The Correspondent is a web serial by Dylan Reed. Buy the whole story now.

Origin, Episode 5

The Correspondent

People always talk about where they were when they first heard about The Correspondent. She came out of nowhere and tried to make a difference. Some saw her as a beacon of hope, others as a sign of how far down the slope we had come. I never paid attention to all of that. I was too busy. Too busy working to pay my bills, too busy trying to figure out life. I was seventeen when it started. I was The Correspondent. This is my story.


I THOUGHT I HAD BEEN SORE AFTER my first minor battle but I was wrong. I woke up the next day with a pounding headache that seemed to start at my eyes and radiate backwards. I reached up and rubbed my face, which reminded me forcibly about my smashed nose. Looking in a mirror I saw that I looked like a raccoon, a raccoon with bruises all over its legs. I forced myself up onto my feet and, miraculously, I didn’t fall over.

I waddled, because there is no other way to describe how I was walking, to the trapdoor stairs and headed to the bathroom. Blessed hot water washed away the blood from last night. When I got out of the shower I felt more human and my waddle had been upgraded to a wincing walk. My legs were still sore and I looked like a raccoon but I was able to move in a more human fashion.

A good part of my morning was spent covering the bruises on my face with makeup. I had to search the web for tutorials on how to do it right. That search brought up a lot of information on abuse and how to get out of an abusive relationship which was good to know but didn’t really apply to me. I found a good tutorial and worked through it. By the time I was finished I looked unbruised, though I was wearing a lot more makeup than normal.

As I drove to work I went past the gas station. There was yellow tape strung across the door and the police were all over the scene. I could see the clerk sitting on the curb, looking exhausted as he answered questions. There was a local news van out front with a blond lady speaking into a microphone. I sped away from the scene as fast as I could without drawing attention to myself.

Getting to work I said good morning to my parents. They were both working on the order, barely looking up to say hi. I grabbed a dust mop and started sweeping the aisles. At the store there are slow days and fast days, and this was a blissfully slow day. I was able to work out the kinks in my body and get a lot of the store cleaned up. We ordered pizza for lunch and I had a great time talking about nothing with my parents. I think my mom noticed my overdone makeup but didn’t say anything.

After work my mom asked me to go get a movie and I was happy to. I automatically drove to the one closest to our house, which was at the gas station. The police were gone and it looked like they were just starting to clean up the mess. I pulled up, headed to the video box and picked a movie out. I felt so sneaky being back at the store after the events of the last night. I grabbed the movie out of the slot and headed home.

I beat my parents home, even after stopping to grab the movie, so I parked the scooter and headed to my room. I checked my makeup job and was glad to see that it had held up surprisingly well. I was dragging my suit out of the closet to check it for damage when I heard the garage open announcing the arrival of my parents. The suit check would have to wait until they went to bed, hopefully getting shot didn’t break anything.

I headed down to the kitchen where my mom was getting dinner ready. I helped her by setting the table and getting everyone drinks. My dad came in from the garage carrying a small wrapped package. It looked suspiciously like the packages Acme Hero Equipment, Inc. sends. My stomach dropped when he handed it to me.

“This was delivered to the store after you left,” my dad said.

What? Why would they deliver them to the store and not my PO box? Reading the label, I saw that it was addressed to Eleanor Daphne Seymour at my parent’s hardware store. Really? My full name.

“That’s strange,” I said, “I didn’t order anything.”

That was the wrong thing to say.

“You should open it. Maybe it is from your stupid ex,” my mom said, having never liked Greg.

“Ok,” I said, hoping beyond hope that whatever was in the package had nothing to do with being a superhero.

As slow as possible unwrapped the package, expecting the worst. Opening the lid of the box I saw the unmistakable AHE logo from Acme Hero Equipment. Crap. Inside was a cellphone. A simple black rectangle with a screen that took up one whole side. Like the mask it appeared that the packing material doubled as a charger.

“Oh it’s a new phone,” my mom said.

Frantically thinking up a lie I said, “Oh yeah, I ordered a new one with the money I have been saving this year.”

That seemed to satisfy my parents.

“You’re going to have to wait until after dinner to set it up,” my dad said.

Crisis averted. I still didn’t know why I had received the phone or why it was sent to the store instead of the post office but I would have to wait to figure it out. I ran the phone up to my room and came back down for dinner. We had a nice family dinner and watched the latest Pixar movie to be released.

When the movie was over my dad turned on the news joining in the middle of a story.

“…robbery at a local gas station has residents terrified. Not because of the robbery but because of the costumed person that was on the scene,” A still image of me standing in the gas station appeared on the screen. My stomach made a quick trip through my intestines “Police will not tell us whether this person was helping the robbers or not. No arrests were made as the gas station was empty when the police arrive. Here is a frame from the security camera showing the costumed person, who appears to be a woman.”

“I sure am tired”, I said, with an exaggerated yawn.

“Sleep good honey,” my mom said, “Don’t stay up too late playing with your new phone.”

I was freaking out as I walked to my room. I needed some peace to figure out what the hell was happening so I pulled the trapdoor up after me. Using my computer, I searched for costumed hero and the first result was a link to the same newscast I had just seen. I looked more carefully at all of the images available and was pleased that I was unrecognizable. The mask did its job very well.

Taking a couple deep breaths, I got the suit out of the closet. I took a close look at it and couldn’t see any holes or scrapes. In fact, it still looked brand new. Acme sure makes a quality product. I booted the mask up and put it on. After it verified my identity using the nano disks I had it run a full diagnosis.

While I was waiting for that to finish I got out the new phone. I knew that I hadn’t ordered it, but looking closer I knew what it was. I had read about the Acme-Phone™ but it hadn’t been in my costume budget.

The neat thing about the Acme-Phone was that it paired with your suit and only your suit. Once it was paired with a suit it was uncrackable. I turned the phone on, excited to see exactly what it could do. I was disappointed. It looked just like a regular phone, a really nice phone but a regular phone all the same.

I put the phone down and went to grab the Acme catalog to see what it said about the phone.

Acme-Phone™- This is the phone that all heroes want. Linked via bonding technology with a single user the Acme-Phone has apps for all your crime fighting needs. Order today and receive lifetime subscription to the Acme-Net™.

That is all it said. Nothing on how to use it. Maybe I had to link it with my suit. I dreaded pulling the tight suit on over my bruises but my interest in the phone finally convinced me. I was quicker getting the suit on this time despite my injuries.

The boots felt a little tight around my calves, but there was surprisingly little pain from my bruises. Putting the mask on I was greeted with a green message “Diagnosis Complete, Suit OK” which was a relief.

After I cleared that message a dialogue popped up, “Acme-Phone Detected, Start Pairing?” I, obviously, said yes.

There was a beep in my ear and looking at the phone I saw that its screen no longer looked like that of a normal phone. There were multiple app buttons labeled: Scanner, Rogues Gallery, Contacts, Music, and Help.

A video popped up and gave me a quick overview of the different apps and what they could do.

Scanner was a more advanced version of the basic police scanner. Rogues was so when I got pictures of a villain I could load it in the app and it would track them for me.

Contacts was a secure book of any contacts I have made, it also contained a hotline to other Acme Heroes incase I got into trouble. Music would play music while I as on patrol. And Help was the emergency button that would send out a distress signal to every radio in a five-mile radius.

The next morning was like all my morning now. I was sore but happy. My bruises faded and I got better at applying cover-up makeup. I started my day by checking the phone for any updates. The screen said “Full Functionality Unlocked”.

Wondering what that meant, I unlocked the phone and was surprised to see a video message waiting for me. The screen showed a dark room with a man sitting in the shadows.

“Congratulations on taking your first step to being a hero. Our records show that you have gone out and actually fought crime, and without your full suit. That is more crime fighting than eighty percent of out customers. We have sent you an Acme-Phone to assist you. Please enjoy and remember to be safe.”

Wow, that was cool. I couldn’t wait to go out and fight more crime, but now I had to get to work. I had done some reading before going to bed about the importance of being prepared at all times. I couldn’t do that if my costume was at home so I decided to wear it under my clothes.

The reason why the costume only went to just below the knees and the three quarter length sleeves became apparent, the costume was designed to be concealed. I didn’t have a good way to conceal the gloves, boots or mask; so I just tossed them in my backpack and headed to work.

For the first couple hours at work I felt super conspicuous. I was sure that people could tell I had an entire costume under my clothes, but no one said anything.

As the day progressed I became more confident and started to enjoy having a secret. At lunch time I played with my phone some more, programming in alerts that would vibrate different parts of the suit if an alert came in: Left elbow for armed robbery, Right elbow for bank robbery, etc.

It was getting close to closing time when the police showed up. I panicked when I saw them walk in. They weren’t obviously cops, but they had the cop vibe. They walked over to my dad so I moved close enough to hear.

“Hi,” said the taller of the two, “I am Detective Mendez. This is Detective Palmer.”

The shorter one grunted, nodding his head.

“We are investigating a robbery and are looking for some help.” Mendez said.

Dad smiled at the two, “How can I help you guys out?”

“These were found at the scene,” Mendez said, pulling an evidence bag that held three zip ties, “Do you sell these here?”

Dad took a close look at the ties, “Yes we do. Aisle seven I believe. Ellie, can you show these gentlemen to the zip ties.”

My head snapped up. I tried to look like I hadn’t been listening and headed over to the cops.

“Sure thing, Dad. Right this way,” I said leading the way to aisle seven.

As we walked to the aisle I couldn’t help myself. I wanted to know if the clerk was ok.

“Was anyone hurt in the robbery?” I asked, playing it cool.

“The clerk was rattled by what happened but he seems to be ok. According to the evidence it looks like someone got hurt at the scene but all we found was dried blood.”

“Oh.”

Once I got them to the zip ties, they started comparing them to the one in the evidence, and I decided that it was time to call it a day. There was somewhere I needed to go.

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The story of The Correspondent will continue weekly. The Correspondent: Origin is available now. If you enjoyed this story, please consider scrolling down and recommending it on Medium. Follow me on Medium or on Twitter for more posts like this. Want early access? Support me!

Dylan Reed has always been interested in a good story. Raised without a TV he spent a lot of time with books and loves reading. Dylan has been a professional entertainer, studied commercial diving, and loves random trivia. He brings all of this and more together in his stories.