The Angel

Jarryd Finely sighed as he walked through his front door into his dark house. Shedding his coat and thick boots, he moved to the kitchen. The clock on the microwave changed to 11:42pm as he pulled the fridge open. Jarryd finished the niggling amount of orange juice in the bottle, then tossed it in the recycling bin.

He grabbed the dish of leftovers his mother left for him. “Mmmmm. Meatloaf and green beans.” Jarryd walked down the short hall munching on the cold food. He tossed his bag on his bed, then undressed.

Wearing a towel, Jarryd shambled to the bathroom. He brushed his teeth while he waited for the shower to get hot.

As the water poured over him, Jarryd sighed again. “There has to be more to life than just work and sleep.” He let the soap and shampoo flow down the drain.

Toweling off, he moved back to his bedroom and put on an old pair of shorts.

Jarryd read a few news stories on his laptop. The most recent, that of Ajax and Thundra saving lives of school kids, got him thinking. “That is what I want to do. Save humanity and make the world a safe place.”

He shut down his browser and stood.

A noise from the outside of his window caught his attention. Jarryd bent a blind down and peered into the darkness.

His mouth fell open, and he leaned forward. His head crashed into the blinds and window.

Floundering for the pull cord, Jarryd got the blinds up on the third pull. Next he tugged the window open and breathed in the cold night air. His breath making a white plume as he blew it out.

“Jarryd Finely of Earth,” the glittery being said. The voice sounded like haunting wind chimes. It held out arms and nodded it’s head slowly. Wings from sprouted from the back of the creature. The long cloth covering the creature extended past where feet might have dangled. “I am Brynnian and I have been sent to grant your request.”

“My request,” Jarryd asked. He stuttered as his eyes looked up. The list of things Jarryd had ever asked for flashed behind his eyes and then stopped on his most recent. “You mean save humanity and make the world safe?”

“Precisely,” the angelic figure said with a smile and sparkly eyes.

“How’m I to do that? I am just a burger flipper.” Jarryd grimaced as heat traveled up his neck and landed on his face. “I barely passed high school and only go to community college part time.”

A seraphic smile flowed onto Brynnian’s face, “That is of little consequence. All that matters is that you discharge your duty to best of your abilities.”

Jarryd arched an eyebrow and a corner of his mouth tightened.

“I guess I could do that,” Jarryd said. “but I don’t have abilities. I ride a moped. Flying is right out and I imagine I’m gonna to have to fight and lift heavy things.”

A lilt of a chuckle escaped from Brynnian. “I am here to bring you those abilities.”

Brynnian’s arm floated towards Jarryd.

Jarryd opened his eyes and mouth, but he was held in place and unable to speak.

Brynnian’s finger fluttered down over Jarryd’s forehead, eyes, nose, mouth, and chin.

A tingle darted over Jarryd’s body and he gasped. Throwing his head up his arms splayed and tightened. His entire body screamed but only little whimpers escaped his mouth.

“It is done,” Brynnian said. “You are ready.”

Gasping for his wind, and feeling the cold wind, Jarryd asked, “Ready? What abilities do I have? Where do I go? What do I do? Who-”

“You get that answer in time,” Brynnian answered with his chiming voice and another smile on his face.

“But-”

“You have been given the ability to save all humanity,” Brynnian said and flapped his wings.

“Wait!” Jarryd reached for the strange being. “What I am saving humanity from?”

Brynnian swept an arm to stop past a shoulder. Another slow nod and Brynnian vanished.

“Shit!” Jarryd dashed back to the bathroom. He wiped the remnants of the fog off the mirror. Looking at himself in the mirror he didn’t see anything different.

Just as he turned his head, Jarryd saw a black figure on his neck. It looked like a tattoo of two pointed spears crossed midway down their shafts.

“Oh, man,” Jarryd said running fingers over the mark. “I need to explain that to Mom. Hell, I need to explain it to everyone. Hell, I need to have it explained to me. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.”

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Twinsies

“Now,” David asked. “You need me to do this now?” David rolled his eyes, as he activated his turn signal. “I’m gonna be late.”

“Late for what,” Daniel asked. “You’re on your way home.”

David let out an exaggerated sigh. “I have a date,” he glanced at his dashboard clock. “In twenty minutes.”

“This shouldn’t take long,” Daniel said. “I just have to be seen walking out of my office and into the elevator.”

“Fine, but it’ll cost ya,” David turned again and zoomed through the yellow light. “I figure a c-note should cover it.”

“What! That’s highway robbery.”

“No, that’s paying for services rendered.” David pulled into the parking garage, handed the attendant a ten, then continued driving. “Deal, or I turn around and leave.”

“Fine,” Daniel sighed. “Right hand drawer. Just a hundred.”

“Good. I’m parked.” David pressed the hang-up button and got out of his car. Standing the parking garage made him uncomfortable.

“You ready,” David jumped as Daniel appeared next to him.

“I hate it when you do that,” David reached for the bundle in Daniel’s hands. “Just the shirt and tie. The rest won’t be noticed.”

“What ever. Just change,” Daniel said and pulled his dark-green cowl over his head. “It shouldn’t take more than three minutes.”

David pulled his shirt off and swapped it with the one he was handed. The tie was still looped, but he tightened it around his neck. He held his hand up to stall Daniel. David shoved his hands into the waist of his pants, pulling the shirt-tails with it. David nodded when he was ready.

Daniel grinned and grabbed his identical twin and zipped up to his open window.

David plopped into the soft leather chair and ran a hand through his wind-swept hair. “I’m leaving in three minutes.”

“Fine,” Daniel said. “I’m off, and thanks.” He waved to his brother and jumped from the window. His power kicked in and he flew out towards the danger he was called for.

“Twins my ass,” David said. “He got the power and the attitude. I got the brains.” He reached for the right hand drawer and pulled. Inside were papers, small trinkets, and a manilla envelope. Taking the envelope, David pulled a hundred-dollar bill out and folded it into his pocket. “Plus tip,” David repeated the process with a twenty.

After counting to one hundred, David stood from the chair. He grabbed the leather valise and walked out the door.

“See ya tomorrow, Marie,” David said to Daniel’s secretary.

Marie looked up from her computer and did a double take. Her lips moved but carried no sound, “David.”

“OK, Mr. Tabbert,” Marie smiled to herself.

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.”

Kopy Kat

“Ladies, this is no way to meet me.” The figure stepped through the door and put his hands on his hips. He wore a plain white t-shirt tucked into well worn and faded blue jeans. There was no emblem, no utility belt, and no cape. His feet were clad in ankle high chuck Taylor’s. The only thing hiding his identity was the domino mask.

“What do we have here?” The short woman turned to face the man. “Must not be much, because he ain’t got a costume.”

“Red Racer, it takes more than a silly costume to be a hero.” The young man smiled at the short red dressed woman.

“You must be one of them over all types. Decent strength, toughness, reaction, flexibility.” The woman stepped forward placing her hands on her hips. “Jack of all trades, no specialty.” She smirked and glanced back at Crag, who carried a large ATM on her shoulders.

“You have no idea.” The man shook his head slowly then tilted it forward. “All that matters is I am going to stop you.”

Red Racer let out a sharp HA and zipped forward. Her fists darted in on the plainly dressed man, but not a single one landed. The man either shifted out of range or deflected the blows to the side.

A quick change of his feet, and the man sent a triple punch that landed on Red Racer’s face. Bruises and a cut showed when he stopped.

Red Racer fell with a moan and struggling to get up.

The ATM clanged to the ground.

“You should’t hit girls.”

Crag stomped forward, her fists curled and rising.

“Look, Crag. You don’t want to do this.” The young man held his hands up and stepped back a few paces. “You can just surrender and make this easier on yourself.” The cocky smile never left the man’s face.

“Shut up!”

Crag brought a fist down with blinding speed. The only resistance she felt was the ground and left a beachball sized crater.

“I warned you, Crag.” The youth’s fist connected with Crag’s chin and she staggered back.

“How?” Her features suited the question as she rubbed where he hit her.

“It’s my ability.” He stepped in, and pivoted his hip as he delivered a hard, fast right to her midsection.

She swatted the punch away like an annoying gnat. Countering with a hook to his face, he went sprawling across the open expanse of the mall atrium to collide with the marble wall.

“OK.” He shook his head as he scrambled to his feet. “You’re faster than you look.”

“I’m a lot of things that I don’t look.”

The young man took the full body of Crag into his eyes. She was taller than he, well muscled, and he could see her feminine features.

“I’m not just a muscle bound clod good at knocking down doors and heavy lifting.” She leaned forward as she closed the distance between them. When she planted a hand on the ground, the young man stagger-stepped to the side. Crag completed her cartwheel and landed close enough to grab the plainly dressed hero. “I’m a lot smarter than people give me credit for.” She yanked up and grunted with the effort.

The young man didn’t budge.

“This right here, is where we are alike.” The hero reached out, grabbed bunches of Crag’s costume, flexed his knees and lifted. To finish the maneuver, he leaped into the air and spun, putting Crag’s body beneath him.

The boom echoed throughout the mall, shattering glass, knocking over planters, and setting off burglar alarms.

Crag looked into the masked eyes of the hero. “Copy cat.”

“Well, well, well. Brains to go with that brawn.” He locked his lips on hers. She struggled and then gave in and returned the kiss.

“I take it you aren’t going to let me go.”

“No. But I will visit.” The young man stood up as the police arrived. “There is no way I am letting you get away. You’re the first.”

Crag blushed as she stood up. Her long, unkempt hair covered her face and her smile.

The cops restrained Red Racer as she struggled to get away. Crag simply went peacefully.

The cop that stepped forward and took charge asked, “So you must be new and haven’t gotten your costume worked out.”

The young man looked at the floor then raised his head showing dazzling white teeth. “Sergeant, this is my costume. I wear this because I can. I’m KopyKat.” Shaking the police officer’s hand, KopyKat moved to the truck they stuck Crag in. He winked, then ran off.

Special Delivery – Anders

Anders Brady walked into the control room. Logging into his workstation, he sat back and watched as his monitors populated with his assignments for the overnight shift. A quick perusal of his email didn’t reveal anything out of the ordinary. He enjoyed the overnight shift for this reason. There was rarely any group celebrating anything. The six other workers on the overnight shift with him all had the same disposition, put your head down and get your work done. Make your numbers and the boss was happy.

The four quadrants of Anders’ medical monitor populated and the list of clients appeared center screen. For that evening he had Mechanoid, Fisticuffs, Lilliputian, and one labeled Client 48.

“That’s odd.”

Anders clicked on the name and generic bust that represented Client 48. He read the list of vitals, the allergy to peanuts, and other medical stats. Everything was populated with standard information, like any other client. This one had no picture or name.

“Perhaps a new client and is going through the importing process.”

Anders clicked on the additional information tab. Client 48 was a gold level client and had been such for the past seven years.

“That answers that one, he isn’t new.”

Most of Anders’ teammates were on a different floor, except Charles Zawisk. Anders’ tapped a few controls on his screen and his wrist panel lit up. He walked over to the darkened corner where Charles sat.

“Chuckles, I have an unusual client name.”

“Yeah?” Charles stared at his monitor, the light making him appear haunted and sunken eyed. “Weirder than Octopus-Lad?”

“Probably.” Anders stopped walking and leaned on the low wall. “Mine is called Client 48.”

Charles grunted. “Maybe they’re new and still getting imported.”

“No, I checked,” Anders answered. “He has been a gold client for seven years.”

“Gold you say?” Charles shifted his eyes from the monitor to Anders. “Maybe he paid to keep his name super secret. There have been a few clients that have that privilege.”

“That doesn’t make sense.” Anders shifted to an upright posture. “We are medical professionals and need to know his name. At least his hero name.”

“Wait, that is his hero name?” Charles looked Anders in the face. “That is odd. You win.”

Charles handed a small three inch trophy over to Anders. The shape was of a cup and said weird on the side of it.

“Uh..Thanks.” Anders took the small token. “But that doesn’t help me. Who is it?”

BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!

Charles jerked his head to his monitors. “Not me.”

“Mine.” Anders looked wide eyed at his wrist panel. “And I am about to find out who this guy is.”

“It’s him? Sweet.” Charles chuckled then straightened his face. “I don’t mean sweet, cause he is hurt…Oh you know what I mean.”

Anders smiled back and waved as he moved to the launch pad.

“EMT Two Anders Brady exiting to retrieve Client 48.”

The doors open as he approached and the exterior lights blazed to life as he crested the door. Anders took one step, and his body grew. Arm and leg muscles enlarged. On Anders’ next step his torso grew in proportion to his appendages, and hair began to poke out of his uniform neck, sleeves, and waist band. As his third step completed, Anders’ face morphed into that of a large ape. On his fourth step, Anders jumped.

Anders cleared the street to the next building. He gripped the horizontal bar the EMT company put there for him. A quick spin and Anders launched, clearing three buildings. From there, Anders built up momentum and tracked to where his client was located.

The wrist panel indicated that Client 48 was conscious and still moving, but heavily wounded and would need medical attention.

As he approached closer to his destination, Anders shifted to bounce off one building, then another, and finally on the ground. He followed the map his wrist panel laid out for him and turned into the parking garage.

A quick vault over the booth and Anders craned his head to find his client. The bright red light was probably the best location.

Anders gripped the support structure and veered around the corner. He spotted Rampart and slid to a stop. “Rampart, I am EMT Brady? I am here to retrieve a client. Are you injured?”

Rampart pointed his hand at the direction he fired earlier. “Nope. Murk never laid a hand on me. If he did, you might be picking me up.”

Anders looked at his wrist panel. The red dot blinked and was off to the side, in the direction that Rampart fired.

“No way.” Anders looked in the direction and slowly shook his head.

“What?” Rampart approached Anders and glanced at the wrist panel. “Don’t tell me you’re here to pick up Murk.”

“Well, I don’t know his name. He is listed as Client 48.”

Rampart moved between the downed form and Anders, “I can’t let you go over there. Not until the cops arrive.”

Anders held up his wrist panel. “I have him in critical condition. He will die unless I do something.”

Rampart looked at Anders, then over his shoulder at the lump, then back at Anders. “Fine. You can keep him from dying. But you can’t take him anywhere.”

Anders approached the downed form. A quick glance at his wrist panel confirmed what he suspected. The number four killer in the super community was his Client 48. Anders licked his ape-like lips and reached for a pulse. Murk still had one.

Turning on his belt light, Anders saw numerous contusions and some blood on the outside of Murk’s costume. He also noted that Murk’s left arm had a compound fracture. Anders ran his highly skilled though very large hands over other parts of Murk’s body. He felt broken ribs and spotted the blood coming from Murk’s ears.

“This is EMT Brady on location with Client 48. Client is unresponsive and has massive internal injuries that will require medical attention.”

Anders heard the response come back into his earbud, “Understood, EMT. We have telemetry with your readouts. It is advised you transport Client 48 to the ICU at the nearest facility indicated on your map.”

Anders turned his head and looked at Rampart, “I hear you. However, that might not be a possibility. Client 48 is -”

“We understand who Client 48 is. Get your patient to the hospital. NOW!”

Anders’ throat tightened. He looked at his patient, then back at Rampart.

“I said you ain’t takin’ him.” Rampart advanced and raised both glowing hands towards Anders.

Moving with speed not expected from his sized Anders snatched Murk in a scoop grab, tapped a button on his belt making the forcefield snap into place, and bolted through the small opening to the side of Rampart.

Rampart demonstrated his experience by splaying his arms to their fullest, moved to cover the gap and let loose with blasts from both hands.

The bolts from Rampart’s hands pelted Anders’ forcefield. The gap closed and Anders was forced to swat at the hero to keep from getting blasted into a wall.

Rampart was sent sprawling across the pavement colliding into three parked cars, leaving them dented.

Anders took advantage of the made opportunity and galloped down the open ramp with his ward safely tucked like a football in the crook of his arm. Clearing the parking garage, Anders grabbed the large threshold and hoisted himself into a back flip and across the road. Planting both feet on a balcony, he pushed to the roof and somersaulted the distance to the other side.

Rampart, scrambled to his feet, shaking the cobwebs from his head. After two quick steps, he took to the air and exited the parking garage through an opening on this level. Looking around, he saw the hairy form of the EMT clear the balcony and land on the roof across the street. A quick arc of his back sent Rampart in that direction.

After clearing the next building Anders took a quick peek at this wrist panel. The map showed the closest hospital three blocks away. “I just got to get there.” He checked his patient’s readouts and felt a thready pulse. “Hang on Murk.”

The roof he leaped from ricocheted a blast. Jerking his head around, Anders saw Rampart flying for him, both arms extended with ruby red glowing fists at the ends.

Rampart flexed his elbows as he blasted the loping ape.

Anders shifted mid flight and twisted around the blood-red bolt as it sped by.

“This is EMT Brady. I need help. Rampart is firing at me and my patient.”

“Help is on the way. Hold it together.”

“What ever you say.”

Anders snagged a ledge and changed directions.

Rampart let his power build in his hands.

A shadow passed over Anders and descended between Rampart and himself.

“It’s over Frank! Stop.”

Rampart pulled to a hovering stop and let his power dissipate.

“Damn it Dave! Murk is getting away!” Rampart pointed past the hero everyone knew on sight. Paladin hovered in place between Rampart and Anders, arms crossed, cape fluttering and a scowl chiseled on his face.

“I don’t care.” Paladin gave no indication he moved, but he appeared within arms reach of Rampart during that black part of an eye blink. “Murk is next to dying, and you put him there. That’s not why I am here. I am here because you are hindering an EMT from doing his job. Then there is the property damage you caused on your way here, not to mention during your battle. Let it go. Now!”

***

Anders landed at the ambulance entrance. He was greeted by medical staff with a gurney. After placing his patient on the bed, he turned to leave. A person in a suit with a clipboard out called, “Wait! We need your name.”

“I would rather not.” Anders said as he transformed to his human appearance.

“But it is procedure and required by law.”

A heavy sigh exited Anders mouth. “Anders Brady. EMT for Special Delivery.” The suited individual scribbled the information down. “If that is all.”

The suit nodded and Anders walked away, holding his head low.

***

Back at the office, Anders walked into the main lobby. Three people were there waiting for him. One he recognized right away, Amanda Charles, the overnight supervisor. “Anders, we need a moment,” Amanda waved him over.

“Fine,” Anders sighed as he walked over.

“I understand that you are not happy at what happened.”

“Understand? I don’t think you do.” Anders visibly restrained his rage.

“I have had to transport some unsavory clients before.”

“Neat. I understand it is part of the job, I get that.”

“Besides, you get the bounty on his head for capture. It is a nice chunk of change.”

“You have no idea who that was do you?”

“Yes I do. Client 48 is Murk. He is a killer and is responsible for numerous murders and other random deaths of normals as well as supers the world over.”

“Nope. I figured you didn’t. He also killed my parents. Strode into their lab and just blasted them because they didn’t move fast enough.” Tears fell from Anders eyes. His whole body trembled with fear, anger, and frustration. “And I had to save him.”

Out of Work

“So Andrew, what do you think? Is this a place where you could prosper?” Howard Davis sat across from Andrew. Howard placed the resume in the manilla folder with the other paperwork and closed it.

“Mr. Davis, I would love to work here.” Andrew’s face flushed, his eyes sparkled and all his teeth showed in his smile.

“Good to hear.” Howard stood. “This was your third of three interviews and there was one other candidate. I have to consult with the rest of the team and the background check should be finished shortly.” Howard extended his hand.

Andrew swallowed hard and his eyes darted left then right. Taking the proffered hand, Andrew pumped it with a solid grip twice. “Thank you. I expect to hear from you soon. Tomorrow, I hope.”

“That is a high possibility,” Howard said.

Howard escorted Andrew out of the office and to the receptionist.

Andrew returned his visitor badge and entered his time out on the sheet. He smiled, waved, then left the office.

In the car, Andrew sat still for a few seconds. “YES!” He dragged the smile to it’s widest and pulled both fists up in tight fists. “I can stop being a lackey. Finally. That two years I did, I finished my masters degree and now I have regular job.”

Andrew started the car and drove home. He patted his jacket pocket at random intervals. The hard cased ring box, and it’s contents, were the last vestiges of the money he kept in the box at the back of his closet. After purchasing the car he was driving and fixing up his house, there wasn’t much left, but he knew what he wanted.

Arriving at his house, Andrew saw the message light blink. Opening a beer he tapped the voicemail button.

“Andy! It’s Roy. Job. Call me.”

“Yeah, Roy. I’ll get right on that.” Andrew pulled three heavy swallows from his beer and walked through his house. The smell of new paint and construction lingered from two months ago. He nodded as he looked at the pictures, furniture, and other decorations he put up.

Andrew finished his beer, burped, then snatched the phone from it’s cradle. A quick press of the buttons and he placed the phone to his ear. “Roy, it’s Andy.”

“Good. You’re the first to call me back.” Roy paused a few seconds. “Wreck is setting up preliminaries. He has a major gig in four months. The preliminaries are…well, preliminaries. You know what that means.”

Andrew sighed. “Yeah, Roy. I do.”

“Are you up?”

“No. I have a new line.”

“Oh, really? Big time?”

“No. Steady.”

“Steady? What the hell does that mean?” The speaker emitted Roy’s voice at a higher volume.

“Steady. Regular. Normal.” Andrew punctuated each word. “I’m out. Out of all of it. I did my time, I’m done.”

“You have got to be kidding me?” Roy’s voice carried the laugh he was famous for.

“Nope.”

“You’ll get bored. When you do, call me.”

“Fine. Thanks for understanding.”

“Yeah. Good luck, man. Honestly.” The line went silent.

Andrew put the phone back in the cradle. “Honestly? From a thief? I don’t think so, Roy.”

***

The next morning, Andrew went to the gym. This was a habit he developed in prison. He enjoyed how he felt with the physical exercise and just kept at it.

Nine-thirty his phone rang. On the second ring, he saw the name, Ianthe Chemical.

Snatching the phone and pressing the talk button, Andrew answered in a clear voice. “Hello? Andrew Samson speaking.”

“Andrew. This is Howard Davis. I have good news.”

***

Andrew tossed the phone to his sofa.

“YES!” He jumped and slapped both palms on the ceiling. “About time!” He skipped about his house and continued to celebrate.

Calmness covered him and he set about to organize for his first day. He set up a clothes hanger with a button-down shirt, put a grey suit next to it and laid a navy tie over it. He checked his shoes and touched up the polish.

“Now, I have to find something to do for the next four days.”

***

Saturday afternoon and Andrew picked up his phone. He called his long-term girlfriend. “Soon, it won’t be girlfriend.”

“Hello handsome!” A woman’s lilting voice sounded over the phone.

“Wendy! Lunch. One o’clock. I’ll pick you up.”

“Andy? Wow! Sure. I’ll be ready.”

“Excellent. I’ll be there.”

“I love you.”

“I know. Cause I love you, too.” He hung up.

“Now to get ready.” Andrew darted to his room.

***

Andrew mowed his lawn, cleaned his car, and showered. He checked and rechecked the ring box. Before leaving to pick up Wendy, Andrew called the restaurant to check on his reservations. They were for one o’clock and everything was ready.

Wendy jerked the door opened. Her outfit was perfect and her hair defied gravity.

“You look amazing, Wendy.” Andrew reached for her hand.

“Where are we going?” Wendy closed her door as Andrew pulled her along.

“You’ll see.” He winked at her as she sat in the passenger side. He patted the ring box again and drove off.

The restaurant was a fifteen-minute drive and Andrew couldn’t keep the smile from his face. This smile was contagious and Wendy followed suit.

Pulling into the parking lot, Wendy gasped, “Andy! How did you? What is this?” She slowly exited the car, Andrew holding her hand as she wobbled to her feet.

“I got this.”

The couple walked in to the restaurant. “Yes, Andrew Samson. Reservation at one.”

The Matre’d jerked to a stiffer position. “Ah, yes, Mr. Samson. Right this way.” He led the way to a place off the side of the main dining room. A small table with a setting for two.

Andrew held the chair for Wendy, who sat.

“Enjoy.” The Matre’d walked off.

“Andrew, this is unexpected.” Wendy glanced around, her eyes wide, her mouth open, and her cheeks flushed. “What is going on?”

“Simple,” Andrew said, sitting down. “I have a job.”

Wendy looked at Andrew. The smile vanished and her eyes narrowed. “A job?” The words were slow and deliberate. She cocked her head to one side.

“Yes, Wendy,” Andrew answered. He snapped his napkin out and laid it in his lap. “A job. A nine-to-five, honest to God, real job.”

Wendy’s eyes flashed open and her mouth followed suit. The smile crept back on her face and she inhaled, covering her mouth with her fingers.

“That’s right, Wendy. I start on Monday. I will be a Lab Technician at Ianthe Chemical.” Andrew picked up his class of water and sipped it.

“Andy! Thats…thats…thats…Oh. My. God.”

“I know,” Andrew cracked a smile and held back from laughing out loud. “I wanted to celebrate and break the news to you. I will spend the very last bit of my special money on this, so I wanted to go out with a bang.”

“And what a bang it is.” Wendy kept looking at Andrew. Even when the server showed up with plates of food instead of menus. She caught herself three bites into her dish when she realized what was happening.

“I know you and ordered ahead of time.” Andrew winked at her. “Plus, it adds to the surprise.”

The heat from Wendy’s face could be felt across the table.

***

A few minutes of eating passed, and the server came and removed the plates. Another server came behind the first and deposited a bottle of champagne and two fluted glasses.

“What is this?” Wendy stared wide eyed at Andrew.

“I think you know what this is.” Andrew pulled the ring box out of his pocket but kept it out of sight. “We have been together for several years. You have stood by me through the worst times, and now I want you there for the best times.”

Andrew slid from his chair and knelt beside Wendy. Presenting the ring box, he pulled the lid open. The ring was elegant, with a tasteful setting that bordered on the size of a thumbnail.

“Wendy, will you marry me?”

Wendy gasped and covered her face with both hands. The wait staff and the few patrons within three tables of the proposal stopped what they were doing. Andrew’s ear rang with silence as he stared at the gently sobbing woman in front of him.

“Yes!”

Wendy gripped her left hand with her right in an attempt to keep it from shaking. Andrew placed the ring on Wendy’s finger, kissed it, then kissed her.

The waitstaff and patrons of the restaurant applauded loudly. A few even cheered.

Andrew stood and waved, his face beaming.

***

On the drive home, Wendy asked, “This job at Ianthe Chemical, did they do a background check on you? You have a record.”

“I held nothing back,” Andrew answered. “It never came up on the interview. The application had the block, and I filled it in.”

“Wow!” Wendy stared at the engagement ring.

“I see this as a good omen, and I want it to work.” Andrew drove the route home. “The salary is better than I had hoped. There is a minimal commute, and they have amazing benefits.”

“You really have done your homework on this.” Wendy gazed at Andrew as he drove them to his house.

“Yes. I told you I wanted to go legit and have a regular life. No more henchmen or villain work for me.”

“Good.” Wendy smiled. “I don’t think I could take six months, let alone another two years.”

***

Sunday was a pleasant day for Andrew. He had made room in his house for Wendy and they both casually moved some of her stuff in. The discussed how to arrange the furniture and what kind of cooking equipment they would need, then the topic of kids was broached.

Andrew wanted two, Wendy wanted more. They agreed on three.

***

Monday morning came and Andrew woke to his alarm. He moved with practiced quiet as he departed for the gym. An hour later, he came home and got ready for work.

Wendy packed his lunch and ate breakfast with him.

A peck on the cheek and Andrew left for work.

Howard Davis greeted him in the lobby and handed him his work id card. Andrew filled out the HR forms and was directed to his workspace.

Around ten-thirty, while he was reviewing the research for his newly assigned project, Howard came in.

“Andy. It’s good to see you fitting in.” Howard checked on a few of the benches and talked to the other lab techs that were working.

“How is that bio-bond spray coming along, Davis?”

Andrew looked up. An older man walked in. His bearing was that of an experienced manager, and his build was solid. The suit he wore was tailored and displayed not only style, but strength.

The dark classes and the facial hair looked familiar to Andrew.

“Mr. Henderson.” Howard moved over to the new man. “Yes, the project is coming along nicely. We are experiencing some issues with the deployment device, it doesn’t hold more than two doses.”

“Perhaps a replaceable cartridge, then.” Mr. Henderson extended his arm and flexed his fist down. He moved his arm back and forth in front of him. “Like a handgun. Press a button and the spent one is ejected and I can slap in a new one.”

After hearing the man talk, seeing him move, and a good look at this face, Andrew recognized him. Dr. Graves. The arch-villain and nemesis to the super hero group, Shining Vengeance.

“That sounds like a great idea. I’ll get R&D on that ASAP.” Howard pounded on the table.

“You do that. I have other projects to check on.” Mr. Henderson whirled and left in the same hurried fashion he arrived.

“Excuse me, Mr. Davis?” Andrew stood and walked towards Howard. “Isn’t that Dr. Graves, the super villain?”

“Andrew, you, of all people, should know the value of code names. That was Mr. Henderson. He is one of our benefactors and board members.”

“But this is a respectable business. How can we make devices that someone like Mr. Henderson would use?”

“Andrew, Ianthe Chemical is a legitimate business. We make many things that the common person uses and buys.” Howard shifted to face Andrew squarely. “We also make other things that other people use and they pay us too. In fact they pay us more. Is this going to be a problem?”