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.
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.”
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!”