Brazier

Brazier walked through the Midway of Fantastik Fun Forall. It was the first week of summer vacation and the amusement park teamed with people. The promotion the park used coincided with Pride week, and Brazier volunteered immediately.

Brazier kept his private life private. At the same time, he managed to be a public figure for the LGBT community.

Several people took his picture as he walked by. More than one person approached and asked to pose with them for pictures. Brazier was more than willing to do this. He enjoyed interacting with the public.

“Figures he would be here,” a loud voice shouted. “Mister Flaming himself.”

Several people turned their attention to the voice. A tall, solid build man with a shaved head was attached to the voice. The bald man stood with a hip cocked. He held a tattoo covered arm with a limp wrist. He even batted his eyes lashes for effect.

“Give me a break,” the man said as he walked through the parting crowd. “You aren’t even a top list hero.”

Brazier snorted and smirked. “I choose to be my own person and not live up to other’s unreasonable expectations.”

“Whatever, queer,” the bald man said. “You got your ass handed to you by Widget. The dwarf that makes dumb-ass machines and robs banks.” He made a rude noise and dismissive gesture.

Brazier flushed and shifted his stance. “Widget got the best of me when I stepped in on his latest robbery attempt.” Brazier shook his head and stepped forward. “I trapped him under his own equipment by melting it. That means I got him in the end.”

“In the end,” the bald man laughed. “I bet you did, cupcake.”

Brazier’s lip twitched as he caught the double entendre he let slip.

A loud cheer went up in the distance. The crowd turned to look. Paragon lowered from the air amidst the throng of people near the autograph tables.

“That is a man’s man,” the bald headed man said, while tossing a thumb over his shoulder. “Ladies fawn over him. Paragon defeats top shelf villains. Plus, he dishes out beatings on a regular basis.”

“You forget that Paragon has a secret identity,” Brazier said. “No one really knows what he’s like out of uniform.”

“Shit,” the bald man said, dragging out the word. “I bet he has women throwing themselves at him.” The bald headed man put both hands on his hips. “Have you seen the way Silverwing behaves around him? I bet they bump uglies daily.” The bald man pulled both his fists back as he thrust his hips forward. He laughed and stuck out his tongue.

“That’s sexist, pervert,” a woman shouted from the crowd. “Just leave. There’s no room for bigotry like that anymore.”

Pointing at the woman, the bald man showed a greasy smile. “You sound like someone that needs a good one-night stand.” The bald man winked at the woman.

“What seems to be the problem over here, Brazier?” Paragon walked into the opening.

Another man pointed at the bald man. “This asshat is spouting off,” the man said.

“Be polite,” Paragon said, wagging a finger at the man. His rich baritone carried over the crowd. “We are entitled to free speech here. Even if it is mean and spiteful.”

“That’s right,” the bald man said. “I can say what I want about you fairies and there’s nothing you can do about it. Paragon is here to protect my rights.”

“No,” Paragon said. “That is for the cops. I came over here for this.”

Reaching a hand up to Brazier’s head, Paragon leaned in and locked his lips with Brazier’s.

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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 – Anders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anders took several deep breaths before sitting down.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Control. This is EMT Anders-”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The devices zoomed after Anders.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No shit, lady,” Anders growled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Several people screamed and pointed up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special Delivery – Casey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Shit!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ahh!” Casey jumped back, gasping.

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

“Don’t rush on my account.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Not exactly,” the hero said. “I’m-“

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

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

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

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

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

Casey jerked in another direction and spun around.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I understand,” he nodded his head.

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

“Yes ma’am,” he nodded again.

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

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

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

“I am,” Casey stood with her answer.

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

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

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

Her email chimed. She double clicked it.

One arm as ordered.

Dinner. Tonight. 7:30?

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.”

The Old Guy

Vic Sawyer walked into the gym. At this early hour, there were mostly the silver hairs. He didn’t mind as he fit in with them. Just a few weeks ago, he turned 72. Vic didn’t need a cane and still stood up-right. Aside from the dark spots on his skin, it would be hard to say he was over 50.

With the confidence of a veteran hero, Vic activated the treadmill and walked in place at the set pace of four miles per hour. With his arms swinging he felt the warmth build in his body and beads of sweat appeared on his forehead. Once a few minutes passed, Vic stopped the treadmill and hit the water fountain. A few gulps later and he moved to the free weights.

Vic moved through a routine he planed out on a piece of paper. It wasn’t long, and he completed one set of each. The sweat on his face and arms rolled down freely.

Two young men entered the weight room as Vic crested the halfway point of his second set. The two youths laughed and muttered to each other. They kept the pointing and sniggering to a minimum and always under their breath.

Vic finished his second set and waited the entire minute his routine required. His damp towel held in his hand, he saw the young duo move to the weight benches. He shook his head when the placed several large metal plates on the bar. A quick calculation and the total weight crested 150 pounds.

Vic stood and wiped the sweat from his face and hands. Pointing his feet toward the over zealous kids, he stepped in their direction.

The kid on the bench breathed in and out a few times and he locked his fingers around the bar. One final breathe then he straightened his arms. Bar cleared the hooks and wobbled to the height of the extended arms.

“SHIT,” the horizontal kids squeezed out through clenched teeth. He wavered his arms back to reseat the bar, but missed the hooks. The bar forced his elbows to buckle, sending the metal to the neck of the young man.

The other kid didn’t react in time, and the bar bounced on the chest of the kid laying on the bench.

A weathered and calloused hand grasped the bar in the center. Curled fingers worked under the deadly weight. The arm pulled the entire weight in a smooth motion to the hooks and set them down without making a sound.

Vic leaned over the now gasping kid and said, “You kids need to work up to the heavy weights. Don’t strain yourself.” He winked, then moved to the beginning of his workout routine.

The kids worked their way to their feet and left the gym.

“It appears the Silver Defender is still needed.”

Vic looked at the woman standing near him. “You saw that?” The woman nodded. “Well, then I guess my identity is out in the open.”

The woman, a few years younger than Vic walked closer. She had long athletic legs and a slim figure. Her hips swayed as she reached for the muscled arm of Vic. “I’ve known who you were for a long time. I’ll keep your secret.”

A smile crossed Vic’s lips. He raised an eyebrow as he locked eyes with the woman. “Ahhh…Dreamboat. Or should I say Veronica Marshal.”

“See,” Veronica tilted her head and put on a coy smile. “I knew you would understand.”

***

And this ends Shorts – Volume 1. I have compiled some of these posts into an e-book. This is available free of charge. The advantage is all of the posts in one area and you can read them front to back. Check it out. Volume 2 is already in the works.

Special Delivery – Flash Mob

Lawrence Gustafsen scanned his monitors. After working for Special Delivery for a few months, he developed a habit of checking every few seconds instead of relying on alarms.

“A half hour before my shift is over,” Lawrence said as he glanced at the digital read out of his shift time. “Nothing crazy, please.”

His current read out had only Flash Mob on mission. Flash Mob’s status was stable and not even close to trouble. Out of reflex, Lawrence pulled up the map of Flash Mob’s current location.

“Downtown on the Northside. Close to the projects.” Lawrence’s lips moved as he mentally calculated the number of hops he would need. “Two should work.”

Lawrence shifted to move his lunch cooler to the top of the desk. Next, he checked the mini-fridge’s stock of beverages and snacks. “Need to make a run tomorrow or so.” Closing the fridge his computer monitor blinked.

Flash Mob Status Critical. Then the beeping kicked in.

“CRAP!”

Lawrence stood and moved his bulk from his workstation. A quick tap on his wrist panel and he said, “EMT Lawrence Gustafsen responding to alarm for Flash Mob.” As he entered the walkway, he disappeared.

Lawrence appeared over the Hines building. He tumbled a few feet, then disappeared again.

Reappearing on the top of the building, Lawrence lurched as his momentum carried him a step. “OK. Not close to the projects. In the projects.”

Lawrence’s wrist panel showed a general location of himself and his patient. He followed the map and moved through the door.

Taking a step on the landing, Lawrence saw a body. He moved closer and his map reflected he was on top of his patient. His wrist panel map updated, and he found a string of his patients.

“What,” Lawrence’s loud voice echoed in the switch-back stairwell.

Leaning down, Lawrence checked pulse and general condition. He saw another body on the next landing. Staring over the hand rail, he saw more bodies on the stairs, another landing, and one or two draped over the railing. Each body dressed like the ones near him.

“Uh…control,” Lawrence said, holding a finger to his earbud. “I have multiple…Uh…bodies.”

“EMT, this is control,” the rapid speech of the voice of control said. “Clarify.”

“I have,” Lawrence pointed to the bodies he could see, “25 bodies. They all show on my monitor and they are all dressed as Flash Mob.”

“Then bring them in,” the voice of control said.

“They are all showing critical status.”

“Move fast.” The sound in Lawrence’s ear went quiet.

Lawrence checked on the closest body. He saw a wound on the leg and shoulder. Moving to the next body, Lawrence saw that both arms were broken. Over the next five bodies, Lawrence noted different wounds on different body parts. After ten bodies, Lawrence noticed none of them was dead, but some were close.

“I need to get these guys to a hospital,” Lawrence said as he grabbed two arms.

Disappearing, he reappeared on the roof of the building and placed the bodies on the gravel. Going as fast as he could, he repeated this process until all 34 bodies were on the roof. Lawrence managed to lay each person so that they were touching the next person. Once all the bodies were situated, he contacted control.

“I have the bodies ready for transport. Notify Angel of Mercy. Large group in coming.” Lawrence squatted and gripped a hand.

“Understood EMT. Good luck,” the practiced voice of control went quiet.

“Here goes everything,” Lawrence breathed out and shut his eyes.

Lawrence disappeared from the dilapidated building’s roof. In rapid succession, so did each of the Flash Mob bodies.

He reappeared, several miles away and a few of the bodies appeared over him. Falling, he watched as the train of bodies appeared over him. After ten seconds, the last one appeared.

“Oh man!” Lawrence screamed as he closed his eyes again and repeated the process.

It took Lawrence nine more jumps to reach his destination. He appeared over the hospital and shouted over his earbud, “YOU’RE GONNA NEED MORE GURNEYS!”

Disappearing again, he reappeared next to several gurneys. In turn, each body appeared over a gurney. An attendant moved the bed away as fast as they could. As one was removed, another took it’s place.

Sweat beaded on Lawrence’s face. “Come on. Hurry up.”

Every one of the bodies landed on a gurney. As the last one appeared, Lawrence caught himself on a nearby orderly.

“I’m EMT,” Lawrence huffed, “Lawrence,” more huffing, “damn my name is long.”

“Hey,” the orderly smiled at him. “We got it from here. Just sign.”

Lawrence reached forward with a sweaty hand and scribbled his name.

Putting a hand to his ear, Lawrence said, “Control. Patient delivered. Call me a cab.” Lawrence plopped down on the curb to wait.