Ellen Slayton shouldered her backpack and strolled across the campus of Macropolis University. Her mentor, friend, and roommate, Lydia, had insisted that the beautiful alien girl attend college. Lydia said that it was the perfect way for Ellen – or Tharka, to use her real name – to learn about human culture. She also felt that it would be a good idea for her to meet some people her own age, since Lydia and the rest of the staff at the Dispatch were a few years older than Ellen. The beautiful blonde agreed with this, but the real reason that she liked college life was that it gave her a quiet place, away from the craziness that her life as Hyper-girl brought her. That’s why she was a bit surprised to see a crowd gathered over by the geology lab; nothing ever happened here! At least, nothing that required police presence…
"Hi, Suzie," Ellen said to a friend that she spotted on the outskirts of the crowd.
"What’s going on here?"
"Hey, El’," the cute brown-haired coed replied. "Seems like someone broke in to the lab at about ten o’clock last night. The weird thing is that nothing valuable seems to have been stolen!"
Ellen turned towards the building and focused her hyper-vision and hyper-hearing on the interior of the building. Everything she heard confirmed what Suzie told her. The thief had been an expert, over-riding the security system and breaking out without leaving a clue. Yet, the only thing that was missing was a blue stone that Doctor Wilson had found while on a dig out in the Midwest during the summer. It just made no sense!
"Listen, Suz," Ellen said, "I have to meet someone. Let me know if anything interesting turns up, okay?"
"Sure thing, El. See you tomorrow!"
Ellen eased away from the crowd and headed over towards the Student Union Building. She used one of the phones out front to call Lydia at the paper, wondering if her friend could shed any light on the strange break-in.
"Wait a minute," Lydia said after Ellen had told her what had happened. "You said that the break-in happened at about ten o’clock?"
"That’s what the police figure," Ellen said.
"Interesting. There was another strange break-in last night, at about eleven. Megatech labs was burgled, and some pretty high-tech weaponry was taken. The interesting thing is that the thief was caught on the video camera. He was dressed in a white outfit, and had a pendant of a blue stone around his neck! He also left a note signed ‘The Blue Stone Bandit.’"
Ellen sighed and wrinkled her nose. "So, someone broke into the lab to steal a stone just to make a fancy costume to break into Megatech? That doesn’t make much sense at all, does it?"
"Not a heck of a lot," Lydia admitted. "But it does fit the facts. And we both know that there’s plenty of stuff in the world that doesn’t make sense, right?"
"Can you do me a favor and keep digging?" Ellen asked. "I think I’m going to… look things over, if you know what I mean."
"Sure thing. Be careful!"
Ellen jogged across the street to hide under the bleachers. She pulled the scrunchy from her pony-tail and shook out her blonde tresses while she removed the glasses she wore. She kicked off her shoes as she unbuttoned her blouse, exposing the purple sports bra with the "H" shield on her chest. When she slid the blouse off her shoulders, her green cape swirled free. Her black skirt dropped to the ground, revealing the green mini beneath. Her boots were pulled from a hidden pocket of her backpack. Once the civilian clothes were put in the backpack and hidden in a corner of the bleachers, Hyper-girl soared into the air!
Hyper-girl flew over the campus, using her hyper-senses for one more quick once-over of the geology lab. Moments later, the Girl of the Future had crossed the distance to midtown and was doing a similar scan of the Megatech facilities. She learned nothing. Except… she suddenly realized that Megatech was one of the two most technically advanced scientific facilities in the city. The other was Omni-co.
The stunning heroine hovered in mid-air, lost in thought, unaware of the stares she was receiving from men working in the upper floors of the buildings around her. "Okay," she said, "strange as it seems, let’s assume that thief only wanted the stone for a piece of jewelry. THIS theft was done for simple profit, I bet; there are plenty of people who’d pay through the nose for the latest stuff from Megatech. But the same could be said for Omni-co. So, it’s a safe bet that our thief will be back tonight! And Hyper-girl will be waiting…"
It was almost eleven o’clock, and Hyper-girl was getting sick of waiting. She hated to admit it, but even back on Oceana, patience had never been one of her virtues. At least her powers seemed to be in good shape. She had discovered the longer she was exposed to Earth’s yellow sun, the greater her body’s energy reserves became. Still, she had kept her power usage to a minimum since sundown, conserving her energy. For now, all she was doing was using her senses to scan the building opposite from the roof on which she stood.
"Anything?" Lydia asked. She was dressed in black, trying to avoid drawing attention to herself. Nobody would have seen them up here anyway, but she used that outfit whenever she did her snooping, and it felt appropriate tonight.
"Sorry, not yet," Hyper-girl replied. She hated exposing her friend to danger, but Lydia had insisted on coming along, and Tharka had yet to figure out how to change Lydia’s mind once it was made up. She had hoped that keeping them on this rooftop would at least keep Lydia out of the line of fire. "Wait a minute! There’s movement in there! I’m out of here…"
Hyper-girl flew through the air and swooped through the ventilation grill of the Omni-co building. No sense smashing the wall, she figured as she zoomed through the duct work. Finally, she smashed through a grill and landed in a large laboratory. On the opposite side of the room, perhaps 50 feet away, ws her quarry. "Hold it right there, buddy!"
The man was thin, and gave the impression of being young. He was dressed in a white outfit that covered him from head to toe, set off by blue trim around his gloves, boots, belt and along the seams of his sleeves and pant legs. On his neck was a silver chain, from which hung a small, glowing blue stone. "Oh, hell," he muttered as he turned and began to run for the opposite door.
"You won’t get away that easy," the blonde heroine quipped. Maybe this guy was just a small timer, but she wanted him for invading her college sanctuary. She launched herself like a rocket at the fleeing man.
Hyper-girl was aware something was wrong just as she hit the man. She didn’t seem to have any control over her flight; she was going on sheer momentum. Her voluptuous form slammed into the fleeing criminal, but it stunned her almost as much as it did him! There was no way she could have drained her energy so quickly! Besides, she didn’t just feel drained, her whole body tingled slightly, like the feeling of a limb falling asleep. What was going on?
There was no time to figure it out; she had the element of surprise at least, and she planned to use it. She quickly climbed to her feet, and swung with all her might at her burglar. Instead of sending him sailing across the room to land in a bloody pulp, as such a blow SHOULD have done, the punch elicited a soft "ooph" from the masked man. As she swung again, the man easily blocked the punch and swung the girl around, wrenching her arm behind her back.
"I thought you were Hyper-girl," the man said in a nasally voice. "If you are, your press has been GREATLY exaggerated! But I need you out of the way for now, so…" He dragged the struggling blonde back into the laboratory.
Hyper-girl couldn’t believe what was happening to her. She felt like an ordinary woman. She hadn’t felt like this since she left Zoron! Then it hit her. That blue stone around his neck, it was Zoronite! Back on Oceania, it had been deadly to Zoronians, but now that she had superpowers, it seemed to have just taken them away. She was helpless! This guy had stumbled upon her weakness, and neither of them had even known it!
Blue Stone dragged the struggling blonde over to a lab table and snatched up a handful of bunsen-burner rubber hoses from the counter. He shoved Hyper-girl to the ground and sat on her back. Then he pulled her wrists behind her back and used a hose to tie them together. Then he snagged her kicking legs and used another hose to bind her ankles together.
"Let me go!" Hyper-girl said. "I didn’t come her alone and you’re only making things worse for yourself!" Even as she said it she thought it sounded stupid, but it was all she could think of!
"Yeah, WHATEVER!" The criminal found some tape in one of cabinets and used it to seal the heroine’s lips. "NOBODY stops The Blue Stone Bandit, sweetheart! Now that I have what I came for, I’ll just leave you here! Ta!"
After the villain left, Tharka struggled against the hoses. This was crazy! With her powers, she could snap these hoses like over-stretched rubber bands. But now, no matter how hard she pulled, they just stretched a bit and then snapped back together. It was so frustrating that it was maddening!
Within moments, however, Hyper-girl felt the tingling sensation subside, and her strength flooded back into her body. She tugged at her wrists, and the hose snapped as she used her hyper-vision to burn through the hose at her ankles. Then she pulled the tape from her mouth.
"Well, THAT didn’t go well," she said ruefully. "It looks like I’ll need to find another tactic to handle this one!" She opened a window and leapt into the night.
"It’s not fair, Lydia," beautiful blonde fumed back in their apartment. "My powers are slowly growing to the point where they function fairly well at night, and now I run up against something that saps them away!"
"It’s okay, kiddo," Lydia responded. "We just need a new plan of attack!"
"Look, that stone was in the lab at the college for months, without bothering anyone. And our boy is using it like some good luck charm. So it must not work on humans. Take me with you and I’ll get the stone, and then you can come in and clean up the mess."
"Sounds risky…" Hyper-girl said.
Lydia laughed. "Ellen, Tharka, I love you like a sister. You’re a sweet kid, and your powers are amazing. But I was taking care of myself long before you came along. I’ll be fine, I promise!"
The superheroine stopped her pacing and studied her friend. "Okay. If you promise to be careful, we can give it a shot. Now, where do we start looking?"
Lydia nibbled on her lower lip. "Hmmm… let me do some work on the computer and I’ll get back to you. Meantime, why don’t you relax? Save your energy."
Ellen Slayton’s bedroom was simple, yet pleasant. The girl had to admit that if felt a bit odd to be standing in it as Hyper-girl, but didn’t see much point in changing out of her costume. Instead, she pulled a large purple crystal from her footlocker. She held it tightly, closed her eyes, and channeled her thoughts into the stone. When she opened her eyes, she found herself surrounded by the image of her home world. She smiled and relaxed, surrounded by the familiar feelings of Zoron, waiting for Lydia to call her…
"This is a REAL long shot," Hyper-girl said. She was standing on a rooftop again, this time looking at an old warehouse. The building had been in the process of being converted into apartments, but the contractor ran out of money before getting far. Only one apartment had been rented. Hyper-girl spoke into a small microphone, which led to an earpiece that Lydia wore as she snuck around the back of the warehouse. She had her hyper vision and hyper hearing tuned on her friend.
"Oh, I don’t think it’s as bad as you think," Lydia said. She was still dressed in her black outfit, but this expedition actually offered her a chance to snoop a bit. "After all, Daniel Sturm goes to the college. His father was a notorious thief several years ago. He was almost entirely raised by his uncle, a scientist who claimed that his work was stolen by Megatech and Omni-co. All this COULD be a coincidence, but it would be one HELL of a coincidence!"
Hyper-girl leaned back on the exhaust pipe and sighed. "Maybe. But I don’t like this at all! Say, I’m not going to be able to track you inside the building."
"Must be a left over from when the place was a warehouse, but there seems to be lead sheeting and pipes in some of the walls. You know what that does to my vision."
"No biggie," Lydia said. "I told you, I’ll be fine!"
Lydia actually grinned to herself as she eased through an open window and down the hall. As much as she loved Tharka, the girl had a tendency to be a bit over-protective. Having lost everyone she loved, it was logical, but Lydia lived for danger. It was great to be on her own again!
Her quarry lived on the second floor, so Lydia eased her way up the back stairs. Sturm should be home, but the lights were all off. That meant that he was probably asleep. Either that, or he was out again. She just hoped that if he HAD gone out, he had left the zoronite behind.
Lydia moved quickly through the apartment, looking for the stone. She had no luck, and she had checked every room but the bedroom. Sighing, she eased the door open and listened. The room was empty! She moved quickly and rummaged through the closet and dresser, but with no luck. Finally, she picked the lock on the large trunk at the foot of the bed. Inside, she saw the bright white of the costume, which she sifted aside to uncover the blue stone, still on it’s chain.
Hyper-girl’s ears perked up at her friend’s excited whisper. "Tharka! I found immmmph!"
"LYDIA!" she almost shouted into the microphone. "Lydia, are you okay?" There was no answer, but then her incredible hearing picked up another voice, not Lydia’s from the room.
"Geez, what is it with gorgeous babes sticking their nose in my business, tonight?"
The Maid of the Future launched herself into the sky, soaring towards the window opposite. If Lydia had found the zoronite, it had to be in that building. That meant that her powers would vanish almost immediately when she came near it. She would have to move fast.
As she neared the window, Hyper-girl could make out the man standing over Lydia’s unconscious body. He was thin, lanky, with wild and wirey hair, a mustache and a scrubby beard. He was bending down to get something from the woman’s hand. As Hyper-girl’s form cast a shadow in the moonlight, the man turned towards the window and leapt to his feet.
Hyper-girl’s beautiful face was contorted in fury. She looked like some other-worldly goddess of vengeance as she smashed through the glass and soared like a missile at her target.
"Oh, crap!" the Dan Sturm said. He turned to run, but tripped on Lydia’s arm. He went to his knees and, seeing the Hyper-girl still coming at him, in the split second before she struck, he swung his hand at her in total desperation. The blow sent Hyper-girl crashing to the floor. Before she passed out, she realized how bad her luck was. The man happened, by pure chance, to swing at her with the hand clutching the zoronite.
Lydia and Hyper-girl regained consciousness roughly about the same time, and were both dismayed to find themselves in roughly the same predicament. They were down in the basement of the warehouse, lying on the floor. Their wrists were pulled behind their backs and tied tightly; their ankles were bound together and long Ace bandages had been used to gag them, wound around and around their heads, with several turns between the teeth and the rest covering the lips. Hyper-girl yanked on her bonds as hard as she could, but it was no use. The zoronite had to be close.
"Awake at last, ladies?" Blue Stone stepped into the light. He was dressed in his uniform again, except that the mask was off, hanging back off the back of his neck. "Glad to see it! I did so want to chat with you before I did you in!"
"HMMMMPH! Hmmm-ummmmph!" The squeals of the captives were muffled, but clearly angry.
"All I really wanted to do was get the money those high-tech bastards owed my family! But, you know, it was really kind of fun! Now I’m beginning to think, why stop here? With my skills and my luck, I could be MUCH more successful than my father ever was! Problem was, my father thought small. Hell, he never even had a gimmick!"
Lydia and Hyper-girl paused in their struggles to listen. They looked at each other, both clearly thinking the same question: Gimmick? What was this lunatic talking about?
"See," the villain continued in his rant, "ALL the great revolutionaries throughout history have had a gimmick! Zorro left his ‘z’s all over the place; the Scarlet Pimpernel drew that flower on all his letters; Robin Hood used black arrows with red fletching…something I bet Costner never bothered to research. So I knew I needed a gimmick, something to set me apart from the run of the mill cat-burglar. Blue was ALWAYS my lucky color, so when I saw this neat hunk of rock in the university museum, it seemed like fate. Even the name just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? The Blue Stone Bandit." He snickered as he looked down at them. "Well, with those cloths in your mouths, I guess NOTHING rolls off your tongues right now! You’ll have to take my word for it!"
Tharka rolled her eyes and grimaced into her gag as the implications of what this clown was saying finally sank in. Zoronite was the ONE substance on this planet that she knew could render her powerless, and this bozo had decided to wear a piece solely as decoration; without even knowing what he had! In the back of her mind, she wondered if she had somehow offended the Zoronian god Kalleb, the Cosmic Trickster!
"So, anyway, here’s where the luck comes in! See, I never figured to attract your attention, Hyper-Girl. I figured you cape-and-costume types are too busy with world-dominating threats like that Doppelganger guy I keep hearing about; if he really exists. But then you show up, and you don’t have your powers! So, I say to myself, ‘Hey, Danny, what could rob that pretty powerhouse of those hyper-powers you been reading about?’ Then it hits me: the stone! I don’t know much about this kind of thing, but YOU’RE from outer space, and IT’S from outer space, so it has to make sense, right? Especially when you come flying in, ready to tear me limb from limb, and I knock you out by hitting you with it!"
Damn! If he had figured it out, there was little chance that this moron was going to just leave her there when he left with the stone, like last time. That was what Hyper-Girl had been hoping for. Now she just had to wait for another opening.
"Anyway, I never really wanted to hurt anybody. See, basically, I’m a thief, not a murderer. But, I can’t let you two leave here and tell everyone who the Blue Stone Bandit really is! Especially with the crime-spree I’ve got planned! Well, I’m not real good at this fancy killing kind of stuff, but then I was hit by a BRAINSTORM! ‘Danny,’ I said, ‘how do you get rid of anything else that you need to get rid of?’"
The Bandit flipped a switch, and a second light came on. The two captive women cringed as they spotted the large, industrial trash compactor that had been hidden in the darkness. The villain took off the necklace and laid it on the shelf next to the console.
"You’re first, Hyper-doll! Shame to waste such a babe, but I got things to do, people to rob! I figured that this close to the unit, the radiation will still keep you weak as a kitten, without me having to lose my good luck piece." As he spoke, he lifted the blonde heroine in his arms and carried her over to the compactor, placing her inside through the door, which he then closed.
"Okay, Miss Long," the villainous Sturm said as he pushed the button to start the compactor, "I’m tempted to keep you around for a while. After all, you’re just as attractive as your friend, and without any of those pesky powers. But, like I said, I have big plans and I like to travel light. So, I’m going to go pack while the machine makes hyper pancakes, and then you’re next! Bye!"
Lydia struggled as hard as she could against the bonds holding her as her captor left the room. The slow grinding noise of the compactor filled her ears, and icy fear clutched at her heart. She couldn’t let her friend die, let alone herself! But what could she do? All she could think of was to get that damned stone away from her. She doubted that she could possibly get it far enough away, but she had to try!
Lydia struggled slowly into a sitting position, with her feet as close to her buttocks as possible. Then she rocked back and forth, until she could use her weight to swing herself up onto her feet. She had to struggle to keep her balance; she almost fell forward onto her face. When it was all over, however, Lydia stood on her feet, her breath whistling through her nostrils. She wished she could breath through her mouth, but that was pointless. The lovely brunette took a deep breath and hopped over to the compactor.
The trip seemed to take for ever. Lydia strained to listen to the noise, wondering how far the hydraulics had moved heavy metal arm. Finally, she reached the machine and spun around, her fingers closing on the stone’s chain. She began to hop away as quickly as she could, hoping to move the stone far enough away to make SOME difference! However, after she had moved only a few feet, she lost her balance and pitched forward. Lydia twisted to land on her shoulder instead of her face, but the shock knocked the stone from her fingers. It skittered across the floor, sliding under a few pipes that were on the floor.
Damn, damn, damn! The thing was only a foot or so away from the compactor, not NEARLY enough to make any difference! Lydia wiggled over to the pipes, her fingers trying to grasp the stone under the pipes. The whole time, the sound of the compactor grinding on sounded like a death knell in her ears. Suddenly, however, the sound changed. The pitch became higher, as if the machine was working harder. It continued to groan louder and higher, until the engine suddenly gave out with a small explosion. Lydia lay there helplessly, wondering what had happened, fearing the worst for her friend, when the wall of the compactor split in half, and Hyper-girl stepped through!
"Hang on, Lydia," the blonde said as she reached down and snapped the ropes holding her friend captive. Then she ripped the gag in half, so that the cloth fell away from Lydia’s face.
"I don’t get it," Lydia said as she hugged her friend. "What happened?"
"I’m not sure," Hyper-girl replied. "All of a sudden, my powers just came back! Where’s the Zoronite?"
"I tried to get it out of here, but I dropped it," Lydia said. "It slid under those pipes."
The young superheroine looked at the pipes, then suddenly smiled and nodded in understanding. "Looks like luck is finally on our side! The pipes are lead. They shielded the radiation. Without the radiation to sap my powers, I’m my old hyper-self! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to stop a certain smug, pain-in-the-butt burglar!"
Hyper-girl flexed her shapely, muscular legs, and then launched herself skyward. She smashed through the ceiling, then the one above that, and the one above that, until she hovered above the hole, facing the startled Blue Stone Bandit! She crossed her arms over her ample chest and glared at the cowering criminal, who had been in the process of packing.
"I’m a superheroine," she said coldly. "Things happen to me. I deal with it. But you threatened my friend. That makes this personal!"
The Bandit’s eyes darted around, as if searching for an escape. He suddenly grabbed a gun from a nearby drawer. He fired it at Hyper-girl in desperation. While the bullets bounced off Hyper-girl’s body, she noticed that they stung a bit. It reminded her that it was still night, and she had been exposed to Zoronite twice tonight. It would be better not to push her luck.
The blonde took in a deep breath, stretching her sports-bra-like top to it’s limit before she expelled the air forcefully from her lungs. The wind hit the Blue Stone Bandit like a pressurized air hose, knocking him back across the room. He slammed into the wall, and then sank to the floor, unconscious. Hyper-girl drifted over to the phone, and called the police.
"Well, at least this is out of our hair," Lydia said as she locked the lead pipe into the hidden safe under the rug in her living room. The Zoronite was safely sealed inside. It was a shame that this one piece of contraband wouldn’t be recovered from Daniel Sturm, but it was too dangerous to leave at the college!
"Well, that one piece is," Ellen Slayton said thoughtfully. Hyper-girl had regained her civilian identity upon returning to the apartment, clad in sweat pants, a MU sweater and a pony-tail.
"What do you mean?"
"The way I figure it," the maiden of tomorrow replied, "Zoronite could never get here on it’s own; it’s too far. Some of it must have been sucked through the warp field by the gravitational backwash of my escape pod."
Ellen sighed. "Lydia, the warp field is dangerous if a ship touches is, so we designed our drives to create a large field, for safety’s sake. There’s no reason to think that this was the only piece of Zoronite that passed through the field before it closed after me!"
"You mean there’s more of this stuff out there?!?"
Ellen looked out the window. "Maybe. I sure hope not, but only time will tell…"
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