Friday, December 31, 2010

In the Blink of an Eye

In the Blink of an Eye...a White Owl Adventure
I was back in Queen City as the traveling curator of a new collection of artifacts I'd spent the summer carefully excavating in Twinfort-on-Sea, England. Dr Chatterjee had stepped out of his office with a large scowl on his face.
"Not your usual assortment of gold and gems, is it Athena?" he glowered, arching his thick eyebrows.
"Well no. But I did find a Saxon drinking horn, fully intact and it had dried mead still inside. And the expedition also turned up valuable fertility fetish. Personally I think it's ugly, but Lloyd's insured it for a million dollars. Additionally I learned a lot about the Saxon invasions that led to England becoming mostly Anglo and Saxon. So despite finding few 'trinkets' Dr Chatterjee, I think it was money well spent."
"Well spent by the museum?" he asked.
"No, I went under the auspices of an exchange program between Angel Falls University and Twinfort's St Methodius college. I think there may have been a grant from the Nikos Fund too." I smiled widely and Chatterjee harrumphed, waddling back to his office. I stifled a laugh and made my own way down the hall to the visiting curator's office. I couldn't use the one that had been mine before--a new archaeologist in residence was there, though from all accounts she had offers pending from Philadelphia and Las Vegas.
I had no sooner turned the key in the lock when I heard a "SQUEEEEE!!! ATHENA!!!!" and a short bundle of effervescence and joy grabbed me from behind. "When did you get in?" I heard from under the carrot orange hair.
"Hi Cassidy! I got in late last night. I'm here to run the new Saxon exhibit for a month, then I'm back to Angel Falls. How are you?" Cassidy Yeats is the Queen City Museum Center's director of fine arts, a 5'1" dynamo of pure energy.
"I'm terrific Athena. We just opened a new exhibit last week--a fantastic collection of Chinese and Japanese Imperial art; along with a selection of royal jewelery. Want to see it?"
"I'd love to Cassidy. But can I come after closing?"
"Sure thing, one of the perks of the job; or so I'm told. Meet me here after 6 and I'll give you a tour, then you can buy me dinner."
"OK but I wasn't aware you liked Gold Line chili," I said.
"Not that! Anything but that!" Cassidy mimed dying, then smiled. "I'll pick a place that won't pick your pocket too badly, Chica. TTFN!" She blew a kiss at me and swooshed down the hall. I swear, I could never be that happy until after my second cup of coffee. I sat at the unfamiliar desk, and opened my briefcase, going over the liner notes for the exhibit. Actually it was pretty routine and after a couple hours I wandered down to the snack bar for some of the better coffee the museum serves. The lobby was full, which was surprising for a weekday, and I wandered along with the crowd, eager to see the Egyptian exhibits I'd brought back two years previously.
After my short walk, I went back to my own area. Things were going well, though Chatterjee was close by, wringing his hands. "I can't believe it Ms Nikos. This will cost us so much money! No one is coming. NO ONE."
I looked at the crowd. Yes it was small, but the faces seemed intelligent and interested. What's more, they seemed about the right size based on the exhibit's showings in both Angel Falls and Tampa; both earning double of what any comparable exhibit had earned. When I informed Chatterjee of this he grimaced, then strode off again like a hungry and worried tiger. The remainder of the afternoon passed quickly and I found myself heading to Cassidy's office after closing.
"Heya Chica!" she bubbled as I pushed open the door. "I'm all set for my show and a dinner!" Cassidy's knee length skirt was gray wool tonight, matching the gray water silk of her blouse. Her hair was carrot orange (as noted before) and her eyes danced as she talked to me about the art and treasures. "You won't believe how difficult it was to get these for an exhibit Athena. And it wasn't the Chinese that were so difficult, believe it or not. Chatterjee was not thrilled either, but once the first week's receipts were in, he mellowed out a little. Believe it or not he even half smiled at me."
"You're kidding, right?" I asked in astonishment. Chatterjee keeps a tight watch on the museum's bottom line, and if things look even slightly down, he's sulky. And when they're fantastic, he's sulky. But Cassidy kept to her story. She nodded at Walter, the guard at the art exhibit and we both showed our badges to him. After dutifully signing the after hours log, Cassidy led me into the art gallery.
The walls were hung with beautiful ink artworks from China and Japan, along with some gorgeous jade and terra cotta statuary. I gasped in amazement, trying to take it all in. I turned to look at Cassidy, to get her reaction when I felt something grip my shoulder. In the blink of an eye, I found myself bound back to back with Cassidy. Another eye blink and a thick gag was shoved in my mouth and my blouse was opened revealing a powder blue bra. I felt something squeeze my breasts and gasped in astonishment. Behind me, I could hear Cassidy squeal as well. I watched helplessly in horror as with alarming speed, the walls of the art exhibit emptied.
It was over in just over three minutes. The robbery that is. I wriggled along with Cassidy and it took us another minute or two to get the gags out of our mouths. Our now unmuffled cries alerted Walter and soon both he and Michael were in the exhibition hall, unbinding Cassidy and me. After he got the ropes off, Walter looked at the walls of the room and whistled. "Whoowie...someone's got some explaining to do."
"So much for a homecoming dinner," whimpered Cassidy. "And so much for my career."
"Don't worry Cassidy. The police will get him," I said.
"How? He's an invisible man!"
"He can't be," I said. "But he may be moving very quickly."
Lieutenant Sipowitcz of the QCPD was kind with his questioning. After I was questioned, I waited while he debriefed Cassidy, I managed to sit in the security control room with Walter, Michael and Tami. The petite blonde security guard was new, but dedicated to her job.
"I didn't see anything Dr Nikos. It was like the cameras were on--then they went off." She ran the tape of Cassidy and me entering the gallery then the images showed us sitting down and tied. Then the screen went blank and the security alarm recorded a door fault at loading dock three.
"Can you slow it down?" I asked.
"Yes but I still can't see anything. It all happens so quickly."
I nodded. "I was there, remember?"
Tami smiled. "Yeah I guess you were. Are you ok?"
"Well I wouldn't say no to more coffee, but otherwise I'm fine. You said there was a fault at the loading dock?" I thanked Michael as he refilled my cup.
"Yes, but when I checked it out, the door was secured. I think it may have been a glitch in the system."
"Do we have a camera out there?" I asked.
"Yes. But I don't see anything at the dock." She brought up that tape and the time stamp showed the empty dock. But I could see a panel van idling at the extreme perimeter of the camera's sweep. In the brief three minutes, I could see the driver's door open, then I saw the back door open. A minute later the doors were shut and in the third minute I saw the van slowly driving out.
"Of course!" I thought. "He has to expend so much energy in his run that he needs a vehicle to allow him time to recover!" I memorized the license plate, intending to have the Guild run it for me after I got home. Cassidy stuck her head in the door. "Hey Athena. Lieutenant Sipowitcz says we're done for now. Can I take a rain check on dinner?"
"Sure, Cassidy. But only if you can drive me back to Victory Park. I missed my bus. It seems I was a little tied up when it came." Cassidy laughed and agreed. Twenty-five minutes later, I was climbing the stairs to my old apartment. I looked at apartment one, still empty after three months and knew there had to be a tenant out there. I wandered on up the stairs, opening the door to my "penthouse" and locked it behind me. Since my arrival the night before, I had groceries and clean sheets on the bed; but tonight would be no time for rest.
I slipped upstairs and found my old costume, hanging in the secret closet I'd installed. I pulled the shoulder straps up and realized how much I'd missed this costume. Cinching my belt around my waist, I slipped into the new gloves Mr Wickersham had made for me. I left my mask on top of my head, then sat down at the computer to do my research.
I found two similar robberies reported in the last month. One had been a government research center near Overland Park and the other had been a Monitor and Wager off site facility in Zenith. In both cases, there had been no alarms, no one was seen and in both cases any potential witnesses had been swiftly dealt with. Apparently, the Monitor and Wager theft had been incomplete--the papers indicated the main research was being conducted at the Queen City offices.
I spent the rest of the night patrolling near Monitor and Wager's offices and research park downtown. The building was brightly lit and well patrolled but I knew now it would make little difference. About 3:30 am, though, I noticed a pattern of lights blinking on and off through the building--in one second bursts. I had him.
I scanned nearby parking garages and found the van on the eighth floor. Two minutes passed and I heard the engine start. I emerged from behind my pillar and braced myself to stop the van. I heard brakes squeal and caught the van as it roared at me. The van's wheels spun, creating a layer of black smoke. I heard the van go out of gear, then looking up, I saw the driver's door was open. I looked inside the van--it was empty. Warily, I floated over the top of the van and landed in the back. The doors were ajar and I swung them wide. Aside from some old gray tarps, a bag of cheeseburgers and two black briefcases, the van was empty. Where had he gone?
Too late I remembered the speed with which this robber move. I felt a heavy arm grab my midsection, pinning one arm to my side. I swung free and saw him...dressed in a green and brown body suit, close cropped blonde hair. I pivoted on my right foot and launched a roundhouse kick to his head. But I wound up spinning in place. Goddess! He moved so swiftly.
"Over here, White Owl," I heard. He stood mocking me with his arms crossed. I sprung and dove at him, then slammed my head into a heavy concrete pillar where he'd been standing an eye blink before. I dropped to my hands and knees, woozy from the heavy blow to my forehead.
A thick cloth filled with an acrid smell was clamped over my nose and mouth. I swung wildly, but the gas was taking its toll and I soon drooped over unconscious in my attacker's arms. He dragged me to the open doors in the back of the van and pushed my unconscious form inside. From an inner pouch in his belt he drew a small hypodermic needle and with a steady hand he jabbed it into my thigh. "I thought I might have to deal with you , heroine; so I came prepared," he growled. My eyes fluttered from the needle's prick, then I was completely out.
"I'll deal with you later," he growled. "I need to put some miles between here and now, before I can play though." He jumped back into the cab and slowly accelerated out of the parking garage. Though Queen City is a relatively large place, within 20 minutes in any direction it can be very rural and very wooded. The driver headed east out of the city, and followed the river. I don't think he counted on my recovery powers though and it wasn't long before I began to moan with the first sounds of coming back to consciousness. The driver glanced back, frightened, then pulled into a closed county park about fifteen minutes later. The park was secluded, with no camping and no gates. He pulled up to a scenic overlook and stopped the van.
"A bit sooner than I would have liked," he said to himself, rolling out of the driver's seat. I slowly sat up, trying to get my bearings. The back door to the van popped open then and I gazed again into the face of my captor. He leered as he watched my disorientation.
"Well, what have we here?" I asked, still feeling sluggish.
"You can call me Doppler," he said. "Or better still, your worst nightmare."
"Oh I can think of scarier things than you," I began, reaching for my toolbelt. But I felt a strong blow on the side of my head. Reeling in pain, I clutched at my scalp,. Doppler seemed not to have moved. But I saw in his right hand, he held a large softball bat, and in his belt?
Gasping in shock, I reached for my belt but my trim waist was bare. I looked up and saw the bat coming down at my forehead again. I tried to block it but wasn't fast enough. I drooped over to my side, struggling to maintain balance on my hands and knees. Doppler wasted no time grabbing my right wrist and jerking me over on my back. I heard a pair of clicks and looked in shock as my wrist was clamped tightly to the seat frame. With amazing swiftness, Doppler soon secured me to both seat frames, then locked my ankles to the hinges of the van doors. With horror I saw the restraints were my own.
"Nice of you to bring your own bondage devices White Owl," he said. "It will make it easier."
I glared at Doppler, fighting to keep my fear at bay. "What is it you want Doppler?" I asked.
"Well, I could go for a couple shakes and a few burgers about now," he replied with a smirk. Then pulling a large pocket knife from his own belt, he crept into the van and hissed, "But I've got another thought in mind right now." He slipped the sharp blade up against my throat and laughed.
"I could kill you now, White Owl," he said. "But that seems like such a waste. So lets start with this." He slit the two shoulder straps of my costume, then set the knife aside and pulled the front of my costume down. My breasts glowed under the dome light, and Doppler grinned.
"You can't!" I said in astonishment. "You can't do thi....AAAAUUUGGGHH!!"
Doppler squeezed my breasts and twisted them, then bit down on the dark brown aureola. His tongue lapped greedily at the nipple and I felt my breasts getting firmer with each unwanted squeeze. "Not the biggest tits I've ever seen, but these are certainly among the nicest." He continued to squeeze and suck on my breasts. I rocked back and forth, trying to snap the cuffs, or trying to flex my knees and get free. Doppler's hands slipped down inside my costume, cupping my breasts. I gasped as he continued his unwanted touching. He straddled me and put his hands on my wrists; his foul breath turning my head. "I'll bet you've never been this helpless, have you White Owl? Well I think I have something that's just been waiting for you." My heart was racing, and I was feeling very vulnerable.
I felt a his manhood pressing against my breasts as he leaned in. "No," I whimpered. "You can't do this to me."
"Sure I can; it's easy." Doppler slid down my body and pulled the costume along behind him. He lifted my tail from the floor and peeled the leotard down past my thighs. I heard him chuckle as he exposed my pale blue thong underneath my leotard. "Oh this is JUST what I needed," he said. His knife came out again and with two swift snicks my thong was removed, exposing my swollen pussy to his leering gaze.
"I HAVE to tap that," he said. But first he took my thong and balled it up, then shoved it into my mouth.
"MMMPPPHHH!!!" I protested. but my raging fell on deaf ears. Doppler pulled his pants free and dropped between my knees. Tears formed in my eyes as his throbbing cock pressed against my velvet nether lips. I screamed into the gag as Doppler plowed his way deep into my womanhood. I moaned in pain as his sausage sized penis spread me wider and wider apart. I twisted, trying to throw him off. In fact, I tried to resist as long as I could, but bound as I was, Doppler had an easy time with me. My body bucked, rocked and twisted. I squealed into my gag, the sour taste of my panties nearly choking me. Surely this wasn't happening, I thought. I'm White Owl--a superheroine! Apparently my body didn't know all that because my back arched as he plunged ever deeper and I could feel myself tightening to accept his offerings.
"Nooooo," I thought. "I can't let him win. I can't lose...not like this." Just when I felt I was about to give in, I felt Doppler stop pumping, and felt his warm seed spilling inside of me. I screamed in fury and frustration. Tears filled my eyes as well as my juices mingled with his. My body relaxed a bit, weak from the afterglow of the long night. Doppler wasn't finished though and he shoved his chloroform infused rag into my face.
"Nightly night White Owl," he muttered. The world went red, then gray, then black.
I woke with a shiver and a start. Looking around, I saw the constellations milling above me and the moon drifting toward the Ohio in the west. My legs and arms felt like rubber, my head was clouded and I could feel the shame of failure rising inside me. I was tied to a large pine tree, but my weapons belt and handcuffs were gone. I sat in a bed of pine needles, with the remnants of my costume pulled around my ankles. I pulled at the ropes, and felt the hemp snapping as I did, then rose shakily to my feet. I pulled the shreds of my costume up, and tied the leotard over one shoulder. Feeling fear for the first time, I rose unsteadily into the air and flew back to Victory Park for a quick change.
The computer pinged as soon as I activated the tracer in my belt. Wherever Doppler had taken it, I could find it. I doubt he knew I was coming, and so I had the element of surprise. A fifteen minute flight later, I was nearing Meadowbrook, or more specifically an old farmhouse and barn outside the small community.
"Are you sure White Owl can't find us Doppler?" asked Willie, as he and his four companions watched Doppler shifting information onto several flash devices. Two empty cases of beer lay nearby and each of the men were nursing a cold one.
"Positive. And I left her in such a way she wouldn't WANT to find me," he laughed. Then he frowned. "Damn, I forgot the art and gems are in the house. Pete? Go warm up the van. The rest of you, start cleaning this place--we don't want the cops to find us. I'll be right back. With a blur, Doppler disappeared.
The men headed to the barn, grumbling about the scut work. But Willie looked up in shock when he saw Pete come flying out the barn's door. I followed behind, my hands balled confidently on my hips. "Where's Doppler?" I demanded.
"Christ! Look what she did to Pete!!" shouted Tony. Get her!" Guns were drawn and bullets flashed. I'm certain the men were marksmen because I could feel the fusillade of bullets bouncing from the Nu Silk. I grabbed the nearest gunman, bending his wrist against a tractor and he dropped his gun; howling in pain.
"You idiots," said Willie. "We can't stop her with bullets!" The remaining three charged at me, and I grabbed the nearest one, throwing him into the van's side with a loud clang. The other two double teamed me, one going high, one going low. I jumped up, grabbing a cross beam and kicked out, knocking the high one into the the lower.
I studied the grounded men, smiling. "Give up boys?" I asked. Then without warning, I felt a whoosh and found my arms chained tightly to my body. My wrists were once again restrained behind me; this time with my own heavy duty cuffs. The chains wrapped above and below my breasts and I squirmed uncomfortably.
"Welcome back White Bitch!" said Doppler. In his hand he again held my belt. "It was nice of you to bring me more of your toys." He pushed me back into the collection of woozy henchmen and laughed.
" do you do that?" I asked breathlessly.
"Well White Owl, one night as I was robbing the Tyler Chemical factory, a freakish bolt of lightning came through an open window, shattering several chemicals. I was doused, but otherwise all right. But when it came time to make my escape, I found I could run faster than a blue streak. Only I had to eat like crazy to keep my energy levels normal. Price you pay, right?" He winked at me. "And speaking of prices to pay, keep her entertained boys. I'm off to arrange the sale of these artworks and the technology. I think I can arrange an extra buyer for White Owl as well. Don't forget to chloroform her when you're done having fun." He bid them a cheery wave and climbed into the van, disappearing down the winding county road.
His men were on me like hungry dogs on a steak. Restrained with my own handcuffs, I was no match for the five men and after a few moments of kicking and attempting to fly, I found myself on my back, with eager pawing hands pulling my costume down and away. I soon found myself without my leotard and was thrown to the floor. Willie straddled my shoulders and stuck his erect member into my face. "Suck this bitch!" he said, pulling my dark hair and forcing my mouth onto his massive cock. "No," I screamed. " You can't do this to mmmbblee..." His foul penis was shoved forcefully into my mouth, and I tasted the salt sweat.
Tony reached behind Willie and began playing with my breasts, kneading, squeezing and biting at them. Pete unzipped his pants and the other two held my legs flat and apart, so the goon could plant himself into my private garden.
Willie was so excited at the prospect of raping a heroine, he seized almost immediately. I felt a coppery, acidic liquid hit the back of my throat and gagged. Willie laughed and grabbed my hair again, pulling me back onto his not so stiff member. "We aren't done yet, lady," he said.
"No...No more...Pleammmmbbblleee.."
My hips were gyrating wildly too as Pete drove his huge penis deeper and deeper into me. I couldn't hold out, and my body betrayed me, bucking like a mare. It took several minutes but he too exploded inside me spreading semen along my thighs and crotch. Spent, Pete shifted off of me and Tony took his turn.
Willie came again, spewing my face with his foul seed. I choked on the semen and he laughed. As he stood to change places, I tried to escape, but another goon was there almost immediately. My eyes grew wide with terror as I was penetrated repeatedly, the gang bang continuing for what seemed like forever. My breasts were bruised and sore, my legs were crusted over and I felt less like a heroine than ever. My body was running on pure instinct, raising and falling with each thrust into my tortured vagina. After the third climax, my head shot back and I screamed, and then my mind blanked--I have no conscious remembrance of what happened.
Finally the last man gave up and I felt the thick cloth cover my face. The sickly sweet smell of the chloroform again seized my brain. I tried to resist, but was unable to move my head much. I drooped, my head laying against my sweat stained and bruised breasts.
I don't know how long I lay there, but I woke faster than the men. My body's healing ability handled the chloroform faster than anyone might have imagined. I also realized Doppler hadn't informed his men of this little fact and for that I gave thanks.
I was laying on my side, bound with heavy rope. Someone had decided to practice their bondage fetish on me, and I was wearing a rope harness , complete with a tight crotch tie. The chains that had held me were still linked around my breasts, now framed with a nice rope. As I struggled to a sitting position, I found my muscles stiff and unresponsive. The knotted crotch rope climbed into my battered pelvis and I drew a sharp intake of air as my still overly sensitive pussy was once again stimulated. It hurt to move and the restrictions of the ties made it even more difficult.
All around me in the barn, Doppler's men lay sleeping off their own afterglows. I scanned the room in desperation, knowing I had to get free. It was on the second scan that I found an old tiller tine. Painfully I began slithering toward it, whimpering softly as the crotch rope worked its magic against my sex. I got to the tine and began rubbing the ropes against it. The metal was dull, but still sharp enough to loosen the fibers of the rope. The wrist ropes snapped and I quickly broke free of the rest of my ropes. I found my costume and my toolbelt laying on a side table and after unlocking my wrist cuffs, I quickly donned them, beginning to feel some of the old confidence returning. I looked a fright; my knees and nerves were both VERY shaky and the thick crust of all the juices I had shared tonight made me shamed and angry. I had been handed a major defeat tonight, but I intended to turn it to my gain.
Working quickly, I handcuffed all of Doppler's men, then wove a length of chain through their arms attaching them to the main post of the barn. The men were groggy, but quickly roused when they saw what had happened. I decided to keep things calm though, and tossed a gas ball into the center of the group, causing the henchmen to fall back to sleep. Just in the nick of time too, for I saw the headlights of Doppler's van pulling into the driveway. The van crept to a stop and the door opened. Doppler stepped from the cab and called out "Pete? Willie?" Silence greeted him. Doppler grumbled that his men must have had too much fun, and strode angrily toward the barn, a bag of Big Belly cheeseburgers in one hand.
He stepped into a clearing and I unleashed the phosphorus flare, lighting up the sky. "My God!" he shouted, throwing a hand over his eyes. In that moment I threw my second ball; hitting Doppler square in the chest. My net ball billowed open, wrapping the villain in a tight, sticky web. I saw his feet trying to get traction, but the motor oil I'd spread on the driveway wasn't lending itself to quality traction. Doppler fell over and I landed next to him. "I owe you BIG time mister," I shouted, kicking the bastard in the head. Doppler groaned and dropped. Apparently he had a glass jaw. I called the sheriff's department on my cell phone, then sat to eat the cheeseburgers as I waited.
"Now how do I hold a man in jail who can run so fast White Owl?" asked Sheriff Coates, as he came to the farm to collect Doppler and his gang.
"Well, he can't run through doors and walls, Sheriff. Just keep him on a minimal diet; the 2000 or so calories the prison serves. He won't be able to pick up too much speed that way. After this, though, he's your issue, not mine." I looked into the squad car.
"Belle Reve will be able to handle you, Doppler," I said
"You mean the way I handled YOU, Owl?" I shuddered.
"You may have taken me down," I said. "But I've taken you out."
"Not for long cutie. I'll be back in a jiffy!"
The squad cars rolled out of sight and I wondered if Doppler was right. I flew into the dawning skies and wondered if Father Timothy was up for an early morning confessional.
The End.

Fallen Idols

Fallen Idols...A White Owl adventure.
I opened the door to my fifth floor "penthouse" apartment in Queen City, glad for the break from the classes at Angel Falls. A slight musty smell greeted me, but for all I could tell the place had been undisturbed since I'd moved in June.I was tired from the six hour drive, and all I really wanted to do was run a hot bath and get into bed. But as I headed up the stairs to my loft bedroom, the telephone rang. I shook my head, since the phone had been disconnected when I left. So I reached for the handset. "Hello?" I said hesitatingly."Athena! Oh thank God, I was hoping I could get through to you." The young voice of Julie Allen spoke into my ear. But something seemed wrong--her normally effervescent self deems strained--cracking..."Julie? How did you manage to make a dead telephone ring? And what's wrong?""Athena, he's dead! My grandpa is dead!" The shock in her voice jolted the weariness from my bones and I was at full alertness."Oh Julie, I'm so sorry!" I began. "When" My words failed me."He died Sunday morning in his sleep. Mom came back from the womens shelter and found him in his chair. He looked so peaceful. I think it was just old age finally catching up to him."That made sense. Nathaniel West had fought in World War II, made the landings at D Day and had been in the thick of things at the Battle of the Bulge. But he'd also been one of America's first Mystery Men--Freedom's Ring. His sonic powers had been key to assisting with the liberation of Paris and Brussels His powers had been passed genetically to both his daughter Rebecca and his grand daughter Julie. "He was eighty eight, Athena," she said. "That's old for a veteran, and positively ancient for a superhero." "Hey careful Julie, I'm not sure this is a secure line." I heard a giggle. "Of COURSE its secure. Who bugs a dead phone?"I had to admit, she was probably right about that. "Well that's a neat trick, Julie." "Its the last thing Grandpa taught me--how to send my energy back down the line to reactivate a phone." I heard a stifled sob."Do you need me to come over, Julie?" I asked."No, the family is here. Grandpa's funeral was today and the Legion did full military honors for him. It was beautiful. But I want you to be there on Saturday if you can. At Idlewood Cemetery in Washington.""I thought you said the funeral was today?""It was; for Nathaniel West. But Freedom's Ring died too. And for security reasons, we still have to maintain the double identity. And I knew your identity--the government didn't. So I had the job of notifying you."I nodded, jotting down the address and time. "I'll be there Julie, as your friend.""Thank you Athena, I knew I could count on you." The phone line went dead and I frowned. I'd brought the White Owl uniform, but the more I thought, the more I felt I needed the formal costume again. I picked up the cell phone, and called Mr Wickersham. The understanding tailor said he wasn't going anywhere for the holiday, and told me to stop by his shop on Friday.*****Saturday morning I 'ported to the DC tube and flew to the cemetery. It was an unusual feeling, because a blue Nu Silk cape was fluttering behind me. I also had added a grey silk skirt at the urging of the Crimson Dynamo. Both added a little drag to the flight profile and I felt sluggish as I flew along. But I knew I shouldn't be complaining. Father Timothy would tell me I should be grateful for the gift of flight.Idlewood Cemetery was the final resting place of America's superheroes and mystery men. Captain Thunder, American Ace, Deep Six, Blaze, Hurricane and Quiver were among the luminaries buried here--or at least marked with memorials. Despite the aura of valor here, the cemetery seemed well used and slightly worn down. I landed outside, near a line of vehicles and made my way inside.I was dismayed by the low turnout. Julie and her mother were both there, along with some elderly men who I assumed were the remainder of the Liberty Guard, the loose team Freedom's Ring had been a part of. Along with the old men, I saw a stunning blonde woman. I straightened my skirt, and sat behind Patriette and Liberty Girl, my two friends from Queen City. The memorial was brief; a couple of the Liberty Guard told some slightly off color stories about Freedom's Ring and Webel, a German villainess who made fog. Julie squirmed uncomfortably, as did Patriette. Nacht and Webel had made things difficult in their family for three generations at least.But the funeral ended, and we went to a small brownstone building in Capitol Heights. I ascended the stairs and felt my heart beating faster. This HAD to be the fabled headquarters of the Guard. A door opened, and a spry old man motioned us in. We passed a room filled with costumes, gaudy and reflective of the forties and fifties. The Spotlight's Chest beam sat alone in a cabinet, the glass shattered with bullet holes. Behind that, in a full length case was Blaze's bright yellow asbestos suit. I stood in awe of my predecessors, then followed quietly into a large dining area.Rebecca seemed to be doing well, and I guess Julie was too; but then these men had been visitors in her house for a long time. I excused myself to get more coffee and as I turned from the urn, I ran headlong into the blonde. My coffee sloshed, spilling over my pristine costume and staining it a dark brown."AHHHH" I shouted...then calmed down because the coffee wasn't really scalding and the NuSilk seemed to be keeping most of it away."Oh GOLLY! How clumsy of me," she said. "Let me take care of that for you. She stared at my costume and her face screwed up in concentration. A moment later--the moisture in the NuSilk misted and evaporated into the air."That's amazing!" I began, but she held up a finger.A gentle breath blew across the front of my costume, chilling me to the bone. A moment later, the blonde flicked away the residue of the stain as little freeze dried crystals."Ta Da!!!" she warbled cheerfully. "Sixty years of filthy costumes and villain's lairs have taught me something about being clean. I'm American Dream." She smiled broadly and the world became brighter. I gazed at her. She had a beauty that transcended glamour. Whichever goddess was responsible for drop dead gorgeous looks had lingered overly long on her. She was tall, blonde, well packed in all the right spots and looked better than any woman almost eighty years old should look. Except maybe Tania."And you are...?" she prompted."Staring...I am so sorry," I said. Then regaining some level of composure I said, "I'm White Owl. I knew Freedom's Ring through Patriette and Liberty Girl."She nodded. "I was a frequent visitor at that house for some time. Actually until Major Allen married Rebecca. Then Nate stopped heroing and I...well I wouldn't give it up. Still haven't, in fact."I nodded. "But I haven't seen anything about you in years," I said. "And you won't. I work covert now for the government. That doesn't mean I don't get down time now and then though. And I very seldom get a chance to train with and talk to the new generations. Are you free anytime soon?""Well, I have a break coming for three weeks in December," I said. "I might be able to make some time then.""Oh please do," she gushed. "I would love to talk, and get to know you better." She pushed a card at me."This is my private line. I'll always answer. Just give me a call when you want to visit. Ta ta!!" She turned and shouted across the room, "Dauntless! Where have you been hiding, you old geezer?"I watched her cross the room to an old man in a wheelchair. His eyes gleamed as American Dream began to cross with him and in my minds eye I caught a vision of a powerful man in a bright red costume; broken as he stopped a bus singlehandedly. that stunt had prevented terrorists from overthrowing Monteverde, but it had ruined Dauntless for life. I was surprised as I walked back to Julie and Becca."Thanks for coming White Owl, it really means a lot," said Patriette. "Dad really thought the world of you, I don't know if you knew that."I felt my face warming. "Aww, thanks. I had similar feelings about him. He knew what it meant to be a hero and role model.""Yes, and he wondered about living so long," said Julie."What?" I asked."It's true, Athena, most people in our profession don't die in bed of old age like Gran'pa."I nodded and thought about that--then I looked at Rebecca. "Hey Patriette, what can you tell me about American Dream?" I told her of my chance meeting and the invitation."Only that you're never good enough for her White Owl. She's a perfectionist. And with all the years she's been doing it, she has it down to a science. Still she's a good one to have in your corner. And no one understands the woman in the hero mold better."I'd say, pick your friends carefully; but being an avatar of wisdom, you know how to do that. I imagine she's lonely, and it can't hurt to go talk."I thanked them both, expressing my condolences again, and stepped into the waning daylight. With a wistful look at the brownstone, I flew back to the teleport tube and traveled back to Queen City.

August 14th 1943...The battle had raged through the night of the little mountain village. Neither of us had gained an advantage since I had broken free of il Martel's death trap, and now the Italian villain was escaping with intelligence which could overthrow Italy's surrender and swing the war back toward the Axis. I had to stop him."The dark night sky flashed with lightning and above me I say the horrific form of il Martel on top of the abbey of San Catarino. His mighty hammer glowed with an eerie blue light in his right hand. In his left, the limp form of Colonel Trevor Stephens, my friend and lover; dangled over the cliff side."I called out to him, 'Martel! You have nowhere to run! Let me have the Colonel and we'll fight another day!' His answer came in the form of his hammer being flung at me. "I deftly dodged and caught the hammer, its momentum pulling me off balance from the steeple. But I recovered and spun, hurling the hammer back at Martel; then using the forward thrust to launch myself behind the hammer at il Martel."'Foolish woman! Don't you know that the Hammer knows its master?' il Martel gloated, catching the weapon easily."' Si!' I answered as my foot caught il Martel on his jutting chin. The lanky Italian recoiled, his eyes fluttering. At that moment he relaxed his grip on Trevor and once again, I was torn between stopping the villain and saving the man I loved."' Not this time, Martel,' I shouted, grabbing Stephens by his leather pilot's jacket. But the weight of Trevor finally pulled me off balance and I grabbed at the ledge of the rooftop. We both dangled above the Abbey, with the river 880 feet below. A dark pair of boots appeared at my eye level and looking up I could see Martel, towering over me."' This is the end of the American Dream,' he gloated, raising his hammer to pound my fingers. But as he raised the hammer, a bolt of lightning struck the hammer. Martel howled in pain, dancing with the convulsions of the powerful stroke of electricity. With a last lusty cry, he toppled over the edge of the building and plummeted to the valley below."I swung Trevor onto the rooftop and pulled myself up as well. Then I carried the limp form over my shoulders and made my way back to the American lines. Trevor held out for three days, dying shortly after regaining consciousness. I was sent back to the US to deal with my grief and wasn't reactivated to the Liberty Guard until after D Day." (Excerpt from One Woman's War, 2005, by American Dream and Guild Publishing)I set the book down and rubbed my eyes. American Dream had been active as a heroine since 1942 and there was a of history to cover. I remembered how excited I was to find a copy of her book in the Literary Treasures store, and had spent the better part of an afternoon reading the exploits of the amazing heroine.In addition to il Martel, American Dream had been active against Nacht and Webel, Der Metzger, Matryoshka, White Chrysanthemum and others, as well as Miniman, the Lynx and several other American villains. Additionally, she'd been an active part of the Liberty Guard and the Guild, though at the time the book was published she had retired, or at least gone private. Perhaps the last lines of the book were the most telling."I realize I have worn many titles in this country, and worn them all with pride. But even immortals must give way for the next generation. I have stood side by side with some of the greatest in the world, watching them die far too early. Additionally I have fought some of the most vile, and wonder why such are still here after all these years. The fight for justice, the fight for life is a never ending battle, and its not merely the job of the costumed fighters, its everyone's battle. So I am stepping down, in order to see to the next generation."Most had assumed that by this American Dream was going to train new heroes and heroines. But after 10 years, no one had stepped forward with her skill set. And American Dream had said she was mainly covert at this time, showing up for state functions, but basically working behind the scenes. Was she involved with the government Bureau of Extranormal Affairs?I took the card she gave me, and dialed her number. "Hello? Is this American Dream?""Hello dear, keeping free form falling coffee?"I smiled. "Yes I have been. I have some free time later this week, leading to the weekend. Are you up for a visit?""I'd love it. Come out Friday night, and you can spend the night. Ta ta!"With that cheerful note she hung up. I wondered about calling Rebecca or Julie, but decided it would be better to fill them in afterward.

Friday was a getaway day at Angel Falls University, and my classes ended Thursday afternoon. I spent the evening packing a few things and setting my answering devices. Daisy would be all right, I had an auto food and watering device set up.I was eager to be on my way. American Dream had sent directions to my QCPD cell phone which amazed me--but then I knew Captain Winslow had a soft spot for all sorts of heroines. I was surprised that she had by passed both the Guardian's and the Guild's com systems, but maybe she wanted this to be low key.I made a final tour of the apartment, scratching Daisy one more time as she dozed in the papasan. She looked up and purred louder, then licked her lips and rolled back over. I could tell I wouldn't be missed.I slung my weekend bag over my shoulder and secured it, then flew into the twilight of an Angel Falls autumn. I shivered a little as a chill wind blew in from the sea, and wished I had considered bringing the jacket with me. Winter was just around the corner, but in the warmer climate of Angel Falls, I was trying to eke out as much warmth from my summer garb as possible.I followed the coast highway a long while, crossing into Virginia. I banked inland then and toward the Smokies, crossing empty fields and dark woods. A moon rose, casting a silvery glow over the landscape and making the land look like a fairy tale come to life. I heard a gentle hooting, and looking over my shoulder, I saw a barred owl pursuing its prey. I smiled. Not quite the snowy owl I'd seen in Angel Falls, but a good omen none the less.Checking the directions I'd been given, I looked below me to see a walled compound in the middle of nowhere. A large abbey loomed over a hillside, and I gawped at the size of it. But a smaller house stood in the middle and a golden light gleamed from the front door. I angled my flight that way and landed in the courtyard.With a little trepidation, I knocked on the door. Immediately it flew open and American Dream stood at the door, beaming. "White Owl! Right on time. Come in come in." I stepped into the foyer and smelled a savory smell coming from what I assumed was the kitchen. American Dream smiled and as I surveyed the home I found it to be a cross between Norman Rockwell and Martha Stewart. The magazine couldn't come here; there was no Better Home or Garden, I was convinced."Thank you for inviting me. This looks like an interesting place. " I gushed. I reached into my rollbag and pulled out the bottle of wine I had purchased just for this trip. "A Chateau Picard 1936?" said American Dream, as she studied the label. "Some say that was the last good bottle they produced. I'm one of them." She smiled."I wanted you to have something to remember the good times with," I said.A tear welled in the American Dream's eye as she fought back emotion. "The last time I had this was just before Trevor was kidnapped by il Martel. Just be..before he died."Then just as quickly, she pulled herself together and said, "But that's all water under the bridge, eh? Long ago and far away."She gestured to my bag. "Just set that in the corner. We'll get it to your room after dinner." I followed her down the little hallway and into a small dining room. "This used to be the abbot's dining room," she said. "He would entertain his guests here. The monks had a refectory in the main hall.""But when the monastery's land stopped producing, the monastery was closed. And I bought it from the church--the Bishop actually sold it cheaply because I'd saved his father in the War.""And you live here alone?" I asked, astonished."Well I need a big place to train, for visitors and of course my museum," she smiled. "They're all on the tour tomorrow though. Tonight we just get to be girls." And with that announcement, American Dream took off her mask."I'm Anna Dottir. You may call me Anna. And you?"I hesitated. Though this woman was an American icon, I still maintained a secrecy that was crucial to my work. I thought about the Owl, announcing himself in flight; giving himself away and decided."I'm White Owl--for now anyway, Anna." The slightest beginnings of a frown occurred and then she brightened. "Quite right. You're protecting your identity." We sat to eat an excellent meal of beef stew and fresh whole grain bread. Then over coffee, Anna asked me, "So tell me about yourself. How did you gain your abilities?"Over the next hour or so, I regaled her with my origin detailing how Athena herself had appeared to me and granted me my gifts. From there, we discussed some of my battles, my victories and defeats. She nodded."I too had my share of all those things as well," she said. "I have a question I'm dying to know," I said. When she nodded an ok, I asked, "How have you stayed so gorgeous and so young?Anna smiled. "It's really no secret," she said. "I'm the daughter of a Valkyrie, sent to earth to select the slain heroes for Valhalla.""But I thought the Valkyries were all maidens," I said."They were, except Brunhilde, and my mother Frigga," she said. "Mother was banished to earth, for her transgressions and died when I was five. I was moved from one family to another, until I reached adulthood. And I became American Dream--I was strong, agile, and swift."We stayed up a while longer, but I was nodding. American Dream smiled and said, "For a nocturnal creature, you seem sleepy. Perhaps we should turn in." I followed her to the guest room where a large canopied bed sat on the floor. Anna turned down the quilt and said, "goodnight."Within ten minutes I was in bed--still masked though. I slept badly, my dreams haunted. I thought I heard a scream as a woman aged and crumbled to dust before my eyes.Morning broke and I stretched, rested. I heard a knock on the door and was about to call, "come in," when Anna popped her head in. That frown began again, then stopped."Hey sleepyhead," she smiled. "I'm going for a run. Want to join me?I slid into my boots and met her at the door. "I usually run the perimeter of the abbey twice before breakfast," she smiled. "Why don't we race. As long as you promise not to fly, I promise not to hold back, deal? Oh and loser does dishes."I nodded. "On your mark, get set..." I saw a white and blue blur zip past me and heard the sound of "gooo" receding from me. I smiled and turned up the heat. I wasn't flying, but I was using the speed that came with it and soon I caught up and passed American Dream. Stubbornly, she turned her power up a notch and came closer. We passed the starting line again and I pulled whatever kick I had left; slowly but steadily beginning to outdistance the golden age great. As we crossed the line a moment later, I had her beat by at least 3 seconds."Are you sure you didn't cheat," she gasped. "Only Whirlwind was fast enough to beat me before." "Scout's honor," I said."All right, then I'll have to do KP." I helped with the drying though, noticing the whole time that Anna was studying my hands, and my face. After breakfast, she took me to the Chapter house of her abbey, and opened up the museum.One whole wing was devoted to Trevor Stevens, and I saw she still carried a torch for him after all these years. The next section showed images and memorabilia of American Dream through the years. Posters, helmets, and even dolls were on display.Finally, we entered the allies wing. Here were images of the Liberty Guard, and its successors, including the Guild. Also a line of black frames identified heroes and heroines who had died in action. I noticed several greats from the past, but was shocked to see images of more recent heroes too--the Golden Archer, Skybolt, Scarlet Angel, Blue Panther and Wondervixen.I stood somberly at the pictures, reminding myself of all these greats had stood for. "It makes you think, doesn't it?" said Anna, putting her hand on my shoulder. I shuddered--something felt wrong.Mercifully, the cell phone chirped. It was Captain Winslow. "White Owl? You on your way back to QC? We got a problem.""I understand, Captain. I can be there in two hours," "Oh honey, I can get you there sooner. The Guild left me a portal.""Why didn't you say so?" I asked. "I could have ported from Angel Falls.""It slipped my mind until now." I looked at Anna. She seemed older now--almost forgetful. But she led me to the portal and I set the controls personally, then 'ported to Queen City and Captain Winslow's problem.

"It just seemed a little odd is all I'm saying Patriette," I said as we met on the rooftop of the Central Trust tower. Patriette stood with her arms crossed, her dark curly hair floating in the cold breeze from the river. She glowed slightly, converting the ambient sound into heat energy."I'm not surprised White Owl," she said. "I feel the same way, since I LOOK older than she does, and yet I'm much younger. But I always did wonder about her. My "aunt" Anna never aged while all my "uncles" did--roughly the same amount as Dad did. Dad always claimed it was her demi human status that conferred such longevity, but I'm not sure. I always thought in her attic somewhere is a portrait that's aging VERY badly." I grinned at her joke, as Patriette broke her own smile. Patriette continued, "I had occasion to work with her twice, before Julie was born and I was still working with the military. Even then she seemed aloof, and professional--not very warm and fuzzy."I shivered into my warm coat, realizing December was definitely bringing a cold snap with it. "Well with her background I wouldn't expect warm and fuzzy. Lonely yes. But I think she was on the verge of becoming seriously ungrounded. Maybe even crazy cat lady.""That's odd," said Patriette. "Her mind is usually sharp as a razor. How did she look?""She seemed fit, and looked good," I said. But she seemed like she was showing her age in the morning.""Oh like you don't," joked Patriette.I nodded. "Well anyway, it was good to catch up Patriette. Tell Liberty Girl I said hi.""Are you in town much longer?" she asked. "I know Julie would love to see you.""I'm leaving in the morning. I had to sign some documents relating to my parents' estate, and make certain the first floor apartment was ready for a new tenant. So I'm going home to bed, then back to Angel Falls in the morning.""Maybe next trip in then," she said. Her glow altered slightly and suddenly her energy converted to sound waves, which she could ride back out to Kosterman Hill. I watched her head west, then took off and flew down through the city's Entertainment District. The shows were dark tonight, so I wasn't expecting any problem, but as I crossed Eighth and Sycamore, I heard a shriek coming from an off street parking lot. I wheeled and in the dim light, I saw a woman, dressed like she was coming from a nightclub being attacked by two men."C'mon bitch, we just want to play," said one of the men, grabbing at the woman. She pushed and the other one caught her arm."Aww come on, that's not nice," he said.I swooped in and grabbed the first one by his collar jerking him off balance. I grabbed his leg and with him held off the ground, I threw him into an open dumpster at the back of the alley. He hit with a whoof and a thud, then the lid of the dumpster clannnnnged shut on his back.The second guy wasn't as lucky. He was trying to flee when his friend went sailing, but the sight stunned him. He stood stock still as I clocked him with a restrained left hook. He dropped to the ground, completely unconscious."Must've had a glass jaw," I said, smiling. I picked up the black purse from the ground, and handed it to the woman. She seemed familiar, with a head of long straight dark hair and a pretty face."Oh thank you," she said. "How can I repay you?""There's no need for that," I said politely. "Just doing my job.""Oh wait! I have something here!" She reached into her handbag and pulled out an aerosol can. She stepped up and sprayed it into my face. A swirling gas of blue and gray hit me in the eyes and I began coughing."Breathe deeply little fool," she said.The walls of the parking lot began to sway and I could feel my knees buckling. The gas was powerful and anesthetic. I struggled to keep to my feet, but felt gravity pulling my knees toward the asphalt. I dropped to my hands, then fell prone at the feet of the former victim.Even as my muscles refused to obey me, I struggled to maintain awareness. And when she knelt beside me, I managed to get out one word..."W...why?"The woman pawed at my toolbelt, pulling the pouches free and pulling my supply of weapons from me. "This will look so nice in my collection," she said. She went through the pouches and pulled my HD cuffs, the ones I use for heavily powered villains.She flopped my onto my chest like I was a rag doll and with practiced expertise secured the handcuffs around my wrists. A moment later, she slipped some sort of breathing filter over my mouth and nose, and I felt a heavily scented air entering my lungs. "You're too powerful, White Owl; and I know you can shake off poisons. But this drug should keep you pacified until we arrive at your Final Destination." My blood chilled at that last comment and I recognized the capital letters in the last two words. The woman stood and motioned and her two pain stricken goons joined her."You've done well, men. Help me load her into the car." I was carried through the parking lot to a lone Lincoln, and dropped unceremoniously into a dark, cavernous trunk. As I was placed inside, the dime dropped. American Dream was kidnapping me? Recognition must have shown on my face, for I heard her say, "Yes, its me!"Behind her, the two men coughed. She wheeled and said, "Oh you've done very well tonight. You've earned your pay and a little extra." She reached into her purse and drew out a stack of $100 bills, handing 10 to each man."What about the extra?" asked one.A sinister smile broke across her face and I watched in helpless horror as she broke the necks of the two men, then left their bodies under the dim street lamp. The trunk lid closed and I struggled in my bonds as we shot out of town.

I rode in a dim, drug induced stupor as the car clocked mile upon mile. I was aware of time's passing--but hours and minutes made no sense in the dark carpeted lining of the large car's trunk. My healing factor was working over both the chloroform and whatever drug was in the mask, along with a mix of carbon monoxide in the trunk. But when the car lurched to a stop, I was still woozy. The trunk opened and I blinked back the tears as a dazzling white light filled the confines of my temporary prison. A shadow loomed, and I saw American Dream reaching into the trunk. "Come here, Owly" she purred, with menace in her voice.I was set on wobbly legs against the trunk, then American Dream bent me over her shoulder and carried me as easily as a sack of potatoes deep into the brightly lit chamber. I tried to glance at the articles on the walls, but could make little to no sense of the technical miscellanea surrounding me.Dream dropped me on the floor of a metal platform, then slipped the mask from my face. I gulped greedily as the fresh air. "Feeling a little better?" she asked, with a sound of concern in her voice. I nodded."Good," she said. With a strong left fist, American Dream punched me in my solar plexus and I gasped, struggling to breathe as my muscles contracted in pain. She followed with a right cross to my jaw and I dropped to the floor, hitting with my head, out cold."Bitch" muttered American Dream, kicking me in the ribs. She knelt down and rifled my toolbelt again, setting all the items in the pouches and tubes to one side. Satisfied, she untied me, then sat me back on the platform. A twist of a lever brought a large bell jar tight over the top of me and it sealed with a hiss.I struggled to me knees, then my feet, using the thick glass to stand. American Dream looked up from her winded stated and smiled back at me. Then she pointed at the control panel. "This apparatus was developed by Dr Friedrich Werner, as a means to prolong the life of an ailing Fuhrer. A young volunteer would be placed in that bell tube, and his life would be drained. His liquid life essence; the remainder of his unused life force would distill here...(she opened a panel) and the Fuhrer would drink it, extending his life."On a top secret mission in 1942, I was kidnapped by Greta von Gutenheim and brought to Dr Werner's lab...Where I was to be the next victim of his life distiller. But before he could place me inside, I broke free. Countess von Gutenheim fell into the device instead and was distilled from a vivacious woman of 27 to a shriveled corpse. The glowing liquid beckoned to me, and I drank it, growing stronger, more devious than I had ever been. With the Countess' mental energies supplementing my strength, I managed to sneak the device back to America."I have since then been consuming the life energies of heroes, heroines and villains over the last sixty years. And look at me! I'm beautiful, am I not?""You're a MONSTER," I replied. Then I looked closer. "And its starting to tell! Your hair is graying, there are definite age wrinkles showing. And you were winded after dragging me here!"American Dream waved her hand. "All mere details, I assure you. You have one of the most powerful life forces I have tested in some time, White Owl. And you became my dear friend in such a short time. I shall have to attend your funeral, alas, and say nice things, I'm sure." "Funeral? What are you talking about?""It will be a tragic death. You'll be burned beyond recognition--only your costume and mask will be used to identify you. You'll have died in a heroic manner, saving lives, though."A cold shiver struggled down my spine. I pounded on the glass."It's quite unbreakable, I assure you. Even il Martel couldn't break it.""il Martel? You killed him here?" I asked in astonishment."And Trevor, and Matryoshka, der Metzger, and the rest. Not to mention quite a few neophyte heroes and heroines here in the US. They were all ready to establish themselves as my friends..instead, they became my life."As she talked, American Dream poked a few buttons, and I felt a giant fan at my feet begin to hum. "This will begin to draw the oxygen out of that tank White Owl. I estimate 10 minutes before you die in the vacuum. I am sorry you have to die, but you'll live on through me."She crossed the floor and closed the door. I could feel the air getting thinner in the glass tube and I began to methodically look for some way to break free. All the items in my toolbelt were gone; I could see them on the table beside the console. I dropped to one knee--the air was thicker here, closer to the floor and began looking for other options.The words of Liberty Girl echoed in my ear, "People like us don't have a long lifespan Athena, There aren't too many heroes who live to collect their pension." At the rate the air was seeping out, I had a feeling I wouldn't be around to collect mine.
The air in the vacuum chamber was growing thinner, and I knelt awkwardly trying to breathe in the ever declining environment. I could feel the whoosh of air around me and when I put my hand on the floor, I puled it back with a strong pull, the suction was that powerful.American Dream had not put a lot of work into upgrading her death trap; she was from the "if it works don't tinker with it" school of thought and for that I was grateful. For as I pulled my hand from the floor, a thought occurred to me. I made a quick study of the louvers at the bottom of my cell. While they were too small for me to escape, I was certain the duct led to a powerful fan, which drew the air out of my chamber. I poked a finger into the holes. but the gaps were too small for me to get very far with a probe."Probably for the best" I thought, "I wouldn't want to lose a finger." I smiled at the morbidity of entering into eternity whole, rather than living a life with a disfigured hand. But a second thought occurred and I acted quickly. I sat on the floor of the cell, gasping for breath in the rarefied air and began peeling my long glove from my left hand. "Forgive me grandmother," I pleaded; then I fed the elbow length garment through the duct. I felt the suction grab hold and pull the glove from my hand, then heard the fan whine as the silky glove caught in the turbine. I breathed a bit easier, but the fan continued to drive the air from my death chamber, albeit a bit more slowly. "I need something more," I muttered to myself. I twisted the buckle on my now empty toolbelt until it popped free. Then with an urgent yet delicate touch, I force fed it to the hungry fan. I heard the belt buckle crash into the whirling steel blades and then watched the lights flicker in American Dream's lab. A puff of smoke broke from the console at my feet and I slumped back against the bell jar, relieved that I had earned a reprieve.But the dying fan had also alerted American Dream that something was wrong, and the blonde bombshell charged like an angry rhinoceros into the now dark chamber."What have you done you little fool!" she shrieked like a banshee. A beam of bright light shone across the room , reflecting off the thick glass of the cell. American Dream crossed to the device and kicked it. It sighed, then all the lights on the panel went dark."You've broken it, White Owl," she said. "And I have no way of fixing it--Dr Werner's notes were destroyed in a fire in 1960 by a minor heroine named Sparkgirl. She didn't live long beyond that, I made certain. And now I can't let you live; you know my secrets. So I'll have to kill you myself." American Dream launched herself at the chamber, toppling the entire structure. The large glass jar cracked at the base and I felt the vacuum lift. I struggled to get to my feet and saw American Dream coming back at me, a large, sinister looking hammer in her hand."I killed il Martel, I killed General Winter, I killed Matryoshka, I can certainly kill a little pretender like you!" Dream's eyes were red with rage as charged, swinging il Martel's hammer. I barely had time to avoid the swing as the hammer finally shattered the glass. I dove free, feeling the shards of glass cutting into my bare hand and tearing my tights. I rolled and came up across the room, away from my tools.American Dream lunged at me again, and I ducked under her outstretched arms, kicking out with a sweep that knocked her off balance. Seizing the advantage, I reversed course and ran toward the table where my weapons lay."Oh no you don't, honey," I heard and a scant second later, I was propelled forward and into the thick stone wall with Martel's hammer deep in in my spine. I heard the crunch of bone as the hammer shattered a rib and another as I landed awkwardly on my left ankle, twisting it. I scrambled as best I could to get to my feet, but American Dream was following the hammer with a diving tackle of her own. I leaped into the air, intending to flyover the insane heroine and thought I was free until I felt a strong hand on my sore ankle. "AAAAHHHH!!!" I screamed in pain as American Dream's iron grip broke the ankle. I fell face down on the floor, my hands inches away from the table. It may as well have been miles."Not so fast, Owly," I heard. though American Dream's voice seemed older, harsher. Was she breathing hard? I turned to look and could definitely see age taking a toll on the once vibrant woman. "I have some youth serum left, my dear," she croaked. "Enough to allow me to attempt to fix my device, and to live on for several years. You would have been mere storage. But I tire of this game now, White Owl. It's time to end it.""I couldn't agree more," I said, slamming American Dream's wrist with my right foot. I felt the bones break beneath my boot heel and regretted the rage I'd unleashed. American Dream broke her grip on my leg and I slithered back on the smooth stone floor and reached for a bop ball. My hand closed on one just as American Dream lunged once more. In desperation I threw it, noticing the yellow color too late."NO!" I shouted. "Look Out!" The ball shattered against American Dream's chest and exploded, a white hot blaze shooting up the older heroine's chest. My Phosphorus Flare burns hot and bright, and was never meant to be used against a human. America Dream screamed in terror and began racing around the room. I stood to try and help her, but immediately dropped to the floor, my ankle still throbbing with pain. Dream screamed once more then fell to the ground, her arms beating uselessly against the remnants of her costume. I don't know how long it was, but I finally managed to get to my cell phone and make a call to Patriette in Queen City. "I...I didn't know who else to call," I told her."Sit tight White Owl. American Dream worked for the Bureau of Meta Human affairs. They'll want to work it I'm sure." An hour later several cars rolled into the compound and began the investigation. I found myself in Anna Dottir's kitchen as Special Agent Max Folder led me through my third interview."OK White Owl, I think we understand that you are claiming this was a death by misfortune, but you haven't said a word of why you were even here, or what your relationship with American Dream had been."I was a fan who had come for a visit Agent Folder," I replied evenly. "But what about your toolbelt, your weapons and so forth? Why weren't you wearing them?""As I explained, American Dream was giving me a tour of her trophy room. She'd made me turn out my weapons belt as a security precaution before we started. She left for a moment to take care of some personal business and I got locked into Dr Werner's device. The device started and I had to use my belt to break free. Dream then broke the device to get me out, and carried me out through the fire. But she went back in to try and save some of the trophies. I guess the fire got her."Folder frowned, but nodded. "OK then that's the official story. Don't tell it any differently Friday when you speak at her funeral. Your original version is now Classified, and if it gets out, you'll be charged under the State Secrets Acts of 1970, 1992 and 2004, fair enough?"I nodded. Folder nodded to his assistant Agent Shayna Dulles and she helped me out to the Ambulance. The end.