For Want of a Nail  

For Want of a Nail... By Jason Thorn, Chastant@ix.netcom.com

W A R N I N G

This story contains material of a sexual nature. It has explicit descriptions of sex, bondage and non-consensual sex. If you are at all offended by this kind of story. DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER!!!!!! Any characters in this story are the property of Star Girl and the author, excluding Wonder Woman, who is the property of DC comics. This story is written for the sole purpose of entertainment and is not written for profit and cannot be transmitted, reproduced or otherwise traded for profit.

For want of a nail, the shoe was lost. Jason sat back against the wall, a Scorpion submachine gun in his hands, and wondered where this mad scene could be traced to. Jason Thorn was a normal guy with a few secrets. In a world like this, with costumed villains and heroes flying or running all over Creation, everyone had at least one or two, right? He had heard about the Metagene, the DNA Magic Trick. It could make you into a superhero, if you had it. Jason knew he didn’t have it, knew it even before his military service, when they tested him for everything, including the Metagene (hey, why not have a super soldier sign up without making sure he WAS a super soldier?) and in all honesty, he hadn’t even cared. But that was something that had nothing to do with his life, before, now, or ever. He had other secrets. One or two of them were important. But his main focus was getting on with his life. He was a comedian. And a good one. He had been a fair soldier, a lousy college man, but a good comedian. He knew how to make people laugh, and he could even do it without insulting people. It wasn’t a high-paying job, and he wasn’t going to retire when he turned 30 in a few years, but it PAID THE BILLS. As long as something filled that need, he was cool with it. But if he hadn’t bought that extra suit, none of this would have happened. For want of a shoe, the horse was lost. The suit was a good suit-one of the Armani ones, good style, the cut was perfect, and the suit was slightly used, which meant it only cost... Five hundred dollars. More than a week’s salary. But, he had a credit card. A brand-new one, one of those ‘pre- approved’ ones. Easy credit terms, it said. Lucifer himself never said it so sweetly. So, he bought the suit. It was a good suit, and it got him into some of the nicer comedy clubs. He even pulled a James Bond sketch out of it one night. For want of a horse, a knight was lost. He got the credit card bill two months later. If they didn’t send him 75 dollars, they would turn him over to the friendly collection agency. He looked at the card once, fumed, and fired off a payment for the minimum amount. BEFORE his paycheck came. The paycheck with $150 dollars missing from it. “So sorry, we’ll cut you a new check in four days,” they said. Which would have been all right, if one did not take into account that if the check he had just written for the credit card went through the day after today, it would bounce like those ten-cent rubber balls that went a mile high. So he had to go to the bank TODAY, cash in one of his CDs, and cover the amount before the payment check came through. For want of a knight, an army was lost. He drove to the bank, parked in one of the rear parking spaces, and went in. He had an hour to spare before reporting to the Improv for the two acts he had scheduled for tonight, as well as for the rest of the week. He had plenty of time, he thought. The bank agent sat down with him, made clucking noises over the penalty of early withdrawal. Jason said he didn’t really care, they could take it out of the value of the CD, but could they please do it today, to clear the deposit to his bank? The agent replied that yes, they could, Jason said, “Do it,” and waited while the agent prepared a deposit slip for him to sign. After he signed, he asked, “Is that it?” When the agent nodded, Jason excused himself to go to the Little Comedian’s Room. For want of an army, the battle was lost. Two seconds after he zipped up, he heard someone fire off a shotgun in the bank. He looked outside as the lights flickered. One person lay dead, with most of his head missing. The tellers, his agent, and six or seven customers were being herded to one end of the bank. None of them looked pleased at this new development to the working day. Then one came in his direction. He closed the door, then backed against the wall behind the door. The door opened, hiding him from sight, and a man with a submachine gun walked in, spraying the toilet cubicles with bullets. Jason had enough time to realize that the ch-ch-ch-chuff of the gun meant it had a silencer before the man started turning. Jason would be visible in the space of a heartbeat. Jason didn’t think, he just acted. He shoved hard against the closing door, striking the man in the shoulder. He dropped the gun, turned around in surprise and Jason kicked him squarely in the testicles. The gunman gave out a noise that sounded like the squeal of a frightened child, clutched his groin with both hands, and passed out from the excruciating pain. For want of a battle, the kingdom was lost. Which put him where he was now. “And the kingdom was lost, for want of a nail,” he muttered, then peered through the space between the door and the jamb. There were three other people. One was watching the hostages, and two were entering the vault itself. Had they emptied out the tellers already? Then he heard a quiet whimper through the wall, coming from the other restroom. He made sure the gunman was looking away before he slipped into the door marked WOMEN. He did not see anyone upon immediate entry, but he did see a pair of legs under one of the stall doors. The woman’s pants were down. “Ma’am...” he began, and the woman started screaming. Oh, lord, what a screwup THIS is! he thought, and yelled, “SHUT UP!” The woman fell silent in an instant, then began to blubber, “Don’t kill me, please, please don’t...” Jason groaned. “I’m not going to kill you,” then added, hoping it would help, “I’m the police.” The quiet sobbing stopped, and the woman stepped out of the stall. “You ARE...?” she asked, her eyes wet. “You don’t LOOK like a cop,” she added in a strange, neutral voice Jason attributed to shock. “I’m undercover, all right?” Jason looked down at the woman’s feet, then added, “Please pull up your pants.” She looked down, gave a small “Eep!” and quickly yanked up her pants. “What are you going to do?” she asked, as she tucked her shirt in. Jason halted. What WAS he going to do? He thought for a moment. He had studied anti-terrorist tactics for three months, and he tried to figure this situation out. “I’m going to have to work fast. There’s another guy out there, and two more in the vault. I may have to shoot one or all of them. If you can’t handle it, stay here. All right?” She nodded, then inquired, “What will you do?” He chanced a glance through the crack of the door, and saw that the other two were still in the vault. “If they don’t give up, they’re all going to Warp Factor Nine, I’ll say that much,” he said, and stepped out into the bank proper. He held up the weapon, aiming it for the robber’s head, and yelled, “Freeze!” Star Girl, in her current guise as Jamie Prince, was just stepping out of the florist’s shop when her ‘special’ beeper went off. She frowned, then drew it out from her purse, examining the liquid- crystal display. It read, Jamie realized with sudden clarity that that location was two blocks away...and that Sarah, her cousin, had gone to get ‘money from the bank for brunch.’ And ‘Cas.’ was short for Casualty. She let go of the balloon bouquet, which drifted lazily into the sky, and set off for the bank at a dead run. The man froze, but only for a second. Then, he was turning around, bringing his weapon up to bear, and Jason shot him with one quiet ‘chuff’ of his weapon. The man shuddered, then dropped bonelessly to the floor. The hostages, shocked into silence, could only watch as Jason stepped forward, his body shrouded by the sudden darkness of the failed light fixtures. He pointed to the door, then said, “Go,” in a quiet voice. No one needed to be told twice. Jason moved back to the women’s restroom, then opened the door. “Go on, get out of here!” he barked, and the woman ran past him and out the door in an eyeblink. Which was one second before the other two crooks left the vault, carrying two plastic bags. They stopped when they beheld a scenario that had not dreamed would occur: one of their own, dead on the floor; no hostages left in the area; and there was a guy, standing near the island in the center of the spacious room, holding a gun on them. “Don’t move,” the man warned them. They looked at each other, then dropped the sacks, whipping out guns that were identical twins of the one Jason held. The first few cans of tear gas came through the plate-glass doors ten seconds later. When one exited after 30 seconds, the SWAT team went in, guns drawn. Jamie Prince arrived on the scene, and immediately saw Sarah being interrogated by two policemen. “Sarah!” she cried out. Sarah spotted her, slipped out from between her interrogators, and rushed to Jamie, crying in great whooping jags. Jamie looked up and saw SWAT cops leaving the bank, calling out, “We got a live one! He’s hurt bad!” Sarah looked up. “Is it him?” “Who, him? What are you talking about?” Jamie asked, concerned and confused. “The guy! The one who saved us all!” she blurted, looking at the smoking bank doors. Jamie looked towards them as well, not quite knowing what she was talking about. But the man they brought our was dressed all in black, wore a vest with many pockets, and was walking with a tell-tale awkwardness. Sarah said quietly, “That’s one of THEM, the robbers. Where’s HE?” Jason had heard the canisters pop through the front door, so he decided to leave. He was late, he didn’t like the idea of having to answer a lot of question, and his hand hurt like hell. In the end, he fired a few quick shots through the drive-thru windows on the opposite side of the bank, and jumped through the hole, landing hard on his back. He got up, scanning the area for police. Finding none, he bolted to his car, hiding the gun under the Armani jacket with limited success...but enough until he could get in, turn the key, and drive away unnoticed. By the time the SWAT team had burst in, he was already a quarter- mile away, driving three miles below the speed limit. He looked down at his suit, which was flecked with dust and shattered glass. “For want of a nail...or a suit...” he said sourly, then shoved the Scorpion under the passenger seat. He was going to be late. But if he was lucky, they would draw out the opening act for a few minutes longer... Jamie was will observing the circus going on at the bank when a few members of the Squad showed up. They were a loose collection of superheroic women who occasionally worked together. They were not an official ‘supergroup,’ really...just a bunch of good friends who happened to be heroines. Sometimes, they would all show up, especially for large-scale problems, but there were times when they were working hard just to keep in touch. Star Girl had met a few of them, but not every one, and seldom in a group. The one in charge of the trio that showed up was Mystery. She was true to her pseudonym, for no one really knew what her past was like. She was an illusionist without peer, able to conjure up illusions of any type, either pleasing or unpleasant to the extreme, depending on the situation. She was previously a loner, but had come to learn that a group could survive better than someone working alone. She had been a stage magician before the Metagene manifested in her, and her skills at misdirection, distraction, and drawing the notice of others at the right time were as proficient in handling criminals and villains as her powers of illusion. The next one that did show up was something of a troublemaker... namely, The Lynx. She had no real name (not one pronounceable by human throats) and was simply called Lynx. She cut an imposing figure-seven feet tall, covered in short, tawny fur, with tapered ears, feline eyes, a thick three-foot tail that was strong enough to knock down the unwary, and a capricious nature that ranged from capricious to furious, with many stops in between. She wasn’t human by any stretch of the imagination-she was a member of a race of felinoids that ran things for about 50 star systems on the opposite end of the galaxy. The reason she was here was that her astro-navigation system malfunctioned, zigging her when it should have zagged her, and sent her through a black hole into the Sol system, probably through an Einstein-Rosen Bridge event. When she crash-landed, she thought she had arrived at what her race thought of as a pleasure planet. The only problem was that her race thought a place where one could hunt for prey as long as they wanted as a ‘pleasure planet.’ She was caught by two African heroes, Ghost Warrior and Congo, who sent her to be ‘re-educated’ by a missionary doctor. He had been the one to name her ‘Lynx,’ and appealed to the United Nations to take her under their wing, since she was a traveler from another world. They had debated and deliberated, giving the missionary time to teach Lynx about the world around her. She was voracious for learning as she was for hunting, and by the time she was given a chance to speak on her own behalf, she had mastered the English language, and had requested a place to stay while she figured out what had gone wrong in her navigation. Finding that the United States appealing to her sense of survival, she chose to stay. The U.N. had relocated her and her ship to Mystery’s care, and she behaved herself...until she came into her mating period. For her race, that lasted roughly ten months out of the year, so she would be a handful to control at times, when her hormonal urges created bouts of what Lynx called ‘creativity.’ Such creativity manifested itself in displays that ranged from chasing muggers (“To see how they feel being the prey,” she explained) to destroying property (walls, trees, furniture) to see which helped to sharpen her claws the fastest. She was a capable woman to have in a fight, and was fiercely loyal to her fellow Squad members, so her creativity was tolerated...mostly. The third was Solaria, a woman who thoroughly enjoyed being a heroine. She first came to Mystery’s attention when there was a sudden rash of would- be rapists started showing up at emergency rooms throughout the city, each complaining about being beaten up, but would refuse to say who did it. She suspected a common ground about all of them, and traced the attacks to a part of the city where all of the attacks happened within a region of six square blocks. She was lucky enough to happen upon an actual rape scene on her third night of surveillance. She was almost ready to step in when she had noticed the look of absolute calm on the victim’s face, and hesitated. Three minutes later, the rapist looked exhausted, while the would-be victim looked stronger than ever...and then, the victim got up, composed herself while the attacker looked on in shock, then casually picked him up and threw him into a dumpster...from a quarter-mile away. Mystery approached her later and found that the woman absorbed kinetic energy and used it to enhance her own strength and endurance. What is more, she purposefully was traveling at night to ATTRACT the attention for rapists, who she held a special hatred for. Suspecting that this activity might turn around on the young woman, Mystery offered a membership in the Squad. She accepted, giving her name as Solaria, and proved to be a capable fighter. She would usually go toe-to-toe with villains, absorbing their blows to build up her strength, and then turn on them with surprising force. Mystery moved off to one side, examining the building, which was still issuing smoke from air vents and broken windows. Lynx was, as usual, a bundle of energy, moving around the periphery on the building, sniffing delicately to pick up any scents-however, the proximity of the tear gas was screwing up her olfactory senses, and she looked as though she was getting frustrated. Solaria walked towards the man who appeared to be the officer in charge, and collected his full attention...then again, it was probably the white bodysuit that he noticed first... Jamie sidled over to Mystery, looking like a star-struck pedestrian. As she got close, she whispered, “Hi. Glad you could make it.” Mystery turned, then nodded. “What do the witnesses say?” “Some of them said one of the crooks turned on his team-mates and slaughtered them. But, Sarah over there says it looked like a police officer that did it...at least, she said the man identified himself as a policeman.” Jamie indicated Sarah, who was still being debriefed by a uniformed officer. Mystery examined her, then nodded thoughtfully. “Can she describe him?” Jamie frowned. “Not well. She said he had dark hair and wore casual clothes, but she was still pulling her pants up, she says.” As Mystery opened her mouth, Jamie added quickly, “Don’t ask. It’s a long story, and it may look suspicious as it is now, me talking to you. But she says it was a blur, all happening in an instant. For all she knows, it was Pierce Brosnan that did it all.” Mystery shook her head, then inclined her head slightly as Lynx padded up. “Find anything?” Lynx answered in a low growl, “No! Theirrrr damfool gassss issss ffffouling the placccce. A herrrrd of wild Barrrranas could have sssstampeded thrrrrough herrrre and I could not ffffind wherrrre they went!” She looked angry, and sounded it-when she started slurring her letters, she was getting emotional. Her claws on her hands and feet were extending and sheathing by their own accord, another sign of her foul mood. Mystery replied, “Well, nothing to be done about that. Better keep away from the building until the tear gas dissipates.” Lynx scowled, but nodded, moving back to sit in one of the patrol cars surrounding the bank, the shocks creaking as it supported her weight. Mystery sighed. “I swear...” she broke off as she noticed Solaria walking towards them. “I hope you have good news, Solaria.” Solaria shook her head. “Not much. No one can agree on a description of the one who got them out. But a lot of them don’t think he was one of the crooks, because no one recognized him. And from what the police say, all of the money that is supposed to be in there is still in there, so none of it was taken by this guy. They think he busted through the drive-up window to escape detection, and it worked. There are some tire tracks, but they won’t give us anything except the fact that he was driving one of maybe 60 or 70 types of sedan on the road. Not much to go on. We can have Superconductor go to work on it.” Mystery nodded. Superconductor was another one of the core members of the group. Not only could she control electricity, but could also control most technological devices by her will alone. She was also a hacker and technician by trade. If anyone could take raw data and find the answer, Superconductor could. Jamie looked up as Sarah started walking over to them, still looking shaken. As much as Sarah knew, Jamie knew Mystery when she had been rescued from a fate worse than death by Mystery (which was a care- fully fabricated half-truth-Mystery had rescued her, but she had been Star Girl at the time) and Sarah didn’t need to see the whole truth. Besides, it made interacting with the group easier. “Sarah,” Jamie began, “how are you doing?” Sarah whispered, “’Lright. Can we g’home now?” Jamie looked to Mystery, then said, “Sure. What do you say we go out tonight and forget this whole mess happened?” Sarah’s eyes developed a little life at this proposal. “Sure...how ‘bout that Improv place? The comedy club?” Jamie nodded. “Go to the car. It’s at the parking garage across the street. I’ll be right behind you.” After Sarah walked off, Jamie muttered, “I’ll try to keep an eye on her, see if she needs to stay home from work or not.” Solaria nodded. “I might want to check out that club. I could use a good laugh myself. I’ll check out the times and call you later, okay?” Jamie nodded, then waved goodbye and ran to catch up with Sarah.

For Want of a Nail...Part Two

Exactly two hours after he barreled out of a parking lot with a smoking gun and shattered glass on his suit, Jason Thorn left the stage and escaped to his temporary room, slumping in a chair and sighing heavily. No matter what his luck had been earlier, it had improved tremendously. His last performance had been spot-on: no hecklers, no spaces of silence that would show up whenever a joke fell flat, no missed punchlines, and no stumbles up on stage. It had been...well, damn near perfect. It almost made him forget the entire bad scene at the bank. Almost. But...there was the matter of the Scorpion, which was under his seat. It had to be disposed of, and soon. He wasn’t wearing gloves, so he needed to clean it thoroughly before dumping it anywhere. Selling it was not feasible, since he had no idea where he could fence hardware like that. His best bet was to dump it in the nearest, largest body of water he could find...stripped down, if he could manage it. Let the fish worry about gun oil pollution... There was a knock at the door. For one absurd minute, he thought it would be Clyde, the manic club owner from the Lipton Cool commercial. Sure. He’d come in, jittery as a cat in a dog show, and stutter, “You gotta go back OUT there, Jason, those fans are going c-c-c-CRAzy!” “Come in,” he said quietly. The one who came in, though was a fat, balding man, chomping on an expensive cigar. Havana cigars, Jason thought. Some may like them, but they smelled TERRIBLE to him. “Jason, I gotta tell you, you looked great out there, no lie, no lie. Some guy wanted you to autograph this pic of his.” The fat man handed him an 8 x 10 glossy of a smiling Jason Thorn. Jason couldn’t remember this guy’s name to save his life, so he simply signed it without a word and handed it back to the man. “Thanks, Jason. Ya think you can do it again for the 9 pm crowd?” Jason sighed. “Sure. Just give me another 25 minutes, and I’ll be ready.” “Good...cause you have 30 before I need ya up there again.” Then the fat man was gone, the smell of cigar smoke filling the air. Jason ran a hand through his hair, then looked at the ceiling, trying to marshal his strength. The second show of the night was supposed to be easier, but he was having a hard time concentrating. The entertainment critic from the DAILY PLANET was supposed to come by tonight, to get a good idea of his show so he could publish it. He heard the rumor that a talent scout from Gotham City would be attending sometime in the next week. “That could be worth something,” he said out loud. a quiet voice whispered in his mind. Jason shook his head. “Here, they’ve got Gotham City and Metropolis. Not like before.” He had to stop thinking about that. He had a show to do. In 24 minutes... Jamie and Sarah got out of the car in time for Jamie to see three figures alight on the top of a two-story building across the street, two fliers, one of them carrying a burly third person. It was dark, but she instinctively knew who they were-Solaria carrying Lynx, and Mystery beside her.She turned back to see Sarah eyeing her. “What is it?” “Thought I saw someone...” Jamie said, then shook her head. “Never mind, it’s gone now...” Her voice suddenly trailed off as she spotted a familiar figure in the crowd.Diana! She fought to keep from leaping over the mass of heads between them, but she could not hide the smile on her face as she waved to her, trying to catch her attention. After a few frantic seconds, Diana spotted her and moved back towards Jamie and Sarah. As she reached them, she embraced Jamie chastely, then gave Sarah a good-natured hug. “Hi! How are you two doing?” she asked, smiling broadly. “Doing quite well, thank you,” Jamie replied, restraining the urge to caress her lover’s body. In their secret guises, they were simply sisters who were also good friends. “I got saved by a cop today!” Sarah piped up. Diana looked to Sarah, then to Jamie. “Is this true?” “Well,” Jamie admitted, “we’re not sure yet. A bank was in the process of being robbed when someone stepped in and foiled it. The police think it was one of the criminals getting greedy, but I don’t think so...” “Neither do we,” Mystery (in the guise of her alter ego, Christine Sturgill) added, as she was followed by Solaria (as Cheryl Lynn) and Lynx (who had no alter ego, but was shielded by one of Mystery’s illusions, and appeared to everyone else as a female bodybuilder). They all seemed glad to get out for one night, instead of tracking down some villain-du-jour. “Hello, Chris,” Jamie said, smiling, but her eyes were wary. ‘No Shop Talk,’ they warned. “Glad to see you all could make it.” “It beat staying home,” Cheryl said, then looked at the line. “That is a long line.” Then, she grinned, holding up eight tickets. “Good thing I paid in advance.” Diana looked pleased, as did everyone else who saw a way into the club without having to wait forever in the line to the ticket counter. They all trooped in as a group, bypassing the marquee next to the ticket booth. They all sat down at one of the larger tables, and ordered food and drinks all around. “The show starts in ten minutes,” Sarah said, looking around the club area, which was filling up rapidly. “Has anyone seen this comedian? I haven’t, but I hear he’s supposed to be good.” Solaria added wryly, “He’s also supposed to be good-looking, I hear. If he is as funny as he is good-looking, this could be either a great show, or a terrible one...and I don’t think he’d be terrible to draw this kind of a crowd.” “Good,” Diana replied simply. “Five minutes to show time,” a voice called through the door. Jason heard, stood up, readied himself. Always, before every performance, he had to make sure his voice would come out clear and clean, loud enough to reach everyone. He tested his voice every time with a poem he had read in a book of horror stories. It was a moderately difficult poem to say clearly, in spite of its brevity. If it came out slurred, he wasn’t ready... “He thrusts his fists against the posts and still insists he sees six ghosts,” he said, each syllable coming out clear and sharp. He was ready. He walked out of the dressing room, towards the wings of the stage. He stopped, listening to the warm-up act. The guy wasn’t bad, but his timing needed work. As the guy bowed, Jason readied himself. Two seconds after the warm-up exited to the left, the emcee began in on the Pitch. “Thank you, Roger Gomez. Now, I know you are all waiting for this one...” Jamie tuned out the spiel, looking to Diana covertly, her hand moving under the table to touch Diana’s, caressing it gently. The touch of her lover never failed to send pleasurable chills along her body, and she hoped it would never stop creating such sensations... “...and here he is, live, JASONNNNNNNN THORN!” A rousing musical number started up as the comedian entered from stage right. She appraised him, and realized that he wasn’t bad-looking. In fact, for a man, his looks were quite striking. He didn’t have model-class looks, but he had a erect stance, a strong chin, a shock of black hair on his head, and a muscular body, if his arms were any adequate indication. He had an aura of ENERGY about him... The comedian bowed to the emcee, then to the audience. As the clamor died down, he cocked one eye, and opened with a dead-on impression of Elvis, “Thank ya, thank ya ver’ muuuch.” He looked out over the crowd, looking as pleased as punch to be here, with everyone watching. He crooked a smile, then looked around the room once more. No hecklers-to-be, just waiting for him to flub his lines. No one who looked as though the occasional swear would put them into a coma. No military types. That made it easy. Jason launched into his act. “Thank you, thank you. Thank you for coming here tonight, and let’s have a hand for the Improv crew here. Can they make a good salad or what?” That produced a smattering of applause. “Isn’t it great to be here in Metro-polis?” A cheer from natives of Metropolis. “I mean, if Superman is out there, listening in, it’s a great place, thanks to you. I mean, who else can do what you do and be dignified enough to wear what you wear?” A low mass chuckle. Tough crowd. “I, personally, couldn’t do it. What man do YOU know who could run around...okay, FLY around...in a suit that seems designed to advertise a guy’s genital heft?” A louder chuckle. “Now, Supes, if you’re listening...and you could be...” Chuckles in the audience. “...don’t get on me for this, but there are a lot of women I’ve met who’ve seen you in uniform and thought, “Nice S...!” Louder, almost full laughter, more feminine than masculine. “Now, I may be in shape, but some of the costumes today that these heroes wear, I couldn’t wear those without feeling self-conscious.” Pause. “But if I could lift battleships one-handed, you can BET I’D be secure enough to wear a getup like that!” Laughter now, warming to the act. “And the ones the FEMALES wear?” Waving one hand next to his face in a cooling-off gesture. “Don’t get me started. There’s this one in California who is wearing nothing but a red bikini and patrols the waterways. I actually read that she can SWIM fifty miles an hour! They’re calling her the BayWatcher.” Laughter, subdued. “Okay, enough about that. Here’s something that popped into my head a little while ago. Suppose there was a world that had...no...superheroes? Think about that one, very carefully, folks.” Jason’s voice was low and dramatic. “No heroes. No villains. No aliens. Can you imagine that? I mean, there’d be a LOT of things that are different from our world. For instance...you wouldn’t have all these interruptions by these villains, wanting you to give up or they’ll destroy the world. You’d have to get NORMAL people to do that...” he mused thoughtfully, as his audience began getting into the premise of it. “Well, maybe those wouldn’t be too hard to find. But still, there are other things. People on that world would have to worry a lot less about trying to mug someone and have them turn out to be some hero or villain who turns around and cleans their clock!” Audience chuckling now. He was losing them, had to pick things up a pace. “’Awright, you! Gimme yer purse!’” he said gruffly, going into a crouching stance. On cue, a hologram projector displayed the image of a shadowy figure onstage, which suddenly revealed itself as Supergirl in all her glory, taking an impressive stance, body erect, defiant look in her eye. Jason-As-Mugger suddenly looked stricken, then backed up, whispering, “Oh...excuse me, I thought you were someone else,” in a pitiful voice. The audience went nuts, laughing fit to split their sides at the sudden reversal of fortune. Jamie looked to her left to see Diana chuckling. “Someone actually used that line once,” Diana whispered to Jamie, smiling slyly. Sarah looked slightly uncomfortable. She was watching Jason Thorn and knew that there was something familiar about him, but she couldn’t place it. But she was being distracted. Almost as soon as she sat down, she had noticed that the bodybuilder (she had been called Lynn by Jamie’s friend, Diana) had sat next to her, and seemed to be focusing her attention on Sarah. Lynn’s eyes were strange, almost amber-gold, and didn’t she seem to have slightly tapered ears? Right before the comedian had come on stage, Sarah had felt a strong, sure hand brush against her leg, and had looked up to meet Lynn’s eyes for one startling second. At that time, she knew for sure that Lynn wanted her, for reasons she could not define...but they existed, all the same. It frightened her...but it excited her, as well. Sarah had known for a long time that she would never be a strong- willed person like Jamie sometimes was. But, she found relief in that, in- stead of insecurity. Someone once said that you were a leader, or a follower, and Sarah found solace in the fact that she was a follower. She wondered what touching Lynn’s face would be like, and a flush of heat filled her body. “Excuse me,” she whispered to Jamie, and got up, heading for the ladies’ bathroom. Her gait was quick, but slightly unsteady. Lynn/Lynx noticed this, and got up to follow her. “Just to protect her,” Lynn said quietly, and sauntered to the rest- room. Sarah looked at herself in the mirror, wondering where this sudden flare of heat came from, when the restroom door open, closed...and then locked. She turned to see Lynn walking towards her, smiling broadly. “Hello, Sarah. Are you all rrrright?” Lynn purred. Sarah’s eyes widened slightly, and managed, “Y-yes...I’m just fine.” “Good.” Lynn walked towards Sarah, who backed against the counter. “I’ve been watching you, and I...I like what I see.” Sarah felt trapped, like a bird that turned to stare at the cobra in pursuit. Her body felt suddenly very, very warm, even though the air in the room was cool. “D-do you?” Sarah whispered, fear-and was it hope?--in her voice. Lynn nodded. “Can you keep a secret?” Sarah had trouble finding her words. “Yes. Yes, I can...” Lynn removed the pin at her throat, and placed it in a pocket. Suddenly, she was gone. In her place was a tall, powerfully built, humanoid cat. The only thing she wore was a glossy coat of fur. Sarah remembered her from the bank that afternoon. “L-lynx?” Lynx nodded, chuckling deep in her throat. Sarah felt a wave of sudden lassitude at the sound. Sarah tried to clear her throat, and moistened her lips. They had suddenly gone dry. “What...what do you want?” Lynx smiled craftily. “I want you, little Sarah.” Sarah moaned softly. She was afraid, but desire was stronger. She wanted Lynx to want her, to need her, to guide her. She wanted...she wanted Lynx to want her, and realized she would do anything for that. She wanted to obey Lynx. “Will you...hurt me?” she asked, timidly. “Not unless you want me to,” Lynx replied softly. Sarah nodded, then looked around. “What do you want me to do, Lynx?” Lynx moved closer, her body now only scant inches away from Sarah, who gave a little jump up to sit on the counter, her back against the wall. “I want to see you, Little Sarah,” she whispered, huskily. Jason had not missed the two women entering the bathroom. “Okay, everyone,” he said suddenly, “Want to play a little joke on the two that went into the ladies’ room?” A few enthusiastic affirmatives came back. “All right. When they come back out, I’m suddenly going to say, ‘...and they suddenly went to WARP FACTOR NINE!’ When I do, start laughing as hard as you can...make them wonder just what they missed.” There was a good response to that idea in the audience. Jason hoped it would work. He went on, expounding on the strangeness between men and women. Sarah moaned deep in her throat. She had one of Lynx’s fur-covered breasts against her lips. She had found the nipple with ease, and as she took it in her mouth, Lynx’s breaths grew ragged. Lynx had guided Sarah’s hands to her hips, whispering with hot breath in Sarah’s ear, “Stroke me...” Sarah’s hands moved over Lynx’s hips, reminding her of Hellion, her cat at home. She tried to think desperately of what Hellion would have wanted her to do to him, and she moved a hand over Lynx’s short tail. Lynx’s eyes, which were half-lidded in pleasure, flew open as she felt Sarah touch her THERE. OH, these HUMANS, she thought in a haze of lust, and took care to keep her claws sheathed as her pawlike hands roamed over Sarah, pulling at the clothing, doing her best to keep from simply tearing it away. She managed to remove Sarah’s tank top and skirt with out clawing them, but Sarah’s bra was as difficult to undo as a Kreed’s chitinous armor. “Get it OFF,” Lynx growled, “or lose it forever. I want you sky clad against me!” Sensing the urgency in Lynx’s voice (and the implied threat), Sarah reached for the snap between her breasts and pressed, the bra falling away, releasing Sarah’s breasts, now swollen with need. Her other hand continued to scratch at a spot just under the base of Lynx’s tail, and felt as much as heard Lynx’s growl of sexual yearning. “I want to taste your lust-juice,” Lynx hissed. Her hands moved between Sarah’s legs and parted them, her mouth moving to kiss and lick Sarah’s inner thigh. Sarah bit back a cry as she felt Lynx’s rough tongue scraping over her inner thigh, moving upward. Her hands moved to her own breasts... “Stop, Little Sarah,” Lynx warned, and Sarah’s hands froze in mid-air. “You will pleasure ME.” “But how can I...?” Sarah asked, puzzled. In way of a reply, Lynx paused in her ministrations, then leaped up over Sarah. Her legs split apart to plant themselves on the sides of the recessed sink area, claws biting into wood and plaster to anchor her there, her pendulous breasts resting against Sarah’s trembling stomach, her bare, pinkish pussy inches away from Sarah’s mouth, Lynx’s face near Sarah’s moist womanhood. She had somehow braced herself upside-down in front of Sarah in a vertical sixty-nine position, her lean legs tensed in a wide split, Lynx’s wet sex splayed open for Sarah. “Pleasurrrre me,” Lynx hissed, and gave Sarah’s inner thigh a playful lick, close to her sex. Sarah did not speak, could not speak. Childish fantasies and taboo thoughts melded into a feeling of intense desire for this lithe feline, and Sarah pressed her mouth against Lynx’s bare sex, her tongue darting out to taste Lynx’s juices. They tasted surprisingly musky, like the bite of smoke in smoked sausage, and Sarah began to lick the length of Lynx’s sex, her tongue darting in between the soft folds, moving over the engorged crest hidden within. Lynx tensed, her body tightening as she felt Sarah’s loving kiss at her cunny, then began to lap up the juices that flowed freely from Sarah’s womanhood. Sarah’s juices tasted sweet, like spun sugar, and Lynx knew she would not give Sarah up to anyone without a fight! Lynx’s fur moved against Sarah’s inner thighs as she drank from Sarah’s well. Oh GOD! Sarah thought, but could not speak. She could not speak aloud and break the spell of their lovemaking. She could only stroke and tease Lynx with her fingers, drinking up Lynx’s hot, thick fluids as the powerful body suspended in front of her began to sway gently. Sarah’s insides tightened as she realized she was going to explode, and then it came in a long, hot release as her insides let go, bathing Lynx’s face with the product of her climax. Lynx licked up every drop as quickly as she could, aware that her own orgasm was coming upon her fast. Her entire body shook as Lynx suppressed it as long as she could, but it was not to be denied. Lynx climaxed, her juices not simply flowing from her but spurting from her in long, white streams, covering Sarah’s surprised, openmouthed face, almost choking her with the force of it (but not quite, as Sarah greedily gulped down every drop she could), her hips thrusting up to press her inflamed crest against Sarah’s working mouth. They both dropped to the floor as one, bodies locked together. After a long time, Sarah descended from the plateau of her ecstasy. She heard a rumbling sound, tried to identify it, then recognized it. Lynx was purring. The sound was the last strand in the ropes that bound her. With no regrets, she was Lynx’s slave. “I will do anything for you,” Sarah whispered, a little-girl voice full of fear and wonder. “I know,” Lynx replied, tenderly licking Sarah’s face, tasting her own juices on her cheeks... Jason was in the home stretch now, winding up his last sketch. He wondered where those two women were. Had they left the club entirely? If so, that joke he had planned was going to fall flat on its face...and the audience knew it, too. He had just reached the end of the last line, holding the laughter as long as he could, when the two women came out of the bathroom. FINALLY! Jason thought in sudden relief. Holding up one finger in the approved signal (he noticed most of the audience tense up, aware that their part was about to be played) and said loudly, “...as they suddenly went to WARP FACTOR NINE!” The audience, bless them all, raised the roof with their laughter, the fake-sounding guffaws being drowned by more honest-sounding laughter. Almost everyone was laughing. Almost. The tall, rangy one that left the bathroom had the look Jason wanted, the one that said, “I missed something...! Something FUNNY!” The other one had stopped still, her mouth open, her eyes wide. Staring at him, with a look of surprise he had seen once before that day. Oh, no... Jason’s frozen mind sent up. No, no, no, NO... He wondered who had said “Thank you, good night!” onstage, as he walked to stage left and bolted into a run. He didn’t realize he had said it himself until he was in his dressing room, heart pounding. She was the woman at the bank, the one with her panties around her ankles...

For Want of a Nail...Part Three

Jamie, Diana, Cheryl, and Chris reached Sarah and Lynn as the audience slowly filtered out through the double doors. Lynn asked, “Did I miss something?” She frowned, mightily confused. “I’ll explain it later, Lynn...” Chris said, smiling, then looked to Sarah. The smiles vanished from everyone as each person saw a look on Sarah’s face that was out-of-place in a comedy club. It was a look of naked surprise and dawning comprehension that had nothing to do with any joke told here tonight. Jamie went instantly on alert. “Sarah, what is it?” she asked, calmly enduring the looks of the other people who were maneuvering around them. “It’s him. He was there...” Sarah whispered. Her color was high, and Jamie wondered what had gone on in that restroom. “The comedian... Thorn...it was HIM!” “Let me understand,” Diana said, with a calm air of authority. “The man, Jason Thorn...he was the one who was at the bank this afternoon?” Sarah nodded, still stunned. Jamie looked to Diana, then to Sarah, then to the others. By now, the club was almost completely empty, and they had to leave soon if they were going to keep from arousing suspicion or mere attention from the workers who where coming from their hidey-holes to clear away empty glasses, napkins, and locating the occasional purse, wallet, or glasses to put in the Lost-And- Found. “Do you think he should be approached?” Diana asked, glancing around at the Clean-up Crew. Chris thought for a moment. “Now might be good.” Cheryl shook her head. “No. We know very little about this person, after all. We should find out more before we do anything.” Jamie thought, then said, “I think we had better go.” She indicated the workers around them. “Give these people some room to work in.” The group left, Sarah looking back at the empty stage once. When they got outside, they began to form ideas on how to examine the comedian, Thorn. Trying to check each vehicle to see if it belonged to Thorn was proven to be a bad idea. An all-night bar was in the same mini-mall where the club was, and the parking lot was still better than half-full. The only person who could have checked the license plates was Superconductor, and she was asleep at the large estate who doubled as their headquarters. When she slept, the 1812 Overture (including cannons) could not wake her. Lynx offered to watch the club (from a hiding place) and to follow Jason to see what he did. It was an idea with merit until Solaria remembered the LAST time Lynx borrowed her car (and subsequently wrapped it around a tree) and refused to let Lynx behind the wheel of ANYONE’S car. And, since Lynx would stand out if she tried to follow him on foot, the idea soon became too problematic to put into effect. In the end, they decided to go home, get some sleep, and start work on the Jason Thorn problem in the morning. All of them were tired from the day’s events, and Sarah seemed more tired than usual. Jamie wondered why... Jason watched from the window as the group splintered up, a trio walking up the sidewalk, and two reaching on of the cars in the lot and driving off in it. He sat back in the dingy sofa and exhaled loudly. They didn’t call the cops, or the Feds, or anyone. They simply left. Unsure of himself, he reached into his pocket and examined his keys for a long moment. Leave now, or wait? he thought. Wait, Rational said quietly. If they are coming back, they’ll come back inside of ten minutes. If they don’t then they have no plan to follow you. Jason nodded perceptibly, and sat back to wait. Twenty minutes later, he left the club and slunk along the shadows until he reached his car. It was a midnight-black 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray hardtop, a supercharger cowling built low on the hood. The only special item on it was a personalized license plate that read BIGDOG. It was his personal extravagance in a world of self-denial. It was, in the end, safer that way. He slipped in, started up the engine, and quietly pulled into traffic. When everyone arrived at the large mansion that served as Headquarters for the Star Squad, they were all fairly worn out. Lynx, Cheryl, Christine, and Jamie each headed for their respective bedrooms, while Diana drove to her own abode. Sarah opted for the couch downstairs...but when Jamie turned her back, Lynx licked her lips, and Sarah knew what was in store for her tonight. Two hours later, Sarah awoke in darkness. Her body felt warm, very warm, through the borrowed nightgown. She looked up to see Lynx crouched on the stairs, waiting for her. Sarah smiled as her lover beckoned to her, and moved up the stairs, following Lynx to her bedroom. The room smelled like a lion’s mating den. Lynx’s trophies, of animals both familiar and unknown, covered one wall with skins and mounted heads. The entire room was filled with growing plants, transforming the room into a rain forest. The bed in the center was covered in animal pelts. The air was damp and hot. For Lynx, it was as good as home. Lynx had taken control as soon as Sarah had entered the room, pouncing on Sarah as she reached the bed, knocking the breath out of her. Lynx’s eyes gleamed red with lust as she tore the nightgown away from Sarah, baring her body. Sarah trembled, but not with fear...from breathless anticipation. Lynx proceeded to bathe Sarah’s body with her rough tongue, cleaning Sarah as a mate would. The roughness of Lynx’s tongue seemed to scrape every cell of skin from her, the sensation pleasurable in its slowness and attention to every inch of her body. Sarah did not speak, would not speak. She knew that Lynx would not speak either. They had become animals, mating in the heat of the jungle. Their bodies moved against each other, over and under each other. Lips touched to lips, parting to let tongues greet each other, to touch and press and fight, entwining around each other, both fighting, both winning. Hands moved against soft, glossy fur as pawlike hands pressed against bare breasts, palms massaging steel-like nipples. Body pressed against body as mouths sought to discover and rediscover the places of the body that fed the fires within each other, the places that brought moans, sighs, groans that built to cries of ecstasy. They fought like lions, each trying to give more pleasure than they took, attacking nipples and clitoris like pets to be caressed, and then toys to be squeezed and pinched and nipped and suckled. Sarah had become a beast in her own right, her cries sounding like the yowls and purrs and growls of her lover as she lapped up the juices that flowed from Lynx’s body, mewling as she felt the furry fingers moving deep into her sex, touching the special place that made her hips tighten, her inner walls closing on the fingers that drove her higher, higher... The yowls grew higher in pitch as each drank from the other’s almost-drenched womanhood, feeding the heat, driving them higher until each came in a flurry of squalling cries that would have sent other animals fleeing, that would have prompted calls from neighbors had Lynx not made sure her room was soundproofed, keeping the sounds of their lusts trapped within, like caged animals. They brought each other to climax, again and again, the caterwauling that each made heightening the pleasure, until they both met, body to body, in a single, heartstopping climax that melded them together, heart to heart and mind to mind... Morning came for the Star Squad with a clatter of dishes. Christine was cooking her favorite morning dish, buttermilk biscuits. Lynx had come in to ‘help,’ but seemed content to sit back and swipe a biscuit or two every time a tray of them came out of the oven. Jamie woke up from a dreamless sleep, and found herself ravenously hungry. After a quick shower, she walked into the kitchen in a terrycloth robe, brushing back her hair. “I followed the smell,” Jamie said, a wry gleam in her eye. Chris sighed. “Well, get them before Lynx eats them all!” She tossed the oven mitts on the counter and glared at Lynx, who was working fastidiously on her ‘Innocent Who, Me?’ look, and was bringing it off well. She preened a tuft of hair on her midsection with her tongue, then snatched another biscuit and bolted for the door. Chris yelled at Lynx to drop it, running after her. Jamie sighed, then sliced off a biscuit and began buttering it. When she was finishing up, Superconductor walked in. She had no real name. But then, she wasn’t a real person. She had originally been created as a plaything for a rich Iraqi general, who had her crafted as a blue, metallic-skinned djinn. During a terrorist incident at the palace, the robot had become sentient, and was scheduled for dismantling when the Star Squad arrived and broke up the battle. Since the general had been killed in the battle, she asked to be taken away, and the Squad had liberated her. She proved to be adept at communications, electronics, and computers, and had the full-time job of making the hardware of the headquarters run smoothly...which brought her to name herself Superconductor. She was also trying to learn more about humanity (which had prompted the occasional ‘Miss Data’ joke) and was currently on a personal quest to solve the mystery of the human condition. She never slept, or ate, or drank. She ran autonomously, with a power source cadged from an alien artifact (which was, as the architect thought when he saw the new penthouse, another story) and kept everything running smoothly. “Hello, SC,” Jamie said agreeably. “I like the new look.” Superconductor looked down at herself. She had endeavored to change her outward appearance every few weeks (much like changing clothes to everyone else) and had chosen her current form only two days before. She was 6’2”, tall, lean, muscular, with a noblewoman’s face, high cheekbones, and a sizable cleavage (D cup, Jamie appraised). She ‘wore’ a white jumpsuit that contrasted her blue-steel skin. After 0.000051 seconds, she selected the appropriate response. “Thank you, Jamie,” Superconductor replied. Jamie bit into the biscuit, chewed thoughtfully while Superconductor watched with fascination (SC could not eat, and did not know why others gathered pleasure from it), and then asked, “I could use a favor.” Superconductor watched her impassively, then said, “If you say so.” Jamie sighed. She had forgotten SC was a literal person. “I meant, I need your help.” SC paused, then smiled widely. “Of course,” she said, the smile wide and filled with glee. Jamie’s frowned. “Uhm, there are certain levels of ‘happy.’ Are you sure you want to be THAT happy?” Still smiling broadly, SC said, “Let me check.” Another pause, then she continued, sounding sorry even though she had the smile of a child at Disneyland. The smile lessened until she looked mildly pleased rather than ecstatically happy. “Yes,” SC said simply, “this is more appropriate for what I feel.” “All right. I need you to track down someone. A man named Jason Thorn.” Jamie finished off the biscuit and rubbed her hands to clear the crumbs from her fingers. “When can you get what you need?” A split-second was all Superconductor needed. “Approximately 2.148534 hours.” Jamie eyed Superconductor, waiting for some punchline that never came. “That is the...approximate time?”“Yes, Jamie. Would you like the exact time...?” “No, no,” Jamie replied instantly, holding up both hands. “Approximate will do just fine.” Superconductor nodded. “Where will you be?” “I am going to run a few errands, but I’ll be back by then.” Jamie smiled warmly. “I’m going to take Sarah back to her apartment.” “Yes, I had noticed she was here last night, when I saw her go up to Lynx’s room.” Superconductor noted with curiosity the way Jamie looked at that point, before she bolted out of the kitchen and headed for Lynx’s bedroom. That was an odd reaction. She had seen something like that once when Mystery had been told her pet serpent, Lix, had been swimming through the sewers before laying on her brand-new bed. Sarah was still sleeping lightly when she heard someone come in, and roused herself. Her flesh still tingled from the pleasures of last night. “Hrrmmm...Lynx...?” she whispered. “NO.” The voice of Jamie, her sister, in that one word, did more to wake her up than five cold showers and fifty cups of coffee. Her body suddenly jerked up in the bed to full awareness, her eyes wide as she saw her sister looking balefully. If looks could kill, Jamie had just destroyed Sarah three times over. “Jamie! Wh-what are you doing in here?” “I was ABOUT to ask YOU that question!” Jamie’s dark look did not convey any type of comfort. “What are YOU doing in HERE?” “Well, I’m...I’m Lynx’s girlfriend and I love her!” Sarah replied, defiantly. “You wouldn’t know what real love was if it bit you on the ass!” Jamie shot back. When she saw Sarah suddenly blush, a sudden, terrible clarity bloomed in Jamie’s face...much like an explosion in a dynamite factory. Sarah sniffed. “It just means I have to wear a bathing suit with a skirt, that’s all. The marks won’t show that way.” Jamie looked skyward in a Hippolyta-help-me-PLEASE plea. “Sarah, she’s not even your SPECIES...” “I don’t care.” Sarah looked petulant. “You have Wonder Woman as a lover, why shouldn’t I have Lynx?” Jamie’s eyes instantly riveted on Sarah, who smiled in triumph. “It’s not hard to figure out. Actually, I’ve known for some time.” Sarah winked. “So, if you say nothing about me and Lynx, I won’t say anything about you and Diana.” Jamie opened her mouth to deny it...then sighed, her shoulders sagging. “That’s blackmail.” “Let’s not call it that,” Sarah replied, knowing she had the upper hand. “Let’s call it high-class persuasion.” There was a LONG pause. Then Jamie said shortly, “Get dressed. I’m taking you home before your mother gets worried.” Sarah smirked, the battle won, and said, “If only I could tell Mother about her...” before she began to dress. Jamie left the room, shaking her head, wondering how she was ever going to deal with this. What bothered her was the fact that things between her and Wonder Woman weren’t what Sarah thought. Even though the terrible events that had made her what she was created a strong bond between her and Diana, it was not quite what Sarah had thought. They were, at the most, closer than friends, sisters in spirit...but after the strenuous, intense weeks on Paradise Island, she felt things change between them, the sexual fervor cooling even as their relationship drew them closer together. They would make love...but it was the comfort of close friends, not the passion of true lovers. Jamie sighed, then walked downstairs to her room to get dressed for the day.

For Want of a Nail...Part Four

Jason spent the previous night strapped into the electric chair. He had seen clearly the long walk down a corridor to the chamber where he was strapped in, his shaved head swabbed with water, the strap under his chin tightened painfully... A faraway voice screamed, (NO! Not ME! Him! HIM! The Other One! The One who brought me here!) The sudden CHUNK! of a connection closed, and... HIS BRAIN WAS FRYING IT WAS FRYING INSIDE HIS SKULL IT WAS GOING TO COMEOUT OF HIS EYES AND EARS AND And that, friends and neighbors, was when Jason Thorn had woken up, his hand shoved into his mouth to turn the scream of terror into a thick MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMPH! He sat that way for a long time, until he tasted blood and realized his teeth had pierced the skin of his hand. He got up, walked to the bathroom stiffly, and looked at his hand. There was a semicircle of teeth impressions in his hand, and blood seeped from one near the middle of the arch. An incisor, Jason reckoned, and hunted for the medical kit. After applying anti- septic, he bandaged his hand. He looked in the mirror for a long time, then nodded his head. “Well, Mr. Rose, you finally got what you deserved for killing my wife,” he told the mirror. “I hope it was at least HALF as painful for you as it was for me.” He stepped into the bathtub, and set the water on HOT. Jamie drove Sarah home. No words were spoken throughout the entire 30-minute drive. Jamie let her out without speaking, and Sarah did not look back as she walked up to her place. Jamie pulled out and drove to the freeway, driving HARD. She didn’t know who she was the angriest at-Lynx, for pulling this kind of thing; Sarah, for going along with it; or herself, for ever bringing those two together. When she got back, she tried calling Diana, but the message said that she was gone on business...which meant she was in town or out at Paradise Island, or one of a hundred places in between. In any case, she was unreachable. Jamie hung up, wanting to leave her doubts and troubles behind her... or below her. A ghost of a smile flitted over her face as she went upstairs to don her Star Girl costume. Jason looked out of the window while he dried off, wondering what he would do on a Saturday morning. He looked down at himself, appraising himself carefully. Two arm, two legs, one body, all of it muscular...and none of it was his. He had no idea how to keep it up, and he noticed the small but tell-tale signs that his abs were starting to turn to flabs from disuse. Okay, so try to remember the gym that you signed up for, and see what you can do to keep it from becoming the body you once had, Jason Thorn. What was it...Oh, yeah, the Ultimate Fitness one...you walked in, took a look, and what sold you was the fact that it was nearly empty at night...and on mornings like this. Jason nodded, then started hunting around for the stuff that one wore to gyms. Five minutes later, he had gotten into his car and was driving down the road. The events of yesterday were only an annoying buzz in his head, and it did not make much noise at all. If something was to happen, it would have happened already... Then the volume on the Bank Robbery Music cranked up another 40 deci- bels. The gun. The gun under his seat. The one he had intended to throw away... He jerked in his seat as if given a 10,000-volt jolt. “Oh, HELL,” he whispered thickly, and took the next right turn. Jason found what he was looking for. It was a large, puke-green dumpster behind a Chinese restaurant named The Green Dragon. It smelled so rank, Jason thought the place should have been called The House of MSG. But for what he planned to do, it was perfect. He went back to the car and stripped down the Scorpion, turning it from a working weapon into a neat pile of metal parts. He took all the larger pieces and put them in the dumpster, scattering them in the smelly trash. The rest would go into trash cans at the gym, in the bathroom, and in any sidewalk trash receptacles he happened to pass along the way. It would have been crazy to dump a fully-functional assault weapon in one place. He got back in his car and drove out of the parking lot, heading back in the direction of the gym. If anything about her powers impressed her the most, it was the ability to fly, hands down. Star Girl LOVED to fly. It was the only power she possessed that had nothing to do with fighting crime directly, and one she could use purely for recreation. She loved the feel of the wind in her face as she soared above the rooftops, the weightless buoyancy of her body as it moved through the air. It was so enjoyable it was almost arousing. Flying like this, she could forget her troubles and lose herself in the sky. She looked down on the city from her vantage point of two miles high, then coasted down before any airliners flew into her airspace to roughly 2,000 feet above the ground. She was about to head home when she noticed something below her. It was a car, alone on the road. Something about it seemed familiar. She dipped lower, moving into a position above and behind it, and then recognized it. It was a vintage Corvette Stingray. It was a big beast, built before they had begun sloping them closer to the ground. The license plate said BIGDOG. She had seen this car before, and recently. Curiosity kept her behind the car, following it to its destination, which turned out to be a small Mexican restaurant named Macayo’s. When the driver parked and got out, she saw who it was-Jason Thorn, looking flushed and sweaty, wearing a pair of jeans, tennis shoes, and a white T-shirt with words written on it, proclaiming to the world that the wearer was part of the Alcatraz Triathlon Run/Jump/Swim Team. He was alone, and he might be receptive to discussion. Sarah had recognized him, putting her in a superior position. Any why not catch him by surprise now, when he may be thinking he got away with whatever he had done in that bank? She descended towards him. In retrospect, Jason felt he handled it poorly. He had heard something moving through the air above him, but had thought it a bird of some sort. He was painfully reminded of the plaza in New Orleans where his meal of chicken-fried steak and homefries had attracted pigeons from every direction, dive-bombing to snatch his fries as he tried in vain to ward them off. As the memory arose, he turned around, bringing his hands over his head... ...and stopped. It was not a bird. It was a woman, a woman in a white outfit with what looked like stars sprinkling the suit. A lasso hung from her left thigh. He uttered something that sounded like ‘Whup!’ and jumped back as the woman landed in front of him, her knees bending slightly to cushion the landing. He did not know how other men reacted to a flying woman, but his own thoughts ran something along the lines of, Oh, Lord, what fresh hell is this? “What...the...?” he managed. “Good day, Mr. Thorn,” Star Girl said with authority. She had not truly noticed, but the suit she wore was a uniform given to her, and as such gave her a bearing that was reminiscent of Wonder Woman whenever she spoke in public. “I am Star Girl, and I wish to speak to you.” Jason chanced a glance around. There were a few people around, but it seemed like they did not notice this happening. This happens a LOT in this town, Rational offered, but Jason still felt exposed, like a deer in a gunsight. “Uhm...what about?” he asked quietly, turning back to face Star Girl. Star Girl appraised him. He wasn’t cowering before her, but he was rattled, which was not a bad thing. Rattled people tended to speak the truth, whether they intended to or not. After the initial surprise, he seemed to be calming down. “It is about your whereabouts yesterday.” Jason felt a kind of savage relief. They know! They know every- thing! It’s over! he thought. Rational, however, had to have his say. Bull-sheyet, as your daddy would say. If they know everything, they’d send cops, not some costumed supergirl. Get A Grip. Jason did. “I’m not sure I know what you’re talking about,” he said, and then took the initiative. “Can we talk during lunch?” Star Girl eyed him carefully. Was he up to something? On the other hand, it would be best to put him in a place where he cannot easily make a break for it, if he intended to do that. And, though she would not admit it openly, she was curious about Jason Thorn. These thoughts passed through her mind in the space of a heartbeat. “Yes, Mr. Thorn. I suppose we can do that.” Jason nodded, then said, “Follow me.” They entered Macayo’s. After finding a quiet, reasonably private booth in the corner, they sat down, Star Girl sitting across from Jason, her back to the wall. After a quiet moment, Jason asked, “So...what do you want to speak to me about?” A pause...then Star Girl said, quite pointedly, “I want to know if you were at the bank on 12th Street and Main, when it was robbed.” Her voice was low and level. Jason eyed her carefully. He didn’t quite understand if she was to pull a confession out of him for the police, or if they sent her to bring him in. Neither seemed plausible. “May I ask a question, before I answer your question?” Jason countered in a determined voice. Star Girl examined him closely. He was very hard to read, and she knew little...actually, she knew NOTHING about him. She realized that she had left Headquarters without checking with Superconductor on what info existed about Jason Thorn, and cursed herself for making a stupid mistake. Nevertheless, he was still here...and she had to know. Would she give the advantage to him? “I suppose you can, but I may refuse to answer,” Star Girl replied, still keeping her bearing in spite of the added instability of her position. Jason nodded. “All right. Why do you want to know?” Star Girl recognized this. It was a dance of words instead of feet, something she had seen. It was a question of how much to give so one can stay on guard, of how to learn without dropping your defenses. “There was a woman there,” she began, choosing her words carefully. “A woman who would have been dead if not for this man. This man had saved her life, and the lives of others there. He had showed great courage, as well as great skill. It is thought that he was part of the group that robbed the bank, but I do not think so.” Jason thought for a moment. “Now, if I was this person you think did this, what would you do?” “I would say ‘Thank you.’” Star Girl watched his features, waiting for his answer, and was struck by the intelligence in his eyes. His eyes were as blue as the deep sea around Paradise Island. “Well...if I was this guy, I’d say, ‘You are welcome,’” Jason began, then added, “...and I would say that I am honored you would come to speak to me like this.” He took a sip of water from a glass before him, then looked up to Star Girl. She was aware that something had changed in the dance, and she was suddenly unsure of what her reasons for doing this were. “I respect bravery,” she replied simply, then took a drink from her glass. Her mouth was suddenly dry with anticipation. Jason took a deep breath. He had taken a new direction with this conversation, one that had become personal, almost intimate. He knew by instinct that he had to go for it, follow it through to the end. “Listen, Star Girl...would you like to stay for lunch? Since we’re both here anyway, it seems a shame to play move-and-countermove.” It was and was not a confession. What he said was not something that could be proven in any court, but she knew he was the one. She was surprised by his boldness, but she found it intriguing as well. Still, she was surprised to hear herself answer, “Yes. I would like to stay.” Jason ordered a chicken chimichanga. When Star Girl asked about it, it sounded appealing enough, so she ordered one as well. While they waited, Jason inquired about her. She did not reveal much beyond that she was from the same place Wonder Woman was from, and that she was the official leader of the Star Squad. She talked about her fellow Squad members (she had stifled a laugh when Jason asked if they referred to each other as Co-Stars), but only of their experiences in crimefighting. Star Girl inquired about him as well, and was surprised to learn that he was from Nebraska and knew very little about superheroes until he had turned 24 and had moved to New York (six years before he moved to Metropolis) and had only seen two in real life (not on TV or on the radio) since he moved to Metropolis. She was also pleasantly surprised that Jason did not turn the date into a one-person audience for his stand-up comedy-although he would occasionally turn a phrase into an amusing response, he did not make her feel like she was a straight woman in his performance. By the time lunch had arrived, she felt completely at ease (as much as she could relax without betraying her secret identity). In between bites, Jason mentioned that he had never seen her at any of his performances. (“Believe me, I’d remember,” he had confided.) She replied simply that she was glad of it. Jason had taken no offense. The food was good, if terribly spicy. Jason had pronounced it perfect with tears in his eyes. Star Girl had enjoyed her meal as well, and wondered if the company had played a part in it. After Jason paid for lunch, they both walked out into the afternoon sun, shielding their eyes from the sudden brightness. “So, Star...I guess this is the time where I ask you that special question,” Jason said, turning to face her. “What...question is that?” she asked, puzzled. “Do I say ‘Goodbye,’ which is traditionally forever...or do I say, ‘Until we meet again?’” Star smiled inwardly. Despite her natural inclination to think of stand-up comics as men of little inner substance, this one seemed to be different than she had expected. He was obviously intelligent, and had recovered fairly quickly from her sudden appearance. From her initial experience of meeting Wonder Woman, she knew first hand how difficult that could be. She was intrigued. “I believe, Mister Thorn, until we meet again...” she said with a twinkle in her eye. She bent her knees ever so slightly, then slowly took to the air. After glancing back down once more, she looked skywards, and soon was lost to sight amidst the swirling clouds. ‘Co-Stars?’ Star Girl laughed as she twirled in a circle through the clouds... Jason looked up, watching her until she was lost to sight, and then brought his eyes back down to Earth again. He could have sworn he had just gone on a date with a superheroine. What was even stranger was that he liked her. He didn’t think very much of most of the superpeople he’d heard about, but when he did, he wondered what they were really like when the TV cameras left and the attention span of the public moved on to other things. His next reaction was to consider keeping his distance. He didn’t need the potential headache that associating with one of THEM confounding his life. It would be a lot of work and a lot of trouble. Then his next reaction was, WHAT THE HELL. His life was protected, but it was TOO protected. If she had been an ordinary woman, he’d have conjured up some other excuse. He had done it before...too many times. It was time to show some guts and to take some risks. Besides...the military would have forgotten about him some time ago. He resolved to get in touch with her again. Jason forgot a few very important things. One, the military at large may forget some things, but when certain officials are humiliated and demoted for letting a man go AWOL and steal a forty-million-dollar battlesuit, they do NOT forget so quickly or so easily. Two, even though Jason Thorn bore little resemblance to Jason Malenkov, the appearance of the battlesuit in one photo from one glory-hound photojournalist is bound to attract attention...especially from the person it was stolen from. And finally, the military is an organizational giant. Giants move slowly, but when they reach you, they’ll squash you like a bug... Pamela screamed as the whip curled around her right buttock, the length of rawhide curling around the taut muscle like a snake, the sting from the tip like fangs sinking into the reddening skin. The scream died away to a low, soft moan of pain and pleasure. Behind her, she could feel Max pausing, considering where to place the next lash. Along her back, which was already scored by thin red lines? At the backs of her legs, taking away the support of her body with the strike, maybe even forcing her to hang by her shackled wrists? Along her ass, the rounds of her hips quivering with each kiss of the whip? She wished she knew when it would come. The anticipation was making her weak and faint with desire. “Oh, God, Max...again...don’t stop...” she whispered, feeling the silence in the room draw out like the blade of the stiletto. “Please...” “I don’t know...” Max mused from behind her. “You seem to have had enough. You have been punished enough for browbeating me during the meeting.” This was part of the game. Pamela was Max’s superior officer, but she had harbored this secret deep within her, the need to be molded and shaped into the tool of another. She responded by hissing, “I meant everything I said! I won’t apologize for a single, goddam...” She felt the whip strike her right side, the end curling around her body to sting her right nipple. She shrieked in release, feeling her body lurch as the pleasure built up within her, cresting and then falling back. Her juices began to drip down the sensitive inner thigh of her leg, pausing as the flow moved over the lines the whip made at her inner thigh. Her love juices stung the wounds on her legs like drops of molten steel. “Take me...take me, please,” she whined. “Will you apologize?” Max said with a bored tone in his voice. In truth, he was highly aroused, his cock swollen and erect, his hand moving over it as he watched Pamela in the throes of the pain she wanted. She always wanted more and more, but she would never give it away. It had to be taken. She made a small kitten-sound. He cracked the whip in his right hand and her entire body rose and fell at the sound. “Will you apologize?” She began to speak when the phone rang. “DON’T! Don’t answer it!” she barked, eager for him to fill her, but Max picked it up anyway. Tears fell down her cheeks as she listened to him talk on the phone in that sleepy voice. She sagged where she was bound. It was always the same. First, it had been Pam’s grandfather when she was a toddler. Then, it had been her father who had her over a hundred times before she reached puberty. Then, the ‘honor’ had been given to her two brothers, who shared her and compared her to their girlfriends. She was never good enough for any of them, but she had tried her best. It might have even been rape if she hadn’t seduced them all into her bed. With every one of the men in her life, she drew them to her, and then performed for them with relentless fervor, debasing herself for them. And, when they finally destroyed her self-worth, when they could do no more, she had killed each one of them. Her Grandfather, who could not make his ‘thing’ work anymore, was found in his large house, a victim of suicide (she liked the idea that she had figured out what a gas stove could do). Her father had been driving his motorcycle along a dirt road when a long section of piano wire (which she had taken from a junkyard piano) beheaded him when he drove into the near-invisible line at 45 miles per hour. Her brothers had simply disappeared...which was good, because when they were through with her, she applied her government training on them. She knew what forensics could find, and had acted accordingly. Her newest lover was someone assigned to this case with the goal of finding a stolen suit designed by the government for their ‘black operations’ division, something that could be used to ‘neutralize’ normals and super-normals. His name was Maxwell Jackson, and he had proven to be a studious and talented master, with an imagination that defied description. She hoped that his imagination was as boundless as his savagery, for she wanted both in growing measures. Sometimes, in the darkness, she wished for a glorious end, a final, tempestuous night of exquisite pain and tormenting pleasure that would climb so high they would be indistinguishable, a final climax to take her into the long, dark depths of eternal blackness. She thought Max could give her that. She hoped he would. For now, she would be denied. He hung up the phone, and walked over to her, unwilling to touch her. “Steele wants us to come in. Someone saw the suit in action, in Metropolis.” “Are you sure?” she asked, suddenly hopeful. “The description matches.” He unlocked her from the apparatus, letting her drop to the floor like a pile of dirty laundry. “Get dressed. Wear this.” He tossed her a pair of panties, seemingly normal except for the large dildo set into them. “Keep that hole plugged.” She licked her lips, then hurriedly put them on, guiding the hard shaft into her pussy and arranging her panties. She looked in the mirror and realized that, outwardly, there was no sign of the thick thing that was being embraced and held by the inner walls of her sex. She began to dress quickly. General Rod Steele had once been a three-star general, before the “Los Alamos Fiasco.” He had been in charge of a special anti-supervillain project, designing weapons to use against those with superpowers (which, in his personal assessment, meant any superfreak who did not follow his moral example). They had been on the verge of a breakthrough, with a suit that could turn insubstantial on command, with enough specialized firepower to eliminate any villain (or any Godless ‘hero’) who did not measure up to the standard of “American.” Everything had been perfect. Even the pilot was hand-picked, a white-supremacist named Jason Malenkov, a Russian immigrant with a long-standing hatred for anything or anyone who did not have the highest regard for the Paradise that was America. He loved the land that could let him hate anyone or anything he wanted and be allowed to do it because of ‘freedom of speech.’ Then...the Fall. In the final test, Steele’s pet pilot had gone into the suit a brawny, God-fearing and righteous Uberman, ready to kill for Steele, God, and America (in that order). He had come out a sneaky, no-account, pacifist liberal! Of course, the bastard had hidden it for damn near a week, acting like the man Steele wanted...but in the end, it had all been a lie. The prick had fooled them all, and, in the space of an hour, destroyed the research on the suit, trashed the hangar it had been in, stolen the suit (using some sort of computer trick he HAD to have help on: Malenkov was strong and loyal, but a little on the thick side) and disappeared into the Mojave desert. Steele had testified at a court-martial that he had no clue to Jason’s mental breakdown, but had not followed procedure on keeping tabs on the mental state of the pilot. He did not testify that he had made sure that the pilot thought HIS way and not the way of the bleeding-hearts in D.C. In the end, he had been relegated to a desk job at the Pentagon, with the loss of one of his precious stars. He blamed everyone-Jason, the scientists, the programmers, the MPs at the base, Congress, the President-for his current loss in prestige. Of course, he himself was blameless for anything that went wrong. An hour after she felt the hardness of the shaft within her, Major Peterson and Lieutenant Jackson were brought into Steele’s office. Steele was sitting at his desk, going over some papers. “Siddown,” he said roughly, and the two junior officers immediately sat down. As Pamela sat, she felt a strange sensation in her pelvis, but she attributed it to Steele’s presence. “All right, you two. I’ve been working my ass off on this thing for over five years, and now, we finally got a break on the case.” Steele was smoking a thick, long cigar. He told everyone he smoked nothing but the best Cubans on the market, but everyone who had ever smelled the rank smoke that came from the stogies he smoked knew they were anything but real Cuban cigars. No one who wanted to keep his rank, job, and health said anything about it, though. Maxwell said nothing, but thought to himself, You didn’t do any work on any of this, you just sat back and took whatever credit you could get. You did save the failures for us incompetents, though. Maxwell thought about the many schemes that Steele had dreamed up to catch Malenkov. When they fell through, he always had some underling to pin the blame on, saying that they were ‘not following orders.’ Pamela did the right thing and asked, “What have you found, sir?” Steele nodded, then said, “A little spic shutterbug snapped a photo of the suit.” He handed Pamela a photograph, which showed a thug in a black t-shirt and ripped jeans reacting to a punch thrown by a humanoid in modular armor. The suit’s graceful lines were lost on Pamela, who could only see the pain being dealt. She felt a hum at the base of her spine, and thought that Malenkov would have been good for a little roll in the hay, even though it was known that his IQ was barely in the double digits. Pamela handed the photo to Maxwell, who examined it closely. Max always was a stickler for details. She liked that. She felt something in her pelvis and realized that she was slowly getting wetter. Something was getting her juices flowing. She discreetly brought a hand to her skirt, pressed slightly...and knew. Somehow, that shaft inside her was actually a vibrator. The crafty sonofabitch had put a vibrator in her, one wired to a remote control...and she knew where that control was, too-in the pocket of his dress pants. As she watched, she saw his hand pass over the tiny bulge in the left pocket (not the large bulge in his crotch) and touch it, and the humming grew within her. She fought to keep control, knowing he was keeping an eye on her, watching for any sign of the sensations that throbbed through her body. If she gave any sign of what was going on, Steele would put her on report or embarrass her in some other way. Max was enjoying it...and to a degree, she was, too. It was a game, of sorts-could she hold out, in spite of what was being done to her? “What are...our orders, sir?” she managed in a normal tone of voice, biting back a low moan as Max stepped up the power by one notch, the humming becoming a silent throbbing in her loins. “I’m sending you two into Metropolis tomorrow to follow up on this. I’ll be coming myself later in the week.” I’ll be coming in the next few MINUTES! Please, General, hurry this up! I don’t know how much I’ll be able to take! “What will be...ah...our cover, sir?” she said, as calmly as she could muster. She had to resist the urge to thrust her fingers under her drenched panties, to punish her clitoris to bring on the release. “You’ll be going in as employees in the DAILY PLANET...at least, that is what your credentials will say.” General Steele puffed on his cigar. Pamela nodded, feeling the throbbing increase in power. Dear God, how many settings were there? She waited in delicious agony, waiting for the General to continue. The General looked at both of them, then said, “You’ll get the full briefing later. I have to attend to some business.” “Yes, sir,” Max said, snapping to attention. “Y-yes, sir,” Pamela managed, rising slowly, hoping the General would not see the love juices flowing down her leg. “Dismissed,” Steele finished, and the two agents turned and walked out. As soon as she got out, she felt the throbbing increase to a fever pitch and looked back at Max. He was smiling slyly. She would have clawed his eyes out if she didn’t have to scamper into the ladies’ room. She bolted into an empty stall, yanked up her skirt, and dug her fingers into her engorged clitoris, pinching it between her fingers. She came with a cat-scream of anger and lust, then settled on the seat, her body covered with seat. GOD, she loved him...

For Want of a Nail...Part Five

Star Girl didn’t know which cloud was Cloud 9, but she must have found it somewhere. She felt unusually happy; even the altercation with Sarah didn’t seem that important. But, when her boots touched Earth again, reality intruded. Superconductor met her as she walked in. “Star Girl, I have that information on Jason Thorn.” Star Girl stopped, startled by Superconductor’s message. She HAD asked for that, hadn’t she? In the emotional whirlwind of that morning, she had forgotten. “I’ll meet you in the conference room.” Star Girl entered to see Superconductor in the silver-gray outfit she wore during ‘official’ hours. In front of her, on the table, was a small folder. “Hello, SC,” Star Girl said as she sat down. “What do you have?” SuperConductor looked up, frowning slightly, then said, “I have a complete history on Jason Thorn...I think.” That took Star Girl by surprise. SuperConductor was, as a rule, exact and precise. If she was unsure about ANYTHING, it was trouble. “What do you mean, you think?” “Well, the information attained through various sources give a complete history from birth to now, but there is something strange about the information I received.” Star Girl’s good humor was evaporating slowly. “Why? Are there too many discrepancies?” “No...quite the opposite. They have almost NO discrepancies.” That earned a puzzled look from Star Girl. “Come again?” “I have located over twelve different archives and databases in order to get as much information as I can about Jason Thorn. All of them seem to be in order, but I’ve noticed that they all...well, they all SOUND the same. Like each was written by the same person. Here, I’ll show you.” She opened the folder and turned to one particular page. “This is a report of his short service for the U.S. Air Force, in London. Now,” she continued, picking out one more sheet, “this is the commanding officer of the Royal Air Force, with a letter of thanks.” Star Girl read them both, then said, “I confess, I can’t see...” SuperConductor pointed to one word in the RAF CO’s letter. FAVOR. “The British don’t write this word this way. They write it as FAVOUR. And this one, GRAY? The British write it as GREY. Whoever wrote this letter was an American.” Star Girl looked up at Superconductor, suddenly realizing the import of her words. “So they are faked.” Superconductor nodded. “In fact, I feel it is safe to say that all these records were faked, and implanted into the files of these databases to give them the illusion of reality.” Star Girl sat back, exhaling loudly. “So if Jason Thorn does not exist...who is this man?” “We must make some assumptions, based on the facts. I will...” SuperConductor cocked her head. “The phone is ringing.” Star Girl knew better than to argue with SuperConductor’s heightened senses. She went to the door, opened it, then grabbed the nearest telephone. “Yes?” “Hi. It’s Wonder Woman.” The smile was automatic. “Hi! What’s going on?” “I have some news...I don’t think you’re going to like it, though.” Star Girl groaned. Except for her meeting (date) with Mr. Thorn, the whole day was rapidly becoming lousy. “Better tell me.” “I just got some info from an informed source in the military (Trevor? Star Girl thought) that a General Steele of the U.S. Army has just approved some kind of operation in your area. From what I can tell, it’s something they like to call a ‘black operation.’ In other words, some kind of nasty work no one in the military would ever admit to doing.” Star Girl groaned. “Why me?” she asked no one in particular. “I was able to get the faces of the two agents they are sending. Names won’t matter because they won’t be using their own, but the faces should help in identifying them.” Wonder Woman sounded guarded, and Star Girl wondered if she was worrying about getting caught. “Thank you for the warning. Send the faces when you can,” Star Girl said quickly. “Right. Talk to you later,” Wonder Woman said, and then there was the abrupt click, followed by the drone of a dial tone. Star Girl hung up, then looked skyward. “Why me?” she asked again. Somewhere above, a private jet was winging its way towards Metropolis. Inside, Pamela was becoming aware that something was up. Max was being absurdly professional, exchanging file folders on heroes and heroines in the Metropolis area, always coming back to Jason Malenkov’s dossier. The man featured had a cruel, hard face. They had read and re-read his personal activities and temperaments until they were second nature. They knew he was dangerous and vicious...that was why he had been perfect for the ShadowBox project. General Steele needed a remorseless killing arm for his personal agenda. But he had gone rogue, presumably to make it as a freelance killer. Max and Pamela had been ordered to bring him and the suit back. Bringing in Jason alive was preferred, but dead if expedient. A living Jason could be interrogated, maybe even ‘turned’ psychologically. Dead would be regrettable, but acceptable. Pamela looked up to see Max winking at the uniformed stewardess. When he turned back to look at her, he did not react to her sudden, icy glare. “Yes, Pam?” he asked obliquely. Twenty responses came to mind, but the one that came out was, “Keep your mind on your work.” Max only smiled. They continued studying the files for another hour before Max yawned. “I’m going to catch a little shuteye before we land.” He paused, then continued, “See if you can fuck that stewardess by the time I wake up, all right?” Pam’s mouth opened, but no words came out. This was another Order from him. If she said ‘no,’ that would be the end of it between them, and it would be her fault. He would examine the stewardess on the way out to see if she did what he wanted. Max continued, oblivious to Pam’s surprise, “I checked her file on the computer. She’s a lesbian. Are you bisexual, Pam?” She realized that the thought of taking the girl aroused her. She closed her mouth, nodding meekly. Max smiled, acknowledging her, then lay back in his chair. Mary Beth Duchene did not see Pam because she was thinking of what she would do after they arrived in Metropolis. There was this cute guy in the 5th Division there, and he wasn’t married. Maybe later, they could... Pam slipped up behind Mary Beth and clamped one hand over her mouth, the other hand around her waist, and Mary forgot all about the cute guy. She tried to fight off her assailant, but the woman who gripped her was cat-quick, dodging each feeble blow. “LISTEN,” Pam whispered. “Do as I say or I will stick you in a suit- case!” She waited until Mary calmed down, then said, “Good. You are a good girl, aren’t you?” Mary did not answer. She had frozen in fear. Pam sighed, then the hand at Mary’s waist moved down under her dress- issue blue slacks. Pam waited until Mary stopped fidgeting, then went on, her fingers slipping into Mary’s panties. Mary moaned softly, but it was not the moan of arousal. It was a moan of resignation, which only aroused Pamela. Pam began to play with her new ‘friend’ as the plane shifted to head north to Metropolis. Mary closed her eyes and waited for it to be over. Pam and Max left the plane an hour later. Mary Beth’s eyes were glassy, her face curiously vacant. Her “Have a good day” was flat and lifeless. Her only visible reaction was the way she cringed as Pam smiled at her. Another satisfied customer, Pam thought as she walked down the stairs and across the flight line to the base terminal. Mary Beth would go home and begin a drinking binge that would last a week. The cute guy in 5th Division would read how she died of alcohol poisoning at the end of the week. No great loss, Pam would have thought. At least she served me well. Jason, oblivious to the information drawn on him, had already arrived home. He changed into exercise clothing and left his house again, heading for the gym nearby. A personal trainer remarked that Jason had more energy than usual that day. Jason thought about that as he participated in the aerobics class, building up a serious head of steam. Lynx watched Him. She had gone to the gym in disguise, the illusion that Mystery had created for her. She had gone there because she had peeked at the file that Superconductor had been collecting, and found that he was a member of one of the clubs. From there, it was simply a matter of figuring out which one he would be at. She had been there for the past two hours, using the free weights. A few people were wondering what her limits were, for she had been pumping the iron longer than was normally possible. One trainer noticed that she had been using the bench and was dead-lifting almost 400 pounds. As a precaution, he had been able to guide the other members away from her, sensing trouble. When Jason had arrived, in the black IMPROV T-shirt and SPEEDO bike pants, she had almost dropped the 200-pound barbell she had been using. Her paranatural senses had kicked in, his scent reaching her as soon as he walked through the door, her eyes watching him as he moved from warm-up area to the aerobic workout area. No wonder Star Girl is interested in him, she thought. Surely his superior genetic background is a major factor. She wondered how he would be if she Mated with him, and her blood pressure elevated instantly as thoughts of his naked body against hers caused her to momentarily lose her concentration. She put down the barbell and strode to an empty cycling machine, setting the tension to maximum and started, effortlessly pumping the pedals. She ignored the television screen in front of her and kept her eyes on him. It seems so unfair. Why can’t I find a specimen like this? Her mouth suddenly quirked up in a sly feline smile. But I have, haven’t I? Besides, SuperConductor never TOLD me why she was arranging the file on him...Sorry, Star Girl. Jason was strapping himself into the cross-country skiing machine when a young woman stepped in front of the machine, standing just behind the touch-sensitive panel. The first thing he noticed about her were her strange eyes. They seemed Japanese, but they were set just a little too far apart. They were also a strange shade of blue. She wore a suit that seemed extreme even for the usual breathe-easy activewear of a gym-it looked like it had been sprayed on with an aerosol can (and a light coat, at that), showing off a muscular body, lean hips, broad shoulders, and a prodigious cleavage. “Hello, therrrre...” she purred, smiling slyly. Despite what other people had said about him, Jason did not think that all women dropped the rest of their lives to take a personal interest in his. Thinking this, he said simply, “Hello, ma’am,” he said politely, starting up the workout program on the machine’s computer panel. “My name issss...Lynn. Lynn...X,” she said, improvising slightly. Oh, BOY. “What does the ‘X’ stand for?” he asked casually, starting the workout. “Use your imagination,” she answered, winking lasciviously. As he started pumping his legs and arms on the machine, he wondered where the CANDID CAMERA crew was. Was this woman for real? “I dunno...my imagination’s not that good. Why not try the art college down the street?” Lynx was losing the momentum. She had seen this kind of approach work on hundreds of movies she had seen on the SPICE Channel. This approach was shortly followed by women removing their clothes and proceeding to couple with men (or other women) with almost frightening speed. Watching these movies, Lynx could see why there were over 6 billion people on the planet. Was she doing something wrong? Was there some signal she had forgotten to send? This had worked so well on other lovers...”I’m...not interested in them. I’m only interested in you,” Lynx continued. She was successful in keeping the doubt out of her voice...barely. Jason seemed not to take any special notice. “Can you wait until I’m done? I need to work out for another hour.” This felt like more familiar ground. “I can suggest...other ways.” she replied comfortably. Jason decided that maybe it was time to do something about this. “Okay, honey, but you have to tell me something first.” “Anything you want,” Lynx replied, smiling warmly. I’ll bet. “Can you tell me where Allen Funt and the CANDID CAMERA crew is? You CAN’T be wearing a minicamera on you, so where is it? In the rowing machine?” Lynx’s smile froze as the full import of his words seemed to swat her to the ground. As Jason watched, it seemed to slowly crumble on her face. Outright refusal, she could handle. Randy responses she could appreciate. Even quiet acknowledgment would have been partially unsatisfying, but only in the beginning. But being made fun of... She had no anger within her. She realized now that her advances seemed crude and cartoonish to him. A fake face and fake lines, delivered with rude aplomb, and rebuffed soundly by indifferent levity. She was suddenly, totally ashamed of herself. She turned, eyes filling with tears, and ran for the door, pushing aside a young man who couldn’t get out of the way fast enough. Jason stopped, got out of the machine, and looked after her. Oh, that was cruel. Malenkov would have liked it. You just shot through her idea of conversation...so why don’t you try and put SOME of it back together for her? Jason went after her. He found her, crouched in a breezeway between the gym and the college, head in hands, almost on her knees.“Lynn?” She shrank back. “Don’t...come any closer.” Jason counted to five, then stepped closer. He touched her shoulder and she flinched. “Do not...I am ashamed.” she whispered plaintively, shaken to her foundations. Jason bent on his knees, then touched her hand with his. It felt almost...FURRY. It didn’t look furry, though, and he grasped it, pulling it away from her face. It was streaked with tears. “I don’t...I do not underrrrstand,” she managed, and then she bent forward. Jason caught her, held her cheek to his chest, and knelt there as she quietly sobbed. “I’m sorry,” Jason said. “I was pretty cruel to you in there. I should have been nicer to you.” “I must have sounded like some sort of...” “Take it easy,” Jason replied, soothingly. Lynn drew back to look at him. “Who are you?” “Just a man, miss. Can you stand?” “I...I think so.” She slowly stood up, with Jason’s help. “I do not know what came over me. No man has ever reacted like that before. I was unaware of what I was acting like, and I...” She looked ready to burst into tears again, and Jason touched her face. “I am...unsure of what I have done.” “Miss Lynn, I don’t mind when a woman shows interest in me. It’s just that if they are willing to treat sexual favors like handshakes...” She looked down, some of the shame returning. “I have offended you.” “No, just surprised me. I thought I was the one who offended you like that. I tend to have a scathing sense of humor at times. Will...will you be all right?” Lynn nodded, standing straighter now. “I have acted foolishly. But I do not know any better.”Jason frowned. “Were you an only child?” “No. I am a huntress from another world who is stranded here,” Lynx said with a completely straight face. At least she didn’t ask me to pull her finger. “Well, if you are interested in people, you have to have a little more...well, subtlety,” Jason offered. “I shall...remember that. Will you accept my offer?” Jason paused, “The one you made inside?” “Yes, the indelicate one.” Jason had to think about that. “Well...I think we oughtta know each other very well before we try anything like that.” He paused, then said, “How about a ride home?” She felt unsteady. She was amazed how much emotions could affect her. Earth was very confusing at times. She longed for the simpler, rawer feelings of the huntress in the jungles of her world. “Yes...I may need a ride.” After Jason collected his gear from the gym, he led Lynn to the car. After he opened the passenger-side door for her and let her in, he came around to the driver’s seat and buckled himself in. He looked across and saw Lynn sitting back in her chair. “Lynn...seat belts?” She looked back at him and stated simply, “No.” He thought about arguing the point, then mentally sighed and said, “Your option.” He started the car and drove out of the parking lot. As he drove, he asked for directions to her place. Lynx, who was feeling more sure of herself, opted to direct him to a house down the street from the Star Squad HQ. Apart from “Turn left here” or “Go down this street,” she was silent for the duration of the ride. As they drove up to the (fake) address, Jason asked, “Are you going to be all right?” “I will be...just fine. I have much to consider.” Lynn got out, turned, then said, “Will you accept?” It took a minute for Jason to realize what she was talking about. “Sorry, Lynn...never on the first date. And Mother would never understand if I told her I was living in sin with an alien.” He smiled abruptly. There was a ghost of a smile on Lynn’s lips. “Very well. But you would have had a singular experience.” The very next instant, she had vanished. Jason looked around him, eyes wide in surprise. He could not have seen Lynx, sans disguise, crouched on his roof, and then leaping into the trees above. “Maybe I better find another gym to go to,” he said quietly, and then got the hell out of there.

For Want of a Nail part 1