Lisa Lansing, in her guise as Miracle Maiden, slid down the line from the roof until she was outside the office of Detective Carol Butler’s office. She glanced inside to find the attractive redhead pacing back and forth, reading a file. A mischievous smile played about the heroine’s sexy lips. Of course, it would be SO much easier to go in through the front door...Carol was expecting her, after all! But, she reminded herself, where was the fun in that? She waited until Carol was facing away from the window before she slipped inside and stood with her hands on her hips. Carol turned around, still reading her file, and took three steps, stopping short just before she bumped into Miracle Maiden.

“GEEZ, I wish you wouldn’t do that MM!” she exclaimed.

Miracle Maiden grinned. She and Carol had met during Lisa’s first case after donning her red, silver and blue costume, and gained a quick and deep respect for each other. Carol sometimes said that it was through her working with Miracle Maiden that she had risen so quickly from the beat cop she had been at the time to the highest ranking woman on Midwest City’s Detective Bureau. Miracle Maiden, however, knew that the sharp-witted red-head had been destined to reach the top, no matter how much she may or may not have helped things along!

“Sorry, Carol, it goes with the cape and costume territory! What’s up?”

Carol tossed the file on the desk and walked around to her chair. She picked up a remote control, aimed it at a video unit in the corner and pushed the “play” button. “We really don’t know, MM. We were hoping that you could help us figure that out...”

Miracle Maiden leaned her well-rounded buttocks against the edge of the desk, crossed her long, shapely legs at the ankles, and waited for the image to form on the screen.

The picture was black and white, and a bit grainy and underlit. It showed the show room of a jewelry store. Small white numbers in the lower right hand corner showed yesterday’s date, and put the time at 2:13 am. After a few seconds, one of the air vent covers popped open and a slender figure slid out of the opening. The figure stayed in the shadows as it moved around the room, breaking open the jewelry cases and stuffing the precious stones into a bag. Finally, however, the thief stepped into the light to get at one of the larger cases. Miracle Maiden gasped in shock.

“Carol, stop the tape!” the alluring avenger cried as she leapt up and moved closer to the monitor. When Carol had paused the tape on a good full-screen image of the thief, Miracle Maiden shook her head, her rich brown eyes wide with disbelief.

The image was grainy and black-and-white, but even taking that into account, there was no way to explain that Miracle Maiden seemed to be looking at a mirror image of herself! The woman had the same wavy, shoulder-length hair; the same beautiful, oval-shaped face; the same high cheekbones; the same strong, lean, curvaceous body; the same long, shapely legs; even the same costume! Well, no, this last one was quite true...the thief had added a small, dark eye-mask to the costume, but otherwise, the lines were identical: bustier with “MM” logo across the breasts, gloves, bracelets, cape, headband, miniskirt, and knee-high, high-heeled boots. The idea of looking at her double was so odd that Miracle Maiden wondered for a split second if this whole thing was a dream.

“Carol,” she said, “you can’t possibly think that I...”

Carol waved the notion aside. “Oh, hell no, MM! But it is pretty weird! And this kind of weirdness is usually right up your alley. Now look, I was able to convince the brass not to release this image to our boys yet. I figured having the whole force mistaking you for her would seriously damper your effectiveness. But we can only keep a lid on this thing for 48 hours. After that, well, we have to fill them in and you’ll have to take your chances.”

Maiden nodded. “That’s more than fair. Thanks, Carol.”

Carol, who had recently quit smoking, reached into her desk drawer for a stick of gum. “No problem. Now, the way I see it...”

She stopped when she realized that she was addressing an empty room. The titian-haired detective jumped up and ran to the window. She looked up and down the building, but there was no sign of Miracle Maiden. Carol shook her head as she popped the gum into her mouth.

“I HATE it when she does that!”

* * *

Miracle Maiden investigated the jewelry store from top to bottom, but found nothing that could give her the slightest clue as to who her double was...or where she might be now! After an hour of scouring the city (stopping two muggings and a hold-up in the process), she returned to her headquarters, The Cave of Miracles, for some computer work.

Actually, “The Cave” was an abandoned section of the sewer system, which was right under Lisa Lansing’s house. It had been hard work building the secret entrances and exits by herself, but well worth it! The tube-shaped cement room now held her garage, lab, small gym and a small, walled off section that she called her office. This was where she sat at the computer. When none of her scans came up with anything, she set the computer to do a series of information searches, and then decided that she had to get to bed.

Lisa stripped off her costume and slipped into a blue bathrobe and slippers. She climbed up the ladder that went from her secret lair to her basement. After a quick shower, she pulled on a large pink T-shirt and climbed into bed. Despite her current problems, Lisa knew some meditation techniques to help her relax. She was asleep in no time.

* * *

Ever since becoming Miracle Maiden, Lisa was a light sleeper. With her current program of exercise, meditation and vitamins, she needed less sleep than she used to, anyway...which was good, considering her nocturnal activities! However, her sleep was also lighter. She wasn’t sure if this was because of her fitness program, or nervousness from having people who wanted her (or at least her colorful alter ego) dead. So, it wasn’t unusual when she woke up at 3 am with the feeling that something was wrong. She slowly started to reach for the bedside lamp...when someone grabbed her arm, and yanked her halfway out of the bed!

Lisa struggled to fight off her attacker, but whoever it was had been clever. They had twisted Lisa over and around as they pulled her, so that her legs were tangled in the bed sheets. As she tried to swing at her unseen assailant with one arm, balance on the other, and kick her legs free, Lisa had to offer the person her grudging respect. It was a clever trick, one she herself might have thought of. Before her thoughts could go much further, however, she felt the sharp stinging sensation of pepper-spray in her face. She grunted in pain and surprise, as her arm gave out beneath her, dropping her to the floor.

The attacker was straddling Lisa in a second, pulling her arms behind her back and quickly lashing them together. Lisa, gasping for breath, was frustrated. She could tell that the person on top of her was no stronger than she was, but only had better leverage. Lisa had her pride, but this was getting out of hand! As soon as she had caught her breath, she opened her mouth to call for help, hoping that her neighbors weren’t terribly sound sleepers. Before she could make a sound, she found her mouth filled with a hard, spherical object like a Ping-Pong ball, and a heavy scarf was tied over her lips, sealing the ball in place! She had been effectively gagged in less time than it takes to tell about it!

The room was suddenly flooded with soft light as the kidnapper switched on the bedside lamp. Lisa was stunned and momentarily wondered if this were all just some bizarre dream. The kidnapper was her double from the videotape! Given a chance to study the woman up close, Lisa realized that they didn’t just look similar; the woman was her exact duplicate. The only difference, which the underlit, black-and-white tape wouldn’t have showed, was their costumes. The twin’s outfit was the exact opposite of Lisa’s Miracle Maiden uniform: blue busiter, red skirt, etc. The area where Miracle Maiden had silver highlights, including the “MM” insignia, were here a shiny, metallic black.

“Greetings, Lisa...Or should I say Miracle Maiden?” the double said with an evil grin. “I wish I could say that you gave me a better fight than I expected, but, for obvious reasons, I knew exactly what to expect from you!”

“Hmmmm mmmm ummmmph?” Lisa asked. Her head was spinning; she was so confused that she barely struggled as her captor bound her shapely legs together.

“Oh, you can call me Malice Maid,” the woman replied with a chuckle. “But I doubt that clears anything up for you, does it? Actually, I’m your clone! At least, for now I am! Once I get rid of you; I’ll be Lisa Lansing!”

Lisa did her best to struggle, but Malice Maid had done too good a job binding her for it to do any good. She was helpless as the evil clone swung her up, tossed Lisa over her shoulder, and slid out the window.

In the back of a hearse-like vehicle, Lisa struggled futilely with her bonds. She listened as the woman with her face explained. “See, Doctor Evil is back in town. He set up his lab in an abandoned building, getting ready to begin his cloning experiments, and found a vial of blood in the building. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, he created a clone from the blood. You can imagine his shock when his nemesis stepped out of the gestation tube!”

Lisa’s struggles slowed. She wasn’t making any progress anyway, and she needed to hear this. It could give her the clue she needed to escape and defeat these villains.

“The good Doctor figured he had the perfect super-slave in me,” Malice Maid continued. “But I have other plans! Doppelganger is right, you know. You could be a perfect villainess. And I intend to be the villainess you refuse to be!

“But, I realized that part of your effectiveness was because nobody knows who you really are... Not even Dr. Evil, by the way. I lied and told him that your secret identity was one memory I didn’t possess. So, first I’ll kill you, so I can take your place. Then, after I know enough about how to work the equipment, I’ll eliminate Dr. Evil! The way I figure it, I’ll eventually cross paths with Doppelganger, only I’ll accept his offer to become his Black Queen! Then, one night after we’ve gained total control, I’ll slide into bed next to him and stick a knife in his heart...”

As the car came to a halt, Lisa was dazed by what she was hearing. Would this clone succeed in her mad plan? Then again, why not? Malice Maid obviously had NONE of Lisa’s scruples. If anyone got suspicious, all she’d have to do is make sure they had an “accident.” And, if Malice Maid was able to team up with The Doppelganger... It made the heroine’s blood run cold. Her archenemy had come so close to success so many times, only to be stopped by Lisa. Imagine that, instead of fighting him, she had been actively helping him!

Malice Maid opened the back door of the car and tossed the tightly-trussed Lisa over her shoulder. Lisa lifted her head and shook the hair out of her eyes, trying to see where she was. It looked like the train yard. What did the villainess have planned for her?

Malice Maid carried Lisa over to a boxcar and opened the door. Cool air billowed out, indicating that the car was refrigerated. It was filled with metal drums, one of which was open. Malice Maid dropped Lisa inside the drum. “As you can see, I was ready for you. This car is going to dump these drums of toxic waste in a landfill, to be buried. If you haven’t frozen or suffocated by the time you get there, you’ll be buried alive! So long, Lisa! THANKS FOR THE LIFE!” Then she put the lid on the drum and pounded it into place.

As she heard the door close, Lisa thought over her situation, knowing she was in trouble. She could already feel the cold biting her skin through the thin T-shirt. She had to find a way out. She tried to stand up, forcing the lid off, but it was on too tight. Her mind raced. She felt like leftovers locked in a Tupperware container...then she thought of something. She’d seen Tupperware spill when the container was bent and the lid no longer fit. Lisa rocked her weight back and forth, until the drum fell to the ground with a THUD! Then, she began to rock it from side to side, trying to get it to roll across the boxcar...

Twenty minutes later, Lisa was almost frozen to the bone. Her lungs were so cold that each breath felt like she was inhaling fire. Her ceaseless activity was the only thing keeping her from becoming a superheroine-cicle, and she was grown so tired... Just as this crossed her mind, the drum slammed into the car wall for the tenth or twelfth time, and the lid popped off! Lisa slid from the drum gratefully. She was still bound and gagged in the boxcar, but at least she was out of her metal prison!

Lisa looked around her for some way to cut herself free of the ropes encircling her limbs. Her T-shirt snagged on the lip of the drum, and she realized that the drum could be her means of freedom. She set to work rubbing her ropes against the sharp edge. That would only take a few minutes. Then, she could pop the lock on the door, leave the boxcar, charm the night watchman into getting her a cab home and turn into Miracle Maiden! Then, Malice Maid and Dr. Evil had better look out...

* * *

An hour later, the now-costumed Miracle Maiden stood in the shadows, looking up at the old, weathered building that had once been white. She had paused at her house long enough for a hot shower, to remove the cold numbness from her close call in the boxcar. But now, as she looked up at the old Collins-Stoker Funeral Home, she felt a chill run deep in her bones again. Her recent experience here with Buffy and the vampires was still fresh in her mind. She hated having to come back to this place, but it was all that made sense. Malice Maid had driven a hearse. Lady Gray had drawn some of her blood, which Dr. Evil had apparently found and used to create the clone. The building was abandoned, and just the sort of place that fiendish scientist would like for a headquarters. Miracle Maiden sighed in resignation, and ran towards the building, keeping to the shadows as much as she could.

After her last experience, the last thing Miracle Maiden wanted to do was go in through the top of the building. She instead slipped up to the back door and deftly picked the lock. Her high-heels gave muffled clumps as she sneaked through the building, searching for her quarry. Finally, she heard the sound of two voices arguing. She recognized them easily: Doctor Evil and Malice Maid!

“You will do as you’re told, my dear...OR ELSE!” the doctor sneered.

“’Or else’ what?” the clone replied. “You could never defeat Miracle Maiden, so what makes you think you can stop me?”

“Oh, that’s easy. See, Miracle Maiden’s existence doesn’t depend on regular doses of a certain chemical. Yours does!”

Miracle Maiden could hear the fear in the clone’s voice. “What? What do you mean?”

“Come, now, my dear, I’ve seen enough ‘Frankenstein’ stories to know that a master must be able to control his creation! Your clone body uses up certain elements rather quickly. Unless they are replaced, you’ll literally burn yourself out and disintegrate. And only I know what chemicals you need!”

As she listened to this exchange, Miracle Maiden had been sneaking towards the doorway from which the voices emanated. Suddenly, she heard a loud whining beeping noise from the room.

“The motion sensors,” Dr. Evil hissed. “Someone is in the corridor! Stop them!”

Miracle Maiden cursed under her breath as she ran towards the doorway. She had been counting on Dr. Evil not having time to set up alarms yet... Malice Maid burst from the room, only to be met with a flying kick to the chin. The move caught her by surprise, but she recovered quickly, and swept Miracle Maiden’s legs out from under her. In moments, the two beauties were rolling on the floor, wrestling, each trying to get the upper hand.

While the two were perfectly matched physically, Miracle Maiden’s experience and fast action at the beginning of the confrontation began to show. She slowly gained the upper hand on her opponent. She also noted that Malice Maid looked a little pale, and began to wonder if her clone body was beginning to deteriorate, as Dr. Evil had said. Well, she could worry about that after she had the villainous duo locked up, where they belonged!

Even though she was winning the fight, Miracle Maiden was being worn out by the struggle... “Talk about being your own worst enemy” she thought as she sat on Malice Maid’s back and prepared to handcuff the villainess. Of course, she still had Dr. Evil to deal with, but that little twerp was never much for combat...

Just as this thought crossed her mind, Miracle Maiden and Malice Maid were both caught in an explosion of energy that set their nerves on fire. The smell of ozone and a loud crackling surrounded them. For a split second, Miracle Maiden thought they’d been hit by lightning...and then she thought nothing, as she collapsed into merciful, painless unconsciousness.

* * *

When Miracle Maiden awoke, she groaned in pain. As her senses returned, she realized that she was strapped to a laboratory table that was tilted at a 45-degree angle. There was a large, high-tech devise aimed at her head. “Oh, this looks like trouble,” she said.

“You bet it is,” Malice Maid said as she stepped out from behind the machine, a large red ball-gag in her hand. The clone was much paler now, and her eyes looked a bit dull. She advanced towards Miracle Maiden, her intention clear.

“Looks like things aren’t exactly going according to your plan,” Miracle Maiden said. “Underestimated the good Doctor, did you?”

“Shut up!” Malice Maid snapped as she stuffed the gag into the heroine’s mouth, and buckled it tight behind her neck. “It was just a setback! I’ll still have my way!”

Miracle Maiden shook her head sadly and said, “Mmmmffff wmmmffff nnnnn hnnnnncck!”

Malice Maid fumed at the heroine and prepared to slap the heroine, when Dr. Evil’s voice sounded. “That’s enough!” he said. “Malice Maid, go make sure everything is okay with the gestation tanks.” The villainous clone looked at her genetic donor, then turned and stalked out of the room.

Miracle Maiden looked down at Dr. Evil. He stood barely four foot five, with a high forehead surrounded by white hair. He wore thick glasses, and his usual white lab coat, the pockets bulging with tools, notes, and God-only-knew what else. He slid his hand along Miracle Maiden’s thigh as he spoke.

“I don’t know how you found me, my dear, but I’m glad you did. It saves me the trouble of sending Malice Maid out to find you.” So, he still had no idea that the clone had visited her earlier that night. Miracle Maiden wasn’t sure what good that information would do her, but she filed it away anyhow. The demented doctor continued. “You see, my dear, you’ll be the mother to a whole army of Malice Maids! After studying the first model, I’ve refined my cloning technique even more. I’m sure I can tweak the genes enough that any future clones will have no free will. They will be the perfect army! All with your skills, talents and weapons, and all loyal to me!”

Miracle Maiden grimaced around the gag as Dr. Evil’s hand went higher and higher on her thigh. “Yes, they will obey my every command! Perhaps I’ll keep a few out specifically as sex slaves. And it wouldn’t be too much trouble to alter the hair color, and give myself a choice...a blonde, maybe a redhead... Well, in any case, this laser will neatly dissect you into perfect genetic material. Then, within a week, I’ll have my army and can send them out to kidnap government leaders, replace them with clones, and rule the world from behind the scenes! I have other things to take care of, but the laser is fully automated. It should be warmed up in about five minutes, so ta-ta, Miracle Maiden! It may be the last you’ll see of me, but I’ll soon be seeing A LOT more of you! Ha ha!”

After the mad scientist’s departure, Miracle Maiden’s mind began to race. Five minutes! That didn’t give her much time to escape, and they had taken her weapons belt. Knowing Dr. Evil, he probably planned to study her gadgets to duplicate them for his clones. But they had left her bracelets! The doctor probably thought they were just decoration. Maybe she could use them...? The magnesium flare would do nothing; the magnets only worked on the special alloy in her equipment. There were the darts, but they were too small to do much good on the laser, and probably couldn’t be aimed right, anyway. About the only thing she’d be able to hit with them would be the leather straps themselves!

Suddenly, inspiration hit, as it often did when Miracle Maiden found herself in these situations (which she often did...). It took a fair amount of jiggling and wiggling before she was able to fire the dart from her right wrist into the leather strap. Then she twisted her hand around and was barely able to get the very tips of her gloved fingers around the edge of the long, slender dart and pull it free, being careful not to stick herself with the anesthetic-tipped dart. The whine from the laser filled her mind as she twisted the dart around and began trying to lift the hook on the strap’s fastener. Unbuckling the strap in this way was a long shot, but the only shot she had. Several times, she thought she had it, only to have the clasp slide off of the slender tip of her makeshift tool.

“Come on, come on!” she muttered into her gag. The whine was increasing as the laser powered up. Sweat poured down the heroine’s beautiful face, dripping off her chin and into her cleavage. Time was running out... Then, finally, the clasp came undone and Miracle Maiden’s right hand was free! But before the lovely crimefighter could even breathe a sigh of relief, the whine reached a fever pitch, and she saw the tip of the laser glow. It was seconds away from firing; she’d never free herself in time! In desperation, she grabbed her tiara with her free right hand, pressed the crescent-moon design, and hurled it at the control panel. When it hit the panel, there was an explosion of sparks. The panel shorted out, and the laser abruptly shut itself down.

Miracle Maiden sighed in relief as she began to free her other hand. Her radio was also in the tiara, and she was sure that the dual jolt of the built-in “stun shot” and the shorting panel had burned out the insulation, so she’d have to re-wire the whole thing. But at least she was alive!

* * *

“Well, my dear, I trust you’ve learned your lesson?” Dr. Evil was saying to Malice Maid as Miracle Maiden eased up to the room. This time, she had stolen a page from her evil counter-part’s book and come through the ventilation shaft. She looked through the grating. Malice Maid looked like a drug addict in desperate need of a fix.

“Yes, Dr. Evil! I’ll never question your orders again! Please...”

The scientist nodded. “Very good, my dear. Come here...” He turned to the laboratory table. Miracle Maiden saw her weapons belt on the table. As the doctor reached for a hypodermic needle, Miracle Maiden saw her chance. She kicked out the grating and leapt into the room, turning on the magnet in her bracelet as she did. The belt leapt off the table and sailed towards its owner, smashing the vial from the scientist’s hand as it did.

“No!” Malice Maid screamed. “You bitch!” She launched herself at Miracle Maiden, prepared to kill the heroine for destroying the chemical she so desperately needed. As the two bodies collided, however, Miracle Maiden realized just how badly her clone had to have the injection she had inadvertently destroyed. Malice Maid’s movements were slow and clumsy as she attacked, and her strength was half of what it had been. Miracle Maiden quickly dodged the clone as she fastened her weapons belt around her slender waist.

“Malice Maid, no!” Dr. Evil cried. “The adrenaline will burn up your body faster! I have another injection!”

Malice Maid’s condition, however, made her beyond reason. She spun at Miracle Maiden, swinging, kicking and punching like a madwoman, but the heroine easily dodged or deflected the weak blows. Finally, Malice Maid collapsed in exhaustion, her breath rasping. Miracle Maiden spun on her toes and faced Dr. Evil, who had snatched a strange devise from the counter and was aiming it at her.

Miracle Maiden leapt aside as a bolt of artificial lightning lanced out from the device in the scientist’s hand. She realized that this must have been what he had hit her with before. She quickly reached into her belt and pulled out a silver, “M” shaped boomerang and let it fly. The metal ‘rang smacked Dr. Evil in the temple, causing him to drop his lightning generator. She somersaulted across the floor, landing in a tightly curled ball at the man’s feet. From this position, she exploded upward, a viscous uppercut landing on Dr. Evil’s chin, lifting him off his feet, knocking him backwards and rendering him unconscious.

Miracle Maiden ran over to Malice Maid. True, she was a clone, and a rather evil one at that, but the heroine couldn’t let her die. It looked, however, like she had no choice in the matter. Miracle Maiden ran over to the counter, looking at the rows of chemicals. There was one that looked like the same fluid that had been in the hypodermic that had been smashed. She prepared a new needle and took it over to Malice Maid. Before Miracle Maiden could inject her, however, Malice Maid grabbed her wrist and her eyes flew open. “You... win,” she gasped, before her breathing stopped.

Miracle Maiden sighed as she looked down at the corpse of the woman who had only wanted to live her life, no matter what it took. Somehow, she didn’t feel like a winner...

Next Episode: London Calling