Ellen Slayton smiled as she looked at the front page of the "Weekly World Dispatch." This was the issue that had two of her names on the cover! First was her more public name, in the headline "Hyper-Girl Revealed!", followed by her more private name "by Ellen Slayton and Lydia Long." Her real name was Tharka Zurel, from the planet Zoron, as it explained in the article. She was only 19, in earth years and had been with her scientist parents aboard the orbiting space station Oceania when Zoron exploded. Later, when the atmosphere generator had failed, her father had forced Tharka into an escape pod and launched her to earth. She had been lucky enough to meet Lydia Long, who took her in as a roommate and helped her establish the identity of Ellen Slayton.

That was six months ago. In that time, the beautiful young blonde had realized that the energy of earth’s sun, so different from Zoron’s, gave her incredible powers. She was looking for a way to use these powers to help others when she saw Blue Scarab on the TV news. Here was a woman with no powers, who was an aid to those in need… Tharka and Lydia altered some Zoronian garments into a flashy costume and, last week, Hyper-Girl had made her debut! While Hyper-Girl could easily be one of the most powerful beings on the planet, Ellen Slayton reminded herself that her alter ego DID have some weaknesses. Since she was solar powered, her powers grew weaker at night, and she could actually "drain" her reserves if they were taxed too much. She suspected there were other things, as well, but she had yet to confront them.

"Hey, El’," Lydia said as she plopped her shapely buttocks against Ellen’s desk. "Still admiring your first byline, huh?"

Ellen Slayton and Lydia Long were friends, and roommates, and complemented each other perfectly. Lydia was 31, slender and stood only 5 foot two, as opposed to 19-year-old Ellen’s muscular and voluptuous 5-foot seven-inch frame. Ellen’s blonde hair, worn in a ponytail for her secret identity, fell to right between her shoulder blades, where Lydia’s hair was jet black and short, framing her roundish face. The final difference would have seemed especially odd to anyone who knew of Ellen’s other identity, for she carried an air of innocence about her, but Lydia had a bit of an edge beneath her beauty.

"I still can’t believe you shared credit with me on this," Ellen said.

Lydia shrugged. "Heck, it’s not like I could have gotten the story without your… help, right?" She winked at her friend. "But what do you say we go out to dinner tonight to celebrate?"

"That sounds great! Italian? Or Thai?"

Lydia stood up and smoothed out her black blazer and skirt. "Thai. I have to run now, but I’ll be back by five. We can go right from the office."

"New assignment?" Ellen asked. Technically, she was still an intern at the paper, and wanted to be full-fledged reporter like her friend.

"Yeah. Guy in the boonies claims to have seen a giant insect carrying a missile… I’m going to go check it out."

Ellen glanced around quickly to make sure that nobody was paying attention to them. "Do you think…" She drew an "H" on her breasts with her finger.

Lydia shrugged. "Not yet. Let me get the lay of the land… Could be someone who just had one too many at happy hour. We can talk over dinner." With that, she patted her friend on the shoulder and ran to catch the elevator.

Two hours later, Lydia Long paused as she walked up the mountain path, sighed, and looked back to where her SUV was parked. She was tempted to just give up this wild goose chase, head back to town, have lunch with Ellen, and then come back first thing tomorrow morning. Part of her still found this whole idea a bit nuts. But nuts was the kind of story that "WWD" did best, and that guy’s pictures had been rather convincing… If there really WAS something living in the old mine, as he said, Lydia planned to get the story!

The attractive brunette began to climb again, figuring that she couldn’t be far from the top. As she walked around a large boulder-like ledge in the path, she suddenly found herself confronted with a large, silver preying mantis! The creature had to be 8 feet tall, and it was moving toward Lydia. At the same time that her mind registered the fact that the creature was actually a robot, the raven-haired reporter turned and started to run back down the way she came, hoping that the thing couldn’t maneuver around the trees as quickly as she could.

Lydia was looking back over her shoulder when she bumped into the other woman. The woman was tall and solidly built, like a weight lifter. Her brownish-blonde hair was short, and the woman was dressed in a silvery jumpsuit with red boots, belt and gloves.

"Run!" Lydia told her. "There’s something back there, and it’s coming this way…"

"Yes," the woman replied, "I know…" She sprayed a fine mist in Lydia’s face. The reporter staggered, as her vision grew cloudy and her knees buckled. Consciousness left her, and her last vision was the silver-suited woman walking up to the approaching robot insect as if she owned it…

Ellen rooted through the papers on Lydia’s desk. It was 5:45, and her friend had yet to return or even call. Nor had she answered calls to her cell phone or car phone. Ellen was worried. There had to be SOME clue as to where Lydia had gone! But there wasn’t. Ellen Slayton was stymied, helpless. With grim determination, she decided that Hyper-Girl was better equipped to handle this situation!

Ellen left the office and hid in the back alley. She quickly stripped away her blouse and slacks, revealing a purple sports-bra emblazoned with a yellow H on an orange shield, complemented by a green mini-skirt with an orange belt. From her purse she pulled a pair of green boots and a green cape, which she quickly donned. Then she let her blonde tresses free from the ponytail, shook the hair loose, and took to the sky as Hyper-Girl!

"A damned REPORTER!" the blonde villainess yelled as she threw Lydia’s purse at the helpless reporter. "After a story, huh? Well, you’ll get the story of the CENTURY now!"

Lydia stood against the wall in the small office-like room. Not that she had much choice; her wrists were tied to ring set in the wall over her head. Her ankles were tied together, and she had been gagged by a black scarf. A knot tied in the center of the scarf filled her mouth, and the ends had been pulled behind her head and tied there. She could only glare in mute fear and frustration at her captor, a woman who had identified herself only as Madame X.

"My insectibots are the pinnacle of scientific achievement," Madame X said as she stormed over to the control panel. "I felt SURE that NASA would want them for planetary exploration! They’re perfect! But those simple-minded fools told me that they were too expensive, too fancy. Did you see what they sent to Mars, instead? THE THING’S A LOUSY WAGON WITH A MOTOR!!! Well, I won’t stand for that! If the scientific world won’t acknowledge my greatness, the political world will at least pay me tribute! I’ve slowly been using my babies to collect missiles for me… a small, but formidable, nuclear arsenal! The government will pay me, or I will obliterate them and send in my insectibots to pick through the rubble."

Madame X’s rant had become a monologue, as she seemed to forget her captive’s existence. Lydia used this opportunity to tug on her bonds and try to reach the knots. It was no use, however. She had been tied too well.

"NOW," Madame X said as she whirled around, "what am I going to do with you? It would be a shame to waste your talents; I can use someone to document my victory! Still, my main concern right now has to be who ELSE might come nosing around, eh? Perhaps a little interrogation is in order…"

Lydia squealed "nnnnnn, mmmmpppphhh!" into her gag as a robotic mantis scooped her up, slashed her wrists free from the ring, and carried her off down the hallway.

Hyper-Girl soared through the gathering evening, her beautiful face awash with concentration and concern. Concentration because she had flown to her apartment, called Lydia’s car phone, and was using her hyper-hearing to track the ringing of the phone. Concern because she was worried about her friend, and because her powers would begin to wan once the sun had set. The solar radiation DID penetrate the earth, of course, but in smaller quantities. Hyper-Girl’s body would not be supplied with the radiation it needed fast enough to replenish her abilities if she over-taxed herself!

The heroine’s high heels crunched the gravel as she landed beside Lydia’s abandoned vehicle. "Lydia!" she cried, using her hyper-hearing to try to find a response. There was no answer, but there WAS an odd noise coming from the top of the mountain… She used her hyper-vision to spot an old mine entrance up there. While Hyper-Girl couldn’t, for the life of her, imagine what Lydia would be doing in a mine, it was as good a place as any to start looking! With a slight flex of her shapely legs, she sprang skyward again…

Lydia was not happy with her current predicament. All things considered, she was probably better off tied to the wall back in the office! Right now she was strapped to a high-tech couch that was a bit like a lounge. It was actually rather comfortable. What concerned her were the wires that went into the chair, and the wires that were taped to her temples, wrists, elbows, upper chest, ankles and knees. After all, she thought, a comfortable electric chair is STILL an electric chair!

Madame X strolled up and grasped the tape that covered Lydia’s mouth. "I’m going to remove this, now. I should tell you, however, that there is nobody who will hear you scream. If you do so, it will serve only to anger me… and you don’t want me any angrier than I already am!"

Lydia winced as the tape was torn from her face. She licked her dry lips and looked at the woman that held her captive. "What do you want from me?"

"Right now, answers. How much do you know? How did you find me? Who else knows you’re here?"

Lydia weighed her options. Her best bet seemed to be to stall. That meant telling this crazy woman what she wanted to know. "I only know what you told me. One of your robots was spotted by a local, who called our paper, so I came to check it out. The only people who know I’m out here are my editor and my friend…"

"And ME!" Hyper-Girl said as she smashed into the room. Her hearing had picked up distant, muffled voices from the very mouth of the mine. It had been child’s play to follow the sound to its source. She landed in the center of the room, fists resting on her hips, legs spread, chest out. Her laser-vision quickly cut Lydia free of the couch that held her. The brunette scrambled up to stand behind her friend.

"I don’t know who you are or what you’re up to," Hyper-Girl said in her best superheroine voice, "but I know that it ends here and now!"

"Then it seems you don’t know ANYTHING," Madame X responded. Lydia screamed at the same time that Hyper-Girl felt a powerful blow to the back of her head…powerful enough to knock her down! She rolled with the blow and sprang to her feet. She found herself facing giant, robot insects: a preying mantis that held Lydia in its grasp, a spider, an ant and a beetle.

"These fancy tinker toys won’t stop me," Hyper-Girl said. She dove into the robots, her right fist knocking the beetle backwards and her left hand ripping one of the legs off the spider. She realized that the monsters were more powerful than she had originally thought, but couldn’t let that stop her.

What DID stop her was a powerful energy blast that caught her from behind. Hyper-Girl felt as if her body had been torn apart and each individual atom set on fire. She whirled and tried to return fire with her laser-vision, but the two beams seemed to cancel each other out. What’s worse, it gave the insectibots time to pound the Maiden of Marvels into the ground. Hyper-Girl spun to fight back, but then the energy beam being fired by Madame X hit her again. The princess of power felt her head begin to swim. If only she could smash right through the robots and end that threat, she knew she could win the battle. But with Lydia being waved about like a human shield, she didn’t dare let loose! Instead, she took the punishment and looked for an opening. Sadly, she collapsed to the floor before the opening came.

"Unnnng!" Hyper-Girl squealed into her gag as the small laser beam struck her well-rounded buttocks. As she blinked back tears of frustration, part of her mind had to admit that the way she had been bound was actually quite clever. Heavy metallic cables wrapped around her wrists, biceps, ankles, thighs, waist, breasts, and neck, holding her to a heavy metal table. A metallic brank fastened over the lower half of her face silenced her. Even in the weakened state that she was left in during the night, her hyper-strength should have been enough to snap them. However, small lasers situated around the attractive blonde went off at irregular intervals. She still had enough of her near-invulnerability to prevent them from doing much damage, other than stinging. However, having to put that indestructible skin to the test constantly kept her energy mostly drained. Try as they might to replenish their energy store from the ambient radiation that existed even at night in such a deep cavern, her cells were unable to overcome the constant drain of power. Hyper-Girl was helpless!

"Hmmm! Mmmmm ummm mmmmmph!" Lydia’s bonds were much more traditional, consisting still of rope and the tape that Madame X had replaced over the reporter’s mouth. She had been tied to a desk chair, her arms wrapped around the chair back and her ankles tied to the bottom of the seat in such a way that her feet could not reach the floor and allow her to move around on the rollers. More ropes held her torso to the chair, and thighs to the seat. The most movement she could manage was a slight rocking back and forth as she tugged and thrashed against the bonds.

Madame X strolled into the room, carrying a newspaper. "Do you like my little laser bed, Hyper-Girl? I figured it would be able to hold you!" She waved the copy of the Weekly World Dispatch in the air. "You know, it’s REALLY not a good idea to give away so much about yourself in your first interview! You usually want to leave the readers wanting more…but, in your case I guess it’s just as well. After all, your first interview will be your last interview!"

Hyper-Girl’s eyes narrowed. "Just keep talking, crazy lady," she thought. "The sun will be up in a couple hours…then your cute laser toys won’t do you a bit of good!"

Madame X seemed oblivious to the sexy superheroine’s plotting as she turned to Lydia. "Ellen Slayton, huh? Guess I should be happy you left your partner behind on this story. Two captives is plenty to deal with at once! Especially this late in my plan…"

Both of the pretty prisoners went quiet, listening to the evil woman’s plans, hoping to hear something that might help them in their escape.

" I’ve made my plans and demands known to the government," Madame X sighed as she began to pace. "Can you believe that they wouldn’t take me seriously? Seems they refuse to believe that I actually have the missiles, as I boasted. Looks like I’ll have to prove to the fools that I mean business. I suppose a little nuclear fallout in downtown LA should do the trick!"

Hyper-Girl and Lydia looked at each other, their eyes wide with horror. This mad woman was serious! She was going to launch a nuclear missile, just to prove a point! The maiden from Zoron began to surreptitiously pull on her bonds again, but a sudden jolt from one of the lasers put a stop to that.

"Of course," Madame X continued, "it does help me out, in a way. After all, Hyper-Girl, I can’t very well leave you lying around, and in a few hours you’ll be more trouble than I care to handle! But, I’m willing to bet that at your current level of power, not even YOU can survive a nuclear blast at ground zero! It would be a small matter to tie you to the warhead when I launch it… Well, so many people to come, so little time!"

At a command from it’s mistress, one of the insectibots lifted the table Hyper-Girl was bound to and carried it out towards the missile silo. The villainess herself grabbed the back of Lydia’s chair and rolled it down the hall to her control room.

All in all, Hyper-Girl would have preferred to be back on the table in the lab. Her back was currently pressed hard against the side of a missile. Wide bands of adamantine wrapped around her body, making escape impossible. The heavy metal brank still prevented any outcry. She flexed her muscles, but it was no use. Her energy reserves were still too depleted. If only there were sunlight!

Madame X sat at her computer console in the room that served as her control center. Lydia Long, still bound and gagged, was curled up on the floor in a corner of the room. She watched as the villainess typed away on the computer. She had to do something to help Tharka! She pressed against the wall, trying to stand up while her captor was intent on her current project.

"The main problem," Madame X said as the worked intently, "is reprogramming the missiles’ targeting computers. Otherwise, they will just go to wherever the government was going to send them, rather than where I want them to go! The one your friend is tied to, for instance… It’s currently aimed at Moscow! Well, that will never do…"

Lydia, meanwhile, had gained her feet and hopped forward. She launched herself forward, hoping to land on top of the villainess. She wasn’t quite sure what she hoped to accomplish, but it was all she could think of to do! In the back of her mind, she had some idea of knocking Madame X out and then freeing herself and Hyper-Girl. Fate, however, seemed to have other plans.

Just as Lydia fell forward towards her, Madame X heard something and started to turn. Lydia slammed into the redhead, and Madame X fell back against the computer. Suddenly, without warning, the ground seemed to shake as a might roar sounded throughout the complex.

"You fool!" Madame X shrieked. "You made me launch the missile before I was done reprogramming it! It won’t hit LA; it will hit Russia! You just started World War III!"

The g-force was incredible as the missile roared into the sky on its pillar of flame. The heat and pressure caused Hyper-Girl to grimace and grunt into her steel gag. How could this be happening? She was possibly the most powerful woman in the history of the planet Earth, but she was about to die. She, Tharka Zurel, last survivor of the might civilization of the planet Zoron, was soon to perish in a nuclear fire on a world 700 light years from where she was born. No one would be left to mourn her, and not even ashes would survive the blast. Fear, anger and frustration wracked her body as she pulled as hard as she could against her bonds.

The heat and pull of friction slowly died off as the missile left the earth’s atmosphere and began to arc around the planet.

The main shaft of the old mine stretched downward for miles beneath Lydia’s tightly bound feet. She was suspended over the pit by a slender rope that Madame X was dribbling acid on.

"If I go down to the bottom of the mine, I SHOULD be able to survive the fallout," the villainess sneered. "But you, you ruined EVERYTHING! You’ll precede me down the shaft to the bottom, but only one of us will be coming back up! This acid will slowly eat away at the ropes. By the time I get back from packing what I’ll need, you will be little more than a smudge on the shaft floor!"

With a smack at Lydia’s buttocks, Madame X ran back to collect her equipment. Lydia tried to remain still as the bitter scent of the acid wafted to her nostrils, and the strands of the rope slowly parted.

Tharka Zurel had just finished a traditional Zoronian prayer of the dying when there was a glint in her eye. She blinked at the sudden bright light, wondering what it was. Then, as she felt power flooding her shapely limbs, she realized that it was the sun! Something had gone wrong with Madame X’s plan! She wasn’t over California; she had traveled to the other side of the planet. And while it was still night time in the USA, here in Mother Russia the sun was still up! There was a slight shift as Tharka felt the missile begin to arch downward towards the ground. She had to move fast!

The heavy metal restraints that had held her so effectively moments before shredded before Hyper-Girl’s hyperstrength like tin foil. She ripped the gag from her mouth and kicked free of the missile, flying under her own power. She looped quickly under the missile placed her shoulders under the high-tech spear of death, and kicked downward, forcing the rocket to change its trajectory. As her powers increased, Hyper-Girl easily pulled the missile outside the atmosphere of the planet. Then she tossed it towards the sun and turned back towards the mine outside Macropolis. Madame X had some things she needed to pay for…

Lydia watched in horror as the rope snapped. She dropped down the shaft towards her doom. Suddenly, however, there was a loud crash and a purple and orange blur shot past her, and she felt herself being carried towards the surface again! She looked up and smiled under the tape as she recognized Hyper-Girl carrying her skyward.

"Let’s get you someplace safe," the blonde said, "then I’ll finish things up…"

Her arms loaded with equipment and files, Madame X moved as quickly as she could down the hallway towards the elevator. Her four insectibots trailed behind their mistress, carrying more of her belongings. As she rounded a corner, she was brought up short by the sudden appearance of Hyper-Girl.

The blonde heroine stood in the center of the hall, with her legs spread and her fists resting on her curvy hips. Her impressive chest was thrust out and her blue eyes were narrow slits. She looked for all the world like an avenging angel. "Going somewhere?" she asked.

"Get her," Madame X screamed as she dove to the side of the hallway. Her robotic minions scampered forward to obey her order.

This time, however, Hyper-Girl was ready. She inhaled deeply, stretching her skimpy top to its limits. Her powerful lungs expelled the air with the force of a hurricane, smashing the creatures backwards into each other. A quick blast of her laser vision at the roof brought it crashing down on the machines. She then directed the powerful beam down to the pile of rubble, heating and melting all into one mass. Finally, she lunged forward, plowing through the mass, smashing any parts that might have been still working. She then spun around and flew in front of the fleeing Madame X. She snagged the villainess by the back of her belt, and soared up towards the surface once again.

Lydia and Ellen sat facing each other in the back of the Thai restaurant. Ellen was grinning as she sipped her tea. "Well, Hyper-Girl’s quiet existence was nice while it lasted! On Zoron, we have a saying that great good always attracts great evil."

Lydia shrugged her shoulders. "Well, I guess we’ll just have to be ready for it… If nothing else, I guess we’ll have lots of future bylines, won’t we?" She raised her tea cup. "To future stories."

Ellen clinked her cup against her friends. "To future stories," she repeated.