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She was surprised when Kara stepped out of her bedroom, hands on in hips, clad in her Supergirl costume and looking none the worse for wear. In fact, had DeeAnn not seen Paris Hilton almost crush her to a pulp earlier, she would have sworn that the Girl of Steel had never looked better.
"You heard Lois' call?" she asked.
Kara nodded. "What took you so long?"
"So long? It was only a few seconds. Anyway, I was on the other side of the planet."
DeeAnn was amazed. "You look..."
"I told you I'd heal fast." Kara replied. "How've you been getting on?"
"Oh, fine...yeah, just...flying around, helping people."
"You're all over the news...did you know that?"
DeeAnn shook her head. "Er...no. I hadn't thought about that."
"They've identified you - DeeAnn Donovan is Superwoman."
"Oh, no..." DeeAnn sighed. "I guess...I should have put some thought into this. A disguise...or something..."
"It's too late now." Kara replied. "They interviewed your family..."
Kara grinned. "And they all said the same thing - that you're perfect superhero material, and that they're all proud of you. They just want you to go home."
"I will." DeeAnn said firmly. "After I've done this...I'll go home...sorry, I just lost track of time. I don't feel tired at all."
"No, you won't do." replied Kara. "Anyway, come on - we can talk on the way."
"There it is." whispered Lois, as she and the others floated miles over the DPW truck. "They can't detect us from up here."
"That cannon on the top of the van is a Par-Las." Denise explained. "It's supposed to be the ultimate weapon - designed to utterly incinerate enemy personnel and destroy their equipment."
"So we keep away from it?" DeeAnn asked.
"Well, yes...but can't hurt us." Denise replied. "What it does do...at least the first time I experienced it...is utterly overwhelm you with constant orgasms until it gets switched off...or until you break it."
"So that's the part to keep away from." Lois said. "This is the plan - Kara, DeeAnn and I grab the van and get it as far away from here as possible. While we're...chatting...with our two friends, Denise can spend some time with her family."
"What about me?" asked Bobby.
"I'll take you home first, I think." Denise replied. "Don't worry, this won't be the last you'll see of any of us. After school tomorrow, I'll come and find you - let you know what's happening."
Lois could see Bobby was disappointed. "It's better you're not around when things start getting violent." she said.
"I guess you're right...well, it's been...more incredible than I could have imagined...meeting you guys...oh, er, Ultrawoman..." Bobby offered her her cape back, but she didn't take it.
"Keep it." she said. "I've got a few spares. Souvenir of your night."
Bobby looked down, dumbstruck, at her gift. "I...don't know what to say...thank you...all of you, so much."
"Come on then." Denise said quietly. "Let's get you home."
As she flew away with Bobby in her arms, the remaining superwomen smiled at each other. "Cute kid." Supergirl said.
"You do realise that he could make a fortune if he sold that thing on Ebay?" Superwoman joked.
"He'd make even more selling his story to the papers." Supergirl replied - before remembering she was actually in the presence of a reporter. "Sorry, Lois."
"That's alright...but I don't think he would anyway." Ultrawoman smiled at her two friends. "Right...you both ready to do this?"
Ortiz sat hunched inside the van, watching the surveillance cameras as they scanned constantly for any sign of movement around Denise's home. "I don't think she's coming." he told Wade.
Wade sat down next to Ortiz and handed him a coffee. "She will. Just be patient."
Ortiz shook his head. "No, this is ludicrous. She must know she's being followed. What time is it..." He glanced at his watch. "Nearly midnight."
"Then we've got six hours or so to wait yet." Wade replied.
"Great. Six hours of staring at..." He glanced at the monitor. "Nothing?"
"Let me see." Wade leaned in close. "Check the cameras."
"They're all working fine...wait...they're going!" The two agents watched as one by one, the cameras stopped transmitting.
Wade drew his gun. "This is it." Suddenly the van was filled with the deafening sound of the metal roof being torn away with great ease..."Ultrawoman!" gasped Wade.
Lois grinned. "At your service. Well, actually, you're at mine, see, I'd like to ask you a few-"
She was surprised when Wade raised his gun and began firing at her. The bullets bounced harmlessly off her chest, and she waited patiently until he stopped firing, enjoying every moment.
"Do you mind? Thank you. Anyway, as I was saying -"
Lois was cut off again as Wade grabbed Ortiz's gun and began firing at her again, this time aiming for her face. Sighing, Lois caught each of the bullets between her teeth, and then, once the gun was empty, she blew then out again with her superbreath. The two agents watched in horror as Ultrawoman used their own bullets to trash all their expensive equipment in a matter of seconds. When she was done, she gave both a little smile, and watched Ortiz suddenly make a break for the door...
...only to find the ground outside was now a long way down...a few miles down, in fact...and the only thing keeping him from falling out of the van was the two fingers pressing firmly against his chest. "Hi!" said Supergirl cheerfully. "Seeing as it's such a nice night, we thought we'd take you boys for a little ride. Just you sit tight." She gently pushed Ortiz back into the van, before shutting the door behind him and making a start on sealing it closed with her heat vision.
Ortiz slumped to the floor, unable to process what was happening around him, as Ultrawoman floated in through the gaping hole she'd made in the roof.
Wade lunged for the controls to the Par-Las, which was about the only thing still working after Ultrawoman's shooting practice, and brought it to bear on Supergirl. Outside the van, Superwoman saw the Par-Las swing down to aim at her new friend, and a thought flashed across her mind...
It's designed to incinerate normal humans...it was strong enough to knock out Denise...but Kara isn't as strong as us yet!
Superwoman grabbed hold of the Par-Las, and the machine whined in frustration as she pulled it away from its target. Too busy with thoughts of saving her friend, she was thoroughly unprepared when the Par-Las fired full force, at point blank range, into her body...
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DeeAnn's hair was fanning out, framing her face in an auburn aureole. Blue tendrils of electricity slithered around her outflung limbs as the tang of ozone filled the air. Her eyes widened, her back arched, a soft moan poured from her throat ...
Then she went limp. She drifted on her back, high above the ground, her dangling arms and legs swaying back and forth ever so slightly. Her head rolled to one side as her eyes slid shut ...
"DeeAnn!" Kara shouted again. "DeeAnn, are you all ri --?"
Slowly, DeeAnn raised her arms and laid her palms flat against her thighs. Slowly, she drew her hands along her body -- up her thighs, around the curve of her hips, up her tight abdomen -- until they reached the underside of her breasts. Slowly, her hands slid around her breasts, then lightly caressed her nipples before retracing their path downward.
Her eyes snapped open. They were blank at first; then a look of feral hunger awoke in them as they darted left, right, up, down, searching for ...
Below them, Ultrawoman had lowered the truck to the ground; then, ripping open the metal doors that Kara had welded shut with her heat-vision, she had grabbed the two NIB agents by their shirtfronts and flung them outside. Now DeeAnn spotted Agent Ortiz scrambling to his feet. The tip of her tongue darted lasciviously around her lips as she shifted her position, preparing to dive straight toward him ...
"No, DeeAnn!" cried Kara, darting in front of her friend. "You'll kill h -- "
She dodged just in time to avoid a punch to the abdomen. Shaken, she flew back a few feet. That was close, she thought, looking at DeeAnn's prominent biceps and comparing them to Paris Hilton's slender arms -- arms that had nearly killed her back in Seattle ...
But DeeAnn had turned her attention back to Ortiz. All right, thought Kara, she may be stronger than I am, but I don't have to overpower her -- just keep her busy, distracted, until she comes to her senses.
Kara unleashed a frigid blast of super-breath, encasing DeeAnn's body, from the neck down, in a sheath of ice several inches thick. Baffled, DeeAnn hung motionless for a second; then an effortless twitch of her muscles sent a network of cracks racing through her frozen prison. Ponderous chunks of ice dropped from her body and plummeted to the ground below.
Again, Kara's super-breath enveloped DeeAnn in a coat of ice; again, DeeAnn shattered it with contemptuous ease. Change of tactics, thought Kara. For the third time, her super-cold breath congealed the air around DeeAnn into an icy cocoon; but this time, she darted behind her friend just as she was breaking free. Instantly, Kara wrapped her arms around DeeAnn from behind and took off southward at super-speed before the buff brunette knew what was happening.
A sonic boom split the night air as the two bodies rocketed southward -- over the Gulf of Mexico, over the Brazilian rain forest, above the Argentinian pampas -- until they were directly above the turbulent seas of Drake's Passage. Without slowing her flight, Kara plunged straight downward, carrying her friend down, down into the cold dark waters of the Weddell Sea.
Oblivious of the freezing temperature and tremendous pressure, DeeAnn squirmed free of Kara's embrace. Turning around, she lunged at her opponent, who swiftly grabbed her wrists in a steely super-grip. The two superwomen struggled against each other in the silent darkness, churning the water into a turbulent froth. A passing pod of killer whales turned and fled in terror.
Can't ... keep this up, thought Kara desperately. Must still be ... weaker than I thought ...
But then DeeAnn stopped struggling. She shook her head, as if emerging from a trance, and gazed about her in evident perplexity. Gradually, recollection and understanding dawned in her eyes, and she pointed upward, toward the surface thousands of fathoms above.
Side by side, Kara and DeeAnn shot upward through the frigid waters, breaking the surface at the same moment. Laughing, they shook the sea-water from their eyes as they bobbed up and down like a pair of corks on the mountainous seas that rolled by them.
"I figured an ice-cold bath might cool your jets, you -- you super-slut!" giggled Kara.
DeeAnn shook her head. "Nah -- you just bought me the time I needed to recover from that blast. Believe me, the way I was feeling ... well, let's just say that there wouldn't have been enough cold water in the world to cool me down!"
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"Yeah, just a little...OK, a lot...horny..." DeeAnn replied. "How about you? I didn't hurt you, did I?"
"Me? Nah." Kara laughed.
"Good...cos hurting you is the last thing I wanna do. I just saw those two guys, and...needed them..."
"You would have killed them."
"I know...thanks, Kara. Thanks for stopping me."
Kara shook her head. "Well, thank you for saving me...again." She smiled. "The Par-Las everything Denise said it was?"
"Oh, and more...so much more...did I break it?"
"Er...no, I don't think so."
Dee grinned. "Good...cos I wanna keep it."
"Keep it? Dee-"
"I want you to try it too." DeeAnn whispered, floating closer and taking hold of her arms. "Once you've been changed by the Transformatrix...trust me Kara, there's nothing more wonderful than having enough energy to disintegrate an army blasting through your body...and all it does is remind you that there's no power on Earth that can hold you...because you are a superwoman..."
Dee planted a tender kiss on Kara's lips, and the two women gazed into each other's eyes. After a moment, Kara returned the kiss...and then placed Dee's hands onto the 'S' logo of her costume. She gasped as Dee began to squeeze, gently...and then they kissed, again and again...
Jill had spent the whole day with Amber, having really taken a liking to her. She'd stayed around while Amber had had her first physical (revealing all the same powers that Jill herself had), and after lunch Jill had taken her to the gym. What Jill had intended to be just a quick half hour soon became an intense ten hour workout, as Amber, inspired by seeing the other superwomen around her performing amazing feats of strength, wanted to try everything.
By the time they'd had got cleaned up and had something to eat, it was nearly midnight, and Jill had insisted that Amber become her new roommate - partly because she liked her so much, but also because the top bunk in the room she had shared with Denise was now vacant.
"I really don't wanna intrude." Amber said for the umpteenth time as Jill opened the door to her room. "I don't mind finding an empty room in one of the other wings."
"You're not intruding, honestly." Jill replied. "To be honest...I need the company...and I think you do too."
Amber nodded. "I guess...I'd rather not be alone here. Thanks, Miss Benson"
"Jill." Amber said nervously. "Sorry, I've never been on first name terms with a teacher."
Jill smiled, and lead Amber into their room. "I'm not your teacher though, am I?"
"Oh, you are! I mean, for the whole superpowers thing! I had no idea how strong I was." She held up her hands in amazement. "These hands...my hands...lifted up a bus, and it felt like nothing..."
Jill grinned. "I know - tomorrow I'll see if they'll let us play with the tank some more. That's always fun. Now...you happy with the top bunk?"
"Oh, fine, yes." Jill watched Amber use the ladder to climb up to her bed, and smiled. "What?"
"Oh, nothing, it's just...well, Denise used to just float right on up there."
"That...never occurred to me." Amber replied quietly...before floating down again, and landing gracefully in front of Jill. "You miss her, don't you?" she asked.
"Yeah, I do." Jill replied, sitting down on her bed. "She was a great help to me...but she left so suddenly..."
"That's something I was wondering about." Amber said, sitting down next to Jill. "There are about sixty women here...and Denise is the only one who's left?"
"I've been thinking about it." Jill replied, not wanting to upset Amber by making her think that looking after her was the only reason she'd stayed on. "But as far as I know, no-one else has yet."
"You won't suddenly disappear on me, will you?" Amber asked. "I mean, if you do get let out...I'd like to go with you. I thought they might be able to take the powers away, but seeing as they can't..."
Jill smiled. "I promise, I won't leave you here."
"There you are!" cried Ultrawoman, as Superwoman and Supergirl landed near the remains of the DPW van. "Where've you been? You alright, DeeAnn?"
"Yeah, fine." DeeAnn replied. "We just...um..."
"Dee needed a little...private moment." Kara said, trying hard not to giggle.
"Right." Lois replied - deciding not to press the matter, as it was fairly obvious what had happened.
"Where are my two handsome friends?" Dee asked.
"You got the information we needed?"
Lois nodded. "Yep - and it's accurate, I've checked it out. A big underground complex in the middle of the Nevada desert."
"Military?" Kara asked.
"I'm not sure...but there are lots of handsome men wandering around it with guns..."
"You broke the Par-Las!" DeeAnn suddenly cried, as she surveyed the wreckage of the van. "Aww, I wanted that..."
"Relax." Kara's soothing voice told her. "We'll get you another one. Are we flying out there now, then?"
"I don't know - Denise is still with her husband, but I think she'd wanna come with us."
"Then let's wait until morning." Kara suggested. "It won't make much difference...will it?"
"Maybe not...it all depends on what those two agents do. If they go back to their bosses and tell them what's happened out here...they might make some move against the women in that complex..."
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"Okay," said Ortiz. "We're gonna ned a story in case someone offers us a ride."
"Car trouble?" suggested Boggs.
"Nah. We would've stayed with the car."
"We're a couple of lost hikers?"
"Dressed like this?"
"Okay, how about a prank that got out of hand? We were at a buddy's bachelor party -- "
"I guess that'll work."
"Great. Now all we need is for someone to drive by and offer us a ride."
"Highway patrol, if we're lucky. We can I.D. ourselves -- "
"That Ultrabitch took our badges, remember?"
"C'mon -- even a highway cop must know the code word for the branch office when he hears it."
They walked on in silence for several minutes.
"You know who that was, don't you?" said Ortiz.
"Who do you think? The Ultrabitch. That was Lois Lane."
"Get outta here."
"Swear to God. I saw her on CNN a couple of nights ago. I'm telling you, that was Lois Lane."
"You are full of shit."
"Twenty bucks says it was Lois Lane."
"You're on." They slapped hands. There was another long silence.
"Suppose you had one of those Transformatrix thingies," said Ortiz. "Would you use it on your old lady -- give her super-powers?"
"Gee, let me think about that. Super-vision -- so she can check up on me 24 - 7? Super-speed -- so she can come and bust my chops in person no matter how far away I am? No, thanks."
"Yeah, but just think what she could do in the bedroom, man -- anti-gravity ... super-breath ... "
"Car," said Boggs.
Ortiz and Boggs held out their thumbs, not very hopefully, as the headlights of an oncoming car approached. Somewhat to their surprise, the car rolled to a stop.
The figure behind the wheel was a featureless shadow, but the soft drawl that addressed them was unmistakably female.
"Looks like you boys could use a lift."
Ortiz and Boggs exchanged glances, quickly appraising the situation. A lone woman, picking up two strange men in the middle of the night, out in the middle of nowhere? It didn't seem kosher. But if she was one of those super-women, why would she be driving a car? ... Simultaneously, they shrugged and nodded.
"Much obliged, ma'am," said Ortiz, sliding into the back seat. "I'm David and this is Wade."
"Howdy," said Boggs from the back seat.
Ortiz tried to get a good look at the driver. She was wearing a trenchcoat and a fedora, like a femme fatale in a Bogart movie. The coat's collar was turned up and the hat's brim was pulled down, and Ortiz couldn't see her face. Somewhat uneasily, he shut the door.
"Happy to meet you, boys," the woman said. "Now fasten your safety-belts and put your tray-tables in their locked and upright position as we prepare for take-off ... "
Ortiz looked over his shoulder at Boggs. Uh-oh, they thought ...
The woman raised her right arm and placed her palm flat against the inside of the roof. Instantly, the front of the car rose off the highway at a forty-five degree angle. A moment later, the car was airborne.
"We are cruising at an altitude of five thousand feet," the driver said as Ortiz and Boggs tumbled back in their seats. "If you look out the windows, you'll see ... well, nothing much ... "
The two agents lay back in glum resignation as the car flew over the dark empty landscape.
"We are beginning our descent," continued the driver. "Please make sure you have all your personal belongings. It has been our pleasure to serve you." The car's rear tires touched the ground with a slight bump, and its front end descended gently like a drawbridge.
The woman behind the wheel got out. "All right," she said, opening the rear door. "Out -- both of you."
Ortiz and Boggs obeyed.
The woman removed her fedora and trenchcoat and laid them on the hood of the car. Arms folded, she turned and faced the two men -- a tall woman, with straight shoulder-length hair, dressed in gym shorts and a snug white T-shirt that made her generous bosom and broad shoulders and firm, rounded biceps stand out in the darkness.
"It looks like Lois got what she wanted from you boys," she said. "But I've still got some unfinished business with you. I'm Denise Jordan -- but I'm guessing you've figured that out already. You and your friends have been staking out my house ever since I escaped from your so-called Stronghold -- isn't that right?"
The agents nodded.
"And you've heard how I got out of there, haven't you?"
Denise reached out and seized the two men by their shirtfronts, lifting them effortlessly off the ground.
"Now listen very carefully. If you or any of your friends ever come anywhere near my family again, then what I did to that colonel will seem like a slap on the wrist compared with what I'll do to you. Do I make myself clear ... boys?"
More nods -- quick, desperate. Denise set the men down.
"Good. The highway's about a mile that way." Folding her arms, she watched as the two men plodded off in the direction she'd pointed.
"Did you hear what she said?" whispered Ortiz. " 'Lois'? You owe me twenty bucks."
Denise was tossing her trenchcoat and hat onto the front seat of the car when Ultrawoman, Supergirl, and DeeAnn descended from the sky.
"Hey, Denise," said DeeAnn. "I thought you were gonna take a break from this stuff."
"I was," said Denise. "But I was having too much fun to quit."
"What was all that about?" said Ultrawoman. "What you said to those men -- ?"
"Let's just say I did a few things I'm not proud of, breaking out of the Stronghold ... but at least it seems to have made an impression. So now what? Did you find out where they're holding Jill and all those other women?"
"Oh, yes," replied Ultrawoman. "We know its exact location, and Kara and I have scanned it thoroughly. We'll make our move first thing tomorrow morning. Let's meet right here at six a.m. Meanwhile, I know Denise wants to get back to her family. DeeAnn, Kara -- "
But DeeAnn and Kara were already flying off, hand in hand. "See you tomorrow!" Kara shouted.
"So," said Denise. "Ultrawoman's gonna fly in and crack this case wide open, huh?"
"No, not Ultrawoman. This is a job for Lois Lane!"
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She went over and over in her head what she was going to tell her husband. As far as he'd known, she'd been away on business. They never allowed her to reveal anything more. He needed to know the truth. Accepting it would be the hard part.
She could hear her children asleep in their rooms. The sound of their breath a comfort that they were well. Before she had landed, she watched them sleep for awhile. Two beautiful twin daughters. The two best things that had ever happened to her.
She softly knocked on her front door afraid to wake the twins. She listened. She heard the TV reciting the late evening headlines. She heard the air conditioner hum to life. She looked through the house and found her man stirring to life on the couch. She knocked once more. She watched as he made his way to it grumbling about the time of night and where his slippers where. The door opened.
"Hi." Denise smiled.
"Do you reali...hi." He paused.
They looked at each other. She wanted to hold him so badly, but she knew she looked a bit different. She looked like she had in her youth, perfected. He needed to recognize her first.
"De...Denise?" He squinted through groggy eyes.
"Yes." She said softly as if not to disturb a dream. "Yeah, I'm here."
He reached his hand out to her. She took it. She couldn't hold herself back anymore. She took him and folded him in her strong arms gently, and lovingly. If he'd bothered, he'd have noticed the space between them and the porch.
"Would you like something to drink? Sit down, sweety. My God you look amazing."
She blushed. He always new exactly what to say. "Thank you. You're still my handsome man."
He smiled. "Thank you, but you'll always be the pretty one."
"I know." They giggled at her joke, as much as it was, and sat together.
"I have so much to tell you."
"No rush, hun. You're back now and you need rest."
"That's kinda what I have to tell you. I don't need rest. I haven't slept in a couple weeks, and I feel fine."
"Have you seen the news? The superwomen?"
"Yeah. Denise, what are you talking about?"
Denise took a long breath and told him everything. She told him about the Stronghold. She told him about the Tranformatrix. She told him about her change.
"Let me get this all straight. You're like a supergirl now?"
"Can I be superwoman instead?"
"Well, he's a bit underpowered comparably, but sort of."
"So you can leap tall buildings?"
"Faster than a speeding bullet?"
"Even the locomotive part?"
"You have no idea," she smiled.
Collin blinked at her. She blinked back.
"This can't be. I thought it was all a media stunt or something. It doesn't make sense."
"I thought you'd say that. So I brought something." Denise presented a piece of graphite. "Now, from what I understand, it takes roughly 150,000 tons of pressure to squeeze this into a diamond. What to see me do it?"
Collin blinked again. Denise palmed the stone in her hands. She had him place his hands on hers.
"All you have to do is squeeeeze." Her last word emphasizing her action as she bore down with her strength. Collin recoiled when her hands became to hot to touch. Yet she continued. Seconds passed before she let up and opened her hand to reveal a rough, yet stunning diamond. She held it up in her fingers for him to observe.
"It's that simple! Unfortunately, it's not a true diamond." She snapped it to dust between her fingers. "What do you think? And it doesn't stop there, babe. I am totally indestructable. In fact, I brought some toys you and I could play with. Grenades, an uzi, a small laser rifle..."
Collin's head began to spin with his wife's astoundingly melodious voice as the soundtrack. Looking up, she found Collin passed out on the floor.
Denise sighed. "God, I love that man."
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DeeAnn smiled. "Sneak in...and maybe wake them up, or maybe just go to bed." She looked down at her costume. "Do you think I should go in like this?"
"Dee, you've been on TV all day dressed like that. If you didn't come home as Superwoman, it wouldn't be right."
"I guess not." DeeAnn looked up at Kara, who smiled. "Kara, I-"
"Dee...DeeAnn, please. Let me say something." DeeAnn fell silent. "Today's been brilliant...well, aside from the whole 'nearly getting killed' thing. And this afternoon, with you, was just...mindblowing. But you do realise that as much as we might want it...nothing can happen between us. You've got your family, and I..." She paused. "Well, I wouldn't try to take you away from them."
DeeAnn looked into her house...and at her family...and then back at Kara. "They mean the whole world to me." she whispered.
"I know...this afternoon, it was all just impulse. You were psyched up from the Par-Las, and I was...well, I was just there."
"Oh, no, Kara, no...listen to me." Dee took hold of Kara's hands. "I meant all those things I said. I didn't just...use you..., in fact, making love to you was one of the most beautiful things I've ever experienced."
"Oh, and for me too." Kara replied. There was an uncomfortable silence, before she added "Look, Dee...there's nothing I want more than to throw myself into your arms and let you ravish me...but there's just too much at stake for me to do that." She smiled. "But that doesn't mean we can't be friends?"
"Right, yeah, absolutely. Actually, I was thinking...well, that we could be a team...Superwoman and Supergirl?"
"I'd like that."
Dee smiled. "I'm sorry...you've been doing this for years, and now I'm here, suddenly coming along, calling myself Superwoman and making you my sidekick..."
"Oh, I don't mind." Kara replied. "I don't wanna sound rude...but I'm guessing you're about ten years older than me. That makes me the girl, and you the woman." She grinned. "At least...that was the way it felt this afternoon..."
"Oh, when I..."
"With your heat vision...mmm...anyway, for now at least, you're stronger than I am. 'Superwoman' is the perfect name for you." She smiled. "Will you be coming with us tomorrow?"
"I...I don't know. I'd like to..." She glanced towards the house again, and Kara squeezed her hands.
"Well...I'll stop by tomorrow morning and you can tell me then." She gave Dee a quick kiss on the lips, and smiled. "Go on. Go be with your family...Superwoman. I'll see you tomorrow."
With that, Kara took the skies, and DeeAnn headed inside. Within minutes, she'd woken her husband and children, and was proudly showing off the new her.
And if she'd scanned outside with her x-ray vision, she would have seen a tearful Kara standing silently in her garden, looking in and wishing for the life she could never have.
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The 'Real life Superwomen' section was full of newly-created threads celebrating the arrival of these new superwomen...and she smiled as she saw the thread dedicated to the return of her own alter-ego, Ultrawoman, sitting at the top of the page. Inside, she found comments from people excited about her return, and comments praising her new physique. One comment in particular made her feel proud; "Thank God Ultrawoman's back. She's everything a real superwoman should be - powerful, graceful, beautiful, and above all, she's a true hero. She's the kind of woman those psychosuperbitches like Paris Hilton could never, ever be."
Elsewhere in that section were threads with titles like "OMG - DEEANN DONOVAN IS SUPERWOMAN!!!" and "Paris Hilton is our new ruler!", as well as a few general threads asking how all this had happened, and where it would lead...but as far as she could see, there were no women posting here.
Lois began to type, her fingers darting over the keyboard at super-speed, and within seconds, she had completed Lola's first post to the forum - telling of how she'd always dreamt of having superpowers of her own, how thrilled she'd been by the sight of beautiful superwomen battling it out across the city, as well as asking for help from anyone who could make her lifelong dream of becoming a superwoman a reality. She logged off, and hoped that by morning, someone somewhere might have read that comment and given her some sort of lead - and hopefully, offer her access to a Transformatrix.
With that, she logged out, and headed into her bedroom, stopping in front of the mirror and looking at her reflection. Lois Lane...from the outside, just an ordinary woman.
And now, through some miracle, she'd been given superpowers again.
She'd grown to miss them, over time. At first, they'd scared her until she got them under control - and once they'd been returned to Clark, she was relieved. But as the months wore on, she'd begun to wish there'd been some way that they could have shared the power somehow. The world could have used more superheroes than just Clark and Kara.
Now, suddenly, it had them - or at least two in Ultrawoman and Superwoman, most likely three once Denise had decided what she wanted to do, and with probably more on the way. But of course, that also meant those like Paris Hilton and her friend...those who were going to abuse their powers...Lois could only hope that the good guys (or in this case, girls) would outnumber the bad.
She felt alive again - really alive. Whenever she moved, she could feel the Ultrawoman costume underneath her clothes...she could feel the reborn superheroine inside the reporter, itching to get out...
"Lois!" Clark's voice called, and an x-ray scan through the wall showed her that her husband had just floated in through the open balcony window. "Lois, we have *got* to talk..."
Poor Clark, she thought to herself. For years, he's been Superman - the most powerful person on the planet. How's he going to cope when the women are even more powerful than him...making him feel like the mere superman he really is?
"I'm sorry, Lois isn't here right now." replied Ultrawoman, as she stepped confidently out of the bedroom, hands on hips. "Could I help?"
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"Hey, Lois," he said, smiling weakly. "I see you got out the ultra-tights. Looking good."
"Are you all right?" Lois asked. "You look -- "
"Tired? I am. After you threw me against that cliff -- "
"I'm sorry, sweetie. But think how it looked -- you half-undressed, DeeAnn practically naked -- "
"Lois, I swear -- "
"It's all right, sweetie. I know nothing happened. And DeeAnn -- well, she wasn't herself at the time. Finding out that you've gained super-powers -- it can be a pretty heady experience. We've talked." Lois smiled. "Actually, we've become pretty good friends. And she and Kara have really hit it off."
"Er -- that's nice. But as I was saying, slamming into that cliff actually stunned me for a while. I wasn't hurt, but I could tell that something had happened to my invulnerability -- "
"Oh, Clark, I didn't realize -- "
"I know. And then when I tried to locate you, I couldn't focus my super-vision. So I started to fly back to Metropolis." He smiled ruefully. "It took me three hours. So much for being faster than a speeding bullet, huh?"
"Clark, we've got to find out what's happening to you."
"Well, that's exactly what I've been trying to do. I just got back from STAR Labs. Dr. Stein ran a full diagnostic on me. Sure enough, my strength, my speed, all my powers -- they're down to about 75% of their usual levels."
"Does he have any idea what's causing it?"
"Not really, but he has a theory that it's related to the sudden appearance of all these super-women. He thinks I'm being used as some kind of ... some kind of lens or conduit. Every time a woman gains super-powers, it drains off a little bit of my own super-energy -- not enough for me to notice the first few times it happened, but with more and more super-women popping up everywhere ... "
"Oh, Clark, this is terrible!"
"Tell me about it. If this keeps up ... well, it won't be long before I'm just an ordinary man -- in a world full of super-women." He forced a smile. "Good thing Ultrawoman can pick up the slack, huh?"
"Actually, Clark, I've got a lead on these ... trasformations. Let me show you."
She logged back on to her computer, entering the password she'd used to register at Uber Girl Frenzy. Somewhat to her surprise, she saw that there was an e-mail waiting for her.
"Lola," she read aloud. "Print out this coupon and follow the instructions. I trust that the results will be everything you wished for. After all -- What Lola wants, Lola gets. :wink: Regards ... Genrefan. "
Lois clicked on "Print," then picked up her cell-phone and entered a number.
"Lana?" she said. "This is Lois. Remember when I said I owed you one for your help in the Patterson story? Well, it's payback time. I have a lead you might be interested in. It could be a huge story for WMET ... Well, I would, but I'm busy on another story. Are you interested? ... Okay, then. Are you at home? ... Okay. I'll see you in a few minutes."
Lois turned to her husband. "Okay, Clark. Lana's going to follow up this angle. You can try to track down this Genrefan and find out how he's connected to all this. Maybe that new intern can help -- the one who's such a whiz with computers -- "
"Right. I've got to see Lana, then I've got to take care of a few things at the Planet, and then I've got to fly out to Nevada. I'll tell you all about it later." She laid a gloved hand on her husband's arm. "Meanwhile, why don't you get some rest, sweetie? You look like you could use it." She kissed him on the forehead. His eyes slid shut and his head fell to one side.
Lois lifted him gently, effortlessly off the sofa and carried him into the darkened bedroom. She put a blanket over him and stepped back into the living room. Pausing only to take a sheet of paper from the printer tray, she strode out onto the balcony and launched herself into the night sky.
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"Hey, Lana. Can I come in?"
"Sure." Lois followed Lana through into the lounge, and they sat down on the sofa. "Can I get you anything?"
"Er, no, thanks, I can't stay long."
"OK." Lana grinned. "So let's cut to the chase. What's this about payback?"
"You've seen the news. What's the WMET take on it?"
"Same as all the other networks. Everyone's desperate for some sort of lead, but there's nothing. The Government's trying to hush it up, the superheroines never stick around for an interview...and no-one fancies their chances of getting an interview out of Paris Hilton."
"Ah, you're a load of amateurs." joked Lois.
"I take it you do have a lead then?"
"Of course. It looks like it's being done through an internet forum - guys are posting their fantasy superwomen, and then they - or the women they've mentioned - get these vouchers." Lois produced the email printout. "Here."
Lana read through the coupon, and shook her head. "I still don't understand - what exactly does this mean?"
"Well, if a guy gets one of those coupons, they go to the place they've been told to, and pick up a Transformatrix - it's a little held-held ray gun thing - then they use it on whoever they want to. If a woman gets the coupon, she goes to the address, and there'll be a guy there waiting for her. Zap - instant superwoman."
"So, who's Lola? Oh wait...OK, I get it."
Lois smiled. "I posted on the site, saying how much I'd love to become a superwoman, and this came through within an hour."
"You're gonna get superpowers?"
Lois shook her head. "Nuh uh. *You're* gonna get superpowers. You take this, you be Lola. If you wanna do a expose on it, fine. If you just wanna get the powers and keep it secret, that's fine too."
"You mean...I could be..."
"A superwoman..." Lois whispered. She could see that Lana was clearly taken with the idea. "A superhero, even..."
Lana smiled a little - and then laughed. "Nice try, Lois. You almost had me."
"Almost? What are you-"
"Oh, come on! This is a joke, right? You get me thinking I could...that I could have superpowers of my own...then send me off to this place on the coupon, and make me look a complete idiot when I get there."
"No, Lana, it's not like that..."
"Look...if it were real - why would you give me this? I know you, Lois - Superman's best friend. You'd give anything to have superpowers...just like I would...you wouldn't offer the chance to someone else."
Lois stood up, and turned to face Lana. "That might be true...if I didn't already have superpowers." With that, she pulled off her jacket, and tore at her blouse, revealing her costume.
"Oh God..." Lana whispered, as Lois became Ultrawoman before her very eyes. "Lois...you...you're-"
"Ultrawoman." Lois replied. "That's how I know this isn't a joke. It worked on me, and it'll work on you too."
"Look, call me tomorrow night...once you've recovered...and we'll talk about it. Until then - gotta fly!" And with that, Lois ran for the door, leaving a stunned Lana alone with her thoughts...and with a small piece of paper that could make her dreams come true...
The next morning, Lois and Denise hovered in the morning sky over Nevada, a mile above the underground installation, waiting for Kara and DeeAnn. "I'm glad you could come, Denise." Lois said. "You sure you wanna do this?"
"Well...I wanna get Jill outta there - and I also think I'm allowed a bit of payback for the way they treated me. Nothing violent, just...I wanna help."
Lois smiled. "Your family...were they OK with what's happened to you?"
"Don't tell him I told you so...but I'm married to the most wonderful man in the world. He was a little thrown by all this at first, but...he'll get used to it. But he didn't recognise me at first, so he's gonna try to explain to our two little girls that mommy might look a little different when she comes home today."
"Sure. I'm glad we could get you back to them."
"I owe you, all of you. I could never thank you enough for all you did for me."
"That's alright. But it's nothing you couldn't have done by yourself."
Denise grinned. "No, I guess not."
"Just between us...what are you gonna do, when all this over, I mean?"
"You mean...do I wanna be a superhero, like you guys?" Lois nodded. "Honestly - I don't know. Part of me wants to just go back to the way things were...but I don't think I can. I'm not that person anymore." She smiled. "Actually, I almost went and rented out a superhero costume for this morning. I feel a little silly flying along with you guys in your costumes when I'm just wearing a t-shirt and shorts."
"And that is why we're a little late." explained Kara, as she and DeeAnn floated up beside them. "We figured that, whatever you do decide to do, you should have a costume for today."
She handed Denise a spare of her own costume, and the schoolteacher looked down at the 'S' logo. "You guys..."
"Put it on." urged DeeAnn.
Denise did so, allowing her own clothes to fall away and replacing them with her new costume. "This looks like a job for...SuperDenise!" She placed her hands on her hips and tried to look heroic, but eventually broke down in giggles. "This is insane." she gasped. "Well...how do I look?"
"Perfect." Lois told her.
"Absolutely beautiful." Dee added.
"It feels...good. Thank you, Kara."
"That's alright." the Kryptonian replied. "We're getting to be quite a team, aren't we?"
DeeAnn grinned, and held out her hand. "Team." she said.
"Team." replied Kara, placing her hand on Dee's.
"Team." added Lois, doing the same.
Denise thought for a moment, then grinned, and placed her hand on top of her new friends'. "Team."
"Alright then." said Lois. "Let's do this."
The sudden blaring of alarms woke both Jill and Amber. "What is it?"
"Listen." Jill said. They could both hear a security announcement, on a different channel to the general tannoy - clearly intended for information to be kept secret from the women held here, but easily detected with their superhearing.
"All guards to report to to level one entrance. We have four female intruders. Repeat, all guards.."
"Level one entrance, what direction's that in?" Amber asked, jumping down from the top bunk.
Jill scanned through the floors above them. "There!"
"It's Supergirl and Ultrawoman! They've come to get us out!" gasped Amber.
"On the left...come on, we've gotta help them!"
"Wait, wait!" Amber cried, grabbing hold of Jill's arm. "Those guards - they've got guns!"
"And we're bulletproof." Jill reminded her.
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Hastily putting on her white lab coat, she sat down and glanced at the slip of paper taped to the top of the parcel. It had arrived by special courier less than an hour ago; the night security chief had signed for it and left it on her desk.
Eagerly, she opened the parcel and took out the Transformatrix that the NIB had confiscated from the boy in Indiana. The NIB had sent it to her yesterday morning; and she, in turn, had sent it to a former colleague at STAR Labs.
The package also contained a floppy disk. Fumbling with haste, Dr. Klyburn inserted it into her computer.
Janet: As you requested, I've run a nano-scan on this device -- whatever it is. The results are attached. Hope you can make more sense of these schematics than I can. Erica
Dr. Klyburn opened the attachment and ran her eyes over the schematic diagram that appeared on the screen. Her hunch had been correct: The circuitry within the Transformatrix was a red herring; the device itself was embodied in a labyrinth of nano-circuits in the casing. But as she began to examine the diagram more closely, her elation faded. She had a degree in nano-engineering -- along with genetics, psychology, business administration, and several other disciplines -- but this technology was advanced far beyond her ability to understand ... or reconstruct.
Unless ... hmmm ... She clicked on a corner of the screen and inspected the enlarged image with growing excitement. It looked like a simple trapdoor relay -- an off-switch designed to de-activate the device after a single use.
Dr. Klyburn grinned triumphantly. Now she could take the Transformatrix back to STAR Labs ... re-open the trapdoor ... and then ...
She pushed back her chair, crossing her long, elegant legs as she allowed herself the indulgence of a few moments' reverie.
It had been ten years since Janet Klyburn had entered a national beauty pageant and won the scholarship that had launched her career, but reporters were still in the habit of describing her as "a 6' 2" former beauty queen" and "a tall, striking redhead." She frequently used her smile to disarm colleagues -- and her height to intimidate them -- but she had always made a point of de-emphasizing her appearance in the workplace: eschewing make-up, wearing her hair in a severe bun, dressing with austere professionalism. She was determined to be recognized for her performance, not her looks; but the accolades and advancement she deserved had always eluded her. Everywhere it had been the same story, she thought bitterly -- the blatant sexism at LexCorp, the glass ceiling at STAR Labs, the old-boys' network at the NIB ...
But now ... now fate had placed a precious -- and richly deserved -- opportunity literally into her hands. She could have super-powers -- and really, didn't her intellect and accomplishments make her a worthier recipient than the starlets and waitresses and cheerleaders she'd been baby-sitting for the past week? Finally she could seize the prestige and power that men, threatened by her brilliance, had always kept from her -- and the perquisites that went with them. She could settle old scores ... teach that arrogant bastard Lex Luthor a thing or two about hostile takeovers ...
The strident wail of the alarm startled her out of her reverie. Guards were running past her door; security barriers were shutting all along the corridor with a loud clang.
The voice of the security chief came over her intercom. "Dr. Klyburn, we have four intruders, female, on the tarmac. We were able to ID Supergirl and Ultrawoman before they took out our security cameras. I've put the base on full alert."
"Thank you, Phil. Carry on."
Cursing under her breath, Dr. Klyburn put the Transformatrix and the floppy disk into her office safe, then turned back to the intercom. Her voice -- calm, professional, reassuring -- poured out into the cafeteria, the dormitory, the gymnasium: "This is Dr. Klyburn. We are conducting a routine drill. There is no need for alarm. I repeat, this is only a drill -- "
- - - - - -
"Wow!" exclaimed DeeAnn, gazing down at her chest and watching the hail of bullets bounce off in all directions. "That ... tickles!"
DeeAnn and her three companions stood side by side, unflinching, as six men in military fatigues sprayed them with machine-gun fire from a hundred feet away. The sun had risen barely an hour ago, but the air above the tarmac was already shimmering in the desert heat. Behind the men stood a low shed with a tin roof and a steel security door -- one of several utilitarian structures that stood above the underground complex they had come to visit.
"Listen up, ladies," said Kara. "We're going to approach and disarm, but be careful -- any closer, and a ricochet could hit one of those men. So -- super-vision in slo-mo, just as we practiced. Ready?" The others nodded. "All right, then -- on three. One, two ... three!"
The four women sauntered forward, casually brushing aside the swarm of bullets that -- to their eyes -- seemed be be suspended, motionless, in mid-air.
It was over in just a few seconds. Six machine guns had been twisted into six pairs of handcuffs and six soldiers, stony-faced, trudged off into the shade of the building under Lois's direction.
"That seemed pretty stupid," remarked Denise. "I mean, the people running this place should know that bullets can't stop us."
"I'm guessing that was just a diversion," said Lois, rejoining the others. "It was only meant to keep us busy for a few moments until -- aha!"
Four armored vehicles, each bearing an enormous cannon with a gleaming muzzle, came roaring toward them from the far side of the tarmac.
"Par-Las," sighed Lois. "Now that's stupid. All right, ladies. You remember what one of those gizmos did to DeeAnn last ni -- DeeAnn! Kara! Please -- this is serious!"
"Sorry," they mumbled in unison, looking down at the tarmac and trying not to giggle.
"Okay, then. Heat-vision -- now!"
"Heat-vision?" muttered Denise. "How do I turn on my -- whoa!" A beam of incandescent energy suddenly shot from her eyes, turning a strip of tarmac into a ribbon of bubbling asphalt and vaporizing a section of security fence a hundred yards away.
"Careful, Denise!" cried Kara, as her heat-vision turned the fourth Par-Las into slag. "If that had hit a gas tank -- "
"Sorry," said Denise sheepishly. "No harm, no foul -- right?"
Gears grinding, tires squealing, the armored vehicles were already in retreat. "Shall we go after them?" DeeAnn asked eagerly, her eyes shining with excitement.
"No," said Lois, laying a hand on Denise's shoulder. "We've already lost the element of surprise. We can't afford to waste any more time." She had changed out of her Ultrawoman garb and into the chic but professional attire she wore as a journalist -- pleated white skirt, silk blouse, dark blue blazer. A bulging handbag hung from her left shoulder. She raised an eyebrow in response to her companions' puzzled expressions. "Don't look so surprised," she said. "I told you -- this is a job for Lois Lane."
"Okay," she continued. "There's an elevator in this shed that goes down to the corridor leading to Dr. Klyburn's office. I want to talk with Dr. Klyburn -- but as Lois Lane, not as Ultrawoman. But I'll need the three of you for back-up. Kara, Denise, why don't you go ahead of me and take care of any resistance we might encounter -- and DeeAnn can watch my back."
"Wait," said Denise. She held up the T-shirt and shorts that she had been wearing earlier. "I want a few words with Dr. Klyburn myself -- as Denise Jordan."
Lois considered, then nodded. "Fine. But please -- let me go first, okay?" Denise nodded. "All right, then -- Kara in front to clear the way, DeeAnn behind." She gestured toward the reinforced-steel door of the shed. "Would someone please get the door?"
Kara and DeeAnn plunged their fingers deep into the thick sheet of metal, then pulled sideways, parting the steel door like a curtain.
- - - - - -
Tense, alert, Dr. Klyburn sat behind her desk, facing the open door of her office. With the security cameras disabled, she could only surmise what was happening from the occasional sounds -- the staccato of machine-gun fire, the screech of heavy tires -- that reached her ears from overhead.
There was a long silence; then she jumped involuntarily at a loud noise just a few yards down the corridor -- the groan of crumpling metal. A short yelp of alarm from the guard posted by the security barrier was followed by another few moments of silence.
Incongruously, the quiet was broken by the purposeful tattoo of high-heeled shoes. Their owner was striding confidently along the corridor, approaching her office. The footsteps slowed, then stopped ...
A smartly-attired brunette stood in the doorway. She paused only to brush aside a loose strand of hair and adjust the strap of the bulging handbag that hung from her shoulder.
"Dr. Janet Klyburn?" she said, entering the office without waiting for an invitation. "I'm Lois Lane, from the Daily Planet. Can we talk?"
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Lois smiled. "The door was open...ripped open, in fact."
Lois shook her head. "By a few of my friends. Now, can we talk?"
Klyburn got to her feet, and pushed past Lois, intending to call the guards. She'd almost reached the door when Denise stepped into the room, and pushed her back. "Dr Klyburn...remember me?"
Denise clapped her hands enthusiastically. "You do remember me! Oh, I'm touched. Still, I guess it'd be hard to forget someone you had knocked out and tortured when they asked to leave, and whose house and family you've had under armed guard for the past week or so."
"Shut up!" Denise snapped. "I'm talking." Taking hold of Klyburn's coat, Denise lifted her into the air and pushed her up against the office wall. "Now you listen to me." she whispered. "If you had hurt my husband, or my little girls...if you had even *scared* them...then you wouldn't be alive to enjoy this conversation. Do I make myself clear?"
"Good...now, I'm not a violent person...and all I want is to protect my family. But I warn you - if you or any of your people so much as walk past the house, I will hold you personally responsible and I will make you pay."
Before Klyburn could reply, Denise lifted her away from the wall, and sat her down gently behind her desk, as Lois calmly cleared a space on it. "I've got a few things I'd like you to take a look at." she explained. reaching into her handbag, she pulled out a Seattle newspaper, covering the devastation caused by Paris Hilton and Sally Gordon, and their battles with Supergirl, Superwoman and Ultrawoman. "You saw this, of course?" Lois asked.
"Yes...terrifying..." Klyburn replied. "To use such amazing gifts to do such horrible things..."
"I couldn't agree more." Lois then pulled out the latest issue of People magazine. The words "DeeAnn Donovan Puts the SUPER Into Supermodel!" over a picture of DeeAnn standing proudly in her Superwoman costume. "But then there's this...ordinary people becoming superheroes...using what's happened to them to help others."
"Fine...but what does all this have to do with me?"
"Don't you see? This facility is defunct. There are superwomen all over the country and there are gonna be lots more. There's no secret anymore, nothing to hide. You've got...how many people are you holding here?"
"63..." Lois repeated. "63 women who could be out there making a difference..."
"Or who could turn out just like Hilton and Gordon." replied Klyburn.
"Come off it!" cried Denise. "I lived among these women, I know a lot of them - and most of them just wanna get their lives back to the way they used to be. If you had anyone here as psycho as Paris Hilton, she'd have torn this place apart by now."
"It's true we've not had anything like that happen here. But what about if these women were released? You think they're just gonna go back like nothing's happened? Here, they're surrounded by others like them...but once they get out there, and they realise just how powerful they are in comparison to the general public...that's when the problems will start."
"So...what, you're planning to just keep them here forever?" Lois asked. "No. We're going to end this. *You're* going to end this. Release them. All of them."
Klyburn grinned. "Just like that? Why?"
Lois reached into her bag, and pulled out a sheet of paper, handing it to Klyburn. "Because if you don't, this is what the Daily Planet'll run with tomorrow. A complete article on this place...and on the way those who ask to leave are treated. It'll ruin your career...and to be honest, I'd rather not see that happen, if it can be avoided."
"Oh, and we'd be freeing your...residents...by force." added Denise, putting her hands on her hips. "Your choice, Doctor."
Klyburn shook her head. "You do realise that I have bosses too? I can't just decide to shut this place down because you've asked me to."
"Is that a no?"
"...I'm afraid so."
"You're making a big mistake." Denise replied.
"And you will be too, if you start tearing a government facility apart."
Lois picked up her papers, and put them back in her handbag. "Thank you for your time, Doctor. Here's my card...in case you change your mind."
"So, that's it?" Denise asked, once they'd left Klyburn's office. "We're just going home now?"
"Of course not." Lois replied. "We came here to rescue Jill, and all the others they're holding, and that's what we're gonna do. It's just -" She fell silent...from not far away, they could hear Klyburn's voice coming from the radios of several soldiers.
"...Lane must be taken alive. Repeat, she is not to leave this facility, I want her alive...Denise Jordan is to be neutralised on sight, station a Par-Las at all entrances..."
"Terrific..." mumbled Denise.
"In here, quick." Lois pointed to a nearby women's lavatory, and ushered Denise inside. "As much as I'd love to see her face when the bullets start bouncing off Lois Lane's chest, I'd like to keep Ultrawoman's true identity a secret for now." She reached into her bag, and pulled out their costumes. Lois and Denise each stepped into a cubicle - and the doors had only just closed behind them as Ultrawoman and a Supergirl stepped out...
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"You don't seem all that upset about it, Denise. If I didn't know any better, I'd say you like it."
Denise blushed. "I don't know what's happened to me lately! The power is heady, you have to admit."
"Well, this isn't my first rodeo, if you know what I mean, but yeah, it's nice."
Denise looked down at her costume. Long, thigh-high boots stretched the length of her sleek legs. The top was reminscent of Wonder Woman's costume in black with red accents. She sighed.
"My hubby is gonna love this." She smiled. "So what's the plan?"
"Well, they want you. So let them have you. Kepp them busy while I gather the rest of the girls up."
"No problem." Denise grinned slyly. "Be quick. This time I'm bringing the house down."
Lois leaned in kissing Denise on the cheek before streaking around the corner. Denise watched her through several floors before turning her attention upstairs. She stepped forward into her accelerated state. Everything, everyone was in suspended animation. She grasped the first blast door at the seams watching as it melted under her accelerated hands. To those around her, a hole exploded splattering molten alloy across the corridor.
She stopped just inside to allow the Par-Las squad a chance to see her. She waved recognizing the commander that had encountered her once before.
"Well, as I live and breath! Now are you going to be a good little soldier this time? You know how well our last encounter worked out for me." She had to giggle at her last comment.
"I do. We've upgraded since." He turned his head to the team. "You know what to do. Fire at will."
Denise stepped back slightly unsure. Upgrades hadn't rung well in her head. All doubt washed away when warm welcoming ergs of energy splashed over her body. She stumble as her knees trembled.
"Does it hurt?" The commander mocked. Denise's hair flipped wildy over her shoulder. The look in her eyes made the old soldier's heart sink.
"Not even alittle." She breathed. Denise straightened herself up sauntering toward her prey. Her head swam with her power. Her body buzzed with energy.
"Team bravo, fire at will."
Behind her, unnoticed in the den, another Par-Las washed over her back. Denise gasped. Her laughter low and dripping with pleasure. She made a point of a slow, sensual walk to the first Par-Las. Her face mere feet from the superheated barrel, she leaned forward looking into the energy fire.
"Your toys are amusing, but it is time to end this, commander."
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Leaping onto the first Par-Las, a quick glance at the main control panel told her just how delicate a system it was - such a massive of energy needed to be kept at minimum output levels. otherwise the unit would explode.
Denise smiled, and turned up the power as high as it would go. Floating over to the second Par-Las, she did the same there, before using her strength to lift the machine and placing it in front of the other. The two Par-Las units were now about 8 feet apart, aiming directly at each other.
As she slowed back down to her normal speed, the soldiers manning the Par-Las' leapt away from their posts as the two units fired - and Denise's heart began to race as they created a beam of intense energy between them. It took all her resolve not to leap into it right there...
"What's happened?" the commander asked the technicians.
"The thing's on overload!" one of them cried. "All the power levels have suddenly gone through the roof!"
"Get back in there and stop it then!"
"We can't! We've got to get out of here, sir, they'll blow any minute!"
The commmander glared at Denise, who just smiled sweetly. "Better run, guys. I'll take care of this, don't worry."
The temperature in the corridor was beginning to rise quickly, and Denise felt pleased with herself as the soldiers withdrew. It wasn't long before it had become too hot for any living thing to survive.
Except a superwoman.
Denise took to the air eagerly, positioning herself over the energy stream. She spread her legs, before closing her eyes and floating down onto the beam.
The entire section echoed with her screams of delight, as she orgasmed again and again and again...
"Are we lost?" Amber asked. "These corridors all look the same."
"Use your x-ray vision." Jill told her. "You can see we're getting closer to the top levels."
"I...I sort of can't..."
Amber shrugged. "Whenever I try the x-ray thing, I just go straight through everything, for miles."
Jill smiled. "I had that problem, at first. You feel like your eyes are trying to force a way through the wall, right?" Amber nodded. "OK...here, try this." She stood in front of a fire extinguisher, and waved Amber in front of her. "Try to focus on the fire extinguisher." she suggested. "You wanna feel like your eyes are pulling it closer...alright?"
"I'll try..." Amber concentrated, and Jill's eyes picked up Amber's x-ray beams, slowly shooting out from her eyes, through Jill's body, and finally connecting with the fire extinguisher behind her. "Oh...cool!" she cried. "Is that all there is to it?"
"Wow...thank you, Jill! I can see everything...inside the walls, through the walls, and...oh."
Amber smiled, and took hold of Jill. "Stand back."
The wall in front of them suddenly exploded in rubble, as a gloved fist punched its way through and a powerfully-built woman stepped out.
"Ultrawoman?" Jill asked.
"Lois!" Amber cried.
"Amber...what are you doing here?"
The teenager looked guilty. "I sort of...turned myself in. I was getting a bit freaked out, and the people here said they could get rid of my powers."
"Well, they were lying."
"Oh, I know that now. And anyway, I don't really want to get rid of them now. Jill's been teaching me how to use them properly...and I feel better about them."
"I'm glad." Lois then turned her attention to Jill, offering her hand. "I take it you're Jill Henderson?"
"That's right." Jill replied, shaking Lois' hand. "Denise got to you, didn't she?"
"She did. She had to fight her way out, but she made it. And now we've come back for you...we're getting all of you out of here."
"What can we do to help?" Jill asked. Lois was about to reply when suddenly the entire building shook under a tremendous explosion. The trio instinctively looked upwards, scanning through the ceiling to the source of the blast.
"Denise!" Jill gasped, as her x-ray vision found her costumed friend lying unconscious in a pile of rubble...with a contented smile on her face. "What's happened?"
"If I had to guess...she's been playing around with a Par-Las, and it's exploded..."
"A what-what?" asked Amber.
"Never mind." replied Lois. "She'll be alright, don't worry...and she's done us a favor, too. That corridor was the only way for the people above to get down here. Now that she's brought the roof down on herself, we won't be disturbed."
"But we can't just leave her!" Jill protested.
"No...alright, Jill, you go get her out of there - go the way I came in, it'll be quicker. Amber, I need you to take me below - I've gotta talk to all the women here and I need your help in organising a bloodless escape."
"Alright, let's go..."
"Oh - wait wait!" Amber cried. "Jill?"
"Um...please, don't forget what I asked you..."
Jill smiled. "About not going without you? I hadn't."
"It's just I...you've helped me through a lot...you've been a good friend to me."
"So have you...oh, come here!" Jill grabbed Amber, and the pair hugged each other tightly. Jill gave Amber a kiss on her forehead, and then disappeared at superspeed through the hole in the wall that Ultrawoman had created by her entrance.
"It's good to see you've made a friend here." Lois said, as she started down the corridor.
"Oh, she's great. She's been teaching me how to control my powers, but I'm starting to enjoy having them more and more. Yesterday, we played catch with a tank-"
"A tank?" said Lois. "Pfft. Amber, you could play catch with this entire planet without breaking a sweat."
Lois nodded, smiling.
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“I gotta have me one, or three, of those…” She whispered to herself. The mountain of rubble shifted as she turned to her side. The weight was under her notice. She could feel her nipples scraping into the concrete and grabbing at the rebar that was merely pushed aside. That meant one thing.
“CRAP! I liked that one!” Her armed shifted several tons above her as she sat up. She pouted for moment before looking around her. Now surprised, and delighted, at how much of the structure her casual fun had destroyed, Denise lifted her arm to clear the large slab and create a pocket within the debris. The air was thick with concrete dust, though no hinderance to her eyes. Denise felt a tingling in her nose and wiggled it. She recited the mantra that her husband had taught when just this occasion arised.
“Bananas, bananas, bananas…Ahh-SCHOO!”
The compound shook violently. Lois and the other girls looked about and through the walls wondering what could cause such an earth shuddering sound. Lois nearly couldn’t contain herself. The other girls gawked in amazement.
“She’s something, isn’t she?” She giggled.
“I’ll say!” replied Jill. “That’s power! Just how strong is she?”
“Plenty. Maybe the strongest. There’s no real way to test that, though.”
Denise took inventory of her surroundings in a quick sweep. Her eyes were wide with surprise and her mouth covered.
“Oops.” She spoke through her fingers. “That was interesting.”
Massive pile of broken structure had cleared. She had blown a crater two levels down. She looked up and whistled.
“I’ll have to be careful with that.”
Denise’s body outline blurred. Vibrating hypersonically burned any filth from her body uncovering the perfection below. She shuddered forgetting how she got goose bumps and tingled when she did that.
“Hmph. Just as well, right Ultrawoman?” She smiled knowing she was listening.
“Right.” Denise heard clear as they seem to speak to the air. She peered down the long corridor ahead opening her senses. Layers of ferro-concrete peeled away as did the inches thick steel door revealing another security team. She stomped her foot mischieviously to watch them all duck and scatter as the compound shook again.
“Denise. I’m trying to work here, please.”
“Sorry, it’s just fun watching them flinch. They scatter like roaches.”
“Roaches? That’s not nice, girlie. You were a roach at one point, remember? Have fun, but let’s try not to pick on those weaker than you.”
“Which is everyone. I hear you, though. Sorry.”
An evil grin parted Denise’s full lips as a wicked idea formed in her head. She wasn’t done playing with them.
Her body became a flesh-colored blur through the straight corridor. The sound of her passage rocked any adjoining rooms. Her form materialized when she slowed and she pressed into the door’s steel.
On the other side, the team flinched once more. Two round protrusions had suddenly popped from the steel barrier. Both of the impressions glowed red hot but were cooling quickly. Moments passed until a low ranking soldier was sent forward to investigate.
Denise chuckled as she watched them look on with a mix of fear, wonderment, and caution. She could hear the young soldier’s heartbeat as he approached. He was very young and handsome. Despite Denise’s thirty years, she could pass for a sexy nineteen. She loved how men responded to her.
The young soldier craned his neck forward. His eyes merely inches from the impression. Denise breathed deeply. The bumps groaned and lifted. The young soldier bravely moved closer running on curiousity.
“What is it, Cavin?”
“I…I’m not sure, sir.”
Cavin lowered his rifle. He found his hand reaching up to the stretched metal seemingly on its own. The metal was strangely warm to the touch. He cupped it.
“Whoa!” Cavin stumbled back as two sharp ‘pings’ shook him from his hypnosis.
Behind the wall, Denise was having the time of her life. Her nipples had no more trouble manipulating metal than her hands it seemed. The ocean of strength between her and the rest of the world seem to grow with every new discovery. She could barely contain herself when the young soldier seem nearly scared out of his uniform. The entire team raised their weapons to her chest.
“It’s time to make an appearance, girls. Don’t’ worry, they’ll be gentle.” She spoke into her cleavage.
She anxiously pressed forward. The steel, already weakened began to split over her engorged, impervious nipples. Denise felt the cool draft of air move over them. They hardened and the steel proved weaker as it was pressed aside.
The team looked on as the tension built in the room. Screaming metal traveled over the walls. As Denise’s tan flesh slowly became more exposed, her pink nipples leading the way, the team leader’s eyes widened. Denise’s smile widened as well.
“No. No freaking way! Those are…”
“Fire! Put her down!”
A hail of gunfire peppered Denise’s bosom. Thousands of rounds danced over her skin. With no other target provided, her breasts received their full attention and full extent of their fire power. She continued to watch through the door enjoying the comedy of the situation. She was in complete control even if they had the guns. Denise leaned forward once more.
Shrieking steel penetrated the den of gunfire once more. Their aim followed Denise’s chest in slow circles. Spent rounds piled in front of the door. The team leader gave a cease fire and it slowed to a ragged stop. Denise continued her do-it-yourself on the door widening the hole further. Quickly, she pulled her ‘girls’ from the hole. A quick examination confirmed what she already knew. They still looked perfect and round, albeit a bit smudged. A sweep of her heat vision burned away the lead smudges to her satisfaction. She brought her beautiful face down to the hole. Once again, the team raised their weapons.
“Hi!” She beamed.
“Now!” An order was barked.
Denise giggled. Another volley trickled ineffectually against her face. She amusingly observed, despite the gunfire, how fearful they looked. They seem to want nothing more than to stop her from coming through the door. Her hand reached down for purchase through the seam between the door and the floor. Wiggling her fingers, her nails sheered into the metal. She managed to part the seam with ease. The door deformed into a ‘v’ at the center as she finally exposed herself fully to the deadly barrage. Slowly, purposefully, she stepped through her self-made portal. They hadn’t let up, and she was happy about that. The gunfire itself did little more than beat ineffectually against her. She appreciated their purpose and how little it worked against her. She thought she would never tire of it.
“Lay the trap!”
Denise cocked her head with amused interest. “Trap?”
A device slid across the floor between her long legs. The nuclear emblem was in bright yellow on top. She looked up continuing to be amused. A barrier shot from the floor between her and the security team. She winked at Cavin before he lost sight of her. A flash filled the space she was in. Bolts of energy lanced across her legs and abdomen.
“It’s nothing like the new Par-Las.” She shrugged. Finding herself unable to look through the lead wall, she looked down waiting for the device to finish its job. Suddenly, she was curious as to how a nuclear bomb might feel, if she felt it.
Nuclear energy traveled over her body and face while she leaned down to grasp the device.
“They sure don’t want me to leave. No expense is being spared here,” she mused. “Maybe this will be a good opportunity to make my point.” She wadded the device into her hands as it sputtered to nothing more than a stray spark. The barrier was lowered.
“Neat toy.” The wadded device dropped to the floor. Denise crossed her arms under her chest presenting her naked breasts to the security team. “Got anymore?”
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"Jill!" The soldiers moved aside as the two superwomen ran to each other, and as they grabbed each other in a tight hug the soldiers regrouped at the end of the corridor, before opening fire again. Denise and Jill held each other close as the bullets ricocheted harmlessly off their invulnerable bodies.
"I've missed you, Denise." Jill whispered. "Oh, it's so great to see you again..."
"And you, babe. I've missed you too." Denise replied, as they finally let go of each other. "You're looking great. Is it my imagination, or have you gotten a little bit beefier since I saw you last?"
Jill looked down at herself, and shrugged. "I guess. Been working out a lot."
"It looks good on you..."
Jill smiled, and reached out for Denise's cape. "So, what's with the costume? You planning on joining up with the superheroes or something?"
"If they'll have me." she joked. "Well, Supergirl's loaned me this for today...but beyond that...who knows?"
"Wow..." Denise did a little twirl, showing the whole costume off for Jill. "But don't you feel a little...exposed?"
"I thought I would...I've never worn so little in public before, but...no. I like it. It feels good...especially this bit." she said, taking hold of Jill's hands and placing them on the 'S' shield of her costume. As if to make the point, a bullet bounced off the shield as soon as she removed them, striking Jill on the nose before falling harmlessly to the floor.
The pair then turned their attention to the soldiers. "You lot still here?" Denise asked teasingly. She took a step towards them, and the shooting began all over again.
"They're not gonna back down, are they?" Jill asked with a smile.
"No...that's why it's so much fun...watching them trying anything to stop us...even though they can't stop us. No-one can stop us."
"So, what was that explosion? I saw, you were unconscious."
Denise grinned. "Only for a few moments. And I did that to myself, anyway."
"So what was it?"
"Only the best orgasm of my life. Before we go, you gotta try it. See, what I did was-"
A sudden cry of pain instinctively made Jill and Denise look up. The inevitable had happened. A bullet had bounced off them, and struck one of the soldiers. "Cavin!" Denise called as the soldier she'd been teasing earlier fell to the floor with a bullet in his shoulder, and before his friends could drag him away, Denise had leapt forward to help, using her own invulnerable body and bullet-proof cape as a shield to protect the fallen soldier from further fire. "Don't struggle." Denise whispered. "It'll be alright. I'm not gonna hurt you."
"Let me see." said Jill. She scanned Cavin's shoulder with her x-ray vision, and grimaced. "God, that looks nasty."
"We've gotta get him to hospital..."
"Wait...I wanna try something." Jill stared at the wound, before shooting green beams from her eyes. Only Denise could detect them, but even she didn't know what they were for. Cavin cried out in pain, but Jill kept going...until eventually the bullet slid out of his body, suspended in the green light.
"Telekenesis..." Denise whispered. "I had no idea."
"You wanna blast this?"
"Sure." Denise fired a quick burst of heat-vision at the bullet, disintegrating it instantly.
"He's still bleeding pretty bad...we do need to get him to hospital." She made to pick him up, but Denise stopped her.
"Can I carry him?" she asked.
"Sure. And I'll...punch us a way through." Jill pointed at the ceiling with her fists, before crouching down and launching herself upwards, tearing through the above floors to the surface. Denise again shielded Cavin with her cape to make sure no falling debris or dust got into his wound, before gently picking him up and cradling him in her arms.
"It'll be alright." she whispered. "I'm so sorry..."
"Hold it - you're not taking him anywhere." said the commander, stepping forward and drawing his pistol.
Denise grinned. "Come get him, then." She'd launched herself into the sky before those words had reached the commander's ears...
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"What's that?" asked Lois. She had torn down a security barrier and was rolling it up like a carpet, ignoring the protests of the soldier wrapped inside.
"There are, what, sixty-plus super-women being kept here -- and Denise is the only one who's tried to leave? They could all be out doing -- well, pretty much anything they want, instead of being cooped up underground."
"Good question," said Lois. "I was pretty sure I had the answer last night, while I was scanning this place with my super-vision ... and one of my contacts at STAR Labs was able to confirm it."
"Well?" The two women were flying down a long empty stretch of corridor, several floors below Dr. Klyburn's office. They could hear the staccato of gunfire and the groan of crumpled metal from the levels above.
"Do you remember something called Project Lotos? It was in the news about a year ago."
"Hmmm ... vaguely."
"It was a LexCorp project, funded by the NIB -- basically, a technology for overriding the higher critical functions of the brain and making people more passive, more deferential to authority."
"Mind control?" asked DeeAnn, incredulous.
"Well, a step toward it. The NIB said it would be used to help law-enforcement agents deal with riots and hostage negotiations, but you can imagine the potential for abuse -- employers using it to keep their workers docile, politicians using it to sway voters ... The Planet broke the story, civil libertarians went ballistic, and the NIB withdrew its funding. Of course, losing a billion dollars of the taxpayers' money doesn't mean a whole lot when you're Lex Luthor."
They had come to the end of the corridor and stood before an imposing steel door, eight feet high and five feet wide and nearly a foot thick. Lois casually tore it off its hinges and tossed it over her shoulder. Ten tons of steel landed behind her with a crash that shook the corridor and echoed deafeningly along its walls.
Stepping through the open doorway, Lois and DeeAnn found themselves in a large square room. Three of its four walls were covered with an array of consoles and blinking lights; a faint, high-pitched whistle was audible above a steady electronic hum.
DeeAnn gazed about the room in wonderment. "So this gizmo even affects us super-women?"
Lois shrugged. "I guess so -- to some extent, anyway. It would certainly explain why nobody but Denise has tried to leave."
"So why didn't Dr. Klyburn just tell the four of us to go away when we broke into her office?"
"Because we were distrustful of her from the beginning. Like hypnosis, the Lotos doesn't work on subjects who are disposed to resist it. The women who checked in here more or less voluntarily had no reason to feel suspicious. And from what Denise has told us, Dr. Klyburn is highly adept at playing on their insecurities -- their fear of being unable to control their powers, their fear of people's reactions. She made them feel safe and cared for."
"Okay, one last question. How come Denise was able to leave?"
Lois grinned. "In case you haven't noticed, our friend Denise is pretty headstrong. Once she sets out to do something, she's not the sort to let anything stand in her way."
"Out of my way!" shouted Denise. "Move it! Incoming!"
Doctors and nurses scurried aside as Denise strode rapidly along the hospital corridor, holding Cavin in her arms. As she swept past them, they turned to stare after her, slack-jawed.
Oblivious of their stares, Denise burst through the swinging doors of the emergency room. "I've got a wounded man here," she announced, laying Cavin gently on a gurney. "Bullet to the shoulder. He -- " She looked around the room. "Well, what are you all standing there for?" she demanded. "Haven't you ever seen a -- oh, crap."
Blushing, she yanked a sheet from an unoccupied gurney and wrapped it hastily around herself. "Show's over," she announced, adjusting her improvised toga and glaring at an open-mouthed intern. She turned to the recumbent soldier and gave his hand a gentle squeeze. "Hang in there, Cavin," she said. "I'll be back to ckeck up on you."
She turned and strode back through the swinging doors. Facing a gauntlet of staring faces, she reddened and drew a deep breath, then hurried back toward the main entrance, keeping her eyes fixed straight ahead.
Outside, in the bright sunlight, she leapt skyward. Moments later, the sheet floated gently down to the parking lot.
"So what now?" said DeeAnn. "Are we going to tear this thing apart?" Her eyes shone with anticipation as she drew back her fist.
"No," replied Lois. "This is proof that LexCorp has been developing a rogue technology -- and that the NIB has been using it. It'll go a long way toward justifying our actions here."
Kneeling, she pried off a panel. She reached inside the machine and tugged at a thick steel cable. The cable snapped amid a shower of sparks. Moving to the opposite wall, she tore away another panel.
"All right," she said. "I've disconnected the main power line. This cable here leads to the back-up generator."
She stepped out into the corridor with DeeAnn close behind her. There was an intercom in the wall to the right of the door. Lois threw a switch and spoke into it.
"Good morning, ladies," she said. Her tone was pleasant, yet firm. "My name is Lois Lane. You may have read my articles in the Daily Planet or seen me on CNN. I have an announcement that will be of interest to all of you -- so if you would please proceed to the auditorium? I'll be there in just a few minutes."
Turning, she raised her eyes toward the ceiling, training her super-vision on the main level. "Well, they're on their way," she said. "Now here's the plan. I'm going to change back to Lois Lane and head for the auditorium. As soon as they're all settled, I'll begin my spiel. You stay here and watch me with your super-vision. When you see me tug my ear -- like this -- pull out this cable. That'll shut down the Lotos."
"And then what?"
"Then you can join me in the auditorium. Things might become -- interesting." She chuckled. "I wonder if Dr. Klyburn will be there."
A hot dry wind blew into Dr. Klyburn's face as the jeep sped across the desert along a somewhat dilapidated two-lane road.
"We'll be at the hangar in a few minutes," the driver told her. "Your plane's ready for take-off, so you should be in San Francisco in a couple of hours."
Dr. Klyburn nodded. "What about ground transportation?"
"I'll arrange for a vehicle to meet you at the airstrip. Will you be going directly to the NIB office?"
"Not directly, no," she replied. Her fingers tightened on the handbag resting in her lap. "I need to make a stop at STAR Labs first."
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"So where is she?"
"There was...an incident. Some of the soldiers still haven't got it through their thick heads that they can't stop us. Denise has had to take one of them to hospital - a bullet bounced off one of us and he took it in the shoulder."
"Ouch." gasped Amber, raising her hand to her lips. "Will he be alright?"
"Oh, sure, he'll be fine. Anyway - what's the word, where is everyone?"
"Lois has called all the superwomen to the auditorium. DeeAnn's in the control room at the end of the next corridor, and Supergirl...I mean, Kara...I think she's still upstairs scaring off the last of the soldiers."
Jill nodded. "And you?"
"I'm just..." Amber shrugged. "I dunno. I feel sorta outta place. The others are superheroes, I'm not..."
"Well, there's no reason you couldn't be." Jill pointed out. "You're the same as they are."
"We both are." Amber reminded her.
"I guess...but would you put on a leotard and miniskirt and go around beating up bad guys?"
Amber grinned. "That'd be silly..."
"Mmm...still..." Jill's thoughts were interrupted as Kara suddenly came out of superspeed just in front of them. The sudden appearance of a beautiful costumed superheroine after what they'd just been talking about made Jill and Amber glance at each other quickly...
"Is everything alright?" Amber asked.
Kara sighed. "The soldiers have pulled out, finally. The facility is empty. Well, what's left of it, anyway."
"Great...so, what's wrong?"
"Klyburn got away. I don't know how or when...but she's not with the rest of them. She's gone."
"Is that so bad?" Amber asked.
"Maybe...depends what she's planning..."
Jill put a reassuring hand on Kara's shoulder. "Don't beat yourself up about it, hun. You've done a great job. And I don't just mean here, today, either..."
Kara smiled. "Thanks...so, where's the rest of our little band?"
"Denise should be back any time." explained Jill. "The others are through that way..."
DeeAnn couldn't help grinning as she felt Kara come up behind and hug her. "Hey, gorgeous."
"Hey...how's she doing in there?"
Dee pointed to the monitor. The auditorium was packed, and all the women were listening intently to Lois' speech. "She thinks that all this has some kind of influence over them - that's how Klyburn was able to keep them from busting out. What she's doing now is using that influence to get them on our side - telling them to be good little superwomen."
"I see." The pair watched the monitor in silence for a moment, before Kara asked "Dee?"
"I was thinking...would you like to go out to dinner tomorrow night?"
"No, no...not in any, y'know, not like that. Just...as friends. Partners, y'know? A girls night out...for the two of us."
Dee smiled. "That'd be good. Ah - she's given the signal!" She leapt to her feet, and tugged the cable to the Lotos back-up generator out of the wall. "Come on, Supergirl!"
DeeAnn and Kara stepped out of the control room and into the corridor, where Jill and Amber opened the auditorium doors for them and allowed them to march inside. Jill and Amber then slipped in behind them, unnoticed, as everyone's gazed was fixed on Superwoman and Supergirl, striding confidently through the assembled crowd to join Lois on the stage...
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In one sense, of course, she'd known it for weeks, since she'd awakened in the hospital and the doctors had informed her that she was one of the victims of this inexplicable new syndrome. She had readily acquiesced to being transferred to the special facility which had been hastily built--modified; it had been a pre-existing military installation--in which to safely study the syndrome and its victims. She had agreed with Dr. Klyburn that these superhuman powers she and the others had been granted were unfathomably dangerous and must be contained or hidden until the syndrome had been fully understood. But now the famous Lois Lane had explained that her agreement, and the uncertainty and fear which had undergirded it, had been coerced, induced by a kind of mind-control device which, Ms. Lane said, the government and a private contractor had continued to develop even after its R&D project--Project Lotos, Laura recalled--had been publicly leaked and then promptly repudiated, and de-funded, by Congress. To many people that might have sounded like a conspiracy theory, but Laura, like many software engineers, had a strong libertarian streak; to her it sounded like government as usual. <i>Of course</i> the government would want to conceal and control the dozens of women who rendered its entire military all but obsolete.
And then Lois Lane--how?--had pulled the plug: first figuratively, by finding and penetrating the secret facility and revealing the truth to the captive superwomen; now literally, by calling to her associates to disconnect the Lotos. And instantly a great weight was lifted from Laura's mind, a heavy fog dispersed by a powerful blast of frigid wind. The unfathomable power which had taken over Laura's body now took over her mind as well: not megalomania, though surely that would be an ever-present danger, but a full awareness of what she now could do--and of what she now <i>should</i> do.
And then, as if on cue, the auditorium doors opened wide, and in strode <i>the</i> Supergirl. And beside her, a stunningly beautiful brunette clad in a variant of Supergirl's costume, a woman's version of Superman's. Who?
The answer, thought Laura, might as well have been "Us."
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The five starred to the video with a wooried expression, on the flat plasma screen the figure of four womens flying over the central part of the US ar clearly visible, none of them have any kind of doubt that the situation is going to become a Crisis Area.
The screen goes black and the illumination is restored the five remain silent fo a while to fully value the possible consequances fo the present situation, then one of them, a woman in her forties which still have a pretty face, at least the half which is not covered by a titanium reinforcement, raises from her chair and speak with an careful controled tone: "Everyone of us know that the mayority of possile developments of this situation are tragic, so what have been done to prevent a superhuman escalation?"
A old man with steel gary hair and a squarred jaw clear his throat, he doesn't raise mainly because he hasn't been able to move the lower half of his body since 10 years ago.
"We have alerted all the hospitals and in a radius of 100 kilometres form the estimated target with a code Beta-1, and a supply of crisis units are already on the road, madam."
The first reply: "That's not enough. Raise the alert to Alfa-2, and send an extra 25% percent of crisis units. If the informations about that site are true, we can expect a C.A. Larger than every other we have ever encountered." than she turned her head towards another of the presents "From the military front, which measures?"
A man in is late forties with brown hair a bulldoglike face and a missing arm take a notebook and studied it for a couple of seconds. "Jackal and Cobra units ready to strike, madam, but as you know we can't operate in a sovereing country without the W2KA authorisation, so we reain in Yellow condition."
The woman smiles wickedly. "The interested parts are still reluctant to give it, but I think that after the first few minutes they will be more than willingly to cooperate, for now deploy the teams at the Orange Crisis Point and wait." then she turned to the last two members of the table "From the technical division, there is any new?"
A very grave japanese man, that looks like a sumotori, with a patch on his left eye makes a strange half-smile. "Very few, but important, madam, according to doctor Hawks the TF4000 contains..."
The fifth member of the table, a afro american woman, in her late thirties with an atheltic figure and a paralysis to the left half of her body, doesn't listen to the explanation, her thoughts are running wild towards the small torch like device in her bedroom back at home, maybe her chance to left that mangled body and begin a new life as a superhuman. A member of the same race that have destroyed he bodies and the life of her and her four friends in this room.
25 minutes ago / Orange Crisis Point / Jackal-1 Strike force Skiranger VTOL personel carrier (2 pilots, 6 soldiers with Mk5b Heavy Armed Modular Multi-Purpose Tactical Armors)
The Major is very nervous, as commander of the Jackal-1 unit she is responsible of the life of her soldiers, and engaging a ostile force of unknown power is the worst thing for a soldier, not to speak for a commander. To calm herself she launch a diagnosis program for her HAMPTA, while her thoughts run wild around the incredible machine.
The HAMPTA technology was created only a few years ago by various industries on behalf of the Army, under the codename fo project 2501, a prototype of the 21st century soldier, the armor is an exoskeletron that powers all the physical parameters of the pilot, streght, quickness, coordination, etc. to a superior level. The agumentaion was proportional, stronger the pilot stronger the powering effect. The armor was also fitted with last generation materials, multi-layered compound plates, extra light chassis, NBC seals. The same was truth for weaponry and sensors. The Army was really happy with the results, before looking at the price tag, each armor cost as much as a Eurofighter combat jet, a little too much for them, so they dismissed the project, which was secretly acquired by the Squire Foundation.
The diagnosis ends and the Major looks at the timer projected on the upper part of her helmet faceplate, 24 minutes to go, she opens the Intelligence Sharing system and connects with the rest of the team "Ok guys we have just passed the dead man point, report your status."
A series of replies full her hears:
"Hawk reporting, system on line and ready, si.. Major." Hawk is a 35 years old scottish with dirty blond hairs and a pair of steel hard eyes that appears more artificials than his armor. A non nonsense soldier, he was formely a SAS.
"Pilot here, all systems green." Pilot is the codename of a young red head girl from Detroit, she is the youngest member fo the team, a skilled even if unconvetional armor pilot, she worked for the Air Force.
"Stingray, all system operational between normal parameters." Stingray was an ex-member of Polar trident a canadian scuba strike force, similar to the Navy Seals. She is an handsome brunette with a very strange personality, outside the battlefield she is the archetypical rebel child with a passion for heavy metal, inside the Armor she becomes a deadly cold killing machine, almost an android.
"This is Tank, ready at every moment." Tank is probably the strangest member of the team, half samoan and half malaysian, he is almost 210 cm high and weights 110 Kg. Before being recluted by the Foundation he was a Navy Seals' instructor.
"Scout here, eveything in place and ready, vacca boia." Scout was recruited form the Alpini, the Italian mountainers special corp. He is an ordnance expert with a very extroverted temperament, almost explosive, that was the reason for which team bears his twisted sense of humor and his foul language.
"Very well team." the Major herself is a not so small woman of japanese ancestry, she was originally part of a special anti terrorism squad founded by various goverments all around the world. "We will be the vanguard of this operation, we have to verify if a diplomatic solution is possible, if not hold the ground until the arrival of the other teams."
"Which ones?" asks Pilot.
"Jackal 2 and 3, Cobra 1 to 3."
"Merda, the heavy artilery." whispers Scout.
"Our present targets are these four." explains the major turning on a small monitor on one of the walls that shows several satelite images of Supergirl, Ultrawoman, Superwoman and a fourth woman "All of them are estimated to be on the level 10 of Palmer superhuman power scale."
"If the Foundation thinks that they are so dangerous why are they sending us as negotiators? It will be more practical to drop a full Strike team and restrain then on the spot." says Stingray.
"That's the reason." continues the Major while the image on the screen changes "This a secret military facility in the Nevada desert, according to the intelligence there are at least 60 superwomens inside."
"60!! I think we'll need bigger guns, won't we?" shout Tank.
"Probably, yes, if thing goes wrong, lad" answers Hawk, with a cynical tone of voice.
"Stop that all of you." commands the major.
Hawk is the first to recover his compusture "I'm sorry Major, any other intelligence?"
"Not so much." the Major makes the footage accelerating till a point where a girl stands against a beam weapon "The weapon was a Par-Las system, and it appears to have no effect on them."
Tank and Scout look at each other, they are the weapon specialists of the Team, and both of them think the same 'That isn't fun at all.'
"Ok, we are now 18 minutes from the waypoint, last check of the equipment." commands the Major, while she touched a point of the armor under that she have stored her little lucky charm.
NOW / Lotos facility, Nevada desert / A superwomen assembly in the conference room, Lois Lane as spokeswoman
It started as a low moan, perfectly audible to the whole assembly ears, but the amjority of them simply didn't pay attention, some of them don't have the experience to identify it, other don't think that it was important. One of them instead pay a lot of attention.
Kara recognizes the sound form her year of experience, worried for the possible consequences she leave the stage and looked up slicing through the ceiling and several levels of armored structures with her X-ray vision. She see a small airplane, a kind of hybrid between a jet fighter and a troop transport helicopter fliing over the base and six metal humanoid figures jumping from the rear hatch.
'Androids' she thought, but she quickly corrects herself 'Armored troopers.'
The armors are massive but not like the Red Rockets, more close to the body. Their most peculariar features are a kind of backpack, that connects with two boxlike devices place along the forearms and the helmet. The helmet is clearly divided in three elements a rigid structure that covers all the head execpt the face, a faceplate of semirigid material that mimic a featureless face and a complex device that cover the left eye, formed of various optical and radio components. The two box looks like weapons of some kind, the links to the backpack seems to be flexible guides to feed them with bullets.
'Military hardware.' thought Kara looking at the squared armor plates of torso and limbs.
"Kara, are you ok?" asks a voice from behind Supergirl.
She smiles and point upwards "Take a look Dee, new faces to the party." she gigles.
Dee Ann squirts er eyes trying to obtain the right amout of penetrating vision, after a couple of atempts she got it. "The Army?" she asks.
"Maybe, I've seen that kind of armors, but they definitly looks military grade equipament." Kara looks to the assembly, an attack right now will ruin everything, she decides that a preventive action will be the better course of action. "I go to get them, Dee, would you come with me?"
"Maybe it will be better to spoke to Lois first."
"Usually yes, but now... with all those new supers... it can be dangerous, we don't know enough about the mayority of them."
"Ok fine, which way to go up?"
"Very well, follow me." Supergirl takes a small backdoor behind the stage and advance for several meters, Dee Ann follows her a little puzzled. "This place seems fine."
Kara flexs her knees slightly, and smiles that is one of her favorite entrace, first because it implies a large display of rough power, second because the 99% of her foes don't consider the ground as a possible weak point. With this thoughts through her mind Kara takes a deep breath and propells herself upwards, after a second Dee Ann follows her. The two ubergirls fly through several layers of stone, packed earth, reinforced metal and costly equipment savoring the sensation of their sexy indestructibles bodies crushing everything on their way up, of their lovely faces breaking through super resistant alloys, of debris flowing all the way down along their breast and backs.
On the pavement outside the main structure the six soldies of the Jackal-1 team are preparing for entry, when all the seismic sensors of their armors signal something humanoid incoming toward them from below.
"Incoming, evasion manuver ex-4." cries the Major though the radio link.
From the lowest part of the backpacks of the six a twin jet sparks to life accelerating them at 2.1G. The six stopped, bracing themselves, in a perfect exagonal pattern around a point of the pavement that after a second explodes in a volcano of tarmac and concrete revealing the bodies of the two ubergirls.
Kara expects to find the grunts a little shocked, maybe one or two throwed away by the explosion, but this time she is shocked to find the six perfectly ready, with a series of painting lasers designators mounted of the helmets pointing towards herself and Dee.
One of the armored open an external commnication, the voice is electronicaly distorted, but for the ears of the two it is clearly that of a woman "We aren't here to fight."
Dee looks at the three in front of her and mocked "Really? And those suits are to avoid sunburs"
Kara smiles and thought 'You are getting in that costume very quickly Dee.'
The armored continues "What are these suits for isn't the matter. Our mission is to avoid a bloodshed."
This time Kara's face turns deadly serious "What are you talking about?"
"The 60 superwomen in that base. I suppose you are here to free them, but how much you know of them? Of how do they behave when they are out of here?"
"They are nice girls, their hearts are on the right side."
"Maybe you are right, Supergirl, but that isn't enough for us. We can't risk another Seattle."
The mention of Seattle makes Kara's blood boil "That was a thing completly setted by that little ego-maniac. None of us will do anything."
"Are all fo you disposed to take the risk of having your hands covered with blood tomorrow for a misjudment today? Power corrupts..."
That is enough for Kara 'You, little armored piece of military shit' she thought 'How do you dare judging my friends and me.' With her temper reaching the limit she propels towars the Major. At the same time two of the other open fire with the 15,2 mm machineguns under their right arms. Kara barely notices the bullets while her field of vision narrows and that is her first mistake, the HESH bullets squashed against her invincible body their heads explode producing a massive amount of vectored kinetical energy, about ten times the usual for that caliber. The impact falis to produce any damage but cause Supergirl to spin out of control into the wall of a nearby hangar.
"Kara!!" screms Dee, as her friend impact. Until now she was quiet because some of the Major concerns mirrors her own, but now she throw them out of the window and release a burst of heat vision. The two crimson rays darts toward the soldier in front of Dee, the largest of the team. After a moment the armor turned bright red and the soldier collapses, after another the armor starts to emit a cloud of gas or vapor, she suddenly interrupts her attack sure to have damaged the armor enough. But the soldier raise inside the cloud with only some burns on the armor paint.
"Tank are you all right." asks a voice thought the soldier's radio.
"Almost. The heat resistant plates and the auto extinguisher saved me, Scout."
Kara raises from the debris "That's enough! Now we will tear you down, fair and square." She dashs at super speed, about Mach 1, and Dee follows her example.
"Demon Triangle manuver, now." orders the Major.
The six divides in tow groups, three around each girl in a perfect triangle pattern and starts to use their boost to match the girl's movements and speed along the pavement.
Thai was a very frustrating situation for the two, Kara know that these armors cannot mantain the pace for long, but Dee, less experienced decides to pass to action to break the tie. She launchs at full speed on one of her pursuers in a kind of superpowered rugby action.
Pilot, hitted by the model superhard body, almost pass out, even the hardned armor and the G-Compensator of her suit have enourmous troubles to deal with a similar attack.
"Ok, now all of you stop or I'll break the neck of you friend." Dee roars blocking Pilot in a grip.
"Pilot life signs are weak, maybe she is KO." Hawk shouts in his radio.
"We can't allow this to stop us, go ahead." responds Stingray.
Before the Major can decide the course of action something happens. Pilot is almost out, with the last atoms of counscious thought she grips to to what was familiar, her fighter pilot training kicks in and she orders to her suit to max the thrust output of her jetpack.
A ball of flame engulfed Dee, the temperature isn't even close nough to her limits but the surprise effect and the powerful thrust sends her and Pilot in the sky. Dee makes a halfspin and recovers in mid-air activating her flight powers, but Pilot have passed out during the acceleration.
Everyone stares in horror while the armored suit spinned through the sky, when a gloved hand catch it, a gloved hand conncted to a very sexy body cladded in a violet thight suit with a long green cape, Ultrawoman. "Very well kids. Now stop, or i'll get angry."
Kara is the first to recover form the surprise. "L... Ultrawoman... I..."
"Be quiet Kara, I don't think that these guys want to continue, do you?" says Ultrawoman while landing gracefully and placed Pilot face up on the pavement, she tried to scan her with her X-ray, but she got a nasty surprise, she can't look through the armor.
The Major moves in front of Ultrawoman and her laser pointer scanned the face of the heroine, a smile appears on the japenese woman face, behind her helmet "That's right, we can talk, if you like, but only you and me, ok?"
Ultrawoman looks up "Fine, but for your comrade here?"
"No problem, the rest of the team can take care of it, now we need a secure place." the major pointed a bunker along the perimeter of the base, "That looks perfect, move on."
A moment after the superheroine and the armored soldier enters the bunker. The Major activates a device of her armor "White noise generator," explains "a little privacy guarantee, like the lead sheets inside the walls, ms Lane."
"What?" Ultraoman gasps.
"A physiognomical program and a scan with the pointer. That masks don't cover your face so well." continues the Major "But this have to be a fair meeting." The Major's helmet opens like a flower around a junction in the back of the neck.
"What's your name?" lois asks.
"I have many, my real name was lost about the lifes ago, a damned long story."
"So, how I can to call you?"
"For this mission I'm the Major."
"Fine... Major. Why are you here?" asks Lois while her journalist instinct take the control of the discussion.
"You really wants to know, fine." The Major opens her chest plate, under the armor she wears a kind of fatigue uniform, she opened one fo the pockets and takes out her lucky charm, a small photo, she hands it to Lois. "For them."
Lois looks at the photo, two small kid, a boy and a girl, almost of the same age, 5 or 6 years, with a clear japanese ascendacy are playing in a room that looks like a kitchen. "Your children."
"Exactly, the photo is 12 years old. I have explained them one important thing that every person is born with the same rights, that you have to obtain things throgh your skills and hard work. Now that this so-called Transformatrix phenomenon starts, my little Himeko have started to speak about the possibility to become a superwoman, because several of her friends are trying to get it. I'm worried for her and for several others that aren't ready to handle this kind of power." explains the Major with a voice louder and louder and a tear rolling out of her eye.
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"18, in a couple of months..."
"18...she's grown up. She's old enough to make her own choices...and if she wants these powers, then...I assume you're not worried about her because you think she might...misuse it...are you?"
"Of course not..."
"Then what?" Ultrawoman asked. "You can talk to me. It won't go outside this room."
The Major sighed. "I...I just don't want to see her make a mistake she can't undo...if she gets these powers and then decides she doesn't want them..."
"I know...I have a friend who was in the same position. She got superpowers because her other friends were, and once she had them, she was afraid to do anything cos she thought she might hurt people...but she's started to come round to them." She watched as the Major put the photo back into her uniform pocket, and then asked "But you didn't come all the way down here to show me pictures of your kids, huh?"
"No...we came down here to stop you releasing these women."
Ultrawoman sat down on the edge of a desk and smiled. "Do you have any idea what's been going on here?"
"Only that this facility is holding approximately 60 super-powered women."
"Right...so nothing about experiments on those women? Torture for the one who asked to leave?"
"No...your orders assumed we were the enemy, didn't they? Well, we're not. What do you know about the woman who was running this place?"
"Dr Klyburn? 31 years old, former beauty queen turned scientist. Brilliant, gifted...dead?"
"You said 'was'..."
"'Was' as in she's abandoned the place." Ultrawoman gestured to a nearby chair. "Sit down, Major...I'll bring you up to speed on what's really been going on here..."
"You don't really wanna go to school today, do you?"
Bobby whirled around in surprise. "M-Mrs Jordan!"
"Oh, call me Denise." she replied. "You look shocked - I did say we weren't gonna forget about you."
"I know, it's just...well..."
Denise put her hands on her hips, her tight t-shirt and shorts showing off as much of her muscles as possible. "I understand, Bobby. I know I'm a real stunner...and of course, I have superpowers too..." She giggled as Bobby began to blush. "Oh...men!"
"Oh, don't worry. Anyway, as I was saying - school...you didn't really wanna go there today, did you?"
"Well, it just so happens that a myself and a few friends broke into a certain top secret facility this morning...you wanted to come see Jill, remember? To tell her that you're the one who gave her her superpowers?"
Denise shrugged. "I was in the area, figured I'd pick you up and fly you out there."
"It's just...I...what's she gonna say when she finds out?"
"I don't know." Denise replied. "But she does care about you...and she knows you care about her. Whatever she does...would you really rather not tell her? Cos I don't think you're the sort of kid who could lie about something like this...are you?"
Bobby thought for a moment, then shook his head. "I owe her an explanation..."
"Alright then - let's find somewhere out of the way where we take off from..."
"Hold it - what about school? If I don't turn up-"
"I wouldn't worry about it." Denise replied, before saying, in a perfect recreation of his mother's voice "I already phoned the school and said you were off sick." She smiled at Bobby's shocked reaction. "Let's go..."
"...so as you can see, I've already taken steps to ensure that the women here aren't gonna misuse their powers. The Lotos had quite a strong effect on these women...and I hope that using it whilst making my little speech is gonna keep out of trouble. But I'll make you a promise - if any of them step out of line once they get out of here, I'll take full responsibility."
"I accept that what you've done here was necessary." the Major replied. "But I'm not comfortable with releasing these women, not yet."
"I give you my word...I won't allow them to cause trouble."
"But how can you stop them? You're all equally matched, so-"
"Ah - no. It takes time to master these powers, and a lot of the women haven't got that far yet. I could use this facility as a sort of superwoman workshop, for the women here."
The Major nodded. "That sounds good...but I didn't really mean that. I meant that, ultimately, all you women are as strong as each other."
Ultrawoman grinned. "Right...all except one."
"Supergirl. At the moment, she's got just a fraction of the strength and power that I do...but she's been offered the use of a Transformatrix, and she's gonna take it. We're hoping that if it works on her, it'll boost her powers far above even ours."
"Is she really the right person to get that much power?"
"I think she is. I've known her a long time - I trust her. Besides, she's the only choice...and if we can prevent what happened in Seattle from happening again, then it has to be worth it."
"I just keep thinking of that old saying...'power corrupts'..."
"And absolute power corrupts absolutely." finished Ultrawoman, shaking her head. "Do you really believe that's always true? Do you think my power has corrupted me?"
The Major shook her head. "No, not you. I'm just worried that you might be the exception..."
"I don't think I am - I love having superpowers again. I love being the center of attention when I go out in public, and yes, I get a big kick out of wearing this costume. But more than anything else...I am able to help people who would otherwise be dead. That's a greater feeling than anything else I've ever known...and I want the women here to know that feeling, too."
"Alright..." the Major replied. "So, what's your next move?"
"We have a few leads." Lois replied. "All I ask is that you back off, just for a few days, and allow us to follow them up. I'll report to you in, say...48 hours, and tell you of anything we might have found out. I promise."
"A promise from Ultrawoman...well, that's good enough for me." the Major replied. "What about Lois Lane, though?"
"Well, how long can you keep this up? Being two different people?"
"I can manage...unless you're planning to give me away?"
"No...no, your secret's safe. Just...if it came down to it...Lois Lane or Ultrawoman...which one would you give up?"
Ultrawoman thought for a moment, then shook her head. "If you'd asked me that when I first got my powers, I would have said Ultrawoman, no question. But now...the more time I spend as her...the more I like being her. So I don't know."
The Major stood up. "Alright. You've got your 48 hours."
"Thank you. And the women being held here?"
"...Officially, they're free to go. But...if you could try to keep them under control..."
"I understand, Major. And I appreciate that what's going must scare a lot of people. But you have my word - my friends and I will get to the bottom of it." She offered her gloved hand. "Major?"
"Good luck, Ultrawoman." the Major replied, shaking her hand, before turning and heading for the bunker door.
The Major glanced back. "Yes?"
Ultrawoman smiled. "I'll make you another promise. If your daughter does gain superpowers...call me. I'll teach her how to use them."
"Thank you...I hope it won't come to that...but I have a feeling it probably will..."
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All eyes were on Superwoman as she continued. "I still can't believe it, myself. Becoming a superhero wasn't something I'd planned, not even after I got these powers, and most of you probably haven't even thought of doing it yourselves...but I know that this is what a lot of you are going to end up doing, and, like me, you'll realise it's the best decision you'll ever make. Don't abuse these gifts you've been given - but don't waste them either."
There was a round of applause as DeeAnn returned to her seat, allowing Lois to take the stage once again. "And that's it." she said. "Superwoman and Supergirl have offered to stay here for a few hours, so if you wanna ask them any questions, you're more than welcome. Otherwise...you're all free to go. Remember what we've told you...and good luck."
As the crowd of superwomen dispersed, some heading for the doors and others to Kara and DeeAnn, Lois hopped down from the stage and joined Jill and Amber at the back of the hall. "Do you think that was OK?" she asked.
"Perfect." Jill replied.
"I hope we're doing the right thing here..."
"Nothing else we can do. What was going on here couldn't have carried on."
Lois turned to face the woman that had called her name. "Yes?"
"Um...er...my name's Laura...Laura Carter..."
Lois smiled. "Hello Laura."
"Hi...um...look...is there any chance...that I could have a word with Ultrawoman?"
Jill and Amber exchanged a smile as Lois adjusted her collar. "What makes you think I know Ultrawoman?"
"Well...I've not gotten my x-ray vision under control yet, and I sort of looked at you-"
Lois raised her hand to silence Laura. "Ah. I was hoping someone might do that..." she grinned. "Well...if you wanna talk to her in private, we should probably go find a room somewhere. Jill, Amber - I'll see you two later, alright?"
"Right." The pair watched Lois slip away quietly with Laura, and then Jill asked. "You fancy some breakfast?"
Amber nodded. "That'd be great - but the passageway to the canteen's blocked by the rubble."
Jill smiled, and cracked her knuckles. "I think you and I might just be able to squeeze through..."
"So, what have you got planned now?"
Amber looked up from her breakfast. "I don't know. I'm terrified of going home - how I explain this to my parents?"
"...do you have to?"
"You mean, keep this a secret? I don't think I could...still, my finals are in a few weeks, so hopefully if I do well in those I'll be going on to college."
"What are you studying?"
"Medicine...I've wanted to be a doctor ever since I was a kid..."
"Aww...oh, you'll get in."
She smiled. "I hope so. What about you?"
"Well...I've got the summer, and then back to teaching, I guess."
"I bet your husband'll be glad to have you back..."
"Husband?" Jill shook her head. "I'm not married."
"Oh...your boyfriend, then...what, no boyfriend either?...does that mean I have to find you one?"
Jill laughed. "No, that's alright. Actually...I'm not looking for anyone...at least, not a man..."
"Oh..." Amber suddenly realised what Jill meant. "Oh - well...what about the women here? There must have been someone you thought might be right for you?"
Jill smiled. "You won't tell?"
"Denise...we got on so well, so quickly...so I hoped we might have something. But then I then I found out she was married, so I backed off..."
"Alright - then I'll have to find someone for you."
"Amber...I appreciate what you're trying to do...but it'sd more important that you find someone for yourself."
The smile fell from Amber's face. "I can't...I...I'm hoping that I might be able to fix things with Greg..."
"You still love him, don't you?"
Amber nodded, and Jill took hold of her hand, squeezing it gently.
Jill turned to look at the figure in the doorway. "Denise! Where've you been?"
"I, er...I had to go get someone."
Jill's smile turned to surprise as a second person entered the room. "Bobby?"
"Hey, Miss Henderson..."
Denise looked at Amber. "I think we'd better leave them alone, Amber...they have a few things to talk about..."
"No, it's alright." said Jill. "Bobby?"
Jill's favorite student took a deep breath, then whispered "It was me."
"What was you?"
"...I...I'm the one who changed you...I'm the one who gave you superpowers..."
Jill's smile faded. "I see..."
"It...I shouldn't have done it-"
"Then why did you?"
"Denise, maybe we should go..." suggested Amber, getting up from the table and heading for the door. "Jill? A-are you OK if we...?"
"I'll be alright." she told her friends, waiting until they'd closed the door behind them before asking "Well?"
"It...it was just a silly fantasy." Bobby explained. "I've always...liked you...I think you're absolutely beautiful..."
"I've always liked you, too." Jill replied. "And I've noticed that you're...attracted to me."
Bobby blushed, but carried on. "I...I have this...thing, I don't know what it is...call it an interest...in superwomen and superheroines. Recently...I'd daydream that you were a superhero, and that only I knew..."
"So you got hold of a Transformatrix, and used it." Jill replied. "On me..."
"I didn't think it'd work...and then, when you mean missing...I was so worried. I didn't know what had happened...it wasn't until your friend came and found me that I even made the connection..."
"Denise...she knew about this?"
"Her, and Ultrawoman, Superwoman and Supergirl. I've told them everything I know...anything to help them find you."
"Is that the truth?" Jill asked. "Because if it isn't-"
"It is." Bobby replied. "I swear it is."
"Alright...now, you listen to me, Bobby. If this were coming from anyone else in my class, I'd have probably knocked them through the wall by now. Because it's you, I'm trying to deal with this as calmly as I can, but I will be honest. I'm disappointed in you. I thought we had a better relationship than this, and I resent being used as your fantasy."
There were tears in Bobby's eyes, but he just nodded.
"But...what you've given me is beyond incredible, and I can never thank you enough. That, and the fact that you seem to have come to tell me this of your own free will...well...I think we could still be friends..."
Bobby couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Oh...thank you, I-"
"On one condition."
Bobby fell silent again.
"That girl who just left...I want you to look after her for me."
"...look after her?"
Jill nodded. "Her name's Amber, and she's a little scared by what's happened to her. She doesn't understand how anyone could wanna be friends with someone who can squeeze steel like clay...but I think you could be just the sort of friend she needs..."
After introducting Bobby to Amber, Jill flew him back to school, leaving Denise and Amber alone to talk in the canteen.
"Did you know about Jill being...well..."
"A lesbian?" asked Denise. "Yeah, she told me."
"She says there isn't, but...is there anyone around here she was attracted to? Someone we could ask out for her?"
Denise grinned. "I've been thinking about that...and yes, there is someone."
"Well...we had a few chats about superheroes while we were roomies, and...well, whenever we mentioned Supergirl, she seemed a little...distant. Kinda daydreamy, y'know?"
"You think she has a thing for Supergirl?"
Denise shrugged. "Could be." She grinned. "Shall we, um...go see if Kara's interested?"
Kara and DeeAnn stood at the entrance to the facility waving goodbye as the last of the superwomen took to the air and flew away. "That's that then." Dee said.
"Mmm...you still on for tomorrow night?" Kara asked.
"...do you really think we should?"
"Dee...I said it was just dinner and a drink. That's all. Look...I am attracted to you...but I can control it."
Dee smiled. "Sure."
"Dee...I've never told anyone this before, but...I've been so lonely. I haven't let myself get...close...to anyone, because I'm worried I could hurt them. Now that there are others like me, I-"
"I'm your friend, Kara." Dee interrupted. "I always will be. You can always talk to me."
"It's just...I'm worried that people are always gonna see me as Supergirl first, not Kara. I need to feel loved...I can't stand being on my own anymore."
"Then we might be able to help you out!" called a voice from inside the facility, as Denise and Amber leapt out the door. "We've, er...we've come to ask you out on behalf of a very dear friend of ours."
"Why not?" Amber asked. "You're both young, beautiful...single...superpowerful..."
"That's a great idea!" said Dee.
"...she wouldn't be interested in me..."
"She is." Denise replied. "Very."
"Go on." urged Dee. "Isn't she exactly what you just said you've been looking for?"
"Well, yes, but..." Kara paused. "I think I might just go talk to her..."
Dee, Denise and Amber watched Kara head back inside, then Dee asked "Jill knows absolutely nothing about this, does she?"
Amber just blushed, as Denise replied "No...but we think it'll work."
"What'll work?" asked Jill, as she landed nearby. "You all look very suspicious, what's going on?"
"Oh, we've just been seeing everyone off." explained Denise. "Jill, Kara's asked if she could speak to you. She's in there."
"Kara?...OK..." Jill headed inside the facility to find Supergirl, passing Laura and Ultrawoman as they made their way to the surface.
"Now, you promise you'll be in touch, alright?" Lois asked Laura.
"I promise...and thank you, all of you, for what you've done for me." With that, Laura leapt into the sky and hurtled into the distance.
"You look worried." Amber asked. "Is something wrong?"
Lois rubbed her chin with her gloved hand. "She's psychic."
"Laura...I don't know how, but she can read minds. Have any of you been able to do that - or done anything you've not noticed the others do?"
The girls shook their heads. "Wait a minute..." said Denise. "Jill has. She pulled a bullet out of a soldier using...I dunno, sort of telekenesis vision."
"Oh God..." whispered Lois. "If they have unique powers...then do all those women we've just released?"
There was silence, and then Denise whispered "We'll just have to wait and see...it's too late now..."
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Charlene blushed deeply and lowered her eyes, but asked her question. "Is it safe for me to have sex?"
"Good question," Kara replied seriously. She made a concerted effort to keep her face straight, and to not look at DeeAnn. "There's good news and bad news. The bad news is that even superwomen lose control when they orgasm--so no, it's not safe for you to climax with a non-super lover nearby. But the good news is that it takes a lot more, uh, stimulus to make you climax--more than any non-super can provide. So you can do anything you want with your lover, and then while he's sleeping it off you can, uh, go someplace safe to finish the job. It's not what any of us would prefer, but...." She shrugged and didn't finish.
"My husband... likes it," DeeAnn added, shy about revealing too much but wanting to be helpful. "He was hurt at first--hurt emotionally I mean, because he couldn't, you know, take me all the way anymore. But he's over that now. We go slower now, more play, and we both... well, it's not quite the same, but it's still good.
"But the most important thing is finding the right man." She thanked God she had.
The well-endowed young blonde nodded, smiling. It was obvious from her expression that her thoughts were already wandering. "Thanks," she said, and departed at super-speed.
The two heroines turned to the next woman in line, the last of the several who had come forward with questions. She was a beauty even by superwoman standards, with intense dark eyes, lustrous raven hair, and a beautifully-muscled figure. DeeAnn greeted her formally, as she had each of the women who'd approached her: "Hi, I'm DeeAnn Donovan."
"Laura Carter," said the woman, her handclasp quick but firm.
"Kara Zor-El," said Kara, shaking hands as well. "What can we help you with?"
"I want to help you," Laura replied firmly. "A super-woman should be a super-hero. It would be such a waste for me to go back to old job sitting at a desk 50 hours a week; I enjoy coding, but there's so much more I could be doing that no one else--only a few of us--can do. How can I arrange that? How do you two arrange it?"
"That's a hard question," said Kara. "I have a secret identity with a "normal" job, and I know Superman does too, and Ultrawoman. But our jobs aren't desk jobs, we have more control over where and when we work. Is there any way you could get a job with more freedom?"
DeeAnn interjected. "Are you camera-shy?"
"No," Laura answered laconically.
"Model," Dee said. "You're gorgeous, you could make a living at it even without your powers; as a super-model"--Kara laughed and Laura smiled, but DeeAnn was serious--"Lord only knows what you could earn in an afternoon. And the more you do, the more hero stuff, the more you'll make as a model. Two shoots a week, two half-days, and you'll be set."
It sounded too good to be true, but heck, the whole super-powers thing was too good to be true; the fame and fortune just followed naturally. "Perfect," said Laura. "How do I get started?"
"I'll help," Dee said promptly. "My husband is my manager, he's the one with the business sense; I'll talk with him and get back to you. How can I contact you privately?"
Laura gave her phone number, and DeeAnn offered her business number in return, "if you need to reach me, if you have any questions. Otherwise, John will call you on Monday. In the meantime, if you're in the news--for good reasons, of course!--it will only raise your starting fee. But of course you have the rest of your life to deal with also, your old job and whatever else. Take your time, there's no hurry. The important thing is for you to be comfortable with whatever decisions you make."
"And we'd be happy to talk with you more if you'd like to talk anything over," Kara added. "My cell phone is ___-___-____; call any time."
"Thanks," Laura said, heart-felt. "You're being incredibly generous. I only hope I can live up to your standard."
"I know you can," said Kara. "Wanting to help is by far the most important thing."
DeeAnn, on impulse, offered a hug; Laura accepted it, but she hugged as if she wasn't used to hugging. Kara hugged her too. "We'll talk to you soon. And don't forget to have some fun along with the hero stuff, okay?"
"I won't," Laura said, and at last a grin broke like a sunrise through her cool reserve. "How could this not be fun?"
A second later, she was standing in the living room of her apartment outside Boston, 3,000 miles away.
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The screen goes black and the five members of the Squire's board look at each other with worried looks, each of them know that this evolution of the scenario is unexpected at the best, the pre-mission evaluations indicates that the present outcome had only the 3.4% of showing.
As usual the Madam speaks first, her skill to mantain her cold blood in every situation was the reason for which she has became the informal leader of the board. "The Major report was something we have to deal immediatly, my friends, any suggestion?"
The man with the bulldog face examined the datas in his notepad and scratchs his chin "In the present situation an attack isn't the worst thing to do. The only way to stop a so large number of metahumans, within no more than 1 hour is a bombardment."
"Why do you say one hour, Colonel?" asks the man in the whellchair.
"Because I don't think that they will stay here much longer, Doctor."
"Anyway, Colonel do you rember our rules?" asks the Madam.
The Colonel looks very humiliated by this last question "Yes, Madam. I know that the use of any kind of mass destruction weapon is against the principles of the Foundation. I'm sorry."
"Maybe we are taking all of this in the wrong way." says a voice rarely heard in the room, the one of the former pentathlon gold medal, now condemned to have the left side of her body paralysed, the price for rescuing a boy from a falling building during a battle between Superman and Metallo.
The Madam frowns "What do you mean?"
"The Squire Foundation exist to avoid that other people will suffer like us. Casual victims of the metahumans' battles. But we have to face it, the only way to stop them is becoming one of them."
"I don't like your speech."
"Face it. The armors of our troopers are comparable to the Red Rockets, the R&D facilites are at loeast a decade over the rest of the world, the same is truth for the communications, the sensors, for every damned piece of equipment around here. They are all of metahuman class."
"Except that the are not products of metahuman science. They are developed from a joint venture of some of the most brilliant HUMAN minds all over the world."
"And do you really think that this makes any difference? Anyway, I have a proposal, why don't we recruits some of these superwomen?"
"I know that you will come to this point. And how do you think to control them. We can shut down the armors with the remote controls at any moment, but how do you think you can control creatures like them."
The japanese man clear his throat "I think that the proposal is good, but a little too ambitious."
"And you have an alternative, Yama?" asks the Colonel.
"Yes, I think that we have to stay back for now, limiting our activities to the usual, for at least three months, probably more. In the meantime we will surveil those women, collecting informations, isolating potential threats between them and deciding if any of them can be useful for us."
The other four remain silent while they evaluate the proposal.
"A so wide surveillance operation will require an enourmous amount of personel."
"No, Madam. I have already evaluate that our usual intelligence network will be more than capable to handle this."
"Very well, so we have to vote the proposal. Who agree?"
Five hands up.
14 hours after the battle at Lotos facility / Seattle suburbs, Washinton state / Major's home [2.40 AM local time]
The Major sneaks inside her house, she knows that at least one of her children is here so she moves around the most silent she is able. She reachs the kitchen and moves toward the fridge, with an unnecessary caution she opens it and took out a pack of orange juice. Several years ago a friend of her was killed by a Claymore mine hidden in a portable fridge, during a shadow operation in Africa, and she is too paranoid to open a fridge in a normal way since that. She drinks two glass of juice and then she look at a photo on the wall over the table, a photo of a 40 years old man with rust-colored hair and blue eyes. "Hi Patrick, I'm home." she whispers. Patrick MacTyres, her husband, dies 2 years ago in Gotham a casual victim of a bullet fired by Deadshot, originaly aimed to Batman.
She leaves the kitchen and walks to the living room, her bedroom is upstairs, but she have to pass in front of the rooms of her childrens, so she decides to sleep on the sofa, it is much comfortable than several other places where she had sleeped during the years. But when she arrives she spots a siluoette on the sofa, she freeze for a second, then she prepares to jump on the intruder. The intruder switch on the light.
The Major remains stunned for a second then she relaxs. "Himeko, what are you doing?"
"I'm waiting for you... I've something to tell you." Himeko answers with esitation.
The Major reachs the sofa and sits next to her daughter, she studies her for several seconds. Himeko is a little taller than her, like her mother Himeko is a very athletic girl and a little flat. She have short black hair, while her eyes have a definitly oriental shape they are also of a bright blue color inherited from her father family. "What's going on?"
"Well, mom, there are three different things. The first regards you... I... I..." she exitates "Ho hell, I know that you have lied to me."
"WHAT?" screams the major, wiht a puzzled look in her eyes.
"Mom, I know that you don't work for that Research Institute. I don't know which is your real work, but I've understanded that it's dangerous, probably something like the SWAT. I don't want know, but please don't lie me anymore, ok."
The major takes a deep breath, and looks again to her daughter, she can't help but she still see the little girl inside the young woman in front of her, a woman that now asks her to trust her. "Himeko, after the death of your father I've become a little too anxious about your brother and you. You know that I don't want you two to grow inside a glass tube, but there are things that I can't share with anyone, but you're right I have a dangerous work."
Himeko smiles a little "Mom, I hope you're not a superhero."
"Well, you have always respected my privacy, so I have to give the favor back."
"The other things?"
Himeko reaches one of the pockets of her jeans and took out a small coupon labed TF4000 "A group of girls at the college have started talking about this."
The major gulps. "And?"
"And I've joined the website that distributs these, and I asks for one. Meggan and I think to go there together and takes them, but at the last moment I have a doubt."
"Because, I understand that we're doing this only to be fashionable. This superpower's thing is simply the last fashion on that hits the block. But this's not like new clothes or make up, this's fuckingly permanent." Himeko explains "But Meggan was so pissed that she went mad on me, she told me things worst than everything I've ever heard."
The Major spots a tear in her daughter eye, she knows Meggan very well, the two girl are friends since the age of 5, they have shared everything during the years, friends, enemies, joy and sorrow. Himeko thrusts Meggan more than every other person on the planet, and this have made the Major jealous sometimes. The Major embraces Himeko "You know that Meggan is too emotional, she was simply disappointed, you two will return to be friends in no time I'm sure."
Himeko sighs "It's not so simple, mom, and this is the last thing I've to tell you." She frees form her mother arms, and clear her face with the back of her hand "I... we, Meggan and I, are lesbians and we love each other."
The Major face goes white, she stands up and says "I think that boot of us need some psycological support. Your choice." She heads to the kitchen, takes out two pizzas and put them in the microwave. After ten minutes she returns with the pizzas. "What do you chose?"
"I think that a classic is better, some old Star Trek episodes."
"Infinite diversity in infinite combinations."
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