wonder_city: (Default)
L’appel du vide

"Now you," Sator said, glancing over his shoulder. "Megan Amazon, shatter yourself." I had to drop filters in place as Megan took a magical blast that went straight through her invulnerability, ran up every nerve ending, and back down, spasming all the muscles in her arms and legs. Meteor got an accidental punch to the nose from Megan, one that knocked her backward to sprawl on the floor.

On another "channel," I apologized quickly to the Wonderful House kids and dropped them out of the link entirely: Tom was in the ambulance with Brandon on the way to the hospital, Jeshri and Lizzie and Eartha were talking to the police and the Gold Stars.

Block her motor nerves, Watson said tightly. Do it now!

She was right, the spell wasn't stopping, and Megan was apparently strong enough to overcome her own invulnerability, judging from some of the pain I was reading. I stopped everything anomalous that was happening in her motor cortex and knocked her out. She dropped limply to the floor.

Meanwhile, Simon's shape swarmed up to human form (naked) and lunged for Brainchild. His hands couldn't touch her, but he managed to catch the glass fragment -- presumably magical -- that her spirit was standing on. There was a stab of pain as the razor edges of the glass sliced into his hands. Brainchild was stable for just a second, then her spirit turned and tried to grab onto the glass, as if she was being sucked into the funnel by some secret wind.

"Oh, let her fall, child," Sator laughed. "Let her fall and see my century-old plan come to fruition at last!"

Nereid hit him with a firehose blast... of blood. While he sputtered at the mouthful he'd got, she stared at her hands, and I could feel the hysteria welling up amidst her panic.

It's not permanent! the Equestrian snapped at her. It's just this place doing it to you. Do it again!

I can't help her! Simon exclaimed, gripping the glass that was slippery with his own blood and trying to pull it away from the machine without losing Brainchild. She's going to fall!

Meteor! Ira snapped. You're a spirit when you're not in that girl's body. Do something.

The Equestrian and Maelstrom were attacking Sator again to distract him. Nereid, to give the girl credit, pulled her shit together and added her geysers of blood.

Meteor hesitated. I'm not sure I can, she said. Can't Renata help her?

I can't reach her mind, I said. I've tried. And I'm not spiritually telekinetic anyway.

Meteor, you have to save her! Suzanne nigh-shouted. You're her only hope!

Feeling Meteor peel out of the body she was possessing was like nothing I'd ever felt: like someone burning their skin off, and then being totally without pain because there were no nerves any more. Her spirit leapt out of the woman -- G, Watson told me -- and threw herself across the mouth of the black abyss just as Brainchild slipped off the glass. Brainchild hit the "surface" that was Meteor and bounced off her onto the floor.

Meteor said to me, I only ever wanted to be a hero, before her grip slipped and she was sucked into the void, her mind sliding too far away for me to reach.

G staggered backward and fell over Megan. I apologetically seized control of her motor functions, got her ass up, and walked her out the door.

One less potential victim in that room. Go me.


Note from the Author:

Because I'm mean, here's a new challenge for Team Commentariat: 15 commenters get you a third new episode on Saturday!

And remember to vote for WCS!

wonder_city: (Default)
Hope Like Hell That Man Is an Evil Man

Megan shouldered Meteor aside and leapt over the contorted body of the serial killer they'd chased and through the doorway. She felt Meteor follow via the link. In a corner of her mind, Megan was very impressed with Renata's power -- not every telepath could maintain contact with multiple minds through a dimensional gate, even initiating new links on the other side of the gate. In fact, Megan couldn't think of a single telepath in the literature who could.

Sator's a showier mage-type than we thought, she reported to Watson.

Sator was inspecting his opponents coolly from his vantage point, hovering well above the floor. "Ah, you," he said, his gaze falling upon the Equestrian. "I wondered when she would send you my way."

"You can hardly imagine that she'd ignore what you've been doing here," the Equestrian said, rolling a green glowing ball from hand to hand.

You knew what was going on? Nereid exclaimed in the link.

Of course not, the Equestrian said.

What is going on here? Simon asked, and Megan could hear an echo of the question from Suzanne and Watson.

If evidence can be believed, the Equestrian said, he's collected hundreds of human souls to power an interdimensional engine.

"She rarely cares about the outskirts of her realm," Sator said.

"She cares when you start rearranging the furniture in her house," the Equestrian said, gesturing upward.

"Oh, she'll like the results," Sator said with an unpleasant smile. "For about five minutes. And then I'll destroy her."

The Equestrian looked over at Maelstrom. "Where've we heard that one before?"

"Only every two-bit pretender that's come along," the horse, now much more horselike, said.

I think you all should probably back out slowly, the Equestrian said. We're used to dealing with blokes like this.

Sophie! Nereid and Wire said simultaneously, and Megan noticed, for the first time, the bell jar containing a tiny version of Brainchild.

Dammit, the Equestrian said, and there was an edge of dawning horror from her mind. She's probably the linchpin to kick his machine into high gear. There are few things more powerful than a disembodied living human spirit in this realm.

Bugger, Maelstrom said, and stepped in front of the Equestrian again just as the room became a fireworks show of multicolored magics.

"Where did you get this many souls, Sator?" the Equestrian said, gesturing a magical shield into existence.

"I've been here a long time," Sator said. "And humans -- particularly paranormals -- are very useful for fetching and carrying."

Like the serial killer? Suzanne said. I wonder if he demanded the victim type switch for some magical reason.

"Like the poor chump you've been using lately?" the Equestrian said, raising blue vines from the floor to entrap Sator.

"Oh, he was a killer to start with," Sator said, creating a shredding whirlwind around himself that took the vines to pieces. "He came to me, pathetic thing, wanting to know how to get rid of the ghosts that were following him. So I took them away, and tucked them here for safekeeping. And he went off to make more."

"Not all girls, though," the Equestrian said. Maelstrom kicked a ball of fire up at Sator.

"Oh, it was some Oedipal thing," Sator said, flicking the fireball away. "He didn't get to kill his father, so he wanted to kill his father. I promised to raise his father so he could kill him -- imagine me going to all that trouble for a foolish little creature like that -- and he went out to fetch more souls. But temptation took him back to his original targets. Humans are so predictable."

There you go, the Equestrian said to Suzanne.

That's terrible, said Suzanne.

At least there won't be any more, Ira said comfortingly.

By this one, Suzanne said.

Megan looked around as she ducked the lightning and fire and wind. There was a big, heavy control panel nearby, behind Sator. She ran to it and found herself face-to-face with Meteor, who apparently had the same idea. They nodded to each other, bent, and jammed their fingers underneath the solid mass of steel and lights.

Megan counted, One... two... THREE! and they both heaved with all their might.

The panel tore free of its moorings and slammed into Sator's back, exploding into more lightning and fire and wind.

Sator lost concentration, apparently, as his part of the fireworks ceased for a moment. There was a whirring, whining sound that cut through the air, and Wire's trademark wires, which she reputedly never used on living things, lashed out to wrap around Sator.

His clothing was reduced to ribbons, but his skin was impervious. He pursed his lips and raised a hand. The wires rebounded, lashing back toward their creator.

Wire leapt aside just a fraction of a second too late, and her left arm just... fell off below the elbow.

Megan felt Renata clamp down on Wire's reaction, but she saw the blood burst onto the floor. Wire fell, clamping her remaining hand over the stump. Somehow, Wire stayed silent against some sort of desperate panic that Megan didn't understand.

Worse, the churning, spinning wires kept on and slashed through the glass bell jar that hovered above the funnel, sending glass fragments everywhere.

Nereid screamed as Brainchild's spirit slipped toward the abyss of the black cone.


Note from the Author:

Ten commenters get you the next episode on Thursday!

And remember to vote for WCS!

wonder_city: (Default)
Definitely a Boojum

Where the fuck did he go? Megan said through the link.

This way! Simon said, and everyone paying attention could smell slightly scorched spandex and male sweat, with a number of overtones none of them could identify, but I could feel Simon's translation: fear, rage, hope, desperation, frustration.

Meteor shrank down to about ten feet tall so as to follow Simon, since she'd lost her aerial view of the killer in the shadows almost immediately.

Down this street? Megan said, skidding around the corner after the much tighter cornering of the wolf. But this is...

Sator's, Watson said. He's gone to Sator's. Don't you remember him?

For the second time that night, Megan had a bitter taste of memory that I had to filter and poke her out of. C'mon, girl, no time for expository flashbacks, I said.

They paused outside the door of Sator's, which was neatly closed. Simon listened.

"Sator! Sator!" Camerabro was bellowing, moving away from them into the store.

"What is it?" came an irritated reply, and I could feel, via Watson and Megan, that it was Sator's voice.

"It's all gone to shit," Camerabro said. "Instead of just the kids and the dog, there was a spandex ambush."

I could hear Megan thinking, NOT spandex, very loudly. Meteor shot her a hateful look.

"And so you've come here expecting what exactly?" Sator said, and his voice was a silken-smooth growl.

"Enough power to get you what you need!" the cameraman said. "You wanted one more soul. I can get it for you. But first I need what you promised me."

"Were you followed?" Sator demanded.

Meteor started forward, but Simon said, No, wait, and kept listening.

"Damn you, give me what you promised!" the killer shouted. Then he moderated his tone: "I'll go get a soul for you. Three souls. Six souls. I'll bring them all to you! There are so many girls out there in this city, so many with soft throats and powers that bounce off me. I can kill them all."

"Were you followed?" Sator said.

"I'll bring you more souls than you can count," the man said, "just give me what you promised and I'll go out and get them for you."

Sator said, his tone hard as diamond, "You brought them here, you fool, you hopeless excuse for a human. And now I shall have to kill them myself."

"I'll do it!" Camerabro shrieked, and the shop was oozing the scent of terror now. "I'll take care of them...!"

"I don't think so," Sator said, his voice matter-of-fact. "I only need one soul, and yours is as good as any."

I didn't have time to shield myself much, but I managed to shield everyone else in the link from the mind-searing death that went with the most horrible scream Simon, Megan, Meteor, and I had ever heard torn from a human throat.


Note from the Author:

YES! You all did it! If you do it again (ten comments), I'll post a THIRD new episode on Saturday!

Vote for WCS!

wonder_city: (Default)
I Have a Bad Feeling About This

The energy flare receded quicker, Suzanne thought, than it would have had she seen it in the flesh rather than through the telepathic link.

The cameraman -- the killer -- was standing there, his costume tattered around the edges and smoking lightly. He laughed, a short, ugly sound, and stepped toward Lizzie, who was still dazzled by her own attack.

MOVE, LIZZIE! Simon and Megan both screamed through the link. Lizzie threw herself backward as he lunged forward.

From one side came a swoop of wind and something hit Camerabro hard in a tinkling crash of machinery. He flew backward a good ten feet, landing in a bed of tulips.

The camerawoman, Eartha, dropped the remains of her useless camera. "I always KNEW you were an asshole!" she screamed, skidding to a halt six inches above the ground.

(Renata picked her up into the link, and Suzanne could hear the edges of Renata's high-speed explanation to Eartha. The camerawoman circled rapidly behind the House crew.)

Jeshri noticed Brandon bending down and retrieving something that had bounced to his feet: it looked like a tiny gramophone, with a large black horn and a box made of moving gears.

Camerabro made an incoherent noise of rage and bounded to his feet, then to Brandon.

Brandon looked up at him, still with that silly little smile on his face. "Bro?" he said, and held the thing out to him.

The cameraman snatched it out of his hand and slammed Brandon out of the way with a backswing of his forearm, starting for Jeshri again.

There was a moment's stab of panic through the link -- from Jeshri, who was too far from the light post to grab any electricity, from Lizzie, who had depleted her stored energy, from Simon, who wasn't sure he could get there in time, and from Megan, who was leaping for him.

Then Meteor's giant hand swatted the killer away as casually has he'd just swatted Brandon. He flew in a neat parabolic arc back toward the entrance to the park.

Simon was running as fast as his four legs would carry him, which was blindingly fast to Suzanne, and snapping through the link, Goddammit, Meteor, you DON'T fucking throw the supervillain so he's CLOSER to civilians. Megan, c'mon. The rest of you, stay here and call the cops!

What was I supposed to do? Meteor snarled. Invite him to dance?

Knock him into the river. Squash him flat. I don't care. Simon bounded over a bush. But move your giant ass. Let's try to stop him from killing anyone else.

Oh, Simon, Suzanne thought, Simon, be careful. She remembered him telling her about going to classes at the Gold Star Academy when he was a teenager, learning how to be a better team leader and all that. She thought, You may not be in spandex, but spandex keeps chasing you.

The boy's all right, Renata said. He knows what he's doing.

Yes, Suzanne said, and didn't add, But so did Mitch. She wrenched her attention away long enough for a gulp of coffee and a glance at Watson's intent but calm face before diving back in.


Note from the Author:
Yes, I am cruel. The next new episode will be next Tuesday!

Vote for WCS at Top Web Fiction!

wonder_city: (Default)
Secret Identities Hide Many Things

"Move!" Megan hissed, springing to her feet and starting to run.

She felt more than saw Meteor catch up with her and whisk her into the air by catching her under the arms. She managed not to flail her suddenly relativley tiny size-32 feet in the air while this happened.

It was a matter of three giant strides across the park (she'd have to beg Ladybird to come out to fix the crushed bushes and snapped-off trees) and Megan was back on the ground.

Simon's empty trouser legs barely protruded from a fist-sized hole punched in the ground. The shredded sweater was nearby. A giant golden wolf crouched, snarling, between the housemates and the newcomer who was rising to his feet, a white man in midnight blue spandex and a billowing, hooded black cape.

A horrified shock of recognition rocked Megan back on her heels. Fuck! I know him!

Really? came Watson's interested query, over the flurry of other inquiries.

I met him my first day in town! Megan said, blank with horror as the man turned his sparkling, if somewhat sinister, large-chinned smile on the crowd. He was chasing the Merlin. Oh my god. Oh my god. I handed the Merlin to him. He said he'd been after him, and I just handed him over. I as good as killed him!

FOCUS! Renata's mental command poked Megan straight in the adrenal glands. Angst later, girlfriend, she added, a little more kindly.

The man had spun to face Megan and Meteor, and just seized Meteor's ankle and tossed her partly into the air, off balance. Meteor shrank rapidly as she fell, and she dropped with a crash into a copse of trees and boxwood hedges. He turned to Megan.

He had been trained to fight, somewhat. He knew how to throw a punch, for instance. Megan's arm registered a significant impact as she blocked -- she guessed that Watson's Class 5 estimate might be a little low.

Unfortunately for him, she'd been trained better.

When he skidded to a stop, shoring up against the lamp post recently vacated by Brandon, Simon pounced on him. The man twisted away, rolling to his feet. Simon's flashing teeth caught and tore off the hood and cape, leaving his face exposed. His eminently recognizable tiny eyes and birthmark shared space with a bleeding scrape across his cheek where one fang had scored him.

"Bro?" Brandon said hesitantly. Events had apparently confused him.

The cameraman's eyes narrowed and he slapped something on his belt. The camerawoman, Eartha, yelped and dropped her rig as it sparked vigorously.

The streetlight flickered briefly, but the hardened Wonder City infrastructure held.

"No more film," he said, sneering. "Just you all, dying."

"God, I've wanted to do this forever," Lizzie said, and, raising her arms toward him, dumped a vast red explosion of energy into the killer.


Note from the Author:
And I've been SO eager to post this, so THANK YOU ALL for commenting!

I believe it was [profile] interleaper who remembered the very first person Megan met in Wonder City. (Correct me if I'm wrong...) Good memory, indeed!

The comment incentive will return next Tuesday!

Vote for WCS!

wonder_city: (Default)

I settled into what I call my long-haul chair. It's intensely soft and it floats on some sort of magnetic cloud and is more stable than the floor, so even if I lose my shit and try to get up without the proper escape sequence, it won't totter over or anything. All my monitoring systems were online and checked. All my robots were nearby to try to minimize anything physical that I might try to do to myself. I had taken my pain medications and my focus-enhancing medications. At hand was an automated system that could detect incipient psychic flares (which are like solar flares, except they disrupt mental processes rather than electromagnetic processes) and either administer a fast-acting intramuscular tranquilizer or a hard electric shock, depending on the predicted magnitude of the flare.

I took a few deep breaths. It had been a while since I last did this. Being the nexus of a telepathic network is a surprising lot of work, primarily filtering of content and translation of the way that a given person thinks about things into a mutually understandable language. Doing this for a group of non-telepaths simultaneously requires the most exacting walls and split-second multitasking. I expected, when I agreed, to be wrecked for at least a week afterward.

I had remembered to go to the bathroom before I started. My mother had crammed some valuable life lessons into my brain on those long car rides to the Shore.

"Imaging on," I said, and the computer flipped up photographs of my telepathic targets. Which first? I contemplated the Wonderful House crew and decided, as I had expected, that I felt the most connection to Simon, so I focused on his photo, paying minute attention to the perfect lines of his jaw and cheekbones, the tight ripples of his brown-black hair, the yellow eyes behind their tinted shields...

Hello, Mr. Canis, I said when the tingle of contact rippled down my spine. His was a warm, quick-moving mind, full of an idealism I'd not had since I was eight or so.

Hello! he replied, trying not to sound startled, though I knew he was. A pleasure to, uh, meet you.

He had the pleasantly repressed mind of someone who has been trained to cope with psionics. The pleasure's mine, Mr. Canis. I stopped short of telling him I was a fan. Nothing like having a telepathic fangirl in your head to make you nervous.

Now it was easy. I looked at the others through Simon's eyes (and his other senses, which were distractingly acute) and added them to my collection: Jeshri, whose mind was a sharp stacatto of thoughts like blows; Tom, who was in an agony of fast-moving anxiety; Lizzie, whose world was always a little blurry; Megan, who was quivering with a steel-jacketed terror; Suzanne, whose inner world flew apart in pieces and crashed back together with her heartbeat; Watson, whose turbulent ideas had parted and smoothed for my entry; and to my surprise, Suzanne's father-in-law Ira, who was abuzz with excitement and nostalgia.

I stopped short of picking up the camerawoman, and after a quick consultation with Watson, left her out. She had not, after all, consented to a telepathic link and all its risks. I did scan her quickly, though, and discovered that she was Jeshri's camerawoman, her name was Eartha (yes, named for Eartha Kitt), she was, in fact, para, and she was rather nervous and excited about all this. At least they'd warned her it might be dangerous.

I saved the ghost for last. Meteor was alarmingly present for someone possessing another person, and I only got the faintest whiffs of the host personality. I wondered if Watson had set this up to see if I could pry Meteor loose from her moorings. I would believe in that sort of Machiavellian scheming from her.

All right, I said to them all. Everyone's in the loop.

I naturally picked up things I shouldn't know from their subconscious emotional levels. It shouldn't have surprised me that Megan and Simon had a history, I suppose, but it did; they'd played it very cool in Megan's one appearance on-screen. Watson and Megan were lovers, and both of them had been involved with the woman possessed by Meteor, resulting in some spectacularly conflicted emotions. Suzanne and Simon, of course, were desperate for each other. Lizzie had mad crushes on all three of her housemates (that was another surprise). Meteor hated everyone equally for being strange, perverted, and living (that was not a surprise). Lizzie also felt like she really should have gone before she left the house; I had to filter that like whoa or everyone would need to pee, including me.

Thank you, Watson said once I'd delivered all the general greetings. Her mental voice was crisp and snappy, and she was also speaking aloud for Eartha's benefit. You all know where you need to be. Megan, Meteor, you start now. House crew, give them two minutes and then start strolling to your destination.

What about you? Jeshri said. She was speaking aloud as well.

I'll be only a few blocks away with Suzanne and Ira, coordinating with Renata's help, Watson said.

There was a wisp of an apology as soon as my first name came out. Nothing like being inside each other's minds to bring everyone to a first-name basis, is there? I assured her.

Amusement came back from Watson, and I turned my attention to following Megan and Meteor.

The two of them proceeded in silence that was angry on Meteor's part -- I could tell she hadn't been entirely warned that she'd have to work with Megan -- and irritated on Megan's part -- because Meteor was snappish and because she had a terrible conflict between wanting to hate Meteor and having some sympathy for the girl. They were trying not to be noticeable as they hurried to the dilapidated dock where they were to hunker down and wait. Meteor, growing, could get them to the meeting place in a few seconds rather than the couple of minutes it would normally take to run there. I would have to do a tight job of filtering on these two: Meteor not only hated Megan but was terrified of her, particularly of being touched by her. A contagion sort of terror. Homophobia at its most refined. Lovely.

I watched the Wonderful House crew trying to stroll casually to the appointed meeting place. Jeshri and Lizzie kept exchanging reassuring hand-squeezes. Tom was concentrating on looking as intimidating as possible, throwing back his broad shoulders and puffing out his chest. Simon was quivering with nerves, paying exquisite attention to every breeze and every sound. He was worried about being able to get out of his clothes fast enough, and so had worn a thin knit v-neck sweater and a loose pair of linen trousers -- things he knew he could rip easily.

Watson was chattering easily and meaninglessly with Suzanne and Ira. Ira was peppering her with questions that even I could tell came from long experience -- no wonder Watson wanted him there as part of her strategy team. If nothing else, he could make a general prediction of the behavior of most sorts of supervillains.

I took a deep breath and consciously relaxed the muscles that had tensed up during this preparation.

It was almost midnight.


Note from the Author:
And so...

Beginning next week, I'm starting a new comment incentive: if I get 10 or more comments on the posts I make on Tuesday -- and they can be ANY comment, from "Hi" to "+1" or whatever, anything to tell me you're out there! -- I will post the next episode on Thursday. This incentive will continue at least through the climax of the story.

We're also falling down the Top Web Fiction hit parade, so please click the banner below to vote for WCS!

wonder_city: (Default)
O Divine Art of Subtlety and Secrecy!

"Look, I've been talking to someone lately, and I think he may be able to give you information about your killer," Megan said. She'd been hanging around outside every evening for a week, trying to catch Meteor as she departed on her nightly patrols (or on any dates).

Meteor glowered at her from the far side of the carriage house garden. She'd modified her plain green tank suit into a sleeveless body suit with a low neckline and a decorative red line (that matched her hair) from one shoulder straight down her body to her foot. "You and that Holmes woman think you're so very clever," she said with an expression that wasn't quite a snarl. "But I know you're trying to find someone who will exorcise me. And not having much luck," she added, almost gloating.

Megan gritted her teeth. "I want to help both you and G."

"You're lying," Meteor said.

Megan ground her teeth now. It sucked that Meteor was right.

A short, urgent series of beeps sounded.

"I don't have time to hang about chatting with you," Meteor said. "I have important things to do." She tapped a small gold star set on her costume just below her left collarbone and ran out of the yard, heading toward the road. She was almost out of sight when she started growing.

Megan sank down on a tree stump and put her head in her hands.

"Bitch has got to keep her size 50s outta my damn garden," Mr. Hammer said, emerging from the carriage house, "or I will put a serious hurtin' on her." His silvered countenance was sour and angry.

"Sorry," Megan said. "She flounced off, and the flounce took her through the tulip patch."

He bent over the wounded flowers, gently plucking the ones that were crushed and encouraging the rest to stand back up. "If this keeps up and she flounces through my vegetables, I'll make sure she'll never goddamn flounce again."

"She's using G's body, you know," Megan said glumly.

"I know," he said, plucking a few weeds from around the blooms. "Zoltan's been bending my ear about it for days."

"She's going on dates," Megan said. "With men. G told me once that she knew she was a lesbian when she was 11 and came out when she was 17."

Mr. Hammer straightened up and dusted his hands off. "She's got good friends in you two," he said. "Me, I'm not the charge-to-the-rescue type. That gets you deader'n doorknobs in this town."

"I know," Megan said. "One of my friends asked me what I wanted for my epitaph."

He squinted at her through the deepening crepuscular gloom. "You don't want to be talking to me, girl. Zoltan's the one for meddling. Go ask him for suggestions. Just keep bein' on time at the site in the mornings." He went back into his house and shut the door gently.

Megan sighed, then heaved to her feet and went to knock on her landlord's door.

"Ah, my dear, you look like someone has kicked your puppy, kitten, and potbellied piglet," Zoltan said, letting her into his basement apartment.

"Potbellied piglet?" Megan said, baffled. She was bemused by his attire: an immaculate white undershirt and perfectly-creased black trousers.

"A passing fancy," he said, leading the way into his living room. "You will forgive me, I hope. My tailor is here, and I have been measured and remeasured. She cannot deny me a moment's rest."

"I can and I will, if I must," said a gravelly woman's voice from his bedroom. She had what Megan thought might be a German accent, and sounded like she'd been smoking unfiltered cigarettes for the past fifty years.

"You see what I must suffer for my wardrobe?" Zoltan said.

"Why do you have to be measured so much?" Megan said. "Does your body ever actually change much?"

"An excellent question!" Zoltan said, sprawling decoratively on a Victorian-styled fainting couch. "I asked her much the same thing."

"And I said, yes, your body changes," the woman said, emerging to stand in the doorway. She was shrunken and wizened like the apple witches Megan had made as a child, but she was dressed in an exquisite dark blue suit and rose-colored blouse, a pair of silver-rimmed half-moon glasses perched on her nose. A set of silver tools -- scissors, thimble, and other things Megan couldn't recognize -- hung from her belt. "Over my lifetime, your posture and carriage have changed radically. Your body shifts to carry its weight differently, because even you cannot defy gravity..."

"Aie, do not tell me these things!" Zoltan exclaimed, covering his ears with manicured hands. "I defy all, even gravity!"

"... and so," she continued, "I must adjust your mannequin every year so that your suits are still the envy of all Wonder City. And now I must adjust your older suits to fit. This is, as they say, what you pay me the big bucks for, yes?"

"Yes, yes," he said, defeated. "Give me a moment of peace with my tenant. She is come to tell me important tenantly things."

"Ach," she said with disgust, "as if you ever take anything seriously." But she disappeared back into his bedroom and shut the door behind her.

"Now," Zoltan said, abruptly surging forward to sit on the edge of the couch, all attention. "You were about to tell me about Meteor and my friend G."

Megan blinked. "How did you know?" she said. Then she waved a hand. "No, never mind, you're the landlord. Look, I have to get Meteor to Sator's in Staybird somehow. He says he thinks he can remove her from G."

"You have tried the most obvious method of cunning, I gather," Zoltan said, folding his hands under his chin.

"Well," Megan said dubiously, "I tried telling her that I'd been talking to someone I thought could give her information about her killer."

"Ah, very good, not entirely a lie," Zoltan said. "The problem is that she thinks you are the devil in disguise. What you need is someone who she could believe is not evil."

"Like you?" Megan said with a wry smirk.

"Oh, no, she believes I will suck her blood!" Zoltan said. "And when I tell her I will not, and why, then she believes I am the devil. No, no one in this household will do."

"But if I tell any of the Gold Stars," Megan said, "or, god forbid, her boyfriend, they probably won't believe me, and even if they do..."

"They are not exactly the souls of subterfuge," Zoltan said, nodding. "Yes, I quite see the difficulty. So you must give up."

"But!" Megan exclaimed, nearly standing.

Zoltan indicated with a "stop" hand signal that he wasn't finished, and she subsided. "You must give up the pseudo-lie," he said, "and go with out-and-out fabrication. What are the things driving this ghost?"

"Um," Megan said, "she wanted to be a superhero. And, I guess, she wanted a boyfriend."

"But most of all! She wanted to be a superhero." Zoltan smiled, running his fingers through his smooth black hair. "This is what you must play upon. There must be a superhero reason for her to go to Sator's."

"Oh!" Megan slapped her forehead with her palm. "That makes so much more sense."

Zoltan leaned over and patted her other hand. "Ghosts are shallow beings, in general. You cannot appeal to their reason, so you must appeal to their raison d'être."


From the Author:
The party went well! (I'm sure you all were waiting with bated breath to hear.) And now we are in an atrocious heat wave. AC is my best friend.

The comment incentive in July: if I get 50 total comments from readers in July, I will post twice weekly through August. As before, if you all post 75 comments, I'll post twice weekly through September too. Get up to 100 comments, the twice-weekly postings continue through October.

And add-on to the incentive: reviews count as 5 comments, a TVTropes page for WCS would count as 25 comments.

wonder_city: (Default)
A Matter of Necessity

Megan waved as Ladybird drove off to turn in the company van, then put her feet on the path down to the front door of the house on Marigold Lane. It was kind of Ladybird to make the stop; the two 50-pound bags of cat food might not be onerously heavy to Megan, but they were awkward and slippery. Plus, Wonder City was celebrating the coming of the spring equinox with dull leaden skies, a biting wind that went straight through her invulnerable skin, and the promise of yet another ice storm.

As she turned the curve around the carriage house (no lights on, Mr. Hammer must not be home yet), she saw a clean-cut young white man in a navy suit and a dark grey trenchcoat standing at the door of the house. His dishwater blond hair was cut so short as to be nearly military. He was fidgeting, jingling keys and change in one pocket, staring in at the door curiously.

She called, "Can I help you?" before stepping onto the porch, and he whirled in surprise. He was only a couple years older than she was, and had a fairly nice smile, but was otherwise unremarkable.

"Sorry!" he said. "I'm waiting for my date. I rang," he added, gesturing at the set of doorbells.

"Ah," Megan said, frowning in her perplexity. Zoltan's date for the evening? "Are you sure you hit the right bell?"

The door flew open just then and Meteor stepped out. She was wearing a neat green wool suit exactly the shade of her tank suit; the skirt came to just below her knees and the jacket was a two-button double-breasted affair with pinstripes. A lacy bowtie draped over the V of the jacket collar, and a smart little green pillbox hat topped her swooping flame-red 1940s pompadour. "Kevin!" she exclaimed with a brilliant smile. The smile faded abruptly when she saw Megan.

"Gwen! You look gorgeous!" the man -- Kevin, apparently -- exclaimed. Out of the corner of his mouth, he said to Megan, "Glad I wore the suit!"

"Yes," Megan said, flat and unenthusiastic. "Hello, 'Gwen'."

"Megan," Meteor said, equally unenthusiastic and with an undercurrent of fear.

"Nice outfit," Megan said.

"Isn't it?" Meteor said, recovering her poise just a bit. "Oh, Kevin, I'm sorry, this is one of my housemates, Megan."

"Megan Amazon," Megan said, setting down one of the bags and shaking his hand.

"Kevin Necessitas," he said, grinning.

"One of Mother Necessity's...?" Megan began.

"Grandson," he said. "The third Mother N's grandson. Don't have the knack for invention that my sister and cousins have, though."

Megan racked her brain for the vague memory that nagged at her, then found it. "You're... Doctor Insight?"

"Got it in one," Kevin said. "I shouldn't expect any less of the Amazon's daughter, though."

If she remembered correctly, he had a minor para power that allowed him to see remotely inside a human body, which made him a rather good doctor, but a lousy superhero.

"Kevin, won't we miss the show if we're too much later?" Meteor said, taking his arm. She was, Megan noticed, just about an inch shorter than Kevin now. Nice trick that.

"Seen G today?" Megan said, with malice.

"No," Meteor said, giving a small toss of her head, "I haven't seen her for days and days." She began moving Kevin off the porch toward the driveway.

"G'bye!" Kevin said over his shoulder. "Nice meeting you!"

"Yeah," Megan said, picking up the bag of cat food. She watched them get into Kevin's dark blue Lexus sedan and drive off, then went inside and closed the door behind her.

She climbed the stairs to the third floor heavily and let herself into Watson's apartment.


From the Author:
Because we got to the halfway point in the commenting incentive in May, and because I didn't give you a real episode last week, I will post two episodes this week. Look for the second one on Friday!

Let's try the comment incentive again in June: if I get 50 total comments from readers in June, I will post twice weekly through July. As before, if you all post 75 comments, I'll post twice weekly through August too. Get up to 100 comments, the twice-weekly postings continue through September.

The next short story is coming; ended up scrapping what I'd originally written and now am rewriting. Sorry about that. :P

Vote for us at Top Web Fiction. Please do vote -- it's only a few clicks.

wonder_city: (Default)
Every Thistle Has Its Bloom

Megan let herself out of Simon's apartment, realizing that she hadn't talked to his plants the way he'd asked her to this time, but not really caring enough to go back in. There was something strangely unfulfilling about one-sided chats with Phyllis the rosemary tree, and something bizarrely sinister about Old Noakes the aspidistra. And she had, after all, remembered to turn on the recording of the Fat Lady's "Hera and Zeus" for them.

There was a choked sob from across the hall. G's door was slightly ajar, and Megan couldn't keep herself from stepping over and gently pushing the door open enough to see.

Meteor was sitting on the sofa, face in her hands. She was in her outdated green tank suit, and her cat's-eye mask was lying on the table. Her long red hair flowed over her bare shoulders. Her hands were young and smooth, without any of the knobbly and muscled character of G's hands.

Megan noticed idly that none of the cats were in evidence. She was concerned for a moment, but then spotted Uhura staring at Meteor from the bedroom door, and realized that all the cats were just as far as they could be from the crazy ghost in the living room.

After a few moments, Megan said, "Hello."

Meteor jumped and stared. Her pale face was blotchy with tears. She had almost no visible eyelashes, and her eyes were blue (where they weren't red right now). She had some freckles sprinkled across her cheeks.

Megan tried a smile. It wasn't a very good try.

After a moment of silence, Meteor put her face in her hands again. "You're the reason she hates me," she said, muffled. Her voice was very young.

Megan shrugged, realized that Meteor couldn't see the shrug, and said, "I doubt that."

"Oh, you are," she said, still not looking up. "She was content to give me space before you came along. Now she says I've ruined everything."

"To be honest," Megan said, not feeling very nice, "you have."

Meteor burst into fresh tears. Megan waited for the initial downpour to pass and said, "So why don't you tell me why you're doing this?"

There was a sniffle and a hiccough. "Do you really want to know?" Meteor asked.

Megan sighed. "Yes, I do."

Meteor glowered at her with bloodshot eyes. "He killed me."

"Who killed you?" Megan said patiently.

"The Grey Phantom," she said. "Look, I know she told you this."

"And there's no villain on record with that name who had the power to dematerialize someone and shove them into a wall," Megan said. "So who really did it to you?"

"It wasn't his name," Meteor said. "That's what I saw. A grey phantom. Out of the corner of my eye, just before everything went... cold." She got a distant look in her eye. "It was very cold, having stone inside me. I didn't understand what was happening. I tried to ask, but my mouth wouldn't work. I heard him..." Meteor stared down at the floor.

Megan frowned. "What did he say?"

Meteor looked up. "It was my destiny, or something like that. I don't really remember. I only had half a brain right then," she added angrily.

"And then you just stayed there, where your body was?" Megan said.

"Where else could I go?" Meteor said. "It was my first time going out! I was so excited! I wanted to end tyranny and crime and be famous. Instead, I was part of a wall."

"You could have moved on to wherever dead people move on to," Megan pointed out. "You could have gone toward the light or something."

"There wasn't any light," Meteor said sullenly.

"And no one else came along who could have helped you?" Megan said.

"They were all men," Meteor said. "A man killed me."

"Ah," Megan said, at a loss. She wished she dared take the moment to run upstairs and fetch Watson. Watson would have more useful questions for Meteor.

Meteor sniffled miserably. "All I ever wanted to be was a hero," she said. "All I ever wanted to be was good enough."

Megan said, as gently as she could, "You're not being very heroic now, taking G's life away."

Meteor stood up, suddenly taller than Megan, her red hair crackling around her. She looked furious and a wind whipped up around the room. Megan took a step back. "She's had a life, at least, and she's wasting what she has left!" she shouted. "I'm going to do the right things now. I'm going to make her do the right things!" And with that, she threw herself at the wall and passed through it, out into the cold February night.

Megan lingered for a moment, then went into the bedroom to check on the cats. They were all there, even though she had to look under the bed for Olamina and Uhura. There were shreds of a filmy pink negligee stuffed into the trash can.

Madame Blavatsky gave Megan a sharp once-over, and imperiously said, "MWAH!"

"Yeah," Megan said. "I feel that way too. Let me check on your food and stuff."

After ensuring that the cats were fed and watered (and petted), Megan climbed wearily up to the third floor and knocked on Watson's door.

The older woman opened the door. She wasn't wearing her glasses and her hair standing up at odd angles. Megan grimaced apologetically. "Did I wake you?"

Watson blinked and rubbed her face. "Yeah, I guess so. I don't have keyboard-prints on my face anywhere, do I?"

Megan thought the red spots on her forehead had been oddly regular. "Just a little."

Watson said, "Hah," and then, "What's up?"

"I just had a conversation with Meteor," Megan said. "I thought you'd like a run-down."

"Sure," Watson said. "Come on in."

Megan glanced once around the apartment and thought that Watson took more after Holmes than was really good for her. Overstacked bookshelves teetered against every wall, papers of various sorts covered practically every flat surface, and the computer was so covered in ephemera that it looked likely to burst into flame at any moment. The sitting surfaces were mismatched, intensely cushioned, and more numerous than Megan would have thought this solitary woman would need. There were only a couple dim floor lamps lighting the place, which made it seem oddly warm and cozy.

Still, the place could've used a Mrs. Hudson.

Watson kicked a path through scattered papers to the sofa and threw herself down on it, waving extravagantly to an overstuffed chair.

Megan shook her head slightly, perched on the chair carefully, and repeated the conversation, as much word-for-word as she could.

Watson listened intently, focusing her gaze just past Megan's left ear. It went quickly, and when Megan was done, Watson nodded. "That makes much more sense than an unknown villain. The anti-male bent is interesting, given her choice of host -- a lesbian -- and given what she's trying to do to G."

"Convert her, you mean?" Megan said. "I found a shredded nightgown in the trash in the bedroom."

"Hunh," Watson said, rubbing her face again. "All right, we need to move faster. Shall we consult Madame Destiny?"

Megan's shoulders slumped. "Yeah, I guess so. Mom always said Madame's predictions were really cryptic and usually useless, but I think we're at a dead end."

"No pun intended, I'm sure," Watson said. "Want to stay here tonight?"

Megan blinked, more than a little startled. "I, um, are you sure you want to turn this into a really complicated triangle?"

Watson gave her a grim little smile. "It might not end up a triangle at all, if we can't find someone to help G."

"You don't beat around the bush, do you?"

"Wastes time, annoys the Watson," said Watson. "What do you say?"

"I..." Megan looked around at the disastrous, and yet comfortable space. "Oh, sure, why the hell not? How do you find the bedroom?"

"That door," Watson said, pointing at a door that probably couldn't be completely closed because of the detritus. "Where did I put my glasses?"

Later that night, Megan dreamily reconsidered her previous biases about perception-based para powers, and thought that, perhaps, G had learned a great deal from Watson.


From the Author:
Oh, Megan. So easily distracted.

Wonder City Stories has been nominated for the Rose & Bay Award! Check out all the nominees in all the categories here. I'd love for you to vote for WCS. And please do consider voting for Dave or Lucid (I mean aerynvale or badfaun!) in the patron category.

I'm posting twice weekly during February. Thank you for all your comments! Please keep commenting while I come up with new ideas (or steal other people's ideas) for fan involvement. I love all your comments.

Vote for us at Top Web Fiction! Come on and click. You know you want to.

wonder_city: (Default)
This story arc has been published as a novel!

Buy in print at Createspace or Amazon!
Buy the ebook at Kindle | Kobo | Apple Store | Scribd | Inktera


Don't Seem the Same Since Cosmic Light

The Great Bird Restaurant was a pile of rubble, though the copper thunderbird somehow continued to perch atop the remains. Megan had watched Meteor scoop up people as they ran out the back door. Nereid had briefly attacked Josh, then paused to hold up the roof of the restaurant with pillars of water as the last people evacuated. Then she'd extracted her unconscious teammate and retreated out of sight. Probably to help Meteor.

Megan's brain kept coming to a screeching halt when she thought of Meteor, so she distracted herself. She had a lot of material to work with.

The Gold Stars had arrived. After Midnight Mask attempted to negotiate with Josh and gotten the ground blown out from under his feet, the heroes began to circle cautiously, trying different attacks but trying not to hit Suzanne. The attacks were shearing off some sort of field, something that was converting the incoming force and energy to outgoing force and energy, and somewhat enhancing it, making for more damage.

Josh was still gripping Suzanne by the hair and back of her neck. He kept her at arm's length now, since she had managed to tear herself loose once (losing a handful of hair), after he'd killed the new Bronze Guardian, and nailed him in the crotch with a hell of a good kick. It had just made him more angry and he'd blacked her eye with astonishing restraint. He hadn't been distracted enough to drop his shields.

Megan still cradled Simon's body. She'd summoned up the presence of mind to check him and he was breathing, just unconscious and somewhat broken. She couldn't think very clearly, which was unusual and irritated her. Some distant part of her brain suggested that she should think about first aid for Simon.

She was entirely distracted by her boss arriving on the scene. The Ultimate dropped down out of the sky like a dark comet, carrying the Fat Lady in her arms. She landed, released the Fat Lady -- who arrived gracefully on the broken pavement, despite her high heels -- and aimed a blow for Josh's head. He spun and blocked the blow with his free arm. The thunderous blast blew the front wall of the building Megan sat in flat. Fortunately, the window was already shattered and the wall dropped harmlessly around her and Simon. She could hear the roof and other walls crumbling behind her.

When she looked again, she was expecting Josh to be holding a bloody paste in lieu of Suzanne, but he must have shielded her. He dropped her, and she lay, dazed, at his feet. Most of the other heroes had been knocked away from the pair, though somehow the Fat Lady had held her ground, apparently unscathed.

The Ultimate, Steel Justice, Olympic, and Sekhmet closed in again. The Green Hood -- one of the broad-jawed white guys without powers who was always a media darling -- was trying to get closer, ducking under stray blows and blasts, though what he thought he would do with his trick arrows and pointy wit, Megan didn't know.

Josh was still standing, laughing sometimes, and otherwise unmarked.

Megan winced as he caught Steel Justice a surprise blow that knocked the man away in a high arc.


Megan's head snapped around to look at the pale-faced white girl with brown pigtails behind her. "You shouldn't be here..." she began to say.

The girl closed the distance between them. "Amazon, you have to get me in there. I can end this."

"I'm not the Amazon," Megan said. Then she recognized the girl. "And you work with Simon."

The girl --Lizzie -- nodded. Megan saw that her eyes were glowing yellow-white, and Megan had to restrain an urge to scoot backward.

"I'm vulnerable like this," Lizzie said, gesturing at herself in a frustrated way. "But I need to touch him to end this. You're the only one who can help me." She gestured at the other paras. "They're too busy."

Megan could recognize the inevitable force of Destiny when she had to. Cursing her mother silently, she gently set Simon down. "Stay right behind me," she told the girl, who nodded. Then she headed into the fray, Lizzie's hand gripping the waist of her jeans from behind.


Vote for us at Top Web Fiction!

wonder_city: (Default)
This story arc has been published as a novel!

Buy in print at Createspace or Amazon!
Buy the ebook at Kindle | Kobo | Apple Store | Scribd | Inktera


Only Half Past the Point of No Return

Nereid was glad that she'd been working out lately. Sophie was fast.

They'd gone to lunch at the Stars N' Garters at Sophie's insistence. Sophie said that she really wanted to know more about Nereid and her family, so off they went. Nereid had been horribly and inevitably embarrassed by her parents; about the only thing her mother hadn't done was produce baby photos. They were just leaving, Nereid sighing with relief, when the Kosmic Klaxon went off. Sophie had spotted the incoming blast and started running, pulling equipment out of her satchel as she ran. Nereid, of course, just tried to keep up.

Nereid saw the top of Meteor's head rise above the buildings they were nearing, saw the giant woman draw back and punch down. There was a strange hesitation, and then Meteor -- only thirty or forty feet tall at that juncture -- flew up and backward. Nereid was impressed as the woman shrank in the middle of her arc -- at least the building she fell on wouldn't be crushed outright, just punctured.

Sophie had her goggles on and was assembling some sort of gun without even looking at it. Her running had slowed a bit while she did it.

"Should I call the others?" Nereid panted.

Sophie shook her head. "They'll be on their way, with the Klaxon and all. Gold Stars too, and Guardians probably. All we need to do is get there." She snapped a barrel into the gun and glanced down at it. "I'm all set for now. You ready? It's on the next block."

"Sure," Nereid said, feeling confused. "There wasn't an impact."

"Nope," Sophie said. "Clearly intelligent."

They heard the wind spin up before they saw it: a giant tornado, light burning from within. Windows blew out in nearby buildings, shattered glass and bits of brickwork flashing by viciously in the vortex.

Sophie said, "Bystanders," and gestured at people who were hard to see through the dust and sand kicked up by the storm.

Meteor grew again, a few streets away, and seemed to be stooping and standing a lot. "What's she doing?" Nereid said, squinting.

"Evacuation," Sophie said, making an adjustment to her gun. "Get ready." She aimed at the windstorm and pulled the trigger.

There was no light or sound from her weapon. Nereid couldn't even hear a click from the trigger. But somehow, whatever she did, temporarily altered the laws of physics.

Debris hung eerily in mid-air for a fraction of a second, and then it all tumbled to the ground. They could now see the glowing man and the woman at his feet. He had her by the hair, half-lifting her, and she was wild-eyed with terror.

The man looked at Sophie. Nereid could only ever remember his eyes later: radiation blue.

"Smartass," he snarled, and Sophie dropped like her strings were cut.


Note from the Author:

I've stretched the ChipIn date, so there's only $15 to go for an extra episode this week.

Vote for us at Top Web Fiction!

Don't forget to check out our Zazzle store. Just one design now, but more are coming.
wonder_city: (Default)
This story arc has been published as a novel!

Buy in print at Createspace or Amazon!
Buy the ebook at Kindle | Kobo | Apple Store | Scribd | Inktera


Playing for the Other Team

Megan and G emerged from the Harvest Patch Cafe, replete with a romantically candlelit lunch and several glasses of microbrewery ale. Megan felt that all was good and fine in the brittle sunshine of the afternoon. She filled her lungs with cold air, anticipating the bus ride back to Marigold Lane, and the hopefully inevitable conclusion.

She hoped that Evason wouldn't... stare in such an intent and critical way again.

G turned to say something to Megan, and was cut off by the Kosmic Klaxon's blare. "I hate that thing," she said bitterly, wincing.

"Does it usually go off so often?" Megan said, looking upward nervously for alien craft and plasma bolts. "Oh, crap."

G swore vividly when she also saw the streak of golden light that was descending into the next block.

Megan was already running toward what she thought was the impact point. After a few seconds, she heard G's boots pounding the pavement behind her. Megan had a moment to think, What the hell are we doing? when she rounded the corner.

It was the matter of a fraction of a second for both G and Megan to spot Simon and the middle-aged white woman Megan knew to be Suzanne. Simon was getting cautiously to his feet. They could just make out the profile of a man in the light -- a white guy with glowing blue eyes and red hair. Megan heard G gasp.

"Isn't that the Bronze Guardian?" G said.

Megan squinted against the glare. "I think... it looks like the newspaper photos of him."

The vision spoke. "I am here for you, Suzanne. I'll make a goddess of you, and we can be together again."

Suzanne picked herself up with distracted assistance from Simon, who didn't take his eyes off the man. Megan's respect for her rose when she said, a little cautiously, "I don't care for goddessing, Josh."

Simon remained in front of Suzanne, squinting through his darkened lenses at the man. His knees were slightly bent, his weight on his toes.

"You'll get used to it," the man in the light said.

Suzanne shielded her eyes and looked toward him. "I don't think so."

The color of the light altered slightly, darkening to a reddish-gold -- or perhaps that was a trick of the oncoming sunset? He took a step forward on the air. "I've traveled farther than you can imagine to return to you," he said, a slight irritation entering his voice, "and I will not tolerate this dismissal." Josh started to reach for Suzanne.

Then Simon opened his mouth and drawled the stupidest, cheesiest, most threadbare macho line in the history of action movies: "The lady said no, buddy."

Josh Feldstein lunged and there was a deafening CRACK, though it didn't look like his backhanded slap had actually touched Simon. Simon was thrown sideways by the impact anyway. "And I will not brook interference from some... puppy," the man said, disgust in his voice.

Megan found herself intercepting Simon's flight before he could go through a nearby plate glass window. The wind went out of her as he hit her with more force than she anticipated, and they both hit the window. She bent over him as glass showered down.

The light was intensifying. G skidded to a halt at Megan's side. "Are you all right?" she said, loud enough to be heard over the wind that was rising around Josh and Suzanne. "Simon?"

Megan looked down at Simon. He was limp in her arms, blood running freely from nose and mouth, his glasses askew. One of his legs was bent the wrong way; he'd probably whacked it on the brick wall on their way through the window. With effort, she bellowed, "Get out of here!" at G.

G stared at Simon, then turned her gaze to the cowering woman in the windstorm. She had a strange look on her face when she turned back to Megan, a sad sort of half-smile.

"I'm sorry," she said, "I really meant to tell you."

G doubled over, clutching herself tightly. A shadow, a double-image, something, descended onto and into G.

When she straightened up, long red hair exploded out behind her in the wind, her lean shape spread and curved at hip and breasts, and her clothes were replaced by a simple green one-piece outfit. Her face was younger and paler and... different. She grew a foot taller with every step she took away from Megan.

Megan really couldn't breathe.

G was Meteor.


From the Author:

Thank you to everyone who contributed, both on and off the slate, to the ChipIn! I'm calling this week's complete, so you get the next installment. New ChipIn goes up with Monday's post: we'll try $20 for this coming week, just for the heck of it.

Hope you enjoyed the extra!

Vote for us at Top Web Fiction!
wonder_city: (Default)
This story arc has been published as a novel!

Buy in print at Createspace or Amazon!
Buy the ebook at Kindle | Kobo | Apple Store | Scribd | Inktera


It Ain't Over Till...

Megan didn't think she'd ever been hurt this badly before. The problem with invulnerability, she reflected, fighting for breath and coughing agonizingly on the dust, is that one's pain threshold feels like it's a lot lower than other people's. Tears and dust stung her eyes. She spat out a mouthful of blood and grit, and prodded experimentally at her teeth with her tongue. Which was sore. Ow.

"Megan? Megan!" Tizemt's voice came through the rubble.

She tried to reply, but coughed instead, which brought fresh tears to her eyes. Something started to drip off her chin. Tizemt, however, peered at her through some splintered boards. "There you are. You look like hell, girl. Can you feel everything? Toes and feet and all?"

Megan nodded, wincing at the pain in neck and back. She thought about it for a moment, then decided it was entirely muscles -- strained, stretched, bruised, and battered muscles -- rather than bones.

"Okay," Tizemt said in an excellently calm voice. "Things are looking crumbly. Can you get yourself out?"

Megan caught more breath and reached for a relatively sturdy-looking piece of concrete. It crumbled as she tried to pull herself out from under the load of shattered building materials, and her movement settled more weight on her back, compressing her breathing space. She then, feeling a little like she did that one time she got confused about where up and down were in the deep end of the swimming pool. got both hands under her and tried to lift herself and everything atop her. The powdered sidewalk beneath her shifted and gave way like a snowdrift. She scrabbled a little, but she felt ominous creaking and shifting beneath her and lay still. Something settled atop her and something went crunchily painful in her side. Ah, ribs.

"No," she said in a voice so weak it didn't sound like her own.

"I'm not surprised," Tizemt said. "That blast looked like it would have made a thin red paste of me. Hang on. I'll see what I can do about levering some of this stuff off you."

There was a short-breathed forever before Megan felt some of the pressure on her ribcage relax, just a bit, just enough for the pain to ease and a little more air to come. Tizemt began cursing, colorfully -- in English -- and unintelligibly -- in another language. Finally, Tizemt called, "I can lever it up, but can't find a good way to keep it levered so I can come around and help you out."

"Can I help, gorgeous?" a deep, soft voice said.

"Uhm," Tizemt said. "Yes, please, ma'am? My friend's stuck under there."

"Sure thing," the contralto said. "Here, let me."

There was a brief shudder through the debris, and then it was steady. Tizemt came around to the porthole in the mess and laid herself down flat. "All right, I can come in about four feet and still have a grip on this lamppost with my legs. D'you think that'll be enough?"

It was enough, just. They both had long arms, though they had some reason to curse leaving the Zenobia spear behind at Copperhead's.

An incongruous vision greeted Megan when Tizemt helped her to her feet. There was a shallow crater full of powdered concrete, a pile of stuff that used to be a warehouse and its contents, dust in the air, and a complex bit of cobbled-together levering -- which mostly consisted of semi-intact structural members from the fallen building -- lifting the wreckage. On the end of the lever sat a large woman in a long, flowing black dress, her legs crossed sedately at the ankle. Her lustrous black hair was bound tightly in a bun at the nape of her neck, and she was examining the rich red of her lips in a small gold compact, which displayed her perfect red nails. She looked up as they emerged, and her smile was sunlike in the dusty twilight.

"You're on your feet!" Her voice rolled over them like velvet. "I called for an ambulance --" she displayed her phone "-- but I'm afraid they're all tied up now, what with the damage uptown and all. Most of the streets are blocked, too. I told them we'd manage somehow."

Tizemt leaned Megan against a half-destroyed stone bench, and Megan sank slowly down to it. "I think I've got some cracked ribs," Megan said, probing her sides gingerly.

Tizemt hurried over to lean on the lever. "Quit poking yourself. We'll get you to hospital soon."

The woman dexterously kept her dress from catching on the splinters of wood and other jagged projections as she hopped down. Her body was as lush and generous as her voice, all curves within and atop curves, round and soft and lovely, and her face had the sculpted beauty of a Roman matron's marble bust, with a gentle double chin and the faintest touches of crow's feet at the corners of her eyes. She walked over to Megan, produced a white handkerchief, dampened it with bottled water from her voluminous purse, and helped Megan get the dust and blood off her face.

"I don't think I've bled like this since I was five," Megan said, eyeing the reddened cloth, "when I decided I wanted to know if I could get something through my skin."

"Ow," the woman said, then leaned back to inspect Megan. "Well, you still look like hell, but scalp wounds bleed like the devil." Megan inhaled and noticed the amber resin scent rising from her benefactor's acres of cleavage. She looked up into the sympathetic liquid darkness of the woman's eyes, and instantly and thoroughly understood why Simon was so hung up on the Fat Lady.

The Fat Lady looked up at the enormous shadow over the city, pressed the handkerchief into Megan's hand, and opened her phone. "Hold pressure on that spot on your forehead." In the distance to the west, they could see another blue-white rain of plasma bolts and hear more crashes as they struck. In the fading twilight and lavender sunset, they could no longer see the tiny spandex heroes on high.

"Yes," she said into the phone, tones businesslike. "What? The fourth? Remote controlled -- have you confirmed that there are no lifeforms? Good. I've got a ten story building nearby, if you can send Meteor this way... yes. Pull everyone out."

Tizemt and Megan exchanged looks as she snapped the phone shut. "We'll have some transport in just a moment, darlin's."

Megan had caught her breath enough to say, "Thank you for your help."

The Fat Lady smiled and patted her -- very gently -- on the arm. "What're your names?"


"Megan Amazon."

"I'm glad to meet you both. I'm -- oh, here's our ride."

Meteor -- recognizable from the newspaper photos in her green tank suit and thigh-high boots and flaming red hair -- stepped over a nearby building. Megan and Tizemt stared up at her.

The Fat Lady said, in a voice of normal volume but unusual timbre, "Hello, there, Highpockets. I need some altitude -- can you please provide?"

When Meteor looked down at them, Megan realized that the Fat Lady had thrown her voice with her sonic powers so that Meteor could hear it, despite her rather large ear being about 80 feet above them. Meteor carefully lowered a handscape to ground level.

"Got some friends with me," the Fat Lady continued conversationally. "That building over there, I think," she added, pointing to the ten story building she'd mentioned before. She stepped firmly into the proffered palm, then paused to remove her narrow, high-heeled shoes for better balance. Tizemt helped Megan aboard, and Meteor lifted them to the building top.

The Fat Lady stepped off, dropping her shoes and sliding into them. "You two stay with Meteor. The three of you should be directly behind me, on the roof, but behind that chimney, I think." She smiled again and walked across the rooftop.

Meteor set the others down, took a grip on the edge of the roof, and began to shrink down. "She's got a LOT of control," she said, eight feet tall and hauling herself onto the roof, "but I suggest covering your ears. I've only ever heard about this, but I expect there's an area of effect or something."

They started to hear a resonant voice flying up and down broadening scales. Her voice echoed richly through the silent warehouse district, drowning out the explosions thirty blocks away.

Meteor spoke into the communicator in her collar. "She's warming up. Cue Santa Ana for impending cleanup."

"Affirmative," a tinny voice replied.

The voice got to the bottom of the scale and paused. Megan peered curiously around the corner of the chimney, hands clamped over her ears.

The Fat Lady stood silhouetted on the edge of the rooftop, spine straight, hands clasped under her abundant bosom. And then she sang again, and it was different from what came before: louder, harder, more insistent. She started at low C and belted up the scale one more time, higher and higher, every note distinct, reverberating through Megan's aching ribcage and skull.

Megan lost count of the notes, lost track of the octaves, and was suddenly aware of the peal of some immense choral high note, full of voices, piercing and awful and thunderous, held for an eternity of celestial madness.

The ship's ominous shadow shimmered, shuddered, and suddenly evaporated into a vast, spreading cloud.

Silence settled over Wonder City.

Nearby, in the aftermath of the aria, a lone window shattered its applause.

The winds rose abruptly, and the dust of the spacecraft was swept into a vortex high overhead and dragged away to the east.

The Fat Lady strode back to them across the roof. She was perspiring heavily, sodden hair curling tightly at her temples, shoulders drooping. "I hope I never have to do that again," she said, mopping her chin and nose and forehead carefully with her sleeve. "I've done it too often."

The Kosmic Klaxon sounded its all-is-well whoops.

The Fat Lady patted Megan -- not quite as gently as before -- on the shoulder. "Meteor can set you two down wherever you'd like to go, dears." She frowned and pulled something from the outer pocket of her purse. "And here, one for each of you."

Megan and Tizemt accepted a slip of paper each. Megan looked down, vaguely confused.

"Tickets, darlin'," the Fat Lady said with a tired smile. "I'm performing with my all-para troupe in Hera and Zeus. It's much nicer to hear me sing Hera than Götterdämmerung, I promise."


wonder_city: (Default)
Wonder City Stories

June 2017

25 2627282930 


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Apr. 22nd, 2019 06:23 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios