The Delivery

The delivery van trundled down the road, the driver wearing sun-glasses. It was a sunny day, but he still felt a little embarrassed, tapping his index fingers lightly on the steering wheel. Perhaps he was taking his orders too seriously, but the boss had seemed particularly excited about this delivery, personally emphasising to the driver to keep the delivery confidential and make sure it reached the correct address. The driver was a little puzzled over all the secrecy, the address was only that recently opened youth-hostel place on the edge of town, but he wasn't about to ask questions. If the boss came to see him personally that meant it was something big.

To make sure no-one was following him he doubled back and made a few detours. It was a small source of pride for him that he was the one chosen to deliver the special items.

He pulled up to the gates of the hostel and turned off the engine. After making sure that his boss's logo was still covered up, making the van unrecognizable, he removed the package, a large cardboard box, and walked up the short drive-way to the hostel. It was a large brick building, several storeys high with a big garden surrounding it.

He squinted at the name-plate above the door: The casa. Odd name for a youth hostel. He rang the bell, and waited.

"Why," gasped Alicia, as she and Zach bolted up the stairs, "Do people always come when we're in the middle of a training session?!"

"Maybe," gasp "It's like when," gasp "The phone always rings when you're in the bath."

"I just" gasp "hate running! And it doesn't help that we have to climb like three flights of stairs!"

"You could always just fly there! It would be" gasp "quicker!"

"Ugh – I'm already developing a major psychic migraine from all our training sessions; I don't want to be in any more pain than I have to."

"I just hope it's not like last time."

"Why? What happened last time."

"Someone sent us an anonymous package – turned out to be a bomb."

"A bomb?!"

"Yeah, you were out at the time."

The door from the basement and lower levels burst open and Zach and Alicia stumbled out into the hallway. Zach exhaled loudly in relief and then fell over, rolling onto his back after he hit the floor.

"Zach! Get up! We have to answer the door!"

"I can't walk! My legs are killing me! We really need to install an elevator!"

"You lazy slug! I'll go answer the door then, shall I?"

The delivery man shifted his weight from foot to foot, then rang the bell again. Maybe no-one was home. He'd wait for another minute or so, anyway. He examined the house curiously.

"Not too shabby." He mused, "I wonder how much it costs to send your kid out to one of these places. The wife seemed to think it was some sort of student exchange program…."

He jumped as the door was wrenched open and a tall girl with her hair dyed a crazy shade of purple stood gasping for breath in front of him. He squinted a little, what possessed young people to do things like that to themselves? Didn't they realise how stupid they looked?

"Hi! Can I help you?"

"Yeah, uh, I have a package here, from my boss, for this address?"

"Oh. Who's your boss?"

"He, uh, asked me to keep this delivery confidential, Miss."

She narrowed her eyes at him suspiciously, and a boy appeared over her shoulder.

"Is it a salesman? If it is tell him I have a megawatt power source at my disposal and I'm not afraid to use it!"

"No, looks like another anonymous package."

"Again?"

"Yup.", she turned her head back towards the boy behind her.

"Who sent the last one anyway?"

"Oh, the car thief circle."

"Car thief circle? You mean the one responsible for that crash in the northern sector?" the delivery man asked curiously. "I read in the paper they got busted yesterday morning."

"Yeah." Zach nodded again, smiling in satisfaction. "A job well done I'd say." Alicia kicked him.

"Ow!"

"Shut up, Zach! You'll blow our cover! We're meant to be a secret team, remember!"

They both turned and smiled brightly at the delivery man, who began to feel rather unnerved.

"Wellll," he said slowly, "if one of you kids could just sign the form I'll be on my way. I have lots of other deliveries to make today."

"You're giving us a suspicious package under odd circumstances." The girl leaned up close to him and glared into his eyes menacingly, "I think we're entitled to some ID, don't you?"

"Excuse me?"

"You heard! Tell us who you are, Shades! Before we call the police!"

Just a tad aggressive there, Alicia…besides – I don't think the police would come.

No, wait, he's about to crack! Watch!

The man shifted before the hard gaze of the girl. No orders were worth this.

"Okay, look. I work for Nigel Hawthorn! You know, Hawthorn Inc. I'm a delivery man, my name is Stan Wright, here's my company ID." He held up a card. Both the teens exchanged confused looks.

"Nigel Hawthorn as in….the clothes company?" asked Zach, raising an eyebrow.

"Yes. Now please just sign, I've got a lot of packages to deliver today!" he lied hastily, feeling distinctly uncomfortable. It was as if the girl could see right through him.

Alicia shrugged and reached for a pen. As soon as she'd signed his form, Stan marched back down the path and out the gate, and his van roared away in a screech of tires and cloud of exhaust fumes. It was decided – no matter how little it cost, their boy wasn't going to stay anywhere like that in a million years. Exchange program – more like an insane asylum!

"Why did you have to scare the poor guy?" asked Zach, shutting the front door again "You could have just read his mind to find out where he was from."

"That would be rude, and you've all been complaining about my reading thoughts anyway, I decided to do the normal thing and interrogate him."

Zach laughed.

"Yeah, 'cause that's totally normal."

Alicia shrugged and changed the subject.

"Why would Hawthorn Inc. be sending us stuff anyway?" she asked curiously, setting the box down in the middle of the hallway.

"I dunno. Should we open it and see?"

"Better get the others first. I'll go back down to the training room – you go find William."

The land was spread out below him like a vibrant map. He was so high up that he couldn't hear a thing. No cars, no machines; just silence, and the occasional birdsong. He circled round, concentrating on the rapid beating of his wings. Suddenly he squinted down and saw a small figure outside the backdoor of The Casa, looking up at the skies. They must want him for something. Taking a deep breath, William shifted his weight and tried to gently soar back down.

Zach raised his hand above his eyes to shield them from the sun, looking around all the nearby skies.

"William?! Dude!"

He heard a cry from above, looked up, and nimbly leapt aside as William slammed solidly into the ground, rolling over a few times before coming to a halt. After a few moments he groaned.

Wincing, Zach hurried over.

"You okay, dude? Nothing broken?"

"….No. I'm unharmed."

"That was…uh… better than last time…Um… I think your landing could still use some work, though."

"Oh, really?" the other boy replied sarcastically. "Don't touch my wings!"

"Yeah, I know, I won't. You sure you're okay?"

William swayed slightly when Zach pulled him to his feet.

"Is triple vision normal?"

"Dude, that's probably altitude sickness or something. The atmosphere is thinner the higher up you go in the sky, how high were you?"

"Not sure… fairly high. Higher than yesterday."

"Maybe you should take it easy."

William shook his head.

"If I am ever to improve I need to push myself, like all of you are doing with your powers. Besides," he sighed, a far off look on his face, "Flying is completely incredible! It is one of the greatest feelings in the world!"

"Yeah, but crashing into the ground isn't is all I'm saying, you know?"

"Am I that bad?"

"Um." Zach tactfully didn't reply.

"Huh. Why did you come and get me anyway?"

"Oh, yeah, we got sent a big box from that clothes company, Hawthorn Inc."

"Hawthorn Inc.? As in Nigel Hawthorn? Didn't we rescue his daughter the other week, the girl who was kidnapped?"

"So we did!" Zach smacked himself on the forehead, "Duh! How could I forget? What was her name, Kelly or something? And she was being held to ransom and then we busted in and saved her! Man, that was just so awesome!"

William nodded absently.

On entering The Casa the boys blinked at the sight of disarray in front of them. The large box was open and bubble-wrap was strewn across the floor.

"Guys, you'll never guess! It's so cool!"

"What is it? Is it the parcel?" Zach grabbed Alicia's hands "Tell me!"

"Hawthorn Inc. sent us new uniforms!"

William blinked.

"What?"

"A letter came in the box. As a thank you for rescuing his daughter Mr Hawthorn got in contact with Munroe and asked what he could do for us as a favour, and she told him to make us uniforms! They are totally awesome!"

"Awesome means…. good….does it not?" William looked at Zach in confusion. They used so many words out of context in this world.

"Yeah! Well done, you remembered! You'll be talking like a normal person in no time at all."

"Joy…"

"I mean," Alicia skipped back over to the box, "I know those uniforms the government gave us are practical…but they're so boring! Black is such a monotonous colour."

Helen walked into the room, clad in a vivid green costume, complete with a black cape and knuckle gloves.

"Whoa! Nice uniform, Helen!" exclaimed Zach admiringly.

"Well….it's bright…I suppose. And green is my favourite colour…."

Rik made a disgusted sound in his throat.

"Mine has yellow on it. I hate yellow."

Helen looked over.

"Not very much yellow."

"I suppose."

William raised an eyebrow as he held up a metal shoulder pad.

"Is this armour?"

"It looks okay to me." Said Zach, shrugging.

"Cool! We all get different coloured eye masks!" exclaimed Alicia from deep inside the box.

"It's so light." William tossed it up and down a few times, "Surely it can't really provide any protection."

"It's called metal alloys, Bird-boy. Welcome to the future."

"Shut up, Rik."

"Make me, Bird-boy!"

"One of these days I might have to!"

"Oh yeah! You're really scaring me now! You gonna come and open up a can of medieval whoop-ass on me or something? You gonna joust me to death?!"

"For your information, people have died in jousting tournaments!"

Rik snorted.

"Really?" Zach's voice filtered through from the bathroom where he was putting on his uniform. "Dude, that is so cool!"

"Yes, I know. When I was seven, there was a jousting tournament, and a fellow's horse got pierced in the chest by the jousting pole, and it fell on top of him and crushed him to death!" replied William sincerely.

"Boy, what a cheerful story…" Alicia rolled her eyes.

"Freak!" coughed Rik into his hand. William glared at him, but otherwise pretended not to hear.

"Okay, why is my uniform like a giant chocolate bar wrapper?" asked Zach, stepping out of the bathroom.

"Purple." Said Helen, nodding sagely, "Very…regal."

"Are you being sarcastic?"

"Who, me? No. Never."

Rik sniggered.

"Well, at least yours is colourful!" Alicia held up Oanna's uniform with a horrified expression on her face, "Poor Oanna's uniform is grey!"

"It looks more black to me." Mused Zach, examining a corner of it.

"I like it." The mermaid smiled and took her uniform off of Alicia, "It reminds me of the ocean, first appearing one colour, then another, shifting constantly as the light dapples the surface of the waters…."

"Um, it's clothes, people. Just clothes." Said Rik, joining them.

"Aren't you going to wear the cape they gave you?" asked Helen, "I mean, only me, you and Oanna got capes and –"

"Look, it's bad enough that this thing has a big stupid yellow V across the front without me wearing a stupid yellow cape too! I'll wear my normal jacket; at least it won't get stuck in revolving doors."

"It says that they're quick-release capes, perfectly safe. Well, I'm going to wear mine anyway. I can't look any more fluorescent than I already do." Helen said, smiling slightly.

And since my powers stink I may as well try and make up for it with an impressive uniform, she added silently, biting her lip.

Alicia, catching the stray thought, looked at her sympathetically.

"Well, I think you look great, Helen. Green is really your colour. Two thumbs up!"

Zach laughed, grabbing one of her hands. "That looks so cool! You have alien hands!"

"Um... I am an alien. Duh!"

"… It's still cool! But….how come you look so different sometimes? Like, when you're pretending you're normal?"

"Um. Because I don't. But you think I do. And, unlike you, I do not pretend to be normal."

"You're completely wrong there." Said Rik seriously, "Zach never pretends to be normal. He regularly shows us all just what a dweeb he is."

Alicia rolled her eyes and pulled her hand out of Zach's grip.

"I still don't see how these guards are going to provide any protection." Said William, looking confused, "I mean, chain mail, possibly, but even that is heavier than these. And I should know. For punishments I used to have to clean my father's entire armoury."

"Chain mail! Armoury!" Repeated Rik in a whisper, exaggerating William's accent. Helen frowned at him, trying not smile.

"Look, dude, just trust me when I say that they're strong, okay? Those long ago days of having to wear several inches of heavy steel for protection are…well...long ago. Metal alloys are stronger, lighter, and less likely to rust. It'll be fine."

"I suppose…"

"We all look so cool!" squealed Alicia, surveying her team-mates.

"We all look so lame." Muttered Rik. Helen punched him lightly on the arm.

"Stop being so mean."

"This rocks! We're, like, proper heroes now! Ready for anything!" Zach struck a pose, planting his hands on his hips. "Evil! Injustice!"

"Try a bank robbery on Main Street. The thugs are armed and holding the bank staff and some customers as hostages." Said Munroe coolly from behind them.

"How do you DO that?!" exclaimed Zach, spinning round.

"Do what?"

"Sneak up on us!" Alicia scratched her head, "I mean, I'm psychic! I hear people's minds before they come anywhere near me, but I can sense you."

"I have no idea what you're talking about, Maulkin." Munroe said dryly, "but you had better all head down to Main Street – I'd take the monorail system, faster than manoeuvring through the roads. Put your new uniforms to some good use."

"We'll be right there, Munroe." Said William.

"We'll be right there!" muttered Rik behind him, "What a moron…"