by Dan Swanson
Savant was too smart for anyone to keep secrets from her, and she couldn’t even keep secrets from herself. “Henrietta, you silly girl — you’re looking for truth, aren’t you?”
This was an amusing concept to her. She had long ago concluded that it was better not to know the truth; better to accept the various half-truths and outright lies that made the world go ’round. In her experience, the truth always hurt. Why would a girl like her ever want to learn the truth? She realized she was still keeping secrets from herself. She searched her mind again — yes, it clearly had something to do with John and her relationship with him. But her subconscious was being stubborn, and not letting this secret go without a fight.
Henrietta King wasn’t in the mood to fight with herself. She knew that sooner or later, she would wrest this guarded secret from her own mind, and that was enough. She went back to her hobby.
She was almost ready to begin putting her theories into practice. She had quickly realized that no single computer on Earth, or even a collection of computers, had the power to do what she wanted. She was trying to simulate people. Since each person is different, no single computer could drive a simulation of several different people simultaneously. And she wasn’t talking several people, she was talking a city’s worth, at least. Each simulated human would require its own computer, and each of these computers would be more complex than anything ever designed yet. Yes, it was a perfect challenge for a girl who had adopted the code name Savant.
First, though, obtaining money, then acquiring materials, then designing and building the necessary equipment, and finally creating her simulation. It was time for a little exercise.
She headed into the exercise room. Dollface was sparring with one of her latest pets. The man, now an actor, had an extensive background in martial arts, and it looked as if Dolly had finally met her match. He couldn’t quite match her speed or agility, but he was much bigger and stronger — and he had realized that he was fighting for his life. As Savant entered the room, he landed a spin-kick to her thigh, and Henrietta heard what sounded like bones breaking. Dolly fell to the mat, which actually helped her escape his next attack, and she rolled and was back on her feet in a second.
The man’s expression became even more grim as he realized that Dolly’s enhanced healing ability was going to keep her healthy long after he became too tired to fight back. His only chance would be to disable her long enough to make a run for it. He was looking around for a weapon when Savant interrupted the fight. He froze in place as she took over his mind. And she used her telekinesis to protect him from Dolly’s next savage attack.
“Dolly, how many times do I have to tell you — no more killing! You know what a pain it is to straighten things out afterwards. And one of my favorite movie stars? If you can’t follow the rules, I’m going to have to ask you to move out.”
“Well, poison piss to you, too! A girl just wants to have a little fun, you know? And you sure aren’t any fun lately!”
Savant turned to the frozen actor. “You! Beat it! You were just putting the moves on Sydney Mayflower–” This was a famous woman who lived in the same building, although in a less-expensive apartment. “–and she threw you out when you didn’t measure up. That’s all you remember!” He was gone in a flash. Years later, Henrietta would realize sadly that after this moment he had never made another movie. She turned to Dollface, eyes literally blazing with anger.
“Uh-oh, if looks could kill…” Dolly started to say before she dropped to the floor and stopped moving for a second, then leaped to her feet.
“I forgot, your looks can kill. I’m sorry, Hank, I’ll be more discreet in the future!”
“You, discreet?” Henrietta was incredulous. “You have the same acquaintance with discretion that Faust has with modesty — none to speak of.” The flames flashing from her eyes faded, and she started to smile. “We’re going to have some fun now! I’m off to make money the new-fashioned way — by stealing it. You want to come along?”
“Just try to leave me home, Hank!” Dolly responded eagerly. She was bouncing around like an excited chimpanzee. “Let’s go! Where we going?”
The two put on stylish trenchcoats to cover their costumes and were soon walking into one of the most expensive hotels in Gotham City.
“Why here?” Dollface wanted to know. “We’ve passed dozens of banks and jewelry stores.”
“I thought we deserved a little fun, too. Check out what’s happening here.” Henrietta pointed at the hotel’s event calendar for today. “What could be more fun than robbing the richest of the rich in Gotham — and watching the Dalenchipps at the same time?”
“Hubba-hubba!” Dollface responded with feeling. “Now you’re talking!”
Savant had seen a story about this upcoming event in the Gotham Gazette society news a month or so ago. Designed to raise money for the Bangladesh flood relief effort, it was an invitation-only event, and only those who could easily afford the $10,000 cover charge were invited. Since about a hundred of the richest women in Gotham City, New York, and Metropolis were expected to attend, the organizers hoped to collect over $1 million, just from the cover charge — and the Dalenchipp dancers who would be performing had pledged to donate ninety percent of their tips. Invitations had been the hottest item in Gotham high society for the past two weeks, when someone who had been invited but wasn’t interested in attending realized it was all right to give the invitation to a friend. This had quickly started a bidding war, and there were unconfirmed rumors of invitations being sold at ten times the cover charge — discreetly, of course.
Savant and Dollface didn’t have invitations, but that didn’t slow them down even a little bit. Savant’s powers got them in the door, and a couple of rich old dowagers in the front row of tables suddenly realized they would be safer from heart attacks a couple of rows back. The two super-villains were not the youngest women in attendance, and they were not underdressed, even in their skimpy costumes.
Henrietta hadn’t originally planned to attend the performance. Instead, as soon as the doors were locked, she had planned to mentally stun the crowd and take their money. Bet when Dolly caught a glimpse of the performers milling around, waiting for the speeches to be over, she had looked pleadingly at her friend. They weren’t in a hurry, so Savant had smiled and nodded, and they settled back.
They had to sit through some stupefying speeches and endure a horrifying stream of slides and videos, showing the dead, the diseased, and the dying. Somewhere in the middle of the third speech, Henrietta started to feel some doubts about their mission. Being the daughter of a single, drug-addicted mom, even a supermodel, had not been a picnic, yet the kids in these pictures were worse off on their best days than she had ever been in her life. She used her powers to read the minds of the organizers, and she saw that this whole thing was legit — the money really would go to the Flood Relief Fund.
She turned to her friend and smiled ruefully. “I’m sorry, Dolly, but we can’t steal from this event.”
One of the dancers was paying close attention to Dollface, but she turned to Savant and smiled. “Don’t be sorry. I knew from the moment we walked in that you’d change your mind. Even so, I haven’t had so much fun in… well, weeks, anyway!” She turned back to her new friend. Savant wondered where she had gotten the high-value bills she was using to attract and distract him — but with all the other women around them flashing so much money, she realized it was a silly question.
At the end of the evening, the proceeds were totaled, and it was announced that they had collected over three million dollars for charity that night. And the hotel announced that they would match the donation. Everyone cheered, and it was a perfect ending for a wonderful evening, except Dollface looked very sad.
“What’s the matter, Dolly? Your new friend blow you off?”
“Well, sort of. I know I can’t give him our unlisted phone number — and he never gives his number out to anyone! If you give him your number, and he likes you, he might call you — or he might not. What a swell-head!”
Savant had to laugh. “He’s just protecting himself, sweetie — from girls like you, in fact!”
Dollface thought about that for a few seconds, and she smiled, too. “I assume we’re going to knock over a bank or something on the way home?” When Savant nodded, she smiled. “Neato, groovy, outasight!”
They picked a bank; fencing gems and jewelry would take too long, and Savant wanted cash right away. Savant used her telekinesis to prevent the alarm from tripping, and it didn’t take long to open the safe with the same power.
Dollface looked around the vault with interest. “I just love money, you know, Hank? I wish we could take it all, but how would we carry it?”
“Don’t worry, Dolly, we can come back for more when the first batch is used up. Grab as much as you can carry, for now. Maybe we’ll bring a few of your pets along next time to help us carry even more. And stop calling me Hank!”
They filled the special pouches that lined the inside of their coats, and only a few minutes later they were back at their apartment. “Well, that was a fun diversion, but I’ve got to get back to work,” Savant told her friend.
Dolly made a face and stuck out her tongue. “Well, I’ve got to check on my pets. See you later!”
“Remember, Dolly, no more killing!”
On the Jay Garrick for President campaign trail, John Garrick was glad for once that the train tour forced everyone into a specific schedule. Tonight after dinner was scheduled as family time, and the Secret Service detail would keep everyone out of the family car. The teenage John wanted some private time with his folks. The three were sitting in the library in comfortable chairs, surrounded by the old books that his parents Jay and Joan Garrick loved so well. There was a lull in the conversation, and John filled it.
“Dad, have you ever thought about changing the past?”
His parents were virtually dumbstruck, and there was silence for a few seconds. Then Jay spoke cautiously, thinking back through all of his adventures as the super-speedster known as the Flash. “Of course I did, son, when I was younger. Who hasn’t thought about what the world would be like if, for example, Hitler had never been born? Not many people really have the power to make changes like that, though you and I are among those few that do.” John acknowledged this with a nod, and Jay went on.
“But I’ll tell you what — it is one of the single most dangerous things you can think of, John. I tried it once, back in the ’50s, in fact, exactly that scenario — preventing the birth of Hitler. I went back to Austria in the nineteenth century and tried to keep Hitler’s parents from meeting. I was ready to carry his mother off to America when I was stopped by someone named Destiny.”
“There was somebody in the nineteenth century who could stop you?” John was surprised. “I thought there weren’t any super-powered people until the late 1930s!”
“A common misconception, son. It seems as if there have been people with super-powers almost as long as there have been people. Why, there’s a fella known as Immortal Man who’s lived a thousand lives or more over many centuries, having different super-powers each time. Anyway, Destiny — who wears a hooded purple cloak and carries the Book of Destiny, which is connected to his wrist by a huge chain — isn’t exactly a human being, as far as I can tell, but more of a Spectre type, though he doesn’t take a direct hand in things like Jim Corrigan does. In that way he reminds me more of the Phantom Stranger from Earth-One. Destiny can see what the future holds, and he shows himself only at times when humanity is in the crossroads. He showed me a future without Hitler, and it was far worse than the future I had already experienced.”
Jay shuddered as those terrible memories rose to the surface of his mind. The puppet ruler that Vandal Savage had raised up instead of Adolf Hitler had been even more dangerous than Hitler, even more so when this puppet ruler had managed to kill Savage and discover many of the secrets of the Illuminati. Backed with these secrets, he had been able to prolong World War II for decades. Destiny had showed the Flash that World War II was still going on in the mid-1950s and had hinted that it would last at least another forty years — and he had refused to tell the Flash which side would eventually win.
“Dad, that same thing happened to me, almost exactly. I went back in time, and Doctor Fate stopped me by showing me the future!”
Joan broke in. “John, dear, why did you want to change the past?” said his mother with concern. “What terrible events were you trying to erase?” In a few minutes, John had told the whole story.
His mother was upset. “Just because you have super-powers and you’re a genius, John Garrick, doesn’t mean you are smart enough to play God with other peoples’ lives for your own selfish reasons! I thought we’d raised you better than that!”
John, who hadn’t even considered that his motives were selfish, was about to protest, but his father stopped him. “She’s right, you know. You wanted to change Henrietta so she would be more to your liking. What gives you the right to decide what’s right for her?”
“Look, guys, it didn’t happen, and I learned my lesson. Can we talk about something else? I think Henrietta’s up to something dangerous.” Jay and Joan glanced at each other. Jay winked, and Joan nodded.
“I’ve been trying to keep track of her from the news stories,” continued John. “I know I could find her in just a few seconds if I really wanted to, but she knows where I am — and if she wants to talk to me, she can. From the things she’s stolen, I’m afraid she’s experimenting with nanotechnology. Suppose she builds something that lets her take over the minds of insects? She could be almost unstoppable!”
To some people this might have sounded ridiculous, but controlling an army of insects could give Savant tremendous power. There were people who could be killed by as little as one bee sting. A swarm of army ants could kill anything in its path. Flocks of locusts could easily disrupt travel by car and truck, smashing into windshields and blinding drivers. Insect eavesdroppers would be impossible to stop. An insect could even disrupt complex electronics by crawling onto circuit boards and creating short circuits. The insect would die, but there were always more insects for the next mission.
Joan Garrick was thinking about this, and she shook her head. “It doesn’t fit, John. She uses her mind-control powers on people, mostly on men, and she’s always had good success. From what you’ve told us, you were her only failure, and she never actually used her powers on you. I don’t think she would change her M.O. that drastically unless her old methods had failed her.”
John thought it through, and his mom was right. He was wondering what else he had done wrong recently, when Jay spoke up.
“Though that could be devastating, if it is what she is really doing, dear,” said the former Flash. “I think we ought to check it out. If Henrietta is experimenting with insects, our friend Insect Queen — Lana Lang — should be able to find some kind of evidence. Meanwhile, John, as Lana investigates the insect angle, I want you to figure out how nanonic mind-control transceivers would work, and figure out a defense against them.”
“Thanks, Dad! I’ll get to work right away!” John felt much better. Even though he had almost messed up twice, his folks were taking him seriously. And his father had just entrusted him with a very important responsibility.
“Can it wait, John?” his mom responded. “I made a surprise dessert for tonight, and I was hoping we could all watch a little TV together. The Cosby Show is supposed to be really good tonight!” John laughed and turned on the TV, while Joan headed to the kitchen to serve up homemade apple pie and ice cream.