The next morning, beat from a wild adventure stuffed inside a PC server network, Lorraine Jett climbed weakly out of bed and did her routine morning procedure of breakfast, coffee, meds, and dental cleansing. While waiting out an unusual extra half hour before the time to go to work came around, the fax function of her 3-in-1 office printer printed up something with the sound of a modem.
A short letter read: "Dear Ms. Jett, I wanted to write you to say that I'm not as snobby or deranged as you saw me to be. I'm really very generous and caring both at work and in town. That tranquilizer gear was an emergency thing for the unlikely event when I had something to bring to the office for a new material, in case that thing was living. I was just eager to...well, I don't want to talk about it. I hope you understand, and perhaps the other girls and I could get together again for lunch sometime in NY.
PS: Diane Rosado wanted to say she was sorry for making you uncomfortable at work and other such things.
Sincerely, Rebecca DeGlory.
Majesty Fashion Design CEO."
"Well, guess that clears up all those weird events two missions ago," Lora smiled as she finished reading the letter, grabbing a stack of stapled papers in the process.
"How much time do you have before work?" Her sidekick Meredith jumped straight to the point, having woken up from a chair 5 minutes previously. Her leader glanced at the cable box's clock, and clarified that she still had 18 minutes left.
The news channel helped in clearing those 18 minutes, and getting to work was just as easy as those many times before. Mr. Hearst was waiting for his best employee, and stood aside for Lora to take her spot at the cashier's desk.
As Lora turned on the cash register and another employee named Joe Deems - who was temporarily replaced by Diane Rosado 2 weeks ago set about refilling the store's candy bins, she turned to the boss again and said, "Mr. Hearst, I have to leave at 2:30 for a meeting somewhere important uptown. How many employees did you say were in this store, again?"
"Joe fills the bins, Phil's the janitor, and I manage the money. But as always, I can fill your role as well while your...alter ego is out there," Mr. Hearst explained in detail.
"Thanks, just needed to know," Ms. Jett nodded.
45 minutes later, a baker's dozen of kids had swarmed in and out of the green-painted, medieval-themed confectionery. Lora thought about it was nice of Mr. Hearst to take down those overdone decorations her previous work partner had put up. Baked goods didn't really fit in an establishment such as this one.
The children had paid about $235 dollars in pounds of candy, over a period of hours from 10 AM to noon. Then after Mr. Hearst came in to check on Lora's progress, he turned on the store's flat-screen TV to watch the news.
"As you can see behind me, the local Chip's electronics store was just robbed 5 minutes previously. Police are in pursuit of the culprit as I speak."
"Yes, time for some action!" Lora's face grew an excited look.
But Mr. Hearst added, "I've become a little more observant of your 'heroic absences', and it's become harder recently maintaining the income all by myself. I think from now on you should page me with this radio if any distractions arise during your regular crime-stopping. Understand?"
"Yes, sir," The blond cashier said as she took the small walkie-talkie and pocketed it.
She ran into the employee locker room, hung up her outer work shirt and tie, absorbed the remaining clothes into her skin and replaced them with the familiar red, purple, and pink latex bodysuit that her heroic alter-ego, Trinity, was known for. This time, she simply oozed out the big roll-door where the store's deliveries came in the human-sized door was for lazy people in her case at this point.
As a manner of delayed surprise, Trinity leaped onto a passing car on the road that ran alongside Candy Castle, and melded her body to the roof. The car just so happened to be travelling straight towards the mentioned electronics store, and from there she bailed out to chase the crook who robbed that place, on foot, down Lazarus road to Highway 101.
With her feet morphed into coil springs, the elastic girl simply bounced her way towards that onramp, where apparently 3 police cars had been wrecked and turned over. One of the cops climbed out, and weakly explained to the heroine, "We almost caught the guy who thrashed our cars, but he pulled something out and sped up his car, eastward. Backup should be on its way soon."
"Thanks. Well, I don't quite know where he's headed. Did you catch that guy's license plate?" Lora felt slightly depressed at not knowing all the info.
"It's I58-NQ07, on a black Chrysler Coupe."
"Got it. See you back in town square or thereabouts," Lora nodded as she advanced to the onramp's edge.
The elastic girl climbed gingerly onto the onramp's edge, ascended to its top, level edge, breathed deeply, and sprang into the air, morphing into a hang-glider with a head. What bothered the heroine most was that she had no tracking devices or knowledge of where that car was by now. All she could do was kick as if in a swimming pool and ride the air currents along to see where this highway would lead her.
Eventually, about 8 minutes later, a noticeable black car swerved off of another onramp, turning left to a road that seemed to lead to Centropolis' port and shipping complex on the coast a few miles off. Flying lower, Lora could just barely make out its license plate, which happened to match the one that cop mentioned earlier.
Lora reassumed her human form those few miles past the highway, and watched as the car pulled into a warehouse to the road's right side.
"Got you now, whoever you are," Ms. Jett spoke softly to herself.
Stretching into the building in one step, Lora called out, "Hey, whoever drives that black coupe, come out with your hands up, NOW!"
Indeed, the parked car's driver side door clicked open, and out climbed a man clad entirely in black clothing from head to foot, including a balaclava. His left hand removed that object, revealing a dazzling face that contrasted starkly with his clothes. The man had red hair styled up in a pompadour somehow kept in place under that mask; green eyes, and an earpiece connected to something hidden in his leather jacket.
The man held up his hands and replied in an "oh-I'm-so-scared" fashion, "Okay, you got me. Anything to say before turning me over to the cops?"
Lora felt all her heroic preparation suddenly slip away off her to-do list. That man was just...just too handsome to turn in as a criminal, at least right now. After all, there was the off chance that he hadn't managed to steal anything at the store. So her voice changed back to a calm tone and continued, "Hey, may I see the contents of your car's trunk? And what's your name, if I might ask?"
"It's Byron, Don Byron," He smiled while unlocking the car's trunk with a remote. Inside were two reusable shopping bags filled with complex electronic devices, ranging from see-through liquid-cooled computer CPU cases, bulky world-on-your-wrist watches, and card deck-sized MP3-players.
"What are you going to do with all this stuff, Don?" Lora completely ignored the fact that these items were stolen.
"I'm going to reverse-engineer them and build new gadgets. Yeah, I'm pretty much a gizmo geek," Don passed a hot-looking grin. "Why don't we go for a little ride? I was just about to grab something here before heading back to base."
"That sounds fabulous!"
Don quickly grabbed a small wooden crate labeled "From Tokyo", then ushered Ms. Jett into his car as he shut the trunk. He drove quickly to another street passing the freeway and veering into a tree-lined residential area a few miles away. They stopped at 1428 Elk Street and the driver unlocked the house's front door.
Lora didn't really pay attention to the house's details, but asked her rational self, "Where are the cops? I thought that first cop said there would be backup," And never before had she felt this interested in a man. Those that were interested in her were only seduced by her looks and powers, but this time she fell for a man first. Why? This felt...wrong for someone like Ms. Jett. Her thoughts were interrupted as Don gestured towards a corridor dead ahead and 90 degrees from the kitchen door.
The two entered a door at the corridor's end that led to a dark room filled with computer servers, work benches, and with one wall lined entirely with flat-screen monitors. Some showed road maps, satellite maps, computer desktops, 3D programs, and one with a screensaver.
"Wow, this place looks as packed as that electronics store you were at earlier," Lora glanced from side to side.
"You could say that, yes," Don chuckled as he proceeded towards a work table and spread out his stolen items on it.
The 2-way radio Ms. Jett still had on her buzzed in Mr. Hearst's voice, "Lora, come in! It's Mr. Hearst, did you get that criminal?"
Don barely heard his voice and said, "What was that?"
Feeling awkward because of this, Lora stammered, "I...I need to use the bathroom."
"Second door on the right," Don sighed as he returned to his work.
She rushed quickly into a relatively clean bathroom, locked the door and sat down on the closed toilet. Pulling out the radio from a morphed-on pocket on her suit, Ms. Jett answered her boss, "Yes, I have the criminal, but the cops haven't arrived. And there's something else about that guy."
"What?" Her boss inquired fuzzily.
"He...well, it's never happened before, but this criminal is...too handsome for me to turn in."
Her boss suddenly burst out laughing on the other end, then calmed down, "Are you SERIOUS? You can't turn in a criminal because you think he's HOT? That's the silliest thing I've ever heard!"
"No, Richard, I'm serious! He's smart, and builds new gadgets!"
"But the stuff he used to make them was STOLEN! Can't you put the romantic junk aside and understand what the circumstances are?"
"I...I don't know if I can."
"Think about it. Just because a man is handsome doesn't mean he can be acquitted of his crimes without a jury. Maybe once the cops arrive he won't be so handsome."
"Do I have to throw away your contract to get you to turn him in?"
"No, no, I'll do it, Lora out."
"Good, Richard out,"
The elastic girl stood up, breathed deeply in and out, and set her mind straight for her new priority. She returned to Don's room and shouted, "All right, mister, I'm not up for swooning anymore, now put your hands behind your back and turn around,"
"What? I thought you thought I was handsome!" Don stood up and walked towards Lora.
"Not anymore I don't. My job's on the line here, and I don't want anymore distractions."
"You have a job?"
"Shut up," Trinity created a pair of tight and sticky makeshift handcuffs. She also oozed out a small wad of pink goo to cover his mouth and prevent Don from talking any further.
The pair shuffled out of the house, where two police cars were parked, and Officer Bradley was at the front door.
"Ah, Trinity, nice to see you again," he smiled at the heroine with her captive. Then the man studied her catch, "Hmm, I've never seen this man before, but we know that he's a criminal."
All of a sudden, her watch beeped, showing the time to be 2:30 PM. "Oh crap, I'm late! Can one of your buddies drive me to the Johnson Hotel?
"Sure thing," The officer nodded as he pointed toward one of the police cars.
While Bradley stuffed Mr. Byron into the right-hand car, another cop nametagged "Jason Rigby" offered to escort Ms. Jett to her important spot. She paged Mr. Hearst that she was now late for that meeting, and the boss understood.
The Johnson Hotel looked rather crowded for this day, but like 2 weeks ago, from the fake brochure, Lora's destination was its rooftop. This time, when she exited the elevator up there, the place was filled with dozens and dozens of multicolored women all dressed in different kinds of outfits, from bodysuits to simple tank tops and such. At one side, 90 degrees left from the elevator, a huge projector screen and a podium with a laptop, microphone and projector perched on it, were set up.
The women all clapped their hands as Lora made her entrance, and the familiar outfit of Rubber Lea shuffled out from the crowd, followed behind a Brazilian girl clad in blue and yellow latex with a large golden R, which stood for "Rita" in this group.
"Well, Lora Jett, I'm glad you were able to make it earlier than someone here thought," The latter smiled.
"And now that I did make it, what's to happen now?" Ms. Jett's masked eyebrows moved up.
"I make an announcement," another woman winked as she turned away to face the podium. Rubber Lea helped activate the projector, and the former woman declared that Lora Jett was here now. To fill her in, the announcer's name was Madame Elastic, and that this organization was built up to help fight crime more efficiently and bring even more justice around the world. Then Madame Elastic pointed her overextended right hand directly towards Ms. Jett, and asked her to step forward to tell the Legion about her origins and other such things.
Lora nervously stepped toward the podium and said that her powers were created from a special costume shipped from another world that needed her help to defeat an enemy which is now here on earth with other villains. Her job is a cashier at the local confectionery uptown. She pulled out that presentation's hard copy from an unseen pouch and left it on the podium, but she wasn't thinking about reading it aloud.
Far in the back, a black and white rubber girl codenamed Black Rubber - raised her hand for a question, "So what sort of crime do you fight today?"
"Funny you should ask. Up until now I kept fighting the same group of villains over and over, but then this new guy...named Don Byron showed up, and man, he blew my mind so wide I couldn't arrest him!" Ms. Jett let her conversation hang out a little too far.
"You...you let him get away?" Lea almost gasped.
"No, it just took some time to get back to rational thinking, if you know what I mean."
"Thank you, Miss Jett. Would you kindly step down now and allow me to take your place?" Madame Elastic formally asked.
Now Madame Elastic discussed their current plans, how to fit Ms. Jett into the group, and she added "I understand that this isn't the normal meeting place, but New Lake City is quite a ways from this town. Ahem, on another note, does anyone have any suggestions on what to do about the...different criminal types in this city?"
Another girl, Melodia, spoke up, "Ambushes?"
Lora interrupted, "Hold on, I think it would be best if some of us got to understand the criminals here for a bit."
"Excellent suggestion, Lora," the announcer nodded.
After some more disjointed notes that ran like a televised newscast, Lora beeped quietly to Rita, "I think there's something up with my latest villain that I can't work out."
"Yeah? What is it?" The Brazilian superheroine asked with high interest.
"It's just...one of my abilities is to shoot blobs of pink goo infused with hormones so my brother says and so men want to go out with me and I always turned them down. But now the new bad guy I have in town is the reverse effect. He was handsome to me and I accepted it, even though I almost let him get away with stolen electronics!"
"Hmm, that is odd."
All of a sudden Lora's hidden cell phone started ringing, prompting her to stand near the elevator door and answer it, "Hello?"
"It's Don Byron, I wanted to talk to you for a moment."
"Where are you?"
"Police station, they've been trying to decide whether or not to let me go. But the point is that I feel bad for stealing those products. I'm broke and really want to make more gadgets. That's why I stole those. Maybe you can help me turn things around?"
Considering everything that's happened, Lora gathered her strength and said, "Forget it, punk. Don't try to fool me twice in one day, now leave me alone!"
Violently hanging up, Lora returned to her companion's side and grunted, "That settles it, NEVER trust a criminal who tries to rope you in with good looks."
"You can say that again!" Another girl, known as Gum Belle, hi-fived Lora from behind.
At the end of the meeting - @ about 5:45 PM, Madame Elastic approached her new member and softly explained, "If you ever need help, don't hesitate to call me. And no, we won't send the whole squad in every time if that was your first thought."
Sharing a laugh, the two elastic girls walked out of the hotel using the elevator and a back entrance, then Lora just followed the correct streets back to Candy Castle.
"Ah, you made it back," Mr. Hearst had a hint of surprise in his voice. "There should be 3 more hours for you to fill in. And at the end, you can have your paycheck early...if you keep quiet until then."
Lora just saluted and returned to the cashier's post. She happened to notice that the boss had hung two "Employee of the Month" photos on the back wall. The one for August, which was last month, was Diane Rosado. They said she and her friends would be in town for a month, and only two weeks had passed. How were they doing now, she wondered? And the current month, September's, was herself. Except somehow the photo was mounted in a wonky fashion and scratched up with a marker but "Sorry!" was written next to it.
Not many kids came for candy at this point, so Lora grabbed a sheet of blank copy paper from under the counter and started doodling with a pencil. Eventually simply abstract shapes turned to Don Byron's face. Although she knew better, why wouldn't his image stay out of her mind? Why was he so handsome? Don did say he was just a geek!
Then, right on closing time, the staff door banged open and out came Mr. Hearst with a $300 check summed up from 8-hour weeks for one month, as always. Lora was so excited about this money that her left arm started turning to a gummy pink state and sagging a little bit, but the boss notified her of that before it reached the floor.
Finally, Lora raced home on her motorbike and set the procedure for bedtime. Not a word was spoken to her gummy dragon sidekick.
As she climbed into bed, Lora set her boom box to play "Something About Us" on the CD that was in there. But her dream state showed Don making out with Trinity in a rather suggestive fashion. She woke up to the sound of her TV turned up disturbingly loud. Ms. Jett dressed into her pajamas and saw her sidekick perched on the futon holding the remote control, and apparently watching Jeopardy.
"MEREDITH! TURN DOWN THE VOLUME!" Ms. Jett had to cup her hands around her mouth.
And her sidekick did so with a hint of frustration. Then she reported after lifting up into the air, "The phone rang at around 1 in the morning, but both of us were asleep at the time. The caller ID was your boss' son and he left a message."
Lora made a move for the wireless portable phone and pushed "play" on its digital answer device.
"If you're awake, pick up the phone! Someone's robbing my house's garage! That's where my new gadgets are! Please, if you can't come over, call the police! Yes, call the cops now, before he gets away! I can't hold him off forever!"
"Oh crap, that's not good," Lora gasped as the message finished. She dialed Officer Bradley's number instead of 911, and informed him that Don Byron was at Aaron Hearst's house. And yet, she felt kind of bad about doing this. As she said before, Don was very appealing to someone like her. "Maybe tonight," she thought, "We could make amends and...Go out for dinner?"
On the TV, contestant Doug Hampton won the game with $381,966, prompting Meredith to cheer; Lora dressed into her work clothes while her sidekick changed the channel to the Weather Channel. As the former came back out, she chirped, "Hey, Meredith, what do you say you tag along with me tonight for a little...outing?"
"What kind of outing? I've only been on heroic missions so far."
"No, no, it's different this time. I want to go out with someone named Don Byron for dinner, and you're invited!"
"Eh, I don't know, I have the strangest feeling that something bad will come of whatever this is. I'd actually prefer staying behind this time. But I promise you, I'm not lazy."
"Fine, you don't know what you're missing. Maybe I'll bring back some leftovers for you, later."
Meredith shrugged as her leader exited through the apartment's front door.
So Ms. Jett arrived on time at work once more and set things ready for the next dump-truck load of customers to arrive. This time, however, she sat down on a stool and changed the TV channel from the local news to a science documentary. "Maybe some research into technology would help on Byron's case. Case, right," the blond cashier thought. While she was watching, apparently some kids were noticing how she wasn't paying attention anymore. This wasn't helped when her thoughts about Don caused her to hand back slightly more change for what the kids and their parents paid.
Mr. Hearst came by to check on his employee and grunted, "Lora, what do you think you're doing?"
"I was just...making change for the customers!" she nervously stammered while turning off the TV.
"Mmm...Be a little more careful about the transactions next time, okay?" the boss's expression gained a stern, impatient form as he tapped his right foot.
Mr. Hearst left the room again behind the "Employees Only" door, out of sight. Lora felt a chill in her belly and goose bumps-on her arms, never before had her boss been angry towards her. But for now she let that out of her top thoughts and returned to work, this time making change exactly as the register said. Ms. Jett turned the TV back to the news channel just to be sure, but so far no crimes came up.
Then her mind drifted to that phone call. To make things clearer, she pulled out her cell phone the office phone was moved to the boss' office 2 weeks ago and called Aaron Hearst. "Aaron, are you there? It's Lora,"
"Hey, there's a nice voice I haven't heard in a while! What's up?"
"Yes, we haven't spoken for some time, but I needed to ask you something."
"Fire away, then."
"Who exactly was that man who robbed your place? Did the police say anything after I called them over?"
"Hmm, let's see...he had red hair and green eyes, and wore a leather jacket; and no, he was gone when the cops arrived. But I did tell them what he looked like."
"Just as I thought, that man's name is Don Byron, and Trinity's had some problems with him."
"What kind of problems?"
"I can't say, just that it narrowly stopped her from turning him in."
"Wow, are we talking...romantic stuff?"
"Let's not go there, dude! I'm going out to find this guy and talk to him over dinner, see what his story is and all that."
Aaron started chuckling, "All right, but let's hope Trinity and you don't run into each other during that time! At least I know YOU stopped being heroic for 10 years straight."
That landed on her kind of hard. Lora never gave it much thought that changing her title AND costume meant that the hero she initially was had vanished from the teen's friend list, as he was originally the main source of help in dangerous situations and other such things.
"Um...yeah, right; Look, I'll call you back later, okay? And let's leave my big brother Alan out of this."
"Sure thing, Lora. Bye," The younger Hearst hung up.
Returning to her uneventful money sorting, Ms. Jett tried to keep her mind off of Don. Just before she could slump onto the weighing scale and daydream, the boss passed her a warm cup of coffee with a muffin from Starbucks, along with a few words, "Here, I bought these just in case you got tired, which I can plainly see right now."
"Thanks, I'm not...feeling the same way anymore."
He put his left hand on his employee's forehead, and asked, "Are you sick or something?"
"No, I'm not ill! It's just...let's just say a particular criminal has Trinity tied in a knot about him."
"That is a very strange image, but it is familiar. What kind of...knot are we talking about here?"
"I can't say, just that it's a problem."
The time was 1:07 PM when the flow of customers started to slow. Again, although the caffeine did help, Lora still felt tired. This time, one of the kids was generous enough to give up one of his Tootsie Pops, and she took it with glee, knowing the promotion she received in the past granted Lora permission to take a small portion of the store's candy, though she hadn't in a while.
Still no crimes came on the TV, and this puzzled Ms. Jett for a long time. When Mr. Hearst came back, still a bit frustrated, he told the cashier, "Lora, go home. I think you need some rest until whatever problem you have is resolved."
"Now? But it's only 2 o'clock!"
"I'll take care of the remaining customers. Now, please go."
She did as she was told, grabbed her purse, and vacated the premises. "This is weird; Mr. Hearst hasn't let me go home early before! Well, at least I have spare time to do what I haven't been able to before."
Those activities Lora did not have the time to do were, in fact, playing basketball in the nearby 7-eleven parking lot. And conveniently enough, 2 black men and a red-haired high-school girl were there with a basketball.
"Hey there, room for one more player?" the blond-haired cashier called out to the others from the curb.
One of the African-American men whom Lora realized she had met in the Coloradoan research base stopped dribbling his ball and replied, "Yeah, sure, you can be on her team."
Joined with the redhead, Ms. Jett did her best to keep the opposing team from sinking a basket, and although she was a little rusty on proper techniques, her teammate helped out. Eventually, Lora managed to up the score for the team she was on, by about 9 points, resulting the score to lead the other team 13 to 10, and the game proceeded quite excitingly well until by the time her watch said 5 PM and everyone agreed that they had to go home.
Once Lora was back, the first thing she did was dart for the computer.
Meredith's eyes lit up as she squeaked, "Lora, you're back early today! What happened at work?"
"The boss told me to go home early. He thinks I'm sick or something, probably because I kept thinking about that guy I want to go out with for dinner. And now I'm about to arrange that," Ms. Jett explained as she held out her phone.
Using the Recent calls section to find Don's number, she called it and asked as the man picked up, "Hi, Don, it's me."
"Me who? I recognize that voice, but you never told me your name when we met," Don answered in a confused voice.
"It's Lora, Lora Jett. I thought maybe you and I could...go out for dinner tonight, if you're not busy."
"Nope, I'm fully open for anything. Where in particular do you want to go?"
Checking the recommended section of suitable restaurants, and landing on "Fabinito's Cantina", she continued, "Do you like Mexican food?"
"Heck yes, I hardly have enough money to buy the stuff to make it at home! What place did you pick?"
"What's the address?"
"1577 Bowman Drive,"
"All right, I'll meet you there, Bye," Mr. Byron hung up.
Ms. Jett strolled out the front door to her motorcycle on the ground floor, and the motorbike revved out of the apartment complex. She didn't notice a shadowed figure crouching in the bushes.
"Where are they headed now?" A male, young adult voice whispered. As he stood up, the face behind his black hoodie and jeans was Lora's brother, Alan, and he had a video camera in one hand. "I knew something was fishy when Aaron told me that Officer Bradley said they missed someone from his house and the electronics store, and now my own sister's been different ever since! Time to find out what's really going on,"
Alan shuffled quietly out of the complex with his hood up and camera wrapped to his right hand. He mounted his motorbike and followed his sister's all the way to the restaurant a block from her workplace. By the time he got there, Don and Lora had already gone inside. Nonetheless, Alan pushed "Record" on his camera and started filming, screen open and ready.
First he decided to search Don's car for anything suspicious. He tried the glove compartment first and found what seemed to be Oxycodone pills, small tools, and a planner. Next he tried looking through the cup-holders and ashtray, but nothing suspicious came up. Then the trunk held a toolbox, a flashlight, and a very suspicious wooden crate marked "Property of Query Laboratories, UK". He didn't need to know what was in that, but figured that it was a stolen item.
Then Alan turned off the camera, lowered his jacket's hood, and entered the restaurant to have his own table to watch his sister from.
While the waitress took his drink suggestion of Raspberry Lemonade, Alan turned the camera back on and zoomed in on his sister and Mr. Byron, precisely setting the microphone to only take their voices.
"So, Lora, what do you do for a living?" Don asked first with a stylish grin.
"I work at this candy shop down the street as a cashier; I take the money from lots of kids and their parents who buy candy every day," his acquaintance replied while waving her hand back and forth across the table.
"Interesting, but does that have anything to do with that red-suited girl I met yesterday?"
A few beads sweat just barely showed on Lora's skin, prompting, "Um, no, nothing at all!"
"I see, because their voices sound a lot alike."
"That earpiece of yours probably messed it up a little."
"Hmm, why don't we change the subject and I show you some of my toys?" Don pulled open his leather jacket and revealed a wide array of strange weapons and gizmos, ranging from grenades to comm. devices, and upgraded Swiss army knives to tiny flashlights.
"That's quite a lot of gadgets you have there. Did you make them, or buy them?"
"I...bought them from Chip's electronics downtown. Everything was on sale that day, would you believe!" Don tried to hide the meaning of his crime.
"Yeah, bought, more like stole!" Alan thought just before the waitress brought his drink. She asked what he'd like to have, and her customer ordered the dish of 2 beef enchiladas + a chicken taco, with a side of rice and beans. No awkwardness happened while that woman took his menu and proceeded towards the kitchen.
"You know, I've been wondering. This elastic supergirl, Trinity, also has the power to seduce men while taking them down, like a modern-day siren almost. Trinity may have seduced you as well, but I think she also likes you back," Lora tried to mask her feelings with her heroic self filling their role.
"I think you're right. I remember her costume and figure looked absolutely sexy that day, and she had some kind of perfume on that smelled like bubble gum. She looked at me as if she wanted to make out with me or something, and now you came along," Mr. Byron rubbed his prickly chin.
"What do you mean, Don?"
"I can't shake the feeling, but I think those two girls might be one and the same!"
"What? That's impossible!"
"Yeah, you're probably right. I may just be blowing smoke here. Oh look, here's our dinner!"
But Don wasn't the one blowing off smoke; it was the fajitas he ordered that sizzled like bacon in a pan. Lora's platter consisted of a chicken and salsa quesadilla. Coincidentally, her brother's arrived at the same time as well, prompting him to put down and turn off the camera, and start eating like everyone else in the building.
When the meals were all finished, Alan paid for his dish with a multi-restaurant gift card he'd been saving for a while, and Lora paid for her and Don's meals with her bank card.
Alan left his booth with a 3-dollar cash tip left, and started to follow Don as he began to walk out with his sister. He said, "I must say, this has to be one of the best nights I've had in years! Should we do something like this again sometime?"
"I should think so!" the observer's sister nodded vigorously.
The pair stopped by a bench and a lamppost to the door's right, while Alan held his camera toward them but sat looking away as if he wasn't recording. What he filmed now was Don and Lora sitting down on the bench close to one another. The latter spoke softly, "I thought about you all day, so much that I couldn't concentrate on work."
"Well, I'm sure this little adventure should wrap up your problems and help get you back on track," The green-eyed man smiled.
"Come here, you big goofball,"
What happened next made Alan keep his eyes on the screen this time. The pair embraced each other slowly, and their faces moved closer and closer together until, shocking Alan to the core, Lora and Mr. Byron made a full-on lip-to-lip kiss! His jaw dropped at that very moment, and he was too shocked to make a move to catch Don before he started his car and drove north out of the parking lot. Lora left the area southward towards her apartment, also too quickly for him.
Then, out of nowhere, another car showed up, except this one was a bright magenta Volkswagen Beetle, and whoever was driving it clearly was either drunk or not very skilled in driving. The car just managed to pull into the parking lot before crashing horizontally across a parking space. The door opened and out walked a dizzy, but vaguely familiar girl.
"Who are you?" Alan's eyes gained a confused expression while his hands turned off the camera once more.
"Oh, right, you worked with my younger sister 2 weeks ago."
"Wha...Where am I?"
"Look, I'd love to stay and chat, but I have somewhere to be, okay?"
Alan stood up and hopped back onto his motorcycle, trying to follow Don's car to wherever it was going. But for some reason he didn't feel alone. He turned for a split second and saw that same pink-dressed girl riding behind!
"Diane, get off my bike!"
Shaking did no avail, that all-pink woman was stuck to the rider's seat like the gummy substance her sister's hero self was made of. "I wanna go with you!" Diane simply chirped in an excited voice.
He sighed and returned to paying attention to the road, having been aware of hazards during that short talk. Both vehicles passed through a tunnel for a few minutes, allowing Alan to study every detail of that man's vehicle, then saw him ride an onramp to Highway 101, on the edge of town and close to both the old beachside hotel and the edge of California itself. As he pursued Don's car closer and closer, he could clearly see that man talking to someone in that conspicuous earpiece, but Alan couldn't make out what he was saying. This wasn't helped by Diane rattling off randomized phrases about her recent experiences and such like.
Then the car swerved to another onramp and turned left, prompting the Jett brother to follow suit. He saw the car power straight through a locked gate and towards a pier with a huge container ship coming in.
Alan and Diane both got off the motorcycle, but the former told the latter, "Stay quiet and hide somewhere, like that pile of boxes over there," he pointed to a stack of crates near an open warehouse. Ms. Rosado did as she was told without question.
The Jett brother crouched low near an oil drum right next to the dock, restarted his camera, and zoomed in on Don. This time he got a clear sound of his voice. "They won't know what hit them," he laughed. Alan watched as Mr. Byron put on strange gloves with appendages on the fingers, then scaled the ship's hull effortlessly. He fired a few rounds of something from a gun, through an opened door, and the sounds of footsteps and other voices stopped. Searching a few of the visible shipping crates, Don picked one that was blue and marked that it came from Germany, he planted what looked like a charge of explosives, and blew a hole in that container's doors. Don reached in and pulled out several crates with words stenciled in German which he couldn't decipher, and used a small crane to set them down safely on the dock. Not one siren or other voice was heard during this procedure. Then he used a spray can to somehow cover the hole on the container and leave the ship using an extendable ladder.
But just when Don was able to cart the boxes back to his car with a hand trolley, Alan put down his camera but forgot to turn it off, tossed his hoodie on the ground, and made his right arm grow 5 times larger than normal. He shouted, "Hold it right here, mister! Where do you think you're going with those boxes?!"
"Wouldn't you like to know, buddy. You think an oversized arm can stop me? Pssh," Don reached into his jacket and pulled out what looked like a grenade of some sort. He pulled the pin, dropped it, and continued with the freight unloading. Diane started her chattering again, but Alan watched as Don simply kicked her aside. Then the grenade exploded, revealing itself to be a flash grenade, and when the light turned away, all the crates were gone.
"Dam it, he got away! Well, at least I have some solid evidence now!"
Meanwhile, Lora was back in her apartment, but the lights were all off. As soon as the front door closed, the deco lamp clicked on and Meredith was there in the armchair she usually sat in. Her expression was disappointed and angry.
"I knew something was fishy about that date you went on," she twiddled her claws.
"Date? It wasn't a date!" Lora denied that statement.
"Oh no? Then how do you explain this video file I got?" Meredith turned the computer's monitor around and showed a video file of Lora and Don kissing outside the restaurant, followed by a few scenes of the latter stealing crates.
"Okay, what's this about, Mer?"
"That man has been nothing but trouble, so your brother told me."
"What? I told Aaron Hearst to not involve my brother!"
"That's enough gab. I think it's time you deserved a little discipline for your actions. I may be just an adopted sister to you, but I have some powers that you do not," the gummy dragon shook her head.
Then she started chewing what looked like a piece of blue bubble gum, flew close to Lora, and blew a huge bubble in front of her. It was just a bit taller than Ms. Jett herself, but didn't pop or stick to her skin. Instead, the bubble seemed to envelop her in a giant, blue, semi-transparent, egg-shaped capsule. She tried morphing to her hero form but the walls had just turned solid and opaque. No matter what she did, Lora couldn't break out.
Meredith's faint voice called out through the barrier, "Don't even try using your powers to break out, this gumball will remain indestructible until I choose it to crack. And there's more, too."
As Lora looked down, light blue gum-like material started generating itself out of thin air from the bottom of the egg upward.
"You might not have lungs, but the gummy material inside will eventually build up around you and smother your body to the point of passing out. I'll let you out when I decide. Now, good night," Meredith sneered as the gum-egg grew smoother and darker while Lora continued to wobble it back and forth like a bop bag.
The more elastic gel built up in the egg, the more Ms. Jett struggled in panic. But the more she struggled, the more she became stuck, all the way up her body until she was completely immobilized from the neck down. She tried to take a deep breath and hold it, but didn't have time to. The gum just filled in her mouth as well, but not too far. She indeed passed out when the egg was completely full and fell to one side with a heavy clunk.
It was 6:30 AM when Meredith decided to release her leader, and she said, "All right, have you learned your lesson?"
"I guess so, but please don't try anything like that again. I've barely recovered from that time when you almost destroyed my costume," Lora yawned as she climbed out of the remains of that blue egg.
Doing the usual procedure for work, and noting that today was Friday, Ms. Jett rode her motorcycle to Candy Castle like before. But when she got there, Lora was in for an unexpected surprise. Mr. Hearst had put up a "Help Wanted" sign in the window, and was standing in front of the staff door with a folded piece of paper in his left hand. He too looked angry like Meredith did last night.
"Good morning, Mr. Hearst, what do you have there?" His employee asked in a curious manner.
"See for yourself," He unfolded the paper.
As Lora studied it, she realized that this was a pink-slip of sorts. "You...I'm...FIRED?" she gasped.
"That's right. After much discussion with your brother and my son, it is in the best interest of everyone that you are no longer allowed to work in this establishment until that criminal is taken care of."
"OH, COME ON! Is it really that big a deal? I already got cocooned by my own sidekick last night, and now this?!" Lora started complaining.
"Love and criminals do not mix in society. You, as a hero, should know that by now. It's dangerous, and you'd probably end up dead if it isn't resolved!"
"I don't believe that. Don is an awesome guy, criminal or not! Why does everyone have to be on my case about that?"
"Because of the law," A familiar male voice added from behind. She turned and found that Officer Bradley had said those words, and he was gesturing towards the open rear door of a police car. Her further complaints were muffled as another cop shoved her inside; the car drove her off to the police station while its sirens blared.
Meanwhile, Alan Jett had made it to the Legion of Elastic Women's meeting area this time at Theater 12 at the local movie theater, having to distract Diane with concessions in the lobby.
"Forgive me for interrupting, ladies, but I'm Lora Jett's brother, and I have conclusive evidence on that Don Byron guy!" He explained while holding the camera.
"Really? Bring that camera over here and show us what you found!" Madame Elastic's eyes grew larger.
Plugging in the camera and pushing play on the laptop, all the rubber girls watched in awe like a theater movie, but then during the car chase, another elastic girl named Bubblegum Jane advanced towards the podium and asked to pause the movie. Apparently some of the members knew some sound editing techniques, and the info she was given helped clear up the noise from the highway.
When several members finished working out the cluttered sound, Don's earpiece message came in loud and clear. It was a Morse code message, and it said, "Find container 15B from Germany and take everything. Bring whatever you make from them to my HQ ASAP. Bungee"
"Bungee? Who's that?" Alan asked with curiosity.
"She's one of our primary enemies. It would seem that this man was hired by Bungee to steal all those electronics, but for what purpose?" Melodia explained.
"Lora kept jabbering that Don breaks down the gadgets he steals and builds new ones out of them."
"Then I bet he's making those new gadgets for Bungee to use for evil. We'd have to track down and arrest the two of them before that guy steals anything more."
"There's something else, too," Alan grimly added as he reached into his jacket and pulled out a rolled-up newspaper. Ella came forth and read the headline aloud, "Superheroine chooses life of crime?"
"I didn't want to do it like blackmail or viral videos, but I copied this footage and showed it to my sister's boss and her sidekick, so they'd be aware of what's going on. But according to the newspaper, now my sister's been fired and arrested," Alan confessed what he did.
"But why haven't the police taken in Byron as well?" Rita asked puzzledly.
"They would have known he was a criminal if it was the same guy all along, but no one had the same information. And if that guy overpowered Ms. Jett in some way, the law would be down on her for inaction as well." Gum Belle tossed her evaluation forth.
"But how would this 'Bungee' plan all that?" Alan twiddled his fingers.
"Well, that's what we want to find out, right?" Madame Elastic nodded her head.
By now, Lora was kept alone in an interrogation room, waiting for her interrogator to come. All of a sudden, her cell phone beeped.
It said: "To: Lora Jett. From: Bungee. Your boyfriend is quite a sly one, isn't he?"
She texted back, "Why have I been arrested because that Don Byron is too hot to handle, so to speak?"
"That's for me to know, and you to find out. Don't even try sneaking out, you're wanted now!"
Still no one came to the door, but she could hear someone tapping away on a keyboard behind the one-way mirror. Then Lora continued her text, "I wasn't going to, but don't start thinking you're not wanted also!"
The door banged open and in walked two cops, and instead of questioning, they told her to exit the room and get screened for the station's jail cell.
"Wait, there must be some mistake! Don Byron's the criminal, not me!"
"Nice try, but our records show that guy to have been acquitted for petty theft. It's your fault for not turning him in in the first place! Now be quiet and stand still."
One of the cops took out a syringe filled with a strange green liquid, which he promptly injected into Lora's exposed right shoulder.
"There, that chemical should keep you out until the hearing at 5 PM. Now don't try anything funny until then, lady!" He explained while escorting Ms. Jett into one of several jail cells within the station.
As she sat down on the bunk, still wearing her civilian attire, Lora sighed, "What did I do to deserve this? It's not fair that love and the law don't go together in cases like mine! Why, oh why, did my choice have to be a villain? It's just not fair!"
Then the chemical suddenly kicked in and she passed out.
Meanwhile, Alan and 3 elastic girls had borrowed an unlicensed car from a dealership, having previously traced Bungee's location by tracking Don's car via satellite, and followed that trail to wherever that villainess was holed up in.
It turned out that this girl's location was at an abandoned casino in San Diego, but the name remained unknown. When they pulled up, Alan Jett emerged first, loaded down with 2 pistols, a radio, flashlight, night-vision binoculars, a smoke grenade, and a taser, followed by the 3 chosen elastic girls Ella, Gum Belle, and Carrie.
Once they were inside, first Alan motioned for his partners to hide quietly while he observed the situation for a moment. He broke out the binoculars and watched as the silhouettes of Don Byron and Bungee moved back and forth behind a dimly lit window. Don seemed to be handing his employer a few newly assembled gadgets, and in return, she gave him several thick stacks of dollar bills. Then they left the room as one of them turned off the light.
"All right, ladies, the coast is clear, but keep quiet."
"Please, does it have to be THIS quiet? We're not secret agents or anything like that," Gum Belle scoffed.
"Knock it off, blondie. The man's sister's in trouble because of those two!" Carrie nudged the former in the side.
Having to shush the arguing pair, Ella helped out by oozing under the apparently locked door and opening it from the other side. Then Alan clicked on the flashlight and took the lead once more. All 4 superheroes and heroines did their best to scan the place from top to bottom, powers involved.
Mr. Jett turned up a stash of all the gadgets Mr. Byron had sold to his employer, and found them to be quite impressively built, even though their purposes looked quite vague.
Carrie discovered Bungee's notebook of everything that happened up to this point from when she temporarily relocated here since April 12th of this year, awareness of Lora Jett's presence upstate, to Don's hiring, and finally a personal note that her employee was the perfect way to wreck Lora's reputation.
Gum Belle stumbled upon a device that reminded her of Steven Hawking's electronic speech simulator, which made sense, given that Bungee was unable to talk.
And Ella found some kind of blueprint which she realized all of Don's gadgets were made for: It turned out Don had been instructed to build the components for one giant machine that would destroy the mutated genes of every superhero in the world, leaving only the villains to rule with an iron fist, so it seemed. If he had just produced the last batch, then all they'd have to do would be to construct this machine piece by piece.
All of a sudden, a door at the far end banged open, and Don was immediate caught in the glow of Alan's flashlight.
"Freeze, punk! We know what you and that elastic mute are up to, now put your hands where we can see them!" Alan shouted in his direction.
Don tried to run for another door, but Carrie had thought ahead and made a tripwire out of her right leg. Then the other two elastic girls jumped in and helped out with the capture.
Belle snatched up Mr. Byron's feet, suspended him upside-down in a wad of sticky gum-like material made from her hands, and shook him clean of everything stashed in his leather jacket grenades, small tools, an MP3 player, and all of his money.
Ella fled the main room to go catch Bungee, who was apparently hiding in the slot machine hall. She searched every machine along the room in hopes of finding the mute criminal. Then Ella had an idea: Since Bungee had the same powers as her, perhaps she was camouflaged as one of the slot machines, so Ella did a very complicated stunt: She split her upper body in two, gaining 4 arms, stretched the length of the room, and set about pulling the levers on every slot machine in the hall. The machines were set along the side walls and back to back in the middle so that wasn't too difficult. Eventually, Ella discovered Bungee's indeed disguised form close to the far right's end, and did another stunt of snapping the rest of herself over to that area, grabbing the villainess' unmorphed head with both hands and the body by oozed-in legs. In doing this, Bungee was effectively yanked out of her hiding spot and the shock morphed herself back to normal form.
Once Ella came back with her captive, Carrie brought that speech-mimicking device over to a pool table where Don was held prisoner, the 3 elastic heroines and Alan surrounded the pair of criminals for an interrogation.
Gum Belle stuck the two to the table with more pink goo so they would not try to escape, and Alan started off, "All right, let's get to business here: I want you two to tell us everything you know about that power-erasing device and how my younger sister is involved in whatever plan was set up for it."
Don panted in a quite afraid voice, seeing how serious the 3 girls and one man looked, "I was just hired, this wasn't my plan! SHE'S BEHIND IT ALL!!"
"I'll never tell you anything," Bungee huffed in a computerized-sounding fashion.
Alan fired two warning shots from his 9mm pistol at the wall above the table, leaving the revolver in its holster, and said, "NOW will you talk, or do I have to take drastic measures?"
The masked villainess sighed, "It was an assignment from my organization. They want to rid the world of heroes, and leave only villains to take over everyone else. That's all I know!"
"I was just hired to make the parts! And your sister had nothing to do with this plan, Bungee just thought that she'd be in the right position me being handsome would keep her from meddling in the work, but I honestly do think she's cute as well."
Belle almost choked in mid-cough on hearing that last statement, and Alan broke out laughing, "So...so, you mean to say that after all Lora's interest in you causing her trouble as a result, you love her back but haven't said so?"
Carrie added to the questioning, "What the big guy wants now is for your accomplice to send back those stolen electronics in the way they were made before, and--"
Her sentence was cut short when Bungee shot out her left hand and choked Carrie by the throat. Alan grew a few inches taller and pinned down that villainess with an oversized left hand in response.
"Thanks, Alan," the recovering elastic heroine smiled while brushing off her clothes.
Don started pleading, "Look, people, the thing is I was roped into this scenario. It was never my idea, Bungee just wanted my intellect, so to speak. If you want me to go to jail, I won't argue. In fact, I don't want to be around this mute jerkwad any longer! She's a total--"
"Don't say it. We get the point, Don," Alan stopped the guy before he could release a cuss word.
"So what's it gonna be? I'm getting kinda tired standing around here," Gum Belle neared complaining.
Alan picked up his radio and beeped, "Bradley, I found the criminals. Let my sister out, now would ya?"
"No can do, Alan, it's out of my hands. But you can bring them to the hearing that's about to start in a few minutes."
"Aw, come on--" Alan paused to calm down "Fine, will do."
Lora Jett had been standing in the Defendant's booth at the Centropolis courthouse for over half an hour, and she had grown quite bored of the plaintiff Officer Bradley ramble about her inaction of turning in Don Byron.
The jury was about to make their verdict when the main doors clanged open, with those 2 newly captured villains handcuffed first in line, followed by the 3 elastic girls, and Lora's brother last. Ms. Jett couldn't have been happier to see her brother at this time than any other time.
The judge, Philip Walker, frowned on this scene and asked, "Who are these people that walked into my courtroom?"
Alan introduced himself, "I'm the defendant's brother, and I have conclusive evidence to clear Miss Jett of any crimes committed, if at all."
"Don, do you have anything to say?" Alan held one hand out towards the male captive.
"Yes, I do," Mr. Byron nodded while still handcuffed. "I'm the one responsible for the defense's problems. She didn't do anything illegal, it's all my fault."
"What exactly did you do?" the judge rubbed his whiskered chin.
"I was the one who stole from Chip's electronics two days ago, and raided the container ship that pulled in last night. But I only did it because this girl in front of me paid me to do it," Don gestured towards Bungee.
"It's true, but I do not wish to say anymore," the mute's improvised voice agreed.
"Does the defense have an opening statement?" Judge Walker motioned to Lora.
"I do, your honor. Everything my brother and Don Byron has said is correct. I'm clean, except that Don's handsome looks, I admit, narrowly prevented me from turning him in," she sighed.
Alan, acting as the defendant's lawyer, said, "I'd like to call the court's attention to Ella Mask, who has better proof if you don't believe us now.
Ella advanced forward and brought out a sack containing all the gadgets Don previously assembled and everything shaken out of his jacket.
She first yanked out one of the gadgets and explained with a green-coated finger, "Exhibit A, a complicated gadget built from other stolen electronics. This and several others of its type were built to create what's shown in Exhibit B," Then she fished out the blueprint and laid it across the defendant's table, "A blueprint for a machine that destroys the genes for every superhero's powers in the world, leaving only the villains with an iron fist to rule, according to Bungee."
"I see," Walker seemed to hesitate on further words.
"And Exhibit C," Ella pulled out the entire amount of money from Don's jacket, "Exactly $5,000 in cash paid to Mr. Byron for making the gadgets."
"Does the plaintiff have any comments?" Judge Walker addressed the officer, having evaluated the evidence.
"No, your honor."
"Very well, has the jury reached a verdict?"
"We have, your honor," the talented college girl known as Tina nodded, "We find the defendant, in evaluation of this case, not guilty of all charges."
Applause washed through the audience in the court, prompting Walker to cut it off with his gavel. Then he picked up some papers handed to him from the court reporter, "All right. Lorraine Jett, you are free to go. As for Mr. Don Byron, he will serve 9 months in prison on 17 counts of organized theft, overruling 4 years due to most of his major charges directed by his 'higher-up'. For numerous charges from outside states, 'Bungee' is sentenced to 12 years in prison, and will be under scientific watch at all hours." He breathed deeply and concluded with another pound of his gavel, "Court adjourned."
At that, Officer Bradley and another cop led Don and Bungee out of the courtroom while the audience and jury filed through the main exit, Lora sprang up from her chair and gave her brother & his 3 elastic helpers an all-around group hug, boosted by her powers.
"Thank you, Alan. My alter-ego's reputation would've been shattered if you and your friends hadn't come and saved me," She rubbed her head to her older brother's.
"Aw, that's the sweetest thing I've ever heard," Alan chuckled.
Gum Belle interrupted after Lora released her grip, "Hate to break up the little reunion, but I have somewhere to be. Sorry."
"Yeah, it's getting a little late," Carrie nodded.
"We should all go home," Ella agreed.
"Wait, there's something I needed to ask," Lora called back as the last one neared the door.
"I...Um, maybe next week I could tag along for some crime-fighting wherever you guys have it? It's getting kind of boring doing the same thing in the same city," she twiddled her thumbs.
"Yeah, that sounds great," Ella smiled. "Maybe then I could introduce you to some of my friends."
"It's a deal, then," Ms. Jett shook her hand.
Back home, Mr. Hearst called Lora's telephone and said that he gave back her job, having attended the hearing. But that pleasantry gave way when she opened her inbox.
Apparently Don had sent her a video from his house, a few hours ago. He had written a song about her, played it on an electric guitar, and mentioned that he was a part of the band 'The Depth Charges', which Lora was familiar with. Don's song touched her in a way that felt like how the wind blew through her hair in Colorado, or the vibration from her motorcycle. It was pleasant, but didn't fit a solid definition.
Nonetheless, she felt glad to have things back to normal. As they said, "All's well that ends well,"