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Me, Myself & I
Shadowgirl – Parts 1 & 2
Written by HikerAngel :: [Friday, 26 June 2020 13:58] Last updated by :: [Sunday, 28 June 2020 20:15]
I slipped out from behind the boxes in the corner of the warehouse. As a man dressed in a strange, shimmering uniform stepped into my field of vision and turned to look in my direction, I froze.
Not that I needed to. Freeze, I mean.
Cessation of movement when on the receiving end of predatory glances was a remnant from the days before discovering my invisibility power--some sort of basic, involuntary animal instinct. It did have the benefit of preventing me from making any sound, I suppose. My soft shoes made no sound on the concrete floor, however, so the reaction was silly.
I grinned as I realized I was giving entirely too much thought to the subject, mentally shrugged, and continued moving even as the armed man continued to scout my corner of the warehouse. I had a mission to perform and didn’t have time to waste right now.
As I crept behind the next stacked pallet, I glanced downward. My slender form was clad in the tight, black, form-fitting Shadowgirl costume that my sister had helped me make when I'd turned eighteen. As I progressed along the warehouse wall, I remembered the day that I'd been accepted into super.org and my older sister's look of pride. We'd been placed with different foster parents seemingly every year of our childhood, so my sister Andrea had been my one constant. Her approval had meant everything to me.
I had been surprised to get in. As powers went, invisibility was not a particularly powerful ability, but it did make me a natural for stealth and reconnaissance operations. Personally, I would have preferred a more tangible power like strength. Or flight. Or even laser eyes. But alas… no such luck. I was stuck with invisibility.
Everything else about me was normal. At best. Normal strength, normal toughness… okay, so maybe below-average toughness. I tended to burst into tears when I bumped my shin on the occasional piece of furniture or when I pinch my thumb in a kitchen drawer.
I wasn't even particularly gifted in terms of normal human abilities. I was a C-student, barely made it through art class by convincing my teacher that my stuff was intentionally abstract, couldn't hold a tune to save my life, and could only manage the second slowest 100-meter time on the track team. In other words, take away my power, and I was pretty much average to below average in every other capacity.
I did have one thing going for me besides my invisibility power, though. My looks.
Not trying to brag or anything, but I was beautiful. Maybe not quite fit to grace the posters in the display at Victoria's Secret. And maybe I wouldn't be replacing the latest spokesactress looming over the Dior counter at department stores, but I was good-looking. When I entered a bar, ginger hair shimmering, I was--more often than not--the hottest girl in the place. Eyes locked onto me when I entered the room, and, being thoroughly unremarkable in every other way, I enjoyed the attention. Sue me.
So it was a little ironic that my only superpower effectively negated the only non-super thing I had going for me. I was pretty, and I had the power to make sure that no one saw me. I took it as proof that the universe had a sense of humor. A twisted one, apparently.
To make matters worse, I had joined one of the few organizations on earth where I wasn't among the best-looking women. Even in super.org, I was probably better than average, but when every super-powered woman around was hyper-fit, hyper-endowed, and hyper-gorgeous, I was no longer exceptional in the looks department. Not like Sapphire Valkyrie. In this group, hers were the curves that every male eye roamed. Never mine.
Even Raven, the senior member of super.org that I had been crushing on since I was in my mid-teens, was clearly smitten with her. Dark, mysterious, and brooding, he was exactly the sort of man I was attracted to. I had even drawn inspiration from him when choosing my "super" name, Shadowgirl. But I don't think he even knew who I was. There were a couple of hundred members of super.org, and I had only been in the group for a few months. If the group hadn't needed an infiltration talent, I probably wouldn't have been allowed in at all!
The first time I'd seen Raven in person, I had watched his rapt attention affixed to Sapphire Valkyrie, the most beautiful and strongest hero in the group. It wasn't a surprise. The world's media and tabloids were obsessed with her as well. I supposed it was warranted. When the most gorgeous woman in the world could toss around cars with ease, it did tend to make one a natural attention magnet.
As I thought of her, I felt a surge of jealousy slide up my spine. Why couldn’t I be more like her? Effortlessly sexy, unbelievably strong, virtually invulnerable--basically, the ultimate specimen of humanity. Clad in her tasteful-but-revealing armor, each time she descended from the sky, her would-be adversary instantly knew that the situation was hopeless. Most never challenged her. Sapphire Valkyrie had never been defeated. Far more powerful than any other hero, Sapphire had always been viewed as invincible.
Which was made the sight that met my eyes when I slipped into the back room of the warehouse so jarring.
Sapphire Valkyrie—earth’s most powerful superhero and undefeated champion—was slumped against the far wall, bruised and battered with blood trickling from her lips. My jaw dropped in absolute disbelief. I hadn’t even realized that she could bleed!
I watched as Sapphire Valkyrie rose shakily to her feet, set her jaw determinedly, and marched toward her opponent, a huge, hulking block of chiseled muscle. The massive man's lips curled upward in amusement at Valkyrie’s actions.
Sapphire Valkyrie pulled back her powerful fist and launched it with hypersonic speed at the man’s stomach with a desperate scream. The man made no move to dodge or block, allowing it to impact his insanely cobbled abs, visible through the tight, shimmering uniform he wore. The blow landed with a concussive force that nearly knocked me to the ground.
To absolutely no effect.
The man, completely unaffected by the prodigious blow, casually reached down, grabbed Valkyrie’s wrist, and snapped it backward, sending the sharp sound of cracking bone reverberating through the otherwise silent room.
Sapphire Valkyrie’s azure eyes widened, and her full, red lips twisted open. After what seemed like an eternity but was probably only a second or two, a shrill scream burst from those lips to fill the room. The corners of the man’s lips turned upward into a knowing smile, and he used his other hand to lift her upward, off her feet, by the throat.
Valkyrie’s slender fingers rose to clutch at the man’s massive hand, vainly attempting to loosen its grip. But it was useless. She was clearly as overmatched against this man as those who she typically met were against her.
I gaped at the sight. How was this possible?
This was Sapphire Valkyrie, for goodness' sake! There was no WAY that she could be overpowered so easily…
…except that it was undeniable. She was. It was happening right before my eyes.
After a moment, the huge man tossed her against the wall, a patina of cracks forming on impact. The battered hero slid down the wall until her shapely backside landed on the ground. She gasped for air as she stared dumbly at her limp, rapidly swelling hand.
The huge man turned toward a smaller but incredibly fit man standing to his left. His uniform looked identical to the big man's.
"Xymon, our intelligence about this world was obviously incorrect. This woman is not an adversary worth my attention. You will be able to easily handle this on your own. Take charge. This world is yours to do as you see fit. Be available when I call on you next."
The smaller man bowed his head in a gesture of respect. "Of course, sir. Thank you, sir."
With that, the larger one rocketed upward, through the warehouse ceiling into the sky. Valkryie, seeming to regain the usual glint of confidence in her eyes now that the impossibly formidable opponent was now gone, pressed her good hand to the ground and stumbled back to her feet, still breathing heavily.
The other man--Xymon, the large one had called him--smiled. "Think you'll stand a chance against me, do you?"
"I am Sapphire Valkyrie. I will prevail."
It was one of her trademark lines, and it had always felt like a solid, immutable truth. Until now. I hoped she was right, but the ease with which the big man had dispatched her made me doubt. Still, this was Sapphire Valkyrie! I couldn't quite comprehend a scenario where she didn't win the day.
I felt my eyes widen as she rushed toward him, admiring her grace, her determination. Surely, she would have a better chance against the huge man's underling. However, he nimbly dodged out of the way, smashing an elbow into the side of her head, whipping her entire body sideways, head whiplashing as she cratered into and pulverized the concrete floor. The most powerful hero in the world crashed to the floor, her body limp and unmoving. I watched her face carefully, but her eyes were closed, and she appeared to be unconscious.
My attention rose to the alien who had dispatched her with ease, Xymon. His body was tensed and ready for action, but after watching Valkyrie's limp form closely for several seconds, his sculpted muscles began to relax. Despite the fact that I knew he was a dangerous enemy, I couldn't help but notice his utterly godlike appearance. His made even Raven's steel-hard muscles look soft in comparison. As my eyes traced the bold curve of his ultra-masculine jaw, I felt my cheeks flush with heat.
What was wrong with me? This was the enemy! I didn't need to deal with stupid teenage infatuations right now. It was going to be difficult enough to help Sapphire Valkyrie in this fight as it was!
But he was just so heartbreakingly gorgeous!
Attempting to shake the thoughts away--without much success--I slipped behind him. As I neared his deliciously muscled body, unsure what I was going to do exactly, I felt a strange tingling sensation wash over my skin.
I paused, willing the feeling away, but it only became stronger. I swayed with a heady mix of desire and weakness as I watched Raven emerge from the shadows to stand before Xymon. My knees buckled, and I fell forward into Xymon's back. Xymon whirled as I fell to the ground, his eyes widening as they took in my collapsing form.
As my vision faded to blackness, I heard Raven's deep voice seemingly from a distance.
"So what are your terms for earth's surrender…"
The words chilled my racing heart as I lost consciousness.
I awoke with a start. I glanced around. Was I still in the warehouse? Had Xymon done something to me? I shot up, belatedly realizing that my head had been resting on a pillow. Clearly, I wasn't in the warehouse.
Where was I?
The thought evaporated as my surroundings struck me suddenly with their familiarity.
I was home.
I searched my memories the moments before my blackout for any clues as to how I would end up back home. I remembered the strange alien, Xymon. I relived the tingle of sensation that the close proximity to him had built inside me. I concentrated on my body for a moment, slowly coming to the realization that the strange tingle was now gone.
What had the whole sensation thing been about, anyway? Did the alien have some sort of weakening field? Maybe that's why Sapphire Valkyrie had been so ineffective again him!
I thought back to the moment of my collapse, recalling Xymon's eyes widening. Had he seen me or just felt me fall behind him?
Had I willed away my invisibility power? No, I didn't think so. Even in my distraction, I hadn't ceased the use of my power. I should have remained invisible.
But maybe he had nullified it somehow? As he had nullified Valyrie's strength? Did these aliens have some sort of power-dampening field?
And what had Raven said when he appeared from the shadows in that mysterious (and sexy) way of his? Something about the surrender of Earth? A tingle spread across my skin once more, but this one was one of horror. As goosebumps rose from my flesh, I wondered what had come of that conversation. Was earth now under the control of that Xymon guy? Had Raven truly surrendered without a fight? Well, without more than Sapphire Valkyrie's fight, anyway…
Arg! Why had I not been able to remain awake?! I'm there for one of the most important events in the history of the world, and I pull a complete freaking wussification and faint! I should probably be kicked out of super.org for that alone.
Frowning, I shook my head. Sitting in bed wouldn't bring me these answers. I needed to find out what was happening! I swept my feet from under the covers and placed them on the floor. Cautiously, I stood. I expected wooziness but instead felt surprisingly strong.
I strode through my bedroom, eyes scanning for any clue as to how I had arrived back here, anything out of the ordinary. As my gaze fell on my desk, I saw a paper. Walking over to it, I saw handwritten scrawl.
Hope you're okay. Call me. 847-555-1234.
I couldn't help but smile. Raven was obviously a believer in word economy. I supposed it was appropriate for his dark, brooding image.
My thought was interrupted by the sound of my apartment door opening. A lightning bolt of fear jagged through me, and I crept to the doorway of my bedroom, peering trepidatiously into the main room of my one-bedroom apartment. I watched the door swing open to reveal a bright, blonde-framed face wearing an expression of worry.
"Andrea?" I intoned, relief dropping my tensed shoulders.
"Samster?" my sister returned, a hopeful smile beginning to form under glassy, frightened eyes. "Are you okay? When I got the call that you were unconscious, I was so scared. You never even told me I was your emergency contact, and when I got the call from super.org, I just wasn't expecting it, and I didn't know what to do, and I just froze up! It took me a minute to recover, and then I grabbed my keys and came straight here, but I didn't know what to expect, and I… I'm babbling aren't I?"
She paused for a moment to consider, then continued. "Whatever. I'm just happy that you're okay!"
Andrea rushed over to me and enveloped me in a huge hug.
A moment later, as she pulled back, she straightened slightly, an odd smile gracing her lips as she took in my appearance.
"What? What is it?" I asked as I looked down at myself, still in my Shadowgirl costume. I wondered if I had been disfigured somehow, fear fluttering my heart as a burst of adrenaline fizzed through my veins. Omigod! What if that tingling had wrinkled my skin? What if I had turned purple? What if I looked like a freak or something?
I raced over to the floor-length mirror in my bedroom to examine my reflection. As my mortified face looked back at me, I looked to see what had caused Andrea's reaction. I didn't see any obvious deformities or discolorations. I didn't see any extra limbs growing out of me. It didn't look as if I had gained fifty pounds…
I watched my features melt from worry into curiosity in the reflection.
Not only did I not look hideous, I actually looked… better.
"Sam? WTF?" asked my sister, leaning against my bedroom wall with a quizzical expression. "I ask how if you're okay, and you just run away?"
"Sorry," I offered sheepishly, tearing my gaze from the mirror. "You just gave me a funny look, and I thought I turned into some kind of freakazoid or something."
"No, it was just my look of wry amusement, I suppose. It's just that you get into some kind of superhero scrape and come out looking better than ever," she laughed. "My sister, the supermodel superhero. I should be jealous."
"Yeah," I snorted. "Says the brilliant, amazing Andrea who's headed to Yale Law in the fall. Do you know how many times I've heard 'Why can't you be more like your older sister'? I'm an average-at-best-looking superhero with a below-average power. I should be the jealous one." I winked. "Besides, I'm pretty sure that Ivy League lawyers are paid far better than minor-league superheroes."
"Well, there is that, I suppose," Andrea said, flipping her hair over her shoulder with feigned arrogance before erupting into giggles.
"Scratch that," I corrected, slumping. "I'm not even minor league. I have, like, the lamest power ever. Now if I were Sapphire Valkyrie, on the other hand, you'd be right to be jealous."
Andrea's expression turned grave at the mention of the powerful superhero.
"Well, maybe not so jealous of her now. I saw the pictures on the news with Raven carrying her out of that warehouse. She looked like she was in pretty bad shape. They're not even saying what happened! Were you there? Did you see anything?"
I tried to keep my expression neutral, but I could feel my lower lip begin to quiver. Andrea, observant as ever, noticed immediately and spoke before I came up with any words.
"You were there!" she exclaimed, eyes wide. Her lips formed just two words. "Spill. Now."
I let out a breath. "Okay, okay. Geez, And!"
I eyed my sister, and she stared at me expectantly, crossing her arms resolutely.
"So yeah. I was there." I paused, unsure what I should tell her. Should I share how easily the aliens had dispatched Sapphire Valkyrie? Was super.org attempting to keep that a secret? Andrea was my sister, but her lips tended to be loose.
After my uncertain pause hit about five seconds, Andrea's eyes bulged. "Freaking hell, Sam. You are NOT going to leave it at that."
I smiled. Couldn't help it. Maybe I could just play this off as messing with her?
She glared at me. "Is that how you got hurt?"
"I didn't really get hurt. I'm not entirely sure what happened to me. I was fine until I approached the cute alien guy, and then I just…" trailing off, Andrea
"Cute alien guy?" Andrea asked, an edge of eager curiosity to her voice.
"Okay, yes. I run into the ultimate evil badass. He's trying to take over earth. And I think he's a total hottie. Sue me," I huffed. "But he was…"
If I looked in the mirror again, I was pretty sure I would see a twinkle in my eye. And Andrea was an expert at picking up on my twinkles. And she clearly picked up on this one, biting her lip at this tidbit of juicy gossip.
"So is that why you're looking so dolled? Going to see Mr. Badass Alien Hottie?"
"Dolled?" I remembered my reflection and turned my attention back to the mirror.
I wasn't sure whether dolled was the right word, but awesome or amazing or even gorgeous would probably fit.
My eyes looked brighter, their emerald hue more vivid. My skin looked as if it had a layer of foundation, perfectly applied. Except that there was no foundation. I raised a finger and ran it down my cheek to be sure. No makeup. My skin was just that perfect.
My lips were redder, more sensually shaped. My hair? Thicker, its rusty dark red more vibrant. My gaze fell to my body. I was still wearing my Shadowgirl costume, but it seemed to be stretched thinner than normal. My breasts seemed fuller and more dramatic, my waist smaller, tighter. I dropped my hand from my cheek to feel my stomach. I had always been thin, but my stomach was firmer now. I could feel ridges of definition under the thin fabric of my costume that I knew hadn't been there before.
I swept my fingers downward to run them over firmer, more supple hips. I cocked my head as I tried to tell whether my legs--always my best feature--were longer and more shapely than before. I was fairly certain they were.
"Yay, narcissism!" laughed Andrea, snapping me out of my mesmerized self-exploration.
I felt my cheeks flush.
"I… I just…" I stammered, unsure what to say. I was just so surprised. I had always been pretty, but the woman in the mirror could give Sapphire Valkyrie a run for her money! I was completely freaking gorgeous! A whirling mix of pride and fear spun through my stomach. What had happened to me?
A fleeting look of knowing approval flashed across Andrea's features before her smile returned. What was that all about?
Before I could finish the thought, Andrea's eyes dropped to the desk before her.
"What's this?" Andrea asked, picking up the note on my desk.
I glanced at the paper, remembering Raven's note.
"It certainly looks like something to me! So my gorgeous sister has two super-sexy supermen in her life, eh? Raven's asking you to call him now…?" Andrea's face turned to mine once more, her grin Cheshire.
"Look, it's not like that. He just…"
"So what'd he say when you called him?" Andrea interrupted, placing the note back on the desk and clasping her hands together.
"I haven't actually called him yet."
Andrea's smile turned instantly to a frown. "Seriously? What are you waiting for? Call. Now."
She marched over to my nightstand, picked up my phone, and dangled it in front of me with a smirk. Sighing, I accepted the iPhone from her manicured fingers. Glancing over to the note on the desk, I punched in the number, taking a moment to save it into my contacts.
I punched send and listened to several rings before Raven picked up. As his deep, gravelly voice came on the line, I felt my stomach lurch in girlish excitement. I was talking to my celebrity super-crush--Raven!
"Shadowgirl?! Are you okay?" came Raven's deep, gravelly voice.
He was concerned about my wellbeing! My stomach did another flip. I closed my eyes before I spoke in a vain attempt to quiet my emotions.
"Yes. Fine. You asked me to call…?" My voice quivered slightly. I hoped he didn't notice it.
"Yes, I need to see you. Right away if possible. Are you free?"
Oh, God. My stomach might never recover from this acrobatics routine. I had fantasized many a late night about hearing those words from Raven's lips. "Y-Yes. Sure!"
"Great. I'll send you the address. Meet me as soon as you can."
I didn't say goodbye because I really didn't want the conversation to end. But the connection ended from his side before I could think of anything else to say. Damn. But I guess it didn't matter. I was on my way to see him anyway. Like, in person.
My eyes slowly came up to meet my sister's sparkling blues. "Gotta go."
Andrea stood there, stunned, as I rushed out the door. Closing it behind me, I heard her speak.
"Wait! You never actually told me what happ--"
As the door closed, I pondered my sister’s words. I wish I knew what happened.
Lifting my hand from the doorknob, I noticed indentations in the metal from each of my fingers. My eyes went wide as I examined my hand, finding nothing out of the ordinary.
Had I become stronger? I really needed to know what happened back in that warehouse! Thoughts racing, I hustled out of my apartment toward the address Raven had texted me. I needed answers, and I was headed to the one person I knew would have them.