by Dan Swanson
Doris Knight had arrived early, brimming with energy. She was always surprised at the difference in reaction between her and Ted; a little exercise left him worn out, while she was always bright and peppy. She was able to sneak into the conference room through an open window. It was a big room with a domed ceiling, and there was a wide ledge at the base of the dome. Good; she would just perch on the ledge. It would save power in the gravity rod.
She almost changed her mind when she saw a half-inch of dust on the ledge. It made sense; who would dust on top a ledge ten feet off the floor? But she didn’t want to get this nice outfit filthy, and she didn’t want to have a big cloud of dust billow into the room unexpectedly. She thought for a second, and had an a-ha moment. She aimed the gravity rod at the ledge and increased the gravitational attraction between the dust and the wall, and the dust moved slowly off the ledge. When she was sure she wouldn’t raise a cloud, she momentarily increased the gravity enough to pack the dust together, and then she perched.
John Ross started to speak as Doris watched Lily DeLuna and Fred Johnson watch the bad guys. She tried to put an energy shield around Ross, but she couldn’t control a different kind of field through the gravity lens. She had just used gravity control through the gravity lens on the dust, though, so she tried something else — something Ted had taught her to do last night, in a different context.
During their training sessions over the past few nights, Ted and Doris had spent some time on their own training concerns, as well as on training Lily. Because of the news of the Rival’s escape from prison, possibly aided by a gangster from Opal City, they had spent quite a little time discussing fighting foes with super-speed powers. Actually, Doris had mostly listened, and Ted had discussed.
“It is virtually impossible to fight against someone that much faster than you are,” he had said. “You can’t hit anyone moving that fast. You have to depend on strategy and advance planning, and make sure your defenses are already in place when your opponent arrives. You need defenses that will work without any help from you, and they have to be able to affect people moving at super-speed. Fortunately, the gravity rods allow us to set up these kinds of defenses… if we are warned soon enough.”
Ted had gone on to show Doris how to create a momentum screen. Any person moving at super-speed through this curtain would be slowed down significantly. Doris figured that, if it would work against people, it would probably work against bullets as well.
She created a momentum screen between Ross and the reporters. That ought to stop any bullets fired at him from the audience. She would have to quickly shut it off if any person headed in Ross’ direction, so she kept a close eye on things.
Pandemonium broke out when Ross made his announcement, and one of the thugs shot a bullet toward John Ross. It crashed into the momentum screen and just crashed its way through, falling harmlessly to the ground a few feet past the invisible screen.
As soon as Lily flattened one of the hoods, she had pulled her power rod out of her purse and turned on the force-shield, Thus she was not affected by the slow gas. She used the energy blast, set with a narrow focus on low power, to knock the air canisters off of the gas masks, and the gas-mask-wearing hoods slowed down to match the other folks in the room.
Suddenly, Doris felt a jolt on her gravity rod. Two super-fast men had tried to run through the momentum screen, and the force of their impact with the screen almost knocked the gravity rod from her hand. But she was lucky compared with the two men. Ted later figured that they must have been going about six-hundred miles per hour when they hit the screen, and they were doing twenty-five miles per hour when they reached the other side.
The rapid change in speed caused both men to trip, and they hit the floor and rolled until they smashed into the far wall. Doris winced as she heard bones break. Serves them right, trying to use super-powers against a normal person! she thought. But she was still a little sickened. Anyway, they were both unconscious and out of the fight.
Eddie moved carefully into the room, following two of the other boys from the Neuertski mob. The Doc had lectured him and his buddies for a good thirty minutes before giving them the vials of heavy water, but Eddie hadn’t paid much attention. The Doc had told them to be careful of inertia, whatever that was. Things would be harder to move than they expected, like opening doors, or even picking up a newspaper.
Eddie had noticed a little added resistance when he first felt the effects of the heavy water, but he had already adapted. Of course, he had let the other guys open the doors. It gave him time for some side-trips and a little fun on his own.
There were a lot of dames between here and the street who were going to be really embarrassed in just a few seconds, when they discovered somehow all their buttons had disappeared. He would have done more, but the other guys were yelling at him to keep up. Eddie figured that the Doc was trying to scare them all; he hadn’t noticed any inertia in those buttons.
As they walked through the door into the conference room, Jack and Gil headed for Ross. Eddie realized he was standing right next to the DeLuna broad. She had almost got him killed. He was lucky he wasn’t still out cold when Stones and the boys came back for him, and lucky she hit him on the side of the head, where his hat and hair covered the lump. Jackie Stonalli would probably have shot him if he knew what had really happened. Eddie owed this broad big time. And since she was just standing there like a statue, he thought he’d let her have it.
He hauled off and belted her with a backhand, right across the mouth. If he’d heard the Doc right, that would probably kill her, which was only what she deserved for knocking him out. But Eddie quickly learned that he should have paid more attention to the Doc.
As Doris turned her attention back to Lily, she watched as she was somehow lifted into the air and slammed backward into a wall, where she collapsed unconscious to the floor. A third speedster suddenly appeared, although he was minus a hand. From his posture, he had evidently hit Lily with a hard backhand across the face, and his hand had vaporized when it hit Lily’s force-shield at several thousand miles an hour. He fell to the floor unconscious from the pain.
Doris was the only person left in the room who could move at normal speed and was still conscious. She dropped her gravity lens and flew toward her unconscious friend. As she approached Lily, she saw a faint pink mist in the air above the unconscious bad guy, and when she realized what it was, she gagged and almost threw up. But she knew Lily might need her help, so she forced her stomach to cooperate. She was glad she could use the gravity rod to prevent her from breathing any of that. She quickly used the gravity rod to sweep the pink mist from the air as she hurried to Lily’s side.
Lily’s force-shield was still on, so Doris used her gravity rod to increase the force of gravity on the appropriate button, clicking it off. Lily was still breathing, thank goodness, and the shield seemed to have protected her from broken bones. Now that she had a second or two to think, Doris used another trick Ted had earlier showed her. The gravity rod could be set to detect the rapidly changing gravity waves that a super-speedster generated, and she did a quick check to be sure there weren’t any more. She thought she might have detected some super-speed activity miles away, but she had other things to worry about right now.
When she was sure that her friend was reasonably safe for a few minutes at least, she quickly used the radio in her gravity rod to call for help. She reached the police, and by sounding hysterical, she convinced them to send a squad car and an ambulance.
Next, Doris put a tourniquet on the wrist of the one-handed crook, using his belt, and then opened the door and screamed as loud as she could. There were other women screaming in the council building as well as Doris, but they didn’t seem to be screaming because they were hurt or in pain. She heard guards and others running toward the chamber doors.
She moved over to the window and restored her gravity lens, and as soon as City Hall workers started to pour into the room, she headed for home. She was really shaken up, retching as she moved, and she couldn’t get the sight of that pink mist, or the sound of cracking bones, out of her mind. She needed to cry on Ted’s shoulder, as soon as possible. Well, she amended, as soon as could control her stomach again. She definitely wasn’t used to the ugly side of super-powers.