Turning to the table, Paladin slid several pieces of paper together. The largest was a map of the city, and said, “This is where we are.” A gloved finger pointed to a spot on the map. It showed an open area with a few gray squares representing buildings. Lifting his finger, he moved it several inches and said, “This is where we exited and Garbage fell.”
“Fell?” Malcolm raised his eyebrows as he looked at Paladin.
“Yeah, bad choice,” Paladin muttered. “He got hit. I last saw him crawling to cover. The man’s an expert at camouflage, so I’m not too concerned. Plus, given the area he is in, he might find items he can use to speed up his healing.”
Tapping on his wrist panel, Malcolm pulled up Garbage’s vitals. “His heart rate and BP are low. He’s bleeding. Not fast, so if he can stop that, he should be able to hold on for several hours.”
“You have that information?” Paladin leaned over Malcolm’s arm. “You have their locations, too?”
“Unless the signal is blocked, yeah,” Malcolm said. “This was all explained in the intro packet when you signed up for the service.”
“Uh, right,” Paladin said and cleared his throat. Tilting his head to the map, he tapped on the paper. “I figure we can get him first and Cutlass should be next.”
“Let me see,” Malcolm said. Using two fingers, he zoomed out on the map. Dots representing Garbage, Cutlass, and Twin-A were closest. “You’re right. Garbage followed by Cutlass then one of the Twins.”
“They’re separated?” Damsel stood and leaned over the table, her pressure making it shake.
“My map shows Twin-A,” Malcolm said, extending his arm.
“That’s not good,” Damsel said as she moved Malcolm’s arm and ran her steel-blue eyes over the small screen.
“Yeah,” Filament added. “They can only be apart for a few hours.”
“What do you mean?” Malcolm looked at the women as he repositioned his arm.
“They are one person,” she put her palms together. As she separated them, she said, “but split. It’s hard to explain. That is why they always know what the other is thinking.”
“Not sure if that is good to know,” Malcolm said. “What happens after a few hours?”
“They go downhill quick,” Filament said. “I saw it once. On a mission we were on, they got separated for twenty minutes. The one with me looked like death. It took another fifteen minutes to find where Back-Fire took the other.”
“Back-Fire?” Malcolm looked Filament in the eyes. “He did that?”
“Yeah,” she said. “It was a few months ago.”
“OK,” Malcolm said. “We get Garbage, Cutlass, then Twin-A.”
“We should get all three at once,” Paladin said. “This way we aren’t roadblocked along the way.”
“That makes sense,” Malcolm said with a nod. “How long have the Twins been separated?”
“I guess ten minutes,” Damsel said. “Maybe fifteen.”
“So time is short,” Malcolm said, rolling back from the table. “I’ll get with my team and see if Karl, I mean Dash will run a perimeter scan. It’ll help us get a better location.”
“Good idea,” Paladin said. “We can help keep your team covered when you go in.”
“Are you up for that?” Malcolm looked at Filament.
“Yeah,” she said with a smile, shrugging her injured arm’s shoulder. “Just a clipped wing. I’m good to go.” Her cheeks turned pink and she smiled.
“Good to hear,” Malcolm said and smiled back.
Moving to the rest of the group, Malcolm heard Marble check in as she opened the door. “Ape is right behind me, but he can’t fit through the door.” She ran a sleeve over her forehead. A stray strand of blond hair smeared across her brow and she breathed hard. The darkness of outside made her look like a ghost with her milk-white skin.
Edie took in her surroundings. Her eyes went wide, showing more white than iris. Both of her fists clenched and unclenched and she swallowed hard.
“Understood,” Malcolm said. “We are about to go pick up Garbage, Cutlass, and one of the Twins. Before that, I need a perimeter scan.”
“Our wrist panels do that,” Lawrence said, stepping closer. “We just have to go around the area and it will ping the sensors.” The team turned their heads to look at Karl.
“Yeah, yeah,” he said. “I need to re-hydrate. Gimme a minute.” He tossed one of the small bottles he had in his hand to the ground and pulled another from his belt. “We can improve the reading from the air.” He waved an index finger beside his ear.
“I got that handled,” Casey said. She had the small sandwich from earlier out and bit into it. “Is there any water here?”
“I’ll get some,” Lawrence said. “There’s a convenience store five blocks from here.” He tossed a thumb over his shoulder.
“Go to the Grocery World,” Paladin said as he entered the room. “It’s another three blocks. Grab a couple of cases of water, some protein bars, and whatever else you need. Save the receipt and I’ll approve the expense report.”
“OK,” Lawrence said with a lopsided grin. “I only have two hands, and can carry so much.” Turning for the door, he vanished without opening it.
“Hey boss,” Anders’ deep, growling voice said over the earbud. “What’s happening?”
“Lawr…I mean Beam is getting supplies,” Malcolm said. “Let him know if you need something particular.”
“A sports drink or three,” Anders said. “Otherwise, I’m good.”
“I’m gonna clean this table to so we can store supplies here,” Edie said as she snapped on rubber gloves. Pulling out several alcohol wipes, she ran them over the wooden table top, then the edges and underneath.
“Excuse me,” Jason said, stepping forward. “Karl, you’re getting back from being exhausted. Good. Malcolm is close as is Casey and Edie. Lawrence was barely tired when we got here. Paladin is hurt, but not bad. It looks like you have a small ability to insta-heal.” Paladin narrowed his eyes at the lean man walking around. “Is there anyone else here?” Jason walked to the far side of the room. His head turning in different directions.
Edie stopped moving dust and dirt on the floor and leaned in close to Malcolm. “Anders was right about that guy.” She shifted the pile next to the wall.
Malcolm whispered back, “What do you mean?”
“None of us had met him before,” she said in a low voice. “Anders knew of him and has even read his reports. He looks at you and knows what’s wrong.” Moving her smaller spheres to other parts of the room, she moved dirt across the floor.
“That’s awesome,” Malcolm said and stared at Jason. “I’ve met him once, but that was a few years ago. Where does he work now?”
“Whoa,” Malcolm said. “What is he doing there?”
“I don’t know,” Edie answered, sweat beading on her forehead. “Anders said he works with Doctor Reymark.”
“That explains it,” Malcolm said. “Reymark is one of the founders of Special Delivery.”
“Damsel and Filament are around the corner,” Malcolm said, hooking a finger in the direction. “I splinted a hairline fracture on Filament.”
Jason took the cue and walked passed the wall. After a few seconds, he returned. “Good job on the splint,” he said, looking at Malcolm. “How did you tie it?”
“That was all Filament,” Malcolm answered.
“Oh,” Jason’s eyes went wide and his lips pursed. “That would explain the lack of knots. Damsel is mostly good. Nothing physical.”
“Wait,” Paladin said, then snapped his fingers. “You’re Triage. Doctor Reymark’s assistant. You were put on the team without an interview. What is your specialty?”
“I never really knew what it was,” Jason said with a shrug. “Not until I started working with the Doc. But if I look at someone, I can tell what kind of hurt they have, or get a physiological eval and get a quick fix for it.”
Paladin’s voice went high. “Even emotional stuff?” He stepped back from Jason.
“Not like a psychiatrist,” Jason said. “I see the pain, but it’s all over.” He waved a hand over his head and torso. “After all the stuff I’ve seen, I guessed it was emotional. Mostly, I’m correct.”
Paladin narrowed his eyes. “Can you tell what powers people have?”
“Nope,” Jason said waving a hand. “Just their pain and the source.” Paladin relaxed when Jason said this. “So what’s happening?”
Taping the communication button on the armrest, Malcolm said, “Listen up team. Once Lawr…Beam gets back with supplies, Karl…I mean Dash here, will run around the perimeter that Paladin has drawn on a map. His wrist panel will ping the sensors and get us a better location of our patients. Casey…Sonique…This is dumb. I know your names, you know mine. You’re all professionals. Use the code names when we’re supposed to.”
Taking a breath, Malcolm continued. “Casey will fly and do the same thing. If Lawrence is up to it, he can help with aerial recon. Jason, I’m assuming you have your standard coroner pack with you.” Jason nodded. “Good. We’ll need your laptop and projector to show the maps and other stuff. It’ll just be easier.” Jason nodded then picked up his rigid backpack and moved to a three-legged card table. “Once we have the updated info, we’re gonna do a simultaneous retrieval on Cutlass, Twin-A, and Garbage.” Malcolm spotted Edie shifting on her feet. He noted the grim look on her face before she looked at the cement floor. “So far, everyone is listed as alive.”
“That’sgood,” Karl said, his voice picking up the previous cadence. “Letmeknowwhenyouneedme.”
Malcolm tightened his lips and looked Karl in the eyes. “We have a wrinkle.”