We Know How to Stop Her
We Know How to Stop Her
worry about the future.
“Or worry, but know that worrying is about as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind.”
“The kind that blindside you at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday.”
– Tim Cox and Nigel Swanston, “Everybody's Free to Wear Sunscreen”
The drive from Miami to Big Pine Key was a little over two hours, not counting the ten minute stop on Islamorada for “snacks and cokes and a new pair of sunglasses”, as Louise called it. The two young women spent the entire time singing along to a carefully chosen selection of CDs, taking in the sights, and generally enjoying the ride.
Louise had started the musical cavalcade by putting a Jimmy Buffett disk in. Alex had heard of the guy – and you couldn't live in Florida without hearing about Jimmy Buffett, even if you'd only been living in Florida for a month – but she'd never actually broken down and listened to any of his music. Louise had apparently decided that, for this trip at least, going to the Florida Keys meant listening to music that brought to mind beaches, bars, and boats. Alex had smiled at the thought, but couldn't really argue with it.
As the opening bars of the country standard “Hey Good Lookin'” sprung from the car's speakers, Alex gave Louise a big smile. Her wife, who was already bee-bopping to the music, grinned back. “I think the next car we're going to buy is going to be a convertible. Definitely a convertible. The sky was far too blue and cloudless to not be feeling wind in our hair.”
Louise laughed. “Not to rain on your parade, but you know you're wearing the wig.”
Alex just shrugged. She was, in fact, in her “secret identity” and thus was wearing the wig. “Doesn't matter. I can still feel it. Its like... like micro-vibrations in my scalp. Feels pretty good.”
They worked their way through Buffett's “License to Chill”, Lynrd Skynrd's “Vicious Cycle”, Tom Petty's “The Last DJ”, and were most of the way through the Miami Sound Machine's “Eyes of Innocence” when they finally reached Big Pine Key and the real estate agent's office.
“Good afternoon,” the agent said as they entered the storefront office. The nameplate on her desk said 'Caroline Gerardi'. At the woman's words, Alex's eyes cut to the clock on the wall above the real estate agent's head. It was a couple of minutes before twelve, so close enough. The real estate agent looked both Alex and Louise in all at once, then asked, “May I help you?”
“Hello. Yes, we had an appointment. I'm Alexandra Harris and this is my partner Louise. We called you on Thursday about the house you've got listed out on Sea Grape Street?” Alex stepped forward and extended a hand. The woman rose half-way from her chair and shook it as a look of confusion crossed her face.
“You're Alex Harris? Are you putting me on, or something?” The real estate agent released Alex's hand and sat back down. “This is a business, and we don't appreciate having pranks pulled on us.”
Alex and Louise exchanged glances. “Why would you think we're pulling a prank on you?” Louise asked.
look at you! You're both teenagers! I mean, you're what...
seventeen? Eighteen at most?” Gerardi put a hand to her forehead.
“We are looking for a serious buyer for that house. I don't know
what you were looking for here, but I don't appreciate it.”
“Uh... Alex is nineteen. I'm twenty.” Louise turned to Alex, who shrugged. “Look, Ms. Gerardi?” It was a question. The woman nodded vaguely. “Ms. Gerardi, Alex and myself are seriously looking for a house, and we liked what we saw of the one you have listed. We just drove two and a half hours to get here, and I assure you, we're not playing any sort of game or trying to pull some kind of a joke.”
“Uh-huh. Okay, look.” Ms. Gerardi rolled her eyes. “You two might be swell kids and all, but this house is really expensive. I'm talking more than a million dollars expensive. There's no way the pair of you could afford the payments on the mortgage, not at twenty. No bank would give you that loan. So yeah, if you don't mind, I'd appreciate it if you'd --”
“Here.” Louise dug into her purse. Alex stood back, content to let the other girl handle it. “This is the name of our account manager. Give me a sec. Just have to find his card.” Louise rummaged for a bit longer before pulling the business card out. She handed it to Ms. Gerardi. “Give Javier a call and he can confirm that we're here in good faith, okay?”
The real estate agent looked at the card. She squinted at it, as if trying to determine its authenticity. “Your banker is named Javier, and he's at the Scotiabank in the Grand Caymans?” Once again she gave Alex and Louise a tight look.
“Its a toll free number.” Louise pointed toward the card. “Javier should be in his office right now. Just give him a call. He can verify that... well, maybe he can't verify that we're serious, but he can certainly verify that we can afford to buy a house.”
Ms. Gerardi looked at the pair, then back to the card. Finally, she put her phone to her ear and started dialing. “All right. I'll give it a try. Have a seat, please. Do you two have identification?” Louise dropped into one of the two chairs in front of the desk; Alex settled a lot more gently. The last thing she needed was to shatter the chair. When she wasn't paying attention, it was too easy to forget that she weighed close to five hundred pounds. They both produced their driver's licenses and handed them to the agent.
“Thanks.” She studied the two licenses for a moment. “It's ringing.” Ms. Gerardi gave them a quick smile. She tapped her fingers on her desk, then said, “Yes, hello. I'm calling from Big Pine Key in the United States. My name is Caroline Gerardi and I'm with American Caribbean Real Estate. Are you Mister...” She squinted at the card. “Are you Mister Trampier?” She pronounced it 'tram-peer'. “Oh, I'm sorry, Trampee-yay. My fault. I suppose that's French? Ah, I thought so.” I've got two young women here, wanting to talk to me about buying a house. They assured me that you would confirm their ability to make such a purchase.”
There was a short pause, and then, “Alexandra and Louise Harris.” Ms. Gerardi smirked then said, “Yes, young, attractive, blonde, twenty years old. Yes.” A longer pause. “Hmm. Really? Mmm-hmmm... yes, I understand. No, certainly, I understand. So...” Then her eyes got wide. “I'm sorry, how much? Yes, that would certainly be sufficient. No, more than enough. Thank you very much. Sorry to bother you.”
The two girls watched the real estate agent put the phone's receiver back on its base with so much care and gentleness it was like she expected it to shatter on impact. Ms. Gerardi smiled at the two of them, a much more cheerful smile than she had given them when they had entered the office.
“Well... shall we go take a look at the house? We can take my care. No trouble at all.”
In moments they were packing into Gerardi's sedan. As they pulled out of the parking lot, Alex leaned forward. “Um... is that an iguana?”
“What?” Ms. Gerardi looked to where Alex was pointing. “Oh. Yeah. That's a green iguana. Someone brought a bunch in as pets and they escaped. Invasive species with no natural predators, so they're everywhere on the island now. If you're planning on an outdoor garden, you're going to have to fence it in, or else those lizards will eat it down to the ground.”
The house stood in the middle of a lawn made up of scrub grass and dune violet. The neighborhood itself was pretty quiet. Alex could hear kids yelling and playing somewhere in the distance, but she couldn't see them from a casual glance. The area was divided by a series of canals, and everywhere the two girls looked, boats were tied up to private docks. And there were palm trees, scrub pines, and palmettos everywhere.
“There's regular trash pickup on Tuesday mornings, with recyclables being picked up on Thursday. There's a service that comes by for yard debris every Wednesday, but given that nobody around here really has one of those golf course-style thick lawns – the entire island is a coral atoll – there's not a lot of that. Maybe every once in a while you'll have to trim your palm trees of dead limbs, and whatever drifts up on your beach from the ocean.”
“We have --- I mean, the house has a beach?” Louise's eyes were wide.
“And a pier. You're directly on the bay on this side of the road. Your cross-street neighbors are on the canal.” Gerardi pointed to the pink house across the street. “So, shall we take a look inside?”
Once inside, Louise's reaction was immediate. “Oh my God! Alex!” Louise spun in place, taking in the interior of the house. Alex's eye cut quickly to the real estate agent, who had one of those smirks on her face. It was a friendly smirk, but a smirk nonetheless. The kind of smirk that always graced a real estate agent's face when it becomes obvious they're about to get a huge sale. Alex allowed herself to sigh at the fact that Louise had for all intents and purposes just bought them the house without them actually agreeing to buy the house. But it was a small sigh. The truth was, Alex liked the house well enough; she just hadn't fallen immediately in love with the place.
Louise, on the other hand, had done just that. “Just look at this place, Alex!” Alex had to admit that the house itself was pretty magnificent. From the outside, the building had a classic Caribbean white-clapboard design that made it's unusual shape all that more apparent. The house was, in fact, shaped like two huge octagons connected in between by a rectangular section. A slightly weathered wooden deck wrapped around the entire building, front and back. The whole thing stood on pilings which held the building close to six feet off the ground. Alex couldn't help but think that was smart, given that the house was less than fifty yards from Torch Cut and the Gulf of Mexico in the heart of Hurricane Country.
The agent had only just let them in through the house's front door, which opened onto the central “rectangle”. A small foyer area was blocked off by a short dividing wall, and the rest of the room was carpeted in a dark tan. Most of the far wall was made up of large nearly floor-to-ceiling windows, and a pair of glass doors leading out to the back deck. The Gulf was perfectly visible from the foyer, and Alex noted that there were pelicans sunning themselves on the pier that led from the house's private beach out over the water.
Louise immediately abandoned Alex to the real estate agent and ran for the doors. In a second she had the door unlocked and was out on the back deck, looking out at the Gulf. Alex noticed her girlfriend's hair get two shades more blonde, almost to platinum, and hoped that the agent didn't notice.
Apparently she hadn't. “This is the living area, naturally.” The agent gestured toward the right-side end of the rectangle. The tan carpet ended where the octagon began, joining an open dining room-kitchen combination that was, according to Alex's memories, bigger than Xander Harris and Kara Zor-L's bedrooms combined. “The dining area and kitchen are on that side, along with two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a pantry-slash-utility room.”
She gestured toward the left-side octagon. The living room's carpet here ran into a solid wall that blocked that third of the house away. “Over here you've got a half-bath that opens just off of the alcove there, the master bedroom – it has an en suite bath – and the fourth bedroom.” It was a big house. The real estate agent had mentioned that it was just over three thousand square feet.
Alex nodded. She knew it was hopeless. Louise wanted the house, so they were going to be buying it. But still, Alex had questions. “Do the bedrooms open up onto the deck, too?”
“Oh, no. The master bedroom does, of course, and there is an exterior door in the kitchen, but otherwise the only way out to the deck is through the living room.” The agent glanced toward Louise, who was still out on the back deck, then back to Alex.
“Huh.” Alex was still trying to sound noncommittal. “I noticed that the drive-way is gravel-paved, and that there's no fence around the yard. Is there any way we can get regular paving out to the street and put a fence up? Maybe have it added to the cost of...” She trailed off as the real estate agent started shaking her head. “Okay, what?”
“I'm sorry, Ms. Harris, but that's impossible,” the real estate agent explained. “You see, this property is in the middle of the Federal Key Deer sanctuary. By law, there's only so much development allowed, and unfortunately putting in an asphalt driveway and fencing in the property would be in violation of Federal law. On the other hand, there is every chance that some morning you could wake up and find key deer in your front yard.”
“Those are the little deer, right?” Alex walked into the dining room-kitchen area and poked her head around. The dining area was separated from the kitchen proper with a breakfast bar. Two bedrooms. A pantry. A utility room that Alex was pleased to find had a washer and dryer already installed.
“We'll take it!” Louise's voice snapped Alex's attention back to the living room. Louise was standing just inside one of the back doors, a smile as wide as Arizona on her face. “We want it. Let's go back to your office and sign some papers! I want to move in by the end of the week.”
Alex's shoulders slumped. There wouldn't be any way to negotiate a lower price now. Not when Ms. Gerardi was grinning like the cat who ate the canary. She knew that they were on the hook, and now it was just a matter of reeling them back to the boat.
“You sure?” Alex knew Louise was, but it was worth asking.
“Oh yeah.” Louise smiled at her partner, then turned to the real estate agent. “So, the asking price was 1.2 million. Do you take checks?”
The real estate agent faltered for a moment, then grinned. “So an outright purchase then, no mortgage. Well, in this case, yes, I think we can take your check. Shall we go back to my office and finish up the paperwork?”
Two hours later, all of the paperwork completed and a large amount of money transferred from their accounts to the real estate agency, Alex and Louise found themselves the proud owners of a house on a tropical island. They celebrated with lunch at a restaurant Caroline Gerardi assured them was “the best seafood place in South Florida.”
“So do you want to hire a decorator, or should we do it ourselves?” Louise asked around a bite of her grouper sandwich.
“A decorator? Really?” Alex smiled. “Never thought you were the fou-fou type to need a decorator to furnish a house.”
Louise shrugged and smiled back.
“I was thinking we'd just hit up a Rooms-to-Go. Figure out what we want to do by looking at stuff.” Alex had ordered the crab cakes, and while they were good, she wasn't sure if they were the best in all of South Florida. “They also have free installation with delivery. The workmen can put everything together while we figure out where everything goes.”
“Okay... um... what's a Rooms-to-Go?” Louise's eyebrows scrunched up in confusion.
“Its a furniture store. You know... Rooms-to-Go.” Louise's eyebrows didn't unscrunch. “You've never heard of...” Louise shook her head and Alex sighed. “Okay, so there's no Rooms-to-Go in this dimension. You know, as differences go, that's really weird. That ranks right up there with that Burger Prince place replacing the Double-Meat Palaces.” Alex took a deep breath. “Okay, how about Ikea... are there Ikeas here?”
“Of course there are Ikeas here.” Louise rolled her eyes. “They sell entire rooms of furniture at a time. Big showrooms, too. There's one down on Seabreeze Boulevard in South Beach.”
“Great... Ikea is Rooms-to-Go here. One more thing to keep track of.”
dove through the air, angling herself up and over the rapidly failing
jet-liner. The plane had four engines, three of which were dumping
clouds of black smoke and metal shards into the air. Whatever had
happened, it had caused the engines to begin eating themselves. From
the way the airplane was pitching, she could tell that the pilot was
trying to keep it together long enough to reach land, any
Alex had already checked. Despite what people thought, there was plenty of land to be had in this part of the Pacific Ocean. But the land was all tiny islands separated by hundreds of miles of saltwater. None of these islands was large enough for a pilot struggling to control his craft to make an emergency landing with a jumbo jet. And from the way the last engine was sounding, it would have given up the ghost long before any such land could be reached.
Alex positioned herself near the cockpit and matched speeds with the plane. She hung there, flying parallel, and willed the pilot to notice her. When she was sure he had, she rotated her body so the pilot could spot her colors and the symbol on her belt and shoulders. The man's eyes grew large, but there was also a sense of relief in them. Alex nodded; this was good. He would trust her.
She pointed to herself, then to the plane, then made lifting motions with her arms. He didn't get it at first, so she repeated it, twice. Then he nodded, pointed to her, pointed to the plane, and made a motion with both hands. One hand stayed where it was, while his other hand swooped below the first, and then into a supporting position.
Alex grinned. Good, he got it. They had a plan now.
She brought herself around the aircraft again, and under it, ignoring all the frightened faces staring out at her from the plane's windows. Positioning herself in the center of the craft, she edged upwards until her back was up against the plane. The minute she felt its weight on her body, she grabbed the fuselage with both hands. Just tight enough to hold on, not tight enough to rip the skin of the plane from its belly.
Then she lifted. The plane immediately began to stabilize.
Alex scanned the horizon ahead of them, looking for a likely place to land. Far ahead of them, just on the horizon, she could see Guam. Her memories from Kara told her there was an US Air Force base there.
Louise pulled the last stack of dishes out of the box and began loading them into the dish washer. When the time came to buy dishware, she had insisted on getting Fiestaware, mostly green and blue. They'd purchased eight of everything, because you never knew. “So how's it coming?” she called over her shoulder. When the box of plates was empty, she started unloading the bowls.
“Its coming.” Alex was busily assembling and connecting the various electronics that were going into their entertainment center. She'd already attached the speakers to the television, and was double-connecting them to the stereo system. The X box was next on the list. Naturally, along with the electronics, they'd already picked up some new DVDs, and some new music CDs, and some new games.
“How about when you're done there, we drive into town and check out the Winn Dixie? We could use some groceries.” Louise opened a third box. This time it was saucers. “Oh, wait! No, let's drive over to Marathon Key! They have a Publix over there, next to a K-Mart. We can get groceries and pick up some deli sandwiches for dinner! And we can measure whether the Seven Mile Bridge is really seven miles long.”
“That is an excellent idea.” Alex said casually. It was true. It had surprised Alex to find out that Florida, despite the fact that it was widely held to be a cultureless place that catered to tourists, actually did have a well-developed culture all of its own. Floridians just never shared it with tourists. And a part of that culture was Publix supermarkets and their deli sandwiches. New Yorkers might brag about their delis, but to Alex's mind, and Power Girl's memories, none could equal the exquisite perfection of a fully loaded Publix Ultimate Sub. She tightened the head of a holding screw, then gave the wire a gentle tug. It held. Now just the X box to go.
Alex glanced up to see Louise staring at her. “What?” she asked, concerned.
Louise just grinned. “I love you. You, me... this! The entire domestic... thing!” She gestured at the house. “I just... I love you.”
Alex knew it was coming. She could feel the vibrations in the metal of the track even as she held the large piece of metal in place and began spot-welding it with her heat vision. The train was still coming, and the damage done to the railroad bridge by the exploding truck was bad enough that, when the full weight of the train hit it, the bridge would collapse and spill the train into street surrounding the bridge.
Tallahassee wasn't the biggest city in Florida, but it was the state capital, which meant that it was busier than it should be according to its size. The area surrounding the railroad bridge, which carried trains over Tallahassee's traffic-filled main street, was filled with businesses and governmental offices.
Not enough time to evacuate. Not enough time to stop the train. Not enough time.
“One more, right there!” The municipal engineer was guiding her in the placement of support beams that hopefully would buttress the bridge and keep it from collapsing. “Right there.” Alex nodded at the man and brought the four-ton beam into place, and again welded it in place with her heat vision.
“Where now?” she asked.
Another voice interrupted. It was the city's Fire Chief. “You two get the hell out of there! You're about to get hit by the train! Get out!” The other engineers and construction workers who had been helping to fix the bridge were all running for cover.
Alex looked to the engineer. “Go. I'll try and get a few more beams in.”
But the man just shook his head. “And where will you put them? Do you even know? Nah, I ain't going anywhere. Next one, right there!” The man pointed, and Alex obediently placed the next beam. She had just put it in place when the train his the bridge. Alex rushed to the engineer and covered him with her own body. If the train collapsed the bridge, she'd protect him the best she could...
And in less than a minute, the train was passed.
Alex and the engineer stood, looking up at the bottom of the bridge. They stared at it for a moment. Then the man leaned back and gave a whoop of joy, leaping into the air and throwing his fist skyward. “YEAH!” He grabbed Alex and kissed her, right on the mouth. ““Superwoman, you are my true-blue hero!” The man hugged her, then then strode away. He was immediately talking into his radio to get the construction guys back to work.
Alex giggled, and despite a flair of irritation for the familiarity, decided to let it go. The man stuck when he didn't have to. A kiss and a hug was a small price, and it was clear that he hadn't meant anything by it. Besides, tradition said that every once in a while, heroes should be rewarded.
With thoughts of her wife at home, and the heroic rewards that were waiting, Alex rose into the clear blue sky.
Alex's telescopic vision confirmed what the radio had said long before she reached the Port of Miami. The Wrecking Crew had invaded a cargo vessel docked at the the unloading docks and were trying to make off with the contents of a particular container. They'd been engaged by the port's security and the Miami-Dade SWAT team and an ongoing shootout was in progress. According to the radio, the Coast Guard was sending a patrol boat equipped with heavy weapons up from Dodge Island, but it wasn't expected to arrive for another twenty minutes or so.
She tried to bring to mind everything she knew about the Wrecking Crew – Alex recognized them by their costumes when she was still three miles away – but all Alex could recall was that they were Thor villains, that Loki had given them their powers, and that while they weren't as physically powerful as Thor, they were at least as strong and as hard to hurt as the average Asgardian. And she thought that they had magic weapons.
that that matters. Alex thought to herself. This
fight wouldn't last very long. There were only four of them, and
they were only as strong as Asgardians. No problem at all.
Alex came to a stop thirty feet above the deck. The Wrecker and Thunderball were rummaging around in a container while Bulldozer and Piledriver were throwing chunks of metal at the cops. The police were returning fire, but as all four of the Wrecking Crew were bulletproof, their guns were useless.
“Well, hello there! Nice day for a bit of shopping, isn't it?” Her call was just loud enough to catch everyone's attention. As one, the four villains turned to look at Alex.
The Wrecker gestured to the side, and a glowing crowbar flew into his hands. “So who are you supposed to be, sugar-tits?”
“Sugar tits?” Alex bristled. This fight definitely wasn't going to last long. “Did you just call me sugar-tits?”
“Some new hero. Calls herself 'Superwoman', if you can believe that.” Thunderball almost laughed.
“Oh yeah. Her.” The one named Piledriver cracked his knuckles, all the while looking her up and down. “Saw a report on CNN that said that the number of searches on her nearly crashed Google last week. She apparently beat up the Avengers.”
started spinning his wrecking ball over his head, moving it faster
and faster by the second. “Yeah, I saw that. Also saw on Facebook
how Hugh Hefner's offering a million dollars for her to pose nude in
That caused Wrecker to laugh. “With tits like those? Who'd blame him.” He smirked at Alex. “So, girly, you beat up the Avengers? Like that's supposed to be hard?”
The Wrecker gave Alex a hard stare, then glanced over her shoulder at the police. “Wrap it up, boys. We want to get this done before the coast guard gets here with some kind of battleship.” He turned back to the container and said, “Thunderball, Bulldozer, dump the broad.”
“I'd ask you to surrender,” Alex growled. She dropped toward the leader, figuring on taking him out first. “But we both know you're not going to--OOOF!”
Before she could blink, Alex's vision was blurry and the world had narrowed down into a tube. When the tube expanded back into the world, she found herself lying on her back, the wreckage of a cargo container bent around her. She shook her head to clear it, then spit a mouthful of blood to the ground. It took her a moment to realize what had happened. Thunderball had slammed his namesake weapon into her, and it had happened faster than she ever thought possible. It shouldn't have hurt that bad; the fact that it had came as a shock.
“Son of a bitch must pay!” Alex gained her feet and took off into the air. The four costumed men had spread out in a semi-circle and were waiting for her to return. She had barely put her feet on the deck of the ship when Bulldozer and Piledriver both charged at her from two different directions.
Bulldozer was faster than Alex suspected, but not still not quite fast enough. In one smooth action, Alex sidestepped the man's rush, grabbed his swinging fist in one hand, and clocked him in the jaw with her other. Bulldozer stumbled, and his helmet visibly deformed under the impact of her fist, but surprisingly, he didn't go down. Still in motion, Alex ducked under Piledriver's left hook and kicked the villain in the stomach. The villain folded around her boot. Piledriver landed on his ass, the breath driven out of his body.
Alex smirked as she turned, looking for the other two. Before she did, her vision exploded in a flash of light. Something hard struck her in the back of her head and her vision blurred. Alex stumbled forward, falling to her hands and knees as she tripped over her own feet. What the... what hit me... what... Alex tried to scramble back to her feet, but the world had begun spinning and she couldn't quite find her balance.
She was still struggling when Alex felt what had to be a metal-toed workbook slam into her ribs. The force of the kick slammed her into another cargo container. This time the container held, but its side wall was bent and damaged.
“Thunderball, dump her. Piledriver, Bulldozer! Break time's over.” The Wrecker slapped his crowbar against his hand several times and grinned at her. Alex shook her head, trying to clear it. This is bad, she thought to herself. Her ribs were hurting, not to mention the back of her head. She was off-balance. Her ears were ringing and her vision was still blurry. The bad guys had proven that they were capable of hurting her. And they outnumbered her.
It occurred to Alex that the Wrecking Crew regularly went toe-to-toe with Thor and the Avengers.
Just in time, Alex saw the incoming punch. Piledriver was back. He lunged at her, but he jerked back away from his punch. His fist slammed into the side of the cargo container. The impact finished the job of caving the side of the container that her body had started. Alex stood up beneath him and gave him a push. This time he went flying away from her, bouncing along the deck as he flew.
Alex turned just in time for Bulldozer to slam into her left side at full speed. For a moment Alex lost her footing; the air was driven out of her and she felt one of her ribs crack. Bulldozer reared upward, and Alex found herself dumped on her ass, over his shoulder.
Bulldozer turned more quickly than she expected. “Don't see what's so 'super' about you, bitch!” He slammed both fists down onto her chest. The air left her lungs in a rush.
Alex inhaled hard, sucking in buckets of air. She grabbed both of his wrists before Bulldozer could straighten up. She took the opportunity to kick him in the side. Once, twice, three times. Alex knew that she shouldn't feel any amount of glee from harming another human being, but the feel of his ribs giving way under her foot, of the look on his face as she let go of his wrists, of the surprise she saw in his eyes as he flew bodily away from her and into the waters of Old Bull Bay.
“And you never will, prick.” Alex called after him, the smile still on her face. The smile became a grimace as Alex hastily rolled out of the way. Thunderball's wrecking ball smashed into the cargo ship's deck plating where a moment before she'd been. She continued to roll, then hopped to her feet as best she could as he pulled the ball back toward himself, and then again began spinning it.
caught the hint of motion in the corner of her eye and was able to
get an arm up in time to block the Wrecker's crowbar before it
cracked her skull open. The impact jarred her to the point of making
her teeth hurt and her arm went numb from fingers to shoulder. Alex
short-jabbed the Wrecker twice in the face, then a third time.
She forced her numb hand to move. Alex punched one hand into the Wrecker's chest as her other hand slid up the length of the crowbar. The Wrecker flew backwards and landed on his ass; his weapon stayed right where it was.
“Got to give you credit, girl. Most people would have run by now.” Thunderball heaved his weapon toward her, giving her a grim smile.
Alex returned the smile. “Batter up, asshole!” She timed the wrecking ball, squinted, then swung for the fences. The crowbar slammed into the full weight of the ball and fired it directly back and Thunderball. The villain dove out of the way just in time to be missed by his own weapon.
Alex rushed forward, smacking Thunderball in the head with Wrecker's crowbar. She dropped the weapon to push him up against a cargo container. Alex hit him with a right cross, left hook, jab-jab combination to the face. She grabbed him by the neck and drove his head into the container until Thunderball's eyes rolled up in his head. She let Thunderball go and he fell, face-first, onto the deck.
Alex spun in place, looking for the other villains. A quick scan of the X-Ray spectrum showed that Bulldozer was nowhere in immediate sight. If he had resurfaced, he'd done it where she could see him. But Piledriver was right there, rushing toward her. The Wrecker was also approaching, but more slowly.
“You two ready to give up?” Alex stood ready for a minute, catching her breath.
“Not hardly.” The Wrecker reached his hand out and his crowbar flew through the air into it. It was frighteningly similar to watching Thor's hammer return. It distracted her long enough for Piledriver to get close. He slammed a fist into Alex's face. The impact was heavy enough to drive her back a step, and her teeth snapped shut hard enough to hurt. Alex shook her head. Piledriver threw another punch, but Alex caught his fist in one hand and squeezed.
“Ah, shit! Jesus, lady, let go! Leggo! Damn it! Let go!” Piledriver's fingers broke as Alex pushed his wrist backward, forcing him to his knees. “Agh! Shit! Let go!”
Alex pulled Piledriver forward, intending to drive her knee into his nose, but she stopped, suddenly. She let go of Piledriver, who yanked his hand away from her and cradled it. Alex blinked him, still kneeling in front of her. Then she looked down at herself. She shook her head, not really understanding what she was seeing. Alex looked back at Piledriver, who was smirking. She felt like she was going to puke, and then did just that. Blood and a mouthful of breakfast splattered on the deck next to Piledriver.
brought a hand up to her abdomen. Protruding through her stomach,
just a few inches from dead center, was the end of the Wrecker's
crowbar. She watched her own blood seep down and through the wedge
cut in its end.
The Wrecker shoved her from behind, pulling the weapon out of her body as she fell to her hands and knees. Her arms felt weak, almost unable to hold her shoulders off the deck. The world began to spin and turn gray. Oh Christ, Louise, I'm sorry... Alex wasn't sure where the thought came from. Piledriver got to his feet, chuckling. The Wrecker walked around her to stand next to his injured teammate. They were taking their time getting to her, as if convinced she was no longer a threat.
“This has been fun, but we've got to go. Pick up Thunderball, Brian. And let's find Bulldozer.” The Wrecker took a stand in front of her head. She willed herself to look up at him. He was grinning down at her and was taking a grip on his crowbar that reminded Alex of the grip Derek Jeter always took before slamming a baseball out of the park. “Nice knowing you, girly. You tried.”
The Wrecker pulled his crowbar back; there was no doubt it was going to slam into her skull at any second. The burn started behind Alex's eyes and suddenly the Wrecker's costume was on fire. The man reared back. The Wrecker dropped his weapon and he started slapping at his chest, trying to put out the flames. Behind the Wrecker, Alex could see Piledriver turn back toward them.
One last ounce... one last ounce... Alex wasn't even sure what it means, but she clung to it. She lunged to her feet, nearly stumbled, but kept moving. Her breathing was labored, and the pain was incredible.
“No.” Alex gritted her teeth and moved. She rushed past the two men, arms held out at shoulder height, so quickly that she left footprints in the deck plating. She brought her hands around together, barely recognizing that she had grabbed the two villains. Alex felt, rather than saw, her opponents smash into each other hard enough to cause metal to buckle. She let them drop.
For a moment she couldn't breathe. Air was not coming into her lungs in more than shallow sips. I've got to get to Louise... I need to get home...
For the longest time, she stood there, staring into space.
“Hey... hey, lady. Uh... Super, uh, girl... what's her name... hey! You okay?” Alex turned. The SWAT commander was there, asking a question apparently. Behind him, the rest of his team were securing the wrecking crew. The cop glanced at her face, then his eyes dropped. They always look at my tits. Alex tried to drag a full lungful of air in, but it was slow and hard going.
“Jesus, lady! Hey!” The cop wasn't staring at her tits. He was staring at her stomach, at the hole that the Wrecker had driven through her, and the blood that was seeping her front. The man turned back to the docks. “We need a medic over here! Now, God damn it! We've got a casualty!”
The cop took her by the shoulder. “Come on... you need to lay down or something.” He tried to assist her to the ground, but wasn't able to budge her. “Lady... Uh... Supergirl? No, Superwoman! Superwoman, come on. Get off your feet until the EMTs get here.”
“No.” Her voice was weak. “I got to go home.” Alex put a hand to her head. There was a camera crew behind the police line. They'd captured the entire fight. “My... my wife... my wife's... she's going... going t-to be worried about me.” Alex brushed off the cop, unintentionally knocking the man to the ground. She leapt upward, only to crash into the deck.
“Jesus lady!” The cop was climbing to his feet.
Alex lurched, climbing to her feet. She stumbled forward and willed herself into the air. First a couple of feet, then ten, then a hundred. It took all of her concentration. All of her concentration. Alex's only thought was making it home to Louise.
Five minutes later, Alex plowed face-first into the shallow water of Torch Cut, three yards short of the private beach behind their house. She dragged herself to her hands and knees and crawled the last ten feet to the sand. She lay there for a moment, barely able to keep her eyes open. It would be so easy to just fall asleep here, in the mild surf behind her house.
She fought her way upright and stumbled toward the stairs. I'll lay down once I get to the deck. Just the deck. Alex stumbled and almost fell three times. By the time she made it to the deck, Louise was running toward her. Louise had the household first aid kit in her hand and a terrified look on her face.
“Honey, Louise...” Alex mumbled. “I got hurt. I got hurt, baby...”
“Hmm. That's interesting.” Reed Richards watched both the footage of Superwoman's fight with the Wrecking Crew collected by the media and by the police. For the fifth time, he paused it just after the stabbing. The Wrecker had made some signal to his teammate, who had distracted the heroine. Then he approached her from behind and stabbed her. From the look of exertion on his face, it had taken some effort, but he had effectively impaled her on his weapon. The impalement of Karen Starr lasted perhaps three seconds from start to finish. Richards ran it back and rewatched it. Ran it back. Rewatched it. Seventeen times. First the police footage, then the footage from the news crew.
“I wonder.” Richards pulled up the security footage from the attack on the Thunderbolts. No one had formally charged Karen Starr with the deaths of the Radioactive Man, Bullseye, and Venom, but the girl wasn't exactly denying it, either. He watched as the Swordsman drove his magically powered blade through the girl's shoulder. Then ran it back and rewatched it. Ran it back. Rewatched it. Again, seventeen times.
“Well, that's very interesting.” Reed turned to a keyboard and began entering his thoughts into his case log. When he was done, he hit the intercom. “Tony, could you come to the lab, I need to discuss something with you.”
In the fifteen minutes it took for Tony Stark to join him, Reed Richards made additional notes while he was waiting, and reviewed other pieces of footage, all of which dealt with the Starr girl. As Stark entered, Richards looked up. “I've got some results.”
“Okay, shoot. What have you found out?” The billionaire leaned over Richards' computer terminal, seeming almost bored.
Richard hooked an eyebrow at him. “Am I keeping you from something?”
“No. Yes. I don't know.” Stark shrugged. “I think maybe we went about this all the wrong way. The more time that passes, the less I think that we've implemented the SRA correctly. I talked to her.” He pointed toward the footage playing on the monitor behind Richards. “She made some good points.”
“Perhaps she did.” Richards tapped a finger on his desk. “Osama bin Ladin made some good points about the corrupt mercantilism of American culture. Didn't change the fact that he was a terrorist.”
“She's hardly Osama bin Ladin, Reed. If she's a criminal at all, its because we made her one, remember?”
“Yes, well, that's not why I called you here.” Richards waved toward the monitors. “At the request of the Vice President, we've had a SHIELD team show up every time she made a public appearance, disguised as a news crew. I had them outfitted with special sensors, based on what you noticed about Karen Starr during the unfortunate fight at the Barton house.” Stark didn't correct Richards. He wasn't quite ready for anyone else to know that “Karen Starr” was actually Alexandra Harris. It wasn't much anonymity, but it was something.
“And your conclusions are...?”
“First, she's not invulnerable. She actually has a very thin, very effective force field around her that protects her from harm. Its very selective, so I have no idea how it works. It raises a lot of questions. For instance, how does she breath through it?” Stark began to speak and Richards waved him aside. “It doesn't matter. Secondly, it appears that magically empowered weapons pierce her force field as easily as the proverbial hot knife through butter.”
weapons can be hard to come by, Reed.”
Yes, I am aware of that. And to continue, thirdly, I do believe you guessed correctly.”
“She's absorbing light.” It wasn't a question. Stark had guessed this was happening back in California, based on the girl's infrared signature.
it, I'd say. Its a fair bet that its what powers her. You might
recall that, during her time as SHIELD's prisoner, there were daily
reports of Starr simply standing in front of a window with her eyes
eyes got wide. “She was soaking up sunlight. Right under SHIELD's
noses. Oh, I like this girl.”
“Hmm. Yes. And then during her first encounter with Sentry. Wasp said that Sentry had her at a disadvantage until he let loose with one of those energy beams of his. Energy beams he consistently describes as 'the power of a million exploding suns.' After which she was able to defeat Sentry easily.”
“He was hitting her with concentrated sunlight, in other words. She must have felt like he'd shot her up with a stimulant.” Stark shook his head. “Same thing happened during the fight with Moonstone. They were only making her stronger.”
“So we need to cut off her access to sunlight, then?” Stark asked. “If we needed to capture and depower her, I mean.”
“Yes. That would be my conclusion. And I'm thinking that it wouldn't be instant. Seeing as she has been active at night, I'm guessing the cells of her body act like a battery, so we'd have to run down her power supply while cutting her off from sunlight.”
“Tricky.” Stark responded. “Very tricky.”
And don't forget, even without her force field and her enhanced
strength, she's still six-foot-two and weighs nearly five hundred
pounds.” Richards added.
Stark looked confused. “And your point is what?”
Richards shook his head. For such a brilliant mind, sometimes Tony Stark was clueless. “My point is, that it is very likely that even when powered down, she's as powerful as a rank-and-file Asgardian.”
“Right. Good thing to remember. But at least we know how to stop her now, right?”
“We know how to stop her, now.”
Author's Note: Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the property of Warner Brothers in conjunction with Mutant Enemy Productions. The Marvel Universe is the property of the Walt Disney Company. Power Girl is the property of DC Comics, which itself is the property of Warner Brothers.
Author's Note the Second: So after two months of intensive physical therapy, I am back to typing with both hands again. I'm walking with a cane, and according to my doctor I will be doing so until the day I die. I want to thank everyone for their kind words and thoughts. I'd especially like to thank Storyteller222 and DuffJessica, who not only were amazingly helpful when it came to keeping my morale up by just talking to me, but kept me writing by asking insightful questions and making helpful suggestions when it came to this story.
Author's Note the Third: Speaking of DuffJessica, if you haven't read her stories, go do so. She's fantastic. And I'm hoping she's willing to formally become my beta reader instead of merely informally being willing to look over my chapters early.
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