“Come out, come out, whereeeeever you are!” the Deuce sang, shooting plasma orbs at the Carlson Carbonite Building. A fiery cloud of glass and concrete exploded over Clayton Street; Ableman slid under an abandoned armored truck to avoid the rain of cinders and ash.
“Betsy, I need backup,” Ableman whispered into his communicator.
“No problem, Abe,” Betsy, sitting at her computer back at headquarters, replied. She pulled up the Backup Support Module to find which heroes were available and near downtown Beaver Creek.
“Login and Password?” the module asked.
Betsy furrowed her brow. She had logged on as soon as the emergency call came in and it shouldn’t have kicked her out already. She’d have to log a bug report with IT.
“Betsy?” Ableman’s voice crackled in the earpiece.
“Hang on. It logged me out,” Betsy said, entering her username and password.
The system flashed an “Unrecognized User” message.
“What the hell?” Betsy muttered.
“Talk to me, Bets,” Ableman whispered.
The scream of steel twisting against itself exploded in Betsy’s ear.
“Abe!” Betsy shouted.
“I’m okay,” Ableman said, running down an alleyway holding his left arm. The armored truck lay twisted and burning in Dimpleman’s Department Store’s holiday display. “I could really use that backup.”
Betsy pounded her keyboard. The system was again telling her, for the third time, her username wasn’t recognized. “Let me see if Henry can make the request,” Betsy said, jumping up from her chair. She turned and found the exit to her cubicle blocked by Mike, the Middle Manager.
“Hey there, Betsy. Mind joining me in the conference room for a minute?” Mike asked, giving her a two thumb salute.
“Just a minute, Mike, I really need Henry to—“
“You can give Henry the office gossip a little later, right now—“
“Betsy! What’s going on over there?” Ableman shouted. Something, sounding very much like Beaver Creek’s First National Bank, exploded in the background.
“Mike says he needs to talk to me in the conference room and won’t let me—“
“They’re doing that now?” Ableman shouted.
“Doing what now? What are you doing now?” Betsy asked Mike, her eyes growing big.
“This doesn’t need to be painful, Betsy. It’s just business,” Mike said. “If you’ll come with me.”
“Tell Mike it’s a Code Purple! I’ll give him the go ahead later,” Ableman shouted. “But I need backup now!”
“You knew about this?” Betsy muttered.
“I… Code Purple, Betsy. I order you to—“
Betsy snorted. She picked up her coat and purse. “Okay, Mike. Let’s get this over with,” she said, following him into the maze of cubicles.
Security alarms blared in Betsy’s ear as Ableman dashed through the bank’s wreckage. He begged her to send backup. “I can fix this, I swear,” he shouted over the plasma orbs exploding around him.
Ableman scaled a fire escape, climbing into a small apartment smelling of face powder and Persian cats. “Betsy, we’ve had good times,” he whispered, peering out the window.
The Deuce walked past the building, using his plasma cannon to knock parked cars through storefront windows.
In the conference room, The Axe was already sitting at the table with the blue layoff folder in front of her.
The Axe — a small, white-haired woman — always wore grey tweed and pearls. As the only ‘normal’ to reach an executive level, she had been given “The Axe” as her secret identity. Everyone joked the tweed and pearls were her company approved super costume.
“Betsy, hello. Please sit down,” The Axe said before turning to Mike and asking, “Will Ableman be joining us?”
“He hasn’t been at his desk all morning,” Mike replied, taking a seat next to The Axe.
“Typical,” she muttered, opening the blue folder. “For all their heroics, every one of them runs and hides when real work needs to be done.”
“Betsy, please!” Ableman shouted. “I’m sorry. I’ll give you a glowing recommendation. My brother works at Google—“
Betsy smiled. In one ear the Axe explained her severance package, how long Betsy’s insurance coverage would last, and the process for filing unemployment.
In the other ear, concrete exploded and a building groaned before crashing to the street.
“Betsy! I thought we were friends,” Ableman groaned, as he limped across Tripoli Boulevard and into a grocery store.
Betsy’s smile faltered as the store’s muzak piped through the earpiece. The normal sound was unnerving amid her current, surreal circumstances.
“I’m sure you’ll find work in no time. This isn’t due to performance and we will make sure anyone calling for a recommendations knows that,” The Axe said.
“Thank you,” Betsy replied, picking up the blue folder.
“Do you have any questions?” The Axe asked, as the muzak suddenly stopped and a corrugated roof collapsed into aisle 7.
“Please, Betsy,” Ableman whispered. “My arm’s broken and—“
“Oh! I almost forgot,” Betsy said, digging the earpiece out, and setting it on the table. “I don’t suppose I’ll be needing this any longer.”
“No, I suppose not. On a personal note, I’d like to thank you for your maturity during all of this. You have no idea how many people scream, plead, and threaten when it comes time for a transition,” The Axe said, standing to shake Betsy’s hand.
“These things happen,” Betsy said.
The Axe nodded and smiled. “Mike will walk you out. It’s policy.”
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