If I’m going to tell this story in full and glorious detail, then I should really back up and explain that, while our world had super-criminals of various types as well as super-human good guys, most of us just read about them in the paper or saw them on the tube. A woman like me did not just walk into a mall and meet the Blue Beetle or Captain Atom as part of my daily routine. Thus, I was both aware of what was happening to me, but I was also scared and confused by it. I had developed super-powers. The powers matched those displayed by two thugs to tried to attack me. I could generate or absorb electricity at will, and I could control gravity to the point where I could fly or make a floating thing sink. I had never heard of any previous costumed character that had such specific powers. E-Man and Nova could fly, but that particular ability did not truly define them. I should have known the police could not help me, since in such super-human circles the cops seldom did more than clean up after the Question or the Answer or whatever-his-name-was did his thing.
Super-powers did not run in my family. I was born in Connecticut, and I grew up in suburban Bridgeport and attended college at the University of Connecticut for Women. I majored in Art History, did a bit of ballet as a beginner, and even taught yoga, but I left before graduating. I had Allison when I was nineteen, and my college career ended abruptly. Let me assure you all that this occurred after my marriage to my high school sweetheart Max.
Things were blissful for us until he left me for a younger woman. I was hurt. I was angry. It took time, but we worked through our differences. I think we were both simply too young to take on adult commitments.
He and I talk now as civil adults, not screaming maniacs. I took the job at the travel agency when Allison was six. It’s a good job. I get to dress well, and I work pretty regular hours. It pays an adequate wage. Still, I digress. My point was that, in my thirty-five years on earth, I had never experienced this kind of weird comic-book craziness.
I dropped Ali off at her friend’s home and tried to make sense of my altered life. The storm had started it all, and that was as much as I could safely determine. I decided to take a few precautionary measures in case I became the human target of additional nutcases. I tried to lose myself in work and finally met the elusive Devin Trevor. He was every bit as much of a British dream as I’d imagined him to be. He wore a costly suit and spoke with a cheeky charm that appealed to my ear as much as his handsome demeanor appealed to my sense of aesthetics.
“Ms. McCormick? So sorry to have been unable to meet you last Friday. My plans changed at the last minute. I do apologize. May I make up for it by being especially early for our dinner date?” he said as he glanced over my presentation and admired my legs.
“Dinner? You move quickly. I’d be delighted. Now, do you find my work to meet your needs?” I asked as I batted my eyelashes coquettishly. Yes, that was me: Scarlet O’Hara of Greenwich Village.
Devin said, “I do indeed. I look forward to planning many trips with you.”
That night I wore a little black dress with heels and hoped that I would not have to actually breathe in it. Devin was punctual and charming. He had seen the world, and yet he remained an idealist. That appealed to the ex-flower child in me. It was nice to meet someone who still retained the values of the 1960s. We took a carriage ride through Central Park and became very well acquainted.
As he kissed me goodnight at my door, I stared blissfully up, expecting to see the full moon and the stars, but instead I saw a caped woman sitting on my roof.
I glanced back, but Devin had turned the corner. I fumbled for my keys and dropped my purse. As I bent over to grab the bag, my hand recoiled from a flaming ember. The woman had engulfed my designer purse in flames.
Whirling to face her, I saw that she had a red crewcut like that Lennon or Lennox woman Allison loves from MTV. I saw her short red skirt and pierced nose and ducked for cover as flames shot from her red eyes. She was silent and grim and decidedly eager to cook my goose.
I flew upward and soon reached the roof, but in my haste I overshot and was high above the city in seconds. I almost enjoyed the sensation. It would have been a real kick if I had done so of my own free will. I swooped downward and learned exactly why Captain Atom doesn’t fly in a black mini-dress.
As I fought my embarrassment and hemline, I drew closer to Pyra. That was this latest kook’s nom du crime. I tackled her hard and tried the electric eel move. She gasped and then burst into flames. My dress was reduced to ashes in seconds. My jewelery melted and ran down my arms to the ground. Yet I stood there naked and unhurt. The flames didn’t even leave any type of perspiration upon me. It was like I was immune to all heat.
I punched Pyra in the nose and grabbed her nose ring. I slammed her head against the wall and kicked her down. I admit it was all a bit violent for a PTA mom, but I was angry and tired and — let me repeat — naked.
Leaving her stunned, I decided to do something different than I had with the previous super-goons. I pulled the extra key out from under a plant and opened my door. I dragged Pyra inside and dressed quickly in a red University of Connecticut nightshirt. When Pyra woke up, she lunged for me but gasped as I shocked her backward with one touch.
“OK, tell me why you and the Brotherhood of Badly Dressed Psychos are hunting me down?” I demanded.
Pyra sneered in the way super-criminals do. I have since learned this to be a generic trait among their class. It’s like the Elvis sneer but different. “They want you dead. The Masters seek your death. If we kill you, then we may keep their blessings,” she said.
I fluffed my hair and smirked. “Oh, is that all? I should have realized it was due to the anger of the Masters. Am I a secret blonde or what?”
Pyra said, “My powers come from one of the Masters of the Elements. King Fura is the ruler of fire.”
I frowned and said, “Look, I know my mythology. My kid studied it last semester. Fura? That name isn’t found in any of the old myths.”
Pyra shrugged. “That is his name, or the name this incarnation chooses to use.”
I said, “But why would he want me dead? Did I dampen one of his weenie roasts or something? Is Smokey the Bear mad at me, too?”
She said, “Your witless banter does not impress me. The Masters don’t choose to explain their needs to us. They merely command, and we obey if we are wise.” She began to gasp as, suddenly in one burst of flame, she spontaneously combusted on my good white rug.
At this point, I’d love to say that I did something heroic and daring, but I didn’t. I was not Nightshade or Nova. I was Kate McCormick. I was a divorced mother who worked at a travel agency. I was a bad cook with a pretty face. I was not a heroine — not yet. I sank to my knees and wept.