Hellfire II: The Fueled Flames of Hell
Trisha paced back and forth across her living room. Rarely was she ever on edge about anything, however this time was different. A recent threat had been broadcast over the local television airwaves. Some lunatic named X-Ra had threatened to kill Kismet and all of her associates in the crimefighting business. Originally, Trisha hadn't taken the threat seriously. Such things were common in a paranoid society where people fear what they don't understand, and as a result, destroy that which they fear. Ordinarily, the threat would turn out to be merely some opinionated person venting their views on talk shows or in the newspapers.
Then, it happened. A woman with a large arsenal of weaponry and a commando style costume broke into the Law Offices of Kido & Associates, where Trisha's lifetime friend and fellow eugenics survivor Kim Kido practiced her profession. Fortunately, Kim had been with Trisha on a picnic that afternoon, however X-Ra had made a shambles of her office.
Kim Kido often aided Kismet in crimefighting jaunts when her schedule allowed. Because of her unique deformity, she could not hide her face behind a mask like Trisha could. This made her an easy target for this X-Ra character. Other members of the Black Pack, such as Star Child, Azura and Iris refused to hide their faces believing that they could not handle a double life telling lies to friends and the like. They too would become easy targets. The only members who masked themselves were Kismet and Obsidian, a recent recruit.
Another recent addition was Hellspawn. Her metamorphic changes hid her true identity for her without the aid of a mask. After all, flaming hair and glowing red eyes create a pretty good blind for discouraging people from noticing her facial features. Trisha realized that it would be up to these disguised members to handle this dangerous killer.
Lt. Kevin Brown's eyes followed Trisha's path across the room and back. "Trish, calm down," he sighed. "I feel like I'm watching a tennis match." Trisha turned to him with a flurry of hand signs. "Whoa, slow down," said Kevin putting out a restraining hand. "You know I can't understand you when you sign that fast."
Trisha repeated her gestural tirade much slower, now. "She attacked my best friend! Nobody does that and gets away with it!"
"In the first place," said Kevin soothingly, "Kim wasn't attacked. Her office was. And before you go out on a blood hunt, I'd like a crack at finding out who this person is first."
Trisha took a deep breath and let it out slowly. One of her biggest faults was how quick to anger she could be. She had recently begun studying meditation with Azura, but she never had the presence of mind to use it practically. For the first time, she was actually able to calm herself down before she did something rash. As strong and gifted as she was for destruction, a short temper was not a good thing to have.
Trisha looked into her lover's eyes and allowed herself to smile. "Very well," she signed, "I'll leave it to the long arm of the law." Kevin rewarded her decision with a loving kiss.
* * *
The alien craft hovered slowly through a strange solar system which contained nine planets and a G class yellow star. The captain sighed with a mixture of relief and sorrow. The engineering crew had been successful in locking down the massive radiation leak that had sprung from the hyperdrive systems. Unfortunately, the effort had cost them the life of the chief engineer. She was an absolute marvel with hyperdrive technology. She could repair problems that even the drive designers thought were impossible to fix. The leak was one of those impossible to fix problems, but true to her spirit, the chief engineer fixed the problem and lost her life as a result.
A hiss of hydraulic pressure announce to the captain that someone had entered the bridge. The captain swiveled in his chair and came face to face with the chief medical officer. "I have my final report on the death of Chief Engineer Matahn, Captain. We worked around the clock reconstructing her cell structure. The large doses of radiation had done considerable cell damage. Even though we were successful in repairing the body we could not resuscitate Engineer Matahn. She was pronounced dead 0500 planetfall time."
The captain nodded. "What was her final request on file?"
The doctor looked through his files. "Her instructions were to demolecularize her body and beam it into space."
"Standard procedure for those who die on spaceships," assented the captain. "Proceed with the burial."
The medical department dressed the body in a fresh uniform as a sign of honor, then placed the engineer into the dematerializing booth. All of the officers and crew were at the final service. At its conclusion, the demat beam was activated and the energy was spent into the cold reaches of space.
With most of the navigation and sensory equipment off line, the aliens had no way of knowing that the beam of the demolecularized engineer had been inadvertently aimed toward a shining blue planet whose inhabitants resembled the aliens in many was. The energy beam streaked toward the little planet and straight into one of its metropolises. By chance, it entered one particular building and culminated in one particular room where a young twelve-year-old boy lay sleeping and dreaming of greater things in his life.
* * *
Gerald Davis sat in the rather Spartan room of his new apartment. His old one had burned down to the ground in a massive fire. He had lost all of his favorite toys and clothes. It took a while for Gerald to get over the loss. Gerald himself had been trapped in that inferno until he had been rescued by an incredible titan of a woman who called herself Hellspawn. Everyone in the newspapers and on television claimed that she was a dangerous creature. Gerald knew better. She was kind and witty and heroic. Gerald admitted that initially seeing a woman with flaming hair and glowing red eyes in the middle of an apartment fire nearly scared him out of his skin. However, he quickly learned that Hellspawn was no agent of evil.
From then on, Gerald dreamed of becoming a superhero. Of course, he knew that there was no way he could ever actually be a superhero. That was a special gift given to an extreme few. But he could dream. With that thought in mind, Gerald drifted off to sleep.
No sooner had he gone into a deep sleep, a strange, eerie glow began to form within the room. It seemed to emanate from nowhere in particular. It grew brighter and brighter until it became blinding. Then as soon it had appeared, the light winked out in an instantaneous flash. It was the flash that finally woke Gerald with a start. He looked around the room as if he expected to see something missing, or worse something there that wasn't before. Nothing seemed to have changed. Gerald got out of bed to take a better look. He found it strange that the bed seemed much smaller than he last recalled. As he stood, he noticed that the ceiling seemed to be a bit closer to his head than he remembered.
Gerald gingerly walked around the room. Everything seemed normal and yet everything was a bit out of place. He turned on the light to get a better view of things. After a few minutes allowing his eyes to adjust, he started a second inspection.
Finally, Gerald walked past the large mirror that hung on the wall in his room. He received quite a start when he notice a strange woman in an odd, snug-fitting costume standing in the reflection. Gerald reflexively turned to find the stranger only to view an empty room.
Immediately, the realization hit him. He was the woman in the mirror. Gerald tried to scream, but fear had taken his voice, or rather her voice it would seem.
"Oh, man!" Gerald lamented. "What will I say to mom and dad? I can't let them see me like this. They'd never understand. Heck, I don't understand."
Gerald was startled by the change in his voice. It was soft but edged with forceful command, as if he were a military officer. Another thing he noticed was that thoughts were running at the edge of his consciousness that he began to realize were not his. Most seemed to deal with mathematics of a very high caliber. Then there was one very strong vision in the back of his mind that seemed to push forward with urgency. There were red lights flashing all around, and a single sign flashing at him.
"Max....maxim....Maxima," puzzled Gerald. "Maybe that's the name of whomever this body belongs to."
The actual sign said "Maximum Radiation Level", but Maxima was as far as Gerald could interpret his fuzzy recollections.
Suddenly, footsteps could be heard approaching his door.
"Oh, God! It's mom. I can't let her see me."
Unfortunately, there was no suitable place for an adult sized person to hide, and there was no time to do so even if there was. The door knob turned and the door slowly opened. Gerald winced in unpleasant expectation. He could just hear the scream his mother was going to utter at the sight of a strange woman in her son's bedroom.
"Gerald Davis, what are you doing standing in the middle of the room with your eyes closed. You're supposed to be in bed sleeping."
Gerald opened his eyes in not so mild surprise. A quick glance in the mirror revealed a twelve-year-old African American boy in his pajamas. Gerald was himself again.
"Get in bed this instant, young man," scolded Gerald's mother.
Gerald quickly slipped under the covers. Maybe he had been dreaming the whole thing. Gerald was pretty sure it had been no dream. Those strange thoughts that tugged at his mind were still there.
"Good night, Mom."
Mrs. Davis bent over and kissed her son.
"Get some sleep," she said. "You've got that math test tomorrow. Think you're ready?"
"As ready as I'll ever be," sighed Gerald.
"Just remember, if you do your absolute best, you can never fail."
Gerald smiled. So far in his experience, his mother's advice had never failed him. He had no reason to believe that this bit of advice was any different. After all, he had studied and practiced math for two hours a night on the past three nights. If he wasn't ready now, he never would be.
Gerald's mother turned out the light and left the room. Gerald, meanwhile, could not sleep after having experienced a bona fide sex change. He quietly got out of bed, this time opting to leave the light off. With the ambient light from the street lights outside and his pupils well dilated, Gerald could see well enough. He stood in front of the mirror and closed his eyes, thinking about the woman that he had become earlier. When he opened his eyes, there she stood in the mirror before him, or her as the case now was.
At first Gerald started to explore this new body with his hands and realized that it made him extremely uncomfortable and embarrassed.
"Great," he mused. "I can't even touch myself without feeling like a pervert."
Undoubtedly, it would take a while for him to accept this new body as his. Another thing he noticed was that the uniform this female body wore was made of an unusual fabric. It had the texture of silk, but it was heavy like wool or cotton. It had absolutely no seams anywhere. The work gloves and boots were made of a substance that resembled rubber, but it clearly wasn't.
In addition, the clothes seemed to be molded to the body like a second skin. Gerald tried to tuck a finger beneath the collar only to discover that he couldn't find where the collar ended and "her" skin began. The boots and gloves could not be removed as well.
"Great, how do I shower in this body if the clothes don't come off." Gerald thought for a moment. "Come to think of it, I'm rather glad the clothes don't come off. Judging from the shape of this body, I don't think my heart could take the stress."
The woman he had become was quite beautiful. She had a somewhat muscular tone that meant she was strong and yet still quite feminine. The hair was of medium length, about to the shoulder blades. It was pulled back and secured in place with a red head band. This kept the hair well out of the face while allowing it to drape loosely down the back. The uniform itself looked like something out of a comic book. It had a red collar that encircled the neck covering most of the chest, upper back and shoulders much like a rounded dickey. The bodice and sleeves were blue while the gloves were red with a white cuff ring encircling the middle of the lower arm. The bottom consisted of blue briefs over red tights. A blue ring encircled both legs at mid-thigh. The costume ended in blue boots with the same white cuff rings located at mid-calf.
Gerald decided to attempt changing back into his own "boy" body. This time he kept his eyes open as he thought about how he originally looked. As a result, Gerald was amazed, and a little nauseated, as he witnessed the woman's body melt down to the size of a young boy and reform his own familiar features, all within an instant. Gerald smiled. Perhaps this was his ultimate dream coming true. He had the chance to become a kind of superhero, although he wasn't very happy with the idea of changing into a woman.
Still, he thought, there are worse things I could have become. Like a hideously disfigured mutant.
Gerald got back into bed and pulled the covers over himself.
On the other hand, he thought, maybe a mutant would be better.
* * *
Emilia Hart leaned back in the large sofa in Trisha's living room. Emilia remembered when Trisha had first revealed to her that she was Kismet. It took a while for her to regain her composure. Then, Trisha had offered Emilia membership with her crimefighting troop the Black Pack. It was more than Emilia could take at one time. She had dreamed of one day working with Kismet, but she never expected her dream to come true in such a grand way.
Many times Emilia Hart felt that her powers of pyrokinesis would be considered too dangerous to use for any good, but Trisha had shown her that there were ways to use fire to one's advantage. She had always had a fear of becoming useless to anyone, or worse, a threat to anyone. The chemical accident which gave her the special abilities she had developed had almost made her into a dangerous creature which everyone would fear. At least, that's what she had thought. After the Stetson-Smith incident about a month ago, she realized that there was a lot she could do to help people.
A knock rang out at the door. Trisha went to open it, and in walked the handsome Lieutenant Kevin Brown of the Monument City Police Department. Emilia had many times imagined him falling madly in love with her. That, however, was before she discovered that he was already madly in love with Trisha. Still, it seemed fitting, in a rather ironic way, that the heroine of her dreams would be involved with the man of her dreams.
Kevin sat on the couch next to Emilia. She felt a mixture of elation and paranoia shoot up her spine, but she dared not outwardly reveal her reaction to Kevin's close proximity.
"I think I've made some progress on this X-Ra character," said Kevin laying out several files on the coffee table. "It seems that she doesn't care if she's identified by the police, since she never stays any place long enough to get caught."
"That will have to change," signed Trisha.
Emilia had been spending the past month learning American Sign Language. Even though she had picked up a lot of the signs rather quickly, she still had a long way to go. She understood enough to get a clear picture of what was being said. In this case, she understood all the signs perfectly.
"This is what I've dug up," continued Kevin.
He picked up a folder and opened it.
"It seems our friend was an army brat. She traveled from place to place with her father who was a sergeant in the army. Her name is Charlotte Richter. She had apparently been left stranded in Vietnam at age thirteen after her father was killed. She survived the ordeal and managed to kill off several hundred Vietnamese soldiers in the process."
Trisha gave out a low whistle while Emilia gasped in horror.
"She was later rescued by a troop of American soldiers," continued Kevin, "and disappeared shortly after returning to America. A couple of decades later she became involved in certain extremist groups then disappeared again for a time. That is, until now."
"What in the world could have gotten her started on picking off super powered beings?" asked Emilia.
"No one knows," replied Kevin. "The bio I just read is the only concrete info we've got on her."
Trisha took the folder from Kevin and flipped through the pages, instantly committing the information to her computer-like memory. She carefully handed it back to Kevin, the look on her face was one of interest.
"You see something I missed?" asked Kevin hopefully.
Trisha shook her head. "It's just that her story sounds like something Tinseltown would cook up," she signed.
"Well, those slugs we picked out of Miss Kido's law books were real enough," remarked Kevin. "Incidentally, I wanted to show you this. I hadn't been at the scene since a murder wasn't committed, but I was able to look at the photos. You may be interested in this."
Kevin pulled a folded piece of paper from his jacket pocket and handed it to Trisha. Trisha took the paper and unfolded it to reveal a photocopy of a photograph. In the photo, was a close-up of Kim Kido's office desk. The items on top were in disarray as if they had been swept aside. One particular item stood out. It was a framed photograph of Kim, Trisha and R'y'sha from a vacation trip they had taken together in Florida. What was odd about the picture was the way the glass had been broken.
Suddenly, Trisha realized with a gasp what she was looking at. The glass wasn't just broken, Trisha could make out bullet holes located on the foreheads of Kim and R'y'sha. She looked up at Kevin with a frightened look. Star Child was going to be X-Ra's next target.
"Don't worry," said Kevin. "I've thought ahead and asked Lisa to cruise around Star Child's place. Just in case."
"Still," signed Trisha, "I think that she should know that someone is hunting her. She knows how to take care of herself, but only when she knows to expect trouble."
"I'll call her," volunteered Emilia.
While Emilia went to make the call, Trisha started to pace again. Kevin stood and wrapped his arms around her from behind, not so much to comfort her as to keep her still before she wore herself into a frazzle. Trisha didn't care what the reason was, the gesture was gratefully accepted. She leaned her head back against his chest and sighed a pained sigh.
Kismet and the Black Pack had been in dangerous situations before, but this was different. Now, they were going up against a person who thought nothing of hitting them where they lived and worked during their normal lives. This made Trisha fear for her friends' safety.
Emilia returned with her report. "I explained everything to Star Child. She wanted to come here, but I told her to stay where she was since this X-Ra might follow her here. We wouldn't want her to find out Kismet's true identity, would we?"
The last was spoken with a smile. Trisha smiled in return.
"For a fashion model, you think pretty fast on your feet," she signed.
Kevin translated the teasing remark when it became clear that Emilia hadn't picked up everything that was signed to her. Emilia laughed warmly, a feeling she welcomed as it allowed the tenseness to ease away momentarily. Still, there had to be a way of stopping this madwoman. A plan was needed.
* * *
The early morning light broke through the fragmented glass pane of a an abandoned apartment basement and shone upon a sleeping figure. As the light reached her eyes, she grimaced in annoyance and slowly roused herself from her slumber. She had tried to scare the famous Kismet out of hiding the previous day by trashing the office of one of her more public superhuman friends. The plan didn't quite work out the way she had intended, but X-Ra was pretty sure that she had at least vexed the nighttime vigilante.
X-Ra stretched and proceeded to go through her early morning rituals, which consisted of some brisk calisthenics; a few repetitions in weight training; a quick, yet comprehensive, weapons check; and finally, breakfast. Breakfast turned out to be a few stale doughnuts and half a warm bottle of orange juice.
A quick jaunt out to the neighboring inhabited slums allowed the procurement of the morning paper. The front headline consisted of stories breaking in Somalia and the former Yugoslavian nation. There was, however, one blurb about the threat of a bounty hunter on the loose in Monument City.
X-Ra smiled to herself. It wasn't as big as she had hoped, but it was on the front page. She loved it when she made headlines in newspapers. It was the only way to make sure that she was having the desired effect upon a city. That, and the fact that such recognition bolstered her ego.
X-Ra put the paper down upon the dilapidated table in the middle of the room and looked over her weapons systems again. She wondered if Kismet was able to pick up on the clue she had left behind for her next attack. X-Ra certainly hoped so. There was nothing more disappointing than leaving a message only to find out that it had never been received, and she had tortured some innocent person for no reason. It wasn't that she didn't like torturing people, she just hated it when she makes elaborate preparations for her prey and they never show up. This time, however, was going to be different. Not only was her quarry more intelligent, stronger, and more agile, but she was difficult to kill. There had been many tales of Kismet's incredible self healing abilities; too many for them to be considered rumor or myth. X-Ra knew that this was going to be the fight of a lifetime.
X-Ra checked her weapons for the third time that morning. Then, she began to prepare her trap.
* * *
It was a difficult morning for Gerald. He had a tough time rousing himself, and for once, a hot shower hadn't done the trick. Last night had been replete with fitful and restless sleep. Gerald didn't doubt the reason why he was so uptight. First, he had discovered a wondrous, if frightening, change had come over him last night. Then, there was today's math test. Gerald was sure that he was ready, but nevertheless, he had developed a case of pretest jitters. Gerald's mother had to practically force breakfast down his throat. Still, there had been worse mornings in his life, or so he thought.
Finally, Gerald was off to the school. The school bus was a little late getting to his new apartment because the driver was still getting used to the new addition to his route. As Gerald stepped on board, he saw his regular crew of friends clumped together near the back, and as usual, they had held a seat for him.
"Word up, fellas," said Gerald in the ritual greeting.
"Hey, Gerald," responded Dominique Jones, a tall thin boy with dreams of becoming the next Michael Jordan. The others also responded in kind.
"You guys wouldn't wouldn't believe what happened last night," started Gerald.
"What?" the group asked in unison.
Suddenly, Gerald realized that he couldn't tell them what had happened to him. For one thing, they'd never believe him, and if they did he be an outcast from the group and probably everyone else in school. Gerald had to think of something quick. Then he remembered something he had heard about.
"I saw a meteor shower last night. It was really cool."
"Oh, yeah that's cool," said the boys nonchalantly.
It was obvious that they weren't interested in his news, which didn't bother Gerald any since he had just made it up. Or did he? Gerald immediately realized that he had seen a meteor shower enter the Earth's atmosphere, except that it had happened while he was outside of the Earth's atmosphere. Apparently, this was another one of those stray memories from his other body.
So, thought Gerald, my new body is from outer space. Yow, I've become an alien! Now, that is jive fresh!
It wasn't long before the bus arrived at Woodson Elementary School. Children were rushing out of cars and busses like water from a burst dam. Gerald made his way to his locker through the mob of students coursing through the hallway. Math was his first class, so he had to make sure that he was ready for the test. Gerald put all of his extra books and his lunch in his locker. The bell rang out its announcement to the entire student body that classes would commence in five minutes. With that, Gerald rushed off to math class.
Gerald sat in his desk calm, cool and collected. That is, until Mrs. Cunningham placed the test in front of him. Gerald glanced over the questions and immediately broke into a cold sweat. What if he forgot everything? What if he had studied the wrong thing and he knew nothing that was on this test? Gerald looked around the room. The fact that everyone else in the class had the same worried look on their faces didn't comfort him.
Suddenly, a faint buzzing sound developed in his ears. Without warning, Gerald's hands took up a pencil and began to go through the computations at lightening speed. It was a frightening experience. As far as Gerald knew, his mind was a complete blank. Then, a new feeling came over him. A feeling of complete comprehension. It was as if the entire test had become as simple as "one plus one equals two."
Gerald realized that he had finished the test in two minutes. However, there was a strange word written across the top of the page. It was written in some foreign script that looked a lot like Hebrew with some dramatic differences. It was a short word with six characters.
Confused, Gerald simply erased it and replaced the word with his full name and the day's date. Then, he sat back and folded his arms and watched the students in the class writhe in agony. Gerald felt a light tap on his shoulder.
"You're supposed to be taking your test, Mr. Davis," whispered Mrs. Cunningham.
"I've finished it," whispered Gerald.
Mrs. Cunningham frowned. She picked up the test from Gerald's desk and leafed through it. The expression on her face made Gerald realize just how unusual this circumstance was. He suddenly had the feeling that the alien memories that were in his brain must have been responsible for his unconscious response to the math questions.
"I'll....be right back," said Mrs. Cunningham.
She was a young and pretty Black woman who always dressed smartly. All the boys in the class at one time or another had had a crush on her, even though they all knew she was happily married.
Her husband was some kind of entrepreneur who invested money in small businesses. Woodson Elementary was one of the businesses he had invested in, which allowed the school to become one of the best elementary schools on the eastern seaboard. Mr. Cunningham also took time out to coach the school basketball team.
Gerald felt a bit uncomfortable as he realized that Mrs. Cunningham was correcting his paper at her desk. A few of his friends gave quick glances. Though they only lasted a moment, Gerald could read their unmistakable expressions, "What did you do wrong?" After a few tense minutes, Mrs. Cunningham looked up with a surprised look on her face. Gerald became very nervous when she signaled him to step outside. When Mrs. Cunningham closed the door behind them, Gerald felt like running away and not stopping until he reached home. Mrs. Cunningham gave Gerald a stern look.
"Now, I want you to be honest with me, Gerald." She took a deep breath before continuing. "Did you cheat on my test?"
Gerald blinked at first, not comprehending the question. When he finally realized what she had asked him, Gerald was disappointed, and a little disgusted, that she would imply such a thing. On the other hand, using alien intelligence to pass a test could be considered cheating. However, he couldn't exactly explain that to anyone.
"You mean I did that good?" said Gerald in a surprised tone. "Alright! Mom was right. I studied every day last week for an hour each day. She's gonna be excited."
"So, all of those answers were actually from your head?" asked Mrs. Cunningham.
Mrs. Cunningham sighed. "Alright, Gerald." Then she smiled. "You stay here until everyone else is finished. I'll give you something to read."
Gerald smiled back. "Okay, Mrs. Cunningham."
* * *
"Get real, man," said Dominique. "Why'd she take you out of class?"
"I promised her I wouldn't tell anyone," said Gerald for what seemed like the billionth time.
"Alright, G," said Dominique in a resigned tone. "You wanna be like that. That's cool with me."
"Look at it this way," said Gerald. "If she gave that smile of hers, you know the one that turns you into melted butter, and asked you to do something for her, you'd do it, wouldn't you?"
Dominique grinned. "Okay, I got you. I'll lay off you, for now."
As the two friends were walking towards the school bus, a loud screeching sound could be heard just off in the distance, followed by a car engine being revved to its limit. In the next instant, a red sports car came careening down the street. Gerald caught sight of a window being eased down and a long, black rod protruding through the opening. Everyone in sight dropped to the ground and covered their heads. Gerald realized that the gun was aimed directly at Dominique. Through some alien instinct, Gerald pushed Dominique to the ground and in the same moment changed into Maxima.
Gerald knew that he never would have tried to save Dominique before his fateful change. Yet now, he had the courage, or the insanity, to sacrifice himself for his friend. The bullets buffeted "her" body and ricocheted harmlessly away. As the car sped away, Maxima quickly metamorphosed back into Gerald. Since everyone had planted their faces into the ground, no one had seen him change. Also, since it all happened within a scant few seconds, anyone who did see him change would have dismissed it as the result of being frightened beyond reason.
Gerald reached down and shook Dominique's arm. "Hey, you okay, man?"
Dominique refused to move until he was absolutely sure that the danger was gone. Normally, Gerald would have questioned the reason why those gunmen were aiming at him. However, the most paramount issue on his mind was the fact that the bullets bounced off of his skin, or rather Maxima's skin. She was bullet proof! Gerald had assumed that nothing could top the excitement of passing his math test with flying colors. This, however, was something that had exceeded all of his hopes and dreams. He really could become a superhero if he wanted to.
It wasn't long before the police showed up. After a grueling two hours of questioning, the students were allowed to go home. Gerald saw that Dominique was being questioned by a young female officer with fiery red hair and a smattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose. Although to Gerald she seemed rather cute, her demeanor was strictly business. Something in her eyes told him that she knew Dominique was lying to her. This was a person who looked like she could surprise you at every turn. She was about "five foot two", an average size for a high school freshman. All around, she looked like a harmless child. Those vivid green eyes, on the other hand, told the true story. This woman was dangerous.
Dominique was finally allowed to leave. Gerald noticed that instead of walking toward the bus, he started off in another direction. This was his chance to see what Maxima could really do. Gerald decided to tail Dominique and see where he was headed. Gerald smiled to himself. His first test as a superhero.
Dominique traversed a path that went through almost every back alley in downtown Monument City. Maxima kept a close eye on him as she quietly followed. During the trek she had discovered her ability to fly. Dominique had made a quick check to see if he was being followed. In a panic, Maxima leapt straight up...and kept going up. It didn't take long to learn how to control her new found power. All that was required was to think about the direction she wanted to go, and in an instant, she was well on her way.
It wasn't long before Dominique had reached the south side of town. This was a place filled with slums and decrepit housing. Homeless families walked the streets in search of shelter for the evening. Gerald had never been to this part of town before, and it truly frightened him. It didn't take long to remind himself that "he" was now "she", and that Maxima was invulnerable. Dominique suddenly ducked into an old apartment building. Maxima followed close behind. What was inside shocked her. The outside of the building was drab and tattered, and it practically had condemned written all over it. Inside was an unreal opulence that took her breath away. Only in the movies has she ever seen anything like it. Whoever lived here, lived like a sultan.
Maxima continued to tail her friend down the elaborately decorated hallway. She managed to float herself a good two inches above the floor so that no one would hear footsteps as she advanced. At the end of the hall was a large wooden door. Dominique paused and then knock heavily upon the wood panel. As the lock clicked from the other side, Maxima ducked into an adjoining hall. Carefully, she peered around the corner to get a good look at things. The door was opened by a tall sultry looking Black woman in a leather teddy, white gloves and a leather aviator's jacket. She had very short hair that had been bleached to a pale blonde.
"Well," she said with a voice dripping with honey and cyanide, "look whose here. Dominique the Duck."
She let loose with a laugh that left a sour spot in Maxima's stomach. She could tell that Dominique was angry, but he was also scared half to death. Maxima wasn't surprised. She was sure she'd be hightailing it out of here if she were merely Gerald Davis.
"Why'd you send those goons to try and kill me?" rang out Dominique's voice.
"I wanted to test you," responded a deep, resonant voice from within the room. "I needed to determine your will for survival."
A deep laugh echoed throughout the hall.
"Be glad little one," said the woman, "you survived the test. Now, you will be given your first job."
"You are to pick up a shipment of Euphoria-8 from Dr. Feelgood," said the deep voice. "Once you have it, bring it here. Make sure no one follows you."
Dominique nodded, turned and headed towards the exit. Maxima followed Dominique out of the apartment building. She felt both disappointed and betrayed. Gerald's closest friend was involved in illegal drugs. Maxima wasn't sure what to do. Finally, she decided to follow her friend to his next destination.
* * *
Hellspawn hovered over Monument City content to do nothing but float around tall buildings and watch people as they went about their daily business. She had just had an argument with her agent Hans Spieler. Flying seemed to be the only way to relieve her stress. She had to find a way to stay in the Monument City area so that she could help the Black Pack whenever they needed her. Being stationed in Los Angeles didn't exactly make things convenient for her.
Because she was lost in thought, Hellspawn didn't notice the woman who stood on top of one of the smaller office buildings. She also didn't see the weapon that was being aimed at her until it fired a beam of energy at her. What she felt, however, was excruciating pain as a powerful electric charge coursed through her body. Then, she began to plummet toward the ground.
X-Ra was pleased that she had so easily eliminated the demonic Hellspawn. On the other hand, she had hoped that it would have been more of a challenge. She powered down her twin electro-plasma cannon and folded it into its transportable form of a large backpack. As she turned to leave, however, she found herself face to face with a very perturbed woman with flaming hair and glowing red eyes floating a few inches above the roof.
"Alright, Annie Oakley, what's the idea zapping me with that giant tazer gun?"
X-Ra was impressed. She had underestimated the intelligence of her quarry. She had originally intended to go after the proclaimed alien member of the Black Pack who calls herself Star Child. However, on the way to Star Child's abode, X-Ra caught sight of Hellspawn floating high above the city. It was then that she decided to forego her attack on Star Child and go after this much nearer target. This, however, was proving to be a most interesting challenge.
"Hey," said Hellspawn in recognition, "you're that X-Ra character."
With a smile crossing her lips, X-Ra responded by tossing a strange looking grenade at Hellspawn. Reflexively, Hellspawn caught the grenade. It immediately exploded showering her with some sort of liquid. A coldness covered her as she fell to the roof top shivering violently.
What the hell was that stuff? she thought to herself.
A frosting of ice covered her entire body from head to toe. The flames which covered her head had been snuffed and her eyes had returned to their normal appearance.
"I hope you like cold climates," said X-Ra. "I'm pretty fond of Aspen myself, so I thought I'd share it with you."
I've got to concentrate, thought Hellspawn.
Before X-Ra could gloat further, she became dismayed upon seeing steam rising from Hellspawn's body. Before she could react to this new threat, X-Ra instantly became blinded by the bright flash of light energy that exploded from Hellspawn. Realizing that a large amount of heat was to follow, X-Ra leapt over the side of the building, and with skill and dexterity, managed to grab hold of a ledge.
"Well," huffed X-Ra, "that certainly didn't go well. Although, I did reveal the identity of one of Monument City's mystery heroes." X-Ra pulled herself up onto the ledge and sidled over to a nearby office window. "Still, I've got to stop this fooling around and get serious."
X-Ra quickly ducked into the office which was, thankfully, empty and disappeared.
On the roof, Hellspawn stood upright in full fiery splendor. She was angry. Her flaming hair and glowing eyes radiated that anger. She didn't know where X-Ra had disappeared to, but she was determined to find out. With a primal scream, which released a lot of pent up anger, Hellspawn launched into the air.
* * *
Dominique had caught a bus which traveled out to the warehouse district on the outskirts of town. Maxima followed by laying her body flat upon the roof of the vehicle. This way very few people even noticed her being up there. Finally, Dominique stepped off of the bus and skirted the perimeter of a particular warehouse. Maxima floated above him until he had entered the building. Then, she dropped down to the ground and cautiously followed. The inside of the old, dilapidated warehouse was dark and damp. The strong smell of mildew clouded the air mixed with something else, something indescribable.
Maxima had lost track of Dominique in the darkness, but the sound of boiling water and the clinking of glass containers lured her to a hastily constructed shanty room in the rear of the building. Maxima peeked in and saw Dominique standing next to a series of flasks, glass tubing and pipettes which looked like something out of a B rated horror film about a mad scientist. In the back of the room were small animal cages. Save for a few rats, most of these were empty. In the center of the room stood a short, lean man in a lab coat slowly adding a pink colored liquid with an eye dropper into a flask of clear liquid. His thick brown hair was disheveled and his clothes were rumpled. He looked as if he hadn't slept in days. His two most distinguishing features were a bushy mustache and a monocle in his right eye.
"I'm here, Doc," said Dominique when the man didn't acknowledge his presence. "Where's the stuff I'm supposed to take?"
The man put the eye dropper down and turned toward Dominique.
"Don't call me `Doc'!" he shouted with utter distaste.
He had a thick German accent that you could spread on toast. This place had all the elements for an amateur version of Frankenstein.
"Okay, man," said Dominique lifting his arms up as if to ward off a blow. "Chill."
The man swirled the flask around to make sure that the contents were thoroughly diluted, then set it down on the lab table.
"That's the trouble mit you Kinder," growled the doctor. "You haf no respect for your elders."
"Sorry, Dr. Feelgood," sighed Dominique with his head lowered.
Dr. Feelgood walked over to a medium sized box.
"This is vhat you are going to deliver," he instructed. "If you are caught by authorities or if zomeone inquires about vhat's in the box, all you haf to zay is that you are delivering aerosol canisters for asthma zufferers. The canisters even haf labels on them vhich zay Bronch-Aid. That should fool anyvun. Now, ausgehen!"
Dominique grabbed the box and quickly headed out of the room. Maxima followed him closely. It seemed the more she learned about her "friend", the less she wanted to admit having known him. A dangerous anger seethed within her. She had to find a way to stop Dominique from completing his delivery.
* * *
Dr. Azura ole Botan sat in her lab writing a report on the successful cure of a baby elephant from a mild ear infection. Except for the distant sounds from the loudest residents of the Monument City Zoo, the laboratory was quiet. Suddenly, the appearance of a familiar violet colored light announce to Azura that a friendly visitor was about to materialize.
"Greetings, R'y'sha," said Azura. As a petite young woman with purple hair solidified before her. "What can I do for you, my friend."
"I came to give you a warning," said Star Child with concern. "Have you heard about the woman who intends to kill the heroines of Monument City?"
Azura nodded. "I have kept abreast of the news, yes. However, I do not think that she is quite so important as to disrupt my regular routine."
"I don't know, Azura," said Star Child, "she's already gone after Kim and intends to come after me next."
Azura sat up straight. "No one informed me of this."
"That's why I'm here," said Star Child. "I'm also a bit concerned for your safety."
"I can take very good care of myself, thank you," responded Azura. "I may not have mutant powers, alien technology or genetic enhancements like the rest of you, but I do quite well."
"Just humor me, okay," pleaded Star Child.
Azura sighed heavily. "Alright, but if you're going to hang around here, you're going to have to do some work."
"That's fine with me," beamed Star Child. "I love animals."
* * *
Maxima sat on the rooftop of the condemned building opposite the den of the drug dealers. She watched Dominique carry his package into the building. She wanted to find a way to stop what was going on, but the truth was she was really a twelve-year-old kid. She had no gift for strategy and no head for heroism. As she sat there, a quiet voice from in back of his mind suggested attacking the next delivery out of the building. Dominique was obviously a newbie. He wouldn't be entrusted with important business. The next delivery out would be taking the drugs to consumers. Stop that delivery, and she wouldn't have to confront her friend just yet.
Maxima didn't know where the voice was coming from, but it seemed familiar, and at the same time foreign. Still, what was said sounded right. What Maxima was truly afraid of, at least to Gerald Davis within, was confronting Dominique. She wasn't quite ready for it, and this strange conscience seemed to understand that. Fired with new determination that seem to come from elsewhere, Maxima leaned forward and waited. It was a long wait until a bald Black man in a leather trench coat walked out of the building carrying the same box Dominique had brought in. Maxima watched the door a tad longer and saw Dominique backtracking his way home. The time to deal with Dominique would come later.
Maxima launched into the air with practiced ease. She was really getting the hang of this. The quiet voice suggested that an out of the way place that wouldn't attract undue attention would be the perfect place to spring the attack. As the man in the leather coat turned down a wide alley, the voice urged Maxima to act. Maxima swooped down like a falcon after its prey. Reaching out with one hand, she knocked the box out of the man's grip, then flew past him and landed a few yards away. The man had spun around from the impact, but was now facing Maxima.
"Who the hell are you?"
"I am Maxima. And you are going no further with those drugs."
The man stood bolt upright in surprise. Maxima smirked. Didn't expect this did ya, buddy? she thought.
The man reached into his coat pockets and pulled out what look liked steel gloves. He carefully put the gloves on and removed his leather coat. Beneath, the man was bare-chested save for a leather harness. "You will regret interfering with The Pride," he growled. "Now, you will be punished by The Klaw."
"Am I supposed to be impressed?" said Maxima. Gerald had no idea where that retort came from. In his mind, his heart was racing with panic. Maxima's physical heart, however, was perfectly calm. What the heck am I gonna do, now? he thought.
I've had hand to hand combat training. Use it.
Gerald realized that the voice was getting stronger, and it was feminine. That was when he realized with terror that the owner of his new body was inside his head. The Klaw had gone into an offensive stance, steel claws poised and at the ready. Suddenly, he lunged for Maxima's throat. Without thinking, Maxima's body deftly executed a defensive block and followed through by redirecting the attacker's momentum against him. The Klaw went flying bodily into a pile of empty cardboard boxes.
How the hell did I do that? thought Gerald in surprise.
Hand to hand combat training is standard in the space corps, replied the feminine voice. I was top in my class.
"I don't doubt it," muttered Maxima.
The Klaw had recover himself enough to make another attack. Maxima was more than prepared. She deflected the blows from the steel claws and executed a reverse kick into her attacker's solar plexus. The Klaw went down gasping for air. While he was incapacitated, Maxima walked over to the box of drugs which had spilled its contents into the alley.
So, how do we get rid of this stuff? thought Gerald.
Don't look at me, you're the one with the supernatural abilities, replied the voice. Maybe you can think it away.
Gerald figured that stranger things had happened already. Maxima stretched out her hand toward the drugs and concentrated on sending the aerosol canisters into oblivion. What happened surprised both Gerald and his conscience. A bolt of lightening shot from Maxima's hand and explosively incinerated the canisters. All that remained were charred bits of smoking metal resting on a large burn spot on the pavement.
Impressive, said the voice. I'm assuming not all little boys on your planet can do that.
"Hell no," whispered Maxima in awe.
A prickling sensation at the base of Maxima's neck warned of danger. She immediately crouched as a steel clawed hand whipped past her head. She then kicked out her legs and pivoted on her hands bringing her feet in contact with The Klaw's ankles. With his legs effectively knocked from beneath him, The Klaw fell backwards to the ground hitting his head on the pavement and knocking himself senseless.
He's definitely down for the count this time, said the voice.
What do we do with him? asked Gerald.
Nothing, said the voice.
Nothing? asked Gerald.
Nothing, repeated the voice, for two reasons. One, we want him to report back to his superior and tell him about us. Well...you. And two, his employer is going to be majorly ticked about losing his product. He's going to have enough problems on his hands for a while.
Return to The Document Library.