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Kurt Jeffries exited the hospital. Reaching a hand up, he touched his earbud. “EMT Jeffries on lunch.”
The electronic voice of dispatch responded. “Understood, EMT Jeffries. You will be listed as unavailable for the next hour.”
“Excellent,” Kurt said as he lengthened his stride. “Now that my paycheck is regular, I’m going to treat myself.” His legs elongated a few inches allowing him to go faster. The bright sun warmed his face and the gentle breeze ruffled his spiky auburn hair.
Kurt turned at the next intersection and walked four blocks. “There.” He nodded and went faster. “The Sunlit Patio. Marsha says it’s a great place.”
“Oh my God!”
“That guy is falling from the sky!”
“Somebody do something!”
Hands thrust towards the falling man. Kurt directed his vision skyward and saw the dark figure getting bigger. His hand darted to his ear. Before he reached the small knob, the dark figure expanded. Large wings extending from his backpack slowed the descent. The form shifted to land on booted feet in front of Kurt. A gloved covered hand jabbed a finger into the pliable chest of the EMT. The clenched mouth under the midnight blue cowl spat, “Give it to me and no one gets hurt.”
People around Kurt panic-ran from the area. Someone shouted, “It’s Strike! Run!” An open space akin to that of a schoolyard fight appeared around the two figures.
Kurt’s eyes blinked as he held up both hands. His voice trembled as he spoke. “I don’t know what you want, mister.”
“Yes you do. Now hand it over.” The masked man’s features turned black as he jerked Kurt, making his teeth click. “You just took Songbird to the hospital and she gave it to you. This thing doesn’t lie.” He waggled a small circular device with a red blinking light. “It pointed me to you.” Holding it flat, the display showed a green arrow pointing at Kurt. A dark growl exited from the tight lips of Strike
Kurt swallowed hard. “There’s been some kind of mistake,” Kurt said, his eyes still wide and sweat forming on his forehead. “She didn’t give me anything. I just carried her to the hospital.”
The finger poking Kurt in the chest curled and joined the others in the fist. “It seems you want to do this the easy way.” A crimson glow encased the fist.
Kurt arched his torso backward and grabbed the cement sidewalk. The blast from the fist rocketed over his chest, dragging intense heat with it. Both of Kurt’s feet left the ground and collided with the Strike’s chin.
Strike went airborne in a tight arc. His arms and legs splayed as he slammed into the pavement. Dark cracks spider-webbed from under his shoulders.
Kurt scrambled to his feet. A quick glance around showed him people had spread further away. Extending an arm up, he stretched to the cross bar of the light post and pulled. Rising from the pavement, he shifted to grab another light post several yards away.
“No you don’t.” Strike got to his feet and aimed his glowing fist at the light post. The red streak blasted the metal to bits, making the pole fall to the asphalt.
Kurt hadn’t reached the next post, so floundered as the perch under his feet fell. He hit the road and sidewalk with a smack. His body returned to its normal height, and he groaned.
Strike approached the prone form of Kurt. With a heavy boot, he rolled the EMT over onto his back. He lowered himself to his haunches and glared down into Kurt’s face. “You have the device and I want it.” His heavy hands patted the fat cargo pockets on Kurt’s left leg. “What do we have in here?” Thick fingers gripped the flap of the pocket and lifted. The sound of separating velcro pierced the air. Bandages, medical tape, and angled scissors spilled onto the sidewalk. “Nothing.” Shaking his head, Strike curled his right hand into a fist. In a swift motion, he punched the side of Kurt’s thigh, hitting a nerve cluster.
“AAAAHHHHHH!” Kurt clutched his leg with both hands and curled into the fetal position. “I told you,” he squeezed out through clenched teeth, “I don’t have anything.”
Strike swung his right hand back and let it fly at Kurt’s head.
Kurt’s arm intercepted the blow. At the same time, his right hand balled into a fist and enlarged to the size of a bowling ball. His body thinned as he increased the mass of the skin-colored sphere. Rolling with the blow, he clocked Strike on the center of the face. The force sent the villain sprawling backward, and he stopped sliding when he hit a wall.
Kurt lurched to his feet and limped toward the groaning figure of Strike. “What ever it is your are looking for, I don’t have it.” His hands reached for the straps holding the backpack on Strike’s body. Wedging his fingers under the straps, his flexible body undulated and popped the buckles. He repeated the process on the belt at Strike’s waist and flung it to the side.
Strike let out a moan as he moved to sit up.
Kurt reached a hand forward and spread it wider than an open newspaper. He wrapped Strike’s torso and arms into a bundle. With gritted teeth, he hooked his fingers under the edge of Strike’s cowl. “Normally when they shove you into the Prism, they let you keep your mask. The cops know who you are, but that is all. Perhaps I’ll reveal who you are right now.”
Strike moved his head to keep the fingers away from the mask, but it was useless. Several people moved in closer with cell phones out and activated video recordings. Chants of Unmask him unmask him filled the air. In a fluid motion, the cowl peeled away, and Kurt tossed it to the crowd.
Strike kept moving his head, but Kurt grabbed it and held it in place. Lights blinked and flashed in his eyes, making him flinch.
“I don’t wear a mask.” Kurt leered into the face of Strike. “I’m an EMT and I save lives.” With a jerk he let Strike go. Police sirens grew louder and one car stopped at the curb.
The next day, Kurt slumped into the waiting room chair. The email said he had an appointment with Amanda Charles, shift manager.
“EMT Jeffries!” Amanda Charles called down the hallway.
Kurt sighed as he stood from the chair. “I lasted a month.” He dragged his feet as he made his way to the door. Nudging the door wider he walked inside the manager’s office. With a slight shove, he shut it behind him with a resonating click. His feet caught on the thick carpet, but he kept upright. An odd fragrance danced in the air, making him wrinkle his nose.
“I assume you know why you are here today,” Amanda said. “It’s about the incident yesterday.”
“I guessed as much,” Kurt said walking closer to the desk and took a seat. He kept his eyes on his shoes and gripped the armrests of the chair. “I should have given him the item, but I didn’t know I had it.”
“Oh,” Amanda said, waving a hand. “You are allowed, and encouraged, to defend yourself. Even use your special abilities to do so.”
“OK.” Kurt looked askance at the thin woman on the other side of the desk. His legs shifted, making a squeaking noise on the faux leather.
“It’s about you unmasking Strike,” Amanda said. “Or should I say, Walter Harris, the former editor-in-chief of the Tribune.”
“I see.” Kurt licked his lips and kept his eyes on Amanda.
“I have to write you up for unprofessionalism. It is just a formality and I’ll be remove it from your file at the end of a year.” She rotated a piece of paper and slide it towards him with a pen in her other hand. “Just sign.”
Ignoring the pen, Kurt picked up the piece of paper and read it. The top half was a standard form with his name and other work related information. The bottom half had three typed paragraphs stating what the offense was, his punishment, and repercussions if something happens within the… “Probationary period? I’m currently in a probationary period. My ninety days isn’t up, yet.”
“About that,” Amanda said.