Within the hidden lair known affectionately as The Birdhouse, the sleek,
dark car called The Blackbird rolled to a stop and two beautiful women
in colorful costumes hopped out: Swallow Woman and Swan Girl. The
world knew them as a pair of courageous crime-fighters, just two if the
many amazing heroes and heroines who had arisen to battle scores of grotesque
villains. The world is wrong.
In actuality, Swallow Woman and Swan Girl were free-lance agents of BIRD, the top-secret Bureau of Investigation, Rescue and Defense. This was something that many in BIRD weren’t happy about, because they’d gotten the job when Swallow Woman, aka college professor Robin Waters, found out that her brother-in-law had worked for the organization as Grey Eagle. While on a case, he and Robin’s sister had been killed, forcing Robin to become the guardian for her teenage niece, Danielle Jacobs. Robin wanted to avenge her loved ones’ death, and decided to do it by replacing them as heroes. When Danielle stumbled on her aunt’s secret, she forced her way onto the team. Together, the duo had proved to be an effective crime-fighting team. Right now, however, they were in the middle of an argument.
“Ah, for crying out loud, Aunt Robin, what’s the big deal?” Swan Girl whined. She was a cute, well-built blonde in a skin-tight white mini-dress, trimmed in pale blue. Her gloves, boots and mask were a matching blue, as was her wide utility belt with the white bird emblem on the buckle. “I made the jump, we caught Brickface and nobody got hurt. I don’t see what you’re complaining about!”
There wasn’t much family resemblance between Swan Girl and her aunt; for the teenager favored her father, who was Norwegian extraction. Swallow Woman, on the other hand, favored her Native American father with her dusky complexion, brown eyes and jet-black hair. Even her costume, a yellow & brown top, brown miniskirt, boots, mask, gloves & cape, all trimmed in yellow, had a Native American feel to it. She sighed as she took off her mask and put her arm around her niece’s shoulders. “Danielle, you’re all the family I have left. I don’t want you taking these unnecessary risks! There were about 50 other ways that we could have stopped Brickface. You need to think more before you act!”
“I DO think,” the cute teenager pouted. “I don’t do the figuring stuff as well as you, but the physical stuff is my favorite. I didn’t get on the gymnastics team by misjudging how far I can jump!”
Swallow Woman shook her head in frustration as she undid her belt and slipped her cape from her shoulders. “Fine. But remember that I’m in charge. If you want to keep relying on the physical, I’m going to increase your training sessions. Luckily, we don’t have any new cases coming up right now.”
Three days later, Danielle Jacobs came home from school, grabbed a quick
snack, and took the secret route in the basement to the Birdhouse.
She peeled off her clothes and slipped into her Swan Girl outfit.
A leotard would have done just as well, but she got a real thrill out of
wearing the uniform. It made her feel so competent and mature.
She was actually disappointed that there hadn’t been any action ever since
Brickface had been caught, but it was just as well. Her aunt had
been out at university staff trainings of something like that every night.
Swan Girl walked over to the gym and leapt to the parallel bars, swinging
her lithe form through the air as she dodged electric eye beams without
touching the floor.
After about twenty minutes of this, Swan Girl paused for a drink. As she filled a cup at the water cooler, however, she noticed a red light flashing on the communication panel. A message had come in from Owl-1, their contact at BIRD. Swan Girl raced to the comm-unit and tried to play back the message, but it was security locked so that only Swallow Woman could retrieve it. Swan Girl got a suspicion and checked the reserve lockers. While Swallow Woman’s original costume was still in it’s place, one of the extras, which wouldn’t be missed under normal conditions, was missing! Aunt Robin wasn’t at any staff meetings! She was going into action every night, and leaving Danielle behind!
Danielle fumed. “I can’t believe it! She’s treating me like a baby! I’ll show her…I’ll solve this case on my own, whatever it is!”
While Swan Girl preferred physical activity to mental, she was actually very intelligent. She set about tapping in to the communication logs of the past week on the computer. When she couldn’t do that, she tried the back-up logs, using her over-ride code to sneak in the “back door” of the system. Then, she just had to guess her aunt’s pin number. Her birthday…nope. Her aunt’s birthday…no. Her parent’s birthdays…no good. Her parent’s anniversary…not it. Danielle tapped her fingers on the armrest of her chair. She had it! The date of her parent’s death…BINGO!
There were a series of messages from Owl-1 to Swallow Woman, giving her information to track a new villain that Swan Girl had never heard of: The Viper. He was stealing high technology and apparently selling it to the highest bidder. The authorities had no idea where he was hiding, or where he would strike next, but there was a list of places that he had already stolen from. Swan Girl plotted them on the map of the city to see if she could spot a pattern. The five locations formed a loose cluster, in the center of which was the Expo Center. Swan Girl furrowed her brow.
“The Expo Center is hosting the World Tech Expo this month. If someone wanted the latest in technology, that should have been the FIRST place they hit, but it’s been untouched! Maybe the theives don’t want to draw attention to the Expo, because THAT’S where they’re hiding! Nobody would notice any extra gadgets among all the stuff there, and when it’s being shipped out to the various owners, it would be a perfect front to smuggle the stolen hardware out of the country!”
Swan Girl raced to the garage and slipped her bike out of its locker. She didn’t use her electric motorcycle, the “Street Wing”, all that often, but she wasn’t old enough to drive the car. Besides, the Blackbird was Swallow Woman’s transport, and she wanted no doubt that it was Swan Girl who captured this “Viper” character! She slipped on a white helmet with a wing design on the sides and raced out into the night.
The Expo Center was actually a series of buildings in the center of a large,
campus-like park, all connected by a series of covered walkways that reminded
Swan Girl of Habitrails. She pulled a copy of the World Tech Expo
program from her saddlebag and studied it as she glided silently around
the campus on the Street Wing. The only lights that she could see
were coming from the security office. While she was a bit disappointed,
she wasn’t terribly surprised; a criminal as smart as this Viper seemed
to be wouldn’t have made a mistake that simple! Still, she reasoned
that she could check the office and maybe tap into the security cameras
for clues. The Street Wing carried her up to the window, and she
peered in. Swan Girl gasped at what she saw.
Sitting in the center of the security office was a man who fit the description of the Viper! He was tall, slender yet muscular, and dressed in a green body suit, over which he wore a green jacket. A cowl with yellow lenses over the eyes hid his true identity. There were four security guards in the office, but three of them were chatting with the villain, while the fourth poured coffee for the group! Swan Girl realized instantly what had happened: Viper had somehow had his own henchmen hired as the security force! They could use the expo as a perfect hideout, and then loot it when they were done with the rest of the city!
“Clever plan, Viper,” Swan Girl nodded as she silently slid the window open. “But not clever enough to escape from Swan Girl!” She slipped over the sill and reached into her weapons belt. She pulled out a handful of egg-shaped gas bombs that she tossed into the middle of the floor. They erupted into a billow of smoke that quickly began to fill the room. The Girl Wonder dove headlong into her prey.
Swan Girl was an acrobat, a skill that was obvious in her fighting style. In the thick mist, the criminals couldn’t even see her as she rolled, tumbled and somersaulted around them, pausing only long enough for a well-placed punch or kick to find it’s mark. In a matter of seconds, she had taken down two of the bogus security guards, and she was spinning towards a third.
Suddenly, however, she was hit from behind. A pair of powerful arms wrapped around her torso and lifted her upwards. Before she could respond, the teen troubleshooter felt herself sailing through the air, thrown with incredible force against a wall. She was momentarily dazed, but staggered to her feet. Just then, she heard a sound that she dreaded: an exhaust fan. Her smoke screen rapidly began to deteriorate, and Swan Girl could make out her attacker: Viper himself.
“My lensessss protected me from your gassss,” he said, “and allowed me to track you by your body’s heat! Now, let’s end thisssss!”
Swan Girl reached for her bird-a-rang, but before she could pull it out, Viper was on her. He moved incredibly fast, and she was still dazed from her collision with the wall. He knocked the weapon aside and grabbed the girl again, pinning her to the wall as he called to his two standing henchmen. Swan Girl struggled against him with all her might.
“Boa! Rattler! Get over here and hold this little hellion! If she’s around, her partner can’t be far behind…”
“That’s right,” Swan Girl bluffed. “At this very moment, Swallow Woman is probably getting ready to launch the second wave of our attack! If you’re smart, you’ll give up now!”
Viper looked at her. “Nice try. But you wouldn’t give her up so easily! No, I don’t think she is here! Maybe you were just an advance recon or something. Well, don’t worry. I think we can get that pretty partner of yoursssss to show up, and then I’ve got plans for you both! Tie her up tightly, boys. We don’t want this little party girl to missssss the party!”
Robin Waters opened the door to the house and noticed Danielle’s books
on the table. Her brow furrowed in annoyance. Yes, she had
put her niece on the intense physical training regime, but it had been
with the understanding that Danielle not let her studies slip. Well,
perhaps the teen had just lost track of time, Robin knew how much the girl
loved the gym! Besides, at least Danielle was out of Robin’s hair
for a few days, which was the point of the whole thing. Robin had
never lied to her niece before, and she hated having to do it now, but
it was for the girl’s own good. Someday, she’d tell Danielle the
truth; after the girl was old enough to understand. For now, she’d
better haul Swan Girl’s butt out of the Birdhouse’s gym, and make sure
that her homework got done!
When she reached the gym, however, Robin was surprised to find it empty. She wondered where Danielle could be? She checked the locker and was disturbed that her Swan Girl costume was also gone. She raced over to the computer so she could check the security logs. As she went, she peeled off her clothes, revealing the spare Swallow Woman costume that she had on beneath them.
Just as she reached the computers, however, Swan Girl’s emergency beacon went off and began to flash on the main screen. Robin looked up and saw that it was at the Expo Center.
“Dammit, Danielle,” she muttered as she shook her hair out of it’s pony-tail and put on her earrings. “I just wanted you to stay out of this one case. Why don’t you LISTEN?” She pulled on her boots and raced towards the Blackbird, fastening her cape and donning her mask and gloves as she went. In a matter of minutes, the masked maiden had the supercharged vehicle racing out into the night. As she roared down the streets of the city, she prayed that she wouldn’t be too late.
Swallow Woman quickly climbed up the outside of the Expo Center and then
slid down through the skylight. No sooner had her feet hit the floor,
however, than the lights flicked on. She found herself surrounded
by four men in green suits, all poised to attack.
“Hello, boys,” she said grimly. “I’ve been looking for you and your boss. Right now, however, I have other things on my mind. Where’s Swan Girl?”
“Get her!” one of the men shouted. All four of them charged at Swallow Woman.
The heroine charged at one of the men and leapt into the air, her foot catching him on the chin. As she bounced back from him, a second assailant grabbed her from behind and pinned her arms. As a new attacker charged at her, Swallow Woman used the man holding her as a pivot upon which she swung her legs in a wide arc, her high heels slamming into the oncoming villain. Her swinging weight pulled the man holding her off balance, so she dropped to her knees and flipped him over her shoulder, her right hand moving to her belt for a bird-a-rang. Just as her fingers closed on the weapon, however, she was cut short by a new player on the stage. She recognized him instantly: The Viper!
“Hold it right there, Sssswallow Woman,” he said. “I believe I can show you an exhibit that you’ll find mosssst interessssting!” He held up a small remote control unit and touched a button. Swallow Woman heard a hum behind her and spun to watch a large curtain open. Behind it was Swan Girl, and she was in trouble.
The plucky teen was strapped down to a table that looked like an operating table. Wide leather bands held her wrists and ankles, and others crossed over her thighs and her torso, just below her breasts. There was a large ball-gag stuffed in her mouth, silencing the girl. Hovering over her was a mechanical arm with a pair of hypodermic needles on the end.
“Swan Girl!” the heroine cried as she stepped forward to help her junior partner.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you, my ssssweeet,” Viper said. “That arm was originally built to speed up the inoculation process, but we’ve made a few…. adjussstments. Now, the twin needles will dispense a deadly poisssson. Rather like a mechanical cobra, isssn’t it? My friends and I have altered many of the gadgetssss here. If you take one more ssstep, I’ll activate the mechanism. You can TRY to free Sssswan Girl before the cobra sssstrikes, but I can guarantee that you WON’T make it!”
Swallow Woman gritted her teeth as she turned back to the villain. “What do you want?”
“Why to be rich, of courssssse! And I will be, once I’ve made sure that you two don’t interfere with my plansss. So, you will permit my men to take you captive.”
“And if I don’t?”
“Then I’ll kill Sssswan Girl, and activate enough of the deadly toysss here to make sure that you won’t escape anyway.”
The woman knew that her only chance was to buy some time. “Very well,” she said, holding her hands up in a sign of surrender. “But you’ve got me, so let Swan Girl go!”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that,” Viper said. “What I have in mind is a game for two. Men, make Sssswallow Woman less comfortable, and then bring the two of them downstairs.” Swallow Woman glared in fury at the men as two of them pulled her wrists behind her back and bound them, while another stretched a strip of duct tape over the heroine’s lips. She had been in this position before, but had a feeling that it was about to get much worse.
Twenty minutes later, Swallow Woman and Swan Girl found themselves a few feet apart, tied to identical wooden chairs and facing each other. Their wrists were strapped to the arms of the chairs, and their ankles were bound tightly together. Each of them had a strange grip next to their left hands, and thick scarves were bound over their mouths, holding in hard rubber balls that silenced the heroines. Thick green bands, resembling garden hoses, were wrapped three times around their torsos.
“Now, ladiessss,” Viper said as he flicked a switch on a panel, “I’d sssuggest that you grab those handles next to your left hands, unless you want to watch each other die!”
The heroines glared at him, but did as he said. “Very good,” Viper said. “Now, let me explain this to you; I’m really quite proud of my little plan. The handles you hold are variations on the old ‘deadman’s switch’ from railroad days. I like to call them my dead-babe switchesssss! If you release your switch, it will activate the electrical current I’ve just activated, and FRY your partner! When she dies, her hand will go limp and you’ll die, as well. Clever, right? But WAIT; it gets better!”
Swallow Woman was already casting her eyes around the room, looking for some way to escape the trap. She had always told Swan Girl that every trap had its own escape built in. She hoped she wasn’t about to be proved wrong.
“Naturally, you’re thinking that all you have to do is hold the switched until morning, when someone finds you. But, that won’t work! Those bands around your chests are my own constrictor cords. I’ll activate them just before I leave, and they’ll slowly tighten until you can’t breath and passssss out, thereby electrifying each other. You see, I’ve thought of everything! Farewell, ladiessss. It will be nice to add your deaths to my kill lisssst!”
Viper activated the bands and left the room. Swallow Woman felt the cord around her chest begin to slowly tighten. So far, it wasn’t too bad, but it wouldn’t be long until it became uncomfortable, and then got worse. She glanced over at Danielle, and saw the girl’s eyes behind her mask, wide with sorrow, pleading for her aunt to forgive her. Robin wanted to forgive her niece, but to that they’d have to survive.
Swallow Woman surveyed the trap carefully, her eyes following the wires from the power supply to the control panel to the junction box to the chairs. The ropes binding them were taught and sturdy; there was no way they could break free. Of course, cutting free would be an option, but the way they were bound, they couldn’t reach their weapons belts. While their feet were tied together, they wer not tied to the chairs. Ironically, Swallow Woman couldn’t help but wish that they’d been chained. She kept a set of lock-picks hidden in the high heel of her boot, which Swan Girl would be able to reach if she were to raise her feet. But the fragile blades of the picks would do nothing against these ropes. There was no help there, and Swallow Woman felt the constrictor cords tightening even more around her chest. A glance at Swan Girls chest told her that the girl was also having trouble breathing. She had to come up with something, fast!
Swallow Woman could only think of one idea, and it was a long shot. She braced herself in her chair and swung her feet as hard as she could into the edge of Swan Girl’s right chair arm. If she could break the arm free, Swan Girl should be able to slip the ropes over the end of the arm, freeing her hand. Then, she could reach her belt and hopefully free them. Her feet smashed into the arm again and again. After the third strike, Swan Girl realized what her partner was trying to do and joined in. Each time Swallow Woman kicked the chair, Swan Girl yanked upwards with all her might on that arm.
Swallow Woman coughed into her gag. Breathing was getting harder; her chest was so compressed that she could now only take the shallowest of breaths, which wasn’t easy, given how much she was currently exerting herself. Worse, her plan seemed to be a washout, and she was out of ideas. In frustration, she bit down hard on the gag and put everything she had into another kick. This time, the chair arm moved!
Swallow Woman and Swan Girl looked at each other in surprise for a second, then resumed their efforts. Now that the original movement had been made, it was like a seal was broken. The chair arm moved steadily until it broke free. Swan Girl slid her arm forward until the ropes slipped over the end and she was free! She pulled her knife from her belt and began to slash at the rope holding her other arm.
“Hmmmmph! Hmmmm ummm mmmmmph!” Swallow Woman yelled into her gag as she leaned forward. Swan Girl got the hint and pulled down Swallow Woman’s gag. The heroine spit out the ball and looked at her partner.
“No time!” she gasped. “Use your bird-a-rang, short out the power!”
Swan Girl nodded as she jabbed the knifepoint into the arm of the chair, pulled out her bird-a-rang and whipped it in the direction of the junction box. It smashed the small metal box in a shower of sparks, severing the connections. The daring duo was free from being electrocuted!
“Good job, Swan…ugh!” Swallow Woman flinched in pain as the constrictor around her ample chest tightened again. “We’ve got to get these straps off. Can you free my arm?”
Swan Girl nodded and mmmmphed an affirmative reply as she pulled out her knife from the chair arm and began to saw at the ropes around her partner’s right wrist. Swallow Woman pulled as hard as she could, until the bonds finally snapped. Swallow Woman reached into her belt and pulled out a chemical reagent that was stored there in a shatterproof vial. As Swallow Woman dribbled the chemical on the band around her torso, Swan Girl removed her gag and started to cut the rope around her left wrist.
“Bet…better hurry, Swallow Woman. S’getting hard to breathe!”
“I know, Swan Girl,” the heroine said as she pulled against the band. “Here, trade you!” She handed her blonde partner the vial and took the knife from her. Suddenly, with a loud “SNAP”, the band around Swallow Woman’s chest parted and flew away, like an over-stretched rubber band. As Swallow Woman began to cut her left wrist free, she took a deep breath. “GOD, that feels good!”
Within moments, both heroines were free. Swan Girl threw her arms around Swallow Woman. “Aunt Robin, I’m so sorry! I was so mad that you were treating me like a baby that I wanted to show you that I could handle it on my own…”
“Shhhh” Swallow Woman replied as she stroked her niece’s hair. “I know; it’s alright. I had good reason for what I did. I’ll explain them later, but right now, what do you say we go teach Viper a lesson?”
Swan Girl smiled as she pulled back and wiped her moist eyes. “I say let’s go kick some snake butt!”
Viper laughed as he and his men went over a list of the materials and plans
they had stolen. “This is our biggesssst haul ever,” he said.
“And this isn’t even including the sssstuff here at the expo! After
this, we can retire in luxury!”
Suddenly a shadow fell across the table…the shadow of a human with some kind of wings flowing down from their back! “I wouldn’t make any travel plans just YET, if I were you!”
The men looked up and saw Swallow Woman, her cape flowing from her shoulders, casting the odd shadow. From behind her, Swan Girl stepped into view and stood with her legs akimbo, fists resting on her hips. “But, if you need a rest, we can arrange for a room you can have for the next 25 years to life!” she said.
Viper smashed his fist down on the table. “Dammit! Get them! GET THEM!!!”
The four henchmen leapt to their feet and rushed at the two colorfully clad cuties. Swallow Woman grabbed Swan Girl’s wrists and swung the girl forward. Swan Girl’s feet smashed into the chins of the first two criminals. Then, both heroines pulled out their bird-a-rangs and hurled the weapons forward. Swan Girl’s missile hit one criminal in the face, squashing his nose and rendering him unconscious. Swallow Woman aimed hers at her assailant’s feet, tripping the man. As he pitched forward, Swallow Woman’s booted toe swung up and slammed into the man’s face, sending the last of the henchmen into unconsciousness.
“Now, Viper, do you surrender?”
“Not likely,” the criminal sneered. “He who sssteals and runs away, is free to sssteal another day!” He threw his hands up, and snake-like ribbons fired from his wristbands, entangling both Swallow Woman and Swan Girl, knocking them to the floor. Then the Viper turned and raced towards the nearby desk.
“No!” Swan Girl yelled as she clawed at her weapons belt. She had to reach her gas pellets! As the ribbons entangling her tightened, however, her hand slipped. Instead of gas pellets, she opened the compartment with her explosives. They flew out of the pouch, and rolled across the floor.
Viper, not being cognizant of any of this, grabbed a few prize files and then turned for the door. “Ta ta, ladiessss! I’ll have to come up with ssssomething even deadlier for next time we meet!”
“Viper, wait,” Swan Girl yelled as he approached one of the explosives. His foot crushed the pellet and it went off, hurling the criminal across the room, to where he slumped to the floor, dazed and unconscious. The heroines set about untangling themselves, so they could notify the police.
Back at the Birdhouse, Swan Girl sat in a chair and watched as Swallow
Woman opened a safe and removed a file. She sighed as she flipped
through it and handed it to her junior partner.
“I’ve never showed you this, Swan Girl; it’s the only secret of our work for B.I.R.D. that I kept from you. It involves your parents, and includes the name of the criminal that killed them.”
“The Viper!” Swan Girl gasped as she opened the file.
“Yes.” Swallow Woman removed her mask, revealing herself again as Robin Waters. “Danielle, I told you that I can’t bear to lose another family member. Owl-1 was tempted to not even ask me to take this case, but knew that I wanted to bring their killer to justice.”
“And you finally did,” the teenager said softly.
“No. No, Danielle, YOU stopped the Viper. If not for you, he would have escaped. Now, your parents can rest in peace. And I’m sure that they are proud of you, wherever they are! You’ve proven yourself to be quite the heroine, Danielle. And now that we’ve solved this case, I think we can face WHATEVER the future may bring!”
“I’ll second that,” Swan Girl said. Suddenly, she didn’t feel like a kid any more. She felt like a competent young woman, with her whole future ahead of her…a future of mystery, intrigue and adventure!
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