When faced with the prospect of living as a target for these cosmic hitmen, I realized that I had no choice for my sake and Allison’s other than to accept his offer and learn how to use the powers he had forced upon me. We began training, and I managed to extend Allison’s safety by persuading her father to take her on a vacation with him. She worried about me but enjoyed the chance to be with her often-absent father.
David Crandall spoke of the powers like some guru, and the ’60s flower child in me soaked it up like gravy. I’ll admit that I soon got into his lessons with a passion. Speaking of passion, I continued to see Devin Trevor, who was amused at my forced introduction to the world of action-heroes.
“Will you be equipping a cave with your crime-fighting gear? May I expect to see you buy a Nature Dog?” he joked as he held me one evening.
I elbowed him in the ribs and said, “You mean you don’t want to be my annoying sidekick?”
He said, “I want to be your partner, but not in a costume.” He held out a ring. “I mean it, Kate. Will you marry me?”
I was shocked and thrilled. Some part of me had wondered if I would ever find a man who could commit to me as is. I knew I was pretty — that had always been one of my gifts. Looks and charm had propelled me through my teen years. Still, this gesture brought home to me that, even as a divorced mom in her thirties, I could inspire someone to love and desire me.
“Devin, I accept. This is the most wonderful surprise. Surely, though, we should wait until after I settle this crisis. The other Masters still have agents out there that want me dead. After I deal with them, we can talk more seriously.”
He kissed me and said, “The timetable is yours to set. I won’t be going anywhere. I mean, you are my travel agent.”
That was a wonderful night, yet events that followed made it all seem far less special than it had been when I was in the moment. The next day David announced startling news.
“Katie, they’re coming for you. I can detect them when they’re together. Separately they are undetectable, but together they radiate some energy that I am attuned to,” he explained.
I gasped and said, “But I’ve barely been up to fighting one at a time!”
He took my arm firmly. “Trust me — you’re ready. You have all their powers — they each possess only one. Plus, I have something for you. It may make you feel better.” He held up a purple costume.
I backed away and shook my head. “No way! I can’t dress like some space age showgirl.”
He said, “It helps. Wearing a costume enables you to be liberated from the inhibitions of your daily life.”
I sighed and went to change. It seemed as if my fate was decided for me anyway. The costume fit well and looked sensational. I was in good condition. Perhaps the powers tightened or firmed me as needed. Too bad Richard Simmons could not bottle Masters of the Elements power for his clients. The costume consisted of a sleeveless purple top with a stylized white N on the chest, a pair of purple hot pants, a domino mask, and purple slippers, with a short cape.
We decided to bring the battle to a location of our choosing, so we rushed off toward Central Park. I would have room to move there. I flew easily now and carried David Crandall. My levitation power enabled me to lighten anything I carried to the point where I had super-strength. We landed, and he cried immediately, “They’re here!”
The earth ripped apart at our feet, and I shoved David to safety as I leaped over a gaping hole. The man who had caused the earth to shake apart beneath us was nearby in a brown mask and ordinary clothing.
“I’m Terror Firma! Feel my might,” he cried as the ground swelled up around me to form a huge, solid fist of mud.
I gestured, and the earthly tomb melted around me as a flaming nimbus expanded from my body. Ice struck me in the face, and I fell hard as a woman in a white mini-dress slid over me on a ramp of ice. She was laughing and clearly loved her work. She leaned over and kissed me, and I gasped as ice closed over my mouth and nose.
“I’m the Ice Queen, and you’re on ice,” she sneered.
I fought to concentrate as David had taught me, and in seconds I could move again. I had generated enough warmth to burn free of the sheath, and I had ignored the lack of air, since I didn’t really need to breathe. Part of my powers allowed me to survive undersea or in space. Thus, her icy gag was merely frightening, not harmful.
As she kicked me again and again, I tried to think of how to beat her. After a moment I shrugged and just belted her across the chin with the power I had drawn directly from contact with the earth. She collapsed with a broken jaw.
“Got to learn how and when to pull my punches,” I said laughing as I used my own earth power to ride a mountain of mud skyward and then brought it down hard on the third attacker. He was in yellow and blue and represented the power of water. He was scattered across the park as his watery body was buried by tons of rock and earth. I never learned his name, but David never told me anything about the Masters’ agents that he’d destroyed himself before we met, either. There must have been four others, since I only fought eight of the twelve agents of the Masters of the Elements.
The sneering Terror Firma tried to overpower me and take back his own control of the earth, but I cut him off from the ground by levitating him skyward. He became helpless as he cleared our atmosphere. I mentally brought him down directly on top of the last foe. She was a sultry blonde in a blue jumpsuit who was called Susie Cyclone, I kid you not.
She gasped but kept enough of her wits about her to use her wind powers to cushion the impact. She sent a hurricane of sheer force toward me as I rolled aside and disappeared by pulling an earth merge. I returned to the surface beneath her frozen feet. I had trapped her in ice long enough to shock her to the ground.
“I just exercised your right to volt,” I quipped.
David Crandall rushed over and embraced me. “Well done! You beat them. See, my dear, you are meant to be my heir. You are Nature Woman.”
I smiled demurely and said, “About that name — I’d actually prefer to be the Natural.”
He smiled and said, “Certainly. It fits.”
That night, as Devin and I snuggled together in my apartment, he said, “So the Natural is born.”
I said, “Yes. I guess I’m going to keep the costume and try to help folks when I’m not busy as a mom-slash-wife.”
He said, “Katie, could you forget about the heroine role now that you’ve beaten Eartha, Friga, Fura, and their minions? You’ll be safe, and we can start a family. Maybe even have a baby.”
I said, “Devin, I want to be with you, but I can’t just resign. David says it’s my duty.”
Devin frowned. “Duty? That worm turned his back on duty years ago. How dare he speak of obligations to you.”
I sat up suddenly, and my heart raced. “Dev… how did you know any of the names the Masters used when they gave power to David and the new villains?”
He smiled warmly. “You must have been talking in your sleep.”
I jumped up and said, “No, I didn’t. David said there was one last Master called Allura. She represented love. You are her minion! What a subtle scheme. You wore no costume. You never attacked except for waging a war on my heart. You wanted me to fall for you and give up my role. You hoped to win for them by just getting me to stop using my gifts.”
He spread his arms wide. “Katie, darling, you love me. I feel it. Surely our happiness is more important that serving the world. The world forgot the Masters.”
I said, “Get out. You made me love you, but now I have the same power. I can shake off your charm. Get out. Don’t ever come near me again!” He left in regret and defeat as I fell on the couch and wept.
It was a long night, and a painful one. Even having Allison return the next day didn’t help me ease the pain much. Still, I was safe, and I had won, and a note from David Crandall revealed how proud he was of me.
He had written: “I’m leaving to live my life on my own terms. Kate, I am proud of you. You may just redeem me for the neglect I showed to the world. You are truly the Natural!”
I smiled and decided he was right. From now on, I would fight crime with my powers and raise Allison and, just maybe, clean our apartment if Doctor Spectro was not loose or the Sentinels of Justice didn’t need my help. It was the start of a new life for me, and I was happy.