Short Change: Heroes with Oddly Specific Powers by Brett P. S. by Brett P. S. - Read Online

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Short Change - Brett P. S.

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Crime Doesn’t Pay

Manchester, UK

The night air stung Paul with a fresh winter’s frost on his lips as he stood watch outside the new Savage Steel facility. His hands gripped his flashlight tightly as he stuck them underneath his coat sleeves. Construction was underway on the factory for some time, but that was during union hours. As it stood, Paul probably wouldn’t have much trouble climbing over a few steel bars to get inside, so the security door behind him was more or less for show. The siding on most of the walls was incomplete, and the place stunk of oil and grease, not that he could smell much in this weather.

There wasn’t much to look at either. Somehow, the fat cats at Savage Steel decided to set this one down on the outskirts of Manchester instead of within the major centers of domestic traffic. It was going to be hard to find people who had the petrol to burn. Damp, dark woodlands. Off road was an understatement, he thought.

Jean! Paul shouted.

I’m coming! Jean answered.

Paul glanced back to see him making his way, carrying two canteens freshly filled with a hot brew from inside their SUV. He could see bits of steam pop out from the loose cracks in the caps, letting out puffs of smoke as they shook. Jean handed one over and began to unscrew the cap on his own.

We need to stay on watch, Jean, Paul said.

You worry too much, Jean replied. Nothing’s going to happen.

Something might, you know. You’ve heard … haven’t you?

Jean wiped the residue from his drink off his beard.

Don’t give me that rubbish.

Paul took a sip and felt the warm liquid fill his throat as it went down. It was good tea. Not too hot. Not too strong. If Jean was going to slack off, this was the way to do it. Paul’s fingers twitched at the sound of something ruffling the grass in the distance by the tree line.

Qu’est-ce que c’est? he shouted, pointing his flashlight in the direction where he heard it.

What? I don’t see anything, Jean said.

Paul shined it around the area but couldn’t make out anything more than a few shrubs. Definitely wasn’t anything moving, but it wasn’t very windy and the trees would have acted as a windbreaker. He scanned the area from his vantage point until …

There it was! he shouted again. Right over there!

Jean spat on the grass.

Well, I’m not looking. You go!

Fine, Paul replied. Hunched over a bit, and with his flashlight held high, he strode out past unkempt grass and onto the old dirt road. Bonsoir? he asked as he crept forward. His fingers grasped the flashlight even more tightly. Anybody there? Ca va? He stood some ten meters from where he last saw the tall grass ruffle on the side of the road and kept his place for a good thirty seconds.

Heh … you might be right after all! Paul yelled back.

When he got no reply, he whirled around to see Jean lying in the grass with his canteen cracked wide open. He rushed over and noticed Jean’s forehead had a strong stream of blood running down from the hairline. He checked for a pulse. Good, still breathing. Paul pulled out his cellular phone from his coat pocket dialed the number, but there weren’t any bars and all he heard was an obnoxious dial tone. For some reason, he noticed something right next to Jean’s head also lying in the grass. Paul reached down and picked it up.

A franc? he said to himself. No, it’s an American penny.

Paul’s thoughts were broken by gunfire. It was the sound of dozens of