. “I need to do this, Claire.”

“You’re on deck,” the dance competition official said. “This way, and wait at the door.”

Tasha winked at Claire and walked to the spot designated by the official.

“You got this,” Claire said, giving a thumbs up.

Tasha gave a quick finger wave and grin.

The final strain of the previous dance team’s music faded. Tasha saw them dash to the far end of the gym floor, file out to the side.

“Up next Central High school.” An official pulled the door open for Tasha, ushering her in.

“Where is the rest of your team?” This was the announcer.

“I’m a team of one.” Tasha shrugged and moved to the edge of the dance area.

“The next school up is Central High.” The amplified voice reverberated throughout the gym.

Tasha walked to the center of the gym.

“Central High you have the floor and your music is on.”

The second of silence stretched. The sudden blast of the bass note sent a jolt through the crowd. A gasp that changed barometric pressure of the room came next.

Tasha held hands over had, fingers dangling towards her head. Another set of arms were overhead, palms out. A third set splayed from her shoulders pointing to the rafters. The fourth set stuck out from here body forming a cross. Another set pointed to the ground and behind. The final set extended forward with fingers curling in a come hither.

The entire front row of the bleachers showed large amounts of white in their eyes.

Tasha’s choice of music changed to a steady rolling rhythm. A body detached, taking a set of arms with it. This process repeated for each set of arms with another five more bodies appearing. Each body’s appearance was identical to Tasha. The only difference, though no one in the stands could tell, were the eyes. Only one dancer had normal eyes, the rest shared milky white, hazy eyes.

Every dancer moved in perfect timing with the driving music blaring over the sound system. Spins ended with crisp precision, flips and leaps cleared the exact distance needed. Each dancer’s hips swayed in unison.

The entire gymnasium sat in graveyard silence. Jaws slacked and eyes widened. Every spectator watched as the identical dancers completed their complex gyrations and intricate choreography.

The music built up in volume and cadence. The movements of the dancers picked up in time. As the final notes carried, Tasha stood in the center of the dance area. Each of the clones were away from her, but turned to face center. At a single step interval, each dancer darted toward their creator. As they approached to an arms distance, each dancer leaped and collided with the host, melding with Tasha.

As the last body disappeared from view, Tasha stood in perfect on point stance.

The music faded and the audience’s breathing returned. Tasha walked with the poise of a prima Dona and left the dance area.

As Tasha strode past the announcer, she said, “Not bad for a Meta-Human, huh?” Tasha kept walking, even with the dark clad person detaching from the stands.