Edwina Gibson walked through the cube farm. Her blond hair floating just above the five foot walls that separated desks. She diverted her eyes whenever she passed someone and would only lift a hand to wave if anyone said “hi Edie” to her. A sigh escaped her lips as she stepped into her cube.
“I keep leaving a sticky for him.” Edie pulled the chair out, spinning it so she could sit. Flexing her knees, she hopped onto the chair. Her feet didn’t touch the floor. Next, she pulled the lever to adjust the height. The chair didn’t move. Keeping the lever up, she bounced in place until her feet were flat. “Karl, please just lower the seat.”
Pulling herself to the desk, she pressed the button to lower the entire surface. The process took all of ten-seconds. Edie unlocked her set of drawers and pulled out a canister of wipes. Plucking one, she started with the keyboard. Once she finished, she tapped the keyboard and logged in.
During the few minutes it took for her email to load, Edie pulled another wipe and ran it over the desk surface. She moved to the drawers, the shelf, and finally the monitors. As she tossed the wipe into the trash, her email finished and three clients appeared on her monitor. “Garbage, Predestinate, and Valor. Not a shabby group.”
She took a few moments to put each client in their own quadrant of her monitor, leaving one blank. Turning her attention to her email, she read yesterday’s messages and ended with today’s. Clicking on a few different folders, she did the same thing.
Valor fell off her monitor first. Edie acknowledged the message when Valor left his mission. Predestinate exited her mission a few moments later. Again, Edie acknowledged the message.
Folding her hands on the desk, she stared at the health monitor. Garbage’s vitals took up the entire screen. Edie moved her mouse pointer and clicked on the picture.
The unmasked face needed a shave and buck-teeth stuck out over his bottom lip. Edie stared at the scar that ran over an eye on the screen. Stifling a shutter, she pulled up the basic sheet of Garbage.
“Strength, high rated toughness, and decent speed.” Edie looked at the face again. Her face wrinkled. “He should be able to get through whatever he’s into.”
BEEP BEEP BEEP!
Edie locked eyes on the picture on her screen. A message blinked below it. GARBAGE BELOW THRESHOLD.
“Oh, man!” Edie stood and tapped her mouse. “EMT first class Edwina Gibson retrieving Garbage.” She tapped her wrist panel and the vital screen transferred. Taking rapid steps she exited her cube, the row, and turned on the main walkway.
“Uh, EMT Gibson,” the voice in her earbud said. “You are cleared to transfer client.”
“That’s a negative, Control.” Edie moved to the open double doors and stepped on the flight deck. “I got this.” Under her breath, she said, “Even if his name is Garbage.”
Edie jogged the last few steps then strode over the ledge. Instead of falling she stepped onto an orange ball the size of an oven. Hovering in place for a split second, Edie faced the direction she needed. The ball moved then picked up speed. It moved out of the way of taller buildings and other objects.
As the fifth minute ticked by, the ball shrank carrying Edie to the concrete surface. She stepped from the ball and it disappeared. A glance at her wrist panel gave her the next direction. Following it, she found a large dumpster. “He better not be in there.”
Edie looked at her panel again. Garbage’s vitals dropped. Edie pulled her leather gloves from her pouch and put them on. She used the makeshift ladder welded into the dumpster’s frame. Reaching for the edge, she worked her way to the top of the dumpster, dangling her feet inside.
“Garbage?” Her head poked over the ledge. “Oh, God it’s disgusting.” She felt her stomach churn and her throat tighten. “No.” Edie hoisted herself over the ledge and into the refuse below. “They don’t pay me enough for this.”
A moan sounded. She turned her head in the direction. “Garbage?”
“You’re in a dumpster,” a voice outside said. “Where else does garbage belong.” The voice sounded metallic, and muffled. “This appears to be a two-for-one special.” A high-pitched giggle followed.
“Wait!” Edie jumped, but the refuse below her feet didn’t allow for much height. “I’m an EMT.”
“What?” The voice went louder. “I can’t hear you. The lid is closed.” The high-pitched giggle sounded again, then the lid crashed down.
“NO!” Edie pounded on the sides.
A loud metallic clang echoed inside the dumpster.
“Ta-ta,” the strange voice said. Fading running footsteps came next, then quiet.
“Great!” Edie turned on the flashlight at her belt. Reaching one foot forward, she moved aside various boxes and other gunk. She repeated this process and made her way across the width of the dumpster.
Taking a finger, she poked at her earbud. “Control,” she said, her voice bouncing in the metal box. “Control, this is EMT Gibson. Please respond.” Static answered. “Now, I am trapped.”
“Flix likes to do that.” A mound of trash moved. “Ugh.”
Edie spun in place and pointed her light at the moving junk. “Garbage?”
“Yeah,” the costumed man said, wincing at the light in his face. “You must be one of them EMT people that I pay for.”
“EMT First Class Gibson.” Edie straightened her posture and smoothed her uniform. “You’re conscious, so this shouldn’t be too difficult. How hurt are you?”
“Near a long, slow, and agonizing death,” Garbage said, pushing off the rubbish to his knees.
Edie’s eyes went wide. Scanning the man in front of her, she said, “I don’t see any wounds.”
“Carbon fiber.” Garbage pivoted to face her. He pointed to a large clump of black on his chest. “It’s like an allergic reaction, with the side effect of making me weaker than a baby.”
Edie moved closer to Garbage. She reached her hands for the clump and worked her fingers behind it.
“Unless you’re stronger than you look, that ain’t gonna cut it.” Garbage stuck an arm out and braced himself against the side of the dumpster. “Do you have a cutting device? Laser or something?”
“Yes,” Edie said. Her hand flew to her belt and found the pen shaped device. “It should cut through most things. The charge is limited to twenty-seconds.”
“Twenty-seconds?” Garbage took the offered device. “I guess to keep it from being used a weapon.”
“That’s what they said during orientation.” Edie moved closer to Garbage and watched.
“This is gonna hurt.” Pointing the device at his chest, Garbage touched the button. A bright blue beam shot out and cut into the black hunk. Smoke floated up and the smell of burning chemicals mixed with meat followed.
“It’s grafted to you.” Edie examined the area. There wasn’t any blood, but she saw the burn marks on both the item and Garbage. “If we could get the lid off, we could get you out of here.”
“Well, I’m useless in that area.” The big man stood and his shoulders touched the lid. Flexing his knees, he put his hands on the lid and pushed. Nothing. Sweat poured down his face and his breathing rasped. “I haven’t been this week since before I was exposed.”
“You weren’t born this way?” Edie looked at the hulking figure. “What happened?”
“I worked for sanitation,” Garbage said. “A company dumped some type of stuff in the landfill. I was sent to clear it up and call in the correct team to clear it out. An hour after I arrived on the scene, I was knocked out. A month later and I woke up in the hospital, looking like this.”
“So that’s why you call yourself Garbage.” Edie looked at the man before him. “I thought it was because-”
“My face and attire?” Garbage let out a coughing laugh. “No sweetheart. The teeth and scar are mine. My abilities are enhanced when I run through sewers, landfills, and other junk. That’s why I smell this way. Plus, my body burns up waste and turns it into power that I use to beat bad guys.”
“Well, use this stuff.” Edie kicked at the junk around her legs and knees.
Garbage poked at the chunk on his chest. “Can’t.”
Edie sighed. “I can do something, but it might not work.”
“Anything is better than nothing,” Garbage plopped down on his rump, and leaned on the wall. “What’s the worst that could happen?”
“We get crushed.” Edie said into her chest.
“Faster than suffocating.”
Edie’s eyes cut to Garbage. His eyes were closed and his breathing slowed.
“Here goes everything.” Edie shuffled to the center of the box. She extended both arms to the unoccupied side. After a deep breath, she straightened her fingers.
Colorful, softball-sized spheres appeared. They filled the wall and cascaded down like an avalanche. More spheres came into existence, these bigger by half. Again, they flowed down the mountain of color they made. More and more spheres appeared. A minute flew by and the sphere pile reached the lid.
“What can they do?” Garbage lifted his head and watched the balls take up space.
“I can fly and carry with them.” Edie stepped back.
“They don’t explode or anything?”
“Nope.” Screwing up her eyes, the balls appeared at a faster rate. Edie stepped further and further back. Then her back touched the wall. “Oh, man. I’m going smell like garbage for a month.”
“Huh.” Garbage looked at the petite woman.
Garbage waved it off.
The balls passed the halfway mark and would soon be on top of them. Edie grunted when the balls forced her hands back.
“Keep going,” Garbage sat with his back to the wall and the spheres piled on his lap.
Edie produced more spheres. Soon she stood with her hands by her side and the balls pressing in on her.
A muffled, “more” came from Garbage. “More. Something’ll break.”
“Yeah, us.” Edie kept bringing the spheres.
A loud metallic creak echoed in the dumpster.
Edie screamed as more balls appeared.
Another creak followed by a loud pop.
Then a boom.
Light poured in through the translucent spheres, bathing the dark in different colored lights.
“You did it!” Garbage pushed some of the balls off him. “We’re gonna make it.”
“Better than that.” Edie waved a hand, and the spheres dispersed, faster than they appeared. “We’re out of here.” She pointed at Garbage and a dark blue light encased him. Edie pointed at the ground and an orange ball appeared. Next, it enlarged under her feet. Both spheres lifted out of the dumpster and carried them to the cement outside.
“NO!” The strange voice from before said. “You’re supposed to be dead and take this EMT with you.” Flix slinked forward. He moved to grab Edie.
“Get away from me, you creep!” Without conscious though, Edie extended a hand. A black sphere exited her palm. No light flowed through the ball as it cleared the short distance between the two people. It connected with the chin of Flix and knocked him on his back.
Scrambling to get to his feet, Flix fidgeted with something on his belt.
“Watch out!” Garbage reached a hand out.
Edie brought both hands together and a grey sphere encased the projectile Flix threw. A loud, high-pitched, beep sounded. Then the it accelerated. Edie directed the sphere up.
Several feet up it exploded. The people below safe.
“Damn!” Flix lunged for Edie.
With a flick of her wrist, Edie sent a large sphere at Flix. His body fit inside and held him in place. Banging came from inside, but Edie turned the skin of the sphere opaque.
Touching her earbud, Edie said, “EMT First Class Gibson requesting emergency transport for Garbage and some trash.”
Garbage’s face broke into a loud laugh.
“Come again, EMT,” the voice in her ear said. “You need emergency transport for trash?”
“Send the cops. They need to restrain Flix. I have him detained.” Edie moved to Garbage. She touched the sphere that carried him out of the dumpster. It disappeared. “An ambulance should be here shortly.”
“Yeah, I’m not going anywhere.” Garbage looked up at her. “For a small chick, you pack a punch.”
“You’re not so bad for Garbage,” she smiled at him.
Edie walked from the elevator and towards her workstation. “Karl, you could have at least wiped the keyboard down when you spill on it.” She shook the plastic keyboard over the trash can. Bits and pieces of discarded something or other fell to the receptacale. Next, she pulled a moistened wipe and cleaned it. The rest of her routine was abandoned as she logged in. The desk lowered as she held the button and she bounced to put the chair at her height.
Edie watched her monitor and scanned emails. Occasionally a client’s vitals appeared, and she tracked them, but mostly it was a quiet shift. The dinner break message appeared on her screen. With a flick of the mouse she dismissed it and logged out of her station. Retracing her steps from the beginning of her shift, she made her way to the elevator. Inside, she pressed the L button.
When the doors opened before her stood a tall man with a broad chest and big shoulders. “Perfect timing.” She stepped from the metal box with a wide smile on her face.
“Yup,” the man said. “Never keep a lady waiting.” The man extended a large hand.
Edie put her small hand in it and both walked to the door.