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"You are going to need to get a big princess type dress. I CANNOT fight for the honor of someone wearing cowgirl pjs."
"Funny," said Christine. "You're just so bloody hilarious." An exaggerated bloody, mock accent suggesting high tea with the Queen. She grabbed Kevin's hand. "Just don't go."
"Not going anywhere. Even if I could." He looked at her awhile, and then glanced out the window, in the general direction of the Tower. The crowd there, he knew, would be growing, impossible to negotiate.
In the green space between the Centropolis Medical Center and the Doctors' Block building, a chipmunk, exposed to fairyplainium when the Dimensional Man rampaged through the city, perched on the branch of an Elm tree and chewed a discarded spear of deep-fried asparagas.
Down the block, a young man entered the Centropolis Book Depository, where he'd recently been hired to work. Greasy long hair hung over his face, paunch over the waistband of his jeans, and a cheesy 70s mustache, his upper lip. Mustard stained his black Bodum of Filth t-shirt. Concealed within his backpack, wrapped within his work coveralls, was the precious item that had cost him a year's savings.
At the Centropolis Medical Center, Kevin Perch looked back to his beloved.
He hadn't been dating Christine Grundy long—- but he hoped and prayed he would be. He sat beside her in the waiting place. "The traffic was being difficult," said he.
"I heard. The Fish is making his farewell appearance at the Tower?"
"Yes, they're doing some kind of ceremonious presentation out front. The whole lot of them. Even that lad, 'Scooter.'"
"I don't suppose we'll ever understand the superhero lifestyle."
"Well, the whole lot save for the Masked Owl, I think. You know, he's supposed to be all business."
"What about Bobolink?"
"His sidekick's not part of the League, though."
"But this 'Scooter' kid is?"
"It's complex, I think. I rather suspect we'll learn there's more to this 'Scooter' than we know just yet. End of an era, anyway." Glowing Fish had announced he'd be resigning from the League, returning to Atlantis to be their sea king full-time.
She smoothed a ruffle on her cowboy pajamas. "Forget you fighting for my honor. I could be one of them. Goddess, I had every Lady Amazonian collectible I could get my hands on, when I was a girl. Insisted on being Lady Amazonian at Halloween."
"You saw her once, close up," Kevin said. "In battle. In victory." His eyes fell on the utilitarian clock. She would be going in soon. "Most people don't manage that, not even in Centropolis. Just flash-by stuff."
Someone knocked on the frame of her door. "Miss/Mrs. Grundy?" inquired a grey-haired woman in a lab coat.
Her cobalt-gamma ray-based treatment, the Professor reckons, was one of several identified causal factors. Each new metahuman singularity threatened to open twelve new branches of science. Worse, the metahumans themselves were so damned secretive, research proved sketchy at best. Still, the potential military applications alone ensured that money rolled in for those willing to brave the field.
Professor Von Cube of the Wade Foundation had other sources, of course. Bryce Wade was known to be obsessed with the topic. Eccentric billionaire playboys could be like that.
Meanwhile, beneath the dank, worm-fed earth, the root of a venerable old elm had entangled itself around the gas line supplying the Doctors' Block.
From the window of the Centropolis Book Depository, Dustin Clery had a fine view of the city, clear over the crowd and to the stage on the Justice Plaza, just in front of the League's Tower. He grinned smugly, wickedly, and reached into his pack. He would wreak terrible revenge on the so-called heroes. No better than the jocks and the nerdy brains who'd both looked at him with disdain in high school, or the pretty faces and legs who called him a pig when he'd tried to talk to them, to entertain them with his particular brand of wit. Sheep, all of them. And there was history, he had recently learned. His grandfather had faced the same oppression, back in the days of Captain Destiny and that youthful-looking hag, Lady Amazonian.
From three separate pieces, he assembled his pride and joy: the most powerful megaphone in the world! He'd ordered the main item from the Edmund Scientific catalogue, and he'd added to it enhancements his grandfather had given him. With this, he would yell his fierce taunts and insulting nicknames! His grandfather was right; those heroes were nothing but an affront to real human beings. That, he reflected, was the first useful thing any adult had taught him. But, bound by their silly ethical codes, the heroes would not dare touch him if he was not breaking the law. After all, did they not protect the weak? Maybe they would be so embarrassed by his remarks, they would conceal themselves forever and he, Dustin Clery, the Troll, would have his revenge!
Just as Christine's treatment was beginning, a limousine drove by the Centropolis Medical Center. A group of young women on their way to the Debutante's Ball at Starland smelled gasoline through an open window. The parking attendant, too, made note. Patients at ground level began to complain of the odour.
A few blocks away, members of the League, resplendent in apparent spandex, leather, and highly impractical capes, stepped up to the podium. The crowd cheered and cameras flashed.
The noise startled the fairyplainium-irradiated chipmunk. It dropped the remainder of the deep-fried asparagus and scurried down the tree. The vagaries of Marmotini digestion went into play.
The casing surrounded Christine. Cobalt-birthed gamma rays knifed into her brain.
The Troll stood near the window. His megaphone would send his voice across the crowd, and his grandfather's incredible gizmo-thingy would put his voice on all radio and television frequencies nearby. He'd always known he was born for greatness, even if his parents concealed his heritage and his teachers failed to recognize his brilliance. He pressed his lips to the megaphone's mouth.
"Metaman's real name is Diaper-man! Look! His outfit looks like he's wearing a red diaper over his tights!" the Troll giggled. He was just getting started.
A few people looked around. A fuzzy version of his jeer crackled weakly over the speakers in Justice Plaza.
"Lady Amazonian hangs with a bunch of Lesbo Nympho Killer Whores!"
A fiery explosion rocked the Doctors' Block. The limousine rolled over, narrowly avoiding the falling elm. Despite being build to withstand direct bombing and giant killer robot attacks, the north wing of the Centropolis Medical Center began to crumble, concrete falling.
"Great Scott!" yelled Metaman. One hand pointed definitively towards the location, before he took flight. The remainder of the League went into action as their recently-acquired youthful associate, "Scooter" Simmons, headed for the Emergency Command Center.
The everyday heroes took their part, the doctors and ambulance drivers, the firefighters and police officers. At least, they tried. Emergency communication frequencies that should have been delivering key information instead broadcast messages such as, "Glowing Fish writes submarine porn!" followed by hysterical giggles.
Kevin Perch's eyes widened. Parts of the wall had crumbled alongside him. A section of ceiling should have taken him out.
Someone caught it. Someone who glowed the most beautiful, radiant shade of blue.
The glowing beryllium woman obviously struggled with the weight, but she was able to put the chunk down beside him. "Christine?" he asked.
She floated to the ground, and looked at her hands.
"We need to get out of here," he said. "Please.... Christine!"
"I'm glowing," she said.
They walked down the hallway. A small group, agitated, huddled near a blocked doorway: six adults, and one little girl in a hospital gown. And then Christine felt it, felt it like it had always been a part of her. Her head rushed with adrenaline. She extended her arms. "Stand back!" she said.
A bolt of pure gamma-force issued forth from her fingertips. A passage melted in the rubble. She looked back at Kevin. He smiled. "This way," she said.
Back at the Centropolis Book Depository, The Troll was furious. He hadn't got to the best part, the loud expression of his theory that Metaman was secretly married to his teenage cousin, Metagirl. Instead, everyone was focusing on this explosion. It was censorship, censorship of the worst sort, and he wasn’t going to stand for it.
Kevin Perch and his strangely-transformed girlfriend and the group that followed them found themselves among flame and ash and embers. Sirens sounded.
A green glow met Christine's blue one: the Green Panjandrum, the League's most enigmatic member. "You! Glowing woman! What is your role in this?" She stumbled for words. The crowd quickly took her side. She'd saved them, they explained.
A second stentorian voice sounded. Metaman, speaking nearby to a firefighter.
"It's the craziest sh... It's crazy, Metaman! All we're gettin' on our radio is someone saying... I don't even wanna repeat it! Baloney about.... About you. You and Metagirl!"
"Get these people to safety!" said the Panjandrum. "We'll talk later." He took to the sky to continue the rescue.
"How did this happen?" Kevin whispered to her. "Were you really flying in there?"
She focused a moment. Her body rose off the ground.
"Will the superhero save us, mommy?" asked the little girl.
"She has to help other people. Come on, let's get this way." She looked up. "Thank you, blue glowing woman!"
And Christine recalled the moment, those years ago, when she'd seen Lady Amazonian, atop the prostate body of the Humonguloid. The female wonder had saved the League that day, and likely the world, as well. Emotion overwhelmed Christine. Unable yet to control her abilities, she found herself soaring higher, up and across the city.
The disaster didn’t look so bad from the height—localized, really, with the world's mightiest mortals on hand to help. Above the commotion, she could hear clearly the sound of a voice, amplified through some artificial means.
"Yeah, that's... that's how %$#@ disgusting Metaman and Metagirl are! Heroes should show better judgment. Disgusting pigs!"
That had to be the voice the firefighter heard! She tried to control her flight, zone in on the sound. Kevin couldn't follow her, but he helped the crowd to safely and hoped for the best.
Christine arrived at an upper window of the Centropolis Book Depository. She reached out to the young man with the strange megaphone.
"Don't touch me!" said the Troll.
"Your announcements," she said. "They're interfering with emergency services. People are trying to save lives."
"Don't try that B.S. with me, superhero! W-What's your name? Glow-bitch? You can't touch me. Don't you touch me! I'll sue you so hard!"
All trace of her exhaustion and ill health had vanished. Christine felt stronger than she had before. She grabbed the megaphone with one hand and the strange young man with the other and she stepped out the window, certain she could control her flight.
"This is censorship! It's harassment!"
"If you'd like me to put you down, boy...." she said. He whimpered. She looked about, and realized they were hovering now, just near the spire of St. Isidore's Cathedral. Below, a camera flashed.
She focused her mind, moved herself towards the bell-tower. Of course, she thought. The bells of St. Isidore were under repair.
She hung the Troll in the place of the main tower bell, hooking him by the seat of his pants. Then she returned to the hospital, where members of the League were completing the rescue efforts.
The Troll's story was buried with the rubble from the collapsed wing of the Centropolis Medical Center. Oh, Christine would suffer some ribbing because he'd been involved her debut. A photo appeared on page 20 of The Centropolis Star, rescue workers finally retrieving the Troll. A blue glow carrying the Troll. A popular late night talk show host ran both photos, asking if the new hero shouldn't aspire to a more impressive arch-nemesis. The League's rescue efforts, of course, Glowing Fish's last great adventure with them, received greater play in any case. Still, she was a story, and a page two photo, her blue glow suffusing the atmosphere, the remnants of her cowboy PJs standing in for a uniform. Fortunately, she had not yet learned to control her glow, and its ambient light prevented the old west motif drawings on her drawers from being visible in the photographs and video captures. The radiance distorted her face, too, in captured images. Who was she?
The world had a new superhero.
She appeared before reporters a week later, to answer questions. The new costume worked well with her special glow. The blue suede boots were a tribute to Lady Amazonian.
"I'm.... I'm GammaGirl," she said.
Out in the crowd, Kevin smiled.
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