“Anderson,” Jack Abernathy’s rough voice called. “How’s the Stein project coming?”
“I can finish my part by the end of the week,” David Anderson said looking up from his laptop. “The numbers are entered and the scripts are in place. Waiting on the graphics to finish loading.”
“What’s left after that?” Jack moved into David’s cube.
Touching the button on his cellphone to silent the buzzing, David pointed to his screen. “The check-list says link checking, then stress testing on the server. We’re a little behind on the configuration, but it should only be a day or two.”
“We’re gonna meet that deadline.” Jack’s hand clamped down on David’s shoulder, making the youn man flinch. “You have my permission for over-time. Get to here by tomorrow evening.” Jack tapped a sausage finger on the checklist on the screen, leaving a smear over updating all machines remotely. The task’s original planned date was the day after tomorrow.
“Uh…” David turned his head to look at Jack.
“No excuses.” Jack pivoted on his heels and left David’s cube. It didn’t take him long to be around the corner and out of David’s sight.
“Crap,” David muttered under his breath. He flipped his phone over and entered his passcode. The number 8 appeared next to his text icon. David touched the icon. Scrolling to the last message he touched reply. A few finger taps and he sent the response stating he would be late. His eyes darted to the time in the top corner of his phone. It blinked to 7:18pm.
11:30 rolled around and David dashed from his car into the building. He touched the secret spot, sliding the door open and walked in. David’s uniform fit perfectly. The bright yellow crescent moon contrasted with the midnight blue of the rest of his outfit.
“You’re late!” Graves voice growled across the small room. “Again!”
“Yeah, I know,” David sighed. “It’s just that-”
“You know.” Graves pounded on the table top. “You realize I had to call for help from Wave Rider. Wave Rider. He’s barely a hero. So what he can talk to fish and breathe underwater.”
“Wow.” David stopped walking and looked at the grey clad superhero in front of him. “Wave Rider. Doesn’t he also have super strength?”
“That’s besides the point.” Graves spun and faced David. “I expect my sidekick to be here on time and not full of excuses.” A stiff finger poked David in the chest on his emblem. “You’re fired.”
“What?” David stepped back. “You can’t fire me. You don’t even pay me. This isn’t a job.” David held his hands, palms up and spread. “What about keeping my secret identity? You always stress that. I was doing that.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Graves said. “I can’t rely on you. You should have worked something out.”
“I have to pay my rent some how.” David’s voice picked up in pitch and speed. “I also need to buy food, repair my uniform, and the gym. Plus, there’s the martial art lessons you insisted I take. You don’t even reimburse me for that, but it’s required.”
“This again?” Graves made a rude noise. “By the time I was your age I had earning a million dollars.”
David clenched his jaws and fist. “Yeah. But you inherited five billion just by being born. What a cheapskate.”
“And this one, too.” Graves put both hands on his hips and cocked his head to the side.
“If you paid me forty-five grand a year,” David said pointing a finger at Graves. “I could quit my day job and be the perfect sidekick.”
“They only pay you forty-five?” Graves’ eyebrows shot up. “That’s a pittance.”
“Yeah,” David answered. “Ironically, I work for a subsidiary of Sampson Industries. In other words, you pay me that pittance.”
Graves looked at David and shook his head. “I have to stand by my word or it means nothing. Clean out your desk and leave your keys.”
“I don’t have a desk,” David said, walking to the door he came in. “I never had keys.” As he passed the hidden door, he banged his fist on the jamb.
“I’ll give you a great reference,” Graves shouted as the door slid shut.
“Fuck this,” David said as he slammed his car door closed. “I’ll at least get some sleep and be ready for tomorrow.” He drove off.
When the weekend hit, David was ready for it. Having spent well over fifty hours a week he wanted to relax. He slept in on Saturday. During the afternoon, he wandered the mall and other places. Normally, he would be training or some other activity that Graves would have him do. Since he was fired, he made the best of it.
When the evening kicked off, David went to a movie. It had been awhile since he had seen a first run, so he treated himself. After a few hours, he left and walked through the dark parking lot to his car. A sound pulled his attention, and he watched as two people descended from the sky. One with a rope, the other flying.
“I’ve beaten you Graves,” the flying man said.
“Not…,” Graves groaned out. “Yet.” The form of Graves clutched his midsection and spit a glob of something from his mouth. “You hit like a girl.”
“Your funeral.” the flying man darted straight for Graves, a clenched fist leading the way.
“Holy shit,” muttered David. “I better do something.” He looked for his car and found it two spots away. “Wait. I don’t have my uniform in there.” Standing there he watched the fist connect with Graves. “Plus I was fired.” Graves trajectory carried him over several cars and crashing into a light pole. “Plus, that guys a dick.”
“That wasn’t so hard.” The flying man hovered over to where Graves lay on the cement. “Let’s see who you really are.” He reached down and pulled the mask off, ripping the cowl off the cape. Staring at the prone figure, the flying man pocket his trophy. “Huh. I don’t recognize you. But someone will.” The flying man jumped into the sky and disappeared.
Standing over Graves, David looked at the unconscious body. “Yeah. He’s a dick.” David got in his car and dove off.